All posts by Karen Tauriainen

Educated as a civil engineer...now a stay-at-home mom with four kids.

Make Your Own Fizzy Drinks

Do you have nerdy kids?  I do!  They LOVE building stuff, running experiments, and turning my house into a lab.

the setupHere’s fun activity to try with your nerdy kids.

To carbonate your own drink….you will need:

  • A drink (we used blue Kool-aid)
  • A bottle that you can put a cork in the opening
  • A cork with a hole drilled to fit a straw
  • Several straws
  • Vinegar and Baking Soda

Set your equipment up like this.  Put about a cup of vinegar in the bottle, but don’t add any baking soda yet. simple setup Once you have a second set of hands ready to help.  Scoop a heaping tablespoon of baking soda into the funnel (keeping the bottom closed with your finger).

Remove the cork from the bottle and QUICKLY let all the baking soda fall into the vinegar.  VERY QUICKLY re-cork the bottle and hold the cork in place.

The solution will bubble violently, sending carbon dioxide through the straw into your waiting kool-aid. I would recommend that the 2nd person hold the end of the straw down into the kool-aid.closeup

When the bubbles stop…enjoy your fizzy kool-aid.

Lent – Preparing Your Heart for Easter

Lent Jar FullEvery January, our church community rings in the new year with a week of daily, evening prayer and encourages the whole community to fast.  This year, we talked to the kids at dinner about the different types of fasting, and (amazingly) they all agreed on three types of fasts that they were willing to try….for one week each:  media fast, processed food fast, meat fast.

The kids did REALLY well with the fasting…I was amazed.  Somewhere in the middle, one child asked at dinner if we could “do lent” this year.  I know they’ve heard about their catholic friends “giving up” something for lent, so I asked what they had in mind.  I went on to tell them that we could certainly “do lent” as long they kept with the purpose of lent.

As long as whatever you’re doing or giving up is drawing you closer to God.….(in other words, giving-up pop or chocolate isn’t going to make you a better Christian, nor is it going to bring you closer to God)

So…with that in mind, we set out to make a list of small things to do each day, or things to give up, that would help us to act in a way pleasing to God, as well as things to strengthen our faith. (download our list here: lent jar)Lent Paper Strip

I typed up the list, cut them into strips, and put them all in a jar.  Each dinner during the season of lent, we draw one out of the jar.  We discuss what it means, and hang it on the fridge as our challenge for the next day.  As we finish each challenge, we tape them onto a picture that’s hanging on the wall in the kitchen.  Amidst all of the bunnies and Easter eggs, those little strips of paper remind us to take time and prepare our hearts for Easter.DSCF2007

 

Make sure you have your cell phone when you go to heaven!

We were just leaving the check-out lane at the local grocery store….my tow-head five year old boy and I.

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He looks at me while I navigate the cart around the other shoppers.  “I’m really glad you’re not old,” he says as we pass a couple of senior citizens.  Lately, he’s had a horrified fascination with wrinkles, so I figured these lucky grayhaired folk just had too many wrinkles for his taste.   But, his next few words cleared that right up….

“Because….I don’t want to go to your funeral yet…..when you’re just laying there all flat….like this,” (and he demonstrates the head back and eyes close) I assured him that I wasn’t quite ready for my own funeral either.

“But,” I told him, “when you’re dead, you get to be with God in heaven, and it’s REALLY nice and beautiful.”  He looked unsure, but wanted to believe me.

“Where is heaven?” he asks…looking at the cloudy sky.  “Is it really up above the clouds?  Is that where God is?”  I told him that I really didn’t know, but that I was sure it was a very nice place.

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“OK,” he says, “Just make sure you take your cell phone with you when you go there, so you can tell me about it.”

Later that day, we went over his Sunday-school homework.  He was supposed to talk to God, anytime, about anything.  So, we prayed a quick prayer about heaven, and requested that God send my dear boy a few dreams so he could see what it was like.

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Dear God – please help me to make use of every “teachable moment” that you give me with my kids.

Call Out that Negative Behavior

Do your kids fight? Whine? Stomp away? Refuse to eat dinner? Back talk? Drag their feet? Do everything EXCEPT what you asked?

If so….they might be normal!

I’ve been blessed to have a great friend in my life, that’s also a family therapist.  She has a great way of looking at things…and great advice for me.  In this situation, she tells me:

When you are at your wit’s end….take a deep breath and step back, and listen up!

All kids have a negative behavior (that pushes your buttons) that they will “go to” when they are not getting enough positive attention.

How’s that for a revelation?  So, what do you do with this info?

  1. Take a look at each of your kids….and figure out which of their negative behaviors is “the one” (note, some may have more than one)
  2. Write it down…and put it somewhere that you can look at it (like your bathroom) when you’re at your wit’s end and giving yourself a “mommy time-out”  Knowing what’s really going on in the situation will help you keep your cool.
  3. Respond to the real situation (your child needs more positive attention) instead of Reacting to the negative behavior that’s making your blood boil.

Watch for it….and call it what it is….(I did this with my daughter, age 11, and she stared at me dumbfounded.)  I simply told her that if she needed some attention or one-on-one time with my husband or me, that she just needed to ask.  She didn’t need to pick a fight with us.

 

Pesto Orecchiette with Chicken Sausage

This is a really quick and easy weeknight dinner (also part of the Week 4 Menus)

Pesto Orecchiette with Chicken Sausage

Prep time: 20min, Serves 4-6

12 oz Orecchiette
1/2 lb green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces (Or 1/2 lb froz)
1 cup frozen peas
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
8 oz fully cooked Italian-style chicken sausage links, thinly sliced
1/3 cup prepared pesto
1/2 cup grated Parmesan (2oz)

  1. Cook the pasta according to the package directions, adding the green beans and peas during the last 3 min of cooking.
  2. Reserve 1 cup of the coking water; drain the pasta and vegetables and return them to the pot.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the sausage and cook, turning occasionally, until browned, 6 to 8 min.
  4. Add the sausage, pesto, Parmesan, and 1/2 cup of the reserved cooking water to the pasta and vegetables and toss to combine. (Add more coking water if the pasta seems dry)

 

Laundry Simplified

Laundry is never a favorite chore….so, I’ve done my best to simplify the process and get the best results.  The following is a list of quick tips that I use, to make the laundry task (for my family of 6) less of a pain, and as cost-effective as possible.

  1. Sort Less.  If you wash everything (except bleach) in cold water, then there’s no reason to sort your clothes into more than two categories (bleach & colors).  There’s obvious exceptions (work clothes with car grease, new clothes that are not colorfast, and new towels that leave lint on everything)  Save yourself a lot of trouble and throw it in there.  There’s no reason you can’t wash blue jeans and dress shirts together.
  2. Skip the Softener & Save $$.  I used to subscribe to a “cheapskates” newsletter by Mary Hunt.  One day, a reader wrote in and suggested using white vinegar in place of fabric softener.  I tried it, and was amazed at the results.  I buy white vinegar in a large gallon jug, keep it in something easier to pour (an empty syrup bottle) and simply fill the fabric softener cavity with it before I put the clothes in the washer (about 1/4 cup per load)  For laundry with a lot of polar fleece…you may also need a dryer sheet.
  3. Oxy Clean - I do love this stuff.  It gets out organic stains….food, grass, poop, baby formula, etc.  It does not get out the grease part of the stain.  I add the smallest amount of Oxy Clean powder to every load, except the bleach load.
  4. Food Stains – Treat food stains with liquid oxy clean that has been thinned with water.  This is much cheaper and much stronger than what you can buy already in a spray bottle as a stain-treater.
  5. Grease Stains - Palmolive Dish Soap is the best.  Put the soap right on the greasy spot.  I’ve had loads of clothes that were covered in black crayon.  I ran the hot water until it was HOT…put about 1 cup of palmolive in the washer with the clothes, and started the washer….the clothes came out clean. (I did have to spot-treat a couple of the worst pieces with Palmolive right on the crayon)  I’ve tried this another time with Dawn and the results were disappointing.
  6. Everyday Stains - Mix your liquid laundry soap – I use Tide with Bleach – with ammonia.  I use about 1/3 laundry soap and 2/3 ammonia.  Put it in a spraybottle and spray it on all stains…you’ll be amazed at what comes out.
  7. Bleach Pen - there’s nothing better than a Chlorox bleach pen for those inevitable spots on little kid’s white t-shirts, rugby collars, etc.

When you do laundry….try to wash it, dry it, hang/fold it, and get it put away ASAP.  Don’t start another load unless you have time to get it all done and put away….it doesn’t help anything to have laundry half-done sitting around your home.

Hope this helps!

Clean by Your Calendar – Phase 1

I have a hard time keeping my house clean. I feel like I barely get the minimum done….and the “deep” cleaning is constantly ignored.  So, after several trials, (and some tips from the Flylady and her “Sink Reflections” book) I came up with a plan that slowly takes care of all the deep cleaning, little by little.  That way, I can just do the basic every week (and a smidgin of the deep stuff) and the whole house is much more manageable.

Here’s how I do it.

First – divide your house into FIVE zones that are even in the amount of time they take to clean.  For my house (an 1800sqft ranch with basement), the zones are:

  • Porch & Foyer & Mudroom & Living Room
  • Kitchen & Dining & Back Patio
  • Kids Bedrooms & Bathroom
  • Master Bedroom & Bathroom
  • Basement Living Area & Laundry/Bathroom

If you like color coding, assign each zone a color.  Then, use your calendar, and write a zone (or color) on the Sunday starting each week.  I always start with the Porch zone….this will go on the first Sunday space of the month (even if that month doesn’t start until Wed….write it on the Sunday space)

Keep going down the calendar with a new zone on each Sunday.  If you have one left at the end, repeat the first zone again.

Next – Go through each zone with a notebook.  Make a list of all of the little stuff that needs to be done in order to perfectly clean the zone.  This includes:

  • cleaning light fixtures
  • scrubbing baseboards
  • washing walls
  • cleaning door & window tracks
  • washing curtains

You can download my lists (clean by your calendar zone details) for some ideas.  Once you have your own lists…print them out and keep them on a clipboard or in a notebook.  You will be crossing off items as you get them done.

Don’t be scared….it’s going to take months to get it all done….but that’s OK.  Most of these items don’t need to be done more than a couple of times each year.

Last – put it into action.  Each day of the week….set aside 10 or 15 minutes.  Set a timer so you don’t do too much.  Choose one thing off of the list from that zone, and do it!  Slowly over time, you will complete the whole list.

If you can’t get it done everyday, that’s OK….a few things done is much better than none!  Keep in mind that this will get all of the deep cleaning done over time….it’s not going to be an immediate fix, but each week will show improvement in a new area.

Don’t forget to enlist the kid’s help.  When they come to you asking for extra chores (to earn money or marbles), show them the zone list for that week.  One 10-15min job earns one marble or whatever money you agree upon.

Good Luck!

 

 

 

Advent {Dec 25} – Preparing Your Heart for Christmas

Tuesday  December 25

2 Corinthians 9:7

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

 

Question: What can we give to God?  What should our attitude be when we give?

Daily Challenge (for the Day after Christmas)

Small Child:  God loves a cheerful giver.  Choose a toy that you don’t use anymore and cheerful put it in the “donate” box.

Student:  God loves a cheerful giver.  Choose a toy that you don’t use anymore and cheerful put it in the “donate” box.

Teen:  God loves a cheerful giver.  Choose something that you own that you don’t use much anymore and cheerful put it in the “donate” box. OR Volunteer for something today that will take a small amount of your time and cheerfully help the person in need (i.e. help someone clean up a mess)

Adult:  Purge your house and cheerfully give away all but your favorites to charity OR sign up to give your precious time to volunteer for a one-time event.  Cheerfully give your time.