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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Stash Busting: For My Purse

I decided it was time for a new business card holder to carry in my purse, and thought that'd be a great little project.

Because I'm Me easy to make hand sewn wallet and business card holder

For my card holder I used some fabric set aside for camera strap covers that I just love. I opted to mix and match the fabrics, using three of them. For this project I used a tutorial found here at The Crafty Cupboard. I chose to leave off the button and loop closure, knowing this would rest in a pocket of my purse that's seldom disturbed, except to retrieve business cards.

Because I'm Me easy to make hand sewn wallet and business card holder

Total project time was about 15 minutes.

Because I'm Me easy to make hand sewn wallet and business card holder

These little holders would make terrific gifts - if you did a pocket on just one side it'd be neat for giving a gift card. Or as a more decorative way to carry a driver's license or school ID. Lots of fun possibilities.

Of course, once I made the business card holder I didn't want to stop. What fun would it be to stop after making just one pretty little thing?

Because I'm Me easy to make hand sewn wallet and business card holder
Old wallet
It crossed my mind that I needed a new wallet. I got the one I was using from my former husband, who bought it on eBay thinking it was authentic Louis Vuitton. It was most definitely a fake, but the gesture was sweet so I was happy to use it. Then I got used to it. Everything had a place, and I knew what all those places were, and once I'm used to something I'm not real big on change. I wouldn't be surprised if I'd been using that same wallet for 10 years. I often considered replacing it but knew I wouldn't find one exactly the same and I'd have to come up with a new system ... and if it's not broke why fix it?

Well, couldn't I make my own? Maybe? I've sewn plenty of handbags over the years, surely I could try a wallet. Taking a look at my old faithful wallet I realized that yes, I could try to make one as the lines were very logical and simple.

Two hours later I had a new wallet, in the same style as the previous wallet.

Because I'm Me easy to make hand sewn wallet and business card holder

I used the same fabrics used in the business card holder, with the exception of the cover - there I opted for a red laminate which would be easier to keep clean. Not exactly my first choice, but it was very early on Sunday morning, I was still in my pajamas, and I wanted to make a wallet NOW, so I used what was on hand.
Because I'm Me easy to make hand sewn wallet and business card holder

I love the slip-in pockets for the cards, and the closing pocket. And I love the fabrics. It's very bright and cheery.

Because I'm Me easy to make hand sewn wallet and business card holder

Downsides: The snaps I used are too thick and when the wallet is folded they sit on top of each other, adding way too much thickness is one place. It's not stiff enough at all. The fold-down flap is super loose and is catching on all sorts of stuff in my purse. Both of these things are super easy fixes, and when I make a new wallet I'll use super stiff interfacing and leave the snap off of the inside envelope pocket.

Overall, though, I'm very pleased. These two pieces are a great addition to my purse.

Because I'm Me easy to make hand sewn wallet and business card holder



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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

TOS Review: Science4Us.com Online Subscription

Because I'm Me TOS Review, Science4us.com, a terrific science curriculum for kids in grades K - 2
River, like most young siblings, loves to do whatever his brothers and sisters are doing. Any projects, experiments, adventures ... he's right in there with him. He injects himself into their conversations, even those about what the older kids are learning in high school. This year Ian and Mia are in very engaging and exciting science and engineering classes and we've all been enjoying the journey through these classes with them as they spend most dinners hours talking about periodic tables and simple machines. So when River was given a chance to do his very own online science program for a review, Science4Us.com Online Subscription, he was beyond thrilled.

I'm going to admit that going into this I was a little leery. I've done online science classes with the other kids, usually beginning at a middle school level, and they've gotten quite a bit out of them, but really wasn't convinced that this was a class River would learn much from, considering that it wasn't a "hands-on" class. Before delving further into the program I expected him to get as much out of this as he does watching an episode of an educational kids show on tv. I thought the lessons would be over his head and he'd just like the games, even if he didn't do so well on them.

Was I ever wrong.

Because I'm Me TOS Review, Science4us.com, a terrific science curriculum for kids in grades K - 2

I'm going to just cut to the chase here ... River LOVES his science program. River wakes up in the morning asking if he can do science, and will do the lessons and play the games as long as I'll let him. I LOVE River's science program. He's really mastering and understanding the lessons, and puts what he's learned into his everyday play. These lessons are much more intense than I expected a 5 year old to grasp, but he really gets it and has learned so much, and I know he can continue to learn and be challenged by this program.

Because I'm Me TOS Review, Science4us.com, a terrific science curriculum for kids in grades K - 2

The Science4Us.com Online Subscription program is divided into four sections:
  • Inquiry (science tools)
  • Physical (matter, energy, force and motion)
  • Life (living things, balance in nature)
  • Earth/Space
Because I'm Me TOS Review, Science4us.com, a terrific science curriculum for kids in grades K - 2

Each section is divided into topic modules, and each module contains three initial activities - Engage (determines student's beginning skill level), Explore (present the concept and begin the lesson, presented in an entertaining, personable, and educational cartoon format), and Explain (further lesson information). After completing those three activities the student can move on to the learning games, which River just couldn't get enough of. Each module contains quite a few activities and they can be played numerous times, so there's no getting bored or fear of the student feeling like he's "been there, done that".

The games and activities sneak in math and reading too and River picked up plenty of new skills without even knowing he was learning them.

But that's not all ... In addition to the student account (yup, each child gets their own account), there's a parent/teacher account. This account allows the parent to track their students progress through the program. This account also provides detailed and extensive lesson plans and suggestions for how to teach individual modules (28 in all), the lesson plans include "hands-on" activities and experiments, to take what the child is learning on the computer and put it into their hands, as well as online virtual experiments for the students to do. There are also a dozen extensive help videos (that really do help!), and I highly recommend starting with those.

Because I'm Me TOS Review, Science4us.com, a terrific science curriculum for kids in grades K - 2

River is not yet Kindergarten age and is not doing formal school - I work at his pace and allow his learning to be child led, so I did not take full advantage of the parent account. We did do some of the lesson plan activities and had a great time, but I know we really could have done infinitely more - the resources available are so extensive and thorough. Instead I let him work through his student account at his own pace and while I think we'd have gained more by using more of the lesson plans (they're very complete and detailed), I'm more than happy with what he has learned so far.

Because I'm Me TOS Review, Science4us.com, a terrific science curriculum for kids in grades K - 2

I chose to gauge River's progress by what I saw and heard, rather than by checking his progress in the parent account (again, were he older and using this as our formal science curriculum I'd have done it differently). The more he participated in the program, did the activities, and played the games the more he incorporated what he'd learned into his play. When his older brother had to do a survey on conservation River know was able to engage in the conversation, sharing what he'd learned about energy. His Lego creations now include a lot of incline planes. Oh yes, he was learning.

Because I'm Me TOS Review, Science4us.com, a terrific science curriculum for kids in grades K - 2

River's review: It's online school where you learn stuff like pulling force, electricity and power from a power plant, ferns, and fossils. I got to scrape dirt off of fossils, play matching and sorting games, and learned a lot of things. I liked it because I learned a lot of things, had fun, and I'm really good at it.. In one of the matching games I got everything right and the game said, "This is no match for you. You got it all right.", I liked that.

Because I'm Me TOS Review, Science4us.com, a terrific science curriculum for kids in grades K - 2

Science4Us.com Online Subscription is geared towards kids in grades K-2, but can also be used with upper elementary kids for review purposes. The program costs $7.95 per month, which is a great deal considering the quantity of activities and the vast resources provided.

If you explore the program and try it out I'd love to know what you think.

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Presidents Day

Pop Up camping and Butterfly Sailboat at Fort De Soto Park, St. Petersburg, FL

I have come to realize that getting reservations at our favorite "close to home" campground on the weekends is nearly impossible, so when a teachers in-service day married Presidents Day and the kids had two weekdays free I booked a decadent waterfront site. This, Fort DeSoto, is the same park we visited last month and, truly, as soon as we walked in the door from our first visit I reserved the site for this visit.

This part offers an entirely separate area for tent, pop-up campers, and truck campers, which works perfectly for us.

Pop Up camping at Fort De Soto Park, St. Petersburg, FL

For us, the waterfront sites are the way to go. They're not perfect - when the wind hits just right it's freezing in these sites while still warm and comfy on the other side of the peninsula, but the view and opportunities are unbelievable.

Pop Up camping and Butterfly Sailboat at Fort De Soto Park, St. Petersburg, FL

This round I brought my sailboat, hoping to learn a little more about sailing. The water is very shallow here so I had no worries about the kids being out on the water. Kaden did take me out sailing, I was in charge of the sail and the daggerboard. Within five minutes I had a black eye - the daggerboard got stuck so I pulled it up really, really, really, really hard and it came out flying and stopped when it hit my eye, so I got out of the boat and left the sailing to the pros.

Pop Up camping and Butterfly Sailboat at Fort De Soto Park, St. Petersburg, FL

 And sail they did. The majority of our camping trip was spent at the little beach behind our campsite. Swimming isn't allowed because there are some deep holes, but wading and castle building fit the bill just right.

Pop Up camping and Butterfly Sailboat at Fort De Soto Park, St. Petersburg, FL

Pop Up camping and Butterfly Sailboat at Fort De Soto Park, St. Petersburg, FL

The camper has become a complete pain in the butt, so much so that I spent the majority of the drive home plotting it's demise. Yet once we got home I was back on the reservations website ... so I guess I'll be fixing it and preparing it for a new adventure next month.


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Friday, February 14, 2014

A Moment

Adam and Kaden, 2014

Last weekend, after much hard work and with much excitement, Kaden crossed over to Boy Scouts, with Adam guiding him and assisting him during the ceremony, just as Ian had done for him two years earlier.

Ian and Adam, 2012

I did cry, just a little, as I tend to do when I'm bursting with pride and joy for my kiddos.

The Crossover Ceremony has held in conjunction with our annual Blue and Gold celebration, where Kaden also earned his Arrow of Light, and what a fantastic day it was. I wish I had pictures to share, but once this part of the ceremony was over the camera was put away - too much socializing and playing to do. The day was a perfect send-off for the boys and their families leaving our beloved pack for Boy Scouts.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Patio Set Upgrade


I have such a love for Craig's List. I browse there the way some people browse Target or the mall. I don't often buy anything (except, perhaps, a camper and a boat) but I love to look. It started when I was searching for a camper and scoured the RV section daily, now it's just kind of looking for anything that suits my fancy.

Last week the browse was for patio furniture. Actually, I started looking for a bench and somehow ended up looking at tables and chairs. One listing caught my eye - a five piece outdoor set, in green, for $20. So I bought it, without taking a really good look at it. $20 was unbeatable.

After getting the set home I realized a few things - the table and chairs are much too big for my small lanai, someone had used the chairs to rest boards on when they were painted and there were paint stripes on the chair arms, the legs were rusting and uneven where the rust had completely eaten the aluminum, and the chairs couldn't be used without pads as they were too low and too deep.




No big deal - I quickly decided to repaint the entire set and sell it on Craig's List.

I began by cleaning the chairs and sanding the arms with an electric sander. I used the same black spray paint the boys used for the bench ends and painted the chairs. After they dried I flipped them over and painted the sides I couldn't see/reach earlier. It took two days to paint the chairs but most of that was dry time, actual painting time was about 20 minutes per chair, max.

When I say "I painted the furniture" I might mean "me and some guys who didn't want to do schoolwork painted the furniture"

After the chairs were finished and completely dry I turned them on their sides, measured the lengths of the legs and evened them out with a jigsaw.

I took the table apart and painted each of the three (previously) green pieces with the black spray paint.


The plexiglass top got a good cleaning up, and the table was reassembled.


I priced cushions everywhere I could think of and even considered making my own but for what I needed I'd be spending a minimum of $80, which just wouldn't be recouped in the sale of the set so I decided to skip the cushions. The new owner can then purchase cushions of their choosing.


I was able to use the set during a party last week. No one ate at the table, it became the pizza table, but the chairs were perfect for sitting around the fire that evening.


The set is now relisted on Craig's List and, hopefully, will find a home with a new owner soon. Right now it's in my back yard, and the longer it sits there the more tempted I am to drill a hole in the center of the table, insert a huge umbrella, and keep the set.

Total cost: furniture - $20, paint - $17.

Off subject, but we have bananas in the backyard! Last year we got a few, maybe six, and this year we've got quite the bumper crop!


Monday, February 10, 2014

New Dial Vitamin Boost Body Wash and win free body wash

*The Dial brand provided me with a sample of Dial Vitamin Boost Body Wash in exchange for a product review. However, all the opinions expressed here are my own.

I was recently asked to try Dial Vitamin Boost Amazing B Lotion Infused Body Wash.

I'm in love. It smells great, without being the least bit perfumish - more of a nice, gentle subtle Kiwi smell. It feels great going on and only a very small amount is needed (one bottle will go a long way). The body wash is lotion infused and the Vitamin B helps draw in hydrating moisture, leaving my skin feeling healthy, soft, and smooth.

One evening I added a tablespoon or so to running water in the bath. It smelled good and made the best big, plentiful bubbles that lasted throughout my relaxing bath (I love a bubble bath where all the yummy bubbles linger while I lounge). Decadence.

Two varieties of the Vitamin Boost Body Wash are available; either the Amazing B Lotion Infused Kiwi that I tried or Super C Oil Infused Orange.


Like the Purex and Dial Facebook page to stay up-to-date on new product offerings and, of course, like the Because I'm Me Facebook page.

Now, thanks to Dial and Purex I am able to give away (1) coupons to a wonderful reader for a free bottle of the Vitamin Boost. Enter through the Rafflecopter below. The giveaway will remain open for a week, ending late at night on February 17th. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, February 7, 2014

My Young Valentine

Because I'm Me Valentine's Day neck ties for boys and men

One more Valentine's Day picture. Just for fun.

Since the weekend I've been wondering what people are hoping for, with all their last minute Valentine's Day tie orders. It took me four days to realize there's another whole week until the 14th - that it's not this coming Friday. Whew.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Big Bench Project of 2014

Because I'm Me bench refinishing project, done by kids

Last week the boys were very clearly sick and tired of doing schoolwork. Normally they'd just push through and get the work done, but I needed a little break from the routine as well. And that is how the Big Bench Project began.

Because I'm Me bench refinishing project, done by kids
The bench, before

About three years ago a neighbor had an old beat-up bench in his trash. It leaned to the side, boards were missing, bolts rusty, wood rotted ... and Adam fell in love with it. That's his way - finding the treasure in the trash. I told him as long as he could get it to the back yard he could have it. He and Kaden came home, exhausted, with the heavy downtrodden bench.

And then it sat in the back yard. For years. I often used it as a backdrop for tie pictures, loving the rustic natural feel of it. Occasionally I'd try to use it as a seat in photos, but in the last year or so it hasn't been in decent enough condition for anyone to sit on it without a very realistic fear of it collapsing.

The bench, before

Really, it needed to go back to the curb, to wait for the trash man.

Instead I suggested the boys replace all the boards and fix the bench up - but they'd have to work together and do it on their own, and they'd have to cut the new boards so the bench would fit in our front entry. I've always wanted a bench or seat of some sort in the entry but nothing has ever been the right size - a custom made bench sounded like a perfect solution.

They were game (I was pretty sure they would be, especially once they figured out that they'd need power tools).

After taking the old boards off the sides the boys did some internet research and found that soaking the nuts, bolts, and screws in vinegar should get all the rust off. In the end it didn't get all the rust off, but did get enough off that we could reuse the hardware.

Because I'm Me bench refinishing project, done by kids


They grabbed an old board and we headed out to the hardware store to replace the wood and pick up some new nuts, bolts, and screws to replace the missing ones. The boys had to, on their own, ask for help, working to ask the right questions, remember the answers and information given, and be polite. With the help they found they were able to find hardware that would stand up to the summer rains and wood that was just the right size.

They did the math and determined the correct length the boards needed to be to fit the opening. Instead of using a power saw they opted to cut the wood themselves with a handsaw, measuring twice and cutting once. After cutting the wood it was sanded, stained, sanded, stained, and finally watersealed. Then the holes were drilled in very carefully (there were still a few "oopses" with this step and some of the boards had to be redrilled).

Because I'm Me bench refinishing project, done by kids

In the meantime the end pieces and a back "brace" were spray painted with satin black paint. The difference in those boards ... amazing. After being painted the boards looked 1000 times better, like new. And painting them took less than 10 minutes total. If, over time, the ends look old and rusty again we can just grab another coat of the same spray paint and give it a "once over".

Because I'm Me bench refinishing project, done by kids

The boards were attached to the end pieces, making adjustments as needed. The back brace was added.

Because I'm Me bench refinishing project, done by kids

As a finishing touch both boys signed the bench, one with a woodburner, the other with a permanent marker.
 
Because I'm Me bench refinishing project, done by kids

The final test was to get the bench in the opening on the entry, where it fit perfectly, and to have a good sit on it. The bench is so solid, just perfect.

Because I'm Me bench refinishing project, done by kids

There are mistakes. And lessons learned (the boys left the lid off the stain, letting it dry out, and leaving them without enough stain to finish all the boards). But at the end of the day the boys know that they built the bench by themselves, and they are extremely proud of that accomplishment - as well they should be.

And, icing on the cake, I now have an inviting new little spot to sit and read.

Once again -

Before:

Because I'm Me bench refinishing project, done by kids

 After:

Because I'm Me bench refinishing project, done by kids

Pretty amazing, huh?

Oh, and total cost for the wood, hardware, and a can of spray paint - $15.

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