College Girl’s 1st Apartment

I can’t think of anything more exciting as a young woman than to move into her first apartment.  This is her time to shine and finally get to express her own decorating personality without much of momma’s influence.

MacKenzie has thoroughly enjoyed her experience this year as she moved into an apartment with three other girls off of South Carolina’s campus this year.  I loved the already furnished set-up:  four bedrooms each with their own full bath and oversized closet, a common living room, laundry closet, kitchen and breakfast nook.  This kind of set-up allows each of the girls to decorate their own space to fit their personalities!

How cool is that?!

While working forty hours a week all summer, MacKenzie planned and saved to make her space entirely hers or at least as much as the rules for an apartment rental will allow.  I love her choices and thought I would give you a peak at my college girl’s budget friendly decorating skills.

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On move-in day, MacKenzie put her Dad and I to work immediately with rearranging furniture.  She had a vision already in mind as she took notes while on her tour before signing the lease back in the spring.  Each bedroom contained a bed, nightstand, desk and 2 dressers that could be stacked if desired.  She wanted her dressers side-by-side in the closet for the duel purpose of clothing storage and a shoe rack.  The addition of wire shelving worked perfectly for storing jeans, blankets and towels.

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Bedding was her largest purchased.  As an avid on-line shopper, MacKenzie scoured website after website and settled on this feminine set from JC Penney.  Gone are the neon colors of high school and onto something a little more mature, like pink and grey paisley.

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Grey curtains were chosen as to coordinate with the spread and were purchased at Target.

For decorating, MacKenzie went with a lot of personal touches like framed pictures, including a college she put together on Shutterfly.com of those closest to her.

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The rustic touches were found at Target.  She chose a motivational sign to go over her bed with coordinating storage to hang beside her desk to help keep her organized.

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“Do What Makes You Oh-So Happy”

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The cute little print beside the desk came from Steve McKenzie’s Lifestyle Store in Atlanta.

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“I Love You a Bushel and a Peck and a Hug Around the Neck”

{You HAVE to visit sometime!  Steve McKenzie’s carries the most wonderful everything for your home!  And most of the items are from local/southern artists!}

Audley took care of hanging curtain rods and pictures, adding anchors where needed so keep heavy things from falling. We left her a picture hanging kit and a few necessary tools like screwdrivers and a hammer for when she is ready to add to her walls.

Getting all dressed up is an essential part of a young woman’s routine, so MacKenzie created her a little nook for getting ready each day.  Lights around a full-length mirror (propped up on a crate that’s been painted with chalk paint and waxed) add the perfect touch of whimsy.

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Her cute little cart was her first ever flea market purchase after a visit to Scott’s Antique Market in Atlanta. Displaying her cosmetics and jewelry, this little cart was such a handy addition to the space.

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We used decorative glass vases from Hobby Lobby to hold cosmetic essentials such as brushes, liners and mascaras, and plenty of lipstick.  Another painted crate (smaller than the one holding her mirror) holds her eye shadows, foundations and blushes, then slides inside the larger crate to keep an organized space.

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When you have an artsy sister, decor for the bath and living room came easy.  Madeline painted a gorgeous Lily Pulitzer inspired canvas to brighten MacKenzie’s bath, which was also decorated in pink (towels & accessories) and grey (shower curtain & rugs).

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Madeline then painted a monogram piece for each of the roomies to hang in the living room.

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I loved watching MacKenzie reveal her own decorating style in her space.

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These sisters really do love each other!

If she can organize and pull together a small space so nicely I can’t wait to see what she can do with a larger space!

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Momma’s Easy Monkey Bread

When I was a little girl Momma used to occasionally treat us with something sweet for breakfast on school mornings.  Although I am sure she found this recipe in a magazine (no internet in the 1980’s), I always looked forward to her version of Monkey Bread and gobbled it down like a little piggy!

It was one of the few mornings I would be on time to the kitchen table for breakfast!

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I love this recipe for so many reasons:  It is so easy to prepare that you can’t mess it up, you can prep it ahead of time so that you just have to pop it in the oven in the morning, it makes for a delicious treat to start the day, and the kids will eat it up!

It’s also something that takes me back 25 years to my own school days when life really was so much more simple!  Sometimes I love a good walk down memory lane.

Today I’m sharing this super easy casserole style recipe that graced our table many a school morning.  Maybe it’ll bring a smile to your family as well!

Easy Monkey Bread

INGREDIENTS:

1 can large biscuits (I used Annie’s Organic biscuits)

3/4 stick butter

2/3 cup brown sugar

pecans, chopped

cinnamon, optional

monkey bread ingredients

RECIPE INSTRUCTIONS:

**Quarter your biscuits (kitchen scissors make this so easy) and layer in a 8 x8 pan sprayed with Bakers Joy or other nonstick cooking spray.

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**Sprinkle the layer of brown sugar over the biscuits.

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**Slice the butter into pieces and place on top of the sugar, then sprinkle with pecans.  If you would like, shake a little cinnamon across the top for added flavor.

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I was actually out of Brown Sugar when I prepared this and substituted Splenda Brown Sugar blend… It worked perfectly!

**Bake at 350° about 30-35 minutes, watching carefully because this has the potential to scorch!

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Use a large serving spoon to plate this sweet breakfast and let your babies indulge!

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FYI, I would keep this breakfast a secret, especially if you have served it on test day.  The teachers may not like you very much!

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Have a fabulous Thursday!

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Back-To-School Success

August is coming to a close, and the three remaining kids at home have all returned to school for the year.  One has gone back to USC for her sophomore year, then I have a junior & senior to keep me running like a mad woman for the next nine months!

You would think after twenty years of “First Days” (my oldest is 24 now) I would have the ability to pull off a flawless First Day, but the truth is, I don’t have a clue.  There is always something that doesn’t go as planned, which is why this year we found ourselves doing back-to-school shopping at 10:30 pm the night before classes were to resume!

While I may not have mastered the art of a perfect First Day of School, I have learned several things over the last twenty years that do make those First Days and every day thereafter so much easier to manage.

So, here are eight simple things you can try to make the beginning of the school year a wee bit easier in your home!

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1. Plan your breakfast/mornings ahead of time to minimize chaos.  Plan out your menu and even go as far to set the table the evening before.

Don’t teach your kids to eat on the run, it’s a horrible habit that is very difficult to break and can lead to other unhealthy habits as they get older!

Breakfast doesn’t have to be elaborate.  If you want to serve cereal and milk, by all means serve it, just go an extra step by setting out bowls, spoons, juice glasses, etc.,  early so you aren’t slinging everything around the next morning trying to rush out the door!

If you prefer to cook, plan ahead and make sure you are up early enough to do it!  Breakfast doesn’t have to be elaborate, just planned and easy to execute.  Pancakes (yes, from a mix) are always an easy option as are scrambled eggs and bacon.  One of my favorite things to make for morning breakfast is homemade muffins.  These are so easy and so flavorful.  Give them a try!

Mixed Berry Muffins

2. Sign all paperwork and homework the day before.  There is no worse feeling than to have a wad of paperwork shoved into your face five minutes before you walk out the door for school.  Seriously, it DOES NOT get any better when your kids become teenagers, so make the conscious effort to ask your kids if they have anything that you need to sign or review when they are pulling things out of their backpacks for homework.

3. Set aside a jar or special bank to hold only lunch/fee money.  As each pay day arrives, go ahead and count out what you know your kids need for lunch each day (should they buy) and then stick an extra $5, $10, or $15 in the jar for emergency fees.  If your kids carry their lunch, still have an emergency fee jar available.  That speedo for swim team that was $50 last year may have gone up to $65 this year, tee-shirts for homecoming are $15 x’s two or three, and for some reason there is never enough notice when field trips are planned.  This emergency fee money is one of the best things I ever implemented in our home!

4. If you plan for your kids to carry their lunches, have them assist you in packing them the night before.  While you make sandwiches or pasta salad, they can be getting ziplock bags, fruit, chips or crackers, and granola bars to add.  Not a fan of store bought packaged food?  Try this easy, peasy granola bar recipe.  You’ll all love this one and the kids can mix them up as well!

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We have a tradition of having homemade chicken salad each year for the first day (and many other days through the year).  While I love to take the time to bake my own chicken, for the salad, sometimes, grabbing a rotisserie chicken from the deli is a delicious, time-saving option when lacrosse practice has run over the night before.

Scrumptious Chicken Salad

Also, pack lunches in age appropriate bags or containers.  My 16 year old son has absolutely no desire to carry a lunch box.  He is also a growing body builder, so he doesn’t carry sandwiches, but grilled chicken.  We found a great lunch kit that allows him to pack his protein powder and aminos as well as help him measure out the chicken or salmon he might carry.

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Now my seventeen year old daughter?  Give that girl a monogrammed bag please!

5. Keep a dry erase calendar in your kitchen.  The first of every month take 20-30 minutes and update it with everything you know that is on your schedule from dentist appointments to sports practice.

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And to think, August isn’t a busy month for us!

I also add holidays, youth group events, my personal schedule and my husbands travel schedule.  You can also color-code this, giving each family member their own color.  When the kids are older have them add things that come up after your calendar is up to help keep everything current. Doing this becomes a visual reminder for everyone in the house, especially teenagers who need that reminder of some things every now and then.

6.  Purchase a day planner and package of colored pens for each preteen and teenager to help teach them how to organize their life and time.

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There are some awesome planners that begin in July (generally when early practices for high school sports begin) and are tailored to fit the school year by month.  I also use the same style calendar so that we are on the same page.  Our planners are organized so that homework is one color, sports practices another color, appointments yet another color, and youth group/church activities another.  It works well for keeping track of little details most teenagers seem to forget.  This has worked wonderful for my girls, and now I have my son doing this as well.  You can find adorable planners at Barnes and Noble, Swoozies, and Target.  Boys of course want a more manly look, so check out Staples for a professional planner for him.

7.  Set a specific time for turning off social media and going to bed.  My kids have never been allowed to watch TV on school days, but now we face the battle of Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter and Netflix on their iGadgets and Kindles.  While I would like to think that they are old enough for me not to have to monitor them, they are still kids.  At 10:00 PM I want the electronic devices off.  If they don’t comply, the item becomes mine.  Rest is so important to these growing bodies.  Even though they don’t want to admit they are tired, their bodies are whipped, and they need at least seven hours of sleep. How else does a 16 year old boy recover from growing 12 1/2 inches in two years?!

8. Start each day with a devotion or prayer.  This is a great way to begin the school day on a positive note.  You can find devotional books with little 2-minute devos at Walmart, Barnes and Noble and (don’t laugh) truck stops like TA or Loves.  Let the kids read so that it makes a little more of an impact on them.  We kicked our year off with Audley offering a prayer for our kids.  It was such a special time, especially since he is usually on the road traveling for work.  It was also a reminder that while you often hear “it takes a village to raise a child,” the reality is 95% of what a child learns and habits they develop come from the home, so why not give them positive vibes to carry with them through life.

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I picked this up at Family Christian Stores as a deal for $5.00.  Lifeway and FCS are great for having these little bargains at the registers!

I hope your First Days and all the ones following while not perfect, are a wee bit easier to manage this year!

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Gotta Go Back to School

I always love looking through my social media feeds and seeing the cherubic pictures of my friends children as they are getting ready to head out for the first day of school.  It’s so fun to see how the kids have grown over the summer and see the look of dread or anticipation on each of their faces.  It looks like a perfect day coming right up!

For eighteen years I have worked hard to create that picture perfect First Day of School; I mean going out so that it is Norman Rockwell perfect.

But, the truth is, our first day of school was anything but sweet and charming and picture perfect.

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The chaos inadvertently  started the first of the month when Audley & I left the first for vacation to celebrate our 20th anniversary, not returning until the 10th.  Then we spent the next four days getting MacKenzie packed up for college; spending the weekend in Columbia getting her settled.  Then, yesterday, as we were sitting at Freshman Convocation at USC, it hit me.

“The first day of school for Madeline and Bradley is tomorrow.”

THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL IS TOMORROW!

I had not bought hardly any school supplies or food for their lunches.

There was nothing for special breakfast.

And no one had a clue to what they might wear.

Let me tell you, I’m on the ball with this mothering thing right now.  The stress, guilt and frustrations started swelling up inside me.

So at 11:00 last night I was removing meat from a rotisserie chicken that we picked up at the Publix deli on our way home and whipping up our favorite chicken salad, instead of getting some much needed sleep in the bed with my husband who was leaving town for business today.

And special breakfast this morning?

Pancakes.

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Out of a box.

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Mixed with water.

I did add fresh blueberries though.

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And we used sugar-free syrup.

You may ask why I would write such a harried post showcasing what I feel are my horrible mothering skills at the moment, but the truth is we don’t live picture perfect lives.  Norman Rockwell was an artist of an idyllic life that doesn’t exist (except maybe in 2-minute increments). Behind those smiling cherubic faces are teenagers who five minutes before were screaming at each other and fussing at me because I wasn’t making the right things happen fast enough.

I was feeling a wee bit like a pressure cooker thinking I might blow at any moment this morning, but I kept thinking of ways to ease the pressure so that I wouldn’t say or do something to hurt my kids.

I was reminded of Ephesians 6:4 where the Bible says “Fathers do not provoke your child to wrath.”  That applies to mothers just as much.  We were all irritated and frustrated this morning and the blame for that was squarely on me.  I did not prepare and plan (and it didn’t have to be elaborate planning) like I normally do and it left us without an organized plan for starting off our school year on the right foot.

The thing was, all those little things I wanted to make the day perfect were really not important, but they were stressing me out, which in turn was making for a stressful household.

 The kids could have bought their lunches today and I could have grabbed a box of cereal.  How the rest of this day and possibly this week hinged on how I handed myself this morning.  So, I said a little prayer, turned on some praise music and changed my own attitude and soon the kids were off to school in one piece without me losing my temper and making things worse.

“Happy are all who honor the Lord with fear, and who walk in His ways.  For you will eat the fruit of your hands. You will be happy and it will be well with you.” Psalm 128:1-2

Sometimes we just have to go with the flow, change our focus and do little things to fix the problems and stresses of life we inflict upon ourselves.  Mother’s are to be a blessing to their children, not drive them towards anger and an ill temper. We have a wonderful role that has been gifted us.  It often requires multi-taking and organizing, but at the end of the day the way our kids and especially our teenagers act mirrors our own actions.  I want to build a home that is a beautiful product of my actions, time, focus, and love.

“By wisdom a house is built and by understanding it is established” Proverbs 24:3

Motherhood isn’t about the big breakfast or the perfect school lunch, it’s about the love and teaching moments that direct our kids on a path to a blessed eternity in heaven.

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“The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” Proverbs 14:1

Life isn’t perfect by any means, but we can make it so much more enjoyable when we quit focusing on the trivial and focus more on loving each other.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

Happy First Day of School!

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