Saturday, December 15, 2018

2018 Holiday Gift Guide

If you've followed me for a while, you know that I normally split up the gift guide into separate posts. For example, I'll have a "beauty lovers," gift guide, a "for him," gift guide, etc. But I've realized, that makes it a little difficult to share the entire gift guide.  So this year, I'm trying to do them all in one.  And if we don't like it, we can go back to separating them all again next year.

First up:

For the Kids

I realize there is a TON of advertising on what to get kids for the holidays. Hatichmals are still happening (we gave in this year and my son is getting one). Along with tablets, video games, and all sorts of technology. But you don't need to spend a ton of money or have the latest tech to give a great gift. Sometimes, it's all about the classic playthings.

Play Visions Crayola Compounds are always a hit. Little ones can use these sets and their imaginations to create their own barber shop/hair salon, an underwater sea adventure, or a lair for monsters. Kids have been playing with toys like these for decades. They remain popular and may give mom and dad a little break to relax while the kids play.

Disney The Nutcracker and the Four Realms: A Center Stage Pop-Up Book
is a gorgeously illustrated book that will capture the attention of both children and adults. Perfect for the holiday season, this classic tale with a twist is full of fun and adventure.

For the Couple

Great couple presents are often hard to find. Either they are too assuming, too impractical, or too expensive for most people to feel comfortable giving.  That's where Crate of Love comes in.  I featured them in last year's gift guide and I'm doing it again. This subscription box is so cute AND affordable. A date in a box, this subscription is just $19.99/month and perfect for new parents or parents with young kids who can't do date nights out of the house often or couples who are homebodies and looking for new ideas on how to get closer. The website also offers a digital subscription with weekly games and challenges for just $1.99/month.  If you want to give this subscription as a gift without being billed monthly, there is an option to give three months for $59.99.

For the Beauty Queen

You guys know this is where I fall. Makeup and beauty products are my jam.  And you can't have makeup and beauty without...Sephora.  The Sephora collection is one of those "store brands" that doesn't behave like a store brand. They're on point but much more affordable than other higher-end brands.  My FAVORITE things from the Sephora collection are always the brushes. Sephora's brushes are my go-to. They perform beautifully and are still pretty affordable when it comes to quality makeup brushes. The Sephora Collection Spellbound Brush Set is gorgeous and on sale for $25 as I write this!

Other favorites include the Sephora Collection Moon Phases Palette (now on sale for $12),  Sephora Collection Mix & Mingle Lip Collection (now on sale for $19), and the Sephora Collection Enchanting Glow Palette (now on sale for $8).

If you're looking for beauty products that are organic and a bit more natural when it comes to ingredients, I recommend The Organic Skin Co.  Their products are cruelty-free and vegan (that means no carmine/ pulverized Cochineal in their lipsticks). I really love their lipsticks, cheek and lip tints, and their Almond face scrub called Nitty Gritty. All of their products feel great going on and perform beautifully.

For Him

This is always where I struggle. Men can be difficult to buy for. Especially if you're on a budget. But here are some ideas. I shopped at ULTA this Black Friday and walked away with so many gifts for friends and family. I bought the Fragrance Faves for Him and the Grooming Essentials sets. They also have a really nice gift set by The Art of Shaving on sale now for just $15.  Gift cards are another go-to. I know they can feel thoughtless. But if you know of a particular hobby or interest of the man in your life, you can put together a really nice gift basket with a gift card inside. Examples: For a coffee lover get a nice steel travel thermos, some coffee syrups, and a gift card to their favorite coffee shop. For the golf addict put together a basket of golf balls, golf tees, and a gift card to a nice golf club or resort. For the music fan, a band t-shirt, nice earbuds, and a Ticketmaster (or specific venue) gift card would be fitting.

Last Minute

If you are shopping last minute and need something that will be here in time, Amazon Prime is the way to go. Here is the link to my Amazon Favorites List. I'm always updating it. (I'm an Amazon Mom, not a Pinterest Mom.) Free Two-Day Shipping is always your friend.

  **This post is not sponsored. I did not receive payment for featuring these products. Some (not all) of the products were sent to me free of charge for review purposes.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Educational, Fun Activities To Enjoy With Your Kids Over The Holidays

Written by a contributing writer

With the holidays just around the corner, parents all over the country will be looking forward to taking time off work and spending some quality time with their kids. The holidays represent the most exciting time of the year for many families, but sadly, most parents are familiar with the sounds of kids moaning that they’re bored a few days into the break. If you’re keen to make the most of the time you have as a family this Christmas, and you want to keep those complaints at bay, here are some fun and educational activities to enjoy together.


Christmas is a great time of year to take part in family quizzes and general knowledge contests. You can team up with other members of the family or fly solo, and you can select a range of topics that are geared towards all ages. Make your quiz fun with interactive music and photograph rounds, inject some friendly competition, and find a small prize for the winners. You can choose from categories like science, nature, geography, the animal world, TV, cartoons and movies, comics and famous faces, for example. If you’re struggling for inspiration, and you’re the quiz master, you’ll find hundreds of questions online.

Building and construction

If you’ve got train tracks, building blocks, or endless boxes of Lego at home, get creative this Christmas and flex your architectural and construction skills. If you’re not au fait with the different elements of your child’s collection, take a look at LEGOways to find out more about different types of Lego and get some helpful tips for your latest creation. Building at any age is beneficial for hand-eye coordination, concentration, and fine motor skill development. This is also an activity that everyone can get involved in, and you can share in the joy and pride when your masterpiece is complete.

Image from

Board games

Board games are a dying breed in many modern households thanks to the rise in popularity of video games, but there’s a lot to be said for playing games around the dining table over the holidays. Board games enable you to play together, they teach kids how to follow rules, and they’re usually really fun. There’s a vast array of options on offer, from silly games that throw custard pies in your face to educational classics that are designed to maximize your cerebral prowess. If you’re buying new games for Christmas, look at age ranges, and think about what hobbies and interests your kids have.

Picture via

Reading and storytelling

If you have young children, Christmas is a wonderful time to read together and make up stories. There’s a dazzling array of festive titles on offer, and you can snuggle up, get cozy, and embrace that festive feeling as you flick through the pages. Practice makes perfect with reading, and reading aloud can also help children to feel more confident. Telling stories can fuel creativity and enable kids to use their imagination.

The holidays are coming, and what better time of year to enjoy some quality time with your kids? Hopefully, these ideas will ensure hours of fun!

How to Get Children Interested in Music

Written by a contributing writer

It’s never too early to read to children, but how early can you get kids interested in music? Some parents play classical music while their babies are in the womb in hopes of boosting their brainpower. While research shows that classical music may not increase IQ, it might enhance listening abilities and spatial reasoning skills. Exposing children to music at a young age may also help them learn to speak and read. As kids get older, they can use music to build confidence, express themselves creatively and develop social skills.

Take Infants to Music Classes

When children are young, they and their caregivers can benefit from music classes. They’ll hear rhythms and melodies, and they’ll practice their motor skills by clapping and playing with musical instruments.

A 2012 study showed that infants that attended music classes before the age of 1 smiled more and had better communication than other babies. Another study found that toddlers were more likely to assist adults who had bopped along with a particular rhythm than grown-ups who were out of sync. This reveals that music may enhance social development.


Dancing helps children learn that they can express themselves. When dance is paired with music, it adds a sensory response. Children learn how to feel music instead of just listening with their ears. This promotes spatial awareness and coordination. It also helps young people express their ideas when they can’t come up with the right words.

Play Your Favorite Music

Some experts say that children’s music isn’t diverse enough to give children a healthy musical foundation. If you’re in a band, play for kids once in a while. You’ll get a kick out of seeing them rock out, and they’ll appreciate hearing good tunes. If you’re a parent, play music that you like when you’re around your kids. They might end up singing along and getting into the groove. Adult-quality music that changes its sound frequently is ideal.

Get Involved in a Charity

Many organizations across the country use volunteers to bring music into schools. For example, some donate piano NYC programs end up placing the artist-decorated instruments in local public schools. If you have musical skills, ask how you can share them with children at schools and youth organizations in your area.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

How To Save Money When You're A Busy Mom

Written by a contributing writer

When you’re a busy Mom, you can’t always spend a long time hunting around for the latest deals and there are some things that you just have to pay for. However, it’s also important to be saving money where you can, as being a parent is never cheap. As soon as you think you’ve got all of your expenses covered, your kids tell you that one of them has lost their shoes and another has no clothes that fit them. Whilst there is no remedy for the ever-occurring costs that you have to pay as a parent, there are some quick hacks that could save you a bit of cash.

Image credit


Thrifting is often disregarded by people as something that can only ever bring you musty old clothes that have been rescued from the bottom of somebody’s wardrobe. This is a misconception, as many parents give their children’s clothes to charity after realizing that they’ve outgrown them within 6 months. There is an abundance of children’s clothing out there that have only been worn for a short period of time and will put a smile on your kids' faces. Thrifting is good for your wallet, good for the environment, and will enable you to get your hands on some items that are in near-perfect condition for much less. You’re welcome.

Look at comparison websites and reviews

Look, no parent has the time to go and look through millions of reviews, visit separate websites, and then decide what are the best places to get their gas and electric from. Luckily, there are a whole host of websites out there that compare and review things, from US mobile plans to the cheapest stores to shop in. Not only will this save you the time and effort of researching all of these things for yourself, but they are usually based upon what a variety of people think, from experience. Therefore, they are trustworthy ways to find out what companies are really like and what the typical consumer experience is like. What’s better than an honest opinion?

Use coupons

Ok, you may have watched a show like ‘Extreme Couponing’ and be a bit turned off by the idea of using coupons. However, this doesn’t mean that you have to stand in Walmart waiting for a member of staff to scan over 100 coupons. We’re not trying to get you to annoy everybody in the store. Whilst it’s good to look out for coupons when doing your in-store shopping, there are other ways to get discounts. If you’re buying something online, then look out for codes that you can enter at the checkout. You could save up to 50% by looking out for these and if you can’t get something that impressive, then you can usually at least get free shipping. Don’t pay it if you don’t have to!

So, there are many ways to save money if you’re a busy mom; don’t forget these quick hacks and you’ll be well on your way to having a jam-packed wallet!

Friday, November 30, 2018

How To Develop Emotional Strength In Your Children

Written by a contributing writer

As a mom, you’re always going to want the best for your children. But actually establishing what that looks like can be hard. It’s so easy to envision what you want for your children in your mind. But turning that into a reality is the tough part. And it can be really hard on you. Because they have their own idea of how things should go, usually acting out of emotion at first, and you’ve got a completely different idea of what should happen. So motherhood can often seem like a constant battle. Yet, when you know that you really do want the best for your children, you really need to be able to push past this and onto what matters the most. Namely, your children's future happiness and success. Because that can often mean that you make the best decisions today, for the future.

One of the ways that you can do that is to focus mainly on building them up emotionally. If you want to have happy and healthy children, their minds need to be strong. Without strength, they may crumble emotionally in life, shy away from hardship, and struggle to make it through. But at the same time, you may also wonder exactly how you’re going to do this. So let’s take a look.

Be Intentional

To start with, it’s going to help you if you can be much more intentional with what you’re doing. This can often seem quite difficult, but it really doesn’t have to be. You just have to make sure that you know what you want to achieve in a scenario, activity, or even on a set day, and focus on the actions that will get you that result. But also, you may find that living more intentionally feels like a breath of fresh air too.

Be Present

As a step on from that, you’re then going to want to ensure that you’re more present as well. Because if you’re going to be able to make this happen, you need to be out of your head and completely aware of the moment. Plus, the more present you are in your life, the more enjoyable you are going to find it. So it’s essential for you to be able to start making these steps.

Work On Your Own Strength

But then, something that you will really need to make sure you master BEFORE you start on any of these other points is building your own strength. Because if you are not mentally strong, you may not have the willpower of the patience to ensure that your children are. Nor will you truly understand how to achieve it. So you need to spend some time working on your own emotional strength first.

Don’t Baby Them

Now, when it comes to your actions and how you parent an emotionally strong child, the first step is to make sure that you’re not babying them. If you wrap them up in a cotton blanket and do everything for them, they are not learning what it means to be strong, secure, nor how to take care of themselves...which is a huge part of this.

Let Them Understand Consequences

Now, something that is really effective here, is the idea of consequences. And it’s incredibly important for you to be able to make sure they understand what a consequence is. Because if you give in to them over and over, they will not be prepared for the real world. And consequences are a huge part of life. And they need to understand what their choices and actions will really lead to in life. When they do, they will be mentally tougher.

Explain Things To Them

It’s so easy to ask your child to do something (or not do it) and then wonder why they don’t listen. Sometimes, you need to explain to them more. When they understand the why, they can connect the instruction with the consequence. The more you can talk to them and educate their minds on actions and thoughts, the more they will be able to think for themselves and make the right choices with their actions.

Focus On Thought, Not Emotion

Another very important step is to encourage them to think before they act - which isn’t usually what children do. Typically kids react according to emotion almost instinctually. Yet the more control they have over their emotions, the more equipped they will be as they get older.

Nurture Their Imagination

It’s also going to be helpful for you to work on their imagination. Because this can help children to expand their minds and think of creative solutions. Magical trips and explorations and this Disney's Magic Kingdom guide could do the trick. But it could also be something simple like reading stories, playing pretend, and imaging things too.

And Their Intelligence

As parents, we all want to make sure that we’re really helping their inquisitive minds to develop too. Because the more they understand in life, the more they can grow mentally and emotionally. Plus, it’s always good to help your child to be as curious as they can be.

Show Them How To Be Strong

Sometimes you just need to show them how it's done! You know that leading by example works. So really demonstrate how they should respond and problem solve. Show them how you handle things, how in control of your emotions you are, and how rational your mind is. They will learn and hopefully, they will follow your lead.

Help Them To Face Their Fears

Something that is really important here, but can be hard on you, is to encourage them to face their fears. They won’t always want to do it at first. Especially when children they are younger. And this can make you feel as if you do not want to push them. But if you let them stay scared, they will not learn to overcome difficult situations. Just make sure that you have a plan when it comes to going about this.

Push Their Comfort Zones

Along with facing their fears, it's good for kids to step out of their comfort zones a little. It can be hard with children, but this really will set the tone for how they approach things in the future. So where you can, really try to encourage them to push past what’s familiar to them.

Focus On Living Well

Above all else, you’re going to want to make sure that they are happy. Because happy and content children rarely have emotional issues. Sure, we all have our moments from time to time. But if you can focus on happiness and living good, wholesome lives, you’re all going to have a better time. So make sure that you do focus on that intent and being present, and you will be able to ensure that you all live well.

And there you have it. To some moms, this may seem like an impossible challenge, but it really doesn’t have to be like that. Instead, you can plan how you’re going to work on this so that your children are happy, healthy, centered, and grounded. Make sure that you work on the ideas that you know will help your children and fit into your lifestyle to get the best possible results for you all too.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Barbecue to Experience in Olympia, WA

This post is sponsored

Traveling is something everyone seems to be talking about at some point. Whether it's traveling with family, for business, with friends on a road trip, or taking the coveted break-from-life vacation, getting out of your hometown can be an adventure. One of the best parts of any adventure, at least in my humble opinion, is food. There are very few things better than trying new food, finding new favorite stops, or stumbling upon a roadside diner that is the epitome of the phrase "hidden gem." But, there are times when you're just passing through and looking for something that will hit the spot and please your taste buds. Somewhere that allows you to feel relaxed and comfortable without a lot of fuss. A place that cooks up the food you already know you like.

Well, if you're passing through Olympia, Washington, you may want to stop into Dickey's Barbecue Pit (and check out more information at the location's Facebook page, or the equivalent of Olympia's Dickey Barbecue Pit wiki). Originating in Dallas, Texas, Dickey's Barbecue Pit serves up tasty, no frills, authentic, Texas barbecue. And though Dickey's is now a chain, it has a very family-owned restaurant feel. That may be because Dickey's is still run by family members of the founder, Travis Dickey. Ronad Dickey, Jr. is the CEO if Dickey's Barbecue Pit's parent company, Dickey's Capital Group. He is also the grandson of Travis Dickey. His wife, Laura Rea Dickey, is the CEO of Dickey's Barbecue Pit. So that may explain the family-friendly, welcoming atmosphere you'll find at the Dickey's Barbecue Pits around the country.

Now, the best (and most important) part of any restaurant; the food! They've got ribs, they've got pulled pork, they've got chicken, and they've got their famous beef brisket. As far as sides go, there is so much to choose from. You can keep it simple with potato chips, get some real comfort with mac and cheese, keep it light with a Caesar salad, go for it with potato salad, or opt for some delicious waffle fries. And that isn't even half of the side options that are listed on the menu.

Something that Dickey's has that most other barbeque stops don't offer? Holiday meals. That's right, you can order your holiday meal for your family from Dickey's. Choose from a cajun fried turkey, spiral cut ham, smoked turkey, or prime rib. Plus you can get gravy, cornbread dressing, baked potato casserole, and green beans with bacon. They've also got dessert covered. Choose from pecan or pumpkin pie. Or take both and celebrate, for goodness sake! That sounds like a whole lot of yum with a lot less work for you.

So as I said, if you're in Olympia, Washington, make sure you stop by Dickey's Barbecue Pit. From Texas barbecue to plenty of side options to a laid-back atmosphere to holiday meal options, they sure do have a lot to offer.  And maybe, they will make your travel just a little bit easier and a little more enjoyable.

Monday, November 12, 2018

My Simplest, Most Affordable Skin-Care Routine Yet! Entire Day & Night Routine - Under $65

My skin-care routine...simple? What? If you've been following my skin care for a while, you know that my routine is usually anything but simple.  I like to use ALL of the products.  But recently, my skin revolted. And it was right before a trip out of see a wedding. Really? "I promise, guys, my skin isn't usually this awful, it just randomly decided it hates almost everything I use." I mean there was rough skin texture, there was acne, there was discoloration, there was scarring- it was an absolute mess.

I didn't know what was causing my skin to be so bad. It literally was the worst it's been since I had my son. And even then, I don't know if it was ever that bad. (But thank the beauty industry for makeup in situations like these, right?)

So, at first, I stopped using the Philosophy Renewed Hope in a Jar Overnight. If you saw my previous skin-care routine post, you know that I had been using this night cream for months. But, normally night creams are the culprit in these types of situations with my skin. So I stopped using it. And started only using the Ole Henriksen Sheer Transformation Cream. My skin got better but was still pretty wild. So I did what would be the closest I'll ever come to doing a true skin detox.  I started over when it came to skin care.

I decided to whittle my routine down to three steps, try to use a gentler face cleanser, and limit myself to one glycolic acid product. I was pretty sure I had severely thrown off the PH of my skin with all of the products I was using. Especially since a lot of them contained glycolic acid.

After some thought, these are the products I decided to use. My face is so much better. And instead of dealing with terrible on-going acne, I'm now only dealing with a pimple or two monthly and discoloration from previous acne. My skin texture is also much smoother. And you may be surprised to hear...I'm not spot treating. If I get a pimple, I leave it alone and let my skin balance itself out. And 99% of the time, the pimple goes away on its own in a few days. So... here are my products:

Face Cleanser

Dove Sensitive Skin Beauty Bar - about $1.75/bar

Yep. Something as simple as a bar of Dove soap.  I was skeptical about this FOR YEARS. I have family members who use this Dove bar on their face and swear by it. But the "1/4 moisturizing cream" aspect always made me wary. I thought, without a doubt, this soap would break out my skin. But...surprise! It doesn't. And it's also super affordable. I use it with my Foreo luna mini day and night.


Cosrx AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner - $12.95

I kept this in my lineup. I REALLY like this toner. And it's so hard for me to find a toner I even like at all. Basically, I just spray the toner on my face after cleansing morning and night and let it air dry. Nothing crazy!

Day Moisturizer

Garnier Clearly Brighter Daily Moisturizer SPF 30 - about $12

I'll be honest. I wasn't willing to try anything new when it came to moisturizers. So I went with my tried-and-trues. The clearly brighter moisturizer is oil-free, with vitamin c, and SPF 30. And my skin doesn't break out using it. Does it make my skin look brighter? Maybe? I'm not sure. But it's an oil-free, SPF 30 moisturizer that doesn't irritate my skin.

Night Moisturizer

Olay Total Effects Whip Face Moisturizer - about $20 on Amazon as I'm writing this

Ok, I know I said I wasn't trying anything new moisturizer-wise. But wait! I can explain! I can explain how this isn't really completely new for me. Yes, the Olay Whips line is fairly new, however, I have used the Olay Total Effects Night Cream in the past. The only thing that steered me away from it was the fact that it was a little too rich for me to use it long term. So the whips version seemed like the perfect solution. And it has been. I've seen reviews where people complain that the texture isn't technically whipped (as in whipped cream, I guess? I'm not sure exactly how they would be able to achieve that texture in a jarred beauty product.) So I'll give you a heads up that the texture is more of a delightful cream mixed with gel. It does leave a matte finish. So if you are looking for dewy skin from your night cream, this wouldn't be for you (try the original non-whipped version).

This moisturizer has vitamins B, C, and E. It also contains green tea! So many ingredients I love without the one I'm allergic to - Vitamin A as Retinol - Thanks, Olay! I also believe it's oil-free (don't quote me on that). The fragrance doesn't bother me and it is a very clean scent. But I do wish there was a fragrance-free version. (There may be and I just haven't seen it yet?)

**As I was taking photos for this post, I noticed I accidentally bought the SPF version of this moisturizer when I repurchased! Oops! I've been using it at night without any problems (and have used the version without SPF), but if you're looking for a day moisturizer, the SPF version may be a great option!

Eye Cream

Mario Badescu Hyaluronic Eye Cream - $18 this is technically a fourth step. But one I only do at night. And, honestly, at times I forget this step. This eye cream is so moisturizing but light at the same time. A little goes a long way. This $18 container usually lasts 2 or 3 months for me. And, yes, I do notice a difference in how my undereye area looks when I forget to use it for a few days.

And that's it!

For now anyway. I do want to add a product to help even my skin tone. Stay tuned!

Monday, November 5, 2018

Unique Gifts for the Person Who Has Everything

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We all have that one person in our lives that is just so hard to buy for.  When it comes to getting them a gift, no one knows what to give them.  Either they have absolutely everything imaginable or they are someone who just isn't interested in typical gift items.  Here are some different ideas on what to give the person in your life who just seems to be too difficult to buy for. There are those traditional, wrap-them-in-wrapping-paper gifts and also intangible gifts that may require a little creativity.

Traditional Gifts

If the person you are buying for is a collector of any kind, you are in luck! This means you know for a fact they are deeply interested something you can purchase. It's also a good jumping off point for gift ideas.  Whether they collect coins (check out Sprott Money), action figures, or baseball cards, this gives you an interest to focus on.  If they collect pricey or hard-to-find items, you can buy them a ticket to an event (like ComicCon) where they will be able to find and purchase those rare pieces themselves.

You can also give products that may go with their current interest.  For example, if you are buying for a coffee lover,  instead of buying just a bag of coffee or a gift card, you can create a custom mug online through websites like Zazzle or Shutterfly. Add in some cute stirrers or spoons, flavored coffee syrups, and cookies or biscuits to accompany a great cup of coffee and then put them in a decorative gift basket and voila! You have a great gift.

Intangible Gifts

Intangible gifts are gifts you can't necessarily wrap.  And these types of gifts can require a little more thought, time, and creativity. Gifted experiences are very popular.  For a travel-lover you could gift a cruise, airfare, or a hotel stay.  Just make sure to check with them before booking anything to make sure they are avaialable. This means you could print out a picture of the destination or cruise ship and include it in their card with a message explaining that you are gifting them the trip.

Tickets to sporting events or concerts are also really great experience gifts than may be a bit easier to plan and surprise someone with. If none of these ideas sound like they are a good fit, maybe a service would be more of what you're looking for.  This could mean paying for a cleaning service to come clean a new mom's house, gifting a food subscription box like Hello Fresh to a busy family, buying a gift certificate for a haircut or spa day for someone in need of a little "me time," or even paying for SEO and advertising services for the giftee's online business or blog.  There are even agencies that specialize in advertising for very specific niche markets (like this one here).

With the holidays coming up, it's about that time to start thinking of gifts for everyone on your list.  Hopefully, these ideas cut your brainstorming session in half and made it a little easier to think of a gift for the person who seems to have everything.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Self-Care is More Than Bubble Baths and Makeup

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How many self-care articles, social media posts, and YouTube videos have you seen? Probably a ton, am I right?  Most self-care articles talk about one facet or another.  Either it's about physical health, mental health, or treating yourself once-in-a-while.  But the truth is, self-care encompasses all of that and more.  And while it's nearly impossible to fully explain self-care in one article, post, or video, we can talk about some self-care options that aren't normally discussed.

Self-Care for the Soul

Sometimes we seem to be doing everything "right."  We are eating healthy, working out, getting plenty of sleep, and indulging every now and then. But we still somehow don't feel our best.  Why is that? It may be because we haven't nourished that intangible part of ourselves.  It's the part of you that feels the need to have goals and accomplishments.  The part that needs to feel some type of fulfillment of purpose. In times like these, volunteering for an organization or project you are passionate about or feel connected to can make all of the difference. There are many organizations that need volunteers (like this one here). It's just a matter of choosing what you are interested in doing.  If you are unable to give your time out in the field volunteering, there are other ways to help make a difference and practice self-care for the soul in this way. For example, you can assist in fundraising for a project or even start a fundraising campaign. And though fundraising sounds intimidating, there are companies that can help, like Global Faces Direct ( Even donating clothes or shopping at a non-profit's thrift store can make a difference.

Individualized Self-Care

The truth is you can read about self-care and get a ton of ideas, but not everything is going to apply to you or be truly effective for you.  Some self-reflection is needed for you to be able to see what is truly missing from your life. Do you simply need to take a timeout to have a nice coffee by yourself every now and then?  Will buying that espresso machine make it more likely that you will take the time? (If the answer is yes -  Or is it that even with time to yourself, you're having trouble relaxing and letting go of the day-to-day stress? If that is the case things we've all heard of like yoga, long walks outdoors, or even essential oils ( may help.  One thing you always have to consider is that something bigger or deeper may be going on. Whatever the case may be, it's important for you to take the time to figure out what is going on with you instead of jumping to find trend after trend of "self-care." It's ok to spend time figuring out the problem before you jump into a solution.  That's the only way we can really find the solution, right? Because, unfortunately, there is nothing that works for everyone. And the most important part of self-care IS giving yourself what you need.

Monday, October 29, 2018

How To Enjoy a Road Trip With Young Children

Written by a contributing writer 

Image Credit

The film RV, with Robin Williams, shows the trials and tribulations of a family road trip balanced with the ability for such trips to open our hearts and allow us to reconnect with our loved ones. Indeed, in such a fast-paced world, where we are all often immersed in our digital devices, tasks, and social obligations. The chance to take a breath and just be is a rarity today.

A road trip is a great way to reconnect with your family and have a wonderful adventure, yet “enjoying a road trip with young children” is not something many parents can relate to, as it can be a very testing situation that requires bucket loads of patience and planning in advance to keep young children entertained.

Of course, if you’re travelling with really young children the process tends to be a lot simpler as you can feed them up with some holle baby formula then let the natural motion of the car lull them into a deep sleep that will hopefully last most the way throughout the longer aspects of your driving days.

The thing is there’s always going to be a challenge when people are crammed into a small space for hours on end, with little to do, and when you throw impatient young children that keep asking the dreaded question “are we there yet”, it can be even more challenging.

Here are three tips to help you enjoy a road trip with young children:


It’s a good idea to stop off along the route, often, as this breaks down the drive for the driver (thus improving focus and concentration) but also gives your passengers a welcome break to stretch their legs and engage their minds.

Driving straight down the freeway might be the most efficient way to get to where you’re going, but breaking up the journey in bitesize chunks, with activities planned along the way can lead to a much more rewarding experience for everyone.


You’ll want to ensure your kids have plenty of activities that don’t require adult participation - for instance, coloring, playing a game on a mobile device, or watching cartoons on Netflix. Just think about how impatient you get on a long-haul flight and come up with as many creative solutions as possible for your young children to keep themselves amused.


One of the best ways to keep travel sickness at bay, which seems to be something many adults and young children suffer with - particularly when sitting in the back of the car, is to eat little and often throughout the journey.  It is also a good idea to have some mints to suck on or chewing gum to chew.

There are many pharmaceutical and herbal remedies to treat travel sickness, though this advice of eating often is one of the most useful. Furthermore, it can greatly improve mood as people tend to find themselves getting less patient and more irritable with hunger.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Toronto's Local Business Scene Has Some Great Services!

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Toronto is known for being a big city with lots to do and see.  Many travel to see this bustling city and visit attractions such as the zoo, museums, and art galleries. And while it is a great spot for tourists to visit and vacation, Toronto does have a very big local scene for those who reside there.  Not only are there magnificent annual festivals like the "Taste of Danforth," but there are also services that can make day-to-day living a tad bit easier and help locals to live well.

One of the biggest, most important, aspects of living well is health.  Health is one of those things that you never really think about it until something is happening with it. Whether you're feeling a little bit off or having some series health issues, your health can greatly affect your quality of life. Toronto has many businesses in the healthcare industry that can help locals obtain services or get palliative care nursing.

Speaking of health, sudden injury is one of the most disruptive and abrupt ways a person's life can be affected. Sometimes, help is needed in order to make it through a difficult period brought on by personal injury. Especially if someone else is at fault for the injury. Businesses like Halifax Personal Injury Lawyers, offer free consultations and online resources ( ) so that locals can become aware of their options without spending a dime.

Health aside, a happy life often means a happy home. We all have seen Pinterest board after Pinterest board of beautiful home renovation ideas.  But not everyone is a DIY master and can renovate completely on their own to create the home of their dreams. That's when it's time to find local businesses to help bring your vision to fruition. Something as simple as changing a railing can create a new vibe for a room.  Businesses like GTA Glass Railings ( can help Toronto locals create the space they've always imagined, no DIYing necessary.

Of course, what your house is made of or looks like is not the only thing that makes your house a home. The fun, quality time, and relaxation had inside those four walls are important as well. Toronto has several businesses that bring enriching services right to the home. The Ontario Conservatory of Music ( can bring the art of music right into locals homes by offering music lessons for both children and adults.

Toronto is a city of many attractions. It is one of the most well-known cities in all of Canada and a travel destination for many. But like many popular travel destinations, most seem to forget that there are also residents of this city that need and benefit from services provided by amazing local businesses that make it their mission to cater to locals. However, if you're looking to make the move to Toronto, have no fear! This city is one that has plenty of businesses that take care of its locals and know how important it is to serve the people who keep Toronto busy year-round.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Planning to Travel with a Big Family?

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Traveling is one of those things that I love and hate at the same time. I love to explore new places, try new food, and just get out of my daily routine. But actually getting there - That's the part of travel that I'm not so fond of. Yes, it is exciting. But it also often requires a ton of planning and can induce some stress. And while traveling for vacations can be stressful, traveling for a move can be even more difficult. Because now you're not only coordinating getting your family from point A to point B (and maybe a few stops in between), you're also having to make sure all of your belongings make the trip as well. There are a few things you can do to help make traveling with your family (whether for a vacation or for a move) a little easier to manage.

Let's tackle the most stressful situation first. Moving. Does anyone actually like the process of moving? There's so much to do and no matter how early you start preparing for your move, you always feel like it's crunch time when the actual moving day gets closer. One thing that can really help is hiring movers. This takes all of the grunt work (literally) out of the moving process for you. That leaves you time to focus on getting the kids ready and entertaining them while the moving company does all of the heavy lifting. Finding a company that is trustworthy is key. And a company that has an online presence with details and information listed clearly (like this website) so that you can review everything on your own time will make the entire process a lot less hectic.

Another hard part of moving? Having to give up some of your belongings because you either don't or won't have room for them or because you know they just won't make it through the move in one piece. Again, the internet is your friend for finding new replacement pieces during this time. You can get a feel for the style you're looking for by looking at websites like Here you can look at a ton of different furniture options and even find out where pieces are sold so that you know exactly where to shop once you are settled into your new place.

Ok, so now it's time for the fun part: Vacation! Traveling with one or two people does require some planning. But nothing compares with trying to coordinate a vacation for a big family or extended family. And trying to plan activities at your destination that everyone will like? That can truly be a nightmare. A travel agent can be a great solution to these issues but finding a travel agent and meeting in person can be incredibly time-consuming. Good news - we have the internet now! Websites like can help you plan your trip right from the comfort of your own home. If you're traveling internationally, booking tours may be your best option. Of course, that can be done online also and is easier than it sounds when you use websites like this one: Https://

No matter where you're going or why you're traveling, coordinating it all doesn't have to be all on you! Sometimes it's worth spending the extra coin to be able to hire a professional and delegate some of the responsibilites to them. And remember, all of the planning pays off in the end! 

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Why I Switched From Limelife Planners to Blue Sky Planners: Planners Like Erin Condren

It's a planner post! I've haven't done many of these lately because...well, I've stuck with Limelife Planners for years. But I'm making a change for 2019.  Before I reveal my 2019 planner, let's take a look at my past (and current) Limelife planners.

They are adorable! And I've got nothing but LOVE for Limelife. I've even worked with them as a media and blog contributor. (More of my Limelife pieces here, here, here, and here.)  The people that work for and run the company are truly some of the sweetest people I've encountered. And I would 100% recommend their planners. Honestly, out of Limelife, Erin Condren, Inkwell, and Plum Paper Planners, I preferred Limelife a thousand times over. I loved the quality, their designs, layouts, and their add on's. why I stuck with them for so long.

But I decided to switch it up for 2019. If Limelife has all these great things then....why? There were two big reasons as to why I decided not to purchase another Limelife planner.  The first reason is that I want a very minimalistic design. I want something that felt simply elegant. And although Limelife's designs are certainly beautiful, minimal is not the word I'd use to describe them. The second reason was the price tag. A 7"x 9" weekly planner with Limelife starts at $55. I just didn't want to spend that money on a planner if it wasn't EXACTLY what I wanted.

So... what planner company did I decide to go with?

Blue Sky Planners. I reviewed them a while back when I was comparing Erin Condren Life Planner alternatives and cheaper or more affordable planners that were like the Erin Condren Life Planner. (Like many planner lovers, I started my adult planner journey with Erin Condren but soon started looking for something else.)  I remembered Blue Sky Planners because I loved the quality. I also remembered them having both Limelife-like cover designs AND very minimal cover designs. So I decided to check them out.

The tricky thing about Blue Sky is that you have to go to multiple places to see all of the designs available. They aren't all listed on the Blue Sky Planner website.  Some of the designs are only at Target and some can be found at Walmart.  (Keep in mind the planners listed on the official Blue Sky Planner website are pricier. But the website also offers a customize option.)

I did quite a bit of searching before I found this one and fell in love. And it was much less costly than Limelife and Erin Condren. It isn't customized. But I don't really need or want the customization. I've never put my name on the cover of my planner. (I'm much more of an inspirational-quote girl.)

For $19.99 this 9.25" x 8.45" monthly/daily planner includes:

  • A hard, durable cover with "gold" accents
  •  Wire binding
  • Contacts section
  • Sticker sheets
  • Notes section
  • Yearly reference calendars
  • Coated tabs
I absolutely love the inside of the front and back covers. It's a detail that sold me. It's about the same size as my 2018 Limelife and exactly what I was looking for. Take a look at the pictures down below!

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Enhance the Flavor of Your Food With Gluten Free Spices

 Written by a contributing writer

Whether you have celiac disease, an allergy to gluten, or need to consume a low-carb diet, you might be wondering if you will be stuck eating bland foods for the rest of your days. Fortunately, there are gluten-free spices available to liven up the dishes that you prepare. These spices work well on fruits, vegetables, meats, legumes, and more. Your taste buds will thank you when you try out some of these flavor combinations.

Spices to Try on Fruit

Whether you prefer your fruit fresh, stewed, or baked, you can enliven its taste with some spices. A classic is cinnamon. Stick with Ceylon cinnamon, which is a true cinnamon. It pairs well with apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, bananas, and berries. You can sprinkle it on to freshly sliced fruit, stewed fruit, or baked fruit. It works especially well as a topping on a fruit crisp or a pie with no crust. Some other spices for fruit include nutmeg, tarragon, allspice, and ginger.

Spices for Use on Vegetables

There are many spices without gluten that will taste great on your vegetables. Sprinkle the spices directly onto raw vegetables or add them to vegetables in a stir-fry. Roasted vegetables also pair well with spices. Consider trying spices such as garlic, onion, chili powder, basil, oregano, rosemary, mint, star anise, chives, or sage. Experiment with combinations of spices, such as garlic with basil and oregano for Italian roasted root vegetables.

Spices to Add to Proteins

Whether you consume fish, poultry, meat, or legumes as a source of protein, there are many wonderful spices to add to your dishes. Some gluten free spices that taste great on lentils and legumes include curry, chili powder, garlic, saffron, and cilantro. Add some garlic and tomatoes for a full spectrum of flavor. When seasoning fish, try lemon pepper and garlic. For poultry, curry and garlic are excellent. Basil, oregano, and pepper work well on fish, poultry, and meats of all types.

Busy Being Busy: Making The Most Of Your Time When You're A Mom

Written by a contributing writer 

Mom guilt is something every mom will go through at some stage; having kids is a rewarding, but tough role, and you’ll be left with little to no free time. Stepping back into a working role post-maternity leave, or after time away spent raising your family can be daunting. Many working mothers fear that they are not going to do as well parenting when they go back to work to pursue their career and at the same time, also not do as well as an employee as they did pre-children. However, once you’ve mastered the juggling act of doing both (and don’t worry, you’re totally able), you’ll hopefully feel fulfilled in each aspect of your life, and probably very tired at the end of each week. The following are some ideas and inspirations for busy moms (all moms) who need a helping hand when it comes to a balance between their working life and life with the kids home.

Image source:

Your Time Is Your Time

There will be free time in the evenings, weekends and holidays, and if you make the most of it; you’ll begin to notice and appreciate your free time even more. Whether you want to study for that operations management online degree to further your career, or you feel like binge watching some shows on Netflix to unwind; make sure that you’re doing what you want to do. Don’t be dictated by what you feel you should be doing; this will only add to all that mom guilt.

When you’re out of the work or office space, and you and the family have some time together; make plans. You don’t have to spend a fortune dragging everyone around a theme park (this is still an option though). Family walks, adventures, and picnics are all enjoyable ways to hang out together, make memories, and won’t cost a fortune. If you do feel like spending some of your hard-earned salary on treating your loved ones, then planning a vacation together is something everyone can look forward to. On the run up to your getaway, part of your free time in the evenings can be spent with your family, making plans on what you want to do once you get there, and enjoying the countdown.

Enjoy Them More

Whether you’ve just stepped foot in the office, or through the front door at home; you need to be present in that environment and learn to switch from one to the other. Obviously, you never stop being a parent; but worrying all day at work about what your kids are doing, wearing, or eating, isn’t going to help make you a productive member of your work team. It’s then important to be able to switch off from total mom-mode, in order to get on with your workday.

The same goes for when you’ve arrived home after work; make sure your kids don’t feel your stresses from the work day and be in the moment with them for dinner, bath, and bedtimes. Just because you’ve gone back to work, doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the everyday special moments together as a family. But, bringing a pile of work home physically or mentally, will have a negative impact on your mood, which will filter down to your kids.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Fighting The Jet Lag Symptoms

Written by a contributing writer

Fall is here! And that means holiday travel is just around the corner. Traveling is a lot of fun, except when you find yourself suffering from a bad case of jet lag. There’s nothing worse than feeling too exhausted to enjoy the adventure. And while it takes only a few days for your body to go back to normal, it also means that you may not be able to enjoy any long-distance trip of a couple of days – as your body can’t adapt quickly enough.

Unfortunately, without medicine to take the edge of your jet lag – aside from sleeping tablets if you’re struggling to sleep at appropriate times –, you are left in an uncomfortable position. Apart from tiredness and difficulties sleeping, jet lag is also associated with digestive problems such as constipation, indigestion or bloating, which can also affect the quality of your trip. Ultimately, as sleeping tablets are not for everyone – and may not solve the underlying issue – you may need to get creative to fight off the jet lag effect for short trips!

Jet lag, the agony of travelers

The dilemma: Sleeping on the plane or not?

One of the most common issues on a long flight is to know whether you should sleep or not, and more importantly how to shift your sleep schedule when flying long distance. Indeed, as travel impacts on your biological clock – ultimately the jet lag is the result of being ‘out of sync’ with your destination – you can adjust your body to new sleeping patterns ahead of your journey. An in-flight plan to help you to relax and take a power nap can make all the difference too!

Your emergency beauty bag

Long flights or flights happening during your usual night time can leave you feeling miserable on arrival. Your face is pale. Your eyes are red. Your hair is all over the place. Ultimately, you don’t really feel confident about the person who’s looking back at you in the mirror of the airport. Never underestimate the power of makeup in the morning. Pack a little bag of essentials you can use to look refreshed and alert once you arrive. Nothing beats a clean foundation and a little lipstick!

A breakfast of champions

You might not feel hungry after a long flight, but picking the right breakfast can fuel you for the rest of the day – and help your body get over the jet lag effect. The classic bowl of oats can work wonders and keep you running all day without crashing! Something as simple as a glass of water can encourage your body to rehydrate and maintain its normal functions.

Do a no jet lag workout

Can sports be the answer? According to experts, you can and should exercise ahead of your flight to reduce your jet lag. An intense workout can help you to sleep on the plane. Make the most of the moments of alertness in-flight to keep your blood flowing with easy leg extensions, and glute squeezes. A moderate intensity workout after your arrival can help reduce jet lag symptoms too – assuming that you don’t push yourself too much.


From preparing your body to adjust to new sleep patterns to fueling it with the best nutrients, there are some tips to reduce your jet lags. You can never eliminate it completely unless you opt for sleeping tablets. But feeling a little tired is better than being unable to function during your holiday!

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Gastritis Diet Hacks and Update

"'re still dealing with this? How long is this going to last?" My dad questioned me as I looked for plain oatmeal in their pantry while explaining that even though my son and I had come over for dinner, I couldn't eat the dinner they were serving. Believe me, pasta, salad, and garlic bread sound a lot more appetizing than oatmeal. But, unfortunately, my stomach still isn't there yet.

But - good news - I am able to eat a larger variety of foods now. And along the way, I've found a few hacks and foods that I can tolerate. Some of these gastritis hacks are also "healthy alternatives" to some not-so-healthy foods. So even if you're not dealing with a damaged stomach, you may want to stick around to learn some healthy food hacks.

Disclaimer before I get into it - These are foods I can tolerate. Everyone with gastritis/stomach issues is different. I'm also about 7 months into treatment.

This first one is something you may already know if you follow me on Instagram. (Shameless plug - follow me @FloridaMommyDiaries.)

(Also, as I insert this post's photos I feel the need to say this post is not sponsored by or affiliated with any brand. I just really love the dairy-free Reddi-Wip!)

Easy Sweet Potato Dessert

It's super simple, quick, and easy to make. Just bake (or nuke) a sweet potato, cut it open, and add some Dairy-Free Coconut Milk Reddi-Wip on top. It tastes almost like a sweet potato casserole or pie. But way fewer calories/sugar. And gastritis friendly.

Oven "Fries"

French fries. I haven't been crazy about them since I had my son (I couldn't stand ANYTHING potato while I was pregnant).  But...of course once I can't have them, I want them. I now make a version I can tolerate at home. I cut up a potato into wedges, toss it in olive oil (an oil I can tolerate) and salt, and bake it in the toaster oven at 450 degrees for 45 minutes. They're so good that my husband even prefers them.

Banana with Coconut Sugar

This is a "dessert," although I like my desserts sugary with chocolate or ice cream...this is something sweet that I can tolerate. And it's a bit healthier than an ice cream sundae. I simply cut a banana lengthwise, sprinkle some coconut sugar over it, and toast it in the toaster oven until the sugar caramelizes.


I use avocado for everything. Mash it up and pretend it's a less flavorful guac. Avocado toast has become a staple. I also mash it up and mix it with salt and olive oil to make a creamy pasta "sauce."

Non-Coffee Coffee

The top three things I miss are the three C's - cheese, chocolate, and coffee. I haven't found an alternative to cheese yet. But I have found alternatives for chocolate (hang in there, I'll get there) and coffee.  Apparently, they make coffee alternatives that are caffeine-free.  Do they really taste like coffee? Eh. Kaffree Roma (I tried several brands, this was the one I liked best) tastes a little bit like airplane coffee (you know, that coffee you get on an airplane that ranges from awful to so-so). But add in some almond milk creamer (they even make a pumpkin spice flavor now!) and top it with either the coconut milk Reddi-Wip or almond milk Reddi-Wip and it's as close as you're going to get to coffee without


This is the chocolate alternative.  I remembered buying a dog we had years ago dog cookies made out of safe-for-dogs people food. They looked like chocolate chip cookies. But the "chocolate chips" were carob chips. So I set out to look for carob treats. Again, it doesn't taste like chocolate on its own. But a local grocery store (shout out to Publix) carries carob covered raisins and carob covered almonds. The carob covered raisins taste most like chocolate covered raisins. The almonds...meh. They're not bad but they definitely don't taste like chocolate covered almonds.

Random tips:

  • When eating out, look at the restaurant's menu online beforehand if you can. It will make it less overwhelming if you plan out what you're going to order ahead of time since, most likely, you will have to ask the server to leave out a few ingredients. (Or ask them to put them on the side - which is what I do.)
  • Breakfast is one of the easiest things to order when eating out. Egg whites are a good option. And if all else fails - pancakes.
  • Grab and go snacks can be hard to find. I can tolerate:
  1. Sunchips
  2. Pistachios
  3. Harvest Snaps Lightly Salted

Sunday, September 16, 2018

7 Ideas To Help Raise Environmentally-Responsible Kids

Written by a contributing writer 

As a parent, it's important to take your job seriously when it comes to raising responsible citizens for the future. It's essential to raise your children to be physically healthy, emotionally strong, and kind. It's also vital to instill strong values related to the environment in your children. Here are 7 tips to help you raise environmentally-responsible children.

1. Choose Eco-Friendly Products

Before you show your children how to appreciate the earth, you'll need to make some changes to your own habits and household usage. Start with your buying habits in your home. Swap out your paper products for eco-friendly items. Switch any old appliances out for energy saving options. Look for natural products produced by companies that are committed to protecting the environment. Some of these products may cost a bit more, but in the end, you could spend less on utilities.

2. Eat a Plant-Based Diet

You can also show your children your commitment to being environmentally responsible in your diet. Eliminate items such as red meat from your diet and focus on foods that are plant-based. Stop buying produce and other items that aren't in season and require excessive shipping and processing. Visit local farmer's markets and choose items that are grown in your area to show your children eco-friendly foods. You can also start your own garden to give them ideas about producing food.

3. Practice Recycling

Recycling is another big part of an eco-friendly household. Set up a system in your house that sorts items from the trash and into the recycling bins. Teach your children about which items are able to be recycled and which ones should be thrown away. Create a composting pile in your backyard and model using it with your kids. This way, you can reduce your garbage over time.

4. Promote Reusing Objects

Next, show your children how effective it is to reuse items instead of throwing them away. Instead of buying brand new clothes, toys, and household objects, visit yard sales, thrift stores, or other spots to buy secondhand items. You can also save money big time by avoiding the sticker shock of a brand new item. When your children outgrow clothing or toys, get them involved in the process of putting them up for sale or donating them to a good cause.

5. Reduce Water Waste

Modeling responsible water usage is another way you can show your children how to live an eco-friendly lifestyle. Explain the problem with water in the world today by showing them news stories and information about ventures like the Cadiz Water Project. Teach them how to take shorter showers and leave off the water when brushing their teeth. Encourage using rainwater collection ideas, such as a rain barrel for watering plants and the grass.

6. Take Field Trips

Field trips are another great idea if you want to expose your kids to all different types of environmental education. One eye-opening experience that could change your kids' perspective is a trip to the local landfill. Show your children the amount of waste that goes into the landfill each day to give them a real sense of what the planet is facing for the future.

7. Explore the Outdoors

Finally, it's also important to teach your kids to appreciate the beauty of the earth each day. You can do this by exploring different parts of your region's outdoor attractions. Check out local parks, forests, hiking trails, and more to give your children a better idea of what is at stake with the environment. When they see the raw beauty of the land, they may be more likely to work harder to protect it.
If you want to help the planet stay healthy for the next generation, you must work hard to teach children what needs to be done. Model these environmentally-friendly practices with your kids to raise children who appreciate the earth.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Easy Ways to Change the Look of Your Home

This is a sponsored guest post by Alex from The Berger Bungalow.

Over two years ago, I remember stepping foot in my first home for the first time. It was just a few years after my husband and I got married and I could not believe that we were buying our first home! Hopefully the home that we would eventually bring our future kids home from the hospital to. I was so, so excited.

The home buying process was intense, to say the least. Our rental home that we were currently in was up for sale and we didn’t want to risk getting kicked out due to it selling before we found a home of our own, so we were in a time crunch. We searched and searched for something that was ‘perfect’ and still within our budget and it just seemed like everything didn’t fit us, or our offers were turned down (we even offered full asking price + closing costs and got turned down!). We had no idea why it was happening and we were so frustrated.

But, just one week after our offer was turned down, we were about to leave for a trip to the beach and my sister (who also happened to be our realtor) called me and told me that she thought she found the perfect place for us, but we had to make an offer that very day. So, we delayed our trip by a few hours, saw the house, and made an offer from our car, on the way to Florida.

Although it needed some TLC (I mean, every single room had a different color!), it was perfect and it was just what I imagined: a large kitchen so that Ian and I could cook together, a dining room where our family could get together and share meals and laughs, an office AND a future playroom/current man cave (this was very high on my want list, but I didn’t think it was in our budget), a big back yard for our pups, an open floor plan, high ceilings, and the list goes on. I was just so excited to make the home ours and make it stand out.

But, over the years, as much as I have wanted to really work on our home, we have been spending all of our energy (and money) on travel. We visited wineries in Montalcino, hiked Cinque Terre, explored Sonoma County and even tried a Cedar Bath (which was so cool!), and we have many trips coming up throughout the end of the year which include, New Orleans, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, Nassau, Florida (again), and more. Because of this, I haven’t really done much other than our initial renovations with the house and I am now ready to get down to business and really focus on decorating for the seasons, improving our home, and doing a few renovations. Here are some of the things we are planning to do (which will hopefully make our house more homey and also boost the value of the home):

Paint The Kitchen Cabinets

I absolutely love the kitchen, but as you can see, our cabinets have an orange tint to the wood and I really prefer lighter colors, without the warmth. So, I think I am going to paint the wood a lighter, more neutral color and also change out the hardware to look a bit more modern compared to the knobs that we currently have.

Install New Countertops

This is definitely on my top 3 ‘must do’ list. Our countertops are just a plain white laminate right now and I really do not like them. They stain, they are hard to keep clean, and they are a very inexpensive material. I would love to replace these as soon as possible, in order to make our kitchen look better and more upscale, which will in turn, boost our home value and make it more appealing for future purchasers.

Fireplace Surround

Our current fireplace surround is just black wood right now and it’s very dark for me. I have been searching for something to enhance the look of it for a while now, but everything is so pricey! I finally came across Faux Brickwork, which seems like an awesome option. Faux Brickwork is the leading supplier of faux brickwork to the domestic and commercial world. They supply faux brickwork to many luxury homes, bars, restaurants, nightclubs, offices and retailers. Located out of Clearwater Florida, Faux Brickwork is able to provide authentic looking brickwork without the high costs of building work. Their high quality panels are made from plaster, which makes them authentic visually and also makes them lightweight, making installation fast and simple. The reason why we are considering Faux Brickwork for our fireplace surround is because of the fact that we can order and install it quickly and it would be much more affordable compared to tradition brick, or even tile. They also offer samples and a custom design service, so we know we will be getting exactly what we want. I mean, look at this picture below. It looks so authentic!

Install New Tile

Again, this is on my top 3 ‘must do’ list. Our current kitchen tile is very, very ugly. In fact, I was chatting with my blog agent the other day and described it as “poop brown,” haha. You can see a picture above. I would absolutely love to replace this! My parents imported their kitchen tile from Italy and it is gorgeous, so I have pretty high standards when it comes to this. Here is to hoping that I can find what I love for a reasonable price!

Decorate For The Seasons!

This is one thing that I am looking so forward to doing this year (and in years to come, as well)! Decorating for the seasons is so much fun to me and I just have not had a chance to really do so with our crazy work and travel schedules in the past. This year, it is happening! Of course, this will do nothing for the value of our home, but it will make it feel a lot more like ‘ours’ and I know it will make it a happier place.