2016 House Goals! {with inspiration photos}

It's no secret that I am a major list maker and goal oriented person. I find that days I have a list (time blocking every 30 minutes) I am so much more productive than days I don't! So hail to the list!

There are a few house goals that I'd like to accomplish this year. Nothing too major. But now that we are going on our third year here- there are definitely things we'd like to improve! Here is my list and a few before shots:

1. Paint our bathroom vanity.
We recently revamped our bathroom with a fresh coat of tiffany blue paint and gold accents (to pull from the tan in the granite which must stay). I am absolutely in LOVE. The light bright color made all the trim work pop.
But it also showed how terrible the dark wood vanity looks. It's just waaaaay too heavy for the space. 

A few inspiration pictures I've been dreaming of are here:

I'm drawn to the light vanities with the tan-ish tops since that is what we have. The floor/tile will stay and we have discussed framing the mirror. 

I have dabbled with glaze before and have a desk refinish I am going to do to try my technique! Super excited about this project. I had the paint, until an entire gallon fell off a garage shelf and landed on the hot water heater... yeahhhhh. #cleanupfordays

2. Do something different with the laundry closet.
Oh a laundry room would be such a luxury. But for now we have a closet with extremely ineffective wire shelving.
I tried to remedy a situation with cheap white bins since I can't even reach the shelf. Hello 5'1". It has been easier pulling bins down rather than individual items. But I'm still not totally satisfied. Not to mention they need labels because I honestly have no idea what's in each bin. #fail Also I'd like to make use of the 9 foot ceilings.

We have top loaders and hope to not switch them out anytime soon. And even if we did I would go with top loaders again. I am drawn to the cabinetry in these inspiration photos. And the shelf/ledge right above the appliances! So cute and functional! We don't even need a hanging bar (because our laundry is located upstairs centrally between our bedrooms), but I just might include one for resale. 

3. Refinish our stair case. 
We have 2 stair cases that are practically identical (basement/garage-main floor and main floor-upstairs).

They are literally on top of each other if you look at the layout of the house. The basement stairs have more of a hall feel while the other set is open to the foyer.

For now we are focusing our energy on the basement. We use this staircase multiple times a day and the carpet was looking worn. Also with the dog, it was a prime collector for fur and it just never looked clean. We love the idea of wood stairs, but after researching it, there can be a few surprises hiding under the carpet (depending on the wood used under the stairs). For us it wasn't worst case scenario (all plywood would be worst case scenario), but it was half worst case scenario. The tops of the stairs are great wood but the backs are plywood which will need to be covered. We have 2 landings that we'll also need to figure out. 

I am drawn to the craftsman style since that is the style of our home. The only trick is that we will have to work around the hardwood floors on our main floor and whatever hardwood we decide to put on the landings. If you look closely at my photo you can see that we are sampling some options. 

4. Re-paint the deck. 
We did this the summer we moved in with deck paint, but for some reason it hasn't help. We will most likely need to sand it down to bare wood and start over. Blahhhhh. The deck gets all the western sun and it isn't covered so it gets all the rain/snow. 
(dog ear #sonosy) 

5. Declutter. 
I think this is always on my list since I feel like my job is never done. We took an entire van load to the thrift store the first week of this year and it felt SO GOOD. I am in the middle of reading the 10-Minute Declutter * and I have learned some amazing processes for decluttering! Simple things that you overthink! Also I purchased The Life Changing Magic of Tyding up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing* and I am excited to jump in!

*Contain affiliate links. Read my disclosures here.

Speedy School Lunches and Sealing Sandwiches

I absolutely HATE making lunches. I'm not sure why? Maybe because I'm not a morning person and I am doing well to actually wake up?

I have been working SO HARD this school year to up my productivity by waking up early, but it still is the hardest thing I do all day. I am going to post soon about some ways I have learned to help. But for now let's tackle lunches.

Having worked in an elementary school for five years I saw a lot of school lunches. I also ate a lot of those lunches, which is something I'm not proud of. We decided when Luke started Kindergarten this year that he would be allowed to buy lunch once a week. I will say we have squeezed that to twice a week on some of the crazy weeks. Cause' goodness knows it makes my mornings run so much more smoothly.

I even tried packing lunches at night (I'm a night owl). But it was still something I dreaded. One thing that made life easier was to prepack all snacky foods. So I typically buy a big bag of goldfish, or pretzels or whatever I get that's a good price (Boxed) and separate them into ziploc baggies. I'm sure I could save the earth and use something more eco friendly but I'm trying to make my life easier, remember?

I try to keep 4-5 different varieties of "healthier" stuff (veggie chips, popcorn, pretzels, etc.) for easy grab and go. We also eat from these bins for after school snack but many days Luke actually prefers a green pepper or apple over packaged snacks anyways. And maybe one day I'll label these bins? I laminated labels at the beginning of the school year but I couldn't get them to stick! Annoying.

I start by shopping at my favorite discount bakery. I make a trip about once a month and buy enough bread for the whole month. I love that I can get the "expensive" bread for way cheap. Like 99cents a loaf cheap. Whole wheat, with no sugar added. Win! The prices are so low because they are approaching their expiration date. I typically throw the extra loaves in the freezer and pull them out as needed. In the 2 years I have shopped there, I have only had 2 loaves mold. One loaf typically lasts us once a week.

Not to insult your intelligence, but you basically make a sandwich with whatever you like. My kids have such an expansive palette so we do PB&J (*eyeroll*).
 I found that by putting the peanut butter on both sides of the bread, the jelly doesn't make the bread soggy.
And small dollops of jelly in the middle are easier to seal than spreading it over the whole sandwich. 

I try to go from edge to edge even though the crust will be cut off.

Enter the sandwich sealer. This one is less than $10 on Amazon. 

Then simply match a jelly piece to a peanut butter piece, match up the sandwich sealer to the edges and push! The directions said to push on white first, then blue!

{weird alien looking hand}
The sealer perfectly seals the edges so the peanut butter and jelly stay inside. I read that you can use a cookie cutter for this, but I'm just not sure a cookie cutter would seal the edges? Cut through the layers- definitely. The sealer was a small price to pay for my ease. Also in my research I found that white bread seals better than wheat (I'm guessing because it's more stretchy?), but this wheat did great! A few of the pieces toward the end of the loaf kept some of the crust- but my kids actually don't mind the crust. 

Also I timed myself to see just how long this process takes. One loaf of bread had 18 pieces (20 if you count the ends). 18 pieces = 9 sandwiches. I could make and cut all 9 sandwiches in 9 minutes. I did 5 loaves on this haul which means that 45 sandwiches took me 45 minutes. I'm pretty sure it takes me longer than a minute in the morning to make a pb&j. Not to mention the dirty dishes and crumbs on the counter. We have a giant chest freezer in the garage where I can store the extra sandwiches.
If I estimate correctly 45 sandwiches will last us approximately 7-9 weeks if Luke eats 4 a week and Emmie eats 1-2. I'm sure we'll mix up Luke's lunch a bit, but the boy only like a few things. And he's fine having the same thing over and over. 

To make all 45 sandwiches it took 1 jar of peanut butter ($5), less than half a jar of jelly ($2) and five loaves ($5). So for around 27 cents a sandwich that is MAJOR savings. The best price I found of uncrustables online was $13 for 18 sandwiches which is 72 cents a sandwich. So if you take the difference PER sandwich that's over $20 saved just from doing it yourself! Not bad!

You can just as easily adjust this to make different types of sandwiches with different butters/jellies! 
I actually timed myself one morning this week. I made 2 lunches in UNDER a minute. I grabbed 2 sandwiches from the freezer (no need to thaw since they thaw in the lunch bag), 2 small bottles of water, 2 organic applesauce packs, and 2 snack items. Less than a minute? I can do that!

I am thrilled this with lunch set up! I asked him the other day how his lunch tasted and I got 2 big thumbs up. I asked all the annoying mom questions- Was the sandwich frozen? Did it thaw? Was is mushy? Did it actually taste good? And he assured me it was GREAT! #momwin

Boxed: my new BFF

I have always been a huge believer in saving money and shopping smart. When we lived 45 minutes from civilization I would make the drive once a month to save on diapers and formula (I'd hit all my favorite stores). Not only did I save a TON, but it was my way to get out of the house and have some "me" time.

My methods and routines have changed over the years. I still get coupons but I haven't clipped one in months. Gasp. For me there just aren't enough hours in the day. I do still shop sales. I typically won't buy something unless it's on sale, and when it is on sale I will stock up. I tend to lean toward the store brand in most things to save a little more. Store sales, combined with store brands amount to pretty big savings. But I still found that it was hard to keep up. Between buying bulk at Costco, pantry staples at Aldi, and the week to week items at Target, I was becoming exhausted. Maybe I'm just dramatic. And keeping up with receipts and the budget. OYYY. 

But I thought THERE HAS TO BE A BETTER WAY. In our amazing world of the Internet, and fast shipping, SURELY there has to be a better way. 

Let me introduce you to Boxed.

My life has been changed. I have waited to post about Boxed so that I could get a few orders under my belt. I figure anyone can try anything once, but it really has to knock your socks off to come back time and time again. Keep reading for a promo code to save you some Benjamins!

Boxed is pretty much an online grocery store that sells mainly in wholesale/bulk {think Costco and Sams} but DELIVERED to your door. There are no refrigerated items but items include pantry items, cleaning supplies, drinks, home/office, pets, baby stuff and toiletries. Our box arrives THE NEXT DAY, but I'm not sure if shipping is that great everywhere.
Now with any store you will do best to know your prices and research before purchasing, but lucky for you, I have already done that! I went back through my order history to find items to compare. I am doing my comparison to Target. And please hear me out. I STILL LOVE TARGET AND SHOP THERE ALMOST WEEKLY. But we all know that random crap jumps in our Target carts. Things I can't live without but never knew I needed. ;) 

I'm sure you are thinking "yes dear, but you MUST be paying a premium for that!" NOPE. No yearly or monthly membership fees and free shipping at $50. You all know how easy it is to spend $50 at Sams or Costco. Surely the prices per item are more expensive, right? Wrong.

These are items that are simply better priced or are easier to have shipped to the house. Because, why not? 

Barilla Oven Ready Lasagna: aint nobody got time for the boil kind.
Boxed: 3 x 9oz boxes= $5.19
Target: 1 x 9oz box= $2.09 x 3= $6.27
$1.08 in savings. 

5 Gum: this is the only gum my husband will chew.
Boxed: $11.39 12/pk. = $0.94 each
Target: $2.70 3/pk. = $0.93 each
This was on sale at Target this week making it a better price BUT not on sale it is $0.99 cents a pack. For me it's easier to have this shipped than to worry about running out. 

Clif Bars: 

Boxed: $18.99  $16.14 (sale!) 24/pk. 
Target: $9.99 12/pk. x 2= $19.98
$3.84 in savings. 

Organic Applesauce: 
Boxed: $11.99 36/pk. = $0.33 each
Target: $1.99 6/pk. = $0.33 each But this is NOT the organic brand. The Simply Balanced brand came to $0.82 cents a pack. 

Graham Crackers: 
Boxed: 4 x 14.4oz= $9.99
Target: 1 x 14.4oz= $2.99
$1.97 in savings OR that's like having to find, clip, keep up with and use 4- $0.50 coupons.  

That's just a few items I have ordered in the past. Of course like anywhere you shop it pays to know your prices. But for me, the time savings pays off. I also get 5% off every purchase at Target with my Red Card, but even if I am paying the same amount or a teensy bit more, IT'S DELIVERED TO MY DOOR with Boxed. No tiny humans to cart through the store. Do your tiny humans lick the cart? Or beg for the most sugary unhealthy crap in the store? Or scream JUST BECAUSE THEY WANT TO? No? Just my kids?
{my quality control manager ;)}

When you download their app, you can easily navigate all the categories- but don't miss their SALE section! This section will list everything that is on sale currently. It's always fun to come across a well loved item on sale, but it's even easier when it's all in one place. From the home screen-> click featured at the top of the app->scroll all the way to the bottom.
Also their customer service is PHENOMENAL. They were running a free toilet paper promo and I forgot to add the free item to my cart before checkout. I contacted them on IG, gave them my order number and my order was on my porch THE NEXT DAY with my free TP. #highfive

While this door delivery doesn't cut out my trips completely, it does lessen the time I am in the store. Plus I can actually focus on prices and make sure I am getting a good price. I think that's the part about shopping with kids that drives me crazy is being distracted every 2 seconds.

Is there a yearly/monthly cost? No! There is a $25 minimum and at $50 you get free shipping.

Are all pantry items included here unhealthy? I have been SUPER impressed by Boxed's commitment to quality products. Many products are organic and they have a huge variety of healthy food. Some is non-GMO. There are even gluten free choices!

Do I have to subscribe? NO! You can order one box and be done forever. Or you can purchase once a month, twice a month, or weekly!

I'm sold! Are there any coupon codes to save even more? YES! Use my code: Z42FG at checkout to save $10 off your first order! Also follow them on Instagram to keep up with their promotions. They sometimes run % off (10% off $100, etc.) which is basically money in your pocket.

I have also fallen in love with Amazon's Subscribe and Save. I will do another post about that soon. We were Amazon members for YEARS before utilizing this service and I truly regret that. Stay posted for a recap of my experience! Here is the awaited Amazon Post! 

Disclosure: Boxed did not ask me to write this post. This post is written completely from personal experience. For every order that is placed using my code I receive compensation toward my next Boxed order. I help you and you help me. Win win :)

Sweet Sixteen

It's a new year which means time to set new goals. I am a super goal oriented person, so beginning a new year makes me giddy and excited. I try to set attainable goals so I don't end up frustrated, but I try to set them based on things I really need to work on. I heard recently that instead of focusing on things you are bad at and trying to get better, focus on the good. What are you good at? And sharpen those skills. Interesting thought. Here goes....

1. Lose weight. There I said it. On the internet. I have about 20lbs to drop. I stepped on the scale after the holidays and realized that I am only FIVE pounds away from my highest pregnancy weight. I have never really had to worry about my weight, but ummm clearly now I do. So Jillian and I have already had a week of seshs which needs to continue. And I need to stop eating candy. And caramel apples, and ice cream. But seriously, I need to cut out the fast food. And Starbucks. And coke from the fountain. And up my water intake. Like yesterday. Already I have lost 3 lbs, and am drinking nearly 40oz. of water a day. I was drinking upwards of 70oz. with my pregnancies, so I'll get there.

2. Focus on me. This goes hand in hand with #1. I need to take care of myself. After focusing the last nearly seven years on my offspring, I am ready to focus on myself. I'm going to get a pedicure when it's flip flop weather. I'm not going to hesitate hiring a sitter to go get laser hair removal. I am going to take bubble baths and whiten my teeth. I truly feel like a better mom and person when I take care of myself.

3. Simplify. The older I'm getting (this is the year of 30), the more being disorganized bothers me. And clutter just shuts me down. So we are going to continue to purge. And sell stuff we don't need. To be able to measure this, my goal is $100 a month. There are a lot of fancy ingenious plans out there to save (we followed this one last year), but this year I think a simple $100 a month is good. Some months may be more. Others may be less. I learned last year that it evens out in the end.

4. Read 12 books. One a month. Some people run marathons. I long to read books. I used to read all the time. I remember a time in my life that I read an entire series (18 books) in just a few months. That was BK {before kids}. I have probably read 3 in the last year, so this is a pretty high goal. Now that I am completely caught up on Grey's Anatomy I have no excuses, right? RIGHT? except I may have started over at season one... don't tell my husband. 

{a few titles in my wishlist 1|2|3}

5. Be brave. Not really measurable... but I struggle so bad with fear of the unknown and I really want to face whatever comes with bravery. Realizing that I can't change the outcome, but I can change my reactions. This past year taught me that while I tend to reflect on the hard times well, I don't navigate the hard times well. So here's to a year of bravery.