Tips and Tricks Archives - Imperfect Homemaker

Category Archives for Tips and Tricks

Travel Tips for Toddlers

Packing for the first deputation trip

Last year I would have told you I am no expert on traveling with little ones.  I would still say that I am not an expert, but being a missionary on deputation has afforded me lots of practice!  We are gone every weekend and many weeks in between.  Next year we will be gone for several months at a time.

When we began this journey I asked several missionary friends for suggestions.  Many of their tips have been lifesavers as we travel the country with four little people.  Some areas are still being tweaked to find out what works best.  These are a few of my tips for traveling with toddlers…

Travel Tips for Tots jpg

1.  Keep Your Routine – even when away from home. I know that it is not always possible, but stick to what is “normal” as much as possible.  Observe the same nap times.  Eat the same foods.  Keep the same bedtime routine.

2.  Bring Favorite Items. There are enough “strange” things on any trip – a different bed, a new house or hotel room, and possibly a different climate.  Try to keep some things the same. Liberty is attached to her blanket.  We bring it on every trip.  Elaine and Nolan are older and have lots of favorite “friends”, so they have to select one friend to bring in the car.  We also bring a couple of family favorites for bedtime stories.  This gives the kids something familiar in an unfamiliar environment.

3.  Switch Things Up. We have several different entertainment items to keep the kids happy in the car.  But we try to keep them varied so that the kids don’t get bored of any one thing.  We use a DVD player, books on CD, reading chapter books aloud (I love my Kindle because it takes up so little space), independent playtime (with items from their backpack), family games such as “I Spy”, Bible stories from Daddy, singing, and nap time.  We do one thing for a little while, and then move on to another.  During nap time they can't hold any toys and they have to close their eyes and stop speaking.  They almost always fall asleep.

My bigger kids are allowed to pack their own little backpacks, but I limit the number of toys.  I usually let them have “five small toys”.  They usually pick things like zoo animals, Little People, etc. and play make believe in their car seats.  I have found that crayons/markers/stickers are not good in the car for little people.  I spend most of my trip retrieving them from the floor.  For drawing, Magna Doodles work great!

 4.  Travel at Night. It may be helpful to travel at night when your little people will naturally sleep.  You don't have to plan as many stops, so the traveling goes faster.  We have done it several times for very long trips.  It is hard on Mom & Dad the next day, though!

5.  Stop frequently. We stop about every three hours, and usually for an hour.  By the time we change diapers, take a potty break, eat lunch, and let the kids run off the wiggles, it is usually an hour.  But then the kids are much more content  to get back into the car.  We have found it very helpful to pack a lunch and stop at a park, playground, or rest stop to eat.  This gives us fresh air and more room for the kids to run around, and it’s much easier on our wallet!


Packed & Ready


Packing Tips:

1.  Pack Light. Almost everywhere we go there is a washing machine.  I usually pack three days of clothes, and then wash.  This means less stuff to load and unload into the car, and it is also less items to keep track of at the home/hotel where we are staying.  For a family of six we can travel with only two suitcases, a bag of shoes, and a family toiletry bag.  It means less to get ready, too.  I can have us all packed in about two hours or less!

2.  Prepare for Accidents. We have two kiddos in diapers, and one potty training.  I keep an extra outfit and socks in the diaper bag for these kids.  That way if there is an accident on the road, we don’t have to unload the whole suitcase.

3.  Stay Organized. I bring along a laundry bag to set up in our destination home.  This keeps the suitcase organized.  I pack the “little” stuff for each person in a Ziploc bag with their name on it.  All undies, socks, ties, belts, hair bows, etc. go into that person's bag to stay organized.  I bring a mesh laundry bag to put dirty socks into, so that they are not lost in the dirty laundry.  When you’re only packing for three days, it’s hard to lose a pair of socks!

4.  Pack a Community Bag. Since there are six in our family, we have found a “community bag” to be helpful.  All of our shoes go into one bag.  This keeps dirt out of the suitcases and makes it easy to keep track of everyone’s shoes.  We also have a family toiletry bag.  All toiletry items for the whole family go into one bag, and then there is only one bag in the destination bathroom, instead of six individual bags.  This makes it easier to be sure we have everything packed, too.  I can easily glance through the toiletry bag to know we have all the necessary items, and my husband knows he only has to worry about loading one bag into the van.


Do you travel often?  What do you do to make it fun instead of stressful?

Tips for Organizing your Vehicle for Summer

Guest post from Imperfect Homemaker contributor Nicole.


Now that summer weather has finally arrived, I for one find myself spending a lot of time in my vehicle! Between work, events with family, local events such as this, or church events, there are lots of great reasons to be on the go. The lack of organization in my car, however, was starting to drive me nuts! For something we use often, it is easy to let the cleanliness slide.

So I decided to do something about it!

organizing your vehicle


I started by cleaning and vacuuming out the entire inside. I found all kinds of garbage under the seats…gross! How does that happen?

Once it was all sparkling clean, I made a list of the different items I wanted to put back in the car to be prepared for whatever a day might bring. Then I got to organize it all inside…that is the fun part!

I knew I wanted a bag for garbage. I hung a plastic grocery bag on the bottom part of my seat buckle. It hangs down behind the center console. I rarely have backseat passengers, so it is a great place to keep it within arms reach. If you do not have a center console, a bag like this will hang nicely between the two front seats, either on the buckles or the arm rests.

Next I added some items to the center console. I put a stack of napkins in there (just ask for some extras when you go through drive-through!) as well as a package of disinfecting wipes. I grabbed two packs of these wipes at the dollar store for $1 each. I stuck the extra one in my glove box so I won't run out! These wipes are great for sticky fingers if you eat on the go. I also use them to wipe down surfaces inside the car….like the steering wheel. Do you know how gross and dirty that gets? Totally worth a few seconds for a wipe-down…you can do this while sitting at a red light! (and then drop the used wipe in the garbage bag…so handy!)

I also picked up a little wire cup for a dollar to corral some loose change. Next to it all I tucked a pen and pad of paper. I'm glad to have all of these items easily within reach!

center console

Another item I wanted to include was a package of tissues. I grabbed one of Puffs soft package tissues. This package is designed to go anywhere, so if I decide to shove it in my glove box or in the pocket of my car door, it will fit! Genius!

puffs soft pouch tissues

The glove box is harder to get to from the driver's seat, obviously. So I put items in there that I wouldn't need while driving. I have the extra package of disinfecting wipes in there, as well as a box of Larabar protein bars for when I need a little nutrition on the go. (Lets be honest…I will probably eat these every morning on the way to work, since I run out of time or forget to eat breakfast. Whoops!)

glove box organized

The last items I gathered were some personal items. I grabbed a zip pouch from my etsy shop and filled it with band-aids, a small comb, hair elastics, chapstick, and a few, um….lady items. (Psst! These zip pouches are the perfect size to hide those!! Just an FYI! {wink!})

zip pouch of personal items


Depending on what your summer plans are, there might be other ways you can plan ahead to save you time and headache later on. Do you go to the beach often? Keep a tote full of beach toys, towels, and sunscreen. Do you picnic? Keep a tote full of paper plates, cups, and silverware. You may want to throw in an umbrella, especially if you live in Florida. {wink!} In the winter I include a bag of emergency overnight items. Figure out what items that your family needs, and keep them in your car so you are never without them when you need them. That is the key to organization, right? Having what you need, when you need it to save you time and energy.

Do you keep your vehicle organized? What items are essential to your on-the-go days? What other items should I include to prepare for any situation? Share your thoughts below!


Happy Lost Sock Day: Putting Lonely Socks to Useful Purposes

Guest post from Imperfect Homemaker contributor, Andrea.

Lost Sock Day jpg


Did you know that there was a holiday for missing socks?  Neither did I!  But let me tell you – I have lots of experience with missing socks!  My family does not have a washer and dryer in our urban apartment, so we utilize the laundry mat.  And nearly without fail, we come home with at least one mate-less sock.  I think this quote sums it up for me:

                “I have come to the conclusion that dryer lint is the cremated remains of all my missing socks.”

Or perhaps you can relate to this one:


Whatever the reason, I’m sure we all have some missing socks in our homes!  I always hate to throw away those perfectly good socks, just because their mate is M.I.A..  So what can we do to put lonely socks to useful purposes?  A quick search on Pinterest revealed many ideas.  Here is a list of the best ideas I found, and a few of my own ideas too!


  • Make a Sock Fishing Game:  Basically, you stick a heavy duty magnet down in the toe of a baby/child’s sock, then stuff it (with paper, fabric, etc.).  Tie up the ends, decorate it, and you have an adorable homemade fishing game that the kids will love!  I made this with my kids and shared it on my blog here.
  • Sock Puppets:  Put a few miscellaneous craft supplies to use and get creative with your kids making sock puppets!
  • Foxtails:  You know – those balls with a tail?  Stick a tennis ball in a lonely tube sock, tie with a hair rubber band, and go play in the back yard!  If you want more information on Foxtails, check out this link.
  • Baby Doll Socks: My daughter loves to dress her baby doll in real baby clothes – the ones left over from her siblings.  Give the mismatched baby socks to your kids to dress up their dolls or stuffed animals.  (As long as your child is not OCD about matching).
  • Dog Toy: Not exactly for your kids, unless they like to play with the dog.  As a kid I used to tie knots in old socks to make a tug-o-war rope for the dogs.


You can make all kinds of crafts with lonely socks!  Here are a few ideas to get you started (and there are many variations on Pinterest!)


  • Bottle Sleeve: Use a lonely sock to insulate your water bottle in the summer.  It will absorb the “sweat” from your bottle and keep items in your bag/purse dry!
  • Suitcase Organization:  My family is on deputation for missionary work right now, and we are doing a lot of traveling.  There are always tiny items getting lost in the abyss of the suitcase.  Use various sized lonely socks to organize everything from jewelry, to belts and accessories, to kids’ bow ties and hair bows.  I can’t wait to put this idea to use on our next trip!
  • Dusting:  Slide a sock over your hand and dust away.  This would be especially helpful when using furniture polish.  I use Scotts Liquid Gold on my wood furniture, but I hate touching the rag and getting the oils all over my skin.  You could also make a reusable Swiffer-type duster out of old socks.
  • Shoe Polishing: You can use mate-less socks to polish your shoes.  When they are worn out, toss them in the garbage and start over with another lonely sock!
  • Shipping:  Use socks to pack valuables for shipping or moving.  You could place glasses and stemware into the sock itself, or use the socks to pack around items in a box.
  • GPS/Electronic Protector: We do not leave our GPS in the windshield because it invites theft.  We have had our car window broken twice since moving to Brooklyn; in each case something electronic was the target.  One time we think they were looking for the GPS because the glove box had been emptied.  However, I stored my GPS in a cosmetic bag in the side door, and so the thief came up empty handed.  You could use a lonely sock to protect electronics such as your GPS, and “camouflage” them at the same time!
  • Soap Exfoliator: Slide a bar of soap into a mate-less sock and wash the car, the bathtub, or even yourself.  The sock will exfoliate the soap suds!

My last tip comes from personal experience.  These are ideas are great for using those lonely socks.  But it may be better to prevent the missing sock epidemic from happening in the first place.  I throw all of my kids’ socks into a mesh laundry bag prior to heading to the laundry mat. img_6112

I wash and dry them in the bag.  They are usually still damp after going through a dry cycle this way.  When I get home I spread them all over the dining room table to air dry overnight, and then I mate them and put them away in the morning.  It has been mostly successful for me thus far!

So go out and celebrate Lost Sock Day.  Make a craft.  Dust your house.  But if you can't find any of these ideas useful, then please throw away those mate-less socks and and at least be clutter free!

How to Take Great Pictures of Your Kids (Even When You Have No Idea What You’re Doing)



How to Take Great Pictures of Your Kids (even when you have no idea what you're doing)


Folks, I am not a photographer.  I'm just a mom with no time to sift through my camera's manual or all the photography tutorials on Pinterest.

But doesn't every mom like to have adorable pictures of her kiddos?  And doesn't every mom dread making an appointment at a studio, wondering if the kids will be happy that day, keep their clothes clean until they get there, and avoid procuring any scrapes or bruises on their face until after their photos have been taken?

What's a girl to do? 

Although photography is definitely not something I am good at, I have been happy with the photos I have been able to take of my children in the comfort of our own home.

Here are just a few simple things to keep in mind, and you too can get great photos of your kids to keep or give as gifts to the grandparents!

1. Lots of light.  The more natural light you can find, the better.  Place your child with a window facing them (not with the window behind them).  I have found that I can get better photos inside rather than outside because I have no idea how to handle shadows or too much light.  A place inside near a sunny window is almost foolproof.

2. A nice background – Place your child in front of a solid-colored wall, or use a blanket or a piece of fabric as a background.  (In the below photo, I used a piece of fabric. I just taped the fabric right to the wall.  Easy as pie.)


3. A strong finger.  This is the one that's most important when you have no idea what you're doing.  Just click that button over and over and over, and eventually one of the pictures will come out good!  See, it's really not that hard!  (If you're a photographer, please stop reading.  This is getting embarrassing.)


4. A little teensy-tinsy bit of editing know-how.  You don't have to have any fancy software.  PicMonkey will do fine.  It's just nice to know that when you look through the 400 photos you clicked and find the best one and it's almost perfect, that you can brighten it up just a bit, or erase a little bit of snot under your kid's nose.

(The eBook Monkey See, Monkey Do: A Tutorial to Using PicMonkey with Professional Results,will make using PicMonkey a cinch!)

Want to edit photos and create graphics easily? - this tells you how!


So…are you ready to try some snapping some photos of those cuties?!  Let me know how it goes!



How to Make a Stainless Steel Pan Non-Stick

I haven't fully done the research myself, but I've always been of the understanding that non-stick pans contain harmful chemicals that emit toxic fumes when you cook and that can leach into your food.

For that reason, I try to avoid cooking with non-stick pans.  But it can definitely be a pain to scrape  eggs or other meals off a stainless steel pan.

I set out to find out how to make a stainless steel pan non-stick, and I can't believe it was so easy!

How to Make Stainless Steel Non-Stick

1. Heat your pan over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes.

2. Add a glob of coconut oil and heat until it smokes.  Make sure to spread it around the entire surface of the pan.

How to Make Stainless Steel Non-stick

3. Make sure you can see your reflection in the pan.  (You can see my hand taking the picture in the right hand side of the picture below.)

How to Make Stainless Steel Non-stick

4. Allow the pan to cool completely, then wipe out the coconut oil residue with a paper towel.

5. You can now cook on your pan without using any butter or oil!

The picture below shows the pan after I cooked eggs in it without using any butter or oil.  All that is left in the pan are loose crumbs.  (There was a tiny bit stuck to the pan that scraped right off with the spatula.  That is what the crumbs are from.)

How to Make Stainless Steel Non-stick

Don't heat your pan too hot or it is possible that your eggs will still stick somewhat.  I cooked mine on medium-high on an electric stove.

I don't know how long the pan will remain non-stick — I plan to update the post after a while and let you know how it's holding up.  But even if it has to be re-treated every once in a while it wouldn't be a big deal.


Have you ever turned your stainless steel pans into non-stick pans?  How did it hold up for you?


8 Reasons I Hate Ebooks

8 Reasons I Hate Ebooks

1. Ebooks are way too short

Traditional publishers usually require the author to add a certain amount of “filler” material in order to make the book a certain length. An ebook author has the freedom to write exactly what they want to get across and nothing more.  I love wasting my time reading extra fluff! For a busy homemaker, an ebook is definitely not a smart choice.

2. Ebooks are not as high quality as print books

Because ebooks don't require printing costs, the price is usually considerably cheaper than a print book. But since money is no object in this household, (Remember? I waste money on purpose.) I'll go for the more expensive option since it's bound to be better quality.

3. Ebooks support undeserving women

I'd rather make sure the coffers of a large publishing house are filled instead of allowing my money to go directly to some undeserving housewife trying to share her heart and offer encouragement to other women. I mean, after all,  she should probably get a real job instead of trying to earn money by blessing others.

4. Ebooks are a pain to transfer to my Kindle.

When I buy through the Kindle store, I have to wait a whole 2 seconds while the book goes onto my Kindle. And when I buy those PDF ebooks I actually have to take 10 times that (20 seconds if you're not good at math) to plug in my Kindle via USB and drag and drop the folders into it. Such a pain.

5. Ebooks make me feel poor

When I have 100 print books, they take up an entire bookshelf in my house. Although a lot of space gets used up, I can admire all the beautiful books I own every time I walk past the shelf. With ebooks, they're all stored so neatly out of sight on my Kindle or computer that I don't have the opportunity to do that.

6. Ebooks make decision-making too easy

When I'm on the go, I don't get the opportunity to showcase my decision-making abilities by choosing just one book to take with me. When I take my Kindle along, my entire library goes with me, and it steals the opportunity for me to exercise my brain making that decision.

7. Ebooks are detrimental to self-discipline

If I order a print book, I get to strengthen my self-discipline by exercising patience while I wait for it to arrive. If I purchase an ebook, I get instant gratification, which I'm not sure is healthy for me.

8. Ebooks are so unprofessional

Print books are only authored by the select few who manage to find their way into the door of an editor. Ebooks can be written by anyone about any topic – even homemakers just like me who write about the exact things I face every day! Wouldn't you rather read advice from a pro instead of a “regular” person?


If you couldn't tell, this post was meant to be sarcastic. I love ebooks, and I think they're absolutely perfect. They're concise, cheaper than print books, support the author directly, are easy to transfer to my ereader, take up much less room, can easily be transported, can be read instantly after purchase, and contain relevant content written by women just like me.

And I'm just a tiny bit excited about the Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle that's going on sale next week (November 4 – 9).

You'll have the opportunity to add 86 ebooks about healthy living to your library along with $158 worth of bonus products and free mentorship from some of the authors.

As I've mentioned before, just the value of the bonus products is far greater than the cost of the entire bundle, so it's pretty much a no-brainer. Click on the banner to see all the details about the ebooks, mentorship, and bonuses! It's all pretty amazing!

And if 86 ebooks seems overwhelming, just remember that this is an entire library. You don't feel the need to sit down and read every book on your bookshelf all at once, do you? This is the same situation. You'll have reference books on every health topic written by women who've “been there, done that“.

Be ready next Monday morning to get your bundle! The Bundle is ready for purchase! Get it here!


So tell me.  Ebooks — love 'em or hate 'em?