Just another site

That Back to School Spirit!

About a week ago, I finished our back to school shopping.  Please don’t tell my friends, because most of them work in education (like me), and we are all headed back to full-time work in about 2 weeks.  Seeing school supplies in July generally makes us cringe, because we want to enjoy the last month of summer without thinking about work (for many of us July is the first true part of our vacation because we are either working summer school or curriculum writing in June.)  This year, I decided to try a different approach to back to school shopping.  Instead of putting it off or waiting for the BEST sales, I decided to get it done ASAP so it wouldn’t be looming over me like a warning of the school year rapidly approaching.

back to school

With just one kiddo, it honestly doesn’t matter to me if I save 15 cents here and there on items if it means I can get it all done quickly in one stop.  This year we were able to reuse quite a bit of her supplies from last year, so really we were only looking to replenish pencils, glue, crayons, and erasers.  And, I decided to invest in a little higher quality backpack that will hopefully last longer than a year.

To start, I saved all of her stuff that she brought home from her desk/locker from last year that was still usable.  I gathered all of those items and compared what was there to the materials list our school posts on our PTA website.  Like I said, really not too much to add.

As soon as I saw the first sale flyer at Target, I planned our shopping trip.  Our first stop was Michael’s, because all of their Crayola items were B1G1 50% off and an extra 20% off of sale items (plus we needed a frame).  I also knew we needed to add in the obligatory few new pairs of shoes and had a $10 off coupon and a Buy 1 Get 1 50% off sale going at our nearby Famous Footwear.  So, we picked up a pair of tall boots and running shoes both on clearance.  Fairly easy and inexpensive shoe shopping trip–which are the best kind.  I love shopping their sales racks, because the kid’s feet grow so fast!

Next was our Target stop.  We bought the rest of what we needed for the school year.  I checked the Target ad against our needed items, and luckily most were on sale!  We were in and out in record time.

These are the bags we picked out this year.  We actually started out with a different backpack and hadn’t found a lunch bag we liked yet.  But, about a week later, we saw the kittens in space lunchbox and decided the space backpack fit it perfectly!  I called ahead, and both were waiting for me at customer service ready to be switched/bought.

In total, our back to school shopping trip took about three hours (including drive time).  So happy to have that checked off the list.

You may be wondering what will the kid wear to school this year?  Luckily, not too much clothes shopping was needed as many of her items still fit.  She seems to hit her growth spurts around November, so I have learned to hold off on buying new pants until then.  We did replace one pair of jeggings that didn’t survive the last school year (how the knees in her pants always get torn, I have no idea) and added a few pairs of knee high socks to go with her tall boots–bought online from Kohl’s.  There are also some fun summer purchases that she can wear as new to school this fall, so it’s not all same old same old.

Pretty happy with doing our school shopping early this year.  It’s one less thing to worry about as we try to cram in appointments and last minute fun into the end of summer.

Hope all of your back to school shopping is going well!  How do you choose to tackle this chore?

Leave a comment »

Follow Me On Twitter

The long and short of it–most of my content will be on Twitter @semiorganizedme

I have to laugh a little at the fact that I haven’t been on this site for 6 months (mainly because I kept trying to login but had the wrong password in mind.  Finally made myself sit down and figure it out today.  My last post talked about how I hadn’t looked at this blog in a year, yet all of my goals were still the same.  It’s amazing how 6 months later they are STILL the same, and I am still struggling with the same good/bad habits-and yet I  know exactly what I need to do do correct that situation.  MUST GAIN CONTROL OF MY LIFE!  But, I’m working on it little by little.  Hope to have more progress and not let the everyday life get in the way so much.

But, I digress.  One of the things I loved about this blog was being able to share the things I am doing in my life with whomever might be interested.  I found that lengthy blog posts and stylized photos just really aren’t my strong point.  I kept getting caught up in the fact that my blog was NEVER going to look like all those fabulous, professional bloggers out there.  Mainly because it is not my profession/full-time job, and I didn’t really have the desire to find the time to make it look like theirs.

So, I decided to share my thoughts on Twitter instead.  I can totally handle uploading pictures from my phone with a very limited text count.  To keep myself organized and dedicated, I decided to have a theme each week and do a post each day on that theme.  (What you do everyday is sometimes easier than what you do once in a while–thank you for that insight Gretchen Rubin).  I’m a few weeks in, and so far so good!  I’ve covered books I’m reading, home projects, DIY Dry Erase systems for kids, funny organizing memes, and menu-planning.  And, I’ve done a pretty good job of keeping up on it.  I feel like this is more my speed, and I’m pretty happy that I’ve found a way to share my passions and ideas with people in a way that doesn’t make me feel like I’m competing with any sort of ideal.  I’m just me, and this is what I can and want to do.  I’ve even got a few themes and topics ready to go for the weeks ahead.  So, if you have any interest in seeing what’s going on in My Semi-Organized Life, please feel free to follow me on Twitter or check out the sidebar.  A few longer posts may end up on here from time to time, but tweeting seems to be the best option for my season of life right now.

My advice is to be and know yourself.  In a world of too many pressures to be picture perfect, find out what works for you and makes you happy.

(Oh, and if you have any idea on how to make your twitter feed the same as your main blog post area in WordPress, let me know.)

Leave a comment »

It’s Been a Crazy Year–And I’m Ready to Take Back My Life

I think it is fitting that the last time I looked at this blog, it was exactly one year ago today.  I had no idea it had been a year, and after re-reading the last post I made to this blog, not much in my life has changed but so much has changed.  In the past year, we have made some significant changes to our lives that have truly affected us, yet I have so many of the same goals.

Here are some of the major changes:

We moved.  This was MAJOR.  The process of selling and buying a house was new to us.  We moved from an apartment to a new construction for our first house, so we had no idea what all went into the process.  It was exhausting.  In the end everything worked out, but it was a lot of sleepless nights getting there.

I started out typing all of the challenges we’ve had with the new house from minor to major repairs (expected and not) in the last 7 months.  And, I decided I didn’t want to focus on the negative, stressful aspects of our new home.  Instead, I am so thankful that this house has allowed us to host family and close friends for extended summer visits, gatherings with people that make us happy, and getting to know new people in our neighborhood.

Another major change is that my mom moved in with us.  We are now a house of 3 adults, 1 kiddo, 2 cats, and 1 dog.  Adjusting to multi-generational living has had its own ups and downs.  I knew going in there would be amazing rewards, but also some challenges as we all adjust to new routines and personalities mingling together.

The kid started at a new school this fall, which has been its own adjustment too as we get to know all about how things work in her new building.  Our morning and afternoon routines changed greatly as she no longer has to go to before/after care at the school.  This is one of the blessings of having my mom with us.

I added some new responsibilities at my full-time job, and have some new work relationships at my fall part-time gig and with my daughter’s girl scout troop.  All of these are not bad things, but they come with their own level of stress and just add to the list of things that need done.

And, a million other little stresses and changes have led me back to where I felt at this time last year.  A bit out of sorts.  A bit adrift and wanting to make some major changes in my lifestyle.  The biggest change I want and need to make is how I take care of myself.  To be perfectly honest, I have gained 10+ pounds since this summer.  I haven’t had the heart to look.  I just know I weigh as much as I did when I was 9 months pregnant.  And, I know it isn’t healthy for me, and it doesn’t help at all with my energy level or self-esteem.  Part of this has to do with me not getting enough sleep, not exercising, and eating poorly.  I know everything I need to do, I just haven’t been doing it.  I have been sick 3 times with sinus infections this fall, because I think my body has just been too run down to not pick up every little thing I encounter.  I need to make some major changes, and I need to make them soon.

One of the reasons I stopped writing this blog is because of the upheaval with the move.  I considered at one point sharing our journey along the way, but I just never seemed to find the time or desire to keep it going.  I checked the blog’s stats for the last year, just for kicks, and I was surprised that anyone had found it when I hadn’t been posting new content or linking up to parties.  I hope those who did found something that interested them.  This blog has always been a place for me to share my ideas and journey with myself as much as for anyone else.  I just didn’t feel like sharing at all for a while, with anyone.  At one point, I realized the writer in me missed this part of her, but still felt overwhelmed by everything else going on.  So, I thought I would just tweet things that came to me, because it took less time than lengthy posts.  I even set up a twitter account.  That lasted a short burst as I realized I had more I wanted to say–but wasn’t ready to dive back into blogging.  I needed to explain my journey to myself again and find a focus before writing anything I would send out into the world.

Now that things have calmed down a little in my personal and professional life, I am contemplating a combo gig of non-scheduled posts when I feel like there is more to share and tweets when I can keep it short and simple.  For now, I am going to focus on taking care of myself, finding those routines I crave and that help me so much, and adding a little here and there about organizing and crafty stuff when I feel like it.  I have felt like the last year has been such high speed roller coaster, and I am ready slow down mentally and live with a little more intention.  As I’ve said before, there’s a reason why this blog is called “semi-organized.”  I have great ideas and intentions, but they don’t always work out the best or for the long haul.  Hopefully, by writing more about my intentions, I can do a better job of keeping them or adjusting them as needed.  I simply want to be the better, healthier version of myself that I know I can be if I just give it a little more thought and effort.  With this post, let operation “take back my life” begin!  Here’s to a focus on family, friends, personal goals, health, sleep, and whatever else I need to be a better me.

I need to :

Sleep (because without enough of this, the rest doesn’t happen)

Exercise Daily

Eat things that are good for me!

Create and keep to schedules and routines

Spend time with family and friends (and be present!)

Take time to do things that make me happy (read, craft, organize, snuggle with my family)

And whatever else comes to mind along the way

If you happen to see this and want to share your goals to “take back your life” please do so here or on Twitter @semiorganizedme

Leave a comment »

Flouting Routines = Expected Outcomes & Insight

This post is sort of a bridge between the Fall Craziness post and the Audiobook Awesomeness post.  My routines got a bit off track for a little while, but I knew at the time that I really, really craved my routines.  I function better and am happier when I do things in a logical and intentional way.  Plus, I lose my keys less.

Somewhat by accident and sort of on purpose I started flouting my routines for about a week.  I didn’t get up in the morning to exercise (pinched nerve in my back).  When I went to the store, I had no grocery list, something I haven’t done in a very long time (because I just didn’t feel like making one).  As a result, I forgot the chili seasoning for the chili and a vegetable for another dish.  It all worked out ok, but I know it wouldn’t have been as likely to happen if I had been working with an actual list.  My cleaning schedule got waylaid and most of my daily tasks were either scrunched into one day or completely abandoned (busy, busy evenings).  I was so discombobulated one day that I managed to lock my keys in the trunk of my car…at work…1/2 hour from my home.  Thank goodness my dad is retired and could come to my rescue.  I haven’t locked my keys in a car in YEARS!–not since I got electronic locks.  Why were my keys in my trunk?  I was digging around looking for lunch money for the cafeteria (which doesn’t accept cards), because I was working out of two purses (and three bags) and hadn’t planned ahead for lunch.  A lovely friend offered to drive so we could pick up something to eat.  I am truly blessed by a loving family and sweet friends.

Did life go on?  Yes.  Were we all clothed, clean, fed, and safe in our comfortable house?  Yes.  Did I still feel like a bit of a train wreck?  You betcha.

I know if I want to feel happier and more in control of my life, something has to change.  Quite a few of the audiobooks I have been listening to lately are all about living with intention, choosing what’s important, and making thoughtful decisions about what your focus to be in your life.  Then, you can begin the work of habits and happiness and planning what to do with your 168 hours.  So, this is what I’ve come up with, with a little help from the authors:


Leave a comment »

A Weekend of DIY

Usually when I think of DIY, I think of crafting.  We don’t do huge home renovations or make furniture from scratch around here.  Most of what I do myself is small craft and organizing projects around the home.  Last weekend, we must have been in the mood for a little more robust DIY at our house–or the impending cold snap spurred us on, but we did tackle a few projects around the house that we had been putting off and that we intended to DIY.  For each one of these projects, I did consider hiring someone to do it for us, but they appeared to be fairly simple in nature (or at least that’s what I was told) and we would definitely save money by doing it ourselves.

1)  Fix winter coat.  This one really was fairly minor and something I really thought I could DIY by myself.  My winter coat has snap buttons on it and the top two buttons broke.  One side totally fell off and the other got smooshed (technical term) enough on the inside that the snap would no longer snap.  The time I would need to go buy supplies and then fix the coat let me to seriously consider just buying a new coat, but I really liked this one and it really was just two snaps.  I also considered going to a seamstress to have them done, but that would probably be a little pricey.  But, I also knew that in the long run it probably made more sense for me to just make the time to do the repair myself.  So instead, I headed to a chain fabric store and relied on the expertise of the fabric counter employee to know way more than I did on how to go about replacing my snaps.  She showed me the wall’o’fastners, recommended the heavy duty snaps, and helped me find ones that matched fairly well with the ones on my coat, though not exactly.  She also showed me the “tools” I would need to purchase to attach them to my coat.

I honestly wish I had taken pictures of this process, but I did it after we did project #2 listed below (and once you read about it, you will understand why I just didn’t have it in me).  The person at the fabric store warned me that the hardest part of this whole process would be getting the original snaps off–because if you tear the fabric–game over.  I grabbed a pair of needle nose like jewelry pliers and set to work.  It wasn’t as hard as advertised, but the smaller side of one snap set was a total booger and ended up coming through the hole after being smashed instead of actually separating into two pieces.  Thankfully, the fabric wasn’t damaged.  The actual hardest part was figuring out the directions–of which there was one small picture on the back of the tool kit.  The trouble is there are 4 pieces to the snap set–two for each side which look remarkably similar to each other.  The picture doesn’t give you very detailed instructions on which goes with which side or even how to insert the items into the little tool!  Youtube even failed me!  The video I watched didn’t give a close up enough shot of the pieces for me to tell them apart.  I finally found something remotely helpful on a random website and attempted to attach the parts.  Before I realized I had one of the items flipped upside down, I ruined about 2 sets of snaps.

This above picture of the parts would have been incredibly helpful when I was wrestling with the coat, but of course I just find it now. Hopefully, this will benefit someone else. Note, the cap also has a post on the other side. This post goes through the fabric. Then, you place the socket onto the post so the fabric is in between and the socket looks more like a bowl (as pictured)  Then, you use the tool to smoosh down the post to hold the socket in place. I did the same thing with the stud on the other side as I wanted the cap look on the outside portion of both sides of the coat.  One tip here, use the tool on a solid surface like concrete as you have to hammer on them and you wouldn’t want to mark up a table or counter.

2)  Replace pulleys and belt in dryer.  Our dryer was making a horrible squeaking noise when it was running, and the guy at the appliance repair store said it sounded like our belts and pulleys needed replacing.  Since our dryer still functioned ok otherwise, we didn’t see the need to actually replace the entire dryer.  So, I grabbed a bag of the parts and brought them home–in July.  We finally got around to getting them installed (because life is just life sometimes) last weekend.  The appliance repair store guy assured me we could do it on our own just by simply watching a YouTube video–we just needed to search for belt replacement for our type of dryer.  Who knew they had so many home appliance repair videos!  I tackled this DIY with the hubby, and I am so glad I did.  There is no way I could have done this one on my own.

New Dryer Repair Kit ER4392065 for Whirlpool 4392065 80046 8106 8237 8238

This is what came in our kit. I think the hardest part to reattach were the tiny little plastic triangles–breaking them would be very easy to do and very, very bad.

Here’s a few things I learned.  First, it was definitely less expensive for us to replace the parts ourselves than to have a service call or to buy a new machine.  Second, if you are going to watch a YouTube video on how to do something, you may want to watch some of it before you begin.  Third, if your dryer is older (ours is about 12 years old), then chances are it needs cleaned in a big way.  We basically had to take the thing apart to get the new parts installed, and we were AMAZED by all of the lint that was lurking everywhere in the dryer and loose change under the drum (no lost socks surprisingly).  We vacuumed and cleaned everything out and even removed the back panel and the dryer lint chute to clean things up.  I am so thankful we did this, because it was a definite hazard.  We are hoping that the new parts and thorough cleaning will equal better dry times and more efficiency.  We already have lost the squeaky noise!  Note:  This process took us a few hours, because we had to take several areas apart a few times as we found even more places that needed vacuumed or in one instance a screw fell down and under a part we had already reattached.

The appliance repair store is the same one that helped us when I replaced the fabric softener cup in our washing machine.

3)  Prior to and right after fixing the dryer, I cleaned the carpets in our two main living areas (one room before and one after).  My mom gave us her carpet cleaner when she moved to an apartment, and we use it quite regularly.  About every six months, I break out the machine and clean the main living areas of our home.  As a young couple without children, when we built our house, we selected light grey carpet.  I’m not sure if I would make the same choice today, but doing regular cleanings certainly helps maintain the light color.  In between, we spot clean with Woolite carpet spray.  The whole process takes about an hour to complete, and my right arm is a little sore afterwards, because the machine is heavy, but I can always see a noticeable difference right away, especially in the heavy traffic areas.


If you add up the cost of a new dryer or a service call, carpet cleaning for two main floor areas, and the cost of a new coat, in one day we saved several hundred dollars with a few hours of time and a little DIY elbow grease.  What have you chosen to DIY instead of buy or hire a service for?

Leave a comment »

Re-Post: My Top 7 Organizing Tips

As  I shared last week, this month I am tackling a few other writing projects, so in order to keep the momentum going, I am re-posting some of my favorite posts here and there.  Any time I organize these tips go through my head to help me stay on the right track.

Want to start getting organized–or want to become more organized?  After reading a ton of organization books over the last year, attending an organization seminar this summer, and living through my own organization journey, I have come up with these Top 7 Tips.

1) PURGE–be realistic.  What do you actually need/use.  Donate what you can (though you may not be able to with some products), throw away what is broken or damaged, and put misplaced items where they truly belong (especially if it is in another room).  For sentimental items, figure out why they are sentimental.  Can you take a picture of the it and hold onto that memory just as well, would someone else love it more than you, are you keeping it out of obligation?  A yes to any of these questions means let it go.  Do you or someone in your house use it frequently or love it dearly?  If yes, keep it, but find a way to organize it better so it doesn’t cause you stress.  Some people call this de-cluttering.  I like the word purge–because it helps you eliminate and cleanse your space opening it up to new possibilities.  (Eliminate and cleanse are both synonyms for purge…)

2) Think about where you are most likely to reach for/use items…and put them there.  Seems logical, but that’s not always what we do.  We put it where it might look best, but not where it would work best.  If you find yourself constantly looking for things, you are losing valuable time every day.  Place items where they make the most sense and make sure they get back there each and every time.

3)  Use storage containers that make sense and fit your space.  Do not buy everything you think you need right away.  Chances are you’ll end up returning something (or in my case reusing it somewhere else).  For that matter, before you run out and buy something, look around your house to see what you already own that you could possibly re-purpose.  If you do need to buy something, do some research to check out the possibilities first–buying on a whim can create more clutter and stress.  And be sure to measure!  You want containers that will fit.

4)  Use labels when you can.  This helps you (and your family) get things back to their home location (which you established in step 2).  If you don’t have a laminator or label maker–no problem.  Print out or hand write your label and use clear box tape as your laminate.  Or buy sticky labels from the store to write on or run through your printer.

5)  Make it visually appealing for you.  Having a pretty space can help relax you and lower stress.  It is much more pleasant to cook, get ready in the morning, or do paper work in a pretty space than a drab one–and an organized, uncluttered one for that matter.  At least I think so.

6)  Do not get overwhelmed.  You will not be able to organize your whole life in one day, week, or month.  Organization is a process that takes time, but does not have to be time consuming.  Many people don’t have an entire day to devote to organizing a room of their house, but they might be able to find 15 minutes each day to tackle one part of one room.  For example, break your kitchen up into sections (pantry, lower cabinets, upper cabinets, drawers, fridge, etc.) or your bedroom into sections (dresser, closet top, closet bottom, night stand, under bed, etc.).  Once you’ve finished everything in one room, move onto another.  I’ve heard tackling the most annoying problem area first is best, but I’ve also heard getting easier tasks out of the way is better, both for the same reason.  They give you a sense of accomplishment.  Pick which one you think would be best for YOU and go with it.  Once you have finished a room or space, move on to the next.  But, have a plan.  Decide what order to do things in and when–schedule it in your calendar if you need to.  By having a plan, you are more likely to finish your project, because you know exactly what you want to accomplish in that space and will not wander around from room to room only partially starting/finishing things.

7)  Realize that you will probably make changes.  It can take multiple tries to get something the way it will work best.  Chances are you may still make small changes as you get older and your life changes.  Be open to that possibility.  And, if something isn’t working the way you thought it would, change it.  So the organizational tool/system you thought would work best didn’t.  Big deal.  Do not think of this as a failure.  You’re just implementing system 2.0.  Don’t be afraid to try again!  You know more now than you did the first time and chances are you’ll get it closer to right this next time.  Plus, I’ve found that organization is fluid process that is never truly “done,” because our lives are changing all the time and our systems should therefore change too.


Leave a comment »

Thanks and Giving as We Enter the Long Holiday Season

For parts of the month of November, I will be reposting some of my favorite posts from the past years.  I am working on a few other writing projects, and I want to devote some clear time to them.  That being said, I think all of these posts are worth a second (or for many of you a first) look.  There will be NEW posts sprinkled throughout as well.  Hope you enjoy some of my blasts from the past.

This was originally posted the Fall of 2013.  I am adjusting the time frames to fit this year and update how we are changing some things this year.

A few years ago, we decided our kiddo needed a healthy dose of thanks and thoughtfulness (something that seems to be necessary more than once in a lifetime for all of us–not just kids).  It is easy for kids to get wrapped up in the “I want” mentality of having new toys, games, etc. this time of year.  The toy ads for Target and Toys R Us have already landed in our mailbox and thankfully we can avoid commercials most of the time as we do not subscribe to cable TV.  It can be difficult for kids to really understand and appreciate what they do have and realize that giving back to others can be just as rewarding.

This all started two years ago when my daughter and I created our very own 25 days of giving for the month of December.  I made a list of ways we could give back to others, and we did one every day leading up to and including Christmas.  I tried my best to make it cute and wrote out the activities in the form of a pine tree instead of a list and included a fun holiday border around the outside.  I then placed the list in a class fronted frame, and we were able to check off our activities every day.  This past year the kiddo got super into crossing the items off our list, because she could use various colors of dry erase marker which made it look festive.  Some of our items were scheduled for certain days/times and some were done randomly.  It was really rewarding for both of us, I think.  My daughter got really into some of the ideas, and some of them changed a bit throughout the month.  For example, our trip to the local Humane Society to drop off food and old towels led to us adopting a kitten the next day.  We gave an animal in need a new home!  I think that was her favorite act of giving over all.

This is this kitty we rescued last year during our Days of Giving.  He's not really kitten sized anymore.

This is this kitty we rescued last year during our Days of Giving. He’s not really kitten sized anymore.

Last year, I wanted to go one step further.  Our kiddo is really thoughtful when it comes to other people, but she sometimes forgets to be thankful for what she already has or for the people/experiences in her life.  To help with this, I also decided we needed to do days of thanks.  The past couple of years, I have seen people post what they are thankful for on social media like Facebook each day leading up to Thanksgiving.  While that doesn’t really work so great for a young one, I love the concept.  We just needed to change the way it was shared.  My kiddo loves crafts and colorful crafts especially, so I thought we could make something festive together that would easily include our messages of thanks.

Starting November 1st, we will begin our 28 days of thanks.  Every day, she tells me one thing she is thankful for–and every day has to be different.  To display her items, I thought it would be fun to use a turkey and write the thankful items on its feathers.  To do so, I used a turkey cut out from brown construction paper and cut out four feathers each from seven different colors of paper.  I wrote, “I am thankful for” on the turkey’s belly and each feather will say “what she is thankful for.”  Last year she picked out the feather color and item of thanks each day, and then after I wrote it down, we glued it on the turkey.  We did have a bit of trouble fitting all 28 large feathers on the turkey last year.  This year, I think we will do a double row with smaller feathers.  I am also going to have her write down the item she is thankful for on the front to practice her writing, and I will write the because on the back.  The “because” is the important part as it makes her really think about why that item is important to her.

In a moment of inspiration last year, I decided it would be more fun if our turkey stood up on a table or counter instead of being attached to a wall or the refrigerator.  I used two toilet paper rolls I had been about to recycle as a stand for the turkey by gluing them to the back.  This wasn’t terribly sturdy, so I am going to try and do something a little stronger this year.  In the picture below you can see where we added the first two feathers last year.  Coming up with 28 items (we’re going to do the day after Thanksgiving this year too) to be thankful for with no repeats sounds daunting, but she did a great job (with a little coaching).  She picked some items that were present all the time (like our family members or cats) and some things that happened to go on that day or week.  I cannot wait to see what she chooses every day and see our turkey proudly displayed for Thanksgiving dinner.

Here is our turkey on day two!

2013 Turkey

Turkey 2.0.  I took a lid to a shoebox and covered it in wrapping paper. I am hoping the lid gives the turkey a bit more stability and we can either lean it up against the wall in the kitchen or hang it up without too much fuss.  After the lid was covered, I taped the turkey to the box. We also gave him a beak, waddle, and eye this year by gluing scraps of paper left over from the feathers either on top of or behind the turkey. The feathers are the same shape as last year, just a bit smaller. We will make two rows of 14 when all is said and done. Not sure why the color came out weird, but it’s the same construction paper as the picture above.

2014 Turkey

2014 Turkey

Since Thanksgiving is so late this year, we might take the last few days of November off to prep ourselves for our 25 days of giving.  Each year I have tried to adjust the list to reflect our lives for the current year–for example we had to change preschool giving activities over to elementary school activities.  Below is a picture of our list from last year as it stands now, though it is a work in progress for this year. I did ask for input on our activities from the kiddo last year, and will do so again.  Since they are things we do together, I want to make sure they are meaningful to her too.  One thing to keep in mind is that your 25 Days of Giving doesn’t mean 25 days of giving away money.  Many of the items on our list do not cost a thing for us monetarily, but they still matter.  If your budget is tight, you could very easily create a “no cost” 25 Days of Giving list.

Not the best picture, but you get the idea.  A link to the .PDF is below.

Not the best picture, but you get the idea. A link to the .PDF is below.

25 Days of Giving

I am really excited about both our days of thanks and our days of giving.  Not only do they really reinforce character traits we want our daughter to have, but we are able to share such wonderful experiences together that I really believe we are given a gift too.  No matter how cheesy that sounds, I am truly happy to kick off our holiday season by acknowledging the blessings in our life and sharing kindness with others.

Leave a comment »

A Few of My Favorite Easy Organizing Tips

I had the urge this weekend to share some of my favorite easy organizing tips that have appeared on this blog.  Hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoy using them!


1)  A visible menu.  First, I do meal plan.  I try to plan at least 2 weeks at a time (and this dictates my grocery list).  Read more about that process here.  But, I also try and post those meal plans in the kitchen so I know what’s coming up each day and can make sure everything is ready when I get home from work to rock and roll.  I found I have saved at least 1/2 an hour each night by prepping ahead of time.  I used to have a fridge sticker with days of the week from the Martha Steward line at Staples to post our meal plan, but over time, it got to looking a little gunky and I decided to retire it in favor of something a little prettier.  I took a free printable from online and adjusted it to fit my needs.  Then, I put it inside a frame and attached a dry erase marker at the top with a velcro dot.  This little guy is on a very narrow piece of wall next to our pantry.  I like it’s placement because it cuts down on the fridge clutter and is right next to where a bunch of our meal supplies already live.  Now, I can keep track of our meals for two weeks in style!  I also love that I can erase things and move them around, because if your life is anything like mine, sometimes we have to alter plans.  I already know we have all the ingredients for everything on our chart, so making adjustments is no big deal.

Sorry for the glare!

Sorry for the glare!

2) Pantry Storage–Part 1.  Over the door storage has really helped us in our small pantry.  It corrals some of the things we use frequently and that aren’t all that easy to store on wire shelving.  On the very top of the wire shelves (not pictured here) are some cat related supplies like brushes and cat treats.  The next shelf features some rolls like foil and wax paper and  a box of zip close bags.  It’s the bottom shelf, though, that I really want to focus on.  This one handles quite a few jobs.

On the far left there are four “crystal light” or generic version containers (two behind and two in front).  The two in the back hold straws (this is so very very helpful, because they are not constantly falling over).  The two in the front hold things we are keeping for the kiddo’s school.  We found out last year that they collect pop tabs for the Ronald McDonald house, so there is one for those.  The one next to it holds all our “box tops for education” or other such things you can cut off of household items that give money back to the school.  (I tried using baggies for these, but this sounds lazy, but the opening and closing of the bags was a pain.  I like to drop them in the top of these small containers much better).  The little orange basket from Ikea holds the little bag clippies from Ikea (which are awesome!).  And, finally, a few more zip top bag boxes.  Storing them vertically saves a bunch of space and makes it easier to grab a bag when needed.  Don’t forget to use that space on the backs of doors or cabinets–it can be incredibly helpful!

Super helpful to keep things from falling all over in the pantry.

Super helpful to keep things from falling all over in the pantry.

3)  Pantry Storage–Part 2.  Labels.  To begin, I use black baskets in my pantry to store items as the wire shelving is kind of a pain in the behind.  To make sure items make it in the right place and people don’t eat food that is intended for recipes, I labeled each basket.  My previous labels were pretty specific (Rice, Pasta, Sauce or Mac & Cheese and Soup)–which honestly didn’t work all that well because there were always exceptions.  So, I decided to go the more generic route this time.  When I ran across these chalkboard stickers in the dollar aisle at Target I grabbed them without even really knowing what I wanted to use them for until I thought…hmmm…pantry labels!  I tried the chalkboard marker (also in the $1 aisle) and it was terrible.  I looked high and low for a decent one that wasn’t part of a huge set and struck out (if you know where to buy one let me know!).  Instead, I went with a silver marker I found several weeks later in the dollar bins and was finally able to complete my labels.  To make them, I took some brightly colored card stock, laminated it, and cut the corners with a corner rounder.  Then, I stuck the labels in the middle.  To attach them to the basket, I rolled a piece of duct tape to the back of the label and stuck it to the basket.  Then, I took a flat piece of duct tape and placed it over the holes to cover the duct tape roll.  I did this with the previous labels, and amazingly, it came off pretty easily when needed.

Now the labels are less specific, but still get the point across.  One row has two baskets labeled Meals (which hold items used for recipes) and one basket labeled Meal Prep (which holds items like soy sauce, marinades, cooking oil, etc.).  The shelf below holds a basket for Snacks (crackers, granola bars, etc.), Lunch (mac & cheese, soup, etc.), and Misc (drink mixes, peanut butter, jello, etc.).  So, basically, one row is off limits for general consumption and the other is fair game.  I think the labels turned out pretty cute.  Sometimes a simpler label really is better.


New, simpler labels.

4)  Organizing the kiddo’s clothes.  The dresser is not large, and as she has gotten bigger, so have the size and amount of her clothes.  We don’t rotate a bunch of seasonal items in the winter, because it can be -4 degrees one week and 65 degrees the next (I thought I might be exaggerating a bit here, but it was 65 degrees one day this week and -5 the next night!), and options are important.  So, the drawers are pretty crammed.  We were running into a problem that as kiddo put her clothes away, the piles inside would get messed up and we’d need to refold half the drawer.  Ugh.  And, it was really hard to see what was really in there–which meant she probably only wore about half her wardrobe (the stuff on top).  Then, one day a light bulb went off!  I had read and seen posts about the filing system for t-shirts in drawers for adults.  You could take an entire drawer and fit it in half the space.  My thought, why not for kids too?  And, why just shirts?  I had tried a filing system for the shirts, workout pants, and pjs I kept in bins in the top of one of our closets, and it worked pretty well.  So, I was fairly confident it would work for the kid too.  We’ve lived with the filing system for a few weeks now, and it has really made some big changes.  Not only do her clothes fit much easier into the drawers, but now when we go to select clothes for the next day, she can actually see everything that is clean when she makes her decision.  And, no more messy piles!  She was a little nervous at first about being able to put everything away herself, but with a little support the first few times, she now has the hang of it.  I highly recommend trying the filing system for you or your kids.  I say “BRAVO!” to the person who originally came up with it.  Here’s a look inside to see what our system looks like.  We have a drawer for shirts; one of pants, socks, and undies; and one for pajamas–which are all labeled so she knows where to put everything away on laundry day.

Shirt drawer.  From left to write the "columns" are sweatshirts, short sleeves, and long sleeves.

Shirt drawer. From left to write the “columns” are sweatshirts, short sleeves, and long sleeves.


5)  No More Lost Socks! It was always seemed hit or miss that I would get socks that actually could be paired at the end of a dryer cycle.  To combat this pesky problem, I adapted a tip I saw on Pinterest (can’t remember where… Sorry!) The blog I read suggested giving each member of the family a lingerie bag to hang on the back of their door to stow their socks in after wearing.  At laundry time, the bag is zipped and thrown in the washing machine, thus keeping all the pairs neatly together.  What a fabulous idea!  I thought this was a great idea, but I am loathe to hang anything on our doors.  Instead, I attached small flatish command hooks to the back of our plastic hampers.  I simply hang a lingerie bag from the command hooks on the back–and you can’t even see it if you face the bag toward a wall!  We both know to put our socks in the bag after wearing (though sometimes I forget), and I have LOVED being able to match socks so easily.  Be sure that the socks are unrolled and flat or they won’t dry properly.

6)  Another fabulous command hook idea!  I love command hooks and use them all over our home, but our bathrooms seem to be given extra command hook love.  Towels hang off the back of a door from CH.  My necklaces and bracelets hang on the back of a cabinet door from CH.  And, in our master bathroom, our shower caddies have hung from command hooks for quite some time.   In the shower, we used to have all of our shower items on a caddy attached to the shower head—but the weight of the caddy and gravity kept causing problems with the shower head.  Then we moved all the products to little ledges built into the shower, but they were easily and frequently knocked over and shave gel containers would leave rusty marks.  Finally, I figured out I could hang shower caddies from command hooks—not just the shower head.  Duh!  I found two inexpensive caddies at Walmart and it works so much better.  My husband and I each have our own caddy, so there is enough space for both of our items without them being in the way at all.  I am thinking about doing something similar in our bathtub for my daughter’s stuff down the road.  (You can sort of see that on another wall our shower brush and a squeegee also hang from command hooks).

My shower caddy.  His is the same--and to the left of mine.

My shower caddy. His is the same–and to the left of mine.


There’s a few of my favorite organizing projects and tips from around the house.  What are some of your favorite easy organizing ideas?

Leave a comment »

Why I am Even Happier We Gave Up Cable

We gave up cable several years ago, because it seemed incredibly expensive to have our DVR service.  We loved it when we first had it, because there really were not many options out there for accessing shows and movies.  Then Netflix and Hulu Plus came along.  We decided to give it a whirl a few years ago, and we honestly haven’t looked back.

With these two subscription services we pay only about $20 a  month, v.s. over $100 for cable.  That’s a huge savings over time.  We’ve used streaming services for several years, and I am totally sold on the experience for many reasons.

First, here’s the dish on both services.

Netflix is the world’s leading Internet television network with over 50 million members in nearly 50 countries enjoying more than two billion hours of TV shows and movies per month, including original series. For one low monthly price, Netflix members can watch as much as they want, anytime, anywhere, on nearly any Internet-connected screen. Members can play, pause and resume watching, all without commercials or commitments (Info provided by their website).

What I love:  NO COMMERCIALS!  You can customize profiles.  There’s something for everyone in the family.

What I’m not so hot about:  I wish more new content was added more frequently.  The romantic comedies list is basically been there, done that for me (but we’re talking over my life time, not just since we subscribed to Netflix).

Hulu is an online video service that offers a selection of hit TV shows, clips, movies and more on the subscription service Hulu Plus. Instantly stream any current season episode of primetime TV shows.  Explore a wide array of acclaimed movies and documentaries, including hundreds of titles from The Criterion Collection. Also discover Hulu Original Series.

What I love:  You can watch your favorite t.v. shows the day after broadcast (The day after broadcast watercooler talk is a thing of the past, so I don’t feel deprived by having  to wait a day to watch something.  Besides, we usually waited a couple of days with our DVR too).  You can create a favorites list.

What I’m not so hot about:  They only bank 5 episodes of current shows, so while you don’t have to watch them right away, there is a shelf-life.  No current CBS shows.  The commercials get repetitive.  Beware scrolling through the new content and popular lists, especially in the movies section.  There are many graphic images that you may not want to explain to your kid(s).  (This sounds like a lot of negatives, but the few pros outweigh the cons).

More about what I love:

1)  No or limited commercials.  Netflix does not have commercials and Hulu Plus shows limited commercials.  I cannot even begin to express how awesome it is that my daughter has basically grown up without watching commercials.  We don’t have to contend with the toy and food commercials marketed to kids.  No begging for the current hot toy.  In fact, we were at a birthday party recently and the hottest toy from last Christmas was one of the gifts.  I hadn’t even heard of it.  Also, we recently found out why we are really happy we don’t have to sit through commercials.  When the season premiere of The Flash was aired, the whole family was too excited to wait one day for it to show up on Hulu Plus (kiddo loves her superheroes).  What we encountered at 7:00 on a weeknight were advertisements for erectile dysfunction and a show called Jane the Virgin where she ends up pregnant without ever having sex.  Yep, that’s totally appropriate for a 6 year old.  Thank goodness we were able to distract her through them.  Needless to say we will wait and watch the rest of episodes the next day.  There are limited commercials on Hulu Plus, but I have never encountered one that I would feel uncomfortable about my daughter watching.

2)  Customizable.  Both systems allow you to personalize your experience.  My favorite is probably Netflix.  What is great about this is on our one account we can have 3 different profiles–one for each member of our family.  Why this is cool…  We can each select what we want to put on our playlists.  The grownups don’t have to have the kids movies and my husband doesn’t have to put up with my romantic comedies.  Why is this even necessary?  Another cool feature of Netflix is that after watching and adding to your playlist for a while, the service starts giving you suggestions.  Because you watched this, you might like this…  Which is one reason why our own profiles is so handy so you’re not getting tips based on someone else’s preferences.  Also, since the kiddo is a kiddo, she is locked in to only searching through the Kids version of Netflix on her profile and she won’t accidentally stumble upon something not kid-friendly.  Hulu Plus is also customizable to a point.  You can add shows to your “favorites” and they also keep track of your most recently watched.

3)  Our favorites are all in one place.  Both Netflix and Hulu Plus offer access to t.v. shows, movies, and documentaries.  Almost all of our favorite t.v. shows are on Hulu Plus.  The one bummer is that current CBS shows are not available–but it was just announced that CBS is going to be releasing it’s own streaming service.  Since many of our favorite shows are on CBS, this is great news for us.  And this is the BIG reason why I am so very happy we have Netflix this week.  Back when the Winter Olympics were on, we decided we would give cable one more shot–and we wanted to see the Olympics.  We had cable for a month.  The only things we watched were the Olympics, HGTV, and the Food Network (and a little ESPN).  Not really worth the chunk of change needed for the fancier DVR our cable company now requires.  Last night I made an amazing discovery.  Tons of Food Network and HGTV shows that we all love are now available on Netflix!  Are they the brand new episodes?  Probably not, but several season of each are included and that’s mostly what we watched in re-runs anyway.  Are all of the shows included–no, but all of our very favorites are.  My daughter was thrilled when we told her, and so am I.  (She loves Guy and the Property Brothers).  This is unscripted programming that we can get behind and all watch and enjoy as a family.  I am super giddy about this new development.

4)  We can access them pretty much anywhere.  The nice thing about these services is that you can basically get them anywhere you have an internet connection on a supported device.  Since most of our house is run through devices on Wi-Fi, this works really well for us.  We have run them both through an Apple TV, game systems (both Xbox, Wii, and Play Station), and a tablet.  My mom runs hers through a blu-ray player that has these and other streaming services built in.  And that’s just in the house.  If we connect to Wi-Fi somewhere else, we can still access our profiles.

5)  We watch t.v. with purpose.  One of the things I noticed almost immediately when we cut out cable was we didn’t waste time channel surfing anymore.  When we sit down to watch t.v., we do so because we want to be watching a specific show or want to find a movie to enjoy.  You might not think this is a big deal, but it really is.  If you have t.v., think about the amount of time you spend just blindly flipping channels when you really haven’t found anything worth watching.  I know I would be up way later than I should have been just browsing for no real reason and then regretting it later.  And, we never have the t.v. on for background noise.  Even if my husband and I are spending time together (and working at the same time), we choose shows we want to watch and are not locked into what is currently being broadcast or saved in a DVR list.

Is a streaming service right for you?  There are many streaming services out there, and you should consider a few things before jumping in.  Check what will really work in your budget.  While both Netflix and Hulu Plus are less than $10 per month, you also have to consider the cost of the internet service, the machine you are going to stream it on, and your wireless router (we had to upgrade at one point, because as I said before most of our house runs off of our Wi-Fi and we were seriously causing ours strain).  There are also other services out there besides Netflix and Hulu Plus (these are just our personal favorites).  We also have Amazon video through my husband’s Amazon Prime account.  We do use this every once in a while, but it’s definitely not one of our go-to services.  Generally I only use it when I looking for something I am not finding on the other two services–because we can only use it easily through our game system.  I also heard that HBO is going to offer its own streaming service!  But, they do add up over time.  Consider the cost of Netflix, Hulu Plus, CBS and HBO streaming, and an Amazon Prime account.  If you get all of these are you truly saving enough money?  One good thing is that both Netflix and Hulu Plus will let you try their services out for free for a certain length of time (one month, I believe) to make sure it really is for you.

Why I am even happier?  I kept saying that if cable would just let us choose which channels we wanted and only pay for them, I’d might reconsider.  But, now I don’t have to, because the only two channels that we really watched on cable now provide shows through our streaming service.  I am a very happy camper.

Do you use a streaming service?  What are your favorites?

Leave a comment »

Nerds: Not Just a Sweet Candy

One day  a few years ago, my daughter asked me what a nerd was.  I smiled, because I knew she hadn’t heard this term on the playground.  She hadn’t seen it on a tv show where someone was making fun of someone else.  She saw it on one of our favorite YouTube channels.  My reply, “Nerds are people like us, sweetie.”  And, I said it with a smile.

I then gave her a shortened version of the quote from John Green (above).  I explained that nerds are people that really like something and are excited about it–like we are with books, or video games, or movies, or… and the list went on.  I explained that her mom and dad were nerds and said it with pride (her dad’s a bit of a geek too, but that’s something else entirely.)

P.S.  I have this poster hanging in my office at work and absolutely love it.  You can get your own by visiting his online store–DFTBA which stands for Don’t Forget to Be Awesome (another poster I have hanging in my office at home).  I was totally a Nerdfighter way before John Green was a household name.  I tried to get his books in kids hands as much as I possibly could–so I guess I was a John Green fan from way back.  (He’s  the author of The Fault in Our Stars in case you are confused).

I am so happy to be able to embrace my nerdiness and I am even more glad that my daughter is growing up in a world where there are groups of people like the Nerdfighters, tv shows like The Big Bang Theory, and books like The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth.  For most of my life, I have had typical nerdy tendencies–nose always in a book, could quote endless information about movies, that kind of thing.  And, while I embraced it all through my teen and young adult years, I definitely did not grow up in the culture my daughter will.  One where nerds are celebrated, embraced, and part of the popular culture.

Thanks to social media and YouTube, you can express your love and enthusiasm for all the things once considered “nerdy” and be embraced whole heartedly.  Don’t believe me?  Look at the number of subscribers for any of these YouTube folks:  The VlogBrothers (Hank and John Green–he’s way more than a YA author.  Check out the Art Assignment and Crash Course to get a taste).  Yogscast (these guys hilariously play video games and narrate their experiences–some swearing at times so be forewarned.)  Rosanna Pansino (our favorite!).  She hosts a “show” called Nerdy Nummies (the one that started the conversation mentioned above with my daughter) and makes baking creations based off of “nerdy” pop culture like Star Wars, Frozen, Guardians of the Galaxy, Pokemon, Mario Bros. etc.  If you or someone you love is a nerd and loves to bake or eat, check her out.  Last night, we stumbled upon Lindsey Stirling.  She makes these crazy videos of her playing the violin and dancing to some really cool music–like Star Wards, Zelda video games, Mission Impossible, Assassin’s Creed, and much more.  She also does covers of popular songs like Radioactive and Thrift Shop.  She outright called herself a nerd after one of the videos.  Woohoo!  And for a little bit of science, check out The Slo Mo Guys from Britain.  They conduct crazy experiments and film them in slow motion.  Super fun!

In the past people like Rosanna and Lindsey probably wouldn’t have been able to make a living doing what they love and celebrating their nerdy side.  But, with millions of subscribers and views on YouTube, now they can.  I cannot wait to see what comes next from people who are passionate about what they love–and how they choose to express themselves.  And, I can’t wait for my daughter to continue to see that it is ok to be excited about something that makes you happy and that it is perfectly wonderful to embrace your creativity.  Who knows?  Maybe she’ll make a living off of it someday…  And maybe she’ll just really enjoy and embrace life.  I’m pretty ok with that too.




Leave a comment »