Monday, February 28, 2011

Off Season Crafts

Our local Walgreen's donated a bunch of un-bought Christmas candy to our church including candy canes and gingerbread house kits. The candy is still good, that stuff lasts forever. And while I'm not big on keeping those types of sweets in the house, I don't mind so much. We've been doing a good job of not pigging out on it.


So last week, Caitlin and I put together a gingerbread house. It was kind-a weird in a way because it's two months past Christmas, but who cares. Caitlin really enjoyed the project especially after she figured out that everything was edible. If you can imagine what a gingerbread house would look like when an almost 2 year old decorates, it might look something like this.


Not the prettiest thing ever, but lot's of fun! So here's to doing crafts even if they are out of season.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Few Quiet Minutes

We parents know how precious a few quiet minutes to yourself are. A few weeks ago, hubs and I had a conversation about it. Neither of us can truly give the attention the other needs until we have some time to ourselves to recharge our batteries. There are so many things that demand our attention each and every day; kids, spouses, friends, work, chores, plus additional responsibilities we sign up for (for us that's usually something to do with church). Sometimes all these things build up and you need to emotionally recharge.

Here are a few ideas on how to fit in those few minutes.

  1. Dates with Daddy (or Mommy). Taking the kids on regular 'dates' with one parent gives the other parent some time to his or herself. You don't even have to do it every week, maybe every other week or once a month; whatever works for your family.
  2. Bath time. Early on in our parenting, Eric said that he would take on the daily responsibility of giving Caitlin her bath. Those few precious minutes are my chance to do whatever I want. True, I sometimes squander them by doing chores, but as hubs gently reminded me once, that was my choice. I can use that time to read, veg in front of the tv, blog, whatever.
  3. Bed time. Since I get bath time to my self, Eric gets bed time to his self. Caitlin is still nursing and prefers I put her to bed anyway. So that's his time to do whatever. Although lately he has been helping me put her to bed because we are trying to break her from this need to have mommy to sleep.
  4. Commute. If you are a working parent, use that time in your car to decompress from your day. Turn on the radio and get lost in some favorite tunes or turn it off and enjoy a few minutes quiet time. That way, when you get home, you feel fresh and don't have work stuck on your mind.
  5. Sleep In. In our house, we have a system for dealing with our daughter's early mornings. Simply put, we alternate mornings regardless of if she wakes early or not. So, on Monday it might be Eric's turn to get up with her and my turn to sleep in for a few minutes. Usually just 15 - 30 minutes. Then, on Tuesday, it's my turn to get up.
  6. Nap time. Any stay-at-home parent knows the value of nap time. Not only is it healthy for your child, but it becomes your sanity. Some days I use that time for chores, and others I use as my time. Nap time is an essential part of my day.
These are just a few ways that Eric and I try to fit in that personal time so that we can really be there for each other and for Caitlin all the rest of the time. How do you fit in your few quiet minutes?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Homemade Glue Remover Experiment

When Caitlin was beginning to crawl and then walk, we put bumper pads on some of our furniture. The packaging for the bumpers said that the glue would not leave any residue when you took it off. Lies! All lies! We were able to get some off with minimal glue residue, but most left a streak of yucky left over glue. We could not scrub, scrape, or pick it off.

Ehow.com lists several ways to remove glue using common things around the house. But, when I see lists that have several options to do the same thing, I'm skeptical. Do they all really work? And if so, do they work equally as well. So I decided to do a little experiment. Ehow lists cooking oil, peanut butter, alcohol, and vinegar as things that will get rid of the glue. I picked cooking oil and vinegar to test. The idea of using peanut butter just seemed too messy and I thought alcohol would dry out the wood furniture.

Here's a picture of the bottom rails of our coffee table. Gross, I know. I put olive oil on the left half and vinegar on the right and let it sit for a few minutes while I went to change Caitlin's diaper.


When I came back, I used a dry cloth to rub over the glue. Neither came off super easy, I still had to use some elbow grease. But as nothing worked before, this was a considerable improvement! The olive oil worked best. It completely removed the glue.


The vinegar did ok. You can see in the picture below that there was still some glue smudged in the area I was cleaning.


So, I finished up with the oil. Like I said, you have to let it sit for a minute or two and then use some pressure when wiping. I even used my finger nail to scrape some up. The main thing is that it did come off. And my furniture got a nice moisturizing polish too! I will definitely be using this in the future as I'm sure to have more glue messes.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Perfect Marriage Solution

Recently our household has been battling a series of illnesses. For the past month someone in our house has been sick. Nothing more serious than a stomach bug and several colds, but still it's really tiring. But through it all, we have discovered the solution to a perfect marriage.

You see, I have been very hoarse all week. My voice begins to come back if I don't talk for a while, but as soon as I start talking again it fades right out into mousy little squeaks. I feel fine and talking doesn't hurt. I just can't. On top of that, Eric's cold has led to a plugged up ear. Poor guy hasn't been able to hear out of that ear for at least a week, maybe even two. Again, his ear isn't hurting, he just can't hear properly.

So here we are trying to have a conversation. I can't speak above a raspy whisper and Eric can't hear half of what I'm saying. It's great! I can talk all I want and he can honestly ignore me. It sounds a lot like normal, but this way nobody's feelings get hurt because of what one says or because the other isn't listening. The only danger is that he can speak and I can hear just fine. So maybe we need another cold to set my hearing and his voice in order. Then we'll have the perfect marriage!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

$40 CSN Winner


Congratulations!!

Gina at Crave to Save has won the $40 CSN Giveaway. Happy Shopping Gina!


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

$40 CSN Reminder


Don't forget tomorrow is the last day you can enter the $40 CSN Giveaway! So get in your final entries. Entries close at 9:00 pm EST tomorrow, Wednesday. And good luck!

The Best and Worst of Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day was interesting this year. I had told Eric a week ago that I didn't want to go to some stuffy dinner. I'd rather go to the circus. It's been I don't know how long since I've been to the circus and I thought Caitlin would enjoy it too! Yes, we took our daughter with us for Valentine's. We love her too! Actually it was Sunday night, not technically on Valentine's Day.

It was a lot of fun and Caitlin did better than I expected her to! We went an hour early for the pre-show where you can get up close and meet some of the performers. The show totally captivated Caitlin's attention which is saying a lot considering I can't get her to sit down for two minutes straight for anything else.

We got home and all of us were completely exhausted. Now here's where the worst part comes in. When we got up that morning at 5:45, Caitlin was running a fever and not feeling well at all. I had lost my voice and sounded like a pathetic little mouse. We spent most of Valentine's Day in bed. I did manage to cook dinner. (I felt fine, I just had trouble getting Caitlin to let me set her down or leave her at all.) Poor Eric felt badly because it wasn't a very romantic V-Day, but the thing he doesn't realize is that it actually was. You see, he went and got ice cream for us and while I was putting Caitlin to bed, he did some tidying. And then, we played a game or two after she went to sleep. For me, it's the every day things that are so important. Sure, every girl wants to have something special done for her, but I'd rather that happen on a random day; not forced because a holiday tells him to.

So that was our Valentine's Day. It was good and not so good. Thankfully Caitlin seems to be feeling a lot better today. Her fever is gone anyway. I still haven't gotten my voice back, but maybe that's not such a bad thing.

I hope you had a wonderful day! Here's a few pictures of the circus pre-show.




Friday, February 11, 2011

Natural Fiber Rug Giveaway


Merida Meridian and Merida Home, are manufacturers of contemporary natural fiber rugs. If you’re not familiar with the brand, Merida has been designing and manufacturing area rugs made from natural, sustainable fibers for over 30 years. Here's what their website says on sustainability:

At Merida we take very seriously the scientific evidence establishing that our planet’s ecosystem and natural resources are being rapidly and irremediably exhausted by the growing demand created by human population growth and activities. There are many factors that support this conclusion, such as:

  • Exponential population increase
  • Accumulation of chemicals and toxic wastes in the environment
  • Decline in biodiversity
  • Diminishing supply of clean water
  • Degradation of oceans and associated risks to fisheries
  • Social and economic imbalances on national and global scales

We also support the widespread theory that emission of greenhouse gases from human activities has been causing global climate change. Modern industry largely relies on fossil fuels such as oil and coal for energy, creating harmful gases such as CO2 and methane. These gases trap heat from the sun, causing increased temperatures that can radically change the earth’s climate patterns, with dangerous consequences for human, plant and animal life.

In our opinion, it is imperative that society move away from a carbon dependent economy. We believe this can be done by using sustainable materials, reinventing the way we design products and drastically changing consumption patterns.

As always with scientific theories, there are some dissenting views on the environmental crisis. But we strongly believe that our efforts and the efforts of like-minded individuals and organizations are helping to build a better world. We are not willing to gamble on the future of our planet, and we are glad that you are here to join us.

Merida is hosting a giveaway one their website for two 4x6 Elements Driftwood sisal area rugs. That's one for you and one for me, hopefully. Just go to their site to enter to win. The contest ends on March 14, 2011. They will ask you for the link to my blog as well so, please copy and paste http://bigdreamsforasimplelife.blogspot.com so I can have an entry too. Thanks!

And while you're at their site, take a look at all their natural fiber rugs, they look beautiful!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Chemical Free Microwave Cleaner

A few months ago, my sister-in-law told me about a really simple way to clean your microwave. The great thing about it, besides being simple is it doesn't require cleaner of any kind. I know what you're thinking. No cleaner? How is it possible to get something clean with out a cleaner?? It's simple. Use steam.

All you have to do is put a small mug of water in the microwave for a few minutes. You should be able to see the water boiling. Then when the microwave beeps. Wait. Let the mug of water sit for another couple of minutes while you do something else. Then open the door and wipe the splatters off with a sponge. And yes, all that stuck on stuff comes off as easy as wiping it down.


The steam seeps into all the yuckiness and makes it soft and easy to come off. It's a little difficult to see in the picture above, but it you look carefully, you'll see the clean stripe where I've wiped with the sponge. If your microwave is really dirty like mine was when I did this, you might need to do a second heating. I was able to wipe down all the sides, but then needed to reheat the water and let it sit again for the bottom.

And then you can use the hot water to make a nice cup of tea!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Dishwashing Detergent

A few months ago I posted about making your own laundry detergent. Now, I've found out how to make your own dishwasher detergent. And it's really easy!

You just need equal parts Borax and Baking Soda. So...

Two cups Borax
Two cups Baking Soda
Frugally Green adds 4 packages of sugar free lemon Kool-Aid to get that nice lemon smell with her dishes.



Then you just use 2 tablespoons per load. (1 tablespoon in the open cup and 1 in the closed locking cup)

And you can use White Vinegar as your Rinse-Aid for that extra shine on your glasses.

I put my dish washing powder in a simple tupperware container, but you can use nicer looking jars if you want. Just label it so you won't forget what's in there. So simple and easy, and it works great! It saves you money and reduces the chemicals in your cleaning cabinet, you just can't beat that!



*Update: I've had some questions about whether or not the detergent leaves any residue. Frankly, I didn't address this because I have never really had any residue issues with my dishwasher. So, I really didn't even think about it. But, so far, with this new detergent, I haven't had any problems.

Someone else who has used this recipe told me that the lemon Kool-Aid not only gives the fresh scent but also helps with residue issues because it contains citric acid. I didn't use the Kool-Aid, but if you are concerned with residue, it would be worth a try.

I also took a couple of photos of my dishes after taking them from the dishwasher tonight. I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have any other questions.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Something Extra

This post is really scary for me. If I write this and post it, then it means I can't back out. I decided at the end of last year I wanted to do something, but the prospect is really intimidating for me. What if I don't make it? What if I just flake out and don't even try?

Being a stay-at-home mom is wonderful. I love it. But, I would also like to find a way to contribute financially; to find something to do outside of taking care of Caitlin. Something extra for me. So, I've decided to open an Etsy shop. I am already going to be making jams, jellies, and spaghetti sauce this spring and summer, so why not make a little extra and try to sell it. And maybe some other handmade goodies too.

So there it is. It's out there now. You are all going to be my accountability. I won't be opening it up next week, it'll be late spring at least; once our garden begins to yield it's harvest. I already have a shop name in mind, but I need some help with a logo. So, if any of you know someone who creates logos for a cheap price, please let me know.

Monday, February 7, 2011

$40 CSN Giveaway

GIVEAWAY CLOSED


I have another opportunity to host a great giveaway for CSN stores. I know you heard of them, right? CSN Stores has over 200 online stores where you can find anything you need whether it be swingsets, fitness equipment, or even cute cookware! I love looking around at all the really cool things they have.

Hubs and I want to get a swingset for Caitlin's birthday, but you can enter to win $40 to use on anything you want at any one of their stores. Don't you just love the flexibility CSN offers with their giveaways!


How to Win:

Mandatory entry: Become a follower of Big Dreams for A Simple Life via Google Friend Connect (right sidebar) and leave a comment (including your email address) telling me you did. If you are already a follower, just leave me a comment and your email address telling me so for your entry.

Extra Entries: Please include your email address on ALL entries.
  1. Go to CSN stores and tell me what you would buy if you won. +1
  2. Like me on Facebook (right side bar) +1
  3. Follow me on Networked blogs (right side bar) +1
  4. Follow me on Twitter +1
  5. Vote for me on We're on the Fence or Top Mommy Blogs by clicking the buttons on my right side bar, only one vote per site per day +1 each per day
  6. Tweet about this giveaway, only once per day +1
  7. Put my blog button (left side bar) on your blog and leave me the direct link +3
  8. Blog about this giveaway and leave me the link to your post +4
U.S. and Canada only. This giveaway is open until Wednesday, February 16 at 9:00 p.m. EST. The winner will be chosen using random.org. I will email the winner, who will have 48 hours to respond. If winner does not respond within 48 hours, another winner will be chosen. I will post the winner when the selection has been made and confirmed by the recipient.

I am not being compensated for this giveaway in any way. See my general disclosure policy here.

Dispose Compact Fluorescent Bulbs

You use compact fluorescent bulbs don't you? We do. But, the problem I have now encountered is what to do with them once they either burn out or get broken? I know CFLs (compact fluorescent lightbulbs) aren't supposed to burn out as quickly as regular bulbs, but we have had a few burn out. And we have broken one or two as well.

So the question remains. What do you do with these bulbs if either of these things happen. There is a small amount of mercury in CFLs so you can't just throw them away. We have been saving them. I've put the broken bits in a zip lock bag and put them with the burnt out bulbs in a box. I hate collecting junk and this is most certainly junk; unusable, broken, junk.So, after some research I found two really great sites with lots of information, http://www.epa.gov/cfl/cflrecycling.html and http://earth911.com/.

The EPA gives the following information on how to safely clean up a breakage.
1. Before Clean-up: Air Out the Room

• Have people and pets leave the room, and don't let anyone walk through the breakage area on their way out.
• Open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more.
• Shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system, if you have one.

2. Clean-Up Steps for Hard Surfaces

• Carefully scoop up glass fragments and powder using stiff paper or cardboard and place them in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag.
• Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass pieces and
powder.
• Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes. Place towels in the glass jar or plastic bag.
• Do not use a vacuum or broom to clean up the broken bulb on hard surfaces.

3. Clean-up Steps for Carpeting or Rug:
• Carefully pick up glass fragments and place them in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag.
• Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder.
• If vacuuming is needed after all visible materials are removed, vacuum the area where the bulb was broken.
• Remove the vacuum bag (or empty and wipe the canister), and put the bag or vacuum debris in a sealed plastic bag.

4. Clean-up Steps for Clothing, Bedding, etc.:

• If clothing or bedding materials come in direct contact with broken glass or mercury- containing powder from inside the bulb that may stick to the fabric, the clothing or bedding should be thrown away. Do not wash such clothing or bedding because mercury fragments in the clothing may contaminate the machine and/or pollute sewage.
• You can, however, wash clothing or other materials that have been exposed to the
mercury vapor from a broken CFL, such as the clothing you are wearing when you
cleaned up the broken CFL, as long as that clothing has not come into direct contact with the materials from the broken bulb.
• If shoes come into direct contact with broken glass or mercury-containing powder from the bulb, wipe them off with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes. Place the towels or wipes in a glass jar or plastic bag for disposal.

5. Disposal of Clean-up Materials

• Immediately place all clean-up materials outdoors in a trash container or protected area for the next normal trash pickup.
• Wash your hands after disposing of the jars or plastic bags containing clean-up materials.
• Check with your local or state government about disposal requirements in your specific area. Some states do not allow such trash disposal. Instead, they require that broken and unbroken mercury-containing bulbs be taken to a local recycling center.

6. Future Cleaning of Carpeting or Rug: Air Out the Room During and After Vacuuming

• The next several times you vacuum, shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system and open a window before vacuuming.
• Keep the central heating/air conditioning system shut off and the window open for at least 15 minutes after vacuuming is completed.

Ok, so now you either have a broken bulb you cleaned up or a simple burned out bulb. So what do you do with them? You can recycle them! I had no idea. You just have to know where the recycling centers are. That's where http://earth911.com/ comes in. You can type in your zip code and it will tell you the nearest collection center. For me it's our local Home Depot. So, now I can take in our collection of bad bulbs and get a little cabinet space back.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Waiting for Spring

I've never been a winter type person. I love summer. even though it gets ridiculously hot and humid, I'd rather it be summer than winter any day. But for some reason, this winter has seemed longer and colder. And it's not just me. I've had other people tell me they felt the same way.

Anyway, I am so ready for warmer weather. I'm ready to see the flowers peeking out from the ground, for longer daylight hours, for working in the garden, smelling the earth, and cleaning it out from under my finger nails. I'm ready to let Caitlin outside to play instead of telling her that it's too cold today, or bundling her up so she can't move.

Maybe it's because we've been dealing with sickness over the past two weeks, but being couped up is really getting to me. There's only so many times you can play with the same toys before both you and your kid are tired of playing with it. I haven't even been able to get to the gym because of sicknesses. So, I ask you; what do you do to keep cabin fever at bay?
 
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