SoBo Mama's Tips & Tricks











{December 27, 2012}   Cleaning Up Christmas

I woke with a terrible sore throat Saturday with tons left to do!  Some projects were left incomplete until late Christmas Eve.  Some gift were thrown in recycled gift bags on the way out the door Christmas Day.  The North Pole vomited in my kitchen and living room Christmas morning this year.  And when we finally arrived home after celebrating with the in-laws, I settled in for a thirteen-hour nap.

Yesterday, I went to pick up the blue lemon from the Toyota dealership.  While there, I test-drove another, newer one, with many fewer miles on it.  Unfortunately, that purchase would have caused my monthly note to jump about $100, which is unacceptable during my quest for cheaptitude.  I walked away with few regrets.

Thankfully, it was an awkward shade of green, making it easier to squeeze lemonade from my vehicular situation.

Today, I took the monkeys to use their pizza gift cards at a local restaurant before (surprise, surprise) taking Monkey 2 to practice being a tree in a play (ok, I’m not exactly sure WHAT her role is, just that she doesn’t talk much, obviously cast against type.)  After dropping her at the playhouse, I took Monkey 1 to register for martial arts instruction at a school close by our house.  I took a call from the GSM at the Toyota place, trying to talk me into LEASING a Camry and increase my note $60/month – not happening.  Then it was time to pick up my tree, I mean, little monkey.

So Christmas is not yet put away.

On top of my house still being decked with boughs of holly, it could stand a thorough cleaning.  I love a good list, so that is what I’m doing today and tomorrow I’ll start checking it twice.

Kitchen Checklist

  • Wash and put up dishes
  • Clean the countertops
  • Straighten/sort cabinets
  • Clean top and outside fridge
  • Clean inside fridge and freezer – update inventory!
  • Sweep and mop floors
  • Put holiday dishes/linens away

Living Room Checklist

  • Dust furniture, fan, fixtures, and frames
  • Put kids’ crap belongings away
  • Return holiday decor to storage totes – attic
  • Deal with paper monster on my desk – i.e. pay bills
  • Fold blankets and put away
  • Straighten built-in
  • Sweep/Mop floor
  • Replace Wii remote

Kids’ Bath Checklist

  • Dust surfaces
  • Clean mirror & fixtures
  • Clean countertops
  • Straighten cabinets
  • Clean tub/shower
  • Clean toilet – make Monkeys take that on?
  • Sweep/mop floor

Hall(s) Checklist

  • Dust shelves & decorative items
  • Wipe down walls/door frames
  • Straighten closets
  • Sweep/mop floors

I think that covers it all.  I really think I can break these lists down and involve the monkeys – except Monkey 1 is too attached to his new electronics and Monkey 2 has more tree practicing tomorrow.  It’s not like I have anything tough on the lists, like the bedrooms (mine is bad now, too.)  I just have to figure out how to get family buy-in. Hide the iWasteTimes under some dirty clothes, maybe? Disconnect the WiFi till the house is clean?

Suggestions are welcome if they’re positively stated!

~Katie

 

 

 

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{December 16, 2012}   Making Christmas Merry and Bright

Money has been tighter than ever this year.  On the news, I’ve heard the economy is recovering.  Well, I can’t believe it until I see evidence in my bank accounts.  Construction is not the ideal field work right now. Unless you have a rich in-law subsidizing your business or something….just sayin’.

So, like I posted before, I’m trying to get a little more creative this Christmas.  Our gifting will consist of our children, little kid cousins, and our parental units.  We’ve not even discussed buying for each other this year.  So that is pretty much it.  And if I can figure out things that I can make, that people will appreciate and use, even better.

I can’t post pics yet, just in case any of the parental units actually reads my blog posts.

My picture frame venture has turned out super cute, but I cannot locate my Mod Podge.  I need it to seal some of the foo foo I’ve added.   As a crafter, my Mod Podge is on the same level  as my Soft Scrub Spray for cleaning.  I love it and use it for every project possible (Mod Podge, not Soft Scrub).  So where is it?  Probably hiding in the misplaced  holiday tote with my stockings.  I found a recipe, but it’s not worked out the way I like.  Thank goodness it’s easy to find at Michael’s or *shudder* Wal-Mart.

For the little kid cousins, I’d love to start ornament collections.  By the time I married, I technically should have had enough ornaments to decorate a good-sized tree.  I didn’t, due to storage issues beyond my control, but should have.  Even now, every year, my mother goes to Bronner’s and buys each of us an ornament that either reminds her of us or she thinks we’ll love.  Most of my ornaments are handmade and have a lot of memories attached.  The exceptions include Mother’s finds from Bronner’s, Hallmark ornaments from Grizzly’s mom, and of course, Aunt Pat, the angel on top of my tree.  I want my own kids to have a respectable start on their Christmas ornaments, and I think it would be a neat tradition to start for the little kid cousins.

That might not be the kind of thing the in-laws appreciate, so I probably will go out and buy them some kind of toy or book.

As for the monkeys, they wrote down their 4 things, but were pretty silly about it (really, I’m going to buy a 12-year-old an iPad???) We always try to do something “big,” and after some tense discussions (I called Grizzly materialistic at one point), we’ve agreed on some electronic devices – that I can get on sale.

Monkey 2 needs bedding since she’s moved to a queen-sized bed.  I’ve taken a crack at locating a plain old pink comforter, to no avail.  I considered sewing a comforter cover, but have had the most unfortunate time crunch this year.  Grizzly found some pink camo bedding at the sporting goods store, so that is the direction we’ll go with that.  I’m will design her some “hair bobs” (Rhonda Belle’s term) and maybe some little beady jewelry.  She’s also begun to express an interest in her fashion dolls, so maybe I can make some doll clothes.  Pinterest, here I come.

Monkey 1’s room is terribly crowded since I took his bunk bed apart, but it’s a  small amount more difficult for him to make such a nasty mess. So he could use some kind of organizers.  And he loves art.  Santa always manages to bring some kind of art supplies, and I’ve seen the coolest handmade caddies on Pinterest.  I imagine he’ll also be getting some video games, if I have enough room on my handy-dandy gift card and I can find them for a good price.  Honestly, he’s not asked me for much.  Except the iPad.  Tweenagers are a little difficult to Christmas shop.  We’ll see.

On top of doing Grizzly’s and my shopping, Rhonda Belle sends money for me to do her shopping.  Every year, I fuss that I don’t have enough ideas.  Every year, I get a lot of bang for her buck.  I think she and PaPa Mac get tickled at my shopping adventures – and I give them details, from the minute I cash the check. Monkey 1 will be going to martial arts classes and Monkey 2 needs a bigger bicycle. To quote Phil Robertson, they’ll be “happy, happy, happy.”

I also do MY grandma’s shopping.  In her Christmas note every year, she thanks me for lending her a hand with the shopping.  She’s funny.  The kids get new jammies or sneakers or some other clothing items from their great-grands.  The monkeys always love what they receive.  I’ve learned to make it easier on myself than I used to!

The one thing I’m really excited about for the monkeys this year is a journal.  I found the idea in a blog or on Pinterest or something and have seen several variations.  It’s a “Mom and Me” journal.  As kids get older, it’s kind of embarrassing to discuss certain things with parents and sometimes writing helps.  I hope so.  I’m interested to see how this project works out.  I’ll probably cover that one in a separate post, with pics and all.

Note: Last night, Grizzly and I went back to Wal-Mart.  In case you’re counting, this means I’ve been to that awful place FIVE times in one year now.  Ugh.  We did get Monkey 2’s bike and a new helmet to match from Granny and PaPa Mac.  It is safely stashed at my dad’s house for now, because both monkeys are horribly nosey.  From the Great-Grands, Monkey 2 is getting 2 new pairs of sparkly jeans, a pair of sweat pants, and three shirts.  I’ll still have to shop for Monkey 1, because all I found for him was a pair of PJ pants.

At least I’m finally making progress.

How are your holidays looking?

~Katie

 



According to the local radio station, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. 8 days left until a two-week break and I’m kind of inclined to agree.

Today I finished my last week of 2012 lesson plans and submitted to my AP.  That’s always such a weight off my mind.  Today was made easier by showing a Sherlock Holmes movie.  Every block.  And making the kids answer questions.  The complicated, common-core kind.

What does this have to do with organizing? Ha!  You only ask that if you aren’t a teacher.  Developing my lesson plans takes nearly as much time as teaching them, if only because I almost never do the same thing twice anymore.  It’s a freeing feeling when I can get through that part of my week.  I can then work on other things.

Like the Christmas gifts I’ve been avoiding.

Knowing I won’t have time off school until the afternoon of the 21st.

And I can’t bring myself to take an urgent personal day to Christmas shop.

How do you organize your week?  My work week is easy, because it’s guided by my handy-dandy lesson plan binder.  My weekly meals are guided by my handy-dandy meal plan (though I’m still not religious about it – last week, I mixed up spaghetti night with chicken taco night).  But what about all of those appointments, school functions, and day-to-day chaos?

I love a dry erase board and used to think a dry-erase calendar would be the way to go for my family.  However, they tend to be pricey (I’m talking about the B I G ones, like hang up in construction offices) and don’t go with my decor, hodge-podge as it may be.

I’ve tried the Mom’s Plan It.  The small, spiral, weekly version is a great little planner.  It even has tear-outs for weekly menus and shopping lists.  I realized, however, that I only used it to make sure I remembered to pay all of my bills.

I like the calendars in the Household Notebook on Organized Home, but those go in a binder, and I tote enough binders (which gives me a blog idea!)  around without adding a big planner that I might not check.  And I need to have an in-my-face reminder.

Last year, at my school’s book fair, I found a calendar that looked really appealing.  It isn’t laid out like a traditional calendar.  Instead, the dates are laid out in columns.  And there were 5 columns!  One for each of us plus the canine kid.  And I actually used it.  Religiously.

I don’t have to color-code things and remember who/what is what color anymore.

Grizzly can figure out, at a glance, which monkey needs to be where each day.

And it came with stickers!

I am a little disappointed.  I’ve gotten spoiled with 15-month calendars, and this awesome one that I use only has a few weeks left.  Our book fair was last week, and I couldn’t bring myself to buy a $14 calendar when I knew I’d be pouring money into my car later that day.  I could probably figure out how to make one, and have thought about doing so for my computer, but this one is 1)cute and 2) big enough.  So I may have to bust out the Barnes & Noble discount card and go purchase one…..

So what do you do to organize your time?  Are you a purse calendar person, a binder person, or do you have another method?

~ Katie



{November 29, 2012}   Creative Christmas

The down turn in the economy over the past several years has really affected my house.  I make more money as a teacher than I ever have in my life before, but haven’t had a raise in a few years and prices on everything have increased exponentially (my friend Perks would LOVE my incorporation of Math vocab!)  My husband owns his own business and it is construction-related, so you probably know what that means.  I’ve heard the economy is rebounding, but my bank account disagrees.

We have what we need, and I thank God every day for that.  We even have some of what we want.  However, without one creative mama managing the house, we would be lacking in several areas, I’m afraid.  DH, whether he realizes it or not, is brilliant in many ways but planning ahead financially is not one of them.  I freely admit I’m far from perfect.  But I’m ok with squeezing a nickel.

There have been times in the past where I’ve had Christmas gifts for everyone, wrapped, stashed, paid for byChristmas in the post-War United States August.   That was a while ago.  Now I count myself ahead if I’m finished the week before.  We’ve cut back on the number of people for whom we buy over the years, but we still have a bunch of folks getting gifts from our house.  I don’t mind because I enjoy giving gifts.  I put a lot of thought into the gifts we give.  This year I’ll have to be really creative.

Limited Numbers, Limited Stress

Pile of gorgeous gifts

If you follow my blog, you know I’m addicted to Pinterest. I have found some amazing money-saving ideas, as well as Christmas and general gift ideas on there.  I found one thing I’m definitely implementing this year.  I feel like my monkeys can be spoiled and expect a lot, so I’ve forewarned them.  This year, from Mama and Daddy, they’ll each get something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.  Surprisingly, Monkey 2 is really excited about the idea – I think Christmas sends her into sensory overload!  This way she has to put a lot of thought into her requests.  Monkey 1 was cool with it, too.  He says, “That’s okay, Mom.  Santa Claus brings us all of the good stuff.”

Ummmm…..

The Cheap Seats

I remember a time in the not-too-distant past that there was not a Target Store in my area.  We had to drive to Longview, TX, to get our Target fix.  Heck, I was in college when te first Super Wal-Mart came to our town.

I don’t shop these stores much.  My friend from college, Heather, told me years ago there is something fundamentally jacked up about being able to buy your food and your crap all at the same place.  And I’ve learned over the years that she’s right.  It’s too easy to throw in a couple of DVDs with your fish sticks and toilet paper, and your carefully planned list and budget might as well be toilet paper.

But I love love love the cheap bins at the front of the store.  The dollar bins at Target and Michael’s?  Heaven for someone in search of cheaptitude.  For example, DH’s aunt writes a bazillion letters each week.  I could go to a fancy specialty store and buy her a few pieces of fancy paper.  Or I can hit those magical cheap bins and get several packages of stationery, buy something both pretty and functional, and well within my limited budget.

I check out the cheap seats any time I’m in any store.  You never know what you’ll find.  I haven’t had to purchase valentines for school for 4 years now – and I have exactly enough to get Monkey 2 into Middle School.  And I spent less than fifty cents to do it!

“Making” Do

I’ve always enjoyed crafty projects.  One of my favorites was a framed scrapbook page I made of the monkeys. DH’s mom loved it, so guess what every grandparent received that year for Christmas?

When I cleaned out my closet for repurposing, I found several half-finished projects.  So I have 3 picture frames and a photo album ready to be wrapped. Each one is decorated differently, and each with a specific person in mind.  I’ve also been working on hairbows, using the stockpile of ribbon I’ve accumulated from various dollar bins.

Although some of my friends are very Southern Living in their tree decorating, all matchy-match, I’ve always loved handmade ornaments.  Very few items that are on my tree are store-bought, unless they came from Bronner’s, which is acceptable in my mind.  I’m planning for the monkeys to make salt dough ornaments this year that we can gift as gifts.  I also have a lot of scrap fabric I can make some things.

There are some people in my gift-giving circle that do not appreciate a hand-made gift – and that’s ok.  I put thought, time, and work into everything I make, and if someone won’t appreciate it, I’d prefer not to waste my time.

Black Friday All Year Long

I will not get up at the butt-crack of dawn the day after the day we give thanks.  I’m usually tired, either from cleaning and cooking and entertaining or from going and spending quality time with family elsewhere.  Holidays are exhausting.  And honestly, the deals aren’t that overwhelming.

English: This is a row of Cash Registers at a ...

There are websites you can check that tell you when the best time is to buy EVERYTHING.  For example, I can find amazing deals on computers in June.  Why?  Darned if I know, it just happens that way.  And I think January is the month to buy linens.  Which reminds me, my towels have seen much better days…..I’ve found that I can shop smart throughout the year and find great deals without fighting crowds and standing in ridiculous lines.

Do I shop all year-long? Well, not really.  If I see something cool on sale that will be a great gift for X, of course I get it then.  But one of my Christmas budget tricks is to buy gift cards while I’m shopping for other things.

Not to give as gifts!

Year before last, I thought it would be great to get Monkey 1 a Nook so I could stop driving across town so much to buy books.  Coming up with the idea well before Christmas, I started stocking up on gift cards.  I think I paid less than $40 cash at Christmas for his $100 gadget.  Gift cards are my way of doing a Christmas Club account.

And Christmas Club is a great way to put money away for holiday shopping, but I know me.  If money transfers into my checking account, I’m paying bills.  The interest rate at my credit union is pathetic, so gift cards are the way to go.

The Hostess with the Mostest

I’ve not done it this year, but boy do I love a home party.  I’ve been an independent consultant with several different companies over the years (and still am a home party consultant!) and have learned lots of tricks  in addition to earning a little extra holiday cash.  I’ve figured out which parties have high attendance because the people love the products.  I’ve also figured out which party plans have the best hostess benefits.

Pampered Chef goodies

Pampered Chef goodies (Photo credit: Carissa Marie)

I usually host a Pampered Chef party in May, while the “Help Whip Cancer” promotion is going on.  As a former Independent Pampered Chef Consultant, I have the kitchen goo gahs and gadgets I need (except the complete set of

executive cookware) and can use my hostess credits, discount, and half price items to get goodies for Christmas.  For example, DH’s smoky barbecue rub….

Starting around August or September, I like to host a party every 3-4 weeks.  There are a few reasons for this.  First of all, it forces me to clean my house. Second, I get to see friends and family I might not often otherwise. And finally, I can get Christmas gifts on the cheap or even free – and they’re high quality, nice things people love.

Hosting a bunch of parties is tricky.  You have to rotate your guest list.  But if you put some thought into it, it works.  For instance, I may not invite my Bunco Babe who has to dust her stove top once a month to a Pampered Chef Party.  But a purse party?  She’s on that list!  My stepmother who makes jewelry might not be too interested in a jewelry party, but she loves organizers so I’d invite her to a Longaberger party.  Just like gift-giving, party hosting takes a little extra thought and planning, but can totally work in your favor.

Like I said, I am still an active consultant with a company, and I’ll order some Christmas gifts from my favorite salesperson, too.  Then, in January, I’ll have a tidy little commission in my account to buy gift cards or invest in more toilet paper. (If you want to know which company, drop me a line and I can let you know!)

Christmas gifts.

Again, my methods might not work for everyone or for every situation.  I’ll be trying some new things this season and will probably implement some things that worked before.

Do you have any tried and true Creative Christmas Tips?

~ Katie

*Update*

Now the big day has passed and I can post project pics!

image

Ladybug frame for MaMaw….

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Marine photo album for PawPaw. Notice the mod podge is still wet!

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Snowy frame for Granny at the Farm…



et cetera
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