Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Re-sizing an Image in Picasa


I'm not really into having a bunch of programs on my computer that I rarely use. So last time I reformatted my computer I left a few programs off my installation list. One of them was a photo editing program that hogged too much RAM. I didn't really miss it until I tried to resize a photo (so that it would be small enough to view on the web). I knew how to do it with full-fledged image editing software, but now all I have is Google's Picasa. So, I wanted to make due, rather than install another program. There are 2 ways to make due. If you just want to re-size it to send an email, follow the instructions below. If you want to re-size the photo or a bunch of photos to save and for uploading to the web later, follow the second set of instructions.


How to Re-size an Image/Photo in Picasa, Option 1:

The easiest way to do this is to select the photo you want to re-size and then select the "email" button on the bottom menu. When you do this, Picasa will automatically re-size the photo for the web. (If you want to tinker with those default settings, you just go to the "Tools" --> "Options" --> click the "Email" tab and adjust the pixels.) You will be prompted to pick an email account with which to email. Your Google account will obviously be one of the choices. The other choice will be something like Outlook or Thunderbird if you have an email client on your computer. Select the email account and send your email. The photo will already be attached and re-sized.

Option 2:

If you don't want to email a photo, but want it re-sized and saved in different location, select the photo(s) you wish to re-size. If selecting multiple photos, hold down the "control" button on your keyboard as you make your selections with your mouse. Once you have selected your photos, click on the "Export" button at the bottom of the window. From here you will be prompted to save the files in a folder of your choosing, as well as the size at which you would like them saved. (The default setting is 480 pixels which is fine for web viewing, but you can change it if you like.)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Free Stuffed Dachshund Sewing Pattern and Instructions

Oh, isn't he cute? I'm not a pro at sewing or anything...though this may make me look like I'm a better sewer than I am.

My six year old said he wanted a stuffed dachshund. On a whim, I figured I'd look to see if there were any dachshund stuffed animal patterns around. What do you know? There is! Here's the link to the website (by a very talented doll maker). It's also got great instructions. It was my first time doing a legitimate stuffed animal. I didn't want to buy faux fur, so I used corduroy with a thick wale for the body and crushed velvet for the nose. It only took me probably 4-5 hours to make. I didn't time it, that's just a guess; I had it done in about three days.


And this ended up being one of my son's Christmas gifts. He named him Buster.

Monday, December 28, 2009

My Daughter's Trigger Thumb Surgery


For insurance reasons, we decided to go ahead and get my daughter's trigger thumb surgery done before the end of the year. We scheduled her surgery for Dec 23 at the Denver Children's Hospital. Yes, makes me sound like an uncaring parent to subject my child to a surgery that would require both her hands in casts two days before Christmas... but that's just how it all worked out.

Surgery check in time was at 8 am. Since we live far enough away from Denver, we booked a hotel so we could attempt to get a good night's rest the day before. I don't like to hold too much back from my children when they are directly involved. So I tried to prepare her for what was coming. My daughter knew that she was having surgery the next day. I told her they would put a funny mask on her face that would make her tired and fall asleep and when she woke up, her thumbs would be fixed. She knew that she would have casts on them too. I didn't want to leave any surprises. So, naturally, the night be before the surgery she had a hard time getting to sleep. But we survived it.

Due to fasting constraints, morning meant no food or drink for the little gal. Off to the hospital. Everything went smoothly, from check in to discharge. My little one exhibited no tantrums (yippee!), though she was a bit nervous. I'd like to think that this was because we had tried to prepare her. But, I never know if my attempts to help actually help. The actual surgery was very fast, maybe 30-40 minutes. But there was some recovery time afterward, which, for my daughter, only took about an hour and a half. We were out of the hospital by 1:30 PM. All the nurses and doctors were very nice and helpful, to whom we are grateful.

Even though the casts are quite pretty, my daughter wanted them off before we even left the hospital. But after a bit of explaining about how her thumbs needed to heal for 2-3 weeks, and then she would get them off, and she was okay with that.

Since then, my daughter has enjoyed the extra attention she gets from me, because I have to help her go to the bathroom, eat, and get dressed, among other things. She also really likes how I let her use a straw at meal time so she can at least drink on her own. Many of her Christmas presents she can not properly play with, so they'll get new life when our sweetie gets her casts off.

The chances of trigger thumb recurring while our daughter is a child are slim, the doctor said, but when she becomes an adult, she'll want to be careful about overusing her thumbs... for example: texting and video gaming. All the more reason to limit that sort of activity since I don't think it's all that enriching anyway!

To read the initial post about this, click here.
To read about cast removal, click here.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Diaper Rash, the Yeasty Kind

Okay, icky topic, but certainly one that anyone with children will deal with sooner or later. It's not uncommon for babies and toddlers to develop a yeast infection diaper rash during or after undergoing antibiotic treatment... and sometimes it's just the result of a diaper rash that doesn't receive proper treatment. It looks red and has little bumps. It's wise to take the child to the doctor to be sure it isn't anything else if you aren't sure.

Normally, our pediatricians have prescribed Nystatin ointment for my baby's tush. It works great and the rash clears up usually within a few days. But, now that my tube of Nystatin is lost, and my twin babies both developed yeast diaper rashes, I was really hating the idea of taking them to the doctor just so I could get some more Nystatin. So, I figured I'd find out if there was anything available over-the-counter. There is!

Here's what I found:
Look for antifungal creams with either Clotrimazole (1%) or Tolnaftate (1%) as the active ingredient. Lotrimin AF is the brand name product for Clotrimazole and it's about $8 a tube. I bought the store brand for $2.50. Tinactin is the brand name product for Tolnaftate. I already had this around the house, so I don't know the cost on it, but I assume it's comparable.

Reading up on Clotrimazole for Yeast:
http://www.drhull.com/EncyMaster/R/diaper_rash.html - Pretty good info on how the rash is caused and how to stop it.
http://www.askdrsears.com/html/11/T084500.asp - More info on the effectiveness of Clotrimazole.


Reading up on Tolnaftate for Yeast :
ibabydoc.com gives details on how a yeast diaper rash is caused and how to treat it. (Beware, you'll get pictures of yeast rashes here.)
Epinions Tinactin Review details using it for a yeast diaper rash.

Our experience:
Even though I already had Tinactin at home, I went to buy some Clotrimazole because from my Google reading, it seemed that it was the most recommended over-the-counter product for yeast diaper rashes. (If you are uncertain about trying this, call a doctor and get his/her advice... because I'm no doctor.) I used it on my babies. One, whose rash wasn't as bad, was better within one day of treatment. Child number two, whose rash was worse, cleared up in within three days of treatment. As long as there are babies in my home, I'm going to make sure I have this stuff on hand.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Hundred Pushups Update


I would like to know if anyone has been able to do 100 pushups in 6 weeks starting at column 1. If you have no idea what I'm refering to, see hundredpushups.com.

I have been doing this hundred pushups program for over 13 weeks now (touted as a six week program), starting in column number two and then going down to number one. You can follow my tweets to see how I've managed (though for some reason pushups logger isn't tweeting my recent workouts!). I'm on week six. I finally passed column 1 of week six, but knew that if I tried for the hundred at that point, there was no way I could do it, so I just went on to column two of week six. I will keep doing this until the end of the year. If I want to quit at that point, I will because I think I've given it a fair shot.

Criticism aside, I have seen some definite improvement in my ability to do pushups. I can do 40 pushups now with little effort, where at the begining of the program I managed just over 10. By the end of the year though, I think I'll be ready for a change in my exercise routine.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Paycheck Calculator

I'm a junkie for financial calculators. Here's my latest find:

This is a handy calculator from paycheck city can help you understand what your taxes will be and what you'll end up taking home in your paycheck. Such a calculator would be helpful in figuring out what your new raise or lack of raise (if you're like most of us) will mean in actual dollars. Just select the state, salary, number of federal allowances and a few other things, and you have the results. You can even add other deductions like health insurance premiums and retirement. I compared it our actual paychecks and it's quite accurate.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Kettle Corn With Brown Sugar


It's not like there aren't already enough sweets this time of year, but I got the hankering to make some kettle corn. I'd never done it before and that made it even more appealing because I love trying something new. I wanted to make it with brown sugar to give it the taste of caramel popcorn with out the work of making popcorn balls. I first started with this recipe from allrecipes.com. The recipe calls for white sugar, but it says that you can use brown sugar instead. Not so, at least, not according to the same directions. In the recipe it says that you just heat the oil in a large pot and then put in the popcorn and sugar and shake it till while it pops. I tried this three times and each time brown sugar got to hot and burned... not to mention, the brown sugar somehow slowed the popping of the kernels as well so the popcorn was burnt. Okay, after three failed tries, I was bound and determined to make some kettle corn!

Here's a nice recipe I found for kettle corn made with brown sugar (it's complete with pictures and tips). You have to pop the popcorn first in a pot and in a separate saucepan, heat brown sugar, a bit of oil and water until it boils and then allow it to simmer. Next, pour the brown sugar mixture over the popped popcorn.

Brown Sugar Kettle Corn

1/2 cup popcorn kernels
oil

Brown Sugar sauce:
2 T oil
2 T water
2/3 cup brown sugar
salt to taste.

Directions: In a large pot, add oil to cover the bottom. Heat oil on med high heat. Drop one kernel in the pot and shake until it pops. Now add the rest of the popcorn and continue to shake on over heat until the popping slows to 3 seconds in between pops. Remove from heat and put in large bowl. In a small saucepan, combine oil, water, and brown sugar and bring to a boil on med high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for three minutes. Pour mixture over popcorn and stir to distribute evenly. Sprinkle popcorn with salt and stir. Enjoy. Makes about 6-8 cups of popcorn.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Quickie Advent Calendar

I was hoping to post this a lot earlier but, oops, it didn't happen. I found a simple idea for putting together an advent calendar at essortment.com. Really all you need is plastic wrap, kissess chocolates and some curling ribbon. Here's how mine turned out. (As you can see, I don't pretend to be any good at photography... or craftiness, for that matter.)

I made two calendars, as an experiment. One with little Christmas scriptures tied to each ribbon, and the other just with the chocolates.
As you can see, this makes a very loooonnnggg calendar. But my kids think it's lovely. Today we cut our first chocolate off!

Here's what I did for the top of the calendar.

Here's a closeup of the calendar with the scriptures. This takes a bit more time to make than the candy-only one.

And here's a closeup of the candy-only calendar.
It doesn't take long to make... maybe a half hour.

On thing though, the essortment directions say to use 3 feet of plastic wrap. I needed more like 4-5. So, best to cut too much than too little. I had my 6 year old boy help me curl the ribbons on the calendars. He enjoyed it.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix


Now that the Turkey is moving out of your system, here's a really easy recipe to warm you up on the cold mornings ahead. It's from the Food Network's Alton Brown and one of the best recipes I have found yet... though I still do tweak it a bit.

Hot Cocoa

2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup cocoa (Dutch process preferred)
1 1/2 cups powdered milk
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
Hot water

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and incorporate evenly. Mix 3-4 tablespoons of mix with hot water or milk.

My alterations: I used Hershey's Cocoa because that's the best I could find at the grocery store. I'm hoping to try the Dutch stuff, though as I'm sure it would affect the flavor. I leave out the cayenne pepper because I don't want to hunt through my spices for it. I also add 1 cup more of powdered sugar. I have also crushed up some candy canes (1/4 cup) and added it to the mix for a minty taste. If add candy canes, I don't add the extra powdered sugar.

Homemade hot cocoa would make a nice homemade Christmas gift if you've got the time.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Yippee! New Women's Health Screening Guidlines

If nothing has made your day, and your female, this should. Guidelines for pap smears and mammograms have changed... they now don't have to be quite as frequent. Some wonder if this will compromise woman's health... I don't think it will since most women didn't go in for all the screenings they were "supposed" to anyway.

Read More:

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins


I have become quite a fan of muffins for breakfast. Unlike pancakes or waffles, you don't really have to tend to them while they are cooking. Timer rings, you take them out and eat. Plus, they're pretty easy to whip up. Here's a recipe I like to use. It's pretty healthy on it's own, but you can make your own changes as you like.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins

1 Cup flour
1 Cup oatmeal flour (just grind up some rolled oats in the blender)
1/2 white sugar
1 tea. baking pwd.
1/2 tea. baking soda
1/2 tea. salt
1/4 Cup milk
1/2 Cup plain yogurt
1/3 Cup vegetable oil
1 egg
3/4 Cup chocolate chips
1 tea. vanilla

Mix and spoon batter into greased muffin tins, 2/3 way full. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Makes 12 muffins. Serve warm with fruit.

Some variations: If you don't have yogurt, you can use sour cream, though not as healthy. You can also use milk and a tablespoon of lemon juice in place of the yogurt... or, you can just use plain old milk. Instead of oil, you can use applesauce, but I prefer the texture that oil gives, so sometimes I just use half the oil and half applesauce to get the best of both worlds. And why oatmeal flour? This is mainly a texture issue. The muffins stick together better with oatmeal flour than with regular rolled oats.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Car Seat Shopping


I've been gearing up to buy some new car seats for my twins since they are starting to outgrow their infant seats. Car seats are so expensive and I've had some good and not-so-good experiences with them... like the car seat that posed a cheek-pinching risk to my first two children before I finally got rid of it... and the one that you could adjust the straps from the front, with the baby strapped in-- how wonderful that was (thankfully most car seats now have this feature)! In short, car seat shopping seems like such a gamble.

There are lots of ways to go about researching car seats... I like to use a multi-pronged approach. I check consumer reports, reviews from Amazon and other online stores, and also consult the site carseatdata.org. The great thing about consumer reports is being able to view a bunch of similar car seats and their crash ratings as well as ease of use and other features. The downside is that they don't test every car seat and they don't focus a whole lot on the real, day-to-day experiences of using a car seat. Enter Amazon. Real people give review their experiences with car seats. The downside here is that some reviews are more helpful than others. Now for carseatdata.org. This is a very nice web site. If you need to find a car seat with certain measurements in order to fit say, three in the back seat, this is the place to go. You can find a pretty detailed list of car seats and their measurements.

BTW, when I was first looking for a car seat for my one-year-old twins, I was planning on getting a couple of combination car seats (forward facing harness to booster variety) but then decided to go with a couple of convertible car seats (rear and forward facing up to 40 lbs) because there is more and more research showing that it is best to keep children rear facing for longer than a year... until they reach 30 lbs. For more reading on the topic, visit:

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Make a Gift Bow

I'm not about to take any more credit than is due me for this lovely pink gift bow I made from a Macy's magazine ad. I made it. That's it. I used an easy tutorial from the following blog:

http://howaboutorange.blogspot.com/2009/10/make-gift-bow-from-magazine-page.html

All you need is glue or double-sided tape, a magazine and some scissors or a cutter. I have many times found myself in need of a gift bow, so it's nice to know how to make one that even looks nice. I wouldn't suggest doing all you holiday wrapping with these unless you have surplus time on my hands. The bow takes about five minutes to make. Nevertheless it's a fun skill to have up your sleeve.

DIY Bathtub Scrub: The Joys of Baking Soda

Back in July I posted a link about making your own non-toxic cleaning kit. Since then I've been trying out some of the tips. Today, I'd like to highlight one of my favorite tips from that link: Creamy Soft Scrubber. I hate scrubbing bathtubs and sinks. I don't like the powder scrubs like Comet because I think they stinks (really, the smell bugs me). But, to effectively scrub, it is good to have some sort of mild abrasive. Enter baking soda

Creamy Soft Scrubber
Baking soda
liquid soap
vegetable glycerin (optional)

Directions: For the bathtub or sink, just use a teaspoon or two of baking soda and then add some liquid soap (I used Dawn liquid soap as it is my favorite) until it makes a paste. Then, using a wet cloth, scrub the the area. Rinse with water.

So, why not just use baking soda? The soap helps remove oils left by lotions, shampoo, other cleansers.

I have been washing our shower pan and bathtub with this concoction weekly. It's very easy to do and requires very little elbow grease. Since I like this cleaning recipe so much, I should go ahead and have it premixed. That will require the final optional ingredient of vegetable glycerin to keep the concoction homogeneous. I have been to lazy to find it. Soon, I will be sufficiently motivated.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Dover Books: Lovely Little Stocking Stuffers or Tiny Tokens


I'm sure we've all come across books published by the Dover publishing company. They publish a lot of public domain works and sell them for low prices. What I wasn't aware of were their great little activity books they have for kids. Now, when I say little, I mean little. They are about 4X6 inches.

I had my first brush with Dover Activity Books a few years ago. I got a couple of free Dover Sticker Activity Books for free after running a 5K years ago. We had a long plain ride planned in the near future, so I waited to test them on my son until then. They were a hit for my little three year old. I remember being quite pleased with the simplicity of the book and the entertainment it provided. It's small enough to stick in a purse and have on hand for an antsy child.

Yesterday, while looking for some stencil sets for kids, I came across Dover Activity Books again, this time on Amazon. These little activity books cost $1.50 each and since Amazon has them available for free shipping, provided that you spend $25 (which isn't hard to do when I'm doing Christmas shopping), these are a great stocking stuffer/tiny gift.

There are lots of different activity books, sticker paper dolls, sticker books, mazes, dot-to-dots, coloring books, and stencil books. This year I'm going to get some stencil books for my artistic little ones.

Now, the fine print: some customers on Amazon have given these books a poor rating mostly due to their size. They are little, as have stated above. That's why they are called "little" activity books. But, their size is great for travel and other things that may suit you. If you want something bigger, check out the other Dover books for children.

Dover has lots more to offer for readers of all ages and interests. Check them out. http://store.doverpublications.com/
And, just a little FYI, if you sign up for an account through dover's website, they'll send you some free samples. Yippee!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Google's Slowly Taking Over Me---And other Humdrum Musings

My husband wanted to know how to remove permanent marker from the dishwasher (artistic 4 year-old, need I say more?). I told him rubbing alcohol would work on that surface.

FYI, There are also lots of other ways to to remove it:
Anyway, after Hubby finished cleaning the marker, he commented about how easy it was to clean up. I responded, "What would you do without me?" Without skipping a beat, he responded, "I'd Google it."

See? I told you Google is trying to take over the world. Apparently they are starting with me.

And whoever thought buffalo or chicken wings go well with pizza? Am I the only one that thinks that's strange? How about a salad?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Soft Hands and Face: DIY facial


I've been exploring the many uses of baking soda recently. While it's proven great for cleaning, I recently tried using it to exfoliate my skin. It's perfectly safe and much cheaper than buying a fancy exfoliant. Plus, it's effective. I especially enjoy using it on my hands because it makes them feel so soft afterward.

How to do it:

1/2 tea baking soda
enough water or facial/hand cleanser to make a paste (about 1/2 tea)

Mix the two ingredients in the palm of your hand to make a paste. Wet face/hands and gently rub the paste on your face. Rinse with water. Follow with a moisturizer.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Congenital Trigger Thumb -or- My Child Can't Straighten her Thumbs


We noticed that my daughter (4 year old) had thumbs that didn't completely straighten a year or two ago. She really can not straighten them past what you see in the above picture. That's pretty much her "thumbs up." We thought at first that is was just a cute deformity and did not feel the need to pursue the issue. It wasn't until this year when my daughter started experiencing pain in one of her thumbs that we started to get concerned.

The pain didn't seem to have a real impetus. My daughter would be playing out of my sight and then she'd come to me crying and holding her thumb. I'd ask her what happened, and she wasn't sure. She had just used her thumb in such a way that it caused pain. The pain didn't usually go away right away. Sometimes it was just for 5 or 10 minutes, and once it took a whole hour. The pain was intense enough that she never allowed me to touch it, but it did go away on it's own, probably because she got distracted enough for whatever was out of wack to move back to the right place.

I started looking for answers by asking a nurse at my daughter's well-child visit. She looked at my daughter's thumbs and said that she was probably just really double jointed. That made very little sense to me. If it was normal, why was she having pain? That's when I tried to look it up online. I know doctors hate it when people try to self-diagnose using the internet, but I've had a lot of luck with it and I don't seem to have a lot of luck with doctors. It's not always easy to self-diagnose when you don't even know what terminology to use. I searched using terms like: child's thumb won't straighten, bent thumbs... and finally I stumbled across this website which had a picture of a child's thumb that looked a lot like my daughter's. It also named the problem: Trigger Thumb. So, I started looking up more information on trigger thumb. While my daughter's case didn't seem to fit all the criteria of a classic case, she did fit enough of it for me to want to take her to another doctor.

So, next we saw my daughter's pediatrician. She agreed with me that something was wrong, but she'd never seen this before, so she instructed me to see a pediatric specialist out of Denver. I asked her about trigger thumb. She said that we could use that as the working diagnosis, but she wanted to have the specialist give me an official one.

Today we drove to see the specialist. It took him no time at all to diagnose it, and sure enough, it's congenital trigger thumb. It normally resolves itself in most cases by the time the child is 4 or 5, but after that, outpatient surgery is usually necessary. My lucky daughter gets to have surgery on both thumbs. This means 3 weeks in casts too. Lucky me.

Here's some helpful website about the surgery and what it entails: http://www.handuniversity.com/topics.asp?Topic_ID=28

I'm writing about this because there isn't a lot online in the way of personal stories about it. Since congenital trigger thumb occurs in 2% of hand problems in children, it is not completely unheard of, but not completely common either.

To read the post about the surgery, click here.
To read a later post about preparing for the surgery, click here

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pumpkin Carving Tonight!

Tonight we will carve pumpkins. This year we have two very cute (yes, they are cute) pumpkins we got from a friend. Since buying a pumpkins runs about $5 each, getting some from a friend is the best deal. Granted, they are very small and squaty, but I like pumpkins with spunk. Aren't they... well, cute?

I carve pumpkins the old fashioned way with crude materials from the kitchen: Spoons for scooping and knifes for cutting. Oh, and the kids. No pumpkin carving kits here. So, our pumpkins aren't fancy, but they always have personality.

I ran across a website that actually explains a science project on the various methods for keeping a jack-o-lantern fresh. I'm a bit of a science junky on weird things, so naturally, I found this interesting. There are all sorts of methods for slowing a jack-o-lantern's decay (water, Vaseline, special spray...), but in the end it looks as though carving the pumpkins a day or two before the big night is the best.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Ode to Bill Cosby


My favorite comedian, Bill Cosby has been in the news lately for receiving the Mark Twain (another great humorist) Prize for American Humor. So, I checked out his website to see what Cosby is up to now. What Cosby is doing is admirable, encouraging family values and education, with an emphasis on the African American community, but this stuff is applicable to everyone. We're more alike than we are different, after all.

And here you can check out some of the funny man's most popular clips. These are clean, as always...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Cleaning Burned Food Off Dishes With Little Elbow Grease

I don't use Teflon pans when I scramble eggs. I scramble them on stainless steel pans... so that means that I have to scrap and scrub the pan afterward. As a result, I rarely make scrambled eggs. It's true. I may try making them tomorrow thanks to this tip fro Lifehacker.

They say to soak the pan in hot water with some dishwasher detergent. Supposedly you barely have to do any scrubbing using this method. I would like to give this a try.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Make Your Own Font for Free Revisited

I've blogged about a free way to make your own font before, but the website used is no longer free (starts at $9.95) so It's time to find another.

Here are a couple of Free Font Design websites:


http://fontstruct.fontshop.com/ - This site is great for the artist/designer. You sign up for a free account and go to work painstakingly constructing each letter using a grid as your guide. I tried it and decided I did not have the time. It took me five minutes to make the letter A... and it wasn't even fancy. But, like I said, this is great for the creative type who has the time. Font design software can be pricey, so this is an excellent alternative. You can also download the fonts that others have designed for free as well. That's a plus for font lovers.

http://www.fontcapture.com/ - This is the font making website for the average person. Like yourfonts.com, it may not be free forever, but while it is under beta testing, it's free. It's pretty much the same idea as yourfonts.com. You print off a template and carefully fill it in with your handwriting and then scan it, upload it, and wait a few seconds for your font to be generated. Then you download it. Simple.

Protecting Your Lawn From Grubs

Earlier this Spring a friend of mine told me how grubs (the larva of Japanese Beetles) had killed some patches of their front lawn. She's never even heard of grubs (neither had I) and was sad that she had to learn how to take care of them the hard way. The local lawn and garden store advised that she put down some grub prevention stuff (pesticide) in the fall and then she wouldn't have to worry about it in the summer. So, rather than buy a grub killer, of course I wanted to see if there was something I could make instead.

Here's what I found:
Someone asked a similar question here. The basic answer is that grubs aren't always that bad, so long as there aren't so many that nature can't take care of them. Birds love to eat grubs and can usually keep them down. But, when there is a problem with grubs (some types of grasses have more of a problem than others), the expert advised mixing detergent with water and spraying it on the grass. The grubs are supposed to come to the surface. The expert says that the detergent actually isn't bad for the grass either. Elsewhere, I read to sprinkle the detergent on the grass and then soak the area thoroughly with water.

From what I've read, I think rather than putting pesticide all over my lawn in the effort to prevent grubs, I'll just take my chances and treat any trouble spots with detergent and water.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Jinni, Find Movies You Like


Ran across a new website that might be helpful to people like me who don't know how to choose a movie they'll like on their own. Jinni.com is essentially a movie database. You type a movie you like and it will recommend others like it. It will refer you to options for viewing or buying it, whether it be through Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon, etc. There's a lot more to Jinni than just that, you can search by mood, place, audience.... the lists continues. And there's even more to Jinni which I'll leave to you to check out.

The last time I went to a movie rental place, I remember staring at the different titles, feeling inundated with images that ranged from harmless to pornographic. In disgust, I fled to the family section. We rarely watch movies... maybe that's why knowing what to pick was so hard for me. I really wanted to watch a well-scripted, well-made, tasteful, thought provoking movie other than a cartoon, but in the end, I came home with Thomas The Tank Engine because I figured since I couldn't find anything I'd like, I'd at least get something I knew my children would like.

Next time I'm in the mood for a good, thought provoking movie, I'll try Jinni.com for some ideas.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Make Your Own Foaming Hand Soap

Foaming soap is so handy. My kids love it, but they go through soap like crazy. Refills are expensive, if you can even find them. You can't just put regular soap in foaming soap dispensers since regular liquid soap on it's own is too thick... It's got to be watery, so the recipe is basically soap and water.

My recipe here is for a 7.5 fl oz foaming soap container. Here's what you need:
  • Dish soap of your choice
  • Water
  • Foaming soap dispenser
After some trial and error, I have found that dish soap works the best. Fill your soap container about 1/8 inch full (2-3 Tablespoons) of a nice smelling dish soap and then fill the rest with water. Replace the lid and shake the mixture up. I have tried to do this with regular liquid hand soaps, but he results have been sub-par (I'm sure some brands will perform better than others). They just don't foam as well.

Here's what others do to make their foaming soap:

Friday, October 9, 2009

HotPrints Offers Free Photo Books Once a Month


If you are a Facebooker, you might like what HotPrints.com has to offer you. HotPrints allows you to make photo books using photos from Facebook. This doesn't just mean the photos you posted, but the photos available to you from your friends as well. (I'm not completely sure how I feel about this). Anyway, each month you get a credit to make a FREE photo book (they even ship it to you free). Since you get what you pay for, there will be ads in your photo book- that you can tear out- specifically aimed at you, using your profile info from Facebook. You don't have to sign up for an account, they just go through your Facebook account. You can also buy photo books from hot prints starting at just $2.99.

If this is too creepy in the privacy realm for you, then I don't recommend it. But, if you're a total cheapskate who just wants some free prints, this is a viable option. To read more, visit Lifehacker.

If ever have enough photos on Facebook to make a photobook, I might give up my privacy to give it a try.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Loan Repayment Calculators

I don't know why, but I love to plug numbers into calculators and dream of how quickly we could pay off our house... or more importantly, our students loan. Some repayment calculators out there are very basic and don't offer you to play with different scenarios. Here are a couple of calculators I like:
  • Bankrate- This calculator is supposedly for home equity loans, but it works for about any loan. This calculator works with Java, so as you input numbers into the calculator, it will automatically adjust other amounts. Very cool. I like that you can view the details of your calculations with a payment schedule. It also has a nice graph for my visual side.
  • Suncorp - This calculator has a lump sum option, which is nice. It also uses Java, has a nice graph and figures your monthly payment amount. So, this is good for determining the right monthly payment in order to pay your loan off in X amount of time.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Less Mess Pomegranate Preparation


I love Pomegranates and this is the season for them. They can get pretty messy, but I learned to "seed" them in a large bowl of water in the sink a few years ago. The white flesh floats to the top and the seeds sink to the bottom. After you have removed the seeds, you just drain the water. Took me five minutes... and my hands aren't red. For a more in depth view look at preparing pomegranates, you can watch this:

Friday, October 2, 2009

Curious About Mormons?

Now for the taboo subject of religion. I believe in the freedom of it. I respect the beliefs of others and hope that they will respect mine. While I'm quite settled and firm in my own beliefs (I'm a Latter-day Saint), I still enjoy learning about other religions and beliefs so that I can better understand others.

This weekend marks General Conference weekend for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is a time when the church members worldwide stop to listen (with the help of cable, internet, and radio technologies) to the words of our prophets. This General Conference can be viewed live from the following websites on Saturday and Sunday at 10AM and 2PM MST each day.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Practical Yoga

I have mentioned Esther Ekhart before in a post about yoga for the upper back. I have found her website to be quite nice. It's a very clean, organized site. You can easily find yoga exercises to target your interests. It's great for the yoga newbie as well as the yoga connoisseur. I like Esther's yoga instruction style as well. She explains everything in nice detail, but doesn't waste your time. Check it out.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Winter Squash Prep/Cooking Tips


I love winter squash! I don't like trying to make it edible. I don't like how long it takes to cook it in the oven. I don't like peeling it. I don't like cutting it.

Tip for cutting:
Squash is easier to cut when it's been nuked in the microwave for 5-10 minutes depending on it's size. Before you microwave it, pierce it with a fork a few times. The downside to this method is that you have to wait until it cools to cut it. The upside is that when you are ready to bake it, it will take less time.

Tip for peeling, cutting, and cooking all at once!:
My most favorite way to cook squash is in a pressure cooker. Here's a helpful link for pressure cooking squash: http://missvickie.com/howto/veggies/wintersquashtypes.htm
You can plop the whole thing in (if it will fit) without having to do any cutting or piercing. Once the pressure cooker gets up to pressure, it takes 6-8 minutes to cook (again, depends on the size). It takes even less time to cook it if you cut it into chunks if that's your thing. Once the squash cooks for the recommended amount of time, run the cooker under cold water to release the pressure. Remove the lid, allow to cool to the point where you can touch it without burning yourself. Remove the squash, cut it in half, remove the seeds and use in your favorite recipe.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Time to Wash Your Smelly Washing Machine?

Ever since we moved into our home, the washing machine had a funky mildew smell. I wasn't sure how to get rid of it, so I just shut the lid on it, and forgot about it. Then, last week when I had a cold and noticed that despite my congestion, I could still smell the unpleasant odor while I was doing laundry, I had to see if there was something I could do. I came across a recipe for cleaning top-loading dishwashers: 2 cups cascade (I just used my no-name brand stuff) and 2 cups of bleach. You just set your washer to wash at full capacity with hot water and pour in the dishwasher detergent and bleach. Let the washer agitate for a few minutes and then stop it and let it soak for 15+mins. Then let the washer finish the cycle.

I went ahead and tried this bit of washing advice on my machine. I also did a nice wipe down of all the areas of the machine that I could get to (crevices in between the tub and lid). I can now breath again, and no longer smell that funky smell when I do the laundry! Yippee!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Museum Day This Saturday!


This Saturday you can get into many museums around the country for F-R-E-E! All you have to do is go to http://microsite.smithsonianmag.com/museumday/venue.html and print off a Museum Day admission card. Use this website to locate museums near you that will be participating in the free event, sponsored by the Smithsonian magazine. No excuses. Go get some culture.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

An Egg Substitute You Already Have


We all run out of eggs. When this happens, I get irritated and then resort to putting whatever I was mixing up in the fridge and wait until I go grocery shopping to finish it. But then I figured, "Vegans live without them. There has got to be a relatively natural substitute." Enter Google. Apparently there are quite a few options to the egg issue. Here are some helpful links on egg substitutes.

Substitutes included, pureed fruit, cornstarch, vinegar, and flaxseed, to name a few. I may just try this for fun, even if I have eggs! From what I read, it looks like it would take some experience to know which substitute will have the desired effect. So, there's definitely a learning curve, but I think it would be beneficial to know how to cook edible foods without eggs.

Update April 25, 2011: In making some chocolate chip oatmeal muffins, I noticed half way through the recipe that I was completely out of eggs. I only needed one. I tried mashing up about 1/2 to 3/4 of a banana and used that instead. I figured the muffins might taste a bit banana-y, but they did not. Not only that, but they turned out great. They were nice and plump, not flat, and no one eating them could tell any difference. So, for muffins, a bit of banana works great.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hundred Pushups Update



Well, it's been over six weeks since I started the One Hundred Pushups training program... I said I'd follow up on it. Here I am. I have not completed the program yet. I think it will take me another six weeks. Serious. When I started the program I could do 10 consecutive pushups. Six weeks later I can do 35 consecutive pushups. Improvement? Sure. But, I was really hoping it'd take six weeks to do 100. If it's too good to be true, it probably is. Silly me for thinking I could go from 10 to 100 in six weeks!

The program is not for the faint of heart. You really have to push yourself. There are times when I think I can NOT do another pushup, but I surprise myself and push up one last one-- then I crumple on the floor. I have had to repeat a couple of weeks so far (and think I'll be repeating a few more before I finish). I can say that I have noticed more tone in my arms, as well as more upper body strength... so this program is doing some good.

I'm going to stick to the program for the rest of the year... I hope by then I will have been able to achieve the 100. If I can't, I'm going to seriously consider moving on to a different exercise routine for upper body. I hope I don't have to be a quitter. If you are interested in watching my pushups progress in detail, follow me on twitter.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day

How it started:

"It was an idea born in 1995 on an Albany, Oregon, YMCA racquetball court. Baur, 54, and his friend Mark 'Cap'n Slappy'Summers, 46, began unleashing insults at one another, as pirates might.

'We just grew up in a time and place where we saw the wrong movies, read the wrong books,' Baur said from his current home in St. Croix, Virgin Islands. Putting their deep-thinking noggins together, the two decided the world needed in on this, too.

hey selected September 19, simply because Summers had recently divorced, it was his ex-wife's birthday, and he figured 'the date was stuck in my head, and I wasn't going to do anything with it anymore.'

But it wasn't until humorist Dave Barry caught wind of the idea and threw his support behind it in a September 2002 Miami Herald column that this rickety ship took sail."

see: http://www.cnn.com/2009/LIVING/09/18/talk.like.a.pirate/index.html



Learn to talk like a pirate:


Also check out this website for more pirate talk: http://www.pirateglossary.com/

Friday, September 18, 2009

Kids Cold and Cough Remedy

With the recent scares about children's over the counter cold/cough medicines, I opted to avoid them as much as possible. So, when it's cold/cough season, and the kids wake up saying their throats hurt, we make this quick drink. It does a wonderful job of clearing congestion, especially if we treat it early. Take caution, honey should not be given to children younger than a year old.

Warm Honey Lemon Drink
1 cup warm water (I heat in the microwave)
1-2 T of lemon juice (fresh or from concentrate)
1 T of honey

Stir and serve warm.

A dose of Honey
I also like to give my kids a teaspoon or so of honey before bed when they have a cough. Read up on it here.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Carving a Pepper Like a Pumpkin


I'm not sure exactly how this started, but once years back I was cutting up a green bell pepper for dinner and for some reason decided to carve a quick Jack-o-lantern face on him. My then 2 year old son loved it. He still won't eat peppers, but it's become a strange ritual now, to give the pepper a face before we cut him up and eat him.


Aside from strange meal preparation habits, I thought pepper carving would be a fun activity for younger kids not quite ready to carve a big, hard pumpkin. Of course, an orange bell pepper would contribute best to the pumpkin look. It would make a lovely Halloween party center piece as well.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Soothe Teething With Cucumbers


I came on the idea completely on accident. We have so many cucumbers from our garden this year, plus we have all the cucumbers that people give away because they have so many. I started slicing them up (even with the skin) and handing them to my twins at meal time because I found that it bought me some extra time to prepare their food. The babies are working on getting their teeth in, so they can't really bite the cucumber slices yet, but it gives them something to do, and they stay quiet. They don't get at all frustrated about not being able to actually eat it. I dare say it is a comfort for their teething gums. And why not? They make cooling cucumber teething gel.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Find Sears Appliance Owners Manuals

So, I'm doing a Google search to find an owners manual for my clothes dryer that came with the house when we bought it. The search didn't bring up helpful results within the first couple of pages. As I looked more carefully, it turns out that Sears does a lousy job of making these owners manuals readily available. So, I'll make it simple.

Here is the web site for Sears appliance owners manuals: http://www.managemyhome.com/

If you've got a Bissel, Kenmore, Whirlpool, Maytag, Kitchenaid, Frigidaire, Bosch, Samsung, Craftsman, LG... chances are, you can find the owners manual from the above website. You can download them for free or call and have it shipped to you. I'm guessing that will cost you. I haven't tried, though.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Paper Airplane Time

Fall is a great time to make and fly paper airplanes. Here is a fun video on how to make an award winning paper airplane.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Google Maps Monopoly Game


Google continues in its quest to take over the world-- And no one is going to know it because we'll all be playing Google Monopoly City Streets in our own virtual world. I'm not into online games, but if you are, this is huge. On September 9 Google and Hasbro have teamed up to start a major online game of Monopoly where you can "buy" any city street and play with anyone in the world, with Google Maps as your game board. It's a serious time waster, but I can see how this might be fun... and addictive to those who think they have the time.

Read more:
http://mashable.com/2009/09/07/monopoly-google-maps/
http://monopolycitystreets.com/

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Allergy Relief With A DIY Yourself Nasal Rinse

It took me about 3 years to notice that I had seasonal allergies and then 6 more to manage them effectively. For me, congestion is the worst part of allergies. I used to get so congested that I couldn't sleep at night because I couldn't breath! I had read about saline rinses and had tried them a couple of times, but gave up on them because it just seemed wrong to shoot stuff up my nose. If only I would have persevered, I'd have found relief sooner.

Now, one can take over the counter decongestants, but they have side effects. I usually take a knock off of 24 Claritin for my itchy throat and watery eyes. But for congestion, I have succumbed to the nasal rinse and can now sing its praises!

About.com actually has a pretty decent article about using nasal rinses. So, if you are intrigued, check it out.

The key that I have found to using saline rinses is to be consistent with it to keep congestion at bay. I usually have to do it once in the morning and once at night when I'm really congested and only once a day when it's not so bad.

Best thing about nasal rinses is that they cost next to nothing when you make them yourself. It's also great that they are pretty natural compared to a decongestant in pill form. The worst thing about nasal rinses is the learning curve in figuring out how to do them. But, if at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

To make a saline nasal rinse, mix the following in a clean container:

  • ½ to 1 teaspoon non-iodized salt (such as pickling or canning salt)
  • Pinch of baking soda (to prevent burning – can increase the amount as needed)
  • 1 cup of warm water (filtered or previously boiled water)
I use a syringe to rinse out my nasal passages. Lovely topic, no?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Spa Chemicals That Won't Break the Bank

I wish I would have stumbled across this about $500 ago. We bought a home two year ago that came with a very nice Jacuzzi spa. Learning to deal with spa chemistry had a slight learning curve, but wasn't too hard. I use bromine as the sanitizer and a mineral stick as well to help save a bit on bromine. It's worked fine, but the thing that really irritates me is all the money I have been shelling out for spa/hot tub chemicals.

I happened upon this website a few weeks ago about using what is called the BBB Method for pool and spa care. BBB, Bleach, Baking soda, & Borax. Bleach is the sanitizer, Baking soda increases the PH and Borax adjusts the alkalinity. I am very interested in giving this a shot. Right now, I want to use up the chemicals I currently have. We usually drain the hot tub during the winter... so it probably won't be until next spring before I try the BBB Method on my spa. I'm sure there will be a learning curve with this too, but cheaper chemicals makes it very appealing.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Twitter Primer for Twits


I'm relatively new to Twitter and as simple as tweets are, Twitter itself has proven to be rather complex. I didn't even know where to begin my studying up. Here is a nice twitter guide book from Mashable.com. You'll learn what it's all about, how to use it, and even get answers to commonly asked questions. I even learned what these # are! Hashtags. Check out Mashable's Twitter Guide Book.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Yogurt for Diarrhea


Okay, you can guess what's going on in my family right now. Diarrhea is the worst with kids in diapers because... well, you know. Last year my daughter had a case of it that lasted almost 2 weeks. I called the doctor's office and they said it was going around, and I didn't need to bring her in unless she had a fever. She never got one, but it was a long couple weeks. (So, it's wise to make a call to the doctor if you are concerned.)

This year it's my little babies. It's been about a week now. Ugh. At first I thought it was due to something they were eating, then teething, and now I'm sure it's just diarrhea.

Over the years, I have found these tips helpful when dealing with diarrhea in children (works well with adults too!):
  • No fruit juices
  • Cut out milk (dairy), they can still have breast milk, of course
  • Bananas and apples or applesauce are fine since they aren't stool softeners
  • Keep them hydrated: water, Kool-Aid, breast milk (just not fruit juice)
  • Feed them yogurt. This is the exception to the no dairy products rule since good yogurt contains live active cultures that are great for the digestive system, especially during the havoc of diarrhea. Yogurt also acts as a bit of stool hardener, if you know what I mean. You can read up on Yogurt's role here. And, as a side note, yogurt is also a great supplement to a child's diet when they are on antibiotics since antibiotics can cause loose stools. Yuck.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Pandora: A Radio Station That Knows What You Want to Hear


My Husband introduced me to Pandora Radio. It's a very cool web radio station that will play the music you want. All you have to do is sign up for a free account, set your preferences, (the bands or genre you like) and then Pandora takes over from there. You can tweak the stations by giving a thumbs up or down to certain songs or bands. You can also set up a bunch of different stations and play just one or play a mix of them at once. Of course, there is more to Pandora than just that. You'll have to dig in for yourself.

Pandora was born out of the Music Genome Project. It's basically a scientific study of different music, citing differences and similarities. It is because of this study that Pandora is able to intuitively select other songs that you might like based on your set preferences. It's a nice way to get to find other great bands that you might not have heard of.

Check it out.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Lint Hack- Removing Lint From Clothing


Without thinking enough, I inadvertently tossed some new towels in a regular load of laundry. After drying, everything came out with lint, the same color as the lovely towels. I tried running everything, sans the towels, through the washer's rinse cycle and then dried them again. Still, everything had lint on it.

So, I resolved to an old trick I learned back in my minimum wage days when I worked at a screen printing and embroidery joint, which I now lovingly call a sweatshop. We had to remove thread and lint from clothing quite often. Our trick was to wrap an 8-10 inch long piece of clear packaging tape, sticky side up, around our hand and then go to work patting the article of clothing until the tape had picked up the mess.

I enlisted my son to help me remove the lint from the load of laundry. There is something so wonderful about tape, it was hardly a chore for him.

Note to self: never wash new towels with anything else, ever.

Friday, August 21, 2009

DIY Yourself Fabric Softener Follow-up

A couple of days ago I figured I'd try to make some fabric softener since I ran out of dryer sheets. I used my small concoction of vinegar, hair conditioner, and water with my laundry over the last couple of days. I used it in a downy ball, in the washer's fabric softener dispenser, and even dampened a cloth with it and put it in the dryer (like a dryer sheet).

From my experience, this particular fabric softener recipe was no good. It certainly didn't soften the fabric. And the static? Still there. So for now, back to dryer sheets. (I read in some threads that they're carcinogenic. I'd have to really research that to find proof. In the meantime, living is highly carcinogenic.)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Listia for Free Stuff


There's a new place to go to get rid of your stuff when you want to give it away for free. It's called Listia. When I think free, I think Freecycle and Craigslist. Where both Craigslist and Freecycle are more geared toward giving and receiving free stuff within a relatively local area, Listia knows fewer geographical bounds (although you can choose to give and receive only in your area, which would be most economical).



So, how's it work? It's free, sort of. Listia works like Ebay in that you bid for an item, but you bid with credits, not money. So how do you get the credits? When you sign up and list an item, you receive 500 credits (equivalant to $50). When you a refer a friend to Listia, or your stuff "sells," you earn credits. You can also just buy credits for 10 cents each. So, as you can see, Listia has a slight trade tinge to it, since you must give stuff away in order to keep a good bank of credits. So what about shipping? Well, Listia assumes that you'll want to do things locally so there is no shipping. If not, you and the seller can work out the shipping.

Freecycle and Craigslist are still free, more so than Listia, but I can see some perks to Listia. The biggest benefit I see to Listia is the potential broadened inventory. The bidding aspect of Listia makes sure that the person that wants the item most gets it, in theory. Plus, you can view the feedback of other Listia users which is a perk compared to Craigslist of Freecycle, if you are concerned about safety. And, at the end of the day, it may take off just because of it's novelty. I may go ahead and try this with some of the dorky books I have that I can't sell... If I do, I'll let you know how it went.

So, now that the details are out, the jury is out too.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Bon Jovi's New Album & Single

It's ode to Bon Jovi time. They've got a new album, The Circle, coming out November 10th... and since I've been following Bon Jovi years before Twitter made it easy, it's only fitting that I write about it. Listen to their new single, "We Weren't Born to Follow."

And just in case you were worried, this album is rock; no country this time.

Aluminum Foil in the Dryer to Prevent Static?

I ran out of dryer sheets this week... and I'm not about to make an unscheduled trip to the store. So, time to improvise. I read about putting a ball of aluminum foil in the dryer to prevent static on some message boards and in forums. I also read about making some fabric softener from hair conditioner, vinegar, and water. The foil idea was fastest, so I figured I'd try it first.

Foil: Tried it.
Results: I didn't notice that any static control. My clothes stuck together the same as they usually do when I don't use dryer sheets. I live in a dry climate and I'm not sure if that has something to do with my failed attempt. Anyone ever tried this? How much foil do you use? I just made a ball of foil about with about a 2 inch radius. Anyway, I don't think I'll be doing this again. I felt pretty silly pulling a ball of foil out of the dryer. My kids wanted to know what it was doing in there...

DIY Fabric Softener: Made it, going to try it. I made a very small about of the recipe because I wasn't about to waste 2 cups of conditioner on something that may or may not work.
Results: Will be posted next time I do laundry... most likely in a day or two.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Tangrams For Fun & Learning


I was at the dollar store the other day and happened to snag a set of 4 Tangram puzzles for my kids. We broke out the Tangrams today and had a fun time. I was thinking my 6 and 4 year old were too young to really enjoy these. I was wrong. My 6 year old could do them on his own and my 4 year old enjoyed "helping" me find the right shapes to make the different puzzles. There are oodles of educational aspects of Tangrams. They are so versatile too, from simple to complex. But mostly, they are just plain fun.

Of course, you don't need to buy Tangrams. (They can be outrageously priced.) You can make your own. Or you can just play them on the computer.

One adaptation I would make to Tangrams for little children would be to make them adhere to something. For instance, sticking a strip of magnet on the back of card stock or foam pieces, and playing with them on the fridge or a cookie sheet... or making them with flannel and using a flannel board. Or, if you are handy with wood, make the Tangram out of wood! I wish I were handy with wood!!! Hmmm. Anyway, these are some ideas I had for keeping the pieces from sliding while little children make the puzzles.

If you have finished reading this post and have no idea what you just read, click here to read up on Tangrams.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Help With the Housework


Just when you think you have conquered one challenge another grows out of the supposed fix of the past one... at least that's how it seems things go for me. With that in mind, I'd like to share what we're currently doing to work together to keep the household functioning. In the past, my two oldest children have helped me fold laundry, set the table, clean their rooms, etc, but it was hit and miss. I didn't want them to grow up thinking that's Mom's job about anything pertaining to housework. Plus, I go insane trying to keep up with the messes that can multiply with 4 little children.

I have heard of some pretty extensive Programs (that's with a capital P) for teaching kids to work. They seemed like a lot of work for the parent. I prefer simple. Here's my version of simple. I made quick little "Job Chart," just a table with 3 columns and 10-15 rows. Column 1, type of chore; Column 2, Child 1; Column 3, Child 2. I filled in the rows of column one with various jobs that both children can perform with little assistance and left a few rows empty so that we can write in jobs as they happen. I didn't put cleaning their rooms, putting away their laundry, or cleaning their toys up at the end of the day on the job chart because those are mandatory for basic room and board in our home. I put things on the list that are what I consider above and beyond the basics: emptying dishwasher, vacuuming, folding laundry, sweeping floor, dusting, help cook, help clean bathroom... Get the idea.

My kids are 6 and 4, and they can do these things pretty well on their own. Now for the motivation. They needed some motivation. They will do these things with motivation. For my children, money is a great motivator. So, I'm paying them 5 cents for every job they do. They mark off the job with little tally marks in the column of their name and at the end of the month, we have a sit down one-on-one session where we look over the chart. It's a nice time to praise them and offer some encouragement if needed. So far, I haven't paid either of the kids more than a $1 a month. It's not breaking my bank and I've seen an increase in their willingness to help. Very nice. As they get older, I'm sure we'll tweak the system a bit, but for now, this is what works.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Heard of Google's Wave? Educate yourself


Don't be the last know what Google's up to. Check out a video explaining their newest tool: Google Wave, expected to come out later this year. The video is an hour long. So, if you don't have time for that... (who does, Google?!) , here's a more simple explanation of the next big Google thing. If you are interested in helping with development, you can sign up to test the Wave.

This is amazing stuff.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Protecting My Computer for Nothing! Plus, Open DNS followup

I protect my computer for free! And it works. A lot of the reason computers get bogged with spyware, viruses and other trash has to do the users frequenting questionable sites. Even a careful internet user can find himself in pernicious territory. That's why every computer with an internet connection should have some sort of anti-virus/anti-spyware tools and a firewall. Parental controls/Internet filtering tools are optional, but also quite helpful in warding off attacks as well.

It's been about a month since I started using Open DNS for internet filtering. I have been very happy with it. I have noticed that I'm a bit of a sloppy web surfer. I tend to click before I look at the address to find out where I am going. Quite a few times I have been saved by Open DNS or my Web of Trust (WOT) settings. The nice thing about all of this is, that if I really want to get on a blocked website, it's easy to do, but the warning is nice. I've only had one instance where I actually did want to view a blocked site; all I had to do was go to the Open DNS website and put the website url on my safe list. EASY.

So, in a nutshell, I've been able to make safer surfing, while protecting my computer from spyware/malware and viruses all for free by using: AVG Free (does NOT slow down my computer during scans, unlike Norton), Zone Alarm (Free version firewall), WOT and Open DNS. Why pay when you can get it for free? Check 'em out.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Archived Web Pages


Wonder what CNN's web page looked on Sept. 11, 2001? What happens to old web pages? How are they preserved? Most people don't care to think about this. But, if you are an archivist, you do. I'm not. But I'm glad that some people are.

Check out InternetArchive.org and try the Way Back Machine. You can type in a web address and see what it was like 5, or even 10 years ago (if it existed back then). Pretty cool.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Gearing up for School

This being the last month of summer, I thought it timely that I get my kids' brains ready for the back to school grind. I found a few websites that have nice, free printable worksheets for different grade levels. I printed a few worksheets off and slid them inside sheet protectors and assembled them all into a folder/binder. We used dry-erase markers to work on most of the worksheets (writing directly on the sheet protectors). Somehow, this just makes the whole thing more kid-friendly. Maybe it's because I don't usually condone marker use by anyone under the age of 5. While my preschooler worked on tracing shapes, I helped my 6 year old practice tying shoes. (I dropped the ball on this. I should have taught him earlier.) Then, we switch and I had my older one do a worksheet on telling time while I did something hands-on with the younger one. I guess it's summer homeschooling.

Here are the websites I found helpful:
http://www.tlsbooks.com/ -Great worksheets for math, English, grammar, art... for preschool to fifth grade.
http://www.first-school.ws/themes.html - This is mainly for preschool lesson plans. I like it most for the alphabet worksheets. You can print out the alphabet pages for either D'Nealian or standard block handwriting styles.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Cucumbers, Cucumbers, Cucumbers!

What to do with all those garden cukes? Here's a very quick recipe that is wonderfully delicious. It makes a great, cool summer sidedish. Best of all, the primary ingredient is cucumbers!

Cucumber Salad

4 med. cucumbers
1.5 cups of sour cream
1 small clove garlic, crushed
2 T. oil
2 t. sugar
1 t. salt
1 t. white vinegar
1/2 t. dill weed

Slice cucumbers in bit size pieces into a large bowl. Stir together remaining ingredients, except the dill weed, in a small bowl and then pour over cucumbers. Sprinkle dill weed on top and toss lightly. Chill.

*Tips*
I typically cut this recipe in half. It doesn't keep well after a day, so you'll want to only make what you think you'll eat. I like to add more dill.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Google 411 Review


I have mentioned Google 411 before, but now I've actually tried it. I LOVE it! Google 411 is essentially free directory assistance.

Google 411 comes in very handy when you don't want to take time to find a certain business in the phone book. You know how phone books are. The Yellow Pages are hit and miss with different books... and sometimes you don't even know the name of business you need... other times a business may have opened within the last year and therefore not yet be listed in the phone book yet. All of these instances are when Google 411 is very helpful.

How it works:
1. Dial: 1-800-GOOG-411 on any phone.
2. You will be warned that the call will be recorded. (This is because Google is trying to take over the world. If this doesn't bother you continue. BTW, it doesn't bother me. Don't believe me? Read this article.)
3. You will be prompted to name the company name/category and city and state.
4. Say the city and state again, for QC, I guess. (Make sure you don't have a background noise issue...if you do, you can type in the name using your keypad, but that's tedious. Not recommended.)
5. You'll hear your city and state repeated by Google's Big Brother computer on the other end. Next you'll be prompted to state the business name/category again.
6. If there is only one result, you have the opportunity to be connected or to hear the company's details (phone and address of company). If there is more than one result, you get to pick from the list.

I've already used this 3 times in the last two days. It's my new phone book. I'm terrible with alphabetical order, and this is the closest thing to a servant I'll probably ever have!

Friday, July 31, 2009

100 Pushups?



I'm finding that internet is a great place to go instead of the gym. Lifehacker pointed me to this website that details a 6-week training regimen for doing 100 push ups. I'm a runner during much of the year... but have noticed that I can not neglect upper body and core strength. So, I have formulated my own exercise routine to target these areas using the vast resources available via the world wide web. Who needs a gym membership?

In case you're wondering, I'm going to give the 100 pushups program a shot. I'll let you know how it goes in a month an a half or so. Just so you know, I can barely do 10 before collapsing!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Beer Summit

Okay, I wasn't going to touch this story... but now that it's way out of hand, I have to join the fun. For the record, I don't drink. I also think racism gets fuel when we keep talking about it and point out the differences in our skin color. Next, I must admit, I haven't been under President Obama's spell since the beginning. Those are my biases.

If you haven't heard, President Obama invited Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and the Police Sgt. Jim Crowley over to his place for beer to heal the firestorm he ignited when he said the police acted "stupidly" when they arrested Mr. Gates. Of course, the media is having a field day with this. Beer? Because beer heals all ills? What??? I'm sure that Bud Light (the President's favorite bear) is going to cash in on this!

Here's what the President said over the new media frenzy:

“I am, I have to say, fascinated about the fascination with this evening,” Obama told reporters during an Oval Office meeting with the president of the Philippines.

“I noticed this has been called the beer summit,” Obama said. “It’s a clever term but this is not a summit, guys. This is three folks having a drink at the end of the day and hopefully giving people an opportunity to listen to each other. And that’s all it is.”

“This is not a university seminar,” said Obama. “It’s an opportunity to have some personal interaction when an issue has become so hyped and so symbolic that you lose sight of just the fact that these are people involved, including myself. All of whom are imperfect.”

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Bun - A Classic Do


Okay, I apologize for the very girly nature of this post. Males may not find this very useful, but gals might. I stumbled upon how to make a bun even for those with short or fine hair. I have long, fine hair and have never been able to make a decent bun. It's embarrassing. But, a bun is a classic hair do... so I really wanted to figure it out. In the end it's a very easy 3-5 minute up-do.

The secret is to bulk up your hair using a sock. Ehow has an article about it and here's a youtube video demonstration. *In the video demonstration she shows you how to make a doughnut out of the sock and then makes two buns... but it's the same idea with one.