Spring Cleaning Week!

This time of year is absolutely perfect for opening up the windows and enjoying the nice breeze. For some reason, when I can open up the house it makes it a lot easier to get some serious cleaning done. You’d think it would be just the opposite, being stuck inside all winter with nothing to do but clean house. Still, I love cleaning this time of year.

The house is in need of some major deep cleaning. As in pulling out appliances, really scrubbing floors, dusting, washing windows, etc. Looking at it as a whole makes me seriously overwhelmed. Even looking at specific rooms makes me feel like there’s no possible way I can get all this done in a reasonable amount of time.

So instead of trying to clean the entire house all at once, I’ve decided to break it down into manageable chunks. Each day I’ll be focusing on one room, and getting it cleaned up as much as I possibly can. Should I need to come back to it next week, I will.

I thought maybe I would do a schedule of sorts, planning out what I’d do each day, but then realized it would go a lot better if I went according to what I felt like working on. I’d be much less likely to give up on a room if I didn’t feel like working on that particular room that day. The real goal, of course, is getting the entire house cleaned from top to bottom.

Yesterday I tackled the laundry room, since it’s also our “mud room” where coats, shoes, and other winter attire hide. With two kids constantly coming in and out the back door all winter, it’s a huge mess. Plus of course I’m never caught up on laundry. About half of it was cleaned up, and looks a LOT better than it did. I’ll be working on it again next week while I focus on my bedroom today. The windows need washed, and it could use a good dusting.

The fun part about cleaning week is the ability to also play games. More specifically, a few from Big Fish. Now I realize this sounds odd, but the “waiting time” on some of these games makes it easier to get up and do housework… and quickly. Especially Plant Tycoon and Virtual Villagers.

If your joining me this week, have fun cleaning and playing!

Spring Activities for Family: Bike Riding

With the weather getting nicer, we tend to look for anything at all to do outside to enjoy it. One really excellent activity is to hop on your bike and take a family bike ride together. Below are some excellent reasons why you should.

Family Time

Most families today are guilty of not spending near enough time together. Sometimes it’s just from lack of ideas of what exactly to do together. Taking a bike ride is something all kids enjoy, and parents can too. See the town together, talk to others out and about, and maybe stop for some ice cream too!

Burn Calories

With video games, computers, and other indoor activities being so handy, our society has become a bunch of couch potatoes. You don’t need fancy exercise equipment or pricey gym memberships to get a good work out. Remember how active you were as a kid? And all it required was a bicycle! After not being on a bike for several years, I was given a very hard reminder of how good of a workout it really is.

Help the Environment

If you live in a small town like we do, you can save a lot of time in the car by using your bike instead. Go to the store for small items, grab the mail, or go to the library. If it’s a short distance, there’s no reason you can’t ride a bike instead. You’ll be doing the environment a big favor by cutting down the amount of time spent in the car.

We’ve been going on bike rides often now, and loving every minute of it!

Flavored Sun Tea

It’s about that time of year when the sun is shining and the air is warm – time to make some sun tea!

Since I’ve gotten back into my health kick and mostly taken soda pop out of my diet (I did say mostly – two or three a week is perfectly fine!), tea or water is my drink of choice. One of my favorite ways to add a little variety to my sun tea is by adding different flavored tea bags. Right now sitting on the deck is strawberry sun tea, which will be sure to be a favorite of both me and the kids.

Luckily it’s not hard to find all kinds of different flavored tea bags at the store. The strawberry we picked up was a generic store brand even.

Yes, it really is that easy!

Wii Review: Wii Music

Wii Music Review

By Elizabeth Cowen

Average Score: 3.71 out of 5
Read more about our scoring system here

We were very excited about this game when we first saw it was coming out. My husband and I pre-ordered it at the game store weeks before it came out and rushed to the mall to get it the day it was available. Things did not go as well as planned. We no longer have the game. It was the first Wii game that we sold.

Fun Factor 2 out 5
This game was fun for a couple of days. I really enjoyed the handbell game, but it got boring quickly. I thought my children would enjoy making the music videos, but they lost interest after the first try.

Family/Group Factor – 5 out of 5

For a family that enjoys the game it is a great family game. There are lots of musical instrument choices and the ability for the whole family to make videos together.

Too Easy or Too Hard – 3 out of 5
The different instruments were not hard to learn. The directions for the different things you can do on the game are almost non-existent. After playing for a week I still had no idea of what I was supposed to be doing to unlock new lessons.

Activity Factor – 3 out of 5
Most of the instruments can be played without standing up. There is some activity in moving your arms to play music, but if you are looking for a game to get your family off the couch and moving this is not the game for you.

Child Friendly – 5 out of 5
Everything in this game can played by any age. Even my 2 year old was able to get in on making videos with us.

Variety – 5 out of 5
I played this game for several weeks and never played all of the instruments that are available. There are lots of choices in instruments, locations, video covers, and more.

Addiction – 3 out of 5
I could see this having a higher addiction score if your family enjoys making the videos and sending them to friends. My family never got into this game so we had a low addiction score.

Additional Comments on Wii Music

My family quickly traded this game for another game. We tried to play it several times during the month we had it, but no one in the family ever seemed to get into it.

See more reviews of Wii Music at Amazon

Pizza Without Red Sauce

Our local Pizza Ranch has a new pizza on their buffet that my mom and I have fallen in love with. So of course, I had to try to duplicate it, since I tend to do that with a lot of yummy dishes I find at restaurants. Over the weekend we tried,and it was a huge success.

What I love about this pizza is it’s so simple. All you need is 4 ingredients plus a thin pizza crust. It’s not as impressive as our “Mountain pizzas” we usually make, but it’s yummy regardless. Those 4 ingredients are:

– Alfredo sauce
– Spinach (we used baby spinach)
– Roma tomatoes
– Mozzarella shredded cheese

Yup. That’s it! Baked for about 20mins on 400*, it was fantastic and oh so easy.

Enjoy!

Disney Princess Room Decorations

I like to think of myself as a frugal shopper. If I can find the easiest and cheapest room decorations, I’m all over it. Plus when it comes to room decorations, I’m more likely to find items that are easily changed later on as tastes change. This is especially true when dealing with things meant for little ones, as they’ll eventually grow out of it.

Here are a few inexpensive items we’ve found for Disney Princess room decorations:

Disney Princess Bedding

BeddingIf your doing a room in the princess theme, you can’t forget the bedding! This is something you need regardless, so I feel like this cost is more than justified. I absolutely love Amazon for their prices on lots of stuff like this. You can find the pictured Disney Princess Bedding (Twin Three Piece Comforter Set) at Amazon for no more than you’d pay for any other bedding set.

If you want to go a little cheaper and use, say, regular pink bedding, you can decorate just a touch with something as simple (and cheap!) as a Disney Princess Pillow Case Set (2 Pillowcases).

Room Organizers

You can never have enough organizers in a house, and especially in a kid’s room. We area ALWAYS in search of more storage options for toys, clothes, and other items. Check out this Disney Princess 3 Bin Organizer with Roll Out Toy Box available at Amazon. This is one item that might outlive your little girl’s obsession with princess items, but you’ll still get a lot of use out of it.

If you want something a little different, you can also check out this Disney Princess Chair Desk with Pull Out Under The Seat Storage Bin also available at Amazon. Decoration, organization, and something extra useful all in one. Very adorable, too!

Disney Princess Wall Decorations

wall appliques
Princess and Pearls Self-Stick Wall Appliques
I can’t think of a cheaper way to decorate walls with your favorite Disney princesses. You can start with white walls and add and kind of wall decorations you want. The above is just one example of the several styles available.

Other Disney Princess Room Decorations

Now that we’ve covered a few of the basics, here’s a few more additional items for decoration a room in the princess theme.

Disney Princess Room D├ęcor in a Box
Doesn’t get much easier than this. There’s all kinds of stuff in this box, including wall decor, hangers, bookends, and more. Worth checking out that’s for sure, especially at the price (much, much less than you’d think for all that’s included!)

Marshmallow Fun Furniture High Back Chair
Chairs are awesome. Even after they grow out of the character, they tend to still use the chair. We’ve got a few around here that get drug into the livingroom on a daily basis. Perfect for movie watching, playing games on the TV, or just hanging out.

Still need a few more ideas? Check out the full line of Disney Princess Room Decorations on Amazon

Wii Game Review: Carnival Games

Average Score:
2.86 out of 5

Read about our scoring system here

Don’t let the average score above scare you completely off this game, as we have rated it based on seven different areas of scoring which we feel are important for family games that keep you entertained while getting you in shape. This review is mostly for families looking for great games to play with elementary-aged children, and was tested by a mom, an eight year old boy, and a six year old girl. The details of this Nintendo Wii game review can be seen below.

Review of Carnival Games

Fun Factor – 3 out of 5
Carnival scored a little low on the fun factor, simply because some of the games were quite frustrating and based only on luck. The kids seem to like it, but not quite as much as the original Wii sports. You play for virtual prizes and tickets, which I thought they would get into, but they didn’t that much. They do like unlocking things, but for some reason it just isn’t enough of a draw to keep playing.

Family/Group Factor – 4 out of 5
Since there is a multi-player option for both multiple remotes and only one, we scored this game pretty well on the family factor. Everyone can get involved at the same time and play against eachother just like you can play alone. The only difference is you don’t get the tickets and prizes like you do alone. Still, being able to play together is important, and this game delivers.

Too Easy or Too Hard – 2 out of 5
Was it too easy? Absolutely not. The learning curve for some of the games was actually quite difficult and my kids had a heck of time. Many of them they quickly gave up on saying it was way too hard. Plus several are based on more luck than skill, leaving little room to improve on and lots of frustration.

Activity Factor – 1 out of 5
We weren’t too impressed with the activity factor on this game, since many of them you can even sit down and do. If you do have to stand up, the motions are rather weak. Two of the games actually require vigorous movements for a very brief moment, thus the reason it did get a 1.

Child Friendly – 2 out of 5
While the carnival theme and ability to change clothing or add goofy items is child friendly, some of the things said on this game are not. The vendors of the games can be quite rude at times, and my six year old actually pointed this out. She actually pouted a bit when they’d say things like “Are you even trying?” or “Maybe if you’d actually win we’d give you a prize!”. While I’m sure they were trying to get the whole carnival game experience, I didn’t think this was actually good for a child self-esteem.

Variety – 5 out of 5
Variety was the strongest point of the game, since there are quite a few games you can play right away and unlock as you go (unlike some games, the majority of the games are already unlocked while just a few are locked that aren’t even part of the “main” selection of games, but rather “super” games based on only scoring instead of tickets). This is a great game if you are looking for multiple activities for the kids, and the main reason we purchased it. I figured there would be plenty of room for them to find favorites and games the kids could easily play.

Addiction – 3 out of 5
There is a slight addiction quality to Carnival with the whole ticket and prize system, but not much. Some games weren’t hard to reach the “Jumbo Prize” level and a few bonuses were fairly easy to get with 25 or 50 tickets. However, I don’t know as I’d want to sit and play until we had 300 or 500 tickets just so I could wear something on my character. Plus of course I don’t have “I’ve done something useful” feeling as I do with Wii Sports. The kids will play for maybe 20 minutes before wanting to switch to something else that’s more entertaining. They aren’t too interested in unlocking items. My six year old has a computer game she collects tickets with and does enjoy it, but this one just doesn’t seem to have the same pull.

Additional Comments

If you are looking for a slightly lazy game for the family, you might like it. I think we would have liked it more if not for the comments the vendors make. Carnival might be better suited for an older child who wouldn’t get quite so frustrated by the difficulty and rude comments.

My advice is to rent this game first if you have doubts on if it would be a good family game for you.

See more reviews of Carnival Games at Amazon

Bag of Bones – Stephen King

If you couldn’t tell already, I love Stephen King books. Every time I think I’m going to read something by a different author, another Stephen King seems to land in my lap or catch my attention at the library. Bag of Bones was given to me by my dad, and so far is one of my absolute favorites. Then again, I have yet to read a King that I didn’t love.

This book started out a little slow, although I still couldn’t put it down. There’s that strange hook with Stephen King books that even though you know what your reading isn’t all THAT interesting, there’s something lurking around the corner and you just KNOW it. Plus of course Stephen King’s style of writing and his quirky humor keep you wanting to read more and find out what happens.
Bag of Bones is about a successful author who has just lost his wife, and is plagued by nightmares of their summer home on the lake. When he comes down with a nasty case of writers block, he retreats to the lakeside house where he uncovers a mystery set up by his deceased wife.

This is an EXCELLENT read. As with several King books, it’s written from the point of view of a character who is figuring out what’s going on right along with you. You have absolutely NO idea where the story is going right up until the very end.

HIGHLY recommended – you can pick up Bag of Bones at Amazon.

Gardening Supplies Online

Even though I’ve been a bit lazy this year doesn’t mean everyone else has. To be honest, I haven’t even started planning my garden, let alone buying up supplies. About all I’ve accomplished is on a whim grabbing a package of mixed pepper seeds. It looked fun, and I figure I can just toss them in the ground to see what comes up.

We need more than just pepper seeds, though. We also need some more gardening tools since mine all have seemed to walk away. That’s when I turn to one of my favorite stores for gardening supplies online – Nature Hills Nursery.

This store has got just about everything you could think of for plants, seeds, and trees. Not just dried bulbs and seeds either, but LIVE plants. They’ve also got books, weeding supplies, and garden decorations. About the only thing I couldn’t find here is a tiller, but I’d recommend finding that on Amazon anyway.

Be sure to check them out if your shopping for gardening supplies online!

Toppings for Hamburgers

We’ve been making a lot of hamburgers lately, mostly because I keep buying frozen patties. I know, way to cheat right? It’s just easier, especially since we got the George Foreman grill and can just throw the patties right on it.

Since we’ve been making hamburgers so much, we’re always looking for new stuff to put on top of them. Last week we made burgers twice, and had several unusual toppings available. Here’s a run down of what we’ve used:

– Avocado
Yup, sounds odd but this is one of my favorite things to put on a burger. I’ll even go so far as to as for it in restaurants when getting burgers.

– Bacon
Not so odd, but sometimes forgotten. Made easier with our grill, even though the bacon isn’t quite as good if we’d cooked it normal. Since it goes on a hamburger, it doesn’t really matter much.

– Grilled mushroom and garlic
This was really, really good. All we did was heat up a little bit of butter in a pan and toss sliced mushroom and dried garlic in. Yuuuuum. You could do the same with onions, too.

– Ranch or Blue Cheese Dressing
Again sounds somewhat odd on a burger, but with avocado it was DELICIOUS. This is also something I always ask for in a restaurant, especially so I can dip my fries in it too.

– Special Cheese
This week it was basil garlic mozarella, but we’ve had some other combos in the past. I’m a sucker for the cheese aisle at the store, and have absolutely no idea why. Jalapeno cheeses would also be awesome for hamburgers, and something I really want to try some time.

That’s it for our list, what’s on yours?