DIY Lego Travel Tray

Last summer’s travel lap tray idea worked relatively well on our travels, but now that Stinker is really into Legos, and after I made the Lego Pattern Travel Game last week, I began to wonder if I could travel with Legos without worrying about them getting lost or thrown all over the place. Ah ha! It can be done!! A Lego Travel Tray. It takes 2 minutes to make, and only cost about $10. Now, Stinker can build some masterpieces on our next road trip or plane ride, and I won’t have to wedge myself under the back seat searching for missing Lego pieces. Not that I’ve ever done that before. Especially not Wild Style’s hair piece. Ahem.

Anyway, the shopping list is pretty straight-forward. You’ll need:

  • Cookie Sheet (I get mine at the Dollar Store. They cost $1, and are about 9″x12″.)
  • Lego Plate (This was the most expensive piece. I found one for $5.99, and it’s a 10″x10″.)
  • Magnetic Spice Containers (Michaels had these for $1.50 each, but I had a 15% off coupon)
  • Box Cutter (not pictured)
  • Super Glue or Hot Glue Gun (Not Pictured)

1. First, if you have a 9″x12″ cookie sheet, you’ll need to cut the Lego plate to fit the cookie sheet. Using a box cutter, apply firm pressure in a straight line, to cut off about 3 rows of raised dots. I actually cut off four, but start with three. Note: You’ll want to run the box cutter through two or three times. The plastic will actually break off where the cut was, creating a nice, even cut. My amazing grampa did the cutting for me. Because he’s handy like that. And because I can’t cut a straight line to save my life.

2. Next, use Super Glue or a hot glue gun to attach the Lego plate to the edge of the cookie sheet. You’ll want to leave room for the magnetic containers on the side. Allow to dry.

3. Fill magnetic containers with Legos, and place on the edge of the tray. Apparently I turned my tray between pictures. It was a Monday night after a very long Monday. I have no explanation.

4. Now you can enjoy Legos while traveling, and not have to wonder how Wild Style’s hair piece could have possibly jumped out of the car because you scoured every square inch of the backseat and found nothing save french fries that may be older than your youngest child. Again, not that I’ve ever done that, but just a helpful reminder. Because I care. 

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Should You Have a Yard Sale or Donate Unwanted Items?

I often wonder what makes more sense: having a yard sale, or donating unwanted items to charity for a tax deduction. I think it varies in different seasons of life and for each family, but here are a few factors to consider:

1. Will Your Items Sell Well?
-I’ve found that all baby items, children’s clothes and shoes, toys, small furniture (such as chairs, nightstands, etc), and kitchen items (especially pots and pans and small appliances), are all big yard sale sellers. Other items, such as big ticket items, holiday decorations, adult clothing, and electronics (unless you allow your buyers to test them out to prove they work), don’t sell as well, or you won’t get much back for your investment. For example, you can usually claim a bag of gently used women’s or men’s clothing for a much higher tax deduction than you could get from a yard sale, especially if you’re selling things for $0.25 or $0.50 each. Since I have small children, I make quite a bit of money selling their gently used clothes, shoes, toys, and gear at our yard sales. But, once I’m out of that stage, it may not make as much sense to put the effort into a yard sale, especially if I don’t have a lot of “hot sellers”.

2. How Much Time Do You Have?
-Your time is worth something too. If you put 10 hours into yard sale prep (pricing, sorting, hosting, etc), and expect to make $100, you’ll have made $10 an hour. Is that worth your time, or is there something else you could do with your time that could save you more per hour? It depends on your perspective. Do you have more money than time, or more time than money?

3. If You Donate, Will a Tax Deduction Help You?
-Depending on your income and other deductions, donating could help you when tax season comes around by lowering your taxable income. (Remember to get a receipt for your donations, and check the maximum value you’re allowed to deduct!) But, if extra donations won’t matter one way or another for your situation, and you could use the extra cash, go for the yard sale. 

4. Do You Need Cash?
-If you’re saving up for something (such as a new couch, new appliances, a vacation, etc), and cash will help you out, or if you want to add a little something to your monthly budget or to pay a unexpected bill, then having instant cash from a yard sale might be worth the time and effort. If you don’t really need any extra cash and a deduction would help you at the end of the year, go with the donation.

What Do You Think? Have You Had More Success With Yard Sales or Donations?

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Staying Healthy During Cold and Flu Season

It’s almost that time of year again…I don’t mean Christmas or Thanksgiving, rather Cold and Flu Season. I hate getting sick. Hate. Colds are my arch nemesis. During my two pregnancies with my kids, I was more miserable with a cold than I was in the 60 combined weeks of 24/7 severe morning sickness. Just something about not being able to breathe sends me into a crazed panic of feeling like I’m being buried alive. So, I aim to stay healthy since being buried alive is not on my bucket list.

While many contend that getting sick is good for the immune system, if the body is exposed to an illness and can fight it off itself, it still builds immunity without the misery of a cold. I get sick every few years, and Stinker gets perhaps two colds a year. We don’t bubble ourselves up or refuse to leave the house, but there are a few healthy habits we use to keep our immune systems at their peak.

1. Cut the Sugar
-Refined sugar is one of the worst things for the immune system. It almost immediately suppresses your body’s defenses. I remember reading that many experts trace the beginning of cold and flu season to a few days after Halloween. Why? All that candy lowers the immune system and makes people more susceptible to illness. Cutting out refined sugars can help keep you healthy.

2. Wash Your Hands
-We have a rule in our home that everyone needs to wash their hands as soon as we get home, wherever we’ve been. Washing your hands before meals, and especially before bed (people often touch their face while they sleep, which can lead to colds), can stop the spread of germs.

3. Don’t Touch Your Eyes
-Most people think the mouth is most susceptible to germs, but it’s actually your eyes. Washing your hands before touching your eyes (or using your sleeve to scratch or rub your eye while you’re out and about), will reduce your exposure.

4. Probiotics
-It’s surprising to find out that most of our immune function begins in our stomach. Having a healthy stomach can mean a healthy body. I take Probiotics daily, trying to keep my immune system functioning at it’s highest.

5. Staying Healthy With Food
-I make my kids smoothies frequently with lots of fruits, and sometimes vegetables, in order to keep their immune system strong. Raw garlic, cinnamon, and raw honey all contain antibacterial properties. Elderberry extract is a wonderful supplement for fighting off colds, or just ramping up your immune system.

And, everyone gets sick sometimes, despite best efforts. Junior still doesn’t sleep through the night all the time, and our life is on-the-go busy, so our immune systems will likely never be as strong as we would like (most experts recommend getting extra sleep and getting rid of stressors during cold and flu season, but that’s simply not possible with young children). Sometimes a warm blanket and chicken noodle soup  are the only cures.

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Weekly Menu March 25-March 30, 2012

Roasted Tomato Basil Soup with
Gouda Grilled Cheese on Sourdough

Here is our menu for the week. I haven’t gotten around to figuring out breakfast or lunch options yet, but I’m looking forward to some of our dinners this week! I also want to make a couple different snacks. Last week I made granola and it was excellent. I’ve had my eye on homemade fruit leather. Do you have a favorite snack recipe to share?  Please share in the comments!

Our budget this week is $60. We spent $45 on our main run, and will probably spend about $10-15 in our midweek produce run.

Sunday, March 25
Roasted Tomato Basil Soup
Gouda Grilled Cheese on Sourdough

Monday, March 26
Baked Potato Bar with Steamed Broccoli
Green Salad w Creamy Italian Vinaigrette
Buttermilk Biscuits

Tuesday, March 27
Crock Pot Chicken Tacos
Stove Top Pinto Beans
Chips and Guacamole

Wednesday, March 28
Baked Mustard Salmon
Baked Brown Rice
Steamed Green Beans

Thursday, March 29
Roasted Vegetable Pasta 
French Bread

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