Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Homemade playdough

Between Christmas and birthdays, we've collected a lot of "Play-Doh" brand playdough over the last few months. But I finally got tired of it drying out and crumbling and ending up all over the floor. It was time to make some homemade playdough and say goodbye to the rest. Homemade doesn't dry out as fast, has a softer texture, and I don't have to vacuum the floor every time the kids play with it. And just a few colors are all the kids really need.


Read ahead for the new recipe I used (even better than my old one!)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Homemade laundry detergent

I had never even heard or thought of making your own laundry detergent until my friend Nicole posted the recipe she uses a couple months back. Ever since then I have been excited to make my own and have waited patiently for our large box of store-bought detergent to run out. Why make your own laundry detergent? It can save you money, it can be a fun and satisfying project to do with your kids (or by yourself), it's quick and very easy, and, most importantly to me, it is great for kids/adults with sensitive skin. Joe and Dan both have eczema that comes and goes, and I have been meaning to try using a gentler detergent for quite some time. I also wanted a skin-sensitive detergent for when the baby comes, so I'm happy to now check that off my list. Read on for the recipe! You'll be amazed at how simple it is.


Friday, January 27, 2012

What to do with sea shell/rock collection

Whenever we go on trips to a lake or beach, we collect sea shells and rocks and bring them home. We've added quite a few to our collection over the years as I have had a hard time throwing them away. So I finally decided to do something with them instead of let them sit in the basement. I got this idea from a magazine I was looking through at a doctor appointment (you never know when you're going to get some inspiration!) You paint a frame white, cover the cardboard with fabric, then hot glue gun your shells/rocks onto it, leaving the glass out. Pretty easy right? The one I saw had glued a single star fish on top of light blue fabric. Very simple and cute. Our guest room/nursery was in need of something on the walls, so this did the job and brings back some fun memories.


Doing this project gave me another idea that would be fun to do with the kids in the future. Save a shell/rock from each of our vacations to a lake or beach and glue that onto some kind of board. Then have the kids write underneath the shell, when and where they found it. Could be a fun collection to have. Just an idea..

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Bread making day

Yesterday afternoon was dedicated to making our bread for the month. I took advantage of Joe taking a nap and John being at school and had Daniel all to myself in the kitchen. I normally make it with all 3 boys so they can each get their little fingers into it, but yesterday thinking about the cleanup that comes with that shied me away. I also decided to take a break from the normal wheat bread and made 5 beautiful loaves of WHITE BREAD. I have a recipe that is to die for! Makes the moistest, yummiest, melt-in-your-mouth bread you can imagine. Read on for the recipe...


Toddler bed quilt

We recently kicked Joe out of the nursery and moved him in with his older brothers in preparation for the baby (8 weeks and 6 days to go! But who's counting?) We set up the toddler bed next to the bunks, and I decided to give my hand a try at quilt making. Here's the final outcome in all its glory. It's made from scraps of the bunk down comforter covers, some fabric I used years ago to make pj's for Pete and John, some old pajamas of mine, and some of Pete's and Dan's old jeans. This was my first quilt, and I really didn't know what I was doing, but I'll tell you what I did anyway: First I cut all the fabric into 6" squares, laid them all out in the pattern I wanted, sewed them in strips, then sewed those strips together. Then I bought flannel fabric for the bottom side and batting for the inside and taped each layer, one on top of the other, to our basement floor, making sure to get all of the wrinkles out (a method my friend Alison told me about so you don't have to use a quilting frame... works well on smaller quilts.) Then I pinned the layers together every 6-8 inches, took off all the tape, tied floss in every corner of each square, then finally sewed bias tape around the entire quilt. Done. I worked on this over the course of a few weeks, an hour or so at a time, so it didn't seem quite so overwhelming. Consider it a success! Not the last quilt I'll be making.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Growth Chart

I've been wanting some kind of a growth chart to keep track of how much the kids are growing each year. It's been on my mental list of things to do for quite some time. So I lucked out when my sister drew my name for Christmas and made this for me! I love how simple it is and how portable it is. She gave it to me rolled up in a cute little cylinder-shaped container with permanent markers to track the kids' growth. I had each of the kids pick out the color of marker they wanted, and that's what we'll use to measure them each year. She made it using vinyl and stick-on vinyl for the letters and tick marks, then used modge podge to ensure the vinyl didn't come off. Love it. Thanks Brittney!


Monday, January 23, 2012

New Year Organization: the kitchen pantry

We bought these can organizers years ago, and they have been well worth the money. The racks rotate the oldest can to the front/bottom, and they make it so easy to find what you're looking for and to know exactly how many you have. At the beginning of this new year we set some money aside for food storage, and one of the first things we did was buy enough cans to refill these racks. So now as long as I keep them full I can feel rest assured that we at least have 80 cans or so of food in our pantry in case there were an emergency. Not an entire 3-month supply, but a good start!


Friday, January 20, 2012

Holiday Pillowcases

My mom made these for all the grandkids a couple years ago, and my boys have absolutely loved them. We recently switched out the Christmas pillowcases for the Valentines ones, and it has made them that much more excited for the coming holiday. And I love the embroidered names... with the 3 boys now sleeping in the same room, we can actually keep track of who's pillow is who's!


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Valentine's Wreath

With February right around the corner, I thought I'd share this Valentine's wreath I made last year. It only took about 5 hours to make (blah! I really hate spending that much time on a single project, but now that all is said and done, I guess I can say it was worth it). I made the felt flowers using this tutorial, then glued them all onto a styrofoam wreath. Pretty simple? Yes, it was. Making all those darn flowers just takes forever, so if you're going to attempt this project, make sure you have a few good movies to watch!


Heart banner garland

I got this idea off of Etsy and thought it would be perfect hanging across the window above my sink. Nothing too fancy or bright, but something for me to look at when I'm doing the dishes (which seems like a constant chore these days.) I used canvas-type material, printed paper, string and a glue gun. That's it! No sewing required. And I was even able to finish it in one sitting while the kids ate breakfast one morning. Felt like a productive way to start my day.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A dress-up mirror

I got the book The Creative Family by Amanda Soule for Christmas and have loved all the new ideas! I finished it in a few days and feel inspired to bring more creativity into our home. I thought I'd share one idea I got from the book that is so simple and easy to do and encourages the kids to use their imagination: putting a mirror next to the dress-up box. John especially loves to dress up, and invites his friends to join him whenever they're over. Pirates, super heroes and ninjas are the latest. And a mirror makes dressing up and becoming a different person that much more fun!

Gotta love unfinished basements... not very pleasing to the eye, but with 3 little boys, it sure is nice to have a place they can run around without me worrying about anything breaking!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

New Year Organization: the office closet

With our computer and desk in our front living room, this closet organizer is a must! When we first moved into our house, we knew we wanted the computer in the main room so that it was easily accessible, we could play music from it, watch movies, and not have the kids locked up in a room or the basement playing games on it. What we didn't want was all the "stuff" that goes along with the computer and office space to be in the front room. So to try to keep the living room as clean and simple as possible, this is what we came up with. One of my favorite organizers in the entire house, hands down. Since we don't have an official "office closet," we simply hung it in the coat closet that is just a few steps away from the desk. Everything is easily accessible and can be seen in a glance. I put a few of the kids things near the bottom (sunglasses, card games, flashlights), and things I didn't want them touching near the top (permanent markers, scissors, stamps, etc.) We've turned this into something much more than your average shoe organizer!


Saturday, January 14, 2012

New Year Organization: the morning routine

This isn't really house organization, but I thought I'd throw it in here anyway, because I love what it has done for us. This list of things to do has made it so I don't have to nag my kids all morning to get dressed, make their beds, brush teeth... blah, blah, blah. John, who loves routine and lists, has especially taken to it and has rubbed off on his brothers. If the kids want to watch TV or play the computer in the morning I simply ask them if they have finished the things on their list, and that distracts them... honestly, pretty much all morning. It doesn't take them all morning to complete these things, there are just always toys they run into along the way or other things they find to do before they ask about screens again. I'm hoping that we can stick with this long enough that it will just become habit for the kids to get themselves ready without me telling them to... doesn't hurt to wish, right?


Everyone probably has a different routine in the morning, but you can print this one I made below if you want to. I made little illustrations to go along with each task for the non-readers in the family, so I don't have to read it to them.

Friday, January 13, 2012

New Year Organization: the bathroom drawer

With this New Year has come the desire to organize different parts of my house and create spaces that work better, make things easier to get to and hide some of the clutter. I don't claim to be a great decorator, I don't think anyone will ever walk into my house and say it looks like a Pottery Barn magazine, but I do enjoy (yes, enjoy!) finding new places to put things and new ways to organize. When my house is in order and I know where to find things and where to put things, I feel like my life is a little bit more in order... at least as in order as it can be with 3 little ones running circles around me. So over the next few days or weeks (we'll see how far I get), I thought I'd share a few things I have done to organize various parts of my house. Many times after I've put things in new places and figured out something new that works I pat myself on the back... and then I realize that I have simply done exactly what my mom has done! She is the queen of organization and I have to give her credit for most of my organizational successes! :)

I'm starting with the bathroom drawer. A place where bobby pins, elastics, earrings and Q-tips can get lost in the back corners, never to return for years. The solution? A simple utensil tray. Perfect for storing makeup, pins, combs, jewelry, whatever it is you might have in your drawer. One tray worked for me only because I don't have too much to put in there, but you could easily have one drawer with a tray in it for makeup, another drawer for jewelry, one for hair accessories, etc. And these trays are perfect for kids bathrooms too. Toothbrushes, toothpaste, bows, elastics, floss... all would fit perfectly into one of these and make things easy to find. In a desk drawer: pens, tape, stapler... try it in any drawer in your house for that matter!

Unfortunately we don't have a drawer in our bathroom, so this tray has found a place under the sink where it can be brought out and set on the counter when I'm getting ready.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Felt flower frame

I wanted to share this idea because there a lot of fun things you could do with it. I made this frame for my sister-in-law for Christmas by gluing felt flowers to an old frame. You could also buy a simple frame (like this one, for example), then add felt flowers, or any kind of fabric flowers for that matter. This site has some cute felt flower tutorials. Makes for a fun, thoughtful gift!


Thursday, January 5, 2012

10 things to keep your toddler/preschooler entertained while traveling

Flying with 3 little boys is always an adventure. Especially when you're by yourself and 6 months pregnant! We flew to Seattle for Christmas and Pete had to come home early for work. With or without Pete there, it's not easy to keep little ones entertained for an almost 5 hour flight, so I tried to be as prepared as possible. Every kid is different as to what will keep them busy and happy, but these are 10 things I brought that worked for us. The night before we left, I spread everything I had prepared out on the table and let each of the kids pack their own backpack. Not only did that get them excited to travel, but it helped them be more independent on the flight since they knew where everything was and knew exactly what we brought.

1. Pom pom container
I made of few of the toys we brought, this being one of them. Pete kept calling me a little elf when he saw me cutting and taping and trying different things. This pom pom container was a winner for my 2-year old. I used a baking powder container, cut it in half to make it smaller so it wouldn't take up so much room, cut a small square in the lid, and filled it with pom poms. Joe loved pouring them all out then pushing them through the small hole over and over again.

2. Snack packet & water bottle
I gave each of the kids a gallon size ziploc bag to fill with snacks. We included fruit snacks, fruit leather, mandarin oranges, raisins, squeezable applesauce, and animal crackers, to name a few things. In addition, I brought a few things for us to have for lunch (bagels, string cheese, apples). Then a small empty water bottle for each of us that we filled up after we were through security.

3. Cheerio necklaces
Another homemade container, made from a cocoa container, then filled with cheerios and shoelaces to be strung.

4. Art pocket
Drawing is one thing that can keep my kids busy for a very long time. I bought these clear zipper pockets for $1 each then filled them with markers and colored pencils.

5. Small sketchbook
I found a small spiral bound sketchbook to work well. Stays open while drawing and doesn't take up a lot of room.

6. Small board books or Touch & Play Cards
These touch & play cards are one of my favorite things, and they're good for a lot of different ages. Joe likes to just take the cards out of the box then put them back in, John and Dan can go through them and find the cards that match. Even better they're educational!

7. Stickers
Is there any kid that doesn't love stickers? I bought small sticker books for the kids, but for Joe I prefer these circles because he can get them off by himself.

8. Small bowl
I didn't know a simple small bowl would be so useful, but it sure was! Great for keeping little snacks in.

9. Magnetic army guys
Another toy I made. I cut a hot chocolate container in half, again not wanting it to be bigger than necessary, then glued army guys to a magnet. After seeing that one broke when I dropped it on the ground, I taped it on to the magnet as well. The magnets stick to the metal parts of the container.

10. iPhone
I downloaded a few new games onto my phone before leaving. We don't normally let the kids play the games on our phone, so being able to play is a special treat for them. My favorite game as of late is 123 Color. I think Dan could play this game all day every day if I let him!

The key isn't to bring a million things, but to be thoughtful about what you do bring. Quality over quantity, things that will keep your child entertained, busy and happy the longest. Good luck in your future travels!
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