October 18, 2013

Hello? Is it ME you're looking for?


Is it me  you're looking for?

Don't be shy!

Once in a while I do actually look at my blog stats...just out of curiosity....and...

I see you're visiting...I see you're looking...

particularly at my posts about addressing cards, my boot socks,  little girl boot socks, and my ZGallerie Eye Chart knock off {which I'm wondering if there would be interest if I share/make available for you to print?}

you know, this one...

Anyway, I just want to say "Welcome".

But please, don't be shy.  I would love to hear from you... {but...if it's not something nice, just email me rather than put it in the comments}.

Nobody likes to have their feelings hurt.

I would love to have you follow along... you can connect with me/follow along through many different avenues... {see sidebar}


October 17, 2013

Halloween Decorating...Kid Crafted. Organic Decor.

Take a look around Pinterest or any of your favorite blogs and you will find a plethora of beautiful fall & Halloween mantels, tablescapes, painted pumpkins, & more.

If you need or want inspiration check out this post at Sugar Bee Crafts.

They're beautiful... They're inspiring...

But... I have a confession.  I've never really been into decorating for fall & Halloween.  {I tried fall mums outside & they're already dead.}  I really just have two seasons of decorating around the house...Christmas & not Christmas.

This is typically the extent of my decorating for fall & Halloween...

This house needed more.

We have several big blank walls around the house that need a bit of love.  So as filler I set the kids to work...

With a pad of paint & marker paper, black paint, and brushes, I let the little artists have at it.

The result...

A "gallery" of "spooky" masterpieces.

We tacked up a string of twine and used clothes pins to hang our art.  This will also serve as a place to hang all the Christmas/Holiday cards we receive too.

While hanging the Halloween artwork, I noticed we have "organic" decorations too...

Time to clean a little higher???


October 16, 2013

Budgeting for Christmas NOW {Christmas on the Brain}

OK, I hate to admit it, but I have Christmas on the brain!

I'm not decorating the house and listening to Bing Crosby yet, but I'm definitely thinking about the upcoming season.  {Secretly... I'm really in the mood to start decorating for Christmas.}

Here's why I'm thinking about Christmas...

Last year was the first Christmas {Holiday Season} in a long time that I actually enjoyed.  I didn't feel stressed.  I didn't feel rushed.  I didn't feel burdened.  It was great.  I was able to sit back and enjoy the people in my life and what Christmas means to me.

Last year I was prepared...prepared in so many ways, but one of the biggest was financially.

We budgeted for all of our Christmas shopping last year.

After Christmas was all said and done, there was no buyer's regret.  We were able to get the gifts the kids really wanted.  There were no upcoming credit card bills looming over our heads to remind us of the gifts we had given.  We had PEACE!

I plan to have that peace again this year and to enjoy myself, enjoy my family, enjoy the season.

Here's how...

Start budgeting NOW.  Don't wait until Thanksgiving day or later to start saving and budgeting.

Make a list of everyone you need to buy for and set a limit on how much you are going to spend for each person/gift.  This way you will know how much you need to save {better yet, how much you really can afford or actually want to spend}.

Skip "Black Friday" shopping!  Seriously, I said it.  There are deals just as good if not better on the same products leading up to Christmas.  Sleep in, spend the day with your kids, spend the day relaxing, spend the day having fun...fun is not going to a store and getting trampled, shoved, or elbowed by rude, greedy people all in the name of a DVD player, bed sheets, crock-pot, or clothes that will be clearanced out within a couple weeks {I worked in retail for years and saw it all...}.

Plan to do all of your shopping with CASH.  Going shopping with hard earned cash makes you think twice {or three times} about what you're buying and the amount that you're spending.

Have a game plan.  Make a list of each person you're buying for, the dollar amount, and what you want to buy for that person.  Shopping and wandering aimlessly for the perfect gift to pop out at you rarely turns out well.

Being prepared for the season and not "breaking the bank" makes life and family much more enjoyable.
Most importantly remember that Christmas is not about the gift bought and wrapped up under the tree...it's not about the dollar amount you spent, or the number of people you gave gifts to...

How do you plan for your holiday and Christmas spending?  Do you have any great tips to share?


October 15, 2013

Creativeness Underway + Snapfish Deal

I'm happy to report that I seem to be cracking out of my "creative funk".

We're working on some ideas and color schemes for our master bedroom...

I have a few projects and crafts in the works...including a knock-off from Pottery Barn...

I'm so inspired by other people's projects!

What are you working on?  

Where are you linking up? 

Do you have a favorite link up party? 

I would love if you would share them with me!

Don't forget the Snapfish deal for prints ends today!!!


October 14, 2013

Snapfish Awesome Print Deal!!! Ends soon!

This deal is too good not to share...

If you follow me via Facebook or Twitter then you might know that I have been working on uploading, saving, and transferring pictures from my digital cameras.

Seriously it has been a daunting task and I am embarrassed to say that there are over 8,000 of them to do.

{I haven't really printed pictures, with the exception of Christmas cards and occasional pics of the kids for family/grandparents, in nearly 7 years!!!  Yes, 7 years!}

I came across an awesome deal from Snapfish the other night and did order a couple hundred prints under their 99 for 99 cents offer.

Today I received an email for unlimited 1 cent prints!!! WHAT?  YES!  Unlimited one cent prints...but {there's always a but} the offer ends tomorrow 10/15/2013.  So get on it!!!

The code at checkout is UNLIMITED

Remember the offer ends tomorrow!

Best wishes, and have a great day.

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October 9, 2013

My Favorite Birthday Deals and Freebies

Birthdays kind of lose their thrill once you hit your 30's and have kids.  Yesterday was my birthday...

Here's how my birthday went down {in a nut shell}...
3 year old threw a tantrum and refused to get dressed for 30 minutes
During breakfast 2 year old choked and threw up
Running late...
Spent the day {the WHOLE day} at the MN Zoo for a home school special field trip {which was actually OK because the weather was beautiful and we were with some good friends}
Stopped for dinner at IKEA with the kids on the way home from the zoo because hubby had a work training into the night {who wanted to sit in traffic with a van full of kids for 45 minutes anyway?}

Really, it wasn't so bad and I did have a nice day.  Of course if you had asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday I can't say that any of the above would have made my top 10 things to do on my birthday.

A couple of awesome things did happen though...I got a few Birthday Freebies & Deals {which is always nice...who doesn't like free stuff?}.

You can find websites, and pages among pages with list after list of birthday freebies, but I'm not one to travel all over the place to collect on a freebie {I tummy and thighs don't need me to collect on free desserts}.

Here were my favorite freebies & deals... {in no particular order}

Free Caribou coffee {OK, this was probably my favorite!} If you're ever looking to win me over, just bring me a Caribou coffee hot milk chocolate mocha - we'll be bff's for sure!

Deal: Kids ate FREE at IKEA!  Dinner for us cost $5 and some odd cents, because kids eat free at IKEA on Tuesdays.  Who knew?  Clearly not me.  I don't know if ALL Ikea stores offer this deal on Tuesdays, but the Minneapolis {Bloomington}, MN Ikea does.  

Bonus...I got my new free Ikea catalog!

Free Gift from Sephora {I didn't even have to buy anything}.

Free Gift from AVEDA {technically I still have to go to the store and collect the gift/redeem my birthday offer - but I do have the offer}

$10 off from Shabby Apple  Oh, I cannot wait to use this one!!!  I adore their dresses and will definitely need at least one for the upcoming festivities of the season!

Dresses from Shabby Apple

Who doesn't enjoy free stuff once in a while?  ...especially when it is stuff you like and will use!

What are your favorite birthday freebies?  Do you have any that I should know about or that you recommend for the future?


October 7, 2013

How do you {I) afford to be a stay at home mom? Question Answered

This question has been asked of me a number of times.  At first I thought it was a bit rude to ask or even say, but after recently being asked again I thought to myself "maybe it's not meant in a rude way, but rather she's actually looking for advice or insight on how to make it happen for herself".

This is my attempt to answer the question {that I know I wondered myself once upon a time}...
"How do you {I} afford to be a stay at home mom?"

Let me preface by saying...my hubby isn't bringing home a couple hundred thousand dollars a year {in fact when I first started staying home his salary was almost half of what he's making now}.  We've been on both sides of the fence {income wise} - I stayed at home after our first child, went back to school and then working full-time, and have been back home full-time for the last four years.  In our situation after doing the math {costs associated with me working: daycare, food, clothes, parking/gas, etc.} the take home pay wouldn't be worth the time and stress of a full-time job.

We have decided/chosen that for us it is important for the kids to have one of their parents home with them {I'm the blessed one that gets to do it}.  The 18 years that we have them at home {God willing} are short and important - for us, the extra money in the savings account and 401k accounts can wait.

In a nut shell: it hasn't always been easy, but we choose to make it work.

To Start With...We took a leap of faith.  If we had said "we need to save for such and such first", it never would have happened...there would have always been something to save for or something more we would have "needed" first.  We trust, believe, and have faith that we will always have "enough".

We budget!  We haven't always done this.  In fact we only started seriously budgeting less than a year ago after completing the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University, but it has been life changing!

The month we started Dave's program we were practically living paycheck to paycheck.  Within 6 months we paid off a number of debts - the biggest being our van {which we paid off 2 years early!}.  We still have debts we are paying off {stupid school loans}, but we have a plan and are plugging away.

We don't eat out {very often}!  We used to be so lazy in planning dinner so we would resort to eating out last minute.  We still go out, but we budget for it.  I'm not a great meal planner - I don't plan meals out a month or weeks at a time, and don't have a freezer full of ready to make meals, but we are making dinners at home and saving money.

We buy on Sale and skip the name brands!  I'm not a coupon-er {I don't have the patience or the time} but I do my best to be mindful of buying when on sale - especially kids clothes, etc. We don't buy/pay ridiculous amounts of money on name brand things for the kids {at age 9 and under North Face, Uggs, and other brands aren't necessary}.  I'm honestly not a good thrift shopper for clothes, I'd rather watch for stuff to go on clearance or sale at the store.  When I do have time and energy I like making some clothes for the kids.  I buy a lot of our produce {clean 15} at Aldi {their selection of organic items is growing too} and have seen a tremendous amount of savings since starting shopping there.

We choose not to go on elaborate vacations. Would we like to? Of course! But we choose to use our money in other ways.  We still do "getaways" with the kids, and last year we did our first 10 day family vacation to Texas {visiting NASA, Sea World, and more}, but they're always planned & budgeted for...never put on a credit card.

We choose not to drive fancy/brand new cars.  One of the blessings of my husband's job is a company car, but we haven't always had this benefit.  The car he had before this job was paid for {nothing fancy, but it worked}.  I mentioned above our van is now paid for & we have thankfully found a mechanic that we trust and is very affordable to help us maintain it.

We choose to live in an adequate house.  No, it's not in my dream neighborhood, or dream city {heck it's not even in my dream state}, but it is affordable, safe, has enough space, and is within our means of need {vs. want}.

We choose our entertainment wisely.  We always pay cash for "entertainment" things {this way we don't spend more than we have}.  Entertainment is something we plan for...my hubby doesn't go golfing every weekend in the summer.  He would love to, but it's {the cost} just isn't necessary.  We rent movies instead of going to movies.  We don't go to the mall to "peruse" ...too tempting to buy something we don't need.  We opt for evenings in with friends rather than going out to dinner or going out for drinks.

These are a few of the ways we have made me being a stay at home mom "doable".  Sure, we miss out on some of the things we would like to do, but nothing brings greater joy and fulfillment than just "being" with the kids, spending time with them, watching them grow, and being there for them.

There will be a day and time in life when I can work again {not that I'm itching to}, but there will never be a time in life that I could get back missed days and years with the kids.

What tips do you have for making staying at home "doable"?  What have you done to budget and save?

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October 2, 2013

For the Love of Books {encouraging kids to read}

I L-O-V-E to read!

{I love books in general & I'm a total sucker for buying kids books...}

My kids love to read even more so.  As a parent I love that they love to read - I've known of parents who struggle to get their kids interested in reading {the thought makes me sad}.

We live in a technology and device driven era - smart phones, ipads, ipods, computers, kindles, life like video games, and TVs that offer a plethora of channels and movies.  You can even read books on some of these devices, but an electronic version can never compare to a hard copy book.

{There's just something about the physical turning of a page...the feel of the paper...the smell...}

It is very important to us {my hubby & I} to not allow our children to get sucked into "devices".  We want our kids to continue to learn, imagine, and grow through their love of reading and learning.

Here are some of the ways we encourage our kids to continue their love for books...

Limit screen time {and all technology!}.  We have our limits of what we allow & don't allow, but everyone is different.

Never say no to reading.  This doesn't mean that we let the kids stay up all night reading - many times we have had to take the books away in the wee hours of the evening.

Read together.  The kids love to have classic books read aloud to them. {What we're reading together right now...}

Go to the library often!  We go to the library at least twice a week {we typically have 30-40 books checked out at any given time}.  The kids love choosing books to read, but I always get a number of books that they wouldn't normally choose on their own {and wouldn't you know they usually love the ones I get too!}.

Participate in reading programs {for extra fun/encouragement}.  This summer the kids participated in the Barnes & Noble summer reading program and received a free book for completing it.  Next month we start Book-It {yes, homeschoolers get to participate too}, and the kids will earn a free personal pizza for fulfilling monthly reading goals.

Do you have additional great ideas to encourage kids to read?  Do you have any must-read books that you suggest?

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October 1, 2013

Diagnosis: Peanut Allergy {A New Season in Life}

Our son recently went in for his two year well child visit.  The visit went great!

We did have a couple of concerns...

No. 1...concerning behavior and tantrums.
Diagnosis...{after a slight chuckle from our Dr.} it turns out we have a very normal 2 year old boy and there should be no concern from us at all.

No. 2...concern of possible peanut allergy.
{long story short...almost a year ago, W got a hold of a small piece of peanut butter granola bar and put it in his mouth - we were able to remove the granola bar from his mouth before he could actually eat it but immediately swelled in the face and broke out in hives}

I think I had convinced myself that his reaction a year ago was "just a fluke" and that the test would come back with an "all clear".

Unfortunately things didn't go that way and we have now entered a new season in life.  A season of learning...peanuts are in many more things than we thought they were.  A season of being aware...a hungry, growing two year old boy can have the tendencies of a dog {eating anything from anywhere}.  A season of being alert and making "changes"...

Any tips on living with a "peanut allergy child" when you have other children who love PBJ's and other forms of peanut products?