Friday, October 31, 2008

Family Friday: Family Meetings

Many times family members are pulled in several different directions and it is difficult to get everyone together. By scheduling regular family meetings (say once a month), you will have the opportunity to get everyone together to discuss family matters and to just catch up with each other. Although these are family members, I strongly encourage you to run your meetings as such, meaning there is specific agenda and one person talks at a time. Prior to the meeting, ask each family member if they have anything that needs to be discussed at the family meeting so that it can be put on the agenda. Here is a sample agenda:

-Start by sharing any pertinent family news that others may not be aware of (sister scored a goal at a game, grandma is moving, aunt is pregnant, etc).

-Discuss any family issues that are occuring and any unresolved issues from previous months. This can be anything (a sibling annoyed by "someone" going through her stuff, an upcoming family vacation, the need for extra help with lawn care, holidays, etc)

-Decide, as a family, how to solve the issues. This may include establishing new family rules or modifying new ones (such as no going through family members belongings), deciding on a vacation destination or activities to do on vacation, how the extra chores will be handled, who will do what holiday preparations, etc. Be sure to have someone taking "minutes" (notes) of the meeting to ensure no one can claim they didn't know what their responsibilities were.

-Close the meeting and then do something fun as a family.

If you hold regular family nights, the meeting could be held just before family night or even as a part of it. The idea behind the meeting is that succssful families work together and working together means being on the same page. The meeting allows everyone to get on th same page.


This Week Thursday (a day late)

I apologize for the late posts this week. I have been ill and trying to catch up with housework as well as my blogging. I have not been online a lot this week, but here is some of what I have found.

On the Web
-Picky Palate has a recipe for White Chocolate Dipped Cinnamon and Banana Bread Biscotti. They look so good!

-Speaking of food, Thrifty and Chic Mom has some cute ideas for some Halloween-ish snacks.

-Simple Mom has a great article to get and keep your e-mail under control.

-Child Safety Kit from ADT

-Sample of Vaseline Intensive Rescue from Costco (no membership required)

-Halloween Ghost Stories (online)

-Wolverine is giving away many prizes, with the grand prize being $25,000 cash.

-$20 Challenge 4 Charity is giving away a LODIS Ballet Wallet.

-Moms By Heart have 3 Woodland Creature prints by John W. Golden.

-Be sure to check back here later today/tomorrow morning to see what I am giving away and to enter the drawing.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wellness Wednesday: Oral Care

As someone who has had to have more work than I like to admit done on her teeth, I can tell you how important oral care is. First, there are no second chances with your teeth, once they are gone, they are gone for good. Second, there is no second chance to make a first impression and the condition of our teeth and the scent of our breath are a major part of most first impressions. However, oral hygiene affects more than just the prettiness of our smile and the sweetness of our breath. Oral cancer, mouth pain, gum disease, bacterial endocarditis (inflammation of the heart and heart valves), and digestive disorders, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, can all start from poor oral health.

The health of your mouth tends to be representative of the rest of the body as well. Ninety percent of all systemic diseases, such as diabetes, leukemia, cancer, heart disease and kidney disease, have symptoms that affect the mouth, meaning that your dentist may be able to diagnose a disorder before your primary care physician.

So what is good oral hygiene? The first step is to have regular (every 6 months) cleanings and check-ups with your dentist. They can tell you if you are getting all the areas of your mouth when you brush and floss at home. The cleaning at a dentist's office is also a much deeper cleaning than one can achieve with just a brush, floss, and mouthwash. They can also get up under the gumline to clean out any plaque that has accumulated there. Also, I said earlier, dentists can check your mouth for symptoms of other diseases in the body. In addition to the dental cleanings/check-ups, you should be caring for your teeth every day at home. This is done by brushing your teeth twice a day with a fluoridated toothpaste and flossing once a day. Colgate has an illustration that shows the proper way to brush and floss your teeth. A good antiseptic mouthwash, like Listerine, can also help to kill any remaining bacteria. There are also fluoride mouthwashes available to help strengthen tooth enamel. Eating a healthy diet also helps keep your mouth healthy. You should also avoid snacks and sugary foods and drinks. If you do consume something sugary (few of us manage to avoid sugar all together), drink or rinse your mouth with water soon after to get the sugar off your teeth.

Good oral hygiene allows us to eat comfortably, have a nicer smile, not offend others with bad breath, and prevent other diseases from affecting our body. Taking a few minutes each day to brush and floss properly is a small price (literally and figuratively) to pay compared to the high cost (finacially and health-wise) of not caring for our mouths.

Try It Tuesday (a day late): Taco Bell Fruitista and Cream

As any of my regular readers know, I know how to eat healthy, but I also like to regularly eat not-so-healthy food as well. Today's review then should be no surprise.

When I first tried the strawberry Fruitista Freeze at Taco Bell, I became addicted. I was still regnant and it became a daily craving that had to be sated. It was perfectly sweet with whole,rel strawberries in it and in the heat of the summer, absolutely hit the spot. Last week, I was in the drive-thru and saw a sign for new Fruitista and Cream. I had a mix of emotion. I LOVE the regular Fruitistas, but the weather is turning chilly and I am not sure I really want an icy drink right now. However, the sign got me and I ordered a Strawberry-n-Cream one and brought it home to share with the kids.

The first sip was not like the original Fruitista where I instantly fell in love, but it was good. It is similar in taste to Lifesavers Cremesavers, but tastes more like real strawberries. It had 1 whole strawberry in it, but that may have been a fluke since the picture shows a lot, like the regular one has. The Fruitista and Cream is also available in Triple Berry and Mango, both of which are topped with real strawberries. Also, only the Triple Berry has real fruit juice in it and that is only 8%. The original Fruitista Freeze is fat-free and the Fruitista and Cream has 2.5g of fat, still a low-fat treat. Both versions have about 56-57g of sugar though.

Being that I am in the northeast and it is starting to snow in nearby areas, I do not foresee myself buying this again before Spring, simply due to the cold weather. I do prefer the original Fruitista Freeze to the Fruitista and Cream, but I would definitely order this again when I want a change. So, if you like cold drinks in cold weather or you live or are visiting a warmer climate, definitely try one of these. Otherwise, wait ntil it warms up and I promise this will be the perfect hot weather drink.

Money Monday (2 days late): Employer Discounts

Many (though not all) employers offer some sort of discount to their employees (and sometimes their families) on the products or services they sell. Usually, the employees are well aware of these discounts, but not always. If you work, or your spouse works, for a business that provides any kind of service, or product, that you use, it may be worth checking into a discount or at least to see if they have any employee appreciation days coming up, if not both. My husband works for a retail store where he gets 10% off everyday items and 20% off clothes, decent deals in themselves especially when combined with clearance prices. However, they also have "friends and family" nights 4 times a year. Usually, it is an additional 10% off plus the employee discount, but they have one coming up in a few weeks that is the best I have seen. We will receive 20% off everyday items, plus the additional 10% employee discount, and 30% (that is what my hubby thinks the sign says anyway) off clothes plus the additional 20% off clothes. I redeemed my MyPoints for a $100 Sears gift card so I should be able to get quite a bit with little to no money out of my pocket.

Even if your employer does not directly offer employees a discount, sometimes other companies do. My husband's job is located in a mall and he receives a discount at many of the other mall stores simply for being a "mall" employee. Plus, we recently found out that our cell phone carrier also offers a discount to employees of the store he works at. We just cut $20 off our monthly cell phone bill. Often zoos and museums also have deals with local employers as well, allowing employees to receive a discounted membership. My step-father works for a metal company and they have a deal for the employees to buy discounted memberships to a warehouse club. It comes down to just asking everytime you are about to buy something or checking with human resources to see what additional discounts you may receive at area businesses.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Simply Sunday: Blogging

My simple pleasure today is blogging. I love being able to get on every day and focusing on something other than the daily chores. On many days I learn something new from the research I do in preparing the post and I love learning new things. Blogging also gives me the opportunity to have an adult conversation, even if it is usually a one-sided conversation, at least my thoughts and words are at an adult level. I love my children and I love caring for my home and my husband, but I still need a little time to still be me and blogging gives me that. I have also "met" some wonderful people out in blogland and new friends are always a sweet blessing.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Save It Saturday: Become a locavore

For most of us, we are accustomed to going to the local grocery store and buying whatever we need with little thought as to where the food originally came from. Locavores are people who are committed to only eating foods that are grown in their local community. Often they end up raising their own animals and growing their own food and supplement with products from other area farmers, but this does not have to be the case for everyone.

Why eat locally? Choosing local foods can benefit you and your family specifically by helping you to save money and allowing you to know exactly where your food comes from. It also benefits the environment by reducing the amount of chemicals used on the foods (since they are not travelling as far, they need fewer preservatives and you are able to get fresher, organic food) and reducing the distance the food travels, and therefore reducing the gas and truck emissions.

Now, I know it is not easy gettting everything locally, but it is something to be aware of. When I am buying produce at the grocery store, I try to choose the products that have travelled the least. Personally, I prefer shopping at farm markets though. The farmers are often willing to haggle the price and often are willing to make bartering arrangements or other deals with you. We have a local farm here that allows us to pick up "dropped" apples for $2.50 a bushel. These are not usually apples you will display in a bowl, but are great for canning and making things like applesauce with. You could also make arrangements to pick some fruits/veggies for the farmer and some for yourself at a discount. If you need help finding local farmers, check out Local Harvest and see what you can find. Also, as I have said before, I rent, so my gardening options are limited, but I do have dreams of owning a home in the (hopefully) near future and then I plan to have as large a garden as is feasible. I also plan to have beehives and possibly a few chickens for eggs.

There are also other ways to make buying locally more feasible. Get together with some friends and go in on buying a cow together and then splitting the cuts among yourselves. Look into CSAs (community supported agriculture), which are farms or large gardens that the "share holders" help run, either financially or with manual labor, often both, and then they share the bounty. We have a local one run here that cost about $10 a week and in exchange, you get 5-10 pounds of (as organic as they can feasibly do) fresh fruits and vegetables each week. Each week, you can log onto their website to see what the products will be that week and you can choose whether or not you want them. If you choose not to receive a certain item, you will get extras of the other items. There are others who work with the farm and receive their produce for free. Also, don't be afraid to buy the less pretty produce at farms and farm markets, especially if you are planning to cut it up and use it or can it. Grocery stores do not display the hail-damaged apples that you can get from the farmer for a fraction of the price of prettier apples. Yet these apples taste just as good as their shiny, waxed counterparts and if used in a recipe, no one will ever be able to tell the damaged apples from undamaged apples.

As I said earlier, I know it is not easy for most of us to go completely "local", but in trying, we will better our lives and help the earth and as we know, every little bit counts in both regards. There are a couple of books listed below of people who have followed a local "diet". The books are interesting reads and offer ideas for implementing the local "diet" in your own life.

Friday, October 24, 2008

I have been tagged!

I have been tagged by Brandy at Savin' Some
Check out her blog for trips on living frugally and enjoying it.

And now for the rules:

1. To link the tagger and provide the rules on your blog.

2. Share 7 facts about yourself.

3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving names as well as links to their blogs.

4. Let them know they've been tagged by leaving a comment on their blogs.

7 facts about me

1. When I got married I could barely boil water, but I have spent the past 9 years learning how to improve my skills and cooking has become a favorite hobby of mine.

2. I went to school to study nutrition.

3. I grew up the oldest of 4 kids, but my mom had another baby when I was 20, so I am really the oldest of 5 kids.

4. I am a homeschooler and have another blog where I post my unit studies that I put together, creatively named Homeschool Unit Studies.

5. I am a recovering packrat. I am learning how to part with my belongings and to live with less "stuff"

6. I am a Peer Counselor for the WIC breastfeeding program.

7. Once upon a time, I wanted 12 kids. Honestly, I still do, but unfortunately, finances limit us to the 4 we have.

Blogs I have tagged:

Frugal Mommy of 2 Girls - Karen always has lots of giveaways and some great money-saving deals!

Hannah and Abs over at Safely Gathered In share the hows and whys of food storage and emergency preparedness.

NerdMom over at Making Money, Keeping Money posts a TON of contests every Monday from around the blogosphere and also has other coupons and deals she finds throughout the week.

Linda at Linda's Bees shares her adventures in beekeeping. I first got interested in beekeeping after reading about Martha Stewart's beehives a few years ago. When we finally buy a house and some land, I plan to venture down the beekeeping road as well. Also, Linda was recently chosen by Blogger as a Blog of Note. Congrats, Linda!

Cindy at My Recycled Bags shares her creative craft ideas that use items that often would end up in the trash. My favorite is the tutorial for Plarn, yarn made from plastic, grocery store bags. She also has a section where she chronicles her journey through the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. She recently (10/13) finished her radiation treatments and I wish her nothing but the best as she continues on her road to recovery.

Amy at Let's Explore has lots of cute, seasonal, child-friendly craft ideas. The blog is designed for pre-schoolers, but many of the ideas can be adapted for older children as well.

Abby at i pick up pennies shares frugal ways to live life comfortably. She is a saver married to a spender and blogs about how they compromise and save money as they work to pay down debt.

These are some of my favorite blogs, so be sure to check them out.

Family Friday: A Book of Stories

Most families have wonderful stories and experiences that have happened to them in their lives. Unfortunately, too often, these stories and experiences are never shared with their families and once the person has passed, it has become too late. One way to ensure that these stories and lessons get passed on, is to put them into a book.

This is something we have recently started in our family and are having a lot of fun doing. At each family gathering, the kids are to ask family members for a story from their life. It can be about a person they knew, a lesson they learned, somewhere they travelled, etc. The kids take notes and later come home and write the story out. Another way it can be done is to simply ask all family members to write/type out a story from their life and send it to you. We just like the added connection of the kids talking with the person. For us, we are also including a page for each person in the family that contains basic information about them and a list of their "favorites" (color, activity, food, etc). The kids interview the family member when they call them on their birthday and then draw pictures of the "guest of honor" as well. It helps the kids get to know their extended family members better and it helps make sure the birthday person feels special on their birthday (the adults especially react well to their birthday interview). Don't forget to include your household in the book too. We keep all the stories in a binder for now, but may eventually work toward binding them.

A Family Book of Stories will be a wonderful way to remember people and experiences. It's also a great way for future generations to learn about who they come from. Don't forget the benefit of learning more about those we love now and being able to create a deeper bond while they are still here to do so.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

This Week Thursday

-Degree deodorant through Sam's Club (no membership required)

-Free coffee at Barnes and Noble

- Thrifty and Chic Mom is giving away a Mystic Wonders Laundry System. We have a similar set of dryer balls and love them. No more fabric softener for us.

-Frugal Mommy of 2 Girls will be giving away a $25 Home Depot gift card. To enter, just help spread the word about a new Home Depot contest or, better yet, enter the Home Depot contest. What is the contest, you ask? Make a video showing how you are saving money and helping the environment by improving the energy efficiency of your home and then upload the video to the Home Depot contest site. The winner of that contest will receive a $5,000 Home Depot gift card and up to $2,000 for installed insulation or radiant barrier products from The Home Depot.

-CoolBabyKid has a giveaway for 25 Doodlebug photo cards from Doodlebug Dezigns.

On the Web
-Safely Gathered In has a post about the hows and whys of a 72-hour kit.

-The Good Apple has a recipe for yummy pumpkin cookies. While you're there, check out some of her great cakes. So creative!!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wellness Wednesday: Forgiveness

When we have people in our lives, ourselves included, that we are unable to forgive, our bodies respond the same way they do to stress. Just about every body system is affected: blood flow decreases, muscles tense, digestion slows, the immune system does work optimally, etc, etc. The worst part about it is, the person you are not forgiving, is most likely continuing to live their life without these problems. I once heard an analogy that relates not forgiving to wrapping your arms around a tree. The tree will continue to grow and flourish,but until you let go of the tree, you are stuck in the same place. For those who believe in the New Testament of the Bible, we are taught that we MUST forgive others (Luke 6:37).

Of course, telling you to forgive others is much easier than doing it and some things are easier to forgive than others. Some where along the lines we were taught that forgiveness means to forget. defines "forgive" as ceasing to feel resentment towards or a pardon for an offense/debt/etc. The word forget is no where in the definition. For me, that makes forgiving, at least for more serious offenses, much easier. Of course, if you have truly forgiven someone, you would not want to constantly be throwing it in their face, but, depending on the offense, you may want to slowly let your guard down instead of just dropping it all at once. If your trust was violated, that trust will need to be regained, but first you have to forgive the peron so that you are ready to allow them to regain your trust.

Some things to keep in mind when someone has hurt or offended us:
- People are the way they are and they often do not realize they may have hurt you and usually did not intend to. I have a relative who just does not invite people over. As we were growing up she seemed to have certain relatives over much more than she had us over. My mom indirectly taught us it must have been because she liked the other relatives better. As an adult, I realized she liked us all the same, she just did not extend invitations and the other relatives would invite themselves over. Of course, it would be nice to be invited over once in a while, but that is how she is and I cannot change her. Our relationship has grown tremendously since I realized this.

- Do not wait for the person to "know" what they did to hurt you, especially if they are the opposite gender. Communication is important and if you are waiting for them to figure out why you are suddenly so moody, you may be waiting a long time. People, especially across the genders, communicate very differently from one another. Women tend to be more subtle and will "beat around the bush", while men tend to be more direct and will tell it like it is. Without understanding this, feelings can continue to be hurt as the woman gets more hurt that the man just doesn't know what he did wrong. Sometimes, you just have to tell them.

- It is not just others we have to forgive. We often have to forgive ourselves. Are you beating yourself up for choices you have made in the past? Ask yourself these questions: Do you really wish you had chosen differently? Can you do anything to change the outcome? If the answers are yes, do what you can and move on. If you cannot change the outcome or you realize that maybe you did make the right decision in the first place, look at the good that came from that decision and move on. The point is, don't dwell on the past and things you cannot change. If you can change what is making you unhappy, do it, don't dwell on it. Also, don't be so hard on yourself in everyday things. You are not perfect and it is ok. Just try better next time and forgive yourself for not being perfect.

No one on this earth is perfect. We all make mistakes at some point and often those mistakes affect others. To hold it against someone, especially someone who is truly sorry for having hurt you, is not only unfair, it hurts you too. I encourage you to look at all the people in your life and find at least one, even if it is yourself, that you are holding some sort of grudge against, no matter how small, and forgive them. I promise you will feel a burden lifted off your shoulders and you will experience a deeper relationship with that person.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Try-It Tuesday: Boudreaux's Butt Paste

Ok, I admit, I didn't try anything new this week, so I am reviewing an old favorite of ours, but something that is still not quite mainstream. We discovered Boudreaux's Butt Paste with our 2nd child. It is exactly what it says it is, a paste for baby's bottom.

Boudreaux's Butt Paste was created by a pharmacist with the help of a pediatrician in order to provide "effective diaper rash care" (from the jar). It is easy to apply, wipes off easily (without that funny white residue) and does not have a medicinal scent. The active ingredient is 16% zinc oxide to protect the skin. Inactive ingredients are: boric acid, castor oil, mineral oil, paraffin, Peruvian balsam, and petrolatum. It helps treat diaper rash, prevent it from occuring, and protects sore skin by sealing out wetness. Blairex produces Boudreaux's Butt Paste, but according to the jar I have, it is distributed by Boudreaux's Family Pharmacy in Covington, LA. Other products in the Boudreaux's line include: Butt Bath (body wash and shampoo), Baby Butt Smooth (dry skin ointment), and Baby Kisses (lip and cheek moisturizer). Boudreaux's Butt Paste is available in 1oz, 2oz, 3oz, and 4oz tubes,a 16oz jar, single foil packs, and a new On-the-Go 3-pack. You can request a free sample (a SASE with $1.34 for postage is required) can be requested. The address is on their website: Personally, I would use the money you will spend on postage and just buy yourself some, but that's me.

Now that I have given you all the basics on the Butt Paste, I will tell you how much we love it. With our first child, we used several different diaper rash creams, usually whatever was on sale and that I had a coupon for. They helped protect the skin while it healed, but still would take a few days to work. Boudreaux's Butt Paste helps heal the skin the first time it is used, often not requiring more than one application. It can also be used on heat rash in older kids and adults. I have even heard of people using it on bug bites.

It costs a bit more than "traditional" diaper rash creams/pastes/lotions and there are seldom coupons for it, but because of how well it works, you use much less and therefore buy much less. In fact, we bought a 16oz tub of it with baby #3 and are only half way through it and baby #4 is 4 1/2 months old now. This is definitely a product I give high ratings too and highly recommend.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Money Monday: Food Storage

One of the best ways to save money on your grocery bill is to stock up when things are on sale. However, if you buy things that you do not use or let things go bad, you are losing money. Here are some suggestions for successful food storage.

-First, decide how long of a time you want your food storage to last. Our family is shooting for a 1 year supply, but others may choose shorter or longer time periods. Then, make a list of several meals including breakfast, lunch, dinner, desserts, and snacks, that your family enjoys and have ingredients that would be easy to store. Some ideas are: pasta and sauce, soups, scrambled eggs (from powdered eggs or stored eggs), pudding, gelatin, cereal and milk (powdered or evaporated that you can reconstitute), tuna casserole, etc.

- Invest in some quality storage containers. I have had my share of food packages "infiltrated" by mice, ants, and grain moths. My personal preference is Modular Mates containers by Tupperware. I used to think Rubbermaid was just as good, but when we had an infestatin of grain moths, only the Tupperware successfully kept the grain moths out. Emergency Essentials also has a good selection of food grade buckets and water barrels.

- Keep the food off the ground to decrease the chance of attracting pests. Storage shelves or metal cabinets are great for keeping stored food out of the way.

- As you purchase food items, freeze grain products for 24-48 hours to kill any bugs or eggs that may be in them. Yes, they often come from the store with these critters in them. My grain moth infestation started when I brought them home from the store in a bag of unshelled peanuts. Then, put the food into appropriate storage containers and date the containers or cans (no need to repackage canned goods) with the date of purchase.

- Use the food you buy for storage and replace it on a regular basis. This is why it is important to store foods your family will eat. You would not want to store things that you will never use or if you HAD to rely on your food storage have a bunch of food that no one likes. Of course, you will eat it if you are really hungry, but if times are that bad you will feel better if you can at least eat something you enjoy.

- You do not need to be a home canner to store fruits and vegetables, but they taste better and are better for you. Canning is fairly easy, though time consuming. You can learn how to do it here. It is also possible to can meat. Here are instructions for that.

-Do not forget to include alternative cooking sources (fuel for a grill, sterno cans, etc) and non-food items such as cleaning products and medications.

Hopefully, none of us will ever need to rely on food storage long-term, but in case you do. This should help ensure that your family eats well and that you have food that is edible and enjoyable. We can not assume that others, including government programs and churches, will be able to provide for us in a time of need. It may be that our time of need comes as a national disaster and that there just won't be enough for everyone.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Simply Sunday: Receiving Mail

Even though today is a no-mail day, I cannot help but bask in the enjoyment of all the mail I received earlier this week. I had won several giveaways over the past few weeks and many of them arrived throughout the week. I also received several freebies and coupons throughout the week and 3 magazines that I enjoy all on Saturday. The best piece of mail anyone in the house received was a letter my husband received from his dad. There is nothing, no prize nor freebie, that compares to a handwritten letter from a loved one. Unfortunately, in our electronic age, many of us seem to have lost the art of letter writing. I encourage each of you to spend some time this week and send a letter, through the US Postal service, to a loved one. If you cannot think of someone to send a letter to, children always love mail, even if it is just a short postcard. I promise you, whoever you send it to will love recieving it and just may return the favor to you.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Save It Saturday: old magazines

The average household gets 11 magazines each month. That adds up to a lot of space, both in your home and in the landfill. Here are some ways we can reduce and re-use our magazines and then recycle what is left over.


- Consider checking magazines out of the library instead of buying or subscribing to them. If you in the middle of a subscription, it may be possible to get a refund for unread issues. Contact the magazine's customer service department if interested.

- You can also consider sharing a subscription with a friend or relative. Simply pass the magazine on to them after you finish reading it.

- Look into digital magazine subscriptions. Many magazines have editions available online, some are exactly the same as the print version and some have even more material than the print versions. Some magazines are only available in digital format.


- Shred or crumple the pages and use for packing material when shipping fragile items.

- Cut out pictures and use them to decoupage items for gifts or decorations. WikiHow has directions for decoupaging. You can decoupage a wide variety of items from jewelry boxes, to light switch covers, to table tops; pretty much anything that has a flat surface.

- Use the pages to make paper beads and then string them onto thread to make necklaces. KinderInfo has directions for making paper beads.

- Let your kids or grandkids, use them to make collages. If you do not have children or grandchildren or simply have more magazines than you need, daycares, schools, and church nursery/children's programs are often more than willing to take extras off your hands for this exact purpose.

- Use the pages as a table protector when working on crafts. Be sure to overlap the edges so nothing gets underneath.

- Open up an envelope and trace it onto an interesting magazine page. Then glue the page into a custom envelope.

- You can use the subscription cards and probably the pages themselves (I have never tried this with glossy paper) to make homemade paper. Unique Projects has directions for making homemade paper.


- Nursing homes and hospitals are often willing to take recent, unwanted magazines for patients to read. Libraries may also accept them either to put into circulation or to sell at their used book sales.

- Check with your local used book store and see if they will buy or take your unwanted magazines.

- If you have a complete year or just older editions, you could try listing them on eBay. eBay does not allow the sale of current issues though.

- Post the magazines on Freecycle or a similar type group.

- Bring them to your local recycling center or put out with your other paper recyclables.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Family Friday: Story Time

Ever since I was a young child, I have loved to read. I cannot tell you where that love came from, but they say that reading to young children and allowing them to see you regularly reading will help them to become good readers. In my case, I do not remember my mom reading to me or reading on her own, but none the less, here I am, an avid reader. Since I do enjoy books so much, I also love to read to my children.

With 4 little ones, I have begun to grow tired of the picture books though so I have begun reading chapter books to them. The older kids are at an age where they can read most of the books I am reading them anyway, but they still love being read to. Now, I tuck them into bed and then move out into the hallway, just outside their bedroom door, and read to them out loud from whichever book we are currently reading. The girls love using their imaginations to visualize what is happening in the books and it promotes creativity and exposes them to classic stories so I love it too. Some books require less imagination, such as Harry Potter or Disney stories which they have seen movies about, but we try to avoid books that they have already seen the movie to. Currently, we are reading Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder. When we finish the series, I will show them some of the old tv episodes so they can see how someone else imagined the stories.

Of course, we all still like cuddling up together, or one-on-one, to read too. For the younger ones, this is when I read the picture books. With the older ones, this is the time I have them read to me. It is a wonderful bonding experience and I love seeing how much their reading has improved.

There are all sorts of ways to incorporate story time. Find a way that works for your family and try to implement it on a regular basis. Personally, we read every day, but for some families, it may work best to read once a week. For others, especially those who do not enjoy reading (my husband falls in this category), there are books on tape that you can all listen too and imagine the story together. The important part is the time together and the exposure to good books.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Ads on my site

I just finished posting my Thursday post and saw a political ad at the bottom of it. I will be looking into this and probably changing what ads appear because of this. Please know that any politcal ads that appear on my site do not necessarily represent my beliefs. Politics is a personal subject matter to me and I will never post my political standings on this blog.

***Edit*** I have removed the advertising tool that was posting the political ads so they should not appear again.

This Week Thursday: just a little

As I stated earlier this week, I have not hadmuch time to be online this week, so today wil be a "light" edition.


Join Harper Collins First Look for the chance to read and review books before they are released to the public. They also have a First Look for Kids.


Ford and House Party are giving away a special edition Ford Mustang as part of their Warriors in Pink campaign.

Indie Fixx is hosting an Autumn Cornucopia Giveaway. The only way to enter is through a blog or other posting about the giveaway. The prize is a great variety of items.

MomDot is giving away a Bissell ProDry Cleaner.

Chefdruck Musings is giving away a 3,2,1 Penguins DVD.

On the Web

Mummy Deals shares 7 Ways to Save Money on Gifts

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Wellness Wednesday: Apples

One of my favorite things about fall is all the wonderful, ripe apples. I love going apple picking and I love eating them afterwards. There are so many varieties that there is bound to be at least one variety that everyone likes. There are soft apples, crisp apples, sweet apples, sour apples, red, green or gold apples, the list goes on and on. You can also eat them in so many ways. My personal favorite, and the healthiest way, is to just eat the apple raw, but you can also use them for apple pie, apple sauce, apple crisp, apple salads, in savory dishes, in sweet dishes, apple muffins, apple bread, etc, etc, etc.

I am always amazed that something so tasty can be so good for you too. A medium apple contains about 80 calories, zero fat, zero sodium, zero cholesterol, 5g of dietary fiber (about as much as a bowl of bran cereal), and about 8% of the RDA of vitamin C. The sugars (about 16g for a medium apple) are complex carbohydrates so they take longer to digest, giving you an energy boost that is more even, lasts longer and does not spike, like sugary snacks do. Studies indicate that eating apples regularly (generally, once a day) help reduce your risk of digestive cancers, breast cancer, lung cancer, and alzheimer's disease. They are a great source of antioxidants (helps repair damaged cells, therefore reducing risk of cancer), phytonutrients (help lower cholesterol, reduce risk of heart disease, slow certain cancers) and flavonoids (help reduce cancer risk). Apples also contain potassium which helps stabilize blood pressure. Other vitamins and nutrients found in apples are vitamins A, B1, B2, and C, niacin, phosphorus, magnesium, and iron. The fiber in apples is mostly soluble and helps to lower cholesterol levels. It also helps you to feel full for a longer period of time.

If you are not one who cares for raw apples, try using apples in a recipe. You can use them as they are such as in baked apples or waldorf salad, or you can use applesauce as a fat-free substitute for oil and butter in baked goods (personally, I do NOT substitute all the fat in baked goods, but have had good results subbing applesauce for about 75% of the fat). If you have a recipe that you use for a baked good that is a little on the dry side, add a little applesauce to the ingredients and you will find it more moist.

However you choose to eat your apple, just be sure to eat them. There is truth behind the old adage, "An apple a day, keeps the doctor away." While they may not have realized just how much truth or why it worked that way, even the earliest people understood the goodness of apples.

Admin: my absence and subscribing

First, I would like to explain my absence. It is actually something really stupid, and because it is so stupid, I need to vent about it. Someone, apparently a neighbor, has decided that it is bad parenting to allow my older two children (ages 6 and 7 years) to play outside. They decided to call Child Protective Services and tell them, "Mom and dad allow (daughter #1) and (daughter #2), ages 6 and 7, to play outside, unsupervised, every day for 1-2 hours a day." While, the "charge" is grossly exaggerated, even if it wasn't, I fail to see what is wrong with doing that. They play in the front yard, where I have 3 large windows that I can see out of. We are in a quiet, safe, suburban neighborhood and the yard is fenced on 3 sides. The girls are always appropriately dressed and do not play outside in inclement weather. They are no where near the road and have sustained no injuries, nor gotten into any mischief while playing outside "unsupervised". I am right inside the apartment and can hear everything that is going on. Further more, they have only played outside without an adult, maybe 10 times since we moved in and usually for 30-45 minutes. Fortunately, the case workers who were assigned to us (3 total) saw nothing wrong with the charge and it appears the case is going to be closed as unfounded. However, it threw off my entire weekend. It started Saturday morning when the first case worker showed up. The call was apparently made on Friday, and by NY law, they have to investigate within 24 hours. Well, the 2 girls were at Girl Scout camp and so another worker had to come out because all the kids need to be seen within 24 hours of the first visit. Then yesterday, a "regular" case worker was finally assigned and she had to come out to the apartment as well. It made for quite a stressful weekend that kept us busy cleaning everything (I admit I am no Martha Stewart, plus there are currently 6 of us in a 2 bedroom, and we are getting ready to move next month). Now that it appears to be over, we are getting back to our "normal" life. The irritating part is that even the case workers do not understand why it even had to be investigated. It is not like they said I was leaving the babies outside unsupervised. My children have proven to be responsible and I allow them to play outside during times I cannot because of it. I was told by all three case workers, I could continue to do so. So, to my nosy neighbor: I appreciate that you are concerned for the welfare of my children so let me say some things to you: 1) Fresh air is GOOD for children. 2) Would you rather I let them play inside on video games all day? 3) While my older, responsible children are outside playing, I am inside tending to the needs of the children who NEED me at that moment. 4) If you feel my children are really in danger, let me know your concerns. 5) I hope you never have to go through what you put us through.

Now, on to better things.

On Friday, I realized I had a button for people to subscribe to my blog, but did not realize that I actually had to do something to set it up (I am still fairly new to blogging). I finally fixed the problem and you should be able to subscribe now. So if you tried in the past and it did not work, I apologize. Please try now.

I will be posting the articles I had planned for Saturday-Tuesday over the next few days, but in an effort to not fall further behind, I am going to start with today's post and then go from there. Also, keep an eye out for a giveaway I will be doing within the next few days.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Temporary Leave

As you have noticed, I have not been on since Friday. We are dealing with a personal situation which I will explain later. I will get back on here as soon as possible and post "catch up" posts, an fuller explanation, and a contest/giveaway of my own. I am hoping to be back by tomorrow, possibly sooner, possibly later. Thanks for understanding.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Family Friday: Fire Safety

October is Fire Prevention Month and a time of year when you will often find area fire houses holding open houses and/or making appearances to teach the public about fire safety. Take advantage of these opportunities and use them to educate not just your children, but yourselves as well, about fire safety and fire prevention.

This is a good time to hold a family meeting and discuss "what if". Press the smoke alarm button so your children know what the sound means. Discuss several ways to get out of the house from every room in the house. Decide upon a meeting place outside and away from the house. Find pictures of firemen in full fire-fighting gear to show to your children so they know what they will look like. Children have been known to hide from firefighters out of fear that they were some sort of monster. Familiarizing them with firefighters, lets them know what to expect. Make sure they know NOT to come get you or to return to the inside of the home once they are out. We have told our kids they can yell to us, but only as they are leaving or they are safely outside. Teach them to test for hot doors and to crawl low to the ground. Show them how to "stop, drop, and roll" if their clothes do catch fire. Then to enforce what you have all learned and discussed, hold several "fire drills" at various times of the day, including one after they are in bed and asleep (not a great idea on a school night). It may not be fun to wake all the kids for a fire drill, but fires do not care about the time of day and this way you will know if your children can hear the alarm when they are sound asleep.

Also, discuss what may seem improbable. You do not have to dwell on it, but at least mention a few "worst case" scenarios. We had a sad story in our area couple of years ago where a mother lost her two young sons because they were afraid to leave their burning house. They made their way to a window (2nd story) and opened it, but were afraid to jump out, even though their mother, and other adults, were begging them and there to catch them. I had never thought to tell my kids that they might someday have to jump out a window, but after that day I did. Of course, I made it very clear that it is only ok IF the house is on fire and mom, dad, or another adult were telling them too. We also plan to purchase fire ladders for our second story windows so that jumping is not necessary. Also, be sure to teach them how to call 911, but make sure they know NOT to do it from inside a burning house. Make sure they know their home address to give to a 911 dispatcher, should they be the one who needs to make the call.

Another family activity regarding fire safety is to discuss fire hazards in and around the home and then fix those hazards. Talk about what sorts of things could be dangerour (overloaded sockets, cluttered exit paths, flammable materials improperly stored, etc). Then go on a "scavenger" hunt to find any dangers in your own home. Discuss what can be done to correct those problems and then set about to do so as a family. Sparky the Fire Dog has a great website with lots of family activities and games to teach fire safety as well. Shameless plug: Next week I will be doing a unit study on fire safety on my Homeschool Unit Studies blog, so feel free to check it out. It is appropriate for homeschooled and public/private schooled children as well.

Fires are not something that everyone will experience in their life, so it is easy to "forget" to prepare our families for them. However, in 2007, there were 414,000 residential fires, 2895 deaths and 14,000 injuries related to those fires,(US Fire Administration). I would hate to not be prepared in the case that it did happen to us. (For a complete listing of US Fire Administration reports regarding number of residential fires, deaths, injuries, monetary loss and causes, click here).

Thursday, October 9, 2008

This Week Thursday: LOTS of giveaways

I have LOTS of giveaways to share this week, only one freebie and a few interesting articles I have come across.


Cary Hairbows has another fabulous hairbow to give away. This one is the Grinch!

Val's Views is giving away a Mini Set of make-up brushes from adesign brushes.

Daisy Blue's Diary is giving away a bottle of Oatmeal, Milk and Honey Goat's Milk Lotion by Daisy Blue Naturals.

Centsible Mommy is giving away a Chalkboard Tree from Wallcandy Arts and play Cookware and Dining Set from Green Toys.

An Ordinary Life has a giveaway for the Sleeping Beauty DVD

The Fabric of Our Lives is giving away a $250 gift card for cotton clothing.

Momsational is giving away a Leapster2 and 3 games (Dora, Wall-E and Star Wars) from Leapfrog.

There are a whole bunch of quilting-related giveaways located at the Fall into Fall Quilters Blog Giveaway

Inside Out is giving away the Liberty's Kids DVD.

5 Minutes for Special Needs has a giveaway for a Lysol Fight the Flu Kit and some advice from Dr. Sears on avoiding illness.

Does Mommy Love It is giving away a Children's Craft Cloth by
Lyvea Designs.

Momma In Flip Flops is giving away stemless wine glasses by J. Bee Designs

The Laughs Will Go On is giving away a set of hemp napkins from LaLaNatural


Win swagbucks just by searching the web (no download required, just use like any other search engine) and redeem them for gift cards and fun gifts.

On the Web

I found an interesting article at Fifties Nostaglia about the history of pantyhose/nylons.

This is not an article, but a neat website I found. Habitat for Humanity run stores in order to fund their projects. Check the website to find a Habitat ReStore near you. At their stores, you will find quality re-used and surplus building supplies at a reduced cost.

Frugal Rhode Island Mama has an article about Building a Stockpile/Buying in Bulk

Money Saving Mom has an article on Gifts In a Jar

Penny Pinching Parent shares Blog Etiquette and Mentoring on her blog.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Wellness Wednesday: Pamper Those Feet

Our feet tend to be the one part of our body that we use every day, but rarely provide proper care for. We depend on our feet to carry us where we need to go. They support all of our body weight everyday, are squeezed into confined areas (which sometimes also contort them into an unnatural position- think high heels), and we often subject them to extreme temperatures and other dangers when we run outside barefoot to just grab something real quick. When our feet hurt, it makes it difficult to get much done. When our feet have open sores (blisters and such) or wounds, it makes them prone to infection and since they are constantly in contact with generally unsterile places (ground, shower, furniture, etc) the risk of infection is even higher than a sore or wound elsewhere on the body. So today, I encourage you to show your feet some love and pamper them. Your whole body and your mind will thank you.

Foot pampering is a fun activity to do with others and can be wonderfully soothing if you can get someone else to do it for you, but it can also be done on your own. First, fill a basin or large, shallow container with warm, sudsy water. You can even add a few drops of essential oils for additional (chamomile softens, lavendar heals, etc) benefits as well. Soak your feet for as long as you want, but at least 10-15 minutes. Then give them a good washing and don't forget between your toes. Keeping the water nearby to rinse, use a good foot file or pumice stone to scrub away any corns, calluses, or rough patches. Rinse and gently dry your feet. Trim your toenails by cutting straight across to avoid ingrown nails. Then massage them with a good creamy lotion, preferably one that contains lanolin. For a great lesson in foot massage check out wikiHow and adjust the techniques for a self-administered massage. Put on a warm pair of socks to keep the moisture in and you have finished your foot care. Of course, you could always turn it into a full pedicure by adding cuticle cream to your cuticles and gently pushing them back with a cotton-wrapped orangewood stick. Do NOT cut your cuticles as it can cause infection. Then, wipe all lotion off your toenails and separate your toes by weaving a paper towel through them (or use the toe separators you can buy). Choose a polish color and apply from the base to the tip. Use a cotton swab to remove any unwanted polish from the skin.

Now that you have pretty, pampered feet, let's learn how else we can take care of them.
-Wash your feet daily and be sure to dry them well to avoid fungal infections.

-Try to vary your day-to-day footwear, especially high heels, and avoid heels that are more than 4cm high.

-Buy the right shoe for the right job. Walking shoes are designed to provide support in the right places for walking, the same for running shoes. Exercise shoes should be replaced once a year.

-Try to walk around barefoot at home as much as possible. This allows you to exercise all of your foot muscles and helps to prevent strains. Of course, when outdoors, or if there are dangers on the ground inside, wear proper footwear to avoid injury.

-If you have any foot problems such as warts, corns, bunions, in-grown nails, etc, call your doctor for advice and possible treatment. A patch of moleskin can help ease irritation and discomfort in the meantime for corns and calluses.

-Recurring foot pain can be a sign of other problems and should also be addressed by a doctor. Often an insert for the shoe will help, but let a doctor or podiatrist help you find the right one for you.

-If you are diabetic, keep your blood glucose levels appropriate and be sure to take extra good care of your feet.

-Keep blood circulating to your feet. When you sit, put your feet up. Wiggle your toes and ankles a few times a day. Don't cross your legs for extende periods of time. Don't smoke.

When we take good care of our feet, they will reward us by allowing us to do more and go further in comfort. Get yourself some good shoes and warm socks and splurge on a nice lotion. Then sit down and treat those feet, and yourself, to a few moments of relaxaton.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Try It Tuesday: Walgreens Comfort-Stretch Cloth-Like Diapers

A few weeks back, Walgreens had their brand of diapers on sale and I decided to give them a try. Having had 4 children, I know that every brand is different AND every child is different, so since some brands have not worked with some of my children and were perfect for others, I figured the same would probably be true of store-brand diapers. Granted, we did not have Walgreens in my area until recently and this is the first child to try "their" brand, my other three never fared well in ANY other store brand diapers. I am so glad that I decided to try them.

First, I am a coupon and sale shopper, but with 2 babies in diapers, it is sometimes hard to always buy brand name as I often run out of manufacturer's coupons and do not get more until after I already needed them. That is what happened that week anyway and I reluctantly decided the best deal by far was to buy the Walgreens brand. Since it was only the littlest baby that needed diapers, I bought both packs (buy one, get one 1/2 off) in his size. Anyway, now that I have justified my purchase, let me tell you about them.

The biggest difference I noticed is the lack of a well-known cartoon character on the waist band. The Walgreens diapers have bright, colorful zoo animals, hearts, suns, and balloons instead. As a mom who thinks are children are introduced to commercialization at way too young an age, I greatly appreciate that feature. My children get just as excited seeing the bright colors and animals as they do about seeing Elmo. Actually, these are even better because there is no argument as they get older about who is on the diaper. My friend had a whole bunch of "Zoe" diapers left out of every pack because her son refused to wear a "girl" on his diaper. As for the other features, these were very similar to some of their brand name counterparts. Though there is one brand name diaper that you can actually feel the gel granules in the "zone" (even when dry)and the Walgreens ones do not have that gritty, grainy feel.

Now when compared to other store brands, these come out way ahead. In the past, I have found store brands to have side tabs that easily tear off as you try to put the diaper on. Not so with the Walgreens brand, the tabs are securely attached to the diaper and the Velcro-like tape holds very securely when the diaper is on. The tabs stretch well, which is important to me since my little guy actually wears newborn size, but pees like a fire hose and needs the absorbency of the size 2s. I can actually put these diapers on him and they do not fall off or leave gaps. The legs are also very stretchy and at least seem comfortable on him (he obviously can't verbally tell me if they are not). The outside and the inside fabric of the diaper is very soft, not scratchy at all. We have been using the diapers for a few days now and I have been very pleased with the absorbency as well. So pleased, that I think I may actually be able to use their size 1s instead, at least during the day. The diapers do swell as they get wet, but I have yet to find gel pieces on the baby or even in the diaper during changes (something I have experienced even with brand name diapers). The diapers also do not have that damp feeling in the mornings, after he has peed in them all night and like I said he pees a LOT and I am fortunate that he is sleeping through the night for the most part so he has pretty full diapers in the morning.

I am so glad that I took the risk and bought these store brand diapers. I am still going to shop for the diapers the way I always have, looking for the best deal after using sales and coupons, but it is nice to have another brand that I am comfortable adding to the list of prices I am willing to buy for the right price. Walgreens Comfort-Stretch Cloth-Like Diapers are definitely winners in my book!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Money Monday: Meal Planning

Meal planning is exactly what it sounds like, planning out the meals you will serve. I prefer planning my meals each week, but I know many who plan monthly. Meal planning helps to save time, but also reduces stress and saves money.

When you know exactly what you are going to be serving it is easy to start preparing your ingredients when you have small bits of time throughout the day. It is also nice to not have to worry about what you will be serving and whether or not you will have what you need for the recipe, because you have already planned the meal and done the shoping for it. Meal planning is most effective when it is flexible though to allow for last minute emergencies that may occur. Once, we had a power outage on a night I had a big dinner planned. I was able to swap the night of the big dinner with a planned grilling night, with no problems.

Setting up a meal plan should take several things into account. First, ensure you are planning foods your family will actually eat. Second, use a store ad to plan your meals using items that are on sale that week (this is why I plan weekly) and also be sure to include any items you have a lot of on hand, possibly from a garden, previous sale (things you stocked up on), or otherwise. I like using Allrecipes to find recipes that use certain ingredients. The trick is to read the reviews the recipes and implement the advice given. Third, plan meals that will either give you lots of leftovers to use for another meal or plan for a "leftover" night once a week where you heat up all the leftovers and everyone eats what there is. The goal is to have as little waste as possible and to maximize your time and your money. Finally, be sure to plan meals that fit your schedule. Do not schedule a big meal that requires lots of preparation on a night when you will be out all day. Those are the nights for leftovers, stock pot meals, or pre-made meals.

When implementing your meal plan, be sure to check your meal plan every few days to prepare for the upcoming days and to make any necessary adjustments. If you realize that your spouse decided to eat the leftover roast beef, that you were going to use for tomorrow's dinner, for a late night snack, you will be able to rearrange the plan. This also allows you to purchase any ingredients that may have been otherwise used up or that you prefer to buy fresh the day you need them. You wil have the opportunity to ensure the meat is defrosted in time, too.

I would love to hear if any of you successfully follow meal plans. What are some of yout tips? I started doing meal plans about 3 years ago and wish I had come upon them sooner.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Simply Sunday: Changing leaves

I have always loved autumn. It is such a colorful time of year with beautiful, rich shades of reds, oranges, and yellows. I was walking with my kids yesterday and as we walked, we talked about the hows and whys of the leaves changing, but the joy for all of us was in just enjoying the pretty colors. Then while driving today, we came upon a beautiful view of several trees all in different phases of leaf changing and it was just breathtaking. You also cannot write off the fun of raking together (ok maybe the raking is not fun) a pile of leaves and then jumping into them. The smell of the leaves is so earthy and lovely. Even my most favorite memories of childhood involve the fall leaves. There is just something so fun and innocent about enjoying and playing in the leaves.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Save-It Saturday: Homemade Cleaners

The average American uses approximately 40 pounds of non-natural household cleaners each year. These products often contain dangerous ingredients, including neurotoxins, carcinogens, allergens, central nervous system depressants, heavy metals, and other agents that cause or contribute to cancer, respiratory problems, reproductive abnormalities, allergic reactions, and behavioral problems, among other issues. Aside from the immediate problems they can cause to individuals, these products also find their way into the environment by being poured downt he sink or toilet, sprayed into the air, thrown in the trash, or otherwise make their way to the landfill where they are either incinerated in left to release their toxins into the ground, air and water. Some examples of concerns with non-natural cleaners include: algae blooms, caused by phosphates (found in dish and laundry detergents), kill fish and aquatic plants and release toxins that poison drinking water; furniture polishes contain napthas and mineral spirits which are neurotoxins; formaldehyde, which is also found in furniture polish and other cleaners, is a known carcinogen for both animals and humans; another ingredient found in furniture polish is phthalates which disrupt hormone function and can cause genetic defects in both animals and humans; and sulfuric acid and sodium hydroxide, found in drain cleaners, can change the pH of the water and kill fish. There are many other "ingredients" that are harmful to the planet as well.

Switching to natural cleaners helps the environment, makes your home safer, and save money as well. Many cleaners can be made right at home with just a few simple ingredients. Here are some to try:

Homemade cleanser (similar to Soft Scrub): Combine 1 2/3 cups baking soda with 1/2 cup of liquid soap. Add 1/2 c of water and 2 Tbsp of vinegar. Stir with a fork until smooth. Pour into a squeeze bottle and keep covered. Shake well before using.

Furniture polish: Use mineral oil on a soft, clean rag. Alternatively, you can mix 3 parts olive oil with 1 part white distilled vinegar and add a few drops of natural lemon oil.

All Purpose cleaner: Dissolve 4 Tbsps baking soda in 1 quart of warm water. Straight vinegar is also good for removing mildew, grease, and wax and is a good deodorizer.

Window cleaner: Use plain club soda and a coffee filter or crumpled newspaper to wipe with.

Drain cleaner: Pour ½ cup baking soda down drain, add ½ cup white vinegar, and cover the drain. Wait 15 minutes and then pour 1 gallon of hot water down the drain.

Toilet bowl cleaner: Mix ¼ cup baking soda and 1 cup vinegar, pour into toilet, let set for 5 minutes, then scrub with brush.

For homemade laundry detergent, you can find 10 different "recipes" for it here.

For those of you who prefer to buy natural cleaners, try companies like: Seventh Generation, Sun & Earth, and Mia Rose.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Family Friday: Volunteer Together

It is often difficult to find time to do all the things we would like to do. Many of us would like to help others in some way, but have trouble fitting time to volunteer in. By combining quality family time with volunteering you are able to strengthen your family bond, teach your children a valuable lesson in citizenship, and help others all at the same time. Also, since you are volunteering as a group, you are going to be giving even more help than if you just volunteered on your own. Ideally, the whole family is doing the same project together, but this is also a great way to spend some one-on-one time with a family member as well. Personally, I think it is a great way to spend "date night" with my husband and it's FREE.

The first step to volunteering as a family is to decide what you will do. Get together and make a list of family interests, abilities and concerns. Brainstorm a list of activities you might be able to do that incorporate these and then get going. If you have kids who like to build forts and such, try a building project such as Habitat For Humanity. Maybe you are animal lovers, check into volunteering opportunities at the zoo or Humane Society. Do you worry about those who don't have enough to eat? Start a food drive or volunteer at a food cupboard or homeless shelter. For more ideas check out Volunteer Match, which also includes opportunities for families with younger children and PBS' Zoom into Action Family Guide to Volunteering.

Some things to consider when choosing a volunteer opportunity are the amount of time available, the frequency of the project (there are ongoing and one-time opportunities available), and the attitude of the staff toward working with children. If you are new to volunteering or you are not sure how a certain opportunity will go over, try a one day project. If you are committed to something and know it will work for your family, choose an ongoing project. Most places are going to grateful for any help you provide, but some may be concerned about safety issues or even the behavior of children and may not allow children under a certain age. Those who do allow children, may not always be friendly towards them so be sure to check that out before hand. Call places you are considering volunteering and get a feel for what is available for you to do and for their attitude and rules regarding children. Be sure everyone is in agreement before committing to something and then go ahead and do it. Once the commitment is made, be sure to follow through as the "receiving" group are now depending on you.

So whether you are helping to build houses, stock food pantry shelves, cleaning a local beach, or caring for animals; the important thing is that you are helping others and, at the same time, improving your own lives, both individually and as a family.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

This Week Thursday

-Playtex Nurser Drop Ins System

-sample of Bertolli's Premium Pasta Sauce

-sample of Degree deodorant (do not need to be a Sam's Club member)

-Kotex samples

-An Ordinary Life is giving away a Rose Petal Cottage set including the cottage, washing machine, kitchen sink, and veggie set.

-Sage and Savvy is giving away Baby Bambu crib blankets.

-Financial Learn is giving away a $10 gift card to

-Katydid and Kid are giving away a hand-woven market basket made in Ghana, from the Bamboula, LTD shop.

-Mommies with Cents is giving away (4) $20 gift cards to Save-A-Lot.

-One House Schoolroom is giving away 2 books and a $5 Starbucks gift card.

-Surviving the Stores-Living Frugally is giving away an adorable Disney Dumbo costume.

-Handbag Planet is getting ready to launch their website and will be giving away 24 handbags in 24 hours.

What Others Are Saying
-Thrifty and Chic Mom tells how to put together a "Sanity Saver" box for in the vehicle.

-Martha Stewart (yes, THE Martha Stewart) blogs about her honeybees. A great read that really helps you appreciate bees more.

-A Daily Dose of Toni is sharing her expereinces and favorite bikes from Bikes, Blues, and BBQ.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Wellness Wednesday: Walking

We all know we should exercise, but many of us feel we do not have the time or we simply do not like exercising. One easy form of exercise, and one that can usually fit pretty easily into our lives, is walking. Some of the many benefits of exercise are: weight-loss, improved circulation and heart health, reduced risk of illness, and reduced risk of certain cancers. Now we just need to realize that we NEED to take care of ourselves, especially if we have others who rely on us to care for them.

As with any diet or exercise program, it is recommended that you check with your doctor first, especially if you have other health issues or symptoms. If you are not a regular exerciser and are looking to ease into it, the Mayo Clinic has a 10 week "ease into walking" plan. Basically, you walk for 15 minutes on two days the first week; walk for 15 minutes on three days in week 2; week 3 calls for increasing the walking time to 20 minutes on 3 days; week 4 also increases the time by another 5 minutes bringing it to 25 minutes on 3 days; weeks 5 and 6 increase the time to 30 minutes on 3 days; weeks 7 and 8 stay at 30 minutes, but increase the number of days to 4; and weeks 9 and 10 also stay at 30 minutes, but increase the days to 5. The times do not include warm up and cool down.

Some other tips I have:
-Find a friend to walk with or turn it into a family fitness activity and make them family walks.

-Get a GOOD pair of walking shoes. If your feet hurt, you won't want to walk. These do not need to be expensive, but should be comfortable and provide the right support to your feet and ankles. Here is a website for help in finding the right shoes.

-Stay hydrated. Drink some water before your walk and plenty afterwards. If you do not care the taste of water, there are lots of powder packets you can mix into it to improve the taste. Just remember the powders often have sugar though so be careful what you choose.

-Carry handweights and/or wear ankle weights to intensify the workout.

-Have an indoor location to walk in during inclement weather. Some schools allow walkers to walk the halls after school hours and many malls open early to accomodate walkers.

-Buy a pedometer and wear it for motivation.

-Still can't fit walking in? Try adding just a few steps at a time to your daily routine:
-Instead of using remotes (tv, DVD player, car starters, etc), walk to whatever it is and turn it on/off/change it manually.

-Take the stairs instead of the elevator. If you have to go more than 3-4 floors, climb the first few flights and then take the elevator for the rest.

-Do not take the closest parking spot. Park as far as (safely) possible and walk the extra distance.

-Use a pedometer everyday. Strive to increase your steps day to day.

Personally, I find walking the most enjoyable of all exercise. It is a great "social" exercise, family activity, or solo exercise; it is whatever you need it to be. I have enjoyed walking my kids to festivals, chatting with a friend as we walk our babies, as well as peaceful nature walks by myself where I can reflect on life. However you choose to do it, just do it. Your body will thank you and those you care for will thank you too.