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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

TOS Review: The Fascinating World Of Mammals

 photo mammals_front_500__556451320384055300400_zps4f7f14fe.jpgThe kids and I recently had the opportunity to review The Fascinating World of Mammals, a DVD produced by BrainFood Learning, geared for kids ages 3-11 years old.

The 52 minute long DVD introduces ten different mammals, starting with simple information, and then moving on to more in depth facts and vocabulary words. After each animal is discussed new words are reviewed for a few minutes. At the end of the DVD is a comprehensive review section, with the questions with simple questions in the beginning and more difficult ones as the review section progresses.

The DVD is kid and family friendly, narrated in a knowledgeable, intelligent manner. While it certainly is interesting enough to hold a preschoolers attention it's most certainly geared toward older children as well.

River (4), Kaden (10), and Adam (12) watched the DVD with me. We actually watched it twice (so far) because there was a lot of information presented.

River liked the movie but lost interest when the review started (even though he knew the answers to the questions he stuck around for).

Kaden said:

I liked the movie because we got to learn about mammals. We learned about dolphins, beavers, bears, lions, kangaroos, elephants, and giraffes. We learned that mammals are the only animals with hair. We learned dolphins and bats use echolocation.

And Adam:

The movie was very fun. I liked that it taught us about a lot of mammals, not just one mammal. I liked that it showed pictures of each animal. I think I can use what I learned in my whole life.

Mama (that's me):

I was impressed by the movie. I liked the detail covered about each mammal and I liked the review section at the end. I would absolutely take this movie on a road trip with us, knowing it would provide an hour of good, clean, educational, engaging entertainment.

We were able to giggle together after the DVD ended about some of the cute animals and marvel at the ruminants (those are the animals with four chambered stomachs).

The Fascinating World of Mammals is available for $14.99 at BrainFood Learning. DVD's about insects and birds are also available at the BrainFood Learning website.

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew.


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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

TOS Review: The Homegrown Preschooler, Teaching Your Kids in the Places They Live

Because I'm Me Review: The Homegrown Preschooler, Teaching Your Kids in the Places They Live - This is a great book and resource for preschoolersI'm always looking for educational ways to keep River (age 4) busy and engaged while the other kids are doing schoolwork. I love that River plays well independently and for part of the day I'm perfectly comfortable to let him do his own thing, but it's important for him to also be developing and growing his brain and continuing to work on his motor skills, so I'm always on the lookout for super low cost (ie - free) engaging activities for him..

I was given the opportunity to review The Homegrown Preschooler, Teaching Your Kids in the Places They Live, by Kathy H. Lee and Lesli M. Richards, published by Gryphon House Books. I was happy to do the review and looked forward to receiving the book, and I have to say from the beginning that it exceeded my expectations.

To start, the soft-cover 204 page book is beautiful. I realize that's not a reason to love a resource book but I don't care, it's pretty and that made me happy.  A book about preschool and family activities with great pictures and an easy to follow, eye catching layout is so much more fun than a boring old textbook, and sure kept my attention.

The first half of the book begins by introducing the idea of home schooling preschoolers and then moves into a "how to" of homeschooling for beginners.

From there the book touches on special circumstances, like kiddos with special needs and adoption, as well as days that aren't normal - sick days, "off" days (we have them ALL the time).

The book finishes with 80 pages of activities and really cool ideas. 80 pages does not mean 80 activities, a single page may have a few ideas on it, or ten or more - and the first sections of the book are also filled with activities and ideas. As a former daycare teacher I've got a memory file full of preschool projects yet on every page I found fun, new, low-cost or free activities. I've spent weeks digesting this book and I feel like I should be keeping a list of all the things I want to do with River, except I've picked just about every activity in the book so I might as well go straight from the book! There are some activities that are young for River, good for 2-3 year olds, and and some that would be great for Kindergarten/First Grade aged kids.

On page 84 is a list labeled "Top Ten Baggie On-the-Go Ideas. I immediately did number 1, filling a baggie with shaving cream and food coloring and sealing it with tape. We used blue and yellow food coloring (it's what we have). As River manipulated the bag, squishing it this way and that, the shaving cream took on more and more yellow and blue color, eventually blending to green. He played with this until I took it for a turn. Squishing that bag was one of the most soothing activities ... great stress relief.

I found some activities I've done in the past and forgotten, like making our own balance beam, which I did when the older kids were preschoolers and taking gymnastics.

One rainy day this summer I opened the book to a random page and found a project. It's hard to not find a project on every page. And most of the projects can be done with everyday on-hand objects, or by spending less than $5.

Perhaps it's not yet obvious? I love this book. I enjoy almost all of the items I get to review, but I especially feel like I struck gold with this one. I highly recommend it for preschoolers - for your home school, for after-school or free play activities, for Grandma and Grandpa to have at their house.
The Homegrown Preschooler, Teaching your Kids in the Places They Live, is available at Gryphon House for $29.95.

If you use this book please share your thoughts on it with me. I'd love to know what projects you and your preschooler do.

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew.

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Monday, July 29, 2013

May I Be So Bold ...


as to present this gorgeous, vibrant, modern red floral print cotton tie?  A wonderful bouquet for summer.

This fabric is fantastic, I see the tie being perfect in the office or out.


The print is available for both men and boys, it'd be great for a father/son(s) photo shoot, especially with an adorable over-sized tie on a little boy.

Of course a bow tie is also available, again for both boys and men.



All ties available in the shop.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Camper Update


 More progress has been made on the pop-up camper. It's not looking much like it did when I bought it!

Bright and cheery and budget friendly, Because I'm Me Jayco 1207 pop-up tent camper interior remodel

I finished the side curtains. They are simply white cotton broadcloth with borders in the blue/green paisley. Like I did for the end panels, I put the paisley where hands would go to open and close the curtains, hoping that will keep then cleaner a little longer. Of course, they are machine washable if necessary.

I did not change out the valance. I will, someday, but it really isn't bothering me that much right now so it will wait until I find the right fabric sale.

Bright and cheery and budget friendly, Because I'm Me Jayco 1207 pop-up tent camper interior remodel

The more noticeable change, of course, is the cushion covers.  They're bright, huh? Perfect for a family full of kids.

The covers are made from Ikea bedspreads, on clearance for $11 each. Each bedspread made two - three covers, so it took quite a few bedspreads. I was looking at buying 10 or more yards of fabric to do all the cushions and wanted something sturdy, not a simple quilting cotton, and was looking at a pretty substantial expense. I really think I lucked out on these, they match and they were a great price. They're quilted and quite sturdy, great for holding their shape and, hopefully, standing up to use by 6 campers.

Bright and cheery and budget friendly, Because I'm Me Jayco 1207 pop-up tent camper interior remodel


Bright and cheery and budget friendly, Because I'm Me Jayco 1207 pop-up tent camper interior remodel

The covers are kind of duvet-like, with velcro closing them on the backside, super easy to take off and toss in the washer if necessary. I was able to use the side seams from the bedspreads on the outsides of the back, giving a more finished sturdy look.

Bright and cheery and budget friendly, Because I'm Me Jayco 1207 pop-up tent camper interior remodel

The throw pillows are made from Ikea pillows. Very simply, I manipulated the stuffing of the $4 pillows so it was divided in half inside the pillow, then I just sewed down the middle to create two smaller pillows. I added a second row of stitching next to the dividing row and cut the pillows into two between the stitching. Much less expensive and easier than batting or pillow forms.

The throw pillows will work for any camper who forgets, or doesn't want to bring, their pillow. They're small, but nice and comfy.

Bright and cheery and budget friendly, Because I'm Me Jayco 1207 pop-up tent camper interior remodel

The bird on the green leaf print pillow was made with a stamp I found at JoAnn's for $.25.

It's hard to see but two of the pillows are made from a fuzzy fleece, which was a blanket on clearance at Ikea as well. Perfect solution and super super soft.

Bright and cheery and budget friendly, Because I'm Me Jayco 1207 pop-up tent camper interior remodel

On the bench I chose to use a pair of denim curtains for the seat cushions. Knowing we'd be eating there I wanted something that would handle stains and spills better so I went with the darker color.

Bright and cheery and budget friendly, Because I'm Me Jayco 1207 pop-up tent camper interior remodel

Bright and cheery and budget friendly, Because I'm Me Jayco 1207 pop-up tent camper interior remodel

 Posts about the other updates to the camper:
#1 - (paint, bed end covers, drawer pulls, chalkboard paint door)
#2 - (bed end curtains, counters and table, faucet, flooring, door mat)

Bright and cheery and budget friendly, Because I'm Me Jayco 1207 pop-up tent camper interior remodel


Shop Now Because I'm Me bow ties for boys and men, gents of all ages

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

TOS Review: Circle Time

Circle Time Book Logo photo CircleTimeLogo_zps63dd95c9.jpg When I first heard about "circle time" for home schooled families, a time of day when all the kids (even the little ones) and Mom and/or Dad can come together to start the day and work on group lessons together, I was intrigued, and thus was eager to review Circle Time: Plan the Best Part of Your Homeschool Day.

The 32 page e-book Circle Time: Plan the Best Part of Your Homeschool Day, by Kendra Fletcher, through Preschoolers and Peace, presents the concept of "circle time", a time period, generally in the morning, when the parent(s) and children get together for group teaching time, which could include memorization, songs, prayers, reading together, and conquering some subjects like history and science, if the children do those together.


The book is divided into 9 chapters, focusing on what to include in circle time, suggestions for motivating children to be involved, and parameters for various ages. At the end of a book is a "wish list" for possible circle time activities.


From the Circle Time webpage:
  • Planning a Circle Time That Works for You
  • Strategies for a Peaceful Time Together
  • How to Get Your Kids on Board
  • Questions From Moms Like You
  • Words of Wisdom From Other Moms Who Do Circle Time
  • Resources, Activities, and Ideas
  • Printable Planner Sheets

I was not familiar with the concept of circle time beyond that in a preschool environment, at least not as it's called "circle time". However, we've always done our group activities at the kitchen table, first thing in the morning; science, history, spelling word lists, art, and foreign language. River does participate in most of what we're doing, at an age appropriate level. Our kitchen table is actually our home base for our school day, where most everything is done so we do tend to spend most of the day together, or at least within sight of each other. So, hey, we've been doing circle time and didn't even know it!

I do find our time together doing schoolwork at the kitchen table (after writing all that I think I may start refering to it as "circle time"!) enjoyable. Ideas get tossed around and conversation flows. It's not always groovy, but most of the time it's a positive experience.

After reading the book I've incorporated some new ideas, such as adding more memory work, into our circle time. I've had it in the back of my mind to include more memorization into the kids schooling and have now done so.

On the plus side: Circle Time encourages little ones to sit still and focus and the book provides reasoning and suggestions for encouraging that, circle time is a great way for the family to spend time together and connect, also expanded on in the book, and the book is a full of suggestions for a successful daily circle time. For a new home schooling multi-age family this book serves as both a unique resource and source of reassurance that schooling days aren't chaotic when you've got a plan in place. The book is an easy, quick read written from one homeschooling parent to another.

On the negative: The book is Christian, much of the circle time focus is on prayer, bible memorization, and the like. This isn't necessarily a negative, but it's not clearly stated on the book's website and wasn't exactly what I was expecting.

Circle Time is an immediately downloadable e-book available at Preschoolers and Peace for just $4.99. If you purchase the book and use it I'd love to hear what you do with it and how it works for you and your family.

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew.

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Monday, July 22, 2013

More of that Decadent Orange


A new orange tie in the shop, keeping the other orange ties company.


This orange is softer than a bright orange, just a decadent shade.


Perfect for an orange wedding or summer party.


Boys and mens bow ties in the shop.

Boys and mens neckties also in the shop.


I have received what may be my favorite order (at least for today). Six men's neckties in orange, each in a different print and shade. I'm hoping I'll get some pictures after the wedding to share.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Throwback Thursday : Homemade Laundry Soap

I first posted this homemade laundry soap on December 6, 2010. After three years I'm still making it regularly and it's about all we use.

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A few months ago I was made aware of the fact that one could make home made laundry detergent - easily.
I'd considered doing this before but read something about soaking, heating, mixing, liquids, etc. and quickly moved on.  Way too much work.

This recipe, however, is super easy and takes only minutes to put together.  I've been very happy with the results, quality wise, and am thrilled with the huge cost savings.

I mix:
1 box of washing soda
1 box of Borax (found the washing soda at WalMart and the Borax at Target)
1 box of All powdered stainlifter (not a necessity, but it's inexpensive and it works)
I then grate (with a cheese grater) in some (maybe 1/3 bar) Fels-Naptha bar laundry soap

That's it.  It's all dry ingredients and it mixes really easily. And it lasts forever.

I use 1/8 cup per load of laundry, no need to use more for larger or dirtier loads. 1/8 cup does the trick.

This soap does not provide the yummy scent of Tide or other laundry soaps*. For us, it took no time at all to adjust to that.  I do use a Bounce Dryer Bar** in the dryer to give the clean laundry a bit of a nice fresh aroma.

Borax can also be used to wash dishes.  I have used the laundry soap mix in the dishwasher before and it works ok ... not great, in my opinion, but good.

Have you tried making your own laundry soap/detergent? How did it work for you? 

*If you use traditional laundry detergent, liquid or powdered, you really truly only need 1/2 as much as they tell you to use.  And, from what I've read, washing in hot water is not all it's supposed to be.  The water will never really get hot enough to make a difference or sterilize anything.

**When using regular dryer sheets, which I haven't used in ages, I cut them in half.  Just take the whole package worth and cut them in half with an electric knife. 1/2 works just as well as a whole one.

TOS Review: Couponing Made Simple

Because I'm Me TOS Review - Save Money Using Coupons, Coupons Made SimpleRecently, I had the opportunity to use and review Couponing Made Simple, Simple Steps to Successful Couponing, by Christi Bassford, available through Christi the Coupon Coach.

I've been an avid couponer for the last 5 years or so. I've shared bits about that adventure here and even went as far as to begin a money saving blog (my attention was diverted elsewhere - sewing ties and quilts! - and closed that blog). I love saving money, and I support fully any effort to help consumers learn to spend less and save more, so I was more than happy to review this book. And, of course, there's always the potential to learn ways to save even more money.

Couponing Made Simple is an easy read. Christi writes very enthusiastically and conversationally. She shares real life success stories and real world savings examples using real stores. The information she presents includes where to find coupons, when to use them and where, how to organize them, how to find deals online, and how to save money beyond couponing, such as consignment and thrift store shopping. The information is presented clearly and concisely, with a lot of direction and guidance. It really is "couponing made simple".

Because I'm Me TOS Review - Save Money Using Coupons, Coupons Made Simple

Couponing Made Simple covers all the basics and provides the inspiration to make a go of it. Instead of spending hours reading blogs and gathering information from here, there and everywhere about the best and simplest way to use coupons successfully it's right here in one book. Following the steps presented in the book will guide the reader towards couponing as easily and painlessly as possible.

The 127 page soft cover book is divided into 10 chapters, covering creating an organization system, step-by-step "how to coupon", tips and tools, and much more. Christi shares encouraging success stories and while these stories sound unrealistic and impossible they're not - you really can save significant amounts of money at the grocery store! (Shoot - I have a girlfriend who just last week posted a shopping trip on facebook, she paid $30.21 and saved $393.46!)

I didn't come away from the book with a whole new couponing education, because I've been doing it and have a system that works for me, but I think it's a good resource for beginner couponers and I did feel that it covered all the ins and outs a couponer needs to know to make it easy and worthwhile.

Because I'm Me TOS Review - Save Money Using Coupons, Coupons Made Simple

Couponing Made Simple, Simple Steps to Successful Couponing, can be purchased for $18 for a physical book and $4.99 for the Kindle version.

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew

As an aside, I hear a lot of people say they need to save money but couponing takes too much time, energy, skills, etc. and it's not worth it; coupons are only for processed food and not fresh fruits and veggies; we only eat certain foods and there are never coupons on those foods. There are ways to make coupons work, at least to some degree, for almost everyone. Yes, there are coupons on fresh foods. Yes, it's time consuming in the beginning, but even with two newspapers a week and three grocery stores I got my planning down to two hours - to save 60-80%. I can't imagine going to Publix, Walgreen's, or CVS and paying full price. If you normally spend $100 per week and *only* save 20% you'll have an extra $1040 in your pocket at the end of the year.

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Throwback Thursday : Decadent Colors

This post, Decadent Colors from March 21, 2008, has been one of the most popular posts on my blog, as a result of internet searches for "blue brown wedding".  It really is a gorgeous color combination.

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blue brown green
1. Teal, 2. 3rd interpretation of Brown and Turquoise, 3. Teal and turquoise, 4. wool - brown and aqua, 5. YOC2: brown + blue ribbon, 6. Aqua Green Plaid Dog Harness, 7. brown lime Necklace, 8. Blue & Brown Wedding Cake, 9. aqua water and green grass, 10. Brown with Aqua Waves Purse, 11. Fiber Art Pendant - Orbiting Moons #3, 12. Brown-and-Blue Swap: From Kerflop, 13. 4 blue and 1 brown, 14. aqua green, 15. EtsyChocLimeDuck2, 16. brown and blue inspiration



I love these colors together. The blue/teal/green combination reminds me, of course, of the Gulf of Mexico and the ocean ... looking at them it's easy to get lost, transported to a sailboat somewhere called Nowhere. The dark brown is so strong. Love it.

brown blue quilt outdoors

And so I had to make a quilt, because one can never make too many quilts, I say.

brown blue quilt


I've been gathering these fabrics over the last few months, along with a bunch of others that use brown ... I've decided brown is the new turquoise/teal, it goes with everything and looks decadent.

blue brown quilt detail, backside, and bindingThis quilt was initially inspired by this one created by One Shabby Chick. If you haven't visited her site yet you must. She uses such wonderful fabrics and creates the neatest things.

To make this quilt I cut the darker fabrics into shorter pieces (2-6" long) all with a 5" width. I cut the lighter pieces into longer strips (6-10" long) 2.5" wide. I then sewed two really long strips, one with each width of fabric. When I thought they were long enough I sewed the two together, cut strips the length I wanted, and sewed the newly cut strips together. Pretty simple.
brown blue quilt detail
The quilting is done both in the ditch and in big random circles. To do the circles I traced two different sized circles onto freezer paper. I pressed the freezer paper onto the quilt, stitched, removed the freezer paper, repositioned it, stitched, and repeated. I did pin the freezer paper on the larger circles after the first two, the piece of paper was so large that it was a little harder to work with.

Oh, I also tried spray basting for the first time. I was very hesitant but read some good online reviews and thought it'd be fun to try (and a time saver). Overall I was happy with it. I did do some pinning, just to be safe, but not nearly as much as usual. Pretty cool stuff.

Below is a little idea of the progress at the store, kind of "before" and "during" pictures. This is just one room, about 1/3 of the total store area, the other larger part of the store is still pretty full. This room should be completely empty early next week.

before during

Friday, July 12, 2013

TOS Review: Dig-It Games Mayan Mysteries Online Game

Dig-it Games On-line App photo dig-itgames-mayanmysteries_zps7a4409ab.jpeg

Kaden(10), Adam(12), and Mia(14) recently played Dig-It Games Mayan Mysteries Online Game as part of a review.

We don't have much in the way of video games, but the kids really get into the ones they do play. I'm very picky about content, of course, so I'm always on the lookout for good, clean, fun games. When we were given the opportunity to be involved in a review for the educational Mayan Mysteries game I was excited and knew the kids would jump right in. What a win-win: educational AND fun.

Mayan Mysteries is an online game that allows the user to become an investigator seeking a looter of Maya artifacts. The game player explores the ancient Maya world, learning about the calendar, artifacts, numbering system, and customs by solving puzzles.

The game begins with a backstory and then immediately moves into a "lesson" about geography and culture. The "lesson" is presented as a short narrative by one of the characters in the game, so it's more entertaining than Mom or a teacher presenting. As I said, the narrative is short, so it doesn't have time to feel too "schooly". Immediately after a quiz is presented applying the information given in the narrative. Scoring points and earning clues is accomplished by completing the quizzes. After a few rounds of geography, all presented differently, the game moves on to another theme and goal.

Dig-it Games Logo photo dig-it-games-logo_zps61887cb9.pngThe kids liked the game. Kaden found some of the math challenging, but worked through it. He said, "It was fun". Adam got very involved in the game, even suggesting that we start using Mayan numerals in our day-to-day lives! He liked learning about the Maya; where they lived, what they ate, what they did, "everything".  Mia didn't play as far into it as the boys, getting sidetracked, but thought it ok (she may be outgrowing this type of game).

This is a program the kids can do, for the most part, independently. I did step in and help clarify a few of the directions, other than that they played on their own.

More technical information about the skills taught can be found here and here.

I liked that the game was fun, educational, and non-violent, and that learning about Maya history and life was being taught without feeling like a day at school. I thought it was a really interesting and innovative approach to teaching an important bit of history, not a full text, by any means, but a great Maya history "appetizer" or "dessert". Some of the directions could have been a bit clearer, but there was nothing that couldn't be worked through and figured out. The kids would have liked to see the game continue further.

Mayan Mysteries is designed for players ages 11 and up, though Kaden (age 10) enjoyed it as well. Mayan Mysteries Online Game can be purchased through Dig-It Games for $21.99, or as a classroom multi-user edition for $299.00. It is also available as an iPad app.

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew.

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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Throwback Thursday : Homemade Yogurt

Originally posted August 10, 2010, this wonderful yogurt deserves to be shared again. I still make it constantly and have taken to using yogurt in place of sour cream and mayonnaise, especially in casseroles and on tacos. Greek yogurt can be used in place of regular yogurt.This is such a great money saver!
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This is not a new concept, or my own concept.  Mostly I'm printing this here because I get asked so often for the recipe and referring to this post will be much easier than retyping it each time!

Originally, I found the recipe here.  Another great easy-to-follow rendition is here.  After giving you those links I know I don't have much else to say on the subject but I'll give you my "plan of attack" anyway.

In the crock pot goes 8 cups of milk.  I use whole milk because that's what I buy.  You can use 1% or 2%.  Turn the crockpot on low and let it sit for 2.5 hours.

After 2.5 hours turn the crock pot off, unplug, and let it sit for 3 hours.  Now, you can let it sit longer if you want (or if you forget about it ... not that I've EVER done that. much.) but it leads to more sour yogurt if it sits too long.  Just know that you don't have to be rigid with any of the times, but they do seem to produce the best results.

After 3 hours add 1/2-1 cup yogurt (I use one cup or so of a quart container of lowfat vanilla yogurt).  You can use plain or flavored, regular or greek or one of the "plus" kinds ... the greek and plus ones seem to produce slightly thicker yogurt and the other cultures in them also seem to grow (I don't know this for a fact, but I choose to believe it), so I go with these.  I add 1/2-1 cup sugar or honey at this time as well, stirring until it's dissolved.  Sometimes, if I have it on hand, I add in a tbsp. or so of vanilla, but if I don't have any I don't sweat it.

Cover the crock pot with a thick towel or blanket and let it sit for 8-12 hours.

Eat.

The yogurt will generally be slightly runnier than regular yogurt.  That's fine.  For babies I freeze little bits in ice cube trays and give them that to work on - great for teething and lets them eat it themselves.

I store it in the fridge in ziploc containers.  If I have fruit on hand I'll add it in before storing so the kids can just grab and eat. You could also freeze the yogurt, in this house I'm lucky to not run out even when making batches back to back.

Or I make smoothies with yogurt, ice, raw spinach, and fruit ... and whatever else we have on hand.  The spinach will make the smoothie green but it won't make it taste like spinach so it's a good way to up that iron and green leaf intake.  I freeze little bits of that for the babies too.

It didn't take long at all for my kids to decide that they liked Mama's yogurt better than store bought.

I broke down the cost once but I don't have the results right here ... basically, 1/2 gallon of milk is about $1.50, 1 cup yogurt is about $.50 (not that I'd ever actually pay full price for it, but if I did it'd cost that!) ... total cost for 9 cups of yogurt = $2 ... about $.22 a cup.  Single serve yogurts at the grocery store are less than 1 cup, so this ends up being a really good price, it doesn't beat a super Publix BOGO deal topped with coupons (which is when I stock up on the starter containers of yogurt and freeze them for future use), but still, it's a really good price and you have more control over the final product.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Pop Up Camper Progress Update

Before:



 Remodel Round 1:


Remodel Round 2:


Round 1: primed and painted all cabinets and inside "walls", changed out knobs to clear, added bed covers.

Round 2: replaced counters and kitchen table, replaced faucet, added "wood" floors, beginning of replacing curtains.

I'd hoped to take "pretty" pictures with a nice nature background on our most recent camping trip. But it rained. And rained. And rained. I couldn't open up the camper at all and only took one picture on the trip - and that was of a bunch of clothes and towels hanging from the ceiling to dry, wet from trying to keep the numerous leaks from soaking the beds (it didn't work).

The sink faucet started leaking during our summer trip and ruined the counter it was on. The counter was cheap particleboard type stuff with a laminate cover in light gray, so it wasn't heartbreaking to see it go.

I replaced both the faucet and the counter, with wonderful neighbors cutting the counter wood for me. Sometime in the last few weeks I did buy my first real power saw, a jigsaw, and while it scares the crap out of me it's a whole lot of fun to use - very empowering - but these cuts needed to be "right", so I left that to much more experienced experts, some of whom were bribed to help with cookies (they're great people and would have done it anyway, I like making cookies).


While replacing the sink counter I chose to replace the counter behind the dining table as well as the dining table itself. I used 1/2" pine for the counters and 3/4" pine for the table. I opted to save time and money and use a stainer/polyurethane combination for the wood. Were I to do it again I'd use separate stain and polyurethane, giving me more control over the color without brushing on so many coats of polyurethane (lesson learned). I chose to add a few inches in length to the dining table since there are so many of us eating at it. I was a little concerned as that would limit aisle room, but it hasn't been noticeable at all.


The "wood" floor is peel and stick planks from Lowe's. Very simple solution to that problem. The tiles only took about 2 hours, total, to install and they're thin enough to not add much weight to the camper. The hardest parts were that (1) it really is a one person job just because of the space limitations and (2) measuring for the cuts (which were done with kitchen scissors) required a lot of moving around because the L-square I was using was huge.

I'm disappointed that the two boxes of planks were clearly different depths of color and sheen. I should have mixed them up before laying them down but we'd use the same product before when we had our children's store and had found the product to be very consistent. In the small camper with all the activity going on it really isn't noticeable to anyone but me, but still ...

The end curtains are white light blocking curtains with a green-blue paisley cotton trim.

White curtains and kids ... hmm. I knew I wanted the opening and closing portions to not be white, thus the print going up the center. The light-blocking gives a little privacy to the kids for changing clothes and also keeps the heat in the bunks during the day, instead of it overheating the main part of the camper. If the AC is running and those curtains are closed the camper gets cooler than it would with the ends exposed, and the heat really does stay in the bunks - I'm not sure what the temperature difference is between the bunks and the camper but it is quite significant.

To create the curtains I purchased one package of long light blocking white liners. I removed the hem and side seams and cut the curtains in half across the middle. I attached the needed amount of paisley to the center insides, then to the bottom, hemming the curtains when they were put together.

With a seam ripper I removed the tabs from the previous curtains and stitched them to the tops of my new curtains, evenly spacing them. They were super easy to stitch through, the machine didn't even notice them.

The curtains around the camper, coming soon, will replace the seafoam green curtains and will be white cotton with the same paisley fabric along the bottom. The green valance around the top will be removed and replaced with ?? - not quite sure yet.

Yes, the cushions, seafoam green curtains, and valance have to go!

The cushions have not yet been replaced, but I'm leaning towards a navy with bits of white canvas. The further I get with the rest of the projects the more unavoidable the need to replace those cushions is!

There are still plenty of "nuts and bolts" mechanical issues to deal with, a few leaks here and there, some rotted wood to replace, and a list a mile long of other little troubles.  It's a bit therapeutic to break up those tasks with some of the fun "decorating" projects.

Another little project that's been super valuable:

I'd been shopping for a step cover but they ran about $20, so I went to WalMart and bought a cheap, small doormat and a box of cable ties, spending less than $5. I cut the doormat in half and wrapped it around my existing step, securing it on both ends with the cable ties.

I have plenty of extra cable ties and another half a mat so I've got another cover ready to go and can replace the ties if they break (they do, the ones on the left side of the step are currently missing).

The mat helps immensely to cut down on the dirt/sand/gravel that comes into the camper and can be quickly swept with a broom. Cost per step cover: less than $3.

Backing up the camper has gotten much easier. It still doesn't always do what I want it to but I'm getting it where I want it more quickly and with fewer "tries". I had to parallel park my minivan the other night, which I've never been good at. But after all the practice backing up and moving forward with the camper a little parallel parking was a piece of cake. Skills, I tell ya.


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