Letter Cube Spelling

My daughter loves word and letter games, (thank you Leap Frog Letter Factory!), but we seem to play the same word games over and over. I was going through our board games cabinet (board games…you know, those things you used to have time for before children?), and found the Boggle game my aunt gave me for my 12th birthday. I knew I could use the letter cubes for a fun learning activity.

If you don’t have Boggle cubes to use, you could tape a bunch of letters to the sides of blocks.

I asked my daughter to think of a word…any word…and we sounded it out together. To add more of a “game” aspect, I set a timer for two minutes to complete the word spelling.

For the word “paper”, I asked my daughter:
“What letter makes the sound “p-p-p-p”, then she’d search through the cubes for a P.
“What letter makes the sound “a-a-a-a”, after which she’d find an A. And so on and so on until she spelled the word.
She had fun searching for the letters, and even pretended she had to “rescue the letters from the letter monster” before the timer ran out.

This activity helps children visualize letters with their corresponding sound, as well as letter recognition. But, most of all, it’s fun. Learning should be fun, and by finding the kinds of games and activities your child enjoys, you will put him or her on the track to being a lifelong learner.

Saving Money…Getting Ready for Baby…Part 1

As you probably know, our second child is due this year. With our first child, we registered for everything and spent way too much money on things we ended up not really using. This time around, we have a better idea of what we’ll actually use, and what is just a convenience.

Adjust these lists to your own personal needs. Just because we found that we did or didn’t need a certain item doesn’t mean your family will have the same needs. Having a baby has many associated costs, but knowing where to save your money and where to spend it will give you more freedom to purchase better quality items when necessary (and maybe put a few dollars into baby’s college fund!)

  • A Safe Crib is your Best Bet!
    • Buying a used crib for $20 at a yard sale is tempting, but you might want to consider other options. Drop side cribs have recently been banned, and many older cribs don’t have the same safety regulations as new cribs. New cribs can often be found on sale, so you don’t have to break the bank, but if you can find another area of your budget to shave, splurging on a safe crib is a good idea.
  • Washcloths are Versatile!
    • You won’t believe how many washcloths you’ll go through…all the way until your baby is a toddler! Not only for use in the bathtub, but also to wipe dirty faces, or use as a burp cloth. Save money by purchasing extra washcloths and not baby wipes or paper towels.
  •  Save Money on Wardrobe.
    • Yes, all those outfits are SO cute they’re irresistible. But, your baby really doesn’t need a huge wardrobe. And, baby will probably grow out of many of the newborn outfits before he or she is able to wear them. Save money by arranging for hand-me-downs from friends and family, or purchase quality gently used clothing at your local children’s consignment shop or on Ebay. The best prices I have seen on new baby clothes are on the clearance racks at Kohls or Target (Target often has baby apparel coupons on their website). I have been able to purchase items for as little as $0.98 each. Ask your local store when they put out their clearance, and try to shop right when they put it out for best selection and prices.
  • Save Money On Bedding.
    • Many baby bedding sets are over $100, just for a bumper, quilt, and one sheet. Now that the American Academy of Pediatrics has suggested that crib bumpers are not the safest option, and quilts shouldn’t be used in a crib at all, the only thing you really need as far as bedding is a sheet. You can purchase 10 or 20 sheets for the price of one bedding set! That’s a big savings, considering you’ll probably only need 3 or 4 sheets.
  • Buy Neutral When Possible
    • Yes, pink or blue is cute…but if you’re planning to have more than one child you may want to consider purchasing basic baby gear (and some clothing) in neutral colors to avoid incurring additional expenses if baby #2 is a different gender than baby #1. The pink stroller system is cute, but that green one could save you a few hundred dollars down the road!

What are YOUR favorite ways to save money on newborns and infants?

Come back to read Part 2 and see more ways you can save money as you prepare for baby.

My Goals for the Week

Well, I didn’t even make any goals last week, so that should show you how much I actually got done! The hyperemesis is still hanging on…though I’m only 11 weeks and it didn’t subside until week 37 with my last pregnancy. I’m just happy to get through each day right now, so my goals are a little less ambitious than they would be non-pregnant.
Here are my goals from last time:
Finish and Publish Two Blog Posts
It took two weeks, but I got both Saving Money During the Holidays posts up: Getting Organized and Saving When Online Shopping
Encourage Someone with a Phone Call, Note, Or Email
Come up with a Plan for Meals
I am SO blessed that friends and family have been bringing us meals, so I don’t need to worry about dinners right now!
Spend 15 Minutes per day Reading to My Daughter
Accomplished this goal almost every day.
Worry Less, Trust More
Continuing Goal.

This week’s goals:
Goal #1
Be Grateful and Look at the Positive
It’s hard to have a good attitude when you’re sick every waking second and unable to do the things you’re used to. But, I am going to try and put all my energy into looking at my blessings, and nothing else.

Goal #2
Do Something Nice for the Family and Friends Who Have Brought Us Meals
It’s been such a blessing to have dinner taken care of, so I’m thinking of a nice way to thank the family and friends who have been bringing us meals.

Goal #3
Do One Art Project and Read Everyday with My Daughter
My daughter loves doing art, so I want to put aside an easy project we can do together.

Goal #4
Get My Calendar in Order
With the holidays coming up, we have a busy couple months. I need to write down all my appointments, Christmas lists, and parties down before I forget! Pregnancy brain is a real condition, after all :)  

Goal #5
Spend 15 Minutes in Devotional Time Every Day.
With my daughter waking up early, and my only wanting to sleep in, I haven’t spent much time reading my Bible the last couple weeks, and I really need to get back into it.

Do you have any goals this week? I would love for you to share them!

5 Ideas for Leftover Black Beans (NO, Not Burritos!)

I made a big batch of my favorite black bean recipe tonight. But, besides the usual quesadillas or burritos, here are a few more ideas for using up your black beans:

  1. Enchiladas
    • Heat up black beans in a small saucepan. Heat up tortilla on a skillet or in the microwave. Place shredded cheese in the middle of heated tortilla, top with a layer of beans. Roll up, and place in a glass baking pan. Continue process. Top enchiladas with enchilada sauce and more shredded cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes until cheese is bubbly. Top with sliced olives and cilantro. Serve with sour cream. 
  2. Black Bean Hummus
    • So, I haven’t actually tried this recipe for Black Bean Hummus, but it looks good. Serve with pita chips or crunchy veggies.
  3. Chicken Tortilla Soup
  4. BBQ Ranch Chicken Salad
    •  This salad uses leftover chicken AND leftover black beans. It doesn’t get easier than that! Plus it’s my husband’s favorite salad!
  5. Mexican Rice Bowls
    • This is a take on Chipotle’s rice bowls, but my family enjoys the simplicity of it! Make up some white rice, stir in cilantro and the juice of a small lime. Top with black beans, lettuce, salsa, avocado or guacamole, and chicken or beef, if desired. Serve with a green salad.

Hungry for More? Join the Save Money, Live Joyfully Facebook Community.

    Simple Cleaning Tips…Kitchen

    If you’re anything like me, the kitchen become the catch-all room. As aggravating as it is, the kitchen just attracts stuff. At any given time my kitchen counters will house coupons, magazines, I think there may even be a screwdriver on there right now.

    But, I hate to clean. I mean, I really, really hate cleaning. My dear, her-home-is-spotless mother has always given me one cleaning tip: “If you get something out, put it away.” I have tried to live by this rule, and it really does make things easier. A little preventative cleaning every day will save you a ton of cleaning later!

    Here are a few easy, decluttering cleaning tips for the “heart of the home”.

    • Get a basket for every room, including the kitchen. If misplaced items accumulate in a different room during the day (think mail, toys, books, etc.), place them in the basket. Empty the basket and put the misplaced items in their place at the end of every day.
    • Wipe down the counters after every meal. Coming downstairs to a dirty counter just starts the day off on the wrong foot.
    • Make cleaning the kitchen a part of your routine. Spend 5 minutes a couple times a day picking up. I spend 5 minutes after breakfast, 5 minutes after I prep dinner, and 5 minutes after my little one goes to bed to put away misplaced items, clean off the countertops, sweep the floors, and make sure the dishwasher is either set to run, or emptied if already run
    • When you cook, clean as you go. As a habit before you start cooking, run a sink of soapy water. When you’re done with each meal prep item, put it in the sink. Wash and rinse, or rinse and put in the dishwasher as soon as you’re done. 
    • Organize your cooking tools. As much as you thought you were going to use that melon baller, you probably don’t use it as much as you think. Instead, place all your common utensils (spatulas, wooden spoons, tongs, ladles, etc.) in an easy to navigate drawer, and put the rest of your not-so-common utensils in a bag in the cabinet, or the pantry.

    By spending just a few minutes every day keeping your kitchen tidy, you will save yourself from having to clean up a huge mess in the future.