Five simple tricks to keep you and your sandbox happy

How to keep bugs out of your sandbox and other sandbox tips!

I have mixed emotions about sandboxes.

They keep my son occupied for long periods of time. He is so happy slinging sand around.

They are also very messy. Sand sticks to everything and magically spreads throughout the yard.

Not to mention that sandboxes attract bugs.

I am not sure if I love or hate our sandbox but it sure makes my son happy.

Here are few tips that will help you and your child enjoy the sandbox more this summer:

Tip #1:

How to keep bugs out of your sandbox and other sandbox tips!

Fight bugs by mixing cinnamon into the sand. I was happy to hear that bugs hate cinnamon, which will keep the insects at bay. I bought an industrial-size bottle for a few bucks and poured it in. Not only does it help keep bugs out, it may keep them away from the perimeter, too. Afterwards, my son used the cinnamon container as a sand toy. Win-Win.

Tip #2:

Choose your sand wisely. Play sand is specifically cleaned for children. We almost bought the run-of-the-mill sand at Home Depot until we were warned against it. Play sand is softer and nicer, and it doesn’t have carcinogenics that may be present in other sand. Read the package, do your homework and make sure you are getting the sand you want.

Tip #3:

Keep baby powder on hand. Is sand stuck to your kid? Feet? Hands? Arms? This magic powder will get it right off.

Tip #4:

Don’t forget to keep it clean. Take out any stray plants or other flotsam that has migrated into the sand box. Keep it covered when not in use.

Tip #5:

Change out the sand every year or two. We won’t need this reminder because we lose sand daily. There is something about flying sand that delights a kid! However, it’s good to keep track of how old your sand is.

My favorite tip is adding cinnamon to our sandbox to keep the bugs away. It smells great too.

Any more to add to this list?

Note: There may be affiliate links in this post to help with the costs associated with this blog. All opinions are my own.

Three words: Cook. Pasta. Faster.

You can shave 4-5 minutes off your pasta prep time with this shortcut.

Last week we had one of those nights. I got back from work late. Our toddler’s tummy was rumbling and we didn’t want to give him a snack or he wouldn’t eat dinner at all. Oh, he was a cranky toddler.

We were going to grill for dinner and all of a sudden, a very menacing thunderstorm approached. I didn’t see it on my weather app. Surely it couldn’t rain if it didn’t say so on my app, right?

We had to change directions, which was fine. I chose the Easy Ham and Cheese Pasta, which we love. We had ham and peas in the freezer, cheese in the fridge, pasta in the cupboard and spices on the rack. We were set.

It’s an easy recipe to begin with, but this time I decided to see if I could cook it even faster. My son’s whining tends to push me toward innovation. 

Recently, Huffpost ran an piece on how to cook pasta in less time. Here are the key points:

  • Use a frying pan, sauce pan, skillet or the equivalent, instead of your normal pot.
  • Put the pasta in first, then add the water. (The instructions said just enough water to cover the pasta. I added a bit more than that.)
  • Turn on the burner and boil until done.

First, by using a frying pan there is more surface to heat and it takes less time for the water to boil. I definitely noticed a difference in the time it took to heat the water.

Second, the noodles start to cook from the time you turn on the burner.

Pasta doesn’t take long to make but this saved me about 4-5 minutes from the total time.

I can see how it would be a sin to cook like this if you are serious about your pasta. Or, if you are making a very large batch. I agree that the tried-and-true way would work best.

This trick is absolutely perfect if you are cooking a quick meal for a hungry family. I’ve used this a few times since then and it’s the only way I’ll cook pasta now.

Here is a YouTube Video to see exactly how it’s done.
Life Hack: Cook pasta in half the time!
Life Hack: Cook pasta in half the time!

This post is part of the Mom Blog Party.

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!

Mom hack: Buy a shoe sizer to save time, money and your sanity!

Mom hack: Buy a shoe sizer to save time, money and your sanity!

 

Along with cutting toddler fingernails, shoe shopping is high on our list of things we don’t enjoy doing.

We did what many parents do: we braved the crowded mall on a Saturday and had our son’s feet measured at Stride Rite.

It was a zoo, but I felt confident we left the store with the correct sized shoes. What kills me is that we could have bought a similar shoe for less online, even with the sale at the store.

My husband and I had been talking for a while about buying a shoe sizer. Wouldn’t it be great to measure your kids’ feet at home?

Last week I read about the Squatchi Kids Shoe Sizer, and  I immediately ordered it from Amazon. It is a nice blue, sturdy sizer.

After using it, I realized that ZJ’s shoes should probably be retired. Not only that, but we needed to go up an entire size. We bought him shoes this weekend. Easy. His new size 7.5 shoes fit him perfectly.

From now on, it will be easier to buy shoes online for our son.  Or, I can buy him shoes in the store WITHOUT him being with me.

A note: the shoe sizer is not perfect. You need to account for size variations among shoe brands. Also, my son wears a wide width and the Squatchi doesn’t measure width.

However, it’s already been worth the money I paid for it. If only, to keep me out of the mall on a Saturday!

Mom hack: Buy a shoe sizer to save time, money and your sanity!

 

Freeze your own rice: simplify dinnertime and save money too!

Freeze your own rice: save time and money!Frozen rice is a gift from God. It can save 20-30 minutes on busy nights. Just pop it in the microwave (or heat on the stove) with a little butter and spices.

I used to buy frozen rice at the grocery store until I realized I could cook and freeze my own rice at a fraction of the cost. Frankly, I think it tastes better, too.

Step 1: Make a big batch of rice.

Freeze your own rice: save time and money!

Step 2: Let it cool some and put 1-2 cups of rice per freezer bag, depending on your usage.

Step 3: Refridgerate the rice bags, and when cool, transfer to the freezer. Make sure the bags lie flat so that it doesn’t take up too much space when frozen.

So easy. And so much cheaper than buying pre-packaged frozen rice!

 

 

How to drink more water

Do you need to drink more water? Buy a bigger glass.Do you need to drink more water? Buy a bigger glass.

Studies have shown that the bigger the plate, the more you eat. (That’s why you use a smaller plate to eat less.)

Same holds true that the bigger the glass, the more you’ll drink.

This year, it became clear that I was not drinking enough water. It was difficult for me to drink water during pregnancy and I never really get back up to the level where I should be.

I upgraded my 20 oz cup to a Bubba 32 oz tumbler with a gigantic straw. Immediately I saw an increase in the number of ounces I drank each day when I was at work.

I went back to Target and got a second cup for home.

How to drink more water

Do you need to drink more water? Buy a bigger glass.Do you need to drink more water? Buy a bigger glass.

Studies have shown that the bigger the plate, the more you eat. (That’s why you use a smaller plate to eat less.)

Same holds true that the bigger the glass, the more you’ll drink.

This year, it became clear that I was not drinking enough water. It was difficult for me to drink water during pregnancy and I never really get back up to the level where I should be.

I upgraded my 20 oz cup to a Bubba 32 oz tumbler with a gigantic straw. Immediately I saw an increase in the number of ounces I drank each day when I was at work.

I went back to Target and got a second cup for home.

6 creative places to take your toddler on a cold or rainy day

6 creative places to take your toddler on a cold or rainy day

It’s raining. Or cold. And you’ve been inside your home with your kids for way too long. What do you do?

Our son, ZJ, is two and exerts more energy in one hour than I do in a week. He is a runner and I am usually exhausted by the end of the day.  But it’s so important that we give him time and space to run and play.

This winter has been cold and rainy, which has severely limited his outside time. Spring is almost here but that promises more rain.

So, we’ve been forced to be creative.

Our criteria for a rainy-day activity is that it be relatively inexpensive and not too far away from our home. Our son needs a large space to explore, and ideally we want him to be exposed to new things.

Here are few of the places we took our toddler this year so far, which we highly recommend:

1. Pet store.

Take your kid to look at the fish and birds and reptiles at your local pet store. The pet stores near us don’t sell dogs, but many have pet adoption days. On one hand, it’s great because your kid gets to directly interact with the dogs who are up for adoption. On the other, if you are not careful, you may walk out with a new dog in tow!

6 creative places to take your toddler on a cold or rainy day

2. Local hotels and convention centers.

We have found a hotel that is perfect for our two-year old. We recently went to the Washington Gaylord Hotel, which has water fountains, tons of tall staircases and beautiful views of the harbor nearby. We even ran into the Washington Redskins Cheerleaders! You need to be choosy which hotel you take your kid to, but they generally have plenty of space for roaming, especially if it’s also a convention center.

6 creative places to take your toddler on a cold or rainy day

 

3. Bookstores and libraries.

Take advantage of bookstores and libraries, which often have book readings for young kids. Or, kid-size tables to explore new books. Our local Barnes and Noble has occasional book readings on Saturday mornings. Our library has readings too, but usually during the week when we work. It’s pretty easy to find these schedules online. The bonus part: If we are at the library, we always come home with new books!

6 creative places to take your toddler on a cold or rainy day

4. Museums.

We are lucky to live near Washington, DC, where all the Smithsonian museums are free. This winter we’ve gone to the Museum of Natural History (to see the larger than life mammals on display) and the Air and Space Museum. We arrive right when it opens and he is tired after an hour of exploring. Aquariums are also great places for young kids.

If you don’t live near free museums, many throughout the country have a free admission day sometime during the month, or you can find various discounts through your library or city.  Most areas have children’s museums but look further to see what other museums your kid may enjoy.

6 creative places to take your toddler on a cold or rainy day

5. Airport.

Warning, not all airports are suitable as a rainy-day alternative. Our nearest airport is clean, near by and has a lot of space before the security check-in. He can wander around (as it’s usually not overwhelmingly crowded in certain areas) or stand by the windows where he can see dozens of airplanes coming and going. Yes, this usually requires a parking fee, but it has been worth it.

6 creative places to take your toddler on a cold or rainy day

6. Your local in-door playground.

I can’t cover them all here as every community is different, but a quick search will show you what indoor gyms are in your area.

  • Local toddler gyms. There are tons of them out there. They often get crowded on rainy days but are loads of fun.
  • Community Centers: Every Friday our local center has a soft-block room available for kids for $1. Check out your local community center to see what it offers.
  • McDonalds or Chick Fil-A Playgrounds: Especially good for roadtrips.

We are always on the hunt for good indoor, rainy-day activities. Please leave a comment if you have any to add!

 

I tried to make a cookie with only three ingredients and….

I tired to make a single three-ingredient cookie and ....I would love to find the perfect three-ingredient cookie recipe. I love simplicity. I love cookies and anything baked. Wouldn’t it be great if the two worked together?

Last weekend I found a recipe for a single peanut butter cookie on Pinterest. Perfect for someone like me who doesn’t want to eat more than one cookie. It was only three ingredients.

It was almost too good to be true.

It was Sunday afternoon, and my husband and son were going down for their afternoon naps. I thought I would try it. If it turned out well, I wouldn’t have to share.

1. Mix:

  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup of powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of whisked egg

2. Roll into balls, place on cooking sheet and make criss-cross pattern with a fork.

3. Bake for 12-15 minutes (depends on the oven).

Here is the original recipe. (This is a fantastic tutorial with great pics.)

I took some shortcuts here — I used the toaster oven. I didn’t have any creamy peanut butter so I used my husband’s chunky. I put it on foil and let it go.

The original recipe called for 12-15 minutes and I let it cook 12 minutes, which was too long. Yes, it was a little crispy. You could smell the slight tinge of almost-burn wafting in the kitchen. (Although, it wasn’t bad enough to set off the smoke detector, which would have woken up my son. Whew!)

The taste: I ate around the crispy parts and it wasn’t bad. Tasted like cooked peanut butter that was sweetened. Hit the spot for me that afternoon but I wouldn’t serve it to guests.

Seriously, what can you expect from a three-ingredient cookie? There is a reason why some things are more complicated to make.

So here is my shortcut takeaway: Three-ingredient cookies are a quick fix if you need something now. Otherwise, if you are looking for a good shortcut cookie, go to your neighborhood bakery!

P.S. Don’t try this with almond butter, or anything other than peanut butter. Trust me — it does not work at all!

How to save money on diaper disposal bags

petwaste

Here is a way to save a few bucks on diaper disposal bags.

We received a three-pack of Munchkins Arm and Hammer disposable bags for babies at a baby shower. They were great — when we are on the road, we could easily tie up ZJ’s dirty diapers and toss them.

We were running low, and my sister happened to be in town. She owns three mastiffs and had a better idea. Why not buy dog disposal bags instead?

The dog bags were basically the same, and meant for the same purpose: waste removal. They were a little smaller but definitely big enough to handle the messiest of diaper changes.

And here is the kicker: You can often find them cheaper than 3 rolls of bags marketed toward parents.

Ok, yes, these bags are all pretty cheap in and of themselves. But we bought a 10 pack for a few bucks and we’ve been using that same pack for more than a year now.

Sometimes it pays off to stray from the baby aisles!