Sparks of Magic


Must-Have Virtual Tools to Prep for Holiday Gatherings

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Managing a household every day is one thing, but taking it to another level with company for the holidays is a totally different story. Thinking about the holidays can be somewhat stressful: the cleaning, cooking, prepping, and decorating - all while trying to keep a handle on everyday life with family typically leads me to doing absolutely nothing unless it’s immediate family.

However, in the spirit of the holidays and really over the past year wanting to spend more time with my loved ones and connecting with those typically outside of my circle, I’ve decided that I want to host a holiday open house in our home for local family and friends. While I LOVE my paper planners, there’s something special about virtual and automated sharing of tasks.

I have approximately three weeks, and am going Pinterest crazy, but there are three virtual tools that I am learning to love, that have also been paramount in both inspiring & helping me plan, prep and organize my ideas for this upcoming event: Paperless Post, Food 52, and Wunderlist.

Paperless Post

Parties need people, and Paperless Post is a great way to send, gather and track RSVPs digitally using emails for invitations. My one frustration is that there is no text sending feature from the desktop, because honestly most of my friends I connect with via text message. As a graphic designer, I have to say I am pretty picky when it comes to pre-made invites and cards. But, these are gorgeous digital invitations, AND you can even design and get them printed through Paper Source. My other favorite feature are the many ways to customize the RSVPs. The service is free with add-on components based on your design selection and card type. The currency are “coins” and each invite is approximately 2 coins. When you sign up you automatically get 25 coins to get started. From there you can purchase packages, refer friends and earn more coins. Who’s ready to party?! :)

Food 52

If you follow me on social media, you’ll know that I am not a foodie, or food blogger, and really don’t even do the majority of cooking in my home. However, I am great at offering ideas, creating the meal plan, and delegating the process. One of my recent findings is the Food 52 website, where they have a community, kitchen & home goods and lots of delicious recipes on a beautiful and aesthetically pleasing website!


I keep my entire family, lists and work tasks organized using the Wunderlist app. Favorite feature? Syncing the app across all of my devices and with my family members! We set up a shared list for Costco, Target, Sprouts and even chores! There is also a feature to print lists and they come complete with check boxes which is handy for my children that need to tangibly check off their tasks.

So, tell me how on earth do you keep yourself organized when it comes to parties and gatherings?

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Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post by Paperless Post and contains affiliate links. Should you purchase through these links, Sparks of magic will earn a small commission. Opinions are always mine; thank you for supporting the magic!

How We Manage Homeschooling Five Kids Plus Some Options to Get Started in California


Well, we did it and took the leap this year, our journey to homeschooling has begun. I guess I shouldn't say that it’s just beginning, because I've homeschooled our kids off and on since our eldest (now a Senior) was in Kindergarten, but this is the first year that we have ALL FIVE of them home and WE are working together.

Did you get that? Yep. WE.

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Jeff and I are a team in pretty much everything, but until recently, school has always leaned more towards this Mama’s court. However, since I am also working from home and focusing heavily on our transition to Los Angeles, we decided to meet in the middle for the kids’ education for this season in life.

At the time of this post, we are home educating 2 in middle and 3 in high school, with one graduating in Spring 2019. I know that people see the fun perks, like school at Disneyland and other destinations, more time spent as a family for travel and 1:1 learning and have this glamorous idea of what it’s like to be a home educator. I love homeschooling, but to be fair if you are considering it, it is A LOT of hard work especially with older students and it is not an easy feat. They get on our nerves. They don’t get to do what they want. They literally eat up the entire house since they’re home all day. They can’t be on social media during school hours (oh yes, they love that part *total sarcasm*). They have to have a schedule. They also have to get dressed. Granted, we do have our lazy days in pajamas, because if you can - why not, however brushing teeth before coming to the table is always a must! Oh, and yes, they have to do work. Thankfully we have an amazing and supporting Education Specialist through our charter school, along with a great team of Special Education teachers for our kiddos that need extra help. When we look at the pros and cons, especially a mid-year relocation, it made the most sense to round them all up, strap on our teaching hats and buckle down to make it work!

Be prepared. Homeschooling will test your marriage. You need to compromise & work together.

Agreeing to Compromise

Let’s be honest, after almost two decades married we have come to understand the word “compromise” on many levels… but let me tell you - homeschooling will test your marriage. Jeff and I have always had differing opinions about homeschooling, and it never really made sense for our family until this year to have all of them home. Fun fact: Jeff was homeschooled his entire life. He is not too proud of that fact for more reasons than one, but mostly because he missed out on a normalized social aspect and his schooling was due to sheltering not academics or opportunity for advancement in the real world. Our kids are little social butterflies most of the time, so he was/is most concerned that this area of their lives would/will suffer. You see how I am still including the present? Because it still scares him, LOL.

I, on the other hand, think that homeschooling is amazing - no matter how many times I’ve sat at the table and cried over planning another week of studies or rearranging schedules to accommodate appointments, travel and other things to keep them on track. In full scorpio fashion, I am a ball of emotion and energy so I can get a little excited with my doomsday thinking if I forget something. You feel like (because you kind of do) have the responsibility of your children’s entire future on your shoulders, and while it scares the shit out of me, it also empowers me because I CAN do this and I AM doing it. It’s not perfect, I am not perfect and my kids are not perfect. However, I am always reassured that they are doing well and we are making it work. The opportunity and flexibility, the joy of seeing our kids “get it” when it comes to certain subjects that are naturally tough, especially after spending years in traditional school coming home confused as hell - to me, is worth the tears, frustration and hard work.

So, how on earth do we make it work for us? I decided to share some of the ways that have helped us over a few blog posts, but be mindful as your family will have different needs than ours. There are so many blogs and articles on homeschooling in CA, and I assume if you’re reading this we know each other in real life, so I would hope that my input actually means something to you. If you have questions, reach out! :) This post focuses more on the options available in California to get this series started.

Homeschool Options 

In the state of California, we have options when it comes to home education. This is simply a brief overview and list of those options and should not be the foundation of your decision-making process. Dependent on your area, seek out school options, call and email, meet their administrators in person and ASK QUESTIONS. YOU are the advocate for your children’s education, speak up and find out what will work for your family based on your children’s needs and learning styles. We have children that have Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and Section 504 accommodations and we have Support specialists and teachers that must follow the same mandated regulations as if they were in traditional school. We have always homeschooled through a public charter school so as a disclaimer for this and all future posts, my experience is the perspective of a public charter family in CA. Additional note: NOT ALL CHARTERS ARE THE SAME.

  1. Homeschool Program through Public Charter School: Just as it implies, you are enrolled in a public school and when you homeschool through this option, you are provided funding but you are also 100% responsible for using those funds appropriately for curriculum, enrichment and field trips. You work with an Education Specialist (ES, a Credentialed teacher) to plan your children’s path and they guide you on how to spend your funds. Funding amounts vary based on school, grade of student and location. Because this is public school, the purchase of religious products and services are prohibited. In our experiences, we meet in person or virtually with our ES every 20 school days or once per month.

  2. Homeschool Program through Private Schools: Many times this is an online or video program, additionally many programs are religious-based. As stated, this is private school, so it will also cost money to attend once accepted. For us personally, and with so many children, it is was not a viable financial option and we like the idea of them learning varying perspectives and having more flexibility in curriculum for each child.

  3. Independent Study through Public Charter or Private School: This is done through a public or private school location with varying ways of your student(s) receiving education. Some allow your student(s) to be onsite for an allotted amount of time and work from home the remainder. Some schools have scheduled classes to attend and they provide the curriculum. This option typically does not include any funding as curriculum provided covers CA standards based on grade level.

  4. Private School Affidavit (PSA): This is the option I am least familiar with, but you file with the state as a private home school to educate your own children. Based on CA Ed Code, there are filing dates, which are October 1-15th. More on that is here.

Ok, I know, that could be a lot to swallow if you’re just toying with the idea. However, once you decide the school option, there are still more areas to consider that include the age/grade of your child, their academic goals, learning styles and your desired time commitment. I am excited to embark on sharing our experiences here and touching on every one of those areas. I am grateful to live in a state that allows us options as parents to participate fully in our children’s education.

Do you homeschool? If not, have you considered homeschooling? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Simplifying My Life Using A Planner

I am excited to announce that I am now an affiliate with Emily Ley, Inc., which means if you decide to shop through my links, I will receive a small commission. Thank you for supporting my small – but magical – business, and helping me to continue to spread magic. xo

I'm a huge fan of paper & pens. I grew up selling homemade stationary door to door when I was younger. I also loved rubber stamping, all types of PAPER (still do), crafting, and pens galore. I like to work with my hands, I love to write, and make pretty things. There is just something about good 'ol pen and paper. I feel like handwriting is quickly becoming a lost art, but it is necessary. For me, the act of handwriting, then reading what I wrote, assists in registering it in my brain. 

photo © Emily Ley, Inc.

photo © Emily Ley, Inc.

When I begin my day or week, I use a planner. I am a visual person, and I plot and plan the best way to tackle my tasks or remember significant events. Enter in the Simplified Planner by Emily Ley. I was given my first Emily Ley planner in 2013 as a birthday present from my mom-in-law and wore that baby out! I still have it, it's tucked away on my desk because I have special notes and memories that I documented throughout. Plus, it's a pretty book to have on my desk! 

From 2014 and most of 2015, I tried the Erin Condren Planner because I really wanted to customize my covers, it was a really cool idea... but both of my planner covers ended up falling apart. I wasn't too thrilled on the overall graphic elements or design. It was too busy. I really appreciate the simplicity that Emily Ley has. Eventually, I switched to a generic planner from Target, which is what I'm using right now. So far it's been good, but I am missing the extra space and beauty that Emily Ley offers.

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Right now, I use Emily's Daily Printables for long-winded days, alongside my current planner. Once I've entered things into my paper planner, I add everything to my iPhone! 

I'm totally saving to get my new Emily Ley planner; I am in love with the Gold Pineapple print, and I am eyeing the Weekly edition.

Isn't it gorgeous?!

Let's rewind to this past summer, because Emily released the Weekly Simplified Planner, which I am very excited about. The new planner is smaller than before, at 6.75" x 9" (8" x 9" with binding). The binding looks sturdier, and it's a gorgeous gold color! 

I am happy to announce that the Weekly Simplified Planner in Gold Pineapple print is available again on her website and the Daily Simplified Planner is available in all three designs – Happy Stripe, Mint Dot, & Gold Pineapple!

Check out the to see how the planner works, she's included a lot of interior images. Plus see all of her fabulous products for home, desk, baby, and more!

How about you? How do you plan your day? Do you prefer paper over tech; or both?