Monday, September 29, 2014

Kindness Countdown

I cannot believe how far we have all come since I first started the Ugga Mugga blog nearly seven years ago!  Your children, whom you began reading this parenting blog for have grown, matured and mastered so many skills over the years!  And you're gotten them there!  Congratulations!  Well done, Mama and Daddy! 

Mr. Mugga and I had a third baby and she and our other two children have grown to the ages of 10, 8 and almost 6!  How did that happen?  We set off on the adventure of home education, and have never looked back.  Martha now Irish dances and August and Hazel play soccer all in between Pokemon club, hikes, kickball games with friends, Confirmation classes, book club, visits to flea markets, and bike rides.  It's a busy, full and beautiful life.  But...

The homeschooling and activities coupled with my freelance writing gig and our actual family time has, unfortunately, made it nearly impossible for me to keep up this dear Ugga Mugga blog in the tradition I was once able to do (and that I greatly enjoyed).  It has become more of an occasional letter to an important penpal that I want to keep in touch with...checking in when big things happen in life, and enjoying each letter (comment or emails from readers) I receive in return. 

And so, as promised, I am checking in with exciting family news.  We have started a new 40-week adventure:  the Kindness Countdown.  What is it?  What does it do?  What does this all mean?  Let me explain...

My 40th birthday has been on my mind for a couple of years now.  I wouldn't say I feel old, and I certainly am not dreading turning 40, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel different as this milestone approaches in the horizon.  I clearly remember when my parents turned 40, thinking that it was a huge number...perhaps I'm viewing this birthday just a bit through those 16-year-old eyes.

As a result, I have been spending the past few months reflecting upon the many trials and countless blessings of my past 39 years of life, and have decided to do something big as I approach turning 40 (on June 30, 2015)...something that I hope will make many people smile.  That something is the Kindness Countdown

And so, I will be completing 40 random acts of kindness over the next 40 weeks...for complete strangers (and a few people I know) and documenting them to entertain and hopefully inspire others to spread the kindness in their own lives. 

Spoiler alert:  The first week's act of kindness was a family outing to the grocery store to shop for a local food pantry.  

To follow along on our kindness journey, "like" the Kindness Countdown on Facebook where I will post preparations, other inspirational findings and each week's random act of kindness as it's completed. 

And there's also a Kindness Countdown blog, which Ugga Mugga readers will find nice and comfortable and homey (it shares the same layout and design). 

And so, faithful UM readers, this completes the latest penpal letter from my family.  I hope this finds your family well and full of love!  Until next time...


Monday, September 1, 2014

Mophie Cell Phone Battery Cases

I love my iPhone as much as the next guy, but I must admit to neglecting it's battery...when I walk in the door, bombarded by two adorable pups wanting scratches and three equally-adorable children wanting hugs, the last thing on my mind is putting my phone in it's charger.  This is why I count my Mophie Juice Pack Air as one of my favorite purchases from last year.

Mophie's cell phone cases have a back-up battery built right into them, doubling your phone's battery life...a nice perk for the busy parent or traveler who is both busy on their phone and away from a charger during the day.  But that's not the only reason I love my Mophie case.

This case first caught my eye when I noticed it on Heather Dubrow's phone in an episode of The Real Housewives of Orange County (that's right, I'm not afraid to come out and admit to being a Real Housewives junkie).  Hers, like mine, was the white case on a white phone.

I love the streamlined look and smooth's almost like not having a case at all.  I've received many compliments on my phone's look and have answered the question "what kind of case is that" many times.  

The last attribute of the Mophie case I consider a positive is it's weight.  There is certainly an extra heft to the phone due to the extra battery.  My husband says it would bother him to carry it around all day, but I believe I drop my phone much less often because of it. 

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Young Living Essential Oils

I've been wanting to write this post for months now, but never knew where to begin to express my love for Young Living essential oils.  Finally, in the famous words of Nike, I decided to just do it.  And so, without further ado, I give you my thoughts on what essential oils are, why my family only uses Young Living essential oils, and where you can find additional information.

Therapeutic grade essential oils contain healing nutrients, oxygenating molecules, trace minerals, enzymes, vitamins, hormones, and more all while being 50-70 times more therapeutically potent than the herbs and plants they are derived from.  And unlike antibiotics that are proving to be more and more ineffective in battling super bugs and viruses due to their mutations, the oils are constantly changing alongside the climate, geographical region and soil they are grown in, making their extreme effectiveness consistent and constant. 

Essential oils are anti-bacterial, anti-cancerous and have been shown to destroy all bacteria and viruses while simultaneously building up the immune system. 

Why did I chose Young Living?  After days of research, I discovered Young Living essential oils are the only oils that can be taken internally because they are so pure.  They are the only oils that never expire because they are not cut with synthetic chemicals.  Young Living is not an oil broker, but are the only company that owns their own farms, distills their own oils and rigorously has them tested by a 3rd party.  They are the oils you'll find being used in hospitals and cancer research centers around the globe.  And they're the only ones I will use on my children, myself, my husband, and our two dogs.  Yes, I use oils on my dogs.

We use essential oils in a few different ways.  We apply them directly to sore muscles, upset stomachs, to our wrists and necks and to the bottoms of our feet (where the largest pores are and therefore enable the oils to reach the entire body quickly).  We also diffuse them throughout the house and take them internally in gel capsules. I also use them to clean, cook/bake, and add them to homemade beauty products. 

If you'd like to learn more about Young Living essential oils, there are a few things you could do:
  • "Like" Shannon's CommonScents, a Facebook page I recently started where I am posting information* on specific oils as well as other essential oil-based products.  
  • Email me at shannonscommonscentsATgmailDOTcom with specific questions or to set up a free virtual Introduction to Essential Oils party for you and your friends and family.  
  • Sign up to become a Young Living member and receive a lifetime discount of 24% off all products after the purchase of a starter kit (I recommend the Premium Start Kit which includes a diffuser, 11 essential oils and blends, as well as samples of some other great Young Living products all for only $150!). 
* - Below is a sample post recently added to the Shannon's CommonScents Facebook page.
"You smell really good...really happy!"

I can't tell you how many times I've been told this when wearing Joy, a luxuriously exotic blend of Bergamot, Ylang Ylang, Geranium, Lemon, Mandarin, Jasmine, Roman Chamomile and Rose.

I use Joy each morning by rubbing two drops between the palms of my hands cupping them around my nose and inhaling deeply (this enables the oil to reach the limbic system in the brain) and then applying it to the insides of my wrists, behind my ears and over my heart.

The uplifting overtones of Joy exudes an alluring and irresistible fragrance that inspires romance and togetherness and brings joy to the heart. And who wouldn't want more of that in their life?!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Alphabet Spoon Puzzle

My daughter, Hazel, has had her uppercase letters mastered for a while now, but the lowercase ones were giving her some trouble.  We practiced writing them in a plate covered in homemade whipped cream, we drew them in sand in the yard, and she played some pre-K iPad games geared towards letter-learning...all to no avail.

And so, I started to brainstorm some other ideas.  I had seen this spoon trick used for a different memorization project on Pinterest last year and thought I'd give it a shot with letters...voila!  It appears the combination of a challenge to complete, tactile movable parts, and picking out her favorite color of spoons was the perfect storm she needed to master her lowercase letters. 

This project is inexpensive and super simple to make...and if you have older siblings in the house, this is something they'll love to get involved with.  The spoons are also easy to tuck in a bag or keep in the car to be used during an older sibling's soccer practice or dance recital.  Follow the three steps below to make your own Alphabet Spoon Puzzle (or a puzzle for anything else your child is struggling to learn):
  1. Purchase 26* colored spoons and 26 clear spoons.
  2. Using a Sharpie, write an uppercase letter towards the top of each spoon.
  3. Lay a clear spoon over the colored one and write the corresponding lowercase letter towards the bottom of the spoon.
* - Unfortunately, there are no packs of 26 spoons to purchase.  Fortunately, the extras can be used to eat ice cream.  I highly suggest eating ice cream for dinner with your family at least once a year, maybe even two or three times annually.  Try this trick tonight and enjoy all of the extra hugs and kisses you are sure to garner.  You're welcome!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

DIY Light Box

Winters in Wisconsin are long (especially this year) and the days are short.  In my search to find some fun activities that take advantage of our early sunsets, I happened upon light boxes and tables.  But the price tags ranging from $50 to $400 were a bit more than I wanted to pay for something I knew my children would use a few months out of the year, but it gave me an idea.  And so I present to you my $5 DIY Light Box. 

To make this you'll need the following items:

To make this light box I first covered the bottom of my bin (the one I found in my basement had clear sides and a frosted bottom) with paper and taped it neatly.  Next, I spray painted the sides of the bin black and removed the paper and tape.   If you can't find a frosted bin, I've discovered some plastic frosted sheets you could apply to the inside of your plastic box. 

We first tried tap lights inside the box which worked just fine, but I couldn't help but wonder if a strand or two of white Christmas lights would disperse the light a bit better...and so I ventured to our basement yet again and dug two strands out of a box.  I can't say if the Christmas lights provide better light or not, but I do know we stuck with them.  One corner of my bin had a crack which actually works perfectly for this project, allowing the light cord an exit from the bin.

And voilĂ , my light box was complete. 

The only money I spent on this light box was on some inexpensive toys from a local educational store, but even they probably weren't necessary.  My kids have enjoyed using the light box to trace pictures, they've laid out parquetry blocks to create silhouettes, and they love playing with their water beads on the box which roll around and feel squishy (it's a sensory explosion!). 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

A Love Letter to Anthropologie

Dearest Anthropologie,
You are a long-time, trusted who has proven to be there for me time and time again throughout each stage in life. 

Our relationship began back in 1998 when I was on the market for a new blazer to wear to my college internship interview.  Of course you came through for me.  And as I saved money earned from that first job (landed in part, I'm sure, to my stylish jacket), I peppered my apartment with unique home goods I found in the pages of your catalog. 

When my family expanded, you did too, opening brick and mortar stores in Chicago where you displayed a lovely dress for my bridal shower, detailed dog sweaters for my dear wire fox terrier Skone, unique shirts I could disguise as maternity clothing, and baby hats and sweaters for my children during the holiday seasons. 

Oh, Anthro (can I call you Anthro?), how do I describe the joy I felt when it was announced you were opening a store in Milwaukee only 20 miles from my house?  Do I tell you about the countless times this homeschooling mama of three has hidden away from home and roamed aimlessly around the store taking in it's color palette and prints or about the cherished memories and artwork created by my children during your in-store crafting events and now displayed in my home? 

Where do I even begin...and will it ever end?  No, I'm confident our relationship will forever continue.  For just this week I received news that my aging eyes required reading glasses, and without skipping a beat you offered me multiple stylish designs to choose from...and some colorful hair ties at checkout to pull back my long graying hair.  
We are not only friends, Anthro, but family...and our tree is sprouting new branches as the years go by.  My daughter Martha is grafting her own relationship with you.  This past November she was filled with pride when she recognized your name on the Rockefeller Center store when we visited a friend in New York City.  She settle in on the bustling sidewalk, mesmerized, as the designers created your holiday window displays, insisting the whole while that I take detailed photographs so she could attempt to replicate the geodes and yarn designs when we returned home. Yes, our family tree is a healthy one.

We have an excellent track record, you and I.  We are celebrating our 16th anniversary this year, and to date, we've only ever had one argument.  You know the one.  It involved a $6,500 Stand Up Paddleboard out of my financial reach that was stylish enough to ruin the excitement of any other board I would discover after.  And so, board-free I remain, despite living in an ideal SUP location nestled between Lake Michigan and Cedar Creek.  But it's OK, I'm sure over time I will find a way to forgive you.

Thank you, Anthropologie, for walking alongside me through this adventure called life.  I know the warmth I feel when I add a vintage Anthro sweater to my outfit is your loving arms wrapped around me.  A stylish and trusted friend can make even the darkest days a bit brighter...and the glow of your website on my computer screen has always remained one click away, never failing me.  And for that I am forever grateful.
Forever yours,
PS - If you want to settle our squabble once and for all, say the word and I'll forward you my address (FYI: the Kai Ko'o is my favorite board design).

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Freezer French Toast Sticks

I'm always on the lookout for healthy snacks and  meals that can be prepared ahead of time and enjoyed with only a moment's notice.  And if said nourishment can be prepared by my independent children, then I'm an extra happy mama!

These french toast sticks meet all of the above, they're delicious.  That's what I call a win-win-win!

  • 16 slices of French bread (cut into 3/4" slices) or Texas Toast
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 8 eggs
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1-1/3 cup milk
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and coat a cookie sheet with cooking spray or butter.
  2. Cut each slice of bread into thirds.
  3. Mix/beat together melted butter, eggs, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and milk in a wide mixing bowl.
  4. Dip each stick into the egg mixture (take a bit of extra care with the middle slices), place them on the cookie sheet, and bake for 25 minutes (flipping them halfway through the baking time).
  5. Cool on tray to room temperature and then flash freeze them (still on a tray).  After they're frozen, they can be stored in a freezer-safe container of your choice.  
Half of our initial french toast sticks never made it to the freezer...the kids came running into the kitchen when they smelled the baked cinnamon and vanilla and dug right in.  The rest were reheated, three at a time, for about a minute on high in the microwave and served with maple syrup.  

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Eve FREE Printables

This year, since two of my three children can now write on their own, we're going to start a tradition of writing a letter to ourselves on New Year's Eve...and our hopes and dreams for 2014.  In researching different ways to do this, I happened upon this great little kit from run lucas run

Included are Resolution Cards (which include great prompts like A habit I'm going to break, A good deed I'm going to do, A book I'd like to read, and A new food I'd like to try), blank Dear Me letters to write to yourself, and Children's Cards that have plenty of space for your children to record their favorite food, singing and dancing song, storytime book, color, and a place they'd like to visit. 

I think it will be great family fun to write these out tonight...and even more fun to read through them together in 2014! 

Wishing you all a happy and healthy New Year full of love and laughter!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Handprint Beanie Turkeys

With only two days to spare, I finally executed a Thanksgiving craft with my kids (it's been a bit hectic over here).  And they turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself.

To create these little tom turkeys, I had my kids trace their hands on a piece of brown cardboard (not a thick corrugated cardboard, but one on the thinner side, like a cereal box...or, ahem, like the inserts in J.Crew shipping boxes...).  After they cut them out, we glued them onto their chosen color of construction paper using a glue stick so they'd remain flat.  I did press them in a book for about an hour as well to ensure their flatness, but I don't know that it was necessary. 

Next, using white glue, they glued on their googley eyes and kidney bean wattles, followed by the beans for the bodies and "feathers."  I thought that would be it, but Hazel wanted her turkey to be in grassy field, Martha found some yellow beans mixed in with the brown lentils that she thought would make a great beak and legs, and August thought his turkey should wear a hat.  I have to say, I agree. 

And there you have it, handprint beanie turkeys!  Gobble Gobble!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Homemade Deodorant Recipe

I have tried just about every natural deodorant on the market in the last 20 years...all with disappointing results.  Six months ago I whipped up my first batch of homemade deodorant and have been thrilled with the results!  It even works on my husband.  Even through summer.

I'm not exagerating when I say I whipped it takes minutes to make and uses ingredients you probably already have on hand:  coconut oil, baking soda and arrowroot powder (or cornstarch).  If you want to get fancy, you can add some essential oil (I prefer peppermint, but lavender and rosemary are nice too).  
Once you've mixed it together, you can either keep it in a jar and apply it with your hand or a cloth or you can refill traditional deodorant containers like you see in my photo above.  No matter how you apply it, you'll need to be sure it's either rubbed in completely or blotted prior to putting your shirt on to avoid staining.  Coconut oil stains are difficult to get out...the earlier they're treated, the better.  But the best is to avoid them altogether.

My other tip is to use caution when in a hot climate.  Coconut oil melts quickly so you may want to store it in the refrigerator during summer if you don't have air conditioning.  Also, I use a small jar when traveling to avoid getting coconut oil throughout my toiletry bag (I learned the hard way).  It solidifies again within a couple of hours of unpacking.

Without further ado, I present my homemade deodorant recipe:

  • 6-8 Tbsp coconut oil (solid state)
  • 1/8-1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1/4 cup arrowroot powder or cornstarch (the fine texture of arrowroot is preferred)
  1. Combine your baking soda & arrowroot powder/cornstarch. Some people's skin can be sensitive to baking soda resulting in a rash.  If your pH level is affected, use less baking soda.
  2. Add coconut oil, working it in with a spoon or an immersion blender (pulsing, so as not to melt the coconut oil) until it maintains a firm but pliable texture similar to commercial deodorant.  If it is too hard, add more coconut oil.  If it is too wet, add more soda/powder. Once it's the correct texture, add it to your container of choice. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

OMG! J.Crew Maternity

I thought my family of five was complete...until I noticed the Maternity Pixie Pant on J.Crew's website this morning.

The Pixie has a classic cigarette silhouette and would be a great staple in any pregnant woman's wardrobe; they will always be in style and can be paired with any shirt!  The Maternity Pixie Pant comes in black, navy and pinot noir (at least there's one safe way to enjoy wine during the 9-month hiatus) and is available at for $118.

If J.Crew expands their maternity line any further, I may have to consider adding to my family...or at least entertain the idea of becoming a surrogate, as my BFF suggested when I told her the news. (I'm joking.  I'm at least 98.2% joking...)

Saturday, August 3, 2013

2-Day Magazine Sale

I received an email today notifying me of a steep sale on many family-focused magazines...THIS WEEKEND ONLY!  Below are some of the titles/prices included: 

For Children
  • Ranger Rick - $11.99/year (10 issues)
  • Boys' Life - $4.99/year (12 issues)
  • Jack & Jill - $7.99/year (6 issues)
  • Sparkle World - $13.99/year (6 issues)
  • Thomas & Friends - $14.99/year (6 issues)
For Adults
  • FamilyFun - $3.99/year (10 issues)
  • Parents - $4.99/year (12 issues)
  • Wired - $4.99/year (12 issues)
  • Popular Science - $4.99/year (12 issues)
  • Shape - $4.99/year (12 issues)
  • Glamour - $4.99/year (12 issues)
  • Yoga - $4.99/year (9 issues)
  • Instructor - $4.99/year (6 issues)
  • Vanity Fair - $4.99/year (12 issues)
 Happy shopping!  Happy reading!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Table Tennis: Love-All

I come from a long line of tennis players.  That same long line is quite competitive.  One of my first memories is being timed on a puzzle when I was against my parents, older cousins, uncle and grandparents.  I obviously lost that round, but have won many other competitions since then, including Who Knows the Most Words to the Next Song on the Radio, Who Can Get This Rubber Ball Stuck in a Tree Branch First, and Who Can Guess the Waiter's Hometown City Closest in Miles, to name a few.  As I said, we're competitive...and our competitions know no bounds and are created when you least expect them.  It's a life lived on your toes.  And I love it.

During our cold, snowy winters, we all play ping pong (well, we actually play all year, but you get the idea) to keep a firm grip on our tennis skills.  Fortunately for us, one of the five SPiN locations in the world happens to be in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (the others are in Dubai, New York City, LA and Toronto for those of you who belong to a competitive family like mine and need to gather all of the trivia information you can).  Throughout the year, my family travels from various states across the Midwest (some have even flown in from further away) and we execute a tournament bracket created by my cousin Doug. 

One product that makes our  year-round ping pong playing possible is the Anywhere Table Tennis Set from Sportcraft.  This nifty set includes an expandable and retractable net with adjustable posts that can turn any table into a ping pong table, two paddles, three balls, and a storage bag.

This set is easy to put up and take down (my kids use it on their own when they want to practice - they're fortunate to have two dogs to fetch the balls for them when they play) and is compact for storage, making it easy to pack for family vacations.   

Visit to purchase the Anywhere Table Tennis Set for $24.99 (ships free with a Prime membership).  And wish me luck...we have a family tournament scheduled this weekend! 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Camp Classic Play

If you're like most parents I know, your children's planned summer activities are coming to an end.  Almost every parent I've talked to the past few summers have their children participate in organized camps and classes at some point in June and July, but leave the month of August open for spontaneous fun and family time (my family included). 

Camp Classic Play is a week-long list of classic activities put together by some of my favorite fellow bloggers.  If your family completes the activities, there are badges and a downloadable certificate to print out in the areas of Science + Nature, Athletics + Games, Gardening, Arts + Crafts, and Cooking. 

To get your family started on this classic play adventure, visit  Now go and make some summer memories!  

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Kids React to Cheerios Commercial

Do you all remember the Cheerios commercial that depicted an interracial family?  Unfortunately, there was a lot of hatred spewed as a result of the cute, supportive, thoughtful family due to the color of their skin.  :(

I felt sick and lost a bit of hope in humanity when first hearing of the unnecessary and unjustified controversy.  But I feel lighter and more hopeful today after watching the video below in which an intelligent group of young people react to the commercial (spoiler alert: they don't even realize there was an interracial family on the commercial!) and are then questioned afterwards.  It is quite touching. 

Out of the mouths of babes...