Andrea's blog

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Lazy Linkies Review

Lazy Linkies Linky Party ServiceI've got to share an awesome blogging tool that I've started using recently called Lazy Linkies.

I love sharing my blog content at linky parties.  They're a fantastic way to share my projects and tutorials with new audiences - and they work! My blog traffic has largely increased since I started participating in linky parties.

The problem is...there are LOTS of them, hosted on all different blogs, with different guidelines, on different days, and at different times of the day.  They are all great parties to participate in, but I was having a hard time keeping up with which blogs posted their parties on which day of the week, checking to see if the weekly post had gone live yet throughout that day, and trying to remember to check them all.  It was taking up entirely too much of my time, but the payoff and traffic I got from each of them was really great, so I didn't want to stop.

Enter: Lazy LinkiesSeriously. Simplified it all, and made it so easy!

Lazy Linkies monitors all of those blogs for me and notifies me when each blog's weekly linky party goes live.  Now, instead of manually checking each of those blogs multiple times a day, when a linky party is posted, I'm notified immediately, I go to the post, fill out the form with my newest blog content, and am often one of the first links in the list.  So easy.  So fast.  So wonderful.

If you regularly participate in linky parties, do yourself a favor and try using Lazy Linkies!  You'll be SO glad you did!

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7 Weeks of Less - CLOTHES

I'm in the middle of a 7 week experiment inspired by the book 7 - An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker. I'm calling my journey 7 Weeks of Less.  I'm three weeks in.  Read on to see how it's going - and join me if you'd like!

  1. FOOD
  2. STUFF
  3. CLOTHES
  4. WASTE
  5. SHOPPING
  6. MEDIA
  7. STRESS

The Rules:

I will choose 7 items of clothing to wear this week.  That's it.  Wash and wear.  All week long.  Underwear & socks don't count.  The only jewelry allowed are my wedding rings.  No makeup (ouch).  Hair gel is allowed.

  1. pink ribbed tank top
  2. black & pink running shorts
  3. black sundress
  4. blue sundress
  5. turquoise ribbed tank top (changed to white camisole tank)
  6. tennis shoes (changed to turquoise dress)
  7. flip flops (add tennis shoes.  Jen Hatmaker counted two pairs of shoes as one item...so will I!)

I will also take inventory of my clothes and try to get rid of as much as possible. I've done this recently, so I'm curious how much more I can prune. 

I feel like this week won't be too hard (though kind of boring).  Since it's summertime, I won't need things like jackets, hats, jeans, sweaters, etc.  Having only one set of workout clothes is going to be the hardest.  That will require daily laundering.  And I'm going to miss wearing earrings. 

Dang. And I just realized I'm scheduled to drive to Nashville this weekend for a bachelorette party.  No makeup & no jewelry? Jazz.

The Wrap-Up:

Aside from my wardrobe this week, which was simple, easy and predictable, it was the most insanely busy week that we've had in a long long time.  So I barely had time to think about what I was wearing, let alone worry about it!  And truthfully it ended up being a less-than-typical week where normally I would have worked out 3-4 times and changed clothes more often.  But it was a plenty social week, so I had to parade my simple self all over Birmingham (and Nashville), visiting with people who see me everyday as well as many who only see me on occasion. 

Here's what I came away with this week:

  • I completely failed to go through my clothes and get rid of anything.  Not a single item.  I'll get to it. One of these days.
  • I only cheated once, in the name of nostalgia.  I put on my brother in law's Carbondale Terriers baseball jacket for about a minute as I was unpacking their coat closet in their new house. :) 
  • I was so thankful that underwear and socks weren't included in this week's rules.  I totally changed underwear just for fun...several times.
  • I was much more aware of how my hair looked all week, and did the best I could to keep my eyebrows tweezed.  Makeup and jewelry can do a great job of distracting from blemishes and insecurities.
  • I really missed earrings.

Did this week make me closer to God and more thankful for my physical blessings of clothes and accessories? If I'm being honest, not really.  I felt more like I was on a trip and forgot to pack half my stuff, so I was making do.  Which was fine, but I was too preoccupied with life to use that situation to ponder the inequalities of clothing availabilities for the world.  I was however very thankful for and aware of our washer and dryer.  I would not have liked wearing dirty clothes. 

Day-By-Day:

Day 1 - Sunday, June 3, 2012

Here it is. My wardrobe for the next 7 days:

clothesweek.jpg

  1. Blue Dress
  2. Pink Tank
  3. Black Running Shorts
  4. White Camisole Tank
  5. Turquoise Dress
  6. Black Dress
  7. Tennis Shoes & Flip Flops

Ben calls this "Hobo Week."  I don't really think that's funny.

Harder than wearing and washing only these items of clothing, I'm also not wearing any makeup or accessories.  No jewelry, no cute flower pins, no scarves, and only functionality switches allowed in the handbag department.  For me, this week is less about having an excess of clothing and more about realizing how much time and effort is spent into "vanity" and "variety". 

Sometimes I stand in my closet for 15 minutes or more trying on different combinations of clothes, trying to find the "right" thing to wear.  I change earrings or necklaces or shoes several times before deciding.  Makeup only takes about 5 minutes, but it's a nice mask for blemishes, mascara and eyeliner makes me feel stronger (I don't know why!) and I always feel like I need a little bit of blush. 

Heading to church today with just my turquoise dress & flip flops, I felt a little naked. And I have to confess, to  try and compensate for no makeup and jewelry at church this morning, I went to the tanning bed yesterday for a little bit of extra color and straightened my hair this morning.  I have a problem.  Or just a dependency.  This could turn out to be a more interesting week than I anticipated!  Especially because it's a very social week where I'll see lots of people I don't see every day, and would normally try to make a good visual impression for... Why? I don't know.  They don't care what I look like.  But I'm a girl. I guess that's what we do.

day1.jpg

Day 2 - Monday, June 4, 2012

Most of today I was entirely too busy to even consider what I looked like.  My blue dress, flip flops and pony tail with no makeup or jewelry matched the no-nonsense mood I needed to get it all done!   By the evening though, when it was time to take the kids to VBS at Riverchase, I had a clothing "fast" moment.  The church was going to be COLD. I knew it. And I couldn't change into jeans or bring a sweater.   So I shivered instead.

I took inventory today of my clothing.  Here's what my closet & drawers contain:

  • 36 sleeveless shirts
  • 35 short sleeved shirts
  • 27 dresses
  • 27 pairs of shoes
  • 19 long sleeved shirts
  • 9 pairs of shorts
  • 9 pairs of yoga pants
  • 8 scarves
  • 6 pairs of jeans
  • 6 pairs of pants
  • 6 skirts
  • 5 sweaters
  • 5 "fashionable" jackets
  • 3 hooded sweatshirts
  • 3 pairs of leggings

Grand Total = 204 items

That doesn't include underwear, socks, pajamas, swimsuits, or coats.

In addition to taking inventory of my own clothes, I went through the kids' closets and pruned out clothes that are too small, too stained, or too crazy looking to wear. :)  We've been blessed to have several friends and family members give both kids LOTS of hand-me-down clothes.  We love it.  The kids love it.  It's wonderful. 

Day 3 - Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Yesterday, as I was going through Ayla's clothes I found three pairs of her jeans, all with a hole in the right knee.  They still fit in the waist, but the knees were well beyond repair.  So we turned them into shorts. Perfect way to have another few months of use out of them before she grows 3 or 4 more inches and they'd be too short.

I wore my black dress today, with the white tank underneath it.  Today was a work day, so I was cutting wood and working at my computer all day. Then this afternoon I took the kids to see a Roger Day concert and then VBS was tonight.  The only time I was uncomfortable in my dress w/no makeup and no jewelry - VBS.  Cold again!

Day 4 - Wednesday, June 6, 2012

I helped my brother in law move across town all day today, so my workout clothes were just right for all the lifting, hauling and stair climbing.  Then tonight I switched to my turquoise dress for  VBS.

I'm still missing makeup and jewelry the most.   And since today was the first day I repeated clothes, I do admit to being a little bored with my options.  But thankfully I still like all my options.  I just might not wear them for a few weeks after this. :)

I did break my clothing rule once today. As I was unpacking the wardrobe box full of coats, I TOTALLY had to put on my brother-in-law's Carbondale Terriers baseball jacket and parade through the house - just for a minute!  We all went to the same high school, so it was nostalgic to pull that out!

Some things I've noticed this week - my face feel so much cleaner and my skin so much softer all the time without all that makeup on!  And I definitely don't miss having raccoon eyes at the end of the day.  Plus, my contacts haven't bothered me near as much as normal. 

Day 5 - Thursday, June 7, 2012

Got a blob of black paint on my blue dress today (I painted signs all day today).  Thankfully, it was small and mostly came out.  I think perhaps 7 days isn't long enough for this clothing fast. I'm only having to re-wear each dress once.  And since it turned out to be an abnormal week, I didn't end up working out as much as normal, so even my workout clothes haven't gotten worn as much as I thought they would. 

I suppose the true test is tomorrow, when I head to Nashville to see old friends and attend a bachelorette party.  I do wish I could wear makeup/jewelry/different shoes for that event.  But I won't.  I'm okay with the natural me in semi-sparkly flip flops. 

Day 6 - Friday, June 8, 2012

Today I left for Nashville to meet an old friend for lunch and then meet up with about 12 women for a bachelorette party.  I wore my black dress and straightened my hair, but was bummed not to be able to wear makeup, jewelry or fun shoes.

I was definitely overly aware of everyone else's makeup & jewelry and cute clothes & shoes all night.  But still, I felt okay and comfortable in what I was wearing.  And one of the girls mentioned in passing that I looked so pretty and carefree like I was ready to go to the beach.  She didn't know about 7 Weeks of Less, so that made me feel pretty good. :)

Day 7 - Saturday, June 9, 2012

Last day! I slept in my workout clothes last night (since PJs weren't on my list of clothing options and I was sharing a living room floor with 4 other girls).  It made me wake up and want to immediately go run! Ha! I didn't. I forgot to pack my running shoes and we were on top of a mountain!

I wore my turquoise dress and flip flops all day. We went out to lunch at Chuys and then walking around the mall for a while.  After about 15 minutes of "shopping" I realized it is absolutely NO fun at all to walk around a mall when you aren't buying shoes, jewelry, clothes or makeup.  No fun.  At all.  So I headed home to B'ham a little early while the other girls continued shopping. 


Next week is Waste.  I'll be a recycling fool...

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7 Weeks of Less - STUFF

I'm in the middle of a 7 week experiment inspired by the book 7 - An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker. I'm calling my journey 7 Weeks of Less.  I'm two  weeks in.  Read on to see how it's going - and join me if you'd like!

  1. FOOD
  2. STUFF
  3. CLOTHES
  4. WASTE
  5. SHOPPING
  6. MEDIA
  7. STRESS

The Rules:

We have 10 rooms in our house, plus a garage - all full of stuff.  A week is not even close to enough time to prune out everything we could, so I'm going to focus on getting rid of at least 7 things (hopefully WAY more) in these 7 spaces:

  1. Bathrooms
  2. Kids Rooms
  3. Playroom
  4. Kitchen
  5. Garage
  6. My Office
  7. Closets (particularly the front hall closet & Paxton's closet, which is used for storage)

In addition to getting rid of all this stuff, I will NOT let anything new (for me) to come INTO the house.

The Wrap-up:

So, I have to make a couple of confessions about this week:

  1. I allowed two things to come into the house: a shower curtain given to me by my sister in law (and I immediately gave away our old shower curtain to compensate) and a booster car seat (also given to me by my sister-in-law), so that we'd have an extra for carting Ayla's friends around in our car.  Since I didn't pay for either, and the carseat isn't even for me....I believe it's okay. No rules broken, right?
  2. I love to get rid of things, so I almost feel like this week wasn't fair fasting.  It was too much fun. 

This week I was encouraged by the fact that most of the things we got rid of were things that were given to us or purchased for very cheap at thrift stores or yard sales, or were items that had been used and abused, but that we had simply outgrown.  I guess that makes us cheap.  Or thrifty. Or just resourceful.  But certainly not flippant and casual with spending our money on THINGS (food & travel might be a different story). 

Or maybe it just means that the things we spent real money on are things I wouldn't give away.  In which case, I guess I've missed the point of this whole experiment for the week...*sigh* I guess only God can judge that...

At the end of this week, I'm exhausted from the process, but my house is in better order and I feel good about clearing out some of the excess.  And I do believe that by giving all that stuff away, that many people will be blessed by things we had no reason to hold onto "just in case" or "to have an extra". 

Day-by-Day:

Day 1 - Sunday, May 27, 2012

I started yesterday. I was too excited about this week to wait until Sunday. 

Well, really, I started a few weeks ago (after reading 7) by completely overhauling my office.  I made some local scrapbooking friends very happy that week and managed to reduce the "stuff" by so much that I was able to take my entire bookshelf out of my office and give Paxton a toy shelf in his bedroom. 

And because in my previous Scrapjazz.com life, I was given TONS of scrapbooking supplies, tools and perks for free or for review, I felt great about paying it forward and giving away even the few bigger ticket items that I DID lay down some money for (like my XXL Crop In Style, QuicKutz Die Cutter, and 75-300mm Canon zoom lens). I know they're in happy new hands and will have a great new life.

officepile.jpg

Then yesterday, Ayla, Paxton and I went through all the toys and books in their bedrooms and together made giveaway piles and keep piles. I was so proud of their generosity.  I had to hold them back several times (especially Paxton, who might not completely "get" that these things were going away for good) from giving away some favorite special toys. 

This practice of getting rid of stuff comes naturally to me.  Especially when it's the kids' stuff.  Out with the old--not necessarily to make room for the new, but the old tends to grow at an exponential rate.  So it always feels good to me to let some of it go pretty regularly.  I donate regularly to the Salvation Army.

Since I had a good start yesterday, I decided today it was pretty important that I get rid of some of MY things (not just the kids' things).  Today I went through purses, bags, jewelry, toiletries, gift wrap, and the kitchen cabinets.  Strange categories, but it was working for me! I pretty much just opened any drawer or box in the room I was in and started going through it and pruning.  I collected enough stuff to cover an entire 6ft table covered (top & underneath) in the garage.

We're so having a garage sale this weekend--and I'll donate the  proceeds - somewhere. 

Day 2 - Monday, May 28, 2012

I spent an entire hour cleaning the main bathroom and going through the cabinets and closet, getting rid of a ton of things that have been taking up space for about 5 years.  Then I cleaned the rest of the house, getting rid of coats, hats & gloves in the hall closet and a few things in the master closet, including towels, sheets and shoes. 

Day 3 - Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I managed to find a few minutes today to get rid of at least 7 items in the garage.  Since I didn't have time for a full-out organize and clean-out session, I decided that was okay. 

And that garage sale idea I had?  Not such a great idea really.  When I weighed the benefits of giving away a measly amount of garage sale money vs. giving away the actual items...well, the actual items won out.  So I'm going to find places to donate all of it, hopefully to where they can be given to people for free (not sold to them).  I feel good about that.

Day 4 - Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Today we tackled the playroom.  I'm so proud of Ayla and Paxton for helping give away several puzzles, half of their play-food toys, and several balls.  I also picked out a few more things from my decor and craft shelves in the garage to move to the giveaway pile (which is taking over half the garage). 

It feels GOOD to have a little bit of breathing room inside drawers and cabinets.  But truthfully, from the outside, nothing looks much different--which is kind of unbelievable.

Overall, as I move things over to the giveaway pile, I've noticed that I don't really spend that much money on stuff.  I DO accumulate a lot of things though - as gifts, hand-me-downs, thrift store purchases, etc. 

I'm kind of dreading the influx of clutter  that we don't need that's about to appear when Ayla has her birthday party in a couple of weeks.  :(  Last year we requested "something to do" instead of "something to have" from family and friends who were buying her gifts.  That was the best idea EVER.  Everyone was happy with that!

Day 5 - Thursday, May 31, 2012

Today I pruned through picture frames and on-deck decor.  Yes.  I have lots of on-deck decor in buckets in the garage.  Some of those candle holders, picture frames, and fake flowers have been moving around with us since 2000.  Some probably came from my mom's house before that.  So lots of it HAD. TO. GO.  

Plus, I decided my office was a little to craft-tastic, so I took down all of my wall art and will be replacing it sometime with something a little classier and less crafty.  I dunno what yet.  Maybe just photography.  Not important.  For now, the walls are bare, and I'm enjoying the negative space. (see the before pics here)

Speaking of negative space...I can now stand in front of the shelves in the garage where most of that stuff lived.  And there's extra room on the shelves too.  Major victory. 

Day 6 - Friday, June 1, 2012

Today, I cleaned out Paxton's closet, which houses all our "keepsake" stuff.  I was able to get rid of some old baby clothes and blankets, a paper trimmer, and an entire bucket full of notes from my junior high friends.  We all discussed it...those aren't worth saving.

And that, my friends, was the last spot on my list of things to go through.  That doesn't mean it's all I could do, but  it's all I could do this week!

I called this morning to schedule a King's Home pickup for Monday.  King's Home will use what they can for the immediate needs of the at-risk teens in their care, and then use the rest to stock their thrift stores, where the proceeds are almost completely directed back to their program.    So I feel good about that.  Better than trying to sell them in my own driveway.

Day 7 - Saturday, June 2, 2012

Today while I was taking "breaks" from our all-day gardening project, I bagged up all of the giveaway items and got them ready to be able to put by the garage door for pickup on Monday.  The bags and boxes and stacks of stuff cover the top, bottom and extend beyond a six-foot table.  That's a lot of "excess" that we were able to get rid of in just one week that hopefully will be able to bless someone else.  Especially since, overall, we aren't hoarders or compulsive shoppers and we get rid of stuff and donate it VERY regularly.


Next week....I'm fasting clothing. I'm only allowed to wear 7 specific items.  All week.  No makeup & no jewelry.  I feel like I should get fancy tonight...

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7 Weeks of Less - FOOD

I'm in the middle of a 7 week experiment inspired by the book 7 - An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker. I'm calling my journey 7 Weeks of Less.  I'm one week in.  Read on to see how it's going - and join me if you'd like!

  1. FOOD
  2. STUFF
  3. CLOTHES
  4. WASTE
  5. SHOPPING
  6. MEDIA
  7. STRESS

The Rules:

Rather than choosing only 7 foods to eat this week, I've decided to eat only from what we have, and not buy more.  This means no eating out,  no picking up bananas or flour or eggs, bread, etc. from the store and no accepting food from other people.  Instead, I'll be eating food from the pantry, refrigerator and freezer that we have in the house right now.  This would have been easier at the beginning of the month when we had recently been shopping.  However, we have not been shopping in a week or so and *are* currently out of several things, so I imagine I will have to sacrifice plenty.  In fact, I think we're almost out of coffee.  That's serious.

I also will not eat any food after 8pm.  Liquids only.  The snacking fool in me will surely feel this sacrifice.

In addition to not eating anything we don't already have and not eating after 8pm, I'm going to be in charge of dinners this week, which is not normally one of my jobs on weekdays (yes, let's all do a GIANT cheer for a husband who cooks).  But in an effort to not force Ben & the kids into my experiment, I will come up with and cook dinners this week instead of forcing Ben to consider my experiment before planning meals.

*Note - I will replenish food for the rest of the family if necessary, but won't let myself partake in those items.

The Wrap-Up:

So, this week of "food fasting" hasn't been as hard as I thought it might be.  I probably should have made it harder.  I always had plenty to eat (even though it was mostly rice, chicken and spaghetti.)  Although I haven't been truly hungry at all this week, I have noticed several things:

  1. I eat way more than I need to everyday - probably out of boredom.
  2. We pick around a lot of things that are perfectly good foods.
  3. You have to be creative when you run out of "staples".
  4. If I didn't eat so much after 8pm, I'd lose a few pounds each week!
  5. I am addicted to caffiene.

This week's experiment is a good reminder that even if I don't think so, I deal with excess food all the time.  Even when I think the choices are so slim I won't be able to find anything, there was always more than enough food to eat and I was never hungry.  It means we always have enough and can always share what we have.  And we could probably save a lot of money on food that we don't really need -- just really like and want!  Instead of feeling entitled to refill and buy and eat anything we desire, it was a good exercise to eat what is available and not focus so much of my day on what I'm eating.

I've found that just the action of making these rules and boundaries forced me to think about what I was eating, why I was eating it, and whether it was beneficial.  Just setting those rules helped me think more about other people, about the world around me, and was a tangible reminder to be thankful for what I have.

Day-by-Day:

Here's my day-by-day journaling from the week - though I'll warn you...not nearly as entertainting as Jen Hatmaker's book!

Day 1 - Sunday, May 20th, 2012

While sitting in bible class after worship this morning, I realized that there were almost 7 weeks until my annual summer trip to Chicago.  Since I've been thinking about the book 7 and trying to figure out how to apply it, that seemed like a direct message from God to use these 7 weeks as my own experiment inspired by Jen Hatmaker's book.  I borrowed a sheet of paper from Ayla's notebook and scribbled some notes about how I might make it work and spent the afternoon jotting down my plans. 

Starting today, I'll focus on food for a week.  I'll think about the food that people around the world don't have, can't get, and how often people go hungry.  I'll eat only what I already have, share what I have, and refuse the oh-too-easy-temptation to just "pick something up" or refill what's empty.  This could get harder here at the end of the month when the coffee is running low, there's only a box or two of cereal, and there's no bread in the house.  But I know it won't compare with the sacrifices others around the world have to make every day when it comes to what they can eat.

Today wasn't hard as far as food goes -- cereal and coffee for breakfast, baked potato with broccoli, corn & cheese for lunch and spaghetti for dinner. 

I also decided to add a rule - No eating food after 8pm.  Since that's when I usually snack non-stop till bedtime, that could break me...

Day 2 - Monday, May 21, 2012
  • Breakfast: 1 bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats cereal.  Milk is at 1/2 gallon.  Won't make it through the week.  Coffee.  1/2 regular, 1/2 decaf, because there's only  about 2 days worth left of the regular.
  • Lunch: Leftover spaghetti and water.
  • Snack: strawberry yogurt
  • Dinner: Rice, Fish, roasted (frozen) vegetables w/salsa and sour cream. Tasty.
  • Snack: bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats cereal and milk

Today wasn't hard at all - though Ben tried to tempt me by taking Paxton to McDonald's for lunch and asking for me to bring home donuts and pick up ice cream.  He was teasing about the donuts and ice cream.  I didn't get them.

I made a list of dinners that we can make with food already in the house.  Doesn't look too bad at all.  Especially since our freezer is stocked with steaks, ground beef and pork chops from our recent purchase of a local cow & pig.  Breakfasts, lunches & snacks will be a little harder.  Especially with no late-night snacks allowed!

Day 3 - Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Today was not hard.  At all.  Even when Ben talked on and on about how he wanted to go and get a donut from Shipleys and a corn dog at Tucker & Easton's ballgame tonight.  I just wasn't interested -- and I had plenty to eat all day:

  • Honey Bunches of Oats Cereal with milk
  • cup of coffee w/creamer & equal
  • 1/4 frozen waffle w/nutella
  • fettuccini alfredo w/broccoli (Michelina's frozen meal)
  • leftover rice & fish from last night
  • popcorn snack
  • Coke Zero
  • 2 bowls of mexican chicken and rice (crock pot recipe)

Evidently we have more food in the house than I thought.  And bonus! I've lost 2 lbs this week already, which attribute completely to not eating after 8pm.  Perhaps this is the calm before the storm?  It almost feels like I made this fast too easy. 

Day 4 - Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Totally unrelated to food, today I was cranky, off-kilter, and just not right -- which made me *want* to eat food--and lots of it.  Thank goodness for blueberry muffin mix (thanks Ben, for having those in the oven when I came home from the Rec today), and leftover Mexican chicken and rice. 

Today we finished off the regular coffee.  I'll be drinking decaf the rest of the week.  Such sacrifice.

I went grocery shopping this afternoon and felt a bit like the "help" who has to do all the shopping, but doesn't get to eat the treats--cheese its, kettle chips, eggs, milk, bread, hot dogs, ice cream, bananas...  Now there's a no-no shelf in the pantry that I'm not allowed to touch until Sunday.   As I was adding things to the cart that I *couldn't* enjoy (yet), I was reminded of how many people don't have the luxury of just buying what they want to eat...whenever they want to either because of availability, money or circumstance.  I live a couple of miles away from the largest Target in the world and don't even have to take any major roads to get there.  Talk about a massive convenience and luxury.

As a side note...I spent $100 at Target on "fill in" foods and plan to make a big trip to Aldi early next week for our regular monthly grocery shopping (usually around $200).  It's those weekly fill-in trips that add up though -- and that doesn't even count eating out!  I know there are ways you can coupon, plan meals and shop at several different stores, but frankly that's a lot of energy and time spent on meal planning that I don't really have. 

In our house, we choose to "save" on groceries by shopping monthly at Aldi and Sam's Club for most of our food, and then we shop at Target to fill in for things like milk, eggs, veggies, & fruits that we go through more quickly (using our Target Red Debit Card that gives us 5% savings and gives 1% to Ayla's school).  We really should start using more of the coupons from Target that are printed for us each time we visit and do a better job of remembering our reusable shopping bags...which saves a nickel per bag per shopping trip. 

Day 5 - Thursday, May 24, 2012

Out of milk.  Ate 2 eggs for breakfast.  Coffee is gone.  I drank decaf.  I also took two naps today.  So tired.

Ben expressed his frustration with my experiment, because he has been avoiding eating certain things so that there would be enough left for me to eat and he has to try not to make meals including things I can't have, or else we just have to make separate meals for everyone. 

Day 6 - Friday, May 25, 2012

Was going to make pancakes for breakfast.  Needed milk & two eggs, but only had one.  Ate 1 egg for breakfast instead.  Lunch was leftovers - Mexican fajita bowl, but I had to wait until we got home from the zoo to eat, since I didn't have any packable food to take with me.  The kids ate packed lunches at the zoo.   For dinner I ate the last of the fajita bowl ingredients.

Day 7 - Saturday, May 26, 2012

I ate the last packet of oatmeal in the house (which has been in the cabinet for MONTHS) for breakfast with raisins.  It was actually pretty good.  For lunch I had to bypass the pasta salad, hamburger buns (thankfully I could still eat a hamburger), and strawberries.  Instead I had a bag of frozen vegetables and a hamburger with no bun.


So now I'm on to week 2 - STUFF (getting rid of it mostly).  And I confess, I'm so excited about this week that I started a day early!  Tune in next week to see how much junk we can get rid of in a week!

 

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7 - An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess

A friend recommend a book to me called 7 - An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker.  

As someone who does try to keep things simple and not buy into the "keeping up with the Jones''" mentality, the topic intrigued me, so I decided to read it.

Now that I have, it's weighing heavily on my mind and I've got to figure out how to apply it and process it. 

Let me explain...

Here's the Amazon summary and description of the book:

American life can be excessive, to say the least. That’s what Jen Hatmaker had to admit after taking in hurricane victims who commented on the extravagance of her family’s upper middle class home. She once considered herself unmotivated by the lure of prosperity, but upon being called “rich” by an undeniably poor child, evidence to the contrary mounted, and a social experiment turned spiritual was born.

7 is the true story of how Jen (along with her husband and her children to varying degrees) took seven months, identified seven areas of excess, and made seven simple choices to fight back against the modern-day diseases of greed, materialism, and overindulgence.

Food. Clothes. Spending. Media. Possessions. Waste. Stress. They would spend thirty days on each topic, boiling it down to the number seven. Only eat seven foods, wear seven articles of clothing, and spend money in seven places. Eliminate use of seven media types, give away seven things each day for one month, adopt seven green habits, and observe “seven sacred pauses.” So, what’s the payoff from living a deeply reduced life? It’s the discovery of a greatly increased God—a call toward Christ-like simplicity and generosity that transcends social experiment to become a radically better existence.

After reading the book, not only do I feel a need to further simplify and remove several unnessary "things" from my life, but Jen's motivations for this fasting exercise have resonated with me as well -- "a less of me, more of Him" approach.  Fasting in these several areas of life allows space for God to do his work, instead of me trying to do *my* plan.  And we all know...I like to have a plan.

Though I realize it's contradictory to publically document your fast (fasting instructions in the bible - Matthew 1:16-18 - say you should do it privately), I enjoyed Jen Hatmaker's very candid and real diary of her experiences and since I, like her, process well via experiment and documentation, I thought I'd give it a try and document my own version of her experiment. 

My Own Version - 7 Weeks of Less

There are 7 weeks between now and when I leave for Chicago with my kids.  7 stressful weeks of a summer schedule with both kids at home when I can't work as much as I'd like to, and am likely be naturally irrititable, rushed, ungrateful and frustrated.  Seems like a bad time for an experiment, yes, but perhaps that's the point.  Since less of me, more of Him is the whole reason for the exercise (not to mention having a more simplified life), I'm going to do it now and hope that God will give me an extra measure of peace and contentment as I make these sacrifices.

Here's my plan.  I can't commit to 7 months, and I probably won't even be as extreme as Jen was in her fasts for these short 7 weeks.  But here's what I will strive to do and focus on each week for 7 weeks:

Week 1 - Food (May 20 - 26)

Rather than choosing only 7 foods to eat this week, I've decided to eat only from what we have, and not buy more.  This means no eating out,  no picking up bananas or flour or eggs, bread, etc. from the store and no accepting food from other people.  Instead, I'll be eating food from the pantry, refrigerator and freezer that we have in the house right now.  This would have been easier at the beginning of the month when we had recently been shopping.  However, we have not been shopping in a week or so and *are* currently out of several things, so I imagine I will have to sacrifice plenty.  In fact, I think we're almost out of coffee.  That's serious.

I also will not eat any food after 8pm.  Liquids only.  The snacking fool in me will surely feel this sacrifice.

In addition to not eating anything we don't already have and not eating after 8pm, I'm going to be in charge of dinners this week, which is not normally one of my jobs on weekdays (yes, let's all do a GIANT cheer for a husband who cooks).  But in an effort to not force Ben & the kids into my experiment, I will come up with and cook dinners this week instead of forcing Ben to consider my experiment before planning meals.

*Note - I will replenish food for the rest of the family if necessary, but won't let myself partake in those items.

Week 2 - Possessions (May 27 - June 2)

We have 10 rooms in our house, plus a garage - all full of stuff.  A week is not even close to enough time to prune out everything we could, so I'm going to focus on getting rid of at leat 7 things (hopefully WAY more) in these 7 spaces:

  1. Bathrooms
  2. Kids Rooms
  3. Playroom
  4. Kitchen
  5. Garage
  6. My Office
  7. Closets (particularly the front hall closet & Paxton's closet, which is used for storage)

In addition to getting rid of all this stuff, I will NOT let anything new (for me) to come INTO the house. 

Week 3 - Clothes (June 3 - 9)

I will choose 7 items of clothing to wear this week.  That's it.  Wash and wear.  All week long.  Underwear & socks don't count.  The only jewelry allowed are my wedding rings.  No makeup (ouch).  Hair gel is allowed.

  1. pink ribbed tank top
  2. black & pink running shorts
  3. black sundress
  4. blue sundress
  5. turquoise ribbed tank top (changed to white camisole tank)
  6. tennis shoes (changed to turquoise dress)
  7. flip flops (add tennis shoes.  Jen Hatmaker counted two pairs of shoes as one item...so will I!)

I will also take inventory of my clothes and try to get rid of as much as possible. I've done this recently, so I'm curious how much more I can prune. 

I feel like this week won't be too hard (though kind of boring).  Since it's summertime, I won't need things like jackets, hats, jeans, sweaters, etc.  Having only one set of workout clothes is going to be the hardest.  That will require daily laundering.  And I'm going to miss wearing earrings. 

Dang. And I just realized I'm scheduled to drive to Nashville this weekend for a bachelorette party.  No makeup & no jewelry? Jazz.

Week 4 - Waste (June 10 - 17)

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.  This week I will find ways to be green and more environmentally aware.  I like to do these things and regularly practice a lot of "greener" things, but know I can improve and make better choices such as:

  1. Drive less (ie. exercise at home instead of the rec if I don't have any other errands to run, combine errands to one outing)
  2. Use fewer napkins, paper towels, and other one-time-use conveniences like zip lock bags, plastic bags, etc.
  3. Recycle more. Find a place to recycle glass especially and be more diligent about getting papers, cardboard, plastic & aluminum to the recycling bin instead of the trash
  4. Think of second (or third or fourth) uses for items before they become trash
  5. Fix things that might otherwise be thrown away.
  6. Save energy and resources by turning off electronics, lights, the water, etc. when not in use. 
  7. Take out the trash & recycling, roll it to the street & back, etc.  Normally this is something I leave for Ben to do..I'll take responsibility for it this week as a physical and visual reminder of the waste we produce.
Week 5 - Shopping (June 18 - 23)

I confess, I had to save this week for after Ayla's birthday party.  I'm simply going to have to make several purchases to get that done and taken care of.  But once that's over...

7 days of no spending - on anything other than bills that are due. Plus, I want to find places to cut spending.  I guess I better be sure the car is full of gas before this week starts! 

I don't even know if this week is  going to be possible.  I'll reevaluate this "fast" and make more specific rules closer to that week.  Regardless of the specifics, I'll try to be aware of how often I spend a little here, a little there and how much that adds up to.

Week 6 - Media (June 24 - 30)
  1. No Facebook (except SignsbyAndrea-related)
  2. No Pinterest checking and surfing. 
  3. No blog reading. 
  4. No television. 
  5. No Netflix or Hulu.
  6. No radio. 
  7. Just telephone, email and texts for communication.

I'm actually looking forward to this week.  I spend entirely too much time surfing the web, reading blogs and checking pinterest and facebook again and again and again and again. 

Week 7 - Stress (July 1 - 7)

Ha! This should be interesting, because it's the week I'll be packing and getting myself and the kids ready for a month-long trip to Chicago to visit with family and live out of a suitcase, sleeping in campers, hotels and basements.  If planning for a 4 week trip with two children across the country with a business to run while you're gone doesn't sound stressful, I don't know what does. 

To reduce stress during this time, I want to try a variation of what Jen Hatmaker did with several set-aside times throughout the day to pray and refocus. I'm not sure I can do all "Seven Sacred Pauses", but I'm going to commit to four of them and each day I'm going to dedicate 5 minutes to each prayer - which I realize is nowhere close to an hour, but these are baby steps:

  • (7:00 am) The Awakening Hour: Remembering God's goodness and complete control over my life and trusting in Him.
  • (11:00 am) The Hour of Illumination: Honoring Jesus' sacrifice on the cross and recommitting to giving my life away in service, love, and peace.
  • (2:00 pm) The Hour of Wisdom: Praying for wisdom and perspective.
  • (6:00 pm) The Twilight Hour: Expressing gratitude and serenity during the witching hours.

I think I'll set alarms. 


At the end of each week, I'll compile my journaled experiences and thoughts and share them 

I hope you'll join me in this experiment if you feel inclined to do so.  Read the book and come up with your own variation of the experiment. or just let it adjust your perspective on the abundance of stuff in our American priveliged world.  However you participate, I believe you'll be positively affected.

 

3

Auntie Anne's Pretzels Copycat Recipe

This Mother's Day, looking for a family activity (and a good snack) I thought we'd try out this Auntie Anne's copycat recipe for making pretzels.  I found it on Pinterest (no surprise), and it sounded like it would be worth a try.

So...despite the fact that I'm terrible at reading recipes and made at least 5 errors that I know of (too much butter, forgot the oil, not quite enough powdered sugar, don't know how to activate yeast and no parchment paper), they turned out VERY tasty. 

They don't LOOK anything like Auntie Anne's pretzels...but who cares? They were yummy. :)

8

Teacher Appreciation Gifts

It's teacher appreciation week at Paxton's school, and BOY do I appreciate those teachers! :)

Each day has a theme, so I tried to comply as much as possible:

  • Monday: "Cards of Love" - a super-cute free teacher appreciation printable from Balancing Home
  • Tuesday: "Pamper the Teacher Day" - scented hand sanitizer from the $1 bins at Target
  • Wednesday: "Bouquets of Love" - hand-made fabric flower pins
  • Thursday: "Special Luncheon" (no gift necessary)
  • Friday: "Sweet Treats" - whoops! I better make cookes for Friday!

The tutorial for making the fabric flower pins can be found here.  Though this time, instead of cutting flowers, I just cut circles - same result, easier cutting!

Next, I found this adorable free Teacher Appreciation printable last week and thought it would be perfect for the "cards of love" day. 

I downloaded it - which gave me this (8" x 10) print in gray and white.

Teacher Appreciation Printable

Next, I opened the PDF file in Photoshop Elements and used the used the paint bucket tool to change the background to teal to match my pins & the hand sanitizer labels.

Then I used a "wallets" action from The Coffee Shop Blog to turn one image into 9 wallet-sized cards. 

teacher appreciation printable

Then I printed them, cut them out, rounded the corners and signed Paxton's name to the back.

Finally, I added punched star-shaped tags to the hand-sanitizer, and called it a gift.  Easy Peasy. 

teacher appreciation gifts

Here's a look at last year's Teacher Appreciation Gift: Chapstick Pockets

0

In Her Shoes - Guest Post at Crayon Freckles

I'm guest-posting over at Crayon Freckles today in an "In Her Shoes" feature...go check it out!

Hi! I'm Andrea Steed.  Nice to meet you! :)  I blog over at my personal blog AndreaSteed.com and my personalized painted signs and posters web site SignsbyAndrea.com.

I like to think of myself as an artist, a writer, an organizer, a planner...and oh yeah, a mom.

I have two great-looking kids who are *just* leaving the toddler stage and sprinting into their childhood.
 
Whew.  Those first few years of diapers, feeding, and crying were rough!  But we're getting our footing now and turning into a typical little family busy with school, play, work and rest.

I'm a northerner-moved south and married to my high school sweetheart. We both work from home - Signs by Andrea (me) and Infinite Publishing (him) - and do the best we can to mix and mesh our home and work lives amongst the mess of toys and tears that come with being a family with young kids.
 
What is the most challenging part of being the type of mom you are?
I daily have to remind myself that sometimes kids need to cry, whining comes with the territory, and I can always practice having more patience.  In short, my biggest challenge is to remember that it's my job to TEACH my kids how to respond and react to the world around them, and I can't just expect them to know how (that's when the whining and crying usually comes into play).
 
What's the most rewarding?

Watching them develop their own unique personalities has been pretty stinkin' remarkable.

My son loves guitars, music and singing. We don't know where that obsession came from (neither of us play instruments, unless you count an .mp3 player), but if he's a rock-n-roll icon one day, I'll have the home videos to prove he started at age 2.

And my daughter?  Don't even think about surprising her, unless it's with something she's already familiar with.  She needs to tip-toe *very* slowly into new situations and experiences, and if she's been prepped ahead of time (like going to the dentist - which she thinks is awesome), she'll own it.
 
Their unique personalities are 100% them -- not me, not their dad, not their grandparents.  Just them.  That's pretty cool.
 
In you opinion, what's the most important value(s) parents can instill in their children?

I place a high value on encouraging my kids to have independence and confidence.  Even if the first few steps are tough or scary, I want them  to know that if they try something, they might suprise themselves and realize they CAN do it after all.  Whether that's un-packing and hanging their backpacks up at the end of the school day or riding the swings at the school carnival, I want them to believe they're capable.

I want them to feel confident that they don't need their hand held all the time, that it's okay to make mistakes, and that we're proud of them for trying new things and taking on more responsibilities.
 
If your children could describe you in 3 words, which ones would they pick?

Perhaps I don't want to know! :) Maybe I'm safe since their vocabularies are limited at this age.  I think they'd probably tell you that I like to make signs, take pictures, and drink coffee. They'd be right.

Oh, and as for my shoes?  Work at home or not, it's not unlike me to wear my heels at the workbench while sawing wood.  After all, my husband's home all day too! Those fuzzy slippers just won't do. :)
2

10 Years of Scrapjazz

After 10 years of article writing, coordinating and publishing, it's finally time for me to step down as the editor and publisher at Scrapjazz and pass the job on to someone new.  My new business Signs by Andrea has taken off and is demanding more and more of my time these days. After a lot of thought and consideration, it's a smart choice for my business and family.

When Ben and I launched Scrapjazz on April 1st, 2002, I never would have dreamed of where it would take us, the people we'd cross paths with and the experiences we'd get to have.  It's definitely a notable milestone in my life to pass the torch.  Let's take a little walk down memory lane, shall we?

December 2001 - We purchased TheMemoryBarn.com for a mere $250 to turn it into our crazy idea of Scrapjazz - the scrapbooking megasite.  It took months of planning and building, but we were young with no cable TV!

April 1, 2002 - We launched Scrapjazz.com to the public.  That was also my birthday and I've had to share my day for the past 10 years!  We probably should have re-thought that launch date since it often meant I had a lot of work to do on my birthday like changing out all kinds of sponsors, releasing new layout galleries and publishing new articles on the 1st of every month for years.  But I digress...

October 2002 - We released our first product - the Scrap Tutor CD tutorials (which are now available for free online!).  Holy jazz that was a lot of work.  Just think! These days anyone can upload a video tutorial to YouTube!  We were so ahead of our time. :)

Let's just say it was a huge relief when we were able to mail back all the contibutors' layouts.  We were SO stressed that our basement would flood or the house would burn or something terrible would happen & ruin them all before we could send them back to the artists.

2004 - And then we released a second Scrap Tutor CD...I forget when.  We were working so hard those days it's all a blur!

May 2004 - I quit my part-time job to work on Scrapjazz full time. Ben was already developing and working for SJ full time and it needed me there too.

September 2004 - Apparently, I wasn't enough.  We hired a copy editor to double-check our work and edit all of our writers articles.  Thank you Karina!   Your work has been invaluable!

Over the Years - In addition to meeting all kinds of scrapbooking industry greats like Heidi Swapp, Cathy Zielske, Lisa Bearnson, Michelle Gerbrandt, Stacy Julian, and product designers from hundreds of scrapbooking companies, I was blessed to meet several of my "team" in person at scrapbooking events, conferences and chance meetings. 

That was my favorite.  All these girls have been such great friends to me over the years and I've loved watching several of them become huge icons in the industry!

April 2006 - And this was like the BEST. WEEKEND. EVER.  Thanks to Monique and the Scrap Etc. girls!

June 2006 - We struck a deal we couldn't refuse.  Our very good friends at Scrapbook.com were interested in buying Scrapjazz.  We loved them. They loved us.  And we had a baby on the way.  Literally.  I was having contractions during my my last conference call to to transfer my duties to Scrapbook.com and Ayla was born the next morning.

But that wasn't my last hurrah with Scrapjazz! :) While Ben moved on to other topics and ventures, I continued to be on the Blue Crew (design team) until January 2011 and manage the SJ Contributors, publishing articles and working with all the writers...until now.

March 2012 - I'm stepping down.  Passing the torch.  Moving forward.  It's a big milestone.  Huge really.  Scrapjazz has been a part of my life for 10 years.  And I've loved it. But it's time for me to focus on my next adventure.

I am so thankful to all who have played a part in my Scrapjazz world!  Blue Crew members, SJ Contributors, product manufacturers, teachers, designers, and Scrapjazz members.

You have all been such a joy to work with and get to know over the years and together you have made such amazing contributions to the scrapbooking industry by sharing your talents, ideas and projects. Thank you so much for making my job easy and fun to do! I look forward to watching the life of Scrapjazz and the scrapbooking industry continue to grow and evolve.

4

Burlap + Blue: A Shop Review

Since it's what I do and love, I think it's important to do my best to support other mom-based businesses with a handmade twist.  So when offered the opportunity to review this adorable little etsy shop called Burlap + Blue, I jumped at the chance.

Burlap + Blue specializes in cake stands, dessert pedestals and home decor with a vintage-inspired feel.  And Linda, the shop owner has a great eye for vintage and shabby-chic, as you can see from her blog.  She even has some great DIY tutorials:

Shabby Flower Pillow Tutorial Burlap & Ruffles Ottoman Tutorial Wood and Felt Buntings Tutorial
Shabby Flower Pillow Burlap + Ruffles Ottoman Wood + Felt Buntings

This particular black and white damask dessert pedestal in her shop caught my eye right away. 

Burlap + Blue Dessert Pedestal

It's made from combining a gorgeous patterned ceramic plate and a painted metal candlestick.

Burlap + Blue Etsy Shop Review

Together, they create this beautiful, delicate stand that says "I'm special."

Burlap + Blue Handmade Shop

I envision it proudly supporting a gorgeously decorated scrumptious cupcake for a special birthday, tiny little cheese cubes at a party buffet, or a perfectly wrapped little present with a pretty bow.  But for today, a few oatmeal cookies will have to do. :)  Don't worry, they're yummy too!

Dessert Stand - Burlap + Blue

Check out some of the other great hand-crafted products that Linda has in her Burlap + Blue Etsy Shop

Burlap + Blue Etsy Shop Sample Products

How cute are those customized coasters? And the clock?  Love it!

I'll bet you'll find a special piece in her store that speaks to you. If you do..use coupon code signsbyandrea for 15% off - expires 3/22/12. 

You're welcome. Happy shopping!

 

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