Friday, February 29, 2008

Cheap Ideas for Getting out with the Kids

Well I don't know about you but lately this winter weather has me feeling a little bit cooped in! I think it's easy to start feeling a bit home bound about this time of year in the Midwest! I was just discussing this with a friend yesterday so to continue our series on inexpensive entertainment I want to discuss taking the kids out without spending a bunch! Here are 10 suggestions for you!

1. Visit a play land at your local McDonald, etc. Tell the kids no food will be bought...Mom gets to buy a drink for herself and kids get to play! Bring drinks for your kids!

2. Go outside and go sledding, cross country skiing...

3. Go to the park and play Frisbee golf in the snow

4. Go to the library

5. Make cookies and then deliver them to your family and friends

6. Go the mall to people watch or do a scavenger hunt - don't bring any money with you, pack snacks!

7. Make a treasure hunt in the yard

8. Go for a walk on the next mild day

9. Set up the next play date at someone else's house for a chance to get out!

10. Run your errands! When you are finished you will be glad to be home again!

Do you have any inexpensive ideas for getting out with your kids for the rest of this winter? Please share with me!

For more tips visit Biblical Womanhood!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Our Favorite Things

Recently I started reading The Chronicles of Narnia! Let me tell you this is a great series to read to your kids or just to read for yourself! I had never actually read the books before but am speeding through them now! I think these books would be great for elementary aged students. I actually bought these books for my husband a few years ago as a gift!

The Chronicles of Narnia was written by C.S. Lewis and have recently gotten more publicity thanks to the new movies. The books would be enjoyed by Christians or non Christians alike, though the author does play off of some Christian ideas. These would be excellent discussion points for older elementary children or even older students. If you haven't read these books I suggest you give them a chance soon!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Be Inspired

- Bath time fun

- Send a message in a bottle any time

- Homemade finger paint

-Photo scavenger hunt for kids

- Make a Little House drink - Ginger Water

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

If you have been looking for a great chocolate chip cookie recipe look no further! I am enjoying eating one as I type this up!

You can find the recipe at All Recipes. In my opinion, these are the best chocolate chip cookies I have ever made. They really resemble and taste like something you would buy in a bakery! Another tip with these cookies is that the leftovers freeze well. If you just pop them into the freezer you can pull out a couple at a time. I just let them thaw on the counter and then microwave them for a few seconds before eating one. You will have delicious cookies on hand anytime this way! Visit Tammy's Recipes for more tips!

Monday, February 25, 2008

We are back! We had a great weekend at the family farm and enjoyed seeing family who lives out of state! Luke went sledding for the first time. He enjoyed being pulled on flat ground but did not like going over bumps or even down a tiny hill with Mom! Oh well, we still had a good time!

My sister and I also enjoyed pencil rolling down a nice sized was just as much fun as I remember as a kid! Hope you all had a good weekend too! If you live in a snowy area make sure you make the time to get out and enjoy it a bit before spring arrives! I'll be back tomorrow with more posts!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Cousins in Town

Just wanted to let you all know you won't hear from me this weekend because Luke's cousins are in town! We will be too busy having fun at Grandpa's farm!
Have a good weekend!

Inexpensive Steps for Movie Night

Let's continue our seres on inexpensive entertainment by discussing how to have a cheap movie night!
If you missed any of our other segments take a look at them to catch up:

- Entertaining
- Pizza Night
- Hobbies
- Free gift cards
- Free babysitting
- Planning

So how do you accomplish seeing a movie with your family without spending a small fortune? Let's go through a variety of steps of varying expense! If you've accomplished the first adjustment just keep working your way down the list until you are at the bottom!

1) Go see your movie at the theater but bring your own snacks and drink along

2) Switch to the matinée instead of the evening showing - they are usually cheaper

3) Find a discount theater that plays slightly older films - there can be a huge savings here!

4) Instead of going out rent a move from the local video store and make some microwave popcorn at home

5) Switch that microwave popcorn to old fashioned kernels!

6) Check out the library or free redbox rentals to cut your cost down completely!

Currently I am working on the last step. Yes, we still occasionally like to see a movie in the theater, but not very often! Tell me how you are doing! For more frugal tips visit Biblical Womanhood.

Related Posts: Extras For Movie Night, Setting up a Family Movie Night

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Our Favorite Things

I would like to introduce a new series where I will be sharing some of my families "favorite things!" I'll probably just post these once a week or so when I think of something that we just really enjoy and that I think you might like!

So to start off let me share my current favorite picture frame! This was a Christmas gift from my husband's siblings (thanks everyone!)

What makes this so neat is that it's magnetic! You simply hang up the picture with the adorable magnets provided! It is designed so that a piece of scrapbook paper can show behind the picture. This way you can change the look of the frame as often as you like. It also comes with the cute little clips so you can hang more pictures if desired!

It is made by Creative Memories and is called the Everyday Display if you are interested!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Alphabet Games for the Car

Ever need a quick way to occupy the kids in the car?! Here a few variations on alphabet games to keep things lively!

- I'm Going to the Grocery...
The first player says "I'm going to the grocery store to buy..._______" the player finishes the sentence with an item that stares with A. The next player has to say..."I'm going to the grocery store to buy..._______," and finishes the sentence by saying the item that starts with A and then adding an item that starts with B. If a player can't remember the item then they are out. For younger kids feel free to give clues!

- I'm Going to Asia on an Ant to Act Up
Working through the alphabet, make up silly sentences that say where you are going, how you are getting there, and what you are doing there!

- Noah's ark
Work your way through the alphabet naming animals!

- A to Z out the car window
Kids name objects out the window from A to Z. First player to get to Z wins! Or you can play to beat your own time! This can also be played as you are going through exhibits at museums or zoos.

Ideas from Around Chicago with Kids.

Visit Rocks in My Dryer for more tips!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Be Inspired

- Make your own butter Little House style

- Decorate with vintage board games

- Keep your toddler busy while you cook!

- Cold weather activity list for toddlers

- Make flubber!

- Creative toy replacements (lots of neat homemade recipes!)

This list should keep any bored families busy for a long time!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Subscription Now Available

I've finally put up a link to subscribe to my blog! I've been meaning to do this for awhile but being new to the blogging world I had to figure out how to do it first! Anyway save yourself some time and read my blog via subscription if you like!

If you are completely clueless about what I am talking about that is ok just keep on coming back the old fashioned way. But click on Google reader sometime and you will see how awesome it is for keeping track of your favorite blogs!


What's Holding You Back?

Has something been holding you back from entertaining others in your home? The picture below gives you a little glimpse as to what had been holding me back!

I realized that one silly but simple fix for me was my dining room chairs! My dining room table and chair set came from my mom. It is a great set BUT the fabric desperately needed recovering. It was dingy, stained, and just plain out of style! I am embarrassed to say that this project has taken me 2 years to complete! Let me rephrase that, it took me 2 years to start and about 1 week to accomplish! I realized that I often didn't want to have people come over for a meal due to my lack of nice chairs to sit on! Of course we have had people come over throughout the two years but I think in the back of my mind this was a problem for me. Silly isn't it? Well here is an example of the finished project! Much better! Yay!

Let me encourage you to work on whatever it is that might be holding you back from entertaining others in your home! It might not have to be an elaborate fix, maybe just a simple and inexpensive change like recovering your chairs! A small change can be very freeing! I suggest you break whatever the project is into baby steps so it doesn't take you 2 years to start on it! Being able to host others in your home is an easy way to have more fun! Visit Biblical Womanhood for more tips on making your home a haven!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Make your own Chia Pet

I found this idea to make your own chia pet from Play with a Purpose, by Dorothy Einon. I was so tempted to try it but will need to acquire some grass seed or something for sprouting first! It brought back fond memories of having my own little chia pet when I was young. Am I the only one who had one?! If I get around to it I will show you a picture for sure!

Instructions - Find a large, smooth potato and scoop some of the pulp out from one end. Cut a slice from the other end so it will stand upright on it's own. If you are doing this with a small child you may need to do this part yourself.

Next you will moisten a cotton ball and place it in the scooped out section of the potato. Sprinkle with grass or beans for sprouting.

Make sure you place your potato in a saucer with water! The cotton ball needs to stay moist. After a few days your potato should sprout some cool green hair! Your child or you can then place buttons, etc. onto the potato using pins to make a face!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Entertainment on A Budget - Entertaining

To continue our series on entertainment on a budget I thought we should discuss entertaining at your own home! So far we've discussed a variety of things. If you missed them check out:

- Pizza Night
- Hobbies
- Free gift cards
- Free babysitting
- Planning

First of all, this is a great inexpensive option to have on hand. It is almost always cheaper to make something at home for friends than to go out to eat and out for an activity. Keep in mind that you can keep your menu simple and inexpensive and still please everyone!

One thing that can really help is when friends offer to bring something let them!! When planning a meal have something in mind that your guests can bring IF they offer! This could be something simple like the salad, bread, drinks, dessert, etc. That way if they like they could always just buy something. It will save you time and make hosting a little more affordable.

Another option is just to have friends or family over for a dessert. You could have dessert while playing a game or watching a movie or everyone's current favorite show, like for us LOST!

I know for myself this is an area where I need some work! I have so many friends and family who I would love to have over but I rarely do so! I need to challenge myself in this area of hospitality!

I'd also like to ASK A QUESTION here - What are your favorite meals to make for a crowd that are easy to fix and not too hard on the budget? Thanks for sharing! Look at Biblical Womanhood for more frugal ideas!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine Coupons

Happy Valentine's Day!

My husband and I exchanged Valentine's Day coupons today! We agreed on giving each other coupons that we made instead of a store bought gift. It was a fun idea and worked out great! I get to look forward to some time to myself, not scooping cat litter for a week, not making dinner one night, and more! Whoohoo - I am excited!

He gets a steak fajita dinner, homemade bread, the trash taken to the curb, and more! I also received a cute card from my baby featuring some cute pictures (see above) and his adorable little hand print!

I hope you had a great Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Taking your own Photos of Baby

Since having a baby I have been interested in learning how to take my own professional looking photographs! Though I am by no means an expert I thought I would share what works for me!

- Take LOTS of pictures! With digital you can simply click and delete. So take tons of pictures and you will be more likely to hit on a great photo! As an example each of the three pictures I have posted here were just one shot I loved out of 20 or more bad photos!

- Think about the background of the photo. You could drape a sheet over a piece of furniture to make a solid color background.

- Try outdoors in any season. Outdoor pictures have great natural lighting and have wonderful bright and beautiful backdrops. Think your yard or the local park. A bed of flowers, a snowy porch, or some bright green grass can do wonders!

- For an infant you will need to have something to prop them up, think Boppy Pillow or something similar.

- Edit your photos in a free program such as Picasa - this helps take care of lots of common problems like red eye, imperfect lighting, etc.

- Look for deals to print from places like Walgreens or CVS. I recently printed out 2 free family packs from Walgreens to use for my son's 1 year photos.

- Experiment with your camera settings. This is something I need to work on myself but there are lots of settings for a reason! Give them a try!

- For older babies or toddlers you will need to DISTRACT them in order to get them to stay still! Putting them in an unusual spot can help. Going outside, to the park, setting on a different chair, having a new toy to hold will help keep them still long enough to hopefully get a good shot in!

- Consider color. What is your child wearing? Does it match or compliment with the background and prop colors?

- Schedule a time to do a photo shoot when baby will be in a pleasant mood! This is key!

- Last and most important is to be patient! If you keep trying, you will get some great shots!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Poato Printing Press

Do you ever have one or two potatoes left in the bag that have a few too many sprouts to use them or are a little soft? Here's an idea for you to use them up and please your kids! Yes my friends - a potato can be mixed with paint instead of butter and sour cream! Hmm...I think my fondness for potatoes covered in gooey, bad for you toppings, just snuck into this post.

For kids age 3 and up try cutting shapes into potatoes and giving them paint to experiment with! Keep your design simple and give your child a large sheet of paper to experiment with! Have fun and don't feel bad about wasting a potato!

Check out Tammy's Recipes for more kitchen tips!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Birthday Party Recap

We had a wonderful day yesterday! We started the morning bright and early by arriving to church for our family dedication.

Family dedication at our church does not mean baptism. It means that we, as parents, accept the responsibility to raise our child to know God and to follow Jesus. In turn the church will help us with this responsibility, but it is OUR responsibility! It was nice to have lots of family at church with us for this special day.

Next we came home and started cooking for the birthday boy's lunch! Luckily I had two sous chefs to assist me! The menu consisted of chicken enchiladas, grilled chicken quesadillas with corn and black beans, chips, cake and ice cream! I know mexican was a bit of an unusual of a choice for a one year old's birthday party but Luke loves the quesadillas!

As you can see from the picture Luke ate his cake very neatly and then promptly threw the rest onto the floor! We think he was full from all the quesadillas! He did enjoy one or two bites though!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Birthday Party Tomorrow

Today I am taking the day off from blogging to prepare for my son's 1st birthday party! No I am not throwing an elaborate themed party - I prefer things to be a bit more simple! But I am cooking lunch for a big family and would like my house to at least not be decorated with toys thrown every which way!

Tomorrow is also family dedication day at my church so we will be participating in that! What a perfect way to celebrate my son's upcoming birthday! I'll be back Monday with pictures!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Inexpensive Entertainment - Pizza Night

I don't think it would be possible to write a series on inexpensive entertainment without mentioning pizza! If you are like most Americans you probably love having a pizza on Friday or Saturday night to celebrate the weekend! Our family is no exception to that rule, but instead of ordering a pizza we normally make our own to save some money!

Here are a few tips for you:

- Prepare your own crust to maximize savings. If you do not like to bake, it would still be cheaper to buy a pre-made crust at the store and then add the toppings yourself!

- An added bonus of making your own pizza is that it is much healthier for you. You control the amount of cheese and toppings. You can also try replacing some of the all purpose flour with whole wheat flour. I have tried replacing 1/3 of the flour with whole wheat with good results!

- Buy shredded mozzarella cheese in bulk and store it in the freezer until the day you plan on using it. It will thaw enough to use. Make sure you put it back in the freezer once you are through with topping your pizza!

- Try adding some freshly pressed garlic to the crust for an extra treat.

- Go easy on the sauce! I have found that a 8 oz. jar of tomato sauce is enough for 2 pizzas! I just use plain tomato sauce or sometimes tomato sauce with a few Italian spices mixed in.

- Find a recipe you love! The recipe I use most often use doesn't even need a rising time, which is great if you are short on time as I often am!

- Be creative with toppings! Though some of our favorites are just plain cheese or pepperoni I like to try something new once in awhile. Recently we tried barbecue chicken pizza! Next on my list is to make a taco pizza! Yum!

- You can use a simple pizza pan to bake the crust or invest in a nice pizza stone for really great results!

- My final tip is to always make more pizza then you think you need! It is a favorite leftover at our house!

Visit Biblical Womanhood for more inexpensive ideas!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Baby Survives Tornado

I heard this story on the news today and it brought tears to my eyes!

An 11 month old baby boy, Kyson, survived being thrown out of his house during the tornadoes that happened recently in the south. His 24 year old mother, Kerri, was killed in the storm. Rescuers thought the child was a doll until they saw him move. All that I can say about this is that I know God must have an important purpose for this little child! I'm sure nothing could have made his Mommy happier than knowing her baby is safe. I just pray that he will someday know that God loves him so much and that there is a special purpose for his life!

A recipe for homemade playdough

Homemade Playdough
- From Play with a Purpose by Dorothy Einon

2 cups flour
one cup salt
one cup water with food color added
2 tbsp oil

- Knead ingredients together and warm gently in a pan until it forms a soft lump. Give to toddler or child to play with while still warm. Older children can be given cookie cutters, rolling pins, bottle tops, blunt knives, etc. to have tools to work with.

Benefits of playing with playdough for kids include learning how things change weight and shape when pulled, pushed or torn. Also teaches kids how to build different shapes.

Added bonuses include teaching a small child how to play quietly for a period of time!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

A Musical Education

Once a day or sometimes just once every couple of days, I let my almost 1 year old son play the piano! He loves it! If you have a piano at home try letting the little ones play it once in a while. I have found that Luke does not constantly go to the piano and pound on it. He just likes to occasionally play it! I think he is used to it and knows he can play it if he wants to, so he is not tempted to go pound on it. I figure why not, he'll start getting his musical education early this way! I also like to play the piano for Luke as well. I play some simple kid songs like Mary Had a Little Lamb, hymns, as well as songs I am practicing. He likes to listen and come and add a few extra notes in as well!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Trip to Springfield

This past weekend my family went down to Springfield to visit some college friends! We had a great time and just enjoyed having a weekend off!

Some of the highlights were eating pony shoes and visiting the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum! If you have never heard of a pony shoe let me explain! Unique to Springfield dining are horse shoes or a half size pony shoe! Basically you get an open faced sandwich over toast, smothered in deliciously gooey fries with cheese sauce! If you are dieting this is not the sandwich for you! For a unique treat it was great though. It is probably good I don't live closer to Springfield as I would be mightily tempted by these sandwiches.

The museum was fascinating and we could have spent much more time there. Unfortunately we only had about an hour but it was still worth it! I really enjoyed seeing the size of the log cabin where Abe grew up. Let me tell you we have no reason to complain about space! While growing up Abe lived with his large family in a log cabin that is probably about the size of my bedroom! Also the replica dresses displayed for the time period were beautiful and very interesting to look at. We also got a chance to see one of the short films at the museum. We watched Ghosts of the Library, which was very cool.
If you have a chance to visit Springfield don't miss this museum!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Inexpensive Entertainment Continued - Hobbies

If you missed the first 3 installments of this series be sure to check out my ideas for planning, arranging free babysitting, and getting yourself some free gift cards!

Today we will discuss something you can do to save yourself a lot of money! That is picking up inexpensive or free hobbies instead of hobbies that will slowly but surely, deplete your bank account! Or if you are feeling really adventurous maybe even a hobby that could make you money! Here are a few ideas to get you started!

Music - Did you learn to play an instrument as a kid but haven't played much lately? Do you still have your instrument or is there a piano in your house? Get back to playing it for some free or practically free enjoyment! Have you considered giving lessons or teaching your kids what you know? Instead of buying the latest CD, consider buying a book of music. You can get a lot of use out of that one book! If you don't have an instrument or the money to buy one or the music, try freecycle or asking family and friends! You don't have to beg them for their instrument or music, just let them know you are on the lookout for those items. Maybe they will hear of someone wanting to get rid of their piano, etc. I've also seen free pianos listed on craigslist, so that may be worth checking out. Perhaps you could look at the barter section for lessons, I've seen people interested in bartering guitar lessons. As an example my lovely piano was absolutely free, it just needed a good tuning!

Blogging - If you like to write or just want to read other people's great ideas consider blogging! This is one of those hobbies that can be free assuming you are going to pay for your internet and computer anyway. In fact, though I am new to the blogging world, I have already made a small amount of money from it. So it can be done!

Cooking - Instead of spending your time baking fancy gourmet meals with expensive ingredients learn to make simple healthy meals at home! You can spend a lot of time learning about baking and cooking without a lot of money involved!

Reading - Try the library instead of the local bookstore! At most libraries you can request almost any book and they will get it for you.

Shopping - Instead of hitting the mall become a deal or thrift store shopper! This is one of my favorite things to do! I am addicted to shopping at CVS and Walgreens for free or almost free products! I am also addicted to "stopping by" the thrift store to look for neat stuff!

Crafts - If you enjoy making crafts try your hand at something you can give as a gift or even sell! Have you heard of Esty? If you have some talent and creativity, you can make money through it!

So there you have it - several good ideas for free or practically free hobbies! If you have any inexpensive hobbies or hobbies that make you money please feel free to share them! Take a look at this site for more frugal ideas!