Archive for June, 2009

Fun Ways to Make Outdoor Living a Family Priority

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

I love nothing more than lounging around in our backyard all summer long. I will do anything to stay outside with my kids and hibernate in our big backyard. Indiana winters are so long and our summers here are far too short. I really try to make the most of every moment of sunshine.

Wouldn’t we all love to just lounge around in the backyard all day with our feet kicked up? While I can’t say it will be possible every day, I want to share with you a few things we have been doing to make outdoor living a priority in our home.

Chores come first. We all love being outside and in order for me to be able to camp out with the kids in the backyard, we need to have our indoor chores accomplished. The short list for me is to unload the dishwasher, make the beds, and swipe the bathrooms. The kids have to eat their breakfast, get dressed, and tidy up their rooms and playroom. With the promise of fun and relaxation outside, we all are more motivated to do our chores inside.

For work-at-home moms, I try to get up an hour before the kids and tackle any work priorities and I do most of my work on the weekend mornings. I encourage you to read my post on finding balance to work priorities to assist with figuring out a good work-at-home schedule.

Get the dinner prep done. After I have finished the chores, it is time to get together whatever we will be eating for dinner in the evening. Slow cooker meals are a great alternative in the summer because they don’t heat up the house and can be pulled together quickly. Likewise, marinating meats or preparing meat for the grill is another way to keep the house cool and keep one step ahead of the game in mealtime prep.

Of course, anything that you can do after your grocery shopping will also give you more time to enjoy being outside. Chop up veggies and fruits for snacking on throughout the week, cook pasta for pasta salads and keep it in a food storage bag to make a yummy cold pasta salad, bake chicken for the week to dice in tortilla wraps, for cold chicken salad sandwiches, or to toss into a pasta salad. I also love to wash and chop the lettuce for the week and use it on burgers or for a light lunch for myself or a side salad with our dinner.

Take the night off completely from dinner and roast your dinner on an outdoor fire pit instead. Children will love the novelty of cooking their foods over the fire and you will love having a night off from cooking. We try to do this a couple of times a month as a fun family night tradition.

Scale back those fancy dinners and keep things simple with grilled meats, fresh veggies, and fresh fruit. Summer is not meant to be spent in a hot kitchen so get acquainted with your grill or slow cooker so you can enjoy that beautiful weather outside.

Be prepared for outdoor excursions. The past couple of years, I have learned to become more prepared for those unexpected outdoor adventures. On our door hangs a beach bag that is ready to go for a fun outdoor getaway. I keep sunblock, bug spray, towels, bathing suits, and a water bottle in this bag.

In our car, we have a collapsible bag that is filled with activities for the park. I try to keep containers of bubbles, a ball, a waterproof blanket for sitting on, a Frisbee, and a lawn chair. These activities not only come in handy for when we take a trip to the park, but they also are invaluable when visiting friends who don’t have activities/toys to keep little hands busy.

Revise your homemaking schedule with the weather. Check the forecast at the beginning of the week and try to format your schedule according to the weather. If it is raining on Thursday, make Thursday your day to clean the house. If it is sunny on Tuesday, use that day to accomplish the laundry day outside and hang your clothes on the line instead. If it is sunny all week long, then accomplish chores during your child’s nap time or after they head to bed. By revising your homemaking schedule to fit the weather forecast, you can take advantage of as many beautiful days as you possibly can.

Make the outdoors fun.
My children will play outside for the entire day, but each summer we make an investment into outdoor activities that will help keep the outdoors fun. Some of my favorite summer investments have been a sandbox, a small water table, sprinkler toys, a new set of chalk, and a batch of homemade bubbles.

My children also love to create so I also put out a bucket of water with paint brushes for them to paint the cement or to paint their chalk drawings. We also make a batch of sponge balls to play with in their water table or for fun water play outdoors. Nature journals can help them document the changing of the seasons and what they see in nature. Homemade play dough with some cookie cutters and a rolling pin can lead to fun creations, without the mess, on an outdoor table.

Don’t forget that many activities that you can get your children to do outside can also help you. I have my kids use their water toys to water my garden. My children also love to help wash the cars and wash their own outdoor toys. Have them set their own table for lunch or help you clean up after an outdoor dinner.

Make easy evening routines. After a long day of playing outside, I bring the kids inside and we start tackling the baths. After the kids are bathed, they can have a small snack and watch a television show while I work on getting our dinner ready.

This usually leads to a little napping or general zoning out as they are usually so exhausted from playing outside. With this time, I tidy up and get our easy dinner together for us to dine outside. After that the kids play outside until bedtime and I am able to put them to bed earlier after all of their outdoor fun.

Outdoor chores are accomplished by my husband & I trading off the kids to get done what needs to get done. One of us mows in the front, while the other parent is playing with the kids in the back. As I have said before though, many of these chores are just done side by side with the kids while they are playing or helping.

Remember they are only young once. Each summer, I marvel at how much my children have grown and how quickly our time together seems to be passing. I am trying to savor these moments and for me, that means slowing down our summers. While we make big plans for summer activities, I can admit that I become selfish with my time with them in the summer. The school year will begin again and we will be back to the crazy grind of school days.

Savor these moments and revise your schedule so you can enjoy each moment of them. Seek a little shade with them. Create with them. Hop in the kiddie pool with them. Indulge in homemade slushies and popcorn every single day and blame it on “the kids” and “hydration.” Be selfish with them and their time. Treasure them.

As my husband and I say after it takes two hours to put away all the outdoor toys and clean up after the dinner, “We are making memories.”

How do you make outdoor living a priority in your family?

An Apron Full of Giveaways 06.30.09

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009
BeBe & Alice, $44.95

Another week is flying by and another great giveaway list is set to roll out for the week.

Thank you all so much for participating last week in our Crystal Light Water Way Challenge. We have contacted our winners from the four $50 giveaways and have wrapped this giveaway up. Congrats to all of the lucky winners!

This week we are giving away three copies of the new Bedtime with Elmo DVD. Be sure to head over to this contest and get your entry in for this new DVD!

Follow the links below to find out how to enter to win these fabulous giveaways!

Below are the contest links-if you are hosting a contest please link it up below. Sorry, we aren’t giving away the aprons just showcasing them! Please put your site name and then what type of contest you are hosting. For example, “MomAdvice (Children’s Movies).”

Please let me know if you have any questions and good luck to each of you!

Microwave Lemony Broccoli

Monday, June 29th, 2009

I love any dish that I can whip up in the summertime that doesn’t require me to turn on the oven. I happened upon this great little side dish and we have been eating it about once a week since I added it to our dinner hour.

This side dish has big flavor so if you are not a fan of garlic, you can substitute it with garlic powder. If you are not a fan of lemon, you can cut the lemon juice back to half a tablespoon. It has a teaspoon of salt and that too can be adjusted to your family’s taste. You may have to experiment with this one, but it will be worth it!

Our family embraces the bold flavors of this side and it has been a welcome addition to our dinner table. Pair this with a little grilled meat and my favorite brown rice and you have a perfectly balanced and delicious dinner!

Microwave Lemony Broccoli

1 (14 ounce) bag frozen broccoli florets, cleaned and cut into florets or 2 heads fresh broccoli, cleaned and cut into florets (I prefer fresh)
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice, bottled is fine
2 garlic cloves, minced or 1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1 teaspoon salt, adjust to your liking

Microwave broccoli, minced garlic, and water in covered bowl on high for 6 minutes or til crisp tender. While it is cooking mix the rest of the ingredients together. Drain cooked broccoli. Pour lemon garlic mixture over broccoli and mix to coat.

Freebie Friday: June 26, 2009

Friday, June 26th, 2009

Happy Freebie Friday! We are happy to be sharing a load of freebies with our readers courtesy of Freebies 4 Mom! In case you missed it, Heather has an excellent article on how to save on vitamins and supplements for your family this week. You should also enter to win her Rookie Mom’s Book giveaway. I know that is one book I would love to add to my own collection!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

Health & Beauty

Mars Free Chocolate Friday
White Castle Free Slider


Photo Editing Class
Patty Reed Printable Paper Dolls
Precious Places DVD
REI’s Passport to Adventure

Home & Garden
The Frugal Kitchen free eBook
Glidden quart of paint
Freepeats (local forum in over 50 cities)
House Party (4 events to apply for)

Upcoming Freebie Events:
Please call your local store or restaurant to confirm they are participating in these freebie events.

27- Lakeshore Free Kid Crafts party hat 11 to 3pm
27 – Lowes Build and Grow Kids make a pirate ship 10 to 11am
27&28 – Bass Pro Shops Family Summer Camp keychain Noon to 6pm
27&28 – The Home Depot Home Improver Workshops 5 different topics


4 – The Home Depot Kids Workshop make a picnic caddy 9 to noon
4 & 5 – Museums on Us (free admission for Bank of America customers)
10 – Chick-fil-A Cow Appreciation Day
11 – 7-Eleven Free Slurpee
18-19National Parks Fee Free Weekend


1 & 2 – Museums on Us (free admission for Bank of America customers)
15 & 16 – National Parks Fee Free Weekend

Play It Again, Momma: Simplifying Your To Do List

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

Have you ever looked at your to-do list and just felt completely and utterly overwhelmed before you even start? My day was often looking like that and rarely did I actually ever complete all of the things off of the list. I would end my day defeated before the next day had ever begun. While the high of checking things off the list was there, the items left unchecked left me feeling less euphoric about what was actually accomplished.

For the past couple of months, I have had the great opportunity to work with a business coach to help make my business better. Charrise McCorey, from Emergence Business Coaching, has been working with me to help me reach my business goals. It has been such a unique experience for me because I am able to actually discover how valuable my time is, increase my productivity, and discover what can emerge from finding balance in my life.

The first thing on our project list was tackling my to-do list and my feelings of constantly being overwhelmed. I felt like I was juggling way too many balls in the air so I wasn’t sleeping well, eating well, or feeling like a very good parent. I would start a project, abandon it or do a bad job on it, and then move on to the next thing.

The first thing we did was revamp what my to-do list looked like. Here is an example of what my to-do list looked like for my Monday routine- perhaps it looks like yours?

Amy’s Monday To-Do List

Sweep Kitchen Floors
Unload dishwasher
Load dishwasher
Swipe both bathrooms
Make beds
One load of laundry
Clean bathtub
Empty upper level trash
Make grocery list and menu plan
Change sheets on all beds
Clean windows and mirrors on upper level
Dust upper level
Steam floors on upper level
Sweep upper level
Organize the bedrooms

Now those were just my home management goals, we aren’t even tackling the business goals for the day. What ended up happening was that I would get a portion of the list done and then have to carry it over for Tuesday. Let’s say I got three of those things done. Now we will move on to Tuesday’s schedule and it will look like this:

Amy’s Tuesday To-Do List

Swipe both bathrooms
Make beds
One load of laundry
Clean bathtub
Empty upper level trash
Make grocery list and menu plan
Change sheets on all beds
Clean windows and mirrors on upper level
Dust upper level
Steam floors on upper level
Sweep upper level
Organize the bedrooms
Dust main level
Sweep main level
Steam kitchen floors
Clean windows and mirrors
Run errands

And then, let’s say I got five things done, then Wednesday would carry over to this:

Amy’s Wednesday To-Do List

Make grocery list and menu plan
Change sheets on all beds
Clean windows and mirrors on upper level
Dust upper level
Steam floors on upper level
Sweep upper level
Organize the bedrooms
Dust main level
Sweep main level
Steam kitchen floors
Clean windows and mirrors
Run errands
Do one thing I hate
Catch Up on Everything

Usually by Friday, my list looked something like this:

Amy’s Friday To-Do List

Clean windows and mirrors on upper level
Dust upper level
Steam floors on upper level
Sweep upper level
Organize the bedrooms
Dust main level
Sweep main level
Steam kitchen floors
Clean windows and mirrors
Run errands
Do one thing I hate
Catch Up on Everything
Empty lower level trash
Dust lower level
Sweep lower level
Clean windows and mirrors on lower level
Clean and organize the home office
Visit the library
Clean out car
Update our Quicken software
Mow lawn
Baking day
Hate myself for accomplishing absolutely nothing

Oh, and did I mention I haven’t tackled anything in my business? Obviously, this to-do list was just a running list of things I would never get to and I would hate myself for accomplishing nothing. In tears, I explained to Charrise that I often feel like a bad mom because I had to keep up with my business AND my house and neither was looking good at all. As Charrise says over and over again to me when I say negative things, “That is a story you like to tell yourself. You can change your story.”

We decided to change my story. She advised completely revamping the to-do list. Instead of keeping a running list of things I would never do, why not make a shorter list that I could actually accomplish with great success? How would it feel if I could go to bed each night knowing that I had accomplished what was on my list? How would I sleep? Her advice was simple a list of only six things.

Make 3 Business Goals
Make 3 Personal Goals

Now my list looks something like this:

Amy’s Revamped Monday To-Do List

1. Set up contests for Tuesday on the blog
2. Complete my to-do list entry
3. Conference Call with Kenmore
4. Play on the floor with the kids for one hour
5. One load of laundry- whites
6. Pay Bills

At night before I go to bed, I make my list of six and go to sleep. At the end of the day, I usually can check most of the things off of the list and if something doesn’t get done, it just gets carried over to the next day. I have to say, it is a lot easier to carry over two things rather than twenty each day.

But, what about the bigger goals? I had so many things I needed to do on my list for the website and in my home, but I knew they would never fit on such a limited list.

This is where this comes into play:

Giant Wish List

Instead of adding these to my to-do list each day, take a piece of poster board and begin writing what your bigger goals are. She suggested writing down things you might be afraid to say out loud so that you can see your dreams come into fruition.

Amy’s Giant Wish List

Podcast Radio Show With Huge Corporate Sponsorship
Food Network Television Show
Get Featured in Real Simple Magazine
Regular Column in Good Housekeeping
Book Deal
Meet Brad Pitt
Possibly Marry Him

When I think of things that I want to do in the future, I just jot it down on my giant wish list. It is there, I won’t lose the idea or goal, but it isn’t on my r
unning list of six…yet.

Yes, one day I will have an opening on the list of six and when that happens maybe I might say, “Today is the day to meet Brad Pitt and possibly marry him.” I will add it to the list of six and just maybe, I might accomplish it.

You might ask what happened to all the cleaning on the list? Well, instead of writing it down, I just try and do it when I get my goals accomplished for the day. I either make it my goal to clean one day of the week or I just clean when I need to clean. I don’t hold myself to commitments about it. I know what needs to get done and when I need to do it, and I do the best I can.

It might not be perfect, but it doesn’t keep me up at night anymore.


(photo credits: image 1- one pretty thing image 2-gamookie)

What does your to-do list look like? Could you simplify it? What would you put on a giant wish list?

Notebook Experiments: Can a Craft a Cool Dad Gift?

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

Experiment: Can I craft a cool dad gift?

Experiment Taken From: Notebook Entry 06.24.09

Materials Needed: Please see The Idea Room for the full instructions on this task. I completed the sweet little soda bottle project and found all of the supplies at Target.

I am planning to take my hubby out to see a movie and for dinner for Father’s Day, but I really wanted to have something to give to him on the actual day. I ran across this sweet little Father’s Day Craft and ran right over to the store to pick up the supplies.

I had a little trouble finding a six pack of soda at Target in the bottles, but did find a four-pack of Jones Soda (which is my absolute favorite soda in the world in any flavor really and truly!) and we drank three of the drinks to fill them with treats for dad.

I filled the three empty soda bottles with Tootsie Rolls, gummy bears, and Peanut M&M;’s and then left one soda to drink with his treats. I spray painted the box black and then attached the Father’s Day labels.

Instead of the label tags that are included in the printables that were highlighted, I used my own gift tags and labeled them with reasons (reason 1, reason 2, reason 3, reason 4). I then had my children share some of their reasons why they love their dad to make the gift about them as much as it was about the effort I put into it. These were then tied off with a little raffia and added the personal touch that I wanted in the gift for our favorite dad.

Conclusion: My husband was incredibly touched by these efforts and was so impressed at all the trouble we went to for this gift. I love this gift so much that I will be doing this for both of our dads next year. I think this also would make a sweet teachers gift with different images for the bottles.

A fantastic gift to give and to share!


I am so excited to open our Notebook Experiments up to everyone and I hope that you will be able to participate this week or in weeks to come! I will be posting this each Thursday so please mark your calendars if you plan to participate. You can post your entries at any time throughout the week and then leave your entry in the links below.

We have this handy banner that you are more than welcome to use, but it is not a requirement! It is just something you can add to add a little sparkle to your entry.

Rules for Participation:

1. Choose anything from any of our notebook entries (past or present) to do with your family. We have hundreds of bookmarked links of crafts, ways to save money, and organizing ideas.
2. Complete an experiment from the notebook and share about it on your blog or website. We would love to see pictures of what you accomplished or a detailed description of how your projects turned out. Please include a link to this entry, a link to the original posting of the entry (at the original crafster’s blog), and (to help us relocate the project) the date or link of the notebook entry where you found it. You can use the same formatting as our entries or you can just include that information in your post in your own unique way!
3. Post a link below. Please include your name or blog name & a fast description of your project. Example- MomAdvice (WHO bread)

I can’t wait to see what you create and what you find inspiring!

Amy’s Notebook 06.24.09

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

These firework cake toppers would be amazing for our Fourth of July bash (@ Wisdom of the Moon)

This Honey Teryaki Chicken looks like it would be a hit (@ Mad About Martha)

My kids would (literally) flip for these tin can stilts (@ zakka life)

These sunprint pictures inspired me to try this with my children (@ the light garden)

I love this bicycle bag to give as a gift (@ Giver’s Log)

I was so inspired by this Ikea hack play kitchen (@ Mama Americana)

These kale chips sound like a perfectly healthy alternative to potato chips in the summer (@ house on hill road)

I am going to have to remember these really cute guy gifts for next year’s Father’s Day (@ The Idea Room)

These look like fun finger paints to do with the kids on those rainy days (@ Pepper Paints)

I love this cupcake pincushion pattern (@ Spud & Chloe)

I love this round-up of pasta salad recipes (@ Tip Nut)

I can’t believe how beautiful this giant table turned out and I want to try this Heath Bar Cake too (@ Design Mom)

I want to make these chocolate chip cookie bowls (@ Michael Ruhlman)

This is such a sweet list of things that don’t cost anything that you could do for Father’s Day or for dad’s birthday (@ ohdeedoh)

I need to figure out how to sew so I can make these child’s travel pillow (@ maya made)

I want to make some of these sidewalk chalk stars for the Fourth of July (@ Alpha Mom)

This is a fantastic list of 75 ways to get your kids outdoors (@ DIY Life)

I needed some inspiration for summer lunches (@ Let’s Explore)

I want to try this recipe for grilled pizza (@ Mix Magazine)

These zippy dogs would be a fun little treat to take to a playgroup or picnic (@ Big Red Kitchen)

I want to try this recipe for blue cheese cornbread (@ Baking Bites)

An Apron Full of Giveaways 06.23.09

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009
Snappy Shop, $46

I apologize that we did not have the giveaway link list last week. I was having some difficulties with our web host and was not able to add submissions to our site. We are back in business today though and I am happy to host another giveaway list for our readers and to send traffic to your blogs!

Today is the FINAL day that you can enter for $50 (four contests in all) for our Crystal Light Water Way Challenge. I am taking entries until 8PM this evening and then will be closing out all four of the giveaways. By following the link to this week’s contest, I have provided the links for all of the giveaways within that entry. There are a variety of ways to get in extra entries and some of the later contests have very few entries. I can’t wait to send out these gifts to you so take a moment to enter!

Follow the links below to find out how to enter to win these fabulous giveaways!

Below are the contest links-if you are hosting a contest please link it up below. Sorry, we aren’t giving away the aprons just showcasing them! Please put your site name and then what type of contest you are hosting. For example, “MomAdvice (Children’s Movies).”

Please let me know if you have any questions and good luck to each of you!

Images From Our Summer List

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009
Making Our Summer List

had a pizza and a movie night

made milkshakes

went to soccer camp for a week

ran through the sprinklers (and lounged by them too)

went to the (stinky) zoo

planted our garden

had a campfire night with marshmallows

Also accomplished: went to the movies * ice cream sundae night * attended VBS * went to the library * sleepover at Grandma & Grandpa’s * made homemade slushies

I realize that many of you have just recently got out of school, but we have been out since May so our summer will be coming to a close in August. We are trucking through our list and looking forward to lots more fun stuff this summer.

I hope you are having a fantastic summer too and spending lots of quality time with your sweet children! I am hoping the sun will be shining more here so we can do more water activities. In the meantime, we are having a blast and enjoying these precious moments together. I am trying to store each of these moments in my heart and treasuring these lazy summer days as much as I can for I know they end way too soon! Happy summer!

In June, as many as a dozen species may burst their buds on a single day. No man can heed all of these anniversaries; no man can ignore all of them. ~Aldo Leopold

Homemade Wendy’s Frosty

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

We really put our blender to work in the summer and I wanted to share with you one of my kid’s favorite treats for our homemade pizza night.

This is another fantastic recipe that I found on Hillbilly Housewife called, “Magic Milkshakes.” To me, this recipe tastes just like a Wendy’s Frosty with a fantastic balance of chocolate, creaminess, and the spoonable or sippable goodness that makes them one of my favorite summertime treats.

The magical component about them is that there is no ice cream in this yummy milkshake and that all the ingredients can be found in your cupboards. I adore recipes that can be whipped up as a fun surprise without the need to run to the store.

If you haven’t tried this recipe before, do not let another summer pass you by without putting this into your rotation! These are inexpensive, delicious, and will score coolest mom every points!

Homemade Wendy’s Frosty (The Magic Milkshake courtesy of Hillbilly Housewife)

1-1/2 to 2 cups ice water
1-1/2 cups nonfat dry milk powder
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 to 1-1/2 trays of ice cubes, as much as you can spare
2 tablespoons corn oil plus a 5-second squirt of non-stick spray for emulsification purpose (I substitute the corn oil with canola oil & you can read her notes on why you need that non-stick spray)

Place all of the ingredients into the blender, including the oil and the non-stick spray. Use less water for thicker milk shakes and more water for shakes that are easy on your blender motor. The blender should be about 3/4’s full. Place the lid on. Process for a full 2 minutes. Pour into cups and serve. Makes 4 – 12oz servings.

Related Links:

Homemade Slushies