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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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College graduation gift ideas

Categories: Books, Gifts, Kitchen, Milestones

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Vanessa asked if I’d do a post on college graduation gifts. At first I misread the request as high school graduation gifts, so I was all, “Hot pot and a box of Ramen! X-long sheet set! Gift certificate for pizza place near dorms!”

College graduation is a little trickier, because the way people live in college (and their plans for what’s next) can vary so much. It’s similar to buying a wedding gift, where it depends if the couple are leaving their parents’ houses for the first time, or if they’ve been living together for years, or if they’re combining two households. Some college kids live in the dorms the whole time, so they could use “first apartment” gifts. Other kids get an apartment at some point during college and so they pretty much have everything—oh, except the coffee pot belongs to this roommate, and the silverware belongs to that roommate, and the furniture was all found at the curb, and actually they do kind of need new-apartment stuff. Some kids are going to move back in with their parents for awhile; some are launching off next week to a new job in another state.

So my first recommendation is to take the post-college plans into consideration, and see if you can buy something that would be useful for that. Helpful! The old “Hey, how about buying them something they’d like and/or could use!” gift suggestion!
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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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