Tips for Buying a Family Vehicle

Tips for Buying a Family Vehicle

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Anyone buying a family vehicle any time soon? Are you like me, toting around two little ones and two dogs and occasionally a grandma or two? Then you have to know how difficult it can be to find the right car! I’m a researchaholic when it comes to car shopping, because I hate test driving. I don’t know why, exactly. I got a 100% on my driving test and have no incidents on my driving record so I know I’m a good driver. Yet I still feel like a test drive is all about the salesman judging my driving and not about me judging the car. Crazy, right? Anyway, since buying a family vehicle can be super stressful and time consuming, I wanted to share a couple of tips with you.

1. Research

Bet you’ve never heard this before. You’re rolling your eyes, right? But listen, buying a family vehicle isn’t like when you went out to buy your first little beat up car. You have to think about safety. You have to think about gas efficiency. And, perhaps most importantly, you have to think about how you’re going to cram all those little ones in the backseat when they now have to be in a car seat until they’re old enough to drink. Even if you don’t hate test driving, you should start with online shopping. Bust out your Excel sheet and make a list of all the cars you like, their prices, safety ratings, gas mileage, and anything else important to you. Next sort the sheet by price and then by one other item of your choosing. Now look at your top options. Those should be the ones you test drive.

2. Think long term.

If you’re buying a family vehicle, perhaps you are having your first child, or you just completed your family of four. You could choose something that fits the four of you and you’ll be fine, right? Wrong! Your kids are going to have friends. One day, you might get them a pet. Eventually Grandma’s going to come visit and she’ll need to be carted around too. A good family car has an extra spot or two for temporary passengers. I personally only considered cars with no less than seven seats, and the back row had to fold down. That ensured my two kids could fit in the middle row, and then I could either carry my parents in the back seat or put it down and bring my dogs. It was a wise decision.

3. Most Importantly – Remember Car Seats!

Check your car seat when buying a family vehicle

I can’t stress this enough you guys. If you’re buying your first family vehicle, I’m guessing you still have babies. Car seat safety is so so so important. I said earlier they stay in them until they can legally drink. Obviously that’s an exaggeration, but kids do stay in car seats a lot longer than they used to. To start, go to Cars.com for their safety check.  You’ll probably be there anyway since it’s a great place to do your car research. They have a really helpful breakdown of what fits in family cars, and trust me, you will want that. Car seats are bulky, so they don’t fit just anywhere. I settled on a Traverse, and we can’t get to our backseat right now. That works for us since we put the dogs back there anyway, but it does go to show you, check it out!

Well, those are my tips for buying a family vehicle. Research and narrow it down to your favorites before you test drive. Make sure you have a little room to grow, and, of course, make sure you find something spacious and safe for car seats!

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Best Ways to Keep Drinks Cool at an Outdoor Party

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What are the best ways to keep drinks cool at an outdoor party? I wonder this from time to time when I’m browsing Pinterest and seeing all the little DIY coolers people have made. Do they actually work? Do we even need them? Doesn’t everyone own a Coleman or an Igloo? Why can’t we use those anymore? As you can see, I have a lot of questions about cooling devices. Anyway, since global warming is making summers hotter and hotter,  I thought it would be fun to test out a couple before the end of summer barbecues started. I tested out streamers verses tablecloth decorations awhile back and enjoyed bashing streamers, so I figured I could do the same with this.

Before I get started, let me give you a quick rundown of the method. I got four different cooling devices and a whole bunch of ice on a very hot day (91 when I poured the ice). The sky was sunny, humidity not bad. I poured the ice at 4:00 P.M., figuring most people have their barbecues in the early evening. Then I just left them to see how fast the ice would melt. I did put one drink in each of the drink coolers and a plate on the bonus food coolers, but I am aware that the ice will melt differently when completely full. This is still a good baseline. Anyway, here we go!

Reviews of Cooling Devices

1. The Yeti Cooler

Full disclosure: I don’t own a Yeti. My mom won my experimental cooler at a raffle a few months ago so I borrowed it from her. If you haven’t heard of Yeti, they’re basically the new standard of coolers. My husband got one of their glasses last year and that was the first time I’d heard of it, but even a year ago everyone acted like I was an idiot for not knowing. Anyway…

Review:

How Many Bags of Ice: 1.5 (could have put more, but I probably wouldn’t have if I was filling it up with drinks)

Time to Set Up: However long it takes to dump ice. If you’re entertaining at a park instead of a house, this will be a bonus time saver because everything will already be packed when you load up.

How Long To Melt: As of writing, it’s still holding strong, so at least one day.

First hour, still frozen
Hour four, still frozen
The next day – still ice, with a really low layer of water at the bottom

Pros: This is pretty obvious, right? The ice still hasn’t melted. Plus it’s portable.

Cons: It’s not “cute.” If you’re looking for a nice outdoor setup, this isn’t going to wow anyone with how adorable it is. It is plain white though, so it’s also not going to be that weird blue cooler color in your pink and purple party scheme. Also, it’s going to cost you way more than any other cooling device.

Best For:

You can’t really go wrong using this if you want an outdoor party because it will keep your drinks cool, but I don’t know that I’d pay for it if I was just throwing barbecues in my backyard. I would cough up the money if I camped a lot or did a lot of long hour entertaining, like days on the lake. It’s kind of strange comparing it to the others since it’s an actual cooler, but really, a list of the best ways to keep drinks cool at an outdoor party would be remiss if it didn’t have Yeti. Besides, if you don’t feel like you need your drink holders to be Pinterest worthy, might as well be high tech, right?

2. Inflatable Cooler


This is basically just a float you can put ice in. It’s said to float in a pool, but I don’t have one so I can’t confirm that. I mean, it would definitely float, but I don’t know how much you could weigh it down before it started to sink.

Review:

How Many Bags of Ice: 2

Time to Set Up: It took me forever because I blew it up without a pump and I kept getting interrupted. But I think probably 5-10 minutes is a good estimate, including getting it unfolded and filled.

How Long To Melt: It was halfway gone by hour 2.

Survived hour 1.
Hour two we’ve got serious melting.
It’s just a pool of water by hour three.

Pros: The look. It would look fun set up on a table in your backyard, wouldn’t it? You can put both drinks and plates in it. Also, they’re pretty cheap.

Cons: I was honestly surprised with how fast the ice melted in this one. I realize that most people will not put it on cement (I don’t have backyard furniture yet), but if you’re using a table that’s always outside, it’ll still be pretty hot. If you have something to put in between your surface and the cooler, it’ll probably do better. It’s also the longest set up.

Best For:

Short parties or parties where the decor is important. Think pool party or maybe a summer birthday party – especially one at night. In one of the Amazon reviews, they added a picture of this with some glowsticks in it to light up a night party. That would be pretty cool, and presumably the lower temperature would help keep the ice frozen.

3. Kiddie Pool

The kiddie pool cooler is honestly my reason for writing this. I keep saving the idea on Pinterest then wondering if the ice would melt immediately. If so it definitely wouldn’t be one of the best ways to keep drinks cool at an outdoor party, that’s for sure. Sorry I don’t have a link for it, but really, would you want to deal with a box that size? Go pick one up at Walmart or whatever. Mine came from Babies R Us for $5.

Review:

How Many Bags of Ice: 3, room for more

Time to Set Up: A couple of minutes, just dumping ice.

How Long To Melt: About 3 hours

The ice started melting immediately in this one, but there’s still plenty at hour one.
We’ve got a lot of slush at hour two.
There’s some ice hanging on at hour three, but it was gone by four.

Pros: It fits a lot of stuff. Plus people will probably tell you it’s creative. And it’s the cheapest on this list.

Cons: Um… you guys… it’s a kiddie pool. Good luck trying to keep your toddlers out of it. My son did not care that it was ice. It’s his pool, and he wants in. The pool’s so big you can’t really put it on a table, so people are going to be reaching to the ground to pick up their drinks, which is also kind of a bummer.

Best For:

Barbecues and kid parties, assuming you can get the pool set up without your kids trying to get in. The best ways to keep drinks cool at an outdoor party do not involve freezing your children as well. 🙂

4. Bonus Food Cooler


So, I have this ice mat that you can put food on to keep cool. It’s definitely not going to be one of the best ways to keep drinks cool at an outdoor party, but if you have a plate or bowl you want to leave outside this will work.

Review:

How Many Bags of Ice: 0

Time to Set Up: One minute, but you have to remember to freeze it at least 6 hours before.

How Long To Melt: I’m not sure when it was melted since you can’t touch the ice, but at about 3 hours the plate started to warm up.

Nice and frosty at hour one.
We’ve got edge bubbles at hour two.
Hour three – bubbles everywhere!

Pros: So easy.  I love just rolling it out.

Cons: It’s so small! Can someone create a giant one of these to go over a whole table? That’d be great. Although I don’t know how you’d freeze that.

Best For:

Barbecues and potlucks. How great would this be if you’re bringing a cool dish to someone else’s party but you aren’t sure they’ll have a way for you to keep it at the right temperature?

Decision: What are the Best Ways to Keep Drinks Cool at an Outdoor Party?

My decision here is there’s not a best way. It seems like a cop-out, but really, it depends on what kind of party you’re having. Is it a fancy event? I think the Yeti coolers will look classic, but baby pools will look, well, cheesy. Is your party only lasting an hour or two? Then any of them are fine. If it’s in the middle of the day and super hot, I would say the inflatable cooler is not one of the best ways to keep drinks cool at an outdoor party, but if it’s an average temperature or an evening party it will work. Also, how much are you serving? Do you really need a kiddie pool full of drinks? Do you need to lug everything to a picnic area? Think about these things, and the you be able to choose the appropriate cooling device for you.

The best ways to keep drinks cool at outdoor parties aren't always the cutest, but practical is important! #party
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How to Manage Time if You Hate Schedules

I hate schedules. I shouldn’t. I’m busy all the time, and it would make sense for me to schedule my days out.  But the truth is, what works for me isn’t what works for most people. As a virtual bookkeeper, my schedule rotates throughout the fiscal year. I barely worked last month, but I was full time in February and March (tax season) and I will be again in August and September. I now have two kids under two who have evolving sleep schedules. My dad, who helps me out when he can, is on shift work so even my child care is inconsistent. Oh yeah, and this blog? It takes up time too. I could quit, but I enjoy it, so it stays on my to-do list.

Despite all I have going on, the fact that I hate schedules hasn’t really hurt me, even though all the experts agree you need one. I’m good at changing things up – actually, I used to do that in offices anyway, just to keep myself entertained.  But, I get that not everyone is.  I decided that since my upcoming fun hosting posts don’t have pictures to accompany them yet (I didn’t want to do too much on my two week maternity leave – I’m not that much of a slave driver) I’d go ahead and talk about my strategies to avoid scheduling. I’ve read approximately half of the 250 million time management theories, so obviously I’m super qualified.

Use a To-Do List

One of my more easily accomplished lists.

I’ve spoken of my to-do list before. I currently use Wunderlist for myself and Trello for my clients, but I can’t plug either of them. Microsoft bought Wunderlist to do away with it, which crushed me, but I’ll survive. I could move everything to Trello, but honestly, it’s not for me. I like a simple checklist. When did everything go to boards? It’s kind of dumb. Anyway, the point is if you’re not going to use a calendar, you need to have something else to keep you on track. You may not check your emails precisely at 10:00 A.M., but you do need to check them at some point. Put that on a to-do list, cross it off when you’re done, have one less thing to worry about doing. Sometimes just having the to-do list makes me work quickly simply because I want my list to be shorter.

Choose Your Priorities

Honestly, my kids run the show. I don’t work from home because I hate people or because I can’t get a job. I work from home so I can be with my children. Once they’re in school I’ll start the job search again. I’m not full time, but having the clients I do prevents gaps in my resume so I don’t get charged a higher mommy tax. Hopefully. Anyway,  they’re number one, so I won’t have client calls while they’re awake. But… those little rugrats don’t pay me. So sometimes, unfortunately, I have to skip an art project and do some accounting instead. Returning phone calls has to take precedence over laundry. If you hate schedules, you have to accept that sometimes you can’t get everything done. Either have a makeup day once in awhile or just let it go.

Be Strategic with Sleep

Basically I just test my pillow for firmness and then wake back up.

What a weird thing to say, right? Sleep is super important. Everyone knows this. But I don’t have time to do what I do and sleep the recommended amount of hours, at least not at once. Before you start freaking out that I’m advising you to be unhealthy, remember that I have a newborn so my situation is a little different. If my first is any indication, my next full night of sleep will be in late 2018. That doesn’t mean I have to be tired all the time. It means I have to have a plan. It is possible to switch up your own sleep schedule, and that’s what I had to do.

I didn’t change my schedule up a lot. Actually, it was only a one hour difference. Instead of going to bed at midnight, when I could barely function enough to do any work, and getting up at six with my son, I started going to bed at eleven and waking up at five. Wah-lah. That’s an extra hour by myself in the morning, when I’m refreshed and ready to work. You might not be a morning person, so maybe you will need to change your sleep the other way around or add naps or something, but a little change in sleeping habits might go a long way.

If You Hate Schedules, Stop Scheduling

Freeeeeeddddddooooommmmmm!!!!

I have a client who has used every scheduling system in the book. Every. Single. One. For whatever reason, he thinks that there will be some magical scheduling device that forces him to do what he is supposed to do during the day. Like me, he’s a self-employed parent who prioritizes his kids. Unlike me, he refuses to simply say, “I hate schedules and they don’t work for me.” People, don’t believe everything you read. Not working set hours isn’t going to kill you. It’s not going to make you less productive if you’re not producing anything anyway. If all you do all day is rearrange your schedule because you’ve gotten behind on something, give it up.  Go on, tear that schedule up, delete it, whatever. Don’t you feel better already?

 

Managing your time when you're super busy can be difficult, especially if you hate schedules, but it can be done! #timemanagement
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A Guide to Creating a House Cleaning Plan

I need a new house cleaning plan. Last week I wrote about moving. This week my new house is a disaster and I’m trying to come to terms with the fact that it’s double the size of the rental I’ve been in since my child became mobile. I tried to get ahead of myself and create a new plan before I moved in, but I very quickly got overwhelmed. Why do I have a house with four bathrooms? Seriously, what am I going to do with them? Do I have to clean all of them frequently even if we’re not using them? What about the guest bedroom? The baseboards? Cabinets? Ahhhhh! I’m tired just thinking about it.

So, what am I going to do? Preferably find a nice housekeeper and call it a day, but I’m pretty sure my husband will frown on that. I may have mentioned it before, but when you work from home, people think you should be cleaning your own house, watching your own child, and working at the same time. I’m not sure when you get magical powers after signing a telecommuting agreement, but I haven’t got mine yet, so that’s a bummer. Anyway, I’ve got to have some kind of house cleaning plan in place soon or I’ll fall back into my old ways and forget about my beautiful checklist that keeps me on track. Let’s see what I can come up with.

Guide to Making a House Cleaning Plan

1. Decide what you will actually do.

Sure, there are plenty of lists out there that will help you figure out what you need to do and how often you need to do it, like this or this. Unfortunately those lists won’t clean the house for you, so they’re not necessarily the best way to make your own house cleaning plan. I want to have a clean house, I really do. I also want to keep my sanity. Since those two things don’t always go hand in hand, I can’t follow the perfect mom guide to a spic and span life. Let’s see. I have to do the floors. Have to. I should dust the fans – but I won’t do it regularly. So instead of making it part of my routine cleaning, I’ll wait until I accidentally hit it with something and dust falls like snow.

Making some things a priority doesn’t mean you’ll let the rest of the house go to the wayside. It’s more about feeling accomplished and not overwhelmed. I know I’m going to vacuum. I know I’m going to clean my kitchen and toilets. Making them the main focus of my plan is a good thing because the chances of me throwing in the towel on these things are really slim. Perhaps for you it’s dusting or mopping – we all have chores we don’t mind or dirty spots we can’t stand. Build off of those chores to start, and you might feel like it’s not so bad doing a little house cleaning.

2. Write it down – but make it easy to change.

My floors, always. Schedule says…..It doesn’t matter, they obviously have to be cleaned.

 

I don’t mean you actually have to get out a pen and paper, although you can. I use Wunderlist for everything, so that’s what I’ll stick to. But, having a list of what to do, whether written or electronic, helps you remember what’s due when the rest of the world has tried to fry your brain. I only mop every other week because if it was on my to-do list every week, I’d sincerely have to move to a shack with no floors. But if I didn’t write it down,  I wouldn’t remember if I’d done it or not. Can I look at the floor and tell if it needs mopping? Yes. Am I going to do it if there’s 8 million other things I did commit to in writing? No.

Of course, I do need the ability to change my list without throwing off my entire house cleaning plan. My new house is new new, as in, I’m the first person to live here. I wonder about baseboards. How long are these things going to stay clean and beautiful? Should I wait until they’re really dirty or do it every so often to make sure they never get dirty? I haven’t decided yet. I’m going to put it on my to-do list for two months from now, and then I’ll decide if I want to stick with a two month time frame or not.  It can go for frequent things too – I switched vacuuming days based on the dogs’ schedules, and I do that every other day. Sticking to it is important, but if you can’t change it for the better, you might not want to follow it.

3. Decide if you’re a weekender or a day-by-day cleaner.

Honestly, my schedule doesn’t have  a lot of differences between the weekends and the weekdays. There’s not much point in me loading all my cleaning up on one day since no day is free. But, that might not be the case for you. What’s more likely – you getting two free hours on Sunday, or you getting ten free minutes seven days a week? Some things you might like to do more than once a week. Forget about them for a minute. Think about your once a week, once every other week, and once a month items. What would it be like if they all landed on the same day? If you think that’d be better, load them all up on the weekend. If you think that giant list would cause you to ignore all of it, spread them out.

4. Not everything has to be on a to-do list.

You know what I have never considered putting on my house cleaning list? Laundry. Washing dishes. Picking up toys. That doesn’t mean they won’t get done, but I don’t know when I’m going to do them. Probably when I run out of pants, fill up the dishwasher, or every fifteen minutes respectively. Putting them on the list would be irritating to me, and if your house cleaning plan annoys you, you aren’t going to do it. You have to figure out which chores you’re going to do, but might need reminding, compared to chores that you’re going to do anyway and a reminder would only waste more of your precious time.

5. Share the load.

Make a to-do list for the rest of your family too. Ha ha ha, I’m just kidding. Does anyone have kids or spouses that will help out? What’s that like? Do you all marvel at how awesome you are when you’re done with chores and then take adorable family photos? Or is it, like, really stressful and you all walk around on eggshells trying not to disturb any of your pristine home? I’m fascinated, please share in the comments. Of course, families like that probably aren’t reading lists like this, but still, maybe you’ve heard rumors of these odd creatures. Share that.

6. Whine away – but still do the list.

I try to start my day with fives minutes to myself for breakfast, but usually the baby beats me up. I spend the morning chasing him around, occasionally picking up after him, and then furiously cramming as much work as I can into his morning nap. We eat lunch and do a chore. Just one. If my to-do list has more than two things, I can’t get them done. Because after that, we have to climb the stairs fifteen times, dump all the toys out of every closet, put them away, repeat, and then walk the dogs. Sometimes I can do a little more work in the afternoon, but most likely it’s not going to happen. Then my husband gets home, I cook him dinner, the baby wants to play some more, and eventually they all go to sleep so I can do more work. That’s seven days a week.

Do I whine about cleaning the house? Yes. Good lord, yes. Do I do it anyway? Of course. Who wants to live in filth?  My house is currently a disaster, but eventually we’ll get moved in. Then I’ll start my checklist back up. One day it won’t be so bad. I won’t be pregnant, my husband won’t be in school, and my kids will. I would sincerely hate if my house got ruined in the meantime because I felt like it was too much work to wipe my bathroom down once a week. I’m as tired as the next gal or guy, honestly, but it’s part of being adult. Articles like this are fun to read and relate to, but they’re not helpful. If you’re serious about creating a house cleaning plan, you don’t have to follow the rules of Good Housekeeping. You do have to follow your own.