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.)

mini kitchen makeover – new dishes and curtains

Last night I *finally* got the curtains done for our kitchen and I’m in LOVE!  So, so cute!   The fabric I chose looks ever better than I expected and the addition of the curtains gives this space some needed color and coziness.

tutti frutti apple kitchen curtains 2

The fabric I used is called Tutti Frutti Apples.  After two years of living here and never finding the perfect curtain fabric (not that I had looked that hard, mind you) I stumbled upon this last fall at a fabric shop in my hometown.  The fabric was $7 a yard and that was more than I wanted to pay so I left it even though I really loved the fabric.  Luckily, a few months later I was at my favorite local fabric store and discovered that they had this fabric in their $2.50 clearance bin!  Hooray!

I bought all that they had and it ended up being exactly what I needed.   I think I had maybe a half a yard leftover.

tutti frutti apple kitchen curtains 3I thought about doing a picture tutorial but honestly there are a million curtain tutorials on Pinterest and mine is nothing special.  But for what it’s worth, here is the quick Caitlin version:

For a nice, full, ruffly curtain I used 3 times the width of my window.  I didn’t even measure in feet or inches, just held the fabric up to the window three times to determine how much I needed.

I cut split the yardage in half by finding the middle, cutting in about an inch, and ripping.  It thrills me every time how fabric rips in a straight line.  It’s quite satisfying and makes me feel like I’m on Project Runway.  Each half became one valance.

Then I just hemmed around each rectangle, leaving room at the top to slide the curtain rod through.  Fold over twice, press it down, sew a straight line.  Easy peasy.  Really the ironing is the most tedious part.  I don’t even pin and then the sewing goes very quickly (as long as my junky machine doesn’t jam up a million times.  grr).

The sides I folded over 1/2 inch and then 1/2 inch again.  The bottom I think I did 1/2 inch and then 1 inch.  For the top I folded over 1/2 inch and then about 2.5 inches to allow for the curtain rod.

tutti frutti apple kitchen curtains and plate wall

I like to follow The Nester‘s motto of “it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful”.  My edges are probably not perfectly straight and I know I didn’t sew in a straight line but I also know that if I don’t just get it done then I’ll never finish anything.  I used white thread to sew the short sides and then switched to a green that matched better for the top and bottom.  That’s one great thing about the fullness of these curtains (in addition to the fact that I prefer that look) because it hides the imperfections.  I’m just happy to have it done, mistakes and all!

corelle south beach

By coincidence (or probably because my subconscious is drawn to these colors) my new dishes match the curtains perfectly.  When we got married we registered for some dishes from Bed, Bath, and Beyond and I hate them!  They are so heavy and all of them have gotten chipped over the years.  I grew up using Corelle dishes and I love how durable and light they are.  I fell in love with this new (at least, I think it’s new because I don’t remember seeing it when I’ve looked in the past) Corelle print called South Beach and knew I these were perfect to replace our old dishes.  I put them on my Christmas list this year and got enough to replace our old dishes – yay!  It was a fun bonus that they matched the curtains!

tutti frutti apple kitchen curtains

And lest you start to get jealous of my perfectly tidy kitchen with matching place settings displayed, let me assure you that is NOT real life.  This is what the kitchen table looked like about five minutes before I took those pictures.  All that mess on the table got relegated to the kitchen counters for a few minutes while I staged and took the pictures and then back to the table it went.

Just keeping it real for you.

What project, small or large, have you gotten done recently that make you feel accomplished?

 

 

the dining room “after”…and a playroom “before”

Oh hi there.  Remember when we moved into our house?  That was…um…October of 2012.  And how many completed rooms have I shown you since then?  That would be two: the master bathroom and Hudson’s nursery.

Let’s just say I have a lot of unfinished rooms.  But guess what?  Here’s another completed room…sort of.

Let’s check out the dining room.  When we moved in our whole entire house was painted this drab builder beige.  We threw the furniture in there and called it good for a while.

dining room before

Then Michael and his dad painted it a beautiful, happy apple green color and we did a little decorating.

Here’s the dining room looking in from the kitchen (I really wish I had a wide angle lens when I try to take pictures of room decor!)

green dining room

There’s my trusty white china cabinet that has travelled with us from house to house.
green dining room 4
The quilt is an old one that belonged to one of my relatives (grandmother? great grandmother?) that my mom now has and she’s letting us borrow it for now since it matches so nicely.  We just used a large curtain rod to hang it on.
quilt in dining room

Some of my pretty aprons on an old rake

aprons

I love this hutch.  It’s so pretty and rustic and it serves as the perfect place for us to store (and display) the food we canned and some of our serving pieces that we can’t fit in the kitchen.

green dining room 3

The rolled up quilts are also some of my mom’s and the white high chair I found at Goodwill.

green dining room 2

One of my favorite pieces of decor – the fence.  (you can read its story here)
fence in dining room
So, about that furniture set.  Don’t you love it?  Me too!  It’s actually my mom’s.  Prior to moving into this house we’d never had a dining room so we didn’t have any furniture to put in here.  My mom needed a place to store hers so rather than paying to put it in storage she “stored” it at our house – we got dining room furniture, she got storage, everyone wins.

Well she no longer needs us to store the furniture set, so sadly we had to give it back a few weeks ago.

And that’s why this is actually a before picture.

empty dining room

Rather than purchase a new dining room set to take up the whole room and get used maybe once a month, we’re converting this into A PLAYROOM!  The location is perfect – it’s right off the kitchen so I’ll be able to keep and eye on Hudson while I cook and (hopefully) it will give him a place to play so he can be near me but not right underfoot in the kitchen.

Right now we don’t really have a plan.  I’m thinking we’ll put a rug down, some storage for toys, a small table or desk for me to do work in there while he plays (make it a hybrid playroom/office), and maybe a cabinet of some sort to store kitchen items (we had quite a few that were stored in the dining room that we need to find a home for).  If we homeschool it will be the perfect space for that, too.

I’m so excited about this!  At first I was apprehensive about getting rid of the dining room, but when I thought about how little we used it and how much better it would be to have a place for Hudson to play, the idea grew on me.  Plus we have a large folding table and chairs that we can put up when people come over if we need extra seating.

So stay tuned (someday) for a playroom reveal!

 

Hudson’s nursery

Ahh Hudson’s nursery is finally all done!  I’m so excited to show it to you!

big H

First: my goal.  I did not want the nursery to be baby-ish (think pastels, teddy bears, etc.).  I wanted something that could grow with him as a toddler and a little boy.  I also didn/t want to use a theme or any characters, just a color palette.  Later when we discover what he is crazy about (trains, sports, whatever) then we can add those elements into the nursery, but I didn’t want a whole themed nursery to begin with.

green and navy nursery

My inspiration was (don’t laugh) the cover of a Sports Illustrated for Kids magazine.  Back before we even knew we were having a boy I had my girl nursery colors all picked out (I’ve had those for years) but didn’t know what I wanted to do for a boy.  I went to my school mailbox one day and the library’s monthly copy of Sports Illustrated for Kids was there.  I care not one bit about sports and usually never give it a second glance, but this particular month I was struck by the beautiful color scheme.

sports illustratedI snapped a quick picture of it and then after we found out we were having a boy I just couldn’t stop thinking about the beautiful apple green and navy…thus our nursery colors were born.

The next thing to do was to pick fabric and paint.  We decided to paint the walls a very light blue, and then use green and navy accents around the room.  I was afraid a green or navy wall would be too much, and I think the light blue is a great background for the rest of the colors.

nursery fabric

I found most of my fabric at this great little fabric store near Bowling Green called Whittle’s.  They have tons of beautiful fabrics at great prices (they also have an online store if you want to check them out).  I was able to get fabric for the curtains, sheets, and quilt (and I knew I’d have leftover from the quilt to use for smaller things, like pillows).  The fabric for the crib skirt I found at JoAnn’s.  It is a heavier, decorator fabric (I think that’s what it’s called) and I think that helps it hang straight and crisp.

The first thing I made was the quilt.  I know babies don’t even need quilts, but I feel like it’s the anchor point of the nursery, plus it’s a special keepsake that I wanted to make for Hudson.  I looked at tons of baby quilts online but I kept coming back to the same design – just straight pieces of fabric in varying patterns.  It’s such a simple design and almost too easy, but I just love it.  My main inspirations were this quilt and this quilt (plus tutorial).

green and navy nursery crib

After searching quite a bit online for crib sheets and not coming up with anything that I just loved (most ready made ones were pastels and boring, the custom ones were way too expensive), I decided to make them myself (well actually I complained to Mom that I couldn’t find any I liked, she said surely we could make them ourselves, and then proceeded to find a tutorial online for me to use).  I made three sheets using some of the fabric that I got at Whittle’s.  The tutorial that I followed was so very easy and I whipped those suckers up super fast.  I was a little intimidated by the elastic part, but Mom walked me through the first sheet and once I realized how easy it was, I was good to go.  A little tip if you decide to ever make your own sheets…buy your fold over elastic at Hobby Lobby if you can.  I started off ordering from Walmart.com, but then found some later at Hobby Lobby where I didn’t have to pay shipping and could use a 40% off coupon, so I bought the elastic there and returned what I got from Walmart.

green and blue nursery

Let me tell you, making all this stuff for the nursery was a fantastic learning experience.  Not only did I get to learn how to make crib sheets, I also made my first set of curtains.  They were ridiculously easy and I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to make any!  The ironing is a bit tedious, but as long as you can sew in a straight line you are good to go.  I just made a basic floor length panel curtain with a pocket at the top.  I used this tutorial to help me with the main part of the curtain, and then these instructions to see how to make the pocket.

The crib skirt was the easiest of them all.  I made four panels, basically the same way I made the curtains, and then attached them to the crib by tying them to the springs on the bottom.  This is the tutorial I followed.

green and blue nursery changing station

I forwent the traditional changing table and decided to use a dresser so I could have storage plus a changing station on top.  My grandparents had one in their basement that belonged to my mom when she still lived at home that I was able to use.  We took off the original hardware, Mom painted it this beautiful blue color, and then Michael put on new knobs that I found at Hobby Lobby.

changing station dresser

After all the big stuff was done, it was time to decorate!

Michael has been such a trooper – first I requested the stripes that were way more difficult than I ever dreamed, then I decided to make some string art for the nursery.  I saw this awesome name sign for sale on Etsy (via Pinterest of course – Michael is going to ban Pinterest if I keep coming up with more projects!) and decided that I could make it myself.  As always, my “simple” project took way longer than expected.  The wood took multiple days to dry after being stained.  Then, because it was such a hard wood, Michael couldn’t hammer the nails in without them bending, so he had to pre-drill a hole for every single nail, then go back and hammer in the nail.  Then, the nails were longer than the board and stuck out the back, so he had to saw off the ends of each nail that had come through the back.  He worked so hard on it and I love how it turned out.  Then I got the easy part…putting the string on!  I know there has to be some sort of mathematical method to making the letters with the string, but I didn’t care to spend time figuring it out so I just randomly wove the string around.  I’m very happy with it and think it turned out great!

nursery string art

Inspired by some mobiles I’d seen on Pinterest, my brother helped me whip up this super easy mobile – an embroidery hoop painted to match, and circles of scrapbook paper sewn to ribbon.  My father-in-law cut out the big “H” for above the crib.

green and navy nursery mobile

I also wanted something to go above the changing table so I wrapped four 12×12 canvases with leftover fabric and used my Silhouette Cameo to cut out some cute “art”.

nursery canvases

My original plan was navy and apple green with some light blue.  You may have noticed a little red thrown in.  Here’s why.  We have this little bookcase, which was in my brothers’ room when they were little and I’ve used all through college and since as extra storage (you might remember it from our bathroom in the before pics).  I knew I wanted to use it in the nursery so we put it in there until we could get around to painting it.  Well, for one I ended up really liking the red, and also I felt so bad asking Michael to do so much stuff to get ready for Hudson that I just couldn’t bring myself to ask him (or my mom, or my father-in-law) to paint anything else.  But I actually love it, and I just then incorporated a little red into other areas of the room to tie it all together.

red bookcase

I looked for a nightstand for what seemed like forever.  I couldn’t find anything that wasn’t super expensive, until I stumbled upon a great deal on Amazon – this nightstand was on sale for $8.  Eight dollars!  I snapped it up immediately and it works perfectly.  Plus it has extra storage – added bonus!

I also really wanted a red lamp but we looked high and low without finding one (plenty of red lamp shades, no red bases), so finally I just bought a cheap-o from Lowes and painted it red with craft paint.  Don’t look too closely because it’s not the best paint job in the world, but from afar it looks pretty good.

polka dot end table

I love, love, love how everything turned out!  Now we just need a Hudson to complete the space :)

A few more pictures for your viewing pleasure:

Hudson's nurserylooking in to the nursery
Hudson's nursery 2nursery string art 2his closet on the left, attic access on the right

nursery closet

baby books

 

master bathroom before and after (how to maximize your tiny bathroom)

before and afterI love our house, but like every house (unless you custom build, I suppose) it isn’t perfect.  One of my biggest problems is that there is only one closet (and one pantry, which I guess sort of counts) for the whole downstairs – master bedroom, master bath, entryway, living room, kitchen, dining room, and half bath.  ONE closet.  The one in our bedroom.  It’s a big closet, but still…

The lack of storage space downstairs has been a challenge, so I made it a big priority to fit as much stuff into our master bathroom as possible.  Thanks to Pinterest and my handy husband, we were able to come up with some easy, fairly cheap solutions.  Now everything bathroom related (even some rarely used things that I had been storing in the upstairs bathroom or elsewhere in our bedroom) is all nice and organized in our bathroom.

Here’s the bathroom before – the generic “builder beige” color that our whole entire house was painted when we first moved in.  Not the worst color in the world, but a little boring – especially when that’s the color of your whole house.  Other than putting the towel bars on the door so we had a place to hang our towels, we hadn’t done anything else to the bathroom.  We stuck that little red bookcase in behind the door to use as storage until we decided on something permanent.

master bathroom beforeMy huge nesting to-do list included painting the bathroom, so Michael, his dad, and my mom all had a hand in getting our bathroom painted (apparently despite their small size, bathrooms are hard to paint – who knew?).  We went with a light blue gray color that was about two shades lighter than the color of the walls in our bedroom.

bathroom being painted

Once the bathroom was painting my job (the fun part) began…getting everything organized and decorated!  Our bedroom is a blue-gray, with neutral (mostly white) bedding, rug, curtains, etc.  I’m using gray and yellow as accents, but I kept the “big” stuff mainly blue and white so it would be easy to redecorate later on down the road.  I did the same with the bathroom – a lighter blue-gray and neutral (tan/white) with a few hints of gray and yellow.  I’m pleased with how it turned out!

hanging towels on doorOne of the first things we did, before we even started the organizing and decorating process, was hang towel bars on the back of the bathroom door so we would have a place to put our towels.  I love that the towels are hidden (the bathroom door is usually open so the towels are kind of behind it) and that it keeps us from having to hang them on the wall (I don’t like the idea of wet towels against the painted wall).

shelves above doorMichael built this shelf above the door for us to store our lesser-used items.  He bought a piece of wood at Lowe’s, painted it, and attached it with the brackets.  The three baskets contain our extra bed linens, spa/pampering type things that I don’t use much, and extra items (extra toothbrushes, floss, body wash, etc.) for when we run out.

I love utilizing this out of the way, wasted space.  A word of caution though – it is somewhat hard to get to the baskets.  I’m 5’7” and I can barely get them down, especially the heavier ones.  If you are short you may want to skip this (or keep a step-stool handy).  That’s why I put the things we rarely use up there, other than the extra bed sheets but they are so light that it’s pretty easy to get that basket down.

laundry nooklaundry sorterThis laundry sorter is another new (and very well worth it) addition.  We previously just used one large laundry basket in our bedroom and then I had to sort through it each time I needed to do a load of laundry.  Thanks to all the new storage and organizational things I was able to get rid of that little red bookshelf, and this fit perfectly in its place.  Now the dirty laundry doesn’t have to be out in our bedroom anymore and it’s mostly hidden by the door when it is open.

I also am so happy that we now sort as we go.  We have a section for colors, whites/Michael’s work clothes (we don’t usually have much of either of those so we combined them), and delicates.  Now I can see at a glance which group of clothes needs to be washed and I don’t have to dump everything out to sort and collect them.  Also, those bags lift up off the frame so that I can just carry a pre-sorted bag upstairs and dump it right into the washing machine.  Genius.

I hesitated spending money on a new laundry hamper when we had a perfectly good plastic one already, but this has definitely been worth the money.

vanityThe vanity really wasn’t that bad to begin with, and I don’t like having lots of stuff out that I have to clean/clean around all the time, so I tried to streamline the best I could.  It’s hard to get a good picture due to the dark wood, but there are four drawers (two on each side) and one large cabinet-thing with doors under the sink.

q-tips and cotton ballsThis little three-tiered metal thing from Hobby Lobby is perfect for q-tips, cotton balls, and hair accessories…all things that we use frequently.

make up organizerA makeup organizer was another little splurge that I’m so happy I got!  My makeup used to be in three different bags that I had to open and dig through every morning.  Now it’s all out and easy to access.  It shaves a bit of time off my getting ready process and my hit-the-snooze-button-over-and-over-until-I’m-running-late self appreciates the extra time.  I still haven’t put my lipsticks in there yet, but everything else is nicely organized and easy to find.

bathroom sink organizationThis is one of my favorite parts of our bathroom.  I was inspired by this post and knew that using all that vertical space under the sink was imperative to us being able to store everything in our bathroom.  These little stacking bins from the Container Store are amazing and have added so much extra storage space to this area!  I wish I had a before picture, because I couldn’t get nearly this amount of stuff under the sink (and definitely not this organized!) before.  It makes me happy for everything to have a home.

shelves above toiletProbably my favorite part of our bathroom re-do are these shelves above the toilet.  My handy-man steps in again – he cut, sanded, painted, and installed these shelves for me.  A word of advice in case you want to DIY, make sure that the shelves, or at least the bottom one, lifts off so you can get to the toilet tank.

Adding these three simple shelves gave us so much more storage space!  I now have spots for extra bath towels, hand towels, wash cloths, toilet paper, etc.

towel baskettoilet paper basketI used my new Silhouette Cameo to make labels for all the baskets.

you are my sunshineI’m not really big on decorating bathrooms, but I did make this cute little yellow and gray “You are My Sunshine” sign.

yellow and gray rugAnd finally we finished it off with a cute new rug to replace the old bath towel we were using as a bath math.

I am amazed at how different and much more functional the bathroom is now!  Not only is it prettier, but we are able to neatly store tons more than we were able before.

This is the first room in our house that I can finally say is completely done!  It’s about time, dontcha think, since we’ve lived here for over a year?  Stay tuned for my next finished room reveal coming later this week…Hudson’s nursery!  I’m so excited to show it off!

Source list:
– laundry sorter (Target): here
– striped baskets above the door and toilet are from Bed, Bath, and Beyond (I looked all over their website but couldn’t find them; they were in the stores very recently so I don’t know why they aren’t online): similar (same basket, different print)
– makeup organizer: here (I actually found the exact same one at Bed, Bath, and Beyond for cheaper than the Amazon one I linked to, but again, I can’t find it on BB&B’s website…check in the store though because it’s been within the last month that I bought it)
– gray and yellow chevron rug (Target): here
– vertical stacking bins for under the sink (Container Store): here

Hudson’s quilt

navy and green baby quilt front

Hudson’s quilt is finished!

This stack of fabric

fabric for Hudson's quilt

has turned in to this beautiful baby quilt.

navy and green baby quilt stripes

Sigh.  I love it so much.

When I first started thinking about Hudson’t quilt I (of course) turned to Pinterest for inspiration.  I looked at tons and tons of baby quilts and just quilts in general, but I kept coming back to this one and this one.  At first I balked a little at how simplistic they were and thought “Shouldn’t I make something more intricate for my baby?”, but since the basic stripes were hands down my favorite design I just decided to go with it.

Over fall break I headed to Whittle’s, a little fabric store about 30 minutes from here (and also online if you’re interested), and found 12 different fabrics to use for the quilt as well as the rest of the nursery.

quilt math

Other than the quilting, this was super quick to put together.  I did all of it (minus the quilting and binding) in one day over fall break.  Figuring out the math was the most time consuming part just because I had to try various combinations of strip widths before I was finally happy.  Just in case you want to make one for yourself, I thought I’d include my measurements for you and save you a step.

The quilt has 12 different fabrics, two strips from each, for a total of 24 strips.  I cut:
four 1.5 inch strips (two from one pattern and two from another)
four 2 inch strips (again, two from one pattern and two from another)
four 2.5 inch strips
four 3 inch strips
four 3.5 inch strips
four 4 inch strips

I placed one from each pattern in an arrangement I liked, sewed them together, and then repeated that pattern once more.

Here’s something I learned: press your seams to one side or the other rather than pressing the open.  At first I was pressing them open because I liked how they laid nice and flat when I did that, but I guess that was stretching the fabric a little because each stripe got more and more curved as I went along.  I switched to just pressing the fabric to one side and that seemed to help.  I’m sure there are other ways to avoid the pieces curving but I have no idea what that might be.

navy and green baby quilt front

My finished quilt is about 38 inches wide and 49 inches long.

I knew I wanted to do something a little bit different to the back (rather than just one plain piece of fabric) but I wasn’t sure what exactly.  The back ended up being born out of necessity since I didn’t have enough of any one fabric for the back so I inserted the green panel to make it big enough.  I really like how the fat green stripe kind of echoes the skinnier stripes from the front.

navy and green baby quilt back

Like I said, in that one day over fall break I got the quilt top designed, measured, cut, and sewn.  I cut and sewed the back, I pieced together my batting (I had some left over from some other quilting projects so I pieced them together to use for this quilt rather than buying more), and basted the whole thing together.

navy and green baby quilt quilting

I hand-quilted it so that part has taken me a while.  I chose to do very simple quilting, just echo quilting next to each seam.  Then this week I was able to sign the quilt and put the binding on.  If you machine quilt I bet you could get this quilt done in less than two days.

navy and green quilt binding

Lots of people make labels for their quilts but so far (on the whole two quilts I’ve ever done), I’ve chosen to embroider my label.  I’m already hand quilting and hand binding, so I don’t mind the time it takes to do hand embroidering.  It’s not the neatest label ever (I haven’t embroidered in probably 15 years so it’s pretty sloppy), but it’s meaningful and that’s what matters to me.

Hudson's signed quiltembroidered quilt labelThe green didn’t show up quite as well against the plaid as I expected so it’s not that easy to read, but it says “to Hudson, Love Mommy, November 2013″.

And here it is in the nursery (plus a little nursery sneak peek – we’re not quite finished but getting so close and I can’t wait to show you the whole thing!)

crib with quiltnursery sneak peekI can’t wait to get a picture of Hudson with his new quilt…less than three more months!!

project elephant

Abbie from M is for Mama started this challenge called Project Elephant, where you “chew through your to-do list one bite at a time” (you know, because of the old saying…How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time).  Then be proud of what you’ve gotten done and show it off!

Well believe me, I have quite the to-do list right now.  I am in full swing getthehousereadybeforebabycomes mode and am nesting for sure.  All through October we’ve been taking some bites out of the list and Saturday, since I knew it would be a hard day for me, I tried to keep as busy as possible by having a mini-work day at our house.  I’m excited to show you what we’ve gotten done, but I’m also super nervous.  Why?  Because I prefer to wait until a room is completely done, clean, and staged before I show it off.  But instead I’m stepping out of my comfort zone and snapping some “in progress” pictures.  Junk laying around, messy, real life stuff.

Without further ado, here are some of our completed projects.

1.  Paint the dining room and master bedroom

I had never picked out paint before.  We’ve always just left our apartments or houses whatever color they previous owners’ used (every place we’ve lived has had a fairly neutral color scheme that matched our furniture well enough).  This house was painted all one color, what I liked to call Builder Beige.  It wasn’t hideous, but I really wanted to add my own personal touch.  After much thinking and nervousness about picking paint, I finally just went for it.  Michael and his dad knocked both of these rooms one Saturday.  The ceilings are really high so they were not the easiest things to paint, but they turned out fantastic and I am in love with the colors for both rooms.

apple green dining roomI went with an apple green color for the dining room.  I almost went with a red dining room but I’m so glad I decided to grab some green paint chips, too, because I ended up liking that so much more.

blue bedroomOur bedroom is a deep blue-gray (it looks a little more blueish-purple in this picture than it does in real life).  I’m slowly transitioning our room from brown and blue (you can see our old bedskirt in the picture) to a more neutral palate of white, navy, and gray with yellow accents.

2. Stain the deck

This was actually Michael’s big thing he wanted to tackle before it got too cold, and it definitely deserves a mention.  The person who we bought our house from basically flipped the house – he bought it from the previous owners, fixed it up, and then turned around and sold it.  That was great for us because our slightly old house (11 years, I think?) had been updated with all new flooring, carpeting, paint, and appliances.  He also built a new deck on the back of the house but it hadn’t been stained or treated yet.

Michael pressure washed the desk and then he and his dad treated it with some stuff that stains and seals the deck.  I don’t know what it is exactly, but I do know it is a nice, pretty color now and that water beads up on the deck when it rains.

staining the deckThat back corner (the goldish color) is what it looks like with the new stain on it.  The front part (that almost white wood), is the oRIGINl, pressure washed wood.  It looks great now and it’s all ready for winter.

3.  Paint the desk for the foyer

I bought a desk months and months ago for our foyer but it’s taken me this long to get around to painting it.  My inspiration was this picture from Pinterest, and even though I used the same color of yellow that they used I feel like it missed the mark just a little.  My yellow turned out a little more lemony when I was expecting a buttery color.  Part of that could be because it’s in front of a beige wall, which I knew was a risk putting yellow against beige but I went for it anyway.  For now I’m just living with it and hoping it grows on me.  My mom spent a long time painting it for me and it is beautiful, just not what I expected exactly.  I do love the turquoise knobs from Hobby Lobby!  I think they take it to a whole ‘nother level.

yellow dresser with turqoise knobs

4.  Buy a rug for the living room

This was another one of those things that made me very nervous.  I haven’t made all that many big, expensive purchases in my life and I’ve definitely never bought carpet or rugs.  I looked and looked for weeks at rugs before I finally stumbled upon this one from Overstock.  I was hesitant to buy online having never seen it in person before, but I am beyond thrilled with how it looks!

I originally didn’t plan to get a rug at all.  I liked the ease of cleaning our hard floors just by sweeping, swiffering, and mopping.  I could see all the dust I was getting up and it made me feel like everything was nice and clean.  However, everything in the room was beige – beige walls, beige furniture, light wood flooring, and fairly light wood furniture.  I want to paint those walls eventually, but the kitchen, living room, foyer, stairwell, and bonus room are all connected in one big continuous loop so picking one paint color for all those rooms (or figuring out how to break the rooms up without looking weird) and tackling the painting job is just too overwhelming.  So for now, I’m just trying to bring some color to the room by getting new throw pillows, a colorful rug, etc.

Also, as I thought about the fact that we’ll soon have a little one crawling around everywhere I figured it’d be nice to have a soft spot for him and not just hard floors everywhere.

polka dot rug

5.  Paint Hudson’s nursery

My mom painted the base coat (the light blue) a few weeks ago, and then Michael tackled the stripes this weekend.

360 laser to tape off stripesHe used this 360 laser thing that he borrowed from a friend of ours (thanks, Jim!).  It sits on the tripod and spins really fast and makes a nice, level line on the wall, which Michael then followed with painter’s tape.

taping off the stripeThe tape actually looked really good just by itself and even matched our color scheme!  How funny!

painting stripes in nurseryMichael and his dad filled in the stripes with navy and green, and then once it was dried we peeled it off.

navy and green stripe in nurserycompleted navy and green stripe in nurseryHow great does that look?!?!  I am so, so happy with the way it turned out!  (apologies for the grainy nighttime cell phone picture)

6.  Paint the half wall in the office/bonus room

Remember my wonderful (albeit quite the hassle to get home) Ikea Expedit shelves?  Well, I really wanted to paint the half wall behind the shelves so that the color peeked through the back of them.  I picked out a nice deep turquoise color and Michael and his dad slapped that on there for me this weekend.

painting half wallI’ve never actually painted a wall before so I figured it would be safe for me to do the one that would be hidden mostly behind a bookcase for my first attempt.  Actually, I just painted Hudson’s name and then Michael painted over it to fill it in.

painting the turquoise half wall

IMG_8627 IMG_8629

7.  Paint the master bathroom

Our bathroom is now a nice blue gray color, just a shade or two lighter than our master bedroom wall color.  I forgot to take a picture once it was painted, but here are some in progress pictures so you can see the color.

painting master bathroom

master bathroom in progress

8.  Paint and finish the dresser for Hudson’s nursery

We got an old dresser from my grandparents, Mom repainted it blue for us, and then we changed out the knobs for some that matched his room.

navy dresser redo navy dresser with polka dot knobs

Whew!  What a few weeks it has been!  I am so pleased with how much we’ve gotten done, and I’m so thankful to have a husband, mom, and father-in-law who have been willing to help me get all these items checked off my list.  There is still much to do, but we’re getting there!

Join me in celebrating the little things – What is one thing you got checked off your to-do list this weekend?

dryer sheet alternatives – help!

dryer sheets[source]

Today’s Works for Me Wednesday post is actually a What DOESN’T Work for Me Wednesday.  And I need help figuring out what DOES work, so I’m turing to my best resource…the blogging community and my readers!

If you’ve been following me for the last year or so then you know that I’ve started to turn into a crunchy-hippie-type tried to alter some areas of our lives to be more natural.  I’ve been using natural cleaners and natural laundry detergent for nearly a year with no problems at all.  Something that I’ve held off on, though, has been my dryer sheets.  Mostly just because I already had bought a bunch and wanted to use those up first, but I always intended to seek a more natural alternative once those were gone.

Can I just back up and say that I (more accurately my mom, since she did the laundry) never used dryer sheets until college.  I really don’t remember our clothes ever being static-y growing up, and so maybe there wasn’t a need.  But when I went to college and started doing my own laundry I discovered the frustrations of static and the wonderfulness of dryer sheets.  I’ve been using them ever since, except on Michael’s work clothes.  He has to wear special arc-flash protection clothes to work and we can’t use dryer sheets on them.  Let me tell you, that load of laundry each week is the worst because the static is insane…especially in the winter.

So a month or so ago we finally ran out of dryer sheets.  I then embarked on an experiment (mostly things I found on Pinterest) to find an alternative to keep our clothes from getting full of static.  Sadly, I didn’t find a single thing that worked.

Here’s what I tried:

  • Putting vinegar in the rinse cycle of the washing machine (vinegar supposedly acts like a fabric softener and get the static out as well) – No dice.  The clothes still had static.
  • Soaking a rag with vinegar and putting it in the dryer with the wet clothes – Again, nothing.  Michael thought the clothes smelled like vinegar, but I didn’t notice that.  However, I did notice that they still had static.  Boo.
  • Putting a ball (or two) of wadded up aluminum foil in the dryer – Nope.

After a few weeks of trying various things with little to no results, we finally broke down and bought some more dryer sheets.  And that’s what I’m using until I think of something else.

The only thing I haven’t tried yet are these felt-like balls that I’ve seen people sell at the farmers market.  They say they can be used instead of dryer sheets, but I haven’t bought any to try yet.

Oh, I’ve also heard to soak a rag with fabric softener and put that in your dryer with the clothes – I think that might work as a money saving alternative, but I’m looking for something more natural/less chemical.  I feel like fabric softener will have just as many chemicals as dryer sheets.

So…HELP!  What do you use as a dryer sheet alternative?  Is there something else out there that I haven’t tried?  I’m hoping the wisdom of the community can help me.

Linking up to Works for Me Wednesday