mindful living, effortless style

The holiday season, and all the fun that comes with it, is here!

Just in case your weekend to-do list has “decorating for Halloween” on the top of it in big bold letters like mine, here’s one of my all-time favorite decor projects.

These Mason Jar Mummy Votives are super, super simple to make and I love that it’s one of those projects you can jump into with the kids without having to commit half a day to completing it.

More MPMK DIY Halloween Decor

DIY Spider Sacks

Mess-Free Pumpkin Decorating

Duct Tape “Wicked” Inspired Doormat

Halloween Paper Bag Luminaries

Simple Outdoor Halloween Garland

Stand-Alone Cheesecloth Ghosts


We are just over a month into the school year and lunches have already turned into a major chore.

It seems that every morning, a few minutes before we are supposed to be leaving for the bus, I am frantically trying to throw together a nutritious lunch for my daughter- racking my brain as to what I should include. All the while, she is standing beside me telling me that she is bored with what I am packing for her.

Does this sound familiar? If so, don’t despair, I have a few tips for you to make packing lunches simple and easy. Read More

How great would it be to get all of your Christmas shopping done ahead of time this year AND to feel confident your kids are going to love their gifts and keep returning to play with them again and again?

I’ve got some HUGE news today friends! Drum roll please…
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The 2016 Toy Gift Guides are here!

A month early this year– can you believe it?!

I heard you last year when you guys wrote in and asked me to please, please get the guides out in October.

I have to say I’m in awe of all of you that are that organized with your holiday prep and I worked LIKE CRAZY to try to accommodate you this year.

In case you’re unfamiliar with our famous gift guide collection, this is not your average roundup of a few of our favorite things – Oh no. This is an incredibly extensive library of the most engaging, brain-growing, and yet still super-fun toys available.

400+ selections viewed by thousands and thousands of parents each year!

And here’s the best part, all of those awesome toys are arranged into specially themed guides with detailed descriptions of each and every toy and categorized by our recommended age ranges for the utmost enjoyment.

This is the only resource you’re going to need this year to nab the perfect gift for every child on your list.

Pin the Gift Guides page to your favorite gift board here or bookmark this page now (and share it with your mom friends – they’ll thank you!).

I’ve spent months talking to friends, school teachers and even toy store owners as well as reading reviews, polling our readers, and scouring toy award lists to come up with these finds.

Ultimately, it’s what my kids are into that most motivates my purchases and I constructed these guides because I know that’s what you care about too.

If they’re going through a constructing stage, then I want the goods on the most stimulating building toys out there. If their creativity is blooming, I’m looking for info. on the highest quality and longest lasting art supplies. And if they can’t get enough of role playing, that means I’m on the search for toys that do a superb job in supporting dramatic play.

In addition, I’ve got a few goals of my own when it comes to toy shopping – getting in some solid independent play during quiet time, burning off steam when stuck indoors, and feeding their little brains in a fun way, to name a few.

I’ve organized this year’s picks with all of these things in mind.

Over the next couple of months I’ll be highlighting all 11 of our gift guides but you don’t have to wait. You can see them all right now!

Plus, bonus, I’ve now got lists for each age group too.

Just click here for each of the complete guides… Happy (early) shopping!

I’m so happy to introduce you guys to Billy today. He has some really interesting things to say about self-care, and what that really looks like when you’re also responsible for the daily care of a young child.

I especially connected to the part about modeling (and, sadly, the part about the dentist as I had a similar experience. NO. FUN.)

Don’t forget, we are always looking for new parenting perspectives to share. Learn more here.

Here’s Billy…

“How long can this wait?” I ask. Before answering, she turns off the glaring, operatory light hanging over my face. Mint rinse lingers on my tongue.

“It can’t. If the infection spreads in your jaw, it can create an abscess,” she responds. Her furrowed brows and stern eyes leave no room for negotiation. Read More

Maybe it’s because of my past life as an elementary teacher, but I love celebrating holidays.

I’ll take any opportunity to be festive.

For Halloween, I have a fun little food activity that will work for little and big kids.  You can make this something that you do together on a weekend, or surprise them by packing this spooky sandwich in their lunch. Read More

About a month into the new school year seems like pretty much the ideal time to tackle a new project for our Project Organize Your ENTIRE Life series.

This week we’re teaming up with our new sponsor, DYMO, to put their LabelManager 160 to work whipping up a stream-lined mudroom that serves the needs of an entire family.

Here’s our contributor Janssen with the details…

Do you have a room in your house that has so much potential but just somehow misses the mark and ends up frustrating you instead?

I definitely do. We moved into a new home this summer with a decently-sized laundry room that leads to the garage. At first glance, it seemed like the perfect spot to act as a command center for our family.

Then, before I knew it, my oldest daughter started kindergarten and we were suddenly dealing with backpacks, lunch boxes, school library books, and papers for the first time.

Nevertheless, I was excited about the potential our laundry room/mudroom had to be a really useful spot for our family, and I got to work right away. Read More

I’ve said before I could never be a mama that regularly Bentos (see how I made it a verb?). I lack the time and, more to the point, the creativity.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the appeal. 

Not surprisingly, this glimpse into how guest contributor Wendy works her lunch-time magic has gotten my wheels turning on creative ways I can incorporate healthy new options into my kids’ decidedly pedestrian lunches.  Additionally, I love the idea of pulling out all the stops like this for special occasions.

Check out the in-depth details for this lunch below and don’t miss 24 more great Halloween lunch ideas at the end of the post.

I like to celebrate most holidays by making festive lunches for my kids but Halloween is my favorite season by far to celebrate with cute food. As soon as the month of October begins, I start whipping out spooky lunches.

I’ve collected a large stash of Halloween supplies — cookie cutters, sprinkles, and cute cupcake picks — but you certainly don’t need all those tools to make fun bento box meals for your kids. For this lunch I pulled out just a couple cookie cutters to make jack-o-lantern tortilla chips then added an inexpensive cupcake pick from the party supply store to bring extra interest to some turkey spirals.

The rest of the box was filled with foods whose colors naturally bring Halloween to mind. Carrots and bean dip are the classic orange and black, while a trio of white, yellow and orange fruits bring candy corn to mind. Read More

I’m so excited about this Halloween project, it turned out even better than I’d envisioned.


It’s the quintessential MPMK project – easy enough for kids of all ages to get in on the action and the finished product is a decidedly stylish take on traditional Halloween decor.


And did I mention how inexpensive it is?


Image Credit: © Suzette – www.suzette.nu | found here | CC by 2.0 

Jessica is with us today discussing, once again, how do we really give our kids the kind of childhood we want for them?

I really love what she has to say, it reminds me of a great chapter from one of my favorite books, Nuture Shock: New Thinking About Children.

Like nearly every parenting issue, there’s a lot of gray area here and not a whole lot of black and white- I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Here’s Jessica with her story…

Last year, at the beginning of second grade, my son was flagged for his school’s gifted program.

At the parent-teacher conference, his beaming teacher showed us his test scores and other academic markers. He was leaps and bounds ahead of his classmates, showing comprehension several grades ahead. She told us he was exceptional, and that she wanted to have him tested right away.

I was sold. Immediately. My husband, not so much. Read More

If you’re looking for a simple DIY Halloween decor idea to try with the kids this year (one that – bonus – will keep them quiet and busy for a good chunk of time), check out my origami paper spiderweb garland.

The process for making these simple webs is very similar to paper snowflakes, find the full tutorial here.

More MPMK Halloween Crafts

DIY Spider Sack Decor

Mess-Free Pumpkin Decorating

Duct Tape “Wicked” Inspired Doormat

Dry Erase Ghost Votives

Halloween Paper Bag Luminaries

Simple Outdoor Halloween Garland

With that first snap of cool fall weather, all I want to do is cozy up with a warm bowl of oatmeal in the morning.

Oatmeal is such a great breakfast option because it helps keep you full until lunch. I also love that oatmeal offers endless flavor combinations, from sweet to savory.

My favorite oatmeal company, The Quaker Oats Company, makes the most delicious steel cut oats.  Steel cut oats are simply chopped, while the regular rolled oats are steamed, rolled, steamed again and then toasted. The texture of steel cut oats is heartier and they have a nutty, rich taste.

I used to be a little intimidated by making steel cut oats. They definitely require more cooking time than the Quaker Quick Oats I was used to making. But then I stumbled upon an over-night recipe for steel cut oats and I was hooked.

The first thing I did was make my own recipe with apples and cinnamon for the cool fall weather. Of course you can make any good thing great, so I also decided to make a little serve-yourself breakfast station with the Quaker Steel Cut oats and some toppings.

It’s the perfect thing for ensuring the kids (and I) get an easy breakfast with little to no effort required

Here’s how I set it up…

Read More

It’s the time of year when I’m once again gathering my holiday resources and putting together a simple plan for making memories with the kids. (It might seem a little early, but I really find that things go so much more slowly when I get out ahead of it and just make a few plans).

One thing definitely on my list this year are these spooky, stand-alone cheesecloth ghosts I put together for eHow a few years ago.

Back then my kiddos were really too little to help much but this year I know they’re just gonna love getting their hands dirty and tackling the project with me. It’s the perfect mix of spooky and just a little bit of magic for them.

Plus anything with googly eyes is always a hit!

More MPMK Halloween Crafts

DIY Spider Sack Decor

Mess-Free Pumpkin Decorating

Duct Tape “Wicked” Inspired Doormat

Dry Erase Ghost Votives

Halloween Paper Bag Luminaries

Simple Outdoor Halloween Garland


Our resident children’s librarian, Janssen, is back today with some of her favorite Halloween books for kids. Get your library cards ready…

I liked Halloween as a child (what’s not to like?) but as an adult, I find I enjoy it even more.

I’m off the hook for dressing up, since I can costume my children instead, it’s the beginning of the holiday season, and I can finally start pulling out my Halloween book collection.

If you’re looking to bulk up your own collection, here are seven great Halloween reads to buy or check out from the library:

  1. Skeleton Hiccups by Margery Cuyler and S.D. Schindler. This off-beat book about a skeleton desperately trying to get rid of the hiccups is sure to hit your child’s funny bone (can you guess what finally does get rid of his hiccups?).
  2. Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. This is the #1 Halloween book on Amazon, and for good reason. It’s just so sweet and fun. A witch, zipping along on her broom with her cat, loses various items and is helped by a few kind creatures who, in return, just want to take a spin on her broom. Is there room for all of them?
  3. The Spider and the Fly by Mary Howitt and Tony DiTerlizzi. This classic poem gets a decidedly spooky twist, thanks to Tony DiTerlizzi’s black-and-white illustrations. What better way to introduce your child to poetry? Read More

(pictured: Pretzel and Cheese BroomsticksPumpkin Pie Pop TartsCandy Corn Pudding PopsHaunted Hooting Owl PretzelsPretzel Mummy TreatsGhost Milk BottlesOreo Bat Truffles)

Halloween chatter has already started around my house, with my daughters throwing new costume ideas around every few minutes.

Our neighborhood gets really into Halloween, with costumed kids everywhere and even most adults dressed in something festive.

Naturally, I couldn’t help but notice all of the fun treat ideas starting to swirl about, and have compiled a list of 31 must-try Halloween treats for kids.  I mean, you don’t HAVE to do every single one, but just think of how excited your little ones would be if you did…


Orange Jack-o-Lantern Fruit Bowls

Halloween Veggie Tray

Monster Fruit Bowl

Clementine Pumpkins and Banana Ghosts

Pretzel and Cheese Broomsticks

Ghost Milk Bottles

Jack-o-Lantern Burgers


Doughnut Monsters

Gooey Monster Cookies

Easy Halloween Cupcakes

Pumpkin Pie Pop Tarts

Ghost Cookies

Gingerbread Mummies


Pretzel Spider Webs

Haunted Hooting Owl Pretzels Read More

The nature of blogging is so fast paced – always working to churn out that next post – that every once in a while, I put my head up and realize that there’s a lot of great stuff essentially getting buried here.

I try to help with menu bars and categories for things like Project Organize Your ENTIRE Life, In the Kitchen, or The Holidays– but the truth is a lot of you are viewing this on your phones and those menu bars are so teeny tiny they’re virtually non-existent.

So today, I thought I’d help steer you to a collection of some of our best offerings: free kid printables!

Read on, and click through, for a whole host of resources to help you keep your brood busy, engaged, and happy! (Be sure not to miss the knock-knock advent calendar, reading scavenger hunt, and kids’ clothing drawer labels– a few of my personal favorites.)

Playtime & Learning

B.O.R.E.D. Printable for the Wall

Reading Scavenger Hunt Treasure Map!

Homemade Learning: Big, Beautiful Counting Cards


Free Prints: Winnie the Pooh Quotes for Kid Spaces

“I’m Thankful for…” Thanksgiving Conversation Starter Prompts

Printable Knock-Knock Joke Advent Calendar

Free Template for Making a Photo Family Tree

Free Print: Give Your Child P.R.I.D.E.

Kids + Organization

Visual Aids for Setting Up a Simple Routine with Kids

Clothing Drawer Labels for Kids

Easy Fill-in-the-Blank Thank You Cards

For the Wall

Free Prints: Winnie the Pooh Quotes for Kid Spaces

Free Print: Give Your Child P.R.I.D.E.

Things I Want to Teach My Children Every Day