Category Archives: Tips

Mama Life Hacks {#13}: Boiling Water to Remove Stains

Last week, when I posted about my little laundry epiphany (color-coded baskets…duh), a reader (hi, Kristin!) unleashed this bomb of a #mamalifehacks tip on me, and I don’t think my life will ever be the same.

But my couches will!

Huh?

Lemme ‘splain.

Or at least sum up. #namethatmovie

A couple of mornings ago, Simon sauntered into the kitchen from the living room with a handful of blueberries. At first, it didn’t quite register, but then I was all: “BLUEBERRIES? HOW did you get blueberries in the living room?”

And he was all: “Oh, Nola has them.”

Just like that. Super casual-like.

And *I* was all calm and collected and reasonable.

Wait, no I wasn’t.

What I really said sounded something like SIMON!!! AREYOUTRYINGTOTELLMETHATYOUSAWYOURTWOYEAROLDSISTERWITHBLUEBUERRIESINTHELIVINGROOMANDYOUDIDN’TTELLME????!!!!!

And then, I raced around the couch to discover that, sure enough, Nola had an entire leaking carton of blueberries on my couch. The couch in the main thoroughfare of our house  that I’ve been keeping covered at all times for just such a catastrophic event but which my 9-year-old had, only moments before the blueberrypocalypse of 2015, denuded of its constant cover when he dragged it onto the ground and cocooned himself in it because, “I’m cold.” (Side note: it’s a good thing we don’t live in Michigan or Canada or, I don’t know, Kansas. The child clearly wouldn’t survive the winter).

ANYhoo, as I surveyed the damage (which, admittedly, wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been but still warranted a fair bit of panic because blueberries), I mentally berated myself: “See? You knew this would happen. This is why you don’t buy light-colored linen couches, no matter how good of a deal they are.”

But then.

THEN…

I remembered Kristin’s #mamalifehacks bomb.

Are you ready? (No, Abbie, I’m not. Please drift off into yet another random tangent, why don’t you?)

AHEM.

Kristin imparted the wisdom of all wisdom that…

Boiling water will take any fruit stain (yes, even blueberries) out of anything.

And I thought, Oh Yeah? We’ll see.

I don’t have a tea kettle, so I grabbed a glass bowl, sloshed a little water inside, and then microwaved that sucker for 1 whole minute.

I could barely hold the bowl without burning my fingers when I pulled it out, so I figured it could definitely pass for boiling.

And then do you know what I did? I poured the scalding water directly onto my blueberry besmirched couch. (Side note: besmirched is a fun word)

I would show you a before and after, but I didn’t have the forethought for any such thing. I was too busy trying to perform my cleaning CPR.

But you know what?

It TOTALLY, COMPLETELY and UTTERLY…worked.

I dumped another bowl onto the (pretty much invisible) stain, just to be sure, then sopped up the water with a towel and let it air-dry. I came back an hour later when it was completely dry, just to make sure, and couldn’t find even a trace of blueberries.

SCORE!

Speaking of scores, I found this adorable romper for Della at Children’s Place for $3.

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But, of course, the first time she wore it, she wanted to eat strawberries (because the things that stain the most must always be eaten when the clothing is the newest, apparently), and it was time to  leave for the gym, which meant no time to offer her a non-staining snack like…sorry…my brain apparently lacks the ability to conjure even the concept of a non-staining snack for a 4-year-old who still rubs her hands aaaaallll the way down her front after every third bite of anything she eats. (Who needs napkins when clothes have already been invented? Save the planet, y’all. Wear a shirt).

So, OF COURSE, as we were getting out of the car to go in the gym, I noticed that she had a strawberry stain on her front. I was honestly impressed that there was only one, and it was relatively small, but still. It was a strawberry stain. And I didn’t have any boiling water handy. AND I think the 4-year-old encased in the stained garment might have objected just a little had I dumped said boiling water down her front.

Which meant that that stain was going to be left to dry and burrow its way deeeep into the fibers of her brand new romper.

I was kind of excited about this, honestly, because I wanted to test out Kristin’s trick on a rubbed in stain, and I was all prepared to take before pictures this time.

Here we have the romper besmirched (see? fun!) with hours old strawberry stains.

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And here we have it, three small bowls of boiling (microwaved) water later.

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I didn’t scrub. I didn’t use soap. I didn’t do anything but douse it in really hot water and try not to burn myself.

And it’s perfect!

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And we’re just a little excited about it.

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Okay, maybe more than a little.

I’m so jazzed about this development that I’m kind of looking forward to the next time one of the twins drops an orange slice on her shirt, catches it halfway down, and proceeds to draaaaaag it the length of her torso all the way back to her lips (an occurrence that usually makes me want to put my head through the wall).

So, did you already know about this magic? If so, whyyyy didn’t you tell me? I’m so glad Kristin had my back.

Any other #mamalifehacks to share? I’m all ears (and a few slightly burned fingers).

P.S. Have you entered our oily giveaway yet? You’ve got til midnight!

P.P.S. Have you entered our pouch giveaway yet? You’ve got–you guessed it–until midnight for that one too!

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My Best Tips for Traveling With Kids

When we were planning our trip to Colorado, I probably should have been more nervous about hauling 6 children 9 and under 15 hours away from home for two weeks, but I really wasn’t. We had a game plan, and, as evidenced from this post, I’m used to carting my children with me every-stinkin’-where I go, so I was pretty confident that we’d at the very least survive.

I realize this is supposed to be the part where I laugh at my own naivete, but honestly? The trip went off without a hitch. We didn’t have car trouble. No one got (seriously) sick. No epic traffic jams. Nothing.

And we had so. much. fun. I’m already pining for next year. Because–yes–we’ve vowed to do everything in our power to make it back to Colorado every summer from here to eternity.

So! Even though I can only credit God’s amazing kindness with a great deal of our trip’s success (because, let’s face it: stomach bugs aren’t exactly something you can control, and they can bring the fun to a screeching halt in a hot upchucking second), there were some things that worked really great for us, so I thought I’d pass them along on the off-chance that they help someone else.

1. Just say no to over-packing.

I’ve been known to pull the, “I can’t decide which necklace I want to wear. I’ll just bring all of them,” move before. Which is all well and good doable when you’re single.

But that kind of mindset just doesn’t fly when you’ve got 6 (or even a lot fewer) little humans and their junk to think about.

Which is why I’ve become increasingly sparse in my packing methods. So much so that I brought ZERO necklaces with me on that trip…and ended up regretting it. (Good thing I found two squirreled away in the pocket of my makeup bag, eh?)

ANYhoo, I used the same spartan approach when packing my kids’ clothes and managed–somehow–to get ALL 6 KIDS’ stuff in one large suitcase. I brought plenty of socks and undies but limited each kid to 5 or so outfits that could easily be mixed and matched (except Theo, who is kind of the king of blowouts and needed lots of extra onesies). Of course, it helped that we were going to a place with a washer/dryer.

Which brings me to…

2. Just say yes to vacation rentals

I’ve already sung the praises of VRBO and Airbnb several times before on the blog, but this is the part where I tell you that I will never again stay in another hotel for longer than two nights if I have anything to say about it.

We found our adorable vacation rental on Airbnb (which is where we also found all of our rentals for our European anniversary adventure last year and 2 out of 3 of the places we stayed in Cali for our 10th anniversary).

Not only was it super affordable and a pleasant place to stay in a great neighborhood close to all kinds of restaurants and shopping and parks and, and, and…

But it had everything you could possibly want to make an extended stay possible–fully stocked kitchen, washer and dryer, extra towels, toys, etc.

Because that’s the beauty of renting a real house from a real person. You get access to all of their real life stuff (like a double oven and muffin tins) and you get some of the perks (like shampoo/toothpaste/lots of extra linens) of a hotel, since most owners have planned ahead to make their guests’ stays the best possible.

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{There’s a strange man in my bed! Oh well, at least my pillow cases are cute}

I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve stayed in vacation rental houses or apartments at this point, but we’ve never had a bad experience. If you do your research and communicate well with the owner, you can be sure you’re choosing a reputable rental, and most of the time, the owners will go out of their way to accommodate your needs.

If you want to try Airbnb, you can use this link for a $25 credit towards your first rental (I get a $25 credit too, so we both win!).

3. Plastic snack baggies are the bomb!

I’m aware that nobody uses the phrase “the bomb” anymore, but I just don’t have it in me to say, “on fleek,” so now that we’ve got that sorted, let me tell you about the snacking system that–while not eco-friendly–definitely made life easier on our long drive.

In case you hadn’t noticed, pre-bagged snacks are…expensive. So, I brought along a big box of sandwich baggies + a club-sized box of a certain brand of fish-shaped orange crackers universally loved by children, raisins, pre-washed grapes, pretzels, etc.

And every time (pretty sure it was once a minute for the first two hours of our drive) that one of my offspring (and then, of course, all of them) said, “I’m huuuuungry,” I simply dumped a little bit ‘o something in a baggie and handed it back. The older kids were able to keep up with their bags for a couple of uses, but the twins usually “misplaced” theirs as soon as they were done with their snack. Which was okay (though not my favorite) because a) I brought a LOT of baggies and b) the kids have to clean out the back of the van, so they were the ones cleaning up all of the dropped bags.

4. Drive all night long (all niiight)

I was extolling the virtues of night driving to a friend of mine at church the other day, and she told me they’d tried it, and it was disastrous. So, I guess I’d include the disclaimer that I highly recommend driving at night IF you’ve got good car-sleepers. All of mine are, which resulted in a much more peaceful and speedy (fewer stops for food/potty) trip for us.

I also highly recommend audiobooks + earbuds for distraction on those 6-hour stretches through flat, featureless, sleep-inducing West Texas. (Which is pretty much the opposite of hilly, green, tree-filled East Texas, where I live).

5. Coolers are the coolest

I can’t actually tell you exactly how we ended up with 8 people’s stuff + 8 bottoms in 8 available seats and didn’t feel crazy cramped (because we didn’t), but I tell you this: our cooler would have been worth every last square inch of space that it took up, even with a tighter fit.

We brought raw milk + farm eggs + a few other thing that we didn’t want going bad with us on the way up, and it was really nice not to have to immediately head to the grocery store for supplies. And then, on the way back, we were able to bring all of the perishables that we hadn’t polished off during our trip. Which I loved because I’m not a fan of wasted food (but then, who is?).

Plus, it’s pretty sweet to have chilled water bottles with you on a long trip.

6. Keep the toys simple

I know it’s tempting to bring every gadget and doojabber (this, along with my “the bomb” reference, just cemented my status as an old lady) that might possibly capture your children’s attention and keep them from spending the entire vacation hanging onto your shoulders and saying, “Mooooommmmm, I’m booooooored”…

But honestly?

Our best toy purchase of the entire trip was a giant pad of drawing paper and a new set of washable markers in bright colors. We bought them to make Father’s Day cards for Shaun, but we used them almost every single day, and all 5 of my drawing-capable children spent hours (spread out) doodling and scribbling.

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Other than drawing, we spent most of our time at home hula-hooping or kicking the soccer ball in the backyard. Although, the little girls did log some hardcore time accessorizing the Barbies that the girl of the house had left for us to play with, and the boys + Della got some serious Minecraft time with Shaun (usually, they only get 30 minutes of game time/week).

7. Scope out the kids’ eat free nights

If you’re traveling to a well-populated area, chances are, you have several kid-friendly chains near you, some of which have a kids-eat-free day/night (with the purchase of an adult meal)…which can translate into big-time savings in the eating out department. A couple that pop to mind are Chick-fil-a (kids eat free night varies) and Jersey Mike’s (all day Sunday).

Oh! And PSA: Today is the day of all days to make a total doofus of yourself and dress everybody in your family like a COW. Because if you do, and you have a Chick-fil-a near you, everybody in cow-gear gets free food! If you do and don’thave a Chick-fil-a near you…well, your neighbors will still get a kick out it.

8. Bring the stroller. Leave the pack n’ play

We used our stroller constantly–while hiking, while shopping, while trolling the local farmer’s market, while sampling food at the street fair, while jogging around the neighborhood. Pretty much everywhere.

And we contemplated bringing a pack n’ play for Theo to sleep in. But it was going to take up a lot of space, so we opted for making him a pallet in the closet (what we’d done on our anniversary trip as well). It sounds a bit ghetto, I realize, and might not work if you have an older baby. But it worked great for Theo (6 months). Just make sure there’s nothing on the floor or within reach for them to fiddle with and turn into a potential choking/strangling hazard.

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{I should have said, bring the stroller AND the baby carrier…and then let your husband do all the wearing}

9. Picnic every chance you get

We ate most of our evenings meals out or had them delivered because this mama–who cooks dinner almost every night of the week–was on vacation, if you know what I mean. But other than dinners out, we ate a lot of cereal and eggs and sandwiches at home. Any time we could, though, we packed up a picnic or took our food outside in the backyard, which made turkey and PBJ sandwiches (again) seem festive and cut down on clean up inside. More fun and less cleaning? Count me in!

10. Do a little research

With just a few clicks of a keyboard, we found more activities–VBS! Free movies! Street fairs! Craft mornings! Music festivals!–than we had time or interest to go to. Summertime, especially, is ripe with opportunities to get outside and do something fun, so be sure to check out the local offerings for kid-friendly activities because they’re sure to abound.

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{My kids loved tickling the ivories on one of Fort Collins’ “pianos about town”}

What are YOUR best tips for traveling with kids? I loved all of your ideas of doing errands with kids and picked up some new tricks for our outings, so I can’t wait to hear your travel wisdom too!

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Confessions of a Wannabe Stylist (Fall Family Photos + Tips)

Have you entered to win $75 from the Pleated Poppy yet? (I’m linking up with her for What I Wore Wednesday today!).

I have this fantasy that I would really love being a magazine stylist. I can imagine putting whole photo shoots together with one fabulous bracelet or torn-out picture or pretty plate as the inspiration for the elaborate, perfect-down-to-the-last-detail finished product.

In reality, though, I’m pretty sure I would be a stressed out mess with damp armpits and a tension knot tighter than my almost-3-year-old’s sphincter—at least when she’s sitting on the potty—at the base of my neck. And while I massaged that sucker, I’d be busy second-guessing the placement of that bowl or the scarf on that model. Plus, I’d be worrying about how many more months of potty-training my fragile psyche could take before I snapped and bought stock in adult diapers since that’s clearly a good investment for us.

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“Hey Maaaaamma. I just made you a present!”

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Not too surprisingly, I’m sticking with my day job because a) baby girl twins don’t get all, “I’m sorry, but I don’t do horizontal stripes” on you when you dress them in high-water leggings (apparently, they just had a growth spurt), and b) I don’t think anyone wants me “styling” them when I’ve got soggy cracker crumbs and goodness knows what else all over my shirt.

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(From left to right: Nola-13 months, Simon-almost 6, Evy-13 months, Ezra-7 1/2, and Della-almost 3)

Plus—bonus—when you find an adorable green/navy polka dot shirt dress that you would wear if only it came in something other than toddler sizes, you can buy it for your toddler instead and begin what will surely become a longstanding tradition of living vicariously through her.

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“Mama, you can’t fool us. We know these ‘shirts’ are actually six-month dresses that Great Aunt Tonya gave us last Christmas. What, you couldn’t spring for something in our actual size?”

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{Can you tell that I am attempting to will all 6 of our heads in the same direction by the sheer force of my concentration and ability to smile while talking through clenched teeth? It almost worked!}

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Little boy clothes are so much better than they used to be. Seriously. Chambray shirts for my not-quite-six-year-old? Swoon. Also, sweet brother love? Swoon again.

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I love Evy’s expression (center), which clearly says, “Who are all of these laughing people and why am I forced to sit here in their midst?”

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And in this one, it’s Della’s expression that takes the cake. Either that, or Nola’s “Thriller” moves.
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Not that it took Della too long to catch on to the zaniness (pardon her glowing green dress. For some reason, it reacted more strongly than any other color in the picture when I lightened it).

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Good grief. Seriously, y’all. Sometimes, I just look at my children and think, “How did I get so blessed?” Of course, 5 minutes later, I’m thinking, “Where is the nearest bus stop and will they pick all of them up if I put a bow around their middles?” But still. They’re pretty great kids.

Oh, and just in case you’re wondering about my philosophy for styling our family for pictures, here’s how I like to roll to keep things coordinated but not too matchy-matchy.

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I’m certainly no expert, but these guidelines  have served me well for our other photo shoots as well (you can see how I applied similar concepts in  our prenatal shots, our family photo shoots 1 and 2, Mother’s day pics and our lake pictures)

Clothing sources (I’m only listing the ones I bought recently):

Della’s dress: Old Navy outlet (about $8 after a coupon)

My dress: Anthropologie (a $50 splurge; I posted about it on the blog when it was still full-price; it’s sold out online, but you might be able to find it in stores. I bought mine 2 weeks ago in South Carolina at Allume)

The twins’ leggings (which have adorable ruffles on the bum): Old Navy outlet ($3 each after a coupon)

Ezra’s shirt: Target ($10)

Simon’s shirt: Kohl’s ($10 after a coupon)

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