a "been-there" mom of six offers encouragement
to wives, young mothers, and those not so young,
and simple common-sense approaches to
the "ings" of life:
child-rearing (hints and helps), homemaking (all areas),
cooking (simple, cheap, and do-it-yourself)
making (toys and gifts), preparing (for the unexpected),
maintaining (sanity and peace in this increasingly crazy world) and more---
all aspects of making the most of making do on little---
and having fun in the process.

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Variety of Homemade Finger Paints

Are you ever at your wit's end, trying to come up with an easy idea to keep restless kids occupied?

Have you ever made finger paints?

Below are three different finger paints created from items you probably have at your fingertips!

These paints can be used on any non-porous surface including some table tops - plastic trays - cookie sheets and/or. . . for traditionalists: white shelf paper, butcher paper or other slick paper.

If you are a calm mom, you can let your children have fun and be creative in the house. If such an indoor activity blows your mind, use it for a great outdoor event, followed with a run through the sprinkler!

Shaving Cream Finger Paint
A can of non-mentholated shaving cream squirted on a non-porous surface. You can sprinkle on some powdered tempera* paint for added interest. As the working area dries, it can be perked up with a few drops of water or more shaving cream. When play time is over, the surface will clean up easily.

Edible Finger Paint 
Mix up instant pudding as directed and let thicken. You can use different flavors for different colors or you can divide vanilla flavored and tint with washable food coloring or small amounts of different flavors* of powdered soft drink mixes. They can "erase" and draw over and over again at the same sitting, and it won't hurt one bit if they lick their fingers!

"Traditional" Finger Paints
1 envelope Knox unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup cornstarch
3 T. sugar
2 cups cold water
dish washing liquid (not dishwasher!)
food coloring*

In a small bowl, add gelatin to 1/4 cup warm water and set aside. In a medium saucepan, combine cornstarch and sugar. Gradually add the cold water and cook slowly over low heat, stirring until well-blended. Remove from heat and add softened gelatin. Divide mixture into as many separate containers as you want colors. For each color first add a drop or two of liquid detergent and then add food coloring a drop at a time until you have the shade you want. Store in the refrigerator. It will keep for up to six weeks.

* I want to caution about the colors. Remember I am old and it has been a long time since my friends and I made this stuff for our kids. I don't know much about "modern" day paints, food colorings, and kool-aid type colorings, so I would proceed with caution if I wanted to add color. I would try it out in an inconspicuous area first. It is still fun stuff without the coloring if that is a worry.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Priceless Blessings of Frugality

“My mother even ironed Christmas ribbons - they were rayon then. I grew up in the forties and fifties with a practical parent – my mother, who ironed Christmas wrapping paper and reused it and who washed aluminum foil after she cooked in it, then reused it.

“She was the original recycle queen, before they had a name for it. It was the time for fixing things ---  a curtain rod, the kitchen radio, screen door, the oven door, the hem in a dress. Things we keep.

“It was a way of life, and sometimes it made me crazy. All that re-fixing, reheating, renewing, I wanted just once to be wasteful. Waste meant affluence. Throwing things away meant you knew there would always be more.

“But then my mother died, and I sat in my kitchen that Sunday afternoon reading her old handmade cookbook in a binder. I was struck with the pain of feeling all alone, learning that sometimes there isn’t any ‘more’. Sometimes, what we care about most gets all used up and goes away, never to return.

“So while we have it, it’s best we love it, care for it, fix it when it’s broken, and heal it when it’s sick. This is true for marriages and old cars and children with bad report cards; dogs with bad hips, aging parents and grandparents and blended families. We keep them because they are worth it, because we are worth it.

“Some things we keep. Like a best friend that moved away or a classmate we grew up with. There are just some things that make life important, like people we know who are special... and so, we keep them close!

“Keep what is worth keeping and with a breath of kindness blow the rest away.”

author unknown

from a Simply, Gail column

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

For Debt there is Mastercard --- For Peace there is Self-Mastery

Is it stating the obvious to say that cheap has become a way of life for me?

When we were raising our kids we were really, really broke. Even though financially it is not as necessary as it once was, it is still wasteful to spend more than is needful for an item. Plus, as I've written before ---- I love the challenge!

Often, in one post or another I mention that our family motto was

          Broke is a State of Pocketbook–
          Poor is a State of Mind 

We were usually okay with being broke, but we refused to be poor.

While we didn’t realize it at the time, great dividends resulted from our financial situation. 

Necessity caused us to be creative in many aspects of our lives.
Since there was no money for repairmen or replacement, Dave had to try to fix many things. More often than not he was successful. When he wasn’t, the only thing lost was a little time. (And maybe a little pride, although that is just a guess.) By now, he is quite the handyman.

By far, the greatest dividend was that our kids learned to share. First it was crayons, and bikes and bedrooms. Later it was paper routes. When three were in college at the same time, they met weekly to exchange clothes, greatly expanding their individual meager wardrobes.

To this day they still share, usually across the miles–strength, support, and ideas. And still, occasionally, stuff!

Way back then, little did Dave realize when he was on an outing with just one of the kids and only had money for one can of soda pop to share, that a priceless bond was being created.

Creativity and thrift are not just for the financially challenged. It is caring; and resourcefulness in a time when disposables and wastefulness are a way of life.

Adapted from a Simply Gail column in Desert Saints Magazine

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

TIME and Making the Most of It

In spite of the common saying "We all have the same 24 hours" it is simply not true. Some are younger, some healthier, some work out of the home, some work in the home, and many do both! I could go on and on about our different circumstances but I think I've made my point.

What is important, is that we each make the most of        whatever amount of  time we do have. 

Here are some tricks that worked for me over the years. Some worked better than others however. Hopefully you can find one or two that will help you when you find yourself dragging or just plain procrastinating.

My mother always washed dishes immediately after the meal. I hated to wash dishes and was happy to find reasons for putting them off, only to find the food hardened . . .the job harder . . . the chore longer. One day I mentioned it to her and she told me she hated washing dishes so she always did them right away to get it over with.

  • Time unpleasant tasks --- you will be more willing to do them when you see how little time they actually take.  
  • Pretend you just got a phone call and someone you haven't seen in a long time will be arriving in 30 minutes. It is amazing how much you can accomplish!
  • Plan your work and then work your plan (but you rule the plan and don't let the plan rule you!)
  • Look at your accomplishments at the end of the day, not your "un-accomplishments."
  • Make lists: They may clutter the refrigerator but they un-clutter your mind. But don't make them so detailed you don't leave yourself a minute to sneeze, or to take time to smell a rose, or to give your full attention to what your child is saying to you. That kind of list is overwhelming!
  • Set goals.  Then break these goals down into realistic sub-goals and start working towards their accomplishment. No successful business is run haphazardly. Be patient and stick to it.
  • Remember: Life is a journey ---- not a destination. Take it one step at a time and don't overlook the wonder and beauty around you.
I really believe in the following sayings. They help me keep putting one foot in front of the other.



Consistency is important in child-rearing. In homemaking and everyday life, don't be afraid to experiment, incorporate, eliminate and alter, as necessary. Needs and methods change as do the seasons of our lives. Be flexible and open to new ideas. Roll with the punches.

One of the saddest epitaphs on the pages of time is "but I have always done it that way."

An admission: At this time in our life, our favorite clock has all its numbers laying haphazardly at its bottom and across the top it simply states "Who Cares"

I am Simply, Gail

Monday, September 12, 2011

Laundry: the Never Ending Chore

Has anyone ever fully emptied a laundry basket?

Even with all the modern conveniences, laundry time can be a real hate in large families. At least in the old days they didn’t have many clothes and the work was physical. Today the work is mostly mental --- trying to remember what belongs to who, and emotional --- socks that are orphaned in the washing machine.

In the socks department, I have tried everything short of painting colored bands around our boy’s ankles and telling them to pretend they were wearing socks.

For many years I was too insecure as a mother to let them wear mismatched socks. When it became faddish to wear shoes without socks I was too dense to realize the laundry benefits and I foolishly fought it. At the beginning of each school year we would try a new approach to outfitting our five sons in socks -- different colors, styles, or stripes for each boy.

One time we purchased the plastic rings made for keeping socks companionable during their off-duty times. Even when, by some miracle, the kids actually used the rings, it only solved the orphan problem. It still required my remembering who was assigned what sock-ring color.

I thought I'd found the answer
I thought I was finally going to get help many years ago when I attended an Effective Homemaking class, held in the instructor’s home. It was obvious something was amiss when she said it was okay for us to look in any of her drawers and cupboards. She was obviously not a normal homemaker!

What most folks consider drudgery was her life, her fun, her fulfillment. It was not very helpful, but somewhat amusing. Had I been older and more self-assured it would have been downright hysterical. She had ten children and each was assigned their own color. She identified each child’s clothes by carefully placing a few stitches of their color in inconspicuous places.

Even if I were to do that (which I definitely would not) I could never remember who had which color. Besides, we handed too many things down the line. No doubt a family of ten had to pass down clothes also, but . . . I’m also sure that mom received great satisfaction in carefully picking out stitches of one color and redoing with another.

Since I learn much by taking advantage of other’s ideas, the visit was not a waste. When I see possibilities, I determine if I can adapt, modify or simplify in any way.

Long live the Permanent Marking Pen!
I modified and simplified and X’s saved my day. A permanent marking pen works well, and quickly,   in obscure places.One X marked the clothes of the oldest son, XX marked the second’s clothes, etc.     At hand-me-down time an additional X was added to the items.                                                              

If you have several kids, make small x’s . . . It is hard to fit five xxxxx’s on a t-shirt label, although the inside of underwear waistbands could go on forever!

I don’t know where you are in life or organization skills but I want to let you in on a game I created for my desperate times----just in case you ever need it. Young children love to play.

Socks and Marshmallows---the game!
The children sit on the floor in a circle. You dump a large pile of clean, unmatched socks in the middle. At the word GO, walk around the outside of the circle with a bag of marshmallows. (Feel free to substitute a healthy snack or any cheap treat of your choice.) Every time someone matches a pair of socks they receive a marshmallow! The success rate of this game depends somewhat on the ages of the kids but more, how appealing (or rare) the reward is.Works especially well in the afternoon when they are
getting hungry and probably need some kind of snack anyway.

Has ANYONE ever reached the empty bottom of a dirty laundry basket?
I bought an armload of baby clothes at a garage sale and then, in bright light, discovered most of them sported formula stains. Not just stains but set-in stains! I put a stain remover I discovered in an issue of The Tightwad Gazette to the test. They all came out spotless. Use only on colorfast fabrics.

The Wonderful---Honestly Really Works---Stain Remover for (but not limited to) Formula-Barf on Baby Clothes
1 cup powdered Cascade dishwasher detergent
1 cup powdered Clorox II
5 gallons hot water (as hot as it comes from the faucet)

Mix in large plastic bucket. Add stained items and soak overnight. Remove from the solution and launder as usual. Half the recipe if you only have a few items.

Thanks to Desert Saints Magazine for the graphic from my original article.