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Bathroom Closet Redo

In our master bathroom we have a large linen closet. I’m very grateful for it because it holds a lot, things that we wouldn’t have any other place for. (Though, sometimes I wish we had a shower stall instead of the closet, but I guess a closet is better…. I think). The only problem with this massive closet is that the original shelves were very deep. Things got lost in the back. There was a lot of shelf space, but because of the design it felt like there wasn’t.

(*Disclaimer* It’s VERY difficult to get good pics of this closet.¬† The lighting is always bad and there’s not a lot of room to get a good angle. So… excuse the bad pics!)

Before...

Before…

So much randomness lost in the deep shelves

So much randomness lost in the deep shelves

My husband was actually the one who first thought about taking out the existing shelves and building some new ones. It’s times like this that I’m very thankful that he knows how to do carpentry stuff and can get cheap lumber from his job at a lumber yard!

The first step was to take everything out of the closet and find other places for it! That was the hardest part (for me at least!). Then we measured and decided on the width and design of the new shelves. He built the shelves and painted them (I helped on that part!). He took out the existing shelves and braces, then painted the closet. Then finally it was time to install the new shelves! (I’m sure there was a lot more to the process, but I tried to stay out of it. Apparently nagging isn’t very helpful….)

Working hard!

Working hard!

I am SO happy with how they turned out. It’s really the same amount of shelf space, but the different design makes it so much easier to organize things better.

2014-03-06 (1) bathroom closet done

Then came the fun part- organizing everything! We already had some baskets so I continued to use those for medicines, then I used our Christmas card boxes for other storage (yes, we had saved them hoping they would come in handy for something like this!). I love how it came together. Everything is much more accessible. And we have extra space!DSC02370

 

 

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Duggar Family Laundry Soap

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I’ve never really been into DIY cleaners, etc. It just seemed a bit unnecessary to me. But now that we’re all more aware of the chemicals in our cleaners, and the cost!, I thought I would give DIY laundry soap a try. I LOVE the Duggars and so I wanted to go with their recipe. I found the recipe and did a lot of other research to make sure it worked well and such. Everything I found was really positive, so I decided to try it!

They make a liquid version that ends up being 10 GALLONS of soap. I was excited because that would last us for well over a year. There are only three ingredients and the process seemed easy enough. I had seen on some blogs people complaining about how hard it was to make, but it took me less than 30 minutes, and that included clean up. After combining everything in your 5 gallon bucket, you’re supposed to wait overnight and let it gel.

Stirring the liquid after combining all the ingredients. Feeling hopeful!

Stirring the liquid after combining all the ingredients. Feeling hopeful!

Mine never gelled. I checked it every day for almost two weeks and every time the soap was separated from the water. I looked online to see if anyone else had had this issue. They did and recommended adding more Borax. I did. I stirred it really well. Still wouldn’t set.

It's not gelling.

It’s not gelling.

I’m really baffled. I have no idea what went wrong. The process is so simple, there really isn’t anything to mess up. I thought about trying again but didn’t want to waste more ingredients, so I just decided to make the powdered version. This one doesn’t make as much (I’ve read about 40 loads), so it isn’t as cost effective. But it’s still cheaper than store-bought (I’m assuming. It takes way too much math to figure that out and I haven’t attempted to do it yet).

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Duggar Powdered Laundry Detergent (for top loading machines only)

  • 1 Fels-Naptha soap bar (You can also use Ivory which is a whole lot easier to find!)
  • 1 cup Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
  • 1/2 cup Borax
  1. The goal is to get the soap into powder form. The recipe suggests grating it or putting it in a food processor. I wasn’t successful at this so mine was kinda chunky. I think it’s working anyway.
  2. Once the soap is powder-y mix the three ingredients together.
  3. Use 1 Tbsp. for a light load and 2 Tbsp. for heavy load. Yields about 3 cups of soap (approx. 40 loads).

We’ve used this three times so far and it seems to be cleaning well. It doesn’t have the “fresh” scent that store-bought does and I kind of miss that. But I think it’s worth it.

My cost breakdown:

  • Borax: $3.38
  • Arm & Hammer: $3.24
  • Ivory soap (3 bars): $1.24

So $7.86 total and can make multiple batches before having to buy more ingredients. Definitely a money-saver!

Update- April 17: My first batch lasted for 25 loads (which was about five weeks for us). I think part of why it wasn’t 40 like the recipe said is because my husband’s work clothes tend to get pretty dirty so I use more. I made another batch today and am going to keep track again of how many loads it does. Want to make sure this is saving us money!

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Healthy(ish) Banana Muffins

A few months ago when we were at my parent’s house, my mom had made some banana muffins. They were delicious. We couldn’t stop eating them! She sent me home with the recipe and I made them for the first time a couple weeks ago. Being on Weight Watchers, I had to calculate the points and they were 3.8 pts each. Too many points, especially since I couldn’t eat just one! So I adjusted the recipe a bit this week and made them again, and they are now 2.5 points each. I took out some of the sugar and oil, and made them a little smaller. But still perfectly delicious. This recipe makes 24 muffins.

(Please excuse my bad photo... We were eating them so quickly I almost missed the opportunity to take one!)

(Please excuse my bad photo… We were eating them so quickly I almost missed the opportunity to take one!)

These could also be made healthier by using different oil, different flour, adding proteins… But I’m just not into all that, yet.

Banana Muffins

  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 oil
  • 4 oz. unsweetened applesauce (the amount in one of the little containers)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 mashed bananas
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place baking cups in pan or spray muffin pan.
  2. Beat oil and sugars well.
  3. Add applesauce, eggs, and vanilla.
  4. Add flour and baking soda. Mix well.
  5. Stir in bananas.
  6. Fill muffin tins 1/2 full. Bake about 15 minutes, until brown on top and toothpick comes out clean.

 

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Yearly Photo Books

Is it just me or have digital pictures taken over your life too? Right now my phone has over 1,500 photos on it- and that’s not including the hundreds, probably thousands, that I’ve deleted from it trying to free up space. The card in my camera is completely full, and I struggle to delete just enough to make it useable as new events occur. Most days, I am a housewife and dog mom and people often ask what I do all day. The answer: organize pictures. It’s seriously become a full-time job. I’m slightly obsessed with managing my pictures. It’s funny to me that storing/preserving our digital files has become such a big deal since we didn’t use to obsess over how to save our negatives in the days of film developing.

To me pictures are SO important. I am always the one taking pictures rather than just “enjoying the moment”. And really, I like it that way. Memories and experiences are awesome, but pictures preserve those moments. I have never regretted taking a picture, but I often regret not taking one.

Over the years, I’ve gone through several digital photo organizing systems. Right now, I’m in the process of uploading them all to Dropbox so they are out there and accessible and if our house burns down we have them. I also have them on an external hard drive and they will soon be on a USB to stay in our fireproof box. Like I said, obsessed.

So that’s all well and good that I have the digital files protected. But what about actually enjoying them? My photos sat in digital form for so long, and that made me sad. I don’t want to always look at them on a computer. So I pondered. I could print them out and put them in albums, like people have done for years. But the albums are so bulky and you have to make hard decisions about which pictures to print for cost and space reasons.

And then I came across a post on Pinterest from the eighteen25 blog (I can’t find the exact post again) about making family yearbooks! I immediately fell in love with this idea. All the pictures from the year, all in one easy-to-store place. I was hesitant for awhile, just feeling sad about not having actual hard print pictures, but after serious pondering and discussing it with some people (y’all, this was a really big decision), I decided to go ahead with the books, and also print out a few pictures from each year- the “important” ones.

In July 0f 2012 I began creating the photo books. I started with the year 2009 because my husband and I met in January of that year, so it seemed fitting to start there. At some point I hope to go back and do my college years and before, but for now my focus is catching up to present day. I have completed 2009-2012, and am about 3/4 of the way through 2013.

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After much research I chose to use Blurb for the making and printing. It is definitely not the cheapest or best quality of the options, but it has a large page limit (400) and a “portrait” option for the book versus landscape. (I will say that I had a program issue at one point and lost an entire book, but their customer service was outstanding and I received a $150 credit, enough to cover a couple of my books. And I think the issue was probably mostly my mistake). Overall, I have been very happy with my books, the design program, and the pricing. I average about $70 for each book, which seems pretty good for an entire year worth of pictures!

In creating the books, I don’t use a specific “style” or plan. Sometimes I put 1-2 pictures on a page, sometimes 6-7. It all just depends on the event and the pictures. One thing that I LOVE about this is that you can add random pictures that you may not choose to print out and put in an album, but fit into the book. And with phones we all take so many pictures throughout the day that we’d like to have forever. It has really freed me to feel ok about taking many pictures. (please excuse my bad iphone pictures of theses pages…)

book7

book9

I have also seen where people with kids include scanned pictures of their drawings and such. I definitely plan on doing that! When my husband proposed he wrote me a poem and I scanned that and included it. So many options for things that can be preserved in these books!

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For the covers I always use one of our “professional” pictures from the year (we always have pictures taken in November for our anniversary/Christmas cards).

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So, in summary, I LOVE my yearly photo books and HIGHLY suggest this approach to deal with the thousands of pictures we all have. I am sure there are things I have forgotten to cover in this post so please ask questions!

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Goodbye 2013…

Y’all, I had such big plans for Christmas posts. I have several still in draft format waiting to be finished (most just needing pictures added). I had a long list of topics I was going to blog about: goodies I made, my method for saving Christmas cards, traditions I enjoy (and want to enjoy), Christmas movies, Pioneer Woman cinnamon rolls…. but none of these posts ever came together. And that is really unlike me. I think I’m feeling unmotivated and uncommitted since only like three people regularly read this, if that.

Though they are the least read, I really enjoy my book list posts. So those always take priority for me. But in the New Year I hope to be more faithful and consistent in writing about things that YOU want to read… what might that be? Baking? Cooking? Crafts? Home management? Dog stuff?

We welcomed 2014 in last night with a gathering with my husband’s family. We played games and ate lots of great food. Too much food. (Dinner at Olive Garden before was a bad decision!). I played Nertz and dominoes, and thankfully avoided being part of the 4-hour long Mexican train extravaganza. With my family our midnight tradition has always been to toast with sparkling grape juice, it just isn’t New Year’s without it. I had taken some along so we could do that last night. But my husband’s cousin- their tradition is to eat a few bites of black eyed peas right at midnight. So we did that as well. It’s always fun to add new traditions!

For the new year I didn’t want to make “resolutions”- those seem so easily broken and forgotten. So I’ve thought of a few things I want to change by 2015. One of these involves beginning Weight Watchers, again. This will be my fourth time to do this program. I was successful once before, but then let myself gain it all back. So I enter this new beginning VERY excited about getting healthy. That’s my main focus. I’m sure some of that will appear on the blog. And maybe, sadly, a little less baking (but we’ll see, because that’s my favorite thing to do!).

And with that, Happy New Year and welcome to 2014!

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Christmastime is here!

I cannot believe Christmas is in three days! I usually really don’t like when people say that. I mean, it’s been coming all year, it didn’t just appear. But this year has felt different, maybe because Thanksgiving was later, or because stores seem to be putting up Christmas stuff earlier. And now here at the last minute we’re all distracted by Duck Dynasty rather than the beautiful season of Christ’s birth.

I really love Christmas. The best part of Christmas is what it’s really all about- the birth of Jesus and Him coming into the world in love to save us. But I also enjoy the lights, decorations, shopping, music, and baking! All make it such an exciting time of the year.

One of my favorite parts of the Christmas season is decorating the house, inside and out. I don’t really have a theme to my decorations as some people do, I just find things I like and hope it all works together. If I had to come up with a theme name, it would be “Hobby Lobby” because almost every decoration is from there. LOVE me some Hob Lob.

So come along on a tour of our house decorated for the Christmas season!

IMG_4392We bought our tree back in 2010, our first married Christmas. We bought most of the ornaments then too, but have collected more along the way. Some of the ornaments are from decorations used at our wedding, and some were decorations at my in-law’s 40th anniversary party last year. There are lots of penguins (I love penguins!) and lots of tractors¬† (my hubby loves tractors!). We even have some tractor lights.

IMG_4223I love the garland on the mantle. It works so perfectly with the tree and fireplace. It all comes together like such a perfect Christmas picture.

IMG_4330Most of my life I have hoped to someday have a full Christmas village. We don’t have a great place for it, but one day this season I was at Walmart and came across the village pieces and just decided to buy some and hope I would find a good place! So my village is small, but hopefully will grow each year! So far there is a Bakery, Tree Farm, Horse & Carriage, carolers, people making s’mores, a dog house, and a few trees. I love it so much!!!

IMG_4319I want Jesus and our Nativity to be the focal point of our Christmas decor, so I decided to put it on our entryway table. I bought that table runner at Hobby Lobby just to add a little, and that is a red snowflake Scentsy with Festival of Trees scent in it- my favorite at Christmas!

IMG_4356My mom gave me this chalkboard a while back, and while she was at my house over Thanksgiving she wrote this. It’s so perfect! It makes me happy each time I see it and adds some festiveness to our kitchen.

IMG_4318 DSC02245We have red and white lights outside- not LED. I haven’t felt like making that upgrade yet… I just don’t like the look of the LEDs. I love my little tree by the front door. Seeing my house lit up at night makes me happy each evening. I’ve noticed not many people put up Christmas lights this year. So sad! But we have us a few others on our street so that’s nice.

Thanks for coming along and checking out our decor!

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M&M Chocolate Oat Bars

I saw this dessert on Pinterest and was so excited to make it. It’s basically oatmeal cookies with fudge in between, topped with M&Ms. It seemed sort of like a fall dessert, though as the recipe points out, you can just change the M&M’s out to make it themed for any holiday and time of the year!

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M&M Chocolate Oat BarsLil’ Luna

  • 1 1/2 cups oats
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • 1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 bag milk chocolate chips
  • 2 TBSP butter, softened
  • 1 cup M&Ms (For the fall version, I bought a “large” size bag and picked out the red, yellow, orange, and brown. Then you get to eat the rest!)
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. In a large bowl, mix oats, flour, brown sugar, salt and 1 cup softened butter with a spoon. Remove 1 cup and set aside.
  3. Press remaining mixture into the bottom of a greased 9×13 pan.
  4. In a small pot, melt condensed milk, chocolate chips and 2 tablespoons of butter over low-medium heat. Stir constantly until chips are melted and all is mixed well.
  5. Pour chocolate chip mixture over the bottom layer and spread evenly. Sprinkle leftover cup of oat mixture over the chocolate.
  6. Top with M&Ms and bake for 20-25 minutes. Let cool completely before cutting, if you can! (I couldn’t wait!)

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