Monthly Archives: January 2017

DIY Barbie Furniture

When I was little I loved barbies.  Most of my favorites are still in a box somewhere in my closet gathering dust.  One day, I hope that my daughter will love them as much as I did and enjoy them as I did.  Maybe even I can have a bit of childish fun with her myself.  

Sweet Nostalgia


 I was writing the post about my little one’s new sewing play kit DIY and thought of all the things my mother made for me. We didn’t have a lot of money for toys, something I’m sure many of you can relate to.  So mom made a lot of my barbie furniture. Sometimes it was made out of recycled items and a few special times she made me plastic canvas barbie furniture.  

My nostalgia caused me to go looking for all of the stuff my mother made me. It also led me to find some of her old instruction manuals.  Most of the projects aren’t too hard to do (aside from the barbie RV, House, and piano).  Nor do they have to be as elaborate.  If you aren’t good at details you can make them simpler.  Heck, you may even think of something else to make them out of.  ho knows.  You’ll have to let me know what ideas you come up with if you fiddle with it yourself.


Below are several images.  First are all the pieces my mother made for me. Or at least the one’s I’ve found so far.  And below that are images of some of the project books I have.  I found several of the old pattern books online at Ebay and Amazon.  I know at one point there were a few free ones online, but I couldn’t seem to find them. Many of them are fairly easy to figure out on your own, especially if you aren’t too concerned about how fancy you get.  Trust me, I still played with the ridiculously colored barbie locker I made for myself in first or second grade just as much as mom’s gorgeous pieces (I wish I had kept that abomination of color to show you lol).

Get Creative With It

And that’s something else. Your kid can learn to make a lot of this stuff themselves with a little parental help.  I would say I was able to do the basic stuff by around second or third grade and the more complex by fourth. Then again, I was a crafty child as well.  Still, another idea if your child has that inclination.

Well, I hope I was able to give you some ideas on how to save yourself some money or to simply make some unique barbie accessories. And if you are a crafty person it is possible to make some money off these ideas too.  I know mom used to sell the stuff at art fairs and flea markets for a fairly decent return.

If I have some time in the future maybe I can even put up a few simple patterns and instructions loosely based on what I learned from making the stuff all those years ago.  Just enjoy yourself and be as fancy…or as simple as you’d like.  

Until next time, have fun, be crafty, and….as always….Blessed Be.

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Amber Brandenburg

January 27, 2017

Hello. This is Amber.  We just recently launched our Facebook page, YouTube Channel, and Pinterest.  I’m still working on putting up content on all of them and linking stuff from here to there so you can track me via your favorite sources of social media.

Right now the Pinterest has the most up.  I had a bit too much fun going down the rabbit hole.  I found a whole bunch of new things I need to try with my little miss, some of which she is still way too young for.

I’m hoping to get set up to Vlog soon as well, hence the YouTube Channel. There are some things that are just impossible to explain verbally without needing a bit of a visual.  So bear with me as I work out the kinks and get everything up and running.

Hope you’re having a great week and have a wonderful weekend.


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The Toddler Sewing Kit

Our sewing kit.

A full view of our sewing kit. A list of the items included and a few that we will add are listed below.

I had to take a break from my series of posts on being a Caregiver to your parents.  I needed to do something fun. Recently, I’ve been sewing….a lot. I’ve been making all manner of new dresses and I’m working on a set of felt dice. The second so I can work towards perfecting my satin stitch (another tutorial that I may get to at one point).  However, I seem to have this little one who keeps trying to fiddle with my sewing kit or machine.  

She’s two…so I can’t expect her to get with the program and be a perfect angel all the time. So I went to go buy her a toddler sewing kit from a Montessori site….and couldn’t find one. So I decided to make my own.  

Not only is sewing a great skill to have our children build towards but even if your child doesn’t end up a seamstress, they may learn something.  For example, threading a pipe cleaner through an old spool is a great motor development game and something my child already loves to do (that and threading beads).  Or using buttons to teach colors and shapes.  As with many avenues of learning, the possibilities are endless. 

Great for color and shape educational activities

Just a few of the colors and most of the shapes from the button set I bought her for her kit.

Our Toddler Sewing Kit

So what did we put in our kit? Take a look:

  • Buttons– As you can see in the images, I chose a bright bold button pack with a lot of different shapes.  The holes are big enough that she will be able to practice her sewing skills as she gets older.  For now, she just enjoys lining them up and sorting them in whatever manner is pleasing to her that day.  
  • Utensils Case– I saw this one on Pinterest. Not only can the thing be used for storage, but I’ve seen pipe cleaners attached to it so the child can work on threading things onto it, or just practicing threading it through the holes themselves. 
  • Plastic needles– Safe, practical, hard to hurt yourself with.  
  • Plastic Canvas– When I was little my mother used to use this stuff to make everything. I had barbie furniture, tissue paper holders, magnets and even Christmas ornaments made out of the stuff. The holes are fairly big so its perfect for an aspiring seamstress to practice their stitches on. 
  • Cross Stitch Hoop: This is great.  Eventually she can use it for cross stitch if she wants but for now, I just want to get some colorful shelf lining to put in it. See the next section for more details. If nothing else she will play with the hoop as small children do. 
  • Pipe Cleaners– These can be threaded through the canister or just played with in general.  
  • A Zipper– She loves playing zippers and its great fine motor practice for her. 
  • Fabric scraps and Squares– Bright colors and patterns attract the eye.  My little one likes to order and sort them.  She also just likes to wave them around.  I personally don’t get the appeal, but I’m also not 2 years old. 

Future Additions/Ideas

  • Shelf liner– this can be placed on the cross stitch hoop.  If you haven’t seen the stuff before, it has holes in it.  It’s another great thing to practice with the needle. 
  • Balls of yarn– I have the yarn, just haven’t had the time to make the balls.  Eventually, my little one will be able to learn to thread her little needle.  
  • Old Yarn Spools– I plan to save a couple of these as I use my massive collection of thread.  She can thread them through pipe cleaners or stack them like blocks.  


I’m sure there is all other sorts of ideas that could be used with this and I’ll be sure to update you as I find them.  

Cross stitch hoop, plastic needles, measuring tape, and her box of buttons and sewing trinkets. Her favorite sewing things.


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Caring for your Parents: Part 2

This is a continuation of my first post on things you may need to do when you start caring for your parents and essentially take over the household.  As hard as being a caregiver is, there are so many things that I would never have even thought of doing in the beginning. I wish had known some of these when I was sorting everything thing out in the beginning. 

Last time we talked about the things you should probably try to get done first. Today we are going to talk about the next step.  Things that you may not have needed to do right away. And some of them are things that will come up as you go along or fix themselves as you become more comfortable in your ability to take care of your parents.  

If you would like to read the first post you can find it here

Power of Attorney

The first thing I wish I had done was obtained a Power of Attorney for both of my parents.  There will be some groups such as insurance companies or banks that will require this for you to be listed on the account with no personal liability. Or they may require it for their own legal purposes.  Either way, it is also nice to have this just in case. If you have it and something goes horrifically wrong you have a way to take care of things that you might otherwise be stuck on.

It isn’t that hard to do either. In most states, you can get a form online from your state website or other legal websites. Sometimes you can find them for free and other times you may pay a minimal fee.  I bought an entire package of end life planning documents that covered just about everything for the state of Indiana. It cost me about $40.  I’ll have to see if I can track down the site again as it had paperwork for just about every state.  

In most cases, once you have the paperwork you just have to fill it out (except for the signatures) and have it notarized. We were able to do this for free at my parent’s bank.  The only other things I would recommend is possibly filing it with a lawyer if you have one.  Otherwise, keep the papers in a safe place or on you.  You never know when you may need them. They’ve come in handy several times. 

In addition to a power of attorney, you may also consider getting the durable medical. You’ll want to talk about all of this with your parents.  A normal power of attorney is generally just for financial matters. For my parents, I also have a durable medical power of attorney on both of them. Of course, if you have any questions or feel uncomfortable doing this on your own, contact a lawyer.  The law is constantly changing and it’s important to make sure that you cover all your bases. 

Finding Additional Help

It takes a lot of time to provide full-time care and sometimes you just need a break.  On top of that, it can become impossible to hold down a job depending on the level of care your parents require. I had a job outside of the home at one point, but between the little one and my parents, I was missing a lot of work to ensure that everything was taken care of. I simply didn’t have time to commute an hour (the closest decent job I could find), work, and manage everything that had to be done at home. It was just too much. 

When we lost one our aides I came to the decision that I would become my mother’s aide. I only work part time, but that’s all I need at this point. However, it also gives me a break. I have hours where I can run out with the little one or run errands. I can even make time to go out and do something for myself if I can find a sitter.  And I get to spend all day with those I love (it can be both a blessing and a curse).  

The great thing is that your insurance may cover this. There are also local. community programs that sometimes offer waiver programs. I know that mom’s coverage is a bit of both.  And if you are interested in a career (if you don’t already have one) getting your CNA is a great option. It takes about 3-4  weeks and  I’ve seen classes for as low as $520. 

Get Rid of the Clutter

This is a good time to talk to your parents about going through everything in the house. It isn’t a time to be brutal (unless they are packrats and moving somewhere smaller), but it’s a good time to help them get rid of things they no longer use. Warning, for most people this is going to be hard. You accumulate a lot of stuff over the course of a lifetime, unless. you’re a minimalist.

Just think of it this way. Less in the way for you to have to clean up both now and later.

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Diet Friendly Snacks From the Store

One of the biggest problems I often have with my diet is snacks and food on the go. Most of the time I’m fairly good at cooking in bulk. I usually have at least something I can grab and go for me and the Valkyrie. That’s when I depend on the imperfect diet-friendly snacks I can get from my local stores.

However, sometimes life doesn’t go as planned. Sometimes you may not have time to bulk cook before an event or outing. Or maybe your plans will change and you won’t have time to run home. I find that between the little Valkyrie and two adult dependents, it happens a lot.

What do you do?

Well for anyone in your family who isn’t on your diet it’s easy. Let them have what they want. I try to steer away from things that will tempt me, however. This happens with my father. We tried putting him on the keto diet and he just refused. We suspect this is a part of dementia, but who knows. Either way, he basically refuses to eat any more than he has to and only what he wants to eat….which is a lot of bread products. So when I find myself out with him I generally find something I don’t want and take him there.

Just make sure its something they like.

The other option is to know what you can and cannot buy at the store and be relatively close to your diet. I say relatively because in our house we are also very particular about additives and preservatives. We have too many food allergies, reactions, and just general ick factor towards those things and their health risk.

We’ve gotten very good at reading labels and learning which brands can be trusted.

Relatively Clean Buys


The easiest solution is nuts. Buy them by the bag. They might be a little more expensive, but they are less likely to be processed in any way. If you can’t just check the labels. You’d be surprised how much sodium is added.

Regardless nuts are a great option. Tons of options. I personally suggest peanuts, cashews and almonds (not my favorite but I’ll take them in a pinch) You’ll want to google some carb counts if you’re a counter, but that’s easily done with Google. I personally just estimate anymore.

If you are new to keto and need to know how to determine your carb intake I suggest checking out keto calculator. It works well and is very simple to use.

String Cheese

Diary is sometimes controversial in Keto but in moderation its fine and its great for kids. We often get the basic mozzarella in a big bag and make it last over several trips. Best of all, it’s easy to store.

Flavor Shots

While not technically food, we buy flavor shots for bottled water. I’m a little iffy on bottled water given some of the controversies over the years, but in a bind, I’ll take it. I tend to favor the Kroger brand or Mio, but that’s mostly because all the others have aspartame and we all seem to have some sort of reaction to it. I also tend to find that the ones without aspartame are generally cleaner in terms of what goes into them. I wouldn’t call them organic or toxic…just nutritionally gray.

Deli Meats

If you’re going to do this and can afford it, go straight to the deli. These are going to be way cleaner than prepackaged meats. There are a lot of preservatives that go into those things. The fresher it is though, the more likely it is to be cleaner. After I pick that up I tend to grab some veggies like lettuce and tomatoes to make wraps. In the past, I had been known to keep little containers with homemade mayo or even some nearly sugar-free ketchup or BBQ sauce. Some were of my own making, some were bought. Okay, the ketchup was bought…at Aldi’s.


In small amounts, fruits are fine when you’re on the go. I tend to favor strawberries or blackberries, mainly because they are easier for the little one and tend to not be as messy. She also loves apples and we’ve bought blueberries. Other times, I’ve bought cans of pineapple in the natural juice and kept a container of it in a Tupperware container tucked inside an insulated lunch box.

Most of the cans have pull tabs these days. If the brand you like doesn’t, just get a little keychain tab opener. A workout and a snack. Two for one.


If you know you’ll have access to a microwave you can buy canned Or frozen veggies. I’ve done this when going to a friends house. Carrots also work very well. We tend to buy the small packages of cut up carrots, which is great for portion control. Enough said.

Veggie chips

We tend to buy simple truth’s exotic chips. They aren’t entirely kosher, but they make a good snack and they aren’t too far off diet. Sweet potato chips are in the same category.

Lily’s chocolate

If you can find a store that sell’s lily’s you can have chocolate on the go. You still have to read the labels. Some of them do have a small amount of sugar. Usually no more than 3g. Others have artificial sugars, which is great because you can have them guilt free. I love Lily’s. It is my go-to chocolate if I have the time to drive to Whole foods.


I know, most of you are thinking there is absolutely no way candy is kosher in keto and generally you would be right. However, I would like to share with you the fact that whole foods do carry low sugar snacks, candies, and gums. I get these mints for the Valkyrie that are 1g sugar per piece. Same thing with gums and other snacks.  In a pinch, I’m looking for close to perfect, not perfection.

Our Krogers does carry some low sugar items as well. We’ve tried these lollipops that supposedly clean your teeth as well as a few hard candy choices. They are okay, but I prefer the stuff at whole foods. Actually, that’s about the only thing I buy there due to the prices.


I really hate Atkins as a whole. I feel its a poorly done version of the low carb diets. However, their little candy treats while horrendously expensive (a pack of 8-12 small square of caramel chocolates for $6), aren’t all that bad. I’ve had the caramels which were great. The peanut butter cups and chocolate covered peanuts are okay. I really liked the peanut nougat bars (though they did make me long for Snickers). The only one I haven’t liked so far is the cookie dough bar.

Still a great option if you can’t find lily’s and still have that chocolate urge.

Roast Chicken

It will be near the deli and aside from maybe a little bit of seasoning, its probably the cleanest entre option of the bunch aside from a salad.


A salad is always an option. However dressing is an issue. Most dressings are not going to be keto friendly. I tend to go with Cesar if I don’t have some with me. Recently I haven’t been doing this, but there was a time that I carried everything but the kitchen purse in my van. Without the van however, that feels a whole lot more crowded.

Go with your gut

In the end, there are just some days that you have to do your best and hope that you dont get thrown too far off. In the end, a bit of planning is far better than just having to head out to the store. I’m sure I’m missing ideas, so feel free to add what keto snacks you would buy below.

In the near future I want to expand on this with another post about things you can make and take with you on trips seeing as we’ve done that before as well.

Until then, keep cooking and carry on.

Blessed Be.

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Being Your Parents Caregiver

If you’ve read my About Me page, you know that I work at home as a caregiver for my parents. When I started out I had no clue what I was doing.  I was in over my head.  I was lucky to have a few friends and family members to turn to, but there was still a huge learning curve.  So I wanted to share what I’ve learned in my journey.

Now, I know this is not an easy topic.  Nor should it be.  It’s hard when you have to play parent to your parents.  They are bound to resist and it is going to feel strange. It gets even worse if it actually starts to feel like they are children in your care. I can’t even begin to describe how strange it feels.

While I know my situation isn’t as bad as it could be, it is frustrating to feel like I have three small children instead of one some days.  There are times when my mom feels like a little kid vying for my dad’s attention.  There are other days where I imagine their actions are not too dissimilar from what I will face when the little one is a teenager. Some days are better and of course, some days are worse.

From memory problems to physical problems, the entire process is very draining. It is entirely too easy to become overwhelmed or burned out.  We love our parents, but there’s a lot to do when you manage two houses. Well in my case: two budgets, a house, a small child, and my many hats and side projects.

What Can You Do?

Whether you are already here or fear it, there are steps you can take to make your own journey easier.  Here are just a few steps you can take to ensure a smooth transition.

Get Organized

The very first thing I should have done was to find out where all of the important documents in the house were. If you don’t know or they don’t remember, start looking now.  It is stressful to realize that your mom needs her license, SS card, birth certificate, or insurance cards…only to discover that your father has lost all of them in the ether of your house.  It isn’t fun to replace any of them and you will need them at some point in all likelihood.  I would also suggest buying a safe or finding a safe place to put them and putting your own documents in it as well. I eventually want a fireproof safe for ours.

The first thing I did was create a schedule and get all of the appointments on the calendar. The schedule let me break up what had to be done week to week into more manageable chunks.  Each day of the work week I clean a room, do some major weekly task like meds, someone’s laundry (we go through a lot), etc.  Some days my room cleaning is simple and I let it slide and others I deep clean.  It just depends on how bad it is and how OCD I am that day.  While you want to make sure you keep things tidy, you also have to realize that you have limited time and there is always going to be far more to do than you have time for.

While we are talking about time and dates, getting a calendar for your parents may help.  You can post their appointments so they have an idea what is going on and when they are going to be leaving the house. It also helps you remember, especially if they have a lot of doctors.


At some point, while you’re organizing you’re going to realize that bills are going to be something else you may be taking over.  The first thing to do is to look at everything they are paying for.  Make sure they aren’t overpaying for anything or that there aren’t any unnecessary expenses that could be bogging them down.  I just recently found out that mom is still on our car insurance, making it more expensive, even though she no longer drives. She doesn’t even have a license.

Once you have everything gathered, have your parents add you to the account. You will not catch everyone on the first go around. Two years, and I still find instances where mom and dad have to add me to their accounts.  But the more you get earlier on the less frustrating it will be.  Companies will not talk to you if you are not either added to the account, have POA (which we’ll talk about a bit later) or your parents give them permanent permission (if offered) to talk to you. Don’t let this happen to you. Trust me, its a nightmare.  We went through problems with this right after dad had his stroke.  I promise you will save yourself a lot of frustration doing this.

You may also find that your parents aren’t in great shape. If this is the case and you aren’t sure how to fix it, I recommend the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace course.  It’s around 90 dollars and some places offer scholarships. We took ours through United Way, but I’m unsure how many of them offer that as a program.  I don’t agree with everything it has to say, but it did help us get back on track and that was a Godsend. I’m hoping to use it one day to teach my daughter better life skills than I was given in school.

As you can see, there is already a lot involved in being a caregiver to your parents.  I know its a lot to take in, but this isn’t the end of it.  I am still finding things that I missed as I go along. In the next post, I’ll cover more things you can do to help both yourself and your parents.  From Power of Attorney to ways to keep your sanity amidst the chaos.

Until then, power on, have faith that you too can get through this, and….as always…

Blessed Be.

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