Saturday, June 30, 2012


Have you checked out Etsy? It's a great place to shop for handmade items. Seriously, you can find just about anything on this site! I always enjoy browsing through - sort of like window shopping at an awesome craft show.  I'm always amazed at all the talent showcased! 

A few years ago some friends and I bought a "Mommy Necklace" for our dear friend to celebrate the birth of her 3rd child. It was an adorable, handmade necklace that our friend loved. 
~The necklace was similar to the one pictured above ~

Last week I purchased 3 items off of Etsy and I am super happy with my purchases! 

I went first looking for a gift for my girlfriend's birthday.  She is an avid "Words with Friends" and "Scrabble" player so when I saw these scrabble tile coasters on Pinterest a few months ago I knew they would be a gift she would love.  
The original plan was that I was going to make them...turns out making them is not as easy {for me!} as I had hoped!  The next best thing was to go to Etsy...and sure enough someone had made them and even used the game board as the backing of the coaster{brilliant!}.  

They arrived the other day and were packaged with such care and creativity. Aren't they cute?!
After this purchase I started thinking about other things I had pinned on Pinterest.

There was this pillow that I just loved, so I checked my pin and it just so happened to link to their Etsy page! So simple : )  I ordered it on the spot and it arrived today. I love the simpleness of it and the meaning behind the date.
click on the picture to go to Next Door to Heaven Etsy shop
Again, the thought and care that was put into making my pillow was evident right down to the note that accompanied it saying how much they enjoyed making my special pillow. So sweet!
My last purchase was not something I had planned to shop for but was thrilled when I came across it during my search for cute labels.  I needed a label for my "Chore Jar".  I was originally looking for a cute shaped label I could use with my printer.

What I ended up getting was even better {at least to me!}...I found chalkboard labels! How great is that?!

I ordered a chalkboard label starter kit that came with 3 different sized labels and a chalk marker.  The labels can be easily wiped off with a damp cloth and used again with either chalk or chalk markers.
click on the picture to go to Lake Effect Treasury Etsy shop
The kit arrived very quickly and included a handwritten note thanking me for my purchase. 

There is something to be said for the lovely customer service these three Etsy shop owners provided in addition to the great craftsmanship! {I am not being paid nor was I asked to review these products}
If you have the time, check out never know what you will find, but if it's anything like my shopping experiences you will be one happy customer!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Chore Jar Tips

I've had a lot of interest in my Chore Jar post.  Several of you have asked what types of chores the boys do and if I could share a list of chores.

I know getting cooperation from our children is challenging so I will always share what's working in my home - us parents have to stick together!

My boys are ages 6.5 and 3.5 so I try to give them things to do that they can do with some ease and that they will enjoy doing {at least enjoy until the novelty of doing it wears off!}

Chores For My 6.5 Year Old
Vacuum Bedroom
Vacuum Family Room
Dust Downstairs
Dust Upstairs
Wipe Down all Sinks
Wipe Down Kitchen Cabinets
Wipe Down Baseboards Downstairs
Do a Load of Laundry
Wipe Down all Toilets
Pick-up Family Room
Empty Dishwasher
Dustbuster Steps

Chores For My 3.5 Year Old
Collect Trash from Upstairs
Wipe Down Placemats
Dustbuster Bathroom Floors
Water Potted Plants
Wipe Down all Sinks
Wash Dog Bowls
Sort Laundry

Supplies that Help Keep it Simple
Cleaning Wipes {Lysol, Clorox}
Paper towels
Small Disposable Rubber Gloves

Some Tips When it Comes to Chores and Helping Out 
1.) It doesn't have to be done perfectly.  
~ It will most likely never be done as well as we would have done it - and that's okay {this is still a challenge for me, but I'm getting better}.

2.) Show your children "how" to do the task. 
~ Keep it simple!! Try to keep it to 2 or 3 steps if your children are under the age of 6. 

3.) Lots of praise and encouragement! 
~ This can make the difference between willingness and pushback next time you ask your child to do something.  My big little guy really doesn't like wiping down the toilets {who does?!} but when I comment on how shiny and clean it looks and how if I didn't know better I would have thought Daddy had done the cleaning he beams with pride :)

4.) Find out what works for your family. 
~ Maybe your kids need a set of chores that are the same each week. Maybe your children are older and can wait a week for their allowance/reward. Keep trying until you find what works.

5.) Be consistent.  
~ The Mr and I have made it clear that it's not an option to not help out or do what's on their chore stick.  They don't move onto the next thing in the day until they are done.  We stick to this rule and the boys know it.  I do however give my big little guy the option of one chore stick swap. The boys usually do 2 sticks each morning. If he pulls a stick he really doesn't want to do then he can put it back and swap it for another - but he then has to do what's on that stick - there is just one swap. 

I hope this helps get you started. If you have chores or methods that work for your family I hope you will share them with the rest of us!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sweet Dreams

The day is done. The boys are in bed. Ahhhhhhh.

Putting the boys to bed is one of my favorite times of the day. It's not what you're thinking.  It's not because I can't take another second of having the boys around {but that does happen}.

When everyone is washed, in pjs, and in their own beds - a calmness has fallen over the house.

A calmness that allows for sweet goodnight hugs and kisses.  Their arms wrapped tight around my neck as I tell them I love them and wish them "sweet dreams".

The promise of seeing them again in the morning for breakfast is always shared {my littlest guy will usually put in his breakfast order at this time too!}.

Then our most favorite bed time ritual - a good night song. I sing "I Love You a Bushel and a Peck".  The Mr sings "Silent Night".  The boys love both songs. Sometimes they will sing along {so adorable!} and other nights, like tonight, they will just take it all in and let the song wash over them as they settle for the night.

As I sing, I wish in my heart that they will have sweet dreams and even sweeter days. That they will always have peace and love in their hearts for themselves and others.  A mother's prayer.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Reading List

Reading - something I use to do all the time, something I completely took for granted.  Now I go through spurts when I read nonstop or I read nothing at all - I'm in the read nothing at all spurt now.  I don't like to start reading a book when I know that I won't be able to really dive into the book and finish it - I learned this quickly after becoming a mom.  There are times when my brain just can't focus on reading a book - even super light reads.  My brain is just zapped some days!

I love to share good reads with fellow readers - here is my current list. 

One of my top favorite books is: 

It's been almost a decade since I first read this book but it still remains one of my favorites.  I loved hearing the woman's view and it's one of those books you don't quickly forget. 

 My three new book recommendations are: 

11/22/63 isn't your typical Stephen King book - which was perfect for me! Don't let the 849 pages scare you away {it almost did for me!}...just think of it as a trilogy. {I feel like almost every book is now part of a trilogy and it bugs me!}

I found The Language of Flowers to be fascinating. It's a well written story that tugged at my heart.

Rosamund Lupton wrote a great book. This this is not a happy, sweet book. It's a bit dark - it grabs you and you think you have it all figured out...but you don't!

On my "To Read" list are:

Linked up at:
Keeping It Simple: Motivate Me Monday
Lines Across: The Cure for the Common Monday

Monday, June 18, 2012

Our Favorite Food and Drinks This Summer

It's summer vacation and we are keeping busy doing all sorts of fun things.  To keep us fueled we are doing our far share of eating {and drinking!}!

~ Our Favorite Food and Drinks This Summer~

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches 
 Really, these are a family favorite any time of the year.  While at the beach with my sister and her family we ate grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch almost everyday! My big little guy almost always has 2-3 sandwiches! {he's not a big eater so I happily oblige his request!}

Fruit Salad
My goal is to have a big bowl in the fridge at all times this summer. My little guy LOVES to make it and eat it while singing our fruit salad goes something like this - "Fruit salad. Yummy, yummy.  Fruit salad. Yummy, yummy...".  Singing makes everything taste even better!

Milk Shakes 
We made strawberry last week and just made a batch of blueberry milk shakes.  It was a unanimous vote - blueberry milk shakes are the BEST! The boys are now thinking of new flavors to make - I'm thinking a chocolate peanut butter shake would be divine! Stay tuned for "Shake Updates"!

Broccoli Slaw
We've only had it once {Father's Day BBQ} but it was delicious and I will definitely be making it all summer!  It was very light, crisp, and flavorful.  I found the recipe on Pinterest {shocker!} and tweaked it a bit and whoola - my summer go to dish when we BBQ!  Click on the picture to get the original recipe.

Ha! This is really no big surprise for those who know me well : )
I really enjoy Sangria! Red sangria, white sangria, homemade or from a bottle - I've never had a glass I didn't like.  

It's just not summer around here without s'mores!  I always keep s'mores fixings stocked and ready to enjoy.  We just tried the XL marshmallows and I must say I'm a fan! They provided extra yummy gooeyness!  

Not the healthiest list, but there is broccoli and fruit! What are you enjoying this summer?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Chore Jar

A few weeks ago I made a "Date Night Jar" -  another great idea I found on Pinterest!  It's full of fun ideas for when the Mr and I need some inspiration.  More on this cute little jar later : )

After I finished making the Date Night Jar I had some supplies left over so I decided to make a "Chore Jar" for my sweet boys. They are pretty good about helping out around the house when asked but once in a while I need to get creative about my approach.

We've done charts with stickers, chore cards, and just plain 'ol nagging.  All of these methods worked for a short period of time but eventually lost their effectiveness - and as the Mr puts it, they were all a little too complicated for the boys and us to keep track of over time.  I know, how complicated is a chore chart?  Well, the problem for us was keeping track of the reward/allowance and keeping the boys motivated to want to do the chores.

The Chore Jar seems to have answered our problems.  Each child has their own color sticks. This way I can make sure the chores are age appropriate. I used a permanent marker to write different chores on each stick and then on the back of each I wrote how much would be earned by completing the chore correctly.

At first, we thought we would hold onto the chore sticks as the boys finished them and then pay them once a week.  We quickly realized we were falling back into our main problem - keeping track and maintaining motivation.  So now we pay the boys as soon as they complete the chore.  Once the boys are older I think we will be able to move to paying once a week but for now this works perfectly.

The boys love picking a stick and the surprise of finding out the chore.  Once they have finished their chore I check to make sure it's been done (within reason).  Lots of praise and encouragement is given while chores are being done and when completed - everyone feels good about helping out around the house : )

By paying them right away I no longer have to remember anything and they get the satisfaction of being paid for a job well done while it's still fresh in their mind.  They can do as many chores a day as they want - this is especially important for my oldest, who is saving for a special Lego set!

We are now in week 4 of using the Chore Jar and it's still working great! The boys have even asked that I make more sticks with new chores!

I'm curious...Do you have a chore routine in place that works for your family?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


I took the boys strawberry picking yesterday. We had a wonderful time! The strawberries were sweet, red, and juicy.  At first the boys thought the strawberries weren't ready to be picked because they were small. I had to explain that this was the actual size of a strawberry - it's not suppose to be the size of your fist.

Then we started picking...well, I started picking and the boys started eating! Once they had tried their first strawberry right off the plant there was no stopping them.  Sweet, red juice running down their chins and big smiles across their face - they had tasted a bit of heaven and they knew it! 
 The soundtrack I heard while I picked berries to bring home was "Mommy, is this a good one to eat?", "Mommy, can I eat this one?", and "oh, Mommy they are so good!".  The boys did pick a few to bring home but most ended up in their bellies - I know your not suppose to eat while you pick your own but it would have been a wasted effort to ask them to stop.  Trust me, I made up for it while shopping at the farmer's store.

What did we do with strawberries so sweet and ripe that they are completely red on the inside?  First, we made strawberry shortcakes. We used the round little cakes you buy at the store (keeping things simple!).  My littlest guy now calls the cakes "farm cakes" because we bought them at the farmer's store.  
Tonight we made strawberry milk shakes and they were a real treat! The boys loved helping to make them and all 4 of us enjoyed drinking them!

Here is how we made them:
about 2 cups strawberries mixed with 1 tbsp sugar (you could use more sugar with less ripe strawberries)
pour 1 cup milk into blender, followed by some crushed ice, about 6 scoops of vanilla ice-cream, and the strawberries
Put the cover on and blend it all together!  - We added 3-4 more scoops of ice-cream to thicken it up more and tossed in a 1/2 banana left over from breakfast. 
The result was a thick, flavor popping shake. The pink color is beautiful - all natural, no artificial coloring!  The taste is worth every calorie from the ice cream too!
We have two more baskets of strawberries left and we are making strawberry muffins or crumb cake - not sure which but either one is bound to be delicious since our main ingredient is as good as they come!
1 day of strawberry picking +  3 days of delicious treats = lots of yummy memories!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Pinterest Challenge

I think Pinterest is great! I do - endless interesting, creative, funny, thought provoking, helpful pictures. It's like a never ending magazine where you can read about whatever you want and when you want to read more you can and if you don't then you just keep on scrolling. And it's free!

Since I've "pinned" over 500 items I thought it might be fun to actually try some of them out - you know see how things turn out compared to the pinned version.  I'm calling it a Pinterest Challenge

One of the first things I pinned was this beautiful wreath.  I loved everything about it and could instantly picture it on my door.  Lindsay over at made this wreath and has even provided a step by step tutorial for all of us to follow.  - Thanks, Lindsay!

My original plan was to go to Michael's Craft Store and buy everything Lindsay used to make the wreath - I like to follow directions (hence I prefer baking over cooking...). What I did not plan for was for my sister (who doesn't follow directions and is a much better cook than baker...) to be with me while shopping for my wreath supplies. I walked out of the store with a pre made forsythia wreath, a letter D, some ribbon, and some purple flower springs. Not exactly like the wreath pictured above!

My wreath turned out much better than I expected and while it's not exactly like the original wreath I pinned the concept is still the same. By buying a pre made wreath I saved myself a few steps (always a good thing!) and I made it in less than 15 min!

So, what do you think?  Did I succeed at my first Pinterest Challenge?
Please join me in this challenge - pick something you've pinned and give it a try. I would love to hear (and see some pictures too!) how you make out!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Let the Summer Fun Begin!!

Today is the first day of summer (in our house).  Both boys are already finished with school - Yikes!!  So we have about 90 days until school starts in September.
Most years around this time I'm pulling my hair out and wishing sleep away camp was an option.  I'm still ready to pull my hair out but this summer I have a PLAN!!  Yes, this mom is prepared and ready for the long summer days that lie ahead.
A few weeks ago I started doing some research...on Pinterest of course! I found LOTS of great ideas (thanks to all the great idea people out there for sharing!) and put together a list to save me on those days when it's been a long day and it's only 9:15 AM.

Make something Monday
Projects & Crafts
Take a Trip Tues
Get out of the house!
What’s Cooking Wed
Baking or cooking
Be Thoughtful Thurs
Write letters, make cookies, do a service
Wacky Friday
Anything goes!
make home movies
visit a bakery
make lemonade
make crafts for grandparents and mail them
Make Ice cream sundaes for dinner
make piggy banks - spend, save, give
visit daddy at work
bake cupcakes
make postcards and mail to cousins
go to 4H Fair
paint rocks
go on a picnic
bake cookies
Ding Dong Ditch w a nice surprise at the door
do a color scavenger hunt
fruit loop necklace
pick your own fruit
make trail mix
wash the car and bikes
Tie Die T-shirts
Trip to the dollar store
kids plan, shop, and make dinner
do something nice for each family member
backyard movie
make a sea shell wind chime
go to the zoo
make ice cream sandwiches
make tissue flowers and deliver to friends
have a “9 over” w/friends / PJ playdate
Pick any animal and learn all about it
go bowling
Make granola bars
bring treats to the fire station
melted crayon hot rocks
go to sprinkler park
make banana ice cream

Weekend trip to Philly
make a family time capsule
go on a pirate adventure
bake dog biscuits 

Weekend trip to DC
make placemats
go to the movies
make slushies

create a silly holiday - annual donut day
Sew buttons
bike ride to the library

glow sticks in the bath
Journal writing

no electricity day!
Reading Reports

Reading/Word Bingo

 Here is my list - as you can see I broke it up into days of the week to help make it easier for me.  This way when the kids are bouncing off the walls and I need to think of something to do FAST I can just go to the day of the week and we can pick an activity together.  This doesn't mean that every day we will do something off the list - most days will be spent at the pool or beach. But come late July/August when the pool has lost some of it's appeal I think this is when our list will be used the most.

Today we had our first pool day. The boys loved splashing around (getting everyone not in the pool wet) and I enjoyed watching the first day of our summer fun unfold as easy as a summer day should.

I do believe in easy summer days - days that take us (and our children) off the busy schedules of the school year.  We all need the break, a change in pace, and a chance to just be. But, I am ready just in case those easy summer days start to eat away at my sanity.  I'll be ready to bring the fun back when summer starts to feel too long.  Let the summer fun begin!!!

In the blink of an eye

Welcome to Simply Sweet Sunday!  I have been wanting to start a blog for a while now and figure there is no better time than now to start.  Have you ever had one of those weeks when you are reminded over and over how fast time goes by?  How quickly your life can change? I have had one of those weeks and while starting a blog is certainly not a major event it is something I've wanted to do so here I am!  

One of the reminders of how fast time is going was watching my sweet little boy graduate from Kindergarten.  How did I become a mom of a soon to be 1st grader?!   

 It seems just like yesterday when I was rocking him to sleep. 

Now he climbs up to the top bunk and I can barely reach him to kiss him goodnight. Too fast, too fast. 

Even though I can feel time moving at lightening speed I try my best to stay present in the moment.  I don't want to miss anything and I'm so happy to be a part of my children's days.  At times it can be near impossible to not think of what is to come or to even wish for time to move a bit faster - we've all had those days when we pray for bedtime, right?  So my plan is to enjoy the sweet simple moments that life brings me everyday and try to reflect on them here before they are gone in a blink of an eye.