Back to School for Moms (and Other Adults)

Back to school for moms

Photo credit: Chris Metcalf on flickr


In our little corner of Arizona, the kids have already gone back to school. So while we’re knee deep in new schedules, new teachers and new priorities (more homework, anyone?), I know some of you are still winding up your summer and getting ready for back-to-school shopping. So I offer you this somewhat unconventional approach to how to approach back to school.

Our school supply shopping was done back in June thanks to a program our school offers that packages all the supplies you need for the following year. It’s so easy to go to the website, pick my kids’ classes and order the packages with one click. It probably costs a little more than what I could find in the stores, but the time it saves me is well worth it. Plus, the supplies get delivered directly to my kids’ classrooms, so I don’t have to load up the van to get all their paper, pencils and binders to school. That’s a definite win to me.

I know not all schools do this, so if you’re braving the school supply aisles at your local Target, Wal-Mart or Office Depot, I’m rooting for you! Just remember to breathe deeply and keep telling yourself that you can do it. (And be glad your kid’s school supply list doesn’t look like this one.)


Back to School for Moms


Back to school shopping doesn’t have to be stressful or dreaded if you take advantage of it to get some things you’ll love, too. And with sale prices in abundance, take this opportunity to treat yourself to some grown-up back to school supplies that you otherwise wouldn’t buy.

As a writer, I love to have an abundance of paper and writing implements on hand at all times. This means that back to school time is the perfect opportunity to replenish my supply. With every store stocked to the brim with supplies and great sales on everything on your list, you can’t go wrong. I, personally, have a spiral notebook obsession. I use them for everything from writing key points at my kids’ parent-teacher conferences to jotting down a recipe, shopping list or new blog ideas. And at 17 cents each at Target, this is the time I stock up for the year. Grab one in every color and you’ll never be lacking for a simple notebook for your everyday needs.

I also love a good pen and some of my favorites are perfect for my latest love – my bullet journal (or as my son calls it, my “everything book”). My husband had an appointment somewhere recently, and he borrowed someone’s pen. Well, he liked it so much that he bought some Pilot Precise V7 pens for us to use at home, and they have quickly become our favorite pens. So, right now I’m coveting this set of colored Pilot pens (affiliate link) to use in my bullet journal. I love that they write smoothly and they don’t run or bleed. They would definitely add a little pizzazz to my journal and perhaps serve to inspire more creativity in me.


My sister also is bullet journaling, and her actual journal (the Leuchtturm Dot Journal in the affiliate link) is amazing! Rich, luxurious paper with subtle dots and bleed-proof pages. Trust me, it’s a dreamy journal. Way more expensive than my everyday spiral notebooks, but moms deserve nice things, too. I haven’t broken down to buy one for myself, yet, because more than half of my current journal remains empty. But it’s definitely on my list, and back to school priced! Maybe I’ll break down and do it. I’ll just stick it in a drawer until I’m ready to use it.


Back to School – College Edition


Remember, back to school time involves more than just little ones. Your young adults are headed back to college, too. As a former college administrator, I know that many students find great deals on textbooks by shopping around. With the price of books so high, it’s worth checking out Amazon and other retailers to see if you can save a few bucks. Just be careful to check for the right edition and/or publication date since you don’t want your student to be lost in the wrong version of the book. And keep in mind that some professors bundle materials that can only be found in your campus bookstore. But if it’s a standard book, definitely check out Amazon.

Did you know Amazon also offers an Amazon Student subscription? I really wish I’d had this when I was in school. It offers unlimited free 2-day shipping on textbooks and other items (with no minimum purchase requirement), special deals and promotions just for students, and more. For a free trial membership, click on the link below. The trial period is a whopping 6 months, after which you can cancel. But if you choose to purchase the membership, the cost is $49, which is 50% off the regular prime membership fee. Totally worth it in my opinion.

Join Prime Student FREE Two-Day Shipping for College Students

Of course, you can take advantage of back to college sales, too. Think about all the things you put off buying, but could totally snag deals on now. Sheets, towels, storage products … all the stuff college students need, but moms need, too. Target and Wal-Mart, Kohls and Macy’s all offer great deals on home goods at this time of year. Of course, check out discount retailers as well. Places like Home Goods, TJ Maxx and Tuesday Morning that offer great prices year round will often stock up on these items because they know people are shopping for their college students.

Here are a few things that I bought recently (affiliate links).

Sheet sets at an amazing price:


Organizer cubes for toys and other loose items:


A messenger bag/briefcase for my husband since he just started a new job:


And a Few Extra Goodies … Just Because


If you’re loading up your shopping cart with back to school items you need, why not throw in a couple of things just because. Perhaps you still like to feel like you’re exercising your mind, but you also need a little stress relief. This beautiful adult coloring book will tap into the creative part of you AND allow you to contemplate where mathematics plays a role in our everyday world. It’s gorgeous! Throw them in your bag and the next time you find yourself at dance/swim/gymnastics/(insert kid activity here) practice, you’ll always have something to pass the time.


And don’t forget the pencils and pencil sharpener. These are a great value:


Next, just because we are huge Harry Potter fans and we’re enjoying the latest story in the saga, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child fits the bill for those wait times as well. The chapters (scenes) are short and the story satisfyingly different from the others while maintaining a connection to the previous seven books. The authors have included some interesting twists and turns. And although it takes a few pages to get used to reading it since it’s in script form, once you adjust, it’s easy to follow. It’s also fun to imagine how it all plays out on a stage, which makes it a different experience than the other books.


And last, with all the kids back in school and the full range of after school activities starting, I can’t have enough hand sanitizer. I know that good hygiene is the key to keeping everyone healthy, but when you’re rushing out the door or your kid wants a snack after touching everything in the sweaty gym, hand sanitizer works in a pinch. CleanWell is my absolute favorite natural product. It costs a little more than your standard Purell, but I’m not a fan of alcohol or chemical based sanitizers, so I’m willing to pay a little more. This one kills germs with a plant-based formula that smells great and doesn’t sting little hands that might have a few play-induced cuts and scrapes on them. I buy them in bulk so I always have some on hand, and maybe buy an extra package to share with your teachers — they’ll appreciate it.

Purse/backpack size for on the go:

And regular size for at home:


I really hope you take advantage of back to school shopping to find some things you really love. After all, back to school involves more than just the kids, and moms deserve to have some fun things in our shopping carts as well.

What things make back to school shopping more fun for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


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Blueberry Pastry Dream: the Perfect Summer Dessert

Blueberry pastry

Beautiful blueberries for my Blueberry Pastry Dream


Blueberries went on sale last week. I mean a serious sale. I bought my beauties for under $1 per pint. But even better … they were Buy 1, Get 2 FREE! Yes, you read that right. I even had to check with the cashier to make sure I had read the sign correctly, but I did, and I merrily went home with 3 pints of blueberries ready to be loved.

What to do with these luscious, plump little berries? I put them in cereal, made a couple of fruit mixes, and of course, popped them in my mouth right out of the package. But 3 pints is a lot of berries, so I had to get creative. Not wanting to make too much work for myself, I looked around to see what I had or what I could get pretty easily.


Blueberry Pastry Dream is Born

We just came back from vacation in Oregon. And while we ate lots of summer fruits, surprisingly blueberries didn’t make it into our rental kitchen. But, my husband bought a lovely blueberry pastry at the coffee shop in the airport on our way home, and it looked delicious. So I began to think about how I could create something similar without a lot of work.

In the deli drawer of my refrigerator, I found a tub of mascarpone cheese. Apparently we made something with it recently (I can’t remember what) because it was half-empty. But that was just the thing I needed to make the blueberry pastry dream a reality.

If you’ve never used mascarpone, this would be a lovely way to try it. It’s a soft Italian cheese product that’s more creamy than cheesy. It stirs up like a whipped cream cheese might, but it has a milder flavor and smoother texture. It makes desserts like tiramisu irresistible and pasta or risotto dishes creamy and decadent. You can find it with the specialty cheeses in your regular grocery store.

I used the mascarpone as the pastry filling, to give the blueberries a foundation on which to float their berry goodness. Then I put it all in a convenient store-bought sheet of puff pastry and baked it. It turned out simply divine with just the right amount of sweet and tart on flaky, buttery pastry shell.


Putting It All Together

The step by step process was super simple. Here’s how I did it:


Blueberry pastry filling

Stir together 4 ounces of mascarpone cheese with some sugar and vanilla. This will be your pastry filling.


Blueberry pastry crust

Take one sheet of thawed puff pastry dough (in the frozen section of the grocery store), and fold the edges in to make a little wall. This will hold all of the blueberries and filling in the pastry.


Spread filling for the blueberry pastry

Spread your mascarpone filling in the prepared pastry shell. There should be enough for a thin layer to reach all the way to the walls you made in your pastry shell.


Blueberry pastry ready for the oven

Layer one pint of blueberries on top of your filling and inside the pastry walls. Brush the walls with a little melted butter and sprinkle the whole thing with some coarse sugar. Then pop it in the oven and let the magic happen!


What comes out will be a lovely Blueberry Pastry Dream with a crisp, flaky outer crust and a mildly sweet center. What could be better than that?

Blueberry pastry dream

Here’s the printable recipe. I hope you enjoy!


Print Recipe
Blueberry Pastry Dream
A lovely dessert or brunch item featuring plump summer blueberries.
Blueberry Pastry Dream
Course Dessert
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Course Dessert
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Blueberry Pastry Dream
  1. Thaw frozen puff pastry shell according to package directions.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F.
  3. In a small bowl, mix mascarpone cheese with granulated sugar and vanilla. Start with a small amount of sugar. Give it a taste and add more if you like it sweeter. I used about 1 1/2 tablespoons.
  4. Place thawed puff pastry sheet on a lightly floured parchment paper on a baking pan.
  5. Fold in edges of pastry to make a little wall. Be sure all edges are firmly stuck together.
  6. Spread mascarpone mixture in a thin layer in the center of the puff pastry shell. Feel free to take the filling all the way to the inner edge of the pastry walls.
  7. Layer 1 pint of blueberries on top of the mascarpone filling.
  8. Melt 1 tablespoon butter and brush around the edge of the pastry (on the folded wall).
  9. Sprinkle coarse sugar over the top of the blueberries and around the edge of the pastry. This will give the crust an added crunch. If you don't have coarse sugar, you can skip this step or try a sprinkle of regular sugar.
  10. Bake for 20 minutes or until the crust is puffed and golden brown.
  11. Once cooled, remove pastry from parchment and onto a serving dish or platter. Serve as is or add a dusting of powdered sugar to make it look pretty.
  12. Enjoy!
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An Olympics-Worthy Snack for Rio 2016

Olympics-worthy snack


The Rio 2016 Olympics start tonight, so we all need an Olympics-worthy snack to enjoy as the games begin! I grew up watching the Olympics, and I still look forward to the games every two years. From the pomp and pageantry of the opening ceremonies to the proud moments watching our athletes stand on the medal podium, I find myself riveted to the TV. So, of course, all this TV watching requires a good snack. (Click the link for the the full Rio 2016 Olympics viewing schedule.)


Why is Brazilian Cheese Bread Olympics-Worthy?


In honor of the Olympics being in Rio de Janiero (and because I’m using a new recipe plugin now), I thought it was worth re-visiting my Brazilian Cheese Bread recipe. After all, the Olympics are in Brazil, and at least in my world, you can’t have too much Brazilian Cheese Bread!

The best part about Brazilian Cheese Bread – or cheesy bread as the kids call it – is that it’s actually healthy and easy to make. All the ingredients get thrown together in the blender, whirred around until you have a smooth batter, then poured into mini muffin tins. That means you only have one appliance to clean – awesome!

Brazilian Cheese bread in muffin tin

Pour the batter into well-greased mini muffin tins

These little bites are also gluten free since they use tapioca flour rather than regular wheat-based flour. This makes them light and fluffy as well. You pick the cheese depending on what flavor you like. The kids love cheddar, so that’s what I usually stick to, but I’ve made them with gruyere, mozzarella & parmesan, and a Mexican cheese blend. They’re all fantastic.

The bread comes out a cute little puff that’s a little crispy on the outside with a rich, chewy center. The texture is both light and satisfying, cheesy and bread-y (is that a word? It is now!). They’re the perfect Olympics-worthy snack food, especially for some serious Olympics watching. Just be careful, because it’s super easy to eat one after another after another until they’re gone. Oh, what the heck, go ahead – there’s nothing bad in them, so eat to your heart’s content! I bet even some of the Rio 2016 athletes would include these little morsels on their menus.


Okay, What’s In It?


Cheese, olive oil, milk, egg, a little salt and tapioca flour. If you don’t have tapioca flour – also known as tapioca starch – in your pantry, no worries. It’s easy to find. Most grocery stores will have it in the same aisle with the regular flour. Just look for it with the other packages of “specialty” items like oat bran, almond flour, rice flour and the like. Bob’s Red Mill is a popular brand that most grocery chains carry now.


Brazilian Cheese bread ingredients

Tapioca Flour (starch) from the Chinese store along with the other ingredients


If you happen to have an Asian market nearby, go there for your tapioca flour. I usually buy several packages on my runs to the Chinese grocery store since I can score each package for around 89 cents.

If you’re dairy-free, I’m afraid I haven’t tried any substitutions with this recipe. This is one I follow to the letter with no alterations. Not because I don’t like to experiment, but because this recipe works. It’s just right. Every time. If you do try any substitutes, let me know. I’d love to hear how they work!


Are You Ready to Try These?

Okay, I won’t keep you waiting any longer. Here’s the recipe!


Print Recipe
Brazilian Cheese Bread for Rio 2016
A light, chewy, cheesy puff perfect for snacking. Gluten-free and delicious. Add these to your Rio 2016 Olympics watching menu or serve them anytime!
Olympics-worthy Brazilian Cheese Bread
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
mini puffs
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
mini puffs
Olympics-worthy Brazilian Cheese Bread
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Grease or spray mini muffin tin(s) - 1 large or 2 small.
  3. Put all ingredients into blender & blend until smooth, scraping down sides as necessary.
  4. Pour batter into muffin pans so each cup is nearly full.
  5. Bake 15-20 minutes or until puffed and lightly golden brown.
  6. Let cool in pans for a few minutes, then remove and serve.
  7. Enjoy!
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