Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Cardboard Creativity from the Carrels

Blog posts used to get written during Hudson's nap times. But these days, I find myself wanting to rest or nap myself once he is down. In case you missed our news...

A few weeks ago, my friend Sarah sent me these fun pictures of her girl's playhouse that they made out of cardboard. They are missionaries to Brazil and have just moved to a new part of the country. While they wait for their furniture to arrive, Sarah's creativity has given the girls the most adorable place to play. 

I love the fact that Evie, the oldest, got to paint her new house herself. 

Inside and out.

Anna Claire seems to be supervising the entire project.  I also immediately fell in love with the little shingles. 

From shutters to a flower box, this is the cutest cardboard creation ever.

You can check out more about Dave and Sarah's ministry in Brazil on their blog, Bits from Brasil. And you can read more about our fun visit to see them in the Amazon in these posts

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Toddler-Proofing the Living Room

Since I can't leave Hudson in a pack-n-play 24 hours a day, I knew I had to find a way to make our living room work for all ages. I think back to those days when he would just lay on a blanket or play-mat. Those days are long gone! He needs to play and explore. But I didn't want the space to feel like a day care - covered in toys with no sign of an adult living to be seen. So, by trial and error, I have found a few things that make our room work as a place for Jeremiah and I to relax as well as a fun space for a one year old.

These things that work for us, may not work for every child - but I thought I would share just in case!

Around Christmas-time, I realized a key to Hudson's happiness. He needs to be able to explore. I was forever telling him not to touch something or not to open a cabinet door. One day, by accident, I put a few of his books on the bottom shelf of my library cart. Immediately, he began taking the books off the shelf and putting them back on. Not in the color-coded, alphabetized way that I would have done it - but he was entertaining himself!

1. Give the child something they can "get into"

I have since rearranged the living room and the library cart has found a new home. I did, however, decide to give Hudson more spaces that are "his."

The bottom lower shelf of our entertainment center remains empty. I will either put some of his toys in this space for him to pull down. Or I often find him storing some of his own treasures on the shelf.

I know that not every child is the same - but Hudson seems to leave other areas of our living room alone if he knows what areas he can touch.

For example, he is now strong enough to open these card catalog drawers that hold our DVDs. However, it now only takes an occasional "no, no" to steer him towards another play area.

It's more fun for everyone if our entire living room isn't full of "no no"s.

2. Make the living room easy to pick up/hide toys. 

This took some rearranging, on my part. I moved the red hutch that used to sit in my kitchen into our living room. I can store Hudson's toys inside the bottom cabinets.

I also keep a large basket on the other side of the couch. Once Hudson goes to bed or down for a nap, I can pick up toys in less than a minute. I find that I can relax better in a clutter-free place.

When Hudson is awake and running, I keep the coffee table cleared. I have coasters and a candle on an old cast iron griddle (or a tray of any kind would work). I can easily move all these items out of his reach.

Hudson also seems to play better when the toys are picked up. He loves to pull items out of baskets or tubs.  More adventurous, I guess.

After I took down our Christmas tree, I decided to keep Hudson's books in the galvanized tub. He loves to pull them out and look at them on his own. He has also started helping me pick them up sometimes.

3. It's ok to "fence them in."

I think kids need boundaries. We are able to close the doors in our long hallway. Hudson loves to run up and down the hall and I love that he gets some energy out in this way.

Since our house has a split level foyer, we put a gate at the top of the stairs.

At first, I thought that the gates would be annoying - but they are easy to swing open and closed. And if this will save us from a tumble, I am all for it.

We also chose to put gates at our kitchen doors. There are just too many things to "child-proof" in the cooking area.

I have learned, though, that if I need to entertain Hudson in a new way, letting him walk in a normally off-limit area is a big deal! He loves a walk through the kitchen or getting to explore the guest bedroom. He quickly notices if a door is open the hallway too. He will take off running! He knows the normal boundaries.

Since the VCR (yes, we still have one of those) is just too enticing for those little fingers, I put an ottoman in front of the tv.

This keeps little hands and toys out of the electronic devices and makes Hudson not go nose-to-nose with Daniel Tiger on the TV. "Ugga-Mugga"

4. Don't put all the toys out at one time.

This is a tip that I learned from my mom. She would rotate our toys - if all the toys are out all the time, it's less exciting. This also helps me avoid the "day-care look." If I bring out a different tractor or some other blocks, Hudson is immediately entertained.  I reserve certain toys for the car or long trips. Other toys are great for when I need to fold some clothes in the basement. And clean up is a breeze.

We keep his tunnel put up until he is having a rough day. It's an immediate mood booster.

5. Rotate the toy locations in the living room.  This is easy to do if you are keeping toys or books in tubs and baskets.

For now, his books are in front of the hutch.  (It's also keeping Hudson from getting into the "hidden toys" in the cabinet. He loves when I let him open the doors and choose toys).

The books used to be over by the entertainment center.

Just moving the tub made everything seem new again.

For now, this is working for us. Until we are able to play outside in warm weather, I will keep trying to entertain this little guy inside.

And for those of you who are wondering, I do have to pick up toys that get tossed through the banister down the stairs. But for now, it's not a huge problem and only seems to happen once every few days.

I would love to know tips that other mothers have learned. It's hard to get every idea or solution into one blog post, and I love learning from other moms how they are surviving.

A friend of mine just posted about how to entertain a little boy with a broken leg - check out her post for some great ideas! 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Snowed in and Making up Recipes

If you follow anyone on Facebook or Instagram who lives in the south east, it's no surprise that we are snowed in.

It started coming down yesterday, and we woke up to a beautiful winter wonderland this morning.

It was melting quickly, so I ran out front to capture a few pictures of our house in the wintery blanket.

I'm not a huge snow fan - I think it's beautiful for a day. So, I am happy to say we have enjoyed the beauty, taken a picture or two of the house, and now celebrated the melting process and blue skies today.

Hudson is even pretending there is a need for "spring" activities.

He is practicing his mowing skills.

The snow was forecasted. I had stocked up the normal blizzard essentials: milk, break and eggs. But, since I wasn't wanting to eat French toast for a few days in a row, I started cooking. When I'm snowed in, I start watching Food Network online. (Did you know you can watch full episodes for Free here?) And watching food shows makes me want to try new recipes. But...over and over again I was missing an ingredient or two. Today, I was wanting some spinach dip. I searched a few recipes, but kept finding my pantry to be lacking. I didn't have enough sour cream. I'd used my cream cheese in another recipe yesterday.

So, I made up a recipe. And I am happy to say, it worked! Here's what I did...

Spinach Dip
3 tbsp butter
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, pressed
2 tbsp flour
1 box frozen spinach, drained
1 can evaporated milk
1/2 cup milk
salt, pepper, garlic powder, red pepper flakes to taste
1 cup shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion and garlic until it is tender. Add flour and stir until it becomes a "blonde" color. Add spinach and milks.

Cook the mixture until it thickens (3 to 5 minutes). Add the seasonings and cheese. Cook until the cheese is melted, stirring occasionally.

In the future, I might try adding a can of Rotel and/or a can of artichoke hearts.

So, what do you do on a snow day? Anyone else making up recipes? 

Friday, January 10, 2014

$1 Kitchen Drawer Makeover

Things start changing in my house every January. Furniture gets moved around. Cabinets are rearranged. My pile of items to sell in the upcoming consignment sale grows. I blame a few factors.
  1. Its cold. I go out less. I'm stuck inside. 
  2. The Christmas decor is gone and the house seems dull. 
  3. A new year makes me want to reorganize. 
  4. As I put away Christmas gifts, I have to get rid of items that aren't being used. (Mom always said, "You get a new purse, you get rid of an old purse.")
I did get out of the house yesterday for a few groceries and diapers. While I was in Target I HAD to stop by that Dollar Spot. And, you all know I have a slight obsession with those awesome little rolls of $1 wrapping paper. (See what I did with some of that paper here). 

I have a rubber-like shelf liner in all my kitchen cabinets. However, it never stays put in the drawers. Plus, when I open a drawer, I see more of that boring colored rubber liner than when I look in my cabinet shelves. After chasing that piece of rubber liner around the drawers one too many times, I removed it. 

But I was left with a very unattractive piece of wood staring at me each time I put dishes away. I have found that it is so much easier for me to keep something organized if it is cute. I don't know why...but that's what works for me. That being said, I knew that I had to find a "cuter" solution.

One roll of patterend wrapping paper and some double stick tape were a perfect fix. I also love the fact that it took less than 10 minutes for me to re-line my kitchen drawers.  Quick and cheap.

Since this Herringbone pattern was quite linear, it was easy to get the paper almost the right size just by eye-balling it and cutting down one of the lines. Then, I would lay the paper in the drawers, creasing the excess paper in the corners. It was super easy to trim the paper along the creases for a perfect fit. 

A piece of double-stick tape in each corner of the drawer is currently holding the paper in place just fine. 

Sure, the rubber may have been more durable and the paper may rip eventually. But for $1, I can quickly redo the liners! And then, because it is something new and a different pattern, I will be motivated again to keep things organized.

I want to be on the lookout for some clear drawer organizers. I think it would be fun to keep my utensils in place but still see the cute paper underneath. 

The bathroom drawers and a few dressers may be getting a quick makeover as I continue organizing the house. 

I figure, if I'm going to be obsessed with a certain $1 item, I might as well find creative ways to use it around the house. While I had the roll out, I decided a fun patterned table runner would be another quick use for the paper. I'm having some friends over for card games and soup in a few days - 

I always love to add a little something extra to the table to make the meal seem more special. And if something is spilled on the runner, I don't have to do laundry! Just roll out some more paper.

How do you motivate yourself to stay organized? Have you found any fun uses for the $1 wrapping paper?