Thursday, September 21, 2017


Halloween is coming up just around the corner.  While, Halloween isn't really a holiday that we particularly celebrate, my husband and I do participate with our friends in a costume party.   Costumes can bust your budget for the month of October, especially as your family grows and those costumes only last a year.  Maybe you can get them to last through a few kids, but not always.

A friend told me of an idea that she had about a costume swap.  She does something different, but thought that maybe doing a costume swap would work as well too.  I have a great group of friends that we try to do things like this with.  Not, only costumes, but baby clothes in general, maternity clothes and so forth.

Get all your costumes that your kiddos have out grown together, have a little gathering with your friends and do a costume swap.  You can even make it a fun little party if you want, I mean what a great excuse to get together with your friends!

Another idea for cheaper costumes, make your own.  Get creative!  Here are some ideas that we've done in the past as a couple and haven't had to buy anything:

1. Mr. & Mrs. Smith: I don't have a photo for this, but we just dressed up a little, black dress pants and a buttoned down white shirt.  Then we took our pellet guns and eye cover and called it good.

2. Switched roles (My husband is a library director and at the time I taught art). These are clothes that we had in our closet, plus I borrowed one of the paint smocks from the school to have him wear, other than that we had the books, paint, and paintbrushes available to us. Nothing to buy!

Bear with the photos, I was a newbie :)

3. Star Wars (pictured at the top) The only thing we ended up buying for this, was my husband's shoes.  Other than that the clothes were items we had in our closet, a sheet for his cloak and we already had all of the light savers even the little one.

4. Color family (This one has been on my list for awhile, but we haven't been able to participate the last couple of years).  My husband would wear all blue, I would wear all red and our girls would wear all purple.  These colors worked for us, it's what we had.  you could easily change the color combo to match colors you already have and that make each other. (yellow + blue = green, red+ yellow = orange) 

Last year the girls wore clothes from their closets as well.  We ended up doing two different events, so they had a couple different costumes, but really we paid nothing extra for them, they were what we had.

     Miss cheerleader & Little Pop-Star                                             Little Dutch girl & Princess Sophia 
  (she even had a toy guitar at one point)                                     (who picked out her costume herself)   

So, find some friends and have a fun costume swap, or raid that closet and get creative with what you have, really it comes down to being creative!  

Any other ways you save at Halloween?  Or any other costume ideas?  We've expanded the family so are always looking for more ideas!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Toilet paper roll art

There are so many fun things you can make with toilet paper rolls. And the best part they're free, I mean you already buy the toilet paper, so the roll is just an added bonus of something to use for something fun!


toilet paper rolls, yarn, string or ribbon, scissors, stapler & hole punch. 

Here are some ways I've seen and tried and love:

1. Princess or Prince crowns:

Here are a few sites on how to's

Moon Frye
This one adds glitter, which is totally optional, but if you're making it for a party or something that would be fun.  I didn't try to add glitter, but it doesn't seem like it'd be much extra work.

Alina blog
This one uses washi tape to decorate with.

You can also go basic and just cut the crown shape and only add a ribbon or string.  The basic brown can be interesting too. 

2. Binoculars: 

One day my daughter wanted binoculars and so while I was cleaning the bathroom I thought I could use toilet paper rolls!

First: Staple the toilet paper rolls together. 

Second: Hole punch the sides and add your ribbon, yarn or string. 

3. Goggles: 

After we made binoculars, then the ball just started rolling, she wanted goggles and I thought I'm sure if I just make them smaller they could work, right?

First: Flatten the toilet paper roll tube. 

Second: Cut a small strip off.  You will need 2 total, so cut a second one as well. 

Third: Staple the two pieces together. 

Fourth: Hole punch the sides and add ribbon, yarn or string. 

4. Telescope:  

What's binoculars and goggles without a telescope.  I mean if you're a pirate, you have to have a telescope as well right?

First: Hole punch both sides of toilet paper roll. 

Second: Add ribbon, yarn or string.  You could also use a paper towel roll for this to make a longer telescope.  You also don't have to add string, my daughter just wanted string on the telescope like all the others. 

5. Toilet Paper Art: 

Finally, check out this craft we did at our family Christmas Creations: Toilet paper Art

Hope you enjoyed the different ways we make believe with toilet paper rolls!  What are some crafts you make, I'd love to hear. 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Preschool: Letter Art

Last year I started working with my 4 year old on letter crafts.  Before that we just were learning letters, with a few crafts here and there.  However, last year I did more crafts and came up with a list of my favorite letter crafts all the way from A-Z.  I like to try and do crafts that take limited supplies, or that I can substitute what I have so I hope these help you with your letter crafts too.

Letter A is for Alligator: (No Time for Flashcards)

Letter B is for Bee: (No Time for Flashcards)
Here is how my 3 year old's B turned out:

Letter C is for Caterpillar: (Pinterest)
                   (Tie in with the very hungry caterpillar book)
Here is my 3 year old's C:

Letter D is for Duck: (From ABCs to ACTs)
Letter E is for Elmo: (School Time Snippets)

Letter F is for Frog: (Crystal and Co)
Here is my 3 year old's F:

Letter G is for Grapes: (From ABC to ACTs) / Giraffe (From ABCs to ACTs)
Letter H is for Horse: (Miss Maren's Monkeys)

Letter I is for Ice Cream: (Life as Mama)
Here is my 3 year old's I:

Letter J is for Jelly Fish (A Happily Ever Crafter)
Here's her J:

Letter K is for Kite (A Happily Ever Crafter)
Letter L is for Ladybug (The Iowa Farmer's Wife)
Letter M is for Mouse (The Measured Mom) 
Letter N is for Nest: (The Measured Mom)
Letter O is for Octopus: (No Time for Flashcards)

Letter P is for Penguin: (Rockabye Butterfly)
Here's her P:

Letter Q is for Quail (Rockabye Butterfly)
Letter R is for Rainbow (The measured Mom)

Letter S is for Snake: (I can teach my child)
Here's her S:

Letter T is for Tiger (Preschool Crafts) 

Letter U is for Umbrella (No Time for Flash Cards) 
Here's her U:

Letter V is for Vase (The Princess and the Tot) 
Letter W is for Watermelon The Princess and the Tot) 
Letter X is for Xylophone (Pinterest)
Letter Y is for Yarn: (East Coast Mommy Blog)
Letter Z is for Zebra: (Crystal & Co)

Some of them I follow exactly, while others I have to substitute things for items I don't have or want to buy.  Here are some of my substitute options.

Eyes --- construction paper circles
Stickers --- construction paper cut outs 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Smoothie 2.0

How to Stock-Up & Save on Spinach

Awhile back I posted about how to save on making smoothies, you can check out that post here. Well I also wanted to make them more healthy.  I started adding spinach to each one; however, even when having a smoothie every morning, I couldn't get through a bag before it'd go bad, I don't like spinach.  Then one day I was talking to my mother-in-love and she told me my sister-in-love had a great idea.  She blends up as much spinach as she can with some water and adds it to an ice cube tray.  Then she freezes it.  That way she has the spinach already to pop in the blender with the frozen fruit and other ingredients.

I took it a step further and started stocking up on spinach when it's on sale, and taking some time to blend it all up, pour in ice cube trays, freeze and pop in freezer bags so they're ready to go for my smoothies.  Plus I got the spinach on sale and was able to take advantage of that for my smoothies.

Here's my step by step: 

1.  Add spinach leaves to the blender or food processor, I don't start with the whole bag, maybe about 1/3. Then add a little of the water.  I use about 1 1/2 cups/ bag of spinach but only add a little at a time.  You don't want to use too much, but you need enough to help the spinach blend up. 

2. Blend, I use the chop button in the beginning. 

3. It can take many times to get it started to blend, but once it does then it goes pretty fast.  I keep adding a little water and stirring it as I go. 

4.  Once it is pretty chopped up I start using the puree button as well and that helps it to blend more.

5.  Then I start adding more of the spinach.  At this point I've pretty much added all my 1 1/2 cups of water, so it's just adding the rest of the spinach a little at a time.  Like I said, once it's been blended the rest blends in pretty easily. 

6.  This is what 1 bag of spinach looks like after it's been blended. 

7.  Finally pour into ice cubes trays and then once frozen, pop into freezer bags and you're ready to go.  You can have spinach for smoothies and not have to break the bank.  

This can also be done with kale or any other leafy veggie that you have in your fridge that's going to go bad before you use it.  Any extra leafy veggie to add to your smoothie is helpful and you save because you don't throw it out.

How are ways you save on making smoothies?

I had some cute little helpers, who also wanted to try the blended spinach.  I know, I could only think "Gross, really?" in my head.  But I let them.  It actually took 2 taste tests to be sure they didn't like it. :) But they are pretty cute! 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Dishes with your little

Washing dishes with your little helper can feel like you are wasting water when you know every dime you spend is important.  I loved letting my little help me with dishes, but I noticed how after I started staying home, I was more concerned about any water we were wasting.  But I loved her helping me and I didn't want to make her feel I didn't want her to help.

So anyways, I came up with a solution.  Honestly, one day I think God gave it to me, I had been praying about it and later it just came to me.

I don't really like her to help me with the glass because of safety, but in general, she really just wants to play in the water.  So I let her have some of our plastic items or stainless steel dishes to rinse/play with while I work on washing the glass dishes.  This way we are "washing" dishes together, but more importantly working/playing together.  Then when the glass dishes are all done, I let her play with the recyclables in the water., while I dry.

This way, I'm not refilling the sink just for her to play in the water, but rather we are working together and I'm not worried about wasting water, because it's water I'd be using anyways.

 Are there things your little likes to help you with?  How are ways you've changed it to make it work better?

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Monthly meal plan

Need help planning a monthly meal plan?  Here's my how to:

1st: Write down your meals: 

Write down all the meals that you make and are willing to make.  Ones you know your family eats and ones you know you will use without a doubt.

2nd: Find a way to make the monthly planner work for you:

When I was first starting out, I just used computer paper.  I'd divide it up into a month and then write down each day's meal.  Now, I use something a little more fancy, but at the time I used what I had on hand.  I Pinterested many monthly meal plan ideas and nothing really stood out so I came up with my own,  I purchased a monthly dry erase board calendar like this, although mine doesn't have the cute little frame.

Now what I like about using a marker board, is I'm not wasting paper or having to buy paper over and over to keep using.  However; until you can get a marker board, use paper, and do what I did reuse the back side so you can get 2 months on one piece.

These next steps are totally optional, and it was something that took some time, but after it was done it has been great at saving time and planning.

3rd: Make a template: 

I took the spaces on the marker board and made a template on the computer to fit the space, it took a few times to get it right.

4th: Color Codes: 

I split up our meals into color codes.
Pink: red meat meals
Orange: chicken meals
Yellow: breakfast for dinner meals or meatless meals
Green: soups and salads
Blue: homemade pizza (we do this 1/week it needed it's own color :) )
Purple: Fun events (family visiting, visiting family, bible study, date nights, etc).

5th: Create your pages: 

Once I have all my meals listed on paper and then divided up into the sections that they fit in, I take that template on the computer and I type in each one.  Each page being one section or save each section as it's own doc (I had to do this because I had more than one page for some sections).  So for example I have saved my template over and over as Meat meals, chicken meals, breakfast meals, soups and salads, etc.  Then I type in the different meals on each square template.

6th: Gather & Print: 

Gather paper in the colors you chose.  Then print each section on the designated color you chose.

7th: Cut & Laminate: 

Finally cut out and laminate.  You can do this a couple ways, one is to just use packaging tape, especially with the small squares this is fairly easy.  Or if you have access to one you can use a cold laminator.  Either way, it works way better if you laminate your squares.

8th: Add your meals:

Grab some sticky tack to attach your meals to your calendar.  This way you can change them if need be and they're really easy to add to the board as you plan.

9th: Find a spot for your new menu calendar:  

We keep ours on our fridge.  I purchased some Velcro command strips to add it to the fridge.  It makes it simple to pull off if I need to, but it holds super well to the fridge too.

And there you go, you have a menu calendar with switchable meals that you chose and are made just for your family.

If you are interested in my meal planner, feel free to comment below with your email and I will email you the template for free.  Note not all calendars are the same size, my template square runs 2" x 2" with 1/2" x 1/2" little square cut out for the date.

Interested in the calendar pieces all printed and laminated?  Email me your food list and color codes and I will make your own set.  Also email me the width and height of your square if it's different than what I listed above. Each page can fit up to 12 different meals. Cost would be $3.00/page + shipping. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

15 Summer activities to help your kids appreciate nature'

Summer, the time when your kids are out of school and you need to keep them entertained, but don't want them to have a lot of screen time.  Want some ideas on how to keep those kiddos entertained?  I brought on Joe who's lead editor at Nature Rated, to share his tips on summer activities for your kids.  

What are your kids doing this Summer? For many of us Summer time with the kids is a time to enjoy the outdoors, the sunshine and if you're lucky the ocean.
As much as kids love Summer holidays, keeping them busy can be a real chore! If you've not got the luxury of a Summer camp then it's up to you as a parent to find things for the youngsters to keep busy with.
Failing that, your kids might spend all their time in front of a computer, tablet, phone or other screen and research has shown that spending too much time in front of a screen can have a detrimental effect on the health and wellbeing of children.
Studies have shown that taking part in nature-based activities helps people who are suffering from mental ill-health and can contribute to a reduction in levels of anxiety, stress, and depression. In fact, a daily walk in nature has showed decreased activity in a region of the brain associated with a key factor in depression.
One in four people are estimated to experience bouts of mental ill health and it's on the rise. Prescription medication of antidepressants are also at a record high level and the demand for more invasive treatments are also on the rise. Health and social care commissioners are examining and commissioning different options for cost effective services for mental health and one of these options is a daily walk of 90 minutes or more. We need to learn from the past when kids got excited to spend their time climbing trees and building dens rather than spending hours inside.
Joe at Nature Rated understands this all too well and has put together an infographic on 15 Summer activities to help your kids appreciate nature.
This is what it looks like:

15 Summer activities to help your kids appreciate nature

From baking a blackberry pie to constructing a pond or insect hotel, there's plenty for the youngsters to get up to. Head on over to his site for step by step instructions to get your kids out and about enjoying nature.


An outdoor enthusiast, Joe is the lead editor at Nature Rated; a website which rates and reviews the best outdoor gear for people who quickly want to know what to get. He believes in no fluff, to the point reviews, which help you choose the right gear for your next adventure.
Whenever daily life gets him down he heads to the nearest lake or river with his kayak and camera spending time recharging his batteries.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Grocery Savings

Want to save money on groceries, but don't know where to begin?  Here are my secrets to saving money on those groceries, hopefully there are some ideas you can add to help you save.  Remember every little bit helps and don't try to add all the changes at once, pick one or two to try one month and then add more the next.  Its easier to add a little at a time rather than get overwhelmed at adding it all and then giving up, I know I've been there.

So as I said start small.  I'm going to go through my process, but I'll go in the order of how I added it over time.

1st: Make a monthly meal plan: 

 Seriously, this is so helpful.  It really helps you stick to what you have on hand, along with knowing what you're going to eat saves money.  Think about it, how many of you will have a night that you think I don't know what to cook, I'm not really in the mood to think or plan something, hey why don't we just go out?  Yep, I've been there many times.  Having something scheduled is so nice because you can see what you have planned, right away in the morning or even the night before and have time to set the meat to defrost in the fridge.  Plus you can pre-plan around events.  For example our Tuesday and Thursday nights are busy so I plan easy, quick meals those nights, because I know that if it's not easy and quick I'm going to want to do the ultimate easy and quick, eat out.  Need help with how to do a monthly meal plan, stay tuned I'll be posting my how to for monthly planning.

2nd: Shop the ads: 

We get ads for the local grocery stores once a week.  When I started staying at home, I had more time to go shopping for groceries and so I started shopping the ads to try to save money.  I'll be honest, at first it seemed like we were spending more and we were.  I had to find the balance between overstocking and stocking up.  When something's on sale it's easy to stock up, but you don't need to over stock.  You only need to stock up for what you need until the next sale. This brings me to the next step.

3rd: Store Rotation: 

This one is a little more complicated and I'm still working on mine.  Most stores have a rotation of their sales.  We've all seen it, there's Pinterest posts all over about the color of tags at Target, or the color of bread tags at bread stores.  The same goes for grocery stores too.  Now there are sales that don't really have a rotation, sometimes they need to just move some merchandise and so there's an extra sale; however, there are rotations.  This step takes a little more time.  Like I said we get the ads once a week.  So I started logging each store's sale prices on items that we buy and mark which week it is.  As I said I just started, so I only have a month's worth, but next month I plan to continue and highlight ones that repeat in the same week.  Slowly I will start to see what items repeat and how often, then I can plan even more when I buy those items.

4th: Bring it all together: 

 Finally, put all these steps together.  I started doing my grocery list a little different.  1st, I make my monthly food menu.  Then I look at the 1st week's ads and find what's on sale and write them all down on my lists for each store.  Then, I look for those extras I will need for this week.  There's always something that isn't on sale, but we are low on or need for a recipe, usually there's not a lot, but there's at least a few items.  Then I take it a step further, hopefully you can stay with me.  On a separate piece of paper, I write Week 2: and then list items I will need for that week that we don't have on hand, then I write Week 3: and list the items I will need for that week, and finally I do the same for week 4.  So finally, looking at my ads and what I will need for the month, I see if there are sale prices on those items too.  I continue to do that each week when the ads come out.  Anything I wasn't able to get in the 1st week's ads for the rest of the month I keep checking for each week's ads.  This way I know what I really need, and don't overstock or buy when I don't need it.  

Here's what my lists look like.  The one on the left is what I'm planning on purchasing.  The one on right is the list of items I don't have and will need in the different weeks.  Sometimes I can get almost everything on sale and other months there's only a few things.  For those items I use a lot, such as the tomato sauce and soup, if it is on sale when I need it I always buy a couple extra for the next time.  

Hopefully there's something in here that can help you when it comes to grocery shopping/meal planning.  I'm always looking for ways to save money on groceries, what are some ways you save?  Anyone do couponing?  I haven't been able to really get into it that much, but I know it can really help too if done right.  

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Hand me downs, not just for kids?

Let's talk hand me downs.  I remember getting hand me downs as a kid and I loved going through all the clothes.  Now with my girls I get to re-use clothes from my oldest again for my youngest which has been great at saving some money.  But why do the kids get to be the only ones that get hand me downs?

Recently I had a relative and a friend from church ask me if I wanted some clothes that they were getting rid of.  I'm not sure why they thought of me, but I honestly was thrilled.  Now if you're thinking "really, I'm not sure hand me downs as an adult would be all that fun?"  First, let me walk you through my experience of shopping.  When I go shopping for myself, I never feel like I can spend the time trying on the clothes, even when my husband helps watch the girls (he really is great), I feel rushed, I can hear them (the girls) getting bored and I'm trying to decide between 2 sizes that really have not a big difference, but with having to rush I can't tell what the difference is.  I end up deciding not to waste the money for fear of not liking it when I get home, or because I just don't want to waste time trying on clothes anymore.  I don't know about anyone else out there, but shopping with kids is just not an option for me.  I've never been a great shopper and adding kids to the mix just doesn't help.

Now, let me walk you through my experience of hand me downs.  Both times I received the clothes, I left the bag(s) in my bedroom.  Here are a few reasons I love hand me downs as an adult & mom.  1st. I could try the clothes on at my leisure, there was no time limit.  Every day or so when I was trying to decide on something to wear I would grab 1 or 2 pieces of clothing out of the bag(s) to try them on.  I wasn't tied down to a certain time or day that I chose to go shopping.  2nd. I wasn't committed to something.  If I liked it I wore it for the day to try it out, no big deal if I decided I didn't like it because I wasn't having to pay for it.  If I was on the fence I'd put it in another spot and try it on another day.  If I didn't like it at all, I put it in the give away pile.  Again, I wasn't committed to it.  3rd. No pressure.  No pressure to spend the money or not. No pressure to pick the right size, do I really want this one or do I want it to fit a little bigger?  I don't have that choice, there's just the one size!  Really I think for me this was the best part!

Hand me downs, they are like shopping in your own closet without spending any money!

So if next time you have some clothes to give away see if you can bless a friend first and hand them down or maybe pass them around, (sounds a little better as adults).  Thanks again ladies you are a blessing to this Mamma, probably one of favorite shopping experiences in a while.  And I'm not saying that to make people feel sorry for me, I could go shopping without the girls, but it's not really me.  I feel like I'm still figuring out this new after babies body and it's just nice to not have to fit into the in clothes at a store trying to figure out what size I am now.  And I really enjoy this way of "shopping" from my bedroom.  

Stay tuned for ways to make your wardrobe go farther.