Tag Archives: home

Apartment Modifications Part 1

unnamedWith the move in progress, the kids and I visited Riley in Texas recently for a whole week.  He has been in corporate housing (housing provided by his work until he gets more established), and will be for a couple more weeks.

This housing arrangement, while temporary, was a bit of a shock for me because it is a two bedroom, two bathroom apartment.  There is no yard, there are people around us to be respectful of (tough to do with two little ones who enjoy running and hearing their voices at full volume), and not as much space.

While there can be benefits to apartment living (not having to worry when things break, for instance), our weeklong visit got me to thinking of ways in which my current simple living strategy would need to be modified for apartment dwellers, especially those with kids.  The rest of this list will come next week!

Playing outsideWe were lucky–the apartment we were at had both a balcony and a park within the complex.  That said, it was very warm, wet, and mosquito-y during our time there, so we did not spend as much time outside as we ordinarily do.  I can absolutely sympathize with those who cannot just open their back door and enjoy a backyard.  Modification:  We planned thirty minutes of outside time each day, and shared that expectation with the kids–a sort of accountability program.  And we packed the bug spray, so no excuses!

Keeping stuff in checkExtra stuff takes on a whole new meaning when you have a smaller space.  It enforces the “one in, one out” rule.  Modification:  There would be no room for error on this, if we were staying in an apartment for longer than a month:  we would have to pare our possessions down even further, and keep them pared down. Honestly, this is something that we would benefit from, regardless of where we were moving to.

GroceriesI had to haul four days worth of groceries up three flights of stairs, with both kids in tow.  That was enough of a feat in itself–I can’t imagine doing that with a couple of weeks worth of groceries.  Modification:  If I were staying in an apartment long-term, I would back off the “buy as much as you can to avoid shopping more often” rule, and would instead focus on saving money other ways, such as a store loyalty program or coupons.

Living in an apartment with kids for one week was a good lesson for me, and reminded me that everyone’s situation is different.  What works for one person, may not work at all for the next.  Stay tuned for Part 2 next week!

How it Works: Moving

Awhile back, Ronnica discussed how to move like a minimalist.

Originally, I intended this post to piggyback on that very topic, but as I prepared this, it occurred to me that moving a house–and a household–is a different animal than that which Ronnica discussed.  This particular move is also different in many other areas, including the ultimate destination and the reasons for the move.

To that end, here are a few tips and tricks that have proven useful to me during the past two weeks of moving preparation.  While I think many of us would like to stay where we are at, should you find yourself at the point of a major move, perhaps these tips and Ronnica’s will help you get started on your next chapter.

After a thorough purging, my tiny closet has a lot less that needs to be packed!
After a thorough purging, my tiny closet has a lot less that needs to be packed!

1.  Purge

This isn’t all that dissimilar to what Ronnica discussed in her minimalist moving post, and for good reason:  all moves have the added benefit of providing a chance at a clean, uncluttered slate.  When in doubt, throw it out (or donate it)!

2.  Consider your packing options.

For all the stress this move is causing me, I really have to say that Riley’s new employer is making things as easy on our family as one could possibly hope for.  I don’t even have to pack–in fact, it is discouraged.  How fortunate are we?!

This is obviously an anomaly in the moving world, so it is helpful to consider what moving options are available.  Are you going to pack up everything yourself, or will you have help? How will you transport your belongings?  The farther you can plan things out, the less stressful (and better budgeted) things will be.  Even if you have the benefit of packers AND movers at your disposal, it is helpful to be well-versed in the rules and protocol of how such an operation works.

3.  Prepare your current home for departure.

Although I have moved quite a bit before now, this is my first experience with selling a house.  It goes on the market today (need a house?), and is as ready as it can ever be.  It is important to take into account any extra expenses preparing a house for selling–in our case, a lot of paint and cleaning supplies were the primary expenses, but depending on your case, it may involve more or less preparation.

I would also encourage you to implement as many professionals as possible in the process, from realtors and stagers, to professional photographers and dog caretakers–all of which we have employed in this process.  The amount of home selling know-how I have can fit into a thimble, and I don’t think I’m alone in this.  Use the gifts and talents of others to give your home the best chance for quickly selling at a good price–something I hope happens in our case very soon!

4.  Prepare your new home for arrival.  

We are in the midst of this one, since 1) Riley has not yet arrived in Texas, and 2) we don’t yet know where exactly we are going to settle permanently.  That shouldn’t stop us (well, specifically me) from preparing my heart and mind for the new home.  In my case, I have been researching towns that fit all our criteria, looking at church and school options, browsing attractions, and even reading up on the history of Texas.  Knowledge is power!

What moving tips do you have?

The Big Announcement

Time for me to take a page out of Ronnica's book!
Time for me to take a page out of Ronnica’s book!

Last week, I mentioned that I have a big announcement to share with you today.  So without further ado…

*Pauses for dramatic effect*

Ladies and gentlemen, we are moving.

Not just to a new house.  Not just a state away.  No–we are moving two states away, far from our cozy home in the Kansas City suburbs to the Dallas/Fort Worth area of TEXAS.

This was somewhat unexpected, but when a wonderful job opportunity came up for Riley, we knew it was in our family’s best interest to accept the job and all that entailed.  I never thought that 1) I’d ever leave Kansas, 2) I’d ever leave Kansas for Texas, and 3) that I’d be sort of excited at the prospect of leaving for someplace new.

Not surprisingly, I am also incredibly stressed by all that has to happen before we settle in to our new home (because moving with small children).  Having moved around quite a bit in my 31 years (eight times, if you count twice in college), this is not my first rodeo, but it is my children’s first time moving (and hopefully the last), and it is my first time moving with a family of my own.  There is a great deal to consider–looks like it may be time for me to dig through the archives to see what Ronnica did!

Expect moving updates in the weeks ahead.  Here we go!

Making the Cut: Spring Cleaning Edition

I tend to fall on the “fan of organization” end of the spectrum.  No big secret there.  I have written more than once about what fall and spring cleaning looks like in our house, even down to my “rules.”

But what do those rules look like in action?  Below is a list of some of the things that made it during spring cleaning this year…and those lucky items that are off to people who can actually use them.

11178539-6386-4f83-8a02-ad17cc4386871.  Favored toys:  Safe.  I’d have been in some pretty hot water if I’d tossed Peanut’s beloved Baba (pictured here), or any one of Bean’s baby dolls, so those highly preferred toys definitely stay.  Still, there were some that were either no longer age-appropriate, were duplicates, or long forgotten that are on their way to the thrift store or nearby charity.

2.  Devotional materials:  Safe.  These are getting a boatload of use since we implemented family devotional time in the evenings.  The only reason they were briefly considered for disposal is because they are getting a bit tattered and worn.

3.  Wedding dress:  Safe.  Sigh.  Read all about my quandary here.  The dress is safe…for now.

05d5d770-1bed-4cf0-af6a-6c44084e49914.  90% of school papers:  Gone.  As hard as it was to get rid of the dozens of scribbled coloring sheets from Bean’s first year of school, I also know that we have over a decade left of school papers to look forward to, not just from her but from Peanut as well.  I kept the super special ones, like this artistic rendition of a lamb, but everything else got recycled or given to people (ahem…grandparents) who may get pleasure from them.

5.  Holey blankets:  Gone.  I don’t know why I didn’t donate our “loved” linens to the local animal shelter sooner–perhaps I was attaching too much sentimental value to them–but these are gone, and our hall closet is far more spacious as a result.

6.  One of our coolers:  Gone.  I’m still baffled as to why we had two coolers, but now we are down to a much more manageable number:  one.

What made the cut in your home this year?

The Wedding Dress

Depending on how you look at things, I may have a problem.

I have made it known on this blog that I appreciate a good possession purge now and then, and clothing is no exception.  We live in a relatively small house, and my closet is downright minuscule by 2016 standards.  I don’t have a whole lot of wiggle room when it comes to emotional attachment; if something doesn’t get used, then out it goes.

Therein lies the (possible) problem:  I have little emotional attachment to my possessions. (Side note:  the exact opposite is the case for my kids’ things.  I have the hardest time ever letting go of their little baby clothes or former favorite toys, so I tend to hang on to those things…please tell me I’m not alone!)

The possession that dredged all this up?  My wedding dress.

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I spent four figures on this little beauty of a garment, which also includes not one, not two, but three veils of differing lengths, a tiara, black sash, and “sash pin.”  Not included in that four figure price was the cost for preservation and shipping this grossly overpriced dress to my home after our nuptials.

Four.  Figures.  Four figures for a dress I will never wear again, that is taking up a lot of valuable real estate in my closet, and truly has no bearing on my marriage at all–we will be happily married regardless of the dress.  I wish I could go back in time and tell my 24-year-old self to take the clearance rack purchase, but what’s done is done.

So why hasn’t it gone the way of other clothing items?  Our daughter, Bean.  Because one never knows if she may want to have the option to wear an outdated dress when or if she gets married.

I’m still waffling on this one, though would not be surprised if the dress continues to collect dust in my closet; some things are just harder to let go of than others, even for a professed minimalist.

How it Works: Family Meals

10538295175_1440a7fcac_zTake a moment and consider what gifts you have in your life.

I would be willing to bet that, for many of you, family and friends top the list of gifts in your life.  The question then becomes:  How can we nurture that gift of relationships?

In our house, one of the ways we seek to nurture the gift of family (and friends) is through family meals.  Studies have proven time and again the benefit of regular family dinners; one would be hard-pressed to find proof that family dinners are a waste of time.

We have incorporated family meals into our life for quite some time now.  With that in mind, here are a few key traits of our family meal experience.  Note:  While I reference “family” dinners, I see no reason why friends cannot be considered family too.  If you have no family nearby, why not consider a friend dinner?

1.  It isn’t always dinner.  Since various times of the year are very busy in Riley’s line of work, there are times when supper as family mealtime simply isn’t feasible because he isn’t home until long after the kids are in bed.  The solution:  family breakfasts.

I haven’t seen a study yet that says family meals have to be supper to be beneficial.  We still get the connection and conversation that is essential to nurturing family relationships–we just get it at 7 a.m. instead of in the evening. Tasty, filling breakfasts are also a special way to begin the day!

2.  No toys (electronic or otherwise) at the table.  Because distractions come in many forms.  This rule applies to adults and kids alike–no TV, no phones, no computers, no stuffed animals…just you and your family.

3.  Teachable moments are many.  We have been able to use family mealtimes to teach our kids basic manners–both the “how” and the “why” of table manners are important!  We have started small (sitting on our bottoms for a few minutes) and worked our way up to more complex manners (passing condiments, chewing with mouths closed, etc.).

4.  Everyone gets a chance to chime in.  Usually we start meals with a prayer, and then each person is asked how their day was, and what their favorite part of the day was.  Questions should not be limited to just these, however–this site has some great conversation starters.

Family mealtime is one aspect of our life that I aim to continue as our family matures.  It’s a special time that is treasured by all of us, and one I cannot recommend highly enough!

Photo by Didriks

Wintry Weather Recipes

04f11a8c-94b6-4eec-b3ca-25ba4fca0263I don’t know about where you are, but as I write this post, it is sleeting.  Winter is very definitely here–what better way to keep warm than in a toasty kitchen?

It’s been awhile since I’ve shared some recipes, especially ones of the “use it up” variety.  Here are a couple that have been on heavy rotation over the last several weeks.

Baked Potato Soup (borrowed from Grit Magazine)

4 baking potatoes (about 2.5 pounds)

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

6 cups 2% milk

1 cup cheddar cheese, divided

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup reduced fat sour cream (I use plain Greek yogurt.)

3/4 cup chopped green onions, divided (I use dried minced onion instead.)

6 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled (We aren’t bacon people, so I omit this.)

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Pierce potatoes with fork and bake for about one hour, or until tender; cool.  Peel potatoes and discard skins (Since much of a potato’s nutrition is in the skin, I omit this step).  Coarsely mash potatoes.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cup; level with knife.  Place flour in large Dutch oven (or pot); gradually add milk, stirring with whisk until blended.  Cook over medium heat until thick and bubbly, about eight minutes.  Add mashed potatoes, 3/4 cups cheese, salt and pepper, stirring until cheese melts.  Remove from heat.

Stir in sour cream and 1/2 cup onions.  Cook over low heat for ten minutes, or until thoroughly heated.  Do NOT boil.

Ladle soup into individual bowls and sprinkle each with equal amount remaining cheese, onion, and bacon.  Yield:  8 (1/2 cup) servings.

We always serve this with a homemade biscuit or cornbread.  A delicious way to use up those old potatoes and soon-to-expire milk you may have!

Daddy Granola

8 cups oatmeal

1.5 cups flax seed

1 cup sunflower seeds

1 cup finely chopped almonds

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup maple syrup

3/4 cup honey

1 cup coconut oil

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 cups raisins

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Spray two 9×13 baking dishes with nonstick spray.

Combine oatmeal, flax seed, sunflower seeds and almonds in a large bowl.  Stir together the brown sugar, honey, oil, cinnamon and vanilla in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, then pour over the dry ingredients, and stir to coat.  Spread the mixture out evenly in the baking dishes.

Bake until crispy and toasted, approximately twenty minutes.  Cool, then stir in the raisins (or other dried fruit).  Can be stored in an airtight container for several days.

Riley (the “Daddy” of the title of this recipe) and Bean will eat this dry for breakfast; Peanut and I prefer to eat it with some yogurt.  It is a tasty treat, even if it doesn’t strictly follow the limited sugar diet we prefer.  It is also worth noting that a little goes a long way–the flax seed and oatmeal do a great job ensuring regularity (if you know what I mean…)!

Got any tasty recipes I should try?

 

My “Small” House

Our house is not nearly this big.
Our house is not nearly this big.

When Riley and I first moved into our current home back in 2010, it seemed huge to me–likely because we were only moving the two of us and one dog from a small apartment, so we had fewer possessions.

Thought we still have quite a ways to go in the culling possessions/organization department, I think we make very good use of the space we have:  approximately 1100 square feet for four people and an assortment of pets–three bedrooms and 1.5 baths.

On more than one occasion, however, it has come to my attention that, according to the standards of many, our house is rather small.  The first time the size of our house was brought to my attention was about two years ago, with the comment of, “Wow, your house is so cute…and small!”

Variations on this comment have been said with relative frequency since that time, particularly when we have company over (admittedly, it can be a tight fit for more than just a couple of guests).   We don’t have a guest bedroom (instead using a blow-up mattress in a private area of the basement).  We don’t have an office for the three days a week Riley works from home (instead using part of the sub-basement for an office).  We don’t have a dedicated playroom (probably for the best though–instead the kids’ rooms house the majority of their books and toys).

I suppose that, compared to some houses in this country, our house is rather small (though nothing compared to tiny houses).  Conversely, our house is a mansion compared to other homes in the world.  I am pretty content with our “small” home, but falling into the comparison trap with the homes of others is something I’m not immune to.  Here are a couple of things that aid me in staying content with our abode.

I remind myself what living in a modest home permits us to do.  Staying at home with our kids is one of our top priorities, and not having a large mortgage payment each month helps make this possible.  Bonus:  we paid for the house ourselves–there’s something to be said for pride of ownership.

I remind myself that our home has everything we need (and want).  Would I like an upgraded kitchen and bathrooms?  Absolutely.  Would I appreciate a two-car garage for more storage (since we only have one car, we wouldn’t need the space for a second car)?  Sure.  But we have a fully functioning kitchen and bathrooms, and not having a whole lot of extra space means we keep our clutter under control.  Having a smaller house also means we have ample opportunity to spend time together as a family–no one can go off and do their own thing without anyone else knowing.  This “small” house gives us all we need and more.

I remind myself that less house=less cleaning.  Pretty self-explanatory.  I like a neat space, but I also don’t want to be a slave to housework.

What about you?  What are your thoughts on living small?

Photo by Fotorus.

Current Challenges

Do you prefer to hear good news first, or bad news?

Personally, I prefer to get the bad news first, and then top things off with a hefty dose of optimism.  So, although things have actually been pretty awesome in our household lately, I thought I’d give our readers an update on all things Amanda and stewardship, beginning this week with the challenges, and finishing up with the blessings next week.

Challenge #1:  Cutting costs

I think it is safe to assume that most people would consider good stewardship of their financial resources to be a priority.  It is also safe to assume that when there is one parent staying at home with family, saving money is pretty vital to ensuring that parent can continue to stay at home.

1513269_10102792516860789_8531933613814555627_n
Peanut needing braces was an unexpected expense, but the positive results made it more than worth it!

Since staying at home with our kids is one of the biggest priorities for us as a family, that has meant more cost cutting measures being implemented lately.  Peanut had some medical tests earlier this year (he is fine–these were more FYI for the doctors than anything), and required braces, so that added up to some medical expense.  Other expenses have also necessitated cutting costs a bit more than expected.

The biggest way I have addressed this challenge is by looking at where our budget is the most flexible.  Since I have the most control over the grocery aspect, I have refocused my efforts on saving money in this arena…and have been doing a pretty great job of it, if I do say so myself!

Challenge #2:  Prioritizing Time

Pretty sure this is a continual struggle for most of us.  I’m happy to report, though, that my social media time has dropped quite a bit in recent months (shocking!), mostly due to the fact that I have more activities to create time for.

Challenge #3:  Practicing a Healthy Lifestyle

34928_845134431829_288270_nIt’s no secret I value cooking healthy, tasty meals for my family.  It’s a little less well-known that I loathe exercising.  I am always ready for an excuse to not be more active–it requires time, requires energy, etc.  I know it is time for an attitude adjustment, but that’s easier said than done, apparently.

I am toying with the idea of signing up for a 5K or something similar to help in the motivation department.  This has worked well for me in the past, but I am not keen on parting with the money required for a registration fee.  As such, I am also trying to embrace different forms of physical activity–not just the run-of-the-mill walking or running.  Maybe I will take a cue from Ronnica and try hiking!

What are some challenges you are facing in your stewardship journey?

My Dream Future

I’ve talked a few times before about how focusing on my long-term goals helps me forego things I want now to help me achieve those goals.

I have also recently shared my mid-term goal strategy, 101 in 1001.

But what exactly are my long-term goals?

I don't anticipate going for a place quite this rugged, but who knows.
I don’t anticipate going for a place quite this rugged, but who knows.

I want to have my own place. While I enjoy where I live now, I don’t want to rent forever. Economically, it makes more sense to buy (once I get my savings and income where I want it).

But more than the economics of it, I want a yard. While I’ve made do with gardening on my balcony, it’s not enough to satisfy my gardening itch. Not all summers are going to be as a unproductive as this one, but the larger the area I have to garden, the more I’ll be able to grow to feed myself (and hopefully others).

My ideal property would be a small house on an average-sized neighborhood lot, with quick access to bus routes and stores. This would provide me the best of both worlds: urban and back-to-the-land.

While my focus on getting a property is growing a garden and possibly some fruit trees, I also think about raising bees, chickens and goats one day. That’s far-fetched for someone who has never desired a pet, but we’ll see.

I would also love to make this property as simple and environmentally-friendly as possible. I picture harvesting all my own energy from the sun and doing away with the traditional laundry system.

While I have no plans on a traditional retirement (time to put me first), I do hope to not need to work as much in a corporate environment one day. I’d love to devote more time to urban homesteading activities…especially once I have an urban homestead.

If I allow myself to dream, I picture myself retiring from corporate America early to spend the rest of my days urban homesteading and fostering children. Yes, I’d love to be married and have my own children some day, but regardless of if that happens, I want to provide family to those who do not have any.

This is my dream of the future now, but it definitely wasn’t my dream even 5 years ago. It may not be my dream in 5 years, either, but I’m okay with that.

Photo by Richard Elzey