A Budgeting Game for Teens That I Totally Made Up (And Maybe Your Kids Will Like It Too).

budgeting game for teens - easy and free featured by top lifestyle blogger, Design Mom

One summer, when my two oldest kids were teens, we were casually chatting about college. We were wondering aloud where they might attend, and talking about dorm life, and what it’s like to get an apartment, choose your class schedule, and do your own grocery shopping.

Suddenly, I had this moment of panic about teaching my kids to create a monthly budget. They earn money, and spend money, and save money, but at the time, I had never really talked them through a full monthly budget and what it’s like to live within one. I had this compelling I NEED TO TEACH THEM THIS RIGHT NOW BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE feeling. Hah!

So I sat down at my laptop and came up with a teen budgeting game/challenge. It’s a rough-draft sort of thing, but it turns out they really enjoyed going through it. A year has passed, and we’re still talking about the budget game, and getting requests from the younger kids for their turn.

What’s the challenge? Essentially, it’s a game that takes about an hour to play, where they go through 12 months of budget, and each month they have new challenges thrown their way. The goal is to go through all 12 months of pretend budgets and end with a minimum amount in pretend savings, plus a certain number of pretend “Social/Mental Well-Being Points” (more on those in a bit). I created a Budget Worksheet to help us play, plus a sheet of “Banker’s Instructions” and an explanation of “Budget Options” (you can download all 3 below).

Living With Kids: Camille Turpin

Camille Turpin and her husband designed their house for their children. With two of their children on the autism spectrum, they built as many stress-free learning and growing and social opportunities into their house as possible. When they had the chance to move to a place with more affordable housing, they doubled their floor space and designed a home where there’s a space for everything and everybody, and the daily occupational therapy that is so important to their kids, can happen without leaving the house.

I appreciate that they put resale value on the back burner in lieu of a house that works for them right now. And that’s an important take-away from each of these tours, isn’t it? Figure out what works for your family, and run toward that. Welcome, Cami!

DIY: Printed Dish Towels

I love using flour sack towels in the kitchen — I appreciate their lack of leftover lint on dishes, and they dry items amazingly! They also make a wonderful, big, blank canvas. Sticking with the simplest of materials — a sheet of foam and paint — the towels can easily be changed from plain to modern and chic. The design and color options are endless! They can be customized to match anyone’s taste.

Now they don’t just do the hard work, they look good too.

Newsletter & Link List

If you’ve been reading my work for awhile, you may already know that I like to make big plans at the start of the year. Sometimes I follow through on the plans successfully. Sometimes I make an attempt and then fail — either loudly or quietly. Sometimes I make a little progress and then get distracted by other shinier projects. At the moment, I feel the same instincts to think big, but I keep tempering every project I think of with “depending on the pandemic”. So, who knows? Here are some of the projects on my mind for 2022.

Click here to read the whole newsletter, make comments, and find the link list.

One Pot Dinner: Weeknight Cassoulet Recipe

Weeknight Cassoulet Recipe | designmom.com

Cassoulet! Have you ever eaten it before? It’s a classic French Stew — so thick it’s almost a casserole, and it’s packed with different ingredients and layers of flavor. I remember the very first time I ate cassoulet. It was the first time we lived in France. We were visiting friends in the Dordogne region who lived next to a castle. The weather was chilly, and a hot bowl of cassoulet was the perfect thing for dinner. It warmed me right up and was super filling.

True cassoulet can take a long time to make, so this recipe includes a few short-cut options. For those of you who prefer a slow-cooker, the notes include an adaptation for that too. If you give the recipe a try, I hope you let me know what you think.

And if you’ve ever had memorable cassoulet, I want to hear about it!

Tall House: Laundry Room Before & After

Here’s a tour of our fully renovated laundry room. I would say “we took it back to the studs” but there aren’t really studs in our house — hah! Instead the walls are made of thick stone and brick. The previous occupants used this room as a “back kitchen”. It housed the fridge and freezer, and it had the kitchen sink and the water heater — sort of a prep kitchen. The actual cooking took place in the room next door (our current kitchen) which is where the stove and oven was (and still is).

We moved the prep areas into the cooking kitchen, and we converted this space into a laundry room with a utility sink, a pantry, and our big furnace-water-heater combo. Come see what we’ve been up to.

Living With Kids: Dalia Baurichter

You’re going to love getting to know Dalia today, and hear her perspective about faith, parenting, clutter and so much more. Dalia, her husband, and their three daughters (and a golden doodle!) live in a Parsonage in South Florida. Tony is a pastor and the home is actually owned by the congregation — Dalia and their family live there as part of their compensation. It seems like a lovely twist on a renter/landlord situation. Dalia and Tony also have one daughter with special needs and two children who were born premature, so she has some beautiful wisdom to share about life’s unexpected twists and turns. Welcome, Dalia!

4 Secrets To Making Goals & Resolutions You’ll Really Keep

Some people love making goals at the beginning of a New Year. Others do not. I’m in the loves-making-goals camp, but if you’re not, you’ll get no judgement from me. I think it’s more about how different brains work — some people get inspired by goals, and others get discouraged and prefer non-goal motivations. My personal tendency is to make big ambitious goals — shoot for the moon! — and if I don’t reach them all, that’s fine. I enjoy picturing the possibilities either way.

For those of you who are interested in making goals this year, here are two methods that research has shown to work really well.

Newsletter & Link List

Hey there. How’s it going? This morning, I received a booster shot. (Moderna.) No side effects so far, but I have zero plans for the next few days just in case. This is only my second shot, because when I was first vaccinated back in May (on a very short trip to California), I received the J&J shot. I’m so happy/comforted to be boosted! And for those who are curious, getting a same day booster wasn’t an option for me here in France — I made the appointment a month ago, but this was the earliest date available. According to the official French Anti-Covid app, vaccination coverage in France is 89.5%.

In other vaccine-related good news: France is starting widespread vaccinations for the 5-12 age group! Which means our youngest, Flora June, can finally get vaccinated! We made her first appointment for the earliest date: January 5th.

What’s happening vaxx-wise where you live? Is it easy to access a same-day vaccination? Or do you have to wait for an appointment? Is your community working on initial vaccinations? Or have they moved on to boosters? Is it free for you to get vaccinated? Or do you have to pay a fee?

Click here to read the full newsletter, find the link list, and leave a comment. It’s free!

New Year’s Eve Creme Brûlée — Dessert for Two

Creme Brulee for Two

I’ve got a lovely little surprise for you today. It’s a Creme Brûlée For Two recipe — part of the mouth-watering Dessert for Two series. And it’s just in time for another mid-pandemic New Year’s Eve, where it’s safest and most compassionate to celebrate at home. Extra bonus: It’s very doable — just 4 ingredients!

The only hard part is patience, because these are best when they’ve cooled for 8 hours or more. So you could make the recipe first thing in the morning on New Year’s Eve, and then let them cool all day. As a last step, you’ll brown the topping just before you serve them that night. Perfect.

Living With Kids: Koseli Cummings

Koseli and her family decided to take a big leap during the last year when her husband accepted a job in South Korea and the whole family moved across the world. They quarantined for 14 days in a hotel, moved to a temporary home, and then finally arrived at their permanent home away from home. They’ve enjoyed living within walking distance of amenities like parks and shopping and have appreciated South Korea’s strict and balanced response to COVID. You’ll love hearing about their adventures and might even be inspired to look into your own ex-pat adventure. Welcome, Koseli!

Newsletter & Friday Links

My mom, Donna, married her high-school sweetheart, Roger, a couple of years after their spouses passed away. Donna has 8 kids. Roger has 10 kids. That means there are 18 step-siblings, plus spouses and grandkids. It’s a LOT of people. And it’s not the Brady Bunch situation Donna & Roger were first imagining when blending their families.

Click here to read the full newsletter (it’s free!) and to find the link list.

P.S. — The last newsletter was about using Twitter as an anger outlet. Click here to read it.

Making Handmade Gifts — 15 Very Cool Projects

Gorgeous Handmade Gift Ideas featured by top US lifestyle blog, Design Mom: wooden spoons

Let’s talk handmade gifts. My tendency to focus on handmade gifting seems to wax and wane over the years. Sometimes I’m really into it — gathering ideas and supplies for weeks and then setting aside several days to work on the projects. Other times I’m perfectly content to buy something ready made.

For those of you who like to make gifts for the holidays, I’ve collected 15 really good ones that I think you’ll love. It’s a wide range of projects, and so many of them are great to make with kids. Especially 4, 5, 9 and 10.

Young Adult Gift Guide

The 18 picks in this guide are all focused on items that would be comforting, entertaining, or distracting during the winter months. I had in mind young adults when I put this together, but I would personally love many of the items on this list as well. Come see!

Design Mom’s Favorite Christmas Books

The Best Christmas Books featured by top US lifestyle blog, Design Mom: image of a child reading How to Grinch Stole Christmas

Tis the season to read holiday books while snuggled up on the sofa. Here’s a list of our top family favorites — and a few new-to-us titles too. 

Some of these books are good for older readers (even grown ups) and some for the littlest listeners. Some are religious and sentimental, others are completely secular. But altogether, I think they make a really good collection.

For each title, I’m including links to Bookshop.org. Best-selling author Luvvie Ajayi recommends it as an ideal online option that supports local independent bookstores. I’ll also include an Amazon link for each title, because I know some of you have credit there you’d like to use.

A great book-related idea: My sister-in-law Erin wraps up 25 Christmas books and uses them as an advent calendar — her kids unwrap one each day and read it as a family. (If you don’t have 25 Christmas books, you could start with what you have and borrow some from the library.)

You’ll notice this list is focused on Christmas books — because that’s the holiday my family celebrates, and it’s the one I know best. But obviously, there are lots of winter holidays that are celebrated across the world, so if you have recommendations for non-Christmas holiday books, I’d love to learn about them. Feel free to add links or titles in the comments.

Holiday Prep Supplies

Are you already decked out for the holidays? We’re not yet, but this is the week where I’ll gather my supplies. I start by assessing my ribbon and wrapping and gift box stash, and filling in any gaps. (I stock up now for the whole year because prices are best this time of year.)

As for decor, we’ve been gathering it over 25 years of marriage, so in general, we have plenty. But I do notice that every year when we unpack the storage boxes, there’s an item or two that’s beyond repair or looking too shabby and needs to be replaced. So I like window shopping the holiday decor displays so that I know what’s out there (in case I need to pick something up).

Here are some of my very favorite sources for holiday prep:

38 Awesome Gift Ideas for Teens

Top Gift Ideas for Teens featured by top life and style blog, Design Mom: image of wrapped holiday gifts

Your #1 most requested gift guide category? Teens! This gift guide includes 38 options — 18 of those are $20 or under. Lots of great stocking stuffers too.

My own teens were a huge help figuring out what to put on this list. There’s something here for every type of teen you can think of. I’ve got all the Breakfast Club stereotypes covered, and a whole bunch more as well.

Let’s get started. 

Living With Kids: McArthur Krishna

You’ll love getting a peek at McArthur’s bright and beautiful home today. She and her family relocated from India to Portland, Oregon and had to deal with big challenges during the pandemic — like her husband not being able to re-enter the US for a while. But McArthur and her daughter repainted and redecorated rooms to keep occupied and the results are warm and colorful and full of life. McArthur has also worked to make her home a welcome refuge for friends, families, and even strangers. Welcome, McArthur!

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