Archive for the ‘Time Management’ Category

14 FREE Home Management Binder Printables

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

14 FREE Home Management Binder Printables

When I first began managing my household, I happened upon a home management binder that really worked for our family. The binder became our family Bible and each year I would order a new set of sheets to keep the same binder going for our family for the next year. Last year when I went to order my sheets, the company no longer existed and I felt lost without my trusty home management binder system. I talked with our amazingly talented craft contributor, Sarah Milne, to see if she could help me execute a binder with the same principles, but a fresh design that would make managing a home fun.  She created the most beautiful set of printables ever and I am so excited to share these with you today.

14 FREE Home Management Binder Printables

What Is a Home Management Binder?

When I say that a home management binder can be a Bible for a family, I really do mean that. A well-designed binder, which I really think we offer with these printables, helps you manage everything in your household in one place.  This binder is housed typically in a central location in your home and contains everything your family needs to have on-hand from your family calendar, your to-do list, important contact information that you want to have at a moment’s notice (particularly for someone who might babysit), the meal plan for the week, grocery lists, a price sheet, and all you need to run your family’s finances smoothly.

I recommend storing this binder  and then purchasing a set of pocketed dividers where you can tuck important information that you might need to refer to. I took a picture of my pockets for you and then realized that it is all pretty personal so you will have to take my word for it that this is where you put the good stuff. When school starts, in particular, you will find your mailbox filled with fliers for events, important forms that need to be filled out, appointment reminders, and invitations. Instead of piling them on a desk or tacking them on the fridge, use the pockets so you always know where to find these items when you need them. I also like to keep an extra pocket or two in the back for the randomness in my life- consider it another junk drawer, if you will.  I have also found that a good spot in the home for daily reference is in your family’s command center.

We have created header pages for each section and I do recommend printing these on heavy-duty cardstock so that they can hold up to the abuse of being referenced daily!

14 FREE Home Management Binder Printables

What is Included In Our Home Management Binder Packet?

First, I just want to say that this is the just the beginning. I plan to come up with more sheets that you can use for all of your home management needs and this will be an ongoing project for I want this to be useful to you so please, please let me know in the comments if there is anything you would like to see that we are missing in our packet. It will help us when we design the next round of sheets for you!

In our packet you will find:

Family Budget Pages

Grocery Price Sheet (for comparison shopping)

Grocery List Sheet

Menu Planner Sheet

Family Calendar

To-Do List

Contact Sheet

Header Pages for Each Section (to print on cardstock)

MomAdvice Newsletter


What is the Catch to These “Free” Printables?

Honestly, I paid a lot of money each year to update my binder with new sheets, but I didn’t want to charge for these.

We realize that there is so much happening on MomAdvice each week that it can be difficult to keep up with. I hired another designer to create a beautiful weekly newsletter for our readers that I would love for you to subscribe to. This email newsletter only is sent once a week to our readers (unless we have a special announcement/giveaway) and I promise to never, never spam you. In this newsletter, we feature everything that is happening for the week and this is where our subscribers can access the free printables and additional freebies that we offer ONLY TO NEWSLETTER SUBSCRIBERS.  It is beautiful, simple, mobile-friendly, and fast to scroll through.  I promise, I will never send you junk. I know your time is valuable and so is mine- I am committed to a very useful newsletter.

Honestly though, I realized that we needed to offer some type of incentive to get you to join my newsletter and this is our thank you for letting me come in your inbox once a week.  That is the only catch with getting free printables from

If you are interested in receiving 14 free home management printables, just input your email below or in the sidebar and we will send you the link to your packet as our thank you for being a subscriber (look for it in the final welcome email). Subscribers will have access to our additional printables as they become available. Note: if you already subscribe to the Mom Advice Newsletter, be sure to look in your inbox for a special email that contains the link for your set of these printables! If you can’t seem to get the form to work with your browser, just look over to your right in the sidebar. You will see a handy form there too that works with all browsers! We appreciate you so much! Thank you! 



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Easy Lunchbox Solutions

Monday, July 21st, 2014

Easy Lunchbox Solutions from

The back-to-school season is just around the corner and today I wanted to share some easy strategies for packing those lunches this year. I have teamed up with Walmart to share three fun products that you can purchase this year for those lunchboxes: Sara Lee Soft & Smooth Whole Grain White Bread, Frito Lay Chips in their 20-count variety pack, and Danimals Smoothies 12-packs (that just so happen to be worth triple the Box Tops for Education points!). These are all affordable and easy additions for this year’s lunchboxes.

Here are some additional fun ideas for making lunchtime fun for your child this year:

Easy Lunchbox Solutions from

Get Organized- As with all things related to back-to-school, getting organized is half the battle. Our family relies on this lunchbox creation station for creating our lunches for the week.  Take advantage of those back-to-school sales and get your lunchbox station stocked with reusable containers and baggies, water bottles, drinks, snacks and chips for the year.

As my children get older, I put more of the responsibility of lunch preparation on them and our lunchbox station really helps when assembling lunches the night before school as well as packing drinks & snacks for our extracurricular activities.

Insert Fun- Every year, I feel a little melancholy about my kids going back to school especially when we have spent so much time together in the summer. This is the perfect time to add a note to let them know how much you love them or add a comic strip and joke to an older child’s lunchbox.

If your school lunch hour is anything like our lunchtime, our kids have very little time to eat. Try to keep the gesture simple so that you can be assured that they were able to tackle their lunch and not just your note.

You can also add fun details like pretty straws, washi tape flags with special messages on them, or a fun treat like Frito Lay’s Chips & a fruity Danimals Smoothie to round out the meal. I love to use Rick Rack Scissors to trim my washi tape to add a fast & easy detail.

  Easy Sushi Sandwich from

Try a Sushi Sandwich- Have you ever made a sushi sandwich? These are so fun to create and couldn’t be easier. Grab a loaf of Sara Lee Whole Grain White Bread and your favorite rolling pin. Roll the bread out thinly, but not so thin that the bread will no longer hold together. Add a few slices of your child’s favorite lunch meat and then a cheese stick in their favorite flavor (my kid’s love a swirled stick). Carefully roll this up and then slice in half with a sharp knife. For kids that don’t love sandwiches, these spin on the traditional sandwich is always a hit.

Keep Them Organized Using Their Lunchbox- Trying to keep myself organized is difficult. Keeping my kids organized too? Well, that seems even more impossible. I have found that my children rarely forget their lunches though and this is the perfect spot to clip items that they need to remember for their day. Utilize a binder clip or heavy-duty clothespin and use this spot to jot down notes of activities they need to do for the day, apparel that they need to bring for extracurricular activities, appointments they might need to be picked up for, or forms/permission slips they need to turn in to school. This has been a great system for us and helps remind us all of what needs to happen each day.

I hope you love these ideas for freshening up those lunchbox routines and wishing you easy and sweet transitions back into the swing of the school year!


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Smart Solutions for Craft Room Organization

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

Smart Solutions for Craft Room Organization from

It’s been a long time since I have shared some pictures of our home. I have been in the thick of organizing my craft room and today I wanted to share with you some ideas for organizing your own craft space in your home.

For my part on the Walmart craft team, they requested that I tackle a craft project. I made a special request that I could share with you today my organized craft space and see if I could find any fun additions to my space at their store and they agreed. So today instead of crafting it up, I am showing off what I have been up to in my space.

Smart Solutions for Craft Room Organization from

Let’s start from the very beginning. Three years ago, this was our space that I envisioned turning into our office space. We have a tri-level home, now lovingly called a quad now that we finished this fourth level, and this was what we started with. This space was where we threw our stuff that we didn’t know what to deal with. We had to majorly declutter and we had to save enough cash to make the updates to our home. We were able to accomplish both (loan free!) and create the space I had been dreaming of.

I am starting with this picture to show you that maybe there is an area in your home that could be your special space and you just don’t know it. Maybe it just requires a fresh eye, a bit of decluttering, and a few smart craft solutions to carve a space just for you.

Smart Solutions for Craft Room Organization from Smart Solutions for Craft Room Organization from Smart Solutions for Craft Room Organization from Smart Solutions for Craft Room Organization from Smart Solutions for Craft Room Organization from

Smart Solutions for Craft Room Organization from Smart Solutions for Craft Room Organization from

Here is my craft and office space today. When I post these types of pictures, people ask me where I found certain things. Here are some of the things you will find in my space.

Floral Chairs- Found at a local Value City (no longer available-sadness)!

Green Side Table- A side table we owned, but spray painted & distressed

Owl Lamp & Burlap Lamp Shade-  Walmart

Record Table- Thrift Shop Find Stained & Painted

Swivel Metal Stool- Home Decorators

Knitted Leaf Centerpiece- Handmade

Everyday I’m Hustling Pillow- Michelle Dwight Designs

Record Frames- H&M

Smart Solutions for Craft Room Organization from Smart Solutions for Craft Room Organization from Smart Solutions for Craft Room Organization from Smart Solutions for Craft Room Organization from Smart Solutions for Craft Room Organization from

Crafting and organization do not go hand in hand for me.  I spent a good month getting this room organized and trying to figure out the best solutions for my space. Here are some of the solutions I found inexpensively at Walmart.

Glass Jars- I had all of my craft supplies tucked away in baskets. This meant I spent a lot of time digging through baskets and trying to figure out where I tucked all my crafting odds & ends. Glass jars truly helps me visualize what I have and where it is. I found the smaller jars for just $4.97 and my giant 2 gallon glass jar is the perfect home for my ribbon collection (priced at $9.97).

Clear Clipboards- As a craft blogger, I always have a running to-do list for my site and craft projects. I utilized this to-do list printable (previously featured in our DIY Homework stations) and mounted them on these clear clipboards ($3.88)  with 3M hooks ($3.67) on my wall. I also have my favorite Mead Wall Calendar I buy every year to keep track of when all my projects are due ($7.97).

Metal Bins- Over in the closet solutions, I found a metal tub that I could use to organize my knitting needles. When you start really building up your knitting needle collection, you may have four or more different sizes of the same size needle. I was constantly digging through baskets to find the right needles. I decided to use manilla envelopes and label them #0-15 and then put my needles for each size in these envelopes. This saves me tons of time hunting for the right needles and makes it easy to see what I might need to buy. I put all of these in this metal tub ($9.74) and it is on top of my newly organized craft cart.

Smart Solutions for Craft Room Organization from Smart Solutions for Craft Room Organization from Smart Solutions for Craft Room Organization from Smart Solutions for Craft Room Organization from Smart Solutions for Craft Room Organization from Smart Solutions for Craft Room Organization from Smart Solutions for Craft Room Organization from Smart Solutions for Craft Room Organization from

Two things we purchased to finish out my crafting space was a crafting table and a crafting cart that I could roll out into the middle of our office when I needed to do my crafting. We found this Martha Stewart Collapsible Crafting Table & Crafting Cart on Home Decorators. If you are struggling with a small space, this is a dream come true. You can fold down one side if your space is small or open it all the way out if you need a large surface to work on.

This space also doubles as an indoor photography studio when the weather isn’t cooperating. I have my photography backdrops stored in the gift wrap center and can really spread my work out, if I need to on this space.

I spent an entire weekend whittling down my craft supplies to what I truly needed in my craft cart. I now everything I need right at my fingertips. I had to keep reassuring myself that it was okay to part with some of my craft supplies. If it hadn’t been used in the last year, it was definitely something that could be donated to free up precious space in my craft cart.

Smart Solutions for Craft Room Organization from Smart Solutions for Craft Room Organization from MomAdvice.comAs you can see, I can wheel them over to corners in our office so they don’t get in the way. I am so thankful for these smart solutions for our space. I am also thankful that I finally feel organized in this space.

Smart Solutions for Craft Room Organization from

And as a good old-fashioned reminder that all good things should be enjoyed in moderation, I found this old-fashioned closed sign over in the office supplies at Walmart ($1.97). I mounted a 3M clip upside down and hooked it on the back of my computer. This now offers an in-my-face reminder of how I should be spending my evenings.

I hope you enjoyed the tour of my craft space! Feel free to ask me any questions and I promise to try to help!


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A New Way to Teach Your Child to Tie Their Shoes

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

A New Way to Teach Your Child to Tie Their ShoesI am so darn excited about today’s post. Today I am sharing a new way to teach your child how to tie their shoes. It is the best shoe-tying tutorial I could ever showcase and it comes to my site courtesy of my amazing friend Nancy from Nancy Lary Studios.

When my son was in first grade he was still struggling to tie his shoes. The fact that we put the kid in Velcro shoes his entire life may have been a big factor in why he struggled so much. When I shared this with Nancy, she showed me a new way to teach shoelace tying to see if it would work for our son. Lo and behold, a mere five minutes later my son was tying his shoe like a pro.

A New Way to Teach Your Child to Tie Their Shoes

My daughter is three years younger than her brother and when we taught Ethan, she wanted to learn right along side of him. As luck would have it, she caught on just as fast as her brother and it is how she is tying her shoes still today.

You have to see this tutorial. If you are struggling with teaching your children to tie their own shoelaces, this is a parenting game changer. I can’t wait to hear about your own success stories with this tutorial.

An enormous thank you to Nancy for so generously sharing her video with my readers!

Note About the First Loop

The first time you teach them, you can show them with your own finger how to create that first loop. After that, it shows them how much space they  need to create it and they can do it on their own. For double knotting the laces, just show them as you normally would! When I was a kid we used one of these handy shoe-tying practice boards (affiliate link)  to help with tying my shoelaces.

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DIY Homework Study Station

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

DIY Homework Study Station from

Back-to-School time is almost here for my crew and today I wanted to show you an easy DIY Homework Station you can create for a fun, focused, and quiet little spot you can create for your homework time. This Tri-Fold Homework Station idea was something that I came up with to do for the back-to-school season with Walmart. Each month they give me a fun craft challenge and I couldn’t wait to create these for my kids.

DIY Homework Study Station from homework stations are perfect for small space living. Two kids at one table, but each having a place to call their own, so they can focus on their own coursework.  The best part is that these can fold flat and be stored elsewhere when not in use! I can’t wait to show you just how easy it is to create these for your kids!

DIY Homework Study Station from

Supplies List

1- tri-fold foam display board (this will make two homework stations for you)

Razor Blade

General  Purpose Spray Adhesive

Chalkboard Spray Paint (over in the paint aisle)

Rectangle Wooden Plaques (one or two depending on how many stations you are creating)

Decorative envelope(s) and stickers

Binder Clips (we did two for each one)

Scrapbook Paper in coordinating colors (8 sheets total per homework station. The type of paper we are using is their Watercolor Paper that they offer for $5 for the pack)

Hot glue & glue gun

DIY Homework Study Station from

1. Begin by measuring and marking the halfway point for your tri-fold display board. The display board is 48″ total, so you will want to cut it so that each side is 24″ long.

2. Cut the display board with a utility knife, making sure to cut carefully through all of the layers.

3. Spray paint your wooden plaques to create your chalkboards for your homework station.  Make sure to shake the can really well, as instructed on the back of the can. Hold your can 8 inches away from your surface and spray in a sweeping motion side to side with a slight overlap. It has always been my experience to go thin with the paint, allow it to dry, and then to add another layer for the best results and minimal drip. Allow the paint to dry for one hour.

DIY Homework Study Station from

5. While the frames are drying, pick out eight sheets of scrapbook paper and set them up for where you would like to display them. Set them aside and, beginning with one side, line the bottom sheets up and, holding them in place with your hands, flip them up to add a little spray adhesive to the underside. Do this all along the bottom of your display board.

6.  Now do the same process again on the top, making sure that they line up with each other and with the top edge of the display board.

7. Once your chalkboards have dried, use your hot glue gun to mount it to your display. Attach an envelope next to it with chalk. Make sure to give your chalkboard 24 hours to cure before writing on it and prepare your chalkboards as I have show in this handy tutorial.

8. Add any stickers or decorations you might like to your homework station or let your kids decorate it themselves.

DIY_Homework_Study_Station_8 9. Clip your binder clips to the top of your display and then add any printables, thoughtful motivational quotes, calendars, etc… to the homework station.

Here are some free printables that I found that I really love:

Weekly To-Do List (A Pair of Pears)

Macaron Calendar (from Jolie Jolie Designs)

Modern Calendar (from LAUs NOTEbook)

If you are looking for more, be sure to check my Printable Goodness Pinterest Board for more ideas.

DIY Homework Study Station from

DIY Homework Study Station from

Good luck to everyone heading back to school! I hope this homework station inspires a fun new homework hangout for your kiddos!  I look forward to showcasing more fun back-to-school ideas to inspire your life this year!


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What Do You Do All Day? The Real Story Behind My Niche Blog!

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

One of the biggest questions that I get asked is, “What exactly is your job?” It is one of those things that people are often curious about, and admittedly are confused about,  since my job is so difficult to explain. Today I wanted to offer a behind-the-scenes look at what it is like to run a niche blog.

I have been blogging for 9 1/2 years now which makes me a dinosaur in this business! The blog that you see today is very different than the blog I started out with. The site has grown a lot over the years and many  of you have been through all of its growing pains. For those of you that have been following our journey, I wanted to share with you what my business has evolved into.

What is a Typical Day Like For You?

I am a busy mom of two kiddos so my day-to-life is probably a lot like yours. I handle the day-to-day routines and schedules of my kids. I take my kids to their extra curricular activities, I volunteer weekly at my kid’s school helping with kids that are struggling with reading, we go to worship once a week, and I do my best to workout at the gym three days a week.

Every pocket of time that I have beyond that though is spent working on projects for one of the many freelance clients I write for. I am either shopping for my clients, creating tutorials for craft/diy/food, photographing projects, or writing for them. Since many of my clients are running on magazine calendar deadlines, you will often find me shopping for Easter supplies in the dead of winter or working on Christmas crafts in the Fall.

Even my free time is often accounted for because I share it with you. I try to read four books a month for our reviews and you will rarely find me sitting still when I am watching television because I am usually working on a craft project at the same time for the blog.

Much like you, I am sure, I am pretty beat at the end of the day! By the time the kids go to bed, I am ready for bed myself. I usually head to bed pretty early so I can start the whole routine again!

Who Works With You?

I think one of the things that people have found most surprising about our site is that I was the only writer & contributor on my site for over nine years alone. My husband did all of the coding and design of our site and I managed all the content.

When our site experienced a lot of growth from Pinterest, I realized that there was no way that I could manage all of this on my own. My email inbox had over 50,000 unopened emails, my taxes and paperwork for my business were a mess, and I had been treating my work like a hobby rather than a business.

This last month I hired a virtual assistant to help  me with some of the things my readers had come to expect here, but didn’t really showcase my personality- the weekly freebie list, our weekly notebook, and our giveaway link list. She got my inbox down to zero within two months and I finally felt like I could breathe a little bit. She is, in one word, amazing, and has brought back a quality of life that I felt like I had been lacking.

We also hired an accountant to handle our taxes this year, something that had burdened us greatly over the years, and I also started using FreshBooks (affiliate) to help me keep track of my accounting better (a recommendation made by my amazing friend over at Dine & Dish). Invoicing, following up on payments with clients, and paperwork for them takes up a good portion of my day so any people/products I can use to make my day go smoother really helps me.

embroidery thread egg for Kenmore


Why Do You Work For So Many Brands?

I write a lot of content for brands because, frankly, it helps pay the bills. I write professionally for five to six clients monthly and those projects help our family financially, but much of the earnings go towards keeping my site up and running.

When our site was smaller, we had an inexpensive web host and I was able to do everything on my own. Our site grew by 100,000 users this year alone, which is incredible and awesome, but our web host couldn’t handle the traffic! It was time to invest in the business and move to Liquid Web (affiliate), who can handle anything we throw at them. We currently spend about a thousand dollars a month to pay for web hosting, photography props/equipment, our accountant, and my assistant. Many of my projects that I write for just go towards keeping the business afloat and paying my self-employment taxes.

No, I Was Asking How Much You Make?

Yup, I get asked that all the time although I have NEVER asked anyone what their salary is. It is such a weird job that people are always dying to know how much you make. I make a full-time income thanks to the companies I work for as a content writer/creator, ambassador, and spokesperson for. If I was living on our ad revenue alone, we could pay for our web host and maybe a bill or two. In all honesty though,  my income fluctuates a lot because it depends on what jobs come through for me for the year. This past year all my time was devoted towards my book which was a rewarding experience, but also prevented me from taking on a lot of paying jobs.

How Do You Do It All?

I don’t think I do more than many of the other working parents that I know, but people constantly ask me this. I think the main reason is because when people do these types of projects around their house they aren’t pointing a bunch of Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram traffic over to it like,


Here is an example of a typical month of projects  for my clients.

I knitted a scarf for a new yarn line that Walmart was carrying.

I painted vases with my kids for Kenmore.

I took my kids over to the Dinosaurs Alive! exhibit at Brookfield Zoo to write a review for a local magazine I write for.

I gathered up ideas for things to do with old books for Goodwill.

I made homemade laundry detergent for Walmart.

I made a cookbook with my kids for Kenmore (post coming soon!)

I made whole wheat toasted tarts with Walmart.

There are several other projects, but this gives you an idea of what I am up to. If I look at it as a whole, I am completely overwhelmed. On any given week I could have anywhere between two to four projects for clients. Since I do all of  the shopping, crafting/cooking and then my own writing & photography for these projects, each project is very time-consuming.

I also am maintaining the writing that I do here on  my blog like sharing yummy recipes for pecan-crusted chicken fingers, whipping up Peep-tinis, & sharing all those fun book reviews and making sure we have plenty of content for the rest of the week. All of that, and I haven’t even touched on the social media side of things which is just as consuming now that my readers can connect with me through every available social media channel!

Usually the most surprising amount of time I spend is on the shopping and the staging for photos. I will get a brilliant idea for a client and then get to the store and find out that the items I need aren’t sold there or that I have to completely rethink a project. What’s worse is if I spend a whole day on a recipe and it flops.

Although it appears I take every opportunity given to me, I take about half or less of the projects offered. If you look at the projects above, you might be surprised they were even for companies because they are just the types of projects I would want to share with you anyway. Since the companies supply a budget for supplies, it helps to offset some of the costs to crank out this many projects monthly.

Time management is a tricky terrain with a juggle like this. I have learned that is better to tackle a few recipes in one day and then edit & write the content the other days. Many days it looks like a bomb exploded in my house because I am in some stage of creation for someone. It doesn’t make my Type-A heart very happy, but it is one of those things that comes with the job. I try to look at it the way I see my kids LEGO’s all over the floor or all their art supplies out, I am just proud they are creative and they are making something. I want to always be surrounded by creativity.

Basically, I take it all day by day.

How Does Your Job Impact Your Family Life?

I am so thankful for my job because it usually has a positive impact on our family life. My kids and I see these projects as opportunities to spend time together and the recipes that I create in our kitchen are enjoyed by all at our family dinners. How many people get to craft all day long and call it work? Not many! It almost sounds too good to be true sometimes.

I have gotten to travel to places that I thought I would only read about in books, I got to fulfill a life goal to write a book, my kids have gotten to go to places we couldn’t have afforded, and I’ve met a lot of truly amazing men & women who blog that my life would have never crossed paths with.


Let me be honest though, there are positive and negative aspects about my work. For example, since our holiday content is written months in advance, I am usually not sitting around making rainbow cakes with my kids on St. Patrick’s Day or being a super creative parent like I want to be. By the time the holidays roll around, they are usually lucky if I dye their milk green because we have already done those projects together ages ago and I am on to the next holiday.

Traveling can be hard especially when my jobs end up interfering with family events. One year I had to travel on my daughter’s birthday and I cried a lot over that. It didn’t matter that I had thrown three parties for her, I was not there on the actual day. Inevitably, some kid gets sick or they have a fancy holiday show and I am off promoting the latest product for a company or have a speaking engagement for my work that has been planned months in advance. I am thankful for Skype on days like those so that I can see their faces and feel like I am there. I am sure every working parent feels that way sometimes.

Operating at a frantic pace each week can also have negative impacts on me and my health. I was two years overdue for a lot of routine check-ups for myself this year, my stomach issues have increased, and there are times where I feel completely overwhelmed or just don’t want to do all of this. It is hard to escape your work when it is always there!

We are not celebrities by any stretch of the imagination, but our family does not have an anonymous life. Some of us thrive better than others with this and there are days where we miss that.

There are times where I want to be political or snarky, but I worry how that might reflect to my readers so it definitely censors me in my social media life.I am sure this is a good thing in the long run.

All in all, the positives have outweighed the negatives though. If it starts to turn the other direction, we will have to make a decision to continue or not as a family. We operate under the, “All for one, one for all,” family motto. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Have a question for me? Feel free to ask it!


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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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Preparing for the Holidays

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

Photo Credit: Nancy Lary Studios

Preparing for the holidays can be a stressful time for families Planning ahead and breaking the preparation down into manageable steps is key to holiday survival.

This year I will be hosting our family’s Thanksgiving, launching a book, celebrating my daughter’s birthday, celebrating Christmas with two sides of the family, and trying to ring in the New Year. Am I scared? You bet!  Just the very thought of all this could make me break into a sweat and cause me to want to throw the covers back over my head until this is all over. I am already working on my timeline to still have a wonderful holiday and accomplish all I need to and I wanted to share it with you.

This week I am sharing my timeline for preparing for the holiday season over on the Kenmore blog! I am offering an easy timeline to help you get things done and actually enjoy your holidays this year!

Head on over to check out my ideas for accomplishing that holiday to-do list! I hope you’ll join me over there!

How to Ditch Your Cable Bill

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

A few months ago our family made the radical decision to turn off of our cable television. It might not seem like a radical decision to you, but for a family of self-proclaimed television junkies, it felt bold to call our television provider and tell them that we were ready to turn off our channels.

With so many fantastic options available to families, it is so much easier to say no to the cable bill thanks to online television and innovative ways to indulge in your favorite shows. It might surprise you that this article is not about getting rid of your television and singing Kumbaya because our life is so much better without TV.  No, we still love our television and I wanted to share with you how to get your fix for less and how to slash your cable expenses for good.

I will fully admit that there was a bit of bribery involved to get my family on board with the decision to turn off our cable.  We found an Xbox for less than half price on Craigslist from a family that was looking to downsize their electronics and gave this to ourselves for our family Christmas present. This gaming system was my ticket to get everyone on board with my decision to let our cable bill go.

If you are looking for ideas for how to get around your cable bill, here are a few of our own family’s favorite options to maximize your family’s entertainment budget.


Roku Player (starting at $49.99)

For families that don’t have a gaming system to view television through (like the Xbox, Wii, or Playstation) this little box can be a wonderful option. Your Roku hooks up to your television and allows you to play through subscription-based programs like Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, and Amazon Instant Video on your television. Your Roku player can hook up to your home entertainment system and give your entire family the opportunity to watch something together on the couch rather than sitting at your laptop.

The only downfall with the product is that you really do need to have a high speed internet connection, as are most streaming options. If you have a DSL connection we found that the viewing can be a little bit like watching something on You Tube.

The Roku Player is surprisingly easy to use and simple to integrate into any home entertainment system. The interface is extremely clear and hook up took literally a couple of minutes. For homes with wireless Internet connectivity, the player is Wi-Fi enabled and offers the ultimate in placement flexibility. With the player’s accompanying remote control, members can browse and make selections right on the TV screen and also have the option to pause, rewind or play your favorite shows anytime just like a DVD.

There are no monthly fees attached to the Roku Player, but it enables you to watch your shows and online subscriptions in one place.

This is the player that we use in our own home and we have no complaints with this fabulous option. There are other similar products on the market like the Apple TV and the Boxxee Box, but I love the affordability of the Roku Player and what viewing options are available on it.

Game Consoles ($149-300)

Game consoles can be a wonderful bang for your buck because they offer unlimited entertainment through gaming as well as a platform for you to watch your favorite shows and movies. It is important to make the right investment for your family when choosing whether you want the Wii, the Playstation 3 or the Xbox 360 based on your own family’s entertainment needs. It is also important to understand what is included with each game console and what are extra expenses you may have later down the line.

Below is a basic price breakdown on what is included with your gaming system, what the costs of games might be, and the graphics quality for each gaming console (found on Amazon).

(click to expand)


Our family loves playing games together and having a gaming system has been a great way for us to spend time together. We have never bought a full price gaming system though and have had great success finding used consoles for half the price of retail price. Not only have we found our consoles for less, but when we have found these units on Craigslist, the sellers are usually getting rid of their games, controllers, and accessories that go along with them and will sell them to us for a fraction of the retail price.

We use both our Wii and our Xbox 360 for streaming Netflix and watching Hulu Plus. Both of them are fantastic for this purpose as well as fun weekend entertainment for us as a family.


Channel & Movie Subscription Options


Play On ($29.99 annually or $4.99 a month)

Play On is an easy way for you to watch your favorite videos, shows, and movies from websites such as Netflix, Hulu, YouTube and more on your TV using your Wii, Xbox 360, or Playstation 3 over your home internet connection. PlayOn also works on your iPhone or Android phone.

When we turned off our cable, we were missing some of our favorite shows on some of the channels we watched. Play On is almost like having a cable subscription without the outrageous price since they offer many channels that would have to get with a premium cable package. Hulu Plus offers many of the same networks, but not necessarily the same shows that are available on the network.

My children love to watch PBS and Nick. We have found many of their favorite shows that they love through Play On and the cost is an affordable one for less than $30 a year (or a fraction of one month of your cable television).

Hulu Plus ($7.99 per month)

The majority of our TV-watching is now done through Hulu Plus and we absolutely love it. We have beautiful HD television, something we couldn’t afford with our cable bill, and almost all of our favorite shows are available through Hulu Plus.

Hulu Plus lets you watch hit current and back season TV shows and acclaimed movies anytime in HD for $7.99/month with limited advertising. For many popular shows on their service, Hulu Plus offers every episode of the current season, not just a handful of recent episodes.

Hulu Plus can be viewed on multiple devices, including your laptop, the Apple iPad and iPhone, PlayStation® 3, Roku, and TVs and Blu-ray players from Sony, Samsung and Vizio.

You can watch shows for free through Hulu and not buy the Hulu Plus membership. The main difference between your free television experience and the paid subscription is how you view it. With Hulu Plus you can take advantage of the multiple viewing devices, but with the free membership, your viewing is limited to your PC.

Netflix ($7.99 a month)

The other streaming membership that gets a workout in our family is our Netflix membership. Although I feel that the quality of the movies and shows available on Netflix has been deteriorating in the past few months, we still get our money’s worth from this membership.

For $7.99 a month, Netflix members in the Americas, United Kingdom and Ireland can instantly watch unlimited movies and TV episodes streamed over the Internet to PCs, Macs and TVs. Among the large and expanding base of devices streaming from Netflix are: Microsoft’s Xbox 360, Nintendo’s Wii and Sony’s PS3 consoles; an array of Blu-ray disc players, Internet-connected TVs, home theater systems, digital video recorders and Internet video players; Apple’s iPhone, iPad and iPod touch; Android and Windows tablets and phones; and Apple TV and Google TV. In all, more than 700 devices that stream from Netflix are available.

Our family relies on this for our weekend family nights. My husband and I use this for our documentary fix while the kid’s enjoy many of their favorite seasons of Disney & Nick Jr. shows through this membership.

We are hopeful that Netflix will have more viewing options available, but what we can’t get through Netflix we supplement with our Redbox rentals and our fantastic library system.

Digital Antenna ($12-50)

When I say the word antenna, do you think of those giant rabbit ears? I did too. You won’t believe how far those rabbit ears have come and how elegant your antenna can now look. This Paper Thin Leaf Indoor HDTV Antenna ($39.19)  is just one example of how streamlined the antenna has become. Your friends will never know that you are one of “those people” watching television on their rabbit ears.

With a good digital antenna it is possible to get dozens of local channels in HD with this small investment. It is worth it to make a good investment in your digital antenna if you are relying upon this for your television because a better quality one is able to pick up a wider range of channels in your area.

We found our digital antenna for less on eBay and we use this for watching things like the Super Bowl and other shows we prefer to watch live. I am always so impressed at the quality of the television we can get through this and I love that we no longer have to pay The Man for our local channels.

Clicker- (FREE)

Finding all of your favorite shows can be hard when you are watching from multiple options. I am in love with clicker because it offers a one-stop directory to see if something you love is available online. I think of it as a TV Guide for streaming television.

This site catalogs all broadcast programming online, along with TV-quality Web originals, from these silos and delivers them in one seamless, organized experience so you can easily discover what’s available to watch (and what isn’t) online, where to watch it, and what’s worth watching.

If you are looking to make the leap from cable to online television, check here and see if any of your favorite shows are available for free streaming to decide if you can make the plunge or not.

For Our Canadian Readers-


We had a fabulous comment from one of our readers, Leatitia, on our MomAdvice Facebook Page sharing what streaming options are available in Canada.

“What I use to watch TV for ‘free’ in Canada (50$/month internet bill)

Live TV many channels (including TVA):
Radio-Canada shows:
Radio-Canada live:

With those links, I can watch Star Académie, Grey’s Anatomy season 7 in French and season 8 in English, House, Modern Family, Glee, Teen Mom (MTV), Consumed (HGTV), the news, etc, etc….

I’d pay for internet anyway, so I just boost my internet bandwidth to 50G a month and I use about 40G-45G a month. I receive emails when 75% of my bandwidth had been used, as well as 90% and 95% I think. So I’m sure I don’t use more than I’m allowed to!

I don’t miss my cable bill!!”

Thank you so much to Leatitia for sharing her experience with all of us!

After three months of being without our cable, I can honestly admit to you that there are definitely moments that I do miss. I miss my Food Network, I miss HGTV, I miss the convenience of our DVR taping endless shows for me, I miss my Cupcake Wars marathons with my daughter on Sunday afternoons.

There are also things I don’t miss. I don’t miss feeling like I needed to be a slave to my television to make the most of our dollars, I don’t miss paying nearly a hundred dollars a month, I don’t miss paying for something so darn useless.

Life does feel a little bit richer. Now that we don’t have a DVR we have to catch up on we are spending more evenings together playing games, doing puzzles, going on outings together, and just focusing on being with each other a little more.

Instead of watching Cupcake Wars we are baking our own cupcakes. Maybe turning the cable off really is radical. It feels that way.

The money that has been freed gives us the chance to put an allowance towards other things we might want to do. We can put the earnings towards a movie outing, getting a season pass to an activity we love, or we can just enjoy the pleasure in the savings.

We still love our television. We just love it in a different way than before.


How do you save on your television watching? How does your family watch television now? What are ways you save on your cable bill?

Disclosure: The links to some of these items are affiliate links and are provided so you can locate what you need quickly and easily. Feel free to order your supplies elsewhere, but we always try to highlight the best deals when we see them.


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Transforming Your Mount Everest… One Hour At a Time

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

We have so been enjoying our “new-to-us home” and all of the renovations that we did to make our small spaces more livable. On this side of the basement, it has been all rainbows and sunshine. I have been spending lots of time in my favorite chairs, working hard in my little home office, and sipping coffee while snuggling under quilts in the evening with a big stack of books.

On the other side of the rainbows and sunshine was a space that I would like to call the Mount Everest of Clutter. It was where everything that did not fit into our “new to us home” went to live.  It was that room that would make my heart beat really fast if anyone wanted to see what was on the other side of the office. It was the room that I prayed that nothing would ever malfunction in because I would have been so embarrassed for anyone to see it.It was that room that made my laundry routines difficult, that made me spend money on repeat items we already had… it was that room that made me feel ashamed.

Perhaps you have a room like this? Your Mount Everest could be a craft room gone awry, a junk drawer that seems to multiply, it could be that pile of papers that you swear you will deal with next week, it could be the closet that harbors clothes of years past that will never be worn. If you don’t have a single spot in your home like this, please write a blog or book and I will buy it and read it. For me, I have many places in my life that need a little remodeling…this is just the big one for me.

I decided that I would set a timer and I would try to organize this space for one hour with no interruptions. I would avoid the rainbows and sunshine sides of my home and I would brave the rugged terrain of hideous clutter to show myself what could be done in one hour.  I would spend zero dollars.  I would commit to only what could be accomplished in an hour. I would be brave.

One hour later with zero dollars spent, my space has shaped up quite a bit. It is organized enough that I now can see my floors and I can find items that I need much easier than I could before. With only that hour, I have made my Everest into a small hill. There is still work to do, but it is manageable work that doesn’t seem half as daunting.

What happens when you tackle a Mount Everest? Well, sometimes a ripple effect seems to happen. When you organize a space, you find an unused item that could help organize another hill of clutter in your home.

This little bookcase happened to be in that pile of clutter in our basement. After a good dusting, it found a new home in my son’s room. He had oodles of books that were taking over his desk and drawers. This bookcase matched perfectly with his room and is a useful storage tool for all of his reading materials.

This little nightstand in his room was no longer needed and was moved into a tiny corner in my bathroom for bathroom storage and to make finding the important things that might be needed by our guests (*ahem*)  easily accessible.

In that hour, I feel a little bit of those rainbows and sunshine pulling through in cringe-worthy spaces from before. It is just a start, but it does feel like a good one!

Want to tackle a Mount Everest of Clutter in your home? Here are a few easy tips for tackling your project today:

Set Your Timer- Give yourself a set amount of time to tackle whatever project has been bothering you the most. Remember that you can always do another round later, but see what you can accomplish if you devote just one hour to that project.

Try To Reduce Your Items Not Spend More- It can be tempting to buy tons of shiny new containers and organizing tools to tackle your clutter project. See what frugal organizing solutions you already have and try to use those instead of heading to the big superstore for the latest and greatest in organizers. You might be surprised how little you actually need.

Schedule a Regular Clutter Date- Make one day a week your day for tackling one thing you have been meaning to do, but have never gotten around to it. I try to aim for Wednesday because I usually have very little going on during the midweek, but you can make it whatever day works with your own schedule. Devote that one hour each week to a task that should be done, but just never seems to get checked off the list.

Reward Yourself- After I was done with this project, I sat in the beautiful sunshine, in my favorite chair, with my favorite coffee drink, and read a mindless summer novel. It was the perfect reward for the hour I devoted towards tackling this project. Make sure that you reward your efforts whether it be with a trip to the library, renting a movie just for you, an at-home pedicure or bubble bath, or a favorite drink. After all of that work, you will have earned every minute of that reward.

What corner of your home do you want to transform? Do you have any tips for a problem space that you have resolved? Please share!