Sunday, November 20, 2016

Christmas Kits - 11 Non-Toy Gift Ideas

Christmas Kits - 11 Non-Toy Gift Ideas

I love Christmastime. I love the sights and smells and activities and all that is the holiday season. One of the things I love the most is giving gifts to all of those I hold near and dear. I spend hours thinking about gift will be the perfect fit for the people on my ever-growing list. I also have three boys who have so. much. stuff. And tons of people who want to buy them more stuff every year. Enter "stuff anxiety." This year I have been trying to think of gifts that will either be useful, consumed, educational, fun, or otherwise played with more than once. They also have to be cheap because I'm frugal and in charge of keeping things under budget while still full of memories.

So without further explanation here are ten kit ideas to put together to spark creativity in children without taking up too much space. Also the majority of ideas can be found at your local dollar store.

For every idea all ideas can fit into a standard size plastic shoe box with lid, which makes for easy storage for busy parents. I bought my at Fred Meyer, 5 for $5.

Under $10

Sensory Kits - Sensory element such as rice, beans, flax seeds, aquarium gravel, genetic sand, sand, dyed pasta noodles, or anything that can be scooped and poured. Other ideas to include are scoopers, funnels, cups, or cars or construction vehicles.
Construction vehicles in aquarium gravel.

Rice bin - we dyed it yellow and added lemongrass essential oils for an extra sensory experience.

Play Doh Kit - Playdoh in various colors. Other ideas to include plastic knife, safety scissors, printable play doh mats, birthday candles, shape stampers, rolling pin, and cookie cutters. We love making play doh birthday cakes from time to time. 
Play Doh "cake" with candles.

Creative Kit - Ideas can include white and colored paper, safety scissors, googly eyes, Number Crayons, glitter glue, craft sticks, mini coloring book, clay, pony beads, yarn, sticker books, felt, stampers and ink pad.
Example of a Christmas craft bin.

Inventor Kit - This kit can hold anything you think a child might like to invent robots, crafts, and other cool things. Some ideas might include pipe cleaners*, craft sticks*, toilet paper tubes, nuts and bolts, cans, string*, and wood craft kits*.

Mad Scientist Kit - Goggles and rubber gloves are a fun and safe addition to this kit. Other ideas can include eye droppers, beakers, magnifying glass, science ingredients (like baking soda, vinegar, corn starch and food coloring), books about scientific subjects, printables for experiments you think might be fun like OOblek, volcanos, and walking water or other experiments.
Mad Scientist Kit

Bath Time Kit - Tub crayons or paint, fizzy water changing color tablets, soap, scrubby animal hand mit, squirting toys, scoops, cups, and funnels.

Active Kid Kit - Jump rope, balls or frisbee, chalk (to make relay lines, balance beans, shape hop, and hopscotch), balloons (to play balloon volleyball or balloon ping pong), and this printable active Simon Says game.

Under $15

Outdoorsy Kit - Magnifying glass, bug catcher house, printable animal track chart or nature scavenger hunt, nature books, mini  shovel, observation notebook and pen.

Music Kit - Any instruments you find that will fit in including a kazoo, harmonica, small drum, drumsticks, maracas or egg shakers, microphone, bells, recorder/flute, or tambourine.

Games Kit - Small games that can be played by kids about 3 and up. Spot it is our favorite! Also Uno, Skipbo, regular cards for war, slap jack or go fish, dice, banagrams jr., and small puzzles.

Cooking Kit - Small cutting board, child safe knife, spatula, wisk, mini muffin tin, apron, and oven mitts. Can also include favorite recipes and baking mixes.

Other ideas if you don't want to put together a kit but still want a gift that will be used: Books!, Legos (bricks that you can actually be inventive with rather than a specific designed set), Magnatiles or other magnet blocks,  Playmobil sets, and special treats (chips, candy, iTunes cards, fast food cards etc.). One year my five year old really wanted Dill Pickle Chips since I rarely spring for chips. Boy was he excited on Christmas morning and I was happy to not have to store one more thing once they were gone.

What other ideas or suggestions do you have? Please feel free to leave a comment!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Simple December Meal Plan

I created a meal plan to give to my MOPS moms as a gift during our Favorite Things giveaway this December and wanted an easy way for them to find recipes so I thought this would be the easiest way to do that. Hopefully this meal pretty simple and mostly home made for those busy nights during the Christmas season. This meal plan isn't ridged and most things can be swapped for ingredients your family will actually eat.

Breakfast Ideas
Oatmeal topped with butter and honey or pure maple syrup
Scrambled eggs with assorted veggies especially peppers, mushrooms, spinach etc.
Blueberry zucchini muffins - i use whole wheat pastry flour and apple sauce instead of oil
Fried eggs over spinach or with bacon
Whole wheat pancakes or waffles (there are some good remade brands out there)

Lunch Ideas
PB, banana, and honey on whole wheat
Tuna salad - made with pickle relish, plain greek yogurt and salt & pepper)
Green egg salad - 3 hard boiled eggs mashed with one avocado and salt & pepper
Homemade lunchables with triscuits, cheese, and ham
Veggie sandwich roll ups - spread tortilla with cream cheese, ham, shredded lettuce and shredded carrots, or small diced peppers

Dinner Ideas
Lentil casserole with roasted broccoli and bacon - lentil recipe below

Roasted Butternut squash with addition of diced apples and diced ham

Zippy BBQ chicken (can be served with dinner rolls) with sweet potato fries - recipe below

Spaghetti {squash} Pie with garlic bread - recipe below

Triangle burritos with baby carrots and zesty ranch dip - burritos are just tortillas spread with refried beans and sprinkled with cheese, then friend and cut into triangles like a pizza but the kids love it!

BBQ chicken pizza - I use this dough recipe and top with leftover bbq chicken, sauce and veggies

Lawnmower tacos and salad

Shopping List (for dinners only) 
head of garlic
sweet peppers
broccoli - 2 heads
medium sized butter nut squash
spaghetti squash
baby carrots - 1 lb
small can tomato paste
balsamic vinegar
frozen sweet potato fries
sour cream - 16oz
parmesan cheese
mozzarella cheese - 1 lb
sharp cheddar cheese - 1 lb.
eggs - two dozen
whole wheat tortillas
non-fat refried beans
lentils - 1 lb.
brown rice - 1 lb.
chicken broth
package of thick sliced ham
ground beef - 1 lb.
bacon - 1 lb.
5 lbs chicken
Italian sausage
spaghetti sauce
ranch dressing
tortilla chips
taco seasoning
whole wheat flour

Lentil and Brown Rice Casserole
3 cups chicken or veggie stock (or salty water if you are out)
3/4 cup lentils
1/2 cup brown rice
1/2 onion, chopped
2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. garlic powder
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Combine broth, lentils, rice, onion and spices in 13"x9" greased glass baking dish. Stir together and cover tightly with foil. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Remove foil and sprinkle with shredded cheese. Return to oven and bake uncovered for 10-20 more minutes or until cheese is melted.

Serve with steamed broccoli or this AMAZING broccoli and bacon recipe.

BBQ Chicken in Crock Pot
I use this recipe for BBQ sauce and cover 5 lbs of boneless skinless chicken in the crock pot. Cook on low for 4-5 hours and ta-da, done.

Spaghetti {squash} Pie

  • Cook half of a squash in the microwave for 12 minutes and let cool before scraping out with a fork.
    One batch either makes 1-9x13 pan or 2-pie plates
    1 pkg whole wheat spaghetti or one spaghetti squash halved and cooked in microwave for 12 minutes, shred with fork
    1/2 c butter 1 c grated Parmesan 3 eggs, well beaten 2 1/2 lb ground beef or ground Italian sausage (I like to use the Italian sausage) 1 jar favorite spaghetti sauce 2 c sour cream 8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
    Cook spaghetti al dente, drain. Stir in melted butter, Parmesan cheese, and eggs. Cut spaghetti with knife or scissors. Take about 3/4 of the spaghetti mixture and form into 2 pie crust or 9x13 pan. Let cool.
    Cook sausage and drain grease. Stir in spaghetti sauce. Spread sour cream on bottom of "pie crust". Fill pies with meat sauce. Cover with mozzarella cheese and then the remaining 1/4 spaghetti noodles. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 30 mins. Then take off cover and bake for an add'l 10 mins. You can make and freeze these for several months. If frozen, cook for 75 mins then take off cover and bake for an add'l 10-15 mins.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Face Painting Crazy

Professional, I am not. 

But we have been having fun trying out the awesome face painting kit Warner got for his third birthday. A tiger and a football player. 

 A pirate, a soccer player (I guess those are cleat mark bruises on Dylan's cheek) and a sweet little race car. Warner isn't into the elaborate stuff yet. 

My favorite part of the whole thing is that the paint comes off with just a wet wipe, hooray!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

I completed a Whole30! {and I'm thriving}

So a few months ago I read about this "crazy diet" called The Whole30 and pinned a few recipes on Pinterest not thinking much else about it. I sure wasn't ever imagining that I would want to try this Paleo on steroids thing. Then my sister messaged me and asked if I was thinking about trying it.
Shannon Sadler • 16 weeks ago 

She makes this totally sound do-able! The Lazy Girl's Guide To the Whole30 // @ The Little Things We Do

  • Jackie Steele

    Jackie Steele • 16 weeks ago 
    Have you been thinking about doing this? I was just reading about the Whole30 today and thinking about it, but I'm not sure I could do it! I would starve! Maybe we could do it together!

  • Shannon Sadler

    Shannon Sadler • 16 weeks ago 
    I'm thinking about it but a little intimidated because I have very minimal self control and love dairy. She recommends doing it with someone!
When I realized that maybe it wasn't so crazy I started doing more research and talked to a few friends who had tried out the program. I borrowed the book "It Starts With Food" by the Hartwigs and after reading that I knew it was something I wanted to try.

Better skin, sign me up. Weight loss, I'm in. Sleeping better, feeling better, looking better, understanding my relationship with food better, oh heck yes.

So what can't you eat? I think it is easier to list what you can eat with this program. Meat/Seafood/Eggs (protein), Vegetables, Fruit, Nuts, and all those healthy fats (like olives, avocado, coconut etc. and the oils that go with them). I love this shopping list when I have a question.

So that means no dairy, no sugar, no grains, no gluten, no soy, no alcohol, no legumes, and nothing artificial.

It doesn't sound all that exciting, but actually it is pretty cool to get control of the "sugar dragon," understand your body when it is full, realizing that snacking isn't a necessity and wake up not feeling crummy and bloated. This isn't a process for the faint of heart. It does take planning. A lot of planning. It does take some form of self-control (which I promise will get easier by the end of the 30 days!). It requires you to actually cook all of your own food and do more dishes. Upfront it seems like it might be an expensive plan, but if you choose to buy the speedy things slowly as you prepare (the weird stuff like plantain chips, ghee, and coconut aminos) then it doesn't break the bank and it is actually very comparable to what I was spending before except I stopped spending money on coffee creamer and started buying more fresh things like sweet potatoes and kale, eggs, and small splurges like macadamia nuts. But really it isn't that tough. Getting used to drinking black coffee most of the time isn't that tough. Finding new vegetables and food combinations is fun. Realizing how much you snack on, taste and lick all the unnecessary foods that my kids are eating while trying to avoid waste is eye opening!

I also have small children so I wasn't sure how much it was going to affect them and my husband. I was pretty grumpy in the beginning, but I knew I did this to myself and I stuck to it. All my boys - big and little - ate the same dinner as I did almost every single night. Sometimes I would add extra carbs or dairy for them, a sprinkle of cheese on top of taco salad, or a piece of bread with butter, but they didn't notice that their dinners were different at all. At breakfast they started asking for eggs more. We had more fresh produce for snacks, and less crackers. They still had fun things like donuts or cinnamon rolls on occasion, but I was glad to see that they are actually pretty aware what they are eating and are making smart decisions about food even from the young ages of 10, 4 and 2... ok ok my baby will be three this weekend but I can't go there right now. Don't make me!

We ate well. I struggled with not I didn't have a drop of alcohol or dairy. I only had two occasions where I think I cheated, but it wasn't really on purpose. I was trying not to be a pain while having dinner at friends' houses. In both cases it was sugar as an added ingredient in things like sausage. Now tell me why sugar needs to be in everything? It seriously is. Scary really if you read the ingredient list on foods. and milk. and soy. In the book they recommend just eating food that doesn't have an ingredient list because you know it won't have any ingredients. Fresh produce, meat from a butcher, raw nuts... you get the idea. There were only a few things I bought pre-made and I felt like it was worth it.

Lara bars are compliant! Be sure there is no sugar in the flavors you choose, but they contain things like dates, coconut, and nuts. And you have to save them for back up since they can kind of be seen as a treat (at least for people like me). Guacamole is compliant, as long as you check the labels! Kombucha is ok as long as there isn't any added sugar after the fermenting process. Tea is great. The brand of Tessemae's salad dressing and dips is compliant and I found it at my local Fred Meyer!

I spent a lot of time and energy figuring all of this out and I figured I could at least share my meal/snack food ideas and my menu plan for week 1 & 2 and weeks 3 & 4, my Pinterest board with Whole30 recipes, tips and other articles, and my actual food log with what I ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day for 30 days.

I was so excited to do it with my mom, my sister and my friend Holly. It was great to have a support system when I felt like nothing was different. We would send each other questions or pictures of our meals or trips to the grocery store. We would share triumphs at not caving when at the donut shop or when we were feeling low.  I definitely recommend trying to find friends or family to do the challenge with if you can. My sister is still nursing, and my mom works full time so any one can try this plan... not just a stay-a-home mom like me who is around food all the time.

So now that it is over I can say that it was a lot of work, but I did it and that is a great feeling! Now let me start out by saying it wasn't a miraculous experience. I'm not a new person nor did I have some sort of dramatic results but I ate fairly well before but there were still huge gains. I didn't lose as much weight as my mom - she lost 15 glorious pounds - but I did lose 6! I am finally below my drivers license weight. I misplaced the page I wrote my measurements on (oh those darn kids... or was it mommy brain) but I'm sure I lost inches. My capri yoga pants are saggier. My belly pooch is smaller. Where I do feel a little pudgy seems to be a little softer than before. My arms seem more lean and the slight chin sag seems to have disappeared. I wake up and don't feel sore. I have more energy and drive to get things done. My nails seem thicker. My anxiety has diminished. I still struggle with depression but I can safely say that it is completely manageable right now. I don't have the glowing skin I was hoping for, but it does seem much more even. I have a healthy relationship with food. I have an experience to share with people who might need it. Overall I would have to say it was totally worth it and now I know what to do if I ever need to reboot things again. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Handy Hobbies for Mom

Besides homemaking in a luxurious manufactured home, continuing to be wife material, and child rearing three rambunctious boys to be gentlemen in tomorrow's society, there is the rare occasion I do something for me. Over the summer I started making hand-painted signs for a craft fair and *almost* started an Etsy shop. I did all the steps but never actually listed any products because the thought of someone actually wanting to buy something I made was just too scary. I didn't end up doing a craft fair or selling anything, but I did make plenty of great gifts for Christmas and birthdays and also for my own home. 
This went to my brother and sister-in-law. 

For my sister. 

I originally made this as a Christmas card holder but now use it to hold all of my long necklaces in  our bathroom. 

I kept this one for myself too ;)

Homemade laundry detergent. 
Soap On a Rope - handcrafted goats milk soap for the light hearted men in my family. 

Up above our kitchen cabinets, Sadler & Co. family name sign. 

I also picked up the camera again and took adorable pictures of my ragamuffins during the summer, our vacation, and into fall. These kids are so cute of film (I won't mention the zoo behind the lens). 

Monkeying around in Kittitas, WA.

Sandy beard in Long Beach, WA.

King of the dunes in Gearhart, OR.

Summer sun and brick walls in Ellensburg, WA. 

Family at Sunset. Olmstead State Park - WA. 

Can you see the heart, Danielle, Dylan and Lincoln. 

Because everyone has their own personality 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Home School Preschool Halfway Review

We don't have any official schedule or keep attendance for preschool but I would say we are about half way through the "school year." We have had tons of fun trying what works and learning what doesn't work for us as well. Lincoln is a much different learner that Dylan was. Lincoln is busy, has a short attention span and remembers things from when you didn't think he was even paying attention. Worksheets are part of our daily activities but they aren't the primary focus. Playing, real life situations, experiments and the basic fundamentals rule our day. 

We have a basic idea of what we want to do with our day, but rarely do we actually follow it. I actually created it last year when Lincoln was three so I will still be able to follow the same basic plan when Warner (currently two) is ready for preschool. Our schedule is simple and easy to change, broken up into 30 minute chunks for the most part. Anything longer and I completely lose the kids. Lincoln's attention span is actually closer to 15-20 minutes for each activity but 30 is round for a general idea. 
7am : Wake Up - well this is when I wake up my school aged child and most of the time they get up then too. 
8am: Breakfast and Cartoons
8:30: Circle Time - puppets, story rhymes, songs and/or music
9am: Binder and workbook pages
9:30: Building - Blocks - Puzzles
10 *snack* the best time of the day
10:30: Outside play or gross motor time, sometimes we use our theme of the week to play games
11am: Arts, Craft, or Science
11:30: Pretend Play or Sensory - Lincoln loves to play with his Imaginex "guys" and Warner jus needs to stay busy while I make lunch
Noon: Lunch Break
12:30: Reading
1-3: Rest/Playroom Play
Warner goes down for a nap. During this time Lincoln plays around on and watches videos on YouTube. He also can play with Legos, dinosaurs, more imaginex etc. Anything that is quiet-ish. 
3:00pm: Dylan gets home from school, everyone has yet another snack and they I try to get them to play outside when the weather is nice.

Science is huge in our house (unfortunately I'm not huge on the science department) so thank you internet. I found this awesome tutorial on "Walking Water" off of Pinterest and it kept the boys' interest all day!

And apparently we love experiments with water. Try this awesome trick where you stab pencils through a baggie of water and nothing leaks out, the kids will be amazed!

Write down the experiments for later research. 

Sink and Float is one of Lincoln's favorite experiments. It's almost second nature for him to grab a big bowl whenever I tell him we are going to do some science. 

At least they get along some times. 

Some times we ride bikes and poke dead snakes with a stick. 

Warner was putting playdoh leaves on a tree during the Fall. 

Lincoln used plastic vampire teeth from Halloween to pick up little balls of the doh and moved them into the plastic container.

 Lunch Time
Lincoln always asks for the same thing for lunch, every day, as long as I have it. Meat. Cheese. Mustard. Bread. Cut in a "t". Make sure you don't cut it at a diagonal and he is happy. Dylan on the other hand takes his lunch to school so I try to throw in some healthy food on the days he brings lunch with him. I love reading the 100 Days of Real Food blog, she always has great lunch ideas made with whole foods. This lunch had sugar snap peas, a power ball, apple slices, a cheese stick and carrot applesauce muffins

                                         Naked tablet time might happen during our day. 

Field Trips
We found a homeschool group founded in our little town on Facebook. We don't do a lot with them (They do have a co-op but I haven't done any of the classes) but we joined in on a field trip to the fire station last month. The boys had a blast checking it out!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Uh Oh it's 2015!

So according to my dad, I haven't blogged since April. April, as in nine months ago. We've been busy. 
Not super awesome, over the top crazy busy. Just the day to day busy with three active boys.
We got through peak at UPS during the Christmas season when Shane was leaving the house at 6am and getting home after 7pm. We made it through a pee-wee football season. We made it through officially starting homeschooling preschool with Lincoln. We made it through a traumatic injury when Lincoln's tooth went through his lip but all is well. We made it through babyhood with Warner and we are onto his troublesome era. You see that first picture below? Gold Sharpie all over his forehead and the palms of his hands (also on my new vest, but that's another story). Rubbing Alcohol on a cotton ball really does work great! Be careful by the eyes though ;)

I also had a few days where my mom too the two older boys to her house so it was just me and Warner and we had a ton of fun just hanging out and being goofy. We also got all of the Christmas decorations down and I finally figured out a way to keep him still. 

So yes we are crazy. Our ordinary, chaotic, beautifully simple life.