We had some leftover unsweetened powdered drink mix that was several years old -- I'm not kidding! It probably would have been okay to drink, but instead we made scratch n sniff paint with it. I lightly penciled in some fruit pictures for Emily to paint.
It made very vibrant colors, and the pictures smelled soooooo fruity when they were done. Here's how to make your own scratch n sniff paint -- Mix a packet of unsweetened powdered drink mix (like KoolAid) with about 2 tablespoons of water. Stir with a paintbrush and start painting!
If I was smart about this, I would have made up the paints in empty baby food jars to save the leftover paint for other projects. We dumped this batch after it was done, but I will definitely save the next batch.
Oh, and last night we had a fun family table hockey tournament. I have a feeling that coffee table is going to stay that way for awhile!
This is how we spent our morning -- designing our own hockey table, and it was so easy! Emily had a blast, and is still planning to devote the rest of the afternoon to table hockey. A few years ago, one of our neighbors had a moving sale and sold this fabulous coffee table to us for just $5.
We used leftover wrapping paper (print side down) and attached it to the table with masking tape. I helped Emily measure the table and we used a marker to draw the hockey lines. We covered the table with a layer of wax paper to make it extra slippery.
For the seam in the wax paper, I used scotch tape. We made a puck out of a frozen juice concentrate lid and covered the bottom of it with felt. For hockey sticks, we used stampers that came from an Aqua Doodle set. They were the perfect size, and already had a felt bottom.
We used colored popsicle sticks for the goals, and I attached them with scotch tape. Emily was thrilled and declared, "This is so much fun!!".
Guess we will be playing lots of table hockey for the next couple of days!
This morning I helped Emily make this cute Mardi Gras mask from some leftover craft supplies, cardstock, stickers, a drinking straw, and some glue.
First, I drew a pattern using a pair of her sunglasses as a guide for where to put the holes for the eyes. Emily traced the pattern onto the cardstock. If you do not have cardstock paper, you can use empty cereal boxes for this and cover it with white paper.
To decorate we used fluffy yarn, stickers, and glitter. You could also use feathers, and if you do not have stickers on hand, try using balls of colored tissue paper or foil candy wrappers instead.
I could not believe what a hit this was -- so simple and Emily adored it! I was cleaning out a "junk" drawer in the kitchen and came across a plastic spatula that I rarely use. It inspired a day of ribbon dancing.
We played some Brazilian music on the stereo, and this little girl could not keep herself from dancing! We even decorated the spatula with some sparkly stickers.
She is still dancing away as I am typing up this post! We taped strips of tissue paper to the spatula, although ribbon or brightly colored plastic bags cut into strips would also work well.
I love how she has so much fun with the most simplest things.
I think someone will be going to bed early tonight!
Tip -- No spatula to part with? Try a wooden paint stick instead!
My mother-in-law first told me about this tip, and I am so glad she shared it with me! If you are a literature junkie, be sure to check out DailyLit.com to read books for FREE via email or RSS. Lots of children's titles are available too. It is so easy to sign up and get started. First, browse their collection of books to find the title you want. Enter your email address, and click subscribe. Most books are available in several segments that require less than 5 minutes a day of reading. The best part -- no late fees from the library! For more information, click here.
One of the questions I am asked quite frequently is "How do you get the best deals on electronics?" Here are some of my favorite tips to save big bucks on that new digital camera, laptop, or other electronic purchase:
Network: Let everyone know that you are in the market to buy a (insert electronic name here). Often a friend of a friend may have exactly what you are looking for, or know of a place that is having good deals, so it never hurts to get the word out.
Buy Used: Place an ad on Craigslist. It is free, and you may be able to snag a good deal. Also, browse eBay for listings on used items.
Try Refurbished: Check out Amazon Warehouse for great deals on refurbished electronics. Our digital camera came from here (Nikon D40), and we have been so happy about this purchase.
Open Box Models: I went to a large electronics store to buy a sub-woofer for Mark. I asked about the Open Box model and got a substantial discount. It even came with the same warranty, just no box -- they wrapped it in bubble wrap.
Other Deals: If you have not checked out Woot, you should. Woot features one item a day (usually deeply discounted) and they sell it until it is sold out before offering another item the next day. No matter what you buy, the shipping is always just $5!!
Go to Restaurant.com and use checkout code DINE to purchase a $25 gift certificate to your local favorite restaurants for just $2!! Certificates do not expire for a full year, so it is a good time to stock up. Offer good today only.
We have used these before (and given some as gifts), and it is always a good deal!
This afternoon we made musical instruments from recyclables. This was a big hit and Emily is still making lots of new sounds with her drum, guitar, and shaker. We made the drum with an empty oatmeal canister. If you saw this post, you would understand why we have a lot of these!
This version of a guitar was made with an empty plastic chocolate container and some rubber bands. Emily liked the sound this made, and it was so easy!
This one was probably her favorite -- a shaker made from an empty paper towel roll, some wax paper, rubber bands, and filled with some dry beans.
Have an idea for a recycled musical instrument that I forgot to add? I would love to hear about it! Leave a comment and share your ideas with us!
Emily and I spent the better part of today getting ready for Mark's birthday tomorrow. We have a special surprise for him, and she spent a lot of time working on it. In honor of his 31st birthday, here are some of my favorite photos.
Emily loves going sledding with Daddy.
Clara (1 day old) takes a nap on Mark's chest. This photo almost makes me want to have another one.... almost!
Mark's famous self-photos. He does this a lot when we are on vacations, but for some reason we were clowning around in the kitchen that day.
Mark holding Clara when she was just a few hours old.
Another self-photo, this one with Emily.
I always say he is a professional husband. Seriously, he should teach a class entitled "How to be a good husband". Happy Birthday, Honey!
Dealing with taxes might not be much fun, but you may be able to take advantage of some good free resources to make filing your taxes a little less painful. Here are some of my favorites:
Go to itsdeductible.com for a FREE download from TurboTax that helps you get the biggest deduction for your charitable donations. You will get an accurate value for your donations, plus you can easily import your list to TurboTax. For more information, click here.
For more FREE help with taxes, visit H&R Block for a free federal edition and e-File.
You did not think I paid full price for chocolate covered strawberries, did you? We made them ourselves! These were so easy to make, and so much fun! To cut costs, I waited until strawberries were buy one get one free at the grocery store, and used chocolate from an after-Christmas sale. I buy about a year's worth of chocolate after Christmas to stock up on it.
Don't they look delicious? To make your own chocolate covered strawberries, you will need: about 8 pieces of Hershey Bliss Dark Chocolate, 1 tsp. vegetable shortening, a handful white chocolate chips, some wax paper, and mini cupcake liners.
Melt the dark chocolate and shortening in a double-boiler stirring frequently. Once the dark chocolate is completely melted, dip strawberries into chocolate and set aside on wax paper to harden. You can speed up the hardening process by placing them in a refrigerator.
Once the dark chocolate has hardened, melt the white chocolate chips in a microwave using a microwave-safe bowl and stir every minute or so. When the white chocolate is completely melted and slightly cooled, spoon into a plastic sandwich bag. Cut the tip of one corner of the bag and pipe onto the strawberries for added decoration.
Place each strawberry in a mini-cupcake liner, and enjoy!
Happy President's Day! Emily and I had an exciting morning over at The 10! Show's studio in Philadelphia to talk about frugal family activities for winter. They featured several of the crafts and activities I have posted about on this blog. In case you missed the show, here is a clip of our segment.
A few things: 1. Lori Wilson, Bill Henley, and the entire crew from the show are awesome. 2. Emily had so much fun in the indoor sandbox, but she reluctantly agreed to get out if we set it up again at home later tonight. 3. Please give me your best ideas for ways to use up all this (played with) oatmeal!
Also, I forgot to mention this during the segment, but I realized later that I no longer buy cardboard. Thanks to the Invention Kit, all the cardboard we use comes from empty cereal boxes.
One of the things Emily misses the most about Spring and Summer is playing outside in her sandbox. I created an indoor version that was a big hit for both of my girls. You might already have an inflatable pool (most likely it is hanging out in the garage for the winter). We brought ours inside and Mark used the air compressor to blow it up quickly....
Instead of sand, we used oatmeal. Lots and LOTS of oatmeal! I love using the oatmeal instead of sand because I did not have to worry about Clara eating it, and it is much easier to clean up. You can find large containers of oatmeal at the dollar store or places like Big Lots. This pool used about $14 worth of oatmeal to fill it up.
The girls played in here for several hours, and we will use the empty containers for future projects. When they were finished we dumped all the play oatmeal into a large plastic bin (to use for more projects) and deflated the pool.
It was great to see them enjoying this so much! Just a few shovels, funnels, and cups kept them very entertained.
Happy Valentine's Day! How frugal are we? We celebrate Valentine's Day the day after. There are some real advantages to this, including:
Restaurants are less crowded.
Valentine chocolates/flowers, etc can be found for 50-75% off.
Better babysitter availability.
This morning we prepared a special breakfast of Apple Cinnamon French Toast with bacon, and enjoyed some quality family time. Later, we will celebrate with some star-gazing and a potluck gathering with some good friends.
What are your frugal plans for Valentine's Day? I would love to hear about it! Leave a comment and share your ideas with us!
A great way to save money without really feeling the pinch is to find ways to lower your phone bill. There are many options available, so how can you find the one that is right for you? Here are some things to consider when trying to save money on your phone bill.
Limit your long distance -- You can try keeping your current pricing plan and simply make an effort to limit your talking time by placing a kitchen timer near your phone. Set the timer when you make a long distance call, and keep track of your minutes in a log book by the phone.
Look into other pricing options -- Your long distance provider may be able to help find a better pricing plan to match your needs. Many offer unlimited long distance. Also, check out offers like 10-10-321, which may give you a better rate without having to switch companies.
Vonage -- If you have high speed internet access, Vonage may be a good solution for you. You can keep your current phone number, try it for one month free, and they have plans starting at just $14.99 per month. They also have many features available like call-waiting, caller ID, voicemail, and more. Click here for more information.
magicJack -- If you have a broadband internet connection, you may want to consider an option like magicJack. Plug the magicJack device into any USB port on your computer, and plug your regular telephone into the magicJack port and you can begin making local and long distance calls for just $19.99 per year. It also has a 30 day free trial, and includes options like call-waiting, voicemail, and more. No more monthly phone bills. Click here for more information.
Skype -- With high speed internet access, you also have the option of using Skype. Skype is free software available for download and offers free Skype-to-Skype calling to people anywhere in the world, as well as free video calls. If you need to call a phone or mobile line, Skype offers great low rates for that as well. The newest version of Skype features improved sound quality and less delay. Click here for more information.
Emily came up with the idea for these cinnamon toast hearts, and I ran with it because they do not contain huge amounts of sugar -- and she will eat it! These were made with toasted whole grain bread (cut with a heart-shaped cookie cutter), topped with some butter, and cinnamon. I outlined the heart shape with some red writing icing (picked up from an after-Christmas sale.
These were a big hit!
Do you have a good tip for a healthy Valentine's Day treat? I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment and share your ideas with us!
This was such a simple, easy project and it made Emily and I feel a little closer to Spring. This afternoon we worked on Spring baskets made from strawberry cartons, ribbon, and pipe cleaners -- all found in our Invention Kit. We filled them with some tissue paper and a bunch of Hershey's kisses -- which I purchased at a post-Christmas sale for 75% off.
To make your own Spring basket, weave the ribbon through the bottom of the strawberry carton. Braid three strands of pipe cleaners to form a handle. Using a hole puncher, punch holes on either side of the carton and thread the pipe cleaners through to attach the handle. Fill with tissue paper and some treats!
This afternoon I took the girls to a retirement community to give the residents there some much needed company this time of year. In return, Emily and Clara received TONS of attention. Emily made a Valentine placemat with some construction paper and stickers, and then proudly showed it off to the residents while they were enjoying their dinner.
It took her about two minutes to warm up to everyone, and then she did not want to leave. There were several things I love about doing this type of activity with the girls. As an at-home mom, it can be challenging to find volunteer opportunities where I can get the girls involved. Many times there are age requirements, etc. and this is an activity that can be done with kids of any age. Also, I loved watching Emily's reaction to making the residents smile and laugh. At one point, she turned to me and said, "I don't need you, Mommy. Go check on Clara." I think she did just fine on her own.
Clara was not so sure about all the attention at first, but then slowly warmed up to people and gave lots of big smiles.
Emily loved pointing out some of the finer details of her work to everyone.
The retirement community even had a little goody bag for her with some Valentine's Day treats. When we left, I asked her if she had fun, and she answered with a big "YES!".