Monday, March 30, 2020

Let's Address It - COVID-19, Social Distancing, and Everything That Comes With It


Well...The world has definitely changed quite a bit since my last post, huh? I've had a couple of contributors ready with posts but it didn't feel right publishing those without first addressing the craziness that has become our reality. If anyone feels like you're in the middle of some fourth of July weekend blockbuster, you're not alone. It's all a lot of changes that happened very quickly.

For us Floridians, the moment it got real was when Disney World announced that they were closing.  Yes, we had heard of the outbreaks in China and Italy. We were aware that the virus was starting to spread here in the US...But DISNEY CLOSED?! That's when I think we all had a collective "Wait...what?!" moment.

I've been staying home since the theme parks closed. The recommended home sanitization process and germ avoidance methods are actually very, very close to my normal every day (except for worrying about the sanitation of packages/take-out boxes) since my son has had a compromised immune system. So sanitizing everything and washing my hands a million times every day - THAT part isn't very stressful for me. But I understand that implementing all of these "extra" cleaning processes does trigger anxiety in a lot of people.

The part that is stressful for me? Being away from other people. My son is an only child. School and playdates are how he socializes with his peers. I'm someone that NEEDS to be around other people and NEEDS that social interaction. Luckily, the internet, phone calls, video chat, social media, etc. all help a little bit. But it's not the same.

I understand how important it is for our physical health that everyone tries to slow down the spread by social distancing and practicing good hygiene(for goodness sake, you shouldn't have to be told to wash your hands). I know that this is something we all need to make our best effort to do. So I've been staying home since before we were ordered to do so.

But I think it's important to address that sometimes someone leaving their home to see a friend or family member is not a matter of selfishness. Sometimes this is a matter of mental health. Mental health is important too. Mental health is JUST as important as physical health.

If you're someone whose mental health isn't affected by isolating or only seeing those within your household, be grateful. If you can't relate to the person who really feels like they can't be home alone another minute of the day, be grateful. Because you don't feel it, experience it, or understand it, doesn't make it any less real. Because it's not part of your reality doesn't mean it's not a reality at all.  If you aren't able to empathize, then a little sympathy and compassion can go a long way.

To be clear, I'm not saying that what those going on vacation and partying for Spring Break are doing is ok. There is something in between complete isolation and partying with large groups of people. There is more than the two extremes. There are those who fall somewhere in the middle.

I don't know what the solution is. But it can't be continuing to yell at each other. It can't be to turn this into yet another instance where there are two sides just ripping each other apart. I think that living in this tension that has been the climate of our world (not only currently, but for several years)  has caused us to forget that there is a middle where we can meet. And that working together, instead of wasting time and energy tearing each other down, is a lot more effective in achieving what we all want - our normal back. Or at least some semblance of the normal we once knew.

So what can we do? We can be better to each other. Check up on each other.  Mamas homeschooling for the first time, accept help from the moms who have been homeschooling all along. Those having a hard time being alone, tell your friends/family what's going on.  Reach out. What you're feeling is valid and you deserve to be heard. For those understandably terrified of this virus, prepare and control what you can and let go of what you can't.  For the special needs families struggling with these changes and loss of resources, hang in there, reach out to your community. Band together. (This Facebook group is filled with parents, teachers, and an amazing community of people who will give advice, provide information, and also provide support when you need to vent. )

What can we do? Lean on each other. Even if it is at a distance.


Side note: Please stop blaming Millennials for the actions of those under 25. That's not us. It's Gen Z that you want :oP


Monday, February 3, 2020

Beauty Products I'm Bringing into 2020 - Skincare, Hair, & Makeup

It's 2020 and yes, I am still into beauty. I'm going to be honest. I left some make-up, skincare, and hair products back in 2019. But below I have listed the ones I made sure to take with me into the 20's. Some are new additions...some are tried and true favorites that you may recognize from past posts. So, I will cut this introduction short (the intro isn't what you came for, afterall) and give you the list!


Hot Tools 24K Gold Charcoal Infused One-Step Blowout

Before I got this brush, I almost NEVER blow dried my hair. I could've counted on two hands the amount of times I would blow dry my hair each year. It just took so long! And I definitely don't have time for that. But since getting this brush, blow drying my hair isn't nearly as time consuming as it used to be. I still don't blow dry my hair super often. But when I do, I'm able to very simply style it as I dry it.  I purchased this product during a Black Friday sale so I didn't pay anywhere near the listed price. However, Revlon makes a more affordable version that I hear is pretty much identical to this Hot Tools brush.

Pistache Eye Serum

I am so addicted to this eye serum. It costs much more than I would like to spend but it does so much. I tried a "dupe" of this serum and the dupe made my under-eye area look ten times worse! Never.Again. This serum reduces the pigmentation of black circles and helps fight fine lines. Hate to spend the money on it... but it really is worth every penny.

Mario Badescu Hyaluronic Eye Cream

I use this eye cream over the eye serum listed above at night and on it's own during the day. It's a pretty simple eye cream - which I need since I am allergic to retinol. (Yes, that makes finding anti-aging products tough). It's moisturizing, non-irritating, and plumps my under eye area.

Physicians Formula Super BB All-In-1 Beauty Balm Cream

I'm giving my skin a break from MAC foundation. I love a full-coverage queen. But recently, I've been into a more natural look with lighter coverage. I mainly use foundation to even out my skin tone (fair skin and the Florida sun do not mix well no matter how much SPF you use). This foundation does have SPF in it. I usually stay away from makeup with SPF since chemical sunscreens irritate my skin. But the sunscreens in this BB cream aren't chemical sunscreens so my skin is ok with them. Overall, it gives light to medium coverage, goes on streak-free, doesn't cause my skin to break out, and provides a naturally glowy finish.

COVERGIRL Bloom Mascara

This is still my favorite mascara. Depending on how much you put on, it can look very natural or super glam. It doesn't clump and I get compliments on my eye makeup/lashes when I wear this product. It's an underrated product in my opinion. Especially considering its price.

COSRX AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner

For me, this light toner helps keep my skin clear and evens out my complexion (my two main skin concerns). I simply spray it on my face (like a setting spray) and let it dry before moving on to the next step.

 YourGoodSkin ProVitamin Overnight Cream

I use this overnight cream as a daytime moisturizer. It's not very thick or heavy but it is pretty moisturizing. I prefer this cream over other moisturizers marketed for day time use because it doesn't contain SPF (no worries regarding chemical sunscreens) and it is much more moisturizing than most of the day options I've tried. It's also pretty affordable and contains vitamins C, E, and B5. Bonus - calming green tea is also one of the ingredients listed in this cream.

 Clinique Pep Start Daily UV Protector Broad Spectrum SPF 50

This is the only sunscreen I've found that I can wear daily without getting irritation or breakouts. That's really it. 


This stuff is magic. I've loved it for awhile but I really tested it out last summer when I went into New York City during one of the hottest days of the year. I believe it was 99 degrees out. I had a full face of makeup on and was walking around the city all day. Guess what was still in place when I got home that night? That's right. My makeup. It didn't melt off or smudge all over my face. This setting spray kept every bit of it right where it was supposed to be. It also doesn't irritate my skin or cause breakouts.

I like this dry shampoo better than those offered by luxury brands. I wash my hair daily (I know, I know. You're not supposed to do that) but use this spray to give my hair some texture and volume if I feel like it's falling flat that day.

The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA

Remember how I said I'm allergic to retinol and that it makes finding anti-aging products very difficult? Because of this, I rely heavily on AHA's. I have overdone it with glycolic acid in the past, so I figured I would try the slightly gentler lactic acid.   Now, if you've never used AHA's I would recommend starting with the version of this product that contains 5% lactic acid instead. Even with my years of exposure and use of AHA's this product still does sting/burn my skin at times. I only use it at night (AHA's and the sun also do not mix) and when I wake up in the morning my skin is smoother and much more even.  The best part is it's super affordable ($6.80 at Ulta) on top of being effective.

Monday, January 27, 2020

How To Stay Warm and Cozy This Winter

Written by Alex Berger

The trees have lost their leaves and the weather has that cool crisp to it. That’s when you know it’s time to focus on staying warm because winter has finally arrived (something that is relatively rare for Florida). I just feel the need to stay cozy and warm and I’ll do anything to make that happen. But, at the same time, I don’t want to spend a ton of money doing so - especially right after the Christmas season. It’s easy to bump up the heat in your home, but this also bumps up the amount you are paying. Instead, find ways to stay cozy and warm, without having to shell out hundreds and hundreds of dollars that will not be well used for a long period of time. Here are some of my best tips:

Fire

There is nothing like a hot, roaring fire to keep you warm and cozy during the cold winter months. No matter if you have a gas or a wood burning fireplace, get the fire started and curl up with a book next to it. One thing I do recommend doing before you have your first fire of the year is getting your fireplace and chimney inspected. It’s very easy and not too costly to get a chimney sweep and a lot of the time, they will also clean your dryer lint trap, as well. 

Curl up on the couch or in bed

Cozy up on the couch or in bed with lots of blankets, pillows, and a movie or a book. Adding flannel sheets, full down comforters, extra blankets (maybe even a heated blanket, or heated mattress pad), and lots of pillows will definitely keep you warm and cozy. Cuddling in bed or on the couch with lots of blankets does not sound like a bad way to spend a weekend, in my opinion! 

Warm Beverages
The winter months were made for mugs full of hot chocolate and eggnog, but those drinks aren’t always the best for your health. You can only drink so much cocoa, no matter how cold you are, so you might want to think about some other healthy alternatives such as herbal tea, turmeric lattes, or even hot chai tea. It doesn’t just stop at warm beverages, though. There are so many warm food options like soups and stews that can help warm you up, as well.

Add Rugs

One thing that I love to do in order to make my home feel cozier is to add rugs to my living spaces. Even if you have carpet in bedrooms, adding rugs on top of them not only looks great, but it creates a cozier space AND it can add warmth to the room(s). When you wake up each morning, how nice would it be to step onto a warm rug instead of stepping on your cold tile or wood flooring? Let me tell you - it is VERY nice. I love shopping for Ottomanson rugs because they are high-quality, but still extremely affordable. Ottomanson products can be purchased from Amazon, Home Depot, Walmart, Overstock, Wayfair, Hayneedle, etc. One of my favorite collections that Ottomanson sells is The Paterson Collection. They are designed with an assortment of traditional and bold contemporary motifs with trendy colors. They are eye catching, so soft, and super cozy. 

Ottomanson was established in 2007 and since then, they have become one of the leading wholesalers of area rugs in the United States. They offer a variety of high-quality, heat-set, BCF, and printed area rugs in traditional and contemporary designs. They were founded with the aspiration to embellish indoor and outdoor spaces, applying a distinct taste and touch while adhering to current trends. “Ottomanson Inc. combines years of knowledge and experience within the home décor industry to best serve this aspiration. Always bearing function and fashion in mind as well as offering premium quality for a broad range of budgets, Ottomanson has reached a large scope of product line in home décor including area rugs, runner rugs, kids’ rugs, indoor/outdoor rugs, printed rugs, grass rugs, doormats, stair treads, chair mats, towels, blankets and tablecloth. Ottomanson’s mission is to further augment these competencies with the help of its professional and passionate administrative and operational staff in order to fully serve its commitment to high-quality standards and contemporary customer demands.”

Layer Up

Winter weather can be unpredictable, especially in the southern states making it a challenge to get dressed for those cold-weather days (or the cold mornings that end up to be 70 degrees in the afternoon in FL). So, how do you even go about dressing for the really cold mornings, but not so cold afternoons? There is a trick! Dress in layers so you're prepared for any temperature and occasion. Layering your clothes can also add dimension and it is a great opportunity to mix and match patterns, colors, and textures to achieve those Instagram-worthy looks.

Are you ready for winter in Florida? Let me know if you have any other ways to stay warm and cozy this winter!

*Sponsored Post

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

The Joyful Mess Children Bring

Written by a contributing writer 

When we make the decision to have children, we generally tend to think of the 10 tiny fingers and 10 little toes (that create the odd sticky fingerprints on the walls here and there). Still, sometimes it goes much further than that. Many of us have some stories from parenting that will turn your stomach. And even though being a parent can be an absolutely fantastic experience most of the time, we wouldn’t change it for the world, there are plenty of issues that crop up in our homes as a result of having children. Here are some of the things that may happen you as a result of having smaller versions of yourself running around your home.


Photo by Ricardo Viana on Unsplash


Flooring

As adults, we may choose our flooring in our homes according to taste. Some of us have wooden flooring and some of us have carpets laid. Generally, we take our shoes off and keep them as clean as possible most of the time. But when are our children become mobile the floor in our homes can get completely trashed at times. Quite often, we will find discarded food, glue, paint, other arts and crafts materials, and the odd drink spilled here and there. And while we are googling carpet cleaning companies in our local area, little children will already be moving in the next mess to create. Of course, they don’t do it on purpose, as they are just learning, but it can still be frustrating nevertheless.

That Sudocreme moment

Most parents at some point in their journey will find the children covered in cream of some kind. Sometimes it is Sudocreme...Sometimes it is an expensive face cream that we would much rather they hadn’t touched. But many parents will regale tales of that moment they found that their child had covered themselves in something. Quite often it only takes a little moment to clean up, so isn’t the end of the world, but again this can be a little inconvenient! Especially for the typically busy parent.

Permanent marker

Much like the Sudocreme, permanent markers should always be kept well out of children’s reach. This goes without saying, of course, but this may not be as easy to keep track of as you might think. Especially if you have more than one child. Children can find their way into many things, including trouble, and discovering that your little darling has taken a permanent marker to some wall coverings, your favorite dress, or even a sibling is quite a common thing. This tends to be when having parent friends comes in handy. They will know precisely how to remove these permanent stains and give you tips on redecorating when you need it. There are even Facebook pages full of families who have the wisdom and sense of humor to be able to help you with this potential issue.

Pet mess

If you didn’t have pets before you had children, then it’s only a matter of time before the younger members of the family start asking for a pet of their own. Obviously, this is a big step and you will need to be completely prepared to deal with everything that having a pet in the family throws at you. This can mean training, housing, entertainment, and food. But above all else, a mess. Even if you choose to bring a kitten into your family, they will need a litter box that requires cleaning often. Cats, dogs, and even rabbits and guinea pigs don’t care about your clean carpets and walls. So you will need to add this to your list of chores and think carefully before agreeing to expand your family. When it comes to pets, the mess doesn’t necessarily stay inside the home. You will need to be aware that dogs and cats and other outdoor pets, can cause plenty of chaos in your garden too. But that’s just part of having and taking care of your pets.

Ultimately the mess children bring into your life is a small price to pay for the joy they bring. But be prepared for some interesting smells, unusual stains, and replacing soft furnishings when it all becomes a bit much. It can add time-consuming activities and expense to your life that you may never have imagined; it may add a little more stress than you believe too. But ultimately, that’s the task we take on, and eventually, the children will be old enough to help with the chores and tidying up after themselves and their pets too.

Monday, December 16, 2019

6 last minute things to do before your holiday guests arrive

Written by Alex Berger

 One of the best parts of the holiday season is getting to spend time with friends and family that you may not have seen in a while. Hosting holiday events and sharing your home can be so special. Although it is an extremely busy time of the year for most of us, there are still some things you should consider getting done before your guests arrive to ensure the best visit possible! Read on to make sure you check your list twice.


Finish Your Shopping

If you have guests coming into town for the holidays, the last thing you want is to be scrambling to buy last-minute Christmas gifts after they arrive (especially if it is shopping for your guests’ gifts!). Your guests will likely be ready to relax and enjoy the holidays when they get into town, and they likely won’t want to be dragged around town into busy stores. Check this one off your list and knock it out before they get to your house!


Bake Cookies For Your Neighbors

While baking cookies for your neighbors isn’t necessary, nor is it a common practice, that’s what can make it extra special. Your neighbors will love opening their door to some warm, fresh-baked holiday cookies. There is nothing better to get you into the holiday spirit! However, when you are having guests come into town, you might want to bake those cookies before they arrive. Once your guests arrive, save the cookie baking to eat for yourselves!


Get Your Exterior Cleaned


Are you having people stay at your house? If so, you absolutely need to get your windows washed. I bet you haven’t done that in quite some time and you’ll be surprised how big of a difference it makes. To be honest, I asked some of my friends when the last time they had their windows washed and 90% of them said that they have never had it done before. If this is the case with you, I highly recommend getting it done before your holiday guests arrive. And if you are looking for a great company to get the job done, check out ZAP Cleaning, based out of the North Port, FL area. ZAP Cleaning is locally-owned and operated. They specialize in pressure washing, house washing, and roof + window cleaning. They are able to rid your home of mildew, grime, algae, and other unsightly elements from your house, concrete surfaces, and roofs, as well.

They say, “If you want a clean exterior without the hard work, look no further. Our crew has been proven time and time again to be on time, professional, and having reasonable pricing. We stand by our word and only want to provide our customers with the best. Our quality shines through with our multiple repeat clients, so why not join them and be on our list? Zap Cleaning only provides the best for your home or business and that means we don’t cut corners when it comes to cleaning. We use soft wash techniques for your home or business exterior and only use the highest qualities of solutions. Don’t risk damage that can be done by power washing yourself or having someone uninsured do it – get the Zap guarantee and give us a call for an estimate.” With timely and accurate estimates, guaranteed customer satisfaction, and amazing results, what are you waiting for?! Find out more about ZAP Cleaning and get a free quote today!


Make A Christmas Playlist

As you and your family or friends gather around the Christmas tree in the days surrounding Christmas, having some Christmas jingles playing in the background is a great way to add a little extra joy and spirit to your holiday. This is something that you want to make sure you can complete before your guests arrive so that you don’t spend hours slaving over your computer or phone instead of spending that time with your guests.


Create Your Grocery List - And Shop


A very important task to get done prior to your guests’ arrival is the grocery shopping. Does ANYONE like grocery shopping? More power to you if you do, but your guests might not want to tackle that chore with you. Add all of your eggnog recipe ingredients to that list prior to day-of, and get the shopping done so that you can spend the most time possible with your friends and family who came into town to spend time with you.


Make Your Home Smell Like Christmas

Last but not least, make your home smell like Christmas to make it feel cozier (and happier too, in my opinion). There is nothing like the smell of a frasier fir tree, but if you cannot have a real tree in your home for whatever reason, you can at least make it smell like you have one in there! I highly recommend getting essential oils to make this happen. Or, if you do not mind burning scented candles, there are some great candles on the market that give you that Christmas-feel!



*This is a sponsored post*

Monday, November 11, 2019

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 for the Nintendo Switch: A Mom's Review



Full disclosure: I am no gamer.

I mean…I have two brothers who were into video games from the age of five. So I did grow up playing video games with them (I didn't want to be the odd man out!) And I can usually hold my own. But as far as what I prefer to do with my free time…I tend to gravitate towards reading, writing, or general socializing. (Except when it comes to The Sims. I get sucked into The Sims and end up giving those games hours upon hours of my life.) My son, however, is all in when it comes to gaming. Barely in elementary school and he's already a gamer.

All of that to say, I'm reviewing this more as a mom and someone who very occasionally plays video games. So my review won't include detailed information on graphics or technical aspects. But it will instead focus on what elements of the game my son and I enjoy. And how appropriate it is for younger audiences.

Right off the bat, I personally like that Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 lets you skip through the intros. I do not have the patience to sit through those. I just want to play! Because of my impatience, story mode did go a little slow for me. Even with being able to skip through it, there is a lot of dialogue between gameplay. That is literally the only "complaint" I have as far as Tokyo 2020 goes.

Both my son and I appreciated how easy the game was to control. Buttons only mode kept things simple while the single and dual control modes allow the player to be a bit more active. The game does provide instructions on which buttons produce different actions at the beginning of each segment, but overall, it's all rather intuitive.

The plot of the game is a little silly but definitely age-appropriate for even the youngest players. The nefarious Bowser and Dr. Eggman have trapped Mario, Sonic, Toad, and (unintentionally) themselves in an old game system. (Cue the retro graphics.) Now Mario and Sonic must compete against the two villains to be set free. Meanwhile, the heroes' friends are joining together outside of the nostalgic game system to figure out how to help. You must compete against different "good guy" characters in various games to get them to join your quest to help Mario and Sonic. Why they wouldn't just help to begin with…I'm not sure. But it does allow for you to experience the non-retro games in story mode. So if you're not a fan of the retro look, this works out well for you. The storyline vacillates between what is going inside of the game system and what is happening outside of it.

My favorite feature of Tokyo 2020 is definitely the 24 various mini-games available in Quick Match. You can choose to play only your favorites or constantly switch (no pun intended) it up if you're one who gets bored easily. On top of the 24 main mini-games, there are 10 retro games. 10 additional mini-games can be unlocked through story mode as well.

My favorites of the mini-games are skateboarding and surfing. Probably because those are the ones I somehow always get first place in. The mini-games can be played in single-player or multiplayer (up to 4 players) modes. Parents of young kids- there are a few fighting mini-games but they aren't graphic or violent in the least. The hits are quick and injuries are not shown. Plus it very much has the “sporting event" feel to it with the boxing mini-game set in a ring and karate taking place on a mat.

Overall, the game is lighthearted, fun, easy-to-play, and appropriate for all ages. I feel it's definitely a game the entire family can enjoy together in Quick Match mode, as well as a game one can play on their own in story mode. There is also no worry of inappropriate content with this game which, as a parent, is always a major factor when it comes to purchasing a game for my kid. Wholesome and fun - this mom recommends.

View the game trailer here

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Can You Create A Grown-Up Space For Your Pre-Teen? Here’s What To Consider

Written by a contributing writer 

Our children grow up fast and while you want them to stay in their child-esq room, at some stage they will want a more grown-up space. The thing is, you want something that will last a while and reflect their age at the same time. You understand that they will probably want to spend more time in their rooms and that the space should be a usable space for playtime, homework, and general relaxing. You may be a little fearful of tackling their bedroom and decorating, so with that in mind, here is some advice to consider. Hopefully it gives you the inspiration and motivation to give your little one the bedroom of their dreams.


Image source - Pixabay - CC0 License


Invest in different furniture

You may want to ensure that you have the right sort of furniture in place to last as your little ones grow. As each year passes they get more homework, become more involved with friends, and want their privacy. Which means that unless you want to be redecorating things every few years, you may want to invest in the right furniture. Good storage options as well as things like a desk could prove very useful. Storage is very important for rooms that are small and will help them look and remain tidy. 


Use the opportunity to declutter and sell unwanted items

If you are in the process of overhauling your little one's room, then now is the perfect time to start thinking about making some big changes to the amount of items that they have in their rooms. Many children have toys, games, and items that they may have outgrown. This is the perfect time for you to start decluttering and you could even use it as a chance to sell unwanted items online. Websites like eBay are great for this,and it is also a great way to boost your income.


What about lighting and quirky features?

Another thing that can make a bedroom space feel a little more grown-up is the lighting. This can be achieved with things such as colored lighting or quirky LED bulbs. You could also look at investing in a haus bright grow light that could make a huge difference to any house plants in the bedroom. Lighting can transform a space, so take some to think about which fixtures and the types of lights would suit the bedroom. 


Have a budget

Finally, because it is so easy to let your imagination run wild when it comes to designing your child’s bedroom, especially thanks to Pinterest and Instagram which is full of inspiration, you should set some sort of budget for yourself. The cost of new furniture, paint, and other aspects such as handymen if you do need extra help with putting the room together. If things are a little tight, then you can hunt out some bargains online. Websites like eBay are full of great finds and even some used items can make great additions to your home. The last thing you want to do is to go overboard and run out of money before the project is completed.

With these tips, creating a space for your pre-teen can be simple and affordable.