Monday, September 28, 2009

The rest of the entryway...

The AFTER...

In between...

Very ugly beginning...

I still haven't finished the details, but I am so far happy with the results! It is nice being able to have a place to sit to put our shoes on, and its cute too...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Get up and do something!

This is what happens when I go through rough patches: Things get done. I cry for a short while, hide from the world for about a week, and focus all my energy on things that I wanted to do but left behind to take care of others. We won't go through the details of my visit to the pit last week, lets just say that it was bad enough to get the entire entryway of my home remodeled. So, all I have to say to the ones who hurt me is "thank you!" first pics are the "before and after" of this small wall just past the real entryway area of our house (which is almost finished too, I just need some final touches yet). We needed a cute area that could be used for the kids' chore charts and reward charts, plus, a couple of baskets to hold backpack junk that comes back from school and has nowhere to go. The trick was to make sure we didn't have to look at that stuff all the time, so here is what we came up with:
Very boring, useless wall!
Added some color, hung a cute curtain and the new sconce
(stuff that has been waiting in the basement FOREVER)
plus got some baskets big enough to hold the backpack junk:)
Sewing (hardly) their new rewards chart
(these are the days of the week chips)
Final product, I like the colors...
All four charts hanging on the wall

I love this because when we are not using the charts, the wall still looks super cute with the shades drawn in. The hubby thinks it is kind'a weird because there is no window there, but I think he will grow to like it don't you?
Anyway, I will post pics of the rest of the project as soon as it gets done. I would love to hear what you think...
Thanks for reading

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Short Break

Hello Friends, this is just a quick note to say that some pretty intense personal issues have surfaced this past week, and I need to take some time to reflect and recover. Hope to be back here soon.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Balancing Life with Kids- Part3: Housework and Organizing

Photos in this post are of pages in "Keeping Life Simple" by Karen Levine

The first thing I have to say on this topic goes back to my earlier posts on simplicity. DECLUTTERing is the single most important thing needed for effective housecleaning and organization. This I can say with no fear of doing wrong, because I have been doing it for a long time. It works. My house is sort of known by friends for being"clean" but the truth is, we just keep our possessions to a minimum, which makes it easier to tidy and manage. This post is divided in two categories: Cleaning and Organization; These are by no means as comprehensive as the info you will find in books or other web sites, but hopefully, it will give people an opportunity to get started without becoming overwhelmed. Some very useful links will be provided for you to check out as well...
Are you ready?

  • Points # 1, 2 and 3 come straight from Karen Levine's little book "Keeping Life Simple", and are the steps I have been following for about 5 years now;

  • Divide your housecleaning tasks in four categories:what needs to be done everyday; what needs to be done every week; what needs to be done every month; what needs to be done only a few times a year; Check out this handy house cleaning checklist from Microsoft Office Online:

  • If you absolutely despise one or more tasks, do something fun as you move along: listen to music (while cleaning), watch your favorite movie (while you fold clothes), talk on the phone...

  • Delegate chores, and for goodness sake ABANDON GENDER ROLES! The dishes don't care whether you have boy or girl parts, they just want to be clean!

  • The best web site (and magazine) out there, in my opinion, is REAL SIMPLE. Check out this link for more info on house cleaning, find out your cleaning style, fake a clean house, and much, much more!

Wise words from Beth "Keep in mind - no one gives you an award for cleanest house or smallest pile of dirty laundry. This time with your kids goes so quick, don't spend all of it overdoing the housekeeping part. I want my home to be the background of the activity, not the focus."

  • My kids have these brand new chore charts that were created and put together by my hubby (who needs Brad Pitt when your husband does chore charts?), anyway, we've tried tons of things but I think this is the best one yet! All you need is a magnet board (for each child), some computer printed pictures that represent the chores of the day, glued on magnet strips; The boards have two columns, "to do" and "done" and all the kids have to do is make sure all magnet chips are on the "done" side before they go to bed.

  • Have cute baskets and bins in strategic areas in your home, to pick up all sorts of things. We have a huge trunk that serves as coffee table and toy bin, no one sees the mess but the stuff is always available for the kids when they want it.
  • Routine is a biggy too, kids just do so much better when they know what's expected of them. My kids are full of energy, with strong personalities, but you can be sure, they will not visit someone's home and leave it messy, its a learned behavior, and they have learned to understand how much work it takes to run a household.
  • One thing that I have discovered to be helpful, is an online family calendar.What's the use of having all the stuff written down at home, if when you go to work you don't have it in front of you? Beth uses yahoo for her calendar, which allows her to share her familie's activities and plans with her husband while he is at work. I use the google calendar on and I love the fact that you can color code the activities by person, set up reminders, repeat events with a click of a button...
  • Last words of advice before I send you to another wonderful link at REAL SIMPLE: Try and prep for the next morning activities the night before, your mornings will be less crazy, and you will sleep better; Also, put the kids to bed EARLY- they can use the sleep and you can use some time to breathe! Our bed time is 8:30 p.m. But of course for those with babies that's a whole different story...
  • Now go check this out: again, REAL SIMPLE has so much good info!

    That's all I have this time, thanks for stopping by!



Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Balancing Life with Kids- Part 2: Meal Planning and Shopping

Hello, and welcome back! Today I will try and sum up some facts and useful tips on meal planning and shopping for groceries (the latter being the one household obligation I loathe, and would give my right arm if someone offered to do the job for the rest of my days!!! Yes, it is that bad, surprising for someone who adores cooking!) Anyway, this post is divided in these three sections: what to eat?/ lists and shopping (as I cringe with the thought of it) and tips and variations... And remember, this is just advice that I gathered from my own looking around for better, simpler ways of living and the suggestions of friends. I quoted some ideas and thoughts from Lisa and Beth whom I've mentioned on yesterday's post.
No, we are not experts, everybody is in the same boat here, so if you have more ideas, throw them at me would ya?
With that said, here we go:
What to eat?
Tired of standing in front of the fridge and asking yourself "what should I make for dinner"? You are not alone! Erik (the hubby) and myself have done that so much, the result almost always being a quick fix that isn't healthy or satisfying!
I have two words for you: MEAL PLANNING- stress free, healthier and money saving, this is what we need to be doing.
write it down, and put it up
  • I am now using an excel spreadsheet that outlines the days of the week, snacks for the week, plus a grocery list and room for notes all in one page.If you want to see it, just let me know, I will e-mail it to you, just couldn't figure out how to post it here...
  • You can do this anywhere, just make sure it is easy to see and to use- people get super creative with this stuff, poster board, magnet boards or just a neatly drawn meal plan on computer paper.
  • use your own cookbooks and online recipes, but if you are new at this, just do one week with meals that your family is used to, so you can get a hang on the process rather than worrying about what recipes to make.Do this for as long as you need to make it a habit, and then add some jazz to the deal!

Beth suggests: "When you bake, double the recipe. Then eat one and freeze one for later. Most pasta recipes make way more than our family eats in one sitting, so by dividing it into two meals saves time down the road...Plan your meals for the week and do the grocery shopping all at once. There are lots of great meal planning sites online. Keep a list of meal ideas you can rotate to keep from getting in a rut. "

Lisa's tip: "It’s amazing how much time and money can be saved by simply planning ahead on your family meals. Food costs can vary greatly from month to month and with no planning, our family’s monthly food bill could easily be double that of our house payment! What I’ve found works best for is to plan one week at a time. I make my shopping list based on the meals I planned for the next week. I rarely come home from work thinking, “what’s for dinner?” A fun meal-chart generator is on"

Lists and Shopping

  • Beth's Grocery list is simple and helpful: she writes it so that it corresponds to its location at her preferred grocery store. That way you don't have to go from place to place like a monkey with your head cut off! Simple, just so simple...
  • clip coupons if you are going to use them. I hate doing this, so I probably never will for lack of patience, but if that's your thing, go for it!
  • NEVER, I repeat, NEVER shop hungry! Always, always eat before you shop! I am not going to say the name of this Brazilian woman I know, but I will tell you how she shopped hungry, bought a jar of nuttella (it is heaven I swear!)and finished it off before she got home...pathetic!!
  • Clean out the fridge BEFORE you go to the grocery store. There is nothing worse than coming home exhausted from wrestling with an overflowing shopping cart and have to go through leftovers and other yuckies! If you don't clean it, you will risk doing it like this Brazilian woman I know, and just shove all the new shiny sealed items in the fridge only to have to perform an emergency evacuation in your home a week later, when the yuckies you pushed to the back of the fridge can no longer contain their foulness inside.

Other things to think about

  • Have a couple emergency meals for when stuff comes up. Stuff comes up now, doesn't it? Got home too late to make what you planned or forgot to defrost something? EMERGENCY MEAL TIME! I like to have chicken nuggets available for babysitters that can't cook:) Oh, well, its the truth...
  • Have the kids help plan the meals. Beth says " Let your kids help pick the meal for the next day. If you have the time, let them in the kitchen to do some cooking. It is amazing what a picky eater might try if they have a hand in making it."
  • Eat together. Eat together. Eat together. Some of the best conversations, discoveries, and bonding experiences I have had with my children and husband were at the dinner table. We do this religiously. And I know it helps us be a closer family.

This is it, I know, it was long, but I hope it helps, feel free to e-mail me or post your comments here if you have more to add! I am going to bed:)



Monday, September 7, 2009

Balancing Life with Kids - PART 1

Cone Flower- photographed by me this weekend

It all began with a routine trip to the library. Eager to leave the house, we jumped in the mini van and headed downtown for a relaxing couple of hours of reading and learning

...Or so I thought...

The kids were cranky; the 12 year old vanished in the teen room the second we arrived, while the 6 year old pouted about wanting to go in the teen area, and the 3 year old decided it was a good idea to sneak up two flights of stairs for a game of hide and seek.
Soon after, they were all accounted for and taken to the appropriate location in the library (that being the children's room, what a concept!!) There's crying, pouting and eye rolling (may I add that at this point everyone in the library is engaging in the rolling of the eyes, as they watch the spectacle!!), not to mention us walking out with at least 20 items (I forgot the canvas bag at home) and setting off the security system!!! Back in we go, with the crying, pouting, rolling of the eyes reaching record levels... I just wanted to sit right there and cry.

How do other mothers do this?

That was all I could think about that day. I felt exhausted, overwhelmed, defeated and inadequate. And this was not the first time!
In my mind, I am adding to this catastrophe of a trip the following: 6 loads of laundry in the basement, bills to pay, movies to return, groceries to buy, dinner to make, art projects to plan, and much, much more!
The truth is that balancing life with kids is something that everyone struggles with, and I found that perhaps sharing valuable tips with others isn't such a bad idea. I asked a couple of moms (these are moms you look at and go, "wow, she really knows what she is doing") to share their wealth of knowledge in making life work.
It was important for me to gather info that could be modified to different family set-ups and lifestyles: husband or no husband, full time stay-at-home or full time job. It is my hope that whoever reads this will be able to gain something or add something to the conversation.
Throughout this week we will discuss Meal Planning and Shopping, Housework and Organizing, and Time to be YOU. Though it may sound meaningless and too "domestic" of a talk for some, life's chores and obligations are said to be the cause of most couple's sense of unhappiness and overall sense of burden in Americans. So why not share ideas?

Thanks to Beth and Lisa, who will be featured in this series for the next three days. Your help is appreciated and the love you share with your family through your dedication is inspiring!

Thanks for reading, hope to have you stop by again tomorrow:)