Monthly Archives: October 2012

Rehydrating Play Dough

A couple of days ago, Cate asked if she could play with play dough. No problem. It’s a great tactile toy and a wonderful way to keep kids entertained. Yes, it does make a bit of a mess, but unlike plasticine, play dough will dry into little solid bits and you can vacuum it up.

We’ve had our play dough for a few years and it has been getting a little worn out. I knew I needed to seriously address the issue when only two out of about twelve pots of play dough could be squished easily through a mold.

If you look online for advice on rehydrating play dough, including the official Play-Doh website, you generally get two pieces of advice: 1. Wrap the stuff in a damp paper towel and leave it overnight and 2. Add water, one drop at a time.

I had tried the damp paper towel trick, which was moderately successful, except that I forgot about the paper towel and had to pick out bits of dried paper towel from the play-dough the next time the kids played with it. I then tried the “add one drop of water at a time” trick, which worked pretty well. However, the next day the play dough was still kind of dried out. You could tell that the water hadn’t really incorporated into the whole lump of play dough.

All except one container. This was the container that had been in total bits and pieces and the only way I could put it together was to soak it in water and squish the bits together. This batch was almost as good as new.

Then the penny dropped. The secret to REALLY reconstituting play dough is increasing the SURFACE AREA that comes in contact with the water! So here’s the process.

  1. Use one of the “official” methods to get the play dough soft enough that it can fit through the “spaghetti-maker” extruder-bit. You know what I’m talking about.
  2. Make play dough spaghetti. Like this:

Alternatively, you can give the semi-dried out play dough to your one and a half year old to tear into bits and throw on the floor. Gather up the bits and ta-daaa, separated play dough with lots of surface area.

3. Pick up the spaghettied (or disembowelled) playdough in your hand and hold it under a running faucet for a couple of seconds. None of this pansy “one drop at a time” business. (By the way, this is a really good time to combine similar colours of play dough. We had 12 half-full pots of play dough and I was able to reduce that to about 7 full containers.)

4. Shake off the excess water and then squish the wet play dough in your hand. Start kneading.

It’s going to look nasty.

Told you so. Ignore it and keep kneading. It will get better.

See? Not quite as scary.

Almost there… (quick, name the movie reference!)

Well, look at that! See how the play dough absorbed all of the water?

5. Test your rehydrated play dough for squishyness.

There it is, all nice and pretty.

Poke.

Squiiiiish.

Ta-daa! The play dough has been successfully rehydrated. And it’s still going strong. Last tip – after I did this I found that my hands were pretty dried out, so make sure you moisturize or the feeling will probably drive you crazy. Oh, and if you try this at home, let me know how it turns out!

Bite 35: Declutter Your Wardrobe

You may have caught my post about buying e-books and helping out a family in need. As I mentioned, one of the e-books was Tsh Oxenreider’s One Bite at a Time. The book presents 52 bite-sized ideas that will help you to simplify your life.

I am starting with Project 35: Declutter Your Wardrobe (and focus on your outward appearance) mainly because I have been meaning to get this done for quite some time. With the coming of real fall weather, figuring out my wardrobe has become a necessity. What with a couple of winters spent pregnant and some additional time in “transition” clothing, it appears that my body has finally reached some sort of equilibrium. Unfortunately, this also coincides with the majority of my clothing being too summery, too beat up, or simply disintegrating. I submit Exhibit A: old, beloved shirt + exuberant washer = sadness.

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The basic principle behind decluttering your wardrobe is that you get rid of (give away, store, etc, etc) all the clothing that doesn’t fit you properly. Thus you are left with only the items that you will actually wear, rather than a bunch of clothes that kind of fit. This process is easier if you spend a little time educating yourself about what kind of clothes work for you and what doesn’t. Forget about trends, just stick with what works. For example, I borrowed (and photocopied relevant sections of) my sister’s copy of The Science of Sexy, which breaks down your body type and gives you suggestions based on your measurements. As much as I would love to be an hourglass, I am a tall, medium rectangle. I need v-neck shirts (goodbye beloved crew-neck t-shirts!) and clothes that define my waist (thank you Spanx!).  I also know that I look good in purple and beige makes me look like death.

So, last Thursday afternoon my Mom watched the kids and I ventured into the bedroom to edit my clothing collection. It was surprisingly exhausting and took a lot longer than I had anticipated. But I did it. I weeded out the maternity clothes, the summer clothes, and the transition clothes. I put some clothing aside for alterations. I also ditched a bunch of stuff that just didn’t fit me anymore. This included a couple of items that I absolutely adored, including a heavenly white angora sweater and a beautiful blue sheath dress. I just can’t handle angora anymore and after three kids I am just not “hourglass” enough to pull off the sheath dress. Ah well, I am working on making sure they go to good homes. The dress may have an owner, but let me know if you are interested in the sweater.

Of course I forgot before photos, but the “after” picture of my tops should give you a good idea of how much my wardrobe has been reduced. I think I used to have about 5 empty hangers. (This evening Ben used some of the spares as bows and arrows and as a special skinning knife – we’ve been watching Edwardian Farm lately and I think he got that idea from the part about the leather tanner). Oh, and the stuff on the right is the sloppy-stay-at-home section.

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I learned three things from this little experiment.

  1. I really do need to go shopping, otherwise I will be very cold this winter.
  2. Having only stuff that fits you in your wardrobe actually works! This Sunday was incredibly wet, so I needed something more protective than a skirt to wear to mass. I threw on a pair of grey dress pants, a black tank top, a grey blazer that I just recently purloined from my sister, a scarf, and a pair of black flats. And it worked! I should have worn a rain jacket, but I was comfortable and moderately stylish. It was a heck of a lot better than hunting around for a new outfit, trying seven things on, rejecting them all, and then ending up with the same thing I had worn three weeks in a row.
  3. Look at how much unwearable stuff I had in my wardrobe!! That is a lot of visual dead weight. Every time I went to get dressed I had to mentally discount whole sections of clothing. Better to just admit it doesn’t fit and get rid of it rather than holding on to a bunch of wishful thinking.

Hopefully this simplification will relieve stress not only for me but for Darren, who cringes visibly every time he sees me standing in the closet with a pensive look on my face.  And I’m looking forward to actually being excited to put an outfit together and being creative with clothes!

It ain’t pretty…but it works

I have a couple of meaty posts that I am dying to get out of my system, but due to the tyranny of the immediate they will have to wait for now. A few days ago I opened the cupboard door and saw this.

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Just two pieces of paper, very plain and simple, nothing really spectacular. However, these humble pieces of paper help to keep me sane and organized. The bottom sheet of paper tracks the groceries that we need to purchase this month – this is generally organized by store. Costco hangs out in the bottom right hand corner, Heritage Meats is above that and Superstore/Pricemart takes up the rest of the page. The top sheet of paper tracks the items that we will need next month. For example, if we are getting a little low on maple syrup but i know we can make do with what we have for the rest of the month, up “maple syrup” goes on the top sheet. Another good thing about this system is that it uses scrap paper, so we are recycling what we already have instead of creating more waste. I know that some people use computer lists or shopping apps, but I need that tactile connection of pencil and paper. I am a visual learner and I need to see everything laid out before me in order to make good decisions.

This past year or so I have been playing around with different systems of organization, trying to figure out what works for me and what doesn’t. While I am browsing through Pinterest in the evenings I see countless websites that are geared towards helping you become organized. Some are genuinely helpful, while others just seem to encourage you to buy more stuff to help you attractively display all of your excessive amounts of stuff. I am all for attractive presentation, but there does come a time when you just need to stack the cans in the pantry and forget about the tiered can organizer. Seriously. And anyways, if the tiered can organizer only holds 12 cans of soup and you happen to have 14 cans, what do you do then? You are just back to stacking cans and you should just have stacked them in the first place and saved yourself the $10 or $20 that it cost to purchase the tiered can stacker. (“Tiered can stacker” – this is starting to sound like a Dr. Seuss tongue twister!) I don’t care how pretty it looks, if an organizational tool isn’t functional in all situations it isn’t worth buying.

Before I had kids I was able to go on autopilot and stay organized naturally, The addition of three other little human beings into the mix, not to mention a husband, means that I need to be a lot more intentional about organizing our lives. I have discovered that if I really want to be organized, I need to pay attention to how I most efficiently operate and encourage those strengths. I also need to take a look at where I fail (ahem, office clutter) and try to change that unhelpful behaviour. You can’t just go out and purchase a bunch of colour-coded file folders and try to adapt your life to fit a pre-programmed system. Because it just isn’t going to work. The tyranny of the immediate will rear its ugly head and you will be back where you started.

So, the two-sheet grocery list is working for me. It may not be mounted on scrapbook paper or written in a funky font with appropriately coordinated stamps, but it works. And I am satisfied. Now for the office clutter…

Goyte Covers

One of the catchiest, most introspective, coolest pop songs released in the last couple of years is Goyte’s “Somebody That I Used to Know”.  Even I, who am woefully behind the times when is comes to pop culture, have heard of this chap from Australia (who seems like a genuinely nice person, which is always encouraging).  Just in case you haven’t heard the song, here is it…

This song has spawned a LOT of covers, as you can see from this little sampling…

…which lead me to a little exploring, which included this gem.

Oh George.  All that money and you still didn’t hire an editor.  Ah well…

Help a family, snag some e-books!

Now here’s a chance to do something good for someone while scoring some very cool e-books.

The Tuesday post on Simple Mom features the Barlow family, who just recently lost their husband/father.  As you can see from the photo above the Barlow’s have five children, aged 9 months to 11 years old. Their mom, Jenny, is a stay-at-home mom who is, understandably, grieving the loss of her spouse and also extremely worried about how she is going to find the money to raise her children. To read more of her story, you can head over to Life Your Way.

Enter some very generous bloggers.  These ladies, including SimpleMom’s Tsh Oxenreider, have banded together to offer 10 e-books for $5 with ALL the proceeds going to the Barlow family.  The offer is valid until Thursday, I believe.  Please hop over to their website and, if you like even one of the books offered, buy it to help this family out.  It’s only $5.  Oddly enough, I have been trying to buy Tsh’s “One Bite at a Time” for the last couple months, but I was running into troubles with Paypal.  Her book usually sells for $5 by itself, so I was thrilled to get nine extra e-books!

But most of all, keep this family in your prayers.