A family's journey of learning how to make a home, save money and be healthy… while having fun doing it!


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Problems getting out the door in the morning? We’ve compiled a list of tips to help!

It has been as slow week around here for subscription boxes, but a busy week in general. As I was rushing around this morning getting ready, I was thinking, “There’s got to be more efficient ways to do this” so with some input from friends and some research, I came up with a list of “short cuts” to help make mornings (or any time, really) a little smother. I am by no means great at getting out of the house on time (or saving time for that matter) but I have learned a few things along the way, so I also included what has helped me get out of the house in a hurry.

Oh I get by with a little help from my friends. If I compiled this list on my own, it would have two items, and the second one would say: “ask your husband to get you out of the house by any means necessary” (including bribery, physical dragging, and lying about what time we need to be somewhere). Has your husband done any of these? I think mine has tried it all!

Here’s what we came up with:

1.  Instead of just putting outfits together for the next day, put them together for the week- for yourself and your children. I usually do this on Sundays, and I use clothespins from the Dollar Store to put together my son’s entire outfit. It’s not a fancy system, but it works well for our family. You could even involve your child and teach them responsibility and organization by buying a days of the week cubby to hold their outfits for the week.

2.  Bathing your child and/or yourself the night before. You won’t have to spend time blow drying your hair.

3.  Have everything you need for the next day packed and ready to go by the door. This helps so you’re not running around last minute trying to get everything together.

4.  Put a key hook or bowl by the front door. It sounds simple, but if I didn’t have my little key bowl (something we picked up from our honeymoon in Cabo!) I’d be lost.

 5.  Prepare snacks and lunches the night before. The more you can cut out of your morning routine by doing the night before means more time to do things that require time like makeup and making/eating breakfast. It just makes your day less chaotic.

6.  One word: Dry shampoo. Okay, two words. I love dry shampoo. Even when I’ve just washed my hair, I still use dry shampoo to give it some volume (I’m partially Filipino and I have very flat, Asian hair). I’ve used some of the most expensive brands out there, but it turns out my favorite is Suave. Who would have thought?

 7.  Keep makeup simple. Instead of doing your whole makeup routine, stick to a couple of basics that highlight your best features. For me that’s just putting on mascara and coverup, and do the rest in the car or just skip it.

8.  Eat breakfast in the car. Just make sure it’s healthy! Bananas and Pro bars are some of my favorite on-the-go foods.

9.  Get a watch. It seems so simple. I just did this, and I’m glad I did. I found I was wasting a lot of time getting ready using my phone as a clock, which ultimately ended up in “quickly” checking text messages or responding to a quick email. Put it in your purse and wait to check it until you’re walking to the car!

10.  Be decisive and move on. I recently found out the reason we get so exhausted from shopping trips is the amount of time we spend comparing items and making decisions. This applies to trying to get out of the house as well. If you spend all of your time deciding what outfit to wear, what to dress your kids in, and what to make for breakfast, you’re going to be exhausted as soon as you get to the car, and your day has just started.

Well, I hope this list helps someone. Do you guys have any time-saving ideas? If you do, please leave a comment. You’d be surprised by how much your tip could help someone!

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Why It Makes Sense to Buy Used (At least for our Family)

We spent this weekend in Chicago for our anniversary. We used some old Groupons (about 2 years old!) for Navy Pier. Isn’t the city/sunset beautiful? Our view from the Ferris wheel on Navy Pier:

ImageStunning. Seriously, I took this with a camera phone so you can imagine how much better it is in real life.

Then this morning, my amazing husband made us crepes and then we went out rummaging. Which got us thinking about buying used/refinishing, and the reasons it makes sense to us. Many people hate buying used/old things. I remember when Goodwill was unpopular when I was younger. You wouldn’t have been caught dead there. When I first brought up the idea of buying some of Aud’s clothes used, Greg seemed hesitant and slightly grossed out. After he finally came with, and saw the value in buying used children’s clothing, he now questions what everything will be worth someday when we re-sell it.

Here’s a list we came up with our reasons to buy used:

1. Guilt: You don’t feel the same guilt that you do when your child’s clothes are sold/given away/ruined, because you only paid $.50-$2 for them if you buy them gently used. I always have a harder time going through Aud’s clothes when I know how much I paid for something. It makes me wonder if we really have an emotional attachment to our children’s clothes (I think sometimes we do) but I believe that part of it is also monetary. I’ve never felt bad about selling/donating Aud’s clothes that I bought second hand, and, if I don’t feel like having them in my condo/storing them, I can just donate them without losing a ton of money.

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My cuties outfit in this picture is second hand.

2. Depreciation: Sure, cars depreciate, but clothes and furniture do as well, if not at an even greater percentage. Typically clothes and furniture won’t even be worth half of what you paid for them. We have dressed Auds in higher quality-brand clothes since the day he was born, a large amount of them being Ralph Lauren, 77Kids (now Ruum) and most of his higher-end clothing has cost about $.50-$1. And guess what we sell it on Ebay for? .50 to $1. each item. We didn’t figure this out right away, and spent way too much when he was a baby that we could have been putting away for his college fund. When you have your first baby, you don’t really realize that you’ll be lucky to stuff them into something for 3 months.

943766_10200290686082563_1067353327_nWe got this near-perfect condition radio-flyer second-hand for $15!

3. It’s Eco-friendly! I’m sure you knew we were going to say this, but doesn’t it make way more sense to save something from the trash and make it beautiful/reuse it again?Plus, it keeps junk out of our landfills!

4. It Saves money! Not only does it save money, but you can typically pay for something used with cash also which means no credit card debt! I love this example of saving by buying used cars with cash to save/someday afford your “free” dream car. Check out the video here.

5. Quality: you can typically get used items for much lower prices than you would buy a lower-quality item for the same amount, or more. For example, a used Ralph Lauren Sweatshirt (bought one for Auds today) cost $.50. A sweatshirt at Walmart or a lower quality store usually cost at least $4. A cheap, particle-board dining table cost around $100-$300. We bought our solid wood, Pier one dining-table used off of Craigslist for $20. We refinished it, and it looks like new now.

Before:

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I’m glad it’s finally “hip” to re-finish and re-use. But it can also be a way to save your family a lot of money, and save for some bigger items (a house, tuition, a vacation). We don’t buy everything used- but we are trying to be more conscious about buying used to save money and make a better planet for Auds.

Things we typically wouldn’t buy used:

  1. Anything made of cloth that couldn’t be thrown in the wash machine right away (furniture, mattresses, curtains) could carry bacteria, bedbugs, dander, or scabbies (ick!).
  2. A Crib or furniture for Auds (we like to register it, so we’re up to date on recalls)
  3. Camera equipment (in case it was dropped/damaged)
  4. Swimsuits (ick-factor)
  5. Shoes (shoes mold to the previous owner’s feet. If you buy them used, this can throw off your posture)
  6. Makeup (bacteria)
  7. Electronics (We wish we felt better about buying electronics used. The one time we did buy a refurbished product, we had problems with it from the start) Maybe someday!

Things we love buying used:

  1. Gently-used kids clothes
  2. Clothes for us
  3. Non-upholstered furniture
  4. Home decor
  5. Cars
  6. Specific one-time use items (example: a formal outfit for Auds for a wedding)
  7. Books (seriously, anyone want to borrow some? We have a small library!

So what about you guys? How do you feel about buying/refinishing used items? Do you love it, or not really your thing? Anything you wouldn’t buy second-hand?


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Thankful Thursday… Hubby-boo-boo’s birthday

ImageAs some of you might know, yesterday was Greg (or Hubby-boo-boo’s) 28th Birthday. So I though I’d write some cheesy things (although I may have already accomplished that with Honey-boo-boo) <someone point out if I’m spelling that wrong, I’ve actually never seen the show!

So here goes:

1 – Greg’s love of Audie and his patience with him – There really is nothing more adorable than a man who is an amazing dad. Seeing Greg’s patience with Audie and his willingness to constantly teach him new things amazes me daily. There’s nothing better than hearing them play dinosaurs, or robots, or cars, or making forts or playing in cardboard boxes together.

ImagePhoto credit: Alyssa McCord, Yaya Photography

2 – His ability to step in – even when I’m stressed or overwhelmed, he keeps everything sane in this family. He’ll have me take a break and take over until I have the energy to deal with the project or problem again.

3 – His brain. To anyone who knows us, Greg’s sense of humor and intelligence is one of his most defining characteristics (along with his whip smart brain full of seemingly limitless trivia knowledge- I joke all the time about him applying for “Wheel of Fortune” with my grandma- they would clean them out!). He’s even so smart, that he somehow manages to make me feel like I figure out my fair share of things too. How does he do that?! It’s sheer brilliance. Also, he looks pretty darn good in my pink scarf!

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3 – His willingness to help me with “one more thing” right now, for example, he’s working on our blog from bed and helping me brainstorm our next project and where we want to go with the blog, when I know he might rather be watching TV or out for a run… while I’m busy talking his ear off about some blog, school, or house idea instead. I couldn’t be luckier that he’s happy to be “in the trenches” with me each and every day. It’s amazing that he has his own interests (volleyball and running) and he can work full-time, go to school, blog- all while staying involved with Audie and me not checking out.

I think some folks might question what kind of man runs a lifestyle blog with his wife. I love that Greg can code our entire website, build a table with me (pics coming soon, hopefully!), pick out wall colors – although he has no background in any of that stuff. He figures things out as he goes and he’s not afraid to jump in and learn new things. I love that he’s not scared to weigh in on my random decorating sprees instead of telling me “you handle the girly stuff and I’ll stick to the MAN stuff.” He truly makes me feel like we’re a team and we’re in ALL OF IT together and as a result our house feels like us, and our house feels like a home. He always tells me how he’s so lucky, but I honestly have no idea how I got so lucky. I promise I don’t roofie him or anything.

In summary: He makes me happier than hobo kitties, things with cats printed on it, bicycles built for two, and Nutella (and those make me pretty happy). Happy 28th birthday, Greg! Thanks for everything, and we love you so much!


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Food Fight -or- How Courtney and I Won the Great Food Stalemate of 2013

As you know, Courtney and I are busy people. We’re both in school (me 9 credits, Courtney 15), work (me 40+ hours/week), and have a four-year-old-going-on-fifteen.

We’re both also very health-conscious people. We’ve taken classes on nutrition, and spent many free hours researching our own curiosities on high fructose corn syrup, additives, etc… So imagine our frustrations over the last year when Auden’s main meals consisted of mac n cheese, pizza, and spaghetti.

Sure, he would still eat some fruits and vegetables, but the problem was he wouldn’t even try anything new. It was a 10-minute battle, and he would usually gag on it and spit it out. Needless to say, when you’re at Olive Garden with friends and your kid goes all exorcist on the chicken, we’ve got a problem.

So, how do you get your kid to try new foods, and like them? And healthy foods at that? Well, first of all it takes time. The Olive Garden episode happened on New Years Eve. It’s now the beginning of September, and Auden is finally coming around to eating right. So the first step is commitment. You’ve got to want it, and you can’t give in.

The second step is the give and take. We have a baby sitter, and Auden spends a lot of time at Grandparents and friends houses where we can’t control his diet. That’s not to say that they can’t take him out for the occasional McDonalds or make him some mac n cheese. He’s a kid, and kids have a predisposition to crave salty and sweet foods – more so than adults.

But Courtney and I controlled what we could control. That meant when he was with us, he ate what we ate. No questions. And it started out small and with a lot of retaliation. He would sit there and stare at the salmon, sushi, or rice pilaf we put in front of him for a good ten minutes before picking up his fork. But eventually, he would try a bite.

Once he realized what was on his plate was dinner and there would be no food or snacks later, he would cave. And it took a good month for this to really take hold. The third step was the routine. And once he figured out it wasn’t snack time when he got home from the babysitters and would have to wait two hours before dinner, he welcomed whatever we put in front of him.

Thanks to our subscription boxes, we’ve been enjoying some great meals of late with minimum work on our part. The other night, (care of Peach Dish) Auds ate endive salad, salmon in a dijon-dill sauce, and sun-dried tomato orzo – no questions asked. For desert? fresh raspberries.

And that’s the last step: rewards shouldn’t be candy or ice cream, but fruits and naturally sweet foods. The other night, we went to a local Mexican-food restaurant. Since Auden had eaten a good lunch and had been really good that day, we told him he could have whatever he wanted to drink for dinner (not soda. Never soda. He usually chooses chocolate milk or apple juice when given the choice). But he said to the waitress (and I quote) “I’ll just have the water. I’ve had enough sugar today.” Courtney and I shared an under-the-table fist bump, and that’s parenting for the win.

Auden being a salmon – or doing duck lips, we can’t be sure.

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Rita’s Story

Hey guys, today we wanted to share Rita’s story. Rita is a mom of a little girl, Rory, and recently lost her second little girl. Her story is an incredibly heartbreaking story, but also a reminder of how precious life is and to treasure our little ones, and really spend quality time with them.

I encourage you to read Rita’s story here

As a mom, employee, student, and wife, I often find myself short on time to spend with Auden. And not just driving with him to the grocery store; real, attentive, quality time. Sometimes we need a reminder that not only should we be present in our children’s’ lives, but we should be engaging in them.

Sometimes being present just means looking up from what we’re doing (cleaning, homework, watching TV) and really acknowledging what they’re saying to us. Or when picking our kids up from school or the babysitter, listen to and engage in what happened during their day. Turn off the phone calls and radio, the work emails we read at home or candy crush high scores we’re trying to beat. Ask your child what they learned today, and make that a part of your day.

My mom told me awhile ago that the difference between being a grandparent and a parent is that by the time you’re a grandparent, you learn that you can’t have the time back.

The chores can wait. The next episode of “Breaking Bad” can wait. Your precious little one won’t be little forever.

This isn’t to say that we can’t enjoy our activities. Greg is a huge Badger football fan, and has a tradition of getting together with friends to watch games. But since Auden was born, he’s been a part of the tradition. He and Greg meet up with the boys to play catch, eat, and root on Bucky. Now, Auden looks forward to football season. Tonight, we saw a commercial for the return of Football season, and Auden yells “Daddy! football starts again on Thursday! Isn’t that awesome!”

A huge part of parenting is going to work, providing for your kids, and making sure they eat their vegetables. But it’s also about connecting, teaching, and listening, After all, we are the biggest influence in our children’s lives.


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The BEST Monsters Inc Birthday Party AND Golf Birthday Party ever! (Because we’re pretty sure it’s the only one!)

Aud’s 4th Birthday bash was so much fun. He wanted Monster’s Inc AND golf, so that’s what we tried to give him. I was happy and terrified that I had such a creative theme to work with this year.

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I think my hubby did a beautiful job on the invites, and really kicked off the combined theme with them!

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Gosh I just really can’t believe he’s going to be 4. He’s such a little man now. Do you like his goofy face? This is his new smile. (This week anyway!)

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As for the cake, I was crazy and decided to just go ahead and make his cake this year. I was sick of spending so much and I knew thought I could do it a lot cheaper (I even made the butter cream frosting and cake myself!) and I knew I’d have to make it myself to get the theme we wanted. With that said, I have a couple words of advice:

1. It is NOT cheaper, thanks to the initial investment of supplies.

2. Don’t ever decide to make a 3-tier birthday cake yourself the night before the party, you’ll be up til 3AM.

3. Experiment BEFORE hand.

4. Have a back up plan. I had a very few, sad, Monsters Inc/golf themed cupcakes I made from the left-over batter.

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All of this seems like common sense. But I guess I was pretty confident it would hopefully turn out okay.

Luckily I have some fondant experience and I’ve always been into art. In fact, when I was little, my best friend Laura and I went to a summer art camp to create miniature things (like for dollhouses, I guess). Also I played with a ton of play-doh growing up. So I guess I was somewhat prepared 😉

But for my first 3-tier cake, I was really happy with it. What do you guys think? Do you think I could sell cakes from my house? I think that’s probably my dream job someday.

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We kept the decorations pretty simple. We were lucky to be in such a beautiful space that it didn’t need too much. We mostly used what we already had- some borrowed birthday banners, Aud’s Sulley Doll, and his golf cart toy.
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Look at this happy, goofy kid. And isn’t his outfit cute? It’s from Gymboree.

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We managed to get a family pic in!

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“Club” sandwiches from Sam’s Club

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Auden’s Aunt got him a butterfly habitat, where he can watch his own caterpillars turn into butterflies. This is him checking out his caterpillars.

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So there you have it. My handsome little man’s 4th birthday party, complete with golf, Monster’s Inc, a 6-hour cake, but most importantly, family, friends, food, fun, and a boy hugging his first set of golf clubs.