Shoestring Parenting -Ideas From Miss Kay, Calendar Counting

I know I've said this before, but you don't have to buy expensive toys and equipment to teach and reinforce early childhood learning concepts. Miss Kay taught Kindergarten for many years and she sees teachable moments everywhere and in everything. Here is a great idea for reinforcing counting skills and for learning the days of the week by using an inexpensive calendar and some Popsicle sticks.

There are so many simple things parents of 4 and 5 year olds can do at home to reinforce the lessons being taught in school. How about buying one those very big desk calendars that you lay flat on a desk. Hang it on the wall or fridge. Everyday have your child mark off the day . Encourage him to read that number and all those before it. Show him how to find the name of the day and repeat the days of the week with him. Teach the meanings of before , after, yesterday, today , tomorrow, above, below, next, last, first. Etc.
Make a special pointer or wand and hang it next to the calendar. Use it for pointing as the numbers are read . See how many numbers can be recognized as you move the pointer around the calendar. A large box of popsicle sticks from the hobby store are so handy, also. Use them as counters as you talk about the numbers.
Encourage your child to play school with you, or to use their imagination playing with their friends, with their dolls or stuffed animals reviewing these concepts. Make it a game. Have fun!!!!!!

Seven Spunky Monkeys written by Jackie French Koller and illustrated by Lynn Munsinger is fun book to use to teach the days of the week. Visit Wondersome Storytime to see more counting books and activities.

For more hands on learning activities visit Ideas from Miss Kay.

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Save Money on Cleaning Products by Using 6 Common Household Items

There are so many cleaning products out there. Just a walk down the cleaning product aisle in the grocery store is an assault on the senses, so many colors and smells, and potentially the pocket book. There is a cleaner for every household problem and many of them work great. But when money is tight or you don't have time to run to the market to buy that perfect cleanser or spray, it is good to know that there are a some common household items that pack a cleaning punch.

Baking Soda
Baking Soda is so versatile. Below are two of my favorite ways to use it around the house. For more ideas see my post The Amazing Wonders of Baking Soda.
  • Gently scrub away baked on foods: Sprinkle a thick layer of baking soda on any pot or pan that has a baked on mess. Add a little water to make a paste and scrub. Add more baking soda as needed. Also good to shine the outside of a pot with out scratching.
  • Our favorite deodorizer: We all know that a box in the fridge works great but other places where baking soda works well are - the cabinets under the sink in the bathroom, the laundry room and sprinkled on floor mats in the car to absorb moisture and odors.

  • Clean and brighten costume jewelry: put a dab of toothpaste on a damp old toothbrush and gently scrub, rinse and dry. This will remove accumulated dirt brighten the rhinestones.
  • Remove crayon marks from walls: You will need non-gel toothpaste for this. Dab a small amount on the crayon mark and rub with a soft cloth. Rinse and repeat if necessary.
  • Get rid of garlic and onion smell: If your cutting board or cooking utensils are retaining the scent of the garlic or onion you just chopped, rub some toothpaste on and then rinse. To get rid of garlic or onion oder on your hands, rub a little toothpaste between your palms and around your fingers.

Dryer Sheets
I haven't tried either of these tips but I'm interested to see if they'll work.
  • Cleaning a pan: Another method to clean a messy pan is to fill with water, add a dryer sheet and let soak for a few hours, wipe and rinse.
  • Clean soap scum and mineral deposits off of your shower walls: Wipe shower surfaces with a wet dryer sheet.

  • Soak up a greasy spill: If you spill cooking oil or drip grease on your counter or floor pour salt onto the spill and let set for a minute then wipe up with a paper towel. The salt absorbs the greats and makes clean up much easier.
  • Clean Veggies and mushrooms: Clean the grit and hidden dirt off of mushrooms and leafy greens by placing them in a ziploc filled about 1/3 with water, add 1 Tbl salt and swirl the water to mix the salt. Add your mushrooms or greens, close the bag and swish. Rinse with clear water.
  • Rub away water marks: To remove those frustrating marks left on wooden furniture from water glasses and spills, gently rub with a paste of salt and cooking oil, allow to sit for about a minute then wipe with a soft cloth and polish.

  • Clean your coffee pot: This is a well known and well used method to keep your drip coffee maker clean and free from hard water deposits. Run 1 part vinegar and 2 parts water through the brewing cycle. Allow the pot to cool for a short time then run a full pot of fresh water through. You should clean your pot once a month. If you haven't cleaned your coffee maker in a while stop reading this post and go take care of it right away. You'll thank me the next time you make a pot of coffee.
  • Keep colors bright: To keep the colors on new clothes and towels bright and run resistant, soak them in 1 part vinegar to 1 part cold water for 15 minutes before their first washing.
  • Clean clogging deposits off of your shower head: Pour some white vinegar into a plastic bag and rubber band it around the shower head so that the shower head is sitting in the vinegar. Allow to soak for half and hour.
  • Damp mop: Fill you bucket with 1 cup vinegar to a gallon of water. Cleans and deodorizes your floor. (Warning: the smell of the vinegar may also make you want to color Easter eggs. Or maybe that' just my problem)

  • Get rid of ring around the collar: rub white chalk over the dirt around your collar. The chalk is supposed to absorb the oils and make the color easier to clean. I haven't tried this one but it seems like it should work.
  • Tarnish prevention: Wrap some chalk in cheesecloth and place alongside your silver. The chalk will absorb the moisture and help prevent tarnish from starting.

What common household products do double duty for you? Post a comment and share your cleaning suggestions.
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Shoelaces - A Great Shoestring Fashion Statement

Have you ever stopped and considered your shoelaces? At first glance they are bits of string with plastic thingys at the end that keep your shoes on. Now, look at them again. These functional laces have the potential to be works of art. They can give your lace up shoes individuality and pizazz. They are a Shoestring Fashion Statement.

This morning I discovered a site called Ian's Shoelace Site. According to Ian, there are 2 Trillion different lacing methods. He even has the math to prove it! On his shoelace site Ian lists 36 ways to lace your shoes, complete with instructions, a diagram and photos of shoes sporting that particular lacing pattern. Ian even gives the pros and cons of the lacing pattern. The site also has advice on common shoelace complaints: slipping shoelaces, crooked bows, lace lengths. Are you interested in Shoelace trivia? Ian has it in his Shoelace News section. If you have specific shoelace questions he includes a FAQ page.

Why am I so excited about 36 different ways to tie your shoes? Because so often our shoe wearing families get tired of their tennies, sneakers and lace up boots before they are really worn out and need to be replaced. You don't have to buy new shoes, just dress them up with new laces. Buy different colored laces and lace up those shoes in a fun pattern. One of my favorites is the zipper - Fun and functional.
There are also lots of learning skills involved in these lacing patterns: fine motor skills, problem solving, reading - as you follow the directions, math and measurement. Of course, since lacing is a new skill, patience will be developed as well. To keep frustrations levels at a low, be sure and try the new lacing pattern when you have time to get it right and not right before your kids are heading out the door to school.

This is Shoestring Fashion at its best, economical and fun. Give your sneakers a new lease on life and lace 'em up.
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Shoestring Travel - Use Kayak to Find the Best Prices

My oldest son in planning on traveling to Asia. He has an opportunity to visit South Korea. Very exciting but money is crazy tight so it's important for him to find the best price available on an airline ticket. Searching out the best travel prices can be frustrating and mind boggling. So, I turn to Kayak. Kayak travel site is one of the affiliates that advertise on Shoestrings End. I added Kayak as an affiliate because people that I trust had used it with excellent results. My mother recently booked a flight for me to visit her in Phoenix (thanks, mom) and here is what she said about her success with Kayak,
I used your travel post I couldn't be more pleased with it. It really does give you the best flight available. It was very easy to follow. I plan to use it from now on.

Here's how Kayak works. Kayak is a travel search engine that searches hundreds of travel sites to provide you with best price information about airfare, hotels, cruises and car rental. They offer an easy to use and understand display of price information and then will link you to the right travel source to make your purchase. They also offer fare alerts and fare history so that you can stay up to date when prices change.

When I checked out an airline ticket to Seoul I discovered how easy it is to modify your search to your specific needs. You decide how many layovers you want, departure times, layover durations, first class (yes, please) or economy (what we can afford), you can even search aircraft type. You can search all available airlines or just your favorite airline. Finding a hotel is equally as simple, just click on hotel and you can sort by location, popularity, price, name, stars and distance and amenities. Once you find the price you want, click on details and it will take you to the travel site so you can check it out and take care of your booking. If you want to see for yourself what Kayak is all about, you can link through the advertisement in the sidebar of Shoestrings End. Have you had a positive experience using Kayak? Leave a comment and tell us about it.

We all may not have lots of money jingling in our pockets right now but, if it's time for adventure, you can find the best deal at Kayak and still have a little jingle left over.
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10 Ways for the Valentine-less to make Valentines Day Special

You don't have a Valentine this year?
That's OK your day can still be a celebration of love and appreciation.
  1. Make someone else feel loved and appreciated. Bake cookies and take them to a neighbor or a friend.
  2. Reopen a lost communication. Write three notes to friends that you haven't talked to in a while or better yet, give them a call.
  3. Offer to babysit for a couple who may need a night out. Bake cookies with the kids as a Valentines gift for their parents.
  4. Have a night out with other Valentine-less friends.
  5. Go to a movie that you know you would never go see if you were on a date.
  6. Go to a favorite candy store and pick out your own box of chocolates. Remember, chocolate is not just for couples. Eat the whole box if you want or find a friend to share it with.
  7. Go to a favorite museum, gallery or take in a concert. Take your time and enjoy the experience. You are on your own timetable so don't rush, soak in the art.
  8. Pamper yourself and treat yourself to a massage.
  9. Host a Valentine potluck and invite couples and singles. Have everyone bring a Valentine to share with another guest.
  10. Give yourself permission to do something that you wouldn't normally take time to do: Read that book that you've been wanting to start, spend an hour on StumbleUpon, start a gym membership, go shopping for something fun and frivolous, go dancing.
Valentines Day is a day of love and appreciation. As you show love and appreciation to others it will overflow back to you.
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Shoestring Valentines Day - 10 Ideas for Romantic Valentines Day Dates

Saturday is Valentines Day. Did you remember? Are you still trying to think of something special to do with your sweetie that wont break the bank?

Here are 10 inexpensive or free (I like that word) ideas for romantic Valentines Day dates:
  1. Go out for a romantic dinner. Pick a favorite medium priced restaurant and share an entree. Most places give such large portions that you both will get plenty to eat. Check the menu, the restaurant may charge a splitting fee but you will still get a nice dinner for less.
  2. Have a candlelight dinner at home. One evening when our older children were gone for the evening we cooked a delicious dinner together, got dressed up - he in a suit and me in a formal - and set the table with candles and the best dishes. We added some romantic music and had the perfect date without ever leaving home. (Remember it must end as well as it begins so both of you have to help with clean up. Doing dishes together can be very romantic.)
  3. Have a Valentines Day picnic. I know that it's still winter, but a picnic is romantic no matter what time of year. Bake some heart shaped cookies, fill your thermos with coffee or hot cocoa, grab a blanket, a warm jacket and a romantically adventuresome spirit and venture out.
  4. Take a trip together to the candy store, my favorite is Sees Candy, and hand pick a pound of favorite chocolates. Find a lovely spot - a park, a scenic overlook - and eat at least half of the box before you go home.
  5. Take a long, long walk together. Talk and hold hands.
  6. Too cold to walk outside? Go mall walking together. It's so hard to get exercise in the middle of winter. Exercising together can be very romantic. Go to the mall and decide how many times you will walk through the mall. Walk quickly but remember to talk and hold hands.
  7. Start you day with a romantic breakfast in bed. Get things set up the night before so you aren't rushing around in the morning. Cinnamon rolls made the night before make a lovely breakfast treat. Remember that this is breakfast in bed for both of you. It's only romantic if you share the experience.
  8. Go on a window shopping date. Give yourselves a large amount of imaginary money, say $5000 and shop together for things that you would love to give each other.
  9. Find a discount theater in your area and see a movie. Since the tickets are less expensive splurge and buy some popcorn to share.
  10. Make the whole day one big Valentines Date by saying,"I love you", to each other every chance that you get. Write love notes and hide them around the house: in the medicine cabinet, under a pillow, between the bread of a sandwich, taped to the TV remote, in a jacket pocket.
Remember, money can't buy love and romance doesn't have to be expensive; it just has to come from the heart.
Any other suggestions for a Shoestring Valentines Day?
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Don't Let Empty Cupboards Get You Down, Try

I am trying to figure out what to fix for dinner tonight and am not coming up with anything inspiring. Part of the problem is that it's not time to grocery shop yet and my cupboards are a little bare. Since we live quite a few miles from the nearest market it's not convenient to run to the store and pick up a few things. So, I will have to use what is in my fridge and my cupboard. Let's see, I have chicken, eggs, bread, milk, a little cheese, some apples, potatoes, a few things more........
Hmmmm, still not feeling very culinarily (yes, I made that word up) creative. But I have a helper - Cooking by Numbers.
I was looking on StumbleUpon this morning and stumbled on this cooking site. It's wonderful! All you have to do is click on the ingredients that you have in your fridge and cupboard and it will suggest meal options and recipes for you. The only problem is that the site's from the UK so some the oven temps are in Celsius but you can easily convert by keying in Celsius number in Fahrenheit in your Google search bar. For example if the recipe calls for 190 degrees C you key in 190 Celsius to Fahrenheit. The conversion will be listed at the top of the page that opens.
Here are some of the suggestions that Cooking By Numbers gave me from the ingredients that I listed:
  • Roast Chicken
  • Potato Pie
  • Rice Pudding
  • Glazed Potatoes
  • Onion Soup
  • Pasta with Green and Orange Ribbons
The list goes on and on, more than 60 suggestions. I am feeling inspired. I like the idea of those Glazed Potatoes maybe served with Stuffed Lemon Chicken. Yummmm!
Don't let your dwindling food supplies get you down. You just need a little inspiration. Do some Shoestring Cooking and try Cooking By Numbers.
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Is a Positive Attitude a Luxury or a Necessity?

In today's economy it seems that keeping a positive outlook on life is a luxury afforded to the few that have money in their pockets. I don't agree. The dictionary says that a luxury is an indulgence, but I believe that sometimes it's necessary to indulge. I just read Dan Miller's blog about the necessity of a positive life purpose in this job market. I found myself agreeing with his premise. The truth is that to live a successful Shoestring lifestyle you must choose the necessary luxury of a positive attitude.
Like many Americans I start my day by watching the morning news. That can be a positive thing - I see what the weather will be like in my area and what is going on in my community. It can also be a negative thing because the news anchors, both local and national, seem to get some strange glee from reporting bad news. They have a gleam in their eye as they tell us about our economic trouble, job losses and security threats. Wow, if you just start your day with the morning news you can be headed for some serious negative vibes that will effect the rest of your day. Plan, instead, on starting your day with something positive and luxurious, something that makes you feel equipped to get out of bed and get going. It doesn't have to be big or extravagant. The best things in life are simple (and usually inexpensive) pleasures.

My husband and I enjoy a cup of coffee in bed before we get up and face the day. In order to easily facilitate this indulgence I have a coffee pot in our bedroom next to my side of the bed. It's set on a timer so that it starts ten minutes before we get up. Then, when the alarm rings, we have the delicious smell of fresh coffee to motive us to open our eyes. Since the coffee is right next to me, I just have to sit up, reach over and pour two cups. As we watch the news of the day we are insulated for a moment by the warmth of the coffee in our cups and the companionship of sharing this morning ritual. Simple, but sets our day on a positive spin.

Six More Simply Positive Starters:
  1. Recharge spiritually. Before you get moving into your day spend some moments in prayer and study. You'll be surprised how your outlook will change when you remember Who is in charge.
  2. Take a hot shower. Oh, how I love a hot shower! It makes me think of all the worries of yesterday washing away to give me a fresh morning start.
  3. Exercise! You don't have to do a huge work out but stretch, move, breath. Get your body and attitude working together in a positive way.
  4. Make a plan to reach out to someone in your sphere of influence. Too often we start our day with thoughts of how we need to confront this or that person, tell them off, make them see things our way. Instead concentrate your morning thoughts on helping others. Pick two co-workers, family members, neighbors and think about what you can do to help them and make their day more positive.
  5. Laugh. Read the comics in the paper or subscribe to a daily joke site online. Turn off the news and watch a rerun of a favorite sitcom or put in a DVD of your favorite comedy while you get ready to walk out the door.
  6. Smile. If you walk by the mirror and find yourself scowling in anticipation of your day. Stop. Take a deep breath and Smile at yourself. Remind yourself that you are a lovable and capable person.
Six simple starters to a positive day. Not earth shattering revelations but good reminders that the attitude that we get out of bed with each day is our choice. Leave a comment and share you strategies for starting you day in a positive way.
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Shoestring Affiliates - Dan Miller, No More Mondays and 48 Days To The Work You Love

Complaining about Mondays seems to be a part of the American mindset. But what if there were, at least in your work life, no more Mondays? Dan Miller, Life Coach and author, has written No More Mondays aimed at helping us move away from the dreaded Monday in an unfulfilling job to making a living using our talents and abilities in a job that we love.

Here is a review of No More Mondays:
"No More Mondays is a brain kick-starter offering you a catalyst to start you thinking about different ways to earn your income, ways that mesh with your personality and passions." Glump on Business.
Dan's purpose, is described on his website:
...(Dan) specializes in creative thinking for increased personal and business success. He believes the most effective life plans are achieved by integrating natural gifts, unique personality traits and one's own values and passions. Although he holds a Master's degree in Psychology, he feels much of his success in helping others find life direction draws heavily from his background in business. Dan is active in helping individuals redirect careers, evaluate new income sources, and achieve balanced living. As a career and business coach, he is a firm believer in the positive possibilities that exist in today's marketplace.

Dan Miller's first book, 48 Days To The Work You Love, is another inspirational and motivational look at stepping out and discovering your calling. Let's face it, in today's economy we need inspiration and motivation. We need someone to help us see beyond the layoffs and the pay cuts to our worth as hard working talented individuals who can support their families and pay their bills through creative meaningful work.

I am a Dan Miller affiliate because I found his books helpful, practical and inspiring. Dan also has an online newsletter, a No More Mondays blog and offers regular podcasts. You can sign up for these or purchase his books by clicking on the 48 Days link in the left side sidebar.

Dan Miller's Message is loud and clear: If you're one of those people who dread going to work on Mondays, do something about it!
quote from No More Mondays book jacket
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