Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Simple Home

Clutter is my new enemy!  I have spent the past few months working tirelessly to get rid of clutter, reduce the amount of new clutter that comes into our home and simplify our living space.  This is easier said than done with children but we are working toward (slowly working toward) a "realistic minamilistic lifestyle" :)  We've made some good money selling our "stuff" on Amazon, ebay and at our yard sale and all but the basement/garage and one closet have been tackled.  Here are the rules we try to live by everyday to keep our house SIMPLE.

1.  Have a Zen Room(s)

I believe it was Josh Becker who suggested starting your journey to simplify with just one room, a room you can go to when the rest of the process feels overwhelming.  We started with two rooms and work hard every day to keep them decluttered.  I do find myself escaping to these rooms if I am feeling overwhelmed by the clutter in the remaining house.  Our Zen rooms are our Family Room and our Bedroom.  Both of these places are a place where S and I like to unwind and relax.  We felt that it was important to make sure that these rooms remained a sanctuary and I am proud to say that we do a great job of keeping them neat :)  It is so nice to go to sleep and wake up in a clean bedroom.  I do believe our stress levels have dropped a bit since we started making this happen!

2.  Keep Kids Toys Reduced and AWAY

After reading Simplicity Parenting, I immediately went into my kids rooms and the playroom and got rid of half of their toys.  Now he recommends then going in and getting rid of another half but I stopped there for now :)  I tried to keep the toys that fostered creativity and the imagination and got rid of most of the toys that flashed, beeped and were really not that engaging.  I also made sure that every toy had a place and have been working hard with Z (and Lil' C) to make sure that their toys get put back in those places when they are done.  It is a constant struggle and I am brainstorming creative ways to deal with the influx of toys that come in during birthdays and Christmas (no gift parties etc.).  I do feel good about the progress we have made and have noticed that they play much better and for much longer now that there is less.

3.  Nothing Is allowed on Floor other than Furniture

This is new for me but I LOVE it.  I was the queen of keeping things under, next to and behind things.  I wish I had a before picture for the table above!  There were things crammed next to it and the mess under it was insane!!  The table is meant for storing things neatly so now we store Z's games so they are readily available.  I still do have some spaces (the couch) where I hide things behind but I have tried to make all visible spaces free of everything but furniture (and the occasional large basket).  It is amazing how neater a space can look by doing this simple step!

4.  One Thing in, One Thing Out
I am trying really hard to stick to this rule.  I am also trying really hard to make sure that we aren't spending money on things unless we really need them.  We are reusing as much as we can and I am trying so hard to stop being an over consumer (easier said than done for a recovering shopaholic!!)

5.  No More Embarrassing Spaces

It is my goal for a stranger to come into my house at any point and be allowed to go into any room, closet, oven and not be embarrassed that they are there.  I am so close (yet so far) and have just a few more places to tackle.  Our upstairs use to be off limits to all strangers (and most family) because it was always a disaster with tons of STUFF crammed in our hallways (everywhere really).  Now I don't think twice when Z asks if he and his friends can go upstairs or if one of my friends needs to use a bedroom to nurse their baby.  It is a good feeling!!!!

Inspirational Books:

Simplify by Josh Becker
Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider
Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne

Inspirational Blogs:


Friday, May 27, 2011

{this moment}

A Friday ritual from SouleMama to post just one picture capturing a moment from the week with no words.  Here is are mine (well I guess only the last two are from this week). 


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Simple Eating

S and I have worked hard over the last year to simplify our diets.  We both feel so much better when we keep our foods SIMPLE :)  The less ingredients, the better is our new motto.  Our strict budget has forced us to get creative but we still buy organic (at least the dirty dozen), free range, grass fed, hormone free foods.  It takes some work (and shopping at many different venues including Whole Paycheck Foods) but good food is a high priority for us.  Heck we don't have cable but the kids do have organic apples ;)

Changes we have Made in the Last Year

1.  Cook from Scratch
I now make my own pizza dough, pancakes, waffles, bread, cakes, muffins etc. all from scratch.  I use to be the queen of baking out of a box.  Now you won't find a box in my baking cupboard :)  I love being able to control (and pronounce) the ingredients in the foods I make. I love to experiment with reducing the amounts of sugars and or oils to make our food healthier but still tasting great.   As a rule, we limit the processed foods in our home and try to cook as much from scratch as possible.  If we do buy processed foods (Lil C loves her Annie's Mac and Cheese), I try to buy organic (organic coupon sites are below). 

2.  Buy Local
I now buy my eggs from a local farm, we are part of a CSA for veggies for 5 months out of the year (may join year round this year), we buy Raw Milk from a farm in our state, buy local maple syrup and honey and we are on a waiting list for a meat CSA.  I am still searching for a good source of free range chicken around here (beef is everywhere) and until I find it I buy our meat from US Wellness.

3.  Raw Milk
You can't get much more simple than Raw Milk and I now truly understand the meaning of "crying over spilt milk (the stuff is expensive, I weep over every drop spilt!).  Now before you go and tell me about your mom's best friend's mother's sisters dentist who got sick from drinking Raw Milk, please know that this decision was made after a lot of research and investigation.  This is a topic for a whole other blog post but today I will say that we drink it, we love it (well we are working on Z) and we feel great.  I highly recommend reading the Untold Story of Milk.  Even if you never plan to switch to Raw Milk, it is jam packed full with the history, politics and science behind this favorite beverage.   Great book!!!

4.  Preserving Food
This is still so new to me but I am having so much fun.  Last year I canned 40 lbs of tomatoes (they got us through until March I think), froze homemade applesauce (the picture above is oatmeal mixed with my applesauce) and saved up money to buy a dehydrator!!  I have dehydrated pineapple (back when they were practically giving them away) and banana so far.  I plan to dehydrate, can and freeze a lot more this year and I can't wait!

5.  Weekly Menu
For Christmas my MIL got me a meal planning calendar and I LOVE it!!  Planning our weekly menu has helped us to stay on budget, eat healthier and made my job of preparing food so much easier.  By looking at my menu I know when to take things out of the freezer, what can be done to prep in the morning or at naps and I am never scrambling at 5pm trying to figure out what is for dinner.  This menu has helped us to stop eating take-out (we use to eat out all the time) which has helped us to stay within our tight budget. 

My Simple Food Inspirations

Keeper of the Home
Food Rules
Kitchen Stewardship
Campaign for Real Milk
Untold Story of Milk
Real Food on a Real Budget

Organic Coupon Sites

Saving Naturally
Organic Deals
Mambo Sprouts

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Simple Cleaning

A few years back our good friend Joe (CEO and Founder of Green Clean Maine) gave me two spray bottles of homemade cleaning solutions.  One was for the washroom, glass and hardwood and the other was an All Purpose Cleaner.  He told me they were his secret recipe and that he used him in all of his clients home.  I took them home with me (along with the secret recipe) and I have never used (or bought) another cleaning product since that day.  

I love these solutions!  I love the way they clean, love that I can make them with inexpensive ingredients, love that I have the ingredients on hand if I ever run out of solution and LOVE that they are safe for my children.  In the two years I have been making my own solutions, I have never needed to buy new ingredients, just a new spray bottle.  It is an investment up front but then it lasts and lasts.  

I don't feel comfortable sharing Joe's secret recipes but I will tell you that there are some great ones out there on the internet and Tsh has some great recipes in her book, Organized Simplicity.  I now even make my own Febreez!  It is fun to pick your scents (lemon grass is my new favorite but I use peppermint at the holidays), save money and know that your house is being cleaned in a safe and SIMPLE way :)

For those of you who can't afford to hire a cleaning service, may I suggest you check out Jamie Martin's wonderful posts on "Once A Month Cleaning".  I started this system two months ago and it has made my life so much easier when it comes to cleaning.  It has been life changing (more on that another day)!!!  Click here and here for her other two posts.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Our Simple Journey

As you all know, for the past year or so we have been on a journey to simplify our lives.  It has been a windy and bumpy road at times but I am quite pleased with the distance we have traveled.  We have made many changes, gotten rid of lots of stuff and feel so much healthier both physically and mentally.  I was hoping to spend some time over the next two weeks reflecting on our journey and talking about some of the changes we have made and some that we still hope to make.  I would also like to share with you some of the people who have inspired me, books I have read, blogs I visit and other things that I have learned and continue to learn each and every day as I go on this journey.  I hope that you will check back over the next few days and read about our progress :)

Before I end today's post, I want to wish my beautiful baby sister a Very Happy Birthday!!  
I love you K :)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A "Night Adventure" With Daddy :)

Yesterday afternoon we met S in Boston (where he works) for a "Night Adventure" as Z called it.  We went to the Children's Museum and had the BEST time.  The four of us played for awhile and then had a picnic dinner out in front of the museum.  After not seeing S all week, this was a fun way to reconnect. 

Z was soooooo excited to be going into Boston and he did not stop jumping up and down the entire visit.  As soon as we could see the skyline from the highway Z yelled out, "Hello Boston, Here we Come!"  Lil' C was also excited to be let free in the Children's museum, she had a blast!   As we were getting ready to leave the parking garage Z ran to the side, looked down below and said, "Good Night Boston, Thanks for a great time!"  I don't know where he gets it :)  We will definitely do this again (especially since it is free to get in with our passes)!!

Friday, May 20, 2011

{this moment}

A Friday ritual from SouleMama to post just one picture capturing a moment from the week with no words.  Here is are mine :)  It was a rainy week, with lots of indoor time so it is really hard to pick just one.....sorry!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My Workout Journey

Today should technically be day 46 of my Power 90, 90 day journey.  On May 1st though, I made a wise decision to start from day one.  I had spent the month of April working out 4-5 days a week and sort of watching what I ate and after watching some of the success stories at the end of one of my videos, I knew that I wanted to start over with my heart and soul into it.

April was my time to get back into working out and the 90 days began for me on May 1st.  I am now on Day 18 and I feel great!  I have lost 2 lbs, a couple of inches and hardly have to modify the workout anymore.  I have more energy, look forward to my sessions with Coach Z and feel so much better about myself.  I struggled for so long with how to fit exercise (time for me) into my crazy schedule with the kids.  My real Coach Lauren (check out her results, she looks AMAZING!!), helped me to figure out the perfect workout and schedule to fit it all in.  I am so grateful to her for all of her guidance, support and motivation (she could help you to and it is FREE!!!)

For me this is more than a 90 day journey, it is a path to get me back to the physical state that I want to be in.  It is a journey to make sure I am getting into habits of eating well, exercising and making myself a priority.  I am not looking to have a bikini body (that is not a reality for me) but I am hoping to slim down and be healthy.   So many times as moms we get lost in the shuffle and it is really important for us to make time for ourselves so that we can be the best moms we can be.  I prefer home exercise programs over gyms because there is no travel time and the expense is low.  Power 90 is the perfect program for me because it is 30 minutes 3 days a week and 35 minutes 3 days a week.  It is an easy workout to travel with because there is very little equipment and I just LOVE it!!  If you want to track my progress, feel free to jump over to my other blog :)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Not Keeping Up With the Jones'

I've said it before and I'll say it again, our house is not the best manicured lawn in town.  We are not out there every day working at our lawn and we do not have the money to pay others to do that for us.  We do not like the idea of using too many chemicals and we really are okay with the dandelions and other pretty weeds that creep up on the lawn.  We try to keep up with the mowing and did have our landscape redone two years ago, so our house isn't AWFUL, just not perfect.

Up until a few weeks ago, half of our front lawn was a barren wasteland.  Crabgrass had taken over the year before and killed off half of the front and back lawn.  We would laugh whenever we looked out our front window at the brown dirt and small section of green grass.  We figured we had two choices, wait until summer for it to grow back so that our lawn would be green once again or reseed the lawn.  S chose number two.  He worked for hours raking the front lawn, reseeding it and fertilizing it.  I then went to town over two weeks and watered it, it now looks like a golf course (well at least part of it does, the old part of the lawn now looks awful ;)).  To compliment S's new lawn, I had 3 yards of mulch delivered and worked very hard on Friday and Saturday (thanks C and Mom) to spread it before the week of rain began on Saturday night.  I gave up my workout for the weekend and worked my tail off and got it all done.  Here are the photos of our new lawn.  We may not be keeping up with the Jones' but at least we are no longer the laughing stock of town (thank goodness you can't see our backyard from the road!!! ;).

Ignore the Hose box (I should have tidied up first!)

I mulched this area for the first time!  I plan on putting in some perennials.  This is our old green lawn in front of it :)

S's Lawn
House before--that brown stuff is all dead grass and nothing new grew in!
House After :)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Special Day in Boston

A few months ago my friend R asked me if I would like to volunteer with her at the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in Boston.  R has walked the past 5 years and wanted to take a break but still wanted to be involved.  She told me she would do as much or as little as I wanted to do and we agreed that we would volunteer for set up of Closing Ceremony. 

I had volunteered in NYC a few years back with my best friend La.  She was working the pharmacy tent at the Wellness Village and I went along to help her dispense meds.  I remember being in awe back then by what I saw and felt and hoped that one day I would be able to participate in some way again, today was the day.

R and I got to UMASS Boston at 7:45 AM and worked with the rest of the volunteers to get the site ready for the walkers to cross the finish line.  During a bit of a lull in set up, this woman dressed in pink came out of nowhere.  She approached me (I was in the middle of the small crowd of volunteers) and touched my shoulder.  She was a crew member and asked if she could get her t-shirt early because she had to catch a flight back to Orlando.  I told her that that I wasn't sure and that she should ask the woman in charge and I pointed her out.  She then stopped, looked deep into my eyes and pulled a pink sash out of her pocket.  She said very quietly, will you please wear this for me?  I told her yes, she placed it over my head, gave me a squeeze (I felt a chill) smiled at me and said, "Thank You".  As she walked away a wave of emotion came over me and I began to tear up.  I looked down at the sash and it said, "Every Three Minutes".  This is to signify that every three minutes someone is diagnosed with breast cancer.  R saw this exchange and told me that there are people who pass these sashes out every three minutes throughout the entire event.  She thought that it was very special that I had been singled out and as it turns out I was the only volunteer who received a sash. 

It is quite amazing to see so many women and men come together to walk 39 miles to raise money to help find a cure for this terrible disease.  Most are walking for someone they know and love and there were over 200 survivors who did the walk as well.  R and I handed out T-shirts to the walkers after they crossed the finish line and there were bright pink shirts for the survivors.  Each time one of the women (and one man) told me they were a survivor, I said a little prayer for them, smiled and congratulated them as I gave them their special pink shirt.  It was a very emotional day for me and one that I will never forget.  I love you Kiki!