I dabble…

What can I say? I’m a dabbler.

I love having hobbies and love them each passionately.

I read. I write. I paint. I sew. I garden. I bike ride. I organize. I bake. I make jewelry.

If I were to include my teenage years to that list would be much, much longer.

One of my all time favorite thing to create would be home decor crafts, especially holiday items. Pieces that are stored for a majority of the year until their time comes. I like the specialness of a good holiday piece.

I also hate paying retail for holiday items. In fact, I refuse. If there’s something I see that is seasonal that I can’t make myself I will wait until after that holiday to get it at 50%, 60% or even 75% off the original price. As soon as I come home I make myself put it away in it’s appropriate holiday storage box. Next time that holiday comes around I open the box and say “Ah! I forgot I bought that!” and that my friends it magic to me.

Right after Christmas this year, I had been crushing on all things vintage red truck carrying a Christmas tree. Since that season is typically busy I never got around to making anything red-truckish. After the New Year I broke out my watercolors and painted an item to stash away for next year.

Below is a before and after image of outlining my watercolor. It really takes it from flat to POP. If you’re a dabbler like me, add a little outline to make your work a little more professional.

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A day trip to DC (with kids)

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I’m all for getting out-of-town for the day. When I saw my kids spring break pop up on the calendar I started brainstorming.

We decided to hit Washington D.C. for the day. When I say we, I mean my six-year-old decided. While he was learning about the presidents during the month of February he  quickly decided that good ole Abraham Lincoln was his favorite. His teacher told him about the Lincoln Memorial and jumped on the idea to take the kids.

For this trip we decided to keep things simple by going just for the day and by parking at the metro station outside the city and riding it in. This saved us money since we didn’t have to book a hotel, eliminated the stress of driving the city and added to the experience big time!

Transportation. 

Riding the metro was fun for us all! I personally love people watching. The kids loved absolutely everything about the metro. Adding to their transportation experience was using a taxi once during the day and an Uber. It blew the kids mind that mom used her phone to summon a car and we hoped in it. Seriously, they are still talking about it.

Landmarks.

Truth be told, on this trip my kids were 4 and 6 years old. Did it really hit them that the monuments we saw were symbols to our country? Not exactly. Were they blown away at the massiveness of some of them? Yes. But, I know that it was memorable and once they learn more in school about history it will hit them.

Once off the metro at the Smithsonian stop it’s just a short walk to the National Mall area. One of my favorite things about this city, is how wide open it is and how much green space there is. The kids could easily take off running at the many large grassy areas.

Here we hit the World War II monument, Reflecting Pool, Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.

At this point we knew it was time for a taxi to get to our next destination. We had this in our plans and budget thinking we would get more out of the kids if we gave them a few breaks from walking.

We grabbed lunch near the White House and met up with a family member who lives in the area.

Visiting the White House was a quick, easy visit. Lots of security and I have to say it’s the only place that made me a bit nervous. Sure there was plenty of security guards around, but we visited a few days after there was a shooting incident at the Capital and I noticed a few protesters utilizing their 1st Amendment, and felt like a quick visit was perfectly fine.

Another short walk from there we visit the Renwick Gallery, which was suggested to us to visit with the kids. It’s a free museum and had an amazing exhibit called, Wonder, at the time which ended up as the perfect first art experience for the kids. We all can’t stop talking about this place! You can find out more about it here.

Before our trip, I did check the hash tag feed for this gallery to see if other people brought their kids to it and I saw plenty did, so I felt better bringing ours there. When we walked through it was packed with kids taking it in.

Washington D.C. Zoo

We decided to hit the zoo because it was about 2:30 p.m. and after a coffee and cookie break our kids were still feeling awesome! We’ve been here before but it’s so big we didn’t hit the entire thing. We decided to see that side this time. Great, great free zoo.

This was by far one of the best day trips we’ve been on. I can’t say enough about this city. It’s clean. Everyone we spoke to was so friendly and helpful. It’s kid and family friendly. It’s got tons of green space. Pedestrian and bike friendly. And there are so many free things to do!

When summer reading goes wrong.

You know the drill. You find yourself in the spring yearning for the warm, summer months waiting for longer days, watermelon and for your summer tan. Along with all those fun things, you’re also gathering your summer reading list. You could be picking the brain of the employee at your local independent bookstore, browsing GoodReads or asking your close friends.

No matter your source, creating the list is also mapping out your summer. Mapping out where your brain will be living. Mapping out what topic you will dive into. Let’s face it- It’s exciting!

I was so excited to create my summer reading list. And I kept it light and reasonable. I knew which ones I really, really wanted to read and I added a few extras incase I was ahead of schedule.

But what happens when your summer reading goes wrong?

What happens when life takes over and your books sit dusty on your nightstand? 

It took my summer reading list dissolving to make me realize my seasons of life. Summer is when I push my kids bedtime back an hour to enjoy a walk around the neighborhood after dinner. It’s when I’m in the garden cutting flowers for a vase with my daughter. It’s when I’m chatting with my great friends at the beach rather than having my nose in a book.

I live in a coastal town. We have three prime months to live it up and boy do we play hard. By the time the kids are put to bed, I usually shower off the day and head straight to bed.

And you know why? Because summer isn’t my reading season. You know what else? I’m totally cool with it.

I know that this fall my book club will start meeting again and I will find my usual spot with a cup of tea and my lovely books.

Maybe summer is your season to read! We all have such different lives. What is your summer season like?

My go-to sweet snack.

We all need a few go-to recipes in our kitchen tool belt.

I’ve been working on spending more time in the kitchen and slowly creating a list of go-to apps, entrees and of course, sweets. Today I’m sharing on of my favorites.

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Yum! Chocolate covered pretzels with sprinkles! For whatever reason I always seem to have chocolate chips, pretzels and sprinkles in my pantry which is how this go-to treat was born.

I never melt my chocolate in the microwave. I think it’s less work to melt it via double-boiler on the stove. I add a little of veggie or canola oil to the chocolate, because I learned the hard way milk is not good in melted chocolate! I line a big baking tray with parchment paper and dip the pretzels in the chocolate and then the sprinkles. I let them chill in the on the baking sheet in the fridge for as long as possible.

If you’re in a rush, 30 minutes would be fine. This recipe is great to take to your kids daycare, a girls night (hello it’s salty & sweet!), and for game day!

Tips:

  • Stock your pantry with white chocolate and dark chocolate.
  • Pick up some sprinkles of your favorite colors. Ie: Holiday colors, sport team colors or your favorites!
  • Master your double-boiler skills. How? Practice, practice, practice!

I store these in the fridge and use them as treats throughout the week for my kids.

Enjoy!

 

Toys to keep a preschooler girl busy.

My three-year-old daughter is a busy, busy preschooler. But I’ve noticed something about her. Typical toys loose her interest quickly. She needs something that is engaging and keeps her fingers and mind stimulated.

My five-year-old son is totally different. He will play with any toy, now that his imagination is kicked into high gear. But my daughter just isn’t there yet.

This past August when we celebrated her third birthday, I put a lot of thought into the gifts. Since she doesn’t really play with toys, we aimed for things that were more interactive. Here’s a few items that have been perfect!

*Note* These links are not affiliated. I do not have a degree in raising children, this is my own personal experience. Please pick and choose how to apply this advice to your own household.

Reusable Sticker Pads. 

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Oh my word. This toy is just great! Tons of releasable stickers and rooms in a house for preschoolers to decorate. We bought this at our local toy store and couldn’t be happier with this. The stickers are really good quality and are relatively difficult to tear. My son really likes it too, so we will probably pick him up one for Christmas. And seriously, this item is around $5!

 

Magnetic Dress Up Dolls

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I’m surprised how big of a hit this has been. While it has a stand for the mermaid to stand upright, my daughter usually plays with it how it’s shown in the picture. It works out since it keeps the pieces all together and I think it’s easier for her to see. They also have a ballerina one, but since we live at the beach, we are big mermaid fans. Again, we bought this at our local, family owned toy store and it was a deal at $12!

Barbie Grocery Store 

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My girl is a Barbie girl, which couldn’t make me happier because I was a big Barbie girl. This toys keeps her engaged because she loves shopping carts and now her Barbies have a shopping cart! The conveyer belt actually works and slides the items into the grocery bag. Things I don’t like about this toy, they over packaged it and once we opened it, I realized the price of $35 was a little expensive for what you get. They also don’t have produce in the store but offer a big bottle of orange soda. Really? And while the doll is cute with her dress and hair style- she’s on the cheap side. Her legs are hollow, which was new to me. But my daughter has spent hours setting up the store, having her Barbie shop and checking out the items so at least we got our money’s worth.

Little Inu

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This was a gift to the kids from one of my girlfriends, at the time we had no clue who Inu was. Now that we do I tell all my mom friends about him. He’s interactive and eats, sleeps, sings, laughs and is just darling! While it was a gift to my son, my daughter has taken it over claiming, “Inu is my baby.” This is a pricey toy, but my girlfriend bought it at an outlet. This would be a great Christmas present for the family! All the kids claim he is our pet and my daughter literally babies it all day long. She also gets very sad when her mama forgets to charge his battery at night. Whoops.

Bouncy Ball

bouncyballBoth of my kids received one of these for their birthdays and they have literally had a ball bouncing around the house with these. I love them because the noise and chaos caused by them doesn’t drive me crazy and it’s a workout for them. The balls aren’t too big either, which is nice for storage.

Hope these items make shopping for the little preschooler girl in your life a little easier!

Friday news round up

Happy Friday! Wondering what news stories have you missed this week? Use this post to catch up over the weekend.

This week’s round up has a theme. Food additives and how things are made. A very important issue to me because I’m the one who does the grocery shopping. Like many moms, I am the deciding factor to many of our family purchases. Except, vehicles, my husband handles those decisions greatly. I want to make sure that what I buy and bring home to my kitchen it the best quality it can be.

It seems that now more than ever, it’s hard as a consumer to trust manufacturers. We have to do our own research and know what companies are worthy of our dollar. Remember while you make think your voice is small, we vote with our buck.

1. The Diane Rehm show on NPR hosted a very informative program on food additives with some important guests that play major roles in what additives are found in our food. Listen to it here with your morning Saturday morning coffee.

2. Made to Matter. Have you seen the new promotions Target is running for their Made to Matter collection? Our favorite retailer has hit the nail on the head with highlighting merchandise that is created with love. Companies that care about their products and how they affect their consumers. Sure it might cost a dollar or so more- but isn’t it so worth it?

3. Fed Up is a new documentary about food and exercise in America. Katie Couric is behind this project and the trailer leaves you wanting to know more. It’s out on DVD and I can’t wait to view it! If you have older kids in the house, I would encourage you to have them watch it with you.

Hope your weekend is filled with fall fun!

Moms: What to look for in a workplace.

As a working mom, finding the right place to work is key. And honestly, it could take a while.

We can all agree job hunting is torture. You spend your evenings applying for jobs, taking time off work to attend interviews, rewriting your resume over and over- It’s just exhausting. But sometimes it takes trial and error to get things just right.

Working Mother Magazine (one of my personal favorites) debuts their 100 Best Companies for 2014 next week in their Oct/Nov issue. Follow their Facebook page for more information.

I’ve got some tips, I’ve learned from my own personal experience that I’d like to share with you if you find yourself as a mom and job hunting.

1. Wait until the end. Don’t ask about flexibility, vacation days, sick day until near the end of the interview. To me, I think it’s tacky and I think most employers would agree. They want to hear questions from you about the specific position, the company and what you could bring to the table. I usually slide a line in like, “I am a mom and I’m also curious about the flexibility within the position.” If you’re being interviewed by a woman she usually starts off with her personal story about how she works her job around her life. At that point you know you’re in good hands.

2. Google search. If I know the name of the person I’m being interviewed by, you can guarantee I’m Googling that person to find her Facebook page and LinkedIn profile. Hey! You’ve seen the news reports they do the same to us- so it’s totally fair game!

3. LinkedIn. Speaking of LinkedIn, most companies by now have a LinkedIn profile, search to see if you have any contacts that work there already or have worked there. If not, search to see their list of employees, do you see a lot of women or is it mainly men? Look for family photos or are they friends with women who have kids. This can tell you a lot about the person before you even meet them.

4. Mobile isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If your job is offering you a company cell or computer, don’t be scared of it. I have friends who see this as their company requesting constant contact with them. I have a company computer and sure, sometimes I work late or I work once the kids are in bed, but it’s usually because I left work early to go to dance class, for a doctor’s appointment, etc. You have to look at your situation and realize it might not be a bad thing to connect when on your own time.

5. Assess the room. Once you land an interview now it’s time to put on that pretty smile and investigator’s eye sight. Try to up and down every room and hallway you are guided into. Steal a glance inside an office or cubicle, does the employee have photos of children displayed? I had one interview that was one-on-one in a woman’s personal office. She had her kids’ school photos and artwork on display and I knew it would be a good fit. On the contrary, I had one interview where the conference room had annual company photos on display, which I thought was a good sign. The bad sign, all the folks interviewing me were men and it was not a good fit. I learned that one the hard way.

In the end, I always recommend trusting your gut and like I said before. It can be trial and error. You may take a position and realize it’s an awful fit and that’s ok! Promise.