Family Binder: Important Info at Your Fingertips

The other day I was talking to a friend about how we store all of our information now that my computer is on the fritz/being repaired.

I mean, Most people have everything stored on their computer or on the cloud/external drive, which is great, but if your computer goes out… Are you really going to access everything via your smartphone? That was my plan originally, but after like.. oh, say 8 hours of that, I posted on Facebook, asking my friends if anyone had a spare computer or laptop I could borrow. Because don’t you know it, the computer died… 2 days before school started. When I was taking an ONLINE CLASS!!

My friends Michael and Amanda are generously loaning me their laptop, and it’s much easier to do homework and write.

IMG_3895So, how to store all the important stuff… I’m bringing back The Family Binder. It’s a 3 inch binder, with section dividers, heavy weight page protectors, and plastic folders. We’ve has one for a long time, and as we moved more to paperless bills, it got used a lot less, and became a good way of storing a copy of our monthly budget, important papers, passwords (so many passwords, you guys!).

As you can see I’ve decorated the front of the binder with photos, the Brandon Bird SVU Valentine’s Day card Mr. Husband got for me years back, sonograms of the kiddos. You can make it as plain or fancy as you’d like.

IMG_3901I use some of the pages from the household notebook section of Organized Home.  I love the holiday printables from Organized Home the best. I’ve been using them since 2010, and they really help us stay on budget and keep track of all of the shenanigans that the holidays bring!

Additionally, I have extra sections for vacation planning, important papers (marriage license, vaccination records, copies of prescriptions/ list of all of our medications, birth certificates, kids social security cards, insurance id cards/policy information, and a copy of the deed to our home), and vehicle maintenance. IMG_3896I have a folder tucked in the front pocket of the binder for the big kids educational/medical stuff like his most recent IEP, Regional Center correspondence, and copies of his medical diagnostic paperwork.

I know a lot of you are reading this thinking that most of this information can be accessed online or via your smartphone, but think about when you will most likely need to access this binder… In an emergency. Not the time you want to drain the battery on your phone trying to figure out what your homeowners insurance policy number is, or your insurance agents phone number.  I also keep notebook paper in the back, in case of an emergency. If nothing else, it’ll keep the kids entertained!

If you want to make your own Family Binder, you can put as much work into it as you’d like. I made ours while I was pregnant and nesting with the big kid. So I went to town with with laminating sheets, scrapbooking stickers, decals, paper, and all kinds of doo-dads. I even made a family binder for my Sister-in-Law and her husband when they got married.  Just make sure that you store extra empty page protectors in the back- you never know when you’ll need to add more information!

I keep ours in a safe, easily accessible location, in case we need to leave the house. Living in San Diego County, it will most likely be a wild fire that causes us to leave home. We live too far inland and up high enough where rising flood/excessive rain water won’t touch us.

Talk back: If you have a family binder, I’d love for you to share photos in the comments or post pics on Instagram and tag me: @hewesfamilyfun  using #familybinder.

 

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DIY Tutorial: Bathbombs!

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They turned out pretty good!

In my goodie bag from Wow Summit a few months ago, we all received CBD oil balm from +CBDOil, and I wasn’t really sure what to do with it. It has a coconut oil base, so for me it was too greasy to use as a topical pain relief (I hate having greasy skin, and stuff like Tiger Balm and Ben Gay make my skin crawl). I had been using it as lip balm, but really, I didn’t need that much lip balm.

 

I have a few books on making your own beauty products, so I looked for a recipe for bath balms, as I seemed to recall that they called for oil to bind the other ingredients. I also did a quick internet search. I took 5 recipes and sort of Frankensteined together a really good recipe.

Most of these ingredients you have in your pantry already. Citric Acid (also called sour salt) can be purchased at Sprouts or whole foods in the bulk section, or in a grocery store with a large Jewish Food section. Or, of course… There is Amazon.

I weighed my dry ingredients using a food scale, so these measurements are by weight.

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Ingredients:

  • 4 ounces (by weight) Baking Soda
  • 2 ounces (by weight) Corn Starch
  • 2 ounces (by weight)  Citric Acid
  • 2 ounces (by weight) Salt (You can use Epsom salt, table salt, or Kosher salt)
  • 2 T. Water (more or less make be needed depending on the weather conditions at the time you make the bath bombs)
  • 1 T. +CBDOil Balm (it has peppermint oil in it, so I opted to add no additional essential oil)
  • Optional (but fun): natural food coloring. I used Watkins. Start with a few drops and add more until you get the color you want.

 

Directions:

  1. In a glass bowl, mix all dry ingredients together.
  2. Add balm, and stir until it starts to clump.
  3. Slowly add water, 1 tablespoon at a time.
  4. Add food coloring and stir.
  5. You can either use bath bomb molds like these, but I used a 1/3 cup measuring cup. I packed the cup, let it sit for a few minutes, invert, and gently tap the bottom of the cup until the bomb releases.
  6. Let them sit overnight before using.
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The Finished product, waiting to cure overnight. 

This recipe makes 4-6 bath bombs, depending on how big you make them.

If you don’t want to use CBD Oil, you can substitute coconut oil, and add in 10-15 drops of your favorite essential oil.

A few of my favorite Essential Oil Combinations include:

  • Lavender and Vanilla
  • Orange and Clove
  • Rose and Almond

Talk Back: Have you ever made bath bombs? Did you like it?

 

 

 

 

 

Dinner Party Idea: DIY Ramen Potluck!

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We love to entertain. Dinner parties are a great way to have friends over to hang out and enjoy a good meal without breaking the budget.

We also love Ramen- not Top Ramen, but delicious, mouthwatering, tempting noodles, velvety broth, veggies, and soft boiled eggs. Doing a Ramen potluck is great way to try out new flavors that you may have never thought of.

In doing research for this article, I found out that there are so many ramen toppings and ingredients that I had never heard of (like corn, which you can see in the picture above). So some of the ingredients listed below may not make it into your potluck, but know that somewhere out there there is someone putting it on/in their ramen.

The host can provide the broth. As far as ramen broths, there are lots of options. I like Tonkatsu, which is pork and chicken based. Here is a great recipe.  Not interested in making it from scratch? You can buy Tonkatsu broth concentrate on Amazon.

If you are vegan, Ocean’s Halo makes a great seaweed based ramen broth. Miso is also a popular ramen soup base (Ocean’s Halo also makes great miso, pho, and veggie broth). We usually try to have two big pots of broth to choose from.

Screen Shot 2018-12-30 at 9.26.13 AM.pngAs far as noodles, you can get regular ramen noodles at any Asian grocery store (or most 99 Cents Only locations). I’m not talking about the kind that come in a little bag with a pouch of salty broth, those are fried so they cook super fast and aren’t really all that healthy.

I like the Organic Millet & Brown Rice Ramen from Lotus Foods. As a bonus these are gluten free and have protein in them. Our local Costco sells large packages, which is great for parties.

Some people like Soba noodles (thick buckwheat noodles), and some people like zoodles (the spiral cut zucchini “noodles”).

Now that you’ve got broth and noodles down, it’s time to get creative with toppings! Here are just a few ideas for guests to bring:

  • Eggs: I love a good soft-boiled egg on my ramen.
  • Scallions/green onions
  • Bean Sprouts
  • Seaweed/Nori sheets
  • Canned Bamboo shoots (they will need to be rinsed and probably sliced to made bite-sized.
  • Corn Kernels (defrosted frozen, fresh, or canned with no salt- drained and rinsed).
  • Mayu/Black Garlic Oil
  • Soy Sauce
  • Chili Sauce
  • Rice Vinegar
  • Pickled Ginger
  • Fish Sauce
  • Kimchi
  • Fried Tofu
  • Sesame Seeds
  • Sliced fresh Jalapeños
  • Fried or pan steamed Gyoza
  • Roasted /braised slices of pork (fattier cuts of pork are great in ramen)
  • Cooked Shrimp (I can’t really give you any other suggestions on cooking/serving, I’m allergic to shellfish)
  • Fish Cakes (available at your local Asian Market)
  • Bok Choy
  • Mushrooms (Sliced shiitakes are nice, as are enoki)

And some people like rice as a side to their ramen. I prefer sticky rice, it’s easier to eat with chopsticks.

If you’ve got friends that don’t cook, don’t forget you’ll need chopsticks, bowls, spoons, and beverages.

Talk Back: What is your favorite type of Ramen? 

Setting up a Family First Aid Kit!

file0001924831000.jpgWhen you have kids or are accident prone (like I am), a comprehensive first aid kit is a must. After so many years and iterations, this is the first aid kit that works best for our family.

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Before!

Earlier this week, I set to clear out any old/expired ointments, medications, bandages (they don’t expire, but they can become… unsticky), and re-organize. The kids were asleep, so it was the perfect time to get started. I did have one helper. Fiona. Her idea of help was to jump into the first aid box whenever it was empty.

A few years ago, we started off with a pretty well-stocked First Aid Kit, which you can see in the photos is the black, cloth, zippered pouch.  Since we take it camping with us, I’ve also added tampons (They have practical first aid uses as well), Arnica cream, extra scissors, hemostats, and hand sanitizer. It lives under our bathroom sink, and is easily accessible in case of emergency. It’s great- I’ve replaced stuff as we’ve used it, but it’s really not an “All you need” when you are accident prone.

 

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The aftermath!

 

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I love both of these products!

In addition,  we need burn cream, stuff for bruises, Wart Remover kit (little boys!), Cold Calm, Oscillococcinum (for flu like symptoms), Arnicare (which is awesome for leg cramps), a temporal scanner thermometer, Ben Gay (Don’t Judge!), CBD oil products, Rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide (not shown), and exam gloves (which are great for stuff besides cleaning up owies). For that, I turned to a Sterilite plastic shoe box without a lid- I’m sure it broke years ago.

Once all of the old/gross/expired stuff was disposed of safely, I scrubbed out the box, labeled it, and repacked it. Because this box does not have a lid on it, it’s kept on the top shelf of the linen closet.

I really want to thank the awesome folks at Boiron for hooking me up with free products at last weeks Wow Summit. I love their products! I have been a fan for years. I bruise like a grape, so Arnicare gel and roll-on are life.

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My Helper, Fiona!

Talkback: I’d love to hear what’s in your family’s First Aid kit! If you don’t have one, now is your chance to grab a plastic tote and get started!

 

Frugal Life Skills: Mending Clothes

cohdranknsewing4.JPGPrior to being a blogger, I made costumes. All kinds of costumes from Jedi Robes to A Prince Charming Costume for someone’s wedding. One skill that I am adamant about everyone having is the skill of sewing. You don’t need to be able to stitch a wedding dress, but sewing on a button, fixing a fallen hem, and repairing a seam rip are all simple and good, money-saving skills that everyone should be able to learn.

To get started, you’ll need a sewing kit. I have one like this. If you want to gather one on your own, here are a few items that you need:

  • Needles: I usually have a variety pack, like this.
  • Thread: A good variety of colors may not be needed, depending on which colors are in your wardrobe. I recommend Coats and Clark thread. Essential colors are- Black, white, tan or natural, navy blue.
  • Scissors/snips
  • Pins: I prefer pins that have a large colorful head. They are easier to find if/when you drop them on the floor. Spoiler alert: You will drop pins on the floor.
  • Safety Pins: Always good to have safety pins in the house. I usually get a package from 99 Cents Only or Dollar tree and stash them in my sewing box.
  • Seam Ripper: Seam rippers are great for picking out hems that have fallen. Or, you know, ripping out seams when you make a mistake.
  • I also like having a pin cushion. This helps cut down on losing pins and then finding them later. With your bare feet. Ouch. Fun Fact: On the Tomato pin cushion, the little attached pepper/strawberry is full of  pumice/sand that is used for sharpening your needles and pins.
  • I keep all my sewing goodies in a box like this. It’s big enough that I can also stash the foot and cord to my sewing machine in the box. (BTW, if you want to buy one from Wayfair, here is a link where you can get an extra 10% off your order).

Now that your kit is assembled, You’ll need to learn how to actually sew. Instead of reinventing the wheel, I searched on YouTube and watched a bunch of videos trying to find one that is the easiest. I really thought that this video from Nifty teaches 4 simple ways to mend most things.

Recently I had to fix a pair of jeans that had a worn out pocket. The back pocket had worn thin because of  where my husband keeps his leather wallet.

I picked up a package of Denim Iron on patches at Joann’s- I used a 50% off coupon, so they were only $2.14 with tax! And I still have half a package left, so I can repair another pair of jeans too!

I set up the ironing board and iron and set to work.

 

IMG_16461-Find the hole, and make sure that the patch(es) are cut to the right size. You want to cover the hole completely, and the surrounding area, so the patch has some stable fabric to fuse to.

 

 

 

 

 

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The shiny stuff on the back side is the fusible adhesive.

I like the iron on patches- they have fusible adhesive attached to the back, which is basically a heat activated fabric glue that bonds the patch to the garment.

Once fused to the garment, it takes a lot of get the patch(es) off. For this project, I used two patches: one on the interior of the garment, and one on the exterior. Basically making a hole sandwich.

2- Place the patch(es) over the hole/rip, and fuse into place with the steam iron.

IMG_16513-Once the clothing/patch has cooled, you can stitch around the edge to make it extra secure, however, in this case I did not. I would do that for the knees of kiddo pants or other high wear areas.

Overall, this is a very simple project that anyone can do.

Our culture tends to discard garments as soon as they are not longer shiny or new. If you take care and mend clothing and other household goods, they will last longer and you will not have to spend money constantly replacing clothes and household items.

I spend about an hour a month mending clothing. I do it while watching TV at night. It is worth the time to fix a pair of pants for $2.14 instead of spending $30 to buy a new pair of jeans.

Talk Back: Can you do a few simple stitches to maintain your clothing? How do you take care to keep your clothes looking great?

Disclosure: Some of the links contained within this post are affiliate links. Meaning, if you click on the links above and make a purchase, I may be compensated with a small commission. for more information, check out my disclosure page.

Easy Home Made Ice Cream Recipe!

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Yes, we made this at home!!

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

Directions:

  1. Prepare Ice Cream maker as machine instruction call for, or set up your Coffee Can ice cream maker.
  2. Place all ingredients into chilled mixing bowl, and mix with hand mixer until all ingredients are well blended,
  3. Pour into cream cream maker.
  4. Turn on ice cream maker, or start rolling your coffee cans!

Variations:

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?

6 Tips for Combating the Mid-Year Frugal Slide

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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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Check all my apps before I go shopping. I’ve been bad about this over the past few months. I’m sure I’ve missed out on Ibotta deals, Checkout 51 offers, and Cash Dash promos. No More! I’m back, baby!!
  5. 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.
  6. 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?