Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Planet Green

Planet Green is my new favorite television network! I happened upon it one night while channel surfing. Launched in 2008, it is the first and only 24-hour eco-lifestyle television network. The network’s primary goal is to take an active role in motivating all of us to take action when it comes to improving the environmental status of our planet.

My favorite shows on Planet Green are:

Living with Ed- This is a reality show about the life of Ed Begley, Jr., the actor, who is a renowned environmentalist. Ed is a diehard activist who uses solar power in his home and drives an electric car, among many other things, to decrease his effect on the environment. He gives many easy tips to help us learn how to be more eco-friendly.

Wa$ted- This show takes ordinary people, monitors their waste, and helps them make simple habit changes to decrease their eco footprint. They use an eco footprint calculator to tabulate their effect on the environment. The people are monitored for a few weeks, and then they recalculate the footprint. The show gives back the amount of money saved because of the decrease in the eco footprint. It is amazing how much money you can save by decreasing your eco footprint.

World’s Greenest Homes- This is a show featuring homes that are very pleasing to the eye, environmentally friendly, and easy to maintain. Many of the homes featured are made from recycled materials and use solar power or wind turbines for electricity. If you watch this show, you will definitely want a green house!

Planet Green is my favorite channel of all time. I enjoy learning how we can make a better environment for ourselves and our children. Many of the eco-friendly tips given on this network can be easily done at our homes with very little lifestyle change. I have learned a lot by watching this channel and hope that you are inspired to check it out. It may prompt you to start decreasing your eco footprint. If this network does not come with your cable package, check it out at

www.planetgreen.discovery.com . I will be sharing some of the cool things that I have learned in my upcoming posts!

Thanks for joining us for Talk About It Tuesday!


Monday, June 29, 2009

Homemade Thin Mints

Has your Girl Scout cookie stash disappeared? Did someone find the secret hiding place? My personal favorite are the Thin Mints. Luckily, I found a recipe a few years ago that allows me to make my own Thin Mints at home!

For Menu Plan Monday, I thought I would share my secret:

1 pkg. Baker's Semi-Sweet Chocolate
1/4 tsp peppermint extract
1 sleeve Ritz crackers

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave. Stir in the peppermint extract. Dip in the crackersand coat on both sides. Place on a cookie sheet covered with waxed paper and place in the fridge to set the chocolate (or put them in your garage if you're in the Midwest and its winter - which is what I do at Christmas - brrr).

They are fantastic and very addictive. Enjoy!


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Happy Sunday!

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3: 16 KJV

Saturday, June 27, 2009

National Safety Month

I can not let the month of June pass us by without calling our attention to National Safety Month. National Safety Month is sponsored by the National Safety Council which educates and influences people to prevent accidental injury and death.

One of the things that the National Safety Council (NSC) calls attention to is that traffic safety starts at home. They want to make us aware that it only takes a few seconds to look behind the car before backing up and that we get our kids out of the car every time we get out of the car.

According to the NSC, over 100 children die and thousands are injured from being backed over each year. Let’s all be sure that we look behind our cars before we get in the driver’s seat and then take a few seconds to look again before we put our cars in reverse.

Many children die every year from heat stroke because they were left in the car. Some of these cases are due to over-stressed parents forgetting to drop their children off at daycare. Some of the deaths are a result of parents leaving their children in the car while they get out to run an errand for a short time. Let’s make it a habit to check our backseats every time we get out of the car, it may save our child’s life on those over-stressed days.

Accidents can happen at any time. I hope this post is a reminder of what can happen. The more that we keep these things fresh in our mind, hopefully, the more accidents we can prevent.


Friday, June 26, 2009

Low Cost Family Outings

Now that summer is in full-swing, we are always looking for low cost family outings. We have found several ideas in our area.

- We love to take advantage of programs at our local library. They often have things for the entire community such as magic shows, story times, zoo visits or opportunities to meet local artists.

- We are lucky enough to have a zoo nearby. We love to go to their special events. When more things are offered for the usual zoo admission, we get an even bigger "bang for our buck."

- We visit many area parks. We have found that they each have their own special features. Our children even love just playing on different playground equipment. We have taken our bikes to ride on trails, like to geocache in areas we know to find hidden treasures, and we can take a simple frisbee and make a wonderful day out of something so simple.

- We visit local museums and gardens. Be sure to check into their membership programs and their benefits. Often they have reciprocal memberships with other local venues. We received a great book of coupons with one membership that let us take advantage of lots of great area attractions at quite a savings.

What are your favorite low cost family outings?


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Buy Next Year's Clothes Post Season

Being the self-proclaimed “frugal” mom that I am, I live up to my name every year when I buy clothes on sale post-season. I just buy whatever size my kids will be wearing the next year. This is a little tricky for babies, so I wouldn’t recommend it for less than 2 years old. It is hard to estimate what size infants will be wearing. My daughter is 2 ½ years old, which makes buying next year’s sizes more predictable.

Last year, we scored lots of great deals the day after Christmas! My mom and I went to
Belk and got great deals on Christmas dresses and winter clothes for the girls. Now, our girls have some new and affordable clothes to wear this winter.

I have always wondered why more moms don’t take advantage of post season sales and buy next year’s clothes. Many moms may not have room to store extra clothes. We have combatted this by putting the clothes on hangers and pushing them to the back of the closet until the seasons change.

I always look forward to the changing of seasons so that I can uncover last year’s purchases and remember all of the bargains that I got! If you buy a few pieces of clothes for your child at the post season sale, it will make a big difference in your clothing budget.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Microfiber Mops

For WFMW, I wanted to discuss one of my favorite cleaning supplies. I don't like to use a lot of chemicals in our home, so we have relied on microfiber mops for years.

I like to use microfiber mops for several reasons. They do a fantastic job on our wood and tile floors. They can be reused over and over. They only need hot water to do their job well. They can also be thrown right into the washing machine (but they should not go thru the dryer -which is why I often have mine hanging from the bar in my laundry room to air dry).

Have you used microfiber mops? What works for you for floors?


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

My Child Won't Sleep

If an adult does not sleep well, we act tired. If one of our children does not sleep well: they may act tired; act out with behavioral problems; do poorly in school; have concentration problems; or even act hyper. In fact when a child is diagnosed with (ADHD) Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, astute doctors and allied health care providers (such as physician assistants) will often look for a sleep disorder in the child before starting medications. Here are some things you might consider as you Talk About concerns with your health care provider.

Somewhere between six weeks to six months of age your child should begin to sleep more at night and less during the day.

An infant may need 18 hours of sleep, a 2 year-old may need 12, a 10 year-old may need 10, a teenager needs 8-9 (which is still more than an adult’s average 7-8).

Human sleep cycles through stages every 90-120 minutes (light sleep, deep sleep, and dream (REM) sleep), and it is quite normal for your child to wake up with each of these cycles. The key is to make your child a self-soother and not a signaler.

By placing your child into bed before they are asleep, you allow them to learn to fall asleep in the environment of the bed (soothing their own self). If you rock them to sleep and then place them in bed, each time they wake up they will signal you (probably by screaming and crying) to recreate the rocking environment in which you have taught them to fall asleep.

Bright light signals the clock in the human brain (our circadian rhythm) to wake up and get ready for morning. A sleep environment should be dark (a dim nightlight is okay), quiet, and a good temperature. TV and video games are horrible for sleep and should be limited or kept off entirely as bedtime approaches.

We believe sleep is as important as wakefulness in our house, and we make each an equal priority. In addition to talking with your kid’s health care provider you might also look through
http://www.sleepforkids.org/. If you have other suggestions, for future health/wellness articles please email, tweet, or leave a comment.


Monday, June 22, 2009

Homemade Whole-Grain Pancakes

We have two toddlers who love pancakes and, at our house, pancakes are a special treat! We used to buy a name brand dry mix, but for the last 6 months, I have been making my own mix. I make a large batch of dry mix and store it in my cupboard. The recipe I use is in the Make-a-Mix book, and it is called whole grain pancake mix. No extra sugar is added. I feel better about serving my kids whole grain pancakes instead of pancakes made with just white flour and sugar.

There are lots of benefits to making your own mixes. The biggest benefit that I have found is that you are in control of how much sugar is in the mix. We do not use a lot of sugar substitutes at our house, but I do try to find ways to reduce the amount of sugar we use. Making your own mixes is also much cheaper than buying them premade.

In the picture above, I thawed out strawberries from our strawberry picking adventure. We use light syrup, but have found that we use less syrup when we add fruit.

I encourage you to make your own whole grain pancake mix because it is healthier and more affordable. Thank you for joining us for Menu Plan Monday!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Sunday!

For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. John 6:33 KJV

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Summer Reading Programs

Reading is a huge part of our lives. We all have multiple books and magazines going at any given time. We head to our local library at least once a week and tend to bring home more than we can carry in our "library bag."

We have learned to take advantage of local Summer Reading Programs. Check with your local library and your local bookstores. Most will have a reading program for the children. They need to log the books they are reading and then turn in the forms when they are complete. They often receive a prize, a meal coupon to a local restaurant, a free book or a discount coupon.

Remember to find time to read with your children this summer. It is so important to practice those skills during their break from school!


Friday, June 19, 2009

Family Trip Traveling Tips

My husband and I live a long distance from any of our relatives. This means that we have to take lots of long trips in order to see anyone. Since our oldest daughter was born 2 ½ years ago, we have taken at least ten 7-10 hour trips. Trips always cause me stress no matter how well we plan, but our girls are awesome in the car, luckily for us.

We have developed a system that helps us to get through long trips with 2 toddlers.

Traveling Tips

-No DVD player- We use the time to sing songs, talk to each other, and do travel activities.

-Start you travel at naptime, so that they can get a good rest on the way.

-Bring lots of crayons, washable markers, and activities to keep them busy.

-Break up time with a little snack.

-Stop at a rest area or Mc Donald’s playground to get some energy out.

-Make traveling fun!

We have learned a lot by trial and error. Our kids are great travelers. Few of our friends subscribe to our "No DVD" policy, but it is old fashion traveling fun for us! Maybe someday our children will hold memories of traveling with Mom and Dad (instead of watching multiple movies) as fondly as my husband and I do from our childhood trips with our families.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Cash Back on Credit Cards

For the last 6 years, I have used my credit card as a source of extra cash for my family. Before signing up for a credit card, I researched which one would give me the most cash back benefits. The credit card that I have found to be most profitable for me is the Discover Card. My husband and I put all of our purchases on this card and, at the end of the month, we get some cash back rewards.

Last year, I used many months' rewards to buy my daughters a nice play kitchen set. A few months before Christmas, I requested my Discover Card Cash Back Bonus Award to be given in JC Penny gift cards. For every $40 in cash back bonus, I received a $45 gift card. With these gift cards, I ordered my daughters their Christmas present.

Christmas was great! The girls loved their kitchen and, as an added bonus, it was free!

I have to say, my husband and I do not have any credit card debt. If you have credit card debt, the finance charge is much more than you will ever get back from cash back bonuses. I know that a lot of people are cutting up their credit cards due to Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover. I agree that credit cards should be cut up if you are using them for credit, but we are using credit cards for convenience and so that we do not have to carry around cash. Also, our Discover Card has a discount program with some online stores if you order through their website. We bought our washer and dryer online and saved 15% through this program.

If you can maintain discipline and avoid carrying a balance, take a look at the benefits of credit card rewards you could be missing!


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Our "Upstairs Box"

For WFMW, I thought I would tell you all one of my favorite things in our house. We have moved several times, and this box has always come with us. We call it our "Upstairs Box" and it sits at the base of the stairs. Since we have a multi-level home, we always have things downstairs that need to go up. The kids bring things from their rooms to use downstairs, they bring things from school that need to be put into storage, etc. We all put things in this box and I carry it up every few days. When the kids see it at the top of the stairs, they know that they need to take what is theirs and put it away.

This definitely Works For ME! What are your favorite "make things easier" tips for moving things to their proper places in your home?


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

In Praise Of Simple Toys

Today, I wanted to Talk About simple toys. Since I've been part of this motherhood cycle for a while, I've learned a few things. We've all discovered you don't need every baby product on the market. We've all seen that kids enjoy the product packaging as much as the fancy toy inside. We've all discovered that a child's attention span is very small.

One thing I have found with my own children is that they seem to enjoy simple toys the most. We have lots of wooden toys at our house. Blocks, puzzles, "food" and tool sets. These draw my kids together more than anything else. I think that it is because there is room for their imaginations as well.

We have cleared out a lot of the excess stuff in our home recently. A lot of what went were the "new" and "great" toys that were all the rage in past years. What has stayed are the simpler things. Wooden toys, open-ended play things, books, puzzles and board games. We've found ourselves to be happier and more creative because of this.

What are your children's favorite, simple toys?


Monday, June 15, 2009

Banana Bread Recipe

I love to bake and quick breads are one of my favorite things to make. My son loves to get in on the action of making these as well. If we manage to get some over-ripe bananas piled up (which is a bigger challenge than you might think, they go quickly around here), we love to make a double batch of this bread.

Banana Bread

1-1/2 c all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 c mashed bananas
1 egg
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c natural applesauce

We use our stand mixer and mix it until blended, leaving the batter a bit lumpy. Spray bottom of loaf pan and add the mixture. Bake at 350 for 50 to to 55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the loaf comes out clean.

For more great recipes, visit Menu Plan Monday!


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Happy Sunday!

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. Ephesians 2: 8 KJV

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Give A Little Extra

A few Sundays ago at church, our minister gave a sermon about giving more than our tithing to help someone else out. He asked everyone to think about what they could give up to help someone. Some of the examples given were: give up a round of golf and give the money to someone else or skip going through the drive thru for a cup of coffee and use that money to buy something for somebody in need. These examples were just to get you thinking about how you can give up one of your own “wants” to help meet the “needs” of others. Of course, these are luxuries that a lot of us take for granted.

A week or two went by and the message stayed on my mind. I don’t play golf and I rarely go through the drive thru for an expensive cup of coffee. I wondered… who would I help? There have been many times in my life that I have had a friend or family member in need, but at this point in my life nobody came to mind. Then, I heard about
a little boy that was recently diagnosed with cancer. The family is going through a rough time right now because the father was laid off from work during this economic downturn and the mother had to take a family medical leave of absence to care for her son. As a mother, my heart went out to this mother and her family. After learning their story, my husband and I gave a donation. Honestly, we didn’t give up anything specifically, but we did give extra this month.

I would like to challenge and encourage all mothers to think about other mothers who are going through a particularly difficult time, for whatever reason. Can you give money, a dish of food, or simply your time to go above your normal gift and give a little extra to those in need?


Friday, June 12, 2009

One Outside Activity Per Child

For our Family Friday post, I wanted to talk about how we manage to stay connected with busy schedules. As the kids get older, they have more and more homework. In addition, their outside activities take up more and more time. During ball season, between the two kids, we literally have either practice or a game every night of the week. But, we realize that it only lasts a few weeks, and that is the ONLY commitment we make during that time period.

In order to still have time to connect and be together as a family, we can't over-extend ourselves. I see neighbors carting their children to and from so many activities that their children are complaining about how busy they are.

We cherish our times together sitting at the table sharing a meal or playing a game. We love being able to let our children go outside and just play. If we schedule too many things, we lose that time. That is not acceptable for us. Family will always come first.

How do you balance outside activities and free time?


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Tips for Buying Used Clothes for Kids

Even before my first child was born 2 ½ years ago, I went to a used clothes sale to pick her up a few things. This was hard because we never find out the sex of the baby until the baby is born and the doctor says, “It’s a…girl!” We have 2 girls, 16 months apart. Having children of the same sex has saved us a lot of shopping!

I have shopped at many kid’s used clothes sales and usually find great deals. The last sale I went to I loaded up on smocked dresses for the girls. Smocked dresses can run anywhere from $45 - $75 or maybe more (but we don’t shop in those stores) and are usually church and special occasion dresses, so they are not worn much by the previous children.

I have a few tips for buying used clothes for children.

- Check the clothes over thoroughly for missing buttons, snaps, stains, and broken zippers before purchasing.
- Know the brands and retail prices of the clothes you want to buy. Many times I have seen used clothes sold at retail prices – that is NOT a deal.
- Get to the sale early, before it is picked over, so you can get items you need. If you need strollers….you will have to get there early!
- If you are on the fence about buying an item, put the item back and chance getting it at the ½ price sale on the last day.
- Take a basket on wheels, so that you will have free hands to look through the clothes.
- Try to leave the kids at home, so you can concentrate on getting a deal!

We have found many great deals for our girls at used clothes sales. Many churches and organizations hold sales in the spring and fall. Sales are usually advertised in the paper.

Good luck! I hope you find some good deals!


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Skinny Dip Candle Review

We recently received some wonderful products from Skinny Dip Candles. Just having the package in my car, I knew I was in for a treat! Even the scent thru the box was heavenly.

I chose the Pamper Pack in the Ambrosia scent. It is wonderful. Included was a full-size tin of their wonderful candle, a packet of their dead sea salts and, my favorite, a fantastic lip balm. I admit that I am addicted to lip balms, and I am a little hard to please with them. This one has become my new favorite. I have carried it in my pocket ever since I received it. Several people have commented on the scent from it, too! The entire package was tied up in a beautiful organza bag. I can imagine so many gift possibilities with this set. And, the Skinny Mini Candles would make such cute little favors at a shower or your next Ladies' Night! You would certainly be the hit of the party!

I am now a true fan of these products and hope that you will take the time to check out their wonderful selection of products!


Our "Summer School" Outline

The time has come again for our "Summer School" and I thought I would share what Works For Me.

My children attend public school, but I see many gaps that need to be filled and skills that need to be reinforced. For the past several years, I have worked on those things during the summer. My children call it "Mommy School" and usually want to spend much more time on it than I had planned. I work hard to make the learning fun and it is time that I treasure with the kids.

I have mentioned before that my favorite resource is Home Learning Year By Year. I use that book, The Well-Trained Mind and many other sources to decide where I want to focus.

I break down their needs into the following categories:

- Language Arts

- Math

- History/Geography

- Science

- Art

- Read Aloud

I look at how to reinforce what they covered over the school year, attempt to give them a jump start on the next year and I ask them what they want to cover in each area. I use that and build some basic unit studies. There is so much information on the web and it is fun for all of us to search for information in our chosen subject areas.

I plan to work 2-3 hours per day with them most days, although we are very flexible. We will do many of our lessons out in the grass and lots of neighbors will drop by to join in the fun. For example, to reinforce math skills, we often use "hula hoop math." The kids spin the hoop as many times as they can and add their numbers down the driveway. There are always lots of extra kids joining in when we do this activity. They think we run a summer camp! No matter what we do, it will feel more like fun than work . . . just as it should.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Making Time For You

Today, for Talk About It Tuesday, I wanted to discuss staying true to ourselves as women. I recently had the opportunity to take a few days away from home with friends. I am fortunate enough to be able to do this once a year, and it is something I treasure. Although I missed my husband and children dearly, it was a much needed escape from the demands of our busy life and a chance to just be me. I think that we often get caught up in our roles as mothers and wives and forget that we are individuals who need our own time and space. I have tried hard this year to focus on my needs as well as those of my family.

I have made the time to call a friend, just to chat. I have taken late evening walks with neighbors to reconnect or get to know them better. I have sent cards to far away friends and family to let them know that I am thinking of them. And, I take an occasional "mental health day" and get together with other women to laugh.

When you feel your frustration levels rising, or you feel your temper becoming short with your children, look within yourself. Have you had any time alone lately? Are you able to make that time anywhere in your schedule? I know that it renews my energy and makes me anxious to get back into the hustle and bustle again. It calms my heart and opens it up to see all the little celebrations in life. It helps me cherish the everyday and treasure those little quirks that might have annoyed me otherwise.

I hope that you can find the time to reconnect with yourself, have a chat with a friend and spend time doing what you love. Make time for you!


Monday, June 8, 2009

Navy Beans

As a little girl, I remember my great aunt saying, “I’m going to throw on a pot of beans.” We had beans frequently and thought they were great. My mom used to make beans and a fresh pan of cornbread. Sometimes, we would eat beans with a tomato and mayonnaise sandwich. Yum!

Now married with kids, I am cooking lots of the same healthy dishes that my mother made. Beans are good for you with lots of fiber and protein and they are cheap. The other day, I bought a bag of dried navy beans for one dollar. We added some ham, a medium onion, and a little salt and pepper. The whole pot cost around $1.50 and we had leftovers!

Beans are easy to make, just use the directions on the bag for soaking and cooking. Our kids love beans and they are good for you. Navy beans are gluten-free.

I encourage you to “throw on a pot of beans” every once in a while.

This post is linked to Menu Plan Monday.


Sunday, June 7, 2009

Happy Sunday!

In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

John 14: 2-3 KJV

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Donating to Locks Of Love

A few months ago, my daughter decided that she had tired of her long hair. She had worked for about a year to grow out her bangs and if she made a shoulder-length cut, her bangs would finally blend in. When she mentioned this, I saw an opportunity to teach her more about giving and sacrifice and mentioned the Locks Of Love program. She quickly agreed and even talked a friend into participating with her!

Neither girl was at the 10" donation point when they decided upon the idea. They were going to have to wait several more months, but decided that the time would be worthwhile. As luck would have it, a few months later, we saw a call for local donations for our area children's hospital. Locks Of Love had paired up with Great Clips and they were accepting 8" donations. Both girls were at that point, so we took them in. Great Clips provided a free cut and style for the girls, bagged the hair and gave them a certificate for their donation.

The pride that these two girls wore on their faces that day was worth all of the months of combing tangles and pulling up ponytails. They are very happy that they took the time to take care of their hair and to make the sacrifice to go a bit shorter than they had originally intended so that a local girl could have something that would make her feel proud as well. Because they each had such thick hair, they both donated four braids of almost identical color. Their fantasy now has their hair combined to make another little girl smile.

If you know someone who is looking to donate, please consider Locks Of Love and their fantastic program.


Friday, June 5, 2009

Jump, Jump, Jump

My husband got off from work early the other day, so we took the girls to Pump It Up. If you are not familiar with Pump It Up, it is a building full of inflatable play centers! They have tall slides, lots of room to jump, and games to play. They specialize in birthday parties, but we went to a pop-in time. Pop-in time is several times a week for a few hours. The charge was $5 for our 2 year old, and my husband, I, and our one year old were free. We had a great time bouncing and sliding together! Not only was it fun, but it only cost $5.

If you have kids, check and see if you have a bounce house close by. It will get some of your child’s energy out!

Fun and affordable, that is what I like!


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Win at Auctions!


As an auctioneer’s daughter, I have attended many auctions. When I was a kid, my parents got us up on many Saturday mornings to help with auctions. Now, my husband and I love to frequent auctions to find things to buy and resell! We have found some really good deals! Also, we buy things for our home instead of buying new. This not only saves money, but is environmentally friendly! Before you attend an auction, here are a few tips to help you get a good deal.

Auction Tips:

- Get to the auction early to preview the merchandise before the sale starts.
- Stand in a place where the ground crew (the workers helping the auctioneer take bids) can see you and your number.
- Let others bid in between your bids, so that you don’t raise the price on yourself.
- Don’t be intimidated by other bidders.
- Set a top price and stick with it - - it is easy to get caught up in the action.
- Be careful when fanning or adjusting your hat. The auctioneer and ground crew look for sudden motions and may accidentally take your fanning for a bid.
- Never talk to the clerk - - they are keeping track of what is being sold.
- Bring a big enough vehicle to haul your items home.
- Have fun! Auctions are a great time!

I love going to auctions every chance I get. I would encourage all of you to attend an auction. You will not only find great deals, but your whole family will be entertained. And who knows, you might have the winning bid!


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Baby Bunch Review

I was very excited to learn that we were going to be doing a review of The Baby Bunch products. The Baby Bunch uses 100% organic, undyed, and unbleached cotton baby clothing to make beautiful bouquets and gift baskets. Their newest line shapes the baby’s clothing into cupcakes and lollipops. I was thrilled today to receive two adorable lollipops in the mail for my review. The lollipops were blue and red, and they were as cute as they could be. I can see why they have been featured on Martha Stewart. The Baby Bunch gifts are a perfect and unique gift to give at a baby shower or a great surprise to take to the hospital for a new baby!

Brilliant Moms Approve!


It has been a few years now since my family was introduced to geocaching. I believe it was an article in the newspaper that first alerted me to this wonderful family hobby. We like to call it "treasure hunting" and it is one of our favorite activities to do together.

For WFMW, I thought I would share this great hobby with you so that you might add it to your summer arsenal of "things to do."

The official website for the hobby can be found at http://www.geocaching.com/ and their explanation is as follows: Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunting game played throughout the world by adventure seekers equipped with GPS devices. The basic idea is to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, outdoors and then share your experiences online. Geocaching is enjoyed by people from all age groups, with a strong sense of community and support for the environment.

Our explantion: it is good, healthy family fun! Here are some hints as to how to get started:

- You will need a GPS receiver. This is the model we use. You will want one that works well under heavy tree cover. We began with one that turned out to not be strong enough. I would recommend reading reviews of models you are considering to see if other geocachers have had success with it. You can often find these used on Ebay or other sources. Our model is just over $100 new, but it is a one time investment for many hours of fun. We gave this to ourselves as a family holiday gift one year.

- You will need to register at the website. Then, you can enter your zip code and find the caches available in your area. We have been shocked to see how many are near us. Many were in our favorite parks, right under our noses! They can be hidden in containers as small as a film canister, so you never know where they are lurking! Also, consider printing out some logs for hunts you can do along the route of a family vacation. We are planning to do this on our next long drive. It will provide some much needed time to get out and stretch our legs a bit and will break up a long trip.

- Print your coordinates and hints and head out for some fun! The website will give you a map to get you close to your destination. After that, you need to head out on foot with the coordinates logged into your GPS receiver. Once you get close, you need to search around for the hidden treasure!

- Many caches have logbooks for you to record your name and the date of your discovery. We try to let the kids find as many as possible. Sometimes they are in an area that isn't safe for them, so be sure to look at the difficulty level from the site.

- We also have a small bag we carry for our treasure hunting adventures. In it we have hand wipes, a small flashlight, a pen, sunscreen, bug spray, little treasures (i.e. bouncy balls, plastic beads, etc. that they kids can exchange in the larger caches), a notebook, a small plastic bag and a camera. I have kept a scrapbook of our finds and it is such a fun reminder of the adventures we've had!

- Realize that you may not find every cache on your first try. We have had to go back to the website and ask for hints from other users. There is no shame in that because some of these are super tricky!

- Be cautious while you are hunting. The goal is to not alert others in the area to your mission. The reason is that someone who doesn't realize that others will be coming looking at these coordinates might move the cache. As a side benefit, the kids feel like super secret spies! We have had some great laughs trying to remain quiet in a very public space!

- Another benefit of this hobby is that geocachers have been asked to pick up litter that they might find when performing a hunt. We use the small plastic bag we carry to gather up anything we might find and perform a favor for the environment.

If you have any questions, please feel free to post them in the comments. I love to share this hobby with others and hope that you consider it for some good, quality family time. You are outside, soaking up some sunshine, getting some exercise and having adventures with the ones you love. I can't think of anything better . . .


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

My Favorite Homeschool Resource

As I've mentioned on a previous post, I do send my children to public school, but I also consider myself to be a homeschooler. I like to supplement their school experience and fill in gaps I see in their curriculum and explore other areas of interest. As a former public school teacher, I recognize the importance of instilling a love of learning at an early age and the key is making learning fun. For Talk About It Tuesday, I thought I would share my favorite home learning resource.

This book, Home Learning Year by Year, is my most used guide. It is written by Rebecca Rupp and is filled with so many wonderful ideas, whether you are a full-time homeschooler, a supplementing homeschooler or are just looking for fun ideas for projects at home. Her subtitle is "how to design a homeschool curriculum from preschool through high school" and you can see that I have many bookmarks sticking out from my copy!

Each grade is separate and then is divided into subject matter: language arts, mathematics, history and geography, science, foreign language, art, music, health and physical education. Within each subject heading, there are the "norms" for that grade. Following that, there is more detail regarding what resources are available both in print and online. There is so much detail in this book, without becoming overwhelming, and I have honestly turned to it over and over. I have also found that most of the resources have been available thru my local library.

I cannot imagine the time that this resource has saved me in deciding our at home curriculum. I hope that you will take a look and that you find it useful as well!


Monday, June 1, 2009

Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie

For today's Menu Plan Monday, I thought I would share an incredibly healthy, organic, fat free dessert recipe. I couldn't find any of those, so I chose this!! (dessert is the time to indulge, right?)

This is one of our favorites and the kids love to get involved in making this pie. There are four of us, so it is a two night dessert, which is an added bonus! We eat it warm from the oven the first night and then reheat in the microwave the second day (although my husband ate it chilled and said it tasted great that way, too). To go into a total sugar shock, we've added ice cream on the side, too. Be still my heart . . .

Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie

1 stick butter, melted and cooled
1 c sugar
1/2 c flour
2 eggs, well beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
9" unbaked pie shell

Place your pie shell in the pie pan (we use store bought). Mix the remaining ingredients well and pour into the pie shell. Bake 40-45 minutes at 350 degrees. Inhale that wonderful aroma and enjoy!