Author Archive

DIY Iced Coffee Recipes

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

how-to-make-the-perfect-iced-coffee-1

My favorite drink in the summertime is iced coffee, but I don’t love the price tag that comes with the iced coffees from our coffee shops. Thankfully, I discovered how to cold brew my coffee and make the perfect iced coffee at home. This month on my site I am showing you how I cold brewed my coffee  and today we tackle how to make the perfect iced coffee just for you by adding your own favorite flavor combinations.

In honor of the iced coffee season, I am over at the Wild Oats blog sharing how to make your very own DIY Iced Coffees with just a few inexpensive ingredients for making your own unique flavor combinations! Head on over to the Wild Oats blog to get the scoop!

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Amy’s Notebook 05.20.15: M Challenge Technology Syllabus

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

m-challenge

Note: As a wrap-up of each month’s m challenge theme, we will be using the last Notebook of the month as a sort of “Cliffs Notes” edition of the challenge – a place where you can find a list of all the articles we’ve published for the challenge, as well as more inspiration and links from the web around the challenge theme. Our hope is that this will serve as a one stop shopping for the theme that you can refer to as well as catch up on in case you’ve missed anything!

May M Challenge: Focus on Technology

Other Links for Using & Managing Technology:

Efficiency Apps via Buzzfeed

Source: BuzzFeed

 

Great list of apps that will make you more efficient.

20 tech hacks – game-changing secrets for the stuff we use daily.

How to use The Cloud to organize your life.

Do you think you could go paperless?

List of top apps to try this year!

Ways to organize your home with Evernote.

Tips to maximize the power of Gmail.

How to make your Wi-Fi signal stronger.

 

Driven-by-Decor-Hack-an-Office-Organizer-to-Create-a-Super-Convenient-Family-Charging-Station

Source: Driven By Decor

 

DIY a decor-worthy charging station for the whole family.

Or dedicate a mudroom cabinet for family electronics.

Simple ways to declutter your online life.

An app to help kids earn screen time – and helps parents manage it!

10 tips to keep technology from taking over your family’s life.

How to talk to teens about distracted driving from smartphones.

17 apps that can save you money.

Could you detox from your smartphone in 7 days?

5 easy steps to clean up & organize your desktop computer.

amys_notebook

I hope you enjoyed our notebook, a collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, thrifty ways to spruce up your home, and thoughtful reads. Nothing brings me more joy than to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!

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The Top 7 Apps to Organize Your Life

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

Note: In honor of our M Challenge focus on Technology, I’m reposting this because I still can’t live without my iPhone, and these apps are still some of my top favs! Please chime in with any you use now, too!

If you asked me the one thing that I could not live without, it would be my iPhone. Today I want to share the top iPhone apps that have organized my life and my family. This gadget has brought more organization to my life than I dreamed possible and is what I rely on daily to tackle the day-to-day tasks as a mom. Of course, you don’t have to have an iPhone to benefit from these apps, almost all of these are available to any smartphone user. Here are my top 7 apps to get your family organized.

Cozi App

Cozi

Whenever I talk about the best apps to organize a family, I always think of Cozi first. Over the years, this app has evolved so much and fits perfectly into our family’s everyday needs. Cozi is a calendar app that is made with a mom in mind. It is easy to use, color-coded (for each family member), includes pictures of your sweet little ones, helps you with your grocery list, and offers text message alerts to you for appointment reminders…all from one central location.

My favorite feature that has saved our family countless fees and embarrassment is their text reminder service. When I input our family’s appointments, I can have a text sent to myself or to my husband that reminds us about that appointment. The reminders can come whenever you designate them (one hour ahead, one day ahead, one week ahead, etc..).  Does your child have jean day at school? Super silly hair day?  Little things like that are even input in this handy calendar and a text reminder goes out to me first thing in the morning to save my children from their mom’s forgotten dollar or the super exciting monthly “skip your uniform,” day.

(Free. Available for the iPad, iPhone, or Android.)

 

Mint

If you are looking to get your family’s finances back on track this year, my favorite and most reliable financial reporting comes from Mint. Mint can be set up through your home computer, your smart phone, or tablet.  An account with Mint can be set up in less than five minutes and gives you the chance to set budgets to your spending categories and track them with handy pie charts and graphs. In one glance, you can monitor your checking, savings, investments, and retirement at any moment during the day.

Most of the spending categories are immediately categorized for you while unfamiliar categories (like your favorite local restaurant or doctor’s visit) may need a quick categorization for accurate reporting. For tax purposes, you can also tag items for reimbursement so that it can help later when filing your taxes.

The best part, I have found, is that Mint will alert you via email when spending or withdrawals seem high. Did the mortgage company take out an extra payment? Did you have an unusually high amount of withdrawals in one month? Was a large deposit made? Mint sends you an email to alert you of unusual transactions happening in your account which could potentially save you from being the victim of credit card fraud.

(Free. Available for most devices.)

 

Grocery IQ

Making and sticking to your grocery lists has never been easier thanks to the Grocery IQ app. With Grocery IQ you can type, speak, or scan grocery list items into your list. The list automatically adds your items into categories and then alerts you if coupons are available for any items you might be adding to your list. Coupons can then be sent to your email when your list has been made or (if you have a wireless enabled printer) can be sent to your printer for printing. As you gather your items from your list, simply check it off and the item moves to the bottom of the list. Once your whole list is complete, everything is shifted towards the bottom and then can simply be clicked to add those repeat items back on the list for your next visit.

Since I always have my phone with me,  switching to an electronic grocery list has been much easier than I thought it would be. The coupon feature helps save our family money on items we were already planning to buy and the list helps keep our family budget on track. I also love that I can sync my list from my iPad to my iPhone so I can use whichever device I have handy to add items when we need them.

(Free. Available for the iPad, iPhone, or Android.)

Evernote

If you are trying to stop the paper pile-up from school, Evernote is a fantastic tool for  clipping and saving those papers in one spot that you can access from your phone or computer. When items come home to us that I might need to reference for our family later, like the cafeteria lunch schedule or the recess schedule, I can either take a photo of what I need or I can scan that item into Evernote and tag it with, “School,” for easy reference.

Things that I often refer back to, like our library card numbers, gift card numbers that I want to store on my computer, receipts for purchases, or even keeping track of the books my children are reading in a particular series are all housed in my Evernote account for easy accessibility when I need them.

No more scraps of paper all over the house or hanging on to newsletters for one paragraph of information, Evernote has become my virtual notebook to keep us organized.

(Free. Available on most devices.)

SpringPad

Menu planning can be a challenge for families and keeping track of all of those recipes you want to try can be a challenge when your Pinterest boards are overflowing with ideas. I have come to rely upon SpringPad for creating our family’s weekly menu plan. I think of SpringPad as a virtual notebook where you can privately or publicly share things you want to reference to manage your life. Notebooks can be created on any topic, but I create weekly notebooks of menu plans for my family, adding those recipes into a notebook so that I can reference them later, whether I am cooking in the kitchen or I am at the grocery store and not sure if I added all the ingredients to my list like I thought.

Depending on how the recipe is input into the source, SpringPad will either pull the recipe right into your notebook so you can view it right from the notebook, you can manually add in the recipe, or a link to the recipe will be provided so you can access it from the page you found it.

(Free. Available on most devices.)

30/30

Setting a timer to get tasks done around the house is an old school method that works remarkably well for productivity that has now been brought to the future with this 30/30 app for organizing your day.  The idea behind this app is very simple: you work for thirty minutes and focus on a single task with no distractions. When your time is up, you give your mind a break and do something completely unrelated, also for thirty minutes. This 30/30 cycle is repeated until your tasks are done.

Type in what your ideal day will look like including blocking out times for a little down time like enjoying a cup of coffee, time wasting on sites like Facebook or Pinterest, or just time with a great book.  Then set up what the rest of your productive day will look like and use the 30/30 app to visualize if you are going to get your tasks done in the designated time.  It provides a countdown and a visual reminder of what you are working on and beeps when your time is done. Simple, visually pleasing, and highly effective, I can’t recommend this app enough to increase your productivity.

(Free. Available for the iPad or iPhone.)

8MM Vintage Camera

Capturing my children on-the–go is one of the main reasons I decided to get an iPhone. While I rely heavily on Instagram for capturing still images of our family from day-to-day I also love to capture movies of them.  Although we have many fancy camcorders laying around our house, the one recorder I always have with me is my phone. I am a huge fan of vintage looking film and pictures so I have found that the  8MM vintage camera app is a fun way to add a little vintage to our family’s most precious recorded moments.

($1.99. Available for the iPad or iPhone)

What are your favorite apps for keeping your family organized? Chime in here and share your family’s favorite tools!

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Apron Full of Giveaways 05.19.15

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

Pink-Black Apron via Etsy

Source: Boojiboo,  $28.75

 

Welcome to our Apron Full of Giveaways! I hope everyone is having a great week this week! As we do each week, here is our round-up of giveaways for our readers. We hope that this is beneficial to you and your family! Please let us know if you guys win anything- I love to hear the success stories!

Below are the contest links-if you are hosting a contest please link it up below. Sorry, we are not giving away the aprons just showcasing them! Please put your site name and then what type of contest you are hosting. For example, “MomAdvice (Kid’s Movies).”

Good luck to each of you!

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How to Cold Brew Coffee

Monday, May 18th, 2015

How to Cold Brew Coffee from MomAdvice.com * This post is sponsored by Wild Oats. Thank you for supporting the companies that support this site!

When warmer temperatures strike, my coffee routines switch up a bit.  In my house, I try to keep a pitcher of cold brewed coffee in the refrigerator to take with me for my afternoon pick-me-up at the pool.  Have you tried the cold brew method before? It couldn’t be easier (or more affordable).  Today I’m partnering up with Wild Oats Organic to show you just how easy it is to create a batch of cold brewed coffee for all of your summertime coffee needs!

What is Cold Brewed Coffee?

Cold brew or cold press coffee refers to the process of steeping coffee grounds in room temperature or cold water for an extended period.  Once you strain the coffee grounds, you are left with a coffee concentrate that you can then mix with water or milk and add in flavors or sweeteners (if desired) to create your own perfect cup of coffee. Although fancy coffee systems can be bought to make this, I have found that my French Press works great or you can have no equipment at all and mix it up in a pitcher or container for your week as I am showing you today.

It’s easy and affordable to make your cold brew coffee at home, but what about the flavor? Cold brewed coffee naturally seems sweeter due to its lower acidity. Because the coffee beans in cold-press coffee never come into contact with heated water, the process of leaching flavor from the beans produces a different chemical profile from conventional brewing methods. There is also high levels of caffeine in a cup of cold brewed coffee compared to hot brewed coffee.

More caffeine means it’s far superior to hot coffee too because now you can do ALL THE THINGS.

I consider this my summertime superpower.

 

How to Cold Brew Coffee from MomAdvice.com

As you can see in my picture tutorial this is the easiest method and you can make as big or as small of a batch as you need. While coarsely ground coffee is ideal, I tend to make things easy on myself and just purchase the coffee that is already ground and have had great results with it.  I find that cheesecloth over my mesh strainer helps to keep the grounds out and yields that perfectly smooth cup of coffee that I am after.

To compliment today’s article, this month I will be over on the Wild Oats blog sharing a variety of fun flavor combinations you can create with your cold brew coffee!

Get to know Wild Oats!

Check out Wild Oats on their blog,  Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, & Pinterest.

How to Cold Brew Coffee from MomAdvice.com

Easy Cold-Brewed Coffee Recipe
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2 cups
 
Save a fortune this summer and learn to make iced coffee at home the cold-brewed way!
Ingredients
  • 4½ ounces ground coffee (about 1¾ cups)
  • 3½ cups cold water
  • Wild Oats Cinnamon (for dusting)
Instructions
  1. Place the coffee grounds in a 2-quart pitcher, add the water, and stir to combine. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap and let steep at room temperature for at least 12 hours and up to 1 day.
  2. Line a fine-mesh strainer with a standard coffee filter and fit it over a medium bowl. Working in batches, slowly pour the coffee into the filter until all of the liquid has passed through the strainer. You do not want to rush the process and stop when you reach the solids at the bottom of the pitcher (don’t pour them in). Discard the grounds and the contents of the strainer.
  3. Transfer the strained coffee into a clean pitcher.
  4. Cover and refrigerate until completely chilled, at least 2 hours or up to 5 days.
  5. For each cup of iced coffee, dilute the concentrate with an equal portion of milk, half-and-half, or water. Sweeten with simple syrup if desired and top with ice. Finish with a dusting of cinnamon.

 Don’t forget to finish your coffee treat with a little Wild Oats Cinnamon for the perfect finishing touch! Do you cold brew coffee? What are your tried and true methods for a great iced coffee? I’d love to hear them!

 * This post is sponsored by Wild Oats. Thank you for supporting the companies that support this site!

 

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m challenge: Tips & Benefits of “Slow Blogging” with Tiffany King

Monday, May 18th, 2015

Note: With May as our M Challenge Focus on Technology, I was really excited when Tiffany King, from Eat At Home, offered to share her expertise about growing your blog slowly – and why that can be a good thing. It’s been a privilege to see her blog grow and I know if you are a blogger you will learn so much from her tips! 

Tips and Benefits to Grow Your Blog Slowly with Tiffany King

There has been a lot of talk around the internet over the last six months or so of bloggers feeling burned out. That has prompted conversations on slow blogging.

Going slow with a blog is nothing new to me.  My site, Eat at Home, has grown very slowly but steadily over the last six and a half years.  Yes, there have been plateaus and challenges.  Many times it’s been frustrating to watch other sites grow faster.  But looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Like many of you who are also blogging, I have several kids and other obligations as well.  I don’t have the hours to devote full-time work to my blog.  Instead, I’ve applied slow and steady work and the blog has grown and matured. Just like when you put food in a slow cooker – it will eventually come to a boil and cook.  It will take longer than if you use the stove-top or oven, but it will cook.

There are a few things I’ve learned over the years about how to grow a site without putting in long hours, or working until 2 am or neglecting time with family.  I don’t want to come across like I have this all figured out.  Far from it!  But I do know that it’s possible to work reasonable hours and still have a successful site. These are things that have worked for me.  Maybe some of them will work in your situation too!

Time and Patience

If you’re planning to grow your site without putting in long hours all at once, you will have to give it time.  It does take a lot of work to build a successful site.  You don’t have to put all those hours in over a small amount of time.  What others have done in six months, it’s taken me years. But I’ve been able to work the hours that fit my family’s schedule.  Yes, it’s frustrating at times to not see quicker growth.  But the growth does come if you just keep at it.

Focus on Your Goal

– Do you want or need to earn an income?

– Are you trying to build a platform so you can get a book published?

– Do you want to build a community of people who can support each other or do good in the world?

Knowing what your main objective is will help you determine where to spend your time.  If you want to build a community of bloggers, it would be helpful to attend quite a few conferences so you can meet people face to face.  If you want to earn an income, you’ll need to focus on activities that will make a profit.

Work the path that makes the most sense for you and your goals.

Focus on Your Readers

Getting super clear on who your readers are and what they want is really important in growing a site.  Figure out what their pain points are.  Then create content and products that solve those problems for them.  This isn’t new info, but it is important enough to mention again.

Maximize Your Momentum Points

A momentum point is any event, blog post, product, affiliate relationship etc that brings you more results than you normally get.

You are probably familiar with the 80/20 Principle.  Also called the “Law of the Vital Few”, this principle states that 80% of the results come from 20% of the effort. This means that 80% of your traffic is coming from 20% of your blog posts.  80% of your revenue is coming from 20% of your work.  80% of your social media traffic is most likely coming from one outlet.

This 20% of the effort in any area is a momentum point that you can capitalize on.

Here are a few examples of things that could be momentum points:

• A post that gets linked to by a large blog, sending lots of traffic your way.

• A post that goes viral on a social media site.

• A product you create and sell that earns a good profit.

• A series you write that readers love and share.

• A sponsored post you write that the brand loves.

All of these things, and many more, can be momentum points. But to really make them work, you have to push harder on those places.  Take advantage of the movement that has been created and keep it building.

Here’s an example from my blog:

100 Days of Summer Slow Cooker via Eat At Home

A few summers ago I had a post to do with very little time.  I threw up a list of summer slow cooker recipes that I have on my site.  I think there were 15-20 links.  I didn’t include photos. It was a very basic post that I viewed as quick filler. But that post did really well, sending lots of traffic and pins.  It was a momentum point.

So the next summer I promoted that old post, but also created a summer-long series of 75 days of summer slow cooker recipes.  I linked to other bloggers and to my own recipes, as well as put out some new recipes for the series.  I posted every day that summer. The Summer Slow Cooker Series did really well.  It was good for me, because a lot of them were very easy posts.  And good for traffic because readers loved them.

So the next summer I increased the series to 100 days and hired my VA to do a lot of the work for it. She even did some ghost writing of the posts (the only time I’ve ever done that).  I was able to step away from the blog to enjoy summer and work more on creating and promoting my products.

Using that original Summer Slow Cooker post to create momentum, I was able to leap the blog forward.  And eventually, it afforded me time for pushing other types of work forward as well.

What is one momentum point that you could push forward on your blog right now?

Momentum points can happen by some outside force (large site linking to you), by accident (writing a post that takes off unexpectedly) or by creating it.  Creating momentum points is trial and error, but as you study things that have worked in your business, you’ll begin to see trends that you can use for creating more momentum.

Skip the Friction Points

A few friction points that are common to all of us are:

• Comparison

• Jealousy

• Tracking down stolen content

All of this is a waste of time and a huge energy drain.  They’re also easy traps to fall into.  But effort spent on any of these things will never pay off.

Other possible friction points:

• Doing work you hate, instead of finding someone else to do it or skipping it all together (if possible).

• Trying to perfect things that are already good enough and working.  (Site designs, photos, About pages, old posts, SEO…)

• Spending a lot of time working on something that is not part of the 20% that gets you 80% of the results.  (Writing long tutorial posts on a topic that doesn’t answer the problems your readers have.)

Consistent, Focused Work + Time = Results

We tend to overestimate what we can do in a short period, and underestimate what we can do over a long period, provided we work slowly and consistently.  ~Gretchen Rubin

It is possible to grow a successful site by working slowly and consistently.  It will take longer.  It will require patience and focus. It will also pay off with more time to spend with family, a healthier and balanced life and a successful site.

 

It’s the 3 Little Things (With Meagan): King, Cuffs & Coffee

Friday, May 15th, 2015

It's the 3 Little Things

Well, hello, Friday! Nice to see you again! The Clark family has hobbled through another week and this will be our last 3 little things for this month as the blog will be on hiatus from May 20th-June 1st. My husband and I are celebrating our 15 year anniversary and got our very first passports to take a trip to Italy to celebrate. We are touring Florence, Rome, & Venice on our trip and I am so excited and so very nervous. Grandma retired last year and has generously agreed to step into our place and take over for nine days with my children. She is a saint!

I want everything to be spectacular for her so I am filling the freezer, organizing a fraction of the unorganized spaces, list-making, and tackling the Mt. Everest of laundry piles. It will all be worth it though and we are so thankful we leave our kids in far more competent hands than my own.

 

Passport Application

Say some prayers for grandma and, if you have a few to spare, throw up a few for us since we are nervous travelers!  We have been saving a long time for this. Actually, since we got married. I started a secret fund and auto-transferred $25 in it each month for a vacation for our ten year anniversary. We were broke, but we never felt the pinch in those early years of marriage. Ten years passed and our kids felt too small to leave them, but now at 12 and 9… the timing finally feels right.

Today we have Meagan Church  joining us to share her happy list! Meagan Church is a writer, children’s book author and the brainpower behind www.Unexpectant.com, which explores the story of modern motherhood. She lives in the Midwest with her high school sweetheart, three children and a few animals. Connect with her on Twitter, on Instagram, or visit her website www.MeaganChurch.com.

Meagan and I are local friends that have wrote for some of the same publications and she is as genuine as they come. You are in for a real treat today so please give her a warm welcome! If you are interested in being a guest poster on the 3 little things, send over a list of your 3 favorites and why to amy@momadvice.comand I will share them in the upcoming weeks! 

Meagan Church

 

It’s a spring Friday in Northern Indiana, so what better time to take a few minutes and consider a couple simple, yet beautiful moments of recent? Of course I must take pause to celebrate the return of birds, tree buds and running season, but there are other things that have had my heart and attention as of recent, including a book, a bracelet and a brewer.

11/22/63 by Stephen King

 

“11/22/63” by Stephen King

I don’t typically read Stephen King books. While I am an avid reader, the overwhelming size of most King books intimidates me, not to mention the fact that some of his stories that I heard years ago still haunt my nightmares today. While re-reading his incredibly inspiring book “On Writing,” I felt the urge to dive into one of his newer novels. I had heard good things about “11/22/63,” so I downloaded a digital copy from the library, and, not being very good at converting digital pages to print pages, I had no idea just how long it was. I wasn’t able to finish the digital copy before it had to be returned, so I headed to the library to get a print copy and an intimidating surprise. I pulled the book off the shelf, suddenly thankful for each and every Insanity workout I had endured that had made it possible for me to actually lift the behemoth of a book. But, I told myself that size didn’t matter. What mattered was that I finished a story that had engaged and engrossed me from the start. Soon this book crept into many of my conversations and even a few of my dreams. Even with three little ones, writing deadlines and typical every-day commitments, I read the book in record time. While I have always had respect for King’s writing, reading this book put me in awe of his masterful storytelling. Though I finished it a few weeks ago, the story is still on my mind, along with wondering if the upcoming Hulu mini-series will do the story justice.

Personalized Cuff Bracelets

Personalized Cuff Bracelets

I have always been a sucker for a good quote. And, I’ve always tried to find ways to surround myself with encouraging and inspiring words. Over the past few years, I have had quotes and verses that have served as mantras for me, including the reminder to “be still” and the scripture Philippians 4:13 (which helped me get through three natural child births). When I attended the Storyline Conference in Chicago last fall, writer Shauna Niequist spoke these words that I instantly knew would be my mantra for 2015, “Do your thing with great love right now.” Wanting a constant reminder of these phrases, I fell in love with personalized cuff bracelets. Thanks to the awesomeness that is Etsy, I can have my reminder right at hand (or, rather wrist) whenever needed.

Thermal French Press

 

French Press

I love coffee though I’m no connoisseur by any means. I just love a nice cup of black coffee, hold the frills. I have had a devoted single-cup coffee maker for a decade-and-a-half. Sure, there have been fancier products on the market, but it served me well. Until recently. When I knew the end was near, I started researching and asking around about a replacement. Soon enough I came across a French press. The reviews, along with the fact that no wasted filters (or K-cups) are required, I decided to give it a try. I settled on a stainless steel option, fearing I would break a glass one and not trusting piping hot water in a plastic carafe. So far, it has not disappointed. Sure, it takes a few minutes longer to brew (four minutes after the water is heated) than the automatic drip did, but the rich taste, bold flavor and lack of wasteful filters have won me over and make me feel like a kitchen barista.

Whole Foods Pretzel Bread

Okay, okay! I just couldn’t leave this one out. A few months ago a friend asked me a question that changed my life: have you tried Whole Foods pretzel bread? Maybe that was a bit dramatic, but let’s just say that ever since she asked that question, we have either had a loaf on the counter or in the freezer…or both. These fresh-baked bites of heaven have saved more than one meal for me, partly because I’m not the best meal planner and also because when the kids hear pretzel bread is on the menu, they stop moaning about the part of the meal they don’t like and instead give thanks for the mouth-watering deliciousness that will soon be broken, shared and devoured.

How fun was that list this week? I am so excited to share more great ideas from you all in the weeks to come! Thank you, Meagan, for generously sharing the happy today!

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though. Check out past editions of  It’s the 3 Little Things

Now it’s your turn! What’s making you happy this week?

Freebie Friday May 15, 2015

Friday, May 15th, 2015

freebie friday Happy Freebie Friday, everyone! As always, we would like to thank Couponing 101 for assisting us with our freebies each week for loads of deals, savings, and freebies!

This week on MomAdvice I was finally able to share about my fun interview with Molly Ringwald all about her book, When It Happens To You, for our Sundays with Writers. Totally fan-moment for me! For our Focus on Technology M Challenge, I updated two of my favorite articles that really helped us get our kid tech-time under control: printable tech & chore tickets, and ways we try and make face time a priority. Mary Carver is also sharing some great tips about using technology to make the most of your summer!

See who’s guest-posting on this week’s edition of It’s the 3 Little Things & get your weekly dose of happy,  find lots of inspiring DIY, food, decorating and craft ideas in our popular Notebook, and be sure to take a look at all the contests you can enter on our weekly round-up of great giveaways, too.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Food & Drink
Health & Beauty
Entertainment
This Week’s Freebie Events: May 16 – May 22
16th – Barnes & Noble: Join story time featuring Ballet Cat, 11 am
16th – Lakeshore Learning: Create a Hot Air Balloon, 11 am – 3 pm

 

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Making Face Time a Family Priority

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

Tips to Manage Kids Tech Time by Making Fact Time a Priority

When my children were small, it seemed that all they wanted to do was play with me, draw with me, and read with me. As they get older, it seems that all they want to do is play on the computer, play on the DS, and play on the Wii… and not with me?

What a change in priorities it has been to be so low on the activities totem pole!

I say this tongue in cheek, of course, because I am just as guilty as my kids of making screen time more of a priority than it should be. I could spend hours on my phone checking all of my social networks and being disconnected from the three people that love me most in my life.

One evening I looked around and saw each of us in our respective corners with our screens and I knew that something had to change. I want my children to have their downtime after school, but I also want us spending time together as a family.  I wanted to share with you our solutions for making family time a priority again.

Declare Face Time

When my kids get home from school it is time for snacks and homework. After that, they are free to do screen time alone until 5PM. At 5PM, I declare it, “FACE TIME!” Face time is not FaceTime on the iPhone, instead it means that we will have time together as a family until bedtime.  It means having a family meal together with great family conversation, reading books together, playing a board game, or spending an evening playing outside together.

I thought Face Time was a genius idea, but the first night my husband looked at me and said, “So we are ALL supposed to not be on the computer?” Yes, admittedly, I had to flip my phone upside down because each time the screen popped up; I was dying to know what was happening in the world. The two people that had the hardest time were the two of us and the kids took the change in routine surprisingly well.

Do Screen Time Together

If we use screen time during our Face Time it must be all done together.  Some evenings we spend an evening Wii bowling together and other evenings it is a night of wild dancing on our Just Dance game. I will admit that I often request a rousing round of Band Hero so I can sing with my very own Partridge Family.

We recently added a new screen time feature to our family that we are all absolutely loving. For about seven years now, I have made homemade pizza every Friday night for our evening meal and we have watched a family movie. In the last few months we have changed our pizza night to a, “Docu-Pizza,” night that we have all come to look forward to together. The evening consists of 1 pizza, 1 documentary, and 1 great family conversation afterwards. We have exposed the kids to lots of different cultures and watched documentaries about everything from the art of origami to puppetry to a senior citizen dance crew. It has led to amazing discussions and allowed us to use our screen time in a way that benefits our whole family.

If you are looking for some fun documentaries to add to your family viewing, be sure to follow my Reality Bites Pinterest Board for some fun movie suggestions to incorporate into your very own Docu-Pizza Night.

Screen time done together connects us and the kids are learning to include us in the gaming fun instead of doing the games on their own.

Use a Screen Time Monitoring System

I find it is much easier to monitor screen time hours during the school year since the kids are in school during the day. In the summer months is when screen time can really get out of control.  I wanted a way to monitor their screen time so we decided to create a printable ticket that could be used for just this occasion.

These tech tickets have made us all more aware of how much screen time we are using and have been a great way for us to monitor the amount they are getting. Each child gets one chore ticket and two tech tickets for the week in our house. The chore ticket must be punched before they can start with their first hour of screen time.

Tech tickets grant the child one hour of computer or video game time. We do not count television time as tech time in our house. Kids can watch 2 shows daily on Netflix. We no longer have cable television so that has really helped us do a better job of not zoning out on the television. A timer is set and once it dings, the card is punched for that hour.  It is as simple as that!

We made an agreement that if the child wants to save computer/video game time that they can save and transfer the hours to another day. They can not, however, cash in on an advance on their ticket.

My husband and I keep shaking our heads as we see the kids getting back to the root of playing together again. Without the screen distractions, they are playing more outside, playing more together, reading, and creating more. It makes my heart happy to see them getting back to this again and embracing imaginative play.

This is what being a child is about and this is what being a family is about. I am glad we are rediscovering these simple pleasures again.

How do you make Face Time a family priority in your house?

 


 

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Amy’s Notebook 05.13.15

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

The Makerista Spring House Tour Ferns Outside Planters Pots Cement

Source: The Makerista

 

I want to freshen up my front step like this.

5 curling wand tutorials – no more burned fingers.

World’s best empathy cards.

I want to trick out my bicycle basket!

Swooning over this colorful midcentury modern home.

The truth about beauty that we must teach our daughters.

DIY cardboard box lap tray – brilliant!

DIY Leather-Chain Necklace via Small Friendly

Source: Small Friendly

 

DIY leather and chain jewelry- I must make this!

Organized nursery closet -LOVE this.

How to make a great drink on a plane.

I just started watching this and I’m loving it!

5 great travel pieces.

Someone slightly more obsessed than me with this show.

Treat yo self. I’m learning this too. Who wants to be secret pals for Mother’s Day next year? SERIOUSLY!!

amys_notebook

I hope you enjoyed our notebook, a collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, thrifty ways to spruce up your home, and thoughtful reads. Nothing brings me more joy than to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!

 

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