Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Glasses Cleaning Kit

My 5-year-old son just got glasses. As it turns out he sees perfectly from one eye, but miserably from the other. The glasses are supposed to train his brain to take information from both eyes.

He was reluctant...until he discovered how handsome he looks.

Doesn't he look stunning eating his peanut butter and jelly sandwich? So grown up!

Until he got peanut butter on his glasses. So I cleaned them. Then he got jelly on them. So I cleaned them. Then he got Lord-knows-what on them. So I cleaned them. Ten times in the first hour.

This is going to be difficult.

When we were picking up and paying for these glasses, I wanted to get him a little cleaning kit - something small that he can bring with him in his kindergarten backpack.

The kits in the store were $11.00


Time to make one!
What you see here is a 2 oz fingertip spray bottle from Walmart ($0.99) filled with awesome home made spray cleaner, and a square I cut from a flannel sheet I bought at the Salvation Army. (The whole sheet was $3.00 and I'm slowly cutting it up for things).

Even if I counted the cost of the entire sheet, this cleaning kit would have cost me $4. Let's be honest. I'm not counting the cost of the whole sheet.

Right now these are packed in a sandwich bag. If I see a cute little make-up bag or pencil case that my son can decorate, I'll pack it in that instead.

Now to get him to wear the glasses for more than 3 minutes...

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Posted Price is the Price

I used to work a thankless job in a lovely little retail clothing store. I would ring up customers, handle complaints, answer calls, and change all the sale and price point signs (that part is important).

One day my manager called me over and was displeased. I had forgotten to remove one sale sign with a lower price point than what we were currently offering.

"Oh", I said. "No harm no foul. I'll just fix it now". Wrong. She very patiently and kindly explained to me that since the sign was there, she just had to give the customer who saw it that price. "Couldn't you just explain that it was a mistake?" Nope. Apparently, if you are advertising a price in the store, you HAVE to give the customer that price at the counter, mistake or no.

I was much more conscientious. I never let the mistake happen again - BUT I never forgot it.

Remember the ceiling fan? I wound up getting such a good deal on it because they were still displaying the clearance price at one branch of the store (despite not having any in stock).

Today, this little lesson saved us money again.

While wandering through Macy's as a family (waiting on a pair of Lens Crafter glasses for my son), Husband saw a display of Champion sweatshirts. He loves those. Seeing that they were $17 each, he was pleased, but decided to wait (after all, we were dropping $200 on glasses).

On a nearby display, I noticed a sign that said $9.99. The display was a two-sided shelving unit with t-shirts on one side, and sweatshirts on the other. Both sides of the sign said $9.99. We mentioned this at the register, then showed the cashier. She was really nice about it, gave us the discount at the register, then mercilessly teased the person who was supposed to change the sign.

While I feel bad that the other employee will have to stand a little ribbing from his boss, I bet he'll be a much better bargain shopper in the future.
The Shabby Nest

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Sick Day

Yesterday the boys and I were stuck home. All three of us were sick. All three of us had fevers.

I blame the toddler.

Either way, you know how when you're sick all you want to do is sleep? Yeah. My kids apparently don't believe in that. So, how to entertain a 2 year old and a 5 year old while wanting to crawl under my covers and never come out? Hmmm.

We started with a schedule:

I had really hoped that TV time would last an hour or so. It lasted less than half of a cup of hastily chugged coffee. Greeeeaaat.

On to Kindergarten Bars! These were granola bars that I wanted to make in the hopes of interesting my older son in granola bars. That part didn't work, but they are fun to make- especially since you can mix and squish everything together with your hands.

The kids had no interest in mixing them with me. At least I had fun.

Next, we went outside. That was nice. The patio was cool, but the sun was warm, and the kids had fun running barefoot in the dew covered grass.

Then they had fun throwing mud at each other. *sigh*

To get them focused on something more positive, I brought out the cornstarch and water to make MOON MUD!

If you've never done this before, try it! You don't even need kids. It's fun! Pour some cornstarch in a bowl, then add water until it starts acting weird. When this is the right consistency, it will become stiff when you apply more force, and very drippy when you apply less.

Thank God this cleans up with just water. I hosed the table off. Then the kids. It was fun for them, and pretty cathartic for me.

We were a little ahead of schedule, so we took our time cleaning up, then went inside for a little Candy Land and cleanup from the Kindergarten Bars (which were DELICIOUS, in case you were wondering).

A traditional lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, was sadly not followed with napping of any sort.

I knew it was a reach when I put that on the list, but a girl can dream, no?

Our day wrapped up with books, iPad games, and a couple of episodes of WordGirl.

The kids survived, were entertained, were well fed, and were ready to harass Daddy when he came home.

I still need that nap.

The Shabby NestPhotobucket

Monday, August 20, 2012

Meal Stretcher Monday - Kindergarten Bars

My husband never used to eat during the day at work. He would be so hungry and tired by the end of the day that he would over eat and be crabby. Thankfully, he started at least bringing a light breakfast with him - usually water or juice and a Clif Bar.

I'm glad that he's taking something. I'm glad that it's something with some good ingredients and filling fiber. I'm not overwhelmingly glad that those little buggers are kind of expensive.

So I have been cruising the internet for recipes to make something similar at home. I have discovered that there is a basic formula for most granola bars:

2-2.5 cups of grains/carbs/cereal
1/2 cup nut or seed butter
1/3-1/2 cup sticky syrupy stuff (brown rice syrup, maple syrup, honey, etc)
1/2-1 cup "treats" (nuts, fruit, chocolate chips, marshmallows, etc)
1-2 tsp other flavorings (vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, cocoa powder, etc)
2-4 tbsp "healthy powder" (protein powder, flax powder, milk powder, etc)

I called the ones I made today "Kindergarten Bars" in the hopes of interesting my older son, who is about to enter kindergarten. He has Asperger's and is deeply suspicious of foods that are not smooth, or are not white/yellow, or are not Goldfish crackers. My hope is that he would want to help me make them, and might even eat a few. Hope.

Kindergarten Bars
1 cup old fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups Rice Krispies
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup raisins
1/3 cup sliced almonds
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp flax powder
Mix the dry ingredients.
Add the peanut butter, honey, and vanilla, then SMOOSH IT ALL TOGETHER!

Some recipes call for the nut butter and syrup to be melted together in the microwave or on the stove. I wanted these bars to be kid friendly to make, so I decided we would just mush these all together with our hands instead of cooking anything.

It. Was. Fun.

Shame the kids didn't want to do it with me. Meh. I had a blast.

It's really sticky, so there was no way to take pictures.

At the end it was a bit stiff to work into the pan, so I microwaved the whole bowl for 30 seconds, then used a rubber spatula to mash it down into the pan. After cooling, I meant to cut them into 12 bars, but I had a math problem and cut 16.

These are DELICIOUS. I really hope my husband likes them, but since they may not last until he gets home....who knows?

The Shabby Nest

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Homemade Deodorant

Hello, all! I'm so sorry I dropped out of sight for a while. We are trying to get a lot of stuff done over here in preparation for the school year, and my return to teaching.

It's August. It's hot. I really think that the muggy August heat is God's way of making sure we won't be too sad in September when the summer slips away.

I have noticed a problem this August. I have been getting a rash under both arms. Using my Google-Fu, I began to suspect that my deodorant was to blame. I tried switching brands, but the rash was still there, and the new brand didn't actually seem to work as well.


Over at Our Homemade Happiness, I came across a really easy homemade deodorant recipe. Not only is the recipe simple (only 3 ingredients), all of the components are supposed to be good for your skin: coconut oil, baking soda, and corn starch. Easy peasy.

Here's the recipe exactly from Our Homemade Happiness:
Homemade Deodorant
5 Tbsp. coconut oil
1/4 cup baking soda
1/4 cup arrowroot powder or corn starch
essential oils (optional)

Mix the ingredients together with a fork until well combined.

It took about a minute to make. Since it was warm in here, the coconut oil was mostly melted and everything blended lickety-split. I put it into a disposable snack container with a snap-on lid. Perfect fit!

But does it work?

Oh, yes. Yes it does.

I tried it that day, having not put any deodorant on yet. It felt nice, and even kept working through a gym workout.

The next day I at a ton of onion laden foods, and my deodorant STILL worked.

The day after, I went to my son's preschool graduation and sat in direct sunlight on a 90 degree afternoon for almost two hours. When I got home, my husband assured me that the deodorant was still working.

Through all of these challenges, I never had to apply the deodorant more than once a day. Yesterday, I applied it very early in the morning, as I was going to work. By the time I woke up this morning, it was STILL working - a full 24 hours later!

It's been the better part of a week, and the rash that had been under my arms for the last month or two is GONE. Also, know how your underarms look sort of gray after you've washed off deodorant? That's gone, too. YAY!

The only drawback is that every time I open the container it smells so wonderfully of coconut oil that I really want a Mounds bar. Possibly an Almond Joy.

Well, at least I smell delicious.

The Shabby Nest

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Meal Stretcher Monday - Bread

Due to the drought conditions around our country, groceries are going up in price. Again. This is perfectly understandable, but also a cause for long-term concern. Remember when the gas prices shot up, then food prices shot up, then gas prices fell, then food prices...didn't? Yeah. I find myself scared that this is happening again.

Fittingly enough, it's time for...MEAL STRETCHER MONDAY! This is my weekly attempt to make some recipe that will save us grocery money in the long run. This week: bread!
Note: this is coming out on a Tuesday. Sorry! Our internet failed yesterday, so I'm a day late.

I have been trying to find a bread recipe that can mimic the springy quality of the store bought bread that we use for sandwiches/toast/etc around here.

Seeing as how I'm not terribly skilled at making bread...this could take me a while.

The recipe for this attempt comes from The Progressive Pioneer and claims to be no-fail. Hm... Let's give it a go!

7 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp salt
2 (heaping) Tbsp olive oil (or lecithin granules - which I don't own)
3.5 cups warm water
1.5 tsp yeast
1/4 cup honey

First, I mixed the warm water and honey together, then sprinkled the yeast over the top, then got distracted by the kids for a few minutes.
Next, I mixed half of the flour (3.5 cups), the salt, and the olive oil in the bowl of my mixer and stirred it together, slowly adding the yeast mixture.
Once it was mixed into a smooth batter, I added the remaining flour and switched to the dough hook.
The Progressive Pioneer recommended mixing for 7 minutes. I have no idea how long I mixed, because the kids managed took that moment to mutiny. Next time, seven minutes for sure.
After the mixing, my dough was a little less stretchy than it should have been (probably from over-kneading), but still looked good. I split the dough between my only two bread pans and baked.
Look at that deliciousness! You want to bite the screen, don't you? Yeah, you do.

It's tasty, it's springy, it's filling, it cuts beautifully without crumbling. I'm in love. Okay, my preschooler won't eat it because it's not exactly like the store-bought kind, but the toddler and I have been demolishing it. Amazing.


Friday, August 3, 2012

Get Competing Estimates

A few days ago my husband was painting the upstairs hallway when he bumped the ladder and sent it crashing through the lower pane of our double hung window. $%&*$#.

Husband called Home Depot for an estimate to fix or replace it. Two people responded: one from a sub-contractor, and one from Home Depot itself.

Estimate #1 - Sub-Contractor
This guy was the first to show, and he gave us three options:
1) Replace the glass = $60. (Just the glass - not the insulating argon between the panes)
2) Replace the lower sash = $150 (Decent, but a looooong wait for this one)
3) Replace the whole window with an even better quality one = $300

Replacing the window would give us better insulation in what becomes a very cold hallway in the winter. This is VERY tempting.

Estimate #2 - Home Depot Guy (orange apron and everything)
This guy showed up 15 minutes after the first guy left. Here's what he said:
1) They could only replace the whole window - not repair.
2) They could replace it with a window comparable to what we have for $650
3) They could replace it with a better window for $700


Not only have we already cut a check to the first guy, but if they do well, we will contact their company directly for repairs in the future. Screw Home Depot.

The Shabby Nest

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Fixing the Tub Without a Plumber

"Honey, I have some more bad news".

I hate hearing this from my husband. It usually means that something else in our house is broken.

Lately, we have been having a run of bad house luck. A toilet broke and had to be replaced. The downstairs bathroom floor has cracked and is coming up. My husband tripped while painting the upstairs hall, knocked over the ladder, and shattered the window.

We're bleeding cash.

This time, husband held up the little lever that drains the tub. It had been sticking for a while, and finally snapped right off instead of budging. Great.

Husband was all for calling a plumber. I was all for searching the internet. It turns out I could get the parts at Lowe's and probably do this myself. It's worth a try.

Plumbers are EXPENSIVE, and I will only call one under duress.

(Yeah, I know. This blog is starting to look like a Lowe's commercial, but I swear I am not paid a dime by them.) (Not that I would mind if they wanted to pay me.) (Actually, I think I'd rather enjoy it.) (*hint hint*)
The nice man covering the plumbing department showed me what I would need. Apparently I needed more than just the little lever thing. Likely, the sticking problem was cause by some blockage down by the drain, so I should replace that, too.

Sure. Okay. So long as there are instructions on the package.

I don't have a true before picture, as husband took it apart before I could get up there and start snapping. The above picture is the removed overflow plate and lever behind it.

Notice that the tub is still full? Yeah. That's because the trip lever broke before the drain opened. I grabbed the lever with pliers and pulled upward, disengaging the plug. The water was able to drain out and I could work.

I don't have pictures of the next part (where I removed the drain) as I was struggling and frustrated, but I can tell you how to do it.

1) Remove the screw holding the drain plate in place.
2) Underneath you will see is sort of cross (either metal or plastic) in the drain.
3) Put the handles of a pair of pliers in the cross, then twist to remove it.

Note: My plier's handles weren't narrow enough. I used the tips of the pliers instead.

So I just pull up this drain piece to look for what's blocking it...

I feel dirty even looking at this - like a need a bath. But clearly, after seeing this, I can never trust the bathtub again. Ever.

Drama aside...

4) Throw out the scary drain.
5) Thread the brand new shiny one in it's place.
6) Put some plumber's putty around the outside rim
7) Screw down the new drain plate.
The next section was the part I probably should have done first, namely replacing the overflow plate and trip lever. I put it off because the cotter pin holding the old lever on was seriously corroded and hard to remove. Eventually it required a wire cutter and pliers. I cut off one end, then used the pliers on the other end to pull the pin out. This released the broken trip lever so I could install the new one. The new kit included screws for the plate and a sparkly new cotter pin.

The cotter pin attaches the back of the new trip lever to the piece coming out of the wall, and the screws attach the new overflow plate.

Actually, it was a much easier fix than I thought. Doesn't it look beautiful?

Kit cost = $30
Plummer's putty = $2
Total (after tax) = Around $35

Tell me. Have you ever spend only $35 on a plumber's visit? No? Didn't think so.

http://www.thethriftyhome.comPhotobucketThe Shabby Nest