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

3/7/18

Lately - Wearing, Cooking, Reading, Celebrating

Dear Readers, what is up? I hope this last little bit of winter finds you well. I'm thrilled to be rounding the corner into spring.

I last left off with my February goals.

I 100 % failed. It was all downhill when my husband got a horrific case of the flu in early February.

Honestly, him being sick gave us both a new lease on life. When I had to do it all with zero back up, the truth came out that he pulls his weight around here. I knew this, but it really came to the surface when he was bedridden for a week! Also, I missed his company so much.

Thankfully no one else got sick.

.....

Other than that, it has been life as usual - chaotic, messy, hilarious, etc. We have had some great weather and I'm already feeling spring fever.

Every year after Christmas I get so tired of wearing black and grey and I do a little wardrobe refresher. I'm still hard core doing the 10 item wardrobe method.

Mid January, I spent a morning in Old Navy picking out a few winter to spring things. My go-to uniform this season has been jeans, a floral top, and a cardigan. Thank you Sezane for all the inspiration. Do y'all know about this gorgeous French brand?

I haven't bought anything from there but it's definitely influencing my style.

Color!!!
...

Also, lately I've been cooking like mad. A couple of months ago I got an itch to find some sort of part time job (because I started feeling like the only mom I know without some sort of side gig - this is silly, I know).

Anyway, I came to the conclusion that I'm a true home economist and if I just spend my time cooking and making sure we don't waste food then I am practically "making" money....by saving it.


Also, as much as I can, I cook once and we eat twice. Pictured here is my favorite enchilada casserole recipe.

 ....

I'm slowly reading through Boundaries with Kids, and I'm loving it. It's about setting limits with kids and showing them how to take responsibility for themselves and their actions.


....

I love these 4 love bugs. For Valentine's day I got them each a pair of sunglasses from the Dollar Tree. And some bubble gum. I am the biggest fan of not spending money on my kids because they destroy everything! I think $8.80 is not bad for a little V-day celebration. They were thrilled.

Easter will be about the same.


So what's up with you? Hope to be back soon!

2/2/18

January Goals - February Goals

I had two goals in January - 1. No alcohol, and 2. Drink a green smoothie every day. I give myself an A on the booze and a C on the smoothies.

Physically I felt so much better not having a daily cocktail. The best part was the sleep. I slept SO much better and as a result had much more energy in general. Hallelujah! Also, I felt more hydrated. And my pants fit better. I hope this was enough of a reset to help me be even more conservative with  alcohol than I was before. When I set this goal my husband said he was surprised because I drink so little. But even that little bit affected me negatively. So cheers to less drinking.

I got a little bored with the smoothies. But in setting this goal I overcame some of my laziness of getting out my blender and rinsing it right away. Overall, it was good. I missed a bunch of days when we ran out of bananas.

For February, I'm tempted to be really ambitious and say I'm going to get up at 5 every morning, but no. I just can't.

February goals:

1. Read to my kids every day. I already missed Day 1.

2. Take my blood pressure daily and record it... because I have a touch of hereditary high blood pressure. Fun times, I'm almost 35!

....

January gave us 2 glorious snow days which is rare for where we live. It was a great time to cozy up and be together as a family. The kids loved the snow and we loved even more coming in to warm up by the fire. It was a little bit magical.













Bring in on, February!

...

Do you have any goals?

1/30/18

Tuesday Links

So many times I have sat down to write a post and my brain is just fried. Pretty sure I use up all my words and thoughts on my kids. And the interruptions...don't get me started. I'm working on sending them outside to play and "do not come in unless you are bleeding." For some reason I'm terrible at enforcing these boundaries.

What about you? Do you have any resemblance of quiet built into your day? Even 15 minutes to work on a hobby? This has been such a challenge for me with school age children.

My babies have always napped, but these big kids, well, they are always there and they are loud!

So until I get a little serenity built into my routine I'll share some of the best of the internet I've come across recently.

Have you seen this? Hilarious.

How to Frame Big Art on a Small Budget - great idea!

I bought this dress in 2 colors, the green and the pink- love it.

My Mini Fridge Taught Me How to Cook

Five Tricks: Five Years Younger

We tried this pasta recipe last night and it was a huge hit.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn - I just started reading it. Have you read it?

I wish I had a legitimate need for this quilt.

31 Things Your Kids Should Be Doing Instead of Homework I'm going on the record and saying it. I don't like homework.


Caught a miracle moment of Caroline actually playing with toys instead of body slamming me or running into the street. She. is. wild.


 That's all I got.

Some links are Amazon affiliate links.

1/17/18

January Declutter

Every January, I do a big declutter. I love it. I live for it. 

I get out trash bags and boxes, and I get after the toys, the clothes, the pencil drawer, the bathrooms...everything! I declutter like mad.


This all started 7 years ago when my mom came to visit while she was on a decluttering kick herself. She suggested I get rid of a few toys and a bulky coffee table that was not suited for our house. I was liberated by her suggestion. It had never occurred to me get rid of stuff we didn't care for. The concept of decluttering was a revelation.


Well, I have not been the same since. I'm addicted to decluttering, not irresponsibly, but as needed. Trust me, it's needed. With kids, the stuff pours in like the air we breath - clothes, party favors, birthday gifts, trinkets from school, goody bags from the dentist office, Sunday school papers, rock collections, hand me downs, books, sports equipment. You get the idea.

What's left after the big declutter is a home that feels homey and is full of all the things we love and actually use.

Don't tell my kids I got rid of some children's books this year that were the worst. The results, we read more! When our lovely, curated collection of books is out on the coffee table, it's much more appealing (to both kids and adults) than a bookshelf crammed full of sub par literature that came with a kids meal at Chick-fil-a!

 

 books out temporarily while I sort - most will go back on the shelf

It feels good to have what we love and love what we have.

It's okay to enjoy an item for a time and then part ways.

It feels good to have space. It's easier to clean. It's therapy. It makes for a more beautiful home in my opinion.


My biggest tip and strategy for decluttering is lay it all out there - whatever category you are tackling - and decide what you want to keep. I call this "shop your own stuff." What would you buy again today? What would the ideal be if someone gave you permission to be honest and just keep what you love and use?

Those questions give me freedom and help me decide what should stay and what should go.

What about you? Do you enjoy a good purge? Do you want to declutter but just can't seem to get a grip?

I'd love to continue this conversation. Please ask questions and I will do my best to be active in the comments.

1/10/18

Baby Girl Winter Wardrobe Update

We are having a legit winter over here, and it's awesome. Where we live, it has not been properly cold in two years. Winter is a means to coziness. I'm relishing coats, soups, fires, hot tea!

Even though I welcome winter, the last burst of cold temperatures exposed our wardrobe inadequacies, especially for Caroline. Girl needed some boots! Also, I was kinda embarrassed because everything she was wearing was so small, old, or inappropriate for the weather.

Though I was not planning on buying anything but groceries in January, I found myself click click clicking away on Amazon. I've written about Fiream clothes before and have had a few questions since.

So I thought I'd update: I love them. I find the quality to be good. I'd say they are comparable to Old Navy or Target. I like that all items are 100% cotton. My girls love the fun prints. They do fade over time, but so do the nicer brands of clothing we own like Boden, Gap, and Hannah Andersson. For the many many times I have to wash these clothes, I think they have held up just fine.

And the coat?! How cute. It's reversible.



I often find myself conflicted about children's clothes. One one hand, kids are so hard on clothes I don't want to shell out the cash. On the other hand, this is their one childhood and I want them to dress adorable. This brand has really solves my dilemma.




We are in a much better place with Caroline's clothes, and I did not spend a fortune. Win-win.

Have you tried this brand?
I think their boy stuff is adorable, too.

Links are Amazon affiliate links.

1/4/18

January Goals + Simple Green Smoothie Recipe

I'm not making any resolutions this year, but I do have 2 goals for January

1. No alcohol

2. Drink a green smoothie every day

Here's my favorite recipe for 1 small green smoothie.

1/2 unsweetened almond milk
small handful frozen kale
(Blend these together first. Very important step. It really blends the greens nicely so you don't get any large bits of kale. No thank you.)

add 1/2 cut up banana
some frozen mango, about 5-6 large pieces


Blend and maybe add a tad bit of water if it needs more liquid. That's it!

Podcast: The Lazy Genius Makes a Smoothie
A Drinking Lover's Guide to Temperance 
 

1/2/18

What Worked in 2017

Happy New Year! I adore this season. The serenity and calm of January is glorious to me after the hustle of Christmas.

But before I dive into the new year, I enjoy a look back at what worked the year before. This idea was inspired by Anne Bogal of Modern Mrs. Darcy.

What worked in 2017

1. The fruit bowl. Mid year, I started keeping a huge bowl of apples, bananas, and clementines on the counter. My kids ate so much more fruit as I made these items grocery staples. And it looks pretty, too!


2. Sending throw-away bottled water in school lunches. A pack of bottled water is $2.00 a week and I don''t have to worry about kids keeping up with their water bottles, which was a huge problem at the beginning of the school year. They have plenty to keep up with, especially in winter with coats, hats, etc. For some reason they could not handle the water bottle situation, and they were always losing their nice water bottles.

3. The 10 item wardrobe. I have written about this many times. The 10 item wardrobe is a small collection of clothes that is very well curated and suited to my lifestyle. Using this method I shop less and feel so much more put together. I bought Jennifer Scott's e-course and loved it!

4. Walmart grocery pick up. Need I explain? I saved so much time, money, and energy by picking up my groceries. Sick kids, rowdy kids, too many kids - we just sat in the car and waited for the lovely Walmart employee to load up the car. This service ministers to my soul.

5. Audio books for kids. When school started this fall, there seemed to be no time to read aloud. So I downloaded 19 hours of the Ramona books, and we listened to the entire series just going back and forth to school. It was a big win!

A couple things that did not work in 2017

1. Jeans. I do not feel comfortable in jeans! Is is just me? Do I need to try a new brand or is it all jeans?
My aunt says these are great. Maybe I'll give them a try.

2. Blogging. I just could not keep up a blogging routine. Hope this changes.

What about you? What worked? What didn't?
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