Easter Follow-Up

Hallelujah! He is risen! I hope each of you had a blessed Easter and had time to celebrate the amazing joy of the resurrection of our savior among all the candy and feasting.

I wanted to take a quick moment to write a follow-up to my Clutter-Free Easter post. I’m sure you all were wondering how the Easter baskets turned out in the Brown household.  I didn’t get any good pictures as I was rushing to get them filled as we headed out the door for church and the kids were so excited when we got home and found them that they were strewn about before I could grab a photo.

But the baskets looked like this:

3 year old girl
book (Alice in Wonderland)
bottle of bubbles
pack of fun hair bands for ponytails
brightly colored tank top
chocolate bunny
handful of chocolate eggs (the Nestle Crunch kind)
bubble bath

2 year old boy
book (Peter Rabbit)
bottle of bubbles
pack of Silly Bandz
chocolate bunny
handful of chocolate eggs (the Nestle Crunch kind)
bubble bath

8 month old boy
2 packages of baby food
jar of Puffs

In addition to what I got them (which is on the sparse side compared to some people) the Easter Bunny brought gifts sent by the 2 sets of Grandparents – PJs, books, dress-up masks, candy, bibs (for the baby) and some other things I’m sure I’m forgetting.

I am happy to report that aside from some candy wrappers on the floor there was very little mess. The kids loved the baskets and the other gifts and I felt good about keeping things minimal.

One of the few pictures I managed to snap – on my phone, sorry for the blur. Showing off his new PJs and silly bandz.

Clutter-Free Easter

As someone trying to keep my home relatively organized and clutter-free I find holidays and birthdays for the kids to be challenging.  The two big offenders for me are Easter Baskets & Christmas Stockings.  So often we fill these things with stuff that our children don’t need because it’s small and cheap.

Why?  Why do we look at Easter as a time to waste spend our money on things that we (and our kids) don’t really like, that break easily, and become easy clutter in our homes?  Because marketers have told us that’s what we should buy because they fit in small easter eggs.

This year I propose we TAKE BACK THE EASTER BASKET!  The past four years as a mom I’ve tried to keep the things in the Easter basket to a clutter-minimum. I challenge you to do the same this year. 

What can you put in baskets that kids want and won’t add to the disaster in your home?  Well, the point is to avoid the “junk” – the trinkets and bobbles that make clean-up a pain and the kids get bored of after 2 days.  Embrace things that are consumable and that you would buy anyway.

– food (dried fruit, popcorn, a chocolate bunny)
– consumable toys (crayons, markers, bubbles, bubble bath)
– lasting toys (DVDs, books, video game)
– summer fun items (new bathing suit, beach towel, inflatable pool toy)
– accessories (hair clips, belts, sunglasses)
– household goods (cups and plates for little ones, reusable water bottle for big kids, new bathroom accessories like a toothbrush holder & soap dispenser, pillow cases and sheets)
– clothing (shirts, shoes, socks, tights)
– new undies (these are fun for a little, new-to-the-potty kid… not so much for your 10 year old)
– things that add to a collection (a new train or doll to add to an existing collection)
– healthy habits items (toothbrush, toothpaste, lotion)

Look at what you already had on your list of things to buy for your kids and go from that.  Even if the item itself isn’t “fun” (hello, new socks), getting it in an Easter basket is more fun than a random Tuesday.

The goal is to get stuff that’s fun for the kids without adding to the clutter in your home.  I try to avoid at all costs the Dollar Store and the Target Dollar Spot.  I know that goes against conventional wisdom but you and I both know that those cheap trinkets will break after one use (but no one will throw away for 6 weeks). 

Where can you shop?
If you have a baby… shop Babies R Us for some toddler items (cups, spoons, bibs) she’ll need soon
If you have a toddler… find a single-serve pack of his favorite snacks.
If you have a preschooler… browse the clothing racks for things to fit her latest obsession.
If you have a school-age child… remember the last thing she begged you for at the store and try to get things related to that.

The bottom line for me is that the stuff stores try to push on you for Easter is not often the kind of thing you’d buy if you were shopping for your child on a regular day.  So walk right past those to the brands you already know you trust and that will get use in your home.

With less than 2 weeks until the big day it’s probably time to get shopping!

St. Patrick’s Day Inspired Organizational Tools

Since it’s a fun day for celebrating all things Irish I thought we could review a few fun, functional and green-colored tools for organizing your home.

And just for fun…

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields and,
Until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Valentine’s Cake Pops

Those are not my cake pops.  That’s just some Valentine’s imagery from my mantle to keep you in the mood of the day.

These are my cake pops:

This is not the best an awful picture.  You try taking a picture at 6am while it’s still dark out and there are 2 preschoolers hovering around asking if they can “have one yet!”  It’s not easy I’ll tell you that.

My cake pops taste delicious!  They look, um, sad.  This is no reflection on their awesome idea originator, Bakerella.  This is purely a function of my lack of following directions.  Mistakes I made:

1. Made my cake balls too big.  I thought, bigger is better, right?  Wrong.  Bigger meant they didn’t want to stay on their sticks while being dipped.  There were several rejects that were too bad to even make it into the photo.

2. I didn’t buy candy bark.  I didn’t fully read the directions until AFTER I went to the store.  I thought the coating on the outside was frosting.  I had plenty of frosting.  It’s not, it’s candy bark.  I did have white chocolate chips.  I melted them and added a bit of red food coloring to make them pink and it actually worked pretty well.  But I didn’t have enough.

3. I didn’t get them coated entirely.  This is probably because a) my pops were too big. b) my bowl was wide instead of deep and c) I was so busy worrying about whether they were going to fall of the stick that getting them coated perfectly wasn’t really a concern.

In the end, the look a little funny, taste really good, and my kids love them.  Lessons learned.

I will definitely be making these again.

If you want to see how awesome cake pops CAN look… head over to Bakerella and see all of her awesome variations.

Welcome To Your Life

There’s an overabundance of talk today about starting fresh.  Everyone is talking about their resolutions, things they want to improve, and just generally starting anew.  The dawn of a new year tends to bring out our most basic instinct to get our proverbial house in order.  And I am no different.

But while everything in my being is telling me to get cracking on achieving every goal I’ve had for myself since I was 13, my better judgement is tempering my thoughts today.  Let me tell you that I haven’t made any resolutions.  Would I like to lose weight, make more money, be more organized, etc, etc like everyone else?  Of course!  But years of New Years have taught me that I’m not a very good resolution-keeper. 

Instead I’m going to spend some time today making a list of achievable tasks that I actually believe I can accomplish this year.  This are things on my to-do list that can be checked off – not the perennial “lose 20 lbs” – more along the lines of “upgrade bathroom light fixture.”

So what am I doing today?  Today is a family day.  But in between time with the kids and watching bowl games I am working on the following “fresh start” actions:

* Clear out my voicemail – home & mobile
* Change the filter in the water filtration system
* Download pictures off my camera & erase them from the memory card
* Review my DVR timers and weed out those I don’t watch
* Finish my Christmas Thank-You cards
* Put away the last of the Christmas decorations (there are a handful of things lingering that didn’t make it in the first round of picking up)
* Make my 2011 check list (a list of do-able actions, not unobtainable goals)

And if I get to it… clean out my email inbox & contact lists.

How will you be spending this first day of the year?  If the thought of trying to become a new person in one day is daunting (it is for me) then try not to think of it as a new start.  Think of it as your life – just one more day in your life that you are trying to make as good as it can be.

DO Holidays – Saying Thanks

The gift-giving holidays have passed and we are slowly recovering from the hang-over of all the spending, wrapping, unwrapping, & cleanup. It’s time to say thanks to all of those who gave to us out of their own time and money.

Tips for writing a great thank-you note:
* Keep it short & to the point
* Do it very soon after receiving the gift.
* Mention what it is you like best about the item… I’m sure you can come up with something for even the most “unusual” gift if you think hard enough.
* If it was a gift for the kids you can include a picture of them unwrapping or enjoying the gift.
* Get the kids involved by having them write their own notes (if they’re old enough) or drawing a picture to include in the note.

Remember that the most important part of a thank you note is just giving a true heartfelt thanks.

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