Archive | May 2012

Week of 6/4 Menus

Here is the grocery list for this week’s menus: 6/4 Grocery list

Breakfast  Menu: Dinner Menu:
M: Orange Muffins M: Beef Burgundy
T: Eggs T:   Meatball Subs
W: Banana Muffins W:   Hot Dogs & veggie sticks
Th: Blueberry Breakfast Cake Th:   Pizza
F: Cheesy Egg Tacos F:   Chicken Marsala
S: Chocolate Chip Pancakes S:   Stir Fry
S: Lemon Poppy Muffins S:   Panini

Quiet Box

This week we have a house full of sick kids (and one sick momma). Because of sore throats and stuffy heads, quiet is a must. But keeping a 4, 8, and 10-year-old relatively still and quiet is a challenge, especially when Mom isn’t feeling well too. So I came up with the Quiet Box.

The idea here is much like a telephone box – something to keep kids busy. But for a quiet box, the focus needs to be on activities that will keep the kids quiet, entertained, and relatively still. Here are my suggestions:

#1. DVDs – put in a couple of DVDs that the kids haven’t ever seen or haven’t watched in a long time. Rotate these out regularly so that kids don’t know what to expect.

#2. Markers, Crayons, Paper, & Crafts – Here the trick is to keep things that don’t make a mess (no sick Mom wants to clean up glitter and glue). Focus on things they can draw with. Stickers are great here too. You can often pick up foam shapes (we got eggs and butterflies for spring) and stickers at Target’s dollar spot or another dollar store. I keep these stocked up in various places for keeping kids busy.

#3. Books – Add in age-appropriate books or books that older children can read to younger children to keep everyone quiet and behaving nicely together. My kids love to c0-read (all sit together reading their own books). Like #1 rotate these regularly.

#4. Stuffed Animals or Lovies – These can be picked up at dollar stores or at the end of a holiday (my kids don’t seem to care if the animal they get in September has Easter bunny ears). Also think about soft towels or blankets that are new to the kids. This gives them something new to snuggle and can be washed or thrown out (depending on how sick people are) when the kids are finished.

#5. Play-Doh – I pick up packs of Play-Doh and accessories when they are on sale and break the packs up to be gifts, favors for visiting kids, or to put into a quiet box or telephone box. My kids do Play-doh on the hard floor at our front door. We throw everything (including the new items they get from the quiet box) into a large plastic file box to store. We also let the Play-doh dry out and then just vacuum it up.

What do you use to entertain your kids when they (and you are sick)? Share your ideas in the comments or on Submit Your Tip!

Remedies for Sunburns and other Beach Mishaps

So we spent the weekend using our umbrella beach blanket and now those of us who didn’t stay on the blanket in the shade are sunburned. While we all know aloe and ibuprofen work well to stem the sunburn issues, I got to thinking about remedies for sunburns and two of the other most commons beach problems that we can easily try at home:

#1. Sunburn

  • Aloe – you can use aloe from a house plant. Just slit open a leaf and spread the gel on your sunburn.
  • Baking soda – add 2-4 heaping tablespoons of baking soda to a cool water bath and soak for a bit to sooth a sunburn. Limit soaking time to 15-20 minutes to keep skin from drying out. Don’t towel dry (air-dry instead) to get the full benefit.
  • Oatmeal – adding oatmeal to a cool bath (or using something like the Aveeno Soothing Oatmeal Bath)  will nourish and sooth sun-scorched skin. Add 1/2 to 1 cup of oatmeal and mix into cool bath water until dissolved. As with baking soda, don’t towel dry if possible.
  • Hydrate – drinking plenty of water will help your skin recover more quickly
  • Cool soak or compress – a cool cloth or soak in a cool tub will help relieve the pain of a sunburn
  • Milk – Yep, it really does a body good. To ease sunburn pain drink plenty of milk. Also, you can make milk compresses to apply directly to sunburned skin

#2. Jellyfish Stings

  • Vinegar – Applying vinegar to a jellyfish sting will reduce pain and deactivate nematocysts that dispense the venom. If you have been stung by a Portuguese Man-o-war or a sea nettle (often confused with jellyfish) use a baking soda paste.
  • After applying vinegar (or baking soda as appropriate) soak the affected area in as hot of water as you can stand to continue to neutralize venom and reduce pain.

#3. Sandfly Bites

  • Garlic – rub a cut edge of a clove of garlic over the bite for instant relief
  • Salt or Citrus – soak in water with salt (or ocean water if at the beach) or any citrus juice to relieve pain and itching

Do you have a favorite home remedy for beach ailments? Share it in the comments or Submit Your Tip!

Saturday Project: Beach Umbrella Blanket

Walking through Sam’s Club with my kids, we can never resist heading down the beach/outdoor aisle. Living near the beach has us thinking about beaching all the time! On a trip last week with Middle Child, we came across a blanket that was perfect for the beach. It had a hole in it to put a beach umbrella (a must for me because I have Lupus). It was just made from beach towel material. I was interested and actually considering a purchase when Middle Child spoke up with, “Mom, I bet you could make that!” Challenge extended. We proceeded to discuss how to sew several towels together into a large beach blanket, leaving a space for the umbrella pole (much to the delight of the 2 older ladies in the aisle who stopped to listen and giggle at Middle Child’s sewing ideas).

So this week I took on the challenge from Middle Child and it turned into an easy project that I can’t wait to use this weekend at the beach. Here are the basics:

2 -4 beach towels (depending on how large you want the blanket to be) – We used 3 bath sheets because that is what we had a lot of extra of around our house.

Sew beach towels together leaving a 6 inch gap in a seam – this is where you will insert the umbrella through the blanket. After much thought, we decided to leave the hole in ours toward one corner so that kids could be on the blanket in the sun and I could still have the option of putting a beach chair under the shade.

Add corner or side pockets by cutting corners off another beach towel and sewing them onto the blanket as pockets. You could also re-use pockets from worn out jeans.

Another twist is to line the back with a water-resistant fabric – just remember to cut a hole for the umbrella.

I hope to add pictures of us using it with an umbrella at the beach this weekend. The NC coast has seen too many rainy days lately!


UPDATE: Check out the picture of the blanket in action at the top! The family loved it so much I made a second one, without the hole for an umbrella, when we returned home from the beach on Saturday. Using bath sheet (large bath towels) made for a soft, comfy space to hang out on the beach!

Week of 5/28 Menus

Here is the grocery list for this week’s menus: 5/28 Grocery List

Breakfast Menu: Dinner Menu:
M: Lemon Poppy Muffins M: Bacon Mac & Cheese, green beans
T: Eggs T: Chicken & mushroom quesedillas
W: French Toast W: Hot Dogs & Sausages, veggie sticks
Th: Blueberry Muffins Th: Pizza Cups
F: Chocolate Zucchini Bread (we make these as muffins) F: Chicken & potatoes, corn
S: Whole Wheat Pancakes S: Hamburgers, veggie sticks
S: English Muffin Sandwiches S: Tacos

School Space: Not Just for Those Who Home School

We are a home schooling family, which for us means we have a dedicated school space. Although not all lessons take place in the “school room” (many happen at the dining room table or in the kitchen!) it is important to have a school space. But this is true for families that do not home school as well.

While we don’t all have the option of a dedicated room for a school/study space (ours is actually a finished sunroom off our family room), it is important to designate an area for school and studying. The table at certain hours, kitchen bar, or a corner desk…any are viable options for a designated school space.

The benefit here is simple. When kids are in that designated school/study space, they know it is time to work. Here are some tips for a school or study space:

  • Table or desk & chair – It is very important that the space for schoolwork provides a proper writing surface and a good chair that will keep kids comfortable and in good posture for writing, reading, or computer work.
  • Adequate lighting – Task lighting is essential, especial for kids who are doing their homework or studying in the evenings. You can pick up inexpensive (under $20) lighting options that still look trendy or fit with your decor at most Marts.
  • Quiet – While people will try to tell you they study better with their iPod or headphones, the research simply does not back this up. The space for doing schoolwork needs to be quiet. If you want to add music to cover other household noise or help you child focus, introduce them to classical or instrumental music. Simply eliminating words and keeping the volume at a background level will enhance learning and retention over other music.
  • Supplies – In the school area it is a good idea to have back up school supplies such as pencils, pens, colored pencils, crayons, or makers (depending on kids’ ages), erasers, rulers, glue sticks, notebooks/paper, and other supplies your child uses regularly. If you have the money, consider investing in a computer for the area or if your family has laptops, a wireless printer. This has helped us tremendously.
  • Storage – Inexpensive bookshelves can be refinished to provide stylish storage. Instead of spending money on baskets use plastic dish bins (under $2 each at the local Mart when they are full price!). Kids can decorate with markers or stickers, or you can spray paint them for a more grown-up look. This will allow for a place for loose paper, library books, books you own, flashcards, and other supplies.
  • White Board – If you home school, this is a must, but we have found this beneficial even when we didn’t home school. Younger ones can practice writing or spelling (our kids loved studying for spelling tests with mock-tests at home on the white board). Older kids can work through math problems or brainstorm ideas for a paper.

Keep the Change: Easy Savings Plan

We have saved cash for a lot of cool things (and some that I wish we didn’t have to buy). The magic trick to saving money is to spend less. (I know, clever.) But we have found a neat little system that works really well and we don’t even miss the money we are saving – Keep the Change.

Here’s how it works:

Use cash as often as you can. I know, we are tied to our check card too, but whenever possible we use cash. I prefer using cash when I can plan ahead…like for groceries, the occasional (one a quarter) meal out, clothing purchases, etc.

Whenever you use cash, pay only with the next largest whole bill. For example, if the purchase is $15.99 pay with one $20 bill. If the purchase is over $20 go up to the next $5.  For example, pay for a $36.23 purchase with two $20 bills. If the purchase is $41.50 pay with two $20 bills and one $5 bill. Never pay with ones or coins.

After a cash purchase, put the change (ones and coins) from that purchase in a separate place in your wallet or in an envelope in your purse. When you get home, set that money aside in a canister or jar (we use an old canister that used to be at my grandma’s house when I was a kid). Watch the money pile up.

When the canister gets full, roll the coins and take all the money to the bank. Open a savings account that you cannot access with your ATM/Check Card and put the money in it.

To really motivate yourself to save, set a goal. A vacation, computer, TV…whatever. Make the goal something you will do in the next year. We have paid for 2 vacations  to Disney World (for 4 people – including food, souvenirs and one year plane tickets) this way. While in Taiwan, we saved enough money this way to hire movers to pack everything for our move to Taipei.

TWIST – When you use coupons put the amount that you saved with the coupons in the fund. Or do this with the amount you saved by using your shopper card.

Chore Bingo: A New Game to Get Stuff Done (with FREE Printables)

As I was sitting down to come up with something creative for a new post inspiration hit me. Literally, a kid banged into me. But it worked because I came up with a fun game we will be adding to the chore routine – Chore Bingo!

The concept here is simple. When a child does a chore, they can cross it off on their chore bingo card. When they get 3 spaces in a row filled, they get a prize (like something from the Prize Box). If they fill their entire card, they get a bonus – cash or an additional prize box pick. The cool thing here is that the kids get to pick what chores they do, which *should* motivate them better to do them.

Here are the basics you need:

Free Printables:

Blank Bing Card: You can write chores of your chosing on it. These are great if you have specific chores that need to get done right now

Pre-Set Chore Bingo Cards (with graphics): These have pre-set graphics for specific chores

Chore Graphics: Graphics of various chores that you can print and cut out to use on cards. When a kid does a chore, have them tape or glue the picture of that chore to their card.

TIP: Put the cards in a picture frame and use dry erase markers to record the chore done or to cross off a picture of a chore. You can even tape the graphics onto the glass or add velcro sticky dots or squares to the glass and the back of the graphics to use them again and again.

Saturday Project: Magnetic Kitchen Towel

We never have a good place to hang a dishtowel in the kitchen. It almost makes me miss the great towels of the 1970’s that were made with a strap that could go around the fridge handle and button to keep it handy. As I got to thinking about that I saw an ad for a dishtowel with a magnet in it…for $35! I could make that! And so can you. Here are the easy steps:

  1. Select a dishtowel
  2. Buy small round magnets at the craft or hardware store (they are often cheaper at the hardware store). These need to heavy enough to hold your towel up. (I took my towel to the hardware store and tried them out on a display fridge.)
  3. Wash towels
  4. In the corner of one towel place the magnet. Be sure that there is enough fabric so that you can fold it over and sew a pouch to hold the magnet.
  5. Sew the magnet closed in the folded-over corner.

It is that simple. Now we can “attach” the towels to the oven or fridge doors, keeping them handy. Why didn’t I think of this before?!

Make Your Own Reusable Swiffer Floor Mop Cloths

Since we tried making our own Swiffer duster cloths I got to thinking that it would probably be a good idea to make my own mopping cloths. As I researched the idea, I found that on they had created a tutorial for making a wet and dry reusable Swiffer mop cloth! These are super easy to make, and will save you money!

I can’t wait to try this out! We have several older towels and fleece items that I can reuse for this project, saving even more money.