Monday, April 30, 2012

An Easy Way To Shorten Long Sleeves

 Recently, my daughter was lucky enough to inherit almost a complete wardrobe from a friend that is just a little older than she is. The clothes are completely darling and my daughter fell head over heels in love with them. She only wants to get dressed if it is from these clothes. Some of her favorite pieces are long sleeved and since we are headed into a very hot summer, I wanted her to be able to wear them even on hot days. Sometimes I am a little skittish when it comes to cutting up clothes, but my Mother-in-law happened to be here that week and she was more than willing to help.
Shortening sleeves is really easy, so easy, that I have done it several time since. This is my simple way of shortening sleeves.
 First, put the shirt on your kid. You will get a better view of where the sleeves should be if the shirt is actually on.
 Then mark where you want the sleeve to hit. My top pin is my mark.
 Measure about an inch down and mark the sleeve again. This is giving an inch of space to work with. I cut a full inch extra to give me some room for error. Stretch fabric and I don't always get along, so I like some wiggle room. Cut the shirt at the second pin.
 Fold the shirt in half and pin it together at the shoulder seams and so the sleeves are laying on top of each other. This will let you accurately cut the sleeves to be the same. Cut the second sleeve to match the first one.
Turn your sleeve under and hem. You have a few options with the hemming.  You can serge the edge of the fabric before you turn it under to hem, making a traditional hem not necessary. If you are working on a knit fabric, it won't unravel, so you can turn it under and hem without worrying it will start unraveling from the other side. 
I don't pin the hem on my daughter's sleeves before I start sewing, because it gives me the freedom to trouble shoot as I go if I need to. When hemming on knits, find the stretch stitch on your machine, or you can also use a narrow zig-zag. The biggest thing to remember is to let your machine guide the fabric through. If you push or pull on the fabric, since it is knit, it will stretch out and look funny. 
Just a few minutes later, you have a shirt that is summer ready! I am loving the sun already!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

WotW: Digitally Explore the Human Body

I have been feeling really under the weather for the past few days and getting up the energy to write a post this week has taken a lot out of me. I was going to write a neat post about a cool research tool, but since I'm sick, I thought I'd take advantage of a neat website that allows you to explore the human body.

The site is, a free service that really allows you to digitally explore the human body in ways you have probably never seen before (unless you're a med student or something).

To use this site, you will need a pretty up-to-date web browser. I have found it works best on Google Chrome. It also works on Firefox, but you will probably have to do a bit of settings tweaking. And if you're using Internet Explorer, well, repent now and switch to a better web browser.

When you first go to the site (, you will be asked whether you want to choose a male body or a female body. Don't worry too much about your choice because you can change your mind later.

When your body first loads, it will only contain the skeletal system. You can zoom in and out via the zoom control panel at the bottom of the screen or by using the scroll ball on the mouse. By clicking, holding and dragging the mouse around, you can rotate the body in any which way. The control panel also has a number of other views that you may find useful.

The skeletal system is fun for a little bit, but why not add some other body systems? To turn on a body system, go to the control panel in the top-left corner of the page and simply slide the switch from off to on. You can turn on all the systems or only a few at a time. You can even select specific organs within a body system. The more systems you load, the more it's going to demand from your computer and the slower it will go.

To learn more about a particular organ, simply click on it and an explanation will appear in the top-right corner.

Also included with the explanation are a list of common diseases associated with that organ. Try clicking on one of the diseases and the website will automatically adjust your body view to include the organs specifically affected by that disease.

You can also search through a large list of diseases in the same control panel as the body systems, by clicking on the conditions tab. I find this very fascinating. It's one thing to have a doctor tell you about a disease and it's another to actually see where and what's being affected in your body.

As a science teacher, I highly recommend this site for those interested in learning about body systems. It keeps things nice and simple and the interactive nature allows you to freely explore without getting your hands all bloody.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Seasoned Shredded Chicken in Your Mixer

I have never liked shredding chicken. I am not a patient person and spending time with a fork and knife trying to shred chicken near drives me crazy and then there is always that question of how to cook the chicken before you shred it.

Enter your mixer. When I need some seasoned shredded chicken for our favorite tacos, I take the chicken straight out of the freezer and dump it into a pot of boiling water. I boil the chicken until it is done all the way through and it reaches an appropriate temperature. Drain the chicken and then throw is straight into your mixer. Turn the mixer on at a medium level and in just a minute or two you will have perfectly shredded chicken.

 Now when I just needed shredded chicken, I take this and run with it, but what if you need is chicken with a little seasoning, take your shredded chicken and dump it in a frying pan. You can add a little oil if you want, but I prefer to just dump on my seasonings and let it them mix in the pan for just a couple of minutes. Pull the chicken out of the pan and you have perfectly seasoned and shredded chicken.
How simple was that?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Union Jack Pin board + Tutorial

 I have always had a love of all things British. I grew up on Keeping Up Appearances and BBC movies. My biggest dream was always to visit England and now it is to go back. My little brother is actually living in England at the moment, so what better than a pin board for his photos and my favorite memories?
 This craft is simple enough that anybody can do it.
You will need:
A 11x14 flat canvas or cardboard cut to size
a 1/4 yard of blue gingham fabric
2 inch red grosgrain ribbon
1/2 inch red ribbon (I used a ruffle ribbon)
fiber fill
 The first thing you need to do is decided how you want your canvas to look. Do you want a puffy flag or one that is relatively flat? I have made them both ways and both ways work just fine. The picture above is a flat one and the one below is a puffy one. Keep in mind the puffier it is, the less likely the thumbtacks will stay in place.
Once you have decided if you want your board puffy or not, take the appropriate amount of fiber fill and spread it over your board. If you want a relatively flat board you aren't going to need much stuffing at all.
Pull your fabric tight around the board and staple it on the back. I ended up fray checking my fabric and then turning it under in a pseudo-hem before stapling it. Staple it all around the back until the fabric is secure.
The first thing you are going to want to do is pull your 1/2 inch ribbon across the canvas diagonally in an X. Staple all the corners on the back. I also put a dab of hot glue on the corners to hold the small ribbon in place but it is probably not necessary.
Take you larger ribbon and make a X on top of the small ribbon. This time not diagonally, but straight across the canvas.
 Add thumb tacks at the middle point and one on each side of the large ribbon. This will help keep the ribbon in place and help hold your photos and notes. Make sure to push the pin all the way into the canvas.
I hung my board up on my wall using 3M hanging strips and it has worked perfectly! So tell me are you a British/BBC addict too?
  Tip Junkie handmade projects Photobucket

Friday, April 20, 2012

Homeschool Preschool - Teaching Tornadoes

We have been studying natural disasters and weather in general in preschool lately. We live in an area of the country where the weather is pretty much the same all year round, so we have been talking about winter, fall, volcanoes and tornadoes.

The past couple weeks our 3-year-old has heard my husband and I speaking about tornadoes and our sadness for those affected by them, and has begun to ask us what a tornado is. We took the opportunity to teach her about them. I wanted her to understand what a tornado was and what it could do without scaring her. This is how our lesson went.

Do you know what a Tornado is? A tornado is a bunch of air turning and turning in circles very quickly. When the air turns in the air quickly it is called a funnel cloud. When the funnel cloud touches the ground that is when it becomes a tornado.
Most tornadoes come from thunder storms, usually when warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico and cool, dry air from Canada meet. Scientists are actually still learning a lot about tornadoes, like what makes them stop. There are still lots of mysteries about them.
Tornadoes usually happen in the same area of the USA every year. A lot of times they happen right in the middle of the country in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas and Louisiana but they can happen other places as well. 

This is the video we watched about tornadoes. I choose it because it was done by National Geographic and most of the homemade videos have lots of swearing in the background. I do think this movie freaked my 3-year-old out a little bit while we were watching it. There is a scene where a house is torn a part. There was no lasting effect though, it was like a scary moment and then it was past, but you might want to preview the movie first and decided how your child will handle it. 

For our activity I bought a Tornado Tube. It was $2.99 at Hobby Lobby and I used a 40% off coupon, making it a pretty good deal. You can also used duct tape with your soda bottles, but I really feel like the tube was worth it. 

You will need a Tornado Tube or duct tape, two soda bottles and a towel.
Fill your one bottle up 2/3 of the way and then attach the other bottles to the top. When I was first trying to get my Tornado Tube on, it wouldn't go. I discovered the small plastic ring that is left from the lid needs to come off for it to work.
Flip your bottle upside down on the towel and rock it in circular motions until you get a tornado going in the top. We made our first tornadoes with just plain water.
Then we added some food coloring. Which we both loved. The food coloring was fun.
Then I added glitter, which I don't think really made any sort of difference whatsoever.
 My daughter was obsessed with the rain storm that happens in the bottom bottle, it took me awhile to get her to watch the tornadoes but when she saw what she was looking for she was enthralled.
After the glitter, I added soap, which was also a fun addition, creating lots of bubbles.
My daughter is still asking me if we can make more tornadoes. This lesson requires a little planning to make sure you have the soda bottles on hand, but it is worth it. It is a memorable lesson that introduces tornadoes on effective level.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Kids Photo Shoot Idea- Chalkboards

 A picture says a thousand words, but you can make it say even more. A simple chalkboard can be the perfect addition to your kid's yearly shoots. Take a large chalkboard and list things about your child at that age. It will help you remember them at this age even better.
Ideas of things to list:

  • Favorite color
  • Favorite toys
  • Favorite foods
  • Favorite sayings
  • Favorite activities
  • Favorite TV shows
  • Things they are really good at
Be sure to list your child's age, just for future reference. It is probably best to prepare your chalkboard in advance. The less time a child spends waiting during a photo shoot the better behaved they will be. 

If you've got time, why not let them finish the shoot with a master piece? I let my daughter color for about five minutes and then snapped a few more photos. She loves the pictures with the chalk all over her face. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

WotW: Manage Your Online Billing with Manilla

If there is one thing I truly hate in this world it is spending money on stamps. Especially when those stamps are being used to pay bills. It's painful to spend money on spending money.

Fortunately, I pay all my bills online. In fact, I receive almost all my bill statements online as well, which I prefer because nothing is more depressing than opening your mailbox all excited that you have mail only to discover it's somebody demanding money from you. At least with a bill statement in your e-mail inbox you immediately know who it's from and can quickly delete it. I mean, read it.

One of the major problems with taking care of my bills online is trying to manage when each bill is due and how much exactly is due on each bill. Figuring this out typically involves going to each site, logging in and calculating your bill. And every now and then my bills unexpectedly change due dates and then I'm stuck with a late fee.

Today's Wednesday on the Web feature will make all the hassle of e-billing a thing of the past. Welcome to

This fabulous website manages your online billing from one convenient location. Imagine you have bills for two credit cards, your cell phone, your electric bill, your cable bill and your water bill. To view how much you owe on each bill and when it's due, you simply log in to Manilla with your e-mail address and password, and viola! All that information is right in front of you!

Manilla is not a site to pay your bills. Rather, it lets you see your bills, the due dates and often the billing statements as well in one place. There is also a link on the site you can click on to take you to the specific service's site to pay the bill when the time has come.

Getting started is a piece of cake. Simply go to and register. You will need an e-mail address and a secure password (this site can be stingy with what it considers a good password). As soon as you are registered, your first task is to select your cell phone service provider. They give you your choice of the big four: Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile.

Simply click on the service you have and then enter your username and password for that service (the same username and password you use when you log on to that site). In a few seconds, it will acquire your billing information and you're ready to go!

When you're taken to your main launch screen, you then have the opportunity to add other services you have. There is a nice search feature that breaks down services into subcategories, or you can search alphabetically. Adding other services is as easy as adding your cell phone – just type in your username and password for the service.

Besides billing services, Manilla also offers tracking for Rewards points programs (Hilton HHonors, Delta Skymiles, etc) and magazine subscriptions.

Manilla really has just three sections to navigate. The first is your launch screen where you manage your accounts. From here, you can click on an account and expand it to see more information about it.

Then there is a mail service, where you will receive messages from Manilla and your various billing services.

Finally, there's a reminder section, and this is the true beauty of Manilla. By clicking on the Reminders tab, you are brought to a list view by default, which shows you all your services, how much is due and by when, all in a convenient list ordered by due date. Not only can you see your due dates, but you can also customize when and how Manilla will remind you of upcoming bills. For instance, you tell it to e-mail or text you a reminder 7 day, 3 days or 1 day before the bill is due. Or, if you're a snooze button kind of person, you can tell it to remind you on all those days.

You can also select calendar view and see the bills on a calendar, which is perfect for visual people like me. 

Another great thing about reminders is that you can add custom reminders for other bills you might have that aren't offered through Manilla.

Perhaps you're thinking to yourself, "Wow, this is pretty cool, but I'm not sure I'm comfortable with putting all my financial information in one place." I had the same concern and it took me a few weeks to gather the courage to make the leap, but let me give you some perspective that might help.
1. Manilla has great encryption services, the same level as the best banking websites.
2. The company has a good system of back-end computer practices that ensure the computer security is well done.
3. You don't actually pay any bills on this site, which means no money ever changes hands through this website, which is more than you can say for sites you probably already use, like Amazon.
You can read more about Manilla's security practices here.

Another thing that should gain your confidence is the fact that in order for a service to be enrolled with Manila, that company has to request to be part of it and must pay a small fee to Manilla. So, if your service isn't on Manila (and not all of mine were), it means your company hasn't paid to be there. When a company pays to use a web service, it's because they believe in the safety and security of it. The motivating factor for billing companies to use Manilla is that it saves them money to do e-billing rather than sending out paper statements. Plus, it encourages people to pay their bills on time.

If you do find that one of your services is not listed, you can request it. This does not necessarily mean it will be approved, but it lets Manilla know you're interested and if enough requests come their way, they can start putting pressure on your service to get on board.

It took me awhile to make the leap to Manilla, but now that I did, I'm thrilled with how much it has simplified my online billing experience.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Mostly Authentic Taquitos

Living in South Texas exposes me to a lot of incredible Mexican food, which is great for me since it's my favorite type of food. Every now and then I find myself craving something more authentic than homemade tacos or fajitas and my husband came up with the perfect solution: taquitos.

A couple weeks back I posted about the BBQ taquitos he came up with, which are delicious if you haven't tried them yet. While he was coming up with that recipe, he also tried his hand at more authentic taquitos and this is what he came up with. Now, I don't know if these really are authentic or not, but they sure taste it.

6-10 corn tortillas
6-10 fajita-size flour tortillas
3-4 chicken breasts
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. paprika
½ tsp. garlic salt
½ tsp. onion powder
½ tsp. black pepper
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
oil for frying

Pico de gallo
3 roma tomatoes, diced
1/4 onion, diced
cilantro, chopped
1/2 jalapeno, diced

Sour cream
Shredded cheese
Shredded lettuce

1. Boil chicken breasts (best to split them into tender-sized pieces first for faster boiling).
2. Drain water and place warm chicken breasts in mixer. Mix until chicken is shredded.
3. Meanwhile, combine the chili powder, paprika, garlic salt, onion powder, black pepper and cayenne pepper in a bowl. Mix well. I don't exactly measure when I combine these, but you definitely want chili powder to be the core of the mix.

4. Place shredded chicken in a pan on medium to medium-high heat. Pour the spice mixture on top and add about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of water and stir until the mix evenly coats the chicken.
5. Heat, stirring occasionally, until most of the water burns off. You don't want to do it too long or your chicken will become incredibly dry.
6. Warm the tortilla shells in the microwave.
7. Place a strip of chicken down the edge of the tortilla. You don't want to do it in the middle or too close to the edge. About 1/4 of the way away from the edge of the tortilla is a good place to put the chicken.
8. Wrap the tortilla into a tight taquito, with the open end down against the plate to hold it closed.
9. Fry the taquito in vegetable oil in either a fryer or in a pan on the stove. Be sure to turn halfway through so each side gets a nice light, golden crisp.
10. Serve the taquitos with the pico de gallo, shredded lettuce, shredded cheese and sour cream. Taquitos are best eaten when used almost like a strange spoon that scoops up all the toppings on the way to your mouth.

The corn tortilla taquitos taste really authentic. The flour ones, not so much, though they do remind me of the chicken tacos at Taco Time, for anyone who's ever been there. 

This is a simple way to try something a little different than tacos and will expose your family to a real taste south of the border.

Monday, April 16, 2012

School Spirit Canvas

 My parents are huge BYU fans. They both attended school there and it is actually where they met. While I do bleed blue and white, it is Utah State blue and white, not BYU blue. My dad and I see eye to 363 days a year. We don't talk on the days when USU and BYU play each other in basketball or football. It is just better for our relationship. :)
Since they are such huge fans, I wanted to create something for their house, to show their spirit besides the huge BYU flag they have hanging in their front window. I went with canvas and letters. It turned out wonderful and I think they are going to be happy with it.
 You will need:
an 11x14 canvas, I had a major craft fail last year, so I decided to use that canvas
the three letter abbreviation of your school of choice
the two school colors
 Paint your canvas in one of your school colors. BYU's colors are blue and white, so I chose to repaint my canvas white. Then paint your first and last letters in the other color. Paint the edges of the middle letter in the opposite color of the canvas and the top the same color of the canvas. This will give that middle letter some pop even though it is the same color of the canvas.
Apply the bottom two letters with hot glue to the canvas, making them flush with the bottom of the canvas. Then apply the middle letter, making it flush with the top. When you are done you have a classy way to show your school spirit. Now I just have to make one for my aggies, having the BYU one hang on the wall for a picture was stressing my husband out. :)