mindful living, effortless style

Valentine’s Day is just a few weeks away and the candy that comes with it has already started to find it’s way into our home. While I have no objection to a bit of chocolate and a few conversation hearts, I’d prefer to celebrate the holiday with a few healthier treats — and that’s where strawberries come in!

With their natural heart shape and pretty red color, strawberries are a perfect choice for Valentine’s day snacks. My kids love their  sweet flavor and since they’re packed with fiber and vitamin C I feel great about giving them any of these fun and tasty treats.

1) Strawberry Heart Fruit Kebabs

These simple fruit kebabs are pretty to look at and fun to eat. Read More

Interested in setting up a fabulous reading nook in your home? Julee’s here today with a bunch of super useful tips for doing so – as well as a list of her favorite reading chairs for a range of budgets. I have to tell you, I’m totally in love with this post and, coincidentally, we have the blue West Elm chair she’s featuring in her roundup.  

I can’t wait to use some of her tips to make it the center of a cozy reading nook of my very own – in fact the Target side table she features is on clearance and I couldn’t resist snatching it up. (Actually, keep an eye out for the setup here on MPMK next week. We’ll be featuring it along with some fabulous new Minted Wall Art and tips on how to arrange it!)

UPDATE: Here’s the post with the reading nook in our home, featuring the West Elm chair in the roundup below plus the Target table and Minted art!

For now, here’s Julee with the latest installment of The Forever Home Project

We have a small space just beyond the entryway in our home that was once the formal dining room. The previous owners repositioned the staircase, which left little room for a large table and chairs. When we first moved in, I wasn’t sure what we would do with a space too small to be a room, but too prominently positioned to leave empty.

We eventually settled on the idea of a reading nook, which turned out to be the perfect use for an otherwise awkward space. Once we decided on a reading nook, I knew my first step was to find the perfect chair.

Selecting the Perfect Reading Chair

We wanted something comfortable and substantial in size. Since the nook sits opposite our formal living room, we were also hoping to find a chair that blended well with the mid-century modern aesthetic of our living room.

After much consideration, we decided on the Nixon Chair from Thrive Furnishings. The chair is very comfy and large enough to sit alongside a child, and the retro look aligned perfectly with the modern vibe of our home. To add to the lounge-y quality, we also decided to purchase the matching ottoman.

Comfortable, well-designed reading chairs are available in a range of price points. Here are a few of my favorites: Read More

I like making holidays special for my girls, but I don’t necessarily want to do something terribly complicated. These red velvet pancakes are surprisingly simple and super festive.

Also, they aren’t loaded with sugar, which is important to me. With the cream cheese drizzle, you don’t need gobs of sugar in the pancake themselves (although you can certainly eat the pancakes without the glaze – they’re delicious either way).

My little girls gobbled them up (and so did I!). I was really impressed by Read More

I don’t know about your kids but mine are totally obsessed with knock-knock jokes – they think they’re hilarious and absolutely love getting a laugh when telling one.  So I know S and C are going to go nuts for these adorable Valentine Fortune-Tellers.

Be sure to click through for complete folding instructions and all 14 Valentine-inspired knock-knock jokes!

Do you remember folding fortune tellers back in elementary school? (Maybe you called them cootie catchers?) If I wasn’t busy playing M.A.S.H. with my BFFs, we were usually either folding fortune tellers or using them to find out who we were going to marry. You know, the important things that 5th graders need to know.

Recently my daughter was folding papers into little squares and it reminded me of those little fortune tellers I used to love so much, so I decided to make a few for her and impress her with my folding skills.

My daughter got a huge kick out of playing with them, and we have been making them on a daily basis. I love these because they are so quick and easy to make, they require no materials other than a piece of paper and a pen, and they can be made for virtually any occasion. Just change the color of the paper and what you write on it and it is a whole new game.

Our latest one was a Valentine’s themed joke teller and it was quite a hit. I didn’t do anything fancy when I was making these at all. I made them the same way we used to when we were kids – with just a pen and paper. On the top I wrote “love” in 4 different languages. Then I wrote the numbers 1-8 on the next flaps. And under the flaps I wrote 8 different Valentine’s knock knock jokes.

The jokes we used (plus 6 more) are below. These would make great little candy-free Valentine’s to hand out on Valentine’s Day!

How to Fold a Fortune Teller Read More

We’re talking memories today as part of our month long mission to find ways to eat better, parent better, organize better and just generally live better this year. 

Before S arrived, I was actually pretty good about recording memories for our little family.  At the end of each month I would use the photos we’d taken to create 2 – 4 new pages in an iphoto book, along with a few paragraphs with family anecdotes, accomplishments, etc.  The idea being that at the end of the year I would have a complete book that I could print as a Christmas present to myself.

I kept this up for nearly 2 1/2 years until our second child was born – at which point I totally fell of the wagon.  But, hey, at least I knew I had all of C’s baby stuff organized and I told myself that someday I would get to S too… then my computer crashed and I lost all 3 of the books I’d created before I ever got them printed!

Needless to say, that was a bit disheartening. So I kind of gave up on the memory keeping in exchange for keeping up with my two kiddos day in and day out.

But now, with baby #3′s impending arrival, I’m feeling all kinds of guilty about not having a system to make sure that our photos and memories are doing more than just filling up my hard-drive. So I went on a search for a super simple system (one I could actually manage with 3 kids) and found this Vintage Postcard Calendar Journal from Design Sponge.

I knew with a few tweaks I could make this idea into just the system I was searching for – and I did!

The basic idea here is to have an index card for every day of the year.  At the top of each card, place a piece of colorful washi tape with the day of the month written on it.  Then on the lined side, write the year and something memorable that happened that day.  This could be an adventure you went on, a funny quote, or a milestone one of your kids hit that day. On the back of the same card, place a photo from that day.

Here’s what I love about my new DIY Memory Box:

  • There’s little to no prep to get started – Once I got a box and made 12 monthly dividers, I filled the box with empty index cards and was ready to go.
  • It’s super quick & easy – All it takes is 90 seconds or less to print out a photo or write down a sentence on the index cards that are there waiting at my finger tips each day.
  • It’s a long-term project that shows off how much our family has grown year after year – The point here is to keep this box for years – decades even.
  • There’s no pressure – While this system easily lends itself to being used daily, it doesn’t have to be.  If nothing special happened that day and no adorable photos were taken, no problem – maybe something worthy of being recorded will happen on this day next year.  For now, just don’t make a card for this date yet and move on.

Ready to make a memory box of your own?  Read on for the fully DIY, plus…

A chance to win a Zink hAppy wireless printer (worth $199) to quickly print photos from your smart phone and instagram! Read More

January is always a time that I am searching for new recipes to spice up our dinner routine. I’m usually on the lookout for meals that are:

  • full of vegetables
  • full of color
  • don’t take too much effort to pull together

These are a sampling of the recipes I’m looking forward to trying in the next few months. All the vibrant colors make me want to dig right in!

Read More

So far this week we’ve covered DIY toy organization, a hands-on family project for teaching kids to give back, and a must-try playtime activity for open-ended creativity and going green in 2014.

So what will we be addressing today in our January journey to eat better, parent better, organize better and just generally live better this year?… How about we continue working on a healthy family diet?

I’m over at eHow’s mom channel discussing my new favorite way for easily sneaking protein into our eating routine.  Here’s a quick peek: Read More

Have you ever noticed that no matter how many toys your kids have, they are always drawn to things like cardboard boxes and paper towel rolls? It seems that a simple box will usually entertain them longer and promote more creativity than the fanciest of store bought toys.

Rather than fight this phenomenon, just embrace it and marvel and what natural upcyclers your kids are.

Furthermore, encourage even more of this open-ended creative play by Read More

Today we’re focusing on giving back in our month long mission to eat better, parent better, organize better and just generally live better this year. 

We’ve got another Happy Family Habit for you to start working on.  It’s #10 on our list and I personally think you’re gonna love this one…

You know that feeling you get when you see a situation you wish you could fix?  It’s a tugging of the heart strings when we see someone we want to help, but just don’t know quite how.  I live in a metropolitan area, so every time I walk down the street I’m encountering homeless people.  Sometimes they ask for money and sometimes they’ll just hold a sign telling about their misfortune.

When my kids are with me, I wonder what kind of an example I’m setting in theses types of situations.

There’s part of me that knows giving money to someone that possibly has a substance abuse problem isn’t the wisest choice, but walking by without doing anything doesn’t feel good either.

Over a year ago, I decided to take action and talked to a friend of mine who was homeless at one point in his life.  I asked him, what do homeless people really need?  The answer surprised me… Read More

We’re once again tackling organization today as part of our month long quest to eat better, parent better, organize better and just generally live better this year.

I’m really quite smitten with this lovely little DIY project – the only problem is I couldn’t decide where it fit better, in Project Organize Your ENTIRE Life or The Forever Home Project. In the end, I just decided to file it under both (I’m the boss around here – I can totally do that).

Turns out I wasn’t the only one with issues being decisive this week, Julee couldn’t decide if she liked this DIY display better in it’s natural state or fancied up decoupage style.  Fortunately for us, she decided to share both ideas – enjoy!

We’ve had large storage bins in our children’s rooms and playroom for years, but I’ve never really had a solution for keeping smaller toys organized. Now that my children are getting older and starting to build collections of favorite things, I decided it was time to move beyond our ‘throw-it-in-a-bin’ strategy.

I came across some vintage letterpress drawers at a local antique mall and realized the compartments were the perfect size for my son’s ever-growing collection of Lego mini-figures.

I purchased one for him and also decided on a smaller one for my daughter. Vintage drawers can also be found Read More

We’re soldiering on today with our goal of posting ideas for a better 2014 all throughout January…

One of my big goals for this year is to re-address our family’s meal planning strategy.  One of the things I talk about in my eBook, Project Organize Your ENTIRE Life: The Quick Start Guide, is the importance of continually re-evaluating your routines as your family (and it’s schedule) changes.

With baby #3 arriving in March, I know our family is going to be in need of an even more streamlined meal-planning strategy along with a maximally functioning kitchen.

So I’m over at Van’s Natural Foods’ blog today guest posting on 10 Ideas for Organizing Your Kitchen/Diet Life in 2014.  And let me assure you, this is no flimsy post – it’s packed with Read More

Another January day, another post on how to make 2014 your best year ever.  I’ve been thrilled to see you guys snatching up our eBook, Project Organize Your ENTIRE Life: The Quick Start Guide, and the accompanying 38 page planner printable pack but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate some of the other great reads out there too.

Today I’ve asked Janssen to stop by with her picks for the best books to help you achieve your 2014 goals – whatever those may be!

As a life-long reader and librarian, a book is always my first stop when I want to know more (okay, Google is usually my first stop, but a book is a close, close second).  If you’re looking for some inspiration and practical advice for reaching your goals in 2014, look no further than the library or the bookstore.

Whether you want to improve your parenting, reduce your carbon footprint, or launch a business, there’s a book to help you out! Here are 8 books in a wide range of categories that have inspired me. And I hope they’ll inspire you to make 2014 the best year yet for you and your family. Read More

Here’s something fun.  Continuing with our focus on tangible ways to eat better, parent better, organize better and just generally live better this year, we’re partnering with Ella’s Kitchen over the next two months to bring you a collection of our favorite sensory play ideas for babies and young kids. 

We’ve covered our fair share of sensory play ideas here on MPMK, but I’m not sure I’ve ever really gone into why we love these activities so much.  For an excellent primer on the benefits of sensory play for young kids, check out this post from one of my favorite parenting experts, Amanda at Not Just Cute.  

She goes into a lot more detail but, suffice to say, kids are basically little scientists – doing all they can to learn about their world – and from day one their best method for doing so is through their senses. In fact, Amanda says, “As they are better able to use their senses, they are then better able to learn through their senses.”

Furthermore, sensorial play with food makes our little ones better eaters for life. And that’s exactly what Ella’s Kitchen is all about – creating good little eaters with nutritious, delicious foods for our kiddos!

So how about we get started with activity #1?  Here’s Kaley with an awesome homemade scented slime idea. 

Few things are more fun to play with than slippery, slimy, gooey slime. And rainbow colored, glittery, scented slime? That is about as good as it gets. This fun multi-sensory activity is perfect for all ages and super easy. Read More

 (photo by ...love Megan, text added by MPMK)
We’re continuing our month-long pursuit of a better 2014 with another Project Organize Your ENTIRE Life post and more design tips from our in-house professional organizer, Annie.  
Last week she shared her Principles of an Organized Playroom and today she’s divulging her three must-haves for entryway organization. (Don’t forget to check out the end of this post for links to all of this month’s helpful how-tos.)

The importance of a well-organized entry should not be under-valued. As the entrance into your home, it sets the tone for all the space that lays beyond.

There are three elements that should be in play in order to achieve and maintain an efficient entry:

  1. Having the right set up
  2. Allocating a space for each family member’s belongings
  3. Instituting & abiding by a limit

Step 1 – Having the right set up

Your entry, in whatever form it exists, should possess the following ingredients: Read More

Yesterday we recapped our very favorite MPMK ideas for living and parenting better in 2013, today I’m bringing back another favorite – my two favorite nutritionists, Megan and Katie, from Prescribe Nutrition – to give us all a crash course on how to quickly get in the habit of eating to look and feel better this spring.

You may remember that around this time last year, I had the opportunity to participate in Prescribe Nutrition’s phenomenal online nutrition course (psst – get 20% off with code: MPMK20).  Here’s what I had to say about it back then:

After having S I struggled with exhaustion, head aches, and mood swings.  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.

Of course, I assumed that at least some of it had to be due to diet.  But until completing this program I had no idea how much. And here’s the part where I “keep it real”.  It wasn’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 of two weeks. When telling people about it I would say that I didn’t necessarily feel like I was ready to run a marathon but I did generally feel 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 this experiment has been how it’s affected me as a mother. Without the headaches and exhaustion, I’m so much more fun!  And I’m connecting with my kiddos in new ways – which is a huge gift and exactly what I was hoping to gain from the experience.

Prescribe Nutrition is once again offering the course this year on March 3rd (which, full disclosure, I’m once again an eager affiliate for) and I’ll give you all the goods at the end of this post.  

But for those that saw “nutrition” and immediately thought “sign me up!”, let me throw out the registration link now.

Go here and be sure to enter the code MPMK20 for your 20% discount!

Now here’s Katie with her…

5-step plan to jump starting a better eating routine for springRead More