Redefining Home Management

Monthly Archives: January 2013

Coats and Kisses!

What do coats and kisses have to do with each other?  This time of year I am smothered by a million coats that I don’t know what to do with, and Valentine’s Day planning that always takes me by surprise.  Christmas is over, so I’m supposed to have handling the winter gear down, and the holiday planning over – right?  Not so much!  So, I’d like to pass on a little, shall we say inspiration!


First, the not-so-fun…  I get SO frustrated by the bulk and mess of winter apparel.   I feel like I have good systems in place once it gets inside, it is the car that drives me nuts!  You’d think that with a mini-van (and yes, I LOVE my mini-van and wouldn’t trade it in for any SUV on the market, no matter how uncool that makes me!) I should be able to handle a family of five and their coats.  But, they are inevitably on the floor – getting stepped on, muddy and wet.  You can’t leave them on your kids in their car seats, and my older son just doesn’t like his on.  So, I finally came up with a solution!!



I bought this package of shower curtain hooks from Walmart – basically fancy “S” hooks.  They were just under $9 for a package of 12.



I placed the smaller curved end over the “handle” on the back of the seat in front of each child.  The hooks fit snug enough to stay in place, but are easy to remove and adjust as needed.  I like that these hooks have a small ball on each end – I think this helps them stay on the back of the seat, and keep coats in place.


Coats hang neatly off the floor – keeping them clean, yet easily accessible.  Even my 2 year old can hang his coat up when he gets in the car!


I’ve also found that they are helpful to hang backpacks, and other bags that often get trampled by the mass of children entering and exiting my car on a regular basis!


If you don’t have a “handle” on the back of your seats like I do – the bars from your headrest will work too.  I have a hook on the passenger’s seat for my coat and any bags I have in the front seat.  It keeps my coat and bags from sliding off the seat and onto the floor.


This is one of those things that just makes my life a little easier, and makes me smile!  Even better – it is cheap and easy!


And now on to Valentine’s Day – so much more fun!


Valentine’s Day is actually my 2nd favorite holiday to Christmas.  Maybe that is why I end up wanting to do class parties, crafts and valentine’s.  But I know not everyone gets excited about that stuff!  So, if you have a class party to help plan, or just need a cheap DIY card or craft – here are some easy, cute and cheap ideas!




All of these great ideas are from, a website by Disney.  You could use them as valentine’s, or as a craft for a class party.  You can click on the photo above to be directed to their page, where you will find complete instructions for each craft.  Just click on  the words “view craft”.



These more in-depth ideas are from, Family Fun Crafts, (expanding hand print) and Parents. (sign language “love” card)


I love the “I Love You” hands as card ideas for a parent or grandparent.  The expanding hearts can say “This Much” or somethings else as you pull the hands apart and expand the width.  My kids always say “I love you to the moon and back” to their Grandmi & Grandpi…  I think it would be cute to make one hand, one rocket and have it expand and say “To the Moon & Back” in the middle!


As for the “mail box”…  I have spent several frustrating evenings trying to cover a shoe box with paper.  I love the idea of using a cereal or pasta box, wrapping it like a present, and cutting a hole – so much easier!!  I am thinking I might not cut the “opening top” until my kids get home, so valentine’s and treats don’t “disappear” before they make it home!


I have made the heart cookie & Rice Krispie treats before, and as you can probably guess – you simply make a 9×13 of your treats and cut them out with a cookie cutter.  For the Rice Krispie treats I inserted a lollipop stick into the middle for a fun and non-messy way to eat them.  I  sprinkled them with red sugar while they were warm and then slipped them in a food treat bag and tied it closed with ribbon.




If you need a game or activity sheets for a class party here are some good ideas.


DLTK has a bingo card maker here.  You can make them with many themes, and for several holidays.  Free of charge, you can create and print bingo cards with black & white or color images, with words or pictures.


Activity Village has great printable activities as well.  They have 3 levels of Soduko, a Boggle type word game, mazes… for a variety of age levels.  Click on the Soduko image for the printable “puzzles” page.



Here are a few more ideas I think are super cute….  I also have some inspiration accumulating on my Pinterest board kids for a special dinner I’m planning for my family.


Have a Ball card

A sugar-free, peanut free valentine from Parents.


Lightening McQeen / Cars themed valentine’s from Spoonful.  They give you a downloadable / printable copy of all the parts – you just print, cut and glue!


Up themed valentine from Spoonful.  Again, they give you a downloadable / printable copy of all the parts – you just print, cut and glue!


Giant Lollipop valentine from Spoonful.



Chocolate spoon lollipops from Spoonful.


    Catch of the Day

Valentine with Swedish Fish from Parents.

Because I never want to establish a crazy, unrealistic standard of what any of us can accomplish…  Let me just say that with all of these wonderful ideas my kids have a box of Lego Ninjago, Precious Moments, and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Valentine’s  that they will be distributing to their friends – that is assuming I get them written on/assembled in time.  My 2 year old might not end up with Valentine’s because I don’t have a deadline – he has no class party.

For the class party I am helping with, there is a good chance that I will order a “heart puzzle” activity from Oriental Trading.  Really, I will probably only get creative with a few cute decorations, some heart shaped food and one Valentine’s Day themed activity for my families special dinner.  I would encourage you to ooh! and ahh! at all of these super cute ideas, and then sit back and think “do I really have time for this?”  My kid’s grandparents will probably read about these cute card ideas, but not actually get one.  Those Rice Krispie Treats…  those are from a year or two ago.  My sweet husband took a photo – now I smile about that because I’m realizing he must kinda like my craziness!

Saving and Storing School Papers

As I promised in my last post, I’d like to share about how I store my children’s school papers and artwork that I want to keep for years to come! As each child’s bin in the mudroom gets full, I transfer papers to 12×12 scrapbook cases from Michael’s.  I end up transferring papers & projects 3-4 times per year – not that time consuming.  I’ll do a quick sort of papers one more time before placing them in these boxes, getting rid of any random drawings or things that I know none of us will miss in the long run.  If you no longer remember what something was by the middle of the school year –  I promise you won’t miss it in 2 years when you reminisce and look through your child’s box!


We all have different ideas about how much we can let go of, and how much we need to keep.  Jen at IHeartOrganizing  (she is awesome!) keeps a small plastic file box with the papers that she saves for her boys each year – one hanging file per year.  I love that system, but I just can’t fit everything I want to keep in that small of a box!  Now, if you are keeping a full-size Rubbermaid tote for each year of your kids papers – that is too much!  🙂  I use one, 12×12 scrapbook case per year.  I think this is a reasonable boundary for most of us, and I like these bins for a few more reasons:



-They are plastic.  This protects the papers from moisture and other icky things!

-They have two clasps that click to securely close the case.  The Recollections brand from Michael’s closes more securely than some other brands widely sold in stores.

-They are semitransparent.  They don’t visually take up a lot of space when stored, but mask what is in them.

-They are 12″x12″x3″.  The 12×12 size allows for art and items that are not on standard 8.5 x 11 paper.  The 3″ depth is a good boundary to save quiet a few papers, without letting them take over your storage space.

-The size also allows for papers to fit pretty snug, which keeps them from shifting and getting destroyed.  I don’t have to carefully store each  page – I just stack them in the box and they are good to go!

-As always, shop when Michael’s craft storage is on sale or use a coupon and you can get them for $4.49 or less.



I also bought a package of school-themed scrapbook paper ($10 with 50% coupon from Michael’s)  to use as a “cover” for the boxes.  The paper pack is enough paper for all three of my kids through middle school – so it was a pretty cheap way of making them cute!



The paper pack I used also has some papers already labeled with each grade level.  There were two sheets per grade: Pr-K to 6th.



I then made some personalized labels for each child with their name and their teacher, school, grade and year date so it’s easy to remember what bin has what papers.  You can download blank copies of these labels here:  School Labels  I simply cut them out in a 5×5 square and attached them to my scrapbook papers using double-sided tape.



These bins are stored on the top shelf of my kids closets, which I am lucky they have good closet space.  They could also be stored under their beds or in the basement.  I would probably put multiple cases in a larger plastic tote to store then in a non-temperature controlled space like the garage.


My hope with our storage boxes is that at the end of my children’s elementary years I will take out their boxes and go through them with my kids.  At that time, I think we will be able to sort the papers from their elementary years into 3 boxes and then reuse the others for middle & high school.  There is so much I can’t let go of yet, but I suspect after a few years have passed (and so much more is collected!) my kids & I will be better prepared to reminisce one last time and then let some things go.



One last note, as I shared not too long ago, I also have 2 pieces of art per child framed and displayed in our hall on the second floor of our home.  The kids get to help me pick artwork for those frames.  As I work to pull together our home office space, I hope to develop another area that my kids & I can enjoy more of their creations on display.  I have been dreaming of painting and decorating our office for about 4 years, so hopefully that will be project that I can slowly chip away at, and share with you of course!

Controlling School Paper Clutter

If you have a child that can hold a crayon and make a scribble, you know how hard it is to figure out what to do with all of those “precious masterpieces”.  Enter the school years, and it is multiplied by the random “scribble art” to pass time, important parent information, prized papers that mark the progress of your little one’s mind, and everything in between!  It really only takes the first week or two of school and it begins to feel like the paper has already taken control of your home.  I’m guessing that at this point in the year, there are some desks and kitchen counters that can’t be found under the paper piles.  So, here is a post about how I sort, contain, treasure, stash and (shhhh!) trash all that paper!


Let’s start at the beginning…


The paper trail begins when registration starts for school and all of those fall activities. We have schedules, calendars, snack lists…  I have a file for each child in my home office for school papers.  The file in my office for each kid ONLY holds papers that I may need to quickly refer to throughout the year.  My 2nd graders file has: school calendar, allergy free snack schedule, letter home about how to do “math links” homework sheets, word study sheet to explain spelling word homework, his teacher handout from curriculum night, and a progress report.  If I let too much get in this file it becomes useless.  I don’t put anything in this file that needs to be completed and returned – more on that in a minute.  Here is my file box.  You can see it holds a lot more than school papers – more on that another day too!



I also have a family binder that I place our activity schedules in.  (soccer, dance, church) This binder also has contact information for attendance, Dr.’s, emergency info….  Yes, another post on that someday too!  I like having all of these schedules in one place when I’m in a hurry and need to check something.  I also have my planner that I write schedules in when we get them and carry with me everywhere, but I have been known to forget something or write it down wrong.  I quickly know where to look when I am frantically checking to see if my son is right and he was supposed to bring snack to soccer!  Yes, I am organized.  Yes, I make mistakes that leave me frantic at times!




Now to the tough part – once school actually starts!  I feel like even writing this post just to explain how I manage the paper clutter is an exercise in organization!  This is a wall in our mudroom, just inside the door we always use.  I have a family calendar, magnetic strip, bin with paper and pen, magnetic hooks for our keys, and two mail sorters.  The four slots in the mail sorters have been designated: one for mail and one for each of our 3 children.  I recently added labels to the bins – hoping that papers can make their way to the correct spot even when I’m not home.  Optimistic I know, but we’re getting there!  Again, these bins are on the wall of our mudroom when they first enter or leave the house.  When my kids come home from school, we clean out their homework folder – EVERYTHING!  There are usually one of three things in the folder:




1.  Papers to save, tests, artwork…  Anything they brought home that doesn’t need an “Action” and they (or I) think they want to save goes in their inbox horizontally – so you can’t really see it. I do toss some papers in the trash right away, but only if it won’t cause tears – from any of us!  I also let my 4 year old put artwork from church and other places in her box.  That will all get sorted another day – there is homework, dinner, soccer… to worry about!  The only exception to this is if there is any really large pieces of artwork – I have a box in my office that holds random, large and awkward items that I want to save until I can store them properly.  I do try to get a name and date on the back before they go in that box – in case they are in there a while. 😉




2.  Papers I need to complete & return, review, save for my reference...  These papers go in my office.  I have a to do file for me (Pending – Urgent).  This is my file for items I need to take care of in the next few days.  If it has to be returned the next day I just deal with it and put it back in the homework folder.  Any papers that I need to save for my reference, go in the child’s school folder in my office I referred to earlier.  (Child – School)




3.  Homework…  Any papers that my child needs to complete and return to school stand vertically in their bin, along with their empty homework folder.  After a snack, I can send them back to their bin to get their assignment and complete it.  I like having them take it out as soon as they come home, it makes it clear to BOTH of us if there are assignments to be completed.  Once the assignment is done they return it to the homework folder, and put their folder back in their backpack.  The exception to this would be if they still need to complete something in the morning or show something to their dad, then they would leave their homework folder in the bin until morning.  I like that their homework folders stick out of their bin, very visible – this make is easy to see that it isn’t in their backpack on their way out the door in the morning.  But, it also isn’t cluttering the table, counter…


The last and probably most difficult part of school papers, is what to save for the long haul.  My next post will be all about how I display and store all that treasured work!

Jase’s Big Boy Dresser!

OK! back to the fun stuff, paint! Since I was in need of a cheap, cute and durable storage solution for my son I knew refinishing a dresser was my best option. And, now that it didn’t have to be a two-week process I began to scour Craig’s List for the perfect dresser. I can’t say I got the perfect dresser, but I’m quite happy with it!


Here is what it started out looking like. It is a solid wood, Drexel dresser in great condition after a little soap and water to wash away the dirt. I like that it is a little masculine and at only $40 it is perfect for my little guy!



Yes, the dresser has all 6 drawers! I had taken half of them out and removed the hardware before I realized I would need a before picture for my blog. I’m still learning!!!


My first step was to pick a paint color. This sideboard inspired my color choice – French Linen. It is the same photo my friend and I had found in picking French Linen for her chairs. I LOVE! this sideboard from Reloved Rubish, but knew I also needed something less detailed for a little boys room.



To research colors  you can go to the Annie Sloan website.  You will find a page that shows all available paint colors and some information about altering the color by adding Old White.  If you search for photos online you can also find a ton of inspiration pieces like the photo I found.  The AS website also has information about the clear and dark wax options that alter the appearance of the final product.  Don’t get scared by all the options, layering of colors, products to buy or the prices.  Read on and you’ll see that you can make it very simple and reasonably priced.


If you live in Des Moines, IA  you can find the paint at  TLC Vintage Collection.  There is a full list of retailers on the Annie Sloan website as well.


So, after picking up some Annie Sloan paint in French Linen, I began my project!  One evening while my dad was hard at work in our basement and I was feeling useless with my electrical skills, I got busy prepping the dresser. I know I said there is no prep, but this dresser was from a random bachelor’s home found on Craig’s List and would be the home of my precious little man’s clothes for years to come. It needed a good scrubbing before I went any further! So I…


-Removed all of the drawers.

-Removed the pulls from each drawer (the wood & metal part came off just by removing 2 screws)

-Wiped the entire dresser down with soap and water and then vinegar and water. I started with Dawn and water to cut through any grease and then used the vinegar solution to help neutralize any odors.


The day my dad left I could not contain my enthusiasm and began the painting, which was SO easy! I started painting late on a Monday afternoon after my oldest two kids got home from school. I had to have my son to speech in less than an hour so I quickly painted the first coat using cheap foam brushes (so I didn’t have to wait for brushes to wash & dry between coats). About 45 minutes later the first coat was on and we were off to speech. When I got home from taking my son (my husband picks him up) I returned home to apply one more coat of paint before dinner. Yes! in less than two hours the painting was done!


After dinner and bedtime routines I returned to my project and applied the wax. Now, I kinda went against my nature and was a rule-breaker at this point. I decided that instead of spending 30 some dollars on the Annie Sloan soft wax I would use some Minwax Paste Wax I had for my kitchen cabinets. I wasn’t sure how that part would turn out, but wasn’t really up for spending more on paint and wax than I did on the dresser.


I used the Paste wax just as I would have the Annie Sloan wax and it appears to have achieved the same look and finish. However, I will say the Annie Sloan soft wax is MUCH softer and easier to work with! I ended up applying the wax with my bare hand so the warmth of my hand would soften the wax a bit.  I then rubbed it in with a dry cloth and let it dry for a few minutes while I applied wax to the rest of the dresser and drawer faces. I then buffed the wax finish with steel wool. The steel wool takes the paint from a chalk to a smooth and shiny finish.


I also distressed a few places to add a little character and hide any flaws in my painting or damage that may occur from the little man.  I simply rubbed a little longer with the steel wool on edges and places that would show natural wear and tear.



I debated using these drawer pulls again, after painting them. Once painted they just didn’t work at all. So, off to Lowes I went to find new drawer pulls. The problem was that the old pulls used two screws about an inch apart. I needed to either use those holes (impossible!) or cover them with a new long pull. Here is what I ended up with.



Now, I’m sure that if I had more carpentry skills I would have had an easier time with the pulls, but they were by far the most difficult part of the process! After measuring a million times and destroying the first drawer (luckily I was able to hide my errors and you can’t tell!) I got all of the pulls attached! So, drum roll please!!!! here is the new dresser!




I love that the chunky style, subtle details, and new nobs give it character in a very masculine way.  This dresser with definitely grow with him!



And the before & after….



What do you think? Do you like it? Would you try the Annie Sloan paint? I have to say I would do it again because it is really so easy! I’m looking for my next project!


And as many of you who know me might guess, I had to go one step further and line the drawers – to protect those clothes my little man will be wearing! Again, I knew I didn’t want to spend a lot of money, so I looked at my usual locations (Target & TJMaxx) for some cute wrapping paper. I knew the contact paper I’d find would be too boring or too girlie. So I finally stumbled across some basic blue stripes, at the dollar store. Yeah! Love it when my favorite find is also the cheapest! I bought one roll, for yes $1, and didn’t even use half the role. Now the outside and the inside are nice and refreshed!



I’m so excited to have this dresser completed before the holidays! And at just under $100 for a 6 drawer dresser, I feel good about the minimal time and effort it took – except for those darn drawer pulls!! Joking!


On a closing organizational note, a neighbor came over to look at my dad’s work in our basement and the new dresser one afternoon. My house was quite messy (and she will attest to that!). We had a short conversation about the need to sometimes let your house go for a few days to get a project done. I don’t like my house in disarray, but I also don’t want to portray this false image that I can re-purpose an old dresser, while keeping my house in perfect order. If you have a big project you would like to do, but can’t find the time, take a couple days off from your norm. Let the house get messy, and order pizza for dinner! I know I can get my house back in order and the temporary chaos was well worth it!

My New Love! Annie Sloan Chalk Paint!


Happy New Year!  If you are like me, the end of Christmas and beginning of the new year always brings with it the desire to regain some order and a schedule.  You all would laugh if you saw the piles in various rooms of my house that are waiting to be ordered.  I hope you can laugh a little too if you have similar piles. And hopefully over the coming weeks and months and I can share a few projects that assist, inspire or encourage you!


I have spoke with many of you and you already know… but, I kinda have a new DIY obsession! Which I’m not sure is so wise with all of my new adventures these days!  But, I needed a better storage solution for my youngest son’s clothes, and desperately wanted to get his changing table out of his room – since he’s been potty trained for about 6 months!!  However I wasn’t really up for going out and buying a brand new expensive dresser.  We have yet to buy new furniture for any of our kids and I’ve been very happy with our DIY solutions.  So!  it was time to fall back on a little gem I found through a friend: Annie Sloan chalk paint!


The Back-story:

A good friend from Kenosha, WI  visited me this fall for a short “girl’s weekend”.  I put that in quotes because she came to stay with my family of five – which is really not the relaxing mommy break images of a “girl’s weekend” might conjure.   However, it is SO wonderful every time she visits, and I’m not just saying that because I know she will read this!


My friend is much like me in the crazy projects she will undertake and the means we will go to in completing these projects.  So, when we talked a few days before her arrival and she said she was bringing two chairs, and two stools to refinish while she was here (for less than 48 hours) I was a little confused, but up for the challenge.  However, in my mind I’m thinking refinishing furniture is a long and labor intensive, multi-step process.  Mind  you, we already had a lengthy list of projects to address, including many details of this upcoming blog I wanted to launch.


Little did I know about Annie Sloan chalk paint – the stuff is magic!  You don’t have to strip, sand, prep, or prime the furniture you want to paint.  Each coat of paint only needs to dry about an hour and then you seal it all with a wax that gives it an almost instantaneous durable finish!  For those of you that have ever re-finished furniture: NO! I am not kidding!



So this was my first adventure with Annie Sloan paint!  I have to admit that my friend did most of the research before she came, but we spent some time looking at colors and planning our project.   Here are the projects she brought – along with a super cute bench we found at TLC Vintage Collection when we went to buy the paint.



This bench is painted in Annie Sloan Aubusson Blue.


These chairs belonged to a neighbor and she scored them for free!  She has also re-covered the seats since these photos were taken.  The turquoise chair is Annie Sloan Provence paint, layered with Aubusson Blue and the gray chair is Annie Sloan French Linen.


Here you can see how we layered the two colors of paint and then sanded away some of the Provence color to reveal the blue beneath.  This is one of the cute little stools, and we did another in pink.


Yes we did a lot of painting, but it was seriously so easy and fast!  We started painting Saturday night (at around 9pm!)and had waxed the pieces and loaded them into her car to return home by 1pm on Sunday.  How amazing is that!

For those of you wondering, all these “seats” are adorable props for her photography business.  I wish I could say she lived nearby, because her photos are awesome! but check out her photos on her Diane Mason Photography Facebook page.  You’ll see how cute these props turned out in the album of The B Family!


Ever since that weekend, I’ve known I’d find a perfect use for Annie Sloan chalk paint in no time!  My next post, will be my little man’s dresser project.  I’ll include more details in that post about where to find this magical pain and how to use it.  I hope you’re intrigued enough to join me!