Monday, April 30, 2012

Screen Free Week

Screen Free Week begins today. While I can't completely stop using the computer since I take online classes, I can cut down on my screen time. I don't know how many times I get sucked into looking at facebook or pinterest without really accomplishing anything. My goal for this week is to be more productive by completing projects rather than just finding more new ones to try in the future. I will keep the computer off while Zel is awake and try to only use it for homework and projects that I am currently working on while he is asleep. I will be doing my very best to keep the television off for Zel (I did it accidentally yesterday!) and will only watch shows that I plan on ahead of time (I love New Girl and have an addiction to America's Next Top Model). That means no channel surfing and watching something that I don't really care about. Use this week to motivate yourself and get the extra time to start (or finish) those projects you've been thinking about. Use it to find more time to exercise, clean, make an elaborate meal, or even get some extra sleep. Use it to spend more time with your children, your spouse, and yourself. Good luck!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Leftovers Smoothie

I strive to use all the food that I buy without having to throw old food away. Keeping this goal with a toddler around can be difficult. It doesn't help that my husband is not a fan of leftovers either (I don't get it). This morning my son, had a banana with graham crackers for breakfast. Inevitably, he did not eat the entire banana. Normally, I freeze leftover bananas to use for smoothies, but I thought I would use this one while it was fresh. In my freezer, I had assorted mostly, empty bags of frozen fruit. Then some leftover coconut milk in the refrigerator that needed to be used up caught my eye and I got this idea for a tropical smoothie. Here is how I made it:

  • 1/2 cup frozen pineapple chunks
  • 1/2 cup frozen mango chunks
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1/4 skim milk
  • 1/2 cup light coconut milk
  • cinnamon

Just mix all the ingredients in a blender. If you want more of a coconut taste, just use more coconut milk and less skim milk. Also, this smoothie is only around 250 calories!

As soon as I sat down to enjoy it, my son stole my cup and wouldn't let me drink it...I ended up grabbing another straw so that we could share (although he kept trying to drink out of both straws). It was delicious and toddler approved!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Green Spring Cleaning

One of my goals for this blog is to get myself to start living a greener, less wasteful, and toxin-free life and hopefully helping others to do the same along the way. One of the best ways to do this is to clean your house without chemicals. When I was pregnant, I started only buying chemical free cleaning products, but recently I've discovered how useful baking soda can be. It is cheap (a 4 lb box for around $3) and doesn't leave a weird chemical smell that makes you light-headed. By using chemical-free cleaners, you are keeping our water supply cleaner.

Here are 2 ways I use baking soda to clean my bathroom:

  • use 1/4 cup baking soda + 1 cup vinegar as a toilet bowl cleaner; let it foam for a few minutes then scrub with a toilet brush and flush
  • mix baking soda with a little water until it is a pasty consistency and use a scrub brush or sponge to clean your tub or shower then rinse with water

I plan on incorporating more natural cleaning solutions into my life and updating this blog with my thoughts about various methods that I've tried. I'd also like to add other green lifestyle tips that work for busy moms and dads on a budget. Happy Friday!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Coffee Filter Butterflies

Butterflies are a beautiful part of Spring. I mean, who doesn't love butterflies? My son calls them bees, but pretty much all bugs are bees to him. Butterflies and these rainy, spring days reminded me of this fun art project I used to do with the children at the preschool that I worked at. Our class was called the "Butterflies."

All you need for this project are:

  • Coffee filters
  • Markers
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Spray Bottle with Water
  • Clothespins
  • Scissors (depending on the type of filters you have)

It is pretty simple. Let your child color all over the coffee filter with markers. The more color, the better.
If you have the chlorine free type of filter (like me) you should cut it on the diagonal edges so that it opens up and looks like two butterfly wings. If you have a regular coffee filter, then you don't have to cut anything!

Spray the coffee filter all over with water. Use clothespins to hang your filter somewhere that it can dry. After it has dried, choose a pipe cleaner. Fold it in half around the middle of the coffee filter. Then twist it at the top so that it stays on the filter but leave some length on the end for the antennae.

We hung our butterflies on the wall above Zel's play kitchen, but another great way to display them is to hang them from string in the window.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Reality Check

I have been feeling like I am unstoppable. I started a diet and exercise plan that I have followed through with 100%. I am almost half way to my weight loss goal and it's only been about 2 weeks! I have been back in school studying accounting for almost a year now and have made all A's (mostly 4.0) in all of my classes. I get to spend my days with my smart, handsome, funny little boy without the added stress of watching another child. I felt amazing. I even started this blog that I have been wanting to do for months.

Last night I checked my online course to find out my score for the first test. It said 21/35 or 61.76%. I got out a calculator and checked 21/35 just to make sure I was reading it correctly. This was the worst grade I have ever received in a college course. All of the pride and positivity I had been feeling all came crashing down. Immediately I thought, "What if I'm not smart enough to be an accountant?" Not only did I feel like a stupid failure, but I felt like I was letting my family down and wasting our hard earned money trying to go to school for something that I am not smart enough to do.

Last night all I wanted to do was open the pint of Ben & Jerry's Half Baked ice cream that I bought for Justin and eat it all. Then I realized something. I'm not perfect and that's okay. I wasn't going to let this grade derail all my efforts. Instead of burying my sorrows in ice cream, I ate some cantaloupe and a little light ricotta cheese with cinnamon and stevia. I sat down and worked on homework. The only way that I would truly be a failure is if I give up.

Today I still feel upset about getting such a low grade, but I am going to use that feeling as a motivator to study harder and do better because I know I can.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Happy Earth Day!

In honor of Earth Day I wanted to make something fun out of recycled items that I had around the house. I was inspired to do this since I just ran out of paper towels. There are so many things you can make with a cardboard tube, but I am not going to list a million things here for you (Google can help with that). I chose one project that I thought my toddler would enjoy and also not immediately dismantle. That is a big factor in choosing crafts for me, I have to think about all the ways a one year old boy would attempt to break it. Sometimes he destroys things in ways that I could never even imagine. Boys are just born with that inner, burning desire to destroy. I remember the first time Zel played with matchbox cars. His Daddy immediately began crashing cars together. It escalated to the two of them building towers of cars and crashing other cars into them. I could see the joy in both of their faces (Men are never too old to enjoy crashing toy cars).

I have been taking a lot of pictures lately for the blog, so my son has been pretty interested in the camera. He often says the word "cheese" when I bring it out, but quickly gets angry when he isn't allowed to touch it. Since I don't really want to let him play with my $800 camera or hear lots of screaming, I thought I would make him his very own.

The materials you need are:

  •  a small cardboard box
  • a cardboard tube
  • super glue
  • double sided tape
  • construction paper
  • 3 googly eyes
  • a photo
  • a box cutter
First, cut out rectangles of construction paper to cover all sides of the cardboard box. I used black paper for mine to make it look more like my camera, but you can choose any color you desire. Then use the double sided tape to stick each rectangle to the box so it is completely covered. I was out of packing tape, but you can put packing tape along the edges so that your child doesn't just rip the paper off.

Next, cut out 3 small squares of construction paper for the flash and two buttons. Also, cut a photo to fit the back of your box to be the screen (we are of course making a digital camera). I chose white for the flash and orange for the buttons. Tape or glue one square on the front upper corner for then flash. Then tape the photo on the back lower left corner. Grab two of the googly eyes and arrange them with the small construction paper pieces, so that the eyes are like buttons and the paper is the label. I wrote "Menu" on one and drew a triangle on the other. Glue or tape the last googly eye to the top right side of the box for the button that takes the picture.

Lastly, cut about an inch long piece of the cardboard tube and super glue it to the front center of the box. Then use your box cutter to cut a small rectangle in the top center of the front and back of the box for the view finder.

 Now your child has their very own camera. Say cheese!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Egg Shakers

Zel had a ton of fun doing his first egg hunt this year. However, the leftover plastics eggs started to drive me a little crazy. They ended up all over the house no matter how many times I put them back together and in his basket. I was going to throw them away until we went to our playgroup on Thursday morning. The host of the playgroup had homemade egg shakers that she also used as a matching game. She made two of each material so that the children could match the sounds of the eggs. She also wrote the name of the material on the outside so that the older children could do some letter/word recognition and matching.

The great thing about this craft is that it is really easy and practically free. Since Easter was just a few weeks ago we still have our plastic eggs and we had plenty of food in the pantry for filling them up. Zel and I chose rice, lentils, and shell pasta, but you can use whatever you have at home (oats, other pastas, beans, etc.). The only other items you need are tape and a sharpie, which we already had too.

After you gather your materials, open all of the eggs and put all of the materials into small bowls (easier for kids to scoop or pour). Once you fill an egg to your desired level, close it and put tape around the opening. I used scotch tape because that is what I had, but I would have used packing tape if I had some since there would less likely be a spill later on. Then use your sharpie to label your eggs.

This project is great for little and big kids since it is pretty easy to clean up, just watch out for little ones putting little pieces in their mouth. Smaller children will love scooping and pouring the material in and out of the eggs while the bigger kids can choose different materials and amounts and compare the different sounds. As soon as we finished Zel tried shaking every single egg. We later used them along with some of his favorite Sesame Street tunes (Do De Rubber Duck and Monster in the Mirror).

Zel really enjoyed the whole process, even the clean-up!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Keeping it fun

I have been toying with the idea of starting a blog for the past few months. A few days ago I stumbled upon a blog that I started long before I became a parent. It was mostly for random updates and pictures, but I now use Facebook to fill that need. I want to use this blog to share how I keep my life with a little one fun and interesting. Being a stay at home mom can get pretty boring if you don't get creative. I just joined Pinterest (follow me!) and have been inspired with the various crafts, recipes, and other ideas that I discovered. I'm hoping to do a lot more DIY projects on my own and with my son and would like to share our adventures with you all.

Our first project is going to be an elevator button board that I found on Pinterest. Zel and I will be making a trip to Michael's this week for some googly eyes and number stickers. So keep your eyes peeled for a new blog post to see how we did!