9/20/17

Fall Meals

A while back I learned the magic of having a meal bank, a list of meals our family eats regularly that I can easily refer to when meal planning.

I recently switched out my summer list for fall and winter foods, whoo hoo! Though it's still summer temperatures where we live, it is time to change up the menu and embrace soups, glorious soups.

The beauty of fall and winter food is that much of it freezes well and is even better the 2nd or 3rd time around.

Today, I'm sharing my fall meals. I will link to some of the recipes, but honestly I am not a strict follower of recipes. I'm always substituting up and improvising. If I left a link off a recipe, it's because I can't find one close enough to the one I use. I will do my best to do separate posts on those meals....especially this slow cooker chicken curry pictured below.


Fall Meals

taco soup
turkey chili with black beans
super food soup
chicken and quinoa soup
lentil soup
vegetable soup
chicken tortilla soup

red beans and rice
chicken pie
hot ham and cheese sandwiches
sloppy joes
hamburgers/ turkey burgers
greens, black eyed peas, corn bread
sheet pan chicken

roasted sausage and veggies
tacos
enchilada casserole
slow cooker chicken curry
spaghetti
fish and roasted vegetables
homemade pizza

We don't strictly eat from this list. I do a lot of roasted vegetables and salads as sides. I use up leftovers and make random soups. Also, I use a lot of ground turkey instead of ground beef. This list is here for reference when times are tough and I'm stuck.

What are you favorite fall meals?

.....

P.S. Using Walmart's online grocery pick up is keeping me sane!

8/26/17

A Few Things I'm Loving Lately

Hello out there!

How was your end of summer, your start of school?

We have transitioned semi-successfully, and I must admit I like the structure and routine school provides. We are getting more sleep, eating better meals, and benefiting from a little separation as all 4 of my kids are doing some school this year. Hallelujah!

I thought I'd pop in to say hello and share a few things I have been LOVING lately.


1. I bought a THIRD LOVE bra and it is 100% amazing, probably the only bra I've ever worn that actually fits and is comfortable. I can't wait to buy another one.

2. Wal-mart grocery pick up has changed my life. I used this service all summer, and it spared me the torture of taking kids with me to the store.

3. I just finished reading Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting. I found it totally fascinating!

Margo has some thoughtful insight on this book.

4. After all that reading about French parenting, I simply could not resist buying a 10-pack of these baguettes at Costco. They're made in France! Though how un-French to buy them in bulk. Ha!

5. For the past couple of Friday's we have had family movie nights. This is new for us, to enjoy a movie with the entire family. I think we've found a new weekly ritual. Last week was Beethoven, this week was Swiss Family Robinson.

What have you been loving lately?!

Some links are Amazon affiliate links.

7/26/17

No Spend Month...A Few Things

I'm having a no spend July and all my blogging this month will be about managing the financial side of home life. I'm sharing what I'm learning and ideas about saving, spending wisely, and generally being responsible with our resources.

.....

I have a confession. I bought something.


I have been stalking this GAP, 100% cotton open cardigan that has been out of stock for quite some time because it's awesome and everybody wants one.

The other day it popped up in an ad in my sidebar. When I clicked over, my size available in one color - the gray. I had to snag it, on sale for $15. Open cardigans are my favorite, and it's very difficult to find one that's not made out of synthetic materials.

I'm a cotton girl through and through.

This was worth the splurge.
.....

My goal for groceries this month was to spend only $600. I had a ton in my freezer that needed to get eaten and I wanted to challenge myself to not be so lazy in the kitchen and to really stretch our food supply. I'm so close to the finish line! I have enough food to get us to the end of the month and $40 left in the budget. I think I can...I think I can...


One little tip if you love tomatoes as much as we do, save the little bits and leftovers and freeze them in a plastic bag. Also, if a tomato is mealy or partly bad you can salvage the good part and freeze it. Later you can use them in soups or pasta sauces. Lately I've been making pizza sauce with our freezer tomatoes bits.

Don't waste! Food is $$.

.....

This month, I evaluated the money we spend on subscriptions. I decided that my Audible subscription of 2 books per month is definitely a keeper. My 8 year old Stephen and I enjoy it the most.


I'm currently listening to and LOVING America's First Daughter.

Stephen is on the second Harry Potter.

A subscription I decided to cancel was to a Pilates site that was costing $13/month. I wasn't using it much any more. It was perfect to jump start my exercise plan when I was struggling with the craziness of school. But lately I have been walking in the evenings and finding great workouts on YouTube.

.....

Over all I'm loving the no spend month. It's not as hard as I thought it would be, and I find it very freeing to not have to decide or agonize about spending. Of course, it's not sustainable. I have to buy things. But the spending break has brought so much clarity and taught me how to be more disciplined with money.

7/24/17

Spending and Saving + Girls' Clothes

I'm having a no spend July and all my blogging this month will be about managing the financial side of home life. I'm sharing what I'm learning and ideas about saving, spending wisely, and generally being responsible with our resources.

.....

Girls' clothes are my weakness. If I have a tendency to impulse buy or make an emotional purchase, it's usually with little girl's clothes or my clothes.

Lately, I have found the best defense against overspending with little girl's clothes is to buy what I  love to begin with and be selective with hand-me-downs. To love what we have and have what we love.

Because you are only a mom to little girls once and childhood goes so fast, I think it's important to
LOVE your little girl's wardrobe. If I only had boys, I would be more into what they wear. But since my boys are destroyers of all things nice, I choose to spend more time, effort, and money on dressing the girls.

I enjoy dressing Laurie and Caroline in pretty and playful prints and understated pieces. I like mostly simple, classic children's clothes, not ladies clothes shrunk down to children's size.

Even if it means spending a little more, I think it's so important to LOVE what your girls wear. Even pj's. Especially pj's.

.....

One way I'm finding to save money is to take a really good inventory. Every few months I have been going through my girls' things and evaluating what we already have. We have tons of hand-me-downs from cousins and friends and sometimes it all piles up and we just have SO MUCH that I get overwhelmed.

When I sort it out and decide what to keep I play this little game where I shop my own stuff. I'm very selective in what I keep. I ask myself "What would I pay for again if I was building my daughters' wardrobes from scratch?"

Another trick is to cull enough to "pack" for an imaginary 3 week vacation in your climate.

I find that these games help me make decisions. After a big inventory, I will make a list of needed items and then I try to buy exactly what I want so that it is a satisfying purchase.

.....

One last idea...

One day I was scrolling Instagram and I spotted a little girl wearing a summery dress that my daughter owns. This little girl also had on leggings and a sweater with that dress. It was styled so cute.

I don't know why this was such a revelation to me, but I realized I could definitely do more layering during the fall and winter instead of putting away summer dresses and replacing them with all long sleeved items.

Especially since where I live we have mild falls and winters. I think we will try hanging on to all the summer items as long as they last and still fit.

Laurie was a sweet little model for me for this post. Watch how she takes the same dress from summer to fall to winter.

summer...



fall...
 

winter....

See how that works! So fun reinventing the same dress. It's like getting a little shopper's high without shopping.
.....

So what are your thoughts on spending and girls clothes?

P.S. I appreciate all your comments on the previous posts in this series! Thanks for reading.  

7/12/17

Classic, Low-Cost Way to Dress Little Boys

I'm having a no spend July and all my blogging this month will be about managing the financial side of home life. I'm sharing what I'm learning and ideas about saving, spending wisely, and generally being responsible with our resources.
......

Today, I'm talking/typing about boys' clothing. My boys are wonderfully hard on their clothes. They frequently have holes and rips from climbing trees or grease stains from messing around with boats and vehicles with my husband. 

I think their destructiveness on their wardrobe started around age 4 for each of them.

I remember sending Stephen to preschool in the cutest Honey Bee Tee, feeling like such a proud mama, dressing him so cute! He didn't wear his shirt two times before he took a pair of scissors and cut a huge hole in it.

It's pretty much been down hill from there.

So here is the most practical and economical way I've found to dress my boys during the summer months.

100% cotton, solid color tee from Walmart 
shorts from Old Navy (toddler and big boy)


I buy solid tee's on sale from Old Navy and Gap, too, but the Walmart Fruit of the Loom ones are less than $3! And they have great colors. I'm a total stickler for 100% cotton, and I always check that before buying. Sometimes the manufacturers change on you and sneak a little polyester in there. Beware.

They have other random t-shirts from school or wherever, but if I'm buying I stick to this solid, boy-friendly uniform.

For shoes, we are loving Natives. They are a sneaker and a water shoe all in one, and they have held up really well.
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In addition to being low-cost, I really like the way the solid t-shirt and shorts combo looks.
I love understated, simple clothes on children. No obnoxious sayings please!

I do think sewing something cool like their age or a robot would be so cute, and a fun way to personalize the shirt. Inspiration from Margo. Maybe I'll get around to that.

My boys really don't have an opinion (yet) about what they wear, so let's hope we can hold off on the sports wear as long as possible. I'm sure it's only a matter of time.

....

Do you have outfit formulas for your kids? Boys or girls?
How do you manage the costs of children's clothes?

7/11/17

Grocery Budget

It's no spend July, and I'm working on all things money related this month. In much the same way a person tries to reset their eating habits by doing Whole 30, I'm doing a financial "diet" to reset some of my spending and saving habits. I'm not buying anything except the necessities aka groceries...and maybe a dinner out with adults because #sanity.

......

Taking a look back through the year, this is how much we have spent on groceries each month in  2017.

January $741.10

February $774.43

March $667.60

April $954.67

May $1,160

June $919.83

Average =  $869.61

These numbers include household items, alcohol, and the occasional takeout meal.

To my surprise, we are way within an appropriate range for a family of 6.

According to the USDA recommendations (calculated in this blog post), $750/month is considered the thrifty plan and $1454/month is the liberal plan for a family of 6 with young children.

.......

Since it's no spend month, I set grocery budget goal for $600. We were out of town the first week in July and ate at my parents house. I have lots of food in the freezer. I'm cutting back on wine (more on that later). I think we can do it. I think $600 is a reasonable number and the challenge gives me a little thrill.


Even though we are steadily within range of recommended spending I know I could improve my numbers in future months with more careful planning and less impulse buying at Costco....and less wine.

So, what do you think about the USDA guidelines? What are the holes in your grocery spending, where you overspend or just plain blow it? Or, are you happy with how much you spend on food?

7/6/17

No Spend July

Normal is broke. Be weird.
                           - Dave Ramsey

This summer, life has slowed down enough for me to concentrate on some lost priorities - frugality and good stewardship at the top of the list.

Since Caroline was born almost two years ago, I have been on a frugality sabbatical of sorts. We still budgeted and saved, but the priority was to make the house run smoothly and with minimal unnecessary stress.

If I needed something, I bought it/ ordered it. I stopped keeping close tabs on our grocery budget. I didn't worry much with how much we spent on birthdays or Christmas. We just lived and spent, not crazily, but loosely enough that I think it's time to dial it back and re-master some good ol' money habits - pay yourself first, save, live below your means, budget, use what you have, give generously!

The next era is on the horizon, and I'm feeling the need to flex my frugality muscles.

We have four kids to put through private school - and college! Then there's their looming orthodontic needs, cars, insurance, cell phones, etc. Also, we want to pay cash for some home renovations, replace cars, and really get the ball rolling with retirement. Our financial future is going to require planning and discipline if we want to reach our goal!

The ultimate goal is PEACE and not a dollar amount.

..........
..........

To challenge myself as the primary shopper and spender for the family, I'm making July a no spend month. I've always wanted to do one of these!

The purpose is two fold. Of course I want to save some money and relearn some old frugality skills. But even more so I would like to untangle my heart from the love of money and stuff.

Even though I'm constantly decluttering and getting rid of stuff, I'm still compelled to buy new and nicer stuff even if I don't need it. And even if I'm not buying it, I'm sure spending a lot of time gushing over it online.
............



So, I thought it would be fun to share what I learn this month on SWM and keep all my posts money themed. I want to share the process of gaining a more frugal mindset. Also, the public accountability will help me stay on track!

I don't have any super specific rules except - don't buy anything. And anything includes entertainment. Of course, we will buy food. And if something vital like our coffee pot breaks, we will replace it.

Also, I have a hair appointment that I'm going to keep, some credit at Gap, and some gift cards to a couple of restaurants. Stephen and I might have night out because it's summer and I'm with kids 24/7.

I'm allowing for a little fun so we wont snap. My intent is not to be miserly, but to be calculated.

Thoughts? Questions? Have you ever done a no spend month?

I would love for this to be an interactive series, so please jump in and share!

6/29/17

Turkey Wraps

Sometimes we need a little reminder about the goodness of simple foods. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. I think we get bombarded with recipes and food knowledge and the formula for the perfect green smoothie with 10 different vegetables in it that we forget that it is OKAY to make a quesadilla and a lovely side salad and a call it a day.

Oh yeah....tacos, bagels with cream cheese, a great bowl of berries cut up, corn on the cob.

Better to stick with the basics - to plan, shop, and cook at home with old favorites than to subscribe to a gluten free, Paleo, no carb meal plan that so easily becomes too much work.

I know I forget about the basics all the time. I feel pressure to discover new and exciting recipes and to eat healthier. I'm tempted, though rarely, by almond flour. I have to talk myself down, back to the kitchen where it is not a sin to make cornbread.

....unless you have a legitimate medical reason.
.....

The other day I re-discovered an old favorite. Oh yeah I remember - turkey wraps!

We have been eating these for lunch this week, and I think they would make a really great summer dinner - with a side of chips and some cut up fruit.



1 flour tortilla, heated so it rolls up easily
a nice scoop of cream cheese, spread all over the tortilla
turkey
loads of lettuce cut up thinly

Roll and enjoy.

....

What about you? Do you complicate your meal planning by being too ambitious about special diets? 

6/27/17

Dealing With Sentimental Baby Items

Dear Readers,

I do not mean to be away so long. But this girl....

She keeps me so busy. She's wild.






You can probably tell how sassy she is from this picture. Pulling the cat's tail, brushing her teeth in the toilet, opening the front door and sprinting towards the street are just a 'few' of her shenanigans.

The good things going for her are that she's happy and she's a great sleeper. But still, all her waking hours are hands on, me keeping her from harming herself or others.

We all adore her to pieces, and she becomes more and more endearing as her personality is really starting to shine.

Everyday, she's losing some of her baby-ness. It makes me weep. To be a mother is to grieve.

A couple of weeks ago, I did the hard work of sorting and passing on some of our baby things, mostly clothes and blankets, boy and girl stuff. I could not keep it ALL. For one, I don't have the space. But also, what a waste to keep so many great baby items that someone else could use! The world could end before my future grandchildren arrive, and I believe in using and enjoying stuff.

I passed on the majority of the boy things to my sister's baby, Charlie. Just yesterday he wore one of George's old outfits. It brought me so much joy to see my nephew wearing his cousin's hand-me-down. See what I mean....why would I save it?!

I get it if someone wants to save stuff for future babies. And I did...as long as we had the desire to grow our family.  

But the way I we see it...I've had my babies. We are content with our two beautiful boys and two gorgeous girls.



If everything is special, then nothing is special. 

I first heard about the gist of this concept from Joshua Becker. It's the idea that if everything is so sentimental and special, then nothing is. How much better to have a small, meaningful collection of special items rather than boxes and boxes.


So I chose my favorite baby things to keep, a small representation of all four that I could pass down to them should they want it for their own children. There are so many emotions folded up in one Rubbermaid box. I miss those babies!

5/31/17

Summer Routine

It's summer and I'm taking the bull by the horns. We have a serious routine mapped out. I'm not even going to pretend that I'm laid back about it. It is my survival. My life.

It starts out strict and gets looser as the day goes on.

It goes like this.

wake up/ listen to music/ eat breakfast
get dressed
older kids do their school review work - Yes, we are doing some learning during the summer.
reading/ memory work
play/ run an errand/ go to pool or park
lunch
1:00 - rest time/ baby sleeps/ older kids read or play quietly and alone
2:00 - TV/ snack
3:00  play FREE TIME until dinner

This may fail, but so far it's really good. This routine gives me a quiet house for about an hour each day, something that did not work with the school schedule and left me feeling really burned out.

Also, quiet rest time was a challenge to get started, but now everybody knows what to expect.

If anybody asks me to watch TV before the hour of 2pm, my answer is this.


I'm thinking of incorporating some chores when we get more established.

Also, we have VBS and we will go out of town some. But on a regular day we have a plan!

Does your family have a summer routine?

5/17/17

10 Awesome Things

Hello there! I did not mean to be away for so long. But LIFE. We have had so many extra things with the end of school. I'm thrilled to finally see the light of summer around the bend. Whoo hoo!


Today, I thought I would share 10 awesome things that I heavily endorse. Don't you love a good recommendation?!

1. Caveman Bars - these are are mostly nuts and some chocolate. I have been looking for a somewhat healthful and delicious bar to eat for breakfasts on busy mornings or for an afternoon treat.
Larabars - no.
Cliff bars - heck no.
Caveman bars - thumbs up.

2. For some reason I am just now catching on to Costco's premade dinners. Our family has recently enjoyed the stuffed bell peppers twice. They are fantastic. It's basically a homemade meal that I didn't make. And the price is so reasonable considering you get a night off from cooking.

3. LAKE pajamas. Since I'm a 34 year old woman I thought it was about time to buy a decent pair of pajamas. These pj's are heaven. 100% cotton which is a must.

4. I picked up the Aztec Secret face mask at Whole Foods. I love it. It burns in the best kind of way - you feel like it's doing something - ha!

5. And to follow the face mask...St. Ives Face Moisturizer. It is much cheaper at drug stores than on Amazon.

The mask and the moisturizer are great products for their price.

6. My 8 year old received this amazing swing for his birthday from grandparents. It has become the new hearth of our home. We spend so much time gathered around this swing. We even read the children's bedtime story by the swing one night over the weekend.

7. A reader introduced me to Primary Clothing a while ago and I have yet to buy anything. I do plan to because I think the idea for plain, brightly colored children's clothes is genius. I am all about their swim collection and will totally be buying some rashguards before the swim season begins.

8. I have heard the author (Andy Crouch) of this book interviewed on two different podcasts. Everything he said was so thought provoking and good. I'm adding the book to my TBR list.

The Tech Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology In It's Proper Place

9. This is a lovely blog post about losing weight and staying slim. Such sound advice.

10. I have been all about knotting my tees lately. I find it goes great with skirts or when you want a neater look but do not feel up to tucking in your shirt.

What is awesome and what do you recommend?

4/25/17

More Streamlining

May is less than one week away. 

Never before have I needed things to run smoothly and efficiently than in the month of May.

May is the busiest, not necessarily signing up for extras but fulfilling prior commitments. School has its end of the year projects and celebrations. Dance is finished off with a recital. There is prep required for summer activities, camps, and VBS. And then there is the beautiful weather which has us staying out longer in the afternoons. Oh, and the usual stuff like laundry, meals, carpool, 4 year old tantrums, 1 year old tantrums etc.

So I'm streamlining like crazy. Today, I want to share 3 more things I've added to my list of ways to make life a bit more manageable and that are now part of my streamlining repertoire.

1. The 3 oldest kids got a pair of Natives. My friends have raved about these shoes. You can get them wet. There are not shoestrings involved. They are durable. These shoes are a one shoe wonder in that they cover all our shoe needs.

These are my kids ONE pair of spring/summer shoes. Sure, we have back ups, but these are the shoes. I chose these because my children can easily put them on themselves. And that makes my life so much easier.

 '
This one, easy shoe philosophy could totally be done with shoes you already have. I'm not recommending everyone has to go out and buy a pair of Natives (though they are great). But, it's worth considering with your next shoe purchase how involved you have to be as the parent in helping with kids' shoes.

2. I've gone hard core (again) with our color coded cups. Each of my children (and one neighbor friend) has an assigned color. George and Caroline each have a sippy cup. When someone asks for a drink, I say -"where's your cup?" - and they have to find it.

It is my hill to die on.

This has cut way back on dishes.


The one pair of shoes and the one cup thing are teaching us all to be more disciplined about keeping up with our stuff.

It is truly so much simpler, a paradigm shift creating real habit change!

Last but not least...

3. I'm taking full advantage of Walmart grocery pickup, averaging about once a week. Because it's  usually required that you reserve a time slot 24 hours in advance, it's forcing me to be more organized. This service is saving me so much energy because what is more exhausting than taking little kids to the grocery store?!


If you have not tried it, you have not really lived.

The comments were so great on the last streamlining post. Share if you have more ideas!

4/18/17

Spring Around Our House












Loving Spring over here! It's my fave. We can't get enough outside time. The weather has been perfection.

I'm looking for a new audio book to listen to. Suggestions? Finished Lincoln in the Bardo....I liked it, but don't openly recommend it. It's not for everybody.

Failing at tea. I'm drinking coffee as I type.

Also, as I type, my kids are having "room time."  This is a new thing for us - 30 minutes to 1 hour of quiet in their rooms in the afternoon. I'm loving it and they are learning to love it.

Laurie's kindergarten class is celebrating the wedding of Q and U tomorrow and I'm making this cake.

Stephen is turning 8 on Thursday. He is getting this Statue of Liberty 3D puzzle. He's already done the Titanic and an aircraft carrier.

Jennifer's 10 Item Spring Wardrobe - love it. I look forward to her videos every Monday and Thursday!

Got to go...room time is almost up!

4/11/17

Helping Kids Push Past Boredom

The other day it was hot and my kids got bored, a glimpse of summer :) They were begging to watch YouTube and play on the the iPad (uggh!).

This got me thinking...about summer and the endless hours of free time at home while the baby will be (hopefully) napping.
 
On one hand, I'm all for kids being bored. But I do think it's too much to ask them to "figure it out" for hours on end. Setting a little inspiration before them can go a long, long way. This is sort of a recent revelation for me.

As my kids get older, they have more of their own agendas and expectations. I'm learning that those agendas need to be carefully managed. I need to lead them, guide them, provide ideas for them - "run" their life so they don't run mine.

Serve them strawberries so they don't raid the freezer for ice cream, literally and metaphorically. 

This takes energy and planning on the part of the parent. It's hard.


When they were full of complaints on this particular Sunday afternoon, I pulled out a new pack of beads and some Legos. I held firm. No YouTube. No iPad.


They got lost in their creations.


 


As I prepare for the summer, I'm filing away ideas of things to do. Simple things. But I have a feeling that my attitude is my biggest challenge.



Thoughts?
Can y'all relate? 
What supplies/materials do you provide for your kids to keep them busy? 

4/6/17

Clothing Budget + Enjoying the Burn

The beginning of 2017, I set a strict clothing budget for myself. I even opened a separate checking account to keep all clothing transactions organized and separated from our main checking.

I was seeking strict accountability for what I buy and how much I spend on my clothing. Clothes are my weakness. If I'm tempted to impulse buy, it's going to be on my clothes.


Oddly, even thought I showed weakened restraint when it came to clothes and I had plenty of clothes, I wasn't buying the right clothes. There was still holes in my wardrobe and things that were not really my style...just not quite right. Worse, I kept buying similar items. Hello I do not need anymore button down shirts!

Setting a strict budget was my attempt to rein it all in.

I'm also keeping a list of each item I purchase throughout the year. The list allows me to really reflect on what I buy - How much did I wear it? Was this or that a good purchase?

I guess you could say I've made a hobby out of creating a wardrobe that I love. It's a creative outlet and it keeps me from dressing frumpy (as is so tempting for moms at home). It is a hobby that overlaps with the necessity that I get dressed everyday.

I'm almost 4 months in, and I'm really feeling the benefits of this strict budget.

- There is freedom in the budget. The money is allotted for me to spend on clothes, and I don't feel guilt about spending the hard earned family dollars impulsively.

(A word about my impulsive purchasing - what I mean is....impulsive for me, a person who is not very impulsive about purchases. It's relative. In general, I'm an under buyer.)

- I've become a more cautious and confident buyer. The budget provides clarity because if I'm going to spend my precious clothing allowance, I want to buy something I LOVE.

- It's made me patient. My allowance is enough to enjoy and buy beautiful, quality clothes. But it's not enough to run out and buy a full season's worth of clothes and accessories. It's a slow and enjoyable process.

Jennifer Scott describes in one of her videos (though I can't find the exact one) about enjoying the burn, the slow process of building a great wardrobe, buying the best quality you can afford. I love this concept - enjoying the burn. It's an exercise - to budget, to have self-discipline, to refine my style.

Do you have a clothing budget?
Are you satisfied with your wardrobe?
How much do you care about your clothes? A lot, a little?

P.S. You would be so underwhelmed if you saw how I dressed. I'm no fashionista. I enjoy timeless, simple clothing. Though I am trying to dress a little more elegantly by slowly acquiring more dresses.

4/4/17

Plating and 6:30 Dinner

Whenever my parents are cooking for a group, they will often plate everybody's meal and serve it like a restaurant does. Everyone gets a serving of each part of the meal, beautifully arranged on their plate. This does not mean you have to eat it, but it makes it easier on the server and it is a lovely presentation. 

An important part of the success of our 6:30 family dinner is plating all the plates at the same time. This is not a new invention, but new to me.

I used to prepare the children's plates, let them start eating, and then I would fix my plate. By the time I sat down, they were done and asking for more food or wanting to get up.


Last night we had our typical 6:30 dinner - minus my husband who was working later. We set the table, and then I plated the food (including my plate). I snapped a picture realizing how vital plating is to getting everyone to sit down at the same time, especially when my husband is not present. I really enjoy the formality of it and it enables me to sit with everyone while we eat.


I can see how eating family style or buffet style might work when the kids are a bit older. And maybe we'll tackle dress code one day, too. Laurie could not resist wearing her bathing suit to dinner last night. Whatever!

.....

I'm also thinking I need to do lunch this way in the summer when we are all home.

Do you plate everyone's food?

Family style? Buffet style? 

I've never given much thought to this, but it can really make a big difference for the cook and server in the enjoyment of meals.

.....

P.S. I loved every comment on Streamlining. Y'all gave me so many more ideas to think about. Thank you for reading and taking the time to share your wisdom!

3/30/17

Streamlining

When we had our 4th child, things got real. Not that they weren't real before, but adding another person + the combination of my oldest starting first grade made for a very demanding life. I now had "big" kids and little kids and a baby!

I had to get to 2 different schools during the day (preschool and big kid school). I had to wake up in the night with a newborn and set my alarm clock early to get everybody up for school. And don't even get me started on feeding all these people. The demands seemed merciless, especially those early newborn days. And honestly, it is still pretty challenging as we enter the toddler phase and the increasing homework load!
 

One day I took a step back and said what (WHAT on earth???!) can I do lighten my situation? I likened it to a business meeting, the kind where you would call your team in and discuss ways to make the company run smoother. What can we cut? What can we do better? How can we be more efficient? What can I streamline?

The list below is what I came up with...not in one sitting, but over the course of 6 months or so. This is the list I would give my younger, totally overwhelmed self. This is a similar list I gave to a friend and fellow mom of 4 not too long ago when she said "Help! Do you have any ideas? I'm drowning."

1 - hire some help

If you can afford to hire any sort of help - do it. We found a wonderful cleaning lady to come every other week. My husband said, "Let's view this expense like a utility." Re-framing it like that really helped me get over the expense. It's necessary for making our home run more smoothly.

Hired help could also be in the form of babysitting or yard work or even allowing yourself to get take out a couple nights a week without guilt.

2 - paper plates

Paper plates = less dishes to wash. I mostly use paper plates for dinner if the dishwasher is already full.

3 - auto draft your bills

If you are the family bookkeeper, you can save yourself so much time by putting your bills on auto draft. Most all utility companies and mortgage companies provide this option.This is a precious hour or two I can use for other purposes each month.

4 - Amazon subscribe and save

Dog food and diapers. Toilet paper. The things that you do not want to ever be without...sign up for a  subscription through Amazon. You will never be desperate, loading all your kids up at 5pm to go buy diapers. What a nightmare!

I especially like this for lager items because they take up so much room in the grocery cart.

5 - shoe station

Corral all your kids' shoes and put them in one spot. This way, the shoes are easy to find and it's easy for your kids to put them away.



6 - uniform basket (or church clothes or swim stuff basket)

Similar to the shoe station, keeping school uniforms or church clothes in one basket makes it so much easier to get everyone dressed! This will save you from running to all 4 corners of the house frantically searching for your son's brown belt and your daughter's navy blue leggings. It's all in one spot.

In the summer, I keep all our swim suits in one basket together, not in individual drawers and rooms.

7 - prepackaged snacks

A granola bar never hurt anyone. Embrace prepackaged snacks, especially if you have to pack school lunches - a few prepackaged items can give you so much peace. We also found that letting our kids raid the snack cabinet on the occasional Saturday morning gives the adults a little extra time to sleep. 

8 - if you have a baby, teach them to love their pack n' play

Teach your baby to spend a little time in the pack n' play each day. This is so helpful. Sometimes you need to unload the dishwasher quickly and efficiently without your 1 year old getting involved.

Just this morning, I put Caroline in her pack n' play with a puzzle while I did my make up and put some laundry away. She's 19 months old, a very active, never sitting still 19 months!

9 - quit something

There's a saying that I love "Why do today what you can throw out altogether?" Is there something you can quit, at least for a season while you're stressed, while you have 4 babies under the age of 6?

If there is something in particular that you dread and it totally frazzles you and it doesn't seem worth it - quit!

4 year old t-ball
Wednesday night church
school volunteering

It's not mandatory!

You have to put the oxygen mask on yourself first. 

One thing I quit doing was taking meals to new mom friends. Sorry new mom friends. I love you. Right now, it about kills me to take a meal to somebody. So I quit and I can take this up again when I don't have a toddler literally under my feet 24/7.

10 - Rest

Two nights ago, Stephen and I stayed up until midnight thoroughly enjoying ourselves, watching our new show.  The next day - unproductive and monster - are the two words that best described myself. I felt terrible. I had a headache. I over ate. I yelled. I was horrible, all because I did not get enough sleep.

Sleep is vital. Everything is better when you are rested. Aggressively developing good sleep habits is worth the effort! And sure, the occasional late night indulgence of TV happens. But it's not the norm.

Good sleep = better performance in parenting, in adulting, in everything!

 

How do you streamline?

I'm always looking for new ideas?

3/27/17

Adorable Boy Clothes

Over the weekend I was "shopping" for spring and summer kids' clothes, and I could not stop squealing to myself over these adorable Fiream boys' items. I would have died if this stuff was available at such affordable prices when my firstborn was really little.

I was compelled to do round-up! Too good not to share. Moms of little guys, you're welcome.




1 / 2 / 3
4 / 5 / 6
  7 / 8 / 9  


Revised to add: The Fiream brand cotton does not seem as thick and sturdy as the material used for minBoden. However, the girls Fiream clothes we own have washed just fine, and we have enjoyed wearing them. They are all 100% cotton. They are of lesser quality than miniBoden, but still pretty good. 

Links are Amazon affiliate links.

3/23/17

Pom Pom Trim Curtains

Caroline will soon be moving up and moving out of her teeny closet nursery. She's a great sleeper, and it's (almost) time for her to join her siblings on the other end of the house.

Almost 2 years ago when putting her nursery together, I made these easy, simple curtains out of white sheets and pom pom trim.

I can be so critical of my own projects and often grow unhappy with them over time, but I am still quite fond of these curtains.


I took a plain, white cotton sheet and cut it to the size of each window. Then I sewed the pom pom trim on the edges. Easy.



If you don't sew, I'm sure you could use fabric glue.


The pom pom trim adds such a nice touch, I think.


I'm going to miss this being her room. It's definitely bittersweet.

Link is an Amazon affiliate link

3/20/17

6:30 Dinner

We have never had a dinner time. But recently, after a long season of chaos surrounding when to eat, I set a dinner time, 6:30.

The issue at the center of all this is that my husband does not arrive home for the evening at the same time every day.

And so it goes...the children get hungry early, but I want to wait on daddy. So most of the time I feed the kids, and I wait (starving, hangry) until my husband gets home...unless I decide to go ahead and eat (alone) after the kids. This is depressing!

And it was happening more often than not.


On a whim, I declared a dinner time. And now, for almost 3 weeks, we have sat down to eat at 6:30.

Laurie likes to set the table, we light candles, turn on music, plate the food, say a blessing. I sit down with the kids, phone off, eating when normal people eat. There are still evenings when daddy is not home at 6:30, but having the time gives him a goal to work toward.

And now the kids are so funny, telling him, "Daddy, you missed dinner." Like it's a grand event! 



This dilemma is representative of many household "problems" that I continue to let happen. It does not even occur to me to take action and seek a solution or improvement.

It was such a win, and it's got me thinking - what else can I fix?
....

Dinner time has been especially helpful with the time change, too. It feels too early and light outside to eat, but it's time. And it's important that we get on with dinner, so we can get on with bed time because we still have 2 full months of school!

.....

Do you have a dinner time?
Do you eat as a family every night?

3/10/17

My Winter to Spring 10 Item Wardrobe

After a year of having a capsule wardrobe, I have settled on Jennifer L. Scott's 10 item wardrobe philosophy. 

winter 2016 capsule wardrobe
spring 2016 capsule wardrobe

The premise is you have 10 core items that are the workhorses of your wardrobe, items like jeans, dresses, and structured tops. These are the clothes you wear every day in heavy rotation.

And then you have extras - t-shirts, leggings, coats, special occasion wear, church clothes, etc.

I love this idea of having a small, beautiful, workable wardrobe. In my 10 item wardrobe pictured below everything mixes and matches so well. Literally, all the tops go with all the bottoms. Getting dressed is fun - and easy - and I feel put together on the most harried of days.

This little collection of clothes was spontaneously organized because we are having the mildest  winter, and it looks like spring will be, too. My winter clothes were just not working! I can count one hand the number of times I wore a coat.

In attempt to align my clothing with the weather, I purchased a few tops, a new pair of white jeans, and my mom bought me a dress. Combined with some items I already owned and ....

Ta-da! I feel so refreshed!
.....

My 10 items

3 blouses
2 light sweaters
1 long cardigan
3 pairs of jeans
1 dress







A huge goal of mine is to wear more dresses and skirts as we move into the warmer months. I hardly own any dresses because last year I was nursing a baby and the year before I was pregnant. So I will slowly buy them as the budget allows.


I will wear this winter to spring wardrobe probably through the end of April. I kept the sweaters in because temperatures will be all over the place, and we will most likely have a handful of very cool mornings. In my extras, I have t-shirts for warm days and coats for cold ones. 

What do you think? Would you have a 10 item wardrobe?

.....

To give you a little more information about the 10 item wardrobe, Jennifer L. Scott has a fantastic TED talk.

She also has a wonderful blog, YouTube channel, and has authored 3 books. I have really enjoyed following her the past couple of years, and I have acquired so much wisdom about making the most of everyday life! Thank you, Jennifer.
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