Friday, December 13, 2013

Yikes! It's Almost Tax Season

2014 is rapidly approaching and if you are like my husband and I, we are searching through the house to find things to donate.  It is the annual end of the year tax deduction scramble to figure out what we can get rid of.

If you live in the Midland, MI area there are some great organizations accepting donations and several of them even offer pick up service. Donation Quick Info Sheet

And if you are like us, we have old, out of date lap tops laying around that you aren't quite sure what to do with.  Well Goodwill now offers recycling service for your computers.  They have partnered with Dell in a program called Reconnect to refurbish computers.  What a better way to get rid of old computers collecting dust AND get a tax deduction out of it!!  Sounds like a win-win situation. Just be sure to wipe the hard drive for security measures.

When donating be sure to keep an itemized list of things being donated.  I ALWAYS forget to write things down.  Usually two weeks after I turn the list into the accountant, I remember a big ticket item we donated.  I always walk away going "oh man, I forgot to list the VCR on the list."  Not sure VCRs are considered "big ticket" items any more, but they have to be worth something.  To prevent forgetting, I made myself a handy dandy sheet to record my donations as I am putting them in the bag. Get your copy of the itemized donation worksheet here.

The Salvation Army offers a very nice donation value guide because I am never sure of the value.  This gives a standard guideline of values, which is super handy and takes the pressure of figuring out how much a shirt you no longer wear is worth.

Keep organized with the itemized donation worksheet
When cleaning the closet for clothes that I can donate, I keep the list and make categories like Men's Dress Shirt, Women's Dress Pants, Women's T-Shirt, Women's Shoes, etc.  Then as I load the items into the bag I put a hash mark in the quantity column, look at the donation value guide, and calculate out my total value.  Once I get everything loaded into the car and drop it off at the donation center, I take my itemized list with me.  Usually when dropping the items off the person at the donation center will ask for a value.  I show them the list, and they will give me a receipt.  I then staple the receipt to my itemized donation worksheet so I don't lose it.  Armed with my itemized list and receipt I am ready for the accountant, or Turbo Tax if you are a do-it-yourself type person (I'm not brave enough for do-it-yourself taxes).

Now, if you don't have anything to donate or aren't keen on giving away clothes you can also donate to the food pantry.  I think this is a good time of the year to go through my cabinets and figure out what I'm not going to use.  We have a lot of holiday gatherings at our house and things are always left here.  We have a tendency to over buy because "too much is better than running out".  Which means we buy enough ingredients for a double batch but only make one batch. Then I am left with ingredients to make desserts such as orange fluff.  Super good, but after the holidays I am not motivated to make any sweets from the overload of holiday goodies.  I like to gather all these extra tempting ingredient boxes and donate them to the local food pantry.

So, good luck in the end of the year donation scramble and maybe I will see you at the donation center.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Picking a Christmas Tree

Today we braved the cold and went out and got our Christmas tree.  My husband's family has a tradition of going to a local cut your own tree farm, so we are continuing the tradition with Ella.  It is nice to help support a local family and create a tradition with our little one.

All the accessories for tree shopping, including the dog
We decided to go alllllllllllllllllll out for the adventure.  This afternoon we were the stereotypical overdo it type family because not only did we take the baby, the camera, and .......the dog!  Poor Jason had to pull the cart to carry the tree, the saw to cut the tree down, and had to take the dog on the leash.  My hands were full carrying the camera, holding Ella and trying to keep her boots on.  They were quite stylish boots with the sequins, but they are a little big yet so they kept falling off.

Before our adventure of picking a tree, I read the post from PBS's web site, How to Pick the Perfect Christmas Tree.  The article was quite informative and gave good tips on picking a tree.  First before you head out, be sure to measure your ceiling to figure out how tall of a tree you can fit in the house.  We have 8 foot ceilings in our living room so we had to go for a 7 foot tree to leave room for the tree stand and star on top of the tree.  The tree farm we went to had a measuring stick at the check out and would trim the bottom of the tree for you if the size needed to be adjusted, so we were set with the height of the tree.  To ensure you have a fresh tree purchase it from a farm that lets you cut your own.  Most trees are cut several weeks before they are delivered to the lots to sell.  By cutting it fresh, the needles will last longer.

Success at cutting the tree
Before choosing the tree to take home, pull on the individual branches if the needles fall off easily, the tree is probably not going to last the whole season.  If the needles are falling off before it's cut, they will really fall off after it is cut!  Be sure to pull the branches apart and inspect the trunk of the tree.  Try to find a straight trunk otherwise it will be difficult to balance on the tree stand.

Check out those snazzy boots
After we cut our tree, the tree lot trimmed the bottom of the trunk so we would be able to easily utilize a tree stand.  They then measured it to make sure it would fit in our living room, shook it to get all the dead needles and debris out of it and balled it for easy transport.  We were then off to go home and set up our tree.

When you first get your tree home remember to let it sit for 24 hours in the house before decorating so the branches can drop. Otherwise if you decorate your tree right away, everything will fall off in the night when the branches drop when adjusting to the warm house.

So now we are on to decorate a tree and try to keep an 11 month old away from the decorations.  This is going to be a fun Christmas!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Halloween Photo Challenge

It's almost Halloween, lets start a count down with an Instagram photo challenge.  Each day try to post the different items listed to help get in the mood for Halloween.

October 23rd - Front Porch Decorations
Who loves to decorate?  Lets show off our snazzy front porches or fall decorations by posting a picture.  Show us your best carved pumpkin, fun fall wreath, or your cute kids! #falldecorations #grandmaspumpkinpatch

October 24th - Flashback Thursday
Flashback Thursday!!!!!!!!  Lets see that embarrassingly cute picture of you as a kid.  Break out the old photos and show us how snazzy your costume was back in the day #flashbackthursday #grandmaspumpkinpatch

October 25th - Cornmaze Friday
Corn mazes are only available in the fall, lets see those pictures.  Have a great picture of your group lost in the maze?  Show them off to us. Also the flashlight corn maze is tonight at Grandma's Pumpkin Patch, check it out!  Mention the photo contest and get a reduced admission. #cornmaze #grandmaspumpkinpatch

October 26th - Goating Around
Love the goats at Grandma's Pumpkin Patch?  So do we!  Show us your silly pictures that you have snapped through the years of the goats.  I bet a bunch of you have some pictures of Maple the mischievous goat that wanders free during the week.  If you visit the patch today and mention the photo challenge you can get the $7.00 wrist band for only $5.00. #goatingaround #grandmaspumpkinpatch

October 27th - Grandma's Pumpkin Patch
I bet you have been coming to Grandma's Pumpkin Patch for years, show us your best picture from one of your visits.  Even if you are new to the patch, we would love to see your smiling pictures.  Show them off in the photo challenge. It's the last Sunday to visit the patch this season, stop in and if you mention the photo challenge you can get the $7.00 wrist band for only $5.00.  #grandmaspumpkinpatch

October 28th - Field Trip Monday
Our field trips are so much fun!  Show us a picture of a visit to the farm.  Do you have an adorable picture with Tony the donkey, or perhaps Gorgeous George the llama, show them off on Field Trip Monday. #fieldtripmonday #grandmaspumpkinpatch

October 29th - Autumn Tuesday
It's getting colder, and winter is approaching take a picture of a nice autumn day before it is too late!  Post a picture of the changing colors of the trees, the frosty mornings, or a warm scarf.  Share your autumn moment before winter comes. #autumn #grandmaspumpkinpatch

October 30th - Fall Treats
The chilly weather means warm fall food.  Post a picture of a fall dish that is your favorite. October 30th is also the last Wednesday Night Fun at Grandma's Pumpkin Patch and the last night for those delicious donuts.  Stop by and pick up a pack and share a picture. #donuts #grandmaspumpkinpatch

October 31st - Halloween
It's time to dress up and get out to get some candy!  There are lots of places to go to get candy, check out this list.  But before you go, post a picture of your candy getting crew and join in the fun!  See you next year at Grandma's Pumpkin Patch. #halloween #grandmaspumpkinpatch

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Tiaras and Cowboy Boots

On Saturday, August 10th I was honored with the opportunity to be a judge at the Midland County Fair pageant.  I grew up showing animals, crafts and crops in 4-H and greatly enjoyed the experience.  Through 4-H I was able to go on citizen trips to Washington D.C., state exchange trips to Minnesota and Colorado, attend many conferences and meet many new people.  For a small town kid 4-H provided many opportunities I would not of had otherwise.

When asked to judge the pageant, I was more than happy to say yes and help support the organization that gave me such great experiences.  I am actually a pro at judging pageants as I was previously asked to judge the Miss Auburn/Midland pageant representing the Auburn Jaycees back in 2008.

Never in my life would I ever have thought I would get to judge one beauty pageant let alone two!!!  My family kept teasing me and asking if I was going to go professional as a pageant judge.  For those of you that know me, you know this is comical because on most days I am lucky if I am able to blow dry my hair.  Since having the baby my beauty routine has been drastically cut down.  But the pageants aren't about who is the prettiest, or who had the fanciest dress or suit, it's about how well you present yourself and your volunteerism experience.  The children that participated in this event were all very serious about their applications.  One little boy was so focused and determined, he sat up straight in his chair the entire pageant, not slouching once.

While judging the pageant I realized, this is a great way for these young adults to prepare for adulthood and came up with four important things to keep in mind when participating in a pageant:

1. Communication - Many participants were very, very, very nervous.  I am sure they were far from their comfort zone because when I scanned the faces on the participants waiting for the pageant to start the sheer look of horror showed.  I give all the participants credit for stepping out of their comfort zone and being in the pageant.  However, when interviewing for a job if they cannot clearly communicate, they will not be selected for the position.  By participating in the pageant many were in fact participating in their first interview.  After having an interview with 50 spectators watching you, a job interview with one other person would be a cinch.

2. Accountability - The candidates had to answer a question about the information from their application.  They had no idea what would be asked of them, the organizing committee reviewed their applications prior to the pageant and asked them each a specific question.  One person had to explain how to show their animal, another had to further elaborate on a volunteer organization they belong to.  If applicants had exaggerated information on their application it showed, this is a great way to teach children about honestly representing themselves.

3. Self Representation -My mom still pesters me to stand up straight and points out my bad posture.  I now realize how important it is to represent yourself.  Life isn't a beauty pageant, but how you dress and present yourself on a daily basis is important.  When at work, if you show up in pajama pants and a t-shirt now matter how good you are at your job, you are probably going to be passed over for a promotion.  You don't need the fanciest dress to win a pageant, you need to dress appropriately, speak clearly, and remember to not fidget.  Many participants were bobbing up and down on their toes, ruffling the tulle of their dress, staring at their boots (both the girls and boys) and looking nervous.  Remember to stand up straight, dress appropriately, do not fidget and speak with confidence.

4. Losing Gracefully - It is important to learn how to loose.  Not everyone can be the King or Queen of the pageant, but it is important to try and support the person that did win.  Learn from the experience and at the next opportunity try again.  There were 30 children trying for four positions.  By trying and not succeeding it teaches the kids to continue to try for their goals and give them the experience to be better prepared for the next pageant.

Overall it was a great experience and I was very pleased to help out.  The pageant was a great start to the Midland County Fair, and something I would highly recommend for children able to participate.

Find the Midland Daily News story of the pageant

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

More Cow Bell

Our baby is growing soooooooo fast.  Her newest trick is sitting up by herself and ringing a cow bell.  I couldn't resist.........

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Fourth Generation

4 Generations of Grandma's Pumpkin Patch
Grandma’s Pumpkin Patch is proud to announce that we have a 4th generation pumpkin picker, Ella Rose.  

She was born in January 2013 to Amanda and Jason, Grandma’s Granddaughter.  Ella might be small but she is full of spunk and ready to go.  

Amanda was pregnant for Ella in the fall last year so this little girl already knows how to run pig races, make donuts and pick pumpkins.  She will be ready to go this fall, look for her in the donut shack next to her Grandpa Sandow making donuts.