Easy-peasy playdough recipe

On Sunday morning, I whipped up some homemade playdough for the kids. It took maybe 20 minutes from start to finish and was so easy it left me wondering why I never made it myself before!

our playdoughPlaydough

1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
1 cup water
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons cream of tartar
food coloring

Mix flour, salt, cream of tartar and oil, and slowly add the water. Cook over medium heat, stirring until dough becomes stiff. Turn out onto wax paper and let cool. Knead the playdough with your hands until of proper consistency. Use as is, or divide into balls and add a few drops of the food coloring to make various colors.

I love how soft it turned out and the unique colors. If the kids didn’t love it so much, I think I could spend hours just playing with it myself. :)

Julian and Ava reaching for the playdough

Here are some variations of the playdough recipe.

A souvenir from election night

Ava’s picture was taken by a photographer at the Obama victory party we attended on election night and posted the following day on our local paper’s website. I’m not sure if it made it into the actual newspaper or not since I didn’t manage to snag a paper that day (grrr. still trying to get my hands on one), but I got the digital version of the picture and am going to order a print to put in the scrapbook that I hope to someday make for her. :)

Ava and other Obama kids play at the election night party 11/4/08

How do small cuts in your family budget affect your kids?

(I wrote this for BlogHer last week, but due to the election, didn’t have the opportunity to post it here until today. Hope you enjoy this break from all of the political talk.)

Although you may never have had to worry about making cuts in your family budget in the past, chances are that with the current recession you dollar_sign.jpgare probably examining your finances more carefully and trying to find ways to cut back on spending. It may or may not be a necessity right now, but when planning in uncertain times, the more money you can sock away in the bank, the more secure you’re likely to feel. However, while the money saved might make you feel good, you may find yourself worrying about how these small budget cuts will affect your kids and family life.

Two weeks ago on Oprah Suze Orman discussed Teaching Kids About Money. The show focused on the fact that many families who’ve been used to saying “yes” to all of their children’s wants are now, because of the economic crisis, having to start saying “no,” how the kids react to that, and how families can start teaching their kids about money.

Suze’s top five tips were:

  • Start talking about money now
  • Teach kids to value money
  • Don’t reward with money
  • Be an example
  • Teach kids how to prioritize

You can learn more on Oprah.com about Teaching Your Kids about Money.

There are so many little ways families can cut back and, because this is a hot topic, there are a lot of bloggers out there talking about this right now. How your kids will be affected by small budget cuts depends on how it is presented to them (if you’re scared, they will be scared), your attitude (will this be a fun adventure or a burden?), how old they are, and whether or not they’ve heard “no” to any of their wants before.

Dana at Mommy Madness recently posted about her family budget and has a handful of things that they do to help save money. Some of the things she’s found to be helpful include:

  • Cutting her four children’s hair herself
  • Using cloth diapers and/or working on infant potty training (also called elimination communication)
  • As a home schooler, she suggests finding ways to homeschool for free or very cheap by taking advantage of sites like Ambleside online for their curriculum outline that utilizes literature as the main “texts.” She also suggests taking advantage of the library for free books.
  • Several of her friends have been making their own laundry and dishwasher detergents.

I just took my two kids for haircuts (after putting it off as long as I could – seriously, Ava’s bangs were well into her eyes, and Julian was growing a mullet) and after laying down $30 plus tips, I’m thinking I seriously need to learn how to cut their hair. I’ve tried it a few times in the past, but I’m not as comfortable with it as I’d like to be.

Earlier this week, Lori at MyThings Blog wrote 10 Ideas to Save Money on Everything. One of her ideas that I really like is “Buy clothes on the off-season, on eBay, and at off-price retailers like Marshalls.” To that I must add, visit consignment shops and thrift stores. I love to buy my kids’ clothes from consignment stores. I’ve gotten some great deals on clothes that look like-new and because they are only 4 years old and almost 2, they couldn’t care less where there clothes come from. On Oprah, the mom and teenage daughter of the family they interviewed said they now enjoy going to thrift stores to do their clothes shopping together. I’ve also recently started visiting thrift stores for books for my kids ($.79 per book? heck yeah!), kitchen stuff and occasionally toys (again, $.79 for a metal firetruck – sweet!). It’s hit and miss, but you can get some score some great stuff this way.

Over at Monroe on a Budget, they report that Spending on kids is often hardest expense to cut and follow up with some tips to help cutting back on kid expenses:

  • Don’t take kids shopping with you, especially the younger ones.
  • Limit exposure to advertisements for toys and commercial foods. Maybe you plug in a video, rather than turn on a TV channel, for entertainment. Maybe you hide the toy catalog as soon as it arrives. They might see an advertisement at a friend’s house for a toy you can’t afford. But at least the kids won’t see the same commercial over, and over, and over again.
  • If money is tight but you want to continue the children’s activities or programs, look for any way to cut the expenses or get financial aid. You don’t have to be a welfare family to get help paying these expenses – it all depends on the grant, scholarship, sponsor’s bequest or foundation rules. I have a post that specifically talks about kids’ sports expenses.
  • Pick your financial battles. You know you can’t pay for everything the children want to do – so figure out which one or two activities or events the kids really, really want to participate in. That’s where you focus your money (and fundraising efforts, if needed). Anything else they want to be involved in has to be low-cost.

McKenna at The Mom Crowd recently wrote Teaching Your Children (and Yourselves) How To Live Within Your Means and while it doesn’t necessarily have tips for how to cut back expenses, it does have some great advice regarding teaching kids about money.

  • Be honest with your children about your family budget and explain to them that if you add an expense, you will have to take away another expense. Explain to them that in order for your family to increase their cable channels, you will have to have dial up internet. Allow them to share their thoughts and play a role in your family’s budget.
  • Remind your children that “stuff” is not what is important in this life. Volunteer as a family at the food bank or homeless shelter. Expose them to families who do not have very much. For Christmas, have your children give presents to children who are less fortunate than they are. Set an example to your children by not complaining about what you don’t have. Being around people who are less fortunate than you are will not only impact your children, but it will impact you and remind you of all of the things you have.
  • If there are things your children really want, tell them to add it to their Christmas list or birthday list. This will not only make these celebrations more exciting, it will also help steer your children away from a “have it all, have it NOW” mentality. You can also use these items they want as rewards for them. Buying them whatever they want, whenever they want will not only be bad for your checkbook, your children will never learn how to live within their means or discipline.

Gina at Mommy Making Money blogs about “how to save money on the family budget while working around the kiddos.” She has links to printable coupons, tips on sales at various grocery stores, and more.

Rachel at Small Notebook wrote Your Family Budget step by step. While my family doesn’t tend to live beyond our means, budgeting is something I struggle with, so I was happy to find this advice.

When I make a budget, I focus on two kinds of amounts:
* Planned amounts- what you think your income and expenses will be.
* Actual amounts- what the income and expenses actually were.

If you’ll notice, I didn’t mention “ideal amounts.” My thoughts are a budget is a planning tool, and it is most effective when it is realistic. It’s not the place for what you wish the numbers were. Once the budget is set up and you can see where your money is really going, there will be plenty of opportunities to change your spending.

Rachel also advises to keep the budget simple and workable so that you actually use it.

Here are a few more ways families can cut back on spending:

  • Rent movies and have time together as a family, instead of going out to a movie.
  • Cook dinners at home rather than going out to eat. Let the kids choose the meals and be involved in the planning.
  • Go camping in your backyard or at a nearby location rather than taking an expensive vacation.
  • Repair/mend clothing rather than buy more.
  • Bike or take public transportation rather than drive yourself.
  • Borrow books from the library rather than buy new ones.
  • Find free or low-cost activities, events for the kids or even whole family to attend. Check your local paper online for information.

The bottom line is that cutting back on your family budget may be hard on the kids at first, but it can be a valuable learning experience and enjoyable as well. The more fun you make it, the more they are likely to realize that things don’t matter nearly as much as quality time spent with family does.

What are ways that your family has cut back in spending lately and how have your kids reacted to it?

Related posts:
* Give the Kids an Allowance and Save Money
* Personal Budgeting: 6 Money Savings Tips for Today’s Economy

Yes We Can, Yes We Did

Last night history was made. The United States of America elected its first multi-racial president, Barack Hussein Obama.

Jody, the kids and I had the opportunity to go to an Obama victory party held by the Boulder County Democrats. We met up with my sister Carrie as well as some friends. The energy was high, the cheers were loud. There were two big screens, food, drinks, and the place was decked out in red, white and blue. There were lots of smiles, lots of tears, lots of hugs and kisses. It felt like a New Year’s Eve party, except instead of people being donned in New Year’s accessories, everyone was wearing Obama shirts, stickers, buttons, balloons and even signs!
Woohoo!My family on election night

The crowd went wild when Colorado’s results went up on the big screens. Our great state went blue! I was proud to have done a very small part to help make that happen, making calls from home, in my car, in the Democrats office and again from home yesterday afternoon as I gave it one last push, feeling confident that no matter what the results, there was no way I could say,  “I wish I would’ve done more.”

When it was announced that Barack Obama was the next president, I got tears in my eyes. I have never been so excited about our country’s future and been so proud to be an American as I was in that one moment. I hugged Jody, I hugged Carrie, I hugged Melissa, I hugged both Ava and Julian and told them that Barack Obama would be our president!

Carrie, Jody and Julian celebrate Obama’s victory Ava with her happy balloon Julian has fun with balloons too

We listened to John McCain’s gracious and heartfelt concession speech. He really seemed to be speaking from his heart and I just wanted to give him a hug. Although I’m obviously happy the election ended the way it did, I still admire McCain and am thankful for his service to our country.

And then we waited and waited for Barack to talk. When he, Michelle, Malia and Sasha walked onto the stage, again, the crowd went wild.

Boulder County Democrats cheer for Obama

It was inspiring, as always, to hear Barack speak. He’s inspired me to get involved with my country’s future and I know he’s inspired many, many others as well. It is my hope now that those who did not vote for him will accept that is going to be the president and to show him respect. If you don’t agree with him, let him know. He even encouraged that in his acceptance speech. That is just one thing that I think is particularly appealing about Obama, that he’s so well connected. He’s on FaceBook, he sends emails, he’s on Twitter. I got a thank you email from him last night for the donations I gave and volunteering I did and that really meant something to me. I know that email went out to millions of people, but I appreciated it. I feel connected to him in a way I’ve never felt to other presidents. See what I mean? ;)

Barack and me

Barack Obama has shown me that great things can happen when people are inspired and they come together to work towards a common goal. I believe the momentum that’s been started will continue and that there are good things in store for the United States of America. Yes We Can.Carrie, Julian, Jody, Ava and me

I’m also so proud of the amazing voter turnout in this election. Thank you to EVERYONE who voted. That alone shows me that people truly care about our country’s future. If we can harness that energy and turn it all into something positive, imagine the possibilities.

“You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one” — John Lennon

And now, here’s where I ask for your help. I can only report what I’m experiencing here in the USA, but I’d LOVE to know what my readers in other countries think about Barack Obama being elected president. If you live outside of the United States or you have family outside of the US, would you please email me and tell me how you/your family is reacting to this news? Please include where you live. I’d like to put together a post including all of these sentiments. Thank you!

One word

I have just one word for all of you United States’ citizens today:



OK, maybe a few more words too. ;)

Be sure to bring your ID along with you, and maybe a book and some water in case of long lines.

If you run into a problem at the polls, you can get voter protection information online at: HTTP://WWW.866OURVOTE.ORG and on the phone at:

– 1-866-OUR-VOTE (administered by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law)

– 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA (administered by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Education Fund)

– In addition, CNN has a voter hotline to call if you encounter any problems voting or know of a problem: 1-877-462-6608.

Thanks to Moms Rising for this information.

Our Barack Obama Rally Experience (pictures & videos)

On Saturday, Jody, the kids and I drove 2 1/2 hours to Pueblo, CO, to experience our first political rally where both Michelle and Barack Obama were scheduled to speak. According to the LA Times, there were over 15,000 people in attendance.

We were seriously lucky and got amazingly close to the stage thanks to a phone call my sister Carrie made on Friday. Jody and I had been debating whether or not it’d be a good idea to take the kids for the 2 1/2 hour drive, then make them wait for the rally to begin and sit through the rally before having to drive 2 1/2 hours back home. It seemed like a lot to ask of them. I had several questions like if I could wear Julian in my Ergo (baby carrier), if we could bring a blanket to put on the ground, and if we could bring in a bag with diapers, snacks, toys, etc. to entertain the kids. Carrie called the Colorado Springs Obama office for me and said we’d be coming with two small kids and asked my questions (yes on Ergo, no on blanket, yes on backpack with snacks, diapers, etc.). She then told Carrie that since we’d have little kids with us we could use the disabled persons’ entrance.

So we decided we would give it a go, try not to have any expectations and just enjoy being a part of the event. We dressed the kids in their “Kids for Obama” t-shirts, I donned my “Obama Mama” pin and, because it was warm enough for short-sleeves, even displayed my Obama temporary tattoo on my arm and we headed out on a beautiful day to Pueblo.

When we finally got to Pueblo, about 30 minutes before the rally was set to start, we parked a block from the disabled persons’ entrance and made our way there. A police officer outside of the line told us that we’d have to go to the main entrance – FIVE blocks away. I explained that we were told to go to the disabled entrance because of the kids and he was skeptical. He said we could try to get in, but they might just turn us away and direct us to the main entrance anyway. Unsure what to do, we started to walk down the street to the main entrance when I said, “Ya know what? No. We are going to try to get in back there.” So we headed back, told him we’d take our chances and waited in line for about 10 minutes while I formulated my story, even verifying on the phone with my sister the name of the person she talked to. (Carrie and her friend had got to the rally before us and were out in the crowd, about 2 blocks away from the stage.) When we got to the front, the security guards didn’t bat an eye, they just had us go through the metal detector like everyone else and we were in! We walked around some Port-O-Johns and a building and discovered that we were in the media area and about 30 feet from the podium where Obama would be speaking!! SCORE! :)

I took both my SLR and P&S cameras and am so glad I did. I got a few videos, some snaps, as well as some good pictures of Barack and Michelle. The only thing I didn’t get that I wished I had, was a picture of Barack and Michelle with their daughters. They all came out on the stage for about 30 seconds at the end, but by that time I was holding a tired and very much ready to leave Ava (Jody had been walking around with a tired, cranky Julian for the entire rally) and was unable to get a shot off. Despite that, I was very happy with the pictures I got.

Julian looking sleepy in the Ergo – Excited Ava and Jody waiting in the security line – Before the rally began, Julian was ready for a nap
A tired Julian in the Ergo on my back as we walked to the rally 11/1/08 Ava and Jody waiting in the security line before the rally 11/1/08 Excitement mounts before the rally, but Julian is ready for some Zzzzzs 11/1/08
Cute baby for Obama – Our view of the media (which we were standing right beside) – SWAT team on the roof
Baby for Obama 11/1/08 We were in the media section 11/1/08 Members of the SWAT team 11/1/08
Michelle Obama spoke briefly before introducing Barack – Love that Obama was speaking on Union Ave. (since he’s all about unity)
Michelle Obama speaks at the rally 11/1/08 Michelle Obama introducing Barack 11/1/08 Barack Obama speaks on Union Ave. (nice) in Pueblo 11/1/08
Obama speaks to the crowd
Barack Obama addresses the crowd in Pueblo 11/1/08 A very small part of the crowd 11/1/08 Barack Obama in Pueblo 11/1/08
More of Obama
Obama speaks on Union Ave. in Pueblo 11/1/08 Barack Obama in Pueblo 11/1/08 Barack Obama in Pueblo 11/1/08
Obama – Ava and me with Obama speaking behind us
Barack Obama in Pueblo 11/1/08 Me, Ava and Barack Obama 11/1/08 Pueblo, CO Another of Ava, me and Barack 11/1/08
The kids run off some energy after the rally ends
The kids running off some energy after the rally 11/1/08

The energy at the rally was incredible and it was amazing to be a part of it. Obama encouraged everyone to volunteer – make phone calls, go canvassing, etc. – in the last few days before the election. I’m hoping to do that again Monday evening. If you’ve already voted and are looking for something to do on Tuesday other than make last minute calls encouraging people to vote, please consider taking water or food to the people waiting in line to vote. Seriously, that’s what is needed (Edited to add: I learned today that you need to SIGN UP to be able to do this – don’t just show up at the polling place expecting to get to distribute food to voters. Call your local democratic office first. However, you CAN bring food to the people working at the polling place (according to someone who will be working) without signing up first.).

While the kids weren’t very excited to be at the rally (it was a long day for all of us, especially them), I am glad we went and that they got to see Barack Obama in person. Someday, I think they will be glad they were there too. (Oh, and Julian finally got that nap in – all the way home.)

If I’ve still got your attention and you want to see a couple of videos from the rally, here’s Michelle welcoming Barack onto the stage (they are so cute together) and a short one of Barack talking about unity.

Oh, and as for my choice for Best Shot Monday, this week I really can’t choose just one. I like the “Obama baby” and the one of Michelle smiling and then I’m also very partial to the ones of me and Ava with Barack behind us because they are priceless. :) You can see more Best Shots over here.

I hope to post about my experience hearing Gloria Steinem talk (I saw her today at Borders) tomorrow. Stay tuned. :)