4/16/18

Do you have a command center?

Lately I have been taking a hard look at the "problem" areas and systems in our home -

the major laundry back up that happens on weekends
the sock problem (need I explain?)
the breakfast crisis I face regularly because one of my kids loathes oatmeal

At the top of this list was the depressing level of paper clutter that lived on my kitchen counter. For a while, I embraced it. I declared that the counter-corner would be my command center and all school papers, bills, invitations, etc. could live there in a tidy pile. Why fight it?

But stuff attracts more stuff, so the pile would grow with kids' art, lists, pens, iPhone earbuds, cash, receipts, toys. Every day I would make a plan to tame the pile, but I could never completely eradicate it because the business side of household life is ongoing. I realize this now.

 

So after a year of living in madness, I came up with a solution. I moved it. I moved my command center. So simple. I found an unused corner in our home and set up an old, bedside table to serve as a desk. I bought a $9 bulletin board. Boom. Problem solved.

Last night at dinner I noticed how much lovelier the kitchen was because my "office" wasn't staring me in the face reminding me of the appointments I haven't made and the school projects we are behind on.

As much as moving the command center out of the kitchen has helped me, so has the bulletin board. Getting my important things vertical where I can SEE them has been a game changer. I feel less stressed and I'm taking action sooner rather than letting things sit there undone in a pile.

Do you have a command center?
Do you have any nagging problem areas in your home that need to be addressed?

Sometimes the solutions (or partial solutions) are simpler than we think!


3/29/18

Easter Basket Tips

My sister did the smartest thing with her kids' Easter baskets last year. They did them on Saturday instead of Easter Sunday. I thought this was brilliant because chocolate candy and your Easter best do not go together.

So we are totally doing the Saturday thing this year.



A couple of other thoughts and ideas....

I don't go crazy with candy. One or two special treats is more than plenty. Each of my children will be receiving one chocolate bunny. This was a revelation to me after a few years of everybody getting their own big bag of candy.

I also like to think summer when doing Easter baskets. Traditionally I give bathing suits. This year is an exception because we are good in the swimwear department. Sunglasses, sidewalk chalk, beach towels, goggles, pool rings (as pictured above) make for fun, useful gifts.

My friend, James, said he always got little packets Zinnia seeds tucked his basket. I think this is the most charming idea since after Easter is the appropriate time to plant Zinnias.

Debt Free Dana shared the idea of recycling and rounding up all your stuffed animal bunnies (and there are many in our house!) and putting them out with the Easter baskets. It makes of a great presentation and you are using something you already have. My kids would love this.

Debt Kickin Mom shared in her Insta-stories recently that she is putting a hand-me-down bathing suit in her younger daughter's basket. I totally stole this idea and I'm putting some cool hand-me-downs in George's basket this year.

Everything does not have to be new! I love this idea. We can save money and really squeeze the value out of things we already have with a little re-packaging.

So what tips do you have about Easter baskets? Please share!

.....

Also, this post. They were so little.

3/26/18

Ain't No Party Like a Laundry Party

This past Sunday afternoon I found myself in a catatonic state on the sofa...just done with it all! I was rejecting my young. I couldn't imagine what we were going to have for dinner. And I was feeling extra depressed about the heaps of dirty laundry that contained all the school uniforms needed for Monday morning.

I don't find myself here too often, but yesterday was dark, one of those times in which you can't even think of a good idea to pull yourself out of your breakdown.



When my husband decisively volunteered to make eggs for the kids for dinner, I felt the beginnings of the signs that I was going to live again. Things were turning...

His alleviating one small burden gave me back the ability to think.

And I declared a laundry party for later that evening. The whole family would pitch in and do our ginormous laundry together.

These "parties" are always met with griping and complaining, but the hardest part is starting. Once the first dish towel gets folded, the momentum gets going, and the laundry is done and put away before we know it. Even Caroline can walk her clothes to her bedroom! And she delights to do so.



These pictures are from a few weeks ago before our family went on a little beach vacation. We had a laundry party and then everyone packed their own bag for our trip (except for the 2 y.o.).

Sometimes delegating and dividing up the housework can be one more thing to manage and oversee. But sometimes it brings a great deal of relief. It's all trial and error. Laundry parties are working right now and I only see more in our future.

What about you? How do you divide the labor in your home?

3/21/18

Loving that Frugal Life

I am totally into frugal living these days. Obviously, there are financial benefits to a frugal lifestyle. But beyond those, I enjoy the thrill being resourceful. Limitations breed creativity. It can be really fun to come up with a way to do something without going and buying all the things.

I'll admit, frugality can be tedious. For example, making everything from scratch in your kitchen.

But more often I find that frugal choices lead to simplicity. For me, frugality often means less errands, better planning, and less angst over purchasing decisions. As the mom and family buyer, it leaves me with more space to be with the people instead of being at Target and Starbucks. 


Another bonus of a frugal mindset is less time going down the rabbit hole of online shopping. When I make up my mind that I'm not going to buy anything...guess who gets about the business of making banana bread?!

What I'm saying is...I start doing instead of scrolling and "consuming"  for minutes upon hours upon days. And that is freeing!

For fun...
Here's a handful of frugal things I've done lately.

1. Re-used a birthday balloon for my husband's birthday dinner. It's silly, and small but I'm really proud of this balloon's second life. It has lived on our kitchen ceiling since my daughter's birthday in JANUARY. I thought about going a buying a balloon and remembered...I already had one!

 

2. I gave my boys haircuts at home the other day. That's $28 I did not spend.

My kids refuse to give me a normal smile. Best he could do.

3. When the weather warmed up a few weeks ago, I evaluated the girls clothes and discovered that Caroline needs almost no new clothes or shoes for spring and summer. I have tons of hand-me-downs, so I can go on and resist the temptation to buy size 3 little girls' clothes.


4. When we recently returned home from a family trip, I made sure we had a meal planned ahead for the evening. I took out chili from the freezer and it was so easy to throw it on the stove. The last time we went out of town, I had no re-entry meal plan and we spent $45 going out to a Mexican restaurant.



5. I've been freezing herbs. Before they go bad, I dice them up and put them in the freezer. Yes to not wasting food!


I make myself rich by making my wants few. -Henry David Thoreau 

What frugal things have you been doing lately?


Our Getting Out of Debt Story

3/12/18

3 Get Out of Debt/ Frugal Living YouTube Channels

When we were first married and I knew absolutely nothing about personal finances, Stephen put me onto Dave Ramsey. I became a complete nut for getting out of debt and living on a budget. And almost 12 years later I am still totally into this topic.

Recently, I found that there is an entire world on YouTube dedicated to moms living their best life, getting out of debt, and being frugal to meet their big financial goals.

Below are links to my three favorites. I love these channels. In the morning when I'm cooking, unloading the dishwasher, or folding laundry I turn on the ol' YouTube in the background.

These videos keep me inspired! Especially when I just want to throw my hands in the air and dive into a box of bonbons.

Debtkickin Mom

Lydia Senn

Debt Free Dana

Do you have any favorite YouTube channels?

3/9/18

Everything I've Never Told You About Friday Night Pizza

Going on almost a decade, I've religiously made homemade pizza on Friday nights. It has become a grounding family ritual we look forward to every week!

I've never done the math on homemade pizza, but I'm confident in saying it is a very frugal meal. I can buy all my ingredients once and make a couple dozen pizzas out of them. Seriously!
 

Occasionally I take a pizza sabbatical. But we always come back around to our trusty, homemade Friday night pizza.

Today, I share my secrets and tricks.

THE DOUGH AND CRUST

I have tried almost every crust there is to try and hands down the Artisan Bread dough makes the best crust. Even better, it makes a ton and keeps in the refrigerator for 2 weeks. The recipe makes enough dough for about 6 pizzas, so I make 3 pizzas one Friday and then my dough is ready to go for the next week.
 

This dough behaves. Once it's cooked it slides on and off the pan just like a pizza at a restaurant. Also, it actually gets better on the second week. Not sure what chemistry is going on in the fridge when it's sitting in there, but the flavor truly gets better with age.

I spray the pan with cooking spray and dust a little cornmeal on there before placing dough on the pan.

THE SAUCE (AND SEASONINGS)

I use store bought sauce, pesto (from Costco) and marinara (favorite brand is Victoria). I also love to sprinkle on a few red pepper flakes and dried oregano.



In the summer, I slice fresh tomatoes from the farmer's market and that is our ultimate favorite. But most of the year, store bought sauce is the go-to.

THE CHEESE

I like the huge bags of shredded mozzarella from Costco or Walmart. To store it, I fill plastic pint size Ziploc baggies with the cheese and keep them in the freezer.



One bag is plenty for 3 pizzas when rationed properly.

I used to do fresh mozzarella, but honestly found it to be a little too watery. Plus, the shredded is the more economical choice.

My kids love to help with sprinkling the cheese.

THE TOPPINGS

Pepperoni, black olives, onions, peppers, mushrooms...the sky is the limit!

THE PANS

After years of using cookie sheets, I splurged at the Dollar Tree and bought round, aluminum pans. I've had them for about a year now and they've held up beautifully.
 

CUTTING THE PIZZA

I used to use a pizza cutter, but we lost it. So now we use a knife. I share this only to make the point that you don't need a lot of specialty kitchen tools. Minimalist kitchens are the way to go!

IN THE OVEN

on 500 degrees for about 7-8 minutes



EATING AND ENJOYING

Sometimes we all eat at the table. Sometimes we all eat in front of the TV and watch a movie together. Sometimes I feed the kids early and then Stephen and I eat together sort of like we're on a date while the kids watch TV.
 

REHEATING

We usually have leftovers and this (scroll down) is the best way to reheat.

Do you make homemade pizza?! What do you like to eat on a Friday night?

3/8/18

Best Mom Suit

Last year, I finally found the perfect swimsuit, the Landsend Tugless One Piece. This suit is sturdy. It's nicely lined. It's classic. It has a tummy control option. Maybe I take advantage of that...maybe I don't. And did someone say tugless?!

Yes, no tugging! This thing stays in place when you don't have the luxury of grabbing your kaftan before dashing after your two-year old.

Also, it's 39.99 and you can usually catch a sale.
I have it in black and red.


And if you need a good laugh.....I Swimsuit Season So Hard
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