mindful living, effortless style

Happy almost Halloween guys! I’ve got a lot on my plate between the big day tomorrow and wrapping things up to reveal our complete 2015 Toy Gift Guide next week, but I still wanted to quickly pop in and share what I’ve been up to elsewhere.

Just in case you need it, here’s a last-minute treat for a class party or impromptu, pre-trick-or-treating bash.

Hope you enjoy and hope your kiddos score lots of goodies tomorrow.

Since we’ve already done a round-up of her favorite Thanksgiving books, I thought a collection of books centering on strong families from our resident children’s librarian, Janssen, would be perfect for this time of year.

We went with chapter books so big kids can read them on their own or families can read a chapter together each night. Enjoy!

With the holiday season just around the corner, family is on everyone’s mind, whether it’s making gift lists for siblings or visiting relatives across the country.

There are so many great books about families, whether it’s families with magical powers, siblings who alternately get along and fight bitterly, families with health problems or disabilities, or families struggling through difficult circumstances.

These titles are perfect for kids to read on their own or to read aloud, snuggled up together. Add a little hot chocolate and, voila!
Instant quality family time. Read More

‘Tis the season for pumpkin and apple recipes!

If you’ve taken advantage of the seasonal grocery sales or done some apple picking at your local orchard, chances are you need some apple inspiration. This recipe is for you!  Read More

Can you guys believe it’s nearly November already?! You know what that means… time to start thinking Christmas shopping. Although the process can be overwhelming, it can also be a lot of fun hunting down the most exciting, enticing and developmentally appropriate toys for your littles.

I know I always feel a great sense of anticipation and accomplishment when I’ve finally settled on my top picks and placed my order.

To help you get a jump on things this year, one of our all-time favorite purveyeers of handmade toys and long-time MPMK sponsor, Mama May i is here today bearing gifts of their own…

Visit Mama May i & use the exclusive coupon code: MPMKLOVE for $5 off $30 or more!

Coupon excludes shipping, cannot be combined, and expires end of November… Here’s our contributor Alli showing off her favorite Mama may i find.

I love handmade toys. I mean, LOVE. When my firstborn was a baby, I had this fear that he would come to loathe wooden toys…because that’s all I would buy him!

Fortunately for us, that’s not been the case. Quite the opposite, actually. Not only do both of my sons love classic-style toys, but they are the only toys that seem to withstand their – well – vigor, shall we say?

So when we had the opportunity to review a toy from Mama May i, I leaped at the chance.

We were so excited to get our Shoot for the Rainbow Play Set in the mail. And from that point on, it was pretty much impossible to Read More

I don’t know about you guys but it’s been an eventful couple of weeks around here lately! Along with turning 6 (what?!?!) my oldest lost his first and his second tooth.

He opted to leave the first tooth for the Tooth Fairy but to keep the second. I lived for Tooth Fairy visits when I was his age so I couldn’t quite fathom this idea but, hey, to each his own. This led to a rousing discussion on how much $$$ the Tooth Fairy leaves on the MPMK facebook page.

Also this week, I shared 20 Treats Perfect for “Booing” Your Neighbors. Do you do this in your ‘hood? If you do, then you know it takes the perfect compact, portable and yummy treat – all 20 of these finds fit the bill perfectly.

Until next week!

P.S. Don’t forget MPMK readers can enjoy $5 off their purchase exclusively at Munchkin.com using the code: MPMKXMCK. The coupon is valid for U.S. residents only and expires November 30, 2014.

I’ve got something great to share with you guys today. In an effort to continue to fill our photography & memory making section with do-able ideas for busy parents, I’ve persuaded Andrea Genevieve Michnik from the Tiny Prints Blog share with us a really lovely family tree project.

You can do this one on your own or with the kids and there’s even a free printable template to make sure you can’t mess it up. That’s my kind of project!

Here’s Andrea…

Teaching kids about their heritage is a great idea during the family-centric holiday season, and making it a hands-on activity only takes a few simple supplies.

With this easy project, you can get everyone involved at your next holiday gathering, or create a family tree to put on display for aunts, uncles and grandparents to see when they visit. Family trees also make great gifts!

Just download the free printable template, print a few family photos and gather some supplies from your local craft store to be all set to make your own. Read More

If you’ve never heard, can I introduce you to the concept of ‘dump cake?’  While the name is quite unflattering, the concept is genius! 

The cake consists of several pantry ingredients and some eggs…involves a few stirs and about an hour in the oven.  And all the busy moms rejoiced!  Any time I have to make a dessert on the fly, it’s a dump cake.

This particular cake is of the pumpkin variety.  And hold the term cake loosely, because this tastes like a pumpkin pie married a cobbler and had a baby.  The pumpkin pie layer holds up, but there’s no flour in the mixture to make it a true cake.

Either way, serve it with ice cream and you’ll have everyone cheering your name. Read More

Our resident professional organizer, Annie, is here today with our latest Project Organize Your ENTIRE Life post.

She’s going to help you tackle your kitchen in 5 manageable steps. Do one a day and by the end of the week you’ll have the organized kitchen of your dreams!

Every project seems daunting until you break it into small, manageable parts. Regardless of how badly your kitchen needs decluttering or how intimidated you’ve been to begin, today’s post is designed to get you going and show you how easy it can be if you take it one project at a time.

Day 1 – The Tupperware

If there’s one category of belongings in the kitchen that’s consistently an issue for people it’s tupperware. Tupperware is picked up rather thoughtlessly at the grocery store to begin with. The collection quickly gets added to with restaurant take-out containers, grocery store salad bar tubs, and so on, and simultaneously loses a few parts here and there to doling out leftovers at social gatherings.

The constant state of food storage flux means you’re probably the (not so) proud owner of bottoms without tops, tops without matching bottoms, and total head-scratchers, whose origin you have no clue about. Read More

Hey everyone, how’s your week going? Mine has been crazy busy!

Mostly, I’ve been working like a madwoman on updating all 10 of MPMK’s Infamous Toy Gift Guides for Christmas. Yes, that’s right, Christmas – already!

(Psst – I’m updating them as I go this year. That means some of the guides like,”Best Toys for Building S.T.E.M. Skills in All Ages“, “Best Toys for Babies“, and “Best Building & Construction Toys” already have some new additions… Go check ‘em out if you’re dying to see what’s fresh this year!)

So – of course – the kids got sick. It always happens at the worst possible time, doesn’t it?

The combination of sick kids and a hectic work schedule left me in need of some serious comic relief, so I vented some of my stress via a tongue-in-cheek piece I wrote for eHow’s Mom’s Channel entitled, “10 Ways Having Young Kids is Like Being Held Hostage“.

Go check it out. Then throw me a bone in the comments and tell me you can relate!

Happy weekend.

Between the candy overload of October and the present overload of December, November is the perfect time for families to focus on what they have to be thankful for

And today’s free download is just the tool you need to help!

Simply print and keep near the dinner table, then pick a “thankful conversation starter” each night in November and discuss – easy peasy! And we’re giving it to you now so you’ve still got a few weeks to get yourself set up.

Here’s MJ with the details…

Anticipation is a powerful emotion in childhood. So why not use it to foster a spirit of gratitude?

As an adult, I have come to love Thanksgiving, with its focus on home and family as well as its minimal commercialism and this year we’re making thanksgiving an entire season with these printable conversation starters. Read More

Whether your family routinely does a ten hour trip to grandma’s every Thanksgiving, or you just find yourself in the car shuttling kids around A LOT now that school’s back in session – a well organized and entertaining car environment can be a parent’s best friend!

Today Alli is teaming up with MPMK’s newest sponsor, Munchkin, to share her favorite tips and products for keeping the mood happy in the car so you can be one zen Mama, wherever the road may take you.

They’re all great, but my favorites are definitely the DIY car activity kit and that genius iPad holder/organizer for only $25!

Before we get to the goods… you can nab your own Munchkin gear at your local Target or Babies’R’Us. Or take advantage of this exclusive munchkin.com offer:

MPMK readers can enjoy $5 off their purchase of $25 or more exclusively at Munchkin.com using code MPMKXMCK. The coupon is valid for U.S. residents only and expires November 15, 2014.

Here’s Alli…

This past Summer, we took our family on a fourteen hour road trip. You heard me, FOURTEEN hours.

I’m not even going to mention the fact that it turned into eighteen hours with pit stops and bathroom breaks. (It’s hard for me to talk about.)

I’m a serious organizer, so I did my best to get our car organized for our road trip. But to be totally honest, I had no idea what I was doing. It was our first road trip with the kids in tow, and as hard as you may try, you just can’t plan for these things unless you’ve been through it already.

Now that I’m on the other side of that trip (thank goodness), I’ll be much more prepared for the next one. Here’s a few tips and tricks to get your car road trip ready:

Everything within Reach

This one may seem like a no brain-er, but I can’t stress it enough. Whatever you can put within the kids’ reach, the better.

On our last trip, I must have climbed back and forth (while we were moving. – don’t tell the cops) more than a hundred times. One hour into the trip, my back was already hurting so bad just from “snaking” into the back seat. And all because the kids couldn’t reach this or that.

This time? I’ll know better. Back Seat and Stroller Organizers can be a lifesaver.

Here are a few “must haves” to pack in your organizer: Read More

It’s that time of year again…

 

Time for ghosts, witches, and goblins to make their spooky appearances. Mwah ha ha ha! (That was my best evil laugh, in case you couldn’t tell.)

 

Halloween is my absolute favorite holiday, because it’s all about creativity. For that reason, it’s also the perfect holiday to do crafts with the family.

 

This year, we decided to add to our porch decor by making Dry Erase Ghost Votives.

Read More

Isn’t the sun streaming through these fall leaf sun catchers lovely?

This was a really easy, no-mess project the kids and I took on last week to welcome the new season. It was the perfect activity for working on our fine-motor skills while also beautifying our home.

Get the full tutorial here.

And if you need a laminator for home (great for projects like these as well as protecting all sorts of things from chore lists to meal plans), this is the one I use and love.

Happy weekend!

*Post contains affiliate links.

Do you guys know about the iPhone’s burst mode? If not, you HAVE to read this tutorial – it will make a huge impact on the pics you get of the kids. And it’s so easy too!

What I love most about my Canon 5D Mark III (the professional camera I use for my job as a children’s photographer) is the quick response.

I click the shutter when I see the shot I want and I know there’s going to be no delay.  I can time my shots perfectly.  And, when you’re working with kids who move quickly, you need a fast camera!  If there’s even a half second delay, the moment is gone. 

That same fast shutter mode can be re-created with the iPhone too!  It’s called Burst Mode.  I like to use Burst Mode when Read More

First of all, I want to say both I’m sorry and you’re welcome.

This salted caramel brownie bark is really, really, addictively good.  And the recipe makes an entire half-sheet pan so you will have a lot of it around.

This also, however, gives you the perfect opportunity to package some up and share with friends and neighbors.I especially love the idea of leaving some as a little “boo” gift for your neighbors.  Do you do this?

We’re still fairly new to neighborhood living but I know there’s some of this that goes around our ‘hood.

I mean, think of how psyched you would be if your doorbell rang and when you opened the door you found this looking back at you. Read More