Turn An Ordinary Wooden Stool Into Something Spectacular With Your Toddler

wooden stool

Crafting is a lot of fun with toddlers, but it’s really easy to run out of projects, especially if you’re like our family who does it on a multi-daily basis. As I was thinking of ideas for a big weekend craft for my two-year-old, I decided to bring some furniture into the mix. She needed a bathroom stool, so why not have her decorate one?

And that’s what we did. We took a basic $10 wooden, unpainted stool from Michael’s, a craft store in our area, and went with it. Set up with paints galore and an entire floor covered in sheets, my daughter had a blast covering what would soon be the stool that would help her brush her teeth at bedtime.

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Of course, it was rather messy but isn’t that the fun of it all?

This project can be done with any sort of unpainted (or even painted, it really doesn’t matter) furniture. I do recommend going with non-washable paints though so that the design isn’t washed away if water or other liquids do happen to spill on it. With a toddler, it’s inevitable.

What’s your craft for the week/weekend?

How I Use My Planner to Stay Sane as a Mother

planner

Balancing your life can seem impossible, but it’s not. I promise. How is it not impossible, you ask? Well, through scheduling. I’m sure you’ve heard it time and time again, but it’s true. Scheduling is the way to balance even the craziest life.

I am like you. I have a toddler. I have a clean house. I work a full time job (at home). I’m starting up my very first thank-you card business (say what?!). I do direct sales (oils). I have a blog (two, actually). I workout. I occasionally take bubble baths and watch television (GASP!). I make time for my other half (when I can).

But how do I keep it all together? How do I manage to find time for everything and not go to bed crying every night?

Scheduling.

Don’t get me wrong. I go to bed crying some nights. We all do. Sometimes, no matter what you do, life gets out of control. But scheduling has been my savior most days.

Here’s what my planner looks like on a day-to-day basis. Messy. Full. Complete. And, including every aspect of my life.

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What do I include in my planner? Well, everything. But let’s break it down.

Phone Time- I didn’t write it in this entry, but I often schedule in phone time. If I don’t have set 10 minute bursts of time throughout the day, I find myself spending a half-hour scrolling pointlessly through Facebook and other social media apps. During this scheduled time, I check e-mails, texts, social media alerts, etc.

Work- This is an important one because I work at home. It’s easy to put it off and say, “Oh. I’ll just do it later!”. Later never comes for me, so I have to have exact times I work. This is usually before my daughter wakes up, when she naps, and after she goes to bed.

Exercise- I often hear the excuse “I don’t have time to work out!”. Usually it isn’t true. Schedule it in and you’ll be surprised at what you can get done. I do it when my daughter first wakes up. We do dance video exercising and if you haven’t checked out that post, you need to! And really, if you have time to watch Netflix, you have time to exercise. Choose your priorities and schedule them in.

Chores/Housework- Housework is another one of those things I put off if I don’t have it scheduled. Each day, I write in my task list what I want to clean, then I pick a time when I’m going to do it. My daughter enjoys this task (read about how I got her to– here!) so I often do it when she’s awake, depending on the task.

Play Time- It’s so important to spend quality time with your children. I find that if I don’t have it scheduled, the time I spend with my daughter is mustered with other activities. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t schedule my daughter in like she’s a task. I do it so I know I have set times specifically for her. No chores, no work, no phone, no distractions. Just me and her.

Running Errands- I schedule ahead of time when I’m going to the grocery store or where ever else I need to go throughout the week so I know when it’s going to happen. There’s no guessing game as to when I might get eggs again.

Wake-Up/Bedtime- This one is more for my toddler. I put it in so I remember when I need to have things done by.

Other To-Do Things- Work stuff, contact stuff, etc.

Dinner- Holy hell. Planning dinner ahead of time makes life a million times easier. There’s nothing worse than going to the fridge wondering what the heck you’re going to eat. Weekly, I write out a meal plan so that I know what to buy when I go grocery shopping and can plan ahead of time for cooking.

Birthdays/Special Dates/Holidays- These are all important things I would totally forget without my schedule. Writing in birthdays and special dates ensures that I won’t forget them. It’s always awkward forgetting your brother’s birthday. I also write in holidays because those suck to forget too– I work seven days a week at my main job, including holidays so it’s not uncommon for me to forget it’s a holiday without my schedule.

Activities/Work Due Dates/Bills- Non-daily activities get scheduled too. Birthday parties, dinners, etc. Writing in work project due dates is a life saver for me too. I like to write when they’re a month, a week, a day, and an hour away from being due so that I have fair warning and don’t have to rush to get those I forget done in time. The same goes with bills. I would go crazy if I didn’t have my bill due dates written down, and so would my checkbook.

Me Time- This includes things like bubble baths, television watching, etc. It’s important to schedule “me” time, even if it’s only once a week/month.

Gratitude- Daily, I write one or two things I’m grateful for. It makes me appreciate life a little more, plus it’s a great reminder on bad days that my life isn’t that bad.

I’m sure I’m missing something. There’s so many things you can put in your planner. Make it you!

It’s important to remember that a schedule will almost never go perfectly, especially if you have a child. A schedule is sort of an outline and you won’t always be able to follow it as closely as you’d like. That’s OK. Really. It is. Just having a basis to go off of is a life-changer.

I currently use the Day Designer Mini by Whitney English. It’s one where I personally hand-write in the dates. Some people don’t like that idea, but she has other planners that include the dates for those of you who prefer that. I recommend her planner over any other because of the variety of features it has, such as a schedule section, a hardy cover and binder-like rings, a to-do list, meal planning, gratitude sections, notes, a top three list, etc.

Seriously, anything you could want in a planner, she’s got it packed in there. They’re a little pricey, but worth every penny. Trust me, I’ve tried just about every planner out there.

Some people like to make their planners super fancy. For me, as long as I have a pop of color, I’m good. But really, the possibilities are endless. You can use stickers, sticky notes, a color system, you name it. Just make it you. That’s all you need to do.

Oh, and are you wondering what kind of pen that lovely pink beauty is you see in the pictures? It’s a Paper Mate Flair . They come in all sorts of colors. I have the variety pack because, like I said, I love a good pop of color. For me, they make planning fun! I change up my shade daily.

For those of you who haven’t ever used a planner before, try it out for a week. You can even just do it on lined paper. Once you’ve tried it, come back and tell me what you think! Has it changed your life like it’s changed mine?

 

 

 

Making Pizza as a Family

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Pizza is a great food. You can’t possibly mess it up. Really. Even the cheapest pizza is pizza, and pizza is good. No matter what. There’s no questioning it. That being said, what if I told you you could make your very own good pizza right in your own home? With your family even!

Seriously. It’s easy and fun. Group cooking is one of the best things a family can do to bond. Really. It is! So. Where do you even start?

First, you need to decide if you’re going to make your pizza dough or buy it from the store. Hand making your dough helps ensure that there’s less preservatives and whatnot, but it can take a little more time than simply rolling out a store bought version.

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Picture From The Home Pizzeria

If you decide you want to go with the homemade dough route, here’s a great recipe to use from Bobby Flay:

  • 3 1/2 to 4 cups bread flour, plus more for rolling (Using bread flour will give you a much crisper crust. If you can’t find bread flour, you can substitute it with all-purpose flour which will give you a chewier crust.)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 envelope instant dry yeast
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups water, 110 degrees F
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 2 teaspoons

Combine the bread flour, sugar, yeast and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and combine. While the mixer is running, add the water and 2 tablespoons of the oil and beat until the dough forms into a ball. If the dough is sticky, add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together in a solid ball. If the dough is too dry, add additional water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead into a smooth, firm ball.

Grease a large bowl with the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil, add the dough, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in a warm area to let it double in size, about 1 hour. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Cover each with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let them rest for 10 minutes.

Leftover homemade dough can be frozen and used at a later date. The recipe says to make the dough into two equal pizza, but I like to do more three so that my family can each have their own personalizable pizza. And yes, I did just make that word up.

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Picture From Vinsar

If you decide to go the store bought route, I totally recommend Pillsbury pizza dough. It’s delicious perfection!

As a side note, even tortillas make a good pizza crust in a pinch. Watch these really closely while baking. They burn quickly. Oh, and French bread is another good crust in a pinch too. Hallow it out and fill it up like you would a normal crust. Don’t forget English muffins either.

I’ve done both homemade and store bought crusts and either are great options, so it really is up to your personal desires. Less preservatives or speed. You pick which is more important to your family!

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Picture From Pizza Pan Best

Next, you need to pick out what toppings you’re going to be using. Cheese is of course a must if your family doesn’t have dairy allergies. I like to do a mix of cheeses like cheddar and real Parmesan (and I’m not talking Kraft here, people!). You, of course, can take it further and bring all sorts of other cheeses into the mixture. For toppings other than the basic cheese, pick things like bell peppers, pepperoni, sausage, spinach, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, chicken, you name it. If it sounds like it would be good on a pizza, cut it up and throw it into bowls so your family can toss it on their pizzas when the time comes. Get fancy. Make themed pizzas. Have fun with it.

Then, you need to decide on a sauce. My family’s absolute favorite pizza is chicken spinach BBQ, so we do a sauce made up of a half-and-half ranch/BBQ sauce mix. It’s totally awesome! You can always go with your basic pizza sauce, too. Another good one is an alfredo/ranch combo. Again, the possibilities are endless. Play around and pick your family’s favorite. If you’re stumped, go with the basic pizza sauce. Like with the crust, you can go with store bought (Hunt’s is my favorite) or a homemade version.

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Picture From AllRecipes

Here’s my recipe for a basic homemade pizza sauce if you decide to go that route:

  • 1 medium can tomato sauce
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Garlic to taste
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Simply mix it all together in a bowl.

There are more complicated recipes you can follow, but this one is totally scrumptious despite how easy it it. It’s a great way to save money too! Way cheaper than going out and buying pizza sauce. It doesn’t take long to make, either. Five minutes– tops. Leftovers can be frozen, too. For easiest freezing, pour into an ice cube tray. That way taking out how much you need next time is super easy peasy.

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Picture From Babble

After you’ve got your crust out, your toppings cut, and your sauce ready, it’s time to put it all together.

Like I said before, I like my dough to be in three parts so that each of my family members can put together their own pizzas. It’s super fun for kids to be able to make their own creation!

I layer each piece of flattened dough with sauce first, then sprinkle on an appropriate amount of cheese, which for my family is a lot. Then, each person picks what toppings they want and throw them on. It’s as simple as that! Of course, you have pop it in the oven for the appropriate time and enjoy too.

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Let’s break it down the short way.

  1. Pick your dough.
  2. Pick your sauce.
  3. Pick your toppings.
  4. Throw the pizzas together, layering sauce, cheese, and other toppings.
  5. Pop it in the oven.
  6. And enjoy!

It’s a great bonding activity to do as a family and there’s parts of the processanyone can help with, no matter how young they are. My toddler loves to help make our pizzas and I’m sure yours will love to help too.

 

 

How We Use a Kids’ Art Smock For An Almost Mess-Free Dinner

art smock mealtime

If you have a toddler, you know dinnertime is the messiest time of the day. Next to craft time, of course. Let me tell you a secret though…

Clean up doesn’t have to take just as long as it took you to cook the meal!

We tried everything with our daughter to help make mealtime a little less messy. We’ve fed her naked, we’ve fed her over a special rug, we’ve fed wearing bibs, but the thing we found to have helped the most in keeping the mess down is a kids’ art smock.

I promise I’m not crazy.

Normal bibs are great, but they’re so damn small. Plus, those one with the pouches don’t catch much. We even tried those bigger sized ones that aren’t actually that much bigger than normal bibs and those didn’t help much either. Honestly, we were kind of at a loss.

Then one day we received an kids’ Crayola art smock as part of one of our daughter’s presents from her grandma. I had this genius idea that it could not only catch paint while crafting, but also food at dinner time.

We tried it out one night and holy hell, our lives were changes. It’s big enough to cover our toddler’s whole upper body to keep it from getting stained and sticky, plus it’s super cute and easy to wipe off with a baby wipe.

I was in heaven when I figured this out and I knew I had to share it with the rest of the parents I know. This product has been a god sent for mealtime messes and I’m sure it could help your family too.

While it doesn’t control what our daughter throws on the floor or smears on her tray, it keeps her body and clothes (mostly) sparkly clean.

If you’re looking for an option with a pouch, Melissa & Doug’s art smock is the way to go. It’s a little more expensive, but you can personalize it and the pouch really is a handy tool.

Have you and your family tried this mealtime trick yet? What’d you think? Are you as in love with this smock idea as I am?

Tea Over Juice: The Benefits You Need to Know About

tea over juice

I recently wrote a piece revolving around the idea of drinking tea and it bringing happiness to your life. As I was proofreading it, I got to thinking about the fact that tea isn’t just for mommy’s sanity. It’s for children’s sanity (and health) too.

So, here I am- about to blab to you guys all of my feelings on tea and why it’s better than juice. Get ready to hear why you should be using tea instead of juice, what teas you should have your children try, how to brew the tea, and how to go about switching to tea. You’re welcome.

Our daughter has not tried juice. She will not try juice for a long time. She will be two next month. Are we crazy parents? Eh, maybe. But really, we’re not doing it to be mean.

If you break it down, even the most organic of juices have a ton of sugar in them. Sure, it’s fruit sugar, but is it still good for your little ones to be consuming so much of? Really, it’s not. The goodness and wholeness of fruit isn’t put into juice. The pulp is often left out, and you’re left with a sugary drink with basically no nutrition. Maybe a few vitamins here and there, but when you break it down, it isn’t exactly the best choice of beverage.

It doesn’t matter how you look at it. Juice isn’t pretty. A nice treat once in a while, maybe. A daily thing, no.

“But what will I give my child who refuses to drink water? He must drink something!,” you say.

Yes. This is true. Hydration is important.

But why turn to sugary beverages, organic and natural or not, when you could turn to tea? Tea is similarly flavored to many fruit juices you can find in the store, plus it’s packed with all sorts of vitamins and antioxidants. Seriously. None of the sugar, all of the benefits you could possibly cram into a beverage. Better than water, better than juice.

Really.

Think about it.

Do some research. Search your local grocery store. Pick a tea your children might enjoy the taste of and go from there!

When picking out teas for my daughter, I go for caffeine-free versions and fruity flavors. Her absolute favorite is raspberry tea. It’s great for boosting the immune system, can help regulate blood sugars, works to maintain a healthy heart, and is rich in antioxidants. We just throw in a bag into a pitcher of water and let it sit overnight. In the morning, with just one pouch, we have a full pitcher full of great flavored tea the whole family loves!

Other great options include:

Tazo Tea Passion – A fruity flavor that’s great warm or iced! Hibiscus, lemongrass, mango, and passion fruit meld together for a tropical taste any age will love. It’s got a ton of flavor and one or two bags is enough for a full pitcher. Plus, it’s a pretty pink. Available mainly at Starbucks, but also on Amazon and various other retailers.

Tazo Calm Chamomile Herbal Tea – Chamomile tea is an awesome tea for before bed. It helps calm toddlers and children alike down in a matter of minutes. Plus, it’s great for mommy too!

Your Tea Organic Chocolate Mint Rooibos Tea – Chocolate and mint? Need I say more? This organic tea is sure to please even the pickiest child. Really! It’s very low in caffeine, packed with nutrients, and is a great alternative for those children who can’t help but stay away from sugary drinks like juice or chocolate milk. Another awesome chocolate mint tea is Tazo’s Cocoa Mint Mate Tea.

When Choosing Your Child’s Tea Make Sure To:

  • Check caffeine levels – pick one with little to no caffeine. Decaf is best.
  • Pick a flavor similar to one they know and love. It will help the transition from juice to water, if there is one happening.
  • Pick one you too will enjoy so you can drink it together. It’s a lot of fun to relax with a nice, warm (or cool) cup of tea with your child!
  • Make sure you can brew it how you want (cold, hot, or both).

When Brewing Your Child’s Tea Make Sure To:

  • Check the temperature of the water. Make sure it’s lukewarm, or about room temperature if you’re hot brewing. If it’s too hot, pop it in the fridge for a while, add some ice, or throw in some cool water.
  • Brew for a limited time if brewing hot. Children generally enjoy weaker teas, so only brew for about 3/4 of the time the box instructs.
  • If you’re cold brewing, you can leave the bag in as long as you would like. We do one bag per pitcher overnight.
  • If the tea is too strong, add more water.

When Transitioning From Juice (Or Other Beverage) to Juice Make Sure To:

  • Introduce it slowly. Give them juice or whatever else their vice is still for a few days, but introduce a cup of tea in replacement of the other beverage once daily. With time, start taking away the other beverage more and replace it with tea as often as possible. Eventually, the switch will happen.
  • Be patient. It will take time. For some kids, a lot of time. Don’t worry and certainly don’t give up.
  • Try various flavors. Maybe your child isn’t into raspberry tea and needs to try a passion fruit tea instead.
  • Make it fun. Have taste-testing games. Try the tea with them. Get creative!
  • Add honey if it isn’t sweet enough for your child. Slowly take away the honey if you so choose.

You can do this!

 

 

 

Valentine’s Day Crafts For Tiny People With Big Hearts

valentines day crafts for kids and toddlers

Valentine’s Day is coming up and that means it’s time for crafts galore. It can be hard to figure out what your children should be making for the loves of their lives (grandparents, friends, etc), which is why I’m here to bounce some ideas off you.

These are all crafts that are simple enough for a toddler to make, but can be made by any stage after that too. They’re cute, easy, and a ton of fun.

Get out your journal! It’s time for some crafty notes.

“I Love You to Pieces” Card

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Idea/Picture From Solis Plus One

This one is super simple, but you should be involved as much as possible when making it. Write out the words in whatever fancy font you’d like (if your child isn’t old enough to do so herself) and draw a BIG heart. Then, let her cut out shapes (if you trust her with scissors) and paste the pieces in the heart. It’s fun, easy, and seriously, does it get cuter than that?

Jar Full-o Stuff

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Idea/Picture From Coffee Cups & Crayons

This is about as simple as it gets. Have your child pick out his favorite rocks, candies, and other little trinkets to give to just about anyone. You can have him decorate the outside for even more fun. Get creative. Use paper, glitter, glue, buttons, you name it! The possibilities are endless.

Heart Stamping

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Idea/Picture From Craftulate

Kids LOVE to stamp. Smash a simple empty cardboard toilet paper roll into the shape of a heart and use tape to hold it in place. Dip the end in just a little paint and let him go! He’ll have a blast watching the shapes appear on paper, plus it makes a cute card for just about anyone.

Tissue Paper Wreath

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Idea/Picture From Happy Hooligans

This piece is totally adorable and super easy. It doesn’t get much better than that, right? Start by allowing your little one to paint a paper plate that you’ve cut the center out of. Then, while the paint is still wet, let them stick colored tissue paper all around. This is super cute to hang on the door, or really anywhere.

Noodle Necklaces

 

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Idea/Picture From The Alison Show

Who doesn’t love necklaces? Simply cut a piece of string and tie a bead at the end so that the pieces don’t fall off. Give your child some big, easy-to-string noodles, and let her set to work. If you’re really feeling fancy, let her roll the noodles in paint first. For an extra bonus, throw in some glitter to the mix. Super cute, plus it’s a pop of fashion for any toddler’s wardrobe on Valentine’s Day.

Hand Print Poem

VDay Handprint

Idea/Picture From The Barger Fam

For children who aren’t big into crafting (do those exist?!), this easy craft is a great idea. Simply pick your favorite lovey-dovey poem, print it out along with his name, and have him stamp his hand print right underneath of the writing. This one is great for grandparents and teachers alike.

What are you waiting for?! You have crafts (and memories) to go make!

 

 

Best Birthday Books to Give to Your Toddler On Their Birthday

best birthday books

Our family is obsessed with books. Seriously. Our toddler has so many books that we can’t shove any more into her huge shelf. It’s bursting at the seams. That’s mainly because we buy them for her as gifts for every holiday. Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, and everything in between.

Of course, that includes her birthday too. Last year, for her first birthday, we decided to ask all of the guests who attended her party to bring a book instead of a toy or other present. She has a ton of clothes, stuffed animals, and other toys, but really, she could never have enough books. It just made sense to me.

This year is dawned on me that there are actual birthday books. Like, the subject of some books are birthdays themselves. Why I didn’t think of that last year, I have no idea, but her birthday is coming up in March so I set out to do some research to see if some of her favorite authors had any birthday books and a lot of them totally did!

Here’s the list of the best birthday books I compiled:

Curious George and the Birthday Surprise

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Follow George as he tries to figure out who the man with the yellow hat is putting a surprise party together for! This adorable book is great for toddlers, like mine, who love Curious George and trying to solve mysteries. It’s by far one of the cutest books I’ve ever seen and perfect for a birthday gift to any toddler.

Happy Birthday, Mouse!

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If you’ve read the If You Give a Mouse a Cookie series, you know this book totally rocks even if you haven’t read it. Laura Numeroff has yet to mess up a book and is definitely one of my favorite children’s authors of all time. In this humorous and adorable book, Mouse finds himself quite the treat.Your toddler will be laughing by the second page and I know that for sure!

Birthday Monsters!

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Sandra Boynton is the queen of rhyming and this book certainly shows that. Your little monster will love waking up to read this book on his birthday, or any other day of the year. It’s cute, funny, and full of great illustrations sure to please even the most curious child.

The Birthday Box

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Our toddler is in love with any book written by Leslie Patricelli and we can see why. She’s hilarious in her writing and totally relates to children in every detail of her books. The Birthday Box is one of her best and most creative pieces, along with PottyToot, and Yummy Yucky. Her books are a must-have in every household!