Thursday, February 11, 2016

Valentine Heart String Art

So this post is a year in the making.  I actually made this cute Valentine Heart String Art last year with a group of girls at my church.  They were 8 and 9 years old and did a great job, so you can definitely do this project with your kids!  It's really easy and super cute!

valentine's day, art

heart craft

Here's what you need:

2x10 boards
heart template

I found a heart outline online that was nice and large and used that to trace a big heart on the wood block.  Then I hammered in some nails every few inches.  These will be the anchors for your yarn so make sure they're close enough that you can see the heart shape.

DIY Valentine decoration

Then tie the end of your yarn to one of your nails and wrap the yarn around any nail you choose and keep looping your yarn around the nails to make a crazy design.  You can use one color yarn or stop and add a new color of yarn.  I used red and pink to add some more dimension.

heart craft

When you're finished, tie off the yarn and you're done!  So simple and so cute!  Here's one that one of the girls made.  You can be as creative as you like!

string art

And here's mine!

red and pink decor

Friday, February 5, 2016

How To Help Your Child Fall Asleep

This post was written and sponsored by Discontrue.

Are your kids getting enough sleep? Statistics from the National Sleep Foundation suggest that there's a high chance that they may not be. A whopping 70% of kids under the age of 10 reportedly have trouble falling asleep. Insufficient hours of rest not only result in a wide range of behavioral problems, (moodiness, grumpiness, shortened concentration span) but can also leave them more susceptible to infections such as colds, as well as some more serious health conditions like obesity and diabetes.

sleep, children

Trying to get kids to clock in enough hours of sleep each night can be as frustrating for many parents as it is for their children. So how can you make bedtime a little easier on both you and your kids?

There are several researched techniques that have been shown to have positive results:

Ensure Comfort

No matter how soothing the bedtime atmosphere may be, if your child is uncomfortable, it's going to be that much more difficult to get them to fall asleep. Ensuring that your child has pajamas that don't restrict movement for example, or using a wearable blanket that won't move all over the place and leave your child cold, can make a huge difference. You can purchase such items at affordable prices with JCPenney promos from, so it shouldn't be too much of a problem. For kids that feel uneasy in the dark, giving them a flash light or setting up a night light can help to soothe their fears.

Establish A Routine

The first technique involves establishing a bedtime routine. It's important to understand that just creating a random routine won't do much good. For example, studies have shown that eating large sugar and caffeine packed meals before bedtime, as well as participating in stimulating activities, will make falling asleep significantly more difficult for kids. Try to create a calm routine with help of items such as rhythmic bedtime stories. For younger kids, spending some time on a glider or rocking chair can help to create an environment that will encourage a quick transition to sleep.

Drown Out Or Avoid Distracting Noise

If you're dealing with a sensitive sleeper who will bounce out of bed at the drop of a hat, there are several ways of ensuring that they manage to fall asleep quickly. For example, instead of tiptoeing into the room to check whether they've fallen asleep or not (and in the process potentially disrupting their sleep), using a baby monitor is an easy, noiseless way of doing the same thing. Many parents have found that using a “white noise” machine (or other devices that make continuous, soothing sounds) to help drown out potentially distracting noises and allow for their kids to fall asleep quicker.

Getting enough sleep is an all too often dismissed, yet highly important factor in your child's well-
being. Experiment with some of the above techniques and look out for any signs of improvement –
different kids are bound to respond better to varying strategies. Find something that works for your family and stick with it; consistency is they key to achieving long term results!

Monday, February 1, 2016

10 Personal Valentine's Gifts Your Man Will Love

This post is sponsored by  All opinions are 100% my own.  There are also affiliate links throughout.

I love Valentine's Day.  I love that it's about showing the people you love that you really LOVE them!  And a holiday covered in flowers and chocolates is a good holiday in my book.  I love getting something for my husband, but sometimes it's hard to know just what to get.

So I've done some research for you... you can thank me later. :-)
Here are 10 personal Valentine's gifts that your man is going to love!

Relationship Mugs
For the long distance relationship.  How cute are these mugs?

gifts for you now

Dollar Shave Club
For the clean shaven man.  My husband gets new razors from Dollar Shave club every month and they're great!  And a great price too.

Baby Onesie
For the new dad.  What a fun way to let your hubby know you're expecting!

personalized gifts

Jord Watch
For the fashionable man.  These hand-crafted wooden watches are a great statement piece.

valentine's day

Rosewood Hunting Knife
For the hunting man.  Even for men who don't hunt, men still love to have a cool knife, am I right?

gifts for men

Or if you want to make something for that special guy, here are some DIY gift ideas.

52 Reasons Why I Love You
For the compassionate man. Take a stack of playing cards and write down a reason why you love your man.  I made this for my husband a few years ago and he loved it!

Coupon Book
For the man who likes to go out. You can make your own coupon book with date ideas for your special guy!

Hugs and Kisses Jar
For the sweet toothed man.  Fill a jar with hugs and kisses that he can keep on his desk at work.

Hot Sauce
For the man who likes it spicy.  Here's a cute little tag to put on a bottle of hot sauce from The Crafted Sparrow.

Or of course, the best way to a man's heart is through his stomach.  You could make him a delicious Valentine's breakfast of Caramel Apple Waffles

or some yummy Cream Cheese Chicken for dinner.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, January 29, 2016

The Matchup Book Review

I recently had the opportunity to read The Matchup by Laura L. Walker.  The Matchup is an LDS romance novel - it talks a lot about being a member of the Mormon church - so it may not interest my non-LDS readers, unless you don't mind and love reading Mormon stories! :-)

This isn't your typical LDS romance story.  You know... the guy and girl meet at BYU in their ward, are both active in the church, get engaged in 3 months, get married in the temple, etc... oh wait, that's how my love story went.  :-) Still a good story, but a typical Mormon story.

lds novel, lds romance, love story

The Matchup takes a recently divorced LDS mom of two (Valerie) and a less active LDS guy (Gage) who know each other from their childhood and puts them together.  It's a cute story and I love that it expresses real concerns that people who are divorced or less active can often feel.  Valerie also has a son who is autistic which also brings a different perspective into the story.  I know a few people who have autistic children and I appreciated the point of view that it showed to be a mother of an autistic child and how it affects their lives.

This book was a quick read and I loved how the story of Valerie and Gage worked out.  It wasn't overly cheesy and I thought it was well written.

Here's an excerpt from The Matchup to give you a taste of the book.

The grim line of Gage's mouth told her all she needed to know about how he felt about missions. He obviously hasn't come back into the Church, she thought sadly. He was one against the world, a feeling she was very familiar with lately. For some strange reason, the thought made Valerie want to wrap her arms around him.

Which, if course, she would never do.

"What's wrong, Gage?"

He shrugged as if whatever was bothering him was of no consequence, but Valerie recognized the signs of someone in distress--the averted gaze and loud swallowing. The jawline that was tight enough to crack his teeth.

And although he was obviously trying for a light tone, Valerie didn't miss the strain in his voice. "I'm just trying to figure a few things out. Mainly, I've decided that I need to file for custody of my four-year-old son, but the logistics of that change will be difficult to work around, especially where my job is concerned."

She hadn't known that he'd gotten married. No sooner had that thought come when another followed, which formed a sick feeling in her stomach. What if he hadn't?

 You can find The Matchup on Amazon and at Barnes and Noble.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

How to Get More Done Today

This post is sponsored by Clipix.  All opinions are 100% my own.

I love being productive.  I hate wasting time throughout the day.  In fact, it can be hard for me to just sit and do nothing - ok, I will admit that I fall into the social media trap sometimes.  I can't stop looking at streams of pictures of my friends' kids or all the amazing places people are traveling!  But that's usually at night when my kids are in bed and my brain is fried...

But. During the day, I'm pretty productive.  I have a system that works for me and I hope it will for you too!  Or at least some of it. We all need to find what works best for us.  But these are all simple things that I know you can do!

So here are 5 ways to be more productive today!

to do, productive, clipix

Tip #1 - Organize your to do list

I keep a running to do list on an app I have.  I add to it when I think of things that need to get done.  Then each morning, I look through my list and organize it by what has to get done today and then what I would like to get done today.  I start with the most important and work my way down.  It's very common for me for the smaller things to get pushed to the next day or later in the week, but if you're getting the important things done first, you'll get less tied up in the things that don't matter as much.

Tip #2 - Plan your week

Each Sunday night I plan the following week.  I look at all the appointments, events, and errands I have and then plan my day to day to dos around them.  So if you have a doctor's appointment on Wednesday morning, but you usually clean the kitchen Wednesday morning, then clean the kitchen Tuesday or Thursday instead.  When you plan ahead, you can still get the things done you need to rather than getting to Wednesday, realizing you're busy and you're busy Thursday and that kitchen never gets cleaned.  I know that doesn't bother everyone, but it bothers me!  Trust me, my kitchen needs it.  My floors are always a sticky mess.

Tip #3 - Organize your ideas

Are you ever searching for birthday party ideas or price matching a purse on different websites or find an article on a blog you want to share with your husband, but don't have anywhere to save it for later?  Clipix has that covered for you.

Clipix is perfect for the visual learner.  It's a blend between Pinterest and Evernote.  You create boards by clipping items from anywhere on your computer and then you can make these clipboards private or public.  I love that you can see a picture of what you clipped - it makes it easy to look through quickly which is key when you're trying to be productive.  You can clip emails, upload files, write notes, and even import pins.  It also has a clean and simple design that makes it user friendly.

If you're like me, you'll spend time comparing prices online to different stores for that shelf that would look so cute in your daughter's room and then forget which store had the best deal because you didn't buy it that day.  You were just browsing to get ideas.  So now you have to start all over again...

Save time by clipping those shelves you browsed into Clipix and then go back to it when you're ready to buy it.  How awesome is that?  Plus you won't spend hours looking through your feed adding more things to boards that you'll never actually make or eat... I love Pinterest, but it can be a time sucker.

Check out how Clipix works in the video below!

Tip #4 - Set a timer

Holding myself to a deadline helps me stay focused on the task I'm working on.  Set a timer for yourself and hold yourself to it.  If you have 30 minutes to spend on getting through your emails, just do the 30 minutes.  Because emails will keep flooding your inbox and the work will never be done!  Next thing you know you've spent an hour looking through emails when you have more important things to be doing.

Tip #5 - Don't look at social media

Limit yourself to the time you spend on social media.  Social media is another huge time waster.  Do you really need to watch that cat video or see another dog meme?  No!  Social media is a great way to keep in touch with people or see what's going on in the world, but we don't need to spend all day on it.  Like tip #4, set a timer for yourself so you don't get sucked in.

This is how I stay productive.  I hope you find these tips helpful too!  You can do it!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Healthy Resolutions You Should Make - That Aren't "Losing Weight"

New Year’s Day is just around the corner, and chances are, you haven’t quite decided what your resolution will be.  About ⅓ of all Americans will make a New Year’s Resolution this year.  While the most popular resolution is to lose weight, there are many other resolutions that you can and should make to benefit your health.  

Read on for 10 Healthy New Year’s Resolutions that you should make - that aren’t losing weight.

healthy living, resolutions

Have Better Oral Hygiene
Studies show that over half of all adults go to bed without brushing their teeth.  Not brushing your teeth can lead to all sorts of problems as the plaque sits inside your mouth, slowly breaking down your teeth.  Your oral hygiene is a reflection of your overall health.  This blog states that the most common dental problems are: halitosis, gum disease, missing teeth, sensitivity, dry mouth, cavities, mouth sores and enamel erosion.   All of these problems can be avoided with daily, thorough oral care.

Reconnect With Old Friends
Studies show that people with strong social ties live longer than those who lack human connection.  Friends are our support team, nostalgic connection, sounding board, and can help us see our progression in life.  With social media and modern technology, reconnecting with old friends is easier than ever.  Make a goal to reconnect with 12 old friends this year - one for every month.  Send them an email, facebook message, call them on the phone, send them a postcard, or shoot them a text.  

relationships, new years

Get Rid of Unhealthy Relationships
If you have someone toxic in your life, let them go.  Even if they are a close friend or family member, your priority needs to be to take care of yourself.  Toxic and unhealthy relationships are painful, harmful, and can drag you down to their level.  For example, if you have a friend who is addicted to something, you may experience peer pressure to try the substances in order to relate to them, possibly making you addicted as well.  Recognize that the relationship is only hurting you, and make a plan to move on with your life.You cannot change the other person, but you can change yourself.  Get out of the situation.   Cut ties with the person who is causing destruction in your life, and do not go back.  

Get Enough Sleep
The average adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep a night, however, over half of all Americans say that they do not get enough sleep.  Many of us have forgotten what it feels like to be well rested, because we have gone without proper sleep for so long.  Your sleep patterns quickly affect your overall health.  Not getting enough sleep can cause accidents, make you less intelligent, make you more likely to suffer from obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes, depression, etc., affect tissue repair (aging your skin and making it more difficult for wounds to heal), and impair your judgement.  Recognize that sleep is a necessity, not a luxury, and strive to get enough of it in the upcoming new year.

Drink More Water
Another New Year’s Resolution you should consider is to drink more water.  You should drink half of your body weight in ounces a day (If you weigh 150 lbs, you should drink 75 oz of water daily).  Most people do not drink even half the amount of water that they should.  If you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated.  Staying hydrated can increase performance, make you less cranky, reduce headaches, boost your immune system, and help reduce joint pain.  

Take Time to Unplug
A goal that you should make this year is to take time to unplug.  We are attached to our cellphones like they are keeping us alive, but in fact, they are probably doing the opposite.  Cell Phone use has been shown to be connected to insomnia, increased risk of cancer, increase spread of disease, traffic accidents, sores, blisters, tendon pain, depression, and more.  Make a goal this year to put down your phone for ten minutes a day, an hour a day, or even for a full day each week.  

health, happiness

Go Outside
Most people work a 9 to 5 job that requires them to sit at a desk, away from sunshine and nature.  
Make a goal to spend one hour a week outside.  You can go for a walk, hike, bike ride, take a picnic in the park, etc.  Even taking a five minute walk in the middle of your workday can give you incredible benefits such as increased happiness, improved focus, added creativity, and more.

Increase Positive Self-Talk
Positive self-talk is a powerful thing, it can reduce stress, increase productivity and achievement, boost self-image, increase lifespan, boost the immune system, and more.  If you find yourself thinking negatively about yourself, perhaps you should make a goal to increase your positive self-talk.  Start by acknowledging how you talk to yourself and recognize when you tell yourself negative things. Every time you tear yourself down, think of two positive things about yourself to counteract the negativity.  Start to laugh at yourself, surround yourself with positive people, and make a list of daily affirmations - and say them every day.

Eat Breakfast
If you tend to skip breakfast, make the healthy New Year’s Resolution to eat it!  There are many quick and simple breakfasts, from instant oatmeal to protein shakes.  Breakfast has been shown to increase concentration, problem solving skills, improve memory, and elevate mood.  If you don’t have time to prepare breakfast in the morning, prepare it the night before and eat it on the go.  Make muffins, fruit parfaits, smoothies, homemade energy bars, or pancakes.

Make More Mistakes
We’re not talking about intentionally making major mistakes at work or in your personal life, rather, take more risks.  This New Year, let your perfectionist self take a break.  Allow yourself to become vulnerable and try something that you might fail at.  You will learn more about yourself and the world around you as you allow yourself to make mistakes.  So get out there, try something new!  Fail, and fail gloriously, and then next time, fail better.  

What are your New Year’s Resolutions?  Share in the comments below.  

Friday, December 18, 2015

Perfect Gifts for the Landscaper in Your Life

By: Darci Maxwell

It may seem impossible to find the perfect gift for the landscaper in your life — especially if it is not a hobby that you share.  Fret not! Below are ten must-have gifts ideas for every landscaper.  

landscape, tools

Cut Resistant Gloves
Gloves are the first thing to wear out when you are constantly working with tools all day.  Get your landscaper a nice, new set of cut resistant gloves to protect their hands while they are working.  There are many heavy-duty pairs available in home improvements stores, on Amazon, and other sites.  Just make sure that you get them the right size, or that the store has a return policy so that you can replace them if necessary.  

Noise Canceling Headphones
Many landscapers work in very loud environments.  Their tools produce a lot of noise that can cause deafness over the years from a damaged cochlea.  However, your landscaper friend or spouse may still want to listen to music, but cannot do so with the loud tools that they work with.  Invest in a nice set of noise cancelling headphones so that they can be entertained, but protect their ears at the same time.  The best brands are Bose, Able Planet, Sony, and Plantronics.  

Leaf Shredder
As suggested here, a leaf shredder is a must have for any landscaper. A leaf shredder will not only decrease your landscaper’s green waste, but give them instant mulch to help fertilize the garden.  You can reduce your waste to ⅛ of it’s original size.  You can also use the leaf shredder on other non-wood plants to add to the mulch pile.  There are electric and gas powered leaf shredders, and many different bodies and builds to choose from.  

Kitchen Garden Box
The landscaper in your life probably has very little time or energy to tend for their own yard, let alone a garden.  While their yard may look immaculate, they may not be growing their own fruits, vegetables, and herbs.  Purchase a small garden planter to put in your landscaper’s kitchen so that they can have fresh herbs to use while cooking.  You can get little pots for each plant, a PVC planter, or a small wooden box.  Popular herbs include: basil, cilantro, bay, chives, mint, oregano, and parsley.

Safety Glasses
Another safety feature that every landscaper needs, and that wears out quickly, is a nice pair of safety glasses.  Every day, about 2,000 eye injuries are sustained in the workplace.  Experts believe that 90% of those injuries would have been preventable if the people who were injured had worn the proper eye gear.  Three out of every five eye injuries sustained at work were suffered by workers that were not even wearing protective gear.  Landscapers are especially at risk, as their job involves flying debris almost every day.  Even if your landscaper has a good pair of goggles or glasses, it may be a good idea to get them a spare, in case they lose or forget their pair.  

safety glasses, yard work

Personalized Calendar
A fun gift idea is to get your landscaper a personalized calendar.  There are many different ideas that you can use for it, pictures of their family, other hobbies they enjoy, or even pictures of their work.  If you can, get professional photographs of the yards that they have worked on, and put them into a beautiful 12 month calendar.  There are many websites, like Vistaprint, Shutterfly, and Snapfish that will allow you to do this inexpensively.  

Lunch Cooler
Chances are, your landscaper spends a lot of time outside without access to a fridge.  They also probably have to take lunch on the job quite often.  Get a nice lunch cooler for them to take their lunch in everyday.  Make sure to purchase refreezable ice packs to put in the cooler as well.  There are some brands, like PackIt, that are a lunch pack and ice pack in one.  You just put the bag in the freezer overnight and it lasts for many hours.  

lunch cooler, outdoors
Business Card Holders Shaped Like Plants
There are a few adorable plant-shaped business card holders that you can give to the landscaper in your life.  There are some that clip around the business cards and are shaped like leaves.  Others are metal tins that give you the option to personalize the picture on the front.  

Oak Leaf Shaped Money Clips
Another fun gift is an oak leaf shaped money clip.  It allows them to express their passion and to carry around a few bills without the bulkiness of a wallet.  

Gift Card

If you cannot think of a gift to get your landscaper, and you are too afraid of accidentally buying them the wrong size or something they will not like, you can always get them a gift card.  They probably spend a lot of time at Home Depot, Lowes, or local gardening stores.  Optionally, you can get them a gift card to their favorite place to stop for lunch or a drink if they need to cool down.