Thursday, April 21, 2011

How To Organize Your Magazines & Newspapers

I have a problem. Okay, I have more than one ;), but I have one specific problem that sends my husband through the roof. I am a hoarder of magazines. There. I said it. They say acknowledging a problem is the first step in recovery. So thanks, Jennifer Ford Berry for writing "Organize Now" and helping me come to terms with my obsession...

Following along with Bonnie at House of Grace this week, we are at week 10 (can you believe it? Time flies when your organizing!) and are tackling our magazines and newspapers. We don't take the newspaper at our house, so I'm free and clear on that one. Ahh, but the magazines. I need help. Do you? Let's check out this weeks goals:

*Toss or donate all magazines that are more than one year old. (I'm ashamed to tell you that just the other day I found some paper crafting magazines from 2007. Can you say "Twelve Step Program," please?!? Be sure to check each room in the house for old magazines (cuz I've got 'em stashed everywhere.

Exhibit A: Side table in living room stash.... (how heinous does that lamp look, btw? Yikes!)

And because one stash of magazines in your living room is not enough, two cubes (almost full) underneath the entryway table...

Here's some hiding out in the closet in the office...

And here's some in a bag that we took to the hospital back in March. The bag is full...

Okay... back to the goals:

*Toss all newspapers more than a month old.

*Toss all catalogs and sales papers that have expired. Make it a habit to toss all sales papers from the places that yo never shop and if you find something you want from a sales flyer, clip it out right away and put it on your to-do list.

*Clip what you need from old magazines, then recycle them or donate them. The thrift store in my town sells used magazines for like a quarter, sometimes. Yes, they have enabled by obsession, but I've also donated stacks to them as well. :)

*Designate a specific home for the magazines that are left.

*Cancel subscriptions to magazines that you never read anymore. I have let many subscriptions go in the past year or so. There may be hope for me yet! LOL!

I try to justify my large number of mags because of my various interests. My faves are "Family Fun," "Woman's Day," "Better Homes and Gardens," (or any of their other publications like "Do It Yourself," "Small Room Decorating," or "Paint Anything"). I will not turn down a "Martha Stewart Living" either, or a "Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee." My mother-in-law also gives me her cast-off which include "Redbook," (which I call the married ladies "Cosmo!") and "Martha Stewart Living." since I was a kid I loved "Highlights" and last year got Jamie her own subscription. I think I should get brownie points, though, because I have recently cancelled the subscription due to her lack of interest in conjunction with the cost.

My husband jokes that we could have been millionaires five times over if those periodicals hadn't "four-dollar-and-99-cents-ed" us to death! He's probably not exaggerating too much, there. I guess that's one reason I tend to hang on to them for as long as I do. So that I don't feel that the money has been completely wasted, I donate some to my local thrift store and take a few others with me to Children's Hospital when we have a clinic visit. From experience, I can tell you that it super nice to have something to read and take your mind off of things while waiting in the surgery or ICU waiting room. Doctors offices, nursing homes, and gyms will also be glad to take your extra magazines of your hands. You could also send them to me. Just kidding. Well, sort of. ;)

Whatever you do, please don't just throw your old magazines and newspapers in the trash. Touring my local recycling center last week has re-opened my eyes to the responsibility we have to our earth. You can also search out crafts for your kids to do on the Internet with old magazines. There's a ton of them. Anything to keep them from a land-fill.

Speaking of green living, I got an iPad for Christmas and though I could download my magazine subscriptions to it, I haven't yet. I've been thinking of trying it with one of the one's a get regularly, but honestly, there's just something about the feel of a crisp new magazine in my hand and the relaxation I get from turning the pages. It's very zen. But my renewed interest in "going green" has convinced me that I should at least give it a shot. I'll let you know what I think when I do.

The library was getting rid of these magazine racks one day. They were on a table marked "Free" so I took eight of them.

I've put them on top of my desk with the intentions of corralling like magazines and making this their permanent home. I thought this would make a good reference spot since it's right above the desk. Right now non-specific things are just kind of thrown up there, but the plan is in place!

Berry's Tips for STAYING Organized:

Once a Month

-Dispose of all items you've read and don't want to keep.

-Clip articles or ads that you'll need or want later.

Every 3-6 Months

-Donate all the magazines you are done with to a charity or business of your choice.

-Toss catalogs from the previous season.

-If you keep magazines in your bathroom, update the reading selection and toss the old issues.

Once a Year

-Cancel subscriptions to periodicals you do not consistently read.

Come back next week as we organize our e-mail. My inbox this morning had 243 messages. This is why I'm loving this book. I hope you are too!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Yummy Banana Bread

As I mentioned yesterday, I was down for the count last week with the worst case of food poisoning known to man (or so it seemed!). Momma was a pitiful pile of uselessness and unable to eat anything. All the while, the bananas I had bought to snack on after running was ripening themselves into oblivion. Not one to waste food ;), the first day that I felt better, I decided to make some banana bread (which surprisingly sounded palatable to my weak stomach!).

This is a recipe that I have combined from a few different ones and made into my own. You can make it with or without nuts, depending on your liking. Enjoy!

Banana Bread
1 stick butter
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
2 eggs (beaten)
3 really ripe bananas (mashed)
1 cup pecans *optional*

Melt butter and add to sugar, eggs, and bananas. Mix well. Add flour and pecans, mixing well. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour in a buttered loaf pan (I spray mine with Pam).

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

How To Organize Your Files

Well, this week all of you readers will get a double dose of organizational posts as I was out of commission last week with food poisoning. I'm linking up with Bonnie at House of Grace as we are working our way through the book "Organize Now!" by Jennifer Ford Berry.

Week 9 is about organizing your files. Do you have a have a filing system in place? What should you hang on to, anyway? Why does paper multiply faster than two bunnies in the spring? I have no answer for the last one. The first two questions Berry can help us with!

Week 9 goals are:

*Get your papers together! If you don't have a filing system, start here. This includes all stashes you've stuck here and there. Immediately sort the junk and toss, toss, TOSS! (Berry says that 80% of what we file is never looked at again!) Place remaining papers "to file" in one location where you will be filing (like a home office or work area).

*If you have a filing system in place, go through the files and toss all useless and outdated information. Shred personal and financial information before recycling. (If you do not have a shredder I personally suggest in making that a priority. We have been the victims of identity theft in the past and now I shred all paperwork with any personal information on it. It just makes me sleep better at night. :D)

*Set up your filing system. If you have a lot of papers (like me!) get yourself a filing cabinet. A small, portable filing container (like a crate or a large accordion style one) will work just as well especially if you are not the paper hoarder that I am. Berry suggests color coding based on categories and whatever you do, do not use "miscellaneous" for a category! Examples of some you might want to create are:

-Bank Statements

-Credit card statements

-Pay stubs/ work related expenses

-School info (one for each child)

-Home and auto insurance

-Health insurance

-Tax info

*Start filing! Go through all the papers you've gathered "to file" and separate them by category. Berry says to use broad categories so that you won't end up with lots of files with only one or two categories each.

*Berry also suggests making a master page that lists all the files under each category to save time later on.

*Choose one storage space for your addresses and business cards and update this space with new addresses and phone numbers. If using an address book, always put your entries in pencil so you can update changes as needed.

How To STAY Organized:

Once a month: File papers waiting in your "to file" bin. This should be a file folder or tray on your desk to put your papers that you are currently working on filing.

Every 3-6 months: Go through your files and toss anything you don't need to keep.

Once a year: Every January clean out your file folders, making sure you have all of your tax info together. Purge your files from the previous year and move files that won't be used in the new year to a storage box.

Two weeks ago I promised you a peek at my new (to me) filing cabinet. This little gem was a cast-off from my in-laws. And though it's dinged and rusty (in parts) and stickered to death, I am in love with her. I call her "Big Bertha" because, well, she's big (duh!) and Bertha sounded like a lass that could use a (ahem) makeover. I have delusions of grandeur where I imagine myself giving her a delicious coat of glossy candy-apple-red paint, but for now, she's in her "before" stage:

The top drawer is filled right now with some crafting overflow. And let's face it, there is ALL kinds of craft overflow around these parts!

Here is the second drawer and where the files actually begin. The categories for my files are as follows:

-Bills Once I pay a bill, I mark it paid with the amount paid and the date and then it gets filed here in case there is any discrepancy with any of my creditors.

-Blog This is where I put blog inspiration until I find the time to get the fingers to the keyboard!

-Capital One This file contains documents that pertain to an account I had with Capital One. Capital One said I owed them money. I did not. Had to get a lawyer. Needless to say I'm keeping this paperwork til the cows come home. And also it should go without saying, but Capital One is NOT in my wallet!

-Baby Okay, I could probably get rid of some of this stuff since my kids are, like, 9 and 6. It's pretty much stuff from the pediatrician about shots and stuff. Mental note: PURGE!

-Cards These are cards I've picked up and keep on hand (birthday, condolence, etc) in case I need one in a hurry!

-Keepsake cards

-Church This has info about our church, pamphlets, and so on.


-Credit cards

-Dish Network

-Edward Jones

-Fly Lady I printed out some of her schedules and keep them in here. Go here to check out her website.


-IRS Business

-Kirby Vacuum


-Marriage/ Wills Okay, I know I need a fireproof box for the wills/ marriage license/ birth certificates. Save your e-mail. Momma's working on it... ;)

-Old work Yeah. From, like, college. Mostly short stories and poems.

-Paint Samples Cuz when your toddler marks with lip gloss all over the wall and you've trashed the remains of the paint and can't for the life of you remember the name of the color you painted your living room... this folder comes in super handy!!!

-Personal Obituaries and a few college things and newspaper clippings.



-School Handbook, medication forms, etc.

-Seizure stuff This is for information sheets we have gotten from the neurologist that I give out to caregivers.

-Stories Yeah, more written work. I guess I could consolidate, huh?

-Wedding/ Honeymoon A few mementos...

-Warranties/ Manuals

Below is the third drawer. This contains:

-School pictures

-Anna's school work

-Jamie's extra work from school (I had big plans for summer with this folder!)


-Christmas crafts

-Sewing machine

-Sewing patterns

-Craft patterns


-Inspiration sheets

-Craft paper in folders arranged by color

-Foam/ acetate

-Pattern paper (scraps)

Below is Chuck's contribution to the filing cabinet. That's tax stuff. I don't even touch it. Which is why it's kind of just thrown in there. At least we know where the tax stuff is when we need it.

So that's it! Check back Thursday where we will organize our magazines and newspapers. See you then!

Friday, April 15, 2011

It's A Curse, I Tell You!

Some people are born with keen intelligence, mad hostessing skills, or killer cheekbones. I, my friends, got cursed with excellent taste. ((sigh)) Sad, but true. Apparently so did my husband. ((double sigh))

We are about to have our back deck roofed and ceiling fans added. We told the builder that we'd save him the hassle (cuz we're picky, um, I'm mean helpful like that) and pick out the fans ourselves. Any excuse to get me into my favorite of ALL stores (AKA: Lowe's)... So off we go.

The beauty pictured above is the unanimous choice. At $150. Times 2. For ceiling fans, people. Please understand that the pic doesn't do it justice. It really is awesome. So now, the ceiling fans outside will be 100 times more aesthetically pleasing than the ones inside my house. So you know what that means... more ceiling fans in my future. Aye caramba!

See what happens when you're cursed with good taste? Sensibility and reason go right out the window! Hand in hand with a few Benjamins, I might add! Before and after pictures to follow....

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Music Therapy...Wednesday Edition "I Am New"

If I had to pick one song that I felt best describes me, this one would be it. I love EVERY SINGLE WORD of it. It reminds me of a billboard I saw the other day in front of a church: "Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future!" Thanks be to God!

Think you've flubbed up beyond repair? If I could tell you one thing right now, it's that today is a new day. Forget about the person you once was, even if it was only yesterday. As long as there is still breath in us, we have another chance to get things right. God isn't finished with us yet, and he is working day by day (moment by moment, sometimes) making us into the image of what he wants us to be.

Whatever has happened to you or whatever you have done does NOT make you the person that you are. God is love. And peace. And forgiveness. Do yourself a favor and forgive yourself. God already has. "...he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us." Psalm 103: 10-12

"I Am New" by Jason Gray

Now I won't deny the worst you could say about me,
But I'm not defined by mistakes that I've made because God says of me
I am not who I was
I'm being remade, I am new!
I'm chosen and holy And I'm dearly loved. I am new, I am new!

Who I thought I was and who I thought I had to be
I had to give them both up, cuz neither were willing to ever believe
I am not who I was
I'm being remade, I am new!
I'm chosen and holy And I'm dearly loved. I am new, I am new!

Too long have I lived in the shadows of shame
Believing that there was no way I could change
But the One who is making everything new
Doesn't see me the way that I do
He doesn't see me the way that I do

Hidden in Christ
Made in the image of the Giver of life
This is our new name
This is who we are now

Saturday, April 9, 2011

How To Organize Your Receipts

Jennifer Ford Berry's book, "Organize Now" is the first organizational book that I have ever read that deals with organizing your receipts (and trust me, I've read a ton of 'em!). It's like she wrote this book with me in mind, friends! I knew I couldn't be the only hoarder or receipts (being self-employed for many years created this monster in me, BTW). I can barely open my wallet and pay for a coffee without little white slips of paper spilling all over the place. I blame those pesky debit cards. And my lack of organization in this area... which is why I'm following along with Bonnie over at House of Grace as we work through this wonderful organization book together. Go grab your receipts, girlfriends. I'll wait...

You might be thinking that you could just skip over this chapter of the book. Receipts? How important is it to organize receipts? Have you ever had insufficient funds because of something you "forgot" to record in your check register? Have you ever had to return something without the receipt (because you couldn't find it) and had to take less cash back than what was originally paid? Have you missed out on rebates (that's like FREE money, homies) because a receipt got lost in the shuffle or because (gulp) the time limit had expired? Yeah. Me too. Receipts are muy importante. Read on to see what Berry says about this weeks goals:

*Gather all loose receipts and sort them into piles:

-Check card/ATM receipts to be recorded in your checkbook ledger

-Credit card receipts

-Receipts already recorded/ cash receipts

-Tax deductible receipts

-Work related/ reimbursable and rebate receipts

-Gift receipts

-Receipts for major purchases (appliances, furniture, electronics)

*Record the check/ATM card receipts in your checkbook ledger.

*Place your tax-deductible receipts in your tax file for the current year. Take your work-related receipts to work and file an expense report.

*Put rebate receipts in your day planner and place them on your "to-do" list. Most reimbursements have a time limit, so time is of the essence.

*If the gift receipt is for a gift you are giving, put it with the gift. If it is for a gift you received and want to return, put the receipt with the item and put the return on your "to-do" list. Again, time is of the essence here. Most stores have a time limit on returns. If you are keeping the gift, toss the receipt.

*This next goal is dependent on how detailed your record keeping needs to be. If you are creating a budget or tracking your expenses, sort receipts by category, then record then on your computer or in a notebook. Examples could be:

-Food/ groceries





After recording the amounts, toss the receipts. If you aren't tracking your expenses, toss all of these receipts.

*Set up a small accordion file to organize the rest. Label each slot by category or by month. Categories could be:

-Major purchases

-Credit card purchases

-Tax-deductible purchases

-May return (these may be products that you've purchased, but aren't sure if they are going to meet your needs or expectations)

I LOVE her tip on keeping a zippered pouch inside your purse to hold all of your receipts (instead of in your wallet). Like, why didn't I already think about this?!? I'm getting one ASAP. I'm also taking her advice and cleaning out my purse and wallet each week (Fridays sounds good. That way my purse will be all tidy for some weekend shopping! LOL!). Mine currently looks like a garbage receptacle. Just keeping it real...

I don't have much to add this week from my own experience, as organizing receipts will be a new experience for me. Like I said before, most of the time they are either spilling out from my wallet or piled on top of my bathroom counter top after emptying my pockets. Last week I did incorporate a file in my bill organizer for receipts. You can read more about that here. Other than that, I'm going to heed what Berry suggests. Come back next week when we are going to organize our files. I recently upgraded from a 2 drawer cabinet to a 4 drawer cabinet... what can I say? I'm into the filing thing! LOL! See you then!

Friday, April 8, 2011

From Flab To Fab Friday... A Little Less Conversation and a Little More Action

Yeah, I get it. I feel ya. I'm picking up what your putting down. You're tired. You didn't sleep well last night. You have a headache. You've got a gazillion things to do around the house. You just plain don't WANNA. Well, boo-flippin-hoo. That's right. I said it. I am SO going there.

I can think of one million and one reasons NOT to work out. News flash: I am not an "I just Lu-uv to exercise!" person. Momma don't move like she used to. It's hard to get going, and even harder to recuperate. But I like food and apparently food likes me. And my metabolism has slowed to a snails pace. When your fat pants start to cord you off like link sausage, it's time to do something. And it's not all about what you look like...

Three months ago I felt horrible. I had zero energy. It took an act of Congress and a case of Diet Coke to get me going most days. And truth be told, I was unhappy. Unhappy with my looks and beating myself up because of my lack of will power. I was feeling sorry for myself and the circumstances of living with a handicapped child and I drowned my sorrow in food. "It's one of the few joys I have," I'd argue. Wow. That's putting food before a lot of things. Too many things.

Then I had a revelation. There are LOTS of things that I have no control over: cancer, seizures, the economy... but I do have control of what I put in my mouth and how much I move my body. Looking at working out and eating right from this perspective is very empowering. And after pushing through a workout (or exchanging the bag of chips I was about to eat for an apple) my confidence soars and I tell that little voice in my head telling me I can't to shut up. There's a new sheriff in town, little devil on my shoulder! Momma's kicking butt and taking names!!! LOL!

My step-dad always used to tell me, "Can't never could and won't never will." Getting over the "I just don't feel like it" hurdle is as simple as changing your vocabulary from can't to CAN and deciding to "act like a grown-up" (as I call it) when it comes to disciplining yourself to exercise. What is THAT, you ask?!? "Acting like a grown up" to me simply means looking at the tasks on your plate and DOING them, whether you want to or not. Like paying the bills, going to the dentist, or scrubbing the toilet for the 16th time this year. Nobody really wants to do those things, right? But as responsible adults, we know they need to be done, so we do them.

Since starting the "From Couch To 5K" program weeks ago, I have more energy than I thought I could have at a ripe old age of almost 39 years. But if I'm honest, there are days that I'd rather just do something else. ANYTHING else. But I push through. And exercising first thing in the morning makes a huge difference. That way it's over and done and I don't have to try to fit it in my schedule later, or beat myself up when it doesn't get done at all. When I wake up, I get dressed and put my running shoes on before I take the kids to school.

Even then, though, my lazy subconscious tries to sabotage the best laid plans. But ya know what? When that happens, I just decide that I'm not going to entertain those thoughts and I decide to do it anyway. "Just do it!" I tell myself. It's right about then that I laugh at myself as I think of the Nike "swoosh" and how I really ought to talk to a professional about the conversations I have with myself. But at least the workout gets done, right? It's a means to an end, people. A means to an end. ;)

So there's your kick in the pants for today, peeps. The "tough love" you need to spur your athletic endeavors. What are you waiting for? Make it happen, Captain! Or if nothing else, listen to the video and shake what your momma gave you. It's 3 minutes and 52 seconds of righteous groovin'. And if you're ready for more, then listen to the lyrics: "Come on baby, I'm tired of talkin'. Grab your coat and let's start walkin'. Come on, come on!" The King has spoken. ;)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

One More Lesson We Can Learn From "The Greatest Generation"

Allow me a few minutes to rant, if you will. First, let me remind you that I am a stay-at-home mom. Yoga pants and t-shirts are my uniform, most days. And yes, there are days that I go to Wal-Mart in my post-gym workout clothes and no make-up. But if I'm going to have to "see" people and have other people "see" me, I'm going to try my best to look presentable.

Monday afternoon we had an appointment at Children's Hospital. Settling into my seat in the waiting room, I got to partake in an activity that I'm quite fond of: people watching. I realize that I'm getting older and more "old-fashioned" in my opinions, but I could not believe how some of the parents had dressed themselves to come and see the people who operate on their children's brains. (Disclaimer: You don't have to have a lot of money to dress "presentable." However, I'm afraid that what someone might consider "presentable" and "appropriate" is up for debate. And this is where my ranting begins. Go ahead and have a seat. This might take a while...)

We live in a society that has reached it's MAX in all areas of living casually. This is a good thing, to a degree. I've always boasted that our house is a house you can feel comfortable in and live in. No fussiness around these parts. Come in, and put your feet up! If my kids haven't destroyed it, you can't either! Having "casual" decor and clothes for working in your house saves a lot of mental frustration for yourself, especially if you have young kids (and even if you don't!). But it is my humble opinion that we have lost a little bit of our pride in ourselves as the majority of us have taken living so casually to the extremes.

You know who I'm talking about... like the lady who wears her slippers to the grocery store. C'mon. I know they are comfortable. So are tennis shoes. House shoes, as the name implies, should be relegated to the house, ladies.

While at Children's, I saw a woman who took it one step farther. She looked as if she were wearing her pajamas! Not the matching set, mind you, but her holy knit pants and stained, mis-matched t-shirt. Her her hair was disheveled and looked unclean, to boot. She literally looked as if she had just rolled out of bed.

Then there was the rather rotund lady who was wearing a camisole-type tank top with no bra and skinny jeans. Ladies, if your "girls" are large enough to protrude from your chest, a bra is definitely in order. And if your shirt cannot cover your waistband, let's try a longer one, mmmkay?

Though the women had them outnumbered by a long shot, men made the "offenders" list that day, too. In tank tops. That were supposed to be undershirts. If I'm lying, I'm dying, friends.

I also saw a grandmother in cut-off jean shorts... a GRANDMOTHER!... and more than one person that I wanted to take a bar of ivory soap and a stiff brush to. These were just the people who were wearing underclothes as outer garments and the dirty ones. I could write a whole other post about the absence of "modest" clothing. And these were the PARENTS. Oy vey.

Let me give you a mental break and take you to the local DMV a few months ago. There in line before me was a little elderly couple getting their car tags. The man was in slacks and a button-up shirt (shirt-tail tucked in, belt on) and the lady had on pants and a nice top. Her hair was fixed and her make-up was on (I noticed because I liked the shade of her lipstick). I guess I payed so much attention because of the way I was dressed: jeans, baseball hat, no make-up. Though I was a far cry from the perps at Children's Hospital the other day, I felt slovenly. I wasn't proud of the way I was presenting myself to the public.

And then I'm reminded of my grandfather... the man got up and dressed every day, even as he was dieing with cancer. He continued to get himself dressed until just a few short weeks before he passed. He, of all people, could have laid around in his jammies. I mean, he had cancer, after all. No one would have blamed him. But he didn't. My mom said sometimes it would be in the afternoon when he got dressed, but he did get dressed. It was important to him.

Take a look for yourself the next time you are out and about. Most of the time, the older generation is the ones who are the best dressed. They might look dated, sure, but they are a sharp, put-together bunch of folks. They are the ones taking pride in themselves and their appearance, something we could learn from them, if you ask me. Pride in your appearance is different from vanity. It's about self-respect and putting your best foot forward... for the people you meet and for yourself. "Why does it matter what I look like?" you ask. Because people will treat you accordingly. Sad, but true. And when you look good, you feel good. Think about the last time you were dressed up. Didn't you stand a little taller? Walk with more confidence?

I'm not talking about wearing your pearls when you are scrubbing toilets... unless that what you want to do. ;) Stacey and Clinton from TLC's "What Not to Wear" always claim that it takes just as much effort to put on a nice sweater and pants as it does to put on your sweats. And if the sweater is cashmere... it'll feel better than those old sweats! Save the sweats and undergarments (listen up Children's Hospital parents!) for the house. Or get crazy and buy yourself some aprons to save your nicer clothes if you get a wild hair to get "dressed" at home!

Above all, "cleanliness is next to Godliness," or at least that"s what I've always been told. Should grown-ups have to be reminded of basic hygiene? You'd be surprised. And as for the clothes, if it's dirty and stained, just throw it out. Or only wear it to do yard work.

Some people have noticed that I am taking the initiative to get "dressed" more often these days and have commented accordingly. It really is a confidence booster. Thanks to all who have noticed! . My apologies for the last decade or so where life as a wife and mother had me putting myself last on the list and my appearance showed it. I'm taking my cues, now, from "the greatest generation." Isn't it funny that the older we get, how much smarter our elders become?!?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Fried Apple Pies

Look at that face! That's my little homemaker in training! Truth be told, she likes the kitchen WAY more than I do. She never wants to miss an opportunity to help me or her dad (mostly her dad...he's the cook in the family!) make something yummy. So when her teacher requested that parents bring in an apple snack to share with the class, I immediately thought about my father-in-laws delicious fried pies (and JR immediately thought she'd help!) It was actually a lot of fun and fairly simple to do. Here's what we did:
Get yourself a can of biscuits from the refrigerated section of the grocery store. Yep, that's right... canned biscuits. What could be simpler than that?! Put a little flour on your counter or cutting board so that your biscuit won't stick.
After both sides of the biscuit has been "floured," take your rolling pin and flatten it out. On a side note, could she BE any cuter?!
Here's a close up. My rolling pin is from Pampered Chef and it ROCKS THE HOUSE!! I like it much better than a traditional one.

Now for the insides: I have done this two different ways . The pic above is of some apples that I peeled and cut up (about 4 I think), sprinkled liberally with brown sugar (mine was dark brown, but it doesn't matter), and splashed with a little orange juice (no, I didn't measure anything which is TOTALLY unlike me...what can I say, I was experimenting.) I then covered the dish and let it bake on 350 degrees until the apples were soft (about 20-30 minutes). After that I used my handy-dandy food chopper (also from Pampered Chef) and turned the apples into mush. A regular food processor would also work or you could just mash them with a fork. The second time I made fired pies, I used homemade apple butter that my father-in-law had made for the filling. MUCH less labor intensive. :) Any type of pie filling in a can would also be yummy, too.
I used a measuring spoon (1TBS) and put the apple filling in the center of the biscuit.

Have a little cup of water handy and dip your fingers in the water and tap them along half of your biscuit. This will help the sides stick together when you fold it over.
Carefully fold the biscuit over, pressing the sides together.
To help the sides stick really well, press around the edges with a fork.
Put some vegetable oil in a frying pan and set the heat on medium. When hot, drop the pie in!
Flip the pie when it starts to get golden brown. That's it! Repeat with the rest of the biscuits in the roll. Easy Peasy. Sorry that there are no "after" photos. I guess we were too busy munchin' to take pics! Make some for yourself with the filling of your choice and let me know how you like 'em!

Friday, April 1, 2011

How To Organize Your Bill Paying System

Welcome to week 7 in Jennifer Ford Berry's fantabulous book, "Organize Now!" Forgive me for being a little late with this post... life happens, ya know?!? But this week's topic is super important (though probably not the most popular!) as it deals with how to organize your bill paying system. Let's roll up our pants, put on our boots, and jump right in, shall we?! First let's go over the goals that Berry has laid out for us this week, and then I'll share with you how I have finally implemented a system for our house that has worked like a charm:

[]Decide on a comfortable place to pay your bills. If you are lucky enough to have a "home office," that's great! If you don't, the kitchen table or the counter top will suffice. If you find it more peaceful (and quiet!) in your bedroom, that works too.

[]Set up this area with all the things necessary for bill paying: a calculator, pens, envelopes, stamps, return address labels, etc.

[]Shred any old payment books from old loans that you've already paid off.

[]Decide on an organized system that works for you (handwritten checks, online bill pay, or a particular computer software program... they all work!) and put it into practice.

[]Berry suggests asking your bank about online banking and also suggests Quicken for bill paying if you feel comfortable letting the "pen and paper" go. As I mentioned last week (and Berry confirms), online banking is fast and easy, and can also save you money in the long run on stamps and envelopes. Plus, it's a "greener" way to pay your bills by saving some trees and a bonus: PAPER CLUTTER is banished!!! Berry also suggests asking your bank to keep your cancelled checks for the same reason.

[]Schedule time each week to pay your bills and check on your accounts.

[]After a bill is paid, write or stamp "PAID" across the top and file it away in your filing cabinet (or basket or folder if you don't have a cabinet) until the end of the month. At the end of the month, punch holes in them and file them away in a 3 ring binder. Use dividers to mark each category (mortgage, car payment, electricity, etc.) for easy reference.

Not long ago, I ran up on this blog post that has literally saved the day with my bill paying. I knew I had to copy it. I mean, LOOK at it. Pardon me while I swoon with organizational envy...

Seriously, go check out the deets. I copied it almost exactly. Why reinvent the wheel, right?!? I also saw this morning where Bonnie from House of Grace has a similar one too! Great minds think alike, eh? ;) I'm just thrilled to now be in the company of such organizational excellence! Here is my version:

And here is another picture without the calendar on the front nestled away in the corner of my kitchen... it's new home!:

I picked the file box up at Staples and it was on sale! Woot-woot! I liked it because it matched my other organizer that I bought from Wal-Mart a while back.The calendar in my first picture is also from Wal-Mart and was a steal at around three bucks. Momma likes a bargain!

Here's a peek at the insides:

Notice that the folders for bills is numero uno. As mail comes in, it gets sorted accordingly. Each member of the family also gets a folder so when those papers from school come flooding in, they have a space, too. The categories for the folders are: Bills, Incoming Mail, Receipts, Chuck, Lindsey, Anna, Jamie, Coupons, and To File. Eventually, I would like to have ALL yellow folders so that it looks all "coordinated" with my kitchen (cuz I'm a freak like that!), but I just had to use what I had on hand.

My main problem with bill paying was this: the mail would come in and get put on the counter. The paper pile would grow and grow and eventually, a lonely little bill would get lost in the shuffle and not get paid on time. UGGHH! Complete frustration! Has that happened to you? Well, this little systems takes care of that. Once a week (on Mondays, that's my designated "bill paying" day) I take this little basket to my desk and pay the bills in the "Bills" folder. Done. Easy peasy.

As for the ever-growing paper pile, it gets designated to one of these two trash bins:

One is for papers that need to be shredded (the shredder is in the office, these bins are in the kitchen right behind the counter where the mail organizer is) and the other is just for general paper to be recycled. I forgot to take the "Hefty" labels off from when I bought them. I DID, however label them with my handy-dandy label maker so other people (should they choose to handle the mail) know exactly what goes where. I'm the bill payer of the fam, so this task is usually left to me, but a girl can dream, right? :D

Okay, so back to the actual bill paying! Like I said last week, I've been paying my bills online for a while now and it has really worked well. I actually figured up one time how much money I was saving in stamps over the course of a year and I was amazed. I can't remember now as it's been so long, but it was substantial.

After I pay a bill, I mark on the bill how much was paid (by either circling the minimum payment or writing the amount on top if I've paid more) and writing the date I paid it. I then file it away in my filing cabinet. After about 6 months, I shred this info. Usually, I haven't needed this info after this amount of time.

Right now there is only one bill that gets sent to my e- mail (I was trying the "paperless statement" to see if I liked it... the jury is still out. I'm still the kind of girl that likes to have my hands on the bill right in front of me.) and one bill that is taken out of my checking account automatically. As our bills decrease in number, I see me switching to more automatic bill paying. It's just one less thing to think about, ya know? But for now, I think I'll keep doing what I'm doing, at least for a while.

I hoped this post has helped someone out there who might be struggling to get a handle on their bill paying system. It can be overwhelming, but just keep trying. Any system is better than no system at all, and there is lots of inspiration from Blog-land to encourage and inspire you. Check back next week as we organize our receipts... SO important for tax season that is well under way! And don't forget to check out today's post by Bonnie for more bill paying ideas! Bye for now!