August in Review

I had a good August, but I did a ton of traveling! The time I spent here was a little crazy but we did make it to the Queen Creek Olive Mill, here in Arizona. While I was home I was also able to create a few other things to make our travels easier. I hope your August went well, and that you don’t mind taking the time to look through some of my posts from this month. Thanks!

About Traveling (Airport Travel Tips, Mom and Baby Brave the Airport, A Packing List)

Stuff Made for Traveling (Dog Stuff Container, Fabric Shower Hanger, On the Go Squeeze Applesauce, Play Mat Bag, ACU Tablet Case, Ruffled Tablet Case)

Living Life (Eating Better, Simplifying for Fall, Preschool Activities)

Food Tips (How to Make the Most of Fresh Lemons, Not Fried “Refried Beans”, Green Chicken a la King)

Trying to Eat Better with Green Chicken a la King

Most of my recipes are something like my chicken a la king. They are saucy and have a little bit of meat and a lot of bread or noodles. Looking at the new food pyramid, My Plate we don’t get enough fruits and veggies. We probably didn’t get enough when it was a pyramid either.

I’m trying to change our eating habits a little bit, and just eat a little bit better, if not always healthy. Tonight I did that by making our Chicken a la King with my own vegetable juice instead of the milk and water.

The vegetable juice was made mostly of squash but also had green and yellow pepper bits, broccoli stems, and a little bit of peas. I started it with a bit of milk and added enough water to make it equal out to 3 cups at the end.

It tasted a little vegetable-y but it wasn’t much different from normal. I’ll probably do it like this as from now on, as long as my blender is working!

To see more of my “better” options check out these articles:

Not Fried “Refried Beans”
This vs That (My Better Choices)
DIY On-the-Go Applesauce

Preschool Activities

I recently have posted a couple of preschool activities over at Arizona Mama. With the cute little girl I watch we made some Penny Pictures and our own Memory Match. These are both great activities to do with your little ones, so take a look. I got the greatest compliment from Melissa, another writer for Arizona Mama in a comment saying that she used the penny pictures to entertain her toddler. It’s always good to hear about your ideas being used!

Click here to see the penny pictures.

Click here to see the DIY memory match.

Play Mat Bag

I saw this picture on Pinterest a long time ago, but I didn’t have internet access when I went to go make one, so it turned out a bit differently. I had also seen this lego playmatat A Girl and a Glue Gun, so my idea came from that one too. There is a better way to do this, but I didn’t do it that way this time, and who knows if I will make another one any time soon, so after I tell you how I did it I will tell you how you should do it (because I’m bossy!).

Fabric for the “mom side”
Fabric for the “kid side”
5 Yards Bias Tape (Homemade or bought)
5 Yards Ribbon or Clothesline

My son’s little so I knew I would be the one carrying around his toys for him. Don’t worry, when he’s bigger he is doing all the work! But I wanted to make this bag cute-ish for me too. I seem to have an obsession with making myself bags, even if it is under the pretense of making it for my kid. So that’s why there’s mom side and kid side fabric.

I did as Kim did for her Lego Play Mat and used a string and pen to make a perfect circle. (I pinned the string down to the corner of the fabric.) I cut out one piece each of my “mom side” and “kid side” fabric, the same sized circle.

Then I made a ton of homemade bias tape. (Hi, I’m Monica, I don’t know if you know this but I’m cheap thrifty, and I am also too lazy to drive to the store) It took FOREVER mostly because someone wanted to be held the entire time and didn’t realize I was making *him* something. So anyway, I made about 15 feet worth of bias tape (the right way too, I usually cheat and don’t cut it on the bias) and pinned it around the edges.

I sewed on the bias tape, threaded the clothesline through it and then decided to add handles. So I made the handles with leftover bias tape and sewed them on.

I realized though using it (and through looking at the pinspiration closer) that it was hard to cinch it together and then to un-cinch it when the baby was ready to play. So I switched to ribbon and cut a few more holes in the bias tape so that the ribbon could be pulled out in a few more places. (Thanks for the idea, Kalli!)

Also, when using it at first I loosely tied the ribbon so that the bag wouldn’t undone, but I added cord stops. (And do you know how long it took me to google that word. I knew what they were but I had no idea what they were called until now!)

So when you make your own, here’s a better way to do it.

1. Cut your circles the way Kim shows us here.

2. Sew handles onto the “mom side”.

3. Make your bias tape. Or buy it. Sew four buttonholes into your bias tape.

4. Sew bias tape on.

5. String your ribbon or thin rope through the buttonholes, add cord stops and tie the ends.

I actually have to go buy two more cord stops before mine is completely finished but we used it for a few vacation days already with out them and I will be using it with just a couple for our next few outings. He never stays on the playmat for long but it is nice to have one small patch of the ground that is free from tiny things he can find. Thanks for suffering through reading about my mistakes have a great day!

Simplifying for Fall

There is a Simplify for Fall even going on in the blog world right now. I didn’t hear about it until a few days into it when The Minimalist Mom posted about her progress and it made me want to start doing it for myself. I will have to get to what I can when I can, but I was able to clean up our clothes and laundry room a bit to start with.

I went through my clothes and got rid of stuff just recently. (My sisters always love when I do that!) I found a few more things that I didn’t want and put them in the yardsale pile, and made sure everything was organized. I also organized my husbands clothes a little bit better. I try not to go through his stuff or get rid of anything without him, I just “strongly encourage him” or threaten. One of the two. But he’s not here so I just try to cram everything into his space.

My closet still looks disastrous because I need to find a better space for my craft stuff. I think it will all go back into the closet of my spare bedroom once that gets cleaned out better. Or I’ll move all the army stuff there, and move my craft stuff into the army closet. Too many options.

I went through my son’s clothes (we keep them in the red shopping baskets) and took out everything that doesn’t fit, and sharpied our name onto the tags so we could give them to a friend for her son (I am greedy and I want them back for the next kid 🙂 I also went through the pile of clothes he hasn’t been fitting into that I already took out and finally sharpied our name on those ones too. My friend will be getting the box tonight hopefully.

Our laundry closet was still pretty clean, from when I posted about my clothesline. I wanted to get rid of a few hangers but after doing a load of laundry I realized I needed all of them. I still need a better way to store them though.

When I get back from yet another short trip I will be back to try to simplify in the other areas of my life as well. After I get some of that done I will have to try harder to look for a job. Anyone know of anything part time that I can take my baby with me? I don’t “need” the job so I’m going to be picky about bringing my baby with me and try to do something from home or childcare of some sort. Thanks for reading, maybe my cleaning will inspire you to do some too!

Ruffled Tablet / Laptop Case

My husband and I got the same tablets and I made the same sized cases for them. His was from patches of his old army pants (so that they matched all of his other gear) so I had alot less material to work with. On mine I wanted a bigger pocket and some cuteness. Most of this tutorial will refer you to how I did his tablet case, but take a look at this one to get more ideas on how to embellish yours whether it be with a different pocket or the cute ruffled front.

Outer Fabric- 2 10×14 Pieces, 2 10×5 Pieces
Outer Ruffle Fabric- 1 20×5 Piece
Lining Fabric- 2 10×14 Pieces
Padding (Fleece)- 4 10×14
Velcro- 12 inches
Zipper- 16 inches


The pocket will be made from one of the larger pieces of the outer fabric. Hem one of the longer sides of the pocket piece by folding it over twice and sewing. Then sew on the hook side of the velcro so that it is centered and at the top.
On the other piece of large outer fabric, about an inch from the top and centered, sew the loop side of the velcro. Velcro the pocket piece to it when finished.

As close to the edge as you can do a long, loose, straight stitch down each side of the fabric that will make your ruffles. Pull one of the strings on each side so that the fabric ruffles and move it so that the ruffles look about even and will cover a 10 inch height. Pin to the 10×5 piece of outer material so that they both face in. Sew together, just past the stitching that was used to make the ruffles. Do the same for the other 10×5 piece. When finished sewing all three pieces together, check to see if they are 14 inches long. If it is any wider, trim each side a little until it is a 10×14 piece.

The ruffled piece and the outer piece with the pocket on it are the two outer sides of your case. In the other tablet case tutorial you can skip to the sewing everything together section to finish. Be sure that the pocket is sewn in with everything too, because the sides on it will be finished along with the sides of the rest of the bag.

Click Here to see the other Tutorial.

Patchwork Tablet / Laptop Case from Army Pants (ACU's)

I made a laptop case awhile ago but I didn’t have much time to make it so it came out a little crooked and I didn’t take pictures for a full tutorial. Since then my husband and I purchased new tablets and while they were in the process of shipping to us I used the dimensions online to make our cases. The first one I made needed a bigger seam allowance and space to allow for the padding. Hopefully my husband can find a use for the case– if not I will be giving it away to someone with a smaller tablet.

I have used the same pair of ACU bottoms (Don’t ask me what it stands for! It’s code for army uniform, but not the dress uniform because those are called Class A’s) for a few different projects so all I have left are scraps. I patched them together to get the sizes I needed. If you are going to do this, sew everything together before cutting it down to the final size. It saves you from heart ache in case your seam allowances were just a tiny bit off.

Also, at a recent Business Expo I talked to a lady selling cloth diapers and covers and she told me that fleece was completely waterproof. I think I might have heard that before, but it never had really sunk in. I used a double layer of fleece for the padding so that it would also help protect the tablet from any water too.

My dimensions are for a 10.1 inch tablet. They measured it 10.4 inches x 0.4 inches x 7.1 inches. If doing a different size, be sure to give yourself plenty of extra room. It can always be made smaller later. Also, a bigger pocket can fit on this case, feel free to make it wider but not too much taller.

Outer Fabric- 2 10×14 Pieces
Lining Fabric- 2 10×14 Pieces
Padding (Fleece)- 4 10×14
Pocket Pieces- 1 8×9, 1 3×9
Pocket Pieces Liner- 1 8×9, 1 3×9
Velcro- 8 inches
Zipper- 16 inches (I used a 22 inch one and trimmed it later)
Secret Note (optional)

Once you have everything cut to size as listed above, it’s time to sew the pockets. Because the pocket pieces were patched together there are open seams on the back that need to be covered. Pin your front sides together of your pocket piece and your pocket liner, and sew the outsides. For the larger piece leave the bottom open. For the smaller piece only leave a small opening on one of the longer sides. The opening can be ironed down to match the rest of the seams, and they will be sewn shut when they are sewn to the bag or when the velcro is sewn on.

When they both are finished being sewn and ironed, the velcro can be added. The hook side should go on the smaller piece.

Now the pocket can be sewn to one of the pieces of outer fabric. Make sure to use plenty of pins so that it doesn’t shift at the last minute or you’ll have a crooked pocket. Sew the three outsides of the pocket, and the one top side of the flap.

Secret Note
I wrote a note for my husband on fabric with a sharpie and zig-zag stitched it to the lining to keep it from fraying. It looks like it is written sideways so that it can be seen just on the inside of the zipper. If you do this, it needs to be done before everything is sewn together.

Sewing Everything Together
Now that all the pieces are ready (unless you are going to embellish them more than I did) it is time to sew your case.

Lay down one of the padding pieces. On top of that (make sure the top sides of everything match) lay down a lining piece (face up) and then the zipper (face up). Next lay down one of the outer pieces (face down) and another padding piece. Pin them together. Use your zipper foot and go down the entire length of your fabric.

Of what you have just sewn, pull pack everything so that the zipper is showing. You can iron everything down so that its out of the way. You are going to put the rest of your pieces together just like you did for the first. Reminder: Padding, Liner(Face Up),Zipper (Face Up), Outer (Face Down), Padding. Sew these ones just like you did for the first side.

Now it’s going to get a little trickier. (It’s tricky, it’s tricky…) Your outsides (and the padding with them) will be together and the lining (plus padding) will be together. You will sew a big rectangle around them, leaving an open space about the size of you hand in the lining side. Wait! Make sure your zipper is halfway open before you start, or you may regret trying to save money on a store bought case. If it’s halfway open it’s all good, you can save money in peace.

Before you pull it inside out, clip off each of the corners, and cut at notch at the zipper. It will make your final product look a bit more professional. (I love when people question me if I made something because it looks so “store-bought” that they can’t tell. Like my messenger bag)

Pull it inside out and poke out the corners of the outside with a stuffing stick or a skewer. They are pretty much the same thing. To sew the lining shut you can either hand stitch it with a whip stitch (this is the best looking) or you can be lazy like me and do a quick sewing machine stitch to keep it closed. It’s up to you.

Once your lining is stitched closed you can play with the zipper, and let your tablet try it on. Also, check out my girly Ruffled Tablet Case that has a couple things done differently on it.

Want more sewing projects?
Remote Control Holder Pillowcase
Camping Foam Mattress Pad and Case
Ruffled Curtains
Dog Bed

A Packing List for Traveling Light but Comfortably

A few months ago we had to move up our vacation plans by 3 days, so I had one day to pack. A neighbor had a list they used whenever they need to go somewhere, and it was great to get my mind moving in the right direction. It has to be altered a little bit for road trips vs airplane trips but I don’t bring any more clothes even if we are staying longer. The only thing I will bring more of is winter clothes if we are traveling to snow country.

I would love to pack lighter- like Leo at Zen Habits– but I want to relax on vacation and not be worried about washing clothes every night. I also don’t like the idea of buying stuff I have at home. We usually stay with family and I will use the washer, but only once a week or after a few days.

The biggest fears I have when packing are “I hope I’m not forgetting anything” and “I hope I didn’t bring too much for X amount of days”. I bring about 5 days worth of clothes for me and my husband(I re-use pants and shorts) and a few more sets for the baby because he dirties stuff faster. Even if we are gone a month we don’t need any more than that. The baby is one now, so I don’t have to pack as much extra stuff like bottles and spit rags.

play pen(road trips only)
baby carrier backpack
stroller(If space, not necessary)
cloth high chair
heavy blanket (I carry this hung over the messenger bag when we were at the airport, so we can use it on the plane. I mean, so the baby can use it;)

phone charger
headphones/splitter (for the two of us)
small first aid kit
safety pins

gifts (I made some cloth high chairs for some of our families new babies the last few times we traveled.)

5 shirts
4 underwear
5 socks
1 jeans
1 shorts
1 pj pants
1 sweatshirt
1 pair sneakers(I wear flip flops to the airport)
swim suit

toothbrush/toothpaste (for the baby too)
bo juice
feminine products
disposable razor

7 shirts
4 pants
3 shorts
2 sweatshirts
5 socks
4 sleepers/pajamas
30 diapers (I buy these when we get there if needed)

water bottle
sippy cup
drink mixes
wipe-able bib
pack towel
changing pad/wipes

small toys

When flying, our ride to the airport will take home the car seat and when we get to our destination our Aunt had plenty of baby stuff for us to use, all we needed this time was a play pen and car seat. For our road trips I bring my own play pen as well as a small stroller. The stroller isn’t necessary because I have the backpack, but in the car if I have the space I may as well use it!(Thanks again Aunt Cindy!)

In my picture you may see that I have a toy that isn’t so small- the stuffed animal hangs on a hook on my bag, so that we can try to convince my son to sleep in places that aren’t his own bed. My water bottle has a loop too and it hangs off of the same carabiner on my bag.

For a road trip I also bring more snacks and drinks in a cooler. I will even bring cold lunch stuff to save money on going out too much.

Check out these other Traveling posts:
Airplane Travel Tips
Mom and Baby in the Airport
Decorated Suitcase

Mom and Baby Brave the Airport

My son just barely turned one, and he’s not walking yet. We went to go visit my in-laws and enjoy their under 100 degree weather. We just went out there in April, so I kinda have the drill down, except that this time I would be flying without my husband. That meant there would be no passing the baby back and forth through security or when the bag or baby got too heavy. Or during the 5 hour flight when he wouldn’t sleep or got too fussy.

What I Took:
I brought two bags with me. One was my new messenger bag, the one I made so that I could easily bring my laptop. It fit in an outside pocket so I could easily slide it out through security.

The other bag I brought was my carry-on suitcase. It wasn’t easy bringing both bags, but it was reassuring that it wouldn’t get lost or stolen. I also had the opportunity to get something out of it if I needed.

I also was wearing the baby on my back, using this carrier. If you are going to wear your baby be sure that you are familiar with it, and that you can handle the weight there for awhile. The carrier I have puts most of the weight on your hips like when you would normally carry a baby, so it made it a bit easier. I had other carriers that I would have never made it through the airport with.

Going Through Security
I was well aware of the fact that they may ask me to take the baby off my back, but both times through security they let me walk through with him. They did a new test though, they swabbed my palm and tested the sample for explosives. It was quick and easy.

They also let you bring in liquids for the baby that are more than 3oz. They don’t make you drink them or anything crazy but they do test them. The test doesn’t touch the liquid either. I had an unopened box of liquid children’s allergy medicine, and they did open the box to test it.

For children under 12 they are able to keep their shoes on. I also found it interesting that people over 75 can keep their shoes and light jackets on as well.

Before the Flight
At some airports they have play areas. Take advantage and let the kids (no matter what time it is) get some of their energy out. I let my son crawl around the seats as we were waiting and make friends with the passengers. It was almost 10pm the first time because we took a red-eye flight. I followed him around while keeping an eye on my luggage and moved him back when he got too far away. Other people were very understanding and they wanted me to let him crawl around too- so then he might be quieter for the ride.

I also made sure to get our drinks ready, but I didn’t let my son have anything to drink at that time.

My son had to go back on my back as soon as they mentioned boarding, and we were able to pre-board.

On the Plane
During take off I tried to get my son to drink from his sippy cup. He was thirsty because he hadn’t had anything to drink in awhile, but he drank it too fast. The goal was to get him to drink while gaining altitude so that his ears wouldn’t pop or start to bother him.

The first flight we took was overnight. It took the baby a long time to get to sleep and then he didn’t stay asleep for long. If you baby falls asleep on you– don’t move– even if you are dying, it’s not worth it! On the way back we flew in the late afternoon to night and it went much better. He slept some but was happy when he woke up or wasn’t sleeping.

I had plenty of new toys to cycle through as he got bored of them and tried to let him sleep. We had the blanket from his bed, as well as his stuffed animal to try to make him know that he could sleep.

If he was too fussy or if we had some grumpy seat mates I was fully prepared to buy drinks or give out ear plugs if necessary. I also had brought a cheap set of headphones for the baby in case that would entertain him, and it didn’t. The headphones did come in handy when the baby fell asleep and there was someone behind me playing loud music without headphones.

Overall my flying experience with the baby went well. It doesn’t beat having my husband to help, but I am proud that I managed it alone!

See some of my other Traveling Posts:
Airport Traveling Tips
Messenger Bag
Decorated Suitcase
Packing List

One Crazy Night of Many

My son misses his daddy and he shows it by waking up at 2am and crying for over and hour. This Tim’s though, I was trying to calm him down and rock him when he started to fall asleep on my shoulder.

All of the sudden my son’s head springs off my shoulder and he slides himself to the floor and lays down there. I follow suit and lay down next to him.

My son keeps opening his eyes to see if I’m there so I wait awhile and then I quietly run and grab my foam mattress pad and my pillow.

I slept there the rest of the night and I woke up to blinding sun in my face and to my son hitting me with a package of crackers he found in the diaper bag.

I opened the crackers for him, thinking it might buy me a few more minutes of sleep when instead I was fed a snack regardless of if I wanted it or not.

I was happy to atleast get a little sleep but I will be very happy when he goes back to his old habit of sleeping through the night. Until then I will be grateful for any sleep no matter where it may be.