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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas!


Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

In celebration of our family from NY arriving tomorrow, I will be taking the week off from blogging to spend as much time with them as possible.  

I look forward to ringing in 2016 with all of you!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Quick Cardio Blast & Why I Gave Up the Gym

quick cardio circuit workout - no equipment needed

Time is valuable and time is what most of us busy moms lack.  You don't have to be a mom to lack time!  Particularly at the holidays, we just don't have the ability to get to the gym for an hour sweat sesh and quite honestly, who wants to do that anyway?!

So I put together some of my favorite moves that combine a lower body workout for maximum sweat (big muscles = big burns) and cardio.  If you do a 5 minute warm-up before and follow this with a 5 minute cool down, this will be a quick and effective workout for you.


If you like these workouts you can see more on my YouTube channel here or by following me on Facebook here.

I love being able to get my workout in at home.  Years ago I was a self-proclaimed gym rat, but these days I'm getting the results I want within a reasonable time frame from the comfort of my home.  I'm not going to lie - when I first considered at home workouts, I was extremely hesitant and felt that it wouldn't work for me.  But, I was at a point as a new mom where I couldn't find the time nor did I want to make the time to get to the gym.

So I jumped in head first and honestly - best decision ever in regards to my health and fitness.

Here's why...

No waiting.
I hated waiting for a treadmill to open up at the gym.  It never failed; I would get there and find something to do for 20 minutes before on became available.

My own sweat.
It grosses me out anytime I see someone in full-on workout mode sweating all over the machines and they get up to go to the next one without wiping it down.  Yuck!  I always sprayed everything and wiped it down before and after I used it because you just can't expect people to do it.

Time.
This is the biggest and baddest reason to give up the gym in my opinion.  I don't have a lot of time to dedicate to the gym and honestly, driving to and from it would impede on my workout time.  I also can't fathom giving up an hour of time with my son each evening because I don't have many hours with him while he's awake in the first place.

Also, the hours at the gym aren't exactly user friendly.  Most workouts and gyms don't start until 6 a.m.  For me, that wouldn't be enough time to get in a workout and get ready to head to work for 7:25 each morning.

My living room is my gym.
I need very little gym equipment therefore my living room can be my gym.  This means, I can literally roll out of bed and into my cross trainers and get my workout started in 5 minutes time.

Do you work out at home?  What is your favorite workout?

Friday, December 18, 2015

Stocking Stuffers for Everyone on Your List

I don't know what it is about the tiny little items that go inside stockings each year, but they are some of my favorite things to buy for gifts.  It's so easy to go overboard and spend a crazy amount on stocking stuffers so I always try to set a budget of $20-$25 per stocking.  Because...the best things come in small packages, right?

I've put together some stocking guides for everyone in your family this year:
dad stocking


I love surprising my husband with little things like funky socks and those unique cufflinks.  What a conversation piece at work!  The Sriracha keychain is pretty comical if you ask me, but a great gift for a hot sauce fiend.  Some other stand-bys include shaving gear, golf tees, and money clips.


mom stocking


Mom is a little easier in my opinion because there are soooo many cute little things that are out on the market targeted toward this niche.  I love Sweaty Bands and they are coming out with some really cute ones that aren't just for working out anymore.  You can't go wrong with hand sanitizer - especially this scent - or candles.  Some cute studs and lipgloss are every woman's favorite.  And when I saw this cute coin purse for less than $5 I knew it had to go on the list!


toddler stocking


Toddlers are going to love anything you put in their stocking.  Simply the act of removing things from it is exciting.  I tried to focus on needs more than anything for this stocking in an effort to avoid filling it full of unnecessary *junk* or sugar.  Which we already have enough of as toddlermoms.  My son loves these Z bars and they are a healthier alternative to the traditional granola bar.  We are starting to talk about the potty and sit on it a few times a week so I think it's probably time to read about it and I like how this book is specific for boy and girls.  Tub time toys are always a good choice as well as straw cups.  Toddlers love straw cups!  I snagged some of these socks the other day to throw in since the dryer loves to eat socks and I absolutely adore these slippers.


dog stocking


I know there are other pets out there, but we just have dogs so I made a dog stocking stuffer list.  Honestly, I would never buy our dogs these adorable donut chew toys because they would be torn apart in minutes, but if your dog isn't as destructive as ours, these are too cute not to buy.  A new brush and some of their favorite treats make great stocking stuffers.  We love rope toys because our dogs love to play tug of war, but also because they aren't as easily destroyed.  Lastly, these treat toys are wonderful - they keep the dogs busy forever.

What do you put in your Christmas stockings?

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

3 Ways to Prep for Santa


Christmas can be overwhelming.  Weekends are jam-packed with family functions, parties, travel, and little ones get wrapped up in it all.  Shoot.  Adults get wrapped up in it!  Sometimes I need Monday to come so I can rest from my weekend during holiday time.

As it gets closer to time for Santa to arrive I try to prep my home, my son, myself for the big day.

1. De-clutter

Almost every week this month I've brought a bag (or 2) full of items we no longer need or use to the thrift store.  It's nice to take the toys that kids no longer play with to someone who might use them to make room for anything new Santa may bring.

As I decorate for Christmas, I go through my decorations and decide whether not items still fit my vision for my holiday scheme.  I've found that many things can be donated, given to friends and family, or even trashed due to wear and tear.  Since we moved this summer I decided if it wasn't being used in the new home, it would probably never be used so it was either trashed, donated, or give away.

2. Schedule Rest

I know this seems silly and close to impossible especially as a parent, but it's really important to schedule a few days of family relaxation time during the holiday season.  Lay around in your pjs, drinking cocoa, and watching Christmas movies.  Or spend an afternoon baking cookies and decorating them.

You simply can't enjoy yourself when you're exhausted and this time of year can exhaust you.  In order to truly experience the holiday season, schedule some R&R for you and your family.

3. Introduce kids to Santa

This is probably the hardest part for littles.  They are so excited about Santa and they know who he is, what he does, and all that he means to the season, but when it comes time to sit on his lap they freak out.  There is no right or wrong way to introduce them to Santa and it may work one year and fail miserably the next, but here are a few things we've done to try to ease the creepiness for our little guy.

Read lots of books.  Each night before bed we read several books; one is always about Santa.  We make sure to point him out.  Talk about him and practice saying, "Ho, ho, ho!"

Watch holiday movies. Let them see Santa being friendly and doing what he does in action.

Visit him from afar.  Go to the mall a few times and see Santa from afar before going for pictures.  Let your littles see other children getting on his lap to talk to him, let them ask questions, etc.

Get excited about him together.  Really talk Santa up.  I know he's not the reason for the season, but he has a major presence this time of year so it's important for kids to be comfortable around him.  If kids know that you love Santa, it will naturally rub off on them.

How do you prep for Santa?

Monday, December 14, 2015

DIY Gingerbread Birthday Party

diy gingerbread man birthday party

I thought I was being so smart when I set out to throw my son a Gingerbread Boy themed birthday party.   His birthday is December 12th and I just knew there would be plenty of gingerbread decor out with the holidays around the corner.

Not so much the case...

So, that meant I had to get creative!  Which actually turned out to be pretty fun since I hadn't waited until the last minute.  Had I waited, I would have totally caved and gone with something else because it was not easy finding items that fit the look I was going for.


I ended up stretching the gingerbread theme a tad and incorporating a lot of red, white, and green candy that would be on a gingerbread house since those items were easier to find for utensils, plates, etc.  I think it all tied in pretty nicely and the kids all enjoyed the treats and decorations.

I didn't serve a meal since the party was at 2:00 in the afternoon, but we had plenty of sweet and savory snacks on hand for the guests.  I really went with the green and red theme since it was so easy and honestly, I know this is the last year I get to choose the theme so I rolled with it.  Next year it will probably be Blaze or Ninja Turtles or something the little man requests.


I printed the cupcake markers from this shop on Etsy.   I was able to instantly download them and print them myself.  I found some cake pop sticks in the clearance bin at my local grocery store and just cut them in half.  I attached the cupcake topper to the stick with festive washi tape.


One of my Beachbody teammates has a little dessert business on the side and she makes incredible cookies.  I ordered these gingerbread men as favors for each child that attended the party.


In lieu of party bags I gave each child the gingerbread cookies above as well as a gingerbread man cookie cutter with a gingerbread play-dough recipe to make at home.  The play-dough is incredible!  It smells just like gingerbread.


CT was super excited about the cupcakes...obviously.  


I made the fabric bunting using gingerbread and candy themed fabric following this tutorial.


I had a really cute gingerbread man shirt made for CT, but it was uncharacteristically HOT so we had to resort to this t-shirt for the party.  His shirt was long-sleeve and it was entirely too hot for that.

Who would have thought it would be 75 degrees on December 12th?!

Leggings from JCPenney
He loved opening his gifts and wanted each one "out" as soon as it was opened.  


The next morning he woke up and played with his new toys for hours!  It makes me so excited to see what Christmas morning is like.

Friday, December 11, 2015

2 years



To my baby boy,

It's so hard to believe that you've already been here for 2 years and in the same breath it's so hard to believe it's only been that long.  You are the one who has really given life to my life.

Your daddy and I often watch you play and we look at eachother and laugh wondering what we did before you were here.  Lately, you've been pretty amazed by our Roomba and we often find cans of tuna fish in our living room that you've been pushing around like little vacuums.  Your favorite books are "Meet Jack Truck" and "Thomas the Train Looks Up."  Neither of which are much for the storyline, but regardless each night you come to me with "Jack" and "Choo-choo" and ask me to read them.  Most nights you take them to daddy after we finish and he has to read them to you as well.

I think this past year has gone even fast than the first one.  You have grown leaps and bounds in so many ways.  Your vocabulary is impressive to say the least.  Every color and crayon is "yellow."  You look saying good night to things often yellowing "Good night, cow!" or "Good night, moon!" the whole way home from school as though if you're loud enough they might really hear you.

You've even said your first cuss word thanks to me.  You were helping me unload the dishwasher (you love this task) when you pulled the entire bottom rack full of clean dishes out onto the floor.  In my haste, I said "oh, sh#t" and you excitedly repeated it over and over and over and over...

Daddy thought that was quite funny by the way.

You have a few special friends at school and you really like to play in the kitchen area with the pots and pans.  Maybe one day you will be a world renowned chef.  You make incredible motor sounds as you drive your trucks all over the place.  Maybe one day you will be a race car driver.  We love watching you grow and how your interests develop as you go.

You've become quite independent, but you're really good at holding hands.  It's so sweet how you hang onto 2-3 fingers and you sometimes stop to check to make sure your grip is good before we go somewhere.  I love that you don't mind holding my hand.  You really love pushing your own grocery cart at the store.  The scary part is your reaction when its time to take things out and put them on the belt.  The first time we did this, you put on quite a show for the shoppers :)

I can't express how awesome these 2 years have been.  You truly are the best thing in the whole world.  And I know I'm your mom and I'm supposed to say that, but it's true.  You're bright and funny and strong and brave.  And I love being your mom more than life itself.

Love,
Mommy

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

How to Have Patience as a Parent

how to have patience as a parent

One of the biggest fears I had as I embarked on motherhood *almost* 2 years ago was whether or not I would have enough patience for it.  It's funny...you don't realize how selfish and self-absorbed you are until you no longer have that option.

I had all the fears I think every new mom has of if I had enough time, would I really be able to stop spending money on me and start spending it elsewhere, but most of all would I have enough patience?

For me, patience may very well be the single most significant characteristic of a good mother.

And as I've been a mom now for 2 years (practically a pro, right?) I've reflected on moments when I had patience and admittedly some when I didn't.  

This is what I've learned...

Embrace the moment.
Let them play in mud, splash in the dog's dish, eat a cupcake before dinner because we only live once and they're only small for so long and all the other cliches.  Really though, does it truly matter if they have mud under their fingernails or eat dessert first?  Not in the grand scheme of things.

Next time there is a huge puddle, go grab their mud boots and snap a video as they plunge through it.  Worry about hosing them off after the moment has passed.

Laugh at all the things.
Seriously.  Everything is funny.  And laughter is truly the best medicine.  Did you know that laughter therapy is a real thing?  People literally use laughter and humor to promote health and wellness and relieve stress or discomfort.

Years from now you will look back and laugh at the things your child did - why not enjoy them today?

Invest in yourself.
It's so important for you to be more than "momma" or "papa."  You need to have something to call your own.  Obviously you will not be able to do all the things you did before child, but you should hang onto one or two of them in order to keep your sense of self.

When you lose yourself, you start to hold negative feelings toward the things you believe caused that to happen whether you realize it or not.

Stop making time lines.
When I first had my son and I would take him places my husband would ask when we would be home.  My answer was always, "That depends."  And it does!  It depends on so many things from feeding to diapers to naps, etc.

Stop packing so many activities into each day.  I know we all want to make amazing memories with our children, but it's not fun for anyone (including us) if we are trying to do too much.

Remember what it was like to be a kid.
I remember my dad laying on the floor and coloring with me.  I remember my mom baking cookies with me and leaving a huge mess in the kitchen.  Those are the things I remember.  And those are the things I need to do with my son because more than likely, he will remember them, too.

Little things mean a lot in the eyes of a child.  Don't let that slip away from you as the world attempts to jade you.

Monday, December 7, 2015

3 Apps I Use to Save Me Money at Christmas


If you know me, you know I'm a frugal (my brother says this is a nice way of saying cheap) spender when it comes to money.  I like the high quality name brand just as much as the next person, I just don't like to pay for it.

Particularly at Christmas time, I always want to get the perfect gift, but I have a budget in mind for each person on my list meaning I can't always get them the best gift ever.  Unless I find a way to save on it.

I use a multitude of apps to save money throughout the year, but this season there are 3 that I've used most often to save money on Christmas gifts and I think you would find them handy as well.


eBates

I use eBates every time I purchase something online.  It's a cash back program that earns you a percentage of the money you're spending back each time you make a purchase through your account.  It's simple, you log in, search for the store you are wanting to shop from through their search engine and then make your purchase!  Stores have anywhere from 2%-10% cash back most days of the week.


You don't have to put in a code or do anything "hard" or "time consuming" to make your money back so don't worry about that!  Just create an account and start saving.  You can see in the upper right hand of this image that I've almost earned another $20 since starting my holiday shopping.

RetailMeNot

I love this app!  Any time I find myself waiting in line at a store to check out, I pull this up so that I can save an extra buck or two on my purchase.  I'm a big couponer in regards to groceries so anytime I can get a $10 off a $25 purchase from JCPenney or 20% off at Kohl's on this app, I get excited.

It has coupons for shops both, online and in store, and even has coupons to certain restaurants.

If you create an account, you can upload coupons you find to share with others, but you can use the app regardless of whether or not you have one.

Zulily

I would say about 85% of my Christmas shopping was done on this app (the shopping that didn't benefit a small business/entrepreneur).  It is so nice to shop put things in my cart and have them sent to my house.  Items like Little Tykes, Saucony, Stride Rite, and other brands run weekly deals on this site and you can find items for a significant percentage off.


If you create an account using my link you get a discount on your first purchase.  Then share your link with friends/family and earn some free money for yourself!

Bonus: when you make a purchase, you get free shipping and handling on all other purchases made within 48 hours.

What are your favorite apps to use?

Thursday, December 3, 2015

5 New Traditions to Start this Season

5 new traditions to start this season

Elf Someone

I stole this idea from the "boo-ing your neighbor" trend that came out a few years ago around Halloween time.  I like the idea of boo-ing your neighbor, but for some reason, I've never really gotten into it.  Christmas, however, I get into.

I will share a few ways to do this later this month, but essentially you just put together a little goody basket/bag of fun Christmas-y things for your neighbors, leave it on the porch (extremely non-sketchy) and don't attach your name - just tell them to pass it on!

Give Back

There are sooo many ways to do this.  I will be sharing a few of my favorites later this month, but really just volunteering time, making a little craft, or handing out bags of toiletries to the homeless are easy ways to be gracious this season.

Christmas Cookie Baking Day

I've been doing this with my friends for a while now and we've done it several different ways.  Originally we each brought ingredients to make our favorite cookies together and it was a blast.  We ended up becoming too large of a group and running out of room (and time) to do that so we started making our cookies ahead of time and getting together to cook brunch and enjoy one another.

Now that I have a son, I intend to start this tradition with him and his friends.

Christmas Light Gander

As a child we would go pick up my Great-Grandparents one evening in December and drive all around town looking at Christmas lights.  I remember oooh-ing and aaahh-ing from the backseat as we went around from house to house.  It was  nice way to get my grandparents out and about and a wonderful way to get in the spirit as we listened to Christmas music along the way.

Movie Night

As I've started my own family, the holiday season has become busier and more hectic than I had imagined.  I make an effort to schedule a few weekends/evenings of nothing.  Those nights are for Christmas movies, popcorn, hot cocoa, and pajamas.  It's nice just to snuggle up, breath each other in, and remember the reason for the season.

Do you have any traditions for the holiday season?

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Packing a Toddler Bag

When CT was a baby, I knew I pretty much had to cart around everything and the kitchen sink just in case.
Ya know?

My diaper bag weighed as much as he did if not more!

Now that he is a little older I've found some ways to make the load slightly lighter.

toddler bag



As he's grown, I don't necessarily need all the little things.  I can more or less get by with a few bare essentials and if I realize I'm lacking something while I'm out, I can pop into Target or CVS and pick it up.  I've also learned that backpacks are a momma's best friend.  I love this cute black one from SheIn because it's inexpensive (because toddlers mean spills) and fashionably functional.  Chasing a little one with a diaper bag hanging from your shoulder isn't easy!

1. Snack Cup: Don't leave home without it!  I also keep a bag of Goldfish or Bunny Grahams in the console of my Jeep because it never fails that we run our and have a meltdown on our way home.

2. Extra clothing: I made the mistake of thinking that I didn't need to have extra pants (just shirts) one day when we went to the mall and I ended up in Baby Gap making an impromptu pant purchase for my little guy.  Definitely have extra clothes on hand.

3. Toys: Whatever your child likes best than is small and portable.  Bring it!

4. Wipes & Diapers: I've also left the house without diapers before only to pop in somewhere to buy a pack after being gone longer than normal.

5. Sippy Cup: I didn't picture this because typically my son is carrying it and it's not in my bag, but as my son has gotten older I've found the value in having a sippy cup.  It's nice not to have to have bottles and breast milk and such with me because I can get milk or water practically anywhere to fill it up.

Do you have any other essentials you carry with you wherever you go?