Wednesday, September 28, 2011

My To 10 Tips for De-Cluttering your Playroom

Our playroom pre-organization
When we moved into our new house, we were excited to have a room to designate as our play room/family room and promptly moved all of our toys in there. Unfortunately, this resulted in the room looking like a hurricane hit, scattering toys far and wide across the floor until our nice new rug was hardly visible. So while we still have a few more improvements to make before we can call our play room totally clean and organized, here are the top 10 tips I’ve picked up so far for de-cluttering kids’ toys:

1. Group like things together. This makes it easier to find things, which minimizes the phenomenon of dumping the entire toy box out to find the dinosaur that fell to the bottom…that happens to people other than me too, right?

2. Invest in good bins and baskets. Obviously you need something to put your toy groupings in, and I think it’s worth it to get nice ones if you can. Diaper boxes will work in a pinch, but coordinating baskets or nice shelving units are much cuter and allow for easier stacking in most cases.

3. Put stuffed animals in a pop-up hamper. Pop-up hampers are cheap and allow air flow to your soft toys, keeping them from getting musty. They also keep the toys visible so your kids don’t get worried about where their favorite teddy bear disappeared to.

4. Sturdy bookshelves are key. If you decide to store books on a bookshelf as opposed to baskets, make sure it is one that your kids can’t knock over (especially if you have toddlers) and consider anchoring it to the wall to make extra sure.

5. Rotate toys. If you have more toys than you have space for, store some of them away in a closet, and rotate which ones are out. It’ll seem to your kids almost like they have new toys every couple of weeks while reducing clutter for everyone!

6. Say good-bye to baby toys. When your kids have clearly outgrown toys, it’s time to get them out of the toy room. If you aren’t done having kids yet, stick them in a plastic tub, either a clear one or one labeled with the age of toys so you can find it easily next time you need it. If you don’t want/need to keep them yourselves, donate them to a friend, a family at church, or your local Goodwill shop!

7. Keep mommy clutter to a minimum too! I can’t be the only mom who’s found action figures UNDER the pile of unfolded laundry after searching all day everywhere else in the toy room! If I had just folded my laundry right away, or left it in a basket until I was ready to fold, I wouldn’t have had that problem! Also, it sets a good example to your kids if you keep your messes cleaned up just like you ask them to.

8. Limit food and drink. If you choose to allow food and drink in your play room, set clear rules for appropriate use and make sure empty bowls, cups, etc are never left laying on the floor to rot.

9. Take care of coats and shoes. For us, this mostly means taking coats and shoes off somewhere else, but also means being vigilant about hanging up coats and throwing shoes in the closet promptly if they do make it into the playroom.

10. Enlist the aid of your little helpers. Kids will probably need to be asked to help clean up their toys. Make it more fun by singing a clean-up song, and clean along with them to set a good example.
Awesome new toy organizer. Will post more about it soon!
I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Hot Wheels® blogging program, for a gift card worth $40. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Natural Deodorants: My Quest to Avoid Both Hazardous Chemicals & B.O.

Early in my nursing journey, I noticed that if I put deodorant on without putting a bra and/or shirt on first, I'd end up with deodorant smushed onto my breast. Too close to where my son was eating for my comfort. So for a while, I just made sure to always put clothes on before the deodorant instead of doing things in the other order. But then I realized: there's gotta be a better option. I've tried several "natural" deodorants since then, and here are my experiences so far:

Tom's of Maine's Natural Deodorant:
I broke out into a rash immediately upon using this. The company was super nice about it and not only sent me a refund check but also a coupon for a free Tom's of Maine's product, so I go some toothpaste out of the deal, my rash went away, and all was happy in my armpit world again. Except that I really really wanted it to work. Their deodorant is readily available in stores I shop at regularly and reasonably priced. Anyway, awesome customer service despite the weird allergic reaction. I couldn't find the one I bought last time on their website and saw they have several new varieties, so maybe I'll try again (and keep some Benadryl on hand just in case...)

Trader Joe's
I really really wanted this deodorant to work too, but it just didn't. It was inexpensive and easy to get if you live near a TJ's, but it just didn't stand up to my odor on summer days filled with toddler chasing and walks to the park. I smelled bad enough I couldn't actually have comfortably gone anywhere I would have seen anyone I knew without showering and putting on deodorant that actually worked first. Sad.

Crystal deodorant
I bought the cheapest rock crystal deodorant from Walmart and it pretty much did nothing for either wetness or odor. Total bummer. I know some people swear by this stuff, so maybe it'd be worth trying a more expensive brand sometime (I already threw it away, but never noticed a brand on it in the first place...I just remember it was the cheapest one!).

Secret Natural Mineral
I got a free sample of this deodorant through Facebook and was kinda shocked to discover all they did was add some natural ingredients along with the artifically concoted one, to create one greenwashed, ineffective, Frankendeodorant with a long long ingredient list.

LaVanila-undoubtedly the best if you can afford it!
LaVanila deodorant from Sephora $18
I bought this with a giftcard and it worked awesomely. I love this deodorant and if I were a millionaire, I'd use it every day. But as an ordinary gal with an ordinary bank account, this stuff is just too overpriced to justify. It kept me sweet-smelling and reasonably dry all day long even on busy outdoorsy days, and I really wish Lavanila would try to develop a deodorant line closer to the $5 price point. I can justify buying deodorant that is $5 instead of the 99 cent Suave stuff I've been using, but $18 is just exorbitant.

the bottom line: For now, I'm going to keep looking. I've heard  there are several other natural brands available in stores, and I've even heard the suggestion of just using baking soda, but given how stinky I was even with most of these deodorants, I really think I probably need more than that. Where I live, it is simply not socially acceptable to have noticeable BO, and I'm not willing to be a pioneer in that area. Hopefully I'll find something reasonably priced and effective one of these days!!

What do you use to fight underarm odor and wetness?

*I bought all of these deodorants with my own money/birthday giftcards with the exception of the Facebook freebie Secret brand sent which was available to all Facebook users and not a special freebie for bloggers or anything. I was not asked to review any of these products; I just thought it could be helpful information for others investigating healthier deodorant options too!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Felt Halloween Coasters Tutorial: Jack O'Lantern & Candy Corn

Upon moving into our new house, we discovered that we no longer own any coasters, and to rectify matters and add some seasonal flair to our house, I decided to whip up some Halloween inspired felt coasters. They're super easy to make and add cheerful fall colors to your table. Want to make some of your own? Here's how I did it:


  •  Felt (any type will work, but the higher the wool concentration, the more absorbent it will probably be) in orange for either, black and brown for the pumpkin, and yellow and white for the candy corn. Scraps should be plenty for one or a pair; you’ll probably need sheets or yardage to make large quantities.
  • Matching embroidery floss
  • Embroidery needle

Candy Corn:

  • First, cut a triangle out of orange felt to be your base. I made the widest part of my triangle wider than the base of the cup I want it to be for and made the triangle slightly longer than it is wide.
  • Trim your corners so they're rounded. Real candy corn isn't sharp, so neither should the points of your coaster be!
  • Cut strips of orange, white, and yellow felt to be the top of your candy corn. I started with rectangles. After eating an entire Brach's candy corn researching for accuracy I determined that orange should be the middle color with yellow on top and white for the tip.
  • Pin or hold in place your strips and trim the sides to be even with the sides of the base. You should also trim the top of the white and bottom of the yellow pieces now. I left the orange piece a litle bit big so there was about 1/4 inch of overlap under each of the other two colors. Mine ended up pretty straight, but don't stress it if they aren't. My uh "research" found that many pieces of candy corn have slightly diagonal lines rather than strictly horizontal lines between colors.
  • Place the yellow piece and orange top piece on top of your orange base and stitch down using a decorative stitch of your choice. I used scroll stitch (which is actually super easy) but I think a simple running stitch would work just as well if you aren't in the mood for learning a new stitch. I used orange floss for this. Next, place the white on top of the orange and stitch it down too, using the same stitch or a different one for variety.
  • Now trim all of your pieces so they match the base.
  • Blanket stitch all the way around

Jack O'Lantern:

  • First, use the biggest cup you like to drink from regularly and cut a circle a little bit bigger than the cup’s base out of orange felt. Basically any roundish shape will work, but I tend to like fairly round pumpkins that are slightly wider than they are tall. If you’re making a lot, try making lots of different shapes for extra charm!
  • Next, cut a black circle just barely smaller than the orange circle (so it doesn’t stick out the edges)
  • Draw or trace a face or design you like on the orange circle. Cut it out using small scissors or an Xacto knife.
  • Cut a small rectangular piece of brown felt to be your stem (make it slightly longer than you actually want it to be since part of it will be hidden).
  • Place the orange circle on the black circle and tuck the stem in between the two layers at the top.
  • Stitch as desired. I used a simple running stitch around the edge about ¼ in from the edge and I think it is cute and sturdy!

 For extra fun, let your kids draw the pumpkin faces for you on paper circles the right size and you'll have cute coasters to remember their art by! (I drew this myself, but my drawing skills are about the same as a first grader. Luckily I'm better at crafts than art! On further reflection, I probably would stick to candy corn coasters if you're as awesomely bad as me at drawing)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Coming Soon on Crunchy Con Mommy

We're slowly but surely unpacking all our stuff into our new house, which I'm in love with despite it's flaws (any century-old house is bound to have them). Once I have my kitchen put away and locate the rubbermaid tub containing all my pants (it was shorts weather when I packed...thank goodness for the one pair of skinny jeans I kept handy!!) I'll be able to start doing fun things like craft projects I can post about. Here are a few things I have up my sleeves you should check back for soon:

  • Felt Jack O'Lantern Coasters

  • Appliqu├ęd pillowcases for a kid's room

  • Me raving about the sewing machine I get as a birthday present

  • Kitchen valances and hopefully coordinating cloth napkins using the leftover fabric

  • Embroidered hankies for my husband

  • Adventures or misadventures in removing and/or painting faux-wood panelling

Friday, September 9, 2011

Friday Finds

I've been crazy-busy lately, but wanted to share some things I've recently found & loved!

Bison Booties

How adorable are these handmade baby booties??? I totally want to buy one in every color for my niece.

Crappy Pictures

If you haven't already heard of the Crappy Pictures blog, you're missing out. Check it out for humorous parenting thoughts illustrated in self-proclaimed "crappy pictures" that look like they're done in Microsoft Paint.

The Celebrity Stork

Candy Kirby of the Laughing Stork insanely launched several new blogs just after having her second baby. Please visit her site and click on some ads, 'cause I'm sure she downs a hefty amount of caffeine to keep it all together. (Oh, and did I mention she's hilarious?)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Wise Words Wednesday 8/31/11

Last week Meagan at the Happiest Mom had a great idea-"Wise Words Wednesday". I think I'm going to start doing it every week along with her! (And I'm starting off awesomely but posting when it's actually Thursday.) Anyway, without anymore ado, here's a quote I liked this week:

We do not serve people because they are Catholic; we serve people because we are Catholic.

from Christopher Haley in Creating a Catholic Ghetto published on First Things earlier this week (discussing the potential negative impact of the healthcare bill and it's weak religious exemption on Catholic institutions like hospitals and charities).

How about you-what have you read that has inspired you, made you laugh, or made you think this week?