Category Archives: Smart Living Strategies

House Cleaning Game Plan

I can not be the only one.

I can not be the only person who planning on entertaining over the holiday season. And now that it is November I can’t delay any longer, I need to start preparing the house!

When it comes to parties (any time of year) or any holiday events I get a little extra neurotic. Which means a quick tidy is not going to cut it. Even a deep cleaning tends to not be enough, right?

Or am I the only person who rearranges stuff, decorates or may even dust light fixtures for this kind of thing? This year I want to move a couch, organize an office, and clean out the cabinets under the kitchen island. Come on, I can’t be alone… right?

The best way to win any battle (and yes, I view this as a battle;) is a great plan. It will take a little time and thought but I promise that it is worth it!

  1. I want you to walk through every room of your house. You are going to write down every single little job that needs to be done. And I mean everything!!! Baseboards, dust light fixture, blinds, dusting the chair legs, everything!
  2. Then you are going to write down the date (or dates) that it needs to be done by. For example, I will only need to relocate a couch once but I will need to wipe down the counters for every event.
  3. Then think about who in your household is going to be the person to do each job! A great rule of thumb is that the youngest person in the house who is able to do the job gets it. Now this is not between the parents but a rule for the kids. The idea is that if you give the kids all the jobs they can do it will free you up to do what only you can do!

I recommend making a separate list for each room. You can even post it in each room so you don’t have wonder where the lists are. If you are married to a fabulous person (like I am) he can then easily see what he needs to do in that room if he is there and has a minute!

I have created a generic list that you can print off and fill out. I also have started a kitchen list and a bathroom list for you but add all your specific needs too!

And most importantly… Make sure you put a check mark in the done column when you are done! There are very few things that make me happier than checking off lists!!!

A little time now + a little planning = a stress free, easy going holiday season!!!

Tackling the “Once in a Whiles” Before School Starts


Is it just me or are the “Once in a while” tasks the things you never get to? The things that always hang around in the background haunting you? Maybe that is a bit melodramatic but still. I feel like I never catch up when these tasks hang around. But if I am on a regular schedule (summer and New Year), everything just feels a little calmer in my heart and mind, not to mention my house! So let’s tackle some “once in a whiles”! (Just a disclosure that this post contains affiliate links that help support this site.)

1)Insurance Coverage: Yes, I know this is one of the most boring things but a necessity for life. Is your car and home adequately covered? How about your life? Have you recently bought a bunch of electronics, computers, or jewelry? If so you may have exceeded your home owners policy limits and need to get a little more coverage. Have a new car or driver? I know that seems like a no-brainer but you would be surprised;). But a more likely auto insurance issue: Have you changed your work location or even job? If you are driving less you might be eligible for a discount. And have you checked to see if your job is one of the ones that has a built in discount? You would be surprised. For home and auto we use Bulldog Insurance here in Fresno. Not an ad, we just like them;). When it comes to life insurance… did you have a big life change this year? If you had another child or bought a bigger house you may need extra coverage so get some term life insurance quotes to see what you can afford. 

2)Smoke Detectors: Change all the batteries. Just do it now. It is so much better than your batteries beeping at 3 in the morning and you have to go find new batteries. Not that it has ever happened to me, many times. And if you need a new smoke detector now is the time to get it! If you are like me, if I put it off I will forget. If you are ordering one, get one that is a combination smoke and carbon monoxide detector so you can cross both off your list. 

3)Air Filter Vents & Ceiling Corners and Cornices: You should actually change your air filters every month but most don’t get around to it.  You also can vacuum them to help keep the filter cleaner. I don’t do it very often because I can’t reach. While you are vacuuming those air filter vents make sure you get the corners of your ceilings where the ceiling meets the walls. Even if you don’t have spider webs! That is how you prevent the spider webs;). 

4)Coffee Pot:  Coffee makes a homeschool mom go. So start the school year right with a clean coffee pot. Run a pot of vinegar through it. Then run multiple pots of water through it so to get rid of the vinegar taste. Remember that the vinegar smell tends to hang around longer than the taste.

5)Light fixtures and Lamps: It is time to give those dead bugs in your light fixtures an honorable burial. Come on, you know that they are there and that their little bodies drive you mad.  Vacuum to the rescue!

6)Makeup: We all have that tube of lipstick that we wear 2 times a year. We all do and don’t feel guilty for that. But that tube is 10 years old and smells funky, you gotta toss it. Makeup has a shelf life and we all tend to have a few bits that have expired. Mascara is one that is often over looked. It is probably that most important to toss. If it has been open for 6 months it is time to part company. Otherwise, you risk infection and for some of us, it means we can’t wear contacts if we get an infection. For the rest of your makeup just give it a look. Is it the same consistency? The same smell it arrived with? Does it still perform well? If any of the answers are no the trash can has a new friend! 

That is it! 6 things that only need to be done once in a while but make a huge difference! Out of curiosity,  which one of these tasks is your nemesis? Mine is the coffee pot, I always forget it until it is super needed!

This is part of my 10 Days to a Better School Year Series! Go check it out!

Free Reading Comprehension Tests Online

ReadingComprehension Everyone knows that I am a huge fan to getting kids reading! I do not believe that reading always has to serve some great academic purpose but still you want to make sure the kids are understanding what they are reading. An occasional book report is a great option or even a story board or lapbook but you don’t always have time (or care) to do a huge project.

Sometimes you just want a quick check to make sure they understood the book and to maybe get some measurement for rewards!!! There are some great sites with quick and simple reading comprehension tests for tons of books. These are great resources for homeschoolers and teachers to use all year. They are also great tools to make sure your children don’t suffer the summer slide when it comes to reading by them staying engaged and reading! And they are all free!

  • Fun Trivia has literally thousands of quizzes available! Not only do they have a ton of quizzes available for K-8th but they also have a Young Adult section(with the Hunger Games;)! It is well organized by authors last name and there is also a section for series books. You have your choice of HTML version where you answer all the questions at once or a more quiz like format. In the true quiz format you will have you”point” value go down based on how long it takes and if you need a second chance.
  • Children’s Books Quizzes over at SoftSchools has a variety of quizzes also. Their list isn’t quite as extensive but they are just the quizzes. There isn’t a rewards system or even an account creation step. Just pop in and take the quiz. I think that most of the books are really 4th grade and under but there are a variety of Harry Potter books also. They even have Henry and Mudge for your early elementary students.
  • Book Adventure  is no longer free! But is a great site that is built for rewarding. You input what rewards are available to your student and then track what quizzes they take. This is aimed at K-8th and there are a lot of book options.

These are great tools but they are just that. You don’t have to quiz on every book or any for that matter. They are just tools for you to use as you see fit!!

(Updated 2021)

Meal Plan for Your Sanity

Meal Plan for Sanity

Who should be meal planning? Well, do you plan on eating? Then meal planning is for you! It is that simple. 

Seriously, I was raised in a home that every night the conversation seemed to happen around dinner time. You know the conversation. The one where someone says how they are hungry and want to know what they are having for dinner. Then the evaluation of what is in the fridge and eventually dinner happens, much later.

My husband’s family was sort of the other end of the spectrum. Dinner magically happened with Mom making it. And there was no disclosing what was for dinner until it was placed on the table. Don’t ask! 

When Jeremy and I got married we wanted to figure out an actual system. It is just who we are. My husband had one request of me when it came to dinner. Have a plan! He didn’t care if the plan was to pick up something or that he was cooking. He just wanted a plan (with ingredients if needed). Through the years we have implemented every version of planning from having meals on hand but not a set menu to a specific plan. 

It has brought so much peace to our lives! I can not recommend it enough. I believe everyone should do it too! Now we write out meal plan on our Collage Memo Center along with who is making it. Yes, who. Now that we have older kids, they get to take turns cooking dinner too. 

Meal planning brings sanity to every night. It also brings a little sanity to your budget. You can plan meals around what is on sale at the grocery store. You also tend to have to run out for quick meals a lot less and that saves a lot of money too. 

Are you a meal plan novice? My favorite! Once you start you won’t want to stop, I promise. What has stopped you from meal planning before? If you are new you should check out my Keys to Successful Meal Planning. Don’t be nervous. This is a tool for you and not a regiment you have to fit into. 

If you are a meal planning devotee, when did you start? What is your favorite meal to make?

Summer Bucket List

bucket list

“Can I have Susie over to play?” “Can we go to the zoo?” “When can we watch Batman vs Superman?” “Later, when we aren’t so busy.” We have all had those conversations because there is so much fun that we want to have and never have time for. I personally feel guilty because often, I never get around to having the fun. I was just convicted of this yesterday because I started looking at the movies I am waiting to watch with the kids and the kids were talking about the friends they want to have over.  

This summer is not going to end without us have fun and rest! We will start the year having worked hard on summer projects but having played hard too, no too hard it will be restful play;). But of course, that means I need to put a bit of a list together. Then I can prioritize and try to create a well-rounded summer. 

There are different types of bucket list items. Some are things that kids want to do but they don’t need parents nor do we care to participate. My kids want to see Lion King and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. They can do that when I am doing something else. 

Some things are kind of time-related. We only made it through half of last season’s Flash. We also want to get caught up before the new season begins. Luckily we can just pick up an episode without a big time commitment! But we do all need to be together as a family and that takes a little coordination. 

Some are relationship based on relationships outside the home. Like kids having sleep overs or swim days with friends. That takes coordination with our family and others. That takes lead time. So if it is going to happen, we might want to start scheduling now. 

Some are relationship based in the family. That one on ones with kids. Board game nights are a great way to work on those bonds too. But that means that not everyone always has to be available!

Some are just fun and experiences. I think we need to have a big movie night binge where everyone falls asleep in the living room. We are pretty straight laced, bed by 8 kind of family so I think it will be a fun memory! 

A great bucket list is going to be a smattering of all these types of things. It can be organized by your availability, work, or level of excitement. Fun and memories are not going to just happen! Let’s make it happen!

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This is part of my 10 Days to a Better School Year Series! Go see my fabulous other posts.

Tech Organization Helps

Tech Organization Helps

It is almost a new school year and most of us are trying to be more organized this year. So to further that effort, let’s talk organization and tools provided free on websites!

My biggest free tool is Google Calendar! It is free with any Google account, even ones that are through another domain. You can set up multiple calendars with multiple colors. I have a calendar that is my appointments, NerdDad’s appointments, and another with blog deadlines. You also can share calendars. My homeschool group has a calendar that I can overlay to look at. My husband can access my calendar to see what the family plans are and add to it.

Google Keep is a great list tool! Just like with the Google Calendar, you can share a list with people so everyone can add to the grocery list. I use the Google voice input to add rough drafts of articles or outlines for articles. I even keep lists of household facts like the measurements of cabinets and shelves. Then I know if something would fit when I am shopping. 

For those of you who want things a little more concrete, like paper, I have resources for you on that front too! I keep my calendar online but I do keep a binder with other organizational tools.

Donna Young is a great source! In addition to various sizes of traditional calendars, there are tons of housework forms, grocery lists and more. Donna Young also has a ton of homeschool printables too.

Organized Home also has a ton printables to go into a household notebook. They have seasonal chore lists, freezer inventory sheets and tons more.

Chart Jungle is another great source but they have a lot more ads. You just need to scroll down a bit. They also have a ton of great printables. They have planting charts under gardening, budget sheets under money and tons more!

So there are just a few sites that will help you to have a more organized year!!!

Collage Memo Center

If you are looking for a gift or are just setting up your communications center for the year this collage memo center is a win! Even though we all have planners my kids absolutely having this hanging on the wall. In addition to any appointments, you can put chores and your meal plan on this board along with who is cooking it! Having it all laid out on the wall means you are equipping your children be more successful and maybe not ask you what you are having for dinner.

Ok, I have seen this in a variety of places and can’t remember the first one but… I love the idea of this custom made dry erase memo center!!! Why does this work? Glass is a perfect dry erase material!!! First, you get a cheap collage picture frame (mine was $6 from Walmart).  I also got out my paper cutter, tape runner and scrap book paper collection (which is way too big;).  This collage is 9 holes so I can do more than just the days of the week!

Then you actually need to pick out the papers that you are going to use in each frame. For me, this is the most time-consuming part. But look at the upside, Out of 1 set of papers you can make multiple boards so you just have to choose once;). I went with a fairly gender neutral set here.

Then cut your paper down to fit each frame. 8 of my frames were 4 x 6. So I cut my 12 x 12 in half then each half into thirds. Then label each frame so you know what goes there! I did the 7 days of the week, notes, and shopping list. You could use stamps, letter cutouts or just print the labels on paper. I just used this template for my Memo Board Labels then cut them out and used a tape runner to fix them to the paper!

Then take off the back and prepare to assemble. This is the time to clean your glass!!! Nothing is more annoying than to finish and realize that you have marks on the inside of the glass;). To assemble just put your paper into the frame like a picture. That is really it;).

You can also go the extra mile…. Put a piece of velcro on the side of the frame (where no one can really see) and the dry erase pen too!

Not only is this great to make for yourself but it is a fabulous gift! I mean, how much is a custom memo board worth?

5 Questions to Help Your Students Succeed

5 Questions
They say a little introspection is good for a person, it is an even better practice for a process. A process like homeschooling! At the end of every school year, I meet with each kid (usually on their birthday day out) and have a little chat. It is similar to how you would do an annual review at a job. It gives us some valuable information about our children’s mindsets and their hopes and dreams. While we don’t always do exactly what the kids wish, it does often inform at least the extra things we focus on throughout the academic year.

1)What do you want to learn this year? I feel like you have to start with the blanket question even though you rarely get many answers to it. My kids this year gave some interesting answers. My 14-year-old wants to be a better storyteller. She did a writing course this year but she felt that focused on grammar and now she wants to focus on the art of storytelling.

2)What is 1 historical or scientific event or time period do you want to learn more about? I know that may sound like an odd combination but science discoveries and events often go hand in hand with history. I got a unique answer this year from my 12-year-old son when he said he wants to learn more about the Crimean War. The only thing he knows about it is where it took place. This won’t inform the year’s history but I will put together some books and a little unit study on the Crimean War. I don’t know much about the Crimean except Florence Nightengale and Gallipoli so I am excited to learn about it too.

3)What skill do you want to learn? Skills can be academic or not. Both girls want to learn how to speak Spanish. I also have 2 children who want to learn to make dinner. We also have a smattering of bike riding and photo editing too. These may not all seem academic but they are life skills and are just as important.

4)What is something about school you didn’t enjoy this year? This is their opportunity to voice their complaints. Sometimes your response may be the fact you know they don’t like something but it is just a hard fact. But you may hear something that you can adjust or compromise on. You may also hear something that you didn’t see coming. This is how I found out that my 2nd oldest has been struggling with the process of writing more than the answers back when she was in 2nd grade. I hadn’t realized just how much she was struggling and so we were able to work on some things that really helped her that year.

5)What is one thing (or business idea) you would like to make this year? We are big believers in entrepreneurship and creation, so we ask this as a hope, not a demand. Many years I get an “I don’t know” but sometimes… I actually have some that want to write more blog posts and monetize them.

5 simple questions can give you a lot of insight into the minds of our children. Insight is the thing I think that we parents hope and pray for more than anything. It also can help give you a much happier and more educational academic year!

10 days 2017 button This is part of my series on 10 Days to a Better School Year series! Check out the rest of the series and all the bloggers who are participating in the 10 Days of Tips series.




Adding Sanity with Systems 3 at a Time

As school activities were wrapping up I looked around the mess I live in and was filled with shame. Shame of all the things I have been meaning to get to for the past 6 months and just haven’t had the time. The cabinets you can’t find anything in or the shower that may have a fuzzy monster living in it are just 2 such projects in my life. But I will be ashamed no more! Not just because I am cleaning up some of this projects but because I am putting in systems that will mean that I never have to block out intense cleaning time for them! 

With 4 kids in the family, we have a lot of people and therefore a lot of mess. If I decided to fix everything I have abandoned, well that is a mistake. I get overwhelmed, don’t know where to start, and end up never doing anything. Instead I have found that making a list of 3 at a time is the perfect approached. Don’t do 2 of the 3 and refill your list! Do all 3, breathe for a moment when you are done, give yourself a pat on the back, and then 3 more. Why 3 instead of 1? If you are like me you have different projects in different spots in the house. While 1 job might take you an hour, it might be broken up well so while you are in a specific area of the house you can work on it for just a few minutes.

You projects should start with a cabinet you use everyday or a room or a drawer. Don’t say your room or your garage, keep it bite sized! Let me show you my current 3 projects. 



Tackling the Showers!

We have multiple showers and frankly, mine is the grossest. I had a great system in our last house but is was blown when we moved. I could blame the state of my shower on moving but since that was 2 years ago, that excuse is a little thin. 

In all seriousness, we have more showers here and 2 of them are the children’s (yes, 1st world problem). I need a system that not only I can keep but my kids can as well. So I visited the Dollar Tree and bought multiple spray bottles and those scrubby sponges with a reservoir. I was even able to pick up scrubby sponges refills. What goes into them is a mixture of  half Dawn and half white Vinegar. The sponge is to tackle any trouble areas that has grossness already. But the spray bottles are my insurance. After showers you shake the bottle and spray your shower. Then get out. It keeps anything from growing so you never have to scrub it again! Success. (I in progress. The materials are on my kitchen counter and got filled when I was waiting for the kids to do something in the kitchen.)


The Medicine Cabinet

“Hey we finished a bottle of B Vitamins, I put them on the Costco List!” No one realizes that we have an extra bottle in the back of the medicine cabinet. It was put on the second shelf so you didn’t accidentally use it before the open one. Did I mention that I can’t reach the back of that kitchen shelf, much less the kids? So things were a hot mess in there. First thing I did was pull everything out and threw out everything that was expired. Then I went and had dinner. I came back the next day;). The next thing I did was take out everything that doesn’t belong there. Kids are great for this job. Hand them 1 destinations items at a time or else you are asking for misdelivery;).

Then I containerize! Next time things seem a little wonky it all has a home to belong in. Remember, you don’t need to go buy fancy containers. I have a spot that we keep empty plastic containers. So most of the containers for this project were Dollar Tree purchases but I have an awesome Lego container;). That holds all our current vitamins and we can take it to the table in the mornings. Containers also solve the reach issue. I can reach the basket and don’t have to reach to the back of the shelf. I have a container now on the second shelf that holds all our extra vitamins and medicines!

My Jewelry

I, like many women, have gobs of costume/fake jewelry. So much that it won’t fit in a jewelry box… I actually don’t know that I could ever get my necklaces into a jewelry box and keep them untangled. I have spent so much time over this last year looking through my jewelry. So I have decided to rectify this situation. This is my project of the 3 that I am not even close to finishing yet.  It is such a large job (because I keep a lot of broken or tarnished junk) so I am not doing it in a completely traditional method. 

Normally I say sort then figure out how much of a system you need. Well, this time I have a bit of a system then I am sorting and then I will figure out the whole system. So my first step was hanging chains on my wall in my bedroom horizontally and I bought S hooks. I then took my current (and therefore favorite) necklaces and french loop earrings and hung them up on the chain. Now I am slowly going through the drawer in my nightstand and sorting! I have my “Is it ok to throw this away pile” (What can I say, I have guilt issues. Who cares if it turns my finger green?). Then I have the earrings that I am waiting to find a match on and then I have the stuff I am keeping that can’t go on the chains, like stud earrings. It is a slow process. I am doing an initial sort of brokens but I know that my day of reckoning is coming. When I have to be honest with myself. I will have to get rid of the stuff I will never actually wear again. I will post pictures when I am done!

Imagine all the time you would save if you didn’t have to scrub out your shower? How about if you didn’t have to dig through 5 shirts you hate in order to find something to wear? Imagine how much smoother your school year would go!

So what are your first 3 mini-projects to tackle? Share so we can support each other! 



This is part of my 10 Days to a Better School Year Series! Pop over and check out the rest of my series (and enter the Amazon giveaway!).10 days 2017 button

Christmas Gift Planning

Christmas_wreathDoes Christmas seem to sneak up on you every year? Trust me you are not alone! But, as with most things, there are some strategies that help make Christmas a little more fun, sane and affordable!!!
I like to start planning for Christmas in the summer before we start back to school and before the early fall clearance sales start. Here is the first step! A master list!!!
1)Make a list of everyone whom you will give a gift to! This includes the faceless/nameless people who will be getting gifts, like Sunday School teachers or regular school teachers who haven’t been assigned yet.
2)Put an H by all those you would like to make a homemade gift for or a B for those you know you are going to buy for (this can be subject to change, it is just to give you an idea)
3)Put a price range! You can always spend less if you find a great sale but this will keep you from going crazy.
4)Put any gift ideas/sizes/etc next to the receiver’s name. If you know they collect something specific or you have a great idea make sure to not it. That way when you see a great sale you don’t have to remember the 2 people in your list of 20 who might like it! And when inspiration hits in the middle of church you can whip out your list and make that note!
5)Put the list in your wallet! It does no good if it isn’t with you!!!
We can also get a jump on those handmade gits! On another list:
-Make a list of homemade gifts (like cocoa mix, facial scrubs, baskets, etc)
-Star any that can only be made with in a month of giving
-Note how much time each craft will take and if it will take multiple sessions .
Supply List is mandatory!!! Make a supply list then you can use JoAnns and Michaels coupons to buy them for a deal! Keep it with your gift list in your wallet/purse!
None of this is rocket science but it helps to have someone remind you and lay out a path. So try this method this year and see if your Christmas is a little more enjoyable!!!
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This is part of my 10 Days to a Better School Year series! Pop over to see the rest of my pieces along with pieces from all the 10 Days of Tips for Homeschool Moms.