Cute Comes in Triplicate!! (and on Swings…)

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This year my girls helped make their Easter outfits. In sewing class, we began work on our skirts a few weeks ago and we got them done just in time for Easter Sunday. Alyssa isn’t taking lessons yet but Julianna and Rachel are and they are getting the hang of it. It’s pretty cute to see a 7-year-old run a sewing machine and I’ve just been thrilled with the idea that I can now sit down and sew something without freaking out.

It’s kind of a big deal :)

Well, to me anyway.

And since it’s Spring and we were outside taking pictures anyway and the girls were all dressed up and adorable it seemed like the perfect time to take their annual swing pictures!

Julianna Mabel: my girly girl and born leader. She loves to act older than she is. Right now she thinks if she wears clothes that say size 10 or shoes that are too big that she will somehow grow faster. She takes to most sports quickly and easily though I have yet to enroll her in any official sports activity – she just seems to enjoy all things physical. Doesn’t mean she’s not doing well academically though – she’s doing quite well and remains at the top of her class. She’s an overall sweet and loveable little girl!

April 2007 (5 months old)

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April 2008 (17 months old)

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April 2009 (29 months old)

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April 2010 (3 years, 5 months old)

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April 2011 (4 years, 5 months old)

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April 2012 – I believe this was actually taken in May so she was 5 1/2 year old

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April 2013 (6 years, 5 months old)

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April 2014 – and today (7 years, 5 months old)

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In the skirt she helped sew:

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Rachel Gabrielle: Still my little artist, Rachel has also become a great reader and a sweet little girl. She’s shy though talkative to those who know her. She is also enjoying sewing but art is still her first love and she takes every opportunity to create a card or picture or other design for me or her dad or anyone else in need of a little bit cheering up. She loves being around her family and is always super cuddly – I love getting hugs from my little baby girl!

April 2007 (5 months old)

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April 2008 (17 months old)

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April 2009 (29 months old)

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April 2010 (3 years, 5 months old)

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April 2011 (4 years, 5 months old)

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April 2012 – I believe this was actually taken in May so she was 5 1/2 year old

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April 2013 (6 years, 5 months old)

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April 2014 – and today (7 years, 5 months old)

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In the skirt she helped sew:

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Alyssa Elaine: my vibrant and full-of-life “baby” girl. As the youngest of the trio and the family she lives up to her title as the baby of the family. She still loves to play with toys and I find her often sitting quietly, in her own world playing with her Pet Shops or Polly Pockets or other small toy set she has. Reading has come harder for her but she’s learning and always retaining more information than I expect. Alyssa is still the loudest and she still loves hanging out with the boys but she’d never want to spend a night without her sisters!

April 2007 (5 months old)

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April 2008 (17 months old)

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April 2009 (29 months old)

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April 2010 (3 years, 5 months old)

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April 2011 (4 years, 5 months old)

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April 2012 – I believe this was actually taken in May so she was 5 1/2 year old

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April 2013 (6 years, 5 months old)

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April 2014 – and today (7 years, 5 months old)

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In the skirt I sewed! (She found it interesting to watch and I think she’ll learn someday but not quite yet)

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What a change right?! It’s amazing to see how much they’ve changed and how quickly by little babies have grown up. In fact, those first pictures were taken on days I took the girls out to the swings just to keep my sanity and keep the girls happy while they were awake!! Now they can go outside on their own and swing till their hearts content.

All three girls on the swings – they find it amusing that in the right order their first initials spell “JAR”…

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The girls have been a joy to raise and I look forward to many more years with them – because, after all, 7 is still little right?!

February and March Updates: A Pop of Color

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I have not meant to go this long without blogging but life has gotten so busy that I haven’t had a whole lot of time to sit down and blog about it.

Life getting in the way of blogging, go figure!

Doesn’t mean I haven’t been hard at work on my New Year’s Resolution. It’s the opposite in fact, I have spent a lot of my time over the past two months learning how to sew and making plans for my house. But we got hit with quite a few snow days this winter (in case, you didn’t already know that…). Add to that sick days and me being called in to sub numerous times means many hours not spent working on the house.

Oh well, we’re getting there.

In February we reupholstered my kitchen/dining room chairs. A few years ago, my dad had graciously recovered them but in the years since the fabric he used began to shred and was in desperate need of replacing:

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Yikes! How did we sit on those for so long??!!

After a little bit of this:

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And a LOT of this (I mean a lot – we stapled these things like crazy :) )

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We came out with this:

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I know you love the orange!

It’s okay if you don’t – I promise it goes along with the bigger theme of colors which you can see in my awesome new pillow. While the chairs were my February project, the pillows were done in March so see, a little progress each month and I may actually get somewhere by the end of the year!

First set:

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Second set:

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Right now they’re in my living room on my brown couch – can’t say these go that well there but hopefully soon they will reside in my made-over family room – that project begins next week in April!

Thanks to my friend Krysta at Studio Solaris for the embroidery as well as for teaching me how to make pillows. I am by no means an expert but thanks to her awesome teaching I was able to complete 3 of these 6 pillows myself and feel confident enough to make some more which is a good thing since every single one of my daughters asked where her pillow was with her name/initials on it. Guess I know what to get them for their birthdays!!

Keep checking in – many more house projects and exciting new things coming soon.

Our Favorite Meals List Updated

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Almost two years I ago I posted our family’s favorite meals. Since then we have added quite a few and taken away some so I thought I would take the time to do it again. Especially since in January I got most of our meals off of one site and we found some great additions to our meal rotation.

A lot of these recipes come from The Pioneer Woman - over the summer last year I scoured her website for new recipes we could try (sensing a theme in my cooking?!) and found some great ones. I will say there were quite a few we didn’t like but I’m glad we tried so many because we found some new favorites. Our more recent additions come from Mommy’s Fabulous Finds and her list of 23 Crockpot Recipes.

Chicken Recipes

Angel Chicken

After Work Chicken Noodle Soup (I had homemade dumplings to this and it is so good!)

BBQ Cranberry Chicken (in the Crock Pot)

Bowtie Chicken Alfredo (Photo by Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman)

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Chicken Broccoli Alfredo

Chicken N Peppers Pasta Skillet

Chicken Pinwheel Pot Pie

Chicken Quesadillas (or any other quesadilla)

Chicken Taco Bake

Chicken Spaghetti (probably our favorite of all time – photo by Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman)

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Grilled Chicken Bacon Sliders

Sesame Chicken (Slow Cooker)

- I serve that with Simple Sesame Noodles - goes great together!

Slow Cooker Black Bean & Salsa Chicken

Southwestern Chicken Chili

Tanise’s Chicken Casserole with Ritz & Rice (do NOT make this unless you are really feeding a crowd – it makes a ton!!)

White Bean Chicken Chili

Beef Recipes

Beef & Potato Nacho Casserole

Beef Stroganoff (in the Crock Pot)

Burgers N Fries Pot Pie

Easy Pleasing Meatloaf

Fried Round Steak

Hamburger Soup (photo by Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman – this is SOOOO good!)

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Mini Meatloaves (probably the 2nd favorite meal in the house especially when I had homemade mashed potatoes!)

Sour Cream Noodle Bake (photo by Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman)

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Slow Cooker Chili

Sweet & Sour Meatballs (in the Crock Pot)

Tater Tot Casserole

Updated Shepherd’s Pie (or any other Shepherd’s Pie – I always made extra mashed potatoes when we have mini meatloaves and use the rest for Shepherd’s Pie)

Wahoo! Chili with Beans (this is a Tastefully Simple recipe)

Other Meat Recipes

Apple BBQ Pork Tenderloin (really, really good!)

Crock Pot Sausage & Peppers

New Look Scalloped Potatoes and Ham

Perfect Potato Soup (photo by Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman)

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Pork Carnitas (in the Crock Pot)

Teriyaki Pork Chops (in the Crock Pot)

Pasta/Italian Recipes

Baked Ziti

Bowtie Lasagna

Creamy Baked Ziti

Easy Beef Lasagna

Easy Calzones

Pasta Skillet Dinner

Pepperoni Pizza Burger (photo by Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman)

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Ravioli Lasagna Recipe

Sausage Spaghetti Spirals Recipe

Spaghetti Casserole

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Beef & Bean Burritos (photo by Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman)

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Beef & Bean Taco Casserole

Layered Enchilada Bake (a grown-up favorite!)

Mini Taco Bowls

Nacho Chicken (in the Crock Pot)

Pineapple Chicken Burritos (in the Crock Pot and surprisingly very good!)

This is by no means an exhaustive list and I’m always looking for new recipes that our family will enjoy. I couldn’t find a good link for: Chicken Parmesan or Sausage Hoagies but we make those quite often along with spaghetti and tacos – though I usually reserve those for when I’m not home so Kirk doesn’t have to cover a complicated meal by himself.

I hope this list gives you a few ideas when it comes to your next weekly or monthly meal planning. Let me know if there’s a website full of recipes you love or if you have a favorite one to share! Also, let me know if any of the links above don’t work :)

Saving Money in February: Learning to Sew

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This is more of a long-term plan than just the month of February and seeing the way 2 of my 7-year-olds are taking to it I have high hopes of savings lots of money on…

- clothes
– household items (curtains, room décor)
– and maybe even their wedding dresses

Okay, that may be thinking a little too far ahead – right now they’re just learning to sew in a straight line but with their small amount of new found knowledge they are already trying to skip ahead to sew purses, pillow cases and pot holders!

Thanks to my good friend Krysta at Studio Solaris we are all beginning to learn how to sew!

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Though to be perfectly honest – I’m doing a lot less of the sewing and practicing than Julianna and Rachel! In fact, I now have to fight them to even get a second on a machine.

Out of 4 girls 2 enthusiastically agreed to learn to sew, 1 said “yea, I guess so” and the other said she would rather play with Krysta’s son, Chip. I bet you can guess who is who!

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First, we learn to cut fabric (fortunately I have LOTS of practice fabric thanks to Kirk’s grandma who will be thrilled to know I am finally using it :) )

Check out Rachel’s serious expression – she is going to measure this right:

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Aaah, there’s a real smile from Kaitlyn! Maybe I’m not forcing her after all…

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The girls first time using an iron – they seemed pretty excited about that too.

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Then it was on to the machines. I’ve had two sewing machines for ages thanks to Kirk’s mom who passed away ten years ago and left them to me. I can only imagine how happy she would have been to see her granddaughters sewing so eagerly on her machines. Unfortunately she passed away before the girls were even born and they never knew her but even still they are being blessed by her!

Julianna on “her” machine – one I can only guess the age of but I do know it’s at least older than me…

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Rachel on my “newer” and more mobile machine (the older one is so heavy there’s no lugging that one back and forth to class!)

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Kaitlyn got to work on Krysta’s machine and once she got started she was a good sport about trying it though she was not amongst the girls super eager to keep sewing when we got home. Maybe once we move on to re-decorating her room she’ll have more fun with it!

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I am excited for them and looking forward to learning more! Stay tuned for some major home changes. Not exactly DIY since I have Krysta to help. More like a complete beginner and a seasoned expert and I’m not exactly sure what that’s called!! I do have some home dec/painting experience but in the sewing department I’m completely new.

But learning to do it myself is the first step to saving money on these projects in the future :)

January Updates: Bathrooms!

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From what I hear, by this point in the year most people have given up on their New Year’s Resolutions which is why I only made one this year :) And thus far it’s been going pretty well.

Okay, I confess, this month has been super easy – we already had our half-bath remodel on the schedule and since we weren’t doing it but rather having someone do it meant that it was sure to get done!!

And I love the results. We are so happy to have safe bathrooms once again without fear of falling through the floor or mold. While we did get new and nicer bathrooms out of the deal this wasn’t a cosmetic remodel – it was a necessary one both for our safety as well as looking towards putting our house on the market. After all, no one wants to buy a house if the ceiling may fall on them!!

Sadly, I am TERRIBLE at taking before pictures. I have no idea what is wrong with me!! You’d think I would think of that.

This is all the pictures we took of the kids bathroom before it was redone – the bathroom used to have cute frogs everywhere that a friend painted for us about 10 years ago. I really liked the frogs and didn’t anticipate having to paint over them but the way the bathroom got disassembled we didn’t have much choice. So use your imagination – we had an ugly oak cabinet sink – it was functional but seriously ugly.

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The after pictures are obviously a little better and now instead of frogs we have birds :) These aren’t permanent though – if we ever decide to sell the house they can be easily removed and the bathroom is quite neutral (makes me sad but I hear buyers like neutral):

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From frogs:

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To birds:

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Sadly I didn’t do any better getting before pictures of the half-bath even though I told myself I would!!

The mostly before pictures (obviously it used to have a toilet and sink):

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A pretty old set that ended up on our front lawn for a while – I’m sure the neighbors appreciated it…

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Making progress:

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Closer:

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Finally it’s done and has some COLOR!! Okay, if buyers can’t handle a little color in the bathroom then that’s just sad because I love it :)

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And then we added a little bit of decoration – again this is a wall sticker so it can be easily removed and the bathroom quickly repainted if absolutely necessary. Why in the world does everyone hate color??

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Those were our December/January projects. Both rooms still need a few accessories but otherwise they are complete and it is a huge relief. In February I am very excited to begin a long-time dream of mine to learn how to sew curtains and other home accessories. Last year I had a New Year’s resolution to learn something new and it didn’t happen but this year I have a new good friend and some great motivation to get it done (meaning I’ve bought the fabric so I HAVE to do the curtains now!!). Looking forward to chronicling my learning adventure! Be sure and stop by again soon :)

Saving Money in January: Couponing and Meal Planning

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It’s a new year which means it’s always a new resolve for me to save more and spend less.

Not really a resolution – more just a stepping up of my game since I’ve been couponing for years – I just like to push myself.

Every time our family goes out to eat it’s expensive – really expensive – a sit down dinner at a restaurant could cost us anywhere between $50 and $90 or even more dollars! And that’s for ONE meal!! On top of that I rarely leave a restaurant feeling it was a good experience that was worth the money I just paid for it.

However, it’s easy to say “we’re not going out to eat ever again” but it’s so much harder to do. Crazy nights where we get busy or the lack of desire to cook or the lack of ingredients in the house are all reasons we head out the door for a quick meal or order in. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I enjoy it and I’d rather have Chick-fil-A or a restaurant meal and I’m certainly not turning down a dinner date with my husband but for a regular night meal and honestly even a weekend meal I’d rather cook from home and save the money.

That too, is easier said than done but with a lot of planning and a little shopping I can have a plan for the month that saves me time and money as well as headache of trying to figure out what’s for dinner only to find out I don’t have all the ingredients.

Enter the monthly meal plan. It’s a crazy process but I love it. I won’t go in to all the details here. Instead I will just pass along the website I’ve used this month to come up with our family meals:

Mommy’s Fabulous Finds: 23 Easy Crock Pot Freezer Meals

My crock pot has been getting a work out but considering the snow and the upcoming way below freezing temperatures we’re expecting this week the meals have been perfect!

2 things:

- the recipes call for enough food to feed her family of 4 so I have been scaling up for our family, however, most of the recipes seem to make plenty to feed my family of 8

- I did not make and freeze these in advance – really each one is so easy to put in the crock pot that I don’t mind cutting up a vegetable or two the day it goes in thus avoiding the step she suggest of letting it thaw overnight

When I do make a large meal plan I do shop for as much of it as I can at the beginning of the month and then throughout the month I supplement with fresh produce and of course couponing for what’s on sale.

Which brings me to a little bit of couponing:

What I picked up at Harris Teeter’s Super Double coupon event this week (Super Doubles = HT doubles coupons with values up to $2.00)

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I will say I bought a lot more than this but these are the items that were good deals – the rest were things that I needed and sadly had to get without a coupon though I did forget to include 2 small packs of 8 Pepsi cans similar to the 8-packs from Coke pictured below.

Total before sales and coupons with the Pepsi: $85.36
What I spent after sales and coupons: $21.31

On a side note – the milk, eggs and Tabasco were not on sale, however, I put them in the picture because I purchased them to earn money back from a rewards bonus from Ibotta and since they were three items I really needed it made sense though it just about killed me to pay full price for that Tabasco – see how much I love my husband!

My total spent for those 3 items was: $9.77
After Ibotta deposited $2.50 in my account it brings that down to $7.27

And what I picked up this week at CVS:

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This is also not all I got – I purchased 3 other 12-packs of soda and a 2nd pack of paper towel for a grand total of:

Total Spent:$26.25
Total Saved: $79.94 for a 76% savings
Earned back: $23 in ECB’s (or Extra Care Bucks which is basically money I can spend at CVS on anything else that I want so my out of pocket total or OOP is $3.25 which is a savings of almost 100%)

Before I started handing over my coupons my total was $106.19 – yikes!!

I will also add that instead of doing this in one transaction I could have broken it down in to many transactions and spent less out of pocket – in fact, since I started out with $31 in ECB’s from last week (well $26 in ECB’s and a $5 off $25 coupon that was e-mailed to me) I could’ve gotten the soda deal entirely free and earned back $10 which I could have used on the next transaction and gotten that for free, etc. I’m just weird and prefer to do it all at once.

On a separate note – some of the deals I picked up I wouldn’t consider to be great deals – the paper towel deal was just okay but I needed them and since I had so many ECB’s and coupons from the previous week it really worked out for me to pick them up at CVS. Same with the soda deal – it’s not that great of a deal unless you are using ECB’s to pay for the soda.

However, the Pediasure was free and the vitamins were $1.00 after coupons and ECB’s so if you’re wondering where to start at CVS start with deals like those unless of course it’s not something you need then pick something else. I’m not into buying things or picking things up just because they are free unless I truly plan to donate them or give them away – if I buy it it’s because I’m planning to use it.

The Tums and candy were flat out free because of coupons that printed at the coupon kiosk in the store – it really does pay (literally!) to stop at that thing!!

I won’t bore you with all the match-ups – instead I will encourage you to go here for Harris Teeter match-ups: Southern Savers Harris Teeter

And here for CVS: Southern Savers CVS

How are you saving money this year?

It’s New Years Again!

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Happy 2014!

So hard to believe that another year has come and gone but the joy of a new year is the joy of new beginnings and fresh starts. It won’t be long before this year is old and each of us will have our disappointments and joys – some more than others but for today, on the 1st day of the year, I’m going to join in looking forward to the new year and making changes.

For me, this year, it’s more like setting a year-long goal and that is basically to get this house in order to sell.

We’ve lived in our home for 10 years now so you can bet that things have fallen apart! When we moved in I was pregnant with Caleb – now he’s 10 years old and we’ve added 3 more members to our family who at 7 are also growing quite quickly. So the house that seemed a perfect fit for us 10 years ago seems like a tight fit now.

I’m not complaining – our home has housed us and kept us dry for 10 years. It’s more than many people have and many parts of it are just fine but as our little ones get bigger and we add more exchange students the space gets tighter and tighter and entertaining becomes more and more out of the question.

I am dubbing 2014 “Fix It 2014″

We started in 2013 – got 2 bathrooms repaired but we have so much more to do.

The good news is I have a little help this year!

I love New Year’s Resolutions – I don’t know why other than I think they are fun to make – but this year I don’t really have any other than the goal to get my house in order. More than just organizing – it also includes decorating and making house repairs.

Maybe if I have just one goal I’ll get it all done this year :)