Garanimals Blog

Archive for the ‘tips and tricks’ tag

July 11th, 2014 at 2:32 pm

Everyday Homemaking Hacks

I am a huge fan of things that make my life easier. In my home there are things I have adapted that I would love to share with you.

My charging cord doesn’t quite reach the corner of my couch, and my iPhone is always running out of battery when I sit down to relax for the evening. I use one of these hooks to keep my cord easy to grab when it is needed.

charger

 

With two boys, there is always a need for a garbage can in our van. I took a simple cereal container and velcroed it to our center console. It easy to reach so we don’t have garbage all over the car.

garbage

 

Our school collects labels, box tops, and milk caps. An easy way to collect them is by taping a sandwich bag inside the cabinet. It’s easy to store away and out of plain sight, and I always know where they are.

box tops

 

We cannot have enough of these in our home. They collect my papers, photos, the boys stuff and more.

magnetboard

 

We recently remodeled our house and barely had to pound a nail in the wall because we hung all of our pictures with sticky velcro. It is easy to remove for dusting or changing of the photos, but is securely fastened to the wall.

hangphoto

What are some of your favorite tips or tricks to make life a little easier?

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May 22nd, 2014 at 1:27 pm

Memorial Day BBQ Planning

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with friends-2

Memorial Day Weekend is almost here! Usually the first big weekend for pools and BBQs, we’re following the tradition and inviting friends and family for a good old-fashioned cookout. BBQs can be pretty simple to plan with some burgers and hot dogs, but if you want to really make a splash, consider some of these ideas during preparation.

  • “Make Your Own” Stations - The best part about hamburgers and hot dogs is the many ways you can customize them to your taste. Consider setting up different stations. Grill chicken, sausage, hot dogs, and hamburgers as the base. Put out a variety of breads and toppers (different kinds of cheeses, sliced onions and tomatoes, pickles, sauerkraut, etc.) and all the condiments you can think of. Add a chalk board “menu” of ideas so your guests have some inspiration (see our recent hamburger post for some great recipes).  You can do this for drinks, desserts, etc. as well.
  • Signature Drinks – It’s easy to throw some beer, soft drinks, and bottled water into a tub of ice and call it a day, but you’ll wow your guests if you offer some delicious and refreshing mixes. Some ideas: A sangria with fresh fruit, a lemonade/iced tea mix, a fruit punch, etc. Walmart has a great drink dispenser with an ice core, so your guests can help themselves.
  • A Fun Music Playlist – There’s nothing like a good playlist to get a party going! Consider fun, upbeat classics and top 40 that guests of all ages can enjoy. Try searching for some summer playlists online if you don’t know where to start, or ask your friends what some of their favorites are!
  • Lawn/Outdoor Games – We don’t have a pool, so we’re planning on setting up a few games to pass the time. Bocce ball, badminton, horseshoes, beanbag toss, and frisbee are some great choices. For kids, a slip and slide or water balloons can provide hours of fun!

Do you have anything special planned for your Memorial Day BBQ? Share your ideas with us on our Facebook page!

Photo Credit: “Burger Bar” - http://www.lovethispic.com/image/14660/burger-bar

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May 20th, 2014 at 7:58 am

Saving and Sharing Family Memories

artmykidmade

We love our kids’ art. Somewhere in my attic is an artist’s portfolio folder filled to the brim with all of the preschool and kindergarten artwork of my first child. There isn’t one for my second child. Yep, the novelty had worn off by child number 2. Sorry sweetie pie!

Even so, I still have plenty of creations from both of them from their school years. I just can’t bring myself to throw them away. I finally did throw away my daughter’s dinosaur diorama from third grade. She’s 19….

Here are a few apps that let you archive the memories without having to keep the originals.

ArtKive is an lets you take photos of your artwork (or any other items of interest), tag them, upload them, and print photo memory books. The app is free, but the books run $25 for 20 pages.

ArtMyKidMade (free) is similar but links with Dropbox, Evernote or Facebook for storing and sharing.  Anything you share on the Art My Kid Made blog could be featured in their Artist of the Day pick.

Another option is Keepy. This site lets you upload photos, artwork, and other mementos to the site, make recordings that tell the story, and share it all with friends and loved ones, who can also reply or comment with text, voice recordings or videos.

Keepy is free for the first 31 items but also offers premium and ultimate plan options for $1.99/month for 101 images and $2.99/month for unlimited.

So get out those folders, baskets and boxes of fabulous art and get clicking. You now have permission to throw away the originals without guilt. Well, maybe save a few.

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May 19th, 2014 at 8:36 am

Creating On-The-Go Meals

sandwich

If your life is anything like mine, in late spring and summer you are always on the go! My biggest struggle with this is trying to create healthy meals  instead of running through the drive-thru of the nearest fast food restaurant. Here are some of my favorite  ways to make dinner fast or even carry it along while on the run.

Sandwiches
Sandwiches are a great go-to for dinner or lunch! I make up a batch of chicken or tuna salad and fill pocket bread or pitas to eat on the run. You don’t even have to make a sandwich necessarily…skip the bread and eat it alone with a fork, or just put the salads in a container and carry along some pretzels or crackers to scoop it up. Sandwiches can be paired with fruits, veggies, crackers or baked chips. Think of different options that your kids may like. Even some cheese on bread makes a good option for picky eaters.

Sometimes for lunch in between activities, a good option is cheese, crackers, and a simple meat (turkey slices, pepperoni, even sausage pieces). Cut up a bunch at the beginning of the week and this makes a fun snack to have in the car.

My kids also love the lunch packs that can be bought at the store. Recreate them for less expensive on-the-go alternatives.

Crock Pot Meals
When I am busy, making a meal in the crock pot is the best way to make a good meal for the evening. Plus, the crockpot won’t warm up the house as much as regular stovetop or oven cooking! Even something as simple as throwing chicken breasts in the crock pot with some cream of celery soup makes some good filling  on a bun. Try this with beef or pork also. Once it has cooked, pull it apart with a fork and make it into sandwiches or with a pre-made side dish.

Freezer Meals
Grab a meal out of the freezer you can cook without preparation, making dinner a little easier. Sometimes a frozen pizza or other frozen meal from the grocery store is okay. Time can slip away when you have a home, family, a job, etc., so don’t beat yourself up if you can’t make a healthy dinner every single night! Consider it a “treat” night for the family.

 

Check out these great ideas to organize eating in the car! I will definitely be trying these out…

Cereal Box Meal Tray

Sectioned Muffin Tin

Basket Meal

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May 9th, 2014 at 9:34 am

Conquering Diet and Exercise Hurdles

scale

One thing that plagues me day after day is weight loss. What I have realized is identifying the biggest hurdles helps you gain control, so you can actively acknowledge and work on them.

Only eat when you are hungry.
You don’t have to eat just because food is in front of you or the rest of your family is eating. Pay attention to whether you are really feeling hungry or if you’re just craving taste. If you aren’t really hungry at dinner but want to eat with the family, choose vegetables with low carbs, low calories and low fat.

You aren’t respecting your portions.
Watch how big your plate is and how much food you are putting on it. Use a scale or measuring cup to see how much an actual portion is. Check out food labels to determine the portion size. As a rule, your plate should be half vegetables or salad, a quarter carbohydrates, and a quarter protein.

Watch what you drink.
Watch what you have in your cup. Remember that things like alcohol, juice, and soft drinks all contain calories and sugars. Sometimes a cup of these things may be as much as an extra snack.

You have no motivation.
Set some goals to give you something to work towards. Keep track of your food in a food diary, get up and move by using a pedometer, or even reward yourself for working out.

Failure isn’t your enemy.
A day of failure or even a moment of failure doesn’t mean that you should quit. Start over and tell yourself that you will do better next time.

What do you feel are some of your biggest hurdles?

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April 10th, 2014 at 12:07 pm

10 Easter Egg Hunt Tips

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As a child, my favorite part of Easter was the egg hunt in our backyard. My siblings, cousins and I would search the entire property for colorful eggs left by the Easter bunny! Now, as an adult, I love watching the kids have that same experience. Some of you may have only a few children and the hunt coordination is fairly easy, but if you do a multi-family egg hunt it can get pretty complicated…especially when it comes to keeping the peace when the kids have free reign and goodies are involved! Here are ten egg hunt tips to make sure everything goes smoothly.

  1. Decide on a set number of eggs each child will get. I recommend plastic eggs so you can hide prizes inside, but some people like to hide real eggs.
  2. Choose a variety of prizes to fill the eggs with. Make sure things are age appropriate. Some good ideas are: Change or dollar bills, candy, erasers, whistles, stickers, hair clips, small toys, temporary tattoos, bracelets, etc. You can also have one or two special eggs for each child with a note inside that they can trade in for a big toy that wouldn’t fit. You can find some great, affordable prizes at your local Walmart!
  3. If you have a small scale egg hunt, give each child an egg color or size so there is no confusion as to which eggs they should look for. If you have a large scale egg hunt, decide on egg colors or size per age group, i.e. Ages 2-4 can only take red and yellow eggs, ages 5-9 can only take blue and green eggs, etc. That way, they will get the appropriate goodies for their age group and you know how to appropriately hide them so that they’re not too difficult for little ones, or too easy for older ones, to find.
  4. Set an appropriate time for the hunt. Keep in mind when it starts to get dark in your area and allow the kids ample time before sundown. Also keep in mind that the kids will want to play with and eat their prizes right away, so plan it around your meals.
  5. Decide on the area you will hide the eggs in and,  if necessary, use flags to create boundaries so the kids don’t go looking in the wrong places. It also provides an element of safety so you can make sure that they don’t wander off or go into areas where they might get hurt.
  6. Write down where you hide the eggs. I can tell you from experience that it’s easy to forget after hiding a bunch of them!
  7. Hand out baskets to make it easy for the kids to collect their eggs. A fun way to prepare for this is to let them decorate and personalize their egg hunt baskets a day or two before Easter!
  8. Designate egg hunt “moderators” who can help the kids find the eggs if they have trouble and get frustrated. For little ones, they can guide them in the right direction.
  9. Designate a few people to handle photography and take pictures of the kids hunting for the eggs. These moments are precious and will be special memories to look back on!
  10. Make a rule that no one can open their eggs until each child has found all of their eggs. Patience is a virtue!

What do YOU have planned for the egg hunt this year? Share with us on our Facebook wall!

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September 20th, 2013 at 9:59 am

Child-proofing your Home

At every doctor’s appointment my pediatrician reminds me that my child’s biggest hazard is himself. This means safety – fire, drowning, choking, poisoning and falls are some of the biggest dangers that children face. A few child-proofing steps can keep your family safe at home.

The Kitchen

  • Install safety latches on all cabinets and drawers to keep children from potentially poisonous household products.
  • Use the stove’s back burners and turn pot handles toward the back of the stove to keep hot pots and pans out of the reach of children.
  • Keep kitchenware and appliances out of reach and away from the edge of counters and tables.
  • Put visual reminders like the Mr. Yuk stickers from poison prevention centers on hazardous items.

The Bathroom

  • Install safety latches on cabinets and drawers to keep children from potentially poisonous household products.
  • Keep the water heater thermostat set to 120 degrees.
  • Unplug hair dryers, flat irons and electric rollers after use. Keep them away from curious children to prevent burns and electrocution dangers with water.
  • Use outlet covers in unused outlets.
 Around the House
  • Use safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs and in the doorways of rooms that you don’t want children in.
  • Put corner and edge bumpers on furniture and other items like a fireplace hearth to protect against injury.
  • Place furniture away from high windows so children won’t climb onto windowsills. Screens aren’t strong enough to keep children from falling through windows.
  • Watch for hanging cords on blinds and window shades.
  • Remove free-falling lids from toy chests.
  • Secure bookcases, shelving, and heavy furniture to walls with brackets and anchors. Put heavier items on bottom shelves and in bottom drawers.

Remember that child-proofing doesn’t make your home 100% safe. It is still important to watch your child at all times.

Kim Ross also writes at  A Little Bit of This and That ~ The Adventures of a Stay at Home Mom.

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August 7th, 2013 at 5:00 am

10 Awesome DIY Parenting Items

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We’re always on the lookout great DIY projects for parents that will make their lives easier in affordable ways. We’ve compiled the 10 coolest and most useful items for you and your kids that you can make yourself! Which one will you make first?

What other DIY items have you found the most useful?

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July 2nd, 2013 at 10:31 am

Turn Your Summer Photos Into Art

Looking for some creative photo apps for you or your kids? Here’s a few that can provide some fun and funny effects on your smartphone photos.

For IOS:

InstaBlend – take two photos and blend them into a double exposure. Easy to use but the ads and popups are annoying, unless you upgrade.

Scrap It HD – a kid friendly digital scrapbooking app with loads of design elements, effects and features.

For Android:

PicsArt Photo Studio – create art from you photos and share with your network. This app has tools for making grids, collages, drawings and artistic effects, as well as photo editing tools. A good all in one app.

Fotodanz – turn your photos into cinemagraphs by adding animation. This tool allows you to create fun little 3-5 second movies by animating some or all of you photo. You can add filters too.

Picture Decorator – use stamps, stickers, frames and effects to jazz up your photos. Write notes on the picture and doodle with your fingers and share.

For Either and/or PC

InstaCollage Pro – Create collages with choices of creative frames and layouts beyond the standard grid. It’s easy to use and it’s really fun to play with the filters and effects. Free for a limited time!

Pho.to – put your kid on a wanted poster (I did), a movie screen or lots more. Pick an effect, pick a photo and process. It’s lots of fun and the easy to use templates make it a cinch to use.

Summer’s here and chances are you’ll be taking lots of pics of your fun summer activities. These apps help you embellish, organize and share the good times creatively. Let your artistic side shine!

You can also find Paula on LinkedInFacebook and Twitter @techsmart319. Feel free to reach out if you have questions.

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December 19th, 2012 at 5:00 am

Holiday Travel with Kids

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Whether you’re driving to the next state or flying across the country, holiday travel is just plain stressful, particularly when you’re traveling with kids. Here are some tips to help make your trip less taxing:

Flying?

Be sure to arrive at the airport with plenty of time to spare – at least two to three hours in advance.  Print your boarding passes at home to save even more time. Just go to your airline’s website – and make sure you don’t pack too much as to incur extra luggage fees.  It may be cheaper to ship gifts a week ahead of time. Finally, if you have an active toddler, it’s best to wait until the last minute to board – this is a great way to avoid a restless meltdown.

Driving?

Make sure your car is ready and safe for travel before you leave, and be prepared for any weather conditions with supplies such as shovels, blankets and flashlights. For the younger kids, have them pack their own toys and books to prevent boredom on the trip and be sure to make rest stops if your trip is going to be longer than two hours. If you don’t have a portable DVD player, now is a great time to invest in one to bring on your trip along with the kids’ favorite movies.

No matter what your means of travel…

Make sure you pack plenty of small snacks (pretzels, string cheese, Cheerios) and water for your kids. And some snacks for the adults is not a bad idea either… you will surely need to keep up your strength.

Also, be sure to involve the whole family in the trip-planning process. Have the older kids help find things to do around your destination, it keeps them busy while you are packing and makes them feel part of the planning. You can even have them help pack… if you have the patience and a lot of time. Give them things to do to feel as if they are contributing and also make them feel more secure about uprooting their lives for a short period of time.

Share any of your stress-reducing travel tips in the comments. Happy travels!

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