Holiday | Gift Guide for Kids

Shopping for toys can be overwhelming.  There are so many, many of which aren't great quality.  Over the years, we've found some really awesome toy brands.  All of the items I'm sharing today are items that we either have and love or items that my little guys are hoping to find under the tree this year.    I hope you find this guide helpful.  If you're looking for a quicker option, check out my gift bundles at the bottom of this page.



Legos  |  My kids LOVE legos.  They are, hands down, the most played with toy in our house.  They're not inexpensive, but I feel as though my kiddos use them enough to make them worth their price.  Here are a few of my six year old's favorites: Harry Potter, Ninjago, and Minecraft.  My three year old also loves legos but can't really follow the steps yet, so for him, the classic sets are perfect. I love Sleeping Beauty's Lego Castle and Ariel's Boat.

Other Building Toys  |  My boys like to build.  They have or have asked for Tinker ToysBristle Blocks, and Knex.  I think these Squigz are the coolest.  They will likely find their way under our tree this year!  Right up there with legos in our home are Magna-Tiles.  My aunt got these for my boys as a joint birthday gift one year (they're pricey).  They use these nearly every single day.

Books  |  Books are a great gift for any child, but especially for those who have enough toys.  My nephews have a lot of toys, so my sister loves for us to buy books as gifts.  I love to choose them!  There are too many great books to share here, so I'll share those that we chose for my nephews this year.  For her two year old I got But Not the ArmadilloAt the SupermarketWe're Going on a Bear Hunt, and The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear.  For my four year old nephew, we chose Iggy Peck, ArchitectPartsGoldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs, and The Day the Crayons Quit.  These are all favorites in our house!

Art & Crafts  |  My kids love to make artwork and projects.  Santa always leaves some special items like scented markers and glitter glue.  This year, my oldest requested a spin art kitThese mosaics are fun and keep kiddos busy for a while.  Here is a version for your youngest.

Learning Toys  |  Map puzzles (world, U.S., Canada) are such a great way to learn geography.  Sum Swamp is a fun addition and subtraction board game that we started playing when my oldest was in Pre-K.  Color sorting for little ones doubles as play food for their play kitchens.  Honestly, as a mom and former elementary school teacher, I can't say enough about all of the Learning Resources products.  We have so many, and they are affordable and excellent quality (not sponsored -- just my honest opinion!).  Last, my little guy loves these Alpha Bots.

Games  |  Game nights are so much fun with little kids!  We love Sorry (Mommy's favorite), Monopoly Junior, Uno, and Guess Who.  We're soon going to try Don't Let the Bugs Fall!Poppa's Pizza Topple, and Twister.

Play Sets  |  Play sets of all kinds are available.  I like to get sets that reflect what we do as a family.  We love to camp, so Santa might bring this camping lodge this year.  This school bus is fun, too!  My boys enjoy the superhero Imaginext sets like this.  All of these promote imaginative play, and that's a win in my book!

Religious Toys  |  We love this Nativity Set.  It's a great way to introduce the Christmas story at an early age.  It comes out every year for the season of Advent.  This book is a great one to go along with the Nativity.  A Noah's Ark play set and book would make a nice gift paired together, as well.  A few more great books are Berenstain Bears and the Joy of GivingWho Is Coming to Our House?No Room at the Inn, and The Stable Where Jesus Was Born.



Themed Gift Bundles 
All items within the sets are from the same retailer for easier ordering and (mostly) free shipping!

Dinosaurs // book + puzzle set + toy

Harry Potter // book set + wand + legos

Animals // book + activity set + toy

Princesses // book + jewelry box + tea set

Food // book + play food + shopping cart

Construction // bookcrane + play magnets

Geography // book + compass + puzzle globe

Holiday | Nostalgic Cooking with Applehood & Motherpie

Sharing meals during the holiday season is a tradition that evokes nostalgia for most people.  No matter your background or how your family celebrates the holidays, it's likely the memories involve cooking, baking, and/or eating.  For me, it's all three!

I love to prepare food for my family, a trait I get from my dad.  When our extended family is gathered, we share meals and make memories.  Often, I'm assigned the job of bringing dessert to our gatherings.  When the Junior League of Rochester asked me to feature their 25 year old cookbook, Applehood & Motherpie, I was so excited!  The cookbook has so many recipes that families have been enjoying and making memories over for years.  In addition, I love the idea of working together with a group of amazing women who make our community a better place.

We loved these delicious little cinnamon sugar doughnuts!  I used a muffin tin, but I now have a donut pan on my Christmas wishlist!  Giving this nostalgic cookbook, along with one of the pans or a festive dishtowel (this one's darling!) would be a great gift this season for teachers, in-laws, aunts, or anyone else you know who likes cooking or baking.  Applehood & Motherpie is available on the Junior League of Rochester website here.  Use code kristenathome for $5 off your order!





 









Happiest of holidays to you and yours!  
Thank you to my sister for sharing her beautiful kitchen for these photos.



My cookbook was gifted by the Junior League of Rochester.  All opinions and images are my own.

Style | Holiday Footwear

Happy November, friends!  I hope your next two months are filled with family, friends, and lots of laughs and good food.  Holiday gatherings are something I look forward to the most this time of year.  Our gatherings are almost always casual and at someone's home, so there isn't a need for super fancy holiday outfits.  If you're anything like me, though, you like to don your holiday duds!  A great way to add some pizazz to what would otherwise be an everyday outfit is with fun shoes.

I rounded up fancy footwear that I love, broken down by category.  You can add any of these shoes to a black tee and skinny jeans, a sweater and leggings, or a simple, cozy dress.  They'll make your outfits holiday ready in an instant!

my shoes (old but still available in a few sizes)

 | Mules |


| Boots |


| Pumps |


| Flats |







Life | Children's Books

Some people start holiday prep in September (or earlier!), while others are rolling their eyes at my mention of the word "holiday."  I'm somewhere in the middle.  After Halloween, I'll admit, I'm in full holiday mode.  If you're like me, it's not too early to begin looking for gifts, and books make perfect gifts for the little loves in your life.  Today I'm sharing some more of our family favorites.  These are all books that my children love to hear and that I love to read, again and again.  Check out my previous recommendations here and here.


Parts, by Ted Arnold, is on my personal list of best children's books ever!  It's a hilarious story about a little boy who thinks he's falling apart, like when he finds belly button fuzz and thinks it's his stuffing coming out.  It's sweet and innocent  (but a little gross, which of course, they love).  It's a fairly quick read -- perfect for bedtime.  Anyone else's kiddos pick the longest books they can at bedtime?!  Hello, Berenstain Bears, I'm talking about you!  I digress.  Parts is a favorite, for sure.  My little ones laugh and laugh.

Similar in length and silliness is Mommy Doesn't Know My Name, by Suzanne Williams.  After being called by terms of endearment, a little girl is shocked and worried by her mom's apparent inability to recall her name.  Of course, she finds relief in the end when mommy finally calls her Hannah.

Miss Nelson Is Missing, by Harry G. Allard, is a favorite from my own childhood.  It's perfect for school age kids.  Even preschoolers can understand and enjoy the story.  When teacher, Miss Nelson, is absent for an extended period of time and the substitute is mean, old Miss Viola Swamp, the students set out to find Miss Nelson and bring her back.  It's a great story for making predictions and for having conversations about what's happening as you read.

Another great discussion starter is The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, by Jon Scieszka.  I used it in my classroom to teach point of view.  At home, it's just fun!  The story of The Three Little Pigs is told from the wolf's perspective, and he's convincing!

Last, one more to make your kiddos think, is Dr. DeSoto, by William Steig.  This is a must have for any child's bookshelf.  Dr. DeSoto is a mouse and a dentist.  When a fox comes into his office seeking treatment, Dr. DeSoto and his wife have a difficult decision to make.  Can they outsmart the fox?  It's a great story, which is no surprise from William Steig, whose books are all fantastic.

Style | Leopard Print

My closet is full of neutrals and solids, and that's just how I like it.  There is one print, however, that I've always loved.  It's leopard, and it's back in a BIG way!  Leopard print never went out of style, but it has had big moments, and this is one of them.  If you aren't comfortable styling prints, leopard is a great one to try, because you can pair it as you would a neutral.  In other words, it goes with pretty much anything!  When in doubt, play it safe and pair it with black.  That always works well.  I also love to pair it with fall hues such as this camel sweaterthis scarlet dress, or this pinot noir jumpsuit.  

I have several leopard print pieces, all of which are no longer available because I've had them for a long time (most for years because I invested in higher quality pieces).  I have a skirt (similar), which I love to wear with my black tissue turtleneck, black tights, and pumps for cold weather occasions.  I also have a clutch (similar here) which I use constantly for going out.  (That wasn't to indicate that we go out constantly.  Let's be real, we have two young kids and #momlife.  More accurately, when we go out, I constantly carry my leopard clutch!)  I love my leopard bag (similar here), but perhaps my most favorite are my leopard flats (similar here and here).  They instantly take any outfit up a notch.  Just make sure to always choose only one piece to wear at a time.

I've shared some pictures of my own items and then some beautiful, similar leopard print pieces that are available now.  What's your favorite way to wear this trend?  I'd love to know!

 














Life + Style | The Closet Clean Out

Today I'm focusing on how Emily Ley's second chapter of A Simplified Life, Simplified Style, inspired me in my closet clean out.  I'm revealing how I incorporated a tiny piece of what is presented in the book into my life, along with some of my own thoughts and ideas on the topic.  I highly recommend checking out her book for the full scoop on simplifying.  It's wonderful!

I've read the funniest things over the years about how to clean out your closet.  Some say, if you haven't worn it in a year, get rid of it.  One article I read suggested that if you wouldn't want to run into an old boyfriend wearing the piece, then you should donate it -- I love it!  I recently heard a blogger say, "If it's not a hell yes, then it's a hell no!"  In A Simplified Life, Emily Ley sums up these suggestions with straightforward guidelines.  An item must fit be of good quality, and be your favorite.  Determining fit and quality is factual (simple yes or no).  Whether or not an item is your favorite is something you need to feel/your opinion, and it involves a little thought.

First, take everything out of your closet.  It forces you to give each piece your full attention.  My advice is to NOT invite a girlfriend over to help.  Here's why.  When you're deciding if an item fits into the "your favorite" category, only you can make that decision.  There are tons of pieces that might look great on you (and your girlfriend will tell you so!), but if something isn't your favorite, it doesn't belong in your closet!  You may end up only putting half of your wardrobe back into your closet.  That's okay for two reasons.  One, you probably rarely wore the pieces that didn't make the cut anyway.  Two, the pieces that are left for you to wear are pieces that make you feel confident, and those are the clothes you should be wearing on repeat!

Now what do you do with all those clothes you aren't putting back into your closet?  You should have three piles: trash, donate, sell.   If items are damaged, trash them.  If items are really old, outdated, or cheap, donate them.  If you have pieces that you purchased recently, are designer, or high quality expensive items, it can be harder to part.  I suggest one of two things.  Either give them to your sister/friend or sell them.  It's a lot easier to part with these items if you're giving them to someone you love who will use them or selling them and putting the earnings toward the purchase of something else.

Earlier this year I bought a top that wasn't inexpensive.  I loved how it looked on someone else, but it wasn't exactly my style.  I wore it once.  Every time I looked at it, I felt guilty for buying it.  My sister loves it, so rather than donating it, I gave it to her.  It was much easier to part with knowing that my sister will wear it and love it!  If you're interested in selling your clothes, check out my post on second hand shopping (selling applies, too!).

Find a day when you can have alone time for at least a few hours to clean out.  You will be so happy you did!  It much easier without little buddies "helping."  Clearing clutter and keeping only clothes, shoes, and accessories that make you feel good is so freeing.  I also find that whenever I do this, it helps me to be really thoughtful about future purchases.  I actually make a list of things I need and want, and try to stick with that, avoiding impulse buys.  The process not only declutters your space, but also your mind.  I highly recommend checking out A Simplified Life by Emily Ley if simplifying is something that interests you.  I'm loving the book and the journey on which it's taking me!

Here I'm sharing some basic pieces that create a base in any woman's closet.  You may have some or all, or maybe you need to slowly create a base after your clean out.  Focus on quality over quantity!



 I hang clothes by category (sleeveless, short sleeved, long sleeved, dresses, jackets, coats).

 Wooden hangers (or velvet for slippery pieces) help keep your clothes in great shape!



 Folding sweaters in half then crossing the arms over the chest keeps them wrinkle free and displayed nicely.

 Make sure you can see all of your shoes, if possible.  If you want them in boxes, take photos of the shoes and tape them to the fronts of boxes so you can always see what's in front of you.






Style | Dressing For Fall

Fall weather has arrived in Upstate New York, and I'm loving it!  It's been chilly in the evenings, and the breeze blowing through the windows is marvelous!  During the day, we've gotten into the 70s.  I love hot summers, but when September rolls around, I'm ready for exactly what Mother Nature has in store.

Fall fashion can be a little tricky, since the temperatures fluctuate so drastically from morning to midday.  Mostly, you'll find me in jeans with layers on top.  Back in August, I was on the hunt for the perfect straight denim to wear this fall.  While I love a good skinny jean, I wear them constantly and wanted an alternative.  When I found these, it was love at first sight.  The fit is so good, and they are just so darn pretty (Can denim be pretty?  I think so!).  They have a 10" rise, which is quite high, but it's extremely comfortable and flattering.  Not long after, I stumbled upon this less expensive pair.  They fit well, too, but the rise is lower.  High waisted straight leg denim is perfect for transitioning to fall because they look great with flats (spendsave) or mules (spend, save) for warm fall days.  You can layer or bundle on top as needed but leave those ankles exposed before winter comes!  These gorgeous mules are on my wish list (less expensive here).  They look awesome with this style of denim.

I also love a cozy, lightweight sweater.  It's just warm enough for these days.  This one looks very similar but with a little extra warmth for when the temps drop.  I like to wear a tee underneath, because by about noon, the sweater is usually coming off this time of the year.  When you're wearing neutrals that are close to your skin tone, like this sweater is for me, add accessories in rich hues and/or pattern to balance the neutrals and add depth to your outfit.  My bag is old, but I love this one and this less expensive option.

Happy fall!

 
sweaterjeans, shoes are old (similar spendsave), bag is old (similar)








Click on Images to Shop Below

Denim

Sweaters


Shoes

Bags + Accessories

Life | College Care Packages

During my college years, when I lived away from home, I always loved getting mail.  I liked letters of course, but the best was when a package arrived.  Usually it was food, but sometimes my mom or older sister sent other little goodies, too.  Who doesn't love getting mail?!

Recently, my oldest nephew went off to college.  My husband kind of laughed, suggesting guys don't care as much as girls, but I know he loved those chocolate peanut butter cookies from his grandma!  I want our nephew to know how much we're thinking about him, so I put together a care package.  Since he recently left, I know my sister-in-law got everything he needs.  I remember when I started college, my parents left me fully stocked with snacks.  I wanted to branch out a little, so I grabbed nicer items and some things a college guy might use.

My care package is for a young man.  If you're looking for ideas for a young lady, scroll to the bottom of the page for some ideas.  This is such an easy way to send some love.  I hope you find a little inspiration!


I started with the basics.  Everybody likes candy!


More basics here.  Chapstick is something my husband always needs but never has.  I'm assuming he isn't the only man with that problem...


You might not know if the recipient wears cologne (or what kind), but everyone needs to shower!  I went with a higher end shower gel from TJ Maxx (similar option here).  


I found some really nice crew tees/undershirts that stole my heart with the little four leaf clover.  Thanks, Lucky Brand! 


I added some dress socks.  He may have some.  He may not.  But guys (especially the kind that play college football), could probably stand to add some new ones to the rotation now and then.



Lastly, we added some artwork from his little cousins who think he's the coolest. 

If it had been my niece who was on the receiving end of the care package, here are some things I might have added.

Style | Labor Day Sales

Can you believe the unofficial end of summer is here?!  In some ways, I'm not ready for it at all because of the crazy fun summer we've had.  On the other hand, getting back into a routine will be good for us all.  I think fall fashion is the best fashion.  The colors are beautiful.  The fabrics are cozy.  Labor Day is a good time to pick up fall pieces at a great price!

Ann Taylor has the most beautiful, classy pieces out there.  When I was teaching, I constantly wore Ann Taylor.  Their work pants, especially, have always been my favorite.  This weekend, full price items are 40% off and sale items are 50% off!  Use code: READYSETSALE


L.L.Bean is is offering 25% off of your entire order.  You will also receive a $10 gift card for future purchases and free shipping with orders of $50 or more.  Use code: LABORDAY


Loft is doing 40% off site wide.  Loft is one of my favorite places to buy sweaters.  They are great quality and, with sales, great prices, too!  Use code: LABORDAY


J.Crew has 40% off site wide and 50% off of final sale styles.  Use code: BIGSALE


J.Crew Factory is offering an extra 20% off (most styles are already reduced significantly to begin with).  Use code: SALEAWAY

*J.Crew and J.Crew Factory offer free shipping on all purchases if you sign up for an account. It's not a credit card (just a rewards program with occasional emails -- totally worth it!).

Abercrombie is 40% off site wide.  No code needed.


Banana Republic is 40% off + 10% off.

Enjoy the weekend!  

Style | Workout Clothes from Old Navy

I am the least athletic person ever.  My old friends still laugh about a mishap in our eighth grade science class when, during a review game, the ball missed the net by so much that I accidentally hit Jesus on the crucifix (I went to Catholic School).  Oops!!  Fast forward to my adult life.  I've not gained any abilities in the athletic department.  While my lifestyle is very active, I only do structured workouts because I should.  Needless to say, it takes a good kick in the pants for me to get myself to the gym.  Right now, that kick in the pants happens to be some great wardrobe pieces!  Whatever works, right?!

Part of my routine as a stay-at-home mama has been to work out and then get ready for the day.  All you moms out there know that the struggle is real in trying to get yourself ready for the day one time.  Twice is just too much!  I have to admit, I don't love the whole athleisure trend, but some days, I just need to make it work right now.  Maybe that's what works for you during the week, or maybe you embrace athleisure every weekend.  Whatever the case, if you need some updating, Old Navy has some great,  affordable options.  My collection was pretty sparse (as in, the stained tees that I no longer wear for non-workout days).  I popped into Old Navy and grabbed some new pieces for amazing prices.

I purchased this top because I like having some alternatives to tank tops, especially if I'm going to be running errands, going into my son's school, etc.  It's a little longer, which I like with workout tops.  One of my favorite workout pieces is a sweatshirt moto jacket.  Mine is old, but Old Navy has a really similar version available right now (here, plus size here)!  It's perfect for throwing on as a top layer.  I loved the detail on these pants (plus size here), and they are so soft (as are these, which I also have).  Just know that I would definitely recommend both for lower intensity workouts.  I love this pair for higher intensity.  My sneakers are old, but this similar pair is a great price.  A couple of other pieces I have and love are this sweatshirt and this one (limited sizing because it's on super sale).



top, similar jacket here (plus size here), pants (plus size here),  similar sneakers here





 








Holiday | Gift Guide for Kids

Shopping for toys can be overwhelming.  There are so many , many of which aren't great quality.  Over the years, we've found some re...