Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Pantry Reorganization (Again) and How I Saved $100

When my space is organized, I can think more clearly.  When I can think clearly, I am more productive.  And that is why I felt the need to reorganize my pantry, even though I had just done a complete organization a couple months ago.  You can read about my first pantry organization here.  And you can read about my pantry update here.  Even though the space felt more organized, and most of the baskets were the same color, giving a more cohesive look than when I had different colors and sizes in there, it still felt a bit chaotic.  Since the pantry is one of those places I visit multiple times a day, I knew I needed to create more order in there.

That is when I stumbled upon a pantry organization on one of my favorite blogs.  I realized there was something this pantry had that I was lacking.  And I knew what I needed to do!

What I love about Maria's pantry is how her labels are the same or similar.  I realized that what was bugging me about mine was how I used different labels.  The other thing that was driving me crazy was all the boxes and mismatched containers.  I wanted more uniformity, but I didn't really have a large budget for this area in our home right now.  

So, I did what any thrifty girl would do and I headed to Costco.

My friend Amber has been telling me for a while that I should do a post on what I buy at Costco.  That place is a lifesaver to me and my family.  We had a financial advisor tell us they called Costco the $100 club because you could never get out of there without spending $100.  But I say if you are smart about what you buy, you can save yourself $100.  And that is just what I did when I bought these containers.  There are eight OXO BPA free containers in this box.  It cost me $47.99 for the box of eight containers.

I went to Bed, Bath, and Beyond's website and researched similar containers to the ones I bought at Costco.  If I bought similar sizes AND used a 20% off coupon,  I would have spent $88.74 on comparable sizes.   

That's a savings of $40.75.

And I ended up purchasing two of the big boxes by the time the pantry organization was all said and done.  Do the math.  Two sets of the same containers at BB&B would have cost me $177.48 (using a coupon).  At Costco, two sets cost me $95.98.  No coupon required.

That's a savings of $81.50.

Now, for the labels.  When I first organized my pantry, I bought these labels at Target.

I love the look of the chalkboard label.  It's pretty popular right now.  Here are some of the places in my house we have used chalkboard labels.

I like the chalkboard because it is easy to change.  It's definitely less expensive and simpler to erase and rewrite a word than to create a whole new label.

But the labels themselves are expensive.  I bought a pack of chalkboard stickers at Target for $3.99. The pack contained 6 labels.  So, in order to provide a sticker for each of the 16 containers I bought at Costco, I would have needed 3 packs.  At $3.99 a pack, that would have cost me $11.99.  

I found an even better solution at Lakeshore Learning.  This rainbow paper comes in a pack of 30 for $9.99.  When you scratch on the surface of the paper, you can write with rainbow colors.  If you just write lightly with a piece of chalk, the paper acts like a chalkboard.  The chalk erases easily as well.

So, I took one of the stickers and made a pattern out of an old folder.

Then I traced the pattern onto a the back of a piece of rainbow paper.  I was able to trace six labels on the back of a single sheet of rainbow paper.

So, I got six labels out of one sheet, and there are 30 sheets in the pack.  30 times 6 is 180, so if I wanted to, I could get 180 labels out of one pack of rainbow paper.  Here's a view of my homemade labels...

Want to see my pantry now?

I don't know what's up with this crooked picture.  I must have needed a V8.

 So much better!  I even wiped down my spice rack and alphabetized the spices.  Did you know most of my spices start with C?  Cayenne pepper, chili powder, cinnamon, cloves...kind of crazy!  My husband makes fun of me for putting our spices in ABC order (first grade teacher thing?), but I can't tell you how much time it saves me when I am cooking! 

I actually hate stuff on the floor of a closet.  But since I need the space for storage, I used these green baskets to coral the items that would not fit on the shelves.  And I made sure not to put people food items on the floor.  From left to right: Summer's food, treats, bottled drinks and extra food storage bags (unopened), kids' lunchboxes).

Here are my tips for using purchasing containers and choosing the right label:

1. Head to Costco now!  I found these containers on an endcap which means they may be a seasonal item.   Spring cleaning time?

2. Choose your labels wisely.  I decided to use my label maker to label the canisters used most by my children.  I knew the chalk would just rub off and I'd be frustrated trying to rewrite the labels all the time!  Carson loves to use my label maker, so he labelled most of these.

3. Use a chalk pen instead of chalk for the canisters you want to look pretty but don't want to find yourself rewriting.  Chalk pen still erases (with a little water), but does not easily come off when touched.  I ordered mine on Amazon.

4. Finally, don't be afraid to repurpose containers.  You may find that you don't really want chips in a clear container.  After Camden brought me the chip container 5 times in one day, I realized the view was just a little too enticing.  I'd rather him have a healthier snack.  So, I put veggie sticks in that container instead of chips.

How do you keep your pantry organized?

Monday, March 30, 2015

A Meal That Works Double Duty

Don't you love a meal that keeps on giving?  I am compiling a list on my paperless app, one of my favorite apps, of meals that work well for leftovers.  I like to have these types of meals on Wednesday or Thursday, so we can have a no fuss meal of leftovers on Friday or Saturday.

So here is one we have enjoyed lately.  I buy all of our meat at Costco, because they have the best prices on organic meat, and I can buy in bulk and freeze the meat.  This yummy crock pot meal is made with pork shoulder.  I buy a package of four ounces of pork from Costco, and divide it in half.  I can get multiple meals out of that one package of pork.

Here is what we have the first night...

This meal is so yummy, and a win-win in our house since Camden loves any meal involving pasta and all my boys love any meal involving apples.  I seriously can't keep enough apples in my house!!!

This is Camden's favorite way to eat an apple lately.  I heard him talking about apples in his sleep the other night.  Seriously mad about apples.

So, we have the pork over egg noodles the first night, and then we have barbecue pork sandwiches the next night.  And if we're lucky, we get another lunch out of the shredded pork.  So yummy!  Have you ever had Sweet Baby Ray's barbecue sauce?  I was introduced to it by Amber's little boy, Tyler.  It's his fav, and has quickly become mine.

I look forward to sharing more "meals that work double duty," as I build my list on paperless.  I love that being a good planner can save us money (and calories) by keeping us from going out to eat when we don't feel like making dinner, and I am excited to have a list of these meals so I can be a better planner!

How do you save money by planning your meals?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Brown Bear, Brown Bear

Jonah and Carson were early talkers, and they talked well.  So, when Camden didn't talk as much as his big brothers did, I worried.  Lots of well meaning friends and family told me, "He doesn't need to talk, everyone talks for him."  That didn't help much.  I knew that was probably the reason, but I still wanted to hear his sweet little voice more often.  Then there were the friends who told me, "It just seemed to happen overnight for my child."  They said there was a kind of language explosion. Turns out they were right.

 One of the first things Camden said (like most kids) was, "Uh, oh."  As much as I cherish every new word Camden learns, I began to dread hearing those two little words uttered from the other room.  Now I worry when I hear, "Mommy...messy."  But I can also count on Camden to run to the laundry room to get his broom and dustpan whenever he makes a "messy," because that guy loves to clean up a mess.

We've been working on colors in our house.  For a long time everything was blue.  Now everything is yellow.  And I mean everything.  I bet I hear the word yellow 152 times a day.  I am hoping this book we made will help Camden to learn other colors besides blue and yellow!

Camden loves reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Eric Carle.  I googled the story and pulled up printables of each animal in the book.  I printed the black and white option for each animal and got to work with my little artist.

For the brown bear and red bird pages, we painted.

For the yellow duck, we used dot-dots (Dot Art Painters--Lakeshore Learning).

For the blue horse, I cut small pieces of blue paper and we practiced using a glue stick!

I got even more adventurous with the green frog.  Glitter!

We used dot-dots again for the purple cat, and we happen to know a white dog.

 Camden loves Dempsey.  He lives next door.

We colored the black sheep with a crayon. And for the goldfish, we used goldfish stickers. 

For the teacher I used a picture of me and for the students I used a picture of all three of our boys.

After we finished our art, we laminated the pages (especially important for the glitter frog), punched holes, and put a large ring through each hole.  You can read more about my laminator here.

Here's the finished product...

This little project forced me to try some new art supplies with Camden.  We have used "dot-dots" a lot because they are safe.  But pulling out the paint, glue and glitter was really fun for Camden.  We have painted a lot lately.   So I hear "Mommy...painting!" often these days.

When I showed Camden the book, it was so cool to see the recognition on his face as he read through the book he created.  And when we got the page with the yellow duck, "Mommy... yellow!"  He may have also said that on the blue horse page, but we won't focus on that.

Yay for our color project being complete!!!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Shift the Focus

At their first game, Carson's basketball coach handed us a notecard. He asked us to fill it out with what we noticed our player doing well.  I thought it was a great idea.  We'd be able to remember all Carson's good plays and praise him for them at the end.  But there was something else Coach Fritz knew we'd do while focusing on our son.  And that was NOT focus on the referees calls, or the other team's fouls.  After the game we had a team huddle and read our index cards aloud.  Had I known we were going to make our comments public, I may not have added, "you look handsome," below Justin's "great job getting back on defense."  Carson turned a little red, but he enjoyed the compliments.

The next game we were handed an index card with another player's name.  At this game we were to write down what we saw one of Carson's teammates doing well. After the game we huddled again to read aloud our observations of the players.

I love this idea for so many reasons.  It's impossible for Coach Fritz to remember each and every great play he sees on the court, so having us divvy up the players made it possible for the them to be recognized for their good defense, shots, and ball skills.  Additionally, every player receives some kind of positive reinforcement after the game, and is called by name.  And lastly, and perhaps most importantly, moms and dads are not sitting in the bleachers, watching and critiquing their own kid.  They are forced to watch the other players, to shift their focus, and take note of what they are doing well.  Through this process I learned Carson's teammates' names, their strengths, and even got to know some of the parents on a deeper level.  

A couple weeks ago we went through a rough spell with sickness in our home.  Carson got sick first, then Jonah, then Camden.  I'll spare you the details, and just say this.  No sleep on Friday night followed by no sleep on Sunday night followed by no sleep on Tuesday night (24 hour incubation period anyone?) makes for a tired and cranky mommy.  And just when I wanted to cry and ask, "why me?" I saw a dear friend's post on FB.  Her son was in the ICU because he had the very same illness my kids had but his little system wasn't handling it very well and he was dehydrated.  She was asking for prayers for him.  I stopped what I was doing, I shifted my focus, and I prayed for Hudson.  Somehow that shift in my mindset, from my troubles to someone else's real, imminent battle, allowed me to separate from the feeling of hopelessness I was having.

I have been reading The Best Yes, by Lysa Terkeurst.  She is so wise.  I highlighted these words of hers, when she was referring to making "best yes" decisions, "Whatever attitude we bring into a situation will be multiplied."  She says, "I can take in a houseguest, but if I don't have love, I will do nothing, accomplish nothing, be nothing but a grumpy landlord with a used-up attitude."  She is keeping with the themes of 1 Corinthians 13:1, "If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging symbol."  Have you ever seen that sign, "If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy"?  Horrible grammar, yes, but a slogan that couldn't be more true.  When my kids get home from school, if I am in a bad mood, I am going to project my grumpiness on my kids.  If I go about my chores in an angry, frustrated way, those around me will be affected negatively.  So, this week I set out to be more positive.

As I fold laundry, I pray for the person whose clothes I am folding. I shift the focus from the mundane, monotonous act of doing laundry, to a positive life-giving prayer for my family.

As I prepare a meal, I am thankful that my hands are able, and that I am giving my family nutrition to help them be strong and ready to meet the demands of the day.  I recently asked Jonah what he will look for in a wife, and he told me, "She has to be a good cook."  Further justification that the hard work I do in the kitchen does not go unnoticed.  I shift the focus from the labor involved in preparing a meal, to the outcome: a happy, healthy family.

And when I have mountains of laundry to do, beds to make, and a dishwasher to unload, but Jonah wants to make an army fort with me?  Well, I drop what I'm doing and start building my fort.  This one comes pretty easily most of the time.  Shifting the focus from my housework to play?  Sure, no problem!

I am also reading Real Boys, a book on raising boys.  The author, William Pollack, says that as moms we need to have "connection through action."  By joining our sons in activities they enjoy--playing baseball, constructing Lego houses and army forts--we are building trust.  Some of my deepest conversations with Jonah have been while outside throwing the baseball.  And he was the one who initiated the conversation.  One minute we were making small talk about his last baseball game, and then next, he was telling me about an app some of his friends were talking about that he didn't think was appropriate.  In that moment I was able to give him some pointers on how to change the subject with his friends, and to praise him for knowing in his gut that something wasn't right and steering his focus away.  I am so thankful Jonah will talk to me about tough stuff, and I will encourage these talks by playing with him when he asks.

In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul goes on to say what love is, verses often heard at weddings, to describe love between a husband and wife.  But these verses also describe a mother's love...

"Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always hopes, always perseveres." 
1 Corinthians 13:4-7

These verses describe how I want to run my household...

With love, patience, and kindness.  

I want to be a protector and to persevere.  

I have to shift my focus.  

Look outside myself.  

Focus on my other teammates.  

Start breathing life into the mundane and ordinary.  

Go play catch.

"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love."
1 Corinthians 13:13


Friday, March 13, 2015

Friday Favorites

Here are a few of my favorites from this week...


I will never forget the look on five-year-old Jonah's face when he went out for his first t-ball practice. Pure joy.  That was the fall of 2009, and he's been playing baseball ever since.  It was a difficult decision, but we took this past fall off of baseball, to play soccer, and I have missed baseball.  I don't think I have ever been more ready for a spring ball season to start.  How this boy has changed...

Jonah's first season of ball in fall 2009/Jonah's Summer All Star season 2014

Two-year-old fans...

This guy is going to love games this year.  He is the perfect age to enjoy baseball games.  The dirt and the noise and the snacks and the boys.  It's all right up his alley.

Reading Time!

Look at these two!!!  There is something so incredibly endearing about watching a little brother love and nurture his littler brother.  Carson is so sweet and careful with Camden.  He loves reading to him before bed.  I love the hat and batman pjs on Camden.  And look how attentive he is to his big brother!  I also love that in this moment Carson is practicing reading aloud, while Camden is learning the value of reading before bed.  We have been reading with all our little guys since they were tiny babies, and they know it is just part of the bedtime routine.


My kids are OBSESSED with my zucchini bread.  I don't know if it's the cinnamon or the zucchini or the combination of it all, but these boys love their zucchini bread.  I had some leftover zucchini so I threw it in our meatloaf muffins last night.  It was delicious, and no one was the wiser that there were hidden veggies in their meat.  Hmmmm, wonder what else I can hide zucchini in...

For the meatloaf muffins I followed this recipe, from Architecture of a Mom, adding in the shredded zucchini.  I've also attached my (I mean my mom's :) zucchini bread recipe.  

And I'll end on this note...

These guys earned every bite of their cinnamon rolls.  I am usually not big on bribery, but I was really frustrated by my kids not eating their veggies.  So, I told them if they tried the new veggies I served this week (tried meaning ate at least half of their serving), and ate all of the ones they usually do like, I would make cinnamon rolls on Friday.  

Carson made dinner on Monday night.  Cucumbers, red peppers, carrots, turkey and hummus rolled up in a Flat Out whole wheat pita.  Yum!

I know I am more willing to try things outside my comfort zone when there is a tangible reward, and it worked on my little tinies too...except the littlest.  We're still working on that one.

Happy Friday!!!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


As much as I say I'm going to be good and not spend money on clothes, I know each season I'm going to want to update my closet just a bit.  And since I want to be smart about how I spend my money, it's important that I plan well and invest in a few key pieces so that I can get the most bang for my buck.

Enter PTMT aka Pinterest Told Me To.  I don't have time to read the latest fashion magazines and stay on top of the latest trends.  But I do have a few minutes in the morning to glance at what Sheaffer has posted and to pick and choose what may be good investments for my closet.  I love her splurge vs. steal posts where she shares items that are out of my price range and compares them to items that are affordable.  I mostly live in workout clothes, truth be told.  A good pair of yoga pants and a dri-fit shirt make up my uniform most days.  So when I do have a chance to go somewhere, it feels good when I put a little effort into my outfit.  That's when I check out PTMT. 

As spring approaches, I'll be checking out her blog to see what is "in" this season.  I have discovered some of my favorite brands through her blog.  And I have also discovered online shopping at Nordstrom.  Free shipping and free returns, oh yeah.  Kind of gets me in trouble sometimes.  But it doesn't get any more convenient than that. 

So I want to share a couple things PTMT has encouraged me to do over the past year.  I also want to dream a bit...about spring.  Is it here yet?

1. PTMT has TMT (aka told me to) wear interesting color and pattern combos.  I wore this Friday to run errands, out to lunch with a friend and later to the movies with another friend.  Believe me, my Fridays are NEVER so exciting.  I just got lucky.  I also never in a million years imagined stripes with camouflage (or camouflash as Jonah used to call it).  But it worked.  Pinterest told me to told me to.  So I did...

I have wanted camo pants all season, but I waited until they were on sale.  These are STS Blue from Nordstrom.  Unfortunately they are sold out.  I ordered them last week and have already worn them twice.  So comfortable!

2. PTMT has TMT bring old staples back.  The last time I owned black jeans was in...middle school...maybe?  But I bought a pair of black jeans at the beginning of the fall season because, you guessed it, Pinterest told me to told me to, and I almost wore them out!  Another recommendation?  Leopard print flats.  And I am excited about my flats because I know they'll be a staple in my spring wardrobe as well.

Of course, I can't do a fashion post with out a little blardigan love.

Could he be any more serious?  Or any cuter?  He was dancing and having fun, sporting the blardy, leopard flats, and my witch's hat.  My Carson...tons of personality. :)  I personally like the socks with the flats.  Maybe I oughta give that look a go?

3. Speaking of spring...my birthday is coming up and I am thinking, may be a little (or a big?) Golden Tote for the spring season?  I learned about Golden Tote from The Pleated Poppy, who does What I Wore Wednesday.  I like looking at her blog for inspiration as well.  Here are a few items I received in my October 2014 Golden Tote that I am still wearing and loving!  Golden Tote is such an amazing deal if you are looking to update your closet and to challenge yourself to try new styles. 

I ordered the $149 tote.  In my tote I got 6 items...three dresses...

Isn't Holly the cutest pregnant person ever???  She is one of my oldest and dearest friends.  I was so lucky to be able to have lunch with her one day last fall when I was in the Raleigh area.  

two shirts (one short-sleeved and one long) and a sweater.

I can't wait to wear my coral shirt this spring.  It is so comfortable and such a pretty color.  This picture really doesn't do the color justice.

Let's do the math.  Six items for $149...that's roughly $25 per item.  I'd say it's worth it. 
I explained more about Golden Tote in this post.

That's all for today.  I am off to put together Camden's Brown Bear Brown Bear book.  There will be a post coming on that soon, but here is a sneak peek...

I see a green frog looking at me!

If you are working on colors with your toddler, this is a great activity.  Everything is still "yellow" to my toddler (and I think I'll cry when he latches on to another color because he says "yellow" so unbelievably cute), but I have high hopes that he'll learn his other colors soon.

Happy sunny Wednesday!!!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Sometimes You Just Have to Give It

I've been thinking a lot about something I heard last week.

Sometimes you have to give the thing you feel like giving the least. 

This statement has changed my perspective on life in a lot of ways.  There are times when I have felt lonely and all I wanted was someone to wrap me up in a big bear hug.  There are times when I wanted to shout for everyone in my house to JUST BE QUIET!!!  And there are definitely times when I wish someone would notice all the time and effort I put into being a good friend or a good wife or a good mother.

But when I heard Pastor Furtick say that sometimes we need to "give the thing we feel like giving the least," it struck a cord with me.  I thought of some ways I can put these words into practice right away.  They sound simple, but they can mean so much.

When you need a hug, give a hug.

When you need forgiveness, give forgiveness.

When you need peace and quiet, give peace and quiet.
Have you ever noticed that when you whisper to a child, he will whisper back?  It worked in my classroom, and it works in my home too.

When you need appreciation, give appreciation.

When you need a smile, give a smile.
Read this article and watch a quick video about smiling.  Or just ponder this: It takes 43 muscles to frown, but only 17 to smile; kids smile 400 times a day whereas the average adult smiles 20 times; people who smile not only seem happier, but appear more competent as well.  AND smiling can increase your mood and reduce your blood pressure.  Do you need any more reasons to smile?

When you need love, give love.  I had to search through the archives of one of my favorite blogs to find these words from Ann Voskamp...

Four times a day think on love. When I leave the marriage bed, leave the front door, when  I return to front door, return to marriage bed.  These are the four critical archways of time in our day. Touch or whisper a sweet nothing when passing through these gate points, and we walk into hours of closeness. Forever love fixates like fresh love.
It is easy, when a couple has been together for many years, and especially when there are kids involved, to go through the entire day without speaking about anything but the kids and the bills and without even touching each other.  But a touch and a quick kiss on the cheek (or lips) can make such a difference in how we feel about each other and how we feel about ourselves.

And finally, when you need laughter, give laughter.

After all, isn't laughter the best medicine?