The Sea

The weather, growing steadily warmer, has been calling me to the sea.  Finally, two Sundays ago, we packed up the Jeep and made our way to the Atlantic Ocean.  The water was a piercing blue that day.  I love to look out at the horizon line and catch a tiny glimpse of just how big our universe really is.

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Charlotte and I spent most of our time on the blanket.  The last time we were at the beach, Charlotte slept in my arms the whole time–oblivious to the world in a way that only a newborn can be.  This time my girl was crawling all over me, trying to eat sand, pulling off her hat (again and again and again), laughing at gulls, feeling the wind in her hair, and generally  having a joyful time.  Miracles.

Project: Food Budget (Week 30)

Just a quck check-in: We spent $128 on groceries. Part of that is because I sent my hubby to do the big shopping, and we just shop differently. I wrote “various snacks for lunches” and he bought enough for an army. I couldn’t help giggling. I’m so blessed to have a husband who will shop. Period.

Let’s Get Organized {Week #1}

Oh yes!  Oh yes!  It’s time to report on my organizing project.  Week #1 went really well.  I’m so pleased that I actually followed through.  Now, I’m not saying that I absolutely reached my goal in its entirety.  Sadly, no, but I did make great progress.

I gave myself the assignment of organizing our four downstairs closets–entryway closet, pantry, livingroom closet, and laundry closet.  The entryway closet was a mish-mash of many odds and ends.  If we didn’t know where an item should go, it went in the entryway.  I wanted this closet to be a sort of “landing zone” for things that go in and out of the house often.  I wanted to know where backpacks were located before the morning rush.  The boys know to put their shoes by the front door, but the shoes were usually in a crazy pile somewhere near the closet.  Here is what the closet looked like before:

And here is my AFTER…drum roll…

I bought hooks for the backpacks and my purse.  They cost $1.20 per hook.  I spent $5.00 on corkboard.  The money bought me four 12 x 12 pieces, and I only used one in this space.  The hanging shoe organizer was in the boys’ room, and it wasn’t being used.  One little plastic wrestler was hangin’ out in there, so I snitched the organizer for the closet.  The tan bin on the shelf has outdoor toys in it.  I found the bin in our garage–not being used.  I would like to buy something to hold the dog food, but it can wait.  I turned the box lids on the shelf into paper sorts for the boys’ school papers and art work.

Here’s our pantry:

Our pantry was sparce but sloppy.  Painting supplies were tossed in there, along with plastic shopping bags and loose papers.  Now, it looks like this:

(I have several more pantry pictures, but they won’t post.  Grr…)

I made little labels for the shelves.  I cleared out the rest of the closet to the right.  That’s the home of our sweeper and steam mop now.  I also made a family emergency kit with candles and matches.  I plan to add bottled water, a flashlight, a first aid kit, and a few other things.

The laundry closet was a really easy fix.  I want to show you what happened there, but my camera battery died before I took my “After” shot.  I’ll save that reveal for next week.  The livingroom closet is not complete.  We need to buy some shelving, and it just isn’t in the budget right now.  J and I organized the toys though, so that’s definitely progress!

I planned to organize the boys’ room this week, but I’ve decided to bump up the master bedroom to the top of the list.  We’ve barely even moved into our master bedroom.  It is basically a bed, a dresser, and mess of boxes, bins, and baskets.  Time to fix that!  {I’m editing last week’s post to reflect the change.}

Are you organizing along with me?  If you are new to the blog, you might want to check out my pre-organizing post here.

Week 29 and a Look Back at Easter

While everything seems to be turning upside down this week, our food budget journey was pretty clear-cut.  With a budget of $150 and a self-imposed goal of $100, I spent $91 on groceries.  We missed the church meal this week due to having our Jeep towed, so we had to grab a quick meal out.  We spent just under $20.  That’s $111.  Not bad.

F got his report card on Monday.  To celebrate, he was able to choose our dinner.  He picked breakfast, so we had pancakes, eggs, sausage, and honeydew.  On Tuesday we had pasta with meat sauce and salad.  On Wednesday, we had our meal at the mall food court while we waited for the tow truck.  I had Subway.  Everyone else (excluding Charlotte) chose pizza.  Tonight we are having a chicken and biscuit casserole that I discovered in my new casserole cookbook (Thanks, Mom & Dad).  Friday will be meat loaf, macaroni & cheese, and broccoli.  Saturday is homemade fish sandwiches and mixed vegetables.  Sunday will be a leftover buffet!

Please visit the other food budgeters, but don’t forget to check out my Easter pictures below!

I’ve been meaning to share some pictures of our Easter visit with my husband’s parents.  We had a wonderful time!  Of course, it was sad to not be able to spend the holiday with the whole family, but what a joy to share Resurrection Day with Grandma & Papa.

Here is a look at our weekend:

Grandma and Charlotte enjoying the local botanical garden.

Papa and the boys at the garden.

The boys feeding some enourmous (scary!) fish.

My trio.

My favorite part of hosting a meal: setting the table.

Roses in teacups -- a simple and inexpensive centerpiece.

Simple Lemon Cake from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food

 

Let’s Get Organized!

As I typed the title of this post, I started singing Olivia Newton John’s “Let’s Get Physical,” and I have a feeling that it is going to be running through my head all day.

I could write a book (well, a really, really long blog post) about my organizational history.  Here’s the quickie version:

I have always been really good at organizing my professional space but not my personal space.  As a kid, my pattern meant a tidy desk and backpack but a semi-messy room.  As a teenager, I had obsessively neat school notes.  I loved color-coding with cool pens (Jessi?  Are you reading this?).  I loved binders and folders and paper clips.  Staples was my retail heaven!  But as my life got busier and my pace got faster, my room got messier.  And messier.  I seemed to be always cleaning it, but it didn’t get better.  I would spend an entire Saturday “cleaning,” but I spent most of my time gazing at old photographs, art work from junior high, and other memorabilia.  The state of my bedroom was always a battleground between me and my mom (in an otherwise wonderful mother-daughter relationship).  College and grad school were about the same.  Organized work and schedule.  Semi-messy room/apartment/house.

Then in 2005, while still studying in grad school and working in various capacities at a university, we added a baby boy to our family.  Suddenly, I could not tolerate our messiness.  I wanted a cozy, clean place to raise our little family.  I tried hard.  I felt like I was cleaning all the time, but the house didn’t get better.  The baby’s room was the single spotless place.  The nursery was super organized and always tidy.  I was frustrated.  Then, in April 2006 when F was 9 months old, my mom and I attended a La Leche League conference.  One of the speakers taught us about home organizing, and for the first time, I learned about the FlyLady.  Now, the FlyLady might not be for everyone, and her methods might seem silly or extreme, but she changed my life!  At least for a little while.

By June, I had my home organized and clean, and I was maintaining the routines that are essential to the FlyLady program.  I felt AWESOME!  On the evening before my baby’s first birthday in August, I was ready for the party.  The house looked good.  The cake was ready.  The food was ready.  That never happens.  On the morning of the party, I was able to attend church, do some final party prep, and just enjoy my birthday boy without the usual frantic race before guests arrived.

My home organization lasted until baby #2 arrived (about two years), and I’ve never returned to that delightful state again.  We live in a state of semi-organization. Thankfully, our summer move left us without much of our old clutter.  I’m great at crisis cleaning.  I can pull together a clean, pretty house without much trouble, but it’s not truly organized.  My closets make no sense at all.  I’m often losing things or frantically hunting for things as we head out the door.  Our second floor has tons of storage near the bathroom and bedrooms, but the drawers and closets are almost empty while our belongs are still in boxes or stacked in corners. Our car is always full of stuff, leaving it unsightly but also unsafe.

On Thursday, I attended a MOPS meeting on the subject of organization, and I’m feeling very motivated.  I also have a sense of community support, and that accountability means a lot to me!

Project: Food Budget has been so helpful, so I decided to do a similar thing with organization.  I will report once per week on my progress in getting organized.  Here is the plan of attack:

Week #1:  (April 16-April 22)  Downstairs closets and begin family paperwork

Week #2: (April 23-April 29)  Master bedroom and upstairs closets

Week #3: (April 30-May 6)  Boys’ room and paperwork

Week #4: (May 7-May 13)  Leftover unpacked boxes, back porch, and paperwork

Week #5: (May 14-May 20)  Home library

Week #6: (May 21-May 27)  Kids’ papers and crafts

Week #7: (May 28-June 3)  Car, kitchen, and finish family paperwork

Notes:  The kitchen is thrown in at the end because it is fairly well organized.  I want to tackle only two spots:  the very junkie junk drawer and the top of the fridge.  Otherwise, I’m happy with the order of my kitchen.  Paperwork is spread out through the seven week project because as I organize each space, I will have more paper to manage.  There are other areas that I could add such as the garage and bathrooms, but those areas are functioning pretty well.  Our bathrooms are basically empty, so no trouble there.  My laundry area is really just a big closet, so I’m including it in Week #1.

Anyone want to join me?

Project: Food Budget (Week 28)

How on Earth do you budget for holidays and guests?  I could use some tips.  The holiday meal and little extras sort of came out of Food, Entertainment, and Misc.  More or less.  Our guests generously chipped in and treated us to dinner as well.  So nice!  We have no menu for the week but plenty of leftovers, so we’re just winging it.  I’ll run to the store later today for juice, milk, and grapes and meals for Saturday and Sunday.  I’ll have to report on those totals next week, so tune in for a Week 28 & 29 update next Thursday.

The Week 28 Participating Blogs:

Project: Food Budget (Week 27)

Happy Easter weekend, folks!  We are buzzing with anticipation as we ready our home and our menu for the arrival of Easter company.  Yay for visitors!  Our special holiday food isn’t in the budget, but some of the extras that need to be on hand with more people in the house did get counted in this week’s total.  We were really busy this week with lots of out-of-the-routine activities, so we weren’t on our best budgeting behavior.  We ordered pizza on Monday, and we ate out on Wednesday when we were out of town for a dentist appointment.  Here’s how it all looked.

Weekly Budget:  $150

Goal Budget:  $100

Groceries:  $98

Eating Out and Pizza In:  $38

Total: $136

Have a truly wonderful Easter!

CHRIST IS RISEN!  HE IS RISEN INDEED!

Please visit my fellow bloggers:

What Hands Can Do

I marvel at the beautiful things that human hands can create, especially when those things are made with love.

Over the weekend, my baby daughter and I had were able to participate in a very special ladies tea.  The place was bustling with pretty little girls in their twirly dresses.  A great many of the dresses were made by a talented woman who hand-stitched the dearest frocks for the girls (daughters, granddaughters, and nieces) in her life.  Some of the dresses were around 50 years old!  The details were amazing.  The fabrics were lovely.  The program for the tea was a “fashion show” during which each dress was modeled by a girl and commented upon by the seamstress herself.

I was so pleased to be asked to dress Charlotte in one of the amazing creations (although I was terribly nervous about standing up on the stage so that everyone could see the dress.).  The hand smocking was incredible.  And the color was perfect for my sweet Charlotte’s eyes.