Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Gwynnie Bee update - with link for FREE month membership

I'm over a year into my Gwynnie Bee membership and can't part with it. I posted a couple months ago about this service and since the post have been better about taking pictures of my Gwynnie Bee dresses. So here is an updated post with my referral link - note that when you follow my referral link I get a $25 credit and you get a month free. I get a nice perk, but I figure you won't mind since you get a super good perk.

How it works

Gwynnie Bee is a clothing rental by mail service for sizes 10 and up. You create an online closet of styles and they ship you whatever happens to be in stock from your list. You can create priority items, but for the most part the items selected are pretty random from your closet.

You wear the item once, or a dozen times and mail is back in the postage paid bags they send with the items. You don't even have to wash it - unless you want to wear it 12 times. :) As soon as they get the item, they send you another one.

The subscriptions are monthly and sold in increments of items out at a time - 1, 2, 3, etc. You can change your plan at any time. I hardly needed professional clothes this summer so I was just 1 at a time, but this time of year I'm attending lots of professional events to I up it to 2 or 3 at a time.

Pricing starts at around $35 per month for one item at a time. I can easily have 4 items in a month (if I return right away) so the per item cost is pretty good. You can also purchase the items. I have done that once but been tempted several times. The prices to purchase are a nice discount too since the items are used.

How it works image
How to get started

For the most part the items are in great condition. I did have an issue in October when the hem of a dress arrived already unraveling and looking bad. Their customer service could have been a bit better that time, but generally I've been very pleased with the service.

Here are a few recent items I have rented. Don't mind the odd mirror selfies. :)

I wore this fun one at a conference I just attended. It also looked great with black boots. 
Gwynnie Bee dress

I wore this to an October wedding.
Gwynnie Bee dress for a wedding

I wore this for a morning teaching. 

I wore this to teach too. 

This got me hooked on tunics. How had I never loved a tunic? So comfy!

Ready to try it out? Follow my referral link - http://goo.gl/7X3F6f -  to get one month FREE! I think you can even try a 2 or 3 item membership, which lets you try many items. Check it out and let me know what you think!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Work travel essentials

I've traveled pretty heavily over the past 10 years. I have gotten better at it over the years and am proud to brag that I packed for a 10 day trip (including 8 days overseas) in a carry on. I'm not always awesome in my packing, but these travel essentials help keep me organized and ready to go.

1. Packing cubes

I'm pretty much addicted to packing cubes. I don't use them for short trips but if I am staying more than two nights I'm probably using them. I got a set for my mom, then one for myself and then a second for myself (and the boys too). I think they are fabulous! They make my bag so much more organized. I find that I forget fewer things if I use cubes because it forces me to organize. I usually make one bag for workout clothes, one for casual and one for business. With the kiddo his cubes are divided tops, bottoms, pj/undies and sometimes a bag of "nice" clothes. AKA ones to hide from Grandma in case we need to be in public at some point. :)

The bags pictured are ebags cubes but there are several other brands. You can buy them directly from ebags or on amazon.  They come in a variety of sizes but I mostly seem to use medium bags. I roll the clothes to fit the bag and then cram the bags into my suitcase. For the kiddo I use medium and the long sized bags. 

*A added my refer a friend link here because it should get you 15% off and I think free shipping. 

2. Reusable grocery bag (that squishes into a small space).

Notice the little red blog in the top right corner of the suitcase? That is a reusable shopping bag. I ALWAYS travel with one. Sometime I use it as a purse cover of sorts. Stick my purse in that bag and then under the seat in front of me. I also use it to have extra room on the trip home or to combine a shopping bag and my purse into one "small" personal item when flying home.

Also, more and more places charge you for grocery bags, so this helps with that issue too when you are away from home.

3. Dry shampoo

This is really targeted to the ladies. I became a dry shampoo believer about 5 years ago. It is a travel staple for me. I can easily get away with second day hair which is a great time saver during travel. Plus if you are only gone one night and don't need to wash your hair you can lighten your load of hair products to travel with you. 

4. Multi plug

Some hotels have one accessible plug near the bed and others hidden behind furniture or in the bathroom. I'm not a fan of charging my electronics on a bathroom counter. So I bring along a multi plug to turn one outlet into three. I used to bring along a power strip but this serves the same purpose and takes up less space. I found my current one from the Dollar Store but you can get them most anywhere.

5. Earplugs

I keep a set of disposable ear plugs in my carry on bag. I don't use them very often but on a late flight these are really awesome. Equally helpful if you happen to have a loud hotel. They hardly take up any space.

6. Oatmeal packet

Another item that takes almost no space but provides a great meal option. Heat water in the coffee pot and pour it into the travel cup usually provided in your room. Cover with the lid and let it cook for a bit. If you don't have a spoon the wooden stir stick provided for the coffee will do the trick. :) Quick, cheap and easy.

7. Tea bags

I have lived most of my life on well water. Chlorinated water tastes awful to me. So having tea bags with me is a great help in disguising the flavor of a bad hotel water. You don't want to get dehydrated on a trip. I've heard others mention this as a way to bring some sense of home with you. That can't hurt either.

8. Landry hamper

This is a fantastic find from the dollar store. It folds flat and takes up almost no space. It isn't the most durable thing ever but mine has lasted a year already. Totally worth the buck! I love having a place to keep dirty clothes away from clean ones. On car trips I have started just keeping the dirty clothes in the hamper and dumping it right in the washer when we get home. This is more essential for travel with the family than work, but sometimes those activities have some crossover.

9. Granola bar
Side story - when I was young some very close family friends got stuck in a snow storm in their car for several days. The lived off ketchup packets and miraculously survived. Since them my Mom has been a little crazy about emergency preparedness (and we keep ketchup packets in the vehicles still). Carrying a granola bar is a bit of that emergency preparedness. But you also might have a hangry mini emergency or get a bit nauseous and need something to calm you stomach. Granola bars last a pretty long time and take up hardly any space. So don't leave home without one. You can also sub a protein bar in here if that is more your thing.

10. Mint or peppermint candy
Peppermint is very soothing to a tummy and helps relieve nausea. Seriously it works for me. Especially on turbulent flights, mints are a must. I specifically prefer Mentos on flights, I swear it helps with ear popping since you kinda chew them.

11. Ready to go toiletries
This set of plastic bottles have been traveling with me since I was a senior in high school. These exact bottles. I try to fill them up when I remember after trips so that they are always ready to go when I leave. I don't have to worry about having to use hotel brand products and I don't have to purchase bunches of disposables. 

So, what do you think? What items are essential for your travel?

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Hunger Action Month - Cool Shirts too!

September is Hunger Action Month!

Feeding America is a great organization working to help hungry families across the US. You may have even seen them featured on the Biggest Loser TV show.

As you noticed in my previous post about the corn we grew, this issue has a special place in my heart and has really been on my mind this summer.

A few facts about hunger (all from Feeding America fact sheets on their website):

  • 15.8 million children lived in food-insecure households in 2013.
  • Twelve million children are estimated to be served by Feeding America, over 3.5 million of which are ages 5 and under.
  • Twenty percent or more of the child population in 38 states and D.C. lived in food-insecure households in 2013, according to the most recent data available. 
  • In 2013, 49.1 million Americans lived in food insecure households, including 33.3 million adults and 15.8 million children.

Feeding America does a great job of making the most of their donations. Every dollar buys 11 meals!

Check out this cool way to help that also gets you a great shirt! The money goes directly to Feeding America!

Screen shot of the shirt and fundraiser page

There are also a variety of social media awareness campaigns this month including the spoon selfie. Check them out at Feeding America's Facebook page.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Gwynnie Bee - with coupon link for free month!

It has been almost a year that I have been a Gwynnie Bee subscriber! I did not expect to keep it this long, but it is so handy that I can't seem to part with it.

This is my current "rack" of clothing items that I'm requesting to rent.

If you have seen me at any sort of a business function in the last year, you have seen my Gwynnie Bee attire. I especially love it for travel because I ship the clothes back to Gwynnie Bee from the hotel. So I have more space in my suitcase.

Things I love about Gwynnie Bee:
1. New stuff all the time. Every white delivery box is something new that I haven't worn before.
2. The items are almost always high quality and frankly more expensive than what I wear on my own.
3. No laundry. Maybe the best part really. You don't launder the clothing when you send it back. Just wear it and return it. Yay!
4. Pushes my style limits. If I could, I would wear a black dress every day. I'm wearing one as a type this. This service pushes me to try clothes that I would not normally.
5. I ALWAYS get compliments on my Gwynnie Bee dresses. Seriously. If someone likes what I'm wearing, it came from Gwynnie Bee.

Right now they are offering a great referral option to try them out! You get a month free with my link. This is how I got hooked. I got to try it free for a month and have kept it ever since.

How to get started

A few things to know:
1. You can purchase the things you love. I have only purchased 1 item so far. It is a super cute dress and was discounted to like $13. They send coupons randomly to get you to keep the items you have rented. I finally bit.
2. The longer you rent the better the deals. After 6 months or so they started giving me loyalty bonuses of extra items. This makes the subscription go even further.
3. This is for sizes 10 and up. Someone should probably invent this for 10 and under but until then us curvy gals can enjoy it!

You can also get more info from my previous blog post here: http://houseagbuilt.blogspot.com/2014/12/gwynnie-bee.html

Follow the link here - http://goo.gl/7X3F6f - or by clicking the photos.

So try it out and tell me what you think! Have any cool services like this that I need to try out?

This post contains referral links. When you get a free month for following my link, I get a bonus. I figure that since we both win, you don't mind.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Growing Forward

Last year we were given a bag of sweet corn seed from Monsanto's Grow Forward program. Due to the drought and changes in our crop plans, we had to wait and use the seed this year.

The idea behind this program is to grow an acre of sweet corn to share. Share it and do some good in your community. Monsanto offered to provide the seed if the farmer would take care of the rest and do some good with it.

Beautiful baby corn plants!
The sweet corn seeds we planted and grew are GMO. They enable us to grow with limited herbicide and no pesticide sprayed. I'll try to do a post on why that works awesome. But today I want to tell you about how awesome this experience has been, in ways I didn't really expect.

The GMO sweet corn is on the left.
The sweet corn ripened pretty quickly and was delicious (seriously awesome)! We only have one food bank in our community and they are only open two days per week. So we had plenty of corn to share with them and more to share in our neighboring community. We made a total of four deliveries to our local food bank with my car full of corn. I also made a delivery to a soup kitchen in a neighboring community.

Fresh picked corn headed to the food bank
We have donated to food banks before and helped with food drives. But usually all non perishable goods and done when the food bank isn't open. In this case the food is fresh and needs to be delivered as they open (which is an interesting logistical challenge in providing fresh produce to those in need). I'm a mom and busy so usually I arrived a few minutes after they opened. This meant that for the first time I was seeing the people who are using this important service. Not only did I see the faces and the children, I saw the quantity of people who needed this food.

Check out this interactive map by Feeding America to see what food insecurity rates are in your back yard. http://map.feedingamerica.org/county/2013/overall/california.
1 in 7 Americans turns to the Feeding America Network for food assistance
Seeing the level of need in our community was striking. Almost every time I made a drop off there was a long line for people waiting to use the service. People of all ages and both genders and plenty of children. And as some of the volunteers noted, many people from working families.

It was so rewarding to get to drop off fresh food to people who need it!

Some friends stopped by to get corn and helped pick some extra boxes for the food bank.
This project was also a great way to visit with friends and neighbors. We invited people to come and pick and pick some extras for us to take to the food bank. We even had people bring boxes because we were quickly running out of containers! We also delivered sweet corn on the days the food bank wasn't open. Keeping up with an acre of fresh sweet corn is a challenge!

This was a really rewarding project. We are thinking about doing it again. We have friends in other parts of the country who are selling fresh corn and donating the proceeds. This allows the food banks to use the money for whatever their needs may be. With our food bank only open two days a week, this may be the better option. We have almost a year to decide but it sure has us thinking about hunger in our community and how we can help.

We really thank Monsanto for providing the corn seed!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Cloth 101

I’m so excited about this post!  We decided to give cloth diapering a try before Avery was born and I have learned so much in the year we have been using them.  I asked Morgan to do an overview post on cloth diapering (something I wished I read before little miss was born).  Funny back story: my hubby Michael was friends with Morgan on Facebook (she is married to a cousin-ish of Michael’s) and he showed me a picture she posted one day of her diapers.  Look, Morgan has a stash too … I immediately friended her and sent her a kind of creepy message and we got to know each other via Facebook.  She is the sweetest person ever!  She knows way more about cloth than I do and recently started a business as a consultant for Squigglybugs!  Anyway, I’ll let her take over …

Hi everyone! I’m Morgan Schwall - a cloth diapering, babywearing, crunchy momma and a military spouse. My husband Ryan and I began cloth diapering our daughter when she was a few months old. We quickly realized how expensive disposable diapers were. As a young family on a limited budget, we turned to cloth. Now not only do we save money - we also produce less waste and have minimal diaper blow outs.


Photograph by Jenny Laura Photography

Are you interested in cloth diapering? Look no further! Here is a compiled list of different styles of cloth diapers on the market, brands to choose from, wash routine information & more!


The AIO system is most similar to disposables, being it’s a one diaper = one change system. All in one’s can vary in style and fit, however, they all have built in soakers and a water-resistant outer shell. Soakers can be made from cotton, organic cotton, hemp/cotton, or microfiber that’s topped with a stay dry layer.

Pros: Daddy & day care friendly, easy to use, requires no stuffing of inserts, convenient.

Cons: Most expensive option on the market, child may outgrow the absorbency, some AIO don’t have the stay-dry feeling.

Brand Options: Smart Bottoms, BumGenius Elemental or Freetime, GroVia AIO, Blueberry Simplex.


Pocket diapers are also a one diaper = one change system. Each shell and insert can be used one time before needing to be placed in the wash pail. A pocket diaper consists of an outer water-resistant shell, that has a suede layer of fabric on the inside. To make the diaper adsorbent, you would “stuff” an insert of choice into the pocket opening. Inserts can be microfiber, hemp, cotton or organic cotton.

Pros: Easy to use, can choose insert option, provides stay dry feeling, daddy & day care friendly.

Cons: Requires stuffing, can be an expensive option & you’ll have to remove soaked/soiled inserts from pocket prior to washing.

Brand Options: BumGenius 4.0, AppleCheeks, Rumparooz G2, Kawaii, Milovia.

Cover + Prefold/Flat

A cover is a water resistant shell that can be used repeatedly until soiled. You simply use a prefold or flat in conjunction with the cover. During a diaper change, you replace the soaked prefold/flat with a new one. Most are made from cotton, but some brands offer organic cotton or hemp/cotton blends. Prefolds/flats can be tri-folded and set inside the cover OR you can use a snappi or pin to secure the material around your baby, followed by the cover. There are many different fold styles, some include the jelly roll fold and the kite fold.

Pros: Prefolds/flats are the cheapest option on the market, great for travel or hand washing, versatile, known to hold in EBF poo well.

Cons: Not always convenient, most day cares aren’t open to using this cloth diaper system, will take time to learn fold styles that work for you & baby.

Brand Options: Covers - Flip, Tots Bots Stretchy Wrap, Rumparooz Cover.
Prefolds/Flats - Sweet Pea, Osocozy, GroVia prefolds, Smart Bottoms Smart Folds, Imagine prefolds/flats, Planet Wise prefolds (check them all out here).


Hybrid systems include a water-resistant cover/shell + an interchangeable soaker. Many brands of hybrid systems offer snap-in soaker options. This keeps the soakers in place. You’d simply replace the soaker each diaper change, until cover is soiled. Hybrid systems can also be used with disposable inserts, which some prefer for traveling.  

Pros: Reusable outer shell, many soaker options available, great for travel.
Cons: More expensive than cover + prefold/flats, not always convenient, day cares may not be open to using this option.

Brand Options: GroVia Hybrid System, Best Bottom System, Buttons System.

Wash Routine

Having a great wash routine is key when using cloth diapers. You want to make sure your cloth is being thoroughly cleaned before each use. Any detergent on the market, including mainstream detergents, that do not contain fabric softeners is okay to use with diapers. If you live in an area with hard water, it’s suggested you add a water softener like Calgon to each wash cycle to prevent mineral buildup. Mineral buildup can cause your diapers to repel liquids.

1. Rinse cycle or quick wash on cold with ½ scoop of detergent + softener (if needed)

2. Full hot wash cycle with a full scoop of detergent + softener (if needed)

3. Rinse again **ONLY needed if diapers are slimy or detergent bubbles are visible** If no rinse is needed, proceed to step

4. Tumble dry on low heat or hang to dry.

If you find your diapers stained, simply place in the sun while wet. The sun is a natural stain remover. Only keep the diapers in the sun until dry.

Thank you so much Morgan!

I hope you all enjoyed this post and if you want to learn more about cloth check Morgan out on Facebook.  She is very knowledgeable!

Check out her store here!

Make sure to use Morgan Schwall as your consultant if you shop from Squigglybugs!

Just a note: This post was written by Morgan (with the intro and conclusion by me) and is not a sponsored post.  The links contained in this post go to Morgan’s site which she makes a commission from.  I have not been compensated for this post, just getting some cloth info out there. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Moving Backward: from owning to renting

We had been dreaming about moving back to the country for years.  Looking at houses and waiting for one to come on the marketLess houses mean less go on the market.  What did come up in our price range either needed a complete remodel or went so quickly we didn’t have a chance. 

I changed jobs and had a 30 minute commute to and from work.  My commute was nice.  It was the opposite direction as traffic and I got to watch the fields grow on my daily commute.  It also gave my an hour a day to listen to an audio book or sing along to the radio. 

A year and a half later, Michael changed jobs which came with way less stress but also less pay.  His job was now very close to mine and although his commute was now 30 minutes instead of 45 minutes to an hour is was still long. 

His new boss asked him is we wanted to rent out his old house.  Michael was sold instantly – I was not. 

How could we go backward?  We OWN our house, why would we go back to renting? 

Then we sat down and mapped out this potential move.  We discovered we would save about half on our housing expenses (mortgage, insurance, and utilities) and the saving on our gas – no, sorry, FUEL (we have a diesel truck and car) was going to be significant too.  We also priced out rentals in our area and discovered we could rent our current house for enough to cover the mortgage.

Ok, that sounds good but still – renting is throwing your money down the drain, right?  Kind of yes but also no.  You are trading your money for a place to live.  That’s not a bad thing at all. 

Then there was the difference in the houses.  Our house has 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, brand new windows, new flooring, a new master bathroom, a 3 car garage, a decent sized backyard, and we could modify it as we pleased.  It is situated on a cul-de-sac in the suburbs.  The potential rental is a modular – a trailer without wheels, 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, awkward layout, mismatched floors, a pond behind the house, and literally 5 minutes from my work.  It is in the country close to the land Michael was going to farm and close to his dad and grandma’s house.   

Yeah, you read that right my husband wanted me to move from a house to a trailer and the crazy part – we did it!  Even crazier – we couldn’t be happier about our choice! 

We moved when I was 7 months pregnant, spent the 8th and 9th month of my pregnancy getting our old house ready to rent out while getting settled in our new place.  It was crazy but looking back it was all worth it. 

I have been writing this blog post in my head for over a year now.  I still have conflicting thoughts about it!  Sometimes I feel like we took a huge step back and might not ever live in a house we own again.  I long for the days when I can tackle projects to improve the house again.  Other times I know this is the best thing for our family right now.  We get more time together since we are spending less time commuting and we live in a much more peaceful area. 

I just did the math and I spend 11.5 DAYS (24 hour periods) on the road in my year and a half commuting to and from work.  When you look at it like that – WOW!


Maybe we did move backward, but as odd as it sounds sometimes you have to move back to move forward.  (At least that is what I am telling myself!)