Make a School Clothes Organizer

Published Monday, August 17th, 2015

Make a School Clothes Organizer

Getting the kids ready for school in the mornings isn’t always the smoothest transaction. Much of the trouble comes from getting them dressed, so I set out to make an organizer for the kids to easily grab their clothes, backpack, etc.  Its like a mini dresser just for school clothes.


1. I checked several stores online and local, and settled on this 3-drawer stackable set by Sterilite, available at WalMart’s website or in-store ($13 each).  You’ll need two of these for each child.  They measure 14″X14″x10″ on the outside (12″X12″ inside).


2. I also picked up a set of strong metal hooks ($3) to hang their backpacks on.


3. I printed off and cut out these days-of-the-week labels which you can find here.


4. Use some Scotch Heavy Duty packing tape ($3) to carefully pick up the labels, then fix them to the front of the drawers.  I needed an extra set of hands at this step to hold the label for me as I laid the tape over it, then stick it to the drawer.  This step was a bit clumsy, but you’ll manage.  (Be warned: if you use a cheap generic packing tape, you’ll wish you got the Scotch brand.)

5. My husband attached the hook to the wall.  He made it so that the backpack was partially resting on the bins, and partially supported by the hook, as he thought that a shared load was best, but you can hang it however you wish.

Make a School Clothes Organizer

This is the end result.  The extra drawer can be use for homework storage, school supplies, anything really.  You could make it a Saturday drawer if you wanted to.  Now I just need to be sure to get the laundry done before Monday.

Total cost: $32
Time: under 1 hour

Disclaimer: this article may contain affiliate links.

Why Your Dishwasher Won’t Clean Anymore

Published Sunday, August 16th, 2015
Why Your Dishwasher Won’t Clean Anymore
(Image source: vintage ad)

Automatic dishwashers used to clean dishes just fine, no pre-washing needed.  Scrape, don’t wash, was the motto we all lived by for years.  Then around 2012 the dishes began coming out dirty.  At first I thought it was my dishwasher getting old and tired, so I replaced it.  When that didn’t help I changed detergent brands, several times.  Eventually I was forced to concede that dishwashers don’t work so well anymore and I simply needed to wash them by hand before I let the machine have a turn.  I know, it’s stupid to wash the dishes before washing the dishes.  What’s the point of having this machine!?

Big Brother Meddles Again
One day I was fed up having to wash my dishes twice and asked Google to show me the answers.  As is often the case, it was the government’s fault.  In 2011 the bureaucratic busybodies in the Washington decided that the active ingredient in dishwashing detergent should be banned.  Their reasoning was that the phosphorus might get into the lakes and streams, and once there it might make the algae grow “too much”.  You might be asking yourself, “Why would my sewage be getting into the lakes and streams in the first place,” and that would be a great question.  Rather than answering that riddle, the government simply banned phosphorus from dish and laundry soap.

Phosphorus Sounds Like a Really Dangerous Chemical
Phosphorus is a nutrient vital to human, animal, and plant life. It is one of the most common substances in our environment, naturally occurring in our food, our water and our bodies. In your body, phosphorus is present in your genes, your teeth, and your bones — even your muscles work because of the phosphorus in adenosine triphosphate.  Phosphorus is used in baking, as a polishing agent in toothpaste, is added to salt to keep it flowing freely, and is used in soda pop to give it a tart flavor.  Its also excellent at cleaning dirt because the phosphates envelopes the dirt particles and holds it suspension in the water, and gets rinsed away.

But Nature Is Totally Worth It
I want to reiterate the point that phosphorus is not some horrid chemical that kills nature, it’s  natural and makes plants grow really well.  Its a common ingredient in our food; Cheerios for example.  Its safe for kids, but bad for the environment?  It gets better.  When the government studied the matter they found that the consumer phosphates were not even getting into the waterways, but rather it was runoff from farm fertilizers that was.  The government ban on consumer detergents was completely reactionary and not based on reality.  It gets better still.  When the University of Washington studied the matter further, it was found that the phosphates used in consumer products are not able to be used by algae.  So even if the dishwasher phosphates were to get into lakes and rivers, which it wasn’t, it still couldn’t cause algae blooms.  Not done yet.  Without the cleaning power of phosphates, the detergent manufacturers had to replace it with something else, and those alternatives are petroleum-based chemicals and unnatural enzymes which are far more harmful to the environment. 

Fear Not, There is a Solution
tide dishesNow you know why your dishwasher began sucking at its job a few years ago,but there’s good news.  While the government was meddling with our dishwashers on their errant mission to solve a non-existent problem by making it worse, it turns out that commercial businesses (restaurants, hotels) still have to get their dishes clean, so they were exempted from the ban.  Isn’t that nice of Big Brother (sarcastic).  Cascade Professional makes a line of dish detergent which you can order on Amazon or pick up from a restaurant supply shop.  If the package says that it contains “phosphates” then you’re in good shape.  Also, a product called Bubble Bandit contains phosphorus and does a proper job.  

The best and most inexpensive solution is to simply add phosphates to your dishwasher.  A 4.5 pound box of TSP (trisodium phosphate) is less than $10 and will last for months.  A half-teaspoon of TSP added to your dishwasher, along with your regular dishwasher liquid, will get the job done for pennies per load.  Note: it’s suggested that TSP be used in conjunction with a soap of some kind, so TSP won’t entirely replace your existing detergent.  While TSP is quite safe and is not an acid, appropriate care and storage should still be used; in other words don’t eat it, don’t put it in your eyes, and don’t let children play with it.

Laundry Too!clothes washer sign
The same story applies to your laundry as to your dishwasher.  For front-loading washers, add one tablespoon TSP along with your normal laundry soap.  For heavily soiled or large loads, you can add as much as ¼ cup of TSP.  For top-load washers you may need more as they use much more water than the HE front-load washers, so start with ¼ cup and move up to as much as ½ cup.  TSP is perfectly safe for all colors and whites, and can be safely mixed with bleach if needed.

Now your dishes and clothes will be clean again.  And nature won’t be harmed at all so you can sleep well at night.

TSP Quick Reference
Dishwasher: ¼ teaspoon, along with normal dish detergent
Front-load washer: 1 tablespoon to ¼ cup, along with normal laundry soap
Top-load washer: ¼ cup to ½ cup, along with normal laundry soap

Additional reading links:
New York Times
Weekly Standard
Red State


Disclaimer: this article may contain affiliate links.

How to Get Paid to Shop

Published Monday, July 27th, 2015
How to Get Paid to Shop
(Image source: vintage ad)

We know groceries can be expensive and we are all trying to save money whenever we can — at least most of us moms are.  I recently came across a few apps to help with making at least a little of your money back when you shop.

One of the apps is called Ibotta.  You sign up for free, then you unlock deals by reading a short blurb or watching a quick video.  After you go shopping you just scan the bar code of the items you bought that were unlocked in the app, and scan the bar code on store receipt.  That’s it, they confirm the submission and give you money.

 Another one is Checkout 51.  Every Thursday morning Checkout 51 updates with a new list of offers.  All you have to do is pick the ones you like, purchase them at any store, and upload a photo of your receipt through their app or website. When your account reaches $20, they send you a check.

Shopkick is an app that rewards you with free gift cards in exchange for checking in a various stores (not just supermarkets) and by scanning the barcode of specified items.  You open the app before you enter the store and it will give you points just for walking in.  Then it will tell you what items it wants you to scan in that store, for which it will reward you with points that add up to gift cards.  You can do as little or as much scanning as you wish.

 If you shop at WalMart you can use their Savings Catcher app.  Scan your receipt with the app on your phone and they compare the prices with surrounding stores.  If any store has it for cheaper WalMart pays you the difference.

Target has the Cartwheel app.  This one you have to look through before shopping to pick the deals you want.  You go shopping and have the checkout person scan the bar code in the app for the purchases you are making.

Some of these  may seem like a lot of work, but they really can make it worth the tiny bit of effort.  I’ve saved/earned back hundreds of dollars by using the apps.  It adds up.  Let me know how you like using these services in the comments below, or if you any other good ideas please let us know that as well.

Referenced links:


Adventures of Travelling with Children

Published Monday, July 27th, 2015
Adventures of Travelling with Children
(Image source: TWA, vintage ad)

Taking an airplane ride with kids can be daunting. You never know what can happen. Planning ahead is vital, but it is hard to remember everything and there are always the unforeseen events that keep it “interesting”, (i.e. requiring vodka and/or Advil).

For example, I was once flying with my daughter from Europe to North America. She was a peach all the way through the airport, ticketing, boarding, takeoff.  Once the food service came my darling little one got sick, whether from the “fine” airplane food or from air-sickness, regardless which, she vomited all over me.  None of it got on herself (miraculously), just all over me.  Surprise!  I had to finish the 8 hour flight to New York — followed by the layover and another connecting flight — while smelling of vomit.

Typically one might plan for children’s spare clothes, but who thinks to bring themselves a change of clothes in their carry-on?  Even now, knowing the vomit possibility, there is isn’t any room when the carry-ons are filled with kids toys, books, snacks, tablets, etc.  I cleaned up as much as I could and bought a t-shirt in LaGuardia, but without a shower and a full change of clothes you can never truly get the smell off of yourself.

Another adventure I had in an airport involved my son. We had a brief layover in Denver, just enough time to use the bathrooms and get to the next gate. My toddler needed to use the potty, so we went to the “Family Restroom”.  At the time my son was going through a stage where he required that all clothes come off in order to do any potty business. I still have no idea why.  Once all the business was taken care of, and with boarding about to begin, it’s time to get dressed. Well… not so fast. He decided that there is no way those clothes are going on because they were “no longer clean” (or some such thing), even though they were actually fine.  And I had no spare change of clothes for him.  No matter what I said or did, he refused to get dressed. Times ticking by, I’m trying every trick in the book: cajoling, bribing, shouting, begging, man-handling — all I get in return is a screaming toddler.  Forcibly dressing a four-year-old boy who is writhing, wiggling, and actively undressing whatever you just forced onto him, while it may seem to the uninitiated to be a simple enough task, its assuredly not.

I’m certain that everyone in this wing of the airport can hear us.  I’m worried that security has been called on me.  I’ve attempted to bribe him with things that I never otherwise would, and in all honesty would never follow through on, like trips to Disneyland, or a new Nintendo, and nothing is working.  The intercom calls out for boarding, then the seating rows for boarding, then last call.  The boy is nude, it’s passed time to go, I’ve tried everything short of beatings.  I was beyond panicked, and has resigned myself that we were going to miss the flight.  Suddenly, and for no apparent reason, the kid just up and changed his mind about it, like it never even happened.  He calmly and efficiently got dressed and we made the flight with moments to spare. I don’t know how or why and I don’t care, I was just happy to be getting on the plane at last.

The point is, “the best-laid schemes of mice and moms oft go awry”.  Do your best to plan ahead, and then you just have to take it in stride.  And remind yourself that you’ll miss these days when they are gone.  That’s what people keep telling me anyways.

Acorn Squash Egg-in-the-Hole

Published Monday, July 27th, 2015
Acorn Squash Egg-in-the-Hole
(Image source: Cooking Light Magazine)

Acorn Squash Egg-in-the-Hole

Prep Time: 8 minutes

Total Time: 8 minutes

Yield: 4


  • 1 large (about 4-inch) acorn squash
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 3/8 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Cooking Spray
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled


  1. Preheat oven to 425°.
  2. Trim off about 1/2 inch from each end of squash; discard. Slice remaining midsection of squash crosswise into 4 (3/4-inch-thick) rounds. Remove seeds and membrane with a spoon.
  3. Brush both sides of squash with oil, and place on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and crushed red pepper. Bake at 425° for 15 minutes or until squash is just fork tender.
  4. Remove baking sheet from oven. Crack an egg into the center of each acorn slice; sprinkle eggs with remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt. Return pan to oven, reduce oven temperature to 350° and bake for 12 minutes or until eggs are cooked. Transfer to plates using a wide spatula; sprinkle with thyme and bacon. Serve immediately.


We leave the pretty fluted edging of peel to add to this dish’s striking appearance.  The skin is a bit tough and fibrous, so most people prefer not to eat it.  If you wish, substitute a sweet dumpling squash—they are a similar shape—without the fluted edge and a bit sweeter than acorn squash.  And the pretty variegated skin is edible.

 Source: Cooking Light magazine