Out with the old, In with the new!

Happy New Year! Here’s to lucky number 13!

We rang in the new year in a pretty low key manner. Just the 4 of us at home, playing games, eating and being silly.


We did our official toast to the new year at 9 pm so that Isabella could participate. We mixed orange juice and Squirt and drank out of wine glasses (champagne flutes are still in storage…) to make it fancy. Then we took some more silly pictures and called it a night!






Now, let’s talk resolutions…

I started out 2012 with a long list of resolutions (30 of them! Eek!). I acknowledged at the time that it was ambitious and tried to break it down in to manageable chunks. I actually stuck with it for a good 6 months too and can say I crossed off about 50% of the items (I say “about” because some of the goals were in multiple parts or I did a resolution for the first half of the year but not the last, etc.).

I could site many excuses for not doing more (laziness, being pregnant, changing priorities, etc.) but the fact of the matter is that I’m human and can only do so much. I’m not perfect (are you shocked?) and so I think getting through half of my list is pretty darn good.

That being said, this year I’m going to come at it a bit differently. I have 2 goals (you know, other than the Big One of having a baby) and they pretty much go hand in hand:

1. Get our finances in order and pay down our debts

2. Establish and maintain organization in the household

The first one is a carry over from last year. I learned a valuable lesson in the last couple of months – no matter how much money you make, it’s all about how you manage it. To that end, you have to have a budget and a plan, neither of which we really had. I really struggled in December with our money situation and how I let us get here (I’m the CFO of the house). But “shoulds” will not solve anything and all we can do is fix it going forward.

So I took some time over the last couple weeks to come up with a budget, formulate a plan for how we’ll pay down the debt and save money and put it in to action. It’s a work in progress and I’m sure we’ll have to adjust as we go but it feels good to at least do something. Admittedly, we are not nearly as bad off as many others in America and I am truly grateful for what we do have. But it could be better and I’m determined to make it so.


In my mind, #2 will help us with #1. The more organized we are around the house, the more money we’ll save. Case in point: the other week I bought new toothpaste for Isabella because she ran out, only to discover a couple days later when rifling through the closet that we already had some for her. Also, the more diligent we are about cleaning, maintenance and upkeep of the house, the fewer ’emergencies’ we’ll have down the line with things breaking or wearing out due to improper upkeep.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like we’re slobs or don’t take care of things, it’s just that with the daily hustle and bustle, things tend to get dropped by the wayside, forgotten or overlooked and the next thing you know, you’re taking your car to the mechanic for a $200 job that could have been avoided had you remembered to change the oil 3 months ago (not that I’m speaking from personal experience or anything…).

So I’ve put together a Household Management Binder that will hopefully keep us on the straight and narrow. In it there are sheets for:

1. Weekly meal planning (this will save us money on groceries and help avoid eating out plus take away the daily stress of “what’s for dinner?”)

2. Weekly Cleaning Checklist – I’m using #2 (breaks up cleaning tasks out by day of the week so that we have a few small things to do each day rather than a huge list on the weekend)

3. Monthly Cleaning Zones (lists out items that need to be done on a monthly basis so they aren’t overlooked)

4. Budget (visible reminder of our budget that will help us see how we’re doing and stay on track)

5. 52 Weeks of Organization (a weekly guide to organizing so that by year end, the whole house will be organized and de-cluttered)

6. Play date Calendar (monthly look at all the play groups, story times and open gym times around town for CJ and Isabella to use)

7. Emergency Contact Information (list of emergency numbers for easy reference for us or baby-sitters)

8. Household projects (list of all the big projects / to do’s that need to be done around the house so that CJ and I can sync up and track them together)

We’ve been using it since Sunday and so far, so good. Crossing items off the weekly cleaning list feels good because it means we’ve accomplished something and that we’re doing good things for our house! And the meal planner has made the week so much easier when it comes to lunches and dinners.

We also got one item checked off the household projects list – putting the storage cabinet together and organizing it!

In our old house, we had this cabinet in Samson’s Room and used it for storing gift wrapping supplies, games, scrapbooking stuff, and miscellaneous small décor items (like candles). We had to take it apart when we moved and it never got reassembled – until this weekend!

The basement went from this:


To this!


Pretty awesome, huh? I was able to unpack and toss about 7 big boxes, freeing up so much more space.


Here’s what the inside looks like:


On the left is the gift wrapping station (ribbons and accessories on top, bags and tissue on the hangers, and wrapping paper and boxes on the bottom). On the right we have games, memory boxes, extra baskets/art supplies and candles (in the top drawer). Bottom drawer is empty which means there’s room for more!

Feels so good to have that done and I smile every time I go in the basement and see that area!

Cheers to a good year!

Master Bedroom

In my commitment to cleaning and organizing one room/closet each weekend, I tackled our master bedroom on Saturday. I thought it would be a piece of cake since I try to keep my closets and drawers pretty well organized to begin with. Well, it wasn’t as breezy as I thought. Turns out I was holding on to more items than I realized.

I started off with my night stand which basically is where I keep the book I am currently reading as well as the next ones to come. I also have some meditation books in the drawer and a journal, along with various other miscellaneous crap (sleep mask, pens, bookmarks, etc). This was an easy place to start as all I really had to do was straighten and dust (I admit to not dusting our room every week…I won’t admit to how long it’s been but let’s just say that the dust cloth was pretty black by the time I finished the room. *hanging head in shame*).

Then it was time for my dresser. I cleared off the top, which tends to be the spot in the room to catch all the junk that I’m too lazy to put away. Then I went through each drawer, pulling out items to toss, donate or keep. The kept pieces got put back in a more orderly fashion. Here is how my shorts drawer looked when I was done –

master drawer

I think it says something about me that I have more workout shorts (all the colored ones in front) than I do regular shorts. Oddly enough, I rarely wear shorts during the summer. At work I’m in pants and on the weekends we’re usually at the beach so I wear a swimsuit and workout shorts. Oh, and yes, they are arranged in color order. It just makes things easier to find that way! Winking smile

Here is how the dresser looked when all was said and done –

master dresser2

Yes I have a lot of jewelry. I would say 90% of it is lia sophia, which I bought from a good friend. If you’re looking for a rep, let me know and I’ll give you her info!

(Notice my perpetual journal at the end. I put it there as I reminder to jot something down every night. So far I’ve been keeping up and only forgot on 2 occasions!)

Next it was time for my main closet. I have it organized as such:

  • top shelf = maternity clothes I am saving for the next baby (no this is not an announcement)
  • second shelf = sweater and p.j.s
  • rods = left side is winter, middle is belts and right side is summer
  • floor = left side is casual shoes, middle is tall boots and right is dress shoes

I started on the left, at the top, and worked my way down, then over. The shelves pretty much just needed straightening. When it came time to work on the hanging clothes, I pulled out the shirts I wanted to give away and  implemented the backward hanger system for the rest of them.

Here’s how it works: you turn all the hangers backward, so that the hook faces out (instead of in like normal). As you take out clothes to wear, you turn that hanger the right way. In 6 months to a year, look at any hangers that are still backwards and chances are, those can be donated because you didn’t wear them during that time!

master closet

Such a pretty rainbow of colors!

Next came the shoes. This is an area I definitely get lazy with. It’s soooo much easier to just kick them off into the closet (or around the room) then put them back in their proper place. But, I do have to admit they’re easier to find when they are in their spot. I’ll be the first to admit that the floor of the closet won’t stay this neat. It’s a work in progress.

master shoes2 master shoes 3

I then tackled the chest of drawers, which is mostly CJ’s stuff. I have only the bottom 2 drawers so that was easy peasy. Finally I knocked out my secondary closet. It’s just a half size and is home to long stuff like dresses and pants. We also keep extra blankets and pillows in there.

The last area of the bedroom is the master bath, which is all mine (CJ gets the other main bathroom as his own). I just did a quick cleaning job of that (I was low on energy by this point) and called it good.

And there you have it – another room done! By the end I had 2 big bags of stuff to take for donations. Like I said at the beginning, it wasn’t as easy as I had originally thought it would be and by the end of the day, my back and feet were aching from standing, bending, reaching, lifting, etc. I could literally feel my back muscles throbbing through dinner. Ugh. But it was worth it (and I know Jillian will get my back stronger and ready for the real back-breaking work to come when we move)!

My other project this weekend was to shoot pics of the artwork I’m going to sell. I was sort of dreading this because I knew it would be a lot of work and that I didn’t have the proper set up needed to really take good pics. But I got through it and they turned out pretty well. Then on top of that, I got all the pics downloaded on the computer and edited. I also cataloged each item, noting it’s title, medium, size and any other important info (like framed or unframed). Now all I have to do is get it put up on TTM and I’ll be in business. Hurray!! I’m really excited for you all to see my work and I hope you like it (maybe even enough to buy a piece or two!).

master notebook

Next weekend: Isabella’s room!

P.S. We took all the CDs we don’t want anymore to Half Price Books yesterday and got $20 for them! Suh-weet!


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Obligatory Resolutions Post

Obligatory Resolutions Post

I’ve noticed a theme this year when it comes to resolutions. Seems like everyone I’ve talked to (or read) has said the same thing – they don’t normally do resolutions but this year is different. Why is this year so different for everyone? While I can’t speak for humanity as a whole, I can tell you my position. For me, I’m making resolutions because I feel stronger this year than I ever have about setting and hitting certain goals. In previous years I had some vague notions of what I wanted in my life, but nothing specific. This year, I’m getting down to brass tacks and making things happen!

One thing I’ve learned is that it’s just as important to plan out how you are going to meet a goal as it is to define it.

So, here are my resolutions for this year (BTW, it makes it way more fun if I put catchy names to them so, bear with me and my cheesiness):

Project T&T (Tone and Tighten)

What: Lose the 3 pounds I put on over the holidays and then tone up all over. I REALLY want to get rid of this muffin top and I’d love to have more definition in my arms, legs, and abs. I’m already seeing more tone from doing the one hundred push ups program. Hoping to see even more progress as I continue. But the goal here is to maintain my weight loss so that all the work I did last year doesn’t go to waste.

How: By doing what I already know works – watching calories (I’ve found that 1400 calories a day works for my body when trying to lose weight) and steady workouts. You may have noticed that a couple of weeks ago I added a section to the right sidebar called “Today’s Workout”. In here, I will record what exercises I’ve done each day. This holds me accountable and call also give you ideas if you’re in a workout rut.

Operation Dream Home

What: Sell our current house and buy our forever home (then I can cross that off the bucket list!). To do that, we have to make sure our house is in tip-top shape so that we can sell it quickly and at our asking price (or close).

How: First off, I’m planning to go through each room and de-clutter. We’ve accumulated too much “stuff” and it needs to go. Once the extra junk is gone, I want to re-organize the remaining items. This will help keep me sane and it will present the house in a neat and tidy way. We also have various things around the house that need fixing or updating: scratched baseboards, repainting the walls, getting new sinks, etc. We have some good friends who are realtors so I want to invite them over and do a walk through of our house as it exists today. They can then tell us what we need to invest time and money into and what we can leave as is.

Here’s one project I’ve already finished – the “catch all” kitchen counter. We have an area to the left of the stove that is where we keep files, stamps, papers to shred, my purse, etc. It is always so messy and I am constantly losing stuff.

Here’s the before:

Notice the files in the back are all crammed in together, there is stuff scattered on the counter, and my purse and lunch bag are eating up a lot of space. So, I put hanging file holders on the wall and labeled them “To Shred” and “To File”. This got rid of one filing system on the counter and freed up some space there.

Here’s the after:

Doesn’t that look so much better? It was a simple fix that went a long way.

Mission Debt Diet

What: To pay off all credit card debt and pay down loans, while also creating a nest egg. To be honest, we really don’t have that bad of credit card debt when compared to the national average. But it’s still more than I’m comfortable with so this year it will be paid off. I also want to pay down as much of our mortgage and car payments as possible so that we’re in a better spot come Spring/Summer when we buy a new house.  

How: Budget, budget, budget! I created a spreadsheet that lays out our fixed expenses (bills) versus variable expenses (shopping, groceries, eating out, etc) and our income. Our bank has a neat feature that shows us our spending report for 2010 (how much we spent in various categories throughout the year). So, I took that and figured out what our monthly spending was in each area.  Then we came up with our new budget goals. Here’s an example:

I then created an expenses worksheet that will help us track our spending. I broke out sections for each area and included our dollar allotment at the top. As we spend, we’ll write it on the worksheet and can then see how close we’re getting to our budgeted goal. We’ll have to use it for a while and make adjustments as we go but I think it will help.

Ihave posted it in the kitchen so we remember to record our expenses:

(inside our pantry door)

(Sidenote – see the wall sconce in the background? That’s the one Isabella’s woobie got lost in way back when. Yeah.)

This one will really challenge us to get creative. We’ll have to shop smart, plan meals, and say “no”. It will definitely be an adjustment but it’s necessary and after a while, we’ll get used to it and it won’t feel so restrictive.

There you have it!  Those are my 3 resolutions for 2011. I think they are all doable and I’m really gung-ho about them right now. By posting them here, I’m hoping this will help me stay accountable. The competitive side of me will not want to admit public defeat!!

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Christmas Hangover

I feel like I have a hangover…I think it’s the after affects of the holidays. There is always such a big build up to Christmas and then BAM, it’s here and just as quickly, it’s over.

Friday and Saturday were a lot of fun for us. We had lots of quality time with both our little family and with the extended family. It was so much fun to see Christmas through Isabella’s eyes. She was in wonder at all the presents and really enjoyed playing with her cousins on Christmas Day.

Here she is, standing on her tip-toes, trying to get at one of the gifts in her pile. Notice Samson is trying to attack from the other side and get at one of CJ’s gifts. They’re double-teaming us!!

Christmas Morning

It really struck me just how much she’s grown since last Christmas, when she wasn’t even crawling or anything (she was 3 months old). She pretty much just laid around while the rest of us enjoyed the day. This year she was a full participant and it was so much more fun!

I got some really great gifts this year. CJ did awesome and every single gift was great. He got me a nice wool dress coat. I am seriously lacking in dress coats so this was perfect and totally unexpected. The only ones I have are the Couch Coat, which isn’t heavy enough for really cold days, and one that I’ve had since high school. The one he got me is red, so it matches Isabella’s little dress coat, and is sassy too!

He also got me a bright green Champion workout shirt and a Pittsburgh Steelers warm, fuzzy blanket – which is AWESOME!

 The most creative gift he got me was my ornament (we exchange ornaments every year that are supposed to show something about that year or it could be representative of something we really like). He found some Christmas-y letters and spelled out “BLOGR” (yes, we know that’s not how you properly spell “blogger”, but it makes it more fun…that and he somehow misplaced the other letters). It’s really cute and it symbolizes this blog, which has been so much fun for me to get started and build up over the last couple months.

(the other ornament is a football cradled inside a trophy that says #1 – because no matter what, the Steelers will always be number 1 in my book!)

[A note about the above pictures of me – first, yes, I am wearing a Santa hat in every one. Why? Because it’s festive! That, and Isabella insisted on it. Secondly, yes, I am also wearing Christmas jammies. Why? Because it’s festive! If you look closely, you’ll notice they’re the same pj’s from last year’s Christmas card only they’re a size too big for me this year – boo yah! Finally, I am not wearing any makeup in last 2 pics and I hope you’re happy. I’m putting myself out there for you all because that’s the kind of gal I am.]

CJ did pretty well too in the gifts department. I got him a garment steamer (what? You don’t all get those for your husbands/boyfriends?),

a new Kangol hat (the only kind of hat he’ll really wear)

Showing it off to Isabella

and a 2011 Marvel calendar. His ornament was Ironman, because he’s my super hero (all together now…awwwww).

[A note about CJ’s pics – yes, he too is wearing a Santa hat in every picture. Why? Because it’s festive! And, Isabella insists he wear one too. Secondly, just to clarify, no he did not just come in from his secret job as an air traffic controller. He was cold in his red t-shirt so he put the green sleeveless one over it. Hey, back off, my man has style! Finally, yes, CJ tends to look drunk in every picture. He either looks drunk or is waving in almost every picture ever taken of him. It’s his thing. It’s what he does. I’ve learned to laugh about it over the years and you can too.]

Isabella hit the jackpot too. There are too many pics of her to show them all, so here is one of my favorites:

Dancing in her Elmo slippers


Yesterday, reality hit as I got up and looked around at all the “stuff” to be put away. There were bags and stockings lying around, toys to be pulled out of boxes, food to be eaten, decorations to be tucked away and general all-around cleaning to be done. I am somewhat of an organizational freak and hate clutter. As I scanned the living room, I saw toys everywhere and I started to develop a tick. Our house is not that big so we don’t have the luxury of setting up a separate playroom for Isabella. Therefore, every room in our house becomes her play room. But, I also don’t want her stuff to take over. So, I had to develop a system.

I started with going through all her toys and deciding which ones were keepers and which needed to go. The ones that we kept got put in 2 piles – those that she still plays with and those that she’s outgrown but we want to hang on to for the next baby (no, I’m not pregnant, just planning ahead). The ones that were to go were also sorted – toss in the trash or give to charity. Once that was done, I cleared out a canvas tote box from her room and began cleaning up the living room. All the small toys and stuffed animals got put in this box, which was then tucked against the wall, out-of-the-way. I paired down her books (over time, all her books had moved from her bedroom to the living room) and only kept out new ones or those she’s really in to right now. Those went on the bottom shelf of the coffee table. Big stuffed animals were tucked away into a bench we have. It looked so much better when I was done…that is until Munchkin got up and started playing. Then things were back out and scattered all over, as shown in this picture.

That’s ok though. I’m fine with mess while she’s up and about, actively playing with everything. Heck, it makes it more fun some days. It’s when she’s in bed and there’s still stuff everywhere that I start to itch.  I have a plan in mind for how to get even more organized and still give Isabella her own play/toy corner, once the Christmas tree comes down. I’ll tackle that project next year (seems so weird to say that doesn’t it?).

Today it was back to work. Oh how painful it was when the alarm went off at 5:30 a.m. I had fitful sleep anyway (more Fantasy Football dreams…I know, I have issues) so I was really tempted to hit snooze and skip my workout, but I didn’t.  I was a good girl and got my booty downstairs to our “gym” (aka, my collection of workout DVDs, weights and an elliptical machine).  I am only working 2 days this week as CJ is having dental surgery on Wednesday, but 2 days will be enough. In fact, it will be more than enough. I’m working from the mall these 2 days and am the only one here from our group. Bob is at the West office, the Brit is back home in England, the Texans are in Texas and the Indians are either smoking the hookah working from their hotel or at the west office. I like the quiet, but I also like the hub-bub when people are here. Hopefully I can get a lot done these 2 days and then relax and not think about work while I’m off.

It was a long day but it’s done now and I just have one more to get through until vacation. Kind of fun to have a Monday and a “Friday” right next to each other in the week!

How was your Christmas? Are you glad or sad that it’s over?

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