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Office to Homeschool Command Center Progress

Well, I didn’t get quite as far as I would have liked on creating our homeschool command center last week. The hard part of clearing and reorganizing shelves is done, though. Now I just have to bring in the supplies and books I plan to use this year. 

Homeschool bookcase

In the past, Beckett and Finn kept their materials in their computer desk or on a shelf in their room. Except for web-based assignments, though, they rarely work at a desk. Usually it’s on the couch or bed or wherever is comfortable. The end result was missing pencils, notebooks and textbooks. I’m not really a desk-worker, either, so I’m focusing on a better arrangement for the supplies. Each kiddo gets their own shelf in the office for their books and writing journals. While Thadd doesn’t officially start Kindergarten until next year, he’s already beginning to write letters and simple words. It seems like giving him simple assignments to work on, so he can do what his big brothers are doing will work better than trying to keep him otherwise entertained while I’m helping B and Finn, so he gets his own shelf, too.

Homeschool bookcase in progress.

I’m hoping that this arrangement will make it easier for me to keep track of their materials. I also like that, as I find more materials that I want to incorporate, I have a specific place to put them. Then there’s the added benefit of getting an overall view of what they are working on just by checking their shelves. This is especially helpful for subjects like elementary science and history. For those, we tend to use more topic-specific books rather than a traditional broad textbook.

White boards

Our office has two walls of white boards. Usually we just write things out on paper when they need my help to work through math problems or other tasks. The white boards might add some variety, or be useful if we’re doing a science experiment and want to explain what’s going on to more than one kiddo at a time.

Still some decluttering to do around the whiteboards.

I also plan to have a daily task list for each child that can be checked off as they complete tasks. I haven’t decided if I’ll use the white boards for that or use printouts or calendar sheets in sheet protectors. With the sheet protectors, I can print out a basic task list and write specifics on the sheet protector in dry erase marker. That way there’s less paper used. The white board is also easily changeable and highly visible, but not something that’s portable and easy for them to check off themselves.

Looking for more homeschooling help?

Obviously I still have some planning to do. We usually have our official start to the year when the local public school starts. That’s about four weeks away, so there’s still time. If you’re familiar with Ultimate Bundles, they launched their Ultimate Homeschooling Bundle 2020 today. It contains 13 eBooks, 8 eCourses, 22 workbooks & printable packs, 5 curricula, 2 membership sites & a summit, all geared towards homeschooling families. If you purchased everything separately, it would cost over $1200, but if you purchase it as a bundle, it’s only $29.50. In order to offer it at such a discount, the sale is limited. In order to get the homeschool bundle, you must purchase it by Friday, July 31 at 11:59pm ET. If you purchase the bundle and find it’s not for you, there’s a 30 day money back guarantee.

I just purchased mine. Once I’ve had a moment to look it over, I’ll share the things I find the most helpful to round out planning for our school year. For full disclosure, if you purchase a bundle through any of the links on my blog, I will receive a small commission. I personally find the bundles a good value with tons valuable information, but everyone’s needs are different. This week’s blog focus is homeschooling, but next week I’ll return to more recipes, DIYs and refashions.

If you’re interested, I urge you to check it out before midnight ET on Tuesday, July 28 (tomorrow night). If you purchase before then, you’ll get a free early bird bonus: a Wild Happy Family Media Membership worth $27.00. The Wild Happy Family Media Membership is an all-in-one, instant adventure library, ready for you and your family to explore at the click of a button.

Purchase your bundle before this timer runs out to get your early bird bonus.

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to get your Ultimate Homeschooling Bundle 2020.

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Organizational Tools for Peace at Home: Ultimate Homemaking Bundle

Affiliate disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through any of the links on this page, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. All the statements contained in this post are my honest opinions of the product, the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle 2020.

With everyone spending more time at home, it’s easy to feel like you should be able to stay on top of everything. The house should be spotless, closets decluttered, laundry clean and put away, delicious home-cooked meals ready on time and the kitchen cleaned up promptly after. If you’re home all day, it should be easy, right?

What could possibly be difficult about having an organized home with these three?

The truth is, it’s not that simple. Being home all day, especially with children, means more time to make more messes. If you work from home, you’re technically at home, but still have similar time demands to working at an office. Homeschooling adds its own time demands. Even if you have the time, it’s easy to get overwhelmed looking at a mountain of tasks and not know where to begin.

Enter the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle

I absolutely love the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle because over 50 women have contributed their tried-and-true resources to help you have a home that’s calm, organized, and well-run.

If you’ve never heard of it, the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle has been around since 2013, and since then, over 139,000 women (and probably some men, too) have purchased a copy to learn practical strategies for decreasing stress and making a home (and life!) they love.

When you buy the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle, you’ll get access to:

  • 14 eCourses & videos
  • 9 eBooks
  • 9 workbooks
  • 8 planners
  • 8 printable packs
  • 3 membership sites & summits

The creators behind these resources are 50+ women who have struggled with the same things you do, but have learned (and will teach you) how to simplify homes, declutter & organize, put healthy meals on the table, and nurture strong family relationships.

Best of all, you can get the entire package, all for just $29.97. This price hasn’t gone up since it was first released 8 years ago – which is an amazing deal, considering the prices of most things these days!

Over the years, I’ve purchased several bundles offered through Ultimate Bundles. Throughout the year, they offer bundles for things like healthy living, DIY projects, photography, and blogging as well as the current homemaking bundle. They’re all offered for a limited time at a steep discount compared to purchasing the resources in each bundle separately. If there’s even one or two of the resources in the bundle that you find useful, it usually more than justifies the cost. They also offer a 30 day money back guarantee, so if you get it and find that it’s not what you thought it would be, you can easily request a refund.

Ultimate Homemaking Bundle 2020

I just got my Ultimate Homemaking Bundle yesterday, so I haven’t had time to thoroughly explore all the resources. Looking through them, though, there are several that I’m really excited about.

Ebooks

I love ebooks because I can load them onto my Kindle Paperwhite that I carry with me in my purse. That way, I always have something to read any time I have a few minutes of downtime. From this bundle, I’m looking forward to reading these:

  • Cleaning with Essential Oils: Your Guide to All Natural Cleaning by Kristyn Bango
  • Garden Harvest Recipes: A Plant to Plate Cookbook by Holly Bertone
  • Quick Start Guide to Water Bath Canning by Victoria Pruett

Planners

Printable planners are awesome because you can print and use only what you need. You can also take elements from different planners to create a perfect planner that works for you. This year’s bundle offers several planners, including ones for cleaning, homeschooling and reaching your goals. These planners are of particular interest to me:

Cleaning

  • Declutter in Minutes Planner by Tracy Lynn
  • Motivated Moms Classic Planner by Susan Cramer
  • The Confident Mom Weekly Household Planner and Supplement Kit by Susan Heid

Homeschooling

  • The Homeschool Planner: Simply Plan, Simply Homeschool by Sean and Caroline Allen

Goals

  • Dreams by Design 2020 Planner by Karen Schravemade
Ultimate Homemaking Bundle 2020

Ecourses

To be honest, I haven’t used the ecourses as much in the past. Even though they are totally at your own pace, I tend to start them, get busy with other things and never get back to them. There’s several in this bundle that look really helpful, though, so I will have to do better this time. From the ecourses, these are the ones I think will benefit me the most:

  • 5 Days of Cleaning Motivation: Get Motivated to Clean! Are you in? by Joanie Boeckman
  • Exercise Around The World: Explore The Geographical Roots of Fitness through Movement by Beth Learn
  • Inspire a Love of Learning by Kerry Beck
  • Not So Bummer Summer by JoAnn Crohn (geared towards children)
  • Take Ten Challenge by Laura Coppinger (meal planning)
  • Time Management Freedom by Deanna Dolbel (online business)
  • Uncomplicated Kitchen: 3 Step System for Simpler Weeknight Cooking by Ruthy Kirwan

Other Ultimate Homemaking Bundle 2020 resources

Those are just a sample of the many resources contained in this bundle. Not only are there more in each of those categories, I haven’t even mentioned the membership site access, printables, summits, and workbooks you’ll get. There’s also several bonuses that include gift certificates or products free for the cost of shipping.

If any of these resources sound like something that would help you, I urge you to take a look at the complete list here. Full disclosure: If you purchase through any of the links on this page, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Ultimate Homemaking Bundle 2020

On the other hand, if you’ve made it this far and don’t think this bundle is for you, don’t worry. My next post will be back to the content you’re used to from SubEarthan Cottage. I’ve been working on a few clothing refashions, and I’ve had to do another repair on my Kenmore sewing machine. Expect posts on those soon!

Time left to get your Ultimate Homemaking Bundle.

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Cloth Diapering – Types of Cloth Diapers

Beckett with cloth diapers in the background

Many parents are choosing cloth diapers over disposables. Cloth diapering saves money and space in the landfills. They also give you peace of mind. As long as you can do laundry, you will never run out of diapers. That’s always a good thing, but with stores limiting hours and sometimes running out of things like diapers and wipes, it’s especially important.

If you’re new to cloth diapering, it can be a bit overwhelming to navigate the different types of cloth diapers on the market. Today’s choices go beyond the pinned white squares our parents and grandparents used to include styles so user friendly even the most skeptical caregivers will be comfortable using them.

Here are the basics based on my research. If you have anything to add, please feel free to comment:

Flats

A large square of woven material, most commonly cotton, that have to be folded and pinned. They will leak unless you also use a waterproof diaper wrap/cover. Instead of diaper pins, you can also use a Snappi to hold flats in place.

Prefolds

A rectangle of cotton or other woven material with a thicker, absorbent middle section. Most moms have a few of these around even if they don’t cloth diaper because they make excellent burp cloths. They still require a little folding to get the best fit for your baby, but nowhere near as much as flats. Like flats, they’ll need pinned (or use a Snappi) and a leak-proof cover.

Fitted Cloth Diapers

Fitteds are made from an absorbent material and shaped to fit without folding. They usually close with Velcro or snaps, so you don’t need pins. They do not have a waterproof layer, so you’ll need a cover to make them leak-proof.

All-in-one Cloth Diapers (AIO)

All-in-ones are essentially fitteds with the addition of a leak-proof layer. The leak-proof layer is most commonly made with PUL, a plastic laminated material. They close with Velcro or snaps.

All in twos (AI2)

Similar to all-in-ones, except that a separate absorbent layer is placed inside of the diaper. This helps them dry faster because each layer is thinner. You can also customize the absorbency by adding layers as needed. They close with Velcro or snaps.

Pocket Diapers

Essentially a specific type of AI2. With pockets, the absorbent layer (insert) is placed in a pocket between a waterproof outer layer and an inner layer of fleece or some other material that lets wetness through to the insert and keeps baby’s skin dry. They close with Velcro or snaps.

Beckett with cloth diapers in the background
Sweet baby Beckett with his OS, pocket cloth diapers in the background.

One size (OS)

Means that the size of the diaper can be adjusted to fit most babies from infancy to toddlerhood as opposed to sized diapers that fit a weight range.

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Homemade Watercolor Paints

Thaddeus loves to paint. I like letting him paint, but store bought watercolors run out quickly. The colors also get mixed to some shade of brown. A few weeks ago, he really wanted to paint, so I decided to give making our own watercolor paints a try. 

The nice thing about homemade water colors is that you can make larger amounts, and putting them in a muffin tin or ice cube try keeps the colors separate. This recipe made fifteen slightly more than half-filled mini muffin cups worth of paint. The mini muffin tin I used is similar to this one.

Homemade watercolor paintss

As for colors, you’re only limited by the food coloring available. Gel food coloring gives a more vivid result and dries quicker. Liquid food coloring works fine, too, but with a less pigmented result.

The original recipe called for corn syrup. That’s not something I regularly keep on hand, so I improvised by making a simple syrup with sugar and water. To make simple syrup, combine two parts sugar to one part water. Heat until sugar is fully dissolved and the mixture thickens. Simple syrup is great for sweetening iced tea, lemonade and other cold drinks. It’s easier to fully mix in the syrup than trying to dissolve granulated sugar in cold beverages.

Homemade Watercolor paints

Homemade watercolor paintss

Homemade watercolor paints

Make these long lasting watercolors for your kiddos with common household ingredients.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Drying time 1 d

Equipment

  • muffin tin or ice cube trays to hold the finished paints

Ingredients
  

  • 8 tbsp baking soda
  • 4 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 tsp light corn syrup or simple syrup For simple syrup, mix two parts sugar and one part water. Heat until sugar is melted and mixture is thickened.
  • 4 tbsp cornstarch
  • food coloring in desired colors gel works better, but you can use liquid

Instructions
 

  • Combine baking soda and vinegar in a medium bowl or measuring cup. Be sure it's big enough to contain the fizzing.
  • Add cornstarch and corn syrup or simple syrup. Mix well.
  • Pour into the sections of your muffin tin or ice cube tray. I used a 24 count mini muffin tin and half filled 15 sections. The empty sections are great for holding water while painting.
  • Add food coloring a little at a time and stir until you get the desired color.
  • Allow to dry for about a day. You could also put it in the oven on the lowest setting (my oven's lowest is 150 degrees) for about 20 to 30 minutes to speed up the process, but the paints may get a little bubbly. Watch it closely if you choose to bake it dry.
  • To use, wet a paintbrush and swirl over the paints.

What fun at-home activities do your children enjoy? Share them in the comments to help others needing ideas while we’re all sheltering in place.

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Embroidery freebies

Knowing that so many are stuck at home right now needing distractions, I’ve decided to make all of my machine embroidery design files free until April 30. That’s the day my area’s shelter in place order expires. If it is extended, I’ll extend the embroidery design freebies, too. If you make something with one of my designs, I would love to see it.

This post contains an Amazon Associate’s link. Purchasing through that link will give me a small commission at no cost to you.

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Simple DIY Rainbow Cupcake Crayons

rainbow cupcake crayons

I originally shared this tutorial for rainbow cupcake crayons almost ten years ago when Finn was my little preschooler and I made rainbow cupcake crayons for him using all of our broken crayons. It’s easy, and you can get little ones to help with peeling the paper off of the broken crayons, and they get fun new crayons to play with once they have cooled.

Unfortunately my photos of our project got lost, but a quick Etsy search shows lots of examples of similar multicolored crayons in fun shapes. If you like the idea but don’t have tons of broken crayons around, consider supporting one of the shops on Etsy by purchasing from them.

rainbow cupcake crayons
Photo by Kristin Brown on Unsplash

DIY Rainbow Cupcake Crayons Tutorial

  • Line a muffin pan with foil or a double thickness of cupcake liners. (Note: The wax will likely melt through, so you probably want to use a pan that you reserve for non-food projects.)
  • Remove all the paper from your crayons.
  • Break into smaller pieces if needed. I just broke them as small as I could with my fingers. Most pieces were about an inch long or smaller.
  • Sort the pieces into the lined cups. I sorted by color, but you could also mix for super swirly crayons.
  • Fill the cups to the top but don’t overfill.
  • Melt in the oven at about 200-250 degrees F. I recommend setting a baking sheet under the muffin pan. You really don’t want to have to scrape melted crayon off your oven.
  • Check about every 10-15 minutes. I let them cook until there were just a few solid chunks in the middle. Then I gently swirled them with toothpicks to sink the chunks and blend the colors.
  • When they are sufficiently melted, turn off the oven. You can carefully remove them at this point or let them cool in the oven. I didn’t need my oven, so I let them cool in there overnight.
  • Once they’ve cooled completely you can remove the papers and color away.

Mask Update

I made a few of the fitted masks I mentioned in Wednesday’s post. Overall, I think they fit well, but they are a little tedious to make, particularly if you have lots of interruptions.

Awkward photo of me modeling a fitted mask.

I looked into it a little more and found that it seems more hospitals are asking for a more simplified mask, so I’m switching to ones made by this tutorial. With batch cutting and then sewing two or three assembly line style, I can make 3-4 in a hour, even with interruptions.

Shop update: Freebies and a sale

Knowing that so many are stuck at home right now needing distractions, I’ve decided to make all of my machine embroidery design files free until April 7. That’s the day my area’s shelter in place order expires. If it is extended, I’ll extend the embroidery design freebies, too. If you make something with one of my designs, I would love to see it.

My full shop is still open, and will be as long as everyone in my household is healthy. I’m using extra care with handwashing and using hand sanitizer before coming into contact with products and packaging as well.

All of my handmade soaps are currently on sale for 20% off. You can find them here.

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27 Activities for Kids at Home

Sometimes, even a rainy weekend stuck at home is difficult for kids. Now, with schools closing due to COVID-19, children and parents everywhere are off-schedule, stressed and going stir-crazy. To help out, I made a list of activities for kids at home.

Backyard Fun

  • Play Ball- Catch and kicking a ball around are always fun. Try using a laundry basket and see who can toss the ball into the basket from an increasing distance away. Or, use empty soda bottles to make bowling pins and play backyard bowling.
  • Get Dirty- Playing in the mud or digging in the dirt is fun for littles. For something more structured, save seeds from fruits and vegetables to plant and see what sprouts or tend an existing garden.
  • Picnic- On sunny days, take meals outside. If you don’t have an outdoor table, grab a tablecloth or bed sheet to spread on the ground and sit on.
  • Explore Nature- Observe insects, compare plants and leaves. You could also download a plant identification app and use it to learn about plants growing in your yard.
  • Sidewalk chalk- Patios, driveways, and sidewalks become canvases.
Backyard fun activities for kids at home

Indoor Crafts

  • Break Out the Art Supplies- Drawing, painting, cutting and pasting can be fun for all ages. If they need a little motivation, give a general theme and have awards for the most creative, detailed, colorful, etc.
  • Think Outside the Box- Old magazines, newspapers, junk mail, cereal boxes, cardboard tubes, etc. make creative art supplies. Tubes become telescopes or binoculars. Cutout pictures and letters to make collages.
  • Playdough- Use store-bought or make your own. I think it’s easier to clean up than slime, but of course, that’s an option, too.
  • Go Big- If you have any large cardboard boxes, get creative with them. Rolls of butcher paper or the plain side of wrapping paper are great for large murals or full body tracing.
Artwork activities for kids at home

Indoor Games

  • Board games- Break out the ones you have, invest in a couple of classics like Candy Land or Monopoly (Amazon means not having to leave the house), or create your own.
  • Charades– No pieces or props are needed to take turns acting out and guessing your favorite books, shows and movies.
  • Pictionary– Similar to charades, all you need is something to draw on and draw with.

Advanced Crafts

  • Share Your Skills- Do you sew, knit, or crochet? Whatever your craft, think of a beginner lesson and teach it to your children.
  • Learn Together- Do you have supplies for a project that never happened or a skill you never got around to learning? Look up tutorials or YouTube videos and learn it together.

In the Kitchen

  • Make Cookies- Or cake, or brownies. Baking introduces basic cooking skills, reading instructions and fractions. Depending on what you’re making, all of the measuring and mixing can be done without needing the stove or oven until it’s time to bake.
  • Let Them Help- Give them options and let them help with meal planning. Older kids and teens can be more hands on with meal prep. Even little ones can help with washing vegetables, setting the table, mixing and measuring.

Educational Screen Time

  • Stream Documentaries- Netflix and other streaming services have tons of documentaries available. Pick a subject your child is passionate about, or look for something fun and quirky and watch it together.
  • Khan Academy– This website has lessons on just about anything you want to learn for all ages.
  • Preschoolers- PBS Kids has games and videos for all the PBS Kids shows. Starfall.com is a fun way for kids to learn ABC’s and reading basics.
  • Google Sketchup– My kids enjoy playing around with this drafting program (website).

DIY Toys

  • Dress up- Look in the back of your closets for old clothing and accessories, or dig out old Halloween costumes. Or, make a super hero costume from an old t-shirt.
  • Blanket forts- Use blankets, pillows, couch cushions, whatever you can think of to build a hideaway for the kiddos to hang out.
  • Bath time- While not exactly a toy, playing in water is fun and calming for little ones, so if they’re getting a little stir-crazy, let them play in a bath. If older kiddos are feeling antsy or stressed, suggesting a bath or shower might help them, too.

Storytime

  • Break out old favorites- Keep a basket of books in a handy spot, like on a coffee table to make it easy to grab one and read.
  • Read aloud- Adults can read to everyone or have older children read to younger ones. Beckett doesn’t always like listening to me or reading on his own, but he sometimes enjoys reading aloud to Thaddeus.
  • Explore new books- Many public libraries give you the ability to checkout ebooks online. Project Gutenberg has over 60,000 books online for free. Or, try Kindle Unlimited to get unlimited access to tons of ebooks and audio books for a low monthly fee. Use this link to get your first month free.
  • Write your own- Take turns making up stories or turn it into a project by folding paper books and adding illustrations. Pre-k and younger can draw pictures to tell their stories.

What at home activities do you like to do with your kids? Please share your activities for kids at home in the comments.

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Quick Superhero Costume Mini Tutorial

With schools closing down due to coronavirus, there’s likely to be a lot of kids at home looking for fun things to do. Dressing up is always fun, and who doesn’t love a cape and mask? I first shared this quick superhero costume tutorial about ten years ago when Finnian was my crazy only child. It is super easy, and all it takes is an over-sized t-shirt and some scissors.

My son is really into superheros right now.  He started asking for a superhero costume yesterday.  Given that he’s three and impatient, I needed something quick and easy.  Here’s what I came up with:

I took one 2x mens t-shirt and cut it straight down the sides, removing the sleeves.

Then I cut off the front panel, leaving the neck band and a 3-4 inch curved section attached for the

front.  That way there’s no ties so he can put it on himself. Splitting the neck in the front and adding a Velcro hook and loop closure is also an option.

Finally I cut the front panel into three long strips.  One got holes for the eyes and tied around his head for the mask.  The other two I sewed together at one of the narrow ends. I tied it around his waist for the sash.

quick superhero costume

The mask is getting a little stretched out, but he likes the bigger eye holes, so that’s working out well.

He left his plain, but decorating the costume is another fun project. Kids could draw their own designs with markers or cut designs out of felt or other fabric scraps and attach with fabric or craft glue.

While I try to write tutorials as clearly as possible, it’s easy to miss a step or make assumptions. If anything is confusing, please don’t hesitate to comment with your questions.

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