Thursday, January 30, 2014

Thrifting! Do it! Stop Wasting Your Money!

I was wandering along the shelves of Target the other day (yes, I go to Target a lot)  when this halted me in my tracks: 

Why did this stop me in my tracks, you ask?  Partly because I had found this same exact toy in really good condition at my local thrift store.  Partly because my jaw fell open at the price Target was selling it for:  $34.99!  I got mine for...wait for it...$4.99.  I kid you not.  And it was in really good condition too.  Of all of the little buttons and interactive bits, only one button didn't work.  And you know what?  It doesn't matter!  My kid LOVES this toy!  Okay, but before I get into all that, here's why I love thrift store/craigslist/secondhand items:

1.  While I'm a stay-at-home mom at the moment, when I do work, I work in television.  While I LOVE my work, it takes up a lot of time and sacrifice.  As a result, I want my money to stretch as far as it can go because I had to work hard for it.

2.  I like to think that something used that I can use prevents it from ending up in a landfill.  Good for me, good for the environment.

3.  Often, I buy stuff from shops that are benefiting good causes like The Salvation Army, Goodwill, or smaller stores that benefit veterans.  I like that my money goes to support someone who can use it as opposed to making someone who's pretty rich even richer.

4.  I love good deals!!!  Seriously!  I hate shopping in general, but if I can find an amazing deal, that totally makes my day.

5.  When it comes to kid stuff, I try to buy used as much as possible, because:
                     A.  Most of it is over-priced.
                     B.  Kids outgrow things really quickly.
                     C.  Kids get sick of things really quickly.
                     D.  Kids break things really easily. 
                     D.  Finding cheap versions of new things like toys and books are fairly

6.  There is so much you can find at thrift stores that is already awesome or with a little love can be made to be awesome.  Over the years, I've found so many amazing pieces:
  • Beautiful Art
  • Kitchen Crockery 
  • Toys
  • Picture holders
  • Household Decor
  • Awesome Jewelry Boxes
  • Holiday Decor
All of the above have been at amazing prices--a fraction of what they'd cost brand new.  One of my favorite things to search for are beautiful platters.  There are so many gorgeous high-end platters on sale that have never been used.  How do I know that they've never been used?  Because the manufacturer's sticker is still on them.  More likely than not, these platters were displayed in someone's china cabinet for years.  When I find one of these, I snap them up.  Then, when I next go to a party where I bring a dish, I often bring it in said platter.  Partially this is so I don't necessarily have to worry about getting the platter back.  They're usually cheaper than some of my nicer Tupperware.  Partially it's because sometimes the platter is a hostess gift.  Many times the host/hostesses contacts me about returning the platter, and when I say it's a gift for them, they're thrilled with it.  For $5-$6, I have piece of mind about not having to get a dish back, and someone else has been made happy with a beautiful gift.  Win-win!  

I actually keep a list of things that I want to try to thrift before I resort to buying new.  This saves me a lot of money in a couple of ways.  First, because sometimes I can find item at a thrift store, which will save me money.  Secondly, I only go thrifting when I have a lot of stuff I want to look for.  If I went too often, I'd probably buy a lot of junk I don't need.  (Junk you don't need is still a waste of money if you don't need it. =D) 

The one thing I don't thrift are clothes for myself, and that's because I loathe clothes shopping most of all.  It's bad enough going to a regular store and trying to find things that flatter me.  I think if I had to search for clothes in the needle-in-a-haystack sort of way that you'd have to do in a thrift store, I'd probably resort to walking around stark naked.  And nobody wants that.  Seriously.  Nobody. 

So hopefully if thrift stores have seemed unseemly or scary in the past, you'll give them another chance.  Heck, invite me along!  My enthusiasm for it is fairly infectious, and the thrifting bug will bite you too!  =D

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Hidden Spaces: Storage for Your Rolls of Paper!

I started reading blogs last year as a sort-of substitute for actual books as my free time was cut very short by both being a new mom and going back to work full time.  As a result, I now follow a bunch of blogs when I need a quick little break.  Recently, my favorite blog, IHeart Organizing, did a post on the new gift wrapping station that the author, Jen, and her husband had created: 


I mean, I love to organize, but this woman is crazy talented!  My favorite part of this set up was how she organized her wrapping paper.  I can't stand how my wrapping paper and drawer liner paper is shoved into a corner of a closet only to get crushed, crumpled, and whatnot.  Yet, I also knew that I didn't really have a place in my home for a gift wrapping station either.  So, I basically lusted after this station, but put it out of my mind...until I read another one of my favorite blogs, Sew Many Ways!   Karen, who authors that blog, has a million amazing organizing ideas.  While looking at her crafting/sewing room, two sets of photos jumped out at me:



In the photos above, Karen has mounted curtain rods on three sides of her table and uses those rods to store different kinds of rolls of paper.  She also has drawers from an old project that she never used filled with tension rods that also store various kinds of paper:

sewing craft room ideas

Seeing this combination of storage solutions, gave me my own brainstorm:  tension rods between the legs of my desk!  Like I mentioned in my last post, I love to beg, borrow, and steal ideas! 

So here's what I started out with--my messy office desk that I'm in the process of organizing:

And here's a bunch of my drawer liner paper that I've been using for various projects stuck between my desk and my entertainment center all mushed up together:

And now for the lovely hidden space that will soon house all my ConTact paper:

To bring my master plan together, I hit up Target and found these lovely tension rods:

These were super easy to adjust to the length of my desk legs.  I appreciated that as I'm not the most hands-on person in the world.  I adjusted all the rods, put my rolls of paper on the, and put the rods between my desk legs: 

BOOM!  Drop the mic!  =D  

I love this storage solution for so many reasons:

  • My paper is now organized neatly with no chance of getting damaged.
  • I'm using space that I wouldn't have used otherwise.  It's like getting free square footage tacked onto my house!
  • The tension rods are easy enough to pop in and out of the desk legs for quick access for when inspiration hits.  
  • This corner of the desk is sort of out of the way, so my son doesn't really pay attention to these rods.  Much less temptation for him to run over there and tear all of the rods down!  
  • This was super simple to implement!
So there you have it!  A "hidden space" that many people probably have and can be put to good use!  

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Space-Saving Children's "Bookcase"!

Hi All!

Having a growing family in a home that is definitely NOT growing means that I'm constantly trying to ferret out "hidden spaces".  In other words, I'm constantly trying to find new ways to store things without taking up too much valuable space in our home.  My ideal is that whatever new idea I come up with does not make the place feel cluttered, and, if possible, is visually appealing. 

My newest obsession was trying to find my son a bookcase.  In the nursery, we have some books on the floor, some on top of his dresser, and some in a hanging wall basket.  Other than the ones on the floor, L. can't reach any of his other books.  I noticed that L. would sit and look at the books on the floor, and every morning I'd try to put a new set of books on the floor and cycle through his books that way.  Yet I know that once baby #2 comes along, cycling books maaaaay become less of a priority. 

Our son's nursery is also partly my husband's home office.  As a result, we have a printer stand in the office portion, that I thought we could move into the guest room once we finished our DIY closet shelving project.  (A future blog post for sure!)  I found this children's bookcase that I loved:

But, we're in the middle of that project right now, and my vision isn't quite panning out.  My big problem is that I don't think we'll be able to move the printer stand into the guest room, and as a result, won't have the additional floor space that this case requires.  What I loved about this book case was that it was compact and that the books are facing out so that you can see their covers.  I also liked that it was kid sized, making it more accessible to my son.  My theory was that if  L. could see and reach the books available to him, he'd be more likely to engage with the books by either looking at them on his own or bringing books to whatever adult is present to read to him.  Usually that's me.   =D

I started to scour places around the rest of my house to see where else I could put this bookcase.  I spotted this corner of my dining room:

This is a little area that's underneath a counter that looks into a kitchen.  You could put bar stools here at the counter and have a sort of breakfast bar.  But in the 3.5 years we've lived here, we never did that, and have no plans of doing so.  The only thing this area used to have is my cats' automated feeder.  At the moment, my cats are on a diet, so the feeders are hidden only to appear at mealtime.  But the feeder issue did give me pause as to adding the bookcase here.  At some point, my cats will hopefully lose the crazy extra weight they put on, and I can put the feeders back out.  I didn't want to find a new place for the feeders, yet I still wanted the bookcase.  What to do, what to do?

Well, then I had an inspiring trip to Target!  A word of advice to you lovely readers:  if you have kids, perhaps try shopping without them.  Usually I do all of our household shopping during the week to free up our weekends for fun stuff.  But this also means that I'm zipping through the stores as fast as I can with L. in tow so that I can get through the shopping with a minimum of toddler meltdowns.  When I go shopping on my own, I can peruse at my leisure, and think creatively for solutions to problems.  Well, that's what happened on this trip to Target!  I noticed that Target has a new section of children's storage and decided to check it out.  And here's what I found:

Um, perfect!!!  I loved this idea!  Not only does it have pockets that I can store books in, it hangs on the wall and as a result is off of the floor!!!  Book storage and cat feeder storage all in one space!!!  I was ecstatic!  (What can I say, I love organizing!) 

I did end up making one little change to the organizer.  Both ends of the organizer had these smaller pockets that was the perfect size for L.'s little bath books:

But...I don't have that many smaller bath books, and so didn't need 8 tiny pockets.  I noticed that all of the pockets were created by sewing a line down the middle of the plastic to divide it in half.  So, I got my scissors and cut out the thread (and some, ahem, plastic on the first pocket I tried) and created two bigger pockets from the four smaller pockets:

I also bought Command Wall Hooks to hang this organizer instead of using the ones that it came with.  I didn't want to damage the walls in case this "bookcase" didn't work out.  As soon as I could the next morning after L. woke up, I put up the toy organizer and filled it with books.  I wanted to hang the organizer while L. was awake to make sure that I hung it at a good height for him to be able to reach into the pockets.  Check it out:

Isn't it lovely???  =D  =D  =D  I absolutely love this little "reading nook" that has sort of just appeared!  And, the organizer holds about 20ish books!  Lots for L. to go through, though I will still be cycling books periodically.  It's also done a nice job of clearing some floor space and dresser space of the ever growing collection of children's books that we now own.  And did it encourage L. to engage with more of his books?  Why don't you see for yourself?


This has actually worked out so well, that we've had to institute The Rule of Three:  a book may only be read  three times in a row.  At that point, L. has to either choose a new book, or find something else to do.  A little rule that goes a long way to saving Mom's sanity.  =D

So, one more little before and after, because who doesn't love a little before and after? 



One additional perk to this organizer is that it saved me a few bucks over the original bookcase I was looking at.  The original bookcase was $25.  The organizer above was $8, and I bought a value pack of Command hooks for $9.  I saved $8 and still have two Command hooks left over to use for future projects.  Sure $8 doesn't sound like much, but for this girl on a budget, I'll take what I can get!  ;)

What creative storage solutions have you whipped up lately?  Share, pleasey!  I love to beg, borrow, and steal ideas!!!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Grumble At: Chobani Yogurt.

I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that my family consumes gallons of Chobani yogurt.  All three  of us probably have 1 a day, and it's likely in some ways one of the more expensive things we eat.  Yet, it's nutritious, delicious, and convenient, so we gladly fork over the money.  I was disappointed to notice recently that Chobani recently shrunk its cup size from 6 oz to 5.3 oz:


Yet, it still costs the same!  In my opinion, what was more insidious is how they went about changing the cup size.  The above is an image that I found in an article about this cup size reduction.  Here's what my store's cups look like:

Originally when I saw the newly designed cups, I thought it was different because Chobani was promoting itself as a sponsor of the Olympics.  Fantastic.  It's nice to think of hard working athletes eating delicious yogurt instead of, you know, the McRib.  But in retrospect, it seemed like this little "Whoo Olympics!" moment dovetailed with the yogurt cups becoming a liiiiittle bit smaller.  Coincidence?  i think not.  Shame on you, Chobani, for using Olympic mania to hide your sneaky business decision.  That being said, will my family still consume massive amounts of Chobani yogurt?  Yup.  See the whole delicious, nutritious, convenient comment.  =) 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Chili for Your Next Super Bowl!

Hi All!

With the Super Bowl coming up, I thought I'd share another staple at my house, my mother-in-law's chili recipe!  Growing up, I think there was maybe one time that I had chili, and it didn't really make much of an impression.  And then came one of my husband's family's cooking competitions.  My mother-in-law competed with her chili recipe and OMG was I in love!  Thankfully, she's a generous person, and promptly forked over the recipe.  Not only is this one of my husband's favorite dishes, he enjoys it as a re-heated dinner as well.  There aren't many dishes that he likes re-heated the second time around.  With this recipe, he feels like the chili improves with time.  Another reason I like this recipe is that it seems to freeze well.  This is noted on the recipe itself by my mother-in-law, though I personally haven't tried it frozen and re-heated.  However, I did make it months in advance of a friend having a baby, and she froze the chili and had it after the baby was born.  It seemed like she and her family enjoyed it.  I'm actually planning on making a batch and freezing it for after my little one arrives.  It's also a very easy recipe to double.  But enough about the recipe!  Here it is!

Lynn's Chili

1lb ground beef or chicken   (I prefer the 96/4 ground beef from Trader Joe's.)
1 cup chopped onion (if desired)
1 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp paprika powder
1/8 tsp cayenne red pepper powder
1 can (14.5 oz) stewed tomatoes - regular
1 can (15 oz) kidney beans - well drained & rinsed   

All my ingredients!  I prefer the 96/4 ground beef from Trader Joe's but they had run out, so I used 85/15 this time around.

1.  Rinse the beans several times.  Soak them in water as you prepare the rest of the recipe: 


2.  Brown meat:

3.  Add onions and saute until softened.  Drain any excess water or fat:

4.  Stir in all ingredients except beans.  (I like to mix all the spices together in a cup, and then add to the chili.) 

Spices in a cup!

Spices added in!

Stewed tomatoes added in!

5.  Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes.
6.  Add beans and heat thoroughly.

7.  Forget to take a picture of the finished product because your kid is freaking out and make do with a photo after you and the hubby have a go at the pot:

I like to pair this dish with cornbread that I make from Trader Joe's cornbread mix.  And of course, honey for the cornbread.  =) 

And here's the recipe all together without it being broken up with photos:

Lynn's Chili

1lb ground beef or chicken   (I prefer the 96/4 ground beef from Trader Joe's.)
1 cup chopped onion (if desired)
1 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp paprika powder
1/8 tsp cayenne red pepper powder
1 can (14.5 oz) stewed tomatoes - regular
1 can (15 oz) kidney beans - well drained & rinsed 


1.  Rinse the beans several times.  Soak them in water as you prepare the rest of the recipe.  
2.  Brown meat.  
3.  Add onions and saute until softened.  Drain any excess water or fat. 
4.  Stir in all ingredients except beans.
5.  Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes.
6.  Add beans and heat thoroughly. 
7.  Serve and enjoy!
Have a great Super Bowl Sunday, everyone!!!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Deal Alert! Carter's on Clearance!

Hi Guys!

Just wanted to give you a heads up!  SO MUCH STUFF is on clearance at Carter's right now!  And on top of clearance prices, they're hacking another 25% off!  Check out all the stuff I got today for just $26.84:

That's 6 pairs of socks, 2 long sleeved onesies, and 1 pair of shoes -- all stuff I needed for my little guy!  The socks weren't on clearance.  They were in two 3-pair packages that was a buy one, get one free deal.  Come to think of it, there were socks on clearance.  I should have checked those and compared them to the ones that I bought.  I might have gotten a better deal.  Darn it.  Oh well.  On the bright side, since the socks weren't on clearance, Carter's allowed me to use this coupon: 

Carter's is pretty strict on what they will and won't allow you to use coupons on.  Always read the fine print, and bring the coupons anyway!  I wasn't planning on buying socks, but I was happy I had the coupon on hand!  Check out my final receipt:

I really love finding deals in Carter's clearance merchandise.  Often, I'll stock up on stuff that's bigger than what my son wears to have him grow into them.  I just started putting him in onesies I got on clearance last fall, and they fit him perfectly now!  Even if you yourself don't have kids, you can easily stock up on presents now for birthdays, holidays, showers, etc.  Get great gifts now for very little $$$.  Happy shopping!  

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Customized Cord Concealer!

Hi Folks!

As the mother of a very curious 18 month old, I've had to come up with solutions to problems that took a little creativity.  (The solutions, that is.  Not the problems.  Though the kiddo does come up with some novel problems...)  One of the things that fascinated Baby L early on was my mess of electric cords underneath my living room end table:

Unsightly?  Yes!  A tantalizing Gordian Knot perfect for chubby baby fingers?  Double yes!  How to prevent Baby L from playing with these?  Most of the time the trick with him is out of sight, out of mind.  So, I decided to create a cord concealer out of a simple Amazon box:


First I cut holes on either side to be able to feed cords into and out of this box:

Now, really, you can skip down a few steps to see how I feed the cords into the box.  However, I wanted to make the box look nicer and fit into some of the decor I already had around my living room.  So I decided to cover the box in ConTact drawer liner paper:

Now I like ConTact drawer liner paper to re-paper boxes for my projects because of a few different reasons:

1.  It's very sturdy.  My first box I ever re-papered was one I did as a toy box for the 2nd floor of my condo.  I used gift wrapping paper, and within a few weeks, it looked all torn up and raggedy.  The Contact paper is much more durable.  I'm not crafty in the slightest so doing this stuff once and not having to do it again is a big plus in my book. 

2.  The stickiness of the paper is like a post-it's stickiness where the paper can be lifted up without tearing up the material underneath it for when I mess up.  I always mess up.  It's nice that the paper is so easy to work with. 

3.  Finally the backing of the paper is marked with a grid to cut along.  I have no spatial intelligence whatsoever, so this is a nice idiot-proofing feature:

(Like my pink warm socks?  =D)

Once I papered all the sides of the box that would be visible, I made sure to cut holes in the paper that corresponded to the holes in the sides that I cut earlier:

For my purposes, the cord concealer is done!  Now to feed the cords into it.  First, I fed the main extension cord that I was going to plug everything else into through the bottom of the box.  Notice that I didn't paper the bottom, as it's not going to be seen by the end of the project:

Then I fed cords into either side of the box where cut my two holes:

Then I took this tangle of cords, and shoved it back into the box.  On the right side, the cords to mine and my husband's laptops snake out and are curled up for easy access for when we need a charge:

Now, it may not seem like this is really "out of sight".  However, the next time my son went cruising around this area, the cords were concealed enough that he showed absolutely no interest in them.  I declare the project a success!  And now for a little before and after:



Hopefully, this idea might work for some of you out on the Internet as well!  Even if you don't have kids, this could be a way of hiding messy looking cords.  How do you hide unsightly cords?