Summer Break, Day 1

I did not have a huge organized list of things to do this summer, no bucket lists to prevent boredom, 101 things to make this summer the best.  All of the cleaning out and packing to move has me in a much more minimalist mood this year.  Or I’m just pooped and completely over Pinterest.  Whatever.

We headed out for the orthodontist this morning, so since we were all clean, dressed, and out of the house we decided to complete what I like to think of as the summer reading circuit.  I have at least one child who is extrinsically motivated, so these programs are wonderful!

  • local library – read aloud dates, parties, rewards for books read…FREE! Love it!  Mom’s Favorite for sure.
  • Barnes and Noble Summer Reading Triathlon – the kids complete a journal about their reading, return it to the store and get to choose a FREE featured book.  The journal is not bad…answer 3 out of 4 questions.  Thank you!!!
  • Half Price Books Feed Your Brain Summer Reading Program – my children’s favorite = they read 300 minutes, they get a store credit.  HPB trips are a major motivator at my house.

We rewarded our stellar bookstore/library behavior with some lunch and play (thanks to the Chick-Fil-A calendar card) and headed home.  What a great start for a “rainstorm looming just to the west” kind of day.

If you have a favorite summer reading rewards program, please – leave it in the comments below! 

If you NEED a list

  • Take kids to eat at Chick-Fil-A.  Let them play in the play area.
  • join summer reading program
  • go on a library trip

P.S. I am totally in the wrong field.  I found my old retainers…for $100, the doctor will look at them and develop a plan.  I’m a mom.  I plan all the time.  No one has ever paid me $100 for my plan.  I do like teeth…just saying.

S’more Gift Guide 2014

Gifts Anyone Will Appreciate

anyone 1 Aviator Sunglasses

Thermos Funtainer Bottle – doesn’t leak and keeps ice ALL DAY long! (Comes in various sizes)

Personal embosser – for customizing stationery or identifying books in your personal collection. This one is a keeper and comes with it’s own stand.

Fleece pullover or jacket (womens) (mens) – lightweight but cozy, these are great for hiking, jogging, or running errands when you want casual comfy

Plastic mason jar lid cups

Make something sentimental – Shutterfly runs specials all the time, or check out this sweet heart from Minted

Gifts A Cook Will Appreciate
kitchen 1
Color Coded Cutting Boards

Anthroplogie’s Cutest Little Bowls Ever or this one is cute too!

Cuisinart Griddler Panini and Sandwich Press – griddle, press, indoor grill. This appliance does it all; you can even purchase removable waffle plates separately.

I wish Santa would bring me!
soap 1



Terrain Marble & Wood Cheese Board, African Black Soap, Kate Spade notecards…so classy.

Gifts to Read
Neiman Marcus Cooks by Kevin Garvin, John Harrisson, and Jody Horton for Mom and Naples! #1 Recipe for Adventure by Giada deLaurentiis for the budding chef
American Gun: A History of the U.S. in Ten Firearms by Chris Kyle & Doyle
The Antelope in the Living Room by Melanie Shankle or Unglued by Lysa TerKeurst

Gifts for the Men

menGo Pro Hero
This might just be Man’s favorite purchase this year…I know it’s in the top of best purchases EVER and I have to admit – it’s AWESOME!

StatGear T3 Auto Rescue Tool

Jump Starter

Pair his favorite spirit with some homemade mixers and stuff his stocking with a large cube ice tray like this one or that one.

Not Your Momma’s Gift of the Month
For The Women






For the Kids
Kiwi Crate or Seedling

Toys & Games My Kids Can’t Get Enough Of

kidsMelissa and Doug entertains for hours – the favorites at our house include: the reusable sticker books, magnetic dress up figures, and jigsaw puzzles in a Box

Little People Disney Klip Klop characters

Fisher Price Snap n’ Style Dolls

Play-Doh Toolin’ Around Playset

Crayola Sketch Wizard

Domino Rally

Kid Stuff Mom Will Approve
Printed pajamas to open on Christmas Eve

Keep them warm with these knit character hats they won’t want to take off.

Get creative and gift a membership to the local museum or zoo, grab a few gift cards to the kids favorite dining spots (a welcome break for mom or dad in the weeks to come), or

Bath towels with the children’s names or initials monogrammed on them

Don’t Forget the Pups
Water Bowl on a Float

Make a Gift Box
party crackers, party hats, silly glasses, mustaches, noise makers, bubbly or sparkling cider
Family Night Box
Grab a classic game (like Monopoly, Clue, or Battleship) OR snag a favorite family movie (like Jurassic Park, Parent Trap, or Honey I Shrunk the Kids), pack some snacks and sodas, maybe a gift card for pizza or takeout.
For your Mistletoes
Fuzzy socks, foot cream, scrub, a pumice stone & nail polish
The Guy Basket
Beer, pretzels, nuts, PPV gift certificate
Be prepared
A small fire extinguisher & batteries for your smoke detector, pocket flashlights for everyone in the family, rechargeable power outage nightlight, or a hand-crank weather radio all make necessary but thoughtful items

Pinterest is great for gift ideas…see my board with loads of DIY and budget friendly options for spreading joy this season!

S’more Stuffs 11/13

Making my life easier: Blog Lovin’
What is it? A daily blog roll.  You input your favorite blogs & email address and each morning or once a week Bloglovin sends you the feeds in one tidy spot.

Making my life harder: visiting every restroom in town because my almost 2 year old who insists she must pee-pee

Latest Blog Crush: The Dating Divas…these ladies are too cute!

Currently Craving: a good mulled wine

Foodie Find: Who Knew?  They make Brownie Brittle.  Can’t decide if I love it or hate it.  You decide for yourself – it may be the perfect stocking stuffer.

S’more Stuffs – Target’s healthier snack food finds

So, we went to Target…many mom stories start that way. I had not been in awhile and I was pleasantly surprised at the options of organic and non-gmo lunchbox, snack and kid friendly foods.
Amy’s Organics


I am a big fan of this vegetarian brand. I will drive across town in the winter to buy her canned soups, chili, and refried beans. The kids prefer homemade Mac and cheese even to this brand’s boxed, but they really like her snacks. Target has carried this line for awhile and runs sales on it from time to time, but we still found something new. Fruit snacks! $3 for a box of 5, so into the Easter stash they went. Still pricey for fruit snacks, but they are already luxury status at my house and they were the same price as other brands just less snacks inside. Not a big trade-off in my book for quality.

Sea-friendly canned tuna
Wild planet offered albacore chunk tuna that is pole, troll and hand line caught. It boasts lower mercury, higher sustainability, no BPAs in canning, and no fillers. We picked up a can for less than $5.

Non-GMO Certified
There were several non-gmo certified products to choose from. We found non-gmo go-go squeez pouches, cereals, and jam. That was all that was on my grocery list, so I will have to hunt for more next time. I think consumer voice is starting to change availability at major retailers, so whoo! Hoo! for that. Just be careful though, it needs to be organic or certified non-gmo to truly be free of generically modified organisms. Everything we picked up was $2 or less!

S’more Gift Guide 2013

I am not usually with it enough to dispense holiday advice, but here goes nothing. I have put together some gifts that were a hit with those on my list! This ain’t your scented candle, pocket knife & ugly sweater gift guide. I WISH I received kickbacks from these companies…or hey, even test products! (but I don’t & until I get some more followers, I’m not an Amazon associate either). This is just my two cents on holiday shopping. Real gifts that I have given, received, wished for, and loved. Happy hunting!

The Guysguys gifts

The Big Green Egg Ceramic Cooker – It’s like a grill or smoker, only better.

Motorola Wireless Headphones – Man loves these for working out and yard work & they operate off Bluetooth, so he can use them for business calls too!

Pelican Case – If he is adventurous or an outdoorsman at all, he will appreciate this! It can be stowed in a boat, ATV or on a motorcycle to protect his expensive gadgets from the elements.

Adventure Medical Kits – tailored to any type of outdoor disaster and in their own weather resistant case.

Leatherman Multi-Tools – This tool is great for the MacGyver in your life. Man takes one camping, hunting, fishing, and has one in his bunker gear. I’m sure they would be great at other work sites too.

Yeti Cooler – The Yeti is boasts itself as virtually indestructible (tested on grizzly bears) and able to keep ice for days in Texas heat. Those I know who own them, swear by them.

Isotoner Men’s Smartouch Tech Stretch Gloves – They are warm, durable, & he will still be able to use his phone or tablet – functional with luxury feel.

When all else fails…buy him some booze. Man goes for straight bourbon whiskey, but he also gets a kick when I bring him back a six pack of Shiner Cheer from the store. This year he has given Samuel Adam’s White Christmas a run. If you don’t feel comfortable committing to his favorite drink or dropping a chunk of change on the aged scotch he prefers, sipping stones make a thoughtful gift. Master of Malt even offers a whisky advent calendar.

Shearling slippers – He might not ever admit it, but these are wicked comfy…pun intended!

American Sniper by Chis Kyle – Man doesn’t read a lot, so when I say he didn’t put this one down and even said it was a good read, it must be.

Also think about gifting a round of golf at his favorite club (Dallas has Tour 18 which features holes from 18 of the most famous courses in the US), an experience gift (I haven’t tried them but Cloud 9 offers exotic cars, helicopters, and NASCAR driving), or a leather bound journal he can use to keep tabs no matter what his hobby.

The Gals

the gals gifts

Hair Gear – Yogitoes Seaburst hBand for the gym or these crease free hair ties for the rest of the day or a pretty WIIPU headband for night

Sparkly Green Earrings: Catching Light at Every Turn by Melanie Shankle – I read this book on vacation this summer. It made me cry, it made me giggle; an uplifting read for any momma.

Cashmere Wrap – soft, snuggly & warm. You can dress it up or down, so versatile.

Baggu Dipped TotePopsugar featured this bag awhile back and I thought, “How cool is that!”

Pajamas – just my favorite gift. Victoria offers satin, cotton, flannel, or long john, but guys, don’t buy her the slutty Santa number.

Stackable name or initial rings – help them keep their dear ones near with these adorable rings, these, or have one like this from James Avery monogrammed.

Willow Tree figurines – I’m not usually about collectibles, but these are so pretty.

Brighton key fob – a pretty little trinket for such an ordinary thing

Send her an online clothing or goodie bag subscription. I first heard about online styling through Julie at the Table for Two Blog when she reviewed Stitch Fix and then Shana at Ain’t No Mom Jeans wrote about monthly goodie bags from iElla. I thought, “ooooo…so much better than fruit of the month club”.

Something for her adventurous side – Has she been talking about a triathlon? Is she an avid outdoorswoman? Is she a jet setter? SCUBA diver? Super crafter? Think about a goal or hobby she is working on and give her something to help support her endeavors.

the KIDS

the kids

Disclaimer: this is for those of us who know we have kids, love our kids, but don’t know which superhero or princess is their favorite at this moment

Camelbak Kid’s Water Bottle – easy for all ages, dishwasher safe, no leaking, bite straw, BPA free – we use them every day!

Find It – if they like I Spy, they will like this. We’ve taken it out on the boat, on a road trip and when waiting in a restaurant.

The Action Bible – What tween boy wouldn’t like a copy of the Bible in comic version?

SmartMax – these magnetic building blocks would keep a wide range of kids entertained & they are big enough I don’t have to worry about the infant swallowing a random tiny piece

Fisher Price Little People – they have career people, princesses, movie characters, cars, animals. They are small enough for an infant or toddler to easily grasp, but my preschooler still loves to play with them. They are awesome!

Wooly Willy – flashback to 1980something! Great stocking stuffer! Along with any travel size game.

Speaking of the 80’s, my mom recently got the boys car bingo and they love it. At our house, we are big fans of board games, Play-Doh, Water Wow Doodle books, Melissa & Doug toys, and BOOKS! You can never go wrong with a book! Consider buying a set of 12 (one for each holiday/season throughout the year).

So check with the parents first, but isn’t this great!

The Foodies

the foodie

Herbs of Provence – cutest little clay pot, my favorite blend of herbs, less than $20, what’s not to love?

Silpat liner – makes baking nonstick and so much easier, plus it can be used over & over unlike its fussy cousin parchment

Vinturi Red Wine Aerator – It gives a little boost for your favorite red.

Chances are if they are a Foodie, they own a Kitchenaid Mixer. Make their day brighter by giving them this self-scraping paddle.

With foodies, never underestimate the power of the pantry. I love getting spices, vanilla beans, a great olive oil or balsamic vinegar. Want to see them swoon? Splurge for a John Boos cutting board. You really never can go wrong with a great new cookbook (check out Ann Romney’s, Gwyneth’s, Rocco’s, or Junior’s Cheesecakes – all on my wish list!). This Foodie Fight board game looks promising too.

Thank you Target for this one! Modern House Red Wine Grape Expectations – cute, tasty and budget savvy! Oprah agrees – this item made her 2013 Favorite Things.

Want to pamper the cook? Grab a vintage inspired apron, glamorous dish gloves, a rub away bar, or hand cream. Know a techy cook? Look into these food inspired flash drives or a chef friendly iPad cover.

Everyone else


A Classic Christmas Collection DVDGive the gift of curling up by the fire with two of the best Christmas movies ever made, White Christmas & It’s a Wonderful Life.

Christmas with the Rat Pack – one of my favorite Christmas CDs

Catchphrase – BEST GAME EVER. The end.

This sky umbrella is so cool; they’ll be waiting for rain to show it off.

For the person who’s glued to their Apple, try the The Bikn – now their iphone can help them keep track of their stuff or any of these solar powered cases.

Most families would love the gift of membership to a local museum or zoo; especially if they have younger children. It will give them a place to get out of the house as a family without extra expense coming out of their monthly budget. Any couple I know would appreciate a date night. Sometimes just planning ahead, offering a sitter, or giving them something with a deadline helps them to carve out time in their calendar. Want something more tangible, try a nature box subscription. Honestly, sheets and towels are really exciting to this mom (even a gift card to my favorite grocery or house ware store).

The Difficult Ones

Find some cute stationery or plan ahead and personalize some for them. You could even get matching envelopes, a wax seal, or this awesome Gerber tactical pen.

Cruise around on Etsy – they have a ton of very cool, one of a kind, and unique gifts.

Consider the gift card. It is not as impersonal as everyone would have you think.


Take me out to the ball game!

Buy me some peanuts and crackerjacks; I don’t care if I never get back! If you’re on a family budget and you head to a Major League game this year and you’re taking your kids a trip to the concession stand may make you feel like you may not have enough money to put gas in the tank to get home. Man recently headed to a game
He was able to go to Walmart and get drinks, snacks, and a small cooler for a fraction of the ballpark price.
water and soda at the park $4.50 each – Walmart $1.58 for a 20 oz of soda and $3.48 for a case of water
Peanuts $5.00 a bag – Walmart had a bag twice the size for $1.00
Cracker Jacks weren’t available at the ballpark — but they should! They’re in the song and everything!
$2.00 for a bag of ice, $5.97 for a cooler, and it was still less than a couple of beers – plus, he had a way to keep his chocolate from melting.