20 Things to Give Up This Lent

As a Catholic school teacher, I shouldn’t have been surprised when my 8th graders asked me what I had planned to give up this Lent. I paused in that moment and realized that I hadn’t really taken the time to think about it quite yet.

Clearly time’s a tickin’ because tomorrow’s Ash Wednesday begins the Season of Lent; a season of prayer, fasting, and reflection as preparation for the coming of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday.

My students interrupted my train of thought and told me their Religion teacher had given them a list of things to consider giving up for Lent. One student is giving up hot showers! Another is giving up her pillow!

I asked to see the list from their Religion teacher and immediately knew which item I’d be choosing: hitting the snooze button.

Now maybe you’re one of those people who hops right out of bed in the morning–and if that’s the case, well, bully for you. But if you’re anything like me, you’ll eventually awake from your cozy downy cocoon as a happy “morning person”— it just might take 5-7 snoozes in order for that sweet little butterfly to emerge. I know my snoozing drives my husband crazy, and I’m sure I could be more productive in the morning. So this is my goal for Lent: no snoozing.

If you’re on the hunt for a last minute Lenten fast, well look no further. Here are 20 ideas of things you could give up for the next 40 days:

  1. Complaining
  2. Laziness
  3. Judging others
  4. Comparing yourself to others
  5. Cursing
  6. Snacking
  7. Social media
  8. Frivolous shopping
  9. Hitting the snooze button
  10. Fast food
  11. Sarcasm
  12. Your pillow
  13. Hot showers
  14. Salting your food
  15. Staying up late–stick to a bedtime
  16. Checking your smartphone when in the presence of others
  17. Idle curiosity–stop Googling everything, and be content not knowing
  18. Reality television
  19. Soda
  20. Music in the car

Prayers for a peaceful, reflective season, my friends.

❤️ Natalie

The One Thing We Carry

We carry a lot in our tote bags.

I’m quite positive there is a Lego Minifigure and a secret stash of Smarties hidden somewhere in a pocket because—bribery is life with three kids.

But one thing we carry with us all day, even after we set down the tote bag at work or at home, is our scent.

For me, finding a signature scent was as much of a challenge as finding that perfect pair of jeans. I wanted more than something pretty—I wanted something clean, sophisticated, and elegant.

Thankfully, Phlur developed fragrances that are safe from the harmful chemicals, toxins, and hormone disruptors commonly disguised under the ingredient “fragrance” found in most products. Better yet, the scents are modern, beautiful, and as unique as the people who wear them.

Sample sets of three choice fragrances are available for 25% off, using my discount link: http://fbuy.me/j8Lzi

And that’s not all you’ll get! For each sample set purchased, you’ll receive an $18 credit towards a full-sized bottle of your favorite fragrance!

After several samples, my current signature scent is Olmsted & Vaux. Described as “bright, crisp, and ultimately clean. Revitalizes with every wear, like an invigorating walk through Central Park,” it has notes of Sisho Leaf, White Ginger, Orange Flower, and Mate. And it makes me feel polished and powerful.

Finally, to marry with your signature fragrance, Phlur also offers body wash and lotion, along with luxurious candles in the same scent family. So if you’re still searching for a clean scent that fits like a glove, head on over to Phlur and order a sample set today. I can’t wait to hear which samples you choose! ❤️ Natalie [Paid partnership with Phlur]

Petition for a Monthly Galentine’s Day

Last month, my friends and I decided that we needed something more– more than our children, our husbands, and our jobs. We yearned for a chance to talk without interruption, be heard by those who know us best, and to grow into the best versions of ourselves. So we decided to start a book club.

We didn’t have much time to plan, so we decided to start with a book most of us had read: Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis. If I’m completely honest, our conversations were “loosely” based on the book, but mostly centered on sharing our personal triumphs, struggles, and ambitions for the coming year.

And girl, was it good for the soul! Isn’t it wonderful how time can pass, but that one time you helped a friend with that ex-boyfriend “secret mission” is as hilarious as it was 10 years ago? I mean, who else will completely embrace your crazy if not for your best friends?

As working professionals, mothers, and wives, life has made coordinating schedules more difficult than it used to be. No longer are we able to run to our closets, find matching mini-skirts, and meet at the mall in a flash. At this time in our lives, if we are able to arrange a meeting on short notice, we are more likely to arrive with matching mom-buns and coffee cups.

So here’s my petition: Galentine’s Day Should Be Celebrated Monthly.

Whether you’re meeting to discuss a book or grab a drink, it’s SO important that you schedule the time with your just girlfriends. No kids. No husbands. Just your best gals. So get that group chat buzzing and schedule your date for February. And when you meet this month, pick a date for March. You get the picture. Feel free to sign your name to this petition in the comments. I’ll start.

❤️ Natalie

7 Ways to Make February a Love-ly Month

Let’s be honest, January was a LONG month. It was snowy, it was colder than Siberia, and it seemed like it lasted for 87 days because most of us were stuck inside with our angelic whining children.

So as we begin this month of love, let’s make an effort to share it, savor it, and refresh those warm fuzzy feelings in all aspects of our lives. Here are seven easy ideas for making February a love-ly month:

  1. Rearrange a room: I don’t know about you, but sometimes all it takes is a sunny day, a little muscle, and a fresh vantage-point to remind me why I love my home. Rearrange your living room, your bedroom, or your mantle. This is YOUR space, after all. It deserves love, too.
  2. Bake for someone special: Nothing says “I love you” more than a freshly baked (or bought) treat. Bring in treats for the break room at work or send in treats for your child’s teacher. Visit a specialty bakery like La Patisserie Chouquette in St. Louis (see photo above). Just don’t forget to save a treat for yourself!
  3. Dress up: Make an extra effort this month to dress your best. I’m not saying you need to go shopping, but instead, be thoughtful with your attire and make every effort to look polished. You’ll be surprised at the confidence you’ll gain when you’re one of the best dressed people in a room.
  4. Do a craft with your kids: Whether you have washable paint, watercolors, markers, or slime, an hour of creative play can do wonders for your children (and your own sanity). Give a kid a cardboard box and a marker and watch the magic unfold!
  5. Plan a date: If you’ve got an available sitter, go out! Really–you deserve it! But if that’s not an option, plan a date-night at home with your special someone. Break out that cookbook, try something fancy, and pop that bottle of champagne! Oh yeah, and put those kids to bed early!
  6. Schedule self-care: Girl, get your hair done. Book it now, and take two hours to sit in silence with a magazine. Take that hot yoga or spin class on a Saturday afternoon. If all else fails, forget the exercise, and get a massage! Make yourself feel beautiful– because you are; you really are.
  7. Go out with your gals: Start a book club, dinner club, or wine night with your girlfriends. Everyone can commit to once a month, and February is the best month to start celebrating your girls. So get that group text going, the month is short, and female friendships are so important.

What are some ways that you plan to spread the love in February? Leave your ideas in the comments!

❤️ Natalie

Yoga in the Classroom

It all started in English class. For the second year in a row, I was planning to enter my 7th and 8th grade students in the St. Louis Symphony’s Express the Music writing contest. Their task was to listen to Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 and to compose a poem or piece of prose inspired by the music.

Everything started off well enough, until the students realized the classical composition was twelve minutes long. I’m sure you can imagine the moans and groans that followed. I felt like I was back at home with toddlers! But then it occurred to me — they needed a lesson in mindfulness. And honestly, so did I.

We’re ALL switching tabs, scrolling forward, and clicking back and forth constantly throughout the day. Rarely do we stop to focus on one single task or to listen to an entire piece of music without doing or thinking about 98 different things. So, I decided that the very next day, my 7th and 8th graders would practice beginner yoga in the classroom.

Did the students laugh, fall over, and act like touching their toes was a special kind of torture? Yes, absolutely. But in the end, did they listen to the music without distractions? Oh yeah, they did! I played the classical piece again during our final relaxation, and they were calm, quiet, and mindful. #teacherwin

Even better, they begged me to plan a monthly yoga session for them because they felt so relaxed. And now, it’s our new thing. Each month, I send reminder emails for students to bring towels, blankets, or mats to school, and we practice a YouTube guided yoga session.

So if you’re a teacher, or even a parent, look at your planner and consider adding in a little stretching, breathing, or yoga to your monthly routine. You’d be surprised what yoga in the classroom can do for your students, your children, and especially for you.

Thank you emails from parents are a nice perk, too.

❤️ Natalie

5 Clean Swaps You Can Make This Year

January is my favorite month for a few different reasons: first, my birthday is on the 7th, second, I’m refreshed after my Christmas break from school, and third, Victoria and This Is Us return to regular television.

But most of all, I love January because I get to fill out my new paper planner (I’m old school here) and set goals for making THIS the best year yet.

But even if you keep your calendar on your smartphone, you didn’t have a Christmas break or a recent birthday, and you’re not a fan of British royal dramas or Milo Ventimiglia (who even are you?), there are several swaps you can make this year to make health and simplicity a priority.

  1. Clean up your shower with a cotton liner: I’ll admit, I threw out our plastic shower liner before telling my husband. He was so confused one morning when he realized it was gone! But once I explained my crazy, and the fact that plastic liners are made of PVC and contain VOCs, he was happy with a cotton curtain and a clean shower.
  2. Pick out new pots and pans: Do your research on non-stick pots and pans, and you’ll find yourself falling down the toxic-laden rabbit hole. I don’t know about you, but as the main cook in our family, I feel a strong sense of responsibility to safely serve our family meals. This year, I switched to stainless-steel pots and pans. Consider these, or cast-iron, to more safely prepare your family’s meals.
  3. Switch to safer beauty: Scary fact–currently, the US only bans 30 toxic ingredients from personal care products. Download apps like Think Dirty or EWG (Environmental Working Group) to learn more about the ingredients in your makeup, bath, body, baby, and men’s personal care products. Be wary of anything including fragrance, as it can hide toxic ingredients that can be carcinogens and hormone disruptors. I love companies like Beautycounter, Phlur, and Native.
  4. Shop smarter: We can all take a page from Marie Kondo’s book and KonMari our *&%$ until all that is left is what truly “sparks joy.” And when we do choose to buy more, we should consider shopping from local businesses or companies that are certified Bcorps (they put sustainability, transparency, and social and environmental impact above all else).
  5. Detoxify your mind: I know Chris Harrison says this is the “MOST DRAMATIC SEASON YET,” but I literally feel my brain cells melting like the Wicked Witch of the West when I watch any new season of #bachelornation. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have a guilty pleasure, but consider something that will inspire you. Baking shows like The Great British Baking Show, design shows like Grand Designs, or ANYTHING on Masterpiece Classics on PBS will both entertain and enlighten you. Plus, they will give you the most peaceful serene feeling right before you go to bed.

What changes have you already made this new year? I’m always looking for new ideas to add to my list (aka my paper planner).

❤️ Natalie

Beauty Clean and Simple

Hi friends! Thanks for stopping by my little blog.

Each week, I’ll share tips and inspiration as I aspire to live a more beautiful, clean, and simple life.

Building a community of like-minded teachers, moms, and beautiful souls is what brings me the most joy of all. So follow me on Instagram, join my closed Facebook group, or follow along here to stay connected.

❤️ Natalie