Archive of ‘Productivity’ category

My 5 favorite tools for pretending I’m a web designer

You know those “life purpose” exercises when they ask you to name the one thing you could spend hours and hours doing and completely lose track of time? That thing where if the walls were falling all around you, you’d hardly notice because you were so focused?

For me, that’s messing around with the design of this blog.

I am not a coder. So not a coder. But I’ve found a few tools that make it super fun and relatively easy to punch up your WordPress theme.

Tip: Proceed with caution.

Editing your theme’s CSS file is best done with the safety net of a real, live coder. (Thanks for always bailing me out, John!)

My 5 favorite tools for pretending I’m a web designer

1) WhatFont

Typography is a true art. For those of us who have no idea what we’re doing, there’s WhatFont.

WhatFont lives in your Google Chrome toolbar. When you see a stunning display of type on a site and want to know what fonts it uses, you simply click the WhatFont icon and mouse over the type. Presto magic. It even tells you the font size, line height, and color. Awesome tool.

Tip: Don’t use this tool to rip off your favorite blog’s font combinations.

Instead, use WhatFont to help you develop your font knowledge and build a collection of your own favorites to experiment with.

2) colorPicker

Similar to WhatFont, colorPicker offers up the colors used on websites. You can also change colors on a site to see how they look before committing them to CSS, and collect colors to build yourself a lovely little pallet.

3) Firefox’s Web Developer Tools

See a cool feature on someone’s site and wonder how they made it?

You can either view the page source and comb through HTML, or in Firefox, select Tools > Web Developer > Inspector. Then mouse over the element you’re so in love with and see if you can find hints about it.

Here’s an example. See the lovely display of Instagram shots on P.S. – I Made This‘s sidebar?

Screenshot 2014-01-10 15.53.41

 

A quick look with Inspector says something about “snapwidget.” So I Googled snapwidget and guess what? The secret to her sidebar magic is revealed.

I went ahead and added my own SnapWidget to this site after making a few changes (I center aligned the images and beefed up the space between the images).

Tip: Don’t go crazy with widgets and tools. You’ll look like a jerk.

4) Pinterest

Oh how I love the people who sit around and design social spec guidelines, free font icon sets like the ones I use on my site, and other beautiful tools for taking matters into your own hands. Here’s my board on web tools. I look forward to adding to it.

5) And one final tool I haven’t used much yet but plan to in 2014: Codecademy

Learn to code for free. Yeah baby.

Quick tip: The dinner/bath/bed routine

homework in pajamas

Here’s a tip for making your fall and winter evening routine more sane:

Bathe the bigger kids before dinner.

Here’s why:

The after dinner hour is one of the craziest times of day — kids are tired, babies seem to nurse constantly, dad gets home and everyone wants to climb all over him, parents are hungry, and there’s tons of basic household stuff to get done in the evening. Getting baths done before dinner takes one big thing off your list.

Older kids don’t get very dirty during dinner (we have a 5 year old and almost 4 year old)

Our kindergartener prefers to do homework after dinner. Having him in his pj’s already means we can take more time with homework, look through his school papers from the day, and turn homework time into quality time together. (Like the photo above, which my husband took before coming into the house one night.)

Having kids in pj’s sends the signal that the day is winding down.

It’s cold and dark. PJ’s are warm and comfy.

Having your older kids in pj’s for dinner means they have more time for quiet play, books, or free time before bed. (While you make lunches, clean up from dinner, and take care of younger kids who need more hands on attention.)

It also means more quality time with working parent(s) who tend to come home right in the thick of nighttime to-do’s.

It results in a much calmer evening routine.

So that’s what’s working for us right now.

What’s your tip for making the evening madness more sane?

My favorite baby gear: Toddler edition

Now that I have the job of stocking up on baby gear for the twinsers (3 months to go!!) I realize how much I’ve forgotten. And this is from the person who used to be able to recite the Baby Bargains book by heart.

(New moms: Baby Bargains = the consumer reports of baby crap. If this is your first time around the block, don’t set foot into a Baby Superstore without your copy.)

So before amnesia sets in, I’m documenting my 5 favorite things to make your life with toddlers easier. Hope it helps you!

1. Graco Nautilus 3-in-1 Car Seat

Forward facing
POUNDS: 20-100 pounds
HEIGHT: 27-57″

They should call this “THE LAST CAR SEAT YOU’LL EVER HAVE TO BUY!!”

As soon as your little one can move into a forward-facing carseat, buy this one.

We made the mistake of going from the infant car seat to the Britax to this.

We could have skipped the Britax altogether and gone straight to this bad boy. Young toddlers will feel like total hotshots with this seat’s built-in cup holders and secret compartments perfect for stashing LEGOs and Hotwheels. And when your toddler turns into a preschooler (overnight), voila — here’s your new booster, friend.

 

2. Bumkins Waterproof SuperBibsBumkins Waterproof Superbibs

Why don’t I ever hear moms complain about how hard it is to find a bib that:

- Doesn’t soak through

- Doesn’t deteriorate the first couple of times through the wash

- Kids don’t rip off easily

- Isn’t so tight that it strangles your kid

- Doesn’t completely suck?

I have no idea. But I do know that these bibs lasted us through two toddlers in a row, and I think there are still some up in the attic waiting for rounds 3 and 4.

 

3. Multi-layered mattress protection

The best part, of course, is the product shot.

When your little Houdini graduates from the crib to the bed (we went straight to twin beds at around 18 months for both boys), you’ll want to do everything you can to protect their new twin mattresses.

Because as far as I’m concerned, they’ll be using these mattresses until they move out.

Here’s your twin bed setup:

  • First the Vinyl Zippered Mattress Cover from Target. It zips around the entire mattress.
  • Then a regular quilted cotton mattress pad like this one.
  • Then the waterproof sheet protector as demonstrated by our lovely model. (This way if there is an accident during the night, or god forbid a stomach bug, you might luck out and only have to change this layer and up of bedding.)
  • Then the fitted sheet. (Unlike our fine model above, I put the sheet protector under the fitted sheet.)

 

4. Ergorapido Ion Bagless Coordless Stick and Hand Vac by ElectroluxErgorapido coordless stick vac

Keep it in or near your kitchen (I’m still trying to find the perfect place to conceal it but have it close enough to make it easy to use). If I used this after every meal, my floor would never be as disgusting as it is this morning.

Note: I had an earlier model of this vacuum and can say that the Ion battery version makes all the difference.

 

5. Diapers.comdiapers.com

BONUS: Use the code to the left to get 20% off all of their sites

I’ve been using these guys since they launched and they keep getting more awesome. I always get free, next day delivery, and their customer service is amazing.

I’ve use them for monthly diapers & wipes (they sell Kirkland brand wipes, which are awesome), sippy cups, cases of baby food, baby wash, books/toys. And for fun you can always throw in a tube of fancy mascara, laundry detergent, or throw pillows from one of their sister sites.

They also now offer a Baby Registry, which is WORLDS above the baby superstores since shipping is FREE as long as you order is over $49. And what better incentive for your gift giver to put that money toward your gift instead of the outrageous shipping Babies R Us and Buy Buy Baby charge. Really, I hate those stores.

 

So those are my faves. What are yours?

 

This post contains affiliate links.

 

Choosing Joy: Small steps make all the difference

Seeking joy is new for me. I blame it on being a Capricorn–we’re all about accomplishing things, climbing up the mountain, working hard to achieve more. Which is probably why “working” on joy is so what I need.

There are many wonderful books out there about joy and how to uncover it. But in the interest of mini-resolutions and starting small, here are the simple places I’m finding joy.

1) Going to bed early

For the first time since becoming a parent, I’m getting to bed before midnight. Because there’s no way I can be the parent I want to be when I am exhausted. I have no idea why this didn’t occur to me earlier.

2) Making my bed every morning

Back when I had a newborn and my mom stayed a month to help me, she would make my bed every morning. She makes it PERFECTLY–wrinkles in the sheets don’t stand a chance with her. Back then, taking time to make my bed seemed like a time luxury I couldn’t afford. But this is a new season, and having a beautifully made bed is a wonderful thing.

Hannah Marcotti puts it perfectly in her Making Space Cleanse:

“Making your bed is a gift from your present self to your future self.”

3) Drinking lemon water and tea 

(Especially in place of my nightly glass of wine.) Another little step inspired by Hannah that feels like a gift to myself with every sip.

4) Getting out of the house on Saturday mornings

My husband works out from 10:30–noon every Saturday morning. Which was making Saturdays feel like a “6th workday” for me and the kids–leaving us all resentful and cranky. This month, I’ve started slipping out at 8am for a yoga class and coffee/writing/wandering. Carving out those 2 hours for myself has made a world of difference in how I feel the entire weekend.

5) Letting go of my to-do list and being present with my children

I started noticing that things fell apart just after breakfast every day. I would be in the kitchen dealing with the meal aftermath and yelling “go in the playroom–I’ll be there in a minute” over and over again. Inevitably, I’d finally stop doing dishes (in a huff) once someone started crying over something.

I’m learning to look at those parts of the day that always end up with yelling and crying and trying different strategies. In this case, I’ve learned that if I leave the dishes and just sit with the boys while they do Legos or trains or whatever, no one cries or fights.

The even more amazing part is, once I give them my full attention–even if I’m just sitting with my coffee and observing them–I can usually slip off and finish the dishes or do a quick email check without anyone falling apart.

By giving them attention up front, it changes the result. And it’s teaching me that there is value in just sitting and being.

6) Giving thanks, and teaching my children to do the same

This is the root of joy.

 

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