Saturday, February 16, 2013

How Much Stuff Can Fit in a 31 by 8 Foot Jayco Travel Trailer??

Warning: Messiness ahead! If you are a neat freak (I so wish I was), please stop reading. What you are about to see is likely to offend you.

Still with me? OK. Don't say I needn't warn you! Now, please understand. We're not messy people, per se. We're not dirty, nasty folks. We keep a clean camper. But we seem to accumulate a lot of stuff.

We're starting our new hosting gig in 13 days-YAY! Remember, we've been full-time RV-ing in the front yard for about 5 months now. And we've been in the camper for 11 months straight! We decided it was time to take everything out of our Jayco, clean it top to bottom, and then reevaluate what we really need to put back in the camper. Everything needs a good overhaul in the organization department. We have two desktop computers for roadschooling we need to incorporate somewhere, and a billion other things we need.

So, we have literally taken everything out of the camper that wasn't nailed down. It took.... are you ready for this?....
70 trips (between all four of us)

Yes, you read that right. Seventy loads of stuff.

 This is embarrassing.... but have a look... Don't worry, we will organize it. But for now, we just wanted it out!

The "junk drawer". Jayco owners' manuals, 22 candles, an air horn...

 Yes, you see a spice rack and 38 plastic bags.
Food- that's OK, right???
 17 notebooks, umpteen cable wires, ....
 Enough play dough to stock a daycare, bubbles, ice cream churns (yes, two!)
Everybody needs a giant TV box and straws in their camper, right?

 Literally 28 blankets for four people
 A two foot tall bag of toiletries

Enough clothes for an entire daycare
 18 pillows

 Hey, this one is a must have....our 4 inch memory foam mattress topper!
75 plus DVDs.

Some of the stuff I can't believe was even in there.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Melted Crayon Heart Valentines Free Printables

Melted Heart Crayons

Free Printable Valentines

We love making things out of melted crayons around here. There's just something nifty about turning old, broken, stubby, no good crayons into a new swirly looking masterpiece!

Got broken junky old crayons? Great. Then you've got the makings of some awesome, one of a kind Valentines that are way cooler than the boxed kind you buy at Walmart!

Making these Valentines is simple and fun. You will need:
old crayons
a silicone heart shaped pan (it's only going to be good for making crayons from now on, so be forewarned)
an old cookie sheet or metal pan (ditto)
glitter (optional)

Step 1: Use an exacto knife to slit the wrappers of the crayons.
Step 2: Peel the labels off the crayons.
Step 3: Break the crayons into small pieces.
Step 4: Fill your heart molds with crayons.
Step 5: Put silicon pan on baking sheet.
Step 6: Bake at 250 in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until melted.
Step 7: Add more crayon bits and some glitter.
Step 8: Bake another 5-10 minutes, or until melted.
Step 9: Remove from the oven and let cool.
Step 10: Pop hearts out of mold.

Step 11: Use double sided tape to affix crayons to these printable Valentines. There are four different designs. (Don't worry; I took off Madison's name so your sweeties can write their own!)

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Science Saturday: Magic Inflating Balloon

Welcome back to Science Saturday! We've got a great science activity to share with you today- the magic inflating balloon! The great thing about this science demonstration is it's easy, frugal, and only requires materials that most everybody has on hand at their home or camper! Oh, and then there's the major WOW factor, too! That's pretty nice also!

We've been studying states of matter and chemical and physical changes in our roadschooling lessons. This experiment fits the bill for both topics. Not only is it an opportunity to explore changes in the state of matter and view a real, live chemical reaction, but it's also an amazing thing to see! We've used this demonstration in classrooms as part of a Science Fun Day, at a Mad Scientist birthday party, and around the campsite just for funsies!

Before you read any farther, we must make you aware of our disclaimer.

DISCLAIMER: If you perform this experiment at your campsite, or other science activities like the Floating S Skittles, Ice Cube Sailboats, Glue Hands, or Fizzy Sidewalk Chalk Paint, be prepared for all the kiddos in the campground to flock to your campsite. As long as you don't mind your campsite being "the" place to be for all the campground kids (we don't), proceed at your own risk!

To make a ballon magically inflate, you will need: an empty water or soda bottle, vinegar, baking soda, a funnel, and a balloon. 
  • For a 20 oz. bottle, pour about 1/2 cup vinegar into your bottle. (Don't use the funnel for this! If you do, wash and completely dry it before proceeding.) If your bottle is bigger or smaller, you may have to adjust amounts a little. Experiment- it's science!
  • Insert the funnel into the balloon. 
  • Pour about 1 - 1 1/2 tablespoons baking soda into the funnel. 
  • Remove the funnel and shake all the baking soda down into the bottom of the balloon. 
  • Stretch the neck of the balloon over the mouth of the bottle. 
  • Hold onto the end of the balloon to keep the baking soda from falling into the bottle until you are ready. 
  • Lift the balloon up and let the baking soda fall into the bottle. 
  • Step back, and watch the magic!

  The kids were so amazed, we had to do it again!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Family Fun Friday- Pictionary and Hot Steaming Bread

Well, you've heard about our Family Fun Friday Grilled Pizzas, but you haven't heard about how we spent the rest of the evening having fun as a family. It was a rather impromptu suggestion by the kiddos that turned into hours of the most fun I've had in a while. And also, I'm afraid, has given my dear family something to tease me about for months!

We are fans of The Big Bang Theory show. I'm pretty sure that's where the kiddos came up with the idea of Pictionary.  Rather than making up ideas to draw (we were afraid they might get a little too "out there"), we found a great website called The Game Gal that has printable lists of words for Pictionary, charades, etc. She's got a lot of other great games as well. I can't wait to spend some more time on her site for some more Family Fun Friday ideas!

Honestly, we weren't expecting Pictionary to be as much fun as it was. It was one of those, "Ok, we'll play a few rounds." kinda things. Boy, were we wrong! My stomach still hurts from all the laughing!

We played Adults vs Kids. I thought us adults would have an unfair advantage. Ahem. Not so much. So, um, I got bread. Figured that right out. And an oven. Got that. Brian even took pity on me and talked, which is kinda against the rules. "It goes in the oven as bread. It comes out as?"

What's your answer?? It goes in the oven as bread and comes out as_____________.
My answer: "Hot steaming bread"

The correct answer: Toast. Of course! Toast! Bread plus oven = toast. You put bread in the oven, it gets toasted. Hanging my head in shame.

So, for the rest of the night, everyone's first guess? "Hot steaming bread"
I will never live this one down. It will be like the Candied Chicken recipe I tried like a bazillion years ago and STILL get teased about. I will be an old lady on my deathbed hearing "hot steaming bread" and "candied chicken".

Here's a picture for you. Can you figure it out?

Cow plus ahem, boy. Get it??? Adolescent boys are something else, I tell you!

Anyway, disturbing images aside, if you are looking for a free Family Fun Friday game, try Pictionary! Laughs guaranteed! With a little preparation, Pictionary would make an awesome camping game as well.
Carry a small dry erase board in your camper (we have one hanging on the wall in the living room), print out the word list before you leave, or make them up as you go.

What are some classic games you like to play with your family?

Family Fun Friday: Easy, Quick, and Delicious Mini Grilled Pizzas

Grilled Pizzas- under $3 and under 30 minutes

Hey there folks! Welcome back to Family Fun Friday! We actually have two family fun activities to share tonight. The start to our evening was a favorite Friday evening tradition around here- Grilled Pizza. We also played a hilariously entertaining game, but I'll have to share that in the next post!

Wait a minute... you've never had grilled pizza??? You are seriously missing out on some major yumminess! And on a camping trip... OMG. The nature makes it taste even better!

Before I share the secret to grilled pizza with you, repeat after me: "Pizza doesn't have to be round. Pizza doesn't have to be round." These may not be the most attractive pizzas in the world. I probably won't make the cover of Food Magazine. But that's okay. These babies are awesome! What they lack in appearance, they make up for in taste- smoky, cheesy, herbed deliciousness.

To make pizza, of course you need dough. You can use whatever recipe you like, canned pizza dough, or even biscuits in a pinch. Here is my recipe for pizza dough. You can also use it for dinner rolls, breadsticks, etc.

Mix 1 T yeast in 1 C hot water. Pour into a large mixing bowl. Add 2 T vegetable oil, 2.5 C flour, 1 t sugar, 1 t salt, 1-3 T of Italian Seasoning or oregano, 1 t garlic powder and 1 t onion powder.  Of course, the spices are optional. You can vary according to your taste and your toppings. Our personal opinion is the spices MAKE the dough. Knead dough until it's smooth. The awesome thing about this dough is that it doesn't have to rise. Mix, knead, and go- 5 minutes!

Divide the dough into 6-8 portions and press/roll out dough onto an oiled pizza pan. Brush oil on top of the pizza dough. For grilled pizza, it's so much easier to make individual mini pizzas instead of trying to flip a large one on the grill. That also allows everyone to personalize their toppings.

Have everything ready to go before you put the dough on the grill. These pizzas cook pretty quickly.

Preheat your grill. Once grill is hot, place pizzas onto the grill, oil side down. Direct heat is fine, unless you notice your pizza is burning. Close the grill and let the dough cook for 3-5 minutes, or until the bottom is browned, crispy, and has grill marks. When the dough is cooked on the bottom, flip the pizzas over. Add your pizza sauce, toppings, and cheese. Close the grill again and allow the pizzas to cook for another 3-5 minutes, or until cheese is melted and gooey. If your crust is burning before the cheese is melted, move the pizzas to an upper rack or an indirect heat area.

I will warn you- plan to eat outside, standing beside the grill. We have NEVER made it to the table with these grilled pizzas (at least the first batch. This dough recipe makes seven or eight 4-6" pizzas.)

So, how, you ask, is this Family Fun Friday? Well, making Grilled Pizzas is a family affair! The kiddos beg to make them. One kid measures, mixes, and kneads the dough while the other kid browns the sausage, gathers the toppings, etc. Everybody helps put the pizzas and toppings on the grill. And everybody stands by the grill and salivates as they cook.

Know what? Not only does grilled pizza rock, but it costs less and cooks in the same amount of time (or less) as a frozen pizza. Tastes a million times better, too! From start to finish, you can make this grilled pizza in under 30 minutes. By my calculations, it cost maybe 75 cents for the dough, 75 cents for the cheese (1/2 a bag of shredded cheese), 33 cents for the spaghetti sauce (1/3 jar), and 44 cents for the sausage (1/2 lb.). Grand total: $2.27. You can't even buy a generic frozen pizza for that!

Our Family Fun Friday Grilled Pizzas were a hit, quick, and frugal. Under $3, under 30 minutes, family fun, and yummy to boot! This should be your next camping meal. I promise you won't be disappointed!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Camping Tip Tuesday: 8 ways to make your next camping trip a success

Camping Trip Tuesday: 8 Tips for Getting Rid of Bugs, Leveling your RV, and Battling the Elements While Camping

Welcome to week 2 of  Camping Tip Tuesday at Life is Great in a 31 by 8!
Stay tuned for some great camping tips and tricks to make your next camping vacay more of a vacation and less of a headache!

First of all, let's talk leveling. RV campers, you know what a headache getting your rig leveled can be! This ranks just behind dumping the black water tank as one of the drawbacks of RV-ing. Well, maybe not just behind...
Our first two tips will help make leveling your camper easier:

1. Save scrap lumber around the house (or camper) from projects. Use blocks of wood or pieces of plywood to place under your scissor jacks before you lower them. The farther you have to run your jacks down, the more wobbly your camper will be. Ergo, the less you have to run your jacks down, the sturdier your RV will be!

2. Take a close look at the level of your campsite before you set up your RV. If one side of the RV is lower than the other, don't try to jack your camper way up (see tip above!). Grab one or two 2 x 6 or larger boards, (depending on how out of level your site is), cut the ends off at an angle to make a small ramp, and lay them in position. Drive your RV up onto these boards. Bam! Instant leveling without the instability of jacks!

3. Speaking of jacks, weather is another major headache of camping. (Yes, I know, from jacks to weather. I'm getting there, I promise. Follow the rabbit trail for a minute!) If you are tent camping and are worried about rain flooding out your campsite, a little preparation will save your trip! Check with a local store or newspaper and get some shipping pallets. Most of the time, companies will give them away for free. The size of your tent will determine how many pallets you need- four or six will probably be sufficient for most tents. Arrange the pallets on your campsite in the location you plan to set up your tent. Lay a tarp over the pallets, then set up your tent on top. Voila! Your tent is jacked up and out of the water, with zero cost and little headache! You can also set an extra pallet or two in front of your tent for a "porch" to wipe off your feet or leave shoes.

4. Camping in any sort of extreme weather can be quite difficult. But don't let the cold zap all the fun out of your camping trip! If you find yourself tent camping in frigid temperatures, the following trick will cut the wind and insulate your tent. Remove your tent's rain cover. Drape a tarp over your entire tent, then replace the rain cover. The extra layer of insulation will protect you from the wind and keep the temperature inside your tent a little warmer. The rain cover will secure the tarp to your tent with no need to stake the tarp down.

Another downside of camping is the bugs! I know it's nature, and some experiences with little biting pests are to be expected! But, sometimes, those little buggers are eating you alive... and a camper's gotta do what a camper's gotta do! Next time the bugs are making you buggy, try these four tips:

5. Throw some dried sage or rosemary into your campfire. Both will repel mosquitoes, at least in the immediate proximity of your fire. Generally, if we have a campfire, we are all out sitting around it. So this works for us!

6. Don't want to sit around the campfire all day just to avoid mosquitoes? Make your own bug spray by putting Listerine Mouthwash in a spray bottle, 50% water to 50% mouthwash. You can spray it on people (the smell will go away in about 10 minutes, I promise!) or spray it around your campsite. Bye bye buggies!

7. Want to also repel ticks? I know they are bad in my neck of the woods. Add some tea tree oil (only a few drops) to your listerine mix.  No skeeters, and no ticks!

8. Want to smell good and still repel bugs? Grab a box of cheap dryer sheets! You can either just keep a dryer sheet in your pocket or rub it on your clothes. (Not sure if I'd do skin, especially sensitive skin!) Something in the dryer sheet bugs the bugs.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Road Schooling Sunday: 10+ Ways Football Can Be Educational

Free Educational Football Themed Games and Activities:
 Using football to teach

Welcome back to another edition of Road Schoolin' Sunday at Life is Great in a 31 by 8! Since today is Superbowl Sunday, we'd like to share with you some ways to make learning appeal more to your child's interest. Anytime I mention the word football, my son's ears perk up! That boy is all about some football!

1. First of all, if you're watching the big game, try asking your child how many more touchdowns, field goals, or combinations will allow the losing team to pull ahead. They'll have no idea they are practicing algebra and critical thinking! (Evil grin here!) And I'm willing to bet the child who claims "it's too hard" on paper can solve the problem in a flash if it's about a topic he cares about. I know that's true for us! If your kiddos are not into football, or, well, football season is ending today, try this with another sport. Next time you give your kiddos math problems to complete, turn them into sports- themed questions. Kids always learn better when they consider the learning to be relevant to their life personally or something they are interested in. Got a dinosaur fan? Make dino problems! Roadschooling? Make camping themed problems. Better yet, give them real life problems to solve, like how long until we need another fill up? How much did our gas cost per mile?

We know that memorization and practice of addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division facts can be BO-RING! But, unfortunately, fact fluency is important. No one wants their child to be the adult standing in Walmart or Camping World counting on his or her fingers! We have just the solution to encourage your child to practice fact fluency- and love it!

2. Tackle Math Ball uses real NFL teams to preactice all basic operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division). It's fast paced and fun! After you answer a question correctly, you advance down the field. Best of all, you can play online or on a tablet. (We've run into a lot of great games that won't work on our iPad, unfortunately. While roadschooling, we find the iPad to be an awesome educational tool. ) MrNussbaum has a lot of great educational games!

3. Funbrain Power Football allows your child to practice decimal addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, or a mixture of all of the operations. You can set the level of difficulty to meet your child's needs. I find that decimals are one of those areas that my children will argue, "Why do I need to do this?"
Sometimes, explaining that they need to know how to add and subtract money, as well as multiply decimals to determine discounts isn't "cool" enough. Give them something that looks game-y and sporty- the arguments cease!

4. Hold onto your seats, sports fans! The NFL Outreach program offers printable teacher activity guides for each NFL team. These lessons cover grammar, reading, math, science, social studies, visual arts, and even PE. Wow! Go here to select your favorite team.
There are great variations in the guides' content and length.  Here is 185 pages worth of Cincinnati Bengals themed football lessons, whereas here is only 33 pages of Atlanta Falcons activities.

5. Something we found pretty interesting for older kids (probably about 10- 18) is Visa's Financial Football game. This game uses real NFL teams and features very realistic football gameplay. You choose your strategy for each play, much like Madden or NCAA Football for XBox. Each play, you are asked a financial question, like "What is an example of discretionary spending?" Hunter really enjoyed playing it, almost as much as his "real" football games.

6. Integer Football practices moving along a number line. Your football player advances forward or backward along a number line with both positive and negative numbers depending on a loss or gain of yardage. A great visual way to work on addition of positive and negative numbers. Roadschool friendly, too, since it's internet-based!

7. For younger football fans (I haven't forgotten about you!) PBS Between the Lions has a really cute game called Blending Bowl. It has really cute animations of different parts of a word family blending together to form words. Great way to practice blending, decoding, and word families!

8. Need to practice geography skills? Print out all the NFL logos (or the college team logos if your kiddo's more of a college fan like mine) and challenge your child to place them on a large wall map or smaller printable map in the correct state. When they're done, have them write all the team names in alphabetical order. While you're at it, have students categorize the mascots (perhaps birds, other animals, and non-animals) and create a bar graph with their findings. That's what we call interdisciplinary learning!

9. Got a newspaper handy? Wait, of course you do... you're reading me on it! Click here and grab 41 printable worksheets utilizing newspapers and football to reinforce math, language arts, science, and social studies skills.

10. Looking for a project? Have your football fanatic research a team, or the city where the big game will be held. Have them create a brochure, powerpoint, website, blog post, video commerical, or whatever else floats their boat. Incorporate topics you've been working on in homeschool or roadschool.

11. And, finally, if you're looking for free printable activities, check out Teachers Pay Teachers. You have to create a free account, but there are 117 free football themed learning activities for download here.

Well, football fans, it's the 4th quarter, and time has run out on the clock! Hope you've found some great football themed educational activities you can use in your roadschooling, homeschooling, or in your classroom. Come back next week for Roadschooling Sunday!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Science Saturday: Density Layered Liquids

Welcome back to the 2nd edition of Science Saturday! We're pleased to share with you another fun, frugal, and kid-friendly science experiment.

Hunter has been learning about density in Science, so Dad devised this cool experiment to illustrate the different densities of household liquids. It's loosely based on the oil and water experiment that you probably did when you were a kid, and also on a 7 layer density tower from Steve Spangler Science. (BTW, if you've never checked out Steve Spangler, you are missing out! That's our go-to site for fun science experiments and explanations.)

We used 4 ounces each of the following liquids: water, vegetable oil, rubbing alcohol,  and Purell hand sanitizer (or "sand hanitizer" as Madison calls it!). We colored each of the liquids with a different color food coloring. In retrospect, I wish we'd have used less food coloring, like only a drop or two per color.

We started by pouring the colored water into a glass jar. Rubbing alcohol has a lower density than water, so it should theoretically float on top. I say theoretically because what really happened was we poured a little too quickly, and the water and alcohol mixed. So did the two colors, producing a rather murky look.  But, hey, science is about experimentation and learning why things happen! It's not a failure; it's a learning experience! (You know, that's one thing I love about science- it's about the process, not necessarily the product.)

After doing a little reading, we decided that one of our tips for this experiment would be to pour SLOWLY, using a funnel. We also decided that we should have poured water, then vegetable oil, THEN alcohol. The water and alcohol really needed a buffer in between them. And, remember, only a little food coloring!

We topped our alcohol off with a layer of vegetable oil, then a layer of "sand hanitizer". It was really cool to see the less dense oil floating on top of the water, then the hand sanitizer, which appeared to be very dense, lay on top of the oil. The hand sanitzer formed a convex layer, which was very interesting to see. Since most of our alcohol was now mixed with the water at the bottom, we decided to add another layer of alcohol. We were very curious to see whether it would be more or less dense than the Purell, which is mostly alcohol anyway. The rubbing alcohol was, surprisingly, more dense than the hand sanitizer- it floated right on through it! Alcohol is less dense than oil, however.

After examining our layers, (in order of density from most dense to least dense was water, oil, rubbing alcohol, hand sanitizer) and discussing our results and how to improve the experiment next time (see notes above), we decided we simply had to shake it up!

Again, too much food coloring, so the mixed up version looked like what happens when you try to mix all the colors of Easter Egg Dye and wind up with brown eggs! But, after sitting for a while, the liquids still retain their original densities and will separate back out into layers.

You can try this density experiment with whatever liquids you have in the kitchen or camper. Milk, dish soap, laundry soap, honey, syrup, salt water, or whatever else you can imagine! Remember, Science Saturdays are about family fun, experimentation, and learning!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Family Fun Friday- Blast From the Past Family Night

Well, here it is- the day you've all been waiting for! Today is the last day of our introduction of new features here at Life is Great in a 31 by 8. We're excited to bring you... Family Fun Fridays!

Before I share tonight's Family Fun Friday activity, you have to promise not to laugh, okay? Yonder follows a rather embarrassing picture of me. Hey, I'll do anything for my family's fun!

At Family Fun Friday, we'll be sharing fun, easy ways to spend some QT with your family. We'll bring you game ideas, cool things to do together, activities to do together with the whole family, pretty much anything that falls under the topic of family togetherness, ways to spend more time with your family, ways to make family time more fun, or things that bring families closer together.

Tonight's Family Fun Friday requires a little preparation, but it's well worth it! Pick a time period... hubby and I are both children of the 80's, so we chose the 80's. Help everyone develop a costume out of clothes and accessories you already have.  By the way, these costumes may come in handy if your school, church, etc. has a Dance through the Decades, Sock Hop, Blast from the Past, or anything like that. Or, hey, Halloween!

Madison and I used puff paint to decorate two of Brian's old t-shirts with sayings like "Like, totally", "Radical", "Valley Girl", etc. and cut the neckline so it would hang off our shoulders. We found plenty of play jewelry that worked perfectly, used existing skirts/jeans/socks/tanks for a layered look, and cut a pair of long socks into legwarmers. It was hilarious to hear, "Mom, did you really wear this? Are you sure it's supposed to look like this?" (I'm ashamed to admit that, yes, I did indeed look that goofy.) I got out the curling iron and lots of hairspray and recreated some awesome 80's big hair and sidewards ponytail. Oh, and lots of blue eyeshadow (Embarrassing to admit I had this on hand). None of it cost a penny, and was a lot of fun to get together!

The boys, on the other hand, had 80's outfits much easier than we did. They layered pastel polo shirts, flipped up the collar (WHY is this back in style? I keep trying to flip kids' collars down, till they correct me and tell me it's supposed to be like that!), brushed back their hair, and wore some authentic 1980's Ray- Bans.

We had a little fashion show of our ensembles, to the tune of some 80's music (Hey, Mickey, you're so fine!), then cranked up the tunes and danced. We all had a blast! Cost- nothing. Prep time- a little, but it was fun. Memories- Priceless!

You could also end the evening watching some movies from your decade. Youtube is a great place to find commercials and TV shows from the past also.

What other ideas do you have for a "Blast from the Past" family night?
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