Tuesday, July 28, 2015

How To Create Busy Bags using items from The Target Dollar Spot

Creating a collection of Busy Bags was at the top of my To Do List this summer!

My goal was to complete them before our vacation at the end of August, and time was rapidly running out.  I finally began to peruse my Pinterest board, and although the ideas were incredible, I didn't have the time to make things from scratch.

I had to come up with another idea!

It's no secret that I love the Target Dollar Spot! I mean, who doesn't get sucked into the bins of $1 and $3 must have items?!?  A few weeks ago, I was searching through the bins for items to keep our kids busy on our road trip, when it hit me:  Why not use those items in Busy Bags? It made complete sense!

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At the beginning of the year, I made activity packs for Lily to play with while Liam was having therapy sessions in our home.  It was a great way to organize large groups of items.  I keep them in a storage ottoman and we still use them daily!

Making more activity packs for the girls. I'm slightly obsessed with this organizational idea. The mesh laundry bags come in a pack of 3 for $1. They are perfect for holding wooden puzzles, so you don't lose the pieces, and a great way to contain all thos

Although we love the mesh activity packs, I wanted something that was easily portable. I wanted a wide variety of items that could be played with in our home, then stashed in our car for play on the go. 

Enter the Busy Bag Binder!

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A trip to Target was in order! I picked up the largest binder I could find, bought a bunch of clear pencil pouches (with binder holes) that were on sale for well under a dollar each, gathered some Dollar Spot items, and went to work!

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Here's what I came up with:

Counting Blocks ($1)-Great for teaching Lily basic addition and subtraction, but they can also be used as building blocks!

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Alphabet Learning Puzzle ($1)-A great matching puzzle perfect for practicing letter recognition!

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Building Blocks ($1)-Girl colors for Lily! She loves building towers with them!

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Fairy Tale Friends ($1)-Mini figures for pretend play for my girls.

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Frozen Matching Game ($1) and Animals Flash Cards ($1)-A game for the girls and flashcards for Liam.  

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Wild Animals ($1)-Pretend Play figures for Liam.

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Building Blocks ($1)-Different shapes and colors, but just as much fun!

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Curious George Play Pack ($1) and My Little Pony Play Pack ($1)-Crayons, Stickers, and a coloring book in each pack.

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Chipboard Lacing Shapes ($1)-Lacing shapes help with fine motor skills!

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Glitter n Glitz Puzzle ($1)-A more complicated puzzle for Lily. I cut out a small picture from the bag the puzzle came in to use as a guide and placed it in the bag with the puzzle pieces.

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Sticker Album and Stickers ($1)-This one is mainly for Lily. She loves stickers, and I love that she can fill up a keepsake album!

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Tangram Puzzle ($3)-I spent the most money on this item, because it was a higher quality wooden puzzle. Lily has to think harder to put it together and Liam can play with it, too!

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Once the Busy Bags were assembled, it was time to put our Busy Binder together!

I created a simple cover and asked Lexie to draw some shapes.  I slipped the cover into the front binder pocket, then chose 8 Busy Bags to keep in the binder.  

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I stored the 4 remaining Busy Bags in a mini crate, and plan on swapping the bags every week. 

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I was thrilled with the way my Busy Bags Binder turned out!

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So was Lily!

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The Busy Bags can be easily removed for play, then returned to the binder afterward.  We have a strict "You must clean up one Busy Bag before you get another" rule in our house!

Stay tuned for another round of Busy Bags coming your way soon! The next batch involves paper clips, flash cards, pipecleaners, golf balls, beads, rope, pool noodles, clay, and more!


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Do you have Busy Bags for your kids?  

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Monday, July 27, 2015

What a Week!

July is passing by SO quickly! 

I'm sure our non-stop busyness isn't helping matters much, but it feels like this month flew by exceptionally fast!

Here's a glimpse at our past week:

On Monday, Liam had OT in the morning, then we met friends we haven't seen since January at the park, then stopped at Target on our way home.  That evening we had our weekly Family Movie Night after dinner!

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On Tuesday, my niece, Aubrey, was with us for the day, Liam had PT in the morning, and Lily had her last summer storytime session at the library.  Then, of course, SPAGHETTI NIGHT!

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On Wednesday, I watched Aubrey, and we spent our afternoon swimming! Me + 6 kids alone wasn't too bad, and my friend eventually showed up to keep me company! On our way home, we had to stop at the grocery store (AGAIN!).  That evening, our family worked together doing yardwork, and the kids found some toads!  My husband ran the big one over twice with the lawnmower, and it miraculously survived.  The kids were so excited, so we let them keep them overnight!

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On Thursday, I watched Aubrey again.  We ended up having a somewhat quiet day at home!

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On Friday, it was Grant's birthday!  Unfortunately, he had to work, but I woke up early to make him a special birthday breakfast! Shortly after he went to work, Aubrey was dropped off, and we got ready to go to the park.  It was Lily's best buddy Lily's birthday (yes, you read that right!), so we had to celebrate!  From there, we went to visit my parents for the day.  After having dinner with them, we dropped Aubrey off, and stopped at home so the kids could give Grant his birthday presents.  After that, I dropped Dylan off at his friend's house to go camping, and the rest of us went for a night swim to celebrate Grant's birthday!

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On Saturday, I picked Dylan up from his sleepover and we stopped at Target on our way home. Grant's mom came to our house to visit for a while, then we headed to the park for my great nephew, Bentley's 1st Birthday Party.  My parents kept our kids while Grant and I went out to dinner alone to celebrate his birthday.  We went to Red Lobster and had a great time!  We picked up Liam and went home to watch movies.  Lily decided late that night that she needed to come home from her sleepover at my parent's house, so my dad dropped her off. Of course, she fell asleep in the car!  Since the two little ones slept so well, Grant and I were able to stay up late watching movies and TV shows! We had a great night together!

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On Sunday, we were able to sleep in.  My dad brought Dylan and Lexie home early that afternoon.  Lily and I left for a few hours to do the grocery shopping and run to Target (we went there a LOT this week). It was nice spending time with just her!  When we came home, we had dinner, then Grant and Dylan ran out for a few hours while I cleaned, did laundry, and bathed everyone.When Grant got home, we let the kids play for a while, then put them to bed.We ended our night watching a few episodes of Gilmore Girls and Frasier on Netflix!  

It was a really busy week, and there isn't an end in sight until after Labor Day.  At least our schedule is filled with a lot of fun stuff! August is going to be GREAT!

How was your weekend? 

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Friday, July 24, 2015

Easy Breakfast Hack That Saves Time and Money

As a mom of 4, I'm always looking for ways to save time and money!

Feeding a family of 6 can be expensive and very time consuming! I go to the grocery store AT LEAST 3 days a week, and that includes the big weekly shopping trip.  The amount of food my kids consume in the summer is astounding!  

Let's talk time. Time? What's that?!? Most days it seems like I finish cleaning up from one meal and have to start all over again.  I always joke that I'm constantly feeding little humans! And just when I think I'm done for the day and can relax, someone needs a snack!

That's life in a big family, and although it can be stressful, I wouldn't trade it for anything!  However, I do have one little trick up my sleeve that saves time AND money!

Right after Lily was born, Dylan started first grade and Lexie started Pre-K.  Our mornings became rushed chaos, and I found myself shoving bowls of cereal and store-bought frozen waffles at them. One day, while I was making Sunday brunch, it hit me that I should make EXTRA pancakes, and freeze them for the week! 

Everyone in our family loved pancakes, and they could be reheated very quickly and even eaten on the go! I immediately started that method and it turned out to be the best breakfast hack!  

Making freezer pancakes has been a part of my weekly routine for almost 4 years. Now, I'll share my "secret" with you! 

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EASY FREEZER PANCAKES

Ingredients:
  • Boxed Pancake & Waffle Mix (Our favorite is an organic one, but it's almost always sold out. This whole wheat mix is the next best thing! If you want to step it up a notch, make your own homemade version!)
  • Blueberries, Chocolate Chips, Strawberries, Bananas, Wheat Germ, Chia Seeds, and/or Granola. (My kids requested blueberry and chocolate chip pancakes this week!)
  • Banana (or apple) Baby Food   
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My "secret" ingredient is baby food.  Lexie refuses to eat most fruit, so I started sneaking in Lily's homemade purees for extra nutrition. It blended in well and gave the pancakes a bit more flavor.  Lexie had NO idea so I just kept doing it!  

Making the pancakes is so simple and quick, especially if you have an electric griddle!  It's an absolute must for a bigger family! (Seriously. I love ours!) The first step is to choose your ingredients and prepare the mix:
  • Decide how many pancakes you want to make, then prepare the mix according to the directions.
  • Mix in a large container of banana or apple baby food.
  • Add your chopped fruit or other ingredients and stir. 
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Once your mix is prepared, it's time to grease the griddle (I use olive oil) and decide if you want to make large pancakes, mini pancakes, or a combination of both! I always make mini pancakes, but I usually make a batch of large pancakes, too.  The mini pancakes are so easy for Lily to eat and Liam can just pick them up!

To make the mini pancakes, drop the mix onto the griddle using a 1/2 TBSP measuring spoon.  It works perfectly, and makes a lot at once! And, obviously, bigger spoon=bigger pancakes!

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Give them a flip, allow them to cook on the other side, then stack them on a plate to cool! Repeat the process until all the mix is gone.

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Once the pancakes cool down, put them in a freezer storage bag, label the bag, and add the date they were made.

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I always make two varieties of pancakes, so I just repeat the process with the next batch!

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It only takes about 15 minutes start to finish and the pancakes last the entire week! 

They're perfect for my entire family! They can be heated up in the microwave in just seconds. Grant doesn't have time for a meal before work, so he can heat one up and eat it in the car. (This also applies to me as I'm running out the door to take the kids somewhere!)  Dylan and Lexie know how to microwave them, so they can prepare their own breakfast if necessary.  The mini pancakes are the perfect size for Lily and Liam, and I don't have to cut them up.  

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This method is a win for everybody!  It saves time, and, if you compare the cost to a box of store-bought pancakes, it saves money, too!

Oh, and of course, on the days I make the pancakes, we have them for breakfast!  

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And on those busy mornings when there isn't much time to eat?  Quick AND easy!

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What are your favorite breakfast hacks to save time and money?

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