Teaching My Sons To Give…on a budget

Happy Holidays to each of you and your families.  I truly hope you have a wonderful winter season full of health and happiness.  As every child does, I LOVED getting Christmas presents when I was young.  After having a niece, a nephew, and 2 boys of my own it quickly became more fun for me to give than to receive.  Don’t get me wrong, I still like gifts but I LOVE watching the excitement of someone opening a gift they truly enjoy or appreciate.  In a world of overindulgence and instant gratification, I want to teach my sons to earn money honestly and spend it with thought and wisdom….with the occasional splurge on themselves.

Throughout the year we donate toys, clothes, etc but the holiday season is a great time to teach about giving a gift from the heart.  Each year my son’s school has a Christmas Shop of some sort where the kids can purchase gifts for friends and family.  Most years (all two of them) we have given Jacob money in his wallet to go shopping.  This year we are doing that a little differently.  He is almost 7 years old and can understand monetary exchange.  I learned to budget the really hard way – aka rack up tons of debt in college because they offered me a free t-shirt with my new exciting credit card and spend decades paying that off.  Thanks credit card companies.  That shirt is long gone and I am left with the painful reminder that I learned more in college about life than I did about any given college credit.

Rather than handing over $15-$20 for him to shop with he is actually excited about earning it.  We took a lead from Moritz Fine Designs Blog and made a money earning system.  He has one week to earn as much money as he wants to spend on gifts, above the $15 minimum we set for him.  He has made a list of who he wants to shop for and I am thinking that amount should cover it just fine since most items are $1-4 in the shop.

First cut the top 1/3 off of an old folder.  These stunning specimens are from 1993 when I was in high school.  Awesome, I know.  Next remove the flap from an envelope (these are big greeting card size) and let your kiddo decorate the front.  This is where they will stash their earnings as they go.

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The next part is my addition to the original tutorial.  I sewed a line of stitches to make a pocket for each day’s dollar.  Necessary?  Probably not.  Super cool and over-analyzed?  Naturally.

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Next print out a list of chores or the template from the above linked website and fill it in as desired.  I found the spaces to be too small for lengthy wording so we just wrote topics like “Teeth, Toys, Homework, etc” to be done.  After all items are checked off for the day, the money is moved to the outer envelope until the week is done.

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There are 6 slots on the envelope so we do chores Mon-Fri and the final slot is called “Mom’s Choice” where I can choose something I need him to do but I don’t need it done daily such as “recycling to the curb, fold laundry, etc.”

How is he going to earn $15 in one week at a $1 a day you ask?  He is also offering help to others.  Today he took out grandma’s recycling (next door).  He can help decorate her Christmas tree and bake cookies to earn extra money (grandma is fully on board with this program)….and so on.  Yes these are things that he would do without pay but THIS week he gets that extra bonus of shopping money.

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What big brother does, little brother does.  The 4 year old’s will contain coupons for fun stuff to do, stickers, treats, etc.  When shopping day comes, both boys will have spent a week caring for others, learning to earn and save money, and be well prepared to spend that money once again giving to the people they love.

Please comment and share your ideas for holiday fun, lessons, traditions with your kids.  Thanks again to Moritz Fine Designs for inspiring me to create this money-earning chart for my boys!  Visit their blog for printables and more great ideas.


Sugar & Spice Bag Pattern Review

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Disclaimer: Unsolicited Pattern Review

I had so much fun making this bag from ChrisW Designs “Sugar and Spice” pattern.  The pattern is so easy to follow.  She provides both visual explanation as well as text-only.  I printed the text-only pages with the pattern pieces and used it literally as a check-list as I proceeded through the construction.  It was nice to be able to look at the visual instructions on the computer when I would get stuck which only happened twice and had nothing to do with the pattern instructions.  All me folks.

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What was great about this project is that I learned a few new skills along the way.  I have wanted to learn to place a recessed zipper for a long time (shown above).  I never even considered making a project featuring piping, let alone MAKING the piping first!  I was really nervous because I don’t even own a zipper foot.  Gasp, I know.  I really want to own a zipper foot and if I am going to make more of these bags (yes) I definitely will get one.  My little foot was literally riding on top of the piping the entire time so I could get in close.  Listen, you do what you have to do when you are working the right job with the wrong tools and you are too excited to wait and get a stinkin zipper foot.  That’s just how I roll.

image (2) - CopyThis pattern includes lots of great pockets and she even encourages you to adjust the interior pockets to your liking.  I made three pen pockets, an iPhone pocket, and a couple extras just for….stuff.

The bags I typically make don’t include much hardware outside of the occasional magnet or snap.  I opted out of the rivets but fell in love with the strap rings.  I didn’t want to over-hardware myself on the first try.

All in all, this pattern is SO well written and easy to follow.  The bag is stunning and I am really excited to make another one.  I might square out the bottom because I am not comfortable with sewing on the curves but we will see.  If it ain’t broke….right?  I highly recommend this pattern and am looking forward to trying out another ChrisW Designs purse pattern soon.  Enjoy!!

Fairy Tale Baba Ganoush

Once upon a time there was hummus. It was a smooth and creamy delicious dip, alas FOR ME it had a dark side. My body does not respond well to it for whatever reason and so I went in search of a new and wonderful snack. Over the river and through the woods I discovered Baba Ganoush, an Egyptian dip similar to hummus but made with eggplant instead of chickpeas.

Meet the Fairy Tale eggplant.

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This tender eggplant has a very thin skin and therefore does not need to be peeled like other types of eggplant.  I prefer the flavor and texture of this eggplant but you can make this dip with whatever variety you please.

Start by trimming the ends and slicing each eggplant in half.  Place on a baking sheet and drizzle with EVOO (extra virgin olive oil).  Roast at 350 degrees until tender, let’s say 30 min or until you can easily smush the flesh with a fork.  ***AT THE SAME TIME roast garlic.  I can eat roasted garlic with a fork.  It gets so mellow and smooth when you roast it.  Mmmm.  I have described it before but here’s the quick and dirty:  slice the top off a head of garlic, place in foil, drizzle with EVOO and bake for about 40 min or until fork tender.

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See how easily it squeezes out when it gets nice and tender?  Heavenly.  You can see how the eggplant changes to a dark shade and curls up around the edges.  This (eggplant and tons of roasted garlic) is going into the food processor with tahini (sesame paste), EVOO, cumin, lemon juice salt and pepper to taste.  Amounts you ask?  BAH HA HA HA.  I’m useless, I know.  I just pinch and dump but fear not – there are hundreds of recipes out there if you need the specifics.  I just want to introduce you to the method.  This is an awesome alternative to hummus if it doesn’t suit your gut.  Give it a try and let me know what you think!!

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Teaching A Toddler

When my 3 year old says “Mom, I don’t know” it really means “Mom I need help finding something to play.”  Both of my boys are very smart and no I did not start labeling them “gifted” at birth.  LOL  However, I do play with them a LOT and we use play time as learning time.  Once in a while we will get out these fun folder games.  There are sites online you can use to find printable games and make these at home.  They are easy to make and take up very little storage space so you can have many varieties to keep your little ones entertained and learning at the same time. Here is a website with tons of games to print: http://www.earlylearningactivities.com/howtoffgames.html


A few that we have made, the top one my son brought home from school but it is double-sided with tons of great info on it and it is made with a tri-fold folder.  It is also laminated!  NICE

I am sure you have also seen lots of “baking sheet magnet games” that are a fun idea as well.  I found this great website that has tons of printable games!  I doubt we’ll use them as magnet games since as you can see we seem to be missing a few magnet letters….probably in with the bathtub toys or under the fridge…but we can easily use them as paper matching games.  Do what makes you happy.  (Yes I gave him the scratched up old baking sheet.  We both know he’ll be coloring on it more than sticking things to it)

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The bottom line is this – YOU are your child’s first teacher.  Sure they will learn tons of great things at school but by the time they get there so much learning time has already come and gone.

What sparked this post was my search for more printables.  My 3 year old can count to 20, do opposites, etc etc but he has NO interest in letters.  Now I have several new games to play with him and hopefully spark an interest in the ABC’s.  😉  stamp treeI got excited about these.  We use Bingo stampers everyday for chore charts and boy are they thrilling to a three year old.  I’ll reel him in with numbers and then switch-a-roo and BOOM…we’re doing letters!  Think it will work?  Let’s all cross our fingers.

Send me links if you have more ideas!!

You Pin, I Do: Growth Chart

This new series is where I show you cool things I have found on Pinterest….and then I actually do them.  Crazy thought, I know.  Today I will show you how to make a custom handmade growth chart from things that are (potentially) lying around your house.  This project cost me less than $2 but I’m no fool.  Not everyone has ALL of this stuff just lying around but you can find most/all of it for free if you take the time to look around your local area.

Give credit where due!  Ashley from domesticimperfection.com is amazing.  Her charts are gorgeous.  Here is my inspiration post:  http://www.domesticimperfection.com/2012/12/custom-name-growth-charts/

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Hers are phenomenal but I am cheap.  If I can make it free/cheap, I am in.  Otherwise, I get overwhelmed when I spend money on a project and it doesn’t turn out right.  A few great places to find cheap/free materials for TONS of projects are Craigslist, Varage Sale (Craigslist-type app for local trade/sale), Facebook trading pages, Habitat For Humanity Restore (great source for building supplies), friends, neighbors, community boards, etc, etc, etc.  Look around – there is great stuff everywhere just waiting for you to turn it from trash to treasure.  It is great for our environment to reduce, reuse, recycle, UPcycle!


Take one privacy fence slat and paint it whatever color you like.  I used a light base color blue (leftover from my bedroom…free paint from CL) and then dry brushed over it with a darker blue which is also the same color as the boys’ walls (also free from CL).  Sidenote – get free paint from wherever and then take it to the hardware store and change it to the color you like.  My major chain hardware store does this for free.  I got a gallon of “bees wax” color (gold-ish) free on CL and had it tinted to a dark gray for my living room.  If you aren’t counting that is THREE ROOMS painted with free paint.  You can’t beat that….until I do the playroom which would make four.  🙂  So, once it is painted you then measure out your marks.  Remember to factor in however high it will hang from the floor.

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Next you can use stencils to add your numbers.  I free-handed mine because I don’t have stencils and when I decide to do a project I want it done yesterday.  No time for going to the store to search for the perfect stencil.  I like the imperfect handmade look of it in the end but I know there are great stencils out there if you like a cleaner appearance.

That’s really all there is to it.  Decorate it however you like.  My only cost was the little hanger I attached to the back to hang it on the wall.  Pick that up at your hardware store when you get your free paint tinted!  😉

Tell me what you think!  If you have a Pinterest project you’d like me to test out before you dive in, let me know.  I’d love to see what projects you have done as well!

DIY Sensitive Skin Laundry Soap

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Last November I made a batch of laundry soap inspired by a recipe found on Pinterest (www.onegoodthingbyjillee.com) but edited for my sensitive skin family. There are a million out there, but they start with the same basic ingredients and build from there.  It has worked wonderfully and I need a new batch nine long months later.  They say it lasts a year but with two little mud monsters we do a lot of laundry.  Plus, I have on several occasions washed the same load multiple times because I am easily distracted and forgot that I started laundry until the next day when I go to start laundry…  so in retrospect, maybe it does last a year if you have better follow-through than I do.  Stop pretending you have never done it.  😉  Nevertheless, nine months for $CHEAP is good enough for me!

To make for sensitive skin:

One box of Borax – 3.97

One box of Super Washing Soda – 3.97

Three bars of Fels Naptha – 2.91

Two containers of Oxiclean Free – 15.04

One big container to mix it all in – found an old portable file box for free

Grand Total with tax (minus $1.75 in physical coupon savings from the Oxiclean packaging) was $26.63 and I scanned my receipt into that Walmart “Savings Catcher” app for even more savings, but it takes a few days to process.

UPDATE: Saved $1.06 on the Savings Catcher app.  Sweet!  $25.57 new total

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Grate the Fels Naptha bars, shown here in rough shred.  My husband got home during this step and said “what smells so good in here?” – I love that considering most sensitive skin products have no happy scent at all.  I took the pile in my hands and rubbed them together to further break down the shreds into very small pieces.  Next you literally dump everything together in your big container and stir, stir, stir until well incorporated.

image (9)I then use the Oxiclean container and a 1/8 cup scoop for space saving in my laundry area.  Store the rest in a cool dry place.  I typically do “Super” loads as my washer calls it and I use 1/8 cup for that full load.  Adjust as needed.

Don’t you love how I put instructions on the lid?  I am preparing for the day when one of the three fellas I live with does the laundry….Bah ha ha ha ha!!  I crack myself up.

Summer Harvest – Onions

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It is getting to that time of summer when crops are starting to reward us for all of our hard work.  Next year I need to learn to plants my crops in stages so that I can pick lovely little gems each week as needed.  For this year, I was dancing with excitement when I picked this PILE of diamonds from the dirt.  45+ onions for the ripe little price of a couple of bucks.


What am I going to do with all of these onions?  Easy, I freeze them to use all year long in soups, chili, sauces, casseroles, etc.  The options are endless.  Here is how I freeze my onions:

  • Peel them and chop them into whatever size onion you prefer to use.  I typically freeze a couple of different sizes.
  • Place wax paper or parchment paper on a sheet pan to prevent sticking and lay your chopped onions out in a thin layer.
  • Freeze the onion tray for an hour or two so that each little chunk freezes individually (this allows you to take as much as you want from the bag later and it won’t be one solid frozen onionsicle)
  • Place frozen onions into freezer zip bags and label them appropriately “Onions 2014” etc

That’s it!  Enjoy your organic garden onions year round.  Soon I will be canning tomatoes (and more) and sharing that with you as well so be sure to follow the blog.