Friday, March 28, 2008

Inexpensive Entertainment - Hiking Edition

Last week we discussed taking advantage of the current season, this week let's dive into hiking! I am not an experienced hiker or "wanna be" hiker but I do enjoy a good walk in the woods (as long as it's not too steep!) I mean where else are you going to see thousands and thousands of bluebells?! By the way if you are dying to find this spot, this picture was taken at the Morton Arboretum during springtime. Yes, it was even more beautiful than the picture can show.

This spring or summer try exploring the different areas available in your area for hiking. You might be surprised at the number of trails available! You might just find a few new favorite spots to enjoy. Keep in mind that generally hiking is free or very inexpensive. Put the cooler in the car with a few cold drinks and sandwiches, slather on some sunscreen and you are ready to go!

For more tips visit Biblical Womanhood's Frugal Friday!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Welcome Words

Well we've been waiting for them and (we think) they have finally arrived - my baby's first words! If you couldn't guess the winning word was "duck!"

Aren't they pretty?

Over the past week I've been spoiled enough by my husband to enjoy these gorgeous flowers!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Egg Carton

Here is an idea for your toddler that is so simple to make. Plus it is free! You can't beat that!

Just take an empty egg carton and punch holes in the bottom of each section. Make the holes the appropriate size for your child to be able to put clothespins in the holes. I found that Luke (13 months) needed to have large holes for now. Later on we can make a new one with smaller holes when he needs more of a challenge!

Thanks to A Penny at a Time for sharing this fun idea! It really worked for us!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Kitchen Help

Awhile back I read Tammy's post about having her little boys help her wash dishes and wondered to myself how that would work out with my 13 month old little guy. Well after awhile curiosity took over and I tried it out!

Let me tell you Luke LOVES "helping" Mom wash the dishes. He knows the dishes are supposed to go in the dish drainer and claps for himself when he does manage to put something in the drainer. Often a few items end up on the floor or being rewashed many times but as long as it's a plastic item or a spoon who cares?!

I thought I would give a few suggestions for those of you interested in trying this out as the idea perplexed me for a little while!

- Make sure any knives or breakable items are completely out of your toddler's reach!

- Gather all the dishes you will be washing and have them ready to go. With a baby or toddler standing on the chair you must be by their side constantly!

- Put a chair on the side of the sink where you want baby. Turn the chair sideways so the back of the chair supports one side of the toddler and you block the other side. This way the toddler can fall only in one direction (backwards.) If your baby is younger and not very secure on the chair then you can put one leg up behind the baby (see the picture) to provide a little more support so they don't fall backwards. I feel more comfortable having my leg there just in case he would loose his balance!

- Set your baby on the chair and give him a few plastic items or spoons to "wash." Turn the water on once in awhile for fun!

Believe me it will take longer to do the dishes this way but it is also a ton of fun! Luke loves "helping" Mom do dishes and I love that he is learning to be a "helper" at an early age. Though this is a bit time consuming, it is also easier to do this than to try to load the dishwasher with a 13 month old trying to take every dirty and breakable item you put into the dishwasher back out!

For more kitchen tips visit Tammy's Recipes.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Our Favorite Things - An Exciting Package

Last week I went out to get the mail and found an exciting and unexpected package in the mail! Aunt Raia and Uncle Stephan sent Luke three wonderful books!

If you are looking for some great children's books I heartily recommend all three of their choices. He received Corduroy, Blueberries for Sal, and Make Way For Ducklings

Luke didn't have any of these yet so they are a perfect addition to his bookshelf!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Friday, March 21, 2008

Take Advantage of the Seasons

Continuing our series on inexpensive entertainment, today we are discussing taking advantage of the seasons! Living in the Midwest means we have 4 distinct seasons each year to take advantage of for entertainment. Though it is still snowing today, spring is just around the corner! During each season there are several activities that are free or low cost. Take advantage of these opportunities yearly to enjoy some inexpensive entertainment!

Think about these spring seasonal activities if you are looking for some family entertainment for the upcoming months!

  • Plant a garden
  • Go on a picnic
  • Take a bike ride
  • Fly a kite
  • Check out some garage sales
  • Share an ice cream sundae with your family
  • Make May Day Baskets
  • Head to your local park
Visit Biblical Womanhood for more tips!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Cheap and Adorable Thank You Cards

Post Card Thank You Notes

For Luke's first birthday I made post card thank you notes instead of the traditional thank you notes. It was super easy and turned out super cute as well. This is also an inexpensive option for thank you cards as it doesn't cost much to get pictures printed and post cards cost less to send than a regular card does.

Here are the directions for you:

1. Make a sign or something that says "Thank You" or whatever you want the card to say. Be sure you can clearly read the sign. A marker and plain card stock worked well for us. Another option would be writing on a chalkboard and placing the baby or child next to the chalkboard. The advantage of the sign is that it is easily portable.

2. If your baby can't hold the sign on their own you can hold it with one hand while taking the photo or use something to prop up the sign next to the baby. Try various positions until you find something that looks good.

3. Take lots of pictures until you get a good shot! If you don't succeed at first try another location later in the day. One tip to keep in mind is to make sure the words are not at the very bottom of the picture. For example the picture I used looked great on my computer but actually when it was printed at the store part of the letters were cut off. It still worked but just be careful! Next time I will make sure the words have some more space below them.

4. Print your pictures 4 X 6 size - I happened to have some free prints at CVS but even if you have to pay for prints the price will be comparable to store bought thank you notes!

5. Mark the back of the pictures just as you would a postcard. Place a postcard stamp in the upper right corner. Use a Sharpie or some kind of permanent marker to write on the photo. Address and send as you would a normal postcard!

Who wouldn't love to receive a picture of your adorable baby saying thanks?!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Baby Gift from Mommy and Daddy

Have you had a difficult time coming up with a great birthday gift for your child's first birthday? My husband and I came up with a simple and inexpensive, but meaningful gift for our son. Having plenty of family and friends around we knew he would not have a shortage of toys so we opted to write him a letter telling him how much we love him instead of purchasing something!

Along with the letter we will keep it for him in a special box so that way we can fill it through the years with other letters or special memories and give it to him when he is older. It really worked for us!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Spring Cleaning!

Don't worry...I'll be back soon with some more fun ideas for you! Lately I've been keeping busy spring cleaning around here! I've started on the kitchen and wow was it in some serious need of deep cleaning. I'm about half way done and VERY excited about my progress so far. My oven was actually frightening.

If you need some spring cleaning motivation take a look at some of my favorite blogs - these girls are inspiring!

- The Motherload

- The Homespun Heart

- Biblical Womanhood

Isn't it nice to know you've got company when you're cleaning?!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Green Today!

Don't forget to wear your green today!

If you are looking for some fun, last minute activities to celebrate I've complied a list for you to browse through!

- Green drink recipes

- St. Patrick's Bingo

- Shamrock cookies

- Pictures to color

Have fun and remember to pinch any family members who forgot their green!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Ahhh...Diapers Drying in the Sun

Yesterday we received our package of Kushies toddler cloth diapers in the mail! I was so excited to see the cute prints and have my baby boy in some better fitting diapers! I hope these work out as well as the ones we've been using recently, only time (actually only his bottom) will tell!

This time around we are trying Kushies basic diapers. In my cloth diaper adventures I have now tried chinese pre-fold with pins, Bummis snap super whisper covers, Kushies classic, Kushies basic, Kushies covers, and Bumpkins All in One diapers! Wow that is a lot of diapers. Luckily I didn't have to pay for all of those diapers as I received some of them through Freecycle!

If you want my opinion here it is -
Favorite so far: Kushies Classic with Bummis Covers
Surprising least favorite so far: Bumpkins All in One

At any rate I washed them right away and had them out drying in the sun - a true sign that spring is on the way! You can call me a weirdo, but I just love seeing clothes drying outside! It's just so refreshing and calls out summer and country air to me!

If anyone has questions regarding more about my opinions and experience with cloth diapers please just email me or leave a comment! I'd love to share more with anyone thinking about trying them!

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Bookstore Date

To continue our Friday series on Inexpensive Entertainment I want to share one of my absolute favorite cheap dates ideas - The Bookstore Date.

My husband and I head out to one of our local bookstores and just browse. We each grab a few books we are interested in and just spend time flipping through them and sharing what we have learned. To make things a little more interesting we have also played "find the weirdest book" and other such things. We give each other a time limit, agree to meet in a certain spot with the weirdest book we have come across, and then see who has the weirder book! It is always fun and always free! If you had a few dollars to spend you could easily grab a cup of hot chocolate and a muffin too!

Share your other cheap date ideas with me if you have a chance! I'd love to hear from you!
For more frugal ideas visit Biblical Womanhood!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Our Favorite Things

One of my favorite discoveries over the past year has been Freecycle!

If you haven't heard of Freecycle I encourage you to take a look and see if it is something for you. I love Freecycle for a couple of reasons. First of all it saves me money, secondly it is good for the environment and promotes recycling.

Freecycle is a yahoo group that promotes giving away your used stuff to others for free! No money is ever exchanged. Members send out emails offering items that they are wanting to get rid of. If a person is interested in the item they simply email back and forth and arrange a pick up time.

Another great aspect of Freecycle is that you are allowed to post things you are looking for as well. The only downside is that you will receive a lot of emails depending on how many members are in the group you join. Groups are based on location. To avoid cluttering up your inbox you could open a separate email just for Freecycle but unless you check the account frequently you may miss out on some items of interest.

To give you a little taste - here are a few of the finds I have made over the past year: Kushies cloth diapers, several boxes of unopened baby cereals, tennis shoes in my size that had only been worn once, and tons of baby clothes!

Freecycle has been great! It's fun to give your old stuff to people who will really put it to use and it is fun to be able to get a few things you need for free! It really has worked for me!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Gardening with Kids

Well if you are anything like me you have started dreaming of spending time in your garden already! Spring is just around the corner and I can't wait to put some plants in the ground!

I love a well cared for garden of just about any, herbs, vegetables, anything will please me! I think my love for gardening started as a kid. My Grandma lived next door and had my sister and I come over just about every day and help her water her flower beds. Oh my, was it a lot of work - but there was always a special treat waiting after the work was done! Often it was ice cream ,which is just what a kid needs after working in the late afternoon on a summer day! I also remember getting to plant my own little bit of a garden for 4-H which was also fun. I think I planted zinnias if I remember correctly!

Here are a few tips for getting your children to enjoy gardening:

- Give them their own small section of the garden to plant and take care of.

- Have them assist you but do not pressure them too much if they are young. If they are more interested in catching bugs than pulling weeds let them catch some bugs!

- Try planting a themed garden (certain colors, tall plants, wizard of oz theme, etc.)

- Have fun in the garden yourself - it will be contagious!

Check out Gardening with Kids for more great ideas!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Trace the Toddler

Yes, you read that correctly - I said trace the toddler not chase the toddler!

If you need a special but simple activity today, this is for you! Trace your toddler's shape onto a large piece of paper with a marker. For paper the easiest option would be butcher's block paper. If you don't have any on hand try taping together a few pieces of newspaper or tape paper grocery bags together.

After you have finished tracing let your toddler get out the crayons and decorate to their heart's content!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Inexpensive Entertainment - Shopping

To continue our series on inexpensive entertainment I thought we should discuss shopping!
I remember the days when I used to go to the mall with a friend and shop for fun! We would of course come home with something new, maybe a new shirt or who knows what! How things have changed!

These days I still enjoy a shopping trip every now and then, but I really don't enjoy spending that much money at the mall! So what do I do when I feel like shopping but don't want to bust the budget?

- Shop secondhand
I have honestly found that half of the fun is in finding the great deal! Challenge yourself to find just what you are looking for at a thrift store and you will save yourself a bundle! There are probably many local thrift stores for you to browse through so you will never be bored! Learn what thrift stores have the best deals in your area or even sales or other benefits. The store down the street from my house gives away free bread products once a week!

- Shop Garage sales
When garage sale season hits feel free to browse to your hearts content! Just remember to stick to the amount you have to spend! Feel free to try to bargain for items. I am not a huge "bargainer" but I have learned to ask if they will take a bit less then they are asking for at garage sales. Often people say yes.

- Shop at CVS and Walgreens for deals
CVS and Walgreens both offer items that are "free" in a sense that you either earn a coupon or get a rebate back for the full purchase amount. Often you can actually make money from these deals by using a coupon with your purchase! Here are some great posts from Money Saving Mom on how to begin shopping at Walgreens and CVS!

So it is possible to still enjoy a shopping trip out even when you are on a limited budget. Just remember to know how much you have to spend and alter your shopping route to include thrift stores, garage sales, and great deal stores like CVS and Walgreens! Have fun shopping!

For more great frugal tips visit Biblical Womanhood!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Healthy Foods to Have on Hand for Baby

Here is a list of healthy, simple foods I try to have on hand for my baby all the time! It is helpful to write this out so you know what to put on your grocery list each week.

Trying to keep up with a 1 year old doesn't leave much time for fancy snacks and lunches. Having these foods handy keeps things simple!

Use the following list or alter it to your babies taste buds! I like to keep these on hand so I know there is always something on hand for the baby's meals even if I desperately need to go to the grocery store!

  • Avocado
  • Frozen berries
  • Frozen veggies like broccoli or peas
  • Bananas
  • Whole wheat bread
  • Cheese
  • Eggs
  • Cereal (Cheerios or whatever you baby likes)
  • Yogurt
  • Crackers
  • Grapes
  • Applesauce
  • Infant cereals like rice, oat, etc.
  • Peanut Butter (if your baby is old enough to have it and isn't allergic!)
  • Frozen baked goods like banana bread, waffles, muffins (I need to work on this one but it is a goal!)

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Yummy Muffins

I read about these Peanut Butter Banana Muffins on With All That I've Been Given and was tempted to try them. I happened to have all the ingredients on hand and had some extra time so I got busy baking.

These muffins were delicious and are definitely going to be made again at our house. Luke loved them and I am just so pleased that he got a serving of hidden vegetables when he was chowing down on them! If you are curious about how to prepare the vegetable purees I suggest reading Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld.

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup carrot, cauliflower, or sweet potato puree
1/2 cup banana puree
1 large egg white
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Mix together and bake in greased muffin tins at 350 for 15 - 20 minutes.
Makes 10 - 12 muffins.
Enjoy! For more kitchen tips visit Tammy's Recipes.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Freebies in Chicago

Though visiting a large city is never technically free due to parking or transportation fees I wanted to list a few freebies in Chicago! I haven't been to all of these personally but found many of them listed as free in Around Chicago with Kids.

Feel free to do a little investigating on your own to find out more about these and to uncover any hidden fees that might crop up! At least you have a start with free admission though!
  • Chicago Mercantile Exchange
  • Chicago Music Mart at DePaul Center
  • Chicago Tribune Freedom Center
  • Navy Pier (I have been here and some areas and entertainment would be free but there is also a lot you would need to pay for like the ferris wheel!)
  • New Maxwell Street Market
  • The Pedway
  • Chicago Cultural Center
  • Chicago Botanical Gardens (tours cost money)
  • Caldwell Woods (free aquatic center...come early!)
  • ESPN Zone (pay based on what games you play)
  • Garfield Park Conservatory
  • The Grove (living history)
  • Harold Washington Play-Lot Park
  • Indian Boundary Park
  • International Museum of Surgical Science (asks for donation)
  • Lake front Bikeway
  • Lincoln Park Zoo
  • Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum
  • Museum of Broadcast Communications
  • North Branch Bicycle Trail
  • North Park Village Nature Center (some programs charge fees)
  • Oriental Institute Museum(some programs charge fees)
  • Ryerson Woods (some programs charge fees)
  • Skokie Northshore Sculpture Park
  • Thomas Hughes Children's Library
  • Millennium Park (see the bean and unique fountains)

Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Junior Opera

I read this idea in Around Chicago With Kids and wanted to share!

"During a designated period of time, have your kids sing everything they want to say." This sounds like a fun way to pass a little time! Maybe you'll find out you have a budding opera star on your hands!