Viewing category ‘House & Home’

Milk and Cookies

with Kristen

I'm a mother of five, a bargain hunter, a recreational comparison shopper, and always trying to make more time - for me and for you, too. On this blog I'm sharing my favorite tools and finds to help make your work-life juggle a bit easier.

You can find my personal blog at Swistle.com.

Life-improving products, part 4

Categories: Beauty, Health and Safety, House & Home, Kitchen, Managing stress, Office

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(Continued from part 1, part 2, and part 3.)

Stearns Youth Life Vest (photo from Amazon.com). I’d been too scared to take the kids to any body of water other than a swimming pool, because I couldn’t imagine keeping track of them all at once in water that didn’t have walls and lifeguards. I’d be okay with the older two swimming around, but not the younger three: they still sometimes sink and thrash during their swimming lessons. Near the end of last summer I bought a life jacket to see if it would help the situation (I didn’t want to buy three and find out they weren’t any good), and it was one of the best purchases of my entire life. This summer I bought two more. We went to the lake, and the three little kids swam around to their hearts’ content, and I barely freaked out at all.

The sizing on this says 50-90 pounds, but notice that many of the reviewers strenuously object to that. The three little kids at my house are 6-8 years old and weigh in the 45-55 range, and these vests fit them just right with some room to grow (and fit Henry well last summer when he was 5)—but it’s hard to imagine the vests still fitting at 90 pounds.

Spinbrush Electric Toothbrushes (photo from Amazon.com). These are inexpensive enough (about $7 on sale at Target) that I have one for each of the kids. A 2-pack of replacement heads goes on sale for about the same price as the toothbrush. There are several different types of these; I try to get ProClean rather than ProWhitening, but I think we’ve had some of each without me noticing a difference.
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Life-improving products, part 3

Categories: Crafts and activities, Electronics, Fashion, Good causes, House & Home, Kitchen, Life balance, Office, Time savers

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(Continued from part 1 and part 2.)

CMS NeoPin Magents (photo from Amazon.com). These are not going to be everyone’s cup of tea: some people hate stuff on the fridge, and some people have non-magnetic fridges, and some people have kids little enough to eat magnets. But if you DO like having stuff on your fridge, AND your fridge cooperates with that, AND your kids are old enough to eat things from the inside of the fridge and not the outside, then these are GREAT: really strong, and also pretty. They claim to be able to hold 16 pages, and I wouldn’t be surprised: Paul recently used one to pin the remains of a pad of paper to the fridge. Because they’re kind of expensive for fridge magnets, they’d make a good gift for someone hard to buy for.


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Life-improving products, part 2

Categories: Electronics, Elementary school kids, House & Home, Kitchen, Life balance, Managing stress, School, School gear, back to school, organization

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Continuing with last week’s theme of life-improving products:

Wahl Haircut Kit (photo from Amazon.com). This was especially life-changing when the boys were younger: I could line up the four of them and save $60 in well under an hour. The first time I cut Toddler Rob’s hair was VERY SCARY, but I thought to myself, “If I make a mess of this, I can take him to the barber and have them fix it—or I can just shave it off and start over.”

Goody Small Claw Clips (photo from Amazon.com). I buy these from Target in a pack that has 5 of each color. I use them for buns or for other twisty styles, and they have revolutionized how I do my hair. My only complaint is that they come in mixed-color packs, when I only like the tortoiseshell ones. I’ve been thinking I should set up a local swap club, because surely there are other women who like the black ones or clear ones best.
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Life-improving products, part 1

Categories: Electronics, House & Home, Kitchen, Managing stress, Time savers, organization

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My parents’ ultimate praise for a new item or system is “It has IMPROVED the QUALITY of our LIVES.” Since this has been a shopping/product blog, I thought I’d devote my final four posts here at Milk and Cookies to products that have improved the quality of our lives.

Wireless freezer alarm (photo from Amazon.com). We bought a freestanding freezer around the time the twins were born. I kept coming downstairs to find the door slightly open, popsicles dripping from the top shelf to the bottom. This set of two alarms (it’s supposed to be one for the fridge and one for the freezer, but we have one in the upstairs freezer and one in the downstairs freezer) lets us know if the temperature is rising, BEFORE we lose the ten packages of meat bought on a good sale.

Taco rack (photo from Amazon.com). When it was just Paul and me, it wasn’t a big deal to balance the shells on a tray in that interlocking way that keeps them from cooking themselves closed. Now that we heat more than an entire package of shells at a meal, this thing saves us a great deal of frustration. It took me a long time to buy it because it seems really overpriced—but it’s been well worth it. AND, the four pieces of metal come apart, so it hardly takes up any storage space at all (I slide ours under the boxes of crackers in the cupboard).
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Gift ideas for guys

Categories: Books, Clothes, Food, Fun stuff for grown-ups, Gifts, Guys, House & Home, Kitchen

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Gift ideas for guys seem to fall into the same category as gift ideas for teenagers: with so few ideas, sharing what little we have can only improve matters. So here are some of the things I’ve given Paul recently, in case they’d work for your guy too:

Cooking for Geeks (photo from Amazon.com). I was irritated but affirmed when I bought this for Paul for an upcoming holiday and then saw he’d checked the same book out of the library.

Paul kept complaining about (and breaking the handles off of) my “sucky” measuring cups, so I did a post asking for advice on a good manly set. To my surprise and dismay, the comments section filled up with suggestions for measuring cups that cost about triple the amount of money I’d had in mind. But I thought about it and got used to the idea that maybe better quality = costs more, and then there was a sale combined with a free shipping deal, and so I bought him a set of the Williams-Sonoma measuring cups and spoons (photo from Williams-Sonoma.com)—and Paul LOVES them. On the next gift occasion, he hinted that he would also like the odd-sizes set, so I got him those too. (He was slightly cheesed that the two sets of measuring cups don’t nest together, but it wasn’t a big deal.)
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Gift ideas for pretty much absolutely anyone

Categories: Books, Crafts and activities, Food, Gifts, Good causes, Holiday, House & Home, Kitchen, Office

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Every year, EVERY YEAR, I feel like it is wayyyy too early to discuss gift ideas / holiday china / holiday cards and so everyone will be annoyed because DEAR HEAVENS SWISTLE IT’S ONLY HALLOWEEN—and then every year I am sitting here with only two Wednesdays left before Christmas, thinking, “There’s no tiiiiiiiiiime! There’s no tiiiiiiiiiiime!!” Still on my post list: gifts that have to work for an unknown recipient, food gifts, holiday cards, holiday china patterns, a holiday craft a child can make as a gift and it’s something a non-related-to-the-child person might even WANT, gift-idea books for children, gift-idea books for adults, good general DVD gift sets, puzzle brand comparison, teacher gift ideas, stocking stuffers, gift ideas for 4/6/10/12-year-olds. We can pick two of those. And by “we” I mean “me,” because by the time you read the first of the two posts (this one), I’ll already be working on the second one. So. Next year don’t be surprised if I start the discussion in October.
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Baking for Valentine’s Day

Categories: Food, Holiday, House & Home

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Already the requests are coming in: Can you bake for the Valentine’s Day class party? For the Valentine’s Day Family Fair? For the Valentine’s Day fundraising bake sale? For the class parties of your other three school-aged children? For the bake sales of their other two schools?

Why, YES. Yes, I can. I’m not going to make roll-and-cut cookies (I would rather volunteer to be in the fundraising dunk tank, in my bathing suit in front of everyone, YES I REALLY DO HATE MAKING ROLL/CUT COOKIES THAT MUCH), but I can still bake things in heart shapes. (Or, alternately, I can go to the grocery store bakery department and purchase them, then transfer them to baggies so it looks like I made them. But I am not going to get a post out of THAT.)

Wilton heart-shaped cake pan, about $10 (photo from Amazon.com). This is the classic. You can frost the cake in any pastel color, and if you can write with frosting you can write “LUV U” or any conversation-heart message. Or don’t write on it, it’s still pretty. Or frost it white and use red sugar around the edges. If you don’t want to buy a heart-shaped pan, use a round pan and modify the easy bake-sale Christmas tree cake: put it on a red or pink or white paper plate; and instead of a tree, rough out a heart-shape in red sugar. One cake mix makes two bake sale cakes.
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Non-toy gifts for children

Categories: Gifts, Holiday, House & Home

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There are times, like when I’m trying to kick a path through the playroom, that I feel like we can’t add even one more toy to this household and in fact would be well-advised to jettison fully half of them. This creates a problem five times a year at birthdays, and a problem-times-five at Christmas. I like to find gifts that are fun enough to be gifts, but that don’t have to live on the toy shelf (or floor, whatever).

1. Character (or otherwise special) bed sheets (both images above from Amazon.com). Bonus: if the child needs sheets anyway, and you spend $20 on Little Mismatched sheets that would have cost $10 if plain/boring, you’re making some of the money work twice: $10 sheets plus $20 gift = $20. (The Wonder Pets set is probably a better example of the kind of sheets a child would actually be happy with, but I got distracted by the ones _I_ would want for ME, and besides the Wonder Pets ones are more expensive so they don’t make my money-working-twice point as impressively.)
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Shopping with imaginary money

Categories: Babies, Food, House & Home, Music, Toys

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Do you guys play the “What if you had to spend $100 RIGHT NOW?” game at your house? We play it all the time at ours. It’s almost always Rob, the sixth-grader, who wants to fantasize about shopping, and I’m happy to play that game. Today’s answers (from me, clearly, because what he wants is video games):


John Derian nest coasters (photo from Target.com). I wish these were plates instead of coasters, since I never use coasters.
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Whimsical desk accessories

Categories: At the office, House & Home, School gear, Toothsome products (for grownups), back to school

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I have noticed that a little whimsy goes a long way to keep my mood good. In the kitchen I have a bird peeler and a porcupine scrub brush and a toucan can opener. In the bedroom I have a squirrel platter and a picture of owls cuddling. But on my desk I have…clutter and utility. Here are some of the things I’ve been looking at to increase the whimsy around here:

Woodpecker scissors (photo from Amazon.com).  I have a pair of these already, actually, but I’m considering a second pair because people are always stealing my scissors HELLO CHILDREN I AM TALKING TO YOU.  These cut really well (they glide through wrapping paper), but I also like that they have a lock (the tail flips up).  This lets me make the scissors safer, but also lets me, um, pose the bird.  Like, close its mouth.
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