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Cup ‘o the day coasters

This was not originally my idea.  It was “pinspired” by a pin I saw a while back, where somebody let their kids decorate their own tile, which they then turned into coasters.  They kept the coasters on the counter and each family member had to keep their cup of the day stored on their coaster.  The idea is that it helps to keep track of everyone’s cup, and reduces the amount of cups that are brought out everyday.  I know in our house, it seems like there are at least fifteen cups littering our kitchen by the end of every day–it’s a constant frustration for A.T. and me.

Enter the photo coasters that Laura gave me for my birthday.  (Check out her post on how to make your own.)  I lined them each up on our kitchen counter, and now the boys will have to keep their “cup ‘o the day” on their coaster.  We will see how it works, but I thought I’d pass along the idea in the meantime.  Laura had some other great ideas for these coasters on her post, check them out!


Before and After Homemade Soft Scrub

I’m sure it’s entirely illegal to refer to this stuff as soft scrub, but I can’t seem to come up with anything better to call it and it still be identifiable to people.  Any suggestions?

I’ve been wanting to post a before and after picture of my homemade soft scrub since doing my post with an extensive list of homemade cleaner recipes.  So, here it is.  My white sink, which shows dirt the second it starts to accumulate, gets nice and clean with this stuff, and I love the fresh scent of the peppermint liquid castile soap that I use–so much better than the harsh chemical smell of the commercial stuff.

I also wanted to show you how I’ve been packaging my toilet bowl cleaner.  I mix the baking soda and tea tree oil and keep it in a labeled jar under the bathroom sink.  When I’m ready to clean the toilets, I just sprinkle some of this stuff in, add a little vinegar and do a quick brush around with the toilet brush.

When I notice that my toilets are getting that musty, yucky smell that comes with the territory of having five boys who rarely pay attention to what they’re doing at the toilet, I spray it down with my all purpose cleaner, sprinkle the baking soda and vinegar in the bowl, then let it all sit for a few minutes.  I come back, wipe everything down with a paper towel, and voila!  The odors are absorbed, and all without the use of any chemicals!  Essential tea tree oil is a natural disinfectant and helps to leave a nice, fresh scent.  You could easily add it to the all purpose cleaner too, to give it a fresh scent and help eliminate bacteria.  To learn more about the benefits of tea tree oil, check out this article.

Check out my previous post for a list of the printable cleaner recipes and happy cleaning!


Whole Wheat Bread Recipes adapted for bread machines

We are taking baby steps over here to cut processed foods and preservatives from our vocabulary.  We haven’t started a chicken farm yet, and don’t own any goats or cows, but I’m trying to identify simple things that I can do to reduce our dependence on grocery store supply chains and  ingredients in our foods that I can’t pronounce.

Along those lines, I’ve found 100 Days of Real Food to be an inspiring website.  I’m not feeling as ambitious as her yet, but have appreciated some of her tips and recipes to taking the small steps towards processed-free foods.  One take-away I got from her was the idea of returning to the good old-fashioned bread machine.  I think when bread machines first came out, people appreciated them for the creative freedom they offered to experiment with yummy, homemade bread without all the sweat equity that traditionally went into it.  Recently we’ve also started to recognize the health benefits.  With only five minutes of preparation, you end up with complete control over the ingredients going into your bread.  I mean, I can pronounce the words flour, yeast, salt and water.  So, when my boys bite into a piece of bread with only those ingredients in it, I can feel good about what’s going into their bodies.



Makeshift Mudroom

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Oct 17, 2011 | Tips and Tricks, Topics | Tags: , ,

My makeshift mudroom

When it comes to maximizing living space, I could write the book. I’ve lived in spaces from 850 to 1500 square feet, all with kids. In our current house, which we share with five boys, we don’t have a laundry room, a mud room, or even a foyer. That can get tricky when the muddy soccer cleats and wet jackets pile up by the front door. So when we put new floors in our family room last year, I took advantage of an opportunity to reorganize the space by our front door to create a makeshift mudroom. (more…)


Containers for Homemade Salad Dressing

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Oct 12, 2011 | Tips and Tricks, Topics | Tags: ,

Kikkoman Soy Sauce container with homemade caesar salad dressing

We love homemade salad dressing, but since my salad dressing containers don’t have shaker tops, the dressings go fast because the boys tend to dump out far more than they need.

Problem: How to make the homemade salad dressings go further

Solution: reusing Kikkoman soy sauce containers. (more…)


Smoothie Pops

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Oct 7, 2011 | Tips and Tricks, Topics | Tags: ,

Mixed berry oatmeal smoothie pops

Problem: What do to with that little bit of extra smoothie at the bottom of the blender

Solution: Turn it into popsicles

Smoothies have become a daily lunchtime routine in our house.  I don’t have any recipes to share because usually I throw a bunch of whatever I have around my kitchen in the blender, then add some plain yogurt, apple juice and honey, and hope that my very old, very cheap blender can blend it all.  It usually takes two batches of smoothies to make enough for all the ravenous mouths around my lunch table, and there’s always a little left over from the second batch.  Though my boys would love to drink it all, I make it go further by pouring the extra into Popsicle molds and sticking them in the freezer–a great way for yesterday’s lunch to become tomorrow’s afternoon snack. (:


Freezing Food in Bulk

Ten pounds of raw chicken, ready for the oven

Cooked and cooling

Packaged and ready to freeze

You won’t find me blogging about food often as it’s one of my least favorite topics in the world. But, the reality is that I do have five (always) hungry boys to feed, and they require said food a minimum of three times a day. So, it’s something I have to think about whether I want to or not. I get the dinner time blues a lot when trying to come up with something to make quickly that can feed a small army, but here’s one thing I started doing that has helped a lot with the stress of dinner time.



Displaying Children’s Art

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May 16, 2011 | Tips and Tricks | Tags:

My boys recently had a surge in artistic interest and began coloring and painting everything they could get their hands on.  We all know how attached kids get to their art and since none of their pictures were getting thrown away, they were ending up in piles on our kitchen counters.  Finally, my “tidy” husband couldn’t take any more of the piles and I had to come up with a solution.



More Dresser-free Storage

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May 2, 2011 | Tips and Tricks |

In my past post on dresser-free storage, I showed you our under-the-bed sterilite drawer system that we use for storing most of the boys’ clothes.  Recently, we noticed that our older boys’ clothes were getting too big for those drawers; cramming all the clothes they needed in one drawer  resulted in wrinkles that even I couldn’t handle!  But, I was determined to stay dresser-free.  So one Saturday Anthony and the boys and I all went out in search of an affordable solution. (more…)


Backpacks and Breakfast Counters

Problem: backpacks under your feet and nowhere to hang them

Solution: hooks under your breakfast counters

In case you haven’t noticed yet, I don’t believe in underutilized space.  A blank wall in my house is likely to end up with a coat hook eventually.

The latest victim of my coat hook obsession: the walls underneath our breakfast counters.  Our breakfast counters are generally reserved as homework stations, so what could be more fitting than the boys hanging their backpacks right where they need them…and out from under my feet.


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