How to Add a Little Haunt to Your House

Posted by Amanda Turnbull | Posted in | Posted on Friday, October 07, 2011


In the spirit of Halloween (and my first house!) I kicked up my decorating a notch this year to include a few outdoor decorations. Finding easy, DIY outdoor projects was a little tough though, so I came up with one of my own.

Some cute little ghosties to liven up your trees without blowing into the neighbors yard or getting tangled up in branches.


Styrofoam balls for the heads (size depends on how big you want your ghosts to be)
A big nail at least 1/4 inch longer than the diameter of the Styrofoam balls
Fishing line (I used white thread, but it proved to be not quite tough enough)
Nuts, washers or other heavy, string-able material, for weight.
Black Sharpie
Ghost fabric. I used both a water-proof nylon and white garbage bags.

Before you begin: use the balls and fabric to estimate how you want you ghosts to look. Then cut squares to your desired size.

1. Start by using the nail to punch a hole through the center of each Styrofoam ball. Set aside.

2. Cut lengths of fishing line about 2 yards long and string your weights to the center of each length of string.

3. Bring the ends of the string together and thread through the head of a needle. Use the needle to pull the string through the Styrofoam ball. Do not un-thread the needle.

4. Stick the needle into the center of your fabric or garbage bag square and pull through. Tie a double knot at the Styrofoam ball to secure the line in place.

5. Admire your handywork so far.

6. Use another short length of thread to knot around the bottom of the Styrofoam ball, making the ghost's head. If desired, add a scary face.

Ta-da! Ghosts. The weights will keep them swinging from your tree in a ghost-like manner, rather than wildly whipping around branches when the wind blows. I used thread for hanging mine, but I had two of them snap in a storm, so I would recommend using fishing line instead. Also, I found the garbage-bag ghosts to be cheaper and ghostlier than the fabric ones, which turned out too stiff.

Have fun!

Here's to Us

Posted by Amanda Turnbull | Posted in | Posted on Monday, September 26, 2011


We've been holding off on celebrating for so long. It seems like there was just so much going on in our lives. So here's to the big move, the new house and our beautiful baby girl.

We splurged on a fantastic bottle of 21 year old scotch, actually from Scotland. It's delicious.

Reading Right Now

Posted by Amanda Turnbull | Posted in | Posted on Wednesday, September 07, 2011


A while back I posted about my goals for my year off. As part of those goals, I aspired to read one nonfiction book per month. Well, I started one. And then another. And then a third. And then my brother-in-law introduced me to George R. R. Martin's "Song of Ice and Fire" and 3600 pages later I remembered I was supposed to be reading NONfiction.

But the books I'm trying to consume really are interesting. What's on my virtual shelf right now?

I'm almost finished with this one. It chronicles Mark Schatzer's journey to find the perfect steak. As an avid meat-eater I've found it fascinating. It covers the raising, fattening, grading and cooking of beef in several countries.

This is one Brian has already finished, so I've been told the best part is still coming up. But my impressions so far? Great for learning about all things steak. Kind of makes me want to raise a cow. However, it's hard to trudge through some parts, as I find Mark to be way too picky.

Give me steak, any steak. Medium rare. I'm happy.

I'm only a chapter into "NutureShock" and already in love. This is not a book for parents, unless they are highly logical parents, or huge statistics/science nerds. It covers the misconceptions of child-rearing as it applies to recent changes in thinking.

Particularly interesting so far are the studies regarding telling your children how smart they are (and how you shouldn't do it), and parents reactions to these studies.

I'm loving it & Brian's loving my summaries. Here's hoping I can still see the truth of it through my new mommy goggles.

This has been on my wish list for a while, and thanks to a "mommy" gift from a friend of mine, I was able to pick it up at B&N.

As the name implies, it's a book about de-cluttering your life. Written by a motivator, it sets up the goal of throwing out fifty things in your home and life. Then uses that as a stepping stone to keeping things clutter-free.

What's interesting is the idea that not just the things you don't use need to be trashed; but also those things that have negative feelings attached. Example? Clothes I'll never fit into again. Craft projects I never finished, etc.

Our Gardening Failures

Posted by Amanda Turnbull | Posted in | Posted on Tuesday, August 09, 2011


There's been a hitch in my goal to become a home canning master. Despite my best efforts, I have nothing to can except three lonely jalapenos.

One of the very first things I did when Brian and I moved into our new house was plot out my vegetable garden. I've wanted homegrown veggies for 4 years and I finally had the space. 

We hauled in new dirt, borrowed a rototiller, and proceeded to plant three varieties of tomato, green, yellow & jalapeno peppers, green beans, zucchini, sweet corn, radishes, and cucumbers. A canner's garden in truth. 

Only a few days after the seeds began to sprout we lost the corn to a doe and two fawns. Later they ate the beans and radishes, gnawed the new growth off the zucchini and snapped the cucumbers off at dirt level.

But the tomatoes & peppers seemed safe; untouched. Until the day I looked out my bathroom window and watched a groundhog sit up on his hind legs and pluck only the lower leaves off my peppers. He apparently thought they would look better as topiaries.

Later that same week a trip down the hill revealed the new growth of all the tomato plants had also fallen prey to hungry white-tailed deer. Not to be discouraged, we used a deer-repellent spray to try and salvage the tomato crop (which we planted from nursery plants, not seed, and had been pretty costly). Brian was skeptical, as the spray is just infused with essential oils of plants deer seem to dislike, like peppermint. But it worked! As long as we keep it sprayed every week, the deer leave them alone.

But we won't be bothering to spray it again. Why? Our tomato & pepper crop has succumbed to rot, worms & birds. The first vine-ripened tomato I plucked and cut into had a curious black moldy-looking growth inside. The rest are eaten or rot before they even turn red. 

So the grand total of our harvest this year is three jalapenos. 

We're making plans for a smaller, better maintained garden next year. Among our solutions are raised beds, deer fencing, cover crops, fertilizer and manual worm-plucking. Anyone whose every dealt with these issues is welcome to chime in with what worked for you. 

The Labor Guessing Game

Posted by Amanda Turnbull | Posted in | Posted on Saturday, July 09, 2011


While I promise this won't turn into a big 'ol pregnancy/parenthood blog, I did have to share a little frustrating story. Maybe other veteran moms can tell me if they've dealt with the expectation that a first time mom should know how to recognize labor.

Here's the backstory:

I'm at 38 1/2 weeks with a scheduled c-section for next Thursday because Baby Turnbull is breech. So my OB would really prefer if I not go into active labor before surgery. I've been having regular Braxton-Hicks contractions for weeks that are uncomfortable, but not too inconvenient. So here's me, first pregnancy, no idea what a contraction is going to be like, but assuming I'll know one if I have one.

An assumption that lasts until the groggy middle-of-the-night cramps start. At 3am your mind is much less clear than it is during the waking hours.

"Was that a contraction?"
"It hurts a lot, but I figured it would hurt more."
"Should I call my OB now or see what happens?"
"Should I start timing them?"
"Let's see what the Internet says."

Though, after a full night (less the 5am-6am nap I got) of regular, time-able, and very uncomfortable lower-abdominal and back cramps, a call to my OB seemed pertinent.

After a detailed explanation of my situation, I got this response: "You should stay home and wait it out, but call if it turns into real labor." Now, don't get me wrong; I was thrilled not to have to traipse into the hospital just to be sent home after an hour of monitoring, but what does "real labor" mean? What's happening to me now?

Since I asked what I should look out for and got nothing good in response, does that mean these aren't contractions at all? Or that they are just too far apart? My biggest fear is being "that mom" who shows up at the hospital with heartburn and thinks she's having a baby, but I'm a naturally anxious person.

So tell me moms, did you deal with false labor? Or cryptic OBs? And how many times (be honest) did you sit up at night trying to use Google to make a decision?

The glass is half full: my year off

Posted by Amanda Turnbull | Posted in | Posted on Tuesday, June 07, 2011


A great post on Ashley Batz's blog last month got me thinking about goals. She posed the question "what would you do if you had a year to yourself?" At first I got all excited thinking, wouldn't that be cool, a year off to do whatever I wanted. And then I realized I do have a year off! And I'm already halfway through it.

Obviously I won't be flying off to Italy or going to yoga everyday what with being 8 months pregnant and all. But I haven't really been looking at my time off in the right light, either. I've mostly been wallowing in a sort of self-pity for being a useless, jobless waif who can't go back to work until after the baby comes. What I should be focusing in is what I'm going to do this year to make my life a little more awesome (besides becoming a mom).

After some thought, I've made 8 goals for myself to accomplish before December 6, 2011.

Learn to grill

We just bought a natural gas grill, much easier to use than charcoal. I can already manage hot dogs start to finish. Next, I'm gonna start learning vegetables.

Read one nonfiction book every month

My preferences are for the work and talent-related books I got totally hooked on while working at ZURB. Things like "The M Factor." I'm also hoping to finish two autobiographies: Betty White & Tina Fey.

Become a food canning pro

Our canning garden is going strong with tomatoes, peppers, radishes, green beans, corn, cucumbers and zucchini. We're planning on several types of salsa, spaghetti sauce and various pickled things. I've got two canning books and the varied experiences of my families to get me started.

Find one job every month that I would love to apply for

I won't be back in the job market until next year, but finding places I'd love to work will help me realize what I want to do and where I need to build my skills before getting back out there.

Make 2 new friends (couples count as one)

Yep, this one sounds pretty sad. But without people to hang out with, Brian and I would stay inside all the time. We already haven't gone to the movies since November. Having friends expands your horizons.

Get 100 volunteering hours

This is a two-fold goal. First, I love volunteering and truly believe it helps in building useful skills. Secondly, I have a 15-year-old brother who seems to think having to get 40 volunteer hours before May 2013 (high school graduation) is a crippling and impossible requirement. I'm going to prove he's a huge whiner.

Write 2 blog posts per month

Doesn't matter what they're about or how long they are, this is merely a test of my willpower.

Take a class

Any kind of class. I've got a recommendation from my brother-in-law to take Developmental Psychology, but I'm also going to count community education classes. Anything where I learn something new.

My year off started December 6, 2010 and for the sake of continuity I'm going to try to accomplish all these things before December 6, 2011.

Home Improvement Lessons Learned... So Far

Posted by Amanda Turnbull | Posted in | Posted on Wednesday, June 01, 2011


We're up to two rooms pretty much done in the new house, with about 7 more to go, we're starting to learn a few valuable lessons.

Move In

Driving 40 minutes home every night at 11pm was killing us. As was trying to maintain basic living supplies in 2 places. Many nights our dinner plans were ruined because the milk was at the house or the ketchup was at the apartment.

Once we moved in, life became so much easier and more relaxed. You feel less rushed to get there in the morning and it's comforting to know when you've worked yourself into a catatonic state that all you have to do is fall into bed.

Little Things Add Up

Being the diligent budgeters we are, we formulated a plan before embarking on the remodeling process. We budgeted for paint, appliances, tools, pool equipment, all kinds of things. What we didn't budget for was hundreds of dollars in pipe connectors, outlet covers, screws, rags, shut-off valves and sandpaper. To date the unexpected costs have come in at around an additional 20% in expenses. 

One Room at a Time

Whenever it's feasible, try to work on one room at a time, rather than one "project" at a time. For example: I wanted to get the trim done. That involved popping the trim off in every room, sanding, patching, and painting each board. Not only did we have to come up with a system for identifying which boards went in which rooms, but we found it difficult to find space for all the boards when painting and drying them.

Now that the living room and bedroom are done, we've adjusted our system. We're not ripping out the carpet in the downstairs bedrooms or patching holes until we're ready to finish them. Which is good, since they're both currently filled with boxes...

Wait To Start Major Projects

Our largest planned project is our kitchen. Because we have the baby deadline (July 20!), we decided to hold off on the kitchen until next spring, since the plan was to rip out a load-bearing wall and replace all the flooring on the main level. It's a good thing we waited.

Last night Brian and I both came to the conclusion that we may not actually want to rip the wall out. The living room isn't as cramped as we'd feared, the kitchen is already huge, and while we love an open floor plan, the addition/dining room is a great entertaining space and provides for easy conversation in the kitchen an access to the pool and deck.

Sometimes living in a place is the best way to figure out what you really want from your space.