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An Outstanding Balance

Work and Life Done Well…Mostly.

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Increase Efficiency

Southern Foods

Growing up my mom had a freezer in the garage that was magically refilled with individual sized lasagnas and french silk pies (and maybe some other things like chicken and steak, but whatever, I was there was for lasagnas).

My mom STILL has that freezer, 20 years later. Though, I don’t think it magically refills anymore. ūüôā

A Southern Foods at Home representative came to our home about a month ago and cooked us a meal. She talked to us about how we eat, what our values are, and our cooking habits. It was yummy and after some long conversations and some back and forth about the commitment, we decided we needed our own magic freezer.

How the program works:

  1. We get a freezer filled with 6 months of food.
  2. We eat the food.
  3. They come back in 6 months to refill it.

So, not so magic after all. But pretty darn convenient! We pay for the freezer and the food monthly, eventually the freezer is paid off and we just pay for the food.

And how do we like it after a month? Very much!

Selling points: 

The quality of the meat.

This was the biggest selling point for us. The meat is free of chemicals, hormones, and steroids. Its (for the most part) local to the southern part of the US–mostly farms in NC, SC, GA and VA. It also tastes LIGHTYEARS better than what I was buying at the grocery store. There is a great variety to choose from. The veggies are also very good and local/healthy, etc.

Convenience.

I can go shopping in my freezer. I have limited my grocery shopping to dairy, fresh fruit (and some veggies), and grains/potatoes. I get a lot of this stuff at Costco to minimize shopping even more. Meal planning and shopping is taking up much less of my time. My excel sheeting what is in the freezer gives me ideas and lets me know how much I have left. Which is also super fun for me (excel lovers unite!).

excel

Plus, because of the way the food is packaged it defrosts in minutes. MINUTES!!! I don’t know how, but it does.

The food is also insured if the power goes out.

Food choices.

For dinner, I pick a meat, veggie and grain/potato. We eat at home more because I can’t say, “we don’t have anything for dinner.” The portion sizes are great. Southern Foods does have some prepackaged options, but on the advice of our rep (who is also a nutritionist) we stayed away from those. Except the chocolate chip cookies. Ha.

Drawbacks:

Cost.

We are paying a little bit more for groceries now. And I have to limit myself to what is in the freezer (but that’s not terrible, its a good variety). I can’t go crazy at the grocery store or I won’t stay in budget. It is definitely not a cheaper route for your groceries, but its not crazy expensive either. And once we pay off freezer, the monthly cost¬†will improve.

I’m also not thrilled about the payment structure, because I’m paying interest on both the food and the freezer (and this was not revealed to me upfront, but I should have known better). Its built into the cost, so its not like they tricked me, but I do NOT like paying interest, so that is not my favorite part of the set up. But, its the way they do it.

Commitment.

Its a long commitment. They have us pay off the freezer very slowly so that we will reorder. They make their money on reorders (and were very upfront about that). To really get the most out of the set up we will need to be with them for years. We decided that worked for us (especially with two growing boys) and since our parents did it for years and loved it, we were comfortable moving forward.

Overall, I’m thrilled with our choice and it makes perfect sense for our family. If you have any questions about it, let me know. Its definitely a different model than most people are used to. If you are interested in talking to a rep, let me know and I can set it up (and we both get a little something out of that!).

We also get to eat steak more often. And that’s a win, obviously. ūüôā

 

 

Clutter Thresholds

Podcasts have become my jam. When we lived in DC I listened to them a lot while commuting, but since moving to Charlotte, I didn’t have a space where they made sense. Until we got Maggie! Now I listen everyday on walks.

Young House Love (a blog I read a while ago, but is no longer updated) just came out with a podcast and its been pretty fun. They are still finding their groove a little–they are only three episodes in–but I think its a keeper.

Back when I started this blog, a dear friend asked me to write a post on what to do when a couple is on totally different pages about clutter. I struggled and couldn’t really figure out what to write. Clay and I are on similar pages, though my threshold is definitely lower. He keeps up with me to keep the peace (most of the time). Or I just take care of¬†it, because he is naturally on the neater end of the spectrum and I can keep up with it (and he lets me, which is key). And I don’t mind doing it, so that helps.

Celebrating 7 years of navigating clutter thresholds ūüėČ

On my walk this morning, I listed to episode #3 where Sherry and John addressed clutter thresholds–though they are also on the same page, so didn’t really have a solution. They referenced a post by Gretchen Rubin on clutter blindness (she is new to me, I’ve only vaguely heard of her books, but I’m looking into her stuff–could be interesting). Rubin says that some people are clutter blind and just can’t SEE it.

Rubin gave this example from her friend:

‚ÄúMy husband never notices anything. As an experiment, when we got back from a trip, I left a suitcase full of his dirty clothes right in front of the front door, so he‚Äôd have to step over it to get in the house. I wanted to see how long he‚Äôd put up with it.¬† After a month, I called off the experiment and dealt with the suitcase myself.‚ÄĚ

Ok, I have anxiety around clutter, and just READING this made me feel nauseous. And that brings up something interesting that was mentioned in the podcast, this post, and previous posts I’ve written–people have strong reactions to clutter. Some people need it (?), some can’t function with it (like me). Some of it is a control issue, some a creativity issue. But a lot just comes down to personality.

I never really considered people functioning better with clutter (and I’m not convinced that true) but I am totally on board with the idea that people don’t see it in the same way I do.¬†I’m just lucky I’m not married to that type of person, or I would have a lot more panic attacks.

Rubin ends the post with:

“In my limited observation, such folks often just can‚Äôt be changed. They‚Äôre not thoughtless or rude; they simply can‚Äôt address clutter because they don‚Äôt see it.”

When my friend and I talked about couples struggling with clutter threshold issues, the only thing I could come up with was communication, grace, and compromise. And from reading the comments on the clutter blindness post, I think that is the best people can come up with…so, if you have this issue I recommend reading the comments. They are definitely the experts.

I know, who EVER recommended reading the comments on the internet!

In all seriousness, the commenters give some good ideas, and at the very least some catharsis. Lots of couples deal with this and figure out some give and take solutions to live together in (relative) peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pantry Refresh

For the first time in my life, I have a pantry. When we looked at this house, it was a major selling point. Its big and gorgeous. I could live in there. I may have even hidden in there a few times to get a break–and some chocolate.

In Hyattsville, I had a cabinet pantry made from billy book cases and was really happy with the organization system I developed.


I carried that over when we moved, but after¬†about 9 months in the house, it needed a refresh. ¬†I was keeping way too much “other” stuff in there, had accumulated some clutter, the space wasn’t maximized, and the locations of certain types of foods weren’t working. For example: Henry needs sweets out of his reach.

I initially looked at the container store/pinterest/amazon for “pantry specific” organizational tools. I thought I had an idea of what could some helpful additions–multi-level can holders, for example. There are some gorgeous pantry examples on pinterest. But I realized that I didn’t really know what I needed yet, so decided to tackle it first, buy new things second. And I’m so glad I did.

Here is how I tackled the pantry refresh:

I waited until nap time on a weekend. Way too many breakables and possible messes for little helping hands.

I spent some time looking around the “before” situation and got a feel for what I had and how I wanted to rethink it.


I removed EVERYTHING. Out of the pantry and out of the bins. Swept and wiped everything down.


I cleaned the bins and sorted all of the like items. I arranged the bins back into the pantry, then decided what I wanted where. I moved items that didn’t belong in the pantry to the trash or other areas of the house. Coolers, BBQ items, and drink buckets went outside. I filled each bin and put them back in the pantry. I put sweets out of Henry’s reach and healthy snacks on the bottom shelf. Oils, vinegars, and spices are now within quick reach, and things like cupcake liners higher up since I don’t use them often.

I decant bulk food to smaller containers, so arranged the smaller containers within reach, and the large (ugly) bags in high sided bins on the higher shelves. A wicker basket for onion and potatoes is in the darkest area of the pantry.


I put some new labels and voila! Final product!

The great news is that I only had to buy two new bins and I got them on clearance from target, so spent less than $5. I didn’t¬†even need multi-level can storage! ūüôā

And now excuse me while I raid those high up sweet bins…

 

 

 

 

 

Day in the Life

My life on a normal Wednesday. Here we go!

6:15am: Wake up on my own. Alarm not needed. I wish it was–I can never sleep much past 6:30am. If the dog isn’t up yet, I look at Instagram/fb for a bit until she starts whining. Clay lets her out today so I can¬†lay around a bit longer, which is very sweet.¬†I get dressed and brush my teeth groggily.


6:30am: Take Maggie for a walk. Very excited to see that Clay has already pushed out the trash can for trash day.


While on the walk I listen to a podcast. Today, I listen to the rest of a This American Life and start a new Moth. Other podcasts I love are WDW Prep School, Radiolab, Limetown (waiting for the second season!!) and Simplify Everything.


7:10am: Clay is ready and itching to go to work when I get back. He filled Maggie’s bowl and she starts eating. The boys are in bed watching Disney Junior on my iPad. I do a 4 ¬†minute crazy workout that makes me feel like I want to die.


7:20am: I head up to¬†the kitchen to unload the dishwasher and put George’s snack/water from the fridge into his already packed camp bag. Clay has already made his coffee, so I put his lunch out (leftovers I packed last night). He informs me that he has a work lunch today and I put it away with a fake huff. ūüôā I kiss him goodbye and he is out the door.


7:30am: Time to tidy. I walk through every room in the house and make sure that everything is put away. This gets done before bed as well, so its generally quick little things. I turn on lights, put ice cubes in my orchids (since its Wednesday) and make the boys beds. Today is not a laundry day, but if it was, I would put in a load.


7:40am: The boys are still watching TV, so I head into my office to get prepped for the day. I get myself some water, take a vitamin, and floss while I look at my email, check YNAB, read the Skimm, and add anything needed to my planner and to-do list that I wrote yesterday before ending my work day. I use this time to shower every other day, but today is an off day.

While doing all that, I also save a caterpillar George finds in the bathroom and chase Maggie down since she has pulled toilet paper all over the bedroom. Puppies, right?

8am: The nanny arrives and whisks the boys upstairs to get ready for their day. I make our bed and get to work.

8:35am: The crew is leaving to take George to camp so I go up and say goodbye, and make my protein shake for breakfast after they leave. I love my vitamix! Maggie settles down for a nap in my office.


10am: After lots of emails and crossing a few things off my to-do list, I break to take Maggie outside. I have meetings from 10:30am-1pm, so need to make sure I’m ready to sit for awhile. I go to the bathroom, refill my water, and stretch a bit.

I check my Wunderlist app for other household to-dos. I order a birthday present for a party this weekend and new sun hats for the boys from Amazon.

1pm: My morning meetings are FINALLY over and I am starving. I heat up some leftovers and have a tiiiiny piece of homemade tres leches cake. Maggie needs her lunch, too. She is a growing girl and eating a ton lately! She also gets a potty break.


I have another block of meetings coming up, so I walk around and tidy up a bit, load the dishwasher, and check the mail. No dice. When I sit back down I call Firehouse Subs to confirm that they are doing kids eat free on Wednesdays, like the internet says.  Victory! We will go there for dinner tonight. George has been asking to go there since he saw it from the road and found out the name.

3pm: Afternoon meetings over. I check the mail again. Its arrived, but its boring. Sigh. There are two boxes, but they are just 2 out of my 8 June subscribe and save items. I love how much money I save using subscribe and save, but its still hard to get excited about miralax and swim diapers. Ha.


4pm: Work day is done. The last thing I do is write my to-do list for tomorrow and update my planner. The boys are having a snack and watching a show upstairs. So begins the hardest/most fun part of my day!


4:30pm: I tidy again, take Maggie outside and get the swimming bag and my kid bag ready to go (since we are going out to dinner after swimming). I take a deep breath and get ready to wrangle the kids into shoes and out the door.


4:40pm: Henry will not get his shorts. He cannot FIND his shorts. Finally, I go up to his room to help him. Shorts on on the floor in front of him. “OH, THERE THEY ARE!” he says.


4:45pm: Maggie in her crate. Boys in the car and off to the pool.


5pm: Get George into his suit and lined up for his swim team picture. It takes FOREVER and is adorable and hilarious to watch the swim coaches handled all those kids. Henry is chillin’ in the pool while all this goes on.


5:30pm: George goes to practice and Henry is still swimming. He makes a little girl friend and shows off for her. He gets out of the pool repeatedly and says: “Mommy, A GIRL!!” and then jumps back in the water.


5:50pm: Adult swim is called and I get Henry out of the water and change him into his clothes. I realize that the kid bag is in the car, so I have no real diapers. I debate what to do with myself for about 5 min before just putting on his shorts. I tell him not to pee.

6:01pm: Henry pees walking to the car. We.were.so.close.


6:05pm: I make the executive decision to drive right by the house and not get Henry another pair of shorts. I’m too hungry and he is two–meaning no pants required.


6:30pm: We eat subs and the boys watch TV. Clay and I chat about our day and alternate reminding the boys to eat.


7:00pm: On the way out the door, Henry realizes he is not wearing pants.


7:15pm: The boys run outside to play when we get home and Clay and I zone out on our phones for a bit. When we come to at 7:45pm we realize that NO it is in fact NOT bath night like we thought it was. Never was. Nope. TOMORROW is bath night. What a team!

8pm: Stories, songs, and tucked into bed. Clay and I settle in and watch some of The Bachelorette on Hulu.


9pm: I set up for my work meeting with Guam. Realize the meeting is actually tomorrow at 9pm. That international dateline is a B. Clay takes Maggie for a walk. I do one last tidy and run the dishwasher.

9:15pm: Bath (with a lavender bomb), then into bed to play some games on my iPad.


9:58pm: I put on hand lotion, chap stick, and drink some water before lights out.


Good night!

WHEW. If you hung in this long, I’m impressed. Hope you had a good day, too! ūüôā

 

 

 

 

 

Weekend Away Prep

The past weekend we left the boys overnight for the first time together. We had left them individually, but they have always had one parent overnight.

That also means Clay and I hadn’t spent a weekend just the two of us in 4.5 years. It was time!!


My mom and step dad (Nana and Pop Pop) came to Charlotte to stay with the boys for the weekend and I wanted to make it as easy and comfortable as possible for them. The boys ADORE them, so I knew they would be fine emotionally, but the more smoothly things run the happier everyone is!


I did three main things to prepare: meal planning, communicating, and writing it all down.

Meal Planning

Food is clearly the most important part of a weekend. ūüôā I wanted to make sure that my parents¬†had food that was yummy for them, but also appealing to the kids to make meal time smooth. I also wanted to have some variety/options and snacks so that weren’t locked into a certain meal if they/the boys weren’t into it.


I wrote down each day and meals for the weekend and filled it in. I came up with:

Breakfasts:

Cinnamon rolls, eggs, pancakes, cereal

Lunches:

Sandwich fixings, grilled cheese and tomato soup, leftovers

Dinners:

Make your own pizza (lots of adult and kid topping options), taco dinner


They boys also get vitamins, miralax and special milk at meals so made sure I had all of that available and easy to find.

Communicating

I prepped us, my mom (and Chris by extension), and the boys for our time away. Clay and I got on the same page about our plans and I conveyed them my mom early so that she knew what we were thinking, and weighed in with her schedule. She and I walked through the plans a few time on the phone before the weekend even started (this is easy because my mom and I talk almost every day!).

We also talked on many occasions to the boys well in advance so that they would know what was happening, who would be with them, and when we would be back. There were no surprises for anyone in the weekend.

Writing it All Down

This is the most important thing in my mind. I know my mom well, and much like me (surprise, surprise), she likes schedules and plans.I tried to give as much information as possible while keeping it flexible–I was not trying to control what happened while we were away. I wanted them to have options, not feel boxed in. I totally trust them to take care of the boys.

I wrote everything down for them, including: Schedule, Meals options, Contact/Emergency numbers, and local activities they could do with addresses and directions. I gave numbers for Clay’s mom, our cell, and the Greenbrier. I included phone number and address for the pediatrician, our urgent care and ER. Luckily, they didn’t need it!

I also told them where the first aid kit was–and of course with two little boys, they did need that! Haha.

I put all the papers in a plastic folder with my car and house keys, discovery place membership cards, and health insurance card. We left my car with the car seat installed for ease.
While things went extremely well, we still had some bumps. They car battery died, so they couldn’t go anywhere with the boys–but there is plenty to do around here–so they were okay. Other than that, everyone was happy!

The boys didn’t even care when we left, so we take that as a very good sign that everyone was prepared and happy! I walked my mom through everything when they got to our house, but said that she really liked having everything written down and referred to it frequently. ūüôā

And we all had a GREAT time.

And look how well rested we are…


What a fun weekend!

(and thank to mom for all the pictures!!)

What’s in My Mommy Bag

My days of a dedicated diaper bag are over, but that doesn’t mean I get to carry an adorable little purse. Far from it. When I’m out with the kids, they got needs. And skinned knees.

Here is what I carry with me when I leave the house with the boys:

The bag itself. I love the soft leather and big interior. I got it a few years ago from Whipping Post.

Inside view. This bag holds a ton!

All the contents!

1. First Aid Kit

2. Diaper tote

3. Water bottles for the boys. George gets blue and Henry gets green in almost everything they own. Makes them easier to grab by sight. And they know which one¬†is¬†theirs, so they don’t fight over them.


4. Toys: Balls, cars, crayons, necklace and book.

5. Snacks! Apple sauce is always there, I usually throw in some crackers, too.

6. Wallet, keys, iphone (with chargers and headphones).

7. Moleskin and pen.

8. Satin hands. Because I am addicted.

9. Mommy supplies bag. Notice how much smaller it is than everything else.

Yay! Now a break down of the little bags.

Mommy bag!

Chapsick, moisturizer, hair stuff, and Advil. That’s my life in a tiiiiny little bag.

First Aid Kit:


The boys always need something when we are out on the town, from skinned knees to Henry’s constantly running nose. So I keep a good supply of stuff.

1. Neosporin foam

2. Kids ibuprofen

3. Boogie wipes (I wish I had stock in these things)

4. Gauze and cleaning pad

5. Hydrocortisone cream

6. Band-aids (super hero, of course)

All packed in:

Diaper tote:

This bag is for Henry. Diapers, wipes, disposable bibs, tissues, and ANOTHER mini first aid kit. Sometimes I only grab this bag if I don’t want to carry the big one.

All packed in:

And that’s what in my bag! I clean it out once a week or so to get rid of receipts, trash and rocks. You heard me. Rocks.¬†Sneaky little buggers. ūüôā

What do you put in your mommy bag?

Be Our Guest

House guests are a wonderful treat. And at our new home, we have a dedicated guest space so I can really take the hospitality up a notch!¬†It always so lovely¬†when I feel welcome at a friend’s house–and have a place to go that’s private. Especially since we have two little monsters angels running around the house–I definitely want our loved ones¬†to have a comfy escape!

We have a bunch of guests coming in over the next few weeks, so over the weekend I got things spruced up in preparation. Here’s what I provide in our guestroom to make it feel as homey as possible:

Fresh linens/Spare pillows and blankets

Fresh beds linens on the bed and fresh towels in the bathroom are a given. I also have extra pillows and blankets available in case its gets chilly and/or folks want to prop themselves up a bit more. I like to show these to folks when they get in so they don’t have to feel awkward about asking once they are in their jammies.

Toiletries and Supplies

It sucks to forget a toothbrush, so I’ve got those and some other supplies like razors, tums, advil, first aid kit, etc in a basket under the sink. I also have full bottles of shampoo, conditioner and body wash in the guest shower. And of course, a hair dryer.¬†

Empty drawers and empty hangers in the closet

I LOVE to unpack when I get somewhere. And although its tempting to fill those guests room closets and drawers with my crap I work hard to keep them open and available for guests to put their things and make themselves at home.

Snack basket

Sometimes it just nice to have a snack and a water after traveling. Or to have stuff to grab and take to the car when leaving. I mean, who doesn’t love snacks? I get something sweet, salty and healthy.

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Tech Station

WIFI is the breath of life, is it not? People can’t live without their devices, so I’ve got the password displayed and an extra charging cord in the drawer. We also have a TV in there, but need to get it hooked up and working.

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My next guest room investment will be a¬†single serve coffee machine so that people can get their caffeine fix before even emerging from the room. Plus,¬†it just makes me feel good to have a little bed and breakfast in my house. ūüėČ

Now, who wants to make a trip to Charlotte?

Black Thumb

We have a beautiful yard. Its large, has lots of big trees and nooks and crannies for the boys to explore.

But.

We are not yard people. I don’t know what to do! I can organize anything. I can create a process that takes an idea to final product with 50 approvals that would BLOW YOUR MIND.

But this?

A mystery of epic proportions.

Clay and I have been homeowners together for 5 years. And we JUST bought a lawn mower. For FIVE years we borrowed one or hired someone.

Let that one soak in.

In an effort to get more “in touch” with our yard, we planted some tomato plants and marigolds. We have started raking up the gum balls. We blow off the driveway on a regular basis.¬†

And, drumroll…we actually are really enjoying it. Maybe we ARE yard people?!?

At the very least, I’m hoping that we can continue to put effort into the yard. The fact that the boys play outside 90% of the time is helping–its motivation for us to get out, too. And, if we are out, might as well water or rake something. Right?

So, if the tomatoes survive the worms, the deer, and the most unlikely, my black thumb. Then maybe we can grow more. Any suggestions?

Fresh20 Hacks

In another post I talked about how much I love Fresh20. And I do.¬†Its pretty quick and very healthy. ¬†Initially, it took¬†me about 20-25 min to get dinner done.¬†But even that was a long time with two little guys “helping.” So, I¬†developed some hacks to cut down prep time and get dinner one the table in about 10-15 min of active time.

Fresh20 already does two things to minimize time on busy weeknights: One:  you cook batches of stuff at the beginning of the week and use them in later dinners that week. Its efficient and makes meal prep even easier later in the week. For example, cooking 8 chicken thighs on Monday, and putting 4 in the fridge for Thursday.

Two: Fresh20 ¬†recommends doing prep work on Sunday–cutting veggies, cooking noodles, etc. But, I gotta be honest, this just wasn’t happening for me. And that was increasing cook times during the week. And with all the fresh veggies (yay!) there is a lot of chopping (boo!).

Now, I know its called FRESH20 (emphasis on the fresh), but I take help from the store and get stuff that’s already cut up/cleaned. I’m not buying processed foods, but a few little tricks have cut my prep time to a minimum.

Garlic, ginger, other herbs:

I use the pastes. They taste great and I don’t have to chop them up.

Onions:

I hate chopping onions. At first, I bought the pre-chopped ones in the produce section. But they are expensive and went bad pretty quickly. Then, I found FROZEN chopped onions and they are amazing. Cheap and easy to use, they have worked in all the recipes so far. Best of all, no tears!

Pre-cut mushrooms (but few other veggies):

Carrots, zucchini, etc. I cut up myself, but pre-cut mushrooms are great.

Meat modifications:

I get frozen, cleaned and deveined¬†shrimp. I ain’t got time for cleaning shrimp. Plus, gross. I also get meat as ready to cook as possible. I don’t get a lot of frozen meat so I don’t have to worry about defrosting it. Also, I get the meat that is on sale and substitute it for cuts mentioned in the Fresh20 plans (that may be expensive)–for example pork chops instead of lamp chops. It has worked well.

Sometimes, I also make the meat in the crock pot even if it doesn’t call for it to minimize active time.

Also, I substitute things that are cheaper or that I already have all the time–spices, nuts, etc. Its weeknight dinners–doesn’t have to be perfect! The great thing is that Fresh20 tries to use similar things across weeks, since those items are already in your pantry.

Also, there is usually enough for Clay’s lunch the next day, which is super.

These are some of the short cuts I use-would love to hear other ideas. ūüôā

The Fresh20 link is an affiliate link. Opinions all mine!

 

 

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