Monday, April 29, 2013

Summer School Series

I blame my desire to have "Summer School"  on the fact that I always wanted to be a teacher and never became one.  I have thought about homeschooling, but I don't think that I would be as dedicated with it as I should be. So, I created a summer school program that works for our family.

We are not perfect at doing "Summer School", but it does help us to stay in a routine during the summer so that we are not laying in our PJ's all day, everyday.  There is nothing wrong with that either, we have days like that too!!!!   I want to show a few ideas we have done...  for the next couple of Mondays check out my summer school series.  A lot of ideas have come from homeschool sites, internet and just simply reviewing what they learned from the previous year at school.

One of our favorite things to do each morning, is MORNING MOMENTS.  We read from our Book of Mormon and write what we are grateful for in a book.  We also write an affirmation that we could focus on for the day.  This has really helps us get started for the day.

Each of the girls have a summer school box, inside the box is divided into sections with hanging folders.  We have section for: Morning Moments, Math, Spelling, Writing and Other. This helps keep everything together.  Last year, I create a book that I had bound which is separated into daily activities.  At the end of the book there is a section for me to sign that they have completed that assignment. 

After doing summer school for the past few years I found this worked best for us. Our daily activities list. We also have a spelling assignment each day.  They choose a spelling activity out of our spelling box. You will find them in Summer School Series- Spelling.   

For our writing assignments, we either write in our journal that they received from their school teachers or in the dry erase letters books (from Walmart). 

One year we did reports each week. They would research a topic write 5 interesting facts and then I gave them a 12x12 paper for them to either paste or draw pictures of the topic they researched.  We then presented them to each other on Thursdays at "Park and Picnic Day". 

Last year we decided to memorize the States and Capitals of the United States of America. We took each day of the week and did these activities to help us.

  •  Monday we would learn 7 new States and Capitals and color them on a map
  • Tuesdays we would play computer games about the states and capitals.
  • Wednesday we would play a memory game on the States and Capitals they we had learned.
  • Thursday we would play United State Bingo.
  • Friday we would have a little test to see how many they had remembered.
At the end of the summer my third grader had all 50 States and Capitals memorized and my kindergartener  remembered 41 States and Capitals when she took her test. 

We also have FUN FRIDAY after our tests!  They include:

  • Water Party
  • Park Day
  • Museum Day
  • Cooking Day
  • Balloon Party
  • Feed Ducks and Picnic
  • Movie Day
  • Craft Day
  • Science Experiments
Check out next Monday for our 
Summer School Spelling Activities.

For more ideas check out our pinterest board- Summer School

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Friday, April 26, 2013

What have you been reading lately? It's Book Review time!

Maren: I just finished "The Private Patient" by PD James and I would give it a solid 3 stars. It is a mystery set in the English countryside. A renowned cosmetic surgeon transformed his estate into a clinic for the wealthy elite to get their nose jobs etc in privacy. A high profile journalist with a mysterious background comes to the estate to remove a scar and is, unfortunately for her, murdered the day after the surgery. It's up to the brilliant Detective Adam Dalgliesh to untangle the web of back story to find out who killed her.

This is my first time reading anything by PD James and she came highly recommended. James' writing is impressive. Very tight and efficient. I found the story a little bit cumbersome though, lots of wading through police hum drum and not a lot of clinching,- I must read just one more chapter even though its already 1:30 am- kind of reading. I found the characters somewhat boring. It's nice to have a little comic relief now and then but that's just my taste. I would definitely recommend PD James for her writing abilities but maybe not this book in particular.  

Nancy: The last two books I've read were both children's books that I highly recommend.  The first is "The Granddaughter Necklace" by Sharon Dennis Wyeth.  This is the story that teaches a young girl about the women in her family who came before her, and how this special necklace has been passed down through generations.  My eight-year-old daughter fell in love with the book, and so did I. I give it 5 stars, and I say it is a MUST read for young girls.

The other book I read and recommend is Lilly's Crossing by Patricia Reilly Giff. It's a historical fiction story
with autobiographical touches. Set on the East Coast of the United States during World War II, the reader learns through the experiences Lily and her friend Albert, that the true principles of friendship, family, and love are vital during any era. I recommend this for children between 3rd and 6th grade.It's also a Newberry Honor book.

So now Potluck Pals, what have you been reading lately? Would you recommend them? Let us know!

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Chicken Tacos with Fresh Mango Salsa

I've recently been trying to cook all the quick and healthy recipes I have. This one is at the top of the list!! We have "Taco Tuesday" at our house (once a week, of course) and this is my current favorite under that category.  I love Mexican food, and especially when I can eat as much of it as I want (well, almost :))!

3-4 chicken breasts
1 Tb. olive oil
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
3/4 tsp. cumin
Mango Salsa (easy recipe found HERE)
corn tortilla shells
cotija cheese-- stronger cheese, so you need less as a topping.

Make Mango Salsa and set aside.

Heat olive oil over med-high heat in skillet.  Add chicken. Let sit 3-5 minutes on each side. Cut with spatula to break up the breasts into smaller pieces. Add spices. Cook till no longer pink.

Cut chicken into desired size pieces. Add to Mango Salsa.

Warm up corn tortillas on stove.  Put the chicken and salsa mixture into tortillas. Add cotija cheese. (Add any more desired toppings, but I like it just like this).

 Serve with rice, beans, and limes.


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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Fresh Mango Salsa

This is one of my favorite healthy recipes.  Mangoes are the tastiest fruit in the Universe, and when they are combined in salsa....  It's a party for the taste buds!! Eat this with chips, on tacos... or even alone :).

2 mangoes,diced
1 cucumber, peeled and diced
1/2  red onion, diced
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 red bell pepper, chopped
1/4 minced jalapeno (optional)
Juice from 2 limes
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper

 Combine all ingredients. Let stand 10-15 minutes before serving to let flavors combine.

Serve with chips, chicken, tacos, fish, or eat it with a spoon!


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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Decorating Tips for Renters

Just because you don't own the place where you live doesn't mean that you can't put your stamp of style on it! Sure you may be afraid of putting holes in the walls, but that's what Spackle is for, right? It is true, renting does pose a few challenges. But, don't put off decorating just because you rent. Here are a few tips to make the most of your space:

1. Use Mirrors
Nothing will open up a space and make a room feel larger and brighter than mirrors. This tip is especially great if you are in a basement apartment where light is lacking, or in a small apartment. Get creative, use a tall mirror or one with a decorative frame to add drama and character!

2. Don't ignore your walls
There must be some unwritten law that states that all rentals must be painted beige (you know the color). You can't help but wonder if they started out that color or if they have just gotten dingy over the years. A fun way to spruce up the walls is with fabric. Here are a few inexpensive projects:
-Grab a great fabric print and frame it
- Buy a large canvas board at a craft store, and stretch the fabric over it.
- Find a light-weight fabric, make a mixture of cornstarch and water to make a "glue", and you have      instant wallpaper that can be cleaned up when you leave.
Lastly, hang up art work. And for crying out loud, frame those poster's (nothing screams "dorm room" like thumb tacked posters).

3. Address the Windows
Many apartments have those cheap plastic blinds (if you are lucky they aren't bent). Yes, they provide privacy. But, unfortunately they are not attractive. So, hang up curtains (I know, more holes). Buy 2 table clothes or bed sheets if you are on a budget and use them as drapes. This will give your space some needed color and personality!

4. Add a rug
If your landlord hasn't replaced the carpet in 20 years you are probably stuck with brown, stained and worn out carpet. Have no fear, find a rug! Target, Ross, and Home Goods have great rugs that are inexpensive. Cover up worn carpet, place them in front of a kitchen or bathroom sink or anywhere you need a pop of color.

5. Furniture
When you move in you probably have a hodge-podge of mix and match furniture and hand-me-down furniture from family and friends. Use slipcovers to cover the couches or use sheets and tuck in the corners and fasten with a decorative pin.

For tables, shelves and other solid pieces, liven them up with a coat of paint. Using the same color can unify mismatched pieces.

I understand you don't want to invest a large amount of cash into furniture in fear that it won't work in your next place. But, some pieces of furniture are worth it if you can afford. For example a coffee table or statement piece can be incorporated anywhere. Here is an idea, buy furniture of craigslist or other classifieds, and when you move sale it!

6. Smart Storage
More than likely your rental is short on space and especially storage. Decorative baskets and boxes are great to store items and add a decorative flair! Make your own "built-ins" with inexpensive shelves from Ikea or build your own. Home Depot and Lowe's will cut the wood for you, you just need to nail it together.

7. Lighting
Most rentals have poor lighting. This can be fixed with floor and table lamps. I've said it before, the right lighting is the mood and emotion of a room, so find some great light fixtures that speak to you!

8. Accents
An easy way to bring color in a room is with pillows. Throw a few on the couch and bed and watch the room come alive.

Head over to your greenhouse and pick up some greenery. This is another great way to add color to a room. Find a hanging plant if you are concerned with floor space. A tall plant can soften up corners or hide wires.

Find a statement piece that screams "you" and display it proudly!

Life is too short to not love your space! Use some of these tips and it will be feeling like home in no time!


linking to:
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Easy Living Mom
A Glimpse Inside
Weekend Wrap Up Party
Six Sisters' Stuff
One Artsy Mama
Redfly Creations
The Best Blog Recipes
Mad in Crafts
This Gal Cooks
Cheerios and Lattes


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Monday, April 22, 2013

Positive Thoughts

I was watching Studio 5 (local KSL TV program) last Tuesday and just had to share this clip with you.  I am so passionate about positive thinking and how it makes a difference in our lives. We all have crappy days, but this is about changing the negativity that comes so quickly to our minds.  I know how easy it is to get negative thoughts stuck in our heads.  I know the whirlwind effect it has on my little family and home. My thoughts are the one thing, that no matter what my circumstances are that I have the power to change.  Take a look and feel inspired too!!!!!

The Power of Positive Thoughts
 Happy Thinking!!!
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Friday, April 19, 2013

Friday Forum: Morning Moments

When I was a young mother of two little girls (5 and 2), we struggled with our morning routine.  After breakfast and getting dressed the girls usually watched morning cartoons while I cleaned, check emails, made phone calls, did laundry, etc.  just a normal list of things to do.  One day as I looked at the clock, I realized things needed to change.  It seemed that by the time I got back to the girls my best time was given to things that really didn't matter.  I am not perfect in this department and will be the first one to admit it.  So I decided to come up with ..........

with my girls.  We started out by reading from our Children's version of the Book of Mormon, we would then share five things we were grateful for, and say a morning prayer together.  It really only was a few moments but it helped start our morning the right way.  Yes, they still watched morning cartoons while I did my to do list but the day started out differently!!! 
As the girls have gotten older, we continue this tradition during the summer.  We have a grateful book they write in, we still read from our Book of Mormon and say a little morning prayer.  We have also added in their grateful book a line that they write an affirmation for the day.  These are simple things like I am a kind sister, I am a good bike rider, I am a great artist.  When they feel sad or are having a rough moment (like fighting with each other) I remind them of their affirmation for the day.  It helps them to change their thinking about bad situations.
I am now a mom of an almost two year old and am struggling to get into a good new routine for us.  So I ask the question whether you have children or not.......

What are your morning routines??

Nancy:  I find that when I wake up before my kids and "ground" myself, the day goes so much better (the problem is that doesn't always happen :)). My best case routine is to wake up, read my scriptures, pray, shower, and get ready for the day. Then get my kids up, have a morning prayer and breakfast together.  Jan has me thinking though that I would like to include something more inspirational for my children in the morning like affirmations, planning, or gratitude rituals.

Lauralee:  Unfortunately, the only person in our household that is a morning person is the baby. With that said, our morning are usually chaotic. We could really use a schedule like Jan's! With my husband's work and school schedule never the same on any given day, there are only a few things that are routine in the morning at my house. We always start out with a wake-up call from the baby hollering in his crib. Then you can always count on breakfast. If it is a school day, I give my 9 year old a nice reminder (every two minutes) that we need to get ready. Getting my 9 year old out the door for school is about as fun as giving a cat a bath. I try to make it to the gym every morning, this helps me keep my sanity. Unfortunately, we usually reserve family activities for night.

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Turn Pants into a Skirt

Do you have a pair of pants that just plain looks good on your "hind end", but are too long, too flared, or full of holes? Here's a solution :). 

Making a skirt out of pants is so easy, and works for ANY size.

If you want to repurpose some of the old pants in your home, here are the simple steps:

Measure at least 2 inches longer than the desired length... to hem, and just to be safe.
Make sure to keep the part that's cut off!! You'll need it later.

This part takes the longest. Watch an episode of your favorite tv show while you do this.

Do this for both the front and back.

Now for the sewing:

Of course, repeat these steps for both the front and back.

Trim off excess length. As seen in the picture above, there is an interesting line in the middle. I had to keep that on to make sure the skirt was long enough, but trimmed most of it off at this part.

Hem: fold under 1/4 inch and iron. Then fold under 1/2 inch. Sew as close to the edge all the way around. ** Note: depending on how the pants are made, you may have to adjust this part to whatever works!

Trim off the extra fabric on the inside of skirt.

Press and you're done!

~ Nancy

Linking to:
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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Reupholstering Your Dining Chairs

Finished Product

Furniture shopping can be overwhelming. One must consider many questions while battling a relentless barrage of helpful, smiling salesfolk. Will the new piece match my existing decor? Is it made of used packaging peanuts and will fall apart next year? Should I get this or 29 new shirts instead? Difficult. When we decided that our current dining set was in need of upgrading, we went to the store where my husband shopped while I raced around 12,000 square feet of toddler hiding heaven. Once he found the one pictured above (scratch and dent, good deal) he asked my approval. I nodded, seeing how it had four good legs and chairs and then raced off after the screams of delight that only a good chase can produce. 

When we got them home I found, much to my dismay that these chairs had FABRIC seats. Nooooooo! Why must the furniture fates conspire against me once again? Our last set had fabric seats and were a magnet for every grape drink and over-ripe strawberry in the county. My new set giving me equal if not more distress? This could not be. 

That's why in times of freak-outage, God in his great wisdom gave us friends. Wonderful Jenn said, "You know what? I bet it would be easy to recover those." With her encouragement and support I decided, yes I would take on this challenge because 20 years of dealing with dining anxiety when there are "real" problems in the world, just isn't worth it. 

I checked out a couple videos on YouTube (the one I linked is a good one. I'm not just linking to YouTube) and if you've never recovered anything before you definitely should watch some too. Here are the basic steps they taught me: 

1. Turn your chair upside down and unscrew the screws holding the chair pad to the chair. This part was easy, willing me to believe that the rest would be too. Ha ha ha so naive. 

2. Cut out your fabric so you've got at least four inches or so on the straight sides and six or so on the curvy ones. (If you have curvy chairs like I do) The chairs on the Tube tutorials were all straight sides so that is my excuse for why mine look a little crappy.

3. Staple one side in the middle of your chair pad and use all your hand strength to pull it taut on the opposite side and staple that side in the middle. Proceed to put one staple in each side.

4. Begin stapling the edges leaving a few inches around the corners. Make sure that you pull the fabric as tight as you can so you'll have a nice smooth surface on the other front side.

5. Once you're done with the sides you've got your malicious corners to deal with. I found this was kind of like wrapping a present. You want to get as many wrinkles out by smoothing the sides and getting them to fold on the bottom side of the pad. Use approximately 93 staples on each corner until every fold is nailed down. 

6. Trim the excess from the pad and flip it over to reveal you're beautiful handiwork. Screw it back into your chair and you're done. It just took a bruised staple hand, a few curses and some time but you did it! Now I can rest assured that all little wobbly hands are welcome at my table.  

I think the biggest thing I learned out of this project is that you can do anything. Really. What looks so hard and impossible can be achieved once you take the time to learn, break it down to easy steps and shove all your negative voices out the door. 

Have fun!

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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

10 Design Mistakes...Are You Guilty?

I am sure at some point we have all been guilty of at least one of these (I know I have). But, with a little guidance you can turn that design blunder into a design success.

So let's get started:

Stop, before you buy that piece of furniture or pick up that can of paint, make sure you know exactly what you are going to do with it. Have you ever purchased a piece of furniture or piece of artwork because you had to have it only to get home and find that it doesn't fit or you have no where to put it? You are not alone.

Start by knowing the rooms dimensions and layout. Better yet, draw out a floor plan and rearrange the furniture on it. (BHG has a free arranging program here).This way you know the dimensions of the furniture when you go to the store and can avoid pieces that just don't work!

I like to call this next mistake the ring around the wall effect. For some reason we feel that we need to place furniture all around the perimeters of the room. But, if you pull the furniture away from the wall it will give it a more put together look and add more visual interest.

                                                                                                                  photo credit
The floating area rug is a common mistake. A rug should always be connected to the furniture in someway. Ideally, all front feet of the furniture should be touching the rug. Also, avoid using rugs that are too small for the space. Use masking tape and create an outline before purchasing or placing the rug.


I think many of us have that room that is a guest room/playroom/study. While, I don't think it is wrong to have a room with multiple purposes. It is important to make sure that it is organized and doesn't feel cluttered. (Check out our tips on organization here). So, hide that computer in a great armoir and put the extra toys in the closet.

We have all walked into a big retailers showroom and seen the set-ups displayed. All of the furniture is from the same matching set. This makes for an easy sale because you don't have to hunt for coordinating pieces. To be honest, it is a bit boring. Any designer will tell you to mix it up. It adds interest and looks more professional.

You shouldn't have to bend your neck either up or down to look at your artwork. As a general
rule of thumb, the center of a piece of art should be at eye level. If you are wondering "who's" eye level, figure hanging it for the average person that is about 5'6".

Lighting is the emotion of a room and is responsible for creating the mood. Task lighting and canned lighting is great for kitchens, but too many can lights in a bedroom kills the mood and makes your ceiling look like Swiss cheese. Using lamps creates a mood in any room. Use soft lighting in bedrooms and other intimate areas, and brighter lights for working spaces such as bathrooms and kitchens.


Have you bought a piece of furniture because it was on sale or you inherited your in-laws old television stand, and you don't love it? GET RID OF IT! Sale it on craigslist or donate and get something that you love!

Proper window treatments are the jewelry to an outfit and the frame to a picture. As a general rule of thumb when hanging window panels: they should always reach the bottom of the floor, hang them to the top of the ceiling or at least several inches above the top of the window.

While everyone wishes they were in a tropical paradise, save it for a vacation and not for your home decor. If you just love the tropics, the woods, cats or whatever use them sparingly as accents and not as a mecca.



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Monday, April 15, 2013

Paper, Paper, Paper

I have always loved making paper crafts! So several years ago, 
I decided it was time I did some organizing of my paper and supplies. 
Here is what works for me!

Card Stock Filing System
I bought organizing folders and made a folder for each color.  I stayed with the basic colors and categorized all colors together. Example: Orange: Orange, Peach, Flesh color, etc would all be grouped in one.  It is also great when there is a sale on paper you can easily look at your colors and see which one you are low on.

Scrapbook Paper Filing System
I bought sheet protectors and put the paper inside a 3 ring binder. It is easy to store on a shelf.  It is so easy to quickly look the book and see what paper I have for a project.  I have not gotten there yet, but you could also put them in themes or colors and put tabs on the side to be more organized.

Die-cuts, stickers and Paper Embellishments Filing System
This is the same concept as organizing card stock.  I made categories for my die-cuts, stickers and paper embellishments.  In the example this is my numbers and letters folder.  I have several different categories including holidays, baby, frames, sports etc.

Scrap Paper Filing System
I am one of those crazy ladies who tries to use all of her scraps.  I use the same system as the card stock.  I do have a folder at the back which is  TO FILE!!!  Sometimes I am really good at organizing as I go and sometimes it just takes me a while to put my scraps in order but I am trying!!!!  I put pattern paper and card stock in the same color.  It just works for me!!!!

What organizing system works for you?
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