Last-Minute Valentine’s Day Gifts

I woke up today and realized I only have two days until Valentine’s Day to buy all the gifts for all my people.


But that’s why God made Amazon Prime, right? Here are some options for love day, whether you celebrate with your significant other, your gal pals, or your kids.

At least I bought the essentials: candy.

Seventeen years ago, my husband visited Belgium and returned with the best chocolates I’ve eaten (before or since). If you can’t hop a flight to Brussels tonight, ordering online is the next best thing.

I can’t decide if I like these sunnies (why does everyone suddenly call them sunnies?) for myself or for my kids. Maybe I’ll need three pairs. And best of all, when I inevitably step on my pair and break them, I’m out less than $10!

If you’re a budding photog, start small and try out this little lens for, that’s right, your phone!

My husband has been asking me for a QALO ring since he wore out his last one. These silicone rings are perfect for the outdoorsman or sporty dudes who otherwise refuse to wear a ring, probably because they claim they’ll lose a finger or something.

These Essie Nail polishes are giving me all the spring feels and would be great gifts for my girl squad. That is, if we gave one another gifts. Maybe I’ll start next year, friends.

And those gel pens! I might need a set for my daughters…so they will share with me.

If you love board games and don’t own Ticket to Ride – Europe, you’re missing out. I promise.

My husband gave me a set of these sheet masks for Christmas, and I have been loving them. I’m not a fan of the thick jar masks, so these are perfectly refreshing.

We like tea in our house. Enough said.

My daughters received a Shopkins Happy Places Pony after Christmas (exchanged for a Christmas toy that didn’t live). That poor pony never gets any rest for all the Shopkins playing with it. It needs a friend.

I like Carter’s jammies, and I particularly like them when they aren’t so holiday specific, like this set. Because I don’t care if Valentine’s Day is over or not, we’re still going to be wearing them.

My son eats nothing but these food pouches. He will be thrilled with a new installment.

Here’s a few items for the more traditional gift giver, with some champagne gummies and a nod to This Is Us thrown in.

Happy shopping!

2018 Plots and Plans and Things

Last year, I shared my goals for 2017 here on the blog.

As I mentioned then, I like to ease into change as a new year begins, and so I’m just now gathering my thoughts for 2018. I like to read what others have planned and draw inspiration there, too. But I had an extensive list last year that I’d planned to accomplish, and I was pleased to check many items off the list, including these:

  • I successfully cut my soda addiction, replacing it with a hot tea obsession instead (English Breakfast with a splash of milk). I still go for an occasional Dr. Pepper, but I don’t keep soda in the house and I don’t crave it.
  • We went above and beyond on our outdoor living area we had planned to create, thanks to the vision and hard work of my husband.
  • I’ve rid of a ton of unwanted items in my home thanks to three garage sales, online sales, eBay, and donations (and I finally got rid of most of the baby gear)!
  • We took a last-minute summer beach trip (booking the night before we were to leave!) due to an incredible deal we couldn’t pass up.
Beach time is our favorite time.

There were also many failures on the list.  I tried to take on too much and was quickly overwhelmed.  But in the fall, I took a course that I spoke of previously here, and it helped me set actionable 90-day goals. I’ve been aiming to organize and declutter my home for a year now, and with as much progress as I’ve seen, there is much to be done, so it remains at the top of my list.

So here’s what I plan to be up to in 2018.

90-Day Goals

I have three 90-day goals (and I will only ever have a max of three, because that’s all I can handle at once):

  • Clear all the clutter in the basement and have a designated office space and play area.
  • Put in the work to launch (amateur) photography business.
  • Update my blog three times per week.
Admiring his newest creation.

When I read over last year’s list, I noted several smaller items I want to keep: making Chex Mix, continuing the tradition of “Cinnamon Roll Saturday,” fully emptying the garage, establishing more date nights with the husband and game nights with the kids, gathering with friends more often, saving more money and giving more money. I would like to finally organize my photos, spend more time reading, and embark on Operation Inbox Zero (I just removed tabs in gmail and suddenly realize how much email I get; no wonder it’s always full).

But for now, my main focus will be on my three goals from now until the end of March, and then I’ll reassess to see what’s most important. It’s easy to see my progress this way and I don’t lose sight of the finish line.

What do you have planned for 2018? What will keep you on track in your pursuit?

Resources for a New Year (and Beyond)

I love reading goal lists from others this time of year while I’m just beginning to formulate my own thoughts and plans for 2018. I also adore good resources to help me be mindful of how I will spend my days, so I wanted to share with you a few things I’m excited to use.

I received this book for Christmas and am already in love.

Each week of the year has its own journaling prompt, such as listing goals and dreams during the first week of the new year and listing favorite places in week 22. There are also weeks that feature more difficult questions, such as naming the trying moments in the past that shaped the future positively.

This book also reminds me of some of the questions I went through during a course I took this fall called “Like Your Life” from one of my favorite writers, Tsh Oxenreider. I was connected to an online community of others working through the same course, and we had weekly office hours with the author herself. We answered several questions designed to help us figure out what matters to us so we could properly decide what we wanted to say yes to, and how to say no to those things that didn’t fit our purposes. And while that’s a simplistic boil-down of the course, each step was challenging and refreshing and helped me uncover lost loves, such as music, and helped me set attainable goals for myself. For me, it was a bit of self care I didn’t realize I needed until I dove in, and I highly recommend. (I’ll add an affiliate link here soon, since a new class is about to enroll!)

Anyway, here’s another book I received:

This one isn’t dated and includes pages to list the things you like about yourself as well as the things you would change, favorite fashion trends, best gifts you’ve received, favorite teachers, and much more.

Do you like journals like these? Share your favorites in the comments!

Affiliate links have been used, opinions always my own.

Black Friday

I hosted Thanksgiving for my family this year, and so I failed to update my blog as intended. I have a tried-and-true pie crust technique, holiday ideas and recipes, and more I had planned to share, but it didn’t happen and it isn’t happening today.

This is what we’re doing today. And that outlet by the baby doesn’t look covered, but it is. Full disclosure.

But I do have a few Black Friday deals to share for those of us who don’t brave the crowds but like a deal, complete with affiliate links. And I’m all about Small Business Saturday, by the way, but I also live in the middle of nowhere, so Amazon is a godsend. Without further ado, here we go.

Oh, but first: if you plan to shop online and you don’t have this app, you need it. Ebates is the easiest thing to use. Download, find the store you want, purchase as usual, receive cash back. Get $10 just for getting started! Here’s my referral link:

Perhaps I’m the last human on earth who doesn’t have an Instant Pot, but it is on my Wish List. I’ve alerted my family members to this particular deal on Amazon, especially since I’ve noticed it is sold out on several other sites.

I recently bought Fairy Lights at Big Lots, thinking I had found a good deal. This is way better.

If you have a Kitchen Aid but don’t have one of these, you should. They are amazing. Freeze the bowl, throw in a simple mix of ingredients, and boom, ice cream. No rock salt or anything like that.

Everyone is mad about the Pioneer Woman, so here’s a pretty little bowl set from her line. I’m still crushing on all things Ina Garten, so I’ll be over here dreaming of East Hampton.

We like “Little Lit” books for the kids, and Little Women is one of my faves. Don’t forget the discount code at checkout!

Magna-Tiles are the coolest.

And in case his beard isn’t just for No-Shave November, here ya go.

Vitamix Blenders are apparently the stuff dreams are made of, and they are on sale! Woohoo!

That’s all I’ve got for now. I’m on Ebates now, looking at Harry & David, Kohl’s, Toys R Us, and Macy’s. Happy shopping!

Dat Side Hustle, Tho

Ahh, the side hustle.

As much as I hate that term, I’m well acquainted with the art of the side gig, the extra work, whatever you’re doing for pay when you’re not at your 9-5. I come from a line of people working a variety of jobs at one time. My great uncle and grandfather each had full-time jobs and large families and simultaneously were market gardeners. My Dad has done the same. My grandmother grew flowers and operated as a florist and peddled her wares alongside my grandfather – and at age 87, she’s still at it, taking veggies and flowers to market and fulfilling orders for her long-time customers.

When I worked full-time, I also sold scrapbooking supplies through a company and hosted events for my customers to work on their albums. Additionally, I took sports photos for a local newspaper.

So when I see posts popping up from popular money-saving sites about the side hustle, I often click on them for inspiration. I’ve been left deflated most of the time. Suggestions range from opening a new bank account for a bonus – a one-time action – to opening my home on airbnb, something I don’t think any traveler would be interested in at the moment. Therefore, I’ll share with you some of the ways I’ve made extra money that are doable.

This is a stock photo. I don’t have man-hands.

First of all, I suggest you learn about shipping to maximize your earning potential. It isn’t difficult, just something I never really knew anything about until I bothered to learn. I bought a cheap scale on Amazon (scroll to the bottom for a link to the one I have – I’m a big fan) and found a chart that tells me how much it will cost to mail per ounce. I also familiarized myself with flat-rate boxes. It took a bit of trial and error, but now I think it is simple. Of course, you can also package your item and head to the post office for a quote, but I find it easier (and cheaper) to print my own labels at home. I usually hit the post office at the same time as a local elderly etsy seller, so I’m confident you can figure it out with a little googling.

  1. Amazon Selling. This is much easier than you might think. I recently took a magazine I had no use for, an architectural digest I perused while planning to build a home. I took a photo of the cover, listed the details on the website, and when it sold, Amazon sent me an email letting me know it was time to ship. Because it was a magazine, I shipped inexpensively via media mail and netted a decent profit for something I would have otherwise recycled.
  2. Ebay Selling. This may be something you’ve considered and wrote it off as too difficult. The app has been my favorite thing. Every Sunday, I locate something in my home I no longer want, snap a few pictures, and list on ebay. I might start with a search in the app for similar products and shipping prices. I might weigh my object on my scale to get an idea of what it will cost to ship. But the entire process takes minimal time, and by the next Sunday, if my item sells, I prepare it to ship the next day. Easy peasy.
  3. Instagram Selling. My sister and I both have resale “stores” on Instagram where we list our outgrown children’s clothes and adult clothing. We simply name our price for what we list and if someone wants it, they contact us. By networking with other shops doing the same thing, I’ve made several sales so far. I’ve also worked to build myself a good reputation by shipping quickly and by making sure the items are as described (much like on ebay). We invoice them through paypal (go to “send and request” and “create invoice” and enter your details there). When they pay, we ship, which is also handled through paypal. Because I’m cheap, I save my old packaging materials in a box and use them to ship, so I’m only out the cost of my packing tape.
  4. Garage Sales. As rudimentary as this sounds, if you have a lot of stuff to rid of, it can be worth the time it takes to commandeer one of these. My friend hosted a garage sale last month, and I joined. My sister is in the process of moving, so we hosted a garage sale together last weekend. Those sales not only netted me a bit of extra cash, but rid of items I had deemed no longer useful. Additionally, I had several large baby items, which my local charity shops won’t accept, and instead I was able to help out fellow moms looking for a good deal. If you have a sale with friends, it can be fun, too!
  5. Lionbridge or Leapforce. These companies are real and legit. I worked for Lionbridge until I was no longer able to meet the requirements thanks to a difficult pregnancy. They pay well and the work is somewhat entertaining, and all from home. All it takes is studying the requirements and testing into the program, and you work a minimum of hours per week. You can also earn bonuses for the quality of your work. Openings are listed on their respective websites. I remember reading that someone made “only” $800 per month through Lionbridge, and I thought of all the things I could buy here in rural USA with that amount. It was worth it for me.
  6. Ibotta. I downloaded ibotta onto my phone a year or two ago, but never really did anything with it. But a few months ago, I hit Target pretty hard and opened the app. I simply chose the items I was interested in buying, then took a photo of my receipt when I was finished and submitted it. I got a message back saying it was received, and there was money in my account. Even though I primarily shop at Aldi, I have earned over $100 this year with almost zero effort. You get $10 just to sign up! Here is my link:
  7. Ebates. This app (or website) is even easier than Ibotta. Let’s say I want to buy something at Old Navy. I just open Ebates and click on the Old Navy icon and shop as usual. When I’ve placed my order, I’ll receive cash back in my account. I especially like to do this with Kohl’s when they already have 30% off and free shipping. I often forget I have this link, and I don’t do a ton of online shopping anymore. However, I’ve still made $30 this year from items I would have purchased anyway. Sign up through my link:
  8. The part-time gig. I’ve worked as a sports photographer for about 12 years now in a part-time, freelance capacity. I currently work for a television station, and the position also allows me to stay home with my babies. But this spring, I asked a local restaurant if they ever hired someone for a night or two per week. I had never worked as a server before, but I was interested in netting a bit of extra cash to send my husband back to finish his grad degree, as he only lacks a class or two. Anyway, they said yes, and asked me to start the next day. I’m only filling in there every now and then at this point, but it was a rewarding (although tough!) way to make an extra buck.

Those are the top eight ways I’ve added some extra cash to my family’s budget while I’m a stay-at-home mom of three. My middle daughter heads to school this fall and I have a few more ideas in the works, so stay tuned!

What have you done to add to your income?

Here’s the scale I own and love:

Time You Enjoy Wasting Isn’t Wasted Time

I’ve been silent here for a while, because silence is what I’ve needed.

January has been noisy.

Between the opinion overload on social media as of late and my three kids aged six and under (one who woke three hours earlier than usual today and is a clingy, nap-refusing bear), I’m a bit touched out, both physically and mentally.

It was time for some comfort food, although I may have heated the coffee under all that foam a few times before I actually drank it. Also, soup and coffee totally go together.

I’ve added to the havoc through a paper elimination spree at my home. But this rid-of-all-the-things journey I’m on unearthed an old high school journal, filled with lists of things I love. A sampling from that journal, written by eighteen-year-old me:

Things I Love

  • Year-round Christmas lights
  • Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra
  • Rainy, gloomy days, and a good book
  • Flowers
  • Noodles (with or without schnitzel, thank you Julie Andrews)
  • Frozen custard
  • Harry Potter
  • Chicken salad
  • Doodling
  • Baking
  • Star-gazing
  • Van Gogh
  • Audrey Hepburn

It’s a simple list, but it reminded me that eighteen-year-old Amanda really enjoyed some living. I read and wrote often. I bought grocery store flowers and featured them in my dorm room windows. I played music more than I watched tv or obsessed over the news. I doodled in the margins of my notebooks.  On weekend trips home, I baked sweet treats and ate carbs without guilt. I went outside with my Dad to look at the stars with a constellation finder my eighth-grade science teacher helped me construct. And most of all, I enjoyed wasting time.

Life was undoubtedly simpler then. But while I have some obligations this weekend that can’t be ignored, I’m inspired to shift my focus to some of these more enjoyable, quieter pursuits – some that could be filed into the category of time wasters. Because after all, time you enjoy wasting isn’t wasted time.

I love planners and journals and doodles and lists. Bullet journaling, here I come.

Happy weekend, everyone! I’ve already plugged in the Christmas lights strung around my windows. Pardon me while I blast some Ol’ Blue Eyes and knead some homemade noodles.





Going for Goals

Like my cheesy title? Hey, thanks.

I like to start the new year with potential goals swirling in my head, but I don’t start working toward anything definite right away. I take my time to ease out of the holidays, that joyous time of eating to excess and the house full of clutter and new tchotchkes, and then I begin to slowly improve my food choices and to find a place for everything. If I try to dive in to change all at once, I quickly fail. Eight days into the new year, I am only starting to assess the prior year’s successes and failures so that I might plan for a better 2017.

That said, here’s my goals list so far.

Food and Drink

  • Make Chex Mix at least once a month. (Because it’s delicious, and it reminds me of fun times at my Granny’s house).
  • Create meal plans each week.
  • Drink hot tea and water more often than I drink soda. (So far so good on this one)!
  • Continue “Cinnamon Roll Saturdays,” but make rolls from scratch.
  • Consume less sugar and more veggies.

Home Care

  • Clear closets of outgrown clothes.
  • Rid of everything I don’t use in the kitchen cabinets.
  • Remove everything from the garage and start over. Keep only what must stay.
  • Organize basement office and play areas (file paperwork, clear desk, purge toys).
  • Rid of majority of items in basement storage (thanks to an epic garage sale to end all garage sales).
  • Pour concrete and create outside living area.

Family and Friends

  • Play Ticket to Ride at least once per month.
  • Date night with the husband once per month.
  • Set up chore chart for the kids.
  • Purposely plan to gather with friends at least once per month.  (We’ve already done this twice, introverts and homebodies that we are, and I’m reminded that I need community more than I think).
  • Plan summer beach trip, hopefully with friends.

Work and Money

  • New budget (surprise, three kids are more costly than two)!
  • Build up savings account .
  • Consider starting Etsy shop.

Just For Me

  • Start a blog and connect with others (woohoo, work in progress)!
  • Work on editing photos and creating photo books at least once per week.
  • Read at least one actual book per month.
  • Reduce my inbox’s unread messages to zero. (This will probably take all year).
  • Clear phone, back up photos.
  • Work on patience and presence with my family.

Some of these are rather specific and some quirky, but I feel like they are mostly attainable. My friend shared her list with me, which included swim lessons for the kids, as well as more deliberate one-on-one time for each kid with each parent. These are both ideas I will add to my own list.

What are your goals for 2017? Leave me comments and give me your ideas!

Me with my husband on our first date of the year