Showing posts with label Family. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Family. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

10 Money Saving Hacks For A Happier (And Cheaper) Holidays!


In 10 Money Saving Tips for a Frugal Holidays, I focused on how to save money on gifts and stockings. Those tips have saved people a lot of money since the post was published. However, during the holidays, saving money on gifts is not the only way to save money!

During the holidays, normally frugal people can even go crazy and spend money that they know better than to spend! Something about the holiday spirit makes people throw out their budgets and good caution. We want to be generous, treat people well, and generally have a good time. That is great to do, but we can all practice good sense with these money saving hacks listed below!

1. Respect the traditions. If you have certain things you do every year and you know your family will miss them if you don't do them, keep the traditions alive as long as you can afford it. The costs of these traditions should already be in your holiday budget. If you take the whole family to a big show every year, that costs should already be figured into your budget. Another idea would be to make that big show a gift to the family members that go.

If the traditions become too much and cause too much of a strain on your budget, maybe it is time to reconsider. Which leads to...

2. Create new traditions. Think about the things you really love about the holidays and set up a new tradition that supports what you love. Do you love the extra time you get to spend with family? Start a Christmas movie night and have popcorn, hot chocolate, and cookies while watching the movies. Love the holiday lights? Take a driving tour of the lights in your city. Love to sing? Go caroling with your family and neighbors and take a plate of cookies to the elderly.

3. Set a menu and a meal plan. If you know you are hosting the big meal, are contributing to a potluck, and/or will have family around for a few days, time to meal plan. Remember to include some of the family favorites, have a soup night, a leftover night, and a pizza night! This way you know what to buy, how much to budget, and you can buy in one trip. Hopefully, you will avoid having to send someone to the grocery store!

4. Make the big meals potluck. Big holiday meals can be such a strain on the host! To make this holiday season easy on everyone, make the meal a potluck. You can still make the meat and a side, but assign someone to bringing bread, salads, appetizers, side dishes, desserts, and even drinks. The variety is great and your day will be much easier (and cheaper)!

5. Do Not Buy Your Wrapping Paper or Christmas Cards Until After Christmas! This should go without saying, but buy your wrapping paper and cards after the holidays for the following year. You can save 50-75% off!

6. Use what you have for decorations. More than likely, you do not need any more decorations. Personally, I have enough decorations for three trees and I only put one. Not to much the knick-knacks, the garland, and the million of other holiday things I have. You are probably in the same boat. Get creative and ban yourself from buying anymore Christmas decorations!

7. Stick with homemade goodies instead of store bought. You can plan ahead and freeze the cookies that can be frozen. Store bought goodies look so good, but those cookies and cakes are so expensive. The inflated cost on them is ridiculous! If you are a novice baker, offer to host a cookie swap. Everyone can bake together or just bring what they baked. Then you can swap with each other and bring home some different and delicious goodies!

8. Think simple in terms of decorations, food, and festivities. It is much more frugal to be simple in your approach to the holidays. Going overboard is nothing but a big pain in the wallet! You might like to "wow" your guests, but your guests will appreciate whatever you serve and your presentation. The point of the festivities is to spend time together! Going overboard can complicate that and make your guests feel overwhelmed or inadequate.

9. Have small, intimate gatherings instead of big parties. Everyone will get more quality time together, the food and drink expenses will be cheaper, and you won't have the potential clean-up expenses from a large crowd. You could go a step further and specify "no gifts" to keep the costs down more. This is about spending time together during the holidays, not about who can spend the most.


10. Ditch the matching holiday outfits. Unless you can truly afford it, ditch the cute Christmas dresses for little girls and stop trying to find matching pajamas for everyone in the family. I have heard of people spending hundreds of dollars just for everyone to match and look just so. You are trying to save money, not spend more! The cute little holiday dresses only get worn a few times before the season is over. If you are lucky, you can pass them down. Otherwise, the dresses and the outgrown pajamas end up being donated or thrown away. Just avoid it! Save your money!

These tips are just small things you can do to save money over the holidays, but they can save you a lot of money! Little things can add up in terms of spending and saving money. Christmas is a great time to show your love and appreciation of those around you, but keep the spending within your budget. Do not let the little things and the desire to impress others ruin your budget!

What do you do to save money during the holidays?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Birth and Baby Preparedness: 20 Things You Need To Have!


Getting ready for a baby can be difficult in normal circumstances. Add in a crisis or a disaster and you have to be even more ready! Even if you don't have a baby in the house, I recommend having a basic birth kit and a baby kit just in case. You never know who could be coming over or stranded at your home and will need these items!

Most of this list is very basic. I recommend keeping, if not all, most of this on hand. However, I can understand not wanting to keep a breast pump or a car seat in your storage. I had no use for a breast pump, but you never know. If a new mother has trouble with breast feeding, you might want one on hand and/or keep a small can of formula to help supplement.


20 Things You Need To Have To Be Ready For The Baby! 


1. A Birth Kit. I would specifically look for a home birth kit so you can have the basics on hand. A tape measure and a hanging weight scale would also be handy for getting the baby's measurements and to keep track of the weight for the first few weeks. I would also keep some sanitary pads and some pain reliever for the new mother. 

2. Diapers - cloth or disposable. A small pack of newborn and size 1 diapers should be fine.

3. Breast Pump and Pads.

4. Formula and Bottles. I recommend keeping a small can and a pack of bottles. 

5. Blankets. 3-4 receiving blankets and 2-3 warm blankets work great. 

6. Baby Food and/or a Food Mill. Babies typically do not start eating food until six months, but I still recommend having some in your food storage

7. Baby Wipes. A box or two will suffice although these are great to have on hand if the power goes out and you need to clean your face and hands.

8. Clothing Including Hats. 1-2 hats, a package of onesies, 3-4 sleepers, and a few socks will keep the baby warm and toasty. A sleep sack will also help at bedtime and naptime.

9. Soap to Wash and Sanitize.

10. Baby pain reliever and fever reducer.

11. Teething rings. Again, this will not be needed for a few months, but they are handy to have on hand when the baby is teething or needing to gum something to death.

12. Bibs and Burping Cloths.

13. Diaper Rash Ointment and/or Baby Powder.

14. Crib or someplace for a baby to sleep.

15. Car Seat.

16. Toys and Books.

17. Baby Fingernail Clippers.

18. Nose Syringe.


20. Digital Thermometer designed for babies.

Other ideas to make a new mother's life easier:

1. Some form of baby wearing carrier - sometimes it is handy to have a way to be hands free while still holding the baby.

2. Pacifiers or something for self soothing

3. A bouncy seat or someplace safe for a baby to stay and be entertained.

4. Dreft or a gentle laundry detergent that can be used on babies

You don't need a lot to be ready for a baby, but these essentials will make welcoming the baby easier on you and the new parents! In case of emergency, you will be ready for it anytime. I recommend storing these essentials (except the crib and car seat) in a five gallon bucket or a storage tote. You can find many of these things at garage sales and thrift shops, making your cost for this low. 

What would you add to this list? 

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Saturday, November 5, 2016

20 Common Sense Things You Can Do TODAY To Prepare For Tomorrow


Every day, we all just live to get through the day. Some of us think about tomorrow. Some of us think about "what if?" Some of us are so worried about tomorrow that we forget to live today. No matter what, we should all live for today while thinking about how to make tomorrow easier.

Those that prep think about tomorrow, but sometimes life is so chaotic that we forget to stay ahead of the game. We want to prep harder and do more, but we find we don't have the time. However, you are prepping. Every day. We don't always think about being ready for tomorrow as prepping, but it is. We get ready for tomorrow to make that day easier.

Here are 20 Common Sense Things You Can Do TODAY To Prepare For Tomorrow:

1. Fill the car with gas. Every two days, make a habit of looking at your gas gauge and fill it when it is half empty. Grab your gas cans and fill them too.

2. Fill some extra containers with water. Have some pitchers of water in the fridge or an bucket with a lid full of water in the basement.

3. Do the dishes every night.

4. Do the laundry.

5. Set your keys, phone, shoes, purse/wallet, and coat by the door you use the most.

6. Take a shower at night.

7. Keep a running grocery list so you can get everything you need on your next trip to the store. This includes your food pantry.

8. Get some cash. Having some cash on hand is never a bad thing, especially if ATMs and credit cards machines are not working.

9. Sell off things you don't need. First of all, it is a great money maker, aka more cash on hand. Secondly, it is less stuff you have to protect or move if that becomes necessary.

10. Pick up some extra food and pet food to have in storage.

11. Pick up a couple of cases of water to have in storage too.

12. Make sure your vehicle is loaded and ready for emergencies. Check your fluids in your vehicle. Get some food and water stashed in a protected spot in the car.

13. Write a to-do and to-remember list with the day's activities written down.

14. Write out your meal plan for the week and post it on the fridge. If you can't make dinner, some one can or at least get it started.

15. Fill out or update your In Case of Emergency (ICE) numbers on your phone. List them in order of importance.

16. Fill out or update your Family Preparedness Planner and you Family Personal Information sheets. Make copies of the personal information sheets and keep close by.

17. Have everything ready for the next day the night before. Have clothes laid out, bags packed. lunches ready, and #5 done the next before. If you have an emergency, everything will be ready to go for you to get out the door faster.

18. Plug your electronics in every night. No matter what, your electronics will be fully charged in the morning. A fully charged phone and laptop could be a lifesaver.

19. Take a walk or workout. The better shape you can get into today will only benefit you for tomorrow. Being in shape and working on your endurance will help make that walk home when your car is unusable.

20. Do not put off for tomorrow what you can do today. I mean that for everything and anything. If you have a project that you can tackle today, do that instead of vegging in front of the television. If you need to tidy up your house, get it done. If you need to respond to texts and emails, do it now.

If you aren't doing these things almost every day, you will wish you had. Think about this:

  • You wake up in the morning and the power is out.
  • A boil water order is announced because of contamination that has happened.
  • You haven't been watching the gas gauge and you are on empty.
  • A blizzard is happening tomorrow, but you haven't done anything about it.
  • An ice storm has hit unexpectedly and you are stranded away from home.
  • Your checking account has been compromised and you can't use your debit card for a week.
  • You end up in the hospital and your family is left to cope while you are gone.
  • The power goes out while you are at work.

Do you want to be caught in those situations without being prepared? I don't think so.

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Birth Control, Sex, and SHTF: What Should You Do?


One of those areas that most people think will go away in the end times or SHTF is sex. Many people think that they will be too stressed out, too worried, too hungry, and too desperate to worry about sex.

I happen to think they are wrong.

Sex has some benefits that most people do not consider:
  • Sex is a natural stress reliever. 
  • Sex helps people feel closer and more attached when the chips are down. 
  • Sex helps people to relax. 
  • Sex can be a coping agent. 
  • Sex can be used as a way to escape reality for just a little while. 
In other words, sex can and will be a factor when a SHTF happens. People will still have sex. Desperation will drive people to do many things. Many people may turn to sex for financial reasons. Sex can and will be used as a bartering tool or to buy food. Many people will use to just to comfort themselves.

Along with sex though comes some other issues. Many, many people are on birth control or practice some method of birth control for preventing pregnancy as well as addressing medical issues. Unless you stock up on condoms and/or sponge and spermicide, you could lose access to birth control for sex.

Most methods of birth control only last a certain amount of time:
  • The pill, ring, and patch are prescribed for only 30-90 days.
  • The shot only lasts three months.
  • The IUD lasts five years. 
  • The implants last three years.
Many of these will stay in your system for up to six months or possibly a year after ending their use. However, after the time frame for this birth control is over, what happens next? Pregnancy can happen although most women do not get pregnant immediately after stopping birth control. Sexually transmitted diseases can happen and will still happen, but birth control does not prevent most of those. 

Birth control is widely prescribed to control female medical issues. If birth control is used to control female medical issues, those issues will come back in a hurry after discontinuing the use of the birth control. Then what?

Other options must be explored to prevent unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and to control painful female issues like primary dysmenorrhea, severe cramping, excessive bleeding, and more. 

The best idea for preventing unwanted pregnancies and STDs would be to practice abstinence. However, most couples and good deal of people will not consider abstinence purely because they don't want to consider it. As mentioned before, sex will be used to make people feel better, for financial gain, and for bartering purposes. As much as abstinence should be considered and is always an option, many people just won't. 

The Family Planning Method or the Natural Rhythm Method is always good and requires some record keeping on the female's part. However, these still comes with some risk. Unwanted pregnancies may still occur due to inaccurate record keeping and/or stress on a woman's body due to the circumstances they are in. Neither prevents STDs. However, the record keeping that is needed with this method may help women in detecting female health issues and give an accurate idea of when female problems are occurring.

Having a good supply of condoms, sponges, spermicides, and diaphragm on hand would be ideal. Those many run out though eventually or be too expensive to afford. They also will not be any use to anyone in cases of rape or sexual assault where they are not likely to be found. As a preventative measure, if you are done having children, now may be the time to consider having a tubal ligation and/or vasectomy. You would not have to worry about using non-hormonal forms of birth control, but I would still keep a good supply on hand. 

The only surefire way to prevent STDs is to not have sex with someone you do not know. If you do, be sure to have both parties thoroughly clean themselves before and after sex. Also, you should avoid sex with anyone who looks to be infected. You should look for signs such as genital bumps, rashes, and open sores. In cases of rape or sexual assault, you should thoroughly clean yourself afterwards scrubbing with a disinfectant. If medical care is available, you should get checked out and follow the same procedure as above. 

If you are using hormonal birth control for prevention of pregnancy, you need to figure out which options of non-hormonal birth control will work for you and stock up. If you are using it to prevent female issues, you should first ask your doctor if there are other ways to treat your condition or the symptoms of your condition. If there is other options of treatment, especially over the counter treatments, you need to stock up on them and start using them. I would also have a good supply of items like Midol or Pamprin to help with the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. 

You should also look into alternative treatments for your female issues. Cutting out the processed foods would help greatly, but after a SHTF you might have to eat whatever you have on hand or can find. I would look into essential oils, herbs, tinctures, teas (raspberry leaf), and other holistic treatments that may benefit you greatly. Now would be the time to experiment and seek the advice of an expert to see what will work for you. 

When the SHTF happens, none of this will really go away. If fact, sex will still happen. People will still need ways of preventing pregnancy. Women will still need to deal with their menstrual cycles and female issues. Not being prepared for it is simply sticking your head in the sand to avoid dealing with it. Although this is an unpopular topic, it is one that needs to be addressed by you for yourself and your family.

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Monday, September 19, 2016

Monday Monthly Update From The Homestead - August/September Edition


I love this time of year! We are so busy trying to keep up with the yard, the garden, and the projects. So this will be a monthly update for now and in the future. 

In August, you realize that summer is winding down fast. You may have at least two months left to get everything done outside that you can get done. Canning is full speed ahead trying to keep up with the produce. While I love dehydrating, I am finding myself doing a lot of canning this year.

Then September comes and you realize you may be running out of time! 

Canned green beans

We canned several quarts and four pints of green beans. We also canned summer squash pickles and zucchini relish. I froze eight quart size bags of vegetable pasta sauce. I have canned some salsa and need to do A LOT MORE! I froze a lot of the small onions from the garden to be used with roasts and in stews. 

After waiting patiently, oh so patiently, on the tomatoes, they are finally starting to come along. We have picked more grape tomatoes than we can keep up on eating. I still have lots and lots of green tomatoes though. I did give the tomatoes a good trimming as recommended by several gardeners. This has helped tremendously! I keep cutting back vines about once a week with great results. The tomatoes have been growing faster and turning red faster. Yeah!

I seem to have a lot of green peppers in the garden too. They are suppose to turn to red, orange, and yellow peppers, but nothing yet. If they stay green, I will still use them and freeze them for future use. I also have some mild banana peppers coming along too. I am not sure what I will do with them yet, but I will figure it out!

I also have a lot of zucchini which I have been using for a lot of zucchini bread. I have also been adding it to other dishes too as well as grilling it. I also grew some yellow crookneck squash. I will probably not be doing that again. I wanted yellow smooth neck squash, but I didn't read the package close enough. Oh well, the chickens love them! I did pull one hill of yellow squash plants out yesterday and will probably do the rest 


 Pumpkin blossoms

The potatoes have tasted great and I need to get the rest of them dug up. The pumpkins are coming along great too. The beets need to be dug up also. I actually have carrots! They germinated really late, but they are there and growing!

The chickens are still alive. That is saying a lot. We lost one chicken for reasons we couldn't figure out. We have one chicken who will be on the chopping block soon because she is not laying anymore and is becoming very mean to the other hens. The rest of the ladies will need to find new homes or become stew meat. We are only getting 4-6 eggs a day which we still enjoy. However, we have a rodent problem in the barn where their coop is and in the walls. The food and the water is attracting the problem and we need to get rid of the problem. 

So the chickens need to go for now. We will start over in the late winter - early spring with a new crop of chicks. I know I said previously that I wanted to add to the flock, but this problem really needs to be addressed before the rodents find a way into the shop.

Back of the barn

The shop in the barn is coming along great! The walls that are going to be painted are done. Rob stuffed more insulation down the walls before painting them to help keep the shop warmer. The floors in the shop and back half of the barn have been power washed too. It was amazing to see the difference after doing that! Rob wants to finish the ceiling and paint that. He also wants to finish insulating around the windows and get those trimmed out. 

We have enough rain for quite awhile. I am sooooo tired of mowing! Unfortunately, the forecast says rain again this week through the weekend. Oh well, it keeps the garden growing!

Otherwise, school has started! Woo hoo! We started on August 23rd and it has been pretty smooth sailing. The kids have been taking their lunches every day which has been an awesome savings on my pocketbook! Paige has been busy with cross counry, marching band, and choir (All-state, jazz, chamber, and concert). Dane is thankfully not really involved in anything yet! Dane turned 12 in August and we took him to Arnold's Park! It was a lot of fun!

We are still doing a lot of cleaning out, decluttering, selling stuff we don't need anymore, and donating other things. I keep thinking I am done for awhile, but then I reconsider things I don't need anymore!

What have you been up to this last month?

Thanks for reading,
Erica



Friday, September 16, 2016

Water is a Vital to Your Survival! What is Your Plan for Your Water Needs?


We can't live without water! Whether it is to drink, brush teeth, shower, cook, clean, or provide water to growing things, we can't live without it. An average person cannot live for more than three days without water. 

Water is critical to your survival needs.

Unfortunately, most people do not place water very high in their emergency preparations. They focus on shelter, food, security, and safety before they even began to think about water. Yes, shelter and food are important. However, without water, those things will not matter. 

So...what is your plan for your water needs? 

This will vary from household to household. The experts say to have, at a minimum, one gallon a day per person. One gallon of water multiplied by the number of people you plan to care for times the number of days you plan to be without water. One gallon of water is the minimum you should have, but I think you should have more. 

Why?

Bathing will take at least 3-5 gallons of water per person. I know in a crisis situation, bathing might be the last thing on your mind. However, if you have the potential for unsafe and unsanitary conditions, bathing in some way or form is a must. You can invest in one of these solar showers or whole body disposable wash cloths. Keeping clean will be a top priority to ward off sickness.

Washing clothes using a couple of five gallon buckets and a washer plunger will take at least 10-20 gallons of water for the bare minimum of clothes to be washed. You might have enough clean clothes to last two weeks. That is all well and good until someone gets sick. 

Washing dishes will take 3-6 gallons of water to clean the dishes properly. While it is recommended to have paper plates and plastic utensils on hand, there will always be some dishes dirty. Then you need to add in the water you might need for cooking purposes. 

Safely, you will need at least 3-5 gallons a day per person! How do you plan to store that much water? You can:

  • Store 55 gallon drums of water in a cool, dark place. 
  • Have a rain catchment system with at least 150 gallons of storage.
  • Store one-gallon jugs of water and cases of water bottles for cooking and drinking.
  • Install a hand pump for your well water.
  • Drain the water heater.
  • Fill five-gallon buckets and containers for water needs like flushing toilets and washing clothes. 

I also would recommend having a good filtration system in case you need to use unpurified water. A LifeStraw works great for one person to drink water safely. A Berkey filter system works well for a family. When you are going through an emergency situation, the last thing you need is a sick person or people due to unsafe drinking water. 

I would also be aware of the water sources surrounding your land. Is there a creek or river nearby? Is there an abandoned farm place with a working hand pump and well? Is there a lake that you can pump water from? I keep topographical maps of my area in a file for this information. It may save your life to have this information on hand. 

For more ideas and motivation for storing water for emergency needs, I asked my fellow bloggers for their water articles. Here is some really great information!


How to Can Water for Emergencies by Everything Home With Carol 

Whatever the emergency or crisis is, you cannot live without water. You need to have some on hand, a way to get more, a way to filter for drinking, and be able to do as much as possible to conserve water. Make storing water at the top of your to-do list for prepping!

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Friday, September 9, 2016

4 Reasons Why It Is Time To Talk To Your Friends and Neighbors About Prepping!

It's 5:30 in the afternoon. The power has been out since 6:30 that morning. You are contemplating what to have for supper on the grill since you can still get to the grill. Thank goodness you moved it to the garage yesterday when the weather started getting bad!

Otherwise, everything else is going well. The kids have been playing card games and coloring. The first floor of the house is warm enough from the portable gas heater you bought a year ago. You have good light coming from the windows yet, but the LED lanterns are ready to go. You could fire up the generator if you need to, but all is well yet.

You hear a knock on the door. It is your next door neighbor whom you have been pretty friendly with. He's a good guy who is always willing to lend a hand. However, you know he has almost nothing for emergencies. In fact, he has laughed at you numerous times for your prepping purchases. You wonder what he wants.

You are not very keen on answering the door, but if you don't, one of the kids will. You go out of the garage door to talk to him outside. You know if you let him know that you have a portable gas heater going right now and have started using lanterns, he will be over with his whole family. You could probably handle that if you knew how long the power was going to be out. But you don't.


You know this conversation isn't going to go well, but you will talk to him anyway. You both exchange pleasantries and talk about the power outage. He asks how you all are managing. They are getting cold, but his wife had the good idea to close off a room and get the kids bundled up a bit against the cold. She moved the kids into that room and is keeping it as warm as they can. He saw you move your grill into the garage and had done the same.

However, the kids are afraid of the dark. They only have one flashlight that has dead batteries. They have no practical candles or lanterns. They have no way to heat the room because he didn't listen to you about putting in a gas fireplace and put in an electric one instead. They have some food to get by for a day or two longer. You know the grocery store and gas station is closed due to no power.

What do you do?

This scenario can be all too real and does happen in almost every emergency or disaster. Many people would have a definite answer until faced with that decision. It is hard to watch anyone in need and not want to help. I know I would want to help especially if it is someone I am on good terms with. I do not like to see people suffer.

This is why you need to start talking to your friends and neighbors about prepping for emergencies and disasters. By encouraging others to be prepared, you can hopefully avoid the above scenario. Here are four reasons why you should take the time to talk to your friends and neighbors about prepping:

1. You may be able to help them this time, but next time you might not be available for help. You need to make them realize they need to have their own emergency supplies. The weather could be so bad they can't make it over to your house. You might not have enough to help them and provide for your own family. You should offer to go to the store with them to start an emergency kit. You should also show them how to use it and store it.

2. They need to become more self-reliant. They might move to a new neighborhood where no one cares about them. They might experience something where they can not reach out to friends or neighbors. The weather might be bad enough they can't leave home. They might be caught on the road somewhere. The scenarios are endless, but they need to learn to rely on themselves instead of expecting everyone to save them.

3. The government says so. FEMA celebrates National Preparedness Month and has things for people to do all year round. Red Cross recommends having 3-14 days worth of supplies on hand for emergencies and disasters. While some of you may scoff at this, you may have to use these agencies to help convince people to prepare. Some people like to be told what to do by the government or big powerful agencies. This may work in your favor to convince others to prepare.

4. They can safely protect and care for their families. Being unprepared is the equivalent of neglecting their family's potential needs. They get everything they need to take care of daily life and they need to get everything they need to take care of any emergencies. This is just like having Advil on hand for a headache or a fever. You keep flashlights, batteries, and candles on hand for a power outage.

We as preppers have a duty to encourage others to prepare. Now is the time to start. Some of your friends and neighbors may want to already and don't know where to start! By having them prepared, you can become a true community of preppers who can help yourselves and others too.

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Back To School Routine - How To Set Up Your Family For Success This School Year!


School has started for us! (Excuse me while I do a happy dance!)

Starting school is an excellent time to start new routines in your household. I find being organized in the morning starts our day off well. We are on time for work and school. The kids are rarely rushing around to get their things together. 

This school year we have had some additional changes from last school year. We are taking cold lunches to school almost every day. We are no longer eating breakfast at school. (The school raised the rates and we no longer qualify for free or reduced lunches.) We are no longer allowing electronics and phones to be in their rooms overnight. 

We also had some changes to make from last school year. We needed to get more organized at night. We were not getting clothes picked out the night before which caused some chaos in the morning looking for a certain shirt. Bags were not ready to go in the mornings. Things were scattered everywhere and certainly lost by the time we were ready to leave. We needed one place for electronics and phones so we can grab and go. 

All this? Just about drove me bonkers!

I realized being organized is not just a kid thing, it is a parent thing too. I couldn't remember everything that needed to be done by my kids. How were my kids going to remember? Simple habits that were second nature to me were habits they are still learning. 

So I made up a list of what they need to do every morning and evening. This list helps me and them to remember what they need to do. And guess what? I wanted to pass it on to you! 

This is a pretty simple list. I am not a fancy person although I enjoy others' efforts to be fancy! (Yes, I love printables!) And just a disclaimer: we are public school goers. We fully respect other families' choices in schooling, but this is what works for us. This may mean your morning and evening routines will look a little different. That is okay! 

Here is our routines:

Morning Routine:
Wake up, shower if needed, and get dressed
Morning chores
Finish packing lunch for school
Get laptops packed into backpacks
Put bags into the car
Eat breakfast
Night Routine:
Evening chores
Get school lunch ready for the next day
Pick out clothes for next day
Get backpacks and gym bags ready the next day
Homework!
Shower
Plug in electronics and phones at charging station
Put backpacks and gym bags by your bedroom door

Because I try to make life easier for all of you, I also have it available to print here: Kids Routines!

Like I said, this is nothing fancy. Just a good list of reminders about what we need to do every morning and evening. I have it hanging on the refrigerator door for every one to see.


And you know what? This is already worked with success. The kids appreciate having a list to refer to. They know what is expected of them. That alone will reduce every one's stress levels.


What do you do for back to school success?


Thanks for reading,

Erica


Thursday, August 11, 2016

What Does Your College Student Really Need?


I have had two kids in college for over three years now. I know there are things they need and don't need. We have experienced dorm life and apartment life. While both are very different, the college student needs are very similar in dorm life and apartment life. 

Basically, this is home away from home! Your student needs to feel at home where he is at while being very independent. 

While I had a pretty good idea on what a college needs, I polled some of my favorite college students, mainly my daughters and their roommates/best friends. They had some great insight on what a college student really needs and what makes life easier. Three of them have been in college for three years now so they have a pretty good handle on things that are needed. 

You might read some of this list and think "My kid doesn't need that". Some of these things are more comfort items than needs, but your kid needs to feel comfortable at college or you are going to get some really sad phone calls. Your college student also needs to be independent and not running home every weekend for you to do their laundry!

What Does Your College Student Really Need?

1. Food, water, kitchen supplies, dorm fridge, and a toaster oven/microwave.

2. A tool kit with a small selection of screws and fasteners. Teach them how to use it too. 

3. School Supplies and Tape. Just like high school, they will need notebooks, binders, pens, pencils, paper clips, a calculator, etc. They will also need tape like scotch, masking, packaging, and duct tape.

4. Paper products - toliet paper, facial tissue, and paper towels. This should go without saying. 

5. Cleaners - dusting spray, all-purpose spray cleaner or wipes, glass cleaner, dish soap. Depending on your college student, you might need to show them how to use them. You may also need to remind them to use the cleaning supplies. In addition, for apartment living - toliet bowl cleaner, floor cleaner or a good all-purpose cleaner. Also, they may need a vacuum, broom, or a floor sweeper.

6. Laundry supplies. Most dorms have laundry facilities that will let you use a debit card or your student account card. However, the college student might still need quarters as well as laundry detergent, stain remover, and maybe fabric softener. They might also need instructions on how to run the machines and how to wash the clothes. 

7. A vehicle emergency kit - tire pressure gauge, a quart of oil, flares, flashlight, battery jumper cables, rags, tire repair kit, vehicle maintenance manual, small tool kit, and a jack and tire iron. Also teach them how to use this, check their oil, and change their own tires. 

8. Towels and Bedding. Wash cloths, kitchen towels, bath towels, and rags. Whatever they like to sleep on and underneath. They will need them all. You might also want to look into getting a memory foam topper for the uncomfortable mattress. Trust me on this. 

9. Personal items like clothes, personal grooming, etc. For dorm life, a shower caddy and shower shoes or flip flops for the trips to the community showers. Also, a first aid kit would be a very, very good idea too!

10. Organizing items like tubs, cubes, under bed storage, totes, whatever it takes to make the space livable and keep your items from taking over your space.

11. Decorating items. Your college student is going to spend time in his dorm room or apartment. Use banners, wall decorations, posters, and pictures to decorate the room and make the space their own. 

12. Entertainment. Again your college student is going to spend time at college in his dorm room or apartment. They need to be able to entertain themselves and their friends. Think movies, books, card games, board games, video games, etc. These are good things to help manage the stress level, bond with new friends, and spend time with old friends. Also, having these things may keep them out of the kind of trouble that will give you phone calls you don't want. Just saying. 

13. Good time organization tools. They will need a clock, alarm clock, planner, and/or calendar. Being on their own for the first time, they will need things to help them be responsible. Getting up on time, knowing when to be a class and work, and what their assignments are is crucial. They need a good tool to manage it all. I know they all have smartphones, but I liked have things down on paper then and nothing has changed. Having a visual reminder will help them too.

14. A good pair of headphones. Before you think this is crazy, it isn't. It is your college student being considerate. No one wants to listen to what they are listening to, plus it helps them tune out the other people in the dorm, apartment, commons, or library when they are studying. The college students were adamant about this. 

15. A Computer or Laptop. Yes, this is a necessity in college. Yes, the school library also may have them. However, more and more colleges (if not all) are requiring the student to have them. Along with this, they will need a mouse, printer, printer ink, printer paper, and possibly a wireless router.

Most of this list is just the basics. Your college will have rules for their dorms/apartments and you need to look into that. Some do not allow candles. Some do not allow single burners to cook food or even microwaves. Some may not allow you to nail or screw anything into the walls. Some may not have carpet in the room and the student may need a good size area rug. 

Some dorms and apartments do not have air conditioning and your student will need fans. Case in point, my oldest daughter moved into a dorm in August when Iowa had record breaking temperatures. It was 95 degrees F with a heat index of 105 degrees F when we moved her in. She and her roommate had no air conditioning. They had four fans running before we left. 

You might think your student needs a car at college. Again, every college is different. Some colleges do not allow freshman to have vehicles at college. If there is 2-3 kids from the same town at the same college, maybe they can work out a carpool solution. Having a vehicle at college is at the discretion of the parents and the college. 

Parents of college students, what else would you add to this list?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Monday Update From The Homestead - July 25 & August 1


We are still here, still busy, and still finding more and more projects to do. I think the projects are actually finding us, but we always find things to do! I stay busier than I like and most days I have no idea what I need to do first. That is life though and I try to stay positive no matter what.

I am kind of back to purging and decluttering. I am trying to get Shali's room packed up. I also am trying to do a deep purge of the dining room. We used the room everyday, but it is also become a collect all for the things I don't have a home for. Time for a lot of things to go!

The garden is really starting to produce. The peas are done and I managed to get one quart size bag of shelled peas in the freezer. The green beans are starting to get overwhelming. I need to start canning them. The kale is going to the chickens. The grape tomatoes are starting and they are delicious! We are starting to get zucchini and yellow squash! So good! We could dig potatoes at any time if we want. This is my best garden yet!

I canned eight half-pints of zucchini squash. The little bit I sampled was delicious!

The chickens are doing fine. We are trying to figure out who is laying and who is not. The decision has been made to add some pullets to the flock, just have to get them now. I know someone who has Barred Rocks also ready to lay and that is probably what I will get.

Dane is back home from camp and Paige is busy going to band camp and then all-state choir camp this next weekend. She is done with Driver's Ed and she passed! We took the projects to fair and the kids did very well. We learned some new things for next year and I marveled at the creativity of some of the kids' projects.

We cleaned up more from the storm two weeks ago. We had to have the utility company come out and take care of a branch that had fallen and was pushing down on one of the electricity lines running to the pole. We burned one pile of brush and added to it again the next day. It must have still had a hot spot because it burned again all on its own. We have another pile to burn yet. We have branches still falling out of trees from being hung up in the trees.

We had a pig come visit from two miles away. We were surprised to say the least! His owner came and got him quickly. All was well. If we get pigs, we need a very secure shelter and we were not equipped for that right now!

We are cleaning up the yard some more and making it tidier. We are also fixing a lot of little things like doors and windows. We are also fixing a few things on the wooden play set in order to sell it. The kids have outgrown it and it is time for it to bless another family. We added more fence posts to the garden fence in order to give it more stability.

And, oh yeah...mowing. I am a little tired of mowing.

I think that is it for now. My brain is a bit fried and I can't remember much more.

What did you do this last week or two?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Monday, April 18, 2016

Monday Update From The Homestead - April 18


Hello! We are having some very lovely temperatures here! The wind seems to want to blow too, but it feels so good to be outside soaking up the sun.

We got a fair amount of yard work done. The branches are piled up in three piles around the house and will be loaded into a trailer. Some of it will be burned and some of it will become mulch for the garden. The kids did most of that work as well as picking up trash around the yard.

I have my raspberries dug up and will get the replanted as soon as I get a new spot ready. I am excited to have them out of my garden and ready to get a new, bigger patch going. We all love fresh raspberries!

I also found out yesterday that my garden will be tilled in two weeks. I am excited about that too. I want to get my own tiller, but I am shopping around for a decent used one. I bought my seed potatoes, onion sets, and shallot sets yesterday too. I might buy more seed potatoes, but I am waiting to see.

We, mostly Rob, got the garage cleaned out and organized. We still have some more cleaning and organizing to do, but the garden tools and shovels are all hanging up! I have dreamed of that for quite a while! Rob also tore out some shelves that were rotting and falling apart. He also did a lot of sweeping and dusting. The garage was pretty dirty!

Paige went to prom! She is only a freshman, but her date was a junior. Here is the pretty girl in all her finery:



She wore a dress that her older sister, Jordan, wore to her junior prom. This dress was in pretty decent condition, but I had to use my sewing and ironing skills. I fixed and sown back on the beads and larger rhinestones that came loose. The skirt had a couple minor tears that I sewed back up. We spent $26 to get her hair done and grandma bought her a new pair of heels to wear. Jordan applied her make-up and Paige wore jewerly that she already had. A fairly frugal prom!

The chickens are still alive. We have been free ranging them again and so far no hawk. We did find out it was illegal to shoot them. I am looking into other ways to discourage them from eating my chickens!

Other than that, we have been going to track meets, cleaning, and generally keeping up with life. The cats will go to the vet tomorrow and that should be more fun than it sounds. One of the cats is deathly afraid to even leave the house so this is always a fun trip.

I wanted to let you all know about a new site for starting and adding to your current food storage. Preppers Market carries healthy emergency food storage with none of the nasty stuff you don't want! It tastes delicious and offers a great variety for you and yours. It would make a great gift to help jumpstart someone's food storage or add to their existing food storage. Check it out!

Preppers Market LB pasta

What is going on around your homestead?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Monday, April 11, 2016

Monday Update From The Homestead - April 11


What happened this week?

This week was a little exciting, a little bit frustrating, and has a little bit more work involved for us.

We are down a chicken. One of the full-grown layers was killed by a hawk. In all the problems I thought I would have with keeping my chickens alive, this was not one problem I thought I would have. Hawks are not a big problem, but we had noticed three of them nesting on the property. We weren't sure what kind of hawk they were, but now we know they are the chicken-killing kind of hawks.

Since I like my chickens to free range a bit, the hawks need to go. I would like to do it humanely, but if we have to shoot them then we will. Shooting the hawks is probably illegal, but I have more invested in my chickens and would rather not lose them!



In the frustrating and creating more work for us category, what you see above is the remnants of my clothesline. We had a dead tree fall on Tuesday and take out the clothesline. Both poles will have to be replaced as well as the line. We are extremely fortunate that the tree did not fall on the house or fall the other way on to the power line. This can be cleaned up and replaced fairly easily.

Gardening is still on hold. The ground temperature is a little bit chilly yet to plant anything. A few days of sun might cure that. We are also going to move the raspberry patch out of the garden and into its own spot. I think they will do better and I will have the room back in the garden. If I don't have a tiller (my dream tiller) by the weekend, I will rent one and get the garden tilled hopefully in the next week.

We (mostly Rob) spring-cleaned the first floor of the house Saturday. He would call it normal cleaning, but the floors look fantastic! We also did some decluttering with another load accumulating for the thrift store. I took one load on Thursday last week, but we always have more things to get rid of.

I also did a big grocery run on Saturday. Meat prices are atrocious!!!! Corn and beans for feed is down. Gas prices to transport the meat is down. Why is ground beef still $4.50-5.00 a pound?!?! Crock-pot and arm roasts were $3.99 a pound. I am still in sticker shock!

Everything is on hold this week while we get ready for prom! Paige is going to her first prom on Saturday and, in our true frugal style, is wearing a dress that Jordan wore her junior year. I still need to get a few repairs done on the dress and iron the skirt. With three track meets this week this should be interesting, but we will get it done!

What is happening on your homestead?

Thanks for reading,
Erica

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