Mother’s Day Gift Giving Tips

With Mother’s Day around the corner, I thought I would share my gift giving tips.

Let’s start with the ground rules:

  • You are NOT buying for yourself (This is perhaps the most common mistake). Just because you love something, doesn’t mean the other person is going to.  For example, my mom and I have an allergy to fragrances, and so when buying for my mom I avoid anything scented.
  • ALWAYS give a gift receipt. You are setting you both up for failure if you don’t. Let’s be honest, how many times have you tried on something in your normal size from one of your favorite stores, to find that you need to go up or down a size.  Don’t make the person have to ask or explain.

Now it is time to get down to picking a gift.  Don’t forget to check my Pinterest site for more ideas.

  • Just because you love a store, doesn’t mean the other person does.  Or it doesn’t mean one size fits all or one style fits all. If someone has told you they don’t like a certain store, then don’t shop there.  This goes along with #1.  You aren’t buying for you.  You probably asked them about something they have worn or used in their home, go to that store.
  • If you are unsure of size, then pick something where size doesn’t matter. A beautiful ruana or scarf is a nice treat.  A nice billfold or bag for their purse is another great treat.  It is almost beach season, so a cute beach bag with a new beach towel could be a nice surprise.
  • Don’t be afraid of gift cards. If you want it to feel more personal, make it for having photos printed or for some pampering at a spa.  Something they wouldn’t treat themselves to normally.
  • Time is a great gift. Because I live out-of-town, my mom and I don’t get nearly enough time together.  Setting up a time for lunch and catching up can be an even better gift than a new sweater.
  • The best gift is always making sure the person knows how much you appreciate them. Take time to pick out a great card and make sure and put a note in addition to your signature.
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The Working Mom’s Guide to the Holiday Dash

Hello November …. Or as I like to call it the Mad Dash between Halloween and Christmas.  So here we go – My tips for surviving the Holiday Dash.

Dinner: This time of year is all about soups, stews and chilis.  I make a lot and it gets me 3 dinners out of the week.  My recipes are on my Pinterest page, but I always double cook on Sunday.  I make dinner with leftovers for Tuesday and I cook another soup, stew, chili to get me Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  Fridays are pizza or popcorn movie night.

Thanksgiving Food: For my newlywed followers, don’t do the crazy recipe for your in-laws.  Trust me, I made chocolate soup pie one year (that is not what it was supposed to be – I felt like Bridget Jones with her blue soup) and I stressed myself out.  Go with what you are good at.  For those of us who are more seasoned and are wrangling the little ones, go with what you really have time for – not in the perfect world if all the stars and moons line up.  Don’t beat yourself up if that is a store-bought something.  Last year, I did not have time to bake a cake for Thanksgiving and I picked one up at Whole Foods.  The lack of stress was worth every penny.

Kids and Eating with Family: I always make my contribution something I know that my kids will eat, especially at the more extended family events.

The Shopping:  I start stashing for Christmas now.  As I see things on my weekly Target run that I think will make a good stocking stuffers, I go ahead and pick it up.  Anytime, I am at a store, I think about Christmas.  Hubby and I do this as a fun date night during the week when the stores are less crowded.  We pick a day and meet after work for dinner and shopping.  We have another couple that we swap sitting for – we do the same for them the next week.

Money Saving Tip:  Watch Amazon’s pre-black Friday deals.  Use Target’s Cartwheel with their weekly ad to maximize savings.

The Elf: We do elf, but I do EASY elf.  I schedule them on my work calendar that syncs with my phone.  I do the “harder” things on the weekend and give them easy tasks during the week. Mine hangs out in shoes and coats, visit the bathroom with the toothbrush (see EASY and promoting good hygiene).  On the weekends we do the really cute stuff like a marshmallow bath, bringing cookie cutters, pancakes, and mine come with Swiffer rockets to encourage the children to help me clean.

Summary: Just have FUN and plan ahead so you can have FUN.  Don’t forget to check my Pinterest site to view my recipes and ideas for the Holidays.

 

Please send all questions, comments, concerns or issues to southernservicestyle@gmail.com

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The Working Mom’s Guide to Halloween

It’s October … I know … I feel like it was just summer.  And with kids, it is all about Halloween.  So here are some of the ways I manage Halloween.  Check out my Pinterest page for even more ideas, and for pictures of the items mentioned.

The Clothes: I bought my daughters from the Disney at JC Penny and got the dress a lot cheaper than the Disney Store.  My son is Captain America from Amazon Prime.  You still have time, Amazon Prime ships in 2 days.

Money Saving Tips:  I like things that do double duty and can be worn, again.  My son was a superhero one year and I bought long john pajamas that looked like a super hero shirt with a graphic belt and then ordered him a really cute cape and some moccasin socks from Hanna Anderson (I bought red to use for Christmas)

The School Party: Thankfully most schools want you to buy things premade to avoid any allergy problems.  When you make your weekly shopping trip pick up something easy like Smartpop Popcorn in individual bags.  There are 12 to a bag.  Or order from Amazon Prime.

The Candy: If you are worried about being allergy friendly, get toys.  You can get 156 piece assortment of Halloween stuff for $21.57 on Amazon right now.  I actually wait until the day before to buy candy because I don’t want to spend the next few weeks eating it.

The Pumpkin:  Several years ago, I invested in a plastic pumpkin that has a carved face and a plug-in light from Target.  I now can put it out on October 1 and look “together”.  We do still buy pumpkins, but it is whenever we get around to it.  We went this past weekend because it was pretty and we actually had time to enjoy the pumpkin patch.  FYI, the grocery store sells pumpkins and they work just as well.

Money Saving Tip: We printed a superhero carving pattern off of Pinterest instead of paying $10 for the patter and cheap tool set at the store.

Be the Fun Mom: I dress up.  I don’t care what the other moms do.  Last year, we were the Batman and Robin Family.  I wore a batgirl t-shirt. My baby was dressed as batgirl.  My husband wore a batman shirt and our son was Robin.  This year, we are less coordinated with the Princess and Captain America.  I have an orange witch hat and I wear all black and carry a broom.  I think it is important to show our kids that we can have fun with them.

Summary: Just have FUN and plan ahead so you can have FUN.

 

Please send all questions, comments, concerns or issues to southernservicestyle@gmail.com

 

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How to Day Trip to the Beach with Little Ones

We have lived both 3 hours and 1.5 hours from the coast and we have day tripped with and without little ones.  And despite impressions, day tripping with little ones doesn’t have to be so stressful if you follow my tips.

  1. Go Early
    1. We leave so that we can be on the beach by between 8:30 and 9. This helps you avoid the late rising vacation crowd and the traffic is light this early.
  2. Plan Your Location
    1. Know where local beach access points are and we usually pick one that is the 3rd or 4th down from the main road to the beach.
    2. Make sure there are public restrooms and read reviews for cleanliness and make sure they have a shower
  3. Lunch – Brown Bag It (we eat early at 11)
    1. I pack a cooler with extra milk (I buy the Horizons milk that is in the non-refrigerated section to avoid worrying about if it gets too warm), but I have a huge cooler loaded with the big ice packs that last 8 hours. I bring sandwiches and for the little one rolled turkey and cheese pinwheels.  I bring yogurt that I have frozen in the tube for a treat.  I feed the under 2-year-old in their stroller and we bring and umbrella for shade.  We use the cooler as a table for my 4-year-old.   Our folding chairs (which have back pack straps) have a drink holder.
  4. Sunscreen
    1. The number on the bottle is how long before you should reapply in minutes. I like 50 for the kids (because I find I can reapply every hour, and I prefer the spray kind for everything but the face – I buy the Aveeno baby in the tube for that)
  5. Nap
    1. After lunch the littlest one can nap in her stroller (I have a City Jogger and it will go on the beach easily and lays back flat for her. It also has a huge canopy to cover her from the sun.
    2. We let the older one play until about 2:00 (This is perfect, because now the beach is getting crowded with the post lunch crowd and you are going to leave)
  6. Get Ready to Go Out
    1. Shower Off – you really can shower there with your swimsuit on – just to get the sand off (remember you made sure the place you entered the beach has one)
    2. I then take the kids back to the car where we get them dressed
    3. Style and I take turns in the bathroom getting dressed
    4. I add a touch of make up in the car and I put my hair in a French twist
  7. Visit a Beach Shop or something of Interest
  8. Go Eat (Because who can go to the Beach without seafood) – we go to Dinner at 4 (which is why we ate lunch at 11) – you most likely will get early bird pricing and you are going to beat the crowd
  9. Go Home
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Improving the Discussion: Working Mom’s Guide to Car Travel

Recently, I realized in the midst of the stay at home (SAH) mom and working mom (WM) debate, that we really should learn from each other.  With that, I am starting a new series on travelling with tips from my SAH friends and the working mom tips.  Using what we are both experts at, for us to all be better. I have mastered cranky baby car travel, because little miss and I have a minimum 40 minute commute home each day at 5:30 when she is both hungry and tired.  In addition, our family doesn’t live nearby and I have made the 4.5 hour drive home by myself in rush hour traffic, making it a 6+ hour drive.  And, I did it without breaking a sweat. I have all the items mentioned on my Pinterest page.

#1: Stock Food/Snacks/Drinks in the Car – I pack a cooler with drinks, and then I give toddlers milk in the Thermos Funtainer (these are the best – they keep beverages cold for 8 hours) I like the ones with the straw.  I buy the Organic Horizons milk that doesn’t have to be refrigerated and store in the cooler.  I keep bottled water in the cooler and then fill up the First Years Take and Toss Spill Proof cups for the Baby.  For snacks I bring boxes of what they like and for the older child I put them in one of the spill proof cups sans lid and the baby I use the Munchkin snack catcher.  I keep pouches of vegetable and fruit blends for the older one and for the baby when we stop.  (If flying – same concept smaller size and leave everything unopened and empty before security). Invest in rubber mats for your car.  You can just dump crumbs off them, and if there is a milk spill, wet wipes work. J

#2: The Tunes – I have the iPod loaded with what my mother now calls the “Magic” music – you know the songs you put on and your kids start singing and dancing no matter how ill, tired, etc.. they are.  For us , this is Friday Night by Eric Paslay and Save a Horse Ride a Cowboy by Big and Rich.   Nursery Rhymes and Disney Soundtracks also work, but Mr. Southern and I like to include music we like, too.  Include nap inducing music (for us this is classical music)

#3: The Shows – While the baby naps, I give my 4-year-old my Kindle with headphones to watch a downloaded movie.  I recommend teaching them how to troubleshoot the application.  And also reminding them, to remove headphones before talking – otherwise they will wake the baby.

#4 The Games – Yes, even the baby can play a game (or feel like they are playing the game).  I like to play “I Spy” with things in the car, looking for a colored car, etc… To include the baby, we spy her and on her turn we ask her to find things she knows (like her hair or her nose)

#5 The Stories – I am sure, you have books that you have read so many times – you can recite … we do that in the car (Ex: Brown Bear What Do You See? By Eric Carle)  And we make up stories.  Each taking a turn and for the baby – we just make her a character.

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A Working Mom’s Guide to Easter

Being a Southern girl, I love Easter.  I love everything about it from the girly dresses and hats to the gorgeous Easter lilies and of course the meaning of Easter.  And now that I have children, I love it even more.  So here are some of the ways I manage Easter.  Check out my Pinterest page for even more ideas, and for pictures of the items mentioned.

Focusing on the Meaning: I use the Resurrection Eggs.  These are plastic eggs that have little symbols of the story of Easter.  It comes with a booklet that explains the story.  I hide the eggs and let the kids find them.  Then I keep a stash of Jelly Beans and they earn them for identifying the item and how it fits with the story. Next year, I will add the simple verses for my kindergartner to memorize.

The Clothes: Shop for your kids online.  You still have time.  I found a great deal this year at Rags Land (www.ragsland.com).  I ordered my little girl a float dress with her initials monogrammed on the white collar that I paid less than $55 for, and I ordered my son a matching dress shirt with his initials.  I ordered both of them shoes from Amazon.  You can print out a foot pattern to see what size you need. (http://www.famousfootwear.com/en-US/Content/fit.aspx)

Money Saving Tips:  I will have my son wear his usual Sunday khakis, and I picked something for both of them that doesn’t scream Easter – so we can wear them throughout summer and my son’s dress shirt will make a whole new outfit with a sweater vest when it is cooler in the fall.  I am recycling an Easter dress from a couple of years ago (It is a solid shift) that I will pair with a new cardigan from Target ($15).  My husband is recycling his whole outfit with a forgotten tie.

The Food: I am actually taking the kids to visit family right before Easter, and I will stress myself out if I try to cook on Sunday after being gone.  So, I am using Whole Foods prepared Easter.  Also, I discovered Williams Sonoma has one that will deliver to you.  But for those of you that want to cook or are just bringing a dish somewhere, I have posted some of my favorites that are easy on my Pinterest page.

The Baskets: I must confess I splurged, and bought both my kids Pottery Barn Easter baskets.  But I actually use them the rest of the year as storage for the “little things” in their room.  My son has a little flash light, his pocket knife, etc… in his.  As for the filling, I actually buy practical things to fill them.  I just ordered graphic t-shirts and spring pajamas for both from the Old Navy sale.  I give them each a book, which I ordered from Amazon.  When I pick up diapers at Target, I will run to the back and get them each some bubbles and two candy items for my son.  The one year old gets a plush toy.

Egg Dying:  I keep it simple, and this is supposed to be FUN … not stressful.  I will cook my eggs on a Friday night, and that Saturday morning we will go outside with a drop cloth and old clothes and just have fun.  This is a project for the kids and not an art competition – sorry Pinterest.  I bought cheap kits at Target which include superhero stickers for my son and big crayons for my daughter.  We will make a mess and we will have FUN.

Confession:  Last year, I tried to make Pirate eggs with my son.  He had a great time, and I felt bad that they didn’t look like the ones on Pinterest.  I made another half dozen that night just to have “pretty pirate eggs.”  But what I realize now, is he had a great time with the first batch, even though it was a Pinterest Fail.

Summary: Just have FUN and plan ahead so you can have FUN.

 

Please send all questions, comments, concerns or issues to southernservicestyle@gmail.com

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