On days like this, when the summer storms howl and bang with all their might, I'm super grateful for my tea drawer.
In a grand attempt to organize our lives and house, I have started working on a family binder.  Using Microsoft Publisher (my favorite design tool), I made several sections and even some forms.  Several of the checklists and forms came from other websites, which I found on Tip Junkie.  The photo checklists for various holidays and seasons are from Simple As That, an awesome design/photography/scrapbooking/family blog.  If you like the photo checklists, please go to Simple As That and follow her blog.  The birthstone birds chart is from Trillistrations, another charming design site.  All of the other forms and lists I made myself.  So here it is!  Click on the picture below to download the binder sections and the forms I mentioned above.
The sections in this binder are:
  • Title Page- To be used as a cover page or insert
  • Emergency Info- Includes a blank page for family emergency plans (which everyone from the CDC to FEMA, and the Red Cross to Sesame Street insist all families need to have), as well as two pages for important phone numbers.
  • Sitting Instructions- In this section, insert any written instructions for house sitters, pet sitters, and baby sitters.  This way, you won't have to wrack your brain every time you brief the fill-in-the-blank sitter.
  • Maintenance- You can put your favorite cleaning checklists in this section, as well as your appliance manuals, car maintenance records, and anything else maintenance related.  
  • Annual Goals- This is a place for lists of any goals for your family or home.  I plan on keeping the lists of goals from one year to the next, to see what we've accomplished.
  • Important Dates & Holidays-  I've included a lot of goodies here!   Trillistrations' birthstone-coded list and Simple As That's photo-op checklists (of which I cannot get enough).
  • Wish Lists-  I've included some wish list forms.  One for the house (tools, curtains, matching plates, etc.) and one for individual family members, which you can print multiple times to match the size of your family.
  • Menus- For your favorite meals, so that making regular menus might be a little easier.  The menu pages are from Ollibird.
  • Restaurants-  I plan on using a combination of pockets and business card pages to hold the menus and numbers of our favorite restaurants.
So that's it!  I have no idea if this will be effective in keeping me organized long term, but I'm hoping it'll help.  Feel free to give it a try and let me know what you think.  I haven't tried embedding documents on here yet, so let me know if it doesn't work.  It was big enough that I had to go through a third party document hosting service.  Once again, please let me know if it's hard to use or generally obnoxious to you, and I'll try to find some other way to do this.
P.S.  I'm showing this off at Tip Junkie's Tip Me Tuesday.   Click the button to the right to see what other people are sharing.
Tip Junkie handmade projects
Here it is!  As promised, I have a new project to share with you all!  I, Brianna, have made NAPKINS!  Just in time, too, since we're finally on the last pack of left over dinner and beverage napkins from our wedding last October.  All in all, I'm quite proud of myself, since I don't know where the nearest fabric store is, and the only sewing machine I have is the size of a large stapler, and only has one stitch.  Luckily, I didn't need a fabric store or a sewing machine.  
Several times now, I've read blog posts and articles extolling the virtues of flour sack cloth.  Apparently, it's a real workhorse in the kitchen, is easy to sew into other things, and washes well.  People also enjoy its simultaneously classy and rustic texture.  So when I found this flour sack towel at the Dollar Tree(!), I decided to give it a try.  I'm not sure why I was surprised at how big it was.  After all, the measurements (28"x29") are right on the tag!  Anyway, I thought it would be big enough to make into some napkins.  Four napkins, to be more specific, putting the cost at about 25¢ a napkin.

Once cut into quarters, I finished the two rough edges.  To do this, I folded over the edges, ironed and pinned them into place, and then did a simple straight stitch.

Here's the finished project, tucked inside one of my napkin rings.  I'm going to send them through the wash, to make sure they'll hold up through more than one use.  We still haven't decided if we should do anything more with them, though.  I'd like to iron some charming graphic onto one corner of each napkin.  Clayton thinks we should dye them some color other than white, so stains won't be as obvious.  I reminded him that the beauty of white napkins is in the ability to bleach them.  However, if we plan on bleaching them, I guess I shouldn't iron anything onto them.  Thoughts?  Comments are always welcome!

I know I haven't posted anything substantial lately, but lots will be coming soon.  There are a couple projects for the house I'm working on right now.  Once those turn out semi-ok, I'll tell you all about it and post some pictures, too.  Speaking of projects, does anyone have any good ideas for projects involving worn out camis (camouflage, not tank tops)?  Clayton's preparing to head back to Virginia for a while for more training.  As part of that preparation, he went through all of his uniforms, and proudly delivered into my hands an entire garbage bag full of well-worn camis- his contribution to my crafting addiction.  He seems to believe there's a world of possibilities out there for this material, of which he can name exactly two.  Which will only take one or two blouses.  SO, if anyone has some good links to tutorials or ideas, please feel free to leave them in the comments!
Hi there!  Just stopping in to let you all know that there's a new picture in the creature album.  The quality isn't great, but it's clear enough to make out the toad that frequents our doorstep in the evenings.  Other than the spiders, that's pretty much all the critters that have been hanging out in our yard.  Although, I did spy a fox in the neighbors' yard a while back.  If he ever returns, I'll try to take his picture, too.
At last!  I have done a project I found on Pinterest!  Clayton was very encouraging, and even helped me by doing the paint.  If you go here, you'll see what inspired my project.  The blogger used a frame and some lace to make a very nice-looking jewelry holder.  I already have a holder for my earrings, so I loaded this up with my necklaces.  As for the frame, I already had one from a mirror I found at Volunteers of America ages ago.  Unfortunately, when my lovely husband insisted on using Command Strips to hang absolutely everything in our house, the mirror was a little too heavy, fell, and broke.  The frame, though, was salvageable.  

To make this, we:
  • Removed the broken glass
  • Painted the back board black
  • Wrapped pieces of ribbon around it.  
  • Put the board back in the frame, and hung it in our room. 

Check out the pictures below to see how it turned out!  (And as always, comments are welcome!)


Clayton and I like to exercise together, but we're at very different fitness levels, which makes activities like running together rather frustrating.  Lately, I've be trying some workouts that are based on movie or t.v. show drinking games.  Each time certain things happen in the show or movie, you do the indicated exercise (instead of doing a shot or whatever).  Clayton liked this idea so much, he made us a workout for the Indiana Jones movies.  It was pretty fun, and it kept us moving for over an hour.  So here it is, if you'd like to give it a try.  Clayton insists that this is only a light version.  He plans on adding more exercises to it.
Now we're on to Brianna and Clayton's Vacation Part II.  When last I wrote, we were meeting my mother and youngest sister, Shannon, on July 1st.  Our drive down to Cherry Point was pretty easy.  We made it in about 14 hours, which was very good time. 

When we got to our place Monday morning, I gave Mom and Shannon a tour of the house, showed them to their room, and the four of us crashed in our respective beds for the rest of the day.  On Tuesday we went to Food Lion with the grocery list I'd prepared before we left for New York.  After putting away the food, we got our socks on and went to the bowling alley on base, Stars and Strikes.  You may remember how Clayton recently dislocated his shoulder?  As a result of that incident, he had to bowl right handed.  However, he is now so used to making due with the wrong hand, that he actually did quite well.  Mom and I did rather well, too.  Shannon's score was all over the place, which we understood once we realized she was holding the ball wrong.  After a couple games, we went home and started preparing for the next day's adventures.

Wednesday was the Fourth of July, and we had BIG plans!  We got up sufficiently early and packed up our picnic, including wraps we made that morning, as well as cupcakes we'd made the night before.  The four of us piled into Clayton's truck, and we headed to New Bern.  Upon finding a parking spot, we scurried over to the Tryon Palace, where we passed most of the day.  There were old-fashioned games, copies of the Declaration of Independence we could sign with real quills, and free lemonade.  At 11AM, "Governor Alexander Martin" introduced another costumed man as John Penn, one of North Carolina's signers of the Declaration, and welcomed Penn and his wife as guests of honor at the day's festivities.  "John Penn" then read the Declaration aloud to us all.  It was particularly moving, as people cheered the principals it espoused and booed King George's offenses against America.  Also, there was a costumed man moving throughout the crowd, heckling throughout the reading, which just made everyone else boo the king even more.  

Besides witnessing the reading and playing the old games, we strolled the gardens, had our picnic and participated in a country dance.  I am thrilled to say that, at least in the genre of late 18th century dancing, there might be some hope for me and Clayton, because we were pretty much the only ones who caught on right away.  From the palace, we stopped at the Cow Cafe for ice cream and milkshakes.   As fun as this afternoon was, we couldn't wait to get back home, because the temperature was in the neighborhood of 100F that day.  We got home and quickly got into swim gear.  The pool closed early that day, but we went in anyway because it just felt so good to be wet!  That night, we went to the park in Havelock to watch some nice fireworks.  

Thursday we went to the Pine Knolls Aquarium.  The last time Clayton and I went there, it was just us, one or two other couples, and a field trip of grade schoolers.  So when we had to do the parking lot stalking game before even entering the building, we were shocked at how busy it was.  All the same, the aquarium was a lot of fun.  That night, we played our new Parcheesi game, which is a much longer game than I'd thought it would be. 

Friday, we took Mom and Shannon to lunch at Morgan's, our favorite restaurant in New Bern.  The food was, as always, delicious!  Then we walked around New Bern a little bit, and picked up a little fudge from the Bear City Fudge Company.  I picked peanut butter, and Clayton got his usual jalapeno.  After New Bern, we came home and tidied up.  That night, our friends came over and did pizza with us, while Shannon enjoyed the first part of a Harry Potter marathon on t.v..  

Saturday, Mom and Shannon packed up and headed back to New York.  They have since made it back without event.  Clayton and I have since put the furniture we brought down with us in the places where we wanted it, and started catching up on laundry.  I posted recipes from our picnic on the website, as well as pictures from Mom and Shannon's visit.  If I get the go-ahead from Rachel, I'll post pictures from the wedding, too.  That pretty well sums up everything we've been up to til now.  
Wow!  The last two weeks have been super busy for us!  This was a two-part vacation.  We spent the last week of June in New York, with friends and family.  The first week in July, my mother and sister followed us back to our place, and the four of us had all sorts of fun.  Since this vacation was so long, and we did so much, I'm going to cover it in two posts.  So, let's try to go in chronological order.

First of all, I have two newly married couples to congratulate.  On June 30th, my Uncle Mike married the charming Anne-Marie, in a ceremony that was, by all accounts, as fun as it was unique.  Clayton and I did not attend those nuptials, however, because he was a groomsman at his younger brother David's wedding.  David and Rachel's wedding was, after all, the main reason we returned to New York.  Before I get to that, though, we have a week to get through.

Since David had secured a home for himself and Rachel before the wedding, they planned to move in almost immediately after.  To do this most efficiently, Dave hitched a ride up to New York with us, and then planned to come back down, with his new wife and all their stuff, in a rented moving truck.  Both Clayton and David were permitted to check out on leave at their respective bases at noon on Sunday, the 24th.  David would be coming to our house from Camp Lejeune, which is about 45 minutes to an hour away.  The plan on our end was, Clayton would check out at noon, then we'd pack the truck with our luggage and finish cleaning the house.  Once Davy arrived at about 1PM, we'd feed the three of us some hot dogs and leftovers.  About 1:30PM we expected to be on the road.  This, of course, would have been too easy.

At 11:00AM, an hour before Clayton could check out, I had our bags ready to go, and was making the beds upstairs.  Clayton came in to the spare room, and took in the glorious sight of an air mattress made up with its fitted sheet.  When I asked him to go make the bed in our room, he decided to be difficult, and instead dived onto the air mattress with outstretched arms.  The pop I heard was so loud, I instantly started scolding him and looking for the hole in the mattress.  The mattress didn't have a hole.  Clayton had dislocated his left (dominant) shoulder, again.  So while we were supposed to be chilling and waiting for David, I had to drive my mischievous husband to the emergency room.  A few hours (and lots of drugs) later, we were back at home.  Clayton checked out, I finished putting the beds together, and David and his friend (who'd given him a ride to our place) were good enough to eat all the left overs in our fridge for us.  So it was, that only three hours later than planned, we set out for New York.  Dave had to drive first, because Clayton was still pretty drugged up.

The drive itself wasn't bad, though we hit lots of rain the whole way up.  We rolled into the farm at about 8AM on Monday, and spent most of the day alternating between visiting with whomever came in and sleeping.  That night, Clayton and I enjoyed real chicken wings for the first time in ages with our old friend, Josh.  The next day, I zipped around with Clayton's mother and sister, Ani, shopping and tying ribbons on favors, before meeting my friend Jeanine for coffee.  Jeanine gave me a tour of the new home of the library where I used to work.  During the tour, I got to visit briefly with my former coworkers and catch up a little.  Then we went to Tim Horton's for some of that delicious Canadian coffee and donuts!  After sipping and talking for a few hours, I had to leave Jeanine and meet up with Clayton for dinner with my mother and sisters.  Unfortunately, this was the only chance I got to see my first sister, Erin, as she is a very busy girl.

Wednesday, I spent the morning shopping with Clayton's mother and grandmother.  The guys took Dave out to dinner and drinks at the nicest place in Hamlin (in lieu of a raunchy bachelor party).   I met up with my friend Ann at another Tim Horton's (their dinning room is open 24/7!) that night, and the two of us stayed and caught up until late.  When I got back to the farm, I talked to Ani for a few minutes and then went to bed.  

Now, you may have been wondering what Clayton was up to in this time, besides going out to dinner a couple of times.  His task was primarily to clean out his room, which he hadn't done any of the times he was home before we got married.  When I moved down to Cherry Point, he wondered why I had brought so many of my things, and so little of his.  No one had any pity for him, however, since those last few months between the wedding and moving had been so crazy for me, and since he hadn't even tried sorting through his room in years.  Needless to say, doing so in a couple days, while trying to do all the usual visiting that comes with going home on leave, was a bit hectic for him, but he did it!  Or, at least, he put a REALLY big dent in it.  With the back seats removed, and the middle seats folded down, he managed to fit his dresser, desk and a cabinet (not to mention all of our luggage and the last three much smaller things I'd left at my moms's house) into the back of his Tahoe.  Clayton was very proud of his Tetris skills when he had accomplished this, and without blocking the view of his rear view mirror.

Thursday, we stayed at the farm, where I continued to tie ribbons on fans for the wedding.  More family members and wedding party members came in.  We had a fire, in which Clayton and David (who was also cleaning his room) burned a lot of useless papers from the last five years, along with Ani's old notes and quizzes from the last school year.  Friday we packed up everything, drove down to Canandaigua, and checked into our room for the rehearsal and wedding.  We attended the rehearsal, and then joined the other immediate family members and out-of-towners at the rehearsal dinner.  That night, we shared our room with Clayton's uncle and aunt (Derek and Desireé), which was nice and convenient for all of us.  Saturday morning, the four of us found a charming little cafe for what may have been the best breakfast ever.  After an inquiry to the man running the cafe about maple syrup, we were directed to a tiny little farmers' market going on that morning.  It was one of the smallest such markets I've ever seen, but all of the booths were good and relevant, which is becoming more scarce.  Derek bought us some syrup (because Clayton had sneaked off with the bill at breakfast), and we bought ourselves some unique jams, including strawberry rhubarb (which has me very excited, since I can't grow rhubarb down here).

While Clayton and Derek got their hair cut, Desireé and I stopped into a drug store for some last minute beauty products.  We also checked out a place called Tuesday Morning, which is, in fact, a store and not a restaurant like I thought.  There I ended up finding the perfect dress for the wedding (I was worried the one I'd brought would be too hot).  When we found the guys again, we went back to our room, ordered some pizza and got ready for the wedding.  Canandaigua was hot that day, but God was merciful enough to send us a breeze off the lake.  The wedding itself was beautiful.  Rachel was as gorgeous as I'd imagined she'd be, and I loved the girls' bouquets.  Oh, and Clayton's youngest brother, Richard, surprised us all by somehow getting out of his training in 29 Palms for a week, and made it to New York the day of the wedding (and he remembered to bring his uniform)!  I can hardly think of a better gift for Richard to have given Rachel and Dave, than showing up to their wedding.  He was squeezed into the wedding party, which made it slightly lopsided, but all the more stunning.  
Clayton and Brianna at Dave and Rachel's Wedding
What an awful picture of us! You duck hunters must be freaking out!
After the ceremony, I hung out with Clayton and watched the formal pictures being taken.  Cocktail hour was a great meet-and-greet time, with lots of sunshine, munchies and free drinks.  Dinner was inside and very fancy.  Even better than dinner, though, was the dancing and general merry-making that followed.  Clayton was excessively good, and danced even more that night than he had at our own wedding.  People tease me for having the style of a girl from the 1940s, but my husband roughly has the dance moves from the disco-era, though with absolutely none of the rhythm.  I'm still not sure which is stranger.  

After partying late into the night, we returned to our room and went to bed.  Richard, who had no room, joined the four of us and spent the night on our floor.  The next morning, we woke up bright and early and packed our things.  Once we'd said good-bye to Clayton's family (we had to track his father down in the diner where he was holding court, at an impossibly long table with the rest of their family's wedding guests), we headed for Cortland, where we'd rendezvous with my family.

This concludes Brianna and Clayton's Summer 2012 Vacation Part I.  Check back soon for Part II.  In the meanwhile, check out some new pictures and recipes
We're back!  All four of us arrived safely back in North Carolina early Monday morning.  Check back soon for more updates about our week in New York, as well as for pictures.