Thursday, June 20, 2013

Five School Days Left...

[CUE MUSIC...]

IT'S THE FINAL COUNTDOWN....

[Come on, the rock anthem started playing in your head, too... LOL!]

So hard to believe - I dropped my boys off this morning at school for one their last days of school for this year. Including today, they have 5 days of school left.

My youngest has been busy-busy with a series of field trips. One last week, one yesterday, one today, one tomorrow and then another on Monday, including a trip to St. George's/St. David's, Dockyard, BUEI and the Aquarium, with the class party a trip to the movies to see Monsters U and have lunch at KFC.... LUCKY DUCKY!

My oldest, on the other hand, has not had the rush of end-of-year trips because he had a 2-night/3-day class camping trip on one of the islands for his GRADUATION!!! Well, okay, not really graduating - the school calls it a "School Leaving Ceremony" as he's only going from Primary to Middle School. I can hardly believe that I have a middle schooler!

We've been busy making plans for our summer, complete with a bucket list of ideas of things to do during the summer - a list of things to do at home, things to do out of the house, and a third list of things to do in NY and NJ as we travel this summer.

But before that can all happen... even before VBS starts... we have to get through the last days of school - Honours Assembly, School Leaving Ceremony, School Picnic.

However, I do have a few surprises for my boys - I'm planning a breakfast for dinner as an end-of-year celebration (who doesn't love pancakes and sausages for dinner???). And then for the first day of vacation? A pajama day with video games and movies!

Should be LOTS of FUN!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Mikarose

I just love the clothes at Mikarose - they are pretty, trendy dresses, tops and skirts that are modest too.

I recently won a dress from them (ANY dress I wanted!) and can't wait to try it on. It's currently sitting at my aunt's house waiting for me to get there in about 4 weeks.

The dress I ended up picking was the Katherine - a basic black dress, perfect for just about everything:






Well, Dandy Giveaway is now doing a giveaway for a $50 gift certificate! I'd just LOVE to win that too! My first pick would be the adorable Chevron Maxi Skirt (but in Teal, not Coral):



Wanna know how to get in on the action? Check out Dandy Giveaway's blog post right here and follow the Rafflecopter prompts! It's that simple!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Summer Bucket List

Our family will be participating in the Happy Family Movement Summer Bucket List Challenge!

While we still have a few weeks of school left, it was time to start making some plans. We've created this bucket list of things we'd like to do. To make it easier, I've divided them into three groups - things we can do at home, things we can do when we're out and about, and, because we're traveling to visit family in New York and New Jersey, things to do in NYC/NJ.

I haven't decided yet, but I may take this list and put each item on individual pegs or on the fridge, or something fun and creative, other than just a list to check off. Still some time to figure that out! But here we go:


Monday, May 20, 2013

Summer is a comin'!

It is so hard to believe that this school year is just about over.

While I know some of you will be finishing even sooner, for us in Bermuda, we are only about five weeks from the last day of school. And this year will be quite momentous, as my oldest munchkin 'graduates' from primary school. Yup, that means off to middle school in the fall!

We are already starting to make plans for our two-month break. The very first week, we'll be participating in Vacation Bible School at our church. The curriculum this year is Answers VBS "Kingdom Chronicles" (Answers in Genesis), which has a medieval, knights in shining armour theme. The kids, of course, will be in classes, and I'm helping with administration this year - IN costume, thanks to a friend who is a closet Renaissance geek!

After that, we'll all, hopefully, be heading to the NYC-NJ area to see family and attend a mini family reunion and celebrate my grandmother's 80th birthday. My mom and step-dad will be traveling over from Australia, and my two sons will get to meet my brother's three children for the very first time. EXCITING!

So that is most of July planned, but then comes August... what to do then?

Thankfully, my oldest did win a week of camp at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute for his good grades last year, so he'll get to go dissect sharks for a week, but there are still another five weeks or so to fill for him, six for his younger brother.

What is a mom to do? Well, we're seeking a lot of Internet inspiration this year, and I've found a few great sources this year.


The first is the Happy Family Movement 2013 Summer Bucket List






This summer-long challenge begins TODAY and promises to help families enjoy their summer holidays while enriching ties. Oh, and did I mention that there's a chance to win stuff, too?

They also have a Facebook group you can join: 2013 Summer Bucket List


The second is a way to keep a record of all those awesome memories you're going to create as a family this year, thanks to Ziggle Designs' The List.







While this is a digital scrapbooking kit, it is set up so it you can easily print the pieces off yourself and use in a Snap! or Project Life binder, or even get them printed somewhere, like at Persnickety Prints.


The third item I've found to help provide some planning and ideas is the 100 Days of Summertime 2013 eBook, by ListPlanit.com.


The book is only $5, but you could also get a chance of winning it for free if you participate in their Giveaway - going on right now! - by following the instructions HERE.


The last item, which we used a little bit of last year, is The Confident Mom's Summer Survival Calendar.






This eBook is fully interactive and provides you with four months of calendars, ideas and worksheets to help you make your summer awesome!


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Giveaway at Webster's Pages!

Aren't these gorgeous?
How about these?




You could win a Folder & Card Set AND Washi Tape from that collection, along with a few matching extras too! Just check out the Webster's Pages blog post here and follow the instructions! And good luck!


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

It smells weird... but it's clean!

I, like many of you out there, have become addicted to a certain website that shows all kinds of fantastic ideas and trends and recipes and fashions... yes, you guessed it, it's Pinterest.

I joined up sometime late spring of last year, I think -- I really can't remember -- and to date I have pinned 13,177 different things. And by the time I finish writing this blog post and you read it, that number will likely have risen yet again. In fact, every time I go on, I find at least (bare minimum) half-a-dozen different things to pin.

However, I am probably a little different from many of you out there who are also addicted to Pinterest - I have actually tried some of the things I've pinned! Not many, when you consider the total number of pins I have on all of my boards, but I have tried several different things, mostly recipes.

Some of the recipes have been huge hits in my house - like the Chicken Pot Pie Bundles and the Mac & Cheese Muffins (which I make without the beef and in a glass baking dish, instead of as the recipe prescribes). Others, like the Cheddar-Apple Sausage Mac, not so much. And whenever I try a new recipe, I try to remember to move it from my "Yummy" board to my "Tried & Tested Recipes" board so that I can find them again.

I've also found scrapbook inspiration to help me get out of a rut, ideas for my kids' birthday parties and even gift ideas for loved ones, but one of the strangest things I've found have been some really unique cleaning ideas.

I have some severe allergies and asthma, which prevent me from using a lot of the cleaning supplies you find in your average grocery store or hardware store. I absolutely cannot clean my oven - that is a task left to my husband, who can handle the fumes of standard oven cleaners. And I can't even wear cleaning gloves to protect my skin from breaking out in rashes or eczema because I am severely allergic to latex, which is what most long-length cleaning gloves are made from.

As a result, I'm quite happy to try a new idea here and there, especially when it means using materials that I know I am not allergic to - like microwaving a glass of white vinegar, letting it sit, and then wiping the inside down. The vinegar and steam work wonders, making it so much easier to clean those unrecognizable things that sometimes embed themselves on the inside walls of the microwave.

Another, which didn't work well, was using baking soda in my dishwasher when I ran out of Cascade. Yup, that was a load that had to be re-washed once I had made a trip to the store.

One of the other things that I've tried was a unique cleaner made from, you guessed it, more white vinegar, mixed with regular Dawn dish detergent. I got one of those sponges with the plastic handle, and filled it half with Dawn, and then the rest of the way with the white vinegar, and then gave it a good shake and then went to work on my bathtub and the tiles surrounding it. It took a little elbow grease, but it worked wonders on cleaning the soap scum and I didn't have to inhale those nasty fumes from some of those toxic cleaning supplies.

In desperation, I've even tried the solution on some hard-to-clean dishes! It worked then, too!

There really is something about white vinegar.... It may make my bathroom smell a bit weird, but at least its clean!!!!

Follow me on Pinterest!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A Very British Birthday Party


Just a few weeks ago, my hubby hit the big 5-0!

To celebrate, my sons and I decided to throw him a big birthday party.

The first question was - where to have it.

Last year, I had won a photography contest at The Bermuda Aquarium Museum and Zoo through their Facebook page and the prize was the use of the aquarium hall for a private function! Awesome, right?!?! So, last Saturday night, we invited close friends and family to join us for light refreshments, chatter, and private views of the different tanks for a few hours.

It was originally planned to be a surprise, but knowing how impossible it was going to be to simply get him somewhere at some strange time, we decided to tell him, but we did keep most of the details a secret.

Being that hubby is a Brit, my boys knew that the best theme for the night was "Keep Calm & Carry On", using Union Jack's for decorations. And thanks to my sister-in-law, who went shopping and sent stuff from the UK, we had a ton of stuff to use to decorate with!

Hopefully, you'll get an idea of what it looked like (and yes, that's me!!!)

We even made, in addition to 4 dozen cupcakes (which we're STILL eating), this adorable Union Jack layer cake. The layers were all red, white and blue, and the decoration is red Twizzlers and blue M&Ms... cute, huh????

I also made him this cute shirt to wear for the night - gotta love Photoshop, printable iron-on sheets and plain white Hanes T-shirts!

























Too cute.. right???

I'm so thankful to my family and a dear friend who helped - my sister-in-law brought a pot of soup, my step-mom ordered a fruit tray and a veggie tray, and my girlfriend brought a tray of sandwiches. So all I had to do was make a giant pot of beef stew (one of hubby's favourites), do the cupcakes and cake, beverages and bring a few bags of bread rolls and some margarine!


To top everything off, we also made him a Candy Bouquet featuring British chocolates (think Cadbury!) as well as a huge movie/slide-show of photos of him from as young as two! In all, I scanned well over 125 photos and then input them into iMovie! (But I'll leave those two things to share with you on another day!!!)

In all, we had a great time and think everything turned out perfect - I know my hubby was pleased with all the hard work and warm birthday wishes he received!

Thanks so much for having a look!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Living Room Clear-Out

My living room is definitely the heart of our home. It is were we spend most of our time when we are at home - we are known to eat here, the kids often do their homework in here, and it really is my 'office', where I sit and do all of my writing. In fact, as I write this, our family just finished enjoying a pizza dinner after doing homework, and now both boys are busy playing video games - one on the Wii and the other on an iPad!

As a result, the place is often a major mess, thanks to all the clutter that seems to accumulate, especially on top of the coffee table. It only gets worse when I've finished folding laundry and I'm waiting for everyone to come and put their stuff away, as you can see in the picture below (Yup, this is a little embarrassing!)






The coffee table, with all its compartments, had become a mecca for dumping stuff that we tried to clear off the top, and, as you can see, was overstuffed with junk we really didn't need or want anymore.

One side....

And the other....

And the entertainment unit was no better. While I am always trying to keep the Wii and all its accessories corralled with the use of some old clementine crates, the kids are notorious for NOT putting away DVDs when they are done watching them.

As you can see, we were in need of some major work!

The job took me about three days to complete, but as you will see, it has been well worth the effort!

Firstly, right next to the mini entertainment center and TV, there stands a tall bookshelf, which was also in major need of a dusting and a clear-out. Old cards, old mail, books and user guides had regularly been shoved on top of the books, and really needed to be cleaned off. The books were replaced on the right shelves, and there was now even space for a few knick knacks and my hubby's birthday cards to be displayed!

























The entertainment center also got a major clean-up, and even the wooden clementine crates got a make-over. I took some left over white spray paint and gave them all a good painting, so that they'd look a little more uniform on the shelves. The old magazines were removed and all the wayward DVDs were put back in their homes. DVDs borrowed from aunties, though, were allowed to stay, so that we knew where they were!

EVERYTHING came out of that coffee table. There had to have been 50 or so magazines shoved under there - the craft magazines are being relegated to my craft room, while all the others have been given to a friend who will use them for homeschooling projects. All the old bills were taken out and shredded, memorabilia items are being put in the appropriate storage containers, and anything that did not belong was put away.

I actually have SPACE to put stuff in there now! As you can see from one of the pictures, more spray-painted clementine crates have been used for holding items, and one shelf is completely dedicated to holding everyone's Quiet Time Diaries (those are Bible study books).



As I said before, my kids tend to do their homework in the living room, because its more comfortable after sitting at a desk all day, plus they can have mom cuddled up with them while they're doing it. Of course, some days, necessary items (like pencils!) would be hard to find, so I've set up a small homework center on one end of our curved sofa, where everything they need - pencils, glue sticks, pens, coloured pencils, sharpeners, rulers, etc. - are all in one spot. Also next to it all is a mini basket I've used to contain all the remote controls that inevitably disappear under tables and sofas.

























At the other end of the sofa, the end table has been designated as a charging station for the iPads and my laptop, although I do hope to create a fancy one out of a wooden wine crate in the very near future (Someone keeps unplugging the phone to plug in an iPad!). All the extra cables have been stored in a cosmetic bag, and I even took an old pickle jar and decorated it with scrapbooking paper as a spare change jar, to save extra pennies (nickles, dimes, quarters and dollar coins, too!) for an upcoming family vacation!

























I have to say, my husband was really impressed with this clear-out! I think it probably meant more to him than any of the others I've undertake in the last 4 weeks throughout the New Year's Organization Revolution, because this is such an important room in our house.



I don't feel like I'm quite done in here, though. Maybe, once I've finished with my other projects around the house, I'll be able to make some art to hang on the walls, and find some practical decor items for the top of the table, but for now, I'm very happy with the finished result!

It needs a little something, doesn't it!

Of course, part of the reason for cleaning up and clearing out our living room (besides the fact that it was REALLY needed!) was as a part of the New Year's Organizing Revolution challenge and contest being put on by several great blogs, including I'm An Organizing Junkie, A Bowl Full of Lemons, Clean Mama, Ask Anna, Organize & Decorate Everything, Organizing Homelife, and Organizing Made Fun. I want to say a BIG THANK YOU to these ladies for putting this contest together, and for the challenge to get 2013 off to a good start!

Finally, I'm asking all my readers and friends to PLEASE vote for me in this last week of competition. I know this sounds crazy, but I would ABSOLUTELY LOVE to come third this week! (I could really use a GC to 31 Gifts! LOL!). Thank you also to all of you have voted for me through the last several weeks, too. I've not won anything so far, but I have been in the top 10 the last 2 weeks!

So, if you'd like to vote for me, visit HERE. I'm listed as #30 - voting begins on Friday, January 25 at 6am PST (9am EST) and ends on Sunday, January 27 at 12pm PST (3pm EST). Once voting is live, a VOTE button will appear under my name. If it doesn't appear, then either voting has not started yet, or is over. If you can't find me, do a page search for "Sara Westhead - Living Room" (in Firefox on my Mac, I click COMMAND-F).

THANKS AGAIN EVERYONE FOR YOUR SUPPORT!!!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Closet Make-overs

Welcome to week 3 of the New Year's Organization Revolution!

I have been working hard this last week on this week's challenge - Closets! In fact, I was able to tackle not one, but TWO closets in my house!

The first was my bedroom closet, where my husband and I store the majority of our clothes. It was in a state, to be sure!

The biggest problem was that it was full of clothes I no longer wear. Over the last year, I've managed to lose 40 lbs, dropping in size from a 20-22 (gotta love those UK sizings to make you feel bigger!) down to a 14-16, so most of the clothes I had were now way too big. So the first thing I really had to do was go through every item, double-check the size, and sort it to give away. In the end, I took FIVE bags of clothes, purses, belts and shoes to local charity shops. You'll only see three bags in the picture below, but the fifth bag was equal to, if not bigger, than the largest bag in the photo!








Sadly, I wish I had remembered to take a picture of the over-stuffed closet! But here it is, half-way through the process, after I had taken out all the unwanted clothes, but before I had done much of anything else. You can see it is still in need of a great deal of work, especially moving that mostly empty plastic trunk out and dealing with the giant pile of shoes just dumped on the floor.

























The giant pile of shoes... I sorted through it all, throwing out the ones that were in a really bad state and cleaning up the rest. Several pairs went in the bags to the charity shop, too.


I ended up pulling absolutely everything out of the closet, giving it a full vacuum, then returning some of the storage boxes we had in there (we invested in these great white boxes a few years ago when we moved back to Bermuda from the UK).  Smaller boxes went on the top of the closet, while the Hurricane Supplies box stayed on the floor.

I also shifted the clothes around. Because of the Hurricane Supplies box being on one side, my dresses didn't hang well, so I switched sides with my husband, all while keeping my sons' school uniforms between our stuff. (Long story short, I prefer to keep the uniforms in my closet to keep them from getting messed up!)

So here it is - plenty of space on top for storing more stuff! Although I'd still like to get a little shelf or shoe box to go in there for storing all the shoes.



 I also cleaned out the storage closet off our master bathroom. This is a really huge walk-in closet that we use predominantly for storing things we don't use every day, like suitcases and Christmas decorations. Sadly, it too was in a bad state and desperate for clearing out cobwebs and vacuuming. Again, everything came out and every plastic box got a wipe-down to clean away the dust and dirt that always accumulates. Again, I got so 'excited' about the work, that I was part-way into the task before I even remembered to take a photo!




























After cleaning everything, I even went through some of the boxes (some of which had never been 'unpacked' after moving 2-1/2 years ago!), and found more stuff that could either be put in its rightful place, given away, or even thrown away. In the end, I found that I had three boxes that were empty, ready to be used for something else!

After all the cleaning and sorting, everything was put back, but this time in a manner that I think is so much more useful. Smaller suitcases, wheel-aboards and duffles were stored inside the full-size suitcases, and the computer boxes we had been keeping forthe Wii, my laptop and our Mac Mini were all stored inside one of those empty plastic containers. Each box also got a label, so that when I'm looking for stuff, I know which box is which!

























The stack of containers with their labels:

























In fact, I loved the labels so much, that I created more to go on the few storage boxes in my clothes closet! I designed them using the digital scrapbooking kit, "Life is Beautiful" by Sweet Digi Scraps. (You can buy it HERE.) Here's a closer look at the labels:




Be sure to check out the rest of the closets in the New Year's Organization Revolution Week 3 Challenge and vote for me! Voting begins on Friday at 6am PST and ends at midday (PST) on Sunday - you can vote at I'm An Organizing Junkie.

I am currently listed as #48, however, those numbers do change once voting begins, with the people with the most votes being pulled up to the very top, so if you can't find me at #48, then do a page search (COMMAND-F on my Mac in Firefox), and look for "Sara Westhead - Closet Make-Over".

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR VOTING!!!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Kitchen Clean-Up

I really didn't think I'd get anything done this week in the New Year's Organization Revolution challenge - I've been sick for over a week with, the flu, I guess, and then strep (possibly) on top of it. Still, somehow, I managed to break the task down piece by piece, all while conscripting help from the family.

My kitchen was in need of a deep clean and some re-organization. You know how it is. You, of course, manage to keep up with the regular daily stuff (dishes, counters, stove top), but you don't actually get the chance to pull everything out of the cupboards and wash things down inside and out. Well, that was a big part of my job this week. And with pulling everything out, you, of course, have to turn around and put everything back in again.

As you can see, my cupboards were a mess, especially where we keep our plastic storage containers (see 4th photo).




But EVERYTHING came out. Some of my glass baking dishes even got washed because they hadn't been used in so long (not to mention the need to safely put in all the NEW glass dishes I got from my sister for Christmas - Thank you, Debs!) The cabinets were cleaned inside and out, and everything was reorganized before being put back in.

The baking stuff was especially bad, with things just tossed up into that top cupboard, but now I can find everything.

DH had found those wire shelves in a closet not to long ago, and they were added about a month or so ago, but the cans were all just tossed in there, willy-nilly - now they're sorted by kind.
My pantry cupboard was equally bad with a whole bunch of other stuff up there too. That stuff has been moved to a mostly empty cupboard that is a little harder to access, because they aren't used very often, and everything was reorganized on the two shelves.
Pots and pans and metal bakeware also got a tidy up. In fact, as I do regular cooking far more often than baking, I shifted the shelves, so it's easier to grab pots and pans when I'm cooking without having to get down on my hands and knees.
And that plastic cupboard... HUGE DIFFERENCE!
My kitchen counters were also quite cluttered - check out the before and after....

BEFORE

AFTER
One of the BEST parts of my kitchen clean-up was our fridge. We rent our apartment, and the fridge is old - it works great - but signs of age were wearing through. No matter what you did, the front of it looked perpetually filthy, simply because the rust was seeping through the paint on the front.

On top of all that, it was COVERED in crazy magnets belonging to my kids - Angry Birds, football (soccer), Egyptian pharaohs and these weird fruit face things - as well as all those standard travel magnets people have, some of which were broken. I really wish I had taken a before photo of this fridge.

Fortunately, I was able to talk my DH into painting the fridge front - a simple coat of Rust-Oleum Specialty Appliance Epoxy in white covered up all those unsightly rust stains. Even my kids say the fridge looks like new again!





















Of course, while the collectable magnets can stay (at least the ones that aren't broken! - those went in the bin), the kids magnets have been banned. I might end up making a magnetic board for the kids to play with down the road, though....

And to crown the fridge, I've been able to set up a family organization centre on the side of the fridge! I picked up a great calendar from ChristianBook.com, the "2013 Mom's Home Plan It" wall calendar. Sadly, they've sold out of this awesome calendar, but here's a link to it on Amazon. It comes with the magnets built in to hold it to the fridge and features a pocket for storing notes and stickers for using on the calendar, as well as a magnetic wipe-board.

I also have a magnetic notepad, extra magnets, a photo of my boys and clip magnets. I still hope to add a pen cup, though!




















As is typical with me, the job is still not done! Still on the to-do list for the kitchen includes a clearing off of our table, which is our family's personal dumping ground, and hubby has promised to put a shelf in under the kitchen sink to help better organize the cleaning stuff - lots of good things to come!

PLEASE VOTE FOR ME AT THE CHALLENGE!

Check out the "I'm an Organizing Junkie" page and do a search for "Sara Westhead - Kitchen Clean-Up". Voting runs from Friday, Jan. 11 to Sunday, Jan. 13.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Craft Desk Re-Do

As you may recall, I shared with you all about the New Year's Organization Revolution challenge being hosted by I'm An Organizing Junkie, as well as several other blogs and website.

I've been working VERY hard at revamping my craft desk - it was completely unusable before. In fact, I tended to do all of my scrapping and crafting on the dining room table, because my craft desk was little more than a dumping ground, as you can see below.

 My shelves were not much better...




















I think you'll be impressed with the changes, which not only clearing off the desk, but making sure EVERYTHING was in its rightful place.















A closer look at the desk...




















And the shelves?




















Of course, I am NOT done. I've also been clearing out stuff that I don't want anymore to give away, and I also need to figure out what to do with the stacks and stacks of scraps. If you have any ideas as to how I can best store them, PLEASE let me know! (I don't want to get rid of them, because they are perfect for when I'm doing crafts at school or church with the kids.) As a result, there is still a big pile of stuff on the floor... CONFESSION TIME...
It probably looks like a lot more stuff, because my hubby's two banjos and a guitar are sitting right behind, but you get the idea. At least half of this is going out the door!

I'll be linking this blog to the official blog page for the New Year's Organizing Revolution Week 1 - be sure to check it out and VOTE for me!