Decorating at the HOH: Picture Wall

Here’s the thing. When it comes to decorating ability, I totally lose my girl card. I mean, I’m not sure I have a full girl card anyway, but when it come to the decorating gene, I totally didn’t get one.

Now, I will say this was HARD early on in our marriage. I THOUGHT I was supposed to be the one who did all those decorating things. You know, curtains and pictures and furniture and knick knacks and whatever else is involved. So, I would try and do them. And, I would fail. Miserably. And, David would do them better. WAY BETTER. And it would make me mad. Why couldn’t I do it? Why couldn’t I see it that way? I was the wife. It was my job.

Finally, I accepted that God did not give me the decorating gene. He gave me David, who has multiple. He gave me my other half. A half that cares about curtains and pictures and furniture and knick knacks. (See, I really didn’t even care.)

David knows what color our house is. I have no idea. David knows how to arrange the bookshelves. I have no idea. David knows where the curtains were bought. I have… wait, I actually know that one. I think. David has an eye for design. I DO NOT.

But I appreciate it when I see it.

So, when I came home a couple Saturdays ago and saw this…

Decorating at the HOH: Picture Wall

I almost cried. It’s beautiful. It’s everything I care about. And, it’s on my wall for me to see every day. I never could have done this. So, God gave me someone who can… and does.

Ya, I got a good one.

What can your spouse do that you can’t and you’re ever so thankful for it?

Cleaning Schedule {Yes, I made one}

We have this amazing little house. It’s a cottage really. It’s cute. It’s small. However, it still gets dirty. Now, there’s not much to the house so I really can clean it all in one day. But, who wants to spend their entire Saturday cleaning the house. NOT I, said the Mommy.

So, I decided to create a cleaning schedule. Handily enough, my bloggy friend Christine over at I Dream of Clean has just released her new new eBook.. So, I snagged that and got to planning.

I printed out the book, (I always do better with paper than the computer. Why is that?) and poured over the sample schedules that she had set up. They were SO VERY helpful. Who ever knew that there were that many things to clean?! Good grief. No wonder my house is a wreck.

After I printed out her master schedule, I jotted down the days of the week on some notebook paper and wrote what I thought could happen on each of those days.

I haven’t tackled everything you can do for monthly, quarterly, and yearly. I’m just not quite there yet. However, I did get the weekly down. Whoop! Then, I made these pretty and fun lists for our family. There is a place for daily, weekly, quarterly, and yearly as well as a spot to put the meal plan for that day.

We’ve been using these pretty much every day this week. It’s kept me on track and even better, I get to cross stuff off the list. That’s my favorite. The crossing stuff off. My heart sings when I cross stuff off.

When I get the actual lists more organized, I’ll share them with you. Promise. Right now, they’re just in the experimental phase.

However, you don’t have to wait for me. You can get your very own copy of Christine’s fabulous new eBook!! Yes, you can. AND, you can get it for $4 (rather than $5.99) if you use the code {CleaningSchedulefor4} during check out. Whoop! Love me a bargain.

So quick! Pop on over and get your copy today. It might change your world the way it’s changing mine!

Disclaimer: The links included are affiliate links. However, all opinions are my own. Truly.


Summer is HERE!!! What’s the Plan?

Today is the last day of school. The last day of 3rd Grade for my Princess. I CANNOT believe that she will be in 4th grade next year. Overwhelms me. I always take a LAST day of school picture.

So I can compare it to the FIRST day of school picture.

And then think about how much she’s grown over the years…. How did she get SO BIG?

Alright… Enough reminiscing… this blog post was supposed to be about SUMMER! It’s here!

Now, what do we do?…..

I work full time. And, while I can work from home some, I still have to find time to actually, well, work. Therefore, I must keep the Princess busy. So, here are a few things we already have planned for the summer…

  • Sleep away camp for four days: I’m sure I will blog about it as I’m sure I’m gonna be a little {ahem} sad, overwhelmed {ahem} lost while she is gone and not in family care.
  • Callaway Gardens: Her annual trip with Grandma, Gramps and the cousins.
  • Drama Camp: Like we need more drama in this house. We’re hoping to channel it.
  • Camp All-American: An AMAZING day camp that we’ve LOVED for the last two years.
  • Time with Cousins: There is NOTHING better than hanging out with the cousins at Grandma’s House.
  • Childcare at Church: Since my Sweetie works at our church, they provide childcare (paid of course) for staff. There are a couple of fun activities they have planned that the Princess is excited to attend.

Seems a bit overwhelming – right? All this planning. You should see it on the calendar…

The thing is I HAVE to plan because I HAVE to work. You know what? I’ll tell you a secret. {shhhhhh} I’d plan even if I didn’t have to work. We at the House of Hills like to have a plan. Even if it’s a tentative one. So, on the days that I plan on staying home with the Princess, we’ll still have a plan. However, those days are planned with more flexibility. Those days are planned more in tune with what she wants to do right then and the weather forecast.

I’ve found some great resources that will help me plan the “hang out” days. I thought I’d share them with you.

  • Cumming Local: I live in Cumming and LOVE this site. Mandi has lots of great lists and continues to update weekly on things to do around town.
  • Free Cheap Summer Fun: Again, local to the North Metro Atlanta area, but you could probably find something similar in your area.
  • Summer Staycation: An amazing list of blogs giving ideas to do in cities around the country.
  • Your local library: Most libraries have summer programs. Check yours out.
  • Your local bookstores: Many bookstores have weekly story times. Investigate.
  • Local Movie Theaters: Just about EVERY movie theater in our area offers cheap or free kids’ movies once a week. SERIOUSLY worth investigating.
  • Make Your Own Bubbles: This is just fun!

What’s your summer plan?

Once A Month Mom Cook Off: The Review

Whew! I did it!!! I made twenty-five meals plus some breakfasts in about 6 hours. Wahooo!

I started my cooking day at 6:30AM. Yes, I know that’s early. However, the Princess is up at 6:00 usually – even on a Saturday. I figured since I was up, I might as well get started. I had my plan in place. I just had to execute it.

The plan actually started Thursday night. That’s the night I went shopping. I twittered that I was shopping for the cook off and even got encouragement from the Once A Month Mom herself. I felt so honored.

I came home with my goodies, and immediately put all the chicken in the crock pot to cook overnight. It is recommended that you put water in with the chicken. I don’t use water. I use Kraft Zesty Italian dressing that I get on sale and with coupons. So, I always have lots in my pantry. For a full crock pot of chicken, I used a whole bottle of dressing. I really like the flavor it gives the chicken. I had never done chicken overnight before. It worked well. The only issue was that the house smelled SERIOUSLY of chicken the next morning. If I had been pregnant and smelling that on an empty stomach, I would have been heaving. As it was, I was slightly queasy. But, the chicken was done! I shredded it Friday morning and put it in the fridge.

My plan was to make the granola Friday night, but that didn’t happen. I had an INSANE work week and was just plain beat by Friday night. I did manage to get the ground beef into the crock pots, and that cooked overnight to be ready in the morning. We had the same smell issue the next morning, but it wasn’t as disturbing as the chicken. And, I was thankful that all the ground beef was cooked. I think in the future, I’ll cook the meat during the day before so as not to deal with the smell issue and then just refrigerate until I am ready to cook.

I had chosen recipes with very little chopping of veggies needed. This was just perchance. I didn’t plan it that way. I did need some onions, but I cheated and just used frozen ones I had purchased at Publix. They’re not as strong in flavor as fresh chopped onions, which My Sweetie actually prefers. I also needed some chopped garlic. Again, I cheated and used the stuff from the jar. So, the only real chopping I had to do on cooking day was some green onions.

I started the morning making pancakes. I had originally planned on making Banana Pancakes, but the Princess wanted some pancakes for breakfast, and I knew she wouldn’t eat the banana ones. So, I just made plain ones using the same recipe. I did however use half wheat flour and half unbleached – trying to get them a bit healthier. They were very good!! We had some for breakfast, and I got 4 BAGS for the freezer.

After I had fed the family, I quickly mixed up a Quiche and put it in the oven. Once it had cooled, I cut it into six pieces for six breakfasts for me at the office. Next, I mixed up the Granola and got that into the oven. That granola – it BE GOOD! My Sweetie had some last night, and I had some this morning with my yogurt. Yummy! It made enough to fill a Tupperware large oval modular mate.

I started the meal preparation off easy by making the two dishes I had chosen that just needed marinades and then went straight to the freezer. I whipped up the Pork Chop Marinade from The Big Cook cookbook and the Asian Pork Loin Marinade from the $5 Dinners cookbook. That was a quick six meals prepared.

I then moved on to the ground beef portion of the morning. I made a triple batch of Ziti. (The noodles had been boiling while the marinade prep was happening.) It made six pans to give away – I usually give away ziti to those who need a meal. I also made one large pan for small group Monday night. I’m really thankful I remembered I was in charge of food this week! Because I added a bit more meat to the small group pan (those men love some meat), I only had enough meat to make two batches of Sloppy Joes (from The Big Cook).

Once I had used up all my ground beef, I pulled out my massive container of shredded chicken. I mixed the topping for the Chicken Ranch Pizza, but didn’t use tomatoes. The House of Hills is not a fan of tomatoes in their natural state. Add a bit of sugar and make some ketchup – then we’re happy. I filled four quart baggies with topping. I then combined everything but the black beans together for Chicken and Black Bean Quesadillas. I already have black beans in the freezer, so I’ll just pull a bag of this mixture and a bag of black beans when I’m ready to make the quesadillas. I made enough for six meals.

My final project for the day was Pizza Crusts. They were so EASY to make. I will never buy pizza crust again. And, I used half whole wheat and half unbleached flour, making them better for us than the ones at the store. Those went into the freezer, and I can’t wait to use them.

That was it! During that whole cooking morning, I also helped the Princess do her project for school, made lunch,did two loads of laundry, and cleaned the kitchen as I went. I took my apron off at 1:00, six-and-half hours after I had put it on. 25 MEALS IN SIX HOURS. Not bad for a day’s work. It would take me much longer than that if I made them individually.

How much did these meals cost me? More than they should have. I did the bulk of my shopping on the Thursday before cooking at Publix. I had some coupons, but I wasn’t shopping smart. I was shopping because I needed stuff. NOT the best way to shop. If I had planned better, I would have gotten the pork loin and ground beef at BJs. I would have gone to the Tyson factory and picked up frozen chicken breasts for pennies a piece. I would have been watching the sales all month for what I needed. I would have decided what I was going to cook at the beginning of the month instead of days before. That’s the way Once A Month Mom teaches us. I did not obey teacher. So, I paid more.

I spent $160 on stuff for the cooking day at Publix on Thursday. I already had the pork chops in my fridge and used baking supplies from the pantry. So, let’s say a total of $180 spent. That’s $7.20 a meal. Not bad, but it could be SO MUCH BETTER. I’ve challenged myself that next month I’ll get it cheaper.

Oh yes, I will be doing this next month, and the next one, and the next one. Why? Because it just makes sense to me. I’d rather cook for six hours one day than twenty-five spread out throughout the month. I’d rather have a meal in my freezer to give a friend in need than spend a small fortune picking her up something at the store. And the biggest reason, I HATE not knowing what’s for dinner. HATE IT! I LOVE making my meal plan for the week and just figuring out what I’m going to pull from the freezer. That makes me SO HAPPY and calm and peaceful. Ahhhhh…

If you’ve never cooked in bulk, I recommend you try it. It could change your life – really.

I almost forgot. The coolest thing about doing the cooking THIS WEEKEND!! I can enter this post in the Cook Off contest going on over at Once A Month Mom. I might win a food processor! I SO NEED ONE!

There were going to be pictures right here, but for some reason my computer is NOT cooperating with me at the moment. I will add them when I can.

Top Ten Tuesday: House Prep

Many of you may know that our house is on the market. It has been FOREVER!! Well, not really, but since October. We haven’t had much traffic until recently and we had slacked off in keeping it picked up. Then, we got surprised by an agent, and My Sweetie had to scramble and do some serious picking up in the span of like five minutes. We don’t want to have that happen again. So, here’s what we do before we leave the house now.

1. Blinds open to let the sunlight in.

2. Entertainment center closed and all remotes put away.

3. All the blankets with which we cuddle at night put away.

4. All counters wiped and sink empty.

5. NO appliances on the counters – this one is KILLING me.

6. Fragrance do-da plugged in.

7. Toilet lids down and bathroom counters/sinks wiped clean.

8. Desk in office cleared off – again KILLING me.

9. All toys picked up and in the playroom – the Princess is DOING AWESOME!

10. ALL beds made. The Princess is doing a GREAT job with this one too.

We are praying that all of this preparation will have our house ready for the perfect person to walk in the door and find their future home.

Head on over to OhAmanda’s for more Top Ten Tuesday. You know you want to.

Works For Me Wednesday: Leftovers

You know all those leftovers that you have in your fridge? Some are in square containers. Some are in take-out containers. Some are in old cool whip containers. Those leftovers that can cause an avalanche if you pull the wrong one out.

I used to have those leftovers. Then, My Sweetie, he experienced one too many avalanches. He had enough with the avalanching. So, on his next trip down to IKEA, he solved the problem. He purchased these square storage containers that are ALL THE SAME SIZE SQUARE – just different heights. That means that they ALL USE THE SAME TOP!! Brilliance I say. My Sweetie – he’s brilliant sometimes OFTEN!

Now my leftovers shelf looks like this:

Since the containers are opaque, I use those tiny flag sticky notes to label what is in them. Makes it easy to know what to grab in the morning on the way to work.

IKEA storage containers. They work for me.

Coupon Binder

So I had a REALLY exciting Friday night. I made my coupon binder. I know – thrilling right! Well, actually I was SO EXCITED to make my binder and apparently others were too. I got several Twitter and Facebook messages asking me to show more pictures. So, here you are ladies (and gents) – the promised Coupon Binder Blog Post. It’s a long one, so hang with me…

I’ve been reading lots of blogs and hearing how people are saving TONS of money with coupons, but I’m having trouble accomplishing what they can accomplish. And, I’ve often caught myself in a store, seeing something on a great sale, and knowing that I have a coupon for it at home. SO frustrating. I’ve tried several systems over the years.

The way I’ve couponed for years is using THE COUPONIZER. I actually still LOVE this coupon organizer. It’s got logical categories. I like that you can flip through pages rather than struggling with an accordion file. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the mat that comes with it that helps you organize your coupons. It also fits in my purse and is easy to sue at the store. If you’re just getting started with couponing and are looking for a simple coupon organizer, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this one.

So why did I want to leave THE COUPONIZER behind? Well, two reasons: 1. Mine is falling apart. Seriously, it has been used for at least six years, and I either needed to buy a new one or move on to a different system. 2. I’ve got too many coupons. I get the Sunday paper most weeks. (Yes, I know I need to subscribe – it’s on the to-do list.) I get leftover coupons from my mom. In addition, we get a version of the Sunday coupons every Thursday in a small paper that is distributed to everyone. I get mine and at least two other neighbors who don’t coupon. Folks, that’s A LOT of coupons. It’s also A LOT of the same coupon. What was happening was that my Couponizer was stuffed and I was having to go through a lot of coupons to find the one I needed.

Many coupon savvy people recommend saving all coupon inserts and writing the date of the insert on the front with a large marker. Then, when you go to blogs like Southern Savers and Mommy Snacks, you can easily find the coupon to which they are referring by going to that week’s coupon insert. Clip what you need and go to the stores with a very detailed list and your envelope of coupons.

Ya, that was NOT working for me. That is not to say that it won’t work for you. It’s just not working for me. I have been attempting to do this since the beginning of the year. What I’ve got is a whole bunch of coupon inserts with very few coupons cut out of them. Why? Because I can’t ever seem to find the coupon to which they are referring. And I haven’t been able to find the time to sit down and make a comprehensive shopping list before I end up at the store. I’ve been in Publix, seen something on sale, known there was a coupon at home, and been SO FRUSTRATED.

So, after seeing several COUPON BINDERS online, I am giving it a try. If I don’t like it, I’m going back to THE COUPONIZER. There are lots of places online where our bloggy friends have shared the coupon binder wisdom. These are a few I found:

Being Frugal

$5 Dinners

Mom Saves

And there are some that will sell you a coupon binder:

The Coupon Binder

Get Couponing

I SERIOUSLY considered purchasing a pre-made binder, but it would take time to get here. And, I wanted it done this weekend. I also didn’t want to pay for shipping or really pay for something I could do myself. I headed over to Walmart, and had everything within minutes. I spent about $35 and this is what I got.

I purchased a 2″ (I think) 3-ring binder that zipped. I wanted it to be able to close so that it didn’t fall apart all over the car. I purchased three sets of 8 tabs – well, I actually only purchased 2, but I’m going to get one more. I purchased 2 packages of baseball card pages. These are always near the registers at Walmart. Just in case you’re looking for them. The last thing I bought was a $1 calculator. I’m not really sure why I think I need this since I have an iPhone, but I’ve got one.

The first and biggest step was determining what my categories were going to be. Seriously! It’s a HUGE decision. I looked at what others had done online and I looked at The Couponizer. I decided to do basically the same categories as The Couponizer but break them down a little more. I ended up with 21 categories – and that was eliminating some. Who knew there were that many categories of coupons!?

Now, I know myself pretty well. And I knew that as soon as I wrote a category in permanent marker on one of those tabs, I was going to want to change it. Instead, I used these cool removable labels that I had from Avery. I cut them up into little strips and stuck those strips on the tabs and then wrote my categories on the strips. And, yes, I did change a couple up almost immediately. Notice my cool Bic Mark IT! pen. Still loving it.

Once I had all the tabs ready, I placed them in the binder alphabetically with two baseball card pages in between. Then it was time to add in the coupons. I had PLENTY of those. Remember, I had all those coupon inserts with the dates on the front and nothing clipped out.

I had so many coupons that sorting them was going to be a nightmare. So, I took a cue from THE COUPONIZER and made a sorting mat. I grabbed a half piece of poster board and divided it into 24 sections (an extra few in case I need them later). I then labeled the sections with the same categories as I have on the tabs. This made going through and organizing the massive stack of coupons I had a breeze. If you’re not doing this… well, then I’m not sure how you sort yours.

One thing I discovered when I was putting the sorted coupons in the binder is that they’ve got to be trimmed pretty well to fit into those pockets. The baseball card pockets are …um… the size of baseball cards. Some Many coupons are not that size so they have to be folded or trimmed well. I might investigate different size pages if I decide this is the way for me.

So, I’m pretty excited about my coupon binder. It will be making it’s debut at the local Publix tomorrow. We’ll see how it goes. I’m going to give it a least a month before making any decisions as to whether it’s the system for me. But, I’m thinking it’s going to be.

What do you do to organize your coupons?

Menu Plan Monday: 12 21 09

This week is Christmas. I cannot even believe that. Where has this year gone? Wow! Well, before I get really introspective, I better just plan the week.

Monday: Niece, Nephew, and Nanna over for dinner: Crispy Baked Chicken, pasta ribbons, green beans, fruit, and some yummy dessert – haven’t decided on that yet.

Tuesday: Leftovers – there will be some left over from Monday, plus we’ve still got some from last week. Need to make some room for what’s coming!

Wednesday: It’s Daddy day. Daddy has the day off so he’s staying home with the Mags all day. Not sure what kind of trouble they’re going to get into during the day. That being said, I think I’ll ask hubby dear to turn the crockpot on for me while I’m at work: I’ve got a roast to pull out of the freezer.

Thursday: Christmas Eve: Heading over to my brother and sister-in-laws for some festive times. She is sharing her family traditions from growing up with us this year. She’s Italian. It will be YUMMY!

Friday: MERRY CHRISTMAS!! I’m going to do a pork loin using this new Paula Deen recipe I got from her magazine. It has become a huge family favorite. I’ll share it with my tweaks later this week. I think I’ll also do some green beans that I saw in another of her magazines, my mom’s bubble bread (a family favorite that I’ll need to share), and maybe some potatoes.

Saturday: MERRY CHRISTMAS!! Round 2 Hoping to do Christmas with my husband’s sister and family – haven’t confirmed yet. If so, it will be the full turkey dinner. If we’re not doing the full dinner, I may cook a turkey anyway. I want the leftovers!!

Sunday: MERRY CHRISTMAS Round 3 (or 2): Heading over to my mom’s for the big family gathering. I’ve not been assigned anything yet, but I’m assuming pies. Pumpkin Pie and Shoe Fly Pie to be exact. Maybe some Scotcheroos.

It’s going to be a fun week – both with food and family.

Now, if I can just get my work to do list done by the end of Wednesday….


Linked to: OrgJunkie’s Menu Plan Monday

Top Ten Tuesday: Must Get Done

So, Christmas is ummmm next week. And, I am NOWHERE near ready. Like seriously NOT EVEN CLOSE. And, I have this job that has some pretty important deadlines coming up (like they do at the end of every month). So, it’s a work from home day where I am planning on multi-tasking to the MAX! I can read text while cookies are in the oven – right!??

So here is my list of things that ABSOLUTELY must get done in the next twenty-four hours. (Notice I didn’t say today. I’m giving myself a little grace to get up early tomorrow and finish what doesn’t get done.)

1. Christmas baking – I’m planning on gift giving some holiday yumminess tomorrow, which means that today some yumminess must come out of my kitchen. I’ve already done some of these cute candies and brownies. Today – cookies.

2. Christmas card – I usually send out about 120 cards. However, I haven’t even ordered the card yet – that’s high on the list for this morning. The hardest thing – picking out which adorable picture of my daughter to use. If she just wasn’t so stinking cute.

3. Address labels and stamps – Ya, once you order the cards, you need to figure out who you’re sending them to. And, then there is postage. Gotta get some stamps. Only time of year I actually use stamps.

4. Laundry – This is always on the list on work from home day – nothing exciting about that.

5. Read to my daughter’s class – It’s my day to read to a fabulous group of second graders – main reason it’s work from home day. Now, which Christmas classic to read to them….

6. Work – Ummm, that’s pretty much self explanatory. It’s got it’s own list – and it’s long. **shudder**

7. Wrap Presents – My daughter’s words when she saw the tree this morning, “Mom, there still aren’t any presents under the tree but mine to you.” It was is in the saddest voice too. *sigh* Made me sad. So, presents there will be by the time she gets home (I hope).

8. Calendar – Daughter dear is out of school next week and mom and dad are still needing to work. Gotta calendar where she’s going and what she’s doing during the break. Can’t believe I haven’t done that already. Good grief!

9. Listen to Christmas music – Well, this isn’t a must, but I do love Christmas music, and it calms me. Looking at this list, I might need to be calmed.

10. Remember – The reason for the season. As in, I need to sit with my Bible for a minute and remember why we celebrate this time of year.

And to leave you with a smile for the day. Here’s my sweet daughter’s Santa picture. I did manage to get that uploaded to the computer last night.

Maggie with Santa 2009

For more Top Ten Tuesday fun, visit my friend Amanda over at

Pantry Overhaul

So, my project for Labor Day was to totally clean out and reorganize the pantry. It was a HUGE mess. As you can see by these two pictures.

I pulled everything (well, almost everything) out and checked expiration dates. I think the oldest I found was 2003. Pretty embarrassing that. Stuff that was expired was of course thrown out. Stuff that was close to expiring, and I knew I wouldn’t use in time went into a box for a local charity. Also into the charity box went random stuff that was bought for a recipe I never made. You know what I mean – the three cans of tomato soup that were supposed to go in something and now you can’t remember what. Below is what my counter looked like at one point.
Not long after I took the above picture, I ended up going to the hospital to be with my friend Katie. So, when I came home that night, that lovely sight was waiting for me. It took me several days to get to where I had hoped to be at the end of Monday night. But, I am now done.

Now so pretty…..

I got the awesome brown baskets at Walmart in the seasonal area. They are nice and deep and hold lots. I used one to hold all the chips that took up half the shelf before. I used another one to hold all the different kind of baking chips, and yet another to hold the various lunch boxes that we have.
I used the top shelves that I (short person) have to use a step stool to reach to put baskets of all my paper goods – one for paper plates, one for paper cups, and one for party napkins. The VERY top shelf (that you can’t see in these pictures) holds all the storage containers I use when I bake during the holidays.
The MOST exciting part and a major goal of the operation was to get the floor clean and have no storage on the floor. Success!!!

So, what do you do to organize your pantry?