Wednesday, November 28, 2012

My Second Book is Now Available as an E-Book!

It's a happy day here at the de Jong Dream House. My second book, "But I Don't Wanna Go To Bed" is now available as an e-book! (my first book is out of print, but still available online.)
The hardest part of my post-TBI life is accepting that I've lost my ability to write professionally. Where my thoughts used to flow so fast, I couldn't help but write, now the process is excruciatingly slow, cumbersome, and often full of typos. I usually have Niels proof my blog posts to take care of the most obvious errors. And if I have any sort of deadline, my brain just freezes and I can't think of anything.

About three years ago, when D was a baby, I was up in the middle of the night and I had a rare flash of inspiration. I had the idea for a series of books about a little boy who doesn't always want to do what he needs to do. I ran down to my computer to put down my thoughts and the basic text of the first book, "But I Don't Wanna Go To Bed."

In the morning, I read what I wrote, fully expecting that it would be gibberish. Instead I was very pleasantly surprised that it was still the cute story I thought I wrote the night before.

Over the next few days, I made a very simple version of the book using Powerpoint and images from the internet.

You can see it's been read many, many times.

Interior shot

This gives an idea of how old D was when I started this project.
I've wanted to make the project into an actual book, but knew that my brain would not be up for the pitch process. And really, even though I was working on a proposal for a children's book series before my TBI, I really just wanted something to pass on to my son so he could understand a little bit of my old self.

I remembered my talented friend, Dave Butler, who wrote and illustrated a super cute adoption book, what I had bought for a few of my friends.

So we starting talking about working together to illustrate my story.

Originally, we had hoped to have the book ready for Christmas last year. The idea was that they could read the story to him over Skype as a way to stay connected. But between my terrible three-month headache, the energy spent on our new house build, and the realities of working with a brain that doesn't always work the way I want it to, it took a little longer. Fortunately, Dave was great to work with, and very patient with me!

The page is a great example of how happy I am with his work. Since writing the book, our sweet Bailey dog passed away. Dave added Bailey to each page as a silent tribute to her, and it's fun for D to find her in each page. (It isn't hard, but he's three, so it's fun!). Also, since we're a Dutch family, the tulips are a nice touch. And yellow is D's favorite color.

In February of this year, Dave completed the illustrations and I ordered a small number of hardcover for family, and of course, for D. We ordered through a small printer. The cost per book was pretty high, but I considered it more of a writer's version of photo album. As much as I would have liked it to be a book for sale, I've published before and know that my brain isn't up for the process of proposal-writing and promoting a book at this point. I was just thrilled to have been able to create something for my son so he could have an idea of what his mom used to do.

D had a lot of fun when the books arrived!

I thought that was the end of it, but then a friend of mine from my publishing days contacted me about making it available as an e-book. I was happy to sign the contract and today's the day the book went live on Amazon.

It's a lot less fanfare than my previous book release, but in many ways, I'm even more proud of this book. When I downloaded my copy onto my iPad, D was so excited, he grabbed it and said, "HEY! That's my book!" and immediately started reading it.

And now, maybe, my brain will get started on the next book, "But I Don't Wanna Eat My Peas."

Linked to:

Saturday, November 24, 2012

First Christmas tree in the new house

We're kicking off our first holiday season in the dream house. On the day after Thanksgiving, we put up the tree. We'll be back to blogging after the Thanksgiving weekend.

Monday, November 19, 2012

My Perfect Pantry: Dream Home Edition

When we first started dreaming about building a new house, one of my priorities was a large, walk-in pantry. I enjoy cooking most meals--and snacks!--from scratch. This has made living with our son's dairy allergy much easier, and now I appreciate my larger pantry even more. 

Our most popular post, and most often pinned image, is a photo of our old pantry.

From what I can tell from the comments and questions I've received, this pantry is popular because it's doable. It's a standard size wire shelf pantry common in many homes. I wrote about this pantry here and here.

We've been in the new house for ten months. I've followed the same organizational idea with the new pantry, but it hasn't been totally "done" because we ran out of money at the end of our build and decided  to hold off on putting the custom shelving inside. I've been playing around with some repurposed furniture for the time being, and just recently got to a point where I feel everything is where it needs to be!

So, won't you come in?

The first thing you'll notice is the door. We wanted something different than the standard "pantry" with etched glass. We had a frosted door installed, and ordered custom vinyl for the "eet smakelijk," which means "eat tastefully" in Dutch. Holland's version of bon appetit. You can read more about the door here. Also, you can't tell from the photo, but there is no light switch for the pantry. The light automatically turns on when the door is open, and turns off when the door is closed. 

Above the door, we have a vent for ventilation. With larger room, especially one with a freezer, it's good to let air circulate. I also keep the door open when I'm cooking to let fresh air in. You can read more about why to vent a pantry here.

The first thing you'll see to the left is the freezer. We have a stand up freezer for the meat we buy in bulk, as well as extra veggies, spices, and other staples. Now that I make dairy-free bread for our son, we keep a couple loaves in there as well.

We chose a flat front freezer, rather than textured one, so I can use it as a dry erase board for inventory. I used foam letters (oh, how I long for a Silhouette!) to label the items that I always want to have on hand, and simply write the names of things that fluctuate. I keep a different colored dry erase marker on the frig to make updates as I take items out. 

Here's a close up of the "meat" section of my inventory.

I also note the last time I did a physical inventory, just in case I happen to get off track.

Inside, I use Target's weave baskets to organize everything. I was using white Sterilite baskets before, but these hold a lot more and make better use of space. Fun fact: 40 pounds of chicken can be contained in two baskets.

Again, I used foam letters to organized. Helpful hint: the letters stick much better to baskets that are at room temperature than frozen!

The top shelf has vegetables and dairy-free treats for our son. A friend shared the trick of making up safe cupcakes in advance to bring to parties and school events. Whenever he has a special day, I take out a cupcake and let it thaw overnight. In the morning, I frost it with safe nutella and add sprinkles. 

The next shelf holds our beef. We don't eat a lot of beef. We buy 15 pounds of ground beef and 10 pounds of beef cuts from a local farmer every few months.

The next shelf holds our 40 pound chicken buys. This will last us about four months. The baskets are just the right width that I can store my homemade bread in between them.

Under the chicken baskets, we have a drawer that I use to store chopped fruit and veggies. In this case, cabbage that I got at a great deal. Behind the cabbage, we have some frozen bananas.

The next shelf holds sausage and pork. We really like chicken sausage and apple sausage, but we occasionally also get pork chops and bacon. The "misc." basket holds the leftover items. 

The bottom drawer holds our ice cream maker so it is always frozen and ready to go, extra Minty Morroccan tea that my in-laws sent me from the Netherlands because we can't find it in the States, and more leftover staples. 

The door of the pantry holds extra spices and staples. We shop at a bulk store, so we have lots of little bags and containers.

The place where we buy most of our groceries sells spices for a great price. The containers stack up very nicely.

When I buy a spice, I write the date on the container. Since I cook most meals from scratch and make my own spice blends, I find that I rotate through most containers every three to four months.

I keep my spices in a drawer under the cooktop. Cleaning out the freezer gave me a good excuse to top off all the containers.

We don't keep a lot of dairy in the house, but we do keep chocolate mints to put on the pillows of our overnight guests. The other items are dairy substitutes for baking and making ice cream. 

On the side of the freezer, I have this picture of what the pantry will look like someday: 

Moving on past the freezer, we have this little bookshelf, that I bought on clearance from a local furniture store. It was designed be LeBron James for a bedroom collection, just before he ditched Cleveland. Thus, we got a great deal on this and the two pieces on the other wall. I use it to hold serving dishes, vases and other infrequently used items.

The bottom shelf has wire baskets that are perfect for my potatoes and onions.

We put up two Tjusig hooks from Ikea to hold my aprons (on top) and D's aprons and things (on bottom). 

In the corner, I'm repurposing some shelves that were in our old house when we moved in. For now they house all the cooking magazines I need to sort through. 

The grey baskets on top hold bread bags (for my homemade bread) and toilet paper rolls (for crafts). The green basket holds essential oils.

The first thing you see when you open the door is my wall of staples.Those two bookshelves are about the same size as my old pantry, so the storage containers will look familiar to those who are familiar with my old pantry. 

On top of the shelves, we have some pretty ceramic containers, and the mostly empty bottles of alcohol for when my mom comes to visit.

On the top shelves, we have four of the same weave baskets that I use in the freezer. Niels and I share two, and Marissa has two. These are for snacks that are not safe for D. In addition to being hard to reach, I find that because they are hidden from view, I am more likely to leave them to Niels!

Underneath the snack baskets on the left shelf are the containers for seeds, nuts, and other snacks. As you can see, I'm started to convert to glass containers. I like Versaglass by Ziploc.

The next row holds cooking powders and grains.

In the baskets I have homemade mixes for Italian dressing, ranch dressing, etc. 

The next row holds baskets for boxed items and cooking oils and vinegars.

The next row has our imported Dutch goodies and... items that I haven't decided whether or not they need a permanent place.

The bottom shelf holds party supplies, rarely used disposable products, and something new I picked up from Pinterest...

...a dedicated space for random lost or missing parts. I put it on a low shelf in the pantry so it's easy for anyone to find. I imagine this will fill up soon!

Moving over to the left shelf, under Marissa's snacks we have my flours and sugars.

And the pastas and rice.

And safe items for our son. They are on a lower shelf so he can select his own snacks.

Then the breakfast items. The boys eat Raisin Bran Crunch, one of the last processed foods I still buy. Usually, I have a few extra boxes to the left, but I haven't done my shopping for the week yet.

On the bottom shelf, I have a few odds and ends, like popsicle molds, a train gingerbread house I'll be breaking out in a few weeks, Christmas cookie cutters, candles, pedialyte for when our son is sick, and drink mixes.

In the corner, I hung up a cute little tulip quilt made by a friend of ours.

One priority for the walk-in pantry was an appliance shelf. I wanted my kitchen counters clear, and the ability to easily grab an appliance when I need it without digging or bending. We put outlets along the wall so we can charge appliances, or even us them in the pantry. Eventually, I will have a built in shelf, but for now, I'm really happy with my LeBron furniture. 

I took advantage of the long wall on the left to display my cookbooks. I used four Ribba photo shelves from Ikea. I wrote about the process here.

Here's a better picture of the two pieces while I was still organizing. You can see the basketball theme in the design. The only change I made was to swap out the big basketball knobs with more subtle silver knobs.

In the first shelf, I have a couple smaller, infrequently used appliances, egg cartons, spice grinder, extra parts for my new immersion blender, and football-theme serving dishes.

Behind the "locker door," I have a few empty containers and my cleaning buckets.

I really love the drawers in dresser. I used the top drawer for canned and glass food stuffs.

The second drawer is storage container overflow. The fun part of finally get fully unpacked is that I'm discovering where I have duplicates...and triplicates.

The bottom drawer is currently home to a few extra bamboo organizers I have left, as well as extra spray bottles for my homemade cleaners.

In the locker, I have another serving tray and my spare jars.

The pantry is also a great place for our dustbuster.

And because I'm short and the walls are tall, I have my little stepstool in the 3" of extra space between the dresser and the wall.

Niels took this panorama when he was playing with his new iPhone.

One thing I've learned from this process is that it's not a job to be rushed. I'm glad that we didn't put shelves in right away. I have a better idea of how I use pantry now, so when we do put shelving in, it will really be custom to our needs. 

Another reason it takes time is because organizing supplies can be expensive. Re-using jars is a cheaper way to go, but I like the square containers that are better for stacking. I started organizing this pantry almost six years and three homes ago when I started buying the matching containers. (I didn't match before). I didn't go out and buy thirty containers at a time. I think I started with four. I wanted to make sure that they fit with my shelving. They did, and I liked how easily I could tell when I needed to replenish an item. From then, as I ran out of a staple item, I would buy a new container at the same time I bought a new bag of say, flour. 

Thanks for peeking in my pantry. What's your best organizing trick?

If you like what you've read, we love for you to follow us on Facebook and Pinterest.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...