How to Protect Your Kids from the Sun

Summer is in full swing now and I’ve been relatively good about suncreen. The kids are off to camps with their very own spray bottles tucked in their backpacks. We are spending tons of time outdoors and in the water at the pool and late and my little guy has still turned dramatically browner. I wonder if I’m applying enough or using the right SPF. So I consulted the Expert Mommy!

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How to Choose the Right Sun Screen [Read more…]

How To Choose The Right Sunscreen

Summer is in full force. Are you wondering how you are going to survive? Keep your family safe and healthy by using the right sunscreen. Here are the key ingredients to look for. Happy summer!

by our Style Expert, Catherine Horgan

How to Organize Kids’ School Stuff

Officially, school’s out for us in the BIG BUTTERFLY HOUSE (that’s what my kids call my house). But Expert Mommy, Claire and I have some homework for you! Last Friday, I came home with *gobs* of stuff from school for each of my kids — I’m talking grocery bags-full of stuff. And I remembered this great idea from our organizational expert, Claire Keeling!

[Read more…]

How to Love the Backyard You’ve Got

It’s a thin line between love and hate when it comes to my backyard. I love my square of God’s green acre in the ideal. But it’s hardly ever been ideal. There’s an uneven patio, a cobbled path and a lawn that is green only in splotches. Plus, sometimes, it’s hard just to enjoy sitting in a location that’s primed for weed viewing. Thank goodness God or Teddy Roosevelt invented parks so we could get away from lawn care once in a while.

Public gardens, like Cranbrook in Michigan, help us forget our weeds for a while.

The Grass is Greener

For our lawn, it was once pretty close to the ideal, back when we had TruGreen. Then we had lush grass, solid from corner to corner. My husband was proud of it, despite the fact that he had to mow it every other hour.

When the economy tanked, TruGreen was the first service we cut. [Read more…]

How to Make Spinach Lasagna

Spinach Lasagna

Whether you are making the only spinach version or the spinach with meat version, homeamade lasagna is quite easy. I usually try to make an extra pan as it actully tastes better the second day!

Spinach Filling

2 lbs small curd cottage cheese (may substitute Ricotta cheese if desired)

2 – 10 oz packages frozen chopped spinach – thawed

1 tsp garlic powder

salt to taste

Tomato Sauce

3 jars spaghetti sauce – your choice of spices

**For a meat version – Brown 1 lb ground beef (or more if desired) and add to spaghetti sauce before beginning to assemble.

**may use tomato sauce and add Italian spice (basil, oregano, garlic) to taste

Lasagna Noodles

1 box, I prefer the no-cook variety. Simply assemble dry noodles in the following instructions and bake as directed.


In a 13 x 9 pan prepared with nonstick cooking spray, assemble in layers:

  • lasagna noodles
  • spinach filling – use a spoon to spread a thin layer evenly over noodles
  • mozzarella cheese

End layers with mozzarella cheese.

Bake at 350F for 1 hour. Lasagna should be golden and bubbly.

Serve hot and enjoy!

by Expert Mommy, Dina-Marie Oswald

How To Make A Jet Pack

If your little one is as imaginative as mine is, then you absolutely have to do this project.  Not only will it spark your child’s imagination, but it will get them moving, too.  Perfect for indoors or out, this jet pack will have your kids soaring!

All you will need are 2 empty chip cans, 4 full pieces of construction paper in any color, 1 piece of red or orange paper, glue, tape, decorations (stickers or glitter), and an old back pack.

This can easily be modified by omitting the back pack and using yarn.

First thing you will want to do is have your child decorate 2 sheets of construction paper any way they want.  I let my son have at the glue and glitter.  For a much less messy version, you can use markers and stickers.  🙂

While your child is decorating, you can take the other two sheets of construction paper and trace circles on them.  I used a salad bowl and it worked just fine.  Grab anything about 7-9 inches in diameter.  Trace the circle and cut.  You will then want to cut a slit in the circle that reaches the center.  Now turn the paper onto itself to make a cone.  Use glue or tape to hold the cone shape.

Now cut strips of the red or orange paper.  Cut a piece of tape long enough to fit completely around the circumference of the chip cans (an estimation will be just fine, no need to measure).  Lay the strip of tape down sticky side up and place the strips of paper on them.  Be careful to only put the strips on the lower half of the tape.  You want there to be enough tape to still attach to the can.  Now place the tape inside the open end of the cans just along the edge.  You can affix on the outside or on the inside.

Your child’s artwork is about to become the decoration of the rockets.  Glue or tape their embellished construction paper around the chip can.  Carefully run a bead of glue around the rim of the closed end of the cans.  Now just place your cones onto the glue.  I strongly recommend using glue instead of tape for this part, I know from experience.  If you want this instant, you can always use hot glue and not have the long drying time.  I tend to not use hot glue since I have four little hands “helping” me with projects.  I am worried my two hands aren’t going to cover all four from reaching for a hot glue gun.

Lastly, glue your rockets to the back pack.  We got this back pack at our thrift store.  If you do not have a back pack you can easily use a pencil to poke 4 holes into each can.  Two holes near the top (parallel, but closer to one side so they easily lay against your child’s back) and two holes near the bottom.  String one piece of yarn or twine through the holes at the top and another through the bottom holes.  Now you can tie the rockets to your child’s chest area and waist.

I created the back pack version because I did not want to be asked a hundred times a day to tie the rockets on.  A back pack can easily be put on and taken off by my 3 year old.  Now the only problem is I have to make another one, because my youngest wants one too.

This could be your child running off to explore strange new worlds. 🙂

by Expert MommyKim Young

How to organize “What’s for Dinner?”

Oh no! It’s 5:30 you just arrived home from toddler ballet, the baby is crying and her siblings are getting restless. As you toss them a pretzel rod and rummage through your kitchen cabinets, your thinking I have to be more organized, there has to be a better way. There is a better way to feed your starving children, yourself and significant other without, cutting short on nutrition and making 2 meals (one for you and one for the kids. I used to be so guilty of that) Here are a few things to do, which will get you through those time crunch hours.

1) Always keep ingredients of a few favorite meals in your pantry. I love Annie’s organic Mac and Cheese or a bag of frozen stir-fry veggies mixed with chicken. Anything you can think of that takes about 15 minutes to make.

2) Keep a running list of things you run out of on your fridge or somewhere close by. Soon as you see you are out or low on something, jot it down.

3) Have a meal you and your spouse love, but this kids not so much? Make your meal, but omit the sauce for the kids or don’t combine it all together. Whatever their issue is with it, simplify and enjoy the meal the way you want it too.

4) “Don’t knock till you try it, put a little on your plate! Some kids think it’s great!” This was a little jingle sung by some cartoon on Saturday mornings when I was a kid. It has always stuck with me. Remember your kids watch your reactions to food and should be encouraged to try it before making any “Yucky” comments.

5) Slow cookers can be your best friends. Find a few of your favorite crock pot recipes and take the time to do a least one a week. A great meal that you literally just had to throw together.

6) Resort to take out! I know some days we just don’t have it in us. Find the best 3 take out places around you and ask about their most nutritious dishes. Another option is to stick to a main dish and you add the fruit and veggies at home.

This is a good start! Don’t forget that some stores offer personal shopping and all you have to do is pick it up! Not a bad way to go even if you use it only once in a while. Remember to make you plan, have a few things to fall back on, try new things, Betty Crocker knew what she was talking about with the slow cooker and never be afraid to ask for help. That’s what good friends ( and spouses) are for.

How to Eat

I know, of all the things we need coaching on, eating hardly seems like a worthy topic for an entire article. Well, before you yawn and move on to something else, consider that Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hanh has written not just one measely article but an entire book on the subject. Seriously.

I would have agreed with your estimation prior to my experience at Thich Nhat Hanh’s One Buddha is Not Enough retreat in Colorado last summer. It was then that I discovered that I was quite adept at shoving food into my mouth but that my consciousness of the experience of eating was quite rudimentary. [Read more…]

How to Make Homemade Laundry Detergent

As the mom of 10 children, with 8 still at home, you might imagine, that we do a bunch of laundry! Since we moved to west Texas to start a vineyard and have learned more creative ways to live frugally, I wanted to share my homemade laundry detergent recipe. I thought it might be beneficial for those of you looking for an economical alternative to store bought detergents.

I have found the following recipe to be less expensive to make than the cheapest detergent I can purchase. An added bonus is,  that it cleans better! My husband, being a chemist in his former life, says it is the borax in the recipe which causes it to clean so thouroughly. Borax is a whitening agent which may be used to brighten your laundry.

This recipe may also be made with unscented soap for those who might have sensitive skin.

It is tempting to use more than the 2 Tbs. per load of laundry which is called for in this recipe. In this case though, more is not better, it is just a waste. I was skeptical and started with more but found that decreasing it with each load, 2 Tbs. really does clean our clothes very well.

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Small Batch:

1 c grated bar soap (I have used Safeguard and Dial Soap but any will work)
1/2 c Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (not baking soda)
1/2 c 20 Mule Team Borax
Grate soap in food processor.
Mix all ingredients and store in airtight container.
Use 2 Tbs. per load.

Large Batch:

12 bars soap- grated
1 box borax
2 boxes Arm & Hammer washing soda (not baking soda)
Mix all ingredients and store in airtight container.
Use 2 Tbs. per load

I use an old plastic scoop in the airtight container on which I have marked a fill line for the children. Like me, they think more is better!

by Expert MommyDina-Marie Oswald

How to Make a 2-Step Pound Cake

There is not better cake in the universe to me than pound cake.  It has always been my favorite cake and I love it so much that our wedding cake was pound cake. Pound cake is an annual family tradition as a dessert in our family. We serve it with Peppermint Stick Ice cream and I have to say it is the highlight of the holiday season! If you have never tried the combination you MUST. It can also be served with fresh fruit and whipped cream. I prefer homemade whipped cream.  Of course I don’t advise you to eat too much of this rich dessert.  I have always been told that pound cake got the name from the list of original ingredients…a pound of butter is used in this recipe so it should be eaten in moderation.

I want to share with you this easy two-step pound cake recipe.

Two Step Pound Cake

4 cups all purpose flour
3 cups sugar
1 pound butter (real butter)
6 eggs
3/4 cups milk
2 tsp. vanilla

Add into a bowl in this order.  A helpful tip: Place a kitchen towel around your mixer to prevent any spattering for the first few seconds, start on low until mixed.  Beat with electric mixer for 5 minutes. Pour into a greased and floured bundt pan. Bake at 325 for 1 hour 30 minutes. Cool 15 minutes. Invert on cake plate and cool.

by Expert Mommy, Melissa Jennings