Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Teacher Thank You Note Prompt

Every year seems to go by more quickly...we are already at the end of school and I wish I could freeze time. This year has been especially wonderful...amazing teachers, good friends and boys growing into more of the men I hope they will become.

At the end of the year, we always get our teachers a little thank-you gift, but more importantly, my boys write a heartfelt note of thanks to them that is specific and honest. Sometimes it is hard for them to think of exactly what they want to say, so I created these prompts for them. They have to choose 3, but they can do as many as they want. I love that it gets them thinking but allows them to truly share their feelings. It also works great for those who can't write well yet, their answers are always my favorite.

Hope our idea makes your end of the year notes a little easier!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Blessings of Being Raised by a Low-Maintenance Mother

My mom has a little curve on the tip of her nose that she affectionately calls, "The Cullimore Hook." She also has wrinkles on her face, a flat chest, a great smile and incredible legs. She is capable, kind, smart, low-maintenance and beautiful.

In today's world, full of over-processed, over-done, over-glammed out women, I will be forever grateful that I was raised by a mother who has always been too busy with important things to scrutinize every inch of her body, to obsess about fine lines, to turn herself into something she isn't.

For her, low-maintenance has never been Birkenstocks, dreadlocks and pajamas all day. In fact, long before gym-rats and cross-fit, my mom was up at 5:30 am attending an exercise class. She was home, showered and ready for the day often before we were even out of bed. She wore classic clothes and simple make-up with different haircuts throughout the years, some definitely better than others.

I remember, as a teenager, wondering why she didn't reapply her face more often or get her nails done. I thought it was crazy that she mostly wore flats and had never had a massage or pedicure. She used Suave shampoo and hair spray, Clinique foundation, and drugstore mascara. She didn't get things lifted, enhanced, or lasered. I have always had a healthy expectation of what a real woman's body should look like because of her.

We shopped together at inexpensive stores where she she taught me how to dress for my body, look for items that were stylish but on sale, and to buy only clothes I was sure I would wear. Brands didn't matter and clothes were fun but never used as a status symbol. Our outings were enjoyable but not excessive.

I watched her, at times, put a lot of effort into what she looked like...an extra coat of mascara, hot rollers in her hair, or a fantastic new dress and heels, but that kind of time and energy on herself was reserved for special occasions.

Beauty was never a main topic of conversation around our house. It was assumed that we would look put together, situationally appropriate, and take care of ourselves, but there was no expectation to be beautiful. After all, beauty is capricious, subjective, and fleeting, and my mom understood that.

Dinner table talk revolved around what we were doing and accomplishing, who we were helping, what we were struggling with, and what was happening in the world, not what we looked like. We didn't bond over manicures and beauty tips but grew incredibly close as she assisted us in becoming our best spiritual, academic, and emotional selves.

Today, as a very financially stable woman in her mid-50s, she is just as grounded. No eyelash or hair extensions, Botox or tummy tucks, and she smiles for pictures when she is in her pajamas and without make-up.

Yes, she has started getting her eyebrows waxed, coloring her hair, using nicer shampoo, and I'm pretty sure her clothes are no longer from Mervyn's, but she is still just the same. She does not define herself by what she looks like or if people think she is 10 years younger than her true age. She defines herself by what she gives.

I had no idea what an impact her little choices and quiet example to be her best natural self would have on me as I became an adult. When budgets were tight, our funds weren't siphoned towards spa appointments or $30 shampoo. In the early years of our marriage, I didn't have to set aside money for the Nordstrom sale or for high end shoes. I have always been good at "making do" with what I had or finding a great, new shirt for under $20 that made me smile.

I have varicose veins that scare children, love handles I can't help but pinch, stretch marks like cat scratches, and plenty of wrinkles already, but it's all okay because my mom taught me something much more valuable than how to accessorize.

She taught me that being less than perfect is perfectly okay. She taught me that taking care of my body is worth it, but that moderation is necessary. She showed  me that the fountain of youth is not found in a bottle or needle, but in a childlike heart and caring nature.

She taught me that real beauty is having a life purpose that allows you to brush aside the unimportant. She encouraged me to be anxiously engaged in causes that fulfill me so I don't have to search for happiness in places I won't find it. She taught me that a new outfit can be a great pick-me-up, but nothing takes you higher than knowing you are right with God.

It's hard to ever measure up to your mom. In fact, there may come a day when I laser those pesky varicose veins or iron out my wrinkly skin. My eyes never open at 5:30 am, and I have a hard time leaving the house without a fresh coat of lipstick, but because of her, I know that smooth legs, a youthful face and pink lips have nothing to do with who I really am. What defines me is how I love, who I serve, and what I create with this precious body and little time I am given.

All mothers love and bond differently with their children, and there are millions of ways to be a great, influential mom, but as Mother's Day approaches, I must say thank you to MY mom. She is perfect for ME. Her sweet example, deliberate focus, constant push, and unconditional love taught me that being comfortable in my own skin will consistently be my biggest asset and that I have always been just right, just the way I am.

Happy Mother's Day Mom!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Tropical Strawberry Pineapple Salad

I am looking forward to salad season, and this one will be a new favorite at our house. It is light, sweet, and refreshing, like a little luau in your mouth!

Tropical Strawberry Salad


4 hearts of romaine, chopped
1 1/2 cups FRESH pineapple, chopped into small pieces
2 cups chopped strawberries
1 lb. bacon cooked and crumbled
2 avocados, chopped
2 cups grated Asiago cheese (you could also use feta or parmesean)
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 cup cinnamon almonds (Place one cup almonds in a skillet over med/hi heat. Add 2 tbsp. brown sugar and 1 tsp. cinnamon. Mix and stir constantly until the sugar and cinnamon melt and the almonds are toasted. Place on a plate and let cool.)


1 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup white vinegar
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup sugar
dash of pepper
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
1 tablespoon strawberry jam (warmed in microwave)
2 tsp. fresh pineapple juice

Mix the lettuce and green onions together, then top with remaining ingredients.

Add all dressing items to a mason jar and shake until blended.

Add desired amount of dressing and toss!

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Rouge Factory Tour at the Henry Ford Museum

I want to thank Janice Richardson for another wonderful guest post about her experience at the Rouge Factory Tour. It was one of our favorites too!!

If you live near or visit Southeast Michigan, you have to stop at America's greatest manufacturing experience, The Ford Rouge Factory Tour.

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The tour takes you to the historic Rouge factory where Henry Ford first began manufacturing automobiles from start (raw ore) to finish in one location.  (The name Rouge comes from the Rouge River that the factory was built next to.)

Not only will you be able to see a video about these early beginnings, but you will have the opportunity to walk through the modern Ford Rouge Factory that produces Ford vehicles with the most current technology.  Seeing robots in action was a big highlight for my kids!

image via THF

image via THF
The tour consists of two theater presentations (each less than 15 minutes long, everyone except the 1 year old in my family was interested in the first movie and we all enjoyed the multi-sensory theater), visiting the observation deck where you can look over the whole factory and see all of the eco-friendly renovations that Ford has implemented, walking through the assembly plant, seeing five examples of vehicles created at the Rouge over the years, and in the spring and summer months an outdoor portion of the tour allows you to see sustainable design in action with water run off.

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Insider Info.

Don't worry about bringing your stroller.  Entrance to the Rouge Factory Tour starts in the Henry Ford Museum where a tour bus picks you up and drives you to the factory visitors' center and tour. Instead of lugging your own stroller on and off the bus, the nice people at the Rouge have made it easy with strollers you can borrow. (And it is easy to borrow them, no waver, form, or money necessary.  They even let our family have two!)

image via THF

It's going to get loud.  The Art of Manufacturing Theater is a multi-sensory theater experience that explains how the new F150s came to be. My whole family loved it, but it gets loud.  I looked down the row at one point and all of my children had smiles on their faces and their hands over their ears.
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Try to visit when the factory is in operation. Be aware that daily vehicle production is contingent on many factors and may be interrupted at any time. We visited on a Thursday afternoon (rather than a Saturday outing) because we wanted to see the new F150s being made. Unfortunately, a winter storm had frozen the railroads making it impossible for some parts of the trucks to get to the factory and most of the machinery had  been stopped that morning.  If you do happen to find yourself in our shoes, touring a factory that isn't in production, there is still plenty to see.  There are videos that show you what you would have seen had production been happening, and we were able to watch inspections of some of the trucks.

image via THF

Leave your food at home.  There is no eating or drinking in the theaters or plant walkways, but if you do need a snack there is a large room with tables and vending machines to save the day.

Plan at least 2-3 hours for the tour. 

If you go.

Address. Park at the Henry Ford and buy your tickets there, the bus will pick you up and take you to the factory. 20900 Oakwood Blvd. Dearborn, MI 48124-5029

Hours. The first bus leaves The Henry Ford at 9:20am and the last at 3pm, running every 20 minutes open Monday-Saturday.  Factory not in production on Saturdays and select other holidays available on their website: http://www.thehenryford.org/rouge/tickets.aspx

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Introducing KAT & LOU shop

My blog has been a bit neglected lately because my sister and I have been busy launching an online shop! We are incredibly excited to introduce you to...


Most of the time, having boys is all I need...until I walk through the clothing section and find myself wistfully wishing I could have a little more floral, ruffles, and lace in my life. Well, now I can! At KAT & LOU we work to carefully stock classic, funky and fun items at a great price. At the moment we have fabulous swimsuits, dresses, shorts, tops, rompers, and accessories for girls sizes 18 months-10 years and will continue to expand our offerings.

If you are looking for that different but "just right" piece, KAT & LOU is your spot! If you want to keep up with our new items and find out when your favorites are back in stock, you can follow us on Instagram @katandloushop. To see all our items and place an order with $5 flat rate shipping, visit our online store KAT & LOU.

EVA $20



ZOE $20





LOLA $20



LUCY $20





LILY $20

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The App That Simplified My Life: Square Cash

A few months ago, a friend was paying me for a deposit on a condo. I usually wait for the check to arrive via mail, but he messaged me, "If I can send you money through Square Cash then I could more easily send now." He sent me a link to read up on it, but I was still skeptical...after all, I am a bit technically challenged and nothing ever seems as easy as it sounds.

But, ready for this? It is that easy!! You quickly input your debit card info into the app and you can pay and receive money in an instant through email or text message, and it is completely free (both ways); in fact, right now they will pay you $1 to give it a try and $5 for friends you refer. 

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Using the app was nice for the one time condo deposit, but it has completely simplified my life in so many other ways:

  • We now use it for our kid's sports teams, which has saved me. No more writing checks for ref fees, tournament costs, uniforms, etc. Each time we need to pay for something, I get a request through Square Cash and with the click of a few buttons, it's paid! No lost checks, no finding the team manager or coach...it can all be done in an instant! If I were a team manager or coach, I would use this exclusively for payment. So simple!
  • It's perfect for group gifts. It's the worst to be the purchaser of a group gift and then no one remembers to pay you back, so you are stuck gifting the $100 present that should have only been $25. Square Cash makes it super simple for people to pay you first or right after the purchase, and sending a request through the app feels so much better than a whiny reminder text.
  • I also love it when splitting costs for hotel rooms/dinners out/rental cars, etc. It is the best option when traveling with friends or other couples so no one gets stuck fronting all the money. Square Cash allows for almost immediate pay back.
  • It would also be great if you and your spouse have separate checking accounts and you need to transfer money from one to the other. No stopping by the bank or bringing a check home.
image via maclife
This is not a sponsored or paid post, just me honestly telling you about something that I absolutely love. Ready to give it a try? Sign up below and earn $1:

If you need a little more info because it sounds too good to be true, here are a few links to peruse:

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Bookworm Wednesday: Me Before You

For all those about to head out on a fantastic spring break vacation, I have the perfect book for you: Me Before You

I sped through the engaging prose in 3 days, sneaking in daytime reading (which I never do), and staying up way too late. The story was compelling and thought provoking but the writing was simple and clean with lovable characters and interesting family and relationship dynamics. It wasn't perfect, but I enjoyed every second I spent with it. Some language, but otherwise a pretty clean read. Highly recommended!

Goodreads.com summary: Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.
What Lou doesn't know is she's about to lose her job or that knowing what's coming is what keeps her sane. 
Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he's going to put a stop to that. 
What Will doesn't know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they're going to change the other for all time.