Apr 24, 2014

Quickie Car Organization

Nearly finished some new budget printables yesterday! I am striving for just a few, very simple forms to keep our budget in front of me and give me an "at-a-glance" view of where we're at and what we need to do. Once I get them all done (and make some more generic versions), I'll share here!

I hesitated calling this post "Quickie Car Organization" because while the organizing part of this process was quick, the entire process, which started a few weeks ago when I took advantage of a nice day to clean my car, wasn't so "quick". Very much needed, though, and it was great to have an organizing/cleaning project that allowed me to enjoy nice weather outside for a change, rather than just being inside the house with the windows open! Since I haven't shared any of that, I thought I'd start at the beginning, but in honor of the "quickie week" I seem to have started, I'm keeping the name as is. ;)

A month or so ago when the hubby and daughter were out-of-town, I enjoyed a productive weekend at home. That Saturday wasn't so nice out, as I recall, but Sunday was GORGEOUS. It was the perfect day to clean my car, which is something I always forget about until I'm driving somewhere or have other people in my car and find myself apologizing for the dirtiness. Brad periodically vacuums for me and washes the outside, but what I really notice is the DUST. With multiple little kids and constantly changing Midwest weather, the carpets get dirty again fast, so it seems almost worthless sometimes to vacuum. But I love a freshly Armor-All'd dashboard. So shiny and clean! Maybe it's because that's what I stare at when I drive, but a clean dash to me is a clean car!

I spent about four hours that afternoon vacuuming everything, cleaning the leather, and applying Armor All to clean the dash and inside of the doors. It's not perfect (I have a 2006 vehicle that, as I said, gets a lot of use transporting kids), but I'm no longer embarrassed by it. More recently I spent part of another nice afternoon cleaning the windows. And then finally yesterday I finished the organization!

When I have all my daycare kids in the car and my 3rd row seat is in use, I only have this much cargo space left. Not. Much. In the past I haven't even attempted to store shopping bags or anything else because I figured every time I opened the rear hatch that they'd come tumbling out. But I stuffed all my bags in my big thermal from Thirty One (that size is no longer available), and they stay in place really well! I also added a travel changing pad with wipes now that I'll have a baby in tow again. And the Thirty One Keep-It-Caddy on the right nicely holds my blankets. The blankets are nice to have in the car. I found out at least once last year that you can't always count on picnic tables to be available at a park, and we like to picnic for daycare, and blankets in the car are always a good idea. You never know when you'll need a soft, dry spot to sit, a warm blanket to cover up with, or when you'll get stranded in the snow!

Underneath those items, there is a hidden storage area where I store a roadside emergency kit and another blanket.

Moving further up in the car to the 2nd row seat, I swapped out my old droopy backseat organizer for a thinner one that stays closer to the seat better. It doesn't hold several books and things like the other one, but adding one more child to daycare again means making more space available in the car, and more needed foot room. I love this organizer from, yep, you guessed it, Thirty One, because it has just enough pockets without being a catch-all sort of place. (The fun coral color doesn't hurt, either.) My daughter's Leap Pad fits in the top clear pocket, even with the gel skin on! I figured that would be great for her to watch movie apps that she has, though it sits maybe a tad too low for that so she'll probably still have to hold it when in use. It is still a good spot to store it when traveling. There's also a great spot for a water bottle, paper or a couple thin books, and another clear pocket for crayons, a granola bar, or whatever you need to store. (Keeping that pocket free for now.) The bottom pockets could hold some lightweight toys or snacks, but we're using them for baby wipes and tissues. A mom's always got to have those handy! 

Eventually I want to add one of these to hold books and car toys for the kids again, and for Faith to use on long trips. I won't have the daycare kids in the car as much over the summer, so at least for that purpose we have some time. 

Flip-Top Organizing Bin
The lid flips over to create a wipe-able tray or game surface, and there are pockets on the outside for even more storage. You can even buckle it into the car so it stays put! And again, fun coral color! 

Moving up to the front seat now, my car has a deep center console that has a lot of room for storing stuff, but it's also so deep that it can become a mess quickly and then it's tough to find things. I cleared out what I didn't need, and reorganized the essentials. I currently carry a small notebook and pens in the car, so that if ideas come to me when I'm out-and-about, or I decide to work on a to-do or grocery list while waiting at school, I have paper available. I also added an index card with daycare parents' information, so that if we're ever in an accident and I can't locate my phone, I have that information available. That orange thing is a mini (BRIGHT) LED flashlight.

I also recently added a mini cleaning kit. I purchased this Norwex Travel Pack a while back along with a small spray bottle from Dollar Tree. I filled the bottle with water, and with the four color-coded cloths, I'm ready to clean up anything from kids to the car! The water bottle hangs nicely on the removable compartment on the top of the center console.

Down lower, in that dark area that you can hardly see, I have a lint roller, an umbrella, a first aid kit and first aid tools (tweezers, scissors, etc.).

Underneath the center console of my car is this open storage area. I've never quiet known what to put there. I think it's intended for a purse so that a would-be-thief wouldn't see it sitting out, but it's not very deep and kind of tough to get a larger purse in-and-out of. I used to have tissues in the bottom of that center console storage, and it's worked well (have to use a square Kleenex box), but I decided that space could be better utilized and this was a great spot for tissues! Pretty regularly I need to hand one to someone as I'm driving, so this spot makes them easy to reach and I don't have to open anything or dig. 

Once Mya starts next week and I have a package of diapers for her, I'll stick a couple of those in the pocket of the door or with the baby wipes so that I always have back-ups. I'd love to keep sunscreen and bugspray in the car, too, but those aren't good things to keep in high heat, so I'll just have to remember to grab those! 

I'm feeling really good about my clean(er), summer-ready car! Bring on the picnics!

Apr 23, 2014

No-Quickie Wednesday ;)

I had to break my "quickie" organizing streak today. Darnit! I had hoped to finish up the last few details in my car organization yesterday, but things didn't go as planned and it never got done. Go figure. After practicing Jazzercise this morning I got to have Mya for a couple hours! This was a sort of "practice run" while Kim went to an appointment before she officially starts daycare at my house next week. She was pretty happy the whole time! I expect the next few weeks to be an adjustment for all of us, and she can be a little high maintenance. ;) I plan (there's that word again...will I ever learn?) to start blogging in the early morning or the evening before because my naptime break might be non-existent for a while. So between that and Jazzercise auditions next week...and then planning Faith's birthday party...I may be MIA here-and-there. I'll try not to. But I make no promises. 

Kids are down now and I just showered and ate, so I'm going to work on some budget printables! I have found some great ones out there but they never seem to be exactly what I want, so I'm going to create my own. Once I do I'll share on the blog! For now, off to enjoy this rainy day in my sweatshirt and eventually with a hot drink in hand... ;)

Apr 22, 2014

Quickie Organization in the Bedroom {Drawer Dividers}

I really hadn't intended for it to be "quickie" week. Hee hee. I said, "quickie". But I'm finding myself more-and-more trying to squeeze in small organizing projects that can be done in a half hour or less, so that's kind of the direction this week is taking!

Ever since we got our bedroom set, I've struggled with my dresser. It's large and has ample drawer space, but without any division, clothes topple on top of each other and get all mixed up. (Read: When I'm fishing for clothes in the dark at 5:15 am because I didn't lay them out the night before, everything becomes a mess.) I decided it was finally time to fix that.

My socks have always been divided with a sock organizer that I purchased at some point.

I also got some dividers to keep my tanks and camis from becoming one big pile.

Notice I didn't re-roll the tanks or socks to "stage" these pics. This is real life, people. Real. Life. ;)

And a couple months ago I finally solved the problem of my messy bra drawer with some Dollar Tree organizers.

So what remained big problems in my dresser were the jeans/pants/sweatshirts drawer...

...and the drawer that holds my workout clothes.

Especially in that drawer where everything tends to be "slick", it's just impossible to keep everything organized in nice piles. That is, until, I got some more drawer dividers...

I picked up two sets of these at Target last weekend for about $17 each. Dividing two drawers for $34 was painful, but Brad's been so busy lately that I didn't feel I could add another DIY to his list (I was tempted to try a modified version of Jen's drawer divider that she DIY'd here). I know I'll use these for years to come, and since they're so easily installed and removed, they can even be used elsewhere if need be. 

I took the dividers out of the box and attached the included little pads that help keep the divider secure.

I emptied the drawers.

And then I put everything back. Nicely!

I love that everything now has its own spot and will (hopefully!) stay sorted. I find that rolling clothing (tanks, camis, leggings) helps me to see and access them better, so I did that with my workout tops and some leggings and knit shorts. (You can imagine what finding one workout top in a pile of 12 would be like, and then putting it all back.) 

I didn't time it, and I spent some time taking photos, but I am sure this was a less-than-30-minute project, and that includes sticking on those little grippy pads. What a difference that half hour is going to make for me on a daily basis! 

Do you have any "quickie" projects that you could tackle?! Think of all you could accomplish if you even did one 20-minute project a day!

Apr 21, 2014

Quickie Organizing in the Kitchen {Going Sugar-Free}

We had an absolutely beautiful weekend and the best Easter weather I can remember in a long time! I totally should have bought a cute springy Easter outfit...darn! I finally got back down to the basement and started tackling the mess in the craft room, and am happy to report the floor is clear (except for some sequins that need vacuumed), and I did a little more purging! I'll share that progress when I get finished down there. I have a few paper piles to put away and need to troubleshoot some storage situations. There is still quite a bit to go through, but in a matter of a few hours I made major progress.

This morning I decided to tackle a quick (10-20 minute) organizing project in the kitchen. As I've been working on quitting sugar, some food storage issues have arisen. For one, new foods are coming into the house that I've never had before, so I have to figure out where to put them (things like almond and coconut flours, 100% raw cacao powder and nibs, etc.). Second, since I'm trying to make a lifestyle change and want to eventually get my family on board with the same, I want to gradually get the "bad stuff" out. So this morning I started working towards that goal.

Let me say first that looking at these photos makes me unable to wait to paint our cupboards! Bleh!

So the "baking cupboard", we'll call it, is pretty organized already...except for that lower shelf where the new additions continue to take over. As I get rid of some of the other flours I'll resolve that problem, but for now it is what it is. I have added those smaller canisters gradually and really like them, but eventually would like larger quantities of some of those items. I'm still in a phase of figuring out what's "allowed", what I like, and what I'll use the most of. It's all a process!

I grabbed my extra Tupperware Modular Mates from downstairs to see what I had and to figure out a new arrangement in the cupboard and one small area of the pantry. I had cocoa powder and nibs from Amazon to go into containers, and the powder was a larger quantity than would fit in the container I had been using for the Hershey variety of baking cocoa. Eventually I want most flours gone (other than whole wheat, almond, coconut and any other "healthy" varieties), but I also don't want to waste and being realistic about feeding daycare kids and my family (and not knowing yet what I'll like to make and what I'll need), I'm not quite ready to start dumping large quantities out. 

I started by moving the less-used items up high. Somehow lately I wound up with cake flour, bread flour and then the ones I usually use, on top of the newer flours I've been using for the "diet". I used up all-purpose flour last week so that was one less to worry about. If in a few months I don't touch any of this stuff, out it goes!

I had an expired salad dressing up top that I tossed, and grabbed some of these sugary condiments (generally speaking condiments = BAD for giving up sugar) to get rid of. I am taking food to our local homeless shelter Wednesday so I figured I'd donate these as well. Eventually I'l make our ketchup, too, but think we'll use up what's here until then (and I won't be eating the packaged stuff in the meantime). Not much to put ketchup on when you're going sugar-free anyway!

I put some ingredients into different containers, like the flax seed, so that my new configuration would work better. 

And things that I know I'll be using a lot more, like chia seeds, got put into a bigger container.

I did a little shuffling between the "baking cupboard" and a shelf of the pantry. Deeper Modular Mates (the rectangle ones) fit great in the pantry, but the square or small oval ones work better in the cupboard since it's not very deep. There wasn't much pasta left so storing that wasn't an issue (the spaghetti that remains is still in one of the flat Tupperware containers below). I moved the rice and beans to the baking cupboard because they fit better there for what I had planned, and I put my new cocoa powder and nibs into the containers below with the red lids. A spot was freed up to the left so I was able to get some things off the floor and unclutter the shelves a bit, too.

As I use things up and get into a groove with my new eating habits, some food will go, some food will stay, and things are going to get shuffled around quite a bit in the next several months, I imagine. But it felt good to get a start on it! Eventually I hope to be able to open the cupboards or pantry and only have good choices in front of me!

Apr 18, 2014

That Darn Sugar (and a Few Easter Basket Alternatives) {Fitness Friday}

As we near the end of yet another sugar-infested holiday I thought it might be an appropriate time to talk a little more about my ongoing journey to quit the addictive stuff. As much as you may not want to admit it, I have the feeling that when you come out of your Cadbury coma you won't be able to argue how badly those cravings can get you. Me. All of us. I know, I know. If you're not saying it, you're hearing from someone around you things like, "A little sugar's ok", or "Grandmas are supposed to give kids cookies". (My shoulders are knotting up just thinking about it.) We grew up on cake for birthdays and Kool Aid in the summertime and white bread for sandwiches...so what's the big deal? We seem to be ok, right?

Mmmmm...I think not so much. 

If you've been reading anything about it...if you're one of those people that educates yourself on nutrition...this probably won't be news for you, and maybe you've already started making changes. That's great! There seem to be more and more people (especially moms, it seems) realizing the problem that's facing our country and either making changes within their own family's diet or going further and trying to enact change in their kids' soccer teams, schools and beyond.

That gives me hope. 

Because if you're not one of those that's been educating yourself, this is some scary stuff, people. Especially if you're a parent. Navigating the food world right now is mind-boggling.

Here are some of the problems that I know from the little bit that I've read/researched:

  • Sugar is addictive. If you don't believe it from your own personal experience, there are plenty of experts out there backing it up with science. Here's one example
  • Sugar is EVERYWHERE and in EVERYTHING. The food supply in the United States has apparently become so contaminated (for lack of a better word) with sugar in all its forms that even when we think we're making healthy choices and using the "good" sugars and limiting sweets overall, we're very likely still consuming way more than we should be. 
  • Sugar is making us sick. It's making us fat. It's leading to infertility and anxiety and all sorts of other issues. Some even life-threatening illnesses. This is SERIOUS
Unfortunately it's tough getting a lot of support when trying to quit sugar because for those that don't understand that sugar isn't just in that cupcake but it's also in the bread and the milk and the "healthy" snack, it doesn't seem like a big deal. Cutting sugar to some people is "dieting" and dieting isn't always viewed as a positive thing. Often we link dieting just to weight loss, and it's easy to miss all the other reasons someone might want to make a healthy life change. 

And to me that's what quitting sugar is. A healthy LIFE CHANGE.

I started trying to cut back sugar years ago, initially because I knew that to increase my chances of fertility with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), I would benefit from a high protein/low carb (low sugar but more of the good carbs) diet (South Beach was what I was doing at the time). I also want the best for my family and myself in terms of overall health, and I learn more and more about what consuming sugar, especially in the quantities we get it without trying, can do to our bodies. In the last year I also started realizing that there was a link between my terribly itchy and sore-blotched skin and my sugar consumption. If I eat a lot of sweets or processed foods, or if I drink alcohol (wine or beer or sugary drinks in particular), my affected ankles would itch almost immediately. And the more I made the connection, the more I noticed itching all over my body when I'd eat this stuff. Talk about negative reinforcement! 

I've had moments in my life where I've successfully reduced sugar and ate healthy overall. But it's HARD, and eventually I've always gotten back to where I am now. When I'm doing well, the cravings subside and I feel so much better...and then if I go overboard on the "bad" foods, I know it because I feel like poo. But getting there is not an easy task.

Recently I purchased two books so that I could be armed with as much motivation and as many food ideas as possible to set myself up for success. Those books are The Candida Free Cookbook and I Quit Sugar: Your Complete 8-Week Detox Program and Cookbook. I also have a Pinterest board aimed at foods that are "diet-friendly" for this type of eating here. I'm loving both books so far, especially I Quit Sugar for Sarah's gradual, "gentle" approach to detoxing from sugar. 

The whole topic can get lengthy so I'm going to wrap this up for now, but I'll be sharing my progress here so I thought I'd at least start with an intro of why I think it's so important and why I'm working towards this goal for myself. As I go I'll share my challenges, my successes, and any tips I find to help you quit the bad stuff yourself (if that's what you're choosing to do)!

And if you're not sure what to do for your kids for Easter in lieu of candy, here's what I put in eggs for my daycare kids to find: Character Band Aids (My Little Pony, Hello Kitty, Doc McStuffins, etc.), ponytail holders or barrettes, small nail polish, stickers, tattoos (if large sheets just cut into smaller ones to fit in eggs), bouncy balls. (I also had an unopened package of Easter pencils so I gave the girls each a few after our hunt.)

Here's a link to one of probably many no-candy Easter basket ideas to help spur some imagination, too! Faith is getting a Frozen t-shirt, Frozen books, and one hollow chocolate bunny. (Baby steps.) 

I hope you all have a wonderful Easter weekend and that the weather cooperates for all your plans! 

Apr 17, 2014

A Gratitude Journal I Can Keep Up With

Oh my gosh this week month year just seems to be flying by! I've realized I have a few posts that I need to do follow-ups on from say...ohhhh...a month or more ago. (Eek!) And I had intended to do an Easter table post today. Yep, ain't happenin'. It's turning into one of those weeks where there seems like never enough time and I find myself overwhelmed and thinking, "Oh, crap! When am I going to get THAT done?!".

I find it really important, especially in these times where it's easy to get overwhelmed, tired and maybe even cranky, to focus on what's going well. I've wanted to do a gratitude journal for a long time...years, probably. Focusing on the positive, good things in your life can really give you a new perspective and help you to realize just how many great things you have going for you! (You can read about the research behind that here, or you can just try it and see for yourself!) I had visions of an adorable notebook (maybe I would even embellish it myself...of course I would!), and sitting down daily to record all the wonderful things that happened that day. I think I may have even started a simple one, at least once.

But at least two things keep me from keeping up with it. First, I get busy and forget. It never becomes habit and I simply don't remember. And second, in order to remember I'd have to have it sitting out on my desk where I'd see it and remember it every day, but if you saw my desk right now you'd understand why that's not a good idea. And even when I'm caught up and my desk isn't a tornado, I'd prefer to have it clean and clear. It's not that big of a space so it doesn't take much for it to feel cluttered.

Enter the Happier app!

I came across this app in my Facebook news feed while killing time on my phone the other day, and thought this might just be the solution to my gratitude journal dilemma! Not that I want to be more addicted connected to my phone than I already am, but the great thing about apps like this is that they REMIND me. Now the key is to not start ignoring those reminders, but if you pay attention to them and go into the app for a few days in a row, you'll start to develop a good habit. (So far so good.)

So here's how the app works. You create an account, and every day (as often as you want), you can go in and record something that you're grateful for or that made you happy. You "share happy"! Here are two of mine from yesterday...

Every time you share something, confetti falls on the screen. That seriously makes me smile every time. I tried getting a screenshot this morning for you, and since it was my 5th "happy" (they celebrate milestones, apparently, such as 3 happy's in one day) I got this...

You can connect your Happier app to share to Facebook or Twitter (two birds, one stone), and you can invite friends to join in sharing their own happy! When they share, you can "smile" at their happy, add a "me too!", or comment. You can even classify your happy moments into categories, like "being productive" and "working out" (two of mine). I've only been using it a couple days so I'm sure there's a lot more to learn, but it's such a fun and useful (and FREE!) app! And if you want even more help focusing on the positive, they offer gratitude courses as well. 

I highly recommend this app, and if you join Happier, be sure to find me (Crystal Sixta)! 

*This is not a sponsored post. All the opinions are 100% mine.

Apr 16, 2014

How I Let Loose {Vegas State of Mind #LetLoose2014}

When I was contacted by Vegas.com to share the ways I like to unwind and "let loose" in honor of National Stress Awareness Month, I thought it would be a fun idea for a post, so I agreed! They apparently saw that I needed to focus on stress management. ;) I definitely get a little stressed out with all of my responsibilities, which is why I'm trying to simplify this year and manage my time better. And when things get hectic, here are some of the ways I like to unwind and relax...aside from just kicking up my feet and watching TV. These are the things I have to set aside a little time for and prioritize some "me" time to accomplish, and I think because of that, they're so much more rewarding than staring blankly at the TV screen.

Time with friends and family

This is probably a common one for everyone, but just setting aside time to enjoy those we love and have fun with is a great way to relax and unwind. Whether it's time with my husband and daughter or other family, a coffee date with my bestie, crop night with the girls, or wine night with friends and good food, I enjoy being around those I care about. It allows for time to catch up, time to vent, time to laugh (maybe even cry), and there's just so much therapy in relationships! (Well, good ones anyway. ;))

Some good exercise

Of course I used a Jazzercise photo, but in addition to de-stressing with a pumpin' workout at Jazzercise, I also love a relaxing yoga class and a long, quiet walk to decompress, process my thoughts and relax. Whatever the form of exercise, I find it's a great time to be in my own head and just go inward. If I'm going to jog a little (interval walking/jogging is the most you'll ever see me run) I do listen to iTunes, but for walks I prefer to quietly walk by myself with just my thoughts and the sounds around me. I'm able to really appreciate everything: The breeze, the sunshine, God's creations. In the course of a busy day when I'm always multi-tasking, appreciating the things around me and having time for my own thoughts doesn't happen very often!

Reading for pleasure

I'm not a huge reader, and usually books that I read are more for information gathering purposes than just to read a novel, but whatever the topic, it's nice when I have time to just Sit. And. Read. I especially enjoy a good magazine. #BetterHomesandGardens #CountryLiving #RealSimple Maybe it's the lack of commitment and the fact that I can get through a magazine in much shorter time, but it's also enjoyable just thumbing through the pages, finding fun new ideas and inspiration.


We don't do this often enough, either, but I love camping. We're tent campers and despite the extra time and work that entails (and occasionally battling weather issues), I really do prefer it. I love having to think outside the box to cook on an open flame. I love sitting around a campfire roasting marshmallows and kicking my feet up. I love waking up to the sounds of nature (and possibly the neighboring campers...ok, maybe not that part). And most of all, I love the lack of a schedule. There aren't clocks, there aren't appointments. We don't have to do anything, really. This is one of those times I love to read and just enjoy nature. I find camping to be very relaxing!

Sitting outside on a nice day

With the long winter we've had, I find myself especially wanting to do just sit outside and soak up the sun. And I have find myself battling regrets of times that I missed a nice day because I was too busy with projects inside. So right now this is probably the most appealing way for me to wind down. I would love to sit outside on a nice spring or summer morning with a mug of Crio and something to read (or not...maybe just sit there!). I'd love to feel a gentle breeze and just enjoy the quiet of the morning. I have thoughts of doing this on a daily basis once the weather's nice enough...ideally before my daughter wakes in the morning. But in the meantime I'll try to take advantage of every nice moment of the nice-weather days we get! 

Therapy Pool at The Aria
We don't travel a lot and I've never been to Vegas, but Jennifer at Vegas.com asked me to share what I'd love to do if I ever made it to the Aria Resort & Casino. Her first suggestion was trying the "gelato roulette wheel at the buffet". Uhhhh...you had me at "gelato", Jennifer!!! The Therapy Pool sounds a-ma-zing, and a trip to a spa definitely sounds in order. I'd like to see Cirque de Soleil, do some shopping (of course!), and I'd love to catch a concert in Vegas...Brittany, maybe?! Regardless, I'm sure it would be fun and a great way to let loose!!!