Hello Monday and Not Just a Mom – Cozy Edition

Monday, January 11, 2021

Hello to you and hello to Monday! I hope I can keep this post from being too long as I am linking up with Hello Monday here and Not Just a Mom here.

I want to apologize for being a bit down last week. I am feeling more positive now for a couple of reasons. January is flying by and it is my least favorite month and I am seeing real progress in our days staying light out later. Also, I think it was probably good for me to get back in my routine and I had a pretty good first virtual school week back after break.

Also, you know you aren’t dressed yet, right?

Participate in my wardrobe challenge!

Today – blouse and long necklace – I know it’s Monday but dress the way you want to feel, right?

Tuesday – jeans that you haven’t worn in a while

Wednesday – scarf

Thursday -t- shirt with cardigan

Friday – plaid

Do one; do all. The point is to wear what you have in your closet and to help you get dressed to be productive each day. I will show you what I wore after the week is over.

Friday morning is one of my days that I start teaching early (so I wasn’t able to go out in it right away) but it was still nice to wake up to a bit of snow!

You can tell that it started getting lighter out in the later photos. So pretty!

Friday called for my favorite top of the winter I would say… the Aerie pullover.

Ernie got a little lunch time snow walk. He had already had a morning snow walk with his Dad.

And, then I stopped taking photos for the day on Friday! The kids had a Covid test that was mandatory for moving in on campus – both were negative. Mason went ahead and moved in on Friday afternoon because he is in a play(that will be recorded) and had rehearsal Friday night from 6-10, Saturday 10-10 (ended up getting done much earlier), and Sunday 10-10. Wow!

Tom, Jack, and I had pizza for dinner and watched some t.v. Jack is still at home with us because he is changing dorms. I am very happy about this; he will be in a single room in the same dorm as Mason for this semester. The dorm is a little nicer and the rooms are a little larger. So, the room had to be sanitized from the student who moved out. I am guessing that student is commuting now or moving to another dorm, too. So, I think his new room will be ready today or tomorrow. He still has his old room if needed. But, classes are online for the first week.

Saturday morning I read a bit of this. I had read it before but I remembered it and requested it again. I am kind of skimming it. It is kind of along the lines of The Happiness Project about making the most of what you have and being content and grateful. I love this kind of stuff.

Then, I went to Kroger at 8:00 a.m. I had not been inside in weeks. I did not get a big load because I had already done a pick up earlier in the week; I just needed a few things.

Not only is the Valentine stuff out in full force, but there is also Easter stuff! Hold the phone!

I picked up some 97 cent bobby pins and some little clips for $2.99.

Also, I am not really married to a particular shampoo right now and I saw these for $2.99 each and thought I would try them out. I am a fan so far!

Trigger Alert:

Cooked chicken coming your way…

I prepped chicken for a couple of recipes – blog post coming soon. This chicken is way better than rotisserie with way more flavor and I think I can cook it faster than I can get the meat off of the rotisserie chicken. That gel on the bottom of the rotisserie wigs me out. What is that? I have made some big claims here, I know, but I will show you my way very soon…stay tuned.

I made some Chex Mix.

I did some Zumba. I discovered that there are some free workout shows on Amazon Prime Video.

And, I learned something amazing. I asked my friends on Facebook for coffee maker suggestions earlier in the week because I think my Keurig is on its last leg. I have thought this before, too. It is 8 years old and the original model. One of my friends told me about this $12 gadget on Amazon by Melitta. It is super easy and I think I really like it! You put this little filter think on top of your cup, insert a paper filter, put 2 T. of finely ground coffee, then pour boiling water that has been left to sit for 2 minutes into the cone slowly while swirling it around the whole filter and then you have a cup of coffee. I decided to try this before investing in another Keurig or a Nespresso. Any thoughts on coffee makers? I am the only coffee drinker in the house and I drink 2 cups every morning and sometimes do an afternoon cup.

A wonderful surprise happened in the afternoon – Mason texted and said he was done with rehearsal and he would like to eat with us. He loves his roommate but his roommate was gone for the weekend and I think maybe Mason wanted to take advantage of home life a little longer.

We picked up Joella’s Chicken and had one last family of four meal for awhile.

Ernie also likes Joella’s chicken.

I watched a bit of The Proposal after dinner and then we watched a bit of Gilmore Girls. Now Jack is getting Mason into it and telling him how good the acting and the dialogue is. I may have two actors in the family. They talk about camera angles and stuff like that, too.

Sunday morning Mason had rehearsal again. I went to The Dollar Tree and Target but didn’t buy much. I realized Valentine’s is only a month away and I need to do my decor soon. There is a lot of good stuff at The Dollar Tree, by the way.

O.k, folks, the next strange pandemic shortage is chopped green chilies. I am sorry to be the one to tell you this. I use them in my breakfast casserole and in my soups and a few other things. First was the toilet paper and now is the green chilies. They were not to be found at Kroger and Target was my second and final stop. Kroger had a dramatic sign up telling us about their absence.

Target has a Black History Month section which I thought was cool.

The rest of Sunday I did meal prep for the week, tv show watching, blog work, and school work. I also did laundry and cleaning both days.

Now, for the Not Just a Mom link up. This month the topic relates to being cozy and small comforts. I am big on this and talk about this often. I learned about Hygge a few years ago and it really made sense and helped me embrace winter. I love having four distinct seasons but there is something I don’t like about each of them and something I love about each of them.

My ultimate goal for my home is for it to be cozy and a place of comfort. Have you ever been to someone’s home and thought, “how do they lay on this couch and eat chips?” I have.

I think so many things can make a home cozy and the people in them cozy. “Cozy” is a very funny word. How many times can I say “cozy”?

I love twinkle lights. Lighting can really create a comforting vibe.

I love warm drinks to make me feel cozy. This was a hot toddy at a restaurant but I have made bourbon hot chocolate at home. I would like to learn some more hot beverages.

I even think smells can make you feel cozy. When I made apple butter in the crockpot this fall it was such a comforting homey smell.

I prefer natural smells, but I don’t find Glad Cashmere Woods to smell artificial at all. In fact, I took a break from this scent from last winter/spring until this winter and when I recently plugged this puppy in I got the best feeling. It is currently in my closet and that is it for now. I also have the candle I will start lighting soon.

A fire indoors or outdoors is the ultimate in feeling cozy. We love our Solo Stove and have used it at least 20 times since we got it.

I think a sectional is the bee’s knees in cozy furniture.

Last winter we bought a new “winter” bedspread at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Did you know they carry Ugg for home? This comforter is by Ugg and the underlayer is faux sheepskin. OMG! It is wonderful! We liked it so much we used it in the summer, too. Ernie also likes it. Yes, we are dog on the bed type of people. And, that in and of itself is cozy! Have you ever had your feet warmed by a 90 pound chocolate lab? There is a “dog sheet” on top but as you can see Ernie doesn’t let little things like that affect his comfort.

This fall I started “Soup Sundays”. I make a bowl of soup on Sunday and we have it for dinner that night; then I eat it for lunch a few more days.

Last week we had cabbage vegetable soup with kielbasa.

Yesterday I made tortilla soup.

I am also very big on nice feeling fabrics. If something is itchy or not soft enough I won’t buy it. Slippers and robes are also a way to give yourself a small comfort at home. Many small comforts don’t have to cost much money, either. There is nothing like taking a shower at night and getting into a bed with clean sheets.

How was your weekend? What are your favorite small comforts?

Amy

Hello Monday?

Monday, January 4, 2021

I put a question mark because I am not sure I am ready to say “hello”. I guess all breaks must come to an end but today seems heavy to me for a few different reasons. I am linking up today with Heather, Lindsay, Tanya, and many more here.

Last week was really nice. I like the week after Christmas and I like it when Christmas falls on a Friday, you know? Monday, December 28th Tom went back to work and I had some weekdays at home to myself (and the boys) and it’s just nice to chill without the hustle and bustle of Christmas tasks. Gosh, I love a week day off, you know? It just feels different.

I did OPI Alpine White on my nails. I am getting better every time I do a home manicure.

Thursday was rainy and overcast and I turned on the patio lights. I am loving these!

And, Thursday our plumber came back! See the red, white, and blue?

Now, it is time for drywall to go over this! Drywall makes a big mess. But, this is such a smaller space than the drywall project we had a year ago.

Also, on Thursday I went to Target for a couple of things for NYE that I needed – food supplies – instead of to Kroger. The Valentine’s Day stuff is out in full force! No, I did not buy anything!

Then, I wanted to have a day time fire and have everyone join me, but everyone didn’t want to join me. I sat out and read for a bit.

Fire and….

ice… in the rain chain. I thought that looked cool.

I had been craving lasagna for some time – I think I am the only one in the family, though, so I decided NYE would be the night. I used the real lasagna noodles but soaked them in a bowl of cold water instead of boiling them and dealing with hot noodles. I had seen this somewhere. You guys, it was so easy! Anyway, it turned out great and I froze several pieces for later.

AT 7:00 on NYE, my cousin April had put together some games to play on Zoom. It was really fun and we stayed on until 8:30. Then, I am embarrassed to say that I only made it awake until about 10! The boys ended up staying home and talking to friends online.

I drank my prosecco from my SIL. I am becoming a big fan!

New Year’s Day came and I made a different breakfast casserole with bread this time instead of biscuit dough.

And, I had one more can of Grands biscuits – the bigger ones – and I decided to do a monkey bread in just a little round cake pan and it worked! This time I left off the butter on accident and it didn’t matter! So, sugar, cinnamon, brown sugar in a baggie with the biscuit pieces and then dump them in the pan and bake and pour the cinnamon glaze on top when it comes out of the oven.

I started prepping my good luck foods – did you think I was joking? I am not messing around! I did cabbage and saved some of it plain and used the rest of a veggie soup with kielbasa – so not a veggie soup after all!

We did a little football watching/Amy reading.

Then, I went outside when the sun came out and got hot enough to put shorts on! It was so warm!

Tom and I went for a drive. The river is really high.

We drove along the river and downtown and it was pretty quiet and empty because a lot of businesses were closed for NY Day. We parked and walked around a bit and it was a good time to check out some new to us places.

This has a lot of potential – a new brewery marketplace with room for more businesses. You kind of go down an alley and would never know this was tucked away!

This is a new karaoke bar with a filipino food truck permanently housed here? And, I learned that karaoke is Japanese but in Korea they have something called “norae” and it is a private karaoke room for just you and a few friends. Apparently there is one of these norae bars on every street. I think we are talking South Korea, not North Korea, by the way. Chuckle.

And, this has been here for a long time – Garage Bar – it’s a former filling station/gas station that is now a restaurant with lots of outdoor space.

There is so much fun stuff to do and I miss being around people!

New Year’s Day Dinner: black eyed peas from a can, cabbage, corn bread, pork, potatoes, and oranges.

The boys were not really excited about my dinner or my superstitions.

Come back tomorrow and I will talk about my decluttering plan for the month of January and I would love to have you join me!

I tackled medicines and

spices. It’s not how I want it to be because I am awaiting a kitchen remodel, but I did the best I could.

Tom and I did the Costco run together. We really only go to Costco once every two months or so. We get our dog food, paper towels, toilet paper, laundry detergent (still mad about my blue pods!), dishwasher detergent, trash bags, some toiletries like toothpaste and lotion, and then some food items every now and then. I feel like you have to be really careful at Costco. You get really excited about an item but then things can go to waste if you don’t need that much, you know? Yesterday we got dog food, batteries, chips, lettuce, and paper towels. We did well with resisting temptations and Tom didn’t stray to the electronics like he usually does.

Mason went to a friend’s house and Jack and I watched an episode of Gilmore Girls. No one is more surprised than I am that he was interested. He thinks the acting is really good. Then, we ate dinner and watched a show as a family.

Sunday was the day the kids had to get a Covid test at their college. Mason had been randomly selected back in October but Jack had never had one yet.

Friday Favorites – Winter Wardrobe Challenge, 30 Bags Progress, and More!

Friday, January 8, 2021

How was your week? I am linking up today with Andrea, etc. right here for some favorites and more!

This week has been a lot. It was a full week of back to virtual teaching for me and the last week with my boys home. And, of course, the strife in our country is unsettling – not to mention that we are dealing with a global pandemic.

I have a few goals for this year and one of them involves streamlining my house cleaning. When I run out of current cleaning products I want to replace them with better for the environment supplies, too. My mom gave me this Scrub Daddy for Christmas (among other things!) and it works really well. You simply wet it and it works like a charm. It won’t scratch your pans. Here is the Scrub Daddy on Amazon. Also, he smiles at you while you are scrubbing, so what’s not to love? Who’s your Daddy? Scrub Daddy!

I had a Kroger pick up during my lunch break one day. It’s working really well for me. Their app now has a feature where you tell them you are on your way so they are ready for you. Then, when you get there you open the app again and say what spot you are in. No joke that I pulled in and my groceries were out to my car in less than a minute. I have some friends that complain about the grocery but refuse to learn to use this service. So. frustrating. I have offered to help! It is wonderful! This is definitely a favorite.

Love this brand of hand soap I picked up and lemon is such a good smell for me. It is so kitchen-y and my Dad loved the smell of lemon. With washing my hands so often, a nice soap in the kitchen and bathrooms is super important to me. I am big on smells and having a nice one really affects me.

I also picked up some bird seed so I could watch birds again – I hope! That was one of my spring hobbies!

While walking Ernie I saw something shiny in the grass. I thought it was a penny and it was 3 pennies, a dime, and a nickel! Special day for me – many of you know that I see coins as signs from my Dad. Even if you think my belief is silly look at it this way – I made 18 cents on my walk!

So, we got rid of ATT Uverse and got Youtube tv. Therefore, we lost the small kitchen t.v. that wasn’t a smart t.v. (I know we could have gotten another fire stick but we didn’t) and the cable box that was taking up counter space. I have been using this photo frame holder that I have had forever as my ipad stand for streaming shows while I cook and clean the kitchen. I decided it is also nice to read blogs like this. It is always a favorite to fill a need with something I already owned.

So, another goal this year is financial.

Pretty crazy, right? I would have no problem adding to cart in the amount of $27.40 each day. I am really trying to put things in my cart and have a holding period where I wait a few days and see if I still “need” it. I am paying for two college kids this semester, we are trying to renovate, I would like to take a trip, and I just don’t want to look back on this year and have Amazon boxes and clothes I don’t need to show for it. So, if you are also in the same boat, I will be talking about some things I am doing. Now, I do want to say that I recognize my privilege in being able to choose how I spend my money. I know there are so many people in our country really struggling. I will still spend a bit on myself and on helping local restaurants by getting take out or enjoying their patios, but I am being more intentional with my discretionary money.

So, my 30 Bags in 30 Days project ties into my financial goals. I could have easily bought gloves because I was disorganized and didn’t realize how many pairs we already own!

I tackled the hall coat closet one afternoon this week. What a mess! The floor was the main problem. I had tote bags, cooler bags, and so many scarves, hats, and gloves.

I also found my wooden beads that I thought I had and my blue January decor garland! Why did I put it there?

Being disorganized costs money and I hope to improve this situation! So far I have done hall closet, nail polishes, spices, and medicines. I am a little behind but I can take some time this weekend to knock out several areas. This is a favorite and I hope you will join me in your own project!

And, finally, I am doing a wardrobe challenge that I hope you will participate in with me. Every season I want to wear all of my clothes for that season if I can. If there is a reason that I don’t want to wear it – fit, style, out of date, etc. I need to let it go. Also, about half way through each season I get bored with my clothes so this really helps to breathe new life into my closet.

Here is my plan for next week – it is very low key and easy to do:

Monday – blouse and long necklace

Tuesday – jeans that I haven’t worn in a while – it’s time to gauge the holiday treats, gals. It’s gonna hurt

Wednesday – scarf – a scarf serves as a necklace and it keeps you so warm and cozy

Thursday – t-shirt with cardigan

Friday – plaid

Easy, right?

Happy Friday!

Amy

My Manicure at Home

Thursday, January 7, 2021

This post was a reader request – Hi Gaby! Plus, I thought maybe this would appeal to others, as well. In my pre-pandemic life, I loved getting shellac and dipped nails but at the same time I thought about all the time and money I put into the maintenance, you know? Also, a little factoid about me: I got really tired of the color after about a week. You, too may have given up the nail salon right now in favor of going bare of DIY.

I am not really an expert, but I have polished my nails all of my life practically. I just like the look. Plus, I am not very crafty so this is kind of my little art project. Mom and Kate, does it count? My mom is a retired art teacher and my sister is a current art teacher. I did not get the artsy crafty gene.

Find a time to do this. You will need about 45 minutes minimum to be still and not use your hands. Or, you can divide it up in 4 steps with maybe 15 minutes of time blocks, but you deserve the self-care, you know?

I recently discovered that sitting at my virtual teaching desk while waiting to tutor students works well. But, normally I do this in the evening while I am watching a deliciously shallow show like one of the Bravo Housewives franchises.

Take care of your trimming and filing a different day if you can. I do not really have cuticle issues, but you may also need to do that. If you can do it a different day, take care of that and wash your hands really well.

By the way, this also gave me the push to do one of my 30 Bags in 30 Days areas that I talked about here.

Look how out of hand my polish collection was:

I am happy to say I got it down to a more manageable size that all fits in my caddy.

As you can see above, my favorite brand is OPI, but Essie has some really cool colors in my opinion. How many times in your life have you finished a bottle of polish? I have actually used entire bottles of OPI colors so that tells me that quality saves me money in the long run. If I buy a cheapie for $4 I may only use it twice, but my OPI that costs $8=9 gets used up. Here is Alpine Snow on Amazon, which is a favorite of mine.

Let us compare the brushes, though. I hate Essie brushes. I love OPI brushes and think that helps me get a better manicure. If you have small nails you may prefer Essie. You may have to experiment. And, if you can get a cheaper brand to work for you that is great. I find that the consistency is not as smooth, the colors are not as saturated, and they just don’t give me the salon-ish quality I am after.

I got a wild hair and thought – what if I use an OPI brush from a top coat I am not using with my Essie…. it fits! This is my new plan! I did wipe the brush clean with remover before putting it in the Essie bottle. REVOLUTIONARY!!!!!!!

Many of the things I have learned from the nail professionals. If your polish is a bit gummy or old, put a drop or two of remover in the bottle. Then, shake and roll, shake and roll. Have you ever watched how many times the nail techs do this? It is very important.

Now it is time to begin. Take a paper towel and swipe all nails with a bit of remover even though you think they are clean.

Now, do your base coat and I cannot stress this enough. Do a very light coat. Light coats will be the name of the game throughout our process. Let it dry. This will dry very quickly.

And, here is our process before we get to the photos:

  1. Light base coat.
  2. Light first layer of color – does not need to be perfect edge to edge this time.
  3. Light second layer of color – does need to be perfect this time. Take your time.
  4. Light top coat.

You will need at least 10-15 minutes between each of the steps.

This is my favorite base of all time and it dries really quickly. I have already had it for 6 months and have hardly used any. It may seem pricey but remember how long it will last and remember the going rate for a mani is like $20 every week if it is just normal polish, right?

Step Two: Do a very light first coat of color. It does not have to be perfect.

After letting the first coat dry, it is time to get serious. Maybe pause The Real Housewives of Orange County? Do your second coat more meticulously and make sure you go edge to edge. By the way this is an Essie color called “Bikini so Teeny” but I am using an OPI brush.

Let fully dry.

Now, end with your top coat – remember make it a light layer. I am loving this top coat right now.

Sorry for my shadows, but it gives a nice professional looking shine like you would get from shellac, almost. You may remember me using my OPI top coat and going to bed 3 hours later and getting hair marks all over my mani? I do not have that problem anymore with this top coat.

I can get about 5 days out of this process. That is with washing a ton of dishes lately and not being careful at all.

I will say that I think keeping your nails a bit shorter helps the manicure last longer.

What do you think? Any tips for me?

Amy

What I Wore Wednesday

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

I didn’t do a great job with outfit photos over the break despite my best intentions! I apologize! I am linking up with The Style Six here, though.

First off, I want to tell you how much I have been wearing these. I realized back in March that working from home should not mean barefoot at home. So, many days I wear these even in the house. I wish I had gone down a half size but they are o.k. I can’t remember where I got them now – sorry. They were around $30!

I kind of did a splurge over the break on a pair of Target boots. A student gave me a gift card so I felt like it was o.k. I say “splurge” because I pretty much stopped buying shoes from Target in favor of spending a little more on footwear as I got older.

These are super cute and Universal Thread (you know I love this line!) and while they won’t be teaching boots or walking boots, they will be sitting on patio boots. You don’t have that category of footwear? Lol!

Aren’t they cute?

I have a new lip obsession and I did include it in my Prime post yesterday. I love the texture, the smell, the longevity – everything. I want more colors. It is called the Maybelline Superstay Ink Crayon. This is a great product for under your mask.

Right now I have Lead the Way – the lightest of my colors – kind of a nude.

Run the World – a medium pink

Make it Happen – a dark berry

I mix them all together, too! Love this product. Find them in most grocery and drug stores and on Amazon.

Here are the two bottom ones mixed.

My mother in law gave me a makeup set for Christmas and it included this mascara which I have been wanting to try. It was time to say goodbye to my last mascara so the timing was great. I really like this!

My work from home outfits are so different. When I was in school I was all about the rule of 3 – a top, a vest, pants. Now, I am just a top and earrings (I do have on clothing on the bottom half but it’s not noteworthy and sometimes it doesn’t even match!) I have plenty to get me through winter and I have done a great job so far of resisting winter sales.

I am not going to rule new stuff out, but I am really trying to just wear what I have. I am going to do some wardrobe challenges coming soon! Join me! Let’s wear what we have and at the same time weed out some things that no longer work.

I polish my nails at least once a week. OPI Alpine Snow is a fave. I just prefer the OPI and Essie polish for my nails. I wish the cheaper ones worked well, but they don’t and I end up wasting money.

Normally over winter break I would go to the mall, TJ Maxx, my consignment stores – it’s so fun to look at the after Christmas sales. This year I didn’t feel like doing that, but I did go in my local boutique once that has my new favorite brand – Savanna Jane.

This top below caught my eye! It’s $62 which is a bit more than I normally spend, but I am really trying to have less but stop buying things just because they are cheap. I need a piece to speak to me.

What do you think of this?

Case in point: This top was $54 by the same brand and I have worn it at least 20 times since purchasing it in September. So, therefore this was a better buy than a top that cost $10 and I only wore once. This is a real struggle for a life long bargain hunter!

My sister doesn’t like the snakeskin nearly as much as the leopard floral so she told me not to get it.

And, I showed you these yesterday in my prime post but I am loving my new Amazon slippers here. We need arch support even in our slippers, gals.

What have you been wearing?

Are you shopping for winter clothing?

Amy

Prime Purchases and 30 Bags in 30 Days

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Linking up with Tanya to share a few of my recent Amazon Prime purchases you might like. Then, I am also sharing my 30 bags in 30 days project so keep reading!

It was time to say goodbye to my 8 year old Ugg Scuffette slippers. I had asked for them one Christmas and boy did they do their job. I picked these randomly on Amazon and I am super happy! I like letting the ol’ pigs breathe, too, you know? The price point was good. I started having a little foot pain over the break and I think I need support when I am working from home or walking around the house all day. I am wearing shoes more of the day now, but these will give me more support than the worn in Ugg slippers did, too.

A sweet student gave me an Amazon gift card and I purchased this live plant.

I also purchased a four pack of fairy lights that come with remote control and different settings for the lights – blinking, etc. Beware that each set of fairy lights requires 3 AA batteries.

And, you know I am a sucker for lip products. I love everything about this lip crayon and now have 3 colors. I am layering the different colors for different effects, too.

Mason wants more color in his wardrobe and really likes this one. I ordered this for one of his gifts and he and I are both super impressed with the quality and the feel. We are both big on things being nice fabrics. This is a men’s but I think it could also work for women.

And, I want to mention my purse strap again. Mine is camo and it appears they don’t have my exact one anymore. For $14, this gave me a new purse. It works on two of my bags but I have been using it most on my small off white cross body. These sell for $31 in my favorite little boutique and I do want to support small businesses and I do, but $14 just seems more appropriate for what this is. Look at the two I am considering below! So cute, right?

I just love breathing new life into something I already owned. It feels so good!

30 Bags in 30 Days:

Who has decluttering listed as a goal for 2021? I feel like I have to constantly keep up with clutter or it will overwhelm me. For inspiration, I watch a little Marie Kondo or Home Edit. I will never really understand it, but less is more. I feel like I have MORE to wear when my closet is less full. If I have too much clutter in any one area I just can’t seem to function.

This idea is not original to me. It came from The Larson Lingo Blog (no longer a blog but you can follow Mel Larson on Instagram) a long time ago and she called it “40 Bags in 40 days” and I believe it was during Lent. So, her plan had her finished by Easter. The idea was that she fill a bag of stuff to donate, sell, or throw away for each of her 40 spaces she identified. Tip: She said to use black garbage bags if you have kids so that they don’t see what you are donating!

I decided to declutter a space for every day of January. And, I may double up and do multiple spaces one day. Also, it doesn’t really matter when you start, just that you do start! You can also do it in January and maybe just pick 25 areas.

  1. Medicines – Go through all of our over the counter medicines, check for expiration dates, and organize – did this over the weekend.
  2. Spices – did this over the weekend.
  3. China cabinet in dining room
  4. Office supply drawer under microwave
  5. Nailpolish
  6. Makeup other than nailpolish
  7. Bathroom linen closet
  8. Cabinets above microwave – this space is poorly utilized but I did a big clean out a year ago so it is not bad
  9. mudroom – masks not wearing, dog towels, buy bins
  10. basement storage room shelves
  11. Amy closet drawers – especially jewlery and accessories
  12. tupperware drawer
  13. plastic wrap, baggies, foil drawer – have accumulated too many takeout silverware sets
  14. Game closet in basement
  15. hall closet – gloves, hats, etc. – do this before boys go back because they will need this stuff
  16. undersink cleaning supplies
  17. drawer by back door
  18. dishtowel drawer
  19. pantry
  20. cups – too many free plastic cups accumulated
  21. Amy car
  22. Amy lotions, hair products
  23. DVDS – keep or donate?
  24. pots and pans and baking dishes
  25. Amy school stuff – take some back to classroom
  26. freezer – January is eat from freezer month
  27. fridge – time to check for expired condiments
  28. Amy socks
  29. silverware drawer – wash the plastic organizer
  30. blankets – weed out and wash all blankets

So, here is my list! Instead of saying “kitchen”, I am being specific and tackling one small thing a day.

Saturday I did my medicines – got all of them out, looked for expiration dates and organized.

I also did my spices. Where do you keep your medicines? Is it weird that I have my spices next to my medicines?

I am not touching anything of Tom’s, Jack’s, or Mason’s in my plan. I am doing the things that are kind of my domain or spaces that I use the most.

So, join me! Or, give me some tips!

Amy

Happy New Year

Friday, January 1, 2021

It felt weird to type 2021! I am going to treat 2021 like I would a cat. I am going to not expect too much and I am going to tread lightly. Sorry to any cat lovers out there – this has been my experience!

I mentioned earlier this week that I am feeling a bit out of sorts with all of the uncertainty that 2021 holds. Will things really get better? Can I be an effective virtual teacher? Will I go back to teaching in person in a couple of months? Will my kids be able to stay on campus for the second semester? How will the vaccinations go? So many unknowns… Are you feeling this way, too?

I am going to eat my lucky foods today and take it one day at a time or one week at a time, I guess.

I took my Christmas decor down on the 28th. I love it for about a month, but then I crave minimalism, you know?

A student gave me an Amazon gift card so I ordered this pothos plant(upon many of my readers’ suggestions for an easy to care for plant; yes, Amazon truly does have everything, including live plants. I think I will need to play around with locations so that it gets the right amount of sunlight. Also, I am doing Thirsty Thursday where I water on Thursdays if needed.

Tip for your mantel: Look around in other rooms of the house for books and Knick knacks that fit your color scheme. It’s amazing what you can find just from shopping other rooms of the house. It’s good to see all of your rooms with fresh eyes and moving things around can be really good!

I chose these books that are light green and blue with gold lettering. I am pretty sure these were purchased at a used book sale by my boys many years ago. They were big into educational books.

I decided to keep my faux greenery up along with my twinkle lights. The wine glass does not stay there. Don’t be afraid to mix real and faux. I think it works.

I also decided to keep up my rustic sparkly antlers for a woodsy look. I love this little piece of decor that I found at my school’s craft fair a few years ago. My friend got one, too.

Monday morning at 8:00 I went to Trader Joe’s on a mission – to get plants (and a few other needed items). I think they were in between seasons with their plants and I need to go back. They still had poinsettias and evergreens. I am thinking they will get new plants in soon.

I did pick up these three small plants for $7.99 each. I also should check my Kroger’s plant selection. I’m trying to become a plant lady!

I am not sure about this space yet. I am still thinking… For now I have the giant monogram pallet I made with my friend Beth at one of those DIY workshops and this little plant.

I also ordered some tiny little battery powered lights from Amazon that I plan to incorporate with some plants. You can find them here.

I have really only spruced up my living room with this decor. The combination of greenery and twinkle lights is making me feel calm and happy.

I have a lot of Valentine’s decor so I am sure I will add that in and take some stuff away come mid to late January.

2021 Rules for Amy:

I am cautious about resolutions so will call these “rules” or “guidelines”.

-Get outside every day. If it is a sunny day, I especially need to get outside before it gets dark. Record/write down the official time of sunset. We have already made progress! The shortest day of the year/day with least amount of sunlight is December 20 and we are already almost two weeks out from that date! For example, last night the sunset was 5:32 and just a few days ago it was 5:28!

We keep the patio furninture covered, but it is easy enough to take the cover off. We typically have some warm days thrown in here and there in January and February so that will help.

-Try new recipes and maybe do Hello Fresh or other meal service again for 2 people instead of 4. I think it may be much more affordable that way and we are in a rut. I have been making all the old favorites with the boys home. I plan to do more salads and soups and low carb when the boys return to school and it’s just Tom and I. I also plan to go back down to a $500 a month grocery limit.

-Plan a social outing with a friend at least 2 times a month on a heated patio. I have a list of some new heated patios I would like to try.

-Build winter fires outside a few times. My friend said she had a fire in the snow on Christmas Day! How cool is that?

-Read some good books. I started this. But, re-start my spend no money on books plan that I have had for years. I made an exception during March-May before my library re-opened.

And, I put in several library requests. I looked at books at Target and snapped some pics of ones I thought looked good. Bonus, my weekly library curbside pickup gets me out of the house in a safe way.

-Watch some t.v. shows I missed. Over break I watched Bridgerton and Country Ever After on Netflix and The Spanish Princess on Prime. Give me suggestions! I don’t like anything sci-fi, too dark or scary, or too cheesy.

-Declutter and organize. I plan to make a list of spaces to work through – maybe one space a day during January. I will explain more in a dedicated post. Some of these spaces will seriously only take 5 minutes. It’s really fun and rewarding. Nothing makes me more angry than buying something I already have because I am disorganized.

-Really try to avoid winter clothing sales. I do not need anything to get me through winter. I find that sales are really a trap for me. I buy things just because they are cheap. These tend to be my bad purchases that I end up selling or donating. I am really working harder to buy less but spend a bit more.

-Do my traditional wear every piece of winter clothing and if I don’t want to wear it for some reason – no longer fits, doesn’t fit my style, etc. put it in donate pile.

-Keep a running list on my phone of clothing pieces I would like to add. Hopefully these will be spring pieces!

-Think about planning a trip. I find the research to be really fun. I don’t know what spring break will look like. The boys have a spring break weekend from college – so a three day weekend in early March. I have a week in April.

I have a few more ideas but that’s enough for now!

Happy New Year! Come on, 2021 – we are counting on you!

Amy

Lessons Learned from 2020

Thursday, December 31, 2020

I have been reflecting a lot lately on my 2020. I have told many people that I feel like a different person in some ways. I have learned so much and grown so much. To read over this is a bit surreal.

Grab a coffee and read if you are able! What are your takeaways from 2020? Do you feel like the same person?

January – the year turned to 2020 and I couldn’t believe my senior twins’ graduation year had already arrived. That’s all I really remember!

February– thoroughly enjoyed Jack in Pride and Prejudice as Mr. Collins. He was so funny and even got a mention in a local arts review (bragging a bit – but give me that because it would be the only live performance we would get to see of him or anyone in 2020!)! WE also got to watch Mason’s final academic team competition. Both kids did quick recall from 5th-9th grade and then Mason came back to it for senior year and it was so fun to watch. He shined (again, give me this, o.k.?) and our team was good – and coached by one of my teacher friends. It was just fun. February was a fun month for our family.

March – crunch time for college decisions. Acceptances were all in, scholarship offers were on the table, but it was time to decide. I was starting to stress and I know I was annoying my kids. Then, March 13th happened and life as we knew it came to a halt. We were off of school for two weeks and then one more for Spring Break. Those three weeks were stressful – lots of Zoom meetings for me and wondering how? why? when? where? At this point, we thought it would be a short break.

I didn’t have any masks and therefore really only went out in the neighborhood.

I was already doing Kroger Clicklist so I kept doing that. This was the wipe everything down before bringing it in the house stage.

This was the bake homemade bread stage and the Dalgona iced coffee stage. I also started using Dinnerly meal prep for 3 meals a week. I continued this for a couple of months.

April – started back to school virtually for boys and teaching for me. It was weird. Attendance to live classes was not mandated. There was no set schedule. It was b-a-n-a-n-a-s. I was still trying to get my students prepared for the Spanish AP exam. Jack and Mason were falling into bad sleeping patterns. The weather started warming up and I sat outside a lot. I had lots of happy hours while talking on the phone to friends.

May– I couldn’t wait to be done with the school year. I need to get that monkey off of my back as I said repeatedly. I had masks and started going out to some stores. The end of May brought the re-opening of our restaurants! We thought summer would bring normalcy. I really thought the virus would run its course when the heat came.

June – celebrated Tom’s birthday, Father’s Day, visited my mom with one of my sisters in my hometown, lots of boating. The boys mostly hung out together. There was lots of sleeping in. I started saying they were on second shift. I started becoming obsessed with red sandals and bought clogs and sandals.

July – had a fun day with my sister and BIL on the river. They journeyed down river by boat from our hometown. We celebrated our 20th anniversary with take out from Outback. We had a small family grad party in the yard.

August – Lots of Amazon arrivals and shopping for college supplies. I was shocked that the boys were really able to move in on campus. I was sad and dinner and the evenings were hardest at first. But, I worked for two weeks to get ready for real virtual school this time. So, I was really busy and that helped to make the transition to an empty nest easier.

September- busy, busy with school and learning our new schedule. Tried desperately to learn new names and faces – for those who would turn cameras on in live classes! Settled into a new empty nest normal with Tom. Still boating! Lots of socially distant outdoors social time with friends. My sisters and I met in my hometown for a girl’s day with my mom. That was really fun.

I made apple butter in the crockpot! I embraced lots of things apple and made my first apple cider sangria of the season.

October – Still learning routine, still boating, still socializing, kind of liking only being responsible for myself – and Ernie! I embraced all things pumpkin! We went out to eat on a patio a couple of Saturday nights a month.

November – celebrated my 49th birthday at an outdoor restaurant with my two besties and their husbands. Moved my college kids home November 20 and had a small and kinda sad but safe Thanksgiving. Put boat up after a super warm second weekend of November! We lived it up with 3 days in a row of boating one weekend.

December – Boys finished their classes at home and took online finals. I finished with school for 2020 on December 18 (again, I was ready to get that monkey off my back), frantic shopping (mostly online) for Christmas took place, lots of cooking, lots of dishes, visited my mom for our Christmas with her, Tom’s parents did a drive by Christmas. We watched some shows, movies, and played some games. I cooked a ton and there were so. many. dishes. again. I was so happy to have my boys home.

General Thoughts:

I will always be grateful for my home. It truly was as place of refuge. My outdoor space saved me. I gained another outdoor space with our new deck and we ordered furniture online that has worked out great.

I am so grateful for our renovation timing. We were able to move into the new bedroom and mudroom in March. I would’ve been so unhappy had we not been in the place we were.

From March-December I got two pedicures and no manicures. I learned that I don’t need to have those services.

I rarely got take out coffee and again, I love my coffee at home. It seemed like I only was doing the Starbucks because I was already out and it was just easy.

I never wanted to work from home but I have really enjoyed the respite from such a hard core structured school day. I didn’t miss the hall duty, behavior issues – even just asking kids to put phones away was getting really old, the lack of being able to go to the bathroom. I also have liked getting up at a more civilized hour. I do miss all the good things that come with teaching, of course!

My daily walks with Ernie have saved me and him. We had simply the best weather from September – November. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to be outside more.

I feel like I have slowed down. I haven’t been in a rush in I can’t remember how long. This has been so good for me. I have a tendency to be very Type A.

I tried so many homemade recipes – my own salad dressings, enchilada sauce, bread, coffee drinks, cocktails. I know I became a better home cook.

I feel like my friendships have never been better. Life was busy before March and It was hard to even make a phone call happen! At first I did a lot of – “I will call you at 4:00 and we will both sit outside with a cocktail at our own houses.” Then, I did some one on one happy hours on my patio, friends’ patios, restaurants. Almost all of my socializing was one on one – just me and another friend. Sometimes it’s harder to talk when there are more people so I feel that this really enabled us to grow closer. At first no one was eating anyone else’s food so it was very low pressure entertaining. My work friends Erica and Elizabeth, my friends Victoria, Sheila, Beth, and my college besties Heather and Heather helped me so much. I am a pretty social person. One social activity a week was my goal and it usually happened! My sister Kate and I talked on the phone a lot, too. My sister Molly was harder to talk to because she went back in person without missing much of a beat and has a very busy life with 4 kids and a long commute.

I am so grateful for Tom, Jack and Mason. You want to talk about people that adapted well without complaint? It’s them. Jack and Mason have always loved being home and they had each other. I think their bond was strengthened during this time, too.

And, finally, I was so grateful to have this blog. It was a lifeline between me and the friends I have made through blogging.

I know there is so much more I could say, but I think that is enough for now.

Thank you for sticking with me!

Amy

Adiós 2020 – Recipes for NYE or New Year’s Day

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

I had some requests for my Christmas recipes so I thought maybe others might like them, too. Are you still in holiday cooking/eating mode? I cleaned up my act and started eating better a couple of days after Christmas, but I know I will splurge for NYE and Day and won’t really be on a good eating plan until Monday, January 4th when I am back to my work from home schedule.

Do you have exciting NYE plans? Ha! We never really do much anymore, even when not in a pandemic. I don’t like to be out on the roads on NYE. We will sometimes do dinner at a restaurant before the rush and then be home at a decent time. Some years we go to a friend’s house. This year I am kind of hoping the boys don’t end up with plans so that it can be the four of us for a special-ish meal and games. Teenagers are very last minute with their plans. Also, it’s hard when other families have seen people and traveled. I feel very lucky that my kids are being cautious and mostly talking to friends on the phone/online. But, it is sad, too.

So, my plans are up in the air and it will most likely just feel like a Thursday.

I plan to drink this from my sister-in-law and also use it the next day for a mimosa! I tried a cranberry mimosa on Christmas and I highly recommend! Yum! I still have plenty of cranberry juice in the fridge.

This would be fun to have on New Year’s Day morning. I think it would be kind of fun to sit around and reflect on the year as a family and maybe make some goals for the next year.

Puff Up Breakfast Casserole:

1 lb. sausage cooked and crumbled – you could do bacon or leave meat out. You could also reduce the amount of sausage like I did.

1 can Grands biscuits

5 eggs

1 and 1/4 cup milk (I used skim because that is what we buy)

8 oz sharp cheddar cheese grated and 8 oz. mozzarella cheese grated (I used a mixture of cheeses we had in fridge – cheddar, Mexican blend, and mozzarella)

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350.

Spray bottom of a 9 x 13 with Pam.

Cut biscuits into 8 small triangles per biscuit and evenly space them on bottom of pan.

Top with cooked sausage and cheese.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, garlic, and salt and pepper.

Pour over the biscuit pieces, sausage, and cheese.

Bake 30-45 minutes until golden brown.

I think you could prepare this the night before, too, but I did mine on Christmas morning. I liked the biscuit dough as the base. My family has been making one like this but with bread and ham for years and years.

Cinnamon Roll Monkey Bread:

Put 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tsp. cinnamon, and 1/4 cup brown sugar in a large ziploc bag and mix up.

Cut up 2 cans of Grands biscuits into 8 triangles per biscuit (I did this at the same time as I did my biscuit for the above casserole and it worked out great!)

Put biscuit dough into the baggies and shake around.

Put biscuit pieces that are now coated into a Bundt pan.

Pour a stick of melted butter over the biscuits.

Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes.

Loosen edges and let cool for about 5 minutes.

Then, invert your pan onto a serving platter.

Make a mixture of milk, butter, powdered sugar and vanilla for your glaze.

You can Google Cinnamon roll frosting but I just guessed.

Pour glaze over the hot monkey bread.

I think you might agree that this is better than the original monkey bread, too! I thought this was simply amazing made this way.

Lucky Foods:

Now, I am not taking any chances on 2021. I plan to eat as many of these things as I can! Maybe I can make a stew out of this? Put them all in a blender and make a smoothie?

Cabbage or greens of any sort – represent money and wealth. I could use more money and wealth. I bought a head of cabbage to use in my vegetable soup!

Lentils – good luck and they are shaped a bit like coins. I found out during Soup Sunday that lentils are a bit intense on my stomach.

Oranges and honey – good fortune, wealth, and gold. I have oranges and I have honey. Done!

Round cake – the full circle of life. Consider the monkey bread your round cake or make my amazing chocolate coffee cake here. Sing the song from The Lion King while you serve it.

Rice – fertility and wealth. Um, I am not looking for fertility right now. I think I might skip the rice since I’m getting wealth from my cabbage.

Noodles – longevity. If you can eat a long noodle without breaking it that is a good sign! We had angel hair for dinner and I didn’t break the pasta before cooking it so maybe I will count that.

Fish – abundance. I think 2020 may have taught us that our abundance was not always good. Remember hoarding toilet paper?

Pomegranate – Fertility, life, and abundance. Again, not all of us want to be fertile right now.

Grapes – Good luck for the 12 months ahead. This is something I do/did? in class every January. The clock strikes 12 times at midnight in Spanish speaking locales and you must eat a grape each time the clock strikes. We reenact this in my classes;I pick two students/they volunteer and I have a baggie already prepared with 12 grapes. I also pick a student who knows the Heimlich to sit up front just in case.

Pork – progress. I did buy a pork tenderloin. I would specifically like progress on my Master Bath. I shall eat my pork tenderloin on my bathroom sub floor. Tom won’t think that is weird at all.

Black eyed peas, greens, and cornbread – pennies, dollars, and gold. I bought a cornbread mix. It can’t hurt and we like cornbread! I still have a can of black eyed peas from January 1, 2020 in my pantry. Sorry, guys, 2020 may be my fault!

What are your plans for NYE and Day? Are you superstitious with the foods you eat on January 1st?

Amy

Life Lately

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

So that my post yesterday didn’t get too crazy long, I decided to only talk about Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. In today’s post I will talk about the rest of the week and update you on a few other random things.

Tom is now back at work after being home from December 18-27 and it’s just the boys and I. They get a Covid test on January 3 and then can move back in the dorm if all is well on January 5. I’m not sure they will get the results back that quickly, though…hmmmm. Also, their first week of second semester classes will be virtual only. Then, after that, they will have a combo of online, in person, and hyflex which is a mix of in person and online. I am getting sad about break being over. I think the combo of the cold weather and them going back will be hard for me. Plus, I have a lot of uncertainty with my job/school. They say we may go back in person in March. It’s just hard to not know. O.k., Amy, let’s enjoy this week and leave the worrying for later.

So, Tom has been working on the Master bath. The plumber did finally come back Saturday, December 19 and I guess he plumbed. Then, Tom had a part to do involving the insulation and the subfloor. There was a lot of cussing involved and I asked Tom if he thought the subfloor was sub-par and he wasn’t amused.

Photos that may interest some of you:

One evening – Tuesday – Tom wanted to go to Taco Tuesday at Agave and Rye. The inside was open but I have said I am not dining inside yet. So, we sat on the patio.

They have really unique tacos and chips and queso. Yum! Over than that, I cooked dinner every night, I think!

It was 19 degrees the day after Christmas, but I was excited to go to Target for the first time in a long time. I went around 7:45 a.m. and bought some wrapping paper. I didn’t really need to stock up but it was kind of fun to see what they had.

I couldn’t believe that they were already stocking for the next thing – and that the Christmas was pretty wiped out.

I thought this paper from the dollar spot for 50cents was super cute. It is the half roll size which I also like.

Do you do after Christmas sales?

I had a bad, bad thing happen. My mom gave me red Matilda Jane pants for Christmas and I washed them. Well, they came out of the washer with tons of giant blue patches! I was so upset! I washed them again. Again, they came out with blue patches and maybe even more!

Here is the culprit:

Say what? I asked Facebook what to do and then I went and bought Tide Free and Gentle and washed them again. I am happy to say that all of the blue is out – I had never put them in the dryer and wasn’t going to – I was only going to lay flat to dry. I am done with blue pods. I did read to put the pod in the bottom of the washer and not on top of the clothes and I have been making that mistake, but I am done with these little blue devils.

The day after Christmas, Tom’s parents did a drive by for us to exchange gifts. I wished they could stay and have some food but we have to do what is on their comfort level.

I picked up pizzas for dinner the day after Christmas because I was tired of my food. Tom likes this one with jalapeno and pineapple.

Whoa – this was huge!

We played some Rummy.

I finally got Mason in a picture.

Sunday we had a nice surprise. My high school friend Jim has a junior in high school and wanted to tour the boys’ college – unofficially – and Jack and Mason served as tour guides. We had a much warmer day of 50 and it was nice to walk around campus.

Then, we sat at two patio tables in a tent next to each other at a nearby burger place. They claim to have invented the cheeseburger? I had a hot buttered rum!

Tom had a traditional burger and Jack is my chicken boy and had a chicken sandwich.

Mason is my foodie and wanted to try the black bean burger so we split that and brussel sprouts.

They are also known for milkshakes and alcoholic milkshakes. We had non-alcoholic milkshakes to go for dessert.

It was a nice day and so nice to see my old buddy. I am still in touch with a lot of high school friends and Jim is one of them.

So, we have spent most of our time at home, but we have had a couple of fun outings, too.

What about you? What has life lately looked like?

I am taking Christmas decor down, by the way. Once it’s over, it’s over and I want to move on! I am going to focus on fresh and clean de-cluttered spaces, plants, twinkle lights, and cozy. Are you like that, too?

Amy