Thoughts on a Thursday | Welcoming September

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I feel like my blog has taken a back seat since jumping full gear into the cyber world and it has been this quiet little whisper in the back of my mind just hanging there… reminding me how much I have been slacking in the writing department. I hate that this is happening and my new resolution is to prevent it from happening again. As I begin this post, I do not have a clear direction, but my “Thoughts on a Thursday” never really begin with a set goal, it just kind of develops as I reflect and take a sort of writer’s mental health moment.

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As a teacher, we all know the saying that “August is just one long Sunday for every teacher” which is true. Don’t let any teacher tell you otherwise. Change is intimidating, even for the most experienced and strong-willed people out there. When you are in the education field you know that every year brings a fresh start, new challenges, new students, and a new opportunity to view your year and your students as a chance to always bring your best self to work each day. September can bring on that New Years resolution feel for teachers, it is an opportunity to begin again, an opportunity to reflect on the reasons why you chose this profession. For some unexplained reasons this feeling

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of renewal seems to get lost over time, and teachers begin to lose that fire, the one that burned so strongly in the first few years of teaching. You know what I mean, back during the time when you’re really in the trenches… developing every single worksheet, test, unit, attempting to align standards to each word that comes out of your mouth… living in your classroom… investing in things like “Cricuts”, downloading “Fonts”, and losing hours of your life on Pinterest.

 

No, something happens after a few years… you become nostalgic of how things “used to be…” over everything, literally everything from how the faculty rooms “used to have better ink…” to “only getting 56 days off this summer…” I mean, really?? Say that one outloud to a non teacher and good luck NOT getting slapped. It happens to almost every teacher which makes me wonder… do things really change like we perceive them to? Or is there something hidden in those first few years of a job that really make them so memorable? Or is it that rose-colored glasses effect. It’s like we forget about the sleepless nights, the hours of time and planning. If anything you would think teachers would like their jobs more over time as they are able to make simple tweaks and fine tune lessons that have already been labored over. But it doesn’t work that way. 925cd84c43665f1f195515d740955014--teacher-quotes-funny-inspirational-teacher-quotes

For many, myself included, the entrance of a child changes everything, possibly causing this mental shift in our attitude along with our priorities. Prior to having children, you take your students in as if they were your own, learning every possible avenue into those brains and pulling at every ounce of potential possible from them. You stay after, come in early, whatever it takes to get these children where they need to be in life. No exceptions.

Then you have a baby. And your world. Stops.

Suddenly you become consumed with Mom guilt (or Dad guilt) and you panic as the hours, minutes, and seconds tick away of your maternity leave to the inevitable moment you have to return to work and figure out life with work, a family, and that precious little baby that utterly consumes your life. Regardless of what a go-getter, career minded person you were before that little tiny person took over your soul, your life has forever changed.

Perhaps you are one of the lucky few who figured this out early on and capitalized on these precious years sooner rather than later, finding ways to get home with that sweet baby for those few years before they too are consumed by the schedule of school and extra organized events. Or maybe you were like so many of us who fought the good fight a little longer until that second little miracle showed up in our lives and just pushed the scales a little too far. I was one of those, trying to balance it all, ultimately crashing after our second little lady arrived.

Which leads me to this NEW sense of renewal. This school year is going to be a TRUE fresh start, a chance to be the best Mom, Wife, and Teacher yet. I am going to put my kids first, reach those hard to reach kids, and make meals that please picky toddlers and taste-bud-expert husbands (huuuge eye roll over that part…ugh). This is MY year, the year where I have finally found a way to balance Motherhood and teaching eliminating some of that “Mom Guilt” that has been weighing on me for the past 3 1/2 years of my life.

If you haven’t heard of  One Funny Mother, check out her recent video while shopping for pencils… Here.

I will NOT complain about “staring at a computer most of my day…” using it as an excuse for slacking on this blog, I WILL keep up, because there is no reason NOT to keep it up. So if there is something pulling you in a slump… or a goal you’ve been thinking about tackling… but keep playing the “I don’t have the time..” card, FIND A WAY. Mom life is the best life. Period. There is a coach out there who I keep promising that I am going to jump on board and let her help me get to my fitness goal that I know I can get to, if I just commit.

September is my month Maegan. It’s happening. Ps… if you’re looking for someone to motivate you in to accomplishing a goal, add this Queen of the Entrepreneural Hat on Facebook, she is literally eating, breathing, and sweating motivation. It’s unreal, and exactly what I need in my newsfeed on a daily basis. She is the epitome of setting goals and achieving them.

And to all of my teacher friends out there, just remember: We have the best job! We spend every day shaping and changing kids lives, doing something we love, sharing information we are passionate about and helping kids who need us. Who WOULDN’T love doing that?!

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BRING IT SEPTEMBER, I’m ready!

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!

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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.

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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

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

 

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.

Mother's Day GIFT GUIDE

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!).

Mother's Day GIFT GUIDE

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:

Smith and Hawkins

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

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

Simple Potato Wedge

My sister is a phenomenal chef, I’m sure I have mentioned this before. The ironic part about this is my most favorite recipes of hers are potato wedges and steamed broccoli. One might think, “Seriously? You have a culinary expert sister, and STEAMED BROCCOLI is your favorite thing she makes?” But any family member, picky toddler, or former client will vouch for the fact that my sister makes amazing broccoli!

Now, I have tried countless times to replicate her ridiculously simple-sounding instructions failing slightly every time. There is no point in even telling you how she does it because, you won’t get the full effect until you have had hers. Clearly she just has that natural instinct that someone well versed in a trade develops when they have a passion for something.

My sister is one of those people who excels at whatever she dabbles in, and can transition so smoothly from one professional opportunity to another, and doesn’t hold back from pursuing a dream. She also has the courage to make life decisions when that dream has changed or pulls her in an alternate direction, never wavering in the desire to pursue it. Perhaps it was a little of her inspiration that pushed me to make my current career shift back to the home, a decision that is all too quickly coming to a reality.

Returning back to the potato wedges. I have a very simple recipe inspired from my sister’s delicious potato wedges along with my nieces excellent Sirach mayo dipping sauce. My children love tater tots, fries, and hash brown thanks to Ore Ida, but I like to make potato dishes from scratch, even if it is a simple fry.

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My particular favorite version of these fries involves a little light olive oil, salt, and smoked paprika seasoning. To start, cut each potato in half lengthwise. Begin to slice the halves lengthwise to create wedges to your thickness preference. We like thinner wedges, and they are a little more time efficient for baking. 3 potatoes is plenty for my family of 2 adults and 2 toddlers. You might want to consider doubling the recipe for more than 2 adults.

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Once all of the potatoes are sliced, spread them out on a baking sheet evenly. Drizzle a little olive oil over the wedges, approximately 3-4 tablespoons. I do not measure this, just lightly drizzle. Toss the potatoes to coat, redistributing them evenly on the baking sheet again.

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Sprinkle the wedges with salt (about 1 – 2 tablespoons) to your liking. My favorite seasoning to add is a light coating of smoked paprika. You could really add any flavor to these to match whatever you are cooking. Some times we used onion salt and garlic powder, while other times we use plain salt. Once we used grill mates seasonings to pair them with my husband’s expertly grilled steaks. (Just wait until grilling season kicks in!)

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Place the baking sheet into an oven pre-heated to 425 degrees. Set your timer to 30 minutes. While the wedges bake, prepare your main course or sneak in a few extra snuggles from cuties running around your kitchen. Every time I create a recipe and photograph the different steps my youngest daughter runs into the kitchen yelling, “Cheese! Cheese! Cheeeeeeeeese!”

After the thirty minutes are up, pull the sheet pan from the oven and give the potato wedges a little toss. They should look something like this:

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Place back into the oven for an additional 10-15 minutes depending on the crispiness you prefer your potato wedges to have. Once they are complete, pair them with an excellent grilled meal, sandwich, or anything that meets your taste buds that evening!

So, thank the chef for always motivating me to try more “fresh” options for my family. Perhaps she’ll even inspire a healthier diet once I am home more to experiment with recipes and alternative ingredients!

Cheers!

Simple Potato Wedge

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A great side dish option when prep time is limited but homemade is critical.

Ingredients

  • 3 medium russet potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons of Extra Light Olive Oil
  • 1-2 tablespoons Salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

Directions

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. Slice each potato in half lengthwise. Continue to cut each half into aproximately 6-8 wedges lengthwise.
  2. Spread the potato wedges out on a large baking sheet.
  3. Drizzle olive oil over the potatoes and toss to coat evenly
  4. Season with salt and paprika.
  5. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, turn over and return to bake an additional 10 – 15 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven when wedges have reached desired consistency.

 

 

 

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

Clover

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

Banners

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

 

Weekends with Toddlers | What to Do?

I found myself sitting on a Tuesday commute home divulging in the temporary excitement that comes when a significant change is about to occur in your life. Now that the shock and awe of my career shift has sunk in, and the important parties have all been notified, it seems as though life has begun to move in slow motion, gradually ticking away the hours, minutes, and seconds until this Career Shift actually takes place.

I’ve gone through every emotion possible starting at terrified, then moving in sequential order through heart-broken, excited, nervous, frustrated, irritated, anxious, impatient, exhausted, and now to complacent. Emotional roller coasters are exhausting. But as my rail car seems to be stalling out, I’m focusing on the here and now. What do I have left to do before I leave? And most importantly, what can I already begin to do with my little girls as I make this shift to prioritize them above all else.

So it was on this random Tuesday, pulling out of the sitter’s driveway that my oldest daughter asked me, “Mommy, could we make cookies tomorrow? No, could we make cookies TODAY?!” I thought for a moment about the steps involved, ingredients needed, and then like a lightening bolt striking a tree, remembered buying a tub of cookie dough from my niece’s fundraiser that was, brace yourselves, ACTUALLY GLUTEN FREE! I had already planned to make One Pot Jambalaya for dinner, a recipe I kind of whipped out of no-where, winging an attempt at a more complicated version I had made years before. And with this simple dinner plan, I knew we would have additional free time to do just that, bake cookies. I immediately agreed to this simple task of scooping and rolling cookie dough without hesitation and the squeals of excitement that escaped my girls in the back seat were music to my ears.

We then hurried home and began our dinner preparations, finishing just as my husband pulled into the driveway. Once everyone was well fed, the girls began to dig into the container of cookie dough rolling, scooping, and even eating, until we had created 2 sheets full of cookies! My girls actually enjoy the prep better than the end result in almost any cookie (except sugar cookies. My youngest will take you down to get to a sugar cookie) so when the trays were completed, and the cookies were not the top notch cookie like many of our homemade ones, the girls were not interested in eating them.

I then thought to myself, what can I do with 24 gluten free cookies that don’t meet the expectations of the cookie baking connoisseurs my daughters have become? And just like that she hit me; a student who has been on my caseload at school for 3 1/2 years now, has a gluten intolerance that is not well monitored. We immediately packaged up the cookies, making her a little card from the girls placing them in my school bag to be delivered the next day.

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It was this small pay-it-forward gesture that got me thinking, what other “service-project” activities could a toddler and 17 month old participate in?

My very good friend runs a Helping Hands club that is highly active in service projects and volunteer hours. I want my girls to learn the value of paying-it-forward at an early age. So I developed a list of 10 simple activities you can do with your child at any age to help teach this core value of our society to even the smallest of children

  1. Baking cookies for a local shut-in, delivering with a friendly child-crafted card.
  2. Donating old books to a local library or the Salvation Army
  3. Sorting through old toys, choosing ones to donate to local community supporting corporations like GoodWill
  4. Creating a “coupon book” of hugs and kisses for grandparents.
  5. Making lists of the things siblings love the most about each other, sharing one item every day for a week off the list.
  6. Taking your children grocery shopping for items to donate to a local food pantry.
  7. Volunteering with toddlers to help sort at local food banks
  8. Understanding the value of the critical terms Thank You, or Please at ages as young as 1
  9. Letting small children assist in picking out gifts for other children, and sharing in the joy of giving a gift to someone they love.
  10. Taking your child to local community events demonstrating the importance of community and supporting local businesses from an early age.

All of these ideas could easily be performed in a small rural community all the way to the booming cities across our country. We want our children to be BETTER than us, to value more, and want less.

Spend the weekend with your children, no matter their age, sharing in the joys of paying it forward.

Cheers!

  • Whitney

Groceries | How to Simplify Your Shopping

Grocery shopping is usually the most dreaded task of the week. Whether it’s the idea of dragging two little children through several stores to get everything on your list, or the idea of planning meals with zero assistance from fellow food critics in the house, the fact is grocery shopping sucks. Period.

With this new mental shift to spend less and value more, it has been my personal goal to find ways to save on our grocery shopping. I have an amazing sitter who clips diaper and wipe coupons for me all of the time, but I’ve recently discovered a way (and yes… the rest of the world has been doing this for a couple years already…) to earn the benefits of coupons without the hassle of searching, cutting, saving clippings, and not to mention actually remembering  to use them at the check out isle.

With my new approaches to weekly grocery shopping I have successfully dropped our weekly bill from almost 200.00 a week to my most recent success of $87.56!! This is literally the lowest I’ve ever spent to cook for a week!

If you have a Walmart near you, I strongly recommend downloading the app on your smart phone or device. At the bottom of every receipt you’ll find a code to scan. Using the Savings Catcher app in your device all you have to do is TAKE A PICTURE of this code and your receipt is automatically logged in your account. Walmart then does all of the leg work for you searching local promotions and actually GIVES YOU MONEY BACK. No joke.

Again, I am very much aware of the fact that the rest of the world has been doing this for a couple years now, but I was the type of person to blow that off thinking I was “too busy” to worry about these types of things. But the reality is, no one is too busy  to do half of the stuff they claim to be too busy for. You make time for the things in life you want to do. I find the statements “you have too much time on your hands” or “I’m way too busy to do things like that” incredibly insulting, although I am aware those statements are not meant to be insults.

The reality is: If you want to do it, you will. If you do not have the desire to accomplish a certain task or goal, the statement “I’m too busy” is a safe cover. Life is about priorities and how we use our time. Trust me there have been countless weeks where I have wasted ridiculous amounts of time and used the line “I’m too busy.” Everyone is busy in these crazy times we live in, its just a matter of prioritizing what you want to accomplish in that busy life. My goal for this year is to actually accomplish the things I set out to do.

So back to this annoying task of GROCERY SHOPPING. Ugh, even the words make me sigh. I have found a routine that really seems to help me, and perhaps it could help someone else as well, so I would like to share it with you. Before I shop I make a list starting with the meals I want to make for the week. I try to think about the groceries I have already in my house and the ingredients I bought for recipes from the previous week that were never used or never made. If I have a roll-over meal from the previous week I put it down first and then try to fill my list with 5 quality meals. By quality I do not mean highly organic or super healthy, just real meals I know my family will eat, and perhaps even re-heat as left overs.

This is one of those habits I learned from my mother. She was like the epitome of organized shopping back in the 90’s with her sweet pre-fab word document lists printed ahead of time. She then went through the regular items she bought routinely marking what was needed and eliminated what she didn’t need. All of her meals were listed on the side of the grocery list.

Once my meals have been planned I write down the groceries I need for the week, making sure not to miss a single ingredient. (I usually suck at this part, but have been consciously trying to improve on this task.) The goal is to go to the store ONE TIME. I find that when I begin making random frequent trips during the week, I spend way more than I planned on. My lists usually look something like this:

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I’ve also started a habit of putting my lists and menus in the same notebook each week, so when I’m really struggling for meal ideas and I don’t have my recipe book close by, I have previous menus and lists to flip through for ideas.

Now, I have tried grocery shopping on a variety of days during the week, but have discovered that the most efficient time to accomplish my goal of sticking to my list is after work on Fridays. Fridays for me are like the fresh start that some view Monday as. The work week is done, but the weekend is just beginning. I used to grocery shop first thing Saturday morning after breakfast, and before morning naps. While this time worked well too, I don’t enjoy shopping for groceries and hated to start my weekend out that way. I also don’t enjoy making myself presentable that early on a weekend.

When my girls are at the sitter, I swing in and pick them up first before heading to the store. On the off chance they are spending the day at the grandparents I definitely capitalize on this and go without them. One of the parenting decisions I made early on and will never regret was incorporating my girls into shopping trips from an early age. Both are excellent shoppers and behave wonderfully (most of the time…) because it’s normal to them. Actually, my three-year old is super disappointed when she misses this weekly outing.

Once I return home I make a point to WRITE MY MENU DOWN in my kitchen… and yes, almost every time someone comes to my house to visit I get some funny little menu adjustment to my chalk board (Rob… we know it was you!) This may seem silly, but if I don’t write down what I planned, by Tuesday I can’t remember any of the meals I bought groceries for!

I have these three boards in my kitchen in a neat little row to help keep track of menus, upcoming events, daycare hours, and appointments. I cannot stress how much more organized my life has become since purchasing this chalkboard, cork board, and dry erase board!

So lets recap:

  1. Make a Menu – planning from items you already have in the house
  2. Pick a specific day that works for YOU – Mine is Friday, but this might not be the case for you.
  3. Stick to the List! – Hold strong while in the store and avoid tempting isles like the chip isle, snack isle, etc. where you may be tempted to throw in those extras.
  4. If children are involved, stay consistent! – My girls shop frequently with me, and while they are expected to behave, if I have a particularly long to-do list, I try to reward them with something small for being extra good.
  5. Do not return to the store! – Once you’ve finished your weekly shopping, make sure you have EVERYTHING and do not return to the store! No exceptions!
  6. Once you’ve finished, scan your receipt! – At this point, I have been using Savings Catcher for 3 weeks, and I’m up to 7.00 in extra money returned to me!

If you don’t shop at Walmart there are plenty of other savings options for you, particularly if you hate the idea of coupon clipping.

iBotta is another great savings tool you can use online or as an app in your smart phone. My sister in law introduced me to this over a year ago, but I didn’t really get into it until recently. The part I like about this app is the community approach. You can look at others who have referred you to see how they are using the app and what savings they’ve found. And let me tell you, that girl can SAVE! She’s a big part of my motivation to try to be a little more budget conscious this year.

Use my referral code: vsfqjix
when signing up and we both get extra money to start out! There is no expense to you when using this application and no spam associated with it. You simply log into the app and browse the current promotions going on at your favorite store, select them, and verify the purchases by taking a picture of your receipt.

Ebates was also recommended to my by a friend who is fantastic with saving money. I am a big time online shopper, so when I heard exactly how Ebates worked, paying you to go through their app prior to shopping online, there was no down side to me! You can now shop in stores and earn the same money back with Ebates.

Use my referral code: Click here

and get started saving while you shop! My first pay-out was only 30.00 and I used the app 3 times to earn that. If you refer a friend you get a nice little promo chunk added to your account!

I hope some of these time saving tips help you out going forward shopping! Again, I probably wouldn’t be so motivated to really step up my budgeting A-game if it hadn’t been for the motivation from my sister-in-law who is AMAZING at this! So thanks girl!

Cheers!

  • Whitney