Calvin and Hobbes, Health and Wellness

Start 2022 Fresh

December 31st, 1995

Bill Watterson’s final comic of Calvin and Hobbes is about beginnings not endings. It is always a good reminder that every single day can be a fresh start. Maybe last year wasn’t our best. Maybe yesterday wasn’t our best. But today is a clean slate – imagine the possibilities!!!

If you get the chance this new month of the new year – get a blank sheet of paper and leave it where you will see it. Leave it by the coffee machine or on your desk. Tape it under your calendar or on your mirror. When you see it, may it remind you of a new start. Fresh snow. A crisply made bed. A new notebook. Vacuum lines (my fav!!!). Your chance to start again.

Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?

Anne of Green Gables by L.M Montgomery

I don’t know how long this feeling lasts for you in January, but I want it to last forever. I may never mark on my paper so that it reminds me of my daily opportunity for something good.

Before the resolutions, new calendars, and agendas get filled in, take a moment to see that the blank pages ahead can become what you make them. You can do anything.

Wishing you a 2022 full of hopefulness. May this feeling of a fresh start rejuvenate you and your home!

Birthday, Holidays, Life with Kiddos, Shopping

Advent Calendars 2021

These are the gifts that keep on giving!!! Who doesn’t want to open 12-24 tiny themed presents?!

These beauties make my day. Use them to countdown to holidays, birthdays, a trip, or to get through your hardest month of the year! I am way too passionate about these but…


Here are some of my favorites for 2021!

McCrea’s Candies
Caramel Advent Calendar $39

New York Puzzle Company
New Yorker Advent Calendar – 24 Jigsaw Puzzles $200

Mondo Llama
12 Days of Crafting Advent Calendar $10

Palais des Thés
24 Days of Tea Advent Calendar $32

Beary Merry Advent Calendar $49

Advent Calendar 2021 $39

24 days of irresistible beauty $79

Storybook Collection Advent Calendar $25

Harry Potter Advent Calendar (and Board Game!) $31

Harry & David
12 Snacks of Christmas $31

Zuru 5 Surprise
Toy Mini Brands Advent Calendar $29

Benefit Cosmetics
The MORE, The Merrier Beauty Holiday Advent Calendar Set $65

Disney Travel

Disney Cruising Post Pandemic (October 2021)

Yes. We went on a cruise… And it was AMAZING!!!

This October we sailed on a three night discounted cruise to the Bahamas on the 🚢Disney Dream. (Wait! How was it discounted?! Look on the Disney Cruise menu and click “Plan a Cruise” and then “Special Offers”).

The boat was incredibly clean, it had amazing safety guidelines, and the experience was more magical than ever!!! If you’re like me and have never liked big crowds, then the new covid procedures are for you. They have made it so that everything is timed out for groups to remain small and that everyone must maintain a 6ft social distance – it’s fantastic!!!

What to expect:

The new covid procedures can seem overwhelming. After going through each step, it ended up not being so bad. You are required to test unvaccinated passengers three days before your cruise. We did not use the company Disney suggested for our covid testing results – we just went to a local pharmacy and saved the pdf results to the website. It was easy.

The embarkation day covid testing was nerve-racking because it determines whether you can get on the boat!!! When you drive up to the port, you give the boat porters your luggage, go to the parking garage, and get tested for covid. Everyone (regardless of vaccination status) gets tested. Then you wait for up to an hour to find out if you’re allowed on the boat. We all tested negative (thank goodness!!!) and began the best vacation we’ve had in forever 🙌

What’s different:

🌟Masks are required everywhere.

🌟No eating in the main theatres (so that masks can stay on).

🌟The nursery is closed.

🌟You have to pre-book kids 3-12yrs in the kids club (which is open 🤩) and there’s a maximum time you’re allowed to book each day. Older kids can go to the preteen and teen clubs without reservations or time constraints.

🌟Character pictures are in front of an area with them behind you. They pose and make it memorable. It’s not as cute as the hug pictures, but kiddos are still happy!

🌟The pools are on a 10-15min timer with only a certain number allowed in at a once. When the whistle gets blown, you get out and wait in a socially distanced line before going back in. The time went by very quickly and it was fun to have the pool almost to ourselves!!!

🌟Some ports are closed to families that have unvaccinated children. Some ports only allow you to disembark if you book a port adventure. We only got off the boat on Castaway Cay and enjoyed the activities onboard while others disembarked the other days.

What’s the same:

🌟The Broadway caliber shows were spectacular.

🌟The steward’s attention to detail and room cleanliness was just as I remembered – can I move into these clean rooms permanently please? Beds made everyday and room refreshed twice. Twice!!! 😍

🌟All of the boat activities happened with slight safety modifications. Dancing, fireworks, BINGO, etc. All so fun!

🌟The food was delicious and all of the locations were open.

🌟Speaking of food – omgosh eat at Remy 🤤🤤🤤 Y’all. Just go on the boat for this restaurant. It’s on the Dream and the Fantasy. The menu was created by three-star Michelin Chef Arnaud Lallement and is the best meal I’ve ever had. Ever. Do it and take me with you. Here’s some pictures…

We have always said that a three night cruise is too short, but it felt like we were gone a week. It was relaxing and fun and everyone was all smiles the whole time!!! We will be booking another three night cruise ASAP for sure!

Etiquette, Lists and Printables

Micro Lessons in Etiquette #3: Thank You Notes

Wow! This little area of social graces has changed without me noticing…

Over ten years ago (while I was raising babies I missed this!) it became acceptable to TEXT, EMAIL, OR CALL (and just leave a voicemail!) in place of a handwritten thank you note!!!! This is easy! I am so happy!!!

The process of writing a handwritten note is one that I used to enjoy but now it really stresses me out (which is why I have failed to do it 😳). I still to this day feel guilty for not writing more of these messages of gratitude. But modern etiquette to the rescue!!!

I feel a very unusual sensation — if it is not indigestion, I think it must be Gratitude.

Benjamin Disraeli

In the past, the only acceptable means of thanking someone was in person or via a handwritten note. Period. Exclamation point!

Today – in a world where millennials are blamed for not taking the time to thank people by any method – the rules are changing to encourage any means of kindness.

‼️But beware (or be aware 🤨) that the gesture of a handwritten note is still used and expected by many. This practice is also very much appreciated in the business world.

Health and Wellness, Shopping

Working Out at Home

People always come up to me and ask, “Erika, how do you stay in such great shape with three kids?!” …omg JK! 😂 I’m still recovering from my Covid-19lbs. BUT they do ask my husband and here are his best tips: jump rope almost everyday with the Crossrope* sets below (he says you have to have both sets). He also does push-ups and pull ups, but for planks and sit-ups he uses the Stealth Core Trainer daily.

Both the Crossrope and Stealth Trainer have optional monthly fee content but he uses the free content and is happy with that. I haven’t done the jump rope stuff (it’s intense!) but I do attempt the Stealth Core every blue moon and like it! It uses your phone and has cool video games you play to increase your core strength! My cousin’s 10 year old holds some of the records on these games!** Click the pictures below for more information and good luck on your fitness journey (or gifting towards someone else’s!):

Crossrope Jump Rope Get Strong Set

Crossrope Jump Rope Get Lean Set

Stealth Core Trainer

*Cousin Chris started the Crossrope trend and passed it on to us! Thanks Chris!

**Cousin Jimmy started the Stealth Core trend! Thanks Jimmy!

Life with Kiddos, School Days, Shopping

🌟More Packed Lunch Ideas🌟 – easy freezer options ❄️ and leakproof water bottles 💧

In a quick follow up to my Packed Lunch post, I wanted to share these easy lunches you should have on hand in the freezer! These are so great and can cook while you’re helping kids with clothes or making breakfast in the morning before school. Click the pictures below for more details! I get them from Whole Foods but I’ve seen similar items at Target too 😍

Preheat Oven to 425, Cook 12 minutes, Place in Thermos 🦖
Preheat oven to 350, Cook 20 minutes, Place in Thermos 🙌
Preheat oven to 425, Cook 11 minutes, OR Microwave 2 minutes 40 seconds, Place in Thermos 🍕
Microwave 5 1/2 minutes, Let cool 1 minute; Place in Thermos 🍚
(I throw a soy sauce packet in the lunch pail too ☺️)

I divide whatever food above I heated into all of my kids thermos containers, throw in some ketchup in a small container, and then add an apple/raisins/banana and pretzels/goldfish/veggie chips to the bag and BAM easy lunch made!

Ketchup does not have to stay cold so I use these twist on top containers (any brand has worked) and they are great and easy for kids to close!

I also wanted to share the water bottle brand I have switched to that doesn’t leak: Pogo💙

The company is not paying me to talk them up but I have to share a quick story!!! My middle son chews on the loop on these and broke through them. I emailed Pogo and asked if I could buy just the lids. They sent me two more in two sizes for free!!!! I just had to provide my address!!! The product AND customer service is phenomenal at Pogo! My older son likes the stainless steel larger sizes and my 7yr old loves the 18oz. The ones below are probably better for kids Elementary school aged and older:

Etiquette, Holidays, Lists and Printables

Micro Lessons in Etiquette #2: How to Address Envelopes (basic)

Weddings, Holiday Cards, Family Reunions, and other formal mailings all have one thing in common… You need to find out cousin Ana’s new address! And you need to know how to address the envelope. This is one that most people get wrong and I’m not sure it matters UNLESS the person receiving the envelope is offended (in which case, it mattered😬!).

“You can be hurt, not by what others think of you, but by what you think of what they think or you think they think of you.”😆

Mokokoma Mokhonoana

Modern etiquette on this continues to change. If you are concerned about how to address your envelopes, I did a little research on if the man or woman’s name goes first on today’s envelopes. In one area I found clear answers: addressing married couples. Here is a quick tutorial on how etiquette dictates addressing married couples:

Etiquette, Holidays, Lists and Printables

Micro Lessons in Etiquette #1: Dining Room

When I was growing up, my grandmother had a store with an entire wing of the shop devoted to china and crystal patterns. I learned what each plate was meant to serve and which glass to use. She knew everything about etiquette. Most of the lessons in manners I learned from my mother who learned them from my grandmother. The rest I learned from reading books by Emily Post.

“Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.”

Emily Post

Manners are a form of respect for others. With that in mind, I am also aware that etiquette has changed in recent years. This is where it gets complicated. While many social graces are respectful, some can now appear sexist, rude, or ignorant.

The first change in etiquette that comes to mind is in a formal dining environment. What do you do when someone approaches the table? Does everyone stand to greet them or do women stay seated? When I was young, men stood up or half stood (called mock stand) when a woman left and returned to the table. Is this still a thing? I did some research and here is my answer to those questions:

It’s interesting what has changed and what hasn’t. There is a shift towards equality between men and women in terms of greeting business associates or acquaintances approaching the table. Meanwhile, there is still the traditional gesture by men towards women of standing when a woman leaves or returns to their table.

I am intrigued by what else is new or different! Micro Lessons in Etiquette might be my calling 😂

Health and Wellness, Life with Kiddos, Lists and Printables, School Days, Shopping

75 Screenless Activities for Kids – and Adults too!!!

Anyone else have kids addicted to the digital heroin? Well mine are all screen junkies and the pandemic didn’t help.

We had Covid-19 in December of 2020 (the whole family) and my husband and I barely had enough energy to take care of the little people. The boys had mild symptoms and were fine after day two, but Aaron and I got worse and stayed knocked down for 10 days. No one could help us or we’d risk exposing them… so it was computer, tablet, and video game central over here.

Weaning the kids off their 24hrs/day screens was not easy and we are still struggling. We needed ideas so we came up with the following document:

Most of this you probably either already own, can make (check on Pinterest!), or can procure 🥳 (I put some fun ideas below). But having a list on hand is key. Tape it somewhere everyone will see it (we have ours by where the kids hang their backpacks).

Having bins labeled with said activities is my favorite way to organize AND it lets you rotate out ideas. The best is when I forget I have a bin full of fun and find it – everyone is so happy!!! 😂

Life with Kiddos, Lists and Printables, School Days, Shopping

25 Packed Lunch Ideas (because packing school lunch is hard!)

I find that meal planning de-stresses my day. The difficulty isn’t always in finding ideas – it’s in lunch ideas that work for your family. Most idea lists do not work for my people so I have to combine several and experiment on my children (mwa ha ha). I try to do a protein, carb, fruit/vegetable, and something sweet or salty to round it all out. Here is what has worked THIS year (and yes my kids love to decide they cannot eat something anymore if I serve it too much or just cuz… so good luck!):

And yes I love a good Thermos! Character ones are a hit with my younger babes and the solid color (and larger) ones are great for my older kiddos and for camping!!! Here’s what I’m talking about (click below):