tips for home renting

How to find the right rental home

My dear friend Niki offered to share some of her wisdom about renting! Since we are thinking that renting will be our best move after we sell our home, I’m soaking up all of the information that she has. To start she is sharing how to find the right rental home to fit your needs, and next time she will share some of the little known perks that come with home renting! Take it away Niki!


Hi, I’m Niki- full time Mama extraordinary to two boys three and under and a lifetime educator. My husband and I operate a small business out of our home, always an adventure with little ones running about! I’m not much for crafting, but I can coax a literate essay out of a 10th grader, make a mean apple pie and pack up a 2,000 sq ft home in less than a week, while balancing a kid on each hip!


So, how to find the right rental for you or your family?


First- decide on your non-negotiables and start looking at least a few months before you even want to start really looking.  Are you set on a certain area, a specific price range or a length of lease that you can’t budge on? Before you even start looking at houses, figure out what CANNOT change and then build your search from there.


The more flexible you can be, the more options you’ll have, but that can get overwhelming. So, play around on rental websites for a bit and see what’s out there. I personally like for window shopping, It lets me look at areas by maps and see what I can get for my monthly budget in different areas.  If schools are important to you, use and stalk the heck out of the neighborhood schools, look in the districts you love for a house.  Look at different styles of homes and decide what you enjoy.



Next- once you know a general area you like and a style of house you’re all about, start budgeting. Renting can be a bit pricey in the beginning. Figure in costs. Most landlords wanted a security deposit and at least one month’s rent up front. There’s also typically earnest money of at least a few hundred bucks to take the house off the market and and application fees of 25-100 dollars per adult applicant.

Moving costs can be pricey as well, so figure that into your budget. My best advice is put aside three months’ rent for your move in cost before you start looking. This takes the pressure off of you and gives you more flexibility in where you can move. Also, and we’ve done this- consider lump sums. Maybe you want a house, but think the landlord is asking a bit much for it. We’ve talked rent down by paying quarterly instead of monthly. Many landlords will take less for it total if you’ll pay a few months at a time. It gives you some bargaining power.

Ok, so you’ve got an idea of what you want and you’ve saved up some funds- the best advice I can give you as a renter is to find a realtor. I know this seems counter-intuitive, because it’s not like you’re selling, but a realtor can be your best friend in the renting process. They’ll set up viewings for you so you can see multiple homes in one day.

Without a realtor, you have to play phone tag with the landlords or the owners’ agents just to get in the door. You can easily spend a week trying to get someone on the phone to let you go tour the place, why not let a realtor do that for you? Also, landlords take you a lot more seriously with an agent.  To find a great realtor, ask around- see who your friends have used or even search online. 


Many landlords will allow you to move in fairly quickly, as they don’t like to have their home unoccupied. See if you can get your new lease to start a bit before your current situation ends. I’ve had it work out that I had weeks to move so there wasn’t any stress to get out and was able to move and clean up the old place leisurely.


Ask about redecorating, if you like doing it, it can be worked in. Some landlords will let you repaint as long as you’re willing to paint back. My home now actually has walls painted in colors that I really like- grey on some, buttercup on others. It was something that set the house apart in my mind and made it feel different than other rentals. Also, see what you can work out with landscaping and bug spraying. These are essential in Arizona and many landlords are willing to throw them in for free so you don’t even have to think about it.

Renting can be fun and make your life easier. If you do your research in the beginning and set yourself up to be in a great situation from the beginning, it can make all the difference in the long run.



Thanks Niki! I have learned so much and I feel a lot more comfortable with the prospect of home renting thanks to your sage advice. Also, there are a lot of really great bloggers that rent and talk about how they update their home without making permanent changes. I’m already soaking up a bunch of inspiration since I know I will want to decorate to some extent. 


picky eaters

How to handle picky eaters

My household is filled with picky eaters, especially right now. My husband likes to eat a Paleo diet and says that it isn’t dinner if it doesn’t have meat. McKenna, well she’s a toddler #enoughsaid. And lately I am even picky! Due to my pregnancy I have been having food aversions all over the place. I’m trying to figure out how to balance all of our food needs right now and here is what I have come up with so far.

It may seem a bit dramatic to put it this way…. but I gotta feed me first. It’s sort of like putting the air mask on myself first in a plane crash. When I’m not pregnant food is whatever to me. When I’m pregnant I HAVE TO HAVE FOOD OR ELSE. It’s a really big deal that I eat when I need to and that I get the protein and other nutrients necessary. What I do is make sure that I stock up on some quick proteins that aren’t disgusting to me currently (greek yogurt, some protein bars, protein powder that I mix in smoothies, peanut butter, hardboiled eggs and a few others). Having these quick foods is really helpful when you are super busy… and on days when you are just plain super exhausted from being pregnant. I eat far more of these types of food than I’d like to admit but I’m doing my best.  When I have more energy I will make myself bean and cheese burritos or if I can muster eating meat I will heat up leftovers from the night before.

The good news is that because I have so many aversions and I’m sticking to those quick foods I can get food to the others much quicker as well. McKenna is picky in a way where I really have to play some mind games. She loves almost all food, she really does. However, sometimes she decides that “it’s too hot,” “it’s too spicy” or my favorite “I don’t like it right now”. Ugh. Kids are crazy. It’s a good thing they are cute. Generally, I will start by giving her two protein options both of which she usually likes because protein is the hardest thing to get her to eat.  After she eats that I will offer up fruit, veggies, etc. She happens to love her fruits and veggies so those are pretty easy to get her to gobble up. If she eats all of that I will give her a treat of sorts, like fruit snacks or crackers.  When she eats like this it’s a good day. There are also days where she refuses to eat anything but O’s (cheerios) but she is figuring out that I’m just as (or more) stubborn than she is. After some soul searching mommy always wins 🙂

Brandon is the pickiest of us all. He tries to stick to a Paleo diet (if you aren’t sure what that is – here is a great resource).  Because the two biggest restrictions of this diet are dairy and carbs we (the diet and I) have a hard time getting along for the long term. In order to keep up with his mostly Paleo lifestyle we make simple lunches ahead of such as “a dump” – which we named because we just put ground meat and anything else that we think would taste good in it to bulk it up. We almost always add mushrooms, jalepenos, greens, garlic, etc. We change up the seasoning each time so that he doesn’t get bored with it. Otherwise we cook up chicken and a veggie and call it good. For dinners we have found some favorite Paleo meals that I enjoy as well. Because I save them in my Paprika app it’s easy to see which recipes are Paleo and then skim for the ones that we have rated highly.

Dinner is by far the hardest to accommodate us all but the preparation ahead of time to ensure that we all have some food available helps a lot. There are nights where I make a meal and although I usually like it, I just can’t. I blame the baby in my belly. Those nights my tummy is usually in charge and I eat whatever it says, even if it’s pizza rolls, ha! There are also nights where I can’t even begin to look at a piece of meat and Brandon needs to cook, eat leftovers or one of the lunches we’ve cooked ahead of time. McKenna generally eats most food we make for dinner but she definitely eats the most in the morning and the least at night. I’m comfortable with it since I know what and how much she eats during the day.

So, the key is flexibility and preparation. Honestly, that’s all it takes. Sometimes it’s hard to get stuff ready ahead of time but when we do everyone gets fed and enjoys it!

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19 week collage

Dear Future Baby, 19 weeks

How far along: 19 weeks (sorry I’ve missed a few weeks!)

Gender guess: I made a bet with Brandon this week that it’s a boy… I feel pretty sure about it but who knows lol

How I’m feeling: The last few weeks have been rough physically and emotionally. A lot of stress up in here but things are moving along. I will post more about that later this week.

Highlight this week: Brandon and I got a night to ourselves recently! I missed McKenna so so much but it was lovely to have some time for just us because pretty soon it’s gonna get crazy up in here!

Miss anything: I’ve been too busy lately to miss anything.

Movement: There are a couple of times that I thought I felt a kick here or there and some flutters at night. I’m still not positive, but it’s way more than I ever got close to feeling with McKenna this early on, so I’ll take it.

Cravings: I’ve been eating a lot of peanut butter – on toast, bananas, sandwiches, etc. I’ve been able to eat a little more meat as well which is good so I can get protein more easily. I’m also loving dairy, especially milk.

Looking forward to: Since I last posted I had a baby appointment and I got a lot of relief from hearing answers to my questions. I’m doing everything I need to, except maybe being stressed and not getting enough sleep. Hey, I’m working on it!

What Brandon says about the baby: Brandon says “SHE is amazing, and I can’t wait to meet HER.” This of course is because he is of the belief that we are having a girl. We shall see.

What McKenna says about the baby: McKenna talks about you all the time but is having a hard time understanding that you are still coming! If it doesn’t happen right away…. lol



Dear future baby,

In some ways this pregnancy has been easier and in other ways it has been way harder. In one breath I say that it’s going by so quickly since we are being kept so busy. In the very next moment I feel like it is taking forever for you to get here! We know that everything will change when you get here, and we are SO excited for it.

Daddy thinks you are a girl, I think you are a boy, McKenna often says you are “bofe of dem” (meaning that you are both boy and girl? Or maybe she means that she thinks there are twins in there… not sure but wow). We are anxiously awaiting finding out whether you are a boy or a girl at the gender reveal in September.

Love, your future Mama

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happy header

Don’t wait for someone else to make you happy!

My mom taught me from the very young age that happiness is a choice. This can be a little controversial considering depression doesn’t feel like a choice. I’m not going to get into that part of things. I believe that each individual has their own experiences. For me, I’ve had moments, days, and even years where I’ve struggled with depression. I’ve also had periods of time where I’ve maintained pretty well. On the whole, I am actually a very happy person. There are a lot of people that I interact with that have no clue that I have struggled with depression. It isn’t always an obvious thing that people put out there.

The main thing that I’ve learned through my experiences is that I cannot wait for someone else to “make” me happy. There have been some really tough times that I’ve pulled myself out of. I have tried many medications in different dosages trying to level things out. I have made some big life choices in some cases to increase my joy. These are dramatic changes but it’s really the small things that make the biggest difference. Waking up every day with a plan of action, and choosing to be happy. Sometimes shit happens, right? When it does, I turn it around by acting silly with my daughter, turning up the music, maybe getting a treat or taking a quick moment to meditate and remember what I’m grateful for.

If you want a reminder to choose happiness I made up a few printables that you can download below!


happy white

















Click here to download 


















Click here to download 



how to style bangs

How to hide bangs 

Let’s start this party off by letting you know that I’m not extremely fashionable. Sure, I like girly stuff. Cute hair, a well put together outfit and makeup. I do. But if I’m being honest about it I’m not great at it most of the time. Sometimes I get super lucky and hit one out of the park but I have hardly been trying lately. Being a SAHM (stay at home mom) has made me a bit more lax in this department.

Now that I’m getting more pregnant I feel the need to make an effort in areas where I can. In other words, since clothes don’t fit me I might as well try with my hair and makeup every once in awhile!

Back to the point at hand. Bangs. In Arizona summers bangs are NOT fun. I love my bangs, I really do. But I can’t handle them in my face during the summer so I’ve been looking for fun ways to get them out of the way until it cools off a bit here. These are some of the fun ideas I’ve found!


Cover them with a headband! This is the easiest of them all.

head-scarf with bangsscarf braided into hairheadband over bangs

via 1/2/3







Twisting and pinning is fairly simple as well.

twist bangsfold over bang twist





via 1/2






These are my favorites but are the hardest to accomplish.

French braid bangs


Side Twist Fishtail Braid







via 1/2

I hope some of these have inspired some new ways to get those bangs out of your face this summer! I know that I’ve needed them all summer and it’s still hot as hades here and will be for awhile.

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McKenna and mama at her first birthday - Circus themed 1st birthday

I love to party – how to throw a themed party

I really do. It’s such a blast for me to plan parties and then of course I love to go to parties as well. I think it’s because I love themes so much. I use themes to  decorate rooms, put together gifts and of course to plan parties!

I am working through plans for our gender reveal right now but I’m getting stuck for some reason. Because of my party planning rut I thought it might help to revisit some of the parties that I’ve planned in the last few years. Some of these I have pictures from but most I do not. I tend to sit back and enjoy my parties instead of taking pictures.

When I was single I threw a few fun parties that were vaguely themed, such as a fondue party, holiday themed dinners and parties, etc.  Then I moved into my next phase where I wanted to do more than just make food and decorate. I decided that I wanted to dress up! Sometimes not in the typical sense… And other times it was!

I proceeded to throw a masquerade (one of my favorites), a Vegas themed birthday for one of my hubby’s birthdays and one of my favorites was McKenna’s 1st birthday which was circus themed.

Some of my favorite pieces of a party to plan are the following:

  • Themed food
  • Decorations
  • Costumes
  • Invitations
  • Suspense!


Themed Food





Food is a really important part of life let alone a party. I like to make the food work with the theme of the party as much as possible. For my husband’s birthday party that was Vegas themed everything was red, white and black and I made everything work within that theme. I also really like to make signs for the food that show how each group of food goes with the theme. It’s quick and it’s an easy way to keep organized when you have multiple people helping you to setup.





Some of the common things that I do for parties include: custom made posters to work with the theme, a photo area (with props if applicable), balloons of course, and a sign for the door. There is always some specific decorating that happens for each party since they are all so unique as well.



If possible I really love to wear a costume. It must be the theatre side of my personality. I love to play dress up still! I didn’t dress up for McKenna’s first birthday but you can bet that I dressed her up! For Brandon’s birthday party I got everyone to dress in “dapper attire”. It really made the whole night a lot more special.

Invitations and Suspense!

McKenna's 1st birthday invite

Sending out invitations in a timely manner can really build suspense for the party itself. When you take care with your invitations you make an impression on everyone that is invited about what kind of effort you put in to make it special. I am learning Photoshop at this point but my SIL is amazingly talented with it and has helped me with many of my party invitations. She has an etsy shop where she offers this service (along with other similar services).

As I mentioned earlier, I’m working on our upcoming gender reveal party and I am soooo excited!! I will share some of the ideas here soon.

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vince lombardi quote header

On getting back up

It’s been a rough couple of weeks around these parts. Some of it was a good thing but some of it has been really chaotic and stressful. I was MIA all last week from here for a couple of reasons.

This pregnancy is kicking my butt. I’m so tired all the time but I’m pushing myself to get the things done that I need to every day.

A big portion of our roof came flying off during a monsoon storm about a week and a half ago. I am still dealing with roofers to get quotes and the insurance adjuster who doesn’t seem to want to give me the money that it will cost to get the roof repaired.

We’ve had some money stresses – ’nuff said.

This is a fun one… We just decided that we are going to sell our house! We tried last year but it didn’t work out so we are at it again and I have a good feeling about it. Although, I’m trying not to get my hopes up. We will be renting a home after we sell this home for a year or so and I’m a little excited for it. I haven’t really rented besides when I was in college and have been a home owner since 2006 so this will be new for me. I was talking to a good friend of mine who has been renting for awhile and she agreed to write a post on the pros and cons of renting! I’m excited because it’s in the forefront of my mind right now for sure.

Now just because things have been rough doesn’t mean I’m giving up here! This is where I get to let my voice ring true and I don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon.

I made up this printable if you need a reminder like I do to keep getting back up!

Vince Lombardi quote

Click here to download


playroom panic header

Playroom Panic 

I’m not proud of this…. And I can’t believe I’m putting these pictures on the Internet. You’re gonna be looking at one messy playroom here in a minute. This is what McKenna’s playroom looked like last week:

playroom before

Now I did immediately clean up and figure out some better placement directly after snapping those pics BUT STILL! Part of the problem is that we never found a great layout nor have we made good systems that allow for easy clean up.

I have a mighty big job ahead of me here so I’m gonna take a moment to share what my plans are (although they will change along the way I’m sure).

In no particular order:

  • Move play kitchen to play room
  • Sort through EVERYTHING in the playroom
  • Donate half (eek!) of what’s in the room
  • Organize all remaining toys
  • Label, label, label
  • Add some flair to the plain rug
  • Fill holes and touch up paint (my least favorite of all)
  • Figure out a solution to block some or all of the library shelf to help the room appear tidier than it is. I may also paint it white… We shall see.
  • Make a clean up sign to remind McKenna of the need to clean up
  • Find places for the baby stuff that I’m getting back from friends that I loaned them to
  • Add homemade art and hang some existing art

I don’t know how quickly this is going to get completed but I’m hoping it will be somewhat soon. McKenna loves having a dedicated playroom and I would feel way better if it was a clean and organized playroom. I’m going to have to work on the room in pieces when I get any bit of energy. I’m in the middle of so many projects but I’m waiting on something or someone for each of them so I will continue to keep these juggled balls in the air for now!


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tutu and cape header

DIY super hero cape and DIY tutu

I’m back to show you how to make the adorable cape and tutu that I just gifted to my niece  last week. It’s not a new idea; there are TONS of tutorials on how to make tutus out there. But so many people still don’t know how to make them, or are afraid to try. I’m here to show you that it’s really not that hard, I promise! I will walk you through both and I can say that it didn’t take me longer than an hour to whip out both of them (and that included taking pictures).

Let’s start with the super hero cape:

super hero cape


Materials needed: I bought 1 yard of sequin material but based on my niece’s height I could have gotten away with 3/4 yard. If it were McKenna I could have used 1/2 yard so think about your little one’s height when making that decision.

Tools needed: Scissors and your hands 🙂

Step 1: Gather your materials and tools.


Step 2: In order to figure out where to make the neck ties (as well as to where to start the slight diagonal cut downwards) I needed to get a neck measurement. Since my niece wasn’t around I used McKenna as a model and made it slightly larger. Once I knew how big the neck needed to be I marked it with pins on both sides of the neck so that I wouldn’t cut past that point. You will notice that this is the selvage edge so it looks slightly different. That helped me to cut pretty evenly.


Step 3: It helps to start the cuts before cutting all the way down to ensure that you will get 3 fairly even pieces. Do this on both sides.


Step 4: Continue the cuts until you get to the cape’s neck area where you marked with pins. Do this on both sides.


Step 5: Braid the ties on both sides.


Step 6: I used McKenna as a model for the first cut to get an idea of how I wanted the cape to drape and then once I had the first side done I copied it on the other side. I did it this way mostly because McKenna wouldn’t stay still but now that I think about it I’m glad because it makes it even.


Bing, bang, boom! It really was that easy. I think I got it done in 10-15 minutes. 


Next up, DIY tutu!

DIY tutu final


Just to preface this, there really aren’t 12 steps but I wanted to make sure it was as clear as possible, so I may combine a few of them for the sake of being concise.

Materials needed:

  • Tulle by the roll in colors of your choice – I used two colors of pink (one roll each)
  • Ribbon to coordinate – I used pink sparkly ribbon (I like to have a stiff ribbon for this purpose)

Tools needed:

  • A piece of cardboard as big or bigger than the length you want your tutu
  • Tape to adhere your ribbon to a wall for ease of tying
  • Permanent marker or pen to mark ribbon with measurements

Step 1: Gather your materials and tools.


Step 2 & 3: I measured my niece’s waist with the ribbon, and marked it with a permanent marker leaving extra length on both sides for tying at the end. I taped the ribbon on the wall.



Step 4: I decided on the length of the tutu and cut a piece of cardboard to that length and wrapped the tulle around again and again until it was gone. I always make a note on the cardboard about which side I start on so I know where to cut.




Step 5 & 6: I cut the tulle down one side so that I have a lot of pieces of tulle all double the length that I want the tutu to be.




Step 7 – 9: I then take each piece of tulle that I cut down to size and I start tying them onto the ribbon making sure that the ribbon doesn’t get twisted up.




Step 10: You will notice that I tie a bunch of pieces of tulle across the entire length but they are quite spread out. I do this so that the tutu doesn’t become lopsided.


Step 11: Once I got my first group of tulle tied onto the ribbon, I duplicated steps 4-6 with the 2nd color of pink tulle.


Step 12: Because I had two colors of pink tulle I wanted to make sure that I alternated pinks so I continued with the 2nd color and filled any gaps with both colors as needed. Two rolls ended up being perfect for this project!



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comparison header


When I became a mother that got a lot harder. A LOT harder. If you’re a mom you know that we are always thinking about our kids. And what do we talk about? Our kids. It’s just a fact of life. These little people that we raise are so wonderful and important. We want to make sure that we are doing the best for them that we can. Which is why we talk. But unless we check ourselves it can turn into a very unhealthy thing.

I am so grateful to have close friends that are good about not comparing our children. Not to say that we don’t discuss them at length and ask for help when we need to. But we don’t compare one to another. They are each such amazing little human beings and they are also incredibly different. With different strengths, weaknesses and annoying habits ;-).

On that note, if you would like something to print out to remind yourself not to compare, I made this printable:


Click here to download

Then right click and save as to save to your computer.

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