House Updates and Clip-on Lenses for an iphone

Last week I started back to school with teacher meetings.  I usually only teach 1 hour a day, but the week of teacher meetings I’m at school quite a bit more.  I don’t mind.  The staff is fun to be with and they fix us breakfast :)  Really yummy breakfast.

I had big plans for blog posts last week…but I underestimated the amount of stuff I had to do in the amount of time I had to do it.  You know how it goes I’m sure.  We finished the week with a family gathering at our house.  Perhaps this is a good time to note that I am now 39. I love that we have a big family on my husband’s side.  Just his parents, his sisters and their kids (plus us) is 29 people!  My house has been a dirty disaster for months and I was excited for the motivation to clean it up.

I only yelled a couple of times.  I find it helps if I say, “I’m trying not to freak out, but I’m worried about… ” The kids are great about seeing me as human and pitching in to help before I get completely overwhelmed.  If I am getting overwhelmed, I just say “I am getting overwhelmed.”  Everyone can relate to feelings like that.  It’s so much better than screaming and storming around like a 2 year old which still happens except less.

Sometimes I hand the kids something and tell them to hang it in the closet and when I walk by the room I see it in the middle of the floor instead, like they stood in the doorway and threw it in. Please tell me stuff like that happens in every house.  We are working on it.  If I were going to be completely honest, I’d have to admit I still stand in the doorway and throw stuff into my office.


My mom got me a really cool gift for my birthday.  I see they have a magnetic version too.

These little lenses clip onto a phone camera and make the pictures a lot better. My favorite is the wide angle lens.  It allows me to take pictures that are much closer to what I see with my eyes.  The macro lens is cool too.  It allows the camera to focus really close up and get amazing details–like fingerprints on your own finger.

Here’s a shot of the boy’s bedroom without the lens


And with the wide angle lens.  This was a low light situation which is why it’s a bit blurry.


And while I’m being completely random, here’s the inspiration photo for their new bedroom.  We are buying paint on labor day weekend when it’s on sale  :). I’m excited and overwhelmed with the to do list at the same time. The window on the left is a mirror.  It’s the only thing I haven’t purchased yet for the room….I hope it’s not crazy expensive.

Brandon and Grant's Room Gray rugby stripe

I’m not pushing myself to get done quickly.  The goal is to have the room painted and the boys sleeping in there again over the holiday weekend so their school routine isn’t disrupted.  Then I’ll piece the rest of the stuff together as it happens.

The other side of the room will be a saw horse table lego station with toy towers on either side.  I built the towers this week.  I’m not a great builder, but with a few tips from my husband they came out pretty good. I forgot to stain the book shelf…I’ll do it later. The slide out bins are from Ikea’s Trofast line.


While we were building stuff, we put some more touches in the girl’s bathroom.

If you’ll remember the before:

Girl's bathroom before

Here’s where we are now.  When I get more things finished I’ll do a detailed post on just this room. The shower curtain is lowering back down as soon as I can bribe my husband to move it.  I thought I would love it high, but I really don’t.


Here’s a close-up of the towel hooks.  I used the chop saw all by myself after I saw my husband do it once.  I bragged to him how I did it all by myself.  He responded with, “You WHAT!??? I would have liked to have been there for your first time.”  I guess those things can be dangerous.


The hook on the left came with the house.  It used to be green and I rub and buffed it gold.  The other 3 are from Hobby lobby.  They were rusty some kind of metal and I gave them the gold treatment too.  I’m afraid the gold wax will rub off onto the towels.  I’ll let you know how it goes before I can recommend it.

Here’s proof that I’m a sawing monkey.  The compound sliding mitre saw is my new favorite toy.


A lot of things on my Honey-Do list have been transferred to my own list now that I have some skills.




How to Prep Ahead for an Easy Week

How to prep ahead for an easy week

We went camping this spring to visit my sister-in-law and her family in Colorado.  To save money, we cooked our own food at the tent site on a portable propane stove.  It was the EASIEST week of cooking that I’ve ever had, even though I was away from home, living in a tent, and water was a hike away.

It was easy, because before we left, I spent 2 hours prepping all our meals.  I premixed pancake batter into a gallon bag and froze it.  Mixed up casseroles, combined meat with herbs and spices, all ready to dump and reheat.

I figured out some things that didn’t work so well, like putting dry pasta into liquid and freezing it (mush city.) But most of the meals were fantastic.  I thought to myself, why not prep like this every week?  2 hours of work is worth a calm and organized week. Right?

Once you have your meal plan and shopping list, generating a prep ahead guide just takes a few minutes.

Scroll through your ingredient list and action steps in your recipes.  Highlight anything that could be done ahead.  Here are some suggestions:

1.  Cook Rice

2.  Boil pasta (Bag and refrigerate)

3. Peel and Chop veggies (except potatoes or sweet potatoes which turn dark.)

4. Cook and chop chicken

5. Brown hamburger or similar

6. Combine dry ingredients for quick breads or yeast breads. (pizza dough, muffins, pancakes, cornbread etc.)

7. Marinate Meats

8. Combine crock pot dishes into baggies, ready to dump and heat.

9. Boil Eggs

10. Fry bacon

Remember, not everything that can be done ahead HAS to be done ahead.  Focus on the tasks that would have needed to be done on your busiest days.  And tasks, like batch cooking rice, that cover more than one day.   As you get used to the prep ahead sessions, you can add more tasks a bit at a time to prevent overwhelm.

Step 1 to a meal plan you’ll actually follow

Step 1 to a meal plan you'll actually follow

Drumroll please……Here are the survey results!


If you don’t meal plan, you are in the majority.  I didn’t for years either.


When I lived in the country and could only get out to shop once a month, I planned by the month.  Now that I’m back in the city, planning for the week is much easier.  Most of the comments said it was too overwhelming to think about more than one week at a time.  I hear that!


The majority of readers struggle with ideas and then actually following a plan.  I’m no different!  I spend a lot of hours each week searching for new, cost effective, and family friendly ideas–because that’s my job.  It’s still hard to find the time to put a meal together at the end of a busy work day.  I’m always searching and testing to find new ways to simplify this without sacrificing health or budget.


This was the most skipped question.  I think that means the majority of readers are looking for traditional foods with a healthy edge.  Most readers are concerned with fitness and weight management and look for lower carb, higher protein options.  We are no different at our house, yet with 6 growing kids and a skinny husband it’s a challenge to juggle my needs with theirs.

STEP ONE to a meal plan you will actually follow:

Get a blank calendar and make note of the days that you are CRAZY.  If this is the day you need a crock pot meal put a yellow highlighter over the square and if you need something as easy as pancakes (Yes, for dinner) then highlight it pink (too busy in the mornings to do crock pot.)  Leave normal days plain.

I use the calendar program from Microsoft Publisher to meal plan, but you can use a Dollar Tree printed calendar (with puppies or cupcakes) if you prefer.


Then search Pinterest or Yummly (or the recipe section of this site) for the types of recipes you need for your special days and write the titles on your calendar in pencil.

Even though I plan one week at a time, I still record my plans in a month calendar.  That way I can easily see what we had recently and flip back for ideas.

Later this week, I’ll show you how to take the organization a step further so you can easily see what can be prepped ahead in a couple of hours on the weekend.

AND several of you left comments on the survey that will be fun to look at more closely too.

P.S.  Here’s a short video if you want to see details about how I do it. 

When a Meal Plan is Important

When you need a meal plan

When I was a young wife, I didn’t meal plan.  I didn’t WANT to meal plan.  I have a crazy talent of opening the fridge taking out a few bits of that and a smackerel of this and pulling it into a delicious meal.  Some people do cross-words to stretch their mind, I prefer to cook from little bits of nothing.   Doing this saved us THOUSANDS in food costs over the years.  I had little waste, tons of variety, and usually it was yummy.  I shopped for the things that were the best value and most nutritious and made stuff with what I could find.

Fast forward a few years (err 15….) throw in 6 kids, 4 schools, 3 jobs, and all the trappings — my mind is mush.  On more than one occasion I’ve opened my fridge, seen the little bits of nothing and crawled into bed with a bowl of cereal leaving the family to figure it out.

I’m not proud of it.  I’m just admitting it happened. 

When life is so busy that I can’t remember your middle name, it’s time to have a meal plan.  With a meal plan you I a shopping list that allows me to shop once for the whole week.  With a couple of prep hours on the weekend that the rest of the week is doable.

Today was the first day of school for 3 of my kids, plus I hosted a garage sale for 14 families and was running all day.   It was an ideal “hide in bed with cereal” day, but instead we had slow cooked stew and biscuits at 5.  The difference was a plan and ingredients on hand that I could just dump in the crock pot in a couple of minutes.

If you are struggling with getting dinner together or life is crazy busy, I’d like to give you some support.  Will you answer 6 questions for me?

A Few Cozy Touches

There were some things in my master bedroom plan that I had planned on doing from the beginning, but needed to wait to save up a little more cash and take the time to search for just the right thing.

master bedroom 1

Here’s the before.   Read more

DIY Stump Table

DIY Stump Table

All summer, our town has seen one storm after another.  There has been some tornado action, some microbursts, and some general strong wind.  So far everyone has been safe but there are a lot of trees on the ground.  Some of them are huge!

A tree down can bring a lot of loss, but it’s also a lot of raw material for affordable furniture.   Read more

Rustoleum Tub and Tile Transformations Review

Tub and Tile Review

Knowing my bathroom remodel budget was made of pocket lint, I contacted Rustoleum and asked if they would donate some product in exchange for a video, a couple of  blog posts, plus some serious social media promotion.  They graciously declined and bruised my ego a bit in the process.   Read more

How to Choose the Right Area Rug

How to choose the right area rug

Let’s talk area rugs for a minute. They won’t take you anywhere you want to go, but they do another kind of magic.  They take a bunch of individual items and make them one.  When done correctly, you get the feeling that everything in the room is a family.  Area rugs are like marriage.  Never mind, that’s weird. Read more

How to Hang Curtains Correctly

How to hang curtains correctly

What I’m about to tell you will give you the power to change your room from ordinary to amazing.  Yes, your room.

Your room is not too small.  Your ceilings are not too low.  There’s not much in a space that can’t be fixed with properly hung curtains.  Read more