Sunday, February 28, 2016

Sunday Spread: Essential Kitchen Tools

My life is extremely rooted in routine.  This is mainly because I'm lazy to make my already crazy life less crazy.  You have read about my meal prepping.  Here are some basic tools that make my life easier in the kitchen.  I use all of these items every single week.

Bowls.  I use bowls for everything.  To hold fruits and veggies on the counter.  To hold fruits and veggies in the fridge.  For cereal, reheating leftovers, crack eggs, mixing, etc.  Bowls are versatile and help organize a multitude of items!  I am partial to bowls with pour spouts built in.  They must also be microwave and dishwasher safe.

Rubber Spatulas.  These are great for getting every last drop from your bowl or pan.  I like them much better than wooden spoons.  Make sure they are heat resistant, so they don't melt.

Baking Sheets.  Are your baking sheets old and gross?  Treat yourselves to new ones!  They are so shiny, and inexpensive.  I use mine to cook spaghetti squash every week (for this recipe), and to make cloud bread (so, so good - low carb and gluten free!).

Paring Knife.  I use this knife the most often.  Avocados, mangos, bananas, zucchini, carrots, celery, etc. Peeling, slicing, scoring, oh my!

Pink Himalayan Salt Grinder.  I only use this salt in my kitchen.

Rubber Jar Opener.  My mom always had one of these, so I assumed everyone did.  I was speechless the first time I was at someone's house and they didn't have one.  How do you ever open a jar without one?!?  This is definitely one of those #itsthelittlethings that makes a huge difference.

Spiralizer.  Zucchini Alfredo is a staple in my diet (I make it at least three times per week!), and I use this amazing tool to turn my zucchini into noodles.

Food Containers.  I have been starting to use these in my meal prep instead of plastic bags.  Better for the environment, and less than a Starbucks coffee!

Coffee Grinder.  I would die without coffee, and this little gadget makes me look forward (sort of) to being up early on the weekends!  Also, pick up one of these next time you are at IKEA.  Best three bucks ever spent.

Toast Tongs.  You may laugh, but I'm serious!  I hate burning my fingers on toast, and I do not want my littles sticking their fingers into the toaster.  This is a must have.

Mixer.  Okay, listen up you guys.  This is hands down THE best investment you will make in your kitchen.  My KitchenAid was a wedding gift (from my first marriage).  I received it in 1999.  Go ahead, get your calculator.  Yeah, it's old.  It still works just like it did the day I pulled it out of the box.  If you don't have one, get one.

There you have it!  These items keep my meal prep simple and organized.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Party Planning: 5 Year Old Minnie Birthday Party

Last year, we took a family trip to Disneyland (you can ready about the planning tips for that trip here, here, and here!).  Our daughter turned five just a few days after we returned, and I knew a Minnie Mouse party would be just perfect for her!

I made the invitations based on this invite.  I copied it exactly.

Decor was very simple.  I made a tassel banner from tissue paper, purchased black tablecloth, paper plates, utensils, and cups, and pink polka dot napkins.  I also brought out her newborn photo and the wooden first initial I have in her room.  Just like I did for this party!  The white bows are hair clips!

 I pulled out pink, white, and black jelly beans from a container we had taken to Disneyland, and placed them in this apothecary jar.

We only served cake at this party.  Sometimes I will do chips and dip or candy, but this time we kept it very simple.  Please note, if you only serve cake, you need to have your party at a time when food is not expected.  I would recommend 2pm-5pm.

Our cake lady made the cake and decorated it with the little candy balls.  I had a Minnie headband from a dress up costume that I just popped into the top of the cake!

I served Sprite in one container and pink lemonade in the other.

The children played pin the bow on Minnie.  I had foam board, made three black circles, and different colored bows.  As the children arrived, I had them decorate their bows. 

I love the way the goodie bags turned out!  I purchased black bags with handles, cut out pink rectangles, the bow, and white dots.  I glued everything onto the bags.

Inside the bags were Play Doh (you can read about why I give those out here), silly putty, a ring, a Minnie gummy, sticker sheet, blowie thing, and a Minnie ear headband that I made!

I purchased black headbands and pink polka dot ribbon.  I had black felt from a ghost costume I made for my daughter for Halloween.  I cut the felt into ear shapes, folded them over the headband, and hot glued them together.  Then I tied the ribbon in the center and hot glued it into place!

I hope you gained some ideas for your next Minnie Birthday Party!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Take Care Thursdays: How To Treat Yourself Without Spending A Dime

Taking care of ourselves is essential to our mental health.  However, sometimes we can't afford what we think it takes to care for ourselves.  Spa days, shopping, vacations, etc.  I do talk about basic self care here.  Here are some additional no cost (and no food) reward ideas for you:

1.  Paint your nails.  Of course it's nice to have a mani/pedi done by someone else, but painting your own nails can still be a treat.  Pull those winter toenails out of their boots, and paint a bright color on them.  It will make you smile!  You can also enlist one of your kids to rub your feet with some lotion.

2.  Take a day off.  I do this about once a month.  I take the day off and spend it sleeping in, watching DVR, taking a long, quiet bath, and taking a nap.  I usually do clean, but that is something I enjoy.  I am also doing it in peace!  I try to not run errands, but sometimes it's just practical.  As an introvert, this day off is essential to my mental health.

3.  Take a bath.  After the kids go to sleep, light some candles, grab a book and a glass of wine, make a natural face mask, shave, throw in some lavender essential oils, and soak until you are wrinkly.  Bonus points if you arrange to get into clean sheets that night!

4.  Take a walk/drive/bike ride without your phone.  Yeah, I know, you might miss a photo opp of a gorgeous sunset that none of your FB friends will see.  Put the phone down, and walk away.  Go outside and be alone with your thoughts and the fresh air.  Take some slow, deep breaths.  Even five minutes of this can be very uplifting.

5.  Make time to do your hair and make up.  Most mornings, I throw my wet hair into a ponytail.  And I don't wear make up.  Decide one morning to get up with enough time to blow out your hair, do all the make up you wish, and put together an intentional outfit.  I swear, you will feel like a million bucks.  See how much confidence you walk around with that day!

6.  Yoga/Meditation.  Yoga is one of my happy places.  It's free, and you can do it anywhere!  Spend 15 minutes doing some yoga poses (five of my favorite poses are here) and breathing intentionally.

I already feel better!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Monday Musings: The Social Media Struggle Is Real

Do you ever envy your friends or family on social media?  Or even complete strangers?  It is so easy to see other people's highlight reel on social media, and believe they have it all together. So and so always go on nice vacations. That girl has such a great job.  This couple's marriage is so good.  She is so thin.  That family is always smiling in their photos.  People only post what they want you to see.

Have you seen this video?  Hilarious.  And true (on both sides) for some!

Social media is CONTROLLED CONTENT.  This means that people can control what you see.  Some people may post that their husband never helps around the house.  Some people may complain about their job.  However, this does not mean that A) social media is an appropriate platform to share this content, and that B) other people who don't share this don't have the same struggles.  They are just choosing not to share that information.  This could be because they don't feel social media is the proper place to share such things.  They may want to keep up a front so everyone believes their lives are perfect.  Who wouldn't rather showcase their biggest accomplishment over their biggest failure?  The truth is, we have no way of knowing what truly goes on behind closed doors.

Everyone has struggles. The vacation family may pay for vacations with credit cards and be buried in debt. The great job may not pay well.  The happy couple may be on the verge of divorce.  Of course, they may all be filthy rich AND happy AND love their job. We don't really know. The only person who knows the truth about the behind the scenes of their social media is themselves. And maybe one or two people who are very close to them.

I'm not suggesting that we should go on social media and blast our husbands, expose our kids' school troubles, or list our debt.  I don't think social media is the place for things like that.  What remains appropriate to share is usually the positive side of life.  Which is great!  We should be celebrating the good stuff that happens to us.  Just don't forget that everyone has that "other stuff" they don't share.

As I tell my curious (read: nosy) five year old: mind your own business!  I only want to be in competition with myself.  I want to improve myself so that I have great things to share with friends and family.  Seeing other people start their own business, get in shape, and take a vacation, should only be a source inspiration for me.  It should not be something that causes envy.  If I am feeling jealous, I need to figure out the reason I am jealous.  Is my marriage unhappy?  Do I wish I had job satisfaction?  Feeding feelings of jealousy will only result in toxicity of my emotional health.  Recognizing the root of my discontent and focusing on fixing that is the best course of action.

For the most part, I am Facebook friends with people I truly wish to see happy.  When they celebrate their successful business, I celebrate with them!  When they have babies, I congratulation them!  When they get a new car, I am excited for them!  If you don't feel this way about your Facebook friends, perhaps it is time to clean up your friend list.  Cultivate a list of friends who you can be happy for, and who will cheer you on in your success.

On Instagram, I follow a different group.  Yes, my friends, but also businesses and people who have similar interests (*ahem* planner addicts).  Since I do not personally know these people,  the connection with them is not the same.  When I see their planner collection, designer wardrobe, lavish vacations, even something as simple as date night, sometimes that green eyed monster makes an appearance.  Then I have to remember two things.  First, this is controlled content.  A professional business is never going to (or shouldn't!) talk about arguing with a spouse on Instagram!  They may share a child's tantrum here and there, because sometimes that can just be a comic relief, as well as provide a way to personally relate with their followers.  Overall, they are there for business, and personal issues are not really appropriate.  But there is a true reality (could be positive, negative, or most likely, a combination of both) behind the IG account that we are not privy to.  Second, these people have worked extremely hard for their businesses.  Don't they deserve all of the reward that comes along with that hard work?  I should view that as an inspiration for myself!  So I double tap my screen, smile, and make a note of which vacation location to add to my bucket list!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Sunday Spread: Meal Prep

One way that I make my work week much easier, is to meal prep on the weekend.  This cuts down on morning stress, and eliminates eating out.  Except for In-N-Out, because she's my mistress.  Or I'm her bitch.  I'm not sure which.

I go to one grocery store once a week and get everything I need (you can read about that process here).  Of course, there are trips here and there if we run out of something.  And then there's Costco.  And Target.

Some people coupon and go to different stores.  If that works for you, that is wonderful!  Do that!

After the kids are in bed, I basically unload the groceries from the fridge and cabinets.  My counter looks like a bomb exploded.

I eat breakfast, lunch, and snacks at work.  Those are the meals I prep.  I divide the cottage cheese or greek yougurt into portion sized containers.  I place frozen fruit into snack bags.  I put all of my fresh fruits and veggies into snack sized bags.  Then I put them into organizational fridge containers.

Usually, when I'm making or cleaning up dinner, I grab one of everything (berries, cottage cheese, nuts, grapes, oranges, carrots, hummus, lettuce, cucumber, chicken), put it in my lunch bag, and I'm done!

Right now I am using plastic bags.  This is not ideal.  I do reuse when it is sanitary to do so.  I have some containers that I think will work, I just haven't gotten out of my routine to try it.

I set a water bottle, banana, and avocado on the corner of the counter, ready to be added to my lunch bag before I leave.  It's not complicated at all, and it really makes life so much easier!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Fashion Friday: Current Lust List

Do you follow Katie from Style On Target?  You should.  She has great style, she loves navy, and she shops at Target.  She's pretty awesome.  In a recent post, she wrote about about what she would buy if money was no object.  I was inspired to put together a list of my own.  I'm thinking about coming up with a "Save" option for each item as another post!

 I have the Pigalle Spikes Pumps in Nude, but they aren't really appropriate for my office.  I don't have many opportunities to wear them.  This simple neutral would be a great staple in my work wardrobe.

I love the coverage this suit provides, and the scallops and peek a boo are sweet touches.

  I have a gold watch, next on my list is silver.  Then rose gold, then tortoise, then white, then...

Wrap dresses are fantastic for most body types!  I have two and I wear them with heels in the summer and boots in the winter.  They are so versatile, and I always receive compliments when I wear them.

One of my goals is to have a blazer in every color of the rainbow.  This one would be a great addition to my blazer collection.  The warm brown can be dressed up for work, as well as worn with a great pair of jeans for running errands on the weekend.
A Chanel necklace is definitely on my bucket list.
I used to have a black trench and a hot pink trench.  I probably gave them away in one of my purging frenzies.  Once I get one back into my closet, I will never get rid of it!

Do you think it comes with that stomach?!

 I have to find this from a reputable source because LV no longer sells it.
I have this dress in two other colors.  They fit like a GLOVE.

I would love to see your wish list!  Maybe I can add to mine.  ;)

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Whip Into Shape Wendesday: Gluten Makes You Fluffy

I have shared most of my meals with you (see here, here, and here I still need to do dinner!), as well as my gluten free journey.  I wanted to share a photo of where I started.

Stats from the photo on the left:  2008, I was 29, one child.
Stats from the photo on the right:  2015, I was 36, three children.

The difference in weight is 35 pounds.  I am now down another 10 pounds, for a total of 45 pounds of weight loss.  That I didn't even have to lift a finger for work outs!  The weight was strictly lost through my food intake.

To be completely fair, it wasn't just gluten.  I eat much healthier now than I did in 2008.  Along with discovering what gluten does to the body, I learned a lot of other things about food and nutrition.

As I mentioned, I have lost ten more pounds since taking the picture on the right.  I have also quit consuming sugar, diet soda, and most process foods.  Sure, I still have "cheat" days when I eat some potato chips. And I will have a sip of my husband's diet soda every once in awhile.  I do really try to keep away from sugar because it is so addicting.

When I first gave up gluten, I did cheat, and when I did, I noticed how AWFUL I felt.  So I just started viewing gluten as poison.  Now, I am not tempted at all to take a doughnut from the break room.  I need to adjust my thinking the same for sugar, as I do notice that I don't feel my best when I consume sugar.  It's just not as bad as when I was consuming gluten.  But it certainly doesn't provide any benefits, either.

So what does gluten do to the body?  It, along with alcohol, sugar, caffeine, and dairy, causes inflammation.  Inflammation of a variety of things.  Joints/tissue (arthritis), skin (eczema), brain (foggy/fatigue), intestines (leaky gut/IBS/Chron's), general pain (fibromyalsia/lupus), respiratory (asthma/allergies).  Do I believe that eliminating these things from your diet can completely cure you?  Maybe not.  I am certainly not a medical professional.  But I would suggest that it is worth trying for a set amount of time (3 months) to see if you at least feel better.  I certainly feel better, and I think I look better.  ;)

Monday, February 15, 2016

Monday Musings: Taking a Breaking From Pinterest

I really can't believe that title is true.  I LOVE to pin!  I may not hoard anything at home, but I definitely hoard pins.  I have two accounts (one personal and one for Googling Goddess), and they both had almost 8,000 pins EACH!  So what has caused me to take such drastic action to not only take a break from pinning, but to also DELETE almost 6,000 pins from each account?  Keep reading to find out why and how I did it.

We are changing the layout of our playroom, and I am taking this opportunity to really be intentional about organization and design.  Since the girls are young, their needs have been changing in a major way very quickly since they have been born.  First, we needed areas for them to learn to crawl/sit/walk.  Then, we needed areas for baby toys.  Now we have older kid toys.  I didn't want to design rooms that would be continuously in need of changing.  My youngest will be starting school soon.  Their needs are going to be fairly stable for awhile.  They need a desk for homework, an area for play, and we also have a seating area and television in this room.

So off I went to Pinterest to design the perfect playroom.  What I was greeted with were two boards, Office and Playroom.  Each board had hundreds of pins.  Many of them were not applicable at all.  Of course, inspiration for color, a specific theme, organizational tools, etc. can be extracted from those photos.  What I needed was minimalism, so that I could focus on what the room actually needed.

I started by deleting all of the grandiose rooms that were obviously nothing I was going to do.  Like this:

Love.  But not reality.  And not actually functional for the purpose of our room.

Next, I decided on the design elements I wanted in the room, and deleted any pins that did not assist with that.

The things I need in this room are:

Storage for books
Storage for toys
Wall Decor
The theme I settled on was hot air balloons.  I like that it is whimsical without being too childish.  The color pallet will be greens and blues, so it won't be too feminine for my teen son to hang with his friends.  All of the hot air balloon elements are going to be accent pillows and wall decor, which will be easy and inexpensive to change if I decide to change the theme in the future.
You can see the ideas narrowed down here

Some boards I got rid of completely.  The truth is, my kids have TONS of books, and I have even more books in boxes in storage.  If someone gifts them books, or if I happen to be made aware of a great book for kids, then that is great.  However, I am just not on the hunt for new books for my kids.  So the "Books" board was nixed.

I was hoarding holiday crafts and recipes as though nobody would ever come up with a new idea in the future.  Guess what?  I can search for "Valentines Day craft" every single year!  I just need one or two ideas right now.  Not fifty.  I chose my favorite (I had pinned the same concept five different times), and eliminated the rest.

Now, instead of wasting time searching through things I have already pinned, I can easily make decisions about what I need to purchase to execute my vision!  When each of the rooms in the house are completed, I will start pinning again.  Okay, I'm still pinning A LITTLE BIT.  I am trying to be much more intentional with my pins now.

Except for "My Style".  Because you can never have enough fashion choices.  Just kidding!  I haven't gotten to that board yet.  I want to make a list of staple wardrobe items and accessories, and then I will edit that board.

Don't let Pinterest overwhelm you!  Find purposeful pins, do them, and then pin again!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Sunday Spread: Gluten Free Cookies and Cream Cupcakes

I know I talk a lot about how I stay away from sugar.  And I really do try to on a daily basis.  However, there are special occasions (birthdays, holidays, Thursdays) when I do indulge.

One such occasion recently was Thanksgiving.  I was asked to bring a gluten free dessert.  Here is what I came up with.  Adapted from this recipe (mine are not as photogenic, but I promise they are to die for!!).

makes 12-24 cupcakes

1 box gluten free cake mix
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup water
3 eggs
24-30 gluten free oreos - I love the Glutino brand

13 oz jar Marshmallow Creme
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon gluten free vanilla
1/4 cup half and half
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

2 cups butter
1/4 cup half and half
2 teaspoons gluten free vanilla
8 cups powdered sugar
15 gluten free oreos, crushed

Large Ziploc bags, or pastry bags if you're fancy.

Cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350*F. Line muffin tin with liners. Place an Oreo in the bottom of each liner.

Combine the cake mix, butter, water, and eggs. Mix on medium speed for 2-3 minutes until the batter is smooth.  Fill the liners 1/2 way. Bake for 18 minutes or until the tops spring back when lightly touched.  Note:  I have found gluten free products tend to bake/cook/burn faster than regular products, so watch it closely toward the end.

Pull out the cupcakes and place on a baking rack, allowing them to cool.

Filling: Beat the Marshmallow Creme, butter, vanilla, and half and half on medium until it is smooth. Lower the speed, then slowly add the powdered sugar.  Increase the speed to medium for about a minute.  Place a large Ziploc bag into a cup and fold over.  Scoop the filling into the bag.  Zip close and refrigerate until it is time to assemble everything.

Frosting:  Beat the butter, half and half, and vanilla on medium until smooth.  Lower the speed, then slowly add the powdered sugar. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat for 2 minutes. Fold in the crushed Oreos.  Place a large Ziploc bag into a cup and fold over.  Scoop the filling into the bag.

Now it's time to assemble everything!  Cut a small hole in the center of the cupcake.


Next, cut a small hole in the corner of the Ziploc bag of the filling.  Squeeze the filling in the center of the cupcake. 

Cut a small hole in the corner of the bag of frosting.  Pipe the frosting on the cupcakes.

YUM!!!  These are very rich, but I could still eat every single one!  Enjoy your treat!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Craft: Initial Love Tree Pencil Cup Art Anniversary Gift

My in-laws had an anniversary, and the kids love making gifts for them.  I love this idea for an anniversary.  This would also make an adorable Valentine's gift from you and your kids to your spouse!

First, I went to the craft store and purchased some white air dry clay.  I already had brown paint at home.

I rolled out the clay and formed it into the shape of a cup.  Then I let the girls drag lines along the sides with toothpicks so that it would look like tree bark.  They also painted in brown.  Then I let my 12 year old draw the heart and initials with a toothpick.  He also painted them blue.

Simple, inexpensive, and meaningful!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Valentine's Day 2016

Valentine's Day is one of my favorite holidays.  And my husband and I don't even celebrate it!  My choice!  Isn't that silly?  I believe that we should show love every day, and that Valentine's Day is no different.  However, it is a great opportunity to take time to talk to your kids about the importance of love and the different types of love.  Each relationship is unique, and requires different things to keep them strong.  Studying love languages and recognizing what people's languages are is a great thing to introduce to kids when they are young.  Plus, the kids love making special food and crafts.

I usually start about a week before Valentine's Day, and carry through until Valentine's Day.

For my daughter's Valentine's party at school, I designed these cards for her goodie bags:
Here are the contents of the goodie bags.  I found these great paper bags at Target (bullseye playground section).  The bubbles, pencils, pad of paper, and an eraser came from Target's Valentine's section.  We included a card from their karate studio, and a fruit roll up.  I personally like to minimize the giving of candy for the holiday goodie bags.  Maybe these trinkets aren't any better!

My husband rarely buys me flowers.  Again, my request.  They just die!  I would rather he spend the money on a date night (one of my love languages - quality time), or on something the whole family can enjoy together.  However, a couple of times per year, usually February, later in the Spring, and in October, I will purchase some inexpensive flowers at the farmer's market.  Tulips and peonies are my very favorite, so when I saw these pink tulips, I knew they would be coming home with me!  Vase from the Target bulls eye playground.

Last weekend, I made pink ombre heart shapes pancakes.  Get some pomegranate juice, beet juice, make your own with raspberries/strawberries/cherries in the blender.  Add one drop to your pancake batter, make a few pancakes, add a few more drops, make a few more pancakes.  Continue adding juice until you are out of pancake mix.

I already had various sized heart shaped cookie cutters.  I cut the largest out from the lighter and the darkest one is the smallest size.  Then I stacked them up and served them.  The kids ooo'd and ahhh'd and gobbled them up!

This weekend, the girls are having a slumber party.  We are making this craft, drinking this, making a gluten free version of these, and cracking up when we complete these!  Happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Take Care Thursday: Mom Time Management Schedule

Whether you are a working mom or stay at home mom (which is THE hardest work, btw), you probably feel as though you don't have enough time in the day to get everything completed.  Guess what?  You don't!  There is an infinite amount of work to do, you only have 24 hours each day, and that's only if you never sleep.  Laundry, dishes, finances, homework, clutter, work, soccer practice, friends, family...and those are just the major things.  What about the little things to track, like oil changes, birthday parties, dentist appointments, dry cleaning, prescriptions, haircuts, oh my!

This can cause us to feel overwhelmed, or like we are failing in one or several areas of life.  These are not good feelings!  How do we combat this?

  1. Acknowledge that it can't all be done.  Let go of that perfectionist mindset, recognize reality, and give yourself some grace.
  2. Create routines and schedules (more on this below).  If you have designated times to do certain tasks, it is much easier to focus on the assigned task than to worry about what isn't getting done, or spinning your wheels trying to figure out where to start.
  3. Create lists.  I suggest making one large brain dump list (I have a notebook for this) and then separate that into other lists, or into your schedule (Home, Work, To Do, Long Term, Projects, Meal Planning, Groceries, etc.), along with prioritizing.  The biggest lie I told myself for awhile was that I didn't need to write things down!  When I was younger, I didn't have to.  I am way too old for that now.  I have to write it down while I'm thinking of it.
  4. If you don't happen to get to a task for whatever billion reasons, that's okay!  I repeat many of my tasks each week, so if I can't do it one day this week, I can get to it next week.  My plan is to do laundry every single day.  At least one load from start to finish.  If there is one day that I can't get to it (or don't feel like it), it's not completely out of control, because I am ahead of the game, instead of trying to play catch up.

If you work on these things, you will have more time to spend with your family and on the infamous "Me Time".

How do we create routines and schedules?

  1. Make a list of the hours in the day.  Determine the hours you are available to do certain tasks.  For example, I cannot do any home tasks while I am work.  So I can't schedule "clean the bathroom" during the work day.
  2. Make a list of longer term goals you need to track or want to work on.  Oil change in the cars, dentist, decorate the office, purge kitchen cabinets.  Enter these items into your planner or your phone when they need to happen (dentist - every 6 months, oil change every 3 months, purge the kitchen in March, etc.)
  3. Make a list of the repetitive (read:  NEVER MOTHER EFFING ENDING) work.  This will be your laundry, dishes, meal planning, bill pay, cleaning, etc.  You can also include recurring weekly activities like youth group, dance class, soccer practice, etc.  Assign the repetitive tasks to each 30 minute increment where applicable.  Here is a sample:

6am Yoga
6:30am Shower and get dressed
7am Load the car and say good bye (this can often take longer than getting ready!)
7:30am Drop off boys at school
8am-5pm Work (errands, reading, blogging, social media, "me time", done at lunch)
5:30pm Drive home
6pm Make dinner
6:30pm Clean up dinner and prep lunch for the next day
7pm Homework and extracurricular activities
7:30pm Bath and brush teeth
8pm Stories and bedtime
8:30pm Repetitive tasks (laundry, dishes, cleaning, Daily Zone, tidy house, etc.) - assign one or two things to each day.  Not all of this work will be done in 30 minutes in one day!
9pm Husband Face Time - if he's home.  We have no electronics and have an actual face to face conversation!  If he's not home because of work, then I get an extra 30 minutes to myself!  I can use that time for more chores, or for ME time.
9:30pm ME time (social media, tv, reading, writing, etc.)
10pm Choose work clothes for the next day and bedtime!

One thing that I used to do that I recently changed was when I did repetitive tasks.  Things like folding laundry, picking up the house, dishes, etc. were what I tried to do when I first got home from work.  I don't like mess, so I thought it was best to do right away.  HA.  Life just laughed at me and threw three kids and a husband in my face.  I tried to fold laundry, but the kids messed it up.  I tried to do the dishes, but they whined at my feet.  This is not functional multi-tasking.  Then I tried sitting with them, but I was always very irritable, because all I could focus on was the mess on the coffee table, instead of listening to my son tell me about his day.  Then a light bulb went off one day - plan to do these chores AFTER they are in bed.  Duh.  Sure, it gives me less time to myself.  But knowing in my head that I was planning to do it later eliminated the irritation, and allowed me to relax and focus on my family.  Which is what I truly wanted.  Guess what?  The dishes are still always waiting for me after everyone is in bed!  They're so sweet like that.

Now it doesn't take as long to do those chores, since I am doing them in peace.  And I can have the TV going on, or have a conversation with my husband.  Functional multi-tasking.

I hope some of these tips help you with your time management!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Craft: Adjustable DIY Gold Crown

I made this crown to go with my daughter's Cinderella dress up dress.  She was Cinderella for Halloween, and already had the dress.  I wanted to make a unique crown to go with her costume.

You could make this any time to add to your child's dress up wardrobe!  It's not just for Halloween.

I went to the craft store and purchased a lace that a crown like design.  I didn't want something that was flat on both sides.  I already had the Mod Podge and gold spray paint.

I laid the lace out flat on a piece of cardboard and brushed it heavily with Mod Podge.  I let it dry, then flipped it over and did the same thing on the other side.  When that was dry, I measured it around my daughter's head and fastened it with a safety pin.

Next, I took it outside, set it upright (as shown in the pic) and sprayed it gold.  It only took one coat.  I kept the safety pin in.  It wasn't even visible, and allowed me to adjust the size based on how her hair was fixed.  NOTE:  I did not leave the crown in their dress up bin.  I kept it on the counter, out of reach, and allowed her to play with it when I could supervise!

So simple, and she just loved wearing it!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Party Planning: 3 Year Old Frozen Birthday Party

My girls (obviously) loved the movie Frozen.  For my daughter's third birthday last summer, she wanted a Frozen themed party.  Here are the details!

I designed her invitation using Microsoft Publisher.  I usually Google invitation design ideas and pull a few ideas (style, color, font, images, etc.) from different invitations I find.

Decor was fun!  I hung this "Love is an Open Door" sign on our front door to greet our guests.

For each party, I bring out their newborn photo because I think it is so fun to see the change!  I also bring out a wooden letter that is their first initial.  It's simple, I already have it, and it personalizes it.

I made the tassel banner with tissue paper.  Very simple to do!  And inexpensive - these can sell on Etsy for $25, and this one cost me less than $3 to make!  I make one for each party and then hang it over their bedroom window until the next party!

I found this great line of "Family Forever".  I liked these colors over the traditional blue Frozen colors.  I ordered the cocktail napkins, cups, and tablecloth.  I ordered square solid purple plates, and gold utensils.

Food and drink are always kept pretty simple.  I do the parties between lunch and dinner, but I do provide a small snack.  I had warm hugs and true love's kiss in the silver buckets, and Frozen blue Lindt chocolates in the apothecary jar.

Drinks were a Frozen blue punch and then fruit infused water.  One of the carafes had cucumber and lemon, and the other had lemon and blueberry. The punch was served in small milk bottles with purple paper straws!

Party favors were placed in these buckets from the Target dollar section.  I added Frozen sticker sheets, Frozen necklace, Frozen chap stick, and a container of Play Doh.  Because one time I accidentally ordered two boxes of 36 containers of Play Doh.  These will be included in party favors for awhile.  I also added these cute tags (also found in the Target dollar section), and wrote "Thank You" on them.  I still sent Thank You cards, though!

Princess Anna made a surprise visit to our house!  The girls were just in awe.  This was such a great decision.  I started the party about 30 minutes before she was scheduled to arrive (to allow for stragglers).  During that time we colored Frozen printable sheets and played "Pin the Nose on Olaf".  Then Anna arrived.  She sang, told her story, played a game with them, and wrote each girl a special note.  I usually plan many games for parties, so this made it very easy for me!

She made our birthday girl feel SO special.  It truly was magical.

Finally, the cake!

We have a local baker who does custom cakes that not only look incredible, but also taste heavenly!  I usually order white cake with chocolate mousse or vanilla buttercream frosting.  It's a pretty big hit.

This cake might be my very favorite one so far!

After Princess Anna left, we opened gifts and ate cake.  Then the kids just played with the new toys until parents decided it was time to leave.  I think I always say this, but this was one of my favorite parties!