Archive for the ‘Home’ Category

How to Make Homemade Laundry Detergent (A Picture Tutorial)

Monday, April 15th, 2013

Homemade laundry detergent is one of those things that is both easy to make and can save your family a lot of money at the grocery store. Today I wanted to share with you my recipe for homemade laundry detergent. Making homemade detergent is easier than you might think and the cost comparison makes it worth the small amount of effort required to make this.

Walmart challenged me to take on a fun Spring project and today I want to share with you a recipe and some ideas for spring cleaning your laundry routine by making your own homemade laundry detergent.

How Much Does It Cost to Make a Homemade Batch of Laundry Detergent?

Homemade detergent is made up of three ingredients: Fels-Naptha or Ivory Soap, Washing Soda, & Borax. The current pricing on these three ingredients is:

Fels Naptha Soap- $.97 per bar

Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (55 ounce box)- $3.24

Borax (76 ounce box)- $3.38

One batch of laundry detergent takes one cup of the borax, one cup of the washing soda, and one bar of soap. Dividing the total materials required to make one batch of soap means that it would cost $1.81 total to make a batch. At one to two tablespoons per load, it comes in at a mere $.04, compared to $0.17-.0.21 per load  like the other name brands. That’s a pretty impressive savings! When you multiply that savings by a billion loads a week (if you live in our house), that is some serious savings!

Where Do You Find Borax, Washing Soda, & Fels Naptha Soap?

These supplies are all right in a row in at your local Walmart and are located on the opposite side of the laundry detergents, over by the stain removers! Why am I sharing this information? Simply because I could not find it and wanted to save you the trouble of walking up and down the detergent aisle like a lost little child like me!

Is Laundry Detergent Hard to Make or Time Consuming?

Some of the most time-strapped people I know are making their own detergent. I was able to make a triple batch of this soap in about fifteen minutes and that is along with taking pictures for this tutorial. The real time-consuming process of it is grating the soap, but if you have a food processor, that can be accomplished in no time at all.

How Do you Grate the Soap?

You can definitely use an old-fashioned cheese grater, but the soap can clump up and not completely dissolve in your load unless you grate it extremely fine. I allow my food processor to do the work for me because it is much easier to do and gives you the opportunity to also double or triple your batches of laundry detergent, in no time flat.

The process of grating the soap is easier than it sounds. You simply want to cut your bars of soap in half lengthwise so that you can feed them through the shoot of your processor. Assemble the processor with your cheese grater attachment and feed your soap in slowly and gently through the top shoot. Once all the soap has been grated, dump it into a bowl and remove the cheese grater attachment. Reassemble the processor with the basic blade and then put the grated soap back in. Spin it again until the soap resembles fine small pellets. That is it! Your soap is ready to be incorporated in your laundry detergent!

Is Homemade Detergent Safe to Use With High-Efficiency (HE) Washers?

The true beauty about this homemade detergent is that it doesn’t have a lot of suds. The main reason you can’t use laundry detergents not made for HE washers is because of the suds factor. Thanks to the small amount of suds and the minimal amount of soap you need to use to wash your loads, it is the perfect detergent to use with your HE washer! You can use this homemade laundry detergent with confidence!

Is This Homemade Laundry Detergent Septic Friendly?

The ingredients in this soap contain zero phosphates and zero fillers (like montmorillonite clay) that cause commercial powder detergents to clog lines. I am sure other items that you have lurking in your home are less septic friendly than this one so this is a perfectly safe product to make and use.

Now that you know all about it, let’s get started on our project!

Supplies Needed:

1 box of Borax

1 box of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda

1 Bar of Fels-Naptha Soap (or more if you plain to double, triple, or quadruple your batch)

Measuring cups

Jar for Storage (found in the kitchen supplies)

Coffee Scoop (found in the kitchen supplies aisle, optional, but is great for perfect measuring of your detergent)

How to Make Your Detergent

4.8 from 5 reviews
Homemade Laundry Detergent
Prep time: 
Total time: 
 
Homemade laundry detergent can be made with just three ingredients! Try this simple recipe and enjoy the savings!
Ingredients
  • 1 bar (or 4.5 ounces) of shaved bar soap (Ivory, ZOTE, Fels-Naptha)
  • 1 cup of borax
  • 1 cup of washing soda
Instructions
  1. Shred your bars of soap as shown in the tutorial above.
  2. Mix one cup of borax, one cup of washing soda and the grated soap in a large bowl until incorporated well.
  3. Use 1 tablespoon per load (or 2 tablespoons for heavily soiled loads).
  4. Store in a glass jar or well-sealed plastic container.

Do you make your own laundry detergent? What is your winning recipe for the perfect homemade laundry detergent? Feel free to share your tips!

 

 

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11 Fun New Ways to Decorate Eggs

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

Easter is just around the corner and Goodwill has you covered with 11 fun new ways to decorate your eggs this year. Before you tackle these egg dying projects, be sure to check out the store for fun ways to display your beautifully dyed eggs. Goodwill offers a plethora of choices for beautiful glasses, jars, cake stands, baskets, and bowls in the Housewares department to showcase your handmade beauties!

Check out my article for 11 new ways I have discovered to decorate your eggs this year! I have a feeling you are going to LOVE these new spins on egg dying and decorating.

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Spring Hop Party

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

I hope you have been enjoying all of the fun Spring projects that we have been sharing with  you this week. It has been so fun to see everyone’s take on Spring and the fabulous projects that each of these bloggers has been sharing!

Did you miss any of the projects? Here are all of the great hostesses that offered a fun project to try this week!

■       Karly from Buns in my Ovenfollow on Pinterest

■       Tiffany from Eat at Homefollow on Pinterest

■       Liz from Hoosier Homemadefollow on Pinterest

■       Amy from MomAdvicefollow on Pinterest

■       Kellie from Nest of Posiesfollow on Pinterest

■       Amy from Positively Splendidfollow on Pinterest

■       Lisa from The Pennington Pointfollow on Pinterest

■       Heather from WhipperBerry - follow on Pinterest

Now it’s time for you to share! We will be pinning your great projects, so be sure to follow each of the bloggers. You will find their Pinterest accounts listed after their name!

Note- If you are viewing this post in your email or RSS feed, you may need to pop on over to see all the great Spring projects that have been added to the party!

Let’s get this party started!



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How to Make Embroidery Thread Eggs

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

Easter is another fun season for family, food, and crafts that you can do together as a family. Embroidery thread eggs are an easy craft that yield impressive results that can be used as an Easter table centerpiece or can be strung with yarn to adorn a mantle or decorate a window. I want to show you how to create your own Embroidery Thread Easter Eggs for a fun decoration in your home.

To grab this EASY Easter Embroidery Thread Egg Tutorial, head on over to the Kenmore Genius Blog to learn how I made these with cute eggs with my kids!

I hope you love this tutorial half as much as I love our new decorations in our house!

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DIY Peep Wreath With Rolled Ribbon Rosette

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

Easter is just around the corner and today’s DIY Easter Wreath is an adorable Peep Wreath created with that infamous Easter candy and adorned with a simple rolled ribbon rosette. Peep wreaths are easy to create for the Easter season and are inexpensive Easter decoration to add to adorn a wall or interior door of your home.

Here is a picture of the supplies you will need for this craft and all of the supplies for this tutorial can be found at your local Walmart store. You will need one 14″ straw wreath (leave this covered in the plastic wrap), 12 packages of Peeps in whatever color your heart desires, 1 yard of rosette ribbon (this will need to be cut in the fabric department), 1 piece of white felt, toothpicks, hot glue gun, and glue sticks. 

As an aside, if you haven’t visited the craft section of the store in awhile, you will be amazed at the new ribbon & trim offerings they are carrying. If making a flower isn’t your thing, they also have a variety of pre-made flowers by the hair and new baby accessories line that you could use in lieu of making the flower I am going to show you today.  It had been awhile since my last visit, and I was a little overwhelmed with the new choices available!

Assembling the wreath is easy and can be done one of two ways.  Poke your toothpick through your Peep almost until the toothpick pokes out of the top and then push your toothpick through your straw wreath OR you can just poke the toothpick directly in to your wreath and then stick your Peep on top of it.

My only aside to this is that I do think that if you are planning to keep the wreath, I would add a dab of hot glue to each of the Peeps. The idea of just skewering with a toothpick just didn’t work for my wreath due to the depth of how I positioned all of these. They really needed a little extra hold especially the Peeps that were on the bottom and inverted upside down. 

Find a design that makes sense for you. I did three rows of Peeps with them all uniform and in a row.  My Type-A personality does not allow me to be whimsical with design. I want them all in a row, the right way, all in a line. If you know me, this would not surprise you at all.  To add depth, I also did a few in between rows of two Peeps (as pictured above).

Once again, I would recommend hot gluing a bit as you go to add a little extra security, otherwise, you will hear those sad little plops of Peeps committing suicide and jumping ship from the wreath. It is heartbreaking, but can you blame them?

If you do your wreath right, you will end up with six Peeps to spare and Peep dust all over your table. I can only give you an estimate on the number though (give or take a few) since I find Peeps (and Peep dust) awfully delicious!

You may remember this Rolled Rosette tutorial from this adorable Easter bow I made my daughter last year to go with her Easter outfit.

To start your rolled ribbon rosette,  you will want to start with one of the roses on the ribbon to create the center of your pretty flower. Now all you need to do is start twisting your ribbon in between each of the little roses (find those spot where there is only tulle like I have pictured above)  add a dab of hot glue, and then twist again, glue again, and repeat. If you twist the ribbon tightly, you will have a tighter and flatter flower. If you twist a little looser, you will get more of the petal effect with the frayed edges working their way out more on the ribbon. Either way, it will be beautiful. Keep twisting until you reach almost the end of the ribbon. Add a dab of glue and tuck it into the back of your bow.

Finish by cutting a circle out of felt. You can use a drinking glass to trace your circle on the felt or just freehand it. This felt circle will hold all of that ribbon secure and together underneath your Rolled Ribbon Rosette Hair Bow. Hot glue your felt circle to the back of your flower. Hold this for a couple of seconds to secure it.

Once you have secured your felt circle, add more glue and attach it wherever you want on your Peep wreath. Feel free to add other rolled rosettes like these or cute felted loopy bows or just add a fun fabric bow. As you can see, the possibilities for adorning your wreath are endless.

This wreath makes me so happy and is a fun nod to the season. The best part? It will cost you about $20 in supplies (assuming you have a glue gun, glue sticks, & some scissors in your craft supplies like me!)

Be sure to check back in the next couple of weeks for more fabulous Easter projects! In the meantime, try some Kool-Aid dyed eggs, bake a batch of Bunny Bread in your bread machine, make a cute hair accessory to go with your daughter’s Easter outfit this year, or try your hand at marbleizing some eggs. These are just a few of my favorite projects you will find for the Easter season on the blog. 

Be sure to also check out all of the fun Easter offerings this year that are offered at your local Walmart store for all of your Easter needs!

 

 

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Getting To Know Your Bread Machine (Easy Recipes & Tips for Busy Families)

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

One of the most invaluable appliances in our home is our bread machine and today I wanted to share with you why I think a bread machine is a wise kitchen investment. This tutorial will offer advice on what to look for in a bread machine, how to use your bread machine, and the best bread machine recipes that our family enjoys on a weekly basis.

Perhaps you already have a bread machine that has been gathering dust in your kitchen or basement. Many people buy these appliances and then end up donating them to their local thrift store because they never use them. I think of the bread machine as a modern day convenience, but in a culture where we want everything NOW, waiting for a loaf of bread can seem like an eternity.

Why wait for a hot loaf of fresh bread when you can grab a loaf at your supermarket?

And what exactly is the purpose of that appliance that is taking up space on your shelves? Let’s get to know our bread machines and find a new way to use them.

What is A Bread Machine or Bread Maker?

A bread making machine or bread maker is a home appliance for baking bread.The bread machine is simple in its construction and consists of a bread pan (or “tin”), at the bottom of which are one or more built-in paddles, mounted in the center of a small special-purpose oven. This little oven is  controlled by a simple built-in computer, the settings for which are inputted on the control panel. Most bread machines have different cycles for different kinds of dough—including white bread, whole grain, European-style (sometimes labeled “French”), and dough-only (for pizza dough and shaped loaves baked in a conventional oven). Many also have a timer to allow the bread machine to activate without operator attendance, and some high-end models allow the user to program a custom cycle.

Some of the older machines have just a handful of simple settings while newer machines offer more advanced cycles including a cycle to make jam or to bake cakes. To be honest, I don’t use the fancy cycles on my bread machine and rely mostly on the Basic and the Dough cycle, which can be found on every machine. The basic cycle is just the basic setting for making a loaf of bread. The Dough cycle just completes the kneading and rising of the dough. Once the dough cycle is complete, you can take the dough out and shape it into your loaf pan or do fancy braids or rolls out of the dough.

The purpose of a bread machine is simple;  you are able to make fresh bread when you want it. The reasons vary from person to person on why they choose to make their own bread. Many people have concerns about the additives and preservatives that are found in store-bought breads. Another reason that many people choose to make their own bread is because they just enjoy the taste of homemade bread. My reasoning for making our own bread is because I like to save our family money. Making your own bread costs so much less than purchasing a loaf of bread, and the rising grocery costs have only fueled my desire more to make it at home.

How Do You Add Ingredients to a Bread Machine?

Inserting your ingredients into a bread machine is also very straightforward. If you are making the loaf right away, you can insert the ingredients in any way that you want. All of these ingredients will immediately be stirred together and so it will not matter what the order is. If you use a timer delay on your bread machine, delaying the start time of making your loaf, it is imperative that you put the ingredients in the right order or your loaf will not turn out right. The order of ingredients is liquid (liquids include water, oil, milk, eggs, or honey), flour, other dry ingredients (salt, sugar, baking powder, seasonings), and ending the ingredients with your yeast. The most important part of putting the yeast in is to make sure that you make a small indentation into the center of the flour so that the yeast does not react with the other ingredients.

Upon inserting your ingredients, your bread machine will take over the process from there. The machine will knead the ingredients together, give the bread its rising time, and then it will bake the bread. The bread machine will signal when the bread is ready and you can allow the bread to cool inside of the bread bucket.

Do I Need to Buy Bread Machine Mixes For My Bread Machine?

There is no need to spend the money on convenience bread machine mixes; in fact, you can make your own convenient mixes handy for the week. I take plastic storage bags and make an assembly line of the dry ingredients and do my bags once a month. On the outside, just write what liquids you will need to add and you will only have a dirty kitchen once instead of weekly.

What is the difference between Instant Yeast, Bread Machine Yeast and RapidRise Yeast?

Just their names because these are all the same yeast. Nothing like making it EXTRA confusing for a novice bread-maker.

Is There Savings in Making Bread at Home?

A quick glance at grocery store prices and you will wonder how there could be any possible savings with making your bread at home. The key to making this the least expensive on your family is to purchase all of your ingredients at your local wholesale club. With proper storage, you can buy the ingredients in bulk and save your family loads of money.

I don’t use my wholesale club membership very often except for our family’s eye care needs and for the occasional party. I won’t ever let my membership lapse though because with one trip to buy my baking supplies, my wholesale club membership has earned its space in my wallet. I make a trip twice a year to buy all of the necessary supplies for my baking and pizza-making needs.

Don’t believe me? Here is the current prices from my local Sam’s Club:

25 Pounds Bread Flour- $6.59 (needed depending upon the recipe)

25 Pounds All-Purpose Flour- $6.68 (needed depending upon the recipe)

2 Pounds of Yeast- $4.16

Cheese (5 pounds for $10.43) , pepperoni (5 pounds for $11.88), and crushed tomatoes (102 ounces for $2.68) can also be bought at a fraction of the price, but in the past I have lacked the capacity and ambition of storage for all of the ingredients.

As a side note, if you do own a membership to Sam’s Club, they have a wonderful Click ‘N Pull service that you can utilize for your shopping day and they can pull the ingredients right to the front and email you when your order is ready to pick up. This is a fantastic free service for moms with small children or who are short on time!

How Do I Store My Bread Machine Ingredients?

For storage, flour can be stored for up to a year in an airtight container. With bulk storage, a large plastic bin that has been clearly labeled is ideal to keep your flour fresh. Yeast is the easiest ingredient to store and has a very long shelf life. I store my yeast in a mason jar in our refrigerator door. With both of these ingredients, writing an expiration date on the label will also remind you of when the item is going to expire. I have also provided a handy Yeast Freshness Test that you can use to see if your yeast is still working. This will come in handy when buying yeast in bulk.

What Kind of Bread Machine Should I Buy?

If you do not have a bread machine and are looking for one, garage sales and thrift sales are a great place to hunt. I see these machines for $10 or less, and you will definitely get your money back from the savings of making your own bread. When you find one, ask if you can plug it in and make sure it is working. Just check that it actually powers up, that there is a bread bucket inside, and that there is a paddle in the bottom of the bread machine to stir the ingredients. Having a manual with it is handy, but usually can be found by searching online.

Over the past five years, I have been using my Sunbeam Bread Machine with great success. All of my past models have been found at the thrift shops and garage sales, but when our bread machine quit on us, I ran out to our local superstore so we wouldn’t have to miss our weekly pizza night. You know an appliance has become invaluable to you if you can’t imagine a day without it. Our bread machine is that invaluable to us.

What Are Some Foolproof Bread Machine Recipes I Can Try With My Family?

On any given day in our house, you will find our bread machine happily humming along and whipping up fresh dough and bread for us. Not only that, but our bread machine has a regular performance in our house on Friday night for our infamous weekly family pizza night.

Here are a few of our family favorites, but you can learn more in my first book, “The Good Life For Less,” that is available on bookstore shelves now: 

The Perfect Pizza Dough (so easy that your kids can roll this one out on their own!)

Bread Machine Pita Pockets

Bread Machine Hamburger Buns or Hot Dog Buns

Whole Wheat Bread Machine Hamburger Buns or Hot Dog Buns

Bread Machine Calzones

Bread Machine Portuguese White Bread

 

Bread Machine Monkey Bread/Bunny Bread

Buttery Bread Machine Rolls

Bread Machine Cinnamon Rolls 

 


Yeast Freshness Test
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Not sure if your yeast is still fresh and active? This simple test will help determine if your yeast is still performing!
Ingredients
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • ½ cup warm tap water (110°F-115°F)
  • 2¼ teaspoons dry yeast (make sure it is at room temperature)
Instructions
  1. Using a one-cup liquid measuring cup, dissolve 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar in ½ cup warm tap water at 110°F-115°F. Using a thermometer is the most accurate way to determine the correct liquid temperature. Any thermometer will work as long as it measures temperatures between 75°F and 130°F. If you don't have a thermometer, the tap water should be warm but NOT hot to the touch.
  2. Stir in one ¼ oz. packet (7g) or 2-1/4 tsp of dry yeast until there are no more dry yeast granules on top.
  3. In three to four minutes, the yeast will have absorbed enough liquid to activate and start to rise.
  4. After ten minutes, the foamy yeast mixture should have risen to the 1-cup mark and have a rounded top.
  5. If this is true, your yeast is very active and should be used in your recipe immediately.
  6. If the yeast did not rise to the 1-cup mark, your yeast has little or no activity. Discard this yeast.

Do you have a bread machine? What is your favorite thing to do with this appliance?

 

I love helping you cook in the kitchen! If you like this cooking tutorial,  be sure to visit my tutorial on How to Cook A Butternut Squash With the Skin On, How to Roast a Spaghetti Squash, and  How to Make Quinoa in the Rice Cooker.

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DIY Command Center (For Small Spaces)

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Small spaces often come with big organizational challenges. When you don’t have spare closets, only have minimal wall space, and struggle with tiny rooms, creating a DIY command center for your home can be a challenge. Today’s tutorial offers some quick ideas for creating your own DIY Command Center in your home.

Here is what I have been struggling with in this corner of my home. The kids were driving me crazy when they came home from school because they would immediately dump everything in this corner and throw their papers all over my kitchen counter when they got home.

The real question is were they really driving me crazy or was it because they really didn’t have a place that they could call their own?

The coat rack in our entry was too high for them to reach, there was nowhere for their backpacks to go, and the paper situation needed a designated spot other than on top of my kitchen counter while I am trying to prepare the family dinner.

I headed to our local Walmart to see what organizational tools I could find and was excited to discover the perfect solution for our little corner. I found this Mainstays Pub Mirror ($22.96) for our kids to use for their coats over in the home decor section of the store. In the closet organization section, I found a Mainstays Seagrass Basket ($12.99) for storing our magazines and umbrellas.

A seldom used storage ottoman was moved underneath for housing the backpack and briefcase clutter and also offers one of my children an extra little boost to climb up and put her backpack away.

Since paper clutter was quickly becoming out of control, I found an upright file folder organizer and colorful file folders for organizing the whole family. The kids each now have an IN and OUT folder. If they need something signed, they put it in the IN folder for me for signatures and I give it back to them by putting those items in the OUT folder, that they can check before they leave for school. Special memorabilia that is worth saving still resides in their decorative boxes in their rooms.

This small compartment organizer for keys, sunglasses, and other things that seem to get misplaced rests on this half moon table for easy finding and grabbing in the morning. Above this table is our family calendar so we can keep track of important events. Just like every other family I know, the calendar is filled to the brim and we have a lot to keep track of these days.

We moved our clock to the other wall  and I decided to add a frame to this wall with some new art work. I found this awesome free printable (literally) over on the Funky Polkadot Giraffe. I printed it on cardstock at home (free) and then framed it in this Canopy picture frame that already included a matte.  I really love how this turned out and that it adds another fun decorating addition to our walls.

This room has been going through a bit of a transformation now that we are finally figuring out what we really love and are starting to get our own sense of style.  We gave our glider chair to our in-laws, sold our two checked chairs through a community Facebook group, and donated our old couch. We kept the same neutral color on the walls, but decided to update our accessories and add some much needed furniture back into this room.

This is my absolute favorite room in our house. It has replaced my other favorite room in our house (our home office) thanks to the addition of the record player, the comfy chair that I found on deep clearance at a furniture store, and I just love the nautical feel of this room which makes me oh-so-happy!

Now that we have a Command Center, albeit a small one, this room now makes me even happier and renews my commitment that even if you have a small home, you can make any space a functional space for your family. As our reminder to our commitment to enjoy living small, I added this print to our wall. It makes me happy every time I come down the stairs and reminds me of what is important.

Small homes do come with challenges, but they also come with many rewards!

Do you have a command center in your home? How do you organize the after school chaos? Feel free to share here!

 

 

 

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How to Organize Board Games

Monday, December 31st, 2012

Now that Christmas is behind us, I find myself inspired to get my home organized again. One area in our home that always needs attention is our disorganized board game collection. Organizing your board games  and card games is easier than you think, it just requires a few organizing tools, a little patience, and the ability to let go of the things that are taking up valuable space to make space for the good stuff in your home.

My project challenge this month with Walmart was to pick one area in our house and freshen it up with some organizational solutions from the store. I have a feeling you are going to love this one and will be running out to your store to replicate this.

In full disclosure, here is my SCARY before picture. This was supposed to be a beautiful little closet for my kid’s toys, our games, and our art supplies. Each time the closet was open, I covered my head. I am a very petite woman so when I would reach for a game, I would find a leaning tower of games attacking me and often found myself in an avalanche of games and toys. 

I decided to do some research to see if I could find some ideas from other bloggers on how to rectify this situation. Although there were a lot of great magazine ideas, I didn’t find very many real family solutions until I happened upon this great post on board game organization from Raising Lemons. I used that as a template to get started and then headed to my store to create my own solutions for our problematic areas.

Here are some pictures of the items that I picked up at our Walmart store (feel free to click on them to expand).

Sterlite Large Three Drawer Units ($12.97 each)

Sterlite Medium Three Drawer Unites ($8.47)

Document Boxes ($7.92)- available in the office supplies section of the store

Avery Labels ($1.00)

Rubber Bands ($.67)

Snap-It Storage Container ($9.97)

Ziploc Freezer Bags ($4.38

All games were removed from their boxes and then each game went into a designated drawer. Larger games that had a lot of parts to it (like Blokus, Rummikub, or Monopoly) fit well into the large Sterlite drawers.

Smaller kid’s games fit easily into the medium Sterlite drawers as well as games where the board would not fit into either container (more on that soon). For really small games like Memory or Rush Hour, we found one drawer could fit two or three games, which helped to maximize this storage solution.

For larger board games, I labeled boards that we wouldn’t easily be able to figure out what they were, and set those to the side along with a couple of those irregularly shaped games (like Operation, our deluxe Scrabble, and our Hungry, Hungry Hippos). By removing the useless boxes, this tiny little pile of boards really doesn’t take up very much of our space.

We had oodles of card games, many that were dusty and had been forgotten on that top shelf, so I used two Document Boxes that I found over in the office supplies to create storage for these games. This was a great place to not only store these games neatly, but I also dedicated a little section to the odds & ends pieces that we might need for future games. The odds & ends spot houses marbles, a few extra game pieces, decks of cards, and several dice.

Large games like Apples to Apples had to use two spots, but it still beats having the boxes. I like that all of these odds and ends are concealed neatly, and it will make taking a box of games a lot more fun since there are several in just one box!

Our puzzle collection had also gotten out of control. I found a Snap-It organizer (over by the drawers/plastic bins) that has a handy handle and it all snaps together for easy toting. We divided our puzzles into two categories (holiday & other). It will make finding our Christmas collection a little easier. I cut the front of the boxes and labeled heavy-duty freezer bags with the puzzle name or description so we could locate them easily.

Since I was on a roll in that closet, I decided to get the rest of the kid’s stuff organized. I whittled their toy collection down to half and organized their art supplies into the same drawer organizers (these were all things we already owned). I had old-fashioned labels in my craft supplies so I hung fresh labels with a little bakers twine and labeled our canvas bins so the kids knew exactly what they were pulling down.

Each child now has their own coloring book drawer and all of the random boxes of markers, crayons, and pencils were all condensed into one drawer organizer.

After losing countless library books because they are mixed in with their own books, we now have one basket designated. The other books were moved down to our downstairs game cabinet because (you won’t believe this!) all of the games from our downstairs cabinet all fit in our upstairs cabinet so I could turn the other cabinet into a spot for all of their books. That is a huge storage bonus for us!

It feels like Christmas all over here again. We have loads of fun things to do, we can find them, and (in my son’s words) “We don’t have to move so many things around to get to the good stuff.” You know it, kid!

The big question is, “Do you miss the boxes?” I can’t say I do! For the games we travel with to our friend’s house (Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan, etc..) we have a couple of boxes stored in the basement. The rest of the games stay at home and this solution is so ideal for our space and offers oodles of visual appeal. 

Have any tips for organizing your game collection or toy closet for the New Year? I would love to hear them!

I am a part of the Walmart Moms program, and Walmart has provided me with compensation for these posts  My participation is voluntary and opinions are always my own.

 

 

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“Use What You Have” DIY Advent Calendar

Monday, November 26th, 2012

 

It is that time of year again and that means another Advent season.  You don’t have to have a fancy advent calendar to celebrate the advent season, in fact, I have a DIY Advent Calendar made from items you already have in your home. This free DIY Advent Calendar is the perfect way to celebrate the holiday season without breaking the bank.

Today I wanted to share with you a “use what you have” Advent calendar that we created last year. It was such a hit that I plan to make another one for this year! This requires no pricey materials and is based around what the holiday season should be all about… being together!

In the years past, we have always had a Christmas Jar of activities. Each day we would randomly draw from a set number of activities and enjoy a holiday activity together as a family. This year, our life with our two children has become increasingly busy and scheduled. We have two school schedules, extracurricular activities, homework, holiday programs, holiday family events, and so much more going on. Our life of leisure seems to have taken a detour and I have had to be more thoughtful in our approach towards carving time out for what we would hope to accomplish this year.

I wanted to create our own countdown to Christmas in a creative way, but I didn’t want to spend any money on it. I decided to use what I had to create our homemade Advent filled with fun activities and wanted to share with you what we created!

 

Homemade Advent Calendar

Supplies needed:

A large circle punch (in scrapbook supplies at craft store) or a jar or glass for tracing
Tape
Scrapbook or festive holiday gift wrap
Ribbon
Marker
2 Muffin Tins
A picture frame stand or a place to prop your finished tins


I began this project by punching out 48 circles. On half of these write the numbers 1-24 and on the other half you can write fun activities to do with your children in anticipation of the big day.

Stick your holiday activity folded up inside of each muffin tin and then attach the numbered circles to each individual muffin tin. Secure with tape on both sides to hold your activities in securely.

Break out your trusty calendar and jot down the activities for each day to remind yourself what you need to plan for and what supplies will need to be purchased to accomplish the activities.

Add a little festive ribbon to the top of your muffin tin. Display the muffin tin by using a picture frame stand or finding a sturdy wall to prop it up with. Have your child draw an activity each morning to complete as a family.

 

Here are 24 Ideas for Advent Activities

1. Decorate the Christmas tree.
2. Big bubble baths with holiday music playing.
3. Go to the library to pick out holiday books.
4. Special popcorn and hot cocoa snack with a holiday movie.
5. Head to a holiday concert.
6. Decorate gingerbread houses.
7. Make Christmas cards for your special friends.
8. Watch a holiday movie.
9. Color a holiday coloring page.
10. Bake Christmas cookies.
11. Go see holiday lights.
12. Go see Santa in your local downtown.
13. Write a letter to Santa.
14. Pop popcorn & play a board game together.
15. Host an ornament decorating party.
16. Make gingerbread waffles or gingerbread donuts for breakfast.
17. Wrap holiday gifts while listening to holiday music together.
18. Go to the dollar theater and see a movie.
19. Go see the Christmas lights in your pajamas.
20. Deliver holiday treats to your friends & the firefighters in town.
21. Watch your favorite holiday movie.
22. Open one gift early.
23. Go caroling.
24. Do a holiday puzzle together

Total cost for this project was zero and very little money will be spent to do these activities together. The memories I hope to create with my children though, I hope those will be priceless!

Do you do an Advent calendar or have a special way your family celebrates the countdown to Christmas? I would love to hear your ideas!

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How to Set the Perfect Thanksgiving Table

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

Setting a great Thanksgiving table is something anyone can do with the right tools in their entertaining supplies, a few new additions, and a little bit of thriftiness. Today’s perfect Thanksgiving tables is particularly important to me because today I am sharing with you a way that you can make your table and earn money for your favorite charities in the process.

This month I am partnering with Pure Charity to share about their incredible mission to give back to charities through the holiday shopping that you already happening to be doing. 

What is Pure Charity?

Pure Charity is a simple, but awesome concept for giving back to those causes you care most about. Basically, you install a simple toolbar into your web browser and then it alerts you with a small banner at the top when a store you are shopping with has a partnership with Pure Charity. Click on that little button and you are making a percentage deposit into your Giving Fund. Your Giving Fund can then be applied to the charities that are important to you and that you have a desire to support.

Pure Charity asked me to show everyone what could be done via their partners and gave me a small budget to get started. This month I am sharing ideas for setting the perfect Thanksgiving table, to sharing Thanksgiving recipes with you, and showcasing some fun ideas for keeping the kids entertained. All supplies were ordered through their partners and I have created a Giving Fund for the charities that are most important to our family. At the end of this series, I will share with you just how much I was able to earn through this spending.

How to Set the Perfect Thanksgiving Table

Mix Texture and Color Into Your Basics- I have always had a fondness for my white dishes simply because they match everything that you want to layer on top of them.  (West Elm Napkins)

Spice up your basics with a bold colored napkin in a fresh autumn shade. I love to mix texture in by tying napkins off with scraps of burlap instead of buying napkin holders. If you don’t have any burlap, a piece of twine or yarn would be just as lovely. 

Mix in One New Element to the Tableware- In a perfect world, we would have loads of storage and dishes for every season. Most families just don’t have this type of limitless space in their kitchen. Instead of buying new dishes for each holiday, focus on adding one new element each year to the existing pieces you already have.

My white dinnerware is perfectly paired with these elegant Thanksgiving dessert plates (West Elm Dessert Plates) as a nod to the season and they take up far less room than an entire set of dishes.

Have Your Kids Create the Centerpiece- My kids love helping me in the kitchen and one way they can assist with the Thanksgiving table is to help create the centerpiece.

I have been dying to have a chalkboard in my kitchen and using this as a centerpiece for our table was the perfect excuse for the purchase. Center this chalkboard (Pottery Barn Small Chalkboard) on your table and then give your kids the assignment to fill this with all of the things that they are thankful for.

Once Thanksgiving is over, this will be proudly hanging in our kitchen for all of our family announcements!

Decorate With Nature- Right now there might not be a lot blooming, but if your yard is anything like ours, there are plenty of rustic and beautiful elements that could be added to your table.

I pruned one of my flowering bushes and used the clippings as a filler for three vases.  (West Elm Vases). I love how these branches add dimension to my table and skip the expensive vase fillers.

Add Your Own Personal Touch- Everyone has their own personal touch that they can add to their centerpieces. For you, it might be your mad spray painting skills. For me, it is the ability to knit yarn into leaves and flowers. It might not sound like a very useful skill, but it certainly helps when it comes to fall centerpieces. I relied upon this knitted leaf pattern and these easy garter stitch flowers for knitted embellishments to my sticks.  It will take me awhile to knit all of this, but I promise to share more once it is done!

My husband may or may not have made fun of me when I said the branches needed “whimsical leaves,” but even he agreed that they looked pretty sweet once I finished this project.

After these purchases to dress up my Thanksgiving table, I was able to bank $7.22 in my Giving Fund for my favorite charities through Pure Charity

I hope you love these ideas for setting the perfect Thanksgiving table and I look forward to sharing more about my partnership with Pure Charity in the coming weeks.

I am working with Pure Charity, and Pure Charity has provided me with compensation for these posts. My participation is voluntary and opinions are always my own.

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