Summer’s Here: Out-the-Door Organization

Summer is here! Trade backpacks for pool bags, school shoes for sandals. Here’s how you can swap your mudroom door organization from school daze to summer cinch in a snap.

Remember how we transformed the back of a door into an easy exit station for back-to-school (project details here)? Do a few switches to transform those same hooks for the summer season of pools and splash pads, playgrounds and playdates.


School Daze


Summer Cinch

Swap backpacks for pool bags. I got these kid-friendly sacks in Target’s deal bins. Each kid has their own, which contains a towel, goggles, flip-flops, a flotation device (if needed), and pool toys with our surname written on them in permanent marker. Bonus: less for me to wrangle as anything in their bag is their responsibility!

Switch the school shoes with bump toe athletic sandals (we love the Osh Kosh brand as they’ve lasted us just as long as the KEEN varieties but at half the cost, especially if you scout deals on Amazon or Zulily.) Toe coverage, sole grip, safe for water, easy on and off, and — as any laundry overloaded parent who’d love to minimize their house exiting routine by even one article of clothing can celebrate — NO SOCKS REQUIRED! From hiking to errands, biking riding to creek splashing, playgrounds to splash pads, these are a win.

Hang your own pool bag where gym shoes once rested, and you’re set! What’s in my pool bag? Sunscreens, bug spray, two towels (because one of my minions inevitably steals mine and gets it inexplicably drenched), lip balm, cheap sunglasses (the only kind I buy since I shred or lose mine by summer’s end and I just can’t handle even the tiniest scratch on a lens), water, and snacks for the kids.

Helpful additions: 1) Adhere one hook per person beside the door for winter coats or spring jackets, as I did. Just use the same damage-free hooks utilized for the rest of the project. 2) Heavy backpack? I swapped my eldest’s backpack hook with a heavy duty option. 3) Hang up the foldable stool using a damage-free hook.

Summer just got a little easier. Go soak it in!


School Daze: Easy Lunch Ideas & Shopping List (Kid-approved Vegan Food)

School lunches. There are four ways parents generally approach the irksome task: 1) prepare carefully sliced and arranged food figurines into pristine Bento boxes, 2) toss a Lunchable at the kid on his way out the door, 3) opt for cafeteria fare, 4) stick to the same worn-out lunch options out of ease and self-preservation. None are wrong, right, better, or worse. All get the kid fed.

My approach lies somewhere in the middle. I aim for easy-to-make, relatively healthy, filling, fast-to-eat, and kid-approved.

As noted School Daze: Morning Prep post, I pack the week’s lunches on Sunday. I have more delicate lunches lined up to go first with sturdier fare waiting in the back for Thursday and Friday packing. I don’t like to invest a lot of time into the prepping, so I opt for quick to make dishes that use ingredients I already have on hand.

This is an example of a week’s worth of pre-packed vegan school lunches my first grader polishes off.



LUNCH #1; “Just Ranch” Salad with Pita Add handful of chopped salad greens, 1/3 of the cucumber (chopped), 1/3 of the carrot (chopped), 1/3 of the bell pepper (diced), a sprinkle of Follow Your Heart Shredded Cheese Alternative, and 2 mini pita pockets to a lunch container. Poor 2 Tbl of Just Ranch into a small container for dressing.

LUNCH #2: “Just Caesar” Salad with Pita Add 2 handfuls of salad greens, 2 mini pita pockets, and a liberal sprinkle of Follow Your Heart Shredded Cheese Alternative to a lunch container. Pour 2 Tbl of Just Caesar into a small container for dressing.

LUNCH #3: Veggies & Pita with Hummus Add 1/3 of the bell pepper (sliced), 1/3 of the cucumber (sliced into sticks or discs, whichever is preferred), 1/3 of the carrot (cut into sticks), and 2 mini pitas to a lunch container. Scoop a few Tbl of hummus into a small container for dipping.

LUNCH #4: Hummus Pasta Salad Add a cup of cooked pasta to a lunch container. Add 1/3 of the cucumber  (diced), 1/3 of the bell pepper (diced), and 1/3 of the carrot (diced), then stir in a couple scoops of hummus.

LUNCH #5: Lentil Marinara Pasta Add 1/4 cup of prepared lentils and 1 cup of prepared pasta to a lunch container. Stir in the desired amount of spaghetti sauce. Optional: top with Follow Your Heart Shredded Cheese Alternative.


1 package of salad greens (or 1 head of lettuce)

1 large carrot

1 English cucumber

1 large bell pepper (whichever color is preferred)

1 package of mini whole grain pitas (you’ll need 6 mini pitas)

1 container of hummus (or homemade; you’ll need just a few tablespoons)

1 package of dried pasta (I used Banza for extra protein)

1 jar of spaghetti sauce (you’ll need just a serving’s worth)

1 bag of lentils (or prepared lentils if preferred, you’ll need just 1/4 cup)

1 container of Follow Your Heart Shredded Cheese Alternative

1 container of Just Ranch (you’ll need roughly 2 Tbl)

1 container of Just Caesar (you’ll need roughly 2 Tbl)

Comment here or tag me on Instagram (@thedairydiaries) if you make any of these lunches. I’d love to see your creations and variations.

Happy packing!

Easy, Cheap, Mess-free Inside Play Ideas

Stuck inside and trying to figure out how to entertain little ones without a huge mess? Here are our favorite inside activities.

1) Obstacle course: grab some plastic food storage containers or plastic solo cups and painters tape, then clear some space and set up an obstacle course. Twirl, hop, and weave the wiggles out.

2) Shaving cream in the tub: strip the kids down, pop them in the empty bath tub, then squirt a pile of shaving cream for each child. Add some washable toys (plastic boats, rinse-able dolls, small cars, sand shovels, etc.) for extra fun. Then just turn on the water to clean up.

3) Fingerpaints in the shower: use painters tape to adhere fingerpaint paper at kid-appropriate height to the shower walls, squirt finger paints on a plastic plate (one plate per child so as to avoid skirmishes), strip the kids down, pop them in a dry shower, and let them paint. Just remove the taped paper and paints, and turn on the shower to clean up the mess.

4) Bubbles in the bath: turn on some fun music, fill up the tub, plop the kids in the bath, then blow bubbles. For extra fun, try adding Gelli Baff ( to the water.

5) Costume dance party: pull out the dress-ups, turn on some music, then boogy down.

6) Picnic snack: spread a sheet or blanket on the floor, then have snacktime picnic-style.

7) Shakers: grab an empty oatmeal canister or an empty cereal box, have the kids place dried pasta, dried beans, plastic beads, or pebbles into the container, secure both ends of the the container closed with painters tape, decorate with stickers, crayons, etc. Then shake, shake, shake!

8) Make masks: Grab paper plates, scissors, popsicle sticks (or disposable chopsticks), painters tape, and crafting supplies to make masks. Cut eye holes in the plates, use the painters tape to secure the popsicle stick (or disposable chopstick) to the back of the plate to use as a handle. Then let the kids decorate with crayons, stickers, stick-on gems, etc.

9) Bowling: place plastic solo cups or plastic food storage containers (the tall cylindrical deli containers are perfect) in a triangle formation on the floor to act as bowling pins. Then stand back and roll a rubber ball to bowl over the “pins”.

10) Putt-putt: tape some empty paper towel rolls together or use an empty wrapping paper roll to use as a club. Tape a plastic solo cup sideways on the floor with the opening facing the golfer. Grab a small rubber ball and use your cardboard club to putt the ball into the solo cup “hole”.