Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Entertaining a Toddler

Calling on all mommy-wisdom! I am searching for ideas on new ways to entertain our little Emily! She is almost 16 months old and is inquisitive and interested, but not yet able to ride a tricycle or color. Any suggestions on new things we can play, try, learn, etc...? I have a couple of books requested at the library which have not come in yet - so am hoping between all of these things to glean some new ideas. I did get her a ball yesterday so we could play with that outside, and she was thrilled with that, so there is a success!

Things she currently loves (but not for an entire day!)
* Books! Looking at the pictures, hearing the stories, turning the pages, etc...
* Playing outside!
* Blocks: stacking, putting in a box, dumping out, etc...
* Dollies and stuffed animals
* Taking sippy cups out of the basket and emptying the Tupperware cabinet
* And, a few other misc toys
* Sitting in the dryer (when not in use obviously and with complete supervision)

Thanks for your suggestions!

Spring Cleaning: Den/Family Room

* Dust ceiling fan
* Dust blinds
* Wash windows inside and out
* Dust windowsills
* Vacuum out couch
* Dust off back and arms of couch with lint roller
* Rotate couch cushions
* Wash rugs (done last week during another load of rugs)
* Brush off quilt hanging on wall
* Vacuum under computer desk
* Clean keyboard and mouse with alcohol
* Thoroughly Dust
* Vacuum

Update: Completed in just over an hour.

Next: Porches (front and back) Thursday, March 2

Monday, February 27, 2006

Figuring Out Food

Reading the Comics yesterday, I loved Cathy. With all the varying diets and food fads out there - it does feel hard to surprise someone with a batch of cookies or a pie ~ not to mention what to serve for lunch when people come over! Will she think I eat poorly if I serve that? Maybe we should have a big salad for lunch so she will think that is what I eat all the time! I'm sure you would all think this funny that I am sitting here eating a Pecan Pie Bar while typing this! Ha! Anyone want to join me?

Spring Cleaning: Emily's Room

This room went very differently because the little Emily was in there with me while we were cleaning! She seemed to think it was fun that we were spending so much time in her room!

Here is what we did:
* Dust the blinds (Good grief did I find some cobwebs!)
* Wash windows inside and out
* Vacuum window tracks
* Dust windowsills
* Change sheets and cover on changing table
* Rotate rocking chair cushions
* Vacuum out rocking chair
* Use lint roller on arms and back of rocking chair
* Clean lamp shade with lint roller
* Dust changing table, book shelf, and edges of crib
* Vacuum
* Clean out trash can and diaper pails

Update: This was completed in about 1 1/2 hours. We stopped to read several stories, get Cheerios, and change a diaper. The pails/trash can are still soaking. But all the rest is done!

Next: Den/Family Room 2/28 Tuesday

Spring Cleaning: Hall Bath

* Wash shower curtain and liner (with curtains from other bathroom)
* Wash rug (already washed in a load of rugs last week)
* Dust light fixture
* Wipe out shower
* Clean tub
* Clean toilet
* Clean mirror
* Clean sink
* Sweep floor
* Wash out trash can

Update: I finally finished this on Saturday and it only took me about 15 minutes because this bathroom is only used for company and to bathe Emily.

Next: Emily's room: Monday, 2/27

Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Budget Busting Broom!

Emily has lately become enamored with the broom while I am trying to sweep the floor. So, I thought I'd do a little research on finding a child-size broom that she could play sweep with while I actually got to do the sweeping! I found tons of sites that were praising the use of a toy broom for toddlers, but not many options to purchase one.

The first one I found was just a tad out of our budget especially considering that the broom I use is a one dollar broom from the Dollar Tree! I did find this one also, but am wondering if anyone knows of a store that carries toy brooms where I would not have to pay shipping? Also, David was wondering about just cutting down the handle of a larger broom, though that makes me nervous because of possibilites of splinters no matter how carefully we sand it.

Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars

This was my first recipe I made from the new Martha Stewart Everyday Foods magazine. Need I even say how delicious it is?! It was also easy to make!

Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars
Makes 32
Prep Time: 25 minutes; Total Time: 2 hours

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus 2 Tbsp. melted (I used margarine)
1/4 c. packed light-brown sugar
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt (I never put salt in desserts)

3 large eggs
3/4 c. light corn syrup (I only had dark)
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 package (11.5 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips (2 cups)
2 c. coarsely chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 350. Line the bottom and sides of a 9x13 baking pan with aluminum foil. (I would suggest lightly spraying the foil to make them easier to remove.) In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat 1 stick room-temperature butter, brown sugar, flour, and salt until coarse crumbs form. Pour mixture into prepared pan; press firmly into bottom.

2. Bake until lightly browned, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool, 10 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, in the same large bowl, mix eggs, corn syrup, granulated sugar, and melted butter until well combined. Add chocolate chips and pecans; spread over crust. Bake until set, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely in pan before lifting out (using foil to life). Cut into 32 bars (8 rows by 4 rows).

I put them back into the 9x13 pan after cutting and removing the foil, just for simpler storage.


Friday, February 24, 2006

A Quick Meal

Since my dinner plans for last night were foiled by my forgetting my wallet...I fell back on this favorite which is incredibly easy and we always really enjoy it! I'm not usually a fan of mixes or jarred sauces, but after trying so many recipes - we've found we like this the best! This is ready in less than 30 minutes and I decided to submit to Gooseberry Patch for the Super-Speedy Supper ideas:

Broccoli Chicken Fettucini Alfredo

* I have tried many homemade alfredo recipes and this mix has turned out to be our favorite. It is quick, easy, and yummy!

1 sm. bunch broccoli cut off of stem (or 1 1/2 c. frozen)
1 large chicken breast
4 oz. uncooked fettucini noodles
1 package alfredo sauce mix and ingredients as directed on back of package
1 Tbsp. oil
Salt, Pepper, and Garlic to taste

Pour 1 Tbsp. oil into a skillet and add chicken cut into chunks. Add seasonings. Cook over medium heat until lightly browned all over. Meanwhile, cook fettucini according to package directions. Cut broccoli flowerets into bite size pieces and steam in microwave for about 3 minutes. When chicken is done, remove from skillet. Make alfredo sauce according to package directions in skillet. When thickened as desired, add chicken, broccoli (with water drained off), and pasta. Heat through. Serves 2 with leftovers.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Taking It Personally

This morning in an attempt to simplify - I decided not to take my purse to Bible Study - one less bag. So, I put my wallet in with my study materials and was off. Worked great.

I've been trying for three days to get to the grocery store. Between what was on the calendar and Emily's nap time - today was the first afternoon I had to go.

So, off to Wal-Mart we went. Um, anyone see where this is going yet? Yep, you guessed it - I did all my shopping, appeased Emily with graham crackers (which were not the Cheerios she wanted) and got what we needed and even a special treat for dinner.

Off to the self-check-out line. Everything scanned, coupon deducted, groceries bagged in canvas bags from home to cut down on plastic bags, and my check written out.

Oops - forgot my wallet - must be in other bag (yes - simplifying). Oh well, they'll probably still take my check right? Wrong. The girl made me feel like a speck when she told me they did not accept checks without ID.

So, after one hour I came home with no groceries, a change in dinner plans, injured pride, tears in my eyes (yes, the girl made me cry) and after all that I lost my coupon on the cereal I was buying.

Sigh...maybe I'll try again tonight when David is home to stay with Emily. Yes, as the title suggests I DO take everything personally. If anyone wants to suggest that this is just pregnant emotions - please feel free to with-hold your comment, because you know I might take it personally. :)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


Instead of doing today's assigned spring cleaning, I sat on the porch swing and read my brand new edition (first issue I've rec'd) of Everyday Food. Yum, yum, yum. I can't wait to start cooking! If Emily is cooperative when she wakes up - I still may try to finish the Hall Bath today - we'll see.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Spring Cleaning: Master Bedroom and Bathroom

* Dust bathroom light fixtures
* Wash shower curtain and liner (with shower curtain and liner from hall bath)
* Wipe out shower
* Clean tub
* Clean toilet
* Wash rug (already washed with other rugs last week)
* Wash out trash can
* Sweep floor
* Clean mirror
* Clean sinks
* Sweep floor
* Dust ceiling fan/light fixture (with a sheet over the bed)
* I would usually wash the quilt on our bed but it was washed recently and I want to avoid too much wear from washing too frequently, so it is getting skipped this time around.
* Take down curtains and shake outside
* Dust blinds
* Wash window inside/out
* Vacuum out window track
* Dust thoroughly
* Lampshades and bed skirt - use lint roller (I would also normally wash the bed skirt - our bed is extremely heavy and I cannot lift it, so this will have to do)
* Vacuum

Update: Completed in 1 hr and 25 minutes. Trash can is still soaking and shower curtains will be washed tomorrow as the washer is already in use for today!

Monday, February 20, 2006

Two Years!

Photo Credit: Stacy Richardson

Friday, February 17, 2006


It seems that since becoming a mom, having a conversation where I can really focus on what someone is telling me is harder and harder. I don't notice this on the phone as much as when I'm talking with someone in person. Is it because my mind is re-training to think of someone else (Emily) more than myself and wondering where she is and what she is doing? Or, is it a choice that I must make to choose to concentrate and focus on the conversation? Sigh...

Thursday, February 16, 2006


Lately I've been reading the Little House books again as it has been a while. But, somehow this time around my perspective seems to be so different. Perhaps because I'm married, or perhaps because I have a daughter, I'm not sure.

But, I look at how Pa is always wanting to move. They move, get settled, and hmm, something isn't the way he thought it would be here and they move again. Ma seems patient enough with all of this, but I probably would not be. Especially because the way Pa picks a place to live is by how it seems at the time he sees it - he does think through what the provisions would be for his family and I appreciate that - but, I'm feeling weary for them and I'm only in the 4th book!

It seemed like their life in the Big Woods was great - near family, plenty of food, home, neighbors, not far from town, but I guess there was no school for the girls. Then it just seems like move after move.

Ok, enough whining - there are many great lessons I can learn from this family and much I can learn and appreciate about both their way of life and the conveniences I have available to me on a daily basis.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Spring Cleaning: Living Room

Note: David usually cleans out the fireplace...so I'm saving that and the firewood box for him to do this weekend, which he agreed to do so it won't be on my list of cleaning today. Thanks, David!

* Dust light fixture and ceiling fan
* Take down curtains and shake outside
* Dust blinds
* Wash windows inside and out
* Dust mantle
* Dust plants
* Dust lamp shades with lint roller
* Dust top edges and arms of couches with lint roller
* Vacuum out underneath couch/chair cushions
* Rotate cushions
* Vacuum behind couches
* Dust everything
* Shake rugs outside (washed last week with other rugs)
* Vacuum
* Re-hang curtains
* Change furnace/air conditioner filter

Update: I was extremely unmotivated to do this room today and even considered pushing it to another day - but I am glad that it is done! Posting this stuff is helping to keep me accountable to do it! Also, the entry way was scheduled for tomorrow - but being so small and knowing I would not want to get all the cleaning supplies/ladder out again tomorrow, I did that today as well. I finished both rooms in 1 hr. 34 minutes. Is anyone else spring cleaning with me?

Entry Way:
* Dust light fixture
* Wash window inside/out
* Wash window in door inside/out
* Dust
* Shake Rug (already washed last week)
* Sweep Floor

Next: Master Bedroom/Bath Feb. 21

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Happy Valentine's Day!

Here I am with my Valentine! :)

We started our morning off with an early breakfast of heart shaped pancakes and ham. It was a fun start to the day which Emily slept through!

I made these brownies yesterday so I could put a fun dessert in David's lunch today and we'll also have them for dessert tonight. I got the idea here, though used my own brownie recipe.
I'm planning to make creamy chicken and green beans with heart shaped biscuits on top for dinner and these scones in heart shapes for a friend who is coming this afternoon for tea!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Spring Cleaning: Laundry Room

Ok, here we go on room number three!

- Dust light fixture
- Dust off top of cabinets
- Wash window inside/out
- Wipe off top of freezer
- Clean inside washer (around lid)
- Clean lint screen (rinse and dry)
- Dust off top of washer, dryer, hot water heater
- Dust off ironing board (with lint roller)
- Shred all papers and empty paper shredder
- Wash dog food/water bowls
- Wash rug and towel under dog bowls (combine with other rugs)
- Sweep and mop floor
- Run 1 gallon white vinegar through washer to clean any soap residue
- Wash out trash can

Update: I had done the washing of the rugs this morning and put the dog bowls in the dishwasher. So, completed the room in 56 minutes.

Next: Living Room on Wednesday 2/15

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Word Cloud

Following a link from Tulip Girl's blog...it creates a word cloud for you after scanning your blog...things you write about, common words/themes. I thought it was really fun and interesting to see the outcome!

Friday, February 10, 2006

Good To Know...

I learned a couple of things kind of by accident this week that were very helpful! Maybe you will find them helpful too:

- After an unsuccessful trip to the Library for certain tax forms, I learned you can download them here.

- Noticing my glass candle holders were covered inside with black from smoke and flame, I decided to see what would happen if I put them in the dishwasher. They came out sparkling and good as new! (This would not be for was removal!)

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Tied Down?

by Edgar Guest

"They tie you down," a woman said,
Whose cheeks should have been flaming red
With shame to speak of children so.
"When babies come you cannot go
In search of pleasure with your friends,
And all your happy wandering ends.
The things you like you cannot do,
For babies make a slave of you."

I looked at her and said: "Tis true
That Children make a slave of you,
And tie you down with many a knot,
But have you never thought to what
It is of happiness and pride
That little babies have you tied?
Do you not miss the greater joys
That come with little girls and boys?

They tie you down to laughter rare,
To hours of smiles and hours of care,
To nights of watching and to fears;
Sometimes they tie you down to tears
And then repay you with a smile,
And make your trouble all worth while.
They tie you fast to chubby feet
And cheeks of pink and kisses sweet.

They fasten you with cords of love
To God divine, who reigns above.
They tie you, whereso'er you roam,
Unto the little place called home;
And over sea or railroad track
They tug at you to bring you back.
The happiest people in the town
Are those the babies have tied down.

Oh, go your selfish way and free
But hampered I would rather be,
Yes rather than a kingly crown
I would be, what you term, tied down;
Tied down to dancing eyes and charms,
Held fast by chubby, dimpled arms,
The fettered slave of girl and boy,
And win from them earth's finest joy."

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Spring Cleaning: Dining Room

Today I have less energy and less motivation - but am determined to stick with this cleaning schedule. So, here's what I'm planning to do:

- Dust light fixture
- Remove everything from shelf and dust
- Take curtains down and shake outside
- Dust blinds
- Wash window inside and out
- Vacuum window track
- Dust windowsill
- Clean all crumbs out of highchair
- Wipe off table and chairs
- Sweep and mop floor

Update: The above was completed in one hour and seventeen minutes (with one phone call interruption). I'm glad I started in the Kitchen last time, because this room was easier and if I had done them the other way around, I'd probably be a bit discouraged.

Next: Laundry Room 2/13

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Valentine Cards!

I was inspired by the February Better Homes and Gardens to make these cute cards. They are very simple! Use a small cookie cutter as a pattern and cut out small hearts from various shades or patterns of papers. Use small silver brads to attach to cards in desired pattern. Use thin red ribbon for "stem" or to dangle hearts. Cute!

Monday, February 06, 2006

Spring Cleaning: Kitchen

Ok, Emily is down for her nap and room number one is upon me. Here's what I'm planning to do working from top to bottom:

- Dust ceiling fan and light fixture
- Dust upper walls
- Vacuum light openings and window tracks
- Clean top and inside of exhaust fan and light
- Clean top of fridge
- Wipe off cabinet fronts
- Clean fridge front and inside
- Clean inside of microwave
- Wash windows inside and out
- Wipe all counters down
- Run Oven Clean cycle and wipe out afterwards
- Wipe front of oven and dishwasher
- Clean stove top
- Soak and clean out trash can/recycling bin
- Vacuum under stove and behind fridge
- Wash Rug: Combine with other rugs for one load
- Sweep and Mop Floor

I'll update this post when I'm done on how long it took.

Update: The dryer is still going with the rugs and the oven cycle is still going, the trash cans are draining in the bathtub - but all the rest is completed and it took 1 hour and 45 minutes. Looks great! Here's an "after" photo:

Next: Dining Room Wednesday 2/8

Saturday, February 04, 2006


A family tradition is a gift from generation to generation. It is a way to preserve the past for the future. It requires someone being intentional about keeping the tradition alive. I would like to honor the generations before me who have kept this family tradition alive in our family by sharing a special family recipe!

This recipe is wonderfully versatile because with one dough you can make bread, rolls, and cinnamon rolls. The rolls are traditional at Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter. The cinnamon rolls are always served on Christmas morning. My husband’s favorite is the bread, which makes great sandwiches from leftover holiday fare!

My mom remembers her mom making these rolls in a yellow Pyrex mixing bowl. I remember her telling me how she and her sisters would “fight” over who got the middle cinnamon roll because it had the most goodies!

I remember my mom making this recipe in a yellow bowl as well and seeing the dough rise over the top in the refrigerator. Now the tradition includes making this recipe in the yellow bowl and we each have one.

We have been able to trace this recipe back for four generations. My Grandma got the recipe from her Aunt Louise who found the recipe in a newspaper. And, I intend to pass it on to my daughter for a fifth generation. I think it is so special to carry on this tradition and I am thankful for those before me who were intentional about keeping it alive.

Homemade Rolls and Cinnamon Rolls Recipe
2 pkgs. Yeast
2 beaten eggs
4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
2/3 c. melted Crisco (I use oil)
3/4 c. sugar
1 c. lukewarm water
10-11 c. flour
2 c. scalded milk

Soften yeast and dissolve 1 tsp. sugar in water; add milk (cooled to lukewarm), salt, ¾ c. sugar, and shortening. Add eggs and beat well. Add flour to make soft dough; let stand 10 minutes. Knead until smooth and elastic. Place in a greased bowl (yellow one of course!); turn dough once, cover and refrigerate. Shape rolls into cloverleaf shapes and place in greased muffin tins, cover, and let rise until doubled. Bake at 400-425 for 15-20 minutes. Punch down unused dough and refrigerate.

For Cinnamon Rolls:
Make above dough. Then roll out dough to approximately 12”wide by 18-24” long. Spread butter over the dough, leaving a ½-1” edge with no toppings. Layer brown sugar, cinnamon, and nuts generously over dough. Roll dough finishing with the bare edge. Cut slices about ¾-1” in width using dental floss. Place in round greased pan. Bake at 400-425 for 15-20 minutes.

Glaze: Mix powdered sugar and milk until of drizzling consistency. Drizzle and serve warm!

Rolls, cinnamon rolls, and bread can be frozen after baking. Reheat and serve. Add glaze to cinnamon rolls after thawing from the freezer and re-heating.

Anyone else have a special tradition or person you want to honor by sharing how they kept a tradition alive in your family?

Friday, February 03, 2006

Spring Cleaning

I have the spring cleaning bug! Our calendar starts getting busier in March and later, so I thought I'd better go ahead and tackle this now! I have assigned a date to each room and am going to try to get the entire portion done during Emily's nap time. I will be posting what I do in each room and updates along the way just in case any of you want to spring clean along with me! This will not be a time for me to organize, just do a deep cleaning. Also, I have worked around busy days on our schedule and allowed for days to have no rooms since I don't want to get burned out or way behind-feeling. Some of these things I do more regularly than once a year, but just want to do them again while I am at a big cleaning. Here is the schedule I have set:

Feb. 6: Kitchen
Feb. 8: Dining Room
Feb. 13: Laundry Room
Feb. 15: Living Room
Feb. 16: Entry Way
Feb. 21: Master Bedroom/Bath
Feb. 22: Hall Bath
Feb. 27: Emily's Room
Feb. 28: Den
Mar. 2: Porch Front/Back; Sidewalks and Driveway
Mar. 4: Yard: weeds, leaves, etc...
Mar. 6: Car

I have scheduled a yard sale for March 11 and after that will do the spare room as it is full of priced items at the moment! :)

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Journey

My Mom received a recent edition of the Mitford Grapevine and following is a portion of the letter from the author, Jan Karon.

"Gentle Reader:

Thanks for your warm embrace of Light From Heaven. Though 'Light' is the series' final novel, it has excited great interest in the first, At Home in Mitford, resulting in legions of new Mitford readers.

My sincerest welcome to any of you who're visiting this website for the first time. Writing the Mitford series was, for me, a richly rewarding and many-layered journey, and I hope it has been thus for you. I remember my great-aunt Maude who, when I was seven or eight years old, embarked on a journey to California. In those days, no one I knew traveled so far; indeed, my clan kept close to home (had to feed the chickens and horses, and, of course, slop the hogs). This trip of hers was so wondrous that she talked about it for years. Each time she came to visit us on the farm, she would tell us again about California. Who needed radio when we could listen to the indefatigable Aunt Maude?

So. Why don't we talk about our journey through the nine Mitford novels? Be assured we needn't go on and on for years. Just a couple of weeks will do, don't you think?

What did you learn, if anything, from this body of work? Many readers say they've read through the series several times. Did you ever do this? Why? Some critics say that Mitford isn't real, that people don't really live like that, or behave like that. What do you think? If you were encouraging someone to read the series, what would you say? In this series, you've 'seen' God at work in the lives of the characters. What is your take on the God you found in Mitford?

Please toss in any and all comments you feel moved to share, and thank you.

As we all launch out into a new year, I pray that it will be a bright one; indeed, the best year yet--for you and all those whom you cherish. I never got the hang of making serious resolutions, so let's just leave it at this: Draw close. Hold hands. Life is short. God is good.


I have been wanting to respond in some way to this "Journey" and what I have so enjoyed about reading the Mitford books. But, time has gotten away and I just haven't done it and today when I followed the links to do so on her website - found it was a big bulletin board where I was basically lost.

So, I humbly submit my thoughts and memories from the journey here for the readers of the homespun heart. Thank you for indulging me!

My Journey to Mitford

I don't remember when I read the first book, what I initially thought, or where I even got the book. But, I will never forget so many things that I have learned from the wonderful and sometimes aggravating friends in Mitford.

Those in Mitford know how to appreciate the simple things in life. They create beautiful circumstances around themselves not only for themselves, but for others. They take a pot of flowers to a friend, surprise each other with a picnic, pop through the hedge with a pot of soup, or just sit in a favorite chair and read a comfortable book. These are the joys in life that so often go overlooked.

Reading and re-reading the Mitford books always draws me deeper into my faith and relationship with God. And, into a small community of people where simplicity and peacefulness of life seem to reign. The descriptions are so beautiful and inspiring - such as the candle-light midnight Christmas Eve service at Lord's Chapel or the ceiling at Fernbank.

In our family, we have adopted several quotes that are often repeated such as, "Consider it done!" And, I often think of the prayer that never fails and, "Philippians 4:13 for pete's sake."

Overall, when I think of Mitford - I think of a place that my heart yearns to live and experience. So, my Mom and I have a saying to each other of creating Mitford-like experiences where we are. How can I make choices that make life simpler and sweeter? How can I make someone else's day better by cheering them up, as so many do in Mitford?

I will continue to read these books again and again, because I am always drawn in, always encouraged, always inspired, and always feel At Home In Mitford.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


I have discovered two wonderful conveniences that are FREE courtesy of the US Postal Service! Yes - each saves a trip and waiting in line...

When you are getting ready to go on vacation or be away, you can put your mail on hold from your home computer. Fill out this form at least 24 hours in advance and voila! They will also deliver all the collected mail on the date specified. When I'm getting ready to leave, it seems I never quite have time to make it to the Post Office so this is a great alternative.

The second thing is ordering stamps by mail. You can do this two ways: one is free, the other isn't. If you order them from their website, you have to pay shipping and handling. However, next time you are at the post office, ask for an envelope to order stamps by mail. This goes in your mail box with no stamp and the order is filled by your mail carrier and returned the next business day. They have a 24 hour turn around if it is during the week. If you put your order in on Friday, you will receive it on Monday. And, they always provide a new envelope with your order so you are ready to go next time!

These two things have saved me lots of time and trips to the Post Office - hope they help you too!