Monday, October 31, 2011

Quick Tip #4--How to Have a Nice Table Cloth with Kids

Fact 1:  I love pretty, cloth table cloths and table runners.

Fact 2:  I love my kids.

Fact 3:  Kids destroy pretty table cloths and table runners.

Fact 4:  I needed to find a way to have #1 and #2 without having #3.

Fact 5:  I achieved #4.

Some stores sell clear vinyl table coverings.  They are flimsy and cheap and tear quickly.  Cheap, printed vinyl table cloths also tear quickly.  But kids spill, drip, and leak all sorts of foods and fluids when they're sitting at the table (and when they're not, but that's another post entirely).  But I've found the perfect solution.

If you go to the fabric section of Wal-Mart, where they have the bolts of fabric, they also have a rack with big rolls of clear vinyl.  They sell it by the yard in different thicknesses.  We measured our table and bought enough to overhang the edges a bit, and it cost around $7.  Now I can have my pretty cloth table cloths and pretty table runners, without them being destroyed!

It's a little bit shiny, but that's a minor trade-off to have my nice table.  I also know families who put the kids' current school projects underneath.  For example, a family studying world geography may have a world map underneath.  Or older children can slide a copy of their current spelling list underneath, so they can study while eating their breakfast.

But I like the pretties, myself.  I'm not a very frilly-froo-froo type of person, but I like an attractive table.  =)

What methods have you come up with to have nice things protected from everyday life with kids? 
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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Candy Corn Costume

Ok, before you accuse me of being a total procrastinator, let me remind you that there are still 3 days until Halloween!!  But I finally sat down today and made Little Love #5's costume!!

I got the tutorial from the blog of Chica and Jo  (get the tutorial here).  I originally considered posting a tutorial of my own, but they did such a good job, so why reinvent the wheel?  I did change a few things, however, so I'll explain what I did differently and give some other tips.

First of all, I purposefully made the costume big.  For those of you who don't know, LL#5 is severely allergic to latex.  Most store-bought costumes have spandex, elastic, etc.  So, rather than trying to find a costume that would be safe for her, I opted to make one.  Since she's so young, I made it large enough to fit her at least 2 years.  One of the joys of having little ones is that they don't care about stuff like that.  =)

Second, I put the colors in the right order.  =)  You can see that yellow should be on the bottom, orange in the middle.  So keep an eye out for that if you choose to follow this tutorial.


Third, in the original tutorial, they made three fairly even stripes on the dress and on the hat.  If you look at the image above, the orange stripe is wider than the rest on real candy corn.  So I made the orange stripe wider.  I also chose to make the white part of the dress pretty small, and I made the entire hat white--that way, it's the tip of one, giant candy corn.

This was one of the simplest sewing projects I've ever done.  Fleece is so easy to work with.  It doesn't fray, so no need to hem.  You don't need special needles or anything else.  One thing I did do was to buy it back in July.  No one (but me) buys fleece in July, so I got it like 30% off.

I've been loving seeing all of the other costumes online.  What a super-fun time of year!!

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Kids' Crafts

When we were at Michaels last week, the kids were wanting one of everything (of course, I was wanting a few of everything, so I can't blame them!).  Kids LOVE crafting.  So my hubby was excited when he found some little wooden boxes and wooden wiggle animals for less than $2 each.  My girls each got a "treasure box," and my boys each chose a wiggle t-rex.  Then we came home to paint them (I unfortunately forgot to get a before picture).

It's fun to see the different painting techniques.  My 4-year-old eventually gets her completely dot at a time.

My main rule with the kids painting (other than to keep the paint where it belongs) is one color at a time.  We've had too many projects that all turned out a muddy brown.  The kids aren't very good at keeping individual wet paint colors separate from each other, and they all end up mixed into one, uniform, funky color.  So I've learned to do one color at a time, then we play or do school or whatever while that color dries before we come back to do the next color.   It also saves on paint, since they're less prone to want some of every color.

Here are the final results.  I think they turned out pretty good!  The castle and flower on the boxes were bought prepainted for $0.67 each.  Have I said lately how much I love Michaels?

It was an easy, cheap, super fun craft day! Pin It

Friday, October 21, 2011

Cupcake Felt Fun!

I love doing busy bags for my littles.  They're great at church, they're great to keep them happy while I do school with the older kids, and they're great when they're not feeling well and are stuck on the couch.  The other day I came across these cupcake busy bags at Crafty Couple.  I fell in love with them!!!  Yesterday, while the kids napped, I sat down in front of the TV and cut some out while watching shows.  So fun and easy!

You can print out the patterns for almost everything:  cupcakes, liners, fancy icing, regular icing, marshmallows, and chocolate chips.  It also comes with a heart one, but I did cherries instead.  Then I cut a bunch of little scraps for sprinkles.

Put it all together, and you have a large, fun cupcake!

The kids are going to LOVE these!! 

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Holiday Decor

I have a mirror with hooks hanging in my entryway, for guests to hang coats and jackets.  I've always had these hearts hanging from the hooks, saying "Bless our Home."  They're cute, but they're just not my style. I'm not big on hearts, country decor, or decorating in blue.  But they were given to me and I had nothing else to put there, so they've been hanging there for a long time.

I went to Michael's the other day, and brought these along.  My original intentions were to paint over them.  That would take care of the color issue, but doesn't change the fact that they're still hearts.  Then I saw a pack of 4 wood pumpkin cut-outs for $0.97!!

Today I sat down and started painting.  If you don't look too long or too closely, I think they turned out pretty cute!  

I then hot glued some twine to the backs and hung them on the hooks.  Cute, huh?  I'm debating whether I want to buy another pack just to have a fifth pumpkin on the middle hook.  Hmmmm....what do you think?

They also had other shapes!  I went ahead and picked up these for after Halloween.

With the Christmas ones, I think I'll let the kids paint them.  They'll have so much fun, and I'll have an excuse for the imperfect paint jobs.  =)  I love holiday decorating!!!

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

What do your counters say about you?

In many houses (like mine), counter space is prime real estate.  So anything consistently taking up precious square inches is either something I LOVE, or something I use a LOT.

One example of a love, which is also used nonstop, is my Longaberger mug tree.  My hubby's aunt sells Longaberger, and I once saw this mug tree in the catalog.  I fell in love with it immediately.  Not much later, I saw that they were about to discontinue it, and was saddened by it.  On my next birthday a few months later, his grandma gave it to me as my birthday gift!!

I also love my mugs hanging on it.  Each one has a story to tell.  I love that this mug tree holds so many LARGE mugs (we like mugs that hold at least 16 oz).  It also keeps them from filling up my few cabinets--another piece of prime real estate in my house.

Another thing on my counter all the time is my Blendtec.  It's also a well-used love.  We use it virtually every day to make green smoothies for the family.

I have another small countertop with outlets inside one of my pantries (thanks to my brilliant father-in-law).  On that counter--always plugged in and ready to go--are my microwave (not a love, but a gotta have) and coffee pot  (definitely a love!).

I also have a cutting board and a few decorative items, some seasonal, some not.

Other appliances are up in the pantry, ready to go when needed, but not plugged in all the time, such as my rice cooker.  Others, like my toaster oven, stay on a shelf in my laundry room until needed--typically, the further from the counter, the less used they are.

So, what takes up the prime real estate in your home?  What are your beloveds, and what are your simply-gotta-have-handies?
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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Exotic? Um, about unique?

I'm a mutt.  I'm sorry, that's not very PC, is it?  Let's see...I have a rich and diverse cultural heritage.  Does that sound better?  =)  Seriously, though, I'm 1/2 Puerto Rican, 1/16 Cherokee Indian, 100% American, and who knows what else mixed in through the generations.  But I grew up in a very culturally rich home.

My mama always made sure that we knew and celebrated our cultural heritage (though I never got my own quinciñera, so I'll have to live vicariously through my girls for that one), and Daddy supported her in this.  I also strive to celebrate both the American and Puerto Rican cultures in our home.  My dear hubby is also supportive, though he sometimes doesn't quite understand it.  For example, he doesn't quite get why I see the beauty I see and have the love I have for my vejigante, nor why I was willing to be so preoccupied in finding just the right one during our whole visit to Puerto Rico (and why I spent the money I did for it).  But he allowed me to buy it, and he allowed me to spend additional money to mail it safely back home, and he even allows me to hang it in our house (though not in our bedroom--he says it creeps him out.  But our kids love it as much as I do.  Must be a cultural thing.  HAHAHAHA!!). 

Another one he doesn't quite get (and, quite frankly, he often laughs at) is the Puerto Rican mouse.  You see, when my kids lose teeth, the Puerto Rican mouse comes all the way here on his little boat to take the teeth home and build his house with them.  (And the time the tooth was still under my son's pillow three nights in a row, the mouse must have been caught in a storm on the ocean.  That's a long way to come for a little mouse, after all.  He can't always make it in one night.)  I recently overheard my kids talking about the Puerto Rican mouse.  They had come to the conclusion that a mouse doesn't need a huge house, and he's Puerto Rican, so he must only take the teeth of Puerto Rican children.  They were pitying those poor other children whose parents had to make up silly stories like the Tooth Fairy.

Anyway, my poor guy just didn't quite get what he originally signed up for.  When we first started dating and he found out that I'm Puerto Rican, he told me, "I always kind of thought I'd like to end up with someone exotic."  Um...yeah....anybody who knows me knows that I'm anything but exotic.  Weird?  Definitely.  Atypical--especially for a girl?  Without a doubt.  Exotic?  Not so much.  We moved around a lot when I was little, but when we finally settled down, it was out in the country.  I went to school at a back-woods-tiny school, with 12 people in my graduating class.  I love shooting guns and riding motorcycles through the fields at my parents' house, and I have a passion for Star Wars.  My daddy recently told me, "You're so cool!  You're almost a boy!"

But I love my heritage--all parts of it.  And I'm making sure my kids are growing up just as exotic and diverse!

After all, it's all part of who they are!  
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Monday, October 10, 2011

Easy and Inexpensive Hair Clips

Ok, it simply doesn't get any easier than this.  Wal-Mart is now carrying all sorts of hair clip possibilities:  bows, feathers, etc.  I saw this one the other day, and my 8-year-old begged me to make a hair clip out of it.  She pointed out that it would be perfect for the Halloween season.  What can I say?  I'm a sucker for her begging, I'm a sucker for cute hair clips, and I'm a sucker for Halloween.  So it came home with us.

This one's big enough that I didn't even have to line the clip with a ribbon.  A bit of hot glue (or you can use two-sided tape), and you're good to go!

I know that WAHM's who make clippies hate the big stores getting into the clippie game.  I completely understand.  And if you have a specific outfit with certain colors that you want matched, or if you have a particular idea of what you want in mind, or you want something 100% unique to your daughter, a WAHM is definitely the way to go.

But for those of us who like making our own and don't make them for profit, I love being able to pick up cute things like this that are virtually ready-to-go.  I've even picked up a couple of corkers at Target, already on lined clips and ready to wear!

Headbands, too!  I bought this Halloween headband last year--I think it was at Wal-Mart.

Yes, I could have made all of these things myself, but for a couple of dollars, it was more worthwhile to buy them ready-to-go, or with minimal time needed.  

So if you like having really cute hair accessories on your girls--but don't want to spend a lot of time or money--and you don't mind that there may be a few thousand other girls out there with the same exact thing, start looking around the craft section of your local store.  You may be surprised by what you find there!
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Friday, October 7, 2011

Cooking with Cast Iron

I used to be anemic.  I would go in to donate blood and, more often than not, I was turned away because I was too anemic to donate.  The worst times were when I was pregnant.  My hemoglobin count would hover around 10 (ideally, it should be around 12 or so).  During one pregnancy I was actually on a prescription prenatal vitamin plus 2 iron pills every day!  That wreaks havoc on your digestive tract.  No fun at all.

I was talking to a friend of mine about it, and she said, "You need to cook in cast iron.  I cook in cast iron, and my family is never anemic because of it."  She then gave me a cast iron griddle and skillet.

(Here's the two-burner griddle she gave me and a smaller one we have since purchased.)

Not only am I no longer anemic, I'm currently pregnant, and my hemoglobin count is still over 13!!!  Plus, I LOVE cooking in cast iron!!  It's very non-stick, easy to cook in, and doesn't give off any of the dangerous fumes that non-stick cookware gives off (so your pet birds will be safe and happy, too!)

Many people don't cook in cast iron, simply because they don't know how.  The thought of having to "season" it scares them off, but it's so easy!  And the myth that you can't wash cast iron with soap scares others.  But it's just that--a myth!

Wash your pans however you want--with soap and water or simply with water and a scrubber, or even scrub it with salt.  Once rinsed, dry it.  Put it on the stove on low-medium heat and heat it up to warm, then spray with oil (I use safflower--it has a higher flash point than olive).  Let stay on heat for another minute, then turn the heat off.  Let your pan cool and store it, and it's seasoned and ready to go next time you want to cook!  Over time, it will get more and more seasoned and will soon be just as good as any "non-stick" pan!

Cast iron pots and pans can be bought new at Wal-Mart, Bass Pro Shop, or many other stores.  You can often find older ones at flea markets and garage sales.  Below is the smaller skillet given to me by my friend as well as a larger one we purchased new at the store.

You may remember me talking about this cast iron pot that I found in my grandma's stuff in the barn.  It was full of old, rusty nails and sludge when I found it, and is now used regularly in my kitchen.

My hubby recently saved this skillet from a pile of garbage at the side of the road.  With a little bit of steel wool and some seasoning, it'll soon be as nice as the pans pictured above!

Have any of you found cast iron treasures in off-the-beaten-path places?
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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Latex Allergy Awareness Week!

I can't believe that I almost forgot to mention that it's Latex Allergy Awareness Week!!

There are so many dangers of latex all around you, that most people simply aren't aware of.  While traveling home from vacation, we stopped at a fast-food restaurant to grab some food for my hubby and I (I brought food along for the kiddos).  I ran in, and they had bouquets of balloons.  Had I taken Little Love #5 in there, she could have gone anaphylactic.  Even me just walking in, some of the dust from the balloons could land on my clothes and still give her a reaction.

One of my favorite restaurants to eat at is Applebee's.  I was thrilled to find that our local one no longer has balloons in the lobby.  However, they use latex gloves when preparing food in the kitchen.  That means that everybody who eats there is eating latex.  I had an allergic reaction there recently, while eating with some friends (that's how I learned about them using latex in the kitchen).  I'm not 100% sure what caused it, but I'm worried that it was the latex.  Not only is it dangerous for people eating there, but it's highly likely that one or more of their employees will develop the allergy from wearing the gloves daily.  But Applebee's is not interested in changing their corporate policy for their customers or their own people.

Lately, I've seen a lot of people doing lots of things with latex balloons:  wreaths, science experiments, etc.  People don't think twice about it, and I can't blame them.  I never did, either.  But now I can't look at a balloon without thinking of the fact that it could take my daughter's life in an instant.

Check out the American Latex Allergy Association site for all sorts of facts about latex allergy.  Educate yourself and limit the exposure of you and your family so that you don't develop this horrible and life-threatening allergy.

Have a wonderful and safe latex-free week!! Pin It

Monday, October 3, 2011

MedicAlert Bracelet Fix

Little Love #5 has to wear a medical ID bracelet 24/7.  If something ever happened that we were in a car accident and we were unable to speak, or if she were with a babysitter, or any other kind of weird situation, emergency medical personnel need to know her allergies.  This bracelet lists her reactive airway disease, her anaphylactic reactions to latex and avocados, her contact allergy to dairy, mango, and aloe, and then says "others."  It also has the 1-800 number for MedicAlert and her own, personal ID#.  Any emergency personnel can call that phone number and give them her ID number, and they'll get a list of her other allergies, her medications, her emergency contact information, her medical insurance information, etc.

Well, she's had that bracelet for several months now, and kids grow so quickly!  So it was getting a bit snug.  I don't want to have a whole new bracelet engraved, so I took her in to the jeweler today to have a couple of links added.  But the jeweler had a brilliant idea.

He had a stainless steel necklace chain with links similar in size to the bracelet we had.  He sold the entire chain to me for $8.  He took a short length of that chain and replaced the chain on her bracelet.  I brought the rest of the chain home.  Next time we need it lengthened, I can just take the long chain I bought, and he can add more links from it.  As long as we don't need to change the actual wording on her bracelet, we can continue to add parts from this chain indefinitely!  Here you can see the original bracelet chain on top.  On bottom is the chain I just bought, minus the part he used to make her bracelet today.

So now we can make sure her bracelet fits her as she grows, and it cost me a total of $8 and change!  (He didn't charge me anything for labor.)  She's happy that her bracelet is no longer too snug, and it can easily be flipped over to read the back--but she can't get it off.   What an easy fix!

Anyway, I thought this might help out other parents out there in the same situation!

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