S#!t Just Got Real

Yeah.  So.

We're facing our first real conundrum when it comes to this whole "no spending" thing.  You see, my work life is about to get CRAZY.  Like, C-R-A-Z-Y.  I have three absolutely huge projects starting this week and extending through the end of April, in addition to my regular clients.  To make things even more interesting, my Mother's Helper is about to have hip replacement surgery and will be out of commission for a while.  In trying to figure out how to make everything work, I called my mom and asked if she would be interested in flying here in March and being our live-in "Granny" (Grandma + Nanny) for a couple of months.  It took her a few days to check her schedule and make a decision, which makes perfect sense.  Unfortunately, the decision came yesterday.  You know, in February.  The month where we're not buying anything.

Like, say, for example, plane tickets.

This leaves us in a bit of a predicament, and we're not sure what to do.  Under normal circumstances, I would buy the tickets now in order to get the best price.  Leaving it until later possibly means the cost will go up considerably.  I would only be able to buy them about a week before she flew if I waited until the spending fast is over.  So, it makes sense to buy them now.  BUT, we're not supposed to be buying anything this month.  One of the reasons for not buying anything is to save money, though, so it's kind of silly to end up paying more for tickets.  On the other hand, part of this is also supposed to be about seeing what it's like to  go without, gt creative, etc.

I've definitely tried to get creative:

1.  Have Mom buy the tickets now and reimburse her next month
2.  Consider it a purchase by my business and not the family
3.  Wait and buy them at the higher price because that's what people do when they don't have the money to spend in advance
4.  Buy the tickets now because, duh.

Option one would technically be ok under the rules, but it sort of goes against the spirit of the challenge.  Option two isn't quite as technically sound but is reasonable because it truly is the business that would be flying her here.  (I suppose I could combine one and two...)  Option three doesn't seem like the smartest, but it does seem the most in-line with the challenge.  But day-am...it could end up being a few hundred dollars difference, which might be worth making an exception, which is why there is an option four.   It would be so much easier to know what to do if plane tickets didn't constantly change prices and I could just compare what it is now to what it would be then.

Rob and I are not quite agreed on which option to take, so I'm hoping to think about it a bit more.

I'd be happy to hear any feedback you folks might have.
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First Day, First Lesson Learned

So, yesterday I said that we didn't do much to prepare for the spend-free month, aside from some lunch-y stuff for school and a perplexing amount of broccoli.  It turns out that I probably should have also thought through my promise to take the girls to the Dollar Store on Sunday.  I told them last week that I would take them to pick out something with the money they earned last week, completely forgetting that Sunday was the first day of February and our spending fast.


Here's the deal:  I don't break promises to my kids.  It's kind of a thing with me.

Like I said:  Uh-Oh.

So, we all talked about it and decided a compromise was in order.  Well, the 6-year-old did.  The 3-year-old is going along with it despite her preference for immediate gratification.  The deal is that they can continue to earn money throughout this month, and we will see how much they save up and will put it to use AFTER our spend-free month is over.  This actually works out great, as I'm still able to keep my word to the girls while also allowing them to experience what it's like to save up for something.  Yay!

As for Rob and me, we managed to hang in there pretty well on our first day.  We've each discovered something we wish we would have bought before this adventure began.  (Mod Podge for me, razor blades for him), but so far, so good!

I'm Pretty Sure We're Crazy, and This Is What Gave It Away

Oh, boy.  We’re doing it.  The Brewer Family is undertaking a rather crazy experiment:  We’re planning to buy (almost) nothing during the month of February.

No trips through the drive-through (or delivered pizza).  No apps for the smartphone.  No trips to the children’s museum on snowy afternoons.
This is a good thing, and February is the perfect time for us to do it.  For one thing, it’s the shortest month.  Believe me, we’re feeling pretty nervous about this whole thing!  It’s most definitely going to be a challenge.

But, there are other reasons for us to choose February.  After the excitement and spending of the holiday season, we move right into birthdays with two in January.  That is a lot of “stuff.”  We have such generous friends and family, and they have been so gracious with gifts.  That’s awesome, but it still means that we’ve added a lot of stuff to our house in the past couple of months.

It’s time for a rest.  A rest for our bank accounts.  A rest for our consumerism.  A rest for our minds and our bodies that are always on the go, go, GO!

I’m hoping to kind of track our progress here, just for fun and to look back on later and see how we did.  I’ll try to be as honest as possible in sharing the good and the not-so-good of this experience.

The Rules

The rules are pretty simple for this.  We’re not buying anything from February 1st through February 28th.  We will be entertaining ourselves with things we already own.  Likewise, we will be eating out of our pantry and our freezer.  I suspect meals will be quite interesting by the end of the month!  We didn’t really go through and stock up for this experience, although we did get some items for the kindergartener’s lunches, an extra bag of flour since we’ll probably end up making stuff from scratch more, and for some reason, Darling Husband Rob felt like we needed two giant bags of frozen broccoli.

That said, there are a few exceptions.  The following are groceries the we can buy.  The thought process is that these are the three “fresh” things that we would need to make pretty much anything else.  Also, we have three small kids, and we’re not expecting them to not drink milk during this time:

1. Milk
2. Eggs
3. Butter

As for non-food items, we are also allowed to put gas in the vehicles if needed and to buy toilet paper or diapers if we happen to run out.

The Hope

I have a few goals for this project:

To see that we can do it.
To recognize what it’s like for folks who can’t just run out and buy something when they need (or “need”) it.
To save a bunch of money to bring a certain account back up to where it should be.
To be more cognizant of the spending we typically do.
And finally, to feel “detoxified” from all the consumerism that has been really prevalent for us in the last several months (August birthday party, September birthday party, October birthday party, Halloween, Thanksgiving, travel, Christmas, two January birthdays, several projects around the house…)

If nothing else, it should be pretty interesting and will definitely take us outside of our comfort zone for 28 days.
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    Somewhere Over the Rainbow
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Freezer Meal Baby Shower

I realized that I never followed up on my promise to write out how we did the freezer meal baby shower. Here it is for those who were interested. It went pretty smoothly, for a first attempt. If you can swing it, I highly recommend having a chocolate fountain in the room. I think it helped. ;-)

We had about seven people and broke into two groups of three, with me kind of “floating” to direct traffic, wash dishes, find ingredients, etc; and it took us three hours, pretty much on the nose.  When all was said and done, the mommy-to-be walked out the door with 24 servings of oatmeal, maybe 20 breakfast burritos, two pans of enchiladas with a small pan of Spanish rice, a large dish of fried rice, a couple meals’ worth of shredded BBQ beef, a couple dozen pancakes, and 16 twice-baked potato halves.

I’ll try to reconstruct the timeline to the best of my recollection.

1.       The night before I made a big batch of rice in the rice cooker with six cups of uncooked rice to something like eight cups of water.  It was cooled and good to the next day.  I also put a four-pound beef roast into the crock pot with a small can of tomato sauce and four cans of water for moisture.

2.       One and a half hours before the party, I put 8 large potatoes in the oven to bake, wrapped in foil.

3.       When folks arrived, we took the potatoes out of the oven and put two pounds of bacon in to cook, put two cups of steel-cut oats to boil in six cups of water, and put five medium potatoes on to boil in another pan.

4.       Group 1 shredded the entire roast while Group 2 scrambled a dozen eggs and set them aside.  Half of the beef was set aside for the enchiladas and the other half went into a smaller crock pot with lots of BBQ sauce.

5.       “Floater” poured oatmeal into muffin tin, added blueberries to the top, and put into freezer.

6.       Group 1 cut up the boiled potatoes, onions, and peppers and fried them up to make breakfast potatoes (according to this recipe) and put them aside.  Group 2 made the twice-baked potatoes.

7.       Group 1 made the breakfast burritos.  (We used chopped up bacon instead of sausage.)  We wrapped these individually in foil and piled them in a pan to later be heated individually.  Group 2 used the electric skillet/frying pan to make the Spanish rice.

8.       Group 1 made pancakes on the electric griddle while Group 2 made fried rice in the electric skillet.

9.       Whoever was available mixed and filled the enchiladas.  Someone else packaged up the BBQ beef.

10.   Oatmeal came out of freezer, bottom soaked in hot water for 20 seconds, pop them out and place into plastic bag.


·         I used a beef roast because it was on sale.  You could totally do pork or even chicken for these recipes.
·         Everything was wrapped in aluminum containers from the dollar store and/or foil (except the oatmeal), and reheating instructions were written clearly on the top.  Most started with the direction to “thaw” first.  For the oatmeal, though, just stick a single “puck” into a bowl and microwave for 1-2 minutes.
·         We intended to use some of the scrambled eggs for the burritos and some for the fried rice but forgot and put them all in the burritos, so we just scrambled up a couple more for the rice later.
·         We placed layers of wax paper between the pancakes to keep them from sticking so the family could just pull out as many as they needed.  (We actually put the batter in squeezy bottles and then had a contest to see who could make the coolest pancake.)
·         We sent the food out of here in great big gift bags because, well, it was our gift!
·         As we moved on to a new dish, we would take the previous recipe down and tape the new one up on the cupboards at eye level.

- We also sent them with a bag of hamburger buns to go into the freezer for when it was time to serve the BBQ beef.
- A friend who couldn't join in the cooking still managed to stop by and bring the family some grass-fed beef for the freezer and a loaf of home-baked bread, too.

Figuring Out How to Do This

As I mentioned, I've been making lists of things to do, and I've been having varying levels of success in accomplishing the things on those lists.  Right now, they're a little more for my own references to keep me focused on the present instead of slipping into uncertainty about what it is I need to do and getting overwhelmed.

I just realized that I'm not just trying to move at a reasonable pace, I'm trying to discover what a reasonable pace is!

I have a lot of lists
I had to laugh the other night when I realized that my list making may have gotten out of control.  The irony there is that I'm pretty sure the whole reason I make these lists is because I'm trying desperately to GAIN control.  I have lists that are arranged by day, arranged by room, and arranged by person.  Most are handwritten, one is printed.  They are on four different kinds of paper.  This is not normal, is it?

What I've discovered in the last week or so of transferring items from one paper to my another to create day-by-day lists is that I can really only have one personal project a day.  And, by "personal project," I mean things like cleaning the bathroom, cleaning the bedroom, cleaning the kitchen...you know, stuff like that. ;-)  It now takes me approximately a day to clean any one room in my house (the master bedroom took three days).  Granted, those are rooms that are really, really bad due to having been ignored for a long time.  As I work through them, I'm implementing strategies to make them easier to deal with in the future.

We also may or may not actually get to do the craft I have listed for the day.  I'm feeling pretty laid back about it, though.  If we do the craft that day, cool.  If we don't that means that we were busy doing other stuff and I determined we didn't need craft time that day.  Maybe the girls decided to play outside more than usual or I talked them into helping with some other kind of project or we read a bunch of library books instead.  Whatever.  It's all good.

See, I'm already being more easy going about things, right?  It's pretty disheartening when I realize that at this pace, I will never really be able to get to all the stuff I want to do.  But, I'll keep plugging away at it, and as I'm doing so, I'm coming up with ways to make things easier and more efficient for later.  So, I hopefully won't have to keep doing all the same things over and over.

That's my theory, anyway.  Am I delusional?  Possibly.  But I like pretending I have some sort of control.  

Striving for Zero

5 Days a Week Paper Mousepad

Wow.  The last couple of months were...hard.  The pregnancy and some associated complications made things pretty difficult.  I managed to keep up until my mom got here at the end of June, and then I was quite grateful to have her help with the kiddos and the house during the day.  My pain level almost immediately dropped, which did show me that I really had been pushing myself too hard.  But, you gotta do what you gotta do, right?

So, first of all, I made this:  

Welcome to the world, Winnie!

She's now almost six weeks old, and I'm getting pretty antsy about getting things under control.  My mom just went back to Florida this weekend, and hubby's back to full-time this week; so I'm full-on figuring out how to be a mother of three.  

There's obviously been a lot of change around here, and the seasons are following suit.  Right now, I'm kind of doing a combination of preparing for winter and trying to simplify my days.  In order to do that, I'm getting things organized, paring stuff down a bit, and working really, really hard to kid-proof the house.  I love Lucy with all my heart, but she's kind of a terror, and I'm to the point where if I can't get it out of her reach, it needs to have a childproof lock on it.  

For example, I've mentioned on here a couple of times that it just drives me crazy that the girls get out all the baby blankets and drag them all over the house.  CRAZY.  I find myself saying things like, "why do I have to pick up the same things over and over every day?!"  The answer I'm thinking is because my monkeys keep getting the blankets/straws/books (although, I can't get too annoyed about that one!)/whatever out and not putting them away.  The REAL answer is because I haven't made those things inaccessible.

So, for the last week or so, I've been working on that, as well as trying to take care of other nagging things.  In addition to creating barriers between the kids and the stuff I don't want to clean up yet again, I'm also purging some things.  I figure the less stuff I have, the less stuff they can drag around, right?  This week alone I cleaned my dresser and closet, neither of which was nearly as difficult as I anticipated because I did such a good job organizing last time.  Seriously, if I'd known it would be that easy, I wouldn't have spent the last three months dreading opening my closet door and feeling like a failure whenever I stuffed something into an over-full dresser drawer.  I would have just taken the half hour to solve the damn problem, already.  That allowed me to get rid of about half a big black garbage bag full of clothes, and I'm sure more will follow once I get back down to a more pre-pregnancy size.  (Bye, bye, maternity clothes.)

I also managed to scrub one shower and one toilet (the ones that I never get to), cleaned out the winter accessories drawer downstairs (how many brown scarves do I really need?), got some work projects done, tracked down a bill that erroneously went to collections, and got the bigger two girls to their gymnastics classes (with help from a friend).  Whew!

I will be getting back to the Big List Project, but for right now, I'm "striving for zero."  That's what I call it when I'm working from a deficit.  It's kind of how I feel about debt, for example.  "If I could just be at zero!"  Anyway, I'm trying to get to zero as I still feel behind from being so sick during my pregnancy.  I've got this awesome five-day planner pad (pictured above--it's pretty funny), and I'm kind of lining up each day of the week in advance.  I plan out the work stuff I want to get done, the house stuff, possible craft projects for each day, appointments, etc.  I did it this week, and even though I didn't get to everything on the list every day (or ANY day, really), it's been helpful to have that to turn to rather than trying to remember what the blazes I'm doing on those days when I'm a bit sleep deprived with a crying baby, a toddler with an appetite for destruction, and a 4-year-old who really should still be taking naps but doesn't.

I have so very much I want to get done, but right now I have to remember that slow and steady wins the race.  Either that, or I need to keep telling myself that lie so I don't sink into despair over the fact that my to-do list stretches to approximately 2017...

(no subject)

So, there I am, minding my own business...just surfing Pinterest like...well, like the Pinterest junkie I am.  All of a sudden, I came across one of the most useful things ever.  OK, maybe not THE most useful.  And maybe not EVER.  But, it was really cool nonetheless.  

I can never remember conversions for liquids or baking or whatever.  It doesn't come up all that often, and the fact that we live in The Future with access to the entire Internet means that it's not that big of a deal to look up conversions when I need them.  However, I saw this awesome picture yesterday, and now...I just won't need to look these up anymore.  They are forever cemented in my brain just because of this one, awesome mnemonic from the blog Beyond the Grades.

I wish someone would have taught me this a long time ago so I would remember gallons, quarts, pints, and cups! For the visual learner

2 cups = 1 pint
2 pints = 1 quart
4 quarts = 1 gallon

Brilliant, right?  It was so cool that I decided to see if I could come up with one on my own.  I have a hard time keeping track of all my measuring spoons and cups, so I thought some dry measurement conversions would be pretty helpful for me to memorize.  Here's what I came up with:

Dry Ingredient Baking Conversions

3 tsp = 1 TBS
4 TBS = 1/4 cup 

I've pretty much always wondered in the back of my mind just how many teaspoons were in a tablespoon!

My Mud Room!

I am so excited about this project!  I see people talking all the time about how they find all this awesome stuff on Pinterest, but then they never get around to actually doing it.  I'll admit that I have hundreds of pins of things that I may never get to, but I also do a lot of the stuff I find.  In fact, I'm thinking of creating a board just for pins that I've done. ;-)

Anyway, this project is one of the earlier pins I put on my boards, hoping to some day get there.  You see, in my house-shopping criteria, having a "mud room" was really high on the list.  Unfortunately, the house we chose didn't come with one.  It does, however, have an entryway that seems like it could double as a mudroom.  As usual, theory and practice were two different things, and the fact that both the front door and the closet door opened into the room meant that there was actually pretty much zero usable space.

Then I came across a pin linking back to this post on HOUSE*TWEAKING, and I thought "I can do that!"  Granted, my setup is a little different from hers, and not quite as ideal, but I was still able to take the overall idea and run with it.  (For example, her closet was wider on the inside, so she was able to put in a hanger bar that ran from front to back in the closet while being out of site.  I WISH I could have done that!)

So, here's how it went.  First, a couple of "before" pictures:

Before View from Outside

This is what it looked like as you entered the house.  Pretty boring.  The little table on the left was cool because it fit in that tiny space, providing a little surface.  It's a drop-leaf, so if you actually need a real table for a party or something, it extends to be a full-sized table.  On the other hand, it sure was easy for junk to pile up there!

Before Closet Interior
The inside of the closet hid a lot of mess (it wasn't usually this clean), but it was also really frustrating to try to find anything in there.  

Before View from Living Room
This is what the original space looked like from the living room with the French doors open to give a better view.  I'm quite happy with the staircase landing area, but see how there's no floor space in the entryway when you leave a path for the front door and closet door to open.

Now for Some "During" Photos

Getting Ready for Remodel
First thing's first.  I took off the closet door and emptied out all of the stuff in there (some of which still needs a permanent home *sigh*).  We also took out the hanger bar and shelf and did some minimal patching where they left marks on the inside walls.

Painting the Walls
Since I was about 7 1/2 months pregnant at the time, a very dear friend came over and did the painting.  i saved the paint chips forever, but now that I actually want to share the names of the colors, they're nowhere to be found.  I chose a pretty green for the three walls (all of which were blessedly small), and another that was two shades lighter for the inside of the closet.  Since I don't have any lighting in there, I figured that would help.

I didn't paint the wall where the front door is because it would have led to a whole dilemma on where to stop.  Plus, the kind of sandy brown color that's there looks really nice.

Building the Bench
I found both the bench and the hanging shelf at Home Depot.  They're by Martha Stewart, and I thought the price was really reasonable.  I believe both together were about $100 new.  

Building the Mudroom Bench
While I couldn't really help with the painting, I did build (well, assemble) both of the units myself.

During Interior of Closet
I chose green and orange canvas blocks for the cubbies based on some artwork I'd purchased to decorate the room.  A friend hung the shelf as well as hooks on either side of the interior.  

Nest Wreath
At this point, I started to kind of freak out.  I had collected together a bunch of decor for the room, and it seemed like absolutely nothing was going to work.  I'd developed this whole bird/nest concept for the room to sort of have a nature feel, as well as to underscore the idea of "home."

I had my receipts and was all ready to return my purchases to the various stores when something awesome happened.  I grabbed this wreath I had made (it was in the living room) and hung it over the closet.  All of a sudden, I could see where everything else needed to go.  Piece by piece, it just fell into place!  (I know they're a little blurry, but those little lights on the right are rust-colored metal birds.)

And now for the "after" pictures:

After View from Outside
This is what it looks like when you walk into our house now.  I think it's pretty inviting.  The artwork above the bench is a $15 decal from Target, and the pillows are from my home office upstairs.  As for the hooks on the hanging shelf, I'm thinking of using them for umbrellas or something really skinny so it doesn't hide the decal.  Unlike the original post, I chose to put my more utilitarian hooks on the sides rather than the back just to keep things looking a little bit tidier.

After View from Living Room
This is a view from the living room.  The pictures on the stairwell say "Love" and "Dream."  I have a matching one hung over the front door that says "Joy," but I didn't get pictures.  There will also be a pretty picture of poppies screwed to the lower half of the front door (I loved it so much that I had to find other ways to get orange in the room to pull it all together).

Closet Interior Left
Closet interior looking to the left.  I was so happy that the back of the closet happened to be paneled, as I think it gives it a much more finished look than if it had been textured like the side walls.  I am a little bummed that there's a glare off of the decal, but to be honest, it only shows from certain angels and at certain times of the day when the light hits it the wrong way.

Closet Interior Right
Closet interior looking to the right.  I'm hoping the space next to the bench will be just right for my husband's briefcase to sit on the floor there.

Whew!  For such a small space, it was kind of a big project.  I was fortunate to have some awesome friends who helped me with the painting and hanging the heavy shelf.


One Tiny Frustration at a Time...

June is over, and I didn’t quite make several of my goals.  I’m feeling kind of OK with this, however.  First of all, I was really, really sick this month.  Like, doubled over in pain, trying not to cry sick.  We also traveled to the Nevada/California border where I managed to entertain two small people in a strange town/hotel room for four days (while still very sick).  We hit up two children’s museums, ate at a quirky place called “Heidi’s,” and saw taxidermied Dr. Seuss animals.

Rather than focusing on what I didn’t get done, though, I wanted to share some kind of cool stuff that’s been coming out of this whole Big List project.

As you may or may not already know, part of the list is devoted to problems that I continually encounter.  There are things that make my life more difficult or annoying on a daily basis, some that pop up in my work on a regular basis, and yet others that only show up once in a while, but always cause my shoulders to slump in defeat when I have to deal with whatever it is YET AGAIN.

I mentioned in a previous post that one of the things I’m discovering through this process is that the best way to solve a problem is to pay attention to it.  For me, paying attention started with making a list of things that tend to crop up again and again.  When I would find myself using words like “always” (Dot always uses half a roll of tape, and it drives me crazy!) or “never” (Ugh, Rob never puts away the coffee press!) I would pay attention to what was being said and then write it down. The goal was to come up with a list of irritations that I might just be able to remove from my life.  Of course, that meant that instead of whining about what was bothering me and being a martyr, I would need to actually come up with solutions.

I’ve had various levels of success.  Some of the things on the list likely don’t have a feasible solution,  and I may just need to learn how to live with them.  For others, the obvious solution is that it will stop when my children are older, and I likely have to live with those, too.

Still, there are a few problems from that list that I’ve been able to solve by simply putting in a little brain power instead of being annoyed and then moving on.  Once I got into this problem-solving mode, I also found that some solutions were popping into my head without me even trying.  This is great news, as I think it shows that my thinking is getting clearer and more focused on the right things, i.e., what I want, rather than what I don’t want.

Here are a couple of the ongoing annoying problems, some of which I’ve actually solved.

Problem:  The coffee press.  I don’t drink coffee, and I absolutely hate cleaning up the whole coffee ground mess.  I’ve always been of the opinion that I just shouldn’t be expected to clean up the coffee situation.  Unfortunately, the person in this house who drinks coffee is not all that great about cleaning it up, either.  He’ll make a nice pot of coffee on Saturday morning and then blissfully leave the coffee press, full of grounds, on the counter to mold until the next weekend when he decides to make more.  It drives me nuts, and has for a DECADE.

Solution:  Out of the blue one day, it occurred to me that it didn’t really matter where the coffee press was as it turned putrid.  My frustration came from seeing it sitting there day after day, getting my feathers all ruffled.  So, I picked it up off the counter and put it up on the shelf where it belongs.  It was still full of grounds and cold coffee, but that’s not really my problem, is it?  Why does it have to sit there and mock me as it grows fungus?  It turns out that I can just put it away and not even have to think about it until the next time it gets left out and I put it away full again.

Problem:  Dot gets great joy out of putting her own brown sugar on her oatmeal in the morning.  Unfortunately, I had no idea how much she was actually using.  This is a problem, as she seems to have some adverse reactions to sugar…plus, I just kind of felt like I wasn’t doing my job by not monitoring her sugar intake.

Solution:  OK, this is incredibly simplistic, but it goes to show that sometimes all you really need to do is take a moment to think, rather than rushing through your routine and wishing something was different.  I took a ½ teaspoon measuring spoon and put it into the brown sugar jar.  When she has oatmeal, I measure out a spoonful and put it into a little bowl (being sure to spread it out so it looks like a lot), and set it next to her oatmeal.

Problem:  Can’t seem to keep matching sets of baby socks.

Solution:  I actually wrote a whole post about this, but the brainstorm was to buy two lingerie bags, one of which hangs on the nursery hamper at all times.  When laundry day comes along, the whole thing gets tossed into the wash, with no opportunity for single socks to pull a Houdini.  It’s worked quite well so far, and I’m thinking about getting a set of bags for everyone in the house.

Problem:  We have a lot of art supplies stored in a hutch in our downstairs hallway.  Unfortunately, the hutch gets covered with junk because it’s a horizontal surface in our house, and that’s what happens where there’s a space that junk could potentially reside.  Anyway, hubby had gotten into the habit of tossing a variety of things on there, and they blocked the doors and made it really frustrating every time I had to open them (which is several times a day).

Solution:  To be honest, I’m not totally sure why this worked, but I asked Rob to stop putting stuff there and told him why.  It’s been a few weeks now, and he’s still refraining from putting stuff there most of the time.  Who knew it would be that easy?

Problem:  We have three boxes on the floor of our entryway closet.  Theoretically, each is supposed to hold the shoes of one family member.  In reality, however, they get all mixed up, Rob puts a bunch of other stuff in there, and every time I want to put shoes on my kids, I still have to hunt all around the house because for some reason, only one of each pair seems to ever make it into the box.  The fact that there is no longer a door on the closet is also added incentive to keep things tidy in there.

Solution:  This is kind of a big one, and there will be pictures later because it’s a small part of a much larger project.  But, today I assembled the Martha Stewart entryway bench that will be an important part of my entryway makeover.  It has three drawers in it, each of which will hold a few pairs of shoes.  That means that everyone has to choose a limited number of shoes that “belong” in that entryway closet, and everything else goes in their personal closets.  Much less stuff = much less time spent searching through stuff.

Problem:  Every time I turn around, the girls have dragged all of the baby blankets out of the closet.  I pick up and fold baby blankets a hundred times a day!  I’ve tried to find somewhere else to keep them, but they are sort of in the best possible place; on top of a dresser in the closet.  Oh, and not only do they drag all the blankets out, but they also don’t close the closet door.  They also go through the dresser drawers and I end up having to put away an entire stash of baby bottles or outgrown shoes and hats.  Grr.

Solution:  This just came to me a couple of evenings ago, and I haven’t done it yet, but my plan is to put Velcro strips way up high that will keep the sliding doors from being opened.

There’s still tons of stuff on my list, but the fact that I’ve removed these little sources of frustration from my day-to-day life is actually pretty exciting to me.


Checking In On My June Goals

I knew this month was going to be tricky, as far as working on my Big List.  We took nearly a week’s vacation to the Nevada/California border, and I didn’t have a chance to do much of anything “productive” during that time.  I also have a really, really big work project coming up.  And, I might as well throw in that I’m seven months pregnant and not getting around so well.

Still, I’m so in love with this project and all of the progress I’m seeing that I wanted to pick some items off of the Big List to work on in June.  Some of them have already gone a little haywire, but I’m still working on it. 

Some of the categories I’m working on this month include:

·         Marriage Stuff – I am failing miserably at doing the things I put under this section.  With traveling and being really sick for the last several weeks, this section has sort of taken a back seat to simply trying to make it through the days intact.

·         House Stuff – I’m focusing on decorating and reworking the entryway of our house.  Unfortunately, the painting that I had the whole design planned around is no longer available!  I have purchased the paint and masked off the moldings, as well as taken the closet door off the hinges.  Unfortunately, getting someone else to paint the tiny little space looks like it’s going to cost my $100 at least, which seems insane to me.  So, it’s just sitting there all masked off while I figure out what to do next.

·         House Stuff – There were actually two things in this category, and I’ve managed to follow through pretty well on getting the energy audit done.  We’ve decided to move ahead on several of their suggestions, although we’re not going to replace our not-so-efficient boiler system at this point.  Hopefully, the insulation, gas hot water heater, air sealing, and heat pumps for the upstairs will make a big enough difference for now.

·         Gardening – Oh, boy, have I fallen down on the job with this one.  I have a whole kitchen window full of vegetable/herb starts (like, hundreds of them), and I have yet to get any of them transplanted into containers or the garden bed.  I did plant most of the garden space last month, but it has been so incredibly rainy here that I’ll be surprised if the weeds don’t completely choke everything else out.  I’m feeling like a big old failure on this whole gardening thing. 

·         Financial – I did manage to order my credit reports, despite the fact that the credit bureaus seem to make it as complicated as humanly possible!  I’m really happy with how my credit has improved over the last several years, but I won’t really have a clear picture of our overall situation until Darling Husband Rob orders his, too.  Cross your fingers!

·         Financial – This is the thing I was most excited about this month, and I’ve just managed to get pretty much nowhere.  I’m attempting to get all of our important documents together, to gather all of our accounts (bank, insurance, retirement, etc.), and all that jazz so that we can go to an estate planning attorney and get our wills, powers of attorney, etc. taken care of.  Unfortunately, I got overwhelmed by it on pretty much the first day, and I’ve been steadfastly avoiding it ever since.  This might just have to become my sole focus for July, as there is so much that needs to be done.  (Like, I think we’re going to have to figure out how to get multiple birth certificates from multiple states, have SS cards reissued, etc….See, I told you it was overwhelming.)

·         Data – I meant to track down all of my old internet accounts and close them.  I haven’t used my Flickr account in forever because I can’t figure out how to log on since Yahoo took over.  Oh, and I have two Yahoo mail accounts that I also don’t know how to access.  I don’t use my iStockPhoto account, have a LiveJournal account that I haven’t used in years and don’t need to keep, and so on and so forth.  I haven’t done any of that.  On the other hand, I did follow through on part of my plan, and I purged my FB friends and applications, as well as getting myself unsubscribed from a ton of newsletters that were filling up my email inbox.

·         Getting Ready for Baby – The biggest part of this is getting our soon-to-be-middle daughter transitioned into a big-girl bed.  I spent two weeks (at least) hunting down the perfect bunk bed so she and her big sister can share a room on the same floor as my bedroom.  I took on extra work projects last month so I could afford it, so I refuse to guilty about spending more for the bed with a staircase instead of one with a ladder.  Now, we’re working on getting the little one to sleep in there (we’re on night three, but Rob or I have been sleeping with her the last two nights to help her transition).  Next I’ll need to move her clothes into the drawers and probably bring up the newborn clothes to put into the nursery.

So, I’m not nearly where I hoped to be at this point, but it has been a very difficult month for me health-wise.  I’ve been kind of focused on all the setbacks, so it was nice to make this list and see that I really have accomplished quite a few things, too. 

It’s time to put my axe to the grindstone and see how many more of these things I can maybe mark off the Big List before it’s time to turn the calendar page!