7 Day Clean Eating Challenge

I’m challenging myself (and volunteering my family) to try to eat whole foods for 7 days straight. I know 7 days doesn’t sound like a long time but we have to start somewhere. And to my family I think it is going to feel even longer. We’ve been so off-budget and lazy with our cooking routine lately that my waistline if feeling the pinch, literally. So saying goodbye to fast food, no more eating out, no more processed foods, no more sugar. Just whole food meals prepared at home. I don’t think Dan will like this one….

Of course to be successful one has to be prepared so I am going with my GatheredTable.com grocery list for this first week and we will go from there. This makes it so much easier to try to think of healthier things to eat.

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GatheredTable is a wonderful meal planning site that has an amazing selection of recipes that look absolutely mouth watering and pretty simple. GatheredTable also has a button you can put on your browser to clip those awesome recipes you find right into your collection.

I have subscribed to some of the other ones over the years but this by far is fitting my needs as far as customization and flexibility.

So looking forward to spending less on food, feeling better about what I am feeding my family and getting back into the kitchen.

5 Simple Ways to Bring Fall Into Your Home

It *might* be starting to feel a like Fall around here a little bit, according to the weather guy, we will be below the triple digits after this weekend! Looks like I will have to wait until late November for those crisp mornings. Even though it is still blazing hot out here I am in the mood to decorate for Fall. Halloween is just a month away and then my favorite: Thanksgiving!

However, all of my Fall decor is still snuggly packed away somewhere so I decided to find my inspiration on where else, but Pinterest. Here’s some very simple ways to add timeless Autumn flair to your decor that will make you want to grab the flannel blanket and curl up with a bowl of hearty soup, even if you still have the air conditioner on….sigh.

  1. Fall foilage | Dear Lillie

DearLillieFallDecor

2. Burlap | Opulent Cottage

OpulentCottageFallDecor

3. Muted tones | Hayseed Homemakin’

HayseedHomemakinFallDecor

4. Fresh autumn fruit/veggies and pumpkins/gourds | Miss Mustard Seed

MissMustardSeedFallDecor

5. Tarnished silver | Good Housekeeping

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New Normals

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Trying to get things back to some sort of routine in the new house but finding lots of new normals for us.

  • New out-the-door-in-the-morning times, now that the kids are taking the bus.
  • Trying to figure out where everything will go in it’s new place.
  • Trying to remember where we put everything away at in it’s new place.
  • Trying to get used to all the white around here. Paint coming soon. Very soon.
  • Trying not to be too overwhelmed with the thought of cleaning all this square footage.
  • New grocery stores, Safeway, I missed you.
  • New shopping. Oh, the shopping: here, here and here!
  • A Cost Plus World Market. Finally!
  • A new list of projects already growing for a brand new house – that’s how we roll!
  • Being able to see family every week that used to be a world away.
  • New memories already being created.

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Happily Dreaming of a Pretty Pantry

Don’t we all dream of that?

While our house isn’t finished yet I am already dreaming of the organization I will accomplish in my new pantry. I envision rows of neatly stacked glass containers filled with my favorite pantry staples ready and waiting for me to use, neatly placed baskets full of healthy snacks my kids can easily access to satiate their never ending hunger and an easily accessible stockpile of all those things I seem to constantly run out of (that magically replaces themselves when low) all while sugarplums dance in my head.

At our previous house we had a wonderful cupboard pantry with pull out shelves and it held a tremendous amount of items. The only problem with that is that it held a tremendous amount of items.

Here it is after I cleaned it out before moving this month.

28th Ave Pantry

I think I cleaned out a good portion of our 2012 groceries for that entire year!

Even with pull out drawers I was losing things in there and would end up buying duplicates upon duplicates and forget to use the “oldest” item first leaving many items to sit in the dark recesses of the pantry for a few years!

Well, not so with our new pantry! I plan on making it an easy to use, functional part of my kitchen to help with easier meal planning and make it the showpiece of our house and the envy of all pantry lovers out there. A girl can dream, can’t she?

While mine will be nowhere near as wonderful as these I am sharing below, my hope is to use them as inspiration to create my own little pantry heaven.

And because I can’t just look and drool, I started a Pinterest board if drooling over pretty organized pantries is your thing. Drool along with me…

Pantry Envy

Organized Pantry Makeover - thehouseofsmiths.com

Oh, House of Smiths, how I love this pantry and that blue door, oh my goodness!!

10 Things I Know To Be True

Inspired by Shaunna and gang, the ever Perfectly Imperfect. Here’s my own two cents.

1. You will never sleep the same again after having children. Ever. No matter how old they get.

2. Pinterest is a time-sucker.

3. Phyllis Diller was right. Cleaning up after kids IS like shoveling while it’s still snowing.

4. You are your own worst enemy.

5. Why is Candy Crush so addicting?

6. 14 year old boys temporarily lose mental capacity…..or at least I hope it’s temporary.

7. It doesn’t matter if it’s a dry heat, hot is hot!

8. Raising kids will be the most important job you will ever have.

9. We are in a two bedroom apartment right now and everything we own is in storage for two months while our house is being finished. Living with less is so freeing.

10. Iowa will always hold a special place in our hearts.

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Monthly Roundup Memory Sheets

I am a habitual list-maker. Ask my husband, I probably have 45 post-it notes all over the house (and a drawer full of notepads) with lists for just about anything you (I) can think of. I am also a reluctant scrapbooker. I love the thought of it, just never seem to have the time.

And with age I am starting to forget those little moments that I want to remember so I started writing things down in one spot to keep with my photos (that I do manage to print out) so when the planets align and I can spare a few moments I have everything in one place and everything recorded. So when you marry my love for list-making (or my lack of memory, you decide) and my love of documenting our family you get this:

Monthly Roundup Memory Sheet

I created these Monthly Roundup Memory Sheets and decided they were too great not to share. So record all your family moments on one sheet for each month and when it is done you can simply store it with your photos until your planets align and you have time to scrapbook or you could even add the entire sheet right into your scrapbook. It does have your handwriting after all. There is a whole set for the year. So start documenting those moments.

KatieWindow

And a reminder to myself that life’s moments are fleeting. Don’t forget to savor them while preserving them.

Debt-Free Christmas Pledge

Now that the shopping madness is over, the gifts have all been torn into and the dust is settling on all the Christmas Frenzy and we look ahead with dread at putting ALL THIS CHRISTMAS STUFF AWAY, let’s make a pledge here and now to not go into debt next Christmas!

Part of those New Year’s Resolutions that I am re-affirming is to revisit my budgeting/spending/debt pay-down and a major one for me is Christmas. It is so easy to lose control of your finances during Christmastime and justify just about anything. “Oh, I’ll pay it off later.”

But I have a little secret for you… I already made that pledge, a year ago, and IT WORKED!

One year ago I saved all my receipts from my shopping endeavors and when it was all said and done I tallied it up (and after recovering from a small stroke) I vowed to never go into a Christmas season again without planning my budget out ahead of time.

DebtFreeXmasPledge

I wanted a way to be able to buy my family thoughtful gifts without using credit cards or breaking the bank and then spending the following 3-6 months guilt-ridden as I paid my monthly credit card bills.

So, here’s my steps to a debt-free Christmas if you are willing to take the pledge with me:

1GatherYourReceipts

If you kept your reciepts gather them up or try to write them down from memory. You can also get each line item off of your bank statement/credit card statement that you spent on Christmas this year. Include family, neighbor and coworker gifts as well as wrapping paper and postage. I found a few items I had missed from last year so it is a great time to re-adjust my plan.

2AddUpTheTotal

Be brave, it take’s alot to face that number and realize how much you actually did spend but it’s good for us to do this. Instead of seeing $20 go here, $15 go there, we can see how much this really does add up to be in total. This is where my spreadsheet comes in handy. It helps me set an amount and as I purchase items I add them to the sheet and you can SEE wether or not you are on target.

3DivideBy26
Divide that total by 26 – the number of paychecks in a year.

4PutAwayEachPaycheck

That is how much you should put away each paycheck in an envelope or seperate savings account and you will have this IN CASH by next Christmas. Oh, the freedom!

Say you spent $910 on everything this year:   $910/26 = $35  That’s it!!

$35 a paycheck squirreled away and you will have $910 to spend on your loved ones next Christmas and the best thing is it is guilt free! You still have to reign yourself in and not go bonkers just because you have the cash-cushion. You still need to figure out a budget that you will spend on each family member or group and stick to it. This year now I know I have to readjust what I am putting away because there was some items that I didn’t have accounted for last year so I went a little over, but it is okay. As with all goals it is not necessary to focus on what didn’t work, but what DID work and learn from what didn’t.

And have some fun with it! If you use the envelope system get creative with your envelope and watch it grow every month. Then in a year you will have one less stress for the Holiday season and can spend more time living the true meaning of Christmas.

Here are some fun ideas for those that want to add the money to a Christmas Cash envelope:

Fun printable Christmas Cash envelope

For you sewers a fabric envelope

So get started today and here’s to a Happy Debt-Free Holidays and Happy Savings for years to come!!

A New Year A New You | Resolutions To Live By

HappyNewYear It’s that time of the year again when we make those new year’s resolutions; commit to living a better life and ultimately set ourselves up for failure. And, of course I am no different. I have big dreams of having a completely organized home where there is a place for everything and everything in it’s place, I dream of having all our debt paid off and never again having to use a credit card, I fantasize about being a size 10 8 again and effortlessly throwing on whatever cute ensemble that happens to be in my closet.

I also realize that those are really huge hurdles and kind of unrealistic goals for where I am at right now. This is life afterall.

So, I want to try and make more overall intentions that will happen slowly over time with small achievable goals. I also have some habits to improve on from last year and some to reaffirm (again) this year.

1. Live Healthier | The most important part of that to me is eating healthier. I don’t want to state that I will lose 50 pounds this new year (I’d really like to lose 65), I want to make a true lifestyle change and commit to eating healthy and ridding my house of those awful temptation foods. Once and for all.

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2. Get Back on Budget | Another intention I have for this new year is to reaffirm my budgeting goals. I think we did good last year but could have done better in some areas and I have learned a few things also along the way.

3. Be More Creative | I want to get back to creating things, just for the sake of being creative. I miss that and want to make time for it again.

4. Work On Home Projects | Not just the house renovations we’ve had going on but the scrapbooking and organizing projects on my to-do list.

Pantry Design Ideas-07-1 Kindesign

(source)

As with all lifestyle changes it is an ebb and flow process. And it is not a one-size-fits-all either. Some paychecks are easier than others to stay on track, some mealtimes have to be grab and go, some (okay, all) of those photos on my camera need to be edited before I can print them off but who has the time. Intentions are not only about setting goals for yourself but also about giving yourself a hall pass so you don’t just throw in the towel altogether and quit because you feel so defeated.

So, I am going to make this year about making better choices overall in every aspect of my life. So what if we have to grab McDonald’s because we are in-between practices and that is all we have time for, they do have healthier choices. So what if the van needs new brakes, I will have a plan in place (car maintenance envelope) to cover it.

Good goals are also about having your own back, so make those intentions but as well make a backup plan (or two or three) for those times when you do veer off track and you’ll be more likely to swing back into the right lane again.