Tuesday, September 29

Beach Towel Tote Tutorial

I love gift shopping. Whether it's a birthday or Christmas, I love the thrill of looking for that perfect gift to put a smile on someone's face. But when the budget is tight, that thrill can start to feel a little more like stress. All too often I find the perfect thing, only to check the price tag and find it's out of our budget. So I'm always looking for cheaper ways to get great gifts. Sometimes that means shopping sales or using coupons, and sometimes it means turning to DIY! When my sister's birthday rolled around this summer, I started browsing her pinterest boards to find the perfect birthday gift. After following several links that ended up being (surprise!) out of our tiny budget, I finally came across this beach towel tote. Now that is something I can DIY in our budget!

It rolls up for easy travel with several pockets on the outside for sunscreen, water bottles, or sunglasses.

The handy straps sling over your shoulder for a hands-free walk to the beach or pool.

You can make the pockets any size you like to accommodate books and magazines.

And when you get to the beach? Just unroll your tote and chillax on a comfy towel with a built-in pillow! That book will come in pretty handy right about now.

Here's what you need to make your own beach tote (or one for a friend!):
  • two matching towels (I went with oversize bath towels because I thought my sister would like the color better than the beach towels I was finding)
  • 1/2 yard fabric for pockets (I used a duck cloth)
  • 1/2 yard fabric for straps (I think this was from the canvas/denim section, it was left over from another project)
  • stuffing for the pillow
  • 12" strip of velcro

Wednesday, September 16

The Family Kitchen + a Giveaway!

We've posted before about the Our American Kitchen series from GE Appliances and what makes kitchens across the country unique, and yet similar at the same time. For each of us, individually, in our own homes, our kitchens play a huge role in our daily life. The kitchen is the heart of the home, and so much of life plays out there in its most honest form. So today we're taking a little different look at the role the kitchen plays in our families.
This is the kitchen we built for our family over the course of three years.

So what does our kitchen do for our family? It keeps us fed, of course, but it does so much more. It is the hub of our home where we cook, eat, work on projects, do messy artwork, and most importantly - where we do all these things together. We spend so much time there and have literally watched our children grow up in our kitchen.
We've eaten breakfast in front of this window (yes, on the countertop) almost every day for the last four years. I have so many pictures just like this I've taken over the years. They love to sit up there to help make breakfast, then they gobble it up while we talk about what we'll do today, what we did yesterday, or whatever else pops into their fluffy little heads.

Our kitchen is open to our living room, which is the only living space in our home apart from the bedrooms. So I'm not kidding when I say we spend a lot of time there. Day in and day out. Working, playing, and just living.

I think some of the biggest impacts from our kitchen have been on our boys. They learn and grow with us on a daily basis in ways that couldn't happen anywhere else. They learn the art of conversation, they grow more connected to us and each other, and they learn basic life skills like how to cook and do the dishes.

Both our boys are at the age where they LOVE to help. Every time there is a meal to prepare or dishes to wash, someone small will be there wanting to measure, taste, and play in the bubbles. They have so much fun, but they are also watching and learning. Learning what makes a healthy meal, how to measure and mix, and how we all work together as part of our family.

And that's what I want for my kids. I want them to know how to prepare their own food and know what is healthy. I want them to learn to build relationships, take turns, and work together. I want them to know every day that they are loved and an important part of our family, and we are so glad they are here with us. And we can accomplish all of those things in our kitchen.

GE Appliances has been a part of American homes since 1905. For a hundred and ten years they have been changing the ways people live, play, cook, celebrate, and shape family life in their homes. GE's Our American Kitchen series highlights the role of kitchens in homes all across the country and, more importantly, the real, honest families who live in them. And while each family is unique, you may begin to see the common threads that connect us all.

Ready to enter the giveaway? We have a question for you:

What does the American Kitchen mean to you? Tell me in the comments in three sentences or less and you’ll be entered to win a GE Cafe™ Series Refrigerator worth $3,100! Entries from participating blogs will be pooled and one winner will be chosen at random. Good luck! 
Entry Instructions:
No duplicate comments.
You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:
  1. Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on the blog post promoting this Promotion.  Your comment will be your entry.  In your comment, tell us what your American Kitchen means to you in 3 Sentences or less.
  2. For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.
This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older (or nineteen (19) years of age or older in Alabama and Nebraska). Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. The notification email will come directly from BlogHer via the sweeps@blogher email address. You will have 2 business days to respond; otherwise a new winner will be selected.
The Official Rules are available here.
This sweepstakes runs from 9/16/15 – 10/25/15.
Be sure to visit the GE Appliances brand page on BlogHer.com where you can read other bloggers’ posts!

Sunday, September 6

Two Kids, One Dresser {less really is more}

Our two boys have always shared a dresser. It started because we just had one dresser, but now it's become a more strategic move. Our house is about 1200 square feet, but we want to make it feel as big as possible. Especially in the winter when we tend to be more cooped up, we want to have plenty of room for the boys to run and play. One of the best ways we've done this is to be careful with how we use furniture. Because less furniture = more space. We don't keep pieces that aren't useful (we recently ditched our little-used coffee table for more open floor space in the living room) and try to make sure the pieces we do have are really functional for what we need.

So let's take a peek in their dresser. We have it organized with little brother's clothes in the bottom two drawers (so he can reach them), big brother's are in the next two (he's tall enough to see in both of his drawers), and the top drawer has all of their socks and other miscellaneous items like leg warmers, belts, and tiny bow ties. Let's do a quick dresser tour, starting at the bottom - in the very bottom drawer is an organizer bin with his little underwear and all of his shirts. Right now it's mostly short sleeves and tank tops, but there are a few long sleeves tucked in the back for chilly days. The next drawer has jammies on the left side and all of his shorts (plus a couple pairs of long pants).

Big brother's drawer are similar - shirts and underwear on bottom, jammies and pants on top.