Category Archives: something to try

Appreciating the Ordinary (& a Giveaway)

Living Between Milestones | StairStories.com
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Sometimes it seems that we live only for highlights between ordinary days. Some of us live on weekends between work weeks or on holidays between classes. We seem in-between when we are out of school but not working, working but not at the jobs we want, working and not yet retired. We feel in-between when we are adults but not married, married but without children, have children who do not yet sleep through the nights, and so on.

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What I’m Into: December 2015

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This was the first Christmas that I was teaching college instead of working at the high school, so it was nice to have the longest break I have had since I graduated from college. As I told Brian, this was the best Christmas I have had since we got married. The first Christmas, I had a cold and then threw my back out by coughing too hard. The second Christmas, I had a cold that turned into a sinus infection and sent me to urgent care two days before Christmas (my mom also got the flu that year, so she and dad both missed out on our family celebration). This year, none of us were sick so everyone made it and seemed to enjoy our time together.

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Candy Cane Coffee Syrup Recipe

Homemade Coffee Flavoring Syrup Gift Set

I like my coffee dark and sweet, preferably with a flavor. As I have written before, I like to experiment with making my own flavoring syrups. Since I have accumulated several favorite recipes, I suggested to Brian that we make our own gift sets for family members we would see for Christmas. Although many of them do not drink coffee, the syrups are also good in tea, hot chocolate, cider, and steamers (hot milk with a flavor add-in).

Holiday Flavors

I posted the recipe for Cinnamon Stick Syrup a while ago and found the Gingerbread Syrup recipe on AllRecipes. I invented the Candy Cane Syrup recipe, which uses actual candy canes. I much prefer this recipe to peppermint syrups I tried using peppermint oil or peppermint leaves.

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What I’m Into: July 2015

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Travel 

We made a short trip to Wyoming at the beginning of July.

Products

Method Pink Grapefruit All Purpose Cleaner is marvelous for getting grease and gunk off my microwave, stove, and counters.

Harvey Prince Ageless Perfume smells like summer and grapefruit and is my new favorite scent. As I am writing this, I just realized I must be in some sort of grapefruit-scented phase… There are definitely worse phases, though!

Around the House

I was out of my usual powdered buttermilk when making waffles, so I turned to these buttermilk substitutes.

As a kid, I always made tartar sauce out of mayo, ketchup, and relish. This month, I decided to broaden my horizons and made “fancy” tartar sauce, using Ina Garten’s recipe. Brian and I both decided that it is worth keeping in on hand to garnish the various fish entrees we have once or twice a week.

This week, I learned that grease-cutting dish soap plus hot water can unclog a toilet that has a fat- or protein-based clog. I’m not sure that it would work on paper-based clogs.

Watching

On my DVR: Rizzoli & Isles, Stitchers, Girl Meets World, selections from a Harry Potter marathon, Descendants (haven’t watched that last one yet).

On Netflix: Trying Army Wives for the first time, re-enjoying NCIS Season 1.

Listening

Brian says I soundtrack my life and I tend to agree. Highlights from my current playlist of favorites are:
The Likes of Us, self-titled album
Tyrone Wells, Best Of Sampler (especially Sea Breeze!)
Dave Barnes, Hymns for Her

Favorite Reads from around the Web

According to the NYTimes quiz, I am a Thinking/Social introvert.

How many English words do you know? This quiz estimates my vocabulary to be around 29,400, which I think is a bit low.

Exercise

Our local dog park has become a favorite evening hangout spot for us. We first took Cola when she was a timid four-month-old and she hid under a picnic table most of the time. This summer she is a slightly bolder, fun-loving one-year-old who tries to befriend all the other dogs and convince them to run with her. Two of her favorite running buddies are a wiry Italian greyhound and a peppy terrier. The dog park has not only been good for Cola learning how to socialize with other dogs but also for interacting with humans.

In recent months, she has been scared of many strangers and some of our friends whether we meet them on walks or whether they come to our house.  Since the dog park is so very fun and distracting for her, she does not mind the people there and even seems to like our fellow regulars. Next, we will try to get her un-terrified of children! (She had a bad experience with a “scary” four-year-old boy.) Video of Cola playing at the park.

Dog Park Rules Dog Park

What are you into this month?

I am linking up with Leigh Kramer to share what I’ve been into lately.

Disclosure: Some affiliate links included in this post. If you click through, any purchase you make supports this site.

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Filed under life, Love Where You Live, photos, something to try, Travel

How to Propagate Christmas Cactus

How to Propagate Christmas Cactus | StairStories.com

My “Heirloom” Cactus

When my grandparents moved out of their farmhouse last year, I came into possession of my grandma’s sprawling but sadly neglected Christmas cactus. She does not remember how long she had it, but the plant is at least one or two decades old, perhaps older. I remember arriving at her house to celebrate Christmas and her eager excitement over showing me the beautiful pinkish blooms on the cactus. For as long as I can remember, it sat with a couple ferns in front of gauzily-curtained windows.

After a few months of research and TLC, the plant recovered and I wanted to propagate cuttings to share with other family members. Here are the steps I followed to propagate – or “start” – new Christmas cactus.

Preparing the Environment

First, I filled three self-watering flowerpots with with potting soil specially-formulated for cacti and succulents. I chose self-watering containers because, from my research, mature Christmas cacti do best when watered from the bottom.

How to Propagate Christmas Cactus | StairStories.com

Choosing Cuttings

Next, I examined my mature cactus and removed any dead or dying segments. (I try to do this pruning regularly.)

Then, I chose sections that were at least four segments (leaves) long and broke them off by twisting them from the main branches. You could also cut them apart with scissors or a knife. I especially looked for segments that had tiny rootlets already starting.

How to Propagate Christmas Cactus | StairStories.com

Planting

After that, I planted the cuttings, being sure to bury the joint between the first two segments. The roots will grow from those joints.

Christmas Cactus | StairStories.com

Follow-up Care

Finally, I watered the soil a little and set the pots near a window where they would receive indirect sunlight.

I watered the cuttings weekly and then gave them to my grandma, aunt, and mom a few weeks later.


Have you propagated succulents? I have not had much success with starting other varieties (except jade). Leave your advice in the comments!

 

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What I’m Into: May 2015

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Celebrations & Travel 

We had lots of celebrations with friends and family this month. We traveled to Tulsa for a surprise birthday party for Brian’s cousin, Mark.
Surprise Party | StairStories.com

We celebrated the graduation of some of our favorite Barton students (let’s be real, we have a lot of favorites). It was also my first Barton commencement ceremony to attend as faculty, so that was fun!
Barton Graduation 2015 | StairStories.com

We celebrated Mother’s Day in Ottawa with my extended family.
Mother's Day 2015 | StairStories.com

Products

I tried the OPI Gel Color I Eat Mainely Lobster. It is a summery, vivid coral color that looks fun and summery on my toenails. I tried it on my fingernails but it seemed to clash with some of my pink, red, or purple clothing.
OPI I Eat Mainly Lobster | StairStories.com

In my May Birchbox, I tried jane iredale Just Kissed Lip and Cheek Stain in Forever Pink. In the tube, it looks like a pale pink balm. The stain goes on lightly pink but brightens a bit over several minutes.
Jane Iredale Lip & Cheek Stain, Forever Pink | StairStories.com
Jane Iredale Lip & Cheek Stain, Forever Pink | StairStories.com

Around the House

I am propagating Christmas cactus from the one I inherited from my grandma when she and Grandpa moved out of their farmhouse. As best I know, the original is at least a decade old. Grandma could not remember when she got it.
Christmas Cactus | StairStories.com

Mint is currently taking over my vegetable garden because Cola knocked over the flowerpot where I planted it last year. Does anyone have good recipes that use lots of fresh mint???
Mint Garden | StairStories.com

Favorite Reads from around the Web

Exercise

Brian and I have been taking Cola on longer and longer walks this month. This week we are up to two miles at a time.

During Jazzercise’s May promotion, my friend Jessica invited me to try a free class. I did Jazzercise about ten years ago, but the instructor in my hometown moved away and it was no longer offered. I enjoy the exercise even though I lack coordination at footwork and rhythm.

What are you into this month?

I am linking up with Leigh Kramer to share what I’ve been into lately.

Disclosure: Some affiliate links included in this post. If you click through, any purchase you make supports this site.

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Filed under celebrations, life, milestones, photos, something to try, Travel

What I’m Into: April 2015

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Techie

The best tech tip I have learned in months: What to do when you accidentally close a tab.

I actually started playing Criminal Case before April, but have really gotten into it this month. It is mainly a hidden object game that is not so challenging that I get frustrated. Because the player is a police detective solving murders, I would not recommend it for children.

This month, I had fun using Hyperlapse to film and speed up some of the incredible storm clouds moving past us.

Travel

One Saturday, we traveled to visit my grandparents and to celebrate our family’s spring birthdays with all the family members who could come. After I assisted Grandma to the lunch table, I sat next to her and assumed that Brian would sit next to me. However, I was surprised and flattered when my aunt wheeled Grandpa in and asked where he wanted to sit, “Oh, I’ll just sit there next to Abby.” Of course I am not going to complain when my 93- and 98-year-old grandparents both want to sit with me!
 My birthday with my grandparents
Spring Birthday Collage 2015

Products

In April, I added the OPI Gel Color My Dogsled is a Hybrid to my collection. It’s a pretty aqua color that reminds me of summer and tropical water.
 OPI Axxium My Dogsled is a Hybrid | StairStories.com

For my birthday this month, Brian gave me this lovely double-infinity necklace and I love it!
 Double-Infinity Necklace |StairStories.com

Around the House

Cola is almost a year old and we started leash training her as soon as we brought her home last July. Despite all our training, she still strained at the end of the leash (or a much as we let her), pulling and jerking so hard that she causes her normal collar caused her to cough and gag. I decided she was old enough for a training collar and – for the sake of my shoulders and her neck – she needed one. The store we shop at for dog supplies did not have any training collars in her size but they did carry a Sporn Non-Pulling Mesh Harness. I was skeptical but desperate, so I bought it. Brian and I had mixed results when we took Cola on our evening walk. Cola was willing but excitedly wiggling when I put the harness on her, but it took some getting used to. There were several periods during the walk when she wriggled, flipped, and twisted trying to bite the leash or get out of the harness. Failing that, she flopped down on a cushy lawn in protest. When she was not fighting or protesting the harness, she walked sedately beside me and even voluntarily sat when I stopped at street corners. Brian and I were impressed with the improvement in her behavior. In the weeks since, she grew accustomed to the harness stopped struggling against it. She does sometimes pull toward something thrilling, like trees or other dogs, but it is much easier to walk her without her constant jerking on my shoulders and her neck.
 Cola's Sporn Stop-Pulling Mesh Harness | StairStories.com

Favorite Reads from around the Web

Blog

I have not posted much this month because teaching has grown more hectic as the semester progressed. Since I started this teaching job three weeks after the semester began, I have been planning lessons as I go and feel as though I am still catching up. The end-of-semester scramble for me has included writing, teaching, and grading all the big writing projects, double-checking that competencies have been met, tallying lab hours, and writing tests. I enjoy the work and the students but, after working all day, I have not been motivated to blog much in the evenings. Honestly, my favorite part of having a hobby blog is that I can take time away when life gets crazy!Weekends when you're a teacher #morecoffee | StairStories.com

What are you into this month?

I am linking up with Leigh Kramer to share what I’ve been into lately.

Disclosure: Some affiliate links included in this post. If you click through, any purchase you make supports this site.

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Filed under Abby's Apps, celebrations, life, milestones, something to try, stories, Travel

What Do You Want to Start?

Question Collection a New Random Question Every Week StairStories.com

On the second Monday of each month, I post and answer a selection from my collection of good questions. This month’s question is “What’s one thing you want to start doing in the next twelve months?”

 April 09, 2015 at 0109PM

I want to start playing the piano again. Many people do not know that I can even play because it does not come up in normal conversations and because I have not played in public in years. Actually, I have not even played in private in years. When Brian and I got married two years ago, I packed up my keyboard in its protective case, moved to a new town, and never took it out. We still do not really have room for it in our house because I have not made room for it. One of my goals for summer is to clean up and clean out our garage and our second guest room (fondly called “The Abyss”) so that I can set up the keyboard in the guest room.

(c) Carlos Eduardo Sotelo Ibarra, used with permission

As an adult, I have often not taken the time to play the piano because it does not do or produce anything other than to make me happy. I lack the talent and desire to be a professional pianist and playing for worship or accompaniment is not fun or worshipful for me. It does not help anyone except for me and that has not always been enough motivation for me to make time to play.  Starting this summer, I am going to play anyway. The emotional health and enjoyment it gives me is a good enough reason to do it.

Now It’s Your Turn to Ask & Answer

Take the questions and ask your friends or family. I would love to hear your answers in the comments (seriously. that’s why I ask, after all)! If you have suggestions of questions for me to include, let me know.

*Piano image (c) Carlos Eduardo Sotelo Ibarra, used with permission

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Trello Gold Review

Trello Gold Review | StairStories.com

I recently posted about trying out Trello and was grateful that a couple readers signed up for Trello with my referral link, which gave me a couple free months to try out Trello Gold. According to the informational page for the Gold version, it provides several additional services for users:

  • Attachments up to 250 mb (a standard user can add attachments up to 10 mb)
  • Nine premium backgrounds and the ability to upload other background images
  • Premium stickers to add to cards besides the standard ones and the ability to upload other sticker images
  • The ability to upload an emoji if the hundreds available to standard users are not quite right
After using it for almost a month, it is my opinion that Trello Gold can make the interface more fun and, potentially, more distracting if you find yourself scrolling through the myriad of stickers or changing backgrounds constantly. The features would probably be even more fun for me if I were sharing boards with people, but so far I have been using them only for my personal planning and list making. The feature I have enjoyed most from Trello Gold has been the ability to change the backgrounds from the six standard colors to more interesting images like beautiful nature photos.

I do not plan to keep my Trello Gold subscription after my free months are up, primarily because I cannot justify paying $5 per month solely to have pretty backgrounds. As I use Trello more, though, I will keep the Gold features in mind. I really like the layout and standard features and do plan to continue using it to organize my lesson planning and other projects. Disclaimer: If you use this link to sign up, Trello gives me a free month of Trello Gold.

Do you use Trello or another organizational app? Tell me about it in the comments!

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What I’m Into: February 2015

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I know most people linking up with Leigh Kramer for “What I’m Into” posted a week ago, so I’m a few days late. I have not joined this link-up since November because the end of December found me traveling, visiting, and fighting a miserable sinus infection while trying to show people I really was having a good time with them while feeling icky. The end of January found me leaving a job and starting a teaching job and playing catch up since I started the new job three weeks after the semester started.
 

 

Techie

Google Hangouts provided a little family togetherness this month when my sister and I wanted to video chat and include our parents. Downside: Eli seems to think all of his relatives live in the same place, the computer.

I started using Trello to organize my lists of things I’m trying to remember for home projects and lesson planning and anything else I can think of. It is a bit like having multiple bulletin boards with sticky notes arranged in different lists on each board. I adjusted to it very quickly because it is remarkably similar to a more awkward physical system I used when I worked in accounting. Disclaimer: If you use this link to sign up, Trello gives me a free month of Trello Gold. I don’t know exactly what that is, but it sounds fancy.

An acquaintance suggested the AeroPress Timer app to me and it has opened up many fun experiments for me to try with coffee making! I especially like the 1st Place and Japan recipes from the free Championship Pack. (If you use this app, I get nothing but the joy of sharing which is still pretty great.)

Food

Sweet and Tangy Meatballs, served with brown rice and veggies are a Sunday Lunch favorite at Howe House.

Around the House

Brian and I removed our old back door and then I left for a spa birthday party and Clay came over to help Brian install the new one.

What are you into this month? 

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