With Ben’s birthday this month, I was on the hunt for some new games for his Leapster 2.  I ran across a great deal at the Just Between Friends sale that I posted about last month.  I ended up getting him 14 new games for basically nothing!  Then I realized that the case he was using to hold the 14 games he already had would NOT hold 14 more games!  He was using a padded, zippered black cosmetic bag to keep all his games in and would just keep the Leapster loose without being in a case.

I started looking for a case for his Leapster that would also hold all (soon to be) 28 Leapster games.  Most of the cases on the market hold 1 or 2 games and also the Leapster but I needed something better than that.  I determined that it would be great if it was “padded” and could hold everything and had a handle.  Then it occurred to me that we had a few leftover lunchboxes from the past few school years!

I quickly dug out last years Star Wars lunch box and sure enough everything fit!  It is one of those “soft-sided” lunchboxes so it was padded too!  Of course it also had the handle!  Another plus is that it will hold MANY more games!  Whoop!  I love it when I come across a solution that works for FREE using something I already had on hand!

Needless to say, Ben is loving the new “Leapster case” because he loved that Star Wars lunch box! I can’t wait to see his face when he gets the 14 new games I got for him too! Here is what it looks like inside with everything in it (before the new games are added) !

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We only have six weeks left before school is out for the summer.  Can’t believe that they school year went by soooooo fast!  I have started kicking around ideas for things to put on our summer to-do list.  Having gone through years of therapy with Ben, I try to really structure our summers so we have time for fun as well as get some things accomplished.  He does not do therapy during the summer – we work on getting those goals accomplished at home so we can have some family time without being overly scheduled.

Here are a few ideas to get you started planning some summer fun of your own!

  • Sign up over at KidsBowlFree.com so that the kiddos can bowl for free all summer!  They also have a form for the adults to sign up at a rate of $25 or so for four adults on the pass ~ that is a HUGE savings!
  • Regal Movie Theaters does the Summer Movie Express with $1 movies on certain dates during the summer
  • Michael’s craft stores have the free Passport to Fun kids crafts during the summer. Check your local store for details.
  • Home Depot has free Kids Workshops one Saturday each month
  •  Cinemark movie theaters has the Summer Movie Clubhouse program where it costs $5 to go see all ten films (or $1 per film if tickets purchased separately)
  • Going to the public library is free and ours has a great selection of movies and books that keep my kiddos entertained for hours and hours and hours at a time
  • Check around at local museums, science centers, etc to find out when their “free entrance days” are
  • We spend a lot of time outdoors, and usually go to the beach, springs or local pool at least once a week. I make sure to pack a cooler with drinks and snacks so I don’t have to buy any (BIG savings there!)
  • Family game day is always fun! We do board games or video games and snacks
  • Friday is ALWAYS movie night at our home ~ complete with movies from Redbox or the library or Netflix, pizza, soda, popcorn and candy
  • Pinterest is a WONDERFUL source for cheap ideas to keep the kiddos entertained!  There are tons and tons of great ideas and things to try!  Over spring break we have used a few of them . DIY slurpees were a total HIT   and my son thought that taking a bath in the dark with glow in the dark bracelets in the water was super COOL!
  • It takes a little planning but lots of fun can be had for very little money!  If you sign up for emails from Groupon.comLivingSocial.com , and HalfOffDepot.com  you can get INCREDIBLE deals for local attractions that might otherwise be out of your price range. For example:  I just got 3 tickets to CoCo Key Water park that would have cost me over $70 but I paid $31 !  That is more than half off and wayyyyyy less than the cost of one ticket to Wet N Wild!  We have also gotten great deals on ice cream, mini golf, an indoor trampoline arena, Monkey Joes, and various restaurants all for more than 50 % off!
  • Shopping centers and malls offer a lot of entertainment for free!  Here in Orlando we are lucky and have Downtown Disney which hosts a T-Rex Cafe complete with dino bones excavation area (free to walk through and see the dinos and play in the excavation area), Lego shop (free to go in and play with all the cool legos!), free boat ride across the waterway to the shops, and lots of other free and neat things to do and see!  Most malls have an indoor play area these days and the mall also offers an opportunity for the older kiddos to window shop.
  • Teach a skill ~ my kiddos all loved learning to cook and sew!  You can have some fun, get things done (hey, you have to eat anyhow!) and teach a valuable life skill all at the same time.  Pinterest is a great source of kid friendly recipes and craft / sewing ideas too!
  • On the weekends we usually wander over to the Dollar Tree so that the kiddos can spend some of their allowance money (you can see my post on WHY my kids get allowances HERE).  Kids get thrilled even when the only have $1 to spend!  At the Dollar Tree, the possibilities are endless!
  • Get a cheap game from Gamestop.  Not many people know that if you go into Gamestop and tell them that you are looking for Wii games under $5 (or whatever system you have) they will print a list of all the titles they have in stock that are under that price!  $5 for at least a full day of fun is a deal!  You can also rent the newer video games at Redbox for $2 plus tax.

Hopefully this list of ideas gets you inspired to schedule some summer fun of your own!  I would love to hear back from you if you have any ideas to add to my list!

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Recently, Ben has not been feeling well. He had a sinus infection and missed three days of school last week because he was coughing so badly!  I have found that peppermint hot chocolate really helps clear the sinuses and just makes you feel better!  I was getting him hot chocolate almost every day at the Cumberland Farms store near us and it was “only” $1 per cup but then everyone in the household started wanting some and I soon realized that I needed to find a cheaper way to do this.

I got some peppermint extract but it was just too difficult to put only “one drop” into each cup of hot chocolate.  After thinking about it,  I realized that I could just make his hot chocolate as usual (from a regular packaged mix) and then add one or two Junior Mint candies to it!  Stir the hot chocolate until they have dissolved and it was just the right amount of mint!  He loves it!

A “movie theater” sized 4 oz. box of Junior Mints has about 48 pieces in it.  That is enough for at least 24 cups of peppermint hot chocolate!  Cheaper to use and easier to find than the extract!

Here is the cost breakdown (rounded):

  • Prepackaged hot chocolate mix bought at Aldi: 10 in a box for $1.19 = 12 cents each cup
  • Junior Mints bought at Dollar tree: $1 for a box of 48 (use 2) = 4 cents per cup
  • Total cost to make a cup:  16 cents (instead of $1)
  • Total cost to make 24 cups:  $3.84 (instead of  $24 !!!!!)

Not only is that a GREAT savings ($20 extra bucks stay in MY pocket!) but I love the fact that I can keep this on hand so whenever I need to I can just make some up instead of running up to the convenience store!

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My daughter Shelby LOVES horror movies and recently she discovered the cult classic “Donnie Darko“.  Up to this point she was undecided as to what she wanted to be for Halloween but after seeing the movie she was determined to be Donnie Darko aka Frank the Rabbit. So, it was up to me to figure out a way to find a Donnie Darko Costume we could afford.

After doing some online searches I realized that I was NOT going to pay $160 for a Frank Donnie Darko Costume.  I also was NOT going to pay $60 for a Donnie Darko Frank Mask.  I mean really?  Who buys these things?

I did some more searching to see if I could find a DIY type of thing on how to make a Frank Mask but all of the ones I found were just too detailed, time consuming and expensive.  Sigh. I just needed a SIMPLE plan because I am just not an artsy-craftsy type of person, you know?

I called my oldest daughter, Louise, who has done a TON of costuming and asked her to brainstorm with me and this is what we came up with.

It cost me a total of $11 or so. It took about 3 hours for the first steps, then let it dry overnight.  The next day took about an hour to finish it.

Most of the stuff came from the Dollar tree or we had it at home already.  The cloth, fur, gloves and puffy paint came from JoAnn Fabrics.  This was cheaper to make than some crappy costume from one of the “mart” stores!

Supplies (some are not in the picture as I realized we needed them later in the process):

Needle nosed pliers & wire clippers COST:  0 we already had them

silicone headband (black) COST:  $.33  from Dollar Tree

grey gloves COST:  $1 at JoAnn Fabrics

school glue (like elmers) COST :  0  we already had it

three black plastic forks COST: 0 we had some

two wire coat hangers COST: 0 we had these

1/3 yard of black shiny wet look cloth COST:  $1.66 at JoAnn Fabrics

duct tape COST:  $1 at Dollar Tree

white puffy paint COST:  $1.29 at JoAnn Fabrics

two white plastic spoons COST:  0 we had some

newspaper COST:  0 we had some

clear tape (just regular stuff – like scotch tape) COST:  0 we had it

black thread, white thread and a sewing needle COST: 0 we had it

binder clips or clothes pins COST: 0 we had it

exacto knife or some sharp object to make precise cuts with COST: 0 we had it

phillips head screwdriver COST: 0 we had it

1/3 yard white fur COST:  $2.99

two plastic zombie masks COST:  $2 at Dollar Tree

black electrical tape COST:  0 we had some

black leggings COST:  0 my daughter already had some

dark grey hoodie type sweatshirt COST:  0 she borrowed mine

HERE IS WHAT I DID:

Sit the two masks inside each other so you have a double layer of mask.  This will make the Frank Mask stronger.  Cut the wire hangers so that you have two long pieces of wire.  Bend them into the shape you want and then make another bend at about 1 inch from the opposite end of the wire.  This 1 inch bend is going to be taped to the inside of the mask in order to attach the ears to the mask (See picture below)

After securing the wire to the mask with either electrical tape or duct tape, flip it back over so you are looking at the front.

Now you need to use the newspaper to build up the forehead and ears of the Donnie Darko Frank Mask.  The easiest way is to fold it into the shape you want around the wire and then use small pieces of tape to hold it in place for the moment.

Once you get the ears and forehead the way you want them, you need to cover the ENTIRE mask and ears with duct tape (BUT DO NOT COVER THE EYE HOLES).  Make sure that when covering the ears you use some pieces of duct tape on the BACK side at the bottom of the ears to create some support when attaching them to the Frank Mask.

Take the plastic spoons and cut the long ends off so that you are just left with the rounded pieces.  Place these over the BOTTOM 3/4 parts of the eye holes that are already in the Donnie Darko mask.  This should leave a slits at the top of the eye holes that you will be able to see thru.  Use regular clear tape around the edges of the spoon parts to attach them to the mask and then hold it up to your face to make sure you can see.  If not, just keep replacing the spoon parts until you get them in the right position so you can see.

Take a screwdriver or other straight object and poke thru the duct tape to make nose holes.

Once you are done with this step the mask should look like the picture below and the ears should NOT be loose or wiggling around anymore.  The whole thing should be pretty sturdy and the ears should stand up fine.  If not, go back and use more duct tape.

Now we all know that Franks Mask was silver in the movie, but for some reason everyone thinks the Donnie Darko rabbit mask  is black or dark grey.  So, get your black cloth and you are going to cut one piece big enough to cover the face part with and then use the remaining cloth to cut into two pieces, one for each ear. MAKE SURE TO CUT THE CLOTH INTO LARGER PIECES THAN YOU THINK YOU WILL NEED!  You want to have “extra” to wrinkle and make sure it covers the entire mask.  Sit those to the side.

Dump your bottle of glue into a bowl and mix it with an equal amount of water.  Mix it well.

Take one piece of cloth for the ears and soak it with the glue mixture, then wring it out.  Drape the cloth over one ear from the front.  Make sure to wrinkle it !  Flip the Donnie Darko mask over and just loosely sew the pieces of cloth together so that it stays on the ears.  Use black thread and don’t worry about it being perfect.  Then repeat the same process on the other ear.

Next, soak and wring out the cloth for the face, drape it over the mask and make sure it is also wrinkled.  It is okay to cover the eye and nose holes.  Once you have the piece of face cloth on there, where you want it, fold the excess fabric under the mask and use some binder clips or clothes pins to hold it in place around the edges.  Make sure the fabric wrinkles are where you want them because they will dry this way!

Now you are just going to let it dry overnight.

The next day, take an exacto knife or a tiny pair of scissors with a sharp tip and cut out around the eyes so that you are now able to see the white and so that the eye hole to see thru is exposed.  Cut out tiny amounts at a time so as not to expose the duct tape underneath. Also, be careful not to cut thru the clear tape that is holding the eye whites into the Frank mask.

Take a screwdriver and poke thru the nose holes again (from the front side of the mask).  If you want to create a mouth hole, now is the time, but I did not do that.

 

Take the clips off the mask and cut off most of the excess cloth on the inside of the mask but be sure to leave a little edge of fabric.  Take some electrical tape and go over the edge of the fabric and secure it to the mask from the INSIDE of the mask.  This is to trim it and make a smoother surface against your face and also to make sure the fabric doesn’t come off.

Get the silicone headband and cut it so it is one long strip of silicone elastic.  Take a steak knife or pair of scissors and poke a hole on either side of the mask .  You can just tie the headband onto the mask thru these holes and it will work fine.  Just make sure that you adjust it to fit your head correctly before tying it and cutting off the excess.

Flip the mask back over and use the puffy paint to paint the teeth onto the mask.  Let dry overnight.

To complete the Frank Donnie Darko Costume, I took the black plastic forks and broke off the tines.  Then we put those into the grey gloves from the inside, pushing them thru the fingertips of the gloves.  They stayed in place just fine on their own.

For the “costume”, take the dark grey hoodie and just cut a piece of the white fur as big as you would like and LOOSELY stitch the white fur onto the front of the hoodie.  No expert sewing skills needed as long as you use white thread you will not be able to see the stitching.

So, for the final Donnie Darko Costume you wear the black leggings or pants with the hoodie and gloves and the mask.  Hey, it’s not perfect but it worked fine and my daughter loved it!

 

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As much as I hate to admit it, I spilled sweet tea on my laptop keyboard.  I mopped it all up.  Cleaned between the keys with qtips and alcohol.  I even removed some of the keys that were sticking quite badly and then cleaned underneath them.  The keys were still sticking and two didn’t work (they just went squish squish squish).  Sigh.  I am in no position to buy a new laptop right now (as tempting as that may be).  What I ended up doing was buying a regular keyboard that plugs into my laptop via a USB port.  That worked but was quite awkward to use and a pain in the butt to move from place to place. My laptop became more of a desktop!

After researching online, I found a replacement keyboard for my laptop for under $15 over at Amazon!  Looked around on YouTube and did an online search and discovered that it is very very easy to replace laptop keyboards!  Whoo hoo!  I was really intimidated by this at first but finally decided that it would be worth a try (with a little help from Dane).  It was a success!  I am happy to report that my keyboard is now fully functioning!  Whew!

It’s funny to me that I can find just about any obscure piece of info online by searching the right keywords but it is never my first instinct  to go to YouTube.  I am not sure why that is.  There is soooo much info there for FREE!  Note to self:  check YouTube first 😀

 

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Posted in DIY.