Tuesday, April 1, 2014

MOPSwap--Important Info!

Swimming in toys your kiddos no longer play with?  Having trouble keeping clothes on those ever-growing kids?  Living on a budget? Looking to try something new and fun?  If you said yes to any of those things then MOPSwap is for you!
I'm sure you have heard that old saying, "One man's trash is another man's treasure."  We are going to put this idea to the test with our first ever MOPSwap on Tuesday, April 15th, during our regular scheduled MOPS meeting.  It will be an opportunity for you to clean out your closets, toy rooms and garages of items that are in clean and gently used condition that you no longer have use for.  Items we are including in this swap are baby, children's and women's clothing and kids toys, games and books. 

If you want to participate, you will need to drop off your items to swap on Monday, April 14th between 6-8pm to room 120 (next door to our regular MOPS room) at Westgate Chapel.  You will receive a ticket for donating items to the swap.  This same number will be used to draw for admittance to the swap the next morning to start "shopping."  After everyone has had the opportunity to shop the swap, anyone who did not bring items to swap but would like to shop can. We will sell the items at garage sale prices.  All the money earned will be used to help pay for our fabulous MOPPETS workers.  At the end of the meeting the remaining items will either be donated to Teen MOPS or sold at the upcoming flea market we are participating in also to cover the cost of MOPPETS workers.  There will also be a bulletin board to pin pictures of large items that can't be brought in for the swap but you think another mom might want. 

I hope you are looking forward to this event as much as I am.  Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the swap at krustypup@msn.com.
--Kristine Manz

Homemade Cleaners that Work!

I have been cleaning my house with homemade cleaners for five years. The thought of my baby getting into or breathing in any of the yucky chemical cleaners under my sink was a huge motivator. I’ve stuck with it because they work just as well as store-bought cleaners, and it’s cheaper and safer. Once you stock up on basic supplies to get started, you’ll find it’s very easy to stick with.
My main source of recipes and research was the book Clean House, Clean Planet, by Karen Logan. You can find the book on Amazon, and sometimes at Half Price Books. I still reference this book on a regular basis – there are definitely recipes in there that I only need once in a while and don’t keep stocked in my cleaning stash.
To make things easy, I printed up labels of all of my recipes and taped them directly onto my bottles. That way, when I run out I can easily refill them. You may want to laminate your labels or tape them really well with box tape, because they’ll obviously get wet at some point.
Basic Supplies:
Large and medium-sized spray bottles (Target, Storables)
Squirt bottles with closeable tops (Storables)
Scrubbing sponges
Micro-fiber cleaning cloths (Target)
Baking Soda
Plain White Vinegar (Heinz is slightly less-smelly)
Castile Soap, like Dr. Bronner’s (Fred Meyer)
Club Soda
Olive oil
Essential oils - tea tree oil, peppermint, lemon (Fred Meyer)
A few of my favorite recipes:
All-Purpose Cleaner
Add 2 tablespoons vinegar with 1 teaspoon borax to a large spray bottle. Fill bottle ¾ full with very hot water. Shake until borax is dissolved. Add ¼ cup liquid castile soap. Add 10-15 drops lemon essential oil. Shake to mix.
Use to clean walls, counters, doors, tile, showers, toilets, etc. After cleaning, rinse with a vinegar rinse spray.
Vinegar Rinse
Fill a spray bottle with equal parts vinegar and water. Add 10-15 drops essential oil of choice (I like peppermint). Spray on counters, floors, carpets, furniture or anywhere in need of deodorizing and to get rid of soap film.
Floor Cleaner
Fill a squirt bottle with equal amounts vinegar and water. Add 15-20 drops peppermint oil. Shake to mix.
To use, squirt directly on floor and wipe clean with a rag or mop.
Glass Cleaner
Add plain club soda to a spray bottle. Spray and wipe. That was easy!
Toilet Bowl Cleaner
In a large liquid measuring cup, mix ½ cup liquid soap with 2 cups baking soda. Work out lumps with a fork. Dilute with ¼ cup water and add 2 tablespoons vinegar. Add 50 drops tea tree oil. Mix and pour into a large squirt bottle.
To use, shake well and squirt inside toilet and scrub with a toilet brush. This one works great on tubs and tile, too!
Furniture Duster

Put 2 teaspoons olive oil in a medium-sized spray bottle. Add 20 drops of lemon essential oil. Add ¼ cup vinegar and fill the rest with water. Shake well.
To use, shake well and spray on rag or directly on furniture. Wipe dry immediately.
--Tifani Hoornstra

Sheralee's Meal Bringing Tips and Ideas!

Meals, shmeals.
When we survey our MOPS group moms at the end of the year, we get lots of great feedback and suggestions. One thing is always clear: moms are looking for community, support and friendship. We work towards the goal of providing a safe place where moms can come together and be encouraged, while finding this community and support…and hopefully friendship.
While lots of this can happen on a MOPS morning, some of this happens BEST outside of a MOPS morning. Table group gatherings, Moms and Tots Gym time, and connecting on Facebook are some of the ways this happens. Another way this can happen is by supporting each other in our times of need. Sometimes our time of need is a crisis and sometimes it is just a life-change like a baby being added to the family. The benefit to this time of need is that it allows fellow moms to come around each other and show love and support. The easiest way to do this is to provide a meal.
We have had a number of babies born recently, with more to come in the near future. I love having lots of newborns at MOPS! Having been in MOPS for the last 9 years (yikes, that makes me feel old!), I have learned some tricks of the trade, so to speak. I thought I’d share some of them with you to encourage you. It is so worth the effort. A few meals can make a huge difference to the mom and family in need.
Sheralee’s Meal Bringing Tips and Ideas:
1) Have a go-to recipe
It is okay to bring the same meal every time. If you have a recipe that is fail-proof and easy, go with it. My go-to meal right now is usually pulled pork with buns, coleslaw or cucumber salad, lemonade/iced tea and maybe a watermelon for dessert. It is an easy meal to put in the crock pot and the same amount of effort can feed two families. Win, win!
2) Deliver the meal earlier in the day
I don’t know about you, but dinner time can be a little hectic at our house. I like to deliver a meal in the afternoon before the dinner craziness begins. This might mean I cook the pork in the crock pot all night long and get the meal ready to go in the morning and put it in the fridge. Then it is ready whenever it works out to drop it off. Just remember to provide reheating directions.
3) Freezer Meals
You have a pregnant mom friend who is due at a busy time (say it’s Christmas). Maybe you know you won’t have time to make a meal during Christmas breakso plan ahead! On a good day (mine would be when my kitchen is clean and I actually know what I’m making for dinner before 4 o’clock) make a double recipe of something freezable. Serve half to your family for dinner and the other half freeze for your friend (I’ve done this with White Chicken Chili and it is fabulous!).
4) Have one delivery person
Do you have a mom in your group who lives farther away? Have your table or a group of friends bring a freezer meal to MOPS, or have everyone deliver to one person who can be the delivery girl.
5) Team up!
Nervous about what to make or don’t have the time for the whole meal? Or maybe you have a new little one yourself and aren’t ready for the big commitment. Team up with a friend or two. One can make the main dish and the other(s) can provide sides and dessert.
6) Meal ready to go
Have the ingredients on hand for an easy to cook meal that you can have ready at the drop of a hat. Maybe pasta, spaghetti sauce, and sparking apple cider in a basket? Drop by the store on the way for some fresh bread and a bagged salad.
7) Breakfast for dinner (or for breakfast!)
Dinner too intimidating? Make a breakfast casserole or quiche and a fruit saladWho doesn’t love breakfast for dinner? Or you can even bring a meal in the evening that they can cook the next morning for breakfast. Yum!
8) Teamwork
If you are really on top of it as a table, you could get together once a semester to make a number of freezer meals. There are lots of ideas for this online.
9) Pizza!
If someone showed up on your doorstep with pizza and a smile, you’d be so happy you didn’t have to make dinner, right? If dinner and the preparations are “not on the priority list” right now, pick up a Papa Murphy’s or Pizza Hut. One of my good friends lives in Renton. I called to wish her a happy birthday a couple of birthdays ago to find out she was having the worst birthday ever. She’d discovered her husband had brought home bed bugs from Las Vegas. On top of her already hectic life of three small children and a husband who travels for work, it was just too much. I wanted to be able to jump in the car and go help, but with my own little ones and rush hour traffic it was just not possible. Instead I went onto Pizza Hut’s website and bought her a gift card that was immediately emailed to her. It was just a small thing to do, but I was so glad that I could do something for her to brighten up a rotten birthday.
--Sheralee Cochran

Restaurant Pick--The Ram!

Family Restaurant Pick!

RAM Restaurant & Brewery
I'm assuming that some of you are already in the habit of going out to eat with your families so you already know about the quintessential family spot - Red Robin! But maybe you're a little tired of the same old, same old. You just need to see a menu that doesn't have a bird on it. I understand. Enter...the RAM!

The closest locations to Edmonds are Northgate, U Village and Tulalip. Slightly inconvenient, I understand, but can you say shopping?? Their menu has a little bit of everything on it so anyone can be satisfied with their options. They even call out which items are gluten-free - bonus point for them!

Another little perk for family dining is that on Monday nights kids can order from their special menu and it only costs $1/child (for each adult entrée ordered). Great if you have a picky eater and feel like you're always wasting money when you go out. And, as a side note, the kids' side of a "fruit cup" I thought was going to literally be one of those pre-packaged numbers. Nope. At least a cup of red grapes and freshly sliced strawberries. Color me impressed. Next time I just have to make sure my daughter doesn't start with that! The RAM has some of the largest TV screens I've ever encountered in a restaurant before and a pretty substantial noise level so you won't have to worry about loud children and a little bit of craziness.

--Emily Hoornstra

India Village Update!

Back in May 2013, my family visited a little village in India called Bendigeri, it was actually the place my dad grew up as child. The children there stole my heart and changed it. They helped me see how truly beautiful this world is because of the people who fill it. I left wanting to make a difference in their lives since they had made such a drastic difference in mine.

November and December of 2013 I reached out to friends, family, my MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group, church, and co workers sharing my experience and hoping we could rally together to send over $1,500 to this little village filled with children who had nothing and whose only building used for school and church had just recently been destroyed by a flood. Because of the wonderful people in my life, we raised $4,151.95. This wasn't through any organization, these children aren't accustomed to receiving so much, this was purely out of the generous hearts and donations of the people in my life.

With this money, 39 children were blessed with an array of new items including: Clothes, backpacks, watches, books, pens/pencils, geometric school supplies, lunchboxes, water bottles, toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, and sweets. On behalf of the village, sports equipment for the kids were purchased including bats and balls to play cricket. They had previously only used sticks as their bats. For the school/church, a keyboard was purchased so they could continue to learn to play music and have something to sing along to. Additionally, there was some money left over to help with the rebuild of the school/church as well.

The children were overwhelmed by your generosity. Some cried, others were speechless, all were filled with gratitude. For some, it was the first time they felt special and loved. We received letters from the children who could write. Here are a few things they had to say:

I am Anil Gaikwad, age 9, 4th grade. I am from a very poor family. God is so good to provide these things through you all--He is love. I am grateful to you for loving us when we feel unlovable.

My name is Akash, 14 years old, 7th grade. My parents are laborers. If they work for that day we have food on the table, if not we wait for the next day for my parents to get hired and bring home money so we can get food. We survive day by day not knowing what the future holds. Thank you for the school supplies, new clothes, backpack, etc. I know these things were all packaged with love and generosity. My heartfelt love to the USA.

I am Jayashree Hulikari, age 9, 3rd grade. I am a daughter of labor workers. Thank you to each and everyone of you for providing my school supplies, backpack, geometric gadgets, and new clothes. You are making a huge difference in my life with your love, kindness, and generosity. Thank you to everyone in MOPS and the USA who contributed. I love you all.

My heart is swelling with gratitude for everyone who supported this dream, whether through money, prayers, or words of encouragement and affirmation. When I first blogged about this, sharing my heart and my hopes for raising $1,500, I felt vulnerable, scared, and like I had just set myself and these children up for failure. But, I learned through this process that if the Lord wants to accomplish something, He will. We can allow our insecurities to keep us in the shadows as silent observers, or we can trust that still small voice that allows us the privilege to be a part of the beautiful, sacred work He is already doing.

Those of you who were a part of this were a part of His plans. I am so very grateful for you and I know 39 children in a tiny village on the other side of the world who are grateful for you, too. 

You have left your mark on them--

a gesture they'll remember for the rest of their lives.

Children holding the bricks that will be used for the rebuild of the school/church

Some of the children in their brand new, clean clothes!

Some of the items the children were given

Another picture of them getting ready for the rebuild


These are just a few of the kids in their new clothes with their new backpacks

"Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ " (Matthew 25:37, 38, 40 ESV)

--Lisa Barton

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

FREE Valentine's Printables

Love is in the air! With Valentine's quickly approaching here are a few fun designs you can use as easy gifts for your loved ones!

"Mint" to be cards are a fun way to tell the people around you that you're thinking about them :) They are quick, easy, inexpensive and not to mention super cute!

Click Here for instructions and supplies you will need to make the "Mint to Be" Valentines!

Here for your free "Mint to be" Template!

Or for any other time of the year, a "Love" notecard is perfect for sending to friends, family or whomever!

Click Here for your free "Love" Notecard!

And for your young ones, a handprint note is a great craft project and a perfect gift for any family member!

Click Here for your "Handprint Note"!

Enjoy! Brit


Chocolate Pretzel Hearts

Heidi also found these fun pretzel hearts you can make for or with your kiddos! A special treat for everyone to enjoy:)

  • Pretzels – the regular minis look like a heart shape already!
  • Bag of Hershey’s Kisses OR Almond Bark Chocolate Melts
  • Valentine M & M’s (I just saved the red from our Christmas M&M’s)
  1. Spread out pretzels in a single layer on a cookie sheet covered in tin foil.  Place one chocolate  on top of each pretzel.
  2. Place in a 275 degree preheated oven for 3 minutes to soften the chocolate.
  3. Remove from oven, SLOWLY push down Hershey’s Kiss with an M&M.
After they’re cooled you can start snacking – these are so yummy but highly addictive!  Also – you may want to seal them up in a big ziploc bag quickly, so they don’t get stale.

(Recipe can be found here!)