Thursday, July 31, 2014

5 Ingredients for Indoor Summer Fun

It's hot here in south Texas. So hot you can blister your bare feet walking to the mailbox. Too hot for playing outside or mowing, though my neighbors wish I would. I keep thinking about getting a big spotlight to light up my yard so I can mow at night but not sure my neighbors would appreciate that either. But I'd rather be sitting here in the air conditioning blogging about my overgrown yard because it's just too hot! While we did enjoy a milder spring and summer than past years, inevitably the triple digits have arrived and it's time to find indoor fun for the little man. This month I've also been taking care of my grandson, meaning double the fun.

I also happen to be on a very tight entertaining budget. But with a quick trip to the dollar store and the grocery store I purchased the ingredients for not one, but three different fun play activities. You will need one box of borax, two boxes of baking soda, a box of corn starch, a couple bottles of cheap glue, and some food coloring, which I already had on hand.

Activity Number One: Slime

 Lots of ooey, gooey, squish fun!

I had to split it up into two bowls to keep the squabbling down. By the end of it my kitchen looked like a scene from Ghostbusters. 

To make your own slime, mix 1 teaspoon borax in one cup of water until it is dissolved. In another bowl, add 4 ounces glue and a half cup of water. Add desired amount of your choice of food coloring to the glue mixture. If desired, add some extra sparkle to the glue mixture with some glitter. I didn't have any on hand so we skipped the sparkle. 

Now the super fun part. Dump the borax mixture into the glue mixture and let the little hands dig in for the ultimate sensory experience. 

Activity Number Two: Bouncy Balls

I failed to get photos while we were making the bouncy balls, so I'm going to send you over to The 36th Avenue for their great, colorful tutorial using borax, glue, food coloring, and glue.

Next Time: Activity Number Three... Air Dry Baking Soda Clay

Didn't think I could sit here in the air conditioning blogging all day did you? Naw, going to go sit in an air conditioned movie theater instead...

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Angel Food Cake French Toast Sticks

I saw a beautiful post about making french toast with angel food cake. The photo accompanying the post was absolutely mouth watering. If you are on Pinterest, you've probably seen it floating around. A whole angel food cake is a lot of food for one adult and one little boy. However, when I went to the store and saw the smaller angel food loaf, I realized I could still try out angel food cake french toast without having to fill up my freezer with tons of leftovers.

Wanting it to also be kid friendly, I decided to slice up my angel food loaf into sticks. Then I simply dunked the sticks into the egg mixture and fried in the skillet, turning to brown all sides. The egg mixture I typically use for making french toast is 2-3 eggs, a splash of half and half, a dash of cinnamon and/or nutmeg, and about a half teaspoon of vanilla extract. With the angel food french toast sticks I opted for the cinnamon. Instead of slathering the sticks with homemade syrup, I filled a small dish for dipping. Great fun for little fingers.Would also be yummy dipped in warm cinnamon apple sauce or apple butter, too.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Recycled Paper Cup Gnome Houses (or Faerie, if you prefer)

I was trying to figure out how to keep two young boys busy this afternoon and decided to drag out my odds and ends craft box and let them get creative.  I am a hoarder of small things; beads, buttons, broken jewelry, glass shards, craft leftovers. I have a dedicated shelf in my garage to put things like this. You never can tell when you are going to need a broken piece of mirror to complete an art project. And you know once you throw it away, next week you will wish you hadn't. So I just don't.

My intention was to hand over the stuff and see what they came up with. Somehow when we began digging through the stuff, one of them suggested he wanted to make a faerie house, but we really didn't have a structure to build around. I had some clay pots I thought would work, only the boys wanted doors because, well, the magical creatures had to have a way to get in. That's when I remembered the left over paper coffee cups I had under the counter. So I showed them how to cut out doors, then turned them loose.

Amadeo's has a sort of a tee-pee effect going on with the feather coming up off of it. I love the little basket hanging at the door. He also has a nice little sand path and, of course, a flag.

Ben really likes Sharpy marker, as you can see. The tree on the roof gives it a winter holiday feel. There is also a little key hanging by the door, but since the door doesn't lock I'm not sure what it goes to. Secret treasure, perhaps?

Mine has a gypsy/boho feel to it with the soft feathers, bright gems, and lavender buds. I love that look. I want to turn my whole bedroom into a boho escape.

The glass beads and heavier pieces had to be glued on with a hot glue gun, which I manned. They glued their finished cups to a recycled CD base, but I left mine free standing. When they were all finished I took them outside and sprayed them with a glossy clear acrylic to add some protection and hopefully adhere everything together. When they dried the boys put them in the potted plants on my patio. I think they add a wonderful splash of color, but I'm going to have to be extra careful when watering the plants tonight. I'm not sure how water proof they really are, even with the acrylic coating.

Oh, and if you are wondering what the difference between a gnome or faerie home is, well, according to Amadeo it depends on where you place it. Since faeries are creatures of the air and can fly, a faerie home needs to be hung like a bird house. Gnomes are ground creatures, so by placing the little house on the ground it becomes a gnome house. So, by default, since all of ours are in flower pots on the ground, we made gnome houses, not faerie houses. But the important thing is it kept one five year old and one six year old busy for most of the afternoon and the results were dazzling.

Friday, July 4, 2014

How to Survive Being Jobless

Photo By Kamil Lehmann
Being jobless can feel a lot like driving down the above road. It looks barren. No gas station around for miles and your gas gauge is leaning towards empty. The road just goes on and on. Unless you brought along a few good friends for company, you might start to feel like you are all alone. You may not even be able to get radio reception out here, let alone a cell phone signal.

Stop. Pull over the car. There is beauty in the barrenness. The road does lead somewhere. And you can survive. Reach your arms to the heavens, close your eyes, and breath the fresh cool air. Then, get your ass back in that car and drive with purpose and passion, because, honey, you are going to need that fire lit full force inside you!

This is my story, how I survived one of the hardest years of my life. It was my first year as a single parent. When little one's dad moved out I had to quit my job at a local dry cleaners, the only job I could find after being out of the workforce to care for little one. I had no child care and even if I did, I couldn't afford it on my meager earnings. I managed to sneak him to work with me for a couple weeks, but then the boss found out. I was getting no child support and had no idea how I was going to keep a roof over our heads. It was scary and stressful. In fact, I didn't see child support from little one's dad until court ordered during the divorce proceedings the following year.

I am stubborn, however. I wasn't about to let this ship sink. I needed to be resourceful and creative. I needed, above all else, to care for my boys. I look back in amazement now, shaking my head in wonder at how I managed to keep a roof over our heads, the lights on, and food in our stomachs. My earned income from standard employment that year totaled a whopping $7,000. Yep, you read that right. $7,000.

So on this day of independence I share my story. How did I do it?

Garage Sales

Facebook is a wonderful thing these days. It can allow you to have contact with a large number of people. I knew most people were probably like me when it came to cleaning out their homes of unwanted possessions. They piled them in a box in the garage. The box collected cobwebs. So I posted to Facebook that I was looking for garage sale donations and that I would gladly pick up.My hunch was correct. I was able to earn over $500 with that first sale, making up the difference I needed to pay rent. I have since held three more money making yard sales to supplement our income. Each one has made nearly $300. 


Anything donated to us that I knew was of some value was listed on Craigslist. I also scoured the house and listed anything of value I knew I could live without. As I am hoping to one day move into a small cottage or build my own tiny home, I was eager to begin downsizing anyway. I don't know how much I've made selling stuff off of Craigslist. I haven't kept a record of it. But it has made a difference. There were times I didn't know if I was going to afford gas for the car when someone made a purchase and I was able to fill the tank. 


If you are unfamiliar with ODesk, it is a place to find legitimate freelance work from home. While the work is legit, the pay varies greatly and isn't really the best way to earn a living, especially starting out. The biggest drawback is that you are competing internationally, meaning that workers in less developed parts of the globe can underbid you on jobs. However, I did find temporary blog writing assignments and worked for a shoe catalog company out of the UK posting to their Facebook and Pinterest pages. The best part was that I enjoyed doing it.

Got a Roommate

I learned a few things from this one. While it was a mutual gain at first for both of us, I did not have a written agreement in place to avoid certain conflicts. If you are going to rent out a room, have them sign an agreement and put down a small deposit. Even, or perhaps especially, if you are friends. I currently don't have a roommate, though I could use the extra money. I confess I am quite the introvert and like my space. Besides, now the little one has taken over the spare room as his playroom. But if I hadn't had a roommate during that first year, things would have been a lot tougher financially.

Asked For Help

And do so with a grateful heart. It can be hard to ask. Especially when it seems like you are doing a lot of asking. I needed to set aside my pride and care for my children. So I got on food stamps, had help through an agency with catching up my utility bills, had a family member help one month with rent, and I continue to be blessed with help as we get back on our feet. There is no shame in asking for help. We all need it from time to time. Just make sure to say thank you. Again and again, thank you. 

Used my Talents

Use a talent or hobby to bring in money. Mine just happens to be photography. Perhaps you could teach piano lessons to kids in your neighborhood. Maybe you like to make candles. You could sell them locally at craft fairs, through you Facebook page, or through a site like Etsy. Get along great with dogs? Offer to dog sit. Look at what gives you joy and think about how you might be able to earn money from it. Who knows, maybe it will become a successful venture and you won't have to return to work for someone else.

Became Obsessively Frugal

I stopped buying paper towels, foods with no nutritional value, anything I could honestly say was just a want. I hung the clothes out on the line more often, became fanatical about turning off unused lights and avoided running the air conditioning and heating as much as possible. We didn't eat out. We didn't go to the movies. We didn't buy our clothing new. And yet, we weren't miserable. In fact, we enjoyed a certain amount freedom that year.

I am still working to get us to a point where we are comfortable financially, but rebuilding takes time and we are only just on our third year out. When I think back over that first year, I am quite frankly amazed. But, like I said, I am stubborn. A full blooded, hard headed Taurus. I have also been blessed with generous help from friends and strangers. Their help was the tipping point that allowed us to survive. For that I don't know if I can ever say thank you enough. You see, though at times I felt lonely, I have never been traveling that road alone.