Winter Themed Dining Room Table

I have been decorating our dining room table based on the season since this past fall. It hadn’t donned on me to decorate it until fall came around and I had a TON of decorations. I did a fall themed table which included both Halloween and Thanksgiving add-ins. When Christmas came around, I did a Christmas table, but now that the Christmas is over, I needed a new theme. I decided to go with snow, since it is after all, still winter.

I spent forever looking for snowmen to use to decorate the table, but goodness, our area skipped straight from Christmas to Spring, with no winter decorations available anywhere. I finally hit up Michael’s, which had all their Christmas decorations at sale for 70% off.

I searched throughout the whole store for things that didn’t scream Christmas and left with a variety of things for a fraction of the price.

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2014-12-31 16.16.13I got the two trees for $3 a piece (originally $10 a piece), the two white birds for $1.50 each (originally $5 a piece) The bird-cage was my most expensive item at $6 (originally $20), two bags of the white pine cones $1.50 each (originally $5 a piece), and a box of a scented potpourri mix that included more pine cones and other silver items for $3.90 (originally $13). The snow man was purchased at Elder-Beerman’s also, 70% making him $6.66 instead of the original $22.

The candles and candle sticks were mine that I had purchased previously.

Overall, I saved $56.44 and couldn’t be more pleased. These are all items I can incorporate into our Christmas decorations next year, as well as enjoy until March or so.

How do you decorate your home after all the Christmas decorations come down?

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Wood Paneling Blues

When we purchased our house, there were many things that I did not like that the old owner had done or not done (in some cases). One big thing I disliked was the wood paneling that was in the basement. Not only was it paneling, it looked like old barn wood, which would look awesome in the right house with the right decorations…not in our home. I had hoped to rip the paneling down and start fresh with a plain wall, but this was real wood paneling, which meant there was no drywall behind it. That was a project Andrew and I just did not feel up to right now….too big to be done in a few days.

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Instead I decided to stain it a nice dark color and  I did a pretty sizable test patch. Well let me tell, that was a BUST. That paneling soaked the stain up like nobody’s business. When it dried you could not tell where I had stained at all. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement.

I left the basement to fend for itself for a few months, I just didn’t know what I was going to do to make the basement look and feel cozy. Then, we were given a 5 gallon bucket of soft cream paint from a friend and I decided to paint it! I again put the project off for another month or so because I knew it was going to be a hard project to complete.

This was one of the longest and hardest painting projects to date because the wood soaked up the paint, like I knew it would, and the whole project had to be painted by hand. The panels were separated by grooves that caused the roller to drip all over the place, thus making the roller obsolete.

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Surprisingly, the paint covered pretty well after the first coat, which only took about 4 hours for each wall and as you can tell by the photos below, the walls are not that big.

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The second coat went on much smoother and made everything look much more polished. Such a difference!

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I can honestly say that this was definitely worth all the hard work that went into it! I am super pleased with how everything turned out!! I’m excited to continue to work to get the basement up to my standards, which includes replacing the sliding door with some french doors, a leather sectional, and a big ol’ television!

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Anyone else had an experience with painting paneling? Any horror stories?

Organizing “Grown-up” Paperwork

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So lately I’ve been talking to a lot of my friends who feel like I do: overwhelmed. Overwhelmed with becoming a grown-up. Overwhelmed with paperwork. Overwhelmed with being in charge of life and everything that is important in it. Since most of my friends (and myself included) are now considered adults with real jobs, bills, insurance policies, and other important things to keep track of, I have been trying to find the best way to organize LIFE, more specifically, all the paperwork that is required to live.

There’s a lot of paperwork that goes into being an adult, like keeping track of bills, expenses, and the budget, as well as insurance policies, warranties on random objects inside your home, and the ever daunting tax information. I’ve done a lot of reading, researching, and experimentation and have come up with a system that works really well for Andrew and I and the way my brain thinks.

Budget Binder: month-by-month

I have a budget binder that I keep in my kitchen since this is where all the mail ends up first. At the front of the binder, I have a calendar that just includes dates, not days. On this calendar I have listed the dates that bills are due, since most of ours are due on a specific date. I do this more for my husband in case he would ever need to pay a bill since by now, I know which bills are due when.

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Inside the binder I have a sheet protector for each month as well as some extras. I use a AWESOME budget worksheet that I got from a blog I follow called Penny Pinchin’ Mom (see below for the link). I fill out this sheet each month and stick it in the front of the binder. As the month progresses and bills, bank statements, etc. come in, I pay them (as needed) and stick the portion that says “keep for your records” in the month’s sheet protector. At the end of the month, I look over our expenses, finalize the budget worksheet and stick it in the front of the sheet protector for the month with the bills and other paperwork behind it.

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As you can see, my binder is pretty thick now, since it’s the end of the year. If I needed to, I could pull out the electric bill or any paperwork from January and look over it….every thing is there! When the year ends, I will pull out the sheet protectors and place them in a file labeled “Taxes 2014” in my filing cabinet that I keep in the office. While it is highly unlikely to need any of this information for tax purposes, I have it if needed.

Then in January, the binder starts all over again.

Document Binder Station:

While my budget binder takes care of the month-to-month paperwork, what about the OTHER paperwork, like needed information for insurance (medical, auto, home), student loans, etc? This was my downfall…it was all in separate files in the filing cabinet but I didn’t know what was in each file, what I needed to keep, or what could be shredded. Again, I did some research and found an older post on another blog I follow called A Bowl Full of Lemons where she wrote about organizing her office and her system. I really liked her use of colorful three-ring binders and knew I could replicate it to suit our needs.

1. Medical Binder:

This was the binder I felt like we needed the most. We have medical insurance through my work, a separate dental and eye plan, again through my work, and a life insurance policy for both of us, all through separate organizations.

The binder has tabs for MEDICAL, DENTAL/EYE, and LIFE with paperwork for each type behind each tab. I included things like the brochures/paperwork that shows what is covered by our policy, policy numbers, and contact information for each one.

**It’s important to note that I did not include any paperwork that had private information such as social security numbers in these binders, just for security reasons**

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2. Auto Binder:

This binder seems to have a bunch of random information, but it was all necessary. Included in this binder are tabs labeled LOAN INFO, DEED AND TITLE, INSURANCE, REPAIRS, and I also included paperwork for the sale and loan repayment of Andrew’s last car (which I will only keep for the next 5 years).

The paperwork included is pretty self-explanatory as to what goes behind each tab. But again, for the insurance I put paperwork on what our policies cover, the policy numbers, and contact information. As for the repairs, Andrew drives a vintage BMW, so we seem to always be repairing something, basically this is for documentation of new tires and BIG repairs.

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3. Home Binder:

If you do not own a home, this binder can be skipped or adjusted for a renter. Since we bought our house in February, I’ve just had a HUGE stack of paperwork on it that I didn’t know what to do with. I finally went through everything and kept what was necessary and shredded the rest. There is so much paperwork involved in purchasing a house, so not all of our paperwork is included in the binder. For example, I kept a copy of the contract of sale of the house, but it is kept in a file in the filing cabinet since it is unlikely to be needed again.

The tabs in this binder include MORTGAGE, INSURANCE, and UTILITIES. The mortgage tab has paperwork on who our loan is through and contact information, as well as the any needed information for it. It also has the initial paperwork that shows the payment info and how much goes towards the principal, taxes, interest, etc. The insurance tab again has the information on what we are covered for, our policy number, and contact information. We also have the First American Home Warranty that was included in the purchase price, that covers things like the garage door breaking, the roof leaking, or the hot water tank bursting, that we plan to renew. While this isn’t technically insurance, I placed this information for what it covers, our policy number, and contact information in this tab, because I consider it to be similar to insurance. The utilities tab includes documentation on the different utilities we have at the house, electric, water, sewer, internet, etc. If I signed a contract to use the utilities, I have a copy of it. I also have our account numbers and contact information for each type of utility.

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4. Warranties and User Manuals:

This binder is pretty self-explanatory. Included are any and all warranties on any item that we own. I have it divided up into 3 categories: personal, kitchen, and garage, which most of our items with warranties seem to fit. This binder probably will get little use, however if I need the lifetime warranty on our luggage, I know where to find it! 🙂

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Personal:

This binder can be whatever you need it to be, or completely forgotten about. I use it to keep track of our student loans and my paperwork for graduate school and the TEACH Grant.

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The medical, auto, personal, and home binders are stored in the office on a baking pan organizer that I purchased from Walmart that keeps them upright. The warranty binder is kept in the filing cabinet with a few other random files.

The Filing Cabinet:

We have a smaller, two drawer filing cabinet that we also use to store paperwork that is important but not necessarily needed  all the time. I have a few random files in it, but I specifically wanted to discuss the files I use for the dreaded TAXES.

I have a file for each year of taxes, labeled with the date, that includes the W-2’s for the year, proof of file, and the return. What this means is, I have all of mine and Andrew’s tax information basically since we both started filing taxes.

**If you didn’t know this, you are supposed to keep tax records for 7 years. After 7 years you can shred the paperwork.**

In my 2013 taxes file, I have all the budget binder paperwork as well as all the tax information for Andrew and I (W-2’s, proof of file, and return information).

I also already have a file for 2014 taxes that I began in January of this year. I have been putting receipts and paperwork that I thought may be necessary in this file throughout the year and as our W-2’s and student loan interest information becomes available, I will place those in the file as well. That way, when Andrew and I sit down to do taxes, all I have to do is pull out one file with all our information.

Fire-Safe Lock Box

The last place I keep paperwork is inside a fire-safe box that we bought to keep important paperwork that would be hard to replace if we ever had a fire. Documents such as birth certificates, marriage certificate, passports, etc. I also have a copy of our insurance policy numbers and contact information for our agents for the cars and the house, just in case.

While this is not necessary, it is something I thought we should have just to be on the safe side.

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I know this was a lot of information in one blog, but as requested I thought I would map out my system and what I have tried to do to keep my OCD under control.

As mentioned above, here is the Penny Pinchin’ Mom website link to the budget binder worksheet:

 http://cdn.pennypinchinmom.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Customizable-Budget-Worksheet-Final-Form.pdf

I highly suggest her website for all sorts of money saving tips! 🙂

So, what do you do to organize all your grown-up papers? Anything I should add to my system? 

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

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This Christmas I was more excited than normal because it was the first Christmas in our home! I couldn’t wait to get the decorations up and spend time finding the perfect location for everything. But then came time to decorate, and thats when the problems began.

Last year, we lived in an 800 sq. foot townhouse and for a month we had tripped over all my cute decorations. By the end of the season, I was so fed up, I couldn’t wait to put the decorations away and when I did, I filled up two VERY large totes of all the decorations. Andrew went on and on about all the decorations we had and how much space they took up.

Well this year, when we purchased our home on Robin Lane, our living space tripled but I did not think anything of it until we pulled out and put up our tree from last year (after moving all the living room furniture around for about 15 minutes) IMG_6177Obviously you see the problem. Could the tree be ANY smaller in our giant living room? We laughed so hard but then realized a new tree had to be purchased. So at 9:30 on Thanksgiving night, we headed to Walmart to purchase a new tree. Luckily all the “Gray Thursday” traffic was over and the “Black Friday” traffic hadn’t begun, so we were able to sneak in an out in a matter of minutes.

IMG_6187We purchased a 7.5ft. beauty and I couldn’t be more thrilled with the outcome.

The other problem was those two really big storage containers from last year were REALLY small this year and I had enough decorations for about a room and a half, so we had to purchase a lot of decorations this year (I’m Hobby Lobby’s favorite customer this year).

This year was a dream come true when I was able to put up not just one, or two but THREE Christmas trees in different parts of our home. One in the living room upstairs, one in the recreation room downstairs, and one in the entry way. IMG_6246 IMG_6210 IMG_6193 IMG_0073 IMG_0072                            IMG_0070 IMG_0071IMG_0069 IMG_0068 IMG_0065 IMG_0062 IMG_0061 IMG_0059 IMG_0050 IMG_0049I’m sure I’m going to purchase all sorts of adorable things when the stores clear their shelves after Christmas and obviously need to purchase a few more storage containers!

Merry Christmas from Robin Lane! May you feel the true joy of Christmas this season.