Archive | February 2013

Repurposing: DIY Ice Packs

Anyone with kids, especially little boys, knows that needing to ice an injury is inevitable. Here are a few alternatives to ice (which melts quickly) and peas (which shape to the injury but can mess up dinner plans!):

  1. Ketchup packets: Take all those ketchup packets you get at fast food restaurants and put them in the  DSC_0282freezer. The ketchup doesn’t completely solidify and the packet makes a great icepack for small injuries, especially for fingers, toes, or near eyes.                                            (Image from 
  2. Dishwashing liquid: Fill a zipper bag 2/3 full with Dawn or another very viscous dishwashing liquid and store in the freezer. This gets very cold, but doesn’t freeze completely, making it able to shape to cover injuries.
  3. Alcohol: Combine rubbing alcohol with water in a 1:3 ratio (one part alcohol to 3 parts water) in a zipper bag. Store in the freezer. Again, this gets very cold, but doesn’t completely solidify, so it shapes to injured areas.

TIP: Double bag things to keep leaks from happening.

How Long to Save Records

file cabinetFiling and storing essential records is key to keeping your home organized. Filing is pretty simple – use the alphabet or if possible, scan records and save files digitally to save space. If you choose to use a digital filing system, be sure files are backed-up on an external drive.

But how long do you keep records? Here are some helpful tips:

Bills: Keep until you receive the next month’s bill showing your payment was appropriately applied. Be sure to shred all bills instead of just throwing them away because bills contain identifying information and credit card numbers. If the bill is for a large purchase (jewelry, home repairs, etc). keep the bill as long as you have the item purchased in a file relating to that item.

Bank Statements: Many of us get our bank statements online, so storage isn’t an issue, but if you get paper statements, keep the statements until your account has been balanced. Like bills, if the statement shows the purchase of a large item or anything that may relate to taxes or a business, file the statements with those categories and keep them as long as you have the item or business.

Tax Records: Tax returns should be kept for at least 3 years, but for your protection it is recommended that you keep the records for 7 -10 years.

Retirement Contributions: Keep these records indefinitely

Brokerage Statements: Keep these records until you sell the securities or close out the accounts. If there are tax implications file the records with the tax year they relate to and store for the recommended time for tax records.

Paycheck Stubs:Whether paper or electronic, save the records until you get your W-2 for that year and have verified that all the information is correct.

House Records: Keep records on the purchase, financing or refinancing, and any improvements made on a home until you sell the home. Save records relating to the sale of a home with the tax year paperwork that the sale effects.

Medical Records: See the article on organizing medical records for information about how to put these things together. Keep medical records permanently.

Receipts: If receipts have tax implications, file with the corresponding year. If the item relates to a large or warrantied purchase, file the receipt with other information about the purchase. Otherwise, once items have cleared you bank account for the correct amount, receipts can be thrown away.

Hard Surface Floor Cleaner

Rather than use the one-and-done wet mop cloths that are pre-moistened and you throw away after one use, I was looking for a re-usable mop for hard surfaces that I could put my own cleaning solution in. I ended up purchasing the O’Cedar ProMist Spray Mop which works well (even after over a year of the kids “helping” with it!). This mop allows me to use my own floor cleaning solution (you can use a store-bought solution too) which saves me a lot of money. Here is the recipe:O-Cedar-ProMist-Microfiber-Spray-Mop

  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 2 tbsp Dawn dishwashing liquid (the brand is important as that is the best to cut grease & grime)
  • 2 tsp alcohol (this will help the floors dry quickly without streaks)
  • fill bottle to full line with water after you put in the other ingredients

This solution works great on linoleum, hardwood, or tile floors. Check with your floor’s manufacturer before using any cleaning product.

Blowing Up the Schedule

Yesterday we didn’t dust. The laundry didn’t get finished.  Dinner wasn’t what was on the menu plan for Monday (we did kids on a trainTaco cups – yum!). Schoolwork didn’t get completed. The table was strewn with books and doodle pages. The kitchen bears the remnants of my husband’s dinner-making adventure. And you know what? It was a great day!

While passing on a strong work ethic and following schedules and routines are valuable skills to give your children, one that is equally as important, but often overlooked, is knowing when to step back and have fun. Today, instead of doing what we had planned for school and chores, my kids and husband joined my on a trip to a town about an hour away. I had a doctor appointment that lasted 10 minutes, but we decided to stay and play – to experience something new – and just enjoy a sunny day. We explored a new downtown area, visited a great train museum, and even splurged on lunch out at a restaurant where they come to your table to take your order (a MAJOR rarity with a family of 5 living on one teacher’s income).

On the drive home, as the kids slept away the excitement of the day, I was reminded that, while it is the reality that most days we must do chores and schoolwork, taking the time to make fun family memories is definitely as important as getting through scheduled materials.

Week of 2/18 Menus


Breakfast Menu:
M: Eggs
T: Oatmeal
W: Chocolate Chip Muffins
Th: Donut Muffins
F: Eggs
S: Whole Wheat Pancakes bacon
S: Cereal/Eggs
Dinner Menu:
M: Spaghetti, salad
T: BBQ Chicken, potatoes, veggie sticks
W: Bacon Mac & Cheese, green beans
Th: Chicago Style Pizza
F: Chicken Tender Salad
S: Chicken Marsala, mashed potatoes, salad
S: Taco Cups

Financial Fast: A Great Way to Put Money In Its Proper Place

Being that it is the season of Lent, there is a lot of talk about giving something up for 40 days. We are not Catholic and don’t practice a strict policy of Lent, but for several years we have used this season for a Financial Fast. This is something that can be done at anytime.

Here are the basics:

Pay your regular bills. Don’t ignore any of your regular monthly obligations.

Commit to not spending any money other than essentials – groceries and gas – for one month (or 40 days). This means no clothes, toys, items for the house, eating out…nothing that isn’t food to be cooked at home or gas to get you to work and activities to which you are already committed. Don’t schedule doctor or other appointments with co-pays during this time unless someone is sick. Of course, if there is an emergency, spend the money. But clothes, shoes, and accessories for people or homes are not an emergency!

Spend time that you would have used shopping and spending money praying and investing into your family with fun, free family activities. At the end of your fast period (21, 30 or 40 days) count up the money you have saved and put it into a savings account. At that point you will likely have a significant amount of money and a whole new perspective on what is a need versus a want.

Have you tried a Financial Fast with your family? What did you do and what were the results? Share your experience in the comments!

Saturday Project: Rain Collection Barrel


While many people may be buried in snow this weekend, it is not too early to start planning for spring. This year, our spring plans include garden planting and that will require watering through the dryer times. We were looking for a cheaper way to water than just using the hose and finally came across great plans to make this rain barrel system on

Week of 2/11 Menus


Breakfast Menu:
M: Eggs
T: Oatmeal
W: Whole Wheat Pancakes
Th: Heart shaped cinnamon rolls (just unroll each cut roll and roll both edges back in, making the top of the heart. Pinch the bottom to a point.
F: Bacon & egg sandwiches
S: Amish Cinnamon Bread
S: Cereal/Eggs
Dinner Menu:
M: Nebraska Beef Buns, peas
T: Open faced turkey, potatoes, corn
W: Spaghetti, salad
Th: Heart shaped St. Louis Style Pizza – roll dough out into a heart shape
F: Lasagna, salad
S: Beef Stroganoff, broccoli
S: Panini