Simplify Your Life

Here’s a great idea on how to teach kids to tie their shoes from Blissfully Domestic.  I remember trying to learn how when I was a kid, and it was so frustrating to me—this would have made a difference I’m sure.  Now I just need to figure out which story to tell! ;D

special needs Tips and Techniques: Tying Shoes

“Learning to tie their own shoes is a childhood milestone that kids normally learn to do by kindergarten. Not so with many special needs kids. It may be an issue of delayed motor skills, visual perception deficits, processing delays, or a physical disability that keeps them from achieving this.

When my autistic son’s occupational therapist began working with him on tying shoes, he couldn’t even comprehend the concept and it frustrated him beyond belief. And I thought she was crazy for even trying. As it turns out, there’s a reason she’s the therapist and I’m not.

It was as if God said to me, “See how he thinks? See how life seems to him?”

She then introduced a shoe with two different colored laces, and watching the comprehension unfold on my son’s face as she showed him the process again was amazing. Now that he could distinguish them, he could visually process where the laces were supposed to go.

It was a light-bulb moment for me, as well. How much else in his mind seems all jumbled and smashed together because he can’t distinguish the different parts? It was as if God said to me, “See how he thinks? See how life seems to him?” I realized that we need unravel things for him and make them more easy to comprehend on so many other levels.

The shoe-tying technique that our therapist taught us was a great one, and I’d like to pass it on.

Buy two sets of shoelaces of different colors. Cut them down to make each color half as long as the shoelace needs to be. Tie the opposite colors together making two shoelaces of equally different colors.

Buy two sets of shoelaces of different colors. Cut them down to make each color half as long as the shoelace needs to be. Tie the opposite colors together making two shoelaces of equally different colors.

Lace the shoe normally with the newly tied-together shoelace.

Lace the shoe normally with the newly tied-together shoelace.

The child can then easily see the difference between the laces while learning to tie them, making it easier to visualize the process.

The child can then easily see the difference between the laces while learning to tie them, making it easier to visualize the process.

Success with less frustration!

Success with less frustration!”


I got this recipe off of the Care2 daily email I receive, and I can’t wait to try it.  Yumm!!!

“Sauteed Spinach with Pine Nuts & Golden Raisins

I think I could eat plain sauteed spinach every day of the week and be happy, but sometimes it’s fun to dress it up a bit. This recipe from Eating Well puts a Catalan spin on spinach with pine nuts and sweet golden raisins to brighten things up.

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons golden raisins
1 tablespoon pine nuts
2 cloves garlic, minced
10 ounces fresh spinach (see Ingredient Note), tough stems removed
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon shaved Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add raisins, pine nuts and garlic; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

2. Add spinach and cook, stirring, until just wilted, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in vinegar and salt. Serve immediately, sprinkled with Parmesan and pepper.

Ingredient Note: The sturdier texture of mature spinach stands up better to sauteing than baby spinach and it’s a more economical choice. We prefer to serve baby spinach raw.

Recipe Nutrition, two servings. Per serving: 158 calories; 9 g fat (2 g saturated fat, 5g mono unsaturated fat); 2 mg cholesterol; 16 g carbohydrates; 6 g protein; 4 g fiber; 310 mg sodium; 804 mg potassium. 1 Carbohydrate Servings. Exchanges: 1 1/2 vegetable, 1/2 fruit, 2 fat

Visit for free quick and easy healthy recipe collections!”

I’m all about natural, the way God intended it—for our bodies to heal themselves.  However, we must CARE for our bodies in order for this to work.  Going along with this is using natural cleaners.  I found this great post from Care2 with instructions on how to make your own natural cleaners—and a good tip—put them in a pretty bucket—you’re more likely to use it then!

“As an added bonus, ounce for ounce homemade cleaning formulas cost about one-tenth the price of their commercial counterpart—and that includes costly, but worthwhile essential oils, and concentrated, all-purpose detergents for homemade recipes.

Baking soda
Washing soda
White distilled vinegar
A good liquid soap or detergent
Tea tree oil
6 clean spray bottles
2 glass jars

Simply pour about 1/2 cup of baking soda into a bowl, and add enough liquid detergent to make a texture like frosting. Scoop the mixture onto a sponge, and wash the surface. This is the perfect recipe for cleaning the bathtub because it rinses easily and doesn’t leave grit.

Note: Add 1 teaspoon of vegetable glycerin to the mixture and store in a sealed glass jar, to keep the product moist. Otherwise just make as much as you need at a time.

1/4-1/2 teaspoon liquid detergent
3 tablespoons vinegar
2 cups water
Spray bottle

Put all the ingredients into a spray bottle, shake it up a bit, and use as you would a commercial brand. The soap in this recipe is important. It cuts the wax residue from the commercial brands you might have used in the past.

1 cup or more baking soda
A squirt or two of liquid detergent

Sprinkle water generously over the bottom of the oven, then cover the grime with enough baking soda that the surface is totally white. Sprinkle some more water over the top. Let the mixture set overnight. You can easily wipe up the grease the next morning because the grime will have loosened. When you have cleaned up the worst of the mess, dab a bit of liquid detergent or soap on a sponge, and wash the remaining residue from the oven. If this recipe doesn’t work for you it is probably because you didn’t use enough baking soda and/or water.

1/2 teaspoon washing soda
A dab of liquid soap
2 cups hot tap water

Combine the ingredients in a spray bottle and shake until the washing soda has dissolved. Apply and wipe off with a sponge or rag.

1/2 teaspoon oil, such as olive (or jojoba, a liquid wax)
1/4 cup vinegar or fresh lemon juice
Mix the ingredients in a glass jar. Dab a soft rag into the solution and wipe onto wood surfaces. Cover the glass jar and store indefinitely.

Keep a clean spray bottle filled with straight 5 percent vinegar in your kitchen near your cutting board and in your bathroom and use them for cleaning. I often spray the vinegar on our cutting board before going to bed at night, and don’t even rinse but let it set overnight. The smell of vinegar dissipates within a few hours. Straight vinegar is also great for cleaning the toilet rim. Just spray it on and wipe off.


Tea Tree Treasure
Nothing natural works for mold and mildew as well as this spray. I’ve used it successfully on a moldy ceiling from a leaking roof, on a musty bureau, a musty rug, and a moldy shower curtain. Tea tree oil is expensive, but a little goes a very long way. Note that the smell of tea tree oil is very strong, but it will dissipate in a few days.

2 teaspoons tea tree oil
2 cups water

Combine in a spray bottle, shake to blend, and spray on problem areas. Do not rinse. Makes two cups.

Vinegar Spray
Straight vinegar reportedly kills 82 percent of mold. Pour some white distilled vinegar straight into a spray bottle, spray on the moldy area, and let set without rinsing if you can put up with the smell. It will dissipate in a few hours.

And I love this note, “Just like antibiotics, common disinfectants found in sponges and household sprays may contribute to drug resistant bacteria, according to researchers of drug resistance at Tufts New England Medical Center. Furthermore, research at the Government Accounting Office shows that many commercial disinfectants are ineffective to begin with, just like antibiotics”  Here’s to a healthy, happy life—to le dolce vita!

Alright, so I’ve already talked a little on the whole idea of cooking once and serving twice (or more), but I got this website, Homemade Gourmet, who is also the author or Balancing Beauty and Bedlam, and I LOVE her menu ideas here.  Sure, it sounds easy enough to cook a bunch of meat and use it in several dishes, but I’m just not creative in that department.  This monthly menu idea helps me see what I could make.  AND, not only are there ideas on here, but the recipes are on here too.  Or, if nothing else, it gets those wheels turning as to other ideas you could use.

In her blog, Balancing Beauty and Bedlam, she talks about her Taco Dip that is a daily staple at their house.  That and her Taco soup (along with many others) I am so excited to try!!!

Thanks for the ideas, Jennifer!!!

Check out the link for all these recipes and more!

Check out the link for all these recipes and more!

Don’t you HATE the “What’s for dinner?” questions?  Whenever my husband’s on the phone and asks me that, I want to hang up and run away.  Yes, it’s been going through my head all day, but I didn’t plan ahead and now it’s catching up with me!  It’s the inevitable question, dinner WILL come, but I try to push it off as long as possible and hope my husband will come home and do one of his creative chef creations for us all!  BUT, when I do plan ahead the week before, DO I feel like WONDERWOMAN!!!  I’m on top of the world and I’ve got it all under control.  So why don’t I do that every week?  I don’t know…  Thankfully, Balancing Beauty and Bedlam has some lifesavers for me when my brain just isn’t working.  I have a lot to learn still…

Here are her tips on cooking ahead—it doesn’t take any more time, and LESS to clean!  Amen to that!!!

“C.O.S.T. cooking – have you thought ahead?

Since I am the Queen of Best Intentions, I challenged myself to put my money where my mouth was during some of my meal planning/couponing posts, and “walk the talk” with this C.O.S.T. cooking – Cook once, Serve Twice.

If you double or triple your cooking, it will save you time later.
What is the cost of not planning ahead?
I was going to answer this rhetorical question, but I will leave you to fill in the blank for your own family.
(If you didn’t read about it the first time around, I have multiple posts, but the one where I give these suggestions are under Grocery Grumps -1.
Scroll down to the second half of that post with specifics since I won’t go into all the details again here. :)

For so many of you, this may come naturally, but as the food costs rise, and life becomes busier, it seems that this is an area which causes stress and ma ham in kitchens around the blog world.

Seeing what someone else has done might just inspire a little kitchen creativity this weekend.
So join me….take one hour to copy me or some other foodie and ease the mealtime mountain next week. This just might be the solution. Iron sharpens iron and I need to be held accountable in this grueling area as well.
As I was cooking this, I was literally just trying to get basic food on the table for my family, and then after the fact, I thought of taking pictures. I undid the spaghetti casserole after it had already been put in the freezer, so this isn’t much of a tutorial FYI.

Get out of that chair right now, and grab as much ground beef from your freezer that you have on hand.
Go on, I’ll give you a little time.

After it’s thawed, get going…cook up that stuff and drain that grease.
Oh, it looks a bit gross in that pan picture.
If you want to do just a bit more work, but work that’s so worth it….add fresh garlic, onions, and green peppers…..yum!
Now depending on how much you have browned, start separating it into zip lock bags.
You can see in the picture below, that I had about 2 pounds of beef that I seasoned with my Homemade Gourmet taco soup seasoning,
and sealed in a Ziplock bag.
We feasted on taco salad, taco dip, and burritoes throughout the week…all from this meat mixture…meals in minutes literally.
Typically, we never miss a week without taco soup, but we sure will have it this week.

Ok, I hear your screaming…we want recipes!!
Ladies – the beauty of Mexican is that you can add whatever you want…even if cooking terrifies you. Start with these basics…it’s so easy! Any of my children can fix their own dinner from these options. I promise!
Here are some ideas, but they change based on what produce was marked down, what items I have stock piled or purchased with my BOGO free items.

Taco salad – layer a plate with crushes tortilla chips, romaine lettuce (as yummy as ice burg is..stay away if you can help it – no nutritional value), top with the seasoned meat mixture, black beans, shredded cheese, salsa, and dollop of sour cream to top it off.
My mouth is salivating as I think of this favorite meal of mine. I love to mix just a tad of Catalina dressing in it, but my kids opt for ranch. Your choice.
Of course, get as healthy as you want by adding fresh tomatoes or green/ red peppers
Any of the above works well in your burrito/taco…just heat the burrito and melt that yummy cheese.
Taco dip….this is almost a daily staple at our home.
I will do this as a vegetarian option quite often with taco soup seasoning, and then add more beans. If beans make you wary, start with black beans. All of my kids LOVE them, and they are so good for you.
Mix seasoning, meat, cottage cheese if you want it low fat (or cream cheese), sour cream, black beans, cheese, salsa, peppers (my kids will eat them raw in this dip), salsa….stir and go at it with tortilla chips.

Once I removed the taco seasoned ground beef (for anything Mexican), I also put a small baggy of ground beef mixed with Italian Mozzarella seasoning.
This made delicious “meatloaf muffins” made with the meat mixture, and Pillsbury Grand biscuits that I had stocked up on with my double coupons.
I will post the recipe if anyone is interested. They are great for dinner or served the next day…cold…for lunches.
The ground beef that was left quite lonely in the skillet became homemade spaghetti sauce. I served half of it over noodles the same night, and the other half became Dream spaghetti – another family favorite. This I froze for a later date.
I know some of this I went over from an early post, but they say that it takes five times for something to sink in? hee hee
I know that one of you attention to detail ladies will notice what I wrapped around the casserole dish.
Yes, it’s true….I recycle grocery bags and use them for almost everything. I rarely spend money on wraps…and only then with a great coupon.
I add just a bit of plastic wrap (if anyone’s worried about germs), and then I really seal it with a plastic bag.

So for less than one hour of work, I had six meals (and taco dip) set for the week.
I can’t tell you what a stress reliever it was. So just go for it.
Stop procrastinating…ha…coming from the Queen….and have some fun in the kitchen.
I promise it will pay huge dividends, not just in time management, but also in the pocket book.

I know this is now two posts without a complete bedlam moment…trust me, they are continually happening. When I was cooking all these great amazing meat mixtures, let’s just say our dog agreed…..grrrrr……”

Here’s to Le Dolce Vita, and more time to ahh, relax…or so I like to think! ;D

So I LOVE this idea from Financial Bliss and Coupon Mom for saving money.  I often get into the grocery store, see a sale item and think, “Is that a good price?”  and I always wish I had my sales flyers with me to compare prices.  HOWEVER, even if I did have them, they only list the prices of their sale items, not regularly priced items.  So now there’s an answer, and a very organized idea.  It may take some time to compile all of these prices, but I would think it’s well worth it—just save your receipts for a quick reference for documentation.  Alright, I’ll let Financial Bliss take it from here:

Use a price book to save money

frugal-bliss Use a price book to save money

I visit a lot of coupon forums, where almost everyone is a bargain shopping queen (or king). So it’s always something of a surprise when someone asks, “Is this a good deal?” And whether the item in question is laundry detergent or hot dogs, the same answer always pops into my head: You’d know if it was a good deal if you kept a price book along with the coupon binder.

A price book is a notebook for tracking the lowest price of an item. Simply put, it’s the best way to cut back expenses without changing your lifestyle.

The best thing about a price book is that you don’t have to maintain it forever – just until you’ve been doing it long enough to be able to recognize a good deal when you spot one. I have maximum price points in my head for almost all of the things we buy regularly, and I adjust that price as the deals get better or worse.

For example, a few months ago, I was happy to see Kleenex (our preferred brand) on sale for $1 if we needed it, and if we didn’t, I tried to wait for a price of around 90-cents. But during the last few weeks, there have been some amazing sale prices of 64 cents for Puffs (after coupon at Walgreens) and 77 cents for Kleenex (this was at CVS, and the price came down to 47 cents if you factored in the Extra Bucks that you received with a $25 purchase). So now I’m looking for a sale price under 80 cents.

No Credit Needed has a handy downloadable price book template that I highly recommend.

Here is another example of a price book template from

Listing a month's prices to compare what IS "a good deal" BEFORE coupons!

Listing a month's prices to compare what IS "a good deal" BEFORE coupons!

And Coupon Mom's Pricing Book AFTER Coupons---exciting, huh?!

And Coupon Mom's Pricing Book AFTER Coupons---exciting, huh?!

Okay, so I’m in love!!!  And no, not just with my husband!  The only way I shop is when there’s a sale, and I mean a GOOD sale!  So, now I no longer have to search for the sales myself!!!  I know, I keep using exclamation marks, but I can’t help myself, I’m so excited for this freedom!!! ;D  So here she is, Deal Seeking Mom.  You can sign up to get her daily emails.  She is GREAT about explaining how things work, and she will reply back to any questions you may leave in the comments section.  Here’s a taste in what she does.  These are current deals she’s posted:

5 Freebie Coupons to Print Before Your Next Mall Trip

$5/$20 or $10/$30 Rite Aid Coupon, Good 2/20 and 2/21

Print these coupons to save $5 off $20 at Rite Aid or $10 off $30 at Rite Aid!

It’s only good Friday, February 20th, and Saturday, February 21st, so check out this week’s deals and head to your closest store!

Lowe’s: $10 off $50 Printable Coupon, Exp. 3/2/09

And those are just a TASTE for you!  I’m addicted!!!  Here’s to Le Dolce Vita and a little less stress!  Thank you Deal Seeking Mom!!!

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