Posts Tagged ‘Home & Organization’

Smart Strategies for Saving Time & Money When Flying

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

How to save money and time when flying

Over the years, I have been doing a lot more travel than I ever dreamed I would be doing. When you travel frequently, you quickly learn that:

  • you need a lot less than you think you do
  • proper planning will save you hours of frustration
  • and each trip is a lesson on how to do it better

I wanted to share with you a few tips to help you save time and money on your next flight. These are my tried and true strategies that I employ each time I fly and I hope they will help you on your next trip.

How To Save Money & Time When Flying

1. Check in Online

The biggest timesaver for me has always been taking the time to check in for my flights online twenty-four hours before my flight.  You can save so much time and can also avoid having to wait as long at the airport if you have checked in for your flight early. What would normally take an hour can now take twenty to thirty minutes just by using my computer at home.

While you are checking in online, print out all of the documents you might need for your trip and store them in a folder together. I keep all trip itineraries, meeting information, agendas, and check-in information for the returning flight together.  Pull this together with your freshly printed boarding passes and put this in your carry-on luggage or purse for easy access.

Pack light and smart for air travel

2. Keep Your Bags Light

Most airlines now charge for you to check in your luggage, not to mention the hassle of waiting at baggage claims for your luggage to arrive when you are anxious to start your trip.  The largest allowed size for carry-on bags is 22×14×19 inches, but you can maximize your packing by in a quality soft-sided carry-on bag, which will be roomier than a more rigid bag.  Just by packing light, you are able to shave approximately $50 on a round-trip flight!

If you are traveling as a family, divide the luggage up between each family member and consider investing in one small roller bag for each child that they will be able to maneuver themselves.  Child size luggage can be found at discount stores like Target, Walmart, TJ Maxx, and Marshall’s. Even with this investment, you can still easily save $25 on the way back because you won’t need to check a bag. The bonus is that they can use that bag for years to come, making it easy to recoup your travel investment.

The best part about keeping your bags light, though is that you can use this as an excuse to not buy so many travel souvenirs on your trip. Consider that light bag as not only a savings for not checking in, but the ultimate excuse to not indulge in those pricey gift shops.

If, in the end, you are unable to reduce your luggage to be carry-on compliant, paying for your checked bags online can sometimes save you a few dollars each way.


3. Pack Smart

It seems that it is always the people that do not take the time to pack wisely that become the most flustered or are asked to step aside by security. The most important thing to note is that Transportation Security Administration (TSA) rules require that passengers only carry liquids in three ounce containers in no more than one, clear, quart-sized bag.

Visit freebie sites like,, or and stockpile sample size toiletries and detergent for your trips that will comply with these federal guidelines. If you travel frequently, reusable travel containers can also be a fantastic investment that can be refilled with the items you already have from home. Make sure to store this bag right on top for easy access, as it will need to be removed from your bags when going through airport security.

Underneath the bag of toiletries, tightly roll your clothing to prevent wrinkling and to maximize the space within your carry-on luggage. Choose clothing that can easily be mixed and matched and make sure to prepare for what weather conditions may be awaiting you. There is nothing worse than being at an amusement park with your family during a torrential downpour and paying $15 for an umbrella or heading to a state with warmer weather and paying $35 for a junky tourist sweatshirt because you are freezing.

Last, make sure that any electronics that will need to be inspected rest on top next to your toiletries until you get through security.  The ones that will not need to be run through separately will be easier to scan if they are right on top and those that require a separate scanning will be easy to access for this procedure (remember that everything can be rearranged in the bag, once you get through security, to protect your electronics from harm during travel).

Pack dried fruit for travel

4. Thrifty Snacking

The days of meals and snacks on flights are long gone so it is important to have a thrifty snacking strategy to avoid spending $50 at the airport while waiting for flights. Pack food items that will travel well both ways to reduce your spending. Items like protein bars (avoid anything with melting chocolate), trail mixes, dried fruit, and apples are all great items to tuck away in your bag for a snack while you are waiting. If your flight is leaving during the lunch hour, spend a little time packing lunches that can be eaten in flight or while waiting at the airport. This little effort of planning can easily save you $7 per person.

While you are unable to bring any liquids through security, there is one easy strategy you can take to save on those $5 waters at the airport. Tuck an empty reusable water bottle in your bag and fill it at a drinking fountain when you get through security.


Travel Game Ideas

5. Frugal Entertainment

It is easy to keep everyone entertained on the flights, but it also requires a little strategy, particularly if you are bringing children. Consider packing one set of things to do on the way there and one small set of things to do on the way back to keep your children happy. Library books, magnetic travel games, coloring books, a deck of cards, puzzle books, and even your child’s portable gaming system are great ways to keep them entertained.

It is important to keep in mind that electronics do have to be turned off at the beginning and ending of each flight, so don’t just rely on that Nintendo DS, DVD player, or that iPod to hold their interest. They will be glad that you packed a coloring book or reading material when the time comes to switch them off. As an added savings, don’t forget to bring their headphones for these electronics, as the airline will happily charge you for each set you might have forgotten.

I hope that these tips will help you on your next flight and don’t forget to tuck those items away to save time for the next trip. There is nothing like having a bag of toiletries that are already packed, a special set of items that are already preset in your bags to keep the kids entertained, or  the travel pillow already packed in your bag to save you time for your next trip.

If you want more great tips on travel, be sure to visit our Organized Travel article before heading out for your next vacation!

What are some ways that you save time and money when you are flying? I would love to hear your success stories or lessons learned!

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Declutter Your Space & Rid Your Life of Clutter Forever

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

How to Declutter Your Home from

This year I went on a journey towards being truly serious about decluttering our home of unnecessary items. I would conservatively say that we have reduced our belongings easily by 50% and I still feel that there is more that we can do this year. Is your dream to declutter your space this year and rid yourself of clutter forever? It is a common resolution and I am living proof that this is achievable, although I will always be a work in progress. Please avert your eyes from my basement storage area & garage for a bit (ahem!).

Today I want to share with you a few resources that have helped our family on the journey towards reclaiming our home- the transformation is so worth it! These are the resources I used to start the journey towards a clutter free space and I can’t wait to share them with you.

Join me on the Goodwill Tips blog today to learn how to declutter your space & rid your life of clutter forever!

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Creating Your Own Back to School Traditions

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

I may have mentioned (or spammed you) last week with all of the pictures of my kiddos off for their first day of school. Now that the kids are back to school, I am reminded of all of the wonderful traditions we do in our family to celebrate the back to school season.

This month I am over at the Goodwill Tips blog sharing some fun, easy, and wallet-friendly back to school traditions you can create with your kids, using items you have around your house or found at your local Goodwill store.

If you are a local reader, I also wanted to share the Goodwill Loves Moms Celebration Lunches that are happening in just a couple of short weeks in our area..

Goodwill Loves Moms Celebration

Thursday, September 13th – Windsor Park Conference Center / Mishawaka

Friday, September 14th – Strongbow Inn / Valparaiso

We invite you to join us! Our guest speaker will be,  Lorie Marrero, a Certified Professional Organizer and author of: The Clutter Diet. When you attend one of the celebration lunches, you’ll receive a FREE re-useable Goodwill Loves Moms Donation Bag and Lorie’s book: The Clutter Diet!

Visit Goodwill Loves Moms to learn more about purchasing tickets and more about the event!















Tips & Tools for Affordably Organizing Your Closet

Friday, August 10th, 2012

As we transition into Fall, now is a great time to evaluate what is in your closet and establish organization so you can begin preparing to add your fall wardrobes into your closet. Today I wanted to share with you some tips & strategies for reestablishing order in your closet and offer a few great organizing solutions from a store that just might surprise you.

I always lament that I don’t have a Container Store near me and I just know that if I had access to a store like that, my closets and drawers would look so much better. Who knew that Walmart offers great closet organizers and storage solutions for my cluttered life? Walmart gave me the chance to get my cluttered room organized and today I wanted to show you how I transformed my small disorganized closet into a thing of beauty.

Let’s start with a glance into my problem areas in my drawers and room. Perhaps, these are areas you are struggling with too!

Organize the Unmentionables-

Let’s start with my drawer of unmentionables and my sock bin (pictured above) as an example of a cluttered area that could be improved upon. I can never find what I need because everything is in complete disorder. There are many items that don’t fit or don’t have a match, but I have been to busy to organize this space.

With a simple compartment drawer organizer, I now know exactly where everything is. I organized socks to the right and unmentionables to the left. It took only minutes to assemble and I now feel like I am shopping my very own store in this drawer. I repeated the same process with my kid’s drawers and my husband’s drawer.  It makes this drawer feel surprisingly spacious and, at a quick glance, I know exactly where everything is.

Organize the Scarf Collection-

I have a slight obsession with scarves. They are such a fun and inexpensive fashion accessory to add to all of my outfits. Unfortunately, my collection had gotten out of hand and I had scarves tucked into my sock bins, draped over shelves in our closet and draped over hangers. I couldn’t find the accessories I needed and had run out of room in our closet for more baskets.

With one over rod scarf organizer, I was able to to put my scarf collection all in one place and have everything organized the way that I wanted it. This same simple organizing solution would be perfect for your tights or for a tie collection for men.

Maximize Your Space-

Since we have a small closet, it is always a challenge to make this space functional and to keep our wardrobes pared down so we have enough space to move everything around. Switching the types of hangers you use can be a quick and easy solution to double or triple the space in your closet. These bulky wooden hangers were hindering my husband from hanging up his entire wardrobe and I kept finding items draped over other shelves or piled on the floor of the closet.

Isn’t it incredible how the hanger switch out can make all the difference with your space? I am a big believer that these hangers can instantly transform closets and make things spacious within minutes!

  Get Vertical With Storage-

You might be surprised to know that this is my entire shoe collection. Can you believe my husband says that I don’t need anymore shoes? Me either! I had a lidded basket in our room where I would throw all of my shoes. They were definitely out of sight, but it was difficult to find what I needed when I had somewhere to be.

Over-the-door shoe organizers have come a long way and I absolutely love this organizer  for my shoe storage. The pockets were generous enough that ballet flats and sandals could slide into one compartment, allowing me to fit my entire shoe collection on the back of our door. Vertical storage makes sense, especially when you want to free up space on your closet floors!

Make Sock Storage Make Sense-

A long time ago, I purchased these organizers for our socks. Don’t they look organized? These bins drive me crazy and are not ideal storage for socks, but we had run out of drawer space in our dresser.  By whittling my sock collection down, I was able to put everything in the drawer organizer. My husband has an extensive sock collection though and many days are spent trying to find the perfect socks for the perfect occasion.

I divided my husband’s sock collection into two piles (whites and darks) and then put them in these handy collapsible covered storage bins. They were the perfect solution and got our sock collection off of the floor so that we had space for shoe storage.

Create Hidden Storage-

Other items like belts, ties, hats, and even flip flops can take up valuable storage space. Our collections of said items, may have been all over our closet floor and not easily found. With my new shoe organizer though, my door was already in use.

The backs of my bi-fold doors to my closet were the perfect spot to hide additional storage. One side now houses my belt collection. The other side now hides hat storage for my husband. Our flip flops are neatly organized and hanging by our back door outside. I would have never thought to use the backs of these doors for anything, but this was the perfect spot for these items!

What a transformation from where we started. This is my closet after sorting and organizing our space.  I feel like I got a brand new closet and I don’t have to be embarrassed about this space anymore.

Looking to organize your closet space? Here are a few of my favorite tools from Walmart that I used to organize my space! Visit your own store or shop online to find some of these organizing solutions for your own closet!

Canopy Velvet Hangers

Canopy Storage Bins (Small)

Canopy Collection Lidded Boxes (Small)

Mainstay Scarf & Tie Organizer (used for belts)

Honey Can Do 32 Compartment Drawer Organizer (set of two)

Household Essentials Revolving Shoe Tree

Mainstays Organize & Store Baseball Caps

Mainstays Flip Flop & Sandal Organizer

Canopy Handwoven Willow Laundry Basket

Canopy 3 Bin Sorter

Canopy Medium Storage Container

Mainstays Scarf Holder (Chrome)

Looking for more tips on closet organization? Be sure to visit this post for more ideas for organizing closets in your home along with a video on how to organize your closet in under 30 minutes!


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

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Spring Cleaning with Goodwill

Saturday, March 17th, 2012

vacuuming dirt off a green carpet

This month I am blogging over at the Goodwill Tips blog and we are talking about strategies for Spring Cleaning your home.

I can admit that I used to try to do spring cleaning in one week, but with endless activities on our calendar, it makes it difficult to devote a week’s worth of my time to just cleaning. Who really has time for that?

Instead of doing one deep cleaning try “spring cleaning” all year long learn how you can accomplish that spring cleaning all year long and how to use Goodwill to clear the clutter from your house. Let’s talk about how you can break this task up and reclaim your home when you don’t have a lot of time on your schedule!

Please click on the above pictures for photo credit and to access the photographer information for each image.

How To Be a Pinterest Superstar

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

It seems that everyone I know is crazy for Pinterest. In fact, my friends who may have never read a blog a day in their lives are now pinning fools.  From a business perspective, Pinterest is one of the best things that has ever happened to our website. Since starting to use it in April, we have had a steady growth of traffic averaging around 100,000 page views each month.  What is the secret to the traffic growth through Pinterest? I think it is a combination of many things that I have been working on and refining since I started using this tool for my site.

I wanted to share with you a few ideas for growing your web traffic using Pinterest and how to help your own site or blog grow. Anyone can be a Pinterest superstar, but you may need to make small changes in the way you blog to truly gain the traffic you desire.


Get Visual- For those that aren’t familiar with Pinterest, it is a basically a visual way to bookmark and categorize great things that you see on the web. Instead of a list of text bookmarks, it provides a bulletin board where you can visually see all the great projects, recipes, tips, and techniques all in one pretty space.

Since the bookmarks are visual, pictures are what get people pinning. If you have a wall of text and no pictures, no one will ever pin your content because they will have no images to grab. Of course, the prettier the picture, the more likely you will have pins and repins to your blog.  The best advice I can give you is to focus on developing your camera skills so that you can capture images that will capture the hearts of Pinterest users.

Next month I want to share with you some more photography tips, but feel free to browse our other photography tutorials that we offer on here for now.



Make Pinning Simple- Although I am not a huge fan of text on my photos, adding text into your pictures will make pinning from your site easier.

When a user grabs images from your site, they can add a few words describing why they are pinning that image. More often than not, people skip this step and just pin the image of the item. By adding text right into your pictures that describes the item and it helps that image to go a little bit further.  Perhaps this wreath picture would be fine on it’s own, but the Loopy Flower Valentine’s Day Yarn Wreath really lets the reader know that they are going to learn how to make it for the holidays.

Let me illustrate why text in pictures can be so important…


A picture of this Salted Caramel Mocha does not move me to repin this if the original pinner does not have a description. What is this? Why would I want to repin it?



A picture that clearly states that this is a Salted Caramel Mocha coffee drink? Heck ya! Let me repin that for you.



Source Yourself- Not sure what is being pinned on Pinterest from your site?  It is simple to see what your users are pinning on Pinterest.  I just go to to see the pins from my site. You can do the same thing by simply replacing the last part of that URL with your own web address.

What happens when you source yourself? You can see exactly what people love on your site and it helps to guide the content on your site in a direction that can help with your traffic grow. It was through seeing the pins from my own site that I could see what people wanted more of. When I witnessed a wall of coffee pins, for example, I knew that I should create more fun coffee drink creations. As I created more of the content our readers loved, I created more pins and, in turn, created more readers.

Make Archives Accessible & Visual- It always surprises and makes me happy when an old post starts gaining traction on Pinterest. I understand that my readers don’t have time to sift through eight years of content to find the gems. I don’t have time like that to devote to my own site so that is why it is important that you make those archives accessible and visual for your readers.

Try adding a plugin like Link Within or Outbrain that will create pictures with links at the end of your post guiding readers to dig deeper into the site. This will get people clicking and pinning into your site without the necessity of creating even more content. Make sure that you are checking Pinterest so that you can see what old posts are being dusted off and pinned.

My photography was terrible when I started the site and so I do cringe often when I see old pictures going up on Pinterest. If you have the time to switch the pictures to freshen them up, I encourage you to do that to attract more pins. Once again, getting familiar with your camera and your camera manual is one of the best things you can do for your blog and will pay you back over and over again if you invest the time in it.


Jump on What is Trending- I like to visit the Popular link on Pinterest to see what the most popular pins are on Pinterest and to help me brainstorm content for the site. Jot down the ideas and themes that you see are popular and try to create your own unique spin on popular topics.

When I saw Mustaches were trending on the Popular section, we developed Mustache printables & Mustache Mug Templates that our readers could use. Mustaches weren’t necessarily a topic that I had planned to explore, but it worked out for us when the mustache fun hit Pinterest and attracted new readers to the site.

I do think that Pinterest has impacted our content in a positive way. Niche blogs benefit greatly from Pinterest, but any blogger can find ways to weave in content that can attract Pinterest users while sticking to the core content themes of their blog. Don’t be afraid to get creative or step out of your usual content box.

Create a Unique Pinterest Board to Engage Readers- Our readers may remember our 100 Days of Summer Pinterest board that I created at the beginning of last summer. I wanted to create an activity board of 100 activities you could do with your kids to keep them busy over the summer. Instead of sitting at my computer all summer, I switched my posting schedule and used Instagram to document the activities we completed off of the list.

Creating a unique Pinterest Board that could attract new readers is a fun way to interact with your community and bring more traffic to your site. If you run a blog on organizing, for example, you could create a 30 day organizational challenge and pin ideas from other bloggers and weave in a few pins from your own site on how readers could take on a challenge like this.

Install a Pinterest Plugin To Your Site- If you want to make pinning even easier for your readers, consider adding a Pinterest plugin to your blog. We recently added the Pin It On Pinterest plugin to inspire you to pin from our site. With this plugin, I am able to select the pictures that I would like people to pin from the post and even fill in a description of the pin so our readers can simply click and have the pin ready for them, making it easier to spread your content quickly.

Pin Yourself- You can absolutely pin yourself on Pinterest and I encourage you to do that! I like to treat Pinterest just like I treat all of my other social media outlets I belong to.  I try to pin lots of other great bloggers and pin myself every ten pins or so. I don’t want people to think I am only about self-promotion so I concentrate on the things that I think those that follow my boards would really like from our site.

Pin Wisely- Just as I have shared about other aspects of my career, I treat Pinterest with the same professional manner I treat my Twitter stream and Facebook stream. While I may find certain things funny on Pinterest, I have to remember what my readers may think is funny might not be the same as my idea of funny. More importantly, working for other brands also keeps me conscious that I am pinning things that reflect well for my job with them. Hopefully one day Pinterest will have private boards where I can muck it up a bit, but for now I try to keep my pins family-friendly and brand-friendly.

Just Get Pinning- It’s time to get pinning and build your presence. Don’t be afraid to set up your own network of bloggers to help promote each other on Pinterest. Just like all things in blogging, the beauty is in the community that you surround yourself with and sharing the traffic love!

I hope you will follow me on Pinterest because I  love new friends.

I really, really do.

Let’s talk about using Pinterest for your business! What has helped you build your presence on Pinterest? What tips do you have for other bloggers? Do you have any questions for me about how I use Pinterest? Have any Pinterest tutorials you would like to share? Feel free to link them up below!

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Tips for Your Next Disney Magic Kingdom Trip & Ideas for Capturing the Magic

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

Our family spent our Thanksgiving holiday in Florida this year.  It was our first real family trip and our first time heading to the Magic Kingdom. I am a Disney newbie although I had the incredible opportunity to see many Florida sites with the Orlando Visitor’s Bureau with my son last year as a trip for just the two of us.

I will admit it, I was nervous about it all. I wanted to surprise them, I wanted the day to be magical, I wanted the weather to cooperate, I wanted the crowds to be minimal, I wanted us all to have the best time of our life.

Is that too much to ask?

Lucky for us, all of these things really did happen and we had a magical day at the Magic Kingdom.

Accommodations were provided by the grandparents as well as a cooler filled with drinks and snacks for us to take on the road and a few to nestle in a bag that I carried with me.  The truth is, we went into it knowing it was going to be an expensive day. We also went into it prepared financially for this day and I worked some extra freelance jobs to cover the expense.

Here is what we learned from our experience at Disney:

Preparation is Key

Financial Preparation- Whenever our family is tackling a big financial project, we set aside money into a separate savings account to prepare for whatever that financial goal might be. Consider talking with your bank about opening accounts for your Disney trip. Have an automatic transfer made for $25 or more each month put into this account all year long and then you will have the money saved when it is time to make your family trip.

Savings can be had when booking your travel through places like AAA and additional savings can be found while visiting in Orlando by printing a free Orlando Magicard to take with you when visiting restaurants and attractions while you are in Orlando.

Safety Preparation- I don’t need to tell you that Disney is a big place and safety is very important when visiting theme parks.  Each child was assigned a buddy to be their partner throughout the days and they were to hold their buddy’s hand while we were there.  We took additional safety precautions by printing out recent pictures of our children to keep in our wallet and bags just in case something should happen and they were separated from us. With a handy Sharpie, I wrote my cell phone number on their arms so if they were separated from us, someone could call us and reunite us quickly.

Meal Preparation- You can bring snacks and drinks into the park with no problems. We packed fruit snacks, granola bars, and bottles of water for our day in a bag with no objections. Rely on these snacks and bottles of water to help cut some of the costs. I recommend visiting this MouseSavers page to find the best cheap eats while you are at the parks.  We did get table service for the evening, but you want to call ahead since reservations can be made up to 180 days in advance of your vacation. Since we called the reservation number that morning when we arrived, we ended up at the Plaza. The table service was about twelve dollars more than the fast food service in the park and quite a bit better with a lot more food included with our meal. If you want to explore the menus before you go, you can view all the menus for the parks here.

Souvenir Preparation-  Souvenirs are a big expense and children can be plagued with horrible cases of what our family lovingly calls, “a case of the gimmies.” At the same time, I remember the amazing souvenir ears I got and how much I wanted those items when I went to Disney.  I hit the Disney store for t-shirts and small toys which were a third of the price as they were in the shops and a girlfriend recommended picking up ears at a local party store (only $5.99 each). The kids were thrilled with their ears and shirts which they wore throughout the park and they did not even ask for anything while we walked through thanks to this little bit of preparation.

Navigation Preparation- When you pick up your tickets, you can pick up a handy map of the park. Thanks to my iPhone I was able to get some reinforcement on the map with Disney’s Magic Kingdom Tour Guide GPS+ from CXI Gaming (cost was $1.99) and helped us navigate the parks easily and find what we needed quickly. We also had everything in our GPS before we left for getting to the park and how to get back to where we were lodging.

Getting the Most Out of Your Ride Time

Make a Plan of Attack- Along with your Navigation Preparation, discuss as a family what rides are most important to you and order them in a list of importance. The rides with the longest wait times we rode first so that we could make sure that we got those out of the way before the crowds and wait times got really long.  If you aren’t’ sure what rides would be best for the age group of your kids, I do recommend buying the Disney’s Magic Kingdom Tour Guide GPS+ from CXI Gaming (cost was $1.99) because this actually gave you a plan for your day based upon your age group. They have tour plans for adults & teens, parents of preschool children, parents with children ages 4-8, and senior Disney lovers.  It gave us a great starting point for deciding how to make the most of our day.

Use FASTPASS to Make the Most of Your Day-FASTPASS isn’t anything you need to sign up for, it is simply a way to place a reservation on rides with long wait times. On your map that you receive when you come in, it will have a FASTPASS icon next to the rides that you can FASTPASS. In the Magic Kingdom, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, Jungle Cruise, Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, & Peter Pan’s Flight are the rides you can FASTPASS. Head to those rides and a machine will be available to insert your ticket and a receipt will print out when you can come back to the ride with a one hour window that you can cash in on. Head to other rides with shorter wait times and then come back at the designated time to go through a faster line.

Add a free Wait Time App to Your Mobile Phone- No need to invest in a pricey Wait Time App, just the free Disney World Wait Times app will work perfectly since all wait time information is user generated. Check the wait times on the rides and use that to help decide which rides you want to go on.

Capturing the Magic

It is the most magical day of our kid’s lives and the last thing I wanted was terrible pictures that didn’t showcase just how amazing our day was.  My parents have this great picture of me when I was a little girl wearing my mouse ears, posing with the characters, sunburned and freckled cheeks, grinning with the biggest toothless grin at five that is still one of my favorite pictures from my childhood.

Capture Their View-  When Emily saw the castle for the first time…well, I could start bawling just thinking about it. I wanted to see that moment over and over so I captured her first gaze at the castle and then got to her eye level and took a picture at her level at exactly what she was seeing.  Having pictures both of them seeing this magical beauty and the magical beauty itself are captures that your family will never forget.

Capture the Movement- How can you capture the hilarious and dizzy feeling of some of those rides without movement in the picture.  Capturing motion in photography is so much fun especially when riding on the teacups. I focused on the bag in this picture as we spun around and and around.  I recommend this article if you are looking for more tips on how to capture motion blur in your pictures.

Take Fun Pictures on the Go-  My camera equipment can get awfully heavy so we took turns with the big camera and I relied on my mobile phone when I wanted to capture details quickly and easily. I love Camera+ and Instagram for sharing fun pictures on the go. It is such a fun way to take a quick photo, add an effect, and send it to family and friends to keep them updated on how your day is going.

Get a Family Photo- I will admit that I looked for someone who had a camera like ours to take our family picture. If you have a point-and-shoot,  finding someone to snap a picture should be really easy.

When I handed off my camera I switched it to Aperture Mode (Av on my Canon) and changed the Aperture to f/7.1. I was really worried we would be out of focus and Disney is a very busy place. I then used Picnik to crop as many of the background people out of our picture.

They have people all over the parks taking pictures and you can have them snap your picture for their portrait and then ask them to take one with your camera too. They know the best spots with good lighting and backgrounds for your family photos. Best of all, they know how to work cameras.

Capture the Nighttime Magic- Nighttime magic was tricky to photograph and may require a little research on your part. When I took pictures of the castle I was so disappointed. The colors were off and lights were blurry. It was not the magical pictures I had hoped for.

Over dinner, I went on this Disney Photography Blog and found this information how to capture the nighttime parade. I took test shots after our dinner until I was happy with the lighting and able to capture some of the nighttime beauty at Disney.

What are your best tips for doing Disney on a budget? Do you have any tips for making the most of your time at the parks? Please share!


Below is our big reveal to our children when we told them they were heading to Disney. It was the thrill of a lifetime to get to surprise them with the news that they would be seeing the Magic Kingdom for the very first time. It still brings tears to my eyes that we got to have such an incredibly magical day with them!

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Back-to-School Round-Up of Tips, Resources, & Project Ideas

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

I can hardly believe that our summer is coming to a close for our family.  I have to say, so far…it really has been the best summer ever. It’s not because we have done tons of vacations or been running nonstop, but it has just been being together and finally have kids at the age where outings have become as much of a treat for me as it is for them.  We have loved every moment of our summer and I am going to really miss the lazy days that we have been enjoying these last few months.

As another school year is fast approaching in our house it has been a flurry of activity- uniform shopping, clothes shopping, shoe shopping, backpack shopping, school supplies shopping,  ice cream treating, lots of individual dates with each kid, and plenty of talking about the exciting year to come.

I just wanted to point out a few of my favorite resources for moms that might help you as you ease back into your busy school year! These are my favorite resources for organizing and feeding my family during this busy time!

Back-to-School Breakfast Ideas:

Lighter Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Blueberry Pancakes (make and pop them in the freezer for the school week)

Fluffy & Light Pumpkin Pancakes (make and pop them in the freezer for the school week)

6 Amazing Waffle Recipes & Tips for Getting Your Waffle On

Protein-Packed Strawberry & Banana Smoothies

Banana Cream Pie Smoothies

Slow Cooked Oatmeal

Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls (a great way to celebrate your week at school on Saturday morning)

Honey Nut Granola

Vanilla Scented Granola

Deliciously Homemade Granola Bars

Getting Organized for Back-to-School:

One Month of Slow Cooking (perfect for those days filled with after-school activities)

The Essentials for Saving on Back-to-School

Weekly Planner Sheet

Weekly Menu Planner Sheet

Transforming the Paper Clutter

Choosing a Great Family Organizer for Your Family

Simplifying Your To-Do List

Ideas for Celebrating That First Day of School:

Back-to-School Close to My Heart Pin

Back to School Celebration Feasts with Recipes

Back-to-School Celebrations

World’s Greatest Homemade Slushies

Throw a Frugal Pizza Party

For Capturing Those Back-To-School Photos:

Capturing Your Children Through Photography

Making Lunch Special:

How to Save on School Lunches

Ideas for Making Lunch Fun & Healthy

Free Printable Lunch Box Notes

Writing Love Notes to Your Child

Fun with After-School Snacks:

Deliciously Easy Raisin Bran Muffins

Apple Pie Muffins

Deliciously Homemade Granola Bars

Lemony Blueberry Muffins

Simple Oatmeal & Chocolate Chip Muffins

Easy Cereal Bars

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Showing Your Teachers Some Love

Creamy Hot Cocoa or Vanilla Chai Drink Mixes

Snickerdoodle Biscotti

Oreo Biscotti

Effortless & Elegant Quick Breads You Can Make

Homemade Peppermint Bath Salts or Oatmeal Cookies & Milk Bath Soak

Rolled Rosette Ribbon Rings

Good luck to each of you that are on this journey again with your kids! I hope you all get off to a successful school year start.  I am sending each of you a coffee cup this size (see above) to get through all of it!

I hope these links to these past entries will inspire you as you prepare for this next school year!

An Apron Full of Giveaways: $50 Container Store Gift Card Ends Today

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

This evening will end our $50 Container Store Gift Card giveaway and I have been hard at work at tackling my organizational challenges around our house. Last week I shared my pantry before and this week I wanted to share with you what a couple of hours of hard work equaled in our house.

In case you forgot what my pantry looked like before, here is the shot of of my pantry.

After spending an evening picking out exactly what I wanted in our pantry and two hours of tossing out food and organizing the chaos in our pantry, this is what it looks like after.

Everything is now much more organized and this is my pantry AFTER our grocery day so the cupboard is fully stocked. I moved my baking ingredients all together and bought an inexpensive spice rack shelf for items like baking powder, baking soda, cooking spray, salt, and a few commonly used spices. All other items were grouped together and expired items were tossed out.

The majority of my budget was spent on jars and containers to house some of the ingredients in our pantry. I like clean lines on my jars and the items that I might get mixed up have labels on the bottoms of the jar so I can make sure I am grabbing the right ingredient. The glass jars were on sale at our local Meijer for $4.99 so I used these for items like oatmeal, whole wheat flour, brown rice, and crackers.  For items that need a little more crunch and freshness, I got the lock-top containers for $14.99. I only got two of these though because I didn’t want to waste my entire budget on them.

The shelves were all lined with nonstick gripping contact paper. My shelves had taken a royal beating from the cans and my pizza stones so I got some contact paper in a neutral tone to line the bottoms of the shelves.

On the floor of my pantry, I purchased two baskets for $14.99 each. One basket is dedicated to juice boxes and the other is dedicated to all of the small random snacks that we might take to the pool with us that had been taking up an entire shelf of boxes in my pantry before. I buy “fun” snacks for the kids to take with them when we go on summer excursions and they can select one big snack or two small snacks from the basket to take to the pool each day. This has helped us a lot with concession stand requests and is a convenient way to grab a snack on the go.

We are still working on our garage entry, but I am proud of my newly renovated pantry and hope the changes inspire you

Today ends our giveaway with Apartment Guide to help you tidy up a cluttered space in your home. Through this partnership, I am giving away a $50 gift card to the Container Store that you can use for online shopping or at your local Container Store. Head on over to the giveaway to get your entry in!


Below are the contest links-if you are hosting a contest please link it up below. Sorry, we aren’t giving away the aprons just showcasing them! Please put your site name and then what type of contest you are hosting. For example, “MomAdvice (Kid’s Movies).”

Please let me know if you have any questions and good luck to each of you!

Revealed: 30 Day Cut the Clutter Challenge Results

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

Last month I decided to challenge myself to cut the clutter in our home over the course of thirty days. My house and my life has been feeling chaotic these days and I knew that a thirty day challenge is just what I needed to get back to the roots of the organization in my home. If you have been a long time reader, you may remember the results from my clutter challenge last year. I am finding by making this clutter challenge a yearly one that it helps bring me back to center again in my home.

The closet, pictured above, is representative of what my home has been looking like. The bones of organization are there, but they are hiding amidst the overflowing drawers, shelves, and cupboards of endless amounts of unnecessary items. I planned to get rid of four car loads of items from my home and challenged myself to a weekly stop at Goodwill.

Pictured here are my first three drops to Goodwill. I have another round of items leftover from our home renovation to take over to the ReStore that are currently sitting in my garage. Once our weather finally warms up, my husband & I have a Saturday date planned with our cluttered garage.  All in all, I removed FIFTEEN garbage bags and three totes of random uselessness from our home. In these bags you would find books that we will never read, toys that the children have outgrown, clothing that is too small, a bazillion plastic containers that I do not need, bedding & blankets that are never used, shoes, & items from household projects that have been abandoned.

Can I say,  I was not sad to see any of these items leave our home?

Maybe when you see some of the corners of my home now, you will know why!

There is still much more clutter to be conquered in our home, but these corners that I have worked on really have me reassured that having our home organized is an attainable goal. If I was going to offer any advice on tackling the clutter in  your home, I would say this:

Start Small…Really Small- When I would survey my house as a whole, I could immediately become defeated. There is so much to do and my to-do list on any given day is enormous. Adding on trying to organize my house to the list and it just did not even seem like a feasible goal. Instead, start with one small spot in your home that has been bothering you. It could be as small as the kid’s bath toys, a junk drawer that could give under its weight of uselessness, or simply a single shelf in your home office.  I found that once I began a junk drawer, for example, I would then start moving into the drawer below it, and then I would move to the next drawer. Most of the time it is just getting the momentum to climb that cluttered hill that holds us back from achieving a little organization that is the hardest part.

You Don’t Need Another Basket, But You Might Need Another Donation Bag- I remember when I first began organizing my home, I considered home organization to be about buying organizers, storage containers, and pretty baskets to house everything. All of a sudden my home was filled with a dozen baskets of items I didn’t need or never used. Instead of thinking of how to make the items you have more attractive, consider if you really need the items themselves. If you don’t really and truly love or use them, get rid of them!

Sentimentality & “This Was So Expensive” Has To Be Set Aside- Two things get in the way of me letting the items go in my home. The first is the sentimental feelings that I have about things in our house. Usually it is a gift, an item that was special to my children when they were small, or something that was special to me that I would like to push my children into also loving. The other thing that gets in the way is my, “This Was So Expensive,” feeling about items that we spent too much money on, but no longer have love for.  If I could get rid of these two feelings about things, I could almost gather another car load of items. Instead, I have dedicated one tote in our basement that is specifically for sentimental mementos and we are working on passing on the gadgets in our life that we don’t use on to others that can use them.

Your feelings about items might be different than mine and it may take some time to figure out what holds you back from letting things go in your life. When you feel an attachment to an item, try to address where that attachment is coming from and if there is a way that you can manage those attachments to achieve the space you desire.

Embrace Your Power to Live Small- The more I cut the clutter in my home, the more I find that I have just the amount of space that I need in my home. When my closets began to feel too small, when the cupboards are bursting at the seams, when the basement is overflowing…those are the times when I think how nice it would be to move to a bigger home. Each time I cut the clutter in those spaces, I rediscover how perfect our home is for us. Basically, I save myself from a heftier mortgage payment AND I find a renewed sense of commitment to stay right where we are.

Our story of giving things away didn’t end there though, in fact, this is a story about the coolest thing that I have ever gotten to give away.  My husband had his ’99 Ford Focus for almost eight years and it was very good to us over the years. For the last five years though, he had been price researching his dream car and dreaming of the day that he could own a Lexus.  At the end of this month, his dream car dropped below the price of my Subaru wagon and with some serious negotiating and a couple of hours in the hot seat at the dealership, he drove that car home.

We talked a lot about what we wanted to do with our Ford Focus. While we could have gotten a little money to trade it in, we knew we could make my brother’s whole year if we gave him our old car. That very day we bought our new car, his car began to leak gas and he had no idea how he was going to get around. Later that afternoon I called to tell him that we had a birthday present for him.

I felt a little like Oprah handing over those keys.

He told me he felt like he won the lottery.

We both couldn’t stop grinning.

I don’t say this to brag, but to showcase how wonderful it can be to pass on the things we have in our lives to others. No matter how much or how little you have, you can always give with your whole heart. Look for creative ways to give back to your community, pass the items on that you no longer use to someone in need, use your talents to bless someone else in your life, and live a life of great thankfulness for all that you have.

If you have taken the clutter challenge, feel free to link up below and share some of the spots in your home that have been transformed or what you plan to work on this month. I can’t wait to see your projects and hear what you have learned from this experience!