Saturday, June 26, 2010

Recyclable Recycling Boxes

As I mentioned in a previous post, we've started a recycling program in our house. It's been about a month now, and I'm pleased to report that it's going GREAT! The kids LOVE to throw stuff into the boxes, and they even look on the bottom of plastic things in the store or out at restaurants to see if it is a #1 or #2 plastic (the only kinds that we are able to recycle right now).

I thought I'd share a quick post about the boxes that we use for our recycling stuff. They were leftover from a recent move ... I shut the boxes, flipped them on the side and opened up the top with a craft knife. Then we covered them with some wrapping paper and the kids drew earth pictures on them. It was a super easy way to re-use some boxes for a good cause!

P.S. I even made something else out of the cut-out top of the box! More on that in a later post!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Fun bottle-tags!

I've been keeping a few extra kids at my house while schools out this summer, and I like to make sure that they can always grab some water whenever they are thirsty. However, I was tired of refilling tiny plastic cups every 5 minutes, so I started to use some "sport-like" water bottles. The problem then became remembering which was whose throughout the day (especially since I only have one pink one, and the 3 girls each LOVE it). I started out using packing tape with their names written on them, but that got to be a big sticky mess when washing the cups at the end of the day.

SO ... VOILA! These cute and really easy name tags were born. I started with some decorative elastic (I think it's made for kid's jewelry-making). The kids got to pick a unique button out of my stash, then we added their names with beads, and I tied it into a knot around the cups (for a little extra holding power I applied a little hot glue to all the knots).

They are stretchy so I can take them off at the end of the day while I wash/dry the dishes or while the other kids aren't here. They have been a great and frugal solution for a minor yet irritating problem!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

12 Skills in a Year - May (Coupon-clipping)

As life can (and often does) throw twists and turns into even the most well-thought-out plans, I came into the month of May not having any extra spending money to use on a craft to learn as a new skill. So, with that in mind, I started clipping coupons. This is something I really never did before. Not because I couldn't use the savings, but just because it never occurred to me.
I have several friends who have used the services of a "coupon guru" online - the website/company finds deals and coupons and sends them to you ... for an upfront, monthly price; my friends swear that they've saved tons of money and stocked their shelves to the brim. However, I'm not going to pay someone else to find coupons for me ... maybe I'm old-fashioned, but that seems counter-intuitive.
So I started getting the Sunday paper, watching for coupons in the magazines that I subscribe to, and keeping a lookout online. I also found a great resource in a blog called Couponing 101 -

I must say, this is a skill that (even now into the end of June) I'm still trying to REALLY master. I've saved some money here and there ... but nothing like stories I've heard from other blogs. However, I once scored a brand new $8.00 razor for 99 cents! The trick is combining the coupons with in-store sales/discounts. So not only do you need to clip/print the coupons, but watch the flyers of your local grocery/retail stores as well.

P.S. The blog above is a GREAT place to start if you are interested in learning the ins and outs of really saving you some cash. If you have any other resources, please leave me a comment!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Pretzel coating fun!

My daughter loves the chocolate-covered and sprinkle-laden pretzels that you can usually only find around the holidays. For the last few weeks she's been asking for them, so one day recently I decided that we'd attempt to make them at home. It's actually a fairly inexpensive activity, and cleanup is relatively easy ... what else could a mother want? This would be fun to do on a rainy day when the kids need something fun to do indoors to keep them entertained ...

First, you'll need to buy some pretzels ... obvious, I know. Next, you'll need to find the coating. Now, for this I suggest Almond Bark. It's pretty cheap (which is nice in case you wind up wasting a batch by dropping it on the floor ... I'm just saying) ... and it melts up beautifully in the microwave. Just follow those good old package directions, they won't let you down. You can usually get Almond Bark in a few flavor options in the baking aisle of the grocery store. I also recommend having some wax paper handy.

Then ... let the pretzel fun begin! Simply heat up the Almond Bark, dip the pretzels in, and let them cool on some wax paper! If you are adding sprinkles or decorations of some kind, do that before they cool, or the sprinkles won't stick right. We also found that fishing the pretzels out of the chocolate is easiest for little hands if you let them use a fork:

The fork will help the excess chocolate drip off before placing on the wax paper. That way you can make a lot more pretzels and don't wind up with a pretzel completely lost in a mound of hardened chocolate.

By the way ... don't feel limited to pretzels with this activity either! Try dipping bananas, animal crackers (my personal favorite), strawberries, or summer sausage! ... ... ... Nevermind that last suggestion, I got carried away there.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

12 Skills in a Year - April (an explanation)

I didn't learn a new skill for April. I don't think of it as a failure, because I had a lot of very stressful, very important, and very time-consuming occurrences happen in April. And, to be honest with myself, I did learn a *lot* of new things in April, though I'm not sure any of them would count as a skill. So ... I may have missed out on my New Year's resolution ... but I do plan to continue on strong through the end of the year.

Everyone and everything is fine now, but I wanted to post an explanation as to why there is no formal "April skill" posting. :)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Recycle, recycle, recycle!

It should be EASY to recycle, right? It is such an IMPORTANT thing for our environment that it should be just a matter of taking your filled up trash bags to the dumpster and some magical green fairy goes through it all and sorts into the proper piles, right? Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. And that is exactly why it's been hard for this procrastinating, hard-working woman to start recycling. It's not that it's hard ... but it does take a little time in the beginning, and some dedication. Well, we've recently moved into a new home, and I've decided that this is the perfect opportunity for our family to start taking better care of mother nature.

The key here in our family is starting out small. If we jumped in with full force, we'd quickly run out of steam and fail. So I'm taking baby steps here. First, I switched to all "green" cleaning products. That's easy enough for ANYONE to do. Just do a little research, run out of old stuff, buy new, better stuff and you are on your way. My next step was to start recycling. I did this for 2 reasons. One ... because it's important for our environment! Two ... because I have an itty-bitty trash can and I'm tired of taking it out every single day. Here is how I've started recycling in my house:

1. Research - I started by going to the website of my new hometown, and checking to see if they have recycling bins set up. I'm sure some cities even offer curbside pickup, but not out here! Regardless, you can find the information for your city online, in the phonebook, or by calling city hall. It starts with the research. For us, we have bins set up a few blocks from our house (bonus), open 24/7 (more bonus), but they only have limited kinds of bins set up (not so bonus).
2. Decisions - As stated above, we are limited at this point to the kinds of things that our city will recycle for free. Corrugated cardboard, #1 and #2 plastic, plain paper, plastic shopping bags, and a few other things. Because this is a new ordeal for us, I decided to choose only 2 things to start with (baby steps, remember?). We are going to start recycling paper and plastic. We already reuse our plastic shopping bags.
3. Action - I created a new "recycling center" in our kitchen (more to come on this later) ... educated everyone in the family about the purpose ... and started putting stuff in our containers! When full, the kids and I will take them down to the city bins and do our part to eliminate waste in landfills!

So far we've been using our new bins for a week. I'm absolutely aghast at how much plastic our family goes through in just one week! I encourage you to start thinking about recycling in your home, if you don't already!