Reduce, reuse, repurpose

Nothing irks me more than seeing people throw away household items that may be worn but are still useable. When we were first married and living in an apartment I would routinely see vacuum cleaners, storage shelves, lamps, and sets of drawers sitting out by the dumpster simply because someone was moving and no longer had a use for them. My heart hurt. One, in thinking about all the people who could use and would welcome items in their homes if they had the means. I always wondered why people did not just donate the items. There are so many places who accept donations or a wide variety and even more so people who depend on donations to help their homes function. Second, I was baffled that in a world where selling items virtually is so easy to do and (who doesn’t want a little extra cash?) that they wouldn’t even try to make a profit even if it were minimal on the items they no longer wanted. Lastly, in thinking of the Earth and waste, the idea of these large home items sitting in a landfill for decades hurts my heart.

A few times a year if I can, I really try to clean out my closet and storage room. While there is always more that I could probably part with, I try to pull items that I think someone else could use or may enjoy. My rule parallels Marie Kondo (no I didn’t watch the show but I do feel like when she came on the scene you couldn’t turn without hearing the phrase “if it doesn’t spark you joy…”) and it’s true. Maybe I still like the item or article of clothing but if I haven’t used it or worn it in a period of time, it needs to go.

Now granted there are a few donation places with strict rules about what they will and will not take, but overall the following groups myself or family have donated to over the years and always had a good experience.

  • Salvation Army – What I love is that they will take a multitude of items and will even come directly to your house to pick them up. Simply go through their website to set up a pick up date that works best for you.
  • AMVETS – My family has used this one a lot over the years. Similar to Salvation Army they will arrange a date and time for a pick up at whatever address is easiest for you.
  • Goodwill – They will take from slightly used household items, cars, and even computers. If you are unsure of what is or isn’t accepted, check out their list here.
  • Unique Thrift Store – If you are local in the DMV, donations to this large scale thrift store are easy. While they do not pick up, you can swing by the loading dock and unload your items, and be on your way.
  • Habitat for Humanity ReStore – Various franchises and locations, will accept home construction items to use in building homes. They even have ReStores that you can shop for a fraction of the price the next time you decide to take on a renovation project in your home.
  • Other ideas – A simple Google search will turn up a variety of other thrift stores, consignment stores, and charities that accept items for donation.

So the next time you have unwanted items I’d like to encourage you to consider scheduling an easy, no stress, no contact, pick up with one of the organizations above. Not only will your items be utilized and appreciated by someone else, but they will also not sit in a landfill for decades to come.


Easy recipes: Lemon Olive Oil Marinade & Slow Cooker Chicken

One of the easiest meals you could ever make is frozen chicken in a slow cooker with whatever sauce you fancy. We have done variations of this with wing sauce, barbecue sauces, marinades like Wegman’s Lemon and Garlic Marinade – truly the possibilities are endless and the outcome is always delicious. What is even better about this meal idea is that you can just put frozen chicken in and get going. No need to thaw; although speaking from experience it is much easier to make sure the chicken has softened ever so slightly before putting it in. That way, you don’t have to wrestle with the packaging and getting frostbite on your fingers.

Like many, come Friday I have zero energy to cook and usually end up with some fashion of takeout. However today I wanted to use up a few things that were lingering in the fridge so decided to throw a quick (and I mean quick) meal together.

First, place your frozen chicken in the base of the slow cooker.
Next, pour your marinade or sauce of choice over the frozen chicken breast.

The recipe for my homemade lemon olive oil marinade is below.
Layer in veggies of choice. Squash, bell peppers, and baby Bella mushrooms are all good choices; but today I used a small white onion, shredded carrots, and broccoli florets. Dash in a good amount of garlic powder, a teaspoon or so of salt, and a generous shake of black pepper.
That’s it! Super easy, very delicious, and a crowd pleaser for palettes of all ages.

After you’ve prepped your meal, cook on low for six or seven hours. After about five hours have passed, use two forks to shred the chicken. Return the lid, and continue cooking for the last hour or so.

Homemade lemon olive oil marinade recipe

Ten Amazon finds I have been loving lately

Alright, so I know bloggers and influencers are all “I love this product! It’s so amazing! You have to check it out!” and while some may truly just enjoy a product and want to share it with their online community, a good portion of them are transparent enough and tag it with #ad – aka they get paid to tell you they love it.

A long time ago I saw a product placement being endorsed by Scott Disick. While whatever it was he was promoting probably still made him some major money, the best part was that when the caption was posted with the picture he (or his team) didn’t edit out the part that revealed the caption was not even written by him, but instead the company who sold it. Ever since then I truly raise an eyebrow and chuckle when influencers are pushing something, especially when multiple ones promote the SAME one around the SAME time. Admittedly I have followed the swipe up links from time to time, or even gone as far as to buy something from a link, but more often than not I usually stay away. (Sorry official bloggers, but it’s true. At least for me.)

Basically all that rambling preamble was to now show you a few Amazon purchases I’ve made over the last year that I honestly do love, enjoy, and haven’t regretted purchasing. Why should you separate me from other people who tell you about “products they love”? Well if I’m being honest, and I am, I have such a small IG audience and do not and will not be making any money off of you; so in other words, I legitimately like them.

Below are a curated list of items that I have personally purchased and can attest to their quality and worth. All items are linked through the picture.

Amazon Essentials joggers

2020 may be over, but my love of lounge wear is fledgling and expanding as we speak. These joggers are very affordable, look like regular brand versions, come in an array of colors, and are super soft and cozy.

Amazon Essentials crewneck sweatshirt

Similar to the joggers, this sweatshirt is a steal of a deal. I enjoy my sweatshirts to be a tad oversized, so I tend to buy men’s ones and size up. This sweatshirt is long enough to wear with leggings without showing the world too much, is super warm and soft, and for $15 is a great buy.

Vaenait Baby pajamas

So this isn’t a new Amazon discovery, but it is 100% worth mentioning. These kid pajamas are probably my favorite ever. They are silky soft and the quality really holds up. The girls have quite a few pairs and I can truly attest to their durability.

Ginsey Growing Up Green bamboo step stool

Sleek in design and great for sustainability, this step stool works for kids trying to reach sinks and counters, but also would make for a great by the tub stand for bath bombs and salts.

MianYang moisturizing hand gloves

Like everyone else, my hands are very dry this time of year. These hand masks have been saving me lately. While the brand recommends using them twice a week, I have found once a week works well too. What’s even better is that these come in a pack of five and for the price really out shine single use packs you might find elsewhere.

Sunjoyco felt sunglasses holder

This lightweight sunglasses holder contains and displays all of your specs in one place. It comes with two metal over the door hooks or a thick string that you can lace through the two holes at the top, knot, and hang for use. I adhered mine to the wall with a metal Command hook, and it works well.

Vienrose Photo Album

These linen photo albums have self-adhesive pages that make photo placement easy to do. They also come with a gold pen if you like to scrapbook or note details about your various photographs.

Gezan Silicone Donut Baking Pan

We got these for Christmas and have already used them multiple times. The easiest thing we have found is to use various muffin mixes and adjust accordingly to a quick Google search for donut recipes. Additionally, we made our latest batch with Alton Brown’s donut glaze recipe and let me tell you – they were amazing.

All Occassion greeting cards – 100 pack

I tend to send blank cards more than theme specific ones. I find they are more versatile and are great to have on hand for a quick thank you or note. I used to buy ten packs from Target but found myself buying them over and over again. Why it never occurred to me to buy blank cards from Amazon I don’t know, but here we are. Anyways, I found these early last year and have used them A LOT.

Nantucket Bicycle Basket

Back in the spring we spent a lot of time teaching our biggest little one how to ride her bike. As a treat, we found this classic style wire one. It’s sturdy and durable, even when she takes a tumble and the bike falls over. I was worried with the plastic or wooden style bike baskets they’d crack instantly, so this was the perfect fit.

Easy recipe to try for your next taco night: Kiwi Salsa

Move over traditional salsas. There is a new guy in town and he is stealing the show, at least when it comes to fish dishes like salmon tacos. While kiwis may not seem like a likely contender for a salsa, it makes sense when you consider other “newbie” flavors like peach mango and pineapple. Something about the sweetness of the fruit adds a unique and refreshing flavor to traditional dishes.

Kiwi salsa

Tonight we made salmon tacos (which side note: are also very easy and make for a unique take on boring salmon dinners). In an effort to use up some kiwis we happened to have in the fridge, to try something new, a quick Google search, and a few tweaks to cater to what ingredients we did have – kiwi salsa was made.

Easy and healthy dinner idea: salmon tacos. Simply coat salmon filets in olive oil and taco seasoning. For this meal, I did a mix of Trader Joe’s Chile Lime seasoning and taco seasoning. Bake for about 15 minutes until done. Then flake the salmon to use as taco filling.
Another staple for taco night in our house is cilantro and lime sour cream. Simply mix fresh lime juice and finely chopped cilantro with your favorite sour cream. To make an even healthier version, substitute your sour cream with Fage Total plain Greek yogurt.

Lake Anne Mini Guide

One of our favorite spots in the DMV is Lake Anne in Reston. Designed in the ‘60s after the lakeside communities in Europe this neighborhood is unique and quirky. A short distance from popular Reston Town Center, Lake Anne is a destination worth exploring.

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On Saturdays from 8-12 April through December you can visit a very bustling farmers market. With produce, meats, artisanal cheeses, and other unique goods – it is worth checking out and supporting local businesses. During normal times, this market gets busy fast, so plan accordingly and be prepared to walk a bit to the stands.

Another favorite spot or ours at Lake Anne is the Lake Anne Coffee House and Wine Bar. While you can enjoy delicious brunch items, enjoy wine with a friend, we mostly enjoy grabbing a cappuccino for the adults and hot chocolate for the girls and a croissant. (Right now, they have a walk up window you can place your order and still be safe and distances from others.) We usually grab our snacks and head to one of the benches by the lake. On some Sunday mornings, a group of residents have remote control sailboat races that are entertaining for all to watch.

A second stop worth trying while at Lake Anne is the Lake Anne Brewhouse. While small, the outdoor tables by the water provide a unique spot to enjoy a local brew and delicious Nordic Knot soft pretzel from a local baker who only sells them to a few of the restaurants at Lake Anne. In the summer, businesses take part in a cardboard boat regatta that usually ends with a celebration at the brewery.

Other spots to check out at the sports bar Kalypsos, restaurants, and even the Reston Museum. In the late spring, a chalk festival occurs. There, local artists ranging in novice to experienced, design amazing works of art all along the walkways. You can also rent boats from the boathouse, getting to enjoy the lake from an entirely different view.

If you walk towards the fountain and around the corner, you will find the Lake Anne Blue Trail. Surrounded by cute gardens, concrete playgrounds, and even a large swing that overlooks the canal, this walk is an easy way to feel as though you’re exploring a far off place without traveling too far. At the beginning of the trail is one of our favorite spots, the Van Gogh Bridge. In the spring the surrounding cherry trees are gorgeous with their pink petals and make for an idea photo spot.

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Once you across the Van Gogh bridge, walk to the right for the swing and creeks. The trail weaves in and around the various neighborhoods, and makes for a great place for little ones to explore nature. If you continue straight and veer left at the top, you’ll get to see more of the residential properties. Many of which have created amazing rock art and fairy gardens to view from the sidewalk. As you continue up the path you will find several park areas with picnic tables and canoes as well as larger playgrounds for kids to explore.

Other spots near Lake Anne to check out are the Walker Nature Center, Baron Cameron Park, Reston Zoofari, and Lake Fairfax Park. If all of the walking and exploring has made you work up an appetite, check out the Reston location of Willard’s Real Pit BBQ or head over to Reston Town Center. Whichever you choose, Lake Anne and the surrounding Reston area is overflowing with options for easy, affordable, family fun that many of all ages will enjoy.


Holiday Photo Locations (that are free!)

I’m so excited to share with you all my first guest contributor article! In my piece, I outline a small list of places in the DMV that make great photo ops if you are in need for your holiday photos. The best part is that all of the locations are free and are in close proximity to some of our other favorite spots in the area. Head over to DC Area Moms to check it out!


Christmas Candy Play Doh

The holidays are all blending together this year so even though we are not putting up decorations quite yet, making small holiday moments around the house is how we are bringing in some holiday cheer. Several months ago I posted a recipe for Sunshine Doh. This version is very similar, but requires a few extra steps and finishes.

First, gather your ingredients. You will need 1 cup of flour, 1/4 cup of salt, 3/4 of water, 3 TB of white vinegar, and 1 TB of vegetable oil.

Second, mix all of the listed ingredients together in a bowl until a sticky dough is formed.

Next, in a small saucepan over medium heat, stir together the mixture until the liquid evaporates and a more solid dough forms.

Remove from heat and roll into a ball.

Using a dough cutter, divide the ball into two equal halves.

Take one half and roll into a ball. Then create a thumbprint crater on the top.

Pour a small splash of extract, food coloring, and whatever else you may want to roll into your dough. For this particular one, I just used red food coloring and peppermint extract. Essential oils work too, but this way if the littlest LO takes a bite I won’t be too worried.

Repeat the previous steps with the second half. For this one I used vanilla extract and some glitter (here’s hoping she doesn’t nibble on this particular Play Doh).

After that, using the divider again and cut each ball into equal parts. For mine I cut each ball into four parts (thus creating eight small balls of Play Doh).

Take one piece of the first color and one piece of the second color. Individually make a classic snake.

Lay the snakes next to one another and then twist.

Lightly roll the twisted snake together to make the edges smooth. Then bend softly to form a candy cane. (Repeat with other pieces of dough.)

Lastly, carefully wrap each “candy cane” in cellophane and tie with a festive ribbon.

That’s it! It seems cumbersome, but I promise you I was able to eat lunch, take a quick nap, and make this batch of Play Doh all within one nap time.


How to build the perfect lunch bowl at home

Ever crave Cava or Sweet Green but not feel like spending the money or venturing out to get it? Me too. Pretty much all of the time. That’s why while it doesn’t seem ingenious, the task can seem a bit daunting, so here I’m laying out a step-by-step of how I recreate healthy grain and green bowls all from the comfort of my kitchen.

First, determine the things you like. Even if it seems a bit all over the place, if you like it you like it, so add a little in. Part of the fun of bowl style meals is that they can be adapted and changed easily. They can be good methods of weekly meal prep as well as a way to use up lingering produce in your fridge. Second, while you are pulling your ingredients try to keep the food pyramid in mind. It’ll help keep your bowl balanced and be an easy way to incorporate many different colors and flavors that come from vegetables. Once you’ve narrowed down what you want to use it’s time to start building your bowl. Bowls I’ve created and enjoyed in the past are shredded BBQ chicken, taco, and deconstructed hamburger. Today though I went with a simple Mediterranean style one.

First: Add your greens

For this particular bowl I used mixed greens and shredded carrots.

Second: Add your grains

For my bowls, I love using the easy microwaveable pouches of grains and lentils. Depending on how much I use, one packet will last me two to four bowls.

Next: Add your protein

My go-to proteins to add to bowls are tuna and cottage cheese. If those aren’t your favorite, try leftover grilled steak or chicken, legumes, or even other fishes like salmon or shrimp.

Fourth: Mix in a variety of veggies

For veggies, you always want as many different colors of the rainbow that you can. An easy way to do this, is to use the small sweet peppers or heirloom tomatoes for a yellow, orange, and red.

Fifth: Garnish with healthy fats and season

A small dab of plain hummus, splash of dressing, some walnuts, and S&P round out this bowl.

That’s it! Not ground breaking, but if you’re ever feeling stuck with meal ideas, bowls are a great option.


Vienna Mini Guide

If you are from the Washington Metropolitan area, chances are you’ve heard of Vienna. Resembling areas like Falls Church and Westover, Vienna is nestled in Fairfax County between Oakton and McLean. It is easy to get to with travel points such as 66 West bound and Route 123 being your most direct routes to get there. Sprawling neighborhoods with ranches, colonials, and craftsman style homes alike surround the Main Street area where the hustle and bustle are. What is great about the town of Vienna is that while it exudes a small town feel, there is really a lot to be seen and done there.

One of the main attractions and quite busiest places in Vienna is the section of the W&OD Trail that runs straight through the heart of the town. The path is usually overtaken with cyclists and joggers, but walkers and families are also welcome to use the path. The trail is flat, and runs from Shirlington to Purcellville so how far you choose to explore it is up to you.

Not too far down the path is the original Caboose Brewery. Grounds are smaller in size compared to its sister store in Merrifield, however the libations and fare are just as tasty. Even further down the path from the brewery is a small park called Northside Park. Here, you can hike trails, explore neighborhoods, and even play down by the creek. It is much quieter and provides a bit of relief from the usual hustle and bustle of the trail.

In town right along Church Street are some magnificent homes to walk by, as well as The Freeman Store and Museum and the Little Library grounds. The museum is open on Saturdays from 12-3 PM and has COVID safety measures in place to ensure a safe visit for patrons; and the library is open the first Sunday of every month from 12-4 PM. Directly across the street is an older train car and benches which allow for an easy and memorable outing for little ones in need of some fresh air.

In town food options are in abundance. Select takeout cuisine from places like Taco Bamba, a unique and slightly more upscale takeout from Maple Ave., date night at Blend wine bar, or the ever popular Vienna staple – The Vienna Inn for their signature chili dogs and chicken tenders. Coffee from Caffé Amouri is also a great stop, and you can even sign up to take a specialized coffee class. Whichever you choose, you cannot go wrong and will be able to find something to satisfy everyone’s tastes.


Simple Costume Ideas

Costumes can be fun to buy, but can be pricey and add up. They can also be pieces that last a lifetime if you can sew (I cannot). So to get around BOTH of these issues, I have turned to one type of item as the base for many of our Halloween costumes – sweatsuits. Thankfully the past three years costumes have lent themselves to this style, so it really has worked to my advantage. If she ever wants to be a princess though, I’ll have to rethink my game plan.

The first reason I love using sweatsuits as the foundation of any costume is because Halloween usually tends to be pretty chilly. Instead of taking away from the outfit with a jacket or sweater, the layer of warmth is already built in – genius. A second reason that I love the sweatsuit route, is because it makes the costume more unique and stand out in its own way. Another reason I love it, is because sometimes it proves to be a bit cheaper in cost, thus allowing me to spend more on the accessories that accompany it. Lastly, and probably my favorite reason, is because the sweatsuits can be then recycled as normal day-today clothing.

In order to carry out my sweatsuit style Halloween costume, I usually turn to Amazon. Sometimes you aren’t as lucky to find a matching sweatsuit in the color that you need, but a few quick searches (sometimes even in the opposite gender’s section) usually turns up exactly what you are looking for. A few years ago my daughter was set on being “a pig with spots” (direct quote). She knew for months that that was what she wanted to be, so while I put off finding the right costume, I finally decided she wasn’t wavering and went with it. Enter: our first sweatsuit based costume. Using a pink sweatshirt and pants I found on Amazon, I adhered spots of brown felt all over it with fabric glue, topped her off with a pig nose, ears, and tail, and voilá a pig was spots was created.

Boo at the Zoo – 2018

The following year she wanted to be a walrus. Thankfully this particular interest really lent itself to a puffy oversized look, and again a sweatsuit fit the bill perfectly. Using a brown one this time, we accessorized with an adorable felt walrus mask I found on Etsy. Unfortunately the shop I purchased ours from seems to have closed, however you can find similar felt masks here. To create her flippers, we used a cheap pair of black gloves, and fastened felt to them.

Walrus at the garden center scavenger hunt – 2019

This year was our third sweatsuit based costume. She decided she wanted to be Winnie the Pooh (her little sister accompanied her as Piglet). Using Amazon a third time, I was able to find a yellow sweatshirt, sweatpants, and a plain red T-shirt. To finish it off we bought an inexpensive Winnie the Pooh headband for the ears, and painted a little nose on her face using some black eyeliner.

Winnie the Pooh (and Piglet) – 2020

Don’t get me wrong. We have our fair share of ready to go costumes and outfits that the girls love to dress up in on any giving Tuesday. In fact, this week is one of the best times to stock up on costumes for dress up or even next year. One of my favorite after Halloween sales is at Hannah Andersson. The costume accessories are quality and can be reimagined with a set of PJs, sweatsuit, or other clothing. They are also very classic looking, and seem like the sort of thing you’ll have for your kids kids. A second favorite spot to stock up for the following year is the moms Mecca – Target. I have usually done well in the past loading up line reduced cob webs, strobe lights, etc. Sometimes even when you aren’t sure why, picking up some of these items to have on hand helps with inspiration for future costume ideas to come. I hope you and your family had a sweet and safe Halloween celebration this year, and are able to create some of your own sweatsuit based costumes using my tips above!


Clifton Mini Guide

Clifton is small town charm nestled within surrounding suburban communities. While the downtown part is small, the charm is in abundance. From the historic homes on Main Street to the grand trees and rolling hills – Clifton provides the rural experience and only is a short distance for most of the DMV.

One of our favorite stops in Clifton is the local Italian spot, Trattoria Villagio. The left side of the restaurant is an upscale, rustic spot that exudes romantic vibes. Tucked behind the cozy tables and bar is an outdoor courtyard. There in the (usual) winter they open an outdoor lounge, equipped with heaters, blankets, and movies on the screen. The right set of doors to Trattoria Villagio is Little Villagio – an Italian market and take out pizza spot. One of our favorite things to do is grab a pie from Little Villagio and drive up the road to Paradise Springs Winery. If picnicking is your style, ask Little Villagio for plastic ware and plates with your order. Fun fact: Trattoria Villagio and 2 Silos Brewing in Manassas are affiliated with one another (their logos are on the takeout bags).

If an upscale meal is your plan, another option is Trummers on Main. This American Bistro is a great spot for brunch and dinner alike. Their menu ranges in price and variety, with items like baked flounder, hand cut pasta, and prime rib. Their dessert menu is also worth a peek if you have the room, most notably their table side s’mores that your roast yourself!

If the experience you are looking for is 21+, try a wine tasting at The Wine Attic located next door to Trattoria Villagio. Up the set of stairs in, the attic, you’ll find an expansive variety of wines and other adult beverages. If tasting from home is more of your comfort, they also provide curbside pickup and delivery for a 10 mile surrounding area.

Most notably our favorite spot is Peterson’s Ice Cream Depot. Located in the old train station, this outdoor creamery hits the sweet spot – pun intended. In addition to their well known ice cream and milkshakes, is their sandwich and hotdog menu. Fun fact #2: Peterson’s has converted an old bus into a walk up ice cream spot at 2 Silos Brewery.

Around the corner and across the street from Peterson’s, is a large field and playground that is perfect for littles to run off their sugar high. Another spot to see with little ones is the red train car located next to the tracks that run directly through town. Both of these places add a little small town magic to any Clifton outing.

Up the road from Main Street is Paradise Springs Winery. This gorgeous property gets very busy as it is one of the closer wineries to more neighboring suburban and urban areas. However, the property is expansive enough that social distancing is possible. We recently went on a Wednesday evening for dinner and it was the perfect time to be there. Paradise Springs is dog and family friendly, however the outdoor porch is adults only. If you can, try to plan an outing soon as the trees in Clifton are gorgeous right now and provide the perfect backdrop for a fall outing.

For the adventurous and outdoorsy (or those who want to earn their keep at any of the aforementioned spots), check out Hemlock Overlook Regional Park. The grade descending down towards the river can be steep and muddy, and those parallel to the river are a bit narrow. With that said, it is can be an easy hike for the family that can be varied in length.

Another spot to hike nearby is the Bull Run Occoquan Trail. Similar to Hemlock, trails vary in difficulty and length. It is also another popular spot for hikers and canoe launching, however the trails are wide and it is easy to keep your distance from others.

While these are just a few of the places we love to visit when we go to Clifton, there are other options as well. Horse Hippie is a free trade retailer, Clifton Café for a European style bistro experience, Belle Jar for interior design inspiration and antiques, and The Main Street Pub. Hopefully this mini guide provides you with ideas for your next outing and shows you that sometimes small towns can provide big memories.


Leesburg Mini Guide

One of our favorite places to spend the weekends is out and about in Leesburg. Whether it is at some of their gorgeous wineries or breweries, grabbing cappuccinos at Shoe’s, treasure hunting at antique or reclaimed materials places, or going for a hike – it is truly filled with countless opportunities for family fun and adventure.

Our first stop on our outing today was to my favorite – the Lucketts Store. We were able to get there a little after open and while the parking lot was full, we were able to treasure hunt in the outdoor shops and spaces there. While the inside is a trove of You Might Find It, we are still trying to avoid non essential indoor spaces as much as possible so we remained on the grounds outside. We love this place for a lot of reasons, but especially because of the countless picture opportunities for holiday cards. It is a popular spot for this however, so timing it is crucial to avoid lines. Across the street from the shop is the Lucketts Community Park, which boasted a large, flat, grassy area, huge playground, and picnic pavilion. Surrounding and nearby are a few other antique spots, as well as Roots 657 which has good food and artisan snacks, wines, and beer.

@gardenhatherings space at the store
@gardenhatherings space at the store
@gardenhatherings space at the store
@gardenhatherings space at the store

After we left the shop, we went up the road about two minutes to Brossman’s Farm. There, we set out to select our pumpkin for Halloween and some local jam. It reminded us of the countless farm stands up in Long Island Wine Country; and while we normally opt for one of the local grocer deals of 2/$10, this stop was part of our outing itinerary and helped support the local farming community. Located right on Route 15, you can’t miss this bountiful, open air farm stand.

Around the corner about two miles from Brossman’s, is the Barnhouse Brewery. We had never been to this particular brewery before today, and it is now one of our new favorites. The grounds are well maintained, had clean facilities, and was a quiet alternative to some of the larger ones (which we also love but have been avoiding throughout the pandemic) nearby. Most importantly though the beer was delicious. We sampled a few of the brews such as their IPAs, Oktoberfest, and Lager. All were perfect and paired well with our picnic and the cloudless, blue sky day that we had.

Our last stop on our outing out west was to visit the grounds at Morven Park. Perfect for a fall day, you could spend hours walking around the gardens and grounds of the mansion, watching the horses practice their jumps in the countless fields, or even enjoy a hike. You can even pack a picnic as the mansion parking lot had a handful of picnic tables – each very spaced out from the next. In normal times, you are able to visit and your the inside of the mansion, but for now the outside has plenty to do and see.

Since we were already pushing nap time we were unable to make it downtown Leesburg for a coffee from Shoes Cup and Cork or grab tacos from Señor Ramon Taqueria – maybe next time.


Home Style Alternatives

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a sucker for easy, trendy, fast home decor pieces that hail from Target, Home Goods, and on the special occasion Anthropologie. While I still love these places as go to’s for new pieces or inspiration, I’m slowly trying to adopt a few new mindsets when it comes to furnishing our home.

First, I’m trying just not to buy things. We already have so many, and even more seem to surface after a massive purge to our local donation center. While I tend to not change much often, when the feeling to decorate arises, I’m trying to “shop my house”. Sometimes all it takes to refresh a space is simply swapping out items you already own, change their position on a shelf, or create a simple small moment with them somewhere else in your house.

My second mantra for decor in our home in 2020 is to tap into the unexpected. Whether this is a brass object such as an old shoe horn placed just so on a stack of hardcover books, a random collection of my daughters heart shaped rocks in an olive wood bowl, or even a jar of a sea glass. These items are plentiful in our home and create a more organic style story than something I picked up on a whim.

Heart shaped rock collection that now doubles as decor with meaning to our family.

My third self inflicted decor rule that I’m trying to abide by in 2020, is to shop small and ideally – local. Etsy is slowly becoming my go to for pieces that I feel like I want to add to our home. I realize that Etsy isn’t a new concept to most. I have utilized the app over the last seven years or so, but never seek it out as my go to for home pieces. Usually it was my place for bows and moccasins for the littles, and inspiration for gifts for loved ones. Lately, when I feel inspired to decorate I’ve been turning to the app more and more to see what unique versions exist that revival their main stream look alikes.

Found a local artist who sells prints of her paintings of Virginia countryside. Not only she is a small business and local, but her prints are of places near and dear to us.
A second print from this local artist who sells prints of her paintings of Virginia countryside. Not only she is a small business and local, but her prints are of places near and dear to us.

I’m not claiming to give up on shopping all together. Instead, I’m trying to seriously limit what comes in versus what goes out. I feel like these subtle changes to my shopping habits will lend themselves to a more sustainable style, not to mention one that is unique and true to us. If you’re interested in trying to do more of the same, I’ve rounded up a few pieces that support small businesses and will provide you a more unique take on current trends.

A fun take on the wooden bead garland trend. The Etsy shop, sweetharvestdesigns, is located in Ashburn, VA and sells a multitude of colors and garlands. I personally love the indigo shade for a moody pop.
If you are in the market for a unique piece that could serve has a center piece or console catch-all, check out CheahaAntiques from Oxford, AL. I personally love the gray version, and would put moss, a trio of glass vessels, or bouquets of dried flowers in.
These sweet miniature terra-cotta pitchers from WildBriarCo could serve as intensely holders, paint brush holders, kitchen herb planters, bud vases, or even on their own.
KJensenArt prints are my new favorite. So much so that I purchased two for our dining room. Her art depicts beautiful landscapes of Virginia, and the blue tones truly represent the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
BasketsInTexas is a great place for all things woven and functional. This sweet little garlic storage basket would add functionality and style to any kitchen or pantry.
For a fun, whimsical addition to your home, these face vases might just do the trick. Shipping from Los Angeles KimistyDesigns might be worth a look if you’re in the market.
These retro style vases are a modern optical illusion that would look fantastic in any style home. Shipping from Charlotte, NC Dashessential is a great Etsy shop to check out.
Brass candle holders from EveryGoldenDetail located in Los Angeles, CA. These beauties remind me of similar timeless pieces from Pottery Barn or Anthropologie.

Breweries with Babes

I am a fan of simple alliteration, but how many people do you think will hit this link in search of something else?! Oh well…

If you know us, patroning local breweries and wineries is our go to activity on the weekends. They are the perfect blend of “still cool enough to go out” but with the stipulation of nap time schedules. One of the biggest reasons we like to go to them is that we can get out of the house and our LO can run around and get energy out. Win win!

If you’re from around the DMV this list may be of interest to you – so bookmark this page for future reference!

The Farm Brewery at Broad Run

Where it is: 16015 John Marshall Hwy Broad Run, VA 20137

Why we love it: We love this spot for its picturesque landscape, delicious BBQ, good brews, and large, flat layout. In addition to the ideal landscape for LOs to run around there are chickens you can visit adjacent to the outdoor bar.

Attractions near by: Just across Rt. 66 from the brewery is a local flower farm that sells itself on pick your own seasonal varieties of tulips, sunflowers, and gladiolas. Check their website for the best times to visit.

Vanish Farmwoods Brewery

Where it is: 42245 Black Hops Lane, Leesburg, VA 20176

Why we love it: Vanish is the ideal spot for a day of family fun. While it is a bit of a drive for those coming from inside the Beltway, the amenities are worth it. In addition to great beer and plenty of food options, the space is large enough to accommodate groups who want to dance to the band or sit in a quieter location. For the children, there is a playground on site as well as an ice cream truck. If your family adventures include four legged children, don’t hesitate to bring them along as Vanish has a dog friendly picnic area.

Attractions near by: Since Vanish is a bit of a drive, make a day of it and take your time exploring the area. Stop in the downtown historic district of Leesburg for a bite to eat and some shopping. One of favorite spots to stop by is the secret garden at Shoes Cup and Cork. If you’re making it a parent’s night out and want something a bit fancier, make reservations at Lightfoot next door.

Another great stop nearby, is The Old Lucketts antique store. Get lost in all of the antique and restoration treasures, perusing inside and out. Don’t forget to check out their Design House and snap a family photo by their seasonal mural.

2 Silos

Where it is: 9925 Discovery Blvd, Manassas, VA 20109

Why we love it: 2 Silos is one of the areas newer breweries. Settled in Manassas, 2 Silos boasts a fantastic location for a day of family fun. With food choices of BBQ, pizza, and empanadas – you’d be hard pressed to not be satisfied. Recently Peterson’s Ice Cream Depot from Clifton opened up a on-site shop located right next to the playground. While their menu isn’t quite as expansive as their home store, they did have child friendly AND adult friendly treats. If you’re looking for entertainment, check out the HUGE stage with various local music acts.

Attractions near by: If you are interested in earning your keep or simply enjoy buffing up on your history, take a short drive over to the Manassas National Battlefield Park. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, try checking out two of the areas nearby museums: Freedom Museum and the Manassas Museum

Quattro Goombas

Where it is: 22860 Monroe–Madison Memorial HWY, Aldie, VA, 20105

Why we love it: Quattro Goombas is a great spot to go if you are a house divided on beer and wine preferences. Their grounds house BOTH a brewery and a winery – so you really can’t go wrong. In addition to great libations, you can feast on delicious Sicilian style pizza; and quench your thirst with one of their famous wine slushees. The grounds are expansive and flat, which are ideal for LOs to run around and get some fresh air. 

Attractions near by: Close to Quattro Goombas, is the small historic town of Aldie, VA. With a variety of historic markers, the mill museum, and more – the history buff in you will be satisfied. If you are interested in local fares, check out the food trucks and farmer’s stands at Gilbert’s Corner Market


Where it is: 42615 Trade West Drive Suite 100, Dulles, Virginia 20166

Why we love it: In a land of wineries as far as the eye can see, Solace is Loudoun County’s largest brewery. While indoor space makes up most of Solace Brewing Company’s property, they encourage family time as they have a designated area for patrons with children. If the picnic tables are free outside, take your LO out to see if they can spot any of the planes from nearby Dulles airport. While the brewery does not have a consistent food source on site, they do have a rotation of delicious food trucks everyday. Plan your visit ahead by checking their website for when the trucks are coming.

Attractions near by: Solace is located in an industrial park area. While this makes it a bit further from lots of attractions, you will find lots to do if you are willing to drive a bit. Aldie, Middleburg, and Brambleton are just some of the towns worth exploring. If you are interested in exploring one of NOVA’s parks, check out Mt. Zion. After all the fun and excitement, stop by The Burger Shack in Chantilly. Their sliders and milkshakes are worth it!

Dirt Farm Brewing

Where it is: 18701 Foggy Bottom Road, Bluemont, VA 20135

Why we love it: Dirt Farm is a far drive from the Metropolitan area. However, the view is BREATHTAKING. While the grounds are settled on top of a hill, and not too conducive for small children to run around, a quick beer and slice of their house made pizza pair perfectly with the endless beauty of the Virginia countryside. 

Attractions near by: If you prefer to sip wine, drive next door to the Bluemont Vineyard. If you bring your children with you, be sure to save plenty of time for a country life experience at Great Country Farms across the street. With a variety of pick-your-own produce, country store, hay rides, slides, animals, and more – children of all ages will have a good time. 

Barrel Oak Winery

Where it is: Barrel Oak Winery, LLC  3623 Grove Lane, Delaplane, VA 20144

Why we love it: Barrel Oak Winery is a great place to visit for adults, families, and even four legged friends. Similar to Quattro Goombas, Barrel Oak serves both the beer and wine crowds. The grounds are expansive, but hilly. If you plan on allowing your children to “explore” be sure to keep an eye on them. If you are hungry while you visit, be sure to check out their house made pizza. 

Attractions near by: One of our favorite things to do when we head out to Delaplane, is to venture out to one of the many orchards nearby. Hartland, Stribling, and Hollin Farms, are just a few that support the local agriculture of our area. If you are interested in a BBQ dining experience (and the best apple cider donuts around), then drive a bit further down Rt. 66 to Linden, VA and check out The Apple House

While these are merely a few of the many breweries in this area, they are tried and true by us! If you are in search of some ideas of things to do with you friends and family – check them out! Cheers!


Summer Pesto Pasta Salad

I love cooking, and I especially love cooking during the summer months. Something about the plentiful fruits and veggies, helps create a palette of delectable tastes that can be combined in a multitude of ways. What is also great about cooking in the summer is that with the heat, appetites seems to crave refreshing and light tasting fares, so those fresh fruits and veggies really lend themselves to that very idea.

Two of my very favorite dishes in the summer are grilled chicken and pasta salad. Not only can they compliment one another really well, but they also can be done in so many ways that you won’t get tired of serving them. They are versatile as well, serving as a side or even as your main dish. One of my favorite ways to serve these up, is through a pesto pasta salad. It’s easy, it’s quick, and tastes amazing. Enjoy!

While I made mine with diced grilled chicken, I left it out of the recipe above for a more vegetarian friendly version.

Cocktail Cold Pizza

Growing up as an Army brat meant we moved. A LOT. I lived in six different states before the fifth grade. One of the places we lived, my dad served as a battalion commander. Not only did this mean he was in charge of a large group of soldiers, but also meant my parents had to attend and host numerous dinner parties where my brother and I were sequestered upstairs with episodes of Are You Afraid of the Dark? and Alex Mack. (Those references will quickly date me and label me as a 90s kid; and so be it.)

While I’m not sure if my Mom’s version of this recipe originated there or elsewhere, it is one she made frequently when we hosted others in our home. I always loved the combination of flavors and fresh taste of it, even as a child. It is also great because it could be tweaked to fit vegan diets or more carnivorous palettes. While this version is not the original I grew up with, due to quarantining I attempted at making it with what I had at home, and let me tell you it’s a very close second.


Taking Care of YOUR Business

Taking time for oneself is hard in what we formally called “normal life”. Now that we are in the midst of a global pandemic, that extra layer of madness and surreal life makes it even harder. I am not a mental health expert, but a firm believer that if you can’t care for yourself you can’t truly provide the care for others.

It is in that same vein that I have always been a huge proponent of self care and alone time. It’s something we’ve built into our daily routine at home as much as possible. It allows us to all recharge our batteries, resented, focus, and breathe. With that said however, being home together with very few places to go for months on end, has made it increasingly difficult. Quickly I found that my thirty minute commute to and from work gave me almost five hours a week to just sit alone and be one with my thoughts… or the radio (okay, mostly the radio), but still it was uninterrupted time that once seemed bothersome and now I look at it as of it was some type of luxury. Now outings are limited and usually not alone, so that time is gone. Instead, I set my alarm for at least an hour before the rest of the family gets up. Sometimes I use that time to workout, write a post here, read, but more often than not I put on the news or a junk TV show (read: not Bubble Guppies) and enjoy my cup of coffee. Let me tell you, it is a JOY. It’s time for me to wake up and breathe before the day gets started. Things I have come to find that I need in order to be my best for everyone else that day.

Unfortunately, with this increased time of stress and uncertainty comes a deeper need for that self care time. With the continuing of the pandemic, the ebb and flow of cases and guidelines, I have found myself staying up at all hours of the night thinking a mile a minute. I have had to stop myself many times and focus on my breathing; or force myself to sit and just be okay with not rushing about inventing things that “have” to be done. I feel like I’ve had more anxiety and stress over things that usually I’m okay with than really ever before in my life; and I know that I am not alone. I know many are feeling this way, some with far bigger triggers for their stress, anxiety, and worry than mine.

Recently I saw a post about how a mom’s (really either parent) self care time continually gets reduced down to their shower. First, I don’t disagree with this; but if I’m being honest even THAT is a stretch. I can usually count on interruptions between lathers or questions shouted through the door. In other words, not the Four Seasons spa over here, and the reason why I was inspired to address this. Second, showering is rudimentary personal hygiene. That’s why I motion (to no one in particular) to relabel that as “personal time” – the time in which one can take care of their person. Time in which they can do the routine things they need to do to stay physically healthy, thus allowing them to feel ready to tackle whatever the day may bring, even if it is binge watching Unsolved Mysteries on Netflix.

On the other hand “self care” should be viewed publicly as the time one takes to nurse themselves in mind, body, and soul. This could be a walk outside, reading a book, a workout, meditation – whatever. Whatever that individual needs to not feel depleted on ALL levels, again. I think we all need to advocate for more of this true self care time for ourselves and also those around us. It’s tough being human, and perhaps the sooner we can be kinder to ourselves the sooner we can be kinder to one another. So join me (from a distance) in finding your own personal ways to take time for yourself. I truly think we will all be better off for it in the time ahead.


Banana Whipped Cream

As a child, if given the choice between whipped cream or hot fudge, I always chose the later. While I am and will always be a chocoholic, fresh homemade whipped cream is quickly becoming one of my new favorite toppings for light summer desserts. We have been putting it on fruit shortcakes, mixed berries, and more. It’s simple to make and almost tastes like a very light ice cream – thus appeasing any sundae cravings that might arise.

Easy banana whipped cream recipe – works as a great twist on strawberry shortcake!


ONE Sweet Peach

It’s hard to believe but our littlest turned one recently. I feel like just the other day we were anticipating her arrival, and now here we are with this tiny person who we adore.

Despite her birthday happening during a pandemic and her placement as not the first kid (ha), we wanted to celebrate in a special way even if that was with just our families. I’m a fan of alliteration and play on words, and with it being her first “ONE Sweet Peach” seemed perfect.

Since it was small (and distanced), we kept things simple and reused a fair amount of decorations from past celebrations. I also liked the idea of a subtle theme this time, so peaches weren’t necessarily obvious elements. Instead we used the color peach and alluded to peaches throughout.

Our delicious cake and smash (cup)cake was from a local bakery CupCakes & Beyond. We opted for a simple vanilla cake with peach filling, and topped our LOs cupcake with “One Sweet Peach” toppings I found in RSVPparty Decor Etsy shop.
Since we went with simple, I purchased three peach and three gray balloons from Party Sparkles Etsy shop.
The gold sequin fabric was an old swatch I bought at Jo Ann Fabrics years ago, and it made for the perfect “blanket” to stage her birthday photos. You can find a similar option here.
Her high chair tulle skirt was a purchase from Tickled Glitzy Etsy shop; and her headband is old and hand-me-down from her sister’s first birthday. You can find a similar option here. We also reused her gold Mylar name balloon from her Baptism. Letters are customizable and can be purchased at Party City.
Her tutu dress is old Old Navy and is currently sold out, but they routinely sell long sleeved, short sleeved, and tank styles in a multitude of colors, or you find similar here or here. // The large peach balloon (36”) a lá James and the Giant Peach was from Fancy Celebration Etsy shop.

All in all it was a sweet and simple celebration, which sometimes is honestly the best. Low stress, cute decor, good food, and clearly a day that made her beyond happy – look at that smile!


Upcycled Rainbow Bugs

A few weeks ago I shared on my Instagram a simply DIY STEM project H and I did to supplement of Very Hungry Caterpillar themed lesson. It’s way it’s simple and a great way to work on sorting, counting, patterns, and fine motor skills. It also helps kids exercise their creativity while using up something in a whole new way.

For the rainbow bugs, you simply need multiple applesauce/pouch food lids, pipe cleaners, and possibly googley eyes and glue. (H vetoed this for her “bug” collection, but I think it could have been a cute add on so I included it in the supply picture.) I also mixed everything up, and as her first part of the project asked her to sort the lids by color.

To create, I had H select a pipe cleaner and o e of the kids. She laced the lid on the pipe cleaner and then I helped twist and tuck the end around the lid to secure it. After that, she laced the rest of the lids she chose on to the pipe cleaner. Leaving a good amount of space at the other end of your “bug” will allow you to put another lid of a different hue for the bug’s head, and then again to wrap and secure. Lastly, use smaller pieces of pipe cleaner as the antennas. To do this, simply tuck the smaller piece under the exposed pipe cleaner on the head and then twist. Then if you can decorate with stickers or eyes to finish to look or keep it plain and simple like H decided to do. That’s it! Super easy and a great craft to build on a variety of topics.


Camp Momma-rama

It’s been “summer school/camp” over here for a few weeks now, and while I still try to incorporate some semblance of structured learning, IE- workbooks, reading, math, etc., it has definitely loosened since the end of the “school year”. Now more of our day is dedicated to longer nature walks, our home splash pad, lots of arts and crafts – LOTS, and good old fashioned play. While the break in coming up with weekly and daily themes is welcomed, I am a person who thrives on structure and routine. It is because of this that on occasion we throw a theme in to switch things up and guide our week. So during this particular week we had “Camp Momma-rama” – all things hailing back to the good ole days of summer camps and Salute Your Shorts.

Last summer we had a tie dye party that was a ton of fun and easy to do. So much so in fact, that my LO asked that we do it again. So I rounded up the unopened dyes from last summer’s kit and a few all white cotton based pieces for us to use. Tie dye is messy and requires some patience but super on trend and fun. It’s also easy to make it your own whether you decide to use a kit or go the au natural route and use fruits and veggies. Additionally there are numerous techniques so that your pieces vary in not only color but also pattern and design. My personal favorite is creating the ombré or washed out look. To do this, simply paint a higher concentration of the dye in one area and then using a clean brush or paper towel soaked in water swipe it in the direction you want to go. This will smear the dye and begin to fade the further from the original spot you made.

Another activity we did during our Camp Momma-rama, was beading bracelets. I’ve noticed a lot of costume jewelry places selling small colorful and metallic beaded bracelets for astronomical prices. So instead of paying for one of those I threw the craft into our summer camp week since bracelet making and summer camp almost seems synonymous. This was great not only as a self-serving activity for myself, ha, but served as a math, spelling, and fine motor skills activity. My little camper practiced counting and patterns with the beads as well as spelling with her letter charms. Basically a win-win for us both.

Lastly, we painted nature. This was such an easy activity that was stretched out over the week. While on one of our many nature walks, we collected magnolia leaves, pine needle branches, and pine cones. We then used the pine needle branches as brushes, and decorated the other nature items with non-toxic water based paint.


Welcome Garden Guests

Since summer is right around the corner, flowers and plants are gracing our world with their bright colors and fresh foliage, some of which our kitchens and diets can benefit from. Our family LIVES on our deck. We eat meals out there, relax after work, let our LO play independently there, etc. It also serves as a bit of a supplemental food source in our house. Every year, we plant a variety of veggies and herbs. Something about picking fresh produce for a meal speaks to us, and having it right there on our deck makes it even better.

Unfortunately, we aren’t the only ones who enjoy munching on the veggies and herbs. Aphids always seem to show up out of no where and in full force, devouring our goods before we even get a chance to harvest them. While I like to think “every creature great and small” has a purpose in this world, the aphids need to vacate our home and move on to other greener pastures. However, it is because of their reoccurring presence in our garden that we have come to love and routinely support the idea of releasing ladybugs on our plants and in our garden spaces. Ladybugs are one of those “beneficial bugs” that help protect plants from the never ending appetite of aphids and other nuisance insects. They chase after the aphids and in turn return our garden to its fruitful condition.

For the past few seasons, we have turned to the company Nature’s Good Guys. You can purchase directly from their site or search for them on Amazon. While they sell other garden helpers and share tips with best gardening practices and becoming allies with certain bugs, we have routinely purchased their ladybugs (it costs about $7 for 150 ladybugs, and they have other amounts if you have a bigger space). This family owned small business hails from the West Coast in Oregon, and their shipping is fast and reliable. Their packaging comes with helpful literature that tells you all you need to know about your new garden soldiers.

So you bought some ladybugs, now what? According to our research and the company’s instructions, it is best to release the ladybugs either in the dawn or dusk hours directly on the plants while they are not completely alert. They are alive and have minds of their own, so during your releasing party, you may spend some of your time chasing them around your deck and putting them back on the plants. While this may sound exhausting, it is actually a lot of fun especially for LOs. Our daughter is filled with so much glee and excitement every time we do this. We’ve done it a lot and the thrill of it never dulls for her or ourselves.

It also is a good idea to refrigerate them over night (or up to a week) before their release. The point of doing this is that the colder temps will slow down the bugs mobility, thus when they are released will not immediately fly away. Instead, as they begin to wake up and thaw in the sun and natural air, they will be more likely to notice the aphids and do their job.

That’s it! While eventually they may fly away and you might not have them in your garden all season long, they do exactly as nature tells them to do; and you will get to keep your plants in tact for the harvesting season.


Summer Salad

Summer is just around the corner and elevated temps usually mean an increase in craving refreshing and light fares. Mixed berries, juicy peaches, crisp veggies, popsicles, cool sweet tea – you get the idea. One of my favorite seasonal staples is this summer salad. The combination of sweet fruits with refreshing mint is perfection on its own, but add in the tangy, creaminess of goat cheese, and then round it all out with the subtle sweetness of a balsamic reduction and you’ve got a fantastic dish you’ll crave all summer long.


The Very Hungry Caterpillar and other bug themed ideas

During the beginning of our quarantined homeschooling, we followed the Scholastic Learning at Home lessons that were made free and accessible to those who, like me, found themselves acting as the LOs teacher overnight. (Scholastic, THANK YOU!) In our house we followed these lessons daily and used them as the stepping stone and basis for other activities and lessons we would complete. Some of these lessons were about bugs – ladybugs, caterpillars, butterflies, etc. Below I have included images and descriptions of the variety of activities we did to round out our lessons on theme.

Identifying the stages of the lifecycle in words and pictures
Easy task cards with a variety of skills
Tissue paper butterflies
H’s godmother sent this amazing Bakevity bug cupcake kit.

Super easy to do! Simply cut the top of the cupcake or muffin off, frost the flat top, cut the top in half and place back on top slightly skewed.

Learning at home has evolved over the course of the past three months, as it will take on new form throughout the summer and possibly beyond. Using a central topic or theme has been helpful in ensuring we have a focus each and every week.


Handprint Art

I know I’m not alone when I say there are so many things, great and small, I miss about what we can probably call now “the good ole days”. One of the small things I miss is the art my girls created in preschool. It seems silly, but when it comes to those gems I treasure them. They are like mini time capsules of their lives. The tiny handprints and foot prints, feel like little snapshots in time of their childhood – and I love them. So it was my personal mission to create a variety of these art projects during our homeschooling so that I wouldn’t miss out on these moments.

If I’m being honest, these projects were just as much about their handprints as they were about giving me something artistic to pour my energy into. In order to create these little pieces of art, I would try to base some element related to our weekly theme. Then if I didn’t already have an idea of what we were going to make, I’d turn to a quick Google search or Pinterest. Sure maybe it wasn’t my original idea, but why reinvent the wheel of cute kid art?

Upon completion of the “painting” I’d rotate the paper around to see which is the best angle or position. It also allowed me time to get creative about how to enhance it and make really come to life. My favorite marker comes with a fine point and thick point and was vital in adding the perfect details to each picture. Another way I’d enhance these would be through a variety of mediums like sand, chalk, construction paper, and glitter glue. These elements take the projects up a notch and more likely something that won’t get pitched down the road.

Below are some of our thumbprint, hand, and footprint art pieces that we have created over the past few months. Hopefully some of these can inspire some of your own painting projects at home!

Footprint carrots
Rainbow fish and handprint jellyfish
Handprint germs
Footprints and handprints for our penguin feet
Thumbprint flowers
Thumbprint birds on a wire
Name blocks with handprint aliens. Tried two different hand positions for this one. M did a flat hand while H did the side of her fist and two fingers.
Thumbprint pineapple with block letters
Handprint flamingos
Handprint crabs and footprint hermit crabs
I did not have actual sand to glue down so I used brown chalk instead.
Handprint flower pots. One driven by me, one driven my a five year old. 🙂

Homeschool: Hawaiian and Luau Themed Ideas

Last week during one of our synchronous learning opportunities, the class I work with was discussing Asian Pacific Heritage Month. For one of their “lessons” I gave a presentation about Hawaii, my time living there, and finished with a sweet book Aloha Bear by Dick Adair that my second grade teacher gifted me before we moved back to the main land. Talking about Hawaii excited me and seemed like a fresh “theme” for homeschool, not to mention a kick off to summer.

First day of “Hawaiian” school

First, I did a search on Google and Teachers Pay Teachers for free luau and Hawaiian themed prek and Kindergarten worksheets. There I found a great number of ones that ranged in concepts of patterns, addition/subtraction, number order, coloring pages, and much more. I also turned to this site to create a few of my own worksheets. What is great about this site is that you can personalize lessons based on handwriting style, page orientation, lines/no lines; but mostly I love that you can make a handwriting sheet of which ever words you’d like FOR FREE. Amazing, right?

Color by numbers is great for number recognition, following directions, and even simple reading.

The next thing I did was look at Pinterest for craft ideas. I always like to sprinkle in a few arts and crafts since I’m missing getting those from the girls preschool, and usually Pinterest does not disappoint. From handprint crabs and flamingos to snacks on brand – I was excited for all I had planned.

Flamingo handprints

Lastly, (and I didn’t do this with other lessons), I turned to Amazon. How can one have a luau without a grass skirt?! I bought this cute and inexpensive set for H as well as a set of luau themed stampers that she could make patterns with. Both of these purchases were 100% unnecessary to pulling off the perfect Hawaiian themed week, however they made it fun for her and could be used well beyond the week’s lessons.

Thumbprint pineapple art

Other things we did throughout the week included movie choices such as Moana and Lilo and Stich, learning how to hula amongst other things from one of our new favorite YouTube channels iHula Hawaii, and incorporating foods in our meals such as pineapple, coconut chicken tenders, and BBQ – but skipped the poi and Spam. We finished the week with a virtual lesson from her guest kumu kumu (teacher – her grandmother) who led her in a craft making Kala`au Sticks (think rhythm sticks) using paper towel rolls, and mini “luau” aka dance party.

Palm tree snack – graham crackers, sliced kiwi, mini marshmallows, and blue coconut “water”

While none of this was essential to her learning, it was fun for me to put together as well as fun for her to complete. For one, she has a fondness of Hawaii since she knows I lived there a long time ago; but she also enjoyed having a central theme to her week. In school her teachers have always been fabulous about having themes to their units, and while I don’t adhere to it every week (some weeks are just flash cards, workbooks, and lots of unstructured play), I strive to continue to do so for her. I feel that in creating these special moments, the magic of learning and exploring won’t dissipate for her and that she’ll continue to carry it with her once life goes back to “normal”.


Baked Scallops

During this time of social distancing, we have been routinely stocking our fridge with various frozen meats and fishes. I’ve been trying to only to go to the store every two weeks, so while I take a rough sketch of meal ideas with me, it truly all depends on what is available at that time and then usually defaults to our regular programming of tacos, burgers, and crock pot chicken. However, the other day while shopping I hit the jackpot and scored a bag of frozen scallops. While pricey, I treated my shopping cart to them just to change things up in our dinner plans.

I’ve been saving these for “a special occasion” but Tuesday night seemed good enough, so out of the freezer these babies came. I wasn’t really sure how I was going to cook them. Frozen fish can sometimes be hit or miss, but let me tell you – these nailed scrumptious on the head. A quick Google search of baked scallop recipes landed me on the base of mine (hailing from Dinner Then Dessert; however in an effort to add more flavor and use a few things up that have been lingering in our fridge – the following was born and given the household stamp of approval.

Baked Scallops with Bacon adapted version of
original baked scallop recipe.
TBN version of Baked Scallops with Bacon

Sunshine Dough

I’m an adult, and I still love playing with Play-doh. I mean really. It’s super relaxing, satisfying, and not to be a weirdo but, I love how it smells. Thankfully my daughter loves it too, so I don’t feel so strange being in my 30s and having it around the house. Growing up my mom was amazing at making it from scratch and I always was so impressed that she knew how to do it. I’ve been meaning to attempt this myself for over a year now, but time and life always got the best of me. So now that we are home with nothing but time on our hands, it seemed like a great edition to our “mom school” routine. My daughter LOVES the color yellow, hence the reason I made ours that hue and named it “sunshine dough”, but I envision future recipes with other fun names that correlate in one way or another to their shade and scent.

I’m not going to write a thousand paragraphs here detailing my life story and what not. I mean I get it. If you’re putting the time into writing a blog post, then put the time in. But as a consumer of Internet recipes, sometimes I just want the author to get to the point and tell me what I need to know. So here you go: