Saturday, June 11, 2011

You Should've Seen the Before

My girls are seriously cleanliness handicapped. Salem can't go a day without hiding food and old sippy cups under her bed, and Kaylin's definition of cleaning her room is shoving everything in the closet. When I started the Don't Sweat It project I made a vow to keep things in my house  organized and semi-clean. I can vibe with that. It makes me feel good and less chaotic. Inside and out.
I figured the best place to start would be the worst place in the house ..... the kids' room. It's still not finished, but I think I have a pretty good start.

Since Salem is only two I made sure to put all of the toys she was allowed to play with out and within reach. I put all of the toys that require supervision on the top shelf in the closet (crayons, makeup, etc).

My husband and I took an old table and cut it in half. We also sawed off the legs. Then I painted one half pink & green and the other half red & green. We mounted the pink one to the wall in the girls' room. It makes a great custom made desk. We mounted the other half in the kitchen for use as a little breakfast table. I was inspired by an article in Better Homes and Gardens magazine and this project cost around $100 for two custom made desks/tables.

My girls have a ton of stuffed animals ... and they keep rolling in. I bought toy hammocks and chains from Walmart and they work great for keeping them up and out of the toy boxes. They're also decorative. For two sets it cost around $24 and I've downsized from four toy boxes to one! We also have a new rule in our home. Every time the girls get a new toy they have to give an old one to charity.

So there it is. I still have plans to finger paint the walls, hang up numerous posters and cutouts from the Education Outfitters store, and buy some rugs and other things. When I'm completely finished I don't think the girls will ever want to leave!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Frugal Father's Day Ideas

 Father's Day is just around the corner and I'm broke. However, I do like to make my hubby feel special on Father's Day. So eventhough I can't afford to buy him a Nook or the latest video game I plan to make the most of celebrating the fact that he is a wonderful father. It's a good thing he doesn't read this blog because I'm about to tell you everything we have planned for his special day.

1. Clean out His Car ( I am planning to wake up earlier than he does on Father's Day and have the kids help me clean out his truck. When we are done I think we will leave a note on the steering wheel letting him know what a great daddy he is)

2. Homemade T-shirts ( I am going to buy a pack of plain white t-shirts and let the girls loose painting whatever they want to on the front and then put their handprints and their names on the back)

3. A Gift Basket from the Kitchen ( I am going to buy a few packets of those cheap Betty Crocker cookie and bread mixes, some slim jims, make some homemade salsa, and possibly a few other things and load up a basket, wrap it up, and hand it over)

4. A Day Off ( In addition to all of this Daddy will have a whole day off. Trust me ... he will enjoy this one. )

Here are some other ideas just for you and yours!

1. Crown him King Dad ( Have your children make a crown and decorate it and then on Father's Day have a special ceremony and crown him King Daddy)

2. Photography ( Go to a professional or take photos of the kiddies yourself and then have the children decorate special frames just for Dad to display the photos)

3. Start a Fund ( Most of us have the thing that we've always wanted, but could never afford. Have your kids decorate a mason jar with acrylic paints, cut a slit in the top big enough for change to fit through, donate some money, and present it as a savings bank towards that truck or boat that your dad has always wanted!)

4. Lunchtime Goody Bags ( If your dad takes his lunch to work everyday make up a week's worth of goody bags for him to take with him to work everyday. You can include cookies, candies, trail mix, soda, or any of his favorite snack foods.)

Happy Father's Day!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Bored Box

At our house there is not a day gone by that my kids don't approach me with the ever popular "Mommyyyyyy .... I'm booorrrreeedddd". If you're anything like me you know that those words can be exhausting....especially when you're busy tending to household chores and what not. My response use to be, "I'm not your personal party planner .... go play ... use your imagination ... do something!" Well ... that never works. So, Kaylin and I created what we call The Bored Box. It's just a decorated shoe box that I keep playtime ideas in for when the kids are bored or it's a rainy day.

What You Will Need:

* An empty Shoebox ( you can have your kid (s) decorate it if you wish)

* Small pieces of paper or post it's

* Ideas


*Write your ideas for curing boredom on the peices of paper and put them inside the shoe box. When your children are bored tell them to grab a peice of paper from the bored box and have them hop to it! I always keep ideas in the bored box that I know will require little to no supervision from myself. That way, if I am busy with other things, the kids will be entertained and I will still have time to get my to do list checked off.

Here are some ideas out of my our bored box

* Office Play ( I set the kids up a little office with an old phone, paper, paper clips, and things that you would find in an office .. .let their imaginations do the rest. This usually keeps my kids busy for at least an hour)

* Dress Up ( I have a box dedicated to old clothes and makeup that I think the girls would like to play with. They have a ton of fun with it)

* Campfire Play ( I set up a little play tent, grab a few sticks and rocks from outside for the fake campfire,  I set up a blue blanket with little stuffed ocean pets for the lake, I set other stuffed animals up around the room for the forest, and tell the girls to grab their flashlights and pack their backpacks, and then every once in awhile I come in and flip the light to imitate daylight or nighttime. It takes a little bit to set up, but it keeps them entertained)

* Scavenger Hunt ( I usually just print a quick list off of the internet and set them loose)

* Story Time

* Hide & Seek

* Move Time w/popcorn and pop

That's just a few of the things we have in our bored box. You can add your own or look up inside playtime ideas on the internet. Feel free to let me know how things go or ask me any questions in the comments section. I would also love to hear about the ideas that you put in your own bored box!

Think Like A Child

"Children intuitively understand that life is a series of present moments, each meant to be experienced wholly, one right after another, as if each was important" ~ Richard Carlson

In other words ... children live in the moment. I know my children most certainly do. Salem could be wailing over a broken toy one minute and be completely content going outside to play the next. I have always attempted to implement this strategy into my adult life ... and have consistently failed ... miserably. The fact of the matter is that as an adult I have responsibilities and worries. So how I would I even begin to live in the moment?


Essentially I need to put less mental emphasis on worries, what needs to be done, the past, the future, mistakes I've made, regrets, concerns, and things that bother me. I simply need to live life now, today, in this moment ... without letting my mind carry me away to thoughts that are removed from the present. After all, isn't it true that happiness can only be attained in the now?
So how do I (an adult with children, bills, responsibilities and worries) effectively do this?  Well ... my plan is simply to work on it. To try and remind myself in the moment, when my mind starts to wander, that I need to be here ... now. There is a time to worry about bills, tackle to do lists, and voice concerns. However, that time is not boundless. I will be taking lessons from my children.

UPDATE : Operation CAPE (Create a Positive Emotional Environment) has been satisfactory over the last couple of days. The house has stayed somewhat clean. It's by no means a page out of Better Homes and Gardens. It's lived in ,as my mom would say, but it's comfortable. I have been steadily unpacking boxes and organizing. We will be building shelves and toy boxes for the girls' room in the very near future. I have not squawked one time and Kaylin has been keeping her voice down as well. Salem ... is two ... so ... yeah. We have been moving slower and enjoying our days more. It will take time, but we're getting there.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Easy Chicken Marsala


Photo Copyright Amanda Howard 2011



4 Chicken  Boneless half-breasts -- pound 1/4" thick
1/4 cup Wondra flour  (I used regular flour)
1/2 teaspoon Salt
pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon Oregano
4 tablespoons Oil
4 tablespoons Butter or margarine
1 cup Fresh mushrooms -- sliced
1/2 cup Marsala wine ( I used the wine I had on hand. It was less than $10 and a little dry)



Combine flour, salt, pepper and oregano and blend well. Heat the oil and butter in a skillet until bubbling lightly. Dredge the chicken in the flour and shake off the excess. Cook the chicken on medium heat for about 2 minutes on the first side, until lightly brown. As you turn the breasts to the second side to cook, add the mushrooms around the chicken pieces. Cook about 2 more minutes, until lightly browned on the second side. Stir the mushrooms. When the second side is lightly browned, add the wine around the pieces, cover the pan and simmer for about 10 minutes.
Photos Copyright Amanda Howard 2011

I am absolutely in love with the Olive Garden. However, every time I go there I do order the same thing. The Chicken Marsala with Garlic Parmesan mashed potatoes, a peach tea, and that yummy lemon dessert. *drool*. Fortunately (yes I said fortunately) we are too broke to splurge at the Olive Garden so I Googled the recipe. I cheat! I cheat! As it turns out ... it's really simple to recreate the recipe. I also made a couple of substitutions and it turned out delish! Garlic Parm mashed potatoes are super easy too. Just make the mashed potatoes as you normally would and add minced garlic and grated Parmesan cheese to taste. Enjoy! This is gonna make your taste buds smile.

Painting With Marbles

Being someone who loves to paint I almost always have acrylic paints on hand. They are super inexpensive and so fun to play with. This project is super easy, and just a little messy.


* Acrylic or Kid Friendly Paints. Crayola Finger Paints will work as well.

*Marbles or Bouncy Balls

*Large Shoeboxes. ( I used large cardboard serving trays leftover from a birthday party.)

* Newspaper

* Blank Paper for painting on


1. Lay the newspaper down to protect the floor.

2. Place the paper inside the shoe box

3. Squirt a few different colors of paint on the paper

4. Drop 1 or 2 marbles inside the box and roll them around the box. Let the marbles do the painting for you.

It's that easy! My kids had a ton of fun with this project. The paintings they created are now on display in their room as well. We got alot of laughs in whenever the marbles would out of the boxes. LOL. Acrylic paints will wash up with soap and water ... so no worries. Have Fun! Let me know how it goes in the comments below. :)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Operation CAPE ... or Part 2

Well ... the last few days have been interesting to say the least.
First of all, let me just tell you that in order to maintain an environment of relative calm (which is my ideal emotional environment) there are four daily goals that I determined I have to strive  for.
*1. Speak softer
2. Encourage my children to speak softer
3. Keep things organized
4. Keep things clean
Easy enough, right? .... Wrong. The first day I attempted to set this 4 step program into motion ... it was GREAT. The kids listened better when I wasn't yelling. I didn't feel like ripping my already chemically damaged hair out. The house was on it's way to cleanliness. All this and it wasn't even time for Dr. Phil yet. I was doing great ... and so were the kids. Okay ... so we'll dub the first day of Operation CAPE a success. Mission Complete.
And now for day two .... it's now the weekend and the Hubby is home. Although I love his face and miss it when it's gone ... I realized that I might want let him in on my little project as well. He came home in a not so great mood and ... well ... Day 2 of Operation CASE: Fail.
So now the weekend is over and I am attempting to get to that positive emotional environment once again. So far today I have accomplished cleaning, got started on organizing, but as as for speaking softly ... eh ... not so much. Salem is still in that infinite crying phase, Kaylin does not take kindly to not getting her way ... or her sister at times, and frankly I get irritated with them and downright pissed at times. So ... there has been some yelling, crying, and basically talking loudly all day. Aye yi yi.
In conclusion I have realized that Operation CAPE is going to be an ongoing project. It took us awhile to create the current home environment and it will take us awhile to recreate it. I have faith just knowing that I am trying .. and I will be talking to the hubby about my project as well. I will keep everyone posted on Operation CAPE as we as a family progress. As for today .. it's not over yet ... and I will be talking in a softer voice for the rest of the day.