Wednesday, April 2, 2014

I Am Back - Join Me at Counting Willows!

Hello!  Thank you to all of you glorious folks who followed me once upon a time at Leaving Excess!

As you may recall, I stopped blogging in 2009 (mostly) because I had gone back to work full-time and something had to go.

I was sad to stop blogging, because I loved it, and I often thought about starting back up again.  However, I did not want to start a new one until I knew I could 100% commit to it.

Life had some twists and turns - I worked hard, became the Chief Financial Officer, then I reduced my hours a bit, my husband started his own business and I decided to return home.  As I returned home, I knew I needed to generate income around my kids' schedule, so I could stay here for a good, long while.  I started a CPA/consulting business and started to research making a blog viable.

In January I took the plunge!  Since you were a subscriber before, I wanted to share my new blog with you.

Counting Willows is a blog about joyfully adding order to a messy, beautiful life.  It is about being purposeful and organized without draining joy out of life.  Adding enough order to maximize time and space, but to use that extra time to do fun, joyful things with those we love.

I share recipes, organizing projects, systems that work for our household, funny stories, funny pictures, decorating projects and, of course, my thoughts on life in general.

During the month of April, I am taking on the BIG Spring Clean and whipping my house into shape in anticipation of my oldest son's graduation from high school - can you believe that?  18 years old!

I hope you will join me on my blog!  I just finished a new design and I am working on some extra pages, but posts are up five days a week and I would love to have you join me again.

Thanks so much for joining me for Leaving Excess; I truly hope you will check out Counting Willows

Enjoy your day and all my best to you,

Monday, August 2, 2010

Fun Giveaway!

I have entered to win a Silhouette Craft Cutter - check it out here.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Returning with Random Thoughts

Hello, there. I have missed blogging, so I am back. BUT, not at a regular pace, just when I feel like it and have time. I am sure it will ebb and flow. But, if you can handle that, then I am glad to have you stop by.

I will start things off with some random thoughts.

1. My domain has changed from to

2. I am still working full-time and my hubby is home full-time. It has not been without its pain and adjustment, but overall it is working well.

3. My life has more convenience items in it than before. Like it or not, I had to face facts and admit I am just not able to do all I was when I was at home. We almost never ate out, now we do 2-4 times a month. Sometimes more. Sometimes our lettuce comes in bags, our carrots precut. Sometimes not. It just depends.

4. I miss my regular visits with my friends on Friday mornings. I have given up stamping and caved to the full work week this past spring as Steve's unemployment was cut down a level. My friends and I try to reconnect via email and other get togethers, like pedicures (see previous item on convenience) and our kids' sporting events.

This child never stops talking.

Neither does this one. In fact, he recently sang this song:
"I love to talk!
I love to talk!
I am talking....
Because I love to talk!"

Explains a lot.

7. I am requiring greater amounts of Excederin for headaches (see numbers 5 & 6 above).

8. I recently cleaned out my daughter's room and had an embarrassing about of trash to show for it.

9. I recently redid my 14 year old's room and so now my house is about as clean as it will ever get, with the two teenager's rooms clean and organized. It can only go downhill from here.

10. I *heart*, which is how I got rid of a lot of unused items in my teenagers' rooms.

11. My favorite blog is Pioneer Woman - if you have not seen it, check it out. Ree inspired my return to blogging.

12. Seeing my friends = sanity.

13. Laughing at life = sanity.

14. Sleep = sanity.

I am working on the sanity thing, can you tell?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

White Flag

I suppose I should have known that my life would get the best of me, but I really wanted to give blogging one more shot before calling it over forever.

It started out OK in October, but then this happened and life spiraled out of control with the addition of the holidays and some serious stressors at work. You could say, "Well, things will get better!" And yes, they sometimes will, but the simple fact is that I am the mother of four kids, ages 3-13 and am key to running two companies and I have the responsibility of the overall management the household.

This post here really struck a chord with me. This would be a busy season for any woman; let's face it - most days have too much to do crammed into not enough time.

While I really do feel like an epic failure to not be able to fit in all the things I would love to have time for, the simple truth is that for me, right now, I am needed to be so, so much to so, so many and there just is not much left (if any) most of the time. There are times when I could work blogging happily into my life, but I am just not happy with a once a month posting schedule and that is what I would be able to pull together more often than not.

I am so glad that I tried to make a come back, if only to be absolutely sure I am making the right decision. And by the way, I am making this decsion from a really good place. I am finally ready for the holidays, am looking to be able to take some time off and I have finished my most pressing projects at work (and kicked butt at it, thank you very much) - I feel like a thousand tons of brick have been lifted from me - I can breathe again. And I rather enjoy breathing.

I wish I could find a way to let each of you really know how much it has meant to me that you stopped in each day or week or whenever to hear what I had to share. Thank you! And I wish you all the very best that comes with working to grow and learn and better yourself.

Feel free to use this site as a resource. I intend to leave it up until the domain is up for renewal, so you should have access until May sometime. If I find myself dying to say something, maybe I will offer up a guest post from time to time to some of my favorite bloggers (to give them a much needed break!).

If I may impart one last thought to ponder:

It is OK to let something go. You can only have so many priorities, and if one has to slip, then sometimes it just is what it is. No one can do it all, so don't be afraid to do a reality check once in a while.

When you notice one who seems to do it all, then rest assured she is struggling to keep some other area of her life together - whether you see it or not. Wish her all the best as she works it all out for herself. And offer up a drink and an ear until she is able to figure it out.

All my best,

Friday, December 18, 2009

Dude! Why So Frugal?!

Sometimes I ask myself why I generally am trying so hard to live with less or save money. Its not that I don't believe in the effort. Honestly, sometimes the two purposes clash. Living a simpler life sometimes clashes with running about to get good deals.

Take, for instance, buying things at CVS. Now, most of you know that CVS has some great deals and if you stick to the deals, you can get lots of stuff for nothing - sometimes you can even make money shopping there. I have to admit that there are times I when I am trying to fit stopping at CVS into my life and I lament to myself how I just don't have the time or energy and who really cares if I get a stick of deodorant for free, anyway?! Fortunately, if I had to buy deodorant at full price, I could.

Fast forward to this holiday season. When we remodeled the den, I had room to organize my gift wrapping supplies in the den. In doing so, I cleared out all of our gift giving shelves in the utility room. There have been inexpensive things I have picked up over the past two years of frugality that I was just waiting to pass on to the right recipient. Some candles, some books, some toys, some craft supplies, some clothes - you name it.

When I cleared the area out, I vowed to make this year the year I used all that stuff or donated it to someone who could. The ending result is our gifts to teachers, coaches and sunday school leaders. After all that, we were still able to donate two bags and a box (shown above) to our church to use for fundraisers and donations to our local women's shelter. Walking by that huge pile for a couple of days before I made it to church that Sunday made me feel very happy, indeed. So happy, in fact, that I was motivated to also clean out my supplies of household medicines and toiletries, to add to the stash.

It is in these moments that I realize that while I can afford to buy deodorant, if I don't have to, I can either donate it or something else (with the money saved) to someone in need. Stockpiling our food and buying on sale allows us to donate a full bag of really tasty and good foods to our church the first week of every month, plus give generously to all the other food drives that come our way - schools, after school events, girl scouts, cub scouts, movie events that are free with donated food, our bank's drive, etc. That is SUCH a wonderful blessing that I don't doubt at all probably benefits me, more than it does the recipients of said food.

So, if you are looking for answers in search of why or why not to be frugal, consider this: When I carefully work living with less and getting good deals in a balanced way, I can spend less time working, give more to my community, show others how much they mean to me and instill values in my children. Of course, all in varying combinations, depending on my time and energy level, but when my motivation lags, I try to remember these incentives.

This post participates in Frugal Fridays at Life as MOM, head on over to read more frugal ideas than you could ever hope to implement!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Recycled Post: Make Your Own Frozen Waffles

Sometimes a girl just needs to leave her excess. When this blog temporarily becomes my excess, I rely on some of my favorite past posts to save the day - sort of recycling the good stuff. If you caught it the first time around, please let us know if you tried it and it worked for you!

My daughter, Alex, has always been a very picky eater. Whenever she likes something, I always try to make it myself so that I can limit the amount of chemicals and preservatives that she consumes. Of course, it is good for all of us to do that, but she eats so little, that I tend to focus first on foods for her.

Luckily, everyone in our house likes waffles! I make this big double batch, make them all and freeze them to use later. Once frozen, you make them just like store bought frozen waffles - toast and serve. I make the batter either the morning that I make the waffles, or if I know that I will be in a rush, I make up the batter the night before and put it in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, I take it out, give it a quick stir and get started!

I have a waffle maker from Williams-Sonoma, but waffle makers are the kind of thing many people buy with good intentions but never really use, so you can pick them up inexpensively at garage sales or thrift stores. I would check there first - save money, save something from hitting the landfill, all is good. My waffle maker makes one large waffle that is sectioned into five smaller sections - I like that because I can break off one or two sections for the smaller kids.

The first time you use the waffle maker, you will need to season it. This just involves wiping the surface with cooking oil on a paper towel and letting it heat up. After that, it should be good to go, but if the waffles stick, just repeat the oil for a while until the waffles no longer stick.

To make the waffles, heat the waffle maker until it indicates that it is ready (usually a light goes on or it makes a sound). Laddle the batter onto the maker, just barely filling the bottom as it will expand as it heats. Wait for small bubbles to appear on the surface, then close the lid and wait for the signal that the waffles are done. I find it works to use a fork to pick up the edge of the waffle to remove it.

Once the waffles come out of the waffle maker, I put them on a cooling rack to cool. I can fit three waffles on my rack, so by the time I put the third one on, the first one is cool and I can wrap it in plastic wrap and move all the waffles up on the rack to make room for the next waffle. If you wrap them up while they are hot, the steam will make them mushy, so be sure to cool them.

I wrap each one individually so that they don't stick together. You'll want to put all the wrapped waffles into a airtight container, a freezer safe zipper bag or wrap them in foil, to help prevent freezer burn.

Basic Waffle Recipe:
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
3 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup cooking oil


Don't miss reading about when I hit waffle *nerd*vana by reusing the bags from inside cereal boxes when freezing the waffles!

What works sorts of items do you like to freeze ahead for breakfast?

This post participates in both the Recipe Swap at The Grocery Cart Challenge and Ultimate Recipe Swap @ Life As Mom (because you can never have too many recipes!!)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Recycled Post: What Does SAHM Look LIke On Your Resume?

Sometimes a girl just needs to leave her excess. When this blog temporarily becomes my excess, I rely on some of my favorite past posts to save the day - sort of recycling the good stuff. If you caught it the first time around, please let us know if you tried it and it worked for you!

This post originally aired when I returned to work during the summer of 2008. After nearly 10 years at home, I went to work for an independent research lab 2-3 days a week. I am now the Controller full time (32-40 hours a week depending on what is going on at home and at work) and my husband is home full time. He lost his job in May 2009. With the current state of unemployment, I suspect that other SAHMs are needing to re-enter the work force. Here is my take on how to sell those years at home for what they are - vital, valuable and an asset.

I feel really blessed to work where I do. It was heaven-sent and perfect for my situation. Everyone is very friendly and supportive. You are expected to be responsible and do your job well, but when and how you do it is up to you (within reason). I get to set my hours and work around my family's needs the best I am able.

Bonnie, the woman who started the company, is also the CEO. We met for coffee after a mutual friend from an old employer connected us. Bonnie said that they had passed my resume around the office because they really liked how I worded the section on my time as a stay at home mom (SAHM). I knew right then that I had to work there - it did not matter what my title or duties would be. She got me and got what it meant for a woman to give up time in her career to stay at home.

When I was working on my resume, many people advised me to leave that part of my resume out. They told me to do a "functional" resume, listing my skill-set and then my experience - no real timeline. I valued the opinions of these dear friends and family - they all were trying to help me land a job, after all. But, I knew in my heart that to gloss over the last 10 years would be a huge mistake. Mainly because that is who I am. I am a mom. I am that first and I always will be. I will never just leave an employer in the lurch, but if an employer cannot understand rearranging my schedule for a baseball game or working from home when a child has the flu, then that is not the place for me. Plus, I am proud of what I have done over the past 10 years - it has been really hard and I have learned a lot about myself and my family. In the end, I followed my instinct, left the section at the very start of my resume and I am so glad that I did because it helped me wind up right where I am supposed to be.

Bonnie and I had a conversation the other day about working, being at home and just how hard it is to be a mom in general. Bonnie mentioned my resume again and said that if I did nothing else, I should share that part of my resume with other moms, so that they could use it on their resumes. She said she appreciated how hard it must be to re-enter the work force and how unsure you can feel after taking that time off. Pretty insightful for someone who has never been in that position, wouldn't you say?

So, here it is in all of it's glory - thanks especially to Lesa, Eric and Kreg, who gave me valuable input that ended up making the section what it is today. And thanks to Bonnie, who had the insight to really read this section and take it to heart. Please feel free to make it your own. State what you have done with pride and be prepared to speak to it. If you treat your time at home like the golden experience it is, the right employer will come along and recognize you for the golden employee you are. After all, we mothers are focused and organized - so that we can do a good job and still get home to be with our families. We understand responsibility, patience and multitasking like no one else!

The Schahn Project

December 1998 – Present

Raising four children, ages 18 months to 12 years and managing all our household activities, chores, meals, maintenance, remodeling/improvement projects, logistics and repairs. The skills I have strengthened while being at home full time include patience, compassion, delegation, organization, leadership, the ability to prioritize, negotiation, budget, project and time management and humility.