How to clean crayon off a chalkboard

My kids had the lovely idea to use their crayons on the chalkboard one day. Has that ever happened to you?

I tried to clean the crayon off by using a variety of household cleaners, including vinegar, all to no avail. So I did what any modern mom would do, I googled it.

The top 2 suggestions I came across, were to use either WD-40 or Simple Green. I was pretty sure I had tried to clean the crayon off with Simple Green in the past, and I didn't recall that working, but since my memory was a bit cloudy, I couldn't rule it out. It was, after all,  recommended as a way to get crayon marks off a chalkboard.

So I decided to do a side-by-side test with the top two chalkboard crayon removal recommendations - and to set the record straight!
The contenders: WD-40 and Simple Green

I spritzed some of each solution on the chalkboard where the crayon marks were prominent, then I used a paper towel to wipe away the crayon - or so I thought! The WD-40 removed the crayon from the board with ease, while the Simple Green ended up on the paper towel, leaving the crayon wax (and chalk residue) on the board. *scratches head*

Notice that you can barely see the area I scrubbed with Simple Green in the pic below (the spot on the right). Why was this solution recommended as a crayon remover for chalkboard, anyway??

Once I determined the winner (this wasn't hard!), I used WD-40 on the whole board and got it super clean in no time.

WD-40 left a thin shiny film on the board, so just for good measure, I sprayed some vinegar on a paper towel and did a once over on the board - just to get the grease off.

Through this trial, I also learned a lesson about using chalk. If you want to leave long-lasting, hard to erase marks on a chalkboard, write on the board when it's still damp (or use wet chalk). I was being hasty when I was documenting the crayon removal process and wrote on the board when it was still a bit damp. Then I tried to erase it...

See what I mean? I ended up cleaning the board with vinegar. And then, I let it dry before we used it again.

NOTE: Using vinegar is the 'teacher recommended' way to clean a chalkboard - it just doesn't remove crayon wax, so if you need extra cleaning power, trust the WD-40!

My girls woke from their nap and quickly discovered their newly cleaned chalkboard. They promptly created a ton of chalk dust in our living room (and some cute little drawings, too). 

Thankfully, I'd hidden the crayons. ;)

How To...Travel with an infant

I absolutely love traveling and I didn't want kids to be a reason we couldn't travel the world to see new places.

That said, here are some tips and tricks I learned while traveling to Italy with a 7 month old:

1. Be prepared for time change adjustments. It took our daughter two nights to get it figured out. We were frustrated and confused when she started screaming at 3am the first night. It lasted about half an hour as we tried to figure out what was wrong (we were a bit groggy at the time). We finally figured out that it would have been a normal eating time for us back home and she was hungry. We gave her some snacks and she calmed down. Then we played with her for an hour...then somewhere around 4:30 or 5am, we all went back to sleep. The next night was similar. Be ready for a few nights of adjusting to a new timezone. Our daughters bedtime was quite late during our trip - this meant we could do a long day of touring and eat a late dinner. My advice? Don't worry about bedtimes when you're traveling abroad.

2. Get your baby comfortable sleeping anywhere. Before you go, set up a pack n play in a random room in your house. Put them down for naps there - get them used to sleeping in new places so when you travel, it's not a big deal that they aren't in their own bed. Our daughter has slept on the floor, in pack n plays, in drawers, and in closets  (with the door open). You can make a bed out of a blanket and use a few pillows as bumpers. If you are comfortable co-sleeping, go for it.

3. Bring a bag of Cheerios (or Nature's Path Organic Whole O's for the gluten-free). Yes, we flew to Italy with a ziplock full of Cheerios - why? Cheerios offer a distraction. We went out to dinner and would give our daughter Cheerios as we waited for our food. If we were on a tour and she was getting fussy, we brought out the Cheerios. Late night snack? Yup. Cheerios. They were a life saver (and we couldn't find any Cheerios in Italy)!

4. Wear your baby. I have an Ergo Baby and let me tell you, having your hands free and a napping baby is delightful when you're trekking across the Cinque Terre. I actually learned how to nurse while walking when we were on a tour in Rome - it was a bit awkward at first, but then we got the hang of it and just kept at it for the rest of the trip. Also, the Ergo Baby has a pocket on the front - it was a great place to store passports and cheerios...for when you're waiting in that long immigrations line.

5. Bring a handful of small, but interesting toys. We took about 6-8 toys. Stacking blocks, teeny board books, links (Links Rattle Developmental Toy), a ball (Baby Einstein Bendy Ball), and a little stuffed animal development/teething toy that could be clipped onto the Ergo (Lamaze Play and Grow Mortimer the Moose Take Along Toy).

6. Bring a good backpack. I'm talking, one that's not hard on your back (something like this). I highly recommend a backpack with a waist/hip strap - this will better distribute the weight so you don't have a big pull on your shoulders. Lots of little pockets are useful when you're traveling. Snacks, pacifier, phone, important documents, travel guide, etc can all be stored efficiently in a backpack like this. If you're going to Europe, chances are you will be walking around a lot. Backpacks are great for bringing along the daily essentials and we always had a little room in there for some souvenirs. We packed about 5 diapers in the bag, wipes, a changing pad, a spare onsie, snacks, travel high-chair, and a couple little toys.

7. Stock up on food for your little one before it's too late. We visited Civita di Bagnoregio in Italy and had planned to stay there for 2 nights. We were in need of food for our daughter, but got there late and as we should have known, there wasn't much there - no market to buy food! We did have dinner in our little bed and breakfast and we fed our daughter carrots, but morning came, and she was starving and since it was a Sunday morning in a dying city, there was NOTHING open and we went on a scavenger hunt for food (btw, B&B in Italy means you will get a packaged chocolate filled croissant - they were good, but not quite the breakfast we were needing for our 7 month old). We ended up wandering around the teeny town long enough to find a young lady who happened to have an apple in her sack lunch - she shared it with us (bless her heart!). We felt stupid for not planning ahead. We just didn't realize that finding food for a 7 month old would be so difficult. Oh, and the Cheerios we had packed? They were ruined when our top floor apartment in Rome sprung a leak in the roof and dumped rusty water all over the kitchen (and into the cheerio bag). Markets have weird hours in Italy (i.e. closed on Sunday, closed for siesta, etc), so when we found one that was open, we made sure to stock up so we weren't caught without food for our kid. 

8. Bring a portable high-chair. At the first place we stayed on our trip, they happened to have a high chair - but that was the ONLY place we ever saw one in Italy. Thankfully I had packed a travel high chair that fits on almost any chair (find it here: My Little Seat). We've used this thing all over the place - and it packs up into a little pouch - toss it in your backpack.

9. Pack light. I ended up wearing the same black tank top almost every single day of our trip (we did laundry once during our 3 weeks abroad). I packed way more than just that one tank top, but I hadn't thought about the logistics of breastfeeding on the go when I packed. I seriously over packed and my husband had to carry around that extra weight on my behalf. I should have packed fewer clothes for myself and planned on buying some clothes abroad if I needed more. I bought a dress at a flea market in Italy, and it's still the favorite in my closet. I wish I'd bought more clothes in Italy!

10. Bring a duffel bag packed with only diapers and snacks. We took a light weight duffel bag and filled it with diapers, and snack bars from Costco. My husband wore a backpacking pack on his back and slung the duffel on his side as we traveled between towns (I wore the baby on my front and a backpack on my back). As we went about our travels, the duffel bag got lighter as we used things and we had room for souvenirs if we needed it. We only had to buy diapers once - at the end of our trip.

11. Take your cell phone. Before you go, make sure to call your carrier to have them give you an unlock code (so you can use your phone on other mobile networks). If you have a phone that takes a SIM card, buy a prepaid SIM once you get to your destination. We had to use the phone a few times to confirm reservations, change check in times, or arrange lodging for the night - spending $20 on a prepaid SIM saved us loads on roaming charges.

12. Ask for either bulkhead or back row seats on the airplane. The bulkhead row has more room on the floor where your feet go - we let our baby sit on a blanket on the floor and play with her toys when it was approved to have seat belts off. Some airplanes even have bassinets in the bulkhead isle. If you can't get bulkhead seats, sit towards the back of the plane. It's louder back there, so you're less likely to disturb others with your fussy/loud/crying/happy baby. There's also more room to walk around with your baby in the rear of the plane. And you'll be right by the diaper changes are a breeze.

Bonus Tip: Don't freak out about everybody talking to you and your baby - even if you have no idea what they're saying. We barely saw any babies in Italy and when people saw ours they sort of treated us like celebrities. Everyone came over to talk to our baby. People even wanted to hold her. Rumor has it that women have entered the work force in Italy instead of having babies...and by the time they have a baby, they stay home and never go anywhere with their baby (no really, that's what a local told us). It was a mystery to us why we saw so few babies (or kids in general), but it was kind of fun being told how beautiful our baby was day in and day out. It was weird at first, but once we accepted that they love babies, we were happy to have the attention. I even had an older German-speaking man hollering to me as I was playing in the water with my daughter. I figured out by his hand motions that he wanted my picture. I picked up my girl and smiled as he excitedly snapped a few pics. He thanked me and off he went. Weird. But totally funny. I have NO idea what he was saying, but it was awesome (and confusing).

Do you have any tips for traveling with kids? Please share in the comments!
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How To...Enjoy Christmas

Today I want to send you over to our Pastor's blog (click the image to go there). He posted a really great list of ways to enjoy Christmas and I think everything on his list is so important, everyone should read it!

I'm all for simplifying my life and Pastor Troy's list serves as an excellent reminder to simplify and keep focused on the right things this season.

Go ahead, click the image to go to his post!

What are you waiting for? Go check it out! :)

How To...Throw a Pinterest Party

Hello there.

I went to a Pinterest Party today!

What's a Pinterest Party you ask? Well, my friend Jenny has been watching her friend's Pinterest boards and thought, "does anyone ever actually make these things they've pinned?" and so it was. A party where we would pick either a recipe or a craft that we had pinned on a shared pin board, and bring the supplies or the food to share.

I had eyed some burlap wreaths on Pinterest and wanted to make one, so that was my project.

Steps to throw a Pinterest Party:

  • Before the party, create a shared pinboard for the guests

  • Have each guest post the item they are bringing to the pinboard

  • Set up the crafting area with stations - label each station with the craft name

  • Each crafting guest brings enough supplies for 4 people to make their craft

  • Make a list of the crafts. If there are 4 of each craft, make a list that contains 3 of each and then cut out the crafts and drop them into a bowl

  • Have each guest that brought a craft draw 2 crafts out of a bowl, guests that brought a food item draw 3 crafts (everyone gets to do 3 crafts)

  • Guests that brought a craft get to do their craft first so it can be used as an example for the next ones at their crafting 'station'

  • Eat delicious food and have fun crafting!

It was fun to randomly pick what we would be doing (who doesn't like surprises?)!

The kitchen was full to the brim with food and drink, and every other space in the area was covered with yarn, fabric, feathers, wreaths, pine-cones, clay, bangles, glitter, candle holders and t-shirts (see my t-shirt scarf in that pic? Awesome, and SO easy to make!).

I had to leave a little early, but even so, I think I was more crafty today than I've been over the last 3 years (thanks Jenny!).  :)

I loved this party and am looking forward to the next!

Rebekah over at a bit of sunshine wrote up a great post (including some beautiful pictures!) about  the party.

Have you ever been to a Pinterest party?   What do you think?   Have you considered throwing a Pinterest party of your own?

How To...Lose the baby weight (what worked for me)

I gained quite a bit of weight when I was pregnant.

At the time, I didn't realize that I was overweight. In fact, I felt great weight-wise while pregnant and I loved having an excuse for eating random junk food all day. When I look back at the pictures, I realize that I was in fact, a bit on the bigger side. This is totally embarrassing for me to post my before pics, but hey, sometimes seeing is believing - and if it helps encourage someone else to realize their goals, it will be worth it.
Some people drop their baby weight with ease, but it was a challenge for me. Here's how I did it:

Join/create a Biggest Loser Challenge or find an accountability partner - A friend set up a Biggest Loser challenge on Facebook. Everyone paid $20 to join a 3 month weight loss challenge and the top 3 were paid out at the end. 23 people joined the challenge. This was a HUGE motivator. Every Sunday, by 11am, everyone had to send in their weight or face a half pound penalty. The beginning and end weigh in had to be captured on video and you had to wear the same thing and use the same scale you started on. Every week the stats were posted up on Facebook. The weight loss was calculated by total percent lost (much more fair than by the pounds lost). Having to report my weight to someone every single week for 3 months was the best motivation in the world! I didn't want to report the same number week after week, so I made sure I was sticking to my plan. I ended up coming in 2nd place and taking home $120 (*pats myself on the back*).

Learn how to set up your own challenge here:  How to start a Biggest Loser Competition

No eating after 8pm - Basically, dinner was the last time I'd eat for the day, even if I was up really late (which happens often). My husband and I used to eat after-dinner snacks (ice cream, cheese and crackers, popcorn, etc) almost every evening. It was bad for us and totally needless.

No obvious sugar - What's an obvious sugar you ask? Well, it's that vanilla coffee creamer or blueberry muffin (those usually have a lot of sugar in them!) or desserts at parties... yup, pass it up, it's not going to help you lose that weight, so move along to the vegi tray.

No alcohol - Alcohol is actually loaded with calories - you don't need those extra calories, so skip the wine/beer/liquor until you reach your weight goal.

Look up just how many calories are hiding in your favorite drink: Calories in Alcoholic Drinks

Exercise - This seems like a no-brainer, right? Well, to be honest, I only exercised 2-3 times each week (if I was lucky) and combined with everything else in this list, it worked. Some weeks I didn't even workout (it's hard to find the time when you have little kids running a muck). When I did exercise, I would most often run a 2 mile loop around my neighborhood. Occasionally we would take the family on a bike ride or a hike (with the littlest strapped to me) - any exercise counts!

Portion control - Take smaller portions and slow down your eating. By eating slower, you will realize you are full before you've over-eaten.

In 3 months time, I ended up losing my baby weight and I even dropped below my wedding weight!

How about you - are you struggling to lose weight? Did you already lose your pregnancy weight? Do you have any advice or success stories to share??

If you are at the start of your journey, I hope these tips help you to get to your goals. You can do it!

Technology-Less Tuesday: Discover your unique ability

I'm having a date with my husband tonight.

It's so important that we find ways to connect with our partners and not let life get in the way of our relationship!

What's TLT? Read about it here: Technology-Less Tuesday

Have you taken time out of your week to date your partner? It's so rewarding, you should try it tonight.

In all honesty, I'm a little scared of tonight's theme. Deep thoughts are bound to surface. But I'm so excited to make some new discoveries and hear about what drives my man (and maybe discover something new about myself).

Here's the deal. Put the kids to bed, put away the phones, ipad, tv, computers, etc and then sit face to face with your partner to go over the following 9 questions:

Q #1: When was the last time I felt that my life was most meaningful?
Q #2: When do I feel that I’m offering the best of myself to others?
Q #3: How do I express the best of myself to others?
Q #4: When do I find that I’m the happiest and what am I doing?
Q #5: What past three experiences have brought joy and happiness into my life?
Q #6: What comes naturally and effortlessly to me?
Q #7: What do others think comes naturally and effortlessly to me?
Q #8: What are some of my hobbies? What do I do for fun?
Q #9: What activities have brought fulfillment and passion into my life?

Spice it up, light a candle (why a candle makes everything more romantic is beyond me, but hey, it seems to work that way - so light some candles tonight!).

Try it. I hope you have fun dating your partner!


Question source: