8 reasons why you might want to do a staycation instead of vacation…and 2 reasons why you might not

ever-thought-about-taking-a-staycation-here-are-some-reasons-why-you-might-want-too-and-some-reasons-why-you-might-notThis year we decided that instead of taking a vacation somewhere we were going to do a staycation at home.  Michael had mentioned doing a staycation before and I was kind of meh about the whole thing but after another friend shared their experience it started to sound more appealing so we decided to give it a try!

Based on our experience here are 8 reasons you might want to consider a staycation for yourself:

  1.  You get to sleep in your own bed.  When I was younger I didn’t really care but the older I get the pickier I am about my bed!  I just never sleep as well away from home as I do at home and hotel sheets gross me out.  And even more importantly than my own comfort is the fact that my kiddos got to sleep in their own bed (which is, coincidentally, our bed…but that’s beside the point).
  2. No packing.  If you’re an overpacker like me then packing to go anywhere is an ordeal, but especially on vacation for a week!  And when you add kids into the mix you might as well rent a uhaul for all their stuff.  With a staycation you don’t have to pack anything and you don’t have to worry about forgetting things since you’re at home with all your usual stuff.
  3. You save money.  No hotel costs, no plane tickets, significantly less gas usage…that saves you a bundle and make staycationing a wonderful option for people on a tight budget.
  4. It’s easier to eat healthy.  Maybe not everyone’s top priority but it’s important to me.  I’ve packed food with me on trips before so that I could save money and/or eat semi-healthily and it’s quite a hassle!  Doing a staycation meant I had access to my own kitchen and ingredients and food so that helped so much!  We ate breakfast at home most days, I packed snacks to take with us while we were out, and I had yummy but healthy late night snacks.  Of course we still ate out most of the time (it was vacation after all!) and I indulged some but this helped it not be a total free for all.
  5. Less travel.  If you’ve read my blog for a hot minute you know my kids HATE the car.  Well, Hudson is better now but for two years he hated it and now Parker is following in his footsteps.  Listening to Parker scream for hours and hours on end as we drive to a vacation spot is in no way, shape, or form my idea of a good time.
  6. You can stay somewhat on a routine.  This isn’t so important unless you have little kids…which I do so it was important to me!  They definitely weren’t totally on their normal routine but being at home at least for bed time and in the morning helped a lot.
  7. Your vacation can be longer.  With a typical vacation you are limited by the number of nights at a hotel you can afford and you usually have a couple of travel days that eat up vacation time, with a staycation you don’t have to worry about those things.
  8. Less stress overall.  Vacations, while fun, are a lot of work.  Staycations are (in my experience) much more relaxed and less stressful.

…and 2 reasons you might not

  1. If you need to actually go somewhere to feel like a vacation.  Sure you’re off work and you’re doing things outside of your norm but you don’t have the packing, loading, driving, staying somewhere different, arriving home from being gone, etc. that is typically a big part of vacation and for some people being away from home is important.
  2. If you have a hard time not doing things around the house.  You’ll be at home and might have the tendency to fold laundry and clean the kitchen and work in the yard and do whatever other things you typically do during the week that you wouldn’t do if you were on vacation.

I had some misgivings about staycationing at first.  For Michael getting to stay home from work was a vacation in and of itself, but for me as a stay at home mom staying home is…well…just another day in my life.  Also, I was concerned that I would get pulled into the “Let me just fold this one load of laundry” “I’ll just clean the kitchen real quick” “Oh sure you can come by the house, we’re home anyway” mindset since we were at home.

Thankfully we went out and did plenty of things and ate at all kinds of cool new restaurants so I didn’t feel like it was just another day in my usual routine.  And we made a conscious effort to be lazy, relax, watch tv, hang out, etc. instead of doing work around the house.

All in all it was a blast!  I still think vacations are great and I enjoy going new places so we won’t staycation every year but for right now, at the stage of life that we’re in, it was absolutely perfect!

Would you ever consider a staycation?  Or do you need to go somewhere away from home for it to feel like a vacation?

my weekly cleaning schedule

Back before I had kids I would do all of my cleaning in one day.  During the school year when I was working my cleaning day would be Saturday (or Friday evening or Sunday afternoon if I was busy on Saturday).  I loved that – I would clean for several hours, run a bunch of loads of laundry, and get it all knocked out at once.  And for at least a small amount of time everything in my house would be clean all at once.  Very satisfying.

Then I had children.

I really struggled after Hudson was born finding my groove in the housekeeping area.  There was no way I could find a big chunk of time like that but I hated the thought that everything would never be clean at once anymore (ummmm…I shouldn’t have had kids if I expected that, huh?).

So it took me a while and I had to try a few things but I finally found what works (at the moment, life is always shifting and changing as the kids grow) for me.

What I decided to do was to assign one task per day that I could get done in 30 minutes or less.  I considered doing one room per day but then quickly realized that it would be a bit of a hassle to get the broom out every day and the vacuum out several days and the cleaning rags out every day, etc. and that it would be much easier to do one task each day, i.e. cleaning the bathrooms, cleaning the floors, etc.

So here’s my schedule.  I am not super strict about it, in fact I love how flexible it is.  If I’m going to be super busy one day then I double up on tasks another day.  Or if I have an event at the house early in the week I go ahead and get everything done the first couple of days.  If life gets crazy and I just don’t get something done that week…no big deal, I’ll get it the next week.my-weekly-cleaning-schedule

Monday: Kitchen

I have to wash dishes, wipe down the counters, and sweep more than just once a week but I found that after the weekend with us running here and there and Michael being home all day things pile up and the kitchen gets extra messy so first thing on Monday I work on getting it tidied back up.  I do the dishes, clean all the counters and surfaces, wipe down the stainless appliances, and declutter.

Tuesday: Floors

Up until a month ago this was my most time consuming day.  I would move the chairs, baskets and bins, smaller toys, etc. and sweep, then Swiffer, and then mop all of our hardwood floors.  Recently though we bought a Roomba that has been amazing (I’ll save that for another post) and so now I only have to mop after it’s done doing its thing.

Wednesday: Dust

Just a quick dusting of exposed surfaces.  I move a few things to dust under/behind them but I don’t do a super thorough job each time.

Thursday: Bathrooms

Clean counters, sinks, mirrors, and toilets.  I should do the shower weekly too but I don’t.

Friday: off/grocery/catch up

I don’t have a cleaning task for Friday.  Going to get the groceries is my main “thing” for Friday so I don’t schedule a specific thing to clean but if I’ve gotten behind or skipped a day then I use Friday to catch up.

In addition to my weekly tasks we also (usually) pick up all the toys at the end of the day every day.  It seems silly since the boys are going to drag everything back out the next day but it really does make a big differenc.

You will notice that this is pretty bare bones.  It’s definitely not a good, thorough cleaning but it’s enough of a surface cleaning that it keeps my house presentable and livable and able to have people over without freaking out.  My blinds are dusty, my baseboards are dusty, and there are fingerprints on the glass doors so it’s certainly not perfect.  I have a 2.5 year old and a 7 month old so I’m not going for perfect!  Also this is just the downstairs.  We don’t really use our upstairs that much other than to bathe the boys and spray out cloth diapers, so I do clean the upstairs bathroom pretty regularly but we don’t so much dust or vacuum up there every week.  Once the kids are actually using their rooms I’ll add that in to the schedule.

I’d love to eventually have a monthly schedule of tasks that I do one week out of the month or specific things that I focus on each month, but so far I haven’t gotten organized enough to do that so I just clean the other things as needed or when I get the urge or whatever.

Something like this – I actually really love this one because you deep clean each area twice a year, I just haven’t gotten around to implementing this routine myself.  Maybe this will inspire me to print this off and get started!  (graphic source)

deep-cleaning-schedule-2016And one quick note: I do not have outside help cleaning.  Not that there is anything wrong with having someone else clean your house, don’t misunderstand me.  If you have a cleaning person that is great.  I’m only mentioning this because on occasion I’ve been reading a blog where someone shares their routine and their house is amazing and then you find out they have someone who comes each week and also cleans…well of course their house is going to be super clean!  Their daily spot cleaning is in addition to someone else doing a lot of the cleaning too.  So I only made this note so that you know that this is what I myself get done each week – it’s not much but it works for me.

Do you have a set cleaning schedule?  If so, what is it?

how to fold pop up cloth wipes

how to fold interlocking cloth wipes so they pop up from a dispenser

We’ve been using cloth wipes with our cloth diapers for two years off and on and yet somehow I had no idea how easy it was to fold my wipes so that they will pop up from a dispenser just like disposable wipes!  Now that I know how to do this I LOVE it!  It seems crazy but having the wipes pop up makes them much easier to use.

Here’s a quick tutorial to show you how (scroll to the bottom to see a video tutorial)

IMG_1428You’ll need your cloth wipes and a wipes dispenser.  For my dispenser I use a Huggies one that you can get with disposable wipes (we use both cloth and disposable so we have several of these boxes) but I’ve heard a lot of people like this one that you can buy.

Many people make their own wipes – squares cut from receiving blankets or flannel, edges finished with a serger or just left raw.  I wasn’t feeling crafty so I bought some from Tender Bottoms on Etsy – they were $10 for 30 wipes, which I thought was a really good price, and I think I even bought them during a sale so they were a little bit cheaper.  Some cloth diaper brands also sell wipes – Kelly’s Closet is my go-to retailer for cloth diapers if you prefer to do that route.

I pre-moisten my wipes with water so that they’re ready to go when I’m changing a diaper and I don’t have to stop to wet them each time.  I wet them and wring them out so that they’re damp but not dripping then I’m ready to get started folding.IMG_1432Step 1: Lay two wipes on a flat surface, one on top of the other so that they overlap only halfway

IMG_1433I’ve shown the top wipe folded back a little bit so you can see about how far the bottom wipe is under the top – I do NOT measure or anything, just eyeball it

IMG_1434 Step 2: Fold the bottom wipe over the top so it sandwiches it

IMG_1435Here’s another angle showing how the bottom wipe sandwiches the top one

IMG_1436 Step 3: Lay a third wipe on top, lining it up with the wipe that you just folded over.

IMG_1437Another angle for step 3

IMG_1438Step 4: fold up the bottom wipe

IMG_1439 Step 5: Lay a new wipe on top of the folded wipe, lining them up.

IMG_1440 IMG_1441Continue following those steps until you’ve folded all the wipes

IMG_1442Once you’re done you should have a big stack of interlocking wipes. 

IMG_1443Set them down inside your dispenser.  I have 60 wipes and they all fit perfectly inside the Huggies box.

IMG_1444Pull the top wipe through the hole
IMG_1445 And then as you pul out the first wipe, the next one should automatically come through to be used next time!  Nifty!IMG_1447This also works perfectly in the Huggies Clutch & Clean pouches, which it how I carry our wipes in the diaper bag.how to fold pop up cloth wipesHere’s a video showing it as well:
Do you use cloth wipes?  These are useful for so much more than diaper changing so even if you don’t use them for that they would be great for wiping hands and faces, wiping up messes, or cleaning off tables at a restaurant!

new bed and shelves

I have to tell you, Michael is a rock star.  If he decides he wants to learn something or do something then by golly he will.  When he mentioned a few months ago that he wanted to build us a new bed I was like…okayyyyyy.  I mean, he’s done some minor woodworking before, but a bed?  That’s a pretty big project.  I knew he could if he wanted to but I wasn’t sure that he was serious.

He was.

We had decided that we wanted to get a king sized mattress and of course would need a new bed since our old one was a queen.  Instead of buying a bed frame, Michael made ours.  He researched and looked up plans and we picked out a design.  It took him several nights working hard out in the garage and then voila…we had a bed!  And it’s GORGEOUS!  I love it!

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We didn’t center it on the rug and instead pushed it over to one side because Parker’s crib is now attached to my side (I don’t have a current picture, but we turned his crib into a cosleeper so it’s attached to the side of the bed next to me so I can access him easily but he has his own space too).

For comparison, here is our old bed right before we made the switch.  Isn’t the new one a million times prettier?  Plus it is SO NICE to have a king now and much more room.  I still need to get a new comforter or duvet – right now we’re using our old queen one and it’s obviously not big enough but that’ll be a project for another time.


The other big home update we’ve done recently is that we added some built in-type shelves in our living room.  We had this nook by the bathroom and my mom had a bookshelf that fit there perfectly.  It was actually a shelf from the one room schoolhouse that my Mema (my mom’s mom) attended so it’s got a cool history and it’s very rustic and old, which I like.  However, as Hudson has gotten older I started to get nervous that he would pull it over on himself and as we acquired more and more books (par for the course when you’re a former librarian…) we were running out of space on the shelf.

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I started thinking that building some shelves right into the wall in that nook area would be perfect.  Michael had done some similar ones in our bathroom a few years ago so I figured it wouldn’t be too hard for him to do some more.  And of course, he did a fantastic job!

…with a little help from his carpenter assistant, of course!

2016-01-20_08.38.15 copy2016-01-20_08.38.30 copy Completed shelves!

2016-01-21_07.49.07 copyWe gained so much space by filling in that whole area with shelves.  I was able to bring down all the other books we had upstairs in Hudson’s room and fit them on there too.  The shelves are really deep – I’m thinking 15″ or maybe 18″?  Something like that.

Hudson is able to reach the bottom shelf easily so we put all his books that he’s allowed to get out and read unsupervised there (aka board books that aren’t easily torn up).  He can only reach the very edge of the middle shelf but not the books that are pushed to the back so we put his books that have paper pages there (he is not very gentle with them so books like that have to be read/looked at with an adult).  I think Michael has plans for the top to put some of our internet router equipment stuff up there but for now I just decorated it with some of the knick knacks I had on the old shelf.
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I found two bin/basket things at Target that fit great under the shelf.  One holds some overflow books and I anticipate that in the future when Parker is mobile/pulling up but not yet able to reach the bottom shelf we will put books in there that he can get out on his own.  The other one holds stuffed animals.  I loved that they were large, didn’t scream “toys!” like so many of the plastic bins I found, and were on sale.IMG_1327

Here’s a before and after to compare – I’m blown away by the difference!  The shelves just look perfect there…as if it was meant to be!

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I’m going to take a wild guess that our home improvement projects are going to take a bit of a hiatus with a new baby arriving soon but I’m so pleased with what all we’ve done recently around the house – new bed and shelves, plus our gallery wall, toy storage, and entry way shelf.

how to clean your stainless appliances naturally

how to clean your stainless appliancesWe’ve lived in this house for three years and in three years I have not found anything that will clean all of our many stainless appliances…until now!

Stainless kitchen appliances are beautiful in theory but I would have never picked them for myself.  They were already in the house when we bought it and in pretty new/good condition so we haven’t had any reason to replace them.  They are a serious pain to keep clean though!  Every single little fingerprint shows.

There are lots of stainless cleaning supplies on the market that people say work well but as you know if you’ve been reading around here very long I really prefer to use natural methods for cleaning.  And I’ve tried several different things but nothing ever got them really clean.  I mean, I could get dried food and gunk off easily but as far as getting all the smudges and smears off…not happening.

I was really excited last year when I got some Norwex cloths thinking that this would be the perfect solution but sadly it wasn’t.  After doing some researching it turns out that the Norwex envirocloth and polishing cloth are good for stainless but only if they are already pretty clean (more for maintenance).  Apparently if your stainless has ever been cleaned with one of those commercial cleaners it leaves a film that you have to get off first and the envirocloth can’t get that off (ours has never been cleaned with anything like that since we’ve lived here but I’d guess it probably was by the previous owners).

I found some natural products that were supposed to be good for cleaning stainless but they were very expensive and I just couldn’t bring myself to spend that much when honestly, I have a toddler so as soon as I clean them they’re going to get a million fingerprints again, you know?

A few days ago I read something that said, “oh yeah you can totally get it off with an envirocloth, it just takes a lot of elbow grease” so I gave it one more try.  Rubbed and rubbed and rubbed and…nothing.  Was not helping a bit.

(I had to take a picture of my very eager helper using the oven mitt to help me “clean” the fridge.)IMG_9409(Norwex peeps, I am totally not hating on you!  I promise I like my cloths and I use them for lots of stuff…including to clean my stainless later in this post, I’m just being honest that they didn’t work for this one particular thing!)

So after that I was like, forget it.  I’m going to break down at some point and buy the expensive cleaner so I can get my stuff clean.  Someday.  Maybe.

But then I remembered that a friend of mine who is in my essential oils group had posted about a DIY cleaning scrub she had made and I figured I’d at least give it a try.  I mixed up just a teeny tiny bit and rubbed a small circle on the fridge.  Wiped it off with a damp rag and Oh.My.Stars.

Do you SEE that clean circle???

IMG_2570That is the first time I’ve ever even seen any of our stainless come clean!

I still had some left in my bowl so I kept going.  I only had enough to do about half of the fridge, plus we had a bunch of other stuff to do that day so that was all I got done but I kept going back over and over to look at it and I was so excited to show Michael when he got home!

In this picture the left side had not been cleaned yet but the right side was almost done.  It’s so hard to take pictures of stainless but I think you can definitely see the difference!

fridge halfway clean

So enough blabbing…you want me to tell you what I did, don’t you?

It’s really easy.  And I don’t even have a recipe.

ingredients to clean stainless appliancesI made a paste of baking soda, Thieves cleaner, and water.   I didn’t measure, I just put some baking soda in a bowl, added a good squirt of Thieves cleaner, and then added water and stirred until it was the consistency of something like cinnamon roll icing (that’s what it looks like lol!).

My friend Michelle, who is the one who had mentioned that she had made something like this and given me the idea, said that she used Thieves cleaner, baking soda, vinegar, and lemon essential oil.  I didn’t know that when I mixed up mine and the baking soda and Thieves cleaner by themselves worked just great, but you could totally try vinegar and lemon oil too for some extra oomph.

What I did:

Step 1: Mix up your paste

Step 2: Using a damp cloth, rub the paste in a circular motion all over the appliance.

Step 3: Using a different damp cloth, wipe the paste off.

Step 4: Wipe the surface again with a damp Norwex envirocloth

Step 5: Wipe the surface with a dry Norwex polishing cloth

Once the appliance is dry, check to make sure all the streaks are gone.  You might have to go back and do part of it a second time.

Here’s our fridge after I finished the whole thing.

fridge afterIt takes a little time and effort but it works like a charm!  It’s not perfect (I mean really, the only perfect method would be to not have to clean it at all, amiright?) but it was definitely good enough for me!


– It works!  I mean, that’s the main this right?

– It’s very inexpensive!  Baking soda is cheap and Thieves cleaner is cheap too (it doesn’t seem cheap when you first buy it but it’s so concentrated that it lasts forever.  I didn’t even realize how inexpensive it was until I saw this cool chart.)


thieves cleaner costs– It’s safe and not full of nasty, harsh chemicals.


– It’s messy!  The paste falls off the appliance and makes a big baking soda mess on the floor.  It’s pretty easy to sweep up though so that’s not too big of a deal

– It takes some time to do all those steps.

– The baking soda is abrasive so it can be a little hard on your hands and nails.

Overall I am just super, duper impressed.  I have used baking soda and castile soap to clean things like our showers and toilets but it’s incredibly bubbly (because of the castile) so I never would have tried it on our stainless.  The Thieves cleaner though is perfect and it doesn’t bubble up everywhere so it’s very easy to wipe off.  I’m so glad I found this out!

In fact, like I mentioned earlier, I didn’t have time yesterday to do more than about half of the fridge so this morning I was crazy excited to finish up the fridge, dishwasher, oven, and microwave.  It’s an odd feeling when cleaning is exciting!  Ha!  I even let Hudson play in his oatmeal in his high chair (that was another huge mess in and of itself) so I could get some of the cleaning done before he got down and started trying to “help” me.

Now the biggest problem is this…all the appliances are gorgeous and sparkly but the first time someone lays a finger on them they’re going to get a very obvious smudge.  Like, is it super weird that I’d almost prefer the big smudge mess that they were previously because then it didn’t bother me when Hudson (or us for that matter) put his/our hands all over?

(Case in point: I was getting ready to take the “after” picture of the fridge and that little stinker walked up and put his hand right on it so I had to wipe it off before I could take the picture!)

IMG_0982I’m *hoping* that now that I’ve gotten it good and clean that a simple wipe with my Thieves cleaner or Norwex cloths will get the new smudges off and I won’t have to do the whole big scrubbing routine again anytime soon.

Or I could find that it’s a total hassle to keep clean and let it go back to the way it was…you never know!  So if you come to visit me there is not telling what they’ll look like.

But for now…at least until nap time is over…they gleam!

Here are a few more before and afters:

Dishwasher before:dishwasher before

Dishwasher after:
dishwasher after

Oven before:
oven before

Oven after:
oven after

Who is going to run and clean their stainless right away after reading this?

a canvas comparison

As promised here is a review of the three different companies where we purchased the canvases for the gallery wall in our living room.  Now just so you know I am NOT a professional photographer or a photography buff of any kind.  I have no idea what a professional canvas should look like and how these stack up against the really expensive ones.  So this is my very unexperienced review and comparison of canvases from three, random, not-super-expensive companies.
canvas gallery wall around the flat screen

When I got ready to order my canvases I, of course, wanted the most bang for my buck so I ended up ordering from three different sites where I had coupons or found good sales.  I was totally new to ordering canvases or really even any pictures on a large scale (larger than just normal 4×6 prints) so I did some “research” (aka Googling and reading reviews) to try to help me pick companies.  The ones I ultimately chose were: Fabness, Canvas on Demand, and Easy Canvas Prints.

A friend sent me a coupon for canvases from Fabness ($9.99 shipped) so I got two there.  I bought a Groupon for a canvas from Canvas on Demand, and then Easy Canvas Prints was one that I had read about online as being recommended and they were also doing a big sale (80% off I believe) so I bought the rest (5 canvases) there.  I spent a total of about $150 for the 8 canvases.

You can see below which canvas came from which company.  where I bought each canvas

This one in the bathroom is also from Easy Canvas PrintsIMG_0946

Let’s compare:

Quality of pictures

Like I said earlier I am not at all a professional but to me the pictures from all the sites looked great.  They were all clear and looked as good blown up as they did small on my computer screen.

Quality of canvases

Well again I don’t really know what I’m looking for but both the Fabness canvases and the Canvas on Demand one felt really sturdy.  The ones from Easy Canvas Prints weren’t as firm, if that makes sense.  Like if you push lightly on the middle of the ones from Fabness or Canvas on Demand they have very little give, as if there is something sturdy behind the picture.  If you push on the ones from Easy Canvas Prints they give a little (like a piece of fabric stretched around a frame but without anything hard behind it).

Since these are hung on the wall and aren’t really being touched or anything that doesn’t seem like it’s going to be any issue at all.  So while two of them were sturdier overall I think they will all hold up fine.

Wrap depth

From my limited amount of searching it appears that canvases most commonly come in depths of .75″ and 1.5″.  The Fabness coupon and the Canvas on Demand Groupon were for set sizes of canvases, both with a depth of 1.5″.  With Easy Canvas Prints I had to choose the depth myself.  I originally was going to go with 1.5″ so that all of my canvases would be uniform but it turned out that I could save around $25 if I went with the smaller wrap.  I debated back and forth, wanting to save money but not sure if I wanted my canvases to look different.  I ultimately decided to go for the .75″; had I been planning on a wall of *only* canvases I would have wanted them to be the same but since I was planning on putting them on a wall with our tv, some other framed pictures, and some other non-picture items, all which would have varying depths, I took a risk hoping that the difference wouldn’t bother me.

It turns out that (so far) it does not bother me.  In fact, I don’t really notice it at all.  I tried to take a picture to show you the difference but it’s not very noticeable (which is a good thing).

wrap sizesThe 1.5″ wrap definitely makes the canvases look higher quality and more professional than the .75″ wrap so if that’s important to you and/or money is not an issue then I’d definitely recommend going with the 1.5″.

Wrap colors

Typically you have two choices for your wrap colors – you can choose to have the picture itself wrap around the sides of the frame or you can choose to have the picture on the front only and then have the sides a different color.  Canvas on Demand had a third option, which was to have like a fade out look on the wrap that sort of matched the colors of the picture.  That option was called “color blur”.

I only selected the option where the picture wraps around the edges for one canvas – the picture where Hudson is wearing the suspenders and red tie.  If you look at the previous picture where I talked about the wrap depths you can see the edge of that picture.

The picture wrap around is by far my favorite option but it can be tricky because you can lose some of your picture off the front of the canvas if you do that.  The picture of him in the red tie was the only one where I was able to do the wrap without it cutting off part of him.  And that was from Easy Canvas Prints.

Our Canvas on Demand picture, the family picture with Hudson wrapped in the quilt, was the one that had the option to do the color blur.  I chose that one, as you can see in the picture below, but I think it looks pretty weird.  I am not a fan of that effect at all and I definitely prefer the wrapped picture or the solid color sides.



All the rest of our prints (the two from Fabness and the remaining four from Easy Canvas Prints) just have the plain black or dark grey sides.  It’s not a wow factor or as nice looking as the picture extending around the edges but it doesn’t look bad either.

As with the various wrap depths I was concerned about how it would look having a variety of colors/techniques on the sides.  But also like the wrap depths it turns out it does not bother me.  Again, if I had a canvas-only gallery wall I would want them to be more uniform but since this is an eclectic area anyway it’s fine that they don’t all match.

Shipping condition

This is the one and only area where I had issues.  I ordered five canvases from Easy Canvas Prints.  They all arrived in one big, flat box but they were packaged in such a way that they were in a double layer with the images facing inward (I wish I had taken a picture to show you but just imagine laying 3 canvases face up then laying 2 more face down on top of them so the image sides were together).  I don’t know if it was the heat outside from when they were in transport or if the ink hadn’t totally dried before they were packaged, but the canvases were stuck together and when I separated them there was ink transfer, especially around the edges.

I’ve used some arrows to try to indicate those spots.  They aren’t horrible and it wasn’t anything that I felt like I needed to complain about or send them back, but it was still very disappointing.  I guess this is an instance where you get what you pay for (since this was the most inexpensive site I found) but really…how hard would it have been for them to slide one measly sheet of packing paper in between the two layers of canvases to make sure that didn’t happen?  That was a pretty big bummer.


The two Fabness prints I purchased were shipped in separate boxes (I had placed two separate orders) and the one from Canvas on Demand was the only one I got from there, so I can’t say how those two companies’ prints would have fared had I gotten multiples in one box.  All of their single-shipped canvases showed up in excellent condition.

Shipping time

The prints from all three companies arrived within a week of each other (they were all ordered on the same day) and it was maybe one to two weeks after I placed the order.  I felt like the ship time was very reasonable and similar for all of them.


I mentioned some about pricing at the beginning but it’s really hard to compare.  For one, I was ordering different sizes (both side of the print and wrap depth).  With all the coupons I feel like it came out fairly evenly.  I think that Canvas on Demand would definitely have been the most expensive had I not had a Groupon and Easy Canvas Prints was the most inexpensive option but overall they were pretty similar.

Overall thoughts

Fabness and Canvas on Demand were both fantastic.  I was super pleased with the quality and would definitely order from them again.  Easy Canvas Prints was just ok.  Not terrible, but definitely not as high a quality as the other two and like I mentioned the shipping issues with the ink transfer was really disappointing.  However, for a budget canvas they aren’t bad.

I hope this is helpful as you navigate ordering pictures for your home!

(I was not compensated for these reviews.  All opinions expressed here are mine.  I paid for these prints myself and none of these three companies even know who I am.)

living room and entry face lift…finally!

Thanks to the nifty feature on Facebook that shows you your memories from on a particular date from past years I was reminded earlier this week that we bought our house exactly three years ago.  And that makes what I’m about to share even *more* embarrassing!

Even though we’ve lived in this house for three years we had very little decor hung on the walls – a few things, but not much.  And even worse is that we did not have a single picture of us as a couple, as a family, or of Hudson hanging or displayed anywhere.  All these fantastic pictures we’d gotten of him over the past year and a half and not a one on display!  Shameful.

On Labor Day I decided to finally just get it done and order some pictures while I knew lots of companies were having sales.  Thanks to Groupons and sales and coupon codes I ended up getting 8 canvases ordered (and I think it cost about $150 total; I’m totally new to purchasing canvases but I think that’s a pretty good price overall).  I am SO GLAD I finally did it!  They look great!  I ordered from three difference places and I plan to do a comparison/review for you in a separate blog post.

I used a nifty tip I saw on Pinterest where you cut out paper in the size of your pictures and tape that to the wall first so you can determine where you want them.  That worked perfectly!  I was able to easily move them around until I found my preferred placement and then all Michael had to do to hang them was figure out where the nail needed to go for the hanger, put the nail in, tear the paper off, and then hang the picture.  He didn’t have to do all the positioning and measuring that we usually go through when we hang pictures so that was nice.

mapping out the gallery wall with paper

Once we got them hung it seemed like it totally transformed our living room!  It is so fun to actually have pictures on the walls!  Hudson loves them too and points and the ones of Michael and me frequently and says “Mama! Dada!”.

gallery wall in progress

I ended up ordering about one picture per each photo session (newborn, 3, 6, 9, 12, etc.) – it was hard to narrow it down but money and space both said I had too.  And I left plenty of room for us to easily add pictures later on down the road, especially since we’ll be getting lots more pictures made when Parker arrives.  I also plan to put a few non-picture things up on the wall like maybe a quote or a letter “K”.

The same week that we got the pictures hung we accidentally did two more major things in the living room/foyer area.

You can see in the pictures above that under the tv we had a small wooden chest.  We stored DVDs in the bottom and then used the top to hold the DVD player and a few other items.  It wasn’t super functional and was a little smaller for the space that I wanted, but it’s what we had so it’s what we used.  What I *really* wanted was an Ikea Expedit shelf with lots of storage cubes and baskets.  We don’t have an Ikea near us though.

Well lo and behold the exact shelf I wanted popped up on a local garage sale site!  And somehow I commented fast enough that I got first dibs to buy it.  So we did and it’s perfect!  I love it!

ikea expedit for toy storage

canvases around flat screen tv

Prior to this shelf Hudson’s toys were stored partially in the living room and partially in what used to be the dining room and is now kind of a playroom.  We had only one container in the living room (that green tub you can see to the right of the shelf) so a ton of the toys were crammed in there and then the rest just scattered around.  The ones in the dining room/play room were all dumped into one tub as well.  So basically because of how unorganized it was the toys just stayed all over the floor in the living room, kitchen, and dining room.

Now thanks to this shelf we are able to get all of his toys, with the exception of some of the big ones like his riding toys and tool bench, in one nice, tidy area.  I found these bins at Target that fit the cubes great.  I really prefer the look of all the cubes having bins in them but I’m not sure that will work for some of the larger toys so for now we have the four bins with small, loose toys like balls, blocks, etc. and then four open cubes with larger toys.

(You can kind of see in this picture what it would look like with bins in all the cubes.  I would use all the same color but I was just messing around with some options to see what I wanted and this is the only picture I got.)

2015-10-12_12.13.20 copyIt has been amazing how much neater our whole downstairs is now that we have this!  And it makes cleaning up at the end of the day a breeze!  Not only that but Hudson can see and access his toys easier so he actually plays with them more rather than just dumping them on the floor and then walking on/around them.

Then the last thing we did decor wise is maybe my favorite!  A couple of years ago I found this picture on Pinterest of a shelf over a church pew.  I’d always wanted a built in-type hall closet locker thingy in the entry way but when I saw this picture I knew it was perfect because we already had a church pew.  I asked Michael to make it for me and we picked out the hooks but then life got busy and we had Hudson and Michael didn’t have the woodworking tools he needed for it so it didn’t get done.

(This was my inspiration picture I found on Pinterest.  The link says it’s from this website but I can’t find the actual post or page.)

church pew with big hooks

But Michael was able to get it built and hung and it is beautiful!  I love it so much!  The hooks are great and we’ve been using them to hold our bags and jackets and it’s so nice to get everything up off the bench, floor, couch, etc.  We don’t have a mantle anywhere in the house so the top of the shelf is perfect to use to decorate the way I would a mantle, plus it’s up high enough that Hudson can’t reach it.

church pew and hookslove our new shelf and hooksperfect for hanging our bags and coats

I can’t believe how much this space has been transformed just over the last week!  It makes me so happy!

Money Mondays

week 1 why

Ready for something new?  For the next few weeks I’m going to be doing a series I’m calling “Money Mondays” where we’re going to talk about…well…money.

This is something that has been percolating in my head for several months now as a topic I wanted to tackle but I just hadn’t found the right time to get it down on paper…err…the computer.  But after a recent conversation with a friend and then a discussion that happened in one of my mommy Facebook groups I realized it was time.

So why now?  Why this topic?

Well here’s my dirty secret…I have never had a budget.

Let that sink in.  This math teacher, who is married to an engineer, who taught budgeting to her high school students DID NOT HAVE A BUDGET.

Ummm…hypocritical much?

When Michael and I first got married we tried budgeting.  In theory, it’s easy.  You take how much money you make and write down all the things you need/want to pay for and make sure you make enough money to cover those things.

But in practice it’s not so easy.  Because how do you account for the things that are quarterly or yearly?  What about random expenses that pop up?  What about Christmas money that isn’t really income?

Michael tried making an Excel spreadsheet for us but it got so complicated that we pretty much gave up.

We both had jobs that paid well and neither of us are big spenders and so we basically just bought what we wanted and didn’t really worry about it and fortunately we didn’t get into any debt.

Fast forward to 2014.  Hudson was born and I quit my job to stay home with him so we went to one income….except we continued spending like we were earning two incomes.

Just a month or two before Hudson was born we had purchased my minivan.  We paid for it in cash from our savings, which was wonderful, but it drained our savings.  Between that and then spending like we used to, it didn’t take long before we (aka Michael) realized that we were living outside our means and if we continued on this path then we’d be getting into some debt.

Am I an expert at this money stuff?  No.  Am I going to give you earth shattering advice?  Probably not.

Basically I’m just going to share our experiences and what we’ve learned about saving and managing money, and hope that it helps you out too.  The reality is that so many people out there are struggling financially.  Many in my generation have never been taught how to manage their finances and so we’re gathering tons and tons of debt (heck, not just my generation…I mean, take a look at our government).

This is not going to be one of those amazing “I’m debt free” stories!  We (fortunately) got this under control before there was any debt.  See, we are in the very small minority of people who graduate college debt-free.  We both got scholarships that paid for most of our schooling and then our parents helped out with the rest.  All of our cars (the ones we got in high school that we still drive and the van we bought last year) were paid for up front.  We had no credit card debt.  Like I said, we weren’t extravagant spenders.  The only debt we have ever had is our house.

So thankfully we were not digging ourselves out of a huge debt pit, we just were trying to put the brakes on before that happened.  If you ARE in a huge pile of debt, take heart!  It can be done.  I’ve heard some amazing stories (one of my favorite bloggers has one).  Just know that what I have to say may not be what you’re looking for since our story isn’t one that is so extreme.

But if you’re like me, not in debt but not really managing your money as you should, then I hope this will be helpful.  And even if you are in way more debt, hopefully some of the things I’ve learned can help you as well.

Will you join me next Monday to talk about budgeting?  Maybe not the most riveting topic, but certainly important!

For those who are ready and willing, I have an assignment for you:  Before next Monday I want you to take a good, hard look at your finances.  Ask yourself some questions.  

Am I satisfied with my money situation?  Do I have enough in savings to live on if there were an emergency?  Do I have any savings at all?  Am I in debt?  A little or a lot?

Then come back here Monday and we’ll get rocking and rolling on the next step!

my 2015 planner solution {plus a giveaway!}

my perfect planner from thepolkadotposie

Y’all, it took me almost TWO MONTHS into 2015 to decide on a planner for the year.  How pathetic is that?!  I’m picky but I finally found what I was looking for and of course now I have to share that with you!

If you’re a long time reader then you’ve read my past posts about my Erin Condren planners.  And while I still think those are great planners, it just wasn’t working for me this year.  Now that I’m a stay at home mom, obviously our budget has been reduced a bit and spending $50+ on a planner is not a high priority for me.  Plus, the EC planner is just really big and bulky and not at all practical for sticking in a diaper bag to take with me.

So I spent a really, really long time searching for another one.  I have all these different “wants” in mind for my planner and unfortunately a great majority of “generic” planners you can buy at Walmart, Staples, etc. do not have what I want.  I briefly considered designing my own (like I did with my teacher lesson plan book) but I don’t have the graphic design skills to make it pretty so it would be very boring and utilitarian.  And then, and I know this sounds so silly, there were others that were fine but the overall vibe of the graphics just weren’t me.  I know, I know…beggars can’t be choosers, but if I’m going to be looking at this multiple times a day, every day, I kind of want it to be pretty, you know?

Anyway…to make a very long story short, I finally came across ThePolkaDotPosie planners.  The planners have everything I loved from my Erin Condren planner but at a fraction of the price!

thepolkadotposie planner cover

They have an Etsy shop where you purchase the digital downloads for the planner you want and then print it yourself.  I was a bit hesitant about the printing and assembling part but they have great instructions on how to do that (and I recruited Michael for the task of printing it for me ;) )

I chose the small size (5.5″ x 8.5″) with seasonal designs (each month has a different color scheme).  There are also larger ones (8.5″ x 11″) and smaller ones (like the size of a pocket calender), academic year (August – August), teacher planners, homeschool planners, planners for direct sales businesses, event planners, budgets, and more.

thepolkadotposie seasonal plannerthepolkadotposie teacher plannerthepolkadotposie direct sales planner

Each month of the seasonal planner has a page for goals, to-dos, and projects

thepolkadotposie planner monthly goals

Then there is a monthly calendarthepolkadotposie planner calendar page

And then a layout for each week of the month.  You can choose to get a weekly spread without the dinner pots (if you’d rather not write your meals down and use that section for something else).thepolkadotposie planner weekly pages

On their blog, they also have lots of free printable downloads (how cute are these Tooth Fairy receipts??).  I printed off the Christmas organizer and put it at the end of my planner to use at Christmastime and the small planner test pages (that have to do lists, goals, contact information, important dates, etc.) to put at the front of my planner.

thepolkadotposie planner Christmas printablesthepolkadotposie planner Christmas presents

I used 24 lb weight paper (a little heavier than what we usually print on) and was SO impressed with the quality of the planner pages!  They looked and felt so professional!

I originally thought I was going to put my planner in a small 3-ring binder so I punched holes in them but then realized I didn’t like that (it was too hard for me to write on the left side because of the rings, it was bulky, and I couldn’t flip it back on itself).  I then took my stack of papers to Staples and had them bind it into a spiral notebook.  I like that much better!

And here’s how I use it.  On the monthly calendar pages I put appointments and events.  On the weekly/daily pages I use the 3 boxes for my daily to-dos.  In the first box I put the things that happen every day that need to get done (like my chore of the day, laundry, my Bible study, etc.).  In the second box I put other random to-do things that need to get done that are household-related.  And in the third box I put any Young Living things that need to get done that day.

how i use thepolkadotposie plannerI love the notes sections so I can jot down notes to myself and then on the right (cut out of the picture) I can put my to-do list of things that I want to get done sometime that week.

I am so thrilled with my planner!  Total cost was less than $15 so I was super excited about that!

And I’m also excited that one of YOU will be able to win a planner from ThePolkaDotPosie as well!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

(I was not compensated for this review and purchased all planner materials and downloads myself; ThePolkaDotPosie did not ask me to write this review…I was going to write one anyway and then reached out to them to see if they’d like to do a giveaway in conjunction with my review – so these opinions are totally mine and not swayed by free stuff!)

How to remove soured laundry smell

Not that you would ever forget that you had laundry in your washing machine of course, but let’s say that maybe you washed a blanket.  And maybe you forgot about the blanket in your washing machine for TWO WHOLE DAYS.  And then when you realized the blanket was in there and you opened the washer you gagged because the smell was so bad.  And your husband could smell it as soon as he walked up the stairs, not even having to come into the laundry room.  And you were sure it was ruined.

Clearly this did NOT happen to me or anything.  It’s all just hypothetical.

Okay.  Lies.

All lies.

This totally happened. *hangs head in shame*

The smell was SO BAD y’all and I thought for sure that blanket was a goner.

But no worries!  I got the smell out in just ONE washing.  Hooray!  And it was super easy.

I used my normal laundry detergent (I’ve been making my own with this recipe for several years) and added three drops of Thieves and three drops of Purification essential oil.

how to get rid of soured laundry stink

I’ll be honest that I was a little (ok, a lot) skeptical because I’ve dealt with soured laundry in the past and in my experience the smell lingers through many washings.  I love my essential oils but I was sure that it would take more than one “treatment” to get rid of the stink.  But when I pulled the blanket out of the washer the sour smell was completely gone!  I keep picking it up and sniffing it just to make sure and yep, still nothing!

I’m excited to use this next to wash the clothes that were in the washing machine when it broke.  That was four weeks ago and the clothes from that load (which have been washed several times since then) still have a faint sour smell.

(Interested in essential oils?  Contact me to learn more or get started here.)