Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Cleaning out the storage shed...an eye opening adventure.

Over the course of our no spend challenge there have been lots of things I have wanted to buy. However I lost interest in most of the items when I realized I would have to spend time trying to find them used. I obviously didn't want them bad enough to do the leg work...however just a few months ago I would have willingly bought them new without blinking an eye.

A few days ago I was looking for something in our storage shed and was just overwhelmed by the amount of stuff that was in there. It bothered me so bad I went back several hours later and ripped everything out of the shed, organized what I wanted to keep, and threw away a ton of stuff. While I was in there rooting around I found several things that I had forgotten I even owned.

One of those things was a grocery cart cover for infants. For the last few weeks I have been noticing people use these covers in our grocery store and been thinking to myself that I needed to get one for when little bit was old enough to sit up. Since I am positive that I got Strep from a grocery cart a few weeks ago (it was the only time I left the house in a week and I was the first one in the house to get sick) I didn't want little bit touching the cart at all. It wasn't a big enough deal for me to start looking for used cart covers though since she is only 3mths old, we have a while. However when I was out cleaning out our shed I found the practically brand new cart cover that I bought when my son was a baby. I just kind of stood there staring at it in shock. How could I forget that I had this? I know I paid a lot more than the $20 that amazon has it listed for, now that I remember buying it I think it was more like $30 when I bought it. Wanna know something else? My credit card was still in the zippered pouch. Now that card was canceled a long time ago so there were no worries there but it did shake me up. The point of this challenge was to no longer take God's blessings for granted, to be better stewards of what we are given, and to be a better role model for our kids. It was just kind of a slap in the face and an eye opening moment for me. I took such poor care of the resources the Lord had given me that not only do I forget half of what I own but I can't even be bothered to notice when a credit card is missing!

It didn't stop there though. Oh no. There was more. I also found this skiphop pronto changing station out there. I had no memory of buying this at all and have never used it once. I hate dragging my diaper bag around all the time when all I need is a few diapers and wipes so this would have come in handy months ago. When I found it out in the storage shed I had no idea what it was till I opened it. I don't even remember when I bought it. I think it was probably before the twins were born (3yrs ago) but I can't be sure. I spent $30 plus shipping on an item then never used it once. The hits just keep coming!

The best one yet? I found a watering can I didn't know I owned. Now how in the world do I forget that I owned a watering can? I have been watering my plants with cups of water for years! Once I saw it I remembered buying it years ago......

I am just at a loss for words. Seems this challenge was very much needed. We (okay I) have been terrible stewards of what we have been given! We have been so wasteful we can't even remember half the things we own. Most of those have never been used more than once or  twice (if at all!). You know what makes me really ill? I still have to go through the attic! I know there are tons of boxes up there with stuff that I was not ready to deal with when we moved into this house back in 2011. I had unpacking to deal with and 5 small children to care for. So those boxes of random stuff got sent to the attic to make room in our living areas. I am sure going through those boxes is going to be an interesting adventure to say the least.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Little Man's Bedroom Makeover

Way back in January I started working on doing a mural in my son's room. I was able to get the base coat on the walls before little bit decided to arrive two weeks early and put a stop to my productivity. Now that she is three months old I finally got the time to start working on the room again. We were blessed to get a free cars themed bed for little man while we were treading water and waiting on the room decorating. The addition of the new bed has caused me to rethink our plan and totally alter our plan. Instead of monkeys we instead decided to go with a transportation theme.

I did some searching on amazon and found these transportation themed wall stickers used. Once I had that part worked out it all just sort of fell into place. I decided to use the leftover paint from my daughters room to paint hills along the bottom of the wall. Then I dug out the leftover white paint from painting his dresser last year and painted clouds on the upper parts of the wall. Now I am not the artistic one in our family (that would be my husband) but I paint with love so I hope that counts for something! I added the stickers and I think it is a pretty fun room!

While I was at it I had to decide what to do with his window. There were curtains in this room but I think my children think curtains are used for swings because they managed to break several curtain rods. I decided instead of curtains I would put up some privacy film on the window. I figured it would be impossible to find used but there it was on amazon. It was crazy big but it was super easy to cut down to fit the window.

Total costs:
Bed and dresser: Free!
Paint: $20 for the blue back in January, $0 for green and white
Wall stickers: $8.75
Privacy film: $26 (with some leftover for other rooms)

Total for decorating little man's room: $54.75

Friday, April 26, 2013

No new stuff challenge: Fourth week of April

This week we have had birthdays , room decorating (more to come about this in a bit), and shoe sorting...oh my! Seems like I am finally over my bought of strep and feeling much better.  I am very happy to say that things are going well here and everyone is on the mend. A few of the kids are still on antibiotics but everyone is fever free and we seem to be over the worst of it. While at the drugstore picking up my son's antibiotic (which he refused to take, but that is another story) I browsed at the rack of books. Now if you know me well you know that books are my weakness. I am obsessed with them. So my standing in front of a bookshelf filled with books is a major temptation for me. I found two books that my library doesn't have yet and I REALLY wanted to read. I managed to hold strong and came home to see if I could find them used. I got lucky and found both of them on amazon. I was able to get Just Kate for $4.00 with shipping and Heart of Texas for $4.00 with shipping.

Also this week I have been working on a mural for my son's room. It is not quite finished but I am getting close. I plan to post a update with pictures when it is done. My husband caught me ordering some stuff off of amazon for the room (all used of course) and said, "It better be all used, I am watching you" I couldn't help but laugh, seems he is getting on board with our challenge. I counted the mural and such in the totals for the breakdown below since it was all paid out this week.

I have some pictures to upload but my computer (actually my husband's computer as my laptop is still broken) is being fussy. I will try and add them in a bit.

Total if I had bought the above things new: $490
Total actually spent: $87

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Shoe sorting insanity

It is that time of the year again. Time to go through the shoe tote to pull out the summer shoes and put away the winter shoes. I hate doing this...I don't know why but it always seems so overwhelming. Instead of going through the attic and the hall closet to find shoes for my twins I was more than willing to just buy new shoes. If we had not been doing our "No new stuff challenge" I would have just ordered the girls some crocs and been done with it. However since we are doing the  challenge I decided to look for used crocs....um...I am sorry but I am not paying $15 for a pair of used toddler shoes! Seeing how expensive even used shoes were motivated me to get up in the attic and start sorting. I found THREE boxes of shoes! Ack! Once I got them all out and sorted I was very overwhelmed. My goodness there were a lot of shoes up there! Wanna know what really made me sick? There were two pairs of crocs up there in the twins size!

I couldn't see saving all these shoes when 90% of them had never been worn! Some of them still had the tags on them and most I can't remember ever seeing before.

I decided to keep the following for each size of shoe per kid (so two of each size below for the twins):
1 pair of summer shoes
1 pair of dress shoes
1 pair of tennis shoes
1 pair of winter boots

I think that is more than reasonable!

Total I would have spent on new shoes for the kids: $46
Total actually spent: $0

Double Birthday!

At the end of April we have two birthdays within days of each other. This month my husband turned 32 and my son turned 2! We decided to have a double party for them and it was a big hit. 

I am not a professional cake decorator (as you can see!) but I try. I attempted to get creative with the cakes this year and did a heart cake for my husband and a monkey for my little monkey man :)

 The company "Birthday in a Box" gifted me with a monkey themed "birthday in a box" kit at my baby shower for baby #6. Since it was monkey themed and my little man is monkey obsessed it just seemed like a natural fit to use it for his birthday party.
After cake you know it was time for presents! I was able to get this play cube used for $15! It looks brand new and he loves it....even better I saved $85!
Total I would have spent if I had bought everything new: $180
Total actually spent: $25

Friday, April 19, 2013

Greek Pitas with Couscous

Tonight was the first night I have had to cook since little bit was born in January. Well actually I didn't *have to* cook tonight since we still had some meals left in our freezer from our big pre-baby stock-up.  The problem was though that no one (especially me) wanted to eat those meals right now. We are a bit burnt out after 3mths. So I decided to let them stay in there for a while longer and go ahead and start cooking again. I have been craving Greek food so I knew that would be our first meal.

Our super simple recipe:

Greek Pitas
*Pita bread
*Shredded Chicken (I used a rotisserie chicken since I did my grocery shopping today)
*Cucumbers, chopped
*Tomatoes, chopped
*Tzatziki (recipe below)

Just cut the pita bread down the middle and fill with the other ingredients. Super simple and super yummy!

For the Tzatziki:
1c plain yogurt
1 cucumber shredded
3tsp minced garlic

Mix all the ingredients together and chill till ready to serve.

The pitas wouldn't be complete without some Greek Couscous on the side!

Greek Couscous
*4c cooked couscous
*1/2c kalamata olives, chopped
*1c sun dried tomatoes, chopped
*1 bell pepper, chopped
*6oz Feta cheese, crumbled

Just stir together and then dig in! 

I am one happy mama tonight :)

No New Stuff Challenge: Third Week of April

This has been a hard week in our house. First I came down with Strep. Anyone who has had this lovely bug knows it is brutal. After suffering through for 24hours I realized I was getting progressively worse not better so I went to the ER where they diagnosed me and gave me two quite lovely shots in the behind. They swore I would feel better in two days and I am SO happy to say I did. I am however dealing with exhaustion and headaches as my body tries to fight the remaining strep in my system. I am currently 6 days past the initial onset of symptoms and my lymph nodes are swollen and painful and I have absolutely no appetite at all. All that to say we didn't do a whole lot of shopping this week! I kept my pitiful self in my bed and concentrated instead on survival. I was very lucky that my husband was able to be here with me and take care of the kids. Of course you know how it goes....I now have two kids on antibiotics now as well. Thankfully I came down with it first and the Dr's did all testing on me instead of the kids. All I have to say is "positive for strep" and they write a prescription for the kids without blinking an eye.

The only thing we bought this week was a new textbook for my husbands college class. The school bookstore wanted $194 for the book new or $145 for a used book. Now you all know that didn't go over well with me even if I was on deaths doorstep. No way was I paying that kind of money for ONE BOOK! Are you NUTS? I was lucky to find it used on Half.com for $35 shipped. Now that is MUCH better!

I am planning a big garden update post once I am feeling better but for now I will say that my lettuce, herbs and peas are loving the warm weather we have been having. Looks like they are not the only ones....my little January baby is starting to figure out what this outside place is all about and she loves it. I think we are all very happy to be getting out of the house in the afternoons and enjoying the wonderful weather.
Total I would have spent on new items this week: $194
Total I actually spent: $35

Saturday, April 13, 2013

No New Stuff Challenge: Second Week of April

Time for our weekly update! Things have been going well here. We have been quite busy this week with doing our big seasonal clothing swap out. Good news is I only have one child left to do (my son) and then all the winter clothes will be put away.  While I was cleaning out the clothes I went ahead and moved the twins clothes over to their new room with their older sister. We are planning on trying them in there tonight. I am hoping it goes smoothly! On the topic of bedrooms we were very blessed this week when we received a free Lightening McQueen toddler bed complete with four piece bedding set!


Little man is in love!

Also this week I bought a "new" cookbook....those of you who know me well know I am a bit of a cookbook junkie. I just love the things! Sadly I have yet to actually get to read this new one. Life here has just been too busy! I did however clean out and inventory my big chest freezer and realized I only have about 15 more meals left from my last big freezer stock-up. So I will be doing some cooking again soon and will be sure to try some recipes out of my new book!

I am sitting here wracking my brain and that is all I can come up with for this week. I have been in constant motion which leaves little time for "wantitis" :)

Total I would have spent to buy the above items new: $277
Total I actually spent: $13.31

Monday, April 8, 2013

Recipe Index

I finally found the time and the patience to  go back through my entire blog and make up a recipe index. I have been dreading doing it but knew it would make my life so much easier so I sucked it up and got to working on it. Luckily I didn't post many recipes the first few years on the blog so it didn't take me nearly as long as I thought it would.

Over on the right hand side above my "about me" section you can see all the new pages I have added this month. I finally had the time while sitting and nursing the baby to explore all the different sections of my blog software. While playing around with the software I stumbled upon the ability to make pages and was oh so happy! I have a few more I am working on adding but I thought I would share my newest page, my Recipe Index :)

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sara and the pillow case

                                                                            The other day out of the blue my 6yr old came to me sobbing. I thought something was horribly wrong and was shocked when she told me, "I want to be just like you. I want to sew things and make things and do everything you do but I am too little". This was just so out of the blue that she took me quite by surprise. Which I think is the only reason I agreed to the insanity of helping her make a dress. I have never made a dress before in my life much less taught someone how to make one. 
After doing some thinking I decided to see if I could get her to agree to a simpler project. She was not overly enthused at the thought but she reluctantly agreed that a pillow case would be a good project.I had a ton of flannel that I got on sale during last years Black Friday sales and had yet to find a project for. She went through and picked out the fabric she wanted to use and we got started. She was all ready to go until I told her to sit down at the sewing machine. She wanted so badly to use it but was a little afraid of it at the same time. I controlled the speed and she directed the fabric. As I expected she lost interest about 10min into the project and I ended up finishing the hem for her. She however was very happy with her finished project and I get fun mom points at the same time. Win :)

Saturday, April 6, 2013

No new stuff challenge: First Week of April

This has been a busy week in our house! First we had Easter which was a blast but very busy.Then we were also changing over our kitchen to non-processed foods and removing all plastic's from our kitchen as well. I have spent half my week in the kitchen it seems. The good things is that I am finding lots of recipes that we like so I will be able to start doubling recipes for the freezer this week. That will make my life SO much easier! 

One of the major changes we have made this week is to start sending the older two girls to school with a home lunch. I had read the school menu at the beginning of the year and was happy at that point with the options that were available. Lots of salads, lean meats, and veggies. I however did NOT realize that the kids could buy "treats" with their lunch money as well. I was horrified when I asked my 6yr old what she had to eat at school the other day:

*Cocoa puffs
*Two Chocolate milks
*Chocolate ice cream
*Fruit roll ups

Are you kidding me? Who lets a 6yr old have free reign over their meals? When I was in school I was given a tray with a well balanced meal on it, there was no adding chips or chocolate ice cream! No wonder she comes home from school hyperactive...she is on a sugar high! Yeah that is conducive to learning.

Once I heard what she was eating I was determined to start sending their lunches and snacks to school everyday. I was however expecting to be met with just a bit of resistance. I mean I was taking away their chocolate and chips. I was very shocked (pleasantly this time) to find that my kids were actually excited about the change. They were actually giddy the first day I handed them their lunch bags.

I however was not quite prepared for the over night change. After all I had just gotten rid of all my plastic storage containers and sending glass didn't seem like the best option. I luckily was able to find the lunch bags their grandmother had gotten for them years ago so at least I had something to put the lunches in. I resorted to plastic baggies for the first few days while I did my research. I was able to find these eco-friendly containers used on amazon...with free two day shipping! I have no idea if these were actually used or if they were just returned to the company and had to then be sold as used from that point. They still had the original tags on them but did not come in the original packaging so who knows. While looking for glass water bottles I found the Lifefactory 16-Ounce Glass Beverage BottleThey are glass bottles covered in silicone to prevent breakage (although I am told they will still break if you throw them). I then needed to find some storage containers for the small snack items I send in their lunch packs. Things like grapes, carrots, etc that I would normally put in a ziploc bag. I found the Kids Konserve Leak-Proof Stainless-Steel Food Containers
 and fell in love. They are stainless steel, very sturdy, and easy for my 8yr old and 6yr old to open. I am a happy mama and better yet I have happy kids who are now eating healthy meals at school.

Remember how we just finished spring cleaning our kitchen and threw out all our plastic storage containers? Well I have been on the search for glass containers to replace them with. Finding used glass containers wasn't hard...but the prices were obscene. People wanted retail prices for things that had been used for long periods of time...guess that means there is good resale potential! I however was able to find some used sets on amazon that were reasonable. The first set I found was the Pyrex 14-Piece Round Storage SetIt had a damaged box, but the contents were 100% fine. The next set I chose was the Rubbermaid 8-Piece Glass Storage ContainersThe box was in perfect shape but one of the containers had a small chip that they had rounded down to make smooth...honestly I never would have noticed the chip if there hadn't been a post-it note on the container pointing out the chip. I now have plenty of glass storage containers, actually I may have too many ;)

This week my husband also started a new job. He now has his own cubical which apparently did not come properly equiped. He came home with a list of things he needed. Some things like a calender were easy (I asked him if he could just print one out and he was fine with that). Other things were a little more complicated, like a Black Leather Notebook holderI don't even know what the proper name for this thing is. Just a case for a notebook as far as I can tell. I asked myself if "work stuff" counted into the acceptable "school stuff" that I allowed at the beginning of the challenge. I decided to check ebay however before going shopping and was able to find a used leather binder that was the perfect size. I was able to make an offer on it and got it for $15 shipped. Hubby was very happy when he opened the package. Apparently I lucked out and got him the exact right thing so he matches all his buddies...I really thought we were past these types of things ;) One of the things he asked for however has been a pain. He needs an office type trash can. I checked ebay and the local thrift store and nothing. I asked him if he would be willing to take the one out of our bathroom (it is a small frosted can) and he was happy to do so. He however seems to have forgotten so I am not reminding him. After all I like my trash can!

As I mentioned last week hubby is a bit hard on his jeans just like our oldest daughter. I managed to get him a free pair last week but he asked me to find him a second pair as well. While I was at the thrift store I was able to find him a pair of Eddie Bauer Jeans Retail cost: $50, I paid $3. They fit perfect and he is a happy camper.

This week I also joined a Biggest Loser Challenge on my moms forum.  The goal is to lose 4% of my body weight in 4 weeks, that is a total of 8lbs. My first thought was that I needed to buy a new workout dvd. I mean how am I supposed to lose weight with just my stationary bike and elliptical, lol. I admit I might have a slight obsession with workout "stuff". I decided instead of going shopping I would check out my dvd drawer instead. Yeah...I found 30 workout dvds in there! THIRTY! Now some of  them are in sets but still! That is a little much! Needless to say I didn't buy a new dvd...hubby actually thinks I should sell some of the ones I have and get down to just 5 total. I am not quite ready to go THAT far. I am a work in progress for sure! I did my favorite 50min work out this morning and could only get through 34min before I thought I was going to die. That is pretty pathetic since the last time I did it I had no trouble completing the entire thing. That however was over a year and 2 children ago. I am doing my best though!

There you go another busy week here!  I am really enjoying this challenge it is a lot more fun then I was expecting it to be!  :)

Total I would have spent: $231.31
Total actually spent:  $106.91

Monday, April 1, 2013

Happy Easter!

With the no new stuff challenge in effect we have been doing a lot of research to come up with some  homemade items for our children's Easter baskets. It is important to me that my children are able to find pleasure in the simple things in life, and to understand the true reason for the holiday. We as a society tend to shove the Easter bunny down kids throats along with tons of candy and plastic junk. Since our no new stuff challenge is all about non-consumerism and a simpler life the typical Easter fare just will not do! Normally I would walk into the BX and fill a cart full of random Easter junk without really thinking about the purchases I was making. It was Easter after all and my children "needed" these things to have a "normal childhood". Not anymore though! Now we are making a conscious decision about what we bring into our house and are keeping things much simpler, which I think will be a true blessing over time to our children. We are after all not raising consumers we are raising children!

First up this year I decided I decided to make a Bunny Service Jar for each of my oldest two daughters. I think it is so important to teach our children to preform acts of service for others. This jar is a great idea! I found this printable tag which explains the concept. For each act of service the child preforms they get to add a "bunny tail" to the jar (also known as a cotton ball). When their jar is full they earn a special treat!
Now on to the Easter basket! I decided to make the oldest 5 children Easter activity books. These are super simple to make. I just did a search on pinterest for Easter printables and got to printing.  I ended up doing a mixture of activities per child based on their ages and abilities. The older girls (8 and 6yrs old) got mostly mazes and puzzles to do while the younger two girls (3yr old twins) got simpler activities that are intended to teach them things like their colors, how to use scissors, counting, matching, etc. My son (1 yr old) on the other hand got just simple coloring pages. I love that I was able to tailor each book to each particular child's ability and skill level.

Once I had a equal number of age appropriate pages printed out I got my supplies out  to make the covers and get my books put together. I had some white cardstock and Easter stickers in my scrapbooking supplies. I added in some spare yard, crayons, scissors, my three hole punch and my scrapbook paper cutter (what is that thing called anyways?)

I cut the cardstock down to 28x24in and then used my three hole punch on all the pages making sure that they were all lined up correctly. Once I had the books layered together with the holes lined up I used the yarn to "bind" the book together. When the books were properly binded together I wrote the child's name on the front of each of their books and added the Easter stickers. Done! 5 activity books completed with supplies on hand in less than an hour. My kids will love these!
I also decided to make homemade sidewalk chalk...1 1/2 cups cornstarch, 1 1/2 cups water...mix, divide evenly into 12 muffin tins, add 2-3 drops of food coloring to each, let harden and pop out. These were a bit more difficult to hide as they had to sit on my counter for days to harden. Luckily the little ones don't have a clue and the older girls were willing to work with me ;) They were really runny even the next day and I had to soak up some of the liquid off the top with a paper towel to get them to finally come together. Once they were dry they just turned into a crumbly mess...these are a no go and I will NOT be making them again :(

My next project was to try and make my very first cake from scratch. I usually just buy the box mixes but since we are also cutting out processed foods that wasn't an option this year. I found this recipe for a vanilla cake and icing and decided to give it a try. Since it was Easter I had to make a bunny cake! We decorated it with dried blueberries and cranberries instead of candy...I mean they had PLENTY of candy the didn't need more candy on their cake!
We were very blessed this year that between the few things I made and the gifts sent by family members their baskets (that I saved from years before) were over flowing. I just had to buy one bag of candy to put in the plastic eggs for the egg hunt.

And lastly here is a very rare picture of all 6 of my kids together. Usually they are impossible to get all in the same picture...guess all I needed was some candy ;)

Total I would have spent: $200
Actual amount spent: $11


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