mindful living, effortless style

Spending New Year’s Eve at home with the kids is as fun as you make it.

You can mope around about the fact that you’re not hitting the town, or you can pick some activities that the kids will really get into, celebrate it at 8pm and then toast each other when they’re all tucked in bed.

Last year we made our own balloon drop, drank some super yummy mocktails, ate sparkling Jello push pops, and even contemplated the 14 habits of happy families to fill out our FREE year-in-review/year-to-come printables for families (ok, we didn’t actually do all those things but we were super happy to provide you guys with the details on how to do them all).

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This year, we’re making party hats that are so cute and easy to make.  All you need is some card stock, a little festive paper or ribbons and some paint. Read More

*This post is sponsored by The Quaker Oats Company, but all opinions are 100% my own.

I love the start of a new year.

As much as I adore the holidays, there is something so refreshing about taking down all the decorations, getting back into a normal work and school routine, and thinking about what you want to accomplish in the new year.

For my entire childhood, setting goals for the new year was a huge part of our family culture.

My dad printed out little spreadsheets for us to fill in with different goals about money, school, health, hobbies, and relationships. We’d post them up on our bulletin boards and bring them out once a month or so to make sure we were staying on track.

Our little girls (ages 5, 3, and 9 months) are a little young for that kind of really structured goal-setting, but I still wanted our family to have a chance to talk through what we wanted to accomplish in 2016.

Free New Year's Resolutions Printable- Great activity for families to do together each year! #QuakerUp #spon

Instead, I made these simple printables so that my girls (and the grown-ups!) could think about the new year and what will help us make it a great year for everyone.

Get Your FREE New Year’s Printable Here!
Read More

It’s a new year and time for a new routine. Time for a little less chaos and just a little more calm at home!

If simplifying your life by organizing yourself and your family is on the top of your wish list, we’ve got great news, the 2016 POYEL Printables and our Kids’ Responsibility and Money Management Kit are on sale!

For 10 days only, save 25% on each or buy both and save 37% !

Awesome 2014 printable pack for your home management binder, personal planner, or sheets just to stick on the fridge. Includes menu planning, calendars, cleaning checklists and more!

The 2016 Project Organize Your ENTIRE Life Printables Pack

Only $7.99 10 Days Only: $5.99

Get the PDF file:

Add to Cart

Or bundle with the Kids’ Responsibility & Money Management Kit and save 37% !

Only $15.98 10 Days Only: $9.99

Get the PDF files:

Add to Cart

I want this to be the year that we all finally slow down and find some extra time to connect with our families and I truly believe these are the tools to help you do it. So we’re also offering:

MPMK’s Kids’ Responsibilities & Money Management Kit

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Includes:

  • Morning Routine Checklist (2 versions – one with graphics for pre-readers and one with blanks to be filled out to fit your routine)
  • Evening Routine Checklist (2 versions – one with graphics for pre-readers and one with blanks to be filled out to fit your routine)
  • Family Jobs Worksheet
  • Money Jobs Worksheet
  • Spend, Save and Share Ledger
  • Savings Visual Goal Sheet
  • Printable “Spend”, “Save” and “Share” labels for DIY Banks

Only $7.99 10 Days Only: $5.99

Get your printable pack here:

Add to Cart

Or bundle with the Kids’ Responsibility & Money Management Kit and save 37% !

Only $15.98 10 Days Only: $9.99

Get the PDF files:

Add to Cart

Our 2016 daily/weekly/monthly planners, cleaning schedules, meal planners, kids’ routine charts, kids’ budgeting sheets and more are all designed with you in mind.

They’ll help both you and your kids get your routines down and even introduce the kiddos to important money management concepts including saving, budgeting, and giving back.

We know how busy you are. The goal of all of these printables is not to have to learn a whole new system but simply to help you streamline your everyday tasks. If we can do it with some cheerful colors and pretty fonts – then that’s just icing on the cake!

In case you’re not familiar with these Project Organize Your ENTIRE Life products, here’s a little more on each of them… Read More

Hello friends, I know it’s only a few days from Christmas and we’re all running around frantically trying to finish our to-do lists, but can I ask you for 5 minutes of your time?

I just wanted to make sure you’ve heard about the astounding thing that’s happening here.

Some of my favorite people are behind it and although they have a huge goal, they are asking so little of you.

Here’s the deal.

Their goal is to raise one million dollars to feed, clothe, shelter, and save refugee mothers, fathers, and children.

Make Your $5, $10, $15 or $25 Donation Here

The maximum donation is $25. Donations of $5, $10 or $15 dollars will change the world… and every penny we receive will go directly to refugee aid.

Did you catch that? There is a maximum donation of only $25. Why? Because they’re out to prove that small gifts with great love can do amazing things.

I’ve made my maximum donation (and checked the box to make it a monthly recurrence), will you do this one small thing this Christmas too?

Elizabeth Gilbert had this to say about the project (and it will break your heart):

I want to tell you exactly why I’ve gathered together with my friends Brene Brown, Cheryl Strayed, Rob Bell and Glennon Doyle Melton to try to meet the audacious goal of raising a million dollars for this emergency.

I’m doing it because of this quote, which came to my attention through an organization called HELP REFUGEES, whom we are partnering with, and who are working on the ground in Greece, right at the heart of this crisis.

This quote came from a volunteer doctor they are working with, who ended a recent phone call from the island of Lesvos with this desperate plea:


“There are thousands of children here and their feet are literally rotting, they can’t keep dry, they have high fevers and they’re standing in the pouring rain for days on end. You have one month, guys, and then all these people will be dead

I can’t know about this situation, and not do something about it.


I can’t know about children facing the winter — cold, homeless and hungry and with rotting feet — and not do something about it.


I am doing this because of kids like the beautiful little boy in this photo — because they need our help.


I know you want to help, too…and you can!

Make Your $5, $10, $15 or $25 Donation Here

 


Not a penny of it will be wasted. This is where your money is going:


BLANKETS. BABY CARRIERS. LIFE JACKETS. FOOD. WARM CLOTHING. FLOOD LIGHTS (for pulling people out of the water at night). SHELTERS. LIFE. This money is going to to life — to save human lives.


Like: IMMEDIATELY, in real time. You have no idea how efficient these people are, who we are working on the ground, helping out. They’re amazing.

Let’s save more lives.

Let’s keep going, guys. Let’s use our holiday hearts full of love to show up for some of the most desperate people in the world right now.

Let’s make a difference.

Keep donating, keep giving, keep caring. Most of all, keep SHARING these posts, and inviting the big-hearted people in your lives to stand with love.”

Make Your $5, $10, $15 or $25 Donation Here

 

For the Babies

Lamaze Clip & Go Squeezy Donkey $14.99

Lamaze toys were all the rage in the mommy and baby class I attended with my first son and it didn’t take us long to figure out why. They’re oversized, plush, and have lots of fun stuff for baby to pull and chew on. Plus they’re durable – all of ours lasted through all three kids.

Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes $7.19

You know those lovely early months when many babies scream just about the ENTIRE time they’re in the car? This musical toy that’s easy to hold and has buttons big enough for baby to push on his own was the only thing that ever got my kids to stop – it was worth it’s weight in gold I tell ya. It was also great for getting my babies’ attention in times of non-stress.

Duck & Goose Plush Pair $14.95 with your favorite Duck & Goose Board Book

This is what’s going in our 20-month-old’s stocking this year. He absolutely loves these guys!

 

Bath Toys

Bath toys are one of my go-tos for stockings every year. I absolutely love them because they keep big kids happy in the tub and entice smaller kids to get in- such a great way to pass some time too! We’ve had the Boon frog shaped bath toy holder and the Boon Water Bugs and Net toy for years so when the company offered to send us samples of their newest bath toys, listed below, we jumped at the chance. Read More

Don’t you love those recipes that look way more complicated than they actually are? 

You get all the credit for slaving away in the kitchen, when really you spent 20 minutes throwing it together and watched it turn into something amazing while you help the kids with their homework.

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I love this peppermint bombe cake because it looks so pretty on inside and out. You really can’t mess up the frosting and when you sprinkle the outside with candy canes, it turns incredibly festive.

Once the cake is cut, you see the white creamy center and everyone’s mouth waters.

All you need are these simple ingredients to get you started. Read More

Whether you’re just starting your holiday shopping or have already finished up for the year, you might want to make room on your list for one or two things in today’s glimpse!

This time of year, a few toys the kids can safely use inside to burn off some steam can be an absolute sanity-saver!

For those of you not exactly sure what I’m talking about when I say “glimpse”, this is a day when we highlight one of our favorite sections of the:

2016 MPMK Gift Guides

Why?

Because I realize that our MEGA gift guides are a lot to take in- detailed descriptions and age recommendations of over 400 toys, books, games, and more divided into 15 themed guides takes some concentration to get through.

Update: See the Latest Sales on All our Picks Here!!

I’ve heard from several moms in fact, both via email and in real life, who have already spent a good hour or two immersed in them.

So this year, I’m trying to help you navigate the guides by highlighting some of my favorite parts.

Note: this is not even a full guide, but simply a sub-section of one of the 15 guides. My hope is that it will help you find the perfect gift for under the tree!

As I said above, today we’re talking keeping kids active while stuck inside!

This is just one half of one of our most beloved gift guides:

Best Toys for Staying Active Inside & Out

Second only to our famous Top S.T.E.M. Toys Gift Guide

Ready? Here’s the list…

Burning Off Steam Indoors

This section was born purely out of necessity.  With two rambunctious kiddos bouncing off the walls around here, I’m asking everyone in the family to think about gifting active toys this year!  Below is a carefully curated collection of my favorite picks for expelling energy when stuck indoors.

Educational Insights Magic Moves Talking Electronic Wand $19.99 (18 months – 9 years) 

Normally I’m not big on electronic toys with lots of sounds and lights, but when said toy can help my kids get rid of all their pent up energy inside on a stormy day, it becomes my new best friend. This inexpensive magical wand uses 90 silly commands (sway, creep, stomp like a dinosaur, leap) and 26 songs, along with a light show to get kids moving. This is one of those rare toys that’s great for siblings of different ages to play together (my 7-year-old, 5-year-old, and 18 month old all love it). It will keep the bigger kids interested (who doesn’t like having the mic and being the star of the show?) while developing listening skills in the younger set along with enriching their vocabulary and ability to follow directions.

Kidoozie Foam Pogo Jumper $14.95 (3 – 10 years)

The key to a good indoor toy is it’s ability to wear a child out without requiring a lot of space to do so. This soft pogo jumper is an Amazon #1 Best Seller because it does just that. It will keep the kids happy (and get them good and tired) and you won’t have to worry too much about them knocking over your stuff (or each other). Read More

Time for another “MPMK Gift Guide Glimpse”… For those of you not exactly sure what I’m talking about, this is a day when we highlight one of our favorite sections of the:

2016 MPMK Gift Guides

Why?

Because I realize that our MEGA gift guides are a lot to take in- detailed descriptions and age recommendations of over 400 toys, books, games, and more divided into 15 themed guides takes some concentration to get through.

Update: See the Latest Sales on All our Picks Here!!

I’ve heard from several moms in fact, both via email and in real life, who have already spent a good hour or two immersed in them.

So this year, I’m trying to help you navigate the guides by highlighting some of my favorite parts. My hope is that it will help you find the perfect gift for under the tree!

Today we’re talking kindergartners.

This is such a fun age to shop for because they’re still young enough to be totally thrilled about something great and they’re old enough to play with some really innovative and fun stuff!

Here’s a glimpse at the 20 most exciting gifts your can give a kindergartner:

The Very Best Toys for Kindergartners (5 – 6 years old)

Read More

Yesterday a good friend group texted me and a couple of our other mom friends to ask for our favorite DIY play dough recipe. Of course, I immediately replied with a link to our famous Jell-O play dough.

A few hours later she texted a photo of happy kiddos and my other friends were chiming in what a life-saver this recipe is when kids are home from school and there are lots of hours to fill.

A light bulb went off and I realized all of you might also benefit from a reminder about our best recipes for sensory play with winter school breaks looming.

Without further ado, here are our seven favorite, tried and true, MPMK recipes!

  1. Jell-O Play DoughSoftest and best smelling play dough ever!
  2. DIY Play Snow – So fun for making snowmen inside where it’s warm and toasty.
  3. Peanut Butter Play Dough – A fun, edible play dough your kid can happily nibble while playing.
  4. Dr. Seuss’ Oobleck Recipe – Pair it with the classic book for hours of giggles and fun.
  5. Ice Cream Play Dough – smells like ice cream, scoops like ice cream and even tastes a lot like ice cream but DOESN’T MELT like ice cream.
  6. Calming Lavender Play Dough – the perfect thing for helping the kids settle down after a long day.
  7. Rainbow Scented Glitter Slime – Slime that has glitter AND smells yummy, what more can you ask for?

For even more good ideas for keeping your littles happy, see our 2016 gift guide:

 The Best Learning Toys for Quiet Time

 

*Post contains affiliate links.

In October we wrote the post Kids & Phones: A Guide for the Newbie Mom so we thought we’d follow up today with how to protect that new phone if you decided this was your child’s year.

Here’s our contributor Kristen, mom of two teens and a tween, with her review of the innovative phone cases made from our newest sponsor, tech21 

If you’re giving the gift of technology this year, don’t forget to think about protecting it too.  The holidays seem to be the time when we upgrade our gadgets.  It’s the nudge to invest a little into our phones or tablets.

Or maybe you’re purchasing the first very iPod or cell phone for your child.  It’s so important to start off that big purchase with the right cover.

The case that will protect it from falls, bumps and scrapes.  And we all know those things are inevitable.  As careful as we can be handling our phone, all it takes is one little careless maneuver to end up with a cracked screen or a broken phone.

Recently, we got to try out the tech21 phone cases. For a busy tween and teen, these covers did the trick.  I’ve seen them drop their devices and they came up 100% unharmed.

Best Way to Protect Your Phone: Tech21 Cases

It must be the way that tech21 designs their cases.  I read up on the product and found that the company has been making cases for ten years.  They’ve had all those years to develop their products, along with unique materials that no one else in the industry is using.

Best Way to Protect Your Phone: Tech21 Cases

The wonderful thing about the tech21 case is how light it is.  Some cases will protect your phone, but it feels like using a cell phone from 2003 with the bulkiness.  The Evo Mesh case is up to 30% slimmer and 60% lighter than other cases while still offering impact protection from drops of 6.6ft.

I was also impressed that the case doesn’t interfere with signal quality, Wi-Fi or sensors.  I’ve actually returned a case from a different company because I just couldn’t use the buttons on my phone the way I used to.  I love how this case feels almost like there’s nothing on your phone, while still protecting it with their FlexShock™ technology.

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For all the talk about the world’s most advanced impact protection material and ten years of design experience, you would think that the case would cost an arm and a leg.  But, the tech21 cases are very reasonable.

The Evo Mesh Case for our iPhone 6 was under $40.  It’s the perfect stocking stuffer.  Even if you’re not giving technology this holiday, you can still protect it.  The cases also come in so many colors, so it’s easy to find one that fits everyone’s style.

*This post was sponsored by tech21, all opinions are 100% our own.

If there’s one thing I love about December, aside from the holidays, it’s the Best of 2015 book lists that come out.

As a former librarian and a huge reader, both on my own and with my small children, it’s basically like Christmas all over again when I get a little time to pore over the lists and max out my library card with the ones I haven’t read yet.

Of course, I can never resist putting together my own list too. If you’re looking for something great to give as a gift to a spouse, friend, parent, or co-worker, you can’t go wrong with any of these 20 books. And since they’ve all come out in the last year, you’re less likely to give a duplicate.

And, who know, maybe you’ll even have a little time this holiday season while work and school are out to dive into one or two of them yourself!

Here’s my list… Read More

One of my favorite parts of putting out our massive collection of gift guides every year is figuring out what the best-sellers of the year are going to be. Once Black Friday passes, I always have a pretty good idea.

In case you’re wondering what everyone is buying this year too, here are the top 25 best-sellers from the over 400 toys and games included in the gift guides this year!

Oh and good news – half of them are currently on sale!

In order of most popular…

MPMK Toy Gift Guides

Educational Insights Magic Moves Talking Electronic Wand $21.99 $15.89  (18 months – 8 years) 

Normally I’m not big on electronic toys with lots of sounds and lights, but when said toy can help my kids get rid of all their pent up energy inside on a stormy day, it becomes my new best friend. This inexpensive magical wand uses 90 silly commands (sway, creep, stomp like a dinosaur, leap) and 26 songs, along with a light show to get kids moving. This is one of those rare toys that’s great for siblings of different ages to play together (my 7-year-old, 5-year-old, and 18 month old all love it). It will keep the bigger kids interested (who doesn’t like having the mic and being the star of the show?) while developing listening skills in the younger set along with enriching their vocabulary and ability to follow directions.

MPMK Toy Gift Guides

Snap Circuits Jr. Electronics Discover Kit $34.99 $20.99 (5 – 7 years) Read More

It’s about this time of year that the folks in my neck of the woods start making plans for family vacations come spring. (It’s somewhat of a natural consequence of the start of the rainy season.)

But our family isn’t joining them this year for two reasons:

  1. We did the vacation thing BIG last year and it seems prudent to keep it much more low key this year
  2. Our youngest is at the perfect age (20 months) for making the idea of a plane trip or long lines at an amusement park sound absolutely awful.

So this year we’re taking a different strategy.

Instead of one, big, week-long family vacation sometime in February, we’ve decided to pepper the next several months with several small adventures.

One thing we’d really like to accomplish with this idea is lots of bonding. So, to that effect, we’re doing some Mommy/Son outings, some Daddy/Daughter trips, some adventures with the whole family, etc.

We just started so we’ve only logged two excursions so far… my son and husband took in a college football game about a month ago and just a few weeks ago we left our young toddler with grandma and took the big kids on an overnight Great Wolf Lodge Snowland adventure.

It was actually a very spontaneous thing. The week before, I received an invitation for me and my family to come get a sneak peek of Great Wolf Lodge’s transformation into a Christmas wonderland. Having been to the indoor waterpark/hotel/virtual amusement park before, I knew the big kids would be thrilled to see the place holiday style.

So, despite my son being in his very first play and having to be at school for 7 hours on Saturday to perform two shows, we bundled them into the car that night and headed off to check another adventure off of our list.

It really turned out to be a magical 24 hours and today I’m giving you an insider’s look at the Great Wolf Lodge Snowland experience (find the resort closest to you here) and my tips on how to get the best out of it!

GWLClockTower

The very first thing that happens when you check in, is your children are each given a set of wolf ears– which they will immediately put on and then run around the lobby acting like wolves.

Once you catch up to them, this is what you’ll see- The Great Clock Tower located right in the middle of the Grand Lobby. Read More

It’s time for another “MPMK Gift Guide Glimpse”… For those of you not exactly sure what I’m talking about, this is a day when we highlight one of our favorite sections of the:

 2016 MPMK Gift Guides

Why?

Because I realize that our MEGA gift guides are a lot to take in- detailed descriptions and age recommendations of over 400 toys, books, games, and more divided into 15 themed guides takes some concentration to get through.

I’ve heard from several moms in fact, both via email and in real life, who have already spent a good hour or two immersed in them.

So this year, I’m trying to help you navigate the guides by highlighting some of my favorite parts.

Over the next few months, I’ll be stopping in every once in a while to showcase a favorite section from one of the 15 guides. (Note this is not even a full guide, but simply a sub-section of one of the guides.)

My hope is that it will help you find the perfect gift for under the tree!

Today talking we’re art kits and books. There are so many cool options on the market this year that I had to create a whole new section just for them. I can’t wait to set my kids up for hours of creativity with these sets and books!

Best Art Books & Kits for Kids

Klutz Paper Flying Dragons Craft Kit $13.30 (6 – 12 years)

Our babysitter gifted my 6 1/2 year old son this super-cool book last year and he has had so much fun making the flying dragons and testing them out. From the publisher, “Made of sturdy card stock, these 12 fearsome, stunning dragons are ready to fold and fly. Use expert tips to build a custom dragon, then read on for fascinating dragon facts written by award-winning science fiction author Pat Murphy.” If you’re trying to picture what this is, think a punch out book that makes really good paper airplanes, except they’re dragons! This one is sure to be a hit with any kids who’s a fan of the How to Train Your Dragon franchise, and pretty much every other kid too from what I can tell. One of my favorite parts about the book/kit is that once kids construct their dragons, it provides ideas on how to make tweaks to achieve different flight path results. The book is also full of all kind of interesting facts about dragons and different dragon species. Parents rave about the beauty of the illustrations, the high quality of the paper, and the fact that even the tape is included!..

And if you have an airplane lover in the house or a Star Wars lover, be sure to also check out the classic Klutz Book of Paper Airplanes Kits and the Klutz Star Wars Folded Flyers, which also get amazing reviews!

Klutz Star Wars Folded Flyers: Make 30 Paper Starfighters Craft Kit $16.99 (6 – 12 years)

If you have a Star Wars lover in the house, be sure to also check out this Star Wars version. From the publisher, “each of the six-starfighter designs has been rigorously tested by the Klutz Aerodynamics Team. And they look as great as they fly, because they’re made from full-color, custom-designed papers – representing galactic vehicle exteriors, authentic to the last bolt. With five copies of each design, kids can have a fleet of Y-wings and X-wings at their command.”

Spirograph Deluxe Design Kit $22.99 (7 – 15 years)

I get so excited when the toys I loved as a kid come back into vogue! I remember spending HOURS playing with my spirograph as a kid. The things you can make with this are unlimited but also so impressive looking. This one is a classic for a reason and the 50th anniversary edition has some cool extras including a carrying case with a built-in work surface and putty to keep the spirographs in place (so smart)… I also love, and will be buying for our daughter this year, thisSpirograph and Spirograph Coloring Book Combo Kit that comes with a spirograph set, as well as a spirograph coloring book, similar to the mandala style coloring books highlighted in this guide, and colored pencils.

The Mandala Coloring Book $9.19 (5+ years)

Mandala style coloring books have become all the range for helping adults to relax and relieve stress. So, of course, they are wonderful for children for the same things! One reviewer wrote of this one, “purchased this book for my five year old son as a gift. I am stunned with how he is able to put together amazing looking drawings with ease. He absolutely loves colouring them in. He is usually a very, very active child but this book has had an incredible calming effect on him. Not only whilst he is colouring but also when he has finished. He is incredibly proud of the end results and I have to say I am bowled over with the completed pictures. It’s become one of his new favourite pastimes and we as parents feel blessed with how colouring these beautiful mandalas has calmed his general behaviour! My wife and I have also become somewhat addicted to colouring and the effects that it is having on us.. so much so that we have bought two more copies so we can all colour at once! A truly beautiful book that will keep our family busy with 100 wonderful designs. I can’t recommend this book enough! Read More

Headed to potluck after potluck this season? Looking for something that’s easy to assemble, festive AND healthy? 

P.S. Speaking of Thanksgiving, did you hear what we’re doing to make your holiday shopping way easier this year?

NEW THIS YEAR: Check out our Alerts Page for Sales on All of the Toys from our Famous Gift Guides – Updated Daily!

Veggie trays are a mainstay at parties year round, but I thought I’d add a little holiday spin to make things more interesting this year. Read More