Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Why Boxes Make Great Toys

I've read that balls, rings, cups and boxes are the some of the best toys for stimulating kiddo brains. 

Totally agree. 
Endless learning opportunities. 

Boxes have always been a blast around here, and over the past 5 years, we've found ways to get creative with this simple set. 
Aside from stacking, sorting and filling these colorful boxes, we play a game that both challenges and entertains at all age levels.

When my children were very young (ages 0-2), I'd place three different sized boxes in front of them.

I'd take a small toy, place it in front of one of the boxes and teach them how to find it.
"Now watch. I'm going to hide this cow inside the smallest box."

Then I'd cover the toy with the box and ask my daughter to find the cow.
No problem.

As we'd advance, I'd hide the toy and, once covered, switch up the order of the boxes.
"Now where is the cow?"
Now that my kids are more advanced, at ages 2 and 5, we play a more complicated version of this game.

We fill 3-5 boxes with different toys. As always, we verbally discuss which toy will be hidden inside each box.
"Pay attention. Cookie Monster is in the large box, Buzz in the medium, and Mr. Potato Head is in the small."

Then we mix 'em up.
I catch my eldest setting this game up for her sister all the time.
"Now find Cookie Monster! Find Buzz. Find Mr. Potato Head!" 
This game is great for recall, sorting, size recognition and problem solving.
Growing up outside New York City, I'm well acclimated to the ol' cups and ball trick.
Let's just hope I'm not setting my kids up for gambling or street scams, 'cause they're learning to ROCK this game.

Don't think the fun stops with small boxes.
Check out 10 Ways to Rock Out a Cardboard Box to read about the "toy" I'm not sure we'll EVER be able to toss.

Or turn some trash into treasure with Stain Mania: A Simple Furniture Makeover and store both toys, blankets and CHILDREN inside a swanky new piece.

What's your favorite way to utilize boxes as toys? Send us new ideas!
XOXO From My Hearth to Yours

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Monday, March 17, 2014

Stink Bug WAR- Phase 1 Tactic

Have you been keeping up? 

The whining is over.
It's go-time now.

Spring is in the air,
stink bugs are in our windows, 
and we're going to abolish and kill them all.
This particular window seems to be a hot spot in our home. On a bad day, we'll see dozens congregating on the glass. See all those spots on there? Spawn.

Let me tell you how awesome it is trying to squeegee stink bug crap off a 12-foot-high window.

Since this WAR is on, we wondered if this window is the prime portal.
Could they be squeezing in through gaps around the window frame?
Upon inspection…behold!

After discovering this half inch gap, Lee made sure to throughly seal it up with caulk to prevent more spawn from entering in the future.

One tiny step of progress...

But now, with this stealthy crevice revealed, we had tests to run in order to move onto Phase 2. 

How large of an opening can these stinkin' suckers get through?

Using an old fish tank, we created a divider that was lifted off the bottom with three quarters. 

Capturing test subjects wasn't difficult 'round these parts.
Within an hour, we had about a dozen in captivity.

Using a light source on one side (we eventually added a slice of banana peel for additional bait), we placed all the stink bugs on the dark side of the tank and watched to see if they could get under the panel towards the light and bait. 
Within minutes, the bugs started crawling under.
A gap, three quarters high, was no problem for them.

So we lowered the panel, down to two quarters (3.5 mm, ~1/8") and waited.
The stink bugs tried to get under that panel, but after 24 hours in captivity, only one made the squeeze to the other side.
Lowering the panel to only one quarter, after another 24 hours, none of the remaining bugs could pass under the wall.

End result- Stink bugs can potentially pass through height of about 1/8 of an inch.

Interesting to note- after 48 hours in captivity, with no food or water, 15 out of 17 stink bugs were dead.

To answer the bigger question—
Did the Phase 1 Tactic, sealing of the potential portal window, result in immediate reduction of stink bug sitings inside our home?

lowers shaking head, eyes closed, fists clenched, growling

There are just as many stinking spawn crawling around in here with that window sealed. There must be alternate, undiscovered entryways.

The Phase 1 Tactic isn't enough.

But it ain't over by a long shot, friends.
Time to break out the big guns.

It's about to get serious out here.
Get ready for Phase 2.
It's gonna be HUGE, and probably horrifying.

Stay tuned…
Here's to total and complete eradication!
XOXO From My Hearth to Yours
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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

How to Clean Sneakers in Two Minutes!

Yesterday was our first taste of spring, and we celebrated with some serious outdoor time.

As snow melts, MUD abounds.
Should've chosen galoshes for the kids' footwear.

Anyhoo, after a quick rinse, our daughter's kicks were still looking haggard—with scuff marks all over the white rubber and dirty grime embedded into leather creases.

A run through the washing machine seemed silly. Didn't want the shoes out of commission while they dried for days—just wanted to spiff 'em up!
Before and after Mr. Clean Magic Eraser treatment
Enter Mr. Clean Magic Eraser!

You guys. 

In two minutes, that sucker scrubbed every scuff mark outta there. 

Couldn't believe the difference with such minimal effort. 
Cleaned up her sister's sneaks and my gym shoes too—all done in under 5 minutes. 
Three cheers for clean sneaks! Line 'em up and knock filth out!
Sweet trick to keep those kicks lookin' fresh.
Save the effort and dry time and try it out!

Bring on the mud!
We're ready.
XOXO From My Hearth to Yours

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Monday, March 10, 2014

LASIK- 7 Notes for a Clearer Future

In Preparing for LASIK Surgery, I told ya' I was gonna do it.

And I did!
LASIK, my friends, was a game changer.

Thinking about doing it? 
Here's the scoop. 

*Note 1- Several acquaintances believed they weren't LASIK candidates because of astigmatism. At my consultation, I learned that is not so—in fact, doc claimed those with astigmatism are often excellent candidates. Dry eyes, however, might be a deal breaker. 

Check this out to see if you are a candidate. You'll need to run through a thorough consultation, tests and measurements to seal the deal. 
The time commitments are well worth the end result, because after all…10 Reasons Why Wearing Eyeglasses is a Drag.

Two weeks after I'd been out of my contacts, I went in for pre-LASIK measurements. After about an hour of tests, I was cleared for surgery the following week. 

*Note 2- Eyes are strongly dilated at this appointment. I was told I'd be fine to drive myself home, but I'd recommend grabbing a ride. Although I was given a sun shield to insert inside my eyeglasses, the glare was intense and my close-up vision was severely blurred. Be safe. Get a ride. 
Eyes, five hours after dilated for pre-Lasik appointment
For advance LASIK prep, I was given sunglasses, hard plastic eye shields and 4 prescriptions (antibiotic and steroid eyedrops, Tylenol w/ codeine and valium) to be filled and brought on set date.

Because my eyes were slightly dry, I was advised to use Refresh Optive Sensitive Lubricant Eye Drops 4x a day before surgery.

*Note 3- My doctor, consultant and everyone I know who has had LASIK advised me to buy a TON of these rewetting drops in advance (preservative-free for the first few weeks). Great advice. 
You'll want and need these drops for this process...expensive, but you won't wanna skimp on this. Two weeks after surgery and I always have them on hand. I'm always glad I do.
LASIK pre-op kit
On the day of surgery, I was careful to follow all of these pre-operative instructions.
Requiring a driver, my fella stayed with me through (and got to WATCH) the entire process.

After prep, I took the prescribed valium. Fifteen minutes later, we headed to the LASIK suite.

*Note 4- Although the actual procedure is quick, be forewarned— your vision will dim substantially during the process. You will also, literally, smell your corneal tissue burning. Just relax. Try breathing through your mouth slowly if this gives you the heebie jeebies. Not a pleasant experience, but tolerable and quick. Hang tough. 

Immediately following the procedure, I was led back to the exam room so that doc could have a good look.
*Note 5-The daylight and bright light from instruments burned for the first several hours. I only opened my eyes to administer required prescriptions and lubricating drops. Take your meds, lay back and kick it at home for the rest of the day after surgery. Hit up some podcasts and Pandora, or have your Kindle read to you. 

Four hours after surgery, I was up for the big reveal.

Heading downstairs slowly, I snuggled up on the couch and tried to "see"- for the first time in 14-years, without corrective lenses.

"You guys? Is it 6:44 right now?" I asked, as the clock across the room came into focus.
When my crew said, "Yes!" I wept with joy.


Next, I went to look at my eyes.
Eyes, four hours after LASIK surgery
Although the lids were puffy and there were blood spots on the whites of my eyes (a normal effect from the suction rings that faded after one week), they weren't as gnarly as I'd expected—just looked like I'd been crying.

Following all instructions from my doctor, I used drops for the remainder of the evening and wore eye shields at bedtime.

In the morning, I removed the shields, administered my drops and marveled at my new vision. Sunglasses were necessary, even indoors on the day after surgery, to reduce discomfort from the brightness.

*Note 6- Most people said I'd be fine to drive myself to the check-up appointment the following day. I did manage to do this, but with the intense light and slight blurring as my eyes adjusted, I'd recommend (again- for your safety and for the safety of others on the road) getting a ride. 
After an eye check and vision test, I was seeing 20/20 in one eye and 20/25 in the other. As expected, my eyes were dry (feeling a little gritty), so I was encouraged to keep those rewetting drops on hand and to use them often.

Then doc handed me a gift and said, "Since we took away your old glasses, celebrate with these NEW ones!"

So cute!
*Note 7- At first, I experienced moderate halos when driving at night and mild blurring when focusing on lettering at a distance. This has greatly diminished as time has passed. I'm told that vision can fluctuate for some time after surgery and that this is normal.

Now, 2 weeks since my procedure, I'm beyond thrilled with the results.

I still catch myself heading to the bathroom to take out my contacts at night— then I smile, look around with my keen eyes and remember that that miserable phase of my life is over now.

Honing in on birds in trees across my property, reading the calendar from across the room, I marvel at the wonders of modern science.

LASIK has eliminated my dependency on corrective lenses, and for that, I couldn't be more grateful. Why didn't I do this 10 years ago?!?

If you're thinking about making the move to have LASIK and have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact me for more information. 

Here's to a bright, clear future!
XOXO From My Hearth to Yours

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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Boden Coupon Code and Cover Contest

Ready to add a whole lotta awesome to your spring wardrobe?
How CUTE is this dress?!?
Head over to Boden this week and swoon away.
These leather/suede sandals come in FIVE colors, and they're all amazing!
Get 20% off on select styles, plus free shipping (till March 23rd), by entering coupon code D47Q at checkout!
Love this shirt…and it's already on sale in tons of colors.
Don't forget the kiddos! Mini Boden has adorable, bold designs that bring out the youthful color in all cuties.
My girls would love this comfy, colorful design.
And for your budding artists...

Check out Boden's Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry catalog cover campaign here. Encourage wee ones to submit (before March 7th) to receive their own unique designs on catalogs mailed to them for free!
Boden Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry catalog cover
For every submission, Boden will donate $1 to No Kid Hungry, and 5 winners will snag a $500 account credit, an iPad mini and a framed copy of their cover design!

Such an admirable company doing great things to pay it forward.

Happy shopping, everyone.
Think spring!
XOXO From My Hearth to Yours

*This is an unsponsored post. All opinions here are my own.
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Monday, March 3, 2014

Sweet Child O'Mine: A Cover Like No Other

As a teeny bop, while other girls drooled over New Kids on the Block, I was drumming on the walls and swooning over Guns n' Roses. A lot.

Doodling GNR logos on the backs of every notebook, one might say I was a fan.
I thought about showing you a pic of my middle school bedroom, but we needn't go that far just yet.

Maybe some evening after much shiraz.
:::I digress.
Sweet Child O'Mine
When I recently heard this Postmodern Jukebox version of Sweet Child O'Mine, I melted.
If this isn't the bomb and beyond…
Sweet Child O'Mine
Postmodern Jukebox takes on Sweet Child O'Mine
So very yes.

This is where this jam needs to be for me now— in these days of less delinquency and more divine.
Check it out here and rock on in refinement today.
How RAD is this?!?

What's your favorite cover song? Send us some new tunes.
XOXO From My Hearth to Yours

P.S. Congratulations to Katie, #25 in the comment list and our Babo Botanicals GIVEAWAY winner! We know your family will love Babo's amazing products as much as we do!

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