Happy List #30

Happy Friday!!

I feel like summer is already moving faster than I want it to!

This week I posted about the free souvenir we bring home from trips and how I preserve the memory. I also shared my trash to treasure 4th of July wreath.

Here’s what’s on my Happy List today.


Hello, wood details.

Hello, white brick backsplash.

Hello, shiplap.

Be sure and visit Sita Montgomery Interiors to see more pictures of this kitchen including the detail on the ends of the kitchen island.



Yes, this is a recipe from the UK. Hence the Yog-HURT. 

This frozen recipe looks like it would be delicious to serve on a hot summer night. Or now. I’m not picky.

As a side note, that serving spoon gives me all the heart eyes.

The recipe and this lovely picture can be found at Food and Travel Magazine.


I just spent a fun 20 minutes browsing the Lindsay Letters site.

One of my favorite hymns…

Perfect for the 4th of July.

I think this fits Handy Husband and me. If by ‘wild’ you mean renovating dilapidated houses or moving to a foreign country.

If we’re talking about the ACTUAL wild, no thank you. I need a bathroom. And electrical outlets. And my bed.

See more at Lindsay Letters. It looks like all of the canvas colors are customizable, as are the
frame choices. Knock yourself out!


We can’t get to Mars yet, but you can lick a lollipop that looks like Mars.

Sounds like a decent trade-off to me.

Find the planet and galaxy lollipops on Amazon.


Constance Hall, a blogger and mom, had some pretty insightful words on motherhood that  every overwhelmed mom feels at some point. I read about them here.

Here are some of the highlights…

“It’s not motherhood that’s the problem, it’s the relentlessness. Your children aren’t the problem, your lack of a village is.

“You see I read once that mothers suffer the most in the absence of a village. The worst part is that rather then questioning their community they are constantly questioning themselves.

“Don’t question yourself, this isn’t supposed to be this lonely, you are not the only one suffering, we all suffer due to our society’s set up. Grab your girlfriends, hold them close, make dinner together, wash each other’s dishes and love their babies like they are your own.”

“And my all time favourite memory of the first few weeks of motherhood was opening the door, leaky tit hanging out, flap of skin swooping under my top. And the sides of a maternity pad sticking out of my undies, to a friend, who took one look at my disgraceful state and we both pissed ourselves laughing.”

Girlfriends. Can’t live without them. I know I cherish the few I truly have.



Who knew??

A DIY pinball machine kit is a thing now. Or, almost a thing. They have a Kickstarter campaign going to start production this fall.

The pieces are made of wood, not cardboard, and it comes with a starter obstacle set.

If you have a teenage kid who needs a project, check it out on Design Milk. They have some really cool pictures of how they customized their obstacles, but the options are endless.


This, my friends, was a regular, off-the-shelf file cabinet sold in every office supply store ever.

The Painted Hive shows you how to easily transform it with a little sanding and spray paint to give it a more farmhouse-y look.

By the way, I’m pretty much crushing on everything over at The Painted Hive.


This recipe for grilled chicken kebabs with cucumber salad and tzatziki is on my ‘to-try soon’ list.

Doesn’t it look perfect for summer?

Find the recipe at I Will Not Eat Oysters. (Awesome blog name! HAHA!)


I’d like to think we are ambitious enough to build a treehouse/fort/hangout spot like this for our kids, but in truth, I’d probably build it for myself!

Love that floor! And the door!

For this photo and others, please visit The Handmade Home for all the inspiration.

Go forth and have the happiest of weekends, folks!


*affiliate links in this post*

Junky 4th of July Wreath

I went dumpster diving and found treasure!

Let me clarify something though. Dumpsters in Ireland are called skips.

They range in size from 2.5 cubic yards to 35 cubic yards. You can also order a gigantic bag for your yard waste/other debris and that is called a baby skip. Aw, so cute!

Aren’t you glad for all the random information you learn on this blog?

Here’s what a skip looks like when it’s being hauled away on the lorry. This is not the one that held my treasure though. It held some old windows that were replaced in our house.

I walk by skips in front of houses and businesses all the time.

I ALWAYS stop and look in them.

Who doesn’t?!?!

I have often cursed our lack of a car when I’ve seen something neat and salvageable in these skips.

Well, my friends, my fortune changed when I ran across a skip full of junk outside our neighbor’s house one day.

One particular item caught my eye, but I walked passed it!

When I got home, I couldn’t stop thinking about this junky object, so I nonchalantly walked back down the sidewalk, snatched the junky object out of the bin and fast-walked back to my house.

As my son would say, “nothing suspicious is going on here!”

This was my treasure.

Of all the things I could have taken out of that dumpster, I’m sure my neighbors didn’t expect me to take this thing.

I don’t exactly know its purpose.

I’m sure one of you smarty pants out there will tell me.

If its purpose was gross, I don’t want to know.

That would be my luck. Also, soap is my friend.

Anyway, I showed that picture to a friend and she asked me what I was going to do with this…thing.

Besides love it forever?

I’m not exactly sure what its long term purpose will be, but here’s how I’m using it today.

Ooh, la, la!

I dove into my country roots and made a junky 4th of July wreath!

The flowers are made with a lot of hot glue, buttons, felt and Handy Husband’s jeans.

Don’t worry, they weren’t his good jeans.

I had the bright idea to add an outline of the continental U.S. to the inside of my wreath.


My bright ideas can be a pain in the behind.

Let’s just say this is an interpretive version of the map because it was harder than I anticipated to thread embroidery floss through the squares in the complicated shape of the U.S.

Sorry Great Lakes. And Louisiana. And…the rest of you.

I used white embroidery thread for the map because I thought it would be a good contrast with the rusted wire.

Unfortunately, I neglected to realize that all of my walls are white.

Therefore, the white thread blends in and virtually disappears with every possible background in my home except this one.

*insert forehead slap here*

If this project ends up finding a more permanent spot in my home, I’m going to have to add a different color thread to the map. And THAT will be fun. I’d probably also take off the flowers since they are great for 4th of July decorating, but my minimalistic self couldn’t handle them all year long.

What do you think of my ‘junky find’ turned 4th of July wreath?

For a project that used materials I already had on hand, I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. Plus, the 4th is one of my favorite American holidays.

More importantly, who wants to go dumpster diving with me? I promise it’s fun!

P.S. Here’s something else I picked up – not out of a dumpster, but off the side of the road and turned into art for my home.

Memory Rocks

“Tell me a story, mama.”

Every night when I go through the bedtime routine with my son, he asks me to tell him a story. A real story.


He likes stories with drama and danger the best. Like that time I got a flat tire going 60 mph down I-84. Or when the security guards at JC Penney used to duck behind garment racks when they were trying to catch someone stealing.

The problem is my memory is TERRIBLE when it comes to these little, every day memories and experiences. Especially ones from decades ago.

I’m not sure what I’m doing with all my brain cells, but saving up countless stories to tell my 7-year-old is definitely not on the list.

I have found the more I tell him stories, the more I jog my memory about something else. However, my life has not been THAT exciting. I’m running out of G-rated danger and drama stories for the blood-thirsty kid.

Tangible items also help jog my memory. Seeing a picture from a trip, for instance. Or picking up a childhood momento or souvenir.

One such ‘souvenir’ that inevitably makes it home from day trips, vacations and walks around the block are rocks.

If you’re the parent of little kids, you probably have a washing machine full of rocks. Oy!

For the rocks that are purposefully collected, I typically dump them into a special bowl. The pocketfuls of gravel…those go back to nature.

It dawned on me one day (thanks, brain cells) that if I write a date and location on the rocks, I’ll have another way to jog my memory about a really cool moment in time.

I have this rock from 2004, which I collected in South Dakota while on a road trip with my dad. We saw Crazy Horse, Mount Rushmore and hundreds of miles of fields.

I have this rock from my mom. It was purchased, not found.

She gave me a handful of heart-shaped rocks over the years. I had moved away from home when she started this gesture and I think it was her way of telling me her heart was always with me. Or, perhaps, I was never far from her heart.

Either way, message received and cherished.

Here’s one from recently.

My son found this rock on the beach in Ireland.

It was one of those perfect, freeze time sort of days. I hope I will always remember his little voice saying, “Mama! Mom! Look at this one!”

I could show you more, but you don’t have all day and I’m getting uncomfortably sentimental over these darn memory rocks.

Happy collecting, friends. Your memory will thank you later.


P.S. Don’t swipe rocks from places where it’s not allowed. The planet thanks you. Over and out.

Happy List #29

First week of summer is in the books. We’ve done museums, play dates and playgrounds.

I now remember how much fun grocery shopping is with children in tow.

Actually, my kids are eager to help with the shopping and if they are helping they aren’t whining. So, I like to give them something obscure to find – like sriracha sauce – and see how long it takes for them to track it down. 

This week I shared what it is like when your kids don’t get a report card for a year. I also shared our latest children’s book list, which features some books we really enjoyed reading last month!

Let’s get to my list o’ happy.


Handy Husband has been diving into the world of audiobooks lately. I think he might enjoy these with a slightly lighter touch, which of course, are available in regular book format too.


Layla from The Lettered Cottage posted some great trash-to-treasure projects this week.

My favorite was this tutorial from Good Housekeeping on how to turn 4 shutters into a side table.

Also, I love that brick floor.


Reader’s Digest always has the best short stories, don’t they?

I will forever associate Reader’s Digest with the waiting room at the dentist’s office. That’s pretty much the only place I ever remember reading one of those magazines.

Here are some great stories about dads just in time for Father’s Day.


I know a few kids who would like this in their backyard.

Image and more info can be found at Emily A. Clark.


I also know a few palm tree fanatics who would love this free printable from A Bubbly Life.


I have NO idea what a smoking slipper actually is, but my kids would probably call them cancer slippers.

To me, they look like espadrilles and I’m loving them.

Indigo dyed ones.

Uh, taco shoes? Where have these been all my life??!!

I have no idea if I could actually walk in any of these shoes by Soludos. I actually care about such practical things as comfort these days, but I have great hopes.

I do not want my dreams of taco shoes dashed by a pesky thing like blisters.

Still might be worth it though.


I made this recipe, well a version of it, and it was a hit!

Then a certain someone I’m married to ruined it by saying, “do you know how many calories are in granola?”

To which I replied, “not THIS granola, dear.”

Actually, I think I said in my sweetest voice, “less calories than a pint of Guinness.”

Handy Husband loves my witty comebacks. 

Get the recipe at TheKitchn.


Kristine from The Painted Hive does the most incredible furniture makeovers. She must have a level of patience and attention-to-detail that the rest of mere mortals do not possess.

She made over a $35 office-style laminate sideboard with peel and stick wood flooring. Peel and stick flooring never looked so good.

Check out her tutorial to see how.

We’re off to have some Father’s Day adventures this weekend. I’m not sure if it is Father’s Day in Ireland, but we love the opportunity to walk an endless amount of miles uphill both ways explore Ireland with Handy Husband.

If there happen to be any dudes reading this blog, Happy Father’s Day!

A Year Without Grades

My children completed their first year in an Irish primary school. Woohoo! Next year it is on to 2nd and 5th grade. How did that happen so fast? Time is flying, people. Just flying by.

When we moved to Ireland almost a year ago, my kids had been attending a terrific public school in the southern United States. Suffice it to say, this year has been a big adjustment for all of us – especially them.

Side note: My kids are not in the Irish public school system. They attend a private primary school. I detailed those reasons here. If you’re an expat moving to Ireland, it’s worth the read.

My kids were SO DISAPPOINTED when they learned their Irish school did not issue report cards. WHAT?!?! That’s right. No report cards.

You see, up until now, we had been rewarding them for earning “good” report cards.

It was a fantastic motivational tool, but I’ve been wondering lately if we were really rewarding the right thing?

It seems, in some instances, doing well in school is less about intelligence and more about being able to work well within a particular school environment.

Theoretically, a good report card should mean the student has mastered the subject. As a person who has crammed for a test and then promptly forgot everything as soon as the test was over, I know that’s not necessarily the case.

So what’s it like for your kids to NOT receive grades for an entire year?

Speaking ONLY from our experience at the primary school level, I’ve found the difference between receiving grades and not receiving grades is subtle, but profound.

I liken it to the difference between eating your dessert and really savoring every single bite of your dessert. In both instances you get to eat dessert and the same calories are applied, but the person who takes the time to savor each morsel gets so much more out of the experience.


At my children’s school, a big part of their day was spent learning through hands-on methods. For instance, math is regularly done with blocks, beads and other manipulatives.

Kids are encouraged to get up and move around. In my son’s class, they can even take off their shoes when indoors. If you’ve ever met my son, you’ll know how huge this was for him! It also explains some of the missing socks.

Instruction is done in small groups or one-on-one.

Curriculum is integrated in a project-based learning format. For instance it could look like this:
Read about a scientist and a particular experiment.
Look on the globe to see where he/she lived.
Use math to figure out how to recreate the experiment.
Document the results in writing and include colorful drawings and graphics.
Clean up your station. Put away materials neatly for the next group to use.
Give an oral report to the class on your findings.


In a ‘no report card’ environment, success is measured differently.

A report card does not define you as a student. Instead, mastering a new skill or subject over time does.

My daughter brought home a math workbook every school night this year. Her calculations were done in a sum book (see below). Looking through the sum book, I could see where the teacher checked her homework every day (this one was corrected on May 24).

If needed, part of her homework included making corrections. Learning where you went wrong and how to fix it is key in actually mastering the concept. As adults, we all know this.

In my experience with various U.S. public schools, I haven’t seen (maybe it’s done, just not at home where I’ve encountered it), much emphasis being placed on going back and doing corrections. What I have seen happen is a “here’s the next worksheet, try again” scenario. By the way, I mean this in no way as a slight to teachers. They are amazing people working in very challenging situations with rules they rarely control. I have the utmost respect for them.

Also, I’ve noticed my daughter’s math workbook, in particular, keeps coming back to certain topics. Last year, in the United States, she spent time learning fractions and then it was done. The fraction unit was complete, the class moved on and she still was not solid in her understanding of fractions. This was after doing extra work at home and reaching out to the teacher. And she’s a bright kid! This year, we’ve done fractions multiple times. One night I remember saying, “didn’t you already do this?” I was having a strong case of deja vu! As I flipped back through the book, I saw that yes, indeed, she had done fractions 15 pages prior.

Have you heard the phrases “use it or lose it” or “summer slide?” Well, that happens if you don’t practice a certain skill. For my daughter, this technique of periodically coming back to a topic, whether it is math or english, has been so helpful. I can tell when she’s really “gotten” a concept because she doesn’t ask for help with her homework, it takes her less time to finish, she can help someone else and/or she doesn’t have corrections to do.

Success is also redefined in ways that don’t relate to academics. In our case, the intangibles in a child’s development were given a chance to shine. There’s no place on a report card to grade a child who becomes more responsible or who develops confidence (other than a teacher’s note/remark), but those are key life skills they need to develop to become well-balanced individuals.

This year, I often asked my daughter’s teacher how she was doing in math or science, but it was the teacher who often sought me out to say how excited she was to see my daughter blossoming with confidence and creativity.


When my child’s teacher was pointing out personal growth or life skill developments, it wasn’t that the academics were of less importance – quite the contrary. It’s just that the teacher knew from decades of experience that given enough time and hard work each child was going to master the curriculum. Furthermore, they have confidence that child is going to move on and do well in a rigorous secondary school environment where there are grades!

I did well in school, not because I was the smartest – far from it. I did well in school because I worked hard for it. I had to study. A lot. In short, I was motivated.

I saw my kids, for the first time, motivated by something other than a reward from a good report card. Do you know how huge that is? There was no reward. There was no prize at the finish line (especially one mom had facilitated). There really wasn’t a finish line, per se.

Somehow, in this school environment, they found motivation from within. Perhaps it was always there, but in this environment their focus (and mine!) was taken off of the end goal and refocused on the everyday experience of learning and loving to learn.

When my 6-year-old’s homework was to write 3 sentences and instead he writes an entire page just because he wants to – that is motivation that is coming from somewhere inside of him. Because believe me, mommy was tired and ready for homework to be over that day!

They were working hard because they chose to do it. Because it was the right thing to do. Not because I made or motivated them. Not because a teacher was marking down a grade and tabulating a report card score.

My daughter had A LOT of homework this year. A LOT. She has no sense of urgency when it comes to these tasks, but I have to give her credit for not giving up. For not complaining about the work. For sticking with it and asking questions until it all made sense. Her grit got her though.

I don’t want to give the mistaken impression that this was an idyllic, perfect experience. Of course it wasn’t. This is real life with real kids and a mom who is still figuring it all out. There were nights when they were tired, I was tired, when homework seemed like a drag. There were days when they were not at their best when I dropped them off for school. (I’m so sorry about that!) I know there were times when they acted “a little cheeky” to use my son’s new-found phrase. (I’m so, SO sorry about that too!)

My son also will tell you he “doesn’t like school” because he thinks the alternative is staying home with mom and playing Minecraft all day. Dream on, kid! He happily skips into school each day and comes out with a smile on his face, so I think he’s doing just fine.

So where does that leave us? Well, I’m taking this experience in. I’m letting it reshape my view of education at the elementary school level. I’m also letting it reshape my view on parenting as it relates to this topic. It’s another piece to the puzzle and we’ll see how it goes next year.

Do I think kids should never be graded or assessed? No, of course not. I understand why they are and see the benefit in it at certain times. At the primary school level I think report cards are less about the students, however, and more about making sure the system is accountable. And I get why the system needs to be accountable.

Finding the right words to describe a very complex experience is tricky and I’ve struggled with writing this post. I hope I have in no way implied that our public school experience in the U.S. has been bad. Quite the contrary. I also haven’t had to walk a mile in the shoes of a parent whose child has special needs. Or in the shoes of a parent whose child has attended a failing school. Our experience is ours alone.

Most of all, I’m thankful. I’m thankful for teachers who devote their lives to educating the next generation. I’m thankful for teachers who continue teaching despite low pay, long hours, demanding parents, mountains of paperwork, bumbling bureaucracies, and so on. Those things can be found everywhere, unfortunately.

I’m thankful for the educators and researchers who are out there in countries around the world trying to make the system better. I’m thankful for parents who donate their time, for businesses that donate resources, for those governments that properly fund schools. I’m thankful for communities that recognize the value of an education. I’m thankful for my kids and their willingness to dive into these new situations and make the most of it. As is the case with so many things, what we put into it is what we get out of it.

I’m also thankful that I did not say out loud, “but how will I know if they learned anything if I don’t get a report card?” You know I thought it at least once.

Turns out, I didn’t need a report to see the fruits of their learning. In this case, I’m happy to be wrong! Here’s to next year! 

P.S. Here’s a bit of contextual information that influences my viewpoint because I know that simply not giving grades doesn’t magically change the education experience. Also, I’m not an educator. I’m simply a mom trying to make the best decisions for my kids’ education.

1. My kids attend a private school. Report cards ARE given in Irish public schools.
2. My kids are in mixed-age classrooms. (6-9 year olds and 9-12 year olds). A mixed-age environment seems to more easily facilitate children being able to work ahead in the curriculum, which my kids did do this year.
3. The student-teacher ratio is approximately 10:1.
4. The school is able to accommodate students with autism, dyslexia, ADHD, English as a second language, etc. Kids with special needs are NOT separated from the rest of the class.
5. My kids do not have special learning needs.
6. I had heard that European schools are much more advanced and/or challenging than U.S. schools, so I was worried about my kids being behind in terms of math, in particular. That proved to not be the case. Both of the kids were either on par or slightly above average in reading and math. I attribute that, in large part, to the excellent teachers we had while in Oregon and Georgia.
7. My kids DO take the standardized tests required of all Irish students. They also get the occasional spelling or math quiz.
8. Teachers have flexibility in how much time is spent on any given topic and how they teach that topic.
9. This type of school environment is something we would definitely be priced out of in the United States, so I am relishing it while we are here.









Books My Kids Are Reading Part 4

I was reading aloud to the kids last week while we waited at the train station. My son, in typical fashion, was sitting on my lap and my daughter was sitting on my right. On her right sat an elderly man.

I read for 5 or 6 minutes while the kids munched on their after school snack. When they hopped up to throw their granola bar wrappers in the bin, the man turned to me and with a quiet, gravelly voice said, “I remember my mum reading to me when I was a young lad.”

I noticed his eyes had teared up.

“She’s been gone 5 years now.”

With that he got up, pulled his hanky from his pocket to wipe his eyes and walked off to board his train.

I didn’t have a chance to say much of anything in reply before he left.

It’s probably for the best. It was such a sweet, sincere moment of remembrance.

I certainly didn’t want to tarnish it by telling him that I’d started using our train commute to read to the kids because holy heck, they turn into wild animals given too much idle time. Dealing with wild animals squabbling siblings in public sends my blood pressure through the roof. So basically, I’m channeling their energy into books instead of bugging each other.

But perhaps, one day, decades from now, my kids will fondly remember this reading time too.

So, read to your kids! And your grandkids! It might not seem like it now, but it will make a difference.

Here are a few books that we’ve enjoyed reading lately. My kids are ages 7 and 10.

THE MIDNIGHT GANG by David Walliams

We are making our way through the world of David Walliams. My favorite book so far, and probably the kids’ too, is The Midnight Gang.

In this book, the kids in the hospital have a secret club. They help make each child’s biggest dream come true, which means every night they are going on fantastic adventures through the hospital.

There’s adventure, drama, humor and some poignantly sweet moments as well.

THE BOY IN THE DRESS by David Walliams

My kids have been asking some TOUGH life questions lately. Those questions that are perfectly normal, but that as a parent make you want to do that slow backward slide out of the room to avoid answering. If you’re like me you spend a lot of time second-guessing if you got the explanation right because you’re never prepared for these questions!

I thought this book was headed into one of those territories. I was wrong. It was really just about a kid who missed his mom. It was about a kid who was different. It was about how real friends will rally around you no matter how different you are.

My kids laughed. They were amazed. But they didn’t ask me any tough questions. See? They are always keeping me on my toes.

We’ve also read some of David Walliams’ other books such as Awful Auntie, Demon Dentist and Ratburger. I have to say, the adults in these three David Walliams books are terrible individuals.

He always brings the books to a nice, happy conclusion, but man, his adult characters are bad, bad people. For some reason, my kids don’t pick up on that. Their favorite thing to do is to interrupt my reading to say, “I think I know what’s going to happen next!” They seem to take these stories at face level: there’s good, there’s evil, and good always wins.

Also, there is one reoccurring character in all of David Walliams’ books, Raj, who runs the newsagent shop. If you read more than one of his books, your kids will love to see how Raj pops up in each story. He’s definitely a quirky character and my kids adore him.


This was my favorite book of the last month! I bought it on a whim and it’s a keeper!

It’s a world history book written and illustrated in a kid-friendly way. So many history books are dreadfully dull. Not this one. Even the word choice and phrasing was geared to make history exciting for kids (and parents too). Best of all, each topic was short and sweet.

Every page spread is a different historical era:
Base a Philosophy…On Beans (Pythagoras)
Start a Renaissance…By Getting Naked (da Vinci, Michelangelo, etc.)
Win Battles…By Shooting Backwards (Genghis Khan and the Mongols)
Start a Democracy…With Wet Feet (Magna Carta and King John)
Get Out of a Depression…By Planting Trees (New Deal and FDR)
Go to the Moon…With a Pocket Calculator (Neil Armstrong and NASA)

It looks like this book may be out of print, so the only ones available on Amazon are used. Don’t get scalped though! I’m mainly mentioning this book so that if you see it at the library or in a bookshop you’ll know to snatch it up. Also, it was SO, SO good!

HOUSE OF ROBOTS by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein

This is the first time we’ve read any of James Patterson’s children’s books. My kids, especially my son, ATE THIS BOOK UP!

It was about robots, after all!

This book and the others by Patterson take place in middle school, but this one didn’t seem too old subject-wise for either of my kids. It mainly dealt with typical things you might find in any school: best friends, lunch room antics and bullies. Oh, and what happens if your new “brother” is a robot and your mom makes you take him to school. You know, the usual!

I really liked how the mom in the book was a genius robotics professor. It was a great way to introduce girls to the idea of a career in science.

If you have a reluctant reader, this book is illustrated with a lot of thought bubbles. My son complains about reading a page of text, but has no problem reading thought and voice bubbles. It’s an excellent way to sneak extra reading aloud in.

We can’t wait to check out more of James Patterson’s books.


This book was SO different from what we’ve been reading lately. My kids are still talking about it.

The premise of this book is what if imaginary friends are real? What happens to the imaginaries when their real-life friends grow up and don’t believe in them anymore? Rudger is Amanda’s imaginary friend and he soon learns that an evil man is after the imaginaries. How can an imaginary boy save the day in the real world?

The description of this book says it is in the vein of Coraline. I can see that. It’s a little dark and definitely fantastical. If your kids like Harry Potter, they will like this book. My kids loved the suspense and the sweet ending.


We are going broke buying my daughter the Warrior Cat books!

When she is into something, she’s REALLY into it. The Warrior Cat books are one of those things. There are a ton of books in this best-selling series by Erin Hunter and my daughter can keep them all straight.

In her painting class she has been painting the book covers. When she does imaginary play, it’s always about Warrior Cats. Oh, and Warrior Cats is being turned into a movie. I believe my daughter has a countdown going.

I do not understand the world of Warrior Cats, but she LOVES it!

She got this box set for her birthday. Manga is a Japanese-style of graphic novels. However, if straight chapter books are up your kid’s alley, there are a whole bunch of those too!

If you have an older kid who likes cats, check this series out.


This book was so clever and so much fun to read. We’re still talking about it!

The book description says it best: “As if being small and having S. Horten as his name isn’t bad enough, now 10-year-old Stuart is forced to move far away from all his friends. But on his very first day in his new home, Stuart’s swept up in an extraordinary adventure: the quest to find his great-uncle Tony–a famous magician who literally disappeared off the face of the earth–and Tony’s marvelous, long-lost workshop. Along the way, Stuart reluctantly accepts help from the annoying triplets next door… and encounters trouble from another magician who’s also desperate to get hold of Tony’s treasures.”

Here are past posts on books we LOVE
1. Books My Kids Are Reading Part 3
2. Books My Kids Are Reading Part 2
3. Books My Kids Are Reading Now (Part 1)
4. Two Children’s Books That Made My Eyes Leak – Cried my eyes out. Still my favorite books.
5. Star Wars Phonics Books – These worked miracles at encouraging my son to read

If you know of any books my kids would love, please let me know.

Having a new book to look forward to reading makes us pretty darn happy!

Also, it apparently keeps this mom from blowing a gasket during our commute. So, really, books are saving the day!



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Happy List #28: SCHOOL IS OUT

Today is the last day of the school year! No more homework. No more keeping track of school uniforms. No more packing (and the dreaded unpacking) of school lunches. No more forcing certain offspring to wear socks AND underwear because that’s what civilized people do on school days.


On Monday I’ll probably be saying, “Oh, sweet heavens how long until school starts?”


That will definitely probably happen on Tuesday.

This week I shared the unexpected thing I am so glad I saved after my mom died – sweet, sentimental pieces of her handwriting. By the way, I love you all to pieces. Your sweet comments here and on social media were like a nice virtual hug.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I also shared the other thing I’ve been saving – tourist maps. They make fantastic wrapping paper!

Here are the other things giving me all the happy feels this week.


I believe I recently posted a paper flower tutorial and told you guys to hide my scissors. Well, I found another one! I can’t seem to let this idea go.

I need someplace to hang paper flowers because it could look so cool as a photo backdrop. Am I right or am I right?

Full tutorial (and image credit) can be found at Hostess With The Mostess.


I recently ordered something on Amazon with a lithium ion battery. It was the drone for my son’s birthday. The box was papered in huge warning labels.


I can’t remember the exact words, but that’s close enough.

I didn’t know where lithium comes from, but now I do. I watched the video with my kids too and we had a crazy good discussion about minerals and technology. I felt like we really nailed it in the learning department…for those 6 minutes.

This was also a gentle reminder of how interdependent our world is on each other for natural resources and trade. Because HOLY COW if we can’t get batteries for our iPhones there’s going to be a panic!


At least, that’s what InStyle magazine says.

So, if you want a $395 lilac-colored fanny pack (or belt bag to be super up-to-date), visit ShopBop. No, that’s not an affiliate link.

I actually wouldn’t mind fanny packs coming back into style. You can’t beat the practicality!


This is Faith and Tim’s home in the Bahamas.

I wonder how much time they spend here? I’d probably never leave! See all the gorgeous photos of their home on Architectural Digest.



Since I will be visiting (aka overstaying my welcome) at Dad and The Junk Whisperer’s house soon, this idea for reclaimed tin signs caught my eye.

I can almost guarantee there’s a piece of tin somewhere on the ol’ family farm.

I also have a friend who could sell these in her shop with no trouble at all.

Get more inspiration at Gypsy Farm Girl.

P.S. There is no way I’d say “welcome y’all” in Ireland. Just in case you were wondering. They already think I’m strange enough.


Why am I not surprised coffee butter is a thing? At least it is in Japan.

And I’m not talking about spilling your coffee on your buttered toast either! Been there, done that. DANGIT!

This might come as a soul-crushing shock – there’s nothing healthy about coffee butter. Check out the recipe from Epicurious and see for yourself.



I found a company called Raw Restorations that reuses barn wood and metal to make cool wall art.

I’m a little obsessed with all of their creative ideas…and their firm grasp of geometry.

Learn more about their process, including custom creations, here.


How about balloon flowers to jazz up your next party? The color combinations are endless!

Depending on your space and how you hang these, I don’t think you’d need helium.

Learn more and get the tutorial at Hostess With The Mostess.

But wait! There’s more!

If you’re serving ice cream at your party, it would be fun to make ice cream cone decorations with balloons.

By the way, this picture comes from a party that served ‘make your own spiked milkshakes.’ Clearly, a grown-ups party and one I think I’d actually attend. Just throwing that out there…

Get the details and see more pictures here.


Wedding or anniversary gift idea!

A quilt or throw with a map of where the couple got married (or calls home) would be super special. A definite keepsake. I’d love to receive something like this.

You can also personalize the quilt with the couple’s wedding date or mark a specific spot on the map with a heart.

This quilt/throw below shows a map of London and was made by Haptic Lab. I’m sure other companies must do this as well – perhaps on Etsy.


After my post about saving copies of a loved one’s handwriting, a reader told me about some Etsy shops that sell handwriting jewelry. Send them something handwritten and they can recreate it!

This bracelet is from CaitlynMinimalist.

This one is from CarolJewelryArt.


I loved this idea for displaying your house numbers by Sarah at Sarah Hearts.

As she points out, it is renter-friendly too.

That’s all from me this week!

Wish me luck! I’m off to collect two very happy kids from their last day of school! I am so very proud of all of their hard work this year.

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Tourist Maps Make Great Wrapping Paper

Monday’s post was a little heavy, emotionally speaking, so let’s reel it back in, shall we? Besides, this blog, similar to the inner workings of my brain, thrives on randomness and abrupt topic changes. Keep up! Keep up! The whiplash is worth it.

How many of you have traveled someplace new and picked up a tourist map (or 3 because each of your kids needs their own map even if they ask you to hold it 7.3 seconds later, thank you very much)?

*raises hand*

Then how many of you have chucked that map(s) in the recycle bin or garbage when you were finished?

*raises hand*

If one of your tourist maps survives the trip in good shape, don’t throw it away!

You can reuse it as wrapping paper!

It’s fun. It’s unique. It’s economical.

It works for any gender or age.

And those map creases are an excellent cutting guide.

I did have to repair a slight tear in one of the creases with a bit of tape, but when I’m wrapping a Nerf gun for a 7-year-old, perfection is not at the top of my priority list.

Actually, perfection is rarely at the top of my priority list. Makes life so much easier!

I was carrying these presents through the mall on our way to a birthday party at a miniature golf place. I stopped to pick up a free sample of a sports drink the college kids were handing out. I meant to do a “grab a free bottle fly by” because we were on a timeline, but the kid stopped me and said, “is that map wrapping paper?”

I said “Well, it’s a map that I’m using as wrapping paper.”

“From a real place?” he replied.

“Nope! From a fake place!”

Kidding, I didn’t say that. I thought it, but my internal filter was working that day.

What I actually said was, “Yes, from our trip to Copenhagen.”

“WOW! That’s such a good idea!”

As a side note, I do love it when college kids think my ideas are great. It gives me that “I’ve still got it” feeling.

Then I talked to him for another 3 minutes about how expensive we found Denmark to be compared to Ireland while Handy Husband tapped his foot waited patiently for me to stop holding court with my adoring fans.

Not only is a tourist map a great item to reuse as wrapping paper, but it is also a conversation starter. These win-win ideas make me ridiculously happy!

And in this case, since I reused and thereby helped the planet, I think this was a win-win-win idea.

The Unexpected Thing to Save When Your Parent Dies

My mom died in a car accident.

To me, she is forever frozen in time as a larger-than-life, full-of-zest, tell-it-like-it-is, 52-year-old.

Her 65th birthday would have been yesterday.

The reverberations of her death echo through my family to this day. It irrevocably changed us all in ways that are still unfolding. Not a day goes by that she is not on my mind. Not one.

When someone dies, there are immense amounts of mourning. Understatement of the year.

There are also practical matters that callously intrude upon your grief. Decisions to be made. Items to be sorted. Paperwork to be completed. Things that must be done RIGHT. NOW. Before you’ve even laid the deceased to rest. Or worse, just so you CAN lay the deceased to rest.

Case in point. I was instructed by the funeral home to pick an outfit for my mom to be buried in. Complete with underwear.


Underwear? You’ve got to be kidding me.

If you were going to pick one pair of underwear to wear for all of eternity, which one would it be?

To this day, I can remember standing in front of my mother’s underwear drawer and the thoughts that broke through the haze of grief were just borderline ridiculous.
-No one should go through their mom’s underwear drawer. EW! 
-Oh, racy underwear. Go mom!
-Ew! My mom has racy underwear? 
-Why are you holding onto THIS pair? Seriously, mom. The elastic is all stretched out.
-Is this all of it? I wonder if I should check the dirty clothes basket.
-EW. I don’t even like checking MY dirty clothes basket.
-Granny panties or thong for all eternity? Hmmmm. Decisions, decisions.
-How DO you get underwear on a dead person?
-Should I just buy a new pair? Nah. That seems crazy. 

-Why do you have to be buried in underwear anyway?
-I mean, what if you always went commando?
-What are they going to do? Not bury her because I delivered a suit sans underwear?
-The funeral home wasn’t messing with me, were they? Nah. They wouldn’t do that. Would they? 
-How long have I been standing here? This is getting awkward.

Sadly, that was the least horrible thing I did in the days leading up to and after my mom’s funeral.

As life marches on, so do the practicalities of dismantling a life well-lived.

I sorted through clothing, pictures, keepsakes, paperwork, jewelry and so on and so forth.

The one unexpected thing I’m glad I saved are copies of my mom’s handwriting.

A Christmas sticker that says “To: Annisa, From: Mom and Dad.” We all know Dad had no clue what that Christmas present was.

A nickname written on a cardboard box filled with childhood trinkets.

I discarded the trinkets, but kept that piece of the box because no one else called me that.

It was just one of those sweet things between a mother and a child.

Similar to DNA and fingerprints, a person’s handwriting is a physical manifestation of their individuality. There’s just something so incredibly personal about someone’s handwriting – especially their signature. It is uniquely them.

I can recognize my mom’s handwriting at a glance from every birthday card she wrote, every permission slip she signed, every note she left me on the kitchen table, every shopping list she handed me. From years and years of communication via pen and paper.

And every time I see her handwriting, I am slammed back to a time when my mom was a living, breathing force to be reckoned with. A time when I could call her, see her, hug her. A time I, no doubt, took for granted because I didn’t know it was ending.

Her image fades, her voice fades, her smell fades, but her handwriting, to this day, is bright and bold. It is a piece of her…a thought and an action that flowed out of her heart and onto paper especially for me.

Something so insignificant at the time – a nickname written on a box – is now something I cherish with all my heart.

I still get a lump in my throat – all these years later – whenever I speak or write about my mom. I find myself lacking the words to express the totality of my emotions, so I will keep it simple. I am so happy I saved pieces of her handwriting after she died.

I promise you will be too.

Happy List #27

Why, hello again!

I sure am thankful for all of you who keep coming back week after week!

I’m excited because we have a 3-day weekend. I have no idea why Monday is a bank holiday and I do not second guess these things. Also, if you want to do anything touristy on a bank holiday weekend in Ireland – forget about it. All 5 million people that live on this island plus a herd of sheep will be in the same place at the same time. Guaranteed.

This week I shared how I repurposed my wine rack into a display shelf for my children’s beloved tchotchkes. If dessert soups are your jam, then I also shared a Sour Cherry Soup from Hungary.

Here’s what’s giving me that happy feeling this week.

FREE DOUGHNUTS AND FISHING – just not in the same place

Don’t say I don’t look out for you peeps in the United States. Today is National Doughnut Day in the U.S.A.

If you want a free doughnut, TODAY is your chance.

Dunkin Donuts is handing out a free doughnut with the purchase of a beverage. Krispy Kreme is just giving away free doughnuts – no purchase necessary. It’s like they want us to get fat. I read all about the freebies – not the getting fat part, I made that up – on Time.com.

It is also Take Me Fishing Week in almost 20 states, which means free fishing! No permit or license required. To see if your state is participating, click here.

Image via Merriam-Webster. If you want to know whether it is doughnut or donut, then visit their page.


I didn’t know it until this week, but now I am CONVINCED I need a spiralizer to make sweet potato noodles.

According to the recipe for Chipotle Sweet Potato Noodle Salad on Pinch of Yum, that is how this salad is made. Looks delicious, right?

(image via Pinch of Yum)

I’m currently pretty gadget-free in this house, so I had to “search up” (to use my 7-year-old’s lingo) on Amazon what exactly a spiralizer is and does.

There’s this one that’s about $30 that sits on the counter. It got almost 5 stars from 8,000 reviews, so I’m guessing it is the best thing since sliced bread. I’m not a fan of bulky kitchen gadgets though.

Then there’s this cute handheld one too., which looks more up my alley. I’m guessing it isn’t quite as good as the beast above though. It got 4 stars from around 450 reviews and is only 14 bucks.

I’m wondering if my kids would think any of these veggies were truly noodles? Hmm. Might have to think about this.


7th grade (or was it 8th?) shop class was a nightmare. I think it had something to do with the instructor not really being a kid-person. Or a people-person.

There were also all those rumors about kids losing fingers in the power saws. And there were the boys who liked to goof around, which was probably why there were rumors about kids losing fingers.

I find this to be a shame because looking back, I really could have used some encouragement in the category of ‘dive in and try a power tool.’

Instead of the useless napkin holder that didn’t hold napkins up…or was it a letter holder?…this toothbrush holder would have been a cool shop class creation.

It would definitely look cool in my minimalist house where my kids never leave a toothpaste mess everywhere.

Get the scoop on the DIY from The Merry Thought. (Image is from her site, by the way.) Also, that wood counter gives me all the heart eyes.


Is there anything a pool noodle can’t do? I’m just throwing that out there because it can keep you from drowning and now you can use one to shoot marshmallows. It’s the MacGyver of summer accessories.

Here’s a big list of other summer games you can create from a pool noodle that don’t involve a pool.

I might have to make these marshmallow shooters…for the kids to use…just kidding. They’d totally be for me and Handy Husband.
(photo credit: Flynnside Out Productions)


I thought this was a pretty nifty hook DIY by A Bubbly Life. I’ve been mulling ideas for how to hang my bracelets and this could definitely work.

The marble tiles are attached with E6000 glue, which I know is strong. I don’t know if it is “hang a wet towel on the hook” strong though. Bracelet strong, yes, since the bracelets are resting on the dowel. Check out her DIY instructions and decide for yourself!

(image A Bubbly Life)


DO NOT tell my daughter that ‘cat cuddler’ is an actual paying job at a veterinary clinic in Dublin.  I’m fairly certain that would be it for her at this stage!

As reported by Time“Are you a crazy cat person and loves cats? Does cattitude come naturally to you?” Dublin’s sole vet clinic for cats-only wrote in the job post. “If you answer yes to some or all of these questions, how about working with cats as a full time job at Just Cats Veterinary Clinic?” 

“The ideal candidate will be “softly spoke and capable of cat whispering to calm the nerves of some of our in patients,” the clinic wrote in the job posting. The listing added that a bonus qualification was having the “ability to understand different types of purring.””

What I want to know is how do THEY know that YOU know what that purring means?


I like happy stories. I like a sentimental tale. I’m particularly fond of stories about bringing life to a new space while honoring the past.

This story has all of that. Read about it on DesignMom. Oh, and this Utah home is on AirBnB.

(image via DesignMom)


I’m really, really digging the picture of this kitchen. I love the use of medium-toned wood on the island and how that contrasts with and warms up an otherwise white space.

This kitchen was designed by Serendipite. See more from this portfolio here.


Happy first weekend in June to everyone! Go enjoy it!


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