Works 4 Me Wednesday: Saving A Few Moments
Now that I am a working mom I have found that putting tasks and chores off until the last minute only ends in one of two ways: 1) me being extremely stressed out and running late or 2) me forgetting to do that task in the first place. I've learned that keeping a nightly checklist and going down that list after putting my little ones to bed is the only way I can keep everything straight. Below are the items on my checklist. Each night after I put my little ones to bed I go down the checklist and complete all the tasks before heading to bed. This ensures that in the morning all I need to is get up, get ready, get fed, and get out the door. And that saves me a ton of time every morning. (Sometimes I use those extra moments to push the snooze button twice.)
My Nightly Checklist:
*Put away any laundry ready to go
* Unload dishwasher
*Prep dinner for the next evening
*Pack lunches for next day
*Lay out clothing for the next morning
*Any items or errands to be sure not to forget I put on a post-it by the front door
* Shower (I shower at night so that in the morning I just have to get up and get moving. I know others feel totally different about this. )
*Do a clean sweep of the main areas of the house and make sure items that don't belong are put away (This "maintenance" cleaning saves me time during my weekly cleaning on Saturdays.)
*Tie up any loose ends from the day. (This helps me to ensure I go to bed with a clear head and can get the best rest possible.)
*Kiss my hubby, thank God for my blessings, and hit the hay! (Ok- this one isn't actually written down but it is on my mental list every night!)
What's on your nightly checklist that saves you some time?
This week's Works 4 Me Wednesday post is not focused on my typical topics. Usually I am sharing with you a way my family has saved either time or money. But today I wanted to share with you one way we save some sanity. (And Lord knows sometimes this is more important than any other savings!) This past weekend my husband and I were blessed with the opportunity to get away, just the two of us, for a romantic weekend. My MIL (GOD BLESS HER!) gave us a gift certificate to stay the night at a nearby upscale hotel. She kept out children while we went and had ourselves a nice day of shopping, dining at a very nice restaurant, and an overnight stay. We had some time for hiking and running some errands together before returning home. It was a wonderful time to reconnect, for hubby and I.
For us the introduction of children to our family has meant less time alone as a couple. Date nights that actually involve leaving our house (just the two of us) and overnight stays are rare and hard to come by when you have two children who are ages 2 and under. But when they do happen we appreciate them all the more. Usually our dates together are a bit less involved and I thought I'd share with you a few of our more unconventional ideas. Little ones at home? Small amounts of spare cash to afford a date night out? Try these ideas on for size:
* Try a late night run to a nearby doughnut shop to enjoy a freshly made donut and coffee together.
Ask a teenager to watch tv and hold the couch down while you go. (This is nice to do once you've put the little ones to bed and don't expect them to wake for a while. It's an easy babysitting job for even a younger, less experienced sitter. You won't be gone long, and you're still getting out of the house to enjoy time with your significant other.)
* Pop in a Netflix movie and make some homemade popcorn.
When I was a little girl my family used to use the air popper to make popcorn every weekend. Now that I'm married I love to curl on the couch with my hubby for our weekly movie date and pop some fresh popcorn in my air popper. We keep a few containers of popcorn seasoning on hand and we pour on our favorite toppings.
*Use your credit rewards for a free dinner
My hubby and I tried using cash for a while as our budgeting system. It was hard for us to do and we decided that using our credit card for all purchases and keeping track of the receipts is a better system for us. (Go here to read more about the cash system and our credit system.) We pay it off each and every month and don't go over our alloted credit amount so it works for us. Plus, we earn cashback rewards. We save these rewards and mostly cash them in for Christmas gift cards. However, we do take some and every now and again cash them in on a gift card that we can use to go out to eat together for free!
* Indoor or Outdoor Picnic
Eating lunch together after the kiddos head for naps is a nice treat for us. There have been times we've spread a blanket on the kitchen floor or on our deck and made the little ones a picnic. After they head to bed we spread our own sandwich display out and enjoy a nice meal together. YOu could stretch the idea a bit more and add a table, some candles, and some moonlight for more romance!
* Hit the Arcade Together
Near to us is a delicious burger and ice cream joint. They happen to have a small mini golf and arcade. We've found ourselves playing a few too many arcade games together while popping quarters into the merry go round for the little ones.
In the end it doesn't matter what you do. It's only important that you take the time out for one another to re-connect. Your kiddos are better for it when Mommy and Daddy are unified and satisfied in their relationship with one another. What are your best unconventional date ideas? I'd love if you would share....
I have a confession to make. Santa is not the only one who makes lists. In fact, I make them. I make them all over the place. I use more post-it notes in a year's time and more notepads (usually the ones they give out for free around voting time) than any one person probably should. It keeps me organized. Plus, it makes me feel fabulous when I cross something off one of my lists.
What kind of lists do I make? I have a list for the following things on any given day:
*Our weekly menu posted on the side of the fridge.
(Thanks to my friend, Tina, over at The Happy Lil Homemaker I have a really cute, wipeable, one!)
* Grocery List
(I keep this running list on the side of my fridge and just add to it as things run out. It helps me avoid that "now what was it we ran out of...." question.)
* Financial Goals
In our home binder we keep a list of our financial goals we are working towards. It helps when I am having one of those moments where I get caught up in wanting something new that I really don't need, to be reminded of why I don't need it and what important goals I am saving my money for.
*Breakfast and Lunch Idea Lists
I keep lists of ideas for my little ones for breakfasts and lunches. This way when I am stuck for an idea I can just pull out my home binder, check the list, and I have quite a few to choose from.
* Home Project To Do List
Also in our home binder is a list of house projects we want to complete and it is listed in the order we would like to complete them. Usually smaller jobs are at the top, while major renovations work their way to the bottom. This is an ongoing list.
* Daily To Do List
Each morning before I leave for work I write 2 lists. One I take with me to work. This list has on it all the things I hope to accomplish before leaving work for the day. I try not to bring my work home with me. (This doesn't always happen.) I add to this list as the day goes on.
THe other daily list are chores and tasks I want to complete before going to bed each night. I try to get everything off my to-do list before hitting the sack. This list might include the following: windex front windows, laundry, empty dishwasher, prep tomorrow night's dinner, etc.
Sometimes my lists don't always make it onto notepad paper. There are often times when I have completed everything on my list except for one item. Often I will take that one item and put it on a sticky note and post it in a very obvious place like the fridge door, my dashboard of my car, the front door so I see it in the morning as I'm leaving.
I make all of these lists not because I am anal retentive (well, maybe I am), but because it helps to keep me from procrastinating. It helps to keep me organized. And because frankly, it helps to keep me sane! Do you keep a list for anything?
(The bean bags I made. Simple, frugal, and fun.)
I was blessed this week with an extra day off to spend with my children all because a man made a mistake 500 years ago. I decided to use that day to catch up on baking, playing with my little ones, spending a playdate with a good friend, and a fun craft. Together, my daughter (2 yrs) and son (1 yr) helped me to put together about 15 bean bags. I sewed the bags (remnant pieces of fabric cut into 4"x4" squares) while Hannah stuffed them with beans. She had a blast. And Jonah was our quality control monitor. He enjoyed playing with them. Later in the evening we used them for a toss game together in the yard. I would imagine the possibilities for games and fun are endless with these little bags of beans. Jonah enjoyed stuffing them in and out of an empty oatmeal container and Hannah enjoyed lining them up in OCD fashion. (Yes, she is my daughter!) I can't take credit for this frugal fun idea. I've seen it multiple places over the past few months. But if you're looking for directions to make this simple craft you can check them out here or here is a more advanced version. I am also adding this to my someday list of crafts I SOOO want to make for teaching Hannah the alphabet. (I LOVE pinterest.)
Works 4 Me: A is for Apple
Ah, fall, one of my favorite times of year. I love the crisp, cool chill in the air. I love the beautiful ever-changing colors of the leaves. I love the foods that accompany this time of year. And most of all, I love apples.
If you're looking for an inexpensive Fall adventure to share with your family then you cannot go wrong with a trip to your local orchard to pick apples. Last weekend my family and I did just that and walked away with a bushel of apples. I spent the week transforming those apples into all sorts of goodies! I thought I'd share a few of my recipes and apple "treasures." (The picture above is my daughter and I shring a moment in the orchard. She LOVED picking apples and her brother enjoyed devouring them as we picked.)
The first thing I did with those apples was to borrow my sister's apple peeler/corer/slicer and go to town! (I've since placed one of these gadgets on my Christmas list because it made the job 100x easier!) After coring, slicing, and peeling about 20 apples I placed them in a Fruit Fresh solution to help preserve their color and then put them into freezer bags to later make pies with.
The next apple task I tackled was to make applesauce. Again, I cored, peeled, and sliced the apples. (I used about 1/2 bushel for this.) I then placed them into a large pot on the stove on medium with about 5 cups of water. I cooked the apples on medium heat for about 1 hour until they were cooked down. I then added about 1 cup sugar and a tiny bit of cinnamon. Then I simmered them again on low for an additional 20 minutes. (You can easily do this in the crock pot as well, but the sauce tends to get a bit darker this way.)
While still hot I ladeled them into cans with lids and then processed them in a hot water bath for 20 minutes. In the end I was able to can about 6 quarts of homemade applesauce. (You could easily store it in the freezer instead.)
I also, of course, had to make a pie. This recipe has easily become one of my favorite apple pie recipes. It is truly scrumptious!
To make the crust:
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup unsalted butter
6 Tbsp cold water
Combine flour and salt. Then add in shortening and butter using a pastry blender or food processor. Finally, mix in water. Store in fridge for about 4 hours. Roll out and lay in bottom of pie pan.
To make the filling:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
7-8 baking apples (cored, sliced, and peeled)
On your stovetop melt the butter. Add in flour. Add in both sugars and water. Bring to a boil and then simmer on low for 5 minutes. Place apples on top of your pie crust in pie pan. Then, pour sugar mixture over top of apples. Top with crust. Bake at 425 for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and continue cooking for an additional 30 minutes. ENJOY!