Thursday, December 17, 2015

Frugal (and fun!) Holiday Ideas

One of my most favorite things to do as a stay-at-home mom is try and find ways to have fun, memorable moments with my kids that don't cost a lot of money. Living on one income has a lot of challenges, but I see it as that - a (fun!) challenge. 

Today I want to share with you some ways we've spent time together having fun and making memories this Christmas without breaking the bank:

1. Story Time - we love our local library's story time each week. It's free, a great way for the kids to interact with other littles their size, cultivates a love for books, and there's always fun music and dancing as well as crafts and coloring. Around this time of year, Santa makes a special visit and has milk and cookies with the kids. Why pay all that money and waste time driving to the mall to see Santa when you can see him at the library for free? They don't know the difference at this age ;) 

2. Gift-giving - we really want our children to learn to be generous gift-givers. Around the Christmas season, there can be this mentality of get, get, get so we've brainstormed lots of ways to flip the script with our kids so that Christmas is more about give, give, give. After all, God gave us the greatest gift of all on that very first Christmas night! We also don't want our children to think gift-giving needs to be expensive. Homemade gifts mean so much to grandparents, neighbors and friends. And it's a great way to include your child in on the experience! One of our favorite gifts to make and give are ornaments - family and friends can hang these on their tree year after year! Our favorites are salt dough ornaments (recipe here) and anything with craft sticks! 

3. Christmas Tree Shopping - this doesn't really fall in line with the "frugal" part as real trees are definitely more expensive than buying an artificial and keeping it for years, but this is one area where we splurge! Every December we load up the car and go pick out our Christmas tree together. It's a great way to support local businesses, and spend time together making memories. 

4. Host friends or family, but keep it simple. With two small kids and lots of house renovations going on at once, it would be so easy to neglect hospitality. This season of our lives is busy and chaotic - we have the perfect excuse! But taking time to get together with friends and family is something we feel strongly about. It strengthens relationships (esp. if your friends don't have local family to spend the holidays with), is a great way to show your children how to be hospitable to others, and it builds community. 

And a dinner with friends and family does not have to be time consuming and cost a lot of money. My tips for making it stress free? Only clean the main rooms - don't kill yourself cleaning the entire house from top to bottom. Close doors for rooms that don't get clean, and focus on the rooms that you will be entertaining in. If you come to our house, chances are our kitchen, dining, living room and front bathroom will always be clean. Just don't open any closed bedroom doors ;) Also, keep your meal simple and cheap. A pasta bake, with rolls and a salad come together quickly (esp if you get frozen rolls and bagged salad mixes!), and free you up to unwind and take a deep breath before your company arrives. 

Last but not least, enjoy the holidays. This week, evaluate how you're feeling about your schedule - do things feel hectic and busy? If so, that's a sign you're doing too much. Look at your calendar for the weekend and upcoming Christmas week and decide what can be trimmed...try to simplify things so that you go into the Christmas week feeling excited, energized, and ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus with your friends and family. 

For more money saving ideas, click here!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

18 Months of Lydia

It's hard to believe our Lydia Bear is 18 mos old! This is probably my most favorite age - she's still hanging on to her chubby baby thighs, neck and arm rolls, and needing her pacifiers and cuddles but starting to explore her vocabulary, independence and assert her opinion every now and then. Not a baby, but not quite a toddler either. Easily distracted, which means tears dry up quickly and easy to please! 

We had some family photos done recently, and I loved how the photographer captured the kids' unique personalities - this one was my favorite of Lydia's sweet smile. 

Some of her favorite things right now: pushing her baby in the "stro-yo" (stroller), playing cars with brother, having school with brother (pictured below), climbing, being read to, piggy back rides, bath time, eating, rolling/kicking/catching balls, playing ring-around-the-rosie, playing hide and seek with brother, and playing outside. 

We receive compliments on her hair on a daily basis when we're out. I'm so thankful for her red curls! They suit her so well :) And they get curlier when we have a rainy or a humid day. I'm sure she'll love that when she's a teenager ;) 

As far as pre-toddlers go, Lydia has been really easy so far. Whenever she tries to touch something off-limits we just have to tell her "no" once and then she doesn't really test it again. So far, she has a compliant spirit and is really tenderhearted. We pray she keeps this because it's such a sweet part of her personality right now. 

We never really had to teach her table manners because girlfriend loves to eat - no throwing food on the floor for her - she hardly lets any go to waste ;) Her favorites for breakfast are eggs or oatmeal, for lunch she likes peanut butter and jelly, and her favorite dinner time meal is spaghetti. She loves all fruits, and vegetables (especially roasted) and loves "yo-yo" (yogurt).   

We just had her 18-month check up last week and she is 23.5 lbs for weight and 31 inches for height. She's wearing mostly 18-24 mos clothes. She loves adding to her outfits by putting on her necklaces, carrying her purse, asking for a bow, or picking out her own shoes. I love how girly she is, but I also love seeing her play in the dirt and make car sounds with her big brother :) The two of them are mostly sweet when they play together. They do pretty well unless one of them wants something the other one has. :)

The biggest changes for her the past few months have been moving to one nap/day and moving her forward facing this month. We held off moving William forward facing until he was two, but Lydia has been protesting the car seat and crying a lot in it lately which makes for a really miserable car ride. Once we switched her around, it's like it opened up a whole new world :) She loves to read books with William and dance to music in the car. 

Lydia Ann, we love your bubbly personality and your bravery - you love being around people and making them smile, and I pray the Lord will use that in a mighty way. Stay sweet! xoxo

Thursday, November 5, 2015

a bit of this, and a bit of that

Hi friends! 

Happy (belated) Halloween! I hope all your tricksters got lots of treats and are detoxing nicely from their sugar binges. ;) Even though all the traces of Halloween were gone by November 2 in our house, my two tricksters still keep getting treats (thanks, neighbors!) and so candy is still being requested around here. It's a good thing all those baby teeth are going to fall out one day anyway ;)

Here's a few pics from our Halloween festivities:

a little impromptu photo session in the front yard with my two pumpkins :)

 taking the kids to the pumpkin patch - this one cracked me up. Lydia is trying to escape and William is pretending to be sad. Never a dull moment. 

playing in the corn bin

 she loved the goats :)

 bouncy house fun!

this year, William went as Leonardo and Lydia as an owl - this was at our library's story time halloween party

 trick-or-treating fun at Nina and Papa's house

I love what a sweet brother William looks like in this one :) Such a handsome young boy he is growing up to be! 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Guest Room - 2 Years Later

This room has always been our jack of all trades. It's on the front side of the house (opposite the living room and our bedrooms) in the part of the home that used to be the enclosed garage. When the remodel of the home took place (not sure when that happened), the garage turned into 2 additional bedrooms - this room, and the one next to it (which is now the family office/TV room). 

We started with a blank slate in here....

And during the first few months this kind of became the storage dumping grounds...with intentions of making it the guest bedroom. 

 It housed the guest bed, lots of overflow storage, and my sewing table. 

Then we cleaned it out and it officially became the guest bedroom...

It stayed like this for about a year when we realized 1.) we hardly ever have overnight guests so the room rarely gets used and 2.) we needed a place for the toys to go and a space where the kids could play indoors on rainy/cold days.

And that's where we are today...a play/school room that also houses my treadmill ;) This room is big enough for me to workout in after the kids are in bed, and I love looking out the window and seeing the front of our yard while I workout. In the day, it's where William has Independent Play Time and where we do "school." 

There's still a bit of work we need to do in here (add some closet shelving to allow more storage, anchor the bookshelves to the wall, hang some things we bought from Ikea, and get some fun curtains), but it's functional and fine for now. 

The ironic part about removing a guest bedroom from the house has been that we've actually had more guests stay in this room since we've sold the bed and turned it into a playroom :) It still works out well...our guests either bring pack and plays for kids to stay in here, or we blow up an air mattress for them to stay. I like that it has gone from a seldom-used room to a heavily-used room within the two years we've been here. 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Living Room - 2 Years Later

This room is probably our most evolving room in the house. We've been here two years, and it has taken on a lot of different looks. Partly because it's so large and I've had a lot of trouble furnishing it. 

However, the current layout is probably our favorite. It's practical (which is good because this is one of our main rooms to hang out in as a family) and the seating flows well now for conversation. 

But before I reveal the current photos, let's back things up a bit and look at where we started:

2013 - Blank Slate!

See what I mean? Huge!

This was 1-month in. Still pretty bare bones. 

Three months in, we bought a cool vintage red chair, an oversized ivory chair, and a gigantic piece of artwork to help fill the space

Around the fifth month mark, we lightened things up by redoing our coffee table, buying a vintage rocking chair, and adding in some extra throw pillows

 We finally got around to adding poly to the coffee table to finish it off, and we found some curtains we loved at Kirklands. 

Things stayed like this for a while - changing variation in where the ivory oversized chair was (in front of the window, in the corner, etc). 

Then we decided to finally paint (we went with a light gray)! We also sold the rocking chair and oversized chair and got something more "manly" in the space (Nathan's words, not mine). We opted for a faux leather chair that has quickly become a favorite. We also switched out the artwork above the mantel for a Nathan Atwood original (grin) and did even more furniture moving. Oh, and we hung some more stuff on the wall to make it feel more lived-in. 

This is how things look today:

 I don't like toy clutter, so that white wire three-tiered drawer unit in the corner blends in well with the room but also holds Lydia's toys. We also keep the Pack and Play set up in here because this is where she has Independent Play Time each morning. 

 That colorful canvas was one Nathan swiped at a yard sale. At first it looked way too large for our space, but it gives the room some nice color. The Coke crate on the side table is also a practical piece that holds our library books for the kids. Did I mention I don't like clutter? ;)

Our main area for keeping toys out of sight in this room is this Armoire tucked into the corner. We found it on Craigslist and it's original use was as an entertainment center (it had electrical hook up inside for storing a TV). We love this thing! I store William's cars, trucks, and all the kids' books down on the bottom half, and on the top half I put out-of-reach toys that make a huge mess (puzzles, blocks, etc) that I want the kids to have limited access to. We also keep diaper bags, my purse, and cloth bags for Aldi shopping up top. 

 This is our updated mantle artwork - Nathan took this when we lived in Rochester, and it's one of my favorite waterfall prints. It adds a real calmness to the space and looks much better than the oversized artwork we had there before. 

I love finally having a layout and furnishings in here that work for us. And I'm so happy to have that pastel peach color gone from the walls! 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Dining Room - 2 Years Later

I thought it might be fun to show you guys what we've been doing on our house in the past two years. The blog has sort of taken a hit in this area, as I've just simply lacked energy and time to document everything. But I'm hoping now that I'm back on the blog bandwagon I can slowly roll out these house update posts. I love documenting our house projects because it's a great way for me to look back and see just how far we've come (esp on days like today when the house looks like a bomb went off...and the insides of that bomb just so happened to be toys...grin). 

As I was preparing to do this post, and scanning through old photos, I realized: we have done significantly less updates in two years here in TN than we did in NY. I'm thinking that's probably because our family grew by two little people who take up most of our day. :) 

At any rate, here's the progress we've made in one of the most used rooms in our home - the Dining Room. 

This is what the space looked like before we moved in:

This was one month in...don't judge

I don't have many photos after that period, but here's what the space looks like today:

We still haven't painted the room or removed the carpet, but Nathan did build me a gigantic farmhouse table (plans via Ana White), and we purchased a hutch as well as added a few pieces on the wall. We also changed out the light fixture, and hung some new curtains. 

I love my table!! It seats 8 very comfortably, and I love all of the knots and details that make it unique. Nathan put a lot of work into it, and it's the first thing people see and compliment when they come in. We have a mix of chairs around the table, but I wanted something a bit more formal for the head chairs. 

We bought these on sale at World Market, and I couldn't be happier. They are super comfortable, and whenever we have a big crowd over I can easily pull them into the living room to seat more people in there. 

The hutch was a Craigslist find, and it's very practical - I store my cookbooks, china, and extra cooking stuff (Crock Pot, Rice Cooker, Serving Bowls, table runners and napkins, etc) in there, and there's also a drawer at the bottom that's reserved for William and Lydia - it houses some coloring stuff, paper, play doh etc, that we break out in the dining room during dinner prep to keep them busy :) 

Our plans for this room have been coming along slowly, because we're thinking we may tear down 1/2 of the wall that leads into the living room to open the space up more. We're still contemplating and configuring everything, so that's why we've waiting to do flooring and painting just yet. 

We do love the way Glidden's May Tulip Yellow looks splashed on the wall. It has a nice golden undertone, which compliments our blue in the kitchen well. I'd really like to do the Yellow 1/2 way up, with a chair rail and then a nice white on the bottom 1/2. 

I'd also like to paint the hutch to help break up some of that wood in the room (esp once we get hardwoods, I think it'll just look to heavy). I've found a few ideas on Pinterest I really like the look of. I love the idea of painting it white, with the blue from our kitchen as the backsplash. Here's a photo of how that might look...

colors for banquette Young House Love | House Crashing: The Whole Show |

And another (with the darker blue instead)
Blue Painted Inlay Within A White Hutch

Since this is a space we spend roughly 3 hours or more in per day, we really wanted it to be cozy. I'm so thankful Nathan worked so hard to make our table - it's so wonderful to have so much seating and still plenty of room to pull the kids' booster seats up too. It is solid wood (he even had to have friends come over to help him bring it inside!), and has a lot of cool details. I love his can-do personality, and that he doesn't get tired of my crazy ideas. ;)