Monday, April 23, 2012

The Art of Thrift Shopping

I am known for my thrift shopping to the point where I consider the question, "Did you get that at a thrift shop?" to be a compliment rather than an insult :-)

I have had people ask me for my secrets to thrift shopping, so I decided to create this post to share my tips with my readers as well. All of the pictures in this post are of thrift shop clothes.  There are lots of treasure waiting to be found!

The Big WHYs

Why shop at thrift stores? Of course, there's the money reason.  It's a lot cheaper to buy from thrift shops or garage sales than to buy new, and if your kids is as cloth desctuctive as mine, they are likely to destroy their clothes even before they outgrow them.  This is a good reason, but even if money is not a factor, consider this.

A few weeks ago, it was time to change the winter clothes out for the summer ones (here in Louisiana, it comes early!)  Sprite just moved into 3Ts (she's a peanut), so a lot of her summer clothes from last year were too small.  I raided her closet, full of thrifted clothes just waiting to be worn, and here's what I found:

10 T-shirts
8 dresses
2 pajamas

This only includes 3T summer clothes, and her shorts from last year still fit.  I did not have to buy


All of these clothes were purchased at garage sales, thrift shops, or on clearance at retail stores.

Here are my tips to start your own thrift closet.

1. Shop often.  Thrift shops have a fast turnover, so their inventory is going to change dramitically from week to week.  This doesn't mean you have to spend a lot of time.  I visit my favorite thrift shop about every other week for usually 10 mins or less.  Some times I get nothing, sometimes I need a cart to hold everything.  Don't get discouraged if you don't get anything one week. try again.

2. Try all the stores.  You'll find that some stores have better prices, a better selection, or better quality itens.  When we lived in ND, I went to one shop for kid's clothes, another for bargains, and a third for old linens (to make pillowcase dresses).  Here they are all about the same, so I have one regular store based on it's location, and visit the others only if I am passing by that way.

3. Shop big.  I generally shop 2 years ahead for Sprite, which means everything that fits now or will fit in 2 years is fair game.  For kids, that's generally 2 sizes.  For babies, it's a lot more sizes.  For shoes, I usually go up to 2 sizes bigger.  Sprite has small feet that aren't growing very fast, so choose your timeline based on your kid and how fast they are growing.

4. Shop out of season. If you're looking for summer clothes, you won't have much competition in the fall, when everyone else is looking for winter. Less competition means more options! Don't let a sweater scare you away when it's 100 degrees out.  It will be useful in it's own time.

5. Buy staples.  Solid color tops or bottoms are a staple for us, because little girl clothes can get very clownish with too many colors and patterns.  I always snatch up solids so I can pair them with a crazy print.  Sprite, on the other hand, has been known to choose polka dots, dtripes, and chevrons all in one outfit. :-) Jeans and T-shirts are staples for us too. Take a quick peak at your kids clothes to look for trends or favorites.

6. Wash the clothes right away.  They will be all ready to go when you need them.  If you're worried about that musty thrift shop smell, add 1 cup of vinegar to the wash cycle.

7. Organize.  Sprite's clothes are in baskets on shelves, and we use her closet to store the too-big or out of season sizes.  They are arranged from left to right by size, and further arranged by tops, bottoms, dresses, pajamas.  This sounds crazy, but it's really just arranging by length so it's easy to find what you're looking for.  The box on top has shoes and some bathing suits my aunt bought on clearance.

 I hope this helps you save some money and time, and find some cute outfits!  It's not hard, and totally worth it. When the other parents are cringing because the kids are playing in the mud, you're at peace, knowing their your kid's entire outfit cost $7, including the shoes!

Good Luck!

(Boots are thrift shop specials too!)

Friday, March 9, 2012

Homemade lotion bars

I made homemade lotion bars yesterday and I am completely in love!  Well, as in love as you can be with lotion bars :-)  I am so excited that I have been telling anyone who will listen about them.  Mr. Apple has since given up on pretending to listen, and a few other people I encountered might think I am a nutcase, but at least I am a nutcase with soft skin :-)

All natural, chemical free, and pretty to look at!

4 oz. beeswax (white or natural)
1/3 c. coconut oil
1/3 c. olive oil
1/8 tsp. Vitamin E oil (optional)
pinch of cocoa butter (optional)
10 or so drops of your favorite essential oil (optional)
Soap molds or silicone muffin cups
glass jar, small pot, 1 chopstick

1 recipe makes 3 soap shaped bars or 4-5 muffin cups

Heat the beeswax until melted in a glass jar inside a small pot of water.  It will take a few minutes.  Stir with a chopstick.

When the wax is melted, add coconut oil, olive oil, and cocoa butter and stir until melted.

Remove from heat and add Vitamin E oil, and your essential oil and stir.  I did one batch with lemon, and one with bergamot.  The coconut oil has a nice smell, so you don't have to add an essential oil if unless you want to.

If you are using plastic molds, let the lotion cool until it is under 160 degrees or whatever your plastic mold recommends.  If you are using silicone muffin cups, you can pour right away.  Silicone can take the heat!  I used a meat thermometer to check the temperature.

Carefully pour into molds, and let harden and cool (30 minutes is plenty).

Pop them out of the molds and they are ready to go!  I think I am going to store the muffin cup ones inside their muffin cup.

Just rub the bar in your hands or over your body. Store in the mold or on a soap dish.

Wouldn't these make great gifts?  Of course, I would need to be willing to part with them, and I am not sure if I am there yet :-)


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Our Monstessori Home

Did that title make you cringe?  A year or two ago I would have definitely cringed!  I would have pictured Sprite making messes and me trying to let her learn through messes while I was hanging on to my sanity.  Things like accepting paint spills and having a toddler "helper" for everything I do would drive me more than a little crazy.
Two things have changed since then.  First, Sprite goes a Montessori school and I think I have learned as much as she has, and second, I am trying (and occasionally succeeding) at getting our lives more organized and less stressful.  We have made huge improvements, but we still have a way to go.  I would like to share  our journey this past year, and hopefully you will find some of my ideas helpful.

First, a little background on the Montessori Method of learning. 

- Children are in mixed age classrooms. Sprite's class is 3-6 year olds, which is very common.  This allows the older children to help the younger ones, and the younger children can learn by example.  Sprite is 3.5, and loves being helped by the older kids.  She also can't wait until she is a 4 year old, and can stay at school for lunch and hold hands with the little kids :-)

- DIY DIY DIY! (This is my favorite part). If a kid is capable of doing something, they are expected to do it.  From dressing to potty to cooking to opening heavy doors.  This was a big battle for Sprite at first, because she suffers from what I call Only Child Syndrome, where she gets too many things done for her.  During the first week of school, the teacher taught her how to open the heavy door of the classroom by pulling it enough to stick her foot in, and then pushing it open from the inside. Sprite also learned how to put her coat on by laying it down on the floor and putting her arms in, then flipping it over her head.  Now she would have a fit if I attempted to do either of those things for her!

- Order! Kids actually love order, although when you look at their messes this can be difficult to believe.  When each item has a special place, they are much more likely to be put back.  Only taking out one item at a time helps with this.

- Montessori teachers serve as guides rather than traditional teachers.  Childrenwork at their own pace.  They can choose which activity to work on and for how long.  Teachers guide them by helping them choose an appropriate activity for their development, and may demonstrate how a new activity works.  The children then work on their own or with a partner if they want to.  The teacher makes rounds to see if a child needs help, but the children largely work uninterrupted.

- Children learn through the 5 senses.  For example, they don't just learn about composting, they actually crunch up eggshells and save vegetable scraps, and when it is ready shovel it into a garden.  Montessori kids spend a good amount of time outdoors.

That's an overview of the aspects of Montessori that impact our home life the most.  Here's how we use them to our advantage, and make our house child (and Montessori) friendly.

I went sticky hook crazy and put them all around the house.  Now Sprite can reach things AND they have a designated "home".  Clean up is much easier if you know where to put things.

Sprite's bathroom has a stepstool and her robe within reach.

Her clothes are organized in baskets.  The bottom shelves contain the in-season clothes: underwear, socks, short sleeves, dresses, and long pants.  When it's time to choose tomorrow's clothes, I tell her which basket to choose from based on the weather.  Out of season clothes and special items (like tights and gymnastic leotards) are stored on the higher shelves.

Sprite just started making her own breakfast about a month ago.  She has this tray set up with just about everything she needs.  Cereal, in easy to open containers (Target) with scoops inside, small bowls, silverware, fruit, and a potholder.  I provide bread for toasting and milk for cereal (served in a cup, so she can pour it in the bowl). She operates the toaster, and uses the little potholder to take the toast out.  She LOVES making her own breakfast so much, sometimes she asks to make her own dinner too! It really gets her moving in the morning, and she is a SNAIL so that says something!

I label things so Sprite can use them.  Our pet food containers have little drawings on them, so the cats aren't stuck with rabbit food for breakfast :-)

Shoes have their spot in this bench, and the center basket has hats, mittens, and rain boots.  Coats, lunch boxes, and umbrellas hang on the hooks.

In the laundry room, there's a miniature broom and dustpan (Toys R Us), and bags for organizing recycling (Ikea).  Sprite has turned into the recycling police.  I nearly got arrested for accidently telling her to throw out a recyclable the other day.

There's a dirty laundry basket within reach, and a few towels on the bottom, so if she spills something she can clean it up herself.  When it's laundry time, she carries her own basket to the laundry room, and I let her sit on the dryer to add clothes to the washer.  I measure the detergent and she pours it in and hits the start button.  Sometimes if her basket is full (or if her favorite dress is dirty), she will ask to do laundry!

My sewing room has a sections so Sprite can work while I sew. Her play kitchen is in there, along with her art supplies.

The art supplies are in the chest and hanging on the door in shoe organizers.  Paint, playdoh, and messy things on top (out of reach), and paper, crayons, markers, stickers, popsicle sticks, glue sticks, watercolors, pom poms, and less messy things on the bottom.  When she feels artsy, she can help herself.  Less work on my part, and self confidence for her!

I made Sprite a mini firewood carrier so she could help carry wood too.

A spray bottle and water provides a lot of entertainment and I end up with a somewhat cleanish window.

You've probably noticed that one of our big goals is to have everything within reach.  Sometimes we improvise.  She wanted to watch the ice cream maker spinning, so I had to pull over a chair so it was lower.  Then she pulled up another chair to sit on!

Notice the Learning Tower Sprite uses to help in the kitchen. It's a bit pricey at $200, but worth it if you have the space!

Helping in the kitchen is a lot easier with the Learning Tower, because she can just climb up and down whenever she wants to, and she's not in the way.  I just slide things across the counter to her.  She takes food from the cutting board to a bowl, stirs things, and if I have a few minutes to help, does some measuring.  She is rewarded with taste-tests before the food is done, which gets her trying new things, like green spinach pasta.

For these cornbread muffins, all I did was measure out the milk and give her an egg.  She cut open the package, poured it in the bowl, cracked the egg, added the milk, stirred, chose muffin liners, and filled the cups, all with only a little verbal help from me.

Sure the muffin pan was a little messy.  But she was busy and working alone for about 15 minutes while I cooked the rest of dinner, and SO proud of herself!  Totally worth a few drips!

While art, cooking, self-esteem, and responsibility are great things, the even greater element we are trying to teach is a love of learning.  We try new things, practice old ones, explore places, taste new foods, meet new people, and learn together along the way.  

If you love to learn, you can do anything!

And THAT is why we do the things we do :-)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

His name is Lizard Friend

Rain, rain, rain.  This must be the wettest drought ever.  It has rained so much, the water level in the pool is now higher than it was this summer, when I was filling it twice a week. 

To avoid cabin fever, Sprite ventured out for a puddle stomp in the driveway while I assembled a rabbit hutch under the carport.  I didn't realize there was a little lizard staying dry in between the wood pieces, and when I moved them, I hurt his little leg.  He has a gash from is thigh to shin (I hope that's right, I am not an expert on lizard anatomy), and I could see his little white knee bone.  Seeing as Sprite was already refering to him as "Lizard Friend", we brought him inside to rest and recover.  (Mr. Apple makes fun of me for this. He thinks I'm a softee. He might be right).

He could walk, so his leg wasn't broken, but he still had a nasty flesh wound.  Neosporin fixes everything, right? Yes? Yes.

He was a good patient and held very still, and didn't even attempt to bite me.

He spent 4 days with us, sunning himself under a heat lamp and in the window, and then we decided his leg was looking better and he could be discharged from The Applegate Improvised Reptile Hospital.  Sprite did the honors:

She set Lizard Friend down on some tree branches near where we found him.  He looked right at her, and the scurried down the branch and into the grass. 

Goodbye, Lizard Friend! May the sun be warm and your flies be crunchy!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

MPM: Wine cork boats

Now that the holidays are over, I glad to be back for another Mini Project Monday!

Wine cork boats are a great way to upcycle wine corks and entertain your tot, indoors or out.

3 wine corks per boat
hot glue
craft foam
empty thread spool

Assembly is simple.  Hot glue three corks together to make a raft.  Glue the toothpick standing up straight, and poke it through the foam in two places to make a sail.  Glue or tie the string onto the boat, and tie the other end onto the spool.  Wind the string onto the spool and you're ready to hit the bathtub!

We had a nice afternoon today, so we took our little boat on adventure in the deep, green sea (aka: the pool)

Happy Sailing!

Monday, December 5, 2011

MPM: Marble art

Mini Project Mondays are series of activities, experiments, art projects, etc. for you and your tot.  The projects are tested on my 3 year old model and muse, Sprite. 
I do my best to post every Monday, but no promises :-) I hope you enjoy!

This week's Mini Project Monday is not only easy, the mess is minimal too!  I know, not like me, right? :-)

Marble Art!
Made from, well, marbles!

1 canister (such as oatmeal or protein powder)
A handful of marbles
acrylic paint

Cut paper sheets in half, and insert on half into your clean, dry, canister so it is flat around the inside of the container.

Add a few marbles:

Add a few small globs of paint.  Jusr 2-3 colors is good. You don't want them all to mix and become brown.

Put the lid on and give it a shake, shake, shake!

After a minute or two, open the canister and take out your paper. Lovely!

You can add a little more paint and do another paper, or wash and dry the container to start fresh.

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