Jul 6

I recently made some cloth diapers. If you have explored making cloth diapers yourself, you know that the subject is deep and wide with tons of opinions and “I’m right” ways to do things and “don’t do THAT” advice. It took me weeks of research to even figure out HOW to make a cloth diaper because the info out there is so confusing. I find this whole scenario rather ridiculous because when I was a baby, my mom used a padded flat diaper that she folded to fit me, changing the fold to fit me as I grew. The cloth diapering scene is a crazy confusopoly, and when I’m confused and overwhelmed, I just can’t buy into any specific radical philosophy. I finally decided to jump in and try a free pattern and discover my own radical philosophy.

—-Read the rest of this post, including the tutorial for how to make cloth diaper inserts – over at DollarStoreMom.com.—

 

Jun 10

memory2

Are you planning your summer activities with your kids already? Here’s a fun little project they will have fun making: memory matching cards! My kids love to play Memory–my preschooler plays the official version at Grandma’s house, but we don’t have that game at home, so we decided to make our own with readymade stickers and cardstock. Such a quick and easy project!

The stickers that come with many stickers to a sheet, with repeating images are ideal, like the ones sold in the education/teacher aisle at your local dollar store. Or, buy two packages of identical stickers. Any kind of unmarked cardstock will work. The heavier, the better!

Project Materials:

  • Stickers (you must have 2 of each image), $1
  • 1-2 sheets of cardstock or heavy paper, $.50 or less
  • Paper cutter or scissors, on hand

Total cost: $1.50

memory1
To Make:

You will need one card per sticker. Determine how many cards you will need.

Cut cards from cardstock. To cut 16 cards from one sheet of paper, cut paper in half from both directions. Cut resulting rectangles in half again in both directions. This is easiest if you have a paper cutter, but you can also do it with scissors.

Stick stickers to cards. Your child can help with this (my two year-old did a pretty good job! The images weren’t perfectly lined up on the card, but he didn’t care, and he had a ball sticking the stickers on the cards).

Note: it is best if stickers are different-looking enough to not be confusing to little ones. In other words, two different shots of the same doggie might be a little too similar! We used these stickers that all have a different baby animal on them!

Play the game!

To Play (ages 3 and up):

  1. Mix cards up.
  2. Lay all cards face-down on table (in a grid pattern).
  3. Youngest player goes first and turns two cards of her choosing over. If cards match, she takes the cards and has another turn. If cards don’t match, move to the next player.
  4. When all cards are matched, the player with the most sets of matching cards wins.

To Play Simplified Version (ages 2 and under):

  1. Limit total number of cards to 8, or four sets (you adjust for your child’s skill and interest level).
  2. Youngest player goes first and turns two cards of his choosing over. If cards match, she takes them, but does not have another turn.
  3. Next player takes a turn.
  4. When a match is made, everyone cheers.
  5. When all cards are matched, start over again.

The Not-Ready-For-Organized-Games version (younger 2s and under):

  1. Turn 4 sets of cards face up.
  2. Take turns looking at each card and trying to find its partner.
  3. Cheer when child finds a match.

Other tips:

  • You can also use these cards to play other games like Go Fish!
  • If you don’t have stickers that match, how about making your own? Print photos of your family (faces are good) on labels and stick onto cards. Avery has free label-making software that makes it super easy to print straight to labels! This would also be a fun handmade gift for a birthday boy or girl.
May 13

Need some crafty ideas for summer fun with your kiddos? Here are a few ideas to keep your kids happy and occupied:

Wallpaper Flowers:
Use old wallpaper sample books to create these cool 2D flower arrangements. Find the tutorial on The Pickled Weasel.

Recycled Tray Pillbox Hat:
Wendy at Craft Jr. is so smart! She recycled a disposable microwave tray into a cool dress-up pillbox hat inspired by one of her grandma’s old hats from the 40s/50s.

DIY Velcro Catchball Game:
This is one of my favorite kid projects in the past year, and it’s by Marie at Make and Takes. You can get all the materials for this catchball game at the dollar store, too, which is awesome.

May 10

I am so bad at making my house a home. While I’m good at doing homey activities (like baking cookies and making homemade playdough for my kiddos), I am terrible at keeping order and decorating, and generally making the place feel cozy. I have a huge mental block when it comes to decorating.

So, I am very proud of myself for finally doing a little accessorizing in our new house (we moved in four months ago). First, I repainted this old bookshelf. It was built in by the original owner of our house, and then torn out when our landlords remodeled. It was stuck in the garage, but there’s this random little nook next to the fireplace that just looked odd without a shelf, so I repainted the old shelf (with this dark brown paint I had left over from another project). The shelf has been sitting on the porch for more than a week, being a general eyesore, so I finally dragged it in, put it back in its original corner, and moved all the DVDs onto it (I wanted to hide them in this dark corner).

I also added a couple random decorative knick-knacks that I made for Dollar Store Crafts. Honestly, they aren’t really my taste, but I don’t know if I actually have taste. I don’t have any other decorative items, so these will do! Anything intentional is better than nothing! I keep getting a happy thrill every time I see this put-together bookshelf, so I know that accessorizing must be a step in the right direction.

Here’s another little corner that is much improved. I put half a cheapo bookshelf (the bottom half broke, and I just kept the top – so Klassy!) near our front door so we’d have a place to keep shoes orderly (instead of in a nasty pile in the entryway). I hung up these two pictures my sister handed down to me in her last purge. Who cares what the pictures are of, like I said, ANYTHING is better than nothing. And, more dollar store knick-knacks (these are probably just temporary, though… don’t love them there like that).

Over at DSC, I wrote about my makeover of these midcentury mod chairs. Such a fun project! I stashbusted for the fabric, and I could not be happier about the red Moda cowboy fabric. For some reason I love cowboy stuff (okay, so I guess I do have taste… such random taste).

These small steps toward house decor have encouraged me greatly! I might actually have the courage to buy random stuff I like at Goodwill so I can put it around my house. Or, *gasp* clean up my clutter so I can enjoy a nicely-organized home. Let’s hope.

May 5

Apparently, Cinco de Mayo is barely acknowledged in Mexico (it’s more of a Mexican-American holiday, I guess), but I don’t mind using it as an excuse to have fun! I had plans to make some fun Cinco de Mayo-inspired crafts and maybe even set up a festive table for my little family in celebration of today, but all I managed to do was buy these goodies and take pictures of them!

In my world, it takes at least a week to come up with an idea, then another week to get the supplies, a third week to actually do the thing I had the idea for, and then in the fourth week, I’m able to take photos (and if I hustle, upload the photos to my computer, and maybe even find time to write a post about it.) When you tally all that up, it’s amazing that I ever get any original content posted to a blog!

As a parent, though, even less-than-perfect is a win, so just making juice cocktails for my sons (1/2 glass of juice topped off with some of that TopoChico mineral water), or slow-cooking carnitas in the crock pot is worth some points! Since everyone else on the internet is having a candy buffet for their parties, I thought I’d stage a preschool-sized candy buffet, so I picked up some fun Mexican candy like:

These de la Rosas are nostalgic for me – they were a must-buy candy when we went to Mexico! Yum, peanut butter marzipan goodness!

And, no stroll down Mexican candy memory lane would be complete without chiclets! My preschool sons are going to LOVE being introduced to these!

And here’s a new one: Pollo Asado suckers. I have no idea what they taste like but they’re shaped like little cooked chickens, which cracks me up.

Sangria soda is a must at any party.

What are you doing to celebrate Cinco de Mayo?

Apr 29

Mother’s Day is such a different thing for me now that I’m a mom. Until you are a mom, you will never know how hard it was for your mom. This is a brutal job.

Having been on the kid end of Mother’s Day for over 30 years and recently stepping over the line onto the Mommy end of Mother’s Day, I have some new observations about this holiday!

As a kid, Mother’s Day was a day when I thought about what my mom meant to me, and tried to express it to my mom in one form or another, be it writing a note, making a card, or some other token of my love and affection. Kids love their moms, and Mother’s Day gives them a day to think about that fact.

Now that I’m a mom, Mother’s Day is a bittersweet day for me. Seriously. It’s a day of serious reflection — about things I do right, the millions of things I do wrong, the gravity of being the center of the universe for three little someones. I know my kids are loved and happy, which gives me hope that I’m not a total parenting failure, although I often feel like my parenting style is a constant stream of momfails.

Every person has a different experience, and there are different seasons in life, even when you’re a mom. I am in an intense time right now where I have three little boys, and the oldest is not even four years old yet! That’s a whole lotta little boy chaos going on!

I get frustrated because I spent a lot of years in my pre-kiddo adult life doing projects all the time. I like doing projects, and it is sooo hard to do them now. That doesn’t keep me from signing onto new projects, and creating new loads of unnecessary work for myself, of course. I guess I like a challenge. But, there is a huge list of things I want to do that I usually can’t squeeze into my day. I manage to write because I love it and it’s one of my primary driving forces, but many tasks go undone (cleaning house, cooking great meals, playing enough with the boys). Sometimes I’m not sure why I do that to myself!

I have never been a woman who has just wanted to be a mommy and that’s it.* I put off motherhood for the first almost-10 years of my marriage. Not because I didn’t want to be a mom, but because I wanted to make sure I was ready. For the record, I don’t think you can ever be totally ready! Being a parent is such an all-consuming, 24 hour-a-day, relentless job, and there is absolutely no way to prepare for it. It would make my life a lot easier, I think, if all I ever wanted to do was be a mommy. Being a mommy AND other things (writer, blogger, producer, crafter) is incongruous in a lot of ways, especially when your kids are small. I seriously fantasize about having a desk job so I can get stuff done!

Those of you on the other side of toddler town can probably tell me to hang in there. Don’t worry, I will. It’s just hard out there for a mom!

*It’s probably really unfair for me to assume that any woman out there only wants to be a mom. People aren’t that simple.

Apr 24

One fun-to-drink item that is also fun for toddlers to help “cook” is a fruit smoothie! These are a great afternoon snack, and a good way to sneak in some fruits and veggies for a toddler who might not want to eat any. Toddlers love adding ingredients to the blender, and pushing the button to start and stop the blender. Just make sure the lid is securely on, and never let a toddler near a blender unsupervised! Here are my instructions for how to make a smoothie.

You can use almost anything you have in the kitchen for a smoothie. You just need to have:

  • a liquid (milk or juice are good) – about 1 cup per person
  • a fruit or veggie (banana, berries, sweet potatoes, pumpkin puree)
  • optional mix-ins (peanut butter, cocoa powder, vanilla, sweeteners, yogurt or frozen yogurt, wheat germ)
  • a few ice cubes
  • a blender is pretty much a must, too!

Tips:

This Drink is Bananas: One of the best items to include in a smoothie is a banana. The more ripe the banana is, the sweeter it is. Making a smoothie is a great way to use up an overripe banana that you aren’t interested in eating. I usually buy too many bananas just so I will be able to use the one or two leftovers in a smoothie! Also, bananas are a great binder and give a smoothie a good consistency, and help other ingredients to incorporate well. If you don’t like the flavor of bananas, reduce the amount to a third or half a banana. You will still get the binding properties without such a strong flavor.

Ice, Ice, Baby: A few ice cubes are a good addition (especially if you use milk in your smoothie) because they help break up excessive foam that might be generated from whipping milk in your blender. They also make the smoothie cold and refreshing, of course! I usually add 1/2 a tray to start with, and work my way up from there. If you add too many ice cubes, the consistency of your smoothie can get chunky (especially if you aren’t using a banana!)

Sweeteners: I use sugar-free vanilla syrup or Splenda, but you can use honey, agave, sugar, stevia or other sweeteners as well. Remember, if you are using a ripe banana, you might not need any additional sweetener!

Good Pairings: You can use almost any fruit in a smoothie, just be mindful of how you pair the fruits together. The real trick is choosing the right liquid base. If you want a more milkshake-like smoothie, choose a milk base and a non-citrus fruit. For a refreshing and tangy smoothie, start with a fruit juice and maybe add some yogurt (fresh or frozen).

Fruit: You can use fruit in nearly any state: fresh, frozen, or canned. Some suggestions: Fresh — mango, pineapple, banana, berries, peaches. Frozen — berries, multi-fruit mixes, peaches. Canned — peaches, pineapple, sweet potatoes, pumpkin puree.

Mix Ins: If you have ever purchased a smoothie at a juice shop, you know they have a large number of items you can add into a smoothie. Things like vitamin boosters are common. In your case, you probably won’t have too many vitamin boosting powders, but you can add extras that will make your smoothie taste good or will boost nutrition. Frozen yogurt will trick you into feeling like your smoothie is like a milk shake, as will cocoa powder, peanut butter, and extra sweeteners. Any of these are good ways to indulge in a healthy way! Something like wheat germ will boost the nutritional value of your drink.

Leftovers: Smoothies don’t save well, so if you have leftovers, pour them into a popsicle mold or ice cube tray. Don’t worry if you don’t fill a mold up all the way! Just add some complementary fruit juice until the mold is full. If you use an ice cube tray, just throw the smoothie ice cubes into your blender next time you make a smoothie.

Infinite Smoothie Recipe:

I call it “infinite” because there are infinite ways to mix this smoothie up to get a custom drink. Don’t be afraid to experiment!

Basic recipe for one or two people:

  • 1-2 cups of liquid
  • 1 cup of fruit (or 1 banana)
  • 6-12 ice cubes
  • Optional items (mix-ins, sweeteners, spices and flavorings)

Blend for 1-2 minutes or until fruit is pureed and ice is completely crushed.

Elvis Smoothie:

If a peanut butter and banana smoothie is wrong, I don’t want to be right! I drank these almost daily during the last months of my pregnancy with my third child! Because PB has about 100 calories per Tablespoon, it’s a good idea to share this one with a friend.

  • 2 cups of milk
  • 1 banana
  • 2-4 Tablespoons of peanut butter
  • 6 ice cubes
  • Sweetener, if needed

Easy Banana Smoothie:

  • 2 cups of milk
  • 1 banana
  • 6 ice cubes
  • Sweetener, if needed
  • Clove powder

Sunshine Smoothie:

  • 1 cup of orange juice (or a cup of water and 2 T. frozen orange juice concentrate)
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 1 banana
  • 6 ice cubes
  • Sweetener, if needed

Apr 16

As a busy mom of three little boys, I don’t always have time to do my hair. (Like, never, actually! I try to sneak in sessions with my flatiron while the boys are distracted with a cartoon… IF I have to leave the house. If I don’t, my hair looks like the bus driver from South Park’s… i.e., bird’s nest. Hmm, a bird’s nest headband sounds kind of cute and funny, actually!) I think I need some headband action to disguise my less-than-perfect hair!

Notes from a very red kitchen just hosted a Headband Tutorial Roundup, and there were some super headbands represented!

The roundup was full of inspiration, but this rose and pearl headband by Whitney was one of my favorites. The grey roses are pretty – and grey is such an elegant and unexpected color choice for roses!

This scrappy leather headband by Missie Krissie is super cute, too! I love the texture of the different leathers used for the leaves. I have a few leather garments I’ve purchased at the Goodwill bins ($.99 a pound!) that would work well for this!

Other Headband Resources:

  • I loooved this yarn braided headband when I saw it a few months ago at EvaForeva (don’t you just LOVE the styling of the pic, too?)
  • Holly has a bunch of ways to bust your stash by making cute headbands at Art, Meet Craft

Apr 6

Welcome to the April 6, 2010 edition of the All Things Family blog carnival.
 

 

I called this a "Yoplaithouse" - ha ha!

 

 

Earth Day Crafts, Activities, and Tips:
Other Family-Related Articles:
That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of all things family using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

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Apr 5

What do you do when you don’t feel like baking cookies? Make no-bake cookies! They’re a cookie that you make in a saucepan on the stove, and were a staple of my childhood in the 80s. I haven’t seen anyone else in blogland post about them, so I don’t know if they are just WAY out of fashion, or if nobody knows about them, but I am sharing the top-secret recipe with you today.

One of the great things about these cookies is that you can use all kinds of mix-ins to make them unique (and also to use up leftover bits in your pantry). I added coconut, Cheerios, and raw oatmeal to mine, but you can use any kind of cereal, pretzels, nuts, or whatever you have on hand.

My mom makes a family recipe book every 10 years or so (which is highly-sought after and prized, by the way!), and this recipe comes straight outta the 1980s version of the cookbook.

Peanut Butter Drops (No Bake)

  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine
  • 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 to 2-1/2 cups puffed wheat
  • 2/3 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts
  • 1/2 cup coconut
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

In a saucepan, combine sugar, butter, flour, and milk. Bring to a full boil. Boil for 3 minutes (be sure it’s a full three minutes – 30 seconds more might be better), stirring constantly. Remove from heat; add remaining ingredients. Drop by teaspoonful onto waxed paper. Cool. Makes 60.

Notes about making this recipe:

  • Prepare the mix-ins in a separate bowl while the butter is melting in the pan. It should be completely ready to dump in the saucepan at the moment the candy-coating is done boiling.
  • Put out the waxed paper/aluminum foil to drop the cookies onto before you mix everything together, too.
  • Be sure to boil for the full 3 minutes (or a tad longer – about 3-1/2 minutes). You’re basically making candy, so you want to be sure it reaches the right temperature to set properly. If you don’t boil it long enough, the cookies will never harden. If you boil it too long, they’ll be a little dry.

To substitute dry ingredients: you’re basically adding 3 to 3-1/2 cups of dry ingredients (puffed wheat, nuts, coconut as listed in the recipe), so just make sure your dry ingredients add up to about 3 cups or so, and you should be fine. Any cereal-like ingredient will work, as will dried fruit, nuts, etc.

Sorry, my photo isn’t appetizing. I tried to make them pink with food coloring, then I added sprinkles to further the insult! :) Craftfail, maybe, but they tasted good!

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