Products to Love: Your Pantry

Hello Readers!  I am so terribly sorry that this is coming out so late today!  It has been a whirlwind kind of week, and my blog was pushed to the back burner while I dealt with life and got my head back in the game.  It isn’t fully there, but I will have more on that tomorrow, hopefully.  For now, let’s talk about the pantry!

Okay, I know that many of us think of our pantry and cringe.  Even I do it.  It always feels like it’s a mess, and just when you think you get it organized, someone always comes in and messes it up!  I love my husband Ryan to death, but his organizational skills are abysmal!  Whenever I ask him to put things away, I wind up having to do it all myself, typically with a toddler following thisclose behind me, which can be just as stressful.  Needless to say, it isn’t easy for me either.

However, I do have some suggestions for organizing your pantry that will, hopefully, help.  So let’s jump into a few of my favorite pantry supplies.

1.  Baking Bins
Okay, I know some of you may not bake that frequently other than the occasional batch of cookies for your kids’ bake sales at school.  But I tend to bake a lot.  I love to bake.  I love making things from scratch that people enjoy eating.  And, I’ve been fairly good at it for years.  Even though our son Sean takes up a lot of my time, and patience, that used to be spent on baked goods, I still try to get some baking done around the house.  As a result, I keep baking supplies on hand at all times.  All-Purpose Flour, Rolled Oats, Sugar, Brown Sugar, Confectioner’s Sugar, Baking Soda and Powder, Chocolate Chips, Pecans, and other similar baking supplies are always readily available for my use.  And so I like to keep these items on hand.  But the bags can be quite cumbersome for my tiny pantry, and they often slip and slide around, which can lead to a mess from time to time.  To prevent this, I keep my basics like flour, sugar, and oats in jars.  I especially like the plastic grip jars that can be found in almost any organization section of the store.  These are easy to come by, relatively inexpensive, and lightweight.  They also tend to not break as easily, unlike glass jars can do if they slip or get dropped.  I also store my bags of chocolate chips, brown sugar, powdered sugar, and the rest in the bins, although I tend to leave them in their bags for identification purposes.

2.  Labels
So, when I was creating the decorations for Sean’s first birthday party, I found these really handy paper chalkboard tags at my favorite craft store for around a buck for a bag of 20 labels.  I love them!  They are lightweight, they take glue really well, they can be strung as they have a hole for ribbon, and they can be tossed when they are no longer relevant.  I use them with my baking jars and glue them sideways (or portrait) down the handle, but they could also be used to label shelves, boxes, etc.  And, best of all, these are pretty cheap!  So, with a good chalk paint pen, you can have a label that lasts a long time!

3. Stackable Bins
I love metal bins and mesh bins that can stack and have clearance for canned goods in my pantry.  It can be a huge space saver, and it can prevent tumbles with cans.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve suffered toe injuries due to falling cans in my tiny pantry!  So, I like my metal bins that hold my cans and can be stacked to save space.  I tend to keep a lot of tomatoes and beans on hand for my recipes, so having these cans in a stackable system (all tomatoes in one bin and beans in the other) is a life saver!  Now, these may not work for you if you tend to have a lot of cans for different uses, such as soup, vegetables, beans, chili, etc.  I have found that our household rarely has these items unless my husband Ryan wants to buy them for an occasional simple meal, but I tend to avoid them.  Still, these bins are a good investment for a pantry to keep cans separate and avoid buying something you may already have.

4. Wooden Vegetable Box
I don’t currently have one of these, but my in laws have one in their pantry that I love and I desperately want to get one!  If you haven’t seen this, it’s a wooden box typically with two sections that are either drawers or hinged bins for holding potatoes and onions.  They are clearly marked for each product, and they do exactly what you need them to do with your potatoes and onions: keep them in a cool dry place away from one another.  In case you haven’t heard, potatoes and onions are best left in a cool dry place (like a cupboard) and need to be separated to prevent spoilage.  My Grandma Lee had something similar in Southern Idaho, but her system was really a root cellar.  Since I can’t have one of those, I really want to have a vegetable box since we buy a lot of different potatoes and onions in our household.  And this product is on my definite list for our eventual home.

5. Spice/Herb Storage
Years ago, when I was young and in college (and, therefore, stupid and naive) my sister bought me this really cool rotating spice rack with 20 jars of spices.  At the time, my sister was a great cook (as she is now) and I tended to not cook as much.  At the time I was also living with a boyfriend who was a “cook”.  So I took the spice rack home with me and it sat on the counter top of his place and became more of a decorative piece that anything else.  When we broke up, I forgot about my spice rack and left it there.  And today, I could kick myself for not taking it with me because I desperately want one like that again!  I love those rotating spice racks, especially for tight spaces like my countertops.  My current spice location is out of control, and there is the space to store a rotating spice rack where I keep my spices now.  So, this is, again, another product I will buy in the near future.  And I highly recommend them.  They are great ways to keep your spices need and orderly, and you rarely forget that you have a spice on hand in the back of the row (which I have done a bit in recent months).  However you choose to store your spices, I highly recommend finding a system that keeps all spices within reach or at least visible.  Trust me, it’ll save you money if you know what spices you have on hand and what ones you don’t.

6. Pasta Storage
For my pasta, I like the same plastic grip containers that I use for my baking needs.  However, I do have a couple of see-through storage boxes for my straight pasta rather than the grips.  I will say that I avoid any colored boxes as the contents are typically not visible.  And in my word, if it’s out of sight it is out of mind.  I am less likely to use a product if I can’t see it, so I like to keep my pasta visible and in clear containers.

And that’s it, for the most part.  Most of my other food comes from the fridge, which is organized by type (meats in the freezer as well as flash frozen veggies, cheeses and edible/cooked meats in the cheese drawer, produce in the produce bins and separated between fruits and veggies, condiments and butter in the door, and milk and eggs on a shelf).  My husband tends to use the snack foods in the pantry, and the peanut butter, honey, and syrup (unless it’s real maple syrup, which gets stored in our fridge) gets stored with the coffee and tea supplies.  And the bread is in the bread section on the counter, along with the tortillas, english muffins, and bagels.  However, if you have issues with snack storage (we tend to do smoothies, fruit, and cheese for our snacks), I highly recommend using a drawer system, a shelf system, or a separate area (such as a “Snack Cupboard”) for them.

My sister does this with her kids currently, and it has been successful.  She buys or makes snack-size items, like pretzels, veggie chips, trail mix, granola bars, etc. and she stores them in a bin in a separate and reachable cupboard in her kitchen.  She does a variety of treats each week, and she won’t buy or make new packs until the old ones are all gone.  The prevents her kids from choosing unhealthy options only.  She also leaves an area of her fridge for snacks and follows the same system.  And, again, she either makes these items or buys them.  Those items include fruit, yogurt, cheese, hummus, veggies, and hard boiled eggs.  Mind you, she doesn’t have everything at all times, but she tries to do at least one fruit, one veggie, and one dairy/protein per child per day (be it for a lunch side or snack).

Anyway, I hope this helps you plan your own pantry needs for organization and ease of use!

Until next time,

-BBM

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Lessons with the Capsule Wardrobe

Hello Readers!  It’s Hump Day!  I am already looking forward to the weekend, and I’ll know more next week about my possible trip back to my hometown.  So today I want to take a moment to get into discussing a capsule wardrobe and some of my revelations that I’ve discovered while working on it.  Now, if you aren’t sure what the capsule wardrobe is, the best definition is that it’s a set of versatile clothing items that can be mixed and matched to form different outfits and looks, using less items to create more outfits.

Now, the first lesson to learn is to first discover your style and what fits you best.  This is sometimes tough to do, and even I have struggled with this.  I have a whole board on Pinterest devoted to the Capsule Wardrobe, including wardrobes that I like and ones I would like to do.  But not all of them match my style.  I am a classics girl, and I am a full-on casual gal!  Give me jeans over a skirt any day.  But my lifestyle doesn’t require dresses and skirts.  In fact, it requires the opposite!  Our city of Reno is the second windiest city in the U.S., and almost every day is windy.  And the wind is not kind to dresses or skirts.  So owning a ton of dresses is pointless here.

I also am a short and, now, squat kind of woman.  I have always had a fairly straight figure.  Even now, my waist is only a couple of inches smaller than my hips and chest.  So I have to be careful with what I wear.  Flowy pieces make me look bigger than I am.  And straight jeans tend to draw attention to my block-like frame.  So, I try to stick to empire waists, faux wraps and wraps, bootcut jeans, leggings/jeggings/skinny jeans, and figure-forming pieces.

To add to that my lifestyle is full of casual activities: SAHM, house cleaning, going to the park/zoo/library/museum, casual dates to the movies, visiting family on informal occasions, and similar occasions.  I rarely have any formal occasions like weddings or parties to attend.  If I need to attend something more formal, a simple dress or skirt that I can dress up would be sufficient.  I do have a few dressier events, but dressing up my jeans or wearing a pair of slacks instead would work.  Thus, my style really is classic casual.

But most capsule wardrobes focus on a more business classic or dressy classic style.  It can be quite difficult to see beyond those wardrobes to find what works best for you.  To add to that, there are lists everywhere that detail what exactly belongs in a capsule wardrobe.  But not everyone needs the same things.  So, here’s a list of what I feel everyone needs in their capsule wardrobe.

  1. A simple tee shirt.  This can be white, or black, or whatever color you want.  My favorite tee shirt is a black Windy Tee by Simply Vera Vera Wang at Kohl’s.  It’s lightweight, soft, and comfortable, yet the wavy design of the fabric provides a great detail to the simple tee.
  2. A favorite pair of jeans.  Bootcut, straight, skinny, boyfriend, mom jeans.  Whatever works for you that you love and flatter you.  For me, it’s a pair of dark bootcut jeans from Woman Within.  As a bonus, my jeans have an elastic side, which is great for my straight frame.
  3. A simple dress.  Yes, even I have one of these.  A little black dress or a little white dress would be just fine for this.  Mine is a black Zephyr Heights dress by Columbia at Kohl’s.
  4. A classic cardigan.  This is a button down one of your choice.  A classic button front that can be worn as a layer or a stand alone top is an awesome choice.  My favorite is a black solid Button Front Cardigan by Croft & Barrow, again from Kohl’s.
  5. A pair of pants.  Slacks, leggings, ankle pants, trousers.  The choice is yours.  My absolute favorite for this is a pair of No Nonsense black leggings, which can be found at stores everywhere.
  6. A button down shirt or two.  A White oxford shirt.  A Chambray shirt.  A silk blouse.  The choice is yours.  I love my Chambray Shirt by SONOMA Goods for Life from Kohl’s and my White Oxford Shirt from Apt. 9 at Kohl’s.  If I had to choose one, I’d choose my Chambray Shirt.
  7. A favorite skirt.  This is a tough one for me because I don’t get the opportunity to wear skirts that much anymore.  But I do believe you need to have at least one skirt that you love.  It could be a jean skirt.  It could be a pencil skirt.  A Maxi skirt.  It’s up to you.  I do have one skirt that is ages old but that I like.  I like the fit of it (a maxi skirt) and I like the current colors of black and green patterns.  But my evolution of my capsule wardrobe will mean that it won’t fit completely.  I did find a good substitute that I fell in love with at Kohl’s, and it fits my style and new capsule wardrobe.  It’s a blue stripe Gauze Button Front Skirt by Studio 253 at Kohl’s.
  8. A good pair of shoes.  Ballet flats.  Heels.  Pumps.  Loafers.  Sneakers.  The possibilities are endless and they all depend on your style and comfort level.  I have a pair of black loafers by A2 by Aerosoles that I got from Kohl’s right now that I love.  I also have my eyes on two other pairs of flats: a navy pair of Chuck Taylors by Converse, and a black and white striped pair of Cortini flats by Journee Collection at Kohl’s.
  9. A favorite coat.  This can be a parka, a bomber, a peacoat.  It should be a wintry coat that best fits the weather you encounter in your region.  In our region we get cold weather that requires heavier coats than others may get.  For this, I have a red wool peacoat by Croft & Barrow from Kohl’s.  But I’m also looking to get a 3-in-1 parka system with a wind breaker shell (water resistant, if possible, to double as a rain coat) and a puffer parka inner coat.  This type of coat would work year round as the shell can be used separately for warmer weather and the full system will work for the colder Winter months.
  10. A favorite sweater.  This could be sleeveless if you live in  warm climate.  This could be heavy duty if you live in a colder region.  It can be patterned or plain.  My absolute favorite is an old navy and white striped v neck thick sweater by Tommy Hilfiger.

These ten articles of clothing are simple pieces that most women do already own and can use in their capsule wardrobe.  What I look for when I start planning my wardrobe are these qualities in my clothes: versatility, quality, cost efficiency, and multiple uses (such as a maxi skirt can double as a strapless dress, a button down cardigan as a sweater, etc).  These aspects of the pieces I choose can really help pull my wardrobe together, sometimes better than the color scheme.  And I hope that this list will also help you understand what kinds of clothing you can find for you capsule wardrobe.

Until next time,

-BBM

Pinching Your Pennies: Luggage

Hello Readers!  Happy Tuesday!  I’m sure many of you will feel a little out of it today after your kids had a three day weekend and went back to school yesterday.  Some of you may also be returning to work after your own three day weekend.  Of course, you may be like me, a Stay At Home Mom who doesn’t really get any days off.  Still, my week has been slightly thrown off, but that’s due to more personal reasons.

Anyway, today’s focus is on pinching your pennies and how to save on luggage sets and bags.  I know that this may seem like a crazy topic, but I do have a reason for bringing this up right now.  Many of you are probably eager to see Spring, and we have exactly one month before the official first day of Spring.  Like most of you, I’m dreaming of sunny days, blooming flowers, and the freedom that comes from warm weather.  I can’t wait to continue working on my Capsule Wardrobe by focusing on warmer weather pieces, and I’m already starting to see the warmer weather apparel appear in the stores.

But, around this time I start dreaming about Spring Break, of vacations, and of the fun that comes with Summer and the warm months.  And one of the expenses associated with vacations is luggage.  Now, you may already have a set of luggage that is doable, or you may be like my family.  My husband Ryan and I worked opposite schedules until just before our wedding and we never had the opportunity to travel much together before.  And now, money is tight as a single-income family.  While his new career is already quite promising, we still are watching our spending in order to save up for a larger down payment on a home.

The point is this: we don’t have a matching set of luggage.  We each of us have a couple of simple pieces—a couple of rolling carry-on bags that we all get for college and my favorite piece, a carpet bag.  But we have never really had a reason to buy a larger bag.  Any trips we have taken have only required a carry on size or two, and our plans are very unlikely to change any time soon.  And I know we aren’t alone in this position.

Needless to say, I recently realized that our current luggage is starting to fall apart and needs to be replaced.  After ten years for our bags being used repeatedly, they have taken a true beating and will most likely not last long.  Luckily for us, there is good news with regard to luggage sets.  In March, luggage sets will go on sale.  This is in anticipation for Spring Break vacations, summer vacations, and society’s anticipation for travelling opportunities.  So, March is always a great time to look into luggage sets.

Now, our family has a few small trips planned between now and next March.  To add to that, my capsule wardrobe project focuses on minimalism and on making the most of every piece, which means I will be taking less on vacation or on trips.  So we probably only need a couple of smaller bags or a smaller set of luggage than most people may need.  I think our son Sean needs more stuff than we do on our trips, and that’s saying something about my own lifestyle.

Anyway, we have considered buying a new set of luggage and getting rid of our current luggage.  And March will be a great time for that.  I’m still debating on what kind and how many pieces, but I think a simple three or four set would work.  I do want to keep my carpet bag that I purchased about five years ago, but it is slightly impractical for anything more than a day trip or weekender bag.  So, I do think it might be time to update my luggage for a more practical set.

Furthermore, I am intrigued to pack a capsule wardrobe for travel purposes, and I may get the opportunity to do just that in the very near future.  If I can manage to work with less than normal and successfully manage my wardrobe, then I may need a smaller set of bags.  I may be travelling back to my hometown to help out with some family needs, and if I go it would be for a week or so.  My trip would be secular, or without my husband Ryan nor my son Sean.  If that’s the case, then taking a smaller bag would be more manageable.  And while I will be gone, Sean would stay with our local family so that I can focus on where I’m needed most.

But, it isn’t clear if this will be necessary or not.  I’m still waiting to find out more information about this possible trip.  For now, I haven’t fully planned on it.  If I do go, I have a list of my basics that I would need to take, which should fit in a smaller bag.  Like the carpet bag I love but may not need.  I will keep you all informed as I learn more.  For now, I’m not going anywhere.  But, I still want to buy a new set of luggage.  And I encourage you to do so, as well.

Until next time,

-BBM

Supplemental Learning Opportunities

Hello Readers!  Happy Monday, and Happy President’s Day to you all!  If you have the chance, I would highly recommend researching a president of your choice today with your kids.  For some really great and accurate information, as well as an unbiased portrayal, I would also recommend that you check out the Library of Congress website at www.loc.gov.  Almost everything on this website is informative, and the website even has teaching lessons for kids and for teachers to use to teach children of all ages about our US history.  It’s a fantastic site with tons of information, historical pictures, and plenty of education recommendations for you to enjoy.

So, today, I want to focus on some ways we, as parents, can help our children learn and grow at all ages.  Now, we should support and foster a good working relationship with our children’s teachers and schools.  By doing so we can better encourage our kids to learn and appreciate their education.  But, what else can we do?  Well, there are a few things you can do to help them more.

One way you can do more for your children’s education is to purchase student workbooks and learning materials from a teacher store.  These stores are often found in strip malls in larger towns, but you can order these supplies online or walk into these stores and buy them.  These stores are really cool, too!  They have learning workbooks, materials, and even games for every subject at every age, and you do not have to be a teacher to buy these items or to shop at this store.  Yes, teachers may received a discount on their purchases, but these supplies are not restricted to just teacher use.

What I love about these stores is that you can find such great learning material in these stores that your kids can use to learn or to help them through tough topics.  These supplies are always helpful and useful, and even homeschoolers use these supplies to teach their kids.  These supplies are basically workbooks with activity pages in them that progress as you work through the book.  I don’t know about any of you, but I remember seeing some of these pages in my own childhood classrooms in public school; my teachers would often use the activities to drive through a lesson or two, and they often were fun and educational.

Now, aside from using teaching materials, I also would recommend fostering a good online learning experience from credible sources like the Library of Congress website.  I love the Library of Congress site for educational purposes.  Their site actually includes lesson plans and learning opportunities under their “Teachers” section.  And, what’s better than that?  You can select which type of educational standards you wish to follow—Common Core, State Content, or Organizations like NCTE (National Council for Teacher Education)—and you can search based on topic: Language Arts, Library/Technology, or Social Studies.  Under these topics, you can also search for lesson plans based on the grade level, and you will come up with a slew of valuable lesson plans for free.

Now, these lesson plans rely on the Library of Congress and the materials available on there.  But, almost all of the lessons are unbiased, equal, and fair.  There are very few lessons that are political; those that are focus on generalizations rather than biased and specific politics.  For example, there is a lesson plan that uses To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee for historical perspective and for literary analysis at the 8th grade level in Nevada.  This lesson plan starts by having students describe the portrayals of discrimination and racial issues in select historical photos.  And then it progresses from this throughout the book for four to six weeks to help students learn about the historical side of the book.

Even though the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s and racial issues right now are wrought with politics and political views, we can all agree that racism and discrimination don’t belong in our society.  And we want to prevent the past from reoccurring.  So the best way to avoid repeating history is to explain what happened in an unbiased way.  And the Library of Congress does a great job of doing that with lesson plans like this.  Furthermore, these lesson plans are age-appropriate and safe to view.  In fact, in the above plan, most of the photos portray the sit-ins, the segregation signs, and the true peaceful protests of the 1960s.  They do not show racial slurs, violence, profanity, or anything that I would say is inappropriate for grade 8 kids.

A final way to help foster learning for your kids is to encourage them to read books.  I loved this as a kid myself.  My mom used to take me to the library every week and let me pick out an age appropriate or reading level appropriate book to read that week.  Each week, she would ask me about the book when I completed it.  If I could explain what the book was about in five to ten minutes, then she took me to McDonald’s for a Happy Meal on Saturdays to reward me for my reading success.

Now, you don’t have to do the McDonald’s thing, but I would definitely recommend doing something like this.  Not only do you encourage reading among kids, you also help your children learn how to recall what they learn and how to accurately describe things.  If you’re feeling really brave, you can even have them read books from the banned list.

By now I’m sure you’ve heard about the banned books in the world, but it’s amazing how very few people actually know much about the list.  The American Library Association began the list decades ago.  And the books on the list are placed there for different reasons, some of which are obsolete.  In fact, many of the books on that list are books that even I remember reading in school prior to the new century.  For example, Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian, which is a close portrayal of Alexie’s own education experience in a white school, is considered to be a frequently challenged book in the Young Adult section.  To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee has also been a frequently challenged book among the classics, as well as some like The Call of the Wild by Jack London and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.  So, just because a book is banned doesn’t mean that it isn’t a great book.  And, as can be seen by some the books, many of these are now considered to be obsolete for their banning reasons.  For more information, or to see the lists of books, please visit www.ala.org.

I hope that these ideas will become a part of your household to encourage and foster learning and reading among your children today!

Until next time,

-BBM

In this Week…

Hello Readers!  I hope everyone had a great week and that Valentine’s Day was special for your household!  I know it was for mine!  Now, I wanted to let everyone know that my grandmother Nammi’s surgery was successful and she is in recovery.  At this time it is unclear what other treatments she will need for her breast cancer, if any, but we remain hopeful that she will soon be in remission.

So, let me tell you about our week.  First, my husband Ryan and I spent last weekend working on our master closet.  I have not touched it since we moved in almost eighteen months ago, and it is starting to show!  While we had originally unpacked most of our boxes, there are a couple that need some attention.  For one thing, my wedding dress is still packed up and, if I’m not mistaken, still needs to go to the cleaners.  A Winter wedding is not always forgiving on dresses!  Anyway, we focused our attention on clearing the row of shelves in our closet and the top shelf this weekend.

Now, this one was a tough decluttering project for me.  Our closet truly is my only storage in our apartment, which means that all of my crafting, knitting, and decorating supplies are in this space.  And a lot of it was on the row of shelves that will soon become my “dresser”.  In a few short weeks, my dresser set will no longer be here as we are selling it (it’s great for a little girl but not so great for a grown woman nor for a growing boy).  And, as such, I have decided to truly embrace the Capsule Wardrobe by eliminating half of what goes in my dresser as well as limiting my clothing.  That means less socks, less undergarments, fewer pajama sets, fewer workout sets, and the rest.  My end goal is to be down to less than 60 individual articles of clothing among my undergarments, workout gear, pajamas, and lounge wear (and that includes the slippers and cross trainers!).  It may seem crazy, but it’s been so relieving for me.

I don’t quite know what happened or what really spurred it on, but I suddenly realized a few months ago that our place was overflowing with junk.  Maybe it was when I was trying to find a place for the massive play kitchen set we purchased for our son Sean for Christmas this year.  I mean, I can remember standing in the middle of his overcrowded and messy room thinking Where do I even start?  I remember the day because I was trying to get everything ready for Christmas, packing bags to stay with family for the holiday, and I had spent the day picking up the toys and whatnot from around the house twice already.  I had walked back in his room to find that he had tossed every stuffed animal he’d ever received (and he already has quite the collection!) in every direction of his room.  His letter blocks had been strewn everywhere.  Too large clothes (kept in a spare drawer of his dresser) had been thrown out of the dresser and into the mess of his room.  I had once again started putting it away when I realized something important: I had no clue where we were planning to put his kitchen set.  His room was filled to the brim.  His closet was full of old clothes and baby things that we may use again with a potential second child.  Our living room already contained another box of toys because (1) his toy chest in his room was already overflowing and (2) half of his toys ended up scattered throughout the living room anyway.

So, I stood in the middle of his room and nearly cried when I made a very frightening discovery: we have too much stuff!  I thought about our closet, which was still cluttered and cramped even though I had eliminated bags of clothes and shoes.  I thought about our bedroom, which always looked like a warzone due to the excess junk everywhere.  And the office area was split into two sections: the books and useless desk with the inaccessible computer, and my desk with my many projects stacking up and the dying laptop.  And don’t even get me started on our unorganized and chaotic pantry and kitchen cabinets!  Of course, it doesn’t help that Sean has taken a shining to our plastic Tupperware containers and loves to throw them everywhere in the kitchen (but most especially in the trash can).

In fact, everywhere I looked I felt embarrassed with the clutter.  I felt claustrophobic and bogged down by the stuff.  And I knew I needed to make a change.  And so I started with the office spaces, condensing them down to one designated area of our home.  I pulled out the kiddie desk and replaced it with my new work surface.  We organized our office supplies, got rid of over half of them, and weeded out a ton of our books.  We set up the desktop, configured it to the latest software, and made it our primary computer.  Meanwhile, we transferred our documents and important information to the computer, wiped the laptop (at least mine) and made a plan to get rid of it.

And this progress in our office area has motivated us to keep it going in our Master closet.  I mean, I found bags and purses and junk that I no longer needed.  I found my knitting supplies and cut it down by half because I realized that I will never have the time to knit like I used to.  We got rid of sheet sets that don’t fit any of the beds in our house.  We made a plan to have my wedding dress professionally cleaned and then planned a place to store it properly (along with my wedding shoes, veil, and other wedding supplies.

I even went through my “memento” tub in the closet, and we were able to condense our memory items down to just one medium size storage tub in the closet.  Talk about making a difference!  We’re down to just half of the top shelf being filled, and only one shelf in the row sequestered for my shoes at the moment.  I honestly can’t wait to tackle what’s on the floor and weed out some of my husband Ryan’s clothes that I know he doesn’t wear nor that he will in the future.  The man has several suits, and his career doesn’t require these suits.  And, on top of it, many of the suits don’t fit properly or are ones that he isn’t too fond of.  Though he isn’t sold on my Capsule Wardrobe lifestyle mark my words: I will get him to say goodbye to much of the excess eventually.  Besides, I know he doesn’t want to move a lot of this junk again when we finally move on.

And so, I will continue to declutter throughout this year until our house is down to less than half of what we have now.  And while I’m loving the process and the results, my impatient nature is going insane as I continue to see the clutter everywhere and know I have to follow my plan of action in order to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  But I’m sticking to my guns and working my way through it all, one section at a time.

Until next week,

-BBM

A Routine for Your Mornings

Hello Readers!  I want to take a quick moment to fill you in on my grandmother’s surgery.  She is due for her followup today after her mastectomy this past Monday and we are praying for news that more treatment won’t be necessary.  While I have no doubts that she would be fine, she is past eighty and treatments are harder for the elderly than for us young Spring chickens.  I will keep you all up to date with the news as I receive it.  Now, back to our routines.  Well, I hope by now that you have all managed to get back into your old routine after the holidays.  I know I sure have!  I’m back in the routine of my daily cleaning tasks, my weekly cleaning, my to-do list, my blog writing, and the projects I have for the year.  Even though I’m back on my old routine, my morning routine has been slipping somewhat.

Now, maybe you’re like me and you have just struggled to get back into your morning routine.  Or, you may be the type of person whose morning routine is hectic and crazy and you’ve never nailed one down.  It may seem impossible, but you can get into a good morning routine quite easily.  And, since this is my new focus for this month, let’s talk about some good tasks to have in your morning routine.

1.  Make the beds.  Okay, I’m sure you have probably heard this a million times, but starting your day off by making the bed is a great way to motivate you to continue with good habits.  Why is this?  Making your bed each morning does a few things for you.  To start, it’s a subliminal message to your mind and body that it’s time to get moving.  By seeing your made bed and making it, you’re ten times less likely to climb back into your bed.  Second, it is a great way to boost your mood and continue cleaning.  Once you make your bed, you will instantly see a cleaner room or you may start to see what else is out of place against your made bed (which is what I do).  It sends this message to your brain to see what else needs to be cleaned up and it gets you going.  And finally, a made bed will mean better sleep at night and more comfort at night.  I don’t know about any of you but sleeping in a made bed is much easier than an unmade one.  And I feel like I wake up more refreshed!  So always start your day by making the bed.

2.  Get dressed and ready.  This may sound like an oxymoron, but this step in a morning routine can be difficult for a stay at home mom like myself.  Remember hearing about my pre-Capsule Wardrobe mornings?  Yeah, it isn’t always easy to feel motivated enough to get dressed each day, especially when you have nowhere to go and no one to see.  That’s why getting dressed is actually important to having a more productive day.  When you get dressed and comb your hair, you feel more alive and refreshed.  And that, in turn, leads to a more productive you.  Fun story about this:  During my pre-Capsule days, I would often spend all day in my pajamas, and I often felt lousy.  I felt dirty, and lazy, and low.  And I can remember my mother in law coming to visit one day when both myself and our son Sean were in our pajamas at two in the afternoon.  I was so embarrassed!  And I instantly started getting dressed each morning in case my in-laws or anyone else came for a visit.  And I suddenly started to feel better about myself.  And I was more productive.  And my morning routine suddenly changed from being a wish to being a big part of my life.  So, even if you aren’t feeling it, get dressed each day.

3.  Take care of the dishes and trash.  Okay, I have a confession.  I hate doing dishes!  Even loading them into the dishwasher is a pain for me.  I feel gross after doing dishes, and I hate dishrags in the sink.  They seem to get smelly after awhile, and it always turns my stomach.  However, I do empty the dishwasher every morning so it’s ready to load dishes into it throughout the day.  And I try to remind my husband Ryan to take the trash out each morning when he leaves for work.  Starting my day with a ready dishwasher and an empty trash can has an immediate affect on my mood.  I feel like my kitchen is ten times cleaner with those tasks done, and I tend to keep my kitchen cleaner throughout the day as a result.  So, even though I hate our current kitchen, I tend to feel better about it when the dishwasher is empty and the trash can has a new liner in it.  I highly recommend doing at least these two chores each morning.

4.  Eat a sensible breakfast.  You may have heard the famous saying “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”  Well, I hate to break it to you, but this is actually not a scientifically proven fact.  It was a tag line created about eighty years ago by stockyards and ham companies as a means of selling bacon to the general public in the United States.  Hence why we love bacon and why it’s always associated with breakfast.  However, breakfast is still an important time of the day, and eating a sensible meal is important.  Most of the time, your body has not received any nutrients from food in ten to twelve hours, and it needs fuel to create energy.  Thus, a sensible meal of 200 to 400 calories is a great way to kick off the day.  It should be balanced and low in fats.  Personally, I love a small bowl of homemade granola with low fat milk and a cup of fresh strawberries, or a hard-boiled egg, one half of a large banana, and a piece of whole grain toast and peanut butter.  Whatever you choose to do, try to maintain a low caloric intake first thing in the morning.  If you do go to a restaurant for breakfast, try to make healthy choices with your food.  I personally like to get a veggie omelet with whole wheat toast and a bowl of fresh fruit instead of potatoes or hash browns.  Most of the time I don’t eat the toast, but I get it for a little extra fiber.  But wherever I am, I try to eat a sensible breakfast to keep my energy up without consuming too many calories.

5.  Have a plan.  This is something I try to do every night before bed, but I will sometimes do it first thing in the morning while I have my breakfast.  I make a plan for the day.  Each day comes with a list of items to do.  Besides cleaning and laundry, I typically include working out, blogging, researching, and projects.  And I also have my baby duties for Sean: getting him dressed, feeding him healthy meals throughout the day, reading to him, snuggle time for at least five minutes each day, and a bath if needed.  Even if I don’t get everything on my to do list done, I try to get at least half of the duties done and I always make sure my important tasks are completed each day.  If I can get half of my to do list done, then I don’t feel so bad when I take a break and forget to return to the rest of my to do list that day.  But not having a list makes me lazy and unproductive.  On days when I don’t have a list, I’m liable to spend all day on social media sites or virtual window shopping for my dream Capsule Wardrobe.  And I’m sure I’m not alone.  While I do feel that we moms and parents should have a lazy day here and there, I do believe it’s important to plan for the day most days and try to get as many tasks done as possible.  Being productive can actually lift your mood, especially if you’re a SAHM.  I know that I sometimes feel like my life is without purpose since I don’t contribute financially to our household.  But when I tackle the to-do list, I feel like I am contributing in my own way.  And that’s why it’s important to keep a to-do list and have a plan for every day.

So these are five tasks that should be a vital part of your morning routine.  If you only get these five things done before noon, then at least you have a morning routine in place.  Now, some people would argue that there are more tasks that we should do in the mornings, but I say that these five are all tasks we can all do every morning.  And, as for others, my days tend to fluctuate based on the events and our moods.  Some days, we like to spend the day just relaxing at home, and some days are crazy filled from sun up to sun down.  But, if I get these five tasks done each morning, then I know I am destined to have a good day.

Until next time,

-BBM

My Book Nook: Sherman Alexie

Hello Readers!  Well, the weather here has been dreary the last couple of weeks, and it doesn’t appear to be letting up any time soon.  And though it’s only rain, it makes the days seem much longer and the weather much worse than it really is.  So, I like to read something a little light about this time of the year to keep my spirits up until the weather gets better.  And right now, I’m turning to Sherman Alexie for that reading.

Now, if you haven’t heard of Sherman Alexie, let me give you a brief summary.  Sherman Alexie is a Native American writer whose short stories focus on the modern day Native American on reservations.  And while a lot of his stories appear funny on the surface, they are wrought with much more complex emotions and issues revolving around Native Americans, the common profile of them, and life on the reservation.

There are a lot of issues portrayed in these tales, and it all focuses on what it means to be a Native American, how the world sees Native Americans, and what hopes and dreams they have.  These are fascinating stories, and they truly will captivate the audience.  My favorite collection is from Alexie’s book The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven.  The title may be long, but the stories make it worthwhile.  One of the most well known stories from the book is “Smoke Signals”, which was adapted into a really great film by the same name.

What I love about this story is the realness the reader gets from it.  The characters are complex, yet they still somewhat match the portrayal we have of the modern day Native American.  Their situations and lives are very much the same as what we often believe to be true on reservations, but yet the reasons behind them are so wrong with political issues and bigger concerns that the reader can sense the desperation most commonly found among reservation dwellers.  It’s fascinating and sad and complex all at once.  And yet the reader feels the need to laugh at what’s occurring because the humor is so wry that you can sense it right away.

That is Alexie’s purpose with his stories.  I met him once when I was working on my undergrad degree in writing, and he explained his stories to us as this.  He said that his stories are meant to portray the life of the “modern day Indian” and life on the reservation.  And they do.   In the most raw and realistic way, his stories portray the same issues facing Native Americans today that we, as a society, have come to expect of them.  And while they are what we expect, they also match our own lives and worlds at the same time.  For myself, I could see some of the same issues in my own life and in my own world.  And it truly made me feel like the characters are not so different from anyone else I would meet in the world.  But at the same time the life of the modern day Indian on the reservation was so different from what I had seen before.  It was eye opening and complex and confusing.

And I loved every minute of it.  So I highly recommend reading any of Alexie’s collections.  I love The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven, but I also liked Ten Little Indians, Blasphemy, and The Absolute True Story of a Part-Time Indian.  So, dash off to your favorite local library and pick up a copy of his collections today!

Until next time,

-BBM

Lessons from Grandma: Shopping Around

Hello Readers and Happy Valentine’s Day!  I hope the day goes off without a hitch for many of you and that your families have a great day.  I know many of you are eager to learn of my own grandmother’s situation following her mastectomy yesterday, and I will discuss it on Friday.  But for now, and since I have Grandma on the mind, let’s talk about some of the lessons from my grandma.

Now, I had two grandmothers I was very close to during my childhood: Grandma Lee and Nammi.  Grandma Lee was my step dad’s mother, and she was born back east in 1923 to a well-to-do family.  Her father was a banker, and they lived a very rich lifestyle until the Great Depression of the 1930’s when they lost it all.  My other grandmother, Nammi, was born in 1935 in Montrose, Colorado, near her own grandmother’s farm.  Her family was not very well off: her maternal grandparents were farmers-her grandpa a poor Irishman and her grandma a Boston Blueblood that had been cast out after marrying an Irishman.  Nammi’s mother, Grandma Jo, had only been married to her third husband-a Mr. Williams-for a couple of years before Nammi’s birth, and they divorced a couple of years after she was born.  And Mr. Williams moved on, and he was never a part of Nammi’s life.

Grandma Jo married her fourth husband, Mr. C, when he was in Grand Junction with his pharmacy, before they moved to Reno, Nevada, and then eventually to my hometown in northeast Nevada.  However, they didn’t marry until Nammi was nearly ten, and by then she had picked up a lot of Depression-era tips and tricks from her poor grandparents and, then, single mom.  And many of those tips became lifelong habits that have influence me in my life.  One of those tips was to shop around.

Now, I know a lot of us like to think we are money-savvy people.  We read a lot of blog posts and lists of what to buy and where.  And these are great tips to save some money.  But we often can suffer from still spending too much because we tend to suffer from impatience.  We live in a very high tech world where anything can be purchased online and mailed directly to your front door, and you can even have it there the next day!  We are all extremely privileged for having this convenience in our lives, and we pay for it.  If we don’t pay monetarily for our goods, we have to pay another way.  And that other way is with our time.

Now, you know that I am starting to give you tips each month on what’s on sale that month.  I explain what produce is in season, and I also include an area to tell you what sales may be occurring, what goods are about to lower in price, or what clearance goods to stock up on.  Most of you probably go to the big sales like the one we should have this coming weekend for President’s Day, but you probably ignore other sales on goods during down times and whatnot.  But this can actually be harmful to your pocket.  Allow me to explain using myself as an example.

Now, our apartment complex doesn’t provide us with a washer and dryer in our apartment, but there are connections for our own devices if we want them.  When we moved in we didn’t have any appliances, but we had a family member with a set in storage that they gave to us.  It was an older set, but it was still very functional.  However, our dryer has been having issues lately, and we know we will need a new one soon.  So, I do have a couple of options available to me to get a better deal.  First, I can try during the President’s Day Sales to get a good deal on a new dryer or a new set.  I can hold out for the Memorial Day sales in May for a possibly better deal.  I can try for July-a common sales month-to score a good deal.  Or I could wait until October when home appliances are typically priced at their lowest point.  Or, I could even hold out for November and the Black Friday sales.  For me, two sales look the most promising: Memorial Day sales or October.

That may sound crazy to you to wait almost a year for a good deal, but I do have a reason for this and for choosing dates later than other ones.  First of all, my current set works although our dryer is getting down to its last leg.  However, I know that it will still work for at least six months, possibly even for another year.  And while we have done some repairs to it, we know it’s nearing the end of its lifetime.  So, I don’t need to rush down to Sears for a new set next week.  Secondly, choosing a date like late May, which is three and a half months away, gives me time to save up some cash for a new set.  This means that in May I can walk into Sears and offer them cash for a new set, possibly getting a discount or bartering for a lower price than what’s advertised, and I won’t have any payments to make.  No creditor.  No hassle.  Just pay for it in cash and leave.  This will ensure that I get a basic model or slightly upgraded one for a good price.

But, if I want that higher end model, shooting for October is my best bet.  That gives me about eight months to save up for a set.  If I save two hundred dollars a month from now until then, or one hundred per paycheck, I can walk into Sears and buy a high end set with cash.  To add to that, I could probably knock off a couple hundred from that price tag.  So, a set that would cost me $1,600.00 plus interest and tax could wind up costing me close to $1,200 in less than a year.  That’s a difference of $400 and then some.  So, my time and patience will have paid off, and I could get a nicer set than what I can get today.

This logic applies with everything.  I often watch products that I want for weeks or months to get the best price.  Not only do I score on some great deals, I also avoid impulse buying because I will often choose to not buy something after a couple of weeks.  So, I highly recommend that you shop around, be patient, and wait for the deals to come to you.  After all, you can’t go wrong with lessons from Grandma!

Until next time,

-BBM

Today’s Issues: Bullies and Your Kids, Pt. I

Hello Readers!  Today is a very important day for me.  My maternal grandmother, Nammi, goes in for a mastectomy this morning for her stage three breast cancer, and my family is praying for good news.  So, I hope you will keep my family in your thoughts and prayers, and I will let you know more as I learn.

Anyway, today, I want to discuss an important issue that faces a lot of moms and kids: bullies.  I don’t know about any of you, but I was definitely bullied in school.  I was nerdy, awkward, and “uncool”, and I was often one of the smallest kids in my classes due to my late summer birthday and, thus, young age.  Even though I’m an adult now with a college education and a family, those memories of bullies still affect me.  Now, however, I don’t feel anger or resentment or even fear of them; I pity them.

See, looking back on it, the bullies in my childhood didn’t have the best lives at home.  And while I came from what was classified as a “broken home” due to my divorced parents, I still grew up in a loving family with a great mom and wonderful step dad who supported me and encouraged me to do my best.  Even though my biological father was never in a part of my life, I never felt abandoned because of my step dad who truly was my father.

But the bullies of my childhood had different situations.  They came from divorced parents who fought to “win” them over all the time by buying them toys but never really spending time with them.  They had poor relationships with their step parents, if there were any. Their parents didn’t make a lot of money, so things were tight at home.  Not that we were rich by any means.  My mom was a school teacher and my step dad a self-employed businessman, which meant most of our extra money was tied up in his business while he got it going.  Still, I never felt I went without because my parents taught me to use my imagination over playing video games (which were never allowed in our home), and we spent time together playing board games, discussing important topics like world events and religion, and doing other activities as a family like horse riding, hiking/camping, and whatnot.

In essence, I never worried that my family didn’t care for me.  I never felt unloved or underappreciated in my family, even though I had another family–my biological father and his new family–elsewhere in the world.  However, the same wasn’t true for my antagonists in school, and many of them struggled with family issues or money troubles.  And for that, I can’t be upset with them.

So, what does this have to do with your own children and their antagonists today?  Well, even I had a hard time understanding why these bullies were so mean to me when it happened.  I mean, I never did anything to deserve it, other than being who I am.  So, when I cried over the incidents of bullying I had experienced, my parents would always comfort me and explain to me that these kids most likely did it because they were going through something more difficult than I could understand, such as family or money troubles.  And I, though not any better off, happened to have a loving family and less troubles than they did.  My parents would appeal to my compassion to understand my antagonists and to forgive and forget.  And for the most part it worked.

So, while bullying is difficult to take, it’s important for us parents to understand that the other kid, while mean, may be going through something at home and is looking for attention in some way.  Or they could be lashing out.  Now, I don’t condone violence or continued harassment, but I do think it’s important to take a step back and understand why the behavior may be occurring.  It could be that the bully may just want a friend or may feel alone.  It could be that they feel abandoned and unloved.  It could be that they feel the only way to get any attention is to lash out and hurt others.  Whatever the case may be, it’s important to talk to your kids about bullying and about having compassion for bullies.

So, how can you make a difference in the situation?  Well, if any of you have ever seen The War featuring a young Elijah Wood and Kevin Costner, you may recall the scene in which Wood and Costner are at the county fair and the neighborhood bullies start antagonizing Wood’s character.  When he begins to lash out at them, his father-played by Costner-gives their cotton candy to the bullies.  Immediately after that, Elijah’s character says, “What’d you do that for? That was meant for [his sister and mom at home].”  And I’ll never forget what the father’s response was: Because they looked like they hadn’t gotten anything nice in a long time.

That scene has stuck with me because it says a lot about what we should do to stop bullying incidents.  Showing a little compassion for the bullies can sometimes stop them from continuing their poor behavior.  I, myself, ended up befriending one of my bullies by just taking some time to think about why they may be acting out and by being nice to them.  And while it may not always be the case, I know that my conscience is clear about these incidents.

But, if any of the bullies had gone too far, I had no qualms about escalating it to involve authorities.  And, in one case of mine, it did go so far that I had to do just that.  However, by standing up to my antagonists and saying “Look, I don’t know what may be going on with you, and I know that I haven’t done anything to harm you.  If you need someone to talk to, I can be there for you.  But this behavior has gone on long enough,” I did manage to stave off quite a lot of that behavior.  Sure, the bullies may have mocked me at first.  But most of them stopped after that.  It wasn’t instantaneous, but standing up and turning it on them often had the affect of embarrassing them.  And it bored them.  It wasn’t the response they wanted, and they often moved on.

So, next time your child tells you of a bully they may know, sit down and explain compassion to them.  Ask them if they know why the other kid may be bullying others or if there are any negative thoughts about the bully.  Chances are the kid is bullying others because they feel insecure.  And ask your child to have compassion for the bully and to befriend them.  Show the bully what a friendship can do and tell your child to be a positive influence for the bully.  They may make a great friend out of it.

Until next time,

-BBM

In This Week…

Hello Readers!  Well, this week has been a crazy week for us.  We attended a small Superbowl Party with my in-laws at their home, and it was nice to have a laid back day with them.  We played games before kickoff, and then we women enjoyed a few card games while the men watched the game.  It was a relaxing day before a crazy week began for our family.

Of course, my husband Ryan had a busy week at work, and our son Sean and I spent the week with our usual routine.  I had hoped to be able to take Sean to a nearby park to run and burn off his excess energy, but we had rain every day of the week!  So, we visited my in-laws a couple of times this week so he could run around their large house.

I also continued on with my 21 Day Fix workouts even though Sunday was my final day of the program for this round.  I had already decided to continue the workouts after I finished because I know my biggest issue with losing weight is my aversion to exercise.  I hate the gym!  I hate working out.  But, I know I need to.  Our family eats really healthy every day, so the diet is not the concern.  It’s just the lack of real exercise.  And so, I told myself with this round of the 21 Day Fix that I had to stick with the exercises all the time.  After all, it’s only 30 minutes a day.

Anyway, I’m proud of myself for sticking with it, even after I finished my first round of the program.  And I had some great motivation to stay with it.  I lost two pounds!  I know that doesn’t sound like much, but I’ve never lost two pounds and kept it off before!  Sure, I’ll lose a pound or two, but then a day later I’ll gain it back.  So, this has been a major win for me.  On top of that, I have actually noticed a change in my body as a result of the workouts.  No, I didn’t suddenly shape up.  But I’m suddenly a little more flexible and limber, and I don’t get as sore after working out each time.

Now, I had a few tips and tricks that helped with my success this time that really made a difference in how I managed it.  First of all, I took advantage of my old lunch bag from my working days.  Years ago, I happened upon this really cute lunch bag with a fluer de lis design in black and white on it, and I had to get it for my lunches.  I kept it when we moved because I loved the bag, even though I had no use for it.

However, I realized one of my biggest hold ups that I’ve noticed with my weight loss success has been my snacking.  And it’s worse when I’m bored.  So, I decided to use my old lunch bag once again for my 21 Day Fix.  Every morning, while our son Sean ate his breakfast and I made mine, I would prepare my snacks and lunch for the day and pack them away in my lunch bag with an ice pack.  I would leave it on the counter instead of in the fridge (hence the ice pack), and as I got hungry throughout the day I would reach for my bag instead of heading to the fridge or pantry.  And it worked!  While I still had my snacks, most of them were mixes of fruit and peanut butter or a protein like cottage cheese or eggs and veggies like celery and carrots.

Another huge impact on my success was my husband Ryan’s schedule.  In my previous attempts, his schedule would really throw me off because he would work from mid-morning to late night five days a week.  I would be awake early in the morning from Sean waking up early, and so I would eat breakfast at seven.  And then I would have lunch at noon.  And then dinner wouldn’t be until after eight each night, which meant that I would get hungry around five and begin excess snacking.

However, Ryan’s new schedule has him going in early in the morning now and getting home by six each evening.  So, I still had my breakfast with our son Sean around seven in the morning, but we had lunch at noon, and dinner was around six each evening.  This meant that my excess snacking was lessened.  And if I had any cravings after dinner, I kept to fruit for dessert.  But this rarely happened.

Now, I also kept to a lower calorie level as well.  I would eat half of the eggs per serving, and I often skipped out on my fruit servings.  I still enjoyed at least one serving of fruit per day, but I sometimes would opt against all three servings available.  As for the eggs, I found that eating just one hard boiled egg at breakfast was enough with my banana half and oatmeal.  I allowed myself that extra egg later on in the day if I found myself hungry with no snacks available.  But I actually never needed it.

And I’m looking forward to my next round of the 21 Day Fix Extreme in a couple of weeks as well as keeping up my workout regime from now on.

Until next week,

-BBM