Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Happy Holidays From My Family to Yours

Wishing you and your family Happy Holidays!

This year, our family decided to stay home for Christmas Eve/Day to start our own family celebrations. Over the weekend, we plan to travel to see my husband's family.

I know I have been MIA the last several weeks! There has been a lot going on! My niece (3 years old) came to stay with us so I had 2 toddlers in my house for 2 weeks. Then, the day after that ended, our little one got very sick. It's been a whirlwind few weeks, that's for sure!

Tell me, what holiday traditions do you do? I would love some ideas for our family as we begin annual traditions.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Our Fireplace Mantle Decorated for The Holidays

It's been one of those slow moving weeks for me. I was so ready for the weekend to come! Nothing super exciting is going on here (that I can share yet anyways... Hint, hint, wink, wink), which is probably why I feel so sluggish lately.

Our little one did start potty training a few weeks ago and I hope to post soon on how that has been going. I've also been slowly decorating for Christmas as time (and a toddler) allows. I started with the fireplace mantle and ended with this:

I can never resist a good puppy picture! How's your decorating coming along for this holiday season?

 Oh, how I love the holidays.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving from my family!
 I am so very thankful for the life I have been blessed with. I am also thankful that you took the time to read this post.

We are hosting Thanksgiving with my side of the family today and have really enjoyed taking on the challenge of cooking for 9 adults and 2 kids. As most of my family is currently napping, I am reflecting on how beautiful life is.

I hope your day has been just as blessed as mine.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

30 Gifts for Turning 30

I'm as frugal as they come (unless you are comparing me to the people on Cheapskates, then I am not really that frugal), but when my hubby is turning the big 3-0 I can't stop myself from having some fun. He is, hands down, the one who gets the most money spent on in our house. What can we say, he is very spoiled.
My husband insisted he didn't need a surprise party after having me spring one on him a few years ago (he learned then that he doesn't like surprises) so I had to get really creative. Last year, we kept it low key (see here). After lots of thought, I decided why not give him 30 gifts to match his new age.

Because we don't have a ton of money in the budget to spend on birthdays and holidays, I had to plan early. I also like to get the best deal which also entails planning ahead. I started in September. Yes, in September, I started shopping for a November birthday. It depends on how you plan as to whether you perceive this as early or late shopping, but to my husband that was waaaay too early.

Since I was going for quantity this year, I wasn't nearly as focused on the quality of gifts. Most were inexpensive but each and every one was picked out especially for my husband and individually wrapped. Take a peek:

Nothing's better than surprising the heck out of your husband! After gift opening, we did have a small gathering of friends and family to help us eat the ice cream cake from Dairy Queen. It was as delicious as it looks.

So, what were my 30 gifts, you ask? I would be happy to share my list with you:

1 & 2. Shampoo/conditioner (each wrapped separately)
3. Hunting Shirt
4. Dewalt drill set
5 & 6. Socks (2 packages)
7. Personally Designed Christmas Ornament (I got for free using a coupon from Shutterfly)
8 & 9. Soda Stream flavors 
10. Coffee mug (clearanced out at Target)
11. Hat with favorite football team logo
12. Toy plane that launches across the room 
13. Chapstick 
14. Sled 
15. Orbit gum 
16. Shirt with favorite football team logo
17. Custom Designed Magnet (also got for free with a coupon from Shutterfly)
18. Engraved knife
19. Multipurpose knife
20. Lighter especially made for the fireplace
21, 22 & 23. Pajama bottoms
24. Electronic Helicopter
25. Coat
26. Decoy holder for hunting
27. Box of Cheezits (his favorite snack ever)
28. Bottle of our favorite wine
29. Cupcakes
30. Dairy Queen ice cream cake

Overall this birthday was a huge success.

How do you plan to celebrate the next birthday at your house?

Monday, November 17, 2014

You Are 6 Decisions Away From Being Homeless

My mom came to visit for a long, much needed 3 day weekend! While she was here we kept busy shopping, cooking, and playing with my child. It was so good to see her, but the time went too fast.

While we were leisurely drinking coffee one afternoon my mom mentioned someone telling her that most adults are really 6 poor decisions away from being homeless. As I think about this, I can't help but wonder how true this statement may be. As a mental health counselor (therapist, if you prefer), I have seen many individuals reach this point or become close to being homeless. This statement even hits closer to home as I have watched family members struggle with a combination of health issues and unhealthy spending habits spiral out of control. 

Here is a hypothetical, to illustrate, how we could be 6 decisions away from becoming homeless. Sally is very unhappy with her full-time job and after an intense fight with a coworker, she gives 2 week notice of terminating her employment. She decides she will use some of her savings and go on vacation (which she's never done before) for a few weeks before job searching. After returning relaxed and rested from her vacation, Sally starts looking for work. She unfortunately does not find a job immediately, as she thought she would. Her car starts to have engine issues and she doesn't have enough money in savings to cover the month's bills plus repair her vehicle. She doesn't think she can get a job without transportation though.

As you can see, this is how easily one can start facing the real possibility of being homeless. Although, some decisions could be made for you that contribute to you losing everything, like being layed off.

I guess it's just something to think about, we could all easily become homeless. I have a tendency to worry a lot in life and this seems to be on my mind heavily today. Thankfully, we are working on strategies that will help us if our life situation changes drastically.

First, we are working to become debt-free. We only have our mortgage left to pay off. While paying off debt as quickly as possible, we always keep money in the savings account.  Since becoming a family with the birth of our daughter, we realized how important it was to us that we have money to cover unexpected costs that arise. Lastly, we have a back-up plan.  Since I work part-time (at home) now in order to spend more time with our child, I am always prepared to go back to work full-time (and outside of the home again) if I have to in order to support our family.

What are our thoughts about being 6 decisions away from becoming homeless?

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Uh, it's November!

I can't believe it's already November! The holidays will be here before I even get a second to think! We also have had some of the most amazing weather for November!

Today, we decided to make an impromptu lunch in the park date! It's definitely a great way to spend some time outdoors before the cold weather comes (it is coming this week, supposedly). Our little one loved looking at the ducks and playing with so many children at the playground.

Hope your weekend is going well!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

DIY- New Curtains

After moving to our new house, our child moved into her own room. It was sad to see her leave our room, but it was time and she transitioned like a champ! I guess some things are harder on the parent than on the child.

The one thing I was excited about with our child moving to her own room was that it meant I could really decorate her room for her! I have slowly been adding pieces in, like this custom DIY toy box my hubby and I made (with help from my husband's father). My next plan was to add in some curtains!

I wanted a very simple valance added to her bedroom so I started out looking for the perfect material. It took several stores, but I ended up with this:

Very simple! Next, came the work of making the curtain. I must tell you, I have no knowledge of sewing. I'm hoping to learn someday, but don't feel I have time right now for this hobby. Needless to say, I called my mother-in-law and she came in to help with this.

We used this blog post as a guide for how to create our curtains. This was so fast and simple, we were done start to finish within an hour. We couldn't be happier with the finished look.

What do you think?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Monday Came Twice This Week

Is it just our house or are we all wondering when Friday will get here? This hasn't been the best week for us. Yesterday, we had family pictures that ended in meltdowns, tears, and no good holiday card worthy pics. Our poor photographer. Seriously, she was a trooper despite 2 dogs yelping and trying to run off and an 18 month old who refused to smile. We are going for round 2 next week in hopes of a better shoot!

Last night, our toddler woke up at about 2am and then refused to go back to sleep until 5am (5:20 to be exact). I am definitely doing all I can to stay awake today. Lack of sleep has made everyone a little cranky! To top it off, one of our dogs got sick and I got to spend some time scrubbing carpet. Monday came twice this week at our house.

This week hasn't been all bad though. I continue to marvel at how fun life is for a toddler as she explores her world!

Is it Friday yet? Hope your week is going better than ours has!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

What Moms Can't Do

When we first had our daughter, we were gifted tons of hand me down books from the family. To add to that huge pile of books, we also impulsively purchased a few boxes of someone else's book hand me downs. If you have followed this blog at all, you will have learned I love to read and hope my child does, too (play catch up here, here, and  see what's number 10 here).

Today, my daughter selected this book to read:
I was initially fascinated by the title of this book. My first words were, "there really isn't much that a mom can't do." The more I thought about this book and my own personal reaction to it, the more I realized there are actual limits to what I can do as a mother.

I put all that I have into everything I choose to do, yet sometimes I am left feeling like my pursuits still weren't my best work. As a mom, there are good days and bad days. I am still learning. If I had written the book on what mothers can't do, here are my top 5 points I would write to my daughter:

I can't stop thinking about you. Try as hard as I can, but thoughts of you always sneak their way in. Even when I am apart from you, like say on a kid-free date with the hubby, the conversation encompasses you.

I can't run the house like I used to. Chores look much different today than they used to. It's nearly impossible to fold a basket of laundry with you assisting. Baking gets a whole lot messier when you stir the bowl.

I can't hug you without kissing you, too. Despite my attempts to only hug you when I'm feeling ill, I can never not kiss you as well.

I can't seem to find balance. Okay, I have always struggled with making everything work perfectly. There seems to be a magnifying glass on me since having a child. There just is never enough time in the day for everything that needs done. I just have to live with that.

I can't fall asleep without running a mile long to-do list. A mom's mind is a fascinating thing. It's always thinking, planning, and working all while playing with our children, making meals, driving, and going through our day. It takes a long while for my mind to quiet down and let me fall asleep at night!

What would you say to your child that you can't do?

Planning to Get Sick

Most people don't want to get sick. I definitely don't like getting sick because long gone are the days of resting when ill. As a stay at home, work at home mom, life still resumes whether I am sick or not. My daily demands will still be there.

This week, our household is sick. We just have bad colds but we all feel like the wind has been kicked out of us. I almost always have preparations up my sleeve to help in these moments. Here are the pre-planned steps I have taken to help when our house is sick:

1. Freezer Meals
When sick, the last thing you want to do is cook. I try to always have premise meals in the freezer. This is perfect when I am sick or don't feel like cooking. These save our household money because otherwise we would be grabbing fast food.

So far for this week, I have pulled steak stir fry, tomato soup, and chicken noodle soup from our freezer for meals. I plan to restock the freezer again when I feel better.

2. Indoor Activities
Since we are all under the weather, the last thing we want is to spend all day outside. To keep my toddler entertained, I need some low key activities that haven't been overdone to hold her interest. I have a special coloring book and a tote of toys special for times like these. We pull these out and play the day away.

3. Short Periods of Time Outside
I find when I am sick, I still need periodic bursts of outside air to keep me from going stir-crazy. Although fall has just started here, I had previously pulled out our winter supplies. When sick, I feel that we should bundle up as much as possible to keep us from getting even worse. So, the stocking caps and heavy jackets come on. We also only go outside for short periods of time (10-20 minutes seems to be our normal) until we are fully recovered.

4. Medicine at Your Fingertips 
The last thing I want to do when sick is run to the store for medicine. I try to keep over the counter meds that we use when sick in stock at our house. This includes medicines like Tylenol and Ibuprofen for my child. 

As you can see, we really bunker down at our house when we get sick. This round of illness is just a reminder to me that winter (and more rounds of illnesses) is coming! How do you prepare forgetting sick? 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Weekend Recap

It seems to have been a few weeks since I did a weekend review. This was our first quiet weekend after having family visit for the past few weekends. It was the perfect fall weekend for me, complete with a visit to the pumpkin patch, sleeping in, football, and homemade applesauce.

When I say sleeping in, our daughter actually slept to 9am and 10am respectively over the weekend. I can't remember the last time I got to sleep in like that! It was great!

Isn't she a doll? I love sleeping babies.

This week is a big one at our house! I turn 27 (gulp). Every birthday after 19 has been a bit challenging for me to accept! In any case, here's to another good year!

How was your weekend?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Work From Home? How Do You Not Get Bored...

Since graduating college (debt-free I might add), I have been employed at jobs where I work from home most (if not all) of the week. Combine that with having a child and you get a stay at home/work at home mother of 1. What a mouthful!

A few weekends ago, we hosted a football party and I was asked, "how can I be home so much without getting bored?" I get this a lot. All the time actually. 

First, I will give you my perspective. I absolutely love this arrangement! I get to be home with my child but even before that, I was able to make running my household a priority. Before my child, I could get laundry done in the middle of the day between online meetings or during breaks from office work. I could take a random coffee break with a friend. Sure, the downside is I may be making up that time by completing office work at 8:30pm on a Monday night, but I love the flexibility!

I also want to mention that, despite what most people seem to think, I actually do get out of the house and/or socialize regularly during the day. Since my child's birth, we typically have been dedicated to 1 activity/week (swimming lessons, story time at the library, mommy and me classes). We also have frequent play dates. That doesn't even cover any of my work related meetings/phone calls/chats. Although we aren't outside of the house as much as I would be with a traditional full-time job, we stay very busy.

So, to answer the question I frequently get: 

How do I not get bored and/or go stir-crazy? 

Here are some of my secrets to give you an idea of how you can, too:

1. Plan
Although there is great flexibility in setting your own schedule, you should still set a schedule. The beauty in this type of job is that I can rotate that schedule as I see fit (I can't work today due to a sick kid, no problem, I will work tomorrow). If you don't set a schedule it can be hard to keep yourself accountable and too easy to never work.

2. Routine 
Try to find a "typical work time." Again, this goes with having a plan. We are routine by nature so try to fit in work time when it works best for you. Find what works for you and normalize that as your work time.

I typically work in the mornings because that's when I feel like I can focus the best and am the most productive.

3. Flexible Schedule
As I already mentioned, this is the most wonderful perk to the type of job I have. I can take that lunch date with a friend, no problem. Part of being flexible though can also mean planning to work a few evenings to make up that time! 

Don't put yourself in a position where you are locked into working certain hours, with this type of job you will work a variety of hours. You can't always rule out working nights, weekends, and maybe even (dare I say it) a holiday.

4. Relax
Life isn't about work, work, work. I struggle with this. With a work from home job, you must work relaxing into your daily routine. 

I typically get up earlier than my child to enjoy even a few minutes of alone time. I like to just sit, drink coffee, and breathe.

5. Close the Door
It gets too easy to fall into the trap of working every free second you have. I mean, that stack of paperwork eyeballs you from across the room. To make a work from home work, set boundaries for how much work you will do and close the door at the end of the day.

With closing the door behind you, that also means no more thinking about work until the next time you are in "your office." Period.

6. Track Your Hours
Whether you are paid by salary or hourly, document somewhere how much you are working. Then, evaluate if that is not enough/too much of your time. Your time is valuable and you should know how you are using it.

I have had both hourly and salaried positions. I track my hours regardless of pay because I tend to overwork. Tracking my hours helps me acknowledge when my work week MUST end. 

7. Organization
Keep your office area organized. We want to work smarter, not harder. Believe me, you will spend less time working if you know where everything is and put everything away. 

Working from home is a balancing game. Sometimes, I do really well and sometimes I struggle to make it all come together. But, hey, that's the beauty of life!

In any case, my best cheerleader keeps reminding me that it's all worth it!

How do you manage work/home life? I would love to hear from you!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Saving Money: Freezing Apples

When we moved into our new home this summer we were shocked to discover we had apple trees on our little acreage. Not 1 apple tree, but 3 apple trees! Best little surprise ever... Or so we thought.

We were eating apples daily off the tree. This was an activity my daughter loved immediately and I will cherish these moments around the apple trees with her forever. There were just so many apples and I didn't want to see them go to waste. Thus began a nightly activity that kept me busy for weeks!

My husband and I (along with some help from my mother-in-law when she visited over one weekend) picked, peeled, cored, and sliced about 80 pounds of apples. We then packaged and froze about half of these. They are ready to go whenever we want to make apple pie or apple crisp. 

With the other half, we made apple sauce, apple butter, and apple jelly. It was a lot of work and we are exhausted! See here for the links to the recipes I used.

For us, all this project cost was time. We had everything on hand. I know not everyone has access to apple trees but consider making fresh apple goods from scratch the next time apples are on sale or a local vendor offers a great deal on apples. The extra time invested will save you money in the long run.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Labor Day Weekend Recap

For the last several years while many people enjoyed the long 3-day Labor Day weekend relaxing our household has been known to work harder than ever.  This year, we didn't disappoint. My in-laws came to stay with us and here is what 4 adults and 1 toddler completed in 3 days:

1. Apple picking

We were surprised to find 3 apple trees at our new house. One tree has been producing very well and we picked 20 pounds of apples. My husband and I picked and processed 33 pounds last week (more on that coming soon). Of the 20 pounds, we processed half for the freezer. The other half? See below:

2. Apple Jelly

I have never had homemade apple jelly and I may never buy it at the store again! It is so delicious! We made 4+ jars of apple jelly. I used this recipe I found via Pinterest.

3. Apple Butter

I also made apple butter (entirely with the crock pot) for the first time. I used this recipe and it turned out great. I will cut down the cinnamon and cloves amounts slightly next time. It was just a tad strong for our taste, but didn't keep us from inhaling!

4. A New Deck

We built a new deck on the front of our house. It's actually still incomplete as we are still waiting on the railing to come in. I couldn't be happier with the project so far.

Here is the before:

And the after:

5. Crown Moulding

I personally stained the crown moulding on Sunday to put up on the main floor of the house. On Monday, we put the crown moulding up and are loving how it's changed our living room. We still have the rest of the main floor to go but it's a great start.

We are so tired today! I think we need a vacation to recover from the 3 days! Okay, we did find some time for fun! We watched our favorite football team play on Saturday and ate like kings the whole weekend! I think we earned spending the next few weeks relaxing. 

How did your Labor Day weekend go?

Monday, August 25, 2014

1 Evening + $40 Materials= DIY Tote Storage Rack

Why do we keep so much stuff? I ask myself this all the time! Nothing like moving to a new house to really spotlight how much (or little, as your case could be) you have. Most of our storage stuff includes baby items, baby clothes, and maternity clothes. We are hoping to one day need this all again but until then, in storage it sits.

Since we have moved recently, we quickly figured out that we need a spot to put our storage items. Don't get me wrong, we have an unfinished basement, but just tossing totes wherever they land left me with a bad feeling. I strongly dislike the feeling of being disorganized.

After doing some shopping, I was about to purchase this tote storage system for $90. It would hold 12 totes. Okay, so I was really considering impulse buying 2 of them! My hubby laughed and said he could build me one for cheaper than that.

We got right to work and I was so excited I didn't even take pictures along the way. We used:

* 1- 4x8 sheet 
* Half a 4x8 sheet of osb particle board
* 12- 2x4s
* 3 inch deck screws
* Nails

We spent right at $40 and here is what we ended up with:

Bear with me, these shelves were put in an unfinished basement. The perfect place to store items you aren't using, but poor choice for the perfect picture!

It didn't take long to become this:

Organizational peace! 

Now, I am so glad I didn't spend the $180 I was so tempted to impulse buy! $40 and one evening of DIY was all we needed.

How do you store your totes?

Monday, August 18, 2014

365 Days of Becoming Parents

This post has been a long time coming! As all things in my life since the birth of my child, this post comes to you much later than I intended!

A few months ago (okay 4 to be exact), I was preparing for my baby to turn 1. This was such an exciting time and, hey, we survived! Learning about raising a child was full of ups and downs. 

One evening, my husband and I sat outside discussing the blessed 365 days we had (almost) completed. I started to think about how we should document our lessons as our life will never be the same. Already, at 15 months, a day in my life with a toddler looks much different than it did with an infant. Sure, another kid may come along but we think we will have a better idea of what comes with a baby. Adjusting from 1 child to 2 kids, now that may be a different story!

After that evening with my husband, I got to work writing down all of our life lessons for our child to read one day down the road. Want to know what we learned? Take a look!
365 Days of Becoming Parents

Friday, August 15, 2014

A Day In My Life...

Back in March, I shared a day in my life. That was only 5ish months ago, yet so much from that schedule has changed!

Let me update you on the major changes: we moved, we switched from a daycare to a sitter that watches my child at my house, I went from full-time work to part-time work, the weather warmed up, and (most importantly) we now have a toddler on our hands! So, an updated day in my life post is due! Here we go:

10 AM: wake-up

Gotcha! Okay, who didn't need a little humor?!?! Now, let's get serious, because you know life with a toddler rarely means sleeping in daily!

7:20AM: Wake-up. Get my hubby up, pack his lunch, see him off to work. I either lay back down for the glorious 5 minutes before my child wakes or unload/load dishwasher. 

8AM: Payton is typically up and going at this point. She rocks the messy hair and pajamas look while I pull together breakfast and feed her.
Isn't she cute? After we eat (today banana bread and a banana...she loves bananas). We get dressed and head outdoors.

9AM: We walk. After our walk we play a bit more outside until snack time.
With a toddler on my hands, sometimes I have to catch her before our walk officially starts. You could view it as a nice jog before a long walk, eh?

10AM: Snack time and then nap time. Today was a smoothie on the patio (see our custom made kids table she is sitting on here).

12PM: Morning nap is done by this point and I throw together lunch (almost always leftovers, today was leftover beef strogonaff). Our weather is typically cool in the mornings and hot in the afternoon. We change clothes to match the temps! We then walk to our mailbox to get the mail.

A 5 minute walk is easily 20-30 minutes with a curious toddler next to you!

We head back indoors and I typically try to get a shower in and makeup on. Lately, I entertain Payton during this time with bathroom crayons and bath toys! She loved writing on the bathtub walls.

1-2PM: This is typically a very quiet hour for us. We read some books and play in the living room. If I think about it, I turn on the tv. Normally, Law & Order: SVU is on during this time. Payton spends a lot of time chasing her dogs around.

2PM: Afternoon nap

3PM: Payton typically wakes between 3 and 3:30. We then have snack, normally eaten outside (especially if messy). Today, we had an apple from one of our trees after another outfit change (sometimes we have messier days than others). We were so happy to discover we had apple trees at our new house.

We then make funny faces, send to her Daddy, and play in the shade. I turn on Pandora and we jam out to music!

4-6PM: The hubby is suppose to get off work at this time but rarely does.  Our sitter comes today (here a few times a week) to watch Payton while I try to get some work done in my home office.

6PM: I wrap up work, relieve the sitter, and attempt to make dinner (tonight is brinner). As the hubby arrives home, he entertains Payton while I finish cooking. We eat and then typically have about 20 minutes to enjoy each other before we start bedtime routine.

7:30PM: Bedtime for Payton! Her routine is this: bath, put pajamas on, hugs and kisses, rock in the chair for a few minutes, and then lay down in crib. This routine works very well for us and Payton is typically asleep between 7:30 and 8.

8-10PM: Tonight I work some more. I vary nightly what I do during this time. Sometimes we have DIY projects to work on, sometimes I lounge, sometimes I clean, other days I continue working, it really depends. I wrap up my night with loading and running the dishwasher. I prefer having this done before the chaos of morning.

10PM: Bedtime! I don't typically fall asleep right away, sometimes I watch tv or get on my phone. In any case, this is my quiet time until I fall asleep.

4AMish: Payton seems to ebb and flow with sleeping all night and getting up. She is currently going through a phase where she wakes and needs help falling back to sleep at about 4am. That time greatly varies, but that's about the most common time.

My days are busy and very routine! It's also a lot of time outside. I have no idea what we will do when the weather is cold again. In any case, I wouldn't trade these moments for anything!

What does a typical day look like for you?

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