mindful living, effortless style

Are you guys’ big planters? I have to admit, I never really thought about planting until we moved into our forever home. Now when spring rolls around, I just can’t wait to start adding bold, beautiful colors to the yard via a few artfully designed pots.

In the past my mother-in-law has graciously done my pots for me as an anniversary present to my husband and I. This year, though, my kindergartner’s elementary school was having a massive plant sale so he and I are going to attempt the task together.

I’ll soon be up to my neck in coleus, potato vines, petunias, and snap dragons! Keep an eye on our instagram account for updates and read on for more info. from our contributor Kristin on the method we’re using to ensure big and beautiful plant pots this year!

P.S. Along with getting excited about flowers – I also can’t wait to dig into projects from this book with the kids this summer!

The weather’s getting warm and I’m starting to focus my attention to my yard.  Winter months are great for inside paint jobs and organizing shelves, but spring is a perfect time to spice up the yard!

I used to be a little intimidated by gardening, especially mixing different types of plants AND making them look beautiful.  My thumb tends to be more black than green.

But after looking at this Patio Perk-Ups article on Better Homes and Gardens, I got inspired and turned to the internet and a few friends that love to garden to find out if there was a method to the madness.

A beautiful potted plant looks organic. It looks as though the different types of plants were found like that in nature.

Nevertheless, it turns out that there IS a method!  Seasoned gardeners typically mix three different types of plants together in a pot and the result looks effortless.

Here’s how it works:  You start with a ‘thriller’, add a ‘filler’ and end with a ‘spiller.’  Easy to remember, right?

The Thriller

Thrillers are the divas of the plant world.  They are tall and the types of plants that people are drawn to in the rows at Home Depot.

A thriller might also be structurally impressive or just unique in color.  You’ll know when you see a thriller!  Some examples are Ornamental Grasses, Tall Growing Succulents and Cannas.  Start by planting the Thriller first – typically in the middle of the pot.

The Filler

Fillers tend to be billowy and lighter in texture.  They are there to Read More

Before I became a parent, I had no idea of the role knock-knock jokes, mad libs, and the like would one day play in my home. With a 6 year old and a 4 year old – these things are the stuff of magic around here. My kids think they are absolutely hilarious and just cannot get enough – ever.

Which is why I asked our contributor MJ to put together a colorful Mad Libs style card that can be used for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Grandparents’ Day, etc. Because I know the kids will want to fill them out over and over, for any and every occasion for which they might be even mildly appropriate.

These cards aren’t just fun, the large blank space left for your child to fill with their drawings makes them a great keepsake too!

Download the free printable below and enjoy!

Do you remember the afternoons of activity pads and Mad Libs? I adored the silly stories that came from putting together a random collection of parts of speech. And the fun of bringing in a friend who knew the really great adjectives and juicy verbs to include to make your story even more ridiculous.

Free Mad Libs Card printable - great for Mother's Day, Father's Day, Teacher Appreciation and anything else your kids want to celebrate in a silly and fun way!

I wanted to bring that same sense of fun to my kids. Because I love laughing with them and (bonus) using a structure like fill in the blank, allows children to explore vocabulary and express emotions that might not readily come into their writing.

Expressive writing is a skill that needs to be practiced and activities like this one sets kids up for success with it early on. Read More

It’s really too bad Earth Day doesn’t get the same fanfare as Valentine’s Day, Halloween, and the like.

The shape our environment’s in these days, we could certainly use a day where every family sits down and really talks to their children about the impact (both positive and negative) that they can have on the world they live in.

Here are 14 of our favorite ideas to help you hold an Earth Day celebration at your house.

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Clockwise from top right

Make a Plantable Paper Earth – This is the project that keeps giving. It starts as a hands-on art activity and morphs into a planting activity the kids can keep an eye on for the rest of the season.

How to Create an Upcycled Inventor’s Box for Hours of Open-Ended Play – The name just about says it all but it’s also good to note that there are handy free printable idea cards to help get the kids’ creative juices flowing.

Planting with Ice Cream Cones (via Design Mom) – This method of growing from seeds is one that is sure to excite your littles. They’ll be so intrigued by the image of dirt in an ice cream cone, they won’t be able to help but get involved.

Coffee Filter Stained Glass Earth (via I Can Teach My Child) – My favorite part about this art project is that it’s appropriate for a really wide range of ages.

The Kitchen Garden Experiment: Growing Plants from Food Scraps – This one is perfect for teaching littles about where food comes from and big kids can use the free printable observation chart to experiment with the Scientific Method.

Playdough Planet Earth (via Meet the Dubiens) – Your kids will be amazed how easy it is to make a 3D model of the Earth’s crust (and it just looks so darn cool).

DIY Veggie Garden Sensory Box – Whenever I post this, I get two distinct reactions. One camp loves it right away, and the other questions why you would do this with a child instead of planting actual plants.

My answer is that you don’t do it instead of planting, you do it along with planting. Young kids learn a lot through dramatic play and this is a great opportunity to utilize that while they’re waiting for their actual plants to grow. And they’ll love the sensory component too – spending lots and lots of time digging in! Read More

It’s been a while since we’ve had a Project Organize Your ENTIRE Life post around here… know why? 

You guessed it – life has gotten crazy lately. In the wake of a back injury, multiple cases of kid pneumonia, 1st birthday parties, Easter, Spring Break, etc. some of my routines have started to slip. I’m human, it happens, I try not to dwell.

One thing I’ve found super helpful when we start to descend into chaos around here is an easy new project that can get me back on track and excited about streamlining our routines at home again.

The key here is to pick something extremely do-able.

Today, I’ve got just such a project – a totally FREE mini-video course (affiliate link) on simplifying and organizing at home.

It covers four of the most challenging areas around the house: laundry, dishes, meal-planning, and night-time prep for the next day.

What I love most about it is how minimal the time investment is… Just 4 short videos (10 minutes or less), plus a free printable worksheet to go with each and you’re off and running.

What do you say – are you game to try it with me and get the homestead back on track?

Here’s some more info. from the producers of the mini-video series…

FREE Spring Cleaning, Organizing, and Homemaking video series - four quick 10 minute videos and 4 worksheets to go along with them. I am so doing this!!!

Tired of getting behind on laundry? Do you struggle to keep your kitchen clean? Does the dinner hour have you stressed out every night?

If so, you cannot miss a FREE 4-part mini eCourse that is available for a limited time:

4 Simple Steps to Stress-Free Homemaking

In this eCourse, you will learn:

Read More

Image Credit: © Dylan Parker |Very Serious – DSC_2926 (Text added) | CC by 2.0

Happy Monday guys, hope your weekend was a good one.

We spent ours trying out a new gymnastics class for the 4 year old (soon to be back-to-back with T-ball games for the 6 year old), new Sunday School classes for all three kids, and our first ever family bike ride with all five of us (including the newly 1-year-old in a trailer behind Dad).

These new activities mark more than just a change in season for our little family, they seem to me to mark a change in phase of life.

Where we once had a house full of chubby, wobbly toddlers and often seemed constrained by naptime and potty training, we still have all of that but also have sports teams, lost teeth, and some very big kid words, feelings, and conversations.

Today our parenting contributor, Jessica, is back with us exploring, as only she can, the often jolting experience of going from raising toddlers to parenting big kids…

It feels like I answer hundreds of questions every day. Silly questions from my three year old, lots and lots of “But why?” until my answers peter out to the inevitable, “Because that’s just how it works,” before I try to distract him with food or his baby sister.

My oldest, almost eight, stumps me all the time with questions about gravitational pull and Star Wars and football and meteorology. Turns out, I have very basic knowledge of many, many things.

But we jump onto Google or ask Siri and learn something new together, and I think it’s a good life lesson – we may not have all the answers, but we know where to find them.

Lately though, it’s my oldest daughter who asks the really hard questions. She’ll be six in two weeks, and during the day, she asks me how to spell words like “because” and “masterpiece.”

She wants to know which colors make orange, and when her little sister will start talking, and if I think she’ll marry Nico from school one day. But come bedtime she becomes quite grave. She sits in her bed and looks at me with big eyes, and then she asks me when I’m going to die.

Oof. Read More

I have been in the biggest lunch rut lately and I think a big part of it has been not being able to figure out a healthy, but still tasty, way to dress my salads.

Then a few days ago, out of the blue and like a message from above, my favorite nutritionist Katie emailed me to say that her nutrition site, Prescribe Nutrition, had just put out a FREE ebook full of clean eating recipes for marinades and dressings.

Whoo hoo! I’ve been chowing down on the 2-minute jar vinaigrette ever since – lunch is saved!

Get the free clean eating dressings & marinades ebook here!

Of course, that wasn’t the only reason Katie was reaching out. I have been a loyal affiliate for the Prescribe Nutrition programs for years now and she wanted to let me know that a new online nutrition course was about to begin and to once again offer a 20% discount to MPMK readers.

Get 20% Off the “Prescribe Balance” Online Course with the code: MPMK20

April 12th –  May 1st, 2015

Oh, and my FAVORITE PART, they’re adding a 20-day home de-cluttering course on top of all the great nutrition stuff. That means you can clean out your body AND clean out your house all in one fell swoop!!

If you aren’t familiar with Katie and the rest of the gang over at Prescribe Nutrition, I’ve written all about my experience with their program many times on the blog. Here’s a little snippet:

Do you ever think to yourself, “I am ALWAYS tired.”?

I went through a big slump after having my daughter S, in which I just couldn’t seem to find my energy anywhere. Plus, I had headaches for a lot of the day, every day.

All that exhaustion and pain meant I had no energy to play with the kids plus I was moody and crabby with a short fuse and very short on Mama patience.

At first I tried to figure it out on my own, then I sought help through my general physician, OBGYN, and even a naturopath. But I never found the solid answers I was looking for.

It wasn’t until I met the functional-nutritionists at Prescribe Nutrition, Katie and Megan, that everything changed for me

It’s hard to believe that I’ve known Katie and Megan for years now. They’ve played such an important role in helping to make me the mom I want to be and I’ve loved being an affiliate for their online programs because I believe in what they do so much.

And here’s the part where I “keep it real”.  The Prescribe Nutrition courses aren’t a cake walk (either literally or figuratively).  

It was hard – especially the first week when my body was craving all the processed foods and sugar I usually fed it. But I did it – what’s more I got my husband to do it too and we both felt SO MUCH better at the end.

When telling people about it I would say that I didn’t necessarily feel like I was ready to run a marathon but I generally felt happier and less tired. I also realized once I began the program that previously I’d been experiencing chronic stomach pains and bloating at night.

They’d become so commonplace that I didn’t even notice them, or think about doing anything to avoid them. Then I started my 15 days, those symptoms disappeared, and I felt amazing.

Finally, the most profound outcome of the experiment was how it affected me as a mother. Without the headaches and exhaustion, I became so much more fun!  And I started connecting with my kiddos in new ways – which was a huge gift and exactly what I was hoping to gain from the experience.

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Every year I get a little blindsided by Easter.

Halloween I totally equate with lots of candy and general sugar overload, for sure. But when it comes to Easter, I think of dying boiled eggs and a big fancy brunch. What I always fail to remember, until it’s upon me, are the mass amounts of chocolate my littles collect over the holiday, mainly at the neighborhood Easter egg hunt.

Fortunately, my 6 and 4 year olds are slightly obsessed with experiments of all varieties right now and, it turns out, candy is a great medium for an afternoon of kitchen science fun.

So instead of eating all of those M&Ms and jelly beans this year, why not join us in cooking up a few colorful concoctions?

We put the scientific method to work with the following classic experiment. The only thing you need besides your candy for this one is water, but we used sparkling water because a) bubbles make everything more fun and b) extra fizz makes it Read More

DIY LEGO artwork for kids' rooms - such a cool way to feature what your child is excited about in their room and they can help with the whole process. Going to do this with my daughter's favorite dolls too!

DIY Lego Art

Have you guys noticed that decorating kids’ spaces can be one of the most interesting spots in the house to tackle?

I think it’s because I feel like I can go a little bolder, a little more creative, and a little more “outside the box” then I might in other rooms. Also, I’m not as afraid to DIY it – kids rooms are supposed to be about imagination and joy, not perfection, so it doesn’t matter if my projects don’t turn out professional grade.

That being said, this ridiculously cool artwork project form Alli does actually look like something you’d snag in a cool boutique (but for a fraction of the price). Plus, the possibilities for customization are endless

Because you can make this art with whatever toy your child is currently obsessed with, it’s great for all ages too. And I think the LEGO version highlighted here would look killer along side some actual LEGO mini-figures on the wall, displayed like this.

Here’s Alli with the details…

I’ve been spending the last few weeks updating my four-year-old’s room. Nothing too exciting, just a few changes here and there. Enough to transition the space from toddler to big boy.

Sigh. Big boy. I can’t believe I just typed those words! Where has my baby gone?!

But I digress.

One of the main things I wanted to focus on in his room was the artwork. I really wanted a special piece that he would LOVE. So when I couldn’t seem to find exactly what I was looking for, I went back to the ol’ standby, making it myself.

He’s been obsessed with Lego these days. So I decided to create some of our very own Lego Artwork using photography. Read More

I have a confession to make. Since discovering the absolute genius that is audiobooks (see here for a primer on how to get started if you’ve never read with your ears before), I’m rapidly reverting back to the bookworm I was a child.

It’s glorious.

This month alone I’ve read, and started a moms book club with my mom friends about, Little Girls Can Be Mean and also devoured this book which I attempted to read years ago but never made much progress with (and which I loved so much, I requested everything else by the author for my birthday).

Having started exploring the topic of parenting girls, I now want delve into the subject of sons (appropriate since I have two of them).

So, of course, I turned to our resident librarian, Janssen, and she didn’t disappoint. Here she is..

In January, I wrote a post about parenting books for raising girls. It was so popular, we decided we needed to do a boy version too!

So here are the ten books not to miss if you’re raising little men: Read More

Last week we posted our favorite Easter hairdos for girls (remember the ridiculously cute bunny bun?) and I promised we’d be back with a full video tutorial of our new go-to braid, the U-Shaped Crown Braid.

Today, our contributor Kristin and I are here to deliver on that promise. Here’s the full tutorial on how you can achieve this adorable look at home.

This is a great beginner braid for all of us moms who want to meet our daughters’ desire for beautiful braids but aren’t quite sure how – enjoy!

And if you’d like to share the tutorial with your mama friends on facebook, here’s a condensed version with a few more special effects. Read More

As evidenced by my post, Easter Dishes You Can Make With Your Slow Cooker, I like to keep it simple whenever I can and Easter is no exception.

We’re attending a neighborhood potluck/egg hunt again this year and I’ve been on the lookout for an easy treat to contribute. That hunt led me to create 3 Ingredient Easter Bark (#1 on the list) and to unearth 14 other ingenious Easter treats that only take three ingredients to whip up.

Can you guess which one has candy corn as one of the three?

Here’s the full list, enjoy!

1. Three Ingredient Easter Bark

2. Easter Peeps Pops

3. Pretty Oreo Bon Bons

4. Fluffy Bunny Bites

5. Easter Pretzel Hugs Read More

The slow cooker is one of the most-used tools in my kitchen. I love being able to throw a meal together in advance and not have to attempt chopping vegetables while holding a small child (or fending one off at my feet).

Not every kid feels the way I do about the slow cooker, and I can understand why. Some slow cooker meals come out looking like a pile of unrecognizable mush (especially those that go from freezer to slow cooker- time-savers don’t always look appetizing).

Not to worry, though! I’ve compiled a list of meals that are slow-cooker home runs. These are meals kids are familiar with, but are made easier for us by using our favorite kitchen gadget. 

Pasta

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Now that S is nearly 5, I’m finding that the standard “half up with one barrette on each side” hairdo that I’ve been relying on isn’t quite cutting it anymore.

While she’s not overly demanding now (an especially sparkly barrette or two clips instead of one is enough of an upgrade from the norm at the moment), I can tell the days when she’ll be begging for braids and bow buns aren’t far off.

I figure I might as well get out ahead of it and start learning about such techniques now.

Plus, getting a little extra girly with your excited daughter on Easter is just plain fun! So here’s our resident braiding expert, Kristin, with her current favorite hairdos for girls. Plus a detailed tutorial of her current go-to braid

We always have so much fun picking out my daughter’s dress for Easter.  This year, she and I are taking it up a notch and bonding while combing Pinterest for some hair-style inspiration.

There’s such a great wealth of information and tutorials ranging from basic to complicated.  So, to make things easy for you, I compiled a list of my favorites.  Plus, we’re including one of my one unique braids!

1. The waterfall braid can be done a few different ways.  This style on Girly Do Hairstyles is perfect for those with short hair. Read More

I have to admit, with three small kids in the house, I don’t have a lot of time for DIY projects anymore. These days I’m more about simple activities to keep the kids entertained more than pinterest-worthy crafts.

There’s something about spring, though, that always inspires me to want to do something to spruce up my abode. Even if it’s something small. And, of course, Easter is always a great opportunity to get creative.

I love this smart little project Julie put together for us. It’s a no-fuss activity that everyone in the family can do together and the bright pop of colors make such a great impact.

Here she is with the full instructions…

I have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of spring for what seems like weeks. It’s not just the warm weather I love about this time of year, it’s the renewed focus on making our home clean and beautiful.

A couple of weeks ago, I got a head start on the beautiful part by upgrading a few simple glass vases with leather and felt in cheerful spring-time hues. This is one of those projects that’s so simple, it barely needs a tutorial. The key is selecting a gorgeous color palette. 

I spotted the turquoise felt at the craft store and just knew I wanted to build a project around it for Easter. Read More

Image Credit: © Amy Kellogg | Tantrum (photo cropped and color edited) | CC by 2.0

I have to say I have grown quite smitten with our new parenting contributor, Jessica. (It was the poop post that did it.) Her relatable (and somewhat sarcastic) wit is right up my alley and I’m pretty sure we’d be fast friends if we lived in the same city.

Today she’s tackling the misnomer that is “the terrible twos”. Asserting that it is, in fact, threes that deserve such a moniker.

What do you think? For our son it was  2 1/2 – 3 1/2, our daughter 3 1/2 – 4 1/2.

And while I can see the writing on the wall and definitely agree that baby M is probably going to be a whole lot sassier than his siblings ever were, thanks to their role modeling, I’m not so sure I agree with Jessica that girls are easier to reason with than boys.

No matter what age was the worst for you – or if you have girls, boys, or both – I guarantee this post will make you laugh, and shake your head, and roll your eyes in commissary!

The terrible twos were a breeze in our house. Seriously, is it just the perfect alliteration that makes it a saying? And can we blame the same genius who dreamed up the term “morning sickness,” when any woman who’s ever been sick for nine months straight can tell you otherwise?

In my experience, the trouble really started when our kids all turned three. Things that were cute and forgivable at age two lose their charm fast during the third year, which we’re currently living all over again. Our third kiddo is smack-dab in the middle of his terrible threes, and so far, he’s the most terrible of them all.

If you had asked me seven or eight months ago where exceptionally naughty children learn their bad behavior, I would have waxed on about parental modeling and treating your kids as you want them to treat others.

I probably would have mentioned tone – being careful about your own so it’s not thrown right back in your face with major attitude when you least expect it – and nipping bad behavior in the bud so it doesn’t escalate and become totally out of control.

Lolololooool (sob).

Our son turned three six months ago and guess what, I have no idea what I’m talking about. For all our good-behavior-modeling and (mostly) respectful tones and (usually) swift approach to correcting bad behavior, this child is naughty. Read More