Thursday, December 31, 2009

CAPTURING MEMORIES: A Yearly Review For Your Family


It is the last day of the year and I'm sure your family has packed a lot of living in the past year. Here's a way  to remember it; write a yearly review of your family's activities.  This is so easy to do but the finished product creates a snapshot of your life that is hard to capture.  

Think of the big events that shaped your family’s life this year and the month it happened.  Start with January and add events each month if you can.    Easy things to start with are each family member’s birthdays and holidays.  Add school and extra curricular activities and include details like team names, what grade each child was in, who their teacher was, and tell about any special awards they received.  Don’t forget to include job changes, injuries, births and deaths of extended family, pets, vacations, and anniversaries.  See the examples below and keep your descriptions brief, remember you are going for a snapshot effect not journal entries.  Keep these all together in a notebook and after a few years you will have a scrapbook like no other.

  • June: Daddy turned 42 and we celebrated by cooking one of his favorite meals and making him a cake.
  • August:  We have two in school this year!  Kohen started kindergarten in Mrs. Stancil's class and Max began 3rd grade in Mrs. Smith's class.
  • November- We hosted Thanksgiving again and enjoyed having 13 at our table for all that yummy food!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

BEER BREAD


http://www.flickr.com/photos/veganfeast/

This is the simplest bread recipe I know of and it is so good!  You will love the way your kitchen smells while this is baking.

3 cups self rising flour, sifted
1/3 cup sugar
1 can beer
2 tablespoons melted butter

Combine the flour and sugar and then add the beer.  Mix well, but don't over mix.  The batter will be lumpy. 
Pour into a greased 9x5 loaf pan and brush the top with melted butter.  Bake at 375 for 50-60 minutes.  Let me know if you try it.  

Monday, December 21, 2009

BETTER BAKED POTATOES

Baked potatoes in the slow cooker?  Of course!  First wash and dry them, prick them with a fork.  Then rub each potato with olive oil and place in slow cooker.  Sprinkle with sea salt and cook on high for about 3-4 hours or low for 7-8 hours on high.  Don't add water!  They taste better with the olive oil and salt and the slow cooker means dinner can be waiting on you rather than you waiting on dinner.

To bake in an oven instead of a slow cooker, wash and dry like above.  Rub with olive oil and place the potatoes in a large iron skillet and sprinkle with sea salt.  Cover the skillet tightly with foil and bake the potatoes at 425 for 50-60 minutes.   Enjoy your potatoes!



Friday, December 18, 2009

ROAD TRIPPING WITH KIDS

Many of you will be traveling for the holidays with kids.  We have a 12+ hour road trip one way with our three, such fun!  It won't be the first time we traveled that far with kids so here are some things I've learned along the way that helped. Share you tips with us in the comments!




Switch your DVD collection with a friend with kids for the trip!  This one saved me on our trip this summer, endless new things to watch and it cost me nothing!  Take them out of the cases to save room and use a CD holder.   Make sure your kids have headphones so you don't have to hear it all or you might find yourself crazy by the end of the trip.

Have plenty of snacks and drinks, but small servings of everything.  Divide snacks into snack size baggies so no one has to share.  Unless you want to stop often for potty breaks, limit fluids!!  I give each kid a travel cup and refill it with a small amount at each stop. 

Visit your library for chapter books on CD.  Of course you can buy them, but I'm cheap so I don't!   My boys love Magic Tree House books and there is a collection of about 30 books on CD- hours of entertainment!

If you have to stay overnight somewhere on your trip before you reach your destination, pack an overnight bag with everything everyone needs for that one night.  This way you don't have to unpack the car or take in more than one suitcase or bag.

For younger school age children, make them an activity book.  Take a composition book or spiral notebook and write questions or activities on the top of the pages.  The goal is to draw a picture for the answer or write a few words.  Ideas like: Who is in the car, Draw your favorite vehicle you've seen, What did you see in Tennessee, What snacks have you eaten, Draw a picture from the last movie you watched, What is the weather like?  Make the questions age appropriate and about anything that interests your child.

Download some new music for the adults so you are entertained while the kids have on the headphones. 

And a few other things that help:
  •  Stopping at a rest area and letting (or making) them run, they need to!
  • I let them go in once to a convenience store and pick out a special snack, the rest of the snacks and drinks came from my cooler and stash.  
  • It helps to empty trash from the car at every stop or you'll be drowning in it. 
  •  I rearranged the seating in the van and put the oldest next to the youngest so he could open snacks, pick up dropped toys, etc.


Happy and Safe Travels to You!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

DOLLAR STORE SHOPPING FOR KIDS

I think it's important for kids to give gifts at Christmas too.  For several years I've been taking my kids to the Dollar Tree and letting them shop for everyone on their list.  I try my best to not guide them on what gifts to pick because I love seeing what they choose.  Often times it provides a great laugh when the gift is opened.

I pick up those little plastic gift bags and some tissue paper while I am there and let them wrap them all.    For under $20, we have created quite a bit of Christmas Joy!  While I admit some of it is pure junk, some get practical things they can use.  When they know the kids picked it out especially for them, they don't really care what it is.  One year my brother in law got air freshener because his truck didn't smell good according to my oldest.  Gotta love honesty from kids!


Monday, December 14, 2009

GINGERBREAD PANCAKES

Here's an easy way to turn any pancake recipe into gingerbread pancakes which are perfect for this time of year.  By any pancake recipe I mean even the store bought mixes, just add these ingredients.  They are yummy and smell so good!

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice
2 tablespoons molasses

http://www.flickr.com/photos/potaufeu/

If you have any questions, feel free to email or comment below and I'll get back to you!

Friday, December 11, 2009

FREE CHRISTMAS MUSIC

Here is some music you can download for free in case your Christmas music seems a little old to you.  Of course you can put them on a CD and give it as an early present too.  We're two weeks away, can you feel the excitement in the air?

Amazon's 25 Days of Free- A new song every day through Christmas

iTunes Holiday Sampler- 20 free songs



TEACHER GIFTS

I asked four of my friends who have taught elementary school about teacher gifts and they all agree they don't need or want any more teacher or apple themed gifts.  Even if teachers like this, they don't have a lot of room  to display knick knacks or time to dust them.  Mugs are another gift you might be wasting your money on.




Here are some things my "expert" panel of four thought were good gifts:
  • Gift Cards- Think about restaurants, spa services, office supply stores, gas cards, and of course Target and Wal-mart.
  • Flowers or Plants- For a personal touch have the student decorate a container for the plant.
  • Spa items- lotions, potions, and candles
  • Classroom supplies- post -its, pens, pencils, books for the classroom, treasure box items, items on their wish list (ask them they might have one)
  • Food- homemade goodies on a pretty plate, homemade bread, store bought drink mixes, and snacks

Even if you are giving a store bought gift, try to let the kids make something like the card or the wrapping.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

CAPTURING MEMORIES- Write a letter to your child

I  am posting some ideas under "memory keeping" that will hopefully give you easy ideas on how you can hold on to some of those memories you create with your children.  I know scrapbooks are a great way to do this too, but I don't know any mom out there who is up to date on scrapbooks or feels like she ever will be.  Lets let go of the guilt and find something easier!

How about writing a letter to your child every year on his birthday?  Or just do it on some years when you remember.  Write about basics like hobbies, interests, and friends for that year.  Write about what makes you proud of them and milestones they mastered.  You can include favorite foods, books, and music.  Try to capture the essence of who your child is in a letter and try to keep it one to two pages.  It should be quick to do and easy to duplicate if you have more than one child.  You’ll want to save these and present them to your child when they are old enough to appreciate them.  Hmm, what age is that?


I hope this idea will help you and your children hold on to those warm fuzzy memories.

QUOTES: Thoughtful, cheap gift ideas

Is there someone on your gift giving list that loves quotes?  Well do you really know anyone who doesn't like quotes?  There are so many things you can do with quotes to make them gift worthy.  Here are a few ideas to get your mind turning with more!

Quote Journal- Start with a nice blank journal and add some of your favorite quotes or quotes that relate to the person. Write something nice and thoughtful on the inside cover of the journal and give it as a gift.  The recipient has a special place to add their favorite quotes!

Quotes as Art- If you have neat handwriting just write out the quote on pretty paper and stick it in a frame.  If you don't have neat handwriting you can type it up and print it out and embellish scrapbook style, it will look great in a frame.  Take it one step farther and add a picture that goes with the quote.

Quotes in a Jar- Put lots of quotes on small pieces of paper and put them in a jar for a unique quote of the day gift.  Make it pretty if you'd like with pretty paper and a nice jar with a bow. If you need to fill some empty space in the jar add some paper shreds in a coordinating color.  I've seen gifts like this retail for over $25!

For more money you can personalize almost anything with a quote!

The internet is an almost endless source for quotes.  I like The Quote Garden among others.

Have fun and be creative with this one.  I would love to know if you give a quote gift this year and how it turned out!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

THE WONDER OF MICROFIBER CLEANING

If you have not tried cleaning with microfiber cloths, run to the store and buy some before you clean anything else.  You can clean almost anything with these cloths and they clean better with only water than any other kind of cleaning rag or brush and all those fancy, expensive, harmful cleaners.    Use them slightly damp for most cleaning or use one wet to clean and to dry one to buff things like windows.  You'll have the cleanest windows!!  Streak free cleaning!

Also if you have one those Swiffer or Pledge floor cleaners you can forgot ever buying those overpriced cleaning pads ever again.  Just attach a microfiber cloth just like you would the sheets and you can use dry like a dust mop or damp.  I read they work well on stainless steel, but not my microfiber cloths with my fridge.  Please let me know if yo have figured that one out.

I have found them at Dollar Tree, Dollar General and of course places like Target and Wal-mart and automotive stores.  For those of you who have used them and love them, please let me know if there is a big difference between the cheap ones and the more pricey ones- because yes I am cheap!

The only thing you need to know is don't use them with fabric softener.

Happy Cleaning!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

CAPTURING MEMORIES- Start a notebook for your children

Keep a Notebook- Not a Journal





 Photo courtesy of D.Sharon Pruitt from flickr.com

Journals can seem intimidating to some, but this idea is much simpler. Have a spiral notebook (or a pretty journal) for each child and write down funny things they say or do- all those things you think you will never forget but often do.  An entry of only a sentence or two at a time is the goal here.  Can't think of anything to write?  Date the entry and write a top three list about your child on that date.  What are their top three toys, games, jokes?  You get the idea; just write something short when you get a chance.  When you have more time you can write about things you remember when they were younger- start with their birth!

Capturing memories for your children is too important to overlook, but this method is easy to duplicate if you have more than one child. 


Saturday, December 5, 2009

HANDPRINTS ON CANVAS GIFT IDEA



Here is an easy gift idea for grandparents.  I bought a small canvas, 5x7, at the craft store and painted it off white.  I watered down some black paint slightly and then painted my kids hands and feet with a sponge brush and then helped them press in on the canvas.  I wrote the names and date with a black sharpie.  This looks great hanging next to black and white photos!    Be sure and paint the edges of the canvas and it will look great hanging with no frame.  This was so easy to do and total costs for two was less than $6.

Make an extra one for yourself!

Friday, December 4, 2009

PLAYLISTS AS GIFTS

We live in age where you can find music on the internet you thought you would never hear again.  I love finding old music on the internet and putting together crazy playlists on my MP3 player.  Why not take those playlists and create CDs that would make great gifts this holiday season?  Here are some ideas:




Make a CD of songs you liked as a kid for the kids in your life.  Chances are these songs will be brand new to them but will have the same appeal to them as it did to you.  This will go over best for younger kids who don't yet have ipods or very distinct tastes in music.  Some of my favorites as a young kid that I remember were Purple People Eater by Sheb Wooley and the Happy Days Theme Song.  Think about theme songs from your favorite shows as a kid or songs you sang in music class.  If you don't know the name of a song, you can search the internet by typing in partial lyrics.

A great gift for a sibling or childhood friend would be a CD with the theme songs of all the shows and cartoons you watched together as a kid.

For a good friend since high school you could put together a top 10 of your graduation year or songs you remember dancing to at your prom.

For anyone, think about songs about the place they live or grew up.  Think about songs about the state and region.

For your spouse how about a CD of love songs you remember from your dating years.

Here are more ideas that can be used for anyone:  Songs from movies they love, songs that make you think of them, or songs about their profession (this won't work for everyone).

You get the idea.  Have fun with it and be creative.  You'll have a thoughtful gift that is sure to be appreciated.

COOKING BACON IN THE OVEN

I can not stand to cook bacon on the stove top, and I know I am not alone on this one!  Everything  is a nasty mess to clean up and I have to refrain from saying bad things when I get popped with hot grease.  I also feel like I have to set up a barricade to keep the kids out of the kitchen for their safety and to not eat all the bacon before it hits the table.

Well hello to a new way of doing things!  Line two baking pans (with a lip) with foil and lay out your bacon so the slices don't touch each other.  I find it takes two pans to do one pound but you can use one and just do 2 batches- but that is not much of a time saver.  Follow the cooking directions on the back of your package for baking in oven- not broiling.  If no oven method is listed try it at 400 for 12-15 minutes.  Remove from the pan when it reaches desired doneness and lay on paper towels as usual so the grease can be absorbed.    The mess is confined to 2 baking pans.  Let the grease cool a bit and dispose of the foil and you should have clean pans underneath!  No one gets hurt, you have time to spare instead of standing over a pan, and it is yummy like usual- try it next time!

Another way to avoid the greasy mess is to eat turkey bacon!  I know bacon fans everywhere are cringing at the thought of that!

CLEANING UP CANDLE HOLDERS

Do you want to reuse a candle holder but you can't get the old candle out?  Put the candle holder in the freezer for a few hours and the wax might just pop right out or you might have to pry it out with a butter knife- but you'll love how easy and clean it comes out. 

Chances are your candle holder still looks bad with black smudges and wax bits.  Try some of that orange glo type cleaner on a paper towel  and it will look like new.  Just remember to wash the orange cleaner off with hot soapy water.  Hot soapy water alone might do the trick of cleaning- it depends on the mess you have.