new years renewal

Welcome to 2015! There is something so wonderful about turning the page to a new calendar year. You can make a fresh start on your goals, resolutions and ideas for the year ahead.

There is a recent trend where people are asked to pick one word as an intention for the year ahead. Last year my word of the year was Grace. I tried to hold on to the idea of being graceful in the face of sleep deprivation, active children and a busy social schedule. Although I wasn’t always successful, it was helpful to have that little reminder in the back of my mind when presented with challenging times.

This year I have been thinking about what my new word should be for the past month. As someone who has lots of ideas and energy, sometimes I get too caught up in what’s new and shiny. My word of intention for 2015 is:

FOCUS

  • I plan to apply it at home and be present when interacting with the kids and my husband.
  • I plan to share posts on the blog that are more helpful to my readers and spend less time on sponsored posts.
  • I plan to use one notebook to write down all the thoughts/ideas/to-do’s that pop into my head.
  • I plan to limit the amount of stuff in our home so we have space for the things that bring joy to all of us.

I’m excited for the year ahead and the new opportunities that it will bring. I have a renewed interest in writing on the blog again and plan to focus on meal planning, organization and homemaking, plus a few new recipes in the coming year.

My favorite recipe posts I shared with you in 2014 were Cucumber Dill Yogurt Dip,  Banana Walnut Bread, and Coconut Vanilla Ice Cream (yummy!) In the land of homemaking, my favorite was the under the bathroom sink organizing project. I’m most proud of the Meal Planning posts from the past couple of years as those are the ones that I continue to hear are the most helpful to my readers.

Cheers to you for reading and supporting me here. If you want to share your word for 2015, leave a little note in the comments.

Photo source

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas holiday. Enjoy the time with your family and the little moments that make this holiday so special.

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Thank you to the talented Nikki Amara Myers for the holiday photos!

As everyone finishes their preparations for Christmas, here are some dinner ideas for your family. Easy peasy lemony squeezy my daughter would say. We are trying to do our best to use up what’s in the fridge and pantry in the coming weeks so we can start the New Year with a clean slate.

Monday: Shrimp and Feta (from the Dinner a Love Story cookbook)

Tuesday: Grilled steak tips, corn and Israeli couscous

Wednesday: Christmas Eve party at the neighbors

Thursday: Christmas ham, corn pudding, green salad and fresh bread.

Friday: Ham frittata and any other leftovers

Saturday: Eye of the Round Roast, potatoes and peas.

 

I encourage everyone to enjoy the next few days and try to avoid feeling like you need to “get” through the week. This is a time to slow down and enjoy the wonder of this holiday and see it through your children’s eyes. Merry Christmas and thank you to all my readers who motivate me to share my little thoughts here.

Monday meal plan to help organize family dinner

For more inspiration, see my past menus here, or the Pinterest board here, or OrgJunkie for a link-up of meal plans.

 

If you have already finished your holiday shopping, lucky you. For everyone else, here’s some great gift ideas for kids if you are still on the holiday hunt for the perfect present. After a recent trip to Magic Beans, at Linden Square in Wellesley, I got a sneak peek some of the bestselling toys this year.

Top Holiday Toy Picks

 

 

1. Sands Alive!: made of crushed seashells and mineral oil. It doesn’t dry out and doesn’t make a mess. Plus I love that it’s antibacterial.

2.Goldie Blox  Starring the lovely inventor Goldie, these sets build on spatial skills, basic engineering principles and problem solving confidence.

3.MindWare Contraptions 50 Plank Set: for ages 7+. Perfect for the tinkerers in your life.

4.MindWare Q-BA-MAZE 2.0  Great for ages 6+. Lots of fine motor skill development. I look forward to the day when marbles are acceptable in our house!

5.Battle Sheep Game: the board game is new every time you play. Reminds me a little of our favorite grown up game Carcassonne .

6. Two games that encourage working together:Feed the Woozle and The Great Cheese Chase. No more sibling squabbles.

7.SmartMax Set : I can picture all three of my kids playing with this. It grows with your child and offers a bunch of different building ideas. 

The top bestseller according to Magic Beans is….Super Stadium Baseball Game
super stadium baseball game

 

One last shout out for some PBS Kids toys on the shelves this season. PBS KIDS and Whole Foods Market announced a partnership that will bring PBS KIDS’ line of educational and earth-friendly toys exclusively to the supermarket’s customers this holiday season. PBS KIDS’ new line of products is designed to inspire creative curiosity, while supporting the development of healthy, happy kids. 100% of PBS KIDS’ net proceeds will benefit the media brand’s mission of empowering children through knowledge, critical thinking and imagination, while Whole Foods Market will donate one percent of total sales, up to $25,000, to Whole Kids Foundation, an organization dedicated to improving children’s nutrition and wellness.

Scoots

 

Disclosure: You can find a number of these toys at your local Magic Beans or online at mbeans.com or via Amazon. Links in this post are to Amazon, if you purchase through them you help support this website at no cost to you. Thank you for your support!

 

 

The magic of the holiday season can get lost when we stress about buying gifts. As we get caught up in the frenzy of generosity, it can be a challenge to slow down and find meaningful gifts. This week I had the opportunity to stroll through the variety of shops in Wellesley’s Linden Square. What a delight it was to talk to shop owners, get some personal attention and NOT fight for parking. Plus there is even a holiday gift guide to help figure out those holes on your list.

I had shopped Linden Square before, but usually it was due to a trip to Roche Brothers or The Cottage Restaurant. (best birthday brunch ever there!) On the shopping stroll, I got to check out a bunch of stores I had never been into, plus some old favorites.

Roosters: Upscale men’s grooming center. I could see my husband visiting here and really appreciate that Roosters is open on Sundays. For the holidays, check out their father and son package. They are also located in MA on Tremont Street in Boston and also in Lynnfield.

Shop Linden Square

Salon Maleah: a salon that focuses on hair only, with some excellent colorists. I loved getting my hair done into the “holiday twist.” The stylist taught us the bobby pins should be positioned so the bumpy side is against the scalp. Turns out I’ve been using them wrong my whole life! Salon Maleah is offering a holiday blow dry bundle special for the holidays!
Magic Beans shopping Linen Square
Magic Beans: toy store and so much more. I used to shop Magic Beans when I was first having babies and relied on some of their stroller experts to help me find the right ones. I really thought of it as a store for infants and toddler needs. I was happy to discover Magic Beans has a huge assortment of games for kids up to age 14!  They have GoldieBlox for ages 4-12, depending on the kit. Board games, building sets, arts and crafts and classic Brio trains. I got a crash course on the holiday hot list and hope to share some ideas if you are still in shopping mode! Don’t forget they offer gift wrap year round too.
 Shop Linden Square Shop Linden Square
Kenzie: the place to shop when your daughter doesn’t want to shop a “kids” store. They offer a tween line, but now added a women’s line due to popular demand. What started as baby and kids clothing 28 yrs ago in Coolidge Corner has turned into a focused assortment for girls ages 7-14. I really enjoyed this store and look forward to bringing Madison there when she is a little older. The holiday dress assortment was just lovely, and the sportswear was full of pop colors and fun silhouettes. (p.s. Kenzie is carrying the skiwear line Bogner if you are in the market!)
Shop Linden Square
Step to the next store over and you will find yourself in Tiny Hanger. Clothes, adorable shoes (oh, the shoes) and select toys for kids, infant through 6x. For the special little ones on your holiday shopping list, you can find some unique gift items that both mom and kids will enjoy.
Shop Linden Square
Sara Campbell: my surprise favorite shop. I always love a good assortment of cashmere for the holidays in a rainbow of colors and Sara Campbell delivered. From their versatile ruanas, to a beautiful pullover, there are plenty of gift options for that wow factor under the tree. Aside from the cashmere, my favorite item there was the charcoal grey scarf trimmed with rabbit fur. Just gorgeous.
Shop Linden Square at Bonsoir
Bonsoir: time to make your home shine for the holidays. There was a lot of beautiful, and delicate items in the store. Thankfully the staff at Bonsoir showed me some kid-proof ideas for holiday decorating. Two new fabrics for dressing the table are coated cloth and the French Green Sweet. Spilled drinks will be your enemy no more. Dress it up with a rhinestone runner and your table is good to go.
Bella Sante: Lovely spa for all your relaxation needs. Need to give your husband a gift idea? Try the 5 Elements Treatment. Two hours of bliss. Sign me up. Plus you can get $25 spa dollars to spend on products for every $200 gift card.
Shop Linden Square
Tobey Grey: 13 denim lines for your shopping pleasure. They even have denim for your guy! Tobey Grey had some fun holiday tops too if you haven’t picked on out for parties this month.
Have you shopped Wellesley’s Linden Square? Happy holiday shopping!
Disclosure: I attended a media shopping event to help facilitate this story. All opinions shared here are my own. 

We are getting into the Halloween spirit around here. After a tough September with Madison’s appendix surgery, we are all looking forward to the simple joy of enjoying fall and Halloween this month. One of the first signs of Halloween around here are the little faces I add to the fruit for the kids lunch box. It started with clementines, but often I’ll write on banana peels too.

Cute and spooky halloween pumpkins for lunch or snack time

For early readers, I love adding in simple words like Boo, Love, and Happy. It’s a nice way to engage the kids in some conversation about lunch time and if they liked their little surprise and find out who sat next to them and if they showed their friends. One mom got her daughter to start eating clementines after seeing a little Kitty clementine in Madison’s lunch box.

I often use a Sharpie for writing notes and spooky faces, all on skin that will be removed. Another option is to get a Food Writer Marker that is safe to use on more surfaces, like an apple peel. In the spirit of Halloween, I also just picked up some of these cute Candy Eyeballs that are sure to be a silly addition to the kids lunchbox or snack time.

Add fun words to the kids lunchbox

I hope your little one enjoys some pumpkin clementines this season!

 

Hello March…won’t you let winter go already? Who’s ready for some spring weather and grilling on the menu? Me, me, me! But it looks like we will be waiting it out for another week so there’s some cozy crock pot dinners and of course, the traditional Saint Patrick’s Day menu planned for this week.

Meal plan monday March 17th

Sunday: Corned Beef and Cabbage with Carrots, Potatoes and Irish Soda Bread.

Monday: Saint Patrick’s Day leftovers!

Tuesday: Swordfish piccata, rice and roasted asparagus

Wednesday: Meatloaf, butternut squash and egg noodles

Thursday: Ham and cheese quiche with spinach

Friday: Pizza night with homemade dough! No pepperoni during Lent so we are doing lots of veggie pizzas with red peppers, broccoli, and mushrooms. Maybe a zucchini and feta one this week too.

Irish Soda Bread Recipe

Have a happy Saint Patrick’s Day! If you are looking for some recipes or craft ideas to celebrate the day, head over to my Pinterest page for more idea..

 

For more inspiration, see my past menus here, or the Pinterest board here, or OrgJunkie for a link-up of meal plans.

Christmas Craft A Day

The holiday season has finally arrived and I just love the excitement it brings to the kids. They love all the little things like opening the Advent calendar in the morning, looking for Christmas lights on our drive, and of course, the crafts. I’m trying to spend a bit less time online this month to allow myself more time to play with the kids. The Christmas season is a little shorter this year and I want to enjoy the little things along with them. The kids want to make simple crafts, and they want me to make them with them. In your home, creating crafts may be a way to keep the kids busy while you get the holiday cards addresses. Whatever works for you when it comes to crafting, enjoy.

Xmas Craft A Day

We are trying to work on a Christmas Craft-A-Day plan. I’m planning ahead a bit and getting materials ready for the next day. Once there is a lull in our daily schedule, we can all sit down and work on the latest project. My little ones are nearly 5 and 3 so these are simple projects. I have pinned lots of ideas in my Christmas Fun board on Pinterest. You can also just type into the search area of Pinterest for an idea based on materials you already have at home.

#XmasCraftADay

Follow along with our craft projects on Instagram and share yours with the hashtag #XmasCraftADay. Then everyone can find some new ideas!

What is your kids favorite Christmas craft to make?

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving week! And Hanukkah! I don’t envy my friends trying to coordinate both celebrations this week. Planning the Thanksgiving Day menu is enough for me. I will be hosting for the first time {ever} and very excited for the big event. The past few years, I’ve made a full Thanksgiving feast at home after the big day. There is something about having your own special recipes and of course, the leftovers.

Giving Quote

Here is our Thanksgiving Day menu plans

  • Turkey (17 lbs) from our local poultry farm
  • Gravy
  • Stuffing (one with sausage and one without)
  • Cranberry Sauce
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Glazed Carrots
  • Corn Pudding
  • Fresh Rolls
  • Pumpkin Pie
  • Apple Pie
  • Brownies

I’m most excited for my sister and her family to join us on Thanksgiving. After spending five long years away on a military base in Hawaii, they are finally done and moving home the day before the holiday. I am so thankful to watch the cousins play together on the holiday.

Are you hosting Thanksgiving this year? If you need some tips or ideas, you can find a bunch on the Ultimate Thanksgiving Guide on Pinterest. I also loved this blog post on how to host Thanksgiving, and enjoy it. Tons of great ideas for organizing the days before Thursday, recipes and decorating ideas. I’ve printed out this Give Thanks banner and will be setting it up tomorrow. Did you know you can recycle tons of your Thanksgiving day cooking props? Even the aluminum foil that tents the turkey can by recycled.

For the balance of the week, we are keeping things simple on our meal plan.

AutumnChoppedSalad

Autumn Chopped Salad from Iowa Girl Eats

Sunday~ Chopped Autumn Salad with Chicken. A new favorite in the family. The kids version made it onto my Instagram Sunday night.

Monday~ Spaghetti and meatballs, green beans.

Tuesday~ Chicken nuggets, sweet potato fries and annie’s shell.

Wednesday~ Omelets/C.O.R.N. to make room for the big turkey!

Thanksgiving~ yummy goodness all day

Friday~ Turkey sandwiches. It’s the only time of the year I eat country white bread.

What are you doing for the Thanksgiving holiday? Excited to host or excited to visit?

For more inspiration, see my past menus here, or the Pinterest board here, or OrgJunkie for a link-up of meal plans.

25 Non Toy Gift Ideas

As the holiday season quickly approaches, I have been pulling together some of my reader’s favorite non-toy gift ideas. The list is great for a variety of ages, from children in preschool to teenagers in high school. I know a lot of parents are working hard to make the holidays less about “stuff.” Others want to limit the influx of “stuff” coming into their home. Our family falls into both camps, so I’m using this list as a starting point when family and friends ask about what to get the kids for Christmas.

  1. Sleeping bags
  2. Art supplies
  3. Magazine subscriptions (see ideas at the bottom of this post)
  4. Books
  5. Museum memberships
  6. Monogram bags
  7. Lunch box (Planetbox for older kids, Yumbox for younger ones)
  8. Personalized plates, water bottles, snack bags
  9. Lessons and the needed uniform or supplies
  10. Tickets to an event or zoo
  11. Ski passes and a new pair of ski equipment
  12. Bean bag chairs or child size furniture
  13. Forts
  14. Easel
  15. Nightlight
  16. Craft box subscription (Kiwi Crate or Wummelbox)
  17. Beach towel
  18. Bird feeder
  19. Play rug
  20. Instrument
  21. Science kit
  22. Alarm Clock
  23. Bike and/or bike accessories
  24. Popsicle molds
  25. Back pack

 

What other ideas do you have? Please share them in the comments!

Here are some of the magazine subscription ideas. These are affiliate links through Amazon (and others in this post), which means if you make a purchase, a s.m.a.l.l. percentage comes back to this site at no cost to you. Thank you!