Monday, February 11, 2013

Keeping a Toddler Busy

The first thing I have to say is: "Thank you, Internet!" There is so much information about entertaining children out there. My advice is not to just look up things to do, but look up how your child is likely to be developing. Activities based on their areas of development will keep them happy longer and will help them learn and grow. Of course, every child is different. When you catch your child playing quietly by himself, take note of what he is doing and what it says about his development. This will help you find ways to encourage him to play quietly in the future.  Here are some fun things I have come up with for my "little bird." Perhaps you'll find a thing or two for your own toddler (and your own sanity.)

A classic. It seems so obvious, but I think even the most experienced parents forget sometimes. Let your kid help. It may be less than helpful, but it will keep them happy, which is actually very helpful. Let them help with laundry or dishes. When we are doing  dishes my daughter likes to use the special pink scrub brush I got for her or to pour water from one dish to another. For laundry, I give her a tiny basket and put her clothes in it. She then carries it to her room and dumps it on the floor. She usually makes several trips. I come back later to sort the pile into the proper drawers. Her favorite thing to help with is anything involving tools. In the picture she has a screw driver, but I prefer to give her less pointy tools like small wrenches. She inevitably finds something to turn with it.
Scrub Time
My daughter enjoys bubbles and cleaning. On several occasions I have given her something dirty, like a booster seat, to work on. I give her a scrub-brush  and a spray bottle full of soapy water.  The spray bottle is her favorite. Who doesn't love to squirt water? This not only keeps her happy for a while, but it actually is pretty helpful to me. After she is done it doesn't take long for me to finish the job.

Colored Rice in Muffin Tins
I don't remember what sparked this idea. It was something on pinterest, but it is my own variation. I mixed a tiny of water and food coloring into uncooked rice. I then place the rice in a pan out in the sun or in a warm oven to dry it out. Then I put the different colors of rice into a muffin tin and gave my daughter a spoon. It has been a good activity for her. The colors are completely mixed up now, so it looks like confetti, but she enjoys scooping and pouring. This one can be a bit messy because the rice goes everywhere, but its worth it.

Toy Rotation
If you haven't heard this tip yet, you're in luck. Its a good one. Store away some of your child's toys so that when they start to get bored you can rotate. They can be very excited about toys they haven't seen for a while. You can also see if there is a toy library in your area (check out wikipedia "Toy Library") Or see if your fellow mom friends are interested in rotating toys among your families.

Don't forget this classic! Finding or creating dress-up items is inexpensive and easy. You can cut up your old clothes or hunt for treasures at your local thrift stores.  Dress-up is an especially fun game when friends come over. And dress up isn't just for girls! Boys and girls alike can enjoy outfits such as doctor's appliances, pirate garb, cowboy get-up, police uniforms, and hats and shoes of all kinds.  Don't forget to rotate the dress-up items as you rotate your toys.

Spaghetti Art
One of my personal favorites. You know how noodles stick to a plate or a pan if you let them dry, making them a pain to clean off? Well, they stick to paper too! Just cook a few separate pans of noodles and put a different color in each pan. You'll need a very generous dose of food coloring. Make art with it! Snack on it! You'll need to keep the noodles moist, so mix a little water into the pans if they dry out. Otherwise they won't stick. When you are finished, let it dry in the sun or inside overnight. The final product isn't something you can keep (beside photos) because the paper curls as the noodles dry, but creating it is a blast.

Pudding Painting
Speaking of edible fun and delicious art, you can try this simple finger painting. Thin vanilla pudding+food coloring. Its a blast! And of course, it's yummy.  My daughter prefers paint brushes to finger painting, but it ruins them, so I'm still trying to figure out a solution to that. (I got this idea from my mother-in-law. Thank you, Sharon!)

Alphabet Soup
This activity is more eating fun, or at least pretend eating. As a preface, I would recommend magnetic letters to all parents! They are so great! For this activity, I put the magnetic letters in a metal cake pan and pull out a couple of spoons. My toddler and I pretend to eat the letters and feed them to each other. I like talk about the names of the letters we are eating to help her learn.

Dry Erase Markers
Thank you, Mom, for the dry erase markers and the dry erase board! This is a great variation on coloring because it requires no paper! If your kid can reliably restrict herself to appropriate surfaces, I would highly recommend it. My daughter loves to scribble/draw and then erase. Its a great learning tool as well. We play a game with shapes where I draw three different shapes and she erases the shapes as I say their names. Its good with colors too, and I hope to begin letters soon if she still thinks it's fun. If you decide to try this make sure to get colorful and low-odor markers.

This is another variation on coloring. This year for my daughters birthday I didn't want to buy wrapping paper so we colored and stickered a box together to put her presents in. She actually enjoyed poking holes in the box more than anything, but we had fun. Its also fun to color a large box to look like a house, or anything else, and then play inside. Long story short: crayons+boxes=fun.

*A note on coloring. I have heard that it is better to give a toddler a blank page than it is to give them a coloring book. My apologies, I could only find one of the sources I found a way back on this. Here it is:  

I think the idea is that coloring pages restrict them. They are putting color on someone else's drawing instead of creating their own. Having said that, I think a good coloring book is handy now and again, but I try not to rely on them.

Another classic to remember. Its simple: gather stuffed animals and dolls around the table or on a picnic blanket and serve them tea, or even a full blown meal! My daughter especially enjoys this one because she is fascinated with the ritual of eating as a family. Everyone gets such and such dishes and we all sit together and eat the same food. Everyone must have some of everything etc etc. It is a comforting pattern in her life and she enjoys providing it for someone else, even if they can't talk. Or eat.

Hello Again

I have been gone for quite some time due to computer issues. 
Now that the computer is finally fixed, 
I wonder to myself how many people follow this blog 
or are interested in the things put on here.

your job is to "like" the link on face book if you found it there, 
comment on the blog itself, or shoot me a personal message.
You are welcome to make suggestions, or give 
constructive criticism.

If I have more than...hmmm
combined likes, comments or messages,
I will continue the blog.
(Note: each of them must be from different people ; P )

Part of this is because at times I feel so UN-original.
 I have something that I have done that is my "genius" tip or trick
then I find it with all these beautiful pictures on a healthy, popular blog. 
Pinterest, I blame you.
No, really, I do.
Pinterest is awesome though.
There are tips and tricks that I see on there, 
some things I think, "huh...never knew I wanted to know that."

Anyway, so there you have it, hopefully the beginning to something good, 
but possibly the ending of what may just be a mundane blog that nobody has 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Burger for a Month - or Two

The concept of cooking up several pounds of burger for the month is not a new one to many people. 
Perhaps my way of accomplishing this is. 
I decided to purchase 2 -10 lb chubs of ground beef from Winco. An easy $40. I knew I wanted it cooked up, drained and divided. 
How to go about doing this without being in the kitchen forever. 
My biggest pan is only just big enough to handle a 5 lb. chub and that is pushing it. 

Last Christmas I was fortunate to receive a turkey roaster. You know, one like this: 

Little did I realize I would be using it for more than just turkeys. 
I figured out that it was perfect for cooking 20 lbs of burger. 

I put the 20 lbs of burger into my roaster, broke up the burger a bit with a spatula and turned the roaster on to 375 degrees F.

Every 20 minutes or so I would go in and stir and break up the burger then allow it to cook for another 20 minutes.  

I kept bumping (by accident) the dial to 400 and 450 degrees and wouldn't realize it until I got back to it 20 minutes later. So my times of cooking this are going to be a guesstimate.
I let this cook for about 3 hours. If the temperature stays at a constant 375 degrees it will take a bit longer. You could do as I did and "accidentally" bump the dial to 400 or 450.

As you are cooking this, you may notice that the burger sticks to the sides of the roaster. Be sure to scrape all sides every 20 minutes. Get the meat in the middle off the bottom and distributed. 
It is safest when the burger is at or above 160 degrees which you can use a meat thermometer for. I tested in various depths and areas to ensure the meat was thoroughly cooked. I like this meat thermometer because its sheath has the food safety temperature guide on the side. Easy to remember what everything needs to be. 

Because I am cheap I purchased meat that was 27% fat. Yuck! Last week we had some of that meat and I forgot to drain it. Oh yuck! 

So! If you have anything fattier than the leanest meat you can find, drain it and if you want even less fat, rinse it with hot water. 
The fat content can be significantly reduced when you drain and rinse, as explained here

So, carefully move the roaster pan onto hot pads right next to your sink.

Get a large bowl, one or more colanders and a large measuring cup. 
Gallon freezer storage bags are what I use to store approximately 4 lbs cooked and drained meat. 

Scoop out the cooked burger into a colander. Rinse under hot water. I go until the drainage isn't milky with fat. Let drain into large bowl. 

If you have a second colander, fill it, rinse it and then set it to drain under the first colander. 

Scoop meat from the first colander into baggies til they are the desired weight or amount. 

Do the above steps until all the meat has been rinsed, drained and bagged. 

Lay flat in freezer. 

If you put a butter knife or dowel rod on top or between bags, you can more easily divide the meat into portions. So my 4 lb bags I would divide in two because we typically use 2 lbs for a meal. If you need 1 lb. you can divide a 4 lb bag by placing on x or t with the dividers.

This can be a quick add-in for spaghetti, stroganoff, sloppy joes, sweet and sour beef over rice, or anything you would typically use browned ground beef in. 

Unfortunately you won't be able to make this into meatballs or patties, but if you wanted to make those with the raw meat, you could. 

Til next time! 
Jennifer, Mom of 5

Thursday, October 25, 2012


As some of you may have noticed, I have added an author to my blog. 
My sister Penny! 
I am in the process of adding my SIL Beth to the blog as an author as well. 
Sort of a sister's thing. 

Be sure to be watching for their posts and don't forget to share with your friends and family. You never know if they need some sanity.

It is *possible* that we will change the domain in the future, so be on the lookout for that as well.

I hope you have enjoyed "Mom's Bag of Tricks" so far and I hope that some of the ideas have helped you. 

Thanks for tuning in!


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Curtain, Curtain! Who Has the Curtain!?

As a home-owner, I have had the joy of being able to be creative in my architecture, my landscape (still working on that one - haha), my paint choices
and my window coverings. 
I searched for curtain options that:
1) Don't block too much light
2) Allow for privacy
3) Are CHEAP
4) Weren't too flowery
5) Didn't have patterns that clashed with our living room style

I don't really care for the partial window coverings because we live on a main road, so if we have only a partial curtain, in the evening, our every move can be seen by strangers.
We had blinds, wooden blinds when we moved into the house. They stayed for a while, but they just were to "hard" in a house with laminate (wood look) flooring. The house always seemed cold and had a cold feel to it, like we were living in an office or something.
Wanting to make our house more like a home, I began looking for the perfect curtains.
After spending many hours in several stores, I just couldn't find anything that fit the bill. Sure, there were a few that were near perfect, but were way out of the budget.

When my boys ruined their blinds, I quickly covered them by pinning sheets up over the windows.

That is when it hit me. Well. As I was falling asleep that night problem solving (because we all know that is the ONLY time moms get to think) over their window covering.


All the sheets I have ever known about are ingeniously constructed with a "pocket" or large hem at the top of the sheet.
I figured to cut a corner off, to open the seam to allow for the curtain rod to go through.

Square cut out of corner. Just enough to take out the seam. You could use a seam-ripper and remove the stitches in that area, then put the curtain rod through. I suppose I am just a little less patient.
I do NOT use two sheets for one window, nor do I split the sheets in half.
I measure the width of the window and select a sheet that is the next size up in width. So if my window is 56" wide, I would select a Twin size flat sheet, which is typically 66". If my window was 66" wide, I would go to the next size up which is a Full at 81" wide. You can make it more "voluptuous" if you desire by going up even one more width size.

Figure out where you want to place your curtain rods. I prefer mine near the ceiling, as it supposedly (and so far I agree) adds height to a room. Our ceilings are the low standard and windows are north-facing. Because of these, our living room feels and seems small. Ok, maybe it is, but still. So I add the height by putting the curtain rods near the ceiling. So far I like the move up.
I sweep my curtains to the sides and put them on the hooks. These hooks are marketed for hanging swag curtains or draping fabric, but I use them for tie-backs.

Now, you can decide how long you want the curtains to be.
 In my living room, since I have them near the ceiling, I didn't worry about cutting any off the bottom. When I had them hung just over the window a couple years ago I hung them, then cut them just slightly longer than the length I wanted them to be. I used my serger and cleaned up the end. It was really hectic at that time, so I didn't bother sewing a hem.
I know, I am horribly simple/lazy.

These look awfully wrinkled, but I know you will do much better than I do and will iron the curtains before putting them up.  ; )

In my girl's room I have white (sheet) curtains under deep red (sheet) curtains. I do this so:

1) It isn't as obvious from outside the house that it is a girl's room (because who wants to give an invitation into their little girl's room by hanging a pink curtain/sheet...?)

2) So you don't have multiple colors of curtains visible all over the outside of your house. Can we say patchwork?

3) Having the white underneath allows for privacy and light during the day, but closing the deep red during daytime naps or bedtime during the summer allows for the room to be darker. (Love that!)

I leave all of my sheets solid colored.
You can dye a white sheet if you can't find the right color. See Rit's Color Chart to find your color.

 I needed a soft pink for my daughter's room (Walmart didn't have a soft pink at the time) when she was born and so used Rit dye to make it pink. It was perfect...until she didn't sleep when it was light. So I changed the color to deep red. Yes. Lovely.

You could even go further and fabric paint a curtain to be the same pattern as a pattern already in your decor such as a floral stencil pattern around the room - the pattern doesn't have to stop at the curtains.

Screen printing.


Fabric printing.

Embroidery done by you....oooh, that sounds tempting, but daunting. I would never get it done.

Sew or fabric glue ribbon or lace on edges and/or over seams to personalize it.
Pom Pom fringe.
Sew or fabric glue a fringe on.

This list could go on and on...buttons is the last thing I will say on that.

You make it what you want it to be.
Simple or personalized.
Difficult and personalized.

It is your sheet/curtain. Have fun!
Don't let the run of the mill curtain companies decide what floral weave they are going to cover your window with. What fringe they are going to put on. What colors they will make it available in.

I have 2 sets of PURCHASED curtains. I used one set for a bit, then dyed it and used it for a short time until I decided to change to sheets.
The other is a beautiful satin burgundy color with beautiful roses embroidered on them with bead fringe. Oh, it is beautiful. I had a place to put it, but now, 2 years after purchasing it, I still have not put it up. It matched my room for about 5 seconds. Roses to no roses happened really fast.

For anyone looking at selling your home:
You usually have to leave whatever window treatments were there when the house went on the market. Say you have grandma's antique fabric that was sewn into curtains and you don't want to part...
Ok. That probably isn't very likely to be, but in case you are attached to your curtains and hopeful they will fit into your next home(s), replace them with sheets before you show the house. If done, it should add a neutral look to a room and without the print on the curtains, it won't distract from the home. Plus you won't lose your favorite curtains.

Have fun all and enjoy this post!

And as always I find out that others are just as smart and crazy as I am ; )
I found others out there that are just as simple or more involved than just cutting out a small square.

Jenn (Mom of 5)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Light Bulbs and Children

What are the odds?
I mean it; What are the odds that I would purchase night-light bulbs for a night-light and
the same DAY I have to fish the base of the bulb out of the night-light base?

Within a couple hours of having screwed the new light bulb into the night-light fixture,
one of my children (love them!) came along and pulled the bulb off the base.

Luckily, the guilty party didn't have any cuts from the sharp glass edge.

I could not, however, screw a new bulb in. 

I remember a trick using a piece of a potato (or whole--I can't remember) to unscrew the light bulb base from a fixture.

I have no potatoes!!!

So I started to think of things that might turn it. 

A pen!

A handy dandy popsicle stick!

I need something to GRIP it from the inside! 

A rubber band (this one I folded twice to get enough grip),

This worked!
I KNOW I have thrown night-lights away before because of this. 
I assume I am not the only one.
They aren't that expensive...why bother?
It is easy! 

Thanks for reading!

Again, if you have seen this elsewhere, I apologize...I am not one to copy.

Jennifer (Mom)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Pinterest, Pinterest...

I keep thinking of things I want to post on here, things that I hardly have time to post.
Then I find myself foolishly wasting time on Pinterest.
Why do I do this!?
I find Pins of things that I have done for years and have thought about putting on here.
I just told a friend yesterday how I keep my kid's clothing organized.
I also told her about how I put my girl's (ages 2 and 4) tiny socks and underwear in a mesh lingerie bag. I put them in when dirty, close up the bag on laundry day, wash, dry, (all in bag still) then they are all clean and dry and TOGETHER!!!
What did I see my (awesome) niece re-Pin on Pinterest today? Of course, the mesh bags.
Someone just as genius as myself (haha) beat me to the punch and blogged or somehow got the lingerie bag full of kid's socks and underwear idea on the www and it is spreading like wildfire...Pinterest wildfire.
If you have not been so lucky to see this same Pin as I saw today (ya know, the one that made me realize I am not as genius as I thought), do it!
Do you want to have unmentionables or stinky feet evidence kept in one place?
Do you hate having to find unmentionables or socks scattered among the pants, shirts, towels?
Do you want to easily find matching socks EVERY single laundry day?
Do it!
Put those pesky socks in their place!
Put those unmentionables in their place!

The only difficult...
and I mean
thing left to do is to actually train your family to put their socks and unmentionables in those
mesh bags!
(For the kid's sakes, call them laundry bags or something not having to do with a racy subject.)
"Mom? What is lingerie?" is not exactly what you want your 6 year old child to ask you.


Over and out.
I will attempt (haha)
to get my next post done sooner than in one week...
...or two.

Til next time,
Jennifer (Mom)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Bills, Bills, Bills!

Nobody, and I mean NOBODY likes bills! What is worse than bills?
Forgetting a bill!
When a bill is forgotten, you end up with late fees or if the bill is auto-drafted from your
account, it can cause overdraft fees...
Yeah, nobody likes bills.
I know there are many methods to staying organized as far as bills go, but this is my way.
Make sure you have all of your bills, websites, usernames, passwords, account numbers as well as the company phone number.
Believe me, you WANT the company phone number for those little instances where the power is out, the internet isn't working, or any other little mishap that makes contacting a bill collector difficult.
Get some 3x5 or 5x7 index cards WITH lines.
Put the bill NAME and ACCOUNT number on the TOP of the FRONT.
Write the company phone number, the company web address, your username and password to access your account on the BACK of the card.
 Start with LAST month's bill amount and date it was due, how it was paid, whether it was via Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT), online Bill Pay (BP), mail, by phone, etc.
The day you paid it or it is scheduled to come out.
Once it comes out of my bank account, I put a check mark to the right of it to let me know it has come out and if it is different than the EFT date, I put the date it actually came out on. For example, my security bill says due on the first of the month, but it usually doesn't come out until the 3-7th of the month. This lets me know that if pay day falls on the 2nd-5th of the month, chances are I will be able to have that bill come out of that paycheck instead of the previous one.
Dig so far?
If you already know the exact amount and the exact date a bill will be paid via EFT, you can write it out a few months in advance.
WARNING! Don't write out the whole year, you never know what may need to change, so just do 2-4 months at a time if you "plan ahead."
Ok, so:
Biller Name
Account #
Biller website
Username and Password to access your account online.

OH!!! My! I forgot to tell you:
So what I do is:
Say my password is Johnny31
I am going to write the ones I absolutely need to know to remember the password:
Or more commonly seen on mine is:

Say it is is jOhnnY31
I am going to put

This tells me what are caps and what are numbers.
The rest you need to remember on your own.
Remember those security questions? You can write those down on the back of these as well. So say I said my security answer was "Pony"
I can write P...

It is important to NOT write down the entire password or security answer.
Make sure (and this is something quite honestly I need to actually DO)
Make sure your S.O. knows what these stand for in case you, the bill payer, are unable to take care of bills.
I realized recently that as I am the billpayer, my husband has NO clue how to do it or the slightest idea on how to do this. Even when I had known I was about to give birth, I set it all up, he never had to do a thing.
He would be lost without me! LOL!
Last thing I do is take a clothes pin or some sort of office clip and write "Bills" on them. You can have one clip for "Pay Now" and "Pay Later" but I find that if I move all the bills I just paid to the back of the stack, it leaves the ones that need paying the soonest in front.
So far  this system has kept me sane and kept all of our bills on time and up to date.
It is helpful for me to have a calendar nearby noting when paydays take place.

I would LOVE  for the day to come when I can just pay bills the day they are due and never have to worry about there being enough to cover them.
BUT, this is reality and I don't know anyone who is able to do this.

Good luck and remember, if you have bills, it means you HAVE something. Home, car, insurance, phone, whatever your bill is, means you have something and something is much better than NOTHING.

Until next time,
Jennifer (Mom of 5)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Looking For a Good Book?

My 3 boys who are in elementary school are running out of good books to read. Ok, maybe they aren't looking, but I am not very impressed with the "comic book" style of books they keep bringing home. I keep wondering how in the heck they are "allowed" to even check out a book that is or at least seems so far below their grade level!
I have been scouring the internet, looking for a place to find books that can be recommended. I am also looking for an age or reading level way to look for books as well.
I know our local library has some, has some and we'll see if has any.
I just signed up for free on

Feel free to join me on my (and my children's) literary journey as we read our way through our libraries, hopefully leaving no book unturned...ok, that was my pity attempt at wittiness, which I rarely, yes, rarely possess.

Read on! Oh wait...that would mean I have more to say...nope, read on in your choice of literature provided by your local libraries.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Design a Room (2)

As I wrote my previous post about designing or arranging a room, I noted that there were sites on which you could design a room.
I came across one today.
I fiddled around with it and approve!
You can find your style and create a room at Icovia Room Planner
Be sure to have measurements for your room and everything you want in it!
Have fun, get creative and just like my tip of taking pictures of each arrangement so you can compare later, take a SCREEN SHOT of the plans you create. This allows you to view different plans before settling on one.
Have fun!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Design a Room

Sometimes a room just needs to be rearranged.
Many times we feel like tackling it will be daunting.

I know I am not the first to do this, because I remember arranging rooms in my interior design class clear back in high school. 

First things first. 

Measure your space. 

Measure your furniture and any items you want in your space/room. 

Make sure that you make room for items that increase or decrease in size as they get taller.

If you need, you can color the space over the heater vents, walkways from the door, closet, etc to make sure you can see (without forgetting) where you CAN'T put furniture.

I did this with our living room a year ago and tried to plant a piece of furniture right in front of the front door. Brilliant!

I think there are online programs that allow for this pre-arranging. I don't know if they are free or cost $. This is what you may use and it is nearly free!

You can purchase a package of graph paper for under $5, in fact it is probably even under $3.
You only need one sheet...ok, maybe 2 or 3, but not the entire package.
 Pencil or Pen. Colored markers, crayons or pencils.
Tape or sticky stuff if desired.

I have each graph square = 6 real inches squared.

Draw your space.

Draw your furniture. Remember to make sure your scale for the furniture is the same as the scale for the space! 

I like to color them in so they contrast against the space. 

Cut them out and arrange on graph to your heart's content.

I usually use my camera phone or camera and take snapshots of the arrangements I like. 
I can then go through them later and decide which one I want for sure before I tear the room apart. 

I would recommend little pieces of something sticky that can be peeled up and moved. If you get the slightest breeze it can knock an item off your grid.

Have fun!
Space Savvy Mom...? 
Ha Ha.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Got My Craft On!

Hello out there! Last night I got my craft going and was thinking of ways to paint all these 3/4" hearts. I figured it out! Maybe I'm not the first one to think of it, but for me it was a big idea because who likes to sit there for hours painting itty bitty pieces and making a huge mess on your thumbs? Not I!
I used my hot glue gun on a manila (mine is red) file folder. I glued thin strips down in a line and quickly placed the wood hearts on the strip of glue.
I painted them all in one shot.
I was worried they would stick to the folder with the wet paint, so picked up the folder and as the paint was drying, I bent the folder to release the backs and edges of the hearts. I did this about 3 times to make sure they weren't sticking because of the paint.

As I began gathering my supplies to paint, I realized I didn't have a paint tray (paper plate in my case) right next to me and I really didn't want to get up again to get one. I had a sandwich ziploc baggie that was holding some craft ribbon for my project. So I opened it and squirted the paint into it. Perfect! 
 Once I was done, I closed the baggie up and it will still be fresh (hopefully) for anything I need in the near future. I could have snipped the corner and squirted it back into the bottle, but I figure I will be using it soon enough, so not going to bother.
The End!

Happy Crafting!
--And by the way, is there a better name I could be using besides/instead of "Mom"?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Buck Stops Here!

I have a love/hate relationship with the Lysol automatic soap dispensers. 
Did you know you can refill the soap bottles? 
You will need (L-R) Lysol dispenser bottles, Lysol Dispenser, Butter Knife, and soap(s) for your dispensers. I use Dawn for the kitchen and hand soap for the bathroom and kitchen. 

Check your dispenser's motion sensor. A lot of the time I find this to be the cause of wasted soap.

 Clean off the dispenser's motion sensor with a damp cloth and nail brush or old tooth brush.

In the bottom of the dispenser I found there was a bit of soap. I don't know if it impedes functionality, but I cleaned it out anyway.

 Here they are, all in a row. Lid side up.
 You will start by popping the top off in the front or back center, as shown. The first few times you do this on a new bottle, it will be a bit difficult. You also may have lids pop off and fly across the room, so try to reign them in ;-)
 All off. Start filling them up.
 I had a little fun doing half and half. I squeezed two bottles in at the same time. The orange was thought to have been antibacterial, but I realized today it isn't. Oops.
 It gave a cool effect though. In my view, this allows you to get some antibacterial and some good feeling milk and honey or aloe soap. Depending on the mixture. I also like how it looks. Unfortunately, it does blend over time.
For the kitchen, I used Dawn. Gotta love Dawn.

Put the lids back on and return to the dispenser or put in your soap storage for when you need it.

I have a "ghost" in my house lately though, so I have been losing soap onto the dirty laundry pile below the dispenser. I have cleaned off the sensor, so it may also be the batteries tripping it.

I am debating on going back to traditional pump bottles.

So I suppose it is up to you which you refill, the Lysol bottles or the traditional pump bottles.
Either way, they are refillable.

Til Next Time,

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Subzero Chillabrator (Grinch)

My freezers are luckily running, but they are running out of room it seems!
I mentioned the other day that in order to know what you have available you can complete an inventory.
I found this difficult to do as my freezers were full and very disorganized.  
On the surface it doesn't look too bad, right? I have no idea what carnage lies in this subzero tomb.

 A long time ago, I remember my mom using old milk crates in the freezer. I did it after I 
married, but for some reason didn't have any for a long time.
Right now at Walmart (and I am sure at many other stores) there are organization crates for just under $4.
I bought 6. I didn't measure, but you can, to see how many will fit best in your freezer(s).
You can also look on craigslist or other site (we have that sells used items.
Unfortunately I could not find any used.
I began by putting all meat in one basket. In the tragic event of the power going out for hours at a time, I put the meat on the bottom, this way you don't have any potential meat juice leaking onto your fruit, bread, veggies, etc. YUCK! Granted, if it is thawed, you may not want to eat some, but if you can salvage it and it still is within the safety guidelines, you don't want to toss it. If you have blood all over your bread, you're not going to want to save the bread.
Sorry, OCD a bit.
 I got all my baskets full, then realized I had this bucket of ice cream to put away. I don't know about you, but wasting almost 2 1/2 gallons of mint chocolate chip ice cream is a sin. I luckily got it to fit beside the basket on the bottom of the freezer. Yay!

 I then put my vegetable basket on top. I have a few odds and ends that will get moved to our other freezer.
I used to have all the meat (only meat) in the small freezer and all bread, veggies, fruit, etc in the larger freezer. I will be doing that later, but with everything being in baskets, it will make it a lot easier to do.

 This is the outside freezer. I was able to fit 4 crates in there. I found that I have a lot of those big bags of shredded cheese. We use a lot, so I am not worried about it, I just have to remember (inventory) to not buy any more for a while. We also found that I have a lot of strawberries. I make a really yummy strawberry jam, so again, I am not worried, just aware of how many I have.
In the space between the baskets and sides of freezer I put the cheese or bigger items.
 I have baskets in this freezer for:
The cheese, freezer jam and extra bread products were put on top and to the sides.

Now, Go catch YOUR subzero chillabrator!

Til Next time,

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Anyone who knows me knows that I inventory just about everything. It helps so I don't buy junk every month. It is so I don't forget what I have on hand.
Anyone who knows me also knows I have a bit of OCD...just a bit. So I inventory frequently. It is usually monthly before I do my big shopping trip.
I grab a notebook:
Inventory 8/28/2012 is the top of the page.
I then go from left to right.
My very left thing is my freezer in the laundry room. I try to physically go through each area so I know for sure what is in there.
So example:
LR Freezer:
5 quarts carrots diced and shredded
10 lb. ground beef
2 family packs boneless pork ribs
4 family size ground pork sausage
4 - 4 lb bags chicken breast 3
16 oz peas
16 oz. chopped broccoli
16 oz corn
12 corn cobs
2 lbs. shredded cheddar
7 pectin
2 lb choc chips
Quick Fix cupboard:
2 rice a roni
2 Cream of Chicken soup
1 bear creek soup
2 Hamburger Helper (HH) Lasagne
2 HH Chzy Ench (Enchilada)
Pasta/Grains cupboard:
5 lb. brown rice 4 lb
2 boxes manicotti
3 - 12 oz spaghetti
2 lb rigatoni
2 lb elbow mac
Cereal cupboard:
 You get the idea. 

Next you make meals out of your inventory.
Broccoli-Chicken casserole which uses: Rice, broccoli, chicken, cheese, cream of ____soup. If I meal plan to use all of an ingredient, I cross it off. If I use some of it I usually place a check mark next to the number so I know how many meals are going to use that particular ingredient.
Do this with as many items as you can.

What I do when I make my menu:
Menu 2/28/2012
Broccoli-Chicken casserole: (Rice, broccoli, chicken, cheese, cream of ___ soup.)
Spaghetti and Meatballs: (Spaghetti noodles, pasta sauce, meatballs)
I am unable to circle on here, so pretend the pasta sauce and meatballs are circled. That means I need to buy some to make that meal.
This allows for you to see what meal each ingredient is in.
Say I am doing 5 meals that could use sour cream. I don't necessarily need 5 tubs of sour cream. I probably only need 3.

I hope none of this is confusing. I will scan my inventory and meal plan if you want to actually see it in writing.
I have been doing this for several years and it has kept us in the budget for a long time.
When you see deals go on for things you use frequently like chicken or sausage, get a few. They can be frozen and incorporated into next month's meal plan if needed.
I do mine by the month, but you can do it however often you want. 

I missed a couple months recently and regret it. I have about 7 huge bags of shredded cheese (some Italian blend and some cheddar) and about 50 lbs of strawberries. We love strawberries but I was actually shocked to see how many we have. I suppose I will be making some strawberry cake and strawberry nog. I can also turn it into strawberry freezer jam (my fave!). 

Any questions?

Coming soon:
Keeping your freezer organized!


Here are some pictures of my inventory sheet...just in case I was too confusing.


Saturday, August 25, 2012


As I mentioned before, I am not much of a couponer. I got to do some learning when I was in Idaho at my aunt's house. I do some couponing, but I don't save nearly as much as she does.

Erin's Eclectic Energies shows how to coupon, buy savvy, garden and use what you garden.
Saying au revior for today,

Friday, August 24, 2012

Hello all!
 Last night and today I am getting the kids clothes ready for school. I am sorting them to see what is school wear and what fits them.
Of course this means everyone has to try everything on. (Everything that doesn't have holes and massive stains anyway.
So, once they have tried them on and I see if they fit, they get marked so we know whose clothes are whose after the next time they are laundered.
 Here I had it marked for my eldest, Jarod. Then William (my second son, but very small in stature) received them. So I added a line. I suppose I forgot to put the second line on the top tag. I'll fill that in later.
 Don't forget! I have girls too! For them I didn't want to just add another line because they are girls. I figured they are in a class of their own. So I did theirs diagonally. The left line of the "teepee" for my eldest.
 Then once she has outgrown it, add the right side of the teepee for my second daughter. If I were to have a third daughter, I would complete the triangle or make it an "A"...but I'm not. But I know many families who have 3 daughters or more. You can always add another line somewhere to signify another.
 When you add another mark, darken over the first one so that the entire mark is fresh. Otherwise you will be confused at times.
 This series of lines has faded and that is sometimes a good thing when I have my 3rd son, Elijah grow out of something my 2nd son will fit in. (Remember the size differences?) This goes from a 3 line mark to a 2 line mark.

 This is still going to be Elijah's though, so we'll just make it 3 lines again.

Now that they are marked, they are sorted into their baskets so they can put them away. The school-worthy clothes are put into bags and the kids will try them on later. At that point you can make revisions to your marks.

I used to do it with their socks when they wore 3 different sizes (not including the girls' or parents' socks). I don't any more because I buy socks with green lines or "Hanes" for my 2nd and 3rd sons (my twins that were born 18 1/2 months apart) and blue lines or "Hanes" for my 11 1/2 yr old.
For the moment, my girls are the same size. 
I will show you later how I attempt to (and fairly successfully) keep them together.

Thanks for "surfing" in!
See you soon,

Mom's Bag of Tricks

I am a mother of 5 beautiful children. I have 3 sons and 2 daughters. In that order. My eldest is 11 1/2 going on 21. My youngest is 2.
As you can imagine, (or if you are good at division) my kids are really close together in age. What's worse is my 2nd son is actually 2" smaller than my 3rd son. They don't have the same taste in clothing but wear almost the same size.
My girls are almost as bad. My 4 year old wears size 3 T (barely) but I try to get her into size 4 T because my 2 year old is wearing 2 T but 3 T is a better fit.
How do I keep up with laundry? I don't!
But I do have a few tricks that help me keep them sorted.
In this blog I will share tips and tricks that I have figured out over the years.
Laundry, dishes, bedrooms, storage, and much more will be shown and discussed. Some of them you may have seen elsewhere (I try to have a style all my own). If I actually use anything, any ideas from anywhere, I will do my best to cite those.
I love to cook...ok. That is a lie. But when I do cook (lol) I am pretty good at it. I will share tried and true recipes and ideas that are family favorites.
Of course, everyone loves to have money, right?
I am not an extreme couponer...heck I am not much of a couponer at all, but I will show you how you can stretch your $ in a sensible way.
Bills? I have a few tricks up my sleeve there too. (Sorry, I can't pay any for you.)
All will be coming in the weeks to come, so stay tuned!

Til next time,
Mom (tee hee!)