Helpful Hump-day Hints 07.30.14

HHH gingham

Today I need YOUR hints!  You know where I am NOT organized at all? In my email inbox!  Which is weird because I am super organized about my files on the computer. Folders for everything, clean desktop.  But for some reason, I cannot get my head around a good email system.  I make the folders, but then I never move emails.  I just “search” when I need to, which works, but then I have so many emails that I just never delete!

Email Inbox Image

Ok, mine isn’t THIS bad, but it’s pretty bad!  A few weeks ago I started tackling moving emails I need / want to save to folders.  I decided my next course of action was taking my email OFF lists so I don’t get a ton of emails that I usually never open.  Here are the steps I took:

1.) ANY social media site (Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter) I turned OFF my email notifications.  NO NEED to get these emails!  I check these sites regularly and can click on notifications to see who’s tagging me, who’s pinning my stuff, who’s tweeting to me! Then I searched those emails and deleted all the ones that were just sitting in my inbox – 99% that I never even opened!

2.) Stores – going through my emails I asked myself – which ones do I REALLY read and use the coupon / sale deal?  Not many!  Off with the email lists with those too!

Queen of Hearts _Off with their heads

3.  Other notifications that maybe I used in the past – but don’t need anymore I.E. – TRULIA!  I loved this when we were house hunting.  They would send me emails of houses I marked as “favorites” to alert me of any price changes or sale news.  They also sent me new listing in the zip codes and price ranges I had checked off.  Great, right?  When we first bought the house, I kept the notifications because I liked seeing what was going on in our neighborhood.  Now it’s time to stop – I’ve become an email hoarder!  I love when they email me that my house has been bought. I KNOW! I bought it!

This is as far as I have gotten, but obviously an area I need help in!  How do you keep your emails organized? Any tricks or systems that work for you?  How many emails are “too many” to have in an inbox?  Have you ever just wiped the whole slate clean? Leave a comment and help me out.

Until then – here is my motto:

Keep Calm and Delete Delete!

My Friday Favorites 07.25.14

Friday Favorites gingham

Happy, umm, Sunday! Hope you all had a fabulous week. Here are all my favorites this week (2 days late!)

On TV -

  • Well, as you can imagine since this post is two days late – my DVR is full!  I finished OITNB (much to discuss there) and Suits is still the only show I am currently watching.  The Divide now has 2 episodes on my DVR.

On the Page – 

  • I’m reading Better Homes and Gardens August 2014 issue cover to cover.  Budget friendly decorating finds, an amazing kitchen rehab, post-vacation party tips,  and stylish storage options are just a few things you’ll find on this month’s pages.


BH&G Aug 2014 Issue

On the Computer – 

  • I’m currently upgrading our hallway linen closet.  So the search is on for inspiration from Pinterest and other bloggers.  I have already taken my hideous before shot, all of the contents of the closet are on either our bedroom floor or in Olivia’s crib (good thing she doesn’t sleep in it anymore!)  In my online search I found suburble…just a bird in the ‘burbs: MY LIFE IS EMBARRASSING: THE LINEN CLOSET.   An amazing linen closet transformation!  I hope my after shots will be this neat and organized. 
suburble MY LIFE IS EMBARRASSING: THE LINEN CLOSETpicture originally from

In the Kitchen -

  • Budget Bytes – Italian Wonderpot listed originally on Apron Strings I found this recipe when searching for one-pot pasta meals.  Looking to spruce things up in our pasta repertoire.  I have not tried this yet – but it looks delicious and – my favorite – EASY!Italian Wonderpot-from Budget Bytes
    picture originally from



On my Pinterest Boards – 

  • I started a new Pinterest Board – check it out here:  Linen Closet Upgrade.  All the inspirations I am finding as I tackle this next project. (Before and after pictures to come!)  One thing I have discovered is that most pictures of linen closets I am finding are the smaller types of closets where the shelves are all all the way to the door.  My closet is a little bigger – you can walk in – but not a “walk-in”, if that makes any sense!  I’m trying to figure out the best way to construct the shelves for maximum space use.  If anyone has a picture of a closet like this – send it my way via Pinterest! Thanks!Here is a picture I pinned from

    A Sort of Fairy Tale. Love that this is a dollar store makeover! A Sort of Fairy Tale - Linen Closet

    picture originally from A Sort of Fairy Tale 

On the Sales Rack – 

  • Carters -  40% off everything. 50% off all PJs – just today (Sunday 7/27.)  I like to buy bathing suits in the next size this time of year.Carters Sale
    This weekend marks the anniversary of my Mom’s passing. And in a tradition I started last year, I will end this post with some of her favorites!  We miss you Mom!

    Sangria from Cow Town Chow

    picture originally from CowTownChow

    Gingerbreadmen by Post Punk Kitchen

    picture originally from Post Punk Kitchen

    Black Eyed Susans by Bailey's Buddy

    picture originally from Bailey’s Buddy

Hope you had a great week.  What have you been up to? Leave me a comment and let me know some of your favorite things.







Farfalle Basil Salad


Farfalle Basil Salad .jpg

While making a basic pasta dish the other evening, I saw this recipe of the side of the farfalle box.  I had all the ingredients so I decided to cook the whole box and try this out. It was a great cold pasta dish and very easy to make!

Farfalle Basil Salad 

12 oz of farfalle (I used half the box since I was dividing the pasta between two meals)

3 Tbsp red wine vinegar

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves (loosely packed)

2 cloves garlic (minced)

1/2 Tbsp salt

1/4 Tbsp sugar

1/3 cup parmesan cheese (grated)

1/2 cup olive oil

black pepper to taste

cherry tomatoes to garnish

Cook pasta according to package.  In a blender or food processor, combine vinegar, basil, garlic, salt, sugar, cheese, and olive oil.  Blend until smooth.  Combine with cooked and drained pasta.  Cover and refrigerate.  Sprinkle with pepper and garnish with tomatoes before serving,

Whole book of pasta serves 6, half box of pasta serves 4


My Friday Favorites 07.18.14

Owl Friday Favorites

Happy Friday! Here are all the things I’m loving this week!

On TV -

  • I haven’t talked about TV in awhile. We did have some great season finales this spring!  Chicago Fire & PD, Scandal, Grey’s, Parenthood!  I can’t wait for all of these to start back up. I binged watched Orange is the New Black Seasons 1 & 2 (I never watched it!  It kind of gave me anxiety.  Anyone else? But I still watched it.) The Divide (new on WE and produced by Fitz from Scandal is taped on my DVR.) I also am watching The Night Shift – even though I would call it Grey’s Lite.  TC (combo of Derrick / McDreamy and Owen / War Issues) has unresolved feelings for his ex Jordan (Meredith) who is dating Bailey from Party of 5 while TC is dating Anna from One Tree Hill…. look, not much is on in the summer.  Growing up summer always meant – no more TV until Fall.  But YAY for USA Network who does summer shows!  I’ve been watching Suits all summer. Mike and Harvey are a divided team.  Jessica is dating and hired Dr. Joe from Parenthood. Rachel is in dangerous territory!!

Suits Season 4

On the Page – 

Here are two magazines I have been flipping through a lot! Good Housekeeping June 2014 Issue – great recipes for BBQing on the grill this summer from main dishes, to sides, to s’mores desserts.  House Beautiful July / August 2014 Issue – tips on small spaces, using color, and creating storage.


On the Computer – 

  • I had two bananas left in a bunch and I knew they weren’t going to last many more days.  I wanted to try something different than my usual banana bread.  Off to Pinterest I went! There I found: A Little Bit of This, That, and Everything – Banana Cookies .  Directions looked easy, cookies looked delicious = perfect recipe for me.  Olivia was a big help making them. They are really yummy!  
banana-chocolate-chip-cookiespicture originally from Little Bit of This, That, and Everything 
Olivia helping bake Olivia helping make the cookies  Yes, even my mixer is apple green!
Banana Cookies Baking Our cookies baking in the oven 

In the Kitchen -

gelato_frozen desserts BHG

In my Beach Bag-

  • Besides towels and sunscreen – Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld. I’m not too far into the book yet but I am intrigued by these identical sisters who seem anything but identical!

Sisterland _ Curtis Sittenfeld

On my Pinterest Boards – 

  •  I’ve been researching outdoor / patio spaces (even though I already made over my patio!)  But I’m helping a friend organize ideas for her patio.  I came across this picture and I just loved it!  So colorful!  I would give credit, but the website Pinterest links the photo to, no longer exists.  (Is that something that drives anyone else crazy on Pinterest?)

Summer Patio

 Hope you had a great week. What are the things you are loving this week?  Something you bought, cooked, or watched?  Leave me a comment and let me know.  Thanks for reading!

Helpful Hump-day Hints 07.16.14

Helpful Hump-day Hints. Fall. Owl.

 Now that my daughter is getting older, we have several different bags that she uses.  When she was a baby,  it was one-stop shopping – everything in the diaper bag.  Now she has her school bag, a pool/beach bag, a ballet bag, the list goes on!  I have always saved the plastic cases from pillows, sheets and other household items as carriers to pack things.  You can read about how I used these for baby items in my post on Practical Packing Part 2.  Now that Olivia is officially potty-trained, I combined that idea with the plastic containers that toddler underwear is packaged in.  

plastic package for underwearHere is a typical package of multi-pairs of toddler underwear,  The packaging comes with a button snap at the top.   I take out all the underwear and cardboard branding and it’s a perfect size to make small bags of essentials.  I have three basic types I make up.

dry snack bag A dry snack bag with napkins, a few types of snacks, and a spoon and fork.

cold snack bag A cold snack bag with a juice box, applesauce or some type of fruit, and a small ice pack.

Emergency bathroom kit An emergency bathroom bag with extra underwear, wipes, hand soap, and a pull-up.

Repurpose Plastic Packaging

These are all easy to assemble. I make multiples of each and put in all the various bags we have, plus the car and my purse.  Do you repurpose any packaging on items you buy a lot of?  How do you handle packing different bags for a toddler?  Leave me a comment and let me know.  Thanks for reading.  It’s Hump-day – we are almost to the weekend!



Gift Wrapping for Superheroes

Olivia attended a superhero birthday party a few weeks ago.  I knew I wanted to wrap the presents we brought to go along with their theme. It was a brother and sister who were celebrating, so we needed two gifts.   Through a quick search on Pinterest, I found the Meaningful Mama and her awesome free superhero printable. (Her whole Superhero Party is incredible!!)

superhero printables

I still had some red and white striped wrapping paper left over from our Cat in the Hat Party – and luckily it can also look very superhero-y with the right accents! After printing and cutting the printable out, I started to play around with how I would decorate the presents.


While shopping at A.C. Moore, I stumbled upon this yellow ribbon with stars – and it just screamed Justice League to me!

superhero gift wrap

Hmmm… what to do with the remaining printable superhero words?  They were just too cute not to use.  Self-serving part of the present … in addition to the wrapping paper, we had so much candy left over from the Cat in the Hat party – why not throw in a little bag of candy with each gift?  (More on these favor bags at the end of this post!)


In order to tie the whole gift together and make it easier for my little three year old to carry the gifts, I put the presents in gift bags, used the last two words on the printable, and tied on small inexpensive superhero dolls we found at Target.

superhero bagsMy little Superhero – ready for the party!


Ok – so a small note about the Spritz red and white striped candy bags (purchased at Target): they might have been the best purchase of the summer!  First, I used them at our Cat in the Hat Party, then for these Superhero gifts, and once again for 4th of July!  I have two left …watch out – I will think of some way to use them!

red and white bags

4th of July Fun!

I’m looking forward to just relaxing this 4th of July, spending time with family and having fun in the sun.  I decided to put together small gift bags for the kids to give them some fun things to do poolside.

4th of July Fun

I put all this together from the Target dollar bins and my own computer! I printed out 4th of July coloring pages and puzzle pages, and clip art to decorate the bags.  Then I added cards, bubbles, sparklers, pencils and mini flags.  All three bags together cost less than $20. If this means not hearing “I’m bored!” that equals a deal to me!

The smaller red and white striped bags are for candy.  They are left over from The Cat in the Hat Party and honestly were the best purchase this year!!!  I used them for Cat in the Hat, a Superhero gift for a birthday party (more on that later) and now 4th of July. Red and white stripes are very versatile!!!

Wishing everyone a relaxing week and Happy 4th of July!

Patio Makeover Part 2

I shared with you the beginning of our Patio Makeover in my previous post.  I have finished spray painting the rest of the chairs.

This chair was in our backyard when we bought our house.

chair before


chair after

This chair was from my childhood.  My mother spray painted it green when I was a kid.

wooden chair before

And after …

wooden chair after


My patio is all set for summer!

Patio side view


Patio view from the yard

I have been enjoying sitting out here during the day while Olivia plays in the yard and enjoying quiet time with a glass of wine and a magazine in the evenings.  I know I want to put lights up, but haven’t decided what kind yet.   I also want to paint the black storm door, but not sure what color.

Have you been working on your outdoor spaces?  Leave a comment and share what you love about your outdoors.  Have a great day and thanks for reading.

Summer Calendar

Today is my first day of summer vacation!  I returned to teaching this year after taking ten years off, so this is my first summer home with my daughter.  I am very excited for us to have this special time together.  I wanted to create a calendar with her of all the things we want to do this summer.  I also thought it would be a great way to teach her the days of the week and the concept of today, tomorrow, and yesterday.

While I am all for planning out the next few months, I also want to make sure we are able to relax and NOT be tied down to a schedule.  I decided to buy one of the post-it calendars, that way, we can easily move things around.  These calendars are made to be used as a weekly calendar with each family member getting a row.  I easily converted it to a monthly calendar using the first column as a place for events we haven’t picked specific dates for yet.

Summer Calendar

Olivia had a great time making the calendar with me.  I am also glad that I now have all of the schedules for our favorite places all in one place.  First, I put in Olivia’s already confirmed activities – Camp, Music Class, Ballet.  Then I searched the internet for any and all kids’ activities in our area.  I read different events to Olivia to see what interested her.

Summer Calendar

For weekly events, such as Storytime at Barnes and Noble on Friday nights, I marked it at the top of the Friday column.

Summer Calendar

Sesame Place, Adventure Aquarium, The Zoo are all places we want to go this summer.  As soon as we pick a date, we can just move the post-it from the first column to the actual date.  Home Depot is one of Olivia’s favorite stores.  They do Kids’ Workshops and I am waiting for the July / August schedule to come out.

Summer Calendar

Summer Calendar

I made a lot of  generic “park”, “library” and “pool” post-its, too.  Since these are weather dependent, I also placed them to the side.  

I’ve hung the calendar to the side of our refrigerator so Olivia can see it.  At dinner we can chat about what we are going to do the next day — and the countdown to our vacation is on! Seven days until we leave.

Do you have any special plans for the summer?  How do you keep all of the activities you want to do with the kids organized so you don’t forget any?  Leave me a comment and let me know.  Thanks for reading!

P.S. I love post-its! Read here for different ways I use them to stay organized:
Put it on a Post-It!

A Cat in the Hat Party

We celebrated Olivia’s Third Birthday in style with a Cat in the Hat themed party.


I made the invitations, address labels, and return address labels on my computer.


I found blue envelopes at Staples that matched perfectly!

Cat in the Hat Party Dining Room 1

Birthday Banner.


I used a plastic red tablecloth and then red and white striped wrapping paper for the table.


Menu Cards



Favor Bags


Jello served upside down with stripes painted on with whiteout.  (I couldn’t find white washi tape anywhere!)  This idea came from one of my favorite blogs -
les petits presents – Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss


Thing 1 and Thing 2 Strawberries and Whip Cream


Up, Up with the Goldfish crackers!


Tomato Mozzarella Skewers


I took illustrations from the book for the menu cards.


A fun drink – Blue Polar Blast Hawaiian Punch, Lemonade and Pineapple chunks.  I put a chilled bottle of white wine on the side if grownups wanted to make it a cocktail!


Olivia’s fabulous babysitter made these AMAZING cookies!!



and cupcakes!!!!


Happy Birthday Olivia – our amazing 3 year old!


Check out Olivia’s First Birthday Party: Lady Bugs for our Little Bug and
her second party An Under the Sea Party .

What are some of your favorite party themes?  Leave me a comment and let me know. As always, thanks for reading!