mindful living, effortless style

Are you struggling with what to do with ALL THAT ART & SCHOOL WORK coming through the door when the kids come home from school? Never fear – today Julee’s with us sharing a simple DIY project we think you’re going to love.

We create – and save – quite a bit of art at our house. With school just starting, the volume of paintings, drawings, and other crafts is only going to increase.

My current storage solution for keeping my children’s creations is to pile them on my desk until it becomes too much and I finally move them into a bin in a storage room. Not the best archival method since the bins aren’t accessible for immediate storage, nor are their contents labeled.

When Scotch® Duct Tape invited us to create a back-to-school project using their products, I knew the problem I wanted to tackle: art storage. In thinking about my ideal solution, I had two requirements:

  • Solve for both interim and long-term storage
  • Engage my children in the storage of their art

The idea of a little artist’s portfolio immediately came to mind. My children love carrying their stuff in all sorts of containers, so I knew it would appeal to them while also giving me a place to stash and label things almost as soon as they are created.

Here are the materials you’ll need:

Creating an artist's portfolio with Scotch® Duct Tape to get a handle on your children's artwork.

  • 1-2 rolls of Scotch® Duct Tape.
  • 1 roll of Scotch Chalkboard Tape or Scotch Dry Erase Tape
  • 2 pieces of poster board (recommended size 14 x 22 inches)
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Chalk/chalk marker or dry erase marker/crayons
  • Additional small piece of cardboard or card stock paper (approximately 4 x 6 inches)

The portfolio is super simple to make and, depending on the age of your children, they may be able to complete the project on their own.

Here are the steps I followed:

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The weather is cooling down, school is back in session, and the holidays are feeling like they’re just around the corner.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if all those family holiday activities were completely free of whining on the kids’ part and yelling on your end this year??

And how awesome would it be to start off your day peacefully, with everyone getting off to school without you having to nag or remind them over and over to hurry up?

It’s possible! I’m once again teaming up with my friend and personal parenting guru, Amy McCready of Positive Parenting Solutions, to present MPMK readers with:

A FREE Positive Parenting Webinar: Get Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding, or Yelling

Amy and I get together to present this free webinar about 3 times a year so if you want to learn her tricks and use them to enjoy a peaceful holiday season with your family, now is the time to sign up!

If you’re not familiar with Amy and her Positive Parenting Solutions program, she’s a self-described “recovering yeller” and champion of Read More

This might be the easiest food project I’ve ever created. It took mere minutes to give these pieces of fruit some personality. Here’s what I did:

  1. Wash and dry the fruit. You want your surface to be relatively dry.
  2. Get some candy eyeballs. I used both small and large candy eyes from Wilton. These are especially easy to find during Halloween season, but I assume you can pick them up year-round.
  3. Apply your edible glue. We used peanut butter. You could also try any other nut butter, honey, melted chocolate or any other sticky food item.
  4. Stick the eyes on your fruit. Pretty simple!
  5. Enjoy right away or send along in your child’s lunchbox.

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Image: © Suzette – www.suzette.nu edited and text added | Jippe Eating Scones | CC by 2.0

In honor of the fact that we’re giving away a cordless Dyson MC59 Motorhead vacuum cleaner worth $549, I thought I’d share two more ways for you and the family to get more organized this week.

First, up check out my post over on eHow Mom’s Channel on how I get my 4 and 5 year old to dress, feed, and otherwise prepare themselves for school in the morning (it had to be done – otherwise this “mom of 3 kids ages 5 months to 5 years” think would have surely been the end of me!).

Second, I’m hosting a second giveaway in honor of the first! (Is that weird?)

Since the Dyson MC59 Motorhead will keep your home clean, I’ve decided to help one lucky reader get organized too by giving away ALL of our printables and eBooks!

This includes: Read More

Last week I posted this potty training question on our Facebook page and it was the most commented on question we’ve had in months!

Clearly, potty training is a topic you guys are interested in

Today Alli’s here with what we’ve learned to be the 5 biggest potty training mistakes parents make. 

(Psst! – for even more help, you can get some really awesome tools – think apps that keep track of how often the kids need to go and have their favorite Disney characters call and congratulate them on their progress – over at Pull-Ups Big Kid Academy now.)

Here’s Alli…

My youngest son just turned 15 months. And the bigger he gets, the more I get that dreaded feeling…


It’s looming, right around the corner.

I learned A LOT when I potty trained my first son. It wasn’t necessarily a disaster, but it definitely could have gone smoother. I made my fair share of mistakes, and promptly beat myself up for them. (Darn that Mommy guilt!)

This time around? I’m arming myself with experience, resources, and copious amounts of wine. Just kidding. (Kind of…)

With that in mind, today I’m sharing “The 5 Biggest Potty Training Mistakes” that we (including me) all tend to make. 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

(sources clockwise from top left: 1/2/3/4/5)

So, technically, Grandparents Day was last Sunday.

But I think most grandparents out there are pretty understanding about the fact that last week was also the first week of school (what genius decided to put Grandparents Day during one of the busiest weeks of the year?!) and are willing to give us a pass.

As such, I’ve put together a great list of ways to honor the grandparents in your family.

It includes the fun crafts above, but also some really special ideas on how to spend the day with a grandparent too.

Check it out here!

Have you guys ever packed smoothies in your kids’ lunches? I’m so intrigued by this idea – it seems like SUCH a good way to get some much needed veggies into my kiddos’ lunches and I know they’d see it as an extra special treat.

But I wonder about the mess factor – is this really do-able?! 

Our food contributor, Natalie, assures me that it is and she’s here today sharing everything we need to know, along with her favorite tools and recipes.

Frozen smoothies are lunch box staples at my house. They are simple to make and easy grab out of the freezer in a pinch.

Why pack homemade smoothies?

  • Easy way to sneak extra nutrients into your kids’ lunches (especially if you have picky eaters)
  • Cheaper than buying single-serve pouches or yogurt tubes
  • You can make a week’s worth of smoothies ahead of time (or more!)
  • Customizable for school regulations and kids with food allergies
  • They save space by doubling as an ice pack

Read More

Question for you guys – do your kids put away their own laundry?

I recently mentioned in my post on our Kids’ Responsibility & Money Management Kit that my 4 and 5 year old get themselves dressed, brush their own teeth and make their own breakfast each morning and have been doing so for over a year.

That alone created a bit of a stir on facebook and I didn’t even mention that they also put away all of their own clothes – woo hoo! (Now you know how I actually survive being a mama of 3 kids, 5 months to 5 years in age!)

Today, we’re sharing a super helpful tool we use around here to get the kids putting away their own clothes – a very basic set of printable graphic labels that go on the outside of the kids drawers

My kids really love taking ownership of this job, especially with these labels that they can color themselves. Here’s MJ to tell you all about it.

Hope you love them as much as we do.

Laundry. It’s not the bane of my existence, but it’s close. I don’t love the many steps (and hours) it takes to go from dirty to folded and back in the drawer.

This super simple step helped to streamline our process and gave my children a sense of independence. Organization is always a goal around here with three school schedules and our professional calendar as well.

Every season my children and I go through their dresser drawers together. We look at what fits and what doesn’t, as well as what clothes they actually wear and which outfits are ready to move on to an owner who might love them more.

This act of purging is a great lesson in giving.

We fold together and reorganize each drawer. Using printable labels make the process simple. Dadand.com has created a set of labels that works well for even toddlers as they match pictures to their clothing and make the job a snap! Read More

I’m downright giddy today to FINALLY be sharing my bedroom space with you guys!

I’m so happy with how it turned out – clean, modern, ORGANIZED, and all with a very relaxing and peaceful vibe. Plus this room serves so many functions for me. It was designed to be a real workhorse of a space - functioning as craft-storage room, extra office, bedroom, and even work out area.

When I started out, I just wasn’t sure if I’d be able to accomplish all of these things and still have the room feel intimate and cozy, versus overly industrial and sterile. Fortunately, a few choice finds helped me achieve a truly multi-purpose room while keeping a clean and traditional aesthetic.

I’m so happy to share all of my finds with you guys today courtesy of our sponsor Dyson AND to host a giveaway of one of my favorite tools for keeping everything neat and clean. Ready?


Here we go… Read More

Who says popsicles can only be a summer treat? I’m all for extending my enjoyment of this sweet treat at least into fall, and I’m pretty sure my kiddos would be up for that plan too. Today our food contributor Jennifer is here with a scrumptious salty/sweet treat that I know you’re going to love.

Helpful Hint: get yourself a Zoku Quick Pop Maker to whip up all sorts of popsicles (both healthy and not so much) in just 7 minutes – no waiting for them to freeze! We absolutely love ours.

I can feel the days of frozen summer treats winding down but I’m not ready to let go just yet.

I had the most amazingly delicious salted chocolate popsicle recently and couldn’t wait to try to recreate it at home.  It was reminiscent of a fudgesicle but somehow better – more complex, more “adult” in flavor. The version I came up with has Read More

My kiddos headed back to school last week, and I know it won’t be long before they start coming home with all sorts of papers, projects and pictures. Last year, I struggled quite a bit with deciding what to keep and where to keep it. This year, I’m starting with a plan.

My plan is intentionally simple. I don’t follow through with overly structured systems for managing household tasks, and I know it’s likely to fall to the bottom of my to-do list if it isn’t amazingly easy. Here are the basic components:

Read More

Next week is C’s first day of kindergarten and S’s first day of Montessori preschool. You know what that means – time to buckle down and set up some solid morning, lunch packing, and maybe even homework routines. It wouldn’t hurt to set up a backpack and study zone either!

Here’s Alli with 20 of the best projects out there to get you organized for Back-to-School.

My oldest son will be starting a Mother’s Day Out program this Fall. I know, I know. That’s small potatoes in the back-to-school world. But still. It has my heart in a lurch.

I’m already in a tizzy about lunch boxes and tupperware. Backpacks and nap mats. I can’t even IMAGINE the chaos that comes with kindergarten, junior high, or high school.

And my heart panics a little as I type those words, because…well…my BABY! And those days are looming. Right around the corner. Excuse me while I peel myself off the floor.

But I digress.

I’ve decided that the only thing capable of easing these back-to-school Mom jitters, is a little dose of organization. Because not only does organization make life easier, it distracts us from the worries and fears of sending our BABIES back into the trenches. Am I right?!

Without further ado. Here are 20 back-to-school organization projects to help make your educational re-entry seamless.

  1. Make a backpack and school work drop-off station
  2. Make an “over the door” school supply organizer
  3. Create an amazing computer work station
  4. Make a magnetic lunch chart 
  5. Make a portable homework caddy
  6. Organize back-to-school clothes by days of the week. 
  7. Create a school lunch packing station
  8. Create a school snack station
  9. Create a killer Mom command center
  10. Make a mini homework station
  11. Organize school paperwork
  12. Make a family calendar
  13. Plan your after school routine
  14. Make an art cart
  15. Make your own school binders (with printables)
  16. Make  a “Back-To-School Checklist (or print this one)
  17. Create an “On the Go” homework station
  18. Simplify your morning routine
  19. Organize your pantry for quick and easy meals
  20. Simplify your “Mom To-Do List” 

Need more organizational help? Don’t miss our post, 10 Best Ways to Organize Art Supplies.


Recently I’ve been doing a little much-needed updating to our facebook page. It’s becoming quit the cozy spot where MPMK readers can come to chat, to learn from one another, to laugh, and even to dish a little. I’d love for you to come join us!

Here are some of the most popular things we’ve been posting on this month:

Top 36 Photos from the Blog, “Reasons My Kid is Crying” (cover photo)

The Infamous 1st Day of School Letter

An Apology to My Second Child

A Stranger Saw What I Couldn’t

7 Differences Between Breastfeeding Your First and Last Baby

How to Stop Sibling Fighting with 6 Words

Don’t Take the Kids to a Busy Place without Teaching these Five Things

How to Organize Your Entire House with One Trip to the Dollar Store

A Simple Trick for Getting Kids to Color Longer

23 Hilarious Baby Pinterest Photo Fails

We’re back today for part 2 of our series on ensuring school success this year, plus we’ve got a great giveaway too!

Before we get to that, though, don’t forget to check out part 1: 6 Things Your Child’s Teacher Wants You to Tell Them. And please don’t forget to take part in our sponsor, Quaker’s, partnership with Adopt a Classroom.org to get some much-needed funds to a classroom near you!

If you missed it the first time around, the Quaker Up for Classrooms program is trying to address the problem of teachers across America spending more than $1 billion dollars a year of their own money stocking their classrooms.

All you have to do to help is to buy specially marked Quaker products and enter the package codes online at Quaker Up for Classrooms. You’ll get a $1 off coupon for more delicious Quaker products AND you’ll be able to enter your zipcode to make sure the donated funds are going towards schools in your own community.

Got it? Good. Now here’s former 1st grade teacher Kristin with six things teachers want parents to know to start the year off right. (Don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the bottom of the post!)

Having written about things that your teacher would like you to share about your child, I thought it would be fitting to also let parents know some things that teachers would love to share with you.

I rounded up 6 thoughts that most teachers would agree are highly important for parents to know.  Some might be new ideas or something you’ve never thought about, while others are very basic and a good reminder for us all.


1) Every great day starts off with a great breakfast.

As a teacher, I wish I could remind parents that eating a nutritious breakfast is as important and being on time to school.  We get busy as parents and sometimes kids aren’t the best at getting up on time.  Trust me, I know how hard it is to get 3 kids out the door for school, while trying to get myself ready for work.  And unfortunately our grocery aisles are packed with ‘breakfast’ foods that are full of sugar and leave us hungry in about an hour.  Around here, we love to start out our day with a bowl of Quaker oatmeal with milk and craisins.

If a child is properly fueled, they’ll be able to concentrate better.  On the other hand, if a child hasn’t been able to eat breakfast or maybe had a breakfast that wasn’t full of nutrients, chances are they will be distracted and not able to work to their potential.  Many of us know what that feels like when we arrive to work with an empty stomach or having just eaten a donut in the car.  It’s hard to work without proper fuel!

2) Teachers need for kids to be getting enough sleep every night.

We talked about this issue in one of our Happy Family Habits.  This goes along the same line as eating a proper breakfast.  Getting a solid 8 hours or more helps kids start the day with energy.  Our bodies repair themselves while we sleep, little learning minds need as much sleep as they can get.

3) A quiet area dedicated to homework will help your child in the long run.

Good study habits start young.  Creating a little corner in your home that is quiet and conducive to quality studying time helps your child take in information and remember it later.  Have you ever tried studying while the TV is on or while people are talking loudly?  It’s hard!  Teachers know that good study habits will help your child retain the maximum amount of information.

4) Don’t get hung up on grades in the early years.

It’s hard not to compare.  We live in a competitive society.  But, the first few years of elementary school have a huge learning curve.  There is so much going on that each child is going to develop differently.  Most of the time it all evens out as elementary school is coming to a close.  Of course, your teacher should notify you if he or she notices signs of a more serious issue.  But, just because another child is reading before yours doesn’t mean that your child isn’t smart. Read More