The Short List: July

Holland Michigan

Disclosure: This post contains some affiliate links.

I couldn’t let the last day of July slip by without sneaking in a Short List for the month! July flew by for us, mostly because it was packed with lots of summer fun. We fit in cookouts, s’mores, fireworks, lots of pool time, a trip to the beach, Symphony on the Prairie, and more. Tonight, though, is the night Elena and I have been looking forward to since last Christmas: we’re going to see One Direction! I’m just as excited as she is, and not the least bit embarrassed to admit it.

Pier Point Beach Michigan

Next week we’ll be celebrating a certain guy’s 8th birthday. It will be our last full week before school starts back up. Thankfully we did our back to school shopping last week, so we can spend our remaining days doing fun, carefree summer stuff, including a day at the Indiana State Fair.

Before I switch the computer off and switch full boy band celebration mode on, here are a few things I wanted to share with you this month!


We have two episodes left of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt … we love it, but we epically fail at binge watching anything! Unless I’m sick and wiped out on the couch, I can’t sit and watch more than two episodes of anything. Mike and I have been watching Ballers on HBO. It’s actually pretty terrible, but we can’t look away. Well, until the next season of Hard Knocks starts on August 11. We have high hopes for the new Netflix original series Wet Hot American Summer.


I just finished the sequel to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Hollow City, by Ransom Riggs. It took me a few chapters to remember how the last book ended and to get my characters straight, but then I tore through it. I think Elena and I are going to have to give up listening to All the Bright Places and finish it by reading the book. We both love it, but we’re hardly ever in the car together alone to listen, and we’re dying to know how it ends! I’m just starting another book I originally picked up for her, The Aviary by Kathleen O’Dell. I was hoping it would be a book we could discuss together, but as I get into it I see why she wasn’t into it. I’m intrigued enough to finish it, though. Eli and I finished Masterpiece and have moved on to Wildwood by Colin Meloy. So far it’s a great read aloud for almost 8-year-old boys! Through Audible, I’m listening to We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas. I think I would’ve been turned off by the length and tediousness of it in print form, but I’ve enjoyed listening to the long, drawn-out pace of the family’s story while puttering about the house. My free Audible trial is over, but I’ve enjoyed it enough that I’m going to continue with it. I also downloaded the Kindle app on my iPad and have been reading some advanced reader copies of books via NetGalley. I love the feeling of always having something to read or listen to no matter where I am, and I’m reading so much more this year thanks to all of these options.


Mary's secret ingredients subscription box

I have a thing for grocery stores … not because I’m in love with grocery shopping, but because I love looking at food! One of my favorite things to do when we’re in a new place is to go to the store. I know I’ll find new-to-me, unique foods. I just love trying new flavors and ingredients. So when I was asked if I’d like to try Mary’s secret ingredients, a seasonal subscription box that features a curated collection of unique food products, I didn’t have to think twice. My summer box was delivered full of fun stuff.

Mary's secret ingredients summer subscription box

Eli tore into Love Grown Food PowerO’s minutes after the box was opened. I saw that it was made with navy beans, garbanzo beans and lentils and held my breath. He saw that it was made with chocolate and devoured it. The Rufus Teague barbecue sauce has been a hit on the grill. My favorite find from the box has been the Villa de Patos Maguey Sweet Sap. Made from the maguey plant (in the Agave family) native to Mexico, the Sweet Sap is an unrefined and unprocessed sweetener. I used it to sweeten our fresh watermelon lime margaritas last weekend and it was fantastic. Each box also includes some kind of kitchen gadget, which is a fun splurge for me. The summer box a pretty funky, yet useful, Speegee spatula. I appreciate that the purchase of each box helps support Feed the Children. I also like that there are only 4 boxes a year, one for each season, so as not to overwhelm you with the cost or the amount of food. It would make a fun and affordable treat for your own kitchen, or a unique gift for someone who loves food and cooking.


Have you heard of Rebrickable? If you have a LEGO fanatic in your house, it’s a great site to get even more play value out of your bricks. You tell it what sets you have, and it searches the database to show you new things you can build. So cool.

I’m taking this list of the 5 best wines under $10 to drink with pizza with me on my next Trader Joe’s trip. (In case you’re wondering, rosé is my unofficial drink of summer.)

I really appreciated this post from Gabrielle at Design Mom about not stressing over picking a school. Ever since I wrote about our transition from Montessori to public school, I get emails from frantic and stressed parents about choosing the right school for their children and how to know when it’s the right time to move them. I try to be as reassuring as possible, but from now on I’ll include this post in my message as well.

What’s on your short list of favorite things right now?


The Uncommon Cure for Father’s Day Gift-Giving Anxiety: UncommonGoods

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by UncommonGoods. Thanks for supporting the companies that support Just Like The Number!

Looking for unique gift ideas for Father’s Day? Do you struggle to find gifts for the men in your life? Hundreds of uncommon and handmade gifts for dads, grads, husbands and grandfathers are just a click away at Uncommon Goods.

I am a terrible gift-giver. I know this about myself, and I’m always trying to improve, but I am also keenly aware that at the ripe old age of 40, it may be my lot in life: great hugger, mediocre gift-giver. It surprises me, given how much I like to receive gifts. I appreciate even the smallest of gestures.

For example, we spent nearly all of the past Memorial Day Weekend working feverishly in our backyard. In just a few days, we basically transformed a jungle into a tidy, lovely garden. I still have dirt under my fingernails and mulch in places I didn’t know had crevices. On our third and final day, our backyard neighbor walked over and offered me a Diet Coke. “You’ve been working so hard,” she said. “I’ve been sitting here, watching you, and thought the least I could do was offer you a drink.” I was so touched, and that may have been the most refreshing Diet Coke I’ve ever tasted. At the same time, I thought to myself, “Why don’t I ever think to do lovely things like that?” It’s true. I’m deficient in whatever gene prompts people to easily bestow gifts and random acts of kindness.

I’m always on the hunt for ideas and gifts I can stash away for when gifting opportunities present themselves. I’m afflicted year-round, but I find that this time of year, second only to Christmas, the most stressful time of year for my gifting-challenged self. May and June present themselves with a myriad of gift-giving opportunities: Mother’s Day, our wedding anniversary, graduations, teacher appreciation, Mike and Elena’s birthdays, and Father’s Day. Is it getting hot in here? Are your palms sweaty? No? Just me?

A few years ago, a catalog arrived around Christmas from UncommonGoods. I do love catalogs, but I’m not a hoarder. Ninety-eight percent of the time I flip through them and then toss them in the recycle bin. The UncommonGoods catalog was different, though. It was a one-percenter: dog-eared, perused several times, and placed in the magazine basket for future reference. I didn’t order anything from it then, but six months later I returned to the catalog in search of a Father’s Day gift for Mike.

I spied the Ticket Stub Diary, and knew without hesitation that it would be the perfect gift for him. He loves saving ticket stubs from everything – movies, concerts, sporting events. Early in our marriage I made the mistake of tossing my movie ticket stub into the trash. He looked at me like I had casually tossed my wedding ring in the garbage. His method of storing these precious mementos was pretty sad, though. They sat haphazardly jumbled in a shoe box in our office closet. I ordered the Ticket Stub Diary, and over a few days the kids and I secretly sorted through his ticket collection. That, in and of itself was a gift: sitting on the floor with Elena and Eli and sharing stories of the things Dad and I had seen and done over the course of dating and marriage. He was thrilled with the gift, and to this day it sits prominently displayed in our home office.

I still receive the UncommonGoods catalog, and it continues to provides me with a treasure trove of ideas for gift-giving. Whenever I start to panic or feel like I couldn’t possibly think of something as unique and special to give as the recipient of the gift is to me, I remind myself to check out UncommonGoods.

Looking for unique gift ideas for Father’s Day? Do you struggle to find gifts for the men in your life? Hundreds of uncommon and handmade gifts for dads, grads, husbands and grandfathers are just a click away at Uncommon Goods.

I was invited to check out the curated list of gifts for men and choose something I thought a guy in my life might enjoy. After browsing through the Father’s Day gift guide, I found the perfect thing (again) for Mike: a handcrafted horse racing game. The game was delivered with perfect timing, and we spent the hour before the Kentucky Derby playing with a neighbor.

Looking for unique gift ideas for Father’s Day? Do you struggle to find gifts for the men in your life? Hundreds of uncommon and handmade gifts for dads, grads, husbands and grandfathers are just a click away at Uncommon Goods.

The game is a reinvention of an old classic, which is the calling card of the husband and wife team from St. Louis who makes the game. Ryan and Kim McDaniel, of Across the Board, have several other unique offerings on UncommonGoods as well. It’s one of the things I love about UncommonGoods: their mission to support and provide a platform for artists and designers. Half of the items they sell are made by hand. Through their business practices and social commitments, UncommonGoods supports and meets a rigorous standard when it comes to issues such as wage levels, environmental impact, and giving back to the community.

Looking for unique gift ideas for Father’s Day? Do you struggle to find gifts for the men in your life? Hundreds of uncommon and handmade gifts for dads, grads, husbands and grandfathers are just a click away at Uncommon Goods.

What that means is, I might not always feel great about my struggle to be a better gift-giver. But when I purchase and gift items from UncommonGoods, I can feel good about the choice I made and be pretty darn confident that the recipient will love it and feel every bit as special as the gift itself.

See more of what UncommonGoods as to offer, such as one-of-a-kind personalized gifts and the super cool Voting Tool, which helps buyers decide which products will become the next UncommonGoods, by visitings


YOXO: Inspiring Toys For Young Makers

Looking for creative, durable, and affordable toys to inspire makers? Check out YOXO building sets!

Disclosure: I was provided with YOXO building sets for review purposes. All thoughts and opinions are mine.

Little do my kids know, but our humble little coat closet does double duty as a magic closet. It’s dark and small, so other than throwing mittens in there in the winter and goggles in the summer, the kids pay little attention to it. Along with our summer and winter needs, I use the closet to store toys and craft kits for those days. You know the ones … the fourth snow day in a row, the day the rain won’t stop, the day you have deadlines and littles that both need attention, the day they won’t stop touching each other, the day you just can’t think of anything you have the energy to do or go see. On those days, it’s reassuring to know that I can open the closet, pull something out, and change the entire vibe of the day. Where there was once this …


there’s now this …

Magic Potion Lab


I keep all kinds of stuff in there. I have a couple of add-ons to our trusty Snap Circuits that I bought when a local toy store was going out of business. I have a paper airplane kit. A science kit we used briefly at Christmas until the Xbox upstaged it. A Makey Makey that was a steal on Amazon one day. I stash our trusty Kiwi Crates in there before the kids have a chance to see them on mail day. When the mood demands it, I open the door and grab whatever catches my eye. Because they have no idea where it came from or how long we’ve had it, it’s like a new toy on Christmas day.

Looking for creative, durable, and affordable toys to inspire makers? Check out YOXO building sets!

I was asked if we might be interested in trying out YOXO, and after browsing the website for a few minutes I knew YOXO would be the perfect addition to the closet of sanity-saving magic. YOXO is a sustainable, recyclable, eco-friendly toy made with makers and creators in mind. The construction kits come with directions to build one of four YOXO heroes, as well as instructions to build several other designs. The Y, O and X-shaped links (hence the name) connect in a myriad of ways, not only with each other, but with other common household materials, such as paper towel rolls and empty boxes. The possibilities are endless, limited only by a kids’ imagination.

Looking for creative, durable, and affordable toys to inspire makers? Check out YOXO building sets!

I busted out the YOXO last weekend on a gloomy, rainy day. Eli dove right in, ignoring the instructions and building the first thing that came to mind. If you have boys, you can probably guess what it was. (Answer: a gun, quickly followed by a sword.) After playing with his eco-friendly weapons (hey, I’m just a pacifist looking for the bright spot here), he returned to start building a 3-foot-long dragonfly. Isn’t it super cool?

Looking for creative, durable, and affordable toys to inspire makers? Check out YOXO building sets!

So here’s what I love about YOXO:
The creativity. Each set has instructions for 4 designs, but the options beyond that are limitless. The website even offers free downloads to enhance the playing experience.
The look. The pieces are bright and cheery. Sorry, but if I’m leaving a toy out in the open, I want it to look nice. These look great in a basket and will draw the kids right into making and creating.
The durability. We’ve lost a few pieces to the dog – sadly recycled wood pulp is no match for puppy teeth. But that was completely our fault. When the YOXO links are in your kids’ hands, they’re surprisingly sturdy. I was worried we’d bend or break them during construction, but they hold up beautifully.
The price point and availability. Good quality, creative building kits can break the bank. YOXO is a great deal for the quality and play factor. These would make great birthday gifts to stock up on as well. You can purchase them online through, but I was able to purchase mine at Target.
The company philosophy. YOXO is committed to making sustainable, recyclable toys in the US that foster creativity and the maker spirit. Their St. Paul manufacturing facility is wind-powered and operates at nearly zero waste.

Looking for creative, durable, and affordable toys to inspire makers? Check out YOXO building sets!

Just a fair parental heads up: Eli’s pretty skilled at building while following directions, but the YOXO instructions stumped him at times and he needed some assistance. Our kit is aimed for ages 5 and up, but just be prepared to supply some assistance if younger kids want to build something exactly to the given instructions.

Looking for creative, durable, and affordable toys to inspire makers? Check out YOXO building sets!

They may be recyclable, but it looks like our YOXO will be hanging around for a long time. You can purchase YOXO on the company website, on Amazon, or at Target. Use the handy locator to find a store near you. As your kids build cool stuff, be sure to share their creations with the company using the hashtag #YOXOtoys.

Looking for creative, durable, and affordable toys to inspire makers? Check out YOXO building sets!

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