Where Has Heather Been

Heather says:

Moving.

It’s not a cross-country move, just a one town over, this-won’t-be-so-bad wait, the Internet co doesn’t cover the new house move?

I’m in the process of buying a house. It’s the house I grew up in, but no one has taken care of it in at least ten years.

The upside? Cost. Budgets have been examined, what I’m paying for it, what it’s worth, what it will cost worst-case to fix, and what it will be worth in a year or so when all of the work is done. What’s the market value on sanity?

The downside that may actually be an upside when all is said and done, it was in terrible shape, awful shape, I’m on a first name basis with the exterminator shape.

I’ve learned a lot already. A lot about temporary and permanent fixes. Did you know that if there is a significant gap in the flooring, that you take steel wool, shred it a bit, pack it into the hole and use expanding foam or Great Stuff as a temporary fix? It’s definitely not pretty, but at this minute functional is what I need. Nothing unwelcome coming in to say hello are you going to eat that fixed, not a good as new fixed. That flooring will be ripped out and replaced in a couple of months, so I’ll just pretend I can’t see it for now.

The Fix It category is about to explode¹.

The plan is to tackle the house one room at a time, and get it ready to be a rental. The last six weeks all of my evenings and weekends have been spent getting the house safe for the kids and myself. I couldn’t actually charge anyone to live there, at least not yet.

There are a lot of memories in this house, some are pretty difficult to live with, but with each coat of paint, it gets easier. The kiddos will bring new memories.

I’ve been taking pictures of the progress, but I would like to have a few more afters before I begin sharing. I know that I’m not responsible for the current condition of the house, but I’m still a bit embarrassed by it.

Soon there will be tutorials on: replacing light fixtures, light switches, electrical outlets, dry wall repair, fun with water damage, water heater flushing 101, squirrel eviction, rodent control options, some basic plumbing, how to talk to contractors, and most importantly, why they aren’t kidding about using Killz in a well-ventilated area. I’ve gotten pretty quick at replacing an outlet and I’m really good at painting, even if I hate it.

I’ve started stalking the mis-tint shelf at Lowes. So far I’ve found a super nice tan for the boys and an actually not as institutional as it sounds mint for Ellie. It’s definitely possible to paint a room for under $50, including brushes and roller. (Even cheaper if you don’t have to use three coats of primer)

I keep telling myself it’s an adventure, that it’s going to be worth it.

Moving into the house wasn’t the easiest decision I’ve ever made, but sometimes being a grown-up means sucking it up and doing the things that aren’t much fun.

I hired a moving company to handle the furniture, but I’ve still got to deal with the piddly things. (What was I thinking and I’ve only lived in that house for a year, how did I amass that much stuff?) I’ll have all of my things at the new place soon and more importantly, I’ll have Internet on Friday.

Moving stinks.

¹Here’s hoping we keep that to a metaphorical explosion as I’ve still got a lot of electrical work left to tackle.

The Really? That Happened? Personal Aside and Back to School Nightmares, Share Yours

Heather says:

Yesterday I stood at my children’s bus stop for over an hour, eagerly waiting for their bus to drop them off. I was excited to hear about their first day.  Dripping sweat and with my phone battery dying I paced at the edge of the road, out in the sun.

Finally there was the bus.

There were a few kids, but I was confused because my children were. not. there.

The bus driver noted my obvious concern and distress and asked, “What bus are you waiting for?”

I told her.

She said, “That’s not this bus, that’s an entirely different route.” (For clarity: I had obtained the information from the school’s website.)

Controlling my panic, I asked the bus driver how I should locate my children (who have now been misplaced for well over an hour) and I immediately followed her recommendation to go to the school.

I showed up at the school, jumped out of the car, and went into the office which had the usual chaos of first day confusion (remember this is my first experience as a parent with kids in school).

My children were located, I was told to go home to wait, and that the other bus would drop them off at our house. This finally happened, a little over 2 hours after the children had been dismissed. Remember unairconditioned buses, in August, in the Lowcountry of SC?  The bus driver was kind and told me I should have gotten the information from the Open House. I let him know that I had attended and stood in the long bus line, only to be told, by a school employee, to get the information from the website. At that point he was irritated, too.

Naturally I called the bus office the moment they opened and I’m sitting here waiting on that return call. . . The bus driver who finally brought my kids home to me also let me know that I could request a more convenient stop, since the closest is more than 0.4 miles from our house. (The neighbor child’s mother and I are both quite relieved as the closest stop was on a highway that includes a walk on a busy road with no sidewalk and two blind corners. Yay rural life).

That phone better ring soon.

While I wait, and breathe, and try to remember it’s not the person I’ll be speaking to’s fault, entertain me with your back-to-school nightmares.

Share Your Best Back-to-School Tips / Ideas

Heather says:

Here’s a little transparency for you.

This is the first time my children are going to school and frankly, I think I’m more nervous and excited than they are. I have once mentioned that my oldest child is on the autistic spectrum (Asperger’s) and that he needed a couple of extra years at home to mature before he could adapt to a classroom environment. We used a virtual charter school system mostly because I needed the structure. My middle child also used this program, because I couldn’t wrap my brain around schooling one at home and not the other. This year all three will be school-age and now, with my working outside of the home, as well as here at Home-Ec101.com something had to give. Thankfully, everyone seems ready for next week. My house quiet after having three marauding minions stampeding around for the last 5 years 9 years in all) is mind-blowing.

As I usually do around the time change, I’ve begun moving their bedtimes to a more respectable one 15 minutes at a time. (This seems to cut down on the whining and bickering after lights out).

So today, since I’m the n00b, I ask you:

What is your best back-to-school tip or idea?

Just for fun, I’ll randomly select and send a digital copy of Home-Ec101: Skills for Everyday Living to someone  who comments (with an actual suggestion, First and Lulz, do not count).

Sunday Confessional with a Side of Site Admin

Heather says:

Let’s get the site adminstration stuff out of the way. Home-Ec101.com has been having some performance issues; my good friend Michael Carnell and I are working hard to make sure that we get it whipped into shape.

The comment system has been changed, IntenseDebate seems to have been a part of the problem, but certainly not the only cause. I have switched out to LiveFyre which seems to be lighter and faster. It also looks as though it has the ability to host a live chat, which intrigues me with the possibilities. Don’t worry, you’ll still have the ability to share via your Twitter or Facebook identities if that’s what floats your boat. If you just want to say hey and get on with your life that’s fine, too.

If you are used to using the categories in the sidebar to navigate, switch to the tag cloud. I’ve shuffled up the taxonomy of the site to help Google understand what Home-Ec101 is all about.

The forums have been closed temporarily, in case they are a part of the site issues. I’ll reopen them after I get back from Type-A Parent Conference.

Now, on to the confession part of the show.

I have two this week, one small and one that I’m not sure is exactly a confession, but it is something I’ve been struggling with for a long time.

The small one-

I got lazy about sharpening my knives AND I wasn’t paying attention to my chopping -there were a few extra neighbor kids bouncing in and out of my work area- I had a knife slip and took off a good chunk of the nail on my ring finger. It’s as attractive as it sounds. Knife skills are important, but attention and basic safety matter just as much.

Now the one I’m not sure is a confession and I hope doesn’t come across as a plea for attention. (See, there goes my neurotic side and I haven’t even managed to spit it out yet.) My oldest son has been diagnosed with a mild form of autism most commonly referred to as Asperger’s. For a long time, we didn’t want to put a label on him even though we knew that his mannerisms, while similar to our own, didn’t fit in with “normal.”

My son isn’t the type that shuns contact, he gloms onto it in a way that makes many people uncomfortable. He has no sense of personal space -which is ironic because my personal bubble is gargantuan. He’s incredibly articulate, his vocabulary rivals that of Anne Shirley. He lives in a world of his own creation, but he’s more than happy to tell you all the details, if you glance in his direction. It’s kind of cute when a 3 year old invites a perfect stranger over for dinner, it’s not so cute when he’s 7 and the size of your average 10 year old -he gets his height from Tim and I. He tends to  invite random adult strangers to spend the night and thankfully no one has taken him up on is offer. We’re dealing with the usual set of challenges with an atypical child with the added bonus of people assuming he’s much older.  We’re working with a psychologist to give him coping skills that neither limit who he is as an individual, but allow him to relate better to others.  Most of you know I’m very self-conscious, I won’t lie this stuff stresses me out like crazy.

So, it’s not exactly a confession, it’s just that I’m no longer going to keep that information private.

One of my goals is to be as honest as I can about life. There is joy to be found in the everyday, when we aren’t trying to make it fit some unrealistic ideal. I know people who took drastic measures when their version of reality didn’t match what they thought it should and this makes me look carefully at what I present to the world. I started this series to encourage people to admit that life isn’t magazine and tv perfect. Real life is messy, tiring, and wonderful at the same time. Sure you can’t really laugh at everything when it happens -like if you step in dog vomit before coffee- but the rest of us can. After the irritation wears off, it’s time to share and laugh at what we all go through in our day to day lives. On the internet it’s all too tempting to share the cropped and photo-shopped version of our lives (the one where all of my kids behave perfectly all the time), but that isn’t my reality. Is it yours?

So Home Eccers, I ask, what do you have to get off your chest?

New Year’s Eve, The Retrospective

Heather says:

Tonight we’re having a geek in, because that’s how we roll in the Solos house. What is that? Another couple is coming over with their laptops. There’ll be food and drinks, video games, and geek talk. At midnight I’m sure there’ll be a toast. Just don’t tell anyone that my husband specifically requested that Velveeta Chili Dip. I told him I [insert obnoxious head toss / hair flip] have an image to maintain and he’d have to make that grocery run -I kid. Mostly.

I want to thank all of you for being a part of the Home Ec 101 community. As it turns out, 2010 was a big year for Home Ec 101 and here are the numbers:

  • 278 new posts which brings the total to just shy of 1600
  • 532k+ unique visits
  • 856k+ page views

This doesn’t even count that I wrote Home Ec 101 the book over the first half of the year. Six months later I still can’t believe I made it through and managed to continue producing for the site at the same time. -I will admit, there were a few very rough weeks in the spring and I really can’t thank my husband enough for understanding that I was stretched to the limit and some things had to slide.

Let’s look back at some of the posts from 2010:

January:

Mattress Cleaning and Other Indoor Sports -this post was picked up by Lifehacker, which was extremely flattering, even if I was writing about dust mites doing the nasty.
In the kitchen Balsamic Glazed Roast Chicken was my favorite recipe.

February:

I had a brief appearance on a local morning show and was asked to demonstrate the kind of recipes I would be teaching in a workshop. I wrote One Baking Sheet and Dinner for 2 which went over quite well. (I should probably do a few more of these meal ideas, huh?)

Just for fun I ran a contest asking for Home Ec 101 Readers’ Favorite Tightwad Tips. The comments are invaluable, enjoy.

March:

Cleaning Tips from Home Ec Readers and Short Ribs Braised in Beer are my favorite posts from this insanely busy month, but don’t miss Food Labels, Controversy, and MSG or Dishing on HFCS.

April:

It was at some point during this month where I was asked how I could call Home Ec 101 a frugal website. My response [spoiler alert] is now the introduction to the book: A Day Late, A Dollar Short, No More: Life Skills are Frugal.

May:

Homemade Granola, Stewed Chicken, and Sour Smelling Towels

June:

I’ll admit, this month was hard, I’d gotten a little behind on my final deadline, the house sort of fell apart, and I was pretty much a stressed out mess. I received an email from a reader, the comments still choke me up. This is one where you helped me more than I can ever express: A Little Friday Encouragement from a Reader.

Customizing the Chore Routine is one of my favorite discussions on the entire site.

If you’re hungry, there’s Lowcountry Boil and don’t forget How to Sharpen Your Knives.

July:

How to Cut Up a Whole Chicken is one of the most popular posts on the entire site. I’m not sure it will ever catch up to Tomato Pie, but who can compete with bacon?

We prepared for the Zombie Apocalypse -you know I’m teasing, right?- by learning How to Use a Charcoal Grill and to Stock an Emergency Pantry.

August:

Things finally slowed down in August -can you call it slowing down if you drive cross-country with 4 kids?- and as you can imagine, I celebrated by doing more in the kitchen (much to the annoyance of some). Chili honey chicken thighs and drop dumplings were my favorite. I also stumbled upon a debate I didn’t know existed: Beet Sugar vs Cane Sugar.

September:

How to Cook with Dried Beans, Passive Composting, and the Voluntary Ban on Phosphorous in Dishwasher Detergent were just a few of the riveting articles. I never said Home Ec was sexy.

October:

How to Choose Freezer Friendly Recipes and How to Use Bleach Safely are tops for October 2010.

November:

As usual we did the Countdown to Turkey Day series, which will be available as an email service next year -in time for our Canadian friends. (I’m excited about that). In addition to that was Saving Money with Powdered Milk and in the bathroom there are Tips for Toilet Cleaning. Oh the fun we have.

December:

We wrapped up 2010 with an Introduction to Plungers, a discussion on the effectiveness on vinegar as a disinfectant, and we can’t forget those Nutella No Bake Oatmeal Cookies.

Thank you all for your comments and your encouragement over the past year. Without the emails, tweets, phone-calls, and occasional late night venting sessions on Skype, I don’t know that I could have managed to accomplish half as much.

If 2011 is half as fun or productive, it shall go down as a win.

I still can’t find a better way to mark the end of the year than the words of Ella Wheeler Wilcox, so enjoy the flashback:

What can be said in New Year rhymes,
That’s not been said a thousand times?
The new years come, the old years go,
We know we dream, we dream we know.
We rise up laughing with the light,
We lie down weeping with the night.
We hug the world until it stings,
We curse it then and sigh for wings.
We live, we love, we woo, we wed,
We wreathe our prides, we sheet our dead.
We laugh, we weep, we hope, we fear,
And that’s the burden of a year.

Happy New Year, my friends. May the New Year bring peace and joy to all those you hold dear.