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Posts Tagged ‘unplugged’

  1. Homeschool Snowday

    January 26, 2016 by admin


    One reason to love homeschooling is we get to have a whole new definition of ‘snowday’ ‘holliday’ and ‘vacation.’  Our recent snow means P.E. happens on the hill!  We guarantee that our Bluey gets more moving around time in his day than his public schooled peers.  IMG_3875

  2. Fire Pit!

    August 2, 2015 by admin

    IMG_1722This TRFamily loves a cozy fire crackling in a fireplace on just about any evening of the year.

    It has been too long since we’ve had a house with a fireplace or property well suited for a fire-pit.  But the wait has finally ended!

    After some quick research on reviews and a few days of best-price hunting, we picked up a very affordable fire-pit from our local chain, Farm&Fleet.

    It required some simple assembly that took about 20 minutes to complete from start to finish.IMG_1590

    Tip1: Be careful of the size of the bowl you are considering when researching what might work best for you. Your bargain find may have a very small burning surface which doesn’t work out well. We went with a 30 inch fire bowl and couldn’t be happier!

    We are fortunate to have a cement slab “deck” area in our backyard that is perfect for safely positioning a fire-pit. Make sure you consider the placement of your pit carefully and have access to the usual fire safety tools.

    TRDad spent a good amount of time discussing proper fire building with our young Bluey.  TRDad also made sure that Bluey understood that you must respect your fire and use great caution while stoking or minding it.  They gathered up kindling and before long, our first fire was burning bright.

    Tip2: Keep the makings for S’mores tucked away in your pantry.  The ingredients are super cheap and the enjoyment is guaranteed.  You can even find vegetarian marshmallows at most specialty stores and coops.

    A fire-pit is a great addition to a backyard.  But it does require a full commitment to safety.  Your home, neighbors, pets, and children are very susceptible to injury from an unattended fire.  But with the properattention and tools, you’ll enjoy it for years to come!!

  3. Mud, Mud, Mud

    March 11, 2015 by admin


    As Spring teases about its imminent arrival, we are reminded of some of our favorite “get ready!” posts and some “welcoming this new season” tips:

    • Spring cleaning! The want to open all the windows and clean everything strikes quickly. Don’t forget about that often neglected washing machine.
    • Tune up your bicycles. A season tucked away in your garage or chained up outside always leaves a bike needing some tlc. Check the tires and chains. Adjust the seat and handlebars for your growing kiddos. Make sure those helmets still fit properly!
    •  Mud. It’s everywhere. Embrace it and allow those kiddos to get messy.
    • Speaking of mud – your dog will get dirty.
    • There is so much joy in just being outside. Follow the hyperlink for some of our favorite springtime activities.
    • Unplug. Take the time to embrace the changing of the seasons. Turn off those phones and disconnect from technology for a bit. Breath.

    This is such a tremendous time of year and we hope you fully enjoy the arrival of warmer weather!

  4. Journey To The Center Of The Etch-A-Sketch

    February 25, 2015 by admin

    oa_feature_etch_0.pngOne quiet afternoon, Bluey came out of his room with an Etch-a-Sketch.

    “Can we take this apart and see how it works?  Maybe we can fix it?”

    Since the toy was already mostly non-functional, it seemed like a fun adventure.IMG_2776_2

    All we had to go on was the knowledge that there was some sort of powder inside, and some sort of controls that scratched the powder off the glass.  We didn’t know much more.

    Tip: We did a quick google search to confirm that the powder was non-toxic and harmless.  So no worries there!  But we wore safety goggles as a precaution.

    There are no discernible screws or other points of entry into the Etch-a-Sketch.  Apparently, the folks at Ohio Arts don’t encourage this sort of activity.  Undeterred, we brought out a flat headed screwdriver, and ultimately a chisel, to split the connection between the red front, and the black back of the device.IMG_2775

    Inside, and spilling onto our arts and crafts table, we found a super-fine aluminum powder, and the clever string and pulley system that controls the stylus.

    Tip2:  Be prepared for a huge mess, if you take this on.  The powder gets everywhere, coating surfaces like paint.  But it all cleans up relatively easily, so don’t be discouraged.

    IMG_2777_2Seeing how the Etch-A-Sketch works was a lot of fun, and well worth the effort.  We’d wondered for years what was inside, and had to satisfy ourselves with a vague: “some sort of powder or sand.”  Now we know what the powder is and how the mechanism functions.  We weren’t able to fix the toy, but we had lot of fun figuring out how it works!

  5. Don’t Miss Out On Michaels!

    February 18, 2015 by admin

    Michaels_Logo.svgWhy is it that Michaels craft store is so easy to overlook? It is not a part of our heavy store rotation – like Target. But every time we visit Michaels, we question why we don’t frequent it more often.

    Bluey loves a crafty or tinkering activity. And if you can catch Plum at the right time, she’ll eagerly join in the fun. Michaels offers a fantastic selection of craft and building model kits, as well as lego knock offs, and a line of construction sets.

    If you join Michaels mailing list, download their store app, or simply google your nearest location – you can enjoy 40% off any regular priced item. This readily available coupon brings a large amount of products well under $10. More often than not, you can also find coupons for about 20% off an entire purchase. And Michaels after holiday clearance sales are fantastic!IMG_2418

    Tip1: Be prepared to wait in line upon checking out. We don’t know why, but all Michaels seem to have a real problem ushering their guests through check out in a timely manner.

    We understand that Michaels also offers a Kids club that allows you to sign up your children (3 years of age or older) for a 30 minute craft for around $2. And they also have a spattering of adult classes throughout the month. We haven’t explored these offerings yet. But they sound fun.

    Tip2: You aren’t just limited to kits! Michaels has plenty of other low price point items for your family fun time. Consider getting a plain wooden box to decorate into a container for treasures. Or pick up a plain t-shirt and some fabric paint for some fashion design time.

    Rather than purchasing yet another generic toy on a trip to Target, why not visit Michaels and get something that will challenge your child, encourage family time, cooperation, and creativity, as well as result in a unique finished product?

    We’re already excitedly talking about our next trip for another car model kit!

  6. Halfway Prairie

    January 7, 2015 by admin

    IMG_2589In a recent search for a new place to explore, we found ourselves at the Halfway Prairie near Mazomanie, Wisconsin.  We had originally been aiming for Indian Lake Park.  But driving up the street to our original destination, we saw the impressive ruins at Halfway Prairie and decided that we had to go there first.

    Visible from the road is a large, crumbling building, and a smaller building next to it.  This drew us in and we parked our car to explore.IMG_2590_2

    The larger building is mostly a ruin- the windows, roof and wooden parts have long ago rotted away, leaving tall stone walls behind.  Our best guess is that it was a former school, or maybe a church?  We’re not sure.  But it was very cool to explore the outside.  (The building is fenced off for safety purposes.)

    Tip 1:  Hunting is permitted in this wildlife area, so exercise caution if you explore during hunting season!

    The smaller building is locked and boarded up.  It is much smaller and less ornate looking than the other structure, and in better condition.  Perhaps it was a maintenance shed, or a caretaker’s home?

    Several paths flow off from the buildings, heading deep into the prairie beyond.  We enjoyed walking the paths and following some of the remaining fence lines.  At one point, we startled some sleeping deer who took off across the fields towards the wooden area further back.

    Tip 2: Indian Lake Park contains parts of the Ice Age Trail.  Perhaps one day the trail will cut through this wildlife area.

    IMG_2587_2We were quite taken by the quiet serenity of Halfway Prairie.  We’re sure to be back, and we recommend this out-of-the-way park for a day of explore.

  7. Organizing For Creativity

    January 4, 2015 by admin

    IMG_9610_2We love creating around here.  We are constantly building new things, working on new projects, and talking about what we’ll make next.  And we understand fully that pure creation doesn’t always follow a clearly marked path.   It’s unpredictable and we like that about it.

    Yet we also find that an environment too chaotic can hinder creativity. It’s hard to focus when everything is messy. And it can stop experimentation in its tracks.

    “Where did we put the baking soda and scrap cardboard?”

    So when our (ever-growing) collection of Legos got a bit out of control, we spent some time trying to figure out the best solution. Our play had been hindered by constantly digging through a big vat of bricks to find the one needed piece.

    Our first try was to sort by color.  We divided our Lego table into six or so sections, each one filled with a color, or related group of colors.  This was a step in the right direction.  We saw immediately that it helped a little- to have a smaller amount of pieces to sort through when trying to finish a build.

    But it didn’t really work right.  For one thing, Legos come in so many colors, we quickly ran into questions about which section certain colors went.  But more importantly, we found that when building and trying to complete a particular project it was more important to find the right SHAPED piece, rather than the right COLOR.  It was too difficult to find a tiny 2×1 flat piece buried at the bottom of the entire spectrum of red section.  It’s much simpler to find a 2×1 red piece in a bin full of 2×1 flat pieces.

    So we reset our table with a series of smaller bins to hold different shaped pieces: 2×2 bricks here, long flat pieces there, windows and doors in a section all  together.

    It works great!

    We find now that creativity is flowing strong at the Lego table.  When we think about the Legos based on shapes, it is easier to see how they might all fit together.  And easier to build say, a trap door by sorting through the different hinge options in the hinge bin and finding what works, than sorting through a huge mass of pieces, hoping to randomly stumble upon one that works.

    Bring some order to your Lego collection and watch the creative juices flow!

  8. Best of 2014

    December 31, 2014 by admin

    56571_party_mdAs we welcome in 2015, we at ThriftyRambler wanted to take a few moments to reflect on 2014. Here are some of our favorite posts of the year: (launched in 2013 but continues throughout the years!)

    We are thrilled interact with all of our readers and we thank you for being a part of this homegrown project. We are excited to see what the coming year has in store for all of us! We encourage you to continue to reach out to us with ideas or comments.

    Wishing all of you a peaceful, loving and prosperous 2015.


  9. Cinnamon Ornaments

    December 7, 2014 by admin


    This TRFamily loves the holidays.  And we greatly enjoy spreading the holiday spirit with handmade gifts to our friends and family.  There is something special about the love and effort that goes into handmade gifts.  And our children take great pride in creating gifts for the special folks that impact their lives.

    Last Christmas, we made fantastic salt dough ornaments.  But even though that was fun and successful, we wanted to do something different this holiday season.  We decided to make cinnamon ornaments!


    • 1 cup of cinnamon
    • 1/4 cup of applesauce
    • 1/2 cup of glue


    Tip:  Your batch will yield about 15 ornaments

    Combine the cinnamon and applesauce, mixing until clumpy.  Then pour in the glue and continue mixing.  Dough will be incredibly sticky.  We found it necessary to mix by hand and add liberal amounts of flour until we could roll out our ornament dough.  Add decorations if you’d like.  Punch out a hole in the ornament with a plastic straw and then bake at 200F for 1 hour.  Let cool for at least 3 hours.

    Bonus – You’re entire house will smell like cinnamon!



  10. Talking To Strangers: We Encourage It

    October 8, 2014 by admin



    Perhaps against majority’s opinion or advice, we love talking to strangers. On our TR journeys large and small, some of our best take away moments are the conversations with the few people we have met along the way.  We do talk to strangers regularly and we encourage our kids to do it, too!

    We recently stopped for a quick lunch at a favorite local chain. As we were leaving, TRMom was suggesting to the kids that they make a stop in the bathroom. An elderly gentleman was sitting nearby and he interjected, “That’s some good advice!”

    Rather than ignoring this unfamiliar man or giving a dismissive smile, we struck up conversation with him. We shook hands, introduced our family, and chatted for a few minutes. As we were leaving, he declared, “You should have my card.”


    Tip: There is a huge difference between talking to strangers and heeding the whims or demands of strangers. We would encourage you to teach your kids how to IMG_8104recognize this subtlety and judge for your own family what works best.

    Allowing ourselves to engage with others only enhances our experiences and our connections to the world. We are all so isolated already thanks to Facebook, Snapchat, Texting, etc. These apps only give the illusion of connection. We don’t want our children to miss out on in-person, every day interaction with another human being.

    Humans are social animals.  We talk to each other and hopefully, we make connections.  If you only speak to people in your immediate circle, you severely limit your life experience.  So we chat people up when in stores or walking down the street- everywhere.  We encourage our young ones to introduce themselves and to share their thoughts with others.

    We meet so many interesting folks this way: the Korean War vet, the self-taught artist, the long time resident of town.  We’ve heard many stories from many people.  We encourage you to give it a try.  Talk to people and listen to what they have to say.  Who knows who you’ll meet next?

    They might just make your day.  Or you just might make theirs.