Category Archives: Friday Favorites

Quick Reviews of Favorite Gifts

This was a modest Christmas for us gift-wise, but it was thoroughly enjoyed. Besides taking two out of three children to Urgent Care on Christmas Eve, and less than stellar health we had a fun holiday with lots of family time. Gifts were not the focus of our celebration by any means but I do want to share a couple that were hits, along with their affiliate links for your convenience.

Razor Sole: For our ten year old twin girls, we were looking for an active toy and considered scooter upgrades, skates, and long boards. We wound up tossing the dice a bit and going with the Razor Sole, which I had never heard of but has good reviews. It’s kind of like a hybrid between a skateboard, scooter and skates.

This is a little intimidating for cautious kids and the first couple tries they were very timid. But after a couple hours at the park, they were thoroughly enjoying the fun of balancing and leaning to steer. The great thing about this toy is that it’s very low to the ground, so easy to jump off. It’s also very small and easy to carry/store (this is super important since we have no garage!). These are rated for adults and can be used for lots of stunts and tricks although I am not encouraging the girls to try anything like that yet! At about $30, I think this will get a ton of use and enjoyment over the next few years. Click here to check it out on Amazon. 

Brain Flakes by Viahart: This 500 piece building set has gone up to $19.99 but when we ordered it was only $12.99! The canister is small but there are plenty of colorful pieces for several children to build with. These were a surprise hit over the holidays with EVERYONE from adults to kids. I would like to caution that they are quite small and I would categorize them as a choking hazard, despite the fact that similar toys are advertised for toddlers. I will have to take some pics of some of the huge creations that the kids came up with. For $19.99, I think they are a great toy. For $12.99, this was a crazy deal and I love that they were fun for all three kids plus any adults within reach. Click here for similar toys at different price points!

I will share some more later! What were the big hits in your home this Christmas?

What’s in my Amazon Cart and mini-victories

I just churned out three posts for BargainBabe but I still can’t neglect my sweet spot here. I just have a few things to share but let me first say that a couple weeks ago I read The More of Less by Joshua Becker and it is incredibly positive and inspiring. (If you read Marie Kondo and thought that woman was spookily animistic, depressing and kind of in need of psychiatric help, you need to read this.) I just can’t say enough good things. I connected so much to this version of minimalism, with a greater purpose in mind.

moreofless

It’s only $1.99 on Kindle (back to $11.99, so sorry but still totally recommendable) so now is the moment! What’s more minimal than a digital copy, anyway? I still think the book is worth reading at $11.99 but I would probably suggest the library instead unless you are dying to spend the money. I will be watching for more deals on this!

Have we talked about capsule wardrobes? Sometimes I get confused about which blog I posted what in, but in case we haven’t touched on this, Courtney Carver does a fantastic job of explaining this with Project 333. I was fascinated to learn that Courtney delved into her first wardrobe challenge as she was re-vamping her entire lifestyle. Her ultimate goal was to cut the stress out of her life in order to help treat a chronic illness. I thought this was so interesting, as many of the articles you read on capsule wardrobes seem to be fixated on hunting down the perfect items to satisfy an arbitrary scavenger hunt of “necessary” pieces. I love that her perspective was so different and practical. Finding the perfect wool pencil skirt is not part of this equation. Making your closet a functional, simple and stress-free part of your life is.

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I’m not ready to go to a true capsule wardrobe, because I really don’t want to perform a complete purge and also frankly right now I am not at my ideal weight or shape. But I am looking at making purchases with much more precision and thought. Towards that end, I’m very interested in a brand I recently noticed on Amazon because the pieces are exactly in line with my style, very inexpensive, and also made in America! I feel like it is probably too good to be true, so if anyone has any feedback on this please fill me in. The brand is FRUMOS; please let me know what you think!

I do have a few minimalist victories to share for this week. Because our progress hasn’t been incredibly speedy, I sometimes forget that things are becoming steadily better. Packing for an out of town trip, reminds me that YES we are getting there. This was our easiest car trip, even down to leaving the house completely picked up and ready to return to. Small victory, yes, but I am grateful. Thanksgiving was delightful.

I used to go shopping all the time. Multiple times a week. Sometimes every day. Things are different now and last weekend I had a list of returns and ISO items that needed to be fulfilled (actually needed, like allergy covers for the girls’ beds after a recent diagnostic test and shoes for my rapidly growing 10 year olds.) We went shopping as a family and I was able to find the needed items and purchase them with store credit. It was so nice to be able to focus and not be distracted by a gnawing urge to consume aimlessly. We found all the needed items and didn’t bring home a single thing that wasn’t on our list. A different sense of satisfaction than the brief thrill of bargain hunting, but it felt good.

I used to have a big, stocked gift closet with items for almost any occasion, but I have been minimizing it as steadily as possible. This week I was able to use several of the items as gifts and I think they are really going to be used and enjoyed by the recipients. As more items are disappearing from my once plentiful stock, I feel lighter and gain a closet back!

Also, a brief mention of Black Friday: we went out for the morning because my hubby and I had the opportunity to spend a little time together sans kids. (Rare, oh so rare). We had a nice romantic breakfast at Waffle House (because coffee and waffles without kids is poetry to my heart) and shopped a few stores. We found nothing of particular interest and I felt a strangely pleasant casual detachment from the entire process. Although we enjoyed talking and planning a bit for the holidays as we walked around and having fun with each other without having to answer 21 questions from the four year old, there was no NEED to spend.

spire

One last thing in my Amazon cart: I am super intrigued by the Spire, a new-ish fitness monitor that claims to improve your breathing and anxiety. Anyone have experience with this? I’m pretty tempted to try it. If it was wrist worn, I wouldn’t hesitate, but I’m concerned it might be problematic for me to wear. Any feedback?

Well, that’s all for now. This is the kind of post that I throw together after being away from the blog for too long, so I apologize for the random collection of thoughts. I hope your Thanksgiving Weekend is peaceful and sweet!

Lessons as a New Minimalist

I’m tentatively thinking of myself as a minimalist now. It feels very strange, as if I am wearing someone else’s shoes. But I feel like I have spent enough time to warrant the title at this point. And I remind myself that minimalism is a choice I have made, not something that requires years of education, special equipment or a particular skill set.

Don’t worry, I’m not going around introducing myself to new people as a “minimalist” or ordering business cards or anything. I’m just telling myself, “it’s different now. I’m going in a new direction.” And I know this change is for real.

Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned a few months into my minimalism journey, in no particular order. (By the way, I used to roll my eyes at the term “journey” but now I sheepishly admit, a journey I am on and there isn’t really a better way to describe it). If it sounds snobby, please forgive me. There are times when the best words sound obnoxious, and this is one of those times.

  1. Yes, I really am materialistic. I had no idea the hold my stuff had on me, until I started to let it go. I’m still materialistic but admitting it is helping me to make better choices for the future.
  2. Our house isn’t small. I had spent so much time trying to squeeze “stuff” into my little house, I had forgotten how much space there actually is here. 1400 sq. ft. is really not that shabby for five people and one beagle.
  3. Working towards a positive goal is so much easier than giving yourself restrictions. All the times I have told myself to “stop shopping” have been difficult because the bad habit wasn’t replaced with something positive. Now that I am working toward a specific goal, I don’t miss shopping (yet). “Stop wasting money and filling the house with more and more stuff” just wasn’t working for me as a goal. “Focus on the important things and eliminate the things that get in the way” is a motto I can stick with. Maybe semantics, or maybe the secret elixir of life?less-to-clean
  4. Organizational tips can become traps. I was constantly trying to organize and constantly struggling. I had believed so much false logic in regard to organizing and I didn’t even realize it. One of my main mistakes was storing things in multiple spots. Since we had “limited space” I thought I should utilize every nook and cranny even if it meant spreading out the junk so that nothing was easy to find and I had no idea how much we actually owned.

    Then I proceeded to spend time every day searching for items that I wasn’t sure were even there to begin with. Making my life constantly frustrated.

  5. Allowing clutter is just another kind of procrastination. I am not sure where I originally read this statement but it has really stuck with me. For multiple reasons, we tend to let clutter build up even knowing we will eventually deal with it (or at worst others will deal with it). Whether it’s from guilt (“I never should have bought this”) or dread (“I’ll never really be able to get this taken care of”), we can be paralyzed. But I want to enjoy my home NOW. So no more waiting and no more putting it off for later. Seizing the day and acting can be very empowering and I love that I’m finally DEALING with issues rather than burying my head in the sand.
  6. Just because I love it, doesn’t mean I have to re-create it at home. This is something I never realized I was doing but it has been another light-bulb moment. I made choices of purchases and preferences rather randomly, based on a vague notion of re-creating things I enjoyed outside of my home. If I like eye-catching colors, I wanted them all over. If I enjoyed visiting a home with tons of tiny details, I thought maybe that’s what my house needed too. What I ended up with was a busy, eclectic combination of unrelated styles with no common thread. I have finally realized that I can go outside to enjoy nature, go to a museum to enjoy art; I could go to Cracker Barrel to peruse random collections of dusty collectibles, for Pete’s sake. I do not have to have each of these aesthetics in my home! My home is about creating a restful space for my family to re-charge so that we can go out into the world again. That takes a lot of pressure off me and helps me make decisions with clarity. 

I also have one item I would like to recommend for Friday Favorites. This is one of the cheapest diffusers I have found and we have been very pleased with it at only $12.99! Check it out here via my affiliate link!

That’s it for now! Keep simplifying, friends!

Friday Favorites: Travel Edition

Ya’ll know I LOVE Favorites. Coincidentally, I also love FRIDAYS so I hope to make Friday Favorites a repeat feature. I will be including Affiliate links for your convenience.

When I started this post, I was thinking of travel items, but we honestly use this every single night:

A Quality Sound Machine

My family is a group of finicky sleepers. We’ve tried lots of things, and one thing that we all can’t live without is a great white noise machine.

We own two of these, and love them: Marpac White Noise Machine

We own one of these, and it’s incredibly similar: Sleep Easy Sound Conditioner

From my fairly picky perspective the Sleep Easy sound seems slightly different from the Marpac, however it works great and the kids don’t know the difference. I would definitely recommend the Sleep Easy at only half the price of the Marpac.Marpac

We don’t travel that often but we would never, ever leave behind our sound machines. They have a gentle, even sound (no harsh “seams” in the noise like some of the machines I’ve had in the past. Yep, I’m picky) and they are small and portable. They have become an irreplaceable part of our sleep routine and really help every one settle down no matter where we are. It also helps to cover all those clumsy noises when we are tiptoeing around in a crowded hotel room. Totally worth it. 

Kidco PeaPod Plus Sleep Tent

When my son started climbing out of the pack ‘n play, I was pretty panicked until my friend gave us this awesome travel solution, the Kidco PeaPod Plus. You would be amazed to see how light this thing is and how easy the assembly is. The mattress is really pretty thick but we tend to place it on carpet or a sleeping bag for a little extra cushion.

kidcoMy 4 year old still fits inside and actually likes the enclosed space (for the most part). I tried to coax him onto a sleeping bag recently because I know he can’t have much longer in the PeaPod at his height, but he is pretty fond of the tent. (I recently saw the Original PeaPod at a thrift store, and my opinion is that it’s too small to bother with….go for the big one!)

Vera Bradley Duffel Bags

I asked my girls what to share as a travel Favorite and they mentioned Vera Bradley Duffel Bags. We own three (for me and each of my daughters) and use them for every single car trip.  I particularly love them because they are light-weight, machine washable, and they hold up really well. Also, if you are packing a car, you can seriously squash these together and maximize your packing space. We also have tons of other Vera bags, so the inside of my van looks like a crazy patchwork quilt when we travel. I know a lot of people aren’t a fan of traditional Vera patterns, but take a look at some of these chic new prints and solids:

Vera Bradley Ziggy Zags

Vera Bradley Fuschia

Vera Bradley Coastal Bluecoastal blue

Vera Bradley Classic Black

Vera Bradley Shower Vines

Favorite Treat: Kirkland Signature Dark Chocolate Toasted Coconut Cashews

Ok, so this is not so much a travel item although I did buy them on a road trip. I shared about Kirkland Signature Dark Chocolate Toasted Coconut Cashews (from Costco) on Facebook, but seriously these are unbelievably delicious! I can’t find them on their website, but here’s a pic before we devoured the whole container. Dark Choc Toasted Cashews

Kindles

Of course, we’ve talked about the Kindles before, but I have to give another shout out to Kindle Fires, which are an awesome price (especially if you go for a refurb from Amazon Warehouse deals). These have a lot of the functionality of an ipad but at these prices, I’m comfortable letting my kids carry them around. I don’t want my kids having free reign over apps, so they only have a few (no netflix, for sure). That way they actually utilize the kindles primarily as I had hoped by reading classic literature (so many amazing books are free!). Right now they are both reading Little Women! My husband and I both use our classic Kindle for library books constantly.

Notebook Journaling

I’ve talked about this before but this is still my very favorite method of organization and planning. It helps me so much to clear my mind and keep everything relatively organized. This goes DOUBLE when I am planning any kind of trip (I’m talking to-do lists, to-take lists, to-buy lists, to-remember lists). Tomorrow I will have a Notebook Journaling Hack that I use that’s really helped me, so please check back!

What are your Travel Favorites???

Continue reading Friday Favorites: Travel Edition

Friday Favorites: Fancy Edition

This week Friday’s Favorite is a flashback favorite to one of our favorite authors, Jane O’Connor.

I try not let my prissiness get out of control, but I’m really a girly girl at heart. Fortunately, my children seem to be a little more well-rounded; loving animals, sports, books, and still playing with dolls and wearing tutus occasionally. We all love the Fancy Nancy series by Jane O’Conner.Fancy Nancys

The illustrations are beautiful and the stories sweet. Not only does the series tickle a little girl’s pink funny bone, but it teaches a lot of great vocabulary words, even some basic French, while encouraging kindness and empathy. In Fancy Nancy we meet the Clancy family, and Nancy who feels it is “hard being the only fancy person in your family”. In Fancy Nancy Bonjour Butterfly Nancy apologizes to her mother for her behavior and learns that you must choose to have a good attitude even when faced with disappointment. The Clancy family learns about responsibility in Fancy Nancy and the Posh Puppy. One of our favorites, Fancy Nancy and the Splendiferous Christmas talks about the importance of family and establishing traditions and memories.

The series isn’t just about glittery boas and lacy accessories, Fancy Nancy Explorer Extraordinaire delves into plants, insects, and exploration from a “fancy” perspective. I love how it shows girls can be strong and feminine at the same time. We love these books and recommend you look to Jane O’Conner’s many titles for your daily fancy fix!

Friday Favorites: Health & Comfort Edition

This week has decidedly not gone how I’d hoped. I was nauseous all day Monday until Monday night, when things went downhill, but I’ll spare you the details. Thankfully, no one else seems to have been infected, and thankfully I am finally feeling nearly normal today. On top of the vomiting, (whoops, I said no details), I was feeling truly horrible because I couldn’t stomach coffee (or anything much) until this morning. If you know me at all, you know that a lack of coffee is not compatible with my lifestyle.

But no one wants to hear about that, so I thought I would quickly share some of the things that help me feel better when I am under the weather. In the interest of full disclosure, please realize that I have become an Amazon partner, so I will receive a small (really, minuscule) compensation for any items purchased through my links. As ya’ll know I have been shamelessly raving about my favorite things for years, I just thought I would finally try to get a little cash flow from my role as consumer enabler. 

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One day I was having a horrible migraine and couldn’t keep any meds down. My husband ran out and brought home these and they have been a life-saver. They aren’t recommended for kids, but there is a children’s version (which I have not purchased). I admit I have cut the adult size ones in half for feverish kids and they have helped but that’s obviously not medical advice from me. You would never receive medical advice from me. Never.

I am also a huge fan of a good heating pad, and I really love this one. Is it weird if I admit I use it like everyday? I don’t truly have chronic pain thankfully, but as a busy mom I feel like I am always in some kind of pain and this thing gets hot, fast. I actually ruined our bed because I used a heating pad too frequently when I was pregnant, but that’s a story for another day. For the kids, we like rice filled heating pads that you can make yourself and heat up in the microwave. Little Blue Boo has a great easy tutorial and if you haven’t checked out her blog-world, it’s amazing! If you want to make these heating pads therapeutic with Essential Oils please check with my friend Jessica, she can definitely help you! They also love this stuffed bear that we were gifted and it has held up great for three years of use. Thanks, Diane! These  Anti-Stress eye pillows are also fantastic and I keep one by my bed (if only the microwave was there I’d be all set).

I have never used Goody’s powder until this year, but I will always keep a stock of it now. Especially for those with a caffeine addiction, this is amazingly effective and quick. I thought it was weird to take powdered pain reliever, but results are results. We really have a lot more health related recommendations, but my morning blog time is coming to a close and it’s time to face our homeschool day. Thank you Lord for coffee and beautiful Fridays in the springtime! 3 John 1:2 “Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.

Have a great weekend!