Wednesday, April 30, 2014

How to get rid of SPAM emails and take control over your inbox

I hate SPAM. I really, really do. I've missed so many truly important emails because they get lost in the absolute flood of SPAM. As you have probably noticed, junk mail filters are worthless. I mean, they weed out the random malaysian porn emails and stuff, but do nothing to cut down on the floods of emails from companies, non-profits, etc. that bury the email from your kid's room parent telling them to wear their carnival t-shirt on Thursday. No bueno.

Sooo, I decided to fight back. Starting in January, I made it my mission to eliminate SPAM, one annoying sender at a time. I became absolutely ruthless about clicking "unsubscribe" from every single email that I deemed junk. It is a bit of a painstaking process, but it is the only way to really cut down on SPAM. At first it feels like you are accomplishing nothing because there are still so many, but over the months, I got less and less and now I go entire days in a row without a single unwanted email. It is GLORIOUS.

Now that I have my SPAM under control, I also make it a point to clean out my inbox completely at the end of each day to make sure I haven't let anything fall through the cracks. It's like the "one-touch" rule for paper mail--you touch it once and it gets immediately paid, filed or pitched. No good comes from letting mail pile up--paper or electronic. It's a recipe for dropping the ball.

When I started this mission in January, I have over 11,000 emails in my inbox.   Now I have three. It takes discipline, but like any habit, it forms quickly and you will be so glad you stuck with it! I feel so much more in control of my life.  :)

UPDATE: AWESOME tip from my friend Chris--go to and you can mass-unsubscribe from stuff you don't want and you can roll the rest of your subscriptions that you DO want into one daily email rather than having to be constantly bombarded!

Another good suggestion from my friend Renee--maintain one email address for humans and guard it religiously (i.e. never use it when you shop online, etc.) and another one for all the other stuff. :)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

How to make school mornings better.

So mornings can be brutal. Absolutely brutal. We are that family that likes to sleep until the very last minute and then rush around like headless chickens. We Fogels can sleep like nobody's business. So here is how we took some of the beatdown out of our mornings, even with a child who STILL cannot (will not) dress himself:

The Kindergartener:
Alarm clock. We took Ryan to Target when she turned 5 to pick out her own alarm clock. We lay out her uniform the night before and when her alarm clock goes off, she gets up and dresses herself and comes downstairs. Larry has her cereal and juice waiting for her at the table. While she eats I fix her hair, then she gets her shoes on. She is pretty self-sufficient.

The Preschooler:
Lord love a duck. Zane is just difficult. He refuses to dress himself and needs a lot of prodding. So we try to make mornings as prod-proof as possible. He sleeps in his school clothes (unless it's picture day or something) because I refuse to struggle a groggy, cranky child out of PJs and into school clothes. He is also not a breakfast kind of guy, but I refuse to send him out the door without anything in his tummy or to stand there and prod him to eat, so he drinks a breakfast shake out of a straw cup, which we hand him as soon as we roll him out of bed. Then I carry him downstairs and he goes potty and then sits at the table in a coma while I get his shoes on until it's time to go.

The Lunches:
We make them the night before and stick them in the fridge so we can shove them in the backpacks on the way out the door. Larry loads the lunches in the backpacks while I get dressed. (Though I am totally unashamed to be that sh#@show of a mom at drop off in her pajamas. This is the blessing and the curse of going to a very close-knit community school. You already know everybody, they already know all your junk and you can just be yourself. Even if yourself is in jammies.)

The Car Loading:
Larry loads the backpacks in the front seat and buckles Zane in the way-back (we carpool with neighbors, so we sit the kids in the order in which they get out). Zane might be the only nearly-five-year-old who refuses to buckle himself. But whatever. We have learned to pick our battles.

The Shoes/Jackets/Backpacks:
These are all stored in bins/on hooks in the laundry room, which is on the way to the garage. We can just grab them all on the way out the door.

Our morning routine is, start-to-finish, 25 minutes from the time we roll out of bed to the time we pull out of the driveway. It isn't pretty, Zane is sometimes a bit wrinkled and we are all still half-asleep, but it is SO MUCH BETTER than it used to be where everybody was yelling at everybody to hurry up, get up, get dressed, etc.  And doing carpool keeps us accountable to leave on time. We drop the kids 10-15 minutes before school starts so the kids don't feel rushed or worried about being late. (Not that Zane would care one bit.) ;)

Drugstore Makeup

I use drugstore makeup. Always have and always will, even if we win the lottery. This involves a little trial and error, but I have long since settled on the products I like, and I don't see that changing any time soon. It saves time (I get them all at CVS or Kroger when I am there for other things) and certainly saves money. Here is the entirety of my makeup collection:

A: Milani powder bronzer (#1 Light)
B: Wet'n'Wild mega lip color SPF 15 (Birthday Suit)
C: Loreal Voluminous original mascara (Black)
D: Burt's Bees Lip Shimmer (Peony)
E: Mirra makeup brush
F: Lacross tweezers
G: CoverGirl liquiline blast eye pencil (espresso)
H: Loreal true match crayon corrector (I use this for under eye circles and to conceal blemishes)

Drugstore makeup tips:
When choosing lip color, go for something with a little shimmer. 

Don't buy waterproof mascara-it's not as thick.

When choosing bronzer I (as an olive-skinned caucasian woman) go for one marketed to women with darker skin and choose a lighter shade from that line-this avoids overly orange or pink shades.

Have fun!

How to make a free rainbow loom display tube

We have been looking for a way to display Ryan's looming creations, both for sale at our upcoming garage sale and just to keep out for fun in her room. Michaels sells them for $12. We made one for free with the cardboard core of a paper towel roll and some paint. :)

Monday, April 28, 2014

The great closet purge

We have a neighborhood garage sale this weekend, so it was a perfect excuse for a big-time closet purge! I used the 6-month rule (if it hasn't been worn in the last six months, it is gone. Period.) Now we have a pretty close to organized closet (I am awaiting the arrival of my boot organizers and a belt organizer for Larry's belts.) We are using the one-in, one-out rule moving forward: if we buy a shirt, we have to be willing to part with a shirt, if we buy shoes we have to be willing to part with shoes, etc. Baby stepping toward minimalism and thoughtful, responsible acquisition.)

Sunday, April 27, 2014

How to cut down on artificial sweetener/diet soda

Like any female, I watch my calories. But I also don't want to pump artificial chemicals in my body. We have been diet soda addicts for a long time. I searched and searched for a good alternative to a diet soda. There just isn't one. They all either taste terrible or have artificial sweetener. So we just stopped keeping them at home. We no longer buy them. So when we are out to eat, we have diet soda as a special treat. I wish there was a good solution other than just not keeping them around, but if there is, we haven't found it! :)

Thursday, April 24, 2014

How to store all your kids' school papers and art crap

At least the important ones. :) I tried the whole "take a picture of the things that are really special and then chunk them" thing. But I want the actual paper that their precious little hands touched. I just don't want them strewn all over the house or stored in a lot of random places. So I got the art folder files from Amazon. They are big enough to hold the big stuff. And the accordion file system allows you to keep them sorted by month so you can see your kiddos' progress. One per kid per school year. We keep them in the mud room where the backpacks are stored so the things that are worth saving go straight from the backpack to the file. It had done my OCD soul good. :)

How to quit smoking

So here it is: public confession time. I started smoking in high school and have been an off-and-on smoker ever since. I tried to quit completely for YEARS. Years. And on the advice of a friend I walked into DFW Vapor and got an ecig kit consult. They helped me pick my flavor and my nicotine concentration. I haven't touched a cigarette since. I get that they can't bill it as a smoking cessation device and that the jury is still out on safety/health implications per pending FDS studies. But I can tell you they have no tar and FAR less chemicals than the real thing. I have noticed a marked improvement in the way my lungs feel. I will satirstep down in nicotine concentration until I get to zero. Because, you know, I want to live and stuff.

Dr. Seuss day outfit for six bucks.

Get black pants and shirt (which we all have on hand). Get yellow duck tape and color black lines on it with a sharpie. Make a tissue paper puff (look on Pinterest or just buy one pre-made at a party supply store) and hot glue it to a headband. Boom: you have a truffela tree.

Super easy bug catcher

Put stickers on a jelly jar, write name in paint marker, cut some mesh and secure around the (ring) lid of the jelly jar with a rainbow loom bracelet. Fill with leaves and catch some bugs.

A good skinny margarita

One ounce tequila, one ounce lime juice, one ounce sprite zero, one teaspoon agave nectar, blend in a shaker and serve over ice with a salted glass. (To easily salt the glass, dip your finger in agave nectar and run it around the run before you dip the rim in sea salt.)

How to store rainbow loom stuff

I couldn't take the rainbow loom supplies all over my house anymore. We tried several ways to store them-little individual containers for rubber bands and several different storage containers for loom supplies. We finally found a great option to store two looms and a bunch of bands: on Amazon the "Perfect rainbow loom storage kit." It really is. The one from Michaels that looks very similar doesn't cut the mustard-not enough compartments for various colours of bands and won't hold two looms. Trust me-we tried. :)

End game-day beatdowns

Get a hanging outfit organizer and store all components of kids' various uniforms in there, one uniform per shelf. No more hunting for baseball belts, matching socks, etc. on game days!

End the snack/dinner whining

Go to Michaels and get a magnetic chalk board. Paint whatever color border you want to on there. Make it a menu board for the weekly dinners and snacks. Then the kids know what is coming and what their options are for snacks. Stick to it. No more meal fusses. :)

Dinner with five-minute prep time

Step one: dump chicken breasts or tenders in crock pot.

Step two: pour half a bottle of BBQ sauce on top and cook on low for four-six hours.

Step three: break up chicken with fork and pour in other half of bottle.

Step four: spoon chicken onto buns.

Steamed green beans with olive oil, sea salt and pepper and some berries make great quick, easy sides. 


I am a mom of two, a part-time lawyer, a part-time photographer, a frequent volunteer and a professional chauffeur (to my kids' endless classes, games and practices) so I don't have time for life to be any more complicated than it needs to be. I'm really into organization and any way I can take some of the beatdowns out of life-and parenting. I think 99% of my friends on Facebook are tired of my endless life hack posts, so I'm starting a blog so people don't have to be bombarded by my drivel in their feeds. :)  So it'll be a lot of random things that I have found that help me bust the beatdowns. :)