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THE VERY BEST CARROT CAKE

THE VERY BEST CARROT CAKE

THE VERY BEST CARROT CAKE

For real.  I did not invent this recipe, let me be the first to say this - I would probably be a millionaire if I had.  I can however; make it like a pro!  It's the kind of dessert that you can't wait for everyone to go home so you can be left alone with it!  It's ridiculously moist (so sorry for that word but Lord knows nothing describes it better) and it really is like eating something straight out of a famous bakery!  The crushed pineapple is what really makes it I think so DO NOT omit this ingredient!  You can choose to add chopped walnuts to the icing or leave them out, your call!

 

There are 3 parts to making this cake - Cake, Buttermilk Glaze and Cream Cheese Frosting

INGREDIENTS FOR CAKE:

2 Cups Flour

2 Tsp Baking Soda

1/2 Tsp Salt

2 Tsp Cinnamon

3 Large Eggs

2 Cups Sugar

3/4 Cups Vegetable Oil

3/4 Cup Buttermilk

2 Tsp Vanilla extract

2 Cups Grated Carrot

1 (8 ounce) Can of Crushed Pineapple, drained

1 (3 & 1/2 ounce) can Flaked Coconut

1 Cup Chopped Pecans or Walnuts (optional)

DIRECTIONS FOR CAKE:

Spray 3  (9 inch) round cake pans with cooking spray

Stir together first 4 ingredients - set aside

Beat eggs and next 4 ingredients at medium speed until smooth

Add flour mixture (that you had set aside) beating at low speed until blended

Fold in carrot and next 3 ingredients

Pour even amounts of batter into pans

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until fork comes out clean

Drizzle Buttermilk Glaze (see below for recipe) evenly over layers while still hot 

Cool in pans for 15 minutes

Remove from pans and cool completely 

Spread cream cheese frosting (see recipe below) between layers and on top and sides of cake

INGREDIENTS FOR BUTTERMILK GLAZE:

1 Cup of Sugar

1 1/2 tsp Baking Soda

1/2 Cups of Buttermilk

1/2 Cup of Butter

1 Tbsp of Light Corn Syrup

1 Tsp Vanilla extract

* Bring first 5 ingredients to a boil in a large pot over medium - high heat.  Boil, stirring often, 4 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla

INGREDIENTS FRO CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:

3/4 Cups of Butter, softened

1 (8 ounce) package of Cream Cheese, softened

1 (3 ounce) package of Cream Cheese, softened

3 Cups Sifted Powdered Sugar

1 1/2 Tsp Vanilla extract

* Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.  Add powdered sugar and vanilla, beat until smooth

 

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Dear Younger self: you've got it all wrong

Dear Younger self: you've got it all wrong

"Are you going to do it Mom?"

"I think so."

"Are you nervous?"

"Yes, terrifed actually"

"Then why are you going to do it?"

"Because as nervous as I am, I know that if I don't do it I will look back one day in the not too far away future and wish that I did.  I will wonder what I had been thinking when I had said no."

"That's a good reason Mom."

Good enough for me.  Good enough because 13 years ago my husband asked me to be in one of his music videos and I said no, I let another woman take the part.  

I said no because I had just had two babies in a row. I said no because I wasn't back in my pre-baby shape.  I said no because I thought I looked tired.  I said no because I thought someone else would do it better than me.  I said no because I didn't understand that real, unshakeable confidence doesn't come from a number on a scale, a reflection in a mirror, a false approval from strangers.

How many times has someone wanted to take a photo of you and your kids or you and your husband or (gasp!) you alone and you have expertly averted the situation and got yourself out of that photo op? We become pros, us women, at taking the spotlight off ourselves when we don't feel how we think we should look.  

I will be the first one to advocate taking care of your health and you in general - you look good you feel good right? Absolutely!  But the confidence that comes with looking good on the outside when the inside is a complete contradiction is short lived, it's surface level, it's easily shook and it's always fleeting.

As much as we begrudge the aging process because of the physical challenges it presents to us, it brings something we don't have in our 20's, for some of us even our 30's.  

It brings us the gift of experience.  Experience brings knowledge.  Knowledge brings power.  And power is what brings unshakeable confidence.  

The power to internally feel like you can walk into any situation with a "been there, done that, got the t-shirt" attitude.  It's not abrasive, it's not boastful. It's quiet, it's humble, it's an internal peace I spent years looking for.

 

 

At 43, I may have moments when I wish my skin looked younger and my body kept weight off with one trip to the gym like it did when I was 30, like it did the first time I said no to being in a video.  Like it did the time I let someone else take "my" place. 

At 43, I have found an inner confidence that I wish I could go back and shower my younger self with - from the inside out, not the outside in.  

I wish I could tell her not to put so much value in what others say.  Others will talk about you, others will come and go in your life, let them go - the ones worthy of you will stay.

I would tell her that no one is as hard on her as she is on her self.  I would tell her that no one sees the flaws that she does.  I would tell her that her husband doesn't focus on the fact that she hasn't lost all the baby weight, he is too focused on how well she is doing being a new Mother to their children.

Have you ever looked back on a photo and thought, "wow,  I looked good back then?"  Did you really feel that way about yourself at the time though?  Or were you too busy picking apart your appearance?

How about if you looked at that same photo and thought, "wow, look what a great Mom/Wife/Daughter/Friend I was being in this photo"??? 

Do you remember when I posted over Fall break saying I had gone in the ocean with my kids more than I probably ever had?  I had my photo taken with them IN MY SWIMSUIT!  Because at 43, I realize that when they look back on these photos one day, it won't be their Moms body they will picking apart, it will be the memory they will be reminded of.

When we let our insecurities run our lives we miss out on experiences we don't get back.  We miss out on making memories, we miss out on documenting those memories to have to look back on one day. We watch our lives from the sidelines.

When we lead with confidence as Mothers, Wives and Friends we give the people around us security too.  How can we tell our children to reach for the stars when we aren't sure we deserve them ourselves?  

At one point during the video shoot, a guy on the crew (who was from Argentina) gave someone in our group a compliment that she didn't accept (in his opinion ;)  and he said,

"in Argentina, if we ever hear a woman put herself down we immediately have to tell her she is wrong, it's our job to build them up." he followed with,

"it can make it hard to find a woman who thinks you are good enough because they are all so confident" haha.... he wasn't kidding.

His statement reminded me of something I have watched since our daughter was born 8 years ago.

I've always said to my husband, "her expectation for a future man in her life is going to be completely unrealistic, she will never find anyone that treats her as well as you do."

Although I'm pretty sure that may be part of his plan to keep her at home forever,  I think he may be on to something.  At 8 years old she has a confidence that I am often in awe of.  There is nothing she thinks she cannot achieve, no obstacles she cannot overcome and Lord help anyone who tries to bring her down.

I think it's unrealistic to think that at some point in her life her confidence won't take a hit, I can only hope that it will be momentary.

When the day finally came to shoot the video of course I was nervous.  For real though, it lasted about an hour, it lasted until my husband showed up.  And it wasn't just because he told me I looked good (although that was an added bonus).  

The nervousness was extinguished by the confidence, internal confidence I had within me that no one else could take my place, no one else belonged there more than I did.  I knew there was no one else he would rather have there so why not act like it?

The things that give me confidence may not be the same things that do for you.  I may hold value in things that you may not and vice versa.  

What I know today though is that I only listen to the opinions of people I care about - and I mean REALLY care about.  

I do the best I can to take care of myself and exercise so I can be healthy and strong.  For ME, exercise gives me a mental & physical confidence that's hard to explain.  It keeps me feeling in control, stable, powerful.

I try to be the same (no wait...better) woman that my husband married 17 years ago.  Being confident isn't always about doing things for yourself, sometimes it's in knowing what you can do for someone else.

When your husband gives you a compliment, say thank you.  

When your kids have a momentous experience, get in the photo with them.  

When your kids ask you to get in the water, swim.  

And when their Dad asks you to be in his music video, say yes.  

 

 

 

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Easy Baked Ziti

Easy Baked Ziti

This is a household favorite! And better yet, easy to make!  I love a one dish dinner, just add a loaf of crunchy bread and a salad and your meal is complete!

WHAT YOU NEED:

1 pound Ziti Pasta

1 Pound Italian Sausage (ground) choose mild or hot based on your preference 

3 & 1/2 Cups Marinara Sauce

1 Can Diced Tomatoes

3 Cups Shredded Mozzarella Cheese

Salt (1 tsp to boil in water)

Fresh Black Pepper (1 tsp)

WHAT YOU DO:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Boil salted water and cook pasta until al dente (tender but still slightly firm) drain and place in a large bowl, allowing to cool for a few minutes.

Cook sausage in a skillet until no longer pink, drain off any fat and add to bowl with pasta.

Add the marinara, 1 cup of mozzarella and season with black pepper

Toss everything in the bowl together until combined well

Transfer pasta mixture to a 9x13 baking dish (oiled or sprayed with cooking spray)

Add remaining mozzarella evenly over pasta, you can add more cheese if you want, or even drop a few spoons of ricotta cheese on top

Bake, uncovered, about 30 minutes, until cheese is bubbling and slightly browned on top

Enjoy!

 

 

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not your mama's meatloaf

not your mama's meatloaf

Did your Mom force you to eat this when your were growing up?  I know for me, I could not stand this dish as a kid and swore to myself I would NEVER eat it as an adult!

Then one day a friend of mine said, "I'm making meatloaf for dinner" and I was like, "whyyyy would you do that to your family?" and she said, "you need to try this, your husband will love it!".  

Well she was right, and I loved it too!  I substitute extra lean ground beef for the original ingredient of regular beef and I will use whole wheat bread crumbs instead of white but do what you love.  

This is amazing with extra ketchup on top after you've cut the slices (in my opinion) and I serve it with mashed potatoes (sweet potatoes if you're being extra healthy) and a vegetable.  

Did you see my insta story about the jarred sweet red cabbage? It goes amazing with this!

WHAT YOU NEED:

1 large Egg

1/2 Cup of soft Bread Crumbs

1/2 Cup of Green Pepper

1/2 Cup of Diced White Onion

1/2 Cup of Diced Celery

* cut your pepper, onion and celery into as small of pieces as you can to ensure they cook quickly

1/4 Cup of Chopped White Mushrooms

1 tsp Salt

1 tsp Black Pepper

1 Garlic Clove, Minced

1 & 1/2 pounds of Ground Beef

1/2 Cup of Ketchup (extra for topping at the end)

1 tbsp of Water

WHAT YOU DO:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a mixing bowl, combine first 9 ingredients (everything except the beef and ketchup) and mix together with hands

Add beef, mix with hands - I know its kind of gross but you can do it and it makes for a better texture!

Spray a loaf pan with non-stick spray and stuff beef mixture into pan, pressing gently to make sure mixture is evenly distributed.

Bake, uncovered for 30 minutes

stir ketchup and water together and spread evenly on top of meatloaf

Continue baking another 50 minutes

Let stand 5-10 minutes once finished.

I love to add ketchup at this point, but you can leave it plain or add another sauce of your choice.  

I'd say to refrigerate any leftovers but I'm pretty sure you won't have any!

 

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Gingersnap Cookies

Gingersnap Cookies

Let's be honest, I don't know what's better - the smell of your house while these are baking or the way they taste once they are finished!  I could literally eat an entire plate in one sitting.  The key ingredient here is Molasses which makes these chewy instead of hard.  

They are the perfect cookie for the Holiday season to take as a guest, a cookie exchange or to serve your company when they come over.

Enjoy!

WHAT YOU NEED:

2 Cups of Flour

1 TBSP ground Ginger

2 TSP Baking Soda

1 TSP Cinnamon

1/4 TSP Salt

3/4 cup Butter

1 Cup Light Brown Sugar

1 Egg

1/2 Cup Molasses

WHAT YOU DO:

Mix together Butter, Egg and Molasses with electric mixer 

Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until creamy

Refrigerate dough for 2 hours

Let dough stand at room temperature for 10 - 15 minutes (to soften)

Take a spoonful of dough and roll into a small ball

Roll ball in a bowl of white sugar

Place on greased Baking sheet and press gently with the base of a fork (you want to just press enough so you see the 3 fork lines in the dough)

Bake at 350 degrees for 8 min 

Eat!

 

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The best ever apple pie

The best ever apple pie

It's almost like I make my way through the meal just to get to this dessert!  It's that amazing!  It was always on every Holiday table we had and the recipe has been passed down to me and now I pass it on to you!  

WHAT YOU DO:

Spray pie dish with cooking spray to prevent sticking

Add 1 bottom pie shell (I like Pillsbury roll out ones from the refrigerator section)

FILLING: (mix together in one large bowl and spread out evenly in pie shell)

2/3 Cup of Brown Sugar

1/4 Tsp each of Cinnamon, Nutmeg and Salt

1 Tbsp of Cornstarch

5 Cups of Peeled, Sliced GRANNY SMITH apples (about 6 or 7)

Once the above ingredients have been mixed together and put into pie shell...

Cover the top with 1 cup of Sour Cream, try to spread out evenly

CRUMB TOPPING: - use fingers to crumble together

In medium bowl combine

1 Cup of Flour

6 Tbsp of White Sugar

6 Tbsp of Brown Sugar

1 Tsp of Salt

1/2 Cup (1 stick) of Soft Butter (not melted! - you need it to hold a form)

Using your hand, mix the above ingredients together until it forms "crumbles"

Sprinkle on top of filling, evenly covering the top of the pie - this replaces the need for a top pie crust

Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, cover crust with foil or pie shields to prevent burning, reduce heat to 350 and continue to cook until apples start to bubble.  Let stand at least 20-30 minutes.  

What's a pie guard?  You can buy disposable ones at places like Walmart or you can buy re-usable ones at kitchen stores or walmart.

 Disposable - Found at Walmart

 Reusable - Found on Amazon

Or you can trace the circle of your pie dish on tin foil before you start and cut out your own!

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Split pea and smoked ham soup

Split pea and smoked ham soup

It's finally Fall weather around these parts which in our home means SOUP, SOUP and MORE SOUP!  

There are lots of variations of traditional pea soup - I like using a smoke ham because it adds an extra touch of flavor.  

Please PLEASE don't add salt until after you have tasted the finished product.  Usually your ham will already have enough salt that you won't need any extra!  I only add fresh ground pepper to mine at the end.

Also, sift through the split peas you buy and look for tiny rocks (that can often be found) and remove before adding to the soup.

WHAT YOU NEED:

2 tbsp unsalted butter 

1/2 white onion, diced

2 celery ribs, diced

3 cloves garlic, diced

1 pound of smoked ham, diced

1 bay leaf

1 pound dried split peas

1 quart chicken broth

2 & 1/2 cups water (you can always add more at the end if it seems to thick)

WHAT YOU DO:

Using a large soup pot, melt the butter

Add onion, celery and garlic and stir until onions are translucent, about 5 min

Add ham, bay leaf and split peas

Add chicken broth and water

Stir all together and let simmer 1 - 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until peas have split open and become mushy.

REMOVE bay leaf!!!

Top with fresh ground pepper

Enjoy!

XoXo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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butternut squash soup

butternut squash soup

This is a little twist on a tried and true recipe for Butternut Squash Soup.  Adding a touch of curry powder gives it a little kick without being over powering.  If you don't want to use the curry powder you can always leave it out but I think you will love it if you give it a try!  

A touch of honey makes it a little sweet without having to add sugar and the half & half gives it a thick texture. You can always substitute that with milk, heavy cream or even almond milk if that's your preference.

WHAT YOU NEED:

2 Tbsp unsalted Butter

1 medium White Onion, finely chopped

4 cloves minced Garlic

4 Cups Chicken Broth

1 Butternut Squash - peeled, seeded and cut into 1 inch cubes

2 tsp Curry Powder

1/2 tsp Ground Cumin

1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper

1 tsp Salt

1/2 Cup Half & Half (or milk or heavy cream)

1 & 1/2 Tbsp Honey

Possible Garnishes: Sour Cream, Green onion, Pomegranate Seeds

 

peel and seed a butternut squash, once it's peeled its very easy to cut

still LOVING my custom spiced jars! Organizing them alphabetically makes finding them so much quicker

WHAT YOU DO:

In a large soup pot melt butter over low heat

Add onion and garlic and stir until softened

Add chicken broth, squash cubes, curry powder, cumin, cayenne pepper and salt and stir

Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer until squash is tender - about 20 min

Remove from heat

Add half & half and honey

If you have a hand mixer you can just blend right in the pot until smooth

If using a blender, transfer half the mix into the blender and stir until smooth, empty and transfer second half.

This soup tastes great on its own but if you want to be fancy add a dollop of sour cream or pomegranate seeds for color!

Enjoy!

XoXo

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my favorite makeup

my favorite makeup

I've broken down all my favorites to spruce up my face!  Under each image, if you click on the "Click HERE" icon it will take you directly to a page to give you more info, pricing and ordering options for each one.

FACE:

Daytime

I don't usually wear foundation in the day.  Just some concealer and loose powder as a base.  Minimal shadow, eyeliner on my water line (the inside of your lower eye) and some bronzing powder and lipstick.  Since I have eyelash extensions I don't need to wear mascara or liner on my upper lid:

CONCEALER 

I had my make up done years ago and the make up artist used this one from Laura Mercier and I have never looked back!  I love the brush that goes with it too.  Usually I'll dampen the brush just a bit and mix the two colors together on it.  I use it under my eyes and blend it into the inner eye next to my nose.  I will also put it on the creases of my nose or anywhere else that seems red.

Click HERE 

Click HERE

LOOSE POWDER:

I don't remember ever using another loose powder.  I have probably had this in my makeup bag for 15 years (not the same one of course).  It comes in an array of color to match your skin tone, they have all the samples in store. After I have applied my concealer I use a kabuki brush (see below) and swirl it in the powder and then then onto my face.

MAC NC 40

Click HERE

POWDER BRUSH

I absolutely LOVE this Bare Minerals brush to apply powder!

Click HERE

BLUSH:

I will either do a blush OR a bronzer in the day - not both.

This blush is a long time favorite of mine!  The photo makes it look more bright pink than it is.  It truly goes with everything!

LORAC Baked Matte Satin Blush in Velvet Rope

Click HERE

POWDER BRONZER:

I've been a fan of this one since it came out from Bare Minerals!  Apply it with their bronzing brush for a perfect application.  When applying, I do my face in 2 halves.  I start at the top of my forehead and make a brush stroke like a number 3 from forehead, to nose, to chin.

Click HERE

BRONZING POWDER BRUSH:



Click HERE

HIGHLIGHTER

You know this is my current favorite!

Laura Geller Liquid Gelato Pillowtop Highlighter

Click HERE

Night time: (or special event)

BEFORE you even think about adding foundation to your face, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE use a primer!  It will create a thin base on your skin so your foundation goes on smooth, lasts longer and doesn't sit in your fine lines.  Some people love their primer so much they just use that on their skin and nothing else.  There are lots of great ones out there, some more oily than others so you may need to sample a few before finding the one that works best for you.  This is my current favorite from LANCOME:

Primer:

Click HERE

Foundation:

Do yourself a favor and stop using your fingers to apply foundation!  The Beauty Blender will change the battle you find yourself in with blending your makeup into your skin flawlessly!  Make sure you damped the sponge well before applying and rinse well after!

Click HERE

You already know this is my favorite foundation - it Cosmetics - but here are another few I love as well!

it Cosmetics CC foundation

Click HERE

it Cosmetics Bye Bye Undereye

Click HERE

Makeup Forever HD foundation

Click HERE

Becca Aqua Luminous Perfecting Foundations

Click HERE

Night time Bronzer:

My absolute favorite from CHANEL!  You have to use something a bit damp to apply this product (in my opinion). I use my beauty blender and swirl the tip of it around in the product and then blend it into the edges of my forehead and down into my lower cheek bones.  With this bronzer I would also add a blush.

Click HERE 

Setting Powder:

Make up artists swear that you need to put a setting powder on top of your foundation in order to get the longest lasting result!  I don't always remember to do it but when i do I definitely notice a difference.  This one I love from NARS!

Click HERE 

Setting Spray:

Once you've actually gone to the effort of getting your "face on" the surest way to make it last is with a setting spray.  A few sprays on top of your makeup will ensure no smearing or running or fading through the day.  My Current favorite is from Urban Decay

Click HERE

EYES

So first!  I started getting eyelash extensions about a year ago and that has eliminated the need for mascara or eyeliner on my upper lid.  I did however have a favorite from when I used to use them.

My favorite EYE LINER!

This has been my tried and true, no others have ever compared - for years!  It does not run when you sweat and it stays put throughout the day.  It comes off easily with makeup remover.  I use it on my water line, the inside part of your lower eye.

Click HERE

Now that I have eyelash extensions, if I do want more makeup for night or an event I don't like to use a pencil because I worry it will pull the lashes off.  Instead, I take a brush made for eyeliner and wet it a bit and dab it in this powder and then press the powder on in a line across the top of my lashes.  This one is my fav!  MAC Carbon Matte powder.

Click HERE

Eyeshadow

Usually, I stick with a neutral palette.  Light color on the base and up to my eyebrow.  Medium color on my lid. For night I will add a darker color to the crease.  This palette from TOO FACED has you covered in every shade of neutral.  It takes the guess work out of what colors work together on your eye for the perfect shade combination.

Click HERE

Mascara

This one from LANCOME has been a favorite in my makeup bag forever!  Probably because it DOES NOT RUN, nor smear under your eyes! 

Click HERE

Lips

This is a hard one because lipstick looks different on everyone depending on your natural lip color, your skin tone and hair color - it truly is a personal preference!  I tend to go with rosie pinks, not bright - med to dark.  I don't love gloss because I can't stand my hair sticking to it!  My 2 favorites for the past couple of years have been REBEL ROSE from BUXOM and TWIG from MAC.

Click HERE for REBEL ROSE

Click HERE for TWIG

XoXO

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Facing the facts

Facing the facts

Maybe you've been thinking about giving it a try, maybe you've tried it and didn't get what you wanted.  Maybe you start to look into it and become so overwhelmed with all your options and what will work for YOU that you decide to re-visit it later.

Maybe it's not for you, maybe you're happy to age gracefully just the way you are.  Maybe you want to fight the signs of aging with everything you can muster up.  Maybe you fall somewhere in the middle.

We've all seen those women (and men) who have clearly treaded too far into the "injections" waters.  It's obvious, it's clear that they have crossed the line of getting a little tweak and turning into a human Barbie.  It's these people who give injectables a bad rap.  

Injectables are not meant to look fake, if they are done properly.  Sure you can always find a doctor who will do anything you ask but I would suggest that this is not the kind of doctor you want to visit.  A doctors goal should always be to educate you, give you your options and then try to make you look as natural as possible.

The question people seem to wonder the most is...

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BOTOX & FILLERS?

Well it's a big one and there are a lot of differences... from effects to duration to cost.

BOTOX & DYSPORT

Are injectables that make you look more rested and youthful by relaxing the muscles around fine lines.  Most commonly injected in the forehead, between the eyebrows, upper cheeks in the "crows feet" by your eyes and less commonly above your lip and even in your neck. 

Botox has been around since the 70's and Dysport was used widely in Europe in the 90's until it was FDA approved in the US in 2009.  Both do the same job but active women tend to report they notice their Botox beginning to wear off sooner than it once did over time, likely due to metabolizing it quicker.  These women report that Dysport seems to have longer lasting effects.

Botox above the lip can be used if someone thinks their smile is too "high", showing a "gummy smile" - just be aware that some report having a hard time drinking through a straw or whistling.

Botox and Dysport are your best choice if you find facial lines are primarily produced by the movement of facial muscles.  Lifting your eyebrows up, smiling, frowning will all produce lines that can be treated with Botox or Dysport

It is recommended that Botox or Dysport be injected every 3 to 4 months.

The cost is based on how many units a patient needs.  A unit will cost between $10-$15 and the average patient can use anywhere from 20 - 50 or more units, again depending on your personal wants.  It's not a cheap commitment, starting anywhere from $300 + per session.

It is relatively pain free and there is no down time.  

You will start to see results with the first week with optimum results occurring by 2 weeks.

It is unlikely your insurance would cover this cost unless you are using it to manage migraine headaches or excessive sweating under the armpits which it has been widely shown to help both issues.

JUVEDERM, RESTYLANE & OTHER FILLING AGENTS

These products, called "fillers" are used to fill in deep set lines and wrinkles that are present whether facial muscles are being used or not.

These are also the products that people use to "fill" their lips.  A filler can be injected into the actual lip or around the edges of the lip to make the lip appear more full.  Clearly there are people who overdo it and end up with what everyone calls "duck lips".  

Again, if done properly, the difference should be subtle.

Fillers can be injected into the folds that run from your nose to the sides of your mouth or into deep wrinkles in the forehead.

Unlike botox or dysport, injecting a filler is more painful and requires a topical numbing cream before hand.  

Fillers can last up to 12 months and can be pricey.  

Unlike botox, you cannot buy it per unit, you buy it per vile which can run about $5-600.  If you use the entire vile you have got your moneys worth but if you are only doing your lips it's unlikely you will use the whole vile and it must be thrown away within the month.

Many women (& men) will do a combination of botox / dysport and juvederm / restylane - this will help relax your wrinkle lines as well as add some volume.  

Again, this is a decision that any certified, qualified doctor can help you decide.

There are still more brands and products that fall within the spectrum of injectables.  I hope I have been able to give you a good place to start if you decide to look into it further.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to find a reputable doctor.  If you don't know one, start asking around. Is there someone you know who has skin you are always admiring?  Ask her if gets botox - if she does than ask her for her doctors name, if she doesn't, you won't offend her - she should be flattered!

* This post is based solely on my opinion.  I am not a doctor or medical expert so please use this information only as a starting point. 

XoXo 

 

 

 

 

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Doing Disney Right!

Doing Disney Right!

It's daunting right?  You've thought about it, you've seen peoples photos, your kids have begged to go but the thought of planning a Disney vacation makes you so overwhelmed you'd rather just put it off and do it another time!

Or maybe you've already planned the trip and you just plan on winging it when you get there?  The food, the rides, the character meetings etc etc etc?  I do NOT suggest this approach!  Maybe its because I am a TOTAL planner but also because you will miss out on some really great things, feel totally overwhelmed and have to deal with your kids crying because "someone" didn't make a reservations at the hottest restaurant in the park!

We have 4 children - three boys ages 15, 14 and 10 and a girl age 7.  We have been going to Disney since the oldest two boys were 3 and 4 so I feel like I've become a bit of a pro on the important things not to be missed, the things you can do IF you have enough time and the things that can probably be skipped or at least saved for a return trip.

What I would recommend is looking through this post, checking out the things I have suggested and write down what is important for you and YOUR family while at Disney.  Take that list, pick up the phone and CALL Disney World and press the option of "new reservation".  

Speaking to an agent is extremely helpful because they can give you suggestions, make your lodging reservations, set up and explain your meal plan option and then transfer you to someone who will help you make all your dining reservations.  I promise it's easy and fast and you will still feel in control but also know that you aren't missing anything!

I hope this information helps you get straight to the point!  Please remember this is solely my opinion and others may vary!

WHEN TO GO?

For a lot of us, there is not a lot of wiggle room on this topic.  Our time is governed by school breaks and so we end up with the masses, waiting in long lines in hot weather during the summer.  If this is you it's even more important to plan ahead!

We have been in July a couple of times and it is so hot you swear you are going to melt!  You will see people walking around with those water misters around their necks just trying to keep cool.  The summer months are definitely the hottest and busiest so if you can avoid that time than do it!  If not, it's ok - you can still survive it!  The plus side to summer is it makes the water rides, water parks and pools that much more enjoyable!

If you ask any of the locals, the slowest time and therefore the best time for avoiding lines is January and February - they are also the coldest.  I don't think you will be enjoying the water rides that much nor would you be using the outdoor pools!  There is a definite trade off during this time!

Our most recent trip was at the end of March, it was spring break so it was busy but not nearly as bad as summer.  The weather was perfect and warm enough for the kids to swim in the outdoor pool (which they keep heated) and do the water rides!

Here's a reference point for temperatures during your stay:

WHERE OH WHERE WILL WE STAY???

This will be one of your hardest decisions, solely based on the fact that there are so many options!  

Resorts on the Monorail - Boat - Shuttle Bus Line - Walking Line

THE CONTEMPORARY:  Click HERE for resort info - You can walk to Magic Kingdom from here AND see the castle from one side of the hotel 

THE POLYNESIAN VILLAGE RESORTClick HERE for resort info

THE GRAND FLORIDIAN RESORT & SPAClick HERE for resort info

DISNEY'S BAY LAKE TOWER at the CONTEMPORARY: Click HERE for resort info

Resorts on the Boat - Shuttle Bus - Walking Line

BEACH CLUB RESORT: MY PERSONAL FAVORITE!  Click HERE for resort info - My Personal Favorite!  The Pool is hands down the best!!!  The Beach Club and Yacht Club Hotel are attached and look across the lake to the Boardwalk so you can walk their for dinner!

YACHT CLUB RESORT: Click HERE for resort info

SARATOGA SPRINGS RESORT & SPAClick HERE for resort info

PORT ORLEANS RESORTClick HERE for resort info

PORT ORLEANS RESORT, FRENCH QUARTER: Click HERE for resort info

WILDERNESS LODGEClick HERE for resort info

BOARDWALK INNClick HERE for resort info

OLD KEY WEST RESORT: Click HERE for resort info

DOLPHIN HOTELClick HERE for resort info

SWAN HOTELClick HERE for resort info

Resorts on the Shuttle Bus Line

ANIMAL KINGDOM: Click HERE  for resort info - YOU CAN SEE ANIMALS ROAMING FROM YOUR HOTEL WINDOW

DISNEY'S FOUR SEASONS RESORT: Click HERE  for resort info

Disney's "Budget Friendly" Resorts - these are off site and will require a shuttle ride to the parks.  You WILL save a bunch staying at one of these fun hotels!

ALL STAR SPORTS RESORT: Click HERE for resort info 

ALL STAR MOVIES RESORT: Click HERE for resort info

ART OF ANIMATION RESORT: Click HERE  for resort info

You can rent a house from VRBO, rent a car and get yourself to and from the parks each day.  We did this one year we went and it was very peaceful because you were able to get away from the hustle and bustle.  Most houses for rent will have a pool which is a bonus!  Be sure to check the driving distance to each park from the address you are considering.

MAGIC BANDS:

Once your balance is paid in full you will receive a Magic Band in the mail for each member in your party that you can customize with their name and a color.  These bands are activated when you check in and store all of your purchased park tickets, meal plans and fast passes.  If you are staying at a resort you can also use them to charge souvenirs and food and drink to your room.  They make it so easy because they eliminate the need for any paper tickets or trying to look up information.  You just scan your band and all the information is available to disney team members. 

 

GET THE APP!!!!

I cannot stress this enough! Disney has followed suit with the rest of the world and gone digital!  Sure, you don't have to do it this way and just show up and take your chances but I PROMISE if you do the work before you go (like from the comfort of your couch) you will save yourself a ton of time waiting in line, missing out on the best rides and enjoying meals at the places you want to eat!

MY DISNEY EXPERIENCE is what the app is called and it's free in the App Store.  It goes directly on your phone and all your reservations for your tickets, your dining plan and reservations, ride reservations, where the characters are (live time), wait times for rides is ALL at your fingertips!

THE FAST PASS

You will be able to book your FAST PASS rides up to 30 days in advance.  DO NOT underestimate the value and importance of booking Fast Passes for the rides you want to go on.  When you arrive at the most popular ride at the park and see a posted wait time for regular riders of 2 HOURS (I'm not kidding!) and you see the FAST PASS line empty you will be thankful you did!

The fast pass option is FREE and available to everyone who buys a ticket to the park, all of them.  On the app you will be able to book 3 Fast Pass rides per day, per park, at a time.  Once you have gone on ALL the fast pass rides that day you will be able to book more either on your phone through the app or at the Fast Pass kiosks located throughout the park.

Here is an example of what the fast pass will look like on the app.  You will have a one hour window to reserve in and arrive in.  Fast Passes cannot overlap times.  

What does this mean? Book your fast pass rides at the earliest times of day that you can because if you book 2 in the morning and the 3rd at the end of the day you won't be able to get more until the 3rd one has been used which is not effective!

Each park will have their HOT rides, that everyone is trying to get on.  Use your fast passes to book those in advance and leave the less popular rides to book after you've used the first 3 up.

THE MOST POPULAR RIDES AT EACH PARK (so get yourself a fast pass!)

Magic Kingdom

Peter Pan's Flight

It's a Small World

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Enchanted Tales with Belle

Pirates of the Carribbean

Jungle Cruise

Space Mountain

The Haunted Mansion

Buzz Lightyears Space Ranger Spin

Animal Kingdom

Avatar Flight of Passage (this is huge because it JUST opened this summer)

Kali River Rapids

Expedition Everest rollercoaster

Dinosaur

Festival of the Lion King (amazing!)

Kilimanjo Safaris

Hollywood Studios

Rock n' Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith (most popular!)

Star Tours - this is a Star Wars ride and is a MUST!

The Twilight Tower of Terror

Toy Story Midway Mania (very popular and a MUST for small kids)

Voyage of the Little Mermaid

For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-a-long

If you have a STAR WARS fan this park is a must!  They have a Star Wars parade every couple of hours that ends with a show on stage - this can be found in the center of the park, the kids will absolutely love it.

Also, this is where your child can dress up like a Jedi and literally battle Darth Vader.  It is called Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple

kids must be between 4 & 12

- you MUST register before the show and is first come first serve and fills fast so go to register FIRST THING when you arrive at the park, you can register for a later show if you want to come back.

- registration is located Indiana Jones Adventure Outpost, or just ask a staff member for the fastest directions!

Epcot

Frozen Ever After

Test Track

Soarin'

Illuminations: Reflection of Earth

Spaceship Earth

Turtle Talk with Crush

The Seas with Nemo and Friends

Mission: Space

* Let it be said that EPCOT for sure houses the best selection of food and drink!  You can try different foods from different countries, you won't know which to choose!

* take a look at each of these rides on the Disney website and decide their importance to your family based on age, gender and interest.  

CHARACTER DINING

Okay, if your kids are little then this is a must!  If they are older I feel like it's a bit of a waste of money.  Each park and disney resort has a restaurant that will be a buffet style and will have specific characters designated at each one.  If you eat there your child will be guaranteed a visit from each of the characters, at your table, get a photo etc.  The food is ok but it's a little pricey for the amount of food your kids will actually eat. And because it's so popular for families with little kids they are VERY noisy and expect to hear some unhappy ones while you are there.  

This year when we went my 7 year old was still into it but the boys were not impressed :)  If you are on the meal plan you get 1 character dining per day included in your plan.  If you are just paying cash it can get very pricey.  These restaurants also fill up very fast so it's advisable to make a reservation before your trip, again - an agent can help you set up all your reservations in one call. 

Here are my FAVORITE character dining spots!

CHEF MICKEY'S located in the Contemporary Resort

THE CRYSTAL PALACE located in Magic Kingdom

CAPE MAY CAFE located in Disney's Beach Club Resort

HOLLYWOOD & VINE located in Hollywood Studios

GARDEN GRILL RESTAURANT in Epcot

AKERHAUS ROYAL BANQUET HALL in Epcot

'OHANA located in the Polynesian Village Resort

TUSKER HOUSE located in Animal Kingdom

1900 PARK FARE located in the Grand Floridian Resort

THE 2 MOST POPULAR RESTAURANTS IN MAGIC KINGDOM:

Cinderella's Royal Table & Be our Guest - both of these are hugely popular and Disney recommends booking 180 days at least in advance, crazy right?

BE OUR GUEST

Modeled after the Beasts castle - you will be hard pressed to get a reservation here unless you do it well in advance.  They are open for breakfast and lunch with Belle and Gaston making an appearance and for dinner when the Beast appears.  Lunch and Breakfast will be easier to get a table at.

It's quite pricey and counts as 2 table service meals off your meal plan.  

CINDERELLA'S ROYAL TABLE

Located IN the castle of the Magic Kingdom, it's a dream come true for a little princess.  You are guaranteed to get a visit from each of the Princesses at your table and you meet Cinderella before you go up the winding staircase that take you to the 'Royal Ballroom'.  

I really do have mixed feelings about this place.  Yes your daughter would love it but it is EXTREMELY expensive and the food is fancy so if you have picky eaters they likely won't find anything on the menu they like.

If you can afford it then go for it but if you cannot, your daughter won't even know it's there (because it's so hidden)

It is located directly across from the Bippity Boppity Salon.  I booked my daughters appointment at the Salon in the morning and then our reservation at Cinderellas table for lunch so she could go there all dressed up.

BIPPITY BOPPITY SALON

When you arrive at Magic Kingdom one of the things you will notice is that 80% of the little girls walking around will be dressed as their favorite princess.

Yes a lot come already dressed by their Moms but some are walking around like they literally just stepped out of a movie.  

The Bippity Boppity Salon, located at the bottom of  Cinderella's Castle is a MUST DO if you have a little princess lover.

Let me say that when we went this past March I actually phoned the Salon first to make sure I could get an appointment before I booked our trip.  It is that Magical and my daughter still talked about it from the last time she had been.

Upon entering, you are asked what package you would like.  You can choose hair, nails, tiara and sash (good option if you have a dress you can bring yourself) or you can go all out and purchase a dress as well.  

After you have picked your package, your daughter will be assigned her own Fairy Godmother who leads her to her own chair and begins working on her hair.  She speaks to her about all the training she had to go through to become a Fairy Godmother and plays a pretty convincing part.

Another Godmother will come around and do the nails and a bit of makeup during the process.  They keep them turned away from the mirror until the end when they spin them around to see their new look.  

In peak times this salon will book up to a year in advance so be sure to book ASAP - you can always cancel if you change your mind!

OTHER RANDOM BITS OF ADVICE:

My kids when they were in the 4-7 age range LOVED the autograph books you buy at pretty much every turn in Disney and their hotels.  They loved collecting the autographs of the characters they stood in line to meet.  I got the ones with the photo sleeve and inserted the photos to match the autographs when we got home.

- You can bring your own drinks and food into Disney!  This will save you a lot of money!  Water bottles for the heat, packaged snacks to have for long lines,  fruit snacks or lollipops for a mid day sugar boost, bananas to offset the massive amount of junk food everywhere.

- The Park Hopper option is good if your kids are troopers and can handle 2 parks in a day, we have yet to make it that far!

- If your kids can handle staying up a bit later, spend the early part of the day at your hotel or house in the pool and hit the parks mid afternoon.  You will see a massive amount of people with strollers heading out of the park by dinner - and of course watching the fireworks show at 9pm is amazing!

- There is a VIP section in Magic Kingdom that you can buy tickets to watch the fireworks from.  They serve desserts and you don't have battle people pushing you as you try to watch.

- MEMORY MAKER is a service you can buy for just over $100 which allows you unlimited access to all the photos taken of you at all of the parks.  It is SO worth it!  Every time you see a park photographer and you get them to take your photo then just tap your magic band and the photo is instantly downloaded onto your app.  Also included are the hilarious photos that are taken of your crazy face on all the rides!

ONE MORE THING!!!

If you have boys or older kids than you should also check out the Universal Parks, located about 30 minutes from Disney.

There are 2 resorts right next to each other - buy a park hopper pass and take the Harry Potter train from one park to another!

We always do the Islands of Adventure park which is home to the famous Harry Potter world, Hulk Roller Coaster, Spider Man ride, King Kong Ride, Dr. Seuss World and the Marvel area where you can meet all the Marvel superheroes.

Also the brand new Volcano Bay JUST opened which is Universals water themed park.

I hope this information has been helpful and has made you feel a little less overwhelmed.

The memories you will make will be worth any hassle it seems like to plan, promise!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This is YOUR scarf for the Summer!

This is YOUR scarf for the Summer!

A summer must have!  Light weight, versatile and stylish!  This one goes with everything and it's a steal for only $39.00!  Available in 3 colors, see below.

Click HERE to shop 

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Raising My Boys

Raising My Boys

"Mom, when you get married do you have to love your wife more than you love your Mom?"

"No, you love them the same,  just differently"

"I'm probably not going to get married then"

And just like that I was done.  For life.  Heart on fire.

My 3rd boy - he was 5 years old when he asked me this - the boy that when I was pregnant everyone would say, "awe, were you hoping for a girl?"

Side Note: Please don't say this to a woman who is having another baby of the same gender.  First, it's rude and second, it's insulting to the child she is carrying inside of her.  I remember feeling so defensive of my little man by the time I had him, constantly having to assure people that I was OKAY he was not a girl.

When my third son was about one I remember feeling totally outnumbered by these boys in my house. Outnumbered and overwhelmed not just from having ALL boys but also by the love that can only come from a boy when he looks at his Mom - I had this times 3.

I was also overwhelmed more often than not by the craziness, the wildness, the testosterone that accompanied all these boys literally from birth!

Why did they seem to grunt before using actual words?

How could every single object they picked up somehow be turned into a weapon?

Why did every great story they told end with someone dying?

Was it just MY boys or was it the case for most other Moms out there raising boys too?

How were my husband and I going to raise these boys to be well mannered and all around awesome humans without losing OUR minds in the process?

Because in the big picture, that's what we ARE doing.  We aren't just taking care of our boys - we're raising boys who will turn into young men who will turn into grown men.  Boys who will likely one day become Fathers and Husbands.

So not to put TOO much pressure on ourselves, but if we look at it that way than MAYBE we will look at how we are raising our boys differently.

Maybe if we look at it as raising future husbands, fathers and all around good people we would change our game plan.

My husband and I raise our boys in what some might call a more traditional way.  Boys and Girls are different for a reason. Equal? Yes.  The same? No.

Chivalry is alive and well in our home and I wouldn't have it any other way.

If I ever saw my son walk through a door without holding it open for a girl I may literally faint of despair.

If I ever saw my son watch an elderly person struggling to do something and they didn't offer a hand, I'm pretty sure they may LOSE THAT HAND at the hands of their loving Mom.

Do I expect my daughter to have similar behavior? Absolutely.  But if she ever goes on a date with a boy who doesn't hold the door open for her I hope that she turns and runs. 

I remember when I was growing up and my brother or I would complain to my Dad about a rule or punishment we thought was unfair we would say, "it's only because he's a boy" or "it's only because she's a girl."  He would say, "you're right,  it is, what's your point?"

Boys and Girls are inherently different - their genes say so from the beginning.

If you have a boy than you know that they can go from a ferocious super hero that wants zero help or affection from you one minute to a cuddly mamas boy laying in your lap the next.

It's confusing I think, being a boy I'm sure.  We raise them to be strong and tough, we put a football or hockey stick in their hand from the time they can walk.  Before they are even talking we are teaching them "how to be a man."

When they fall down and scrape their knee we tell them to toughen up and keep going.  When our girls fall down we scoop them up and tenderly hush them back to feeling better.

Whether we try or not, we DO treat them different from the beginning.  Maybe you are someone who prides yourself on NOT treating them any different than you would a girl.  Well that's great for you - for real.  But society is treating them different, guaranteed. 

And as they get older they learn that they will have to pay for what their predecessors did.  These men before them that decided women couldn't vote, or work, or have equal pay.  

These boys we are raising today are not the men who put these rules into place, we need to stop treating them as if they were. 

Girl Power.

Girl Boss.

Feminist.

Who Runs the World? Girls.

Where do the boys fit into all of this?  It shouldn't make them less important should it?

How do we raise our boys and help them navigate their way though childhood into adulthood without feeling like lifting women up means letting themselves be put down?

Of course it's possible to do both.  How?

We set an example.  There is no better way to teach behavior than to exhibit it yourself.  

"Ladies first", "No hitting girls", "Respect your Mother" - all rules in our house and all exhibited by their Father every day.

We have always had very clear lines with them (all of our kids really but the boys always tend to push on those lines a little bit more) about what is acceptable behavior and what is not.  

If they smell fear, they rebel, and quickly so always be steadfast in your decisions.

We teach them how to be grown men who can go to dinner with manners by not letting them run wild in a restaurant.
We teach them how to always offer someone a helping hand by doing it ourselves.
So often I will watch one of them do something amazing (even the smallest gesture) and think, "he got that from watching his Dad"
"Don't hit your sister" - like ever. No, not even if she hit you first. 
"Why do we let girls go first"? Because it's polite.  It shows her that you are thinking of her before yourself.  I'm sure you WERE thinking of your sister first, you just didn't realize it ;)
Boys are physical beings.  Probably a lot comes from how we treat them when they are little but probably a lot is just their genetic make up.  When they are angry or sad they need to be able to express it. Do you know what we found to be the best remedy?
Enter: the Boxing Bag
If they are angry or frusterated and talking it out just isn't cutting it, if they want to yell and hit something than let them.... "go hit the bag" send them that way a few times and soon enough they just start doing it on their own.
They learn to manage and release their feelings in a way that only involves themselves.  
I have watched them all go through the toddler years and I now have one in the elementary school years, one in the middle school years and one in the high school years.
As they get older they try to be tougher, they keep more to themselves.  Say nothing is bothering them when I know that there is.  Boys don't share with their group of friends the way girls do - they don't have that emotional support system.
That's why they need it from you - the support to share whatever they want and express every emotion under the rainbow at home.  They need to feel that home is a safe haven to do this because I'm pretty sure it's not what they're discussing in the locker room or while hanging out with their friends.
I know our boys don't tell us everything but I know that they sure tell me a lot more than I told my parents when I was their age.  
Like any of you Moms out there, I only want the best for them.  I realize that I have a limited amount of time with them in the realm of their life to achieve a very big goal.
Not all boys are the same, all of mine are different from one another.  And yet they are all the same in the "Boy" type of way.  They all react to rules and boundaries different from one another - you always have to adjust as you go, always keep re-assessing what you are doing and whether it's working.
For their future wives and future children, I hope I am raising them right for you.  
For any girl who thinks about treating them badly, I apologize in advance for the wrath you will feel from me.
For my not one, not two but three miracles that could only be heaven sent - being entrusted with the job of raising you into a fine young man is a task I don't take for granted.  I just need to look at you to know that so far, so good.
Hang in there Boy Moms - we can do it!!!!
Side Note: wine helps - a lot.
Xoxo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My FAVORITE pajamas!

They're almost too cute to be called pajamas and you could truly pull them off as "lounge wear" if worn separately!  I have the shorts in this floral print but only see the pants available now, you may be able to find the shorts yourself!

Click HERE to shop this top

Click HERE to shop pants

I really love this ENTIRE brand!  Check out their website for some other great options!

http://www.honeydewintimates.com/Lounge_c_92.html

 

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My Favorite Dresses for Summer!

My Favorite Dresses for Summer!

So let me first begin my saying SORRRRRYYYYYYY because this flowy, beachy number I'm wearing is claiming to be SOLD OUT as of this morning when I was posting it! I am hopeful that NORDSTROM will be re-stocking soon because it really is a gem!

The brand is Eliza J and over the past few months I have become a huge fan of this line. Nordstrom carries a lot of their stuff but you can easily find it on line as well, I have some of their dresses listed below!

I love a good, long, flowy, beachy looking dress. One that you aren't worried about how your legs will look when you sit down! Long and flowy helps when the weather is one million degrees with a large scoop of humid on top, you may be sweating - but no one's gonna know!

I've tried to list some of my faves below. They range in price, texture, color and style - but they are all beautiful and any would have you winning at your summer fashion game this summer!  Scroll through and click on image below to see!

A few more of my favorites!

Click HERE to shop this dress

Click HERE to shop this dress

Click HERE to shop this dress

Click HERE to shop this dress

Happy Shopping everyone!  And remember that the most important thing is feeling good about what you put on your body!  YOU are wearing it so YOU have to like it and be comfortable in it!

XoXo

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Easter Menu

Easter Menu

Let's get planning!  Whether you're hosting this year or you're the guest and have been asked to bring something I've got you covered with this crowd pleasing, fail proof Easter dinner menu! Take the entire menu or just one item to make life a little easier (and yummier) this Easter.

THE MAIN COURSE:

Ahhhh to Ham or not to Ham.... that is the question!  Ham or Turkey?  We grew up only ever having ham at Easter, it's a crazy idea to me that people would serve turkey!  However; if you're someone who grew up eating turkey at Easter than you probably think the opposite!  Or some people won't/don't eat pork so really turkey is the only option.  Whichever you choose (maybe it's both!), there's no wrong or right - it's your dinner so YOU get to pick!

 

THE HAM

Growing up in Toronto, my Nana and my Mom would always serve ham hot!  They would buy one from the grocery store, slather it in maple syrup, maybe a bit of brown sugar and add pineapple slices to the outside with toothpicks - stick it in the oven until hot and serve.  The syrup and sugar would turn into a glaze as it cooked and the pineapple would turn golden brown around the edges.  It was absolutely my favorite thing at the table!  

Then we moved to the South 16 years ago and our first Easter here everyone told me I needed to get my ham from the Honeybaked Ham store.  Off I went, picked the one I wanted and when the lady gave it to me I asked her how long I should put it in the oven?  She looked at me like I had two heads.  "You DO NOT put our ham in the oven, you will ruin it, it's meant to be served room temperature."  

Well to me room temperature means cold so I was a bit taken a back but bought the ham anyways and tried my luck.  If you've never tried a Honeybaked Ham they are really delicious and you can pick your flavor - you can actually buy your entire meal in there if you need to!  Maybe it's because of how I was raised but I just prefer it warm... maple syrup, brown sugar, pineapple - done.

THE SUPPORTING CAST

SUCCOTASH

Confession: I had never had nor heard of this dish until we moved to the South.  Once I did I wondered how I had gone my whole life without eating it!  It's almost a little cheat because you get a couple vegetables covered in one dish!  I love it hot but I also like eating it cold the next day as a leftover.  The bacon makes it divine but if you don't eat meat you can easily omit this ingredient and it would still be delicious!

INGREDIENTS:

5 Bacon slices, coarsely chopped

2 green onions, chopped

4 Cups Frozen whole kernel corn, thawed

3 1/2 Cups Frozen baby lima beans, thawed

3/4 Cups Chicken Broth

1 Pint Grape Tomatoes, halved

2 Tsp Chopped Fresh Basil (or 3/4 Tsp Dried Basil)

1/2 Tsp Salt

1/2 Tsp Pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Cook bacon in a large skillet until crisp, remove bacon and lay on paper towel to drain

RESERVE 3 Tbsp ( I usually just use whatever is already in there, I don't measure it) of the bacon drippings in skillet

Immediately (so the drippings are still hot) add the green onion to skillet and sauté for 2 minutes.

Add green onions to skillet and sauté in the hot drippings

Add Corn, Lima Beans and Chicken Broth and stir

Cook, uncovered for 15 minutes, stirring often. You will want the beans to be tender and the broth to be mostly evaporated.

Stir in Bacon, Tomatoes, Basil, Salt and Pepper.

Cook 5 minutes more until throughly heated.

Transfer to a large serving dish and serve.

 

SCALLOPED POTATOES

I don't know I've ever had scalloped potatoes other than at Easter! Not sure why!? Again, it's one of those dishes I would like to be left alone with!  It's that amazing!  The top bakes into a crunchy texture while the inside stays soft, guaranteed crowd pleaser!

INGREDIENTS:

8 Potatoes - peeled and sliced to make round slices

3 Tbsp Butter

2 Tbsp Flour

3 Cups Milk

1 1/2 Tsp Salt

1/2 Tsp Pepper

1 white Onion - peeled and diced

option of Havarti cheese 

DIRECTIONS:

layer a thin layer of potatoes, onion, flour and salt and pepper

repeat about 3 times ending with potatoes on top 

cover entire dish in milk 

* if using havarti cheese slices add them between layers!

Spread a thin coat of butter around inside top rim of 9 x 13 dish, this will prevent the milk from spilling over dish while cooking

Bake at 350 Degrees with LID ON (COVERED) for 1 Hour

Take Lid off (uncover) and cook for 30 minutes longer

 

SWEDISH POTATOES

Go a step further than regular mashed potatoes and give these a try!  My Aunt gave me this recipe years ago and it's been a favorite on our table ever since!

INGREDIENTS:

6 large potatoes - peeled and then cut into square pieces

3/4 Cups Sour Cream

1 x 4 ounce package of Cream Cheese

1 1/2 Tsp Onion Salt

1/2 Tsp Salt

1/2 Tsp White Pepper

2 Tbsp Butter

DIRECTIONS:

Cook potatoes in salted, boiling water until tender

Drain potatoes and mash in large bowl

Add the rest of the ingredients and beat until light & fluffy (no lumps)

Put this mixture in a medium size casserole dish 

Add a few slices of butter on top 

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes

Let stand at least 10 minutes before serving

MAC & CHEESE

I listed this on my Super Bowl menu and it's a great side for Easter too!  If you have picky eaters like my kids it's a great option for the kids table but don't be surprise if the adults are digging in as well, it's that good!

INGREDIENTS:

1 x 16 oz. package of macaroni noodles 

2 lb. of sharp cheddar - grated ( I buy the already grated in the bag!)

1 lb. mozzarella cheese - grated

1 stick of butter - unsalted

2 eggs

2 cups of whole milk

1 x 12 oz.can of evaporated milk

DIRECTIONS:

Boil macaroni noodles until cooked - about 10 minutes.  Rinse, drain and set aside in bowl.

In a saucepan, melt the butter and add whole milk and 1 lb. of the cheddar.

Stir and thicken with a bit of flour until creamy

Pour this over the macaroni and stir

Add the condensed milk and eggs and stir

Take a 2 QT casserole dish and spray with non-stick cooking oil

Place 1/4 of the macaroni mixture evenly along bottom of casserole dish

Follow by evenly adding 1/4 of both cheddar and mozzarella cheese (just dividing these into 4 layers - like making a lasagna)

Repeat this process of macaroni - and cheeses 3 times finishing with a layer of cheese on top.  

Bake at 300 degrees, uncovered for one hour or until top starts to bubble and brown.

GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE

 

INGREDIENTS:

1 Can of Cream of Mushroom Soup

1/2 Cup of Milk

1 Tsp Soy Sauce

1 Dash Black Pepper

4 Cups of Cut Cooked Green Beans

1 & 1/3 Cups of French's French Fried Onions

DIRECTIONS:

Stir the soup, milk, soy sauce, black pepper, beans and 2/3 cups onions in a casserole dish

bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until the bean mixture is hot and bubbling

stir the bean mixture

sprinkle with the remaining onions in the center of dish

bake for 5 minutes or until the onions are golden brown

DESSERT

There are really only 2 options as far as I'm concerned!  Pick one or really impress people and make both!  Either will be a crowd pleaser!

THE VERY BEST CARROT CAKE

For real.  I did not invent this recipe, let me be the first to say this - I would probably be a millionaire if I had.  I can however; make it like a pro!  It's the kind of dessert that you can't wait for everyone to go home so you can be left alone with it!  It's ridiculously moist (so sorry for that word but Lord knows nothing describes it better) and it really is like eating something straight out of a famous bakery!  The crushed pineapple is what really makes it I think so DO NOT omit this ingredient!  You can choose to add chopped walnuts to the icing or leave them out, your call!

 

There are 3 parts to making this cake - Cake, Buttermilk Glaze and Cream Cheese Frosting

INGREDIENTS FOR CAKE:

2 Cups Flour

2 Tsp Baking Soda

1/2 Tsp Salt

2 Tsp Cinnamon

3 Large Eggs

2 Cups Sugar

3/4 Cups Vegetable Oil

3/4 Cup Buttermilk

2 Tsp Vanilla extract

2 Cups Grated Carrot

1 (8 ounce) Can of Crushed Pineapple, drained

1 (3 & 1/2 ounce) can Flaked Coconut

1 Cup Chopped Pecans or Walnuts (optional)

DIRECTIONS FOR CAKE:

Spray 3  (9 inch) round cake pans with cooking spray

Stir together first 4 ingredients - set aside

Beat eggs and next 4 ingredients at medium speed until smooth

Add flour mixture (that you had set aside) beating at low speed until blended

Fold in carrot and next 3 ingredients

Pour even amounts of batter into pans

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until fork comes out clean

Drizzle Buttermilk Glaze (see below for recipe) evenly over layers while still hot 

Cool in pans for 15 minutes

Remove from pans and cool completely 

Spread cream cheese frosting (see recipe below) between layers and on top and sides of cake

INGREDIENTS FOR BUTTERMILK GLAZE:

1 Cup of Sugar

1 1/2 tsp Baking Soda

1/2 Cups of Buttermilk

1/2 Cup of Butter

1 Tbsp of Light Corn Syrup

1 Tsp Vanilla extract

* Bring first 5 ingredients to a boil in a large pot over medium - high heat.  Boil, stirring often, 4 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla

INGREDIENTS FRO CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:

3/4 Cups of Butter, softened

1 (8 ounce) package of Cream Cheese, softened

1 (3 ounce) package of Cream Cheese, softened

3 Cups Sifted Powdered Sugar

1 1/2 Tsp Vanilla extract

* Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.  Add powdered sugar and vanilla, beat until smooth

 

 

SOUR CREAM APPLE PIE

Again, it's almost like I make my way through the meal just to get to this dessert!  It's that amazing!  It was always on our table for Easter (every holiday for that matter) and the recipe has been passed down to me and now I pass it on to you!  

WHAT YOU DO:

Spray pie dish with cooking spray to prevent sticking

Add 1 bottom pie shell (I like Pillsbury roll out ones from the refrigerator section)

FILLING: (mix together in one large bowl and spread out evenly in pie shell)

2/3 Cup of Brown Sugar

1/4 Tsp each of Cinnamon, Nutmeg and Salt

1 Tbsp of Cornstarch

5 Cups of Peeled, Sliced GRANNY SMITH apples (about 6 or 7)

Once the above ingredients have been mixed together and put into pie shell...

Cover the top with 1 & 1/2 cups of Sour Cream, try to spread out evenly

CRUMB TOPPING: - use fingers to crumble together

In medium bowl combine

1/2 Cup of Flour

3 Tbsp of White Sugar

3 Tbsp of Brown Sugar

1/2 Tsp of Salt

1/4 Cup of Soft Butter (not melted! - you need it to hold a form)

Using your hands, mix the above ingredients together until it forms "crumbles"

Sprinkle on top of filling, evenly covering the top of the pie - this replaces the need for a top pie crust

Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, cover crust with foil or pie shields to prevent burning, reduce heat to 350 and continue to cook until apples start to bubble.  Let stand at least 20-30 minutes.  

What's a pie guard?  You can buy disposable ones at places like Walmart or you can buy re-usable ones at kitchen stores or walmart.

 Disposable - Found at Walmart

 Reusable - Found on Amazon

Or you can trace the circle of your pie dish on tin foil before you start and cut out your own!

There is so much goodness to choose from here just be sure not to fill up on chocolate eggs before hand!

Enjoy and Happy Easter!

XoXo 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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LOSING MY MIND...

LOSING MY MIND...

MAY 2013

I don't have much memory of that day after it happened - only what I was told.  

I do remember the part before - I had knee surgery the day before.  I woke up that morning, took my pain pills and crutched my way into the kitchen.  

Had breakfast, watched my kids get ready and my husband get them out the door to school.  

My parents were in town to help out and shortly after everyone had left my Mom suggested we sit on the front porch to get some air.  

I was sitting on my porch swing, my parents were in the chairs across from me.  My Dad had asked me a question that I was googling on my phone for the answer.  I remember reading him the answer.  

My next memory is laying on my porch, men in navy blue shirts leaning over me, talking to me, so many questions.  

I wanted them to be quiet, I wanted them to stop talking.  I remember being carried down my front steps, I remember being loaded in, I remember being confused.  

I truly did not know what was happening, I didn't know how I had gotten where I was. I could hear my Mothers voice, I heard her ask why the lights were not on.  

I could hear the EMTs talking to each other.  He put an IV in my arm, I asked him what he was doing.  He said, "it's in case you have another seizure, I'll be able to stop it."  

Weird, I wondered who he was talking about? Not me, I had knee surgery, not a seizure, why was I here anyways?  

I said, "Do you see the man driving behind us?  He looks just like my husband."  

"Mam, that is your husband.  He is following us to the hospital.  You suffered a grand mal seizure and you are in an ambulance going to the hospital."   

It's hard to explain when part of your life, minutes, hours go missing.  You strain your brain to retrieve the memory.  You close your eyes and try your best to remember what happened the way people recall the event to you.  

But it's not there, it's just a blank space of nothing, your mind has tricked you into thinking you were in control of your brain all these years.  

The shock when you realize it's the other way around is sobering.  

That day at the hospital the Doctors concluded that my seizure was a direct result of my surgery, or the anti-nauseants or the anesthetic.  It was what they called induced, brought on by an outside factor.  

I was to see a neurologist but they all felt confident their diagnosis was correct.  I went home that day and slept, and slept and slept some more.  I saw the look on my husbands face, my parents face - I realized that it had been more traumatic for them than it had been for me.  

After all... I had no memory of it.  Over the next few days everyone just stared at me, watching and waiting to see if it would happen again.  

It didn't.

I went to see a Neurologist, the best in the city, the head of Neurology - I would have an answer for sure.  He agreed with the Doctors from the hospital that day but to be sure he would send me for an EEG and a CAT scan.

If those came back clear he wouldn't take away my license nor would he put me on a anti-seizure medicine.  I was just to stay clear of the anti-nausea medicines I had been given for my surgery.  

It came back clear, hallelujah I was fine!  Let's just move on with life please.....

FEBRUARY 2014

My entire house had been hit with the stomach bug except for me.  They were finally recovered and we were getting back to normal.  

I woke up to the phone ringing, it was the school district saying school was cancelled due to snow, yay - no getting up.  I closed my eyes again and immediately knew it, that nauseous feeling - for the love, I caught the stomach bug.  

I went into my bathroom and found a prescription I'd been given from my knee surgery for Phenergan (a popular prescription anti-nauseant) in case I had been nauseous after surgery.  I hadn't been nauseous after surgery so I'd never taken it, but I was now so was thankful to find it!  

It said to take 1-2 every 6 hours.  I was beyond nauseous at this point so I was taking two!  I went back to bed, told my husband I wasn't feeling well and what I had taken.  I fell back asleep and when I woke up a couple hours later I felt great, not sick at all.  It had worked, stomach bug successfully averted.  On with the day...

My husband was home that day, he was working in the barn down our driveway.  My daughters gymnastics class had not been cancelled so I had told him I would be taking her.  

I yelled to my daughter that we would be leaving in 10 minutes.  I walked into my closet, stood in front of the shelves I keep my jeans on and tried to decide which ones to wear.  

I heard my name being yelled, I felt someone shaking my shoulders.  I opened my eyes and saw my husband was staring down at me.  What on earth is he doing? Why is he calling my name and why am I laying on the floor of my closet?  

"What?" I said, as though it was perfectly normal for me to be sleeping in the closet.  

"What happened? What are you doing? You were completely unconscious!" he said.  

Weird.  I came in for pants and woke up on the floor - I don't know how much time passed between the two.  My 11 year old son found me, he thought I was sleeping, or dead, he wasn't sure.  He ran to find his Dad.  

My husband put me in my bed, I heard him on the phone with my Mom.  

He said to me, "your Mom thinks you had a seizure".

Impossible,  I was just looking for pants.  In my life I don't ever remember being so tired.  I slept all day, he kept waking me up and asking me questions, I'd answer correctly and he'd let me go back to sleep.  

He wanted me to drink water, I couldn't - I was too tired.  I probably slept for a solid 18 hours.  

I woke up to my phone ringing, it was pitch black out.  It was the next morning.  It was the school again, calling at 5am to say school was cancelled again.  I lay there some more, my husband was not beside me - I could hear him in the kitchen.  

I got up and felt like I'd been hit by a truck, every muscle in my body ached.  My contacts were still in my eyes. I went into the bathroom and looked in the mirror.  My face was bruised on one side, I had clearly met the island in my closet on my way down to the floor. 

I walked into the kitchen, it was still dark outside. There he was, he hadn't been able to sleep.  He doesn't do well with situations he can't control or make better.  

He looked at me and said, "How are you feeling?"

"Fine." I said.  

"Look at your face", he said. "What happened yesterday?"  

I said I didn't remember anything other than looking for pants.  I remembered nothing, nothing.  

I started to talk more and I remember the expression on his face changing, he started walking towards me and I heard him say, "are you alright?"  

"Mrs. Reid, you've had a seizure, we're taking you to the hospital."  

Again with the men in blue shirts.  I couldn't have had a seizure, I was just talking to my husband in the kitchen.  I remember crying. I felt weak, I felt sore, I felt out of control.  I felt like I was losing my mind, literally.  

Why was it betraying me like this?  

My heart went out to my husband.  He said that yes my memory of what happened was correct.  He said I was talking and then started slurring my words and suddenly got a glazed look in my eyes.  

He had asked me if I was okay and my head just flung backwards and there we were on the kitchen floor, for better or worse, me having a seizure and him scared out of his mind.  

He had to call 911.  He had to yell for our oldest, he had to tell him he was in charge.  He had to call for our youngest and take her with him to the hospital.  He had to fend off Hugo who thought his Mother was being attacked.  

It was not how he had seen his day going... 

The feeling I had after these two seizures was different than before.  Maybe it's because there were two and not just one.  When I was at the hospital that day they did a CT scan of my brain which came back clear but again told me it was likely an allergic reaction to the medicine.  

Back to the neurologist I should go and no driving until then.  The next few days I have little memory of.  I remember feeling paranoid, scared, I never wanted to be alone.  

My husband took time off work and if he had to go anywhere I would go with him.  I was scared of the world, I was scared of my brain. I didn't trust it anymore.  I could tell he felt sorry for me, I could see it in his eyes.  I had always been strong and now I felt weak.  

A couple days later we went to Starbucks and stood in a long line.  

I looked around at the packed coffee shop and whispered to my husband, "I think I know everyone in here."

"I'm pretty sure you don't, are you alright?" he said.

I looked up from his neck and back around and he was right, I didn't know anyone - I wanted to cry.  

What was happening to my mind and how would I handle life right now if he left me standing alone in Starbucks?  

 

I went back to the Neurologist and had more tests done, he said again that they were all clear and it was a "provoked" seizure.  

He would not take my license away, he would not put me on anti-seizure medicine but I was to never have Phenegran again.  He said it was a severe allergic reaction that had also played havoc on my brain.  

I went home and got back to my life, day by day I started to forget what had happened and started to trust myself again, trust that I would be ok as long as I didn't take any other medicines.  

MAY 2014

My husband was out of town, he was in Atlanta with our youngest son.  

I woke up and left with my daughter , we went to Target, we went to the gym.  I checked her into the daycare and walked into class.  I stood near the front of the room, ready for my cardio kickboxing class to begin.  

20 minutes into class I lost my balance, I thought it was my new shoes so I walked to the back of the class and took them off.  I walked back to my spot, I felt dizzy - must be the heat, I felt like I was going to fall - must be the exercise.  

Don't stop, push through, you don't know anyone in here, you are not a quitter.  

Ever have a deja vu?  That feeling that you've been in the same place with the same people in the same situation before?  

Well take that feeling and mulitply it by 1000, but not it a good way - like you want to escape, you want out of that feeling more than anything in the world.  

Add a feeling of nausea and dizziness.  I could see my arm punching in front of me but felt like it wasn't mine - it was a total mind / body disconnect, they call it an aura.

This was my last memory. 

"Mrs. Reid, I'm a medic with Williamson County, you suffered a seizure, you're in a ambulance and you're being taken to the hospital."

"No, no I didn't."

"Mam you did.  There was a nurse in your class and she told us what happened, you had a grand mal seizure 40 minutes into class."

I cried, I didn't want to be there. I wanted them to let me out. I wanted to go home.  What had I taken? What had happened before that brought this on?  Surely something? Anything?  Nothing.  

"Mam your friend Amy has your daughter."  

Holy **** did I seriously just forget my daughter was still at the gym? Yes, I had forgotten.  And who is Amy?  I don't know anyone named Amy? What is happening? Where is my child?

Her pre-school teacher from the year before (Amy) had been there that day.  We had spoken in the lobby before class, like a gift from God he had placed her in class that day.  

I remember staring at the walls of the ambulance, my mind was not mine and in case I had forgotten here was my reminder.  

"They are trying to get a hold of your husband."  Awesome, here we go again.

They wheeled me into the ER and I had to tell the story again, I was so tired,  I was tired of telling the story.  I hadn't taken anything, hadn't had any surgeries.  They asked me if I was taking diet pills? Pain pills? Any pills?  

I wanted to be able to say yes, I wanted there to be a reason WHY, but there wasn't, it had just happened.  

The Doctor in the ER spoke to my Neurologist.  She said she was discharging me but was starting me on a anti-seizure medicine and I was not to drive until I saw my Neurologist again.  

I was in a daze, it was all a blur.  Had I really just had a seizure in a room full of strangers?  I was so private and all of these people had just witnessed this happen to me? I was horrified.  

My husband drove back from Atlanta with our son, they had to miss the event they had gone to see.  He was stressed, he felt helpless.  

I decided I wanted a new Neurologist.  I didn't know exactly why, it was just a feeling.  My current one was close to retirement, I could feel his desire to be on a golf course instead of a medical office and I needed to be fixed.  

I went to see someone new, someone younger.  His youth didn't scare me. I could tell he loved what he did and was eager to get me figured out.  

He said I needed to stay on the anti-seizure medicine, twice a day.  How long?  That was something he couldn't tell me.  He said to stay away from pools if I was alone and not to have a bath by myself.  Like a child.

He said I had never had a MRI, he was sending me for one, particularly of my frontal lobe, to see what was causing the seizures.  

Then he looked at me like he wanted to be anywhere else other than that room and said, "I hate this part but I have to tell you that you cannot drive for the next 6 months.  If you have another seizure before that time the 6 months starts again.  It's the law, I'm sorry."  

My husband and I walked out of his office and I said I didn't want to talk about it.  We got in the car and he started to drive, I began to cry to the point I thought I would never stop.  

I was certain I was dying of a brain tumor, who was going to take care of my family? Who was going to pack their lunches and take care of them when they were sick?

And no driving?  We had moved out of the city, their was no public transportation. Uber hadn't come to our town and I had 4 kids going to 3 different schools.  

My husband said, "we'll figure it out, we'll get help, you will be fine."  

My new Neurologist sent me for another round of EEG's, ones where they change your environment.  When they put the bars up on the bed you start to realize they are anticipating you are likely going to have a seizure.  

I passed all their tests, ha - no seizure, nice try.  

I went for the MRI.  When I left after an hour and said goodbye to the tech who had run the test he said, "bye, good luck."  

Ummmmm what?  I kept walking, I got to my car and wanted to go back and ask him what he had meant by that?  I thought about it the whole way home, who says that???  

I planned to go back the next day and demand he tell me what he meant by that.. like "good luck with the rest of your day?" or "good luck with what I just saw on the screen."  

I didn't go back.  I waited, waited for the phone call to come with my results.  

They told me the seizure medicine would take a few weeks to adjust to, a few months would have been a more accurate statement.  

It was awful, I felt terrible all the time.  I was so tired, I felt like a walking zombie.  My mood went up and down like a yo-yo and as my family member you never knew who you were going to get when you walked in the door.  

I couldn't remember anything, I didn't know what I had done that morning.  I repeated myself all the time.  

"You just told me that", my husband would say. Then he stopped saying it and I could just tell by the look on his face he had heard it before.  

I started to think about what I was about to say, trying to remember if I had already said it during the conversation.

This medicine that was supposed to be stabilizing my brain made me once again feel like I was losing my mind. 

In the midst of my emotionally unstable medicine adjusting phase while waiting on my results (I was a total joy to be around) we were scheduled to go on a trip to the beach, we were leaving in a few days. 

The night before we left (a Friday night) I had left my phone in another room.  When I came back to check it (around 6pm) I had a missed call from a number I didn't recognize and no voicemail.  

I immediately called it back and it was my Neurologists office, they were closed.  I said it was an emergency and got the answering service who did not know why anyone had called me and they wouldn't be back in the office until Monday.  

I hung up and stared at the phone.  Why had they called me after hours on a Friday night?  Why hadn't they left a message?  In less than 10 minutes I had it all figured out.  

I assumed he was calling with my results.  At the end of the day after he'd been done with his patients so he'd have quiet.  He had gotten my voicemail but wouldn't ever leave bad news on a message so had decided to hang up instead.  That was it, I was dying, I just knew it.  

Why do we always go to the worst possible scenario? Why do we assume the news will always be bad?  

I cried and cried and cried until I thought I would pass out.  

My husband said I was jumping to conclusions.

We drove to the beach and I waited until Monday for them to return my call.  

It was the nurse, "we were calling Friday with your appointment reminder.  Your scans came back clear, the Doctor didn't find anything wrong."

"I'm not dying?  I thought he was calling with bad news." I said.

"No mam, your tests are fine, he will speak to you more next week at your appointment."  

What a relief right?  I mean it was like a new lease on life wasn't it?  Shouldn't it be?

Part of me didn't believe her.  Part of me thought they were missing something.  Part of me still didn't feel normal.  

Even though it was supposed to be good news I still wanted an answer.  I still didn't understand why this was happening.  

Maybe because if I didn't know why they had occurred how would I know how to prevent them in the future?

I went back to see my Dr. when I returned.  He was so happy to report that my scans were clear.  He wondered why I was not sharing in his happiness.  

I stared at him and said, "then why am I having seizures?",  "why didn't anything show up on the scans?"

And then my young and jovial Neurologist switched to his serious Doctor face, looked at me and said, "I know you want an answer and I'm sorry but sometimes we just don't know WHY.  Sometimes we just have to accept that things just happen and we do what we can to make sure they don't happen again.  Trust me when I tell you that when you start having seizures at your age (easy with the age reference young gun) and I send you for brain scans you DO NOT want me to find anything because what I am looking for is a brain tumor.  This is good news."

"So how long on the medicine?"

"There's no test I can run to tell you you won't have seizures anymore, you would be playing russian roulette if you stopped taking it."

So that was that.

The next 6 months were the hardest months of my life.  I felt physically terrible from the medicine but eventually adjusted.  As someone who never liked to ask for help I was left with no choice BUT to ask for help.  

I needed to ask for a ride everywhere I went.  I relied on friends, I relied on my Mom and Mother-In-Law who came down to help, I relied on my husband and I probably wasn't deserving of any of the help that I got.  I felt sorry for myself, I felt out of control, I felt weak.

In the midst of my storm there was a ray of light thrown in from the people I met during that time and it produced the most beautiful rainbow.  Friends I made who made those months more bearable, who drove my backside around, took me to lunch and most importantly... asked me how I was.

During those 6 months I realized how lucky my family was to have parents who were willing to drop everything and fly to another country to help us. 

And wow, what can I say about this amazing husband of mine?  What he had to put up, what he had to sacrifice to stay home and be with me I will never be able to thank him enough for.

He is somewhat over the trauma of it all and now I find it endearing that when we see fireworks he tells me to look away, when I'm out by the pool he bangs on the window for me not to be alone, when I take a bath he checks on me every few minutes, he is being 100% serious but I can't help but chuckle.  

It has been almost 3 years since I've had a seizure, it has been the same amount of time since I've been on anti-seizure medicine.

And because my Neurologist could tell that I was not going to stop asking until he could give me some sort of explanation for what was causing my seizures he finally came up with this explanation that he was quick to say was not proven, it was only his thoughts.  

Maybe you are going through something similar that you can't get any answers on, maybe this will be helpful to you as well.  I know it has put my mind at ease.

He said that everyone has a "seizure threshold", that he could provoke anyone into having a seizure through medication that would push their brain activity over that threshold line.

He said the majority of people lived well below that threshold line, people with Epilepsy lived above it.

He thought that I had probably spent my life living just under it, tapping the ceiling dangerously but never being pushed over the line.

The medication or the mixtures of them I had taken for my surgery and then when I had the flu had lowered my threshold (or increased my brain activity) which caused the seizure.

Because I had always lived so close to that ceiling my brain now knew how to go there, it was familiar.  

My threshold may have been lowered by those medicines just enough that my brain wasn't able to keep it's activity from crossing it, even without being provoked by an outside source.  

So there it is, I feel like I just wrote a novel.

Thank you for listening to my story.  It is one I have been asked about so many times.  Why couldn't you drive?  Are you really ok now?  Do they know what caused it?  I have tried to piece it all together the best I can. 

I am beyond thankful for my health, I am beyond thankful for my family and friends.

But do I still panic if I feel a twinge in my head? Absolutely.  I probably always will.

Will I stay on the medicine forever?  I hope not.

As long as I have to drive a car I will.

As long as I have to care for my children I will.

Maybe one day when we move to the beach and I can walk everywhere I will try.  Who knows, I need to work on getting that beach house first...... 

XoXo

- All photos by MINGO photography -

 

 

 

 

 

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FINDING, KEEPING & GETTING BACK THE SPARK IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP

FINDING, KEEPING & GETTING BACK THE SPARK IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP

AHHHHHH...... remember the newness of your relationship?  Everything was so exciting, everything he said was so interesting, everything he said was sooo funny and when he took your hand for the first time you thought this may literally be what it feels like to touch a live wire? 

Or not. Wait what?  What if it's not always like the movies?  What if your love story was meant to happen differently?  What if your story was meant to happen at a slower, steadier pace, when you least expected it and certainly weren't expecting it? What if it began as friendship and it started out as a like instead of a love?  What if you met on-line?  Is it really possible to fall in love with someone you've never actually seen in person? Touched? Looked into their eyes?

What if you met that person in high school?  Can you really be sure he is the one if you never dated anyone else?  What if it doesn't happen until later in life?  Can you really have that amazing connection to someone if they were absent for the first half of your life?

Which of these relationship beginnings is the right way?  Which one will endure the test of time?  The test of real life interference?  Is there a perfect way to start a relationship?  Of course there isn't - but we sure spend a lot of time analyzing, researching and stressing over HOW  we will find love!  Why is that do you think?  

Does it really matter? Are we on a mission to prove that our marriage is somehow stronger than others because of how it started?  How long it's been? Don't get me wrong, a marriage that has lasted for years is amazing, it can (and should) be a testament to the power of that relationship.  

But there are also marriages that have gone on way too long, hung on for years for the sake of convenience, kids, money, hope?  Marriages that should have been set free a long time ago and weren't, aren't.  They parade themselves around with a "We've been married for 25 years" banner flying above while the truth is, the people holding that banner are falling apart at the seams, miserable with themselves and each other.

Oh wait, this is a Valentine's Day post - let's keep it about hearts and roses right?  Well maybe we should keep it real instead.  Maybe if we were a bit more real with our expectations than we wouldn't always feel like we're failing?  

FINDING THE SPARK

This could honestly be the shortest thing I've ever written.  Why?  Because you will just know. THIS is not something that should require work.  If you have to actively try to ignite the spark with someone you have JUST began dating than please send this relationship out to pasture... to die.  

Your heart will skip a beat when you hear their name, you will get butterflies in your stomach when you know you are about to see them.  You will find yourself checking your phone to make sure you didn't miss a call or text from them.  They will have the ability to change your entire mood just by something they do (or don't).

When I first met my husband I would literally feel like I was either going to faint or throw up if I knew we were going to be in the same place.  When I would see him walking towards me I would get weak in the knees.  When he talked to me I don't know that what he said even mattered, I laughed at every word and had zero desire to have my eyes focused on anyone else.

Even if you start out as friends, when the above type of things start to occur is when you know that maybe this is turning into something more.  But you will know, you can't force it, you will just feel it - Cupids arrow when you least expect it.

(SIDE NOTE)

For all you single ladies out there, younger or older or somewhere in between... One thing I have learned and seen again and again over the years is this - if a man wants you to be in his life, if he wants a relationship with you, he will literally move mountains to make it happen.  

Remember that movie, "He's just Not That Into You"?  every single scenario in that movie is true.  Stop making excuses for someone who doesn't call or text you back, who cancels plans at the last minute, who waits to see if there's something better going on before making plans with you.  

Men like a challenge, they like to feel like they have something that was unattainable to someone else. If the guy you are interested in is being wishy washy with you and you are unsure of his feelings than put him to the test.

So many times we are scared to call someones bluff, scared to walk away.  If you aren't getting what you really want than what is the point in staying anyways?  You teach people how to treat you. Teach your possible future husband that you are worthy of being sought after.

Be a challenge, make him work for you because YOU ARE WORTH IT!  

Okay, where were we????  

KEEPING THE SPARK

The million dollar question right?  I have been married for 16 years, we dated for 5 years before that.  As of last year we have been together for half of my life.  Pretty good right?  I think so.  Does it make me an expert on relationships?  No.  Because my husband is not like yours and I am not like you and the chemistry him and I have with each other will not be the same as you have with your husband, we are all so different - even just from a biological standpoint! 

Then you throw in all the external factors!  Life, careers, kids, money, health and how are your husbands coping skills anyhow?  How are yours?  Did you discuss this before you were married?  Would you have even been able to answer?  

Marriage is often a learn as you go commitment - I am committed to learning how to deal with and handle lifes ups and downs - with you.  

You and your husband have to find your own formula for success, for YOUR marriage.  It may not be the same as your parents, your sisters, your friends.  

Never underestimate the power of making each other laugh, laughter can get you through almost anything.  Not because it will make everything better but because in the present moment it's light will outshine the dark and it will refuel your soul like nothing else.  

Always make an effort to be the person you were that your husband fell in love with.  Yes we change as we get older, hopefully you both change, at the same pace, for the better.  Be an example, he will follow suit.

My parents have been married for 45 years.  Growing up my Dad would come home from work at the same time every day.  He would walk up the stairs, into the kitchen and the first thing he would do was walk over to my Mother and kiss her hello. Then he would say hi to everyone else.

It was the smallest of gestures that meant so much.  It was letting us all know that she was his priority, they were a team, they were parents but they were ALSO a couple.

Remember those things that ignited the spark? Make a conscious effort to still do the things that first took his breath away.  Compliment him, ask him about his  day, what's happening at work (and be engaged when he answers), ask him how he's feeling?  Make him dinner, bring him coffee, touch up your makeup, don't go to bed looking homeless (must work on this myself).

TALK ABOUT YOUR FUTURE!!!  Do you do this? and I don't just mean your retirement fund.  Make plans for when the kids go to college, what will you do with yourselves? Have inside jokes with each other,  sit on the couch with each other, next to each other with your legs tangled. Go to bed at the same time and FOR THE LOVE can we please put our phones away at the same time?  

Marriage is not a given.  It doesn't build itself and it certainly doesn't fix itself.  It requires you to show up every day and be present, be mindful and engaged.  Don't compare yourself to others, focus on your own marriage - not someone else's.

GETTING BACK THE SPARK

Can you get it back once it's gone?  And did it really go out or did it just dim a little? A lot?  Do you even want it back?  Are you just going through the motions?  

Sometimes s*** happens.  It can't be 24/7 rainbows and unicorns - if you say it can well then it's unlikely you're in my circle of friends.  

Did you wake up one day and realize that you somehow let the kids, work, bills, friends jump to the front of the line in front of your husband - your line.  Who controls the order of this line?  YOU.  

When did the spark go out?  After kids?  When you were so physically tired that the last thing you wanted to do was "get busy" with your husband?  When you started that new job?  The one that took everything out of you mentally that the last thing you felt like doing was coming home and conversing with your husband?  

When you got older or had kids and your body changed? Did you stop feeling attractive?  Did you worry that he would no longer be happy with you?  I would imagine that if you asked him he would say that the time you look most beautiful is when you're being a Mother.

I would imagine that yes, what initially attracted him to you was physical, but now, after all these years it is about so much more.  I would imagine that you are way harder on yourself than he is.

Your marriage is the foundation for your family, if it isn't nurtured the concrete will start to crack and eventually crumble, taking prisoners with it.  

You always have two options - fix it or let it go.  

Fixing it will require work, on both sides but of course you can do it!  It's often the little things I mentioned above that will slowly get it back on track, day by day it will start to rejuvenate itself.

SO WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

To all my single ladies out there - there is hope!  I promise you your time is coming, be patient, don't rush it and please don't settle!  Be open to the possibility, be aware of who you're surrounding yourself with and be open to feeling that spark!

To the ladies who are trying to juggle it all, including a great marriage...

I don't take my marriage for granted, ever.  I know how lucky I am to have the husband that I do.  And although it can feel like it, it's not magic, it's not without fault and bumps in the road and it certainly didn't get to where it is without effort.  

If there was one word to describe what both men AND women want to feel in a relationship it would be APPRECIATED.  It validates us as people and as partners.  

You appreciated him when you met him right?  You probably appreciated every single thing about him? You appreciate him every time he does something to keep the spark alive right?  And you better be appreciating him if he's trying to do things to get the spark back!  Then TELL HIM - men want to feel appreciated, valued and needed.  It gives them a feeling like nothing money could ever buy.

So with all your choices for Valentine's Day Cards, maybe try writing your own this year?  From the heart, make it personal, make it cheesy, make him feel amazing.  

Lose the old t-shirt and track pants you've been wearing to bed and go get yourself some fancy pajamas - that would be enough of a Valentine's gift for most men, seeing that YOU put in the effort for them.  

I would write more but I need to take my own advice and get myself to the mall for some "fancy" pajamas - now I just need to figure out a way not to fall asleep before 10pm.

Happy Love Day everyone!

XoXo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SUPER BOWL FAVORITES!

SUPER BOWL FAVORITES!

PULLED PORK SANDWICHES

My favorite way to make these are in my crock pot.  Slow and low all day long will have your house smelling amazing when your guests arrive or while you're watching the game.  Just a few simple ingredients are all you need!  I use pork but you can substitute with chicken breasts if you'd prefer - be sure to trim off the fat first!

WHAT YOU NEED:

One 5 or 6 pound BOSTON BUTT ROAST - this will give you plenty and maybe some leftovers too!

1 Packet Hidden Valley Ranch salad dressing and seasoning mix

2 Bottles of BBQ sauce.  Some for the crock pot, some to stir in after it's cooked and some to put on your sandwich!

Sandwich buns - my favorite are King's Hawaiin Sweet Rolls

WHAT YOU DO:

Place the roast (or chicken) in the bottom of the crock pot

Evenly sprinkle the packet of ranch onto the roast (or chicken)

Add about 3/4 bottle of the BBQ, evenly coating the roast.  The amount of sauce you use should depend on your roast size, you want to make sure it's fully covered and then some! 

Put on the lid and cook, on low for about 5 - 6 hours, you will know it's done when the meat shreds easily apart with a fork.  You will see it starting to fall apart!

Remove the meat and put it onto a large plate or bowl.

Using 2 forks, begin pulling apart the meat until it is LITERALLY shredded!  Transfer back to the crock pot and mix with the sauce.

At this point you can add more BBQ sauce if you think it's needed.  

You're ready to spoon the meat onto your rolls.  Either add more BBQ sauce on top or my favorite thing is to add a spoon of coleslaw!

Enjoy xoxo

A couple more recipes coming tomorrow!

MACARONI & CHEESE

 

This is by far one of my most favorite things to eat and a total crowd pleaser!  Kids and adults love it and it's a great side to pair with the pulled pork sandwiches!  

WHAT YOU NEED:

1 x 16 oz. package of macaroni noodles 

2 lb. of sharp cheddar - grated ( I buy the already grated in the bag!)

1 lb. mozzarella cheese - grated

1 stick of butter - unsalted

2 eggs

2 cups of whole milk

1 x 12 oz.can of evaporated milk

WHAT YOU DO:

Boil macaroni noodles until cooked - about 10 minutes.  Rinse, drain and set aside in bowl.

In a saucepan, melt the butter and add whole milk and 1 lb. of the cheddar.

Stir and thicken with a bit of flour until creamy

Pour this over the macaroni and stir

Add the condensed milk and eggs and stir

Take a 2 QT casserole dish and spray with non-stick cooking oil

Place 1/4 of the macaroni mixture evenly along bottom of casserole dish

Follow by evenly adding 1/4 of both cheddar and mozzarella cheese (just dividing these into 4 layers - like making a lasagna)

Repeat this process of macaroni - and cheeses 3 times finishing with a layer of cheese on top.  

Bake at 300 degrees, uncovered for one hour or until top starts to bubble and brown.

CREAMY JALAPENO DIP

If you want to arrive with a show stopping appetizer than look no further!  I got this recipe from my friend Ellen who makes it for nearly every get together we have (we pretty much beg) and I swear I could just drink it from the bowl!

It's amazing served with tortilla chips but it would pretty much be amazing with anything you dipped in it! Veggies, pretzels, your face etc... 

She has graciously given me the recipe and now I pass it on to you...

WHAT YOU NEED:

1 Cup Mayonnaise

1 Cup Sour Cream

1/2 Cup of Pickled Jalapeños Slices- drained 

1/2 Fresh Cilantro

1 Packet of Hidden Valley Ranch Salad dressing

Fresh Squeezed Juice from 1/2 of a Lime 

 

WHAT YOU DO:

Put all ingredients into a food processor or blender and blend until smooth!  I like doing it in intervals and checking to see if any of the jalapeños or cilantro have gotten stuck at the bottom.  If so, scoop them back into the mixture and continue blending!

* You can easily double this recipe for a larger group

WARNING: Highly Addictive

Enjoy! xoxo

 

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VALENTINE'S DAY GIFT GUIDE

VALENTINE'S DAY GIFT GUIDE

Ok ladies, you've officially got 2 weeks to find the "perfect" gift for the love of your life!  

The one who makes your heart go pitter patter!  The one who puts up with your emotionally craziness (oh wait maybe that's just me), the one that you know for certain you could not live without.

Here are my top picks that I think most men would love to receive.  They range in price from a little to a lot - there is something for every man and every budget!

In our house, Valentine's Day has never been about extravagant gifts (and remarkably I've been ok with that, I kid).  

Because back in the day when we didn't have enough money to spend on such gifts my husband and I would always give each other chocolate and a card and it was always enough.  

It was enough because we would BOTH always take the time to write in our card something personal, we would take the time to choose the perfect card for one another.  

I still have those cards and I wouldn't trade them for any diamond in the world!

1. BOOK BOOK FOR IPHONE

My husband can seriously not live without this!  He used to get so frustrated carrying a wallet and his phone around and then one day his amazing wife produced this gift of all gifts and his life was simplified!  It holds any size iPhone (the site will ask you to choose which size phone you have) and then holds all his cards usually kept in his wallet!  Available in both brown and black leather.  

Click Here to SHOP

2. BEATS WIRELESS HEADPHONES

If you're feeling a little more generous and your budget allows.... any man would love a pair of these Beats by Dre Wireless headphones!  I have a pair and I promise you the sound quality is beyond amazing!  Plus the convenience of not having to work around a cord is awesome!  You will win some major wife points with this gift!

Click Here to SHOP

3. COPPER MUGS

These beauties were on my Christmas Gift Guide and they are making another appearance on this one!  They are my husbands favorite glass to drink out of it, they truly do keep your drink ice cold!  The Moscow Mule is the typical cocktail served in these cups but he could really use them for any drink his heart desires!

Click Here to SHOP

4. IF YOU CAN READ THIS... BRING ME A BEER  - SOCKS

These socks started popping up around Christmas and made me chuckle.  If you can envision your husband sitting on the couch with his feet up on the coffee table than he NEEDS these socks!

Click Here to SHOP

5. FIREPIT

One of the most used gifts I ever gave my husband!  Before we built a outdoor fireplace this was our go to!  I love it because you can move it around, depending on where you are sitting.  It's an amazing price point and ours lasted forever!

Click Here to SHOP

6. BEATS PILL WIRELESS SPEAKER

How did my husband and I live without this product for so long???  This bluetooth wireless speaker gives off a sound like no other!  We pack it in our suitcases for any vacation we go on!  We take it to the beach, to the pool and even to our hotel room (to help us sleep of course, geesh).  The sound you get out of this little device is amazing and I promise your husband will love it!

Click Here to SHOP

7. BABY DADDY MUG

I mean.... do I really need to sell this to you?  I saw it and knew my hubby was getting one for Valentines Day!

Click Here to SHOP

8. YETI RAMBLER, YETI COOLER, YETI BEER HOLDER

I cannot say enough great things about this line.  It truly is like magic!  Whether it's the rambler, the beer holder or the cooler... you have NEVER seen anything keep something cold for so long!  You can put ice in the cup or cooler in the morning and it's still there in the afternoon!  They aren't cheap but they last forever and are worth every penny!

RAMBLER - Hold any beverage - hot or cold!

Click Here to SHOP

COOLER - Fill it with Ice, fill with his favorite beverages and he is good for the ENTIRE day!!!  Available in different sizes.

Click Here to SHOP

BEER HOLDER - Holds any canned beverage and keeps it cold all day!  Beer, soda, sparkling water, anything that comes in a can will fit in this container!  Perfect for days at the lake or beach!

Click Here to SHOP

9. PERSONALIZED GRILLING TRAY - OUR FAMILY IS FLIPPING AWESOME

Love this so much!  You can add all your family members name to this tray, a perfect keepsake to use summer after summer!

Click Here to SHOP

10. MAN GRATE

The perfect gift for the man who loves to grill!  A cast iron grate that sits on top of you grill - he will get the same steak house quality found at a restaurant, with perfect sear marks and even cooking.  Virtually non-stick, just oil before use.  Available in different sizes to fit your current BBQ.

Click Here to SHOP

11. PERSONALIZED PHOTO MUG & BOOK

My hubby is a big fan (although he may not admit it) of anything with a personal touch.  Shutterfly has an amazing Valentines selection at a great price point.  You can choose a coffee mug or make him a photo book - all personalized and super easy!  You just drag and drop your photos onto their pre-existing templates.  The mugs they have this year are amazing.  I love giving gifts like this because it's a reminder year after year of the year it was given!

Click Here to SHOP

12. WHAT HAPPENS IN ---- GARAGE, STAYS IN THE GARAGE SIGN

This is a fun and inexpensive way to personalize something for the man who loves to spend time in his garage!  Let him know that you think his garage is as important and sacred as he does (we all know you don't but it's the thought that counts!)

Click Here to SHOP

13. PERSONALIZED WALL MOUNTED BOTTLE OPENER

Another cute and inexpensive gift but with a personal touch.  This would be perfect to hang on a back deck, near a BBQ, a dock on the lake, a garage, anywhere your man and his friends would be cracking open a beer!

Click Here to SHOP

14. NFL DRINKWARE

For the Sports Fan!  Get an array of drinkware with his favorite team logo on it.  The reason I like this brand is that they aren't cheesy and the product quality will be great!  If you're buying glasses ALWAYS buy 2!  1 is too lonely!

Click Here to SHOP

I hope you have found this helpful and it's given you an idea or two for the perfect gift.  Valentine's Day is truly a time when "it's the thought that counts" should hold true.  Use your words, be specific, men want to feel appreciated and needed above anything else!

Happy Shopping! xoxo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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CORN & POTATO CHOWDER

CORN & POTATO CHOWDER

I am beyond in love with the recipe!  It's the perfect dinner for a cold day, to simmer on your stove top and let the aroma fill your home!  

Your family will be begging you to eat dinner!  You can do some of the chopping in the morning and then put it all together in the afternoon to save time or just do it all at once!  

The cooking time on the stove is minimal since your main ingredients are already cooked going in!  

Serving it in a bread bowl from Panera Bread is my favorite but using regular bowls would be just fine too!

WHAT YOU NEED:

1 & 1/2 cups of Potatoes - peeled, diced and cooked

1/2 cup of Water 

8 slices of Bacon - cooked and chopped

1/2 cup White Onion - peeled and diced (did you ever buy the onion chopper?)

1/4 cup Green Pepper - chopped

1 Tbsp of Butter

2 Cups of Creamed Corn (from a can)

1 Can of Corn Niblets - drained (you don't want the liquid from the can) 

1 Can of Mushroom Soup 

1/2 Tsp Curry Powder (do not leave this out even if you think you don't like curry! I promise it doesn't make it taste spicy!)

4 Cups of Whole Milk

WHAT YOU DO:

Boil potatoes (after you have peeled and chopped) in a large pot of water until tender, drain off water and set aside

In a frying pan, saute the onion and green pepper in butter until soft, about 5 minutes. Set aside

Fry your bacon and chop it, set aside.

In a large soup pot combine ALL the ingredients EXCEPT for the Bacon, stir well.

Sprinkle the bacon on top and do not stir.

Cook over medium heat for about 30 minutes and then just let it simmer for as long as you want.  If you think it may need stirring you can stir the bacon in at this point.

HOW TO SERVE IT:

I like to go to Panera Bread and get some of their un-cut Bread bowls.  They will cut them for you but personally I think they don't cut enough bread out so the bowl is too small!  

Just my opinion but it's why I like to do it myself at home.  Take a sharp knife and trace a circle of how big you want the opening and then cut downwards, cutting out a shape of bowl.  

If you can get it in one piece and then pull it out you'll be so impressed with yourself!  Scoop the chowder in the bowl and done!  

You can place the bread you cut out on the plate next to the bowl but honestly, eating the bread bowl that has been soaking in the chowder is heavenly!

xoxo - Enjoy!

 

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PISTACHIO PANKO CHICKEN

PISTACHIO PANKO CHICKEN

I love eating chicken this way because you feel like you're eating fried chicken but without all the fat!  

The crunchy coating gets its amazing-ness from the pistachios.  I buy the pre-shelled ones to save time but if you feel like buying them shelled and peeling them yourself, go for it!  

Pistachios are a heart healthy nut that offer cholesterol lowering fats, plus nutritional benefits that include fibre, vitamin E, iron, thiamin and magnesium. - SouthBeach Diet author Arthur Agatston, MD.

You can also substitute the egg coating for honey mustard to give it an extra zing!  Have fun with it and add your own favorite herbs and spices, the pistachios are really what gives it its personality!

INGREDIENTS:

3/4 cups Pistachios (no shells)

3/4 cups Italian seasoned Panko bread crumbs

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or cutlets

3 eggs (or egg whites), whisked together in a seperate bowl

DIRECTIONS:

Place the pistachios in a food processor and pulse until they turn into small crumbs

Pour the pistachio crumbs into a dish and add panko, stir together

Rinse the chicken and cut off any fat.  Press with a paper towel to get rid of any excess moisture

Take chicken piece by piece and dip it into the egg mixture (or you can brush honey mustard on if using instead) until coated thoroughly

Place the coated chicken into the pistachio mix until fully coated. If the nuts are not sticking to the chicken then use a fork to press them in 

Place chicken in baking dish sprayed with cooking spray or lined with parchment paper

Cook at 400 degrees, uncovered for 30-45 minutes (until center is no longer pink) depending on size of your chicken.

Pair this with the Sweet Potato Fries and a salad or other green veggie and you have a delicious, filling, healthy dinner!

Enjoy! xoxo

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SWEET POTATO FRIES

SWEET POTATO FRIES

These are an amazing way to feel like you are getting a treat with dinner but without the guilt of eating starchy, white potatoes!

Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A.  They are also a very good source of vitamin C, manganese, copper, pantothenic acid and vitamin B6. Additionally, they are a good source of potassium, dietary fiber, niacin, vitamin B1, vitamin B2 and phosphorus. - The Worlds Healthiest Foods.com

There are tons of different ways to eat sweet potatoes but this is hands down my favorite way!  This recipe  can be altered by switching out the spices!  You can just use salt, just paprika or just red pepper flakes (use the red pepper flakes sparingly!)

INGREDIENTS:

2 medium sweet potatoes

1 TBSP olive oil

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp paprika

DIRECTIONS:

Peel the potatoes and cut into long pieces, about 8 times and then in half - basically making fries!

Toss in a bowl with oil, salt and paprika (or red pepper flakes)

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (it's been my experience that they really start to stick to the pan without the parchment paper) and spread out the SP fries evenly across the sheet

Cook at 425 degrees, turning over potatoes occasionally, for 30-45 minutes.  Cooking time really depends on the size of your potatoes - the smaller or thinner they are the less time they will take to cook!

The outsides will start to brown but the center will stay soft, careful not to burn! 

Enjoy! Xoxo

 

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Find your tribe....

Find your tribe....

Love them hard.  You've seen the trending hashtag emerge over the last little while, but what does it REALLY mean?  Who are these people that I'm supposed to find and how do I know if  I'm loving them hard enough?  I have 4 kids, a Husband, a Mom and Dad, a Brother and Sister-in-law, a Niece, In-laws, 4 dogs and a cat - why do I need more? More people in my life? More people that I have to be concerned whether I'm doing and being ENOUGH for?  

And there begins the beauty of a #tribe - they aren't there because they HAVE to be, they're there because they WANT to be. 

I was raised in the same city until I left for College.  I went to school with the same kids from elementary through high school.  I had an amazing, large group of friends.  I spent endless hours talking on the phone, going to friends houses and having sleepovers.  

I thought of my friends as family, they were an intricate part of every detail of my life. There were things I shared with my girlfriends that I couldn't / wouldn't share with my family, things that only your girlfriends would understand. Almost all of them still live close to the area we grew up in.  I was the lone one, the one that left.  

I still keep in touch with a lot of those friends and when we are able to get together it's as if no time has passed, we still laugh and chat the way we did all those years ago.  

It's a Tribe from a different era of my life, a group of girls who are now women that helped shape ME into the woman I became.  

When I left for University, I was devastated to leave my childhood friends, how would I ever replace them?  I lived on campus in a dorm and I quickly made new friends, great friends.  They didn't replace the ones I had back home, they just expanded my circle.  

It was my first time away from home, 8 hours from my family.  The friends I made away at school truly did become my family.  We lived, ate, studied, partied, laughed and cried together. Four years of memories that shaped my life and they were there for all of them.  

They were there when I met the boy that would become my husband.  We watched each other go through things that no one else would understand, things that were never spoken of again, they didn't need to be.  

We spent our transition from teenager to adult together, the good and the bad.  They were at my wedding and they were the first ones I told, "we're moving to Nashville!" (insert shock and awe emoji face). Almost all of them live in Toronto, minutes from each other.  I was the one who left.  

Social media is a great tool to keep in touch with people but you miss the physical interaction, looking someone in the eyes and hearing them laugh.  

Last year while my husband was on tour they all came to a show in Toronto.  We went out for drinks afterwards and laughed until we cried recalling crazy times from our days together.  I forgot how much I had missed them. 

At our wedding I remember looking around and realizing that I had more friends in attendance than I did family. I remember the happiness that brought me, knowing those people were there because they wanted to be, not because they had to be.  

My husband always knew how important my friends were to me.  He knew I would always make time for them in my life and he respected that because he could see how much fulfillment  I got from those relationships.

Right after we were married we moved to a new city for my husbands work.  I was excited for the move, for the change, the opportunity.  I assumed I would make new friends, maybe through work?  Maybe the neighbors? the gym? It never happened.  Don't get me wrong, I met people that I liked but I never met anyone I had that "friend, instantly hit it off" connection with.  

My husband started touring and I couldn't go because I had to work, that was what I did - worked and worked out and then drove "home" on the weekends.  People have asked me if I liked living where we did at the time and I always say, "mmm.. not really".  

In all honesty, I probably never gave it a real chance, I based not liking it on not having friends there, not having a social life, not having a group of girlfriends to be with while my husband was away.

Fast forward one year later, I was just about to have a baby and we had the opportunity to move to Nashville, again for my husbands work.  I jumped at the chance, get me out of here!  

Moving to Nashville was not only a shock because it was a new country but also it was the first time I would be introducing myself as a Mother,  I was now a girl... with a baby.  What I came to realize quickly is that having a baby or small child with you may be the quickest way to make a new friend, ever.  

I joined a Moms group, met other new Moms who I would meet with once or twice a week, just us and our babies, trying to be friends.  Which comes to the next question you find yourself asking in these situations..

Would I be friends with these women if we didn't have children?  Would I enjoy spending time alone with them? Going out for drinks with them?  Do we really have anything in common ASIDE from the fact we both have kids?  Sometimes the answer is not yes.  But sometimes it doesn't matter.  You are a new Mom who needs to have some sort of adult conversation in her life during the day, this will do just fine.  

One of my very best friends today I met during that time. I was 8 months pregnant with my second child, a 14 month old on my hip and in she came to the moms group and sat right next to me with her 5 month old.  By the end of that morning I knew we would become friends, it was that instant connection I'm talking about - I just knew.  

WHERE DO WE FIND THESE TRIBE MEMBERS? 

Because life gets busy right?  If you don't already have your friends in place when you start having babies who turn into kids who have school and after school activities and weekends filled with Birthday parties then when are you supposed to ALSO find time to make AND nurture friendships?  If you did already have your friendships in place than what do we do when our time for friends becomes smaller?

How do we not let other things overshadow their importance?  Friendships are an investment and you only get out of it what you put in. Sometimes you have a friendship that you keep investing in but the return is not there.  

Your time is valuable, you only have a certain size of the pie to put friendships in - make sure the ones taking up that space are deserving to be there.  If you don't keep contributing to a friendship it won't grow, if you start withdrawing from that friendship it will dwindle away.    

If you're like me, you've had moments or events in your life that reveal the beauty and true meaning of friendship.

A few years ago I found myself in a vulnerable situation after I lost my drivers license due to a sudden health issue (a topic for another blog post!).

I had 4 kids at 3 different schools and a husband on tour.  Not long before that we had decided to build our dream home out of the city, on a beautiful piece of land.  No neighbors in site, no traffic, just peace and quiet.  

But now, everything I loved about where we lived had  turned into an obstacle.  I couldn't walk anywhere from our house, Uber hadn't come to our city yet, taxis you had to book 2 hours out, there was no subway, no bus, no public transportation at all.  

It was during this time of feeling lonely, frusterated and somewhat helpless that I realized the full meaning of friendship.  I've always believed that everything happens for a reason but this was a hard one for me.  

I didn't feel lucky or fortunate, I didn't see the silver lining.  I felt sorry for myself, I was not at my best. I was not what someone would consider a "catch" as a friend.  I now came with baggage, and you'd have to put that baggage in YOUR trunk because I didn't have a car to drive ;)  

I wasn't looking for new friends during that time but looking back, if my situation hadn't been what it was I don't know that they would be in my life the way they are today.  I think the story would have been different.

Meeting them was nothing short of a divine intervention.  That day that changed everything because they all watched it happen to me, at the gym in the middle of class.  

Until that point, I had walked in, done my thing and left. I didn't need to make friends there.  I valued my privacy.  I had become suspicious of people when they showed too much interest in me, I always had my guard up.  But now I was different, I was vulnerable and my walls came crashing down whether I liked it or not.  

I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of concern and support from total strangers.  I was at a place in my life where I was so isolated and there they were, showing up day after day, offering to come over to visit, pick me up to go to lunch, drive me home from the gym, pick me AND my kids up to go and do something just to get out of the house!  

My husband would say, 'that's so nice of her to do", and it was but it was also genuine, the only thing anyone ever wanted back was friendship.  

At a time in my life where I felt the most alone, I slowly started to feel surrounded by these women, we began to form our own group, our own Tribe.  

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO LOVE THEM HARD

It means I will drop everything I am doing to be there for you.  It means that your problem, your heartache, your sadness becomes mine as well. Your happiness, your success, your triumph makes me happy for you, not envious.  It means if you call or text me any time of day and need something I will do everything in my power to make it happen.  

It means that sometimes my kids have to WAIT A SECOND (gasp!) because you have something going on that's more pressing.  It's giving someone an external support system that doesn't judge them, where they can be their true self.  

It means encouraging them in whatever it is that they are doing, their young-life, mid-life, old-life cheerleader.  Saying, "If you don't like them, I don't like them.  If they hurt you, they hurt me because I HAVE YOUR BACK".  

 

ONE TRIBE, TWO TRIBES, THREE TRIBES OH MY! 

Maybe your Tribe is one person, maybe it's a few, maybe it's 10.  Maybe you have multiple Tribes from different times and areas of your life.  Sometimes it's important to know which of these you need or don't need in your life.

My experience is that women need other women. You may be someone who would rather have a handful of great friends vs. a ton of women you view more as acquaintances.  Maybe you need that large group of women, that you can pull from at any given moment?  One is not better than the other, it's knowing and learning what YOU need and it may change over the years.  

I think everyone we meet is placed in our life for a specific reason. Good, bad and everything in between.  It's up to us to decide whether they are there to stay for a lifetime or just a season. They may have shown up in your childhood or not until adulthood.  

They are there to find you when you least expect it, when you need it most. But you have to be open and willing to the possibility.  You have to put yourself out there, let your walls down, risk being dissappointed if they don't turn out to be the best friend there ever was.  It's a lesson, there is always a lesson in every experience.

 

My husband has said to me more than once, "one of your greatest qualities is that you are a good friend." Hearing him say that feels like winning the lottery. I don't know if he knows what a compliment that is for me.  

Being a good friend is not hard, it's not rocket science.  Be someones cheerleader, be their shoulder to cry on, give them your ear, your time, your words of encouragement.  Be present, be reliable, be trustworthy, be their "person".  

This is how you love your Tribe of 1 or 10 or more, this is you - loving them hard.   

 

 

 

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Let's talk skincare!

Let's talk skincare!

First, I am not an aesthetician or a dermatologist so everything I'm about to share is based purely on my own experience and opinion.  I have tried close to every technique and product out there (ok maybe not but it sure feels like it) and here are my tried and true favorites.  Some may work for you, some may not - maybe you will try all and love all, maybe you will just find one that you can't live without!  

My skin is not perfect, I was told by my aesthetician that I have "thin skin" - good for not showing scars, terrible for fine lines and wrinkles - I think I'd rather not scar well ;)  I really didn't start paying attention to my skin care routine until my early 30's - yes, I REALLY wish I had started younger but what's done is done and all I can do is try to fix the damage that has already occurred.  Endless trips to the tanning salon and days spent outside in the sun with baby oil on my face - why didn't my Mother lock me in the house???  Just kidding, she tried but I was 18 and truly didn't think past the next day.  

I have learned that skin care is something that I will always invest in, unfortunately it is one thing that you get what you pay for.  Facials and other skin treatments are also something I wish I'd started doing earlier in life - so if you're in your 20's and reading this - START NOW!

As we get older, our skin becomes more dry, it's like life is literally sucking the hydration out of your face. Because of this I'm always on the hunt for products that bring back the hydration, the glow, the youthful look - nothing that has the phrase "matte finish" on it's label lives in my makeup bag.  

I've gotten a lot of questions about my skincare routine so here's the short list - why I love them and where you can get them for yourself.  If I come across something new I promise to update this list and share with you!

1. THE CLARISONIC

If you have never used one of these to wash your face you are short changing yourself on what could be, what lies beneath the surface!  You can use this with any face wash you want, it takes 2 minutes, once or twice a day.  Your skin will absolutely glow after you finish, it's like waxing your car - you will shine!  The cleaning brushes need to be replaced but I have had my actual clarisonic for years and it's still going strong.  Use it once and you will never live without it!

CLICK HERE TO SHOP:

2. RODAN & FIELDS REVERSE EXFOLIATING FACE WASH

I fell in love with this line of skin care a couple of years ago after using this face wash.  Use it alone or with the Clarisonic for an extra boost.  Its fine granules are massaged around while you are rubbing it in and when you rinse it off your face really does shine!  I don't use it everyday but 3-4 times a week at night gives you amazing results!

CLICK HERE TO SHOP:

3.  LANCOME GEL RADIANCE CLEANSER

This is my day to day, twice a day go to face wash!  I have used it for years, tried other brands and always come back to it.  It's just a very purifying cleanser that leaves your face feeing rejuvenated and fresh.  I also use this with my Clarisonic.

CLICK HERE TO SHOP:

4. RODAN & FIELDS INTENSIVE BRIGHTENING TONER

Possibly my favorite skin care product of all time!  To be applied with a cotton ball after you have washed your face, twice a day.  For real, as it's drying on your face you can see your skin changing in the mirror - it's instantly brighter and tighter.  Sometimes I don't even want to put lotion on because I don't want to cover up what the toner has done!  This is for sure the one product I cannot live without!

CLICK HERE TO SHOP:

5. RODAN & FIELDS DUAL ACTIVE BRIGHTENING COMPLEX

Okay, probably my second favorite skin care product!  This is actually comprised of 2 tubes (not sure why they can't make it one). One is vitamin C and the other is Retinol - you squeeze a pea size amount from the tube in your hand and mix together and then apply.  Vitamin C,  I have come to learn, is like a little skin miracle and will have you glowing in no time!

CLICK HERE TO SHOP;

6. No7 YOUTHFUL REPLENISHING FACIAL OIL

Ahhhhh my new found love of oils for my face - my entire body for that matter.  I used to dread being oily but the truth is that oil is what keeps our skin from looking and feeling dry.  Maybe if I was a teenager battling acne I would stay clear from this but now it has become my best friend!  I either drop a few drops on my fingertips and apply directly to my face or I will add a few drops to my moisturizer in my hand before applying.  

CLICK HERE TO SHOP:

7. MANUKA DOCTOR REPLENISHING FACIAL OIL

Another great facial oil that I love!  This one is promoted by the Kardashians and if it'll give me skin like them well then I'm sold.  Okay not really but I really do love it and it's a great choice for a oil.

CLICK HERE TO SHOP:

8. RODAN & FIELDS EYE CREAM

I switch my eye creams A LOT!  This one has kind of been a constant for me for the past year.  I'm all about using Retin A in products but a lot of eye creams contain it which can be great for wrinkles but you shouldn't put Retin A on your eye lid.  I need a eye cream that I can put all around my eye!  Don't neglect your lids!

CLICK HERE TO SHOP:

9.  LANCOME HIGH RESOLUTION REFILL - 3X EYE CREAM

This in another great choice for a eye cream, I would say I like it as much as the Rodan & Fields one.  It's light and airy but dewy and smooth at the same time.  It's also more convenient to be able to get it at the mall than to order by mail - either is a great choice!

CLICK HERE TO SHOP:

10.  LANCOME HIGH RESOLUTION REFILL - 3X DAY CREAM

This is it, like whipped butter in a jar!  Not the kind of butter that sits on top of your face though, the kind that soaks in and leaves your skin smooth and glowing.  It has been my go to daytime face moisturizer for years. When Lancome first introduced this cream they marketed it as "botox in a jar" which was enough to make me try it, I have been hooked ever since.  Let's be clear, it isn't really botox in a jar, but it's a close attempt and I have never heard anyone I've recommended it to say anything but positive things about it after trying it!

CLICK HERE TO SHOP:

- THIS WOULD END YOUR MORNING ROUTINE - Again, you don't need to use all these products but in a ideal world these would all be on my face before walking out the door!

- FOR NIGHT TIME ROUTINE, I WOULD REPEAT ALL THE PRODUCTS PREVIOUSLY MENTIONED AND CHANGE OUT MY MOISTURIZER TO A NIGHT CREAM - 

11.  LANCOME HIGH RESOLUTION REFILL - 3X NIGHT CREAM

Basically everything I said about the day cream but this consistency is heavier in the night cream.  It's like a overnight mini-facial, you can feel that it's still on in the morning when you wash your face again!

CLICK HERE TO SHOP:

12.  RODAN & FIELDS Redefine OVERNIGHT RESTORATIVE CREAM

This is another favorite of mine from this line.  If I were using the R&F night cream I would use it with the R&F eye cream, just a preference.  The Redefine line is their anti aging / wrinkle line and I really noticed a difference after using it.  This or the Lancome would be a great choice for a night time moisturizer!

CLICK HERE TO SHOP:

I do not sell Rodan & Fields, nor do I profit from you buying it - I just really love it!  I wish they sold it in stores but you have to get it through their website.  If someone you know already sells it you can purchase it though them, otherwise it will prompt you upon checkout to find a consultant or you can checkout without using one.

DON'T FORGET YOUR SUNSCREEN!!!

For me, the issue I have with a lot of daytime moisturizers that contain sunscreen is that I am WELL AWARE that I have sunscreen on my face.  They feel sticky and thick and I end up regretting I put them on.  I usually will add a sunscreen separately if I know I'm going to be outside all day but for those of you who MUST have a sunscreen in your moisturizer here are some good options to use alone or on top of your moisturizer.

CLICK BELOW TO SHOP SUNSCREEN:

RODAN & FIELDS

SKINCEUTICALS

KIEHL'S

CLARINS

 

CHEST WRINKLE PREVENTION!

As hard as I try to sleep on my back, I am a side sleeper for life!  A good night sleep I always get but with that also comes chest wrinkles that are there staring back at me in the mirror every morning!  These silicone pads are like miracle workers and like a face lift for your chest!  I swear if they ever make a body suit I will be first in line!  They gently stick to your chest while you sleep and you then peel it off in the morning, your chest looks smoother than when you went to bed - for real!  It may not be the most attractive thing in the world but if you are someone who is conscious of aging in this area, this product is amazing!  After each use, just rinse lightly with water and you can use again that night.

CLICK HERE TO SHOP

 

 ACNE

Oh how I wish this product had been around when I was a pre-teen / teen!  Maybe you are lucky enough to have outgrown that stage in your life where pimples and acne were an everyday battle, maybe you never outgrew it and you still struggle with it as an adult?  

Maybe you are the parent of a child entering (gasp!) puberty and hate to see them battle with acne on top of everything else that comes along with this awkward stage?  

If you fall into any of the above than look no further - this is a game changer!  X OUT is the baby of ProActive - it's purpose is the same but it's marketed for teens because of it's one step process AND we all know that if you're trying to get your child to do something that involves more than one step, well..... it's a challenge.  It is sold in a face wash, body wash and spot treatment.  I can testify that I have seen faces change drastically in a matter of days, acne gone and skin smooth - it really is amazing and I have recommended it to so many other parents. Believe the Infomercial!

CLICK HERE TO SHOP

 

I hope you have found this post helpful, I'd love to hear your feedback if you do decide to give any of these products a try!

xoxo



 

 

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Sugar Cookies for Kids - what Christmas dreams are made of....

Sugar Cookies for Kids - what Christmas dreams are made of....

Here's the thing you have to learn and then let go of quickly once you have kids - everything won't and doesn't need to be perfect.  More so, kids are happier (I cannot believe I'm saying this) when thing are NOT perfect, when they can be messy and creative.  

So in the midst of all my Christmas baking and preparations I try to include things for the kids to do where I don't freak out if they don't look pretty (I may have gotten a second Christmas tree just so they would have one to put all the ornaments THEY like on it - it's a hodge podge of school ornaments, red Santas and souvenir ornaments - it's a big 'ole hot mess but they love it)

Ok... where was I? Right, messy cookies.  Here it is! First, they love this recipe (it tastes like those store bought bakery ones that melt in your mouth). Second, they're easy for them to help make and they love doing the shapes and ESPECIALLY the icing!  

Speaking of perfect, my first go around with the sugar cookie recipe I had was not condusive to holding a shape. We cut out the shapes and then watched as they cooked and turned into big flat blobs of cookies.  After we were finally in agreement that this was indeed NOT the worst Christmas ever, we used our other recipe and had success!  I don't even know where it came from (probably Pinterest) I've had it written down for so long!

WHAT YOU NEED:

1 Cup unsalted Butter - softened

1 Cup White Sugar

1 Egg

1 Tsp Vanilla (use pure, it's so much better than imitation)

1/2 Tsp Almond Extract

3 Cups All Purpose Flour

1 & 1/2 Tsp Baking Powder

1/2 Tsp Salt

WHAT YOU DO:

In a large bowl, beat the butter until smooth - about 1 minute

Add the sugar and beat on high speed until light and fluffy - about 3 minutes

Add the egg, vanilla and almond extract and beat on medium - about 2 minutes

Scrape down the sides of the bowl to get all the mix to the bottom

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt

Add half the flour mixture to your other bowl of ingredients and beat on low until JUST combined (you don't want it too smooth)

Add the rest of the four and continue mixing on low until JUST combined.

*** FLOUR IS YOUR BFF IN THIS RECIPE & THE KEY TO SUCCESS ***

Cover your workspace (cutting board, counter top etc) with a flour surface

Take batches of the dough (size will depend on your workspace) and put it in a ball on top of the floured workspace

Sprinkle flour on top of your dough

Cover your rolling pin with more flour

*** THE FLOUR IS WHAT PREVENTS EVERYTHING STICKING TOGETHER ***

Roll out your dough to desired thickness, the thicker the dough the softer the cookie

Once flat, make your shapes with cutters and transfer those shapes onto a PARCHMENT PAPER lined baking sheet

Refrigerate the baking sheet for 5 minutes

Put directly into oven at 350 Degrees

Bake for 10 min or until edges are slightly browned 

Let cool completely before icing (I used the store bought colored pouches of icing but if you want to make your own go for it!)

Enjoy!  And as much as I say to let them be messy, my daughter has clearly inherited her Moms OCD for decorating (insert winky face emoji) - I'm just a little bit proud.

xoxo 

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Nuts & Bolts - a Holiday MUST!

Nuts & Bolts - a Holiday MUST!

Okay... I almost didn't post this because how can I share something that I fear only half of you will be able to get?  How have I never known that my beloved Shreddies cereal was ONLY available in Canada, England and New Zealand??? What on earth?  I tried to order myself a box and found them on Amazon, for $23 A BOX! What. On. Earth.  My Mom agreed to smuggled me a box in her suitcase and my crisis was averted.

So if you don't live in a country where these are available to you I'm sure you could substitute something like Chex?  I can't guarantee the outcome though, there's just something about Shreddies.  If you DO live in a country with Shreddies (like Canada) then these are a MUST!  I don't know why we only had them at Christmas growing up, we just did and I guess it's stuck with me that THAT'S when you make them.  This recipe makes SO much, you can give out tupperware containers as gifts, take a bowl to a party or serve to guests when they come over.  

So easy to make and your house will smell amazing while baking!

Anyone with another substitution idea for Shreddies please leave in the comments below!

WHAT YOU NEED:

Medium box of Cheerios

Medium box of Shreddies

1 Large bag of Pretzel sticks

1 pound of skinless Peanuts

3 TBSP Garlic Salt (you can add more if you like it more "garlicky")

1 pound of unsalted Butter (melted)

WHAT YOU DO:

In order listed, add all the ingredients to a large Roasting Pan

Stir together so butter and garlic salt cover the dry ingredients

Roast COVERED in oven at 250 degree for 3 hours, stirring occasionally 

Enjoy!

xoxo

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Gift guide for Her

Gift guide for Her

1.  Brookstone Nap Blanket

This blanket is one of the softest and coziest blankets you will ever wrap yourself in!  The price point is unbeatable and it comes in an array of colors!  Who doesn't love a great blanket?  Make someones day by draping them in this coziness!

SHOP: CLICK HERE

2.  Starbucks or any favorite Coffee Shop gift card

I love this kind of gift because it's something most everyone will appreciate! You can either put it in a Christmas card, in someones stocking or my favorite way -- inside a coffee mug!  Starbucks now also offers E GIFT CARDS - you pick your holiday card and it's emailed to the recipient for them to redeem electronically! Easy!

SHOP: CLICK HERE 

3.  Coffee Mugs

If you have been following me on instagram for a while you know my obsession with these mugs!  Here's the thing, it's not just the sayings - it's the mugs too!  I have been in plenty of stores where I loved the saying on a coffee mug but when I picked it up thought, "I wouldn't enjoy drinking coffee from this".  If you are a TRUE coffee lover you know the mug is just as important as the coffee - it's the experience!  

SHOP: CLICK HERE 

If I were giving them as a gift I would include a starbucks gift card inside the mug - anywhere from $5.00 up. Depending on who you are giving it to, you can kick it up a notch by also putting a miniature Baileys bottle inside as well.  At the liquor store they sell Holiday packs of mini (it think it's 2 oz???) bottles in amazing flavors!  Put one of those with chocolate kisses inside the mug or with the gift card.  You can make it personal, whatever works for you! Have fun with it, there's no right or wrong way!

Use the code: JEN10 to receive 10% off  your order.  Also, if you live in the Nashville area you and have not checked out this store in Cool Springs you MUST go - they have the most amazing gift ideas - SILVER & STEER CO.

AHHHH... HOW DO I WRAP THESE MUGS????

Easy!  See below for a super cute and festive way to give them!

4.  Wine Glasses

Not only do I love the sayings on these glasses, I actually LOVE them as wine glasses.  They are the perfect size and because they are stemless there is less chance of tipping them over! Surely you know someone that can relate or would appreciate each of these sayings.

SHOP: CLICK HERE

Use the code: JEN10 to receive 10% off  your order.  Also, if you live in the Nashville area you and have not checked out this store in Cool Springs you MUST go - they have the most amazing gift ideas. - SILVER & STEER CO.

HOW DO YOU WRAP A WINE GLASS? See below!  

If I were giving them as a gift I would also include a bottle of wine!  You could put the wine glass (or 4) in a cute basket with tissue to keep them safe!

My favorite wines which I love and therefor love to give as gifts are:

Red: APOTHIC RED & OF COURSE  RED TARTAN!

White: KIM CRAWFORD Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc

Rose: WHISPERING ANGEL

5. Voluspa Bourbon French Vanilla Candle 

This is my absolute favorite candle to give as a gift - any time of year!  I have never heard anyone say it smells less than AMAZING!  It comes in an array of sizes ( which vary in price) and containers - you pick how much you want to spend.  I promise your recipient will thank you!

SHOP: CLICK HERE

6. Wickman 

How I lived this long not knowing these existed is a real mystery.  You know when you blow out a candle and your wick has turned into a big black ball that just keeps smoking???  Plus they're really ugly to look at when your candle isn't lit!  Introducing the Wickman, here to solve all your wick problem needs!  It's like a pair of scissors for the wick except it catches the tip and holds it in its little handle until you open it and drop it in the garbage.  I cut the tips off all my candles now and when I blow them out now there is no smoke or big clumps left on top.  This is a great gift to give someone on it's own or give it with a candle. Wrap the candle and then tie the Wickman to the outside with ribbon (like a little hint of what's inside!  See below for example!

SHOP: CLICK HERE

7.  Manicure or Pedicure Gift Certificate

Why do I love this gift idea?  Because a lot of women don't want to spend the money on themselves to get their nails done!  This gift "forces" her to take a minute and pamper herself!  She deserves it!  Find a local nail salon * tip: going to a spa to find this will hike your price up almost double, find a walk in place that just does nails!  They will be able to tell you the cost of each service so you know how much to purchase.  I also like to include a tip (which you can do) and write it on the gift certificate so your gift recipient isn't left wondering if they should tip when they are finished!

8.  Love Your Melon - Beanie

Not only does this company make a stylish product, they have a great mission behind that product!  Started by 2 college friends who had a goal to provide a hat to every child battling cancer,  this company has donated over 80,000 hats and 1.5 million dollars towards pediatric cancer, research and those childrens families.  50% of net proceeds are donated to Love Your Melons non-profit partners in the fight against pediatric cancer.  They have been wildly popular this season and many colors have sold out but there are still a few cute color choices left like this black and white speck one!

SHOP: CLICK HERE

9.  Yeti - 20 oz

I was given this as a gift a couple of years ago and cannot imagine ever drinking from another tumbler again!  It's almost like magic!  You can put ice in it in the morning with whatever you are drinking and the ice will still be there at the end of the day!  Perfect to keep in your car and PERFECT to take to the beach or lake - even in the sun it will keep your drink cool and ice from melting.  They come in an array of sizes but this one is my favorite!  And yes they also keep your hot drinks hot if you like to take your coffee on the road!

SHOP: CLICK HERE

10.  L'Occitane Shea Butter Hand Cream & L'Occitaine Magic Key

a) The Shea Butter Hand Cream - ahhhhh I promise it's like putting magic on your hands!  Be careful because you will have a hard time going back to anything else!  It also smells amazing without being overpowering.  This is a gift I would love to receive!  You can give this on it's own or step it up a notch and add the...

b) Magic Key!  Your guaranteed tool to get every single ounce of lotion out of that tube! You simply slide the bottom of the hand cream tube into the key and turn the key as you use the cream (it stays on until you finish the tube), definitely a great way to get the most for your money and it's reusable for the next tube you buy!

Also, if you live near a store they do a great wrapping job (which saves you doing it) get them to wrap the box of hand cream and tie the magic key on the outside with the ribbon!  

SHOP HAND CREAM: CLICK HERE

SHOP MAGIC KEY: CLICK HERE

11.  SAVVY Infusion 

It's not as scary as it looks and it's a fun way to spice up your water without artificial sweeteners!  Plus it looks cute which makes it more fun to drink!  You can add different fruits and even different herbs to make tea.  Right now with purchase you receive a free e-book full of different recipes and suggestions for use.

SHOP: CLICK HERE

Here's a great way to wrap a wine glass, coffee mug or candle.  All you need is tissue paper, cello wrap and a ribbon!  

1. Place a large square piece of cello wrap on your counter.

2. Place a slightly smaller square piece of tissue on top of the cello wrap (the cello will prevent the tissue from tearing)

3. Place your glass, mug or candle in the center and pull all the sides up and around until it comes together on top.

4.  Wrap a piece of ribbon around tightly to secure.

 

5. This is when you could attach any extra items (like the Wickman) to the ribbon

 

 xoxo

 

 

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Christmas Cookies 101

Christmas Cookies 101

The month of December brings so much festivity!  And let's be honest... don't we look forward to the amazing food that comes with it too?  Holiday parties, entertaining, cookie exchanges, gifts for the neighbors, a gift gift for the hostess, even a mixed tray for dessert for Christmas dinner. Whatever you need them for, these cookies are sure to please!  Make just one kind or make them all and serve an array!  

CHERRY SNOWBALLS

I have loved these since I was little!  The outer shell is firm but when you bite into it... voila!  A cherry! My advice is not to put too much dough around the cherry since you will likely want to pop these in your mouth all at once!

Ingredients:

1 Cup Butter

1/4 Cup Icing Sugar / Powdered Sugar

2 Cups Flour

1/4 tsp Salt

1 Cup chopped Almonds (I buy the slivered, much easier to chop from there!)

1 tsp Vanilla

One (1) 8 ounce container of Candied Cherries

* you can omit the almonds in case of a nut allergy

Directions:

Mix butter and Icing sugar together with electric mixer until light and fluffy

Add the rest of the ingredients, EXCEPT THE CHERRIES and mix together until blended

Scoop about 1/2 TBSP of mixture (you can vary the amount based on the size of the cherry) and flatten in the palm of your hands

Place Cherry in center and pinch mixture around it.

Roll gently in hands until smooth

Bake on greased baking sheet at 300 degrees for 30 minutes

Immediately after taking out of the oven, roll each ball in a bowl of white sugar while still warm

Let cool 

 

GINGERSNAP COOKIES

If I could be left alone in a room with a cup of coffee and a plate of these I would probably cry tears of joy!  Not to be mistaken for gingerbread, these are soft and gooey and literally melt in your mouth!

Ingredients:

2 Cups of Flour

1 TBSP ground Ginger

2 TSP Baking Soda

1 TSP Cinnamon

1/4 TSP Salt

3/4 cup Butter

1 Cup Light Brown Sugar

1 Egg

1/2 Cup Molasses

Directions:

Mix together Butter, Egg and Molasses with electric mixer 

Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until creamy

Refrigerate dough for 2 hours

Let dough stand at room temperature for 10 - 15 minutes (to soften)

Take a spoonful of dough and roll into a small ball

Roll ball in a bowl of white sugar

Place on greased Baking sheet and press gently with the base of a fork (you want to just press enough so you see the 3 fork lines in the dough)

Bake at 350 degrees for 8 min 

 

WHIPPED SHORTBREAD:

Again, not to be confused with traditional hard shortbread!  These are so soft they literally dissolve in your mouth (could be due to the large amount of butter but let's not focus on that).  

Ingredients:

1 Cup Icing Sugar / Powdered Sugar

2 Cups Butter

3 Cups Flour

Directions:

Mix all ingredients together and beat with an electric mixer for 10 MINUTES!

Yes - 10 Minutes!  This is the key to making these "whipped", you will think they are ready to go after 5 but don't be fooled - keep mixing!

Drop spoonfuls of batter onto UN-GREASED cookie sheet, or use parchment paper to line. There is enough butter in the dough to prevent sticking if your sheet in not worn out.  This will prevent the cookies from spreading out to thin!

Add colorful sprinkles or even a sliver of cherry

Bake at 300 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until bottom is light brown

Let cool completely or they will crumble!

 

If you want to give out cookies as gifts, placing them in a Holiday bag or box is a great way to present them!  I got the bag below from Walmart, 3 bags with ties for $1.97 - perfect! Look in the seasonal aisle where the decorating items are to find what you need!  

 Happy Baking!

xoxo

 

 

 

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soooooo.... what do you do for a living?

soooooo.... what do you do for a living?

And you Jen? Do you work? Ahhhhh I can feel it coming from a mile away.  That dreaded question that every stay at home mom fears, usually asked in a social situation while standing next to her husband - the worker.  Over the past 15 years I have been asked that question more times than I could ever count.  I don’t think any (or at least most) of them ever asked trying to be rude or condescending, I really do believe they were either genuinely curious or just trying to make conversation.  So if that was the case then what I needed to accept was that the dread, avoid at all costs and even embarrassment I sometimes felt when that question was asked came solely from me, no one else.

I have always thought of my husbands career as something WE did, together.  His passion and gift was so contagious I suppose I kind of took it on as my own.

At first I could say I was on maternity leave, then that ran out (one year in Canada everyone, the rest of the world should follow that lead) and I was left saying, “umm, well I did, then I had a baby and I'm just staying home with him for now”  then I had another baby and another and another. I could have gone back to work between them and then again after I knew I was done - but I didn't.  When we first moved to America our first son had just been born and I was only here on a spousal visa which meant I could legally live here but could not legally work.  I got used to staying at home with my first two and as hard as it was I enjoyed the routine we fell into. 

My husband travelled so much I couldn't wrap my head around me working too and having to juggle child care between us AND a 3rd party.  It was just so much easier for my only commitment to be to my children, we decided jointly that I would be at home with them until they went to school.  Even after I finally became a permanent resident and was allowed to work, the thought of going back truly never crossed my mind.  Who on earth would organize, drive, feed, bath and take care of my family?  How on earth did people do all of that AND have a full time job?  How would I travel with my husband? It was a concept I could just never grasp, at least if I wanted to keep my sanity and my children in tact.  

It was never just HIS dream, it was OUR dream.  The "WORKER" has to see the "NON-WORKER" as part of the equation in their success in order for BOTH to be happy.

So many days I would question if I was doing the right thing.  So many times I thought, “really? is this what I spent 4 years getting a University degree for”?  “Diapers 101” and “How to prevent a temper tantrum in aisle 8” were not courses offered where I went to school.  How did I qualify for this job anyways?  It is by far the hardest thing I could ever imagine doing.  I have threatened my kids more than once (I admit it wasn't my finest moment), “Mom is just going to get a job and let someone else take care of you if you don’t appreciate what I do” - they’ll probably need therapy later in life for that but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.  

It really is like running a small business even though many days it feels like the inmates have taken over the asylum.  Clearly I am outnumbered, especially when my husband is gone!  

One night (of not a particularly great day) I remember saying to my husband, “Imagine if you spent all day at work, trying your best to accommodate everyone else, making their life and their job easier.  Trying to ensure they had the best day possible, only to have them leave the office that day sulking and moaning about how hard and unfair their job was and it was YOU they held responsible’?  Well you get the comparison I was trying to make.  It may be full of joy and laughs on most days but there are equal amounts of days when you seriously question if it would be easier to get your 3 year old down for a nap or perform open heart surgery, blindfolded.

As much as I enjoyed being home with my kids, some days I would yearn for that feeling of being amongst adults again, using my brain, being praised for my wisdom and skills.  Even though I knew my husband worked hard and traveling was tiring and stressful,  I would envy the alone time he had - away from the house, babies, laundry, diapers, melt downs.  I yearned for that feeling of being appreciated for my hard work, my efforts.  When you become a Mom you learn quickly to shelf those expectations.  It’s a rare day your child looks at you and says, “Mom, you have gone above and beyond today, we are lucky to have you as part of our team.”  Forget it, not happening.  But holy smokes do you remember the first time your child looked at you and said, “I love you”?  You may have been sleep deprived and un-showered but did you not feel like you had just won the Nobel prize for Mothering?  Clearly, you were doing something right, they did love you AFTER ALL.

This guilt we feel, constantly questioning whether we are doing the right thing.  To go back to work or not?  How do you decide to go back to work full time and not worry if you are missing out on your kids?  How do you stay at home and not worry you are giving up on yourself?  Not setting a good example for your own daughter to be an independant woman?  How do we know if when our kids are grown we will not look back on the choice to work or not was the right one? For us? For our family?  We can’t know, hence the guilt and self doubt.  We go with our gut, maybe we go with our circumstances instead because they don't give us the option to choose.

Last year my youngest went to Kindergarten and I was finally a stay at home Mom who had her days free with all her kids in school.  Oh how I had waited for this, longed for it, all this time to MYSELF.  The first week of school (not gonna lie) was bliss - so much time alone and with other adults, it’s like I had crossed the stay at home mom finish line.  You know the one where champagne, leisurely lunches, a perfectly maintained home and dinner on the table at 5 awaited everyone?  Or did it?

I remember on multiple occasions saying to my husband, my friends, myself… “When all the kids are in school I will go back to work.  Not what I did before but something that I enjoy,  I’m using this time to figure out what I’ll do”.  I envied the people I knew who had a “passion”, something they were undeniably good at and something they loved to do - OF COURSE they would one day return to that, how could they not?  I would take the time of being at home raising my kids to figure out mine, to find my passion.

And so the second week of Kindergarten came and the oddest feeling came over me that I couldn't make sense of.  I wasn't celebrating on the other side of the finish line like I thought I would be but I also wasn't desperate to cross back over it.  Sure I missed my kids… and I did realize that a chapter in my life had come to an end but that wasn't it either.  Every day I felt like every conversation I had I was on the brink of tears and I swear I could not understand why.  Then one day someone said, “how are you liking having all your kids in school? what are you going to do now”? and it hit me like a ton of bricks.  I had forgotten.  I’d forgotten to make a plan, to figure it out.  I’d had 14 years to decide what to do, to start, to make my OWN  - and I didn’t, I had no plan.  How had I let this happen?  How was I going to start now?  I would literally be blowing the dust off my resume.  What would I say?

Please list your biggest strengths:

  • making 4 different meals at the same time (short order cook?)
  • stain removal (crime scene clean up?)
  • driving back and forth to the same location multiple times a day (chauffeur?)
  • birthday party planner extraordinarre (chuck e cheese?)
  • whispering / threatening in a low and scary voice (hostage negotiator?)

None of the career choices I saw that matched my current strengths appealed to me (shocker) and it was time for me to figure something out.  I don’t do well sitting still, feeling like I don’t have a purpose throughout my day, feeling like I haven't accomplished something.  I suppose this blog, my Instagram was my first step down that path.  My attempt to connect with other women who may be feeling the same way. What I have realized is that you don't need a paycheck (although it would be nice) to say that you WORK.  

Not technically working over the last 15 years has allowed me to learn and experience things I would never have had the chance to if I'd gone back to my office.  It has allowed me to tap into a creative side I didn't know even existed before then.  I found a love in decorating, party planning, travelling, photography, fitness, cooking, creative thinking! Who would have thought? Not me.  

If you have found your balance, found your answer to the motherhood / work balance than be thankful because I would imagine it would be like finding a pot of gold.  If you have found total peace with being a stay at home Mom or being a full-time working Mom than you are ahead of most of us... again, be thankful and PLEASE share your secret with the rest of us!  Or maybe you are like me and just taking it day by day, believing that if your kids are fed, clean, homework done and still breathing when you put them to bed and MAYYYYYBE you had time to squeeze in work or something you are passionate about than you are totally winning in the Mom department. 

Whichever category you fall into, own it.  Don’t second guess yourself, your choices - that’s what makes you a good role model for your children.  For all you stay at home mommas who feel like you need to defend the reason you don’t work and all you working mommas who feel like you need to defend the reason you don’t stay at home….. let’s just agree that Mothering is the hardest (and yes, best) job in the world and cut ourselves some slack.  I never did come up with the 'PERFECT' answer to say when asked if I worked.  I guess I realized there wasn't one.  If I was confident in what I did than the answer I gave didn't really matter, I just had to believe it and own it.  In this tribe of Motherhood we need to build each other up and give ourselves and each other the credit we are due.  

xoxo

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The Acai Effect... is it for real or just another health fad?

The Acai Effect... is it for real or just another health fad?

You see them popping up everywhere - people are talking about them and they're on all the healthy menus these days,  but....  do you really know what's in a Acai bowl? (FYI -it's pronounced "ah-sigh-ee"- just so you sound like a pro when ordering).

Well first, Acai berries are a anti-oxidant fruit usually found in the rain forest of the Amazon. They are hailed as being an immune stimulating, energy boosting, weight loss promoting, protein filled, anti-aging superfood. The acai berry is 90% seed, the remaining 10% is the only edible part and when ground with water it becomes a thick purple puree, like a sorbet.  

Great.  So now I know that the base of my acai bowl is nutritious with a ton of health benefits but what about the other stuff that gets mixed in?  How do I know which toppings to add? Which to omit?  Not gonna lie, I often ask how much sugar is in something when ordering and when the response is, "well, its natural sugar", it makes me nervous because that means it's probably high.  Fruit in general has a high sugar count, yes it's better than junk food but the sweeter it is the higher the grams of sugar - natural or not.  Acai bowls are no exception, the majority range from having 50 - 100 grams of sugar (depending on size and toppings), that is a TON of sugar, natural or not.    Choose your toppings wisely!  Granola and honey and bananas have a very high amount of natural sugar, too much of any will not be your waistlines friend! 

Let's take for example this acai bowl that I probably get at least once a week from a local Juice shop. The list of ingredients are as follows:

BASE:

Acai Frozen Berries (frozen are my favorite because it tastes like sorbet!)

Frozen Banana

Apple Juice 

* the above are pureed together and then you get to pick your toppings!

TOPPINGS:

Granola 

Fresh Banana

Bee Pollen (ummm yes, that's what the yellow seed looking things on top are)

Goji Berries

Raw Honey

While everything in here is 1 million % delicious, the bananas, apple juice, granola and honey all have high sugar counts.  So if I were to eat this on a more regular basis I would be omitting the granola and banana on top and maybe halfing the honey amount. Is it as filling as a meal? Absolutely - it is so packed with stuff it's actually heavy!  

YOU'RE PUTTING WHAAAAT ON TOP OF MY FOOD?

Bee Pollen (refrain from gagging, it tastes ok when masked in with all this other good stuff).  It's rich in vitamins, minerals, proteins, lipids and fatty acids, enzymes, carotenoids and bioflavonoids. It has powerful antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties that strengthen the capillaries, reduce inflammation, stimulate the immune system and lower cholesterol levels naturally.  Wow!  That seems like a lot of pros!

Are there any cons?  Some argue that it can cause an allergic reaction if you already have pollen allergies.  Others believe that taking a spoonful on a daily basis BEFORE allergy season begins actually helps build up an immunity to it and thus keeps you allergy free!  Living in the allergy capitol of the world, I know quite a few people who swear it works!

 

 WHAT ON EARTH IS A GOJI BERRY & WHY SHOULD WE EAT THEM?

This superfood provides high levels of antioxidants and nutrients.  Also called the wolf berry, it comes from a shrub that's native to China.  They have been eating them in Asia for years in the hopes of living longer.  They claim to improve your immune system and fight cancer. They promote healthy skin, protect eye health, help stabilize blood sugar and detoxify your liver.  On top of the health benefits,  they also taste great and take a while to chew.  If you are trying to watch your weight, studies show that eating foods that take longer to chew will help you feel fuller faster.  Your mind is tricked into thinking it'e eating more than it actually is - bonus!

 

So now you know WHAT you're ordering the next time you order an Acai bowl - or maybe this will give you the push you need to choose one of these OVER a fast food option the next time you're out to breakfast or lunch!  

Packed full of superfoods and so filling, it's a super choice whether you are trying to lose weight, maintain your weight or just trying to do something great for your body!

Like anything else, moderation is key.  The same way the ingredients and toppings at Starbucks can turn your regular coffee into the equivilent of a Big Mac (fact), the wrong toppings or too many toppings can jack up the sugar and fat count of your Acai bowl so just be aware!  And yes, I know that an Acai bowl is a much healthier choice than coffee!

Find one at your local juice bar (or get crazy and make your own) and feel good about what you're putting into your body!

xoxo

 

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OATMEAL CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

OATMEAL CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

People always ask for this recipe whenever they try these cookies!  My Mom made them for us growing up and even though my kids say, "No offense Mom... but Nanas are better",  I think this recipe is pretty fail proof AND definitely pretty amazing!  Enjoy!

What you need:

2 sticks ( 1 cup) unsalted butter - softened

1 cup white sugar

1 cup light brown sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp Vanilla extract

1 & 1/2 cups of all purpose Flour

1/2 tsp of Salt

1 tsp of Baking Soda

3 cups of Quaker Quick Cooking Oats (if you don't use the quick cook kind they won't cook properly)

2 cups chocolate chips

What you do:

With an electric mixer, cream together the butter, both sugars, eggs and vanilla in large mixing bowl

Add Flour, Salt and Baking Soda and mix again

Add Oats and mix until blended

Add Chocolate Chips and mix just until they are blended in

Drop spoonfuls of batter onto a well greased (or cooking sprayed) baking sheet

Bake at 350 degree for 8 minutes.

I take them out when they look "almost" done and let them settle on top of the oven, this prevents them from burning!

You can substitute with organic butter and eggs, honey instead of sugar, whole wheat flour instead of white and raisins instead of the chocolate chips for a healthier version!

xoxo

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MY HUSBAND AND I NEVER ARGUE....

MY HUSBAND AND I NEVER ARGUE....

“Never?'  I said  (my facial expression surely changing to one of bewilderment, shock and awe)

“Nope.  Never.  We’re best friends.”

It was in that moment that I :

a) knew we would never be close friends and

b) was thankful for the friends I currently had in my life.

It’s not that I wasn't happy for her, it’s just that I didn't particularly believe her.  And if I did believe her I wasn't sure I knew how to be around someone who didn't feel things on such an emotional level that it caused her life to always be full of rainbows and unicorns.  My face clearly had not moved from its contortion because she followed her statement with, “do y’all fight a lot”?  ‘What? Who us? Ummm no, well yes, sometimes, we are good though, really’. 

I cannot relate to you…. where is the closest EXIT??? 

I must admit that on the drive home I did think about what she had said and the weight it held, if any.  Was she being truthful with me?  With herself?  Who cared right?  Not me.  Well maybe I did just a little.  Maybe it made me question how often my husband and I did argue, was it a lot? Was it a little? Was it normal?  Should I try harder to be a wife like her?  One that didn't argue with her husband?  One that didn't have an opinion, a view, an identity?  I’m not saying she was any of the above, but if I was someone who didn't have differing opinions of my husband, someone who didn't stand up for those opinions, then that is what I would be - I knew this for certain, I would be numb. Numb.  If someone asked me one word to describe my husband it would be “passionate”, on every level, in every aspect of his life.  I struggle with my patience (or lack there of) - he blames it on my French and Irish roots.  Me?  I don't know if there is really a need to blame anything - it's just our personalities, it's who we are.  We are both passionate, we are both stubborn, we both love hard

Remember the newness of your relationship when it first started?  When you were on your best behavior at all times?  When you still had your own individual life?  Your problems were your own, the responsibility shared with no one.  If something went wrong, you only had yourself to blame.  

Bachelorette party - 25 years old - I thought I knew everything.  In hindsight, I knew nothing, except that I was madly in love with the man I was about to marry - it even said so on my t-shirt.

When you stood at the altar and said, "I do, through good times and in bad" - did you really think about what that meant?  Or were you in a wedding day daze, blissfully happy and no one was going to bring you down by making you think of anything other than how amazing life was going to be.  Nothing bad was ever going to happen, you would always be as happy as you were in that moment.   

October 14, 2000.  Living on blind faith that all our dreams would come true.  

The joys of becoming new parents, the struggle of not becoming new parents.  The struggle of being new parents with no sleep, no freedom, no shower, no time to yourself.  It doesn't make you a bad person to feel this way but you don't dare say the words out loud to anyone or god forbid your precious new baby or your growing toddler.  Where does that frustration go? How is it released? 

Having 4 babies in 9 years is not for the weak.. physically or mentally!  They are my greatest joy but have taken me to places on the emotional spectrum I did not even know existed!  Kids Photo: Brooke Boling

Or maybe it has nothing to do with kids.  A job loss, financial troubles, what happened to the life you envisioned you would have?  Bills adding up, that mortgage payment that's due.  Why don't you live in the kind of house your friends are living in?  Why do the external woes you are facing make you feel like you are drowning and every time you think you've gotten it together here comes another wave?  You don't want to share this with anyone else. Where does that frustration go? How is it released?

Well for most of us it's released on the person we feel most comfortable with.  The person we feel safest with - the one that can see us at our worst behavior and still love us the same when we are finished acting that way.  Weird right?  The people we love the most and feel the safest with are also the ones we feel comfortable being our worst around?  Because we know that they love us unconditionally - right?  Everyone has a breaking point, everyone. 

It's easy to be happy and kind to everyone around you when things are going great - how many people argue while on a tropical vacation without their kids?  When they get a big promotion at work?  When they are able to balance their check books at the end of the month?  When life is going great?  It's easy to speak nicely and be generous to others when life is good.  The real test, the real challenge is how you treat others when life is not so great.  The human body, the human soul, is not bulletproof - understand that your words towards someone who loves you can be just as strong as bullets.  

Be each other's biggest cheerleader - life will give you plenty of people who will try and bring you down.  

My feeling on this subject (and again, its just my opinion) is that it's not so much WHETHER you argue, it's HOW you argue.  It's the WORDS that you use.  Are you trying to resolve the problem or solely worried about being right?  Do the words you use point you in the direction of resolution or are you going for the jugular?  This can change arguing into fighting, fighting dirty.  You know what I mean when I say that, fighting dirty ... do you push their buttons so that they'll feel the same way you are feeling?  Do you point blame in their direction? Make them feel like "YOUR" joint problems lay solely on them?  Do you stray off topic of what the argument is actually about, does it become personal instead of factual?  When you name call and bring up someone else's shortcomings it shows them that you don't respect them as a person, you don't value their self esteem, their self worth.  This is when arguing turns to fighting dirty and it's a one way ticket to disaster, to failure, to the end.  

My husband and I have been married for 16 years, together for 21 - believe me, we have had our fair share of arguments.  We have been through ups and downs that life threw us unexpectedly - that we didn't ask for, weren't necessarily equipped to handle.  He has been there on the worst day of my life and he has been there on the best.  We have seen each other at our worst and at our best and everything in between. He respects me enough not to push the buttons he knows he could.  

One of my favorite photos.  I was 7 months pregnant with our daughter and had just watched my husband win his 5th CCMA of the night.  This hug represented so much more than just winning an award.  It was a, "We did it, together.  No one else knows what it took for us to get here, together".   

Be kind, be compassionate, be understanding of one another.  If you don't have anything nice to say than say nothing, leave the room and take a breath.  There is nothing wrong with differing opinions, it's what makes us unique from one another.  It's about being able to disagree and still work it out, to apologize if it was our error, to not leave scars on the other persons heart, their self esteem.  

I love this quote I recently saw, "Marriage is like a house.  When a light goes out you don't buy a new house.  You replace the bulb" - @fiercemarriage ..... Think of your words as those bulbs.  If every time you replaced a light bulb it immediately went out again you'd eventually stop trying to replace it, stop trying to fix it.  It's not about IF or WHY you argue, it's about how you get to a resolution.  Your words have the power to brighten or dim your spouse - choose them wisely.

xoxo 

 

 

 

 

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Comfort Food - Why you should make it and what you can make...

Comfort Food - Why you should make it and what you can make...

We hear the term all the time - Comfort Food.  It makes us happy when we are feeling sad, relieves the pressure when we are feeling overwhelmed, fills a void when something in us is depleted.  I remember growing up, watching when someone would get sick, have surgery, pass away - people would just keep arriving.. food in hand. It somehow replaced sending flowers (thank God), it became the new love language for, "here, let me make it better, I'm thinking of you".

When someone has baby, a surgery, an illness, a death in the family, it's our way of giving them one less thing to worry about, to be in charge of.  Our way of trying to lessen their load.  It's our way of saying, "I'm sorry for your problem, I don't know how to make it better but look, look what I made you.  I made it with love and with every ingredient I added I tried to add more love, more comfort.  I thought of you the entire time".

When I take a meal for someone I always try and take something that they can freeze in case they don't want to eat it that night.  Sometimes meal trains can be overwhelming, the food starts piling up and it goes to waste. Take them something they can eat that night if they want or keep in their freezer for a night after the other meals have run out (this includes making your dish in a freezer safe container - if they forget to return it you'll be ok - make the dish part of the gift).

Now the dreaded question.... WHAT DO I MAKE? WHAT DO I TAKE THEM? First rule.. this is not a competition (do not act like you've never worried wether your dish measures up to what Suzy took last night).  I promise that whoever is on the receiving end is just grateful NOT to be cooking and worrying about it themselves.

One dish meals are of course the easiest to freeze.  Pasta dishes, soups, casseroles etc. all make for a perfect dish!  Even if it seems like its a "all in one" dish, I still like to add a salad (pre mixed bagged salads are easy and have everything, including the dressing in one bag), a vegetable and if it's pasta I would add a french baguette or one of those frozen garlic bread loaves you throw in the oven. Remember EASY is key!  Add a desert and you are good to go!  

If you are making them something to freeze or cook at a later time be sure to tape cooking instructions to the top.  Don't assume they'll know how long and at what temperature to cook it.  

I'll be adding to the list of my go to comfort foods as we go along but here is one of my top favorites!  And...... this is not just to take to someone else!  Once you smell it cooking it will be hard to give away!  Better go ahead and make one for yourself, or at least do a test run this weeked.  You know, just so you're prepared!

MY VERY FAVORITE LASAGNA!

WHAT YOU'LL NEED:

2 pounds Ground Beef (organic and lean is my usual but use what you prefer)

1 minced Garlic Clove 

1 medium White Onion (diced)

1 tsp Oregano

4 cups shredded Mozarella cheese

15 ounces of whole milk Ricotta cheese

28 ounces (about 1 jar) of Spaghetti Sauce - I like to use a seasoned one such as basil or italian - it gives it a zing you don't get with plain sauce

1/4 cup of Water

12 Lasagna noodles - cooked and drained.  Do NOT use the no bake ones with this recipe! ( I'm not a fan of them in general, I don't think they ever get to a good consistency!)

Sooo are you still mincing garlic by hand?  If so you need to stop immediately and get yourself one of these jars - found in the produce section.  Super easy and I promise just as good as mincing it yourself!

Fun Fact: Never EVER cut an onion and put it back in your fridge!  Once an onion is opened it immediately starts collecting bacteria (hence the reason a lot of people leave a cut onion out in a room as a cold and flu remedy - it sucks in all the germs!).  Some say if you put it in a air tight container you'll be fine but I either use it all or throw the remainder away!

Speaking of easy... are you also still dicing an onion by hand? Well if so, you ALSO need to stop immediately and get yourself one of these amazing tools!  One onion diced in 1 minute flat - perfectly!  I got mine at Walmart for $14.99.

HOW TO MAKE THIS BAD BOY:

1) Cook beef, onion, garlic and oregano until meat is browned - drain off any fat

2) Add Spaghetti sauce and Water and stir together

3) Let simmer, covered for 1/2 hour

Now that you have your cooked noodles and your cooked meat mixture you are ready to assemble!

4) You are going to make 3 layers, noodles - sauce - cheese - repeat

5) Start with layering 4 noodles on the bottom of a well greased 9 x 13 baking dish (sometimes I will use a smaller dish such as 8 x 10 for thicker pieces, your call!)

6) Spread 1/3 of meat mixture evenly on top of the noodles

7) Sprinkle 1/3 of mozzarella cheese on top of the meat mixture

8) Drop spoonfuls of the ricotta across the mozzarella 

9) Repeat 2 more times and add extra Mozzarella on top to coat

10) Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes uncovered, let stand 15 minutes covered 

Enjoy!

Before                                                                              

After!  

Sidenote: If no one but me was eating this I would be tempted to pull the top off and just eat the crunchy cheese!

What's your favorite thing to make/take someone?  Suggestions welcome!

xoxo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I'M JUST GONNA SWEAT IT OFF...

I'M JUST GONNA SWEAT IT OFF...

I'm already sweating writing this.  Why? because I know this is a sensitive subject for many -  for me it is!  I hear the same story all the time, "I never had to worry about my weight until I got married, had kids, hit 30, hit menopause", hit life!  Right?  Isn't it really lifes obstacles that detoured your weight off course? Your fitness routine?  You stopped having time?  You started putting your kids, your job, your husband at the front of the line while your place just kept getting moved to the back?  Maybe you hear those women who say, "I never had to worry about my weight until...." and you secretly want to punch their lights out because you struggled with your weight your entire life.  What do they know about what it's like to struggle with weight? with body image?  They don't, you do - you've dealt with it for as long as you can remember.  Maybe you TRULY do not care about your weight or wether you exercise or not, this post is not for you.  Feel free to read on but don't leave me mean comments - there is nothing negative about what I have to say, it's all in love - ALL. IN. LOVE.  I get it, both sides. I have been on both ends of the spectrum (wait what???? - another post, maybe one day, maybe not).  I have struggled on both ends and believe me it's hard to find a happy medium when you have.  Somewhere, somehow I have found it - MY happy medium.  It will not be the same as yours, it doesn't need to be.

When my 2nd son was born my 1st was only 15 months old.  I had no family around to help and we didn't have the money for a babysitter.  We had one car that my husband took to work everyday.  This was not an ideal situation by any means!  I hadn't even lost all the weight from my 1st son and now I had a second one to lose!  My Mom bought us a double running stroller (I'm pretty sure out of pity) and guess what I did?  I put those babies in the stroller and I walked and walked and then I ran and then I joined the community rec center and I ran with those babies in the double jogger TO the rec center and put them in the FREE day care.  You got one hour of child care, when I tell you I stretched it to 60 minutes I mean somedays it was 65. Maybe I started working out through default, for a break, not just physically - mentally. The release I would have achieved by the time we got home was like no other.  I was a better Mother to them, I had patience, I felt in control.  I was theirs for the rest of the day. After my 3rd and 4th child I was the exact same, it wasn't as easy but I did it!  After my daughter was born I tried to take her to the YMCA daycare and she screamed the entire time, every day.  It was miserable, for both of us.  So I quit.  The gym, not myself.  I bought a DVD workout program and did it 6 days a week at home while she napped. It was possible because I had already proven to myself that a) I could and b) I should! The stress relief and endorphins you can release through exercise can make even the most challenging of days seem conquerable.     

Find what you love:

I am a firm believer that diet and fitness go hand in hand.  When you workout in the morning you are more likely to eat better for the rest of the day - you start your mindset off on the right note.  When you workout at night you are more likely to watch what you're eating through the day, who wants to workout after eating a hamburger and fries?  Knowing you still have to workout puts you in the right mindset through the day.  Find an exercise program that you love!  I cannot stress this enough!  If it doesn't excite you you will get bored and you will quit. Are you someone who would rather exercise alone?  Put in your earphones and tune out the rest of the world? Or are you someone who needs to be held accountable? To a trainer? A class where people know you and expect you to show up?  Learn this about yourself.  Again, there is no right answer, it's what works for you.  Regardless of your fitness level there is more than likely something that can work for you.  High impact, low impact, spinning, yoga, boxing, water aerobics, barre, paddle boarding, biking, walking!  The list is truly endless.  My Mom is 70 and just had her second hip replacement.  She still does pilates every week, with 2 fake hips!  My point is, you can always find something, ALWAYS.  

Find something that makes you sweat and makes your muscles sore, don't waste your time - take the time you are exercising to give it all that you've got! The first form of fitness I fell in love with was running.  People would ask me, "how far do you run"?  I never knew, it didn't matter.  I never ran to set records, I ran until I "felt it", until I had nothing left - that's when my run was over.  I ran for years but after my second knee surgery my Dr. told me if I didn't stop I would be having a knee replacement within the next year.  * and yes of course I tried to prove him wrong and ran anyways and after could not walk for about a week, my running career was officially over.  I tried EVERY SINGLE WORKOUT after that - I think I'll save my opinion on those for another time because that would be its own post!  It doesn't mean I'm right, it doesn't mean it will work for everyone.  I found my current fitness relationship just over 2 years ago, Taebo™. After the first class I almost cried happy tears because it had been almost that long since I had felt the same rush as I had when I used to run.  If you are around my age or older you will remember the Taebo™ DVD's - remember Billy Blanks?

Well yes, that's the one.  A cardio kickboxing workout that's done on a gymnastics floor which is great for my knee!  I kind of hit the jackpot that his daughter Shellie moved here and opened up her own Taebo™ gym - lucky me!  Again, I'll save the ins and outs of this workout for later because it also is a post in itself!

You can do it - I PROMISE!

You can always find a reason why you are too busy to exercise, but 3 months in you will wonder why you didn't do it sooner.  It isn't about being "skinny" or a dress size or a number on the scale - it's about feeling strong and confident - only you will know what that looks and feels like.  It's not selfish to take an hour for yourself, when you are happy with yourself it shows, it radiates onto everyone around you.  Yes I am aware that the above doesn't hold true for everyone because sometimes injuries and health conditions and LIFE get in the way and throw you a curve ball that make it impossible to achieve what you want no matter how hard you try!  So kudos to those who have those challenges and are STILL trying!  

My guidelines I try to stick to most of the time!  

1) cardio (and if I'm not sweating I am not calling it cardio, I'll call it toning) 5 x a week

2) weights 2 to 3 times x week

3) limited carbs for dinner 

4) NO eating past 8pm

5) protein, protein, protein (egg whites, lean meats, veggies, protein shakes) 

6) do NOT eat in front of the TV 

7) always read the labels on your food - don't just look at the calories - look at the grams of fat AND the sugar

8) sugar = devil

9) sugar drinks  / most fancy coffee drinks = the devil  (read your labels!)

10) always keep one thing you love (in moderation) heyyyy red wine 

These are just my GOALS - I do love to indulge and I will never deny myself something if I REALLY want it!

Are you interested in hearing my thoughts and experiences with all the different exercise methods out there?  My opinion of what you should do if you're trying to achieve a, b or c?  Do you want to see my workout routine?  Do you want to talk about what to eat and what not to?  Like I said in my welcome video - this is not just a place for me to talk TO you, I want us to talk TOGETHER so let me know what you want to talk about!  Maybe I can even find us an expert or two to help out!

xoxo 

 

 

 

 

 

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The BEST ever Apple Crisp!!!

The BEST ever Apple Crisp!!!

Something about Fall - Thanksgiving and then onto Christmas makes me crave this dessert!  It has been on our table since the time I was little as a favorite way to finish a meal.  One of the other reasons I enjoy making this so much is that even though I know the recipe by heart, I still put out the original index card it was written on by my Nana.  I remember asking her for it after I got married - it was so her to include "wash hands" as a step in the recipe.  See below!

 

 

 INGREDIENTS:

3 Cups Peeled and Sliced Granny Smith apples (about 6 or 7 medium size)

1/2 Tsp of Cinnamon

1/2 Tsp of Salt

1/4 Cup Water (to put into bottom of dish)

1/2 Tbsp of Lemon Juice (Fresh is best if available!)

1/2 Cup of All Purpose Flour

1/2 Cup of Oatmeal - Quick Cooking kind (don't use the regular or it won't cook!)

1/3 Cup of Butter

3/4 Cup of Brown Sugar

DIRECTIONS:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

Grease or cover with a non-stick spray a 9 x 9 cooking dish ( I like to use a ceramic one)

Pour water into the bottom of the dish

Place apple slices evenly into dish 

Sprinkle the salt & cinnamon evenly over the apple slices

Drizzle the lemon juice evenly over the salt and cinnamon 

In SEPARATE bowl add flour, sugar and oatmeal and mix together (just with a fork)

With a pastry cutter, blend in the butter until the mixture is the size of small peas (if you don't have one you can use your fingers - don't use a mixer or the consistency will be too smooth and you want it crumbly!)

Using your fingers, sprinkle the crumble mixture evenly over the apples and gently pat down.

Bake for 1 hour or until apples are bubbling and crumb mixture is golden brown

 

GRANNY SMITH APPLES ARE MY FAVORITE FOR BAKING WITH!

 

THIS DESSERT ISN'T SUPPOSED TO BE PRETTY - JUST SPRINKLE THINGS ON!

DON'T FORGET TO USE THE 'QUICK COOKING' OATS! 

THE MESSIER THE BETTER!

Best served warm with vanilla ice cream (in my opinion) and it's even better the day after!

 

 

 

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Aging gracefully in a society that shows little grace to those who age.

Aging gracefully in a society that shows little grace to those who age.

In 2015, the anti-aging skin care market generated over 2 Billion dollars in sales in the U.S alone.  Does anyone know when it became so offensive to society to age?  Why is it that men are considered to be more distinguished looking while women just turn into trolls?  More importantly, why do WE as WOMEN seem to be the ones who do all the condemning?  We are the judge and jury of our own gender, we are hard on others - we are harder on ourselves.  

(photo: LifeCell South Beach Skin care) 

A short while ago, a picture for my blog was posted on social media.  I released it as a type of promotion I guess, a heads up to the blog I was working on.  I didn't release it for feedback on my appearance, but feedback I sure did get - most of it was positive but a lot was not (and that was after some SERIOUS retouching for heavens sake!) 

So many comments about my age, my face, my wrinkles, my plastic surgery, my botox, my fillers, my fat-ness, my thin-ness, the recent “re-designing” of my face (whaaaat??? I promise there has been no such re-designing). Guess who ALL the comments were from?  WOMEN.... Mothers, Grandmothers, Sisters, Daughters…. so much criticism.  What did they want me to do? Apologize for aging?  Well here’s the funny thing about life, as hard as I try (and believe me I do) not to age - I do.  It just keeps happening.  I can compare myself to others, I can try every product and technique out there, I can make myself crazy with trying to look like the girl in the magazine - there will always be a company or person or MYSELF telling me I could look better. 

What a weight we bear as women, never good enough - try harder.  Try this product, maybe it can help you.

 

Every other commercial is full of the latest and greatest way to lose those wrinkles.  Translation - you really look terrible with all those wrinkles.  We are made to look at those wrinkles like looking at the glass half empty. What if we could change our thinking and look at the wrinkle glass as half full?  What if the more wrinkles you had meant the more life you had lived?  REALLY lived? Like badges on your face for every laugh, tear and emotion you had ever experienced.  Congratulations, you win - you lived a life full of feelings.

 

 

I write this for myself as much as I write this for you, I am forever trying to turn back the clock on my face.  As I was writing this something occurred to me… what if I’m not just trying to turn back the clock on my face? What if I’m trying to turn back the clock on life?  What if every time I see a new wrinkle it really is just reminding me of that hour glass of youth?  I don't want this for my daughter.  I don’t want her to feel the pressure of it all.

 

 

I want us to be nicer to one another, build each other up rather than tear each other down.  Are the same women who made comments about me aging being that hard on their own daughters? Teenagers are getting cosmetic surgery, fillers in their lips - I can't help but think what they will look like when they hit 40?  What will all that have done to the shell of their face? Yes - I am a firm believer that when you look good you feel good but when is it too much?  It's a slippery slope we jump on when we begin the process of trying to turn back the clock. As much as we fight it, we will all age eventually.  That is if we are given the gift of time, to age - and that it is, a gift. 

 


(My Mom holding my daughter at 5 months old... holding the hand of her Great-Nana on her hospital bed.  My Nana had waited 5 great-grandsons to have a great-grandaughter.  This was the first and only day they met,  she passed away the following week.  Her hands were aged, my daughters brand new - I like to think she was transferring all the wisdom of those hands into Ava's)

How do we age gracefully?  We do the best we can, we put as much importance on it as is important to us - not the rest of society.  Aging gracefully DOES NOT mean trying to look younger.  It means holding our heads high, our confidence radiating (because you know you have more now than you did when you were 20), being comfortable in our own skin, our makeup (or not) applied how it makes us feel good, our hair done the way it gives US a kick in our step.  You want to get botox? then get it.  Your lips done? then do it.  Your boobs done? You go girl.  Whatever you do just make sure you're doing it for you, no one else.  Aging gracefully will mean something different to each person, please don’t let it consume you - what others think of you that is.  Stop looking at the girl in the magazine, she probably doesn't look like that in real life either.  

 

 

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