Tag Archives: Tips

camping

My Top 10 Best Camping Tips & Hacks

I love camping, but if you know me at all, you know that I love to have a plan. Even if things don’t always go as planned, you can go on to Plan B 🙂

Here are some tidbits of wisdom (no particular order) that have served me well …

#1  Plan all your meals and snacks (I suggest lots of snacks) ahead of time – then use your menu plan to create your shopping & packing lists

#2  Create a separate plastic storage bin (with tight fitting lid) to store camp essentials – one for your “camp kitchen” aka, pots & pans, dishes, utensils, dish towels, etc. – one for your “camp gear” aka, tools, flashlights, rope, fire starters, bug spray, etc. – one for your “camp pantry” aka, to store all your non refrigerated, dry food items.

#3  Have 3 separate coolers – one for meats (freeze ahead of time and put in zip lock bags (to catch blood from the meat so it doesn’t mix in with the water from melting ice)) – one for beverages (I keep these separate because the lid is opened so often). I also fill a gallon zip lock with clean ice for my glass each time we get more bags of ice. – one to serve as the “frig” … for your fruits & veges, condiments, butter, eggs, etc. I freeze gallon jugs of water before hand to keep things cold and then use the melted water to make lemonade.

#4  Try to choose a shady campsite – it is cooler during the day and you can always find a sunny place to hang out if you want heat & fun in the sun.

#5  Get inexpensive solar garden path lights from the Dollar store – place them around your site so you can see where you are going a night … darkness fall very quickly. These generally work even if they don’t get direct sunlight during the day, maybe not as bright, but enough to light your path.

#6  Use aluminum foil and aluminum pans – the grates over the fire pit are usually pretty dirty and gross, so I use foil grill pans to cook my meats – plus easy clean up 🙂

#7  Have two matching (size/shape, so they can stack) laundry baskets – pack your clothes in one with the empty underneath. Each night as you change clothes, put the dirty clothes in the bottom basket and stack the clean clothes on top of it.

#8  Have small mesh bags for carry bath & hygiene essentials to the shower house – make one for males & one for females, or one for each person. I also set up a hand washing station at the campsite for quick clean ups. I put a bar of soap in an old knee high nylon stocking and hang it with a towel near the water / dish washing area.

#9  Always take your trash to the dump station every night before going to sleep – you do not want animals prowling around your campsite because they smell your meal leftovers! I also fill all our water containers at this time too – I need fresh water for my morning coffee 🙂

#10  Always have a well stocked first aid kit with a basic first aid manual. I use a jumbo vitamin/pill day of the week type container and re-labeled them for a supply of Advil / Benadryl / Pepto-Bismol / etc.

Do you have any tips or tricks or ideas about camping that you could share with us? Leave a comment … I’d love to hear them. We can all learn from each other !

Camping - Nap Time

There’s nothing like a relaxing afternoon nap while you are camping.

Happy Camping 🙂

Garage Sale Top 10 Tips

Top 10 Tips For Having A Successful Garage Sale

Confession time ~ I just love garage sales … both going to & having 🙂 Here are my Top 10 Tips (aka … a few things I’ve learned from experience) for having a successful garage sale:

1) ADVERTISING ~ Have good signage that makes it easy for potential customers to find you. Make sure to place signs where people can see them coming from all directions. Put a sign decorated with colorful balloons / flags / streamers at the foot of your driveway. Remember to take them down after your sale ends. Also, hang a sign on your local grocery store bulletin board and create a free ad on Craigslist.

2) BE PREPARED ~ Be prepared to start very early. If possible, have everything set up and ready to go the night before. Customers may be at your house before your official start time, especially if you advertised well ∧∧∧ 🙂

3) ORGANIZATION ~ Try to organize your sale tables into departments … tools, toys, books, clothes, jewelry, kitchenware … etc. Try to lay everything out on a table, many people don’t like digging through boxes under tables. If possible, try to “display” items … for example, if you are selling dishes, display a place setting showing each piece in the set. For jewelry, display each piece in a separate compartment (not tangled up) or to show earrings, hang them on a piece of screen.

4) PRICING ~ Have everything priced ahead of time. Many customers will ask for a lower price, be prepared to haggle. Remember, everyone is looking for a bargain … so don’t expect to get the price a store would charge. Also, while you are pricing, try to wipe off / clean everything (no one wants to look at dusty or dirty items).

5) AMBIANCE ~ Have some fun, upbeat music playing in the background (you want to be able to have a conversation). If at all possible, have some of your sale items displayed in a shady area (maybe under a portable gazebo / tent). If it’s hot & humid, have a fan going to create a breeze 🙂

6) CHECK-OUT ~ Have your check-out area in an obvious place … a patio table with an umbrella set up for shade would be great. Have it near an outlet with an extension cord, so people can make sure their item works before purchasing (most garage sales have a NO RETURNS policy). Have an assortment on batteries on hand too.

7) CORRECT CHANGE ~ Have plenty of singles and coins to make change. It seems like everyone wants to pay with a twenty dollar bill and the singles can run out fast.

8) BAGS ~ Have plenty of bags or boxes (save them from shopping) for your customers to carry their treasures (purchases) home. If you are selling furniture or large pieces, have some rope or twine available for them to tie the trunk down or secure it on the roof of their car.

9) REFRESHMENTS ~ Have some candy or cookies for sale at your check-out area … have some water bottles on ice, too. Nothing is better on a hot summer day !

10) SECURITY ~ Sadly, this is something you need to be aware of. Pay attention when a large group of customers come together (especially with kids). One may ask questions to distract you, while their friend steals something … I speak from personal experience 🙁  Also, don’t put their payment in with your money until you have made their change … they could say they gave you a 20 dollar bill when they really gave you a 10 (again, personal experience). If possible, have another family member run the sale with you, or maybe ask a friend to keep you company for the day.

11) BONUS TIP ~ Offer some FREE items … little trinkets or small toys (stuffed animals or McD’s happy meal toys). Keep your FREE box at your check-out area and place a couple signs on your tables advertising a “free gift” with your purchase. Who doesn’t LOVE getting something for FREE ?

Tips for Winter Roadside Emergencies

Winter Emergency Car Kit Tips

I live in the Midwest, and living through harsh winters is just a reality.

I have memories, as a young girl, maybe about 10 years old, of my Grandpa telling me to always have an emergency kit in my car when I grow up. He was pretty specific – he said to always have a toolbox, a spare tire, a flare and jumper cables. He also said to keep a coffee can filled halfway with sand, a big candle, matches and candy bars. He said I could spread the sand under my tires if I got stuck in the snow. He said if my car broke down, lighting the candle would provide some warmth as well as light. The candy bars were for energy. Of course, back in the day, coffee came in metal cans … not plastic containers or bags. Times have changed, but I love my memories of Grandpa teaching me life skills, by example. So

Winter Car Emergency Kit

I always try to be prepared for an emergency.

I have improvised some from Grandpa’s advice, but I’m still prepared for car emergencies.

I’m sharing some tips I’ve learned through my decades of winter driving experience. I have a bin with mechanical stuff and a bin for personal care stuff. Here is a list of my suggestions:

MECHANICAL BIN:
• Basic tools and wrenches
• Jack and tire iron
• Jumper cables
• Orange emergency triangle (flare substitute)
• Flashlight
• Rope and nylon zip ties
• Small shovel and some kitty litter
• Work gloves, rags and a plastic garbage bag (to kneel on or wear as rain gear)

PERSONAL BIN:
• Several water bottles
• Protein bars and nuts
• Blanket and hand warmers
• Extra pairs of socks and gloves
• First aid kit
• A book (something to help pass the time til help arrives)

These are some ideas for you to use as a guide … start with this list, then customize it to your preferences and needs geared toward your family.

One of my favorite sayings is … “I would rather have it and not need it, than need it and not have it”.

How I Organize Christmas Ornaments

5 Tips To Organize Your Christmas Holiday Decorations

 ~ Merry Christmas in July ~ 

Our family had the tradition of celebrating Christmas in July. We would put up the smaller pre-lit tree, decorate it with all the ornaments my 2 children have received over the years. Santa would bring each guest a gift from the Dollar store. I would make a big turkey dinner with all the fixins. It was fun … but I think this tradition is sadly coming to an end. My “kids” are now adults and have busy schedules that make it hard to all of us to get together 🙁

5 Tips to Organize Your Christmas Holiday Decorations

1) I use old egg cartons to store and keep my small ornaments safe without having to wrap them each individually.

2) I try to keep the ornaments in the boxes that they came in if possible. The really old, family keepsake ones I wrap in tissue or bubble wrap. For the fabric and/or plastic ones, I try to organize them into similar groups and store them in large Ziploc baggies.

3) The living room is where the majority of my decorating takes place. I store the decorations in bins according to the area they will go. I only bring the bins in for the area I plan to work on. That way they aren’t just sitting there, cluttering up the room until I want them.

4) I always start with the bins containing my artificial, pre-lit tree ~ don’t judge ~ and the ornaments bin. The next bin I bring out contains the stocking, garlands and wreathes. Then I get the bin with the Nativity, followed by the village and finally the bin holding all my Christmas pillows and throws.

5) I also use a separate bin (or bins) for each additional room I decorate, for exp. one is labeled kitchen – one is labeled bathroom … yes I decorate these rooms ~ again, don’t judge :), this way I can only bring the bins I need at that time.

I hope you can use some of these tips and ideas to organize your holiday decorations. Contact Tracy Helps You if you’d like some help to organize your stuff 🙂

Natural Homemade Body Wash

Homemade Natural Body Wash – DIY Tips & Ideas

In the last couple of years or so, I’ve been trying to be more aware of what ingredients are in my health and beauty products. I’ve been researching and learning about many harsh chemicals that are commonly used in many products. Some are actual known carcinogens! While I’m just a newbie at this type of research, I’ve learned enough that I want to try something that won’t harm me … so I’m starting with homemade body wash.

Sadly, some of those yucky chemicals actually produce the effects that I love about liquid body wash … mainly the rich, sudsy lather and the wonderful scent. So I, of course, went to Pinterest in search of the perfect recipe to make some homemade body wash 🙂 I just love Pinterest, don’t you? Do you follow me? However, I have learned that I have to limit my time (I literally set a timer on my phone) or else I could get lost for hours. I can’t tell you how many great blogs I read about making homemade healthy and beauty products. I tried narrowing my search by looking for those that got good reviews concerning lathering. I know it’s goofy, but I just love having rich lather … it feels luxurious to me. Continue reading

Organized Toys

Getting Organized ~ Kids Toys Storage Tips & Ideas

Back in the old days, a.k.a. when I was a little kid, toys storage was a wooden toy box … all or most of my toys fit in it. To be truthful, I had a little cradle where my dolls “slept” when I wasn’t playing with them and a small bookcase.

In the 90’s, when my kids were little, they each had a big, plastic Little Tykes toy box. Both my children were a little spoiled (ok … a lot spoiled) by very generous grandparents. If I remember correctly, they had more toys than they knew what to do with. The toy boxes were always so jam packed, that the lids wouldn’t fit. I started supplementing the storage space with square laundry baskets. I noticed that they mostly played with the toys in the baskets, and not with the toys in the toy box. I finally figured out that the toy box was overwhelming for them … they couldn’t find what they were looking for without pulling everything out. Continue reading

Pinterest DIY Dry Mix Recipe Ingredients

Pinterest Pins ~ Homemade DIY Dry Mix Recipes and Tips

This seems to be my week for trying out Pinterest DIY recipes. I hope you follow me on Pinterest 🙂 Yesterday, I made up 3 different recipes for dry mixes … you know, those little individual packets they sell. I made taco seasoning, poultry seasoning, and ranch dressing mix. I think these recipes will be healthier than the packets because I can control the ingredients.

I’ve made the taco seasoning before and love it. I found the recipe for it a long time ago, but I’ve made some minor adjustments to it, customizing it to my personal preferences.

I ran out of poultry seasoning and was shocked at the price for a tiny little container. So I decided to try to find a recipe for it on Pinterest. There were many to choose from. I followed this recipe. Who knows, I may doctor it up for the next time like I did for the taco seasoning.

I also found one for the dry ranch dressing mix. I’ll use this recipe for dips as well as salad dressing. I also found a recipe for baked ranch fried chicken that I’d like to try.

Since I was buying so many different spices, I purchased the inexpensive Aldi brand. They have a non-clumping preservative added to them, but at least my recipes will be low sodium. As I run out of the individual spices, I plan to buy a better quality replacement. My budget couldn’t handle this larger initial purchase. I am also planting an herb garden this summer and plan to dry my own herbs in the fall. I’d like to be able to have sodium and preservative free dry mixes in the future.

🙂 Helpful Tips:

  • I used empty spice containers that I saved for such a time as this.
  • I quadrupled the recipes to have them on hand longer.  

Do you make any DIY type recipes to replace some of the packaged convenience foods that are filled with so many preservatives? I’d love to try your recipe 🙂

Pinterest Pin ~ Homemade DIY Dishwasher Tabs

Pinterest Pins ~ Homemade DIY Dishwasher Tabs

I love browsing on Pinterest … don’t you? It is full of homemade and DIY ideas. I’m always finding great pins that I want to try. This week, I made this recipe for homemade dishwasher tablets. I hope they work well … I’ll keep you posted 🙂

Since I already make homemade laundry detergent, I already had many of the ingredients on hand. This recipe called for borax, washing soda (or baking soda), Epson salts (or kosher salt), vinegar and lemon essential oil. The only thing I had to buy was the essential oil and ice cube trays.

The recipe is really easy to follow:

  • First … I measured out the borax, washing soda and Epson salts and mixed them together.
  • Then … I added the vinegar, it bubbled and fizzed
  • Then … I added the drops of lemon essential oil. It was challenging to actually count the drops, so I eyeballed it. I love the scent of lemon – it smells clean to me!
  • Then … I mixed it all together, it started clumping together right away.
  • Finally … I spooned the mixture into the ice cube trays, pressed it down firmly and then set it aside to dry thoroughly.
Homemade DIY Dishwasher Tabs

Adding the vinegar made it fizz

Homemade DIY Dishwasher Tabs

It started clumping together right away

Homemade DIY Dishwasher Tabs

Pressing the mixture into the ice cube tray

The recipe says to let it dry at least 24 hours, then store in an airtight container. I plan to use up my store bought supply before using my homemade ones … I think I have about 5 left. They should be nice and dry by then. The recipe also says to put a drop or two of Dawn on the tablet when you’re putting it in the dishwasher for added grease cutting benefits and to use a splash of vinegar to aid in the rinse cycle. I actually already knew about and use the vinegar with my store bought detergent.

Since I already have all these ingredients out, I think I’ll make up a batch of homemade laundry detergent too. My supply is getting pretty low. Now that I have the lemon essential oil, I think I might add some to the laundry detergent … as I mentioned, I just love the fresh and clean scent of lemon. My batches last my family of 4 for quite awhile; I think I made the last batch in July. Do you make homemade cleaners? What is your favorite?

Are you on Pinterest, follow me 🙂

 

First Anniversary Newsletter

Anniversary Giveaway Results ~ And The Winner Is …

Today is the day … it’s our First Anniversary here at Tracy Helps You !! I’ve been looking forward to this day for quite a while. Sadly, statistics show that many small businesses shut down within the first 5 years of operation. We are celebrating the fact that we can now say, “1 down a few more to go” 🙂

And the WINNER of the Amazon Gift card (drumroll please) … will be contacted via email. I know, kinda anti-climatic especially after a drumroll, but I want to respect the privacy of my subscribers.

I would like to take this time to THANK all the clients that I’ve been blessed with and had the pleasure of “helping” this past year. You’ve all been wonderful and make what I do … FUN !!

I have received a report from Rafflecopter with your responses to the giveaway entry questions about what topics and subjects you’d like to read about here in my blog and in the newsletter. Also, thank you for your suggestions in the comments section. I plan to incorporate all this info into my blogging / newsletter topic planner.

So my friends, going into our second year of business, I’d appreciate your thoughts, tips and/or suggestions. Do you have any ideas to improve our website ~ navigation or design? Would you like to see additional services offered? How about on our social media profiles (I hope you like / follow me) … what type Pins, Tweets, and Statuses would you like to see more of? Do you have any advertising suggestions (keeping a small budget in mind)? They say “word of mouth” is the best type of advertising … I appreciate any referrals that you have made or will make for me 🙂

Consider the comment section as Tracy Helps You’s “virtual” suggestion box 🙂 

First Anniversary Newsletter

Tracy Helps You’s Tips and Helpful Info Newsletter

Tracy Helps You is celebrating its 1st Anniversary this week !!

To commemorate this auspicious occasion, I plan to issue a monthly newsletter with various tips and helpful info. I hope to use this newsletter to highlight the different services we offer, as well as, a way to let you know of future specials that will be offered exclusively to newsletter subscribers. My intention is to keep it informative, yet concise 🙂

  • What topics would you like to see covered?
  • What kind of tips would be helpful to you?
  • Give me your ideas in the comments 🙂

Sign up to subscribe to the newsletter in the column to the right 🙂 

There are still a few days left to enter for a chance to win my Anniversary Giveaway ! Who wouldn’t like an Amazon Gift Card ??

Enter Here …

a Rafflecopter giveaway