Pinterest Paradise

By Karen Hendricks

Has the Pinterest craze hit you yet? If you haven’t yet discovered this virtual bulletin board yet, let me tell you–it can be a mom’s best friend. But if you haven’t heard, there is a warning to heed: Pinterest can be slightly addicting so proceed with caution!

The best thing about Pinterest is if you’re in need of inspiration, this is the place to find it. The downside is sometimes you get so wrapped up in all the inspiration, that you forget to actually DO and MAKE some of the projects and recipes and ideas that you find on Pinterest!

Before Pinterest came into my life, I was forever tearing out magazine articles, clipping recipes, jotting down ideas from The Today Show, putting bookmarks in my gazillion cookbooks, etc. (I still do some of that!) Now, where did I put all those great ideas?

The beauty of Pinterest is I can bookmark in cyberspace and not lose or misplace a single idea–it’s all in my account. Viola! And believe it or not I have tried quite a few recipes and put quite a few ideas into action as a result of Pinterest. I’m going to share some of my highlights with you…

Homemade laundry detergent - wish the scent came through your computer!

Homemade laundry detergent – wish the scent came through your computer!

One of my favorite discoveries, and probably the most practical, is a recipe for laundry detergent. I whipped up this concoction in early November and I still have a great supply here in mid-January. I have not bought laundry detergent since, and with a family of five that is an amazing feat! All told, the ingredients cost between $20 and $25 so I feel as though I’m saving a lot of money as the net result. Ordinarily I spend between $10 and $20 a month on detergent. The homemade detergent works great–that’s the best part. The only thing I did differently was instead of using the 1 to 2 tablespoons per load as recommended, I generally use 2 to 3 just because my washer has an extra large cycle.

I’ve tried quite a few new recipes as a result of Pinterest and two of our family favorites have been spinach cheese balls and Nutella cupcakes. The spinach cheese balls served as the perfect appetizer several times over the holidays. And I have to give my daughter Katie credit–she’s the one who discovered and baked the Nutella cupcakes. YUM.

Spinach Cheese Balls, Photo Credit:

Spinach Cheese Balls, Photo Credit:

Nutella Cupcakes, Photo Credit:

Nutella Cupcakes, Photo Credit:

For Christmas gifts, I made each of my three children customized dry erase boards using colorful paint samples and poster frames from Michael’s craft store. The blocks of color make it especially handy for them to write to do lists. I customized their colors to coordinate with their rooms. I think they were all amazed to see that mom has a touch of creativity! It was actually a pretty low-cost project, considering the paint samples were free. The only cost was the frame plus the investment of my time. And the end result is priceless–helping my children stay organized. What a lifesaver.

Colorful paint chips + frames = artful dry erase boards for calendars and to-do lists

Colorful paint chips + frames = artful dry erase boards for calendars and to-do lists

My daughter Katie's board is already in use

Already in use!













My beautiful sis-in-law Dawn, wearing her infinity scarf

My beautiful sis-in-law Dawn, wearing her infinity scarf

I also discovered an easy sewing project–how to make an infinity scarf. I actually made seven as Christmas gifts, until my sewing machine broke down… I guess it wasn’t used to all that activity.

It’s amazing what you can accomplish by having a few more minutes of free time in your day. By maintaining a 40-hour workweek–and not spiraling into the 60+ hour range–I feel as though I have the ability to think clearer, plan ahead and have time to BREATHE. Every Mom needs time for herself, “off the merry-go-round,” in order to be the best Mom she can possibly be to her family. And if that personal time is spent on Pinterest, I’d call that paradise!

For more information on all the projects featured in this post, click here for the NEW Off the Merry-Go-Round Pinterest page! We look forward to adding many more inspiring and helpful pins. Hope to see you on Pinterest—be sure to follow us! 


If the Shoe Fits… Organize it!

By  Mary Ann Filler

Am I the only one who thinks about organizing this time of year?

As a person who teaches people to think systematically, you might get the impression that organization comes easily to me.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE to be organized, it’s just that I’m not a natural.  Before kids, I spent many hours keeping up with my “stuff.”  After kids, my “stuff” and their “stuff” took over!!! Ever since the “stuff” took over, I have been attempting to impose some sort of system of organization on it.

This may sound crazy, but one important area of organization for our family involves shoes.  As a family of five, we have a lot of them!  In addition, I have a son who feels like some women; one can never have enough shoes.  In fact, my son even photographs his shoes.

Note the closest pair in the photo…his prized one of a kind self-designed Converse!

Note the closest pair in the photo…his prized one of a kind self-designed Converse!

Keep in mind, this is just one of his shoe collections!

Keep in mind, this is just one of his shoe collections!

These shoes are getting their marching orders...

These shoes are getting their marching orders…

From the beginning, our boys have been trained to remove their shoes in the garage upon entering the house.  I’m not sure why, because neither my husband nor I removed our shoes prior to entering our homes of origin.  I will say that this habit has cut down on cleaning and the mal odors that tend to emanate from active boy’s foot ware. It has also help preserve the carpeted areas of our home.  But, this practice has also caused strife with having to nag the boys to take their shoes up to their bedrooms and then locate them again when it was time to go somewhere.

It was then that we decided that we should just store the shoes (other than their “Sunday” shoes) at the door leading from the garage in to the house.  When the boys were little, this was not that big of a problem as we were helping them on and off with their shoes, their feet were tiny, and they only owned two to three pairs of shoes in total.  As they grew, they each accrued many pairs of shoes, and we were no longer supervising them as they removed them.  This led to chaos in the entryway!

The quest to determine the best way of organizing all of these shoes was on.   We needed a system that would allow us to easily find and store each pair of shoes.

Initially, I used stackable plastic bins.


I even labeled each bin thinking that it would help the boys remember to put their shoes in their individual bins when removing them.


At first, the system was golden.  However, after the initial glow wore off and their feet grew (as well as the number of pairs of shoes), this is what our “shoe situation” typically looked like…



Okay, I’ll admit that some of those shoes belong to my husband and I. We only keep a few pairs of shoes in the garage; the rest we store in our bedroom closet.

The bins were too small and the shoes became jumbled up, spilled out and difficult to locate.  At this point, I can’t tell you how many times I twisted my ankle attempting to enter or exit our home; not to mention the frustration in locating a pair of shoes when in a hurry.

I had to figure out a better system.  Some of the “systems” I considered wouldn’t work.  Width-wise we don’t have that big of an area at the doorway, and I didn’t want to “break the bank.”  I finally found a 4-tiered shoe rack that was affordable, durable and a perfect fit for the space!  We needed 3 to accommodate all of those shoes!

I purposefully included the winter boots in the photo as they will not fit on this rack.  We store our winter boots on a tray just beyond the racks in the winter and in our attic over the garage in the off-season.

I purposefully included the winter boots in the photo as they will not fit on this rack. We store our winter boots on a tray just beyond the racks in the winter and in our attic over the garage in the off-season.

I really like that this rack has shelves.  Many of the affordable options that I had considered had open rods for shoe placement; I could envision shoes slipping off the rack and on to the floor.  I also appreciate how sturdy these units are, as some of the racks I looked at would not have held up to teen boys!  This system allows easy access and storage of each boy’s shoes with a few extra slots for my husband and I (although I did have to convince my husband that he didn’t need 3 pairs of back up mowing shoes;-).

I completed this project back in September, and I have to say that it’s the best solution I’ve come up with so far.  It’s so nice to be able to enter and exit our home without spraining my ankle!

Purchasing information for the shoe racks:  I purchased mine at Home Depot.  However, you can go to and search 4-tier shoe rack and quite a few options will appear with prices ranging from $12-$30 per rack.

Setting Limits on TV and Video Games (or How NOT to Win Mother-of-the Year)

By Jen Ashenfelter 

There are a lot of distractions for children today: Wii, PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo DS, iPod, iPad, cell phones, Angry Birds and, oh yeah, that old favorite, the television. It’s hard to believe but when I grew up—not only did I walk to school uphill both ways…I’m not kidding—video games were played on an Atari system, the phone was tethered to the wall, a television was controlled by two legs and five fingers, and an apple was something you ate with lunch. Consider me ancient.

If the scientists and experts thought television and video games were bad for the healthy development of children back then, what’s a parent to do today? Times and technology may have changed but the answer remains the same: Turn it all off. Keep it off. It’s that easy. Ok, well sometimes it’s not that easy but we’ll get to that later. 

Long, long ago…

During the school year, I was not allowed to watch television during the week. Friday evening through Sunday evening was it—Love Boat, American Bandstand and the Sunday Disney movie totally rocked. And we never owned an Atari—a game of Monopoly could last 1 ½ days if we played it right. A focus on homework and school activities were my responsibility and high grades were expected.

I hated the rule. I will never win a contest about 80’s TV trivia, but I’m happy to report that I survived, graduated ranked 12th in my class, used the “therapy fund” to pay for college, and today I’m a fairly well-adjusted adult.

The circle of life goes on…

Yes, the most hated, evil rule ever devised in the history of parenting lives on—in my house. But it’s bigger and more evil than ever before: the weekday ban not only includes TV but all gaming systems of any size, type or style. Same reasons. Same expectations. Hopefully the same results—so far, so good.

As I mentioned earlier, it’s not always easy. My two boys are very good at reasoning and, in some cases, argument and debate. Future lawyers, perhaps. However, I prefer a more scientific approach to the laws of rule bending. When the well-read ‘A’ student asks for slight change, the experiment begins. When the quiz, test and project grades start to drop, or an inch becomes a mile, the experiment ends and the theory is successfully proven.

And it’s not always perfect. The real work begins on Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons when both boys have to be pried away from sets and systems for a seat at the dining room table or an extended break outside for sunshine, fresh air and, oh yeah, actual physical, sweat-inducing exercise.

I will never win a Mother of the Year contest either.  

All kidding and “mean, strict mommy” stuff aside…

There are plenty of studies and reports available that provide serious statistics for why time spent in front of the television, gaming devices and other electronic toys should be limited. As well, there are plenty of resources—including our family oriented blog posts chock full of great ideas and first-hand experiences—that suggest better ways for young minds and bodies to spend their free time.

May I also suggest reading this linked post from the Becoming Minimalist blog.  Eye-opening statistics! You’ve got the resources, now it’s time to create the plan. Here are a few ideas:

Set rules and expectations early. If you have preschool aged children, then now is the time to set the rules. As the years progress, they won’t know any differently. Setting a new rule with older children will be more challenging—be strong.

Define your rule and any exceptions. For us, it’s basic: No television or gaming systems Mondays – Thursdays during the school year but they’re allowed Friday after school through Sunday evening.

Be consistent. There are always exceptions and small battles to be fought, but the boys know where I stand and what the absolute limit is.

Make it your lifestyle. It’s the same concept as dieting. To completely deny chocolate cake is to want chocolate cake. So, limit the amount, fill the time with other meaningful activities, remain steadfast, praise the effort, and celebrate the results! Stick with it week after month after year…you’ll be glad you did.

Thank you Mom and Dad! I hated the rule then, but I appreciate its value now. You were right! (Yup, that just happened.…) 

Did you grow up with a limit on television and video games? As a parent, what rules or expectations do you have during the school year? How has it worked for your family? Join the conversation and share your thoughts and ideas on this subject.


By Karen Hendricks

Welcome and congrats for “jumping off the merry-go-round.” Enjoy this blog as a source of community and inspiration for all moms who have scaled back their professional careers in favor of more enriching family time.

Our Mission: To provide a place of community & inspiration for moms who have left corporate or full-time careers in order to spend more time with their children and families. Re-prioritizing, we are seeking more meaningful, enriched family lives.

We look forward to sharing tips, ideas and conversations about:

  • Daily family life, staying organized
  • Family fun, activities, games
  • Parenting – the agony and the joy
  • Recipes, healthy tips from the kitchen
  • Balancing work with family life
  • Penny-pinching tips
  • Family photography, scrapbooking
  • Travel, day trips, vacations
  • Arts & crafts projects

We are open to your suggestions and topic ideas!  Email us at:  OffTheMGR (at)