Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cabinet Organization {before & after}

One of my 2012 resolutions was to get this place organized and clean out the clutter. It didn't start off pretty - trust me when I say that you're about to feel a whole lot better about the state of your cabinets when you see the "before" pictures - but now I'm in love with the storage spaces in my house.

I purchased 20 bins from the dollar store and have been busy getting every cabinet and closet cleaned out. Tuesday is trash day and it's a big deal around here. The garbage truck rolls by and picks up the trash and a few minutes after it's empty, I fill it back up. The local thrift store is also benefiting from my resolution. I've donated several bags and have a few more waiting to go out this week. 

Here's a tour of a few cabinets around the house. Let's start under the kitchen sink. 

Kitchen Sink Cabinet
So much stuff always ends up down there. If it's a cleaning supply or something completely random I would throw it in. 


After:
I put the every day cleaning supplies on the right and the not-so-everyday things on the left along with my dwindling stockpile of sponges and dish soap. Probably most importantly, the fire extinguisher isn't tucked in the back anymore and is ready to go if needed (which we pray never happens). 
All of our lower cabinets have child-proof locks.


Laundry Room
These cabinets are above the washer and dryer and have only served as a catch-all for things that don't quite make it to the garage. Nails, spray paint, light bulbs, etc.

After:
A container for the spray paint, bin for the nails and a bin for the light bulbs. Then I put everything together in these categories:  laundry supplies, tire repair, lubricants, bug spray.

Hall Closet
The hall closet serves as the linen/game/media/decorations storage space. It's painfully embarrassing to post this picture. 
It was a hot mess.

Redemption.
Games on the top shelf. Then towels, linens (table runners, tables clothes, sheets, holiday linens), decorations, media, and DVDs on the bottom.

All of our spare comforters and pillows are in a space bag in the coat closet by the front door. That closet is deceptively large so I fit all of the blankets in there. 


Master Bathroom
Want to guess which side is mine? Seriously, dude, why is the General Lee under your sink? He probably stuffed it down there when he saw how many toys I was stacking in the "give away" pile when I cleaned out the play room. 


After:
On the right - I put the bathroom cleaning supplies in a bin and Mr. G's cleaning supplies :snicker: in another. Once again the fire extinguisher has made its way to the front of the cabinet. 
On the left - I organized my side by hair and face products. 


At the dollar store I also purchased this caddy for my makeup. I holds everything I need daily perfectly and is super easy to take out and put back. There's a clear bin on the left side of the cabinet that holds all of my makeup which I switch out depending on my mood. Right now I'm into soft eyes and apricot blush. 


Playroom Closet
Lastly, the playroom closet. Before the makeover it served as my gift closet and did a fine job until this past Christmas when the overuse of it was too much and it exploded. My excuse, anyway.


After:

It is now the "Princess Closet" where Noelle and my niece, Emma, transform into royalty every morning after breakfast. They also play "fireman" where they close the door, scream, then run out (repeat a billion times).
I also have my gift wrapping supplies and the handful of books that I kept from the enormous library that we had accumulated over the years. It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be to get rid of them. Max Lucado books stay. I kept a few Journalism resource books from college and Mr. G kept a few Science books. The remaining 100+ books were donated. The gifts were moved to the top rack of the coat closet.


Last month I would have died if someone came in and snooped around in my cabinets/closets. The amount of junk that we had was absurd. It is liberating to get rid of the clutter and have fresh, clean spaces. Now I have to work at keeping them this way and tackle the other things on my resolution list

-Amanda

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Gardner Grub- Slow Cooker Sweet & Sour Chicken


As promised here is the recipe for Sweet and Sour Chicken in the crock pot. The recipe includes pineapples and pineapple juice but I forgot to pick up a can (and honestly I don't enjoy warm pineapples) so the picture is without them. I also didn't have a red pepper, so I only used green. That's the great thing about recipes - you can add/subtract to your liking.

Slow Cooker Sweet and Sour Chicken
from Kraft Foods

1 onion, sliced
1 carrot, sliced
1 celery stalk, sliced
1-1 1/2 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs (or breasts), cut into pieces
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup Kraft Catalina Dressing
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tsp grated gingerroot
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 can (8oz) pineapple chunks (reserve juice)
1 green pepper & 1 red pepper, chopped

Place onions, carrots and celery in slow cooker; top with chicken.
Mix sugar, dressing, soy sauce and ginger; pour over chicken.
Cover lid.
Cook on LOW for 3 to 4 hours.
Stir cornstarch into reserved pineapple juice. Add to slow cooker along with peppers and pineapples, stir. Cook on high, covered, for 30 minutes or until sauce is thickened.

Serve over rice.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

under $2 Target Trip 1/22

My trip wasn't as impressive as I thought it would be. My local Target was out of a few things on my list but nonetheless I came home with 13 items for under 2 bucks!


If you haven't printed the $1/1 Up & Up Paper Towel coupon, do it now! The single rolls are .99 making them free. I also used three $8 Sesame Street coupons getting the toys free plus overage.


Free is my kind of stock up price! Have you checked out the store clearance going on? I recently picked up a couple of pairs of shoes for Noelle and bed sheets for 70% off. Great deals going on! And I would bet that there will be lots of mark downs in the clothes departments tomorrow. My store only marked down a few things last week so I'm sure tomorrow will be the day for lots of 70% off clearance stickers. If you go check it out, bring along the $3 off Merona item coupon.
-Amanda

Friday, January 20, 2012

"Uh-oh"

We've heard Noah say "uh-oh" a few times in the past but today it was his favorite word. He repeated it about 20 times while playing with his ball in the kitchen. Then he continued saying "uh-oh" all day after dropping anything he could get his hands on - food, his hat, toys, the remote, his sippy cup, my iPhone.
I chuckled every time he said it because I can't get enough of his sweet little voice.

video


This is the only "word" he has said that I have recorded. I'm always too caught up in the moment to remember to grab my camera when he says "mamma" or "up." Luckily today he offered me many opportunities to capture the "uh-oh" game. 


Love that kid.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Gardner Grub - Honey-Drizzled Sharp Cheddar Appetizer

Honey and Cheese? Yes, please.


This appetizer is a crowd-pleaser that couldn't be easier to put together. Extra sharp cheddar and honey is a decadent combination. Top with nuts for crunch and dried fruit for zing and you'll be in taste bud heaven.

Honey-Drizzled Sharp Cheddar Appetizer
Extra Sharp White Cheddar Cheese (Cracker Barrel brand, I use the pre-sliced block from Fresh & Easy)
Honey, warmed (not hot or the cheese will melt)
Nut of your choice (I used chopped glazed walnuts)
Dried Fruit of your choice (I used chopped dried cranberries)

Just before serving set the cheese in the middle of a platter and drizzle with warm honey. Top with nuts and fruit.
Serve with Apples and Crackers. I also serve a ramekin of honey on the side for extra drizzle.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Noah - 11 months

Noah John is 11 months old!


I'm in complete disbelief that my baby boy is going to be a year old in just one short month. Watching him grow has been an incredible blessing and the memories from the past 11 months bring me nothing but pure joy. I went through the pictures of his life thus far and every stage has been amazing.



Let's review month 10.

Noah started sleeping through the night!!! Finally!!! Last month was crazy with his ear infection/cold. He was getting up several times a night again but now he goes to sleep between 7:30 and 8pm and wakes up between 5 and 6 to nurse then goes back down for an hour or so. I had forgotten how amazing it feels to sleep more than 5 consecutive hours. It's blissful.



He also naps twice a day, at 10:30am and an afternoon nap. The second nap time depends on our schedule. If the cousins are over it's usually around 3pm. If not, then it's more around 2pm.



Noah loves walking around the house pushing a chair. The fancy walkers are not his style, he's a no thrills kind of guy.
video

He is becoming much more independent during play time. In the past he would need either me or Noelle to interact with him and the toys but now he explores them on his own. This month he learned how to stack his rubber blocks to make a tower and really enjoys knocking them down.
This is his favorite toy:
video

He also loves playing with his cars


Noah is a hungry dude. We joke that if he's awake, he's eating. He loves food. The only trouble we have with Noah is getting him to drink on his own. He won't drink from a bottle or sippy cup so all the liquid he gets (besides from nursing) comes from a regular cup which I help him with. I offer a sippy cup with every meal and I have one around with water at all times but he's just not too interested in them. Unless of course he gets his hands on his sister's cup. Which he will chew on until someone (Noelle) snatches it away.



Here's a typical day eating schedule:

6am - Nurse about 6 oz
7-8am - Breakfast - yogurt and banana, and milk.
10am - Snack then nurses before nap time
12pm - Lunch - bread, cheese, a Happy Tot fruit/veggie pouch, and water.
2 or 3pm - Nurses to nap
4pm - Cracker snack and water while I make dinner
5pm - Dinner (what ever we are eating, like chicken, peas & rice) and milk.
7:30 - Nurses to bed

Noah's vocabulary is pretty much the same as it was last month. He says "up" and has said "mamma" several times. He'll also repeat "go" every once and a while.

As easy going Noah is most of the time, there are a few things he does not like. Car rides if he is hungry or tired. Toys that move unpredictably. Getting his diaper changed. And the end of bath time when I wash his hair.

That about sums up month 10! Noah is an amazing little guy. He's happy, curious, funny, loving and has the sweetest nature.


I can't believe you are almost one, Buddy! I love you so much! - Mommy

Friday, January 13, 2012

Target Toy Clearance 70% off - Jan 2012

The big toy clearance happened yesterday at my Target in central California. I made it there at 8:20am and was practically the only one in the store. Definitely no one else near the toy department. I read comments from people who reported large groups in front of their stores before opening and I can't imagine that here. The only other people around were the clearance fairies and a Grandma with 22 grandkids that I coaxed over to the clearance aisles when I found her browsing through full price Lego sets. She soon had a cart filled with Lego's, Rapunzel dolls, Squinkies, and Train sets. 

There were three aisles of toys! The signs were switched from 30% to 50% but only the Lego's and Barbies stayed at half. Everything else went to 70% off, most going from 30% off straight to 70% off.


I gave myself a budget of 50 bucks - which wasn't easy keeping to. I mean, look at all those toys!

But I stayed on budget 1. because we don't need anymore toys in our house 2. I still have a few toys in the gift closet from the July clearance 3. Four (out of 8) of my nieces and nephews have grown out of toys and 4. I'm seriously sticking to my cleaning out the clutter resolution


There were great deals all around.
Rock Star Mickey was $15
 Train Table for $27.
Hot Wheels Set $24

Lots of Thomas & Friends sets, Cars sets, and Lego sets.

I bought almost $200 worth of toys for $50! I put all of my goodies away before taking a picture this year. Little Noelle is everywhere these days so I have to sneak things in Mission Impossible style.

Read more about the Toy Clearance HERE.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

gift package upcycling

Isn't it fun to find new uses for old items? One of the easiest things to re-use is empty containers. They are the best for packaging baked goods. Mr. G recently made our church staff Oatmeal Raisin Cookies to say thank you for all of their hard work over the year. I used Mr. G's Muscle Milk container to package the cookies.
All I had to do was clean the container, take off the original label off and make one of my own.



Look around the house for things you can use the next time you plan on baking up some goodies. I found these in my pantry. Maybe they'll have a second use one day!


Just print out a cute little label or wrap some pretty scrapbook paper around it. Viola. A perfectly upcycled gift container.

-Amanda

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

reflection and resolutions

My husband understands that over the past few years I haven't been big on NYE celebrations. Bless his heart. He doesn't even ask if I want to go out because he knows the answer. The perfect New Year's Eve is cuddling on the couch watching a movie and remembering to flip the channel over to witness the ball drop 30 seconds before midnight.



Mr. G made a few midnight treats because he is a good man who likes to make holidays special.

He poured two glasses of Almond Champagne at 11pm. I had three sips and was nearly knocked out. Such a lightweight.

We made a toast to 2012 and said goodbye to 2011. The biggest change in 2011 was the addition of our little man, Noah. And what a blessing he has been. Noelle turned 3, which Mr. G and I are still scratchy our heads about. How did she get so big? We spent every holiday with family and took some fun trips to the beach. I completed several DIY projects, began home schooling Noelle, and started watching my niece and nephew again. Mr. G took the summer off for the first time since he started teaching 10 years ago, his Varsity water polo team took first place in the league, and he was awarded Coach of the Year!  It was a great year.

I'm not one for resolutions but I decided to set some goals for this year in areas that I could really use work. I want to look back at this post at the end of the year and be proud of what I've accomplished. 

1. Patience and Contentment. Lord grant me patience. I'm not sure why I've struggled with this during the past few years. Lack of sleep, perhaps. Whatever the reason I need to get my heart in the right place and stop feeling so bound up and ready to explode. With that I also pray for contentment. To be content with the fact that the house isn't going to be perfect at the end of the day. There may be a few dishes in the sink, dirty clothes in the laundry room, toys on the ground and that's okay. It's never going to end, so why beat myself up every day trying to make it perfect? There will always be laundry. There will always be something to clean. There won't always be a time to get on the floor and play with my kids or make new inside jokes with my husband. I really need to remember this. Contentment doesn't change the circumstances, but it changes the way the heart perceives those circumstances.

2. Clean out the clutter. I recently learned a valuable lesson. It happened when I was putting away the mountains of Christmas presents the kids received this year. I started taking some out of the packaging and putting a few away to re-open on a rainy day and I thought, "more stuff to clean up, good for me." My thoughts are always sarcastic. With that I grabbed trash bags and started clearing out the playroom. Anything that was missing pieces or just plain ole junk, I tossed. Anything in good condition but was no longer played with went in a donation pile. In the end I filled six large trash bags with toys. And it occurred to me. The less stuff we have, the less time I'll spend cleaning it. And the more time I'll have doing things that I love, like playing with my babies, spending the evening hours with my husband rather than organizing, and having some "me time."


3. Finances. My worst enemy. I hate dealing with money. I suck at it. So this year I'm going to stop sucking and be awesome. Mr. G and I agreed to pay an extra $100 on my car to pay it off this year and to save, save, save! And hopefully use some of the saved cash and go on vacation for crying out loud! We need to get away!
4. Grow out my hair. I'm doing it! My sweet friend, Christina, cuts my hair and she always laughs when I come in and say "cut it off." Because 8 weeks before I said, "I really want to grow it out." I've been curling it a lot lately (see header picture) which has been helping the awkward stage. 

5. Be healthier. No more drive-thru meals because it's easier and faster when we are out of the house. This will also help #3.

6. Read. I was an avid reader before kids. Soaking in a new book almost weekly. But "me time" was quickly overshadowed by a sweet little girl with blue eyes who unknowingly begged for my attention. I'm currently reading The Grace of God by Andy Stanley with my small group and it has been great. I want to keep it up and continue to read a new book at least once a month and read my Bible daily. I completely slacked on this in 2011 so I'm making it a goal. And since I'm going to need God's help with the rest of the list I figure I better get back in His word.

7. Adult time. Go out on way more date nights with Mr. G (we went on 2 last year...yikes) and make more of an effort to spend time with my best friends. Might as well throw in more family nights while I'm at it. :)

Bring it on 2012! It's going to be awesome. 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Couponing - Getting Started

If your resolution is to save money, today is the perfect day to start couponing! There are 4 inserts in today's paper and new coupons have been released on several coupon websites so there is no better day to start your stockpile!


I began using coupons early last year and it has been a huge blessing for my family. The only negative comment about couponing that I get is the lack of healthy food coupons available and I would totally agree, but most of my couponing is used on non food items. Probably 30% food, 70% other goods.

When the opportunity to get free or very cheap items comes along, I stock up. Items such as shampoo & conditioner, body wash, razors, shave gel, make up, lotion, deodorant, contact solution, diapers, laundry detergent, toilet paper, dish washing soup, paper towels, etc. I haven't paid full price for these items since I started using coupons. And many of these things I've picked up for completely free.

Each week I purchase 2 or 3 newspapers with change that Mr. G and I have been collecting for several years. We have a change jar in our bedroom that we joke never gets low. On Sundays (or Mondays) and the first of the month I also print out the new coupons from:

Coupons.com
Redplum.com
Smartsource.com
and Target.com

I also get coupons from:
Catalina - the machine that prints out coupons when you check out.
Packaging - certain items have coupons in the packaging. I look for the packages that say "Savings Inside." These coupons are great because they usually have a long life, meaning they don't expire for a year or longer.
Mailers - I sign up to get mail from my favorite brands. I love the Target mailers but unfortunately there is no sure way of getting them. I think I'm on the mailing list because I registered at Target for my wedding and when I was pregnant. So if you're not getting Target mailers, maybe create a registry and see if you start getting them.
Also, many companies put out coupons on their facebook pages each month and on their websites.

When I clean out and donate my expired coupons I also check my new coupons for match ups or "stacks." At Target you are allowed to stack a manufacturer coupon (MQ) with a Target coupon (TQ) on one item. This allows you the opportunity to get free or very cheap items. Read more about stacking here.

Then I add the coupons to my folder. I organize my coupons with these categories:
Food, TQ Food, House, TQ House, Toiletries, TQ Toiletries, Hair & Makeup, Aaron, Toys & Medicine, Restaurant, Clothes & Other.
I put the coupons that I'm going to use for my next shopping trip in the front pocket so I don't have to search for coupons during the trip. I separate the TQ and MQ to make on the fly coupon searching easier.
This is what works best for me. I've tried using a binder with baseball card inserts but that was a disaster so I went back to my trusty $1 accordion folder.



If you're feeling overwhelmed, relax. The best part about couponing is you don't have to do much work at all. There are fantastic people who do it all for you! They find the coupons, tell you about any stacks, tell you what coupons will be in the paper, list next week's sales two days in advance, and more! These are my favorite sites:

Totally Target
Target Savers
Thrifty and Thriving
Money Saving Mom

That's a quick run down of how I got started and continue to coupon. I found my own method and do what works for me and my schedule. Best wishes to you on your money saving journey!

-Amanda
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