The Life of Jennifer Dawn: April 2013

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Friday, April 26, 2013

Fun with Food Friday: Budget-Friendly Bento Boxes

Have you seen those adorable lunches in those expensive little boxes--Bento Boxes? Well, the expensive comment probably won't make me the next spokesperson for any of the companies selling the Bento containers originally inspired by Bento Japanese lunches. Let's face it though, a lot of those containers can be pretty pricey. Yes, I love the convenience and cuteness of the lunches, so I'm jumping on the Bento bandwagon, but I'm doing it on a budget. Here's how...

Recipe for Bento Boxes on a Budget
*Reusable Sandwich Boxes (I found inexpensive packs of 5 at Target.)
*Cookie and Sandwich Cutters (To make things a little cuter...)
*Mini Storage Containers (In a variety of shapes and colors)
*Food for the Lunches
The lunches pictured above contain:
Monday: A banana, 100 calorie chocolate chip cookies, and an organic peanut butter and jelly sandwich
Tuesday: Orange slices, vanilla wheat sticks with a fruit and veggie dip, and 100 calorie chocolate chip cookies
Wednesday: Fresh strawberries, peach yogurt, and chocolate cookies
Thursday: Chips, mild salsa, carrots, and mozzarella cheese
Friday: Cheese flavored crackers, dried apple slices, fresh broccoli, and cheddar cheese
A large plastic bin with all of the unused containers and supplies was stashed away in the pantry in order to make future lunch packing quick and easy. I also placed plastic bins in the refrigerator to store the packed lunches. Chalkboard labels make it clear who the different lunch boxes belong to since I have to vary things up a bit between my toddler and preschooler. (Eli's food gets cut up more, and I may pack different things for each one according to their personal preferences.)
Happy lunch packing!
*Affiliate links have been added to help guide you to the perfect products.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Story Behind the 1 Month Photo Shoot

I was a few days late taking Caleb's one month photos.  He turned one month old on April 16, but neither one of us were up for pictures that day.  He had gotten very sick forcing Tim and I to take him to the ER the Saturday before his one month milestone.  They admitted him in order to keep his condition from worsening and resulting in dehydration. He was diagnosed with a GI virus, and we were able to go home a couple of days later when his condition seemed to improve.  Their instructions were to gradually work him off the clear liquids diet and back onto his formula.  I managed to finally get the pictures taken on one of the days we were home but was delayed in posting them because he started getting sick again.  We ended up back in the hospital this past weekend.  A few days at the hospital, several tests, and multiple GI consults later...we had a different diagnosis.  My sweet baby's formula was making him sick due to a severe milk protein allergy.  He was also suffering from GERD and colitis which may have been caused by the allergy and will get better with time.  We were told that he may have some tummy issues for the next few months, but the new hypoallergenic formula and medicine seem to be putting him on the mend.  With much persuasion and prayer we were able to go home, and he seems to be doing better.  We were told that many babies with a similar allergic reaction have a month long stay at the hospital, so we are so thankful that we were permitted to go home with him after only a few days.  The sweet little guy has had a lot of people praying for him, and I am also thankful that we aren't dealing with something more serious.  What a rough first month my sweet boy has had...
So kiss-ably sweet!
Lydia Grace and Eli wanted to get in on the fun too...
Happy moments (even in the midst of a stressful time)!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Preschool Planner

It's the teacher in me, but I always get excited over educational activities, books, lesson ideas, teaching, or anything else that is school-related.  Obtaining a job in August that has allowed me to stay home with my kiddos has also given me more opportunities to do preschool activities with them.  I've called it "Mommy School", but I guess you could consider it homeschooling on the preschool level.  We haven't quite fallen into a perfect schedule yet, so I've been using my maternity leave to really get things in order.  This planner is one of the steps I've taken to get more organized with "Mommy School".

The intent behind it isn't to squeeze in an activity for every skill each day, but to plan out at least one activity for each skill at some point during the week.  Some of the activities we do on a daily basis.  Others are done on a weekly basis.If you are in need of a preschool planner, I hope you find this one useful.
Happy planning!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Daisy Cabochon Accessories

Daisies are such happy flowers!  I'm excited to share with you this vibrant cabochon line featuring the sweet little flowers.  I'm sure we could all use a little more happy to our day...
Oh My Daisy! Cabochon Collection
Happy shopping!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Happy Sunday

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Spring Cleaning Day 7

I don't clean a lot on Sunday.  It's another Happy Family Day that I prefer to spend focusing on just that--family!  If you are still spring cleaning with me this week, make the bed, wash the dishes after each meal, spot clean the floor as needed, pick up the clutter at the end of the day, and wash the counters before going to bed.  Today is simply about maintaining the work you did earlier in the week and keeping the house tidy.
That's it!
Happy restful day...
with very little cleaning!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Spring Cleaning Day 6

It's Saturday!  As we often exclaim to the kids, "It's Happy Family Day!"  I don't know about you, but I have some fabulous plans for today that don't involve cleaning.  Let's get the show on the road, so we can enjoy the day!  Unfortunately sweet Caleb seems to have picked up a tummy bug, so some of our fabulous plans won't be happening.  I'll be able to enjoy lots of baby snuggles though.

Throw in one load of laundry that you can dry, fold, and put away at some point during the day.  Make the beds.  Wash the dishes and spot clean the floors as needed.   Grab the grocery list that you put together when you menu planned yesterday.  Pick up the groceries you'll need for the week at some point during your fabulous day.  I like to do a quick clean on the refrigerator before putting new groceries away.  I throw things out that need to be tossed and wipe the inside of the refrigerator clean with Clorox wipes.  Your food is going in want it to be clean.
Towards the end of the day, you can finish that load of laundry, pick up any clutter (which should be very little if you spent your day out and about), and give the kitchen counters a quick clean.
Happy cleaning, but most of all...
Have a happy day!


Friday, April 12, 2013

Spring Cleaning Day 5

Have you been spring cleaning with me this week?

Let's take a look at today's tasks...
Today may look like more than the other days, but it is actually a pretty easy day.  After all, it's Friday.  Make the beds and throw in one load of laundry to work on today just like you've done on the other mornings.  Give your indoor plants a nice watering too.  Even if you are rushing off to work this morning, these three tasks are quick and easy enough to cross off your list first thing this morning.  Take care of the dishes and spot clean the floors as you go throughout your day.  Didn't get to dust, clean the bathrooms, or deep clean your floors earlier in the week...  No problem!  Today is a catch up day to finish any task(s) you weren't able to complete.  You may notice that the list mentions paper clutter.  Today's a good day to sort through the mail, pay any bills, or work on any "paper" tasks that need your attention.  I have a desk in the kitchen with slots that I have designated for specific things--envelopes/stamps, bills to pay, and important papers...  The desk also has a built-in filing cabinet where I can keep the kids' artwork and other papers stashed away neatly.  If you don't have a desk with the capacity to serve as an organizer, a drawer or closet with a basket system works just as nicely.  The idea is to have a place for everything and everything in its place.  Do you have some bills you need to pay today?  Here are my Bill Pay printables.
Bill Pay (Simple)

Bill Pay (Color)

While you are sorting through the paper clutter, let's go ahead and do some menu planning.  I have printables for that too.
Menu Planner (Simple)

Menu Planner (Color)

Lately I have been using the menu planner on my kitchen command center.

Think about the upcoming week and choose the meals accordingly.  I always have to cook something quick on Wednesday because my daughter has dance that night.  To make menu planning easier, I have a master list of meals that have been "keepers".  I can look at that list for ideas.

After you plan out your menu, think about the groceries you'll need to buy and add them to your grocery list.  I keep an ongoing list that I can add to anytime we run out of something.  I hope these suggestions and printables help you find a system that works best for you.

For the most part, today's tasks are quick and easy.  Finish up the day with picking up clutter and wiping the kitchen counters clean.
Happy cleaning and organizing!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Spring Cleaning Day 4

I love to clean!  That's probably not something you hear too often from people, but I do!  I find it relaxing especially since I don't wear myself out trying to get it all done in one day.  Pacing it all out helps with both motivation and maintenance.  I actually cleaned professionally for one of my many high school/college jobs.  That's a little known fact about me...
I did housekeeping and food service at a retirement home for about 5 years.  There were days when I was scheduled to clean 8-10 apartments in one day.  Those days also included serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the dining room and cleaning the sheets and towels for each of those apartments.  Through that job, I learned to effectively and efficiently clean .  Completing a few cleaning tasks for my own home each day is no biggie.  Ready to see what we are cleaning today?
We slept in a bit today.  With no plans right now to go anywhere and the kids snoozing away, I was able to get some extra rest this morning.  I'm still on maternity leave from work.  It's crazy to think that to us mothers sleeping in equates to staying in bed until 8:30 a.m.  Now that we are's time to start the day.
If you are cleaning with me this week, start off by making the beds.  Kiddos who are old enough can even make their own.  It is amazing what a difference this task can make to a bedroom's appearance.  This is something my mom has impressed to me for years, and she is right.
I also like to start my day off by throwing in one load of laundry.  At some point during the day this load will be dried, folded, and put away.  Doing one load a day is very manageable and helps you stay on top of the never-ending mass of dirty clothes and linens.
Deep Clean:
Choose a deep clean task to work on today.  Nap times are a great time to get these done.  Unless mom needs a nap too.  {wink, wink}  Click here for a list of suggested deep clean tasks.  Another great deep clean task is to go through the house and wipe down door handles and light switches with a Clorox wipe.  Due to the fact that these areas are constantly touched, they can become quite dirty.  Rid them of their germiness!.
Today's weekly task is the floors.  Vacuum all carpets and dry sweep and mop any other floors.  I like to use a sweeper with a washable microfiber cloth to dry sweep and a Swiffer Wet Jet to mop our ceramic and hardwood.  My vacuuming shortcut for the carpets is that I use one of the robotic vacuums that does the work for me.  If any spills or messes occur after already cleaning the floors, you can do any necessary vacuuming and sweeping.
Take care of dirty dishes as you go throughout the day.  Wipe the counters and kitchen table clean at the end of the day.  I like to use Clorox wipes for this task.
Stay on top of the clutter throughout the day.  Most of the clutter in our home is from toys.  The kids have tubs and bins that all of their toys have been sorted into and stored.  The rule is that they can only get one bin out at a time.  This helps to cut down a great deal on the mess.  They are told to clean up one bin before moving onto another.  It's a great idea in theory, but it does take some reinforcement.  If you have kids, you'll understand this.  A final sweep of any stray items can be done at the end of the day.

I hope that as we clean together this week your house if feeling more and more clean each day and you are starting to get into a cleaning routine.
Happy cleaning!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Spring Cleaning Day 3

How did Day 1 and Day 2 of your Spring Clean go?
Ready for Day 3?
Open a few windows to let that fresh spring air in and let's get started!
Deep Clean:
Choose one deep clean task for today.  You can even finish the one from yesterday if you need more time on that task.  Click here for a list of suggested tasks.
Bathrooms (Day 2):
Yesterday we cleaned the showers, tubs, counters, sinks, and toilet surfaces by simply spraying everything in one round and wiping it clean with a damp cloth in a second round.  Today you are also going to do two rounds.  Make a round to each bathroom and spray cleaner into the toilets.  While this is doing its "magic", you can make a second round to wipe mirrors clean with a glass cleaner.  This same cleaner can be used to shine up the chrome.  Use a toilet brush to scrub the toilet bowl clean and move onto the next bathroom.  It's that easy.  Spray the toilets, wipe the mirrors and chrome, and swish the toilets with a toilet brush.  I like to use glass cleaning wipes to make things even easier.  Take a basket or bucket with you to carry all of your supplies with you to each bathroom.  You wouldn't believe the time that this can save.
One load.  Wash, dry, fold, and put away.  Done!
Take care of any dirty dishes throughout the day and clean the counters in the evening.
Use a "clutter basket" to pick up any clutter at the end of the day and put it away in its proper place.
Spot clean the floors as needed.
Make up the beds.
Happy cleaning!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Spring Cleaning Day 2

I hope Day 1 of your Spring Clean went well.  Remember that it's all about doing a little each day (maintenance) and finding a routine that works for you (getting organized).  The cleaning schedule I use may not be the perfect fit for your home and lifestyle.  The system I'm sharing with you is what I've found has worked for me on my quest to maintain a neat, tidy home with three kiddos and a full-time job.  Hopefully cleaning along with me this week will help put you on the path to finding your own cleaning routine.

Before we get started today, let's talk a little more about deep cleaning...
These are the tasks that you don't need to do as often, but completing them really takes your home to a higher level of cleanliness and organization.  This list shows some suggested deep clean tasks.

You know what your home needs right now to look its best, so chose any task you would like to do for the day.  I like to fill in my calendar at the beginning of the month with the tasks I want to accomplish.  Some tasks may take a few days or even a whole week to complete.  That's perfectly fine.  Remember this system is all about maintaining a clean home while still getting to spend most of your time on the more important things.  Use this calendar to plan your deep clean tasks ahead of time.  These tasks are ones that I typically like to do at nap time or in the evenings when the kids have gone to bed.  Due to the fact that they are a little more involved, I only work on them Monday through Thursday.

Choose your deep clean task for the day, and let's take a look at today's other cleaning tasks...

 Throw one load into the wash this morning.  Dry, fold, and put away that load as time allows. 
Starting the day off by throwing in a load of laundry and making the bed, not only gets your day off to a clean start, but it allows you to feel very productive as you mark two things off your list.  If your kiddos are old enough, they can make their own bed.  Age appropriate chores can be a great way to teach kids responsibility.
Bathrooms (Day 1):
 Confession: Cleaning the bathrooms was once my least favorite chore, until I found a quick and easy way to clean them...
I like to do the bathrooms over the course of two days (Tuesday and Wednesday).  Tuesday's bathroom task is done in two rounds.  Round one: If you are cleaning along with me, go into each bathroom today with a multipurpose bathroom cleaner.  Generously spray the counters, sinks, showers, tubs, and toilets excluding the toilet bowls.  Round two: Go back through the bathrooms and wipe down everything you sprayed with a damp cloth.  Wipe things down in this order: shower, tub, counter, sink, and toilet.  Scrubbing from the cleanest to dirtiest areas ensures germ-free and efficient cleaning.  Switch to a clean cloth for each bathroom or as the cloth you are using becomes too dirty.  That's it for today.  Just spray and wipe.
 Time saving bathroom tips:
*Instead of using a cleaner and cloth, you can clean the bathroom surfaces in one round with bathroom cleaning wipes.
*If your kids like to stay and play in the bath as long as mine do, use this time to go ahead and clean the counter, sink, and toilet while they are splashing and playing in the tub during bath time.  I have small kiddos that I wouldn't dare leave alone in the bathroom, so multitasking while I'm in there helps.
*Carry your cleaning supplies with you in a basket as you go into each bathroom so that everything is handy.
 You should have already wiped down the counters yesterday evening, so just stay on top of the dishes as you go throughout your day.  At the end of the day, give the counters and kitchen table a good wipe down, so that you can start the next morning off with a clean kitchen.
 Keep a clutter basket at one end of your home.  Towards the conclusion of the day, grab the basket and work your way through the house straightening up any clutter and putting things in the basket that are out of place and need to be carried to their correct "home".  If you've maintained the clutter throughout the day, this shouldn't take very long.  The kiddos can also pitch in with this task especially if the clutter is their toys.
Yesterday I shared with you my vacuuming shortcut.  I have one of the robotic vacuums that does the work for me.  I use it to vacuum a different area of the house each day.  It is a huge help and time saver.  Without one of these, save the vacuuming for Floor Day on Thursday and just spot clean as needed today.  Getting the vacuum out is half the battle, so it could waste a lot of time getting it out everyday.  (Unless, of course, you have a vacuum that will run on its own.)

Does this seem like a lot?
Let me simplify all of this to show you how quick and easy today's tasks really are...
Throw in one load of laundry and make your bed first thing this morning.  Clean the dishes after each meal.  Spot clean the floor as needed.  At some point, spray and wipe down the bathroom surfaces.  Since you are going to be cleaning the bathrooms today anyway, you can make your deep clean task one for the bathroom.  Do you need to organize a drawer or cabinet while you are in there?  That can be your deep clean task.  Pick up the clutter and clean the kitchen counters at the end of the day.  That load of laundry you threw in earlier can be dried and folded while you are watching The Voice tonight.  {chuckle}
It's truly quick and easy once your fall into a routine.
Happy cleaning!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Spring Cleaning Day 1

I love having an organized, tidy home.  Friends and family have often asked me how I keep my house so clean.  And at most times, it truly is as neat as a pin.  I must confess though that during each of my pregnancies, it has felt like things have fallen into disarray.  We all have those times...
This last pregnancy with Caleb was no exception--the pregnancy blahs left me unable to clean and organize as much as I would have liked, and I got out of my normal routine.  I'm a tad OCD when it comes to the house, so messiness bothers me.  Now that pregnancy is behind me and spring is looming before me, I have had the energy and motivation to get back into my normal cleaning routine and to get the house back into tip top condition.  I'd love for you to spring clean along with me this week as I continue to pick back up with my cleaning habits.
what is my secret to keeping a clean house?
It's no secret, really.
The keys are organization and maintenance.
Did you see the command center that I posted last week?

 One of the items on the board that I keep handy is my cleaning calendar.
Cleaning Calendar

Once upon a time, I was a Saturday cleaner.  You know...the system where you clean the whole house in one day.  That system left me with a clean house, but it also left me feeling exhausted and like my entire Saturday was spent.  I still found myself having to clean during the week and longed for a better way. Ineffective!  The end.

A few years ago I stumbled upon Clean Mama's blog.  (Have you met her?  She's fantastic!)  She had issued a 31 day cleaning challenge along with a routine that she used to clean and maintain her own home.  Participating in the challenge inspired me to create my own routine--one founded upon the idea that a little each day goes a long way...

My personal cleaning routine is what I am going to guide your through this week as we spring clean together.  I'll also share with you some tips and tricks that I've learned along the way.  With three kids, I have to keep my cleaning routines simple and quick.  Let's face it...we all want a clean house, but not at the cost of having to spend too much valuable time cleaning.  I have found a system that works for me.  And it may or may not be a good fit for you.  My hope is that if you clean along with me this week, you'll be able to develop a system that will work for you or at least get a jump start on brushing that winter grit and grime off your home.
Ready to get started with Monday's tasks?

Let's get off to a running start.  Gather one load of laundry and throw it into the wash.  As you find time throughout the day, dry, fold, and put away this load.
This is another great task to do first thing in the morning.  My daughter Lydia Grace has gotten old enough to even make her own bed, so I have her do this as her morning chore.  Bed making is a great way to get the kids involved and teach responsibility.
Monday is dusting day in my home.  I love to use multipurpose products that work for glass, wood, electronics, etc., so I can save time by not switching from one product to the next.  You can use a spray and rag (eco-friendly) or multipurpose cleaning wipes.  I go through the entire house dusting off furniture and cleaning glass surfaces.  If you dust weekly, it becomes a quick and easy task because you are just maintaining from week to week.  Dusting the house shouldn't take more than 30 minutes.  If you find that it takes a long time, you may need to reevaluate all of those knick knacks you have on display.  Do you truly love them or are they just dust collectors?  I like to dust the kids' rooms while they are in there playing, so that I am able to play and interact with them while tidying up their rooms.  Depending on the ages of your own children, get them involved in the cleaning process.  Since we are spring cleaning, you can even take the time to first use an extended duster to brush over ceiling fans, high corners, blinds, and baseboards before beginning the normal dusting.  (That can even serve as your deep clean task for the day since it isn't something that you'll need to do every week.)
Rule of thumb: Always work from high to low surfaces and never dry dust.  You'll find yourself just pushing dust around instead of ridding your home of it.
Dusting day gives me a chance to take care of any clutter that I encounter as I work from one side of the house to the other.  Carry a basket with you as you work.  It can hold your cleaning supplies and also be a great place to stash items that you find along the way that need to be put back in their "homes".
I vacuum one area of the house each day in addition to any spot cleaning that needs to be done.  There is a secret weapon I use to accomplish this though...
My time saving secret: I own one of the robotic vacuums that I can place into a room, push a button, and walk away from.  Yep, that's my vacuuming secret.  It's been a lifesaver!
If you don't have that as an option, save the main vacuuming for Thursday which is Floor day.  For today, simply spot clean any areas that need a quick sweep.  For me, that is always under the kitchen table after the kids have eaten, entryways where things get tracked in from outside, or spills that may occur throughout the day.  Remember that one of the keys is maintenance, so quickly spot cleaning as needed will only save a lot of time in the long run.
I take care of the dishes as I go along.  Dirty dishes get washed or placed in the dishwasher immediately, so I don't end up with an overwhelming pile in the sink.  The time you spend in the kitchen preparing meals is an excellent time to clean as you go and wash any dishes.  Even while cooking, that dirty measuring cup automatically goes to the dishwasher.  As far as the counters, wipe them down at the end of the day or after you clean up from dinner, so you can start the next day with a clean counter top.

For the first day, it may seem like a lot.  Trust me when I say that once you get into a habit, these tasks become quick, easy, and automatic.  Alright, let's get started.  I'm off to throw the load of laundry into the wash and then enjoy breakfast with my kiddos.
Happy cleaning!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Saturday, April 6, 2013

March Recap

The month of March for us really did "come in like a lion and go out like a lamb."
We had a lot going on with celebrating L.G.'s birthday on March 1 and welcoming a new baby on March 16.  Easter with my family on March 31 was a lovely conclusion to the month...
Happy times!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Kitchen Command Center

Putting one of these together has been a process. Pieces of it have been sitting on my kitchen counter for awhile now just waiting to be used. There are so many great command centers ideas floating around the web to serve as inspiration--many of which I pinned to this board on Pinterest. When I was ready to put together a command center for my own home, I sat down and made a list of all of the things that others had incorporated that I wanted to include with my own...
Slowly all of those separate components were pieced together to create this command center that is currently serving as an excellent organization tool in my home.
Top: Magnetic Dry Erase Board from Target
Bottom: Old Cork Board that I painted

Command Center Components
1. The vinyl grocery list label came from Thoughts in Vinyl.  I attached a magnet to the back of a mini clothespin and clipped up an index card to serve as the actual grocery list.  Things can easily be added to the list as I run out of them or when I am menu planning.  Writing down the things I need to buy on the index card makes it easy to grab the card and take it with me to the store.

2. The vinyl menu also came from Thoughts in Vinyl.  Its layout allows me to write down two weeks worth of meal plans on the dry erase board.  Eventually I may make meal magnets to place in the boxes, but for now writing the menu on the board works perfectly.

3. I made this daily schedule to help plan out our days.  Lydia Grace especially loves to look at it each morning to see the plan for the day.  Click on the links below to download your own.  I printed mine out on glossy photo paper and added stickers.  The stickers especially help with younger children who can't read the words on the cards yet.
 Daily Schedule 1

Daily Schedule 2 (with blanks)

4. The vinyl appointment label came from Thoughts in Vinyl.  Again, I attached a magnet to the back of a clothespin to display a card.  The cards came from photo storage boxes I had previously purchased.  I repurposed them to prominently display upcoming appointments and other important dates.

5. This adorable calendar was a free printable from The Ink Nest.  I printed out each month on an index card.  The mini clothespins with magnets allow me to hang and change out the cards from month to month.

6. My cleaning calendar helps me to maintain the cleanliness of the house by doing a little each day.
Cleaning Calendar

A. These magnetic tins from Ikea are great for storing pushpins, magnets, extra daily schedule cards (see number 3), and other supplies that I want to keep handy.

B. The writing utensil cup was created by painting a small cardboard box and using hot glue to attach magnets to the back.

C. This fantastic printable is one of Clean Mama's free printables.  It's called the This + That printable, and it is great for both work and home.

D. The cork board is a great place to display the kids' artwork.  I can also easily pin invitations, appointment cards, and other important things that I need displayed.

Happy organizing!

*Affiliate links may be present to help guide you to the perfect items to complete your own Kitchen Command Center.