Archive for the ‘The M Challenge’ Category

March: No Spend Challenge Results (Week 2)

Friday, March 16th, 2018

march no spend challenge

I can’t believe I have already breezed through the second week of this No-Spend Challenge and things have been going so well.  I am really recognizing my spending impulses and a lot of it seems to have to do with the power of suggestion (helloooo, Instagram)  and when I have pockets of free time that have me heading over to my computer to do a little online shopping.

no-spend challenge

no-spend challenge (the birthday boy’s favorite cake- snickerdoodle cake!)

It was my husband’s birthday week and I had disclosed at the beginning of the challenge that I wouldn’t be skipping his celebration dinner just because I wanted to save a little money. We went to his favorite fancy spot and had a wonderful meal that we savored together. I never take for granted what a good life it is when you get to spend your life with your best friend.

When I began really getting the hang of cooking, we have found that we really don’t enjoy dining out anymore, unless it is somewhere really spectacular. I wouldn’t say our dining out budget has been cut down necessarily, but that we now would rather pay for one really incredible meal rather than four disappointing inexpensive meals.

It was a fabulous night and there was no need to buy anything special to wear thanks to that well-equipped capsule wardrobe.

red sparrow

I have a MoviePass, but I always am trying to coordinate with other people to go and see a movie. I have never gone to the movies by myself, but I was dying to see Red Sparrow (my husband was not) so I decided to have an impromptu movie date by myself.

You know what? It was awesome!

My INFJ heart was very happy AND I absolutely loved the film.

I packed a snack in my car to enjoy on the way home and avoided the concessions stand to hold to my challenge.

Boy, that popcorn smell almost had me caving!

no-spend challenge

Dining at home is never a biggie, but I have gotten in a bad habit of just buying groceries impulsively and not really looking in our pantry and freezer. These chicken breasts became this delicious dish and a forgotten bag of potatoes made the perfect side dish.

We enjoyed this with some belly-laughs over this new Netflix series. It made me thankful to see other people #nailingit like me when it comes to baking.

no-spend-challenge-3

Do you follow bloggers because you love seeing all the new things they have gotten? I know that there are certain accounts that I follow because it seems like they always have the latest thing.

I realized this week that creatively, it is MUCH more challenging to inspire people WITHOUT buying things.

I have to think a little harder about what I have been putting out in the world and how to inspire people without spending money. I have always been committed to good living on a small budget, but am I always sharing in these ways?

I needed a little Spring for our mantle, for example, and shopped the house to create a cute little rainbow of books for the mantle.

My hubby declared this the MOST Pinterest-y thing I have ever done and I am not ashamed.

We have so much here- why do I feel I need to buy things to inspire other people?

no-spend challenge

This week I have been more busy than usual and haven’t been sitting at my computer and instead found myself with three wonderful dates (at my house- #nospendchallenge, you know!) with three amazing women that inspire me so much.

I love entertaining, but sometimes it feels more convenient to just go out rather than clean up our messes (or, heck, let people witness our messes) and open our home up…warts and all. We remodeled our home with the intention of sharing our home with others and we should be doing just that.

What a blessing to have the space to do it in and to share it with others.

One friend brought me this book (I can’t wait to dig in), another brought me this beautiful plant, and another brought all the appetizers and wine for a fun night in my little shed. Hostess gifts were savored so much more this month!

California Typewriter

We ended the week with a pajama-date today and watched this phenomenal documentary on typewriters (available on Hulu).

If you have a free afternoon this weekend, it is such a good one. I will admit, it had me feeling a little melancholy about my love/hate relationship with technology. I love sharing here, but I struggle with too much technology in my life.

I am sure I will have lots to learn when I detach from social media a bit next month!

Next week I am traveling for business so I will have some expenditures with business travel, but I’m hoping to continue the mindful approach to spending, just as I have been doing these past two weeks.

Follow My No-Spend Journey

No-Spend Month Intention
Week 1

Money Spent- $299 (groceries) $140 (birthday dinner for my hubby- an approved expenditure)

Memberships Used During Week 1-

Scribd- 0

Gym- 2 classes

CycleCast- 1 session

MoviePass- 1 movie

March: No Spend Challenge Results (Week 1)

Thursday, March 8th, 2018

march no spend challenge

Haven’t you always wanted to read someone’s diary?

Oh, wait…is that just me? In all seriousness, I’d love to share with you my weekly reflections from my month of intentions.

Since March was designated as my no-spend challenge month, I thought it would be a great one to share with you as I embrace this month of getting my spending habits back on track. Truth be told, the savings will be used for our Spring Break trip and I’m hoping that we won’t feel the pinch at all from taking a vacation.

The first week is no big deal because, honestly, how hard is it to do for one week?

Here is what I learned from week 1:

No-Spend Challenge Results

Week 1 of the No-Spend Challenge

Day 1- I’m going to be honest and tell you that I had expected the launch of this challenge to start with an expense. I had planned to take my neighbor out for her birthday dinner (after she had taken me for a fantastic birthday meal where I claimed I had coupons, but actually did not) and I was going to add this feast to my monthly expenses since it had been planned.

I received a text though that said she would prefer just meeting for a glass of wine and had been eating out a lot lately.

She suggested that it might be better to just hang out in my She Shed.

I offered to make her a birthday dinner though and discovered three sweet potatoes, a bag of Brussels Sprouts, a bag of spinach, and just enough arborio rice to make a risotto dish. Balsamic roasted veggies, risotto cooked in white wine and vegetable broth, and a cranberry & almond salad were all birthed from the pantry that had nothing.

It was delicious and, upon a generous amount of wine, she did confess that she saw I had planned this challenge and refused to sabotage my first day out of the gate.

What a great friend, right?

Surprise, surprise, I made it through day 1 without an expense after all.

Day 2- I am at the gym and get a peek at my girlfriend’s amazing boots she is wearing.

“Where did you get those?”

“TJ Maxx! Can you believe they are water resistant and everything?”

“Oh, I need those.”

I begin to contemplate how I can swing by TJ Maxx on the way home from the gym and then remember my no-spend commitment.

I arrive home and glance at the dusty basket filled with oodles of boots…

Three pairs, just for me, that are water resistant.

No Spend Challenge

Day 4- I know a lot of people get buried in weekend spending, but my homebody nature really pulls through on the weekend.  I have been discovering I had quite the stockpile in our freezer so a night of mussels was on our agenda for our usual pizza night.

It’s been ages since I made spaghetti sauce, relying upon the jar for convenience, and I was reminded the beauty in a homemade sauce for a spaghetti side.

It really is the little things.

A couple of months ago, I had splurged on this expandable coffee table and it is now our favorite weekend spot to have dinner and watch a show together.

 

When We First Met

Date nights were spent catching up on Netflix- yes, we are that fun!

The original programming from Netflix has really been delivering so it was easy to do a movie night at home together and this one was adorable. Many times I find myself running over to Redbox or the library for movies when we have PLENTY to watch already at home.

Seriously, you should see how long my list is.

No Spend Challenge

Day 5- Since we were eating our way through our pantry, I thought I’d give gluten-free pizza dough a try to see if I can’t replace that take-out pizza moving forward. I wasn’t willing to chance it on two pizzas because gluten-free flour is expensive.

Surprise, surprise, I NAILED IT! I was so proud of myself that I made several more, just to make sure I could share a really good recipe with you.

It must be elastic pants weekend.

Day 6-7- It was really fortunate timing that I figured out a supplement that could help with my pain management just as this challenge was beginning. (P.S.- I promise to share more tomorrow!) so I was able to keep to a consistent gym routine which gave me the opportunity to socialize and to get in some good endorphins.

I dusted off my stationary bike and got back to using my CycleCast app so even in moments I was working out a lot, I still felt like I was a part of something.

Overall, week one was AWESOME and I can’t wait to what else I learn in the next three weeks!

Money Spent- $0

Memberships Used During Week 1-

Scribd- 1 audiobook

Gym- 3 classes

CycleCast- 1 session

MoviePass- 0 movies

March Intention: No-Spend Challenge

Thursday, March 1st, 2018

march no spend challenge

I feel like it is January 1st instead of March 1st with all this excitement about setting monthly intentions. For March, I have challenged myself to a no-spend challenge. I had shared about no-spend challenges in my book and in an article on our site,  but was inspired again when I read (again) this transformation article from my dear friend, Shanna. I happened to be on Facebook when she shared that she was planning to tackle another challenge recently and I love hearing that this had become a part of her yearly routines.

You know how your spending habits increase as your salary increases? Our expenses have definitely expanded, since we worry less about money, and I know that we could be saving so much more.

As soon as I shared my no-spend challenge with my family, the first thing my daughter said was, “Does that mean you won’t buy us any groceries?”

Yeah, I should probably review what a “no-spend” month looks like.

no spend challenge

What Spending is Allowed?

Gas

Groceries (I am also going to be looking with a critical eye at how much we have been spending in this category because I, honestly, haven’t been very good about paying attention)

Normal Bills & Memberships (including normal business expenses)

My hubby’s birthday meal (I am not going to be a Scrooge if he wants to go out)

What Do I Plan to Do Differently This Month?

No dining out (OUCH- that should save A LOT)

Use up what is in our freezer and pantry- we have a lot of ingredients that I haven’t been putting to work

Be MORE thoughtful about my grocery purchases and get back to ALDI

Go over our current spending and see where we can cut corners

Get back to using Mint to track what’s happening in our accounts

Use the memberships I have (gym, Netflix, Hulu, CycleCast, Spotify, Scribd, & MoviePass) and REALLY analyze if these are being used enough to justify the monthly expenses

Work on my taxes- we can’t leave for Spring Break until this is in order

NOT make frivolous purchases for Spring Break & Easter

NO Kindle deal buying- I do love a cheap book purchase

I am really looking forward to sharing my results from this financial fast and and I’m excited to see how much we can save this month. It will be a great way to reset this year for our family. If you want to follow our adventures, you can catch me on Instagram documenting through their Instagram Story feature and a little on my feed too.

I am also journaling my experience to share with you at the end of the month. Stay tuned for my reflections on this one.

Would you like to join me this month? Leave a comment below (because I can’t pay for a link list subscription- hahaha!)

This post contains affiliate links that help our site! Thank you for supporting me! xoxo

 

 

My Year of Living Intentionally

Wednesday, February 28th, 2018

a year filled with intention from momadvice.com

I got a few messages wondering how I am doing over here. You guys never cease to amaze me in how intuitive you are when I’m going through a rough patch. It’s been such a frustrating process of working really hard to feel better, but hitting depressing hurdles that send me back to square one.

Honestly, my body hasn’t been cooperating with my 2018 plans.

Last night, in the wee hours of the morning, I started thinking about what drives me and how to get control of that drive in my life. Typically, this reflection happens in January, but if I waited until next year than I would be missing out on improving my life in the next upcoming months.

I started jotting down things that I struggle with and what I’d love to see myself do better at. I love seeing long lists of monthly intentions from others, but I’m going to be really proud to put one intention out in the world each month and accomplish it. Setting intentions helps give my days more purpose and I love seeing what good things can come from intentional living.

Blogging has a way of holding me accountable and I thought I could journal what I learn each month as I’m working my way through these intentions. If they are things you struggle with too, maybe you might want to join me?

Here are the monthly intentions that I want to work through this year and why.

Living With Intention Monthly Challenges

march no spend challenge

March- No-Spend Challenge

It’s been awhile since my last no-spend challenge and March is the perfect month for it. I’d love to spend some time evaluating my spending habits, resist the urge to buy a bunch of stuff for our Spring Break trip, and to get our tax paperwork in order. I feel like we have been hemorrhaging money and I’m hoping this challenge will remind me how to do better with our family finances.

April Stop the Scrolling Challenge April- Stop the Scrolling Challenge

April is THE WORST for me because I start the comparison game with the Spring Break trips and often get so consumed with that, I fail to enjoy our own break. While I can’t completely detach from social media, there is no reason to spend my days endlessly scrolling. I’m going to try to reel this one in, especially since this tends to be an unhealthy habit for me in April.

I’d also love to go social media free for the first week of April to get the most out of our family trip.

may get moving challenge from momadvice.com May- Get Moving

I can use my illness as an excuse all I want, but I can still be moving in some way, even if I’m not doing a full-out workout. May is when I tend to start the summer slack so I thought this would be a perfect time to remind myself to get moving.

Ideally, 3-5 days a week, I’m going to be intentionally moving…even if it is just a walk around the block.

june declutter like a boss

June- Declutter Like a Boss

Despite all appearances, there is a lot of clutter in our house and I’d love to reign it in. Closets, pantry, dumping spots (for us it is the laundry room & garage) all could use some organizing.

I also am queen of abandoned projects so I’d love to get a few of those done during this month of organization.

new year in july challenge from momadvice.com July- New Year in July

I love to make New Year’s resolutions…and then abandon them.

This month will be the perfect time to revisit what I put out in the world and try to actually check a resolution (or two) off my list.

august be creative challenge

August- Be Creative (For Myself)

I would love to get back to being creative and I have plenty of tools to do it. There are a few items on my crafting bucket list and I’d love to set the intention to actually do something creative for myself each week.

put down the wine challenge from momadvice.com

September- Put Down the Wine

I love sharing drinks with friends and with my husband over the summer, but it quickly becomes a nightly habit after enjoying it so often in the warmer months.  I’d love to do a dry month and see what I can learn from a month without my wine.

october better start better sleep from momadvice.com

October- Better Start Better Sleep

I know how much better I feel with good sleep and a great morning routine. I’d love to focus on that by getting my sleeping habits back on track. I have the tendency to sabotage myself by hopping on my phone at night or staying up too late with a good book. I’d like to see if I can feel better by being intentional with better sleep habits.

november connect with people challenge November- Connect With People

I’m an INFJ and I have the tendency to REALLY introvert when the months get colder and my body isn’t feeling as good. I’d love to set the intention that I will work harder to connect with people in my life during this challenging time.

december self-care month from momadvice.com December- Month of Self-Care

The holidays run me down (as I am sure they do you too!) and I would love to be more intentional about self-care during this challenging season. It won’t be extravagant luxuries like spa days, but setting intentions AT HOME to take care of myself.

I’m really excited to share with you what I learn from these challenges, starting with a discussion tomorrow about my No-Spend March. I think it is the perfect month to reset before our spring vacation, don’t you?

I’m hoping with a goal each month that I can start feeling like the old me again!

a year filled with intention from momadvice.com

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Easy DIY Summer Time Capsule for Kids

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

Make a memory for your kids (and you!) with this fun summer activity!

Make an easy summer time capsule- a great activity for the whole family!

This year has flown by for our family and it’s hard to believe summer is so quickly upon us. Each year I’m more desperate to hang on to our summer and our memories together. My kids are hitting the teen stages and I treasure each moment with them so much more as they get older than I had ever imagined.

I want to share with you a fun summer time capsule ornament that your children can hang on the holiday tree or can be the launching point of a fun family mealtime together this summer. Have you ever had your kids create a time capsule? I am telling you, it is so much fun and gives you a glimpse, as a parent, into what is important in their lives.

How to Make A Summer Time Capsule

Make-A-Summer-Time-Capsule

Supplies Needed

Directions

1. Tell your child at the beginning of the summer to begin gathering small items that represent their fun-filled summer! To get them brainstorming, consider gathering a representation of their favorite crafts, board games, building activities (puzzles or building blocks), beach finds (pretty sand or shells), or items found on nature walks. Tell them you want this capsule to really showcase what they were passionate about that summer so they can create a really important collection for their capsule.

Make-A-Summer-Time-Capsule

2. Have your child jot down 5 things that they love about summer. Guide them with a gentle writing prompt to explain why they have included these items in their capsule to represent them.

For example, “I love seeing my mom cry when I take all of her money in Monopoly.” Of course, that would be YOUR child, not MY child (*ahem*).

Don’t forget to have them include the date somewhere on this sheet so you can keep track of the years!

3. Fill an ornament with their trinkets and the facts about their summer. Snap shut at the seams. If you are concerned about longtime storage, you can secure with a little hot glue along the seams.

4. Use permanent marker to write your child’s name and the date somewhere on the ornament.

Make-A-Summer-Time-Capsule

In our family, we are all about board games, building blocks, finding seashells at the beach, and my daughter has developed a strong love for finger knitting this year. I love this representation of who she is at nine!

Don’t let the time capsule fun end at summer. We incorporated this same time capsule idea in our NYE celebrating as a family, but selected a few things that represented our favorite moments of the year. Over a celebration dinner, we each twisted open our capsules to share our favorite moments together. I remember that night well because I learned so much about my kids and some of the things they included surprised me. I guarantee you will learn a lot during the big time capsule reveal and make some beautiful memories.

For a summer capsule, this same idea would be fun for a family s’more night or as a fun ending to a sundae party together. Celebrate the end of summer in a new way and remember to get your kids thinking now because beautiful collections that represent them take time!

I hope you enjoy this fun craft together and please be sure to let us know if this becomes a part of your own family traditions as it has become such an integral part of ours!

Easy DIY Summer Time Capsule for Kids from MomAdvice.com.

*this post contains affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though!

 

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M Challenge Giving Syllabus Notebook 11.25.15

Thursday, November 26th, 2015

M CHALLENGE FOCUS ON GIVING Syllabus

As a wrap-up of each month’s M Challenge theme, we will be using the last Notebook of the month as a sort of “Cliffs Notes” edition of the challenge – a place where you can find a list of all the articles we’ve published for the challenge, as well as more inspiration and links from the web around the challenge theme. Our hope is that this will be something that you can refer to in the future as well as catch up on in case you’ve missed anything!

November M Challenge: Focus on Giving

Other Links: Ideas for Giving

Picasso Printable via Lia Griffith

Source: Lia Griffith

 

Free printable: The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away ~Pablo Picasso

Blessing Bags: give a blessing bag to someone in need. Keep a stash in your car.

A Friendsgiving master plan for stress-free hosting.

Simplify Christmas gift giving.

A “gifts that give back” 2015 holiday gift guide

How to be generous even if you’re broke.

75 military care package ideas.

20 volunteer date ideas.

24 ways to volunteer with kids.

I hope you enjoyed our M Challenge syllabus notebook, a collection of the Mom Advice articles and gathered links all around the month’s challenge focus. Nothing brings me more joy than to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!

 

How We Successfully Raised $6,000 in Two Weeks for Burkina Faso

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015

One of the most important and proud moments of my life happened almost 2 years ago when you all helped us give $8,000 total to provide clean water wells for Burkina Faso by donating $6,000 in just 2 weeks. You all blew us away!! I then shared this post on how to successfully raise funds for YOUR favorite charities. How fitting to end our November M Challenge focus on giving by republishing our story – if you’ve raised money for a charity using any of these tips, let me know in the comments!

How to Successfully Raise Funds for Your Favorite Charities from MomAdvice.com.

I could not be prouder of my friends and readers than I am today. Today we were able to give $6,000 in raised funds to our Wells of Hope campaign for Burkina Faso and pitched in another $2,000 raising our total to an incredible $8,000 to build wells. This gift gives up to 4,000 men, women, & children access to clean water.

How did we do it? I am baffled myself! When we initially pitched the idea to the ministry team at our church that we wanted to do this, I had no clue if we would ever be able to pull it off. I am no Momastery, in traffic or in size of influence, but I did believe that my passion for this project could be contagious, if seen in front of the right eyes.

If you are trying to raise funds for a passion project of your own, I want to share with you the strategies I used for this campaign. I believe that there is enough love and money to go around to fund these projects, but it is finding ways to make that voice heard that is essential for funding.

Start With a Clear Plan & Goals

I am a big believer in getting everything on paper and when I came to the team with my big dreams of birthday wishes I didn’t speak vaguely of what I believed I could do. Let me be clear though, saying it out loud is hard. I did not want to let a single person down.  At the same time, knowing that I was trying to commit to a goal, offered motivation for me to really pull through for Burkina Faso. We shared that our family was financially committed to one well and we hoped to raise enough funds for at least two more wells.

I shared every avenue I was willing to tap into, how we could gather our funds, what I would need from the team to get people to connect to our cause, and what would be happening each day in that first week on our site.

How to Successfully Raise Funds for Your Favorite Charities from MomAdvice.com.

Get People Curious About What You Are Doing

I began posting teasers that we were up to something a couple of weeks in advance of launching our project. We wanted to get people excited that something big was going to be happening and that we would be calling on them to be a part of it.  You can do this even if you don’t have a blog or website, but just through your social media channels.

How to Successfully Raise Funds for Your Favorite Charities from MomAdvice.com.

State Your Needs Clearly So People Know Who They Are Helping

People need to know what they are funding and what organizations they are helping. In a case like ours where there are numerous organizations involved, I tried to clearly state exactly who the partners in this project were, facts about the community & people that would be impacted, and what a donation would mean to this cause.

Saying that we need clean water for people in Africa would not be as impactful as, “One out of three children will probably die before they ever reach the age of ten. The deaths are mostly due to a lack of fresh water. The women of Burkina Faso often walk several miles to a dirty stream or stagnant pool, just to fill a bowl with water.”

Children dying before they are ten?

Women walking for miles to find a water source?

It is awful, but truthful information that calls upon people to help in a very visual way.

 

How to Successfully Raise Funds for Your Favorite Charities from MomAdvice.com.

Find an Avenue for Easy Collection

I have been a longtime fan of Pure Charity and knew that I wanted to use this site to spread the message of what we needed. I cannot recommend their site enough for what they can bring to your passion projects.

I could go on and on about why I love them so much, but it all boils down to people being able to connect with your cause, see their money grow, and know how many they have impacted. You can take a peek at my campaign to see how this looked.  I can’t tell you how many people went back in and donated a little more after their first donation to the project, just see the money bar go up a little more. After each donation is given, through Pure Charity, the person is told exactly how many lives their donation impacts. Even if you were only about to offer $10, you knew that you had impacted five people that day once your funds were submitted.

This method of collection was easy and you can connect your organization right to the funds.

How to Successfully Raise Funds for Your Favorite Charities from MomAdvice.com.

Donations Are Great- Whether Big or Small

Unless the organization’s collection form states that you need to have a minimum donation, show people small and approachable ways of donating. Anything over $1 was considered a donation on Pure Charity so I tried to think of things that were a little over $1 that people could “give up” to give a child clean water. A Redbox flick, a Starbucks coffee, a ticket to the latest movie, or a quick stop for a burrito is money that could be spent to give clean water to Burkina Faso.

It worked so well that people were donating after they went through the drive-thru or they gave up their weekly latte run or pizza night for my cause.

The point of this was to prove that you don’t have to be a millionaire to give. Every donation was important to me. Every. Dollar.

Connect Your Cause With Your Social Media Channels

If you are active on social media, use it to your advantage and ask your friends to spread the word. My two biggest audiences on social media are Facebook & Instagram.

Here’s a fun fact, I absolutely despise video or hearing myself on video or anything to do with video. That being said, some people like pictures, some people like videos, and some people just like to read a status. I tried to utilize every avenue from the beginning. An intro video connected you to our cause, I did a couple of thank you videos to thank people as we met goals, and we shared lots of pictures. If you want to make quick banners or collages for your cause, PicMonkey is great for your websites and if you are looking to add text to your phone images, I love Rhonna Designs app.

Thank Everyone for Everything Often

Each time we received a donation, I thanked them, whether publicly or privately. I was so grateful to everyone who gave, whether it was a dollar or a hundred dollars. The fact that they connected with my cause and helped meant the world to me.

Anytime I have ever donated to someone and received a thank you, it acted as double validation for what I did. With 121 contributors to our campaign, I tried not to overlook a single person and sent an email or message to them as soon as I could to say thank you.

After all, if we didn’t have these AMAZING friends we could never be sharing our success story with you today. My friends ROCK!

Don’t Stop Once You Reach Your Goal

How to Successfully Raise Funds for Your Favorite Charities from MomAdvice.com.Our goal was to raise enough funds for three wells. In the end, the money kept trickling in and bit by bit we were inching closer to our fourth well. If we would have given up when we reached our goal, we would have never known we could have achieved an additional well.

I’m not done with Burkina Faso though. The water of funds will continue to trickle as I knit my way to another well this year. I am working on my first round of wares for an Etsy shop to give all the profit to Burkina Faso.

If you have a talent for something and a burning desire like this amazing young lady that shared her story with our readers, you can continue raising funds in whatever little ways and pockets of time you have in your day.

How to Successfully Raise Funds for Your Favorite Charities from MomAdvice.com.

Whatever your project, I pray that God blesses you abundantly in it. I also thank each of you for helping us reach and surpass our goal of giving clean water to the people of Burkina Faso. Thanks to your donations, we will have water for up to 4,000 people. What an incredible gift you have given us and these people.

Thank you for celebrating the site’s tenth anniversary with us in such a grand and beautiful way! It solidifies my belief that this is just what God wants me to be doing with my life.

xoxo,

Amy

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Host a Friendsgiving Feast

Thursday, November 19th, 2015

I love the concept of Friendsgiving and plan to continue this special tradition – the giving to both our friends AND our added component of giving to our community at the same time makes this a perfect post to share again with our November M Challenge Focus on Giving. I hope you all are inspired – it really is a wonderful time!

Host a Friendsgiving Feast

This post is sponsored by Walmart AND ALL PROCEEDS WERE DONATED.

I feel like such a lucky mom to have so many incredible women in my life. Most of these friendships started when I was a new mom still trying to figure out the ropes of motherhood.  Now my kids are growing up, but I need them as much as I did in the early days. Unfortunately, our schedules have all become so crazy that it becomes nearly impossible to get our group together anymore. I decided a few weeks ago that I really wanted to see them all before the holidays took over and we all began to hibernate for the Indiana winter. I invited them to my home for my first annual Friendsgiving feast to share in a meal together before the holidays and I couldn’t wait to share about it with you.

Let me disclose by saying that I wanted to make this as easy on myself as possible and, if you are considering hosting a feast of your own, I would advise you do the same. I wanted to do it on budget, make it as effortless as possible, and I wanted the cooking to be easy too.

Here is how I executed the world’s easiest Friendsgiving Feast and helped give to our community in the process.

Host a Friendsgiving Feast

Create a Facebook Event (And Get Positive Responses)

Like I said, my friends are crazy busy and getting our group together is nearly impossible. Instead of setting up an event and shooting blindly in the dark for a date or receiving a million responses and being responsible for sorting people/dates, I utilize Doodle to schedule get togethers. Simply plug in the dates and times that will work for you and send out the link to the scheduling tool for each person to vote for the days that work best for them. Once you receive the responses you can set the date for the one that received the most positive response.

Once you have the date, it couldn’t be easier to invite your friends especially since everyone (at least in my group) is on Facebook. I just put up an event and asked that everyone respond there. It was easy to create, to monitor, and gave me an accurate headcount for making food purchases. Make sure that you set the privacy to, “Invite Only” for viewing otherwise everyone who is a friend can see a response (and might not be included- ouch!) I admit, the only time I wish I had a bigger house is when I host events like this. Believe me, Invite Only for viewers is the way to go.

Herb Roasted Turkey

You Supply the Turkey, They Supply the Fixins’

Last year I hosted my family for Thanksgiving all while photographing each and every dish for the site. This year I wanted to take an easier approach so I offered to supply the turkey, gravy, and stuffing, but requested that each person bring their own dish and a bottle of wine to share. To make sure all the categories were filled, I utilized Jooners to create a sign-up sheet for dishes. Be sure to specify what you need under the, “Needed,” box. That is where I asked for side dishes, desserts, bread, and appetizers. This will help you have a well-rounded feast and since everyone can fill in the dish they are bringing, it  helps cut down on anyone bringing the same dish.

Not only did I do store-bought stuffing and gravy, I purchased turkey breasts (here is my favorite method of preparation) instead of dealing with the bones and carving. It killed me a little bit to do this when I know I could do so much more, but this also helped me to truly enjoy the evening with my friends and allowed me to not worry about laboring over dishes and missing out on all the fun together. Not to mention the cost factor that I saved on by having everyone help me with dishes and drinks.

Decorate Store Bought Pies

Of course, there is always our make-ahead feast that gets you out of the kitchen that day altogether!  Here are my make-ahead mashed potatoes, make-ahead fresh green bean casserole, make-ahead gravy, make-ahead stuffing, make-ahead cranberry sauce, make-ahead appetizers, make-ahead rolls, make-ahead pie crust, and even some great make-ahead ways to dress up a store-bought pie… just to name a few!

Knitted Leaves Centerpiece

Invest in Smart Party Supplies That You Use Over & Over Again

Over the years we have hosted so many gatherings that I have accumulated an arsenal of tools so that I can pull a get together at a moment’s notice.  I honestly didn’t buy a thing other than disposable cups for our get together, but that is because I have invested over the years and I try to create handmade items that can double as centerpieces if I don’t have time to run out and purchase fresh flowers.

The things that I have used the most over the years:

Centerfold Table– I bought this three years ago and I use it at least three times a year. It has a handle on it and folds down the center making it easy to pack up and take it if you need to and also making it easy to store when you don’t.  I purchased this tablecloth (you can see it here in a game day party I did awhile back) because it was stain-resistant.  To save on time ironing, I just wash it and then spread it on the table the night before since it is so lightweight and dries quickly without even going through the dryer. It helps cut down on wasting time ironing and is wrinkle-free in the morning.

friendsgiving-2

Elegant Plastic Dishes– Elegance and plastic might not seem like they go together, but plastic dishes have come a long way. I hosted a shed-warming party (totally a thing!) this summer and since we had so many guests coming, I decided to buy twenty of these dishes. If you go to Walmart, you can purchase the plates individually, which is exactly what I did.  Unfortunately (but then fortunately), they didn’t have enough in a single style so I ended up getting three different styles which adds a bit of fun to the dinner table. I love that these are lightweight and can be reused over and over again.

DIY Bar Cart

Bar Cart– This summer I transformed a tool cart into a bar cart and it is truly one of my favorite entertaining tools. Since we live in a small home (which we are very committed to) we don’t have a lot of counters or surfaces to use for putting out drinks and food. My bar cart resides in my shed, but I wheel it in when I am entertaining and it offers a fun place to tuck bottles of wine and glasses.

Inexpensive Silverware– I actually hit our local restaurant supply store for inexpensive silverware that reminds me of some of my favorite diners. There is never a shortage of forks, spoons, or knives at our home.

Decor That Can Be Used Over & Over Again- I love to craft and in the back of my mind, I am always thinking how I can weave these items into our seasonal decorating especially when it comes to the holidays. For our Friendsgiving feast my Knitted Leaf Centerpiece was perfect for my table (and is on display year-round in my craft room). This winter the table will be adorned with these Yarn Pom Pom Trees that I made. Think of creating something that you can get out every year and that can save you money when entertaining.

Friendsgiving

REALLY Make it a FriendsGIVING

I have some truly generous friends so I called upon them to assist me with giving back to our community.  First, I asked each of them to take a moment to clear out their pantries so that we could make a donation to my church’s food pantry. Right before the holidays is a great time to clear some space and make room for all of those items you will need to tackle your holiday baking and dishes.

The shelter that I have helped in the past where we achieved our MomAdvice Big Give, the Elkhart Faith Mission, is a charity that I love to support. Longtime readers may recall the MomAdvice Big Give we executed with them. Here is a little throwback footage for you.

It costs a mere $.1.79 to give a Thanksgiving meal to one person at the shelter. I left an envelope out and asked if anyone felt like giving that they could donate as little as two bucks to give someone something to look forward to for the holidays.

Consider making a true FriendsGIVING experience and find a scraps of life way to give back or gather together to make care packages for the homeless.

Faith Mission of Elkhart

Each year I like to dedicate one post from Walmart to those in need and today’s post is for the families heading to Faith Mission that need a holiday dinner to look forward to.  

I understand that sponsored posts aren’t always the favorite posts here, but the proceeds from this post today and the donations I collected fed 187 PEOPLE a Thanksgiving meal and many of our posts this year gave a community of  people clean water this year.  How cool is that? Please support our sponsors because they do help many- perhaps, more than you realize! 

I hope my Friendsgiving inspires you to give back to your community and to throw a get together with your own amazing friends!

Have you ever hosted a Friendsgiving? Any tips or tricks you would like to share!

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Teaching Kids About Giving & Gratitude

Tuesday, November 17th, 2015

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

Teaching Kids about Giving & Gratitude

My daughter has always been annoyingly observant. This means, first of all, that you cannot have “for grown-up ears only” conversations around her, make promises (or threats) you don’t intend to keep, or expect her to simply forget about the slightly traumatizing or embarrassing event from last week. (I know. Typical, right?) But it also means that as a two-year-old, she recognized the insanity of the suburban grocery store situation.

One day after picking her up from the babysitter, I said, “Okay, Annalyn, we’re going to go to the store now.” As we drove down the highway, she asked, “What store?” and I answered, “HyVee.”

All was well – until we pulled into the parking lot and started walking toward the store. Toddling along, holding my hand, she looked up and shouted, “NO! No, Mommy! This is the wrong HyVee!

She was just two years old, but already she was realizing that in this suburban setting, we can find a grocery store on just about every corner.

Of course, as she was also learning, not all grocery stores are created equal. For example, the big box store where we usually buy groceries is a smaller version of the big box store a few more miles down the road. When it was first converted to a superstore with groceries, I was super excited. Driving fewer miles to buy groceries was a definite plus, but I was also relieved to shop in a store slightly smaller than the Atlanta airport.

Until I couldn’t find the right peanut butter. Or deodorant. Or soy milk.

See, it turns out that we traded miles of walking for a smaller selection. That makes sense, of course, and isn’t the end of the world by any measure. But you wouldn’t have known that from my initial reaction. “What the heck? How could they have all these other salsas but not the one I want? What is wrong with this store? Stupid store.”

Talk about first-world problems! And…talk about setting a bad example!

We live in a small house in an old, deteriorating neighborhood. Nearly every room in our home is broken in some way, and my car drives like it’s one gear shift away from a failed transmission. Every holiday, date night, birthday party and new outfit stresses out my budget and me. And we carry a much higher balance on our credit card than I like to admit. However, by the standards of a huge majority of people in this world, we are wealthy. Not just comfortable, but rich.

How, then, do I teach my daughters a healthy perspective on all our blessings, as well as a grateful and giving heart?

We do it by talking about having a grateful heart, reading stories about thankfulness and sharing, praying before meals and thanking God for all He’s given us every night before bed. We send thank you notes for gifts, and when it’s appropriate, I point out how much more we have than others – and how that means we must share with others. (Okay, fine, sometimes it’s more frustration than an appropriate teachable moment. But can you blame me, when I hear the words, “Is that all?” for the umpteenth time in one back-to-school shopping trip?)

But we also fight the occasional case of the gimmes (often prompted by the arrival of an American Girl catalog…SIGH…!) by giving our time and resources to help others. The holidays bring up lots of opportunities to help others in a special way, but giving back is something we can do in our own lives, in every season:

We can make meals and deliver them.
We can order pizza or pick up chicken and deliver it.
We can send a thank you note.
We can send a gift card or a gas card.
We can proofread her resume – and explain LinkedIn.
We can take baby clothes to a friend.
We can pick up a Sonic slush on the way.
We can keep extra gloves and granola bars in the car for those in need.
We can sit and visit and listen and laugh (and maybe cry, too).
We can pack up the kitchen and the boxes and the truck.
We can unpack the truck and the boxes and the kitchen.
We can order another pizza or fill up her freezer.

Helping friends in a real, tangible way is important to me. And just as important is teaching my girls that this is what we do. We don’t just talk about it or feel bad about it; we don’t just toss out platitudes or empty promises. When we hear about a lost job, a scary diagnosis, another round of the flu, a last-minute move, a no-good, very bad, terrible day, we can do something. We can help. We can give out of our abundance; we can love.

And somehow, between a not-quite-daily gratitude journal and sponsored kids and thank you notes and meals dropped off for a sick friend, my girls seem to be learning a little bit about giving and gratitude. At least until they find the next overpriced toy catalog in the catalog…

How do you teach your kids about giving and gratitude?

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How to Cable: Knitted Ear Warmers For Those In Need

Thursday, November 12th, 2015

How to Cable: Free Knitted Ear Warmers Pattern from MomAdvice.com

As a knitter, I am often intimidated by things that look too complex. I find myself gravitating towards things that I think will be easier and not even considering things that I think will take me out of my knitting comfort zone. Cabling was one of those things for many years. It looked far too complex and I can barely handle the basics of knitting. Here’s the thing. It is truly one of the easiest things you can do in knitting especially when you know a few of my favorite tricks for cabling quickly. Today I want to show you how to cable and how this project can benefit someone in need.

How to Cable: Free Knitted Ear Warmers Pattern from MomAdvice.com

This is the time of the year where the homeless and those in need really need us. When the temperatures drop and you are in that cold-in-your-bones zone, you are welcomed by the warmth of your home, maybe a fire, and a hot drink to settle in with when you arrive home. What if you had nowhere to escape?  Worse yet, imagine you were out in the cold without the warmth of a hat, gloves, or a scarf.  Let’s think also of the children whose family can’t afford these simple luxuries of warmth.

You can’t knit a hat? I get it! Those double-pointed needles are a pain in the rear, aren’t they? That is why I thought a simple knitted headband would be a great option for gift-giving and for a quick gift to share with those in need. In fact, I highly recommend knitting a few of these for your homeless care packages to keep in your car.

How to Cable: Free Knitted Ear Warmers Pattern from MomAdvice.com

Supplies Needed

Any Bulky Yarn (My top preferences for this project are the Lion Brand Hometown USA & Lion Brand Wool Ease Thick & Quick)

US 11 Bamboo Needles

US 10 Double-Pointed Needles (you just need one!)

Optional: Stitch Counter (to help you stay on pattern)

How to Cable: Free Knitted Ear Warmers Pattern from MomAdvice.com

(video below)

Trying to show you how to cable in a picture tutorial was a little impossible so today so I thought I would do a video. I am so terrible at videos so please forgive me. I’m off to a conference this week where I am hoping to learn more about doing these better for you all- it’s one of those work challenges I need to learn to tackle. I know how helpful it can be to show these techniques in a video.  Scroll to the end of this post to watch!

This cable is called a Shadow cable. In this pattern, we will be bringing three stitches in front with our double-pointed needle and three stitches cabled later behind our work. This cabling adds a double layer of warmth in this pattern and  I’d love for you to scroll down to the bottom so that you can see how I do this.

How to Cable: Free Knitted Ear Warmers Pattern from MomAdvice.com

Cable needles look like this and I have a ton of them. I hate them. I usually lose my stitches and I find it difficult to transfer stitches especially when it comes to bulky yarn. You can certainly buy them (this is my favorite type), but I recommend just doing a double-pointed needle one size down from the work to grab your stitches. I am a big fan of bamboo because they grip the yarn so well especially when moving stitches around. It’s the only type of needles I knit with!

How to Cable: Free Knitted Ear Warmers Pattern from MomAdvice.com

How to Cable: Free Knitted Ear Warmers Pattern from MomAdvice.com

Not only are these quick to knit (they shouldn’t take you more than two hours!), but I think they look pretty fashionable too. For gals with long hair, ear warmers are a dream for keeping your locks in place. For ponytail days,  you can just pull your hair through and still have warm ears.

I gave them a test run on the most miserable weather day which is ALWAYS, ALWAYS Halloween. My husband was freezing, but I was delightfully warm thanks to these cozy ear warmers. The cabling really adds a double warmth to them. For particularly rotten Indiana days (I know they are coming), you can layer this under your hat for extra ear protection.

How to Cable: Free Knitted Ear Warmers Pattern from MomAdvice.com

How to Cable: Free Knitted Ear Warmers Pattern from MomAdvice.com

How to Cable: Free Knitted Ear Warmers Pattern from MomAdvice.com

Can you just imagine the warmth you can give this season to someone in need? This little project is fast to memorize and easy to execute with a good audiobook (can I recommend our books section to you?) or with a great big Netflix binge (I’m sure you can find loads of recommendations on my 3 Little Things list).

Thank you to Nancy Ricci for sharing her beautiful Vanessa Headband Pattern for free with the Ravelry community- I am so honored to share her pattern with you today!

Free Pattern Download HERE: Vanessa Headband Pattern by Nancy Ricci

Check out my video below to see just how easy it is to cable with your double-pointed needle! Visit our Knitting section for more great ideas and be sure to friend me on Ravelry! You can also pick up my beautiful knitted boot cuff kit in stores RIGHT NOW!  Happy knitting!

*This post contains affiliate links! I only recommend what I truly love though! xo
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