Learning Shapes Through Baking

Learning Shapes Through Baking

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For toddler and preschool-age children, the world is full of new things to discover and learn about. One of the first things they need to learn is their basic shapes, such as circles, squares, rectangles, and so on. I don’t know about your kids, but at that age, my kids have the attention span of a gnat. Bless their hearts. There is so much to take in and see and do in the world that sitting in a chair learning from flashcards isn’t top on their list of things to do. The best way for kids to learn is in a natural and multi-sensory environment, and this activity combines learning with the task of baking. Food always keeps my kids’ attention.

The next time you want to help your children work on memorizing their shapes, try this activity and bake a shape.

1. To start, you will need to get a can of biscuit or sugar cookie dough from the grocery store. That’s the easiest way if you want to focus on making shapes instead of mixing up a recipe in the kitchen. However, if you prefer, you can always make your own favorite recipe instead.

2. Roll out the biscuit or cookie dough. You will need to have it somewhere low enough where your child can easily reach it, so you may want to do it on the table instead of the counter. Another option is to have your child stand on a stool or chair.

3. Find some cookie cutters that represent the shapes you want your child to learn. Amazon has these great Basic Shape cookie cutters.

Or, you can go all out and get these with the alphabet and numbers, too – boo-ya!

Show your child how to cut a shape out of the dough with the cutter. Remember to flour the cookie cutter so the dough comes out easily. If your dough gets stuck in the cookie-cutter, you could end up with a frustrated toddler or preschooler.

Another alternative is to make the shapes by hand instead of with cookie cutters. Have some examples of the shapes nearby so your child can copy them. This could also be done with letters instead of shapes. Children love to see what their name looks like in print, and will have a lot of fun creating it themselves.

4. When you have enough shapes made, help your child to arrange them on the cookie sheet. You can make them even yummier by spreading them with butter, then sprinkling them with sugar and cinnamon. Now you have a delicious cinnamon-tasting treat.

5. Put them in the oven to bake, according to the recipe’s instructions. You can add to the fun by watching them bake in the oven together. Children are fascinated by how cookies and biscuits grow and spread while they’re being baked.

6. When they’re baked, remove them from the oven and allow them to cool. When they’re ready to eat, examine the shapes with your child. Ask if he remembers what each one is called. You may want to play a game – if he can name the shape, he can eat it!

When your child begins to learn the various shapes, he will see them everywhere he looks. A fun activity like this one can help him learn to identify shapes on his own.

Budgeting for Beginners

Budgeting for Beginners

Do you want to start a budget, but just don’t know where to start? Everyone has to start somewhere, so let’s start with the basics! In this post, we will go over budgeting for beginners. Here are some tips to help you formulate a simple family budget.

Income

The first place to start in the outline of your budget is with your income. Try to calculate your income based on your pay, or make a good estimate. Simply take a look at your net income over the last three months and estimate an average monthly income. If your income changes very little month-to-month, it should be pretty easy to figure out your monthly income.

Expenses

Your next category should be expenses. Separate your expenses into general categories such as groceries and entertainment. Initially, you may estimate how much you spend each month in each category.

As you break down your expenses into understandable categories and numbers, remember that charitable giving or any giving away of money should be also listed as an expenditure.

Actual Expenses

Estimation gives way to “real” numbers when you write down your actual expenses during the month. This is the last section of your budget plan. Keep a running tally of your expenses for several months, and then look at where you are.

You can do this by visiting your online banking account often and writing down this information in a notebook, or using budget software. Some programs we recommend are:

Some Basic Principles

When creating a budget, you must distinguish between wants and needs. This can be very difficult, but it’s vital for a budget to function properly. Beware of convincing yourself that a want is a need when it isn’t – you may just be trying to find an excuse to buy the item. Real needs are things like clothes, food, and shelter; but designer clothes, gourmet food, and a palatial dwelling are more like wants!

Make sure your expenses do not exceed income. You may find yourself surprised the first time you do a budget and discover that you actually don’t make enough money to cover your expenses. If you discover this, you need to look carefully at your income section and see where you can increase it, and look just as carefully at the expenses and see where you can make cuts.

Once you make a budget, it is most important to set limits and stick to them. Sticking to your limits and recognizing your income vs. your expenses is very important and can ensure the success of your budget. If you apply these basic principles. you will be well on your way to saving money. I hope this budgeting for beginners tips help you start a budget so you can start saving today!

Comparison is the Thief of Joy

Comparison is the Thief of Joy

We live in a society that prides itself on who has the biggest house, the nicest cars, the nicest things. And, in my generation, it’s a competition to see who gets there the fastest.

The all-seeing eyes of our peers via social media gets us a little nervous about our belongings. On we go to paint a pretty picture of what our home looks like on Brag-book, anxious to see how many ‘likes’ and comments our picture of our new big house, or our brand new car, get.

Our cheeks get as flush as the day we walked out of the bathroom in middle school with toilet paper stuck to our shoe when we realize our significant other posted a photo of our kids with -GASP- laundry on the floor and toys strewn everywhere in the background. World War 3 is about to go down.

All of our anxieties are rooted in this: Comparison is the thief of joy.

Don’t Compare Your Middle to Someone Else’s End

Have you ever stopped scrolling Facebook or Instagram, only to realize you feel pretty bad about yourself afterward?

Many thoughts run through our heads while we rapidly scroll. Many times, we don’t even stop to realize those thoughts or deal with them.

“She’s so pretty. I wish I could look like that.”

“She just had a baby and she’s in a bikini! What’s my body’s problem?”

“WOW. Did you see the new house Josh and Jenny bought? It’s huge!”

“Another new car? Huh. What am I doing wrong that I can’t afford what they have?”

“Pregnant again? I can’t even get pregnant.”

Do you see how damaging that can be? All in the span of 10 minutes.

When we are flooded with the success or appearance of success of others, it can be draining if we are not in the same chapter of life. Listen to me very carefully – comparison is the thief of joy. When you constantly compare your life to someone else’s – when you compare your middle to someone else’s end – you will be robbed of the joy you could be having in your present life. 

Think about that for a minute.

Your Path May Be Different, But It’s Leading You Somewhere

Everyone is at a different stage of life, and you are where you are for a reason.

It might feel like everyone you know is getting married, or has already started a family. Some of your friends might be posting photos of their extravagant vacations, their brand new Corvette, or half-million-dollar home. And you sit in your one-bedroom apartment with your child and no one to help you raise them. You feel like you’re working more hours than you see your child. You can barely pay your bills. And you can’t help but wonder what you’re doing wrong.

All that really matters is – are you working hard for your family? Are you loving your family deeply? Are you putting their needs in front of your own?

There are certain decisions we make in life that can make a significant difference in who we are and who we end up being. Some things we have control of, and others we do not. We can choose to save money instead of spending it. We can choose to remove toxic people from our lives. We can choose to avoid drugs and excessive alcohol. If we avoid toxic decisions and people and only lookout for the best for ourselves and our family, then we should be proud of the path we are on.

Your Story Might Be Different, But It Is Significant

The path that you are on might be your ‘middle’ in this story called life. That path is creating a powerful story for you to share and inspire others who are in a similar situation. Your story is waiting for you to embrace it like a prodigal son returning home. Take your story and look at where you have come. Look at the big and small things you have conquered and celebrate them.

You might not be a doctor living in NYC at the age of 30, but who you are is significant. Sharing our journeys is what inspires others who might be where you were 10 years ago. Being transparent about who we really are rather than hiding behind our social media profiles can make such an incredible impact on those around us.

Comparison Leads to Discontentment

His or Her Success is Not My Failure

I think it is also very important to mention that we must look at other people’s successes in a healthy manner. We need to separate ourselves from their success and recognize that or our success is NOT our failure. Recognize their achievements and be proud of them. They worked very hard to achieve success, and we should not let someone else’s success be the thief of joy.

I have had incidents with other women who express dismay in where they are compared to “where I am”. I put that in quotes because some perceive me to be Super Woman and super successful business Mogul. They don’t understand how I can be running multiple businesses and have 4 children. (There are also women who absolutely don’t want to be me for those reasons). But let me say – Us women tend to inflate other women in our minds and deflate ourselves. And the comparison steals our joy unnecessarily because we just don’t consider that everyone’s path is unique and we might not even see past the outer shell of someone’s life. It’s a vicious cycle where, no matter what stage of life we are in, we are comparing, and we are just never content.

My Story

This is going to be shocking for most of you, but I feel that it needs to be said.

When we compare, we tend to paint a perfect picture of someone. In reality, everyone is fighting a battle we know nothing about.

Many people don’t know I struggled with severe depression and anxiety in 2009-2010 after graduating from college.
I was unemployed and unable to get a job and negative thoughts swirled in my mind every minute of every day. When you consistently beat yourself down day after day, you start to believe the lies in your head, that you’re not good enough. That you’re worthless, or your life isn’t worth living. And when you believe the lies in your head, you get to a very dark place that I don’t wish upon any of you.

Coming out of that dark place seemed impossible. But somehow, I fought the demons within myself. I decided to quit comparing my middle to someone else’s end. I decided to persist and persevere.

Stemming from my lowest low came to my story. I went from literally sobbing on my apartment room floor, ready to end it all because no one would hire me, to running a six-figure online craft business in the span of 2 years.

I went on to be at a pretty high point in life and even moved and purchased a very large and expensive home.

It lasted one year. Though we partially bought the home for the extra space needed for our office, we also bought it because we lapsed into a slightly excessive lifestyle.

Simplifying and Downsizing

We quickly realized we made a poor decision (or was it the series of bad omens that kept happening after we moved in…?). It just wasn’t us. We prefer a simple life and didn’t feel comfortable having anything that made it obvious we had a certain amount of money. We are down-to-earth, friendly people and lived in a neighborhood where no one would even speak to us.

We regretted moving in the first place. It hurt, bad, and still stings a bit.

We moved back to our old neighborhood, a place where everyone was extremely friendly and didn’t see people’s worth based on the size of their home and what belongings they have.

We are now in a home that is 1,500 square feet smaller than our last home. And we are so much happier. I don’t buy “nice” things anymore and prefer to shop on clearance, rummages, or thrift stores. It’s not necessarily for financial reasons – it’s so we constantly remind ourselves that we don’t need most of the things we want. It’s a reminder to put others before ourselves – that there are so many people who can’t even put food on the table or buy clothes for their kids. It’s a reminder to live in Christ and die ourselves.

So when others compare themselves to me, I hope they see they want to be selfless, kind, generous, and thankful. I don’t want them to see riches and expensive things.

Use your lows to catapult yourself into where you want to be. Dream as big as you can and do it. You only live once, so make sure you are living a life you love. If you don’t love it, you can do everything in your power to change it. And one of the first steps is to quit comparing yourself to others. Live your own life and live it loud. You are beautiful the way you are. You are exactly where you are meant to be.

Chalk Couture – An Honest Review

Chalk Couture – An Honest Review

Chalk Couture… Is it worth the hype? Here’s my review of Chalk Couture‘s transfers, pastes, and inks.

Haven’t heard of Chalk Couture? Chalk Couture is a new set of products that is revolutionizing crafting. Chalk Couture makes reusable adhesive transfers that can be applied to almost any surface. They also make chalk paste, which can be used with their transfers and their beautiful line of magnetic chalkboards so you can switch out designs whenever you’d like. Couture Ink is a permanent link that can be used with their transfers to make mugs, pillows, shirts, signs, you name it.

I ordered a starter kit because I wanted to see what Chalk Couture was like. The videos online made it seem very easy and fun. So, did Chalk Couture live up to the hype?

Admittedly, I was very excited to get the kit in the mail. I opened it up as soon as I received it and attempted to get busy, but apparently, my kids were as excited as I was because it turned into a kid’s craft project. I got to experiment with everything, so did the kids, and all were happy and content. Win!

I followed the directions and cut apart multiple-piece transfers, then “fuzzed” them on a towel or T-shirt to make them less sticky. This is an important step, otherwise, the transfer could stick to the surface too much and you risk stretching the transfer and leaving a residue on your surface. Just ask me, when I had my Facebook Live #fail – my 3-month-old baby was screaming in the other room (and was inconsolable despite my husband trying to settle him down) while I demonstrated on Facebook live. I was in a hurry and forgot to fuzz, and a lot of my transfers stuck to my sign.  Thankfully I was able to turn it around into a lesson on why fuzzing is important and how to fix it if you make the same mistake.

After fuzzing, you simply stick the transfer into your surface and press it down. Then, scoop up some paste or ink and squeegee it over the surface. You can put the extra back into its container. Then, peel it off, and voila!

Afterward, rinse the transfer out right away and wipe the back with a disinfecting wipe to help the adhesive continue working properly. Let it air dry and put it back on its backing.

So, what do I think about Chalk Couture and the starter kit?

My starter kit came with some very fun transfer designs, chalk pastel, a beautifully framed chalkboard, and around the chalkboard. I wasn’t a big fan of the combination of pastel colors that came in my kit (school bus yellow, light pink, white and dark green), but I have ended used all of them for separate projects. And, they change these colors often to go along with new kits they launch. The new kit that’s out right now is one in very envious of and wish I would have gotten. It has summer-themed designs and is super fun.

The whole concept is one I’m a big fan of. It’s better for the environment because the transfers are reusable. I go through many single-use stencils each week and it hurts to see all the excess material go into the garbage. They’re a HUGE time saver because I don’t have to weed vinyl! It’s so nice to just grab some transfers and get right into MAKING rather than spending so much time preparing to make it! Just THAT alone convinced me to try it out. The details in the transfers are amazing and I couldn’t get that look with regular stencils. Although I prefer to design all my stencils myself, I couldn’t resist giving it a shot given the ease of use and its huge time-saving abilities. While I find cleaning the transfers a bit of a pain and have been known to leave a mess in my office while they air dry, now that I’ve gotten into a routine and have down how to care for them, it’s second nature to me now.

It sounds crazy, but Chalk Couture‘s products have made me passionate about crafting again. I used to have to put off making projects because of the time they took and needing to juggle the many other hats I wear, but now I can grab a surface and some ink or paste, grab a transfer that’s all ready for me, but the ink on, peel it away, and I’m done! It’s a huge time saver and did I mention how EASY it is?! After I browsed the Facebook groups to see projects people have made, I found myself so inspired to create, and every day I want to make something. And I know that I can, because of how quickly I can make multiple projects in a short amount of time, instead of needing to set aside 5x the time because of prep work. It brought me out of the creative rut I was in and has me excited about making again.

Even though it was hard for me to buy products that are designed by someone else and premade, after using their products, I’m sold. The details, the fact that it saves so much time, they’re reusable, and I can use them on so many surfaces are all big selling points for me. It adds great versatility to my workshops at my studio because we can make so many more things now, and I can spark creativity in others. That is so important to me because I have a passion for getting others together and being creative even if they feel they aren’t. When someone who is admittedly not “artistic” tries to make a craft and they realize how easy and fun it is, the confidence and pride they have in themselves when they walk out of my studio is absolutely priceless.

If you haven’t checked out their products, please do yourself a favor and take a look today. You’ll love what you see and will be so inspired to create.

If you have any questions about Chalk Couture, please feel free to contact me and I’ll be happy to help! I even help place orders if you’re feeling overwhelmed. And if you have a serious Chalk Couture addiction and want to know how to save 40%, contact me today to find out how. I’m a part of an incredible team that is so encouraging and inspiring. To join my team, type in “Amanda Brissette” as your designer. I’d love to have you join me!

Recycle Markers Using Crayola ColorCycle

Recycle Markers Using Crayola ColorCycle

Markers are a wonderful invention. We can create such vibrant and beautiful artwork with markers. Markers bring so much color to our world. There is just one caveat – when your markers are dried out and unusable, you come to find out that you cannot recycle markers through local recycling centers.

Did you know every marker you toss into the garbage goes into a landfill and stays there forever? It might not seem like much for one household, but think about this – Crayola manufactures 465 million markers every year. Most markers dry up within a year. Now that’s A LOT of markers in our landfills. 

What if I told you there was a better way?!

Crayola has a program called ColorCycle, where you can pack up your dried-out markers, ship them to Crayola, and they will recycle them into fuel. How cool is that? 

How to Recycle Markers With ColorCycle

To recycle your markers, simply…

  1. Collect the markers and count how many you have.
  2. Pack the markers into a box and adhere a shipping label to the box. Crayola pays for all shipping charges.
  3. FedEx will pickup the box and deliver it to Crayola so the markers can be recycled into fuel.

Get started HERE.

Make An Impact In Your Home AND School When You Recycle Markers

Even better is that you can not only make a change in your own home, but also in your local schools. Get in touch with your school administrators or Parent Teacher Organization about participating in the Crayola ColorCycle program so you can make an even bigger impact. 

Go to this link to learn how you can start recycling your markers today through the Crayola ColorCycle Program.

Need school supplies? Crayola has you covered. Shop here for 15% off all orders $30+ by August 31st!

Legitimate Work From Home Jobs

Legitimate Work From Home Jobs

The due date of my first baby was fast approaching. Since graduating college, I knew I wanted to be my own boss. I set out on a search for legitimate work-from-home jobs and started many businesses in hopes that something would stick and I could work from home. My goals of working for myself lit a fire within me to do everything I could to become successful before my baby arrived. There’s nothing like a good deadline to get you to work faster and harder toward a goal!

Part of my desire to work for myself was so I could work from home. I wanted to be able to stay home with my kids. It was important to me that either myself or my husband was the primary caretaker of our children. We wanted to be the ones to see them smile the first time, roll the first time and take their first steps. I also wanted to be able to work from anywhere. Traveling is a passion of mine and I want to see the world with my family.

On my search for legitimate work-from-home jobs, I had a hard time finding anything real. Thankfully, times have changed in the past 7 years, and there are now real opportunities. If you can be creative with your time and are able to juggle being a parent and working, you can make these opportunities really work for you.

Legitimate Work From Home Jobs

1. VIPKid

VIPKid is a legitimate work-from-home job where you can earn $14-$22 per hour teaching English to Chinese students. Work from home or anywhere you want. Set your own hours and your own schedule. VIPKid provides the curriculum – all you need is a computer and a passion for teaching. One of their requirements, however, is that you must have a Bachelor’s Degree.

2. Travel With The Magic

Do you love Disney and love to plan vacations? Are you a passionate and hard-working planner who is self-motivated? Working for Travel With the Magic just might be the perfect fit for you. Travel With the Magic is a travel agency that hires individuals to help plan clients’ vacations. Their site says:

Candidates must have:

  • Personally experienced the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida in the last two years
  • Excellent computer skills
  • Excel in a team environment
  • Be a self starter and take ownership of growing and maintaining a profitable business
  • Be professional, honest, and hard working
  • Attention to detail
  • Sailed on at least one cruise in the last four years
  • Thought about HOW you will grow a profitable business
  • Have a passion for helping people with their vacations
  • Open to selling all types of Travel
  • Must reside in the United States

3. Virtual Assistant

Are you excellent at scheduling, managing calendars, data entry, or answering emails? How about marketing or are you a pro at social media? All of these skills can be used to become a Virtual Assistant. You can work for someone else, or start your own company. Being a VA will allow you to work from anywhere, and you can set your own schedule and hours. Post your profile on Fiverr.com or Upwork.com and start gaining clients today!

4. Start Your Own Business

Freelance Designer

Do you have experience in the fields of Graphic Design or Web Design? The world is your oyster if you have the passion and motivation to be a business owner. You can promote your services on:
Etsy
Fiverr
Freelancer
99Designs
These are all websites I have experience using and would recommend.

Coach or Consultant

You can become a coach or consultant in any field that you are an expert in. Are you an expert in fitness? Art? Blogging? If there is a niche for it, you can be a successful coach or consultant.

Start your own Craft Business

Are you an artist or crafter? Etsy has made many business owners’ dreams come true by providing a lot of traffic to individual independent handmade shops. Read my story here on how I started a six-figure craft business, and how you can too!

How to Make Wood Signs

How to Make Wood Signs

This post contains affiliate links. I only recommend brands I trust and love. Should you choose to make a purchase through my links, it does not add any costs to your order and helps support my blog and my family.

Have you always wanted to learn how to make wood signs? How would you like to learn from a gal who owns her own DIY sign painting studio? Score!

If we haven’t met, let me introduce myself.

I’m Amanda and I am a craft business entrepreneur. I have owned my own wall decal business for 8 years and last year opened up my own DIY sign painting studio. I’m known for making great strides in Etsy and achieving a 6-figure online business at the age of 24 designing and selling my own wall decals at Luxe Loft. For real. (If you want to learn more about that, read my post about it here). After working from home for 7 years, I had the crazy idea to start up another business, The Rustic Orchid Creative Workshop, which is a DIY and sign painting studio.

But Why Are You Sharing Your Wood Sign Making Secrets With ME?

My Why is pretty simple – I have built multiple successful businesses and now I want to give back and help others start their own successful craft business. And trust me, there is so much demand to meet that it isn’t going to hurt anyone’s business. Additionally, I’m all about COMMUNITY OVER COMPETITION! I want to help other mamas (and dads too) who want to work from home to be with their little ones, or who feel stuck at their unfulfilling 9-5. I want to help others have a satisfying business that will feed their souls!

Where to Buy Wood Sign Materials

To make quality wood signs, you will want to hit up your local lumber yard or hardware stores such as Home Depot or Lowe’s. Sometimes you can find very attractive blanks on sale at Michaels, Jo-Ann Fabrics, and Hobby Lobby. However, do keep in mind that these blanks are usually much thinner wood and of lesser quality.

Tools Needed to Make Wood Signs

Head over to the lumbar area of the store and look for Pine. There will be many different widths and lengths to choose from and this is where it can get overwhelming.

I typically make signs from the 4″ wide, 6″, 8″, and 12″ wide boards. A good place to start is by making signs on solid boards. I’ll teach you more about making planked signs later.

Sometimes, the hardware store will cut your wood for you if you only need a couple of cuts. My recommendation is to purchase a quality saw for cutting your boards. The saw I recommend is this Dewalt Miter Saw.

Simply measure the length you need, line up your board in the saw and slice it down. Easy peasy.

Another tool I recommend is this belt sander. This will help you smooth out rough wood, round out edges, and sand down rough edges.

You can also use 100 grit sandpaper to sand down your board by hand. This is a bit labor-intensive, though, especially if you have a lot of orders to fulfill.

How to Stain Wood Signs

I’m pretty anti-chemical and fumes, so I do my darndest to not use “real” stain. I know, some stains can make the wood look so beautiful..and if you’re okay with breathing the stain day after day, go for it! A great stain brand is Minwax water-based stain.

Personally, I either mix acrylic paints with water to make my own wood tint colors, or I use FolkArt Wood Tint. It comes in White, Grey, Cascade, Oak, and Walnut. You can mix them together to make your own unique shades, too. My favorite things about this product are that it has barely any smell and it is NONTOXIC.

To stain, I brush a thin layer onto the top and sides of the wood. I let it sit for a minute and I wipe it off, going with the grain of the wood (same direction as the lines).

Since I’m not patient, I blow dry my board until it is completely dry.

Painting Your Wood Sign

Rather than staining the background of your sign, you can also paint it. Simply brush a thin layer of paint onto the top and sides of the board, then blow dry completely. Don’t forget to sand before putting on any stain or paint.

Also, don’t forget to sand AFTER staining or painting, before applying your stencil. Use 220 grit sandpaper for this step.

Applying and Painting Your Wood Sign Stencil

There are several different ways to transfer text and imagery onto a board:

1. Freehand painting

2. Carbon copy

3. Reusable stencils

4. Single use adhesive stencils

My preferred method for efficiency is single-use adhesive stencils.

There are multiple materials you can use for your adhesive stencil. Some people use contact paper, others use vinyl, and some use stencil material. I use stencil material because it is transparent. This makes it easier to line up the stencil on the board.

Line up your stencil on the board and burnish it using a squeegee or credit card. Remove the top layer of tape. Now you have a stencil on your board with cut-out areas – this is where you will apply your paint.

Painting Your Board

I use chalk paints for this step. My reasoning is chalk paint is thicker so it has less chance to bleed. You may notice if you use thin paint in a bind that it will bleed under the stencil. Always dab the paint on in thin layers and use a thick type of paint. I use makeup sponges to apply the paint. You may use spouncers as well.

Final Steps

Once your paint is applied, peel the stencil off when it is wet. Be careful and watch where you set your hands.

Once the main stencil is off, blow-dry the board and then pick out the middle parts of the letters and designs. You can use an Exacto knife or even a toothpick for this.

Voila! You have made a beautiful sign you can decorate your home with, a gift to a friend, or sell!

I’ve made it even easier for you and condensed this whole post into a FREE simplified cheat sheet you can print off and keep with you while you get the hang of making signs.