Archive for the ‘Home & Organization’ Category

How to Make a DIY Terrarium

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

How to Make a DIY Terrarium from MomAdvice.com.

You know people that are amazing at gardening and planting?

I’m not one of those people.

I am the girl that goes to the greenhouse and requests plants that can take care of themselves. My plants must be able to survive without water or nourishment of any kind.

Despite my black thumb, I spent many of my summers working in a greenhouse as a kid and I do know a few things about caring for plants. Thanks to my greenhouse knowledge, I know that terrariums are the perfect project for a girl with my skill set and they are also the perfect project  for any gardener-in-the-making.

How_To_Make_Terrariums

For those of you itching to play in the dirt, this project is a fun one that adds a bit of green to your house while you await planting season.  If you are looking for a fun project to tackle with the kids, this can transform into a little fairy garden with a few novelty items.

The possibilities of terrariums are endless because they are made in any type of glass container or jar.  A good place to hunt for unique jars is your local thrift shop. You can also get inventive and use other types of glass containers like cake stands, fish bowls, hurricanes, or even a light bulb!

How to Make a DIY Terrarium

Terrarium Supplies

Supplies Needed

Drop cloth or Newspaper (I use a dollar store shower curtain to cover my tables for messy crafts)
Glass container or jar
Small Plants or Herbs (Look for plants of varying heights, leaf shapes, & colors)
Pebbles
Moss
Charcoal
Potting Soil
Hand Trowel

 

Creating a terrarium is a lot like creating a layered cake. You need all the different layers in your terrarium in order for your plants to thrive. Since we are using such small amounts of materials, like pebbles or moss, ask your local greenhouse if you can buy small quantities instead of investing in large bags. At our greenhouse,  I was able to snag both the moss and pebbles for my project for just $.50!

How_To_Make_Terrariums

1. Begin by adding your pebbles to the bottom of your container. This is to create a false drainage layer so water can settle and not flood the plants. You will want to add 1 inch to two inches of stone, depending on the size of your container.

2. Next, we will layer our charcoal. The charcoal can come in granules or shards (the type I am using is shards). We will spread a layer of this over the rock to help reduce bacteria, fungus, and odors in our terrarium.

How_To_Make_Terrariums

3. Prepare your plants for planting. Remove them from their pots and loosen up the root ball, exposing the roots. If the roots are particularly long, you can trim them down a bit.

How to Make a DIY Terrarium from MomAdvice.com.

4.  Add a layer of dirt to your terrarium. Gently place your plants inside and then top them off with a bit more dirt, using your hands to gather the dirt firmly into place around each of the plants. Be mindful where you are planting them, mixing up your plants of varying heights and foliage, to fill your jar.

5.  Finish your terrarium with a layer of moss to keep the soil moist and add a decorative finish. If your kids are making their own little garden, this is a great time to finish them with fun little trinkets.

How_To_Make_Terrariums_Collage

6. Clean the container. Wipe down the outside and inside of your container, to remove any excess dirt that may have gathered on the sides.

7. Finish by watering your terrarium, being mindful not to overwater it. Caring for your terrarium is easy, especially if you are a terrible gardener like me. Check every couple of weeks to see if your terrarium needs water. Feel the soil to see if it is dry and add water if it is. If your terrarium is closed, be sure to take off the top at least once a month to air it out. If you see lots of condensation or have added too much water, leave the top off until it has had a chance to dry out.

How to Make a DIY Terrarium from MomAdvice.com.

How_To_Make_Terrariums-17

Here is a visual of what we want our container to look like. I love that this looks beautiful from the side as well as the top. I had so much fun making this that I can’t wait to make another one for other rooms in our home!

Have you ever made a terrarium? What advice would you give on these?

 

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Make-Ahead Sleepover Breakfast Buffet

Monday, June 20th, 2016

Make-Ahead Sleepover Breakfast Buffet from MomAdvice.com

When I was a little girl, one of my favorite sleepovers ever included a beautiful breakfast buffet for us in the morning. The parents got up early to make stacks of waffles and laid out a variety of toppings to make our own waffle creation. It was the stuff that little girl’s dreams are made of,  piled high with whipped cream, strawberries, and unlimited syrup.

I want to be that mom who rises early and makes these sleepover dreams come true, but often I am the mom dragging her tail out of bed after telling the kids to PLEASE, FOR THE LOVE, GO TO SLEEP IT IS THREE IN THE MORNING mom.

Are you her too?

That’s why I wanted to create a REALISTIC buffet that can be made in advance so you can just stumble into kitchen, put everything on the table, and curl up with a cup of coffee in bed with a little sweet silence.

Make-Ahead Sleepover Breakfast Buffet from MomAdvice.com

Today I am partnering with  Florida Department of Citrus to show you how to make this fun make-ahead sleepover breakfast buffet table complete with glasses of  FLOJ for everyone at the party.  Although waffle parties are fun, I wanted to create a healthy breakfast complete with a glass of Florida Orange Juice that provides 5 amazing nutrients in every glass for our guests. Not only are we loading our table with fresh fruit, but we are also getting, in just one single 8-ounce glass of 100% orange juice,  our daily recommended serving of fruit! Winning!

Make-Ahead Sleepover Breakfast Buffet from MomAdvice.com

Make-Ahead Sleepover Breakfast Buffet from MomAdvice.com

Instead of spending your morning flipping pancakes, take a peek at my make-ahead recipe for breakfast burritos. This recipe yields eighteen delicious burritos and you can even make them gluten-free with the use of a gluten-free wrap. They are filled with eggs, turkey sausage, spiced potatoes, and cheese- yum!

Make these ahead and tuck them in your fridge or use these instructions for popping them in the freezer until the morning. The beauty in this one is that no matter what time they rise, each person can have a hot breakfast!

Make-Ahead Sleepover Breakfast Buffet from MomAdvice.com

I made a simple breakfast bar with burrito toppings like olives, sour cream tomatoes, avocado, salsa, and sriracha. You can just chop and set this in the fridge on a cookie sheet for the big morning.  

Make-Ahead Sleepover Breakfast Buffet from MomAdvice.com

Make-Ahead Sleepover Breakfast Buffet from MomAdvice.com

Make-Ahead Sleepover Breakfast Buffet from MomAdvice.com

 

After warming their burritos, they can fill it with all of their favorites or simply put the toppings on top and dig in with a knife and fork.

Putting this spread together took me under an hour, even with all the chopping, and the best part is that I got to enjoy a hot cup of coffee even with a house full of kids. WINNING!

Thank you so much to Florida Department of Citrus for letting us share a make-ahead buffet with you. Be sure to kick back a glass of FLOJ for us and may your bedhead game be as strong as your coffee.


This blog was sponsored by Florida Department of Citrus. Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site!

Tips & Tricks for Evening Entertaining ($100 Walmart Gift Card Giveaway!!)

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

Tips & Tricks for Evening Entertaining from MomAdvice.com

This post is sponsored on behalf of BHG at Walmart.

Those summer nights…tell me more, tell me more.

Is it stuck in your head now too?

I think evening gatherings are the most fun to host and our patio always gets a workout in the summer months with friends and family gathering around our picnic table for meals, wine, and board games.

Also, a big shout out to night skies for hiding our not-so-awesome lawn.

Keeping it real here, friends! We can’t be good at everything!

Today I am partnering up with the BHG Live Better Network to show you some fun additions for your outdoor space AND I’m giving away a $100 gift card to Walmart to get you started on your shopping.

Tips & Tricks for Evening Entertaining

Tips & Tricks for Evening Entertaining from MomAdvice.com

Tips & Tricks for Evening Entertaining from MomAdvice.com

Bring on the Twinkle Lights

To me, one of the most beautiful sights in the evenings are strands of twinkle lights. They are a super affordable way to dress up your patio without spending a lot of money.  Not only are they beautiful, but they help extend those evening hours outside to play games or enjoy a meal together. You can see how we rigged our lights over our patio in this post.

Patio lights have a tendency to get shattered on our cement patio so I was REALLY excited about these vintage cage lantern lights because the cage helps protect that little bulb inside. That should really help prolong those lights!

Tips & Tricks for Evening Entertaining from MomAdvice.com

Bring Inside Elements Out to Keep Guests Comfy

I never look at things inside our house and think that they can only be used indoors. You will often find me dragging out dining chairs, piling up our throw pillows up, and heaving side tables out onto the patio.

I love  to create warmth and comfort for our guests, but I’m not a millionaire.

Smaller homes require you to really consider what can function in multiple ways for your home and it helps cut down on out of season storage. That’s why I rely on the items in my home to create a comfy space outside too.

Tips & Tricks for Evening Entertaining from MomAdvice.com

Here are three pillow options that go inside AND outside in our home (option 1, option 2, option 3- all under $12!!) when entertaining.

I don’t know about you, but there can never be too many throw pillows- am I right?

To add a touch of spring to my home, I pulled in the coral color to mix in with my blues. All of these pillows happen to transition really well with our gorgeous outdoor rug on our patio and match our stained picnic table outdoors too.

Tips & Tricks for Evening Entertaining from MomAdvice.com

Tips & Tricks for Evening Entertaining from MomAdvice.com

Tips & Tricks for Evening Entertaining from MomAdvice.com

Tips & Tricks for Evening Entertaining from MomAdvice.com

Warm Your Guests (S’mores NOT Optional)

Having a place for a fire has been lovely and may have contributed to summer weight gain (ahem!)  I can never resist the opportunity for a s’more though. Have you seen my S’More Toppings Bar I created?

Clearly, I have an addiction.

We love to get our fire pit going and nothing completes the evening like a bit of warmth and a  killer playlist on Spotify.

I’m talking about you, Adele.

I hope these ideas inspire you and I wanted to share a giveaway so you can create your own perfect evening outdoors with a few of your favorite people. Check out the widget below for directions to enter our $100 Walmart Gift Card giveaway! Good luck, everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Live-Better-Network-Badge

In accordance with the FTC Guidelines, I am disclosing that I received compensation from BHG at Walmart for my time and participation in the BHG Live Better Network. Although we have material connection to BHG, any publicly stated opinions of BHG and their products remain my own.

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5 Easy Ways to Grow Your Facebook Page

Monday, May 16th, 2016

5 Easy Ways to Grow Your Facebook Page from MomAdvice.com

This year I wanted to get serious about my Facebook page. I got in on developing my page a little late, spent very little time on it, and experienced a long plateau in growth for months. My page was super boring so it was no wonder that no one wanted to interact on it. Heck, I didn’t even like it. I really needed to grow my Facebook page, but it needed to be in easy ways that could fit into our busy life.

I made it a business goal to grow this to page to 20,000 this year and to buckle down for one month to see if I could begin growing my audience again. Last week, I hit my 20K in fans (woohoo!!) so I was pretty pumped about this little milestone.

The question I get about this is, “Did this increase your pageviews on your website?”

My answer is not really.

Let’s be honest, Facebook wants you to pay to play. The traffic seems to only really grow when I boost (pay to advertise-be sure to target those ads!) my posts. So, if I am not experiencing growth, why would I want to invest any time in this platform?

Well, if you do sponsored content writing you know that your reach determines your rate.

Bottom line, the bigger my audience I have, the more I can charge for my posts. 

But, wait…mo money mo problems, right? Nah! I want to show you my 5 easy (and, let’s be honest, a bit lazy!) ways to grow your FB page WITHOUT creating new content.

No charge at all for the lazy advice, but I would appreciate your LIKE on my page

5 Easy Ways to Grow Your Facebook Audience

5 Easy Ways to Grow Your Facebook Page from MomAdvice.com

Get on a Schedule

Once a week, I sit down and schedule out my entire week of shares. I have experimented with lots of different times for sharing and with my audience, the times that have worked for me are 2:30PM EST (when moms are typically waiting for their kids to get out of school) & 8:30PM EST (when moms are settling in with their wine & Facebook time). My audience is moms so I can just guess when the are on Facebook based on my own Facebook habits.

You can experiment a bit with your sweet spot by trying out different times at first and then figuring out which seem to work best with your audience. You could also keep a close eye on a boosted post and see when the likes are increasing and gauge that as roughly a good time to start posting. Once you figure it out, you can make a schedule for sharing content.

I sit down with pen and paper, map out a week, and check off each day with the two shares.

Can you share more?

Go for it!

I don’t have time to do more than that and I don’t want to waste precious money trying to get someone else to do it for me right now. Two works for me, along with my own personal content shares,  for enough to grow the site at a steady pace.

Here is the thing, I only share what I find funny or compelling. A huge pet peeve of mine is link-bait sharing (“You’ll never believe what this man did when he saw this homeless person, it will shock you….”) or just crap sharing all day. If it isn’t funny to me, if I would be annoyed trying to click through slideshows, if I would never do that recipe/craft/eat that forty decker burger (tacos…maybe!), I’m not sharing it on my page.

Those people might have attracted a million people for sharing, but that’s not the kind of audience I want to grow, for me personally. 

(mic drop)

5 Easy Ways to Grow Your Facebook Page from MomAdvice.com

Find Great Content to Actually Share

Where do I find all this funny and engaging stuff? I do it in two ways. First, at the bottom of your Insights page (under the Overview tab), you have something called, “Pages to Watch.” You can pick pages that have a huge following and add them to your Pages to Watch list or sites with similar audiences. I try to pick ones that share similar content as me to follow because I know my readers will love it.

5 Easy Ways to Grow Your Facebook Page from MomAdvice.com

Once you click on the pages you are watching, you can see the week’s top posts for each of those sites. Since I am typically one week later on the sharing (since I do this weekly), I schedule a share for the following week, allowing me to recirculate the same content, but after a little bit of a break between shares. These top posts are usually a gold mine of great stuff since this is what people are really loving.

5 Easy Ways to Grow Your Facebook Page from MomAdvice.com

The second thing I do, when scrolling through my personal feed, is I look for posts that my personal community is sharing. In the corner of that post, you can click on it and save the link. Just doing this at the bus stop gives me a good week of materials (rounded out with the pages I’m watching). You can then go to your Facebook homepage and click on the Saved button which will give you everything you have saved for the week. Done!

5 Easy Ways to Grow Your Facebook Page from MomAdvice.com

Move Your Instagram Feed to Your Page

I began to realize that I got way more interaction on my personal page then I ever did on my site page. Let’s be honest, all the good stuff was going on my personal page though so why would anyone ever feel a connection to my page?

I switched where IG shared my pictures over to my Facebook page and this added enough personality to not make it only a giant place of funny shares, but that I’m there too. It breaks it up, adds my personal touch, and adds zero extra work to my day!

5 Easy Ways to Grow Your Facebook Page from MomAdvice.com

Invite Them To Your Table

Did you know that you can invite people to like your page after they have enjoyed one of your posts?

Yup, you sure can!

When you go on your page, just open up who has liked your posts and you can send them an invitation to like your page. As you can see here, the ones that have already Liked it are grayed out and the ones that have already been invited are grayed out. That means you won’t spam your guests, but that you always have offered this invitation once. For more details on this, read this post

5 Easy Ways to Grow Your Facebook Page from MomAdvice.com When a post goes viral (and if you know the secret formula to that, let me know!), you have a lot of new friends that you can invite without paying a dime for it and with minimal work.

Heck, you could pay your kids to do this for you.

5 Easy Ways to Grow Your Facebook Page from MomAdvice.com

Keep Track of What is Working For You (And Not)

On your Insights page you can see your posts and how far they are reaching. Be sure to sort by reach or engagement to really get a good insight into what people are loving.  It helps to give me an idea of what people are sharing and what resonates with them.

I can give you three themes that will always resonate with them.

1. Make ‘em laugh, make ‘em laugh, make ‘em laugh.

2. Mom, you are good enough.

3. But when you feel like you aren’t, here’s some stuff that will help.

Isn’t that what moms all share?

5 Easy Ways to Grow Your Facebook Page from MomAdvice.com

Case in point- reaching almost 63,000 people this week. That’s some funny stuff, right? Wouldn’t you share this too?

PS- I’m the one on the right, I just look like the one on the left (meaning the apron, not the body).

One Bonus Point (if you feel ambitious)

Since your Facebook audience aren’t really seeing all that you are posting (particularly your personal page), consider starting a FB group to build community again! Not only are you finding your true audience and fans, you are able to share your posts directly to them as well as use that platform for affiliate marketing. In our group, for example, I spend the morning hunting for great Kindle deals that our bookworms will love and share one post in the morning.

Last month I sold over 300 Kindle books, primarily through this group. As someone striving to make smarter passive income choices, this feels authentic and helps keep my website going.

5 Easy Ways to Grow Your Facebook Page from MomAdvice.com

5 Easy Ways to Grow Your Facebook Page from MomAdvice.com

What a happy day to reach a goal and I didn’t have to create more content to do it!

#winning!

Don’t forget to give me a like- I’d really love you to join my table! Plus, you will save me the hassle of inviting you (wink, wink!).

There you have it- schedule shares out once a week, save the stuff your friends are sharing, invite them to your table, keep track of what’s working (and do more), and get a little personal.

What are some successful ways you have found to grow your Facebook audience?

 

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How to Make a Succulent Terrarium ($50 Walmart Gift Card Giveaway!)

Monday, April 18th, 2016

How to Make a Succulent Terrarium from MomAdvice.com

This post is sponsored by EcoScraps. Thank you for supporting the sponsors that help support our site! 

As regular readers know, I have a black thumb. I have never been successful at growing anything and my lawn can prove it. When I discovered succulents though, my world finally got a little greener. Succulents are my kind of plants because they are so low maintenance and they don’t require a lot of water. Today I want to show you how to make a succulent terrarium and how I made it as budget-friendly as possible.

Oh, and did I mention a $50 Walmart Gift Card giveaway?

Sweet!

How to Make a Succulent Terrarium from MomAdvice.com

We are going to be making our succulent terrariums with a new product that is on the shelves at Walmart called EcoScraps. I’m so excited to share about it because the company’s mission is so awesome and really aligns with our family values. EcoScraps recycles food scraps and turns them into organic and sustainable lawn and garden products. They recycle by collecting wasted food from from stores and restaurants and convert it all into natural garden products. 

Between 2011 and 2015, EcoScraps has recycled 75 million lbs of food waste! They are matching that number in 2016 with projected recycling of another 75 million lbs of food waste–this time in just 12 months.

Before they contacted me, you may recall, I was all fired up about food waste after watching the documentary, Just Eat It, on Amazon Prime and chatting about it on my 3 Little Things list. Our family is REALLY trying to do better with our food waste and have been making it a big focus during the week to eat the food we purchase and not throw it away.

You can TRULY make a significant difference in the food waste crisis by simply changing some of your shopping habits. Did you know that bagged salad, for instance, is one of the #1 foods wasted? Doing things like buying bagged salads only on the days you plan to use them is a GREAT way to reduce the food waste in your home. Simple switches will do so much for our world.  You can find out more on the EcoScraps website and find their products on Walmart shelves now!

Now that you know the company’s mission, let’s make a succulent terrarium with their eco friendly potting soil!

How to Make a Succulent Terrarium from MomAdvice.com

Supplies Needed

Glass Trifle Container (I found this for $6.97 at Walmart)

Pebbles

Charcoal

Sphagnum Moss

EcoScraps Potting Soil (this was located outside of our local store)

Succulents (I like to choose an odd number for arranging. Mine had 7 of various sizes)

Garden Trowel

Ways To Save on Supplies

  • Fairy gardens are very popular right now. Ask your local nursery if they have smaller bags of pea gravel or moss available for purchase. I was able to get small bags of these items for a lot less.
  • Look to see if there are any succulent arrangements that are already prepared and the pricing and compare it to individual succulents. At my nursery, succulents individually were $4 each,  but for $20, I was able to get double the succulents AND it helped to know which ones worked and looked nice together.

How to Make a Succulent Terrarium from MomAdvice.com

Easy How-To

Creating a terrarium is a lot like creating a layered cake or trifle so that is why I thought this container was so fitting!  

1. Begin by adding your pebbles to the bottom of your container. This is to create a false drainage layer so water can settle and not flood the plants. You will want to add one inch to two inches of stone, depending on the size of your container.

2. Next, we will layer our charcoal. The charcoal can come in granules or shards (the type I am using is shards). We will spread a layer of this over the rock to help reduce bacteria, fungus, and odors in our terrarium.

How to Make a Succulent Terrarium from MomAdvice.com

3. Next add a layer of moss to create a barrier between the potting soil and charcoal.

4. Prepare your plants for planting by removing them from their pots and loosening up the root ball and exposing the roots. If the roots are particularly long, you can trim them down a bit.

5.  Add a layer of dirt to your terrarium. Gently place your plants inside and then top them off with a bit more dirt, using your hands to gather the dirt firmly into place around each of the plants. Be mindful where you are planting them, mixing up your plants of varying heights and foliage, to fill your jar.

Siri Reminder To Water Plants

5. Finish by watering your terrarium lightly, being mindful not to overwater it because succulents do not like to be soggy. Caring for your terrarium is easy, especially if you are a terrible gardener like me. I’m so terrible, I put Siri in charge.  Feel the soil weekly to see if it is dry and add water if it is.

How to Make a Succulent Terrarium from MomAdvice.com

Here is another view of what our terrarium should look like from the side. Make sure to place it in a spot that gets a little sun on their beautiful leaves, but not scorching hot spot in your home.

How to Make a Succulent Terrarium from MomAdvice.com

 

How to Make a Succulent Terrarium from MomAdvice.com

How to Make a Succulent Terrarium from MomAdvice.com

These are beautiful to keep or to give to someone special in your life. Thank you, EcoScraps, for letting me share about your amazing mission to reduce food waste in a really wonderful way. I hope you guys can try their products!

To help you get started on your own gardening, we are giving away a $50 Walmart gift card to one lucky reader! Enter to win below! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This post was sponsored by EcoScraps. Thank you for supporting the sponsors that help support our site! 

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Bringing Outdoor Furniture Indoors

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016

Bringing Outdoor Furniture Indoors

This post is sponsored on behalf of BHG at Walmart.

Do you remember when outdoor furniture looked like…  well, outdoor furniture. Now outdoor furnishings rival those inside my home and I have started looking at these pieces differently than I used to. I now see the true potential for outdoor pieces in indoor spaces and I wanted to chat a bit with you about that today!   I am partnering up with the BHG Live Better Network this month to show you the fantastic offerings they have this year for your outdoor (or indoor) needs.

Bringing Outdoor Furniture Indoors

A couple of years ago, we created the cutest spot in our house that isn’t in our house. My dreamy she shed makeover is one of the best ideas I have had to utilize a hidden space in our home. I wanted something that we could really lounge on and originally thought a daybed would be a great idea. The truth was though, I really needed something that could stand up to a lot of abuse and the idea of changing linens in a shed did not appeal to me at all.

Let’s be honest, I can barely change the sheets on my own bed.

Outdoor Bed Ideas

I did a lot of research on smart bedding solutions and discovered this Better Homes and Gardens Providence Outdoor Day Bed while browsing and just knew it would be so perfect for our space. This piece was coated in durable outdoor fabric since it was intended for outdoor use, making it perfect for a mom with two busy kids.

When I saw that it was available again this summer (YAY!), I just had to share it with you because it makes me so happy!

Bringing Outdoor Furniture Indoors

This outdoor daybed has become THE spot in the house for anyone who needs a little retreat. The generous size of this piece really is as deep and as long as a true bed would be, making it a fantastic place to take a nap.  I have been known to take many a blissful Sunday siesta on this bed. Curled up with a throw and and a good book, it’s the perfect retreat right on our very own property. When the kids and my husband can’t find me, they know that I am out here taking a little time for myself.

Although I loved the bed itself, I wanted to add a fresh accent color to this piece so I switched out the pillows with a few cute options I scored on Groopdealz as one of their deals-of-the-day and added a Too Legit To Quit pillow from Michelle Dwight Designs to add a splash of fun to the bed.

Even if you source your pillow covers somewhere else by supporting a fellow crafter, I have found inexpensive pillow forms from Walmart to create cushions with style for the back of this bed.  The pillow forms are two for $5.15 and feel like expensive cushions and line the back of our bed. I love that we can switch pillow covers on this piece to bring in a new accent color or simply to freshen things up.

outdoor-bed-ideas-2

We were lucky enough to have a very mild fall and winter so we were able to use this shed more than we usually do, as you can see by this cozy picture of my daughter nestled in blankets. I found a string of outdoor lights and hung them from the canopy to create a beautiful glow in the evenings.

Twinkle lights make any space magical, don’t you think?

I am so happy my kids have this spot to read in.

Bringing Outdoor Furniture Indoors

As a child, I only dreamed of places like this to curl up with books and I try to never take for granted such a special retreat!

I hope this inspires you to look at outdoor furniture a little differently. Whether you have a spot in your basement for a little nook for your kids, if you are looking for an alternative to couches for a patio space, or if you are making your shed into a dreamy bonus room, this bed is for you.

Live-Better-Network-Badge

In accordance with the FTC Guidelines, I am disclosing that I received compensation from BHG at Walmart for my time and participation in the BHG Live Better Network. Although we have material connection to BHG, any publicly stated opinions of BHG and their products remain my own.

5 Time Management Tips For Moms

Thursday, March 10th, 2016

I’m so happy to once again have my good friend Meagan Francis here to share with us- this time all about time management tips for us busy moms. Let’s keep those hours from slipping away!

5 Time Management Tips for Moms- keep your hours from slipping away!

I’ve not always been good at managing my time. I’m amazed sometimes when I look back at my pre-kid life and consider all the hours upon hours I frittered away, without even good grades in school or career advancement to show for it.

Having kids didn’t immediately improve my time-management skills: it wasn’t until I had my third child and decided I needed more structure to my life to function–and, at the same time, decided to take a real, serious stab at writing professionally–that I started, out of sheer survival instinct, to develop habits to help me get things done.

Now, several children, four books and many published articles later, I’m still not perfect but I’ve got a much better handle on using my time efficiently. Here are five of my favorite tips and tricks for making good use of time:

5 Time Management Tips

1. Pay close attention to what makes you tick…and what doesn’t. My first child fit pretty well into my free-form, no-schedule lifestyle, but when I added my second just 22 months later, everything fell apart. Trying to protect myself from failure, I’d set low, low expectations of what I might be able to accomplish in a day. And (just like in high school and college) as it turned out, the less I expected of myself, the less I delivered. I realized my true colors: I need deadlines, I need expectations, and I’m really not that type B, after all. Maybe you’re the opposite–overloading your schedule when what you really need is some breathing room. We’re all different. Just be sure you’re clear about what really helps you, not necessarily what you think should help you. (And try to ride the middle a bit, either way – if I had suddenly ramped my expectations way, WAY up, I would have burned out fast.)

2. Always leave a room better than you found it. I believe in this so strongly –and find it so helpful–that it’s always worth mentioning. There’s no need to spend lots of time picking up and decluttering if you build cleanup naturally into your day.

3. Create good habits. We all have habits that drive us throughout our days. Some habits help us and some make our lives more chaotic. For example, if you never start thinking about what you’ll have for dinner before 5 PM, you’ll probably waste a lot of time, money and energy trying to figure out what you can throw together (or pick up from the drive-through) on super-short notice. It does require a re-wiring of the brain to start preparing for dinner at 3 PM instead (or better yet, plan it out the day or even the week before) but it doesn’t take any extra time. In fact, it’ll save you time and energy, because you can prepare in stages instead of madly trying to throw everything together and realizing at the last minute you forgot to defrost the chicken…again.

4. Write it down. Getting my to-do list out of my head and on paper is an essential just-before-bed exercise. I keep a notebook with my running list next to my bed and look at it first thing in the morning: that way I don’t waste time futzing around on the Internet while my brain tries to wake up enough to remember what I was supposed to be doing today. There it is in black ink, and just seeing the words on the paper brings me back to the mindset I was in when I wrote the list and helps get me on track.

5. Identify your values. The word “values” is not inherently laden with judgment. Perhaps you value sports more than your neighbor. Maybe your best mom friend values preschool education more than you do. That doesn’t mean she’s right and you’re wrong or vice versa. Even if you and your sister are both into healthy eating, maybe one of you is opting for local farmer’s market fare while another does her best at Aldi and another shops the organic produce at Whole Foods. It’s only when you understand your own specific values that you can prioritize. Try making a list of ten things you really value, then look at your how you spend your time: do your actions reflect your stated values?

What’s one bad habit you could turn into a good habit, that wouldn’t take any extra time or energy, but would actually save you time and energy in the long run?

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How to Keep a Cleaner House

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

I’m over-the-moon excited to have my friend, Meagan Francis, here sharing with us her wisdom and tips to keep our homes cleaner with less stress. I love these ideas and know you will, too!

Advice and tips for keeping a cleaner house

A while ago, my sister-in-law Jenna and I were hanging out in my living room when she remarked, “You know, you sure are a lot cleaner than you were in college.” 

I might have been insulted by that remark except that Jenna was also my college roommate and every bit my partner in slovenliness. A massive laundry pile dominated our dorm-room floor the entire year. Mugs with dried cocoa and bowls cemented with oatmeal rolled under the bed and desk and were never seen again (until we moved out, that is). There were probably bugs, but they were buried under so many layers of crap we never saw them.

If there was a song title that best described our living conditions that year, it would be Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “That Smell.” Our dorm wasn’t just messy, it was downright gross.

I’d like to say that I grew out of my sloppy habits as soon as I moved into my first “adult” home, or even after I had children, but that wouldn’t exactly be true. It took me several years to get a handle on the mess a family of small kids could create in a small apartment.

The first time I maintained a truly clean-enough (by my standards, anyway) home? The year or so when Jon and I were separated and divorced. Living alone (well, without another adult, anyway) taught me a lot about keeping up with a house by myself, and forced me to figure it out and take responsibility for the state of my surroundings.

And even though my home still gets messy from time to time (right now, the bedrooms could really use some help…) I no longer feel the sinking sense of panic I used to feel, like I would never get on top of it again. Because now I know that I can, and I will.

Here’s what I’ve learned about how to keep a cleaner house:

1. Stop resisting.

I figure I have two basic choices: drag my feet and resist every this-is-what-it-means-to-be-a-grownup task that comes my way, like doing the dishes or changing another diaper or getting dinner on the table…or, I can accept that the sooner I roll up my sleeves and get it done, the less fuss I make, the easier the job is in the end and the quicker I can get back to what I really want to be doing.

At some point I decided to stop hating the fact that I had to clean (and then re-clean and re-clean). It’s a fact of life. Doing it makes my surroundings nicer. I’m not exactly dancing around with a dust mop over here, but I don’t waste energy grumping about cleaning up anymore – which means I also don’t allow things to pile up and make me more overwhelmed in the end.

Embrace the endlessness. You’ll never be truly “done” cleaning, so try to find a way to accept it.

embrace the endlessness
2. Don’t wait around for someone else to make your home the way you want it.

I’m a big fan of delegation. I also believe that male spouses should take responsibility for helping to keep a household running. But I learned that waiting around for somebody else to do the dishes, vacuum the rug, or make the bed is a sure-fire way to grow angry and resentful while also having to live in an increasingly messy house.

Instead, I’ve embraced the realization that having my house function in a certain way is much more important to me than it is to Jon, just as updating software on all the family’s devices, while also a valid and worthwhile task, is more important than Jon than it is to me. And if something is really important to you, you need to take the responsibility for making it happen. (This is why Jon updates the software on all the family’s devices.)

That doesn’t mean I do every single cleaning-the-house-related task. I just accept that either I manage the delegation and oversight of said tasks…or, I accept that they won’t be done as often or as well as I’d like. And I choose #1 because living in a neat and functional house is important to my wellbeing.

I should mention that, in my house, part of delegating means hiring part-time cleaning help. I first hired a service when I had three young children, was pregnant with Owen and freelancing from home full time, while Jon was working in another state. We definitely didn’t have a lot of money, but I was desperate, so we canceled the cable and made it happen.

I don’t “need” help in the same way as I did then, but I really like not having to do the floors, deep cleaning the bathrooms, and dusting (I never seem to notice dust until it’s taken over.) I definitely still have to do a lot of cleaning, but it’s nice to know I can mostly focus on tidying, laundry, the kitchen, and bathroom touch-ups.

Sometimes just taking a few tasks off your plate can make the rest of it seem much more manageable. If you can’t delegate or hire help, you might choose some things that just aren’t as important to you and put them on the “don’t do now” list. If you know you don’t particularly care about dusting light fixtures, you can focus on the things that really make a difference and are more manageable for you now.

clean, dirty, window

3. Stay in motion.

There is no secret to keeping a clean house – it’s more a matter of accepting the job and taking action. And once I did that, I realized that my former #1 obstacle to keeping things under control was inertia. I’d avoid, avoid, avoid until I faced down an epic mess that would take me an entire week to clean up. Then I’d avoid, avoid, avoid again until the next time I got desperate.

Now I just keep moving. If I’m walking from the living room to the kitchen, why not make a few trips and return all the empty cups while I’m at it? If I’m bending down to pick up a toy in my path, I might as well repeat the action and pick up those abandoned socks, too.

I like to veg out on the sofa as much as anyone, but I find that once I’m down, I tend to stay down. So before I settle in, I try to make a few laps around the house to tidy up, load the dishwasher, or throw in a load of laundry. Then I can really enjoy my break…and the much neater house around me.

You know what’s funny? Looking at my list above it’s clear that what transformed me from a total slob into a decent housekeeper has nothing to do with complicated organizing systems, speed-cleaning tips, or buying new products.

It’s all about attitude.

Which means anyone can be a decent housekeeper, right?

Trust me: if I can do it? So can you.

top photo: Carissa Rogers, via Flickr Creative Commons

Organization Tips for Easier Mornings

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016

I’m so happy to have Melissa of The Polished Habitat with us today sharing some easy organizing tips to help your mornings go smoother by having a place for everything – yes!

Use these easy organization tips to make your mornings go smoother!

Can anyone relate to the annoyance I feel in the morning when I can’t find what I need to get ready for the day? I used to have a least a couple days each week that I’d be cranky before I even left for work because I wasted time searching for things, or just frustrated that the bathroom was disorganized.

So I’ve become pretty passionate about making all the trouble spots in our house SUSTAINABLY organized. Not just tidied up, because things get un-tidy quickly. But, with real thought and systems that make it easier to keep neat than it would be to let chaos reign. And coming from a girl with a tendency to be a mess, this has made a HUGE difference in our home and life.

Here are a few organizing projects in the bathroom that I’ve done to create a happy start to each day:

Great idea! Organize hair products under the sink on a tiered organizer.

1. Hair Product Organization

For hair products, I added a spice rack under my bathroom sink. It gets the bottles off the counter, but I can still grab any of them easily thanks to the tiered design. Having a designated space also provides a built-it limit to the number of products I keep. If the rack is full, something has to go before a new product comes in.

I finally organized my bathroom vanity cabinet

2. Under-Cabinet Organization

While I was working on the fix to the hair products, I organized the rest of the cabinet as well. For things I use every day, like face wash, makeup sponges, and Q-Tips, I added vertical storage on the back of the cabinet door. Attaching IKEA bins with Command Strips makes this is a solution that would even work in a rental!

Polished Habitat Bathroom Closet

3. Linen Closet Organization

Plastic storage drawers may be my #1 organizing obsession. Adding one in the linen closet between stacks of towels serves double-duty. It keeps the stacks of bath towels on both sides neat, and holds washcloths and hand towels inside.

Bathroom Storage Ideas

4. Bathroom Supplies Organization

Photo boxes are a non-traditional pick for bathroom storage, but they are still perfect for a wide range of items. I use them for things picked up on sale, like extra toothbrushes, razors, etc. There is also a box dedicated to travel/sample size items, which used to be scattered in different drawers. Now when we pack, we grab the “Mini” box and pick out whatever we need. It’s like having our own little store. If you have a Michael’s nearby, they often have the boxes on sale for 6 for $10, making them one of the cheapest organizing solutions available.

Jewelry Organization - Love these ideas for storing earrings and necklaces!

5. Jewelry Organization

My newest and possibly favorite “getting ready” solution involves earrings. I found that bead organizers from the craft store are PERFECT for earrings and completely affordable. I used to have a tray for jewelry, and would end up frustrated that no matter what pair of earrings I was looking for, I’d have to dig to find a match. Using round bead organizers means each pair of earrings has it’s own space AND I can quickly see what I have. Instead of buying two organizers, I actually used the top and bottom separately to double the space without doubling the cost.

I implemented each of these ideas over time, and every one of them costs less than $10. I love frugal solutions that make a huge difference in my mornings!

Even though things like disorganized bathrooms are VERY minor in the large scheme of life, don’t underestimate the difference you’ll feel when your space is neat and calm. Dang it, I guess my mom was right during my teenage years.

I hope you found some inspiration that will help make your mornings happy!

_______________

Thanks, Melissa – I can’t wait to put some of these into practice in our home for some happy in our mornings!

How to Consume More Books This Year

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

How to Consume More Books This Year from MomAdvice.com

Almost weekly I get a request to share how I am able to consume so many books. Over the years we have visited this conversation often, but over the last year or two my strategies for consuming books has changed a lot thanks to new formats and new ideas about how I can get more books in throughout my day.  Reading is truly one of my biggest passions and I love sharing my love of reading with others.  Even my volunteerism is connected with this passion as I mentor two struggling elementary school readers each week to hopefully help them not only become stronger readers, but ignite a lifelong passion for reading too.

How to Consume More Books This Year from MomAdvice.com

I have always been a reader and I can point to one person in my life who helped make that happen.

My Dad.

Even as he juggled his swing shift position at work, he promised me a weekly trip to the library that he honored each week and rarely rushed me at the library, leaving me contentedly working my way down the aisles. When the bookmobile made our corner the stop on it’s route, I was able to trade my finished books out even sooner for another stack and still enjoy those weekly visits with my father. I count those visits among some of my favorite memories.

Admittedly, my parent’s biggest hurdle with me was to stop reading when it was bedtime and to stop reading books that were too mature for me. I am sure you can envision a ten year-old girl with a stack of V.C. Andrews books stacked under her mattress each night, a big no-no writer in our Christian household, especially at that age. Thankfully, I still turned out okay despite my reading choices.

When I became a mom, I felt like I didn’t have the time to sit down and read.  I was too busy bouncing colicky babies and trying to cobble some semblance of a clean house to make time for myself and to read.  I say this because maybe you are in a life stage where reading isn’t happening and the best you can do is bounce those babies and try to just keep up a household routine, that is okay! Books will ALWAYS be there for you though when you are ready to come back. 

After my kids got a little older, I remember making a public proclamation that I was going to start reading again and I was going to share about the books here. At the time, this had nothing to do with our site and I only hoped you would hold me accountable. Now the books section and our interview series are two of the most popular sections, thanks to that commitment I made years ago.

Is your goal to consume more books this year? I would love to share a few strategies that I have found work for me and would love to hear from you, my fellow bookworms, how you make time for reading in your life! 

How to Consume More Books This Year from MomAdvice.com

Start By Making a Commitment

Like I said, the way that I started was by vocalizing my commitment and setting a reading goal. As an overachiever, the urge to set ridiculous goals is always an issue for me. I encourage you start with a modest goal and make your own public commitment. A great place to do that is on GoodReads where you can not only set goals, but you can also connect with fellow readers (like me!) to help inspire your book stacks!  Setting goals helps give you something to work toward, whether that is five books this year or a hundred!

Another option to challenge yourself is to join in on an online challenge. These types of challenges not only motivate you to read, but often push you outside of your usual genres into new literary territory. Here are nine great challenge options to get you started this year!

Carve Out One Hour Minimum At YOUR Optimum Time

Notice that I didn’t tell you to just rise earlier? I am a morning person so I set my alarm at 5AM to tackle an hour of reading before I need to get my kids off to school. That, it turns out, is my optimum reading time.  If you aren’t a morning person though, this probably will not work for you and, no, it’s highly unlikely you can make yourself be a morning person despite what you may have heard. Gretchen Rubin, author of Better Than Before, was recently on The Simple Show where she talks about how we can’t all force ourselves to be morning people and you should set realistic goals during hours that are realistic for YOU in order to succeed at your goals. 

For me, the hour of 5AM is complete bliss with hot coffee and quiet reading, which helps set an intention for me to have a balanced and calm day. As a highly sensitive person, I really need this quiet introverted time or I feel out of sorts once the kids get up. For others though, you might find that an hour in the afternoon or a staying up later with a good book is a better fit.

I put my phone on do not disturb and stay off of social media and it is amazing how many pages I can consume in that hour with uninterrupted time. I encourage you to do the same!  Hours can also be broken into ten to fifteen minute sessions throughout the day, particularly for moms with little ones or for moms who are always running their kids. As long as you are carrying a book with you wherever you go, it’s very easy to reach a one hour goal.

Not sure if you can commit to an hour? Try a 10% reading goal each day, particularly if you are reading digitally! 

To read as much as I do though, I have to have a minimum of two to three hours of reading time daily. That means one hour first thing in the morning, one hour before the kids get off the bus, and usually an hour or two at the end of the day or before I head to the gym.

How to Consume More Books This Year from MomAdvice.com

(current stack)

Find a Format That Works For You

For a long time, the only way I thought that I could consume books was in the printed format. These past two years though a world of reading possibilities opened to me when I finally embraced electronic books and audiobooks.

The beauty in electronic books is that I always have my phone with me so I always have my Kindle app to open and dive into a book. An old-fashioned printed book is always on my bedside table for grabbing and screen-free time. Audiobooks have become my new companion while tackling laundry, cooking, or tidying our house. With a set of earbuds, I can consume a book just about anywhere. 

Experiment with different formats or consider tackling different types throughout the day (more below) to find what works best for you!

Try Reading a Few Books at the Same Time

I often have to be in the right frame of mind to read certain books and many bookworms echo my theory that having a few books going at once can help you through a mindset hurdle on reading. Last week I was reading a memoir, a thriller, and a contemporary fiction novel. In What Should I Read Next guest Seth Haines shared that he reads a different book in the morning, afternoon, and evening of his day. For me, I know when I wake up what I am in the mood for. I usually lean into something heavy in that first peaceful hour and then sprinkle lighter books in later in the day. It was comforting to hear someone echo that philosophy of different books at different times. It helps me to never stop consuming books.

I do know that many people say that they can only read one book at a time and that is okay, but in order for me to continue moving through books when mindset hurdles are standing in my  own way, I need to have a variety going to continue pressing forward.

How to Consume More Books This Year from MomAdvice.com

Try Reading As a Family

The reason I was such a big reader was the influence of my father and witnessing him reading all the time. The reason that I think I have two great readers in my house is because they see their mom reading all the time and they are modeling what is happening in our home.

On nights we don’t have activities going on or on weekends, you will often find us in a room together all reading our own books. I love reading alongside of my children as much as I love reading to them. I am still reading to my daughter as we work our way through Laura Ingall’s adventures, but I also love the freedom of everyone tackling what they love.  Either way, whether reading on our own or together, I know that I am getting in more books and I get to do it with my kids. 

How to Consume More Books This Year from MomAdvice.com

(photo credit: scribd)

Make Reading an Investment

Are you the type of person where making a financial commitment to something is what motivates you to do it? Just like your financial commitment that you make to your gym membership that you just HAVE to get every dollar out of, you can do the same with reading especially if you lack a good or close public library system.

For the money, I find Scribd to be a great value at $8.99 a month that includes unlimited e-books, one audiobook credit per month, and access to sheet music (which is great for this family with a piano player & guitarist on our hands!).  I am a genuine fan, this post is not supported in any way by them. I have also heard great things about Kindle Unlimited, but don’t have any experience with that one- let me know if you have enjoyed that membership or not. Sometimes, particularly in the winter and summer months when I’m not as motivated to head as frequently to the library, I indulge in a membership to keep me moving through books.

For some, a financial commitment can offer great motivation to get every dollar out of a membership. I know that it does for me!

I hope these tips to consume more great books this year are helpful to you! It’s a joy to get to share great books with you each month! xo

What tips and tricks do you use in your life to read more? Feel free to leave your ideas in the comments below!

This post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though!