mindful living, effortless style

I recently mentioned my newly rekindled desire to set up a tinkering/creation station in our new house for the kids. So – of course – I had to put our resident professional organizer on the job to make sure I had all the resources I needed to get it done right.

Here’s Annie with her ideas on how to create a beautifully functional and organized art space for your kiddos.

P.S. Creating a space like this is also IDEAL for using with our free summer B.O.R.E.D. printable.

School’s out for summer, which means generous doses of free time for children and the seemingly endless task on your part to help them fill it.

The best way to encourage continued creativity (and temporarily distract kids from the screens) is to ensure that the art supplies in your home are organized, accessible, and therefore, inviting. Kids crave order as much as they do self-expression. But the only way they’ll be putting crayon to paper is if they can locate the supplies first.

Establishing clearly defined art supplies storage also helps children learn to clean up after themselves. After all, they can only be expected to properly do so if it’s clear to them where things belong.

But where to start? How to set it all up? How to decide the best storage system for your space?

Fear not – I’ve rounded up 10 stellar examples of art supplies organization. Prepare to be inspired.

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This is an easy summer DIY that looks great, will bring a little order to your life, and is fun (and mess-free) to do with the kids. In other words, it’s a total winner in my book.

Hop on over to eHow’s Mom Channel for the simple tutorial.

And before you disappear for the holiday weekend, make sure you come back tomorrow to get in our special 4th of July weekend sale on Camp Mom!


We hit a couple of huge postpartum milestones around here recently. Not only did baby M turn 3 months (adios 4th trimester!), I also graduated from physical therapy for my back issues. (You may remember I was T-boned not once, but twice!, during the third trimester of my pregnancy).

That means we are doing a little happy dance for more sleep, a more engaged baby, and the go-ahead to start working out!

It also means it’s time to get serious about losing this baby weight… For some reason it’s just not coming off quite as quickly the 3rd time around, go figure.

I do have a 3-pronged pilates, cardio and ballet battle plan, though, and I’m excited to share it with you all to help keep me motivated and on track.

How I'm losing the baby weight with at-home pilates (love the barre attachment for doing The Barre Method workouts too).

Have you guys ever done pilates?

I did a set of at-home, equipment-free videos before I got married and loved the long and lean muscles they gave me. Plus it was great for my core which is exactly what I need to keep my back strong and deal with my less than toned middle section after baby #3.

What I didn’t love was the monotony of the same exercises every day.

How I'm losing the baby weight with at-home pilates (love the barre attachment for doing The Barre Method workouts too).

Plus, there’s just something about working out on a machine that makes me feel so powerful and buff… Suffice to say I’ve been dying to try a pilates machine workout routine for years.

The problem is as I keep adding kids, I find myself less and less able to make it to a pilates class (again, go figure).

How I'm losing the baby weight with at-home pilates (love the barre attachment for doing The Barre Method workouts too).

Which is why I am so excited about this AeroPilates® with Free-Form Cardio Rebounder I just got for my home workouts. Isn’t it pretty? Doesn’t it just scream, “Use me!”.

Not only can I build me some pretty muscles with this guy, I can also get my cardio on.  Here’s a blurb from the website on how it works (and why it’s perfect for me and my bad back):

Some Pilates machines feature a padded jumpboard made of solid wood which is used to improve explosive power, but the AeroPilates Free-Form Rebounder is like jumping on a trampoline to build cardiovascular fitness with minimal impact to joints.

In fact, with the AeroPilates reformer, you will reach and maintain your target heart rate as effectively as with a treadmill. But unlike the treadmill, the AeroPilates Free-Form Rebounder is low impact and gentle on your joints, and since you are lying on your back, there is no concussion on your legs, hips, or spine.

And it’s got a secret weapon too… Read More

As evidence by The Summer of Yes! last week, I’ve been doing some reflecting on my parenting style lately.

One of the things I’ve realized is that, yes, I do enjoy planning holiday surprises for my kiddos.  But also, no, I don’t enjoy it when said surprise takes an inordinate amount of time and effort to achieve.

Simple = fun, complicated and showy = a stressed out mama and less than overjoyed kids.

So in that spirit, I’ve put together a super simple 4th of July breakfast idea over on the Van’s Natural Foods Blog. Hop on over for instructions and a recipe for healthy greek yogurt sauce.

And if you’re in the market for an easy 4th of July Potluck dish for next week, be sure to also check out our Strawberry Cream Cheese Flag Cookie Cups.


For even more simple ideas on how to connect with the kids, don't forget...

Camp mom activities eBook
Our Camp Mom activities eBook is once again available for sale for a limited time only.

It’s an 84 page PDF from my all-time favorite play bloggers, and myself,stuffed with activities, reading lists, and advice for kicking back and connecting with your kids this summer. Learn more and get your copy here.

My kids have recently reached the age where they’re interested in chores, money, earning, saving… all of that good stuff. And as we started to dip our toes into the world of chores and piggy banks, I realized it’s not quite as straight forward as I had thought.

So today we’re publishing the first in a series of posts on responsibilities and money management for kids – a super important topic in our book.

Our hope is that you’ll get some good tips and resources and will also add your own wisdom in the comments below.

Have you ever had someone over for dinner that makes you want to invite them back?  I’m talking the kind of person that sees you in the kitchen, warmly greets you and says, ‘what can I do to help?’

After the meal is over, they ignore your pleas to do the dishes later and just start helping you carry stacks of dirty dishes to the sink.  This kind of helper mentality is what I want to engrain in my children.

When we live together as a family, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done.  You don’t need me to remind you about the piles of laundry, the dirty bathrooms and the meals that need to be made.  And kids don’t get a free ride on this train!

We all need to help out.  But, kids aren’t born knowing how to help.  It’s something we have to teach them.

Teaching children to help starts internally.  At our house, each child is responsible Read More

We’ve been enjoying some great sunny weather this summer and I hope you guys have been doing the same!

One thing I forgot until having M, though, is how sensitive a new baby’s skin really is. So I did some research on the do’s and don’ts of newborn sun protection and I’m sharing my new-found knowledge of on eHow’s Mom Channel here.

Hope some of you find it useful.

For even more help keeping the kids busy and happy this summer, don’t forget…

Camp mom activities eBook

Our Camp Mom activities eBook is once again available for sale for a limited time only.

It’s an 84 page PDF from my all-time favorite play bloggers, and myself, stuffed with activities, reading lists, and advice for kicking back and connecting with your kids this summer.

Learn more and get your copy here.

We’ve talked about the amazing benefits of play dough. We’ve shared the best play dough recipe ever. We’ve even made play dough toolkits. So we can all agree that we love play dough. But did you know that it can also be used as a great calming activity for kids?

By adding the soothing, calming properties of lavender to our favorite playdough, this activity is sure to calm even the wiggliest of kids on those long summer days. Read More

I had an epiphany recently about this little site of mine. While I love everything that we cover here, I realized that there are 4 topics that I am TRULY passionate about. Why? Because these are the four things I can use the most with my own family!

In no particular order, they are:

  1. Family Friendly Recipes & Meal Planning
  2. Engaging Play Ideas
  3. Parenting Hacks
  4. Photography Tips for Busy Parents and Photo Organization & Projects

So I’m going to be experimenting with mainly posting on only these 4 topics for the next couple of months – with a few exceptions here and there.

Today, one of our contributors and professional photographer Kristin is kicking things off with the first in many mom-tography/iphoneography tutorials to come. I hope you enjoy!

You know how you can never have too many shoes?  I think the same thing goes for camera apps.  There are soooo many tools to help us take better photos with our phones.  One is definitely not enough!

Each of the apps that I’ll highlight has unique features.  If you want to just focus on the art of a good photo, VSCO cam is the app for you.  If you love to scrapbook and make collages, you’ll love apps like Over and A Beautiful Mess.

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  • Before critiquing, correcting, or criticizing I will ask myself, “Is this really an issue or is it just annoying me?” (Endless potty jokes – I’m looking at you.)


  • I will remember when they’re cackling like deranged maniacs instead of eating their lunch (despite being asked to sit still and chew no less than 37 times) that one of my biggest dreams in life was a house full of giggling, joyful, healthy kids.


  • When they ask to do something that is messy, time-consuming, or will take actual effort to setup, I will stop, count to 3, and ask myself is it really not feasible, or do I just not feel like dealing with it.


  •  I will remember that someday soon they will not be dying to hang out with their mother.


  • I will remember that just as giving my children boundaries and reasonable, age-appropriate expectations is not going to break their spirit, letting a few things slide in the name of being a preschooler is also not going to create self-centered and co-dependent adults.


  • I will remember that my friends have dirty houses just like mine – they’ll barely even notice it, let alone judge me for it.


  • I will remember how special I can make my child feel simply by stopping in the middle of what I’m doing, making eye-contact and listening for 3 minutes.

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Around here summer is the season for lots and lot of hands on play. This is partly to keep mom (that’s me) from going nuts, and partly to keep our littles’ brains stimulated and learning.

The only flaw with this summertime mantra of play?

It can be rather difficult to think of creative, open-ended ideas to fill our days! Which is why I’m so excited to tell you about the new book from one of my very favorite blogging friends, Rachelle over at TinkerLab.

TinkerLab Book - 55 Playful Experiments that Encourage Tinkering, Curiosity & Creative Thinking

TinkerLab: A Hands-On Guide for Little Inventors is packed with 55 engaging ideas for your kids.

Just browsing the section titles of this gorgeous new book gets me super excited. First Rachelle sets you up with step-by-step instructions on “Creating Your TinkerLab”, her recommended “Tools for Tinkering” and her “Ten Tinkering Habits of Mind”.

From there, she hits you with tons of projects falling into four main categories:

  • Design
  • Build
  • Concoct
  • Discover

If you’re at all interested in the growing STEM and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) movements – this is the book for you! The “Take Thinks Apart” activity we tried (pictured up top) is from the Build category.

What I love so much about Rachelle’s blog, and now her book!, is how her open-ended, “fail forward” play philosophy truly does help develop Read More

Tip #1, stop worrying about perfection!

Ok, now that we have that out of the way, I really do have some tangible tips for you on how to make this one a summer for the books.

Check them out in my latest eHow Mom Channel post, Summer’s Here and the Pressure’s On: Planning Tips for Parents.

We also have a great summer-related giveaway coming up on Friday so be sure to check back in with us at the end of the week.

And for even more help keeping the kids busy this summer, don’t forget…

Camp mom activities eBook
Our Camp Mom activities eBook is once again available for sale for a limited time only.

It’s an 84 page PDF from my all-time favorite play bloggers, and myself,stuffed with activities, reading lists, and advice for kicking back and connecting with your kids this summer. Learn more and get your copy here.

Whether you’re hosting the 4th of July BBQ this year or attending one, this super simple dessert idea is sure to please.  Of course I love the festive presentation but my favorite part is that once you bite in you realize that what looks like a mini cup cake is actually a cookie. Plus it would go great with our homemade blueberry lemonade soda.

And don’t miss the variations at the bottom of the post – I’m digging the breakfast idea.

Here’s Janssen with the recipe…

The Fourth of July is just around the corner, and my kids can’t wait. What more could you ask for than warm weather, parades, and some fireworks?

Maybe some patriotic treats.

Last year, a friend of mine made a version of these on Independence Day, and we scarfed them down in an embarrassingly short amount of time.

I love how flexible this recipe is. Check out the whole post for several fun variationsRead More

Image Credit: © Julie Falk | 04.23.05 | CC by 2.0 (text added)

When we published our free B.O.R.E.D. printable last week I told you we’d be following up with some posts on how to help your kids carry out the different tasks. Today we’re addressing R – read a book with the help of the non-profit Raising a Reader.

They’re hooking us up with some really solid ideas on how to keep kids reading this summer and how to use the time to instill a love of reading that will last a lifetime.  According to Gabrielle Miller, Ed.D., national executive director of Raising A Reader:

“It is important to instill a love of books in children at an early age and introduce reading as a pleasurable experience. One way to do this is to establish a regular home-based literacy program that is independent of school, and the summer is a perfect time to start.”

Sounds like some sage advice to me – let’s raise us some readers, shall we? Here’s how…

Put it on the Schedule

  • Reading often gets lost in the shuffle of summer activities such as camp, sports and vacation travel. Schedule a regular time to share books with your child and establish a regular routine to ensure reading doesn’t become a low priority and has the same importance as other activities.

 Read the Book, Watch the Movie

  • If your child wants to see a summer blockbuster movie that is based on a book, read the book with your child first and then let them see the movie as a reward. This also works well with popular movies on DVD. Engage your child in discussions about differences or similarities between the book and the movie.

 Take it Outside

  • Create an outdoor reading area so the while family can enjoy the summer weather and not feel stuck inside. Children generally read indoors, so being outdoors will create a new environment for enjoying a book and boost a child’s enthusiasm for reading.

Read More

S is turning 4 next month and I’m SO EXCITED to finally have a backyard big enough to host a cookout birthday party. I’ve got a few things planned already and one of the stars of the show is going to be a bubble station featuring some of these DIY bubble blowers.

I’m also contemplating the super amazing, human-inside-of-them, extra large bubbles. Have you ever made these with the kids? They’re surprisingly simple to pull off.

Check out this quick video for the full how-to (there’s a great homemade bubble recipe in there too) and have a bubble-filled weekend!

Camp mom activities eBookFor even more help keeping the kids busy this summer, don’t forget…
Our Camp Mom activities eBook is once again available for sale for a limited time only.
It’s an 84 page PDF from my all-time favorite play bloggers, and myself, stuffed with activities, reading lists, and advice for kicking back and connecting with your kids this summer. Learn more and get your copy here.

Cereal bars and granola bars are such an easy grab-and-go snack, but most store brands come with a whole host of ingredients that you didn’t bargain for.

It seems like it should just be made of some grains and fruit, right? Check out the ingredient list of Kellogg’s Strawberry Nutri-Grain Bars:


And even if you head over to the organic section and pick up something that seems “healthier” like Kashi’s Ripe Strawberry Cereal Bars, you’re still looking at a ton of hidden sweeteners and additives:

Strawberry Filling (Pear Juice Concentrate, Tapioca Syrup, Evaporated Cane Juice, Apple Powder, Strawberry Puree Concentrate, Unmodified Cornstarch, Vegetable Glycerin, Water, Natural Strawberry Flavor With Other Natural Flavors, Fruit Juice Concentrate For Color), etc…

Yuck. I’d rather put in a little time in the kitchen and make my own!

Homemade Nutri-Grain-Style Cereal Bars (with a gluten-free option!)

I’m happy to say that you’ll be able to pronounce every ingredient in this recipe. Just the basics.

I made a classic version with oats, whole wheat flour and strawberry jam as well as a gluten-free version with brown rice flour, oats and blackberry jam (pictured below). I could hardly tell the difference between the two doughs when they came out of the oven, so they’re both great Read More