Red Wine & Glue Sticks

Sensory Table Idea - Gift Wrapping Station

Elizabeth PacykComment

Like many preschools, my daughter’s 3 year program had a rotating table of activities. During the holiday season, they set up a gift wrapping station for the kiddos to wrap their hearts out. While us grown-ups may be complaining about our holiday to-do list, children delight in the simplest of chores. The kids loved it so much that I decided to implement the idea at home. 

The supplies are pretty simple and self-explanatory...Wrapping paper (Dollar Tree has a selection perfect for this use), tape, scissors,  stick-on bows, and rubber bands (which truthfully have a little to do with wrapping, but the kids love them and they can use them when they don’t get their paper folded together).  The first year I put out the safety scissor sticks that you slide along the paper, but my now kindergartner has since graduated to real scissors.  I find that this activity entertains my kids for about an hour (!!!), while allowing me to get some wrapping in without them seeing the gifts! 

IMG_1680.jpg

Today at my  daughter‘s kindergarten class, I learned of a great extension to this project. Wrapping a friend! It’s exactly as it sounds, one kiddo lays down and a partner wraps them up.

The child being wrapped first has to decide if they want their head wrapped or not. Then they lay down in the center of the paper (for wrapped head) or with their neck at the edge of the paper (for unwrapped head).

We were having so much fun, I didn’t realize my photos were blurry until after we were out of wrapping paper. Whoops! This still gives you a general idea - my son did not want his head wrapped so his neck was at the edge of the paper.

We were having so much fun, I didn’t realize my photos were blurry until after we were out of wrapping paper. Whoops! This still gives you a general idea - my son did not want his head wrapped so his neck was at the edge of the paper.

Their friend cuts the wrapping paper to size then tapes them shut. Next the wrapped person gets to choose how many bows they want on them. We didn't tape the bows down so we could use a lot at once and easily recycle them. 

FullSizeRender.jpg

 Last is the very best part! We all sing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" then countdown from ten. Once we reach zero the wrapped friend pops out of the wrapping paper!

IMG_1685.jpg

My kids had a blast and I'm certain yours will, too! 

XO,
Beth 

Upcycling a T-Shirt Into a Dress

Elizabeth PacykComment

I'm a t-shirt and jeans kind of girl, but my daughter is a princess all the way. It's difficult to encourage her to choose anything to wear that isn't a dress, the twirlier the better! When her school issued t-shirts to her class, I knew getting her to wear it would be a tough sell. I had a vision for turning it onto a dress, but I couldn't find any resources for people that were doing exactly what I had in mind. I ended up doing lots of reading, combining a few ideas, and some good old fashioned winging it!

T-Shirt Dress.jpg

The first version was a hit, and I've since made the t-shirt dress about half a dozen times. Some friends who follow along with me on instagram asked for a tutorial but it took me an embarrassingly long time to pull together.  Recently I hosted a few moms who were eager to try the tutorial and I'm proud to report that they all completed it successfully! Their success gave me the confidence to post the tutorial here and put it out into the world. 

For your convenience, I've made the t-shirt dress tutorial a free printable download. I hope you enjoy sewing for your littles and please tag me in your completed projects!

 

XO,
Beth

The Gift I'm Most Excited to Give

Elizabeth PacykComment

I hit those Thanksgiving weekend sales pretty hard, but even with all those great deals, the gift I'm most excited about giving is recycled from last year and mostly homemade. I bought these Yes Cards from Caravan Shoppe last year for $4 and they ended up being one of my kids' favorite gifts. 

JackYES

You just download the cards, print them off on card stock, and fill in with activities you will say "YES" to when the card is redeemed. They are easily customized for children (or for spouses, friends, and siblings) of any age and interests. Here are the activities we added to this year's cards:

  • Extra book at bedtime
  • Manicure by Mom
  • Sleepover in sibling's room
  • Hot chocolate with whipped cream
  • Stay up 15 minutes late
  • Jam session with Dad
  • TV show of your choice
  • Choose a snack from the checkout line

If you are gifting to more than one kiddo, I recommend adding initials to the back of the card. The cards were such a hit last year, we had a yes card thief in the house! 

YesCardsTied.jpg

I hope these Yes Cards bring as much joy to your home Christmas morning as they did to ours!

XO,
Beth

Spreading Cheer: A Fun Way to Thank Your Delivery Drivers

Shopping, GiftsElizabeth PacykComment

Our doorstep starts to get buried in packages this time of year. We've made the decision to keep Christmas gifts simple for our children, but with so many other gifts to buy and the generosity of our extended family, we still end up with more than plenty under the Christmas tree. Last year a delivery driver told me that he always stops at our house because he usually has a package for us so he just automatically stops. After that conversation, I decided I needed to do a better job at thanking our delivery drivers for all their hard work. What better time than during the holidays?

Add a cooler with drinks and snacks to your front porch to thank drivers for their hard work all year long. 

Add a cooler with drinks and snacks to your front porch to thank drivers for their hard work all year long. 

We created a fun note and left out a cooler of drinks and snacks. I had to refill it once or twice and it made me so happy to do something special for our delivery drivers when I often don't see them in person. This is an easy idea to recreate on your doorstep and I made it even easier by adding the note to drivers we made to my Etsy shop. I'll even customize it with your family name!

XO,
Beth

Teaching Gratitude

Elizabeth Pacyk1 Comment

Let's face it, my kids are lucky. They wake up every day in cozy beds in their own room in a home with plenty of space in a safe neighborhood. They get to pick out clothes to wear from a closet full of choices to attend quality schools. They never question if there will be breakfast on the table or wonder where their next meal will come from. They have stable parents who own a reliable car and get to experience plenty of "extras" like dance class, outings to the theater, concerts, art studios, and professional sports games. Outside of the stuff, they have parents who are genuinely in love who spend lots of quality time with them reading, playing, and volunteering at their school. They have a large extended family who spoils them with visits, outings, and presents. These kids have it good! But in all that luck, it's easy to lose sight of our blessings and forget gratitude.

A few months ago, I started a gratitude practice with my kids. Every morning in the car on the way to school, we all say one thing we are thankful for. Just one thing.  Some days it's as simple as the amount of caffeine in my to-go iced tea, other days it's as abstract as the health of my family. My five year old daughter will choose friendships one day and her cute band-aid the next. My three year old son almost always says he's thankful for his lovey. Truth is, their answers don't matter as much as the practice. 

As we approach the holiday season and start building wish lists and are surrounded by the commercialism surrounding the season, I was searching for a way to help my kids strengthen their gratitude practice. I was excited to see a friend's gratitude tree that she picked up from the Target Dollar Spot, but they were long sold out. When another friend shared photos of her Turkey on the Table, I rushed to pick up our own. 

What it is:
A stuffed turkey with photo clips attached for you to attach cardboard feathers decorated with messages of gratitude, written by your family. It comes with all the supplies you need, plus a book teaching your family how to use the book (similar to the book that accompanies Elf on the Shelf). You are supposed to start on November 1st, but we got a late start. After all, it's never too late to say thanks! We made up for it by each filling out two gratitude feathers to catch up. Our turkey is looking mighty cute and I'm excited to watch his feathers grow. 

This is a Thanksgiving tradition your family can enjoy year after year (refill feathers available), it's a wonderful way to start the holiday season with a mindset of gratitude and service - each Turkey on the Table purchase provides 10 meals for Feeding America. Even more to be thankful for!

xo,
Beth

Halloween Candy Graph with Free Download!

Elizabeth PacykComment
Halloween Candy Graph.jpg

Still wondering what to do with all that leftover Halloween candy? My kindergartener is very excited about maths and graphs so I decided to harness that excitement and combine it with some sugar! She loved counting and graphing and my preschooler was able to help with the candy sorting. It is an activity that kids with pre-math to advanced math skills can enjoy. What's better than math with candy? 

IMG_0895.jpg

Download a copy of my Halloween Candy Graph to use with your kids! 

xo,
Beth

 

Planning an Eclipse Party - It's Not Too Late!

Elizabeth PacykComment

Last month a friend asked me what I had planned for the eclipse. I looked at her like she was a crazy person. "I don't know what I have planned for dinner tonight, I haven't thought that far out!" Triage is how I organize my life - deal with each week, day, hour, minute at a time. Usually when we have grand plans, they get smashed by the needs of my littles. So I've learned to procrastinate a bit and still have been able to make wonderful family memories based on reading everyone's mood, rather than trying to force a planned good time through. Yesterday another friend asked about our eclipse plans when I realized that it was right around the corner and I still hadn't planned anything. Eek! Thankfully it's not too late to pull of a simple, but fun viewing party for my little family. 

We are located in Portland, Oregon, which will experience not quite a total solar eclipse, but 99.3% is pretty darn cool! "Experts" are predicting some of the worst traffic jams in Oregon's history so we'll be hunkering down at home and keeping our fingers crossed for a clear day. Use this website to check your zip code and learn how you'll experience the solar eclipse. No matter where you live, I hope you'll join us in celebrating the solar eclipse with these fun ideas. 

No matter where you live, you'll need a pair of eclipse glasses. We were able to pick some up from a local eye doctor at a bargain, but Amazon Prime to the rescue if you haven't bought some yet. Not all eclipse glasses are created equal, you'll want to make sure they are ISO and CE certified so you don't cause eye damage. 

Now for the fun stuff...

IMG_1471.jpg

Crafts and Activities

Sun, moon, and space crafts are fairly easy to find or dream up. I've linked to quite a few fun ones for all ages on my Pinterest board, but here are a few we'll be doing at home.

Food

I kinda love theme parties, but you could make just about anything on theme using a star, sun, or moon cookie cutter. Sandwiches, cheese, and fruit are instantly eclipse ready! Here are some ideas and recipes for snacks that looks out of world!

Music

Mashable already did the dirty work for us and created this total solar eclipse playlist. Any songs you would add?

Hope your family makes the most of this once in a lifetime event and it sparks your kids' curiosity about space and science!

XO,
Beth

Grilled Pizza!

RecipesElizabeth PacykComment

I've been saying for years that we should grill a pizza. Tom usually agrees and then time goes on and we remember that we are regular plebs and not Jamie Oliver and will probably burn the house down if we attempt it. But then in April I was visiting San Francisco where my friend Ali (who happens to be a talented professional chef as well as a passionate anti food waste advocate - you should follow her on instagram @endsandstems) grilled a crust to perfection as I watched (okay, stared) and I convinced myself that I could do this! I of course promptly forgot once I returned home until my neighbor turned friend showed me photos of her grilled pizzas last week and I finally added the ingredients to the grocery list.

Tonight I finally did it! Mind you, I've never grilled anything before so I was feeling pretty smug that I pulled it off. I mean, look at that beauty (the pizza, of course, not me)!

I made two pizzas: a BBQ chicken and a spinach and parmesan pie meant to satisfy a craving for Tomasso's in San Francisco. I tried a pizza dough recipe from an old Weber grilling cookbook and I think it worked perfectly. The Weber book suggested "direct medium heat" which made me panic a little because WTF does that even mean!? I read several tutorials online of time that all suggested different grill temperatures. Hmmmmm.... So for the first pizza I went with a grill heated to 550 which ended up being too hot. The second pizza I went for 425-ish which seemed to be just right. 

After making the dough and leaving time for it to rise, I rolled it out on a floured surface and then brushed it with olive oil. I'm not sure if I used too much oil or if the problem was a novice griller and/or too hot of a grill, but the first go at crust turned out a little chewy.  The second time around I lightly sprayed the crust with some canola oil spray and it worked perfectly. Then, I took the sprayed crust to the grill and tossed it on. I wait 2-3 minutes for the crust to lift easily and show grill marks on the bottom and then I pulled it off, grilled side up. Finally, I topped the crust with sauce and toppings then tossed it back on the grill with closed lid until the cheese was golden brown.

The first pizza was far from perfect, but still tasty. I topped it with Pendleton BBQ sauce, rotisserie chicken, red onions and mozzarella cheese. 

The first pizza was far from perfect, but still tasty. I topped it with Pendleton BBQ sauce, rotisserie chicken, red onions and mozzarella cheese. 

The second pizza was topped with regular pizza sauce and mozzarella before closing the lid to melt the cheese. In the meantime I sautéed spinach with olive oil and two cloves of minced garlic until it just began to wilt. Then I tossed it on top of the pizza with some shaved parmesan and let it cook another minute more.

The second pizza was topped with regular pizza sauce and mozzarella before closing the lid to melt the cheese. In the meantime I sautéed spinach with olive oil and two cloves of minced garlic until it just began to wilt. Then I tossed it on top of the pizza with some shaved parmesan and let it cook another minute more.

Weber Pizza Dough Recipe

1 Envelope Active Dry Yeast
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
2/3 cup warm water
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out dough
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

To make the dough: In a medium bowl, combine the yeast, sugar, and water. Stir briefly and let stand until foamy, 5-10 minutes. Add the two cups flour, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Stir until the dough holds together. Transfer to a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth, 5-10 minutes. Shape into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl. Turn the ball to coat surface with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place until the dough doubles in size, 1 to 1.5 hours.  

I hope these tips help from my trial and error, I can't wait to try this again with some new toppings! 

 

My Favorites from the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale

ShoppingElizabeth PacykComment

Since I've spent the last six years almost continually pregnant, nursing, or moving, I've needed to refresh my closet quite a few times. I love to shop but I hate paying full price. It isn't because I don't find quality items valuable, it's more like I can't stomach paying a fistful of dollars for clothes and accessories when there is work to be done on our home or trips I'd like to take with my family. This has made me a darn good bargain shopper and there are two times a year when I take it to a whole new level - Black Friday and the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale. If shopping were a sport, the Nordy sale and Black Friday would be my marathon. And I think I may have scored a personal best this year! 

There are so many great bloggers out there doing fantastic Nordstrom sale round-ups. They are constantly checking for restocks, doing personal try-ons, and generally totally on top of it! I'm not that girl. I'm just a mom on a budget who is trying to look as cute as possible without spending my kids' college tuition. Here are some of my favorites from this year, both for me and the kids.

 

 

I updated my momiform with some fresh tees, a new pair of my trusty denim boyfriends, and a cozy neutral cardigan I'll probably live in come fall. I also hit Zella leggings pretty hard. I'm hoping that these high waisted ones and the similar capri pair can replace my old Lucy hatha favorites that had a crazy price hike last season.

I think the biggest scores for me this year were in beauty where I found a trio of the best deodorant ever on sale. I also scored a giant bottle of the same scent lotion. To put it in perspective, I usually pay over $50 for a small tube and then ration it out throughout the year. Not anymore!! I also grabbed some lash boosting serum that reviews say work just as well or better than Latisse without needing a doctor appointment. 

I usually wait for this sale to buy the kids' new winter coats. The girl option is my favorite with fluffy lining and a much-needed hood. They updated the colors on the boy option this year but it is still reversible if your kid wants to pretend he got two new coats! I size up and so far we've been able to get two years out of each coat. The name brand coats also have a decent resale value when we're done with them so I can make part of our money back. Usually I grab back-to-school sneaks for the kids now, but they were both in good shape. I bet I'll regret not buying the next size of the first purchase that made me obsess over the N Sale in the first place, sparkly Pumas!

Lastly, at this point in my life I have so many friends having babies that I tend to grab great products when I see them on sale to stock away for the many baby showers I'll attend. This Honest Company gift set is filled with practical items at a fantastic deal. 

Happy shopping! 

 

A Love Letter to the House I Never Loved (Part 1)

HomeElizabeth PacykComment

Dear House on Viator Court,

It's not you, it's me. 

Before I met you, I dreamed about you.  I imagined myself with a supportive husband and darling, well-behaved children.  I imagined the space would perfectly fit our personalities and our needs.  I imagined a lush, beautiful property for my family to play on and a white picket fence to keep all our goodness in. So when we met the realtor on your cracked steps and noticed paint peeling off the house, I tried to keep an open mind.  When I noticed the stained floors, dated kitchen, retro bathroom and astro-turf covered backyard, I shuddered. You were more work than I bargained for. You were more work than I had time for, or more importantly, money for.

It's not that I didn't have a good imagination.  I could see that the space of the house would fit our needs.  But with a toddler and another baby on the way, I simply wasn't willing to take on so much work at once.  Unfortunately, we were running out of options in a hot property market.  We had lost 4 homes in bidding wars and the rentals we'd seen wouldn't fit our needs for more than a few months.  We were faced with the option to bid on this very imperfect house, or rent an even less perfect one. Tom and I took a step back and evaluated the house's redeeming qualities; it was in a fantastic school district, it was just over a mile to our village downtown (with access to a train downtown, library, and local restaurants), it had an unexpected fifth bedroom, it was triple the space we'd ever had in a rental, the three-seasons room off the family room was cozy and charming.  We made an offer.

Fifth time must have been a charm because we got the house.  It was the first house we ever owned, but that delightful euphoria of owning a piece of the American dream was stripped away when we built a to-do list.  It seemed like it was miles long! Brick patio in place of astro-turf, gut the kitchen, update three bathrooms, remodel the master suite, replace the downstairs floors, refinish the upstairs floors, new windows, replace doors and trim, paint exterior, add landscaping, fix the laundry list of problems revealed during inspection.... it felt like we'd never accomplish even half the list before our 30 year mortgage was paid off.

Me and Maddie standing outside our new house on closing day.

Me and Maddie standing outside our new house on closing day.

The day we closed we went straight to work - my newly acquired baby bump barely noticeable as we ripped out carpets to reveal wood floors, took down shower doors, tore off bathroom countertops, and deep-cleaned every nook and cranny. It didn't take a visit to our accountant for us to know we couldn't afford all the renovations up front.  So we prioritized based on what would be easiest to have done before we moved in and what could wait a few months.  We decided to have the freshly-revealed but battered wood floors upstairs refinished and paint the whole house interior. We had a serious storage problem on the main floor, so I found a carpenter to build a mudroom locker bank with closet in our family room, which was located off the garage and currently being used as a playroom.

We had a serious storage problem on the main floor, so we added this bank of built-ins with a cubby for everyone and a large closet with shelving for art supplies and hanging space for coats.

We had a serious storage problem on the main floor, so we added this bank of built-ins with a cubby for everyone and a large closet with shelving for art supplies and hanging space for coats.

My favorite part about the lockers was the hidden side-panel.  It housed our key hook and a message board.

My favorite part about the lockers was the hidden side-panel.  It housed our key hook and a message board.

After these projects were complete, we had to stock away some savings before tackling the next round of professional jobs.  In the meantime, I kept myself busy furnishing the house and with DIY projects. It's amazing the difference that swapping light fixtures can make.  We focused the bulk of our small lighting budget on the kitchen and playroom fixtures, then used the remainder on inexpensive bathroom fixtures with the intention of updating again a few years down the road.  I refinished the upstairs bathroom vanities using Java Gel Stain and we later added new countertops and faucets.

I didn't have the foresight to take a great "before" photo so this one is from the listing.  The kid's bathroom refresh was completed for less than $400 (quartz countertop, faucet, stain, mirror, light fixture, shower curtain, and bathroom hardware) and a whole lot of elbow grease.

I didn't have the foresight to take a great "before" photo so this one is from the listing.  The kid's bathroom refresh was completed for less than $400 (quartz countertop, faucet, stain, mirror, light fixture, shower curtain, and bathroom hardware) and a whole lot of elbow grease.

We used the same materials in the guest room ensuite bathroom for bulk discount on the quartz and to keep a consistent feel upstairs.

We used the same materials in the guest room ensuite bathroom for bulk discount on the quartz and to keep a consistent feel upstairs.

I was tired of looking at our traditional fireplace - it just wasn't our style!  I decided to make it a little more modern with a few coats of paint.  It was my first time using Annie Sloan chalk paint and wax which was perfect for this project.  It also was the start of my love affair with my Annie Sloan round brush which is a must-have for any project with grooves.  It's pricey but it's proved it's value and saved me time on countless projects since I made the investment. I wish I had counted how many people told me that painting the fireplace would "ruin it."  I'm so happy I didn't listen because I loved it and the result complemented our decor so much better.

Fireplace makeover with Annie Sloan chalk paint - no sanding was required, but I did a little for a perfectly smooth finish.  I completed this project in the winter, but my intention was to re-do the fireplace insert with an oil-rubbed bronze high heat spray paint.  I never quite got around to that project!

Fireplace makeover with Annie Sloan chalk paint - no sanding was required, but I did a little for a perfectly smooth finish.  I completed this project in the winter, but my intention was to re-do the fireplace insert with an oil-rubbed bronze high heat spray paint.  I never quite got around to that project!

Soon after the fireplace was complete, I started to go in baby-nesting mode.  Our daughter had never had her own room in our tiny San Francisco apartment, and I was determined to make her a glam room on a budget.  It started with a Moroccan wall stencil by Cutting Edge Stencils. 

Painting this Moroccan pattern was easy with the stencil I bought from Cutting Edge Stencils.  I wanted something that was neutral, but fun, and it was important that it be able to grow with her because I do not love painting!

Painting this Moroccan pattern was easy with the stencil I bought from Cutting Edge Stencils.  I wanted something that was neutral, but fun, and it was important that it be able to grow with her because I do not love painting!

I found a Dania dresser and nightstand on Craigslist for $200.  They were in great shape and had the exact look I was looking for.  I glammed them up with some Rustoleum metallic paint and crystal knobs I found off Amazon.

I'm always so eager to get a project started that I forget to take before photos.  Luckily Dania still sells this set so I was able to grab some stock images. 

I'm always so eager to get a project started that I forget to take before photos.  Luckily Dania still sells this set so I was able to grab some stock images. 

I finished these dressers just in time! About a week later, baby Jack was born and we took a much-needed breather from the projects around the house, fixing only what was actually broken.

(Come back tomorrow for Part Two!)

 

 

 

 

Hello, again!

Elizabeth PacykComment

Is it me you're looking for?  We've had a whirlwind three months!  We sold our house, moved states (with 2 toddlers in tow), bought a new house, and survived a fire, flood, and MRSA. There has been lots on my mind to tell you and I haven't taken the time to write it all down.  This week, I'm turning over a new leaf and plopping down at the computer so I can share my experiences.  Here's some posts to look forward to in the coming weeks:

  • Staging a house to sell (mostly a reason to swoon over the finished house we left as I sit in a decidedly unfinished house!)

  • Selling our house by owner for over asking price in TWO days

  • Entertaining kids without technology on a 30 hour + road trip

  • A few new kids crafts

  • The app that is causing my marriage distress (Spoiler alert: 3M Cloud Library!)

  • Kid Lit book reviews

Pacyk Family

xo,
Beth

Kid Lit: A Book I Don't Mind Reading Again

Kids, BooksElizabeth PacykComment

Whew!  It's been awhile since I last posted and LOTS has been calling for my attention.  We're in the midst of preparing for a long-distance move so Tom and I are trading places on airplanes to house hunt. On his last trip to Portland, he stopped at the city's famous bookstore, Powell's, to grab a gift for the kiddos.

Sleeping Cinderella by Stephanie Clarkson

Sleeping Cinderella by Stephanie Clarkson

He saw this book as a staff recommendation, but hesitated.  Did we really want to add another princess book to our collection?  The fine folks at Disney have been boring us with the abbreviated version of fairytales (Elsa and Anna were friends.  Elsa hurt Anna. Elsa stayed away.  Anna fell in love.  Anna's act of love saved their lives.  Elsa and Anna were best friends at last.) so we've been burned in the princess department to say the least.

Thankfully, Sleeping Cinderella is nothing like the princess books currently on our shelf.  It is sweet and clever with adorable illustrations.  Stephanie Clarkson tells a rhyming story of when the princesses all traded places.  It's one of the books I truly don't mind reading over and over again.  Lucky for us, Maddie agrees! 

Play Dough Activities

Elizabeth PacykComment

It was a stormy Chicago day and I just didn't feel like packing the kids up and braving the rain today. So I busted out the play dough bin and we worked indoors on a few favorite projects: play dough porcupines and a fine-motor activity with spaghetti noodles and cheerios.  

Play Dough Porcupines 

My awesome neighbor came over one day during the winter and brought the supplies for these cute porcupines. All it takes is play dough, googly eyes, and either toothpicks or uncooked spaghetti noodles. Madeline's first versions included just as many eyes as spikes, so the porcupines quickly became monsters.  

Madeline working hard on her play dough porcupine.  We traded the toothpicks for spaghetti noodles today so that Baby Jack could get in on the fun.  

Madeline working hard on her play dough porcupine.  We traded the toothpicks for spaghetti noodles today so that Baby Jack could get in on the fun.  

Play Dough and Cheerios Fine Motor Activity 

We learned about this awesome activity on a playdate, and we love it because we almost always have the materials on hand.  Just stick uncooked spaghetti noodles (I buy the pot-sized noodles from Target, but you could snap regular sized noodles in half) in the play dough. Add a pile of cheerios for your toddler to thread on the noodles.  

Baby Jack enjoyed eating the Cheerios more than stacking them on the noodles.  

Baby Jack enjoyed eating the Cheerios more than stacking them on the noodles.  

Miss Tracy's Play Dough Recipe

We're still working through the boxes of play dough we received as Christmas gifts, but usually I make my own. I've tried a handful of play dough recipes that I found on Pinterest, but I never seem to find one that is just right - they are either too slimy or harden too quickly.  When Madeline's preschool teacher provided her recipe, I knew it was the perfect balance.  Here is her recipe:

1 cup flour
1 cup water
2 teaspoons cream of tarter
1/3 cup salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (or unrefined coconut oil)
Food coloring (or unsweetened Kool Aid or Jello for scent and color)

  1. Mix together all ingredients, except the food coloring, in a medium saucepan.
  2. Cook over low/medium heat, stirring often.  Once it begins to thicken, add the food coloring.  
  3. Continue stirring until the mixture is much thicker and begins to gather around the spoon.
  4. Once the dough is not wet, remove and put onto wax paper or a plate to cool.
  5. After cooling (30 minutes) knead play dough for a few seconds.
  6. PLAY!

xo,
Beth

Velcro Popsicle Sticks Busy Bag Activity

Kids, CraftsElizabeth PacykComment

As my second pregnancy neared the end, I started to panic a bit about how I would entertain a toddler during the marathon breastfeeding sessions that a newborn needs.  I searched Pinterest for busy bag ideas, and got to work on any that were easy and inexpensive.  Many of the activities have since been forgotten, but this one seems to have stood the test of time. 

Even those lacking in DIY skills can pull off these Velcro popsicle sticks!

Even those lacking in DIY skills can pull off these Velcro popsicle sticks!

It's so simple!  I picked up a bag of colored craft sticks from the dollar store, and a pack of sticky round velcro dots from Michael's craft store.  Just stick a hook velcro dot to one end of the stick and a loop velcro dot to the other side.  I was done in less than 10 minutes, and the activity has definitely provided hours worth of entertainment over the past year. 

xo,
Beth

Yummy Egg Salad Recipe

RecipesElizabeth PacykComment
Our pirate themed eggs.... mostly made by my husband with some help from the kiddos.

Our pirate themed eggs.... mostly made by my husband with some help from the kiddos.

If you're anything like me, you have a fridge full of unused eggs from the Easter holiday. And even though I love hard boiled eggs for breakfast and on a bed of greens, sometimes I just need to change it up a bit.  I've been making this yummy egg salad recipe for a few years now.  It's great because it's simple and I always have the ingredients on hand - then I can build off it when I want to (or have the foresight to go grocery shopping).  I wish I could find the original post for the recipe I adapted it from, but my google skills seem to be lacking.  Here is my version:


Egg Salad with a Kick

10 hard-boiled eggs
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Mix together and yep - that's it!  It couldn't be simpler and it's so delicious.  If you prefer a creamier egg salad, add some more mayo... more complex, add green onion and bacon.  The possibilities are endless, but I so rarely see an egg salad recipe with dijon and cayenne so I had to share. Enjoy!


xo,
Beth



Yeah... I Ate My Placenta!

Pregnancy & ChildbirthElizabeth PacykComment

Wait, What?

Well I suppose the title gave it all away.... so maybe I should back up a bit!  I love kids.  I wanted kids my entire life!  I babysat as much as I could, I taught summer school programs at my local church, I even studied education so I could be around kids as a career.  When I look back on old school worksheets, I said I wanted to be a mom when I grew up.  So when I got pregnant, I expected few surprises after the baby came.  Except that it was nothing how I imagined. 

I remember watching a TED talk during my pregnancy that talked about some parenting myths.  I distinctly remember the speaker saying something to the tune of, "I was told I would be hit with this Mack truck of love.  And that just didn't happen for me.  I had great affection for the baby, but it was nothing compared to the love I feel for her now, several years later."  It was a good thing I heard that speech.  Because I wasn't hit with a Mack truck of love, either.  I certainly cared for my daughter, and I wanted her to be safe and well-taken care of.... but as the days wore on, I wasn't so sure I wanted to be the one taking care of her.

I got very little sleep in the hospital and our second day home I developed mastitis, a nasty breast infection.  I didn't realize I had an infection, though.  I just assumed everyone felt as terrible as I did after having a baby and not sleeping for several days.  I was having terrible pain every time I fed my daughter, so a couple days later, I scheduled an appointment with a lactation consultant.

The Diagnosis

That lactation consultant could probably have a side-job as a therapist with all the crying I did in her office that day, but I left with the mastitis diagnosed and tips to get my daughter latching correctly. I guess you could say that I left hopeful. 

The revolving door of visitors started right about then.  We lived out of state from the majority of our family and we were as excited to show off our new baby as they were to meet her.  Company meant there was an extra hand to help out... but it also meant little privacy in our tiny 2 bedroom apartment.  I knew the visitors were temporary, so I put on a brave face.  The last day of visitors was also the day my husband flew out of town.  It meant a few days alone with this tiny little creature that I still hadn't figured out.  I was terrified!

Although I can't remember the specifics of that weekend, I do remember a lot of tears!  I remember feeling so exhausted and I remember my brother coming over to hold the baby so I could take a shower (where I lingered, sobbing).  I remember relief that my husband was coming home, only to have the next few days fade into one another until his next trip a couple weeks later. 

When I got mastitis again while he was on a work trip, I just completely broke.  I held my sleeping daughter looking at her as if she didn't belong to me.  I didn't want to hurt her, I just want to take care of her.  I wanted to drive really far away, back to our simple little lives we shared before baby.  I wanted to sleep, I wanted to shower, and I wanted to be alone.  I called my doctor right away and she suggested I speak to a therapist, who officially diagnosed me with postpartum depression at 7 weeks postpartum. 

I started a low dose of zoloft and it was just the kick in the pants I needed. As my husband described it, "it was like the light switch turned on."  I felt more confident caring for my daughter. Simple disruptions didn't send me into a crying heap, and I slowly started to appreciate nursing (more on that another time).  I was finally able to begin the bonding process with my daughter and every month was better than the last.  When she was around 7 months old, I stopped taking the medication with no problem.  I even started thinking about another baby!

The Other Side

Shortly after my daughter's first birthday, I was pregnant again.  We now lived in a different state, closer to a bevvy of relatives clamoring to help and my husband had no travel plans.... but I was still terrified.  After my first born, my postpartum depression only seemed to affect me and my marriage.  This time around, I had a toddler to take care of.  I couldn't spend my days zoned out to Ellen hoping for a laugh or crying in the shower.  I started researching natural ways to combat postpartum depression and I continued to come across placenta encapsulation.

Ew! That was all I could respond. Ew! I would never be able to stomach that.  But the more I read, the more convinced I became that this could be the inexpensive, natural alternative to depression medication I was searching for.  So what is it?  Placenta encapsulation is when you have your placenta made into pills that you take orally after your baby is born.  It can be prepared two ways, but I opted for the traditional Chinese method in which the placenta is boiled with Chinese herbs, dried, and ground before being added to capsules. 

I read that it helped balance your postpartum hormones, increased energy level, and helped with milk production.  If you have the proper tools (and aren't too faint of heart), you could prepare the capsule yourself, or you can hire a doula to prepare the pills for you. The doula I hired was actually able to pick the placenta up at the hospital which was a huge convenience for us!  She dropped the pills of the day after I came home from the hospital and I crossed my fingers that it would work.

And it did!  The placenta pills really did everything they claimed they could do and MORE... because I was able to bond with my son quickly instead of being in a fog, because my marriage wasn't strained like after my first born, because I felt present for my responsibilities, because even though I was on little sleep, I had energy to devote to my toddler.  A couple weeks postpartum, I got mastitis (really unlucky in the mastitis department!) which meant I couldn't take the pills (they have a natural warming effect on your body which doesn't help when you already have a fever). I was straight back to a crying heap on the couch!  It reminded me of how I felt after my daughter was born and I was so grateful to have a natural alternative. 

Mom and Baby Jack

Frequently Asked Questions

I've told this story many, many times in the hopes that another mama can avoid the struggle I had. My husband has become an advocate, too - he thinks placenta pills should be sent home with every new mom as she leave the hospital!  In sharing my story, I tend to get the same frequently asked questions.  So here they are:

How much does it cost?
Typically about $250.  The going rate seems to be in the $200-$300 range.  It's a lot less than therapy and Zoloft!

Does it taste funny?
Kinda.  It definitely doesn't have the greatest taste, but it was masked pretty easily by taking it with cranberry juice.  My biggest complaint is when I would drink a carbonated beverage and burp up the taste again later (ew!). Funny taste aside, it was totally worth all the benefits.

How do you know it worked?
Look, the only thing that matters is that I felt better.  I felt more relaxed and easy-going, I felt happy and confident.  So many people have wondered if this is just a symptom of it being my second child... or that we were nearby helpful family. Certainly lots was different, but I still credit the placenta pills.  The days I couldn't take it I went right back to a crying, helpless, heap. My husband (who was supportive, but skeptical) even noticed a difference and began to call them my "happy pills." 

Happy pills, indeed!  As always, I'm an open book... so feel free to ask any more questions you may have!

xo,
Beth

Tomorrow Will Be a Better Day!

Elizabeth PacykComment

Monday was not a good day. I started out feeling like Mary Poppins.... I had a massage and some time to myself on Sunday. I felt refreshed and excited to take on a new week. We woke up, and things just slowly started to pick away at my patience and my confidence until I was counting the minutes until naptime. "Tomorrow will be a better day," I told myself.   

And then when neither kid napped, I was counting the minutes until early bedtime. And when then bedtime routine dragged on forever and early bedtime tuned to very, very late bedtime.... I felt like crying. I was ready for a glass of red wine and a chance to catch up on the DVR. I just wanted a little bit of time to unwind from the long day, to restore my patience so that I could take on another day. "Tomorrow will be a better day," I told myself. 

That night, both kids were up at night. I logged only a few hours of sleep and woke up cranky with my patience wearing thin before the day began. "You guys just need to get out of the house," my husband advised. So we (slowly) pulled ourselves together to meet friends at the local children's museum. When Madeline (my not quite 3 year old) fell asleep in the car, I felt validated in my own fatigue - I can't recall the last time she slept in the morning!  "We're both exhausted," I told myself, "just run it off at the museum and catch a good afternoon nap." Feeling defeated at 10 am, I cried the whole way to the museum. "Tomorrow will be a better day," I told myself.  

We walked in to what felt like a mob scene. Spring mother f---ing break. How could I have forgotten? But we spotted our friends, which made me smile and I was determined to make the best of our day, madhouse and all. Madeline had other plans. I dodged strollers and stepped over kids to chase after her in the crowded museum. I held her brother Jack (who recently celebrated his first birthday) so she could engage in a few focused activities. This made him unhappy.... so I searched for something that would please them both, with little luck. I took deep breaths. I wanted to cry again. I wanted to go home. I wanted to sleep! "Tomorrow will be a better day," I told myself. 

That is face paint.  And one unhappy child!

That is face paint.  And one unhappy child!

We managed to make it through lunch and I raced home to put the kids down for a nap. Neither one took one. I tried to clean the kitchen. Jack had other plans. "Tomorrow will be a better day," I told myself. 

That is cereal.  And one proud baby!

That is cereal.  And one proud baby!

Somehow we made it to bedtime. Somehow I got a full-night's sleep. And you know what? Somehow tomorrow WAS a better day. So tired moms, overworked moms, underpaid moms, and moms just having a bad day - tomorrow will be a better day. And if it isn't.... just keep repeating the mantra until it is!

My friend snapped this of me as I tried to catch a minute of rest. Luckily, tomorrow WAS a better day!  

My friend snapped this of me as I tried to catch a minute of rest. Luckily, tomorrow WAS a better day!  

xo,
Beth

Hello World!

Elizabeth PacykComment

Hey there! Let's give this another go....

I think I've started to blog too many times to count and it never seems to stick! I certainly always have a lot to say, but I never seem to get it out in a format for the masses (handful of you actually reading this). Here's why I think (hope) this time will be different:

  1. I still have a lot to say!
    These past few years I've often thought how a craft/recipe/story would make a great blog post. Now hopefully I can remember them all to share with you!
  2. I have time... kinda. 
    My kids are a little bit older. I'll level with you - they're still really really, needy! But at least they give me pockets of time here and there so I can sit and write.
  3. I'm ready for you to hear my voice, run-on-sentences and all.
    Truthfully, I've always been worried about my writing! I'm so chatty in real life, which translates to endless commas and run-on-sentences when I try to write. But it's my voice... so deal with it! :)

My vision is that this blog will be a place to practice writing, something I once enjoyed, but have long been removed from. I want to share my endless DIY projects, kids crafts, and parenting triumphs and fails with you. Thanks for reading and I hope to see you again soon!

xo,
Beth