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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Books I've Read: June 2015

No picture this time around, because these were all on my Kindle.  But here's what I read this time around...

The Frugal Life: The Simple Path To Living A Good Life On A Budget by Michelle Stewart.  This was one of the "less than 100 pages" books on my Kindle that I got for free at some point.  Most of this book was pretty common sense, review stuff.  Declutter and sell stuff, meal plan, use coupons, budget.

The one takeaway I got from it was an example in the first chapter about eating out.  The author and her husband realized they were spending quite a bit on meals out and grabbing food quickly on busy nights.  So they made a rule to have one dinner out each month with appetizers and dessert and the works, and if they had busy nights that they didn't have time to cook, they settled on pizza or sub sandwiches or something cheaper that still worked.  We've talked about doing something similar - limiting ourselves to one takeout/treat per week, but we haven't fully implemented it yet, and this reminded me of that.

Overall, this was a quick read, but nothing too exciting.

The Unexpected Joys Of A Tight Grocery Budget by Carissa Casey.  This was literally a five minute read.  The book is broken down into ten super short chapters, each outlining the benefit of a small grocery budget.  This was a good reminder that keeping the grocery budget in check can be beneficial, and there were a few aspects I hadn't thought about for awhile.  I think when I downloaded this book, though, I expected it to be more than it was.  Like I said, it was really short.  I was looking for more specifics and examples, and that wasn't what it was.

A Faerie Fated Forever by Mary Anne Graham.  This one started out innocently enough, and then it just went downhill  The story was cute, and I was mildly interested in seeing what was going to predictably happen, but too much sex.  This was one of those that I got for free on my Kindle once upon a time a few years ago.  I wanted a light fluffy read, and it was that, but it was also smutty.

But hey! I read some books this month!

Total books read this month: 3.  Total books read this year: 7.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Iron Craft Challenge #12: I'm Your Biggest Fan

This was supposed to be up last Tuesday, but we were on vacation.  Better late than never!

For the last Iron Craft Challenge, I made a Superman/Wonder Woman wall hanging for our room (I've since painted the sides in accent colors and I really like how that turned out!).

The boys saw that and wanted one for their room too.  Even though their dad is a Superman fan, the boys actually like Batman and the Joker.  So I wanted to make a Batman themed hanging for their room.  

I did my google image search to find appropriate silhouettes to print.  The hardest to find was a Joker that wasn't too scary or Heath Ledger (he's awesome, but not very black-and-white-printable).  I finally found one, along with Batman and Robin together, and Gotham City. 

I didn't mess around with finding the perfect book page texts this time, because I don't know Batman lore as much, and also because the kids can't read yet...
A little mod podge, a little paint, and voila!  
What a nice pair of superhero pictures!

Menu Plan: June 30-July 5

Some of our garden haul this weekend...

You might notice there's a little bit of overlap here from my last menu plan, which went through July 2.  (Okay, you probably won't notice, because you don't memorize my meal plans, but there is).  That's because I realized we only had a few more days between the end of that plan and our family vacation, so I decided to see if I could stretch what we had to cover the rest of the meals.  My mom also gave me a few fresh items that they weren't going to use before they left their house as well.  It actually was not that hard!  Meals that were already on the plan from last time are in parentheses.

Tuesday, June 30
Breakfast: (Gluten-Free Chocolate Banana Muffins)
Lunch: (Leftover Taco Soup)
Dinner: (Stuffed Peppers)
Snack: (Watermelon)
Snack: (Bean Brownies)

Wednesday, July 1
Breakfast: (Gluten-Free Chocolate Banana Muffins)
Lunch: (Black Bean Burgers, Sweet Potato Fries)
Dinner: Cobb Salads (using lettuce and tomatoes from my mom, plus additional lettuce from our garden), Green Beans from the garden
Snack: (Bananas)
Snack: (Bean Brownies)

Thursday, July 2
Breakfast: (Yogurt and Homemade Granola)
Lunch: Funeral luncheon at church (I'm bringing cake)
Dinner: (Southern Chicken Stew, Biscuits)
Snack: (Apples)
Snack: (Popcorn)

Friday, July 3
Breakfast: Eggs and Toast
Lunch: Pinto Beans, Mexi Rice (I have everything except the red pepper), Cheese
Dinner: Leftovers
Snack: Yogurt
Snack: Canned Fruit

Saturday, July 4
Breakfast: Oatmeal with Canned Pears and Frozen Blueberries
Lunch: Veggie Stir Fry (using peas, corn, broccoli, mushrooms, carrots, and celery, which are all in the freezer, plus some beef broth I have saved from the last time I made beef and broccoli)
Dinner: (Oatmeal Pancakes, Cinnamon Apples)
Snack: Canned Fruit
Snack: Energy Bites

Sunday, July 5
Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: Sandwiches/PB Tortillas (depending on the amount of bread we have left), and Hannah will have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on leftover pancakes
Dinner: Pizza - topped with Sausage and Fajita Veggies from the freezer (my brother and his fiancee will be here so I planned a nicer dinner for them)
Snack: Energy Bites
Snack: Whatever's left

We'll finish with eggs or cereal for breakfast on Monday, and head out, hopefully with a cleared out fridge/freezer, and with all of our grocery budget intact!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Weekly Goals: June 28-July 4

Jonah with his godparents. One of my favorite parts of this week was seeing old friends!

Last Week's Goals:
  • Stick to our budget for food and entertainment while traveling.  We did okay.  We chose to make a few extra purchases (bras for me, sunglasses for Jesse) because we were actually around stores that sold them.  But for food and coffee and stuff for the kids, we did great!
  • Talk to my parents about food.  We talked about it a little bit, but that's it for now.
This Week's Goals:
  • See if I can manage to feed us for July 3-5 without doing any major grocery shopping (except picking up something for next Sunday's dinner since we'll have company).  I have meals planned through July 2, and since there's only a few days between that and our family get-together, I want to see if we can make things stretch.
  • Do Iron Craft Challenge #13: Words.  If I can't come up with a project for that, I'm in big trouble...
  • Clean out my dish strainer.  It's gross.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Weekly Goals: June 21-27

Elizabeth is now officially a sitter and a crawler.  She has been close to these milestones for quite awhile, and this week she just took off!  

Last Week's Goals:

  • Meal plan, make the grocery list, go shopping, and do food prep.  Done!
  • Read 2 of the books on my Less Than 100 Pages list.  Done!
  • Finish the projects from my paper clutter and craft cupboard lists.  Done!
This Week's Goals:
  • Stick to our budget for food and entertainment while traveling.  
  • Help my parents clean out their cupboards and come up with a meal plan for some of their pantry goods, if they're interested.
We're going to our synod convention the first half of the week, and then stopping by my parents' house for a few days.  My mom has had a few health issues lately, so I'm hoping to have a conversation about food with her, and offer some suggestions if she's interested.  I'm looking forward to a week filled with family and friends!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Organizing Trouble Spots: Craft Cupboard

Yesterday I posted about paper clutter.  Today it's all about the craft cupboard!  This was another area I wanted to tackle for I Heart Organizing's Wait-No-More Challenge.

Let's start with the before and after shot:
It's still crowded, but more things are contained, and pretty much everything has a spot of its own, which is super important for kids ages 5, 4, and 2 to be putting things away.
So before.  Big problems were the bottom two shelves.  That third shelf is actually not a true "before" picture, since I added the boxes before I took the photo.  Just picture a really messy pile there instead...
One thing that works is that the top shelf is "Mom's shelf" and they know they can't have anything up there without asking.  It's still a cluttered mess, unfortunately, but I wanted to post anyways.  I need some sort of bins for holding the different art supplies up there, and I haven't gotten them yet.
The second shelf now has a white baby wipes bin on the left for smaller notepads that were getting lost with all the bigger ones.  The glue is all in one green container now, the crayons and markers each have a bin, and the pens are all back in the pen cup.
I had several of these Bob's Red Mill flour boxes from my big box of baking supplies I got a few months ago, so I used those to corral notebooks/drawing pads, coloring books, and sticker books.  This way the kids can grab what they want and put it back.
They weren't the prettiest things to look at though, so I covered them with pretty blue floral shelf liner.  That also brings some uniformity to the bins, and even though it's a busy pattern, it makes the whole thing look less busy to me because it's more streamlined.
And then the bottom shelf.  It's supposed to be paper on the right, projects on the left.  The "projects" were really just everything they didn't want to put away or recycle.  Most of that went into the recycling bin, although they each picked a few things they forgot were in there to save.
Here's after:
(Sorry for the terrible lighting - this is in a corner of the living room without much natural light).  More boxes covered in shelf liner!  Again with the uniformity...Now the box on the right has all the construction paper organized by color, so they can grab what they want instead of telling me we're out of something when we actually aren't.  And the box on the left has scraps for when they don't need a whole piece of paper.  We're going to find a different spot for any projects they want to save, and really limit them.
I also condensed the stickers to one green baby wipes container.  I went through and cut down the big sheets into smaller pieces (and got rid of the ones where all but one sticker were gone).
This is probably my favorite shot of the whole project.  These two shelves just look so awesome now!

This is a project I've been meaning to do for awhile, so I'm glad this challenge motivated me to get it done!  We keep tweaking this corner to find what works, and I think with this we might finally have a system that works.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Organizing Trouble Spots: Paper Clutter

I mentioned in my most recent Weekly Goals post that I was participating in I Heart Organizing's Wait-No-More Organizing Challenge.  I had two areas to focus on.  The first is paper clutter.  Papers end up everywhere...  
On the footstool...
On the desk...
On our "appliance island" in the dining room...
On what used to be our garden table inside...
Even on top of the fruit dish on the dining room table. (Go Twins! But boo clutter!)

I had that lovely tray in the first photo, so I decided to use that to corral all of the "I need to deal with this, but not right this minute" papers.  Invitations, medical papers to file, stuff for the church newsletter, plus the cords for my camera and Kindle.  All in one spot instead of several across the house.
The other paper problem I wanted to deal with was the paper under the printer table.  We have a ream of unused white paper still in its packaging, which is fine.  But the other random papers under there are from the kids' school work, mail, and so on that are only used on one side.  I slide these in the printer when I'm printing off coupons or recipes, since the backside doesn't matter.  But they get messed around without being contained.
Enter the shoebox!  I covered a shoebox with some pretty shelf liner, and contained that paper mess!  I would like to eventually get one for the regular printer paper as well, but someone will have to go shoe shopping first...
Finally, the one part of the paper clutter chaos that was already working for us:
If you ignore the mess in front of it, the three-tier filing system with my purple budget notebook, along with file folders for "Bills to Pay", "Scan", "Shred", and a few other specific file folders, is working really nicely.  Everything there has a spot, and it's all organized until I can get to it (I like to do a bunch of scanning and shredding at once instead of bit by bit).  At least one organizing system works!  Now here's hoping the rest of that paper clutter can be contained...

Stay tuned tomorrow for the craft cupboard (and you might see some more of that pretty blue shelf liner)...