Pandemic, Hygge Dinner Therapy

Here we are. In the midst of another rise of the never-ending Covid19 pandemic cases. As you know, if you follow my instagram, I have gone through many ups and downs when it comes to being able to find joy during these unpredictable and tiring times. My lack of being able to remain “present” and finding a sense of purpose in the recent months has reached new levels of unattainability. And, lately, I find myself leaping from idea to idea; grasping at straws trying to keep my mind busy with anything and everything that I can fit into my schedule. Painting my bathroom, trips to isolated book stores far away, amusing myself with imagining and planning journeys to the hippie towns across America, random acts of kindness to friends and strangers, painting a ridiculously hard (and still incomplete) paint by numbers… you name it, it’s probably floated across my mind.

The point is, we all want to feel a little bit of completeness during a time when so little is certain. We want to feel whole where there are voids. And if we can find anything heartwarming, we’ll latch onto it. And what warms the heart more than having a meal with friends and family? Not much.

Unfortunately, at this time, getting together with other humans is discouraged because, well… COVID. Yes, we know it travels, it’s extremely contagious, and you have to move heaven and earth to get people to wear masks… So, dinner parties? Not really much of an option, unless you want to spend time with 15 people and have 72% change of contracting the virus. Or so said an article I read online today. Yet, I have/had been dying to just GATHER. Like, we used to. And it’s brought a number of tears to flow throughout the year, knowing that it’s just not possible. So, I decided to take matters in my own hands.

In the recent years, I’ve developed this attitude like ‘I’m not gonna wait around on other people. If I want to do something, I’m going to. Even if I have to do it alone.” Apparently, dinner parties are included. So, I informed my hubby that I was going to do a faux dinner party, just because and for my family. Decor and all. Just for some kind of therapy.

Now, at first, that was going to include lanterns and 150 paper cranes hanging from the ceiling. I was THIS close to ordering a massive amount of twinkle lights from Amazon and stringing them up. Nearly bought new dishes… Until, I realized that I might be getting a tad carried away.  I mean, we are legitimately just trying to get by in these awkward, socially distant times. So, instead, I resigned to save my really amped up ideas for when I can fill my home with more people I love. And, decided my main objective would be to just set up a budget friendly, cozy meal that would feel intimate and a little more rustic than say handmade origami ornaments at each place setting. Are you sensing a theme yet?

I’ve been craving Asian food for weeks and, specifically, missing a restaurant from our home in NC. My fave dish is served there and it’s flawless, along with their coconut cake for dessert. So I looked up some recipes on pinterest for what I wanted and found an overabundance of options. I decided to make the main course and dessert from scratch and accompany it with pre-prepped appetizers and sides. Yeah, I was going a real restaurant style dining here, and wrote up the menu on my dining room chalkboard a week in advance so I’d have something to look forward to. You could, of course, do this week any type of food.

Now let’s talk decor and place settings. I’d like to talk about this in case you are in a little bit of a slump and want to do something simple like this in order to bring yourself and family a little bit of cheer. I’ll go through what I threw together and what alternatives there are out there.

The tablescape, you’ll notice, was rather uncomplicated. I didn’t have time to get flowers or anything and my table is SO long that it’s very hard to find an inexpensive table runner or table cloth to cover it. So, I started thinking about how some restaurants cover their tables with butcher paper and thought, “HELLO, KID FRIENDLY & easy cleanup!” But, rolls of butcher paper were like 15 dollars! This craft paper, gift wrapping paper was $1 a roll at Dollar Tree. I could’ve used the underside if I had wanted it plain, but I really loved the fun polkadot playfulness it gave the table. They also have plain kraft paper available for just under $2 a roll at Dollar General.

I already owned the candle lanterns and candles, which I got from walmart at the beginning of fall from Walmart. I’m linking the candles (which smell divine!) HERE. I haven’t seen the the lanterns since, in-store or online, so HERE are some similar ones. And you could probably also look at places like Hobby Lobby or Old Time Pottery for something similar and inexpensive. As well as the candles.

I simply bought reindeer moss for $1 a bag from Dollar Tree and filled the bottom of my lantern with it, around the candle, for a more woodsy and homey look. And to avoid fingerprints on the glass, I maneuvered it around with a spatula.

I got my snowy trees on a log, tabletop decor from Walmart for like $6, but I can’t find it on their website anywhere. If you can’t find anything in your area similar, you could probably craft it pretty easily with supplies from a dollar store. Or you could purchase a set like THIS from Walmart (below) or THESE glittery gems from Target.

On either side of the trees, I places cutting boards to place appetizers on and flanked them on one side with a beaded garland I got from Amazon earlier this year. I also used four, mercury glass votive holders I found at Dollar General for $1 a piece on each corner. They are adorable and I’ll definitely be reusing them again and again. I found a similar set of 12 on Amazon HERE.

Now, let’s talk about dishes! Mine are by Magnolia (Hearth & Hand) from Target and I got them a little over a year ago as part of their fall collection. They are no longer available, but if you are in the market for new dishes, I strongly suggest checking out what they do have in stock. Such as the beautiful, red rimmed dishes they just came out with!

I used the mixed matched silverware that I already own (I’m due for a new set) and wrapped it with $1 white napkins from Dollar General & found red burlap ribbon on sale to tie it up with. Next time, I may go ahead and spring for some more expensive linen napkins like the ones I’ve found online (below). And if you are having a little fancier of an event with more extended family…etc, it would definitely be a nice touch. You could even do matching ones with your dishes like the photo above.

There are also plenty of nice biodegradable options online. Like these palm leaf plates! Which are a great, more natural, primitive choice.

That’s about it. I would’ve done placemats like these had I thought about it beforehand, so that’s also an option. I also, ordered chopsticks because of the nature of food, that only set me back $6.99. Plus, everyone loves chopsticks! Twinkle lights also came into play all over the room where I could hide the LED battery pack HAHA! Spent $5 on 5 packs of those at the dollar store and they were a nice addition to the cozy, hygge factor. And the candlesticks on the mantel + burning wood stove in my dining room didn’t hurt anything either.

Overall, I spent approximately $28 (not counting all the groceries for dinner) and repurposed a lot of things I already owned. I hope this gave you a lot of ideas of how you can easily create a comfortable, spruced up space for you and your loved ones to enjoy a special dinner despite everything going on in the world right now. You don’t have to have a lot of money to enjoy a nice, memorable evening together- even if you’ve already spent months in the same house. Take the time out to make your life extraordinary!

Hello, July! Happenings + Haul

Happy Monday! I hope everyone had an amazing weekend. Maybe it’s still going? My hubby has off of work today and tomorrow… then, it’ll be back to the grind. But, for now, we’ll pretend like it’s Friday eve all over again!

This week was JAM PACKED with my parents being here. And, I have to hand it to my dad and Jon. They stayed out in the heat day after day to work on putting in a new door from our room to the outside and started on the porch we will be able to enjoy. My dad was also going to expertly apply wallpaper to our statement wall in the bedroom BUT, by the time Thursday evening rolled around, we opted for some family time that didn’t involve construction.

Our fishing adventures weren’t very successful, but it was nice to finally spend an evening doing something other than laboring on the farm til dark. Seems like most of May & June were spent doing numerous projects and tying up loose ends (figuratively and literally). While not all of the tasks I wanted are 100% done, it feels like maybe we have moved into the slower part of the summer. Plus, we couldn’t have picked a more beautiful night to spend hanging out at the pond.

On Friday, we ventured down to our local flea market + auction to take a look around. We brought our masks [the kids struggled a bit], but BOY was it HOT and there were SO many people!! We did the best we could to social distance and sanitize. How are you guys doing with that in your areas? Are you finding a lot of people don’t want to wear masks or stay six feet apart?

Didn’t find much at the flea market, this weekend, which was a bummer. I’m a sucker for antiques. But, the Fourth of July drove everyone out and I don’t know if we just got their too late or what. Somehow we always end up there in the heat of the day. Next time, I’m gonna show up bright eyed and bushy tailed at 6 AM and clean house! Haha

Our favorite part lately, though, has been the livestock auction. It’s been hosted online, but if you get there early in the afternoon & throughout the evening, you can survey what they are going to have up for grabs. It was fun seeing the kids pick out all the animals they wanted to add to the farm… all the while not knowing exactly what we would bid on.

Saturday morning came as a surprise, especially to the girls who didn’t get to go with him to pick up the “gifts” we bought. Jon pulled up with two rabbits and two goats, and their faces lit up with excitement. So, please meet… Oreo + Peach. The Holland Lop (black/white) and Mini Lop (chestnut) that have completely stolen our children’s hearts!

Fortunately, they are both does, so we won’t have baby bunnies running around any time soon! They are both silky soft, cuddle buddies and love their fruits and veggies! They are only 8 and 9 weeks old so I really can’t wait to see their little personalities develop more as they grow. Right now, Oreo seems to be the more laid back one. Peach is very lovable, but is also the one who tries to make a mad dash for the woods!

Now, I’m pleased to introduce you to Leia (light gray/brown) and Rey (dark brown/black) our Nubian goats! Of course, Star Wars names just came naturally to our family of nerds and seemed to fit these two sister so well. We aren’t sure yet of their age, since that information wasn’t listed at the auction. So, I’m looking forward to having our livestock vet come out and give us an estimate when he gets around to their vaccines.

Originally, two goats wasn’t on the agenda for this weekend. But, I couldn’t separate these babies! And, I swear our seven year old son is a goat whisperer! These little loves were just chatting up a storm to him at the auction. Leia is a bit more outgoing and playful. Rey is a little more cautious and independent. But, they are both like little puppies and are content to romp and follow us around when we have them out in the yard.

Sunday rolled around and we needed to go out and get some more supplies to make a temporary pen for the goats in the pasture and a few other odds and ends. We walked into Tractor Supply and, as usual on weekends, the kids ran to see the chicks for sale. Of course, this particular Sunday, we went to a different Tractor Supply than we normally do and they had Olive Egger chicks!

I have been looking for an Olive Egger hen [on the DL] for a few weeks, but haven’t found any. I’ve posted ISO’s on Facebook and checked auctions, but with no results. I haven’t “officially” posted anything about our chickens or our coop because we are still in the process of refining our flock. I cannot seem to find Black/Blue Copper Marans ANYWHERE! And I’m all about having a variety of egg color.

We have a few “slots” available right now to round out our flock and, even though these Olive Eggers won’t be laying for a few months at least, I am willing to wait for a good, well-raised hen. So, I talked my hubby (with the kids’ help), against his better judgement, into getting 6 Olive Egger chicks. Our plan, right now, is to raise them and keep one or two. Then, I’ll sell the rest.

If you don’t know by now, I’m actually terrified of chickens. Our [almost] 14 year old does most of the feeding, watering, and changing out the bedding in the coop. He expresses how “cool” he thinks they are very openly. I, on the other hand, can barely open the door to the coop and just hurry to fill up the feeder; even wearing boots up to my knees. My job, mostly just consists of making sure the eggs are collected and/or that our two year old doesn’t smash them on the way back to the house. Which, seems to be her specialty.

I’m hoping that by having these little buddies around, and not being afraid of their fluffy little selves, I’ll be able to train myself to be less scared as they grow into adults. I honestly, fought the whole “Let’s get chickens!” movement as long as I could. But, now that we have them, I couldn’t imagine them not being here. Just need to get past my bird phobia issues!

Side note: I am, oddly, not afraid of ducks. There were two lots of amazingly adorable ducklings, yellow and fuzzy, at the auction. Alas, I couldn’t talk Jon into getting them. I’m crossing my fingers for next summer when we have the pond dug out for the rest of our animals. Help me find convincing arguments! Because I’ve heard that they are loud and messy!

Aside from all the awesome animal shenanigans, the kiddos passed the time fooling around spraying each other [and my parents] with the hose, and jumping into their bathing suits to play and get crazy. I’ve been begging Jon for a pool because these summer days with no A/C, are by no means unbearable but, could definitely be made a little more comfortable with an evening dip! Haha!

Until then, for the past couple of years, our girls have been more than happy to chill out in this galvanized tub. True country gal style, they fill it up and have a “bath” in their “pool”. Or, at least that’s what the littlest sister says! And this weekend, we livened things up a bit by adding some Tubby Todd to the party!

I’ve heard some great things about Tubby Todd Bath Co. over the years. Having four kids, people are always recommending what they have used. Not to mention, I’ve seen a ton of influencers use Tubby Todd on their children. So, when I saw on Instagram that the company had recently released a limited edition watermelon scent for summer, I knew I wanted to get my hands on it!

I bought the summer gift set so we could try out all three products; bubble bath, hair + body wash, and everyday lotion. When they first arrived, I was surprised by the subtle scent and reassured by the plant-based ingredients. I’ll be honest, as with any product, I was skeptical, curious, and excited to give them a try!

When I added the bubble formula to water, that’s when it really started to shine. The smell came through beautifully as the foamy suds started forming. But, I was pleased to find it wasn’t overwhelming. Because of the natural source of the fragrances used in Tubby Todd products, the delicacy of the scent is exactly what it should be. And, I found that you really smell all the notes of each component. I also loved that the bubbles stuck around the whole time. They didn’t just fade away once the kids started splashing.

The hair + body wash was amazing. It’s probably the first time in history that my little Tulip babe has ever enjoyed having her hair washed! She is usually screaming for me to get the soap off her head and stop fidgeting with her. Also, she rinsed her hair (aka dumped a ton of water on her head) and the soap never burned her eyes. I really appreciated that because many of the brands we have tried in the past that have advertised things like “tear-free” have bothered my children anyway.

Last, but not least, the lotion. It’s substantial and not watery. Smooth and buttery, not sticky. And it absorbs without leaving any slippery feeling on the skin. Leaves my babes soft and smelling good enough to eat! I’m very happy with our Tubby Todd experience so far. I can’t wait to keep using these products and I will definitely order from them again. Have you ever used anything from this brand? What are your thoughts?

That’s a wrap for our weekend and the haul of farm animals we added to the homestead over the last three days! Can you believe it?! Sometimes I wonder how we are gonna take care of all this! But, somehow, it always works out. And, these experiences are literally making the lives of our kids so fantastic- especially since COVID came and ruined everything.
What are your summer plans?

*this post was not sponsored*

6 Ways I Save Money Clothes Shopping For Kids

If you have multiple kids, I’m sure you’ve heard all of the “Oh my! You have your hands full, don’t you?”, and the “You must be a glutton for punishment”, and the “You know how that happens, right?” remarks that folks will say in passing. If you don’t have multiple kids…then you’re house is probably a lot quieter than mine. Haha. Either way, this post will, hopefully, be able to give you some ideas on how to save some cash when it comes to stocking up on clothes for your children.

Some of these are probably things you’ve already employed. Others may be things you’re hesitant to try. But, basically, this is what works for me and my family, to make clothes shopping for four kids more cost effective.

Now, don’t get me wrong… There are plenty of times I have splurged on specific items. I’m a lover of small shops and handmade, sustainable, grow-with-you clothing. However, if those things were going to be the sole pieces of my child’s wardrobe, I’d be living in a cardboard box. For most of us, it’s just not practical to supply each of our children with completely custom, handcrafted, one of a kind filled closets and dressers. So, let’s jump into it!

  1. Consignment + Thrift

It’s a shame, but many, many people have reluctance to buy anything from a consignment or thrift store. The “previously owned” factor, or “in used condition” description makes them feel uneasy about the quality of what they might find there. Or, they associate the idea of these types of stores with a lack of funds. Therefore, thinking that more money + shopping = commercial retail only and big brand purchases.

This misconception is very unfortunate. I have found some of my FAVORITE kid’s clothes, of the most luxe brands at places like Once Upon A Child. There are hidden gems amongst the crowded racks at shops like this. You just have to be willing to put in the elbow grease and search.

Recently, I donned my mask (because COVID) and went shopping for a bunch of summer clothing components for the kids because it seems like they have all had a growth spurt at the same time. It always seems to happen like that, doesn’t it? And, I can’t imagine how much money I saved by making consignment my first stop that day. For example, my seven year old son is currently very into sport brands and athletic wear. That usually means shelling out big bucks for brands we love, like Adidas, Nike, Under Armor…etc. But, when I dug into the bulk of his size section, I found tons of LIKE NEW items of these exact brand names. And walked away with hundreds of dollars worth for a fraction of the cost.

The other great thing about many of these stores, is that they will buy items your child has outgrown and you can apply that credit to your purchase. Or, they will simply accept a donation of items you no longer have a use for, [like Goodwill] so that you aren’t just compiling a wealth of clothing clutter. If you have been leary of exploring your local thrift or consignment scene, I encouraging you to give it a go. You may be surprised!

2. Online Resale

Okay, this aspect of shopping requires patience; I won’t lie. There is a lot to sift through. But, if you’re willing, to spend the time and effort to look for what you want, you can get a great bargain! Plus, you don’t even have to leave home!

Above are just a few examples of sites I’ve had success with, but there are loads of others with similar ideas behind them and user friendly buying. This avenue of procuring apparel is a go-to of mine for lots of reasons. Here are a few:

  • You can search for specific brands, sizes, styles quickly; no roaming a store. Just a few strokes of the keyboard. Such as, “Boys 16 Gap jeans”.
  • Many of the items are sold NIB (new in box) or NWT (new with tags), so you can be confident that what you’re getting is authentic.
  • Returns are often accepted, and if they aren’t, you are usually able to come to an agreement with the seller. Make sure you read the terms!
  • You can, many times buy items in a “lot”, which saves you $$ per item. Shipping is often free on these as well.

But, of course, the best thing about these sites it that your can find items at a MONDO discount. Used or new, unless you are buying from an actual “boutique” or “store” hosted by these sites, you can usually purchase for much less than retail value. And, similarly to the last tip, you can sell your gently loved pieces and use that money towards more shopping! It’s like an entire cycle…and it can get addicting.

3. Amazon

Who doesn’t use Amazon for EVERYTHING?! If you have found a way to live without it, let me know how! I have an absolute obsession and it gets a little worse every day. My husband can’t even complain because he’s just as bad about those midnight purchases. Who else is with us?

Their tagline doesn’t lie! And, typically, I know that when I order clothing from them for the kids, I won’t be disappointed. And, if a return is needed… they make it SO easy. Biggest tip with Amazon shopping– SIGN UP FOR A PRIME ACCOUNT! Best money spent. Period. Two-day shipping cannot be beat.

Pricing here, obviously for brand new items, will vary based on what brand you’re looking at. But, I have found that lots of things will have a different/lower price than the MSRP. Example: I ordered an Adidas shirt for my son that he loved. It was somewhere in the $20 range on Amazon. When it arrived, the tag said the regular price was $40! Who doesn’t wanna save 50%?!

Also, there are some great shops/brands/items that are amazing dupes for small shop items you may be unable to afford. Lots of cute little jumpsuits, and rompers, and tops that are to die for. Here are a couple of my fave Amazon outfits on my baby girl last summer…

Bottom line? Amazon has everything. If you haven’t bought clothing on there before, go search your vibe. There is great stuff there for the whole family!

4. Zulily

I’ve been shopping Zulily for years. If you make an account with them, you will never regret it. They have new sales, every day, on tons of great brands. Major discounts on everything from pj’s to formal wear for little ones. They even compare prices for you.

I have hands down gotten some of my daughters’ favorite dresses on Zulily and the shoes are bomb! Run, run, run and check them out.

From their site: “Maximize your savings by ordering several items. Buy one item, it’s a good deal. Buy more than one item, it’s an unbelievable deal.” Returns are easy and simple, and they let you know the estimated time of processing before you even add something to your cart. I’ve even gotten great home decor and fun play items from them. Do yourself a favor and shop with Zulily! Download the app for an even smoother experience. Plus, then you can check deals from the comfort of your bed.

5. SALES

This is a bit of a no brainer, but reminders never hurt. Look for sales anywhere and everywhere! Some of my favorite places to shop sales are Nordstrom, Old Navy, Gap, Macy’s… Even Target has 30-50% off sections. Even if you can’t find the exact size you need, but they have a size bigger, consider investing in something that your child can grow into. And, if you have two kids of different sizes, but you love the item enough, buy one for each kid. That way one of the pieces will get twice the wear and you get more than your money’s worth.

Shopping sales usually pays off. Especially because the expensive items that are now in your budget were probably never worth the exuberant amount that was being charged for them in the first place. Clothes are made fast and cheap nowadays. Don’t overpay for something if you don’t have to.

6. Hand Me Downs

Because of the forethought of your clever mama, you may have had the experience of wearing your brother or sister’s hand me downs. And while you may have grown to not like it, it was probably the most economically sound thing for your parents to do. Clothes cost money. The more kids = the more money.

I have saved bags and boxes of my older kid’s clothes to pass down to the next. I’ve never been dissatisfied with that decision. And, truthfully, my kids haven’t either…yet. We have even accepted clothes from friends who haven’t had another child to pass them down to. The dress my daughter is wearing below was given to us by my best friend while she was visiting us last year. Her youngest child had outgrown it. My daughter proudly wore that dress until it didn’t fit her anymore.

You don’t have to spend a dime to use hand me downs. And, it might just be me, but I love their sentimental value. You may also be able to benefit those who are in need by giving them things your children don’t wear anymore. It always comes full circle.

So there you have it. The six places I shop the most and the tips that help me make it through without forking over a fortune. Kids are always changing and growing, and ruining and staining! This is what gets us through those fun, messy, beautiful, sprouting times in the most frugal way.

What are some ways you’ve found that help you keep some pennies in the bank while shopping for a large family? Or, if you only have one child, what do you feel like differs about their wardrobe than if you had more? I’d love to hear your thoughts!