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Category Archives for Tips and Tricks

Keeping Kids Safe on Youtube

Keeping kids safe on youtube can be quite a challenge.

There are any number of wrong clicks they could make and suddenly find themselves faced with inappropriate content.

Sometimes it may seem that the best option is simply to make youtube off limits altogether.  However, there are a lot of very useful things there that are nice to take advantage of if there is a way to do so safely.  Kids can watch educational videos galore, or even a good old-fashioned cartoon to keep them entertained every once in a while.

I have moved all of my homeschooling posts to christianhomeschoolfamily.com. You can go here to read this post at the new site.

Keeping Kids Safe on Youtube



The Power of a Thank You Note

The following is a post by Imperfect Homemaker contributor, Nicole.


Once upon a time, people looked forward to the arrival of the mailman each day. Yes, sometimes bills or other discouraging things are found in that little metal box, but there was the possibility of getting a real, tangible, heartfelt letter from a friend. Remember those days?

Now, getting a pen-and-paper note is very rare. We check our email and social media several times a day, no longer waiting for that one moment when mail is delivered. Being able to communicate more often, and even immediately, with friends and family is a blessing of the internet age, but at the same time we miss out on something by not getting the meaning that goes into a handwritten note.

With the price of postage, I don't generally turn to handwritten notes very often, but there is one exception: Thank you notes. I think that a written thank you speaks volumes to the recipient, and shows that you really are truly thankful for the service they gave you! It doesn't take much to type out a quick thank you in an email, but to take the time to write one out, and then pay to mail it, shows a more genuine thanks.

Here are some things that I believe deserve a genuine Thank You note:

  • When you've received a gift
  • When you've been a dinner guest
  • When you've been an overnight guest in a home or guest house
  • When someone has done a favor

Some of these may be more informal at times, and a thank you note might not be necessary. But many times, they are! I like to look for opportunities where a note would be a blessing and show just how thankful I am.

Here are some fun ways to write thank yous:

  • After spending the night in someone's guest bedroom or a prophets chamber, leave a note on the bed where the hostess can clearly see it. Makes for a fun little surprise!
  • Have kids that were included? Let them write their own note on the card, or sign their own name. If they are too young for real writing, let them color in a blank space or dictate a short note. If nothing else, the hostess will get a little chuckle.
  • Include a picture that was taken during your experience with the host/hostess. Makes it a bit more personal.
  • Add a meaningful Bible verse.
  • Use a fun pen, or add a colorful embellishment.


Now I'd love to hear your thoughts…how often do you write a handwritten thank you note? When is a thank you appropriate? Have you ever given a gift, and never received a thank you for it? How did you feel about it?


How To Survive When You’re In Survival Mode


Great advice when you're struggling with illness or major life changes

We all go through times in our lives when we're in “survival mode”.  Whether it's a life change such as moving or a new baby, illness, or a busy season with a job, those crazy, stressful times come upon all of us.  When you're going through a “survival mode” season, you might wonder if you're going to make it through with your sanity, or perhaps even your marriage, intact.

My personal “survival mode” as of late has been caused by my health problems.  Add to the chronic fatigue, weakness, heart palpitations, dizziness, brain fog, and digestive issues an unexpected pregnancy (Surprise!  That was an announcement!) and you can understand why I spend a lot of my days in the bed.  Three kids 5 and under with their mommy in the bed is a recipe for disaster!


Here's how I'm surviving my “survival mode” season.  I hope these ideas will be of help to you next time your life is crazy and stressful.


1. Be willing to accept help.

This is hard for me, and I'm sure it's hard for most people.  It's embarrassing to let someone see your messy house, let alone allow them to clean it for you.  You feel badly letting someone else trouble themselves to cook your supper or watch your kids for you.  But if people want to help – let them!  They want to be a blessing, so allow them that opportunity.

2. Lower your expectations.

Don't get upset if you're not serving your usual home cooked meals for supper.  Let everyone eat sandwiches, be happy they have something in their belly, and leave it at that.   You may be running clothes through the washer and dryer and never getting them folded.  If you have to live out of the laundry basket for a while, don't sweat it.  Just be glad everyone has something to wear.  Your house will not be spotless.  Accept that fact, do what you can, and don't worry about the rest.

3.  Simplify.

Make everything as easy as possible for yourself.  Remove everything from your schedule that is not absolutely essential.  Use paper plates at meals.  If you're in the bed and you have small children, try to keep everyone confined to the same room.  This will save the house from getting torn apart by curious little hands.  Occupy the kids with videos or activities they can do themselves (coloring books, puzzles, etc.)

4. Use the timer.

Whether you're suffering from illness or are just extremely busy, most people can carve out one 15 minute cleaning session each day.  Set the timer for 15 minutes and straighten the house as quickly as you can, starting with whatever area is bothering you the most.  If you absolutely can't do 15 minutes, try to do just 5.  You'll still be surprised how much can get done!

5.  Brighten your mood

When you're not feeling well, the house is falling apart, and you feel like a lousy wife and mother because you can't keep up with everything, it is easy to start feeling depressed.  Make it a priority to spend time with the Lord each day (the joy of the Lord is my strength!)  Find other ways to cheer up the atmosphere of your home.  Raise the windowshades and let in some sunlight.  Clean one room thoroughly, shut yourself in away from the rest of the mess, and enjoy the view!  Turn on some uplifting music.  Count your blessings and focus on the positive.


How do you survive when life seems crazy?  Please share your ideas!



Organizing a Dual-Purpose Room

I have in my home, like some of you have, a dual purpose room. It’s my piano studio. No, wait- it’s my living room!

It’s both. And it presents an organizing challenge.

I’ve taught private piano lessons in 3 of our homes since we’ve been married, and it’s taken some trial and error to figure out what works best when it comes to keeping the teaching room company clean.  I sometimes have parents stopping by to make a tuition payment, so even on days when I’m not teaching, the living room needs to be presentable.

My children are used to what happens on my teaching days; they know it’s time to clear the living room of all toys. They are my main clutter control for this dual-purpose room! As a rule, I try to keep this room simplified from extra “stuff,” so when it’s pick-up time the main jobs are toy pick-up, vacuuming, and dusting.

I’m going to share some pictures of the metamorphosis of this room. I’ll also be sharing some tips to keeping a dual purpose room looking professional, yet comfortably livable.

This is a shot of the studio part of our living room from about a year and a half ago:

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My teaching supply shelf was originally bright and colorful:

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The side wall held my white board, calendar,  and progress charts:

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Then I added the giant fishbowl to keep track of scales…and added musical notation charts:

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Last year’s set-up was workable. However, this fall I decided that the piano studio was taking over the living room. It felt more professional than it did livable. Also my array of supplies was visually distracting. I began to wonder if company thought they were in a living space or a professional space.  I’ve made a few small changes that made a big difference! Here is a shot of my teaching space as it is right now:


I took down the charts and added some homemade musical art above the piano. I also moved my music cabinet and replaced it with houseplants.

So when people come into my living room/studio, this is what meets the eye:


(A simple shoe space and a maritime welcome.)

The photo below gives a glimpse of the room from the door. Notice that you can see all the way through the dining room and kitchen to the back door! I try to keep that visual line clutter free as much as possible. (I’m noticing my daughter’s teapot pony house on the floor there…just keeping it real, eh?)


The top of the piano is attired in simple decor as well- just a few items that inspire me and that I hope will inspire my students. I like to use items that are enjoyable for me personally even when I’m not teaching:


I swapped out the green bookshelf (pictured above) for a smaller, wooden one. I also swapped out the colorful supply baskets for some brown weave baskets. My intent was for them to blend in to the surroundings a bit better- to be a bit more “living room-ish” and a bit less “piano studio-ish.” I use my laptop while I teach to record notes in Music Teacher’s Helper, so the computer is a permanent fixture:


Directly to the right of the bookcase are my notation posters, progress charts for children, and the ever-handy white board:


In a different corner of the room is my music lending library that used to be to the left of the piano (pictured above). It is functional, yet not distracting to my goal of a homey living room:

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So there you have it- my dual purpose room. Some of you may have a piano studio/living or dining room as well. Or perhaps you have a photo studio that shares your home. Remember that it’s the small things that make the biggest difference in a room!

The key to maintaining a dual-purpose room is to find a balance with the decor and the practical items that are implemented into the room. The goal for this type of room is to have a professional feel during the “business” times, and a comfortable, homey feel during the casual times. And above all else, the main focus should be to present a well-ordered home as a good testimony for Christ and for all who enter.

“Let all things be done decently and in order.” 1 Corinthians 14:40

Did You Know That You Can…

…paint your shoes?!


A long time ago I saw that my friend Laine had painted a pair of her shoes that were getting old and scuffed.

Last week I had a chance to put that tidbit of knowledge to good use.

My black flats had gotten old and nasty, plus they somehow had gotten too small for me.  Seriously?  Your feet grow when you're this old?

Anyway, I didn't think about it much through the summer because I always wore black sandals.  The other day I got all dressed to go run errands, but before I left I realized I didn't have any shoes to match, other than the old, nasty, too-small shoes.

I did, however, have two pairs of brown flats, one of which always got scuffed on the toes no matter how much I tried to protect them.

I had some black acrylic paint on hand, and I decided that today was the day to give myself some black shoes.

I didn't have a foam brush, so I just grabbed a kitchen sponge, squirted some of the paint on it, took a deep breath, and started painting.

It worked!


Painted shoes

My picture is horrible since it was dark when I decided to take it, and it's still too dark this morning to try again.

But let me tell you – you cannot tell that black is not the original color of these shoes!

They're leather, and when I first painted them, they looked fine, but they were kind of dull.  But the longer they sit, the more they're taking on the appearance and texture of the leather.

Can I just say that I love blogs?  And I love it when people blog about all the who-woulda-thought things that they do!

And I'm also thankful that God provided a pair of black shoes for me – for free!







The Picture I Can’t Believe I’m Posting

The other night when my husband came home from his job at the cabinet shop his face was black.  “I've been glazing today,” he told me.

I hate it when he has to work in the finishing room, breathing all that stuff and even getting it all over his face.

Before I knew what he was doing, he disappeared into the bathroom and came out a few minutes later with a clay mask on.

“This feels so good.  Now I understand why women do this!” he said.

He left it on for about 15 minutes, then went and washed it off.  When he was finished, he was all excited about how wonderful his face felt.  I mean, all excited.  He went on and on about how it felt like an entire layer of his skin had been removed, how his skin felt so soft and clean, etc.  Now, my husband is quite a manly man (if you don't know what he looks like, you can see how rugged he looks in the pictures of our frosted glass door).  Believe me, it was quite unusual for him to be excited about something like a clay mask.

I felt his face, and he was right!  It was so smooth!  I was like, “Give me the clay!  I want to wash my face!”

Being the kind soul that he is, he decided he would give me a mini spa treatment and do my face for me.

And now, here is the picture I can't believe I'm posting:

clay mask

Yes, it felt good.  Really, really good.  There was not a trace of oil or dirt on my skin, but it was not dry either.  It was perfect.  Absolutely perfect.  If you know me, I'm not a prissy girl.  So if a manly man and a not-at-all-prissy girl are raving over a clay mask, you know it's got to be pretty amazing!

Seriously, I know some of you must be thinking, “What is her problem?  She's a little strange.”   This is just not the type of thing I normally talk about.  But when I discover something that's great, I like to tell people about it, even at the risk of being thought of as strange.  (See how much I care about you? :))

So what exactly was this mask we were wearing?

It was a paste made with Bentonite Clay and water.  There are tons of different uses for bentonite clay, so if you decide you want to get some to clean your face, you will get a huge bang for your buck because you'll be able to use it for all kinds of other stuff too!

I just used some of the Redmond Clay from Vitacost.   (If you sign up for an account through my referral link, they'll email you a coupon for $10 off your first order – woohoo!)

Redmond Clay


Curious about all those other uses for bentonite clay I was talking about?  Do a little bit of reading here, and you'll see why it's such a good thing to keep on hand!


Have you ever used bentonite clay?  What do you use it for?