[DIY] Toddler/Nursery Decorations!

Well, my husband keeps giving me a hard time because apparently I’m “nesting.” I just think that I finally HAVE the TIME to make some decor for the kids’ rooms, and that’s the main reason I knocked out three projects today… 🙂 I will admit it’s a LITTLE bit of nesting. Either way, I got some projects done which is the biggest thing… who cares if it’s nesting or internal motivation 🙂

I feel like I’ve been making excuses for a while now on why I don’t do more projects around the house. Normally, I am afraid of doing projects because I am afraid of messing them up or that they will look bad or that I will waste my money even trying or even worse, waste my precious time doing them! But I found all this silly when I know that if I have simply directions, I’m normally pretty good at following them. AND, I believe in being frugal yet still having a welcoming home for our family and friends. When there is stuff on the walls, a home just feels so much more like a HOME instead of a house. And when that stuff is personalized, I think it’s even better (but that might just be my opinion).

Anyway, I’ve been spending most of my pregnancy so far searching on Pinterest (duh!) for easy projects that even I can do! On a side note, I think my first pregnancy I spent most of my time on babycenter.com 🙂 The projects I chose were all so easy I did MOST of the work (like 90%) during Sky’s 2-hour nap today, and then I finished the rest up after he went to sleep (in between dishes and packing bags for the next day, etc). So, if I can do it… YOU can do it!

The first project I completed today, (although this is not toddler room related), is I updated our door wreath. Well, it’s more like a wall wreath because it’s on the wall of the porch by the front door… but anywayyy that’s a technicality! I made the burlap wreath during the winter months, so all I did today was create a bow, the hanging strip, and painted the “w”. I got the idea from this little cutie on Etsy. I might still add some peonies or something to make it a little more spring-y, but I’m pretty happy with it! Soooo easy! Which is what I love about it 🙂

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Next, I decorated these little letters which are my son’s initials! STW

We’ve had them for a while (ahem… since before he was born 1.5yr ago…), and yes, I am just now getting around to decorating them…don’t judge! Anyway, I was going to paint them with my fancy, schmancy acrylic paint but I wanted something more than just plain “blue” or “red” (our colors for his room I’ve decided), and I’m really not that good at painting, so of course, off to Pinterest I went again. I found an easy tutorial on how to glue scrapebooking paper on top (I know, you’re thinking it’s pretty lame I had to look this up in the first place… but I’m new to all this). I found out that all I needed were scissors, Modge Podge, the paper, and the letters! Awesome! Again, super duper easy decorations for his wall! I went to Hobby Lobby and found some paper that matched our color scheme:

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And voila….here’s the finished pic! The hardest part was cutting along the lines… 🙂

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Finally, my favorite part about today was making these two door hangers for Sky’s and Zoey’s (yup, that’s our little girl’s name) bedrooms! They will hang on their doors so that we won’t ever forget whose room is whose. Haha. Can’t a mommy just do something because she thinks it’s cute? Sheesh! I got the idea from here. (The site was in Spanish so really I just looked at the pictures! Who needs written directions when you have enough pics???) Anyway, off to Hobby Lobby, Sky and I went this morning to get the supplies for this little project. Thankfully I already had the paint (which I will be using for another little animal decoration later on) I just needed the letters. Sky wasn’t nearly as much of a tornado this time around at the store, which I was very thankful for since it is getting hard to bend down with this big belly in the way!

Here are a couple of pictures of the project along the way. I still have to put the white ribbon on the top of it so we will be able to hang it up, but otherwise pretty much done!

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Hope you were inspired a little by these projects! I know I had a ton of fun making them, and hopefully I will continue making some of our home decorations even when I’m NOT nesting 🙂

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We Finally Decorated Sky’s Bedroom!

We’ve been in the house since the end of April, and yes, we are finally getting around to putting up some decorations in Sky’s bedroom.  He is full boy that loves cars, throwing balls, and hitting things with his golf clubs.  But we decided to keep his room with an animal/jungle theme while he is still in the crib and his room is still a nursery.  This means we hung an old laundry bag as a net for the stuffed animals and kept his jungle themed sheets.Sky's Room   We still use the rocker but not to nurse anymore. Mostly to read a book before bed and sing “Hush Little Baby,” one of Sky’s favorite bed time songs.  I should post about that song another time because it’s not the traditional song.  It has verses like “mama’s going to find you a hummingbird… or mama’s going to play on her old banjo.” But again, I’ll save that for another post 🙂 The crib has a few more stuffed animals in it, but otherwise is the same. We decided to hang his Daniel verse painting that Sky’s daddy made above the crib this time around. If you can’t read it the verse is from Daniel 12:3 and says, “Those who are wise will shine as bright as the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever.” We thought it was a beautiful verse to be displayed in his room. Sky's Room 2 Sky has a few more books on the shelves now, but otherwise the bookshelf is the same.  the biggest addition to the walls are his birth announcement that his Aunt Stephanie made (who by the way has a blog also…and the link is in the blog roll) and his height chart that his great Aunt Susie sent him. We are still deciding on what color we want to commit to this room, but I am being indecisive. At least now he has some things to look at on the walls, and as soon as we hung the balls from the ceiling he started pointing at them. Hopefully they will be a nice distraction while we are changing his diaper on the changer we got for free from the neighbors! Also, the bag hanging on the side of the changer is one of the ones his Aunt Shawna made for his dirty cloth diapers.  If you are interested in one, let me know and I’ll get you her info 🙂 They are super cute and help keep the diapers until you wash them. Well, that’s all for now. Hope you enjoyed Sky’s safari/jungle/animal room 🙂

Grocery Budget Tool and Staying Focused on Fitness

Dual post this time to combine two of my favorite subjects, finances and fitness.

Tips for Saving Money on Groceries

Using excel’s many tools are very helpful if you know how to use them to your advantage. Even though I used Excel a lot in college, I still learn new formulas all the time. Some of you may remember my first grocery post here, which had a picture of my spreadsheet to track purchases. Since that time I have updated the formulas to automatically sum the totals for each of the categories, and I added a drop down menu in the column for categories. I’ve had a couple people ask for my template so I thought I would share for anyone else who wants to assess their monthly grocery shopping list.

Grocery Analysis Template

I challenge you to look at each purchase to see where you might be able to save money on groceries.

As for us, in February, we spent a little more on groceries than in January. I know a good part of it was due to actually buying meat this month. We buy meat on sale and then freeze it in order to help save money. I also noticed we had a lot more small trips to the grocery store this month. If you can plan ahead and minimize your trips to the store you will both save time and money on groceries. Here is the summary by category for February.

Fruits and Veggies: $72.82/21%
Animal Products: $119.31/34%
Grains: $53.79/15%
Fats and Oils: $24.67/7%
Sweetners: $20.72/6%
Miscellaneous: $43.36/12%
*Taxes: $13.67/4%

Total: $348.34

* New Category I thought I should keep track of.

Now on to the second topic of today’s post! Fitness update.

Lately I have been pretty tired because of school and work and a baby and household chores, so I only I managed to work out about twice a week during the month of February.

This post is for the busy moms and dads out there who don’t always find the time to work out. Believe me, you aren’t the only one! As far as I’m concerned any workout you find time to do is better than nothing! Some ideas for quick workouts that I do include: 20 minute circuits, 20 minute runs, indoor biking while watching a show, and push-ups before bed. All of these help with your overall health and well-being even if it is not consistent! Sometimes even just getting a good stretch in can help you relax and release some endorphins.

I’m still working towards getting adjusted on my bike and prepping for RAGBRAI. Official RAGBRAI training starts in April. I’m supposed to be able to ride minimum 80 miles per week starting about mid-April. I’m averaging about 40 right now. But I’ve got the bike and a reading stand set-up in the living room to ride during TV shows or while I’m doing homework. Multi-tasking is definitely my friend.

Well, maybe in the month of March I will have time to give weekly updates of my workouts, but until then, thanks for motivating me!

House Update: Frame is up!

Well, it is finally starting to feel real. The house seemed to be on hold for a few weeks there because we had freezing cold temperatures. Like -20 degrees freezing cold! But thankfully they have started to put the frame up. Timeline for the frame is a week. From there things will really fly. We will be moving in in no time! And by no time, I mean mid-April! Ahhh! It’s only a month and a half away! So excited 🙂

I haven’t blogged about the house in a while so I thought I would share a couple of other pictures as well. One Wednesday evening we met with the design team that handles the interior design for Journey Homes. We spent 2 hours pouring over choices and trying not to be overwhelmed. We got to pick out carpet color, granite for the counter tops, back splashes, bathroom tiles and counter tops, and the outside colors of the house. I know it’s hard to imagine what this will all look like on the big house but we are supppeerrrr excited.

The wood is the cabinet color (we really didn’t have that many choices). The top sample and two on the right are the backsplash in the kitchen. The bottom is the granite that will be on the counter tops and the middle will “hopefully” be an accent backsplash in the kitchen. I say hopefully because the lady we met with kind of confused (long story), but I guess it will be a nice surprise. Haha.

The stone up top will be on the front of our house around the garage and underneath the front windows, etc. The dark grey will be the body of the house. The white will be the trim and the maroon will be the door accent.

We are working on picking paint colors for the inside of the house, which I will post another time once we get closer to making decisions. Will probably go with a nice maroon accent wall in the living room and maybe a dark gray for the kitchen. The trim around the house is already going to be white and they will be painting all the walls a warm off-white that is really pretty nice, so we won’t be painting everything thankfully. I found this awesome app from Behr that allows you to find complimentary colors and color pallets. It’s very useful if you will be painting in your home as well!

Tom has also diligently been working on the backyard plans.

Backyard Draft

We will need LOTS of help so if you will be available sometime in late April early May we would appreciate it! We will be installing sprinklers, laying sod, and planting trees to say the least. Here’s the tentative plan right now! And yes, that’s a potential gas fire pit right by the back porch! Who knew that building and buying a new house would be so much work? It seems like each day we think of something else that we will have to do. I’m so grateful that Tom has the time to research and that we aren’t too rushed into making decisions. God really does provide perfect timing!

I am so thankful that we are able to build this home for our family, and I can’t wait for it to finally be finished so we can have everyone over. That’s one of the things I’m most excited about. Inviting people into our home to enjoy food and fellowship! Well, I think that’s it for now!

Our Family Calendar

When you have two people who like to be busy and involved with a kid and a dog, a family calendar is a necessity to stay organized. This little baby helps us out immensely. It is an old picture frame that my husband put some sticky notes in! I have to admit we saw it at a friends house somewhere and loved the idea. You can change up the calendar every month super easy and update it with all your appointments and schedules and dinner gatherings. I try to keep each person in the family a different color but it doesn't always work out. At this point I'm just excited if I keep the calendar up to date much less remembering who is what color 🙂

Anyway, sorry for the bad picture, but you get the idea. So far I have Sky's 9-month appointment on there, Tom's work schedule which is hard to keep track of and our weekly bible study. I need to add some days on there to study for my exams, and I might add some training goals for the bike by week just to reference.

We keep this handy calendar near the kitchen and living room for easy access and reference.

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Groceries vs. Restaurants – Where’s our money REALLY going?

On my last post about our grocery budget, I simply gave a review of our overall monthly grocery expenses in January. Brandon, from Military Finance Report Blog, pointed out to me that I should also assess the correlation of my dining out expenses to grocery expenses to make sure that I didn’t just shift my spending from one category to the other. Thanks, Brandon, for the suggestion! Here we go 🙂

In our actual monthly budget, I set aside about $450 per month for groceries and $300 for restaurants/dining-out. Between my husband and I, I spend significantly more on restaurants. I attribute this primarily on our different life styles growing up. My family ate out significantly more than his, and it has been quite a compromise/transition for us to be on the same page as far as when we should eat out and when we should have a nice home cooked meal! We are always striving to do better, and we are thankfully mostly on the same page now…But, that’s another story!

In order to better assess my January expenses, I should look at our spending habits from 2013! Over the past year we spent a little higher than my goals for both groceries ($450) and restaurants ($300). I will have to admit I treat my budget categories more as guidelines rather than strict pots of money. We have so far been blessed to be able to do this. We still strive to live below our means every month and to put money in savings, so I don’t worry about it too much.

Here are a few things to consider about the graph:

1. “Groceries” includes household products like cleaning supplies, toilet paper, etc for my 2013 numbers so they are slightly skewed compared to January 2014 because I wasn’t tracking groceries manually. I was simply using the Spend Tool on my banks website.
2. We did the Paleo diet in January and October of 2013, which I attribute to the higher grocery expenses those months. We tend to buy more meat on Paleo which adds up.
3. We had family in town in June because of the baby, but we were very blessed that families from our church brought us meals during the month of June and part of July, so we didn’t spend much on groceries or eating out.
4. Months like November and December were high because family visited for the holidays, and we cooked full Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.
5. The only thing I’ll say about the “Restaurant” expenses is that it includes everything from fast food to sit-down restaurants to coffee stops to snacks at the gas station.

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The average from last year is $538 for groceries and $325 for restaurants. This puts our average food expenses at $864. Yikes! That’s quite a bit more than my budgeted $750 per month. But, again, I haven’t been too preoccupied with it because we still spend below our means for the rest of the budget… it’s all a little give and take among the categories. Maybe one of these days I will find the motivation to blog about our budget and how I keep tracking of everything.

One thing I just noticed by looking at this graph is a pretty significant increase starting in July. My only guess for that is I went back to work in August and started going out to eat for lunch again… hmm. Haha. Or the increase is probably due to Sky eating so much food!!! That’s definitely it! Okay, okay. I kid. I kid. He didn’t even start solids until the end of November. But anyway…I’ll have to do more thinking about that July increase. Any thoughts?

Now that I have last year’s expenses mapped out as my starting point, let’s look at the same chart but with January 2014 added on.

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Tada! There is proof that we spent way less in January 2014 than any month in 2013. I think part of it has to do with my blogging. I know you bloggers are holding me accountable so I am more self conscious/think twice about eating out. I also think part of it is us being more intentional about leftovers and eating the food we have in our freezers. I’ll also contribute part of it to the freezing temperatures in Wyoming. Who wants to drive to lunch in sub zero weather?

So what you should learn from my experience so far?

1. Manually track your expenses – it will force you to look at each charge and write it down.
2. Start a journal or blog – this will hopefully hold you accountable to your goals.
3. Don’t stress about a budget – but make sure you do have goals.

Well, I think that’s it for my analysis for the night. I am glad to find that our expenses did not shift from groceries to restaurants as we thought might have happened. Here’s to continuing the trend into February!

Getting Rid of Stuff: Part 1

Do you ever feel cluttered in your home? Do you have magazines you never read? Are you always trying to find a place for this item or that item but they just end up on your kitchen table?

Well, if you answered yes to any of the questions above, you are in good company. We say yes to “All of the Above” and more! I have been asking myself, “How do we clean and organize our house and get rid of the clutter?” for years…

In my New Years’ resolution 2014 post, I mentioned we would work towards minimialization, decluttering, and organizing our house a little better this year. I was feeling overwhelmed by thought thought so I enlisted my husband for support! He suggested we start with the basement. We are going with the mentality, one floor at a time.

So, one weekend morning, we drug ourselves downstairs to tackle the deep, dark basement. I immediately felt overwhelmed by all of the boxes stacked around our unfinished basement floor. Upon further review though I realized most of the boxes were empty! Hooray! We like to save boxes for specific electronic products or fragile stuff like lamps and kitchen appliances. These boxes we definitely wanted to keep, especially since we move pretty often in the military.

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My husband cleared a spot for me on the sectional couch we have in the basement (yes, I told you we have a lot of stuff!), and I sat down with Sky in the Moby in front of me. This allowed me to have my hands free to look through the boxes and Sky just chewed on a toy for about 40 minutes. Well, he tried pretty hard to help me clean out the boxes but got in the way more than anything 🙂 Here’s a picture after I took him out of the Moby because he was starting to get fussy…

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My husband then selected a box from the pile, and I started going through the “stuff”.

It’s so much fun going through old boxes sometimes! So many great memories! This, of course, is why I dreaded the thought of going into the basement. I knew there would be a lot of nostalgic stuff I didn’t want to let go of, and that it was going to take awhile. Memories are one of the biggest reasons we hold on to things for a long time. I also hold onto stuff for the “just-in-case” time when I might need that item again.  During this process, we are trying so hard to let go of stuff that we have not used in over or a year or that do not truly represent the memories that we want to lug around with us over the next few years! It is a little overwhelming…

But this is where the whole “one at a time” mentality really helps out!

I focused on the box in front of me. Then I focused on each item in that box individually and put it into 1 of 3 categories:

1. Keep
2. Trash
3. Recycle

That’s it. That’s all that I focused on when going through the boxes. One item at a time.

Here’s a few of the items we found down there that I thought I would share with you guys 🙂

1. Old high school paraphernalia from the lacrosse and tennis team. I will probably keep this maybe in the off chance that we will be able to hang some of these plaques on the wall or in the trophy case at a later date.

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2. My sweet SWAP hat from Girl Scouts. I do not have any extra SWAPs sitting around, it is just this one hat, so I think I’m going to keep it for memory’s sake.

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3. My collection of McDonald’s kids meal toys. Ohhh yeah. Probably going to get rid of these… 😦 Bye barbies.

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4. A Bunch of childhood books that I will DEFINITELY be keeping.

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5. Some sweet Disney movies on TAPE. Still trying to see if any of these are worth anything. Anyone know?

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While I was going through the boxes Tom was fixing up an old desk that we had in the basement. Here he is hanging with Sky in the Ergo after Sky got tired of sitting with mommy 🙂 Stay tuned for the next installment of Getting Rid of Stuff.

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