March 31, 2011

Sense and Sensibility - Review

I'm not done, not even close....hopefully by tonight I'll be at least halfway through it!!  Since it's March 31st, I'd like to at least have my reviews done of the book!

Isn't my copy of the complete works of Jane so pretty?  I love it!

Sense & Sensibility (for those of you who dont know, are there any of you?!?!  lol) is about a family of three girls and their recently widowed mother.  They are basically turned out of their big beautiful estate by the fathers son (mothers step son) who does not wish to honor his father's dying wishes to make the women's lives comfortable.  The 3 girls, 19, 16, and 13 respectively - with their mother, move to a cute cottage on a big estate of a family member.  The story is about their lives here and their adventures and heartaches in love.  I love this story.  It's beautiful.  It's the story of finding "the one" but back in the 1800's when the language was so full and beautiful, and the world was more proper in manners of love and courtship.  The sister's personalities are so different, each are lovable in their own ways.  Elinor is reserved and uncommonly patient and kind, Marianne is wild and sweet, and Margaret is curious and cute.  Any girl will love this story.  The language and writing takes some getting used to, but once you read a few chapters you won't notice it, you will learn a lot of new words reading this book too!  I give it a 4:
I should finish this book over the weekend and start book 1 of my April 10.  I've already got 6 of the 10 books, I'm just waiting for Amazon to deliver the other 4!  I post my list either tomorrow or Sat, with a pic to follow when the books are delivered!!

I can't believe March is over, just like that! 31 days have passed so fast, where has the time gone?  Hopefully my Happiness Project will help me appreciate time and life more and I'll actually KNOW where April went - I'll be able today, "Yes I spend April trying to be more healthy!" 

I'm off to read more!!  Check out my House Tour tab, I've updated a little;)

March 30, 2011

Almost April Already?!?!

How's that for alliteration;)

I'm plowing right through.  Yes, yes, tomorrow is the last day of March and I still have Sense & Sensibility to finish, not to mention the last few chapters of book 9, Crazy Love. 

I will get better at pacing myself.  This month was rough because I had just started working, and for almost 2 weeks I was really sick, most of that time I didn't want to pick up a book!  So ashamed!!  There will always be a reason NOT to read, but I will have to learn to push through those reasons.  Just like last month, I didnt finish Total Money Makeover by Feb 28th, well...there were only 28 days, right!?!?  LOL - always an excuse.

Like I said in Feb, if I'm not done the 10th book by the end of the month, I can't beat myself up about it.  I just need to try harder next month!  I'm not stressed about it, otherwise it wouldn't be fun anymore - it has to be fun:)  I did finish TMM a few days into March, just like I will finish S&S, maybe into this weekend.  I noticed that I read really slow this month.  I'm not sure what that's about.  Except for Hunger Games, I chewed that book up whole in a day!!  Good thing Book 2 & 3 of Hunger Games are on the list for April, that will help me through the April 10 faster;)

So here are my reviews:
I give this book a 4:

It's really awesome and if you feel a little stale as a Christian, or need a kick in the butt from God - this is the book for you!!!  One part that stuck with me is that over the course of time on earth, over 125 billion people have walked it.  In about 50 years, give or take a decade or so, no one will really remember who I am.  Everyone I know will probably be dead, no one will care what job I've had, what car I drive, what schools I attended, what clothes I wear, etc.  No one will care.  This can be terrifying, or reassuring, or a little of both.  The point is, we need to make our time here on Earth count for God and God only...the Kingdom is what matters, not me.  It makes me feel small and unimportant, but I am, aren't I?  I mean, in the grand movie of the world, I'm nothing.  I'm ok with that!  I just want to always be sure I am doing what I can for God, not for myself, for Him. 
It's a good book.  It can be harsh and a healthy slap in the face, but I needed it!!!  I definitely recommend it!

Book 9 was So Simple Window Style:

I give it 2:
I think there are probably better window treatment books out there.  I didn't like how I needed all this "extra" stuff to make a simple curtain for our windows downstairs.  Turns out I didn't really need that stuff, I made them without!  See?
 My fabric for the curtains - this is for the window in our basement, which is themed Baltimore and we have a LOT of Ravens stuff down there!
 Mid-project, in my new craft room on my own design of a sewing desk:)

I cant get this pic to go right side up, lol!  These are the curtains all done.  Two panels to go on the bars, but I bought the wrong size bar so I cant hang them yet!  Oh well, the curtains are done!  Once they go on the bar they will fold up a bit, I'll post a pic when they are hung! 

Anyways, I could've done this without the book honestly.  So I'm moving on from curtain sewing books, I don't need the fancy schmancy stuff in there, I can either do them easy like this, or the no sew curtains with curtain clips.  Easy Peasy, no how-to book needed!

Tonight I finish the last little bit of Crazy Love, and start S&S!

Happiness Project Reveal!

Why do I need a happiness project?!?  Who doesn't need one, is the question!!  I'm all about enjoying life and remembering the happy times.  Life is just a moment, right?  Why not spend it trying to enjoy every moment, being positive and happy?!?  Of course the bad times will come, money will be tight, cars will break down, people will get hurt and die...but if we do the work to be HAPPY, the bad times may be just a tidbit easier to get through when they come along...

It takes a while to start up a Happiness Project!!  I got the idea of Gretchen Rubin's book The Happiness Project where she spent a year learning how to be happy, appreciate life and love, etc.  She even blogs  about it!!  I loved the idea from the start.  I thought, "I need to do this!!!!".

Like I said in my earlier post on this book, it's not that I am not a happy person, I usually am very happy!!  But, I'm also anxious and grumpy and stressed out and stubborn and many many other things.  Sometimes, these things hurt my outlook on life, it makes me negative instead of seeing the positive.  Actually, sometimes I just ignore the positive and just want to be negative.  Not a good way to live!  I want to be a genuinely happy person, this means knowing what makes ME happy, ridding myself of needless regrets and guilts, and learning how to thoroughly ENJOY my life.  I hate how sometimes weeks will go by, I'll look back and think, "Where did that time go?  What have I been doing?"  I don't like walking through life with my eyes closed, I want to cherish and remember everyday, especially the GOOD in every  day!  There are many aspects in life that have an effect on our happiness.  I'm hoping to tackle most of the ones that effect me!

So, I am joining the masses on The Happiness Project in making my own "Resolution Chart".  Gretchen made one of these for her project, mine is done a little differently but if you read her book, you may see a lot of similarities.  Each month as a theme around which I am making my "resolutions" or goals.  These themes are specific to me, things that I know will help on my way to happiness!  In all of these, loving God is key, because honestly without Jesus, for me, there is no happiness!  I have a quote to go along with each month, something that will help me to remember those goals!  Here is what I have so far:

My 2011 Happiness Project
March: Be Organized: "Everything has a place" - March is almost over, but this month has been all about organizing!
April: Be Healthy: "Everything in moderation" - if I "give up" something, it's all I will want.  If I tell myself to exercise a hour every day, I won't!  Everything in moderation!
May: Enjoy Family: "Make memories"  My brother is getting married May 15th, perfect month to celebrate family and make wonderful memories!
June: Write a book: "Do a little everyday!" - by doing something every day, you get a lot done
July: Have fun: "It's fun to have fun but you have to know how!" - Dr Seuss, Cat in the Hat
August: Be a friend: "If you got a sandwich cut that thing in half.  Share it with a friend and have a laugh!" Jack Johnson meaning: spend more time with friends and have fun:)
September: Work hard: "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart" - whatever I'll be doing then, I want to excel in it!  This is also motivation to PUBLISH the book I wrote in June
October: Enjoy home: "The most important work we do is within the four walls of our home" - enjoy home with family, enjoy home by cleaning and getting things done
November: Be Thankful: "Gratitude is the best attitude"
December: Relax and enjoy life: "Be anxious for nothing"

I'm still working on finalizing the resolutions and quotes for some months.  Each Month will have 8 goals to achieve, I have a chart (thanks to Gretchin Rubin herself!!) and each day I will put a check or an X if I did or did not achieve it. Some goals won't be accomplished everyday, and some will.  As long as I try to get each goal accomplished by the end of each month.

I'll be posting in the beginning of each month to list my goals for each theme!  But that's my Happiness Project for now!  Of course my reading challenge fits in here too, because reading makes me extremely happy!!  I love books:)

A quote I love from Eat, Pray, Love by E. Gilbert:
Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it."

I'm linking up with a bowl full of lemons for Toni's "One project at a time" link party!!!

March 28, 2011

Awesome book!!! Hunger Games!!

I started this book on Saturday night and finished it around 1am last night (Sunday) or, well I guess I should say this am (Monday).

I had to stop for sleep on Sat night, for church on Sun am, and for dinner with my parents yesterday afternoon (but believe me, I wanted to break all sorts of ethical rules in church AND at dinner and read through it all, lol!) but once I got home I cracked it open again finally and could not put it down until I was done.  I tried.  Around 11:45pm I told myself I had to stop reading, turned out the light and tried to sleep, but I couldn't because all I wanted to think about was how this book was going to end?!?!?  I figured since I was agonizing over it and not sleeping anyway, that I may as well finish it!  So, around 1am I was done. 

This book is SO good.  It's a 5 for sure!!!

The heroine is a teen names Katniss, who lives in a post apocalyptic world.  To remind the people in the 12 districts of the blasted apart US just who is in control, The Capitol (people in control) runs the "Hunger Games" every year.  24 teenagers (2 from each of the 12 districts) are put into a huge arena and fight to the death, just for the amusement of the Capitol really.  Every teen from 12 to 18 is obligated to enter for their name to be drawn, every year the number of entries grows with age.  Katniss' sister is newly 12, only has one entry in the drawing, and still her name is called for the Games at the yearly ceremony called the "Reaping".  Katniss volunteers to take her sister's place, Katniss is sure she has a better chance since she hunts and provides for their family, and is older, and can't imagine her meek, young little sister in an arena with 23 other murder hungry teens.

The story is so awesome.  It's an easy read, honestly if you have a whole day mostly uninterrupted, you can finish it!  I highly recommend this, for teens and for those adults like me, that just love love love "kidlit".  Well, it's more Young Adult or YAlit really.  Its such a different type of story too - teens forcing to kill each other to survive?  It doesn't sound good but believe me, it is!  Katniss is not crazy about the idea of murdering others, but what choice does she have? 

You'll love it, I promise!  Read it and let me know what you think!  Or, if you've read it, post a comment!!  I'd love to know everyone's thoughts.  Books 2 AND 3 are on the list for April, I have to have them....NOW!!!

March 27, 2011

Purge Week!!!

It's Purge Week over at a bowl full of lemons and you KNOW I'm going to be a part of that!!!  I love purging!!  It's actually part of my Happiness project (more on this tomorrow) for this month:)

So far I've cleaned out my closet and our kitchen pantry.  Here is my closet all "done":

This is the after picture, I should've taken a before.  Just imagine all those jeans and sweatshirts thrown in a haphazard pile up on the top shelf (they're folded now, I promise - I just have a lot), the skirts and work pants overflowing that hanging organizer, boots flowing out of the bottom of the closet, and a lot of the clothes falling of the hangars!!!  It was a closet nightmare!  I really want to re-work my system in here, but due to our Dave Ramsey Total Money Makeover we don't really have the money for a new closet system so I have to make this do.  I could still stand to throw away some clothes.  I keep going back every few days and pull something else out!  I'll re post a pic later this week after I comb through it again!

Here is our pantry before and after:

 We had NO system here.  Just buy stuff and throw it in there!!!  But now....
We have organization!!!  I bought those red baskets up on the top from the Dollar Store to organization all my baking stuff (we bake a lot around here!) and moved the cereal/pop tarts boxes to a shelf that Ash can actually reach (not sure this is a good or a bad thing, lol?!?!) and rearranged the stuff on the bottom.  It works a lot better for us.  I also know now what I need to buy more of, because "everything has a place" in here and if we are running low I can easily see that.  I love that motto!  I would love a hanging organizer for the inside of the door, and I could hang our aprons on the wall there on the left.  All in good time though!

So this week we will be purging through the following:
  • Dave's closet
  • Ashley's closet
  • The game closet in the basement
  • My bathroom stuff (I have a TON of hair/body/makeup stuff)
  • Office
  • Craft room
  • Hall closets (both of them)
It's going to be awesome.  As Toni says on her blog; Clutter = Stress.  Gretchen says it in her Happiness book   This is SO true for me.  If things are messy and cluttered in my house I really go crazy, it's funny!  So here is to creating more sanity for the Bland house (Dave & Ashley will appreciate this, probably not the work to get to sanity, but the sanity will benefit them for sure) lol.

Eye opening!

I finished Unbroken today.

I really didnt think I'd like this book.  I loved it.  I learned a lot from it, I've thought a lot about it! Where do I even start?

1. The first thing is this:  when I think of WWII - I think of the Germans (Nazi Germany, not the civilians) and how awful they were.  That is still true but now I know that the Japanese were relentless and barbaric, I thought I knew the extent of this before, I did not.  I'm appalled at this human behavior - its NOT human.  I'm not judging all Japanese on this realization, but I am severely judging their military and their leaders.  I hope to God the people who run Japan today dont look back and say, "our predecessors...they had it right!  They did the best thing in the war..."  I hope they are ashamed that one, no I'm sorry, THOUSANDS of their kind could be so so evil and inhumane.  I know that there are bad people in the world, bad things happen, but for an entire military to be so cruel - it makes me sad and angry and sick all at once!

2.  My pop pop was in the Air Force and now I am desperate to know his story.  Did he lose so many friends in training?  I know that he had to bail out...I wish he was hear to tell me that story in person.  I wonder if there is any record of it.  I wonder if my dad and uncle know enough to tell me.  I have to ask.   I know that it was in training, over Kansas, which apparently this happened all the time.  The book says that so many of the deaths during WWII were on friendly soil, just training in planes (I can't remember the number, but I remember being really shocked!).

3.  Being in the military sucks.  I've decided.  No one in my family is ever ever allowed to be in the military!

Those are just a few things that go through my head! 

This book is the story of Louie Zamperini.  He grew up as a runner, an Olympic trainer in fact, and he was really good.  He was training for the next Olympics when the war broke out and he found himself in the Air Force.  Part of the story is his training, and then it goes on to detail how he and his crew bail out over the Pacific Ocean, only 3 of them survive the crash, and only two of them survive the 40 some days floating on a raft.  If he thought that was bad, he was wrong.  After getting picked up by the Japanese, he spent years being shoved around in different POW camps.  Though, these POW camps were not following the UN directions of that title - the POWs were starved and beat and enslaved without pay.  It was so brutal and awful.  So many died of needless reasons, malnutrition, minor diseases, starvation, dysentery, etc.  The military officials in charge are my worst nightmare of a human.  I can't even stand it!!  No wonder all sorts of men came home with major psychological issues!!!

If anything, this book is good for the history.  We hear a lot of stories of the German/Nazi concentration camps, the war and Normandy and Pearl Harbor and the bombing of Japan, etc.  To read about the details of how involved Japan was is something I don't remember hearing about in school. 

I definitely recommend reading this. 

I give it a 3 - it does start out a little slow but it definitely picks up fast.  It's a life-changer  for sure, you will remember the details of this book, however awful they are, it's the reality of how terrible this war was.  Life was so very different during this time in history, I can't wrap by head around it. 

I'm starting Hunger Games (book 7) tonight!!!  I'm really excited about this one. 

Tomorrow I'm posting about my Happiness Project, it's going to be awesome:)

March 24, 2011

Writers block

I have no idea what to write about tonight!!!

I'm still working on Unbroken, I have A LOT to say about this book.  It's really good.  I didn't think I'd like it but I am learning a lot.  I am enthralled with what the men in the Air Force had to endure during WWII.  But, I'll write more on that later when I finish.

I'm not working on a whole lot right now?  I've been busy working and reading and being a wife (cooking, cleaning, etc).

I am thinking about my Happiness Project and have started a few things with that, but I haven't finalized it yet so I can't really post about that.

I'm thinking more and more everyday about writing a book.  I really want to do it.  I'd love to be a writer!!  I just have to figure out what to write about.  I enjoy reading books so much, I have so many ideas for books but I have to settle on one idea first and run with it.  I don't know, it's such a big commitment, writing a whole book!  Especially right now when I have a FT job that takes a lot out of me!  But, this long term sub school counselor job ends in May.  Hopefully I'll get a permanent position in the fall, but that means my summer is wide open right now.  I may take a month, like June, and write a whole book - like Gretchen did in The Happiness Project.  She took a month (November is apparently write-a-novel month - check out the site ) and wrote a whole book.  There is a book out there to help us to do this, its called
So I may invest in this book for April and read it.  I like the low-stress, high-velocity thing.  I also like the title, because I don't have a plot and it's telling me that's not a problem.  LOL.

I also want to write a series of kids books for counseling purposes.  As an elementary school counselor, I use books ALL the time to teach points - but I find sometimes that there are a lack of books for certain situations and certain age groups.  So I'm thinking about writing these books too. 

Lots to think about.  Will I be an author one day?  Who knows!?  I'm not sure I can write well.  It's all well and good here on the blog where I don't really know who is reading it and if it is even enjoyable, no real editing going on here either.  LOL. 

So we will see.  I'll get into some more interesting stuff this week.  I have a lot of books to read still and only 7 days now to do it!  Off to read.....

March 23, 2011

My rating system!!

I finally developed a fancy schmancy rating system for my book reviews!!!  Well, it's not too fancy.  Have a looksie:
This way, when I read a book and review it here on my blog I can put up 1-5 books and everyone will know what it means!!!   3 books or higher means you should probably read the book, if it sounds like it'll interest you (the 4s and 5s you can almost bet your bank account you will like!)  2 books is eh...I got through it and probably won't give it a second thought - but still, if my review describes a book you would be interested in, go for it.  As for 1 - well you can probably bet I won't even finish that book.  See what I say up there - why did I waste my time?  I hate wasting time! 

I do need to say that these are only my opinions.  I did not major in reading or writing, so I am in no way an expert.  I can only review based on what I think of each book - and how you read and review the same book will be very different!  That is why, even if I hate a book, I'll try to give you a brief description of it just in case you would like it!

Ok now I have to put this handy dandy "system" up on my blog somewhere so it's always visible. 

Hope everyone is having a good day!  I've started Unbroken and so far its good - not reeeeeally my type of book but it's too early to tell!

Stayed tuned for.....
  • Happiness Project reveal
  • Guest Room reveal
  • Craft room update
  • Ideas on how to display books
  • Research on how books enhance our lives!

March 22, 2011

Around my French Table - YUM

The cookbook I am reading this month is awesome.  Oh so yum yum amazing.  That's not sophisticated enough of a description!  J'adore, beacoup!  I think that is sort of right.  My French is so rusty.  I'm sure you get the gist of it;)  I love it!
Guess what I made first?  Yep - that there right on the cover!!  Chicken with garlic and lemon.  I have pics of some of the steps and of COURSE I forgot to take a picture of the finished product!  We snapped the top off and dove right in and taking a picture of it slipped right out of my mine as I enjoyed the delicious, perfectly cooked chicken;)
 Most of my ingredients, minus the 4 pound chicken...
 Through all of the veggies and lots of garlic in a saucepan...
 Put it in my fave cast iron pot, brown the chicken and put it on top with lots of salt, pepper and other herbs and trim the pot with dough - this seals in the lovely juices and herbs...
....and here it is all down waiting to be cracked open (actually, I didn't really have to crack it?)  But alas, no picture of the opened pot!  Oh well.

I LOVE THIS BOOK!  I'm going to make maybe one or two more things out of this cookbook.  There is something so awesome and amazing about reading and cooking with the French.  Maybe it's because I love France so much.  I love PARIS so much.  The first time I went and was out in the open in that beautiful garden between the Louvre and the Champs Elysee (Jardin des tuileries) - I was head over heels.  I've been there twice and I hope to visit at least two more times in my life.  I'd love to learn to cook there one day, maybe we can even live there when we retire.  Ah, a girl can dream.  But I do love to dream big!

Until then, I'll keep learning about French cooking and making lovely meats and breads and cheese platters and just dream away!

Oh yeah, I give this book a 5.  Because it's French and it's that awesome!

March 21, 2011

About time!

I have all 10 books for March, together, at the same time!  LOL!  Funny how March is almost over.  I still have 5 books left to read!  10 days to read 5 books.  That's not so bad, now that I think about it, especially since one is a how to book;)

Anyways, here is my March 10 - all stacked nice and neat - so happy together!!!
My finalized list (I changed it a bit, but the books that got bumped are on the list for April...)
1.  Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
2. a soft place to land by Susan Rebecca White
3. crazy love by Francis Chan
4.  The Happiness Project Gretchen Rubin
5.  Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler
6.  Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert
7.  Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen
8.  Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
9.  A how to curtain making book (title and author to come - I'm too lazy to go
10.  Around my French Table by Dorie Greenspan

That last one I added and switched it's predocessor to April because I've been dying for this book!!  The library "misplaced" it when I requested it earlier this month, so I put one in it's place in case I didn't get it in time.  Then they called and said they found it, so it got it's rightful March place back.

Tonight I'm starting Unbroken, and then I still have S&S, Crazy Love, Hunger Game and the curtain making book to read.  I dont know why it's taking me so long to read this month.  Probably because I was sick, and I've been trying to catch up with everything (reading, house cleaning, laundry, crafts and to do lists) since I've been better.  Usually I read much faster!

I'm trying to create a pattern with the books I read each month.  I want to have variety in what I read, which was one of the main reasons I started this crazy challenge - to experience ALL different kinds of books.  So I've come up with a "blueprint" for each month, sort of.  I'd like to read at least one classic each month, at least one historical type of book, at least one how to book, one cookbook since I really love to cook and need to try new recipes, possibly a biography or an autobiography, and at least one spiritual type book.  I can't promise to stick to this every month - but I want to try so that I don't read the same type of book over and over again.  Others I like to throw in are books from a series, chicklit, and kidlit.  I love kidlit - books written for kids (like Golden Compass and of course HP and the Benedict Society, etc). 

Gosh there are SO many types of books.  If you think of one that I may be interested, book or TYPE of book, please let me know.  I'm always looking for new reads!  I already have 5 or 6 lined up for April and I have them already, the "pic" won't be so late next month!

I think I need to find a fun way to display my 10 books each month - a creative way.  I think stacking them and snapping a pic is boorrrrrring (snore...) anyone have any ideas?  It's not a big deal - its just something I was thinking of as I took the pic of these books all stacked up on the floor of our room.  I'll probably re-take the pic above in a fun way later this week and switch it out!

I love reading, have I said that?  Night!

Silhouette - I need it!!!

One of my fave blogs, a bowl full of lemons is giving away the amazing Silhouette Machine.  I really want to win!!!!

Good morning, by the way!  I'm up and getting ready for work.  Lots to blog about this week!  Lots to read still - yikes!  I hope everyone has a fabulous Monday:)

March 19, 2011

Budget Box Reveal!!

Earlier this week I wrote a post that we were definitely starting our whole Financial Freedom/Dave Ramsey plan.  I am so excited about this.  Not because we are going to be sticking (hopefully) to a VERY strict budget, but excited for what it'll do for our lives and our future and even our happiness (good for a Happiness Project post maybe?!)  Dave R says "Live like no one else now so you can live like no one else later" we like that saying.  Yeah we want nice cars and stuff and tons of clothes and games and movies...but do we want that more than early retirement, having a lot saved when we are older, traveling all over?  Nope.  We don't want the stuff!!  In fact, I'm purging our whole house of the "stuff" so we can lead more organized, clutter free lives, inside and out!

So far I've paid off 5 of my credit cards from my early "adult" years.  Such a bad idea to give an 18 yr old credits cards.  I have one more card to go, the balance isn't that high so that will be gone in a month or so - it's been closed and I never ever use it.  Then we have Daves one card to pay off.  We still use this one, but we have started to cut down on its use, a lot.  Then theres my school loan.  Ugh.  Whoever says education debt is good debt, probably doesnt have a school loan, lol!  Anyways, the point is - we are trying to pay off all this debt FAST, so our budget is based around doing that, and having an good Emergency Fun, life needs like gas and food, and then "stuff" comes last if at all!

So, to help with all this money-keeping-together I linked up with a bowl full of lemons this week to create a budget box.  Our box will help us keep our budget and finances organized!!  Have a look-sy:
 I got the box and folders and envelope book all at Target.  Total cost $15.  I guess thats ok in the challenge to become debt free?  We finalize our budget tomorrow, lol, there won't be much "extra stuff at Target" room in that budget! 
 Using my label maker (aka an organizers BFF) I labeled tons of folders with the following labels:
Pay Now
Paid Bills (we usually keep a few months worth of paid bills, just in case)
Medical Docs
Bank Info
Pay Stubs
Budget Forms
Tax Info
House Info
Receipts (have to keep these to make sure we are doing well, budgetwise!) name a few
 Um...yeah, we have a lot of...paper.  This is all the stuff Dave & I have both saved, now we are merging it all, throwing most of it away (uncluttering is lovely!) and if it's important it has a place in our budget box.
 Not the most glamorous package, but this baggie will, for now, hold our calculator, check book, a pen and pencil, envelopes and stamps.  This will live in the back of the box so it's a one stop shot to paying our bills.  It has everything we need!
 All labeled and stuffed up and ready to go!
 This little book will be our envelope system.  It's a Dave R system that helps with the budgeting.  Theres a little notepad with it to track our daily spending!
 All done!!  It feels good to be financially organized - paperwise.
See?  We will tuck it onto our wonderful Ikea shelf for safe keeping so when we need to work on finances, pay bills, we can just pull the Budget Box out and go to town! 

Tomorrow night Dave & I have a scheduled date to sit at the table, pull this box out and jump into finalizing our budget.  We are excited about it, in a weird way.  It'll be hard, but it'll be all worth it in the end! 

I've gotten a lot done today!  It feels good to feel BETTER and be productive.  More on that later....time to read!!

Happiness Challenge!!

Good Morning!  This is what I'm up to today....

I am reading book 4 (feverishly, I need the finish it today and start book 5 and finish it like....yesterday!).  Anyways, Book 4s title is The Happiness Project: Or why I spend a year trying to sing in the morning, clean my closets, fight right, read Aristotle and generally have more fun.  By Gretchen Rubin.  Great title, right?  The title is what captured me!  I was just randomly searching around for books back in February on Amazon and this one popped up in my "recommendations". 

I LOVE it so far.  So, in reading it, I learned that Gretchen also has a blog!  SWOON!  You know me, I love a good blog;)  So I found it, and it turns out you can join in a Happiness Project yourself, for 2011.   It doesn't matter when you start, just start!  So I did.  I'm not sure what this means for ME yet - and I have to search the site more for information but I get the gist of it just from reading her book.  I'm going to follow her on the blog, but there are also some areas that I am choosing for myself. 

All of you know my big resolution for this year.  My project, so to speak.  Read 10 books a month for a year, 120 books total.  I have absolutely LOVED doing this so far.  Honestly, I really think it's made me happier!  It's something just for ME (well, and those that I share with) but it is something I can challenge myself in, something to accomplish.  There are many other projects I'd love to work on to - if I can get them all organized in my head.  Here is just a short list of them:

1.  Start THINKING about writing a book (maybe read books on writing and proposals and publishing?)
2.  Create a more organized, healthy, well-laid out home (a constant battle) which goes along with my cleaning mantra - "everything has a place!  If it doesn't, get rid of it"
3.  Be more healthy as a person, and as a family.
4.  Create ways to legitimately spend time with my friends and family (i.e. Family dinners once a month, girls night every 1st Friday, have a big party once a year, etc)
5.  Get involved, really involved, in church again.

Ok, so that's a hefty list.  But when I think about "being happy" these are the things I think of.  The road to happy is a long one, and I'm not sure if any of us will ever be happy all the time in our lives, stuff happens, cars break down, people die, fires burn, etc.  But like Gretchen says in her book, being happy is also a little about knowing how to handle the unhappy times.

I think of myself as a generally happy person.  I think in my youth I was a little more bubbly, being an adult has calmed that down a lot - life, so to speak, may have slapped me a few times;)  But I am, I am generally a happy person.  I don't feel the need to throw it at anyone or prove it to anyone (well, maybe myself) and when I am having a happy day, people can see it without me flaunting it (if you flaunt it, is it real?  I don't know, I'm working on that one).  I have lots of unhappy days too (like having the flu, or anniversaries of deaths, or PMS, lol) but something I like to do at the end of those days is remember what I do have and how thankful I should be.  It honestly (even though its a cliche) gets me happy again, and helps me move on to the next day. 

Anyways, her book is about how...yes...she is already a happy person...but is she ENJOYING it to the fullest and not just living through day to day.  Is she actively happy?  Every month is a new "project" she is working on, with 4 or 5 resolutions to go with it.  My Project is never going to be that in depth.  But I want to take today and think about what this project means to me, how I want to organize it, and I'll get back to you about how it's going;)  Maybe if enough of you want to do this, we can do a "Happy Club" or something (local friends)?  That would be hilarious.

I'm more then halfway done this book - but I'll review now.  I've pretty much summed up what she writes about (for instance, her January title was Boost Energy, Feb was Remember Love, etc) and she is honest in how she gets through each month and hits on her resolutions.  Its so good.  Its adorable too, I love her writing style.  It takes place in NYC, so you know I love it.  She is married and has two young kids, so that may speak to a lot of you out there who are drowning in "life" everyday, so is she but she really tries to make the most of it.  I give this book a 4 out of 5.  I don't want to put it down (although work and illness try to get me to!) plus is inspirational...motivated me - and you know I love that!  I highly recommend it! 

I'm off to clean out MY closet (I'm starting already!) and the house for that matter.  I'll be thinking about what my happiness project means to about you?!

March 17, 2011

Oh what a week!

Oh man!  I'm finally starting to feel better!  Yay!!  My head feels clear, I don't feel flu-ish, my congestion is still kicking but less fiercely.  The only problem is, I'm still really tired.  I can't seem to kick that yet - but hopefully tomorrow I will feel more energy.  I haven't clocked a lot of shut eye the past two nights.  Tuesday was the sad, sad anniversary of Dave's fathers passing - we had a late night of being with family and remembering such a wonderful man.  Then, last night...this happened:
Poor Dave!!!  He has been so sick too, but he hasn't been getting better:(  He has this terrible cough and wheezing and pain in his chest, so we went to the ER last night to get him checked out.  He's ok - DR thinks its a bad virus or a minor case of pneumonia.  But alas, we were there from 6:30 to 11pm - not a great way to spend an evening after working all day (but totally worth it for him feeling better!).  This is him getting a bunch of breathing treatments (he sanctioned this blog mention, btw!) because of his crackling, wheezy lungs.  Poor baby, feel better soon!!

So that is why I haven't been sleeping too well the last few nights!  Whew!  No celebrating St. Pattys Day for the Blands, this year anyways.  However, I did make a delightful Irish dinner: Irish Shepherd's Pie with warm bread, it was SO yummy, look:

Its a beef and veggie dish with mashed potatoes baked on top.  DE-licious!  That's our St Pattys Day celebration, that and sitting on the couch for the rest of the night.  Being sick really stinks.  Especially if it's a virus, which we think I may have too since he does its just not as bad with me - viruses just make you so tired!

But enough of that ick - i - ness!! 

Since Dave & Ash both have bad allergies sometimes, and we are on a quest to be healthier as a family overall (pretend you don't see that huge 1000 calorie dinner pic up there!) I have decided to slowly change over all our household products to all-natural supplies.  There are so many options in this area.  In the one blog I adore, a bowl full of lemons , the host of this blog sells Shaklee products.  Once I read about the Basic H product I was sold. Then I read how BAD regular cleaning products are for you and your household (words like allergies and cancer were thrown at me!) I was REALLY sold.  So after lots of research I ordered the Basic H product AND the Scour Off product which is for deep cleaning like on and in the stove, etc. 

The Basic H comes in a 16oz bottle and then you can put it in the dripper bottle and so LITTLE of it goes into the spray bottles full of water.  Its SO economic, first of all.  For instance, the window cleaner - if you just uses that Basic H bottle for window cleaner (1-2 drops to a full spray bottle of water) it equals something like 5,800 bottles of Windex?!?!  Um, hello???  That's awesome!  Plus it's all natural qualities that will keep our house clean will being good for US and the environment is all good times!!

Theres another line called Norwex and a few friends of mine are hosting parties for this line.  I still want to check out their all natural products too - they seem to have a lot of good stuff but nothing equivalent to this awesome stuff. 

That is my quest to making our home more healthy and green.  I never really cared about that before, but if it helps US be more healthy I'm all for it.  Does anyone else use these products?  I can't wait to start cleaning with them this weekend, I wish I could now but I have not the energy!  I'll let you know how I like them when I do!

Oh and book 4 is The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  I love it so far! 
Reviews and love about this book hopefully tomorrow.  I have some serious catching up to do on reading - I can do it!

I hope everyone is having a great week.  Mine is looking up!  I have got lots of projects to do this weekend, including a Budget Box and jazzing up my guest bedroom and craft room.  That means lots of organizing - oooo that excites me! 

March 14, 2011

Ah marriage...

marrwage is what bwings us togefah today"  Anyone know what that quote is from?!?!? 

I finished Book 3: Committed by Elizabeth Glibert.  She is the woman who wrote Eat, Pray, Love, a huge hit with everyone in the world as she stumbled through a divorce, traveled around the world in search of balance, and wrote about every single moment of it! 

Her book, Committed, is more like a self-quest study on marriage.  Everything about marriage, why people go through with it, what it means for men and women, why the church and government love or hate it, etc.  It's very interesting.  She has many of her friends tell her different ways they see or do not see marriage. 

I don't 100% agree with her take on the "Christian" view of marriage, I think she got that part a bit wrong or out of context (by only reading certain parts of scripture and not others) she is not totally wrong but I think she missed the mark.  Anyways, she says up front she is not an expert, that this was for HER personal research on how to approach her second marriage and not to fault her for it.  So I don't!

One particular part I loved is how her and her new beau steer around having an argument.  You know those moments, when you are both tense and edgy and want to have an attitude with your loved one?  Why not just WARN each other?  As in, say, "We need to be careful right now..."  A hey, heads up, if something else comes out of either one of our mouths, it's going to be nasty!  Dave & I aren't good at that;)  We say whats on our minds, nasty or not....not all the time, but sometimes, and it's not always a good thing.  So I like this method of "warning" each other.  Say it, take a little break in another room, and come back later to life again together:)  That one just one little part of the book...but that really stuck with me.

I give it a 3 out of 5.  It's a good read, I did want to finish reading it but not with that desperate "I NEED TO KNOW" attitude.  I was just interested in learning what she learned on her self-exploration of getting married.  If you like Eat, Pray, Love - you will like this.  You will like learning what happens to Liz and Felipe after EPL.  Its written in a distinctive way, not a novel or a bio or anything like that - just informative with fun things sprinkled here and there.  Good times!

I haven't decided what is next, but I'll post tomorrow when I have figured it out!  My amazon books came in the mail this weekend and the library has another one held for me - I think I may have all 10 books in my possession at the same time this week so I can finally take a picture of them:)  You should see my new Jane Austen Collection book - its beeeeautful!

March 13, 2011

Becoming Debt Free!!

In wake of my finishing up Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover (I'm so close - I told you I was going to take my time on this one!!!) this week I am joining A bowl full of lemons weekly challenge (man, I love these challenges - they are life changing!!)  The challenge is becoming debt free!!  Now, that can't happen in a week of course, not with a mortgage and at $20K school loan (thanks Hopkins for my Master's degree!) but it can be STARTED.  So - I encourage everyone to read this book its financially life changing - we are going to be sitting down this week and coming up with our budget (Dave R calls it a zero-balance budget) and figuring out our road to financial freedom. 

FYI Dave R has a whole lot of free printables for budgeting on his website, a budget sheet and a debt snowball sheet (tackling each debt smallest to largest - it creates motivation and a I CAN DO THIS attitude) you can find those here.

Toni is giving away a Dave R package if you link up with her this week too!

See what my reading has motivated me to do?  Try to get out of debt!  Can't complain about that;) 

I'm more then halfway through Committed - it's not at all what I thought it was going to be but it's been a really good read!  More on that later...

I'm feeling a tid bit better - the fluish feeling is starting to go away which is great because I am NOT missing work again tomorrow.  When you are only working for 12 weeks it's rough to miss even one day, because there is so much to do and so many students to help, it's emotionally taxing to not be at school for a day!  I'm pumping my body full of water and OJ and vitamins today!  I may even venture out to the store today and soak up some Vitamin D while I am at it, its SO pretty out and feels springish and I think I need to experience that:)

I've missed a lot of cooking and cleaning this week, and my instinct is to get it all done today.  I can't do that.  So I am also really making using of my HM binder To Do lists today and spreading out all the things I desperately want to do TODAY over the next week.  I can't be superwoman when recovering from the flu - no matter how much I want to.  Yesterday I tried moving furniture and it almost killed me (yeah...I know, what a dumb idea!).  So learning how to slow down and spread stuff out is part of life this week, I always get myself in trouble when I do too much too fast.

Have a wonderful, sunny, BLESSED Sunday!

March 11, 2011

Sicky McSickerton...

That's what Dave & I are calling each other right now.  Its awful.  I think I have the flu - it's so awful!  I feel soooooo.....fluish inside and out.  UGH!  I haven't been able to blog because of how icky I feel!

I haven't really been able to read that much either.  Can you believe that?  Too sick to hold up a book!  I started reading Committed by Glibert, it's really good so far I can tell I will like it.  Hopefully tomorrow I can get a bit more reading done and maybe post my review.  Such slowing going this month - I can't catch a break!

Plus the "to do" list is piling up.  It's hard when BOTH of us are sick, because neither of us have the energy to tackle cooking or cleaning.  When we are hungry, we've ordered out.  Mostly though, we haven't been hungry:(  Tonight we really thought about toughing up and going out to DuClaw, until I tried to get dressed and almost passed out from the sheer exhaustion of just getting dressed!  So Dave, being a wonderful hubby and feeling much better now than I do, is going out to pick up some much needed groceries (i.e. cat food, milk, oj) and is ordering us food from DuClaw and bringing it home to lovely!  I feel the end of the illness is in sight, my head isn't as foggy and I don't feel that I have a fever anymore (last night it got up to 101.2) so yay for getting better!

Hopefully this weekend I can get around to putting together the bed that the lovely Conklins just dropped off to us - we need a bed in our 3rd bedroom for guests and Crystal and Mark happened to have a super cute extra one now since they are moving!  Its from Pottery Barn and it really sweet.  We may have to reconfigure the furniture arrangement in the bedroom to fit it nicely.  But, all the best things are free!!  I also want to tackle moving all the craft stuff in that room down to the craft room - I've been dying to jazz up and fill my beautiful craft room but I just haven't had the time or I've been too sick!  That will be one big project together, since all my stuff is currently in the 3rd bedroom.  So when I get better, that will be what I am doing next in our home:)

Here's to getting better, getting some house stuff done, and reading more - *clink* with my ginger ale cup;)

March 9, 2011

Gotta love a good book!

I finish book 2 last night - YAY! probably should be done 3 or 4 books by now and I've only read 2, but I'm not going to focus on that.  Yikes....yikes....ok, wait....don't focus on that!

a soft place to land was GOOD book.  I really enjoyed it.  Definitely a please-pick-me-up-and-keep-reading-me kind of book!  I love those types:)  I give it a 4 out of 5.  The book was about two sisters who lost their parents in a plane crash when the girls were 13 and 16.  The sisters shared a mom, but have different dads, so they are technically half-sisters.  Because of how the will was set up, the oldest has to go live with her dad and fairly evil stepmom in VA, and the youngest is sent to live with her father's loving and happy sister and her hubby out in San Francisco.  The sisters drift apart - blame, guilt, anger, etc has come in between them...and they have to figure out how to get along in this new arrangement.  The book spans over 15 years I think, 9/11 makes an appearance in this book too. 

It was really good.  Read it!

I'm battling a fairly awful cold right now, maybe borderline flu - who knows?  I always get sick, and I just started working in an elementary school again so you KNOW there are germs flying around in there!  I've been going to work and doing ok - washing my hands like an OCD person and not getting too close to anyone and disinfecting everything (because being ME....I'd re-infect myself next week!)  But I've got this achy, scratchy throat and feeling feverish, and body aches - yuck!  I was supposed to go to my parents house after school and help mom paint but I dont think I can - I should probably rest, right?  So much for being productive this week! 

My next house projects, when I shake this stupid thing, are 1. to move all my craft/scrapbooking stuff into the new lovely craft room and organize it all - this excites me, is that weird?  2.  Prime and paint an old white Ikea sofa table that is PUUURRRRFECT for our "launching" pad area.  I remembered I left this piece at my parents before moving out, and reclaimed it.  Better to repurpose something we already own instead of throwing money at something new!  I have all the stuff to jazz it up too, the brushes and the steel wool to scrub it and primer and the black/brown paint that matches our furniture.  Then all we need to do is get the little square cubes to put underneath it, and we will have our much less junked up launching pad!  Still need to figure what to put on the wall above it, and figure out where to move our "Ireland" stuff - which we still want to use and LOVE (thx Heather) because we put our keys on them (Dave would lose his constantly if we did not have this, so we must use it!)

Ok, off to rest.  Sleep - take this sickness AWAY!!!  AWAY!!!!

My next book is Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert (eat, pray, love author) starting tonight...

March 6, 2011

March 10 - Finally:)

Ok, I'm a week late but here is my final list - these are my 10 books for March:

1. Jane Austin Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler
2. a soft place to land by Susan Rebecca White
3. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
4. Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
5.  The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
6.  Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
7.  Craft book - TBA - I have a few sewing books, I just need to pick one!
8.  Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert
9.  Crazy love by Francis Chan
10.  Maybe this time by Jennifer Crusie

Usually I take a picture of them all stacked up lovely, but I don't have all of them yet - some I ordered off Amazon because the library doesnt carry them, and some the library is holding for me.  So once I have them all, I'll show them off;)

I finished this one:
It was alright.  I liked the parts where they discuss Jane's stories, I loved those parts actually.  I wasn't crazy about the personal stories though.  This book is about a group of women and one man that meet every month and discuss each of Ms. Austen's books.  Every month they meet at a different house, and the host's back story is scattered in with their conversations about the books.  I felt like it moved kinda slow, I wasn't hankering (lol) to pick up this book every minute and finish it.  I trucked on through though, since it's now March 6th and all I have to show is 1 measly book!  Anyways, I give this book a 2.  Not that great.  I love Jane Austen and I didnt think it was that great.  I may rent the movie, just to see if the story grows on me!

Now I am reading:

this one is good so far!  Hopefully can move through this one fast and get it done before/on Tuesday!

I still love reading, even though it's a little hard to fit it in right now.  It helps me relax and balance the business, I'm running fast these days - you should have seen my weekend!!!  I'll give you a run down since Friday: dinner out with Dave, movies.  Saturday: helped parents for 5 hours, shopping at Ross, took pics and loaded up said pics to blog, blogged,  finish NYC letters (takes about an hour a letter), took care of sick hubby, baked cookies, read at night.  Sunday: clipped & organized coupons, cleaned whole first floor, grocery shopped, target shopped, hung said NYC letters, hung pics in dining room, laundry, cooked dinner, blogged, and now I'm going to do more laundry and read!  So reading does help me slow down - I need that in life!!  Oy!! 

Have a great week!

NYC project reveal...

 I've been thinking about putting a "label" in each room (city/country) of our house.  Some obvious, some not so much, and none the same as the others.  Anyways, I wanted to start with NYC in the dining room since we are doing some work in there right now.  I originally wanted these to go on the shelf, but they aren't big enough - their size doesn't fit with the shelf.  I looked at the big letters in joAnn, but they looked SO big...too big, but I guess they weren't!  Anyways, I started these and thought I can jazz up a wall with them, and just leave the pic that's on the shelf there for now.  So here is what I started with...

The letters ($1.99 each at joAnn), Modge Podge ($3.99), the Downtown Loft scrapbook paper (on sale from $19.99 to $9.99) and a pack of paintbrushes - I can always use paint brushes ($7.99/pk) plus I had a 40% off coupon so I spend less than $30 on all of it.  Not bad, not bad!  So I cut out pieces of the scrapbook paper I liked the most and modge podged them haphazardly on the letters for a fun but modern look.  I love how it turned out!

 So swanky, right?  I love all the colors together, and there are pops of red and brown/black and camel colors that compliment our walls and furniture, as well as lots of other bright colors introduced into our room for some pop.  I love them!!  I love the subway numbers, and the road signs...some of my faves like Broadway and 5th and fun!  Up they go...
 I decided on this part of the wall above the windows for now - its empty space and I've always wanted to put something there!  Here's a whole room view...
 Doesn't it look nice?!?
Ok so I've got some more picture/art/plate hanging to do in here, and then this room is down for now - except for curtains down the road...

I used the command sticky picture hangars on the letters, $4.99/pk at Target.  So if we do decide to move the NYC, its easy to do with minimal damage to our wall.  I love being crafty!

March 5, 2011

Retail Therapy...

Today, after I helped mom and dad prime, sand, paint and rip up carpet at their house, I felt like I needed a little retail therapy!  So, I headed over to ROSS to see what fun things I could find.  I usually can find great things at our Ross & TJ MAxx...Ross was closer so he won;)  I was looking for "tchotchkes" for our new Ikea shelf in the dining room (funny story, I say the word tchotchke to Dave a week or two ago, and he had no idea what it meant so I told him, now its part of our daily vocab - LOL)    I like the prices at Ross the best too.  I uncovered tons of fun stuff, but I didn't want to spend too much, I wanted to keep the cost around $20.  So here are my spoils of retail war....

 I loved the look of this little white dish, it's purpose is going to be to hold our loose change that we come home and dump everywhere.  We have something like this up in our room, but you never know where our change is going to be thrown in this house.  We usually like to save it up for a long time and then use it for trips (i.e. our honeymoon, Disney, etc.)  Anyways, I thought this dish was very cool!  The cost: $2.29.
 Whats NYC without an apple?  You know, the BIG Apple?  This one is green, but I like that because it adds some accent to the room - there's enough red going on in here.  I have to clean this one up a little bit, you can see the sticky still on it! Priced nicely at $1.99.
 I loved this blue dish at first sight!  It's not going in our dining room though, it prob will find a home up in our soon to be Mediterranean bathroom.  But I had to have it.  Its so bright and cute.  Cost?  $2.99
 I liked the idea of having a teapot just for decor, a pretty white one and this one was perfect!  I love the details on it.  Cost was $5.99.
 This is my favorite find of all!!!  At first I didn't know if I liked it, but once I put the grass from Michael's ($5 and I actually need a little more..) in it and put it on the shelf - I fell in love with it!  It was the priciest thing at $6.99, which is still not too bad in my book!  Don't you love it?!?  Very modern and New York-y!
 So here is the shelf all dolled up now!  I still need to find something.  I'm dying for a yellow NYC taxi tchotchke on this thing - maybe salt & pepper shakers or a little frame or SOMETHING that has an NYC taxi on it.  All our cubby cubes from Tar-jay are on the bottom 4 shelves, so they are sorta out of sight.
The whole pic up there didnt show my cute little green apple, I had to give it a photo shoot...

The total for today with tax was $20.41 at Ross, and $2.16 at Michael's for the grass bringing my total haul to $22.57 - not bad, eh??  Gotta keep that budget under control:)

Ok, back to my book!  Gotta finish, gotta finish...

Linking up to Delightful Order to show off my shelf!