Quick & easy photo albums {Plus 15 album theme ideas!}

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Anyone who knows me knows that I absolutely love taking pictures of my children. Yes, I'm one of those moms. The one who posts far too many pictures of my adorable children on all of my social media accounts and who is constantly having to delete apps and games on my phone to make room for more photos. More photos! Of course I need 500 pictures of my toddler eating spaghetti. The only problem is that I don't really ever do anything with all of the pictures I take. They just sit there on Facebook and Instagram or take up room on my phone, tablet, and camera. I'm horrible at having my pictures printed. One look around my house and you'll see that I don't even have a single picture of my almost two month old baby boy...unless you count on my phone. 

When I was a kid we had these huge photo albums we'd look at all the time. I loved looking at them. Back then, taking pictures was expensive (think film & developing it), and putting together a photo album or scrapbook took a lot of time and effort. I'm kind of ashamed to admit that I don't have a single photo album in my house. Nope. Not one. Well, until now.

Thankfully Shutterfly has a brand new service called Make My Book that makes it so easy to whip up a photo album in almost no time. Perfect for lazy busy moms like me. You can even use pictures directly from your Facebook or Instagram- I love that part! All of my best pictures are on there so it made finding my favorites for this baby book I wanted to make quick and easy. 

Putting together this photo album took little to no effort on my part. The designers at Shutterfly did it all! A book like this would have taken me HOURS to put together. I don't know about you, but I don't have that kind of time anymore. In reality, this book only took me about 10 minutes and I kind of just threw it together- Shutterfly's Make My Book did the rest! All I did was connect my Instagram, choose my pictures, select my book size/style, and submit my order. I opted to have a designer curate my best photos for me and I left a note on the order that the book would be documenting the first 2 years of my daughter's life ( It's so great that they give you a space to leave a note with special requests or whatever you want to let them know about the book before they design it for you!) Within 3 days they emailed me a preview of my book and I was blown away! Make My Book created a beautiful photo album showing Harper from birth to two years old. They chose the best photos and added all of these amazing little touches to make it look like a handmade scrapbook. I think my jaw may have dropped when I saw the preview. I reviewed my order and submitted it back to Shutterfly (you can also make changes here or add some finishing touches). I could not wait to get my book in the mail!

What I received from Shutterfly's Make My Book service is this stunning photo album/baby book of my beautiful Harper. The quality is amazing. I chose the 11x14 book and it's huge! The photos are so pretty, even though they were taken with a phone and were from my Instagram, and the book looks like it was carefully put together and took tons of time to make. I love all of the little flourishes and finishing touches they added! Everything is absolutely perfect and I get all of the credit for making it!

My family has spent so much time together looking over this photo book and cracking up. We laughed until we cried, and then we really did cry! I love having a physical copy of these precious memories for my family to cherish forever. I'm not sure what Harper thinks about this big book about her, but it's such a special keepsake to have. I can't wait to put together some albums for each of my kids now that I know how easy the process is with Make My Book.

Here are a few more ideas/occasions for photo albums I want to make:

  • Baby book for each of the kids
  • Summer break
  • Wedding
  • Vacation
  • School year
  • Anniversary
  • Instagram favorites
  • Engagement
  • Pregnancy
  • Birth story book
  • Love story
  • Family tree
  • Family reunion
  • School year
  • Graduation
  • College
  • Photography

These photo books make great keepsakes for your family and would also make for an amazing gift! I've already got ideas swirling in my head for Christmas and birthdays!

What would you create with Make My Book?

Mid-week confessions

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Hi lovelies! Today's blog post is just a fun one where I share a few mid-week confessions. We're already halfway through the week and these are just some little tidbits that are on my mind...

I miss sleep. Seriously guys...I've been sleeping in 2-3 hour chunks for 6 weeks now and I'm dyyyyying. OK, not really, but I'm seriously exhausted. I need my sleep. No really, I cannot function on this little sleep. I put Harper and Josiah both down for bed at 8pm (I use the term "bed" loosely with Josiah, as he actually sleeps in a swing right now. Don't judge me- it's the only way this guy will let me get any shut eye! We're confessing here). I try to fall asleep by 9 or 10pm, which is usually easy because I'm so tired, but sometimes I get stuck on my phone in bed catching up on emails, Facebook, Instagram, taking a few Snaps, sending a few tweets, pinning projects I'll never do- you know the bedtime drill! My husband will catch me still awake and order me to sleep because it's my only chance. Part of me wants to just fast-forward to the time when babies sleep through the night...

 Swaddled in his swing...he escaped the straitjacket! 

I'm scared to have sex. Ahem...TMI, I know, but I just have to get this out there: I'm terrified. Simply because it was only 6 short weeks ago that I birthed a 7 1/2 pound human out of that area, so I think you know where I'm going. Ouch. My poor husband though- I do feel for him, but I'm just not sure I'm physically healed and ready yet. Anyone else have these reservations after childbirth? Plus, you know, I'm exhausted, so that would cut into sleep time some more. The struggle.

I feel like I'm a diaper changing milk machine. I confess: my two year old is nowhere near being potty trained (she's terrified of Pull-Ups for some reason & she will only sit on the potty with a diaper on). So that means I've got two in diapers, which means I change about 500 diapers a day, which resulted in me calling the city and asking for a bigger garbage can for outside (seriously). Josiah also loves to eat every 5 minutes, so I feel like my boobs are just out and he's at an all day buffet. I'm literally nursing on demand. I wish he'd fill up and stay full!

Having a newborn and a toddler is hard. Truer words have never been spoken and I feel like most days I'm struggling hard. If I can get in the car to drop my husband off at work, put on some sort of daytime clothing, get both babies to nap at the same time, and make dinner all in the same day it's a miracle. Most days I only accomplish half of those things though and I still feel like I've run a marathon. By the time the big kids get home from school I'm counting down to bedtime and wishing I could skip the whole dinner thing.
A quick trip to Target!

How I look most days I leave the house- hat & big glasses for the win!

I'm way too excited for TWD to return. If there's one thing I'm looking forward to though, it's the return of The Walking Dead. We've waited so long to know who died on the season finale- who's it going to be? I'm thinking it's Glenn, but I hope I'm wrong! Hoping to resume my traditional TWD viewing party with my friend Jodi and her husband (she lives just a few blocks away and I don't have cable anymore), but I'm not sure how I'm going to finagle that with my bouncing baby boy who can't bear to be away from my boobs for that long. He may just have to come along. Don't worry- I'll cover his eyes at the scary parts ;)

Only two more sleeps until it's Friday! Which, if you're a mom means nothing, haha. 

Love your leftovers + the easiest slow cooker lasagna recipe

Friday, October 7, 2016

Leftovers. That word seems to have a strong reaction for some people- either you love them or you hate them. If you're a busy mom like me, chances are you love leftover night. I mean, who likes making dinner every single night? Not me! These days, I'm all about convenience, saving time, and saving money, and leftovers are where it's at. What's not to love about cooking once and eating twice? Or three or four times if you're like me and you always end up cooking enough to feed a small army. Today I'm sharing my new secret weapon for leftovers and how to make the most of them, and I'm also giving you one of the easiest, most delicious slow cooker recipes that makes for ah-mazingly yummy leftovers!

Say hello to the brand new Reynolds™ Disposable Heat & Eat containers! I found these at my local Walmart on the food storage aisle and I couldn't wait to take them home and give them a try. My husband recently started packing a lunch for work to save money- eating out every day really adds up and he ends up eating junk 90% of the time. Packing a lunch saves so much and he eats so much healthier that way! Plus, when he brings leftovers it cuts down on food waste at home, which I love. The only problem is that he never brings back my plastic dishes. Once they leave the house I never see them again. Grrr. When I saw these Reynolds™ Disposable Heat & Eat containers I knew they'd be my new BFF when it comes to packing his lunch every day.

Reynolds™ Disposable Heat & Eat containers are microwavable, and are a great alternative to plastic because they are made with plant fibers, making them perfect for homemade meals on the go. When I make a big meal (like the slow cooker recipe below) there's always leftovers, so these Reynolds™ Disposable Heat & Eat containers have been a lifesaver! My husband can bring them to work, pop them in the microwave, and enjoy a delicious lunch. Plus, I don't have to worry about never seeing my good plastic dishes again- he can just toss these when he's done. Genius!

Now, on to the recipe. This slow cooker lasagna is one of my family's favorites because we are obsessed with lasagna around here. Did you know you can make lasagna in your slow cooker? It's SO easy and you don't even have to boil the noodles- can you believe that? Just layer your ingredients, turn it on, and you're good to go. Another bonus is that it makes a ton of food- perfect for leftovers and for using your Reynolds™ Disposable Heat & Eat containers! Lasagna is one of those foods that always tastes better the next day anyway. The recipe below is pretty basic, but you can add whatever you like to it! Also, the amounts for the cheese are just estimates because I don't really measure anything- just eyeball it and adjust to your liking. 


1 lb ground beef or sausage 
1 large can spaghetti sauce (homemade or store bought)
1 can diced tomatoes
2-3 cups ricotta cheese 
2 tbsp dried parsley 
1 egg
2-3 cups mozzarella cheese
1 cup Parmesan cheese 
lasagna noodles


Brown ground beef or sausage. Add sauce and diced tomatoes and season however you like (I add extra oregano, basil, garlic, onion, salt, & pepper). In a bowl, combine ricotta cheese, parsley, Parmesan, and the egg- mix well and set aside.

Grab your slow cooker and begin assembling your layers. Start with a small amount of your sauce in the bottom, then add a layer of noodles (uncooked- break them to fit). Next, spoon on a layer of your ricotta mixture and top with some mozzarella cheese. Repeat with sauce, noodles, and cheese. I usually do 2 or 3 layers of each. Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours. Serve with a salad and some garlic bread and enjoy!

Pick up these Reynolds™ Disposable Heat & Eat Containers at your local Walmart today. You can find them in the food storage aisle by the Reynolds Wrap. Better yet, grab this coupon first before you head to the store and save some money while you're at it! 

What about you- do you love or hate leftovers? Could you put these Reynolds™ Disposable Heat & Eat containers to good use in your household? Let me know your favorite dinner recipe that makes for great leftovers so I can try it out too!

Easy ways to reconnect with your kids

Saturday, October 1, 2016

As a mom of four I can tell you that it's been quite a challenge lately to spend quality time with all of my kids, especially the older ones. Life with a newborn and a busy toddler has left me exhausted and I feel like I'm spread pretty thin most days. I worry about my older kids being left to their own devices and feeling left out when compared to their younger siblings. Sometimes it feels like there just aren't enough hours in the day to spend quality time with everyone! I've had to get creative with how I sneak in those smile worthy moments and reconnect, and here's how I do it.
Talk about their day. Do you ever try to ask your kids how their day at school was? Seriously, sometimes I'm so eager for conversation (after being home alone with the babies all day) and when I ask my kids "How was school?" all I get in return is a quick "fine" or "good" before they rush to the kitchen for a snack and then head to their rooms. Instead, I've been trying a different method of questioning, such as:

What was the best/worst part of your day?
What made you laugh today?
Did you help anyone today?
What did you do at recess?
What would your teacher say about you today?
What was your favorite thing you ate for lunch today?

Asking specific questions like these will get your kids to open up more, versus the same old boring "How was school" question. Instead, grab their favorite snack, sit down with your kids, and get creative with your questions and see how much they start talking. I found this little time to reconnect after school sets the tone for the whole rest of the evening.

Family game night. Sometimes we need to break up a long, boring school week with something fun. It's easy to fall into the routine of homework, chores, dinner, showers, and bedtime every single school night, and it's enough to drive me crazy by the time Wednesday hits. That's when it's time for game night! Sometimes we go old school and break out the board games or a deck of cards, and sometimes we just opt for an interactive dance or sports video game (a great option when we need to burn off some extra energy and move around!) Game night is definitely a weeknight favorite around here, and a great way to break up a long week. 

Movie night. Friday night in our house is movie night. Whether it's a new movie we've been wanting to see or an old favorite, movie night always brings a smile to everyone's face and gets us all together in the same room. Gather up your favorite snacks, drinks, cozy blankets, and pile up on the couch together!

Go for a bike ride or walk. Family bike rides/walks are one of our favorite things to do together as a family that keeps us active. It's a great way to get out of the house, burn off some energy, and reconnect with all of my kids. We like to make a pit stop at the playground near us and stop to play for a while too. 

All of these ideas are great ways to spend some quality time with my kiddos and create smile worthy moments with them. You'll notice they can all be paired with a snack (one of our favorite things to do around here) like Goldfish crackers. These are a staple in our house! They're baked with real cheese and contain no artificial flavors or preservatives. With 12 grams of whole grain in every serving, Goldfish crackers are a snack I can feel good about giving my kids that always puts a smile on their faces! 

Do your kids love Goldfish crackers as much as mine? Head over here to share your Goldfish Tale on Twitter or Instagram and you could win awesome prizes! Each month they have a different theme, so make sure to check out this month's challenge and enter your own to win the sweepstakes prize- $1,000! Make sure to use the hashtag #GoldfishTalesPromotion to be eligible for the $1,000 prize. 

What are your favorite ways to create smile worthy moments and reconnect with your kids? 

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