Surf’s Up Vox Box!

Earlier this summer, I was lucky enough to receive the #SurfsUp Vox Box from Influenster! It was filled with awesome, useful goodies that I have been enjoying ever since! The goodies in this box included coupons to try a Jamba Juice Smoothie Kit from the frozen section of my local grocery store, Bombshell Curvaceous mascara from Cover Girl, Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration After Sun lotion, Sinful Colors nail polish in the Anchors Away shade, and a dose of First Aid Shot Therapy. 

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My kids were definitely most excited for the #JambaJuice smoothie. (I guess I can’t really blame two young boys for not being excited about mascara and nail polish!) They both studied the coupons before I headed to the store and put in their orders for the smoothie kits they wanted me to buy. Roo chose the Strawberries Wild and Monkey chose the Caribbean Passion. The kits were easy to find in the store, only required me to add apple juice (which we usually have at home anyway), and were ready in only a few minutes! The kids thought they were yummy, and so did The Coach and I! I especially loved that they are simply frozen fruit and yogurt, so it takes the steps of washing and slicing fruit, scooping yogurt, pouring juice, and tossing ice into the blender down to simply pouring the bag in and pouring some juice in. Sometimes I don’t make the kids smoothies because we don’t have time, but this makes it much quicker!

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The very first item out of the #SurfsUpVoxBox that I tried was the Cover Girl Bombshell Curvaceous Mascara. I am always on the lookout for a good mascara. I have several in my make up bag, because it is really my go-to eye makeup. If I’m running super late, I am willing to skip everything else, but a little mascara goes a long way in making your eyes stand out. I loved the two-step way this mascara worked. The first step adds volume to your lashes, making them look thicker and longer. The second step adds a dark, shiny top coat that really makes your lashes stand out. The best part? This mascara stays put. It stayed on my lashes until I washed it off, with no dark smudges under my eyes – even when I wore all day and all evening! I was absolutely #Bombshelling

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We live in a beach town, and while the weather has been fairly cool this summer, we’ve still been at the beach several times both at home and when we’ve been camping. So we go through a lot of sunscreen every summer, and I’ve always been a fan of the Hawaiian Tropic brand. I’ve been able to mature with them – from using the SPF nothing tanning oil when I was young and dumb, to now using the higher SPF lotion on my own fair skin as well as my boys’ young and tender skin. This was the first time I had tried their after sun care, though. I cannot get over how great this Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration After Sun lotion feels after an afternoon in the sun and sand. The aloe gel in it feels soothing and cool, while the lotion is moisturizer and gets rid of that “tight skin” feel that comes from the drying effects of sun and water. I simply put a generous layer of this lotion on when I get home from the beach and my skin stays soft and smooth, no matter how much the elements try to beat it up!

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I have been a fan of the #SinfulColors nail polish for quite some time, now. They have a great variety of colors, including some fun glitter shades that are great alone or paired over another shade. They always have fun seasonal displays with the perfect colors for whatever holiday is approaching. And you absolutely cannot beat the price of these little gems!! A little known bonus with these polishes that I’ve found – this is the only polish where the glitter shades stay on for a reasonable amount of time, yet are not impossibly hard to remove with nail polish remover. Long lasting and time saving? Yes, please!! To be honest, I wasn’t so sure about the shade in my Vox Box, as it was a bit more orange than I would usually wear. But I paired it with a bright pink and it looked perfect for wearing to the Jimmy Buffett concert we went to in June! I even shared with my friend in the car on the way down, so we “opposite-the-same” nails. :)

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And finally, the last item in my Vox Box was the First Aid Shot Therapy.  The best feature of this product is the convenience. If you are someone who doesn’t need pain relief very often, but like to have some “just in case,” this would be perfect to stick in your purse or glove compartment. It’s a drinkable pain relief medicine, so it is fairly fast acting. It’s great for headaches, sore muscles, or for when you have a headache because you drank too many margarita’s at the Jimmy Buffett concert. Not that I know this from experience or anything. ;) It’s a convenient way to have #FASTRelief on hand!

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The #SurfsUpVoxBox from Influenster was a definite hit, with almost all of the products being ones I would be willing to buy after getting the chance to try them out! Thanks to Influenster for giving me the opportunity to try out all these great products!

Disclosure: I was provided with free product from Influenster and the brands mentioned above, for trial and review purposes. However, all opinions are honest and my own! For my full disclosure policy, please see here.

DIY Chalkboard Table

DIY Chalkboard TableI’ve had my dining room table since before I had my husband, kids, or any of our pets. I bought it shortly after I graduated from college for somewhere around $300 or $400. I vaguely remember that it was maybe priced at $400, but I got a discount on it because I was buying some other furniture, as well. Since the table has lasted well over a decade, I’m pretty sure I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of it – and then some. 

While I have thought for some time that the table had seen better days and was looking a little rough, I didn’t want to invest in a nice dining room table until the boys were past the sticker and glue stage. So with not much to lose when it came to my current table, I figured I could have a little fun with a DIY redo of the table. When I was reading “Rhinestone Jesus” earlier this summer the author mentioned painting her dining room table with chalkboard paint, and how great it was for little ones that had trouble staying at the table long enough to have some good family time. Then I saw a picture on Pinterest of a table with four different colored chairs. And my idea began to come together…

The first step in my chalkboard table project was to give everything a good cleaning. I just used warm water with a little dish soap and an old washcloth to scrub all the yuck off the table and chairs. Then I carted everything outside to reduce the mess inside. I used medium grade sandpaper, and gave everything a light sanding, just enough to rough up the glossy finish so the paint would adhere. 

Next, I spray painted each chair. I could have done this quicker if I had wanted to use more space, but I had one tarp out and I didn’t want to dig any more out, so I did one chair at a time and let each one dry a bit before doing the next one. Once it was dry to the touch, I moved it to the back porch and did the next one. So the chairs took a little over 3 hours to paint. 

Before After Chairs

 

I took the legs off the table and spray painted those white. Since they were dark blue to begin with, it did take about four coats of white paint. I could have probably done this in fewer coats if I had used a paint with primer and paint in one, but I already had the white paint from another project, so I wanted to use that up instead of spending more money. 

Finally, I went to work on the table. I flipped it upside down and set it on saw horses. I painted the underside first, since I wasn’t as worried about perfect coverage on that side. And I didn’t paint the inside part of the underside, since no one will see that (unless they are crawling around under my table, which is probably another whole issue). Once the underside was dry, I flipped the table over. The chalkboard paint doesn’t take long to dry, so it was ready to flip in less than hour. Then I painted the top. This took several coats to get good, even looking coverage. But, as I said, the chalkboard paint dries quickly, so I was able to do several coats in about an hour.

Before and After Table

 

I was done with everything by probably 3 pm, but I let it all sit outside until after the kids went to bed. Then The Coach and I brought it all in and put the legs back on the table. I then let it sit for the next day without the kids messing with anything just to make sure everything was good and dry.

The directions on the chalkboard paint were to take a piece of chalk and lay it flat on the table, running it over the entire surface. Then wipe the chalk off and the table is ready!

DIY Chalkboard Table 2

 

So far, it doesn’t stay as black as I thought it would, even when I use a wet washcloth to clean it off. You can still see a trace of chalk. But I’m ok with that, since the kids love writing on it and probably will all the time, anyway. I’m going to search online and Pinterest for tips for caring for chalkboard painted surfaces to see if there is a better way for me to clean it.  Overall, I love the way my chalkboard table turned out! A totally new look and I spent one day and under $30! Here’s the breakdown of my cost to redo my old dining set into a chalkboard table and multicolored chairs:

2 cans chalkboard paint, 5 cans colored paint (it took two cans of yellow since I was painting over a dark color), 2 cans of white paint (I already had these) – 7 cans purchased at $3.69 per can = $25.83

1 package of medium grade sandpaper = $3

Total = $28.83

Total time spent = approximately 6.5 hours

Support Teachers with Great Clips and #GREATLIST

Great Clips GREATLISTMany of you may not know that I used to be a classroom teacher. My background and degrees are in elementary education and between internships, subbing, and jobs, I’ve taught everything from Kindergarten to high school. 

When I had my own classroom, I taught third graders. Back-to-school time was always one of my favorite times of the year. I would browse through teaching and office supply stores for ideas on a theme for my classroom for the year. I loved to find bulletin board borders, posters, name cards, and all kinds of fun classroom decorations to tie my theme into my daily classroom life. However, it was also pretty stressful being fresh out of college, broke, and having to pay for all of those fun items out of my own pocket. Usually my classroom budget barely covered the crayons, pencils, and paper my kiddos would need for the school year. I regularly spent my own money on supplies to make my classroom more engaging and appealing and on tools to help the kids learn. 

On average, teachers spend $1,000 of their own money just to make sure their students have the resources they need to learn. Having experienced this first hand, I was excited to be asked to participate in Great Clip’s #GREATLIST campaign. Not only are they making teacher’s dreams come true, but they are helping families to fill those back-to-school supply lists, as well.

Great Clips Image

By clicking this link, you can see a video of how Great Clips is already helping to make teachers’ dreams come true with their Classroom Makeover Video. In addition, you can enter the #GREATLIST contest and be entered to win your classroom supply list delivered right to your door! Imagine getting up to $100 of classroom supplies and not even having to battle the crowds at the back-to-school sales! Every single day, one lucky winner will be chosen! Finally, you can download the new Online Check-In App from the site. 

With every free download of Great Clip’s new Online Check-In App, they will contribute to AdoptAClassroom.org (up to $20,000) to help support teachers and students. This app lets you add your name to the waiting list at your local Great Clips salon. It’s not an appointment – what it does is let you add your name to the list before arriving at the salon to help save you time.

With more than 3,300 salons throughout the United States and Canada, Great Clips is the world’s largest salon brand. Great Clips salons employ nearly 35,000 stylists who receive ongoing training to learn the Great Clips customer service system and advanced technical skills. Great Clips salon owners and corporate office are dedicated to our salon communities with a focus on philanthropic and volunteer activities.

Plus, many local Great Clips Salons are offering back-to-school specials on haircuts! And, when you enter the #GREATLIST contest, you will automatically get a $2 off coupon for any Great Clips Salon!

Having been in the position many teachers are in, with school budgets as well as home budgets getting tighter and tighter, I’m glad to have an opportunity to help teachers and students get the resources they need for learning. By doing something as simple as clicking this link and entering a contest, you can help donate to teacher’s classrooms as well as be entered to win your own haul of school supplies! What could be easier than that? ;)

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post and I was provided compensation in exchange for sharing this information. However, all opinions are my own. For my full disclosure policy, please see here. 

Pinterest Potluck Round-up

Pinterest Potluck Round Up CollageBe honest – how many of the recipes you have pinned, have you actually tried? It’s ok – me too! I pin away, keeping everything that looks good, but have only scratched the surface when it comes to actually trying all that deliciousness. However, this past winter I decided to try to work through some of my recipe pins and try adding some new dishes to our menu plans. And I’ve found some definite keepers!

Here’s a round up of some of my favorite Pinterest recipe that I have actually pinned, tried, and loved!

 

On to my menu! While The Coach will be a little busy with high school football camp this week, I’m very grateful that the boys and I have a pretty light and open schedule for the next couple weeks. I’m hoping to get a couple projects done, give the house a good cleaning, and catch the boys up on some summer reading! (I may have let that slide a little while I was getting my summer reading in!) I’ll be linking up on I’m an Organizing Junkie if you’re looking for more meal planning ideas! I also often link up at Feeding Big. Or check out and follow my Yummy dinners board on Pinterest! Interested in meal planning? Check out my first post on meal planning, or my recent Beginner’s Guide to Meal Planning. Here’s what we’re eating this week:

Breakfasts (we don’t plan for each day – see here for why – but these are our choices along with a fruit)

• Cereal
• Granola bars and yogurt
• Pancakes
• Cream of Wheat or oatmeal
• Toast or English Muffins
• Breakfast sliders
• Banana smoothies
• Breakfast bites 

Lunches (since we’re all home for lunch much of this summer, we’re not really planning a menu and eating leftovers or whatever we’re in the mood for!)

Dinners

• Monday  – Grilled chicken, potatoes, green beans
• Tuesday – Cheeseburgers, fries, watermelon
• Wednesday – Hot Dogs, chips, watermelon
• Thursday – Rotisserie Chicken, mac & cheese, asparagus
• Friday – Pizza
• Saturday – Spare Ribs, corn on the cob, zucchini
• Sunday – Camping again! Going to try using pie irons to make some sandwiches in the fire!!

What are you eating this week? Leave a comment and feel free to link back to your blog if you have your plan posted!

Like the recipe or feature this week? Please consider sending it to a friend, sharing it on Facebook or Twitter, or pinning it to Pinterest. Thanks so much!

Friday Favorites – Organizing

I’m stepping back and taking a bit of a blogging break for the month of July. I’ll only be participating in one Ask Away Friday this month. Instead, on Fridays, I’ll be bringing you a recap of some of my favorite and most popular posts in a  few categories from the blog. I hope you enjoy this recap!

FF Organizing

Whether you know me in real life, or just through the screen here, you probably know I love to organize. I’m sometimes a little crazy and neurotic about it. Tackling the outer chaos is sometimes my way of calming the inner chaos. And I just love a neat and tidy environment. So for my last Friday Favorites feature this month, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite organizing posts…

Family Movie Night With Pop Secret Perfect Pop!

IMG_6376My kids love to have a movie night. Often, when The Coach has to work late or is at a coaching clinic overnight, the kids talk me into a pj party with popcorn and a movie. Granted, it’s not that hard to convince me to snuggle up with my boys on the couch for a couple hours! So with evening football commitments already starting up for The Coach, it was perfect timing for me to try out the Pop Secret Perfect Pop App.

The kids and I picked out a box of Pop Secret microwave popcorn at the store. Movie Theater Butter flavor was a no-brainer where they were concerned! Then I downloaded the free Perfect Pop App onto my phone. It was a simple App Store search and there it was! The kids couldn’t wait to see what it was all about!

After dinner, we broke open the box and put the first bag in the microwave. I have to admit, I was just as excited as the kids to see how the app worked!

We put a bag of Pop Secret in the microwave and entered the suggested cooking time from the packaging. Then we turned up the volume on my iPhone and pointed the phone’s speaker towards the microwave and made sure we were within 3 feet. We started the microwave, and then started the app.

The kids loved that there were fun facts that came up while we were waiting for the popcorn. One was about the first 3D movie, which was actually way back in 1915 – who knew?? Then they got so excited when the app started to show a picture of popcorn popping and the bag slowly grew taller on our screen. My oldest actually asked how the app knew what was going on in our popcorn bag! Just when I started to wonder if the app was really going to work (because the pops were slowing down), sure enough the app told me to stop the microwave – my popcorn was ready!

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We popped a second bag and the same fun and perfect results! Roo even declared we should use the app every time we make microwave popcorn! The kids loved that the second time I let them take turns holding the phone by the microwave. 

With popcorn bowls in hand, we headed out to the living room to fire up NetFlix. The kids picked Spy Kids 2, which I was grateful for a movie that isn’t too boring for grown-ups. ;) They even talked me into lowering the blinds and having a “movie theater” in our living room!

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Pop Secret definitely helped make it a successful, and easy, family movie night in! No more relying on the popcorn button or guessing how many seconds in between pops. Pop Secret is serious about perfect popcorn, so the less you have to worry about, the more time you can spend enjoying movie night with your friends & family. Perfect Pop listens to the pops, waiting for the precise moment to let you know when your popcorn is perfect.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post and I was provided with the product in exchange for writing a review. However, all opinions are my own. For my full disclosure policy, please see here. 

 

Six Summer Boredom Busters

Ahhhhh – summer. Beautiful sunshine, warm temperatures, and long days. Oh, the long days. You know the ones, when the kids are asking what else is there to do by 9:30 am. When the novelty of not going to school has worn off, all the toys that were neglected during the school year have been played with, and the great summer fun ideas you had in May have all been used up. That’s when the dreaded summer boredom sets in. Often, grumpiness follows boredom, for parents and kids alike.

So what do you do when the summer boredom hits? I asked my blogging friends for some summer boredom busters and they, once again, came through with some great ideas! Below you can find tips from  six bloggers on how to battle boredom in the summer months!

Summer Boredom Busters

Summer Boredom Busters

Yours truly at Structure in an Unstructured Life

We combat summer boredom with a change of scenery. Sometimes just getting out of the house to do the same things we usually do can make a big difference. Taking dinner to the park, reading on a blanket in the front yard, or taking the dog on a walk to a neighborhood we haven’t explored before are all little changes to the routine that help us out of a rut. While we usually make trips to the beach and the park in the summer months, we’ve tried different beaches and different parks to add some variety to our days. 

 

Jenny at Express Bus Mama 

This year summer boredom hit us hard. Maybe it’s because my son is getting older, but I’ve been hearing “I’m bored” about fifty times a week. That’s after a full day of camp and swimming in our pool. His energy is inextinguishable! So this year I’ve made a conscience effort to involve my son in my everyday activities; hoping he’ll realize that’s there more to life than watching TV! If I’m making cookies, he’s doing it with me. If I’m organizing the playroom, he’s in charge of getting the books in order. If I’m pulling weeds, he’s throwing them in the wheelbarrow. I’m careful to balance these chores with more carefree activities like playdates and movie nights to keep summer boredom at bay. So far so good, and what do you know? My son said he actually enjoys doing all these things with me. I guess in the end being together is all that really matters!

 

Shelly at DIY Mama

If I think of something that might be the slightest bit entertaining to Sophie (9mo), I just do it. We’ll never find out what she likes or is able to do if we don’t try. If things don’t work out, we wait a month and try again! Anything involving water has been key for this summer. Outdoor kitty pool, storage tub with water, water on her high chair tray, extra bath time fun and going to pools to swim. She also loves people watching so we can take her anywhere with a lot of people (festivals, farmers market, park, grocery store etc.) and she’ll be happy.

 

NJ at A Cookie Before Dinner

Here is my best idea. Let them be bored. Give them space to let their mind wander freely and give them room to create something out of nothing. These days the world is full of flash and excitement- kids are shuffled from one activity to the next and aren’t given a ton of time to learn what to do with the margin. However, learning how to be content and occupied is a useful skill for kids to develop. When they do come to you with some sort of crazy idea (likely messy, like building a robot from the recycling), say yes to the mess, stand back, and watch what happens when your child is bored.

 

Jen at Drinking the Whole Bottle

I saw a great Father’s Day gift on Pinterest that was, as this blogger mom called it, “An Adventure in a Box.” In this box, she gathered fun or cool looking items that she picked up at any dollar store or at the cheapy, fun section of Target or Michael’s or… Well, you get it. I loved this idea but my kids are still a bit young for it, so, in true Pinner fashion, I pinned it for “one day” use. Then I started thinking why couldn’t I borrow that idea and mold it into something that would (1) work for my kids but also (2) keep me organized for the summer. This created Summer Adventure Treasure Chest
 
Summer Adventure Treasure Chest
 
The idea is the same. Buy or create a treasure chest and fill it up with fun things that your kids would like to do this summer or that – even better – YOU would like to do in the summer. (In my experience, my kids just like to go places, doesn’t matter where exactly, just as long as I sell it as new(!) and exciting(!) so my adventure suggestions could be just as fabulous as their adventure suggestions.) 
 
HERE WE GO!
 
Step 1: Buy / create a “treasure chest.”
Step 2: Type each adventure on its own piece of paper in fun treasure chesty font (PicMonkey’s Bleeding Cowboys is a good one!). Then, roll the paper up and tie with twine, rope or ribbon to make it look like a scroll. 
Step 3: Put all of the scrolls into the Summer Adventure Treasure Chest and start your summer adventures with a scavenger hunt to find the treasure chest.
Step 4: Include a “map” (aka directions) in your chest, detailing how the treasure chest works. What you do from here is up to you. How often do you want to go off on an adventure? Once a week? Twice a week? More? They don’t all have to be grand adventures so pulling off more than one a week is possible if that’s what you want. 
Step 5: Choose your first adventure!
 
Scrolls
 
What I love about this is that it not only keeps kids excited about what new adventure they are going on this week BUT it also keeps you from tearing out your hair and trying to decide what new things to do to keep them busy… aaaaaaand - my absolute favorite part – is that you get to throw in some fun things that you’d like to do with your kiddos. 
 
Adventure Idea Starter Kit: 
 
Adventure Ideas
 
(*Have a lot of kids in your neighborhood? Look into a Game Truck Day (not in all areas). My nephew had a Game Truck Birthday Party and it was awesome! A huge truck that holds 28 kids rolled up to their house and all the kids packed in to play video games for 2 hours. Not only did the kids love it but Mami had two hours off to relax with friends since an attendant is with the truck the whoooole time. It’s costly to pay for on your own but split amongst 10 families is well worth it! 
 
 
Photo Credits:
Treasure Chest - Tom Praison (adapted by Jen)
Scrolls - Clarence
 
 
For the original Adventure in a Box idea.

 

Dana at Kiss My List

My teens rarely complain about being bored in the summer, but I want to make sure they get up and moving! We go for walks with the dog, and play word games as we go to keep it interesting. My daughter likes to bake, and that’s perfect for a rainy afternoon. And technology doesn’t always have to be off limits; my kids get creative and make videos of tutorials or just random silliness. This activity encourages them to work together and use their imaginations. If my daughter has a free moment, she’ll bury her nose in a book. My son wouldn’t tell me he was bored for fear that I would make him read! But he thinks our bed is the comfiest one in the house, so I can entice him by letting him burrow under the covers and reading there.

I never thought I’d say this, but sometimes I long for the days when my children complained that they were bored. Now the school year is so filled with homework, projects, sports and other commitments that they welcome the days with no demands. I welcome it too. Boredom is definitely relative!

Favorite Casseroles

Favorite CasserolesI know, summer is hardly the time you think of casseroles. But if I was going to go back and feature some of my favorite recipes, I couldn’t leave casseroles out!

Casseroles are a perfect way to use up leftovers, whether you have a little bit of veggies or a piece of meat or two, you can easily throw it into a casserole and avoid wasting anything. I also love that casseroles are usually a one dish meal, so you have your protein, veggies, and grain all in one easy dish. Besides being easy and frugal, I love that casseroles are just plain good comfort food. Nothing like warming yourself up from the inside out with something creamy and delicious.

Many casseroles call for “cream of something” soup, but I’m not a big fan of the canned variety. So most of my casserole recipe call for a rather simple homemade version of the same thing using butter, flour, milk, and stock (usually chicken) or mushrooms. It’s also easy to substitute ingredients in a casserole such as swapping vegetables or even the meat for whatever you have on hand.

Here’s my round up of my favorite casseroles…

 

On to my menu!  We’re camping again for a couple days this week, but just about 10 minutes away from home. The Coach has football and the kids and I have Vacation Bible School this week, so we’re trying to sneak some camping into an already busy week. I know – we’re crazy! I’ll be linking up on I’m an Organizing Junkie if you’re looking for more meal planning ideas! I also often link up at Feeding Big. Or check out and follow my Yummy dinners board on Pinterest! Interested in meal planning? Check out my first post on meal planning, or my recent Beginner’s Guide to Meal Planning. Here’s what we’re eating this week:

Breakfasts (we don’t plan for each day – see here for why – but these are our choices along with a fruit)

• Cereal
• Granola bars and yogurt
• Pancakes
• Cream of Wheat or oatmeal
• Toast or English Muffins
• Breakfast sliders
• Banana smoothies
• Breakfast bites 

Lunches (since we’re all home for lunch much of this summer, we’re not really planning a menu and eating leftovers or whatever we’re in the mood for!)

Dinners

• Monday  – Camping – hot dogs!
• Tuesday – Grilled Chicken, corn on the cob, green beans
• Wednesday – Taco Bell (the kids got coupons for free tacos from the library’s summer reading program)
• Thursday – Pork Chops, rice, asparagus
• Friday – Pizza
• Saturday – Fettuccine Alfredo, broccoli
• Sunday – Open…

What are you eating this week? Leave a comment and feel free to link back to your blog if you have your plan posted!

Like the recipe or feature this week? Please consider sending it to a friend, sharing it on Facebook or Twitter, or pinning it to Pinterest. Thanks so much!

The Post Where I Reveal Favorites, Texts, and the Inside of my Purse! #AskAwayFriday

This week, I’m swapping with Dana from Kiss My List for #AskAwayFriday. As I got to know Dana through her blog, I loved how much I have in common with her. We’re both list makers, project-lovers, and book readers. And she loves musicals, vampires, and chocolate, so how could she not be awesome? While I think we must both have a Type A streak in us (she is a list maker, ya know), I also love that she has a go-with-the-flow streak I admire. She writes about whatever she feels like at the time, and she wanders through the interwebs allowing herself to make friends with some fabulous folks in the blogosphere. I feel lucky she wandered into my neck of the web for Ask Away Friday this week and I got to know her better! Make sure you click over to her blog to see how she answered my 10 questions for her. 
 

#AskAwayFriday was created by Penny from Real Housewife of Caroline County as a way to connect with other bloggers with a great Q & A session of 10 questions and 10 answers! By offering a wonderful opportunity to get to know others while allowing others to get to know you and of course there is also the added bonus of making great friends along the way which is one of the best parts of this online world! Our wonderful #AskAwayFriday hosts are Tamara from Tamara Like Camera, Tiffany from Mrs. Tee Love Life Laughter, Christy from Uplifting Families, Stacey from This Momma’s Ramblings, and Amber from Bold Fit Mom.

 
Ask Away Friday Dana
 
1. I think of myself as a pretty organized person, but you put me to shame, particularly in terms of meal planning. Is there an area in your life where you feel that you want to be more organized? Tell me about it! 
Meal planning is probably my biggest strength, so don’t feel bad! Everything else is usually a continual work in progress, especially as my boys get older and their toys, schedules, skills, and everything else change! I feel I’m pretty good at keeping everything that’s visible neat and organized, but my storage areas are often a mess. I have my laundry room on my list to clean out and organize this summer because it literally has “stuff” falling off shelves. The biggest challenge for us is that we have no garage and no basement, so things like seasonal decorations, seldom used serving plates and pieces, and other items that are used, but not often, are challenging to find places for where they are accessible but still stowed away. (And there’s no way I’m sharing a picture of my disastrous laundry room! ;) Haha!)
 
2. I love your question to Steph last month, so I’m going to ask you the same one: You are forced to ditch everything in your purse but five items – what do you pick?
I thought about this when I wrote it for Steph and realized I should probably ditch most of the stuff in my purse because I never use it! My five items would be: my wallet, my phone, my Burt’s Bees lip shimmer, my sunglasses, and my Nook. 
 
purse five things
 
3. I was going to ask you to tell me something quirky about you, but you’ve already answered that in previous #AAF. Soooo…. tell me something totally AWESOME about yourself. Now is not the time for modesty.
I’m a smarty-pants. I graduated magna cum laude in my undergrad and suma cum laude (4.0) in my Master’s program. I’m a really quick learner, especially if it is something I’m interested in. My husband always makes me feel good by telling people his wife is the smartest person he knows. :)
 
4. What is the last text you sent? Who was it sent to? Bonus points for including a screen shot.
I saved this for very last so it would really be the “last” text I sent (or at least close). I’m glad I did cause it’s a fun one to share! I sent a Happy Birthday text to my sister. The conversation above was from the night before. We were talking about our county fair that I had been to with the kids. Let me just say, just because your kids are tall enough to ride The Spider, does not mean they should!! I spent most of the ride with my arm around my youngest telling him it was ok, that Mama was there. 
 
photo
 
5. Tell me your favorite: scent, sound, touch, and taste.
Scent – lavender – it reminds me of the lotion I put on my kids at night when they were babies
Sound – my kids laughing that kind of laugh where they can barely catch their breath
Touch – my husband’s arm around my waist in a crowd
Taste – Baked Brie with cranberry sauce – I love the richness and the blend of slight saltiness with a not-too-sweetness
 
6. You are the mama of two boys – what do you love about having two sons? What’s something you don’t love about all the testosterone in your house?
I love the mother-son relationship. They come to me for comfort and guidance, but I don’t have the same pressure of teaching them. I think if I had a girl I would feel a lot of pressure about teaching her to become a woman. With my boys, I get to teach them about women, without having to teach them to be one. Since I don’t feel the weight of pressure, I think it makes our relationship a little easier and more comfortable. And it’s also kinda nice to be treated like the queen of the house. ;)
The down side of two boys – the noise. I am a lover of quiet and there never seems to be much of it in my house. 
 
boys at fair
 
7. I loved your post, I Am a Crappy Mom. I’m not always the mom I thought I’d be either, and I’m okay with that. Are there other areas of your life that didn’t turn out the way you imagined they would when you were young and naive?
Thanks so much – that’s one of my personal favorite posts! When I started to write this answer, I had to laugh a little, because my husband and I have both said many times, “I just didn’t think life would be like this!” I mean that in both completely positive and completely negative ways all at once. Marriage, parenting, work, finances, home ownership – all different than I thought it would be before I was in the middle of them. I never imagined my career going the way it has. My degrees are in education, but I only taught for a few years. I ended up doing corporate training in healthcare by chance, and was doing it for over a decade. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it, either. Now I’m completely burned out in that field, and am getting my teaching certification back and trying to get back into teaching elementary kids. So I guess I’m going to end up where I thought I would be, but I took a very different path to get there! 
 
8. Fantasy time! You have a personal chef for one week, who will cook whatever you want as long as you give him the menu. What’s on it?
Oh, this would be amazing!! I’d have to start with my favorite dinner – steak, roasted red skin potatoes, and asparagus. I’d have a seafood meal one night, probably fresh lake perch. I’d ask for a pasta meal one night, maybe a cajun seafood pasta like they had at the place my husband and I got married at. Since this is a fantasy, I’m going to assume this chef can cook any type of food and I’d also request an authentic Mexican meal, not the Americanized stuff you usually get at restaurants. And a pecan pie for dessert every night – because it’s my guilty pleasure! 
 
9. This is a four parter (actually an eight parter)! In one word answers, tell me a quality that you love about each member of your family. Then name something about each member that irks you. Don’t forget to include yourself.
Qualities I love:
The Coach – Committed
Roo – Curious
Monkey – Kind-hearted
Me – Honest
Qualities that irk me:
The Coach – Forgetful
Roo – Stubborn
Monkey – Messy
Me – Rigid
 
Photo credit: Kristine Lucius

Photo credit: Kristine Lucius

 
10. I always end with a “Would You Rather?” For one month, would you rather live in your home without doing any cleaning, organizing, or decluttering…OR wear the same clothes all month (you can wash them once a week)?
I think I’d have to pick no cleaning, organizing, or decluttering. Having two boys who tend to be messy, I don’t think I could stand the same clothes for a month. But at least with the home one, I could go outside for a deep breath when the mess started to drive me crazy! And I could make a list of all the cleaning I was going to do when the month was over! :) 

Summer Reading List – Update!

One of the major perks of having the summer off? More reading. Completely loving that!!

At the beginning of the summer, I posted my summer reading list. I felt like it was a bit ambitious, with about three books a month. I know, not ambitious for some, but it was for me these days. I’m happy to say, it is halfway through summer and I am halfway through my list! Perfect!

So here’s my update on what I’ve read and what I still have to go…

Summer-Reading-List Update

  1. The Hunger Games Series. I pretty much devoured these three. I definitely liked the first two better than the third, but the series as a whole was great. And I loved the ending. I loved that the characters seemed real with their emotions, even if the story was definitely fictional. I loved the fast-paced nature of the books, although, again I thought the first two moved better than the third. Now I can’t wait to watch the movies, and do my typical, “It’s not as good as the book.” ;)
  2. Rhinestone Jesus. I loved reading the back story of how Kristen Welch started Mercy House and what led her to those choices. A lot of the information about poverty and other countries was a bit alarming to me, and certainly made me think about the excess I am a part of. The statistic that really stuck in my mind, was the fact that being able to choose to buy that book instead of food, put me in the top 14% of the world for wealth. Wow. Really put things in perspective. 
  3. The Fault in Our Stars. This was one of the books where even when I was finished, I found myself thinking about the characters. I loved the story, even though it wasn’t your typical happy-feel-good tale. The dialogue was well written and “real” and so was the story. I was intrigued by John Green as an author before reading this, and am even more so after reading my first book by him.
  4. Thrive. Huge Arianna Huffington fan. ‘Nuff said.
  5. A Jennifer Weiner book. Another author I love and she has a few that I’ve been wanting to get to.
  6. A Jodi Picoult book. I’m about half way through Plain Truth right now, which I’m having trouble putting down! I love the changing perspective between character viewpoints and her books always have a few twists and turns in them that I look forward to. 
  7. An Emily Giffin book. She has such fun, chick lit books that one of her books seems like a perfect on-the-beach read! 

What are you reading this summer?