It’s the 3 Little Things: No Cooking All Week, a New Netflix Addiction, & Hotel Deliveries

September 18th, 2015

Madewell Dress

I hope you all had a wonderful week this week! It has been so good to be home since getting back from our vacation and I have been staying up way too late reading this adorable book- have you read it?  I also had the pleasure of speaking at the Staff Day at our local library yesterday about my experience growing my blog audience which was so lovely! I have been working on the next capsule wardrobe for Fall and thought I would show you a sneak peek at this incredible Madewell dress I found on thredUP (for only $25.92!) that I wore to speak in yesterday.  It’s going to be such a workhorse and I love that it has the mandatory pockets that are required for a good dress.

Not to brag, but I got this in the mail which is really surreal to see all your hard work packaged up with your name on it. I’m super excited about seeing my knitted boot cuffs kit hitting JoAnn’s nationwide in November from Hazel & Ruby.

Here are 3 other things that are making me happy this week!

The MomAdvice Make-Ahead

I Haven’t Cooked Since Sunday

Last Sunday I decided to try work on making some food ahead (I documented what I made over here) and see how this would work with our family. I am so happy to report that we didn’t eat out once this week (although I did sneak in a glass of wine with my girlfriends) thanks to my stocked fridge.  Other than steaming some vegetables and making my gluten-free noodles, it has been a simple process of reheating our food each night. We have eaten almost everything I have prepared and we have eaten really well. I actually feel a lot better because we have been eating so well so I am excited to try and tackle this ahead again this weekend.

I am really pleased about the decrease in food waste which is something that has bothered me a lot over the years. I hate wasting food and wasting my money and having things prepared help us actually eat them before they went bad.

For our family, this combo was a win this week.


Another Netflix Addiction to Binge On

While we had our evenings free on our vacation my husband and I caught several episodes of the This is Life series with Lisa Ling. I would call this an adult version of MTV’s True Life series as it tackles pockets of America that you may not be aware of or things happening in society that we are afraid to talk about. Most of the topics are pretty controversial, but it has led to some really great discussions after they are over about how we feel about certain things.

One of the most compelling was episode #5 called, “The Genius Experiment,” where she explores an exclusive sperm bank that offered specimens from highly intelligent donors in the 80’s and she visits a family who had three children from these donors and what they are like now. It was pretty incredible and gave me a lot of food for thought.  I’m looking forward to watching the rest of these episodes in this series soon!


Hotel Room Deliveries

While we were in Florida, I was a little concerned about having enough snacks, water, and sunscreen for the week. Since we were only packing carry-on luggage, I had the genius idea to utilize our Amazon Prime membership for a Prime Pantry delivery to our hotel room. For a flat shipping rate of $5.99, I was able to get everything ordered and shipped to our room for a fraction of the price we would have paid at our hotel. Look at this price on water (CRAZY cheap!)  We had everything from boxed cereal to sunblock to Larabars shipped right to the hotel. The packages beat us there and we had everything in our room before we had even unloaded our suitcase.

Since this was my first Prime Pantry delivery, I was a little worried if everything might get crushed in route, but it was beautifully and minimally packaged- not a crushed box in sight! I highly recommend trying this if you are traveling to Disney or Universal to save a little cash!

*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?

A Night Owl’s Tips for Better Mornings

September 17th, 2015

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

Night Owl's Tips for Better Mornings

I set my alarm for 6:30 this morning. But when I realized I was putting away my book at 1:30, I decided I’d better turn it off. Luckily (and not commonly) my girls slept past 8:00 – which meant I didn’t get the early start on my day I’d hoped for and needed. I didn’t get that email sent or the laundry changed or – I’m the saddest about this one – the shower taken.

No, instead it was another morning full of chaos and rushing around, shouting at one daughter to brush her teeth and make up her bed now, now, now then frantically rustling through the fridge and pantry to find something to pack in the other one’s lunch. I got my contacts in but no makeup on and just enough deodorant to [hopefully] prolong anyone noticing my lack of shower. And the house? Well, it was a victim of one more hectic and hurried morning, with papers covering the table and dishes filling the sink.

Don’t even ask me about the laundry.

I’m not a morning person, you guys. Like, AT ALL. When I was a little girl, my dad worked the evening shift so I stayed up very late with my mom. You know, watching M*A*S*H and Barney Miller and Taxi, like most three-year-olds? It made sense for my family and I only blame my parents for my night owl ways in jest. Really, it’s just how I’m wired and what I prefer. Nights are my favorites; mornings are the worst.

But I can’t argue with science. And evidence. And facts or whatever. [Yes. This is how immature and disgruntled I am when discussing the benefits of early mornings. I’m not even going to try hiding it!] Studies have shown (and early birds have bragged) that people who get up early are more successful. Studies have probably shown that they’re happier and thinner and more organized and always send their Christmas cards on time, too. I’m not sure about that part; it just seems like something morning people would say.

Sigh. I can joke all I want, but the truth remains that mornings are made for productivity and sanity and a life that runs smoother than what I experienced this morning (and so many others). And it’s with these frustrating facts in mind that despite my night owl ways, I am constantly trying to get up earlier.

I’ve told you all this because I don’t want to make it seem like I have it all together, like I’m some sort of morning expert (ha!), like my mornings actually couldn’t GET any better. That is the opposite of the truth. So if you are longing for better mornings in your life and your house, you’re not alone. I’m with you, and here are some things I’ve tried in the past and plan to try in the near future.

(I mean, probably not tomorrow morning because I’m writing this post late at night. But maybe the day after that?)


A Night Owl’s Tips for Better Mornings

For Getting to Bed Earlier:

  • Stop reading mid-chapter. If you are a late-night reader like me, this tip from Modern Mrs. Darcy is crucial. Don’t fall prey to the wily ways of authors. They make those chapter endings cliffhangers on purpose, friends! They want you to stay up all night reading! They do not want you to be presentable or coherent in the morning. So foil them and your night owl-ness by stopping in the middle of a chapter.
  • Wind down with mundane tasks (fold laundry, empty the dishwasher, balance your checkbook). I seem to get a second wind right before bedtime, when I realize the clock isn’t kidding about how late it’s gotten. Which might be great for getting a few more things accomplished before falling into bed…but isn’t so great for turning off my brain and falling asleep. So I save the harder tasks that require more brainpower for earlier in the day.
  • Keep a notebook by bed. In case your brain still won’t turn off. Or in case your best ideas show up at the worst times.

For Making the Most of Your Mornings:

Sure, sure, get up earlier. Maybe try baby steps and set your alarm just a few minutes earlier each day. But in case getting up earlier is as hard for you as it is for me, here are a few ideas for milking the minutes before the day starts, few as they may be.

  • Work in advance. Make lunches, choose outfits, pack bags and find paperwork before you even go to bed.
  • Exercise at night. (Unless it keeps you awake and then never mind.)
  • Shower at night. (Same exception as above.)
  • Fix breakfast before you need it. Take an hour or so each week to make a batch of breakfast muffins or casserole – or smoothies (my most recent obsession).

For Making the Start a Little Less Painful:

  • Don’t check your email. Or Facebook or Twitter or whatever it is you look at when you grab it as you roll out of bed. Don’t do that. (I’m talking to myself, if you hadn’t guessed!)
  • Keep the TV off. Or turn it on. Whatever works for you – but make sure you’ve thought about what actually works for you (as opposed to simply turning it on out of habit). (Then again, if your toddler wakes up saying, “Poopy! Dressed! Mommy! DANIEL!” then you might have to find an episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood no matter your preferences…)
  • Give a hug. More than one of my friends swears by The Hugging Method. Okay, fine, I don’t know if it’s actually called that, but they start their kids’ days with a 10-second hug. For their families, it makes a world of difference in how they all approach the start of a new day. One of these days my grumpy morning self is going to give this a try.
  • Get a drink. I’m one of those weirdos who doesn’t love coffee. (I know. I KNOW this might be why I am so bad at mornings. I know!) But I do know that drinking a big glass of cold water goes a long way toward waking me up and shaking off the groggy haze of I Stayed Up Too Late Again.

So, tell me: am I alone in being a night owl who struggles with mornings? How do YOU create better mornings?


Photos by Henrique Simplicio and Alex via Flickr’s Creative Commons.


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Amy’s Notebook 09.16.15

September 16th, 2015

BLT via Joy the Baker

Source: Joy The Baker


BLT craving starts now.

31 crockpot freezer meals for busy weeknights.

7 eye-opening lessons learned from buying nothing new for 200 days.

Traditional Seafood Paella recipe- someone please make me this!

9 fall fashion trends – will you wear them?

The rules of Instagram- made me giggle!

How to reheat chicken and keep the skin crispy.

Decorative objects for styling for under $50.

I can’t stop laughing at these texts!

Ways to wear a cargo jacket.

Service Projects for Kids via Coffee Cups and Crayons

Source: Coffee Cups & Crayons


11 service projects kids can do – perfect for families to do together!

5 vegetarian grain bowls for a week of winning fall dinners.

Okay. I’m getting a Costco membership now.

Upgrade your PB&J.

I love a colorful wardrobe!

Now this is a family business I can get behind.

Yes please! Moscow Mule Jello Shots.

I love time travel.

A good reminder when upgrading your phone.

A super dark Friends theory- what do you think about that?

Great advice for talking to your daughter about puberty!

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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Berry Quinoa Parfait

September 15th, 2015

Quinoa is such a perfect, protein-rich way to start your mornings, I just knew I’d need to share this Berry Quinoa Parfait with you again as a part of our M Challenge Focus on Better Mornings. I know that when you start the day with one of these delicious parfaits, it really will be better!

Berry Quinoa Parfait from

I love berries and today I am showing off a delicious gluten-free Berry Quinoa Parfait that you can enjoy in any season with fresh or frozen berries. Walmart asked me to showcase a fun new idea that you can do with berries and I knew that this would be the ticket.

Since going gluten-free, I have learned that the key to beating hunger pains (without eating gluten-free junk food) is a protein packed meal or snack. Quinoa is one of my favorite foods whether it is just cooked as a basic, in a yummy Greek Quinoa Salad, in my favorite Lemony Spinach & Tomato Quinoa Salad, in my Quinoa Berry Bowl, or even using those quinoa flakes in my Pumpkin Nut Quinoa Breakfast.

Combining the protein power of quinoa with the protein power of Greek yogurt makes this healthy treat more filling. Did you know that a typical 6-ounce serving of Greek yogurt contains 15 to 20 grams of protein? That is approximately the equivalent of two to three ounces of lean meat.  Just as a reference, one cup of cooked quinoa (185 g) contains 8.14 grams of protein, which means the quinoa paired with the Greek yogurt definitely will help you feel fuller longer. 

Not to be outdone, berries have many health benefits, but the biggest health benefit is the antioxidants that they have which help you fight off illnesses. Berries are filled with potent antioxidants that can help with arthritis, age-related memory loss, and cataracts and other eyesight problems. They also are said to assist with weight-loss because they are filled with so much water. 

A sprinkle of toasted slivered almonds adds the perfect finishing touch since almonds are a great source of vitamin E, copper, magnesium, and (as if you needed more!) they are another great protein source.

Berry Quinoa Parfait from

If you haven’t tried quinoa in a sweet dish, it is just as delicious and satisfying as it is in a savory dish. It reminds me a little of one of my favorite dishes… rice pudding.  To add to its sweetness, I cooked it in a little vanilla and with a little dash of cinnamon. Make sure that you allow the quinoa to cool before adding it to the yogurt. Once you have made your assembly line of treats, wrap each one in plastic wrap and pop it in the fridge for a healthy snack after your workout or as a healthy dessert with your family.

Berry Quinoa Parfait from

Berry Quinoa Parfait
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
A gluten-free protein-packed parfait that is both healthy and satisfying. Try this fun new idea to enjoy your fresh berries this summer.
  • ½ cup quinoa
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 cup (or more) of your favorite berries, fresh or frozen (I love blueberries & strawberries)
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds, lightly toasted
  • Mint leaves (optional)
  1. Use my directions for cooking quinoa as a basic (linked to above) or follow package directions adding the vanilla and cinnamon to your water. Allow to cool.
  2. Mix the greek yogurt and honey together in a small bowl.
  3. Using a spoon add a ⅓ of the yogurt mixture into your glass.
  4. Top with ⅓ of sliced strawberries and blueberries then add ⅓ of the quinoa. Sprinkle with toasted almonds.
  5. Repeat with the remaining yogurt, berries, quinoa and almonds until you have three layers.
  6. Finish with your mint leaves.

Looking for more great berry ideas? Check out these Baked Strawberry Donuts, my Blueberry Sangria Lemonade, these 8 unique blueberry recipe ideas, & (of course!) a guide to freezing your berries this year! Happy berry-eating!



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Parenting a Child With ADD: Working With Your School

September 15th, 2015

Parenting a Child With ADD: Working With Your School

With my son’s blessing & permission, we are sharing our story of what is like to have & be the parent of a child with ADD in this continuing series. To read Part One of our diagnosis story, click here.  Part 2 continued the diagnosis and treatment process!  Today we tackle working with the schools! We welcome your comments and hope our story helps other families facing the same challenges.

I think one of the biggest challenges for me as a parent wasn’t just the treatment process, but more the stigma and worry about what having a label like ADD can do.  Before we dealt with this, I had always thought of this as kids being crazy (and probably indulging in too much sugar), but ADD/ADHD can be so different for each kid. Maybe you had an idea for that label too? It isn’t always necessarily hyper kids- I don’t think I would have identified my child as that. In each child, it looks a little differently with similar characteristic traits.

Today I want to talk about how we tried to set Ethan up for success at school.  I already told you, this kid is SMART (he gets it from his daddy!), but we needed to get certain tools and people in place to help him be the star that we know he is!

Parenting a Child With ADD: Working With Your School

Start Talking Early

We knew that Ethan was struggling at school and we felt like we needed to let our teacher know that we were working really hard to improve things for him and hopefully for her too! I set up a meeting with the principal and his teacher and tearfully explained that we were working with our doctor and were in the process of figuring things out and asked for a little patience until we had some answers. They both were genuinely kind and sympathetic as we were floundering to figure out how to help Ethan.  Looping them in early bought us a little grace during the diagnosis process because they knew we were trying very hard to make things better for all the parties involved.

Once we had a diagnosis, we were able to begin making the accommodations necessary through our public school system and our principal explained how we could get a 504 for Ethan in place once we had this paperwork. Depending on your needs, you may need an IEP or a 504.  If you are trying to figure out what you need, I love this table that breaks down what each of these means on Understood (a great resource for parents!). At times, with speech services we needed an IEP. When speech was dropped, we just needed the 504. It depends on what type of accommodations your family needs to determine which type of paperwork is filed.

What The Heck is a 504?

Once we had the official paperwork from the testing with our diagnosis, we put a plan in place for Ethan.  We set up a meeting with the principal, his teacher, and with someone who could set up something called a 504 plan for him. A 504 is basically a blueprint or plan for how a child will have access to learning at school that is written together.  It provides services and changes to the learning environment to meet the needs of the child as adequately as other students and is provided at no cost to you.

Here is the thing… I did not want to ask for special favors or inconvenience our teacher, but I knew that there were things that really needed to happen so that Ethan could perform successfully at school. It pained me to ask for “favors” (I am a big people pleaser and hate being a bother to people), but I knew this could help him so much!

Our 504 has pretty much remained the same since elementary school with a few tweaks here and there for his accommodations.

We Need To Be In the Loop- Our biggest issue was that we felt in the dark about what needed to happen during the day and if the teacher needed something from us. We asked that Ethan write in his agenda daily what needed to happen and requested the teacher initial to verify everything so we weren’t missing important papers and deadlines anymore. We also asked that any further communication that she wanted to do with us also was on the agenda so we could be sure not to miss anything.

We Need Access to Quiet Spaces Sometimes- Some classrooms are rowdier than others. He had a hard time focusing when there was a lot going on and we wanted to be sure that he could take advantage of a quieter room if he needed it. This is something we only have cashed in on once, but it’s nice to have in place.

We Asked for A Little Grace on Late Papers- This is never to be abused, but sometimes our disorganization has caused us to be late on assignments. We just asked for grace, particularly transitioning into our new school routines since having zeros for late assignments could really lower his grades.

We Need Extra Time At the End of the Day- This was particularly important as we headed into middle school so that he had enough time to get his books and papers gathered and organized before getting on the bus. That extra 5-10 minutes made an enormous difference in our organizational level and our grades. I think this was the best thing we asked for!

Where Does the 504 Go?

For us, one of our biggest transitions was going from an elementary school setting to a middle school setting. Although we had communicated with his teachers that he had ADD, we did not know that we need to communicate with the middle school that he had a 504 from elementary school and that we wanted to make sure everything was set with it moving forward into our new school. If there is one thing we learned through this process, we learned that we need to check in every year about this and make sure that it is communicated with his teachers. The first year of middle school taught us a lot about making requests known as we were struggling to even pass because the accommodations weren’t there.

What ends up being the difference in the grades if the 504 is not addressed?

We went from barely pulling C’s to High Principal’s Honor Roll!

That’s an incredible difference for a child and for their family.

It’s also an incredible difference in my child’s confidence about himself.

Parenting a Child With ADD: Working With Your School

How Can I Continue Making His Day Better?

Not only do we have the 504 in place for Ethan, but we take advantage of anything that the school offers that can continue improving those grades and helping him feel confident.

Confidence is such an important thing for a kid.

When our middle school offered free tutoring, we took advantage of that so he could stay after school and tackle that homework with help. We found that he was more productive in that environment than he was riding the bus trying to work on his homework when he got home.

We also looked into ways that he could burn off energy in a positive way. We were lucky enough to have gotten the scoop on cross country in middle school from another mom and this helped Ethan burn off some energy and be a part of a team that really fit with his personality.  I love that his coach focuses on each child doing their own personal best and that he has managed to find fun ways to encourage my child to run with a system of great rewards that Ethan finds motivating. We also love that running is an activity he can always do when he needs to burn off a little steam at home. What a great gift!

I wrote a special note to his coach to thank him for all he does to encourage our son because it has meant so much to us and to Ethan. His positive influence has been a big gift to our family.

How Can I Set My Kid Up for Success?

Success at school starts at home. I can do all of these incredible things for him through the people he interacts with at school, but if I am disorganized at home, those repercussions follow Ethan and make his day hard. It’s a team mentality and I struggle each year as the new school year starts. I can barely keep myself organized most days, let alone stay on top of someone else’s stuff too!

As a parent, I have to make sure that I communicate with his teachers from day one, I have to make sure the appropriate paperwork is filed on his 504, and I have to be the one to stay on top of everything with his homework and projects.

Being organized at home is important because it can be the difference between a good day and a bad day for my son.

As he gets older though, I am trying to push a little more back to him. Someday he will be an adult and he won’t have a mom setting everything up for him in his workplace and in his home. I want to raise a self-sufficient child so I have to do my part to help him do that. Sometimes he will do great with it, sometimes he won’t.

We don’t expect perfection, we are proud of him for trying and doing the best he can.

We certainly aren’t perfect either.

Parenting a Child With ADD: Working With Your School

The Nagging Mom Transformation

I needed to work on my nagging as much as Ethan needed to work on better habits.

In the morning, the routine was the same:

Do you have your papers?

Did you get your agenda signed?

Did you do your homework?

Do you have your gym clothes?

(said in a nagging mom voice)

I started utilizing a checklist that I would sit by his backpack to go through and would just remind him to check his checklist in the morning instead of the daily nag. I turned off my own distractions and just focused on a good breakfast and building that kid up at the bus stop. I made more time for hugs and less time for Facebook-checking. I tried to tell him one thing I was proud of him each day. All of this has become such a part of my routine that I don’t think about it anymore.

I don’t think this makes me an amazing mom and I don’t say this to brag, I just say this because part of the transformation of this diagnosis is the transforming I had to do on myself.  I had to see the psychologist so I knew how to respond to my child better. I have to invest the time monthly in check-ups and making sure his medical needs are addressed. I have to communicate with the school staff so they know I care. I have to make room in our schedule for activities that make my son feel confident.

It has all been worth it.




I hope that sharing this story offers some encouragement to you. As a blogger, there is a difficult balance that we have to deal with when sharing about our families. I shared this because I felt so very alone in this process and I know our story can help others.

If you are working through this with your child, I want you to know that you are not alone and that you are a good mom.

The process of discovery, diagnosis, and treatment can be transformative for a family.

Your process might look different than mine or you might explore other avenues than we did. Each family must figure out what works best for them.

I have found I was a much harsher judge of other moms before this experience. Now I just look at all of our different paths (with all those winding turns) and say, “I am so proud of you for doing what’s best for you!”

If there is anything I have learned from this experience it is that it takes a village.

I am so thankful for mine.


The MomAdvice Make Ahead

September 14th, 2015

The MomAdvice Make Ahead

Wow, I can’t believe our family’s Choose Your Own Adventure trip has finally been fulfilled! It was such an incredible vacation (equal parts busy and equal parts R&R)  that I’m looking forward to sharing more about it with you this week! In the meantime, I have been knee deep in laundry, grocery shopping to replenish the very empty fridge, and I have been doing some food prep this week to try to get ahead.

I hope to try and doing a little making ahead each week since our family life has gotten quite busy between dance lessons, cross country meets/practice, and instrument lessons.  I shared this photo on Instagram and had a few people ask me how I made certain things for the week so I thought maybe sharing it here so you could not only hold me accountable (something I can always use), but I hope it might inspire you to get a little ahead during your busy weeks!  I must say that Shutterbean has been such an inspiration to me in this department-have you read this post on make-ahead planning? I also love to follow along with her hashtag to think of new ideas that I can do ahead in my kitchen!

The biggest thing for me is my desire to decrease the amount of food waste we have in our house. If things are pulled together, frozen, and incorporated into our dishes, there is less chance of those items going to waste in our home.

For me, it’s also less about menu-planning and more about thoughtful preparations that can be pulled together for the week ahead whether it is breakfast, lunch, or dinner. For menu-planning advice, I’m An Organizing Junkie is a pioneer for Menu Planning Mondays where you can gather so much good stuff each week and you can start brainstorming what you can make ahead for your meals each week.

Here is what I got ready for our crazy activities week!

The MomAdvice Make-Ahead

Gluten-Free Chicken Noodle Soup (Prepared minus the noodles- I like to make them fresh so they maintain their consistency)

Spaghetti Sauce (double batched)

Chopped Broccoli (to be made into this easy Microwave Lemon Broccoli for a side)

Roasted Green Beans (prepped and thrown in a bag for the week)

3 pounds Roasted Chicken, sliced (for wraps & salads this week)

1 dozen Hard-Boiled Eggs (I used this oven baking method with really good success. I also kept the shells on the eggs for storage because they keep for one week like this and it keeps bacteria away!)

Chopped Carrots & Celery (I just chopped these up while chopping up the celery and carrots for my soup)

Pot Roast Italiano (prepped and thrown in a bag for the week)

Green Smoothie Packets (I use this recipe and froze the strawberries, bananas, and spinach in packets for the morning)

For a couple of hours of cooking and prepping, I’m hoping we can stay on track with our family’s eating this week!

Let me know if this helps you and if you would like me to continue sharing these ideas with you! xo


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Maximize Your Morning Hours

September 14th, 2015

Maximize Your Morning Hours from

I was forced into being a morning person thanks to my kids. In my younger days, I would stay up late watching mindless television, and would sleep in until the last possible moment. There is nothing like an early bus schedule to take a girl out of her cushy routines, is there? Although I never desired to be a morning person, it’s incredible how much better I feel and how productive I can be with those extra morning hours. I am actually pretty thankful that early mornings are now a part of my routine and I even try to maintain the schedule as best as I can during the summer months.

Here is what I know…

If I can become a morning person, ANYONE can!

Today I wanted to share a few tricks that have helped me in creating an ideal morning for my family and I’d love to chat with you about your ideas too! 

Utilize Your Evening Hours to Get a Good Start

Getting up earlier can mean that I am a little less productive in the evening since I am usually pretty worn down after a full day! I try to make a couple of things top priority though to help save my sanity in the morning. The first is that I always set my coffeemaker the night before and program it for my morning brew (this is the inexpensive pot that I use now), I always make sure that the dishes are done and that the dishwasher is run, I always try to get all the paperwork signed and in the backpacks, and I always try to lay out my gym clothes the night before so I can hit the gym first thing in the morning!

These small habits in the evening help us start on good footing the next morning.

Set a Million Alarms

I have a hard time staying on track with the multiple schedules going on during our mornings. Maybe that is just me?  I set an alarm on my phone to make sure each kid is up and then I set an alarm 5-10 minutes before we have to head out the door to have them get their shoes on and grab their gear. Although it doesn’t apply to my morning routines, I set alarms to remind myself when I need to head out the door to the gym, when the buses are returning, and even an alarm to remind me that I can take a break for the day from work and read for an hour.

My poor cat is so annoyed by my alarm system that she cries every single time one goes off.

I won’t lie.

I sometimes want to cry too. I love the reminder though to keep things on track so we don’t miss our morning buses or oversleep!

Maximize Your Morning Hours from

Turn Off the Distractors

I know everyone struggles with getting distracted and the quickest way for my morning to get off track is to turn on my phone or computer. I decided to add the Facebook Kills News Feed extension to help me not cheat and peek at Facebook during the day when I need to be productive.

I also make deals with myself about when I am allowed to peek at my phone. Each day the deal is something that I need to accomplish from household chores to an article for a client to finishing a book. Once I fulfill that daily contract with myself, I can cruise the FB newsfeed and catch up on all I am missing out on.

Email also has been of my biggest distractors so now I check it once in the morning, once midday, and once before the kids get home from school. I noticed that each time my phone made a ding, I ran to it like my cat when I shake the treat bag at her. It lead to lots of interruptions, a half-present mom, and a lot of anxiety when I wasn’t dealing with whatever I had opened. If I can’t sit down at my desk and deal with it with a proper response, I just don’t open it! Not only has it made my mornings smoother, but it has made my entire life run more smoothly.

Maximize Your Morning Hours from

Make the Morning Household Chores Bearable

I am big on maximizing my time and I know that you are too. I have discovered that podcasts and audiobooks make wonderful companions in the morning while I am getting things done around the house. Three of my favorite podcasts right now for making the most of my mornings are the The Lively Show, Magic Lessons, & Elise Gets Crafty. Thanks to the Overcast app that I downloaded, I also am listening to them at a quicker speed which helps me consume a little bit more while I am tackling that laundry and tidying the house. Not only am I proud that I am being productive in my home, but I’m learning so much about living with intention in the process.

Maximize Your Morning Hours from

Make Room For You

I may be one of the rare ones in the world because I rarely feel guilty about making time for myself. I know when I can fill my cup up, I have more to give to everyone else. I am not sure if that is because I have such a supportive spouse who has always encouraged that or if I just have always been thinking about myself. Oh, who are we kidding? It’s probably both! My ideal morning involves a good Bible study on She Reads Truth, a cup of HOT coffee, a little journaling (right now I am doing this journal with my husband) and then I head to the gym where I do classes I really love and that make me happy.

Our mornings aren’t always perfect, but starting with good intentions, smart planning, and a little self-care reward help me start my day on the right foot!

Do you have any tips or tricks for a great morning routine? I’d love to hear them as we explore this topic this month in our m challenge series!

*this post contains affiliate links. I only recommend what I love!


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Make-Ahead Breakfast Burritos

September 11th, 2015

In honor of our Focus on Better Mornings M Challenge, I’m republishing one of our favorite breakfasts that helps our mornings run smoother – easy burritos that can be pulled from the freezer whenever you need them. It doesn’t hurt that they’re delicious and customizable, too!

Make-Ahead Breakfast Burritos

Back-to-School requires a lot of planning and getting back on track with a healthy breakfast is one thing I want to work on this year. Today I wanted to show you a recipe for Make-Ahead Breakfast Burritos that can be made ahead and also created for your gluten-free or dairy-free family members.  One batch of these freezer breakfast burritos can yield 15-18 burritos, depending on how you stuff  ‘em, and they are filled with everything your kids need to start their day on the right foot. I am partnering with Walmart on this back-to-school idea today so you can snag all the supplies you need right at their store.

Make-Ahead Breakfast Burritos

What I love about these burritos is that they are not only filled with fresh whole foods, but also that they are inexpensive to create. With kitchen staples like eggs, cheese, potatoes, and tortillas, it is likely you already have a few things on hand for this back-to-school breakfast. Create an assembly line of ingredients in the kitchen and have your kids jump in on the fun.

The potatoes are tossed in paprika and garlic powder for a tasty topping to the eggs. I love a little Italian turkey sausage, red peppers, and cheddar or colby cheese for these burritos. You can create your own flavor combinations or consider clearing out items from the fridge and making a unique combination all your own.

Make-Ahead Breakfast Burritos

Be careful to not overstuff the burritos so they can be wrapped easily and place them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet to place in the freezer until frozen. Once these are frozen you can tuck them in a freezer bag and just grab them when you need them. Do you know how to wrap a burrito?  If not, I love this tutorial for perfectly wrapped breakfast burritos!

Make-Ahead Breakfast Burritos

With one kid in middle school (GASP!) and a daughter who prefers not to eat in the morning, I am hoping that these burritos will be the perfect way to get them motivated to eat a healthy breakfast. Just grab one from the freezer and wrap it in a dampened paper towel  for the microwave for three minutes (flip it halfway through). Wrap in foil and let them eat them on the way to the bus or in route to school.  These also make a great after school snack,  after sports activities, or an impromptu dinner with their pals while doing homework.

To make them dairy-free substitute the cream with almond milk (which is what we did) and add a vegan cheese to them or leave them cheeseless. For a gluten-free burritos, Walmart offers this option in their stores.

We hope you love this delicious breakfast as much as we did. We have already started raiding our make-ahead breakfast burritos for quick lunches this week. I am shocked how beautifully these reheat and taste. There are no excuses why you can’t tackle a healthy breakfast. Be sure to check out my recipe for Slow Cooked Honey Crisp Apple Oatmeal for another fun breakfast treat!

Make-Ahead Breakfast Burritos

Make-Ahead Breakfast Burritos
Recipe type: Breakfast
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 18
A make-ahead breakfast burrito that you can tuck in your freezer for a healthy breakfast, snack or meal.
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 large russet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 lb Italian Turkey Sausage
  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 2 tablespoons cream (or milk substitute)
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored and diced
  • ½ pound cheese of your choice (or vegan cheese)
  • 18 tortillas, soft-taco size (8-inch), whole-wheat, flour, or gluten-free tortillas
  1. To roast potatoes, preheat your oven to 475 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Drizzle diced potatoes with oil and season with salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic powder. Toss the potatoes together to evenly coat in oil and seasonings, and spread out into a single layer on the parchment. Roast until browned on the bottom and tender, about 20-25 minutes.
  2. Brown your sausage. Once it is cooked through, set aside in a large bowl, leaving about a 2 tablespoons of drippings in the pan for the eggs.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs with the cream (or milk substitute) and pour into the sausage skillet. Cook over medium heat until just set, stirring as needed. season with salt and pepper and stir to combine, and transfer to the bowl with sausage.
  4. In the same skillet, cook your red peppers over medium heat until fragrant and softened, about 10 minutes.
  5. Make an assembly line- tortilla, cheese, followed by a small handful of potatoes and a scoop of the egg/sausage mixture. Roll the tortilla up.
  6. For freezing, place burritos on a wax- or parchment-lined baking sheet and place in the freezer until firm, at least an hour. Transfer to large freezer bags and keep frozen for up to one month.
  7. For reheating, place a frozen burrito in a dampened paper towel and microwave for three minutes, turning halfway through.

Recipe Adapted From: Dinners For Winners


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Minimize Morning Stress With an Organized Command Center

September 10th, 2015

Minimize morning stress with an organized command center

When we created our small space entry DIY command center, my goals at the time were simple: create a space for the kids backpacks and keep their school paperwork off our counters, as well as have a place for basic entry items (space for keys, glasses, etc.). It ended up working great for the space as well as our family AND gave an added bonus:

It has minimized our whole family’s weekday morning stress levels and has helped our morning routines run a lot more smoothly!

Use any space to organize for better mornings!

As I shared, we started with a simple corner in our living room right around the corner from our front door that was a place we naturally dropped our things anyway – that’s the best place to start, right? Figure out what’s already working and then make it work better. And prettier, of course.

Mirrored coat rack

We added a functional and decorative mirrored coat rack, perfect for tying on a scarf before heading out the door as well as holding coats and small purses. We also moved a seldom used storage ottoman here to hold the backpack and briefcase clutter and finished off the mirror area with a large basket  for storing our magazines and umbrellas.


To catch the school paper clutter that always seems to be on the brink of becoming out of control, we use an upright file folder organizer and colorful file folders for organizing the whole family. It has become one of the best things to keep the morning stress level down!

Set Up a File System to Minimize Morning Stress:

1. The kids each now have an IN and OUT folder. If they need something signed, they put it in the IN folder for me for signatures and I give it back to them by putting those items in the OUT folder, that they can check before they leave for school.

2. Special memorabilia that is worth saving still resides in their decorative boxes in their rooms.

3. Mom and dad each have their own files for paperwork that needs to be dealt with before filing or recycling.

4. Taxes has a file for receipts and other items that tend to pile up waiting to be filed.

5. There’s a general “kids” file for any items that we need to take care of (things we want to file, or waiting for a meeting, etc.)


The other thing we added that has helped with our morning routines, almost eliminating the last-minute-trying-to-get-out-the-door search for ________ (fill in the blank: keys, watch, glasses, etc.), is a long, narrow compartment organizer for keys, sunglasses, and other things rests on this half moon table for easy finding and grabbing in the morning. Best. Thing. Ever.

Another crucial element to our daily routine is found above the table: our family calendar. We can keep track of important events at school, doctor’s appointments, business travel, and more – the calendar is usually filled to the brim!


I also love using our family management binder in this command center, especially to check out the menu before we head out the door to know if there is something I need to pick up at the store. (Oh, and we’ve recently revised the cover so that it now comes undated so that it can be customized by you – I love this binder and hope you do, too!)

If you don’t have your own family binder copy yet, grab one by using the handy form in our sidebar to sign up for our weekly newsletter – a recap of all the happenings for the week and will make sure you never miss a post. Then you’ll be eligible for this and other free printables we offer ONLY to our VIP subscribers.

I had hoped our small family command center would help our mornings run smoother, of course, but it wasn’t one of our main goals, just a happy bonus, and has continued to renew our commitment to living small. Even if you have a small home, you can make any space a functional space for your family!

How do you minimize morning stress?

Amy’s Notebook 09.09.15

September 9th, 2015

Breakfast Tart via Spoon Fork Bacon

Source: Spoon Fork Bacon


What a beautiful breakfast tart!

Life. Made.

Buttery smooth foundation tips.

The summer of yes- I am so inspired!

Oh, this takes salads to a whole new level.

Influence. You already have it.

Style resources for transitioning from summer to fall.

Thinking outside the square- finally!

Finger Knitting Wall Art via Camille Styles

Source: Camille Styles


This knitting without needles project is incredible!

Cheesy chicken enchilada dip anyone?

Why Facebook makes your images look like crap, and how to fix it.

Slow cooker chicken stock- hello, homemade pho!

Will you read it?

Portobello tacos with creamy vegan jalapeño sauce – yes, please!

Lice tips- may we never need these. Amen.

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!