Make Your Own Plate Hanger

plate hanger4

When my husband and I were living in Idaho, we lived in an apartment that had space above the cabinets. Of course I had to use this space for decoration. Decorative plates seemed to be pretty popular in kitchens, so I painted some of our old plastic plates and displayed them above our cabinets.

plate hanger

Once we moved into our current home, the cabinets did not have room for any type of decor {or storage for that matter}. You can imagine my disappointment. Where was I suppose to put my cute decorative plates?! And then it hit me… The wall!! Of course. So many other people put their plates on the wall in the kitchen. But how? Unlike picture frames or other wall decor that already have wall hanging hardware attached on the back, how on earth was I suppose to hang a plate?!

plate hanger1

Here is an easy and simple solution to such a dilemma.

Paper clips and hot glue.

YES! It is literally that easy. Just take a paper clip and hot glue it to where you want it on the back of your plate. Let it dry and hang it on the wall!

plate hanger2

Now I have a place to display my fun and colorful plates!

plate hanger3

Heather signature

Mandala Meditation for Anxiety

I love mandalas. I remember learning about them in Humanities in college. Basically, “mandala” is a sanskrit word that means “circle”. They are beautiful geometrical designs, often brightly colored, and usually in a circular shape, but more than their physical beauty, they represent a deep meditative and spiritual journey, with divinity being near the center of the design. Mandala derived designs are used in forms of worship in Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity.

Certain forms of meditation include studying a mandala, and letting it take you on an internal spiritual journey. Other forms include drawing or coloring a mandala.  Interestingly, this has been researched and results have been published in the Art Therapy Journal of the American Art Therapy Association (click the link to see a summary of the study results).  In a nutshell, the study found that “structured coloring of a reasonably complex geometric pattern may induce a meditative state that benefits individuals suffering from anxiety.” Basically, color a mandala when you are feeling stressed or anxious, and it might help you feel more calm and collected.

A few weeks ago, I printed off several coloring sheets (just google “free mandala coloring pages” for tons of options you can print at home). Last week, I pulled out my kids’ colored pencils, sharpened them up, and spent a few minutes each day working on the mandala pictured at the top of this post. I did feel a reduction in my stress after coloring for 10 minutes or so. (Although, I should note, it can be kind of addicting because it is fun, and they are really beautiful. So, some days I probably spent much longer than 10 minutes.) The mandala I colored above can be found here on Color Pages for Mom.

Hope you have fun coloring! If you have kids, now you have something you can be excited about coloring with them! :)

Beat Nausea… Naturally!

About a year ago, when I was starting to try to get pregnant, I began making a mental list of ways I could treat common maladies (mainly just the annoying ones that I’d normally take ibuprofen or an antacid for) without using medications that would be potentially harmful to an unborn baby. My husband and I also started thinking about emergency preparedness and wondering if we would be able to treat these issues if we didn’t have access to our regular medicines.  Eventually, I transferred my mental list and research to a trusty notebook which is growing as I add more and more lists of “natural” treatments.

I am going to start sharing some of those lists as a mini- series called “…Naturally!” So here is the first installment, focusing on the nausea of pregnancy, but the tips could be useful for other tummy situations too.

I have to laugh about this picture… what kind of picture are you supposed to use when you’re
talking about nausea anyway?  I figured a stick figure drawing would be my safest bet. :)

For many of us, nausea is much more debilitating than pain, exhaustion, or just about any other malady.  So the first several months of pregnancy can be really difficult if you don’t have any tricks up your sleeves.  Here is my list of things that I have researched and tried (most of them anyway) with success.  Keep in mind that I am not talking about Hyperemesis Gravidarum here (the severe continual vomiting that affects some women during pregnancy), I’m talking about regular-ish morning sickness (or all day sickness as the case may be).  So if you are looking for more natural ways of combating the urge to lose your lunch, try some of these. {My disclaimer is that I am not a physician, and so this shouldn’t be considered medical advice.  Do your own research, and consult with your doctor if you have questions or concerns about your health.}

  • Bland crackers first thing in the morning
  • Eat fermented foods
  • Apple cider vinegar (Read more about the reasoning for these first two items here)
  • Peppermint tea- Peppermint is a digestive aid. Drinking this at night (sweetened with Stevia) has helped me a lot this pregnancy.
  • Peppermint, ginger essential oils- you can just sniff these, or you can rub these oils onto your belly (dilute the peppermint in a carrier oil first to avoid skin irritation- also, some people say it’s fine to use peppermint during a normal, healthy pregnancy, and some advise caution- so do your own research.)
  • Ginger Ale (anything with real ginger in it, really- not just ginger flavoring)
  • Diet Coke, coke syrup- this nausea remedy has been around a long time, and you can get coke syrup at many pharmacies. Also keep in mind that while caffeine helps some with various types of nausea, it can make it worse for others, especially if the nausea is due to indigestion, so you might need to experiment a little.
  • Slow deep breathing (4 counts in, 6 counts out)
  • Cold air- I don’t know why this works, but opening a window and breathing in cold air can be very very helpful in that moment where you start feeling hot before vomiting and may prevent you from throwing up altogether.
  • Positioning- lying on left side and a modified child’s pose (on knees, head down, bottom up)
  • Accupressure/ Sea bands (see this wiki for more info)
  • Eat raw carrots- This is less for pregnancy nausea than an upset tummy that may be the result of food poisoning, but still good to know… see this post by my friend Lani: http://birthfaith.org/nutrition/gods-medicine-chest-carrots
  • Magnesium- I started doing magnesium soaks before I got pregnant, and continued them after I found out I was expecting, and it seemed that my nausea was less severe the 24 hours after doing the soak. Then, I came across this post from Mommypotamus about replenishing the body’s stores of Magnesium before pregnancy to reduce the chance of experiencing nausea. That confirmed to me that magnesium levels can play a role in morning sickness.
  • Unisom and Vitamin B6- ask your doctor or a pharmacist about taking this combination of pills at night to help with nausea the following day. It isn’t a cure-all for every woman, but I have been assured by several different prenatal care providers that it is safe, and it has helped in each of my pregnancies so far. With this pregnancy, it wasn’t as effective at the beginning, but I kept taking it and adjusted the dose a bit, and after several weeks, I could tell a major difference from taking it.
For all my sisters out there dealing with morning sickness… I feel ya!  Hopefully some of the things on this list will help.
For those of you who have a special remedy for dealing with nausea of some kind- whether of pregnancy, vertigo, or some other type, will you share what has worked for you? We all love more ideas on how to combat this particular malady!

Travelling With Kids (And Saving Your Sanity)

By my calculations, this year we have logged more than 80 hours of extended travel with our kids (some of it was just me and the kids) by plane and car.  And we’re looking at probably 50 more before the year is finished (starting next week!).  So I’m starting to feel like I’ve got this down, more or less.

My kids are in the 2-5 range, so I’m sure it would be a different story and a different game plan with a baby or with older kids, but here are some things that have worked for us! UPDATE 7/6/15 My older kids are now in the 5-7 range and most of these activities are still very entertaining for them. I’ll add a few more things we have included to our travel preparations, as we still do a fair amount of traveling with kids each year. Look for the updates throughout the post. (Post contains affiliate links, which help support this blog- thank you!)

The Basics:
We start out with a few foundation items: a cooler with plenty of healthy snacks, a few not- so healthy ones, and drinks.  Books, pillow/ blanky, and one or two beloved toys.  Technology- some new tunes on an mp3 player- both kid songs and grown up music, a portable DVD player for the car, our favorite kid shows, Leap Pads, earphone splitter, and headphones.

We are usually in the car for 13-14 hours one way, so we need a LOT to keep our kids entertained and happy.  I don’t want them watching movies the whole time, and they aren’t really into that either- usually 1-2 movies only for a trip that length. I do encourage them to nap, and sometimes they will for a short time, but the majority of the time they are kept happiest when they have a variety of activities to choose from.  We alternate the basics above with activities from the bag of tricks below.

The Activity Rotation
We rotate through our bag of tricks, each activity lasting on average from 15-30 minutes, repeating our favorites multiple times. (Your kids might have longer attention spans, depending on their personalities and ages, the times I list below are just to give a general idea)  Here are some of our favorites:

Good old pencil and paper for drawing, name writing, and letter/ number/ shape practice.  This one probably only lasts 10-15 minutes at a time.

Magnadoodles.  We would do this activity maybe after a movie, not drawing in notebooks.  Probably another 10-15 minute activity for my boys.

Silly putty is a great fine motor activity and there are sooo many variations on this activity.  Sculpting, twisting, stretching, ink printing, stamping, impression making, bubble blowing etc.  We are happy with this activity for at least 30 minutes.

A memory game of some type is good (Here is the one we have); there are also tons of free printables you can find on Pinterest that are travel memory games or scavenger hunts. This is a 10-15 minute activity for us, but I think as they get older, and if I had more variations of it, they would play longer.

Scratch art.  This is a fun activity for older kids and maybe grown ups too!  You use the wooden stylus to scratch off the black coating and underneath is brightly colored plastic when you hold it up to the light.  This is a 25-30 minute activity for my kids, but they need a little encouragement.

Dry erase activities (like this).  We pack a couple different colors of dry erase pens, and just use tissue to erase.  For whatever reason, my boys both love using dry erase markers over any other type of writing implement.  My only warning is that dry erase pen is VERY hard to get out of clothing…  My kids will play with this activity for about 25 minutes.

Magnatab.  This is somewhat similar to the magnadoodle in that you use a magnetic stylus, but it works by pulling up a little metal ball that lodges in a groove near the top of the surface.  You can’t draw anything very detailed, but it makes a satisfying sound and it is somewhat of a novelty.  My kids will probably spend about 20 minutes on this.

Stringing beads and shapes. This is actually an activity that I inherited from my mom, and it is kind of nostalgic because Marissa and I played with this in the car 20+ years ago!  My mom actually had us help her make salt dough shapes, which we let dry and then painted together.  My mom cut out a bunch of felt shapes and punched holes in them, and everything got strung on shoelaces.  We used to have all kinds of neon colored laces; this is what is left two decades later! Haha.  We add random empty spools, beads, etc. for stringing.  My kids will play with this for 20 minutes usually.

Felt board with story puppets and shapes.  Here’s another one I played with as a child, which my mom gave back to me.  (My mom is super creative, as you may be able to tell.  She made all of the puppets herself.)  The kids play with this usually about 15 minutes, then throw the shapes all around the car for another 10. I guess we take what we can get. Haha.

Eye Spy Books. We have a couple of these books along with some magnifying glasses.  That combo seems to last us about 30 minutes if we have enough books to search through.

Dollar Store games.  We have a few little things like this that we have found at the dollar store or saved from kid’s meals which will entertain the kids for 5-10 minutes on average.  Not very long, but it does the trick to distract them sometimes when they are starting to get whiny or have a meltdown.

WikkiStix.  This is another activity that is fun for kids and adults alike.  These “sticks” are actually pieces of yarn coated in some kind of wax that sticks to itself and other nonporous surfaces, but leaves your hands mess- free… win!  This awesome fine motor activity lasts us a good 30 minutes.

Here’s another blast from my past!  As you can tell, these also belonged to Marissa and I as kids.  Now my kids love coloring on the chalkboards.  I will probably have to give Marissa hers soon as her daughter gets old enough to use it.  :)  We just use colored chalk and tissue for erasers.  These have also stood the test of time for 20+ years!  This is a 20 minute activity.

Every once in a while, we get a really good kids meal toy.  We got several sets of these connector things from Wendy’s a few months ago, and I save two sets for our next car trip.  My kids will play with these for 30 minutes.

Magnet story board.  This is a new toy that I haven’t showed my kids yet. It is a metal box with three sheets of punch-out magnet animals that you can mix and match to make silly looking animals.  I’m hoping this one will give us at least 30 minutes of creativity. UPDATE 7/6/15 My kids have loved this activity and they sometimes request it even when they’re not traveling.

Sculpting play foam.  We love this stuff!  As long as your kids are old enough to not throw it around, it is super easy to clean up, and it sticks to itself only- not your hands, so totally mess- free!  Woohoo!  This is a 20+ minute activity.

Window Crayons and mirrors.  Ok, I’m going to warn you- this can get messy, so skip it if your kids will draw on seats, themselves, etc.  The crayons are almost a dry lipstick consistency, but it does wipe off very easily with wet wipes.  We do this activity for 15 minutes- any longer, and my kids will start drawing a mural on their carseats.

Mess- free markers.  If the previous activity made you shudder, then maybe this one will float your boat. These markers don’t actually use ink; they only work on specially treated paper.  So it is impossible to make a mess with these. My kids are interested in this for about 15 minutes.

Various car doo-dads.  Dancing giraffes, bendy blocks (made that name up), kaleidoscopes (we have these), and marble mazes that I sewed based on tutorials around the web.  Each of these activities is good for 5 minutes, give or take.

Creative commons photo credit

Triangular crayons or colored pencils for road trips are brilliant- they don’t roll. I think a few companies make them now; ours are Melissa and Doug.  We also have some clipboards that help a lot with coloring and many of the above activities just to provide a hard surface to work on.

UPDATE 7/6/15 Here are a few more items we have added:

Our most recent addition is this Boogie board. We haven’t used it on a trip yet, so I don’t have my own picture, but it is a fun LCD writing tablet that is fun for doodling on.

My boys love doing these types of mini Lego kits. They aren’t too expensive (usually around $5) and they can do them over and over. Cut out the picture on the front of the package, and keep the instructions if your kids are into that, and keep it all together with the Lego pieces in a ziplock bag.

For the grownups: For car trips, we bring our favorite healthy snacks, a couple treats, protein bars or drinks, our caffeine of choice (almost always Dr. Pepper), a book to read from, and an audiobook that is as exciting as possible.  One of our last trips we listened to Ender’s Game and it kept all the drowsiness away for both of us, which is super important if you drive at all during the night.

Between all the different activities, eating, potty breaks, movies, naps, and the mandatory looking out the window minutes between activities, that pretty much takes up our whole trip.  We have modified this to work on airplanes too.  It’s always a good idea to have at least a couple new things that your kids haven’t seen before.  On one trip, we wrapped everything in wrapping paper, and it was really fun for the kids to open their “presents”.  We never get these toys and activities out at any other time than travelling, so they are extremely desirable and the kids are excited to play with them.

Oh- before I forget- I got these toys from a variety of sources. Amazon, ToysRUs, some were gifts or we made them, Walmart, and a whimsy, magical toy store in the southwest Portland metro-ish area of Oregon called Mudpuddles. Favorite toystore ever! (I would link to them, but they don’t appear to have a working website. Dang. We are going to visit soon and do some Christmas shopping!)

Hopefully there were some good ideas for you.  Happy travels!

Getting rid of mold/mildew on your shower curtain liner…Cool trick?

 Do you ever get a yucky pink moldy/mildewy buildup on your shower curtain?  (You don’t have to answer that)  If this sounds familiar, I have a solution for you!

(I thought about putting putting a picture here of a nasty
pink-mold-covered shower curtain…but that’s a little gross…I’m sure
you can imagine it just fine)

I encountered this very problem myself just last week. As we were unpacking some of our boxes, I pulled out our old shower curtain liner (it was nice enough quality to think twice about throwing it away when we were packing up our apartment) and to my dismay, the liner was not magically clean again after months of being packed up.  I refused to scrub the curtain by hand because…gross! So as a last resort before giving up and just throwing it away, I came up with a solution.

This may not be a revolutionary idea to some, but for me, I was totally thinkin’ outside the box!  Here’s what you do:

1. Throw your curtain into your washing machine, preferably with some white towels (to get some scrubbing action)
2. Put in a little bit of laundry soap
3. Put in 1/2 cup to 1 cup of bleach
4. Start your washer and just run it like a regular load of laundry

My shower curtain liner came out almost like new, and with ZERO signs of any mold/mildew that had been on it.

Here’s my proof:

Enjoy your clean, good-as-new shower curtain liner! :)

Migrating your blog feeds? Check out Feedly.

If you have been using Google Reader to collect and read blog feeds, you know that it is about to disappear (Google Reader will be unavailable after July 1st).  Wah.  (I am a fan of most of Google’s products, and this was no exception.  Are you in the same boat?)  Maybe you’ve found a new feed aggregator, or maybe you’re in denial that your favorite reader is going to its final resting place. Maybe you’re going to wait until 11:59pm on June 30th to migrate your blog feeds because it’s too hard to think about importing each blog you read one at a time to a new reader.

So… that was almost me. But after hearing about Feedly from a number of different sources, I decided to just take a look. I was won over by the seamless, 1-click migration of all my feeds from Google Reader.  Wahoo!  I also think all the layout options are nice and it is a little more user friendly as far as adding and managing content.  It all transfers over to your smartphone too, if you install the Feedly app.  So all is not lost, my blog- reading friends!

If you’re looking around for a new blog reader, you might want to give Feedly a try (no, I don’t get paid for saying that- I just like to share solutions that work for me!).

Mother and Baby Shower

I mentioned very briefly in my last post that while in Oregon, we had a baby shower.  What I didn’t mention was that it was a shower (or, more accurately, a mother and baby shower) for my sister Marissa!  My mom, my sisters and I collaborated and planned it all, with Marissa’s help and input, and I think it was a success!

 

Marissa wanted frilly, lacy, pink-y loveliness as the theme, and so that’s what we did!

Marissa and I got together and laughed hysterically- as we usually do- while we designed the invitations.  We were able to make them entirely out of what we had on hand already. :-)  The pink part is a sleeve which the invitation slides out of.  The umbrellas, clouds, and hearts were cut using my Silhouette machine.  I designed the text part of the invitation in Inkscape.

If you are going to ask people to RSVP, it is a good idea to not only include your phone number, but also your email address- some people (including myself) don’t like to call.  We also created a facebook event.  Hey, we just figured that the easier it was (and more ways there were) to RSVP, the better response we would get.

I had read about an idea of a “mother blessing shower” in one of my favorite new books (The Gift of Giving Life– seriously an amazing book; I would say that reading it, along with their blog for the past two years has changed my life and the way I think about motherhood- I’m not paid to say that, it’s just true.  Go check it out; you won’t be disappointed, even if you just read through the archives of some of the positive birth stories).  I was charmed with the idea that while it is great- and really fun- to focus on the baby, a shower is also a great opportunity to celebrate motherhood.  So, taking the suggestion from the book, in our announcement we invited people to bring a blessing or good thought for Marissa and a bead or charm to represent it, which would be put on a charm bracelet for Marissa to wear and feel happy vibes! 😉

This was a blank paper we included in the invitation for people to bring their written good wishes on.

The shower was fun (I really enjoyed seeing people I haven’t had the pleasure of visiting with for many years in some cases) and lovely of course.  We used pieces from our mom’s wedding china to hold flowers and candy.  My mom also had a great collection of crystal and glass serving dishes, and glass snack sets which she inherited from her mother.  I had picked up mini- chalkboards from the craft store recently, and those were fun to use, along with ribbons, and tons of tissue paper that we turned into flowers and pom-poms.

Ooh, before I forget, the menu included assorted fresh fruit, gluten/dairy/egg free brownies (which were amazing), oreo truffles, jordan almonds and Dove chocolates, dark and white chocolate drizzled popcorn, and heavenly pink sorbet punch.  Mmm.

Here’s the cute pregnant mama… I wonder why I couldn’t get her to look at the camera?!

Something else we did that I have seen done at other showers is pass around a basket of blank envelopes for people to address to themselves to make it that much easier for Marissa to send out her thank-you notes.  (Whoops, don’t have a picture of that one, but you can use your imagination…)

A few nights ago, Marissa and I got together, and we added jump rings to all the charms, and attached them on to a bracelet that we made.  I think it is adorable, if a bit crowded- but you can never have too many blessings, right?!  Some of the charms were meant for the baby some day, so ultimately, a few charms will be removed and it won’t be quite so crowded.

Here’s what it looks like on.  Artsy, unique, lovely, and a reminder of all the love, blessings, and good wishes from friends and family!

As a gesture of gratitude/ favor of sorts for those who attended, we made about 30 of these crocheted friendship bracelets with a bead in the middle.  The idea was that people would grab one as they walked out the door, but of course we forgot until half of the people were already gone.  😛  Oops.  Maybe they will go out in some of the thank you notes.

We definitely had fun with this baby shower, and I really liked the “mother blessing” part.  It seems appropriate to me that this portion could be done for any mother- regardless of how many babies she has had, or if she needed an actual “shower” for the baby.  Honoring motherhood and womanhood is always a good move in my book!  Tell me what you think in the comments!

Watermarking Your Blog Photos (After Publishing)

Photo watermarked after original publishing on blog

If you blog, and your blog is public to anyone on the web, you probably know that you should be watermarking your photos to offer them a bit of protection from… well… plagiarism.

But what if you’ve been blogging for years, and somehow watermarking just wasn’t a priority?  Now you’re looking at hundreds (at least) of photos that need watermarking.  It’s overwhelming and altogether impractical to think of going through and editing each and every photo and re-uploading it into each post.

That has been my dilemma for quite some time, but after Picnik went away (RIP, Picnik), Google integrated some of the Picnik functionality with Picasa Web Albums, and the result is that you can edit photos that were uploaded long ago, and they’ll be automatically updated on your blog (and any other blog that might be hotlinking your photos) without having to re-upload anything, if you save it correctly.  I’m going to show you how to do that.  The only downside is that there is no way to batch-edit that I am aware of- you have to pick and choose which photos are most important to watermark, and do them one at a time, a little at a time until you’ve finished them.

This tutorial is for bloggers who use Picasa Web Albums to host their images (i.e. instead of uploading photos from your computer straight into your blog post, the images are stored in Picasa Web Albums and embedded into the post by the URL generated by Picasa).  Also, I use Blogger, so I can’t speak for how well this works on WordPress or Typepad blogs, or for using a photo hosting site like Photobucket.  If anyone tries it with another photo hosting site or blogging platform, let me know, and I’ll post those results.

On to the tutorial:

Here is a screenshot from a post I did a couple of years ago, and I had not watermarked any of the photos.  I really didn’t feel like I needed to watermark each and every one, but I wanted to do the first photo, shown above, and the last photo, shown below.

First, I went into my web album where I was storing my photos for this post, and I selected this photo.

Second, I went into the “Actions” dropdown menu and clicked “Edit in Creative Kit”.

Once in the creative kit, I clicked text.

In the text box at the top left I typed in my blog URL and clicked the font I wanted to use, then clicked “Add”.

The text was added, and I had the opportunity to re-size it and choose the placement.  Then on the menu that pops up while the text is selected, I used the slide bar to select the amount of fade I wanted.  Depending on the colors and exposure in the picture, 40%-70% fade is the range that typically works the best.

Once the watermark is in place, click “Save to my album” in the top right corner, then when the “Confirm Photo Replace” popup comes up, you must click “Replace”.  Obviously, if you haven’t yet published the blog post, you could click “Save a new copy” if you wanted to preserve the original for some reason, but replacing the original is the only way to update the photo in your already- published post without re-uploading the photo and re-publishing the post.

Within a minute or two, the photo will be updated on the blog.

As I mentioned before, replacing the original photos with watermarked ones in this way will not only automatically update your own blog posts using those photos, but any other site which is hotlinking your photos (that is that they are displaying your photos by copying your photo URL and inserting it into their own post, or just straight out copying the html for your whole post… this will not work if they have copied your original photo to their own computer and uploaded it themselves) will be updated with the watermarked photos as well, hopefully regaining you some lost traffic.

I have to mention that watermarking is not the most foolproof way of protecting your photos, but it probably is the easiest and most time-efficient deterrent to photo- swiping.  I think when it comes down to it, nobody wants to be the photo/ blogging police- after all, most people are well intentioned, and/or perhaps aren’t up-to-date on their blogging etiquette.  In these circumstances, sometimes the best thing is to do… nothing (except watermark your photos- ha!).  Do you agree?  Disagree?