So much, so little time…

I am that person who takes on way too much, freaks out because I am so busy and then tries to put 100% into everything because of course it must be just so.

Do you ever struggle with keeping it all together?  I am a mom, a wife, a manager and an employee.  Active member of the school PTO, friend, chauffeur – oh gosh where does the list end.  Cook, meal planner, shopper, helper…

A few things I use to help me keep it all together are my old fashioned Levenger Circa calendar and day planner and my new favorite app Any List.

Levenger is genius with their Circa products, my one MAJOR complaint about them is that they closed their store at the Pru in Boston.  How could they.  Any way.  Their planner is fabulous and so functional and I have a pretty purple leather cover for it.  I carry it with me everywhere to help manage and plan my life and my daughter’s.  It has great “apps” like mom and dad planning, meal planning, contacts, birthdays…  So much, and the pages are removable and replaceable.  LOVE!

Any List – FAVORITE new app on my phone.  I put our grocery list into this app and then share it with my husband, he can add to the list or go to the store, grab something off of the list and mark it purchased.  I also use the app to help with my auction planning for the school PTO.  As I drive by businesses I would like to ask for a donation from I add them to my list.

At work I use the old fashion email calendar 😉 but I find it very helpful to write everything down somewhere or else it is gone – forever…

How do you manage and keep track?  What tools do you use?

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Organizing Tub Toys

Like most organizational and cooking dilemmas in my life, I look to Pinterest for ideas.  Organizing the billion tub guys we have was just one of them.  I had the net bags you get at Babies R Us or the fabric corner basket and well it started to feel like the toys were closing in on me in the shower.  Trying to shave my legs became a game of Twister and some how I never won.  Looking out at Pinterest there are many ideas.  I gathered a few pins and headed to my favorite organization store – The Container Store.

I found these great plastic baskets (like what I used when I was in college for showering.)  They have holes in the bottom so no water gets trapped in them and I also found great big suction cup hooks.  I bought three bins and six hooks and used the back wall of my shower.  Here is what is looks like:

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Unfortunately we have way too many toys so there are times when they come crashing down in the tub.  However, I wanted to share because it has certainly made showers and baths much easier and I no longer have to play Twister to shave my legs.  Here is a link to the products I used:

Baskets:  http://www.containerstore.com/s/bath/shower-bathtub/pink-grid-totes/12d?productId=10010626

Hooks:  http://www.containerstore.com/s/bath/racks-hooks/power-lock-hooks/12d?productId=10012592&green=910F8F4C-7323-5B2B-A840-6A89D80D9DC6

Let me know what you think and share some of your ideas on tub toy storage.

PopUp Play Castle

Maybe a month before Christmas I was doing my usual Facebook scrolling while watching TV.  I kept seeing this ad on there for PupUp Play design your own castle.  I got sucked right in and downloaded the app on my iPad.  I quickly began designing a one of a kind color your own castle for my daughter.  I designed a few different versions and then showed my husband.  He thought it was a really cool idea as well so we ordered one for her for her birthday.  Of course, the minute I ordered it I saw on their website that you can actually customize the name of the castle.  Obviously our castle needed to say Juliana’s Castle.  A princess must have her name on her castle.  Oh no, what will I do.  I searched online and contacted the company.  It may have even been a weekend when this all took place.  A gentlemen responded very quickly.  Cancelled my original order, walked me through how to find it in the app again, make the changes and then reorder.  I was so impressed with this company.

Here is a link to their website so you can design your own castle:  PopUp Play

Our custom designed castle cost around $110 and delivered within a week from ordering.  The night before my daughter’s birthday we built the castle so she could wake up to it.  Inside we had a few more wrapped boxes which included a new Cinderella dress and crown from Disney World and some Cinderella shoes.  Here are some pictures of the castle once we put it together.

She was so excited when she saw it.  She immediately went inside it to open the other gifts and to play.

The best thing about this castle is that it is very easy to put together and take apart and it stores flat.  We actually saved the box it came in and we store it in there when not being used.  At her birthday party we did a princess theme and left the castle set-up.  Her and her friends had so much fun coloring it and playing in it.

We are very pleased with this castle and hope it brings many years of enjoyment to our princess.

Gluten Free – Celiac Friendly Birthday Cake

Year after year I have worked hard on making sure my daughter’s birthday cake matches the theme of her party and over the years I have had some amazing cakes but all of that was before she was diagnosed with Celiac.  And I just have to say, that I worked for many years with Paula the owner of Icing on the Cake in Newton, MA.  She is amazing and does amazing work.  I feel so terrible that we can no longer get her cakes but they are not gluten free.

So my search started and one of my co-workers told me about Gerardo’s in Westborough, MA.  They offer some gluten free treats.  I went at lunch one day to take a look and get some samples and they were delicious.  A few weeks before my daughter’s birthday party I called and ordered her cake (they don’t actually need this much time but my daughter’s birthday is New Years Eve so I like to plan a bit ahead of time).  I ordered a chocolate cake with Italian cream frosting and chocolate mousse filling.  I wanted a princess theme, I had to supply the decorations and told them I wanted pink and purple.

Here is what they designed:

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It was absolutely beautiful and one of the best tasting cakes I have had.  And the best part (at least to my husband) was it only cost $75.00.  I usually order these very elaborate and bigger cakes and they can cost up to $200.  I thought this was great.  Juliana had a beautiful and delicious cake and it was safe for her to eat.  Everyone else enjoyed it too.  In our house everyone is gluten free for Juliana.

Here is a link to their website:  http://gerardoseuropeanbakery.com

Allergy Friendly Valentines

I have had a lot of fun looking for allergy friendly holiday ideas and of course I typically end up scouring Pinterest for ideas and then some how making them my own.  Valentine’s Day is no different.  This year is Juliana’s first year in her new school and I wanted to come up with an idea that is not just the standard store bought cards I normally do and I wanted to attach a small gift but because of her Celiac, I did not want it to be candy or food.  I went with the very popular (or so it seems on Pinterest) crayon hearts.

I am not the person who could sit and break everyone of Juliana’s crayons and she is actually very good with her crayons and we don’t have a bunch of broken ones.   So I took the “easy” way out and found unwrapped crayons on Amazon.com (my go to site for almost everything).

Unwrapped crayons:  http://www.amazon.com/Premium-Crayons-colors-WRAPPER-COMPLIANT/dp/B0186H7KFG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1454965214&sr=8-1&keywords=unwrapped+crayons

Juliana, Chris and I broke up all of the crayons into a bowl and mixed them up.  I also bought the heart shaped pan on Amazon.com but did see them at the local party store (I am a sucker for at home shopping with free two day shipping).

Heart shaped pan:  http://www.amazon.com/Wilton-Petite-Silicone-Cavity-Heart/dp/B000M9N7CM/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1454965328&sr=8-3&keywords=heart+shaped+pan

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I then put the heart shaped pan on a regular (foil lined) cookie sheet, set the oven at 300 degrees and filled the hearts so they were heaping in the middle.  The first batch I made I found that I didn’t put enough crayons in the heart mold and they came out sort of thin.

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Now the Pin I saw said to pre-heat the oven at 250 degrees and let them melt for 10-15 mins.  I found that 300 degrees worked better and honestly, I let them stay in the oven until they were all melted.

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Then once they cooled off on the stove top, you put them into the freezer for 15 mins to set them.  Then I popped them out of the molds.  Today we had a snow day so Juliana and I assembled the Valentine’s and here is what the finished product looks like:

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I got candy bags at the local party store and was able to put two hearts in each bag.

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I designed these cards in Pixelmator and sent then to Staples online for printing.  Here is a copy of the file if you are interested in using it:  Juliana Valentines to Print

Then finally some curly ribbon to make them look pretty.  I also love how Juliana signed her name.  This is a nice non-food Valentine that she helped make and put together for her friends.

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Wishing you all a very Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

Gluten Free Hot Cereal

Since my daughter’s diagnosis of Celiac in May, I am always looking for new gluten free products to try and add to our menu.  I am especially looking for more fiber in our diet.  Anyone who has suddenly gone gluten free can understand why.

While shopping at Whole Foods, I found this Bob’s Red Mill 8 Grain Gluten Free hot cereal.  I made it for the first time this Saturday morning and Juliana asked for it again on Sunday morning.

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To make it more fun for my 5 year old, I put a bunch of add in options on the counter which included maple syrup, brown sugar, craisins and walnuts.  I will definitely be on the look out for other add in options.  It was fun making your cereal together and my husband even enjoyed it.  He said it had been a really long time since he had a nice hot cereal for breakfast (and he enjoyed my add in as well).

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A good suggestion if you are looking for a tasty gluten free hot cereal.  Enjoy!

American Girl Bunny Brunch

This Christmas I used the American Girl personal shopper which comes as a courtesy to guests by appointment.  It was a great experience and since then I have gotten more information and emails on upcoming events at the store (which is very close to our home).  I received an email regarding a Bunny Brunch at the Natick, MA store.  My daughter just loves going there and I figured what the heck, a good way to spend some girly time with her and for $20 a person it wasn’t too much money.

This morning was the Bunny Brunch.  Doors opened 15 minutes before the start of the breakfast.  The staff in the store was excited to see everyone and very welcoming (as they usually are).  We were promptly seated in a reserved table.  As is usual each doll was given a high chair to use and as we began to order they were brought a cup and saucer which you can take home.  We had three Bitty Babies with us and they each got to take home their cups and saucers (perfect for a tea party down the road).  The napkins are tied in pretty ribbons which double as hair ties and can also be taken home.  Each girl was given a gift bag which included a copy of American Girl magazine and some hair clips.  There was a special menu which included a beverage (juice, coffee, milk or hot cocoa), your choice of breakfast with items like scrambled eggs, eggs florentine, pancakes and french toast and once you were done eating they brought out chocolate mousse and bunny cookies.  All for $20, I was really impressed. Their food is always good and I was really impressed with how much you got – my daughter and I had the scrambled eggs which came with two slices of bacon, rosemary flavor hash browns and wheat toast cut in the shape of hearts. I almost forgot one of the best parts of breakfast too, they started with mini cinnamon buns which were warm and gooey and good.

The mall Easter bunny came by each table for a visit and a picture and you were given a coupon for a free 5×7 photo with the Easter bunny for a special American Girl only time to see him.  It was not open to regular mall guests, only for those attending the brunch.  Of course we ended up doing some shopping in the American Girl store which I am sure is what they are hoping but there is no pressure to buy anything.

I highly recommend the Bunny Brunch and would consider making it an annual tradition.  Thank you American Girl for these special events that are so special to our little girls!

Centerpieces with names for reservation
Centerpieces with names for reservation
Cups, saucers and highchairs
Cups, saucers and highchairs
Even Bitty Baby got a picture with the Easter bunny
Even Bitty Baby got a picture with the Easter bunny
A very happy and excited little girl!
A very happy and excited little girl!