Mason jar mania: My obsession

I have a confession to make. I am, and have been, obsessed with anything and everything related to mason jars for quite a long time. Many just think of mason jars as what our moms and grandmas used for canning their peaches, cherries, and strawberry jam. It goes so far beyond that for me. I inherited A LOT of canning jars. When I say a lot, I mean HUNDREDS. I have too many reasons for loving these jars to list every single one, but I’ll address some of my favorites in my post.

My basement is full of mason jars

One of the main reasons I love canning jars so much is that, especially for me, they are readily available. My mom religiously canned every summer… Peaches, tomatoes, apple cider… you name it, and it’s entirely possible she canned it at some point. I have so many jars. Granted, I have given quite a few away to friends who can, but I still have so many! I decided quite awhile ago that I needed to use them as much as possible. So far, I have done a fairly decent job.

Yes! These really exist! Sleeves, coffee lids, etc.

Another reason I love jars so much… They are so versatile! The amount of accessories that are available for jars now is mindblowingly amazing. Several years ago I found some neat lids that could be used for drinking out of. I really like them. Recently, I have looked online, and the accessories are everywhere. This makes me so very happy!

I can use my jars as coffee cups, with real lids. No sloshing or spilling. Ingenious.

Use with your vacu-seal to extend the “life” of your dry goods

 

 

I use my jars for food storage. Not necessarily in the actual canning sense though… I use them in conjunction with my vacu-seal machine. I have the canning jar attachments that suck all the air out of the jars and seal them. I use them for most of my dry goods… flour, oats, pasta, nuts… the possibilities are endless.

 

I take my fruit salad to work in my mason jars. WHY NOT?!

I also love to use my jars in the fridge. They don’t take up as much room as other containers, since they’re more vertical. I also enjoy the fact that I can put them in my lunch box and take them to work. I decided to try and glue several lids together to make yogurt and granola more portable. I love parfaits… I sure hope it works out like I hope it will! I’ll let you know if it does!

 

Just…. WOW

 

The next reason for my love of jars is decoration. My daughter’s wedding is coming up in about 6 weeks, and trying to come up with elegant, frugal, and simple decorations are a must. I found a nice item that I think will be nice for the reception, and then be useful at home as well. These solar charging light strands screw to the top of the jars and look so beautiful. They make wire holders for hanging, so they could be hung up by my patio for a nice relaxing evening after dark.

 

 

If this self watering indoor herb garden works, I will be overjoyed.

 

My last, and newest reason for my mason jars… planting herbs for an indoor, self watering system. I read about this concept on Pinterest, and I was instantly intrigued. I have “the black thumb of death”. I am horrible with plants of every kind. I can kill any plant… just give me time! I either over water, or forget about them entirely. It’s totally unintentional, but it happens EVERY time. I do tend to get very distracted. So, I’m hoping that this system will forego all my plant flaws and let me grow things!

 

And there you have it… many of the reasons I love my jars. Jars are everywhere you look… Garage sales, thrift stores, attics, and basements. Let’s utilize what is already out there. Reuse, reuse, REUSE!

6 months until Christmas… are you getting ready?

I love the Christmas season… It’s my favorite holiday. I absolutely adore the music. I love the lights, the baking, the tree, and the smells associated with it. I love getting creative with gifts, and coming up with the perfect present. I love the look of surprise and joy when my gifts are opened. I love watching people selflessly give to others. It would be nice if everyone was so caring and sharing all year long, don’t you think?

I hate to break it to you, but Christmas is officially less than 6 months away! I know, right? This year is flying by! Blink again and black Friday will be here. I know it seems very far away, but trust me, it really isn’t! I don’t know about you, but I’ve already got a game plan together. It’s ALWAYS good to have a plan.

There’s a few things to plan for as you’re gearing up. THINK LISTS! You know how much I love my lists. Obviously, I start off with a list of the people I need to buy for. By each name, I write down their favorite color, things they collect, and the snacks they love. Next, I start brainstorming ideas for gifts. I keep an ongoing list in my notes app on my phone. That way I can keep up with the little things I notice as they come up.

Reuse, reuse, reuse!

Oh so lovely, and easy!

Next, I write down gift wrapping ideas. Those of you who know me know that I am obsessed with meticulous wrapping. I feel that the wrapping should be just as beautiful and exciting as what’s inside. A few of my favorite ways to wrap presents… Repurposing Pringles chip cans. They make great boxes. (Pinterest has excellent diy ideas!)  I also enjoy making used greeting cards into gift boxes. I used to ask all of my friends to save their chip containers and little boxes for me. I love using cell phone boxes too. I love this type of wrapping… easy yet elegant… And recycling things just makes sense!

Instead of throwing cards away, repurpose into gift boxes

One of the most important things to add is my budget. I HAVE to have a budget. Millions upon millions of people go deep into debt every year because of the holidays… buying everything under the sun… buying every single thing on children’s lists.  Personally, I absolutely despise the idea of being in debt, especially because of Christmas! I write up a realistic budget, and use all my frugal skills to ensure that my budget stays in check. Coupons, coupon codes, membership bonuses, gift cards, store rewards, ebates… the list goes on and on! As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, the resources are out there for the taking. MAKE YOUR MONEY WORK HARDER FOR YOU! A little bit of research can save you hundreds. If you come in under your budget by Christmas, that’s great! Set it aside for a jump start on next year. You could even get presents and clearance Christmas accessories in January. Save 75%+? Um, YES!

Another thing I do a lot of is homemade gifts. I love the creativity of making the perfect gift for someone… made with hard work and love. It could be beaded jewelry, gifts in a jar (cookies, etc… there’s actually cookbooks specifically for this!), a framed photo you’ve taken, a knitted scarf, the possibilities are endless. Make it, and make it personal! I thoroughly enjoy receiving these kinds of gifts. One of the things I do for all my employees is make each of them a Christmas stocking. Every year we hang stockings on the front of our counter for everyone to enjoy. Each fabric is picked for something that they love, and it makes me so happy to see them all hanging up. (When the holidays come around again, I’ll show you the counter. It’s absolutely lovely!) Things like that, to me, makes me appreciate the effort that was put into a gift.  It truly warms my heart.

LOVE personalized things!

I scour the thrift stores for wrapping paper, ribbon, and bows for pennies on the dollar. I save the majority of the colored tissue paper (used for gifts) that I get throughout the year. I have a little box specifically for it. When it’s full, I stop collecting. I do the same with gift bags. I have a container dedicated to gift bags. When it’s full, I’m done. If you find nicer ones, swap out for the less attractive ones in your stash. You honestly CAN have too much. Set a limit and stick to it. 

One of the things that I have realized as I have gotten older is this… you don’t have to buy EVERYTHING for everybody. I have always had a humble approach to gift giving. When my kids were little, they had very long lists of items they wanted to receive. I know, I know… that’s what kids do. I know I did. (I recently found one of my lists from way back. So THAT’S where my kids got the hilarity from!) Just because our kids ask for a hundred things DOES NOT mean you have to get them all. Remember that budget? Take the time to find out what they REALLY want the most. Pick out 3 or 4 things, and let them be happy and satisfied with what they have. My kids had a ton of toys, but yet could still be bored. How is this possible?  Well, I found out that the overabundance of toys results in a lack of appreciation for what they have. Totally true! This could be said for so many things in our lives. I appreciate my things so much more when I have to work to get it. I don’t get everything I want, and I’m honestly glad I don’t. When, and if, I finally get what I wanted so badly, I am much more likely take better care of it… use it more often, for a longer length of time.

So, what it comes down to is this… Take a little time, and start preparing now. Wouldn’t it be nice to have the majority of your shopping done before December comes? Think how nice it would be to actually relax and enjoy the season instead of stressing out about it. Wouldn’t it be comforting to know that your Christmas fund is already where it needs to be, since you’ve been saving a little every month for it, right? If it’s not where you want it to be, now is the time to start!

Make your lists. Have a plan. Let yourself look forward to the holidays.

My class reunion – reflecting on my life

This summer marks a pretty significant event in life… My 30 year class reunion.  It just doesn’t seem possible. 30 YEARS? In some ways it feels like it was just yesterday. In other ways, it seems like several lifetimes ago.  To be honest, I’m pretty excited about it.

As I reflect on my life, and what I’ve done with it, I start to ponder… Have I lived up to my potential? Have I left my mark on the world? Am I satisfied with the things that I have accomplished? Are those things actually noteworthy? I have experienced a lot of very different things in my life since school… both good and bad. Marriage, kids, divorce, death, among other things… All those events have helped make me who I am. I’m stronger. I’m more opinionated and outspoken. I’m confident. I’m a very different person than I was. I’ll bet most of us are, and that’s the beauty of living in this crazy world.

I haven’t accomplished as much as I wanted, but I feel that I have made significant progress. It seems like most of those forward leaps have happened just in the last couple of years. I feel like I’ve contributed to society. I feel like I have made a difference. That’s really what life is about, right? Making a difference?

What I find the most fascinating about the anticipation of my upcoming class reunion, is that I am genuinely looking forward to seeing all those people I graduated with. I am looking forward to seeing and visiting with the friends I had. Were we all friends? Absolutely not. Will I recognize all of them? Maybe. I don’t expect everyone to recognize me. I certainly don’t expect for all of us to become best friends. I AM expecting to find that, at this point in our lives,  we have gotten past all of those social boundaries. As I’ve mentioned before,  I was a very socially anxious and awkward person. I’m excited to see how we have all changed. I know I have. I am excited to hear about everyone’s successes. It all sounds so wonderful.

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Do I know what I’m going to wear? No. I know I won’t be dressing to impress anyone. That doesn’t matter to me. I’m a t-shirt and jeans kind of girl, so maybe I’ll show up like that. I don’t know yet. What I do know, is that I want to have enlightening conversations with all my fellow Bulldogs, and hear about all the great things they’ve done.

So, as our big day approaches, I wish all my fellow classmen and women well wishes and safe travels.  I look forward to seeing all of you, and catching up. May we be united in happy memories, and look to the future with excitement.

Hail West Albany High!

 

My need to have less stuff

I have a confession to make. Lately I’ve been feeling very closed in and trapped by my stuff. Over the last year I have gotten rid of a lot of things. I’ve had garage sales, and donated trunk loads of my unwanted and unused goods. I have a lot less. So why do I still feel like I’m drowning?

I have theories of course. I have problem areas in my home… my dining room table, a certain oversized bookshelf, and my computer/craft/music room. These are either my high traffic areas, or where I spend much of my time. I’ll be the first to admit that when I get home from work lately, I’m tired. I collapse on the couch and don’t want to move. That is where the problems start. Everything that has happened during the day doesn’t get taken care of, so it starts to build up. It sure doesn’t take long!

The “drop zone” at the end of the day

Where items with no home hang out

I also bring things home. That offsets all that I have disposed of.

I’m sure you can relate. I know I’m guilty of not putting things away. We don’t have control of what happens in our homes when we leave for work, unless you live by yourself. It all adds up in a hurry. Then, within a few days, I start to feel the stress of all my stuff hanging around… far away from where their rightful place is. I feel like I’ve lost control. My stuff owns ME.

IT NEEDS TO STOP!

I’ve read many articles, blog posts, and books about decluttering and minimalism. It all sounds so appealing… so very nice. My big struggle is getting past my heritage and upbringing. You see, I come from a long line of pack rats. NOTE, I did NOT say hoarders. My family has long believed in stocking up on things… getting extra when there’s a deal to be had. It’s not garbage and nastiness… Just lots of items for later use… large boxes of various electronic cables, canning jars full of random nails and screws, shoe boxes full of artist paint brushes. I’ve noticed, as I look around my home, that I tend to do the same things. What makes it all the more ironic, is that I live in the house I grew up in. I still have things in my basement that my dad saved. (Cabinet drawers full of screws, nails, zip ties, etc.) There used to be A LOT more things, but I finally got up the courage to sift through most of it.

I just need to be brutally honest with myself when I take time to deep clean. I need to take every single thing out of my closet and start asking myself those all important questions that all those articles have brought to my attention. Do I use this item daily?  When was the last time I used it? If I were to get rid of it, is there another item that I have that could work similarly to this one? Do I know anyone that I could borrow one from if it was absolutely necessary? If there are several similar items, is there possibly one item that could do all the things that the multiple items can do?

I need to get a variety of boxes together and designate them for definite keepers, undecided, throw away, and donate/garage sale. Ultimately, what I like to do is have my garage sale, and then donate what doesn’t sell. I try to find a cause to donate the clothes, crafts, and other specific items to, whether it be shelters, nursing homes, schools, or various local charities that could use them before donating to my local thrift stores.

I have already decided to do a garage sale this year. I’m really not all that fond of putting on garage sales. I never have been. I work in customer service, so sometimes having a break from people is nice. However, I will admit, that when my daughter comes and hangs out all day with me, it is much more tolerable. We usually don’t make a ton of money, but I do enjoy her company. We listen to music, talk, and laugh obnoxiously… THAT I enjoy immensely. I think the biggest thing that I have learned about the yard/garage sale process, from my coworker, is to price all your items as soon as you have decided to sell them BEFORE you even put them in that designated box. When you’re ready to have your sale, you don’t have to spend the time pricing everything frantically as you’re staging all your tables. It takes so much stress out of the entire process! (Thank you, Angie, for THE MOST amazing advice!) I am even going to talk to my neighbors about the possibility of a neighborhood sale. That would bring in more potential customers. Why not? Last year, I designated the money I made for birthday and Christmas presents. It worked out really well. AND I GOT RID OF STUFF! Watching my things leave with an excited person was refreshingly pleasant. I’m glad someone will enjoy them.

As the summer season approaches, I am going to try and be more vigilant about putting things away as soon as I’m done with them. I’m going to recommit to my “5 things a day” rule. I’m going to put my reusable grocery bags back in my car as soon as I’m done putting my groceries away. If I bring something home, I am going to try to get rid of two things for every one thing I have brought in. I’m going to “Power Hour” my way around my house and have my biggest garage sale to date. (Last year’s was pretty big, so I have a lot of things I need to get rid of!) I’m going to go thru all my clothes and shoes, and get rid of the things I truly don’t wear anymore. I’m determined to reduce the amount of things in my home!

Sometimes all it takes is the realization to reawaken the declutter beast. That has happened to me.

ARE YOU READY TO OWN LESS? I KNOW I AM!

Resisting the impulse buy and emotional shopping

It’s been a rough day. I’m not talking your average crappy day. I’m talking about the: “I have the worst possible migraine but I’m working anyway, every person I come in contact with is being the worst version of themselves, my car decided to have a flat tire, and I ran out of gas”, kind of day. “I’m so depressed. You know, if I bought myself a little something, it would cheer me up” kind of day.

Sound familiar? I don’t have these specific things happen to me often, and certainly not all at once, but circumstances are inevitable and out of our control. Crap is going to happen! How we deal with it is critically important. I can guarantee that if you choose to spend to try and make yourself feel better, you will end up feeling worse when you get home!

There’s also the: “I have cash burning a hole in my pocket and I just feel like buying stuff” scenario.

Enter the guilt phase. It really is a vicious cycle. Feeling down? Buy something to make you happy. Get the bill, and then you’re feeling down again… Better buy something to make you feel better…. I’ve been there! It’s tough to break the cycle and rage against the machine, but you CAN do it!

First and foremost, realizing and understanding the cycle will aid you in making better decisions for yourself. This is another case where self control is key to your success. The simplest and most obvious way to avoid the cycle is to NOT GO TO THE STORE. Several things have happened… you didn’t spend money, you didn’t use any gas, and you didn’t waste your time. There’s still temptation though. Our “everything is at our fingertips” life creates its own set of problems, doesn’t it? You can buy just about anything anywhere, and at any time. Modern technology is fantastic, isn’t it? If you’re fighting that urge, focus on something else. Play some music, work on a project, take your dog for a walk, talk to a friend, read a book, bake some muffins, do some laundry… anything that keeps your mind thinking about something else. The urge WILL pass, and you will have success. Little successes are still successes, and each one makes you stronger.

So what if you’re out with friends? Then what? Are you obligated to buy things because everyone else is? Um, NO! Even if you have to have a rehearsed speech to tell your friends… you CAN resist. Deep breaths. You’ve got this.

One step at a time. One situation at a time. You are strong. Flex your will (or won’t) power. You can do this!  And when you do, find joy in your success.

Be strong

Stay strong and enjoy your little successes.

The importance of friends and a support system

I have spent the last few days in Havre, Montana for work. I was excited to come and see scenery I had never seen before. I brought my camera. I was also extremely anxious because, never having been to Montana before, I didn’t know what to expect. New area, new people… I pulled into my location with my stomach in knots. How was I going to get past my own social awkwardness and do what I came to do?  I took a deep breath, gathered my courage and off I went. I walked in with a smile on my face and introduced myself. Please, oh please, just let me make it through the day without feeling like an idiot.

These people are amazing. They put me at ease. They made me feel at home in minutes. There is a low key, homey feel to the area, and I love that everybody knows everybody. They check up on each other. They help each other out. They bring in doughnuts and pie… just because they feel like it. (Very delicious pie, I might add.)  I can honestly say that I have made friends here. It’s been 2 days, and I have friends in a state that I had never been to before Sunday afternoon. We swapped phone numbers, and I know I will actually call or text them soon. I will check in with them and make sure they’re doing okay. I know they will call me if they need my help. I am their support system. It feels great.

Having friends and a support system is so important. We all need help sometimes. We all need to rely on someone at some point. We need personal cheerleaders standing on the sidelines to boost us up. We need people to look us in the eye and tell us everything is going to be okay, no matter what the situation is.

I have goals… A lot of them. I let people know what my goals are. They need to know. They can’t support me and help me along if they don’t know what’s up.

Last summer I decided that I was going to try to exercise every day, try and eliminate the majority of sugar in my diet, and eat vegetarian for 30 days. This was a big challenge for me. I tend to be lazy when I get home from work. I adore sweets. I also really love bacon and sausage. I told my friends what I was going to do, and they helped me so much. They laughed at me and thought I was insane, (hey, that’s what friends are for!), but they helped me through every single day with my internal struggles. I seriously could not have done it without them. They brought in healthy, meatless snacks… and they encouraged me to get a fitbit. I did, and I love it. I love my friends for helping me reach my goals.

Be that friend who lifts another. Be the friend that can be relied upon. Be the one that says, “I know chocolate comes from the cacao tree, but that doesn’t make it a fruit, no matter how much you think it should”. Be the type of friend that you would want cheering YOU on. 

 

Getting more out of life

I go through life one day at a time, just like you, I’m sure. I wake up, go to work, come home, go to bed, and do it all over again the next day. Anymore, it seems that’s all I do. There seems to be little or no time for the things I long to do. My days, evenings, and weekends are full of chores and things I HAVE to do. After awhile, I feel like my routine is so…. routine. I realize that I’m taking so many things for granted. I’m taking EVERYTHING for granted. I would lay awake in bed dreading getting up in the morning to go do the same things… again. I needed a change.

Then, something amazing happened last summer. I had dinner with some of my music friends one evening. I’ve known these lovely ladies since high school, and even though we didn’t see each other all that often, it was always like no time had passed at all. We sat for hours talking about getting a music group together. Mind you, we have lightly touched on it in the past, BUT, this time was different. We wanted it… BADLY. We wanted to be a part of something inventive and creative. We wanted to have fun. We wanted to be a part of something special. We sat and wrote down page after page of ideas. We made plans. We made time commitments. That was the spark that changed something in me. 

We all lead busy lives. We all lead stressful lives. We made time in our busy, stressful lives to meet EVERY WEEK for a few hours. (Okay, I think we’ve missed 4 in the last 9 months, but that is nothing to scoff at!)  We work on exciting music. (And someday soon, we’ll figure out how to put it all together!) We talk about anything and everything… and I do mean ANYTHING. We vent. We cry. We laugh hysterically. We have an amazing friendship. We have a support system. These wonderful women challenge me, and hold me accountable for all the things I say I want to do. Together we have a vast amount of knowledge and connections. They make me want to do more with the gifts I’ve been blessed with, and they know how to help make it happen. My life has changed.

When we first started getting together every week, I felt a bit guilty. I left my hubby and my doggies at home, and went to our meeting. I felt bad about getting home a little later than I probably should on a “school night”. I mentioned this to my other half, and I was surprised by his reply. He told me that he had seen a change in me. He said he could see that I seemed to be happier. I’ve been in a better mood.  I’m enjoying being me. He doesn’t mind that I go. In fact, he insists that I go. That is incredible.

I have a lot of hobbies. I love photography. I love music. I love being craftsy. I love writing. I feel like I have accomplished more in the last 9 months, than I have in the last 20 years. I have stepped out of my comfort zone and put myself out there. I truly feel that I am getting more out of life. 

My challenge for you, is simple. Put yourself out there and do all those wonderful things you’ve been meaning to do. Start with one simple thing. Make time for yourself. Learn something new. This is such an amazing time to be alive. Knowledge is at our fingertips. Even the littlest of things can change your attitude. It can change your whole perspective. It will make you feel alive.

Shadow dancer

GO AND GET MORE OUT OF LIFE.

The learning curve

I have never been an overly computer savvy person. I have known this for a VERY long time. I know enough to “fake it ’til I make it”, but sometimes even that is a struggle. Fortunately for me, I know people who do this for a living, so if I bribe these people with enough baked goods, they will give me some sound advice. (Kindly insert angels singing, and rays of sunlight shining down on me!)

As I attempt to set up my menus, links, and extras, I am feeling several emotions running through me. First and foremost, I feel excited. I am giddy with anticipation of what the future holds. I have so much to share with all of you! Following very closely behind excitement is sheer frustration, and the very real urge to cry. Why did I think this blog thing was a good idea, when all I want to do is throw my computer out into my back yard right now. As I have revisited the same screens repeatedly for the 20+ time, I figure I should write down what I have done, so I know how to get back to that spot. I know as I become more familiar with everything, it will become easier. It just needs to happen much faster.

What I am really hoping will come out of this particular challenge is more patience, knowledge, and appreciation. I have a fair bit of patience, but evidently I need more. It is extremely obvious that I could use the knowledge. Practice, practice right? Eventually, that practice will turn into my appreciation for figuring it out.  I WILL figure it out. I am determined and stubborn.

Think about those words for just a moment…  Stubbornness. Determination. Patience. Knowledge. Appreciation.  Any time we decide to change things in our minds, hearts, and lives, it’s hard. Stubbornness creeps in and tries to take over. Habits don’t want to be broken. They sure won’t be broken overnight. Our determination to make changes within ourselves will help us gain the patience we need to succeed. As the days and weeks pass, we learn how to cope with our struggles. We learn how to meet our goals and have more success. And then, my friends, comes the appreciation… for the hard work, and the learning curve.

It is my hope that together, we can make some changes (even if they’re little ones), and make our lives a bit better. Get your determination ready!

~And so it begins~

I have toyed with the idea of a blog for many years. To be honest, it seems that I start one, and then I lose interest after some time. Embarrassingly enough, it doesn’t seem to take all that long. Evidently, my attention span for my previous blogs is about 2 minutes. It disappoints me so much. I love to write. I always have. I love to discuss topics that I am passionate about, doesn’t everyone? And then, as I was chatting with my dear friends a few weeks ago, it became so apparent as to why my other attempts have failed. I like to do so many things. That in itself is not a bad thing. However, the list of things that I am truly PASSIONATE about, is not nearly as long.  Did you see the light turn on above my head? I consider myself to be a reasonably smart woman, so why this took me so long to figure out is beyond me.

My intention is to share my knowledge with those who want a different perspective. I realize that the subjects that fascinate me might not be as interesting to others, but, maybe I can at least get you to visualize a different way of doing things that could be beneficial. I try to be honest. I try to be insightful.  I try to have good grammar, spelling, and punctuation. I have realized though, that I sometimes will compromise just a bit to make sure that my personality and opinion shines through. It will manifest itself at some point!

Let’s go on a journey together and make a difference! That difference for me is my own sanity. Let us begin!20160926_070847-1