Sunday, January 27, 2013

Beauty & the Beast Jr.

Last Friday our family had the honor of seeing some of our former PHISH (Children's Worship Leaders) who have now moved on to middle school perform in their school's play, "Beauty and the Beast Jr." It was awesome! I had to keep reminding myself these were just middle school kids. It was so professional and the set and costumes were amazing. We were very impressed. The kids sat on the edge of their seats in wide-eyed wonder from beginning to end. 

"Belle" was our former PHISH and now one of our kid's favorite babysitters, Breann Burson. She did a wonderful job as Belle and sang beautifully. Well done kids, we are so proud of you all!

Another former PHISH and babysitter, Brooklyn, did lights for the performance.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Organizing your Space

I've already done a post about organizing paper and calendars with free printables you can see here. Now we're gonna get into the clutter nobody likes to talk about. The stuff that gets stuffed away in a drawer or cabinet somewhere cause you just don't know what to do with it.
Let's start with kid's schoolwork and art. Our community schools don't send home much schoolwork to keep because they keep it all for records. We see it bi-weekly, sign it, and return it for them to store, which is nice. However, we still have loads of priceless works of art for each child, report cards, sweet things they've written in class or journals, Sunday school crafts just too cute to trash. You know you want to keep some of that for them to look back on later, right? One friend of mine suggest taking pictures of these things and then putting making them into a photo book online. Great idea...if you have the time and money to spend on it. I have a file box for each child under my desk. Every week we cull out the keepers from the trash and the keepers go in the box. At the end of the school year they help me look through their box and narrow down the keepers to just a dozen or so pieces we will keep to remember that year. Then came Pinterest. (I know, I seriously need a Pintervention.) I found this blog called Just a Night Owl  where there is a fantastic post about organizing school papers. She uses plastic storage boxes like me but in a much more organized fashion. At first I thought all her fancy labels were a bit much but the end result is beautiful. One box per child holds all their "keeper" papers from Pre-K to graduation! She even put their school picture on the front of each grade's file, how cute is that?! Each year's file contains report cards, awards, samples of work from beginning and end of year, and anything that just makes your mamma heart smile. Once the boxes are made (that's the most time consuming part) it's so easy to just have one box per child where all their stuff goes. I'm so doing this!
The Container Store

Toys, toys, toys! Where do I begin to talk about toy organization? How about the living room floor? Do you remember what your floor looks like without toys on it? Like I tell my kids, either find a space for it or get rid of it! If you can't find storage space for your toys, you have too many! There are so many storage solutions for toys. I like smaller size bins because its easier for kids to lift and manage themselves and they can sort their toys easier (yeah right - in an ideal world!) . Think vertical storage if your space is limited. Use cabinets, shelves, carts with drawers, to get things off the floor. Again, I'm partial to clear containers so you can see what's in them without having to move every container and you can label them from the inside with a piece of paper rather than having to use sticky labels that are hard to remove. One day I'm going to replace the fabric bins in my kid's cube shelf system with these clear ones from The Container Store. I like that they are crystal clear, have lids, and are stackable. I'm finding the older my boys get the smaller the toys are. We don't have as many big bulky toys as we do small blocks, cars, puzzles, etc. This would make it so much easier for them to sort their many "collections."

Important Papers. This is where you really need a file cabinet or drawer and/or a lock box.

  • Vital Records like birth & death certificates, social security cards, marriage certificate, living will, passports, etc. should be kept in a fireproof box permanently.
  • Tax Records should be kept for at least six years.
  • Warranties and Instruction/Owner's manuals should be kept as long as you own the item.
  • Utility bills - keep your current bill and one year previous to track patterns
  • Bank and Credit Card statements - keep for at least six years.
  • Calendar or appointment books - keep permanently (it's like a journal of your life)
  • Medical bills or reports - keep one to six years if needed for tax purposes or if you want to track health history
  • Receipts - keep until you've recorded in budget, if you're planning to return the item, if needed for warranty, or if needed for tax purposes

Okay, well, this week we've covered organizing clothes, shoes, jewelry, food, kid's papers, toys, and important papers. Did that just about cover all your top area's in need of organization? Well, except the garage and if you saw mine you'd say I have no room to talk about organization there. I like to think of it as the final frontier. It's yet to be conquered in our home. Don't worry, it's on my bucket list. How about you? What's most in need of organization in your life?

Keep trying. Being organized is always a work in progress. It takes effort to get and stay organized but I think you'll find it's much less effort than constantly trying to find things in a permanently disorganized space. Enjoy your newly organized space and the tranquility you find in knowing everything's in it's place.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Organizing your Food

Okay, so we're talking about organizing the most important necessities in life; food, clothes, shelter (we'll get to that later). This time we're talking food which means getting it organized not only saves you time and money but also helps you make better choices to be healthier. Win, win, win!

First, you need to know this is not my pantry - although I REALLY wish it was. Are you drooling over this? No? Just me. Anyway, the first step in getting your food organized is to make it visible. I like to use clear storage containers so I can see what's in the jar without having to label everything. Obviously you would want to label things that look similar like flours, sugar, salt, spices, so you would know what they are. I use glass jars for cereal, pasta, rice, dried fruit, nuts, well just about anything dry items. Not only does it look really pretty, it makes the food look yummy and keeps it fresh longer. So when I'm hungry and want a quick snack and am about to reach for the easy to grab candy out of the kids stash, I open up the pantry or fridge and see a jar of beautiful almonds and grab and handful of heart healthy raw almonds instead (keep in fridge for longer shelf life - remember nuts have oil and oil will spoil). The exception is "sometimes" treats which you should store in opaque containers so they will be out of sight out of mind. Or if you're committed to eating clean, get rid of the junk altogether.  You can't cheat on your eating if the junk isn't in the house to begin with.

Notice the baskets on the bottom shelf of this ideal pantry? What if you had one container in your pantry dedicated to breakfast, quick lunches, or snacks? Sorting by meal makes getting meals on the table (or on the go) faster and smarter. If your kids are old enough to help with their own breakfast you could have a breakfast basket with healthy pre-portioned options they could choose from. Put cereal servings in a ziplock bag so all they have to do is pour it in a bowl, or eat it dry like my kids. My husband, formerly a non-breakfast eater, likes Belvita breakfast cookies. It's a relatively healthy option for a packaged food with low sugar, lots of fiber and whole grains. Making them convenient to grab and go cuts down on the excuses for not eating the most important meal of the day. You could do the same thing with a snack basket, making packing school lunches quicker also. Dividing things in portions when you put away your groceries may seem like a lot of time or waste with extra baggies and such but it really does save time and also helps with portion control. For example, kids can grab a bag with half a cup of goldfish in it instead of eating half the box if they were helping themselves.

Freezer CookingLately, I've gotten hooked on crock pot freezer meals. Just look at this freezer (which is also not mine, I just found this photo on Pinterest). My husband works late a lot during Upward basketball season and with the kids having homework and spring tests, and sports, warm quick meals are a blessing. I found some recipes we all really like, yes, even my picky eaters! We've tried and liked the applesauce bbq chicken, cilantro lime chicken, honey garlic chicken, teriyaki chicken, and sweet and tangy meatballs. The first time I tried this I bought lots of chicken when it was buy one get one free at the local grocery and made mostly chicken dishes. I got over 10 meals out of these recipes which amounts to huge savings on groceries and just about one hour of prep work to put the five recipes together. We don't use these everyday but a couple times a week it's nice to be able to just dump it all in the crockpot, let it cook all day and enjoy a warm yummy dinner with little prep time and easy clean-up (I love crock pot liners).
Invest in re-usable containers  for lunches. I like Ziplock's divided containers. They're not expensive, divided into three separate containers, and the lid seals good so not leakage between compartments. This is what I pack my children's lunches and hubby's dinners (during Upward practice) in. It saves my son, which only has 20 minutes for lunch, so much time from opening up individual containers or bags. And doesn't it just look like a happier lunch? I think so. Oh, and while you're at it buy a re-usable water bottle with filter for school lunches. Brita makes a small kid-size one and the filters last up to four months. By sending you child to lunch with water instead of juice drinks you are saving about 50,000 empty calories a year from your child's diet! Whether your child has weight or health issues or not, you want your child to use their calories on growing food, not sugar! Drink clean water not sugar water with artificial flavor, color, sweetener  and who knows what else that the body doesn't need. I just made this change in our lunches this month and I estimate it will amount to a savings of $150 a school year (not counting summer break when I was also buying juice pouches for the convenience factor). Now everyone has water at lunch and milk or 100% juice for breakfast and dinner. Organized and healthier. Win, win!

I hope some of these tips inspired you to re-arrange your food and eating habits. Got a food organization idea? Share it in the comments below.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Organizing the Closet

January is the perfect time to get organized. There's nothing like starting off the year by clearing out the clutter and enjoying a neat, clean, and organized space.  Being organized  saves time! You don't have to waist time looking for things by digging through all the piles everywhere. Being organized saves money because you see what you have, what you use, and don't end up re-buying what you already have but forgot about or couldn't find.  Being organized, hopefully will make your more thankful for what you have. When I start clearing out clutter I am grossly aware of the amount of "stuff" I have and don't even use. It makes me think about so many people around the world (and in our own community) that have less than I. It makes me want to be more generous. Today, I'll give you some tips for organizing your closets.

1. Go to the closet with garbage bags in hand. Start with the attitude that you have stuff you can live without. Some of it someone else could use - label those bags "DONATE". Some of its just garbage - clear out the trash.

On Jan. 1st, turn all your hangers backwards. As you wear clothes, turn the hanger around. Anything that is still backwards in a few months-- toss!
2. Still not sure you can part with your clothes?  In January, turn around all the hangers backwards in your closet. As you wear items turn them around. Any hangers that are still backwards when the season changes or at the end of the year if you don't rotate your clothes seasonally, get rid of them!

3. If you switch out your clothes seasonally, store them in clear plastic storage boxes so you can easily see what's in them. I write on a piece of paper and slip down on the inside the box so that I don't have to write on the box or use messy sticky labels. The paper can be easily changed out when I change the contents. This works well for kids clothes if your keeping hand-me-downs and want to keep track of what size or season of clothes is in the boxes. If your space is limited, you can use space bags or vacuum seal bags the same way.
I love this for my jewelry storage
4. Girls, get your bling on! If your jewels are organized your more likely to accessorize. Use these clear plastic boxes with dividers to store all your necklaces, bracelets, rings, earrings, pins, etc. They are just a couple of dollars at craft stores or you can find them in the fishing department as tackle boxes. The sections keep things from getting tangled up. You could organize by type (a box for necklaces, a box for bracelets, etc.) or by color.  As a bonus, these boxes are great for travel or if you have to evacuate you can quickly take your things with you.

5. Put both feet forward! Instead of piling up your shoes in the bottom of the closet, line them up. If you have room for a shoe rack or shelf it's a great way to use vertical space to keep your shoes together. If not, try baskets. We have a shelf near the entry door we use where I have a basket for each child. They each know to take off their shoes and put them in their basket. Though they may be piled up in the basket, they are contained to one place and one person's shoes. It really helps them remember to put their shoes in their place because if they don't and say "I can't find my shoes" I say "pick some that are in the basket where they are supposed to be." The next time they make sure their favorite shoes make it to the basket.

see post here
6. Put hooks (I use command hooks b/c they don't damage the surface) on the backs of the kids closet doors where you can lay out a week's worth of clothes at the beginning of the week. This will save countless fights about what to wear in the mornings. Also it helps keep me on task by having all the school uniforms ironed and ready to go at the start of the week so I don't have to scramble to iron something at the last minute.

So I hope some of these few tips were helpful to you. Happy organizing! Have an organizing or space saving tip to share? Leave a comment.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Brave New Year

Well Happy New Year! I know it's been quiet on the blog lately. Frankly, I've been at a loss of words for things to write about. It would not bless you to hear about our gloomy depressing rainy and stormy Seattle-like weather which has kept us mostly indoors for more than a month! Since the weather has been terrible my kids have spent most of their indoor time playing video games and building with legos, not exactly blog worthy events to photograph or write about.

January has brought changes for all of us. My 2nd grader is moving to a new school next week, upward basketball has started back (which means major changes to our routine - esp. Dad), winter ladies Bible Study class has started "Stepping Up" by Beth Moore, and that's just our family. Many of you, like us, are bravely facing changes to our nation such as higher taxes, less health care, less freedom, and more crime. These are uncertain times we're living in.

That's why I wanted my first post of 2013 to be a review of a Bible Study I recently did on my own. Our church has ladies Bible study classes offered in January and August each lasting about 6-8 weeks. When our last study ended in October, I didn't want to wait until January to do another study. I found "Brave: Honest questions women ask" by Angela Thomas at my local Lifeway store. In these uncertain times, I felt I could use a little more bravery so I gave it a try. This is a six week study with five days of homework in the workbook followed by a viewer guide if you want to purchase the video's online. I didn't do the videos just the workbook. Initially  I thought this would be a light Bible Study because the homework is short, to the point, and not like the intensive looking up a ton of scriptures studies I was used to. However, upon finishing this study it stirred something in me that caused deeper introspection than most studies I've done.

Brave invites you to come under the wings of the Lord's refuge and honestly confess to Him:

  • Lord, I am worn out
  • Lord, I am suffering a thorn
  • Lord, I am undisciplined
  • Lord, I am trembling inside
  • Lord, I am invisible
  • Lord, I am broken
This study didn't just point out the faults in myself and leave me feeling guilty or unworthy. It reminded me not just what I am but WHOSE I am. As a child of God, I am HIS. Because of that, I do have the power of the Holy Spirit in me, I am strengthened, I am comforted, I am given peace, I am seen by God.  Jesus said, "I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33) We are more than conquerors with Christ. Go bravely into this new year. Be ready to say yes to whatever God asks you to do, bravely knowing that He will equip you for the task.

Blessings to each of you.