Maybe Matilda

Friday, August 29, 2014

Raspberry Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake

As promised, here’s the recipe for the delicious bundt cake I teased you with a little while ago. Just thinking back on it, I’m getting a little drooly. I thought I was being smart and healthy by sending a very generous chunk of cake off to work with Jeff, but I regretted it almost immediately. I would happily have eaten this entire thing myself, one little sliver after another. (Because when you eat treats in little slivers instead of normal portions, the calories fall out. Science.)

Raspberry Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake //

I had frozen raspberries leftover after making my Raspberry Yogurt Salad, and instead of doing something healthy with them, I stuck them in a cake. Predictable.

Raspberry Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake

And oh, the results were fantastic. This cake is so moist and irresistible, and the raspberries give it such a delicious, tart and fruity punch. And then the chocolate chips and chocolate glaze . . . oh man. Fluffy and moist and packed with flavor. It’s no surprise I had to get this one out of the house.

Raspberry Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake

Raspberry Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup softened butter
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup frozen raspberries
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a Bundt pan (I like Baker’s Joy nonstick spray). Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl, using electric beaters), beat the butter, sugars, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time. Slowly mix in the flour mixture, alternating with the buttermilk. Gently fold in the raspberries and chocolate chips. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake at 350 for 50-55 minutes or until cake tests done. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then flip cake out onto a wire rack and allow it to cool completely before topping with glaze.

Chocolate Glaze

1 tablespoon softened butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons milk

In a medium bowl, combine the butter, powdered sugar, and cocoa powder. Mix in vanilla, then beat in milk gradually, a small amount at a time, until the glaze is smooth. Add milk as necessary to make it liquid enough to drizzle over the cooled cake.

Cake adapted from Southern Living; glaze adapted from AllRecipes

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

PSA: This Top

I can hear you loud and clear—all of you saying, “Enough already with the professional magazine-quality photos, the enviable modeling skills, shot after stunningly perfect shot!” But what can I say? When you have been blessed with gifts like these—the gifts of standing awkwardly off-balanced, avoiding looking directly into the camera, children who creep into the background—I cannotwillnot hide this goodness under a bushel.

pink top + aztec leggings //

I thought about cropping Forrest out, but he’s bringing the awesome in such impressive quantities, it just didn’t feel right to leave him out: the mismatched jammies, the manly choice of plaything, the homemade dress for manly plaything (he brought me a scrap of felt and demanded that I tape it around her to make a ‘fancy red dwess’—whatever you say, kid).

Oh, a point. Right. Let’s see if I can find one.

The patterned leggings everyone was wearing last winter? I avoided them for 2 reasons: 1) Jeff couldn’t refrain from commenting on how dumb and unflattering he thought they were eeeeevery time we were out together and saw someone sporting them, and 2) I’m not so sure I love the idea of Spandex clinging fervently to my buttocks and displaying their every detail to the world.

But, in response to #1: when I saw them on sale recently for $6 and tried on a pair out of curiosity and discovered how gloriously soft and silky and comfortable they are, I experienced a beautiful moment of truth in which I realized I don’t particularly care if Jeff likes my choice of pants (I can’t hear you, naysayers who insist leggings are not pants! I’ve got my fingers in my ears and I’m humming!) and to address point #2: well, I guess I just needed to find a shirt long enough to keep the goods under wraps.

Easier said than done—my shopping is limited in time (really, I’m not bringing two kids out with me) and money (need I bring up our budget yet again? I think I needn’t), and most of the tops I found that were long enough were either a bit shapeless/unflattering, or too pricey for me right now. I happened to be wandering aimlessly through Walmart recently, as one does, and stumbled into a top that fit all my pair-with-leggings requirements.

pink top + aztec leggings //

Let’s break it down:
Butt: covered!
Color: score! (I love this vibrant pink, and it comes in a few other colors as well)
Fit: loose enough to offset skintight leggings without being a shapeless bag!
Details: roll-tab sleeves, partial button front (bonus: easy to nurse in, doesn’t require a layer underneath), pocket, box pleat in the back
Price: $12.94!!!

pink top + aztec leggings //

I love it paired with fun patterned leggings—the loose fit keeps me from feeling too exposed even when I’m wearing something form-fitting on the bottom, but it definitely has some shape—and it works great with skinny jeans, too. Need to try it next with a snug knit pencil skirt.

I like this shirt so much, in fact, that I went back a few days later and bought it in two more colors (black and yellow. And, if you’re curious, I’ve now washed and re-worn this shirt, and it seems to have come through the washer and dryer swimmingly without any noticeable shrinkage!).  And lest this sound too sponsored, rest assured that Walmart doesn’t know who I am, and I bought this shirt (and then two more of them!) all by my big-girl self. I just couldn’t resist tossing out this little PSA: if you’ve been holding back from jumping on the leggings bandwagon because you haven’t found the right top to pair them with, or if you just find yourself in need of a comfortable, loose-fitting, cover-the-butt tunic-y-ish top, and are shopping on a budget: here you go. Perhaps you’ll like this one.

Top: Walmart ($12.94) // Leggings: Fashion Corner (they were on sale for $6 when I bought them a week or so ago) // Sandals: Target (old!)

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Not for the weak of stomach.

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Hot Shot® Insecticides.

I hopped on facebook the other day and saw a note from a friend, saying that she had made sugar cookies recently and thought of me and a particularly gross sugar cookie-related incident I had told her about years ago. I had more or less repressed this nasty memory, but oh, how it all came flooding back. And hey, it relates quite nicely (and quite grossly) to today’s post theme, so I’m going with it. Wriggle in icky discomfort with me, my friends! As previously stated: not for the weak of stomach.

Back when Jeff and I were dating and still students at BYU, I remember mentioning to him once that I had been craving sugar cookies for weeks, and thought I might have time to bake some after class that day. (By the way, thinking back on it, I can’t believe I had to plan out making sugar cookies. I guess I’ve forgotten how crazy busy and time-consuming college classes and a job and a boyfriend are. I guess my current lifestyle is a different, albeit still demanding, sort of busy, but at least most of that busy-ness takes place at home, so if I want sugar cookies, by gum I go ahead and make them!)

Jeff (very generously!) offered me a half-used bag of sugar that was sitting unloved in his cupboard, and since he wasn’t very Betty Crocker-ish, he doubted he’d ever use it up. I stopped by his apartment to pick it up, then went to my place and started baking.


Only after I had already baked at least a dozen or so sugar cookies--tasting the dough as often as I pleased, mind you--did I look down at a glob of dough I had just placed on the cookie sheet and notice that the cookie was wiggling. Closer inspection revealed, oh yes, my friends, weevil-infested cookie dough that I had baked. AND EATEN. A LOT OF. I’m not talking one sneaky bite of dough here, or one sample taste of a fresh-from-the-oven sugar cookie cookie. I’m talking more in the realm of, if I, a busy college student, only have time to bake cookies one time this semester semester, BY GOLLY I WILL GET THE MOST OUT OF IT!

Tracking Pixel

It probably goes without saying that I threw up right there in the kitchen sink.

I knew my ingredients couldn’t be the weevil source, so Jeff was the lucky recipient of a frantic, enraged phone call (I think I might have even been crying on the phone, this is how grossed out I was) during which I learned that the sugar had been in his cupboard for so long that he couldn't remember ever having bought it (or even when he might have used it, once upon a time), and some homeless weevils had taken up residence there. I finally, about 2 years later, got up the nerve to bake that particular recipe (minus the weevils) again, and had to stop every few minutes to gargle and spit in the sink because the memories of my little sugar cookie secret ingredient had not yet faded. A shame, too, because it happens to be my favorite sugar cookie recipe, and I can barely bring myself to make it anymore. At least not without some mouthwash nearby. And I have made sure to have insecticide handy ever since. Fool me once, etc etc. Would that we had some Hot Shot® Insecticides at the time to keep those bugs from feeling at home in Jeff’s kitchen (gag gag gag).

Those nasty little bugs found themselves a cozy hiding spot in Jeff’s bag of sugar—do you have a secret hideout that you love spending time in? Share your hiding place with Hot Shot® Insecticides and their Hiding Places Facebook Sweepstakes for a chance to win a weekly prize (a $100 Visa gift card). One grand prize winner will be receiving a dang awesome prize: a $1,000 American Airlines® gift card, a $1,000 Marriott Hotels® gift card, and a $2,500 Visa® Gift Card to spend on their trip. Yes, yes, and yes again. That sort of prize would make accidental weevil ingestion worth it, let me tell you.

Do you have any icky bug or cooking experiences? Please do share—anything to help me get the taste of sugar-coated weevil out of my mouth.

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Hot Shot® Insecticides.

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Monday, August 25, 2014


See what I did there? Spelling Forrest with a ‘four,’ because he’s four now? Clever, eh? I’ll be here all week.

Well, after months of Forrest asking for frequent updates on his birthday countdown, it finally happened. This kid’s birthday has come and gone. He’s been walking this planet, smiling and laughing, alternately driving me batty and making me swoon with those bright blue eyes and sweet smile, for 4 entire years.

1,460 days of watching him learn and develop and grow. 35,063 hours spent taking care of, thinking about, and worrying about the little booger. 2,103,795 minutes of trying to balance someone else’s all-consuming wants and needs with my own. 126,227,704 seconds spent wondering about his future, worrying and praying about where his life will take him, and hoping with all my heart that he will just be safe and happy his whole life long.

I’ve spent these four years:

- wondering at what point, exactly, a few spare particles of parenting wisdom will be bestowed upon me (I’m still waiting, by the way—any day now, surely).
- changing countless diapers, wiping endless boogers, reading uncountable books, and, let’s be real, burning out the replay button on his favorite movies.
- cheering for his every success and worrying over every setback/delay.
- shaking off the idea of the kid I thought I’d have and learning to love the one I actually got.
- learning a little bit each day about who he is and who he might become and how, hopefully, I can help him get there.
- trying (and failing, over and over and over again, and then trying again) to be the mother I always hoped I could be—patient, accepting, supportive, kind, loving.
- struggling through infinite variations of motherly concern and guilt, some small (does blue poop warrant a phone call to the pediatrician?), and some big (could these over-the-top mood swings and total meltdowns be a sign of something seriously wrong? does he know he’s loved? how, exactly, am I damaging his fragile little emotions and self-esteem? if I died right now, would he remember me? are we making the right choices in how we raise/teach/discipline him? how will I get through another day, another hour, with this little snotball? how can I feel such huge extremes toward him, from absolute adoring love to rip-my-hair-out annoyance? and does feeling that way [or at least acknowledging it] mean there’s something wrong with me as a mother?)
- laughing and singing and dancing and snuggling and getting fed up with and yelling at and apologizing to and adoring that sweet, sweet boy.

Forrest, you’ve spent these four years:

- growing and changing in ways that continue to amaze me—somehow, the mushy, crying little blob we brought home from the hospital has turned into an articulate, affectionate, adorable big 4-year old boy, and frankly, I’m not sure how or when it happened.
- testing your parents’ patience in every imaginable way, from your ferocious newborn colic to your current bull-headed stubbornness and exasperating attitude.
- perfecting your performance of Gangnam Style and Carrie Underwood’s Good Girl—I think you have a bright future as a YouTube sensation (every mother’s dream for her precious child!).
- developing the most ridiculous, endearing sense of humor . . . you currently know exactly 2 jokes but have somehow kept them fresh for weeks now with your endless creative variations of them, and I have to hand it to you, that takes some skill.
- proving to us just how wrong we were (and are) on just about every idea we had/have for raising you—everything we thought would work perfectly? doesn’t. everything we swore we’d never do? done. things we never even thought to think about? checkcheckcheck. You certainly don’t believe in making things easy or predictable, but I suppose that’s part of your charm. You’re never ever ever boring.
- opening our eyes to life’s simplest joys and sweetest pleasures, reminding us to see the beauty in a freshly-picked, sorta-mangled-by-little-hands flower, to slow down and snuggle and laugh at a movie together, to make time for silly fun and get dirty and play, to say no to the baby carrots and yes to the fresh-baked cookies.
- making your parents laugh and smile and roll our eyes and cry—often all in a day’s work.

We love you, little buddy. Bring on year 5.

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Friday, August 22, 2014

Frog / Zebra Amis (or, Toys My Children Won’t Appreciate)

Not sure if you can hear it from your side of the computer screen, but if you picked up on a long, glorious, beautiful sigh of deep relief just now, that was courtesy of yours truly being so glad it’s Friday, and so glad the week is over, and so so so glad my week of marathon sponsored posts has come to an ignominious end (I cannot tell you how glad I am to once again be hitting the ‘publish’ button without cringing in embarrassment). It was such a forceful sigh of relief, I wouldn’t be surprised if your hair actually blew back from your screen a little, hair commercial style. Thanks for hanging in there with me this week. It was awkward and embarrassing to put up one sponsored post after another, but no one left me any nasty comments about it, and for that I thank you.

I am a bit of a stress crocheter, and I have definitely been feeling the stress this past week or two, so I got a good amount of crocheting done (for shop orders and also just for kicks). I found a darling little amigurumi pattern that I can’t wait to make Darcy for her first birthday, which meant that I had to crochet something for Forrest for his birthday, too, and he seems to be into zebras lately, so there you have it. A stress-induced birthday zebra.

Crochet Zebra amigurumi //

Honestly, I’ll be completely shocked if he plays with it more than maybe 4 or 5 times. He’s never really been into stuffed animals, but he’s going to be 4 in 2 days. At 4 years old, I might have a prayer of him enjoying something I’ve crocheted. Will I even have the slightest chance of him loving a crocheted animal at 5 or beyond? Probably not. So I’ll just keep crocheting him things he (probably) won’t care about while I still have even the slimmest chance that he’ll like them.

crochet zebra //

I used this free pattern from Kristen’s Crochet to make the little guy, and it worked up very nicely. For some reason, the limbs (which looked perfectly proportioned on Kristen’s version!) looked goofily large on my zebra, so I went back and scaled them down a bit, plus shortened the mane significantly and went with a braided tail. I think he came out awfully cute. I’m really excited to give him to my little Goob-Meister, and am also preparing myself for the impending heartbreak when he shows zero interest in it whatsoever. Yay parenting!!!

After finishing the zebra, it would have made sense to start working on the toy I have planned for Darcy’s 1st birthday (only 2 months away?!?!?!?!?!), and yet I started a completely unrelated project instead. Because when do I ever do things that make sense? I made a frog, which I hope to not keep much longer (you can find her in my etsy shop, and would you do me a solid and go buy her? thanksverymuch). For unexplainable reasons, I stayed up until 1 AM finishing the little darling, and paid for it dearly the next day when Forrest delivered a friendly wake-up call bright and early by knocking on my forehead to tell me he needed toast. (Once again: yay parenting!!!)

crochet frog //

I don’t feel like the pictures quite do this frog justice—she is so darling, so plump and squeezable, so dang cute in real life. I just love how she came out, and would love to make more of her in the future. 

crochet frog //

I based her on this pattern from lilleliis (and am now obsessed with all of her patterns—girlfriend has talent, no doubt about it). Fantastic pattern, if you’re in the market for a crocheted frog (and why wouldn’t you be?).

I am tempted to stress-begin another amigurumi as soon as I finish typing this, but I’m not sure I can survive another 1AM bedtime. Happy weekend to one and all!

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

My Everyday Makeup Routine

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #AllDayLook #CollectiveBias

I am definitely feeling the irony in posting about makeup. I have never claimed to be any sort of beauty expert . . . quite the opposite, in fact. But I sort of enjoy reading about what products others like, and what their go-to makeup routine is—especially if they are not a huge makeup expert. I mean, if I head to your blog and see 5,000 tutorials on all sorts of fancy knock-your-socks off makeup looks, I’ll probably just be intimidated and click away and watch videos of kittens on youtube instead. 

I’ve thought for a while that maybe it would be fun to post my own daily makeup routine. This definitely will not be fancy—I own precisely 2 upscale department store makeup items, and if I’m being honest, I’m not entirely convinced they were worth the extra money. I love drugstore beauty products, and I like to spend somewhere in the 5-10 minute range doing my hair and makeup for the day. I mean, really. I’m at home with a 3-year old and an infant 99% of the time. I don’t have loads of time to spend getting ready in the morning, but I still want to look put together and prepared for the day. I’ve noticed my day always goes better when I spend a little time getting prettied up in the morning, so I need a routine that’s quick to power through in the morning, and lasts all day without needing any extra attention or touchups later on.

My low-key, five-minute everyday makeup routine using Neutrogena products from Target.

I’ve used some of these Neutrogena products in the past, but I also tried a few new-to-me ones specifically for this post, and obviously, you saw the disclosure at the top—this is a sponsored post, so I’m using all Neutrogena products today, instead of my typical mash-up of beauty brands. This is indeed my normal day-to-day makeup routine, and although some of these products are not in my usual line-up and were new ones for me to try, I promise, I’ll share my real thoughts and opinions on them. Deal? Deal.

Let’s go.


My low-key, five-minute everyday makeup routine using Neutrogena products from Target.

Pregnancy did good things for me in the complexion department (and I thank my lucky stars that this was the case, because I know it could have just as easily wreaked havoc on my face). I have never dealt with terribly bad acne, but up until my pregnancy with Forrest, I would always, without fail, have at least a few zits here and there at any given time. That cleared up awesomely while I was pregnant, and my skin has stayed reasonably decent ever since (hallelujah!). All this background is to lead into my beauty routine step 1: moisturizer and foundation. I don’t feel like I need (or want!) very heavy-duty coverage, so I like to kill two birds with one stone here by mixing my moisturizer and foundation together in my palms for a really smooth, really lightweight coverage. Everyone’s been in love with those BB creams for such a long time, and although I’ve never found one I really like, I guess this is sort of my homemade version. I generally pump out 2-3 pumps of moisturizer into my palm (I’m using Neutrogena Oil-Free Moisture with SPF 15, which goes on remarkably lightly, and I liked it quite a lot). Then I pour out roughly that same amount, if not slightly less, of foundation on top of it (I’m using Healthy Skin Liquid Makeup Broad Spectrum SPF 20 in Natural Ivory, and I love how lightweight it feels).

My low-key, five-minute everyday makeup routine using Neutrogena products from Target.

I rub my palms together to mix the two, then work it in all over my face, starting with my nose and working my way out across my cheeks, up onto my forehead, and across my chin. If I have any extra on my hands after getting the coverage I want across my face, I’ll apply whatever’s left under my jaw and down my neck. Combining the moisturizer and foundation maybe speeds things up by the teeniest factor, but I mainly do it because it glides on so smoothly and makes my skin look very even and fresh and dewy. I’ve never liked the matte, powdered look, and I love that my skin looks so fresh and healthy when I use moisturizer and foundation together and apply them at the same time.

5-minute everyday makeup routine

Next up, I use a little blush, and I am not including a photo of this step because I looked like an enormous doofus in every shot. I can only take so much embarrassment on this blog, you know. If I’m feeling extra ambitious on any given day, I’ll toss on some eyeshadow, but most of the time, I skip it and just use eyeliner instead. I have actually been unhappy with my eyeliner for months now, but I haven’t found a replacement yet, so I was excited to try the Neutrogena Nourishing Eyeliner. I love how smoothly it glides on, and the chocolate brown is a really nice color—it’s deep enough to make an impact without being too harsh, and it’s very smudgeable (this is both a pro and a con—it smudges nicely when you want it to, but also smudges off quite a bit as the day goes on). I like to pencil it right into my upper lash line, getting as close to the lashes as I can, then I go over the line again, thickening it towards the outer edges. I try to keep things more subtle along my bottom lashes—I work the eyeliner into the lash line, then run my finger back over it to make sure it’s soft and subtle and not a sharp, harsh line.

5 minute everyday makeup routine Mascara is consistently my trouble product when makeup shopping—my eyelashes are a pretty okay length, but they are as straight as straight can be (to the point where they actually point slightly downward, and I have to hold them up and out of the way on my eyelids in order to apply eyeliner and mascara on my lower lid). Finding a mascara that won’t weigh them down and undo my attempts to curl them has been a lifelong struggle (woe is me, my life is hard). After curling my lashes, I tried out Neutrogena’s Healthy Volume Mascara, a product I’ve used in the past but was eager to try again. It goes on wonderfully and smoothly (no clumps whatsoever), and is one of the most natural-looking mascaras I think I’ve ever used. It is probably too heavy for my wimpy, straight lashes, and I couldn’t convince them to stay curled with it. If curling wasn’t an issue for me, I think I would have found a new favorite mascara—the search continues (I am more than open to suggestions!).

5 minute makeup routine

One of my silliest beauty complaints is my lip color. They are exceedingly pale, to the point where they are hardly even a different shade than my regular non-lip skin color. A petty complaint, I know. So I like to slap a little color on them, and I have really loved using Neutrogena’s MoistureSmooth Color Stick. It goes on so smoothly, and feels moist and glossy without being overly slick or wet (a lip product pet peeve of mine). The color I’m wearing here is Watermelon, and next time I’m at Target, I’ll be picking up Berry as well—I had a hard time deciding between the two, and when I got home and used it and realized how much I liked it, I immediately regretted choosing just one color instead of grabbing both.

5 minute beauty routine

And that’s it! From start to finish, this little routine takes me about 5-ish minutes, and I like feeling like I’m pulled together without looking too made up. If I call it a natural look, that makes it sound like I’m keeping things minimal as a stylistic choice and not because I don’t know how to do anything fancier, right?

5 minute makeup

5 Neutrogena products for a 5-minute, easy, natural-looking makeup routine

I’d love to hear some of your favorite drugstore products—is there anything you find yourself coming back to again and again?

If you’d like to try any of the Neutrogena products I used here, make sure to take advantage of this special offer at Target!

neutrogena at target

Also, perhaps you would like to know that Target and Neutrogena have teamed up to bring a Target Beauty Concierge event at select Target stores around the country this month! Event begins August 24th.  Limited quantities available. Check with your local Target store for Beauty Concierge day and times.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

5 Ways to Use a Tablet to Build Long-Distance Family Relationships

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #TabletTrio #CollectiveBias Use a tablet, like the T Mobile 4G Trio, to help kids stay close to relatives living far away.

When Jeff finished chiropractic school in Iowa, we had a tough decision to make. Should we head back to the East coast, where we both grew up and where Jeff’s family still lives, or move out to Utah to be close to my family (who had slowly trickled out west over the years until almost no one remained back in my home of New York)? (I suppose there was also a third, rather unappealing option of plunking ourselves somewhere in the middle of the country and being equally distant from both families, but that didn’t sound very promising.) We ended up deciding that since I would be the one to stay home and focus on raising our kids, we should live closer to my family so I could have their help and support. This means I get to see my family frequently—and I’m so glad for that—but sadly, it’s just too expensive for us to make it out to Pennsylvania to visit Jeff’s family very often (but we have a trip coming up next month, and we’re so excited!). There might be an awful lot of distance in between them, but I don’t want that to get in the way of our kids feeling close to and having strong relationships with Jeff’s parents.

Technology to the rescue. Isn’t it amazing that it’s possible for my kids to be growing up 1800 miles from their grandparents, but to be able to talk to them anytime they want and even see their faces while they chat? It’s incredible. Forrest has a hardcore tablet obsession—so intense that I had to come up with a screen time payment system for him to earn and ‘purchase’ tablet time, actually—so we love using tablets and his love affair with them as relationship-building tools. (And as a side note, I have always preferred the smaller-sized tablets—easier to toss in my bag and take on the go, and easier for Forrest to carry and hold on his own without worrying about dropping.) So today, I wanted to share 5 little ideas I jotted down of ways to use tablets as a tool to build relationships with family members living far away.

5 Ways to use a tablet to build strong relationships between family members living far away

1. Lunch dates

Whenever a friend of mine visits from out of town, or when I feel like it’s been a long time since I’ve chatted with someone, my instinct is always to set a lunch date with them. I feel like better conversation and bonding happens over food than any other way. There’s got to be science to back this up. Or maybe I’m food-obsessed. Both options seem likely. Either way, how about setting up a long-distance lunch date? Forrest loves video chatting with his grandparents (in fact, I often find him on the couch video chatting with his grandpa, without having asked me if he could give him a ‘call’), and having them eat lunch ‘together’ is a great way for them to chat and talk about their days and have fun together over a meal, even if they can’t be physically together for it.

2. Songs and activities

Forrest loves singing and dancing, and without fail, Grandpa Brown always requests a song and dance when they video chat. And Forrest loves having an attentive audience for his little performances (and I’m sorry to admit it, but I can only fake enthusiasm and applause for so many performances in a day), so setting up a time that he can put on a show for his grandparents and show off any new songs he’s learned is a fun way for them to connect.

5 Ways to use a tablet to build strong relationships between family members living far away

3. Long-distance bedtime stories

There really is something special and sweet about reading a story together before bed. And sadly, this is an opportunity that the PA grandparents miss out on roughly 360 days a year. A smaller tablet is the perfect size for Forrest to hold on his own without needing help, so he can climb into bed with it and listen/watch while Grandma reads him a story before he goes to bed. Such a sweet way for them to connect, and to make the bedtime routine go a little more smoothly since he has something fun to look forward to.

5 Ways to use a tablet to build strong relationships between family members living far away

4. Be present at events

The grandparents love being able to watch videos of events in the kids’ lives, like when Forrest gave his first prayer in Primary at church. But I think it’ll be even cooler for them to be able to be present at these events and watch them as they’re happening. The T-Mobile Trio AXS tablet comes with free data for life (up to 200MB of free data each month, with affordable plans if you need more), so they’ll be able to actually watch via a video chat/hangout—in real time—as Forrest leaves for his first day of preschool, see him wave goodbye and head in. I think that’s pretty dang awesome, myself, and I think it will mean a lot for them to really be present at special moments in the kids’ lives, like recitals and concerts and other big days/events—even when they take place away from home and when we don’t have internet access.

5. Playing together

So obvious that I had to leave it for last as a no-brainer. Talking and chatting are all well and good, but what Forrest loves best, of course, is playing together. And his Grandpa is particularly skilled at inventing silly games for them to play together across distances, whether it’s a silly face contest or hide and seek via video hangout. 1800 miles of distance doesn’t mean they can’t laugh and play together.

5 Ways to use a tablet to build strong relationships between family members living far away

Maybe you’ve been holding out on purchasing a tablet, and if that’s the case, perhaps this will be the one that convinces you. The T-Mobile Trio AXS 7.85” 4G Tablet is affordable at $179, especially considering that it comes with free data for life, so you can always be connected, even if you aren’t near WiFi. You’ll be able to connect with family and friends, keep your schedule organized, stream video for the kids while you’re on the road, or get work done while you’re away from home, all without needing an internet connection. We picked up our tablet at Walmart, and as you can see, my little tech addict wasted no time making himself cozy with the merchandise.

T-Mobile Trio AXS 7.85” 4G Tablet

Do you live far from family members or close friends? If you do, I’d love to hear your ideas on building relationships from a distance. I don’t want my kids to miss out on relationships with their family due to distance.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Preschool Prep and a No-Sew Personalized School Bag

This shop is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® and Sharpie, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia  #StaplesBTS

Forrest starts his first year of preschool in T minus 10 business days. Not that anyone’s counting, except that I am totally counting, and might I add: sing praises, all together now, hallelujah it’s almost time for preschool! When I signed him up, I had the option of placing him in a two day per week class or a three day per week class. And at the time, he was right in the middle of a super sweet, very adorable, obedient and well-behaved phase. Which I now believe was a carefully planned, expertly orchestrated ruse to ensure he was not shipped off for the maximum possible number of preschool days each week. Because I swear, the second—the very second—I checked the two day class box in a moment of flowery motherly weakness, thinking that I couldn’t possibly bear to be away from that sweet angel boy for three days each week, his inner demon returned and everything fell to pieces—tantrums, arguing, talking back, sending me to time out, the works. If it were an option, I’d send him to 7-day per week preschool at this point. (And yeah, I totally called to see if I could switch him to the three day class and nope, all the clever parents who knew what they were doing went for that class and it’s full.)

So yes. Yes, I am a bit excited for preschool. I’m not sure Forrest is entirely sure what it is I’m going on about as I try to pump him up for his first year of preschool, but he seems excited anyway. I think (and really, really hope!) he’ll love it—he’s very social and always excited about any sort of interaction—and I’m doing everything I can to make sure he’s looking forward to school. I thought he’d have fun spending a few minutes working on a little craft project together to help get him excited about preschool, so we worked together to make a special bag for him to bring each day. So simple and easy, but really fun for us to make together. And I’m telling myself that strutting through those preschool doors on his first day, carrying a special bag that he helped make and thinks is awesome, will help give him a little extra confidence. A trait he is certainly not lacking, but still. He’s my sweet little stinker, and I guess I’ll build him up however I can.

Make a personalized preschool tote bag in 10 minutes with no sewing involved!

I briefly entertained the thought of sewing a tote bag myself, but when you get a 50% off craft store coupon in the mail which makes a plain canvas tote bag ring up in the $2-3 range . . . yeah. You change those plans real quick and go the store-bought route. While we were there, we grabbed two sheets of colorful felt, then swung by Staples to pick up some neon Sharpies.

Make an easy, no-sew personalized tote bag for your little one to carry to preschool!

Although it is always surprisingly difficult to let go of the reins and give full creative freedom to someone else (especially a pre-preschooler with limited motor skills and questionable artistic vision), I let Forrest go to town on one side of the tote bag, drawing and scribbling however his little heart desired. His preschool, his confidence at stake, his tote bag, and his artistic passion, unleashed.

Make an easy, no-sew personalized tote bag for your little one to carry to preschool!

He seemed super nervous about drawing on fabric, despite my insistence that it would be okay. I’ve put so much effort into drilling “we ONLY draw on paper!” into his little head, and never did I dream that I would have to convince him otherwise; that he could, in fact, just this once, go wild with Sharpies on a non-paper surface. It took some encouraging to get him to make that first artistic stroke on his canvas. But the artist finally emerged and he did a lovely(ish) job. (Just look at the expression—he absolutely thinks he’s getting away with something here.)

Make an easy, no-sew personalized tote bag for your little one to carry to preschool!

personalized school tote

With his art filling one side of the tote bag, I took over for the other half. Each student in his preschool is assigned a color and a shape (what purpose this serves, I have yet to learn—I guess we’ll both be learning some new things this year). Forrest’s color and shape are a yellow star, so I figured they’d make a nice choice to adorn his tote bag. I cut a star as well as an F (for Forrest; hopefully not as foreshadowing of the preschool grades he’ll be receiving) from felt, and hot glued them to his bag. (I considered stitching them on by hand with colorful embroidery thread, but really. My hot glue gun was sitting right there on the counter. I didn’t want to hurt its feelings.)

Make an easy, no-sew personalized tote bag for your little one to carry to preschool!

Forrest seems pretty excited about having his own bag to bring to preschool, and especially excited that he got to help make it. Every time we do a craft together, I think, okay, this is more fun than I expected . . . why don’t we do this more often?

Make an easy, no-sew personalized tote bag for your little one to carry to preschool!

Just look at that artistic talent—undoubtedly the work of a prodigy, a budding genius. (Lest you think too highly of my at-home teaching skills, he did not write his name all by himself. He did, however, draw the happy face, and I think it’s pretty charming.)

If you’re in the market for Sharpie products for a back-to-schooler (or not—let’s be honest, any and all back to school shopping I’ve done so far has been almost exclusively for myself . . . oh, how I miss fresh crisp notebook pages and shiny new pens!), perhaps you’d like to know that all Sharpie Fine and Ultra Fine assortment packs and Sharpie Neon Marker packs are on sale at Staples through August 24th, while supplies last.

Happy back to schooling, everyone!

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