The Hungry, Hungry Healthy Eater

So it has been a while since I dove into writing. For some reason the whole, career shift, mental shift, life shift, really made me just take a step back from everything. I’ve spent the last two months really evaluating my choices over the past several years, my relationships with friends, family, and acquaintances, and just really taking a mental health month. From all of this time-out phase, I have learned so many valuable lessons.

1. Life is short, so DO the things you WANT TO DO.

Before I found out I was pregnant with my oldest daughter I feel safe in calling myself  a runner. I loved running. I loved the mental check out that happened whenever you set off with no end goal in sight, just an awesome play list and the mindless relaxing task of enjoying the sights around you, totally in control of where you go and how long you are gone. I felt so at pease when I ran.

But then kids happened. And life happened, And baby weight happened. And for about 4 years… nothing could really spark up the EXTRA planning, motivation, and organization involved in scheduling runs around commuting to work, having kids, working around a husband who used to work away sometimes more than he was home, choosing to run over sipping on my favorite glass of wine, and all those other excuses we are really, really good at coming up with, as normal human beings.

But then I worked from home. And plan periods, and lunch breaks became “let’s DO THIS” breaks and, “lets try adding a mile on” breaks. And before you knew it, I was able to run to the end of my road and back in 20 minutes (2 miles… not very far but a HUGE step for me.)

Now, a full 5 weeks into summer and I am up to a solid 6 mile run, and it feels AMAZING to get back into that routine. I signed up for my first 1/2 Marathon to run with a very close friend, and I am SO EXCITED!

So if there is a goal you’ve been “thinking about…” just go for it! Life is short, so ENJOY IT.

2. Holding a Grudge is… NEVER. WORTH. IT.

There is no secret in the fact that this previous school year has been an incredibly difficult one for me. I interviewed for several administrative positions that I wasn’t really ready to take, but it took interviewing and second rounds of interview to really put my priorities in check; and of course those work “feuds” that seem to sneak up on you and just seem to linger on… and on… and on.

Nothing is more stressful than the passive aggressive “disputes” that happen in the work force. We all have them. Whether you work in the school districts, industry, public transportation, or business offices, we all have that “person” or even “people” who apply those passive aggressive stressors on our lives. I avoided faculty rooms like the plague this past year, because when you have a husband who doesn’t have a schedule, works 60 – 80 hour work weeks as a normal routine, those petty complaints about summer break not being long enough, or catty comments about your boss are really hard to sit and swallow.

For some reason, we are hard wired to only hit the “reset” button whenever a crisis hits us. Suddenly those feuds, and petty arguments are nothing more than lost time between friends who lost track of why they became friends in the first place. Guiltily, I too, have struggled with this but managed to repair the ones that mattered before it was too late.

3. Work Stress doesn’t have to come “home” with you.

This clearly has been mentioned in previous posts as I never realized how much stress was added to my life with all the extra unnecessary drama of the work place, faculty rooms, and even the commute. Once my kids could wake up on their own and were no longer pulled from their beds at 5:45 in the morning, life became much more peaceful.

4. Family Comes First

I feel like this could apply in so many different ways during the past two months. Family is Forever; You can’t pick them, but you gotta love them; etc. There are so many cliche’s that go along with family, it’s impossible to even keep track of them all. Over the years, I have gone through several phases of relationships with my siblings; from childhood adoration of those older siblings, to teenage best friends, to heartbreaking distance; the first harsh reality of adulthood when you realize how different you really are; to acceptance of the people you are and the relationships you have together; and then finally to growth, where you discover new ways to appreciate each other and the incredibly different phases of life you may always be in from each other. Each of my siblings including the siblings I have gained through marrying my husband are all a varied levels of complicated, and irreplaceable relationships to me. When one of our siblings is hurting, we hurt with them. When one is celebrating, we celebrate with them.

This summer has also reinforced to my that my family will ALWAYS come first to me. My daughters and my husband’s needs will always fall ahead of everything else in life. These are the people who build me up, and keep my world spinning. Last year we went through a slight health scare which ultimately ended up being nothing, thank goodness, and I’m not sure if it was that scary reality check that really enforced the bond of a husband and wife, or if it’s the complicated and extensive history going back almost 15 years, or if its just that we are lucky enough to have found that true soul mate; regardless, celebrating our 5th year anniversary will most certainly be the highlight of my July.

5. True Friends are Friends Forever.

I have been blessed with a handful of friends who I know will be in my life forever. Some are from childhood, others from my previous job, and still others are friends developed through my husband, and continue to grow and help to shape the mother, and friend I am. I also have a unique blend of long-term friends that I only get the opportunity to see once or twice a year. But those times when we are reunited, we are so busy catching up on each others lives that it’s like the time between visits doesn’t even exist. (One of the major perks to social media…)

I have also spent so much time investing in relationships that were never really there in the first place. These people are the ones who bring you down, use artificial bonds and temporarily fill spaces in your life. My best advice, become incredibly good at determining the difference between the real friends, and the ones who are only temporary.

6. I love Food. This will NEVER. CHANGE.

And finally, the hard hitting lesson from the past few months: I. LOVE. FOOD. I am not a dieter, a health fanatic, or disciplined in any way shape or form. I love to eat, all things delicious and flavorful. I really enjoy carb-loaded foods, sweets, and wine. God I love wine. So when I splurge and attempt a recipe involving roasted vegetables and Salmon… about 2 hours later… I AM STARVING. But I digress…

Today I will share with you the light, and incredibly healthy meal my family and I shared Sunday, including a simple salmon suggestion from a good friend (definitely on the growing friends forever list) along with some hearty roasted vegetables.

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To begin, I must address the darling purple potatoes that have been frequenting the produce isles at Aldi’s all summer long! My girls LOVE PURPLE POTATOES! The roasted vegetables are a simple combination of the tiny potatoes from Aldi’s and broccoli florets tossed in olive oil and seasoned with garlic salt and pepper. They were delicious…!

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I strongly recommend placing your vegetables in the oven about 10 minutes prior to placing the salmon in the oven as well.

To prepare the Salmon:

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The salmon filets also came from Aldi’s and were my first experience with fish filets that still had skin on them. Not an enjoyable task, but I did slice off the outer layer before baking. (Feel free to laugh… I honestly wasn’t sure whether or not to leave it on…? I’m still not really sure!) Brush your salmon with a quality olive oil, sprinkle a little salt and pepper, and lay a few slices of lemon on those bad boys.

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One mistake I made: I am not a lemony person, and I took the additional lemons and squeezed a little over top the Salmon. I do not recommend doing that if you aren’t big into Lemon flavor on your fish. Just the slices laying on top should be more than enough.

Fold up your little cute Salmon foil packet, and place it on to the baking sheet beside the vegetables. Continue roasting and baking for about 15 minutes at 425 degrees.

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And when you pull the sheet out of the oven, with a whole 25 minutes of your life invested in this dinner, you’ll be super proud when your family is eating healthy and enjoying the flavors…!

Unless they are like me.

And they are starved… 2 hours later.

I want to be healthy and enjoy eating salmon and vegetables… however, I am a RED MEAT AND POTATOES GIRL. I’m also a wine girl. Mainly, a wine girl.

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Happy Healthy Eating! (And then unhealthy snacking a few hours later…!)

Cheers!

  • Whitney

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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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Rainy Day Activities for the Littles (and biggies) in your Life

So we have just entered into the second week of terrible weather in Western Pennsylvania with temperatures bouncing between the thirties and fifties, drizzly rain to torrential down pours, and just an overall lingering “blah” feel in the air. If you have toddlers in your life, particularly ones who got just a taste of those few warm, sunny, and beautiful days in April, then you know how frustrating it is to go from running in the yard, to being cooped up inside. The last thing I want is to drag out this cabin fever any longer that necessary.

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I’ve really been scouring the internet recently to come up with some less than average ways to bring that fun and excitement back for my cuties and combat the rainy weather blues. I was browsing through my Facebook memories, you know the daily reminders we get on exactly what we were doing on this very day over the past however many years we’ve had a Facebook account, (Eleven for me… disturbingly), and I came across one from exactly one year ago today. In this particular memory, my daughter was camping out in her teepee on a, you guessed it, Rainy Day. And just like that, I was inspired to begin my search again, for the perfect list of Rainy Day Activities, to help survive this next week of even more awful weather.

I have several options, from fun projects to cute little unusual toys you can find in my two most favorite places: Target, and Amazon (THANK YOU PRIME SHIPPING!!!) Each blue name link will take you directly to the product I am talking about.

So first up on the list:

  1. Teepee Tents

91HwifUKrcL._SL1500_This is the exact tent we ordered a year ago for our daughters to play in. Let me tell you, this was the BEST investment we have ever made. Neither of the girls ever got sick of it, and it folds up into one long skinny post we just put behind out couch so it’s always available at a moments notice. It was simple to assemble and both my husband (who is 6′ 2″) and I can comfortable sit in it with our girls. We usually fill it with blankets and the throw pillows from the room just to make it a little more fun. Spur of the moment blanket forts are awesome, but just don’t quite compare to your own TEEPEE.

The link takes you directly to Amazon, and below the item you’ll find tons of variations on this specific tent from sizes, to colors, to even different styled tents. You just can’t go wrong with this little fortress!

2. Pop-Open Tunnels

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My youngest was given a pop-open Caterpillar Tunnel, by my sister in law for her first birthday. These are the perfect rainy day activity because they open and close so easily and storage is super convenient with the little carrying case it comes with. Plus it’s CHEAP! This is the best inexpensive source of hours of entertainment! Don’t like the caterpillar? Try the super cute Ladybug Tunnel!

3. Wooden Paper Roll Dispenser

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There are TONS and TONS and TONS of art supplies on the market. As a former art teacher, it was super important to me that our girls be exposed to creativity and have access to supplies that support just that. For Christmas this past year, my Mother in Law and Father in Law got our oldest a beautiful White Easel by Kid Craft (and I’m sure every Pottery-Barn loving mother can relate when I say Kid Craft is the affordable alternative to the gorgeous Pottery Barn creative play ideas). While the White Easel is a high price item, there are several alternatives that are inexpensive for creative play. For example, this Melissa and Doug Wooden Paper Roll Dispenser. This is perfect for a kitchen table or play table with easy dispensing paper, kids can go from small wall art, to life size treasure maps of the living room, to human outlines of themselves to color and cut out. The possibilities are endless with roll paper.

4. Creative Play: Imagination Baking

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You have all seen my little assistants in action helping in the kitchen, especially whenever a dessert is involved, but those exciting baking moments transfer right into imaginative play. The BEST, BEST, BEST, investment we ever made for our girls, was the KidKraft Play Kitchen the girls received for Christmas a year and a half ago. It was a splurge, but the quality of KidKraft made it so worth it. My father-in-law put it best that year, “you can buy a cheap toy kitchen and it might last a year or two, or you can get one like this, and even an 8 year old will still want to play with it, some things are just worth it in the long run.” He reference my niece who was 8 at the time, and immediately goes to play with the girls at the kitchen whenever she comes over to our house. I even love playing with the girls with their kitchen. You can find kitchens from all price ranges. The specific Kitchen set we purchased can be found HERE. Melissa and Doug really support the imagination play by creating such high quality toys that withstand the brutality instilled upon them by toddlers. We have the Melissa and Doug Baking Set, Bake and Decorate Wooden Cupcake Set, and the Brew and Serve Wooden Coffee Maker Set. Personally, the little coffee maker set is my favorite…!

 

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5. Creative Play: Household Accessories

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The research behind creative play is unreal. There are so many skills and developmental milestones in simply imagining real life tasks. Our girls LOVE playing with their matching Cabbage Patch baby dolls, carrying them around in car seats, pushing them in strollers, and even feeding them in sweet little high chairs. Our youngest’s current favorite task is “ironing” her blanket on this DARLING little Honestly Cute Ironing Board on Target’s website. They have an entire category for Pretend Play on their website. I mean, Honestly Cute even has a Dyson-look-alike VACUUM! Or try the Let’s Get Cleaning Broom and Duster set! My girls LOVE copying whatever chore or task I’m doing, so why not make it fun?! After all, I do get an awful lot of cleaning done on Rainy Days!

6. Creative Kitchen : Bake some Cupcakes!

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It’s no secret that I love to bake, or that my kids love helping me. On rainy and chilly days  like today I find myself drawn to the kitchen looking for an excuse to turn the stove on and shake the chill that never seems to leave. Plus, who doesn’t love sharing a goey cake batter spoon with their little loved ones? So here are some cute little inspiration photos to get you in the mood to make fun little cupcakes with your littles, or bigs, depending on what age you have running around your house on these chilly and rainy days.

Head over to my Pinterest Board: Cupcakes for more ideas!

7. Read some Cute New Books!

Whether your an e-reader, or a hard copy book guru, you can never have enough cute books for your kids! I always welcome new book suggestions for the 1-4 year old age. Another great way to get your hands on some new titles for your kiddos would be to find a family member or friend with similar aged children and do a “book exchange” trading your favorites for their favorites. It’s a win win! You find new books that have already been approved by people you care about, and you get to share the treasure you and your children love in return. Thanks to my sister, we love the Sandra Boynton books: Snuggle Puppy!, Hippos Go Berserk!, Pajama Time!, and Barnyard Dance!

LITTLE FREE LIBRARY
I’ve seen so many of the “Little Free Libraries” popping up all over the place. If you have never heard of this idea, a Little Free Library is a drop box located in a common area or a volunteering neighbor’s yard to donate books no longer used for others in a community to read. They are typically waterproof boxes that are unlocked and offer a spot to share, discuss, and build a stronger community simply by exchanging books.

8. Create a Day of Sunshine

Colors brighten our day, so why not try a cute spin off from sending a “Box of Sunshine” to having a Day of Sunshine to brighten those dreary days. Fill your day with as many sunny and brightly colored things from yellow table cloths, to colorful paper plates, yellow fruits and snacks, or yellow lemonade. Try to fill your whole date with everything bright and yellow! Make sparkly yellow suns, listen to “Yellow Submarine” just fill those dreary clouds outside with rays of fun and sun inside.  Check out my Day of Sunshine board on Pinterest to find more colorful inspirational ideas for a sun-filled day.

It's not always abouttrying to fix somethingthat's broken.

Hopefully this little list was able to inspire you to create some excitement for your kids in one way or another to weather the stormy days!

Cheers!

  • Whitney

Saying Goodbye | Looking Forward

Yesterday could only be described as similar to watching my own funeral. It was so similar to family and friends coming in and out of a deceased  loved one’s home to pay their last respects. Between emotional hugs, heartfelt words, funny memories, letters from students, videos of my classes of students saying goodbye, and even disagreements put aside, I spent my final day in a district I have been teaching with for 5 years. I was surrounded with students I’ve been responsible for their entire high school career, only a few weeks left themselves before they too will leave the district and head out into the real world. It is an incredibly surreal experience when you realize how much a small community of people can feel more like a life long family. But what is even crazier is how you don’t realize it until you are saying goodbye. That school has been a massive part of my world for my entire professional teaching career. I have so much emotionally invested inside those brick walls, picturing day to day life without entering that building feels like an impossible task. Prior to this district, I worked part time at my local district, but that doesn’t compare to the day in and day out responsibilities, personal connections, and extras, you put forth without even realizing it.

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I think the part that was undeniably mind blowing was the fact that all of these people went above and beyond to describe the impact I had made on them personally or with students they worked with. It was utterly overwhelming. I have a stack of 32 cards sitting beside me with intimate details of friendship, inspiration, and well wishes that I can’t even begin to read yet. The wound is too fresh, my heart still broken. I have learned so much from this family, this community, about sacrifice, looking at the bigger picture, realizing what is truly important, developing life long friendships, realizing when you’ve misjudged and learning from those mistakes, brushing aside the nonsense and staying focused on why we are here, and understanding the difference a relationship built with a student can make.

I have had the privilege to teach around 230 students in my short 5 years teaching with the district. Within those students I have seen the potential, the growth, the failures, the accomplishments, the future, and most importantly, the hope. Each child held the promise for a better future. If we could give each child the skills to prepare them for the struggles in life, the heart aches, the knock-you-down moments, then they would be ok. It wasn’t until my second year though, that I realized most of these students have experienced more “real life” more “struggle” and more “knock-you-down” in the short fifteen years of their lives than I may ever see in my entire life. It was at this turning point that I realized, these kids will teach me as much, if not more, than I could ever teach them.

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I began to empathize with them, to remember that while they might be frustrated or lashing out, it isn’t necessarily at me, but may very well be the only moment they have in their day to release the stress and anxiety of a life dealt to them, that is unfair and at times even down right cruel. I began to stack all of my emotional eggs in these fragile baskets, risking heart break when a student slipped back into old habits, or was taken from me from poor decision making, but every heart ache was worth it, because these kids needed to know they mattered.

So with the tearful goodbyes and life long friendship that I will carry with me, I can look forward to this new adventure, this new role in my life. What does this new career look like? I will find out in a matter of 36 hours. To say I am nervous would be an understatement. I feel this crazy mixture of emotions from lingering heartbreak and loss, to the unsettled nerves of a first year teacher, to the excitement of the potential to be more actively involved in my own children’s lives.

I have a Mom goal in my mind: to be that Mom. The Mom who packs lunches every morning with little notes tucked inside. The Mom who is there and present every morning before school, and anxiously waiting after to hear about her children’s day. The Mom who can assist with PTA events because she wants the best for her children. The Mom other Moms call to pick up their children from school and run them to practices in the evenings, because I am the Mom who is available and ready for anything.

While those events may be down the road a bit, I know that road will come all too quickly. On my last drive to work yesterday, my oldest asked me, “Mommy, after today, can we be home with you more?” I have never had any conversations with her about my job changing, about working from home, or anything even remotely close to this. But here she was, perceptive as ever, picking up on the change, feeding from my emotions. I answered her with a simple, “Absolutely girls, Mommy is going to be home much more after today.” And with that simple little question, I had the energy to pull through what I knew was going to be an incredibly difficult day.

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My work better half, and best friend shared this quote last night, and while it completely broke every barrier I had built up to get through the day, it was so perfect, because it was how I truly felt about her in return.

So here we are, two months after announcing the change and publishing Career Shift in the aftermath of it all, ready to start this new adventure. Today I woke up willing to say goodbye to the past and prepared to only look forward. So thank you, each any every one of you, who have inspired me to be empathetic, to promote achievement, to put my family first, to have the confidence to make a shift when it is necessary, to value my skill set, to leave you even when you didn’t want me to, to strive for greatness even when it’s a completely different path than I started out towards, and to always be myself. Thank you for shaping me into who I am today.

Tomorrow is a new day, a new challenge, and a new adventure.

Cheers!

  • Whitney

Gluten Free Spring Cake

So one afternoon, while I was debating the final contestants for my blog’s Logo and writing Hello Logo, Welcome Home my oldest daughter was camped out beside me with her cute little Leap Frog Pink Laptop, plugging away at her work as well.

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As usual, I was multi-tasking and distracting myself on Pinterest when my oldest piped up saying, “Mommy! Wait! I want to make that cake right there!” Immediately pointing to a boxed cake idea utilizing food coloring and colorful layers on a bundt cake. After carefully inspecting the recipe, I said to her we would try it out.

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This was the original picture from Tablespoon my daughter saw online.

The recipe required a white boxed cake mix which in the world of gluten free, does not exist.

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Knowing that a yellow cake mix with food coloring would most likely look more orange than pink, I needed to come up with a white cake recipe. I continued to scour the internet for another hour or so until I had enough background information to develop a fairly simple gluten free white cake recipe.

So my daughters and I went to work, making a homemade Gluten Free White Cake recipe.

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I always start by measuring my dry ingredients and combining them first in a lovely spouted bowl. This cake was made with Pamela’s Artisan Blend Flour which is simple, and cup for cup convertible to non gluten free recipes.

Since this recipe has melted butter, I do this next so it has a chance to briefly cool. I’m pretty sure I’m going to experiment with melted butter in boxed mixes, because this cake turned out SO. GREAT!

Next, I place my mixer assistants on the counter and start beating the eggs and sugar.

After everyone is in place, I add in the butter, buttermilk, vanilla, and almond extract. Once everything is mixed really well, begin adding in the flour one cup at a time, and stop as soon as the cake mixture is just combined.

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This is my favorite cake batter to lick. And both of my girls would agree with me on this. (yes… my children lick the beaters when I bake. So do I, and we are all just fine…)

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As I was watching the cake lighten up in color with every scoop of Pamela’s Artisan Blend Flour, I was getting pretty excited! It was actually going to be a WHITE CAKE. But then we would be adding color to it, meaning that a true white cake really needed to be added to our future to-bake list.
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Look how delicious, fluffy and light this cake batter ended up! I hated to even color it! But needless to say, my daughter was anxiously waiting to add the color. So we divided the batter evenly among 3 bowls.

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I then began to color each section of batter to match the original cake inspiration, following through with a yellow, purple, and of course, pink portion.

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After finishing this cake, looking back, I would definitely pursue a deeper shade of purple cake, because while it was visible in the final product it would have been a little cooler looking with a deeper shade.

Now comes the fun part: handing three bowls of batter to a 3 year old and letting her go to town layering the colors in the pan. She loved this part; however, decided part way through it would have been better to just make a pink cake. Of course.

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Look at her, she’s like a little professional! The final cake looked something like this prior to baking:

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How pretty and fun is this cake? And once we finished baking it, about 40 minutes in the oven at 350 degrees, it looked even prettier!

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Now, here is where I went wrong. I did not let my cake cool long enough before attempting to remove it from the pan. So my cake cracked, but evenly so I was able to piece it right back together.

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You almost can’t even see the crack! Once the cake has COMPLETELY cooled, divide up your icing into 3 separate bowls.

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Again, you could make this from scratch, but when a classic white icing is already gluten free, and you plan to drizzle it, why not just use it from the can? It’s easily thinned by adding some milk to get the glazing effect you are looking for.

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I added my colors and found the shades I was looking for before attempting to thin the icing and it worked out really well this way.

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Once your icing is slightly runny, your daughter is wired on sugar, and the cake is cooled, let her go to town flinging icing on to a cake. It might be slightly messy, but she had so much fun decorating this cake!

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The other thing I noticed was the original did not use a ton of icing. In our household, it’s a crime to under-ice a cake. Needless to say, this cake was drenched in frosting, and every bit of the final product was delicious!

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Just one handful of colored sugar sprinkles and we were finished!

The colors swirled pretty well, all things considered, but I think layering the colors in to the pan one at a time and then using a knife to swirl them would work out the best to achieve the true swirl cake effect.

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Well there you have it! One fairly simple Gluten Free White Cake Recipe, and another simple modification to make my daughter’s Gluten Free Spring Cake.

Cheers!

  • Whitney

 

Gluten Free White Cake

  • Servings: 12 servings
  • Print

A perfectly white and moist cake, with a delicious flavor that will fool even the keenest of taste buds.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups Pamela’s Artisan Blend Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract

Directions

  1. Set the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Combine all dry ingredients in a separate bowl and set aside.
  2. Melt butter and let cool slightly.
  3. In a stand mixer beat the eggs and sugar together. Add in the butter, buttermilk, vanilla and almond extract. Continue to mix at medium speed until combined.
  4. Add in the dry mixture one cup at a time until ingredients are just combined. Do not over mix.
  5. Pour into 2 greased  8 or 9 inch baking pans and bake 30-40 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. (For a bundt cake, bake for 35-40 minutes)
  6. Let the cakes cool at least 30 minutes before removing from the pan and transferring to a wire rack to continue to cool completely.

Gluten Free Colorful Spring Cake

  • Servings: 12 servings
  • Print

A fun twist on a classic gluten free white cake that is sure to wow a crowd or add a cheerful touch to a spring gathering.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups Pamela’s Artisan Blend Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 can white icing
  • 3-6 Tablespoons milk

Directions

  1. Set the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Combine all dry ingredients in a separate bowl and set aside.
  2. Melt butter and let cool slightly.
  3. In a stand mixer beat the eggs and sugar together. Add in the butter, buttermilk, vanilla and almond extract. Continue to mix at medium speed until combined.
  4. Add in the dry mixture one cup at a time until ingredients are just combined. Do not over mix.
  5. Separate cake mixture into three even portions. Add food coloring to each to make a yellow, pink (use red) and purple (use red and slightly more blue) colored batter.
  6. Rotating between colors, pour layers of each color into a greased bundt pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes.
  7. Let the cake cool at least 30 minutes before removing from the pan and transferring to a wire rack to continue to cool completely.
  8. Using canned icing separate into 3 even portions, repeating the same food coloring portions as the cake batter. Thin each bowl out with 1-2 tablespoons of milk, until a glaze consistency has been achieved.
  9. Drizzle icing over cake alternating colors. Let the icing set completely before serving.

 

 

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

Fun Breakfast | Simple Gluten Free Pancakes

 

I will never forget the trip to my sister’s when her youngest daughter was officially in charge of breakfast. She was making gluten free pancakes. In our house, we only worry about gluten free, but with my niece she is both dairy and gluten free. Using the Bisquick Gluten Free mix, which I cannot stress enough what an AMAZING mix this is, she substitutes almond milk in to replace the milk added. The mixture is dairy free (not soy free, but dairy free) and even with this additional substitution the pancakes taste just like the Bisquick pancakes I grew up with.

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Photo Credit: General Mills Website

My niece has been one of those unbelievably creative and one of a kind kids as long as I can remember. She is sweet, crazy intelligent, and every now and then reminds me so much of myself at her age minus all the access to . It’s fun to see her interacting with her sister, because I think her older sister is much like her mother, my older sister. I wonder if we had grown up closer together in age, if we would have been like those two.

Returning back to my niece’s clever pancakes, after she mixed the batter up, she tinted the pancakes with food coloring to match my oldest daughter’s request for pink. (brilliant idea for any toddler). But the next thing she did blew me out of the water on creative breakfasts. Using a decorating bottle, she poured the mixture into the bottle and used the bottle to create shapes and designs in my daughter’s pancakes. INGENIOUS!

Since this day, I have been following suit making pancakes like my niece inspired me, starting first, of course, with the Bisquick mixture, and following suit with food coloring and a decorator bottle.

And so when my girls requested “Breakfast for Dinner!!!” the other night, I began with this simple and very easy method for making pancakes! To start, I made one batch beginning with:

* 1 cup of Gluten Free Bisquick Mix
* 1 cup of Milk (I used 2 percent but Almond Milk is an excellent substitute)
* 2 Tablespoons of Oil (I used Canola)
* 1 egg

I then added 2-3 drops of red food coloring to achieve the perfect shade of pink.

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Once again, this awesome bowl from Pampered Chef comes to the rescue with the pour spout, but I have found a close substitute HERE if you’re in the market for a great mixing bowl. Perhaps it would be a good Mother’s Day Gift Idea for the baker in your life or to just treat yourself!

Begin by spraying your pan with a non stick spray or use butter. (We use Pam.) And heat the pan or griddle, no one has purchase a griddle in my house… I’m hoping I can get an add-in griddle when we replace our stove… someday soon… hopefully… maybe… probably not.

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Next, decide which shape you want to create. We typically stick to the basics: hearts, Minnie Mouse bows, Mickey Heads, and flowers. Draw the outline of your shape in the pan.

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Fill in your shape using a side to side motion.

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How stinking cute it this?! If you can master the art of the outline and fill, who would ever need a “Pancake Mold” ever again?

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Here is another cute little (and incredibly lopsided) shape. It’s SO EASY and is such a fun surprise for any child! My niece would get a little fancier and place the letter “B” in the pan, wait a few seconds and then fill in around it, the B looked like it was stamped into the heart-shaped pancake. You could have a field day making these cute little pancakes for your own little cuties.

Once your pancake has begun to set and the edges begin to puff a little, flip your design over and let your pancake finish just a few more seconds on the other side.

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If you’re a real perfectionist you could trim these up with a butter knife after removing from the pan.

 

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And just like that, you have a simple, but very pretty breakfast for a loved one, perhaps a special breakfast in bed treat? Or a sweet little cutie who is beginning to learn shapes and colors. Whoever you are preparing these for is sure to be pleased with this fun little twist on breakfast!

My parents recently purchased these DARLING little Easter plates and bowls for the girls. We decided a fun meal like “Breakfast for Dinner!” would be an excellent time to try out the new tools.

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The girls love having compartments to eat different foods  from and both girls have always responded well to several finger food options. Each of the girls was given a heart shaped pancake, along with their two favorite fruits of the week: (I use this term lightly because this really does change weekly) Apples and Strawberries. They also love sausage so it must be part of a “breakfast for dinner” kind of night!

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A few years back, I stumbled across these interactive plates on Uncommon Goods and I could not resist buying them as Christmas Gifts! Here is a link with my referral to find these Construction Plates and Utensils on Amazon.

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I can still remember my sister in law sending me a picture of him using the plate. I think at the time she was having trouble keeping him at the table to eat. This extra little bit of entertainment went a long way for him.

While my nephew loved this plate, I had to find a match for his sister, which lead me to this sweet little Garden Fairy Plate Set and Utensils so she could join in the fun as well!

Garden Plate How stinking cute is this little set?! My daughter has a match, and the “pusher tool” really helped when she was initially learning how to use the utensils. I would definitely recommend this set to any children from toddlers to elementary age because of how fun the tools are! Perhaps it’s my weird Obsessive Compulsiveness that I have passed on to my children, but I totally get why they feel the need to organize their food before eating it. Frankly, I wish I had a grown up set of these plates.

Hopefully this post inspires so creativity for your Sunday Morning breakfasts this week.

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.

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Turkey Call

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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

 

 

Gray and Pink Big Girl Bedroom

My baby is growing up. It’s as simple as that. At an age just shy of two and a half, we switched her to a “toddler bed” which was nothing more than a missing side to the crib. I can clearly see why the packaging spoke of the conversion but didn’t show it. I was not impressed in the least. Now that she is 3, we have been tossing around the idea of a “big girl bed” for a while. So I began to browse all websites offering free shipping, great discounts, and guaranteed quality. I just wanted a bed that was pretty. I wasn’t looking for high quality, amish-carved, hardwood that would cost me an arm and a leg. I am sticking to this spend less, value more theme for the year, and while I did invest in my daughter’s room, I was able to balance it out with money brought in at the same time.

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I have been falling in love with the cross between slightly vintage and clean line inspired with a slight farmhouse feel. The space needed to be a room that would grow with my daughter. I settled for a pink and gray theme, knowing that a neutral wall could easily be updated with new decor or bedding throughout the next 15 years of her life.

I started the room on a binge spring cleaning, decorating, and organizing weekend while my husband was off looking at hunting property. My favorite type of project weekend: one where I am left to my own devices, uninterrupted by the husband who is slowly learning to trust my decorating style. My parents graciously offered to have a sleep-over on the chosen Saturday evening to allow me a solid 24 hours for the transformation to take place.

I can still remember the day spent painting my daughter’s baby room in our old home, Benjamin Moore blue paint, paint rollers, round belly and all. I spent a solid 3 hours recapping this experience in the post, Painting Away the Baby Blues if anyone is interested in my ramblings about how quickly time passes. Her room was so darling with it’s blues and pinks.1610776_10202449172093566_6772120460429108894_n

My Mom hand-made the bedding for this little princess, and for that I will always be grateful! My very good friend now owns it with her sweet little peanut nestled in to it.

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Since vamping up my quality of decorating materials, I have become a devout Benjamin Moore Paint fanatic. I travel a solid forty five minutes to get the paint, and every mile is worth it because the quality of this paint is incomparable, as are the shades of colors they offer. I settled for a beautiful shade of A la mode which is found in the current Whites handout in the store. You can see photographs of my inspirations along with my daughters room on my Pinterest board, Gray and Pink Bedroom. I was so excited watching the simple paint transformation take place. My daughter’s bedrooms are small to say the least also lacking in closets. It took me a matter of 2 hours to cut in and roll the four walls slowly, therapeutically going through my process and listening to Pandora into the wee hours of the night. (Ok… I was done painting by 10:30, which is way later than I ever stay up.)

Getting excited about the progress in the room, I couldn’t hold out until morning without putting my daughter’s bed together, so my next task was moving the furniture I was selling out of the upstairs and brining this darling metal framed bed in pieces to assemble in the room. It was a simple project and I was able to complete the assembly by myself.

I bought the DHP Bombay Metal Bed in White for $99.00 on Amazon. You can go directly to link above to see the bed itself. It was a simple assembly and a good quality bed. My daughter loves the swirl details in the head and foot boards.

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The pink floral balls hanging from the ceiling were from the previous bedroom theme but transferred nicely into the new room. I liked being able to keep a few items from the previous decor to help with this heart-breaking transition to a “big girl.” I believe they were from T. J. Max and cost around $10.00 a piece.

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I spent the next morning adding in all of the details, arranging the furniture and hanging this gorgeous Pink Canopy Tent I also found on Amazon earlier in the week. for under $47.00

While the owl rocker doesn’t exactly match her bedroom anymore, it was so cute, I couldn’t take it out of the room! My mother in law gave all three of her newest grand daughters those for their first Christmas two years ago.

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Now for this mirror. I Love this mirror! I stumbled across this on a spontaneous T. J. Max shopping trip the day before my renovation project. It cost me 45.00, but as far as I am concerned, was worth Every. Single. Penny.  I was able to find a similar version on Amazon by Little Colorado HERE. My daughter loves looking in the mirror and checking out her outfit for the day! I still want to find a cute little hook and pretty hanger to lay her outfit out the night before.

 

The mirror leads me to my next favorite detail: the Gold Vinyl Dot Wall. I love, love, love this detail!!  This one simple little accent wall completed the room. They were easy to attach and only cost $10.00! (All blue links will lead you directly to each product)

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I considered an even spread of dots, but loved the look of dots being shot out from the corner, like stars falling gracefully from the sky. This won me some major points with my daughter, let me tell you!

The bedding is a whole different story. I struggled to find this bedding. It is Pillow Fort by Target, and was incredibly difficult to track down. They are out of stock every where you look. You can find it from some sneaky Amazon sellers who quadrupled the price. I, however, was not willing to pay 100.00 for a bedding that was 25.00 originally. I was able to find two fairly reasonable distanced stores selling the bedding and pleaded and begged a shipment out of the store.  I also found a perfect match set of sheets from the Better Homes and Gardens collection at Walmart. It’s a coral floral set that is so stinking cute!

Update* The pinch pleat bedding by pillow fort can now be found HERE on Target’s Website!

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As for the accent pillows throughout the room, they were a series of accent pillows either pulled from other bed sets used in our bedroom, the living room, and one perfectly pink and white pillow with gold dot accents came from a spur of the moment T. J. Max find.

The wooden crate was a repurposed crate I had laying around the house. I am a crate junkie and cannot be held accountable for any crate purchases made. You just never know when one will come in handy!

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It made the best little stuffed animal holder, and pillow holder once we discovered our daughter is not interested in sleeping with pillows!

The clean white lines of the metal bed really balanced out well with the rough wood of the crate and were pulled together with this super cute sign I found at Jo Ann Fabrics.

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The three items together, along with the white wooden mirror helped to pull the entire room together!

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The final touch added to the room was a set of sweet little white Christmas lights that added that final little soft sparkle to a space designed for one sweet little lady.

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By the time the room was complete, I could not wait for the girls to return and for my husband to get home to see the finished product! I spent the next several hours pacing the house, rearranging spring decorations and cleaning every nook and cranny of our house!

There are so many spaces in my house that I never thought to clean, which is incredibly gross, but I managed to take care of each one during my 24 hours of peaceful project work. Seriously, what did any of us do with all of our time before kids?

So lets break down the Budget:

Prior to renovations I sold our crib and changing table netting us + $100.00
I also sold the travel play pen we used for our babies + $50.00
A set of baby toys were also sold + $65.00

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+ 215.00

From that we spent 99.00 on a bed frame and 85.00 on a mattress leaving us at:

+ 31.00

I also purchase the canopy, mirror, and bedding

-25.00
-45.00
-47.50

Miscellaneous decorations and pillows totaled up to:

-50.00
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Leaving me with a grand total for my bedroom renovation of:

$136.50!

I feel that is spending less and valuing more, please don’t hesitate to share any ideas or renovation projects you’ve taken on recently with me! I love to see start to finish projects!

Cheers!

  • Whitney

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Painting Away the Baby Blues

Parenting is like a never ending rollercoaster. One moment you are climbing up what seems like an immense hill and as you finally figure it out and begin to casually coast down the other side, just like that, those darn children change and you feel like you’re starting all over again, re-learning the next challenge, milestone, or phase in your child’s life.

Recently I have been struggling with the first round of “lasts” of parenting. We mutually agreed to have two children and have been blessed with two healthy, beautiful, funny, head strong girls and I wouldn’t have it any other way. When our youngest turned one, it felt somewhat like an accomplishment: we had survived the baby phase. She gradually began to master the art of walking, and eventually phased out her adorable little knee-scootch that she used in lieu of walking for like a five month span of her life. It was only a matter of time before her sweet deep little voice began to mimic words, learning “peeze” “tank-yew” and “wav yew,” each becoming music to our ears.

All of a sudden, just after we reached the 16 month milestone, it was as if someone pushed the fast-forward button in my daughter’s life. Within a week it felt as though she had completely transitioned from baby to toddler, trying harder than ever to keep up with her three-year old sister. She seemed to skip stages of development that her older sister hung in a bit longer.

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Everyone wants to tell a new mother or young mother to cherish the time while you have it, and every sleep deprived mother nods politely back, as if they are being lectured on not appreciating their children enough, even though we all know that is not the intention of the comment. But it isn’t until the second child that you begin to feel the depth of true meaning behind this comment. Time is priceless. We do not know how much time we have on this earth, with the people we love. All that we know is we need to make the most of it, cherish the small moments, hold on to the good memories, and let the grudges go.

I have recently found myself emptying dresser drawers of baby clothes. Rather than re filling totes to store in the basement “for the next one” since there will be no “next one”, I have been passing them on to friends I care for very much. It is this weird sharing of little items, that helps bring peace to the harsh reality that my baby is growing up. Giving someone else the opportunity to share little moments in the sweet clothes that I have photographed countless times, memorized the milestones that took place while wearing them for each of my girls, brings a little peace to an aching heart of a mother who just wants time to slow down, if only for a moment.

My youngest is this wild at heart child who is fierce. She is fierce in how much she loves, how she plays, how she learns, and how she grows. I am constantly amazed by her.

I recently spent an entire weekend in spring-cleaning overdrive. My husband used to work away so I was used to frequent days alone to complete home projects. With his recent shift back into an office, I have not had as much time to really dig in to any major home projects. So when the opportunity came for him to take a weekend venture with his brother and Dad to check out a potential hunting spot, I fully supported it.

Our three year old has been drastically out-growing her toddler bed. My parents willingly scheduled a sleep over with our girls for the same weekend so I could complete a full bedroom make-over uninterrupted. It was during this weekend of solitude that I really began to reflect on how much life was changing in our house.

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loved my daughter’s nursery room. Ironically, I loved it so much that I re-created it three times. I first set her room up in our old home, about 2 months before she was born. We then purchased our current residence and moved when she was only 5 weeks old, the child never even had a chance to sleep in her initial nursery. The exact nursery was replicated in the new home. And then shortly after she turned one, we shifted her room to a different room in the house when discovering she would become a big sister in the very near future. My mom hand sewed a gorgeous set of beautiful pink and blue crib bedding that set off the entire theme. So when I tell you I struggled with the idea of changing her Tiffany Blue baby walls to a delicate and sophisticated color scheme that could grow with her, I truly mean it.

So on that Saturday evening in March, I methodically began my process of moving furniture, cleaning the floors and setting up my work station. I have a system to every painting project I take on, perhaps it is the former artist in me. Once I had all of the pieces in place and the Pandora station set, I began to cover up three years of my baby girl’s life with a new coat, perhaps a new stage, of life.

The next 3 hours felt like a bizarre movie was rolling through my head as I remembered little moments in her life, like the first fall after she was born when my husband posed for his first archery season picture with her. The smile on her face when she sat on his lap was so genuine and full of excitement that it melted my heart right on the spot. I remembered the first time she began to dance to The Hotdog Song from Micky Mouse Clubhouse. I also remembered how she first tried learning to run the summer after turning one. Her arms would go so fast, but her poor little feet were so slow and comical. I remembered the heart breaking teeny tiny little boot she wore after discovering she had a tiny toddler fracture in her leg. I thought about how she would tilt her head in a sweet little shrug whenever anyone said “awe, so sweet” to her. And then I started to catch up to more recent moments, like when she would try to pose her baby sister on the couch for me to take her picture. I also remembered the epic fail of trying to send my husband a video of the girls saying “happy birthday daddy”  when he was working away, when all Brielle could muster was “eeew, she’s throwing up Mommy… clean her up!” Oh those reflux babies…

As the time passed, so did the coat of paint, and eventually I found myself taking a picture of the last strip of blue paint, just before I covered it up. Perhaps the purpose behind this post is to remember that life is constantly moving forward. There is no stop, rewind, or pause button for it. It is difficult at times to keep this in perspective; however, critical to remember because as beautiful as the time is that we are given, we cannot get it back.

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I still keep 3 pairs of 0-3 month socks in my girls drawers. I just cannot bring myself to take those teeny tiny little pieces out of the drawer, permanently accepting that they will never wear them again. It was a bitter sweet moment as I added the finishing touches to my daughter’s “Big Girl” room preparing for the great reveal, and rather than get hung up in the time that has passed, I chose to focus on the here and now, anxiously awaiting her approval that would hopefully come that evening.

Once my husband returned from his trip, I picked the girls up from the weekend sleep over at Nana and Papa’s and corralled the girls back into the house. Our three year old bolted up the steps to see her new room, and let me just say, three is a wonderful age.

Hug your babies tonight, cheers!

  • Whitney