You Love Mary Engelbreit...& Now Your Kids Will Too!

It will probably come as no surprise to you that I am a huge Mary Engelbreit fan. With her bright colors, polka dots, cheerful illustrations....who wouldn't be!

I almost flipped out tonight when I saw that she has a new website for kids. Your kids can create puzzles, use the computer to color her artwork and send e-cards.

While I don't like to play favorites with my suggested sites...this is certainly in the top....3!



Finally, a reunion I can get behind...the Police are back.

I know that this post has nothing to do with being "simple-ish"...but I am so excited about this entertainment news that I just had to share.

The Police
are reuniting to perform at the Grammy Awards this year. Here are the details.

Sorry for getting a little off-topic....I just can't get "Roxanne" out of my head this morning.

Here's a You Tube video to get you in the mood too...



Unique Valentine's Day Gift for Your Favorite Computer Geeks

I am sure it is no suprise that as a blogger, and self-proclaimed computer geek, I'd rather have this cool flash drive vs. flowers or chocolate any day of the week!

Nothing says "I Love You...Geek" like a personalized flash drive with FREE laser engraving. (I am not kidding). These are super cool and perfect for people who want to tote around their schoolwork, teachers, or bloggers (like me). You can even get them on keychains!

  • They come in 14 colors with free engraving.
  • They can store photos, music and business information.
Now that I think about it...I might get my husband one too! He is always wanting to transfer stuff from our laptop to his work computer. He isn't as computer "geeky" as I am, but every guy likes a gadget!

You can get the flash drives here.

This is a paid post.



I promise this isn't another shameless plug.

You may not believe me, but I promise you that this is NOT a personal plug. I was recently hired as a blogger for Families.com. Prior to my new "gig", I didn't know much about the site. Now, I am addicted. The forums are fantastic and the blogs (if I should say so myself) are even better.

Frankly, the bloggers are so great over there that I have been a bit intimidated.

Anyway, check out the site and read the blogs. Tonight there are fantastic discussions on everything from Noah's Ark to Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.

There is quite literally something...for everyone.

Oh...and if you want to stop by the home-business blog, I would love it...but don't feel obligated! =)



A Little Backwards....New Simplesahm site!

Normally when people have a website...they create a blog to complement it. I did the opposite.

Check out the ALL-NEW...Simplesahm Website! (Forums are coming soon too!)



Need a Little Moola?

Honestly, I am not sure how this "must-see" sites fits into my blog theme of "keeping things simple" but I have to share this site with you because it is a bit of an addiction of mine.

Whenever I've had a really bad day with the kids I click on "Moola" and play a few mindless games to take the edge off. I really haven't made any money yet, but I am certainly saving money on booze and valium, right?

Kidding, of course.

PS - You need an invite to join so if you don't have one yet, click on the "contact me" button (left) and I will send you one.

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Are You a Hungry Girl?

Than you MUST check out this site! It's brilliant. They "test-drive" many different types of fast foods, new foods, tv dinners, etc...

Remember those "fat-free" chips with Olestra? Where were our test-drivers when I needed them? Instead, I spent Saturday morning eating an entire bag of Cheddar and Sour Cream Lays....and the entire afternoon reading magazines in the bathroom.

TMI...I know, but at least you've been warned....

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When Working at Home is Not Working for Your Family

I'll never forget the day that I finally decided to work from home. I held various positions in the social services industry prior to the birth of my first child. I taught parenting classes, I worked with at-risk youth and juvenile delinquent teens and I investigated child abuse and neglect reports. In the eight years I worked in the field, I'd convinced myself that many of the social problems I'd been hired to fix were partially the result of moms that were too busy working (outside the home) to properly care for their children.

I worked in an office that was comprised of about 95% women. Most of them were young mothers. I threw the first grenade in my own "mommy war"when I proudly announced my intention to quit my job and work from home.

Continue Reading...

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How to Organize the Playroom of Your Dreams

Do you dream of a playroom that you can walk through and the kids can easily keep neat? If you are ready to turn down the volume and keep toys & art supplies from turning into clutter, here are 9 neat ideas to get you started.

1. Sort Everything. Collect everything in one place. Group items "like with like" such as Dolls, Purses, Train sets, Small Toys, Toys that Require Supervision, etc. Assess how much you have before thinking about the storage solutions. As you sort, set aside a container for toys with missing items. As you sort and find the missing pieces, put them in the container too. When you have all the pieces, you can give the complete toy, game or art kit a permanent home.

2. Set Limits. Determine how much of everything is a reasonable amount to keep. Do they really need 72 stuffed animals? Perhaps 10-20 is a reasonable limit. Remember, kids actually get overwhelmed when they have too much stuff. They take far better care of their things and enjoy them more when they have fewer of them.

3. Conduct a Treasure Hunt. Have your child pick his or her favorites according to the limits you have set. Set aside the rest to donate. Let them know that the rest will be going to kids who don't have as much. You might even want to spend quality time with your child writing a note to the kids who might receive the toys.

4. Assign Homes & Containers. Now that you know what you have and have a reasonable amount, store smaller items in containers by category and label each container. TIP: Put pictures on the containers so that your child knows where to put things away. Let your child help by choosing pictures and applying them. This is a fun way to involve your child in learning organizational skills. For larger items such as big trucks, assign a "parking spot" on a shelf or on the floor.

5. Make Things Easy to Access and Easy to Put Away.

* Store frequently used items that children can use without supervision on lower shelves that they can access.

* Use containers without lids for frequently accessed items. Lids are difficult for children to use and discourage them from using the storage solution.

* Separate arts and crafts supplies in square or rectangular bins for easy stacking and to maximize use of storage.

6. Be Safe. Store items requiring supervision either out of reach or locked. For example, if you have really young children, you probably want them to ask you to get down crayons, paints etc. If you use tall shelving, anchor them to the wall so they can't fall over. Store heavy items on the bottom shelves.

7. Teach the Kids How Put Everything Away. Kids don't always know what to do when you tell them to put stuff away. Take the time to teach your kids how to organize. Explain to them that organizing their toys will make it easy to find them later and prevent them from losing toys. Once you have a system in place, practice using the system with them for several days in a row. Help them put away toys and find them by making a game out of it, such as conducting a "treasure hunt". Ask them to find things, or to put away several different items in their new locations. For example, "Where are your favorite talking toys?" "Where does this stuffed animal go when you are done playing with it?" Give lots of praise for correct answers.

8. Be Creative. Containers don't have to be expensive. You can use plastic containers, or even empty tissue boxes. You can even turn decorating containers for art supplies into an art project.

9. Maintain. Once you have pared toys down to a reasonable number and given each toy a home, you need to keep the amount of toys you have under control. Going forward, maintain the limits you've set by adopting a "Give to Get" policy. So, whenever your child gets a new toy, have them pick one to donate. This is a great way to teach your child the joy of giving. Set up a monthly donation pick up or drop off with your favorite charity and you'll never have to do a big purge again!

To see photos of playroom makeovers, visit the photo gallery at www.neatliving.org.

© 2006 Ariane Benefit

Ariane Benefit, M.S.Ed., is a professional organizer, coach, author and speaker with over 25 years experience helping people and businesses reach new heights of performance. She has written over 80 articles which can be found on the popular "Neat Living Blog: Neat Ideas for Living" at http://www.NeatLiving.net and at http://www.OrganizingForHealth.com. Ariane resides in Bloomfield, NJ with her husband, Alan and three adorable Maine Coone cats. When not helping people organize their lives, she enjoys gardening, entertaining, traveling and riding her motorcycle.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Ariane_Benefit

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Miss Manners and Martha May Not Agree...but I Think Regifting is a Good Thing

If you are reading this after the Holidays, odds are you have a few Christmas gifts you weren't thrilled about.

Rather than selling them at a garage sale, or stockpiling them in a storage shed...re-gift them

Even if you don't like the hot-pink mittens you got from your great aunt, or the "dickey" you got from your grandmother (this actually happened to me)...someone else will appreciate a brand new item.

Think carefully about where you want to re-gift.

Did you get baby clothes that didn't fit your child? Give them to a teen pregnancy program. Did you get a winter coat that you don't like? Drop it off at a homeless shelter. What about the drum set your sister-in-law gave to your preschooler? Give it to Goodwill or the Salvation Army so they can sell it for profit. What about a pair of dress pants that don't fit?

Skip the lengthy exchange lines and donate it to a local "Dress for Success" program where an impoverished woman seeking a job can proudly wear it to her first interview.

Domestic violence shelters, foster care programs and teen runaway agencies would love to have new electronics to give to teens who are usually the last to get donated gifts for Christmas. I am sure your local preschool or library would love some brand new books too.

You can also re-gift gift cards although they may be a bit harder to part with than the hot-pink mittens or drum set. After the holidays most stores offer huge discounts on toys and winter clothing. Use part of your gift-card to stock up on items for "Toys for Tots" for next year.

If you have really good gift-givers in your family and aren't willing to part with any of your presents, consider asking your children to donate one toy to a needy child for every toy they received. This will help them learn the value of helping others and will leave you with less
blocks, dolls, dinosaurs and trucks to trip over.

Here are just a few of the additional resources to help you put your post-holiday, re-gifting plan into place.

Charity Guide - Donate Toys to Inspire Children

Salvation Army - Locate a Store or Donation Center Near You

Goodwill Industries - Locate a Store or Donation Center Near You

Operation Give - Donate Toys and other goodies to Iraqi Children

Alibris - Donate Books to Schools and Non-Profits Nationwide

Make-A-Wish - Donate "Wish" Items to Terminally Ill Children Including Backpacks, Albums, Airline Miles and More...

Miss Manners and Martha may not agree, but I think re-gifting is a very good thing!

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My "Mommy Guilt" is Gone for a Moment

I made it a goal this weekend to place a big-hearty checkmark by 10 of my "to-do's". That meant, cleaning the closet...organizing several cupboards...posting items on Ebay...sorting old clothes...decluttering the kitchen...cleaning the fridge, and more....

Well, I can proudly say, "I did it!" Woo hoo! But at the expense of my two preschool-aged children. Okay, before you think I am a horrible mommy, I did get them involved in the tasks and we had fun with it. My daughter sprayed a bottle of water as she helped me clean the fridge and my son mopped the floor with his stuffed animals.

But, I did feel a tiny bit of "mommy guilt" when I let them watch four hours of Saturday morning cartoons and eat fruity-cheerios in ziplock bags.

Tonight, I was finishing up a few of my New Year's decluttering resolutions when I looked online for an activity for my preschool daughter. I was absolutely THRILLED when I found this site! It offers several books read aloud by celebrities! Not that my kids know who they are...but *I* think it is pretty neat, nonetheless!

Now, when I am having a Saturday morning "Mommy Guilt" prop the kids in front of the TV set - moment...I am going to allow a celebrity to read them a few books while I clean. While I personally think Sponge Bob is a hoot...I feel much better about online story-time!

Check it out, and let me know what you think!

BookPALS Storyline Online

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Mom: Keep those Financial New Year’s Resolutions

Each and every year, after the holiday credit card bill shows up, we make
resolutions with the best of intentions. And, within a month or maybe less
… we’ve given up completely. Why is that?

Vague Goals
The goals we oftentimes set are unrealistic or are too vague to be
trackable. Here are some examples of resolutions

Bad Resolution: “Pay off credit card debt.”
Better Resolution: “Pay an extra $20 each month towards credit card debt
until it’s paid off.”

Do you see the difference? One is vague. You can’t possibly hold yourself
accountable. The other is much more trackable.

Here’s another example.

Bad Resolution: “Spend less money eating at restaurants.”
Better Resolution: “Use a menu planning service to ensure that we have
groceries in the house at all times. Eat at restaurants or fast food only
twice per week or less.”

Difficult Goals
It’s wonderful to make resolutions, but, they do no good if you don’t have
a plan in place to help you reach them. Let’s go back to that “Pay an extra
$20 each month towards credit card debt.” Where is that $20/month going to
come from? Is it magically going to appear just because you set a goal?
Will the “New Year’s Fairy” deliver a wad of cash to you each month? Of
course not. You have to have a plan in place to make the extra money
available to you.

For instance, the two goals could be combined. The second goal is
reachable. Instead of just saying to eat fast food once per week, it adds
on a way to do just that – by signing up for a menu planning service.

The best Resolution could be a combination of both goals:
“Use menu planning service to ensure that we have groceries in the house
at all times. Eat at restaurants or fast food only twice per week or
less. Take the money we save and apply at least $20 each month towards credit
card debt until it’s paid off.

It’s a new year, which means that it’s a new chance to actually make New
Year’s Resolutions and KEEP THEM. We hope these examples will help you to
set achievable new year’s goals and put systems into place so you can
achieve them.

Christine Steendahl created a menu planner for busy moms. For a free one
week trial of this family friendly meal planning service which includes a
weekly grocery shopping list, visit www.dinewithoutwhine.com

Dine Without Whine - A Family Friendly Weekly Menu Plan

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My Morning Cup of Sanity Just Got Simple

I can't live without my morning cup of coffee. Here was my old routine....
  1. Stumble to the kitchen.
  2. Crack open my huge plastic tub of Costco Coffee.
  3. Scoop (and spill) the grounds as I fumble with the flimsy filter.
  4. Wipe up mess.
  5. Spill water as I try to pour the huge pitcher into the tiny hole on the back of my coffee pot.
  6. Wipe up mess again.
  7. Pull used filter out of coffee pot. Hold hand under filter to prevent drips as I scurry to the waste basket across the room.
  8. Wipe up drips again (with my socks).

Yesterday, I excitedly went to the door to retrieve my brand new Senseo coffee pot from my UPS man. I was so excited I almost hugged him. (I actually got it for free after filling out a survey on trezr.com. (Check out my previous posts to learn more).

Here's my new routine.
  1. Stumble to my kitchen.
  2. Place coffee pod into Senseo coffee maker.
  3. Place cup under maker and push button.

Wa-la! That's it...(and the coffee is much better...and foamy to boot!) The coffee maker holds 12 cups of coffee in a reserve that you simply have to fill once in awhile. .

Oh..and on a sidenote, I was a bit concered about the cost for the pods but noticed that they are becomming more and more popular at stores like Target and Walmart. Frankly, I am willing to pay a few pennies more per cup to simplify my morning and to enjoy a better cup of java!

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Are We There Yet? Fantastic Travel Products for Kids

I recently drove twelve hours with two preschoolers to visit my family for the holidays. As soon as I arrived, my loving family proceeded to tell me how crazy I was....gee thanks.

Believe it or not, my kids were perfect. They didn't fuss. They didn't beg. They were perfect little cherubs. Honestly.

What's my trick, you ask? Sedation? Duct tape? Loads of candy? None of the above.

I simply planned ahead...and got a prescription for valium...(just in case).

Here are a few things I packed.

  • candy necklaces (Okay...I bribed them with candy once or twice)
  • matchbox cars for my two year old son

  • Crayola's Color Wonder Papers (a mess-free must-have for traveling).

  • a leapfrog game
  • a magnetic Dora dress up game
  • books

  • pillows
  • a portable DVD player...with a few rented movies (most video stores let you rent kids movies for a week for a buck a piece...WELL worth it!)

Here is an Amazon Store with some additional ideas to make traveling "simple-ish".

You are going to think I am crazy too when I tell you that I absolutely LOVE traveling with my preschoolers. Really, how often can you sit back, relax, eat snacks and listen to your Ipod with your kids completely immobile? Ahhhh.....road trips!

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Need a Sitter? Wanna sit?

Check out this great new site! It matches baby-sitters, house-sitters, pet-sitters and even housekeepers with people who are looking for those services.

It features a rating (5-star) system for the sitters as well as a schedule which shows the hours that the sitters are able to work.

I wish I would have known about this site on New Years Eve when I called every teenager in town to find out if they were booked yet!

What a neat concept and a great site. I actually registered as both a sitter...and someone looking for sitters. When I wrote my teenage sitter a $50.00 check after my Saturday afternoon "me-time" I was thinking..."why don't I babysit for some extra cash?" My kiddos could certainly use the playmates once in awhile.

When you stop by the site and register...please tell them "Simplesahm" sent you! =) Thanks.


Mommy and Me Activities Website

I wanted to share another fun website with you tonight. Are you one of those moms that wakes up in the morning and wonders, "what in the world am I going to do with the kids today"? Me too.

I am pretty proud of myself when I break out the play-dough or...on a really daring day the finger paints!

This site is a fantastic resource to help you plan activities ahead of the time. It even has a playgroup locater, playgroup activities and a daily activity idea calendar.

Check it out, and let me know what you think in the comments section!



Spend big on wrinkle creams? Don't bother...

Spend big on wrinkle creams? Don't bother: study
By Belinda Goldsmith

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Spend a fortune on anti-wrinkle creams? Don't bother, said a U.S. study released on Tuesday.

Luxury-price products don't work any better than drugstore brands, according to the study by Consumer Reports magazine, which ranked Olay Regenerist, priced at about $19, as the most effective in reducing wrinkles.

But none of these products made a significant difference in the skin's appearance.

Continue Reading....

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Tell My Mom.com

I ran into (pardon the pun) this site a few days ago and frankly I wish it would have been available five years ago. It was my very first car accident and I will never forget it. I looked into my rear-view window and watched as this pretty little blonde thing tried passing my Honda on a busy rush hour morning.

She was fixing her pretty blonde hair and makeup while driving at the speed of sound toward the local high-school. Without a moment's notice, she swerved into my lane and shoved my little foreign car into the curb...and straight toward the local hair and makeup salon...(ironic, huh?)

Thankfully, I missed the building but not the concrete curb that totaled my car. As I laid on my horn (in an attempt to get her to stop) I watched her drive away obviously oblivious to the accident she'd just caused. I can still see her flipping back her pretty blonde locks while I gave her the one finger salute with BOTH HANDS. (Okay, make that a two-finger salute).

Where was Tell-My-Mom.com when I needed them?

I love the concept behind this site and hope you'll find it helpful too the next time your car is totaled by a little blonde teenage diva who would rather fix her hair than watch the blankety...blank ROAD!!!!! After all these years am I still bitter????? Just a bit.

Have you seen a "tell my mom" sticker yet? Tell us about it in the comments section.

How's Your Teen's Driving? Would You Like to Know? - TELL-MY-MOM.COM


Make Your Own Baby Food

I became a stay-at-home mom when my first child was born and quite honestly I was a bit frightened when she started eating solid foods and I started calculating the cost of those tiny little baby food jars.

I have to admit, I didn't necessarily think about the health benefits of homemade foods initially because I was simply trying to save money.

I have a wonderful relative who sent me numerous "recipes" for baby foods. I am not much of a cook so I was happy to find out that the process isn't too extensive. Cook, mash, freeze, thaw, serve. Even with my limited kitchen skills I could manage that.

One of the best tips I learned from the process was to use ice-cube trays as a portioning tube. In a standard tray, each section is approximately two ounces. You simply pop the trays into the freezer and store the food cubes in freezer bags. Then, you thaw the cubes and serve.

Here is a great site to help get you started.

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12 Steps to Raise a Juvenile Delinquent

This is a wonderful and poignant reminder for all of us which was taken from a pamphlet entitled Twelve Rules for Raising Delinquent Children distributed by the Houston Police Department.

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