Monday, September 15, 2008

A little progress...

Last night, I was sitting in our family room contemplating the huge task of cleaning the family room. We moved in a year ago and there were boxes and other things still sitting where they landed. It has bugged me for quite a few months, but I just haven't had the energy to get anything done.

I got a bag and started slowly working through some of the piles and one of my son came in and just started helping...without me even saying anything.

It took us over an hour, and we didn't get all of the room done, but we cleared a very large area, vacuumed up enough animal hair and dust bunnies to build a small country, and filled two trash bags. Some of it was boxes and packaging, but a lot of it was stuff--papers I was holding on to "just in case". It really felt good to finally have some visual clutter removed.

Thursday night I am going to tackle the other half of the family room and then start getting the library in order. My goal before the month ends is to get the master bedroom tackled. That is going to be a large job...I have a lot of stuff still in boxes! However, after seeing how good the family room is looking, I am motivated.

I'd take a before and after picture, but I'm pretty embarrassed at how bad the house really is...

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Pear Budget---soooooo easy!

After perusing Simple Mom's blog and reading about how she uses Pear budgeting software, I decided to give it a try. I was trying to set up a spreadsheet on Excel myself, but this was soooo easy that I gave up on the Excel spreadsheet. Pear gives you a 30 day free trial, but I can already tell I am going to pay the $3 a month to continue using this. It really is worth every penny to not have to set up the tables. You just plug in the info into the categories determined by you and it is ready to go. I love it that it tells me how much I need to put aside each month for expenses that just happen once a year!

The only uncomfortable thing about this software is the fact it lets me see exactly how much I have spent so far on things like yarn,books and stuff I thought I was doing better on(I made a category on my chart just for these). Let's just say all the little "couple dollar" receipts added up to quite a large sum. Much larger than what I had imagined and definitely more than what I would have budgeted. It definitely explains why we have a lot more month left at the end of the money!!

I must say, when it is sitting right there staring you in the face, it is pretty uncomfortable! However, I now know where the leaks are and will spend the rest of the month getting back on track. I really don't think it would have been so apparent on any other method I could have created. I am not being payed to hawk this program, really! I like it that much!!!

All said, the rest of the month, the focus is going to be catching up, cooking at home, being careful with car mileage (gas was another big expense, no surprise), and trying to keep the balance in mind before I whip out my debit card.

I am going to be thumbing through one of my once a month cookbooks and putting together a shopping list so I can start using some of the recipes. One of my kids is a picky eater, but a lot of the recipes I am going to try will probably pass his "high standards".

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Thursday already?!

This week has flown by!

I am hanging out before I head off to the yarn shop where I help out. I will be there for the larger part of the day helping out, then I have a mittens class from 6-8 p.m.

It is going to be a full day!

I am looking forward to the mittens class. Even though I have been working on a pair of fiddlehead mittens, I have never done a thumb---you'll notice in my post about the fiddlehead mittens that they do not have thumbs yet--so this will be a good opportunity to learn. I am working on the mate to the fiddlehead I posted about earlier, but I also have a quickie hat on my needles since I like to have something easy and mindless to carry with me to appointments. The fiddleheads require pretty good concentration, so they are my "home knitting" project. Since winter is right around the corner, I want to learn to make a pair of simple and basic mittens so I can have several pairs for the glove/hat basket by the front door. A really basic pair of mittens works up quickly and I won't freak out if they go missing, as gloves tend to do...

Any plans for the weekend? I have a drawing class at a local art museum that I am pretty excited about. I have tried to take this class a couple times but have had such a schedule conflict that it never panned out. Hubby is picking the kids up from their Saturday football practice, so there isn't anything that is causing a schedule conflict this time. As parents know, when kids schedules conflict with parent schedules, the parent activities will be the first to go...Anyway, I want to take this drawing class to refresh my skills and to work towards taking an oil painting and a print making class at the same facility. I already do pottery, but would like to be able to have stuff I paint on my walls. It just makes it more personal, don't you think?

On the drive home from my son's pottery class last night, there was a smell in the air that reminded me that Fall is right on us and winter is just hanging out around the corner. We had such a mild summer, I am hoping that doesn't mean we are going to have a crazy winter. I like snow, which we got plenty of last winter, but I do not like ice, which we also get every year to varying degrees. I tend to stay home a lot in the winter and just venture out when it is absolutely necessary, like for classes, grocery shopping or to pick kids up from school. I tend to spend a lot of time on the Internet when I'm at home. This season I am going to work on making sure I work on the decor of the house and the maintenance instead of hanging out in cyberspace! Especially any site that might encourage pulling out the credit card

I am trying to do a short run from a one a month cooking cookbook I got recently. I figured I would prepare single meal sized batches so I can make sure my family likes the entree before making it in bulk and then ending up wasting it. The good thing about bulk cooking is that it makes meal times pretty mindless--you just pull something out that morning to thaw and pop it in the oven, add sides, and you're done. I have a friend that will be going through a divorce pretty soon and is going to be cutting her income into a tiny fragment of what she is used to living on, so it would be nice if I could have a couple spare meals to take to her weekly to help her out a bit while she is transitioning.

We have talked about the fact that once her divorce goes through, we will be creative in our get-togethers and try to find all the free things to do in the city or just get together and read at the bookstore and knit/crochet. It will be a good opportunity for me to see how creative I can be at finding cheap or free entertainment for us. There are lots of things to do around the city, we just have to search these out a little. Once a month, the city has Final Fridays. It is an art event where several downtown businesses and galleries stay open late and have varied exhibits from artists. There is a trolley that runs around town and several other things going on. We have never gone to one before--this is a good time to start.

I guess I'd better sign off and get ready to head to the yarn shop. I'll have pictures later, I'm sure!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Trying to Organize for the Winter

This week has been a flurry of planning here at my house. I several things this weekend, some good-some not so good:

1: Our house is way out of control!

There is too much clutter and too much stuff. Paper and unread mail is taking a big chunk out of our visual space.

I am slowly working towards getting this under control. I sat down with a large garbage bag and did a little purge. However, I am going to have to go back through and get serious. We moved to a bigger house last year and slowly all surfaces and crevices are being filled. I realize I tend to save things for "just in case".

That has to stop.

2. Our budget is way out of control.

Actually, I realized that we have no budget that we are working from.

It is basically if we want/need it, I buy it. Do I need to tell you what that does to any possible money for savings? So starting this week I have set up a budget on Excel. It is a preliminary one and I'm sure I will be tweaking it as time goes along.

Would you be shocked to know that this a totally new concept for me? My parents never discussed anything related to money, so I am feeling my way along on this. I am going to make sure my boys are taught to budget. The oldest one is out on his own and not doing to well at the budgeting, so I need to teach the two youngest better obviously.

Two excellent home management blogs that I find myself going back to time and time again are
Small Notebook and Simple Mom. You will love these sights, I promise. I am using tips and charts from both to get my house under control finally.

3. Time Management
I tend to take on a lot of projects, then get overwhelmed and unable to accomplish any of them.

I am going to cut down on a lot of the busyness that I have going on so that I can get the house in shape. Part of the worksheets on Simple Mom is a daily docket and a chore list. I love these sheets!!! I made copies (she does give permission for personal use) and plan to start using them tomorrow. It is really cool to have a list like this already made up since I never remember a lot of this...It definitely does wonders when all you have to do is cross something off and go to the next step without getting bogged down in actually making list.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Crazy Schedules

Above are some of the projects I have worked on over the past couple months. As you can see on the mitten, I am still working on the thumb and putting in a lining. I have cast on the mate to it and will probably do the thumb and lining when I get to that point on the mate.

The jewelry is something I love doing too. I bought the sterling wire and a book titled Perfect Match that showed me how to do some of the hand formed ones in the picture. It is an extremely satisfying craft. In laying these out, I realized one of the butterfly earrings has gone AWOL....time to send out a search party...

As the Fall season arrives and school is in full swing for my boys, I have come to realize I am keeping a pretty crazy schedule. Here are some things from my weekly schedule:

Monday: Football games for my boys at 4:30
Hubby has class until 9pm

Tuesday: I am at Twist yarn shop helping out from 10 a.m until 2p.m
2:30- 4:30 pottery class for me
6:00 pick kids up from football practice

Wednesday: I help out at another friend's yarn shop in Newton until 1:30, pick one son up from school at 2:50
Take son to physical therapy appointment at 4:30
Pick other son up from football practice 6 p.m
one son has pottery class from 7-9p.m
Hubby has class until 9p.m

Help at first yarn shop again until 4p.m
pick kids up at 6 p.m from football

My free day...sigh...
Pick kids up from football practice if they have it.
Kids have to go to JV football games as per coach--to observe the plays--hubby will have to handle this--one day of football is all I can handle.
Every other week hubby and I go out to dinner with our dinner group...

kids football practice 7 a.m -10:a.m (hubby picks kids up)
9 a.m to 11:00 my art class

Nervous breakdown? Hmmm I think I could schedule that in on this day...

Okay--something has to give. And I didn't add in the other "one time things" that are happening. The past couple nights, my dreams have consisted of scenarios where I am constantly missing buses, appointments. etc.

Talk about dreams trying to tell you something!

I am probably going to have to cut down Tuesday/Thursday to just Thursdays until I get a handle on the schedule and the chaos. I love being at both shops so I will continue on day at each--going there really feeds my soul, but I do need to cut down one day from the Wichita store. I also need to keep a calendar going so I can get rid of this "Am I forgetting something? " feeling that is causing me a great deal of anxiety. The football and hubby's school schedule are pretty set in stone, so I need to make sure I am giving myself mental breathing space between all the running and getting HOME things done--which is really not going so well and may be the reason I am stressing...


On the bright side--I have been pretty disciplined and have not bought a ton of yarn and other knitting related things in the past week. This may not sound big, but it is for me. I always buy something...even if it is a skein or two of yarn. I have been able to remind myself that I already have yarn at home. I do have a mittens class coming up this week, but I already have the yarn and needles for it, thankfully!

Later addition to this post:

I realize the above post sounds like a whole lotta whinin'... sorry.

However, in typing that out, I realized that I really am overloaded. Some of it can be helped, some of it can't (like kids and hubby schedules). I am just going to have to give a serious look at all my activities and see what can be cut out, even if on a temporary basis. The dreams I'm having about missing important appointments, buses, events is a sure sign my mind is trying to give me a hint that it is all too much.

I have a habit of taking on too much and trying to make it all fit. That is part of the reason my house looks the way it does.

I did find an excellent tool over at Simple Mom's blog and I intend to put it into use this week. I will be getting a binder and running off the sheets tonight so I can start using this tool. I love that she has a grocery list, chore list and a couple other things that you can also download for free from her sight.

Another sight I love is Small Notebook. She has excellent ideas on keeping your house in order and just making yourself DO the work. I really enjoyed her posts about laundry and getting it done and organized. I am going to put some of her suggestions and insights to use this week. I realized we have a ton of clothes that are not really fitting anyone, but somehow they keep getting put in the laundry, washed, folded and then redistributed. Then they end up in the laundry again because someone can't wear it, but doesn't toss it. What's up with that? Next weekend, I am going to make the boys drag everything out of their closets and drawers so we can cull the herd! Then I will do that with my clothes on Monday. I realized I have clothes in my closet that I haven't worn since before the twins were born. Did I mention the twins are almost 15 years old?!! Come on!!! What's up with that?!

Check out both of them in my sidebar of links.