Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Shower Cleaning 101

This is the first time in my life that I've had actual shower doors in my home. And I am absolutely in LOVE. I hate the annoyance of curtains, cleaning them (actually I never clean vinyl curtains- I wait until they get bad and then trash them) and I just don't like how they look. 

The kids bathroom has a tub/shower combo with a curtain. But our master has the glass doors. 

I was doing REALLY great with my cleaning schedule until June came. Funny thing- the pool opened, Luke was home from school, and cleaning literally flew out the window. Aint nobody got time for that. 

Now that it's getting cooler, I have a few tasks I want to tackle to help us settle in for the winter. 1 was deep cleaning all the bathrooms. I'm talking pull out the mop, pick up all the hair dust bunnies (holy postpartum hairloss), clean the moldings, and magic eraser all the hair spray overspray off e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. #finehairproblems

I was stumped with our shower door. I waited until after a shower one morning, when it was nice, hot and steamy and grabbed my windex and gave the doors a good cleaning- until I noticed that the cloudiness wasn't washing off. Whaaaaa?

I jumped on Pinterest (oh what would we do without you?) and learned that what we call "soap scum" is actually more of mineral deposits than actual scum. I really don't use a lot of soap and I always wondered why it became so cloudy. And I/we try really hard to keep water off the door since I'm worried about it dripping out. Well apparently these mineral deposits can do a number on  your shower doors. I found a few recipes of mineral cutting products to help with this- but I wasn't really in the mood to make anything new- less is more (cleaners that is). 

So I tried my disinfectant (which can be found here). It's a combination of vinegar, rubbing alcohol, a few drops of blue dawn, and water. It actually smells really clean and it's my go to for floor and toilet cleaning.
I sprayed the disinfectant over the area I was working (I started small since i wasn't sure the outcome)  
and then squirted some blue dawn on a pretty stiff brush. Then I scrubbed the heck out of the door.
 

A quick sweep with a dry cloth to get off the remaining suds and....

Voila! 
I was actually really impressed at how little elbow grease it took! I'm not sure if it was the brush or the combination of the brush and the blue dawn, but all I know is that yuckiness is GONE!

This combination also works on the shower itself. Just be sure to rinse all the soap before showering to avoid slips and falls. 

Here is the lovely shower so fresh and so clean!
Oh and be sure to clean the other side of the door too. I was scrubbing and scrubbing this one spot that wouldn't come clean and realized it was on the other side. #blondemoment #i'mallowedthemeverysooften

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Birchbox vs. Ipsy

I feel like this is the question of the century for those interested in subscription services. So for a fun little "break from the usual" I thought I'd compare some recent boxes and bags. Both subscription services are $10/month, so let's see what $10 gets you!

When you subscribe to Birchbox, you receive 5-6 samples of cosmetics, personal care items, or sometimes food (chocolate, tea) in a cute little box. I will admit that I am a little bummed when I get food. I feel a little scammed. But over all for me Birchbox takes an edge over Ipsy. I love that Birchbox comes with a card with all the samples listed and how to use each sample. That may sound silly, but when you are getting items in sample sizes sometimes you're not sure how to use them. Also they're bottles are so small that they typically don't have directions. "Is this a lotion or a face wash? or is this blush or lip balm?" Their website is super easy to use and you buy everything from Birchbox. I also LOVE Birchbox's reward system. Pretty much for every product you review they give you 10 points back. 10 points equals $1. So in every box you can earn $5-6 dollars back of the $10 subscription. That's a pretty good deal seeing as sometimes you get lucky and get full sized items. I would say half of all the products I test I love enough to buy, so when I'm reviewing I will go into my account and mark them as "favorite". That way I remember when I need to re-order exactly what I liked. Also this helps you to see what is shipping free. I always wait until I can get free shipping on my items.

Here's how I recently used my BB points:

I am BEYOND obsessed with this beauty protector detangler. It's exclusive to Birchbox which means I can't find it elsewhere. It is WELL WORTH the price tag. I found a free shipping code, used my 200 points and only spent $1.95!

 In all fairness I have been a part of the Birchbox community for over a year (my 1 year anniversary was in September) and I've only been receiving Ipsy since August. For Ipsy- I LOVE the adorable cosmetic bags that they give. All the samples come in a bag which is SUPER handy for traveling. I have also started keeping a "freshen up" kit in my car. You can ALWAYS use another cosmetic bag! Also you can review items to receive points but I don't like that you can't type your own response in the review. For instance, I am REALLY against cosmetics made in China. So I typically give those products a poor review. But there is no place for me to explain why on the review. With Birchbox I can explain my review. I also feel like Ipsy's website is a tad too modern for me. I mean, I'm a mom- who isn't interested in doing a cat eye every morning. They give expert tips and such on their site, but I haven't found it very informative for ME. Again that's totally MY experience. Some people may love that!

Also with Ipsy (and correct me if I'm wrong), you don't purchase from them. They give you links to purchase the items at other places. You can only use your points on items they choose. I'm a one stop shop type person, and I want to use my points with products I want (and have tried). With Birchbox you purchase the item directly through them. I will say that my frugal self does price check items and I have found items on Amazon and at Costco that are cheaper than Birchbox. So you just have to learn your products and do you research.

Examples:

Amica Dry Shampoo (this stuff smells AWESOME!).
$21@ Birchbox (free shipping)
2 weeks ago on Amazon $18 (with prime)
Today it's $21 plus shipping on Amazon- so you just have to watch your prices! Today it's a better price on Birchbox. 

Whish Shave Cream (LOVE THIS STUFF). 
$20@Birchbox +shipping
$20 at Costco for 2 (same size) PLUS their after shave serum. 
So for this it isn't worth using my bonus points to purchase since I can get it cheaper locally. Love the pomegranate scent BTW. 

I've mentioned it already, but I am really anal about purchasing products that aren't made in China. I prefer items made in America, but I will buy something made it Italy or France if I love it. I threw all my makeup away a few months ago because I was tired of all the chemicals (especially parabens) lurking in my makeup (hello cover girl and maybelline). And companies are super sneaky with not disclosing where the products are made on the bottles. I had to go online to figure out where most items come from. And did you know that Made in PRC is code for China? (People's Republic of China). I'm noticing this more and more since people like me are moving away from these products. They are trying to trick us- but silly them- we're smarter than that. As far as "drugstore" brands I have found that Physician's Formula is really trying to be paraben free made in USA. Revlon also has a few products (Photo Ready concealer and Nearly Naked foundation) that fit in my mold. 

 In my opinion, Birchbox tends to have more "earth friendly" products that omit harsh chemicals. Not all products fit this description, but more so than not. 

As for product size. Some people say Ipsy has better sizes. Here are my last 2 Ipsy bags and 2 Birchboxes. 

Ipsy:
full size samples: Absolute Lip Balm (made in China so I trashed it). 

full size samples: Be a Bombshell (made in China) and Cailyn Lip Gloss (GREAT stuff) and the Hello fragrance was a pretty generous size. 

Birchbox:

Full size: ModelCo mascara, nail lacquer, and Noir eyeliner. 

So out of 2 months, I got just about the same amount of full size products from both BB and Ipsy. Ipsy had 1 extra full size. And with BB I was able to keep all of them. With Ipsy I had to trash 2 of them. 

I'm going to give Ipsy until Christmas to wow me. If I notice too much more made in China products I am going to end my subscription with them and stick exclusively to Birchbox. I love subscription services. The beauty of them is being able to try products that 1. I wouldn't normally try or 2. not have a long term commitment. I HATE it when I buy a full size item and I'm not overly impressed and I'm stuck with it until it's gone. In 2-3 uses you can typically tell whether you will love a product or not. Also I'm finding new brands that I otherwise wouldn't have known about!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

More meals!

If you remember last year I did a mega shopping trip and made nearly 30 meals at once to freeze (and then I shared some recipes here). Good times.

I was getting a little antsy with meals. I am ashamed to admit that we have eaten out more in the last few months than ever. I used to NEVER be tempted to eat lunch out (oh yeah because I couldn't). And anytime Josh is home for dinner is a reason to celebrate. (He typically works the afternoon shift).

So I got in a bad, lazy rut. My kids eat cheese quesadillas, pb&j, and rice/beans more than I care to admit. Josh is never home for dinner. And when I do cook dinner I sometimes end up making 3 meals to satisfy everyone. I know. I said I'd never do that. Never say never.

It was time to STOP. Take a deep breath. And meal plan.

Remember how organized I used to be? It was simply out of survival. When I worked full time I HAD to or else we would have starved.

Now I can cook whatever, whenever, and I don't.

I started like I always start by going through the fridge, freezer, and pantry. I wrote down in my "meal planning calendar" items I wanted to make from ingredients we already had. As I added each meal to the calendar I made a shopping list for the items I didn't have.

Then I began planning for the big prep/freezer meals. I never know where to start. So I started by asking Josh what he missed me cooking. When I do big hauls like this I tend to stick with old favorites, try a few new recipes, and throw in some familiar not used often recipes. In no time I had a nice list. Josh could eat pasta and red sauce at EVERY MEAL. I get so sick of spaghetti, lasagna, manicotti, etc. I still did some old favorites (lasagna- cheese and meat) but I stayed away from chili and taco soup this time. Those meals are just too heavy to have all in a row.

Also we don't have to have meat at every meal. Josh is totally content with soup and salad some nights, so I really like the space out when we eat meat. I anticipate this freeze fest to last us months, with other meals mixed in.

Here was my plan this time: lasagna, manicotti, pizza dough, veggie beef soup, teriyaki chicken, herb crusted chicken, broccoli/chicken/rice casserole. Not nearly as large as last time, but it also didn't take me as long to prep. A few goals:
1. Make smaller portions
2. Use GOOD ingredients
3. Avoid cans if at all possible

I did this over the course of 3 days and it took me about 1 hour each day to complete. Here was my kitchen in the midst of chaos.
A few tips:
-Always have 2 meals going consecutively- while I boil the water for the lasagna I am prepping the pizza dough. Once the dough is going I am browning the meat for veggie soup and lasagna. This takes practice to juggle it all, but it's SO worth it in time savings.

-I typically make either 2-4 batches of whatever I'm making. So while all my measuring cups were out and dirty with flour I went ahead and mixed the second batch of pizza dough in a separate bowl (leaving out the liquid ingredients). This is the pizza dough and one of the healthier changes I made was switching to 1/2 whole grain flour 1/2 white flour. I've attempted all whole grain and it's a really tough crust. 
-If you dirty dishes that you know you'll use again rinse them as you go. I used the same strainer first to strain the spaghetti sauce (we dislike the texture of onions), then to drain the grease from the meat (into a glass jar to go in the trash) and then to strain the spaghetti again. It makes for less "icky" dishes later and less dishes overall. 
-Cook  your meat together- by this point my first batch of pizza dough was spinning in my bread maker so I was on to cooking my lasagna meat and my veggie beef soup meat. Since I don't like super seasoned meat I just cooked the beef and threw in similar ingredients- onion powder, salt, pepper, and some garlic. The sauce from the lasagna sauce and veggie soup will do the rest of the seasoning. 1 pan for 3 meals? Check. 
-Going with the meat theme- handle all your raw meat at once. I bought that prepackaged Costco chicken that comes in the cute freezable pouches. And while I love the idea, I wanted to go ahead and separate the breasts (there are 2 per pack- we only eat 1 per meal). Before opening the bags, I designated what I was doing with each one. 
I packaged each one and then measured and added the sauce. 
-Obviously label each bag. If there are special instructions be sure to include those too. We like potatoes in our veggie beef soup but potatoes don't freeze well so I'll add those at cooking time.
{I did keep 2 bags of plain raw chicken for random meals I think of along the way. That way I have some meat left}.

This was my kitchen sink after the first day (6 meals later). NOT bad considering this is how it typically looks after ONE meal! (I didn't throw the big boiling pot in the sink since it was so hot).
All total I made 18 meals in 3 days (1 hour each day). I find you get the most bang for your buck with marinades. They are SO EASY to whip up and although it's not a full meal, we almost always have veggies and rice or potatoes on hand to make the meal.

And the new recipe I tried? Herb crusted chicken with cream sauce. I shared the link to the recipe above- it was DELICIOUS!! Definitely adding it to the favorites list.


How did I do with my goals?
1. Make smaller portions- ehhhh. I tried to limit how much I put in each container. I love those foil turkey pans to store food but it is INCREDIBLY difficult to find smaller sizes than the typical "half pan" size. I just tried to not fill them as full. Nothing worse than heating a meal and having it for lunch and dinner the next 3 days. ick.
2. Use GOOD ingredients- I feel like I did really well. My ingredients were either fresh or frozen and minimally processed.
3. Avoid cans if at all possible- I avoided anything canned (except for the lasagna spaghetti sauce- which technically came in a jar). I am REALLY trying to get away from canned veggies and condensed soups. I made this SOS sauce to use in place of condensed soups in the chicken/broccoli/rice casserole and then to have on hand for quick meals.

This really kicked my booty to jump in with meal planning. It was actually fun and I feel accomplished for making a few new meals, and just generally being on top of our eating situation!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Purge 50

One of my goals last month was to read. I hated reading as a kid, but really got into it after college. Actually I had an AWESOME Children's Literature professor who inspired me to read more kids chapter books (you know, those book I SHOULD have read in school but never did). You can say Cliff and I were buddies in high school ;) I actually turned technology off for a day a few weeks ago and I was able to read 30% of a new book. That was more than I've read in a year. Amazing what you can do with very little distractions.

Anyways, I love reading. And ever since having kids that has totally gone by the wayside. I bought a kindle a few years ago and really enjoyed the "digital" experience. I still love a good book in my hand, but the ease of the kindle was amazing. Then I *think* I left it in a hotel. Is it stolen if it is never returned? I never know what to say "I lost it" or "someone stole it".

I can't blame me not reading on losing my kindle because I've checked books out from the library and let them sit for weeks. I ended up returning them because I just didn't have time to read.

But I am making it a priority because I miss it. So I downloaded a book (on the kindle app on the iPad) called "Seven" by Jen Hatmaker. If you haven't heard of her, I'm sorry. I was drawn to this particular book in an effort to streamline and declutter. I'm only on chapter 3 and have been super inspired by her desire for less. The book is pretty extreme as far as the "seven" idea (seven foods for a month, seven items of clothing, etc.) but it really makes you see and analyze what we truly can live without.

I did purge 100 a few years ago and it was an AMAZING feeling. Nothing is safe. I pretty much stay on top of our outgrown kids clothes because of consignment sales. But there is other stuff sitting around just collecting dust. So I decided to challenge myself again. Since we just moved (and since I have physically touched everything in our house... twice in the past year) I lowered the bar to 50 items. I did a lot of purging when we moved. But there is still great deal of stuff that I don't need/use.

Enough words... onto the pictures:
{this is 24 items}
{this is 26 items)

Josh actually took a major part in the photo above. He was like "aren't you doing that cleaning out whatchamacallit. I need to clean my side of the closet." 

A few areas that I struggled cleaning:

*Our closet. I am still in that stage where I haven't lost all my baby weight, and I'm not happy with where I am. But I need clothes that I can fit into now. I actually don't own a lot of clothes. I prefer the less is more approach. But I was able to part with a good bit that I just never wear. I really like the idea of a wardrobe capsule and although I haven't "curated" one, I took a lot of tips from people who have. If you don't love it let it go. Let is goooooooooooo. (seriously the Frozen addiction in this house is unreal).
And seeing how many hangers I had left over makes me smile!

*Kitchen utensils.  You know, those random skewers you used twice a year? Or the fondue pokers you used once since the wedding. I did keep anything I thought we may use, but I tossed plastic spoons that I felt were melted and gross and replaced with some I had stashed away.

*Books- infact I didn't part with one unless they were baby related. I just love books.

I am just amazed at how quickly we amass things we.dont.need. Excess. It's ridiculous. And as I was in the middle of this purge I made a grocery trip to Target. I was pulling out of our subdivision and realized I didn't have my sunglasses (you know you get to that ONE spot and suddenly are blinded). You know what thought actually went through my mind? "Oh I can just grab another pair at Target!" REALLY?! Have I learned NOTHING from this experience? I was actually embarrassed that I thought it instead of thinking about turning around and grabbing mine from the counter. No- that would require way too much work!

I wish I could let go more than I did, but I was very critical about things I kept. Those colors of nail polish I never use? Someday Emmie will paint her toes electric blue ;) There is something to be said for a house being filled with memories; I just need to find that balance of keeping the special stuff and letting go of the not so special.

Friday, September 19, 2014

High Five for Friday

These last twoweekshavebeenneverending. Ugh.

1. I am tired. The end. 

2. We have been sick since September 1st. That's nearly 3 weeks. I'm done and in desperate need of a vacation (Gulf Coast here we come!). Except vacay with kids isn't really a vacation. The stomach virus and strep are no joke. 

3. Josh hasn't been off since last Tuesday. A week ago. His new schedule changes his off days every week. This week it just happened to have 10 days between off days. oyyyyyy. (and I know there are people who go MONTHS without an off day.) 

4. Now I feel whiny. Sorry about that. 

5. Emberly started to walk. My life as I knew it is officially over.

Ok for the REAL H54F!
1. Our pool is open til the end of September. So we'll swim until we can't. ;) Even if I'm chilly in jeans. It doesn't even phase the little man!
2. 1 word. Diva. She begged for me to pick her up and then reached with every bit of strength for my blush brush and began to apply it to herself. I'm in trouble!
3. If we're being honest, I'm a little thrilled that she's actually paying attention to the TV. What is it about Elmo?! This is the first time she's ever stopped to actually watch something on TV. And the break was niiiiiiiice.
4. Yep I'm *that* crazy mom who takes her kid to urgent care at 7pm on a Friday night to find out "nothing is wrong". 3 negative strep tests all to find out after 5 days of a fever that he has strep. Who's large and in charge NOW? ;) Moral of the story: If you know somethings "off", keep seeking answers. Don't be afraid to stand up to the doctor. YOU know your baby. (and YES you can have strep without a sore throat!)
5. I just couldn't resist adding this one. I just can't get over how big she is *sniff*.
I am getting things done from my list at the beginning of this month! I'll have a few things to update next week! 

By the way my shop is on vacation so I can catch up and spend some time with my family. It'll be back soon!

Friday, September 12, 2014

High Five for Friday!

1. Can I tell you that my friends are amazing? A dear friend sent me this gorgeous owl cup for my birthday. A few weeks ago as I was rushing out the door it fell off the coffee maker and broke. I was seriously bummed. I swear my coffee tasted better out of it ;) Well I guess Josh asked her to grab me another (and he'd pay her when we see them again) and guess what showed up a few days later? She wouldn't accept payment- typical.

2. The kids are growing. I can't believe I have a "toddler" and not a baby. Of course since Emberly still isn't walking she can still be my baby... for now. Since the doctor isn't worried (she she cruises and walks when "she feels like it") I'm not worried either. I'll soak up this baby-ness a little while longer.
{this pretty much sums him up in a photo}

{can you even handle those legs?}

3. We are in the middle of choosing a school for Luke next year. I didn't think I'd be thinking about it this soon, but I am actually glad that we are having these conversations now so we don't have to worry about it. We are leaning toward a private school/homeschool combo. He'd go to Kindergarten 3 days a week and have assignments to do at home the other 2 days. It's an awesome model and it incorporates everything we are looking for in a school. Also the private school chooses curriculum so that burden is off us, but we still have a huge part of "teaching" him. We are filling out the application and gathering necessary documents and leaving the rest up to the Lord.

4.  Fall is in full swing at Create Pretty! I am LOVING these pumpkin designs! I have even pumped out a few Christmas items already and that makes me super giddy!

5. We are in the market for a new mattress. We rushed through this decision last time, so we are taking our time to really figure out what we want. Josh has a terrible back with every lumbar disk bulging so it's really up to him. I can sleep anywhere. BTW he had his MRI and got his results last Tuesday. Thankful that the doctor doesn't want to operate but not really sure where else to turn (epidural injections, chiropractor, physical therapy, medicine, etc.). I've been through all this when I was younger, so we're praying for at least a reprieve from pain.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

5 minutes and $3 later

So I don't think it's any secret how much I love the Dollar Tree. Holla at a Dolla... right?!

Ok ghetto aside. Underneath my sink was causing me great anxiety. I am pretty tolerant for messes and there are seasons in my life that I actually thrive in disorganization. Gasp.

Not sure if it's my "creative" side or what, but it's true that when I clean up it's difficult for me to find stuff. It's weird.

Anyways. Under my sink was simply out of control. It got to the point that I was literally throwing stuff in there. "Hmmm random bag of cotton balls?" *cram*. "Random hair clip?" *throw in the VERY back*
Here's the before. Taking before photos are a must. It is SO REWARDING to go back and see how it was when you finish. As for this stuff? I use that bottle of lotion every day. And see the contact solution on the floor? Yea it fell out one morning. The pink bag is my "medicine chest". I find it's easier to keep it in a bag like this so I can just grab it when we travel. We HARDLY take medicine but you can bet that whenever we're gone from home my children will come down with whatever illness I don't have meds for. So I bring everything. Besides that everything else is stuff I use randomly, not everyday. Extra contacts, makeup, my other travel bag, etc.

Everything came out. Everything. And I couldn't get a picture because I was surrounded in it. But it was such a relief. I thew away a lot.

And I put everything back, organized in these $1 bins from Dollar Tree.
Ahhhhh can  you hear relief?! Everything on the right side was in there before... my extras bin, those birchboxes, and the blue nail polish container I made in middle school along with all the contents in the green bins. They were all hidden under the mess. By the way I save my birchboxes every month, so I've collected quite a few. I organized the kids bathroom with the rest and I'll share that another day.

But the new containers are PERFECT! I HATE having to pull out bins just to open them. So I love that these are open but still corral everything. Bottom is all my extra contacts and solution, the middle is jewelry cleaners and wax products, and the top is tub stuff (kids shampoo, coconut oil (extra- I keep one on the counter, etc). The lotion stayed front and center because I use that everyday. I love the little nail polish container that I made so it had to stay. It holds my remover, cotton balls, foot scrubs, etc. And behind all that is my medicine bag and travel items. We don't travel a lot so I love that it's there if I need to grab something, but it's out of the way for now!

And this was everything that came out and didn't come back in! What a great feeling! If you haven't done a 5 minute purge, you should. It's really stress relieving! I actually already tackled our fridge and the kids toys are next!