Monday, March 30, 2015

8 Tips for Making Road Trips with Kids Easier

The warmer weather is coming ( us Canadians can dream, can't we?) and with that comes travelling season!  My husband and I love a good adventure, and whenever the time and money allows you will find us in our van looking for something to see and do.  A couple years ago we had the Summer off, so we packed up our three kids 5 and under at the time, and drove across Canada with our little tent trailer.  That is over 40 hours of driving one way!!  And you know what? It was amazing.  The things we saw....the mountains, the prairies, the tourist stops, accidentally coming across the Corner Gas set.....totally worth it!  But let's be honest, travelling with kids isn't all roses, especially when they are really young, and we learned a few things along the way. Here's 8 tips for making road trips with kids easier.

1.  Snacks, Snacks, and MORE SNACKS!  Let's just get the most important out of the way.  Kids eat.  A LOT.  Make sure you are well stocked.  Avoid "hanger" taking over your family vacation.

2.  MANDATORY bathroom breaks.  I've had conversations with my daughter before leaving the house or at a stop that goes like this: "Do you have to go to the bathroom?"  daughter replies "no."  Me:  "are you sure?"  Dear daughter of mine replies "Yes".  And me, being the naive mother believes her.  Then, no joke, 5-10 minutes of the road, all of a sudden this child of mine is calling from the back seat that she needs to go and she needs to go NOW!  So take it from me, kids know nothing when it comes to their bathroom needs. Make them go when you stop.  Your sanity will thank me.

3. Books, activities, games.  Keep those kids busy!  Need some inspiration of what types of things to bring to entertain them?  Check out this list of activities to bring over at Hobo Mama.

4.  Suprise bags.  Hand surprise bags out at different intervals during the trip.  These bags can contain some dollar store toys, books, or anything else you can think of that will keep them busy.  New toys always seems to quiet down the least for a little while!

5.  Books and shows on CD.  Our family loves Adventures in Odyssey, and we also listen to Narnia on cd.

6.  Movies.  Okay, I know for some people they prefer to have a DVD player-free vehicle.  And I totally respect you for that.  But when we decided we would be taking a trip that took 40 plus hours, we decided it was NECESSARY to get a DVD player.  And I fully admit I am not sure we would have survived without it.

7.  Make stops.  My husband and I have different travelling personalities.  I always feel pressured to get there...I like to make as few stops as possible.  My husband, however, loves to take in every sight and sound he sees, especially in nature.  And his way is so much better for three high energy kids.  Letting them run around and get their crazies out really helps.

8.  Drive at the right time.  This is different for every family.  I know some families who prefer to drive through the night while their kids are sleeping.  For me I like to drive during the day while my kids area awake because i need a good night's sleep to not be cranky on our trip. ;)  Decide what works best for everyone in your family and drive at that time.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

11 Easter Activities for Kids

Easter is roughly a week away, which means there's still time to get some Easter crafts and activities in.  I wanted to share some of my favorite links of Easter activities for kids.

Resurrection Rolls from The Larson Lingo

Grace Garden from A Holy Experience

Salt Dough Tomb From Faithful Provisions.  I plan to combine this with the Grace Garden.

Homemade Resurrection Eggs From Saving Dollars and Sense. I have been wanting to buy some resurrection eggs for years, turns out it is very easy to make yourself!

Homemade Resurrection Eggs for Toddlers from Wait 'Til Your Father Gets Home

Minion Easter Eggs  from Happy Home Fairy.  Seriously, cutest thing ever.

Empty Tomb Snack from Catholic Icing

You've Been Egged! From Happy Home Fairy. My kids LOVE doing this one.

Foot Washing and the Last Supper from Christian Children's Authors

Stained Glass Cross  from Mom on Time Out

Shaving Cream Painted Easter Egg Cards from Perfectly Imperfect

I also shared how I made some Easter dirt pudding  cups HERE.  And if you are looking for an Easter printable to decorate, you can get my printable HERE.

To end this post, as we head into the week before Easter, I'd like to leave you with my favorite Easter song in the WORLD.  Perfect for dancing around your kitchen and praising God for the sacrifice of His son.  He IS RISEN!

Peace & Love :)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

How to Make Tissue Paper Flowers

I love flowers.  Mostly wild ones, but I wouldn't mind those rainbow dyed roses or daisies in the store either.  (I also really hope my husband is reading this post...;) )

Here's the thing.  I like flowers.  But I have a history of being less than, um, shall we say, successful with keeping them alive. It's truly amazing that I can keep three kids alive and not a plant.  But I was really wanting some kind of flower arrangement in my bathroom.

Here is how to make tissue paper flowers, so you, too can have flowers that live indefinitely...or at least until your toddler gets their hands on them. ;)

First, you will need a pack of tissue paper, some scissors, and some kind of wire.  I bought this wire at the dollar store in the floral section.

First thing you want to do is cut a square of tissue paper.  The size of the squares were roughly between 4-6 inches wide. I varied the sizes so my flowers were different sizes. I used about 8-10 layers of tissue paper per flower.

After you have cut your square with 8-10 layers, fold it up accordion style.

Fold up the paper, and cut each end to the style you want your flower petals to have.  I opted for a more pointed look, but rounded would be nice too.

Take a piece of wire.  I cut my wire about 2 inches long.  wrap it around the middle of the tissue paper.

I then like to fan out each side.

After that, Carefully pull up the layers one at a time, separating them all.  Take your time with this as the paper easily rips.  The nice thing is, a few small rips won't ruin it, but still be careful. :)

Work with one side, and then move on to the next.

After I've done both sides, I like to carefully scrunch the flower to shape it a bit.

I wanted to add stems, and my husband is an electrician apprentice, so he had some green wire I was able to wrap around the middle of the flower to make a stem.

After you are done, you can add the flowers to whatever you want. You can get pretty creative with these flowers.  Use more than one colour, different  sizes, different style of petals.  Add a little Spring to your home. :)

Peace & Love. :)

Monday, March 23, 2015

How I Save Money On Groceries

I feel like my life is one never-ending trip to the grocery store.  I hear that when you have teens they eat you out of the house.   I think I'm in big trouble because it amazes me how much my three little ones can eat so much already.  I constantly hear, "I'm hungry."  Sometimes, they say it while they are still CHEWING!!!!

That being said, I am constantly looking for new ways to save at the grocery store. I read one story on how a family known as "America's Cheapest Family" only goes grocery shopping once a month.  They take walkie talkies, a massive stack of coupons, and takes 4 hours and get everything they need for the next month. Although I am impressed as to how they save money by doing this, we buy a lot of fresh produce that requires us to grocery shop at least once a week, and sometimes even a produce run in the middle of the week.  So kudos to them, but this method unfortunately will not work for my family.

Here is how I save money on groceries.

1.PC PLUS Points Card

I've always loved the PC points program but it just recently got even better.  Everytime I shop at No Frllls (it also works at Independent Grocer and Loblaw's, s well as Royal Canadian Superstore) I get points every time I grocery shop.  It is connected to my bank card at PC Financial (free banking, oh yeah) but you can now get a separate PC points card if you don't have a PC Financial account.  Their newest addition to the program allows you to go online and upload offers that give you more points depending on the product you buy.  New offers are available each Friday.  These points are turned into cash towards free groceries.  It doesn't take long to rack up points on this program!

2. Price Matching

I used to be scared to price match.  I didn't want to be THAT customer, you know?  Then I decided if being "THAT" customer saved me money, I should get over my fear.  Turns out, if you re really organized, it isn't a big inconvenience. And I notice quite a few people do it.  I circle my products of what I am price matching and try to group them together at the end of my order to make it easier.

3.  Coupons

So, I've watched those shows about those extreme couponers in the US.  Couponing in the US is very different than here in Canada.  But there still are savings to be had.  Especially if you use your coupons when the product is on sale.  Sometimes you can even luck out and get a product for free!  Here are some coupon sites for Canadians:

Along with online coupons, there are coupon inserts that come with the weekly flyers, tearpad coupons in the store, or coupons attached to a product you buy.  You can also contact some companies directly and ask about coupons.  Some companies willl send them to you.  A popular one is Chapman`s Ice Cream.  If you e-mail them, they will send out a coupon for $4.00 worth of Chapman`s products, and you can request this coupon once a year.  Free ice cream, anyone?

4.  Buy discounted products

I often buy meat that is discounted because the expiry date is either that day or the next.  As long as I freeze it when I get home, it is fine.  I also buy discounted bananas that I use for smoothies or baking.

5.  Go by yourself and be prepared

This is a big one. I know this isn't possible for everyone, but if you can leave the kids at home, do it.I go grocery shopping at weird hours because I will have a much more productive trip if I am able to leave the kids at home with my husband.  This prevents me from buying things I don't need, including a stop for Timbits to keep everyone full and happy.  Also make sure you are prepared.  Make sure you don't go on an empty stomach, and bring your water bottle. :)

6.  Shop the Flyers and Meal Plan

I shared in this post how I make meal plans (as well as a printable template).   I try to plan my meals with what is on sale in the flyer that week.

7.  Cash rebate apps

I have a cell phone for two reasons - to text message people AND to save money with my apps. Seriously, to save money I spend 10 dollars a month on that thing and I don't have the phone function working. To use the rebate apps you upload your receipt after you shop, check off the offers in the program of what you bought, and it gives you cash back.  You need to hit a certain threshold before you can cash out, and for me this is a slow way of earning because I refuse to buy products I wouldn't usually buy, but in my opinion, every little bit counts. Here are some of the rebate apps I use.

Checkout51 -by far the best one for me

As you can see, there are a lot of ways to save on groceries.  Even just starting with a few of these changes can help.  I have seen it make a difference in our grocery bill significantly.

Peace & Love. :)

Friday, March 20, 2015

Indoor Activity That Will Keep the Kids Busy for Hours

I have three kids, two which are boys.  VERY BUSY BOYS.

One of my boys has had sensitivity issues and this Winter his snowsuit bothered him.  I'm not talking about a little "oh, i don't like my snowsuit" issue.  No, I'm talking about getting an itch every two minutes because of the snowpants and coat which resulted in flailing and trying to get the mittens, hat, and snowsuit off to make himself feel better, along with some high pitched yelling and frustration added in there. Needless to say, we haven't spent much time outdoors this winter.

So, I've had to come up with indoor activities that will keep them occupied.  I wish I could say that every day I came up with something so amazing, people dropped their jaws in awe.  But actually, i have a hard time coming up with my own ideas.  Many days consist of the boys horse playing, and right now too much Paw Patrol cartoons.  But every once in a while, if I really just sit and think, I can come up with something that makes me look like mom of the year to my kids.  Often with a little inspiration from somewhere else.  And a couple weeks ago, when I went to a friend's house for some girl time, I noticed she had used tape on her floor to make a road for her kids to drive their matchbox  cars.  So that gave me an idea about some arrow shaped post-it notes that were headed for the thrift store box. Here is an indoor activity that will keep the kids busy for hours.

I got the kids to start rounding up all their toys, and some boxes from the recycling, some glue, paper, and markers, and we got to work.  We made a farm, a cafe, a gas station, a zoo, and even Disney World.

The boys used the road and village to mostly smash their cars, while my daughter spent most of her time designing new buildings and people for the village.  Everyone was happy.  Well, until the toddler stole the animals from the zoo and mixed them up with the farm animals.

We left this up all over our living room floor for days, and the kids loved it.  And it's funny...I look at this and don't feel it is something you would see on Pinterest.  We just gathered what we had, and worked with it.  But the truth of the matter is, we didn't need anything fancy.  With some time and creativity, the kids had hours of FREE entertainment!

So, kids bouncing off the wall today?  Feeling discouraged with how to manage their energy and give them something to do?  Just look around your house, and get creative!  You will be surprised at what you find that can keep the kids happy. ;)

Peace & Love. :)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

How Minimalism has Saved me Money (Even though I'm not a minimalist)

A few years ago we had friends who embarked on a journey towards minimalism.  Up until that point I had not ever even heard the term, much less have been aware that it was a lifestyle.  And as I learned more about it I was suddenly very aware of the piles of junk we owned.

Actually, after years of marriage, and three kids later, I realized we hadn't ever really "de-cluttered".  It wasn't because we didn't want to get rid of anything (okay, my husband WAS a bit of a packrat).  For me, it was that I had never really learned the importance of decluttering or even how to do it.  It wasn't until I felt like the mess just NEVER WENT AWAY that I started realizing it could be managed more easily if there was just less stuff.

So it began, my mission to get rid of stuff.  Some of the things that stand out in my mind that we got rid of was some furniture, about 7 big garbage bags full of extra clothes (often hand me downs, but NO ONE needs that many clothes) and about 7 boxes of National Geographics that had been passed down to us but not ONE of them had been read by anyone in our house.

Like the title says, I am far from a minimalist. I step on way too many action figures, wash way too many dishes, and still own way too many outfits to classify as one.  But I have definitely downsized from years before, and here is how minimalism has saved me money, even though I am not a minimalist.

1. I was able to sell some things.  We don't have a lot of high valued items, but we were able to make a little bit of cash because we let some things go, instead of hanging on to them.

2.  I buy less.  I am more careful about my purchases.  I don't just buy things because I like how they look or it is a good deal.  I think about if I really want to add more clutter to my home.   And now I would rather spend my money on experiences way more than buy myself stuff.  Just my personal preference.

3. Owning a smaller home means less bills.  Okay, so this wasn't a conscious choice we made.  We bought the house we could afford at the time which is a very old, smaller home.  And we do hope to have something a little bigger one day.  But we often talk about getting something that is not that much bigger because with it often comes higher heating and electricity bills, and of course the obvious, a bigger mortgage.  Living in a small home has allowed our living costs to be lower.

4.  We own one vehicle.  Again, this is another thing we expect could change in the future as it is getting harder to co-ordinate our schedules as the kids get older.  But for now, one vehicle means less insurance and car expenses.  We have spent our whole marriage so far (over 11 years) with one vehicle.  I actually kind of like how it provides quality family time because we spend a lot of time together in the van instead of two separate vehicles.

There is still plenty of junk in this house, and too much mess for my liking, but every once in awhile I go through another decluttering phase and it always feels very refreshing and often brings me back to the right frame of mind of where I want to spend my money.  However, there are a few things I will not downsize to a small amount:

1.  Matchbox cars and legos.  Can a kid really have too many?  They have provided endless hours of entertainment in this house.
2.  Pens.  Seriously, they go missing all the time anyways, so basically, they are downsized organically.
3.  Books.  I have decluttered these over the years, but never to an extremely low amount.  because my life is incomplete without books.  and don't even try to tell me just to load a bunch of books onto an E-reader.  There is something about holding a book in your hand, about the smell of the pages that no E-reader can fulfill.

The cutest  little book store I was
ever in.

4,  Underwear.  It has to be said.  Everyone should be well-stocked in this area. :)
5.  Blankets.  My house is old and COLD.  And I live in CANADA.  Every Canadian should have a never ending supply of warmth in their linen closet.

What about you?  Are you a minimalist?  Are there things you would NEVER downsize?

Peace & Love. :)

Monday, March 16, 2015

Meal Plan Monday

Today is Meal Plan Monday!!  Okay, so I don't officially meal plan on Mondays in my house, but I am posting this blog on Monday, so it seemed like a catchy and fitting title! :)

One way to save money and SANITY is by meal planning.  I don't do it every week because sometimes I get sidetracked (three kids, homeschooling, tie-dye business on the side...NO IDEA why I get sidetracked ) but I try to do it as much as I can because my week always runs smoother when I am organized in this area. Plus, it eliminates your kids constantly asking you what's for dinner, and it prevents us moms from having to make a decision at last minute on what to serve the family.  "Yes, kids, it's cereal again for dinner.  Because Mommy forgot to plan, and you are getting hangry, and we want to avoid your hanger from getting out of control,so no time to make a proper meal. Here, EAT, NOW."

*Side Note:  For those of you who don't know what "HANGRY" is, defines it as this:

"Irritable as a result of being hungry."

Let me tell you, my whole family, every single one of us who lives in this house, suffers from hanger.  I'm pretty sure my cat even suffers from it.  Many of our grumpy, irrational moments can be solved with a simple sandwich. (not that I am EVER irrational.)

But I digress.

Today I am offering a free printable, a weekly meal plan template!

Last week my taco night was on Monday.  My middle child pointed out that this didn't make sense, as taco night should be on Tuesday, because then you call it Taco Tuesday.  I'm definitely not going to make that mistake twice, because as you all probably know, arguing with a 5 year old will get you nowhere. ;)

As you can see in my planner I just write out my dinners.  Some people like to plan their breakfasts and lunches too.  I find I like to leave those areas flexible.  I don't feel the need to schedule those out as we often only rotate a few meal options for lunches and breakfasts.  But you will see at the bottom of the page I have a block for snacks.  My kids NEVER stop snacking.  It really helps to have a general idea what I plan to feed them when they ask for the 17th time that day if they can have a snack.  Come on moms, you know what I'm talking about. ;)

To print out this template and use it in your own home, Click HERE.    You can also write up a few different weeks of menus, and just rotate them.  I like to write them up and match meals with what is on sale in the flyer that week.

Peace & Love. :)

Friday, March 13, 2015

How to Afford the Necessities You Need

In my marriage, we've experienced a lot of financial ups and downs.  Actually, to be honest, more downs than ups, but we've seen God work in amazing ways throughout those trials.  We've learned a lot, and sometimes we've had to kick ourselves for wondering why it has taken us so long to learn some hard lessons.  We've never had a very large income, and as my husband, AKA Electrician Extroardinaire, is still in his first year of apprenticeship, even though we are doing much better than a year ago, we're still working with a tight budget.

When you are really low on funds, it can be hard to walk into a food bank and ask for the help you need.  That is pretty much a last resort for many people.  If you are in need for food and can't afford it, please, go and get some from your local food bank.  You do NOT need to feel ashamed.  Any one of us could easily be in the same boat....all it takes is one crisis in anyone's life to be in the same need.

That being said, if you are struggling financially and can't bring yourself to walk into the food bank, or if you feel you are struggling, but not enough to need the food bank, there are other resources in many communities for low-income families.  You do not need to be unemployed to use many resources out there.  Many programs are aimed for the "working poor."  Because the truth is, you can still be a two-income family and be struggling to make ends meet.  With living costs that are increasing at a rate way faster than the hourly wage at most jobs, it can be tough.  Today I want to share with you some of the community resources I've discovered over the years, by advertising, by using it, or by my line of work when I was employed at a local food bank years ago.

1.  Winter Clothing. Many communities have programs for winter clothing for kids, and sometimes for adults.  These can range from gently used coats to a brand new suit, with boots and even hats and mittens.  

2. Free Clothing.  I often see ads for these at local churches.  Sometimes they will be posted as an exchange, but usually it's just a free clothing event.  You go, rummage through the piles of clothing, and pick what you need.  You don't have to produce income statements usually, but might be limited to a plastic bag or two to make sure there is enough for others.

3.  Good Food Box.  I LOVE that this program exists.  It is a Canadian program and is only offered in so many locations.  Basically, you pay a discounted price at the beginning of the month, and three weeks later you are able to pick up a box of produce.  There are different sizes of boxes and anyone can purchase one.  The best way to find out if this program is offered in your community is to google it with the name of your city as it looks like each community has a webpage of their own.

4,  YMCA Subsidy.  Extra-curriculars for children can add up quickly.  For me, I feel it is VERY important that my kids have swimming lessons as it is a life-saving skill.  Through the Y, we can do swimming lessons and other programs for the whole family at a discounted rate.  You must apply for and qualify for subsidy and produce your income documents, but it is SO worth it.  I have been able to watch my kids progress in their lessons which wouldn't otherwise be financially possible at this time in our life.

5.  Sports Subsidy.  This isn't available in my community, which is a small town, but the closest city we live near has it.  Check your community to see if they have something to help you offset the cost if you want to be able to put your children in sports but can't afford the price tag.

6. Summer Camp.  There are so many camps that offer subsidy or child sponsorship.  If you are interested in a certain camp but don't see any information on whether they offer subsidy, e-mail or call the camp.  I had my eyes set on a certain camp for my daughter but the site didn't indicate if I could apply for subsidy.  I emailed them and it was confirmed that yes, they could offer a discounted rate!

7.  Healthy Smiles Program. Another program I love, especially since there are many hardworking families out there who don't have benefits, and therefore can't afford to take their children (or themselves) to the dentist.  If you qualify, this program covers children 17 and under.  This is an Ontario based program, but do some internet searching to find out if there is one similar in your area.  To check out Healthy Smiles Ontario, Click HERE.  If you do not qualify for Healthy Smiles but your child has an urgent dental need, you may still qualify for another program called CINOT.  

It can be hard to make that call or ask for help, but whenever I have needed to do it, I often tell myself it's so I can give my kids what they need or what may enhance their life.  That thought, as a mom, helps me swallow my pride and do what I feel I need to do.  And for the most part I have been treated with respect and kindness from the employees when going through the process of applying for subsidy or a program to help low-income families.  So hold your head up high and remind yourself that it takes a good Mom to walk into those places and fill out the application for these types of programs no matter how embarrassed you may feel. One day your kids will thank you for it, and you won't regret it.

Peace & Love. :)

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Free Easter Chalkboard Printables

Yesterday I hung sheets on the line for the first time since last Fall!  It was a glorious moment...until we put them on our bed and realized they smelled like bonfire smoke.  Sigh.  Someone in our neighbourhood must have been burning something.  Total letdown when I didn't get to shove my face into my sheets and breathe in that nice, sheets-dried-on-the-line smell, but instead a nice smokey smell...yuck.  Nonetheless, Spring is on it's way.  And so is Easter.  And in celebration today I am offering two free printable downloads!

Click HERE to download "HE IS Risen" printable.

Click HERE to download "By His Wounds we are Healed."

I am not the most talented when it comes to decorating my house, but I do love changing out my framed printable every season or holiday. :)

Peace & Love. :)

Monday, March 9, 2015

Easter Dirt Pudding Cups

As I started typing this up I realized I probably couldn't file it under "Healthy Living."  And while I am all for taking care of yourself and eating healthy, I say that sometimes you gotta live a little.  And sometimes living a little includes chocolate. and sugar.  and cute little candy bunnies and carrots.

I got together with some wonderful ladies this past weekend.  We ate pizza and salad, and drank wine, and of course, ate dessert.  And we chatted about being mom and wives, and about sparkly shoes, and whatever else we could think of.  After some long winter days spent mostly indoors with my wild and crazy beautiful and fun children, it was nice to get together and re-energize with some friends.

I wanted to make something really Spring-like for dessert.  I figured if we used the whole "if you build it, they will come" mentality and apply it to Spring, we might see an end to Winter.  and I am not gonna lie, i think it worked.  It's going to be a WHOLE +4 this afternoon!  You fellow Canadians know what I am talking is time to chisel away at that frozen driveway!

These treats are not only cute for Spring, but they are perfect for Easter too, which is only a few weeks away.

So go and make this deliciousness.  And try to share some with your kids, but I won't judge you if you don't. ;)

Easter Dirt Pudding Cups
1 bag of chocolate or vanilla filled sandwich cookies
1/2 cup of softened butter
1 (8 oz) container of cream cheese
3/4 cup of icing (confectioner's) sugar
2 boxes of instant vanilla pudding mix
3 1/2 cups of milk
1 (12 oz) container of whipped topping 
Peeps marshmallows - the bunny ones
Carrot gummi candy (or whatever you can find.)

Crush up the cookies with a food processor.  I used my Vitamix with the tamper.  Put the cookie mixture aside.

Mix up the container of cream cheese with the sugar.  

Mix both the vanilla pudding mix with the milk and whipped topping.  Add that to the cream cheese mixture.  Mix it well.

Now, you are going to layer the cookie mixture and the pudding mixture.  Start with the cookie mixture on the bottom.  I did three layers of cookie and two of pudding.  So, cookie, pudding, cookie, pudding, cookie.

Stick 2 carrot gummi candies in each cup so some of the orange and the green stem is sticking out.  I found these candies at Bulk Barn.  If you can't find carrots, you can look around for some type of other gummi that would look cute in the dirt.

Add a peep bunny in each cup. You could also use little flower pots instead of cups for this part.

Stick a flower to the end of each green spoon.  I found these stickers at the dollar store.  You could also use fake flowers and use a glue gun to attach them.  

Stick the spoons in the cups.

And there you have it!  A perfect dessert to bring to Easter dinner, or to send with the kids for an Easter party. :)

Friday, March 6, 2015

How to Tie Dye

When I am not changing diapers or handing out snacks, or teaching reading or math to my little ones, I like to tie dye.  And then I take said tie dye garments to craft shows and markets, and sell them.  Or, as you may have noticed by the tab at the top of my site, I have an Etsy shop.  Tie dyeing can be a fun activity for anyone to do...whether you feel like creating a shirt for yourself, or you want to incorporate it into a homeschool or birthday party craft.  Today I am going to tell you how I tie dye.

There are a few techniques that have come out of traditional tie dye.  Two of my favorites are ice tie dyeing and snow tie dyeing.  That is the technique I used for the picture of me in the leggings at the top of this blog.  I will expand on that later.  but first, let's start with traditional tie dye.

The first thing you want to do is find something to tie dye.  Go to the thrift store, or your local clothing store, or check your closet.  You want to make sure it is cotton.  100% cotton is the best, but as long as it is around 90% cotton, you will most likely be happy with your results.  Not all material will take dyes, so this part is really important.

Once you pick out your item, you want to wash and dry it.  This is especially important if it is new, as you want to make sure it won't shrink after you dye it.

Next, you want to soak it in soda ash. Without the soda ash, your dye will not adhere properly to your clothing.  Depending on the dye you use, this step may be included in the actual dyes.  Just follow the instructions on your kit.  I use commercial procion mx dyes that I order from Maiwa. If you are based in the US, the most popular store for commercial type dyes is Dharma Trading. These dyes create brighter and longer lasting tie dyes, and these do not include the soda ash in the dyes, so you need to do that as a separate step.  But the kits you buy in Walmart or Michael's can be a great alternative if you just want to do a few for fun, and many of those kits have the soda ash right in the dye mix.  If it isn't included in the dye kit you purchased, you can purchase this online, or in pool stores.  However, instead of soda ash, you can actually use washing soda, which I am told is basically the same thing.  That's what I use because I can find it in my local Home Hardware, or No Frills.  You will find it in the laundry aisle if the store sells it.  Surprisingly, I could not find it in Walmart.

I use about a cup of washing soda to a litre of warm water.

Also, this is personal preference, but I like to "tie" my clothing before I soak it.  Some people tie it up with elastics before the soak, some after.  The reason I started doing it before it was wet was basically convenience with my kids needing me constantly. :)  I just found it easier to tie it up while it was dry instead of working with a bunch of wet clothing on my floor.  There are so many different techniques out there.  The most common one is the spiral.  Very easy to do.  Just lay your shirt (or whatever you are dyeing) on the floor, grab the middle of the shirt, and twist in a spiral until it looks like a nice, round cake. Then secure it with a few elastics.  Here is a link to a youtube video on the basic spiral.  Because I soak the clothing after I fold it, I don't spray it with water.  In the video they are also doing tub dyeing, which I have no experience with, so I can't help you there! :)  I prefer squirt bottles.  But if you want to see how to have a visual to see how to fold the spiral, click here.

You can literally put the elastics anywhere and do any design though.  That's the beauty of tie dye. ;)

Most kits will tell you to soak the garment in the soda ash for about 20-30 minutes.  I actually soak mine overnight if I have the time.  This helps the dye come out brighter.

Once you are done soaking your clothing, put it in the washing machine on the spin cycle to get the excess water out of it.  DO NOT RINSE IT!!! This is really, really important.  If you rinse out the soda ash, your tie dye will not turn out.  Make sure you only have your washing machine spinning the clothing, not adding water.

You can actually tie dye the clothing wet or dry.  I prefer wet because I feel the dye goes farther.  I've heard that dyeing dry often gives crisper lines and more definition.  Again, personal preference.  I do feel that more people prefer to dye their clothing damp.  You want it to be damp, and not soaked.

Make sure your dye area is set up.  I put a cooling rack over a bin or bucket and dye it on there.  If it is warm enough outside, I do my dyeing outside to minimize spillage. ;)  I've accidentally dyed a lot of things in my house...clothes, the floor, sinks, etc....

Don't forget to put your gloves on!  This is one of those, "do as I say, not as I do" moments.  I have had strange looks so many times while out only to look down at my hands and realize I look like a smurf.  Or a blueberry.  Or like I am seriously suffering from jaundice.  Plus, it just isn't good for you, and people have developed allergies from handling too much dye with their barehands.  So, please, wear the gloves. ;)  Also, if you are mixing powdered dyes it is recommended you wear a mask too.  Once they are mixed they are fine, but the powder is toxic.

Make sure your dye is mixed according to the instructions on the package.  And then, just squeeze the dye onto the clothing any way you want!  There is no wrong way to do this!  However, it is a good idea to keep the colour wheel in mind, because sometimes colours that are placed next to eachother will give a muddy look.  Using the colour wheel helps you figure out what colours interact well with eachother.
This is the classic spiral

Once you feel satisfied with how much dye you have squirted on (and, really pour that dye on there....more is usually better....) let it sit on the rack for about 10 minutes or so to drip a bit.  Then, get a plastic bag, and carefully place the clothing into the bag.  Tie the bag up so it is sealed, and let it sit and "cure" for 24 hours.

Try to think about anything else for those 24 hours.  If you are like me, you will try and decide if you can get away with less than 24 hours.  When you start thinking like that, go clean your bathroom or something. Dye your hair.  Organize your underwear drawer.  Distract yourself.  Trust me, it will be worth the wait.

After 24 hours, the moment you have waited for has come!  Run your clothing under cold water to rinse it out while you take the elastics off.  When I was learning to tie dye, I read countless articles about rinsing it until the water runs clear.  Well, i tried...but then my hands got cold...and I got impatient.  So I basically let it rinse for a bit, then throw it in the washing machine.  I wash my batches of tie dye for 2-3 washes.  1 or 2 cold water cycles, and a hot water cycle.  The darker the colours, the more I wash it.  Also, I use commercial dyes.  If I was using the non-commercial kits, I may not wash it as many times.  But when I started tie dyeing I didn't wash them enough times and I turned a customer's son into the colour mauve.  True story. I figured it probably was not good for business if you start dyeing your customers' skin.  So, wash your tie dye!

After the wash, throw it in the dryer or hang it on the line....however you would normally dry it.

And there you have it!  You have just created your own little piece of art that you can wear anywhere!

Now, I said I would expand on the ice dye and snow dye.  It's basically very similar....the only difference is that instead of dyeing with squeeze bottles, you cover your clothing with ice or snow, and then you put powder directly onto the snow or ice.  I will go into further detail of this process in a future post.

Peace & Love. :)

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Exercising on a Budget

A couple of weeks ago I was walking on my treadmill while watching "Baby Mama."  If you have ever watched Tina Fey and Amy Pohler together, you'll probably agree that you just end up laughing your guts out.  Except, at one of the more serious moments of the movie (which, by the way, is still pretty lighthearted) I found myself in tears.  I don't know if it was the constant snow coming down, or the fact that I hadn't had a bathroom break by myself in way too long, but there I was, walking on the treadmill, watching a comedy, and crying like a baby.  And then I remembered that exercising gives you endorphins, and endorphins make you happy. (I'm pretty I first learned that little tidbit of knowledge from "Legally Blonde." Who says TV is a waste of time?)  So I am guessing, if I wasn't exercising, just the sight of watching Kate find out Angie had lied to her about actually carrying her baby probably would have left me in complete devastation.  Basically, I am pretty sure those endorphins kept me from curling up in a ball at that moment, unable to separate movie world from reality,  Sure, I was crying, but I was still upright, exercising, and doing what i needed to do. Hmm...and this may be why I don't watch many movies.

All that to say, even though I don't do it as much as I should, I believe exercise is important for not only our physical health, but our emotional health as well.  But those memberships to the gym, or equipment can add up quickly.  Here's some tips on how to save.

1.  Buy equipment secondhand.  I bought my treadmill on Kijiji for $50.  It doesn't have all the bells and whistles, but I didn't need anything fancy.  But even if you are looking for something fancier, I imagine you can find it for a much cheaper price than brand new in the store.  You would not believe how many ads I saw for treadmills that said "used only 3 times" or "doubles up as a clothing rack."  Which brings me to my second point.

2.  Buy only what you will use.  When I decided I wanted a treadmill, many people tried to talk me out of it.  They've seen many people who paid  a lot of money, and then didn't touch it.  However, i knew I would use it as that is one of my methods of exercise I prefer.  Had I bought kettle balls or exercise videos, it would have been a waste of money as I most likely would have used them once and then let them collect dust.  Think about the form of exercise you are most likely to do, and work with that.

3.  Apply for membership subsidy.  If you are the type who prefers to work in a gym setting, and that is what motivates you, look into whether you qualify for membership subsidy.  The YMCA offers subsidy on memberships as well as many other community fitness centers.  I enjoy a gym setting, but it's probably safer for my pride to do my exercising at home....there may have been this time that I fell off the treadmill, and then when I got up I bashed my head on the arm....that's right, two injuries in 30 seconds. Oh, and there was that time that I almost passed out in a cycling class... Nothing kills your motivation quicker than total and utter embarrassment, which seems to be a reoccurring theme for me at the gym.

4.  Take it outside.  Nothing is more invigorating than exercising outside.  Running, walking, a game of soccer, chasing your toddler at the park....any of that will get your heartrate up, and best of all, it's FREE!!!

What do you do to save money on keeping fit?

Peace & Love. :)

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Online Homeschooling Resources

Winter has felt extra long and extra cold this year.  being Canadian, you'd think I'd be used to this by now, but nope, I still whine and gripe about it.  This year could feel extra long due to the fact I have not been able to take my kids outside much.  My middle child struggles with some sensory issues, and wearing a snowsuit basically consists of flailing of the arms and legs and screaming at decibels that shouldn't even exist.  And that's just me. ;)  Needless to say, we've spent most of winter indoors.

Having three very active children whom I homeschool makes for some long days when you can't get outside. Here are a few online resources I use for homeschooling to help us all stay sane for our long, Canadian winters.

1.  Starfall

This free site has allowed me to sneakily trick my children into learning when they just think they are getting some video game time in.  This is particularly helpful when I am doing book work with one child, and need the other older child to stop running around in circles or using the couch as a trampoline.  

2.  GoNoodle

I just started using this site.  It was recommended to me by a friend who works in the school system.  My kids love it!  It allows them to jump around and burn some of that pent up energy. It has a lot of goofy stuff on it which kids find so much fun! There is a little bit of everything on GoNoodle.

3.Cosmic Kids Yoga

I've only been using this one for a few weeks as well.   Cosmic Kids is a channel on youtube. My daughter and my toddler love it as well.  It is nice because it gets them active, without having them be too wild.  Each episode contains a story, and the kids do different yoga moves all through the story.

4.  Sheppard's Software

I haven't used this one too much yet, mostly because I keep forgetting about it.  But I was using it to help my daughter learn the provinces and capital cities.  I haven't explored too many other of the activities on here.

As you can see, there is a common theme here.  All the programs I use are free.  'Cause, that's how we roll here.:)

Peace & Love. :)

When Saving Money Isn't Really Saving Money

I try to live a frugal life, much out of necessity.  I am known to have all second-hand furniture and clothes, to shop at budget stores, and to make things from scratch.  But, I am far from perfect.  I spend too much time in the Tim Horton's drive thru (coincides with my last post about loving pastry....), find my dollar store purchases can add up, and make too many middle of the week grocery store runs.  But I have learned a few things over the years, mostly from mistakes.  And sometimes saving isn't actually saving in the long run.  Here are some of the things I've learned.

1.  Just because the sign says "SALE" doesn't mean you should buy it.  Just because cat food is on for a ridiculously low price, it doesn't mean you should buy it...if you don't have a cat! Only buy things you need or in some cases want.

2.  Signing up and using a credit card that offers points or discounts only saves you money if you pay it off right way.   If you are the type who struggles to pay things on time, or easily racks up money on a credit card, don't sign up for a card that offers you points so you save elsewhere.  In the long run you will end up paying more in interest.  Trust me, I know.

3.  Don't sign up online for a free or discounted deal if it will automatically bill you for a product or services the following month.  I recently signed up for a free deal online that only required me to pay shipping.  Problem was, I didn't realize I was signing up for a monthly subscription of a product.  You can guess what happened next.  I ended up paying the following month for a product that I didn't need before I realized what was happening and could cancel it.  If the site asks you for your credit card information, either be sure to cancel before you get billed for more of the product, or don't do it in the first place.  I am still upset that I didn't know better about this one.

4.  Don't buy old cars that will break down in no time.  Okay, this one might be up for debate.  But I truly believe that sometimes paying the lowest price isn't always the best option.  If you buy an old vehicle to save money, but then end up putting more money into it that you ever wanted to because it's practically being held together by dirt and rust, then when all is said and done you will have put in more or just as much money as you would have if you had just bought something a little newer.  This could probably be said for appliances and electronics too.  If you are adamant about buying an older model, just be sure to do your research.  Take it from someone who knows, it is absolutely discouraging to buy a car at what you thought was a steal, only to have it break down completely less than a year later.

*Image from

Peace & Love. :)

Juicing for Health

A few years ago I watched "Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead."  It is a documentary about a man named Joe, who goes on a juice fast for 60 days in an effort to make some serious changes in his health.  I was inspired by the film, and around the same time purchased a juicer.  I go through phases of juicing and not juicing, and after not feeling so well from way too many Christmas desserts that seemed to stretch into January, it was time to wipe the dust off my beautiful juicer and put it to work again.  Anyone who knows me knows that although I love green juices and smoothies, I have a serious weakness for pastry and sugar and basically all things bad for me.  I'm working on it.  I've been juicing every day for a few weeks now.

Today's juice didn't contain much vegetables, as I am running low and need to take a trip to the grocery store.  Generally, you want to have more vegetables than fruit, but if you are just starting out and can't possibly stomach the idea of drinking a glass that is over half full of spinach or kale, I recommend starting with more fruit than vegetables and then gradually working yourself up.

2 Oranges, 3 apples, and 2 small beets for today's juice.

I put this baby to work.  My poor little juicer has been through some rough times lately.  The spout is melted and deformed.  It seems I,  someone who shall remain nameless, has a habit of leaving appliances on the stove and turning on the wrong element.  I , someone in this house may have lit two electric kettles on fire this way.  Oh, and notice that chip out of the plastic pulp catcher?  I dropped it and it broke. :(  Usually I stick duct tape on that part, but forgot today.  I was quickly reminded on why I do that when a chunk of processed beet almost took out my eye. If my juicer has 9 lives, we've still got about 7 to use up....

So then I thought, "I am going to take a picture of my beautiful, bright pinkish-red juice for one my first posts.  Except, I turned around and found this:

Yeah, don't let that innocent face fool you.  

Needless to say, fresh juice does not last long around here.  I basically have to fight my kids for it.  The one I make with spinach is one of their favorite.

Don't let the cost of a juicer scare you.  Years ago when I first wanted a juicer, I bought a cheap one at the thrift store for 7 dollars.  I had to cut up all my veggies into little pieces, but it did the job until I could afford a good one.

If you haven't, I recommend you watch the documentary, "Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead'.  There is a second one too, and they are both on Netflix.  You can also read more about Joe and his documentary at his website, Reboot with Joe.

Peace & Love. :)


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