Home Office Reveal | Making the Most of Extra Space

Now that I have been working from home for about 3 weeks, I’ve really begun to settle in to this new lifestyle. I love everything about working from home. I miss several of my former co-workers turned best friends, but the pros certainly out weigh the cons in this life change decision list. I began to set up my home office months before actually “working in it,” ending up guessing what I might need, what I might use, and how the day would play out based on my previous experiences working in a brick and mortar setting.

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I can say I didn’t do a terrible job guessing in these areas; however, I did discover a few extra things that I would need to fix. It’s interesting looking back at my original blog post, Designing a Home Office and see what I’ve changed just since this first post. My office was functional, and it gave me a sense of segregated space, even though the only extra space we found for my base camp was in our bedroom. This has actually worked out to my benefit. For some reason, a master bedroom never receives the same tender love and care in the decorating department as the rest of the house. Perhaps it is because we focus on those areas of the home where we spend the most time. Prior to this job, I simply spent the 6-8 hours of sleeping time in this room. There is no television in our bedroom, nor is there any additional furniture to sit on or read at. Ironically, this empty space is a significantly large space, and for the first 3 years living in this house, has always felt like an incredibly wasted space.

Originally I had long-term plans of expanding the tiny old bathroom that the girls and I share to create more of a master bath, and utilize the extra barren space in our bedroom. Creating a base camp work space would also never have been an option with my husband’s former work schedule. He works in one of those industries where you’re always on call, make your money in the ridiculous amounts of over time, and basically get sleep when you can. Fortunately, the stars have aligned in our favor over the past year, shifting him to an office, and home each night for dinner. This shift also opened up new possibilities in regards to repurposing the space that has done nothing more than collect dust bunnies for several years.

Our bedroom has also been the home to the, and I quote my husband, “most expensive clothes hanger we ever purchased,” a.k.a. my treadmill. Yes. The two plus years of dust that this little piece of equipment has collected over my time of pregnancy, anti-work-out phases, and frankly overwhelmed and unmotivated months, has since been removed. This little gem hidden in the corner of the room, calling out to me for months and months, while I continue to tell myself that if I don’t make eye contact with it, we can continue to play the “it’s not there and I have no possible way to really work out whenever it’s cold”, game I’ve been playing for about a year and a half.

Yes, all of these things were about to change drastically. Because while I am in this room for a significant portion of my day, my extra time is no longer filled with rethinking classroom layouts or unit decorations, remembering where I might have placed the most recent stack of writing samples or any of those extra thoughts I filled my days with in the classroom. Nope, all of that is gone, and alarmingly quickly. I really believed this would be a difficult transition, that working from home would take some time and self-motivation to really get used to. But I couldn’t have been more wrong. This change, this shift back to the home, came so naturally, so easily, that I have spent the past three weeks wondering why I ever doubted this decision for even a second.

Every morning, I wake up about an hour before my family, get ready for the day, go downstairs with a solid 15 minutes to myself to organize bags that might need to go to the sitter, put stray dishes away that were left on the counter to dry, place random toys back where they belong, and just mentally wake up. Once my oldest daughter is awake, I sneak through the first bedroom where our youngest is still soundly asleep and share a few moments of peace and morning snuggles with this little lady who is growing up all too quickly. We then pick out her outfit and braid her hair (she’s in a “braid my hair like Elsa, Mommy!” phase) all before her sister wakes up. I then repeat this routine with our youngest, and the three of us head downstairs just as my husband has finished getting ready himself.

It’s so strange what a difference a simple shift to your morning routine can make in your entire day. Once everyone has shoes on, the four of us head out to the car, my husband now present and able to assist in loading kids and just like that, we are off to work and the sitter’s house. Just the fact that I am the one dressing my girls and doing their hair, has made all the difference in my day. I no longer lug sleeping children to the car at 5:45 in the morning, racing to get dressed and do my make up in 20 to 25 minutes just to avoid having to get up any earlier than I already have to.

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Upon my return to the house, I have 10 to 15 minutes free to make breakfast, a REAL breakfast each day. That has also drastically improved my mood, and focus throughout the day. After this has all be completed, I head up to my office with a fresh cup of coffee and log in to my “classroom.” During the first week I had a significant amount of down time listening to trainings and feeling my way through things, so I began to really multi-task, analyzing my surroundings and trying to determine how my office could become more complete, and less like a corner of a bedroom. I already invested in several great items making my life all the more easy, but I knew I would need a few more pieces and some items rearranged to feel complete.

And so, after all of my ramblings I present to you, our finished Home Office and Master Bedroom.

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To begin, the desk is a piece I purchased from Target about a year and a half ago, needing some space for all my clutter, bills, and whatever else crossed my path to land on, especially heading into my post-graduate work accruing my administrative paperwork. You can find that desk HERE for White Desk on Target’s website. God I love Target. The filing cabinet is just your basic black two drawer with additional top storage, and I’ve also given you that link HERE for Black Filing Cabinet.

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And then of course my favorite part. I am in love with pink hanging file folders! I hate the green, which I left in the photograph just so you could see the difference they make in a bright white crate. You can find these Pink and Gold Hanging Files HERE. They also have the same files in Black and Gold, along with a Grey Marble Hanging File Folder. The Marble would go great with the UBrands Marble Dry Erase Board with Gold Frame hanging above my desk. Of course no hanging file folder is complete without some motivational 3-tab white and gold folders.

Now, lets talk about this lamp pictured below. The Desk Task Lamp with Touch On/Off in white. This lamp is actually part of the infamous Pillowfort line Target has strategically designed to make Moms swoon and children indulge in magical room themes. I must admit I am totally sucked in by the creativity this line brings to both of my girls’ bedrooms.

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Going back up to the planner and pens, I have always utilized a desk calendar in the brick and mortar setting, and felt the need to continue this with a book planner than can be neatly tucked into my drawer, saving space on my desk top since I typically have two laptops running at all times. The AT-A-GLANCE WorkStyle Monthly planner was the perfect thin, planner that gave me the monthly view I needed and was accustomed to. Now those darling pink and purple pens you see, are perfect for the thin paper in this planner, as I typically write with Paper Mate Flair Marker Pens, and you can see from my pen organizer, I’m a junkie for them. But these Paper Mate Ink Joy Gels were a parting gift from a newly acquired work friend. They write so nicely, that I might just have a new favorite pen! And the best part, the actually write in pink and purple! (Can you say… #teacherproblems ?!)

And of course, my desk wouldn’t be complete without my better halves. From my new found best friends, to my lifelong best friend, to my work friend/mom/inspiration to be the best at whatever I strive for in life. Yes these mounted photographs give me the friendly faces I need, and the motivation to continue to work my hardest.

You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams” – Dr. Seuss

That quote says it all. If you haven’t had the opportunity, I strongly recommend researching some of the information behind Dr. Seuss. What a brilliant man. I think I love this quote because it applies not only to my marriage and family, but now to my career as well. Such simple but powerful words. Finding a quote that reminds you daily how precious life really is, is so worth reading.

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Now, as we continue to travel around the room, I have added several new pieces to the space, because when you spend your entire day in a room, you want the whole thing to feel complete and pretty. At least, that’s what I need to function. Yes, yes, I am aware of my weird issues.

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Now I have to get very specific regarding our “night stands” because I was tricked once by this. The cubes you see in the night stands were purchased about a year ago, with the intention of using them in my cube shelves shared between my daughters rooms. One major problem: these cubes are not the same standard size as the Closet Maid Brand. These specific ones are Threshold Brand 4 Cub Organizer and are 13 inch cube spaces. Now the individual cube storage bins: I purchase two Fabric Cube Mint, turning one backwards so it was solely mint, and leaving one forward facing with the gold, mint, and coral pattern, and one Fabric Cube Coral.  I purchased a Threshold Brand 2 Cube Organizer to function as my husband’s night stand.

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On my night stand, I purchased this new lamp because the one I had before was the last remaining from one of those boxed “get every lamp for your house in one kit” sets we originally purchased for our very first dumpy apartment 8 years ago. While it held it’s own for a long time, the curvy silver base and tapered white shade really needed to exit the scene… like a few years ago. This sweet little Geometric Accent Lamp was also another excellent Target find, adding sense of warmth to the space. And the flowers were miscellaneous clippings from previous artificial blooms, and an older white vase, originally purchased at target, but no longer available so I have provided this link to a similar White Vase option.

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Our bedding is not a new purchase, but a re-organization of several other sets of bedding. I love when you can pull items from various placed around your house to create a new space. The Pinch Please Comforter Set from Threshold is by far my favorite comforter yet. It’s simple and can easily be updated through the various seasons by changing throw pillows and blankets, but ultimately keeping the same bed set. The current arrangement really pulls at the spring vibes with the hints of light minty blue in the Micromink Printed Blanket by Room Essentials and the soft mint throw pillows and ruffled white throw pillow for a little texture and character.

And of course, we cannot forget these Gallery Wrapped Canvas prints, hanging above the bed. I just love both of these photographers who have so meticulously documented milestones in our lives. Please take a moment to look at these stunning women’s portfolios and craft. Sonia Levy Photography, the photographer to the right of the sign, has documented our engagement, wedding, countless weddings of our bridal party members, the newborn session to both of our daughters our first family photoshoot, and our oldest daughters 6 month and 1 year photos. We will forever cherish these priceless moments she has captured in our lives.

 

And then of course, Vanessa Huey Photography, who began photographing photographing for us with our youngest daughter’s first day in the world, a follow-up updated family session after her birth, some gorgeous photographs of our oldest daughter in the snow, and then of course, the photo session that became the face of Shimmering Twig in it’s initial phase, our most recent family picture. Both of these women have given us irreplaceable gifts of time, art, and talent.

So here we are, 2,000 + words later and another completed room, in the on-going project I like to call my home. Please feel free to pin, share, and replicate anything you see here, because the best part about this digital world of inspiration is just that, inspiring each other to try new things, create new ideas, and refresh our lives whenever things get a little stale. Enjoy the week!

Cheers!

  • Whitney

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Last Minute Easter Treats

So it’s the night before your child’s Easter party and you are in a panic. Why? Because you just realized you do not have half the items to create the “bunny munch” or the Twinkie Race Cars” that are blowing up Pinterest this year. However, you have done a little easter shopping, low and behold, you have PEEPS.

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Peeps generally stir extreme love or extreme hate in fellow Easter snackers. For me, it’s in the extreme love category, and both my girls will agree with this side of the argument. I’m pretty sure I’ve never met a child who doesn’t love a marshmallow. After some minor research, I discovered Peeps are gluten-free. Interestingly, the Lavender peeps are DAIRY FREE as well.

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Seems a little strange that one specific color is dairy free while the others are not. The bunny shapes are not always listed DAIRY FREE either. Read your packaging.

On the official PEEPS & COMPANY website, you can shop by Gluten Free category. I found countless options available. I had a little more trouble finding dairy free specific listings. Anyways, getting off my rant and returning to a simple last minute Easter treat to please a crowd, “Treats for your Peeps!”

I love making printable tags for gifts, holiday events, treats, teaching materials, you name it. I don’t think I’ve ever met a teacher who didn’t love making or receiving a great free-printable.

I whipped these tags up last night for my daughters Easter party at the sitter, and couldn’t help but share with anyone who might need a last minute treat idea!

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It was such a fun, colorful, and simple treat to make! I used a couple packages of Peeps, some bakers twine, treat bags, and the tags that I printed. I kept the treat small, placing 3 little peeps in each treat bag. I also did not have treat bags in stock so I simply cut the end off of a plastic sandwich baggie. It was the perfect size!

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Start by sectioning your peeps in to 3 or 4 peep sections, depending on the size of your treat bags, and place them in each treat bag. Using just a small piece of bakers twine, Tie off the open end, leaving enough string to attach your tag.

img_7939.jpg I didn’t have a hole punch handy so my scissors had to work. Once the tag was attached you couldn’t even tell the difference!

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The girls go to a smaller child care so I only had to make a few, but enjoy sending extras for the “big kids” at the sitter’s. I personalized the girls tags; however, have provided a simple generic tag anyone can download and use!

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So simple but so cute! Hopefully this tag can help out an always multi-tasking mother this holiday!

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Cheers!

  • Whitney

 

(Click Below for the Printable Tags)

Easter Tags

Mother’s Day Gift Guide 2017

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This week I have really been focusing on gift giving. I know it’s a random time of year to choose gift giving as a topic of interest, but there is something about Spring that is so new and fresh and makes me want to put winter blues behind me and brighten some one’s day. It could also be that my husband and two very good friends have birthdays right at the beginning of Spring, or even the fact that Easter is coming just around the corner. Regardless of whatever inspired this mood of gifting, I wanted to share some of my top Mother’s Day Gift Ideas with my 2017 Mother’s Day Gift Guide.

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Every product includes a description of why you will love it along with an image and link to the product itself. Spoil your mother, or better yet, share this with your husband… and enjoy the spoiling yourself!

  1. Echo Dot

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Ok… so at first I wasn’t sure about the whole talking to a piece of technology in your home; however, there are countless times that I have my hands full with the girls and my husband is off doing whatever… and a little assistance would be nice! Our three year old likes to try to change channels and mess with the dvd player while I am cooking. How nice would it be to say, “Hey Alexa, play Frozen, for the girls.” Or even, “Hey Alexa, what is the next step in this recipe?” How many of you mothers use Pinterest as your recipe book? I do! I am constantly flipping through my phone, leaving flour or who knows what else on the touch screen of my phone while trying to cook.

2. Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

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This classic novel, is a picturesque story of the occasional struggles between mother – daughter relationships, and the secrets children sometimes are unaware of when it comes to their parents. Kristin Hannah’s attention to detail and build up in this heart warming novel will leave any mother in tears of joy by the end.

3. Keurig 2.0 K200 Series

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I am a coffee junkie! My husband and I recently purchase a more elaborate coffee system, but inevitably returned to our classic Keurig. It is so simple and convenient! I registered for a Keurig 5 1/2 years ago before we were married and my teaching friends purchased it for us as a shower gift. I still have that system. Keurig products are such great quality products. There is something about feminine colored appliances that really appeal to me. I love this K200 in Oasis. Keurig also offers a K250 in Sandy Pearl

4. Gold Flatware by Threshold

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I confess, I have been eyeing this set of flatware up for months. I am in love with the gold finish and the price! You just can’t beat a good value that looks and feels like quality. If anyone happens to speak with my husband, this would be an excellent addition to our home…!

5. Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer

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My Kitchen Aid is my appliance better half. My husband bought me a Kitchen Aid stand mixer for my first mother’s day and I use it constantly. It literally fell out of the hatch of my vehicle on a trip to my sisters this past Christmas, bounced across her driveway, and miraculously still works. There was a moment I thought I might be losing my poor baby appliance, but it was a trooper and pulled through! If that doesn’t sales pitch you on the quality of this machine, I don’t know what will. This is the specific model I use and love. I would recommend ordering an additional bowl, for busy baking days. While this item is on the higher end of the shopping budget, it certainly will let the Mother in your life know how much she is appreciated! Besides, who doesn’t love a little extra motivation to have baked good around more often?!

6. Porcelain Classic White Dinnerware Set

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LOVE my white dish set from Target. These dishes are high quality and affordable. You can purchase them as a set or individual pieces, which I also love. I was treated to a nice set of these clean white dishes last year for Mother’s day. The thing I love the most about a white dish set, is the timeless feel. You can switch in different accent plates, compliment with seasonal colors, and never get sick of it. While patterns and colors may be trendy a times, white plates will never go out of style. When I am investing in an item for my kitchen, I want it to last. These plates are exactly that.

7. Decorative Dry Erase Boards

Help Mom stay organized and stylish at an affordable price at a mere $9.99 with this Marble Dry Erase Board or this Navy Blue and Copper Chalk Board. These are so cute and would look great in an office, kitchen, or entry way! I have the Marble one in my Updated Home Office (post coming soon!).

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8. Classic Wooden Tray

These beautiful, yet simple, wooden trays remind me of a fun Mother’s Day and Father’s Day tradition we had in our home growing up. Each year on Mother’s day my dad and I (or my sister and I when she still lived at home) would get up and make breakfast for our Mom and take her a tray of breakfast in bed. As a kid it felt SO FUN to eat  breakfast in a bed! We did the same on Father’s day serving my Dad breakfast in bed as well. So when I stumbled across this Acacia Bed Tray and Espresso Benito Breakfast Tray I just had to share this fun tradition from my childhood. Even surprising Mom with the tray, breakfast, and some fresh flowers would surely start any Mother’s Day off perfectly.

9. A Shopping Trip!

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Plan a day and prepare in advance by surprising her with a scheduled date, child care arranged, and a budget for a shopping spree. Target now offers both credit cards and debit cards. If my husband ever said to me, “Here honey, I took care of scheduling a sitter for this day, and I have this awesomely full Target gift card (or credit card) spend the day enjoying yourself!” I might just have a heart attack and never even make it to the store. Some of my close friends who have experienced my shopping trips to Target will vouch for how dangerous it would be to send me unsupervised into a Target store with a credit card. But trust me, it has happened…

10.  Affordable Floral Necklace

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When it comes to jewelry you will really need to feel your way through this. I like jewelry that is inexpensive, as the more trendy styles come and go; however, I have my select timeless pieces with more sentimental value. (See the next item if you’re looking in this direction) This necklace lays beautifully when paired with a simple shirt and jeans but can also dress up an outfit for an evening out with the husband. I find myself following the ever spinning circle of “silver” or “gold” falling more heavily on gold at the moment, but like that the crystal look balances out the gold if you’re still unsure about jumping back into gold jewelry.

11. Personalized Jewelry by Unmistakably Mine

  1. As I have mentioned in my previous post, UnmistakablyMine | Personalized and Affordable, this is my ultimate go-to shop on Etsy for personalized and sentimental gifts for those that I love.  You cannot go wrong on Mother’s day when shopping with Lori and her quality products from personalized necklaces for a mother, to bracelets for a friend, and  even the Pet Mommy out there will find items to cherish on her website.

12.  Reversible Tote

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Show me a Mother, and I’ll show you a multi-tasker. This bag is perfect for the Mom on the go. It’s inexpensive and REVERSIBLE! Plus if you click the link above, it comes in 8 color options. I have one in the black and tan reversible option, prior to this little gem of a pattern being released. I love the spring feel this pattern has, and the strength of the bag has my stamp of approval. I’ve carried multiple laptops in mine at once, along with items for my kids.

13. Terracotta Planters – Personalized

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Plants and planters seem to go hand in hand with Mother’s Day. Perhaps it’s that Kindergarten-Style brainwashing we receive when we place our hand prints on Terracotta planters at 6 years old.  Then followed by the act of planting the pot with basil or some other random herb and take our creations home to our mothers, hearts beaming, anxious for her approval. Today I am presenting you with an updated, modern approach to that childhood gift. Hello Smith and Hawkins:

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I love the small Terracotta Planters new, empty, and full of gardening tools or seed packets, or planted with a favorite flowering plant or frequently used herb.

14. Cake Stands – Not Just for Cakes Anymore

From white, to milk glass, to crystal, and even metallic, cake stands are one of the trendiest purchases of late. I have two currently, but would love to continue to grow this collection.  A simple White Cake Stand is always a classic starting point. Galvanized Metal Cake Stands add that rustic charm so heavily inspired by Chip and Joanna Gaines. And the third cute stand listed above is a sweet little Gold Cake Stand with pretty little details that would be a compliment to just about any cake or cupcake presentation.

But cake stands don’t have to remain in the kitchen. I’ve noticed some very cute presentations from jewelry trays on a vanity, to accent pieces on a mantle. The possibilities are endless. So get creative!

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Well there you have it. 14 ideas to inspire some unique, yet thoughtful gifts for the mother in your life. Celebrate her and all that she does for her family. If you are the mother, just forward this helpful little link on over to your husband and leave the rest up to him!

Cheers!

  • Whitney

G-PA Survival Kit plus Free Printables

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Working in the Special Education department with a group of people who chose this profession to help struggling students day in and day out, gave me the opportunity to meet some wonderfully talented individuals. During my first few years teaching full time, I met six amazing people in my department who all played a part shaping me into the teacher I am today through their wisdom, guidance, personal life experiences, and sense of humor. I will never forget my first day of work. It was July in 2012 and I was all of 48 hours into a state of newly post-wedding bliss and blur. This lady called me on the phone to invite me to a scheduling work day. I couldn’t remember her name, but she told me that we would be meeting at the high school at 9:00 that upcoming Thursday to build our master schedule. So I thought to myself… my first work day, is the week of my honeymoon. Awesome.

And so I went to work on that Thursday in July, nervous to enter the room and face my first REAL job, with REAL co-workers. I met 6 individuals that day who would make up my learning support co-workers. The first face I saw was a younger man, I guessed late 30’s at the time, and I recognized him from my interview team. He re-introduced himself as we walked down the dimly lit and intensely 70’s styled hallways. It smelled of cleaners and humidity and we walked to the “conference room” which felt more like a utility closet, the same one that happened to be my interview room. It felt much less intimidating with the warm welcome my soon-to-be mentor provided. The next to arrive was the voice from the phone. She was tall, looked young, but had the respect from others as though she had taught for quite a while. She was kind, and introduced herself as Holly again, only this time I made an effort to remember. She brought with her a white haired and incredibly tan man. Apparently they carpooled at times. I predicted when I went out to the parking lot there would be a convertible car he would get into. I was right.

The next two to arrive were both younger and neither spoke a word, but sat quietly nodding and agreeing with all decisions made during the scheduling. The last to arrive was super pleasant, immediately shook my hand and brought an undeniable heart-warming presence in to the room. I remember how comfortable he made everyone feel. His name was Dave, and every time I would walk into his classroom he still had that effect. He took a seat at a computer in the corner to type the schedule as we built it. This task would eventually become my job in future years.

The next two hours passed with discussion and thought process too abstract for my inexperienced mind. I listened as they spoke of classes and course requirements that were so foreign to my high school requirements I simply continued to follow them and watch as my schedule was built. Once a skeleton of a master schedule was set up we were to hand schedule the students on our caseload. Still floating in that blur of post-marital bliss I was focused on getting home to figure this puzzle of scheduling out in the comfort of my own home, away from the hovering and experienced eyes surrounding me.

This memory has been floating around in the back of my mind as I hit the ending point in my count down to a career shift. The voice on the phone turned out to be the kindest woman I have ever had the privilege of working with. She has been a motivator on those rough days to always stay positive and remember everything we do is for the kids. She is so wise and keeps everyone on task at whatever meetings we hold, and has the sweetest voice. She also forces me to work-out on our non-school-related dates… We really need to work on this aspect of our relationship! I know she will forever hold a place in my life. I’ve spoken countless times about my mentor and his heavy presence in my life. The super tan gentleman who arrived with the lady from the phone call ended up being an undervalued and phenomenal presence in our students lives. He is greatly missed by both students and fellow teachers.

And the kind soul who went above and beyond, to introduce himself and show me to my classroom ended up also falling into the irreplaceable friends category. He has inspired me to fight for what is right. His first piece of wisdom shared with me during my first year was, “Your wealth with always be in your time…” as a 25 year old, it held little value, but I appreciated that it would grow over time. As my little family grew one child at a time, I truly began to understand the weight behind his wisdom. He will forever be an additional mentor, role model and inspiration in his crazy unconventional ways. The time we spent joking, along with the stories we have shared will forever hold a place in my heart.

The fifth person who developed a strong influence in my life didn’t come in to play until my third year teaching when our middle school and high school combined to become a Junior-Senior High School. She was also one of those treasures that a district develops anxiety at the thought of losing. Her job is so intense and requires such a highly qualified personality to be successful in and she does it. Just like that, she is focused, and dedicated, and meticulous, and I just love her. I was so sad at the thought of leaving her along with my handful of close friends I have developed over my time working there. But I was comforted in the fact that she would understand. She is that all-balancing mother first, teacher, escort to her children, coordinator of family schedules, reminder of to-do lists, and supportive friend. She would get it. So when I was making this incredibly difficult decision, I found myself confiding in her, weighing the pros and cons, because she is the type of mother want to get the chance to be. She is involved and her kids will always come first to her.

Which leaves me with just one last critical person in my department who truly shaped me into the teacher I am today. My boss. Luckily, I feel fairly safe in writing this, knowing he’ll never read it, so I will be frank, I knew the moment I walked out of my interview, I wanted, correction, I needed to get this job. Some unidentifiable force was pulling me to this district, and I truly believe a higher power was at play drawing me in to these people, these life long friends, hard working and dedicated people. Each person described above holding a wealth of knowledge and wisdom, each so readily available to share with me, whenever I needed them. These people became a family to me. Kind, devoted, and at times a little crazy, but family. That unspoken love was tested just a year ago when a family member was sick. So we pulled together, prayed for a miracle, and were blessed with just that: A Miracle.

Now that we have survived the emotional roller coaster of my sentiments, I present you with the most recent creation my work family and I put together. Our boss recently became a G-Pa for the first time ever. He and his wife have the most perfect little man to spend the rest of their lives celebrating and watching him grow. We wanted to help celebrate this little bundle, but in a very “our department” fashion.

Let me introduce to you, The G-Pa Survival Kit:

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After spending WAY TOO MUCH TIME over-thinking this gift, we developed a list of essential items to survive the first month of G-Pa life. The kit included:

 

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The list held as many hunting reference as we could come up with, along with some universal diaper changing jokes. Hunting is critical in our Western Pennsylvania life style. We then passed little size 1 diapers around to all who contributed giving each participant a moment to write funny little messages for our boss while he was on “Poop Doody.” The supplies were all found locally minus some specialty details, which I will provide links to the products in this post towards the end.

It is this positive environment for little comical jokes, that sets our department apart from most. We know every statement typed into an IEP is legally binding, and that every word spoken during an IEP meeting is critical. So perhaps it is the weight and importance behind these tasks that drives us to find the humor and enjoyment in these small moments.

The gift was so enjoyable to give, watching each item bring out a new level of laughter. Seeing the sweet little man in his tiny Muck boots all but sent me over the edge ready for another little peanut in our house!

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The items we included started with Rubber Gloves, Safety Goggles, Metal Tongs, Disposable Face Masks, Zip Lock Bags (written on with Sharpie “Caution – Hazardous Materials”), Camouflaged Pacifiers (baby silencer), Camouflaged Bibs, Toy Rattle (Baby Rattler Call), Diaper Supplies: Diapers, Wipes, Butt Paste (because it has the best name…!), Daniel Boone Baby Coon Skin Cap (this was the clincher gift…!), My First Muck Boots,  and of course some iron-on personalized baby body suit designs. We even included a turkey call as Baby’s first turkey call; however our boss claimed it as his own.

Rattler Call

Turkey Call

Silencer

I have seriously tossed around the idea of opening up an Etsy shop offering personalized printable gift ideas, but for now I will stick with simple, free ideas you can download and share. Please do not hesitate to use and share with me your gift giving stories. I can only hope it brings you as much joy as it has our little “family.”

Cheers!

  • Whitney

GPA Item Labels

GPA Labels

GPA List Printable

 

 

How To | Make Gluten Free Box Cakes Taste like Bakery Style Cakes

Everyone loves a beautiful cake. If you have celiac disease or any type of gluten intolerance, going to a birthday party or any special occasion event involving a gorgeous cake is torture. We all know Bakery style cakes are so much richer, denser, and frankly, amazing. But if you are one of the select few who have found that bakery style cake that is Gluten Free you know what I mean when I say it’s like winning the lottery.

I have a friend, two friends really, who are amazing cake bakers. They have been tackling the gluten free cake baking field for me for several years now. This dynamic cake duo can make any gorgeous idea you throw at them. If you can find it on Pinterest, they will make it equal in grandeur, perhaps even a little better! Once, I gave them an invitation to my daughter’s baptism and they replicated the cake to match the design of the invitation! They have also mastered the art of gluten free baking.

If you follow any of my social media feeds, Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest, (yes I have twitter too; however, I haven’t tackled that beast yet…) you will see all too often my daughters and I in the kitchen baking cookies, cakes, cupcakes, you name it! We love to bake! But the reality of making a cake from scratch on every baking whim I have, with two toddlers, is so unrealistic. So today I present you with a couple simple hacks to improve your typical gluten free boxed cake mixes to give them a rich bakery taste.

My cake mix of preference is Pillsbury; however, I have to credit Betty Crocker for breaching the name brand gluten free products way before anyone else in the market. My particular reason for choosing Pillsbury is the equivalent size factor. Betty Crocker cakes are great tasting, but do not come out to standard boxed cake sizes.

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I start out with one boxed cake mix and one small box of jell-o brand pudding mix. I typically use either the white chocolate or vanilla with a fun-fetti flavored cake. Cheesecake is also a good flavor to add.

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Next, add in 3 eggs, 1/2 cup of oil and 1 1/4 cup water. Using a stand mixer mix until well combined. The mixture will be thicker than a standard cake.

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The girls typically feel the mixer will not work if they do not hold on to it while blending. I think they also believe it gets them closer to paddle licking once it’s finished.

Be sure to stop mixing once or twice and really scrape down the sides well to ensure all of the mix is incorporated. Your finished mixture should look something like this:

 

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Next you will want to prepare your cupcake tins. If it was up to the girls, every single cupcake would have a hot pink wrapper. Since we were preparing ones for a green event, we came to a mutual agreement with silver wrappers and green icing.

The box says you can get 24 half filled cupcakes; I disagree. I always place 24 cups but never get more than 20 cupcakes from one batch. I like my cupcakes to puff a little  above the wrapper, so I fill my cupcakes around 2/3 full.

This particular time I ended up with 20 cupcakes and just enough batter on the paddle to split between two cute and very anxious little girls.

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I then bake the cupcakes at 350 degrees for 20 minutes removing from the oven to cool slightly, and then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

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There is nothing I am more disappointed in than an over-baked cupcake. They should never be brown around the edges. Dry cupcakes are gross. The pudding mix helps to add moisture and density to the cupcakes giving a slightly bakery feel, and I love t!

You can also follow these instruction with the gluten free Pillsbury Devils Food cake mix combining with a chocolate pudding mix.

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I have not tried it yet, but I think a chocolate strawberry cake would be amazing if you added Strawberry Cream Pudding into the chocolate cake mix.

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Always remember to transfer the cupcakes to a cooling rack just moments after removing form the oven to allow them to coo completely before icing.

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My favorite recipes to make with these cupcakes include a White Chocolate Buttercream I came up with, Strawberry Buttercream, and of course my ultimate favorite, Auntie M.’s Gob Icing.

If you have an apple corer like The Pampered Chef’s The Corer it is a great tool to hollow out the center of a cupcake just slightly to make room for an additional filling or just a secret hiding spot for more icing! Check out my friend Kathy’s page and splurge on these amazing stackable cooling racks that I couldn’t live without! My first home-show business was The Pampered Chef and let me tell you, that is an amazing little business to get into. Not only did I make money while finishing my graduate degree, but I completely stocked our kitchen when my husband and I were just starting out. Check in with her if you think it might be something you’d be interested in!

Keep checking back as you will find all three of my most favorite icing recipes including the Best White Chocolate Buttercream, in the very near future! Have a great week!

Cheers!

  • Whitney

Designing a Home Office

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Whenever designing a home office there are a few things to consider before jumping head first into your project. I have been considering a home office space for about a year now. But since I haven’t had a real need for one until recently, the idea just kept getting brushed aside. We live in an incredibly old farm-house. It has the old farm house charm, but was freshly renovated before we moved in. When my husband and I walked through it for the first time, incredibly pregnant with our first child we both immediately fell in love with the space, the location, and the PORCH. Seriously, the massive porch on our house is a second living space in the warm weather seasons.

The house is set up in an L-shape floor plan with a brightly lit living and dining space and an impressive sized kitchen just off the dining room. A mud room, laundry room, and 3/4 bathroom were added after the original home was built and they are located just off the kitchen.

The second floor replicates the L-shape with a master bedroom above the living room. Just outside the master bedroom is an open hallway at the top of the stairwell with a bathroom and a door to the bedrooms. The one unusual thing about the floor plan is that you must go through each of the additional bedrooms to get to the next bedroom. Our house is considered a 4 bedroom residence, but each of the girls’ bedrooms are slightly narrow and lack closets. Very inconvenient since we have all daughters. But we make it work.

The first of the three adjoining bedrooms has been primarily dominated by my husband, turning it in to his western-Pennsylvania “trophy room” full of every type of mount you can imagine. We all win with this arrangement: he gets a man space, and I get a dead animal-free first floor. The girls bedrooms are just beyond this man case, which concludes the floor plan explanation.

Having talked you through my house, you may have noticed, every space is being used by a dominating purpose. There is no real spare room or office space in our home which meant I needed to get creative on my placement of my home office. I considered placing the office in the corner of our dining room; however, this space already has a lot going on and is just on the edge of becoming over-cluttered. We have a fire-place, staircase,  two doorways and even a closet door. The room also holds a dining table that seats 12 limiting the extra space.

My next thought was to utilize the additional space in our bedroom. The master bedroom is a bit large and a slight waste of space. In the future I would like to see our small bathroom expanded into the extra space. Unfortunately this construction project is not in the near future, so I settled on this space. The other plus to this room, is the amazing lighting. We have a windows on 3 of the four walls making it such a bright and welcoming space, particularly in the morning hours when I will be spending the majority of my time working in here.

I decided to use the smaller desk that was currently acting as an entryway table, (which lead me to redecorating the entryway… see how my mind works?!) as my desk. I love this simple white desk that worked well with the white woodwork throughout our home and had the simple clean lines that I like, without giving it a modern feel. I also received my equipment from the Cyber School I would be working for and knew the printer I received was massive, clunky, and black. I found a black filing cabinet to put the beast printer on to help blend that bad boy away from becoming an eye sore.

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Getting the equipment in place, the basic furniture set, I felt I had a good foundation to add the fun pieces. You want your workspace to be cute, but it needs to be functional and suit your specific needs. I will be teaching from this station, so I needed to make sure the backdrop for my lessons was simple. Since my husband’s side of the room would be behind me, it is very plain. Perfect. Next I would need to find ways to organize my daily supplies and make my bland view, a little more fun.

By the way, the color of my walls is Palladian Blue by Benjamin Moore. You will never see a room in my house painted in anything but Benjamin Moore paint. I Love the quality of the paint, the thickness and the ease of cutting and rolling such rich paint.

After leaving my office alone for a couple of days to think about what items I really wanted I used an inconveniently scheduled doctor’s appointment and made the most of the day browsing the sale isles of various stores. My super creative friend showed me this darling sign she found at JoAnn fabrics and I immediately said “I need that for my office!!” Knowing they were having a 50% off sale I started there.

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I also found this great little glass milk jug holder there, and I’ve linked a similar product HERE for you if you are interested in this style of organization. The art teacher comes out in me when I organize. I can’t help but place all warm colored pens together, cool colors together, and blacks separated as well.

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If I am going to function well in the digital classroom, I need only a few items right at my reach, a planner located in my drawer, a notebook to write down to-do lists, and easily accessible pens.

I also am a “hanging file junkie” and will be using this as not only my classroom but finally a home office space, where I will keep all bills, family documents, and resources that might come in handy from my former teaching position. I plan to use the filing cabinet for bills, family documents and older resources that might come in handy in my new position.

I found these really cute crates at T J Max on clearance and decided I would use them as an additional filing system for all documents needed while teaching online and writing IEPs for my new caseload.

I love hanging file crates! How cute are they? Plus they distract from the ugly shade of green on the hanging file folders. Here is a similar product on Amazon you could use in youor own home office. Large Crate and Small Crates.

I also found this sweet little gem as a little reminder to myself each day why I chose this career and how fortunate I am to jump on opportunities like this digital career shift. Everyone needs a little reminder to Dream Big, so why not have one right in front of you every day?

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While my bedroom is fairly large, I didn’t want to add too much to distract from the simplicity of the room or look too bulky. So I began searching a series of chairs, from slipper chairs to crazy finds at TJ Max and discovered, once again, in the clearance isle a simple adjustable office chair that was less than distracting.

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I found a CLEAR OFFICE CHAIR! It literally blends into the space when rolled in, fits neatly in its place, doesn’t distract from the simple space, and is, believe it or not, comfortable!

You can find a similar chair HERE for your own office space.

Now there is one last piece I need to share. Every time I start a major career, I have one piece from these two particular girls. When I was starting my first teaching job, I took a vase and flowers made for me by my nieces as a little piece of home. That vase has stood the test of time and is still on my desk. I recently received a beautiful little cross stitch from my one niece and felt that I needed another good luck charm as I start my next career adventure.

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And that brings me to the finished product. My functional, personalized office space:

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So lets recap. There are several critical things to consider when designing an office space that works for you:

  1. Spacing and Location – If you have a designated room for a home office, your creative opportounities are endless; however, if you have limited space, as I did, you need to create an environmenet that utilizes the space efficiently
  2. Functionality – What will your office be used for? Will you be storing significant files? Or will you be primarily digital and simplified. These are all critical factors in laying out your space. Determine what items you need to be your most efficient self.
  3. Style – Find a style that fits your personality. If you aren’t sure what that is, Pinterest is always a great starting point. I wanted a style that held the farm house charm, but still reflected simple clean lines

So, whenever tackline your home office:

  1. identify your space
  2. repurpose furniture you may already have laying around your house
  3. determine what your purpose will be for the office
  4. find an effective layout for your office
  5. shop the clearance isle for cute accents
  6. have fun with it!

Cheers!

  • Whitney

St. Patrick’s Day Craft Ideas

Before I ever had children, I was obsessed with holiday crafting. A few girlfriends and I have made several feeble attempts to pull together a “Pinterest Club” or “Craft Club” as my mother used to call it. We usually get one excellent day in, with the plans to follow up a month later at someone else’s house, failing miserably on the follow-through. Once we all began to have children, those craft nights turned into food and drink and laughter nights, usually having at most, one member follow through with a craft. Yes, those children will do that do you. They wipe away all excessive motivation to complete a project when surrounded by your best girls and some excellent food and drink.

For those of you who still have that follow-through and motivation, I have rounded up some of my favorite online seasonal ideas for this dreary March that just seems to be having an identity crisis, alternating from Lamb to Lion and then back to Lamb.

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I have included 5 projects: one for each day between now and St. Patrick’s Day along with the link to the original post including instructions for completion. Perhaps this will inspire a St. Patrick’s day girl’s night for you to pull together a few girls and have a spontaneous creative Friday night. Or, if you are more like my girls and I, enjoy this Friday as a food and laughter filled evening, sharing the trials and tribulations of being a wife, mother, or employee! This St. Patrick’s Day I will be hosting an impromptu Girls Night In with a former classmate of mine! Kayla Jamison, a new member of the Stella and Dot family, will be introducing us to a collection of jewelry and fashion with a trunk show. You can check out all of her great products HERE. I’m not sure if I’m more excited to see her awesome collection, or just FINALLY get to catch up with her!

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This was the cute little invite I crafted; however, I failed to it out to the majority of the people invited! 
In high school we had several mutual friends, and definitely would have considered each other as friends, but shortly after graduation we each took very different life paths, keeping in touch with our select few friends and losing those common connections. Then that magical shift came. The moment you have a child, particularly if you are the first in a social group to have a child, the social group starts to dissipate. Suddenly those common grounds disappear and you find yourself drawn more to the young parents showing up in your social media news feed, and less to the shenanigans of those weekend events from your kid-less friends. This is when Kayla re-entered my life.

Shortly after our oldest was born I found her appearing more and more often in my social media. Perhaps this was because another classmate of ours, her best friend, was having a baby just a short two months after my oldest was born. And just like that both Kayla and the other classmate became my most common follows. I love watching my classmates children grow up. Particularly the ones who are going through different stages of parenting ahead of me, the ones close to my children’s ages since they will be in school together, and even ones who are miles away, say Florida, because it helps to keep me from feeling disconnected from those close friends. This is, in my opinion, the epitome of Social Media perks.

So bringing this ever-side-tracked mind back into focus the first items I have found for you include some festive decor, some of which I plan to include in my upcoming Girls Night In!

  1. DIY St. Patrick’s Day Garland

St Patricks Day Garland

For those of you unfamiliar with The Land of Nod, the children’s line from Crate and Barrel, they also have a blog: Honest to Nod which is, quite possibly, my absolute favorite creative idea go-to. This post comes from 2014, and reminds me of a little garland project my nieces and I took on that same year for Christmas. We made simple little pom poms out of yarn and strung them up in the girls rooms. I love the variety of three dimensional shapes along with flat glittery shamrocks in this garland. I can honestly say, this would be a cute and reusable decoration easily stored in a tote. If you aren’t big in to cutting out shapes, I would strongly recommend investing in a variety of paper punches, or a Shamrock Paper Punch . I did not purchase specific shapes, rather several sizes of Circles, presenting holiday feelings from the colors of paper I choose to make my garland with. I have the Fiskars Medium and Extra Large circles. You can find the full instructions by clicking on the link to the project above the picture.

2. Paper Shamrock Shapes

Shamrock Shape

This one is more of a cutsie decoration, not the type you save and reuse in your house each year. But I will admit, they are very fun to make! I was inspired to attempt to transform the hallway where my classroom is located after the Family and Consumer Science department decorated the entire wing of the school where their classrooms are located the month before Christmas. It was so festive and beautiful that I ran to Walmart and purchased 4 strands of 300 count white lights to string down our hallway trying to replicate their festivity. My students then went to work designing beautiful three-dimensional blue snowflakes to hang with fishing line from the drop ceiling. The end result was stunning! My classroom assistant began to peruse the internet for seasonal three dimensional shapes to incorporate into the design of the hallway throughout the remaining seasons of the school year, starting first with elegant tiny hearts (one of the leaves of the clovers pictures above). She then stumbled upon a shamrock version of the same shape. Currently, our hallway only has a few of the green shamrocks floating. We just received a random lion of a snow storm after 55 degree weather the day before. Another colleague and I were concerned our snowflakes were jinxing the school so we tore each one down quickly!

This was the best tutorial I could find online to make these cute shapes and would double as a great project to complete with kids on a random Lion of a March day.

3. Potted Clover

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With the world on a Joanna Gaines high, and Magnolia this, Magnolia that, I found that Pretty Handy Girl  (which I must add that I love her profile picture!) has an excellent and simple idea to get into the vibe of March. With Joanna continuing to inspire us with her fresh whites, clean lines, bright greenery and exquisite floral arrangements, this simple little craft idea is just enough to get into those spring vibes only days before Spring officially begins, and spark a light in all of those green thumbed friends out there itching to begin those gardens.

4. Free Printable Banners

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As a teacher, the thing I believe I am going to miss the most about the brick and mortar classroom will be the holiday decorating, or even the unit-specific decorations I have developed over the past five years. Already planning my home office, I’m envisioning some type of re-purposed frame with a chalkboard center, just to still have the feel of school around me as I convert to the digital world. These sweet little banners may work as the perfect seasonal alternative for a home office classroom.

That being said, I do not feel these should be limited to a classroom! They are so cute and would make an excellent food table backdrop, mantle addition, or entryway surprise any any other various creative location that might work for you! Flag banners are my favorite event accent as well. They are so simple but add a whole new level of creativity to any event. Ella Claire has three printable cute options available for you! Click here to go to my Pinterest page to view this item, along with many more options like it!

5. DIY St Patrick’s Day Mason Jars

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No craft post is ever complete without a mason jar project! And if you happen to be one of those mason jar junkies, I have found the blog for YOU! Ka Styles is seriously an entire blog with gorgeous mason jar ideas! I was stuck scrolling through her posts and ideas for 45 minutes! They are so pretty! And how simple is this?! You pick the color, paint the jar and just like that! You’ve created a beautiful little accent piece for a mantle, a gift for a friend, a vase for those Joanna inspired blooms, or a pencil jar for that home office. Plenty of time to spare to gossip with those gal pals!

While this was a bit wordy, I hope you were able to hop around and find some great projects to work on this week as we wind into the upcoming holiday festivities next weekend!

Cheers!

  • Whitney