Posts Tagged ‘Homemaking’

We Lived Thrifty So We Could Do This…

Monday, February 1st, 2010

I feel like a confession today. Over six years ago we purchased our first home and  have been steadily making progress on the house ever since. We have done everything from painting kitchen cabinets, painting walls, more painting, renovating our patio, and getting our children situated in their rooms. We have also outsourced things like getting a new roof, knocking out walls, landscaping, new furnace, and new air conditioner that were all desperately required updates on our late-sixties home.

We are coming to the end of the DIY road and now moving into uncharted territory…a major home renovation. We will be knocking out a wall to create an updated family room complete with built-in storage and fresh new drywall with crown molding. We are finishing our basement to create a private home office that will be away from the family chaos so I can write my first book (editor’s note- let’s see if anyone actually picks up on what I just said). We will also be creating a walk-in pantry with a cubby for our kitchen computer. To top it off, we are getting new flooring throughout our home.

We will be doing all of these home improvements and paying for them with cash that we have been saving. Truth be told, we are paying for all of our home renovations with the money that I earned from my site. Although we don’t do “his” and “hers” accounts, we keep my income in a separate account to track income earned and business expenses. That account is where we will be withdrawing the funds from to complete the project.

I have gotten some criticism from family and friends that we should just move into a new house and skip renovating this home.  If the housing market was better, if there were better houses on the market that fit in our budget, and if I had a desire to get out my neighborhood, I would…but I just don’t. I didn’t pour all of this money, blood, sweat, and tears into this home to abandon it because it is lacking two rooms that I would like. It makes more sense to me to invest in the home that I have learned to love so much and make the most of it. These renovations offer a long term solution for making the most of our space as our children get older.

When I think about it, it makes my heart beat really fast and I find my hands getting sweaty. Spending money makes me do that. Spending this will greatly diminish the financial cushion that I love so much. It doesn’t mean we will be eating beans and rice every night, but it will mean careful management and hard work to restore the cushion again.

You just can’t be a frugal blogger and not address something major like pouring money into a home renovation. I am very proud that we can pay cash for it, that we continue to live in a home that is within our family’s budget, and that we will be able to renovate our home to accommodate our family’s long term needs.

I look forward to sharing with you what is happening in our house, how we saved on our projects, and why these renovations will offer long-term living space for our family.

Why am I telling you this? Because I want you to know that we are still living within our means. Still paying cash. And still committed to a life of no debt. I want you to know that we even bartered my husband’s web design services to save on the project. I want you to know that the reason this blog works is because I am authentic and committed to the goal of living my life on a budget.

Basically, it feels good to share it with someone who understands the beating heart, the constant questioning of yourself that you are making the best choices, that even though you save so you can spend on what is important that it is so incredibly hard to part with your money, and that is still cheaper in the long run to update your home then to move and start paying on a new mortgage, and I am absolutely making the right choice.  Can you tell me that?

Are you saving for a long term goal in your family? What is a dream project, trip, or family experience that you have been saving for?

Boosting Energy by Tackling Life’s Nagging To-Do List

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

We all have one.  It is a nagging list of items that you intend to do, but never get done. There is always a great reason why you don’t have time to do one more thing with such a full schedule, but deep down, you know that many of the items on the list would only take a few minutes. Some of the things on your list might be routine appointments for yourself, home ownership projects that never get done, paying bills, or an errand that has been looming. How about a really embarrassing to-do? How about the fact that my daughter is four and I still haven’t ordered her birth certificate!? Oh yes, I have a nagging to-do list and it can be a total energy drainer.

I sat down and jotted down my running list of things I need to do. It is the list of things to do that swims in my brain right before bed and causes me not to sleep as well. I did a brain dump on a sheet of paper and decided that this month I would tackle all of the things that have been bugging me.

Some of the items proved to be easier to tackle than I thought. My contacts could have walked away and stood to attention by themselves because I was in desperate need of an eye exam. I called Sam’s Club to schedule an exam and they had an opening in an hour. Within one hour, I got my eyes examined, got new contacts, and took my daughter to go get her ballet shoes (another nagging thing that needed to be done). It was almost too easy.

Other things on the list took much more time. I spent an afternoon ripping out the old caulk on our tub and caulking it with fresh caulk, we repainted our bedroom to a bright and cheery color,  and I spent a great deal of time researching flight prices and getting my schedule together for the upcoming BlissDom conference.

Two thing still remains to be done…getting a birth certificate and sending out thoughtful notes to the grandparents for the holiday gifts. I promise to tackle those this week.

Let me give you an example of how much better tackling something on your nagging list of things to do could be with an afternoon of time invested.

Our bedroom really was in need of a new update. We have lived in our home for six years now and this was one of the first rooms in our house that we had painted.  This room does not get a lot of natural light into it, the art lacked the personality that I want our home to have, and it was cluttered. After tackling our closet, I was ready to make this space our own by updating the paint and decor.

We had an extra gallon of paint leftover from painting our front room and we used this same Honey Bear color in our bedroom. I already owned the bedding and just bought two throw pillows ($12.99 each) from Target to add a new accent color to the room. One shade had not been hung because we couldn’t find the hardware. After decluttering our space, I found the hardware and we hung them in the room. We took down the dated curtains and decided not to hang any at all.

My husband asked for this print of Boston as a holiday gift and I bought a poster frame ($17.99) to frame the art. We miss Massachusetts a lot and this was a way to remember our first married years together and the home and friends that we love there.  This spoke so much more of us and what we love than a picture of fruit in a basket, don’t you think? Again, this pulled in our new accent color without costing us a lot of money.

This little storage crate was one splurge purchase that we desperately needed for putting away bed linens. I have had linens in a basket underneath a side table for years. This made for much more attractive storage and keeps the linens fresh, put away, and dust-free instead of the spot they were in. I put off-season blankets in this and spare sheets for the children. I got it for $79.99 at Target, but they have it on sale this week for $59.99. (Note to self- add a price adjustment to my nagging list of things to do)

The true transformation though didn’t cost a dime. It was the absence of clutter… the wall clutter, the knick knack clutter, the useless objects clutter, the items-that-gathered-dust-but-were-never-useful clutter.

One of my favorite wedding gifts was the bowl that was pictured above. You would have never known it because it was filled with useless items. Emptied and dusted, it makes me so much happier.

The nightstand is empty and waiting for my library books to dive into, the little china saucer my best friend gave me is the perfect place to stick a glass of milk with my late night snack.

There is just so much peace in this space now and I can finally relax. One day spent tackling something that had been nagging me for months should give me many, many days of enjoyment.

(I am continuing to work on getting happier this year through the help of, “The Happiness Project,” by Gretchen Rubin I recommend you read it too!)

What has been on your nagging to-do list?  Anything half as embarassing as getting a birth certificate for your child? Please make me feel better!

Boosting Energy by Transforming the Paper Clutter

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

As I shared with you last week, I am working on getting happier this year through the help of, “The Happiness Project,” by Gretchen Rubin.

The first month of her book focuses on boosting energy and has several ways that you can do that.

I have been working on four specific goals for this month.

1. Going to bed on time.
2. Dealing with the nagging list of things to do.
3. Kicking clutter to the curb.
4. Returning to a good exercise routine.

Last week I shared with you my closet transformation. That little transformation helped me see the possibilities that our space could hold if I could let the clutter go. This past week I have taken not one, not two, not even three…No, I have taken SIX car trunks full of clutter to Goodwill to reclaim my home.

As each batch of clutter leaves my home, I am discovering  the potential of my home and the potential for my space to be exactly as I want it. It might not be a space that resembles the pages of Real Simple Magazine, but it brings me one step closer to the home I desire.

Ironically, I asked my husband if he had noticed the house potential peeking through the clutter after my sixth trip to the Goodwill drop-off box.  “Do you even know what is missing?” I asked. He looked around and said, “I guess I will figure it out when I try to find something.” Yes, we don’t even know what is missing which goes to show how little those items had meant to us.

Now that we had begun to see our house through the rubble, it was time to get a few organizing systems into place to get rid of the paper trail that makes its way into my home.

Finding a system that makes sense in your home and that you can maintain is the most important step towards transforming your paper clutter. What works for me might not work for you. Admittedly, I have tried more systems than I can count.

I have realized two things about myself and my paper clutter:

1) My system needs to be convenient- I would love to banish all papers down to to our home office. Walking down to the office though is not convenient though and that is why the clutter continues to build on my kitchen counters.

2) Everything must have a home- Half of the problem for me is not having a home for the papers in my life. I needed something that could house the chaos, yet I could find the papers at a moments notice.

I decided to use a magazine organizer that I had bought years ago that had housed dusty magazines. I bought a set of decorative file folders in the $1 section of Michael’s and created a folder for those troublesome papers.

The file folders you create might be different than mine, but this is what was needed to organize our family papers.

1.  Coupons- This coupon folder holds the newspaper coupons and coupons for places that we might like to dine out. I also tucked any gift cards that we might have in there so that I can grab them when we go out.

2. Emily & Ethan’s School- Each child has a folder where I can put the month’s current newsletter and school calendar.

3. Tax Information- As tax information comes through, I can add it to this folder along with any receipts that I need to keep on hand for tax deductions.

4. Amy’s Work- Check stubs from jobs I have done and reports from my ad network go in here.

5. Recipes/Crafts- I always find things in magazines or recipes that I want to try and end up losing them. Now I have a folder where I can keep these on hand for dinner or crafty inspiration.

6. Receipts- I try to tuck receipts for important items somewhere. What ends up happening though is that they immediately become misplaced. Now I know exactly where they are!

I decided to implement the same system down in my office where my cluttered desk resides.  As a work-at-home mom, I needed organization to do my job well. Again, I had another dusty organizer in my office that needed to be put to good use.

In my work file folders were these categories:

1. Current Projects- Anything that I am currently working on goes into this folder for easy grabbing.

2. Inspiration- I try to keep an inspiration folder on hand. It could be something I see in a magazine that would make the perfect article for our site, a recipe that I would like to try, or ideas from other bloggers that I want to keep in mind.

3. Product Reviews- If I request a product to review for The MotherLoot, the company usually sends a product sheet. Now it is all neatly tucked in a folder and the papers can be easily recycled once I am done with the review.

4. Contracts- This folder contains the contracts that I am under with different companies and can be referenced when needed.

The papers are still all there, but I have reclaimed my counters. What a beautiful thing! I couldn’t be more pleased or feel more organized now that everything has its home.

The next thing I needed to do was organize the kid’s art and special papers that I wanted to keep. I went to Walmart and got a two decorative banker boxes for a total of $6.88.

Each of the kids now have their own box to put their treasures in. These will go in their closets so they can save what they really love and then we will do an editing of the box in the summer for the next school year. It is just a big open box of possibility for them and will keep these papers from being strewn all over the house.

What systems have you found work for your family when it comes to organizing life’s papers? Please share or share links to your organizing systems. I would love some additional inspiration!

Boosting Energy By Transforming Your Clutter

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

As I shared with you last week, I am working on getting happier this year through the help of, “The Happiness Project,” by Gretchen Rubin.

The first month of her book focuses on boosting energy and has several ways that you can do that.

I have been working on four specific goals for this month.

1. Going to bed on time.
2. Dealing with the nagging list of things to do.
3. Kicking clutter to the curb.
4. Returning to a good exercise routine.

You may wonder why kicking clutter to the curb would be an energy booster. I am telling you, my friends, that dealing with clutter on a daily basis is a huge drain to my energy. No matter how hard I try though, it seems that it is a constant battle. I have papers coming home from school, mail and newspapers, magazines, and a constant influx of randomness that seems to enter our lives. Couple that with the “best Christmas ever”, according to my children, and we have a possible avalanche on our hands.

Yes, it is easy for me to tsk tsk and wag my fingers at others though. Did you notice how I never blame myself in this process? I can watch organizing shows and put myself on a pedestal or blame my children and their toys for the clutter in our home, but do I ever look at myself? Not likely!

Let’s look at a space in my home that is just my space…my section in the closet!

Wow, is that an energy drainer or what? Getting ready in the morning has been horrible for me and this is one space that needed some addressing!

I pulled every single item out of the closet and evaluated if I ever wore it or not. No surprise that there are many pieces in this wardrobe that I am not wearing, many because I simply could not find them! These got pulled into a bag to donate to our local Goodwill.

Using the advice that was offered to me by my closest fashion confidant, Kathy Friend, I sorted these items by color so that I could find what I need quickly and also could discover what areas in my color scheme needed a boost and what areas would need some scaling back.

Oh, black, how I love thee! Just seeing this section in my closet makes me happy. A girl can never have too many black items, in my opinion, although I did take note that my closet is a little heavy on the black and could use a little boost in the browns, greens, and blues. Now I will know exactly what to keep my eye out for when I do my thrift shopping!

To go along with my Type A personality, I also organized my colored section by style. Collared shirts and blazers were together, camisoles and tanks were in the front for easy grabbing, and t-shirts were all together in a row.

This is my closet after! I took out two bags of clothes that I did not wear, got rid of the randomness that doesn’t even belong in the closet, and got rid of non-matching socks or socks from high school (I know, so embarrassing!)

The very best part though is that I freed a shelf up and put not a thing on it. I thought only rich folks had free shelves. In fact,  I have never had a free shelf in my home and I will admit that I always blamed it on the fact that our space/home is smaller. While that may be true, perhaps my clutter is the cause and not the size of the space.

The cost to  transform this space? ZERO DOLLARS! The superstores will have you fooled this time of year and make you believe that the key to getting organized comes in the form of more storage containers and fancy organizers. No, the real key to transforming your clutter is not to organize it… it is to GET RID OF IT!

To remind myself to only keep what I wear, I went back to the Peter Walsh technique of turning my hangers around when I wear something so at the end of this season, I can do another weeding.

Now of course I started to evaluate my husband’s section of the closet and thought how nice it would be if he would go through what he is not wearing. I then had to remind myself of this year’s personal commandment- “I can only change me.”

I moved on mentally and decided to tackle the basement instead.

What area in your home is draining you of energy? Do you have a spot in your house that you are proud of that gives you a boost when you see it! Please share here!

30 Day Challenge: Reducing Clutter In Your Home

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

Today I am sitting in a home that has been greatly reduced of clutter. Three cars (front passenger seat, back row of seating, and trunk)… all filled to the brim with clutter from my home. Another load sits, waiting to be distributed to those I know that are in need right now.

It is as though I can hear the drawers in our home give audible sighs as I open them instead of groaning underneath the weight of random uselessness. There is some emptiness in places that once housed chaos.

Even the man of the house has noticed a difference around here. “This doesn’t even look like our house!” he had exclaimed after car load #1 was removed. By car load #3 there was a sense of panic. “Will we have anything left? Please don’t take my stuff!”

You may have been under the impression that I live in a clutter-free existence. I am afraid you would be wrong! What has been removed from my home?

- The purse collection, whittled down to two everyday purses and one special occasion purse. Each gently unloaded of four hundred lip glosses and hand lotions…two items which I never thought I had.

- The size zero, ones and some twos pants are now donated and no longer a painful reminder of the body that I once had. I don’t have to try them on anymore and be disappointed. I remind myself that my size four body is a happier one and remember that my size zero body was when I was depressed and longing to get pregnant. I am the happy and proud mom of two beautiful children who love me if I am a size four or a size twenty-five. Go me!

- The collection of thrift store items that never really fit into my life. I confused my frugality for a need to deal seek and thrift seek all of the time. I can remind myself that I am maturing in my frugality and now know that I am saving a lot more if I don’t seek the deals anymore. A scaled existence is far more frugal than even those items that seemed to cost pennies.

- The mismatched linens, table linens, and cups that gathered dust in my home. Now the space has been freed for the matched existence that I love. I don’t have to shift the mismatched stuff to get the stuff I really adore. Hurray for space!

- Plastic. Goodbye promotional water bottles, plastic containers missing lids, random plastic clutter in my life. How refreshing to open a cupboard and not be attacked by a plastic monster.

- Stuff I have to dust. You will have to find a new place to live because I am tired of dusting and moving you around.

Here is my challenge, all neatly outlined, and what I was able to achieve this month:

October ’09 Challenge

Challenge: Reduce the clutter in our home. I planned to commit to take one car full (minimum) to the donation box each week until we have our clutter problems under control.

Did I meet the challenge?: Yes, I did! The first car load was easy to pull together, but each pile after that seemed more difficult. I had to really think about the things in our home and weigh their usefulness which took more time and thought then I had anticipated. I am very conscious of clutter and try to be careful about this so everything, at first, appeared quite useful to me.

How did it enrich myself/others?: The enrichment that reducing clutter has been immediately evident to me. For one, I am spending less time cleaning my home. When everything has a place and is useful to me, it is much easier to tidy up and maintain my home. The benefit to that is more time to do what I love…reading, knitting, and hanging out with my family.

The best part is that once you start decluttering, it can be difficult to stop. Suddenly I was dumping junk drawers and organizing seasonal clothing, tidying the basement, and clearing out the pantry. This organized living could become highly addictive!

We also enriched other families by making our donations to charity. I know that I am helping keep people employed at Goodwill and I know that the items I have set aside for those in need in our community will be put to good use. It is a fantastic feeling to bless others when we have been so blessed ourselves!

How I Plan to Continue the Challenge: I am going to be more aware of what I am bringing into my home and if I really need the items. I also plan to keep a bin in our garage going at all times to toss items in that don’t add to the quality of my life.

Let’s be honest though… I am the mother of two small children. It isn’t just my clutter that I am trying to maintain. I know that is unlikely that I will have a clutter-free home for awhile. I am honest with myself though and know that as long as they have oodles of space to play and I do the best I can, that is the most important part. I just want to create a home that is lived in, loved, and maintain a space that we all can love and appreciate. It is a modest goal that I know I can accomplish!

Reward- The reward is the new space that I am living in and the reward of the time that I have reclaimed in the process!

Next Month’s Challenge- I don’t eat breakfast…ever. I can count on one hand the amount of breakfasts I have ate this year. This month, I plan to commit to eating something every single morning and see if it has any improvement on my day.

Want to take on a 30 Day Challenge of your own? Read more details about how these challenges can be beneficial and share with me one thing you would like to change this month!

Making An Addition To Our House for Less

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

We have now lived in our little home for six years and I am so proud of all of the changes we have made. Two of our major projects that we did ourselves were our kitchen update and our do-it-yourself patio renovation. Both of those projects were a great deal of work, but the spaces seemed very separate from one another.

We have been trying to take the 1960’s look out of our tri-level home which is no small task in itself. We have done all of the projects ourselves (with the exception of a new roof) and now we are coming to those projects where we need a professional’s help. This, of course, takes money so we are doing these projects little by little.

What better way to update our space then by replacing our tired screen door with a new patio door? This screen door was an eyesore to our space. It came complete with a grandma-ma warning security tag and the door was falling apart. More than that though, it was difficult to access our new patio and hard for me to watch my kids when they were playing outside.

We decided to hire Champion Window to come out and put in a new door for us. After measuring our space, we could accommodate an eight foot door, which would take out our old window and the rickety screen door that had been previously occupying the space.

This is our kitchen after the installation of the door. All I can say is, WOW! This door completely opened up our kitchen and brought in more natural light for our space. It has made our space feel more modern and having a view in the morning of my patio and the yard has just made such an incredible difference in our space.

This is my view in the morning. I can actually see almost every square inch of the entire yard so when the kids are playing outside, I can really keep an eye on them. I can also close just the screen portion and feel like I am outside with them when they are playing on the patio.

The best part though is that we can actually open the door with ease when grilling outside or heading in and out. The kids can open it themselves, but it is secure enough that I can lock it so they can’t get out unless we want them out there.

I feel like we got an addition to our house by just doing this little makeover to our door and I feel like it makes our kitchen renovation complete! Next up will be replacing the garage door, pantry door, and on-its-last-limbs refrigerator to modernize our space.

Tips for Cleaning Out the Refrigerator

Thursday, July 16th, 2009
Photo Credit: Thomas Lester

This week I really need to do a deep cleaning of my fridge. The science experiments that are growing in there are quite shameful. Now that you know what I will be up to, I wanted to share with you some tips for cleaning out the refrigerator.

I do not enjoy cleaning out my refrigerator, but it one of those things that must be done. I wait until the day before grocery day to do it though because this is the day where there is the least amount of items that need to be moved around. It is also a great time to check my inventory before making the shopping trip to see if I really do need half the things on my list.

When I clean out the fridge, I break out two dishwashing tubs & a cookie sheet to accomplish this task. I fill one of these tubs with two tablespoons of baking soda and one quart of warm water (no need to measure this, just an idea of how much to use). The cookie sheet is used to put all of the condiments on and drawers are emptied into the other dishwashing tub to move items quickly in and out of the fridge.

Before cleaning the interior of the fridge, fill each drawer with the same amount of baking soda solution in each one and let the baking soda solution do the dirty work while you are wiping out the inside of the fridge.
I use a rag to do the interior and just get the rag wet with the baking soda solution. Gently wipe the interior of the refrigerator and wipe off all of the surfaces and interior of the refrigerator. If the washing solution begins to look nasty, be sure to chuck it and get another tub full to clean with.
For stuck on interior stains, you can sprinkle a little baking soda directly on the spot and add just a little water to it to make a paste. Allow this to set on the stain and then scrub gently and allow the paste to remove the gunk.
Go back to your drawers and empty them and wipe the interiors of these. Now place these back into the fridge and then take your dishwashing tub of solution and empty it into the sink. Refill the tub with just warm water and add a dash of lemon juice to the water. Now use your rag to do a final swipe using just this water & lemon juice solution. This will remove any grit that might be left in the fridge and the lemon juice will give it a nice fresh scent throughout too. Dry throughly with a terry towel.
Take your cookie sheet of condiments and make sure to give each of these a quick swipe with the rag before returning them. Half the battle is just not having clean items in your fridge and this is a good way to start fresh. Return all of the items in the other tub, at this time, to their proper homes.
The exterior of your fridge can often be overlooked, but it needs attention too. As a mother of two little ones, tiny little fingerprints and smudges are all over my fridge on any given day. To remove these, use my homemade all-purpose cleaner and spray this on your fridge. I then use a microfiber cloth to clean the outside as it is still gentle on the appliance but also abrasive enough to remove any marks. Any scuffs still left? Break out your Mr. Clean Eraser (a mom’s best friend!) You can find a generic equivalent of one of these at your local dollar store.
If you have a stainless steel appliance, dip your microfiber cloth into a little vinegar and give the outside of the fridge a good swiping with the vinegar. Then give the appliance another swipe with just plain water and dry thoroughly with a terry towel. If you have soft water, that won’t show any water marks, you can just use the water to clean the exterior.
Now when was the last time you saw the top of your fridge? You might want to hop up there on occasion and give that a good wiping too. If you have a handheld vacuum, use that to suck up any crumbs and debris. After that, use the all-purpose cleaner and give that a good wiping down too.
Just as a side note, after I clean out my fridge, I also empty the ice out of our icemaker and clean it with the same solution and dump all of the old ice out. This can be a breeding ground for bacteria, so it is an easy addition to my routine since I already have everything out.

Photo Credit: Webkim

Additional Tips:
When cleaning out your fridge, always use baking soda and warm water to wipe the insides of your refrigerator and freezers- soap or dishwashing liquid will leave a smell and can taint food.
Once every few months, remove all the food, switch off the refrigerator and wipe down all the surfaces. Defrost the freezer at the same time if necessary.
A box of baking soda can be added to your fridge and freezer to neutralize those smells.

Frugal Momma’s Money-Saving Tip:
Make sure that the door seals on the refrigerator, freezer compartment, or freezer are working efficiently by closing the door on a piece of paper. If the paper can be pulled out easily, the seal is worn and should be replaced.
Make sure to vacuum your refrigerator coils (located on the back of your fridge) twice a year. It is recommended that you do this more often if you have pets in the home. Just use your vacuum with the crevice attachment attached to the vacuum hose and give it a good vacuuming. The coils are located either on the bottom of your fridge or in the rear of your fridge. Doing this will save you money because if these are clean, your fridge won’t have to work as hard lowering your bills!

Suggested Reading:

Tips to Keep White Appliances from Looking Yellow (Warning: This does include bleach so be careful with your floors and clothing!)

Refrigerator Repair & Care

Do you have any tips for cleaning out the refrigerator? How often do you do this task in your house?

Fun Ways to Make Outdoor Living a Family Priority

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

I love nothing more than lounging around in our backyard all summer long. I will do anything to stay outside with my kids and hibernate in our big backyard. Indiana winters are so long and our summers here are far too short. I really try to make the most of every moment of sunshine.

Wouldn’t we all love to just lounge around in the backyard all day with our feet kicked up? While I can’t say it will be possible every day, I want to share with you a few things we have been doing to make outdoor living a priority in our home.

Chores come first. We all love being outside and in order for me to be able to camp out with the kids in the backyard, we need to have our indoor chores accomplished. The short list for me is to unload the dishwasher, make the beds, and swipe the bathrooms. The kids have to eat their breakfast, get dressed, and tidy up their rooms and playroom. With the promise of fun and relaxation outside, we all are more motivated to do our chores inside.

For work-at-home moms, I try to get up an hour before the kids and tackle any work priorities and I do most of my work on the weekend mornings. I encourage you to read my post on finding balance to work priorities to assist with figuring out a good work-at-home schedule.

Get the dinner prep done. After I have finished the chores, it is time to get together whatever we will be eating for dinner in the evening. Slow cooker meals are a great alternative in the summer because they don’t heat up the house and can be pulled together quickly. Likewise, marinating meats or preparing meat for the grill is another way to keep the house cool and keep one step ahead of the game in mealtime prep.

Of course, anything that you can do after your grocery shopping will also give you more time to enjoy being outside. Chop up veggies and fruits for snacking on throughout the week, cook pasta for pasta salads and keep it in a food storage bag to make a yummy cold pasta salad, bake chicken for the week to dice in tortilla wraps, for cold chicken salad sandwiches, or to toss into a pasta salad. I also love to wash and chop the lettuce for the week and use it on burgers or for a light lunch for myself or a side salad with our dinner.

Take the night off completely from dinner and roast your dinner on an outdoor fire pit instead. Children will love the novelty of cooking their foods over the fire and you will love having a night off from cooking. We try to do this a couple of times a month as a fun family night tradition.

Scale back those fancy dinners and keep things simple with grilled meats, fresh veggies, and fresh fruit. Summer is not meant to be spent in a hot kitchen so get acquainted with your grill or slow cooker so you can enjoy that beautiful weather outside.

Be prepared for outdoor excursions. The past couple of years, I have learned to become more prepared for those unexpected outdoor adventures. On our door hangs a beach bag that is ready to go for a fun outdoor getaway. I keep sunblock, bug spray, towels, bathing suits, and a water bottle in this bag.

In our car, we have a collapsible bag that is filled with activities for the park. I try to keep containers of bubbles, a ball, a waterproof blanket for sitting on, a Frisbee, and a lawn chair. These activities not only come in handy for when we take a trip to the park, but they also are invaluable when visiting friends who don’t have activities/toys to keep little hands busy.

Revise your homemaking schedule with the weather. Check the forecast at the beginning of the week and try to format your schedule according to the weather. If it is raining on Thursday, make Thursday your day to clean the house. If it is sunny on Tuesday, use that day to accomplish the laundry day outside and hang your clothes on the line instead. If it is sunny all week long, then accomplish chores during your child’s nap time or after they head to bed. By revising your homemaking schedule to fit the weather forecast, you can take advantage of as many beautiful days as you possibly can.

Make the outdoors fun.
My children will play outside for the entire day, but each summer we make an investment into outdoor activities that will help keep the outdoors fun. Some of my favorite summer investments have been a sandbox, a small water table, sprinkler toys, a new set of chalk, and a batch of homemade bubbles.

My children also love to create so I also put out a bucket of water with paint brushes for them to paint the cement or to paint their chalk drawings. We also make a batch of sponge balls to play with in their water table or for fun water play outdoors. Nature journals can help them document the changing of the seasons and what they see in nature. Homemade play dough with some cookie cutters and a rolling pin can lead to fun creations, without the mess, on an outdoor table.

Don’t forget that many activities that you can get your children to do outside can also help you. I have my kids use their water toys to water my garden. My children also love to help wash the cars and wash their own outdoor toys. Have them set their own table for lunch or help you clean up after an outdoor dinner.

Make easy evening routines. After a long day of playing outside, I bring the kids inside and we start tackling the baths. After the kids are bathed, they can have a small snack and watch a television show while I work on getting our dinner ready.

This usually leads to a little napping or general zoning out as they are usually so exhausted from playing outside. With this time, I tidy up and get our easy dinner together for us to dine outside. After that the kids play outside until bedtime and I am able to put them to bed earlier after all of their outdoor fun.

Outdoor chores are accomplished by my husband & I trading off the kids to get done what needs to get done. One of us mows in the front, while the other parent is playing with the kids in the back. As I have said before though, many of these chores are just done side by side with the kids while they are playing or helping.

Remember they are only young once. Each summer, I marvel at how much my children have grown and how quickly our time together seems to be passing. I am trying to savor these moments and for me, that means slowing down our summers. While we make big plans for summer activities, I can admit that I become selfish with my time with them in the summer. The school year will begin again and we will be back to the crazy grind of school days.

Savor these moments and revise your schedule so you can enjoy each moment of them. Seek a little shade with them. Create with them. Hop in the kiddie pool with them. Indulge in homemade slushies and popcorn every single day and blame it on “the kids” and “hydration.” Be selfish with them and their time. Treasure them.

As my husband and I say after it takes two hours to put away all the outdoor toys and clean up after the dinner, “We are making memories.”

How do you make outdoor living a priority in your family?

Play It Again, Momma: Finding Beauty in the Ordinary

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

When we moved into our house, one of the things that I really wanted to change about our house was the landscaping. There were, however, many more pressing concerns though that required our funds and attention- a leaking roof, a monstrosity of an air-conditioner, cosmetic updating that made the space more livable. All of these repairs have trumped the landscaping funds for now and we have been doing things little by little in our yard.

One of the things I have disliked the most though has been one of our side beds. It is filled to the brim with giant ferns. The ferns are enormous and I have to mow through them to cut the grass. I don’t find them all that attractive and they keep popping up in my other beds. Each year I have vowed that I am going to rip them out, but my efforts usually end up on other things and I forget about it…until the ferns pop up the next year.

When we had the original owner out to our house last summer, she commented how pleased she was to see those ferns there. They came from her father’s lake cottage and she brought some back each time she went. Her eyes were misty as she told me how happy she was to see each of those ferns there and she shared with me her happy memories of planting them and the summers with her dad. I began to see the ferns in a different light than I had before. To her, they were a thing of beauty and held wonderful memories of her family’s summers.

Last night I brought bunches of them in and started putting them in recycled single-size coffee jugs. They looked so pretty all fanned out that I started putting them in each room, adding a touch of green here and there. I marveled at how beautiful they were and how they added that little bit of life I needed to my living space.

Frugality is a lot like that though, isn’t it? Sometimes it takes seeing all that you have through another pair of eyes to appreciate all of the bounty you already possess. My yard was filled to the brim with vases of green and all I had to do was pick it from my own backyard. Yet, each year I grumbled about mowing around them, shaking my fist as more ferns popped up.

Sometimes it just takes someone else pointing out the beauty for you to appreciate the ordinary.

Notebook Experiment: Can I Make A Pretty Wreath for Our Door?

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

Experiment: Can I make a pretty spring wreath for our door OR can I attempt one of the most craftiest crafts ever for Mother’s Day?

Experiment Taken From: Notebook Entry03.18.09

Materials Needed: Please see A Soft Place to Land for the full instructions. I did everything that was instructed by Kimba to create this beautiful wreath.

Results: This has to be one of the most ambitious projects that I have ever done, but it certainly does make for a great story.

My best friend & I decided to attempt Kimba’s infamous lemonhead wreath after I featured it in our notebook. We agreed to split the cost on supplies and each make three of these wreaths- one for ourselves and two for each of the moms in our life.

First, we ordered SIX POUNDS of ping pongs. I swear, the guy that we ordered them from (off of eBay) thought that we were throwing the world’s biggest beer pong tournament. I can’t say that explaining we were making wreaths out of them cleared up any of the confusion. After we spent $65 to buy enough ping pongs, we then set off to buy the rest of the craft supplies to complete them.

Spray paint, flowers, glitter, adhesive, wreath forms, ribbon, hot glue- another $65 was spent to get these babies yellow and sugared for our front doors. Kimba never said that this was the most frugal craft, but wreaths are expensive and our mom’s are worth it so we got the supplies and headed over to my house to start plugging away at putting these together.

Spray painting ensued, 144 ping pongs glued around each wreath, more spray paint, adhesive, glitter, attaching flowers, bow-making craziness. Two days of truly hard work, but my gawd, I was getting this craft done and they were going to be the best gifts in the whole dang world.

After all of the blood, sweat, and still picking the yellow paint out of my fingernails, here is our final look:

And one more picture that is exactly the same, but I deserve it after all of that work:

Conclusion: I am so happy with my wreaths, but trying to tackle three of these might have been a tad bit TOO ambitious. In all seriousness, I am so proud of these and I know my moms will absolutely love them. May I also say that if THIS happens to any of these precious wreaths, you may need to lock me up in the mental institution.

This will go down in history, as the most ambitious Mother’s Day craft in the history of my life!


I am so excited to open our Notebook Experiments up to everyone and I hope that you will be able to participate this week or in weeks to come! I will be posting this each Wednesday so please mark your calendars if you plan to participate. You can post your entries at any time throughout the week and then leave your entry in the links below.

We have this handy banner that you are more than welcome to use, but it is not a requirement! It is just something you can add to add a little sparkle to your entry.

Rules for Participation:

1. Choose anything from any of our notebook entries (past or present) to do with your family. We have hundreds of bookmarked links of crafts, ways to save money, and organizing ideas.
2. Complete an experiment from the notebook and share about it on your blog or website. We would love to see pictures of what you accomplished or a detailed description of how your projects turned out. Please include a link to this entry, a link to the original posting of the entry (at the original crafster’s blog), and (to help us relocate the project) the date or link of the notebook entry where you found it. You can use the same formatting as our entries or you can just include that information in your post in your own unique way!
3. Post a link below. Please include your name or blog name & a fast description of your project. Example- MomAdvice (WHO bread)

I can’t wait to see what you create and what you find inspiring!