Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Library....So Much More Than Books!

We are fortunate to live less than 5 minutes from our public library. We visit often, checking out stacks of books and sometimes a movie. I have taken Jonathan to the children's story hour since was an infant. When we visit, Jonathan is greeted by name.
The library is so much more than a source of great reading material! Our library has so many wonderful---and free---programs. One of his favorite things was the Hot Wheel races this past spring. We have also been to holiday parties, full of crafts and stories, Lego building time, and lots of other really fun activites. They have great programs for adults, too, but usually I am unable to take advantage of them, no sitter!
Enjoying ice cream outside the library

Playing frisbee

Friday night was Ice Cream & Fireworks night. We arrived around 8:30 and marked our spot with our lawn chairs before heading inside. There were ice cream cups for everyone and each child was also given a frisbee. We played until it was dark enough for the fireworks to begin. We enjoyed a very nice fireworks display, which was better and lasted longer than I had anticipated.

Little boy delight
A beautiful fireworks display
Most of the programs require pre-registration, but that is all. There is never a fee. We are registered for a folk music concert in two weeks. I think it is something we will both enjoy, and if it gets too long for Jonathan, we can discreetly and quietly leave.
Be sure to check out what your local library has to offer. I think you will find that along with being your go-to source for books, it also offers lots of opportunites for free family fun!

My next post will be my 100th post!!! Be sure to check back tomorrow for my very first give-away!!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Shopping For School Supplies

Jonathan has completed his two days of kindergarten Jump Start, and he is now very excited to begin school "for real"! Armed with his school supply list, we went shopping. Our list is really quite small and it didn't take much time (or money, thank goodness!) to get everything he needed. Last year I purchased a backpack for him from L.L. Bean and I expect he'll get a few years use out of it, until it's no longer big enough. We only had to buy the very basics: crayons, 2 folders, 5 glue sticks, a notebook, water color paints, markers and I think that was it! I was actually surprised the list was so short and uncomplicated. He had lots of fun choosing his supplies!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Kindergarten Jump Start

Following Mrs. Jones down the hall to the classroom

With his friend, who may be in his class

My first piece of kindergarten art
Today and tomorrow, Jonathan is going to kindergarten. Classes actually begin on Aug. 17th, but his school has a kindergarten Jump Start so the kids can meet their teacher, see their classroom and get a feel for the routine of kindergarten. As far as I know, his school is the only area school that does this. I am glad he has this opportunity, it will reduce anxiety on the first day of school. I was "forbidden" by Jonathan to take any pictures---he's at that stage already?---but of course I had to snap a few! When I picked him up, he was very excited and said kindergarten was "Awesome!". He can't wait to return tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Selling Children's Clothing

Being on a tight budget (and knowing FOR SURE I will not have a need to pass Jonathan's clothing down to a younger brother!), I try to sell his outgrown clothing to help cover the cost of replacements. There are three primary ways I do this:
  • eBay
  • Consignment Shops
  • Garage Sales
I have been a seller on eBay for a dozen years now, and this is how I first try to sell the really good stuff. I also buy things to resell on eBay and this often includes children's clothing. I only sell things that are in excellent condition, with no stains, etc. I make sure everything is clean and usually launder anything I purchase for resell. I will also iron everything and package each item in clear plastic bags before packing to ship. It helps if you have top name brands, but good "everyday" brands (Carter's, OshKosh, etc) will also sell. If I have several items of these brands in one size, I will often sell them in lots. I always seem to do well selling his outgrown pj's, probably due in part to his abundance of  cute pajamas :). I try to start items at a reasonable starting bid and keep postage as low as possible, but there is a fine line between low postage costs and charging enough postage, since costs vary widely by postal zone. I have a postage scale and that really helps! You also have to begin listing seasonal items rather early, which means that now, when it is 95* outside, I am trying to see what fall clothing items I have to list. Wait until the weather turns cold, and you've lost the window of opportunity for getting the best price for an item.I depend on eBay as a source of household income, and any money made on eBay goes directly to pay for our health insurance. I have to carry individual policies for us and it is quite expensive, even for the inferior coverage we have.

I also sell items at our local children's consignment shop. Here is where I take items that did not sell on eBay, items with local ties (UK jackets, Cincinnati Bengals shirts, etc), toys in good repair but outgrown and furniture items. I sold Jonathan's crib, changing table and tricycle here. Again, items need to be clean and stain-free. The price the items sells for is split 50/50 with the shop. I don't make as much money from this source, but every dollar from this source goes directly into an envelope to buy Jon's next season clothing and shoes.
I also have several garage sales each year. This is where I will sell clothing items with small stains or other imperfections which still make great play clothes. I can also sell socks, etc, which I place in bags according to size and price the entire bag. We also sell Jonathan's toys that have been too well loved to make it to the consignment shop. Jonathan & I have an agreement about the toys. He chooses what to sell and he gets to keep any money made from toy sales, which is a big incentive for him to weed out things he no longer enjoys playing with.
This is how I maximize the amount of money I can get for Jonathan's outgrown clothing items. It really goes a long way toward buying the next season's wardrobe!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Inbox Dollars

Are you always on the look out for an easy, legitmate way to make a few extra bucks? I have been a member of Inbox Dollars about 2 years now. No, I'm not rich yet, but I have earned about $75 by simply clicking on emails. It doesn't pay a lot, but you can increase your earnings by taking surveys or buying participating items through to site. I usually stick to emails, but have on occasion gone through the site to buy things online. The companies change from time to time, and at one time eBay was participating. I earned some extra cash by going to Inbox Dollars first, then to eBay.
If you would like to try it, click on the button on my sidebar to join! You can close your account anytime if you don't like what you see.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Muffin Tin Lunch

This is something I started doing when Jonathan was about 2, and I still do it occasionally. It makes lunch fun!  We call it a "muffin tin lunch". I think I originally saw the idea on another blog.
This was today's lunch: Tyson Homestyle Chicken Fries (otherwise known as "chicken sticks" around here) with ketchup, tomato wedges and cucumber slices straight from this morning's Farmer's Market, a piece of cheese and mandarin oranges, along with a glass of milk. He ate every bite!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Random Acts of Kindness

I was reading my August "Family Circle" magazine today when a small article caught my eye. The title was "Happy Days", and this is all it said:

"A new nonprofit program aims to raise awareness of the importance of spreading joy, optimism and good deeds. Now through the end of August individuals and groups can enter by uploading photos or stories of themselves completing "Random Acts of Happiness" at Visitors can vote once a day for their favorite person or team, and each vote triggers a $1 donation to Big Brothers Big Sisters. A grand prize of $10,000 will be given to an individual and $20,000 to a group winner."

That made me think. How do you feel about random acts of kindness? Have you ever paid for something for the person in line behind you? Brought lunch to a friend? Do you feel acts of kindness should be reserved for people in need? Have you ever been on the receiving end of a random act of kindness? Do you tell others when you do some out of the ordinary, or do you keep it to yourself? Do you teach your children to reach out to others? Do you ever feel "compelled" to do something?

Here are some of my thoughts:
I think we should always be alert to the needs of others, whether by common acts of courtesy (opening a door, etc) or seeing a greater need. Sometimes it's fun to pay for something for a stranger unexpectedly, and I have done that on occasion. I also think it is important to randomly surprise those among us who are a little better off financially, because these folks are often the givers and rarely the receivers of small kindnesses. Everyone, regardless of their financial position, likes to be  shown kindness and appreciation.
Seldom do I ever say anything to anyone when I do something random, unless I tell a family member or close friend, and that is usually only if the response I received was special enough to share. I do think we need to teach our children to be aware of opportunities to reach out to others, whether that person is homeless or living in a mansion. The best way to do this is by example.
I try to keep a few dollar bills in my car so I always have a couple of bucks to share if I feel the need. I keep telling myself to keep some nonperishable food items, such as peanut butter crackers, in the car, too, but so far I haven't remembered to buy any!
I have also benefitted from the kindnesses of others so many times, whether those acts were random or not. Many times my load has been lightened by another's compassion. Sometimes a smile or kind word, sometimes something much more substantial, all deeply appreciated.
I'm interested in hearing your thoughts and experiences on this topic! Please share in the comments!

Just a side note: I have been reading "Family Circle" since the first month I married, 39 years ago, when it was 25-cents a copy, and sometimes that quarter was hard to come by! I've never missed an issue!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Tomato Season

Tomatoes ripening on the kitchen window sill. Nothing tastes quite like a tomato in July! My neighbor brought me several last evening. He said something was taking bites from the ripe ones so he picked some just beginning to ripen. A day or two and they will be perfect.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Gone Fishin'

Today was the end of a very busy week, which included swim lessons at the high school from 9-10 A.M. every morning this week (my boy jumped off the diving board!):
An evening at the County Fair, riding the rides and winning prizes playing games:

A day at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens, watching polar bears swim, attending the Wings of Wonder bird show (new photo on my header was taken at that show), and face painting, too:
Also included in the week was a trip to the library for several new books to read and lunch with a friend.
So, today, when we were invited to go fishing with our friends Edie & Bobby, who are like surrogate grandparents to Jonathan, we thought a relaxing evening at a local park's fishing pond would be just the way to end this hectic week.
The weather was perfect for fishing, and my little fisherman caught 29 fish all by himself! I was amazed at the difference a year has made. This year he's learned to bait his own hook:
And get the fish off the hook by himself:
And then release it back into the pond.
It was a very relaxing end to a busy week!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Goodwill Hunting

As someone in the resell business, with eBay and an antique mall booth, I am always scouring thrift stores, Goodwill and yard sales. Occasionally, I score something for myself. Often I will see very nice designer clothing in smaller sizes, up to about a size 10. If you happen to be a larger size, quality used clothing is much more difficult to find.
While visiting my sister this past week-end, we went shopping at "her" Goodwill, where she has found some amazing stuff! I found six tops for myself, all of which look as though they were never worn or worn only a couple of times. I got a Lands' End blue long sleeve polo, Lands' End 3/4 sleeve white cotton shirt, Ralph Lauren blue stripe long sleeve shirt, and three Talbots summer tops, all in the same style but different patterns/colors. At $2.50 per top, the total was $15.00 for these wardrobe stretchers for all seasons. They have now been laundered and ironed and are ready to wear!
How do you feel about wearing gently used clothing? I think it is a great way to stretch a clothing budget and buy brands I might not otherwise be able to afford.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Easy-Peasy Banana Bread

While visiting my sister this past week-end, we decided to bake some banana bread to share. It's a busy week for me--Jonathan has 9 AM swim lessons every day this week--and this makes a perfect quick breakfast for on the go mornings! This was very easy to make and very delicious! Here is the recipe:
Banana Bread
1/2 c butter, melted
1 c sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 c all -purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c sour cream
2 medium ripe bananas, mashed
nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350*. Stir melted butter and sugar together. Add eggs and vanilla; mix well. Combine the dry ingredients,stir into butter mixture until smooth. Fold in sour cream, mashed banana and nuts , if using. Bake in a loaf pan 60 min. or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 min. on wire rack.

We used mini loaf pans and the recipe made four loaves. If you have bananas beginning to get too ripe, or if you buy overripe bananas for a song, stick them in the freezer until you are ready to bake.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Road Trip!

Jonathan and I took a little trip this week-end to visit my sister. It is the first time we have been away from home overnight for nearly a year! It was a very relaxing week-end. We really didn't do a lot and that was fine with me.
Saturday evening we had pizza by the pool and then swam for a little while.
After dinner and some pool time, we headed to the tennis court. Jonathan and his aunt played a couple of games. He likes to play, even though he really doesn't know how. I am planning on tennis lessons for him next summer.

Sunday morning found us back in the pool before the day became too hot. It was fun to just kick back and enjoy some sunshine! We came back home yesterday evening feeling refreshed and ready to get back into the everyday groove.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Smilebox Party Overview

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There are a lot of pictures here, some you have already seen, but it does give a good overview of the party. I was also chosen as the featured party of the day on "Catch My Party"! Exciting--for me, anyway!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Garage Sale Shopping

Summer Saturday mornings, and often Friday mornings, too, are usually spent at garage sales. Not so much this summer. This has been an unusually rainy spring and summer as well as a busy one for me. As a result, I've only been to a handful of sales. I miss them! Not only do I look for things for Jonathan, myself and our home, I am always on the look out for items I can resell on eBay or at the antique mall.
I did find some things for Jonathan at a sale near our home. Boys' clothing is more difficult to find in good condition as they get older. At this one I found several long sleeve shirts, jeans, athletic pants and about four pairs of pj's, all for fall. I think I spent about $7 for everything in the picture. A bargain!
Do you like to go to yard and garage sales? What's your best deal ever?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Independence Day in Independence

Waiting for the parade to begin
I know that Independence Day is actually tomorrow, but our town celebrates the Saturday closest to the 4th. Yesterday our town, which is Independence, held a parade, with a festival yesterday evening and fireworks display last night. Jonathan loves the parades!  And truthfully, so do I. I love the sense of community that comes along with them. Local bands, businesses and beauty queens create a bond among all the residents standing on the sidewalk in the July heat, cheering for the veterans and the minor league baseball teams, all represented in the parade.

After the parade, we went home to prepare for our annual 4th of July gathering of friends. We are able to see the fireworks very well from the vantage point of our backyard. For a small town, we get a very nice 1/2 hour or so of spectacular fireworks! Prior to "show time", we share a cook-out with friends. Some people are here every year, some attend when they can, and I usually have 15 or so people.
This year we were a group of 10. I had two grills going with hot dogs and burgers and also had a number of side dishes. I have a small collection of red, white and blue quilts that come out for the party. We always spread on them in the grass to watch the fireworks.
Quilts on the deck railing 'til fireworks time

Jonathan takes a rest on a quilt in the yard, pre-parade

Red, white and blue ribbons adorn everything

The table was covered with a quilt and held the desserts and some side dishes, the rest were on the counter for a casual, self-serve buffet. With the burgers and dogs (and all the fixin's for them) I served deviled eggs, macaroni & cheese (a kid favorite), watermelon, potato chips and baked beans from a recipe found on this blog, Pleasant View Schoolhouse. Dessert was a fun cheeseburger cake and chocolate cupcakes.

Sunflowers just say "Summer!"

This is a great way to serve watermelon
Cheeseburger cake--from Fantasy in Frosting
Cupcakes with red & blue pinwheels
The table

A little before 10:00, we all made our way to the quilts in the backyard to enjoy the fireworks.

After the fireworks, the kids had some supervised fun with sparklers, which I purchased on clearance after last year's holiday .

It was a very casual, relaxing evening, a tradition we all enjoy. Jonathan was very, very tired when all the guests left, he was up WAY past his bedtime!
Tomorrow I will pack away all of the patriotic decorations and serving pieces until next year, and start searching the clearance aisles for one new thing to add to the collection for next year's party.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Getting Ready For the Parade

Our little town is preparing for the annual 4th of July parade this afternoon. We were out running a few errands this morning, and I noticed how so many houses on the parade route are showing their red, white and blue pride! Here's a few pictures:

The county court house

A Victorian beauty

A charming cottage

 A beautiful farmhouse
We will be attending the parade, and later in the evening friends will arrive to share hot dogs and hamburgers with us. Then we will watch our town's firewoeks display from the comfort of our backyard!