Posts Tagged ‘projects’

  • Opportunity Schooling

    Date: 2011.08.17 | Category: Activities | Response: 0

    Homeschooling is becoming a big deal all over the country. There is a huge spectrum of homeschooling methods from “No Schooling” to strict classroom regimes in homeschool Co-Ops. Different strokes for different folks, parents and children, including public school. The important thing is providing the best quality education possible. And educators agree: parents need to participate in teaching their children, whether public schooled or not.

    Joshua and Anna are a bit young for sit down schooling, but hugely curious and I enjoy feeding that. So we do a sort of home preschool that would probably best be labeled ‘opportunity schooling’. Some of it is deliberate, home-crafted learning opportunities: we cook something together at least once a week, reading at least every night, one non-fiction film for the kids every trip to the library. Others are available regularly in the community: story times at the local library and book stores, build-it workshops at hardware stores. And then, the plethora of opportunities that simply pop up: safety workbooks and drill sheets at an information table somewhere, recycling literature, contests, and even just the kids asking “How does that work?” It’s amazing what pops up when you are watching for it. These opportunities seem to be most plentiful in the Summer, but they exist everywhere all year round.

    I’ve decided to share some of these opportunities that are not location specific. They may be on-line, specific to national stores, or home-grown.

    What prompted it this time:

    Barnes and Nobel is sponsoring a children’s writing contest for ages 6-14 (mine are a bit too young for this, obviously), divided into three age groups. There are prizes, but it ends the 21st of August (2011). Check it out here.

    If you come across a good education opportunity, ping me in a comment and I will be sure to post it. The more of us that discover these and share, the more we can enjoy teaching and playing with our children instead of searching for ideas.

  • Organizing your kitchen for (truly) cheap

    Date: 2011.08.04 | Category: Create | Response: 0

    Yet another magazine article today offered several ideas for making your kitchen a simpler, lovelier, more wonderful place to work. If you happen to have a couple hundred dollars available to purchase the brand-name, pre-set solutions they suggested. While a few were legitimately low-dollar, high relief, the article generally missed the boat. If we could spend fifty bucks a pop on off-the-shelf solutions, we would look for the answers in store, not in a magazine.

    Here are a few legitimately low-dollar ideas from my side of the fence:

    Declutter. Every kitchen is loaded with things that don’t get used. Try corralling this junk and sorting it out. If you feel stressed just looking at it, eliminate it. Chuck un-mated lids and containers. Keeping containers low variety will greatly simplify your life. For things you feel guilty ditching and think you ‘should’ be using (everyone has these), take one or two at a time and make a focused effort to use them for a week. You might figure out why you never use it (Too hard to clean? It doesn’t do a proper job? You already have something else you prefer for the job?). This will let you eliminate it with less guilt. For items you still feel guilty about, organize a swap, donate it, or (an online, no cost, give-to-someone-who-will-use-it solution). Cost? Zero dollars, zero cents. This is the number one thing you can do to organize your kitchen.

    For those who have already done this, I address the areas the article took a shot at (and mostly missed). Instead of looking in the household furnishings area of the store, we’ll find the solutions from other more general (and generally less expensive) areas of the store.

    Papers: Kitchen papers have many sources (mostly un-addressed in the article). Here are the top three and solutions.

    1) Random family papers–Have a family inbox where each family member has a slot. Sort papers by owner (or probably owner). Now you only have your own to worry about. Over crowded in-boxes may be subject to de-cluttering by the queen, as she feels the need. Use priority mail boxes, stacked, taped, and covered with fun wrapping paper or cloth ( has instructions). Use supplies on hand. Cost = 0.

    2) Kitchen recipes-One sided, double sized, plastic, cardboard-cutout; the variety is mind boggling.  They fall out of binders and get crunched and mangled in recipe boxes. While a $120, scan-it-to-me, on the counter cook-book is a nice idea (the magazine solution), it’s impractical for most budgets and homes with tiny button-pushing people. First, post your regular repeats on the inside of your cabinet doors. For the rest, get a slim hanging file holder for on the counter and put some files in it. Label and sort how-ever works for you. Fast to file and easy to look through when you want to. Find it in office supplies for < $10.

    3) Phone numbers and grocery notes. Go to the dollar store. Get a note pad for numbers and notes. Hang it by the phone. Each thought and call gets its own page. Get a pad for grocery items and stick it to the fridge or inside a cabinet. $1 each.

    Now for the Kitchen objects that withstood your clutter clearing:

    Cutting boards and cookie sheets – Once again, check office supplies for desk-top hanging file sorters (legal-size this time). Stand them on end on the counter or slip sideways into the cabinets to store these large flat items on end. Hello, space and order. Again, office supplies for < $10.

    Family mugs – Get a large pack of hooks from the hardware department. Install under cabinets (you might need to add a wood strip for reinforcement if the underside of your cabinets is thin). Hang your adorable, must keep, family mugs on these. Cost varies by how many you get and size. Check the hardware section < $1 per hook.

    Pots and pans – Grab double coat hooks (upper/lower claw). Pans on the bottom hook, lids on the top (unless the lids are knob-style and don’t have enough lip to hang from the edge). I would not, however, recommend hanging glass lids this way. Just in case… Find it in hardware for < $10.

    Brooms and mops, etc. – If you have a mysterious love of long handled cleaning implements, storing them for airing and maintained cleaning quality can be a problem. The magazine suggested buying a special hanging strip that you press the handle into to hang it off the floor. But these are often ridiculously expensive (about $20 apiece when I priced it), don’t tend to last long (especially with kids), and can take up precious wall space in a small cleaning closet while offering only a very limited storage capacity. My solution: Mount a sturdy milk crate to the wall at about waist height with the bottom of the crate facing the wall. This can store much more and only takes up about 1 foot of space. If you don’t have a lot of mops, brooms, and Swiffers, you can also use the remaining open areas as shelving space, say for trash bags. This can also work in the garage for gardening tools. Check office supplies for the crate and hardware for mounting brackets. < $10

    Hear that? It’s the sound of you enjoying your kitchen again.

  • Piece of Advice #101: Chaos

    Date: 2011.06.16 | Category: Advice: the good, the bad, and whatever | Response: 0

    I was told:

    “When things start falling apart, it is time to do something different.”

    So I tried it. Specifically, when I or my kids start falling apart, we switch to a different activity. Check diapers, get a snack, take a nap, read a book. Anything, just so long as it is totally different. For us, the results have been amazing.

    Thanks, Mom.

  • Robins and Alligators

    Date: 2011.05.21 | Category: Create | Response: 0

    Some robins built a nest in a sheltered area on our back porch. I lifted the kids up a few times to see the lovely blue eggs (three of them), but didn’t get around to taking a camera out to it until today. Lo and behold: no more eggs. Instead, brand new nestlings.

    I let the kiddies peek at them too (much to mama robin’s consternation) but we were careful not to touch the nest.

    Alice the Alligator has been looking very ragged, so this week we worked together to recreate a craft we did earlier in the year. The new and improved version has been dubbed Alex(ander) the Alligator. When we put the finishing touches on, Joshua just laughed and laughed, he liked it so much. However, Alice was denied her retirement (which she has certainly earned after three months of loving; I didn’t expect her to last the weekend). So we reinforced her with additional tape and gave her a hair transplant out of curling ribbon (not in the photos). I am posting project instructions here, complete with images. Enjoy!

    Alice and Alexander

  • Want to go to Mars?

    Date: 2011.05.03 | Category: Activities, General | Response: 0

    I’ve lately taken to experimenting with homeschooling Joshua (life-schooling style preschool). Dear Husband is iffy about homeschooling, so I’m kind of doing a low-key test run now to see how feasible it might be long term.

    So, I thought this was a pretty cool opportunity to pique some interest in science when I saw it. NASA is offering the opportunity for anyone who is interested to have their name included on a microchip that will fly to Mars with the rover. Click the link above if you want to try it.

    When done, you can print a classy certificate.  This might be a fun way to start a unit on astronomy. We’re currently learning about different jobs people do, so we’ll be talking about jobs related to space science.


    We’re going to Mars! How cool is that?

  • Scrapbooking overload Q&A

    Date: 2011.04.27 | Category: Create | Response: 0

    I ran into this question from a friend on Facebook and replied. Then I started thinking; two of the generally most universal problems among scrapbookers seem to be backlog and adding additional information. So I thought it might be worth passing along. Hopefully this helps.


    Q: Need some ideas on how to store photos. Having a total of 9 children we have accumulated many photos, but I also do genealogy and have photos and family stories from ancestors. How can one best store and preserve these photos in an organized way. If you have something that has worked for you please share.

    A:    I’ve been scrapbooking for years, but more and more I wanted to include stories and information rather than just the pictures. Handwriting that all in is a pain! So there are a couple routes I’ve come up with:

    1) type information in to the computer (or copy paste from existing blog/email/e-journal/other info), format text to your liking, and print onto attractive paper. This can be cut and scrapbooked in like a photo and will handle anything up to a page at a time.
    2) use an electronic scrapbooking program. There are good ones available for free download. You can plow through a lot more with a few attractive digital templates a LOT faster than piecing it together by hand. But digital media has a far more limited lifespan than a book (less than one generation), so strongly consider having a book printed when you are done. This is less expensive than traditional scrapbooking and copies are easy to reorder or even reorganize and personalize printings for family!

    If much of your backlog consists of actual photographs, letters, and other mementos, consider taking them somewhere to be scanned and digitally archived (most preferably someplace that is used to handling information worthy of archival treatment). It should ensure good quality, and scanning it all yourself can be extremely time intensive. Once it’s scanned, it should all fit on an external hard drive, easily organizable via folders.

  • Life Marches On

    Date: 2010.03.20 | Category: Create, Life, as it happens | Response: 0

    … but sometimes I forget to say anything about it. :P

    Here’s a catch-up peek at the last month of my life (minus politics–I must remind myself “no politics”, lest I go off on a political tirade and become no fun to read).

    My brother in Chile-Still alive, yes. He survived the earthquake, plus all of the major-earthquake-sized aftershocks. He is currently serving a mission in Chile for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Concepcion Mission, for those who might wonder). He was located at the earthquake’s center, served in all of the hardest hit areas and is helping with the clean-up. One young woman they had been teaching the gospel to was killed in the earthquake and there are a many good people who lost family, homes, and lively-hoods in this disaster. Please pray for them. A link to a sibling blog report.
    An amusing anecdote (there is light in dark corners, after all): Dear Brother was handing out relief supplies when someone came running and reported that a Tsunami was on its way NOW! So he and dozens of other people got to run for their lives. He said he could hear rumbling coming up behind him louder and louder, closer and closer. He finally got to the top of the hill, turned around, thinking he was a goner, to see… the trucks full of relief supplies rumbling up after them. It must have given the drivers a much-needed laugh. No tsunami ever showed, mercifully.

    DH’s work situation–Dear Husband has received work through a temp hire agency. It is located 1 1/2 hours away and is the dog shift, so he working all night and sleeping as much of the day as he can. It’s a tough setup, but we are very grateful for the work.

    The long-term plan–DH is pursuing the Air Force, likely on a six-year enlistment, hopefully via the route of Officer’s Training school (he looks like an excellent candidate to get in). We realize there will be tough spots, but we believe it will be a positive experience for our whole family. If any of you have perspective on being the wife of active military, I’d love to hear it.

    I made curtains!–Since we realized the sun would be high in the sky during all DH’s new sleeping hours and we have four windows in our room, we ran to WalMart first thing and picked up six yards of nice thick upholstery fabric from the clearance shelf ($2 a yard). Making four sets of curtains took all day, one full spool of thread, and I turned up a bit short on fabric (so they’ll want valances eventually), but I completed the job. They don’t look too bad; the colors even match the bedding set we picked up on Black Friday. And DH can sleep now, with the room a lot darker. All in all, a success IMHO.

    We made a cake–Since I post cool stuff I’m interested in, it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that I’d do some of it myself. The nifty-looking simple cake ideas I linked to earlier were too fun to resist. We did the lion, since Joshua could help by sticking in the chow mein noodles for the mane. He stuck with it pretty well, too. We used the goodies on hand for decorating and since I have allergies to commercial food-coloring, we colored the frosting with turmeric, so it was orange not yellow. It doesn’t look identical to the cake, but we though our lion quite handsome when finished (and tasty). We have our eye on the monkey cake for next.

    Looking to sell…–Quiet book page patterns! There are few available (even on the internet), most of those available are intimidating for someone new to sewing, and finding something spiritually oriented to occupy young children during church meetings is pretty much impossible, unless you want to buy it premade (which is expensive and no fun). So I decided to design some pages that are simple enough for even a beginner, still attractive and engaging, and religiously themed including a scripture on each page. There are actually Family Home Evening lessons to match each page so that the pages will be a reminder of the Gospel principles-centered lessons. I’m in the process of testing driving a few of my designs and searching for an online sales solution that is low-cost, low-maintenance. Give a shout if you are interested or have ideas. Killer tips will earn the tip-giver free patterns.

    So that’s been my month. Sorry this post is so long.