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Holiday Shopping and Buying Local

Holiday Shopping– I know…. let one holiday pass before you head onto the next, but if you’re anything like me you are already done… partially done or already scheming. I am a crafter by heart and if you have any intention of crafting it takes time to do them all. You have to plan ahead. Last year, I made over 20 coffee mug candles…. five or so scarves, some door signs I hand painted, and some fun printed signs we made and had framed- just to name a few. I also believe that holidays are just too much on kids- I have no money either, but it’s just too much. Holidays in my mind have become heavily sugared and over gifted. In turn, they are undercooked from scratch and not enough crafty type things. I know in my house this is true… and I’m trying terribly to turn the tide. The other thing is the holidays are freaking expensive!!! I think it is super important to buy local and keep the local economy going. So I try my best to use local places to serve my needs. So here are a list of holiday shopping thoughts and how to keep them local and simple.

Christmas cards…I try to send Christmas cards with the kids photo on it. I don’t give out a lot of photos, because we can’t afford those fancy portraits every year…. many people are lucky they get a picture at all. I get two birds with one stone on the Christmas cards. I have honestly purchased 100 to 200 every year from Walgreens photo center. It can be done entirely online and you can pick them up in store with envelopes. Stamps are so ridiculous so don’t be offended if I don’t send yours in the mailbox. I spend on average $75 on Christmas cards alone every year. I think Christmas cards are important… a special way to send your love and let people know you think of them throughout the year.

Local gift shops are good to find locally made crafts.

We frequent- Buy the Season– They have all kinds of crafts, antiques, and home decor things that are unique and fun. Go for a few hours, wear comfortable shoes, go without kids and take a cart at the front… you’ll want it.

The Stocked Market– This event hosted by our local Junior League sets up the Civic Center with all kinds of goodies from wine, soaps and clothing. There are all kinds of things. It takes a ticket to get in the door, but again go for a few hours, wear comfortable shoes and go without kids.

I know there are more local crafter type shops here where I live and if you know of some of them please post the link down in the comment section. I just don’t get much farther than those two places.

Gifting with Goodies-

Every year Alden and I make chocolate covered peanut butter balls and I buy baggies for candies at JoAnns, Michaels, or ACMoore. We put five in the baggy and give them to each teacher. This is always appreciated. Sometimes for his main teacher we will give a gift card to the local village area.

Know a Baker? I know a few, but a fun idea is to gift someone you know like a whole family, office or team with a cake. This is a nice way to hit a huge group at once with some love. You could always see if the baker will do a gift card for future use as well or have something specifically made for them. Here is the link for my friend in town that makes delicious cheesecakes- Lick the Spoon.

Another one we use often even for kids birthdays. Again kids are over gifted and maybe you can’t afford a $20 gift for every little kid, but a $5 to 10 gift card at these local places can get a scoop of ice cream or a cupcake… Sugar them later in other words. Viva La Cupcake and Pop’s Ice Cream and Soda Bar

A lot of people we know love coffee right??? Well gift them with some caffeine in the new year. Again I’m particular about this- go local people. Our favorite is CUPS Coffee and Tea. It doesn’t have to be much, but for some people that I know, that go there multiple times a week, it could be a gift that goes a long way for them.

Wine and Beer- My husband and I would take a 6 pack of locally made beer without an issue- trust me. It’s fun trying new spirits. Here are some local wineries and breweries in my area. Foggy Ridge CiderParkway Brewing Brewing Co. Roanoke Railhouse Brewery – Valhalla Vineyards… just to name a few.

Clothing– does not have to be at a big retailer. Although it’s easy to return things and there are multiple options. It doesn’t have to be huge- I personally love the scarves sold at these places and sometimes the jewelry is uniquely crafted. Try gifting someone with something from a boutique shop. This is a bigger financial deal, but these shops are unique and fun. Here are some of my favorites… Urban Gypsy and La De Da.

Nails and Hair- I love getting my nails done- don’t know many women who don’t. My favorite place is Polished. Gift cards for this loveliness is much appreciated. Hair places- I get my hair cut by a non-chain location a few blocks from my house. It’s cheaper.. more personable… and more fabulous. Gift cards to places like this or even just a card that says your next cut is on me and slip cash in there. It’s the thought that counts!

Art– Now not to sound crazy, but shopping for local art can be fun and it has a fun connection to it. I know several local artists varying from watercolor portraits to abstract oils. Some are pricey and some come at starving artist rates. My mother sells her art locally- mostly oil landscapes. This dynamic duo make art on canvas and they do hair. One of our lovely friends teaches art classes for kids and also paints portraits- Rachelle Kuehl.

-All kinds of fun handcrafted things- endless possibilities with Etsy. It may not be your local, but if you carefully shop it’s still someone else’s local.

I love buying handbags from etsy- just be careful where you’re buying from. The last one looked super American- shipped from China and took a long long time.

Handstamped jewelry- this is one of my all time favorite gifts. It’s not as “clean as” a Things Remembered gift, but it’s still awesome. We got our kids names on discs for their godmother for Christmas- Hannah Designs.

This one is awesome- handcrafted jewelry made in Portland, Oregon. The owners and designers went to college with my husband John. He got to visit them in Portland last spring. Betsy and Iya.

I hope this helps you start your buy mostly local journey this holiday season. Now I’ve got to get my craft on already…. I’m running behind. This is the first year I haven’t already started by now. By the way, John and I had a lovely weekend here are some fun shots of our silliness the weekend before Halloween.

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Breakfast at CUPS Coffee and Tea.

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All girls in princess dresses and heels should climb trees… right?

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We played beer pong at our friends Halloween party Saturday night. We had a great time. I didn’t notice until later that the eyeball pingpong ball is spot on in this photo.

My Thoughts on Organization and Time Management

Being an organized, time managing, and mutli-tasking person.

10 tips to getting stuff done…errr 9

1. Make the investment and get a good phone. My phone (iphone5) contains my contacts, emails, calendar, daily reminders, apps that help with a multitude of things, lists and many other things.

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These are the reminders that pop on my phone that tell me to do things. You can also set things as an alarm. Super helpful.

2. Start routines as a household and stick to them. We have a morning routine that we’re fairly good at keeping to lately. It includes me waking up early to workout, time for both John and I to shower, feeding 3 animals, waking 2 children, getting them dressed, fed and teeth brushed, packing one lunch, starting coffee, feeding ourselves, and straightening the house before my business opens at 7am. Sometimes we’re a little off, but for the most part we get it all done in a moderately calm and friendly manner.

3. Respond immediately to emails and messages and if you can’t write it down or do something to remind yourself to do it later.

4. Lists, lists, lists- grocery lists… I write them in order of which department they are in. Now this seems like a no brainer to many, but if I’m sending John even that list takes him forever. If you have an iphone- I recommend the anylist app. It allows me to make a grocery list and you can check off items while you shop. But the best part about that is that if we decide John is the one to go I can e-mail it to him and he has the list. Making a meal list for the week- having all the calendars open to see what’s going on for the week. It helps you make better meal choices and stop running back and forth to the store (not that we never miss something… this week I ran out of celery of all things) We have a list of wishfuls for every room of the house- this week we put up a new light fixture in the downstairs bathroom. This is helpful for when we’ve found some extra time to just get some things done. I have done family weekly chore calendars and those are fabulous, but hard to get everyone to stick to for the long term. I just make an excel sheet of time of day and what needs to be done. This is good to do heading into the holidays or if you are selling your house. It tends to all land on one person otherwise. When I have overbooked myself it is helpful to make a To Do list of things I must get done by the end of the day.

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Our grocery list from last week.

5. Budgeting- I hate getting slammed with random bills. While we were on vacation this summer someone checking our mail set a bill on the computer and it fell behind the desk. It was a medical bill so out of the norm for 166 bucks. Now since we paid for our vacation entirely in cash and since our washer died the week we returned… we were a little strapped for cash… so it sucked. But John and I hate using credit cards… We have been following Dave Ramsey for years and although it’s not perfect and we still have some lingering debt we’ve been paying for things in cash for years. We like “Wine and Finance” meetings… if you take the time to look at your calendar of bills and budget out your spending over a relaxing evening it makes life a whole lot easier. I also recommend if you and your partner in crime both have a good phone- the EEBA app. It’s an envelope budget system that can be shared between our phones. So we may have 120 in clothes a month and if I go buy $40 pair of shoes I can put that in the phone envelope and now the budget will say we have $80 for the month and John knows what’s left to be spent. It’s super helpful. Also, with all this online accounting money coming in and out electronically overlook everything carefully that you spend. I realized a few months ago that an insurance company that John had changed from was still deleting funds from our account. Now it didn’t draw our attention because it had been the norm for so long. It didn’t raise a red flag until I was writing everything down…

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Note haircuts are under clothing expenses… and the expense called “unexpected sh*t”

6. Calendars- I can not stress this enough. I try to put everything in my phones’ calendar as I get it because otherwise I will forget every doctor’s office and salons’ cute little cards- yeah I will lose that – so I just plug it in immediately and text John or I will forget to tell him. From church to soccer and days off from school I have to write it down or it throws me off big time. I like routines and I like getting things done so if the calendar is set then I don’t feel so bad. I also don’t cancel on my friends as much because of this- I know what I can or can’t do- unless I have to check with John.

7. Communicate- I make calendars 3 to 4 times a year for the daycare. I let the parents know everything from closings, three meals on each day, activities of the week and lists of who brings what food. I send that out as soon as I can and they have weeks if not months of a notice. I do my best to stick to the list and it operates much like a lesson plan I used in my classroom. With John we communicate daily about schedules and routine things and I do my best to keep things up to date by email with the church responsibilities and activities as well as soccer. If I get a soccer e-mail I forward it to John… we have a lot of bases to cover so it feels good when we both feel we’re in the know. I have unlimited texting- thank the Lord! I text clients when I remember something because otherwise I might forget. I want my clients to be well informed and feel good about the organization here. My memory is really terrible… so it’s because I don’t trust myself to remember and I act on it… that’s how I get things done.

8. Do away with clutter- Now if you’ve been to my home either one of three things hits you immediately when you walk in the door. It’s all about perspective. You either think 1- Man she keeps a clean home… considering. 2- Man this house has a lot of stuff in it. 3- This place looks lived in (in a good way). I’m not perfect at this rule but I try when I can. We realized a few weeks ago that our kids were pulling out these blocks in their room- they never actually played with them they just randomly appeared throughout the house. So we got rid of them and it cut so much of the mess down. I also get rid of the kids clothes rather fast… I do this because if it’s stained or what not I don’t want them wearing it out anyways. I also want to keep the laundry rotation at a minimum. If they have more to wear I have a tendency to let it pile up faster. Less to dust… etc. The less clutter the less you feel smothered by stuff.

9. Find the things that throw you off- Last year we realized it took us forever to get Alden to go back upstairs to brush his teeth. It was a huge battle. So I said screw it and bought extra toothbrushes for the kitchen. So he dumps his dishes after breakfast and brushes his teeth there. It helped a ton… something that simple.

This is a list of organizing more than time managing I guess, but when I started brainstorming about this I realized that having things organized in physical form and mental form allows me to get things done faster and more proficiently.

A few time management things that work for me

* Start a load of laundry and dishes before you go to workout. While you are out, they are doing the “home” work for you so they will be done when you get back.

*If the kids keep dragging items out lock it up or get rid of it if it isn’t important. My kids went through a phase where they got out several cups a day.. so I locked them all in the medicine cabinet so they had to ask me for one…

* Buy extra cleaning supplies and store under sinks so you don’t have to lug everything around. You ultimately buy the same amount…

* Plan picnic dinners with tuna, egg, or chicken salad so that your family isn’t getting fast food all the time when you’re an active family. I pack baby carrots, grapes, apples, pears, juice packs or water bottles… no chips or other junk. I may make it look easy, but Monday John had rehearsal and I had a pot luck, Tuesday we had soccer things from 6 to 8:30, Wednesday I had pottery and Thursday we had soccer again until 8:30 or so. That means our family, as a whole entity, had not been together at home since Sunday. Well except for when we were rushing the kids to bed together Tuesday and Thursday at 9pm! Friday we went out to eat, grocery shopped and then put the kids in bed. Today, John had to work all morning until two and then had to leave at five for his evening improv performance. If someone says we’re not busy… they are just silly.

* Preset the coffee maker the day before while you’re stirring dinner. It makes for more peaceful mornings.

* Get places early and then check on e-mails, lists and things via your phone while you’re waiting. I hate being late.

* As a parent, I got in the habit of resting while the children rested… yeah that party is over. I workout while they rest or watch tv.- Stair climbing, squats, jumping jack, crunches… During the big nap time I can plug in the monitor and I run on the treadmill. I found working out doesn’t wake them up as much as if I tried doing the dishes or something.

Noting all of this. I am not perfect…. the van is a complete mess. The basement is interesting. Dusting… yeah that needs to happen and wiping down the walls. When this home is no longer a business next year I may not know what to do with myself! I’ve never lived in this house without it having 4 sets of parents coming in and out all the time. I can’t wait to move the treadmill out of my bedroom and have the office out of my dining room! Everyone surely gets fed and cared for here, but there are aspects for improvement for sure.

I hope you found at least one useful thing to this list!

~April~