Monday, April 14, 2014

On Going Back To Work

I stayed home for 8 years then this past fall I started a part-time job outside the home.

While the transition has been smooth and the job is going very well, it has still been a transition and a big change.

Most of the 8 years that I was home full-time, I also worked from home doing childcare, sewing, baking and some other odd jobs from time to time.

I am a homebody and I loved being home. I still love being home. I have never been bored at home. There is always something to do!

When I started looking for a job outside the home, we set some specific guidelines on what to look for.

1. Short commute. I didn't want to drive more than 20 minutes one way. Obviously, a shorter commute cuts down on gasoline costs and wear and tear on the car. It also saves a lot of time! My drive to work is 7-10 minutes and only uses about a gallon and a half of gas weekly. Another reason for a short commute is that while we are currently a 2-car family, in the event that we were to change back to one car, working close to home would make that situation a whole lot easier.

2. Part time. This is my frequently asked question! Why only part-time? Quick answer: I want my life back! Longer answer: I'm working because we need some extra money to supplement our income not because I have nothing to do at home. Currently, working 25 hours per week meets that need and allows me time to keep up with things at home, run errands and operate my Etsy shop. (Most days I feel like I work much harder at home than at work--LOL!) While we don't know what the future holds, our hope is that me working outside the home is more of a temporary situation than permanent.

In addition, working part-time outside the home brings in about the same income as when I was doing childcare at home for 50 hours a week. Seriously! Even though I'm not home as much, I have a lot more freedom and more concentrated time to work at home than before.

A part-time job is working really well for us right now!

3. Less responsibility. This sounds weird but hear me out. I've worked on my own for a long time. I'm an introvert and I do well by myself. However, we thought the best job would be one where I would be working with other people and assisting them rather than being in charge. My current position is a floater/substitute so I fill in and cover for other teachers as needed. I still have responsibility obviously, but I'm not doing all the planning, etc. When I leave work for the evening, I leave my job there. It's much easier for me to take time off as well.

4. W-2. Yes, on my list was a job that would provide me with a W-2!  With both of us being self-employed, tax time is a bit of a headache, not to mention that we haven't received much in the way of refunds for about 7 years. Even one W-2 will make it easier. 

5. Quality working environment. I have a degree in Early Childhood Education. I've worked in NAEYC accredited centers in the past. Once you do this, you really don't want to go back. NAEYC Accreditation means smaller child to teacher ratios, staying in ratio at all times, more experienced and educated staff, developmentally appropriate curriculum for young children and generally, just a better working environment. There are many quality centers that are not NAEYC accredited so obviously accreditation doesn't mean everything! Of the several job interviews I had, this center was the one with which I felt most comfortable and it is NAEYC too.

I'm still figuring out how to rightly balance work and home and get what is most important done. Obviously, there is simply no way I can do it all. I think I extend more grace to myself  in this area now that I am working outside the home than I did when home full-time, which is a good thing!

So, even though several years ago, I didn't see myself going back to work, I have and it's working very well for us at this time.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Five Relatively Painless Ways To Declutter

Having trouble getting started with decluttering and getting rid of stuff you know longer use? These five ways are a good place to start and depending on your attachment level, pretty painless!

  1. Trash. Look around your home. Find anything that is obviously trash and throw it away. Newspapers, receipts you no longer need, junk mail, broken items. 
  2. Magazines. I know we love our magazines but really, how many do we need to keep? A good rule of thumb is to keep 2 or 3 of the latest issue of each magazine to which you are subscribed. If you haven't had a chance to read a magazine that you've had 6 months or more, you probably won't. Most articles are available online now but you can also tear out something you want to keep, file it and toss the magazine. If way more magazines are coming in than are being read, it may be time to rethink your subscriptions and stop the flow!
  3. Plastic containers. How many of the sour cream and yogurt containers am I actually going to use? It's ok to keep a few--I keep some to send leftovers home with friends--but be realistic. Toss the extras into the recycling bin and enjoy the extra cabinet space.
  4. Partially empty personal care products. Is your shower full of partially empty bottles and your bathroom counter cluttered with all sorts of stuff that is rarely used? It's time to bite the bullet and toss, toss, toss! If it makes you feel better, commit to using some of this up before opening new bottles, but do it quickly before you lose your resolve. Have a bunch of free samples? Purge those too! Not only will your bathroom look so much nicer without all the bottles and clutter, it will be so much faster to clean. Win, win!
  5. Clothing and accessories. For some this may be more difficult but it can be easy if you simply get rid of the items you haven't worn in a long time. When the seasons are changing is a great time to tackle your closet since you are changing out your clothes anyways! Are there items hanging in your closet that you haven't worn all winter? Weed them out! No need to store something you aren't wearing! The exception is dressy or formal wear that you may only wear a few times over the course of several years. I have a nice dress that I wear to weddings and other dressy occasions. Even though I use it once a year or less, I still keep it! Just make sure what you are keeping actually fits and is a piece you really will wear.
A donation box set in the closet for easy decluttering as I switch out my wardrobe for the summer. 

What are your best decluttering tips?

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Marking Rags

Most of our rags are old towels and washcloths. I know the difference between the rags and our current towels and washcloths but not everyone in our household does!

So I borrowed a trick from my sister and wrote "RAG" in permanent marker on each one. 

We also have old bath towels  that have been given a new life as "dog towels". Not only are they useful for drying a wet dog, they also come in handy for car washing and big spills. I wrote "DOG" on these. 

Now there will be no question which are rags/ dog towels and which are the good ones we use everyday!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Weekend Adventures

We had a HUGE yard sale on Saturday. The weather was perfect and we had a steady stream of customers come by. 

I was selling most of the baby and kid's things I had. I recently did a pretty thorough decluttering of the house. And we also cleaned out our sheds in preparation for the sale. 

Needless to say, there were piles of treasures! 

God really blessed our efforts--we sold so much and were able to surpass our goal for the amount of money raised. 

This is what's left in our living room--
 It looks like a lot but it really is nothing! We had over double the amount of boxes to start with plus lots of bigger items. Before the sale, our living room was almost full! 

These leftovers will be going to the thrift store soon. I've freecycled some items and gave some things to a friend. I took the box of books that was left to the library. 

And as if our busy yard sale wasn't enough, our dog Rock added to the day of adventure by escaping out the back corner of our yard sometime during the sale. 

I had put him out in the fenced yard and after a while during a lull in the sale, I went to get him and  bring him out front with us. 

He was nowhere to be found. There was no sound of dog. It was very unusual especially since I had the leash in my hand and he usually comes running when he sees or hears it. 

We looked everywhere and then discovered a small opening in the fence at the back corner of the property that we thought he may have escaped through. Even though we're not sure how that big head fit through the opening!  

Anyways, to make a long story short, we searched the neighborhood, talked to everyone who was out and put up flyers with Rock's mug shot on them. 

Since Rock isn't a runner normally (and has hardly ever gotten loose!), we really weren't sure how fast he would move or really  how long he had been gone. We have a lot of woods in and behind our neighborhood plus our neighborhood is off a very busy road. So we hoped to find him before he got too far away. 

Thankfully, Rock was found after about 2 hours. He was only about 4 houses away in the woods between the 2 rows of houses. A neighbor called saying that he had seen the dog back there and could hear him thrashing around in the woods. 

We raced over and sure enough, there he was! A young neighbor offered to jump the fence to get to Rock, I handed him the leash and he got Rock out of the woods ( quite a feat with all the brambles and briars) and brought him home to us. 

Meanwhile, a friend of ours who had joined us to sell a few things was keeping our sale going. 

We are very grateful for answered prayer in bringing Rock back home, for a successful sale and perfect timing for having someone else here to help! 

Rock has slept a lot in the past few days. I think he was exhausted from the whole ordeal. We have picked lots of thorns from his fur! 

Oh, and that opening in the fence? It's been repaired. Hopefully no more adventures like this anytime soon!

Friday, March 07, 2014

Getting Rid of Laundry Soap Build-up

I loved using my own homemade laundry soap. It was easy to make, cheap and got our clothes nice and clean.

But after we moved to our current home where we have hard water, we began to notice a filmy residue beginning to build up on our laundry. This was particularly noticeable on our towels and washcloths and affected the absorbency. (I noticed the same type of thing a few years back when I was using a detergent with a built-in fabric softener.)

All we could figure out was possibly the homemade detergent with hard water was not a good combination. Has anyone else experienced this? Also, I've only tried the powdered homemade detergent so I don't know if the liquid kind would be different or not. 

For now, we've switched back to All Free and Clear. For most laundry items, just the detergent switch did away with the filmy residue. 

For the other things, namely towels, I've had to strip them using hot water, vinegar and baking soda using this method. It's very easy and has been effective. I have one small load of dishcloths that I have had to run through this stripping method a couple of times. They were the worst of all. 

The method: 

Put laundry in washing machine with HOT water and 1 cup white vinegar. Let run through entire cycle. 

Leave load in machine and wash with HOT water and 1/2 cup baking soda. 

When done, dry in the dryer. 

If filmy residue is not gone, repeat. 

This also works well for smelly towels. 

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Frugal Five

Five ways I've saved money recently...
Today's packed meal: salmon cakes, leftover broccoli, mayo, applesauce, fresh veggies and  banana nut muffins.

  1. Packed lunches (and a few suppers) for those times when we were not at home to eat. While we do eat out and run through the drive-thru occasionally, we save money and eat much better when we eat food from home!
  2. Mended some clothes and shortened some thrifted jeans. I use this method for hemming jeans; it's easy and keeps the original hem. I'm not short but pants are almost always too long for me.
  3. Made chicken broth after roasting a chicken. I look at this as almost free broth since I could just throw the bones away. Much healthier and less expensive than the canned broth from the store.
  4. Requested a couple of books from the library. I love the library. Not only do I save money by getting books there but it keeps me from having to store all the books I read.
  5. Gave myself a haircut. This is the second time I've cut my own hair. I got braver this time and cut some bangs. Not perfect but I think it looks ok and it is definitely frugal!
How have you saved money recently? Please share in the comments so we can all be encouraged and inspired in our frugal journeys!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Zaycon Chicken

Last week we got two 40 pound boxes of chicken breasts from Zaycon Foods.

This was our second time ordering from Zaycon and we were once again very pleased! We got one 40 pound box last fall when Zaycon came to our area and just finished using the chicken from that order last week.

Eighty pounds of chicken is a LOT. But considering we went through 40 pounds in 4 months, we got 80 pounds this time to last us until Zaycon has another chicken event in the fall.

The chicken is a really good price- $1.89 a pound and the breasts are huge! This is not certified organic chicken but from what I understand, the chickens are cage-free and are not given antibiotics. So it is a good price for what I feel is a bit better than regular grocery store chicken.

Erin from The Humbled Homemaker wrote a very informative post about Zaycon chicken that you can read here.

So do you want to know what I did with 80 pounds of chicken breasts? 

 Box #1: Trimmed and frozen in 1-2 breast packages.

Box #2: 20 pounds of the chicken were cooked in the crock pots. I then shredded the chicken and froze it in 2-4 cup portions to use later. Shredded chicken is so very versatile and will be a great base for many easy meals later.

Tip: Use your mixer to quickly shred all that chicken! I have a Bosch mixer and the batter hook worked well. I have heard that a Kitchen Aid mixer's dough hook shreds chicken really nicely too. I've used my food processor too with the dough blade but I prefer the mixer since I can do more at once.

I ended up with 21 containers of cooked shredded chicken.

The other 20 pounds of chicken from Box #2 were used for some crockpot freezer meals and one dinner that week.

I made 8 easy freezer meals. I chose 4 recipes we really liked from the last chicken extravaganza and made 2 of each.

 Zaycon delivers all over the country. You can check their website to see if there are any upcoming events in your area. They sell not only chicken but also ground beef, bacon, sausage or ham. They usually sell only 1-2 items per event. For example: Chicken was the only item offered at last week's event.

I know a 40 pound box of chicken (or two 40 pound boxes) sounds overwhelming to some of you. If you don't have the space to store that much or just simply cannot eat it all in a reasonable amount of time, consider splitting a box with a friend or two.

And as a disclaimer: The links to Zaycon Foods in this post are referral links. That means that if you go to the Zaycon website and place an order through my referral link, I will get some credit towards my next Zaycon purchase. Thank you!

Zaycon did not pay me in any way to write this post. We're just very satisfied customers and want to pass this info along to you!