Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween everyone! I hope everyone has stayed safe through the hurricane on the East Coast.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Waiting for the Storm

Hurricane Sandy looks like it will travel right over us here in Maryland starting tonight and into tomorrow.

The hubby and I are as prepared as we can be. We've tied everything down, brought it inside and made sure all our gutters and drains are cleared. Now we wait.

We are planning on not having internet for a couple days due to power outages. We will have power via an awesome whole house generator we purchased about 5 years ago. After a couple winter storms knocked out our power we decided the generator was a necessity. No heat and no water for toilets just wasn't an option when it's 20 degrees inside.

This storm is calling for high winds, and lots of rain. Thank God it's going to stay relatively warm (50's) and no snow is likely where we live. Our relatives in West Virginia are expecting a foot or two.
I'm not envious!

So anyways...I will try to post at least pictures via email over the next couple days to keep everyone updated. I'm trying to stay consistent with my posts every Monday through Friday.  I'm hoping Mother Nature will be kind and let me keep posting. We shall see.

Stay safe everyone in the Northeast part of the US, follow the evacuation orders for your area, be careful and stay tuned to the weather.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Great Food For Power Outages



Like I mentioned yesterday, the weather channels are saying a big storm may be coming to my part of the United States, so I decided to come up with a list of foods that you can keep on hand for emergencies. These foods don't need to be refrigerated and do not need to be cooked.

If you are able to use a grill or a camp fire to heat food or water that would be ideal, but these are all able to be eaten as is.  So here goes:

* cans of tuna fish
* peanut butter
* granola bars
* bananas
* apples
* oranges
* dry cereal
* crackers
* cookies
* canned chili
* bottle water
* bread
* peanuts
* trail mix
* dried fruits
* pickles
* fruit cups
* instant mashed potatoes (some only require water)
* Gatorade
* gummies or fruit snacks
* pop tarts
* beef jerky

Many of these foods can be kept in your car or go bag for emergencies. Always keep a supply of water on hand. One gallon per person per day is recommended, but something is always better than nothing.

Have a wonderful weekend and please feel free to leave a comment and/or add to the list above.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Preparing for a Storm


It's a beautiful 70 degree day here in the Mid Atlantic region of the US. The trees are glorious shades of red, gold, brown and green. It's perfect.

You would never suspect a storm is predicted to hit the area in the next couple days. The weather channels are saying we could get rain, strong, gusty winds and maybe snow.

If you live on the East Coast of the US don't head to the grocery store just yet. The toilet paper can wait. LOL

If you've lived through a storm in the US recently you know power outages are something you really need to prepare for.  Not too long ago a strong wind storm caused widespread power outages that lasted about a week.* Needless to say our power companies can't handle lots of widespread power problems.

The type of storm they are predicting can produce storm forced winds and very heavy inland snow. That's really bad since there are still leaves on the tree and the snow would weigh down branches causing them to break (possibly landing on power wires).

So here's how you can prepare for a storm like this.

Obviously secure all outside furniture. It's time to put the chairs, umbrellas, grills away or put them some place they won't blow away.

Make sure you have enough food and necessities for a couple days. Non-perishable foods only. Peanut butter, soups, crackers, protein bars, tuna, canned goods, etc. Buy nothing that needs to be frozen or refrigerated because without power these foods could possibly and mostly likely will go bad.

Water! Have bottle water on hand. Plus if your septic system works on electricity (many private wells do) make sure you fill your bathtub with water to flush your toilet. Dumping a small bucket of water in the toilet after you go will cause it to flush automatically. Hubby is a plumber ;-) .

Consume most of your perishable foods. If possible, when your power goes out find a friend or family member with power to who can store your stuff for the time being. Before the storm plan meals that can use the meat in the freezer. You need to eat anyways - why not use up some of the perishables now.

Go to the ATM. Keeping a small amount of cash on hand is always helpful. In case you need something from the little grocery store down the street that doesn't have any power either and they can't accept credit cards. It happens trust me.

Fill up the vehicle with gasoline. At the very least make sure you aren't on empty. When the power it out for a couple days (snow or not) you may need to go out and get supplies or food and you need to at least make it to the nearest gas station that has power.

Put any snow removal equipment where you can easily get to it. Don't leave the snow shovel in the shed behind a fence because then you have to dig out the gate to the fence and then the shed door to get to the shovel. Been there done that. When I know it could snow I bring the shovel inside.

These are just a few things that can help you stay prepared during a storm.

My deck during a snow storm a couple years ago.

* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/June_2012_North_American_derecho

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Motherhood and Isolation

I've been a mom for 12 1/2 years now and a stay at home mom that entire time. During that time I've dealt with the occasional bout of depression. Normally nothing serious, I just wasn't my normal self.
Only more serious after the birth of my son which I had some wonderful meds help me though those difficult 6 months.

Let's face it being a stay at home mom is challenging with constant feedings, cleaning, laundry and anything else you have going on. However, what about when your kids get older. You have to deal with different personalities, attitudes, wants, needs, etc.

Wouldn't it be great if there was an instruction manual. Unfortunately, everyone has to learn by trial and error.  No doubt that's partially to blame for approximately 26% of stay at home moms experience sadness*.

My kids are 12 1/2, 11 and 8 and they are all in public school during the day. So I'm home most days by myself cleaning, cooking, running errands, blogging, etc. I make sure I get out at least once a week just to see other people.

So, anyways, here are some ways I fight the blues when I start feeling a bit down in the dumps.

* Get out and run errands, shop or window shop - usually in the morning because the stores are full of other moms and nice older people.

* Go for a walk - weather permitting of course

* Turn on some dance music - this almost always works for me. I love to dance!

* Call a friend just to chat

* MOM Club - when my kids were little a group of moms would get together with their kids at a local playground to chat while the kids played.

Most of the time I needed to get out and be around adults. Other times I just needed a new project to work on or something to look forward to.

Any suggestions on how you beat the mommytime blues.

* Source http://www.gallup.com/poll/154685/stay-home-moms-report-depression-sadness-anger.aspx

Friday, October 19, 2012

Saving Money When You Have Pets


I'm not sure I mentioned this before but my family has 2 dogs, 1 cat and 1 fish. Needless to say, we have a lot of fur around the house.

Grooming
One way I save money on pet expenses is to do all the grooming myself. I clip nails, trim fur and brush them religiously...okay maybe not religiously but often. 

A while back I invested in a small pet grooming kit from my local Wal-Mart for about $25.  It's really pretty simple to do. Plus there are videos on YouTube showing you how to do just about anything you would need to do. Then it's just a matter of practicing.

My dogs and cat have gotten used to me brushing them and even the sound of the razor. Now they actually enjoy being brushed because they get my undivided attention for a couple minutes.

At the Vets
Another way I save is by taking them to a good vet and get routine checkups. Just like humans, if we take care of ourselves, normally the doctors can catch anything out of the ordinary pretty quickly.  It could make the difference between changing the pet's diet and exercise routine to expensive medications or even surgery.

Be sure to shop around for a vet you and your pet like and that offers reasonable rates. Don't let them talk you into anything that isn't needed such as a certain type of pet food - they usually earn a commission on the products they promote. You can get the same thing at a local pet store if you pet really needs it.

Food
I also save on their food. I serve them the recommended amount for their weight and limit the number of treats. Again, just like us animals can become overweight, so limit the amount of snacks/treats they receive.

In addition, I buy extra and stock up whenever I find a good deal. I even try to combine it with a coupon if possible.

Having pets shouldn't mean you need to spend a fortune. Give them love, food, shelter and treat them like one of the family.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Alternative Halloween Treat Ideas

While I'm a huge fan of chocolate, however I know there are some of you who prefer not to give out candy for Halloween. Whether you don't want to promote junk food, you are sensitive to food allergies, or just can't afford to buy bags and bags of it.

I've come up with a couple treats you can hand out that aren't going to give the kids (or parents) a sugar rush.

Here are some alternatives to commonly handed out candies.

* Temporary tattoos
* Stickers or sticker sheets
* Glow sticks, bracelets or necklaces
* Spider Rings or bats, skulls, etc
* Pencils - Halloween themed or another theme
* Erasers - again Halloween themed or just fun designs
* Plastic teeth - vampire teeth usually
* Self-inking mini stampers
* Bouncy balls
* Packs of mini crayons, markers or color pencils
* Slime or goop
* Mini containers of bubbles - check wedding section of craft stores
* Small craft projects

Also consider giving out the following. The kids still get a treat and sometimes it's healthier.

* McDonald's coupons - 12 coupons including 4 ice cream cones, 4 apple slices, 4 milk/juice for $1
* Wendy's Jr Frosty coupons - get 10 coupons for $1

One place to check for inexpensive items like this is Oriental Trading Company. They have tons of cute stuff. Check them out.

*By the way this isn't an affiliate link and I make no money from promoting them.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Register to Vote


Don't forget to register to vote. The deadline here in Maryland is 9 p.m. tonight. Don't worry - you can now register online.

I'm not going to tell you who to vote for - just to make sure you do in fact vote.

Many people don't vote because they don't know who to vote for.  Others think their votes don't count. I'm here to tell you they definitely count on the issues and on the local votes. It's not just the presidential elections. There are elections for your local delegates, senators and issues concerning your state and county.

Just to help anyone out there, here's what I do. When I get my paper ballot in the mail I sit down when I have a free afternoon. Then I go through each question on the ballot and read up as much as I can.

I also "google" each person running for an office to find out who they are and what they believe in. If nothing turns up on the "google" search  than they don't get my vote. I feel they aren't serious enough for the job if they can't take the little bit of time to start up a blog/website/Facebook/something and type up a paragraph saying what they believe and why they are running.

A little bit of research and you will have a better idea of who the people are.

Get out there and vote. Make your voice heard!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Mini Scrapbook Photo Album


Last year my youngest would cry on the bus. She would miss her mom and dad, but she especially missed her big sister who went off to middle school and couldn't ride with her and walk her to class anymore.

So I found these vertical badge holders at the Dollar Tree (my FAVE store). Though the also sell them at Wal-Mart and Office Depot.

I took a couple pieces of scrapbooking paper and glued a photo of each family member along with their name on them. Creating mini scrapbooking pages. 

The pack of 10 badge holders can hold 20 different photos - so you can add grandparents, extended family, pets, even favorite toys. 

Once the mini scrapbooking pages were done and put into the badge holders I secured them together with a binder clip that I found at Wal-Mart.

Plus being covered in the hard plastic badge holders protects the photos so the album will last even when played with by little fingers everyday.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Still Gardening in October


Believe it or not my garden is still flourishing. Crazy I know for the mid-Atlantic region. It's October and just starting to get cooler, but I continue to get veggies.It was a dry summer and a pretty wet fall so far.

With all the rain I've been getting a bunch of good sized and still tasty tomatoes. Though I'm a bit confused about my onions. You see I pulled out all my onions, and new ones have started to grow in the same spot. This is my first time with onions, so I'm wondering is this normal???

This summer my garden has produced lots of veggies. I canned lots of tomatoes. My hubby has canned lots of banana peppers and I even canned 2 jars of carrots. Not to mention lots of radishes early in the summer.

The canned goods come in really handy over the winter in addition to throughout the summer and fall. I use the tomatoes in spaghetti sauce and to make stewed tomatoes. One of my favorite dishes.

The radishes will be put in salads, and the carrots will be used in roasts.

The banana peppers won't make it very far into the winter because my youngest and my hubby are constantly eating them.

I love gardening and already can't wait until next year. It's so fun deciding what to plant and watching it sprout and then bloom. And you can't beat shopping from your back yard.

Coming up in the next week or two I will need to clean up and turn over my garden. I enjoy seeing my yard neat and full of beautifully colored plants. On to the fall and the pretty multi-colored leaves.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

How I Scored a New iPhone


Okay so it's not the latest one - it's an iPhone 4. Not the new iPhone 5 that just came out.

I'm not the type to rush right out or wait in line to get the latest and greatest technological breakthrough. I usually wait a while and see if the hype is true or if it's just a passing fad.

I've actually had a Blackberry Curve for well over 2 years now and it was barely working thanks to some unfortunate drops. Oops! Let's just say it would text but you couldn't really use it as a phone anymore.

Since I kept it so long my provider said I qualified for an upgrade and one of my choices was this iPhone 4. Did I mention there it was fre*e? Well the phone was free - there was a $30 activation fee, but still not bad. I also had to extend my contract for 2 more years.  This wasn't an issue for me because I actually liked their service and was going to keep them anyways. (No dropped calls, great reception, etc.)

So how will this help you - you ask? Check with your cell service provider and see if you qualify for an upgrade. If you company does offer upgrades hold off getting that new phone until you qualify to save some moola and get a new phone.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Pics of the Week - October 10, 2012

This past weekend I let my kids throw knives, shoot arrows, and play with swords.

Yep, my family went to the Maryland Renaissance Festival and we had a blast. It was the first time in about 10 years that we went.

I loved this sign! Stupidhatarea - it can be used in so many places.


We watched a jousting match and saw lots of people in really cool costumes.



But our favorite part was this one show with a comedian and his high wire act. Don't look at his Spongebob boxers. LOL!


Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Easy Ways to Organize Your Photos

If you love taking photos half as much as me than you probably have a ton of photos. The problem is how to store all those photos and how to access them when you want them.


Folders
On your computer it is really easy to create a new folder for each month. I recommend naming them "201X-XX". Put the year first followed by the two digit month. For example October 2012 would be 2012-10. This will make all your months show up in order as opposed to alphabetically where August will always come before February. This also keeps entire years together.

This system works best for those people taking basic everyday family photos. If you need a outside summertime photo for a scrapbook page simply look in June, July or August's folder.

Flash Drives
Flash drives or thumb drives work great for people who take a lot of photos at one time. For example if you are taking photos of a special event such as a wedding just load all those photos onto one flash drive.

Another way to use these devices is to put all the photos for a month, quarter or year on one flash drive - depending on how many photos you take and how much the device will hold.

Photo Box
 If you are the type of person to get every photo developed than a photo box is the system for you. Separate the photos by month, quarter, year or even by subject or project. An example would be all Christmas photos in one box or all photos of little Susie in another box.

On a side note if you use a digital camera I highly recommend only printing out the photos you will actually use. Making sure you will be using them in a scrapbook, picture frame or other craft project in the near future. Wasting less ink and paper.

Online
There are three really great sites online that will host all your photos for you. There are lots of sites out there, but these are the ones I've tried and would recommend.

Flickr.com
This is easy to use. There is a 300MB bandwidth limit each month with the fre*e account. You can upgrade to PRO for $1.87 a month. It's pretty inexpensive. My only issue is you need to set each photo to copyrighted otherwise it can be used by anyone under the Creative Commons License. I also recommend setting each photo's privacy settings so it can only be seen by certain people such as Friends or Family.

http://photobucket.com/
This is another easy to use site. There is a unlimited photo uploads and 500 video limit for the free account. There appears to be a 10GB monthly bandwidth limit. The copyright settings appear to be about the same as Flickr.com's. One feature I really enjoy is you can mark all photos so they cannot be copied or shared - you don't have to mark each individual one.

http://www.shuttercal.com/
I love this site. Perfect for your 365 Photo Project. Simply upload a photo onto each day on the calendar. They even give you the option to order a printed daily calendar (month at a time or whole year). Lots of fun!

The main thing is to find one organization system that works for you and your photo storage needs.

Monday, October 08, 2012

11 Weeks till Christmas

That's right only 11 weeks till Christmas.

It may or may not seem like a long time to you, but in reality you have plenty of time to raise some cash, craft up some presents, and even schedule in some relaxation time.

If you hope to have an enjoyable holiday season than you need to start planning now.

First, make a list of all the things most important to you. Do you enjoy spending time with family and extended family? Take in the sights - light displays, decorations, etc.? Caroling? Shopping? Baking? Helping others less fortunate?

Second, using pencil, block out some time on your calendar for those things you deem important. Pencil in a Saturday afternoon to do some baking or a Friday night to get together with family.

Don't worry if the dates and times change just switch dates around, but make sure you keep the most important stuff on the calendar.

There is still time to get a second/side job to raise a little extra cash so you don't run up the credit cards for the holidays. Lots of stores are hiring temporary help for the season. Even if you can't earn the entire amount needed to cover your holiday bills - you can put a good chunk towards it.

If a job outside the home isn't an option for you - you can always make some of the gifts you will give this year. A warm blanket, a meaningful photo framed, some delicious cookies, pie or cake, etc. Use your unique talents to show others you care.

There is still plenty of time to get creative and make this a wonderful holiday season. In the coming weeks I will share some easy and affordable gifts you can make and give the special people in your life.


Friday, October 05, 2012

Yummy Enchiladas

These are super easy to make and my family LOVES these.

Ingredients:
1 lb ground beef
1 pkg taco seasoning
2/3 cup water
1 can refried beans
1 can enchilada sauce
2 cups shredded cheese (Mexican/taco mix)
8 tortillas



Brown ground beef in large skillet. Drain.

Stir in taco seasoning and 2/3 cup water. Bring to a boil and let cook until some water has evaporated.

Stir in refried beans and 1/2 cup shredded cheese until thoroughly mixed and cheese is melted.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Lightly grease 9 x 12 baking dish.

Take one tortilla and spoon in approximately 1/2 cup* of meat/refried bean mixture into tortilla. Wrap up and place in baking dish. Continue until all the meat/refried bean mixture is used.

* Use more or less of the mixture to suit your tastes.

Once all the meat/refried bean mixture is used and tortillas are lined up in baking dish. Cover with remaining shredded cheese and top with enchilada sauce.

Bake until cheese is melted - approximately 20 minutes.

Serve and enjoy!

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Earn Money for Christmas with Swagbucks

Search & WinToday I'm going to mention one of my favorite sites.  Swagbucks!

I really do love this site. This is one of the many ways I pay for Christmas presents each year.

I simply use the Swagbucks search engine just like Google and earn bucks.  Trade your Swagbucks in for gift cards or other prizes. I always trade mine in for Amazon.com gift cards because they never expire and can be used to buy almost anything. You can even use them for Kindle downloads.

There are other ways to earn bucks such as filling out surveys, completing offers, completing the daily poll, and finding special codes on their blog. The best part is there is no fee to join.

Every time I earn enough Swagbucks to purchase an Amazon gift card I do so. Then I apply it to my Amazon account where I save them up for Christmas.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Pics of the Week - October 3, 2012


This past weekend my family went over my parents' home to help install some hard wood floors. My handsome hubby, my sister and brother and his family were all there helping out.

Unfortunately, like almost all home improvement projects we start it was difficult. There's always an element we don't plan for.  In this case, we had to level all the floors because over the past 30 years they have settled and became quite un-level. After 1 hour of using a belt sander we decided it was time to rent a machine to get it done much quicker.

In this case, we had to level all the floors because over the past 30 years they have settled and became quite un-level. After 1 hour of using a belt sander we decided it was time to rent a machine to get it done much quicker. Hence the pic above.

My Dad went to the local Home Depot and rented the big sander. If you are doing a home improvement project that requires a tool you don't currently have and probably won't use again consider renting it. Search your local phone book or google the nearest "tool rentals" in your area.

While the adults were busy helping sand, lay out boards and nail them into place. The kids were playing. The youngest three decided they wanted to go outside and catch crickets. Yep you read that right. Crickets. GROSS!

Normally my kids are completely scared of bugs. They even think there is a bug in their rooms and they refuse to sleep there until it's killed or put outside. Not sure where they get their fear of bugs. LOL

So this is a photo of the girls with their box full of crickets. They even added leaves and water, so they could keep them. NOT!

That's this week's little glimpse into our lives.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Socks and Sensory Issues - Solved

As I mentioned yesterday my youngest has a problem with wearing socks. She really can't stand the seams. Even when we turn them inside out or use the seamless kind. Nothing was working.

So yesterday I tried something new. I really didn't think it would work, but go figure - it did!

Toe Socks!!!

I was looking at the pic I used yesterday of my older daughter wearing her fave toe socks and figured what the heck! Let's give them a try.

Well it worked and today she even wore a pair of her sister's socks to school - no complaining whatsoever.

The only reason I can see that this works is because there is no seam across the toe. It's a bit lower and not nearly as thick across the base of the toes.

Just something to try if you child has sensory issues like my youngest does.


I found these are a local FiveBelow which I'm hoping will fit her. They were the only store that sold them in our area at the moment.


Monday, October 01, 2012

Cold Weather and Socks

It's getting colder here and that means no more shorts, tank tops,  and flip flops. I personally love the fall. The leaves changing colors. Cooler weather. Cuddling up under quilts on cool nights.

Unfortunately it also means time to wear warmer clothing and my youngest daughter (8 yrs) absolutely cannot stand wearing socks. We know it's a sensory problem.

Last year she tried on at least 5 pairs of underwear each morning trying to find one that feels right. Next she put on a couple pairs of pants. Then she would have a crying fit because none of her socks fit right. The lines (seams) hurt her. My mother-in-law even went so far as to cut the toe area off the socks which my daughter also did herself with 6 pairs when she got home. Did I mention they were brand new socks?!

This year, thank God, she has gotten over her underwear issues, and has greatly improved in her pants problem. She even wore jeans that weren't skin tight this morning. However, she still has a major problem with her socks.


I would let her go without socks, but it makes her feet smell bad when she wears sneakers which she must wear for Phys. Ed. in school.

Just in case any of you are in a similar situation here are a couple things I do to keep the peace and reduce the smell.

* Put lots of baby powder in her shoes and on her feet. It absorbs the sweat, cuts the smell, and keeps her feet from getting blisters.

* Switch shoes often. She usually only wears sneakers on Phys. Ed days at school. Otherwise she can wear sandals, slip on shoes, or boots. This gives the shoes time to air out between uses.

* Only wear shoes outside. It is cleaner for your home to leave your shoes at the door anyways. That way you don't track dirt and germs throughout your house from your travels that day.

One thing I have learned over the years is to pick your battles. My daughter hates wearing socks. It's not like she's failing in school or doing drugs. I keep things in perspective. Plus I had the same issues when I was younger and I grew out of it. I'm sure she will too.

As a parent, how would you handle this issue?