DIY Painted Tote Bag {and giveaway}

This tote bag is the perfect project for an afternoon.  I can say that in all honesty, because I did it with two great gals.  And some wine.  And a little help of Disney and chicken nuggets to help the kiddos over the hump so we could finish everything!

If crafting (or cutting vinyl) isn't your thing, have no fear - these adorable totes can still be yours!  I have a few styles listed on my Etsy shop, with more coming soon!  Oh!  And there's a giveaway at the end of this post! Lots of fun here today!

Okay!  One with the tutorial!

Gather up some supplies:
  • Canvas bag of your choosing.  If you're handy enough to sew one, be my guest.  I am not THAT crafty, so I bought mine at JoAnn Fabrics.
  • Fabric or multi-purpose acrylic paint - make sure that it says it can be used on fabric without a textile medium (or you'll need that too!)
  • Foam brushes and paint pallet (aka paper plate)
  • Vinyl cut with your choice of pattern.  I have a Cricut, so this was easy for me.  You could also design with scissors and painters tape.  Or even a store-bought stencil, just tape down securely so paint doesn't leak beneath it.
  • Glass of wine (kidding, but not really)

Using a foam brush and a little bit of paint, start dabbing in whatever pattern, random or otherwise you'd like. 

I went for random, starting with a few colors here and there, and moving on to the next, going back at the end to fill in the gaps, trying to not have colors touch, but that was my style.  

Wait about 20 minutes in-between coats;  I used two coats of the solid colors and three for the glitter. Once you're satisfied with coverage, let your paint dry at least an hour before peeling off your vinyl.  Take care and wait if there are an big, not-quite dry globs that might gather on the vinyl, you don't want that to smear on your bag when you're peeling it off!

 When you're done, you'll have a super darling bag that will be great for so many things!

Oh, and I made one in "hearts" too!

So now here's the giveaway I promised!  One tote of your choice to the winner!  Contest ends on Thursday, April 30 12 AM CST.  Good luck!  And remember, dry those tears if you don't win - I may have a super sweet deal announced when I announce the winner so you can still get your bag - or six!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Let's Ride Bikes

Learning to ride a bike is a milestone that each person comes across in their own time.  It's not a measurable metric, like first steps, or even being able to print you own name.

Last summer, Nate took off the training wheels on Liv's bike and we had little success.  Actually, to say little is to say we had some.  The fact was we had none.  For whatever reason, she had this fear of falling.  There'd been no giant fall or big wipeout that left her bloody and scabbed all season.  She just didn't want to.

This spring, the training wheels stayed off.  Mostly because we couldn't find them again, but that's besides the point.  Liv wanted to give it a try.  Kids in her class were riding without them.  Her best friend down the street could, so why not her?  

Nate and I took turns running up and down the street trying to hold her bike and not tip over (her or ourselves!  It's quite awkward to run behind a kid's bike and hold it steady!)

She wanted to quit.  Repeatedly.  I will be honest, it was very frustrating.  I didn't want my child to quit just because it was hard.  I have my adult sensibilities and I know that things are supposed to be hard.  Who said life was easy?  Of course, this is a ridiculous concept to expect your six-year old to grasp.  My reasonable self knows this.  My crazy-want-my-kid-to-succeed-and-not-quit self had a harder time with it.

I even "Googled" How To Teach Your Kid to Ride a Bike.

How dumb, like Google is going to have the answer.  It's like trying to look up "how to teach your kid to suck through a straw" or "how to whistle."  And in saying that, I realize the irony, but I'm not trying to teach you how to teach your kid.  I'm trying to teach you how to react.

I yelled.  Or I scolded.  I got frustrated when she got frustrated.  None of these were the right reactions, of course, but they just bubbled up and I couldn't stop them.  I tried bribing her.  I tried reverse psychology.  None of it worked.  It reminded me of Avery's battle with the poo (another story for another day.)  I couldn't do it for her - Liv had to figure it out on her own.  

Thankfully I have a calmer husband.  I'm sure Liv is even more grateful for a calm father.

I went and got a pedicure and came home to this.  

She got there.  Olivia can ride a bike, without training wheels.  Even after this day, the next time she tried, she still needed to talk herself into it, but she always did it.  The push-off, to take off on two wheels and trust that her body could keep her safe.  

It was a huge lightning bolt for me.  I couldn't do this for her.  Add this to the list of a million and seven things I won't be able to do for her.  I will want to - I'm her mom.  That's part of the gig.  Baby comes out, DNA says "You take care of this little being, even if they're not so little anymore."  But even if I wanted to make it easy for her, this wasn't something I could help her cheat her way through.  She did it all on her own.  And I was so proud and excited for her.

Oh, I do have one tiny bit of advice, that was actually given to us from a neighbor kid.  Once you let go for the first time, don't tell the kid you've done that.  They'll panic and fall.  Turns out she was right - or at least seemed to be because the first time I let go and Liv rode on,  I ran half a block cheer and shouting without any noise.  It's actually more exciting that screaming for real.



I just love to binge watch, and make no apologies.  I am re-watching Orange is the New Black to "refresh" myself for the season three premiere in June.  When that's done, I plan to start Bloodline, another Netflix original.  Anyone watched that yet??

I finished The Secret Keeper (which was really good); and then I finished What Alice Forgot which was also pretty good.  They were both stories told through different story-tellers across many years, which I love.  "Alice" didn't have a great twist or surprise ending, but it was tied up neatly, so I was grateful that I wasn't left hanging.  This reminds me I need to update my Book List for 2015.

{listening to}
Amazon Prime music.  We paid for it - might as well use it instead of Pandora and those stupid ads!

A list of things to blog.  Some are funny things, some are crafty things, and some are food things.  I like to eat, so spoiler alert on what you'll see the most of!

A little deflated.  Work, home and the kids have all been challenging lately and I'm looking for inspiration.  I'm trying to fall in love with the little things that I used to - like reading, cooking and crafting.  Instead, they're feeling more like a chore, which is the exact opposite of what I'm hoping for.  I just having found the right thing, I guess.

To brave five days with Nate in Amsterdam.  I know the girls are going to miss him, and that can either make them really cuddly and sweet, or evil and wild.  Fingers crossed for the first option.

Well, it's a really a love/hate feeling.  Last week, weather here was gorgeous.  Mid-70s; flip flops, pink cheeks from the sun.  Now it's maybe 40 degrees, cloudy and awful.  The metrologist is all happy when they say "no accumulating snow," which means that there will be snow, just none that sticks.  What a joy.

Linking up with Ot & El and Kale + Bean


So What Wednesday

To mark my come-back to blogging, and even though Shannon doesn't do this link up anymore, it was always a fan favorite (and one of mine too!)

Right now, I'm saying So What...
  • I have been tempted to put on my workout clothes before bed so I have one less obstacle in my way of getting to workout.  Yes - sometimes I use dressing myself as an excuse.
  • I also miss the days where I would drop Liv off at preschool and just come home, and fail to put on a bra.  One of the small perks of being less than endowed in that area.
  • Now that I'm on the hunt for blogging inspiration, I am finding that my activities and menu planning are starting to revolve around what I can blog.
  • Every time I ask (scold) the girls "Can you stop making noise just to make noise," I hear a little voice saying "I think you already know the answer to that question."  Thanks for that, Husband.
  • I used "getting a pedicure with me" as a bribe to get Liv to ride her bike without training wheels for a very selfish reason: because I needed to have one done.
  • After being snuggled and pawed and climbed all over all day, I need a tactile break from it all! Nate sure does get the short end of the stick in that department. Sorry, Lover!
  • We have two gallon-sized Ziploc bags full of Easter candy still.  I keep threatening to throw them out, but then where would I get my evening sugar rush?
  • I have a love/hate relationship with the older children of 19 Kids and Counting.  They're all getting married and having babies, and I can't look away.  I just have to know what's going to happen to them all!
  • I remain cautiously optimistic that this snowy-spring-rainy crap will not completely crush my spirits.


(the best) Fresh Pico de Gallo

Summer is coming.  Margaritas will be soured.  Beers will be put on ice.  Chips and salsa are only logical.  I give you the best.

Nate and I started making this salsa when we first started to frequent Famers' Markets in the summer.  Really, it's technically pico de gallo because it's not cooked and it's chunkier than a salsa, which has a smoother texture.

It's a recipe that fits all of my criteria:  it must take little time, effort and money for the ingredients.  Plus it's pretty much all healthy stuff, so ignore the deep-fried chips you eat it with, and the cocktail(s) on the side, and it's practically a health food.

I know there are many versions, but here's my go-to that's never failed me.  

This size gives me about 4 cups worth of salsa - plenty for 4-6 adults to munch in one sitting (or maybe two people over the course of a long afternoon.  Don't judge.)  I wish I was the kind of chef that was more precise in her measurements, but that just ain't me.  And you love me for it.
  • 5-6 roma tomatoes (or other seasonably wonderful tomatoes), chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • large bunch of cilantro, chopped (I'm talking a fistful here)
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced
  • salt to taste (usually about 1-2 tsp)
  • optional jalepeno - 1/2 or whole, with or without seeds - this is where the heat comes from - if you like spice, throw it in; not so much, leave it out entirely and it's still delicious
I'm not culinary instructor, but I'm pretty sure you can figure out the rest, but I've taken some pretty pictures, so why don't we look at them.

I like a "dryer" pico texture, so I always remove the seeks to my tomatoes, but this is a matter of taste.  I'm just not a fan of slime.

I dice my tomatoes, onions and jalpeno (when I use it) in my Vidalia Chop Wizard.  It is one of the best kitchen gadgets around, right up there with a cookie scoop and pizza cutter.  Certainly you can get by without one, but after you've tried it, there's no going back!  Nor should there be!

Chop your onion...

...and chop fresh cilantro.  You can't beat the bright flavor that this brings!

Zest and juice one lime.  If you don't have fresh lime, the little squeeze-bottle will work, but definitely add lime flavor, and subsequent acid is contains, somewhere!

And then the garlic and jalapeƱo.  I would advise using a garlic press or microplane for the garlic.  You're looking for a bright, summery snack, not a way to kill off Dracula.

See how pretty it all is before you mix it all together!?!

I (try to) let mine chill for a bit before serving.  I will fully admit this isn't always possible, in part because I'm hungry and/or lazy, and I have waited until the last minute to make it before friends arrive.

I have yet to have any complainers!



boredom busters

Only the boring are bored.  Or does that only apply to adults.  Kids get bored all the time!

I created this project awhile back, mostly because the kids were driving me batty asking every 10 minutes, "What can I do, what can I do??"

A simple solution that has had some staying power.  I used a tin bucket from Target's dollar section, some washi tape that I had on hand, and fat popsicle sticks from some other random project at some point.

A little Pinterest research and I compiled my list of activities that I knew they could do.  Customize for your kids - for example, I did not include "practice instrument" because they don't have one yet.  I added in extra "chores" because for some reason my kids love to clean.  Not clean up after themselves, mind you, but clean.  They certainly didn't get that from me.

Very easy and if it turned out to be a total fail, I was out the buck on the tin bucket that could easily double as a sandbox toy.  No harm, no foul.

But to my delight, it worked!

Granted, Avery still thinks that if she wants to "do something" she needs to weed through the sticks to find the one that reads her choice.  I try to explain - the sticks are for if you don't know what you want to do, not if you do!  But the search-and-recover task just keeps her busy for that much longer, so I don't worry too much!

Not every stick works every time - if it's raining, outside stuff is obviously off the table.  So redraw, no biggie.  It's not a hard and fast rule, just suggestions - so I don't have to keep thinking of things!

To help get you started, here's the list I used:
  • draw
  • coloring books
  • journal
  • write a letter
  • do a workbook
  • play dress-up
  • play house
  • play outside
  • chalkboard wall (cleaning is very easy with this trick)
  • 20-minutes of iPhone
  • chore, your choice
  • chore, mom's choice
  • play rice (with this colored rice)
  • dance party
  • puppet show
  • play dough
  • play hair salon
  • make a snack
  • yoga
  • clean your room
  • spelling words
  • Legos
  • Rainbow Loom
  • play tea party
  • ride bikes
Hopefully this will get your creative juices flowing and aid in the fight against bored kids!


Dear {blank}, please {blank}; part two

All those things you wanted to say, but then you bit your tongue and just didn't...  Until now...

First installment {here}

Dear Facebook,
Please stop with the friend recommendations.  I am already "Facebook friends" with people I went to high school that I wouldn't recognize if I passed them in Target.  Just because a person and I share one mutual connection, a blossoming relationship will most likely not happen.

Dear Women in Hoop Earrings at the Gym,
Please take better care of your appendages.  Aren't you worried you're going to tear something?  I'm cringing just watching those things bob and smack the sides of your jaw.

Dear Essential-Oil Lovers,
Please don't judge me.  I am perfectly happy popping a few Advil for my aches and pains.  I don't want to roll, sniff or otherwise anoint myself.  When did we become such haters of good ole fashioned modern medicine anyway?

Dear Darling Daughters' Laundry Pile,
Please stop growing so quickly.  I swear, we do your laundry three times a week and can't keep up.  Are you wearing four outfits a day without me looking?  How does this happen.  Plus, your clothing is so much smaller than mine.  A "normal" sized basket is never-ending to fold and put away!

Dear Spring Weather,
Please don't take long to come around, and stick around.  Avery looked so longingly out the window and sighed, "I wish I could just go ride my bike.  But I know I can't."  And then did that 17 more times.  I'll trade the cabin fever for dirty feet, skinned knees and bug bites any day.

Dear Amazon Echo, aka Alexa,
Please don't take until June to arrive.  Please let this be Amazon setting the bar really, really low only to arrive early, delivering maximum customer satisfaction.  Curious what Alexa is - check it out {here}  It's basically Siri for your house.  And she's come to our home SOON (or in like two months, but whatever!)

Dear TV Meteorologists,
Please tell us - how much is your "coat and jacket budget."  We're in Minnesota, so granted, it's necessary for those "outdoor" forecast shoots in the spring, winter and fall, but I swear - these people hardly duplicate a look!  How many jackets does a person need!?

Dear Game of Thrones, Season Five,
Please don't disappoint.  I am excited to have you back and really don't want you to suck.


one moment.

A single photo  - capturing a moment from the week. (and because it's been awhile, I'm being a little "loose" with that stipulation!) A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.  {inspired by Soule Mama}

a beautiful sight for beautiful girls.



I am flawed, as we all are.

I look at those women on Instagram with their beautiful, calligraphy Psalms, highlighted and color-coded Bible pages and inspirations quotes and think:  Why can't I be happy like that?  They seem very calm, and content, and happy - what am I missing?

I have struggled with my faith, as I'm sure even the most "faithful" do on a regular basis.  I mean, isn't the the cornerstone of faith - test it constantly to make sure it is strong and supportive.  Why else would you kick the tires every time you pump gas?

Easter Week just happened - the holiest of Holy weeks.  Bigger deal for Christians that Christmas, even thought Christmas does steal the commercial-show every year, doesn't it?

I am trying very hard to be inspired.

To feel that sense of calm and warm and joy that I see all these other strangers in "Social Media Land" have, and just can't find it.

Then I thought, maybe I'm forcing it too hard?  A watched pot never boils (even though that is the dumbest expression because provided you're not watching a pot with the stove turned off, of course, it will eventually bubble.)

I try to be patient.  Pray quietly, and fear that I am not heard - or worse yet, I am heard, and ignored.

I fear that I have done wrong, and have fallen from favor.  And then I remind myself, I don't really believe that happens, so that can't be it.

I am afraid that I am too selfish or greedy - you get what you get, don't throw a fit.

The hard fact may be that I'm not looking in the right place.  Wrong church, wrong reading, wrong day, wrong mindset, who knows?

This is a very disappointing post - I don't have a neat little package to wrap up my tale of search.  No silver lining, and now I feel light and bright and beautiful.  Just a little lost in the dark still.  But I haven't given up all hope just yet.


2015 Book List

So if you remember, last year I made myself some small promises.  I did a good decent mildly successful job at keeping to them for the year the-first-half-of-the-year a couple months, on and off, and with no actual consistency.

Among the list, one of my goals was to read more.  I did a fair job, and even had a list going for awhile to help me keep track - but of course, that was only a mildly successful tool, used with no actual consistency.

But that doesn't mean I can't try again!

And being that it's already April, I'll include those books that I've read for 2015

50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James
You don't need my commentary on this one.  My friend summed this one up perfectly - it's a terrible book, but a really good read.

50 Shades Darker by E.L. James
I did not finish this.  The first book was hot.  The second time around was like, we get it - he's hot, you can have multiple orgasms, stop showing off already.

Plan B by Jonathan Tropper
Male author better at relating to dude than women, but I like This is Where I Leave You, so I gave it a shot.  Don't spend any money on it - Library-only please

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
A great story of an older, childless coupon in Alaska.  The description made it sound like it was going to be more like a fairy-tale, but I liked that the story ended up being more realistic, and less "magic."

The Girl on The Train by Paula Hawkins
My sister and I picked to read this "together" on vacation, but being that she is a super-demon-speed-reader, I had no chance of keeping up.  Amazon reviewers compared it to Gone Girl, and while it was a good read with twists and thrills, it does not have Gillian Flynn's f-ed up nature.  P.S.  I need her to publish another book ASAP.

Wreckage by Emily Bleeker
About a plane crash survivors.  Probably not the best read while I'm on vacation and need to fly over open water, but a good story.  Great for the beach this summer.

The One That Got Away by Simon Wood
A thriller about a serial killer and the girl who escaped.  I kept picturing the female protagonist as Ashley Judd.  Take that for what you will.  This author has tons of books, so I'm keeping those on my short list for this summer.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
I was very skeptical about this book based on the synopsis, but my sister recommended it, so I gave it a try.  It does one of my favorite things that books do - go between story-tellers to give different perspectives.  Highly recommend this one!

The Andy Cohen Diaries:  A Deep Look at a Shallow Year by Andy Cohen
I confess, I gave up on this one.  I think Andy Cohen is hilarious and had such high hopes for juicy gossip, and it just wasn't there for me.  Back to the library it went.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Another great read, however it's not a short book.  Multiple story-tellers that bounce back and forth during the span of about 10 years during World War II.  Not at all a "war story" but gripping all the same.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
The author of The Husband's Secret (which was super awesome if you haven't read it yet!)  I'm only halfway through, but it's another good story that doesn't seem soft or predictable.  Reading this instead of my Book Club book right now - oops.  I'm really there for the wine and girl talk, let's be honest!

On the list (and these have either come as recommendations from friends or Amazon, based on other books I've read!)

  • Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng
  • Reconstructing Amelia, by Kimberly McCreight
  • A Slant of Light, by Jeffrey Lent
  • One Thousand White Women, Jim Fergus
  • Yes Please, by Amy Pohler
  • Not That Kind of a Girl, by Lena Dunham
  • A Spool of Blue Thread, by Anne Tyler
  • The Boston Girl, by Anita Diamant
  • Wild, by Cheryl Strayed
  • Three Daughters, by Consuelo Saah Baehr 
  • The Kitchen House, by Kathleen Grissom
  • An Absent Mind, by Eric Rill
  • When You Were Older, by Catherine Ryan Hyde


Hey Stranger

Well my oh my, where have you been?

Oh wait.  It's me that's been missing.  And I don't even have a good excuse.  No huge roadblock in my life that prevented me from writing except for LIFE.  I hit a wall - I couldn't keep complaining about Avery's tantrums, or lack of pooping (which took a very long time to work itself out so to speak) or Liv's drama; and the good stuff too - look how cute my kids are, they're growing up so fast...

So I stopped.

It has been an embarrassing YEAR-LONG absence, and I'm sorry.  I hope you'll forgive me, and jump back into this world with me.

So why am I back, you ask?

I have come to realize that I missed this outlet.  The place to be honest with perfect strangers (and some pretty good friends too!), and sure, some may leave a snarky comment or two, but they are no worse than the nagging, judgmental voice in my head. Plus, more often that not, I get good, encouraging feedback, and that feels good.

What have I been up to, you ask?  Just consider this my Christmas Card letter, except for it's not Christmas, and I'm not spending a dime on postage.

{dear darling bloggy friends}

Over the summer, I was promoted to Marketing Director, which was awesome.  I still get to work part-time and pretend to be super-mom half of the week.  Most days I can drop Liv off for 1st grade, and get Avery off to preschool.  I'm always home when Liv gets off the bus, and I like knowing that I can be there.

I started running (again), and it just so happen to be around the first of the year, but it wasn't for a New Years Resolution - it was for our awesome trip to Turks & Caicos (more to come on that trip another day!)  My shin splints are terrible, so I need to switch it up more often than I do, but then I wouldn't have the excuse to have Nate rub my feet and legs every night.

I have remained close with my mommy-parners in crime.  Summer is just around the corning and I'm so looking forward to playdates at the pool!  My tan is fading more than I'd like, and I need the vitamin D.

I still love Pino Grigio, though my newest go-to beverage is vodka and diet tonic with lots of lime.

I am still caring, honest and kind.  For the most part - I'm still allowed a few (dozen) crazy days.


Seeing how my last post was a "currently" installment, I suppose I'll just bookend it and get everyone back up to speed on the "important stuff"

The usual suspects like Survivor and Mad Men, but have also added The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and House of Cards on Netflix while I'm at the gym, as well as crap TV like Finding Carter and Southern Charm.  Ask me Monday morning and you know Game of Thrones will be on the list!

I am still in love with my Kindle Paperwhite and haven't read a "real" book since it arrived!  I read a ton over vacation, but at this very minute I am reading What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty.  I should be reading The Secret Keeper for my book club, but I'm still #16 on my library's waitlist.  I'm dragging my feet on the $10 purchase for my Kindle.

{listening to}
I still refuse to play "kids" music in the car, so when we're driving around, the girls and I rock out to "Shut Up and Dance," "Love Me Like You Do," and "Geronimo."

Dinners.  This may seem small, but with school schedules and getting to the gym and all of it, we didn't have many nights at home to eat around the table.  I know I can expect this more and more, but my kids are only 4 and 6 - we should be able to find more nights to eat together.

Cautiously optimistic.  I've said I'm excited to start blogging again, but then there's the pressure to deliver on a consistent basis.  Fingers crossed I can stay inspired - if all else fails, I'll just post duck-face selfies (or not.)

A parent-only weekend away.  Or thinking about it.  Nate and I haven't traveled alone since our honeymoon - our 8th anniversary is this June (in case you wanted to mark your calendar to send flowers or cash.)

The feeling that I am taking more control of my own happiness.  So often, I want other people to try to make me happy, and then I think "What the hell am I waiting for?"  You want to go do something - do it.  Obviously, dropping everything to tour Europe at this point is out of the question, but if it's reasonable - go for it!

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