Pandemic Purchases (that are primarily Prime!)

I certainly haven’t done much blogging in 2020, but between so much stay home time (and thus, some saved dollars) we have certainly made a few purchases this year that have immensely helped make this year a little more bearable.

I love reading lists of others’ tried and true recommendations, and I keep thinking I should share some of our top faves as we’ve been cooking, playing, reading and in general passing the time in 2020. (Full disclosure: In some cases, these are affiliate links, but these are all items we bought ourselves and would buy again!) This got a bit lengthy, so read (or skim!) but consider yourself warned ha!

Homeschooling / Play Purchases

Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons
All the credit goes to Page for researching this book. We ordered it RIGHT before the Pandemic hit and between suddenlytrying to follow his preschool’s curriculum at home, then welcoming a newborn, it sat on the coffee table for weeks after its arrival, untouched. When I first came back to it, I was admittedly intimidated by what seemed to be a very dry format, the amount of pre-reading/instruction for parents, and the length/duration to complete it. Fast forward to now, and I wish I had started it day one! When you break it down, a lesson has never taken us nearly the twenty minutes as touted, and I would say 1/4 of this book is simply instructions/script for parents to read that is repeated over and over and OVER in each chapter — by the time we were a few days in, Crew and I both very much had the gist of it and I could skim over much of the repetitive instructions and get down to business. We do as many as three lessons on a weekend day and commit to one a day after or before school the rest of the week. While the reward is certainly learning to read, he’s also in it for a new Switch game upon completion. I was so nervous I would teach him “incorrectly” or against how school would do it and confuse him — this book completely eliminated those concerns for me and Crew is really, truly, reading and his confidence and excitement about it is growing by the day.

Boogie Board
In tandem with learning to read, we’ve been working on writing and spelling and sight words. Sometimes it just take a fun new “gadget” to get a kiddo interested – and this was it! We actually saw ours being demonstrated at Costco and after Crew begged me for one, we agreed we had to use it every day for some reading/writing practice, as well as all his sketching he likes to do. This is nothing crazy – simply a write-on, click-to-erase tablet. But it’s novel and has been great for the brief last step in each chapter of the book above in which he practices writing a sound/letter.

Giant Desk Pad
It was a complete mystery if we would start school in person as scheduled up until the week it ACTUALLY started…so to ease the uncertainty, I bought a couple of things just in case (and truthfully, just in case they STILL may be needed yet this year if we go virtual). Crew likes to do work at our kitchen table, but the seams of the planks in the tabletop create ridges and uneven surfaces for certain work. Enter this desk pad, which is like a giant mousepad, (we got the medium size, 32″ wide) and while it makes for a large, smooth work surface (and rolls up to put away easily) I also love the surface that is clean-up friendly for stickier projects like playdoh, etc. It comes in tons of colors, but I don’t mind looking at the more neutral taupey gray if it sits out for a while.

Math Cubes
These were a whim purchase for a mere ten bucks but they have been worth their weight in GOLD. I could never have imagined how much they would get played with, but they are so open-ended. Crew has been a fan of the show NumberBlocks (a show that introduces kids visually to the concepts of counting and adding and subtracting) so these colorful snap-together cubes seemed to mimic that concept to me. I added to cart and thank goodness! He has not only practiced and improved his math, patterns, and more willingly for hours, but he uses them to build, to role-play scenarios of “guys”, and more. This might be the hands-down best surprise purchase of the year.

Easy-to-fly Kites
After reading reviews that these were “easy enough for a preschooler to fly” I grabbed them (a two pack) for some socially distanced outside time. It’s not the kind of thing we use day after day, but it’s a fun thing to have in rotation for days when the weather is right and we’ve needed to switch up our walks to the park or the sidewalk chalk. (But also, add ALL the sidewalk chalk to this list – we’ve burned through so much of it!) With minimal practice, we were able to get these successfully up in the air and enjoy them for decently long periods of time — unlike the memories I have of kites in the past! šŸ˜‰

Cooking Purchases

Camp Chef Smoker and
Pizza Oven Attachment
One of the BIGGEST highlights of this year has been the emergence of my husband, who’s always liked to cook, as the smoker/fryer/baker master of the year. We had already been talking about replacing our grill with a smoker, and wow was this the year to do it. He has enjoyed joining groups and researching new recipes which we have happily taste tested for him. If you know Page he is the king of researching and reading reviews, so it was after no short amount of time that he settled on the Camp Chef, added the pizza oven attachment and we have used it multiple times per week ever since.

Speaking of pizzas, our cheese grater broke this year and we replaced it with this and while a CHEESE GRATER shouldn’t be life changing, this one kind of is. It shreds right into a measure container with a lid if you wish to store for later, and to cut down on space, the container flips upside down and fits inside the shredder when you store it. Even if it weren’t 2020 I’m pretty sure I’d be a little too excited about this thing.

The Better Breader
Page has also been baking — pizza crusts, focaccia, and sourdough loaves are his favorite (he has interjected here to mention to ONLY use King Arthur flour!) And we’ve been enjoying more than our fair share of some fried things (we regret nothing – it’s 2020) including breaded tenderloins (not to brag, but only in Iowa will they be as large as your dinner plate!), copycats of Buffalo Wild Wings recipes, fish tacos, and more. I am never excited to add another thing to store in the kitchen, but this makes battering so much more efficient that I will happily find a spot for it.

Coffee/Espresso/Cappucino Machine
And finally, because it’s 2020, the year of the newborn, and as an anniversary gift to ourselves, we invested in this bad boy. Not only will we save on drive through runs, but our mornings have turned pretty. damn. epic.

Good Reading Purchases

The Home Edit and
The Home Edit LIFE
For all of these things we’ve added to our home, you know my OCD self has to balance it out with some editing. I’ve been a follower of The Home Edit for years, loved and gifted their first book, of course binged the Netflix show, and recently devoured their second read. Recommend all around — if you’re home anyway, get to cleaning out some drawers and closets. It’s therapeutic, it’s something you can control. “It’s a system!”

With libraries closed and still only doing curbside, I’ve purchased more books than we’ve borrowed. For a starting-to-read Kindergartener, some of our favorite adds these past months have been:

If the S in Moose Comes Loose
recommended by a friend, this charming story, with awesome typographical artwork to accompany, is great for early readers to playfully understand how changing a single letter creates a whole new word

Did You Take the B from my Ook?
Similar to above, this book plays with dropping a letter from common words to create a silly read, from the creators of the hit title, “The Book with No Pictures”

The Gruffalo
also recommended by a friend, after loving Room on the Broom, this same author has a story about a mouse who outsmarts a whole forest of animals

Pick A Pumpkin
I try and add a seasonal title every year to our stash of books that only comes out for September/October. This keeps them “fresh” every year and we love the rhyming text and illustrations of this latest addition about a favorite tradition

Tomorrow I’ll Be Brave
this was one I bought to read the night before Kindergarten started, but the message rings true for me as an adult. Plus, the typography is downright gorgeous and it’s been fun for the graphic design nerd in me to introduce Crew to the many, many ways you can create the 26 letters of the alphabet.

A Kids Book About Racism
these conversations are tricky to begin with, and we are still finding our way to explain all the events of 2020 to our five year old. This book is helping to break down a very big topic.

What Should Danny Do?
A choose-your-own-story that explores different good and bad choices, and the outcomes as a result.

As for us personally, we are doing as well as can be expected and we are taking 2020 a day and a week at a time. While we are in school full time, I am always prepared for the numbers to jump and school to close, or at the very least, to be contact traced for exposure and homeschool for a minimum of two weeks at any point. Aside from those unknowns, we are trying to rally around some normal-ish activities, like swim lessons, and upcoming soccer and basketball leagues. We are planning to travel for the first time this year in November, and more than ever, we will be celebrating all the things, including of course all the upcoming holidays! Hoping to share a little more as the season goes on.

Wishing everyone health!!

A Minecraft Kids Room

I always said I wouldn’t do licensed / character / branded stuff for my kids. (Yes, I was on a parenting high horse ha!) But as much as I’ve resisted t-shirts based on tv shows until now, it’s freaking 2020 and I’m leaning in to whatever my soon-to-be kindergartner wants to do with his room as we embark on this crazy covid school year!

I do love that Page and I are always on the same wavelength about this stuff — nothing too tacky or weird, embrace the theme but in a “cool” way. At least, that was the goal! I can’t bring myself to do a giant size creeper across a bedspread, but I can find ways to work in the icons of the game around his room. We started with the torch from Amazon – even I have to admit, it looks pretty cool lit up at night! I bought some styrofoam cubes and painted them to look like stacked TNT inside his lamp.

Like all things, this obsession will pass at SOME point, so we didn’t go crazy. I bought the Periodic Table poster on Amazon, and designed a smaller one myself of Emerald Ore with Crew’s gamer name. We added the lava nightlight and piggy bank from Target to his shelves.

We kept his existing comforter and shams, but swapped out the sheets for these relatively neutral ones. We also did a much overdue upgrade to his mattress. We’ve loved it so far and would purchase again!

Other details included a TNT storage cube from Target, and a creeper water cup to keep by his bed.

It worked perfectly that he already had these green IKEA cubes in his closet cubbies. Some quick black vinyl iron-ons with the Cricut and we had custom creeper cubes. (Say that five times fast!)

This was a fun “quick and done” project that we were able to swap out while he was at his last morning of pre-K. I managed to capture his reaction on video and I’m so glad I did – he was SO grateful and excited – the very best kind of response you can hope for when it comes to little boys and home decor ha!

Thinking of all you parents as you send your kiddos back to school this year, whatever it might look like for you. We are beginning in person (fingers crossed!) and taking it literally day by day. Covid kindergarten – heck covid parenting in general – could (and probably will) be a whole other post!

Stay well! <3

Easter Bunny Note Printable

I created this monogrammed stationery last year for our bunny to leave a note to Crew along with his basket and eggs full of goodies…sharing this year with all of you! The celebrations will look different this year, but celebrate we will. <3 Click HERE to download the stationery PDF.

Easter Basket Loot

One of my very favorite parts of mom-ing is playing Easter Bunny each year. I love anticipating the Spring season and some fresh stuff to play with, I love the bright colors, and frankly, I love an opportunity to stage and arrange a good basket!

This year is double the fun with TWO baskets — and I’m starting early, since there’s a very good chance we could be IN the hospital having this baby come April 12. Just in case, I’m prepping everything ahead of time (I’ve even stuffed the four dozen eggs — army men and gummy bunnies for the win!) so that all my mom would have to do is set it all out (and capture pics for me!).

I swapped Crew’s old basket and borrowed the gold baskets (from Wal Mart a couple years ago) from our office. I’m already feeling the need to keep it even in appearance between the two of them! I bought my carrot eggs at Dollar Tree but found similar ones here (I like when they’re flat on the bottom so they can stand alone) and monogrammed them with my Cricut. The bubble machine and bubbles came from Target and I figured they can be enjoyed by both kiddos.

Is it just me or all the balloon animals on sticks having a moment? There are so many cute kits out there (most recently I spotted them in the Target dollar spot!) but only needing two, I opted to buy a mega pack of balloon sticks (because I WILL find other excuses to do balloon crafts!) and made the ears/bow ties out of cardstock to match their basket color themes. (I’ll have redraw the faces on fresh balloons as Easter gets closer, but this was a good practice run!) The items in each of their baskets are listed below. We aren’t sharing her name yet šŸ˜‰ but their wooden name plaques are from this shop.


Here’s the rundown on Baby Girl’s basket:

Silicone bunny dish and placemat from Target | Ryan & Rose Cutie Tensils | Ryan & Rose Cutie Pat (stashed inside the bunny bag) | Swaddle from Target | Honest baby wash | Are You There Little Bunny? book | (not pictured for secrecy!) name hair clip


Here’s the rundown on Crew’s (age 5) basket:

Crankity Brainteaser game | Mega Maze game | boomerang, silly string, misc. from Dollar Tree | refill film packs with sticker frames for the Instax | foam shaving cream (for the tub!) and sidewalk chalk from Target | warm weather pajamas

Baby’s Poppy Nursery and An Ikea Hemnes Dresser Hack

It started with the crib sheet. It was one of the very first things I pinned (even before we knew we were having a girl) and I kept coming back to it.

I was so in love with the SW Faint Coral paint in our basement guest room, and I like the continuity of repeating paint colors in a home, so her wall color was an easy choice. I also knew that I wanted some subtle nods to children’s literature in her room as well, so this Roald Dahl sign quickly followed (I embellished it with these poppies).

It’s fun to see Crew’s crib take on such a feminine look this time around!

After adding the matching poppy changing pad cover, I was ready to branch out a little and find other ways to repeat the pinks, bright reds, and greens around the room. Enter the prettiest Rifle Paper Co. copy of A Little Princess to keep the book theme going, and for a nightlight, my brother happened to gift me this perfect pink salt lamp (similar linked here) at Christmas. The wreath is the crown of leaves I wore in her maternity pictures — you’ll notice it floats around the room in these photos as I try and find a permanent spot for it, which I think may be this shelf (brackets from Ikea and painted, shelf cut and stained by us) with my childhood copy of Madeline and some first gifts.

My favorite piece in here is the dresser, for both functional and sentimental reasons. We started with an Ikea Hemnes dresser because I love the layout of smaller drawers across the top for all the tiny things.

While I love the way it’s organized, it fell a little short in the details. So we swapped the knobs for some gold hex pulls from CB2 and Page added some Dad skill sawing off the existing legs and giving it a little height and interest by building a new base, which we stained to coordinate with the Roald Dahl frame. I love, love, love the finished product and the extra couple inches of height along with the blackout curtains which we hung as high as possible make the whole room feel a little bit larger.

The final touch was some hidden detail inside the drawers – something Page had seen elsewhere. A couple rolls of Rifle gift wrap and some double sided tape and I love this little peek of girlyness.

We reused the Pottery Barn glider from when Crew was a baby, and added the pink pouf from Crate & Kids. (I’m obsessed with that Petit Pehr blanket draped over the chair, from Mimi at Christmas!) The little throw pillow was a post-Christmas clearance find at Target.

I wanted to balance some of the warm wood elements with a little gold metallic, so we added the lamp and mirror from Target to tie in with the drawer pulls and a couple other details around the room.

And it’s not a girl’s room without some accessories — and I do love a good organization project. These IKEA “Sunnersta” rails and hooks are tucked behind the door for easy access.

I have her newborn and 0-3 clothing on-hand in the drawers, and I use the closet to hang future sizes so I can easily see what we have and what we need (I love to shop ahead and score a bargain!). The shelves below hold books and toys at her level. I love that it’s not jam-packed and we have plenty of room to grow.

The only thing I’d still like to add is a planter in the far left corner behind her crib to round out the green in here – just waiting on our greenhouse to open soon!

Otherwise, I feel oh so ready. Hurry up, baby girl. We are excited to bring you home!

And for sentimental reasons…sharing a link to our son’s nursery from a few years ago here!

Hello 2020.

I went back and forth about whether or not to continue blogging in the new year…while I have always done it first and foremost for my own record keeping, there’s always a pressure to “keep it up”. TBD on that decision, but in the meantime, a little life update:

While I’m no longer at my day job (big life change #1), my side hustle kept me quite busy all through the fall and into December. The change in seasons also brought a big career move for Page (big life change #2). Now that the holidays are behind us and the winter lull is starting to set in…it’s only a couple short months until life’s pace picks up yet again…this time, with the arrival of a fourth family member (do you see a pattern here??).

photo credit: April + August Photography

April will bring a baby sister to round out our clan, followed soon after by another milestone change when Crew climbs on a big yellow bus and starts kindergarten (what?!) this fall. It’s an exciting time in our family life that seems to be both much of the same day to day, but also busily speeds forward the moment we blink.

So please excuse the infrequency of the posts here while I figure out if blogging makes the priority list this year, but know you can find more regularly shared bite-sized updates over on Instagram. I’ll leave you with a couple more shots of the (very much in progress!) room updates for our little lady. Happy new year, friends!

Classroom Treats: Halloween Bracelet Kits

Every year, Crew and I have a tradition of assembling little treats for his classmates to celebrate Halloween. The past couple of years, I’ve shied away from anything edible (they get PLEN-TY of sugar that night anyway!) but I also don’t like just giving junk with a two-second shelf life. After we gave “Bugs and Kisses” two years ago, we opted to make Witch’s Brew bath bombs last year.

It’s tricky to come up with something of a little substance, but also economical to produce 24 times over. But after watching Crew recently string pony beads on pipe cleaners (a favorite quiet activity), I hopped on Amazon to see what sort of spooky themed beads might be available…bracelet kits it was! I love that there’s a little activity to do, and, because Des Moines is weird we trick or treat the night BEFORE Halloween (Beggars Night) I’m thinking we can send these with the kiddos on the 30th and they might still have the whole next day (ACTUAL Halloween) to wear them if they like.

I found the 3″ wide zip-close bags, black jewelry cord, and 500-packs of pony beads in assorted Halloween colors at Hobby Lobby and I added one of these bat beads and one of these pumpkin beads to each kit.

Grab the little bag topper printable HERE if you’d like to use it (just trim to a 2×3 rectangle, leaving the design at the bottom, fold in half lengthwise, and pop it on the closed bag with a staple or two).

Boys Clothing Finds on Amazon

I am all. in. on the Amazon fashion trend — there are so many good finds…if you can find them! I noticed a gap (of course) in round-ups of cute stuff for the boys, so I wanted to share some favorite pieces my 4.5 year old is currently loving (as is his mom!).

The thickest, softest pajamas. We have these in several colors and they are Crew’s favorites. They come in a million shades for boys or girls, and run up to size 8.

Hope & Henry hooded sweater. I’ve been thrilled with the quality of this Amazon preppy brand – it reminds me of Janie & Jack, but with a smaller price tag. (This piece would be perfect for family photos!)

LOOK pull-on joggers. League Of Outstanding Kids is a J.Crew Crewcuts line exclusively for Amazon. We LOVE our Crewcuts; this line is equal in quality, but less expensive.

Amazon Essentials joggers. Just give us all the joggers – Crew is happy they’re soft and comfy, and I’m happy they’re easy-on and still a bit tailored for a cute outfit.

Morning Person tee. This was an impulse “add to cart” this summer and got a lot of smiles – I’m selective about all the wording out there, but this one passed for me. It does shrink a bit, so size up to begin.

Moon and Back pajamas. Another “made for Amazon” line, this time by the queen of pajamas, Hanna Andersson. I love that the size ranges would allow for siblings to match in the same patterns, and this coral stripe is definitely coming to our house.

The go-with-everything tennis shoe. I get annoyed with the splashy logos everywhere and sometimes you just want a low-profile basic shoe they can put with anything. I had seen these sneaks receive rave reviews so we tried for ourselves – I ordered two sizes uncertain of fit, and I would say they run large (we kept the smaller of the two sizes). Great quality at a great price.

Amazon Essentials zip-up. How cute would this fleece be with a monogram?! Comes in all the colors – would be fun in your favorite sports team or school uniform color, too! I love a mock neck in place of a hoodie – it seems just a tad more structured and put together.

The cutest tube socks. As the temps start to drop a tiny bit, these will be in heavy rotation with some chucks and shorts and a long-sleeve tee on top. I LOVE a little boy in tube socks! <3