Posts Tagged ‘Organizing’

Giveaway Results: Cheer brightCLEAN Detergent for One Year

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Thank you all for your entries! We would like to congratulate Michelle S. (Commenter #202) on winning our Cheer for a Year Giveaway! Happy Holidays to you all!

Editor’s Note- Don’t forget to enter our Tassimo T20 Coffeemaker Giveaway from Monday (valued at $139),  our $1,300 Prize Pack from The Talk, and our Nintendo Wii with Family Game Night 3 Giveaway. Check back tomorrow for more!!

Over the last few months I have had the incredible opportunity to work as the spokesperson for Cheer brightCLEAN detergent which has been a fun and exciting opportunity for our entire family. I have been working hard to share with moms easy ways to keep their clothes looking great for the back-to-school season, but my work doesn’t end there since a mom’s work with laundry and clothing is never done!

Today I wanted to share with you some easy tips for organizing your closet in under 30 minutes. If you are limited on closet space, like me, or you simply like to organize your clothes by season, I have a few easy tips to incorporate in your life to help keep your closets organized and fresh!

Pull All of the Clothing Out of the Closet- To begin organizing your closet, you really need to know what is in it. Begin pulling all of the clothing out of the closet and eliminate any items that have not been worn in the last six months, clothing that no longer fits, clothing that is no longer in season, or clothes that are no longer in style.

Organize Clothing by Color- Next put your items back into the closet and organize it by color and then by type. For example, put all of the black clothing together and then organize it by style of shirt (knit, blazer, sweater, cardigan, etc..) I have used this advice over the years,  that was offered to me by my closest fashion confidant, Kathy Friend. Sorting items by color makes it easier to find what you need quickly and also discover what areas in the color scheme needed a boost and what areas need some scaling back.

Repeat these steps above for your children’s closets and I am sure you will notice a true difference in how easy for you all to get ready in the morning!

Store Your Out-of-Season Clothing- Storage depends truly on the size of home you have and the space that you can use to tuck your out-of-season items away. In our house, Rubbermaid totes are our clothing storage option and I keep my personal (freshly washed)  out-of-season items tucked away in the basement, while the kids have two bins going all of the time in each of their closets.

With my children, one bin of clothing that they are outgrowing is stored throughout the year and can be added to as items are outgrown. I have been lucky enough to have a “bin exchange” program with my best friend and we trade bins of clothing with each other for our children. When a bin is filled, I pass it on to her in exchange for a bin of her clothing. With this exchange system, I can probably count on one hand the amount of items that I have had to buy my daughter this year. It is great if you can work something like this out with a friend and by keeping a bin on hand, it helps to keep your closets tidy and organized.

The other bin of clothing that is housed in their closet contains items that they will soon be growing into, sometime in that next year. This bins helps serve as a reminder to me on how much or how little I really need to buy for the upcoming year or season. If you do a lot of thrift shopping, consignment shopping, or hit the garage sales for your children’s clothing, an itemized list of items you have on hand and sizing can help reduce the amount of duplicate purchases.

Implement a Free-For-All Drawer for Kids- Maintaining organization in your house, let alone your closet, with small children is practically impossible. I have learned over the years to choose our battles, but I never knew what battles were until I met my strong-willed and wildly independent little girl.

It is because of her that I have developed the, “Free-For-All,” drawer. This nightstand is my daughter’s drawer that she can organize and do exactly what she pleases with it. Each day we were battling her about what she could or could not wear for school. Now we have compromised and this drawer is filled with all of her favorite nightgowns and pajamas. At the end of the day, she can do whatever she wants and where whatever she wants from this drawer, provided we are spending the day at home!

Make sure that if you have a drawer for your children, that it is the lowest one or a safe one to access. When my daughter began climbing on a chair to grab her favorite nightgowns and toppled the drawers on herself, we knew that she needed a drawer that she could access with a few of her favorite things in a safe location.

Donate Often- Make donating to your local thrift store or shelter a part of your weekly routine and just imagine how much space you can reclaim in your closet and home. I like to keep a bag or bin going all week long and add as I see items that we no longer need or have outgrown, that can be passed on to someone else. It is amazing how these little things really add up over the course of the week, and how much simpler my life has become thanks to ridding myself of clutter. Make it a part of your routine just like paying the bills and caring for your home each week and you will begin to see the power you have in transforming those cluttered corners and closets.

Switch to a Wallet-Friendly Detergent- Before storing those clothes for next season and when caring for those clothes for this season, be sure to look for a wallet friendly detergent to care for them with that will keep your clothes looking fresh and bright for this season (and many seasons to come).  Do a price comparison on the detergents in your store and I am sure you will find that Cheer brightCLEAN detergent is  not only inexpensive, but that it performs just as well as the more expensive detergents.

At only $.15 a load though, it is great to know that if you need to buy it, that this detergent is very budget-friendly and they offer different (including unscented) varieties to choose from! It is a product that I am using for my own family and one that I would love to share with you! The best part though is that it will remove the day’s dinginess from your clothing and brighten the clothes you already have at a fraction of the price. Who wouldn’t want a little of that in their life…or perhaps, a year’s worth of that!

I don’t want to just talk about how much you will save by using Cheer brightCLEAN detergent, I actually want to give it to you and save you that expense for an entire year! Cheer brightCLEAN™ detergent has graciously offered to give to one of our lucky readers a year’s supply of laundry detergent. Imagine not having to pay for detergent for an entire year and what you could do with that money.

Today we are offering one lucky reader a year’s supply of Cheer brightCLEAN Detergent to help inspire you to get your closet organized with fresh clean clothes with Cheer brightCLEAN Detergent!

Leave one comment for each item that you complete to enter:

  • First Entry: Leave a comment and let us know one tip you use to get your closet and out-of-season clothing organized in your house or one tip that you have discovered through this post that would really help your family!
  • Additional Entry: Let us know you are a fan of MomAdvice and join the MomAdvice.com Fan Club today on Facebook.
  • Additonal Entry: Follow me on Twitter and get an early scoop on all of our giveaways and articles that we are formulating for the year!
  • Additional Entries: Subscribe to my feeds and never miss another thing on our site again! We have a landing page where it makes it easy to subscribe to our blogsFor each one you subscribe to, leave one additional comment.

One winner, chosen at random, will receive a year’s supply of Cheer brightCLEAN™ Detergent . Please submit your entries by Wednesday (12/22)  at 8PM EST.  Our winner will be drawn at random. Good luck, everyone!

Please check out this video below where I share more great tips on organizing your closet in 30 minutes or less!

I am a spokesperson for Cheer brightCLEAN™ Detergent and have a relationship with the company. Want to know more about how things are handled here at MomAdvice? Be sure to read our Disclaimer which clearly states how things work and know that we will always offer only the best reviews to our readers. In full disclosure, the email addresses that are collected for this giveaway will only be used for the purpose of contacting the winner(s), and will never be sold or given to anyone. This giveaway is only open to residents of the United States who are 18 years of age or older. Entries that do not follow the above criterion will automatically be disqualified. This giveaway will close Wednesday, December 22 at 8PM (EST). I’ll anneounce the first name of the winner(s) that will be added to the top of this current giveaway post and contact the winner(s) by email. I will draw the names of the winner(s) by using the random number generator at Random.org from the eligible entries received. If a winner does not contact me within 72 hours by email, I will draw a new winner. The winner(s) will receive their prize from the PR agency responsible for this giveaway. There is no guarantee that this item will be received by Christmas.

Giveaway Results: Cheer Detergent for a Year

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

Sorry this giveaway is now closed! Thank you all for your fabulous entries. We would like to congratulate Nikki (Commenter #710) for her winning entry! A huge thanks to Cheer for sharing this giveaway with our readers and we hope to offer more in the future!

These past couple of months I have had the incredible opportunity of working for Cheer brightCLEAN™ Detergent as a spokesperson for their back-to-school season. I sometimes want to pinch myself because running this site and the jobs that have come from a mom’s simple idea of teaching frugal living have been so amazing for me & for my family.

The opportunity to represent a wallet-friendly detergent and to promote ways moms can save for the school year is a perfect fit for what I do every day as a mom and I couldn’t be more pleased to represent the company.

Today I am heading to NYC to do a media tour on Wednesday for a variety of morning and afternoon news shows promoting ideas for ways moms can save in every room in their house during the back-to-school season. As the years have gone by, I have become more in tune with what puts a strain on our budget and, to me, it is often the little things that add up the most.

Let’s take a tour through the home, shall we, and find some hidden expenses in the home that could be corrected with very little effort and by making small changes in your house and purchasing habits.

Kitchen

It is the heart of the home, and one of my favorite places to start saving money! Here are some simple switches you could make when preparing those back-to-school lunches that could have a really positive impact on the family budget.


Avoid Snack Size Products- The aisles are brimming over at the grocery stores with snack-size products during the back-to-school season, but do your best to avoid these products if you can. By paying for the convenience of these products, you are paying double or triple the amount for a lot less food. Invest in a set of inexpensive containers that can be filled with your very own snacks for a fraction of the price.

Buy in Bulk- With the convenience of online shopping, it makes it very easy to shop for school supplies in bulk and do price comparisons from the comfort of your own home. Jot down the prices and ounces/sizes of the products you commonly purchase for school lunches at the grocery store. When you get home, visit your local wholesale club’s website to compare the prices there and see if there is some savings by buying in bulk. I love to use this price sheet and this Price Book 101 article has great information for keeping your own price journal. What I have found is some snacks, fruits, vegetables, and drinks can be bought in bulk for a lot less than buying them in the standard sizes at the grocery store.

Chop and Create At Home- Designate one day a week (my day is on Sunday) to creating your snack packs and making items that can be tucked in your children’s lunches. For example, instead of buying pudding packs ($.89 for four at Aldi), buy a box of instant pudding and make it at home for half the price. Instead of buying pre-chopped vegetables, chop them yourself and pay half (or less) on the price.

To keep your lunches organized and accessible, designate one refrigerator drawer towards school lunches and allow children to select one sandwich, one healthy snack, one “fun” snack, and their drink from the drawer. I even tuck commonly forgotten items in the drawer like napkins and spoons to trigger my tired brain to kick in on busy school mornings.

Bathroom

Getting ready for the big first day of school can sometimes feel like you are flushing money down the toilet, but it doesn’t have to be! Here are a few of my favorite ideas for saving money in your bathroom.

Shower Yourself in Savings- Did you know that the average shower uses six to ten gallons of water?  Consider investing in an egg timer and a low-flow showerhead to reduce water waste in the bathroom. By cutting showers down to five to eight minutes per person, you can save an easy $200 a year by taking quicker showers. The bonus, of course, is that this will help keep the entire family on schedule for getting out the door on time in the morning.

Designate Towels- Instead of having everyone use a towel only once, designate a towel to each family member that they can use for a whole week before putting it in the hamper. Two ways you could keep track of the towels is by assigning each family member a specific color of towels or you could sew a simple loop of grosgrain ribbon at the corner of each towel in a particular color for each family member that the towels could also be hung from following showers.

Shop Drugstore Deals & Coupons- While I am not a typical coupon-user for groceries, I LOVE the savings that can be had by shopping at the drugstores and combining them with coupons. Consider visiting sites like Money Saving Mom or Deal Seeking Mom to track coupon and rebate programs to score those health and beauty items for free.

Ditch the Expensive Bathroom Cleaners- Making your own cleaners is thrifty, frugal, and a lot better for the environment. Most cleaners can be made from simple ingredients that you can buy in bulk at your local wholesale club. Consider stocking up on baking soda, white vinegar, and dish soap to create your own cleaners at home. For a simple bathroom scouring paste, mix dishwashing liquid with baking soda until you have a thick paste and use this throughout your bathroom. For an all-purpose cleaner for your bathroom surfaces, mix together two tablespoons of mild dishwashing soap and two cups of water in a spray bottle and give it a shake. Glass cleaner can easily be made with one part white vinegar to one part water. All surfaces can be swiped with microfiber cloths (found in the automotive section of your wholesale club) and windows get a lint-free shine with a little of your newspaper from the recyclables.

Laundry Room

If there is anything that I have learned since school has started, it is that the laundry definitely seems to multiply with play clothes and school clothes every single day. Luckily, we have you covered with a few ways to save in your laundry room!


Switch to Cold Water- I have found that washing in warm and hot water are very rarely needed in our house. Just by switching to a cold water cycle you can save approximately $200 a year and it is a much greener alternative too!

Line Dry Those Clothes- Before the winter weather hits, take advantage of these beautiful fall days and consider line drying your clothing to save your family money.  There are many great benefits to utilizing a clothesline.

One of the best benefits of line drying your clothes is that they will last much longer than they would if they were just thrown in the dryer. Did you ever think about how much lint is in your dryer when you are done drying it? That is actually all of the worn-away fabric, that would have remained on your garments if you had line dried them. Zippers cause snagging on clothing when tossed in the dryer, but when line dried your garments will remain intact.

The second benefit is the energy-savings.  Did you know that electric dryers are often among the top energy-uses in a home, followed by refrigerators, lighting and water heaters? You will save your family $.36 a load by line-drying and you will keep those back-to-school clothes looking fresher for much longer

Switch to A Less Expensive Detergent- It may seem like a no-brainer, but switching detergents to one that is more wallet-friendly will save you oodles of money. Most brand-name detergents  cost family around $.30-.33 per load, but you can still have brand-name detergent at only $.15 a load if you switched to Cheer brightCLEAN™ detergent.That means each time you do a load of laundry, you can put $.15 back in your pocket to put towards all those back-to-school supplies. Hurray for savings!

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I don’t want to just talk about how much you will save by using Cheer brightCLEAN™ detergent, I actually want to give it to you and save you that expense for an entire year! Cheer brightCLEAN™ detergent has graciously offered to give to one of our lucky readers a year’s supply of laundry detergent. Imagine not having to pay for detergent for an entire year and what you could do with that money.

At only $.15 a load though, it is great to know that if you need to buy it, that this detergent is very budget-friendly and they offer different (including unscented) varieties to choose from! It is a product that I am using for my own family and one that I would love to share with you! The best part though is that it will remove the day’s dinginess from your clothing and brighten the clothes you already have at a fraction of the price. Who wouldn’t want a little of that in their life…or perhaps, a year’s worth of that!

Today we are offering one lucky reader a year’s supply of Cheer brightCLEAN™ Detergent to kick off your back-to-school year right!

Leave one comment for each item that you complete to enter:

  • First Entry: Leave a comment and let us know one tip you would like to implement in your house for saving during this back-to-school season.
  • Additional Entry: Let us know you are a fan of MomAdvice and join the MomAdvice.com Fan Club today on Facebook.
  • Additonal Entry: Follow me on Twitter and get an early scoop on all of our giveaways and articles that we are formulating for the year!
  • Additional Entries: Subscribe to my feeds and never miss another thing on our site again! We have a landing page where it makes it easy to subscribe to our blogsFor each one you subscribe to, leave one additional comment.

One winner, chosen at random, will receive a year’s supply of Cheer brightCLEAN™ Detergent . Please submit your entries by Tuesday (09/07) at 8PM EST.  Our winner will be drawn at random. Good luck, everyone!

I am a spokesperson for Cheer brightCLEAN™ Detergent and have a relationship with the company. The thoughts and opinions expressed will always be honest and heartfelt and no reflection on receiving samples from the company.  We promise to always do our best to give away products to our readers because it is always better to give than to receive!  Want to know more about how things are handled here at MomAdvice? Be sure to read our Disclaimer which clearly states how things work and know that we will always offer only the best content for our readers.

Back to School Recipes, Organization Tips, and Other Hidden Resources

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Good morning, friends! Today my daughter heads back to school and my son will be shortly following behind her on Wednesday. I am a sappy momma and tend to sob on both days that the children head to school. I also am the one in sunglasses for the entire day to hide the tired circles and red eyes from all of the crying. They do drive me crazy sometimes when they are here, but I miss them when they are gone.

It has been a flurry of activity- uniform shopping, clothes shopping, shoe shopping, backpack shopping, school supplies shopping, back-to-school nights,  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:

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 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:

Free Printable Lunch Box Notes

Writing Love Notes to Your Child

Fun with After-School Snacks:

Deliciously Easy Raisin Bran Muffins

Deliciously Homemade Granola Bars (I think I like the word deliciously)

Lemony Blueberry Muffins

Simple Oatmeal & Chocolate Chip Muffins

Delicious & Easy Cereal Bars

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

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!

Transforming Your Mount Everest… One Hour At a Time

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make Outdoor Living a Family Priority

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

(this article originally published on 06.30.09)

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?

I Did Not Sort My Laundry This Week…And We All Lived

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

It has been a crazy week for our family, just as so many other families, as the school year is drawing to a close. Last week I crammed in some work, read a literary classic to share for our great reads for moms section, frantically tried to finish some knitted projects, volunteered at school, hit the gym three times this week,  went to a end-of-the-year concert, hosted a mom’s night out, and tried to work on new summer recipe ideas for the site. Did I also mention that my book proposal will finally be going out into the world this week after spending the week editing it? I am a little scared about that one!

The craziness seemed to take whole new levels and my husband, at one point, said he wished he could have photographed me in one of my crazier moments. He came home from work to find me entertaining the kids, on the phone with a conference call, threading shrimp, whispering directions to him on the grill for the new recipe, and then putting the phone on speakerphone so I could take photographs of our dinner before we sat down. Ironically, it is hard to even tell you what we did last week because it was such a whirlwind. Have you ever had a week like that?

I admit, I can’t do it all and felt a little overwhelmed.

The laundry continued to mount and so I decided this would be the perfect week to try the not-sorting laundry idea that had been highlighted in our Notebook two weeks ago. When I told my husband that I was doing this for a Notebook Experiment,  he said, “That is going to be one expensive experiment if it doesn’t work.” Obviously, he does not know how awesome my friend Laura is and how I was willing to take a gamble and see if it would work.

We have a front-loader (which I absolutely love) and so I had to read through her comment thread to figure out where to put the vinegar, which was supposed to help set the color in my load. I have used vinegar in the past as a fabric softener, particularly when we were cloth diapering, but had never thought of it as a tool to set color.

After reading through the thread, I put my regular detergent in the detergent dispenser, my fabric softener in the softener dispenser, and the 1/2 cup of vinegar in the bleach dispenser. I ran it through the Normal cycle selection and then ran the dryer on the Normal cycle selection after it was done washing.

Here are  my son’s uniforms after this mixed-up load went through the dryer. The whites were still white and the blues still blue. I won’t say I didn’t feel completely weird about this experience and can’t say if I would do this all of the time, as I value my pearly white socks and white undershirts a lot and love using my Whites cycle on my washing machine to make everything look like new again.

For a week like this one… it was exactly what I needed to get things done.

What are some ways you save time or money on doing your laundry loads? What system of sorting/tackling laundry seems to work with your family? Do you sort? I would love to hear your ideas!

Welcome to Our “New To Us” Home

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

Small space living has never defined who I am or stopped me from being the best hostess I can be in my house. While some might shy away from space challenges, I have opened our home until it practically screamed for mercy to every friend and family member I possibly could.

Of course, small space is all relative, isn’t it? Our home is 1,500 square feet. While that may sound like a lot or a little, the space is made smaller and more challenging with a tri-level floor plan. If it was spread on one or two levels, it would feel much larger. I think it is the floor plan that is more of a challenge than the square footage of our home.

Despite the challenges as they existed, I can cram an entire Bunco group of 17 in my little house, I have hosted large birthday parties for my kids, an entire Redbook photo shoot in my home, a news crew out monthly so I could share frugal tips, and  Thanksgiving dinner was made and people shoved into the crevices of  two rooms for a delicious family feast. Small spaces should never stop you from sharing your home with others… although it might take a little furniture rearranging to make it happen!

That being said, I knew that there were ways that we could make the most of the spaces we already had. It started with the knocking out of a wall to create more open space in our kitchen. We felt like we had an addition to the space we already owned. What other possibilities could happen within our existing walls?

In the middle of the night, one January evening, I sat up in bed and had a vision for what we could do to make it work. I cornered my husband in the wee hours of the morning and explained my vision for the space. He looked at me like I grew another head and said I could get estimates, but the ball was in my court.

The estimates rolled in, the numbers crunched, the contractor for the job chosen, and just three weeks later, we have a brand new home.

All this said without the agony and woe that I experienced over the difficulties of living without flooring, a film of dust on everything I own, the close quarters that we endured, the challenges of keeping two children out of the way, the demise of our marriage, the demise of my parenting abilities, the irritation of losing my privacy, the crap food we ate, the budget we completely blew on eating out/entertainment, the cluttered and disgusting home I have had to live in, the short fuse that I never knew I possessed, the copious amounts of coffee I drank through the project, the glass of wine I drank to unwind in my dusty tub every night,  the day I cried in the garage in my bathrobe in front of one of the workers because I couldn’t find a specific paint color…Yeah, all of that is shamefully shoved under my welcome mat to never be spoken of again.



Pictured above is my family room before. This is where our family spends the majority of our time. Our two couches were crammed and people had to scoot their legs through a narrow opening to get behind the coffee table. One rocker in the corner couldn’t rock because the space was too narrow and had to be shoved against the wall. The room was long, but narrow, making it a difficult space to navigate. My furniture was bulky, but bought for a house in Massachusetts that we owned that fit that space perfectly.

The television was placed into an empty closet and framed with curtains. This definitely helped us free up some space since the entire television unit was out of the way, but the space was still small.



Next to our family room was the office/home gym equipment. The main challenges with this space…well, there were a lot of challenges with this space. It was in the heart of the activity of the home so I could hear the television through the walls when I was trying to work, the closet couldn’t be shut because of the length of our desk so I had to look at my clutter all of the time and if the treadmill was used in the mornings, it woke everyone up in the house.

Below that level of the home, was this half of the basement that was not being used for anything except to hold a bunch of junk in our house. As I was partying it up at BlissDom, my hubby was clearing this room for a major transformation to happen. It was a underutilized space that could potentially be awesome.


The kitchen had some storage challenges that I wanted to address. My pantry was so small and lacked the storage space that I needed for our food. I had to keep our food in the basement and go down two sets of stairs to get to the food storage at the bottom of the steps.

The console table in the kitchen made it difficult to maneuver around the kitchen table. We liked having the computer in the kitchen, but we needed to create a space for it that wouldn’t conflict with our eating space or make it difficult for our guests to dine at our house.  We knew that when the computer is phased out, we would likely put a television in that spot for our fun family nights.

Our entryway was fine, it just needed a spot for wet boots. We would love a new front door, but it wasn’t in the budget for now.

The kitchen floors were not my first choice for flooring, but I was okay with them…until the flooring started falling apart. The floor had not been installed properly and we had potential problems on our hand. For example, no flooring had been installed behind the dishwasher which makes it difficult to spot leaking if it occurs. Around the stove, the pieces were shifting. When the contractor agreed to give us the floors at builder’s cost and not charge for the install and give us a new entryway (in exchange for my husband’s web design services), we were on board!


The entire project took three weeks of them working on our home from 8-5 every weekday and two of the three weekends we had drywall and electric being done. That being said, the changes in that short time are jaw dropping. I still can’t believe that this much can be done in such a short time span.

Welcome to my new-to-me home! Pictured here is the new entryway that has been tiled for all of those muddy boots and then transitions into our new laminate flooring. We chose this plank-style laminate flooring because it had a beautiful faux grain to it and looked like hardwood without going the hardwood route. The tile was leftover from another job that the contractor had done and I loved the beautiful earth tones this porcelain tiling had in it.

This is the new kitchen wall with the cubbyhole built in for our computer. We added an extra shelf above for decoration or to hide the DVD’s and CD’s that we pick up from the library. I love that the kids can pull a chair into this spot to work on the computer and that we can watch family movies together in this room. They added a light above it to light this little area in our home.

All of the doors were updated with new six panel doors and new door hardware. This was one of the twelve doors that was replaced and painted white. Just these details alone made our home feel so much more modern!

The pantry shelves actually extended further than the door and I requested that they make them as big as we could fit into the space that we had. They are heavy-duty shelves that were painted white.

To me, this is truly one of the most exciting things in the house. I have always wanted a pantry in my kitchen and this space is going to be put to good use. I am in heaven and was so excited to organize and fill this space with our food.  Grocery day just got a whole heck of a lot easier!

I have plenty of space on bottom so I put our potatoes, extra soda, and my reusable grocery bags there. It is so nice to have all of this extra room!

Heading down the stairs is our brand new family room. You can see how it is one room now instead of two. A supporting beam was put in and the wall was taken out to create one room instead of the two smaller rooms that we had before.

I am so proud of how the family room turned out and amazed at how much more spacious this room is. The kids are nuts about their new space, in fact, they have been running themselves silly around the room with all of this extra space. The updated trim, canned lighting, and textured ceiling really made this space so much more updated!

The disorganized home office closet has now become a functional space for our kid’s toys and family games. The doors can keep the chaos away and the kids love that they each have their own shelf in the closet for their toys.  A special spot for my vacuum was also carved out so I don’t have to figure out where to put it anymore!

Down below our basement is the subbasement where we decided to put our new home office. I can keep the door open and have coffee downstairs while the kids play or I can lock the door and keep the chaos away or just leave the door slightly closed so I can get a little quiet time to work.

This is our new home office! The flooring matches the kitchen flooring that was installed and we brought our double desk downstairs where it would have more room to fit. Two shelves, the length of the desk, were installed for office storage.

We saw these chairs at Value City Furniture and just had to have them. The painting was one that we had already owned from Target and the bench that rests between them was a recovered Goodwill purchase years ago.

We would like to thank J. Wilson Construction for completing our renovation on time and within our budget. We could not be happier with our new space and highly recommend them if you live in the Michiana area. I am happy to be your referral too!

I hope you enjoyed the tour and thank you for your patience as we get ourselves organized and situated back into our home!

I just want to say that I am so thankful for your support and am so proud that we did this the way we wanted to- by saving and paying cash for this moment. It makes everything about this whole experience so much sweeter and that much more gratifying!

Boosting Energy By Embracing An Exercise Routine

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

I have great motivation to keep a healthy lifestyle which is what fuels me to continue to exercise and keep up with my active lifestyle. My motivators might be different from yours, but I am sure there is something that motivates you. For me, I find myself less depressed when I exercise, the aches and pains that I have seem to subside with regular exercise, I am trying to avoid the health problems that have plagued my family,  but most of all… I have the energy to keep up with my two energetic children.

I used to attend the gym regularly before I had children. On my lunch hours, I would head to the gym and take difficult kickboxing classes, pilates, power yoga, and aerobics classes. I had college weight to lose and the time to think about just me. The longer and the harder the class, the more I loved it! I would spend my afternoons at the gym and the evenings doing community theater and just thinking about me. It was just all about me all the time and it was glorious.

Those days seem a lifetime ago. My workouts have to be quick and effective,  crammed between two kid’s extracurricular activities, homework, laundry, and daily life.  I find myself trying to figure out how I can just find twenty minutes to myself. In fact, my workout routines are mixed in with children trying to exercise rightwithme and a cat that insists on rubbing against me while I am doing my ab work. Kids are crying for computer time or needing help in the bathroom and I am pausing the DVD and running back, hoping to continue my little burst in energy. What a far cry from an hour at the gym for just me.

That being said, I wouldn’t have it any other way and as the kids see me exercise, I know that I am modeling for them the importance of taking care of the body that God gave you. I could join a gym, but I have found that driving over to a gym takes more time and more energy than popping in a DVD or using the workout equipment we own at home. That being said, it requires a great deal of discipline to maintain a workout routine on your own. Thankfully, interacting online with my real life friends and internet friends keeps me motivated enough to do it all on my own.

What I have discovered is that moms need to find a solution that works best for them. The gym might be for some, but it might not be for you. Workout equipment at home might not be helpful to you, but for others they find motivation in having what they need right at their fingertips. Realize that as long as you are moving, you are doing exactly what your body is intended to do.

1.    Make it quick and convenient. Try aiming for just twenty minute sessions and do what fits best with your schedule. If going to the gym doesn’t work for you right now, stick to a workout DVD. If you can’t manage either, try a brisk walk around your neighborhood. Whatever you do, make it something that is easily doable and can be done in a short period of time.

2.    Make an appointment with yourself. Find the times that work best for you and do it every single day. If something gets in your time slot, push it back, but do not push it off.

3.    Schedule your workouts when it is best for you, not when you think you should workout. I can admit it; I am not a morning person. I have tried being a morning person and I just can’t do it. I will no longer apologize for not being a morning person and will understand that maybe I will come to a stage in my life where morning workouts work better for me, but for now I am content on being groggy in the morning and doing afternoon workouts instead.

4.    Get pumped up. Find what motivates you to get moving and incorporate that. Music is a powerful motivator for me and I love to get music from the local library and play that or load fresh music into my iPod for working out.

Others are pumped by community sites that help them track and login their workout times. SparkPeople is one resource where you can track your caloric content and exercise schedule while chatting with others through forums. Others are motivated by having a workout buddy or making a daily date with a girlfriend at the gym. Whatever it is, find what motivates you and get your body moving.

5. Challenge your spouse. My husband and I decided to challenge each other one month to an exercise challenge. I did a workout routine for 30 days straight and he did did sit-ups every single day. Both of our bodies were transformed by the experience and so was our mindset. Adding an element of competition encouraged me that I could totally take him on and added another level to my workout routine. Adding a little trash-talking in our dinner conversation also helped with our friendly competition that not only ended up rewarding ourselves with a more active lifestyle, but even added a little bit of spark back into our relationship!


5.    Get some workout gear. I don’t know why, but I have a hard time spending money on workout gear. The year 1997 called though and they wanted their workout clothes back so I knew it was time to make an investment. Buy a few good workout pieces for yourself and try washing your tennis shoes to freshen them up. Just slip off the laces and throw the shoes in the washer. Wash them on a warm setting with a little laundry detergent. After they are done, stuff the interior of the shoes with newspaper (to help hold its shape and also to absorb any lingering odors) and let them dry outside in the sunshine. Fresh workout gear can make all the difference in how you feel about yourself and can help you commit more to making exercise a priority.

6. Reward yourself. Rewards to myself are exactly what keep me motivated and what you might find keeps you motivated too. It could be something simple like a glass of wine in the evening, a bubble bath with a good book, a new pair of jeans after reaching a certain weight, a new DVD that will keep inspiring you to workout,  or a protein-packed smoothie that can only be drank if a workout is complete.

7. Switch it up. I need new routines each day to keep things fresh and keep myself motivated. I love to visit our local library and check out workout DVD’s for free and add variety to my workout routines without spending any money. If your library doesn’t offer a great selection, try pooling your workout DVD’s with friends and trading with one another to add different elements to your workout routine. If you have a movie membership, use that for a workout DVD instead of another couch potato night.

Dust off that old treadmill, use the Wii Fit that you told your hubby you would use regularly, but quickly gathered dust in your family room, grab those DVD’s that you just had to have to keep your workouts fresh, and put those five pound weights and mat that are still wrapped in their packages to work.

Do it for you, do it for your kids, do it for your spouse, do it for your body,  do it because YOU DESERVE TO BE HEALTHY! Do it for whatever motives you, but DO IT!

This is my motivation. I want to see them go to high school. I want to watch them at graduation. I want to meet the loves of their life. I want to watch them walk down the aisle. I want to hold my grandchildren.  I want to hold my great-grandchildren. I don’t want to miss a moment of any of it. I know I can do all of that if  I take care of myself and the body that God gave me.

(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 motivates you to exercise? What routines have you found to be effective for your busy lifestyle?

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!