Saturday, December 31, 2016

It's Just Another New Year's Eve ...

... and my husband is playing Barry Manilow on piano.  That seems to be one of our New Year's Eve traditions.

Many New Year's Eve traditions revolve around food.  We don't really do it every year, but in my family that means black-eyed peas.  In another tradition we developed with some old friends, it also means Scotch Eggs (Heart Attacks) in the morning.

This year I'm looking forward to being home together.  Someone has been in Rome in the last 2 years.  We won't have a big party, just the four of us eating junk food and watching a little television, maybe a movie.  At midnight it will be silly hats and noise makers.  It's not much, but it's what we do.

It's also time to make resolutions.  At my age I've seen too many resolutions come and go, mostly resolving to being healthier, exercising more and losing weight.  Yeah, sure, those apply again this year so I'll give them a cursory nod. 

This year I resolve to make time for the things I love to do.  Mostly that means sewing and crafting for my Etsy store.  With my busy schedule, I have to made the effort to doing in small doses.  Crochet is good for that and I can break up sewing projects into small tasks (cutting fabric, sewing a couple of things at a time or stuffing a nursing pillow).  I also want to be a little more consistent blogging now that I have a dedicated Surface Pro that I don't have to share with anyone else. [big smile on my face right now.]

Let's see what 2017 brings.  Happy New Year!


Sunday, November 20, 2016

Sausage Apple and Cranberry Stuffing

I love finding recipes with beautiful photos and descriptions that make you salivate before you can finish the instructions.  This recipe is the perfect stuffing for Thanksgiving or Christmas.  Unfortunately, I have no gorgeous photos to make you salivate.  I scrounged up a few just to make it interesting.  Seriously, this stuffing is the bomb.

3 3/4 cups of cubed white bread
1 1/2 cups of cubed whole wheat bread
1 lb ground sausage
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 Golden Delicious apple, cored and chopped
1 cooked turkey liver, finely chopped
3/4 cup chopped celery
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup minced fresh parsley
4 Tbl. melted butter
3/4 c. turkey stock
2 1/2 tsp. sage
1 1/2 tsp. rosemary
1/2 tsp thyme
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Bake bread cubes on baking sheet 5-7 minutes.  (I often buy pre-made bread cubes/stuffing)
In large skillet, cook sausage and onions.  
Add celery, sage, rosemary and thyme and cook 2 minutes.
Pour sausage mixture over bread in bowl.  
Mix in apples, cranberries, parsley and liver.
Drizzle with turkey stock and melted butter and mix lightly.
Stuff in turkey or cook in pan until internal temperature is 160 degrees.

Monday, November 14, 2016

My Favorite Yarn

I love Bernat Baby Blanket yarn.  It is my favorite yarn - thick and soft like chenille.  I've made lots of baby blankets that I've given away or sold in my Etsy store.  (I have a few available right now ;)  It comes in lots of variegated colors for babies, and best of all, it now comes in grown up colors!  I could go on writing about it, but it's so much easier to show some of things I've made with this yarn:

I can't get enough of this yarn!


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Baby Stocking Stuffers

I've been busy in my Etsy store Pretty Pretty Cindy.  It's always a good time to shop for a baby, but because Christmas is coming and you can't say the word "shopping" without the word "Christmas," I thought I would point out a couple of items that make great stocking stuffers for baby's first Christmas stocking.

I love making these Jingle Balls.  They have different texture fabrics and tags to interest baby and a jingle bell inside.  Best of all, they are only $8.00 for a handmade treasure.

If you have a slightly more dextrous baby or toddler, take a look at these Amish Puzzle Balls.  They are made of 12 fabric separate segment, each with three sides.  The segments turn, providing hours of fascination.  These Montessori type balls are $10.00.

Be sure to check out my actual listings, as some additional balls have been added (and some are sold out).  Watch for a few more stocking stuffer ideas for baby this week.


Saturday, November 5, 2016

Hey, What's Going On?

I guess as I look at my last posts from JULY that I haven't been keeping up here.  Cool new job that started last February keeps me very occupied during the week, which only leaves windows on weeknights and weekends to relax clean (umm), sew, crochet, read, write, laundry <cough> and handle my Etsy store (Pretty Pretty Cindy) and social media accounts.  Did I mention that I have a husband and two kids?  I know that sounds crazy to do all of those things in the premium "down time" from work, but it's my bliss.

So, Straddling the Gap has taken a bit of the hit in terms of time.  However, in looking at the blog, I realized I can actually have time to write if I make my posts SHORTER and make them about things I'm already doing.  Can you blame me if my lawyer writing style tends to run long?

Expect to see a lot more about my Etsy store, because I've been making some cute baby stuff I'm really proud to sell (because that means I can make more)! Here's a little taste:

Thanks to Katie at Songs Kate Sang who always makes my creations look so special!


Sunday, July 31, 2016

15 DIY Craft Projects for the College Student

OK, you're off to college, but you want to incorporate something in your new life that reflects your crafty side.  Here are 25 of the best and useful projects you can make before you leave or bond with some new friends on a craft project!  You can see these and more on my Pinterest boards, College and Dorm DIY

Desk Organization Projects

1.  Desk Organization Set - This three little bulletin board set works well above your desk and I have to admit I'm a little partial because it's my DIY.
2.  Desk Supplies Organizer - No link, just a picture.  Use a shoebox and cardboard toliet paper rolls. So easy and cute - great if you have a lot of pencils/pens

3. Frame jewelry/picture hanger - From the UK, Love Chic Living describes this as a way to make an easy photo collage.  I think it's cute as that, but would also be a great way to hang your jewelry, especially if you added a little background cork for earrings.  You can find the little "clothes pins" at Michaels.
4.  Desk Organizer - This is a cute little video tutorial on making a desk organizer with scrapbook paper and little boxes.  You can find little boxes at craft stores or the dollar stores.

5.  Faux Book Cellphone Charging Station I had to include a picture on this one.  It might be nice if you are nervous about leaving your phone out in the open.

6.   Shoebox Charging Station - I really liked this one because (A) it's easy; and (B) it's functional.  One thing I would note - you should probably leave the lid of the box open when you are charging your items so it doesn't overheat and be sure to unplug fully charged devices (your manufacturer's instructions for your electronics will tell you that part too).
7.  Frame organization/note board/calendar - There are a ton of variations of this project, but the concept is pretty simple - picture frame, paper/fabric background in frame and dry erase pen to use on the glass.  
8.  Mason Jar Desk organizer - Mason jars on their sides glued together.
9.  Tennis Ball Friends - I think these are functional and super cute.

Storage Solutions

10. Storage Crate Ottoman -This is the cutest design from The Eager Teacher.  These would be ideal tucked under your bed for storage and brought out when you have extra guests or need a foot rest.  Two notes - make sure the store bought crates will support your weight and consider a fabric loop/tab to stick out on the side of the cushion so you can easily access the storage space in the crate.
11.  Mason Jar Bathroom Storage  In this tutorial you paint Mason Jars for a really cute look.
12.  Washi Tape Color Coded Plugs - Just a picture, but pretty self-explanatory

13.  Bedside Pocket Organizer - This is a must in a dorm room. Easy to keep stuff right on your bed.
14.  DIY Frame Key Holder Easy, cute and very functional
15.  Makeup Brush Holder - There are a bunch of little DIY projects with a fun presentation.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Dorm Decorating Tips

If you've read some of my other College Week posts, you know I was in college in the Stone Age.  (This is a picture of the Quad at my fabulous alma mater - the University of Illinois.)  While some things have changed, most dorm rooms have not.  For each person in the room, there is a bed, desk, chair and usually a wardrobe or closet.  My freshman year, I lived in a triple - yes, that is 3 women in a room.  No, the room wasn't much bigger.  Decorating a dorm room can be daunting, but there are two basic rules to remember:

1.  A dorm room is SMALL so don't cram too much into it.
2.  Decorating decisions need to include your roommate(s).

If you get these basic concepts, the rest flows from there.  Hopefully, you will wait to decide on decorating details until after you are at school, but most freshmen just can't help themselves.  Consulting with your new roommate over the summer is a great idea (fits criteria 2), but without seeing your new room, it might be hard to meet criteria 1.

You can find lots of examples of great dorm rooms online and I've collected over 100 pins on my board Dorm DIY on Pinterest.  For now, I just want to make a couple of points about dorm room decorating.  Click on any of the pictures to see more information about organization or decorating:

1.  Maximize the use of space - including airspace.  Raising your bed is a great idea.  If you can get the bed high enough, you can put your desk underneath.  Make sure to check your school's policies on this and make sure you are being safe.  Here's a great example and a well done blog post from Bottled Creativity

2.  A dorm room is not as big as your room at home - unless you live in a trailer.  Unless you share a room in a trailer with someone else, your room at home doesn't have two beds, two desks, two chairs and two closets. Don't try to copy pictures of rooms that are clearly bigger than your dorm room.  Wait until you get to school and take a careful look at what you have.  Check out Seven Ways to Make Your Dorm Room Seem Bigger from The Odyssey Online.

3.  Keep it functional.  Don't bring in extra furniture - really.  It might be cute, but not so much when you are tripping over it in the middle of the night.  You can have a beautiful and functional room without extra furniture - really.  Here's some great ideas for 15 Essential Products You Need for Your Dorm (but might forget) from StudyBlue.

4.  NO CLUTTER.  There are lots of cool products - shelving, storage bins, side tables, etc.  Clutter makes your room look messy, unorganized, and, if it's possible, smaller than it actually is.  Leave the knick-knacks at home.  There are several pins about organization on my Pinterest board Dorm DIY, but here's a really good piece from abell Organizing

5.  Talk to your roommate and coordinate.  You both might have great taste, but it isn't fun to have different decorating themes in one little room.  Compromise - you're just getting started.  Everyday you come in to see a schizophrenic room, it will remind you that you and your roommate can't compromise.  Here's some themes from Society19

6.  If you or your roommate intend to study, relax or sleep in your dorm room, don't plaster the walls with thousands of high school pictures and then hang Christmas lights around it.  It's not only tacky, it is very distracting and certainly not conducive to concentration or relaxation. Of course, you will see plenty of pictures of dorms online that will feature these, so obviously people can disagree about this one.

7.  Make your function pretty.  You can have some storage under your bed that looks good.  You can add some nice curtains that keep the excess light out while masking those ugly blinds.  If you would like extra seating, turn a storage bin into an ottoman. (But not two in the middle of the room!)  Check out the Top Dorm Bedding Ideas from Society19

8.  Get a nice rug, but consider throw rugs instead of bigger carpeting pieces.  Your carpet will likely never see a vacuum unless one is available for common use in the dorm.  However, a throw rug can be washed.

9.  Use light colors.  When winter comes and you get stir crazy in your little dorm room, you won't want to be surrounded by dark colors covering the walls and your bed.  Just like dark paint, dark decorations dominating the bed and walls will make your little dorm room smaller.

10.  Keep it clean!  At the risk of sounding like your mom, a clean room will keep you and your roommate happy.  Just like a happy wife, a happy roommate makes for a happy college life

Still looking for ideas?  Don't miss this post from GradGuard: 5 Best Dorm Decor Blogs.  Don't forget to check out my Pinterest boards Dorm DIY and College for more college ideas!


Thursday, July 28, 2016

Dorm Shopping 101

While it might be more practical to talk about what you need to buy for school supplies in college, the real hot topic for the new college student is the stuff that might be more exciting - dorm or apartment shopping.  Actually, this post is focussed on dorm life because that's what I know best.  Even though it's been many years since I was in college, I lived in a dorm all four years, including 2 as a resident advisor.

First of all, there are MANY websites and blogs that have lists of what you MUST have (or at least that's what they say).  I have a bunch of them compiled on my Pinterest board College.  (Even if you don't need help with the shopping list, you will want to check out my board because there are over 70 pins about all aspects of college life.  I also have a board Dorm DIY. 

BEFORE you go shopping, there are three things to know/remember:
1.  Have you talked to your prospective roommate about decorating or other layout decisions?
2.  Do you have the dimensions/layout of the room?  If you don't you should seriously consider waiting until after you see the room/closet before buying anything that takes up space.
3.  Space is at a premium and organization is the key.  Keep that in mind as you buy big items you might not need.
Regardless of the specific things you choose to buy for your dorm room, here are some areas you need to cover.

Bath Stuff 
  • You need towels, but don't buy too many.  While you might be spoiled at home by using a different clean towel every time you take a shower, your mother is no longer doing your laundry and you don't have room for all of those towels.  Consider monogrammed or patterned towels - they don't get "lost" as easily. 
  • If you are living with a communal bathroom, you will need a caddy for your toiletries. Consider a plastic bath caddy.  I personally like the plastic bath caddies you can carry because when they inevitably get grungy with soap and shampoo residue, you just take them in the shower and hose them down.  Mesh caddies are harder to clean than solid ones.  This is an example of something best purchased at a dollar store.
  • Water shoes - if you are using a communal bathroom, you will thank me later.  If you insist upon using flip-flops, get the very flattest ones you can find and try to ones with some traction.  Otherwise, just use pool shoes.
  • In addition to a set of sheets, you need a good mattress topper - not just the mattress cover.  Also, don't go too cheap on the sheets.  You can find great deals, but low thread counts and a couple of washes will keep you up at night on scratchy sheets.  Go for the higher thread count, and don't forget a good pillow! 
  • A sleep mask can be very useful if you and your roommate keep different study hours. 
  • Bed risers, but only after you actually see the room and the bed. 
  • You will need a comforter/bedspread/top blanket, but this is another one of those things you will want to wait and coordinate with your roommate (unless you're a guy because guys don't always care about coordinated bedding).
  • Tech corner - charging station, headphones, extra long charging cord and wireless speaker
  • Laptop with cover.  The cover is a must for all of the traveling your laptop will see.
  • Power strip - look for a flexible one that can curve around furniture.  Power outlets are a premium in dorm rooms, so try to minimize the number of items you must plug in.  
  • A desk calendar/bulletin board/organizer is really helpful.  You might also want to consider a small one for the wall so you and your roommate have some idea when one of you will be out, have a big test or wanting some private time in the room.
Closet/Storage Area
  • Full length mirror on closet door - it may be the only one available outside of the bathroom and it might make your room look bigger.  Use Command hooks to hang it.
  • Laundry bag - I like this better than plastic baskets because they can hang, take up less space and are easy to sling over your shoulder (or drag) when they are full
  • Storage bins - It's important to get the right size for under your bed - whether it is raised or not. Again, this might be one of those things that might wait until you are actually at school to see the bed.
  • Over the door hanger/basket/pouches for storage.  Hopefully you are able to put the full length mirror on one side of the closet door and the hanging storage on the other side
  • Hangers - the kind of hangers may be dependent on how many clothes you have and the size of your closet.  You don't want the pretty expensive padded or wooden hangers if your can't fit enough of them in your closet.  A good inexpensive solution is to cover wire hangers with yarn or foam to pad them.
Other Important Stuff 
  • Think carefully about a refrigerator.  Some places won't allow them and they do take up space and a power outlet.  I would also think twice about a microwave.  If you and your roommate can share and have the space, they can be great, but if you don't know you will use them, don't bother.
  • Fan - Cooling, air circulation and white noise when you're trying to sleep
  • Disinfecting wipes - I can't describe all the ways you might use these
  • Command hooks - you can't put nails in the walls. 
  • First aid kit/common medicines/prescription list - the first time you get a cold you will be happy you have this.  You will need a Band-aid at some point and a complete list of your prescriptions (with dosages, pharmacy information and doctor) is important to have readily available.
Finally, when I was in school, there was no technology.  Today, there are so many gadgets and apps you can get to make your life at school easier, more organized and successful.  Keep your music online or in digital format.  Use your phone to watch TV or movies.  Use of technology is not only more efficient, but solves one of the biggest problems of dorm living - lack of space.

Stop by tomorrow and we can start talking about the details of decorating!


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

College: There's an App for That!

This is an updated post from 2013.

College students are so lucky today.  I didn't have apps in college.  Heck, no one had a cell phone.  In fact, no one at school had a PC, much less a laptop.  We had pencil, paper and books and we liked it!

Some of these apps may be on your radar screen, but if not, you really need to check them out.  Most have a website to describe them (click on the names) and many have one or more YouTube videos.

1.  Evernote - This powerful app helps you keep and organize everything through the Cloud while synching to all of your devices.  Take notes, recordings, pictures and files wherever you go and access them on your laptop, tablet or phone.  It's free and available for Android or iOS devices.  There is a huge presence of Evernote videos on YouTube, but here is one specifically for college students:

2.  QuickVoice Recorder or Smart Voice Recorder - These two apps basically do the same thing - record - which is awesome for lectures.  QuickVoice Recorder works on iOS devices and Smart Voice Recorder is for Android.  Each has a few special features, and both are free.

3.  iStudiezLite or iStudiezPro - These are the same basic apps, but the Pro version can be used with an Apple Watch.  iStudiez helps you stay organized, track deadlines, grades and more across Mac devices.  It synchs in the Cloud and integrates with iCal.  The Pro version is only $2.99.

4.  Quizlet or STUDYBLUE - Need some flashcards or other study tools?  Each of these apps offers a variety of study tools that you create to help you prepare for those big tests.  STUDYBLUE also synchs with Evernote, which is a plus.  Both are free.

5.  Mindmup - This is one of several free mind mapping apps that helps you brainstorm for assignments or even your entire semester course.  This one also has a web version.  I'm not going to explain mind mapping here, but you can find MANY videos about it on YouTube.  Here's one specifically about Mindmup:

6.  Desmos - This is a nifty graphing calculator (free in the App Store or on Google Play).  It also has a great website with examples of what it can do (graph functions, plot tables of data, evaluate equations and more).  Here's one of several videos on YouTube that show you how to use the app:


Some other notable mentions for college must have apps are EasyBib (scan ISBN tags on books to get full bibliographic information in proper citation for papers); Chegg (order textbooks and e-textbooks at great savings), Wolfram-Alpha (compute ANYTHING instantly, including scientific standards of measurement and complex equations).

Good luck at school!


Monday, July 25, 2016

Let's Talk Shopping for College

So, you're going to college.  Maybe you are going away to college or you're living at home going to community college or a local college or university.  Today we're talking about the stuff you will need whether you are staying at home or living in a dorm.  Yes, it's time to talk school supplies.

In previous years your mom (or you with your mom) did the school supply shopping, perhaps following a list provided by your school (yeah, some schools even do this in high school).  This time, you're on your own, but some stuff is obvious - paper, pencils, notebooks, planner, etc.  But do you know where to get the best prices on that stuff?  Never fear, a couple of thrifty bloggers (not me!) have done the homework for you.  Check out this printable Back to School shopping list from Simplemost.  They have already done the price comparisons and show you which store gives you the cheapest price on the kinds of school supplies.  Passion for Savings has price lists and an app to help you find the best prices.

Computers weren't available for classes when I was in college, but those of you lucky enough to go off to college this year with a laptop, probably don't need much in the way of school supplies.  However, you definitely need something safe to carry that laptop AND a backup for the stuff you put on that laptop.  I would suggest keeping your stuff in the Cloud, or if you have items too big (like digital textbooks) try a small hard drive.  That way, a mishap that damages your laptop doesn't mean you loose all of your class notes and papers.  As far as storage, a lot of companies are making backpacks and messenger bags with special padded areas for electronics.  USE THEM.  Better yet, buy a good padded sleeve and keep it in your back pack or messenger bag.  If you want more choices and styles, check out the selection on Etsy.  Just search for laptop case or sleeve or bag and you'll find plenty of choices.  Don't be cheap on this item.  The same goes for backpacks or messenger bags.  Unlike high school, you might be carrying around more books this year, so make sure your bag is up for the task. 

Ready for the digital age?  Consider renting or buying your textbooks in digital format.  You can find a list of 12 different places that rent or sell digital textbooks in this article from The Digital Reader.  In addition, there are a wealth of apps you can use to organize your study.  Check out this great infographic from Elearninginfographics.  You can also check out this great list of websites for college students from CollegeInfoGeek.  In fact, anything from CollegeInfoGeek or its YouTube site is great or follow Thomas Frank on Pinterest.  

These are just a few places you can get information about shopping for college.  Tomorrow we'll talk about shopping for that dorm room and starting learning about dorm room organization.


Saturday, July 23, 2016

College Countdown 2016

Last year I did a couple of posts about college, especially dorm living.  While it's been a long time since I was in college - a really long time, I did spend 4 years in a dorm - 2 as a resident advisor - so I know more than most about living in a dorm room.  What I don't know I found online, especially Pinterest.  I've collected a lot of pins about college living, which you can see on my two Pinterest boards College and Dorm DIY.  If you want to follow me on Pinterest, just click on the Pinterest icon over there -----> and follow ccisme.

This year I'm going to try to expand on college life a little more, so be sure to come back every day this week for everything you need to know.  Dorm living and decorating, organizational hints, study suggestion and more - this week Straddling the Gap is all about college!


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

My Guy Is Getting Older

No, not my husband.  (Well, he is getting older, but this post isn't about him).  My dog Brodie is nearly 11 1/2 and in Westie years that is definitely a senior citizen.

Our Shellie died a couple of years ago at age 16, but she was a larger (and really old) terrier.  It was tough.  Our first indication that she was starting to decline was when we realized she lost her hearing. We had to learn to use hand commands, although she was quick to pick it up.  We also had to walk up and touch her whenever we wanted her attention.  There were a lot of other things that happened physically to Shellie before she died, but losing her hearing was the first big step.

I just realized tonight that our Brodie has also largely lost his hearing.  At first I thought (just like with Shellie) that he was being a stubborn terrier at times because he was ignoring me when I called.  We did a little test tonight and really the only thing he hears is when I whistle.  He is getting hand commands already which is good.

This guy was a surprise birthday gift to me on a "big" birthday and he's very special.  Don't ask my husband how special he is, because you will probably get a very mixed response at best.

He sleeps a lot too which isn't all bad because we know he's not getting into trouble in the next room.  But turn on that barbecue grill and he dances around like a puppy.

I think Brodie may still have several good years before his run is over, but for tonight, its a little sad knowing we are beginning the last stage of his life.


Sunday, May 29, 2016

It Takes Just A Second

Last night we attended a graduation party. The hosts have a large pool with various seating areas scattered around their backyard. It was a pretty good crowd and we were there for a few hours. We were having a nice time talking to a couple with three beautiful young daughters, ages 11, 8 and 3. We were standing near a table with chairs around it near the pool and it was getting pretty dark out there. The kids were moving around, eating, talking and playing.  Nothing extraordinary. Suddenly, the husband asked the wife "Where's the baby?" referring to the 3 year old. She had stepped around the table where he couldn't see her and we were all talking. The other girls just looked at him. We were so close to the pool.

Do you know what happened next?

No, the baby didn't fall into the pool. Her mom and I were talking, but between the two of us, we had an eye on the toddler. Once the husband knew where the baby was, we went back to our conversations, but I bet there was a third pair of eyes on her after that.

Every year in Arizona multiple children die or are severely disabled in pool accidents. Every year we hear the same thing - watch your kids around water.

It can happen so fast. We could have taken our eyes off that baby for just 30 seconds and that would be plenty of time for her to be in the pool. Little ones don't necessarily hold their breath or make noise when they when they unexpectedly fall into a pool. It can happen at night or in broad daylight. I can't tell you how many times I have seen news stories of children found at the bottom of pools in the middle of the day during a party. There are so many eyes, it just seems counterintuitive that a child would slip under the water and no one would notice. But it does.

If you have a young child and a pool, there must be barriers between them. A locked patio door won't work if the child can go through the doggie door (there have been several drownings in Arizona like that). If your child can reach and operate the latch on the pool gate by standing on a nearby chair, there is no barrier. If your child or your family is at someone else's house, you need to know if there are barriers are between them and the pool. If there are no barriers, you must watch them.  EVERY. SINGLE. SECOND. Don't depend on other people at the party, even if there are quite a few. There is no guarantee someone will see your child, and if it is dark or the party is big, it's pretty likely that someone won't see your child fall into the pool.

Accidents can and do happen. I'm certainly not preaching because my kids are teenagers and most of the time I want to push them into the pool. I'm just giving that friendly PSA.

Please, watch your kids around water.