Archive for the ‘Frugal’ Category

How to Spray Paint Furniture

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

How to Spray Paint Furniture Painting furniture can be time consuming that is why I have fallen in love with spray painting my furniture to get a fresh new look with a small time investment. Today I am going to show you how to spray paint your furniture to give an old piece in your home a new lease on life with just spray paint and an easy antiquing and distressing technique.

How to Spray Paint Furniture

Choosing a spray paint can be a lot of fun and Walmart asked me to share about a new product line that they are now carrying at their stores that I think you guys will really like. It is the Rust-Oleum American Accents Ultra Cover 2X paint.

The thing that makes this paint special is that it can cover twice the square footage of other general purpose spray paints.  This new paint contains 44% more solids which creates a higher performance than other paints and gives you better coverage with fewer passes. What makes the paint economical is that one can performs like two cans, so it saves you time and money.  The price also fits nicely into a DIY’ers budget at a mere $3.77 per can

How_To_Spray_Paint_Furniture_1
I love this corner in our office, but have not loved this side table for many years. These chairs are so fun, but the table added no personality to this corner. I had planned to donate it to Goodwill, but I wondered if I could give this piece a spray paint face lift that would reflect this fun space. I decided to give the table a makeover with a little spray paint and antiquing.

How to Spray Paint Furniture

Supplies Needed to Spray Paint Furniture

 

Spray Paint Primer (gray if doing a dark color or white if doing a light color)

1-2 Cans Rust-Oleum American Accents Ultra Cover 2X, any shade (I am using Moss Green), available in the Spray Paint aisle of your local Walmart Store

Rust-Oleum Standard Spray Grip (in the same aisle)

Rust-Oleum Decorative Glaze in Java Brown

Sander

Sand Paper

Rags

Hardware (optional) or spray paint to paint it

How to Spray Paint Furniture

How to Spray Paint Your Furniture

  • To begin, prepare your surface by wiping the entire piece down with a clean cloth. Disassemble any drawers and hardware to prepare it for painting.
  • Next, give the entire piece a good sanding to smooth out any imperfections. Sand any edges with a piece of sandpaper and use a sander to smooth the top of your piece.
  • Once the piece is fully sanded, wipe it down with a damp cloth to prepare it for priming.
  • To help prevent drips and to make sure we get into every crevice of this piece with paint, we are going to start with our piece INVERTED. I promise, it is going to help the painting process go so much smoother than if you start with it upright.

How to Spray Paint Furniture

  • Starting with your piece inverted, begin spray painting it with your primer. Be sure to give your primer a good shake and begin priming your surface well.
  • Hold your can 8 inches away from your surface and spray your primer in a sweeping motion side to side with a slight overlap. Allow the primer to dry for one hour.
  • Put the piece right side up and finish priming the top. Allow the primer to dry for one hour.
  • Repeat the same process with your choice of Rust-Oleum American Accents Ultra Cover 2X in your favorite shade. Once the piece is fully painted, allow it to dry overnight before glazing.

How to Spray Paint Furniture

  • Using a coarse sandpaper, begin roughing up the edges on your piece to create a more antique look.
  • Using a clean rag, dip your rag in your glaze and then begin applying in a circular motion to your piece.
  • With a clean and damp cloth, remove as much of the glaze as you would like. I again, removed this in a circular motion from the piece until it added a hint of variation to the piece, but didn’t look sponged.

How to Spray Paint Furniture

  •  If you desire, you can spray paint your hardware. As you know hardware can be expensive to replace and sometimes older pieces have more custom fitting hardware so spray paint can be a great way to freshen it up. We chose to replace the wooden handle with a black hardware piece and then spray painted the old gold accessories black with a can I had in my craft supplies. We have spray painted many a handle in our home and you would never know it wasn’t that color originally.

How to Spray Paint FurnitureHow to Spray Paint FurnitureHow to Spray Paint FurnitureHere is my finished piece. I am so darn proud of it and love how vintage this piece looks thanks to the glazing and sanding process that I did on it. In full disclosure, there were some missteps along the way.

How to Spray Paint Furniture

Temperature Changes Effect Spray Paint

If you live in Indiana, you know that the drops and changes in temperature can be quite dramatic and that is just what happened when I painted this. I put a final coat on my perfect table before I went to bed and woke up to a table and drawers that had bubbled in the night. Try to pick a time of day when the temperature is warmer and will hold steady (nothing below fifty degrees) to prevent bubbling of paint. I used the advice provided by Kate, at Centsational Girl, on what to do if your spray paint bubbles and it worked like a charm.

Shake Your Spray Paint Can Well

Having that handy trigger on the spray paint makes it easy to paint quickly, but I forgot to shake the can every so often to keep my paint looking even and glossy. You definitely will want to make sure you shake it very well at the beginning, and shake it every so often when painting with it.

Who Knew You Needed to Be So Tidy?

Make sure after sanding that you really have a nice clear surface to begin your painting, otherwise you will have a crummy surface…literally. The same can be said for choosing a nice clean rag when doing glazing and keeping the piece as clean as you can, which is super difficult if you are in your filthy garage like me!

Distressing Can Hide Flaws

Distressing the piece more not only helped me minimize the bubbles, but it also added character to the piece. For my first spray painted furniture piece, I would definitely recommend it the first time to help you get the hang of how to paint with spray paint.

Practice Makes Perfect

This piece isn’t my best work, but I love it in spite of its flaws. As with all skills, it takes a little practice to get the hang of spray painting furniture. Even though I struggled a bit with my first project, I can’t wait to paint my record cabinet in our office next in the same shade and now I know what to do and what NOT to do when it comes to spray painting my furniture.

How to Spray Paint Furniture How to Spray Paint Furniture

What a difference a day makes? Isn’t she lovely? She has certainly brightened up this corner of our home! I highly recommend giving this new paint a try! Fast coverage and an inexpensive way to add a pop of color in your home!

 

walmart_mom_disclaimer

 

Have you ever spray painted furniture before? What is your advice?

 

 

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DIY Book Page Flower Tutorial (With Free Printable)

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

If there is one thing our family loves to do it is spoil our teachers. Today I am sharing how to make book page flowers out of old books to brighten a teacher’s day. I hope you will enjoy this book page flower tutorial and be able to use our free printable to create your book page flowers.

As you know, book page crafts are something that I have recently grown fond of and I wanted to create a bouquet of book page posies that you could share with a favorite teacher. A great way to build upon this thrifty gift is to pair it with a gift card to a favorite local bookstore for your teacher.

Supplies Needed:

1 old book/textbook (I picked one up at Goodwill for $.50- it was WELL loved with loads of notes, yellowed edges, and bent corners.)
Jar or Vase
Grilling skewers
Hot Glue Gun
Glue Sticks
Book Page Flowers Template

Directions:

1. Cut out your five flower petals from the provided flower petal template

2. Begin by pulling out five pages of your book and leave them stacked. Using one of your flower petal templates as a guide, cut out your first petals. Since you are cutting through the stack of papers, you should have five petals cut. Repeat this process with the other four petal templates until you have five of each kind.

3. Using your grill skewer as a paper shaper, roll each of the petals to create curving of the petals around it. I simply rolled these around the skewer, then released them.

4. Pull out another page from your book and tear a strip lengthwise from the book. Just as you would with floral tape wrap, pulling down gently, the skewer with the strip from your page. You may need two strips to cover the entire length. (pictured above).

5. Tear another strip lengthwise and roll this at the top of your skewer to create the center of your flower (just ignore that bare stem!).  I just add a bit of glue at the beginning and then a bit of glue at the end to hold it together. Now you are ready to start adding your petals.

6.  Add a drop of glue almost at the edge of the bottom of your petal and begin with the smallest layer. Add these petals all around the flower center. Repeat this process with the petals the next size up. Repeat again, again, and again until all of the petals are attached to your flower. If the base feels loose at all, add a little dab of hot glue around the bottom of the flower with your hot glue gun.

DIY Book Page Flower Tutorial
7. Finish by placing them in a thrifted jar or vase and spread and fluff the petals of your flowers. Give these to your favorite teacher with a gift card to their favorite bookstore.

Be sure to check back this week for more fun teacher gift ideas!

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DIY Fabric Softener Sheets

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

For years I have been making my own DIY fabric softener sheets and today I wanted to share an easy process for making your own homemade fabric softener sheets for your laundry. These DIY fabric softener sheets will stretch your bottle of fabric softener much further, there is nothing to throw away, and when they finally begin to lose their effectiveness,  you simply repeat the process and can continue using them again. Pairing these with a jar of my homemade laundry detergent really can keep your laundry budget down!

How Can I Make My Own Fabric Softener Sheets?

When making your own fabric softener sheets, visit the housewares aisle of your favorite store and look for the brightest colors of washcloths to use. By picking bright fabrics, it will be easier to spot the softener sheet to pull out and reuse after you are done with your load of laundry.

Choose your favorite fabric softener and pour it into a bowl. Soak your washcloth in the softener and then wring it out well. Hang the washcloth to dry overnight.

That’s it. Done.

How Many Times Can You Reuse Your DIY Fabric Softener Sheets?

You can reuse your dryer sheets on up to twenty loads of laundry before you need to repeat the process. If you make a set of these and alternate them with your loads, they should last a long time. The best part about this sheets is that they perform better than putting fabric softener in your washer compartment and you don’t have to worry about any staining on your fabrics.

Are There Any Green Alternatives to Fabric Softeners?

Seventh Generation (affiliate) offers a green alternative to fabric softeners and could be used to create your own DIY fabric softener sheets. The best part about that one is that it still offers a scent, but this version is better for the environment over the other commercial brands.

I also was sent a bottle of the Method fabric softener (affiliate) and used that with fairly good results on my loads of laundry, although I did find that my loads still had a little bit of static in them, particularly if they needed to be refreshed.  The unique thing about the Method cleaner was that you sprayed it directly onto your fabrics and the tumbling of the dryer dispersed the softener throughout the load. It never stained my fabrics and also offered a fresh scent to them.

If you are looking for a frugal and green method for fabric softener, you can use vinegar to replace your fabric softener. Add 1/2 cup of vinegar in your fabric softener compartment of your washer or during the Rinse cycle of your load.

Using vinegar will help to soften the fabric, but it doesn’t always perform effectively in reducing the static in fabrics. You can either crumple aluminum foil into a ball and use that as a dryer ball, buy a store-bought dryer ball alternative like this one (affiliate), or even make dryer balls from yarn.

What Should I Not Use Fabric Softener On?

This might come as a surprise since those fabric softener commercials always seem to be about fluffy towels, but you really shouldn’t use fabric softener on your towels. Fabric softener can reduce the absorbency of your fabrics so avoid using it on your towels.

If you are a big fan of cleaning with microfiber cloths, like I am, you should also avoid using fabric softener on those. I just wash them with my towels so I know they won’t get mixed up into my other loads.

5.0 from 2 reviews

DIY Fabric Softener Sheets
Author: 
Recipe type: Cleaning
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 20
 
An easy DIY fabric softener sheet that will save you money on your laundry loads!
Ingredients
  • Brightly colored washcloths
  • Fabric Softener (your favorite variety)
Instructions
  1. Pour fabric softener into a bowl.
  2. Submerge your washcloth in the fabric softener and soak it for a few seconds.
  3. Wring the washcloth out and and hang it to dry.
  4. Allow the washcloth to dry overnight.
  5. To begin using, just throw it in your dyer with freshly washed cloths.
  6. You can reuse the same DIY fabric softener sheet on up to 20 loads before you need to repeat the process again.

 

 

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Site Sponsor Spotlight: Spring Finds at Flourish Boutique

Saturday, March 9th, 2013

As soon as the sunshine peeks out in Indiana, I start dreaming of Spring and finding new ways to freshen up my wardrobe for Spring. This week I headed into our fantastic site sponsor’s boutique, Flourish Boutique, to check out some of their Spring offerings and I was not disappointed in the least! Pictured above is just a sampling that the store offers. Basically, it is my very own Pinterest fashion board come to life.

Here are a few of the spring trends I am embracing right now!

Chevron Fun

I love chevron print anything and Flourish has you covered with chevron print dresses, tunics, and scarves. While I love the bold chevron prints on the dresses, with my petite frame, I look for smaller nods to chevron like this Infinite Chevron Scarf ($29) or this Bold & Beautiful Dress ($59.50) that is edged in a bold chevron pattern to embrace the trend while still adding some neutral balance with my accessories and other pieces in my wardrobe.

Polka Dot Delights

I am a sucker for anything polka dot and the red dress that I pictured above, could not be snatched up fast enough for my wardrobe. The Party Time Dress ($59.50)  is a great dress that could be dressed up for a night out, or paired with a cute blazer, long sleeve t-shirt, or a pair of leggings for cooler Spring nights.

Statement Necklaces

Statement necklaces are one of my new favorite things to add to my Spring shopping to-do list because they can change everything in your wardrobe into a completely different outfit. Even an inexpensive white t-shirt suddenly looks different with the addition of a great statement necklace. This Mint Medallion Necklace ($49.50) is a great example of embracing both the statement necklace and the mint trend! You can find statement necklaces for very cheap, but I have found that they don’t hold up very well and I have started investing in one or two good pieces of costume jewelry for the year instead of buying necklaces that break on me before the season ends.

Nautical Knits

I love trends that never seem to go out of style and nautical is something I am always adding to my closet because it lasts from year to year. Each year I try to get one knit dress that I can dress up or down for the summer. This Nautical Knit Dress ($49.50) is the perfect example of a dress that can be accessorized with a bright belt, a big statement necklace, or thrown on for a day at the beach. Ironically, I spotted almost the same dress in my own Pinterest board that I had pinned ages ago. I already knew that this would be the perfect dress for me!

Coral & Mint Hues

I am loving all things coral and mint for Spring. This Shades of Perfection Top ($49.50)  is so cute and could transition out of these colder days with the long sleeve t-shirt and easily put on sleeveless for Spring. Flourish also offers tons and tons of mint this year in jeans, tops, and dresses. This Timeless Engraving Tunic ($54.50) is just one example that they offer.

I am always so proud to wear Flourish Boutique and am so thankful to them for their sponsorship of MomAdvice! I am a real mom that takes a lot of pride in what I wear. I am no fashion expert, by any means at all, but I truly love taking great care in looking nice for myself (and let’s face it, I like to wow my hubby!). These are just a few of the outfits I have worn in the last month that show off how real and approachable their pieces are.

Boutique shopping may seem out of the budget, but what I think makes Flourish special is their  great sales they offer. Like them on Facebook and you will see a daily deal/sale they are running. Check out their Overstock room upstairs (locally) or Overstock online where you can score many great deals for a fraction of the price.

The store offers online shopping so if you don’t live around here, you can still partake of all of the amazing deals and steals that the store offers on their website. MomAdvice customers receive a 25% discount code. Just enter WEB25 when you checkout!

Thank you again to Flourish for being a valued supporter of MomAdvice.

 

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5 Ideas for Offsetting The 2% Tax Increase

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

 

With the new year in full swing, you may be noticing that your paychecks are a little smaller than they were last year.  Social Security taxes were raised by 2% which may not sound like a lot, but this can truly impact families who are already financially strained or striving to build their savings & retirement. Today I want to share with you 5 ways to offset that 2% tax increase so that your family can prepare for this adjustment to your budget.

Let’s break down what a 2% tax increase might look like:

If you earn $30,000 per year, you will pay $50 more per month in taxes.

If you earn the national average of $41,000 per year, you will pay $64 more per month in taxes.

If you earn $50,000 per year, you will pay $83 more per month in taxes.

For the families that are already struggling, $50-64 a month is a huge chunk out of their budget that could go towards food, utilities, and housing.

Here are five easy ways to offset that 2% tax increase. These are all relatively painless, but yield an incredible amount of savings over the course of your year. 

 

Ditch Your Cable Bill

Last year our family gave up cable television and it is has truly been one of the most financially rewarding and best things I have ever done for our family. We now rely upon Hulu & Netflix for our television watching, reducing our bill from almost $100 a month to under $20 monthly. We are still able to watch all of the shows we want, but we don’t find ourselves wasting hours and hours of our day consumed with the television. The other financial bonus is that we are not exposed to endless commercials, which can send you running to the stores to pick up the latest and greatest things. To learn more about alternative options to cable, be sure to read my article on ditching your cable bill.

(Monthly Savings: $80 or more)

 

Calculate Your Personal Latte Factor

David Bach, author of Debt-Free for Life coined the term “Latte Factor,” to describe the way small indulgences and expenses add up to a lot of money down the drain. Consider the example of a three-day-a-week Starbucks habit. At $3.80 a latte you will spend $11.40 a week, $45.60 a month, $547.20 a year, and $5, 472 over a ten-year period on JUST take out coffee.

You may think, “I don’t buy takeout coffee,” BUT we all have small drains on our budget that can add up over time. That dinner that you pick up at the drive-through each week because your kids have sports activities, the trip to the store for one item that turns into a cart full of junk, even our thrifty endeavors (like thrift and garage sale shopping) can cost us $10 or more a week.

Figure out what that drain is on your budget and stop the leak. One little change like whipping up your latte at home, setting your slow cooker in the morning on busy days, or allocating time towards organizing items you already have instead of buying more can easily save you $10 or more weekly!

Be sure to visit my article on 7 apps to get your family organized to help get your finances back on track this year!

(Monthly Savings: $45 or more)

Get Savvy About Grocery Shopping

When families ask me how to save their family money, the first thing I talk to them about is rethinking their grocery shopping. We all get in habits and ruts when it comes to grocery shopping. Do you buy the same box of cornflakes you grew up on? Do you refuse to try a generic ketchup because you truly believe a certain company is the only one who can make ketchup? Do you have a habit of shopping without a list? Do you find yourself making multiple trips because you didn’t execute your menu plan well for the week?

I highly recommend downloading the free Grocery IQ app for your phone to effortlessly make a grocery list for your family. It pulls the coupon savings for you and you can use your lists from week to week instead of starting a fresh list each time.

Instead of shopping multiple stores, search fliers from all of the grocery stores and jot down the best deals of the week. Take this list with you to Walmart, for example, and have them price match the items for you. You will not only be able to cherry pick the best of the best, but you also will experience the savings of not spending on gas to shop at multiple stores.

To make effortless menu plans to go along with the savings, be sure to visit our Take Five Fridays each Friday on the Facebook group to get 5 budget-friendly meals to create in your kitchen!

(Monthly Savings: $40 or more)

Declutter Your Way to Savings

Clutter not only weighs us down physically, but clutter causes us to spend money when we don’t need to. One look at a cluttered pantry or bathroom closet and you know exactly what I am talking about. Duplicate purchases occur when we don’t have a strong grasp on our inventory in our home and clutter hides us from the real treasures that are in our lives.

Think of clutter not only as the items that fill our home, but also the items that fill our fridges. Do you constantly throw food out because you have “too much” food in your fridge or pantry? Is your freezer full, but you still run to the store because you have, “nothing to eat.” I can raise my hand to these scenarios too and there is a sickening feeling in my stomach when I know that I haven’t done a good job managing this aspect of managing the family finances.

Accountability of our items brings enormous savings and satisfaction. Being a good steward of the stuff that fills your life forces you to edit your belongings and keeps you from  buying as much. I try to live my life by the infamous quote from William Morris, “Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful and believe to be beautiful.” If it is not bringing beauty or usefulness to my space, then I can feel good about passing those items on to someone else in need.

I often hear that people think their home is “too small,” but I also often wonder if the excess from their lives was removed if that space wouldn’t feel spacious once again.  When my home is decluttered, suddenly, my kitchen counters feel spacious, the basement really does have a spot for everything in storage, and the house really does have enough space for us all.

I honestly consider cutting the clutter as, not only a way to decrease buying duplicate purchases, but as a project to devote my time to rather than spending it out in the stores spending money. When that boredom spending starts to hit me, I focus on a spot in our home that needs to be reclaimed. Even in a smaller home, there are MANY corners to devote my efforts to.

To learn more about our commitment to our smaller home, read this article on the power of living small.

(Monthly Savings: $30 or more)

Get the Good Life For Less

The entire focus of my first book, “The Good Life for Less,” is truly about achieving good times and a happy home on a budget. The book is filled with make-your-own recipes for commonly purchased items like food mixes and cleaners, as well as outlining simple ways any family can save money on their family budget each week.

In it, I outline how our family paid over $13,000 in credit card debt from unemployment and are on the road to financial freedom.  Our family is living proof that any family can pay down their debt with small switches.

The switches I outlined above, are switches that we worked towards and have freed our family of credit card usage and have allowed us to have a beautiful life that is well within our means.  You can find my book on the shelves of your local Walmart store or purchase it online!

Check out our Debt-Free party we threw for our family when we paid off our $13,000 in credit card debt and how we are living our version of the American dream.

(Monthly Savings: $50 or more)

 

What are some small switches you have made to be able to offset the 2% Social Security tax increase this year?

 

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New Ways to Save in the New Year

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

Are you looking for new ways to save in the new year? I have you covered! Today you will find me over on The Goodwill Tips Blog sharing some strategies for ways to save your family in the new year.

There is something so renewing to know that a new year is beginning and that you have a whole new year ahead of you to start fresh. In February, our New Year’s goals may have already been forgotten, but today I want to encourage you to dust those goals back off and start anew again with a goal that is very dear to my heart… being wise with our funds. The goal that I have each year is to continue to reduce our spending and find creative ways to live our beautiful life on a small budget.

Perhaps it is a goal of yours too? Let’s explore some new ways to save in this new year!
Head on over to the article to read more!

 

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The Best Resources For Frugal Readers (And How to Make Reading a Priority Again)

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

One of the things that I get asked the most is how I am able to read so many books each month and still manage everything else in my life. If one of your goals this year is to read more, I want to share with you how reading has transformed my life and how it can transform your life too!

The truth is, we all have the same hours in the day and we all choose what we want to fill them with.  Some days I fill it with managing the house and doing everything that needs to be done for my family, but there are days that I let it all go and sit in my favorite chair with my favorite book for an hour instead.

Here are some simple strategies I have used to carve in more time for my fictional reading life:

I Stopped Watching Television- When we dropped our television package, it was the greatest gift in time management I have ever given myself. Our television watching has now whittled down to about four shows a week that we really care about and the rest of the time our television is turned off. It has been so freeing to not feel like I have to dedicate time to the television to justify the bills that we were receiving.

Although watching news has never really been a priority to me, to not be detached completely from the world, I listen to NPR on the way into the gym each morning or while I am tidying up from breakfast. I know what I need to know about world news and local news and then I turn it off and focus on the books I am reading.

I Always Have a Book In My Hand- You will very rarely see me without a book in my hand and I find ways to make the most of every single little pocket of time I have to read my books. Whether I am coloring my hair, cooking, waiting for the kids to get off the bus, waiting at the doctor’s office, or standing in line at the grocery store, you will find me trying to devour a page or two of a book. With devices like the Kindle for your smart phones and tablets, electronic readers, audio books, and the endless supply of great free reading material  from the library, I am constantly trying to find a new way to sneak more pages in my day.

I Make a Goal For Myself- Every year I use GoodReads to create a reading challenge for myself. For me, vague goals of, “I’d like to read more,” usually yield mediocre results. With a number in mind, I know that I have something to work towards and to accomplish. Sometimes I reach my goals, this year, I did not. It doesn’t bother me if I don’t reach my lofty goals because the true point of the goal for me is just to read, read, and read some more.

You can connect with me on GoodReads and see what I am working on right now!

I Want to Be a Role Model For My Kids- I want my kids to model the good things that I do in my life and being a reader is one thing that I am proud of and that I want for them. I don’t want my kids remembering that I sat in front of the television and watched Toddlers & Tiaras every night or that their mom was never without her celebrity gossip magazines. I want them to remember that their mom was always reading, always learning, and also that she wasn’t afraid to tackle hard books and hard topics.

The results for me have been having two kids that are ferocious readers themselves. They beg to go to the library and they are just like me,  often walking into walls and doors because they have their nose in books. If we are going somewhere, they grab their books to take with them when we run errands and one of our biggest struggles is when we have to shut off the lights and our books at night. I love seeing them model me in this way.

I Read What I Want To Read- We have enough pressures on us as mothers, but to be pressured to always be reading award-winning books doesn’t have to be one of them. If your life is full of stress and chaos, a good chick lit book might be just what the doctor ordered. I like to read one heavy book and one light book and alternate them. When my children were smaller all I wanted to read was something that would make me laugh. No matter what you read… just keep reading!

I Want to Be a Well-Rounded Person- I didn’t take a lot of advanced classes in high school like my husband so I was only exposed to excerpts of classic books, rather than reading them. As a woman in her thirties, I am reading these books for the first time in my adult life and I am proud that I am no longer intimidated by classical literature. I won’t let the hurdles of my youth stop me from being a well-rounded person and that is why you will often find me making a goal to read the classics.

I Want to Be a Great Writer- Great writers are great readers. Other writers constantly inspire me to be better at what I am writing. I found it a hard juggle to work on my own book and still squeeze in time to read. My pockets of time had dwindled, but I still tried to make it a priority because reading is that important to me.

Reading has changed my life and has shaped me into a better person than I could have been without the words of great writers. Books provide an escape, they challenge how I view the rights and wrongs in life, they take me to countries I may never visit, they make me weep, they make me laugh, and they made me dream that I could transform someone else with my own words. 

Great Reading Resources To Get You Started:

 

GoodReads or Shelfari- Goodreads is my ultimate resource for keeping me motivated to read daily. I use it for my yearly reading goals, to keep track of books that I want to read in the future, and to rate and review books that I have finished reading. The best feature is the barcode scanner that you an use to scan books to quickly pull them into your to-be-read or reading virtual piles.

BookCrossing- This site offers a fun way for you to clear out your bookshelves. The idea is simple, but so fun. Just put a tag within your book to track it and release your book into the wild, which just means leave it somewhere where someone else can find it (coffee shops, doctor’s offices, schools, etc.). When someone finds a book with a BookCrossing ID number in it, they can enter that code into the site and report where the book has moved to. It is a fun way to track where your books have traveled and see how far they can go.

Library Elf- This program helps you keep track of your library materials so you won’t get socked with late fees. Elf is an Internet-based tool for keeping track of what’s due, overdue and ready for pickup. Reminders are sent when the user wants it — before items are due (up to seven days advance notice, weekly notice or everyday reminders). For my local friends, South Bend is not currently participating, but the Elkhart Library is. The basic membership to Library Elf is free.

What Should I Read Next?- One of the big hurdles with reading is finding the perfect reading material. What Should I Read Next? allows you to put in the name of your favorite author or favorite book and then gives you a reading list of similar reading material that it thinks you would like based on your preference.

Paperback Swap or Bookmooch- Just two of many sites where you can exchange books for free. You simply sign up for a membership and list the books on your bookshelf. You can then browse the books from other members and make a request to receive a book. When you are done with the book, you can list it back on the site or keep the book. New members start out usually with credits to get started on exchanging books. The more you ship and share, the more credits you recive to get more books.

Amazon’s Free Kindle Downloads- Amazon offers oodles of books for free for your Kindle or you can download the free Kindle app for your phone or tablet to read your books on. Explore this free list when you are in need of a new book to read!

 

Be sure to visit our Great Reads section to get you started on selecting great books to tackle!

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The Top 7 Apps to Organize Your Life

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

If you asked me the one thing that I could not live without, it would be my iPhone. Today I want to share the top iPhone apps that have organized my life and my family. This gadget has brought more organization to my life than I dreamed possible and is what I rely on daily to tackle the day-to-day tasks as a mom. Of course, you don’t have to have an iPhone to benefit from these apps, almost all of these are available to any smartphone user. Here are my top 7 apps to get your family organized.

Cozi

Whenever I talk about the best apps to organize a family, I always think of Cozi first. Over the years, this app has evolved so much and fits perfectly into our family’s everyday needs. Cozi is a calendar app that is made with a mom in mind. It is easy to use, color-coded (for each family member), includes pictures of your sweet little ones, helps you with your grocery list, and offers text message alerts to you for appointment reminders…all from one central location.

My favorite feature that has saved our family countless fees and embarrassment is their text reminder service. When I input our family’s appointments, I can have a text sent to myself or to my husband that reminds us about that appointment. The reminders can come whenever you designate them (one hour ahead, one day ahead, one week ahead, etc..).  Does your child have jean day at school? Super silly hair day?  Little things like that are even input in this handy calendar and a text reminder goes out to me first thing in the morning to save my children from their mom’s forgotten dollar or the super exciting monthly “skip your uniform,” day.

(Free. Available for the iPad, iPhone, or Android.)

 

Mint

If you are looking to get your family’s finances back on track this year, my favorite and most reliable financial reporting comes from Mint. Mint can be set up through your home computer, your smart phone, or tablet.  An account with Mint can be set up in less than five minutes and gives you the chance to set budgets to your spending categories and track them with handy pie charts and graphs. In one glance, you can monitor your checking, savings, investments, and retirement at any moment during the day.

Most of the spending categories are immediately categorized for you while unfamiliar categories (like your favorite local restaurant or doctor’s visit) may need a quick categorization for accurate reporting. For tax purposes, you can also tag items for reimbursement so that it can help later when filing your taxes.

The best part, I have found, is that Mint will alert you via email when spending or withdrawals seem high. Did the mortgage company take out an extra payment? Did you have an unusually high amount of withdrawals in one month? Was a large deposit made? Mint sends you an email to alert you of unusual transactions happening in your account which could potentially save you from being the victim of credit card fraud.

(Free. Available for most devices.)

 

Grocery IQ

Making and sticking to your grocery lists has never been easier thanks to the Grocery IQ app. With Grocery IQ you can type, speak, or scan grocery list items into your list. The list automatically adds your items into categories and then alerts you if coupons are available for any items you might be adding to your list. Coupons can then be sent to your email when your list has been made or (if you have a wireless enabled printer) can be sent to your printer for printing. As you gather your items from your list, simply check it off and the item moves to the bottom of the list. Once your whole list is complete, everything is shifted towards the bottom and then can simply be clicked to add those repeat items back on the list for your next visit.

Since I always have my phone with me,  switching to an electronic grocery list has been much easier than I thought it would be. The coupon feature helps save our family money on items we were already planning to buy and the list helps keep our family budget on track. I also love that I can sync my list from my iPad to my iPhone so I can use whichever device I have handy to add items when we need them.

(Free. Available for the iPad, iPhone, or Android.)

Evernote

If you are trying to stop the paper pile-up from school, Evernote is a fantastic tool for  clipping and saving those papers in one spot that you can access from your phone or computer. When items come home to us that I might need to reference for our family later, like the cafeteria lunch schedule or the recess schedule, I can either take a photo of what I need or I can scan that item into Evernote and tag it with, “School,” for easy reference.

Things that I often refer back to, like our library card numbers, gift card numbers that I want to store on my computer, receipts for purchases, or even keeping track of the books my children are reading in a particular series are all housed in my Evernote account for easy accessibility when I need them.

No more scraps of paper all over the house or hanging on to newsletters for one paragraph of information, Evernote has become my virtual notebook to keep us organized.

(Free. Available on most devices.)

SpringPad

Menu planning can be a challenge for families and keeping track of all of those recipes you want to try can be a challenge when your Pinterest boards are overflowing with ideas. I have come to rely upon SpringPad for creating our family’s weekly menu plan. I think of SpringPad as a virtual notebook where you can privately or publicly share things you want to reference to manage your life. Notebooks can be created on any topic, but I create weekly notebooks of menu plans for my family, adding those recipes into a notebook so that I can reference them later, whether I am cooking in the kitchen or I am at the grocery store and not sure if I added all the ingredients to my list like I thought.

Depending on how the recipe is input into the source, SpringPad will either pull the recipe right into your notebook so you can view it right from the notebook, you can manually add in the recipe, or a link to the recipe will be provided so you can access it from the page you found it.

(Free. Available on most devices.)

30/30

Setting a timer to get tasks done around the house is an old school method that works remarkably well for productivity that has now been brought to the future with this 30/30 app for organizing your day.  The idea behind this app is very simple: you work for thirty minutes and focus on a single task with no distractions. When your time is up, you give your mind a break and do something completely unrelated, also for thirty minutes. This 30/30 cycle is repeated until your tasks are done.

Type in what your ideal day will look like including blocking out times for a little down time like enjoying a cup of coffee, time wasting on sites like Facebook or Pinterest, or just time with a great book.  Then set up what the rest of your productive day will look like and use the 30/30 app to visualize if you are going to get your tasks done in the designated time.  It provides a countdown and a visual reminder of what you are working on and beeps when your time is done. Simple, visually pleasing, and highly effective, I can’t recommend this app enough to increase your productivity.

(Free. Available for the iPad or iPhone.)

8MM Vintage Camera

Capturing my children on-the–go is one of the main reasons I decided to get an iPhone. While I rely heavily on Instagram for capturing still images of our family from day-to-day I also love to capture movies of them.  Although we have many fancy camcorders laying around our house, the one recorder I always have with me is my phone. I am a huge fan of vintage looking film and pictures so I have found that the  8MM vintage camera app is a fun way to add a little vintage to our family’s most precious recorded moments.

($1.99. Available for the iPad or iPhone)

What are your favorite apps for keeping your family organized? Chime in here and share your family’s favorite tools!

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DIY Rosette Bib Necklace Tutorial: Valentine’s Day Link-Up Party Fun

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and today I wanted to show you how to dress up a plain t-shirt with a DIY Rosette Bib Necklace. This tutorial for a DIY Rosette Bib Necklace will help you make a pretty piece of inexpensive jewelry that you can wear year after year to spice up an item you already have in your wardrobe for Valentine’s Day.

Supplies Needed

A simple chain or bead necklace (in the jewelry supplies)

Jewelry cutting tools (if needed to trim the sizing of your chain)
Fabric (you can use scrap fabric or buy inexpensive fabric quarters)
Felt
Hot Glue Gun & Glue Sticks
Scissors
Blow Dryer
Tweezers

Editor’s Note:I found my supplies at Walmart because I was already at that store shopping and they cost approximately $5 (if you don’t count buying jewelry cutting/shaping tools, hot glue gun, or scissors which I already owned).

1. Begin by measuring and cutting 5 strips of fabric into 1 1/2″ strips. The length can be determined by you. I used the length of the fabric quarters that I bought for this size rosette, but you can adjust to the sizing of your choice. I chose two different fabric prints for mine, but you can certainly do all the same color, if you prefer!

2. Add a knot to the end of your fabric to begin the start of your rolled rosette.

3. Begin twisting your fabric, adding small dabs of hot glue to hold the twisted rosette in place. Keep twisting and dabbing with glue until you get almost to the end of your fabric or until you reach your desired sizing.

4. With the end flap of your fabric, add a dot of hot glue to the back of your rosette, and then fold it behind to secure it in place.

5. If you have any gobs of hot glue (which is very easy to see with plain fabrics), use your blow dryer on a low setting to get rid of any hot glue strings or to slowly melt the glue a bit to pull it off with tweezers.

6. Glue your rosettes, in the center,  onto your piece of felt in a necklace arrangement. Make sure you leave the edges of the felt loose to tuck your chain behind it.

7. Use your scissors to trim the felt around the flower. Secure the flowers with a little more hot glue between them to help hold them together into one piece.

8. Secure your chain with hot glue between the layer of the rosette and the felt.

9. Trim your chain to the desired length and add the ends to your chain, if needed.

You can begin wearing your beautiful handmade necklace immediately! I wore mine for our annual Valentine’s Day Bunco night with a black top and red patent leather belt! It’s such a fun way to spice up items you already have in your wardrobe and could be made in a variety of colors, depending on your holiday occasion!

I do love Valentine’s Day around here and here are a few other fun Valentine’s Day projects you can spy on MomAdvice! Tomorrow I will be sharing an elegant Valentine’s dinner you can share on a budget!

DIY Tissue Paper Pom Poms
Red Velvet Cake With Cream Cheese Frosting
Red Velvet Cake Batter Ice Cream
Valentine’s Day Yarn Wreath
DIY Coffee Filter Flowers
Rolled Rosette Rings (to match your necklace)
Peppermint Marshmallows (cut them in hearts!)
Be Mine Fluffy Cake Doughnuts

Today I also happen to be  helping host the 2nd Annual Valentine Week Party! Last year’s week long event ended in a great party with 275 Valentine’s Day projects added!

This is really HUGE my friends! You can add your Valentine’s projects on any of the blogs and be seen on ALL 9 of them! That’s over 100,000 readers that will see your projects!


Meet your hostesses…

Now, it’s your turn to showcase your Valentine’s Day Ideas to the Party, simply click on the little blue button where it says “add your link” and your posts will show up on ALL NINE BLOGS! How cool is that? I can’t wait to see what projects you have been working on for Valentine’s Day!!



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The Best Paper Snowflake Templates on the Web

Friday, January 4th, 2013

Winter days can be long with kids, but paper crafts can be a fun way to keep little hands busy with items you already have. Today I want to showcase the best snowflake tutorials we found on the web as a fun winter craft to break up those long winter days. Good old-fashioned paper snowflakes don’t have to be old-fashioned. In fact, there are so many fun snowflake tutorials with current fun characters that, I bet, you will have a hard time choosing where to start.

How to Make Basic Snowflakes

Step 1: Fold your  paper in half diagonally to make a triangle.

Step 2: Now, fold the triangle in half so the pointy corners meet.

Steps 3 and 4: Fold your triangle in thirds.

Step 5: Cut across the bottom of your paper so it is straight.

Step 6: Cut your folded paper so it looks like the triangle above. Then unfold it very gently. Be careful, these tear easily!  Decorate, embellish, and make your snowflake stand out. After all, no two snowflakes should look alike!

(If you are looking for a printable you can use, I like this design-your-own snowflake printable)

If you are looking for a template to create snowflakes, here are a few of our favorites: 

Snowflakes for Little Kids (but don’t tell her that!)

Little hands will benefit from less complex designs that will help them feel more accomplished with snowflake cutting. Mom & Dad may have to help guide the cutting process through the layers, but little ones can help to accessorize their snowflakes with a little sparkle, glitter glue, or crayons/markers, even if they aren’t able to cut them all by themselves. Cutting skills can be challenging with kids and I find this activity to be one that helps challenge them, but also can be fun at the same time.

Happy Dots Snowflake (Pictured Above)

Simply Snow Snowflake Pattern

Cork Stamped Snowflakes

Coffee Filter Snowflakes (a thinner medium for small hands)

Snowflakes for Big Kids (Rock On, With Your Bad Selves!)

Even if your kids are big, cut-outs in the center of the designs can be tricky even for the most skilled adults. I use my self-healing cutting mat and a utility knife to try to cut out eyes and mouths on these super cool snowflakes. As you can see, there is nothing old-school about these snowflakes!

Angry Birds Snowflakes (Pictured Above)

Star Wars Snowflakes (Pictured Above)

More Star Wars Snowflakes

Classic Snow Crystal

3-D Snowflakes

Thanks so much to Walmart for challenging me to craft up some snowflakes with my kids. It turned into a morning of smiles and delight  as watched our snowflake creations unfold.

Happy snowflake-making, friends!

I am a part of the Walmart Moms program, and Walmart has provided me with compensation for these posts  My participation is voluntary and opinions are always my own.

What is your favorite winter craft to do with your kids?

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