Author Archive

DIY Personalized Stamped Pencils

Thursday, August 18th, 2016

DIY Personalized Stamped Pencils

I hate to say it, but it’s back-to-school time! It’s always bittersweet for me. I enjoy summers with my kids so much and love the lazy days, but I also look forward to fresh starts and routines.  In honor of the season,  I created these cute DIY Personalized Stamped Pencils for the first day of school to remind your kiddos just how much they mean to you.

I always try to do one special thing for my kids on their first day of school to remind them how much they are loved. When my daughter started Kindergarten, I made hair bows that had a heart center, reminding her that my heart was with her on her big first day. For my son, it was always lots of jokes and comics tucked away in his lunchbox to share with his friends.

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This craft was inspired by one of my favorite books, “The Help,” if you haven’t seen the movie or read the book, you really must. In one particular scene, the sweet character Aibileen gives the little girl she cares for a self-esteem boost each day saying, “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” These encouraging words are what help shape this little girl and help her grow and thrive.

I wanted to create personalized pencils for my own little girl for her first day of school that would capture why she is so special to me and capture a little of that self-esteem magic that I found so endearing in the film.

I jotted down a list of words that I think of when I think of my little girl. Kind, smart, funny, sassy, and joyful are just a few examples of what I think makes her so special. I wanted to create a project around these words and thought a pencil could remind her daily of why her mom thinks she is so darn wonderful.

How to Make Stamped Pencils

How to Make DIY Personalized Stamped Pencils from MomAdvice.com.

Supplies Needed

(affiliate links included, if you use them, thank you -they help support the site!)

Directions

1. Jot down a list of words about what makes your child so special that you can use to stamp on your pencils.

2. Begin by sorting out your metal stamps into alphabetical order. I wrote a letter on the side of the stamp so it would be easy to find the stamp I needed while creating these. For me, the sorting was the most consuming part, but once you have this done it will make this project a lot faster.

3. Stamp your letter stamp into your black ink pad several times, until the letter is completely covered in the ink.

4. Then align your stamp, checking to make sure it’s about centered on one of the pencils’ flat sides, and also that it’s right-side up. You will want to give the end of your stamp a tap or two with the hammer. Keep in mind that wood is soft so you don’t want to pound it too hard, just hard enough to make that impression. Keep repeating this until you have spelled out your word.

5. Finish by dabbing your paper towel with rubbing alcohol and rubbing swiftly across the top of it to remove any excess ink that may have carried over from the stamping pad.

6. Wrap these in ribbon and give them to your child for their first day of school!

How to Make DIY Personalized Stamped Pencils from MomAdvice.com.

I hope this project inspires you to create a little bouquet of pencils for your child’s first day of school. Older children might enjoy assisting with this project or love stamping their own name. Not only is this a great activity for mastering spelling, but it is also a great way to use their imagination to create words of their own.

 

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Amy’s Notebook 08.17.16

Wednesday, August 17th, 2016

Painted Polka-Dot Curtains from LollyJane

Source: Lolly Jane

 

I am loving the simple painted trim on these curtains!

8 brilliantly hidden kitchen drop zones- check out the wine rack!!

This is on my to-do list.

What teens need most from their parents.

Homemade rainbow popsicles with 100% fruit- genius!

This looks like a good page-turner.

I doubt I could ever do this, but I really enjoy it’s beauty!

Harry Potter floating candle tutorial- LOVE IT!

No Churn Brownie Batter Ice Cream via The Recipe Critic

Source: Recipe Critic

 

No-churn brownie batter ice cream- I want to try this with a gluten-free mix!

DIY stair runner made with vintage rugs- gorgeous!!!

I love learning about parenting in other countries.

15 must-see documentaries. I think we have seen all but 3 on this list!

Amy Schumer is one of my faves- loved seeing her favorite reads!

A home tour of musician’s homes- so much design inspiration in these for artsy types!

5 signs you should stop decluttering.

An ancient Tuscan farm turned magical​ bohemian​ home.

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!

 

Planning My 2016 Fall Wardrobe Capsule

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

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Yesterday I started the shopping process for my fall/winter capsule wardrobe. I love the creative process of putting these together and thought I would share with you how I put these together.  Although I always do the big reveal, I thought it might be fun to take you a little behind the scenes at my process.

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Before I begin, I want to say this is FUN for me and not a chore AT ALL. I love having a beautifully curated closet and I enjoy the creativity in it. If you do not enjoy stuff like this, feel free to try something like a wardrobe uniform or do what you are already doing.

Please don’t criticize me if I love it.

I love a lot of stuff that you might not love, but getting dressed actually brings me a lot of joy.

I hope even if you don’t want to do it, you can at least appreciate the creativity behind it.

 

If you are looking for inspiration, my fingers are crossed we have similar taste and you will find this glimpse helps you too!

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My Color Palette

The past couple of years my color scheme has leaned more into the red, white, & blue that feels very nautical and timeless to me. This year I wanted to warm things up so I am selecting a few pieces in wine, rose, mustard yellow, & navy. These colors are folded into my basic neutral scheme (gray, black, cream) for the year.

I love how these colors can be mixed and matched together.

I also love the pink hues since I love a more feminine touch to my wardrobe.

Here are a few pieces that I am eyeing in this scheme (Please Note- I am for waiting delivery on these so I can try them on. I will delete anything that doesn’t make the cut on this board and tell you why! These are affiliate links because they help support my site!)

Modern Henley Blouse

Modern Henley Blouse

Pintucked Blouse in Angel Wing Pink

Pintucked Blouse in Angel Wing Pink (trying this in a basic black too!)

Pintuck Swing Dress from Old Navy

Sleeveless Pintuck Swing Dress

(This will be layered under or over with cardigans or long sleeve t-shirts in contrasting colors when it cools down!

Don’t forget fun colored tights, scarves, & belts that will add even more fun to this one!)

Relaxed Jersey T-Shirt from Old Navy

Relaxed Brushed-Jersey T-Shirt 

(Using these in the grey & oatmeal for layering under my sleeveless dresses. Also can be worn with my jeans on quiet days at home!)

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Mona Solid Sweater Wrap

(To wear over EVERYTHING- love the gray interior on this one. Feeling hopeful about this piece!)

Here are some pieces that I found on thredUP (continuing my commitment to buy mostly secondhand!) Here is $10 to spend if you haven’t discovered this amazing online consignment shop!

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My thredUP Haul (fingers crossed everything fits!)

I Also Pick a Statement Piece or Smart Classic

I have learned that buying one or two really beautiful statement piece really adds to my enjoyment of my capsule wardrobe. I have also learned it is a really smart investment to spend money on things like jeans, a good blazer (mine is 6 years old!), and a well-made skirt.  I bought a beautiful a-line red skirt that I wear absolutely to death and it has held up better than anything else in my wardrobe over several capsule seasons.

That investment piece really paid off and has transitioned from season to season really well while other trendier and cheaper items have not held up or kept my attention as long.

This year I wanted to add a vest for layering. Again,  this one is out of my typical budget, but hopefully a very smart investment piece.

I also happened to catch a BEAUTIFUL sweater dress on sale on thredUP that happened to be in my established color scheme. I just couldn’t resist her print and consider that a statement piece (as well as a classic print!).

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Mabli Vest (SWOON!!)

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(thredup Anthro sweater dress find- YES!!)

Clean Out Your Closet

I’m Planning Another Closet Audit

Once I have everything in place, it’s time to count my pieces and whittle away anything I don’t need anymore. This process gets easier and easier each year, I promise you.  For ease, I usually just request a bag from thredUP and then send in items for store credit on my next capsule wardrobe. It’s fun to get items from them, wear them a season, sell them back, make money, repeat process, etc..

To me, it’s almost like those pricey wardrobe rental programs without the commitment or monthly fees.

Not only can you clean out your closet to make money, but you can also make money on your kid’s stuff and maternity items too! Simply order a bag with a prepaid shipping label to start your closet clean out. Their fashion resale professionals review your clothing and then pay up to 80% of the resale value. You can earn thredUP shopping credit, or simply cash out with PayPal.

Items that they don’t accept go to charitable partners or textile recycling companies. They can also be mailed back to you as part of their Return Assurance program for a $12.99 shipping fee. Be sure to check their quality standards before sending.

Get Professional Help if You Need It

I love fashion and feel like I have a strong sense of personal style, but it has taken me a few years to really feel confident in my choices. If you struggle with confidence, I recommend trying out a professional service or professional shopping service to help you.

I can’t rave enough about the Adore Your Wardrobe program (open for registration in September!!) for someone who wants to find their own sense of style. Not only do the video tutorials and printables help with your shopping, but you are connected to a FB community that can help give you feedback (and shopping discounts) as you put together your wardrobe. This program is like having a professional closet audit without judgement and that can be done in your own free time.

The other option is a shopping service like Stitch Fix. I have some referral credit sitting in an account so I am going to give that another shot, but because I have such a strong definition of what I like and don’t like in clothing, I tend to be very picky. That said, I know MANY people benefit greatly from the professional advice so this is a worthwhile experience to explore, at least once!

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Once everything arrives I will post an IG Story for you and you can tell me yay or nay on my selections! Be sure to follow me on IG to get a sneak peek!

Want to try your own capsule wardrobe? Browse these capsules & wardrobe planning advice we have curated for you!

Fall 2014 Capsule Wardrobe

Winter 2014 Capsule Wardrobe

Fall 2015 Capsule Wardrobe

Spring 2015 Capsule Wardrobe

Summer 2015 Capsule Wardrobe

Fall/Winter 2016 Capsule Wardrobe

Spring & Summer 2016 Capsule Wardrobe

Creating the Perfect Capsule Wardrobe (that really works!)

How to Shop Secondhand For Your Capsule Wardrobe

Make Money Organizing Your Closet

25 Best Wardrobe Planning Printables

Fall-2016-Capsule-Wardrobe-Idea-Board

Are you doing a capsule wardrobe? Tell me what has caught your eye this season!

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DIY Snack Station

Monday, August 15th, 2016

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This post has been sponsored by Jack Link’s in partnership with Ahalogy. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

When I became a mom, I began to realize the beauty in one-handed snacks. When my babies were small, I had a hard time holding a baby and feeding myself so I created a basket of one-handed snacks that would keep me fueled throughout the day.

Now that my kids are older, you would think that I would have loads more time to care for myself.  I have found though that although my children aren’t necessarily as demanding as they were, their activity schedule certainly is. I am still struggling to keep myself fueled as we run from activity to activity.

If you struggle with keeping yourself AND your kids fueled, I wanted to share with you a fun snack station we created to encourage ALL of us to grab healthy snacks more regularly. This diy snack station was made with a basic small bar cart and is fully stocked for our whole family.

DIY Snack Station Tutorial

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I headed to my local superstore to gather up four metal pails that had chalkboard labels on front for our little diy snack station and found this sweet little bar cart on summer clearance for 75% off. This is the perfect time to stock up on this summer entertaining accessory and keep it on budget for your family.

We then headed on over to Kroger  (check out the store locator to find one near you!) to grab some healthy options for our snack cart. The beauty in the chalkboard labeling is that you can switch snacks based on what’s in season, what’s on sale, or what you are craving that week. Have your kids be in charge of the labeling to work on mastering their spelling!

Our four pails had bananas (separated for easy grabbing), raisins/nut mixes, Jack Link’s in a few varieties, and crackers with peanut butter. On the bottom tier, I added apples and oranges, a variety of flavored waters, and some fun straws for sipping.

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Snacks with lots of protein are my favorite because they stop the HANGRY from coming on.

Tell me that you know a little about hangry moments too please! I need to know I’m not alone in this!

As someone who fights low blood sugar (as do my children), I have found that protein keeps me from fighting those sugar highs and lows.

Beef jerky can be a great protein-filled option and Jack Link’s is protein-packed with a whopping 12 grams of protein.  I like that you don’t have to be limited to just one flavor because it comes in tons of varieties. From the soy and ginger combo in Teriyaki, to a layer of coarse pepper in their Peppered option, to the smoky mesquite flavoring of their Original turkey, to the bold and savory offerings of their Jack Link’s Original. We are big fans of these options for keeping the hangry at bay.

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For a sweet and savory combo, pair your jerky with fresh fruit for a balanced snack. Bananas always offer a good bang for your buck, apples can be sliced for eating on-the-go, and easy-to-peel clementine’s are always a big favorite in our house. Be sure to look for fruit that is on season for the most affordable (and freshest) options.

We are also really big fans of flavored waters in our house. It makes drinking water a little bit more fun.

A pretty papered straw doesn’t hurt either. What can I say? I am a blogger and paper straws are kind of a requirement over here.

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We hope this post inspires you to create a snack station for your own family! We are thankful to have one at our house as we head back to the grind of school and activities. It is so nice to know that one-handed snacks are on hand for life’s busy moments!

This post has been sponsored by Jack Link’s in partnership with Ahalogy. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

It’s the 3 Little Things: A Compelling Documentary, a Bookish Phone Case, & a Deal App

Friday, August 12th, 2016

Saugatuck

Saugatuck

Saugatuck

Saugatuck

Saugatuck

The most glorious gift this summer was spending a week together in Saugatuck. Our family has been fortunate to get to do lots of travel through my work. When we had a power outage and spent the evening with flashlights & giggling with our kids, we asked them where their favorite vacation had been. It surprised me to hear that Saugatuck was their favorite destination. Not only is the town close (just an hour and thirty minutes away), but it was also a heck of a lot more affordable than, say, Disney or Universal. We booked a cabin right away and planned for a completely unplugged week.

With my work (um, this!) and my husband’s (programming), making a commitment to be unplugged felt like a bit of a stretch, but we REALLY did it. We put together puzzles, soaked in the hot tub, took a disastrous paddleboat ride (never knew how heavy those were until we walked one out to the beach), brought an enormous stack of library books, made incredible meals to eat on the porch, late nights with vino & the first season of Game of Thrones….it was heaven.

I am so incredibly grateful that we could do it and we are now planning to do this every year with them. Our time feels so fleeting- to soak in my family like that made my heart so happy and brought us a lot closer before the chaos of the new school year starts.

If you haven’t explored Saugatuck, I shared some of our favorite things in this article (and plan to update it this week with more things we enjoyed!)

Here are some other things that are making me happy this week:

The Fear of 13

The Fear of 13

I know we have a lot of true crime fans on here and I just discovered this incredible documentary called, The Fear of 13. It sounds like the premise would be a little boring without the typical bells and whistles of Hollywood. The documentary is a retelling of how a prisoner, Nick Yarris, found himself on death row. It opens telling you that he has requested his own execution be done early and then, almost in a puzzle format, the viewer gets to find out how he ended up there, what prison life was like, and the scientific breakthrough that changed everything.

More compelling than that though is that Nick found his transformation through BOOKS and that was the window that really helped transform his life. He is, perhaps, one of the most incredible storytellers I have ever had the privilege to listen to. I found myself holding my breath through parts of this. It is, truly, an unforgettable documentary. It sounds crazy that this would make one happy, but it is the beauty in the telling of this transformation that makes it so amazing.

If you have Netflix, it is available for streaming right now!!

Bookish iPhone Case

My New iPhone Case

Well, I held out as long as I could on getting the new iPhone. For our son’s birthday though, he got mom’s old phone and I had to get a replacement phone. That, of course, meant replacing my case. I have never really had anything special, but I found this bookish case on Society6 and it couldn’t ship to me fast enough.

What makes it more special is that David Arnold, Jandy Nelson, & Jennifer Niven were all interviewed on my site and I see their books tucked into this rainbow design. It just has made me so happy and it also has made me want to tackle a few others that are showcased in this case!

If you haven’t ordered from their site before, here is $10 to spend to support an artist!

Dealflicks

The Dealflicks App

I am savvy about saving money, but my sister is INCREDIBLE at saving money. As a single mom, she knows how to make every dollar count. We love to catch movies together and she told me about this app called Dealflicks that would save us money on our tickets.

You download the app on your phone and it offers deals with your local movie theater that save you a ton.

We catch movies in her town and a ticket is $7 and a popcorn is $100.

Well.

Basically.

So with this app, it offers certain shows at a discount rate. So for $7.50 we get a ticket to a show AND a medium popcorn, saving us at least $100 (approximately).

If you want to give it a try, use this code RF8M4BBEAL to get an additional 20% off your tickets at checkout. In that screenshot, you can see where to add your coupon code. I have caught three movies (two with her and one with my Dad) and I have used this each time for our movie dates!

Enjoy all that savings!!!

Book Cover Puzzle

Completing: This incredible puzzle with my family! It was such a challenging one and so fun to see all of these book covers. I hated taking it apart after we were done. This puzzle made us all so happy!

Reading: The Longest Night this week and it was beautiful. I shared my thoughts on it on Instagram and why I think you should read it. I love how books have the ability to teach me about times in history that I never knew about.

Eating: Roasted Shrimp Pasta in bowls on repeat! I can’t think of a better summer dish!

Laughing: At hilarious tweets about Simone Biles. She is amazing…and so are these reactions!

Happy Friday, friends!

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

The Best Lunch Box Hacks

Thursday, August 11th, 2016

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Thank you to Rubbermaid LunchBlox® for sponsoring today’s post! 

Lunches can get a little boring in our house so today’s post will hopefully inspire you AND ME to make lunchtime more fun for our kids. Over the years, I have found a few lunch box hacks that help save me time, money, and keep our family organized. I am excited to show a few of those to you today and share our free printable to help your kids be part of the process for assisting with lunch creation.

Let’s get packing!

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Freeze Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches For The Week

My daughter’s favorite sandwich is the good ol’ PB&J. Did you know that you can freeze your sandwiches for the week instead of making them daily?

If your child’s favorite is this sandwich too, simply spread peanut butter on both slices of bread to create a wall to prevent the jelly from making your bread soggy. Smear your jelly on in the center of one slice of bread and then put the two slices together. By creating an assembly line of sandwiches for your week you only dirty up the kitchen once.

This trick is so simple that your kids can do it!

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Rethink Your Sandwich Styling

When sandwiches start to get a little boring, try making a sushi sandwich instead. Dust off that rolling pin and roll your bread out flat to create the base for your sandwich sushi. Add your child’s favorite meat and then their favorite string cheese combo. Roll it tight and slice in half.

For kids that aren’t as big of a fan of crusts or bread (I have one of those kids too!), this is a great way to get them to still eat a sandwich without investing in a pricier wrap option! Oh, and it’s sneaky- they don’t even notice the crust!

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Get Organized With a Lunchbox Station

Few things have stood the test of time in our house when it comes to organization.

Let’s just say that we are a family with great ideas, but poor execution once those ideas are in place.

There is one thing though that has helped us a lot over the years and it is a lunchbox station in our pantry. I used chalkboard labels to be able to switch our drawer categories as needed so this pantry can grow up with our kids culinary tastes.

The nice thing about having it set up this way is that kids can assist when making lunch preparations. I also love that we are able to actually see and use the items in our pantry. When loads of boxes are placed on shelves, they can often get lost in the shuffle. Having this organized helps me to not purchase duplicate items and to actually use the things we purchase.

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Get Smart Lunch Packing Solutions

Our family had been using a lot of plastic baggies and disposable items to create our lunches, but I knew we could do better.

I have seen a lot of documentaries on waste and what we are doing to our planet and we talk about it a lot with our kids. We knew improvements need to be made.

Have you seen the Rubbermaid LunchBlox® products? I hate to sound like an infomercial, but seriously these are so smartly designed! Everything snaps and fits together into one piece, including the ice pack to make putting together and pulling out your lunch a streamlined process.

I’m absolutely hooked.

Today I’m showing off their Sandwich Kits that you can find over at Target. To prevent you from my experience of walking in forty different aisles to find these, I’ll share an awesome little tip I have discovered on their site.

Rubbermaid Sandwich Kits

If you type in your store on the Target website it will pull up the exact aisle you can find these in at your store AND how many are available. If your store doesn’t have them, you can save yourself a trip and order a set (or 4 like me!!) to be delivered to your doorstep. After discovering the exact aisle, I found them over in the grocery section by the other food storage options!

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Don’t feel like you have to be limited to just sandwiches on the bottom. I have found this is a perfect place for packing a delicious meat, cheese, and cracker combo or it would even be the perfect spot for a salad.  Did I mention these are actually microwave, dishwasher, AND freezer safe? Yup. They also happen to be BPA free.

These containers aren’t just for kids though.

I can’t imagine a better way to get healthy snacks in throughout the day then this system.

Keeping fueled is just as important for adults as it is for kids.

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If packing a lunchbox to carry to work as an adult feels a little weird, I’ve got good news. They also make these really cool Rubbermaid Fasten+Go™ Sandwich Kits that are just like this system with a lid and removable strap for one-handed carrying.

Welcome to the grown-up lunchbox system!

Winning!

I picked up two of these for my husband & I and am so excited to get back to better lunches this year. We need it as much as our kiddos.

Lucky for you, there is a Cartwheel offer to save your family some money on the Rubbermaid LunchBlox® and the Rubbermaid Fasten+Go™ products! Yay! Here are some deals you can score right now!

20% Off Rubbermaid Fasten+Go™ All Items (deal available through August 13th)

5% Off Rubbermaid LunchBlox® Sandwich Kit (deal available through August 13th), 5%- https://cartwheel.target.com/offer/69011

Note: this coupon will go live on August 28th! Don’t miss it…

20% off Rubbermaid LunchBlox® (available on 08/28 through 09/03)

 

 

Lunch box helper printable

DOWNLOAD THE FREE LUNCHBOX HELPER PRINTABLE!

I hope you enjoyed these ways to make lunch easy and fun again! I hope you also enjoy our free Lunchbox Helper sheet and be sure to read this fantastic post on how you can get your kids involved in helping take the hassle out of lunch preparations!

Thank you to Rubbermaid LunchBlox® for sponsoring today’s post! 

Amy’s Notebook 08.10.16

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016

Closet workspace via I Heart Organizing

Source: I Heart Organizing

 

I’m a big fan of tiny closet offices.

Who knew you could paint leather?

9 thrillers that the Times editors think you should check out.

10 things you should purge every fall.

Now this is the way to stash bust my yarn collection- so cool!

I just disabled this on my phone after watching this.

 

Fall 2016 Capsule Wardrobe via Penny Pincher Fashion

Source: Penny Pincher Fashion

 

Items to consider for your Fall capsule wardrobe.

All 20 flavors of LaCroix ranked. I completely agree with their top choice.

Excited to read this next book from David Arnold! (affiliate link)

Are you into Stranger Things too? Check out a little behind their chosen font!

This tweet made me LOL!

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!

 

July 2016 Must-Reads

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016

July 2016 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

Going on vacation after a jam-packed busy month was just what I needed to tackle a big stack of books for July. I had a few hits and a few misses this month so I thought I would share those with you. I will be curious to hear if some of these books hit you in a different way than they did for me. Let’s talk about it!

I also usually tend to shy away from popular books, but this month I wanted some quick escapes while we were on holiday. I picked several that I know everyone will be talking about this month as well as a couple of gems I discovered that I had not heard about before. I’ve got time traveling, sci-fi, YA goodness, chick lit, and a thriller this month- hopefully, there is something for everyone!

TBR Mug

(You can get a cute mug like this for $5 with my $10 coupon!! Support an artist and acknowledge your mountain!)

Want the inside scoop on what I’m reading each week? Join our online book club where we talk about books all day every day. This is not an exaggeration! Join me!

8 Must-Read Books I Read In June

Fellside by M.R. Carey

Fellside by M.R. Carey

I was so excited to dig into M.R. Carey’s latest book since The Girl With All the Gifts is one of my favorite reads. This book was interesting, but very different than his last one. I don’t know how to explain it except by saying that it is Orange is the New Black meets The Sixth Sense.

Jess Moulson finds herself in a maximum security prison, called Fellside, after a tragic fire that not only deforms her, but kills the little boy in her apartment complex. As she deals with the grief of the crime she has committed, she is visited by the ghost of the little boy who helps her to make peace with the tragedy, but also allows her to exit her mind and body, giving her the chance to jump into the minds of the other prisoners and see what they are dreaming of.

Killing a child makes her a target at the prison, but even with the little boy’s help, it can’t protect her from the crooked system.

At almost 500 pages, the story dragged for me in the beginning and then I finally hit my pace about halfway through. It was worth reading just for the court scene and the creative twist at the end, but it requires a lot of commitment to power through the first half of this one.  If you have the time, add it to your stack!

Be sure to read my interview with M.R. Carey where we discussed his first INCREDIBLE book. That one was definitely a must-read for me! 

4 Out of 5 Stars

All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

It is difficult to find thrillers that are solid all the way through, but All the Missing Girls, truly delivers a strong thriller from start to finish. This is Miranda’s first novel for adults (she had previously been writing just for young adults) and shines as one of the best thrillers I have read this summer.

This story is told backwards from Day 15 to Day 1 as the mystery of a missing girl, named Annaleise, is trying to be solved by local police.  As luck would have it, the main character (Nic) has been through a missing person case before when her best friend Corinne went missing, a decade ago, and no one ever heard from her again. Her family goes under scrutiny once again as they try to figure out where Annaleise has gone.

You are taken down a bumpy road as these two cases collide in shocking ways and everyone is suspect. Reading in reverse chronological order is a challenge for a reader and reading it digitally made it more difficult to page back to figure out where these sections came together. I would recommend reading this one as a good old-fashioned book to really pull the storyline together in a way that you can really grasp.

If you enjoyed, In a Dark, Dark Wood or Luckiest Girl Alive, I have a feeling you will really enjoy this twisty book and trying to solve the case of these missing girls. If you are like me, you really won’t know until the final pages what these family secrets hold.

5 Out of 5 Stars

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

Described as Cloud Atlas meets Orphan BlackA Thousand Pieces of You is the first in the planned trilogy (the third book releases in November!) from Claudia Gray. This book is EVERYTHING that you may have felt like you have been missing since the Hunger Games trilogy.

Marguerite is the daughter of two scientists that have found a way to unlock different dimensions through a high-tech necklace, called the Firebird, which gives you a chance to step into alternate worlds (past & present).

Marguerite’s father is murdered and the murderer turns out to be a trusted lab assistant who has used the Firebird to leave and hop in another dimension. Hot on his heels though are Marguerite and Theo, another research assistant on the team to try to avenge his death.

What unfolds is time travel magic as Marguerite plays a game of cat and mouse from one dimension to another. Stepping back in time and then moving through the future, the reader is taken through each dimension as Marguerite tries to find Paul. What she doesn’t expect is the awaiting love triangle or the truth behind her father’s death in a surprising little twist.

I DEVOURED this story and fell in love with each of these characters- I can’t rave enough.

If you are screening YA books for a teen, there is a sex scene in this one (mildly done), language (mildly done), and references to the struggle-is-real about periods.

I read this one through Scribd (if you happen to use that service too). I can’t recommend this one enough for a sweet YA escape and have already reserved the second book at my library!

5 Out of 5 Stars

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

Ware’s debut, In a Dark, Dark Wood, was so fantastic that I couldn’t wait to dig into her second thriller. The Woman in Cabin 10 feels a bit like a Hitchcock film or a finely crafted Agatha Christie murder mystery. Playing into the unreliable narrator theme, that seems to be so popular these days, Lo Blacklock is dealing with anxiety following a break in at her home. Assigned to cover a boutique cruise ship for a travel magazine, Lo believes she witnesses a murder in the cabin next to hers.

When she reports it and starts investigating what has happened, someone is not too happy about it, creating an already unhinged woman into a state of even more heightened anxiety. As a reader, this whodunit murder mystery was solid all the way through and kept me guessing until the final pages.

Be sure to check out my interview with Ruth Ware as we discuss her debut, In a Dark, Dark Wood!

4 Out of 5 Stars

Truly Madly Guilty

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

I was so excited when this book came into our library since I enjoyed Big Little Lies so much. Moriarty follows the same formula as she did with her last book, setting up a tragic event that happens at a neighborhood cookout and the implications that happen from the tragedy. Perhaps it is because she uses the exact same setup as Big Little Lies, this one felt a little too formulaic and I felt like I knew what to anticipate from the very beginning.

I feel bad saying this, while this tragedy was sad, the build-up of the first half of the book makes it feel much larger than it was and just wasn’t worth all the suspense of over two hundred pages of setting you up. Although the first half moved swiftly for me, the second half REALLY dragged as the author tries to pull all the loose strings together in a fairly predictable way. The only good parts were some of the layers added to some of the characters (a daughter of a hoarder, a grumpy neighbor with a sad past, the stripper who changed her life due to a generous client).

This would be an enjoyable beach read, but was not my favorite read from her.  I wouldn’t qualify this one as a must-read, but I did want to include it for the Moriarty fans!

3 Out of 5 Stars

First Comes Love by Emily Giffin

First Comes Love by Emily Giffin

I was so excited to dig into Giffin’s latest book even though her last one was one that I had abandoned. First Comes Love really brings the charm that Something Borrowed had captured in her writing as she explores the complexities of a relationship between sisters.

When their brother is tragically taken from them, Meredith & Josie’s lives pull into two different paths following his death. Meredith seems to have it all with the perfect marriage, a great career, and a child. Josie remains single, after her first love has moved on, and decides to take her life down a different path to raise a child in a less conventional way. Of course, neither story is as it fully seems and Josie carries around a secret that threatens her (already) failing relationship with her sister about the night of her brother’s accident.

This one is a satisfying read from start to finish and a pleasure to read! I absolutely loved it!

4 Out of 5 Stars

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

I enjoyed Dark Matter so much last month that I couldn’t wait to dive into another sci-fi thriller. Sleeping Giants sounded like an interesting premise for a book and had comparisons to, The Martian, which I had really enjoyed. Unfortunately, I think this one lacked the charm that The Martian had, making the comparison a little bit of a stretch for me.

This book opens with a girl riding her new bike and happens to fall into a hole on her ride. When the firemen come to rescue her, she is being held in the palm of a steel hand in a square-shaped hole. Seventeen years later, the mystery of where this artifact is from is still unknown. This girl, now a doctor,  decides to pull together a team to figure out the mystery and what it could potentially mean for humanity. Told mostly in interview format, with an unnamed interrogator, it is a quick novel to breeze through for a sci-fi escape.

I have to say though that this was not a captivating read for me. I didn’t enjoy reading the story through interviews and the writing felt a little cheesy at times. I was hoping for an action-packed book with this robot, but it seemed to focus more on the political angle than the fact that these people possessed a killer robot that could wipe out humanity. Some of the motives of these characters felt forced (I won’t give anything away), but didn’t make sense for me as a reader. I am wondering if the action is going to happen in the second book, due to be released in April of next year.

That said, it is the first book that my husband, son, and I ALL read (appropriate for a 14 year-old boy, for sure!) and so it gave us something fun to talk about. The guys seemed to enjoy it more than me so if you are looking to do a mother & son book club (how fun would that be?), this is definitely one you could read together!

3 Out of 5 Stars

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

A small town is filled with gaps where the world looks differently and even the corn has a voice. When a kidnapping happens and the only witness can’t give descriptions to what the kidnapper looked like, the town’s whispers taint his reputation. He is determined to redeem himself (and the taken girl) and sets out on an adventure to get her back. He must fall into these mystical gaps to find her and the truth is revealed on why he could never fully see her captor.

I am such a big fan of magical realism in literature and this book delivers that so beautifully. The imagery that the author creates through words is astounding!  I really enjoyed this unique story and I think you will too if you are looking for a magical escape!

4 Out of 5 Stars

 

July 2016 Must-Reads

Read With Me This Year:

January Must-Reads

February Must-Reads

March Must-Reads

April Must-Reads

May Must-Reads

June Must-Reads

July 2016 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

What should I be adding to my library bag?  Leave your suggestions in the comments below! Looking for book ideas? Check out our entire Book section of the site! Don’t forget to friend me on GoodReads! xo

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though.

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Tech Monitoring In Those Middle School Years

Monday, August 8th, 2016

monitoring-tech-time-with-older-kids

This post is brought to you by CJ Affiliate’s VIP Content Service. Thank you to Norton by Symantec for sponsoring today’s post!

I have tried to live in an honest place as we have disclosed over the years our family’s struggles with filtering web content for our kids and creating a healthy balance of online and offline time. I admit, in these lazy days of summer, I have become a little less stiff with the rules. One thing that will not change though is the need to monitor what sites my kids are visiting. Today I want to talk a little bit about how we monitor tech time in the middle school years.

You see, this is a big transition year for us as parents because we have moved out of the elementary school years and are jumping into middle school. It’s the time where we are letting our oldest have a phone and where the kids are asking to build their own social media presence.

With a mom as a blogger and their father working as a web consultant, you would think we would be really cool about this stuff…but we aren’t.

I don’t feel bad about the overprotection at all though.

The things that they do on social media and the things they are viewing online can often do more harm than good. It can even follow them into adulthood as they are job seeking. I have big dreams for these two and I want to protect them as long as I can.

Although we have many procedures in place for their handheld devices, the content they have been viewing on the computers has been our biggest hurdle. My husband spends evening hours going through their web history and clicking to see what they have been up to. This requires many clicks to Minecraft music videos and hair tutorials.

Isn’t that how every dad wants to spend his time?

I’m pretty sure we would rather be drinking wine and binging on Netflix together.

Since we have been in the trenches with this for some time, I wanted to share with you things that we have been doing to try to do a better job with monitoring our middle school kids on the internet.

Call Family Meetings- Many family meetings have been called in our home as we do our best to monitor our kid’s technology time. Sometimes the kids want to call their own family meetings to revisit rules and sometimes we have to hold family meetings because rules have been broken.

As parents we are always striving to keep the communication lines open. Whenever we add new security measures or revisit the rules of technology in our home, we want to offer that kind of support and communication (even if they don’t always like the rules we are devising). Making them feel like active participants in the decision-making is really important to both of us.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help on Setting Time Guidelines- When we were struggling to establish the right guidelines for our children, our family consulted with a child psychologist to see what time limits would work best. His advice was one hour of tech time on school nights and two hours on weekends/vacations. We have done our best to adhere to these guidelines to create a good balance of tech time and real-life time together.

Tech Monitoring In Those Middle School Years from MomAdvice.com

Install Internet Monitoring Software to Keep Them Safe- Although we have felt in control of handheld devices, we have felt less in control of the sites they were visiting on our computer. Often the restrictions installed where inhibiting us from doing our own work so we needed a solution that could help keep them safe (and our computers- more on that soon!)

Norton Security Premium

Norton by Symantec sent us a Norton Security Standard membership offering a year protection on ten devices in our home. This version of Norton also includes their family-friendly features (which you can purchase a la carte. We have been using it for the last month and we are both pleasantly surprised at the filtering it can do for web content. This security system goes way beyond just time restriction.

Norton Web Supervision

Norton Security offers another level of web supervision, allowing your kids to explore the web safely by blocking content that you deem unsafe.   It also offers a lot more depth into their search history,  allowing you to see words and phrases your kids are searching. This can help you to see what they are interested in as well as keep on top of  the inappropriate stuff to block.  In fact, you can see it all at a glance. Check out that screenshot above to see the info that will now be right at your fingertips.

Norton Time Management

Want to monitor time usage? Norton can do that for you too!

Just as important as all of that though, once your service is activated, you also have location supervision to monitor your child’s location on your Android & iOS devices so you can see where your kid is (and if they are where they are saying they are going to be- ahem!).  Please note, this option is available only in the US, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand & Japan. The iOS features are available just in the US.

The pricing on all that for the first year costs $49.99 and subsequent years are $99.99. They offer a variety of packages though for your needs including the Norton Security Deluxe (for 5 devices) and the Norton Security Standard (1 device)

Keep Your Computers Safe- Tragically, our computer died last month (R.I.P.) and its tragic death is because of the vulnerability of these computers as our kids played games and (unknowingly) loaded our computers up with malware. My husband had to buy a new computer and we are now relying on Norton to block all the malware.

This installation did not slow down our computers at all and it protects them from the daily Roblox malware attack.  It’s a welcome sight not to see my homepage screen changed or a bunch of random video pop-ups that I can never shut down now off our computer thanks to this security measure. For us, protecting our computers is important for our work and Norton can save us a lot of money to keep these computers functioning at their optimal performance.

To learn more about Norton by Symantec products, visit the Learning Center.

Model the Kind of Behavior You Want to See From Them- My husband & I have to be on our computers and devices a lot for work, our kids know that. This is how we pay our bills. The thing is, we can always do better. By doing a better job with this, we can teach them that social media does not need to be the center of our world. Having a clear work day schedule end time and getting the heck off the computer is now my priority.

These years? Precious. My people? They are precious too and far more precious than any social media interactions that I might be indulging in. I need to show them that and model that for them so they can do that for their own people someday!

Let’s chat! Do you have any tips for tech time monitoring? I’d love hear how you are doing this with your family!

This post is brought to you by CJ Affiliate’s VIP Content Service. Thank you to Norton by Symantec for sponsoring today’s post!

DIY Fabric Bulletin Board Tutorial

Friday, August 5th, 2016

DIY Fabric Bulletin Board Tutorial from MomAdvice.com

This post was created in partnership with Waverly Inspirations. Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site! 

What’s one of the things I dread the most about the new school year?

The papers.

Everywhere.

All the time.

Hey, wasn’t there a kitchen counter here at one point?

In honor of back to school, I wanted to create a place where all those papers, awards, and fun art projects can be displayed so we can all reclaim our counters. Today  I’m making a gorgeous giant fabric bulletin board for the perfect paper storage spot for you or your kiddos. If you haven’t made a diy fabric bulletin board before, you are going to love this simple tutorial that even your big kids can do (with a little help from mom on the stapling!).

Waverly Inspirations Fabric- Paris Print

When I saw this month’s fabric selections from Waverly Inspirations (found at Walmart!), I  kept getting this print out to gaze at it. I just knew there was no way I could not put this in some kind of display especially since my little girl has an obsession with Paris.

I mean, so obsessed she’s been working on teaching herself French this summer.

We really wanted to let this magical fabric be on display in her room.

(PS- She also said she is the beautiful girl in the print with a dress and I am the old lady on the bench.  Thank you, Em- insert crazy-eyed emoji!).

DIY Fabric Bulletin Board Tutorial from MomAdvice.com

Supplies Needed to Make A Fabric Covered Bulletin Board

1- Frameless Bulletin Board (found this in the office supplies of the store!)

Upholstery Stapler

Upholstery Staples

Trim (I purchased 2- 3 yard packages to cover this board)

Your choice of matching Waverly Inspirations Fabric (measure the dimensions of your bulletin board to figure out yardage!)

Fabric Rotary Cutter

Rotary Mat

Hot Glue Gun & glue sticks

Optional (but fun!)- Waverly Paints, Fabric Button Kits, and scrap fabric

DIY Fabric Bulletin Board Tutorial from MomAdvice.com

Directions for Making a Fabric Covered Bulletin Board

DIY Fabric Bulletin Board Tutorial from MomAdvice.com

1. Make sure to press out any wrinkles in your fabric before beginning. Next, lay your fabric right-side out over the bulletin board, making sure to position the pattern so that it has nice straight lines.

DIY Fabric Bulletin Board Tutorial from MomAdvice.com

DIY Fabric Bulletin Board Tutorial from MomAdvice.com

2. After you have centered the fabric, flip the bulletin board over and begin pulling one long side tight to staple it directly into the framing on the back of the board. The most important thing is HOLD TIGHT to create that beautifully smooth surface. Repeat this on the other long side and then fold in the tops, creating neatly folded corners (just as you would with wrapping a package, making sure you are holding tight on each side. Did I mention, hold tight?

DIY Fabric Bulletin Board Tutorial from MomAdvice.com

3. You can now trim the excess fabric around the back of the frame. I lined my rotary mat right up to the edge and trimmed with the fabric rotary cutter. You could just just eyeball it and use a pair of scissors if you don’t have these two items in your craft supplies.

DIY Fabric Bulletin Board Tutorial from MomAdvice.com

DIY Fabric Bulletin Board Tutorial from MomAdvice.com

4. Finish your piece with your choice of trim. I loved the waviness in this one to add a decorative edge. I lined up and glued the two long sides first and then finished by gluing the shorter sides over, creating an overlapped corner. Play around with this with your own favorite trims and ribbons- the possibilities on that are endless.

DIY Fabric Bulletin Board Tutorial from MomAdvice.com

DIY Fabric Bulletin Board Tutorial from MomAdvice.com

DIY Fabric Bulletin Board Tutorial from MomAdvice.com

5. Finish with your choice of cute decorations. My daughter had fun painting wooden thumbtacks to match the color scheme and if you haven’t used a button making kit before, it is a blast and such a fun way to use up any scraps of fabric (all the instructions are on the back of the packaging!). We glued these buttons on to the thumbtacks to create decorative tacks for our papers.

DIY Fabric Bulletin Board Tutorial from MomAdvice.com

DIY Fabric Bulletin Board Tutorial from MomAdvice.com

We hope you find this idea inspiring for getting organized for another school year! I loved my daughter’s so much, I made one for myself to keep all my work projects organized. This craft can be done in less than an hour (even with making your own fabric tacks!).

Happy crafting!

This post was created in partnership with Waverly Inspirations. Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site! 

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