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The Vacation Mindset


I have to admit, it’s pretty hard to concentrate on writing at the moment.  Why?  Because I’m on vacation… in Hawaii!  It is amazing and beautiful; and organizing is probably the last thing on my mind right now.  ;-)  However, sitting here on the lanai gazing out at the ocean made me think “I wish I felt like this more often”!  Take a minute to think back to the last time you were on vacation.  Oh I bet it felt nice (and relaxing).  Life is just easier then isn’t it?

So why do we make our day to day life so hard?  Surely we don’t do it on purpose, or do we?  I’m not saying we start each day with the intentional mindset of making life difficult and stressful.  But it sure seems like that’s how the typical day goes for most people, doesn’t it?  I was going to lay out an example here of how crazy/busy your schedule can be, but I have a feeling you know exactly what I’m talking about!

It made me examine just what makes everyday life very different from vacation.  Here are my top 3 ways you can feel more of that vacation mindset while you’re at home:

Loosen Up & Let Go of Worries – naturally we have more responsibilities while we’re at home, but if we change the way we think about them, we change the way we feel about them too.  Perhaps your standards are unrealistic, loosen up and ask yourself “what’s the worst that will happen if (what’s bothering you most isn’t accomplished)…”.  Don’t dwell on what still needs to be done or what you have no control over.  Do what you can, give yourself credit for what’s done, and let the rest go!

Adjust Your Environment - a new environment can automatically change your mindset.  When your atmosphere is clean and fresh you feel better.  Think about a hotel when you’re on vacation, there’s not much there to get in the way, become visual clutter, or to clean around.  Pair down possessions in your own home to become more like that.  You may be surprised how lightening the physical load will lighten your mental load as well.

Less Stuff / Less Stress – Not only do you feel more relaxed when you have less “stuff” to maintain, but you’ll feel an incredible difference when you have less on your schedule too!  It’s time to review your priorities and remove some items that are creating an unnecessary burden without any reward.  What was once important may not be anymore (and that’s ok).  As life changes you should periodically reevaluate your goals and priorities and make sure they’re in alignment with your schedule and actions.  Just like vacation – only make time for the things that NEED to be done or are REWARDING and FUN!  You get one life, you’d better make the most of it.

I’m off to the beach now to continue my relaxation… I encourage you to create your own vacation mindset now and live with that intention each and every day.  Life is simply too short to not do what you love and love what you do.


About the author ~ Bobbie Spera is a Professional Organizer, Home Management Consultant, and the owner of Simplified by Bobbie located in Pennsylvania. Visit to learn more, view before & after photos, and read helpful organizing tips. Contact Bobbie for your FREE phone consultation, and make your space & time work for you.

Back to School Crafts from the Hardware Store

Ease your way back into “school mode” with these hardware store-inspired projects.

Sisal Rope Pencil Holder


Recycled Coffee Can or Jar

Sisal Rope (1/2” – 3/4” thick)

Strong Adhesive (such as Gorilla Glue)



Use a paintbrush to cover can with a thin layer of adhesive.

Starting at the bottom, carefully wrap the can with rope. Be sure to pull the rope tightly so as to avoid any gaps.

Wait several hours to dry before using.

Personalized Light Switch Plate

How’s this for a bright idea…

You can swap the light switch plates in your kids’ rooms with ones they create themselves. It’s the perfect project for tweens, teens and even college aged students.

You Need:

Wooden Switch Plate (available at most hardware stores)

Non-Toxic Acrylic Paint


Mod Podge

Magazines, Comic Books, Assorted Pictures, etc.


Paint and decorate light switch plate as desired.

Seal design with 1-2 coats of Mod Podge.

Wait several hours until dry.

Mount to wall.

Sandpaper Letters

These letters are perfect for helping your emerging readers learn sound / symbol correspondence through multi-sensory learning.

You Need:

Alphabet Stencils (or print out letters A through Z on your printer at a 175-200 point font)



Dark Cardstock or Cardboard


Trace the letters on the back on the sandpaper, making sure the letters appear right-side up on the sandpaper side.

Glue letters to cardstock or cardboard.

To Use:

Have child trace letter with finger while saying the letter sound aloud. For example trace the letter-b while saying the “b” sound.


Free Hands-on Projects for Kids with Lowe’s and Home Depot

Did you know that Home Depot and Lowe’s offer free project making clinics for kids? Each store offers workshops where attendees make toys, games and more using real tools and materials. For more information including September’s upcoming schedule visit Lowe’s Build and Grow Clinics and Home Depot’s Kids Workshops.

Jenna Riggs and Beth Engelman are the creative talents and owners of Mommy on a Shoestring, a website and weekly radio show chock full of ideas on how families can live creatively and large on a small budget.

Garden Crafts with Kids

garden crafts for kids

Get crafty in your garden this summer with these fun activities the whole family can enjoy.  You can watch the video on how to do these crafts at Mommy on a Shoestring.

Rock Plant Markers

You Need:

  • Rocks
  • Non-Toxic Acrylic Paint
  • Fruit and Veggie Clip Art (or kids’ drawings)
  • Mod Podge


  1. Paint Rocks and allow time to dry.
  2. Use Mod Podge to glue clip art to rocks.
  3. Place in garden.

Decorative Garden Posts

You Need: 

  • Wooden posts (3-4’)
  • Wood plants (varying sizes)
  • Non-Toxic Acrylic Paint or Wood Stain
  • Weatherproof Wood Sealer
  • Hammer and Nails or Wood Glue


  1. Paint wooden planks and allow time to dry.
  2. Use a pencil to write your “words” such as “peas, love and happiness.”
  3. Use a hammer and nails or wood glue to attach planks to post.
  4. If desired, seal with a weatherproof sealer.

Funky Container Gardening

You Need: 

  • Plants
  • Extra Soil and Filler (such as newspaper)
  • Funky Containers such as a T-Ball Helmet or Work Boots


  1. Before you begin, make sure your container is waterproof!
  2. Use scissors or an electric screwdriver to place 1-2 drainage holes at the bottom of your container.
  3. Add soil, filler and plants.
  4. Care for plants as directed.

*AGLET ~ reuse old ballet tights or orphan socks in the garden

Did you know you can reuse old tights (or socks) in the garden?  Simply cut them into long strips to be used as ties for errant plants!

*Aglet = Tip of a Shoestring!

Jenna Riggs and Beth Engelman are the creative talents and owners of Mommy on a Shoestring, a website and weekly radio show chock full of ideas on how families can live creatively and large on a small budget.

Ready, Set – Celebrate!

Celebrating the Last Day of School and the Start of Summer

Some of you may already be out of school but for those who are still counting the days here are a few ways to celebrate the end of the school year.  Why not kick off the summer with FUN?  Help transition into the summer season with these fun ideas:

Bus Stop Celebration

Arrive at the bus stop with a special treat!  Greet your kids and perhaps other kids at the bus stop with popsicles, water balloons or even a big banner congratulating everyone on a great year.

Fun Activity

Plan a fun after school activity – make it a family event, where everyone is involved in deciding the activity or make it a surprise.  Go out for ice cream right after school, a movie or putt putt golf.  You can even have fun by putting ideas in a hat and letting someone draw before school to let the anticipation grow!  Each year it can be someone else’s turn to draw.

Kick-off Party

We did this one year with my younger son and it was a hit.  He invited a few friends over right after school and they spent the afternoon in our backyard eating hot dogs, making ice cream in a bag and having water fights.  You can easily throw together a party for invited friends or allow each child to invite a few friends from the neighborhood.  Maybe team up with another mom and it will make the work easier on everyone.


Grab the kids and head out to the beach or park for the afternoon – or perhaps even picnic on the school play ground!  Make it simple with finger food, cut up veggies, fruit, meat and cheese will make it easy to pack, eat and enjoy.  Bring along a few fun games like Frisbee, chalk, bubbles and badminton.

Special breakfast

Have fun with a breakfast you would never otherwise serve!  Obviously the last day of school rarely means kids have to be at their best for learning, so have donuts and hot chocolate or smoothies.  Maybe even ice cream sundaes for breakfast.  What fun out of the ordinary breakfast can your family come up with?

The Morning After

Make it tradition that the first day after school is out is a pajama day.  Our family has loved taking it easy and enjoying some family time at home.  Have some games available, snack food, movies and books available.  One of our favorite things to start on the day after school is a jigsaw puzzle.  It is fun to see how it creates conversation that otherwise would not happen with everyone sitting around the table finding spots for those pieces!

What are you doing to celebrate the end of the school year with your children? 

Susan Heid loves inspiring Christian moms to make small changes managing their home and family life giving them more time, order and less stress! As a Certified Parent Coach and Family Manager Coach she enjoys sharing her expertise with moms through workshops, teleseminars, public speaking, and individual and group coaching.  She is a proud mom, step-mom and foster mom to 3, married to her very own prince charming, loves coffee, cloudy days, and does think the “bluest skies you’ve ever seen are in Seattle.”  Her FREE 5 part mini series: “The Opening Act” is helping moms worldwide become the calm mom they want to be!

Backyard Movie Night

Backyard Movie Night

Last summer inspired by our friends and something I read in FamilyFun magazine, I convinced my husband to host a backyard movie night for ourselves and friends.  We hosted two movie nights last summer and one this past Memorial Day weekend.  We invite a large group of friends and spend the evening talking, watching a movie, making S’mores, and playing outdoor games.  They are a lot of fun and I hope they are providing the kids with a lot of fond childhood memories.  Here is how we do our backyard movie nights and some things we have learned along the way.

I keep them as simple as possible

Sometimes when I host parties they turn into a lot of work and stress for me (and subsequently my family), so when we decided to host a backyard party I was determined to keep it simple and as easy for us as possible.  Also, setting up the video and audio system can be a big job, so it helps to keep everything else simple.  Invitations are sent via plain email and for the one we just did this past weekend, I didn’t even send them until two days prior to the party.  I don’t use Evite or fancy fonts, just a simple email with the details.  My friend Kim at Plumberry Pie would be mortified at how much little work and planning I put into the parties….

I also ask everyone to bring their own popcorn/snacks, beverages, chairs/blankets, and bug spray.  We provide the movie,

backyard movie screen


backyard movie night sparklers

backyard fire,

Backyard Fire Pit

and S’mores.


We keep the movies to either a PG or G-rating and I try and tell them in the email what movie or possible movie we will be showing; that way our guests can decide if the movie is appropriate for their children or if they have an interest in seeing the movie at all.

If you enjoy party planning and want to spend more time creating invitations and food, you can see some great ideas on my Pinterest Backyard Movie Night board.

Setting up the audio and video can be tricky (and expensive)

Setting Up the Backyard Movie System

The biggest hurdle we had to overcome last year when we decided to host a backyard party was figuring out how to get the video and audio set up, working, and not spend a lot of money.  We were fortunate to have all of the equipment on hand, so we didn’t have to buy anything.  It just took my husband sometime figuring out how to put it all together.  Here are the basics of what you need:

  • Screen or white sheet. It has to be big enough for all your guests to see.  So the more guests, the bigger the screen should be to accommodate them.
  • DVD Player or Computer to play the movie.
  • Projector – these can be expensive, but you may want to try finding a used one on eBay, Craigslist, or at your local Goodwill or Salvation Army.  Also, the replacement bulbs for these can be VERY expensive so be sure to get one with a working bulb or understand before purchasing it how much the bulb will cost.
  • Speakers strong enough to provide good sound.

Here is a picture of our system once it was set up.

Backyard movie system

It probably took Joe with the help of the girls about an hour to set it all up.

Setting up the backyard movie

After the move night is done, we leave the pieces of the system that we don’t use in our regular TV system set up in the garage, so that all we have to do is carry it outside if we want to host another movie.

As a side note, I have been pestering Joe with a lot of technical questions on how to set up the movie system and hope to write another blog with more details.  He finds it very frustrating to have to explain to a non-technical person technical details, so it may be a little while…..

Keep in mind the lighting, the neighbors, mosquitoes, and length of the movie

Lighting & Length – To see the movie while it is playing you need to wait until it is dark or almost dark outside, so this means that the movie probably can’t start before 8:00PM.  Which means it can be a late night for little ones, so plan for late naps or an easy day the day after.  Also, be sure you take into consideration the length of the movie and how late that will keep everyone up and at your house.

Neighbors – As a courtesy to your neighbors, you may want to let them know in advance about the movie and invite them over to join you.  Try and keep the sound low enough so that it won’t bother them, but loud enough so that everyone can hear.

Mosquitoes – These little bugs can be a real burden, so have plenty of bug spray on hand, use citronella candles, and encourage everyone to wear long light weight clothing to cover their arms and legs.

So what do you think?  Sound like fun?  Please share your experiences, ideas, and suggestions in the comments below.


Get Garden Ready on a Shoestring

Cupcake Planter

Photo and craft idea compliments of Whimsy Love

Spring has sprung and it’s time to get your garden ready with these budget friendly crafts.

Cupcake Planter

This idea comes from bloggy mom, Nikki, whose blog, is chock full of fantastic ideas.

You will need:

Terra cotta pots (Nikki recommends using short, stubby pots for a more authentic “cupcake” look.)

Indoor /outdoor spray-paint or acrylic paint.

Wooden dowel and ball

Clear spray paint sealant


  • Paint flowerpot with spray paint or acrylic paint.
  • Drill a hole at the bottom of your wooden ball with a drill or electric screwdriver.
  • Paint the wooden ball red and the dowel brown.
  • Paint vertical brown stripes on your planter to resemble a cupcake holder.
  • Weatherproof the planter, dowel and ball with clear paint sealant.
  • When dry, insert dowel into ball.
  • Plant your flowers in the pot and add the cherry in the center to top your sweet craft!

Mosaic Stepping Stone

You will need:

Concrete mix


Plastic mold

Disposable knife or wood paint mixer


Colorful pebbles or stones


  • Mix concrete according to directions in an old bucket.
  • Carefully pour concrete into mold and use a plastic knife (or paint mixer) to even the surface. Add colorful stones in any pattern you desire.
  • Allow 48 hours to dry before removing from mold.
  • Use a toothbrush and water to clean concrete residue off stepping-stone before placing in garden.

NOTE: Be sure to clean your bucket outside with a garden hose!  NEVER pour concrete down the drain as it will likely cause damage to you pipes!

Fairy Doors and Message Boxes

Turn your garden into a fairy paradise with fairy doors and message boxes.  According to folklore, garden fairies are known to hide behind miniature doors housed in colorful parks and backyard gardens.   When night falls, the fairies emerge from their hiding spots so they can bask in the beauty of their favorite gardens.  These fairies also look for hidden boxes where they often find treasures such as shells, rocks or flowers.  Sounds intriguing? Work with your children to create their very own fairy doors and message boxes.  Your kids can fill the boxes with items they’ve collected or handwritten notes.  Who knows, maybe the fairies will return the favor with a note or trinket of their own.

You Need:

  • Small Wooden Boxes and Plaques (available at craft stores)
  • Non-toxic Acrylic Paint
  • Sticks, Rocks, Shells and other “Natural Treasures”
  • Strong Adhesive
  • Beads, Sequins and other Decorative Items
  • Indoor / Outdoor Varnish


  1. Paint boxes and plaques as desired.
  2. Once the paint is dry, glue on leaves, sticks, beads and other decorative items.
  3. Top with a layer or two of indoor/outdoor varnish and allow to dry.

Strategically place doors against tree trunks, posts or along a wooden fence. Message boxes can be hidden anywhere in the garden.

Jenna Riggs and Beth Engelman are the creative talents and owners of Mommy on a Shoestring, a website and weekly radio show chock full of ideas on how families can live creatively and large on a small budget.

Inspiring Ideas on Pinterest

Since I was spending time on Pinterest tonight, I decided to share some of my favorite ideas here.  You can find them all on my Pinterest Boards, or just follow the links below.

Photo Gallery Wall

Photo Gallery Walls

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cake

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Butterfly Garden Design

Butterfly Garden Design

Cold Weather, Warm Crafts

By Beth Engelman and Jenna Riggs of Mommy on a Shoestring

Weather too cold to play outside? Keep your kidswarm and cosy with these memeory making activities and crafts.

Family Scrapbook

You will need: Photos, paper, felt, stickers, magazines markers and anything “crafty” you have lying around the house.


Have your kids design their own scrapbook pages, which you can then assemble into a book. It is a perfect multi-age activity because the younger kids can color and glue while the older kids can do the “collage” thing by looking through magazines for cool letters and words. At the end of the day you can bind the pages with a hole punch stick in a binder for more scrap booking fun in the future.

DIY Snow Globes

You will need: Clear plastic bottle, 2 photos , Light corn syrup, Clear packing tape, and glitter


  1. Make sure all labels are removed from bottle. Use warm soapy water or Goo Gone if necessary.
  2. Crop your pictures, so they are about ½ inch shorter than your bottle.
  3. Place your pictures back to back, making sure they are exactly the same size.
  4. Waterproof your photos by completely covering both pictures (which are still back to back) with clear packing tape.
  5. Roll your waterproof photos into a tube and plop them into the bottle.
  6. Fill the bottle with a mixture of ½ water and ½ corn syrup.
  7. Add glitter and sequins.
  8. Close the lid and shake.

Block Photo Puzzle

Not only does this 6-sided photo puzzle provide hours of family fun, but it’s also a great way to reuse favorite family photos.

You will need:

9 – Wooden Blocks (I recommend using either old alphabet blocks or a wooden block puzzle)

6 – 8 x 10 Photograph Prints (colored copies work equally as well)


Scissors or X-Acto knife

Mod Podge and Paintbrush


  1. Arrange blocks in a square and measure the length and width of the square.
  2. Measure and cut print to the exact same size as the 9-block square.
  3. Arrange blocks in a square on top of the print. Position blocks so they’re lined up neatly and as close together as possible.
  4. Trace the outline of each block onto the print and carefully cut out using scissors or an X-acto knife.
  5. Use a small paintbrush and Mod Podge to adhere the print pieces to the blocks.
  6. Wait several hours until the glue is completely dry and then seal with a final layer of Mod Podge.
  7. Repeat this process until your have covered all 6 sides of the blocks with different photographs.

Thank you to the creative folks at for sharing the snowglobe and photo block ideas!   Be sure to check out their website for more fun photo ideas.

Jenna Riggs and Beth Engelman are the creative talents and owners of Mommy on a Shoestring, a website and weekly radio show chock full of ideas on how families can live creatively and large on a small budget.


Thanksgiving Treats on a Shoestring

By Beth Engelman and Jenna Riggs of Mommy on a Shoestring

Give thanks this year by mixing up a batch of these goodies to serve with your holiday meal!

Candy Turkeys

You Need:

Double Stuff Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

Candy Corn


Peanut butter Cups

Chocolate or Vanilla Frosting

Yellow Frosting

Optional: Red frosting

Optional: black sprinkles for eyes


  • Give your turkey some feathers by adding candy corn to the top of one cookie.   Use frosting as glue if desired.
  • Put a dab of frosting on the opposite end of the cookie and secure it to the “base” cookie.  You may want to prop it up next to a wall until the frosting dries.
  • Turn the peanut better cup into a “turkey body” by cutting a tiny sliver off the end and attaching it with frosting to the cookie with  “feathers.”
  • Add a head by gluing a whopper on top of the pb cup.  TIP: Put frosting on the side of the whopper that hits both the cookie and the pb cup.
  • To make the beak, cut off the white tip of the candy corn and “glue” with frosting.  Add yellow dots and sprinkles for eyes and red frosting for the little “gobble gobble” below the beak.
  • Once everything is dry and secure, flip the turkey over and draw little yellow feet.

Pilgrim Hats

You Need:

1 Bag Chocolate Chips

1Tablespoon Vegetable Oil


Yellow Frosting

Fudge-Striped Cookies


  • Place cookies (striped side-down) on a piece of waxed paper.
  • Melt chocolate and oil in microwave.
  • Dip marshmallows in chocolate and place in the middle of each cookie.
  • Wait an hour or two until dry.
  • Add a buckle with yellow frosting.

Friendship Mix Rolls


Mini pretzels


Pretzel m & m’s


Banana chips

Dried apple pieces


Small clear plastic bags and ribbon


  • Mix all ingredients in a bowl and add to a jar or container of your choice.
  • Be sure to include a “key” with what each ingredient means.
  • Pour mix into small bags and tie with a bow and a “key” telling what each ingredient means.
  • Mini pretzels = hugs
  • Raisins = old friends
  • Pretzel m & m’s = new friends
  • Nuts = self explanatory
  • Banana chips = love to monkey around and have fun
  • Dried apple pieces = health
  • Cranberries = love

These mini bags of love are perfect accompaniments for place cards or a special  “treat” to send home with guests after home after a Thanksgiving meal!  Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Jenna Riggs and Beth Engelman are the creative talents and owners of Mommy on a Shoestring, a website and weekly radio show chock full of ideas on how families can live creatively and large on a small budget.

Eeek-O Friendly Halloween

By Beth Engelman and Jenna Riggs of Mommy on a Shoestring

Get into the Halloween spirit with these “eeek-o” friendly crafts and recipes.

Edible Eyeball Centerpiece

Forget buying flowers!  Arrange these eyeballs in a bowl or place them on a platter for an eye-opening presentation.

You will need:

Small, White Powdered Sugar Doughnuts (with holes)

Red Icing

Life Saver Gummies

Chocolate Chips


  • Place doughnuts on a plate and cover the center holes with a thin layer of red icing. The diameter should be slightly larger than the Life Saver candy.
  • Place the candy on top of the red icing and push gently to secure in place.
  • Place a chocolate chip in the middle of the candy.
  • Make the eyeballs scary (and bloodshot) by drawing lines from the center of the doughnut to the outer edge with red icing.
  • Arrange the treats in a large glass bowl or poke each one with a fork and place it on a platter.

Thank you to candy expert Beth Kimmerle for this idea.  For more information visit

Pumpkin Pops

These cute pops are a snap to make and will delight kids of all ages. 

You will need:

Cream-Filled Sandwich Cookies

Orange-Colored Chocolate Wafers (available at craft stores)

Mini Chocolate Chips

Red and Black icing

Popsicle Sticks


  • Melt chocolate over a double boiler, or in the microwave.
  • Transfer chocolate into a separate bowl.
  • Dip cookie into the chocolate until it is completely covered.
  • Place on wax paper and add a face using chocolate chips for eyes and icing for nose and mouth.
  • Insert popsicle stick and place in refrigerator until chocolate hardens.

 Recycled Jar Luminaries

This project comes courtesy of expert Amanda Formaro.  For more information about Amanda and to see more crafts visit

Light up your doorway with this clever idea that puts old pickle and jelly jars to good use.

 You will need:

Recycled Glass Jars

Non-Toxic Acrylic Paint

Felt Tip Pen or Marker

Glow Sticks

Spray Glaze


  • Paint each jar with 1 coat of paint (any color).
  • Paint lid black and wait several hour for lid and jar to dry.
  • Use a felt tip pen to draw the outline of a Jack-o-lantern face.
  • Fill in face with black paint and once again, wait several hours to dry.
  • Spray lid and jar with clear glaze (to protect jar against the elements).
  • Add a glow stick to illuminate before displaying!  Boo-tiful!!

 Green your Halloween

Looking for other ways to make your Halloween fun Earth friendly?

Here are some tips from Lynn Colwell and Corey Colwell-Lipson, founders of and authors of the book, Celebrate Green.

  • Instead of carving pumpkins, paint them instead.  That way, you can enjoy homemade pumpkin pie, pumpkin soup or pumpkin bread when the holiday is over.  Check out this pumpkin friendly website for more recipes:
  • Make your own “Trick or Treat bag” with recycled milk jugs or laundry containers.
  • Compost candy:  Add candy to your compost or yard-waste bags.  Just remember to remove the wrappers first!

For more information on ways to “green your Halloween” visit:

Jenna Riggs and Beth Engelman are the creative talents and owners of Mommy on a Shoestring, a website and weekly radio show chock full of ideas on how families can live creatively and large on a small budget.

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