Most of us are burned the heck out from distance learning, hybrid learning, or jumping feet first into homeschooling. This last year has put us through the wringer.
I’ve been doing some research on apps, online programs, and ways for my kids to learn without them feeling like the weight of school is pressing down on them. I’m tired of Zoom Meetings, regardless of what they are for (the least useful for me at least was the telehealth appointment for physical therapy for one of the kids).
Here are some of the cool stuff I’ve found:
I’m sure most of you have heard of ABC Mouse. Right now when you sign up and receive a 30 Day FREE Trial of ABCmouse.
When I discovered this deal, I signed up for it. Bitty Bird needs a little help with phonics and reading, and I figured with a deal like this, we should give ABC Mouse a shot.
Membership includes: 8,500+ Learning Activities, Access on All Devices, Comprehensive Online Learning, and Advanced Progress Tracking.
Add up to 3 children for the price of one.
If your kiddo is older than 2nd grade, ABCMouse isn’t for you, but there is still a great program for your big kiddos!
Adventure Academy is a great way for older kids to learn, and you can try the first 30 days free.
Membership includes: 8,500+ Learning Activities, Access on All Devices, Comprehensive Online Learning and Advanced Progress Tracking
I’m busier now than I have been in ages! Most everyone has started distance learning, including our family.
Thankfully, Big Kids’ teacher is in communication and sent us an email with tons of great resources and links. I am trying to keep the kids entertained without relying on screens all day (even educational screen time). My kids are not motivated by worksheets either, so we need to do hands-on stuff.
Besides schoolwork, we’ve started our annual spring garden. Big Kid and I donned masks and hit up the local nursery. We picked out Catnip, Rosemary, Basil, and a hanging strawberry plant in addition to a few kinds of seeds. Our patio looks great, and the kids are outside daily tending to their plants and harvesting ripe strawberries. I kept the pots from last year’s garden.
The other night after the kids were settled, I decided to clean out the junk drawer (ok, 1 junk drawer, we have a couple), the utensil drawer, and the silverware drawer.
I threw out old condiment packets, broken serving spoons, knives with broken/chipped handles, lids that had no corresponding cups, and I vacuumed out each drawer.
After I had completed that herculean feat, I dove headfirst (metaphorically) into the pantry.
I pulled everything out pantry and set it on the counter.
I checked all the expiration dates. Anything expired got the boot.
When all of this madness started a few weeks ago, I had gone to the store to do my weekly shop, and so many of the things that I’m used to buying were not available. I decided to purchase some alternate products from what we usually have in the house. Some were met with success, some were not so good- I’m looking at you Fideo Noodles.
As a result, I filled a reusable shopping bag with some food that did not cut the mustard. I took most of those items over to our local blessing box to help some of our neighbors in need. The rest I shared with some of the neighbors on our local free food group.
Our pantry is horribly laid out. It is very narrow and deep. The dangerous part of our cupboard is you cannot reach all the way in the back without help. Last night I used a very long spatula to assist me. One of the things that I found was baby food. Little Bit is 4 1/2. I managed to clear out the pantry 100% and then refill it and move items around so it is easier to gain access
I get food in the mail or events from brands to cook with and post about on social media. Most of the time they give me a couple of each item, rarely they send cases. There were a lot of odds and ends of food from PR campaigns.
I’m also working my way through our closets to get rid of broken toys, clothing we’ve outgrown or don’t wear, or junk. I’ve come to realize that after all of this is over we’ll need to replace our towels (Our current set is from our wedding 12+ years ago), the kids need new sheets, and Big Kid is getting a new bed (which was in the works before Covid struck). And I’ll probably have enough clothing for a clothing swap- Both kids are mid-growth spurt.
It may seem like a lot of busywork, but we haven’t had a deep clean/in-depth declutter since we moved in- 5 years ago. I go through the kids toys several times a year, as well as their clothing and books. But, I’m bad about doing it with household goods and my personal items.
Today was more of a lazy day for us: We played some games, did some sight word writing, played Bingo, and made this stuff called Ooze Baff, which was 100% gross, do not recommend. If you want to try it, I bought it at Dollar Tree. For a Dollar. In a little while, we’ll have bath time, and I’ll read to them. We may pull out the couch into a bed and all cuddle on the couch for a bit.
I would love to hear about how you and yours have been keeping busy! Leave me a comment!
If you’ve been reading my blog for some time, you know I love earning money and saving energy with OhmConnect (You can read more about it here).OhmConnect is sweetening the deal with a new program.
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Just like the standard OhmConnect service, you don’t need to change anything on your utility account.
Disclaimer: If you aren’t a member of OhmConnect and join, I may earn extra points that will help me earn my next reward.
I survived the first week of college! After ::cough 17 years cough:: a long time, it’s quite an adjustment getting back into the swing of studying, doing homework, and all of the other things that go into being a mom, wife, blogger/Influencer, and special needs advocate for my big kiddo.
I wanted to share with you some things that have helped me, and the family adjust to the change. It’s just two classes, but that’s 10-12 hours a week of studying, reading, and homework outside the classroom, and that time comes out of the time I previously spent with the kids, working on the blog/social media, petting the cat, ya know, mom stuff.
Bitty is now going to preschool two days a week. Our city’s Parks and Rec department has a drop off preschool two days a week. It’s approximately $150 for 8 weeks, which is a great price, and she is in a class with 13 other kiddos her age, several of them she knows from her daily visits to the local YMCA Child Watch. While she is at preschool, I have three hours to work on school work. It’s amazing to be able to read and work on my homework in peace. If you need a few hours to get work done, check your local Parks and Rec department for this type of preschool.
Family: As someone who has family nearby, having my family able to help out with school pick ups and therapy drop offs, it is a Godsend. My parents, brother and sister-in-law have really stepped in and helped us with the kids and house. Last week Miss Sally (my car) needed new front and rear brakes, and two new tires. Thanks to my Sister-in-law, niece, and my parents I didn’t have to walk home with Bitty (5 miles with a 3 year old- No thanks) or call an Uber.
Schedule: As a family, we have a shared calendar on iCal, in which I put all of the kids appointments, weekly commitments, birthdays, deadlines. In addition, I also have a calendar (this one) in the master bathroom on my cork board. Yes, I have a cork board in the master bathroom next to the vanity, so we can see whats on the schedule for each day. Having everything in the palm of my hand (on my phone), and in a place that is visible to us (calendar) has really helped keep us focused and on task.
Remembering my Skill-Set: I’m not reinventing the wheel here. To maximize my productive time, I make sure to use my previously honed skills: Meal Planning, Meal Prep, setting out everyone’s clothes the night before, making lunches the night before, organizing areas of the house to help us get out of the house in the morning on time.
So while you may see less blog posts until I get in the full swing of it all, but I’m still posting on SocialMedia like a madwoman.
I want you all to know that it doesn’t matter what your age, if there is something you want: College, new job, more time with your family, vacation.. Do it! Change can be scary, but believe in yourself and have a plan! It might be rough at first, but stick with it.
Enough motivational speaking from me, I have homework to do!
Talk Back: What have you done recently that moved you out of your comfort zone?
Hey all! I’ve been busy, busy, busy lately and I wanted to let everyone know what’s going on. Two weeks ago, I went to Moms Meet Wow Summit, and this last weekend I went to Mommycon. Both weekends were full of learning, fun, and meeting so many new moms and brands. Mommycon was a great time to meet moms, and learn all about momm-ing, baby wearing, and women’s health. If you missed it this year, they’ll be back next year!
I’ll be celebrating the upcoming holidays with giveaways over the next few months, make sure to follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter so you can keep up to date on the next giveaways.
We’ve also been doing the super fun Mall Stars monthly crafts at our local Starwood Branded Mall. Every month there is a fun craft for the kids, sponsored by a local business/childcare center, and snacks provided by one of the food establishments in the mall. This month it was decoupage candle lanterns, with mini-bons and lemonade from Cinnabon.
Besides that, I recently helped style a Marty McFly costume for the New Children’s Museum Gala. It was tons of fun to do, and the best part was it cost less than $30 out of pocket! I spent a few days combing through thrift stores and looking online, but I found a puffy vest and jean jacket for a steal! Sears is a great place to find lots of new costume staples that may be harder to source in thrift shops- That’s where the puffy vest came from!
If you’d like to learn more about costuming on the cheap, check out my articles here and here.
I haven’t shared my favorite things with you in a while, and I’ve got a batch of them!
Everything Bagel Seasoning. It’s soooo good on avocado, poached eggs, cream cheese on top of a plain bagel. I’m pretty sure that this stuff is good on damn near anything. You can also get Everything Bagel Seasoning at your local Costco on the seasoning aisle.
Plus CBDoil – CBD Spray (in Peppermint). I have friends who use CBD oil for a lot of reasons and I was interested in trying it, but I wanted to learn more without a hard sell, so while I was at the Wow Summit, I took a class all about CBD- How it works, what it can be used for, and even how to gauge dosing. If you follow my on Instagram, you know that Bitty broke my bottle this morning. I’m bummed, especially since it was really helping me with the anxiety I’ve been feeling that my prescription meds haven’t been able to touch. Thank fully I have some gummies to tide me over until I can order more.
True Lemon I love True lemon- It’s a great way to make all the water I drink taste like something without adding calories or weird faux sweetness. I was worried about all of the waste from the packets. I found this big 10.6 ounce bottle on Amazon. And the bottle is recyclable!
The Field Agent App– Ok, so this isn’t a tangible “thing”, but I’ve been doing a lot of audits and secret shops with Field agent over the past month. I’ve earned a few hundred dollars with less than 2 hour work. I time the work to line up with my errands and other trips out of the hose, so no additional gas is wasted. You can learn more about Field Agent here.
Talk Back: I’d love to hear about what you are up to lately, or what your new favorite discovery has been!
We love Ice Cream! But, it can be expensive, a carton that’s not a half gallon can run upwards of $5.00 around these parts. Most cartons of ice cream are 1.5 to 1.75 quarts, that’s a decrease from 2 quarts or a half gallon just 10 years ago. Same price (or more) and less product. No thanks.
And honestly, there are a lot of weird ingredients in store bought ice cream. Food stabilizers, thickeners (like seaweed), and artificial flavors/colors. No thanks!
After meeting with a nutritionist recently regarding my big kids food issues stemming from sensory issues related to ASD, she recommended more full fat dairy products to help make sure he was getting enough fats in his diet. A kid can only drink so much milk, so I decided to make some ice cream from scratch.
I borrowed my parents Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker, which you can buy on Amazon, or probably at your local Bed Bath and Beyond. It makes 2 quarts at a time. It comes with a great cook book full of all kinds of great recipes and ideas.
After looking through that cook book, as well as looking through several of my own, and a quick internet search, I came up with several ideas on how to concoct some tasty ice cream. I asked the kids for flavor suggestions. Two choices were the big winners:
Peanut butter ice cream with chocolate chips- I opted to use PB Fit instead of blending peanut butter into the milk/cream/sugar mixture- so it would have a better texture. I was also worried that the extra fat from the peanut butter would mess with the fat ratio and inhibit the hardening of the mixture.
Chocolate Malt- I used the basic recipe below, but added 1/4 c malt powder. I buy a huge container of malt powder on Amazon every quarter, but you can get smaller sized containers at Walmart or in the grocery store.
Making Ice Cream is easy. If you’ve got an ice cream maker, you just mix up your ingredients, pour into the drum of the maker, put the lid on, flip the switch and 15-20 minutes, you’ll have a pretty soft ice cream. Scoop it into an airtight container with a lid (like Tupperware), and freeze it for about 2 hours. Then it’ll be hard enough to eat.
If you don’t have an ice cream maker, don’t fret, you can use two coffee cans (cleaned out of course), some ice, salt, and duct tape and make it at home- This is the method we used when I was a kid. You can read all about it here along with a true and funny story about making ice cream with kids. This is also a fun thing to do while camping- You can pre-mix the ingredients and take it in your cooler.
Here is the basic recipe I use. Please note that the ingredients used are chosen specifically for their fat content so the ice cream will be creamy. If you alter the ingredients at all, the ice cream will be gritty, grainy, or have ice crystals in it.
Ice Cream Base (makes about 1.5 quarts)
2 cups Heavy Whipping Cream- DO NOT USE half and half, fat free half and half or non-dairy creamer).
1 cup whole milk- You have to use whole milk or you’ll get ice crystals
3/4 c sweetener (I used white sugar, you can also use brown sugar, or 1 for 1 Splenda)
1 T Vanilla extract
pinch of salt
Prepare Ice Cream maker as machine instruction call for, or set up your Coffee Can ice cream maker.
Place all ingredients into chilled mixing bowl, and mix with hand mixer until all ingredients are well blended,
Pour into cream cream maker.
Turn on ice cream maker, or start rolling your coffee cans!
If you want to make my PB Fit ice cream, add 3/4 c PB Fit and 1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips in step two.
Chocolate Malt ice cream is the base recipe with 3/4 cup cocoa powder, 1/4 c malt powder, and an additional 1/2 c brown sugar.
Now onto the economics: Is making your own ice cream cheaper? Usually, yes. We used flavorings that we already have on hand, and I recommend that you do the same- You know what flavors you like, and you probably already have some flavorings on hand.
32 oz. Whipping cream- $4.99
1 qt. Whole Milk .99
That’s enough cream to make 2 2-quart batches of ice cream.
You can watch a video of the ice cream maker going here, and don’t forget to follow me on Instagram too! I post all kinds of fun stuff there!
Disclaimer: I have linked to items on Amazon. If you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission. Monies earned through commissions are used to offset the costs associated with running the blog (and the occasional cup of coffee).
Talk Back: What is your favorite flavor of Ice Cream? Have you ever made Ice Cream at home before?
It’s July, and for most of us, Our New Years Resolutions are a thing of the past. Mr. and I were talking today about ways we could reign in our budget. We’re not making it rain by any means, but… we could make a few changes. Here are my top ten tips, and trust me, I’ve already started incorporating some of these. I’ll have all of them back in the works by weeks’ end.
Back to meal planning and sticking to it. No more trips to Denny’s when I am feeling lazy in the morning, or Mondays after group therapy. That means I’ll be back to meal planning posts and new recipes too. And I’ll have several “back up dinners” on-hand in case the day gets away from me, or it’s too hot to cook the original meal. I took advantage of the sale on chicken breasts at Smart & Final the other day, and picked up 10 lbs. I came home and cut up the whole half breasts into more manageable sizes, and marinated some of it with different spices and put it in ziploc bags in the freezer. 10 lbs of chicken should get us 5 dinners, plus leftovers from each meal.
Back to maintaining a robust snack bag in the car, refilling it daily, and remembering our water bottles when we leave the house. I fill our water bottles (we have these for the kids and these for the adults- in 40 oz) with water and ice before we leave in the AM and refill them as needed throughout the day in various places.
In conjunction with #2, start taking surveys on receipts for deep discounts and free stuff again. I am Sonic’s text list, so when they have a daily deal that I have change in my car for, the kids and I stop for .50 ice cream cones, 1/2 price drinks (cherry limeade!). Frequently when you check out, there is a survey on the bottom of the receipt that will score you an XL (Route 44) size beverage for free! I really need to get back into stretching the buck.
Allowance. Yup, just like a teenager, I’m putting myself on an allowance, and Mr. is going to as well. I’m sticking to $40 in the summer, and $25 once we are back to school. This will just be for “fun money”. I still shop around for gas to stay within budget for gas each week. Costco is usually the cheapest.
Keeping eyes open for cheap entertainment. Big Dude is in ESY (summer school) for the next few weeks, so a lot of the traditional summer things that are fun and cheap we haven’t been able to do (like Regal Summer Movies). We’ve mostly been doing fun stuff at the library, which is free, but I think we need to look beyond that. It’s starting to get too hot for park play dates!
I’d love to hear from you about how you combat the frugal slide. What do you do when you feel yourself slipping off your track?
Does anyone really like to clean? I like when my house is clean, but I do not look forward to actually cleaning my house.
I don’t enjoy spraying who knows what surfactants, artificial fragrances (or worse, “natural” flavoring or scents like castoreum..eww), or harsh chemicals (the thought of bleach makes my eyes water). And yet, I’m not one who wants to spend hours mixing up my own house cleaning products.
So when Annie from Oh Goodness contacted me to tell me about her awesome products, I was down to try their awesome DIY cleaning kits.
She sent me their Glowing Collection, which contains the reusable glass containers, ingredients and directions to make:
You Shine Dishwashing Powder (35-40 loads)
You Sparkle All Purpose Spray (16 ounces)
You’re Brilliant Scrub (8 ounces)
The one thing I like is that I know all of these ingredients. I use them all in other ways around the house. It’s all non-toxic (but that doesn’t mean you should eat it- DON’T EAT IT), it’s easy to make, and it actually cleans! I’m sure you’ve read online and seen all over Pinterest how you can clean your kitchen with peroxide, baking soda, vinegar, etc. Those are all great, but I’ve never had results with those ingredients like I have with my Oh Goodness kit.
15 minutes after opening the box, reading the directions, (stopping to make a snack for the kids) and mixing, I was in business. I cook 90% of our meals, so my kitchen is always in need of some kind of cleaning.
I started with the kitchen sink. I have no before picture, but let’s just say it was.. icky.
A liberal scoop of You’re Brilliant Soft Scrub, and a quick scrub of the sink with a sponge and ta da:Can you hear the Angels singing? I can! I even scrubbed the black flange into the garbage disposal that keeps the whirling chunks of food from flying out of the garbage disposal.
The You Sparkle All Purpose Spray got my counters clean like whoah, and the entire house fills with the bright scent of lemons every time I run the dishwasher (which is seriously two times a day)..
I love that the containers are recyclable and reusable. The littler bottles the coconut soap and essential oil came in got a good scrubbing and the kids use them in their toy kitchen.
Last night I was pulling out the 24 month clothes for Bitty Bird, and making a pile of 18 month clothes that she had outgrown and I thought about how there were probably other moms (and dads) doing the same thing!
I try to keep clothing in the next size up for Bitty, but Lil’ Man hasn’t bee growing very much, just wearing his clothes out, so I only have a few outfits in the next size up for him. Everything lives in a tote in her bedroom. But don’t worry, she can’t get into it. It’s part of her changing table set up.
We rely on clothing swaps and hand-me-downs for the bulk of our kids clothes. There is no reason that you have to spend thousands of dollars on dressing your kids!
Here are some tips to how we save big on kids clothes:
Trade with friends!
We lucked out that a lot of our friends had girls about a year before Bitty was born. We received a bunch of hand me downs prior to her birth, and we continue to as well. This is great because I turn around and share them with friends who have kids after Bitty has grown out of them!
Handing down clothes or trading with friends is a great way to keep costs down and keep unwanted/outgrown clothes out of landfills!
Some of our favorite outfits have been hand me downs!
Check Craigslist Free Section!
I have found tons of clothes (not just for the kids) in the free section of Craiglist. People move, or don’t have time to sell or donate clothing they no longer want. Instead they post on Craigslist! I’ve scored Jack and Janie, Gymboree, and even Nordstrom brand kids clothes all for free!
Pathways Church Clothing Swap Takes place once a year.
Foothills Church Shop and Swap Once or twice a year
Miss Charity’s Closet Monthly swap at Sonrise Church 8805 N. Magnolia Ave Santee, CA 92071 (2nd Saturday of each month)
And these two, while not specifically clothing swaps, do have clothing available for those in need
The Closet on 54th: Open 3 times a month on a Tuesday, Thursday or Friday 11:00am to 2:00pm. Located at Calvary Lutheran Church, 3060 54th Street, San Diego, CA 92105. Men, womens, and childrens clothing.
Naomi’s Closet: at Santee United Methodist Church 8964 N. Magnolia St. Santee, CA 92071 Wednesdays 10 AM – 12 PM and every 1st & 3rd Saturday, 9 AM – 1 PM (ladies clothing only, men are not permitted)
Last night after separating and pulling out all of the outgrown clothes, I made two stacks. One was clothes to pass along to friends, and the second was clothes that were in play condition. A little wear, some staining, but still in ok shape (good for playing outside).
I’ve posted before about how I score so much cool frees tuff, but I wanted to update and share about one program: L’Oreal USA.
The makeup Giant wants women from across the United States 18+ to join and take surveys on products, daily skin care regimens, and test new products. When you take 5 surveys, you are eligible to receive a full sized L’oreal product (Of their choice)! They also do consumer product testing. They send you a product, you test it and complete a survey.
I recently completed a product survey. They mailed me products which I tested over a period of a month, then I completed a survey about the products I tested. The product surveys are long- they take about 20 minutes to complete, but, you get to try awesome new products, and as a than you, L’Oreal sends you some pretty sweet goodies.
Here is what I got as my thank you gift yesterday in the mail:
It may not look like a lot, but these three products have a value of about $90.00!
Lancome Large Shadow Brush $29.50
Lancome Color Design Eyeshadow Palette in Mauve Cherie $50.00
Maybelline Brow Drama $8.50
I’ve been part of their survey panel for about 10 years, and I’ve done four in home product tests. They can be hard to get into, however, the products you test are top quality, and the thank you gifts are pretty great!
And if you’re curious about why I got Lancome products, here is a list of companies that L’Oreal USA owns.