Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Handmade Gifting

Who knew it would be so difficult to keep up with a simple blog! Things have been overly busy with school, vacation, sports.... that writing a new post sort of took the back burner. Which stinks because I really do enjoy writing this. 
Anyhow, with the Christmas season just around the corner, I've been making out my shopping lists, and have actually bought a few things already. Being a babysitter, I include my kids and their parents in my shopping list, so you can imagine just how long my list is! To help save a little, and make things a little more personal, the last few years I have been gearing toward handmade gifts. I like to make them myself, but if necessary, I will buy handmade. Last year I made sugar scrubs and apple butter and they were both hits! Making or buying homemade not only helps save a few pennies, it is also more economical, it really is a win win!

So, here is a list of some simple homemade items that make perfect gifts for just about anyone on your list!

1. Personalized Frame Wreath
     I made a few of these last year. You can hang them up in your home or on the front door. What made it better was that I was able to repurpose some old picture frames I had stuffed away in a closet. I knew I didn’t throw those away for a reason!  You can always find yarn for sale at any craft store, and I even scored a few rolls at the Goodwill! The letters cost $1-$2 at your local craft store. So, just a few dollars invested and you have very cute, personalized gift! Here is on of my favorites at Paper Wings.

2. Sugar or Salt Scrubs
            You can find numerous recipes for these out there. They are very simple to make, and with the ingredients you buy, you can make A LOT!  They really make your hands and feet smell and feel great! I didn’t bother with decorating my jars up a whole lot, I just tied a ribbon around making it look gift-y. Here are a few of my favorite recipes: Maybe Matilda and Under the Table and Dreaming.

3. Handmade Soap
            I haven’t tried this yet, but I hope to this year. Snappy Living has several recipes and instructions. They all seem like they have skin benefits, and would look very cute in a bathroom or kitchen.

4. Bottle Cap Magnets
            These little suckers are all kinds of cute! And if you are anything like me, you can keep enough magnets on your fridge.  You can personalize them, or make them wacky and random. You are in complete control! The instructions are here at Jader Bomb. Another idea, go flea marketing and find old, vintage bottle caps and glue the magnet to the backside!

5. Coffee Cozy
            Now on to sewing. I’ve made one of these already, and it’s really very simple! You can patch your fabric together or use solid pieces. They are perfect for any coffee lover. They economical and green because they prevent the need for those little cardboard ones at coffee shops! Here are the instructions at Patchy Apple.

6. Potholders
            Face it. Everyone needs these in their kitchen. And they probably need to be replaced more often than they are. This is another simple sewing project that you can add any personal touch to. Here are a few of my favs at Momtastic and Going Sew Crazy
There you have it! I’m sure I could find more, but chances are, if I keep going, I won’t stop! I hope I have helped you out with some great, simple Christmas ideas! And these don’t have to just be for Christmas, you can really gift them anytime!

How about you? Do you have any favorite handmade gifts you like to make?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

I Don't Care about Kristen Stewart....

I really don't. I do however care about equal treatment of women and their rights. How does this relate to Kristen Stewart? Well, this whole thing about her cheating on Robert Pattinson is blown completely out of proportion for one. There are studios turning her down so they don't hurt their own reputation. A new phrase or word has been coined after her: 'trampire'. The entire fan base of Twilight has pretty much turned their backs on her. You know, how could she do that to Edward??!! Gasp!! Whatever. You realize that Chris Brown beat the CRAP out if Rhianna and he still got played on radios, received awards and so forth??? You realize this is the REAL society we are living in? It's pretty scary!
I don't like getting caught up in mainstream media. I don't care about who is dating who. I care about myself, my rights and my family. I'm usually terrible about keeping up with politics and the latest news. I've been trying to do better. And it seems the growing issues with the current Presidential campaign is women's right. I'm not getting into the pro-life and pro-choice debate, I'm not. However, I do not think it should be the Government's right to make my choices for me. An no man or government should be telling me that I can't choose if I want to take contraception. The public is just starting to see how ignorant so many people are about pregnancy, rape and even our 'yearly' exams. Receiving preventative care will eventually become a very pressing issue.
I'm just saying, stay aware. We think our society has grown past non-equality, but it hasn't. This is all going to come to a head soon, and it's probably going to get ugly.
Anyhow, I'm not looking for a debate. I'm not trying to convince of one side or the other. I just think it is important that people be aware of what some of the real issues are that are out there today. But please, if you have an opinion or input, feel free to respond!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Time... is it Anyone's Friend??

Starting a blog right before I start back to school... not my brightest idea. That's right, I'm 30, and I am once again a college student. Scary thought! I have a small course load this semester, an online computer literacy class and Anatomy & Physiology 1. And I am retaking my ACT test in a few weeks. Even scarier! I have so many people that say "I wish I could go back." or "I wish I had the time." Well, you know, I don't have the time either, you have to make time work for you, not against you! With a 3 year old, and two active step-kids, I know how difficult it is. But there really is no better time than the present. Anyone out there giving any thought to going back to school, DO IT. You aren't getting any younger, and neither is your family. Work hard now, and you will have to make a few sacrifices, but it will have a major payoff in the end.
I try to use every bit of free time I have to read my Anatomy text, or study my terms. (Yep, only had two class meetings and I have a chapter to read and review and about 5 pages of body parts to memorize!) I keep note cards with me everywhere. There are several apps I've downloaded on my phone to quiz me. The kids nap, I read. I feed a baby and I am pointing out parts of the head, trunk, arms, legs. I feel like Anatomy has been all I have thought about for about a week now! And you know what, I still have time to do my workouts, go to ball games, visit friends, cook supper. On the days I have class I pull out my crock pot. Since I have to leave at 4:30 PM and don't get home until 7 some nights and 9 some nights, I try to eat before I leave and then I take snacks with me. It is a challenge, but it's a challenge that will build a stronger you.
So, needless to say, my blogs are going to come at a slower pace. It stinks because I have so much that I still want to write about, but this is not a high priority over my school work. I still hope to inspire and help. If you are trying to decide to go back to school, DO IT! I'd be more than happy to help you if you need some help with making the decision!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Small Steps to Healthy

     Anymore, it seems everywhere you turn you hear about people going green. Not just the recycling and reusing way, but also in the way they eat. Our society has become so fast paced that we have also become lazy. Sacrificing health over convenience has become the lifestyle. A while back, I became committed to turning that around and sacrificing convenience for health. It's important for me and my family so they can also grow up to pass it on their families and so forth. This isn't an easy change to make. You have to take small, slow steps to get there. My goal is not to make my family vegan, or fully organic, but to make the better choice. So I am going to share with you a few small, easy changes I made and maybe I can help someone else along their journey!

1. Whole Grains
     Whole grains are important to our bodies, and should be a part of our everyday diet. (FYI: A LOT of people confuse the word 'diet' with losing weight. Your diet is how you eat, healthy or not. You don't go on a diet, you change it.) Adding even just a serving in your daily consumption can help reduce the risk of stroke, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. I'm SOLD!!! And with the awareness of healthy nutrition becoming high, it is not difficult to fit them into a meal or snack. Many cereals are now made with more whole grains, and you find them in something as simple as a granola bar. Personally, I have started buying Egg-O waffles made with whole grain (I prefer the Honey Oat flavor) and White Whole Grain Bunny Bread. Both still taste as good and no one notices a difference at all. The waffles are even good enough, I can eat them without syrup! Visit The Whole Grains Council to learn more about the benefits of whole grains.

2. Don't Fry, Bake
     Can you believe we don't even own a fryer?? When I was dating my husband I gasped at the fact he didn't own one. How in the world am I supposed to make french fries? Bake them! If I wanted to fry up something for supper, chicken or fish, I would just use a skillet. And to be honest, that is a lot of effort and grease I don't like to deal with, so most of the time I just bake or grill our meats. For french fries we sprinkle some seasoned salt or even just pepper and bake them. Preheat your oven to 450 and pop them in. Even things like cheese sticks, bake em. Most froze, packaged items come with instructions for the oven. Everything still tastes as good, and who needs all that oil??

3. No Cokes, Soda, Pop...
     I know there are people out there who think I am just cruel because I won't let my son drink cokes. Not even every now and then. I don't want him to like them. When I feel like he is capable of making the right, healthy choices, then he can have one. But right now, being that he is three, he doesn't know about healthy food, so it is up to me and my husband, and the rest of the adults in my family to educate him and make those decisions for him. We don't even buy cokes to keep in our home. Yes, I do drink coke every now and then, but I do it leisurely and in moderation. There is not one beneficial thing about drinking cokes. Not even diet cokes. If there is any benefit, it's not worth the risks. It is terrible for your teeth, digestion, heart, blood, brain and the list goes on. See this chart from Term Life Insurance about what happens to your body when you drink coke. It's not just the sugar (which now they use high-fructose corn syrup to sweeten a lot of food and drinks now), it's also the caffine. Caffine is a drug. And yes, you can become addicted to it just like any other drug!  I'm not saying write out cokes completely, but I'd suggest not even drink one a day. I drink MAYBE one a week. I did get headaches when I made this transition, but I powered through. For me, it's more about having something with a little flavor. I have a hard time just drinking water. I will fill up a pitcher of water, throw in some squeezed lemon and sliced cucumber. It's a tasty and healthy drink. I also make decaffinated tea and not much sugar. Cokes are difficult to cut out, but you can do it!!!

4. Stop buying your dinner in a box and cook!
     This is where a big sacrifice of convenience comes in. Those hamburger helpers and 'just add meat' dinners are packed with sodium and most likely contain msg (monosodium glutamate). In case you didn't know already, msg is BAD. It is found in most processed foods. You can find more info about msg here, At the right seasons, check out your local farmers market for fresh veggies to make it even better.
     If you are a busy family, pre-make your seasonings to keep on hand. Here is a recipe for taco seasoning, the family loves it! With places out there like Pinterest there are endless resources for making your own of anything. Keep a few frozen meals you can just throw in the crock pot in the mornings and it's done when you get home. They are healthier and tastier. Yes, you may have to cut a few of your own veggies. But you can buy food choppers and slicers to help that process along.

There you have it! It's not much and I'm sure I will come up with more later. Just remember, everything in moderation. Make good and healthy eating choices, not just for you but for your family and your family's future.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Babysitting is WORK!!

There isn't much more that irks me than when my husband comes home from work, sits on the couch and proclaims, "Why are you so tired? I work all day." Though I know he is kidding, it still makes my blood pressure rise a little, and that is why he says it.
I made the decision one and a half years ago to quit my full-time job as a graphic designer to stay home with my son. However, the only way that would be made possible was if I started babysitting. Easy-peasy, right? No. It didn't take long for me to pick up 4-5 kids, some part time and some full-time. And didn't take long to realize how UNDERPAID babysitters are! We make an average of $2.50/hr per hour! I don't expect to get each parents income or anything. However, it is one of the most rewarding, yet under-appreciated jobs. We are not lazy. This is something we CHOOSE.
Babysitters don't just sit there and watch kids play, we cover many jobs: teacher, nurse, speech therapist, chef, nutritionist, time manager, referee... We teach your kids to share. We change their poopy diapers. Assist them to the potty. Help them learn responsibilities. We get pulled on. Spit up on. Tackled. We listen to whining, crying, complaining. Kiss boo-boos. And it's worth it when you get rewarded with snuggles, kisses and hugs. We organized strict routines, with strict nap-times. Once we get time to breathe, the UPS man bangs on the door, waking up 2 or 3 kids. (Nap time is VERY sacred in this house!!)
There are times when we have to, very awkwardly, remind a parent to pay us. That is our income, just like you have your income. At the end of the week we have bills to pay just like anyone else. I've had many weeks where I had to skimp on groceries because I didn't make enough that week to pay my bill and groceries. And I have a family of 5!! Don't complain about how much you have to pay your babysitter because you could have to send your child to a day care. Instead, show your babysitter how much they are appreciated for their service. And if any of my parents are reading this, I'm not talking directly to any of you!! As with any workplace, when you show your employee's appreciation, you will get better results and hard work because they feel as though they are worth it!

My 'babies'
All the kiddos after nap time!
My Summer kiddos!
This is just my statement, my opinion. I love the kids I keep, and I will miss them when I have to start back to school full-time. Just think before you make a negative comment about babysitters. If it's so easy, then why doesn't everyone do it? It requires so much more patience than anyone could ever realize. So my challenge... hug a babysitter today, let them know how much they mean!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Top 5 Healthy Pinterest Recipes...

Pinterest... everyone knows what it is by now. An excuse to sit on the computer for hours searching for a new recipe, an idea for a gift, workouts to get fit... the list goes on. My time on Pinterest comes in waves. I'll get on it everyday for a while, and when I start seeing the same pins over and over I take a hiatus for a bit.
I've been using Pinterest a lot to find new, tasty and healthy recipes for my family. It seems between the 5 of us, finding something that everyone likes is rare. So I'd like to share my top healthy Pinterest recipes to date. And I'd like to note, I am trying to stray away from using the convenience of the creams ('cream of' soups and cream cheese that is). They make anything taste yummy, but let's face, they just aren't that healthy!! And, I don't own a fryer, I bake just about everything that should be fried, even my french fries!

So here goes:

1. Baked Chicken Fajitas

These are so easy and healthy! You don't have to precook the chicken, just throw it all in a dish and bake. It would also be a good meal to freeze ahead of time, you would just need to adjust your cook times. And you are using your own spices rather than prepacked seasoning, which can be packed full of sodium. You can find the recipe here, Eatin' on the Cheap, adapted from the Taste of Home magazine.

2. Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin

This one does require a little time, but it's worth it in the end! The whole family loves it, and it's packed full of flavor and low calories! Watch your cooking times though. I end up having to cook longer than the suggested time. You can find the recipe here: Kraft Food & Family. There are a few alterations I made since I didn't have all the ingredients. I used apple butter instead of apple juice and nutmeg. The apple butter already contained nutmeg along with other spices. I made the apple butter myself, the recipe I used for that is here. And if you don't have Grey Poupon on hand, any spicy mustard will work! 

3. Cheesy Potato Rounds

A great alternative to french fries, these are like little baked potatoes! Simple to make, and yummy! If you don't want to cook bacon or don't have precooked bacon, you can always use Bacon Bits. You can find the recipe at All Recipes.

4. Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole

The whole family loves this one!! Because of a long preparation time and pre-cooking, I suggest dicing the veggies and cooking the chicken early in the day. I cut the veggies when the kids were napping, and cooked the chicken late in the afternoon so I wasn't rushing to do it all at once by the time 4 o'clock rolled around. This is also a good 'freezer meal'. Here's a quick tip: Do you have a stand up mixer? Use it to shred your chicken!! The recipe for the casserole is here, Picky Palate.
My suggestions: Don't make the same mistake and use 2 cups of UNcooked rice. My dish was over-flowing with rice the first time I made it! My very small, local grocer didn't have just plain wild rice, so I used the Uncle Ben's microwaveable pack of herbed wild rice. It fit along with this recipe very well and added some extra flavor! This is probably the best 'non-cream' casserole I have come across!

5. Lemon Garlic Spaghetti

This is the perfect alternative to spaghetti with red sauce, which is easy to get burned out on. I try to do a pasta/spaghetti or meatless night at least once a week, and this recipe has been a great addition! It's quick, easy and requires very few ingredients! I've started growing herbs this year, however, basil didn't make the list this time around. So it's ok to dash some dried basil if you don't have fresh! The recipe is at Cutesy Jingles.

So there you have it! Feel free to follow me and recipe boards on Pinterest! What are some of your favorite healthy recipes you've found on Pinterest??

Follow Me on Pinterest

Sunday, July 29, 2012


Insanity!... the new workout fad. I've never been a big 'workout' person. I was never really athletic. I did however grow up working on a farm. So most of my strength came from productivity. If there wasn't anything to, I wasn't going to do anything. I've never considered myself 'fat', out of shape, yes. Motivation is hard for me come by. I could sit on the couch and tell myself over and over, "Just get your a** up and do some crunches or something!" Yet, there I sat. Typically, in the summer I lose a few pounds just from getting out and being more active. Not this summer, instead the pounds have packed on. Finally, I said enough. My bestie and I started talking about Insanity! and we decided to start together. So, I jumped on another bandwagon. I'm not looking to be skinny, I like my booty and curves, they just need to be little firmer. I want to rid the muffin top and legs that stick out past the shorts! You can't get much better motivation than your husband, bestie and her husband doing it together. It's someone to look to for encouragement and tell you that you CAN do it! 
If you are out there reading this, I want to encourage you to get out there and get moving. It doesn't have to be aggressive workouts like Insanity!, you can do yoga, pilates, zumba... It's not just about being 'in shape' and fit, it's about being healthy. Being a better you for your future. It's being fit on the inside, how you look on the outside is just an added bonus. Find what works for you and don't give up!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Homemade Laundry Detergent Bandwagon...

It seems lately every time you turn around someone else is going on about making their own laundry detergent. I had unsure feelings about it, I'll admit. Part of me was lazy about collecting the supplies needed, like it takes soooo many. Finally I said, "That's it. Once I go through these last five bottles of Tide I'm making my own!" Yes, I had 5 bottles of Tide in my house at one time. I had that many coupons and there was a good sale, and that is the only time I buy it, when it's less than $5!

So, I asked around and researched looking for a recipe that was good for me. Which all the recipes are basically the same using washing soda, Borax and Feels soap. Cook the soap, mix... blah blah. And in the end it's really think, like gel. That just seems like too much for me.

Just as I am about to give up and move on I come across a pin on Pinterest that catches my attention, homemade laundry soap using DAWN!!! It's not thick??? No cooking??? You can make it by the bottle?? Heck yeah!!! I have 3 full bottles of Dawn I bought a year ago for less than $1 that are collecting dust. I VERY rarely hand wash my dishes, so 1 bottle will last me forever.

Here is the link to the recipe: One Good Thing by Jillee

The best part is that you can use different scents of Dawn and it will leave your laundry scented. The only thing I had to do different was cut her recipe down. Jillee uses 1 gallon jugs while I have 50 ounce bottles (which is still less than a half a gallon). I just cut the recipe in half and it still works great! I'm still testing using different amounts in various laundry sizes, but I call this a success!! It's fast, easy and works!!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Natural Mosquito Repellent

Gonna make this quick, or try to. I've had a busy weekend and a busy week ahead, so I'm ready for bed!
I had bought a few essential oils to make some Christmas gifts, hand scrubs to be specific, and ever since they've been sitting around my house collecting dust. It wasn't until recently I've been hearing that there is so much more you can use these essential oils for! And a little $3-$4 bottle goes a long way because you only need to use a few drops at a time
My main focus for this blog is Peppermint Oil. Just waving the bottle under the nose will give you a little pep up. You can also add a few drops to some cool water, soak it with a rag and lay on your forehead for a cooling sensation. And the list goes on! For more health benefits, you can read more on those here: Top 5 Health Benefits of Peppermint Oil.
However, I just discovered and new use for it over the weekend. A mosquito repellent! We had a few friends over this weekend and as the sun started to go down the mosquito's started to go on the attack. I grabbed my bug guard lotion and my peppermint oil since I had heard that is could also be used as a bug guard. And would you believe that it WORKED!! I rubbed some behind my ears, on my wrists and ankles and didn't get a single bite the rest of the night. And not only did work for me, it worked for everyone! Goodbye chemically stinky bug sprays, hello healthy, natural peppermint oil! I would not recommend it if you are going to be hiking, out in the woods with ticks and bees and such, but it is perfect for nights you want to just chill out on the patio or have a picnic!
Give it a try for yourself! There is really nothing to lose!

On a side note: Do not mistake essential oils for the scented or fragrant oils used for candles and reed diffusers! They are bad for your skin and should not be ingested! I found my essential oils online from numerous medical rescources and at a local health food store. I am specifically using the brand Aura Cacia.

What is your favorite essential oil and use?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Good Storm and a Glass of Wine

     All this week my church has been hosting Bible School for kids PreK - 6th grade. Guess who was in the PreK room?? Me. Shew! Our first night we had 15 screaming, fired up 3 and 4 year olds. By the end of the week we dwindled down to about 12. Oh, don't worry, we had plenty of help recruited in the form of teenagers.
     Anyhow, there is a storm approaching and I am sitting here with a glass of wine unwinding from the day. It's really the only time of day I really get to unwind. There isn't much more that is relaxing than sitting in the quiet, a glass of sweet red wine, and the low rumble of the thunder. In the end it is all worth it to be able to see the kids have fun and learn something in between the hits, and potty breaks, and chasing and screaming. As long as I get to squeeze a little me time in there, I can keep my sanity!
     Well, this storm is very fast approaching, and I need to finish this glass before it gets too bad. How else am I going to keep my cool when it actually hits??

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

History Lesson

Of course you can read the basics about me and my purpose here to the right, but every blog has to have a first post, right? How about a little more history and how I got here? Probably kind of a bore, but as my purpose states, I hope to one day inspire someone. To do what? I don't know. That's for them to figure out!
Anyhow, I was born... no. I'm not gonna start there! How about, I graduated from Western Kentucky University with a degree in Print Advertising. Great accomplishment, that took me a long time to figure out, just about how everything does for me. However, it didn't quite settle me. I worked in the field of graphic design for almost 5 years. I won't lie. I wasn't quite happy and I wasn't making enough. Got married to my wonderful husband, tacked on 2 step kids who are VERY active in sports, had my son, and that just made it worse. I sat at my desk day in and out thinking how someone else was raising my son but me! It drove me literally stir crazy! So, I ended that chapter, I quit my job. BIG decision as a family. The only way husband approved was if I started babysitting to keep some income. For the last year and a half that is what I've done. It's been a joy, though I still don't get to quite do all things I'd like with my son, I'm still with him and that is priceless! All this time though, I know I will eventually have to go back to work. Psh! Who needs work?? I do! With a step-son that will be rounding 16 in a year, thinking about driving and college, a 3 year old that will start preschool and sports in a year, the demand for a higher income couldn't be more needed!
After thinking and thinking.... and thinking... I have settled on going back to school to be a nurse. Completely opposite from graphic design, I know!! Lucky for me I have all the gen ed needed except for a few anatomy classes and nursing assistance, oh, and an ACT score of 20!! Yes I'm nervous. And yes, I am excited! So this is where I am now. Hope my history lesson hasn't BORED you!!