Archive for April, 2011

Frugal Easter Baskets

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

I made my kids Easter baskets for the first time ever!  I used little buckets and pails that I had bought on sale for less than a dollar each.  I figured that these would be more useful than baskets in the long run.  I then waited until the week before Easter to buy the little plastic eggs.  I ended up getting 12 for a dollar on sale.  The obligatory Peeps were 50 cents for 3 boxes.  I bought Oliver a book and Evelyn some bunny ears for one dollar each in Target’s $1 bins.

Instead of buying that fake plastic grass, I made my own for pennies.  I folded up 2 sheets of construction paper accordian style.  With the paper folded up like a closed fan, I cut off 1/4 inch strips.  I fluffed the pile, and voila!  – instant filler for my buckets.

Oliver liked his bucket.  I filled the eggs with strawberries and blackberries.  He was hooked!  He also got to eat one peep all by himself (the other ones vanished in thin air!).  He stuffed the entire thing in his mouth and after giving it a few chews he spit it out.  Smart kid…

Evelyn liked her little bucket too.  The Easter bunny brought her a spring outfit to wear, a teething ring, and some cool rabbit ears.

After chowing down on peeps, we tromped outside to hunt for eggs.  That wascally wabbit couldn’t pull the wool over Oliver’s eyes!

He very efficiently found every single egg and then dropped the bucket to go play on his slide!

The shirt says it all!

Their Easter baskets cost $7.50 to make, including $2.50 in fruit.  Evelyn’s outfit is a hand me down from a friend that she is now able to wear and her teething ring was a gift at Christmas that we had put away.  Everything else was on sale.  The best part is that Oliver can use his pail (and shovel) outside for play and Evelyn’s bucket is going in her room to hold tubes of butt-cream and nose spray.  The eggs and bunny ears will be stored until next year and the “grass” will be composted.

We hope you had a happy Easter too!

Bounce, Bounce, Bounce

Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

Tryouts for the Easter bunny in 10 minutes…

There was a birthday party at our neighbor’s house this afternoon.  They rented one of those inflatable bouncers for the kiddos and Oliver got to play. 

This thing was huge!  At first Oliver was afraid of it, but once he tried it out we couldn’t keep him out of it.  The sun was a bit much for Evelyn, so I took her home to cool off.

Oliver bounced through the cake cutting, Easter egg hunting, and presents unwrapping.  He could have bounced all night.  In fact, they had to kick him out to deflate it!  Hmmm… I wonder if Santa could fit one of these things in the back of his sleigh.

The hubby even joined in the fun.  What a great way to “bounce” into spring!  After 3 hours of playing, Oliver should sleep like a rock tonight.  :-)

Spinning Easter Eggs

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

We colored Easter eggs for the first time as a family!  A friend gave us a new-fangled egg spinner kit.  It looked like a small salad spinner that you drip food dye into.  It was advertised as “EASY” and “NO MESS”.

Oliver LOVED the egg spinner.  It reminded him of his old push and spin popcorn toys.  He was so excited!

Oliver’s first ever Easter egg – not too shabby! 

As for the “NO MESS” and “EASY” – uh, no.  We only did 5 eggs and it took quite awhile.  You had to clean the machine after each color and at the very least between each egg.  They dye dripped everywhere and our fingers are all stained a nice red/purple/blue.  Was it fun though?  Heck, yeah!  I felt like a kid again mixing up colors and sprinkling glitter all over.  And like I said, Oliver LOVED it!  :-)

Evelyn didn’t get to color any eggs, but she sure liked playing with them.  She concentrated very hard trying to pick them up and mouth them.

It was all good until we noticed that the dye and glitter were coming off – even after they were “dry”.  Maybe next year little girl!

Marbles: Best 100 Bucks Ever Spent

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

We took advantage of the hubby being home all week to take the kids to Marbles one rainy afternoon.  I have to admit that buying a family membership was one of the best investments we made last year.  Normally, it would cost $5 for each of us (Evelyn excluded).  The family membership costs $100/yr.  We’ve well exceeded $100 of use out of it and have probably saved over $300 in admission costs.  If we only went once a month on First Friday, when the museum is open late, we’d save $80 ($180 vs. $100).

Evelyn is even getting some benefit out of it.  The baby area is covered in mats and she loves digging her little toes in to flip over.

She can almost go from her belly to her back too.  Pretty soon its crawling, then walking and no more baby!  Hmmm… maybe I’m getting rid of the baby gear too soon.

The boys came to get us when the museum closed.  Oliver loves playing with his daddy doing “big boy” things.  The baby area is too small for Oliver now.  Both the kids are growing so fast.  (sniff)

It’s Not All Fun and Games

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

The hubby is getting a taste of my daily routines this week.  He is off this week while waiting for his new job to begin on Monday.  Needless to say, he has been surprised at how much work it takes to raise the kids.  I went to the post office today and came home to find him frazzled with 2 meltdowns on his hands.  He looked at me and said, “I don’t know how you do it.”  I told him that this year I want something big and shiny for Mother’s Day and it better not be a toaster! :-)

We are slowly cleaning the debris away from the storm.  We are expecting more rain tomorrow, so we haven’t been raking too hard.  The hubby has been working on our brick path again.  He’s also been prepping the front porch for paint.  Hopefully, we can do a final sand tomorrow and get a coat of paint on before the rain.  It’s been nice to have an extra pair of hands around the house.  I’ve actually gone out twice now without the kids!  Miracle of miracles!

Changes are a comin’ for this little family, I can feel it in my bones…

Waiting For a Tornado

Sunday, April 17th, 2011

On Saturday we spent all morning waiting for a so-called “massive storm system” to come and scrapped our outdoor plans for the day.  By 230pm we were glued to the TV as the storm approached our county and a large tornado had been spotted on the ground. 

Hmmm… the flashing banner on the bottom of the TV screen said we had been upgraded from a tornado watch to a tornado warning.  The tornado was southwest of the city and headed to Raleigh.  Then news came of other tornadoes and the tornado cells seemed to be headed straight for us.  The meteorologists tracking the storm said that the residents of Raleigh were in imminent danger and that we should take cover now.  And then the power went out…

With the words “…extremely dangerous and life threatening situation” echoing in our heads, the hubby and I switched into autopilot.  We gathered up all the cushions from the couch and lined the tub of our guest bathroom, which is located in the direct center of our house away from all exterior walls.  We already had our emergency lighting handy and we rounded up the kids to put them in the tub.  Our battery powered radio has a programmed emergency weather channel and we listened as the alerts rolled off for one tornado after another.

The hubby grabbed our important papers, I got several wool blankets, we hauled in the emergency kit, and pulled on shoes.  Then we waited.

Darkness descended very rapidly around the house.  We were already without lights, but could faintly see from the sunlight coming through the windows.  Within minutes, it was dark – very dark – and the storm hit us.  Rain pounded down on the house and the wind whipped it sideways into the windows.  We could hear cracking and snapping as branches around us broke.  Occasionally, there was a loud bang or crunching noise, but no freight train roared by our house.

The brunt of the storm passed over us within 15 minutes – it was moving fast – and just like that, it was over.  The sun was back, the wind died down, and the rain steadily dropped from the sky. 

The house was warm, muggy and humid.  The kids played in the living room, while the hubby went out to assess the situation.  Luckily, we were spared any damage.  Our neighbors had a few fallen branches and one down the street had his porch crushed by a tree.  

The hubby drove out to find ice in hopes that we could save some food from the fridge in our cooler (I had JUST gone grocery shopping the day before the storm).  He reported that all the traffic lights were out on the main artery and that there was no power for miles.  Sirens were heard nonstop for probably 2 – 3 hours as emergency crews were dealing with one thing after another.

As night approached, we broke out the candles.  Luckily, I’m a candle freak and have dozens upon dozens of them!  Without electricity, the neighborhood was eerily quiet and dark.  As the hours passed by, we sat and talked with each other. 

We worried about looters and robbers breaking in to our house.  We worried about all our food in our chest freezer going bad.  We worried about the kids waking up into pitch blackness and silence and being scared.  On the other hand, we were grateful that we were passed over.  We were proud that the kids were unaffected by the drama and were sleeping peacefully in their beds.  The electricity thankfully came back on around 3am.

Ninety-three tornado sightings were reported in NC Saturday.  Several of them were in Raleigh.  We found out today that a tornado had touched down a mile away, on the other side of the main thoroughfare, and had killed 3 children.  The kids, ages 3 – 9, were put into the bathtub for safe keeping and a tree fell on their home.  A 6 month old baby girl suffered head injuries and is in critical condition today.  My heart breaks for that family.

We were lucky this weekend.  The hubby spent today cleaning up debris outside.  I took the opportunity to clean the fridge really, really good before I put back what we had saved in the cooler.  My poor garden was flattened and I spent some time gingerly digging lettuce leaves out of the mud…life goes on.

Clear a Slow Moving Drain with Vinegar and Baking Soda

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

I have read from several sources that vinegar and baking soda will unclog a drain without using harsh chemicals such as Draino.  Now that I’m in my full post-partum hair shed-a-thon, we’ve finally gotten the opportunity to try.

Here is what you will need:

1/2 C. of baking soda
1 C. of water
approx. 1 gallon of hot water
drain plug

Helpful items: 1 wire clothes hanger, 1 paper plate/funnel, 1 chopstick or screwdriver

Okay, so here’s the gross part: the clog.  Our tub drained very, very slowly and got worse over a week or two.  It wasn’t fully clogged, but it was getting close.  When you are standing in 4 inches of water after a shower, you know its time to fix the problem!  We bent the end of a wire hanger into a small hook and fished out a hair clog.  The leftover gunk was extensive soap buildup and probably more hair down the line.  The drain was a little clearer after fishing out the hairball, but still clearly gunked up.

Using a paper plate as a funnel, we dumped the baking soda down the drain.  You’ll notice that the drain makes a 90 degree turn a few inches down.  The baking soda won’t magically turn the corner and pour down the drain.  You will need to coax it down with a chopstick or long screwdriver.

It took some fiddling, but the hubby managed to pack in 1/2 of cup of baking soda.

He poured in 1/2 of cup of vinegar and had the plug ready for the INSTANTANEOUS foam eruption (think back to your volcanoe science project).

When he capped the drain we could still hear the mix foaming and then a very audible “PoP” as the clog was pushed through.  We poured in the second half of the vinegar and plugged up the drain.  A much smaller pop was heard and there was much less push back from the foam.

We waited 15 minutes and then poured about a gallon of hot tap water down the drain.  First off, the drain was clean as a whistle!  The soap scum had vanished from the drain itself.  Second off, the clog was 100% gone and the water ran free.

Very Cool!  We were amazed at how well this worked considering how bad the drain was clogged. 

Here is more food for thought: 

A) We haven’t tried this on a clog with standing water.  I don’t see how it would work as the baking soda would dissipate in the water and wouldn’t react with the vinegar.  I could be wrong though. 

B) We also did not use boiling water as some other websites suggested.  We weren’t sure how hot our bathroom plumbing could stand.  212 degrees is a big difference from 120 and the hubby thought it might melt the caulk and cause leaks in the plumbing.  Hot water did just fine. 

C) I’ve read that it may take more than one application to clear the clog.  I guess that depends on what the clog is made of and how bad it is.  By digging around first, we were able to break through the first try. 

This treatment is suggested as a monthly ritual for all your drains to keep them clean and running free.  I am so impressed that I am adding it to our chore list!  Much less caustic than Draino and MUCH less expensive!  More money to save for a new house.

Love the Flexible Flyer Swing Set

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Last week, Kmart had super sales on old fashioned Flexible Flyer metal swing sets.   This simple set was $120, reduced by $50.  He loves, loves, loves to play outside and he has totally outgrown his simple plastic slide.  He could play outside for hours on end if we let him.

He is a still very shaky on the regular swings, so we attached the Little Tykes swing chair to the swingset.  We bought the toddler swing at a consignment sale last year for $3 and never found a place to hang it up. 

The first thing he did was climb up the ladder and slide down the slide.  After the first ride, he squealed and then ran right back to the ladder and did it again! 

I’d say the swing set was worth every penny.  Now I’ve got to figure out how he can use it into the summer after the mosquitos swarm in.

Do you have a swing set for your kids?  Is it metal or one of those new fangled wood fortress types?

Painting the House: Picking a Color

Monday, April 11th, 2011

Our house is falling apart, literally.  We have ants and birds duking it out in the chimney, bees and wasps gang fighting for our deck, and mold silently creeping over every board.  Now that the baby making is out of the way, we are ready to take care of our poor house.

First off, the old colors need to go.  Ugh – yellow-white siding with green trim?  I’ve lived here for 11 years and I’ve never liked that color combo. 

Next, we need to decide which is more cost effective:  Replacing the rotted siding/rebuilding the chimney and painting or putting up vinyl siding. 

The first contractor we called said it would be far cheaper to paint than to side.  He said we have a lot of odd surface area for a house our size and that there would be alot of waste if we sided.  He is going to give us a quote for both this week.

The second contractor we called gave us a quote for vinyl siding only and he came in at $7,200.

The third contractor is coming tomorrow to do a quote for both painting and vinyl. 

Being that painting might be cheaper than siding, we went to Lowe’s to pick out our colors.

We’ve narrowed down the selection to the following:

Main body color:
A) Polished Silver
B) Woodlawn Colonial Gray

Porch, deck, shutters: 
C) Iron Frost
D) Almost Charcoal
E) Sienna

Trim:
White

What do you guys think???  What are your color preferences? 

Spring Festival 2011

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

Spring is officially here!  An organization we belong to threw a Spring Festival at a local park.  There were face painters, free food, a bouncy house, and games galore. 

Oliver spent the afternoon chasing down the Easter bunny.  Wherever the rabbit went, Oliver wasn’t far behind.  In this pic, Oliver was inspecting a decoy when the real rabbit popped up.  He hightailed it outta there!

Evelyn loved chomping on the rabbit.  She even got a purple one of her own.

Oliver played a few games, including this Duck Swim.  Some ducks had the word, “Winner” written on the bottom of them.  If you picked those ducks, you got a prize.  Oliver, very systematically, picked all the ducks and they loaded him up with swag for being so cute.

Oooo, that wascally wabbit!  This was as close as Oliver got to the bunny.  I’m sure he’s going to have some crazy dreams tonight of a white rabbit.

Evelyn was a big hit.  With her bling and her shades, she looks like a superstar!

We had a great time out and about today.  We got some fresh air, some sunshine, and some exercise.  Best of all, we did it together and it cost us nothing.  It’s amazing what public resources are out there for everyone.  Google has become our best friend.  :-)

What have you done to celebrate spring this year?

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