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FAMiLY | Love Notes...

Wednesday, July 25

Today's post is about the "little things"...


My day started off with an early morning drive to the airport.
I dropped J off to fly to Illinois to stay with his parents for the next 5 days.
His dad was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer...
surgery is scheduled for tomorrow. *frown*

Obviously, as much as it'll be nice for J to visit with his parents...
we both wish it was for different reasons.

I definitely wanted to do something special...
in light of the circumstances...
So I got to thinking...

During a normal work week...
I pack J's lunch and send him off with a healthy smoothie or protein shake.
Something else I do is include a simple little note with his lunches - written on a napkin most of the time.
(similar to what I used to do for my older girls when they were in elementary school). *wink*

I usually just jot down something I love about him...
Something I'm grateful for...
Something to lift his spirits during the day...
just something to remind him I'm thinking of him.

He's made several comments lately about how the notes I leave are the best part of his lunch. What?
He even said he sometimes has to restrain himself from peeking at the note...
before he's even driven out of the neighborhood. (Shut the front door!)

I didn't realize how much the notes meant to him.
"That's it!"
I decided to create some SURPRISE daily love notes for his trip...
and hide them in his suitcase. (I'm SO sneaky)

using some things I already had on hand...
mini kraft envelopes, scrapbook paper, pen and a wax seal...
I made some handmade "love notes" to send him on his way...
bundled them together and hid them in his luggage.

One note to be opened each morning he's away...
Each note containing something I'll/we'll miss about him written on the front...
and something sweet written on the back...







I even had Ella participate in creating surprise cards for both grandparents...
and of course for J.
"Have a nice day for your trip"...SO cute.
I ADORE quoting her verbatim and including it in the cards she makes.



It really is the little things that make the world go 'round.

It was no easy task creating these "surprise" cards.
The cards were easy as pie.
It was the "keeping them a surprise" that proved to be a challenge.
I was making them while cooking dinner...
hiding them each time J walked into the kitchen...
having Clara and Ema help me with the wax seals...
along with the covert photo shoot to document the process.

My thoughts during the wax sealing process:
1. How did/do brides use this classic method for sealing 100+ invitations?
2. I can't wait to try out the seals I have that are specifically made to be used with a glue gun! Brilliant!!
3. I'm glad I only have 4 envelopes to seal. *wink*
4. I would not do this on a daily basis...the napkin notes I normally do work just fine. *grin*

The best part?
During a layover this morning in Tennessee...
J called me.
Having found the notes in the front pocket of his carry-on...
He announced his displeasure when he realized the notes were labeled Thursday thru Sunday.
With no note for today, Wednesday...
He admitted wanting to tear them all open right then and there. *laughing*
I guess I should've included a note for today too. 
I'll know better next time. *wink*

EMPOWER | - The Online Family Calendar

Monday, July 23

Good morning everyone...

I realize it's still Summer...
School isn't QUiTE on our minds just yet...
and for some of you...
the spontaneity Summer often allows...
is a welcome change from all of the structure and routine the school year brings.

I want to introduce you to a tool I have begun using...
A tool to help organize our busy family life.
Although I could've certainly postponed using this until the days of Summer faded away...
I really wanted to take advantage of familiarizing myself with the system.
Not to mention getting my family actively involved and participating as well.
I felt this would be advantageous for us all...
in preparation for the routine and structure awaiting us in just a few short weeks.

Watch this 30 second video to fill you in on what is about:

Features I LOVE:
• Everyone in the family can access the Calendar, To-Do Lists and Grocery Lists
• Personalized To-Do Lists for everyone (or the whole family)
• Color-Coding for each person in the family
FlyLady Approved
• Cozi App for iPhone and Android
• The DAiLY JOURNAL to jot down a quick memory and load a quick photo. (LOVE this)!

I love that my older daughters, (sixteen and thirteen), are able to add items to the grocery list.
This makes them responsible for informing me when they run out of toiletries...
or if they'd just like something special from the grocery store.
I don't have to ask...
I don't have to remember...
it's already on the list.

I also love that I don't have to sound like a "drill sergeant"...
repeating my expectations and "demands" of the day.
I simply point them to*wink*
It's been a great tool.
I hope you'll find it EMPOWERiNG...
let me know what you think.

I got push-back at first from my older girls.
They actually make fun of me for all of the "lists" I seem to constantly create.
But with that said...
I've been able to eliminate all of the "other lists" and compile them into one tidy spot.

It may have taken a couple of weeks for everyone to get on board...
but Ema, my thirteen year old, added quite a few things to the grocery list this past week. *wink*
Even Ella, my three year old, has a list of simple things to do everyday.
(One of them being "give everyone in the family big hugs")...*grin*

So far...
it's working.
And that's a very good thing.

DiSCOVER | Green Smoothies & Photo-A-Day

Monday, July 16

It's Summer...
and although I'm still up at 3:45 a.m. most days...
trying to slip in extra work hours before anyone wakes up...
I've still been able to sneak in some fun here and there with the kids.
(which is also the main reason for getting such an early start on my day).

I've also discovered a couple of new things I've chosen to implement into my daily schedule...
I thought you may be interested in them too...

Green Smoothies
I've got some lifestyle goals for myself...
one of which includes continuing to incorporate more vegetables into my daily diet.
This green smoothie recipe is one of the best I've found, (thank you Grandma Kirkland)
and allows me to start my day off right.

5 cups spinach (or kale) 
2 medium bananas (frozen)
2  1/2 cups water
1/4 lemon (frozen)
agave nectar (to your liking)
1/2 cup frozen pineapple/mango pieces

Combine everything using a heavy-duty blender.

Purchase the following items in bulk from Costco/Sam's and then freeze in Gallon Size Ziploc Bags
Spinach (yes, you can freeze spinach. I didn't know that either).
Bananas (peeled and cut in half)
Lemons (quarter the lemons and freeze - seeds & rind included)
Pop the cut lemons in the freezer for about 20-30 minutes and then shake the bag so the lemons don't stick/freeze together.
Pineapple/Mango Frozen Fruit - already bagged *wink*

Photo-A-Day Challenge
I have discovered "PHOTO-A-DAY" prompts created by Fat Mum Slim.
These are daily prompts to inspire you to photograph/document the everyday.
The list of prompts above is for the month of July.
(Today is July 16th so the prompt is "sign").

Taken straight from the Fat Mum Slim website
Here’s how to play:
1. Look at the list. What’s the prompt for the day? Let’s pretend it’s self portrait.
2. Take a photo of yourself, either in the mirror or some way else.
3. Upload your photo to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, your blog, Pinterest or where ever it is you want to share your photo. Use the hashtag #photoadayjuly so people can find your photos
4. Check out everyone else’s photos. Comment or like them!


For me...
PHOTO-A-DAY was just what I needed to push me to document the everyday...
which has led me to REALLY look at the little things around me...
and photograph things I may have previously thought to be insignificant...
which in reality are the little details of my life that tell my story.

It's also inspired me creatively.
I've been having so much fun using the amazing apps available for
truly taking my "iPhoneology" to an entirely new level.

Here are a few examples from my Instagram feed...

Photo Prompt: Building


Photo Prompt: Open

Photo Prompt: Chair

Photo Prompt: Fun

Photo Prompt: Best Part of Your Day

Photo Prompt: Busy

Photo Prompt: Self Portrait

Photo Prompt: Something Cute

Photo Prompt: Drink

Photo Prompt: Empty

I LOVE looking back through my photos...
remembering the little moments.

If you are inspired to join the Photo-A-Day challenge - jump right in.
And don't stress if you miss a day. (or two...or three - don't sweat's supposed to be fun - not a arduous task). *wink*

Otherwise, if you are just looking to make photo-taking more fun...
check out the list below:  

My favorite iPhone apps: (most are available for Android phones too).
Phonto FREE

I'll be sharing a simple tutorial this week to take you through the steps of my process.

From my computer, I absolutely LOVE using Pinstagram for viewing my Instagram photos.
Pinstagram makes it super easy to
• follow others
• comment on photos
• "LOVE" photos
• Pin photos to "Pinterest"  (super cool)
• Post to Facebook
• Post to Twitter

I hope I've helped to get your week off to a great start!
If you've been inspired to join PHOTO-A-DAY...I'd love to know.

Looking forward to a fun week ahead!

I've been packing J's lunches in the morning...
and sending him off with a green smoothie too.
He wasn't excited at first...
But after tasting the smoothie - he's not complaining. *wink*
Besides, it makes me feel good knowing I'm pumping him up with good vitamins.

RECiPE | Tortellini Pasta Salad

Tuesday, July 10

Fourth of July celebrations may be over for now...
but picnics and barbeques will continue to be part of our summer activities.

Because of that...
I am always searching for something new, (and yummy)...
to bring or make for these gatherings.

Not only is this Tortellini Pasta Salad absolutely delicious...
it can be made up to a day ahead of time...
making your life much more simple.
I don't know about you...
but I like that.
A lot. *wink*

Tortellini Pasta Salad with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Artichokes



Double the recipe for a super large crowd.
(Regardless of the crowd size, I actually double this EVERY time...hoping we are able to bring leftovers home). *wink*

After cooking, draining and rinsing the tortellini under cold water...
I submerge the entire colander of pasta into a large bowl of ice water, (just for about 5-10 seconds), I have waiting and THEN let it drain/dry. 
This immediately prevents the pasta from cooking further as well as assists in the chilling process.

For my personal tastes...
I have never had to use the entire amount of dressing...
(I don't add in the remaining 1/4 c. or more that's left over)

I hope you try this out...
and if you do...
please come back and share your results.

I'm not claiming this is "healthy"...
but it is quite delicious and there's not a person who hasn't liked it.

I actually got this recipe from a neighbor after sampling it at a community picnic. 
My entire family LOVES it...
which is a good thing...
otherwise I would eat it all myself.

LiFT | Art Print • Spark

Monday, July 9

In keeping with the festivities of last week...
I created a new piece of art to get our week started off right...
inspired by Katy Perry's song "Firework"


I hope you love it.

Want a different sized print without compromising print quality?
You can always go DOWN in size but don't go up:
For the 11x14 art print but have it printed as an
8x10, 5x7, 4x6, 3x5 or smaller.


• Print from home computer.
• Have a photo print made by your favorite photo developer.
• Don't like your printer? Have FedEx Kinko's, Office Depot, or Staples print it for you onto cardstock.
• Have a canvas print made.
• Frame it to hang in your home.
• Frame it and give as a gift.
• Email it to a friend


I had a FUN day with the girls on Saturday...
We spent the day at the beach together while J had a day to himself...


But now it's back to the grindstone:
Work to catch up on...
A FABULOUS party I'll be posting this week...
My favorite pasta salad recipe I'll be sharing...
Why I love participating in "Photo-A-Day"...
and the start of my "Green Smoothie" journey.

By the way...
Were YOU the winner of the 3x5 Vinyl Banner Giveaway from Banners On the Cheap?

Thank you to everyone who participated!!

STYLiNG | 4th of July Survival Station

Monday, July 2

Fourth of July Survival Station...


I created this "Survival Station" for practical purposes.
It's a GREAT way to add some festive flair to your neighborhood block party...
but it's also a brilliant, clever way to provide the "essentials" for an evening of fun.
Setting up a centralized location for grabbing blankets, snacks, drinks or even bug repellent
keeps you and your guests outside - where all of the fun is happening.

Although I actually used a table for this particular display...
For those of you actually attending a local fireworks show...
The Survival Station can actually be something as simple as a basket, bag or crate...
filled with a few essential ingredients:

(in addition, if you are hosting an adults-only party, providing matches or lighters is a MUST!)

Stick with simple snacks that can be grabbed quickly and aren't too messy.
You want something that can be munched on while watching the fireworks show.
(And if it's a hot night where you are celebrating, you don't want snacks that are prone to melting)



Keeping little ones occupied while awaiting the fireworks display can prove to be a challenge.
Why not take the opportunity to actually share with them, (or reiterate), the importance of the holiday.
Grab one of the blankets you've conveniently put out for guests to sit on...
and have a couple of age-appropriate patriotic books available for them to sit down and read.
 Or simply find a story online you can share.
(Use that smartphone or iPad of yours - or just print it out beforehand).


Believe it or not...most adults, (let alone children), don't know proper "Flag Etiquette"
Lucky for me, I had the opportunity to host a patriotic themed party some years back.
I researched "Flag Etiquette" and discovered a lot of things I never knew.
I decided to share the information I had learned by creating some simple "Flag Etiquette" cards for guests to take home.



Some of the key decor items used throughout this "Survival Station" include:
Decorative Paper Snack Cups
Striped Straws
DIY Denim Pocket Banner (click for the tutorial)
Small and Large American Flags
White Crates
Aluminum Buckets


I hope you took notice of the fabulous 3x5 vinyl banner hanging behind the table.
It made for a GREAT focal point, don't you think?
 I designed it so it could be used for ANY patriotic celebration/holiday...
 as well as for any "Nautical Themed" event. (smart thinking, right)!!
Banners On the Cheap did an amazing job printing it for me - I love how it turned out!


In fact...
I love the "Celebrate Banner" SO very much...
I want one of you to have one too!
Banners On the Cheap has generously offered to give away one of it's 3x5 Vinyl banners...
to ONE LUCKY winner!

The winner will have the option of choosing the custom designed "Celebrate" banner - exactly like the one shown here...
OR...the winner may select something different from the Banners On the Cheap online shop.

If you live in the contiguous 48...
Here's what to do to enter the giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Striped Snack Cups - TomKat Studio
Striped Paper Straws - TomKat Studio
3x5 Vinyl Banner - Banners On the Cheap (custom designed by Pen N' Paperflowers)
White Crates - JoAnn's
American Flags - Family Dollar
Aluminum Buckets - A collection from over the years from Michael's, JoAnn's, and Homegoods.
Beverages - Coke & Cheerwine

I did a mock set-up prior to the actual photo shoot...
When J pulled in the driveway...
he came in the house with great concern...and said,
"The neighbors are going to think you are selling fireworks!"  Ha!!

A couple of days later, while I was in the middle of the actual photo shoot...
I had three different neighbors stop by to buy some fireworks find out what I was doing.
They offered up many compliments and seemed really inspired.
I even had one of the neighbors come back over with striped Popcorn Boxes in-hand to incorporate into the shoot. (see the very first photo). *wink*
Those are the kind of things that make me happy!!

COMiNG UP | 4th of July Survival Table (Preview)

Good Morning everyone.
I've been enjoying the Summer with my kids...
I hope you've been doing the same.

I'm working on finishing up a post for today...
(among the thousands of things I have on my "To Do" list)...
before the morning escapes me (us)...
I wanted to give you a little peek of what to expect later this afternoon:

How to create a simple 4th of July "Survival Table"

You will NOT want to miss the details...
Especially because there's a fabulous giveaway involved!! *wink*

I would've liked to have posted this LAST week...
but life tends to have an agenda of its own sometimes. *wink*
I'm really just trying to maintain a sense of "go with the flow"
as last minute Summer propositions keep popping up.
That IS what Summer is all about, right?
• Making memories...
• Taking the extra time we've got with the kids and making the most of it...
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