Monthly Archives: July 2011

Heat, Humidity and Toddlers Oh My!

The last week the heat wave that swept the nation hit record levels locally. I’ve been feeling sick myself and the high heat and humidity only make things worse. But the biggest challenge has been keeping my toddler happy. She loves to be outside, but even if I could tolerate it, I doubt the high heat index would be healthy. I hesitate to take her anywhere in the car because of how hot the car, and especially her car seat, get. Even running the car with the air conditioning on for a while doesn’t cool down the seat enough to prevent her discomfort. So we’ve been nearly housebound for the past week. So as I lay like a blob on the couch, hot and sweaty with the air conditioning barely taking the edge of the stale air, my daughter got more stir crazy by the day. I let her watch some TV, something which we don’t normally do a lot. We tried reading books, but by the end of the story we were both dripping with sweat from our combined body heat. I’m not sure if her recent insistence to go around naked from the waist down is related to a sudden interest in potty training or a desire to avoid the heat of her diaper. Fortunately today is cooler, though still humid. Hopefully we’ll go outside in the back yard to run around a little bit today.

Do you have any suggestions for keeping house bound toddlers happy and dealing with the extreme heat? I’d appreciate any suggestions.

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The Ultimate Decluttering and Transformation Project: Back Bedroom becomes Big Girl Room

We only have three bedrooms in our house and the smallest is only big enough for a crib, a dresser and a glider. Nothing else. So when our two year old began to get too big for her crib (she is tall for her age), we knew that putting a twin bed into her room wouldn’t be an option. We considered buying a toddler bed, but since we anticipated needing a crib (and its corresponding mattress) for a new family member in the relatively near future anyway, we decided it would be better to move our daughter into the back bed room.

Our back bedroom is a combination office/guestroom/dumping ground for items without homes. It has been the eyesore of our home constantly (except when we actually had guests) since we moved in almost four years ago.


I wanted to redo the room for a little girl, but allow the expensive portions of the décor to grow with her.

First we emptied the room and its closets. I purged the linen closet leaving some of the sheets and towels in there, but mostly just sheets for my daughter’s twin bed and her own towels. But I do still use the top shelves for seasonal linen storage. We bought a wardrobe on sale at IKEA which we set up in the unfinished attic as off season storage for coats and other clothing. A few items (such as my knitting supplies) moved into the closet of my daughter’s old room, what we now call the “baby room.” But most of it went to the attic. This fall a major attic purge is on the agenda, but I can’t ask my heat hating husband to deal with 90 degree+ temperatures in our attic in July and August.

We pulled my old twin bed down from the attic and purchased a new twin mattress and box spring. We were lucky enough to find a very nice set that was on clearance for less than half of the usual price (about the same or less as the cheapest mattress in the store). We got an old dresser from my sister’s basement and a book shelf from another part of the house. A lamp from my parents’ attic provides basic lighting, but we definitely need more. While I was tempted to purchase a little girls bed linen set, they were all so expensive and I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted anyway. The bed linens are also cast offs from when I lived at home. They were still in good shape and the ivy pattern will be age appropriate for a long time, if not indefinitely. (I picked them out when I was 15). I bought a set of Beatrix Potter wall decals from These were a really easy to apply and my daughter loves them. A few small decorative items from my childhood plus the complete Beatrix Potter Box set rounded out the room.

By far the best part though, is the window seat. There was this large gap between the two closets that seemed to be nothing but wasted space. We used to store file drawers there. I had the idea, my husband and brother-in-law did the building and for less than $50 my daughter has an adorable window seat and a nice big storage box for off season blankets, freeing up more closet space. I may add a cushion later.

The room still needs work. We’re hoping to add a few more outlets and some more lighting. But finally, the most cluttered room of the house has become the cutest. Our daughter loves it and gets excited each night about sleeping in her “big girl bed.”


Categories: Organization, Parenting, Simple Living | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

3 Bone-In Chicken Breasts=3 meals: Confessions of a Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast Snob

I used to be a boneless skinless breast snob. I actually couldn’t imagine eating anything else. We rarely bought chicken thighs and always regretted it when we did and almost never bought anything with the bone in. After eight years of marriage I have cooked one whole chicken, which I did in the crock pot. It was OK, but it didn’t seem nearly worth all the work that went into it. We aren’t big fans of dark meat and I found myself looking for uses for the dark meat where it would be less noticed, like stews and soups. Then something happened. We were out of boneless skinless breast. We hadn’t had chicken in quite a while and I was craving it. I found a bag of three bone-in chicken breasts I bought on sale last fall in the back of the freezer. I have no idea what possessed me to buy them in the first place. I was probably planning a crock pot meal of some kind. So I decided to roast them. I have been totally intimidated by roasting chicken because I don’t own a proper roasting pan. I was sure I would screw it up. But the internet to the rescue, I soon found an easy way to roast chicken. I used a metal brownie pan that was left behind by the previous owners of our house.  I followed a simple recipe.

Coat chicken with oil (I used olive oil)

Season (I used lemon pepper bought in bulk at Sam’s Club)

Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes

Reduce temperature to 350 and bake for an hour.

Now these were three very thick chicken breasts so I recommend using less time for small breasts otherwise they will be too dry.

I was that easy and wow was it good. The skin was crispy and delicious and the meat was tender and moist. It was some of the best chicken I’ve ever had. Plus, at the end of the meal feeding two adults and a toddler we had enough meat left for quesadillas and chicken croquettes. Now when I go to the store I look at the split chicken breast and see how reasonably priced it is compared to boneless skinless breast. Right now the best price I can find on boneless breast is $1.99 a pound, maybe $1.79 on sale. Yesterday at Bottom Dollar I found Perdue Split Chicken Breast for $.79 a lb! Perdue has the added benefit of being cage free, antibiotic vegetarian diet fed chicken. (I know it’s not organic or free range, but thus far, organic chicken is outside our budget so I consider this to be the next best thing). Now I finally feel ready to tackle a whole roast chicken. I can’t wait to see how many meals I can get out of one of those.

Categories: budget, Cooking | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

A Chance to Try Cloth for Free

Have you always wanted to try cloth diapers but were reluctant to make the upfront investment? Keeper of the Home is holding a giveaway of a $75 gift certificate to online cloth diapering boutique, Sweet Little Blessings. Check it out for your chance to try cloth diapers for free.

Categories: budget, Cloth Diapers | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Square Foot Garden 2011: July Update

Below, finally, are pictures of my yard and garden.

Just as a point of comparison, this is what the yard looked like when we moved in.

This is what it looks like now.

As you can see, not all of it isSquareFootGarden, though I hope to add more next year. I’m planning to add raised beds to areas, such as the edge of the alley side fence, which do nothing but grow weeds. That way I’ll be making use of my space to grow vegetables and my husband will have much less work weed whacking.

Yes, those really are my peas cascading over. I never thought they would grow so high and I didn’t think they would still be producing in July. They are now impinging on my squash plants and slowing the growth of my summer squash by providing shade. I’ll have to cut them back soon. Perhaps I’ll grow them up the fence next year instead.

I realize that the cover on this bed is totally messed up. My husband is hoping to add some corner posts to better hold up the chicken wire cage. Honestly, I’d rather do without the cover all together. But for some reason it’s the only deterrent to squirrels that actually works. But unfortunately it is also a deterrent to harvesting and weeding so I have lettuce that really needs to be picked and weeds to be pulled out. (Fortunately most of the weeds are growing in the concrete outside the bed.)

I have no idea if these potato barrels were work, but it was what I had so I figured I didn’t have anything to lose. I got such a late start on these that I probably won’t have a crop until September or October anyway.

So far I’ve harvested about 3 pounds of peas, half a pound of lettuce, 1 pound of green beans, 1 pound of strawberries. The strawberries were a very light harvest because I pinched back most of the blooms so that next year I will get a larger harvest. But apparently I missed a few. I may still yet get a small fall harvest from my everbearing strawberry plants.

The small planter in the lower right of the picture is an experiment with corn. I have no idea if I will get any ears, but I decided to try it out anyway. It probably isn’t worth the space given how inexpensive corn is locally when it is in season, so I probably won’t plant it again next year.

It’s safe to say that my garden doesn’t pay for itself yet. But I’m learning a lot each year and eventually I’ll run out of space to adding new beds so my yearly costs will decrease.

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