Uncommon Graduation Gifts for Guys

My second born graduated from high school a few weeks ago. Thankfully I was much less emotional this time around. (That is not to say that I was not emotional, but I was not feeling as mournful as I was when our firstborn graduated!) I really, really, love being a mom, so transitions such as graduations really get to me.

While it is true that most graduates really appreciate the gift of cold, hard, cash, I think it is fun to give graduates a little something extra. However, choosing graduation gifts for guys can be challenging. I’ve found, in my life in a houseful of five guys, that their taste in gifts runs more toward the funky and ironic. However, the mom in me likes to keep things practical as well!

When I look for fun, funky and unique gifts, UncommonGoods is often my first choice. I enjoy the many handcrafted items and appreciate that much of what they sell is made right here in the USA, and 1/3 of the collection incorporates recycled and upcycled materials. And, as a non-profit fundraiser, I LOVE that with every purchase, UncommonGoods will donate $1 to a non-profit of your choice. In the past 12 years, they have donated over $1 Million to charities around the world!

I was asked to select some fun graduation gifts for guys and UncommonGoods kindly sent them to me for my review. These were a huge hit with my recent graduates!

Will is a huge outdoors guy. As a matter of fact, a few weeks after graduation he headed out for his third summer of working at camp. He also, like most 18-year-olds, is very attached to his phone. It may as well be an additional appendage. So this Waka Waka solar-powered charger and light was a most appreciated gift. This handy portable charger can be charged the traditional way, via USB, or it can be charged with the large solar panel on the back. The nice, bright light will give off light for up to 150 hours! Hello, bedtime reading in a power outage!

Waka-Waka Solar powered charger and light

My boys have a slight addiction to microwave mac and cheese. As a foodie mom, this alternates between being disturbing and distressing to me. I work on redirecting. (Young adults are not so different from toddlers!) These handy microwave recipe mugs just may help my young men eat a slightly more balanced, real food, diet in their first apartment. This set of four mugs includes recipes for one that can be made within the mugs (including the mixing) for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert.  From hearty oatmeal that does not come from a packet to yes, even mac and cheese from scratch, these mugs will have your graduate eating slightly better, or at least eating at home.

recipe mugs

College chemistry is not much fun. However, it is a necessary evil for those going into healthcare careers, like my son. Why not make it a little more fun with these Periodic Table Building Blocks? These blocks are made in Michigan (where my heart resides) from Basswood and printed with non-toxic inks. Even my little girls think these are fun, maybe they will get a head start on their chemistry education!  Periodic Table Building Blocks

 

You can spend all the time in the world teaching your son how to be a proper man, however, they will forget. Help them to remember, during their hands of penny poker in the dorms with this unique card deck.  From how to tie a tie, to what to say to your future, in-laws, the bases are covered on how to be a proper gentleman.  Gentleman's card deck

No matter who is on your gift list, I am guessing you can find something that you like here.

Chime in! What is your favorite graduation gift (other than cash) to give? What is the most memorable gift that you have received?

Budget Friendly Mothers Day Gifts

Sometimes I question the calendar placement of Mothers’ Day. It is usually smack-dab in one of the busiest times of the year, in the midst of graduations and end of school year preparations, and also right around the time things like summer camp registrations are due. Money may be tight, but you still love Mom!

I generally follow the same gift giving rule that I teach my children, give people a gift that you yourself would appreciate receiving. So, I’ve compiled this gift guide full of things that I too would love to receive for Mothers Day–and I bet you would too!

  • Nice Colored Pencils : Every mom knows that all of her favorite supplies are often “borrowed” by children working on their monster map of South America that is due, OMG, it is due TOMORROW! Bonus points if you buy her a different brand than what the kids use, making them more difficult to “borrow.” Sweeten the pot by adding in this beautiful Journaling Bible with over 500 verses to color–perfect for someone like me who loves the idea of a journaling bible, but has zero ability to draw pretty doodles. OR, for the snarkier mom (can I admit that I am a little of both?) a fun adult coloring book about the lighter side of motherhood may just make her day!
  • EchoDot: Because sometimes Mama just wants to listen to her stories, or her music–or maybe she wants to drown out the sound of chaos. This little voice-controlled, hands-free device is small enough to tuck in a tote and travel from work to home and back again. At just under $50 it is a fun gift for the tech-inspired mom in your life.
  • Water Infuser Bottle: Mom’s on a diet? Well, this little gadget may make her a little less crabby! Water tastes great when it is infused with fruit flavor and the mesh basket helps keep seeds and pulp out of your water!
  • Cute Shoes: These sweet Mary Janes from Hot Chocolate Designs are adorable and a fun splurge for the shoe-loving mom. Hint-hint–I wear a size 10!
  • Miss your mom? Me too. This sweet coffee mug can be custom made with any of the United States and the Canadian provinces! They also have a sweet quote on the back: “My mother forever, never apart, maybe in distance but never in heart.” A sweet sentiment and I know of at least one mom who is getting one–wink!
  • I often like to start my mom on book series–she is a reader like I am. Last year I started her on the Anthems of Zion series, and I cannot wait to purchase her the third of Katie Schuermann’s novels when it is released in a few weeks. This is a perfect series for the “church lady” in your life.
  • You can never go wrong with a cookbook! (that is, if your mom cooks!) And I have found that you can never go wrong with a cookbook from Six Sisters Stuff. None of their recipes may be groundbreaking, but they are all delicious and family friendly! They are also full of tips on streamlining meal planning and your kitchen! This one is next on my list of cookbooks to buy!

So, there you have it! My favorite, budget-friendly mothers’ day gifts! What is your favorite gift to share with your mom?

 

Crochet Style: Review

 

Every Christmas I receive a generous Amazon gift card from work. I am an admitted autodidact, so I spend a good amount of the gift card on “continuing education” for myself. This year I purchased some books on writing, and specifically, copy writing. I also picked up an updated version of a book on non-profit fundraising. With a bit of money left over at the end, I decided to focus on my new favorite hobby–crocheting.

If you have read here, or  have been hanging around my Facebook or Instagram–or even following me on Pinterest, you can’t help but noticed that I fell down a crochet rabbit hole.

Crocheting was a great diversion when my oldest went off to Basic Training last spring, and I found, over the course of the year that it has had a fabulous effect on my stress levels.

I made several blankets–all multicolored stripes, with mixed stitches, which was a great way to learn to crochet. Crochet is an incredibly forgiving craft. And the community of crocheters is always willing to help.

Here in North Dakota we have notoriously long winters. I have made some cold weather gear with patterns that I have found online–which is hit or miss in regards to pattern quality. As a relative beginner, I like a well-written pattern, and as someone with a few miles of yarn in my stitch history, I appreciate a more complicated design.

I hit the jackpot when I ordered Crochet Style, Over 30 Trendy, Classic and Sporty Accessories for All Ages, by Jennifer Dougherty. Jennifer has several crochet patterns for sale at both Ravelry and Etsy, and this collection of more than 30 patterns is a great bargain–and will keep me busy for many more weeks!

Dougherty  is a very skilled artist and writes crystal clear patterns. This book is chock full of cold weather gear for the family–and each pattern has sizing for several different sizes–all written as a separate pattern.

I’ve made several hats from the book so far, including this cute cabled beanie that I made for myself (I never get a chance to make things for myself!)–Never mind the awkward office selfie–a working mom has to do what she has to do! Cabled beanie

I’ve made several hats for the girls using this book. These are not necessarily quick projects, as they are almost all highly textured (which does add warmth for these North Dakota winters).

Most designs call for worsted weight or bulky yarn, and a very few call for super bulky yarn.

The photos in the book are gorgeous. Each design has a really good summary page at the beginning with suggested weights of yarn, hooks and special supplies needed.

Another great feature is the lay flat binding. This softcover book is stitched such that I can have it open on my lap while working and not lose my place.

While there are a few projects that would suit a beginner, I think this book would be best enjoyed by an intermediate crocheter.

I’ve really enjoyed working on projects from this book during my daily Morning Make time after dropping a kid off at swim practice and before the other kids wake up.

 

Book Review: How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind

How To Manage Your Home Wihtout Losing Your Mind Book Review

Disclosure: I was given a copy of this book, and a Proctor and Gamble Swiffer gift box in order to facilitate my review. I received no their compensation and I was not required to give a list I’ve review. All opinions are my own. 

Confession time: I’m a “Messy”. My husband sometimes uses the word, slob. Sometimes that hurts my feelings.

I’m actually quite an organized person. However, I’m a creative person, so my “organized” looks very diffferent from yours.

The book I’m reviewing today is for people like me. If you have a dedicated system of cleaning your house and your bullet journal is full of daily, weekly, and monthly housekeeping tasks that get regularly checked off–this book is not for you. If your mother-in-law smiles approvingly when she enters your impeccably tidy kitchen–this book is not for you.

If you regularly are hunting for a pair of clean socks for your first grader and your third grader is wearing the dog’s hat–this book is for you. If you have considered paying a neighbor teen to spend a day washing your dishes–this book is for you.

Dana White, AKA Nony the Slob, has been, and still is in your shoes. I have been a reader of A Slob Comes Clean for several years now. Every post that Dana writes leaves me nodding my head and realizing that she writes to a very interesting and needy niche–moms who WANT a clean home, but who also get overwhelmed with the thought of getting it–and keeping it– clean.

So, then, How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind is full of funny, witty, practical wisdom. This meaty (221 pages) book is divided into four sections: I. Reality Check–in which White outlines how your house got to be the way it is. II. (My favorite) Daily Stuff: The Down and Dirty Truth About a Clean House (which includes two whole chapters on my nemesis–laundry!). III. Decluttering: The Down and dirty Truth About All Your Stuff (spoiler alert–decluttering is not a one-off event!) IV. Change that Lasts (because shouldn’t that be our goal?)

One of my very favorite parts of this book is the appendix–it includes the previously released as a stand-alone eBook “28 Days to Hope For Your Home”. I purchased this year ago, and it is really amazing, even in its simplicity. I even give you permission to skip to the appendix, work through the 28 days and then come back and read the book. The 28 days will help form some pretty powerful (and simple) habits the may just jump-start your hopeful mindset.

Honestly, what I love about this book, and some of the downright common sense simplicity found inside, is that Dana White is not a cleaning or organization expert. She is a real mom. A real mom who is struggling just like you to keep afloat. And the message of the book is–yes, there IS hope for your home. It is just going to take work, determination and HABIT!

This book gets my hearty recommendation–and makes it totally worth you reading my confession up above. And yes, this book HAS made a difference in our home. I still have some habits and spaces to tame, but things are a lot less overwhelming now–even laundry!!!

Proctor and Gamble sent me this box full of Swiffer supplies to help me along on my de-slobbification journey!

Buy it: How To Manage your Home Without Losing your Mind is available on Amazon! (Aff link).

Chime in: What is the most overwhelming part of your homemaking? Leave a comment here or on the Facebook page!

Outsourcing my Stress with Grove Collaborative (and FREE Mrs. Meyers Holiday Gift!)

Peppermint Mrs. Meyers

This is my busiest time of the year at work. My job requires that I organize two MAJOR fundraisers a year, and since one is a Holiday Home tour and one is a Thanksgiving Day footrace, both occur within two weeks of each other! I spent the last weekend in Fargo for the home tour (and it was GORGEOUS!) and next week is Thanksgiving! Eek!

Even though I am busy at work, my job at home does not end. My family depends on me to plan meals, keep things running, and even keep things clean. The older kids are older and able to pitch-in more, but they are also older, and are busier with work and school activities–so I can’t lean on them as much as I would like to.

BUT, I am  a super-smart Mom-Boss! I know that in times of stress, some things can be let go–who needs matching socks, anyway? Not me! Sometimes, I grab a few rotisserie chickens from the grocery store on the way home and call that dinner. We all survive-and really, who needs a mashed potato side dish?

I try to keep a load of laundry swishing. I insist that the big kids keep up on dishes. I harp on the littles to pick up as they go. I sing the praises of grocery delivery. And, best of all–I outsource some of my shopping.

Let’s face it- NO ONE wants to run out of toilet paper, or dish soap, or hand soap, or eye cream (horrors!), or even toilet bowl cleaner (we all need it–no one wants to have to use it!)

I found that I was spending most of my lunch hours running around picking up various household supplies. And I’m picky. Appearance matters, scent matters, and my husband does not want to run around looking for my nit-picky requests (I actually picked nits earlier this year–let’s not have that again–ok?).

I’ve learned that Grove Collaborative carries all of my very favorite household supplies–at a great price to boot! I set up my shopping cart, choose my favorite products, and once a month my own, personal, concierge emails me, or texts me, (or both, because I forget things!) a reminder to review my cart before a monthly shipment. And some months, I just skip a shipment because I have a stack of 4 bottles of Method Toilet Bowl Cleaners (seriously. The best stuff ever. But I won’t clean four bottles worth of toilets this month–I hope!).

I can set my cart to be as automated as I want! And my kind concierge lets me know of products she thinks I will love.

But mostly, I’m just glad that I don’t run out of dish soap. Ever.

If your are super  organized and never run out of dish soap–you can stop reading now.

Peppermint Mrs. Meyers

This year, Grove Collaborative treated us to a new Mrs. Meyer’s Holiday Set — and they want to send one to you for free, too! The set includes a Mrs. Meyer’s dish soap, Mrs. Meyer’s hand soap, Mrs. Meyer’s multi-surface spray and the Grove Collaborative Bubble Up.

My kids have been fighting over who gets to use this Bubble Up to do the dishes! It’s fun to pump the dispenser and make lots of bubbles, and the brush is easy to hold when you’re really scrubbing baked-on cheese off that casserole dish.

When the dishes are done, a quick wipe down with the multi-surface spray gets the counters and sink sparkling clean!

My husband and kids agree that these Mrs. Meyer’s Peppermint soaps smell good enough to eat! It reminds me of the peppermint bark the ladies at our church in Minnesota used to make, and I’m grateful that it’s safe for my family. The soaps also come in Orange Clove, which was a favorite in our house last winter. I can’t wait to grab a few bottles for our other bathrooms and laundry room with my next Grove shipment.

If you’re not familiar with Grove Collaborative, it’s a subscription service that makes creating a healthy, beautiful home effortless and affordable. I can choose my favorite products from brands like Mrs. Meyer’s, Seventh Generation, and Method, and Grove delivers them right to my doorstep, on my schedule.

Here’s what I’ve discovered after using Grove: When my kids get to help choose the products and scents we use, they’re much more willing to help clean! They actually get excited when they see the Grove box sitting on our porch. It’s like Christmas for them (and me!).

When you sign up for Grove Collaborative using my link, you’ll get the Mrs. Meyer’s Holiday set for free + free shipping. If you’re already a customer, you’ll get 50% off of the brand new and amazing Grove Collaborative Bubble Up. Don’t forget to sign up for the free VIP trial, too. Not only is the free shipping amazing, you’ll get perks like free gifts, price matching, and personal customer service.

seasonal-offer-2016-v2_noimage

Grove only has a limited number of sets available and the offer ends November 21, so grab yours now! Here’s how it works:

1. Sign up for Grove Collaborative here . You’ll receive the Mrs. Meyer’s offer for free when you sign up! If you’re already a customer, you’ll receive the Grove Collaborative Bubble Up for 50% off.

2. Answer 4 quick questions about your home that Grove Collaborative will then use to customize your first basket — this takes under 30 seconds!

3. Once you’ve answered the questions, you can finalize your basket of products to suit your household needs by adding or removing items.

4. To receive this offer, your order needs to be a minimum of $20. Choose the combination of products and scents you love and receive in your first box.

5. You made it! Click Finish & Pay and place your order.

Here is an example of what you can place in your cart to get to the $20 minimum required to get this great deal! (And yes, that toilet cleaner is the BEST!)
Here is an example of what you can place in your cart to get to the $20 minimum required to get this great deal! (And yes, that toilet cleaner is the BEST!)

Let me know which scent you choose! I just know you will love Mrs. Meyers AND Grove Collaborative as much as I do!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links–that means, if you purchase something from these links, I will get a little money in return. It does NOT cost you a cent more, and it will keep me in coffee and wine for another day! Since this is a special offer through my site, you can visit Grove Collaborative on your own, and shop (and I hope you do), but unless you go through my links, you will not get this special offer. So, shopping through this link benefits us both! And THAT is in the spirit of full disclosure!