Getting a Busy Family Together

In most homes these days, families spend a lot of time apart. It sucks but it’s just reality. If both parents are working and the kids are in school all day it can be really tough. On top of that, we all need to make time for ourselves. It’s easy for families to slowly drift apart considering these circumstances and no one really wants to let that happen, but it does before most families even take notice. Here are some great tips to help ensure that your busy family gets that much needed family time in at least once a week.

Busy-Family

  1. Family Game Night– No matter how old the kids are, or even how old you are, everyone can appreciate a couple hours of good old fashioned board game fun. Whether it’s Monopoly, Trouble, Pictionary, or even the newly raved about Pie Face, a family game night is sure to bring everyone together accompanied by smiles and laughter. As far as I’m concerned, this should be a staple in every family’s life. Sort out everyone’s schedules and  put this in to play at least once a week.
  2. Work Out Together– Oh yes, I know a lot of people dread this healthy necessity but it is a lot less dreadful when doing it with the whole team. Go for a mini hike, go for a family bike ride, play a game of catch, heck, you can even find some pretty great yoga videos on Youtube to do. Not only does this call for some great family bonding, it relieves everyone’s stress, and the health benefits are totally worth it. Do this as often as possible.
  3. Cook Together– Believe it or not, this can be a really fun thing. Try making a pizza with the whole family involved, or even a nice dessert. Don’t stop there though, try to ensure the whole family eats together as well while sharing the peaks and pits of everyone’s day.
  4. Family Movie Night- Alright, every family’s gotta make time for some good ol’ visual entertainment. I’m sure every family has a few hours on a weekend night to make time for this. Start a series, this way everyone will be excited to see what happens next and it’ll help keep the routine going.
  5.  Plant a Garden- Planting a garden together is an excellent thing to do with the whole family because there’s a job to do for anyone involved. It’s also fun to watch it come to life after all the hard work is done. In fact, doing any home project together is a great activity for the whole family.

How to Involve the Kids in Cleaning Around the Home

Cleaning your home is clearly a necessity, and a pain in the butt at that. No one really likes to do it but everyone has to…unless you enjoy cockroaches, ants, hopping around your home on your tippy toes, never being motivated to cook, dust bunnies, and being embarrassed to invite people over, etc…but hey, no judgment here.
If you have kids, the amount of cleaning you need to do is on a whole ‘nother level. It is absolutely constant and is a pain in the butt x10..so why not find a way to have your kids help out? Yeah, you’re probably thinking rolling your eyes and thinking “yeah right” but in all actuality, there are many ways to make cleaning fun for kids, especially young kids. You’d be surprised how happy to help they can be. Check out below my three favorite tips:

Chore-ChartMake a Chore Chart                                         

This provides children with an incentive and they’ll appreciate the organization and being able to check stuff off of their list.

Cleaning-Slippers

Buy Kid Sized Cleaning Supplies (Like these Micro-Fiber Cleaning Slippers)

My own kids have some of these and they LOVE them. They have spent hours in them running around the house and sliding across the floor. Who needs a swiffer when you have young kids with high energy?

sand-timers-300x225

Set a Timer

I don’t know what it is about timers, sand timers in general..but they sure do get kids moving! I know first hand. My kids also like to turn their clean up time into a race once I flip the timer over. Ready, set, clean!

So there you have it! Some other awesome ideas are:

  1. Playing dress up– if you have girls, maybe you can play Cinderella? Dress up as maids or butlers and pretend to clean the homes of others. Make it a game!
  2.  Set up a reward system- “Will work for praise” -every kid I’ve ever met. Kid’s love to feel appreciated and a little reward for helping out here and there can make all the difference in their involvement.
  3. Put on music- Everyone knows that cleaning while dancing makes the whole job more fun and less of a chore. The kids will love it too!

 

Tips On Tuesday; Buying A Home

Buying-home-house-keys-nki

Are you considering the purchase of a new home in the next few months?  Beside wanting to be the cleaning company you hire to keep up your new home, we also want to extend some of the best kept secrets you may not know about the journey to becoming a homeowner.

10.  Don’t Move Your Money

Anytime you’re considering the purchase of a house, you want to make sure you don’t move money around and spend large amounts 3-6 months before your purchase.  Lenders want to see that you are reliable and opening new credit cards, making large purchases or doing anything else that may show up on your credit report isn’t the best decision.

9.  Get Pre Approved For Your Home Loan

Did you know there’s a difference between being pre-qualified and pre-approved?   Getting pre-approved means that you have met with a lender and after evaluating all of your financial information, they will tell you how much you can afford and how much they will lend to you.  It’s very exciting to start looking at houses but it also can be heart breaking. Taking your time and taking your steps in the right order will save you time from looking at houses you may not be able to afford.

This will also give you time to shop around for the best deal, interest rates and look for any hidden costs in your loan.

8. Know What You’re Buying

Request to have a survey done of the house you want to make an offer on.  This is essential to know exactly what you’re buying.  A surveyor will tell you where your property line is and prevent any potential disputes with you and your future neighbors.  Also, property tax may be based on the property you have, so you will want an accurate map of what you’re buying.

7. Don’t Stress About When To Buy

It’s impossible to time the housing market – so the best time to buy is when you find your perfect house and can afford it.

Real estate is in constant change, going up and down and then back up.  You don’t want to miss out trying to play Double-Dutch with the market.

6. Size Doesn’t Always Matter

There’s an old adage in real estate that says don’t buy the biggest, best house on the block.  Big houses aren’t for everyone and when you go to re-sell, you don’t want to limit your potential buyers down the road. Remember that your home will only go up as much as the house down the road and if you have a $500,000 house and your neighbors home is $250,000 – your appreciation will be limited.  Sometimes it can even be best to buy the worse house on the block because it will trade for more per square foot than the biggest house.

5.  Budget Correctly

There’s more to home expenses than your mortgage.  When estimating your budget – consider expenses such as property taxes (which have the potential to be increased), utilities, home owners dues are all mandatory expenses.

Most people just focus on their mortgage payment, but you should also be aware of the other expenses such as property taxes, utilities and homeowner-association dues.  You will also need to be prepared to pay for repairs and maintenance on your new home.

4. Buying A House Is  Not Love

Yes, you should love your home, but you don’t want to make bad financial decisions based on emotions.  You want to trust your instincts when buying a home as they will lead you to getting a great house for a good value.  Making an emotional based decision is when you “Love” the backyard or paint scheme of the house.  You are making an investment so you want to be wise in this decision.

3. Hire A Home Inspector

Again, you want to know what you’re getting when purchasing a home.  For about $200 you could save yourself thousands in the long run by having a professional walk through the home to provide you with very detailed information.  With the correct information on the house, you can make a more informed decision and be confident.

If an inspector finds issues with the home, you can choose to continue your search or even use that information as a bargaining tool  when making your offer.

.2. Bidding Formula

 

When submitting your opening bid consider two things, what you can afford and what you believe the property is worth.  Make your opening bid fair without offending the seller.  Often times, people think they should start low but it’s important to know what the market is doing at the time of your offer.  What are other homes of comparable size and quality going for in the same neighborhood?  Look at the average cost per square foot in the same neighborhood and also find out if any of the neighbors have plans for new additions – consider things that could change your property value down the road.  You can also check with the boroughs office to find out if your seller is behind in property taxes – this can give you another bargaining tool.

When you’re ready to make an offer, bid an off number; nice round numbers will sound like every other bid.  By being more specific, the sellers will feel you have given a lot of consideration to your offer.

1. Get The Lay of the Land

Before buying ,  do your research.  Stop by morning, noon and night.  Sometimes buyers are so focused on the perfect home, they haven’t noticed the neighborhood.  You don’t want to find out the neighborhood isn’t for you after you buy your home.

Time the drive from the house to where you commute to during the day, how far is the nearest grocery store, schools, your work and other services.  Even if you don’t have children, research the schools because it does affect the value of your home when looking at a good school district versus a bad school district.  This can affect the value of your home as much as 20%.

 

When staring the exciting journey of becoming a homeowner, consider Maid Marvelous in the clean out of your current home as well as setting up cleaning service to maintain the beauty of your new home!

 

 

 

 

My Favorite Organization Hacks

These days the internet is full of ideas and tips to improve your life and make every day things easier. Sometimes life’s little details make simple tasks such a pain, so today I want to share with you all my favorite organization hacks from around the web that I either have tried or want to try. So stay with me, these hacks can change your life for the better! They might even motivate you to get more of the things on your to-do list done and out of your hair.

Add-Rod-Under-Sink

Spray Bottle Rod

This is one of the hacks I have implemented in my house and you probably should to. It may sound silly, but I smile every time I open the doors beneath my sink and see everything just hangin’ out waiting to be used.

Magazine-Holder-Becomes-Kitchen-Organizer

Magazine Holder=Kitchen Organizer

In my cupboard, my rolls of foil, plastic wrap, parchment paper, and ziploc bags are strewn about in the back. This is one of the organization hacks I’ll be using ASAP.

Bread-Tags-Distinguish-Wires

Bread Tag Labels

Another organization hack I can proudly claim to have implemented! I shouldn’t even need to explain why this is extremely useful. Jumbled cords are a nightmare.

 Ladder-Side-Table

Step Ladder=Bedside Table

I envy those people out there who have such a creative mind, particularly who ever came up with this idea. I literally would’ve never thought of it. It looks surprisingly perfect.

 Magnetic-Strip-Organizer

Magnetic Strip Organizer

Instead of digging through your bathroom drawers trying to find your tweezers and such, stick em’ all to your wall on a magnetic strip. It could save you 5 minutes of time and sanity.

Pegboard-Organizer

Laundry Room Pegboard

Now this is a project I can get behind. Not only does it make accessing your cleaning supplies easier, it also looks extremely cute.

Shoe-Organization

Wall Crate Storage Bins

Seriously, this is such a great idea! I can hardly stand it. Forget shoving your families shoes in baskets and bins that you have to dig through just to find some slip ons to go check your mailbox.

Small-Items-Organizer

Ribbon Organizer

When Christmas rolls around, you’ll really wish you paid attention to this spectacular hack.

Velcrow-Stuffed-Animal-Organizer

Velcro Stuffed Animal Storage

If your home is like my home, you might need to add on a whole other room to your house due to the abundance of stuffed animals. Applying velco strips to your wall for light weight stuffed animals is an amazing idea, and so simple. It’s also a lot cheaper than adding another room to your house.

Ice-Cube-Tray-Organizer

Ice Cube Tray Organizer

Considering I have a bunch of old ice cube trays laying around that I no longer need due to getting a new refrigerator, the next time I get some spare time I’m going through all my old tangled up jewelry and doing THIS.

Healthy Recipes for Picky Kids

Having picky kids is one of the biggest frustrations I have to deal with as a mother, and I know many others moms have to deal with this annoying problem as well. Sometimes I’ll find myself just giving up and letting them eat the same few meals every single day. Then I snap out of it and realize that I’m only enabling their nonsensical pickiness and go back to opening the door and force-introducing them to new foods. Here are some of my favorite things to feed my kids that have helped ease them towards a more open minded direction.

Frozen-Chocolate-Covered-Bananas

Frozen Banana Bites Recipe

These are amazing! You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy them either. These delicious frozen banana bites are super simple to make and the variations you can make are endless. Pictured above, the bananas have been dipped in chocolate, but I’ve covered them in vanilla yogurt before and they were just as great. Also, don’t forget the toppings! Granola, crushed peanuts, crushed almonds, etc. all make excellent choices. You can also make peanut butter and banana sandwiches before the dipping and freezing. Breakfast or dessert? Who says they can’t be both!?

Carrot-Cake-Oatmeal-Cookies

Carrot Cake Oatmeal Cookies Recipe

Ok, now these might only work if you leave out the fact that there are carrots involved in these yummy cookies. Sometimes when introducing foods that my kids would initially be turned off by, I avoid even letting them look at the food until they try it. How does that even work, you ask? I tell them to close their eyes and open their mouths because I have a surprise treat for them. It works sometimes. #Don’tJudgeMe

Lunch-Box-Kabobs

Lunch Box Kabobs Recipe

This has got to be one of my all time favorite things to pack in my kids lunches. They even love to join in and help make them! Literally anything goes with this recipe, use lunch meats, cheese, veggies, or make kabobs entirely out of fruit!

Veggie-Packed-Pizza-Rolls

Veggie Packed Pizza Rolls Recipe

If your kids don’t like pizza, you might want to consider them seeing a therapist. (Just kidding) Seriously though, I don’t know how anyone can not love this recipe! I always feel like a sneaky little ninja when I pull off feeding my kids seemingly unhealthy foods when in reality they contain a whole lot of secret veggies. Bwahaha

Honey-Teriyaki-Chicken

Honey Teriyaki Chicken Recipe

Yummy! My kids love teriyaki bowls and they also come with a wide range of possible variations. This chicken is great plain but even better on a bed of rice, white or brown. Feel free to steam any of the vegetables that your kids dare to eat to make this meal well rounded and complete.

This hand full of recipes are sure to motivate you and get your kids kickstarted into your foodie bootcamp. After all, they helped me out a ton. Good luck!

I Used To Be Cool

viral-motherhood-challenge-causes-controversyAs I sat on the edge of the bathtub, rinsing the poop off my ten month old after a massive blow out – I thought to myself; “I used to be cool.”  When did I turn into the woman that is at peace and in love with the chubby butt I’m washing versus being the woman whose main goal was getting VIP into the best clubs in Las Vegas?

Often times I catch a glance of myself in the mirror – hair in a ponytail, minimal make up, wearing my glasses again because I don’t have time to refill my contact order and I think – where’s that cool girl?

I believe that in Motherhood there are things we are going to inevitably lose when we are focusing so much on keeping a household together.  I think some things shouldn’t be missed and others will always be missed. Like, I miss my pre baby stomach – but not my every weekend partying habits. I miss the beautiful stilettos that I used to wear but not the pack of cigarettes I had tucked in my matching clutch. I miss my alone time, reading a new book weekly, shopping, having uninterrupted phone conversations and getting in my car and driving anywhere I want at any given time. But these are the things that are worth giving up to be called “Mom”. You see, we can get all of that back – the years of raising children are something we will never get back.

How do we keep a piece of ourselves under all that mothering?

Just this week, after an 8 hour work day, home cooked breakfast and dinner, the clean up to both meals and some basic house chores – I looked in the living room and saw an empty bag of donuts, dirty socks thrown around, Xbox controllers and games strung everywhere and I lost it. “I AM NOT A MAID!” Why can’t I be seen? Why am I just a fixture at the sink? Washing machine? Behind the wheel of the car? I understand children don’t get it – I didn’t get it either, until I was a Mom. But, I’m more than a dishwasher, clean clothes folder, taxi cab driver, bill payer and butt wiper. I love the theater, music, books, dancing, photography, and great food with adult company. So – how can we have it all?

It’s so very important to keep pieces of yourself, to hold on to them with all of your might, tuck them away if need be; but don’t lose the parts of you that make you ….you.

Here is a list of things to keep a bit of yourself through this amazing journey of parenting:

  • Mini shopping “sprees”:

You don’t always have to purchase your makeup at the local grocery store. Schedule some time to break away, get a full face makeover and then drop some dough on high end product that makes you feel beautiful. Check with local department stores or specialty make up stores and ask when they’re running promotions so you can get a free gift with purchase too.

  • Don’t share your snacks:

That’s right Moms, you don’t have to share! Pick up your favorite sweet and shove your face (before you pick up your kids) and laugh to yourself of how fun it is to be a little sneaky.

  • Schedule adult time:

Make a goal of once a month getting out without kids. Whether for date night, couple’s night, girl’s night or even some alone time – get away from being a Mom. I tell my oldest all of the time that Mommy needs “me” time so I can get a break and be a better Mom.

  • Take a class:

This can be exercise, hobby or college course. It’s perfect because it’s a way to develop yourself in the areas that you are passionate about.

Regardless of what it you choose to do – do something. It’s true, when you have children you lose who you were. But, you gain an entire new identity and with balance between the woman you want to be and the mother you want to be; you can redefine and work towards being the best version of yourself.

Oh, and I found that cool girl. Driving down the road, having a dance party in the car, my eight year old looks at me with a big smile and says “I Love You Mom.”

Who needs Vegas?

 

 

Eliminating Kids Clutter: Unique Storage Ideas

Every parent knows that having kids comes with an excessive amount of STUFF. Of course, there are the essentials that we all think about prior to them being born: diapers, wipes, teething rings, pacifiers, onesies, etc, etc…and then, all of a sudden they’re accumulating a plethora of toys. More than we ever could’ve imagined. It only gets worse as they get older and the amount of clutter in your home really reaches its peak once they start going to school..but before I have a mini panic attack just thinking about it, I’m going to redirect us all back in to our happy places (or at least mine) by sharing a few super sweet and unique storage ideas for all the junk we dodge stepping on daily.

Stuffed-Animal-Storage

Oh how I love Pinterest! Don’t we all though? I stumbled upon this cute little stuffed animal zoo and I couldn’t be more pleased with an idea for stuffed animal storage. I’m probably going to try to start building this ASAP. Veetje

Toy-Car-Storage

Have you ever stepped on little toy cars before? If not, lucky you! If so, I feel your pain. It’s certainly not fun. If you don’t have a fancy custom made garage for all those suckers, then parking them on a magnetic knife rack could be the next best idea. Again, I want to do this ASAP. PureWow

Book-Storage

Looks like I just added one more thing to my to-do list. Bookcases are totally over rated. It’s so much more fun to see the front cover of books on display, and utilizing wall space does wonders for a room, elongating the walls and making it feel more roomy. Due-Home

Phew, I feel so much better now. Time to get to work!

The Horror of the Wrong Housekeeper

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I am convinced that nobody in this world knows you better than your housekeeper.   I mean, think about it; they see every single corner of your house, your living space, the walls of everything that defines you – and they come back time and time again, taking it all in and keeping all your “dirty” little secrets.

But, to have the wrong person in the position – it’s the worst kind of horror.

Several years ago, I went against my gut and hired a family member of one of my employees. My new housekeeper, let’s just call her Sarah; went above and beyond my expectations. She was a go-getter that did things I didn’t know were even options, like ironing and hemming my clothes.

Well, her upselling skills started to feel a little pushy. She insisted on folding my laundry – which would make anyone uncomfortable but still not the worst part of this relationship. She insisted on taking my clothes home to complete the needed alterations, for extra fees.  Still – I took these opportunities at getting more help with my personal chores.

One night, I came home and Sarah was finishing up folding my laundry. My folded clothes were sitting in neat and tidy piles on top of my freshly made bed.  After some small talk with Sarah, I offered to help put away the piles.  Watching her clean my house was becoming uncomfortable; especially with a pile of my panties sitting smack in the middle.  I grabbed the pile of my folded panties and in that moment, where I already was mortified– she made it worse:

“I don’t know how you’re single with the nice panties you wear.”

I can’t make this up.

What do you do when someone says that? Okay, maybe you would have stood up for yourself, I’m not that assertive.  I awkwardly giggled and blanked out the rest of our visit as I kept playing the footage of what happened over and over again.

Guess what? That’s not why I fired her. You would think that was why – but it wasn’t until she showed up to my work to drop off my hemmed pants, interrupting a one-on-one with a staff member.  I was mortified!  You want to know why, because I didn’t want my staff to know I had a housekeeper.  That’s as private as what kind of panties I wear.

Sarah was shocked when I let her go.  I was relieved.

Although this story is light and fun – I learned quickly how horribly wrong hiring an individual could be. Below is a checklist of things to consider when deciding if you should hire someone individually or go through a professional company:

  • Scheduling: If for some reason your individual does not show – then more often than not, your house isn’t getting cleaned. At a professional establishment, they have other staff members that can fill in shifts to keep a permanent schedule with you.
  • Taxes: If it is determined that you are the employer of the individual you hire (versus them being a license and bonded contractor) – you may be required to withhold pay to be able to pay their Medicare, Federal Income and Social Security Tax (you can contact the IRS with questions). This will require you to also secure the proper paperwork for a new employee such as Employment Verification Form I-9.
  • Liability: Who is liable for broken or stolen items? What if your housekeeper falls on your property?  Professional companies have insurance to cover these incidents.
  • Cleaning supplies: Typically if a housekeeper is an employee or contractor they require you to supply the cleaning supplies.

The benefits of hiring a professional service tend to outweigh the savings of a direct personal hire. In addition to what most professional companies provide in a professional service, Maid Marvelous requires a background check and often a drug test at hire to protect their customers even further!

When deciding who will be cleaning your home, give us a call for a free consultation to review our services and prices!

 

 

 

Happy National Popcorn Lover’s Day

In honor of National Popcorn Lover’s Day we want to offer you three of the best popcorn recipes we could find!

popcorn-butter-parmesan_300

Popcorn With Brown Butter and Parmesan

Ingredients

  1. 1 3.5-ounce package microwave popcorn or 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
  2. 3tablespoons unsalted butter
  3. 3tablespoons grated Parmesan
  4. kosher salt

 Directions
  1. Pop the popcorn according to the package directions.
  2. Brown the butter: Melt the butter in a skillet or small saucepan over medium heat. Swirl or stir the butter with a wooden spoon as it starts to foam and sputter. Remove the butter from the heat as soon as it begins to turn golden brown and smells nutty, about 1 minute.
  3. Drizzle over the popcorn. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and ¼ teaspoon salt and toss well.

 

hallo-popcorn-bars-ictcrop_gal

Marshmallow  Popcorn Bars

Ingredients

  1. 2tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the dish
  2. 1/2cup popcorn kernels or one 3.5-ounce package plain microwave popcorn
  3. 1 10-ounce bag marshmallows

 Directions

  1. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Pop the popcorn according to the package directions.
  2. Melt the butter and marshmallows in a large saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring until smooth, 5 to 7 minutes.
  3. Fold in the popcorn until coated. Press into the prepared dish and let sit for 10 minutes before cutting into 24 bars.

 

caramel-popcorn_300

Nutted Popcorn Recipe

Ingredients

  1. 8cups popped popcorn
  2. 2 cups pecan halves
  3. 1 cup unbalanced almonds
  4. 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
  5. 1 tablespoon chili powder
  6. 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  7. 1 1/2 cup sugar
  8. 1 cup light corn syrup
  9. 1/2 cup butter
  10. 1 teaspoon vanilla

     Directions
    1. Heat oven to 250° F. Combine the popcorn, pecans, almonds, pumpkin seeds, chili powder, and cinnamon on 1 or 2 large baking sheets and place in the oven to warm through.
    2. Meanwhile, combine the sugar, corn syrup, and butter in a medium saucepan and heat to boiling. Without stirring, cook over medium-high heat about 10 minutes or until the syrup turns a rich brown and a few drops of it form stiff threads in a cup of cold water. Stir in the vanilla.
    3. Remove baking sheet from oven and pour the syrup over the popcorn. Toss quickly with a spoon. Cool and break into pieces.