Last year, I struggled so much with Christmas! I was working, but yet we were trying to save up for maternity leave and baby and I didnt have a lot to spend. We didnt have much to throw at Christmas, to be honest. Of course, I believe that Christmas is about SO much more than gifts, and gifts are one reason that Christmas isnt my favorite holiday theyre stressful, theyre expensive, and every year, my Christmas list makes me feel a little ill.
But this year, Ive determined that things are going to be different! Truly, we cant get out of gift-giving. We are blessed with a big extended family and they are all so sweet to buy gifts for us. That also means that I am left with a big Christmas list (to the tune of 20ish people).
So this year, I am determined to buy for all the important people in my life for less than $20 each. But I also want to give awesome gifts that people will love! So here is how I have mostly finished my shopping and come in under budget on every single gift. And you can too!
This one is huge for me! And if you dont have Amazon Prime, I highly recommend it. They post lightning deals every day that are only available to Prime members, you get free 2-day shipping on everything, you get a free kindle book a month, and Amazon Prime video (which is truly just as good as Netflix.) It will pay for itself, let me promise you. You can try it free for thirty days and I promise youll love it.
I do a lot of the hard work of combing Amazon to find those deals for you. Last night, some of our group members acted quickly and were able to get an HP chromebook for FREE. No joke. There was an amazon seller who was literally listing them for $0.00. And we all got our shipping notifications today. No signing up for anything, nothing crazy just free stuff. I dont only post about Amazon I post lots of links to sales, deals, promotions, awesome products on flash sale sites. I try to focus on things that I know will make great gifts, especially for kids and hard-to-shop-for like dads. Isnt every dad pretty much impossible to shop for?
3. Join Zulily
Zulily posts incredible deals just about every day. If theres something super special, I usually post it in the Barbee Dreamhouse group, but its worth checking every day to see if theres a need you can fill. They have everything from home accessories, womens clothes, kids clothes you name it. Its often really unique and fun stuff that makes for great gifts too. This is where you want to shop for mom and grandma, especially the ones that have everything and really need a super cool and unique gift!
4. Craft it yourself
I really dont consider myself super crafty. But if you really need to stay on a budget, crafting can get you there. I personally use my cricut machine to cut heat transfer and regular vinyl, so I go to the dollar store or Walmart and buy cups, mugs, and t-shirts to personalize. Those sell for $20+ on etsy but theyll cost you very little to make. I crochet or knit hats, face cloths, and scarves. Those are all projects that you can make up with pretty cheap, bulky yarn so they dont cost much and they get done quickly. And bam, you have a handmade gift. Even if you think you cant do that, I promise you can. Here are a few easy tutorials to get you started:
Crochet Face Cloth(make a set of these in fun colors, and you can also market them as dish cloths)
5. Buy it used
This really isnt something I do for anyone but my kids but let me promise you that your kids dont care if their Power Wheels is new out of the box. You can find great deals on Craigslist and OfferUp for big ticket items that other peoples kids have outgrown. Check eBay for electronics and gaming systems. You can also save yourself a lot of time because youre not going to have to be up at 3am on Christmas Eve putting tiny little pieces together on a bike or Barbie Jeep!
The worst part of meal planning is coming up with what to make that you havent already eaten 20 times this month. Or making a list of everything that jumps out at you from Pinterestand then realizing youre eating Mexican six times this week. Theme nights to the rescue! It gives you a framework for your meal plan and makes every week feel like theres a lot of variety. And makes you less like to growl at your family when you ask what they want to eat this week and your husband says, I dont care, just whatever, and your toddler says Mommy, I just hate food. (Those are real quotes, yall. Real quotes.)
Of course you can switch this up to fit your needs and I dont use this exact meal plan every week. Some nights, we already have plans to go out on a night that isnt Saturday. And on nights that PB is working, I have a strict policy about not cooking real food, so we will eat leftovers or raid the cabinets/freezer on those nights. Also, sometimes categories overlap we might have a Mexican meal or sandwiches made in the crock pot and then have sandwiches or Mexican again on that night later in the week, but thats okay! Also, if we have a meal that makes a ton of leftovers, I might go ahead and have leftovers the second night instead of waiting until Saturday. But this is a good starting point.
So here are some ideas to get your meal plans going for the week (or even the whole month!) These are all recipes that I know turn out really well and more importantly that my family will eat.
Sunday Slow Cooker or Grilling:
*I adjust this based on what season it is or what the weather is. More grilling in the summer or nice weather more slow cooker stuff in the fall and winter!*
Slow Cooker Recipes:
Have you ever wondered how you could try a gorgeous woven wrap for your baby without spending hundreds of dollars? Actually, without spending anything except a shipping fee? Yes?! Then stay with me.
If youve been with me for any length of time, you know I am all about babywearing. When my son was little, I couldnt get enough of having him in the carrier, and to this day, he still likes to be worn at 2 and a half. Ive had so many different kinds of carriers, but I consider myself a pretty new wrapper. If youre not familiar with all things babywearing, when I say wrap, I mean a long, woven piece of fabric you can tie 100 ways from Sunday.
And I know it sounds crazy, but these things go for hundreds of dollars. Yes, I used to think that was totally insane and I had a $75 hand-dyed wrap that I bought used for my first wrap. After you try some nicewraps though, you realize that you truly get what you pay for in a wrap. Its crazy, but a really nice piece of woven fabric can make a giant toddler feel absolutely weightless on your back.
I have been so interested in Tekhni wraps because I think theyre absolutely beautiful, and Ive heard great things about them, but everyone prefers different things in a wrap. I really didnt want to spend a ton of money on a Tekhni before Id had a chance to try them out. The best way for me to get to know thebrand better was to try to get a traveling wrap.Individuals sometimes send their wraps out to people with older/bigger babies so that the wrap can be broken in and easy to use by the time the owners baby is born. And in some cases, wrap makers actually send out samples of their wraps to travel for awhile.
It doesnt cost you anything to host a wrap, but you do pay shipping to your next host, and you need to send it with tracking and enough insurance to cover the cost of the wrap. Still, a shipping charge for a week with a wrap to play with is well worth it in my opinion! So I got lucky enough to get a traveling Tekhni for a week (and to sign up for more in the coming weeks). If youd like to try a traveling wrap, heres what you need to know!
How to Snag a Traveler:
Join Wrap Facebook Groups And Participate!
Once I got some insight into the world of wraps, I discovered there are different Facebook groups for each brand of wrap. People post pictures, get excited about new releases, post what wrap theyre searching for, swap wraps, and sell wraps. Those groups sometimes also have opportunities for people whod like to host a traveling wrap. If youre an active part of the group, chances are that youll notice when someone posts a wanted ad for hosts for a wrap. You can also check the in search of posts or threads for a particular group and see if anyone has a wrap who needs some places to visit. The more you participate in the group, even if its just liking photos, the better your chances of getting a traveling wrap from a fellow member.
Have a Babywearing Feedback Link
There are a ton of babywearing swap groups on Facebook, and almost all of them have their own correlating feedback groups. Most people who want to send a wrap traveling will want to see positive feedback for their hosts. You have to realize that theyre sending out something that is (in some cases) worth hundreds of dollars, and they need to trust that youre going to be honest and responsible with it. This isnt to say that you have to have done 100 different wrap transactions with feedback documented. If youve never bought or sold a carrier in one of the Facebook groups, or maybe you didnt get feedback for it, you can usually substitute feedback from other websites. Etsy, eBay, , or any other large website where youre being judged on your ability to participate in a fair, honest transaction are all helpful evidence that youll make a good host. Have all of those links prepared when you message someone to inquire about hosting their wrap.
Keep Your Eyes Open for Chances to Join Traveler Groups
In one group Im in, there was a short window of time where people could ask to join a secret wrap traveling group, where someone from the wrap company is the administrator. This particular group has almost every style of wrap that the brand makes. Theyre all out traveling around, so there are tons of chances to try out different things. Once youre in the group, youll need to keep an eye out for when host sign ups for particular wraps are going to happen. Jump on them when you see them, because they usually fill up within minutes. As long as you set yourself a reminder and make sure youre on the sign up page as soon as it opens, you have a great shot at getting a host spot.
When Youre Hosting a Wrap:
Report ANY Flaws Right Away
And I really do mean ANY flaws. Go over the wrap carefully when you get it, and make sure you let the owner or the group admin know that there are stains, shifted threads, or pulls, as soon as you pull it out of the package. Document with photo evidence if necessary. Its normal for wraps to get some pulls and shifted threads, and they can be fixed, but you just need to make sure that you dont get blamed for somehow damaging the wrap. With that in mind
I am the first to tell you that Im not easy on my wraps. Theyre meant to carry babies and a lot of times, that needs to happen outside when your tails might touch the ground. Babies can also be nasty little creatures who get slobber or other bodily fluids on your wrap. None of that is a big deal. Just be a courteous host and dont be around cigarette or campfire smoke with your wrap, try not to do a ton of cooking that could subject your wrap to stains or smells, and try to pull your dog off of it when she wants to burrow into it. Maybe youll only have that problem if you have a weenie dog named Brenda, but you know. Add it to the list anyway.
Wash If Needed, But Get Permission First!
Frances can be a little rude, and she pooped on my traveling wrap. You can always count on France for an inopportune diaper blowout! No way was I sending a traveling wrap on to the next host with poo on it. I made sure to ask the group admin if it was okay if I washed the wrap and explained the situation. I also checked with her that it was okay to use Charlies Soap on it. Most people will say that it needs to be washed in a detergent without optical brighteners, so dont throw it in your washer with your regular Tide. I also use the delicate cycle and tumble dry low heat to make sure I dont mess up or shrink the wrap.
Let The Next Host or Owner When You Pass the Wrap On
Make sure you get a tracking number, you ship on time, and you let the owner/admin know that youve shipped, as well as the next host. It helps everything run smoothly and gives everyone peace of mind that the wrap isnt floating around without a home. Remember that a lot of these wraps cost a lot of money, and some have sentimental value to their owners, so treat them well.
And thats everything you need to know about hosting a traveling wrap! Have you ever hosted a wrap? What was your experience like?
Francie girl had her six month checkup, which confirmed what we all knew already; shes huge! Shes super happy and shes my little social butterfly. As long as Im within sight, she loves to smile and flirt and play with anybody. She still loves to be worn, still wont take a paci, and she wont take a sippy with milk but she will take one with water. Shes stubborn, is basically what I mean. Hmmm, wonder where she ever got that from? Shes not been sleeping well at all at night it takes me from about 8:30 to midnight or 1 to get her settled down for a few hours stretch usually, and then shes generally up a few more times after that. Its easier to have a little perspective on that when you have a second baby though. Ira sleeps for 12 hours at night and takes a 2-3 hour nap every afternoon. No fuss, no crying, no problems. So I know that this phase is likely short! And shes so sweet and snuggly at other times, you couldnt be mad at her even if you wanted to.
I just started using Periscope and I think its so much fun! Im going to try to participate in the #octoberscopers challenge even though I totally failed at it yesterday.
My mom happened to be over by the Most Fantastic Trader Joes Ever yesterday. She bought all of the pumpkin stuff. All of it. She said you might as well call her Forest Gump-kin pumpkin cookie butter, pumpkin pop-tarts, pumpkin Joe Joe cookies, pumpkin granola, pumpkin macarons, pumpkin yogurt, pumpkin muffin mix, pumpkin bar mix, pumpkin Os cereal.seriously, I have every single one of those things sitting on my kitchen bar right now. And I have tried just about all of it, and it is ALL amazing. So get yourself over to Trader Joes if you havent been and buy all the pumpkin!
Funny Ira-isms of the week. Hes been such a character this week. We went out to supper at the Stag and Doe on Wednesday and my friend Sam said Hmm, Im not sure what to get. Ira looked up and responded matter of factly, You should probably look at your menu. He kills me!
Then last night he jumped up on the bed in Francies room and grabbed the Boppy. He said, Mommy you just put Francie up here and I will nurse her for you. I will give her milk from my milk parts on my tummy. Buddy, if you could do that, mama would be getting a lot more sleep!
He picked out this new bike helmet because his 1-3 years helmet wasnt fitting him very well anymore. We went to the park the other day to ride his balance bike. Its been raining so much that I packed everyone up and headed out the moment we saw the sun peeking out because I thought we might all go crazy otherwise! I think we are slated for more rain for what feels like another two years with Joaquin heading up this way, so Im glad we were able to at least play outside once!
Im now cloth diapering my second kiddo, and I have been through a few re-workings of my wash routine between two hineys in fluff. Much of the popular wisdom on the internet in years past said you needed to use a cloth diaper safe detergent. Think Rockin Green, Bum Genius, Charlies Soap. I used Rockin Green and Charlies Soap and couldnt figure out why my diapers were all stinking something TERRIBLE. They smelled like a goat pen, yall. It was bad.
I started doing some research and joined the group Fluff Love & CD Sciencegroup on Facebook and discovered I was doing everything wrong. I stripped my diapers according to their recommendations (not with blue Dawn! Ever!) Then I started over with a new detergent and wash routine. It took a week or two, but my diapers were back, baby. No more stink. They actually smelled like lovely fresh laundry straight out of the dryer. Instead of, you know, dried llama poop.
I just got the Periscope app and have been playing around with it and decided to do a scope about my wash routine, since its laundry day! Ill link at the bottom if youre interested in hearing me talk about how I do diaper laundry.
Im also going to give you guys a written version of the way I wash diapers. I have a Maytag front loader, and contrary to what the old CD advice was, if youre using a good detergent (Persil, Tide, or Gain) front loaders and HE machines actually are much better at cleaning cloth. Ive never been happier with my wash routine!
You need a real, honest to goodness detergent. Not Charlies Soap, not Rockin Green, not Bum Genius. I talk about it in the video ad nauseam, but I started using Persil and I absolutely love it. When I was using Gain, I was happy with my routine but I still needed to add a scoop of Oxyclean to every wash to avoid stink issues. Not so with Persil! I have used the liquid and the powder and I like both, but I find the powder is less messy, and some say it works better than the liquid if you have hard water.
Extra high spin
NO extra rinses I forgot to mention it in the video but you really dont need a thousand extra rinses on your diapers like I used to think. In fact, you specifically want to avoid it in this pre-wash cycle because youre going to be rinsing your diapers with nasty water.
Heavy duty (but I avoid the sanitize cycle or the power wash cycle because I think its too much exposure to hot water I talk about that in the video!)
You are fine to dry them in the dryer on a normal heat setting. Yes, sunning is great for stains, but it is totally not necessary that you get out there and hang them on the clothesline three times a week like youre a pioneer wash-woman. If you want to, great. If you have children who are marking all over their feet with markers like my eldest child did today, put the diapers in the dryer instead and make sure he at least doesnt write on the furniture.
Here are the videos if youd like to see me chat about my wash routine! And I would love it if you came over and joined me on Periscope. Come follow me @barbeedreamhse Its a fun app and its more fun if I have people watching!