Friday, September 28, 2012

5 Tips for a Great Babysitter Experience

Every parent needs a little time off occasionally. Anyone who says they don't need and deserve a break from the 24/7 responsibility that is parenting is either lying or doing themselves a disservice in my opinion. Parenting is a joy and a privilege, but it is also a lot of work. What's worse is that parents often feel guilty for needing some time for themselves now and then. Stop!

Taking a time out is not only good for you, but good for the entire family. Personally, I know that my mom skills (not to mention my patience) start to wear thin when it's been too long since I've taken a break. When Big Sister was born, we didn't have any family living locally who could relieve us for a night out, so starting at a young age, we left her with a babysitter that we could trust. Since then, my folks have moved close, but we still rely on a strong roster of sitters to care for our little ones. I've discovered a few tricks that make the experience easier on everyone.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Thankfulness Thursdays/ Week Nine

It's hard to believe that another week has passed already! Fall has officially started and yesterday was the first morning that we felt the slightest chill in the air here in southern California. It's time for another installment in the Thankfulness Thursdays series, started by Ashley at Domestic Fashionista. Be sure to check out her post; she always has something inspiring to share!

This week I am thankful for my women's Bible study.

Last fall, I joined a small study group through my Mom's church. We don't really have a church that we are solidly connected to and I was looking for a Bible study at the time that new groups were starting up at her church. There was a group geared towards moms my age, but the meeting time didn't work for our schedule, so I opted for one that sounded interesting instead. As it turned out, I was the youngest in the group by about ten years. The women in my Bible study range in age, but they're all older than me and some even have children close to my age.

At first I was worried that I wouldn't find a connection due to the age gap, but instead it's been an incredible blessing. The women in my group may be older than me, but they are all mothers and have so much wisdom to share, having already been through this season of life. Even those with kids close to my age can remember sleepless nights, temper tantrums and the stresses that sometimes go hand in hand with raising small children. They are encouraging and help me remember that this time passes quickly. It reminds me to take advantage of the opportunity I have now to snuggle and play, rather than anticipate the time when I might get a few solid nights of sleep in a row.

The women in my group bring with them a wide variety of life experience and such diverse perspectives on our study topics. They see things differently and often help me to learn lessons more deeply because I am challenged to take a new viewpoint. And while they give a fresh perspective for me, they always seem genuinely interested in what I have to offer as well. As fall was approaching, I found myself anxious to get back to the group. Our study began again this week and I'm so excited for what this season has to teach me. I'm grateful that I have a place where I can grow in my faith and to have found a group of women who help to encourage and support me in my faith, regardless of my age.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Super Simple Stuffed Shells

Sometimes you need an easy go-to recipe for a hearty meal that makes everyone happy. Kids of all ages are notorious for their various (and mostly inconsistent) food gripes, and mine are no exception. Take this little slice of heaven for example:

My Little Gal: What's for dinner?
Me: Stuffed shells.
Little Gal: (with 4-year-old distaste) What's stuffed shells?
Me: It's kind of like spaghetti but with a different kind of pasta. It's yummy.
Little Gal: I don't like stuffed shells.
Me: (sigh.)

Fast-forward to dinner time:
Little Gal: Mom, I tried it and I love stuffed shells!
Me: Yay.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

31 Days To A More Organized Life

Each year in October, The Nester hosts a 31-day series focusing on a different theme. She invites others to join in with their own series on any topic imaginable. This year I decided to join in the fun. It feels a little crazy and a little risky because I'm not always the most habitual about posting, but I also think it will be a fun challenge. 

Honestly, if I told my husband that I was writing a series about organization, he would probably laugh. Hard. I'll be the first to admit that there are definitely some areas where I could be more put-together, but that's the point! 

This is my effort at getting organized before the chaos of the holiday season takes over. I'm sure a lot of you can relate. January rolls around and after two months of crazy holiday festivity, everyone is ready to buckle down and get their life back together. I'd like to try to get things in order before the holiday season so it might just flow a little more smoothly. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Make a Blog Button with PicMonkey

Have you ever seen cute little graphics (aka buttons) on blogs like the ones below and wondered how on Earth they are created? Or maybe thought you could never make one for yourself? Well, you were wrong and today I'm going to show you how.

                       The 36th AVENUE    Home Stories A2Z
FYI The buttons above were probably made by someone with far superior design skills than yours truly, but this tutorial will show you how you can still make cute buttons for your blog even without a degree in graphic design. If I can do it, you can do it!

*This is not a sponsored post. The opinions are my own and I'm simply sharing a great tool that I've found incredibly useful.

PickMonkey is a super easy, FREE online photo editing program that I used to make my own custom blog header. In my opinion, it just takes a little practice to find your way around the program. There are a lot of options and the buttons I made for this tutorial are pretty simple compared to all the detail you could add. So here we go...

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Thankfulness Thursdays/ Week Eight

It's hard to believe that we are more than halfway through September and tomorrow is the first official day of fall. Week eight of Thankfulness Thursdays with Ashley at Domestic Fashionista is already here and today I'm thankful for my girlfriends.

I remember when I was younger, probably around junior high, and I used to hate it when my mom referred to my friends as my "girlfriends." I'm sure if you're a woman reading this, you can remember only too well how that age is so tender and the slightest thing makes you uncomfortable. Now it seems so ridiculous to be bothered by that, but of course as a teen I wouldn't have thought so.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Fall Mantel

As I mentioned last week, I've got some serious fall fever going on and I've been itching to bust out the fall decor. When the temp is hovering near 100, it seems a little silly to be putting out pumpkins, but today I finally caved and fluffed up the mantel with some fall-inspired stuff!

Our mantel is now dominated by a 55" flatscreen so it's a little more challenging to decorate than before our renovation. We used to have this swirly Pottery Barn candle thingy hanging above the mantel and then I'd sort of fill in around it using it as a centerpiece.

Way before...

We bought the hubs a shiny new flatscreen and the most logical place to put it was above the fireplace so there it sits in all its glory. We've gone around and around about how to camouflage the beast, but we haven't found the right solution yet. To make things more complicated, it's on a swivel arm so anything decorative needs to be out of the way so it can be extended and turned on game day (which is actually a lot of fun and super convenient when everyone is hanging around the island watching the game). I just try to make the mantel look nice and work around it, like I did with our simple summer mantel

Friday, September 14, 2012

Fall Fever

Fall is in the air it seems... everywhere but southern California! This time of year is always hard because everywhere you look are pumpkins, multi-colored leaves, cozy sweaters and yummy soups. Meanwhile, here in San Diego, it's 85 degrees and still feeling like the middle of summer. It's not exactly the most inspirational weather for fall decorating.

Even in the midst of a late summer heat wave and some of the muggiest weather I've felt in a long time, I can't ignore all the amazing autumn-inspired decorating that I've seen lately. Here are some fantastic ideas that I fell for on Pinterest.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Thankfulness Thursdays/ Week Seven

Week seven of Thankfulness Thursdays with Ashley at Domestic Fashionista and I am feeling thankful for help in many forms.

If you read my post for week six, you know that I recently hurt my back and I've been in a lot of pain for the past several days. In a very short period of time, we needed to find me a doctor, a chiropractor, and most importantly, someone to care for the kids while the hubs goes to work each day. I'm not completely immobile, but the pain makes it pretty much impossible to keep up with a toddler and a preschooler all day by myself. My husband stepped up big time over the weekend, but this wasn't a week when he could take time off from work so we needed other help.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Thankfulness Thursdays/ Week Six (A little late)

A little late and... whatever. I'm still thankful this week! Week six of Thankfulness Thursdays with Ashley from Domestic Fashionista, and this week I'm feeling thankful for modern medicine. That's not really what I had planned when I started writing but sometimes plans change.

Part of the reason I'm so late on this post is because I threw out my back last week. I've never done anything like this before and I can't remember being in so much constant pain since just after my babies were born. I finally saw a doctor today and got some magical muscle relaxers that are making life so much easier. Sleepier... but much less painful.

We live in a time and place where we have access to the most advanced medical care ever. For that we should be very grateful, but it seems to me that sometimes we take that for granted. We're so busy rebelling against corporate America and the pharmaceutical companies that we forget how nice it is when we don't have to live in pain and suffering. I'm not saying that we should be popping pills like candy, but there are billions of people who don't have the access to medical care like we do in the U.S. and we sure seem to complain a lot about how bad it is here. I'm not trying to make some big statement here, I'm just saying that I'm personally grateful to be able to see a doctor and get treatment when I need it.

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