Toddler travel: Nine things that help us survive roadtrips

We travel a lot because many of our friends and family members don’t live nearby. Some live closer than others. And some months I feel like we are always on the move.

Traveling with toddlers is a different beast. Many are not yet self-sufficient and often lack the ability to reason. That is to say: toddlers are unpredictable and need a lot of attention.

Recently we took a day trip to Philadephia.  ZJ is now 27 months old and we needed to fill the three-hour ride (each way).

It was time to rethink our travel toys for our son. He has grown so much since the last time we took a road trip!

So I revised our packing list to accommodate a messy, and sometimes fickle boy. The toys that work best for us are ones that include stickers, magnets, cars or stories (movies, books, etc).

Toddler travel: Nine things that help us survive roadtrips

Here are nine key things we now include on our travel list:

  • Re-usable stickers. Melissa and Doug’s reusable sticker kit is perfect. Featuring cars, animals and dinosaurs, what more could a toddler want? They can be recycled for the next trip.
  • Magnetic Fun – Cars Planes and Trains.  This has quickly become one of my son’s favorite toys. It’s a small magnetic case with endless number of magnets to play with. It’s more compact than the re-usable sticker book (if space is a problem). If your kid is still prone to stick tiny things in his mouth, some of the magnets are tiny. Just be careful. Here’s an alternative: bring a cookie sheet with your own magnets.
  • Melissa and Doug’s Water Wow.  This coloring book is awesome. Just fill up the pen with water and when you draw, the pages come to life. It’s a no-mess alternative to coloring. Now if only the pen came attached to the pad…
  • A few favorite cars. Our son loves just holding on to his favorites while in the car. We like this because when we stop for gas, or we get to our destination, he is ready to play with them.
  • The Leapfrog Junior Reader.  A Leapfrog reader is a great way to get book time in while in the car. Regular books work just as well too!
  • Portable DVD player. We recently invested in car dvd players that easily attach to the back of the front seats.
  • Apps. My favorite are PBS Kids apps.
  • Snacks. Bring a mixture of healthy and fun snacks. We pack yogurt packets and string cheese in our cooler, but also have some animal crackers and jelly beans to mix it up.
  • Doggie. This is a given, but bring your kid’s favorite stuffed animal, blanket, pillow, toy, etc. Doggie (as we call him) comes with us everywhere and provides comfort in new situations. We are slowly weaning him off doggie but he is a life saver right now!

For our trip to Philly, I used a clear stadium bag to pack his toys so we could both see what was available to play with.

We have longer trips coming up this summer — an eight-hour car ride to North Carolina and a cross-country trip to Seattle. This shorter trip gave me a good idea of what works and what doesn’t.

Traveling with a toddler can be both exciting and exhausting at the same time. We try to make sure we have a variety of fun things to do, just in case!

Toddler travel: Nine things that help us survive roadtrips

 

Can’t stop scratching that mosquito bite? Here is a simple trick that actually works

Can't stop scratching that mosquito bite? Here is a simple tip that actually works.

 

Our yard is a haven for mosquitoes, and unfortunately the first of these wily insects hit us this week. The other night I found two mosquito bites on my leg. Arghh!

During the offseason, I read about this hack to stop mosquito itching. It was so crazy that I had to try it.

Just apply deodorant to the bite.

I felt a tad silly putting deodorant on my leg, but it actually worked! The bites stopped itching immediately. It was an hallelujah moment.

I used powdered deodorant, and I would be a little hesitant to use a gel variety. But who knows? That may be effective, too.

I love this very clean and simple way to address summer bites. Safe for my son to use as well.

This is definitely my favorite hack so far for the summer!

A simple way to add foam milk to your morning coffee

Make foam milk at home! www.theshortcutmom.com

I love coffee. I used to get lattes from the local coffee shop every single day for years, until I realized it wasn’t so good for my pocketbook or my waist. (I always came back with one of the yummy pastries, too.)

Now I can take my home-brewed coffee up a notch. Turns out that it’s very simple to make your own foam milk at home. All you needs is a mason jar, a microwave and, of course, some milk.

  1. Put milk in a mason jar.
  2. Put the lid on and shake for at least 30 seconds. (The longer, the better.)
  3. Take the lid off and microwave the jar for 30 seconds. (The key is to take off the lid before it goes into the microwave. Very important point.)
  4. Spoon foam into coffee.

I love this hack because I can’t always go to the coffee shop and I don’t want to own another appliance to froth my milk.

Watch this video from America’s Test Kitchen.on how to make foam milk for your coffee:

What I am reading: Brilliant tips for money-saving moms, handling stress and appliance hacks

10 Brilliant (and Doable) Ways to Save $1000s on Baby Costs

I know I am a total geek, but I thought this was an absolutely brilliant video on how to save money on baby or kids stuff. It covers diapers, gear, food, formula and clothes, and it shows you how to maximize your savings by playing Amazon and Target off each other. These tips initially focus on new parents but I found helpful ideas for shopping for my toddler. I highly recommend this resource from the Krazy Coupon Lady. Watch the video above or click through for more.


5 Things You Should Do Every Single Day — Even When Life is Stressful

Crystal Paine, The Money Saving Mom, has five tips for helping your day go more smoothly — keep your kitchen clean, make your bed, and actually dress yourself nice. It’s so important to make time for yourself. Even 15 minutes. I know this won’t fix every problem you face (like a toddler meltdown), but I know it helps when I can take care of myself first.


59 Cool and Unusual Uses for Your Appliances

Looking to mix it up in the kitchen? This list of 59 unusual uses for appliances from Choice Home Warranty is a good place to start! Here are some of my favorites:

  • Whip cream in a French press
  • Slice soft foods with an egg slicer
  • Freeze huge ice cubes in a muffin tray
  • Shred meat in a mixer

There are 55 more of them!

 

What I learned from my failure as an artsy mom

What I learned from my failure to be an artsy mom

Last year I realized as a relatively new mom that I needed an arts and crafts box. I must have gotten that idea from Pinterest. Yes, it definitely was Pinterest. It was the pretty pictures of all the wonderful educational crafts I could make my son. All the pretty pictures. They were sirens calling me.

I ran to the store and bought a few cheap crafty essentials: felt, construction paper, googly eyes, pipe cleaners, glue. It was a meager beginning but it was a start.

I wanted to make an educational felt quiet book for my son to take with us for an upcoming road trip to North Carolina. Life got in the way and it never got made. The crafty essentials stayed in a bag.

Fast forward to last week: I was cleaning out the hall closet and realized I had a whole plastic bin to spare. I could finally finish my crafts box. I felt some regret that I never started the educational book for ZJ. We have a few more road trips coming up soon, but I wasn’t going to delude myself into thinking I would finish it now, either.

It was time to box up my supplies and find a resting place for it in the basement.

What I learned from my failure to be an artsy mom

In the process of filling my new crafts box, something happened. ZJ found the bits and pieces meant for the inside.

First, it was the googly eyes. I have to admit even I like googly eyes. ZJ spent hours playing with the larger ones. He was so excited about these cartoonish body parts that he brought them everywhere, repeating the word “eyes.” Eyes.

Shortly after, he found the rest of the box and immediately started to play with the rectangular pieces of felt, fresh from the pack. He would arrange them by colors in perfect order. Move them. Rearrange them. Throw them in the air. And smile.

We had trouble getting him into the bath that night because he was so happy playing with simple pieces of felt.

I never had to glue, cut, sew or manipulate pieces of fabric to make him happy.  All I had to do is provide him with a blank canvas. Or, simply give him access to my crafts box.

Sometimes I feel bad that I don’t have time to make these super wonderful educational tools, or monogrammed pillows, or adorable organizing cubbies, that I see on Pinterest or on blog posts.

I’d like to, and I would if I had the time.

The lesson I learned this week is that all I have to do is give my son the tools. That’s all I need to give. He’ll take care of the rest.

What I learned from my failure as an artsy mom. www.theshortcutmom.com

What I am reading: Make summer entertaining easier, help dessert-obsessed kids and more

Happy Friday! Here are some articles that I’ve been reading lately:

My Secrets to Making {Summer} Entertaining EASY!

I will admit that entertaining scares me sometimes, and often I am at loss as to what to serve. I probably over complicate the process. I love Organizing Made Fun‘s tips for easy outdoor entertaining. Keep it simple and know your strengths. Know what foods you are good at cooking and keep the ingredients on hand in the freezer.  As we prepare for our annual Memorial Day barbecue, I am going to take a few of these tips to heart.

Got Dessert-Obsessed Kids? This Solution Sounds Crazy–But It Works!

Serve dessert with dinner.  From Parents.com, the premise of this tactic is to take away our kids’ obsession with dessert by including it with the main course. Dessert can play a part in a balanced diet, and doesn’t need to have overwhelming power. I think this may be worth a try if your kid rushes through dinner just to get to the sweets at the end.

5 Ways to Stop Worrying About What Everyone Thinks of You

Number one point: “Remind yourself that most people are NOT thinking about you anyway.” My husband is a master of not caring what other people think of him, yet he is still caring and compassionate. I look to him as a very good example because I still worry (a little) about what people think. I like Marc and Angel’s five tips to stop worrying about what everyone thinks of you. 

My new favorite kitchen tool: a microwave popcorn bowl

Momhack: Use a bowl specifically made for microwave popcorn
Popcorn is one of the greatest things on Earth. Not only does it taste good but it’s fun. My son particularly loves it, especially the sweet kind.

Lately I’ve been experimenting with DIY air-popped popcorn. A few months ago, I found a way to simply pop your own popcorn in a paper bag. All you need is a paper lunch bag, a quarter cup of kernels, and a microwave. Genius, right?

Momhack: Use a bowl specifically made for microwave popcorn

This spring I graduated to the next level of popcorn making. Here is a slight twist on DIY air popping: There is a bowl specifically made for air popping popcorn. This Nordic Ware version is less than $10 from Amazon, and I am sure there are other brands out there that work just as well.

Put some oil or butter on the bottom of the bowl before adding the kernels to give it a nice flavor if you choose. I use coconut oil most of the time.

Place the lid on the bowl and about 3 minutes later is perfection. Sometimes if I am feeling it, I’ll add more butter.

What I love about air popping my own popcorn is that I can control what’s in my snack. I can add pure butter or salt or sugary toppings to my preference. Or nothing at all. It’s cleaner and I know what’s going in my body.

It’s also cheaper because a bag of popcorn kernels costs less than buying anything prepackaged!

Travel tip: Check out a few books online from your library before your trip

Travel tip: borrow books online (for free) from your local library

Many of you who enjoy reading may already know this, but I figured it was worth writing about because I love this trick so much:

You can check out e-books online from your local library.

Free.

From your home (or anywhere). 

Okay, I can’t vouch for every library in the country but it seems to be a trend to offer e-books for library card holders that you can download to your e-reader.

I recently went to Seattle for a girls weekend, and it was going to be a long flight. ZJ wasn’t with me so I knew I’d have time to read. Before I left, I went through dozens of books on my library’s website that I could easily borrow and read if they struck my fancy.

I checked out books on history, home organization and other topics, just in case. I like to have reading options while traveling. I love to skim non-fiction books, many of which I don’t want to own.

If the book is popular at your library, it could take a while to get access to it. The library has the same system with e-books as it does with real books — they only have a limited number they can loan out a time. Sometimes I on a waiting list for a month or two before I can check out a book. I can never tell when these books will be available either. That’s the downside.

To ensure I got the fiction book I wanted for the plane, I bought an e-book from Amazon:  Voyager (the third Outlander book).

I have also checked out audio books online.

This electronic option is fantastic for when we’re traveling. Of course, I still believe nothing takes the place of a physical library or a paper book. However, this is the next best thing.

 

What’s for breakfast? Power pancakes!

Healthy and easy power pancakes! The Shortcut MomThis year I decided to put my sports bra back on and start exercising again, post baby. Serious exercise. I love it — a hard workout always invigorates me.

It also increases my appetite.

The next morning (post workout), I am ravenous, so I started to eat more protein for breakfast. And yes, I quickly grew tired of scrambled eggs.

When I read about protein-packed pancakes, I was all in.

I love, love, love pancakes. However, when protein is the main ingredient instead of flour, it is more challenging to make these pancakes as tasty.

On top of that, any recipe I use should also be simple and quick. I need to be able to make it in the morning before work with a toddler in tow.

I experimented with several types of protein pancakes and found one that really tastes like a pancake.

Healthy and easy power pancakes! The Shortcut Mom

There are three key ingredients in these power pancakes: oatmeal, cottage cheese and egg whites. You can add other flavors to your liking but the basic components are healthy and easy.

1/4 cup oatmeal
1/4 cup cottage cheese
1/4 cup egg whites (or less. Too many eggs ruins the pancakes. Trust me)

It’s 1:1:1

Optional: vanilla extract, stevia (or other sweetener), chocolate chips, fruit (bananas, yummy!)

Take one-part oatmeal, one-part cottage cheese and one-part egg whites and mix it up in the blender. It only takes a few seconds. (Then try this blender cleaning hack afterwards.)

Add your optional ingredients, then cook up your pancakes. I eat them with almond butter. I can still taste this morning’s batch!

After eating these power pancakes, I feel filled-up full and ready for the day, without that “oh-my-goodness-what-did-I-eat” feeling.

As a shortcut, I often make the batter at night, add a little water or milk in the morning and whip them up before I go to work.

Here are two of my favorite pancake shortcuts:

A better way to powder your pancakes: Easy DIY sugar dispenser

DIY powdered sugar dispenser: Use an old spice jar!

Kitchen hack: Clean your blender faster

Clean your blender faster! #momhack

 

Easy Protein Power Pancakes

Keywords: fry breakfast gluten-free

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup oatmeal
  • 1/4 cup cottage cheese
  • 1/4 cup egg whites

Instructions

Blend ingredients in blender or other mixer.

Make as you would normal pancakes.

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Reading this week: Using up veggies, table salt hacks and taking your toddler to the store

Happy Friday! Here are some of my favorites during the week ending April 10, 2015:

3 Simple Strategies for Using Up Veggies Before They Go Bad

From Raising Healthy Eaters: Here are some simple strategies to make sure your veggies don’t go bad. Yes, I am a regular offender in this area. Right now I have a bag of broccoli sitting in the crisper that I suspect is too old. I will start making a veggie use-by list and see how that goes!

 

7 Salt Life Hacks You Should Know

This video contains some good hacks using simple table salt. Some are more useful than others but many of these tricks are worth considering. My favorite hack from the video is using salt to eliminate the black stuff you get on your sponge after cleaning a particularly gnarly pan. I am looking forward to trying that!


How to run errands with a toddler and stay sane

The article can be boiled down to this point: Know your limits, and know your child’s limits. Taking your child with you to run errands doesn’t have to be a horrible experience. Just make sure he or she is well-fed and ready for the experience. Make sure you are well-fed and ready for the experience too.  Also, get your toddler involved in the process, or promise them a trip to the park afterwards. Thanks to The Jenny Evolution for such practical advice!