7 Tips for Stress Free School Year

One of my favorite sayings is “a failure to plan is a plan to fail.” Since my husband and I both work full time, back to school time takes a little bit of extra planning. I try to streamline our routines so we don’t get overwhelmed. Our kids don’t go back until after Labor Day, but I know a lot of school districts are already back in session. Here are a few things we did last year to help streamline our school days:

1 – Use a house planner or shared digital calendar. My husband and I both use Google Calendar and I put every school event, family committment, etc. on our calendars before school even starts. We also have a paper planner that we use with our nanny for vacation time, school events to prep for, etc.

2 – Create a daily checklist and hang or tape it inside a cabinet or closet near the door. Our school morning checklist is simple: 1) backpack, 2) lunch box, 3) two snacks and 4) a water bottle. For younger kids you can use pictures for your list instead of words, so they can ‘read’ the checklist themselves. Have kids look at this on the way out the door to double check they have everything for the day!

3 – Dinner can be the cause of a ton of stress in the school year (or anytime of year, really). A local service like Small Potatoes in Milford, MI has been a life saver for us. They create delicious, made from scratch meals that you can have delivered to your door. If you’re local to the Ann Arbor, MI area, I highly recommend checking them out! And if you’re not local, search for something similar close to you. I love that they are fully cookied and we don’t have to prep anything. I also try to prep 1-2 meals on the weekend as well.

4 – We ‘theme’ weekly breakfasts. For example, for a full week the boys will have pancakes for breakfast, then the next week it’s eggs and toast, etc. This helps to prevent from being a short order cook first thing in the AM. They know what to expect on the breakfast ‘menu’ each week.

5 – I was floored when I saw how many drawings, worksheets and journal entries Max brought home his first year of school. I would need 100 refrigerators to display them all! Instead of cluttering our fridge, I took pictures of his school work and art work at the end of each week and then threw them away. It sounds awful, I know, but at the end of the year I created a printed Shutterfly album with pictures of school work, art projects, report cards and pictures of him and his friends. I can’t believe how cute the album turned out, and Max was so pumped look through it! I plan on doing this for each boy every school year.

6 – Pack lunches the night before. I know, easier said than done. I found that even when I just set out the snacks and had them ready to go it made the mornings a little bit easier.

7 – Keep a running grocery list. I have a small note pad I leave on the kitchen counter so I can quickly jot down an itme I’m running low on. I know some people like to use a grocery list app on Alexa or Google Home devices as well. If I don’t keep a list of things throughout the week I never remember what I need when it comes time to grocery shop!

Do you have some ‘must-have’ back to school tips for keeping life less hectic for school? I wanna hear about them! Please comment below and share your tricks!

Beyond Van Gogh: Immersive Experience in Detroit

If you are into Van Gogh or even just art in general, I’d highly recommend the Beyond Van Gogh exhibit that is currently running in Detroit. The hour long immersive art exhibit is extremely unique and insightful into Van Gogh’s life and art – if you’re a fan of art, you won’t be disappointed.

When you first arrive you slowly walk through several rows of illuminated signs that tell the story of Van Gogh’s life through letters between him and his brother. Then you enter to a large room with music and ceiling to floor, wall to wall, projections of Van Gogh’s art. Some come alive (winking eyes, moving water) and some have quotes. You are truly immersed into his artwork and life for a brief period. The entire experience is about one hour and afterwards there’s a tiny little gift shop for Van Gogh swag.

Beyond Van Gogh is a great date night idea. Visit the exhibit and then try one of the many fabulous restaurants in Detroit right now. We went to Besa afterwards and it was delicious!

You could make this a family night out, however, just make sure kids are old enough to enjoy it. My two boys are 3 and 6, and personally, I would not take them. They would be bored and disruptive to folks trying to enjoy the exhibit.

Beyond Van Gogh will be at the TCF Center (formerly Cobo Hall) in Detroit through August 15th. Ticket start at 32.99 for adults (16+) and and $23.99 for kids (ages 5-15). You can buy your tickets here – if you really want to go, don’t wait, the best times are selling out fast! If you already went in Detroit or another city, please comment below – I want to know what you thought about the experience!

Detroit Dino Safari Giveaway

If driving through a Dino Safari is on your summer bucket list – I just so happen to have you covered! The Dino Safari animatronic dinosaur phenomenon, will be in Detroit at the Suburban Collection from June 11 through July 5 – and I have a ticket to giveaway! Keep reading…

The Dino Safari features a Covid safe drive-thru adventure. Through this adventure, you’ll get up close and personal with more than 40 animatronic, life-like dinosaurs! This visiting exhibit has English and Spanish audio guides and informative signage making this educational and entertaining!

Lucky for you, I’ve partnered with Dino Safari and they want to give one lucky XO, Angela reader a free ticket! The ticket admits one vehicle through the safari. Enter the giveaway below and I’ll select a winner Tuesday, June 22. Once I email the winner they will have 24 hours to respond before I choose another winner. Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Bookroo Giveaway

The weather is finally getting warmer in Michigan – hooray! Remember a few weeks ago I posted a review of Bookroo, a subscription book service? Well I have fun news – Bookroo is going to sponsor a giveaway for a free one month subscription of one lucky reader’s choice!

Use THIS LINK to enter my giveaway for a chance to win a Bookroo box for your littles! The winner will have the opportunity to choose between a board, picture or chapter book. Good luck!!

You must be 18+ and have a US mailing address to enter. Contest ends on May 13th. Once I select a winner they will have 48 hours to get back to me with their mailing address and book selection. If they do not, I will select another winner.

Non-Candy Easter Basket Ideas

I love Halloween & Easter, but geez, I don’t like the amount of candy my kids get! For Easter specifically, I know they will be getting a ton of candy between baskets and Easter Egg hunts, so I never include candy in their basket. Here are some non-candy gift ideas (mostly geared towards boys since I’m a boy mom for life!).

Squishmallows

My kids are stuffed animal obsessed. Squishmallows are the squishiest stuffed animals you can find, hence the name, and my kids love them. They come in the fun colors and over 800+ characters (my current favorite is the Avocado), and usually have a new line out each season. Each has a name, but of my course my kids like to rename them the most ridiculous things. They come in a ton of different sizes, from 8 to 20 inches, there’s a size for every kid (or big kid adult :). They are sold in 40+ countries, and you can find them online at http://www.Squishmallows.com and Amazon.com. You can find them in store at Target, Claires, Five Below, Meijer, and around the holiday at Costco (and usually the really large ones the size of a bean bag!).

Legos

My oldest son is really getting into Legos and can finally do the sets by himself (within reason). It keeps him busy for hours and he’s so proud of his creations afterwards. I was never a Lego kid growing up but as an adult I love to build with my boys! They have such a large range of kit sizes it’s easy to find the perfect one for an Easter Basket.

Beyblades

My boys are so obsessed with Bakugans and Beyblades. I don’t mind them because they are small and don’t take up a ton of room. Beyblades are geared towards a little bit older kids (around 8) but my 3 year old has the hang of them and loves to play with them. This is a good option for them to play together too (they battle each other).

Smashers

Is it weird that I love these things? I would totally have been into them as a kid. Smashables are little eggs (appropritie for EAster!) that you smash open (they are plastic, don’t worry!) and there’s a little figurine inside. They also have giant eggs that have several smaller eggs and activities inside them. Usually all of the activities go together to create a dinosaur or some kind of creature.

Swim gear

Because we live in the Midwest, the weather usually starts to warm up around Easter time, and it gets us all excited for Summer. I always get the boys swim shorts and rashgauards for their Easter baskets, and they are usually matching (I’m going to match them until they fight me on it :). Goggles, dive toys, sand toys and pool floats are also good options! Old Navy has the cutest boy swim trunks right now!

I would love to hear any other ideas for non-candy Easter Basket stuffers! Please comment below!

Bookroo – A Book Club for Kids

I love that my kids share my love of reading. I love getting lost in a book. I love the feeling of not being able to wait until the next time I can read a few more pages (I love a good thriller). Every night, from the time the boys were born, we read to them. And now my oldest, Max, is reading to us. It warms my heart when his younger brother sits and listens to his older brother read him a story!

I discovered Bookroo when searching for subscription book services for my boys. When schools and libraries closed last year, I was looking for a way to make learning fun and give the boys (and me!) something to look forward to each month. Bookroo offers a 1, 3, 6 and 12 month personal and gift subscriptions with the following options:

  • Board books (ages 0-3), 3 individually wrapped books included per box
  • Picture books (ages 2-6), 2 individually wrapped, hard cover books included per box
  • Chapter book s(ages 7-10), 2 individually wrapped books per box

Each month the books arrive beautifully wrapped and kids have a blast opening them!

Not only do I love Bookroo for my kids, but it’s a great gift idea. It’s literally the gift that keeps on giving. The American Academy of Pediatricians has said “reading regularly with young children stimulates optimal patterns of brain development, strengthens parent-child relationships at a critical time in child development, which, in turn, builds language, literacy and social-emotional skills that last a lifetime. In a year that’s been very different than what we’re use to, and includes a lot of quarantining, anything to help with social-emotional skills, in my opinion, is a win/win. 

Bookroo is an awesome idea for a last minute gift as well. Kid party and no time to shop? You can gift someone a subscription! Friend out of town having a birthday? No problem – email them a gift subscription. I’ve never heard anyone say “we just have too many books!”

If you happen to get a book you already have, no problem. Bookroo just asks that you send them a picture of you giving the book to someone else and they’ll give you $5 off your next subscription. You can take a peak at past boxes HERE.

If you’re interested, Bookroo was nice enough to give my readers 15% off subscriptions – use code THANKSANGELA at checkout! Let me know what you get in the comments below!

*I was gifted by Bookroo but all opinions are my own

Self-Care Ideas to Kick off New Year

When is it too late to say ‘Happy New Year’? I heard after January you can no longer say it, but I’m going to do it anyways….Happy New Year everyone! One of many things that 2020 taught me is the importance of self care. It’s like what they say on the airline videos, “put your oxygen mask on first, before helping others.” I found that in all the uncertainty with Covid, work and my sons’ schooling, I was able to better help my family through 2020 when I was taking care of myself. Eating healthy, keeping my routine exercise schedule, working the same hours, etc, kept me feeling as good as I could going through a global pandemic, and in return I was able to be strong and supportive for my family when they needed me the most.

“Self-care” has become such a buzz word these days but it truly is, and always has been, SUPER important! I challenge everyone to take a little bit better care of themselves this year.  Here are a few self-care ideas to help start 2021 out right:

1 – Pick up a new or old hobby. You are currently reading my new hobby! I used to blog a LOT before kids, then life happened, and my blog took a backseat. I didn’t realize how much I missed it as an outlet until recently. So, I rebranded my blog so it aligns with everything that is important to me, and hopefully it will be easier to find the time to write about topics that I’m currently experiencing every day. Other hobbies could include knitting, a dance class, a new sport, and reading more. And as much as you can, immerse yourself in it. Join a Facebook group that focuses on that hobby, start the hobby with a friend, join a book club, sign up for a course, etc.

2 – Take something off your plate…being a full time working mom makes this a no-brainer. Breaking your back cleaning house? Hire a housekeeper every other week. Struggling to find time to cook dinner? Sign up for something like Blue Apron or a food delivery service like Small Potatoes Catering (local Detroiters can check them out!). I found that grocery shopping took 3 hours on the weekend, which was 3 hours I didn’t get to spend with my boys, so I signed up for Instacart (click here to save $10 on your first order) and haven’t looked back (plus so much safer during a pandemic). Kids crazy? Hire a high schooler to be a mother’s helper so you can focus on you for a few hours a week. Get comfortable with asking for help. 

3 – Get healthy. I’m not referring to a short term new years resolution to lose 10 pounds. I’m talking about sustainability. You can set milestone goals along the way (this is what I do) but beyond that you need a plan that you can commit to for years to come. Come up with a nutrition and workout plan that is tailored for you that you can stick to long term. There are so many resources online that are free, or you can pay to work with a trainer or nutritionist to put together a plan. Figure out what kind of exercise or movement fits your lifestyle and make time for it.

4 – Pick one night a week to be your pamper night or “me” night. I know it’s not realistic to get hours to yourself, however, pick one night where you prioritize a bath with a glass of wine or you do a face mask after your kids go to bed. One night a week I try to do an at home facial treatment. A face mask, under eye masks, a clearing mud mask, etc., can be relaxing and help any problems you have with your skin. My skin tends to get really dry so I like to do super moisturizing treatments. I’m a huge Neutrogena fan, and I like their simple Hydro Boost masks you can buy at a drugstore, Amazon or Target. I also recently discovered Lapcos and I’m loving their 24 karat Gold Foil mask (Lapcos has an amazing price point too, and you can buy on Amazon). 

5 – Splurge on something for YOU. Last year, I signed up for laser hair removal and let me tell you, it works. I always wanted to have it done but never believed it truly worked. It took my best friend working at Milan Laser Hair Removal in Ann Arbor to convince me to try it, and I never looked back. I started with my bikini line which included an awful c-section scar, and I saw hair reduction after the first treatment (meaning I had to shave less!). I’ve had about 5 treatments so far and barely need to shave anymore! I was so impressed that I signed up to get my lower legs done. I’ve only had one treatment on my lower legs so far and I can already tell a difference. I haven’t shaved in a week and barely have stubble. It’s so nice to get those minutes back from shaving in the morning!  

I usually make morning appointments and think of the whole process as ‘me time.’ I get a coffee before I drive to the appointment, I get to visit my friend while she works, and have the satisfaction of knowing that I won’t have to shave much longer. 

Milan Laser Hair Removal has a lifetime guarantee, meaning, you get as many treatments as you need for one price (it’s what they refer to as their Unlimited Package). It was a no-brainer for me. If you have a Milan near you (they have over 110 locations!) and want to find out more, you can book a free consultation. And, if you decide to purchase, you can use my custom discount code ‘Angela60’ for 60% off a body area! Please email me or comment below if you have any questions regarding laser hair removal!

I’d love to hear any other self-care suggestions you may have! What are you doing to take care of and pamper yourself this new year?

*Disclosure: I am a Milan Laser Hair Removal partner – all opinions are my own

Galentine’s Day Gift Ideas

Happy Valentine’s Day (a little early!). My husband and I really don’t do anything crazy for Valentine’s Day – I just get small gifts for the boys. However, this year I wanted to put some cute gift bags together for my girlfriends, moms and aunt. I went with makeup bags (because I fully believe you can never have too many pouches and bags), pens and Dove chocolate hearts. Here are a few ideas that you can still get from Amazon in time:

Cute Valentine’s Day cards
Girly makeup bag or purse pouch.
Can’t go wrong with chocolate!
Fun pens
Pink gift bags are a nice touch 🙂
Self care facial masks
Pink nail polish!

I’d love to hear other Galentine’s Day gift ideas you have in the comments below! Happy Valentine’s Day week!

Olive & June Nail Polish Review

I’m going on a year without gel nail polish, and my nails are thanking me. They are much stronger than when I was getting gel manicures every other week. Even if I took the gel off the correct way, my nails were still so thin. Since I’m not traveling to see clients I figured I’d save money, and my nails, and try to master the at home manicure.

I’ve been using the Olive & June Mani System (use ‘xoangela20‘ for 20% off your first kit!) to work on my at home manicure skills and I love how easy they make it. The kit has all the tools you need for an at home manicure that looks like you came from the salon. Here’s what it includes:

  1. Clippers & File – Clip first, file second. Or don’t clip at all. Either way, both are included for your preference.
  2. Nail buffer – I use to skip this step and would always wonder my nail polish didn’t lay smoothly.
  3. The Poppy – a patented polish bottle handle to paint both hands perfectly. I had my doubts. How can this rubber thing help you paint your nails? It does! Especially for your non-dominant hand! Olive & June nail polish bottle caps slide off so you can slide the Poppy on. Since its larger than a nail polish brush it’s easier to hold and control.
  4. Nail polish – the basic kit comes with one color bottle of no chip paint, and the larger box comes with 6. You get to choose! Or, you can purchase the seasonal box that has the polishes pre-selected. I received this box and LOVED all of the Winter colors.
  5. Super glossy top coat – essential, and gives your manicure a beautiful shine and longer wear
  6. Polish remover pot – No cotton balls needed. Just stick your finger in and twist!
  7. Clean up brush – I LOVE this mini brush. After I’m done painting I stick it in the polish remover pot and clean up my edges to give me a flawless manicure.
  8. Cuticle serum – Last step, moisturize!

Being a busy mom, I look for long wear with my nail polish, and of course, pretty colors. Olive & June covers both of these. I love that I’m giving my nails a healthy break from gel. I just told my best friend the other day that I also love changing my nail color more often vs. having the same color on for 2 weeks. I can also tell a clear difference on how this polishes applies vs. drugstore brands. The wider brush, the Poppy and clean up brush make it SO EASY to get a salon-like polish. I’m so impressed with how my polish skills are coming along!

My manicures have been lasting anywhere from 3-5 days with minimal wear, and I am HARD on my nails. I’m constantly washing dishes, cooking, using cleaners, etc. I usually paint them Sunday nights to start the week and then Thursday/Friday for a weekend color change. Busy mom hack: if they chip mid-week, I usually touch up with same nail color polish or add a glitter coat. Olive & June polish is also so easy to remove. It’s a nice change from peeling layers of nail off with gel or soaking them in acetone.

Olive & June offers all of their nail polishes separately, as well as everything in their nail kits and nail art. They also have a membership option. For $30 a year you will get free shipping on every order, 10% off everything and some special surprises. You can use my code ‘xoangela20‘ to get 20% off your first kit! I’ve got my eye on all of their Spring 2020 polishes.

Have you tried Olive & June yet? If so, let me know your thoughts in the comments. I highly recommend their manicure kit and nail polishes!