Saturday, February 27, 2010

28 Day Challenge- Laundry room for $2.76

From RAGS To RICHES on $2.76
Don't believe me? 
Just take a look!
This is my before. And let me just say, there are LOTS of things I wanted to do in this room from the VERY first moment I knew it was mine. Here is my dreamlist
1. Laundry does itself, from washing to putting away
2. I wanted a lower shelf and a bar installed (those slotted shelves are annoying for hanging!)
3. I would love to have a side shelf at my level on the left.
4. I want to put a piece of wood or something flat across my washer and dryer to make a "folding space"
5. Hooks for storage!
6. Super cute bins for storage

Now for reality...this isn't going to happen...because we don't have the money to throw at my space (my fault, I didn't budget accordingly). So, I decided to utilize what I had available. I shopped my house and this is the END result!

(The corner to the left of the door, my sock bag and tote bag for downstairs dirty/clean clothing)

 And the hook on the back of the door!

1. What do I want the purpose of my room or area to be?
             I wanted my laundry room to be functional (the prior owner was an WNBA worker and about two feet taller than me, so that shelf is soooo impractical!). I also wanted this place to make me happy. In our older home, we had about two feet of space between machines, you couldn't even open the dryer if the washer was open OR open the garage door or kitchen door if you were trying to do wash and that washroom made me HAPPY, I LOVED THAT PLACE--Why? It was organized, it was simple, it was pretty and it was FUNCTIONAL! I had craft supplies, cleaning supplies, wash supplies and NO ROOM, but it was organized! So, this room needed to be organized, functional, clean and have something bright and pretty!
2. What do I need in or near the room to serve that purpose?
A clear space to hang the girls clothes and our clothes, organize socks, easily reach my detergents and stainfighters, and a place to fold and sort clothes before they are put away. I also needed clearly labeled, but PRETTY and CHEAP containers.
3. What can I remove from the room?
Items that don't belong (the drying rack from the dryer that came with the house, storage bags, baby storage items, etc) or should have been put away a LONG time ago, like all those clothes, socks and linens!
4. What problems do I see with the room?
Shelf is too high, no place to fold clothes, no containers or clearly defined boundaries, no place or method to match socks, no place to hang my bag of socks waiting to be matched (you know, all the white ones that have to be matched when you are sitting down, not the ones that scream, "Hey, I have Dora on me, here is my match".) or my bag that I use to carry clean dishcloths downstairs and dirty ones upstairs at the end of the day.
5. What organizational tools might solve those problems?
A new shelf, a board of some sort to lay across my washer and dryer, a sock line, hooks, containers for bulk or multiple items and storage, a pole for hanging clothes on, basically my dream list
6. What habits need to change to solve the organizational problems?
I need to get better at putting clothes away after they are hung up, match my socks better, appreciate my machines better (I LOVE those machines, they make me happy and sing sweet songs instead of BLARING alarms when the load is finished. It's the little things in life.) use containers to sort my cleaning supplies
7. What kind of a budget do I have to work with right now for storage solutions?
Budget, try Zero dollars, it was a last minute project, and as much as I like the idea of adding paint, a shelf, etc. I really didn't plan well enough in advance. So this is what you can do just by shopping your house!
8. What kind of a timeline is necessary to organize the room? (28 days!)
Okay, I didn't know about this until much later than 28 days...I also got caught up in life...and this room has been the bane of my existence, and only led to me being further and further overwhelmed by life...sooo I spent a week catching up on laundry (yep you read that right, a week...but again I'm admiting that life has REALLY been getting to me). Although, can I just say that this room has provided me a small part of my life that I can attack with a plan, gain control, and keep control. After laundry was caught up, I organized and I'm excited to start keeping laundry under control!
9. What is my plan of action?
Do my laundry
Clean the room (I windex-ed/wiped down the machines, washed the floors, and cleaned out from BEHIND the machines)
Empty it
Find my storage solutions
Sort the items emptied
Put the ones that don't belong in their appropriate homes
Label the boxes in the appropriate containers
Use what I "shopped" for in my home and find my solutions to my problems!

10. Who can I ask to help me with this?  (working with a friend can be fun, productive and encouraging)
Kaelyn- She helped me with the containers
Ryan- Really encouraged me and gave the appropriate/needed response to the room!
Now, the problems I fixed in this space were done for pennies on the dollar. My storage bins started out as these:
Yep, those are old diaper boxes and wipes boxes! And there is TONS of room left on that shelf, and wrapping paper (from leftover Christmas Sales...although it doesn't look very festive) to make more of these boxes for future storage!  I have one for bulk items (extra detergent and stainfighters), Stain fighters and Bleach, and Needed baby storage items.
Kaelyn helped wrap and label!
I made the sock line using yarn and paper clips (didn't have any clothes pins) to help me match my socks more easily!

I wrapped the shelf that had been sitting under our sink to match, and installed it at my level so that I could easily reach my detergent and frequently used stain fighter.  These hooks cost 2.76 and were my ONLY purchase. The small blue/green bag is used to hold unmatched socks that would require concentration to match (white/black/etc) and the pink polka dotted one is carried downstairs each morning to put clean dish towels away and carry dirty ones upstairs.
The third hook is put on the back of the door to hold the drying rack for our is RARELY used! And I cleared the tops of the machines off and covered in white shelf liner to provide a space to fold and sort! The girls clothing goes on the left of the sock line (which serves as a boundary) and our clothing goes on the right.

I really enjoyed this project and the feeling of accomplishment I have gained from it! I am so excited to repeat this in other areas of my home. Perhaps, I'll manage to have a beautifully organized home before our newest addition arrives in August!

If you want to see what other spaces have been attacked and organized...go to I'm an Organizing Junkie to view her 28 Day Challenge Participants

Friday, February 26, 2010

Preschool Corner--New York Style

My lovely husband had a dear friend from high school call him up last week and tell him that he would be in NY for business...and asked if we could meet up. Sure enough, Ryan magically got leave and we managed a mini vacation!

I packed four file folder games, two are "old favorites" that Kaelyn can do in a flash (Hot and Cold items sort, and Mammals/Reptiles and Birds sorting) and two are concepts that she needs work on (matching words with their numbers and matching capital and lower case letters..the last one is more of a sensory overload issue than a knowledge issue).  So, we did Preschool week on the road. To see what other families are up to click here! If you are interested, it's a great free resource (just join up) at File Folder Fun. I really should visit their site and make some more...these games are GREAT for travel!

(this is an old picture, but that's the file folder)

While in CT (right outside of NY), we went to this AWESOME children's museum! The girls had a blast there! We visited the "rainforest" portion and it amused Kaelyn to no end that Gorilla's lived in nests. (Because Kaelyn loves to pull all the blankets off the bed and make a nest to sleep on Dinosaur Train....anyone else have a floor sleeper?)

The girls had fun in the shopping center scanning the bananas and bringing them back to feed the babies! We spent a large amount of our time in that area because we could talk about the Magic School Bus Episode that we watched recently since they had a faux bromeliad that provided a mini ecosystem in a tree! You could also build a bridge! (Kaelyn thought it was great fun and Anna loved breaking it so that she could start again!)

After this we spent a large amount of time in the body section, matching the brain and other organs to their appropriate spots and helping people by driving the ambulance! (This was really nice because Kaelyn is developing these strange fears of falling off the Earth, or into a crack in the Earth, or her Heart falling. We were able to show her why it wouldn't fall out. Is anyone else having similar fears creep up into their three year olds minds?)

Anna and Daddy visited the toddler zone after some water play and  worked on some climbing skills

While Kaelyn and I visited the construction zone to build an awesome arch. She put all the blocks in the appropriate order for as long as she could, and then I had to assist.

(baby bump!)
Kaelyn has been struggling with her listening skills recently (Anyone else having this problem or been there and have any suggestions?? We've started playing directions games, and it's not a lack of her understanding positional phrases or anything...just a lack of using her ears/eyes/common sense).

The next museum we visited was the Hall of Science Museum in Queens NY (yes we are adventerous souls!)
This museum wasn't on Kaelyn's level but had a lot of interesting things that have me dieing to take her back when she is 10! She still enjoyed a lot of the exhibits....
She loved trying to catch rocks with the arm of the deep sea submarine, watching ice comets zoom across the table, programming the rover, and building molecules!

All in all it was a very busy but fun family vacation! So nice to finally get to spend some time with one of my husband's good friends...and I hope that we can make a family vacation together in the near future! 

Monday, February 22, 2010

Want to know what I've been up to?

I have been participating in I'm an Organizing Junkie's 28-Day Challenge! 
I went from this

To this

For $2.76! Wanna know how! I'll let you in on the PROCESS on March 1st!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Preschool Corner

So let's start with Valentine's day, because the girls got to enjoy a "fun" party. I remember having parties at school when I was in Kindergarten, and I wanted to make sure that Kaelyn and Anna get the same joy! The girls woke to a decorated house, heart shaped waffles, they helped make heart shaped pizzas, (we rolled the dough and the girls used cookie cutters)
 And got to enjoy an early bedtime with movies and snacks so that Ryan and I could wine and dine in our basement.

On to our week....

Life keeps getting in the way, but at least we are enjoying it! Our schedule should get more normal and open up a few more days for schooling but this week we had a crazy busy week!
Monday- Dance
Wednesday-Doctors and Groceries (ALL DAY and not by choice!)
Thursday- Storytime at the library and Homeschool/stART project(Whoohoo for one day!)
Friday- Storytime at the library (for Anna) and errands after nap.

So, on Thursday Kaelyn wrote her letter B page...and I'm so excited about her passion for being an author and illustrator. We also discussed the author and illustrator of each of the six books we read from the library.
What is so amazing, is that she is actually starting to remember her "letter" sight words without using flashcards! I LOVE THIS! So far she reads At and Be by sight, and that is with NO FLASHCARDS, just by her writing a page for her book and reinforcing it through asking her to read it when we come across them in books! We are planning on going to the Aquarium tomorrow and after nap working on the C page and the sight word Can. 
    Anna works on the wipe board while Kaelyn works on her worksheets. Kaelyn worked on Sorting and Matching sheets without my assistance. Not only did she do an exceptional job at cutting, she took my constructive comments and fixed her mistakes on her next worksheet! Her handwriting is drastically improving, and she's starting to become interested in using lowercase letters. I also love that she kept requesting more worksheets to complete on her own!

She has been adding and subtracting items without instruction (while playing with her sister, "Here Anna, you have 1,2,3...3 cookies, now if you eat one, you have 2 cookies left) all the way to zero. It's her game that she is playing, and so I'm not asking her to connect her "game" to a number sentence (1+1=?). I think that once we work out a three day a week schedule we will start to work on Math more.

Kaelyn has really enjoyed doing puzzles this week and is managing to do 70+pieces  by herself (if we can keep her sister away).  She has also started to instruct Anna on what color things are and what shapes things are! I love this about homeschooling! Kaelyn is being raised to not only learn on her own, but to help Anna learn!

If you want to see what more ladies are up to...stop by Preschool Corner!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Beautiful Blogger Award

So, I was nominated for a sweet award by a fellow military spouse over at Educating Crumpet! Thank you so much for the nomination! This is my first award! Whoohoo...yay for another blog first!

The rules for this award are as follows:

Thank the person who kindly passed this to you, and link your award back to them.
List 7 things about yourself.
Pass it on to 15 blogs that deserve a Beautiful Blogger Award. (I think this might be too many, so I'll just do one...sorry!)
Let them know they earned this award.

1.  I never ever pictured myself as a happy stay at home homeschooling mom, and until I had my second...I wasn't.
2. I'm 23 and have my bachelors in Criminal Justice...I would love to work for the FBI one day, but right now I feel like it's most important to be here for my girls(and unknown baby) until we all adjust to this new deployment schedule.
3. I LOVE TO READ...anything except for most biographies. I'm a sucker for fantasy books, like Twilight, Harry Potter, JD Robb, Percy Jackson, and the classics!

4. I'm learning that contentment and happiness aren't the same, but being content leads to being happy.
5. I really want to go exploring with the girls this summer...maybe a road trip to Amish Country, or to the Capital!

6. I'm fluent in American Sign Language, and have started to encourage Kaelyn and Anna to use it more frequently.
7. I'm not very fashionable...I much prefer to have solid classic cut t-shirts with a few "edgey" ones and great accessories than anything else. It actually annoys Ryan. He says if I find a shirt that fits and I like it, I will buy every color...he's right!

I will nominate Leslie over at Peachy Keen.

stART: Snow

This is a really COOL concept of reading a book and creating an ART project/craft to extend the story. I have been seeing this done on a lot of the homeschooling blogs that also participate in the Weekly Preschool Corner and thought it sounded like fun. If your interested, jump on over to A Mommy's Adventures and join in stART.

Kaelyn picked the theme for her library books this week, and she was inspired by all the SNOW!
This was after the first "big" snow...we were hit by a second soon after.

I can't say I can blame her...that is A LOT of snow in our back we read
Snow by Manya Stojic at the suggestion of our librarian. It's a sweet story of how some animals prepare for winter and how spring is just around the corner!
For our art project, the girls each had black construction paper and were asked to draw snowflakes like a page in the book (it's really a striking illustration and popped out at me before I even picked this book for our first stART).

Here are the girls working on the pages...Anna was quickly tired of it and moved to sitting on the counter while I prepped for dinner. But Kaelyn continued (after she complained that she would really like to be using a marker and not chalk)....and here is her finished product!

(Warning, a very bad picture of my child follows, she refused to smile and choose to roar instead)

All of her snow and her snowman! Please excuse her face...she wasn't going to smile, so she roared...I don't bother asking why anymore.

other books that we are reading are:

By the way,  I am LOVING the Why is it cold? Just Ask's way more on Kaelyn's level than the Magic School Bus books although those are favorites as well!

Kaelyn's First Interview

What is your name: Kaelyn

When is your birthday: 4 (that's how old she'll be) "But when is it?" After Daddy's Birthday

Who is your Mama: Your  my mommy

Who is your Daddy: Daddy's my Dad, he's at work (Very logical this one!)

What does your Daddy do: He goes and flies in airplanes and goes to work

What is your favorite color: PINK

What is your favorite song: The new clean up song (from our new CD)

What do you want to do when your grow up: Be a Princess

Where do you want to live when you grow up: live in Sam's house

What is your favorite food: Salad, Meat, Proccuito(sp? It's the dried Italian ham), hot dogs, peanut butter and jelly and something to drink

What is your least favorite food :tomatos,

What is your favorite animal:  Horse

What do Mom and Dad do after you go to bed:working and watch movies

What is your favorite movie: Camelot (Quest for Camelot),

What is your favorite Ice Cream Flavor: Chocolate and vanilla

Where do you like to eat: at ChicFila

Who is your favorite person: Rory and Catherine and my pretend friend

Who is your best friend? The boy who had a puppy dog in his hand, the pink one and a blue one (he played with her at chicfila)

What is your favorite book? The princess book we just got at the library

What is your favorite thing to do? read books and look at my favorite dragon (a puppet at the library)

Out of the mouth of babes!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

DIY Beach Towel Bag with it's own mat

Martha Stewart has these great tutorials for making a Beach Towel Tote Bag with a Mat out of a bath towel and a 2 hand towels. Here is the link for her instructions.

Now, I followed her instructions to the best of my ability, but they sure are confusing. So here is her instructions plus my pictures to make it a little bit more accessible. I also cheated and added an additional hand towel because it made it easier for me although I did find the end result to be very thick for using on my sewing machine. I also altered her design slightly by adding two seams on the half finished bag to create three pockets so that the bag wouldn't be as cavernous. Here goes my first DIY Tutorial.

To do this craft you will need
2 hand towels (the length should equal the width of your bath towel)
1 bath towel
a sewing machine
I used 1 yard of Twill Tape instead of her suggested webbing, but will be using longer amounts for future bags to get a tote bag length.

First lay out your hand towel and decide which side will be the "inside of the bag".  I choose to put all the tags "inside" the bag. Opposed to cutting them off, I kept them to make it easier to determine which side was the inside of the bag and which side would be the exterior. I eyeballed the appropriate placement for the handles and placed the twill tape on the tagged side of the towel. I pinned them down and used this as a guide for my other hand towel so that the handles would "meet up".


I sewed on the twill tape and back-stitched  over the twill tape to reinforce them. Don't sew the two hand towels together, just put the handles on each one.

 Now this next part took me a lot of thinking, because you are now adding the towel to the handtowels. For the first hand towel addition, take the hand towel and lay it face up (tagged side down on the towel) onto the bath towel. Sew the two sides and bottom seams...Also, if you'd like to add the two vertical pockets now is the time to do it! Just pick the size of pocket you would like and sew the appropriate number of seams to create your pocket(s). I choose to create three pockets.

As you can see here is the three pocket side. The towel is fully extended and acts as your mat.

To add the final hand towel, lay it face down tag side up on top of the pocketed hand towel.
 You can see both handles at the top of the bag...the non-pocketed hand-towel is laying on top of the larger towel. The bath towel is at the end.
Now the tote was so thick that I couldn't keep thin seam allowances, I had to move above the previous seams to be able to sew with the foot down. If you choose to follow Martha's instructions, you probably won't have this issue, but I didn't follow Martha hear because, we'll she lost me and I liked the idea of pockets. So, once again sew along the two sides and bottom.

You will now flip the bag so that the tags and handle seams are inside the bag. Now, the mat can be tucked into the larger pocket formed by the LAST hand towel.
I don't have my finished picture because, well, I lost it. But you can see the semi finished project with the mat extended. When the mat is folded up inside the bag it looks just like Martha's.

This would make a great Mother's day gift or a welcome to warm weather present!

My next project from Martha will be this canvas bag turned baby bag for a friend who is expecting her third and needs LOTS of room!

It's a beautiful thing

    From the beginning, we knew that these two were going to be close. It all started the day I walked out of the kitchen and saw Kaelyn holding Anna's tiny two weeks old hand and tucking her very special Blankey around her in front of the TV. Kaelyn had accepted Anna, shared with her, and embraced her completely.

    We love watching this bond develop, deepen and grow. These two girls are as different as night and day. Kaelyn is very calm, patient almost to a fault, bright, non-confrontational, questioning and aims to please. Anna is curious, analytical, rebellious but learning obedience, aggressive(lets her opinion be known) and rambunctious. 

    What amazes me is that we have been talking to Kaelyn about her responsibility to stand up for those who are smaller than her or those without the ability to do so. This is asking a lot out of my timid child, the one who wouldn't voice a complaint until it was absolutely necessary. I love seeing Kaelyn start to embrace this responsibility, especially when it comes to her sister. Mostly, because I know it is so against her nature and is the complete reflection of her love for her sister.

        Recently, a young boy knocked Anna over at the aquarium...Kaelyn responded by first helping her sister up and assuring her that it was okay, then turned on the boy and said "EXCUSE ME, you DON'T knock my sister over, now tell her you are sorry."

Now, Anna does just as good a job at sticking up for her sister although it comes in a different manner. Generally, she checks on her sister and gives the other person what I like to call "the stink eye".  The other thing that I absolutely love about Anna is that if she can't help her sister feel better, or "fix" it by saying she's "sorry", she'll  walk over to where her sister is crying and sit beside her...rub her back or just cry with her. 

Talk about a bond that doesn't need words...the bond of a sister, a friend, a confidant who will not just try and fix your problem, but will go so far as to apologize for life, and when nothing works, will sit beside you in your moment of distress and rub your back or cry with you, beside you, and for you.

It truly is a beautiful thing.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Valentine's Traditions

I don't know what kind of traditions other couples have, but ours revolve around "doing" or "making" something for each other.

   This started back with our first year of marriage, when we had one car, a tiny one room apartment with no furniture(all in storage) due to Ryan's training (did I mention that I was hugely pregnant sleeping on a blow up mattress that folded in half everytime I sat/lay about making me feel good about my ever changing body...and no I'm not bitter!) and little money. What money we did have we cycled into savings or getting rid of debt while it was just the two of us. So, when faced with Valentine's Day, we choose to do something simple, to give each other gifts that cost little money but require time and thought for the giver. Knowing my husband, and what a foodie he is, I decided to make a four course meal (this was HUGE for me because I had just started cooking for my sweet husband the month prior) all from scratch. We ate a very memorable first Valentine's day meal picnic style on our patio with dollar tree "crystal" candle holders...that one night sparked the tradition of me going above and beyond a normal meal each Valentine's Day.

This years menu (pictures to be posted later) is....

Shrimp and Churiso tapas
Sweet Balsamic Vinegar Asparagus Salad
Black Cherry and Cracked Pepper Lamb Chops with Split Pea Rissotto
and two desserts...Chocolate Covered Strawberries and a Five Layered Cream tart with fresh berries

Now that we have two small children, we have to "plan" our evening more carefully. The girls are starting their own tradition of Homemade Heart Pizza's(with heart pepperoni!) with Strawberry Ice Cream.

The girls will start eating around 530, Anna goes to bed around 630
Ryan will tuck Anna in while Kaelyn finishes eating and gets to fix her popcorn with M&M's so that she can watch her movie.
Ryan tucks Kaelyn in with her movie, snack, drink and books, and joins me for the Appetizers. What he doesn't know is that the Basement will be turned into  a similar picnic scene as our first Valentine's day!
Once the appetizers are done, the lamb will have rested and I can bring it down!
Desserts will be made ahead and can be ate upstairs! ;)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Kool Aid Playdough

I have always wanted to try and make my own dough, but have never had a reason since Kaelyn was always so responsible and tucked her play dough away after each use. Now, after YEARS of use, the dough is drying out and I decided since Anna doesn't "get" that you can't eat dough, I should try my hand at a food based dough that would be "safer" for her to ingest! This dough is just the ticket. Did I mention that the consistency, smell and texture are to die for, not to mention that it makes a TON of play dough for minimal money!

2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup salt
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups boiling water
2 packages unsweetened Kool-Aid  (we used cherry!)

I mixed all the dry ingredients in a bowl while my water was heated for about three minutes in the microwave. We added them all together and Anna mixed while I measured out   eyeballed three tablespoons of oil.

Let it cool before you try kneading it. I ended up having to knead in about a 1/4 cup of extra flour to get a dough consistency that allowed you to play with it w/o getting your hands covered in gunk! Anna enjoyed helping!

This recipe makes enough to fill a large sour cream I hope you like the smell!
And if you get tired of it, you can always use it to make beads! Just cut out shapes with a cookie cutter, use a skewer to make holes and let it dry over night. The color does "fade" or turn "ashy", but it's a fun craft for the kids!

A 1 yr old, 2 yr old, 3 yr old and 23 yr old all approve!