Giveaway Winners Announced!

I want to thank each and every one of you from the bottom of my heart – THANK YOU for supporting Tickled Peach. It honestly means to much to me to have others support this blog. I cannot grow this community without your readership, so please share Tickled Peach with your family and friends. These giveaways were a small measure of my appreciation for supporting me, and I sincerely hope you will continue to read.

Please continue to read on for details on why I chose the products I did to giveaway, and at the bottom…. the winners!

  • Psssst! Dry Shampoo: this is my favorite dry shampoo. I’ve been using it for years, and it is definitely a budget bargain. I love that it doesn’t leave a white cast on my brunette hair, and it also doesn’t have a strong scent.
  • Wet N Dry Ionic Ultra Detangling Hair Brush: this brush is just the best for detangling wet hair. I use it straight out of the shower before I apply products, and it is also great for little girls with long, tangle prone hair.
  • Tropical Shine Nail File: I buy these in bulk from Sally’s. My kids, for some odd reason, are obsessed with nail files. I find them crumpled and chewed on (WHY?) quite often. So, I stock up and buy 5 or more at a time. These files do a great job with your at home manicures.
  • Wet N Wild One Step Wonder Gel Polish in It’s Sher-Bert Day and All That Jazzy. This is probably my favorite drugstore gel polish. You do not need to use a base or top coat with these polishes. Just paint two coats, let dry, and hit the town! The brand claims you will receive 2 weeks worth of wear, but it is more like one week for me. Still, one week is awesome for a $5 polish!
  • Ion Keratin Smoothing Mask: I get this from Sally’s and it is a really great deep conditioner for coarse, frizzy hair. I really see a difference in both the condition of my hair and the amount of frizz when I use this conditioner.

AND THE WINNER IS……. @leannemyhill!

 

The second day of giveaways focused on skincare. If you’ve been following me for any amount of time on Instagram, you know how important skincare is to me. These are a few of my favorite products.

  • Tony Moly I’m Real Sheet Mask: Sheet masks are the new skincare craze. It’s simply a piece of cloth that is saturated with some sort of treatment. You unfold the cloth, conform the mask to your face, and relax in a hot tub or soft bed for 15 minutes or so. When you are ready to remove, lift off the cloth and massage the remaining product into your skin. (In most cases, you do not wash off whatever product remains on your face, but read the instructions to be sure.) Click HERE for a pack of 11 Tony Moly sheet masks for $17 – that is a great price, considering these are $4 a piece at Ulta.
  • Josie Maran Argan Oil Light: Argan oil is a moisturizing treatment for hair, nails, or skin. I like to combine 2 drops with my nighttime moisturizer.
  • Up & Up Makeup Remover Wipes: These Target brand makeup remover wipes are a dupe for the more expensive Neutrogena brand wipes. I love how well these remove your makeup without leaving behind an oily residue.
  • Sephora Purple Clay Mask: I haven’t personally tried this product, but was intrigued when I saw it in the checkout line. (Darn those check out product bins!) This pouch contains four applications of the mask.
  • SkinFood Egg White Pore Hot Steam Pack: This is a well known Korean beauty brand. I picked this mask up on a whim one day in Ulta, and I’m so glad I did. This is a wet mask that heats initially as you apply it to you face. It draws out impurities, particularly blackheads and sebum, that clog pores. This is a fantastic mask that will cost you less than $14. You can buy it on Amazon or at Ulta.
  • Tony Moly The Green Tea Watery Essence: Essence is a Korean beauty staple. In a nutshell, essence is the product you apply after you cleanse a tone your face, before you apply other treatment products. The essence is designed to help your other products really sink in to your skin and do their jobs. Green tea contains powerful antioxidants, so that is an added benefit of this product.
  • Pixi Glow Tonic is a AHA toner. Again, if you follow me on Instagram you know I am an advocate of using acids as part of your daily skincare regimen. AHAs are wonderful for chemically exfoliating your skin, brightening your skin tone, and clearing up blemishes and blackheads.
  • EOS Lip Balm: I keep this in my bathroom and apply it at night as I am applying my skincare products and in the morning before I apply makeup. I also always have one in my purse!

AND THE WINNER IS… LAUREL FALCON!

 

When I definitely decided to relaunch Tickled Peach, I reached out to my followers on Instagram and asked if anyone would be interested in participating in the Week of Giveaways. Lovely Rachel contacted me, and I was blown away when she offered up this amazing prize.

This is a ONE MONTH SUPPLY of Shakeology! Y’all, this prize has a cash value of $130!

I’m not the only one blown away by Rachel’s generosity. It seems y’all were blown away by her offer, too. Since only one person can win, I wanted to give you her contact details so you can get in touch with her about her products. In addition to selling Shakeology, Rachel also offers clean eating plans and assistance on creating fitness plans. Please contact her for more information!

Rachel’s FB group

Rachel’s website

Contact Rachel by email at rhuggins819@gmail.com.

AND THE WINNER IS… CRYSTAL STUBBS!

For Thursday’s giveaway, I wanted to focus on accessories. What tired mom doesn’t need a cute hat to hide her bad hair days? Although, in hindsight, the text of the hat might give your secret away…

I also love these earrings from Walmart. Yes, Walmart! At $4 a piece, you can afford to buy more than one, so I did!

I finished this giveaway off with a cute makeup bag, perfect for your purse or diaper bag to stash a few necessities.

AND THE WINNER IS… @beccadalgety!

The last giveaway truly contains some of my most favorite and most used drugstore makeup products. I promise if you can to my house and peeked in my vanity, you would see all of these items on heavy repeat!

  • Physicians Formula Butter Bronzer smells amazing and is the perfect way to add a little color to your complexion. Buy it at Ulta (but Amazon is a bit cheaper).
  • Makeup Revolution Shimmer Brick is my go to for highlighting. I mainly use the top two shades on a fan brush, but swirling all the colors together would make a great blush.
  • Wet N Wild Ombre Blush is a beautiful soft pink blush that adds just a hint of color to light complexions.
  • MAC Paint Pots are perfect as an eyeshadow primer. Soft Ochre is a great nude that compliments most skin tones.
  • Real Techniques Complexion Sponges: when I bought this package, I got one for myself. This are my go-to makeup sponge. I love the sharp, angled side for blending out my undereye concealer. There is a 2 pack on Amazon for $9 or one sponge at Ulta for $5.
  • Loreal Voluminous Lash Paradise is a cheap drugstore dupe for the more expensive Too Faced Better Than Sex mascara. Y’all, I’ve tried both, and I prefer Loreal’s version!
  • Wet N Wild Gel Lip Liner has turned into my favorite lip liner. They line so smoothly, and the color stays put for ages. It reminds me a lot of a MAC lip liner, but at a better price!
  • ELF Lip Exfoliator should be on every girl’s bathroom counter! Use it every night to exfoliate and soften your lips.
  • Maybelline Instant Age Rewind Dark Circle Eraser is the BEST drugstore undereye concealer in my opinion. I’ve gone through at least 10 tubes in the past couple of years.

AND THE WINNER IS… MEGAN GUNTER!

Winners, please reach out to me within one week with your mailing address. Local winners, I will be contacting you to arrange a time to give you your goodies!

This post contained affiliate links. This means that if you click the link and purchase the product, I will receive a small percentage of the sale. I did research which links were less expensive, and in most cases, Amazon is your better bet. However, most products listed above can be found at Ulta, Sephora, Target, Walmart, or a drugstore. Thank you for supporting me!

A Tale of an Instant Pot

I’m always late to the party.

I mean that figuratively, although I am also often literally late. If there is something new or “hot”, I don’t often jump on the bandwagon until the fervor had died down a bit. I will hem and haw and convince myself I don’t need something or that it isn’t as great as the hype makes it out to be. Quite often, whatever the “thing” is transforms my life and leaves me wondering why I didn’t buy it sooner.

Case in point: Instant Pot.

I was quick to tell myself I didn’t need an Instant Pot. After all, I had a crock pot, and why in the world would I need something that did exactly what a crockpot could do? I sat through endless Instastories featuring the awesomeness of the IP. I watched as friend after friend raved about how it had changed their ability to get dinner on the table for their families. My friend Diana asked me countless times “so, have you bought an Instant Pot yet?

The answer was always no.

Until last April. I succumbed to peer pressure, and I started to read the reviews. I began to look at recipes. Hmm… maybe it would change my life. Maybe I do need another appliance. Maybe Diana is right.

So I placed my order. And then the box sat in my dining room for another 2 months.

Diana’s “have you bought an Instant Pot yet?” became “have you used your Instant Pot yet?”

I was scared! I had seen all the memes of pressure cookers blowing up people’s kitchens. Trust me, if something bad is going to happen, it is going to happen to me.

One day in late June, I decided to pull the Instant Pot out and try my hand at macaroni and cheese. I had everything I needed in my fridge and pantry, and it was time. Or so Jason House said repeatedly, every time he passed the boxed in the dining room.

Y’all, it did change my life. I’m not kidding. This thing is awesome. Read it again: AWESOME.

Yes, it can do everything a crockpot will do (and I love my crockpot, no shade Bessie) (Bessie is my crockpot) {quietly so Bessie doesn’t hear} it does it better.

I still haven’t really scratched the surface of everything it can do, but I am using it multiple times a week.

What I Love:

  • It has solved my “but I didn’t defrost any meat” dinner dilemma. This thing handles frozen chicken like a boss. I take 3 large chicken breasts, some sort of marinade or chicken broth, and cook for 25-30 minutes. It shreds like butter. You can cook hamburger meat, roasts, pork tenderloin, etc all from frozen! (Of course you can also cook defrosted meat, and it will shorten the cook time considerably).
  • Most of my meals have now become one pot meals or easy cook dinners. At least once a week I cook chicken that is used for buffalo chicken sandwiches, wraps, or salads. Another favorite is greek chicken – I shred and use on pita bread, salads, wraps, and more. Our favorite family recipe is sausage macaroni and cheese: I just brown the sausage on the Saute setting, then add the macaroni and cheese ingredients and cook.
  • The Instant Pot makes the best hard boiled eggs! We go through 12-18 hard boiled eggs per week. Jason loves to take them to work for breakfast, and the kids eat them as snacks or with their lunches. You can stack the eggs in the Instant Pot and truly – I have never had eggs peel easier than they do with the Instant Pot. The entire peel just slips right off.

I haven’t really found any downsides to the Instant Pot yet. My only complaint is that depending on what you cook, the plastic inner ring of the pot can retain the smell. That sucker reeked of onions after an attempt at Instant Pot salisbury steak. However, you can pop it out and put it in the dishwasher and I found that helped tremendously.

Stayed tuned for more Instant Pot recipes – they are coming!

Anyway, I write all this because I was on Amazon (as you do, some people like to browse news stories in the morning – I like to browse Amazon) and I saw the Instant Pot was on super sale. I paid $80 for my 6 quart Instant Pot and it does not have a yogurt setting. This Instant Pot is also 6 quarts and it has more settings than mine does. It is on sale right now for $69.99 – that’s the lowest I’ve ever seen the price go, including Black Friday and Prime Day.

Instant Pot DUO60 6 QT 7-in-1 Multi-Use Programmable Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker, Rice Coker, Steamer, Saute, Yogurt Maker and Warmer

 

You can either click the link directly or click the box above to purchase. This is an affiliate link, meaning if you purchase by clicking the link I will get a small percentage of the sale. If you are not comfortable with that, please feel free to search directly on Amazon. This is a daily deal, meaning the price will only be active for today only.

If you already have an Instant Pot, please share your favorite recipes!

I would be remiss if I posted this blog without mentioning the tragedy in Las Vegas. I woke up to news of the massacre, and my heart is so heavy. I pray for all the victims, the survivors, and all the loved ones who are mourning and standing strong today. Jesus, please be near to those who are hurting and scared. There doesn’t seem to be adequate words in a time like this, so I will pray, and I hope you will as well. 

August Review

Today I’m linking up with Momfessionals for Friday Favorites! I know we are nearing the end of September, but being the procrastinator that I am, I wanted to do an August review. Our August was busy and packed, full of fun and exciting things!

We started off August by prepping for back to school. Here in Augusta, school starts at the beginning of August. On August 3rd, we had Open House and got to meet Cooper’s second grade teacher.

August 3rd was also the day we found out that Jason made Chief! As I mentioned earlier this week, Jason is in the Navy Reserve. He’s submitted a packet to the board for the past three years, and this was the year he was selected! We were all so proud and thankful. We have been praying for this and I know Jason would tell you it was an incredible feeling to get that phone call and know his prayer had been answered. It’s incredibly hard to make Chief in the Navy Reserves, particularly for his rate. I had no idea what that meant at the time – we were just excited for the promotion. Little did I know that only meant he was Selected… and the next 6 weeks would determine if he would actually be accepted and pinned.

We found out Jason made Chief on Thursday, and that following Saturday he flew to Maine for his Annual Training (AT). As a Reservist, he must complete at least two weeks of AT per year. Here he is with the kids about to fly out (and away! from all parenting responsibilities!) for two weeks.

We had plenty of things to keep us busy in the meantime. That Sunday was Promotion Sunday at church. This is when the kids move into their new Sunday School classes for the year. Cooper moved into the second grade class, Sullivan moved into the 3’s (his birthday is just after the school cut off, meaning he is always the oldest in the class), and Poppy Grace moved into the 2’s class.

I came home that day and as the kids napped, I prepped for our Back to School Dinner. This is an annual tradition for us. I like to decorate the kitchen and Cooper gets to pick what we eat for dinner. This year he picked salisbury steak and mashed potatoes.

This was my big boy on the first day of school! He looks so big. I can’t get over how tall he has gotten or the fact that at some point I blinked and he became a teenager.

I had to hustle that night and switch out the decorations because Poppy Grace’s second birthday was August 8th! I picked up a Publix cake and some Trolls decorations and we had a great celebration at home.

I tried to get Sister to dress to match her birthday theme… but she was NOT having it. She’s become very particular about clothing and apparently this dress was not comfortable.

This was a really packed week. On Wednesday, I taught the first session of a fall women’s bible study at church. I am co-leading with  another wonderful woman, and we are doing Listen Love Repeat by Karen Ehman. (not an affiliate link)

Sullivan has been enjoying a late summer season of t-ball. One of our local churches does an indoor t-ball league for kids 3-5 years old. It is absolute chaos but it is so fun to watch the younger kids be introduced to the game.

Cooper and Jason both got baptized in late August, and on August 13 we had a picnic at the baptism site to introduce the younger children to what and where it would happen. Our church is one of the oldest churches in Georgia, and we have our baptisms at the original church site, in a baptismal pool that is fed by a creek on the property. 100 years worth of church members have been baptized in this same spot. It’s full of tradition and reverence and I’m so thankful Cooper and Jason both were baptized here.

Poppy enjoyed both the cupcakes and blowing at the “iders” (spiders, her new obsession).

This pretty much sums up how my life was when Jason was gone. Everyone was fighting, someone was yelling, and at least one person was always crying. FUN TIMES.

Jason finally made it back home, just in time for me to participate in our LILY Moms retreat at church. Our church has hosted a MOPS program for the past two years, and this year we decided to break our association with MOPS and make the program our own. I am serving on the leadership team for the second year. This year I am Social Media Facilitator and a Table Leader.

This was another packed weekend. I had LILY Moms training on Friday night (thanks Mom for watching the kids!). On Saturday I had a full day of training, and Sullivan had a t-ball game. Jason’s plane was supposed to land on Friday, so he could handle the kids on Saturday, but his flight was cancelled. Thankfully, my mom stepped in and handled the t-ball game and picked Jason up at the airport so that I could attend the training.

Sunday evening was so special – our entire church gathered together to observe about 20 members be baptized. I am so grateful that Jason was willing to be baptized, and it is so very special that he and Cooper were baptized on the same day.

Jason grew up in the Catholic church. While he was saved as a child, he was never baptized fully submerged, which is what our church observes.

Here’s where the month got even more crazy. I had no idea how time intensive Chief season really would be. I think I just thought it would be like any other promotion, but the Selectees had to work hard to be accepted by the Chief’s mess. We didn’t see a lot of Jason from here until mid-September. He would work his regular job, leaving as early as 4:30 and working an 8 hour day. Then he would come home, change, and immediately either go to training, go to someone’s house to work on a project, do PT… it was a busy time. We really only saw each other in passing and what phone calls we could sneak during the day, and there were many days the kids didn’t get to see him at all, because they were in bed before he made it home. It was all worth it in the end… but I’m not going to say it wasn’t hard.

On August 27, we had the our Women’s Ministry Kickoff Dinner at church. We have table hostesses, and each hostess decorated a table to the theme of her choosing. My friend Wendy and I decorated a fall table and it turned out so cute! We used Wendy’s blanket scarf as a tablecloth, and Wendy’s husband cut and sanded blocks that we wrote bible verses on as gifts.

Our speaker that night was Karen Ehman, who is the author of the bible study I am co-leading. It was such an honor to meet her and I may have slightly gushed and asked her to sign my study.

That was August! Super busy, super chaotic, but that’s pretty much life these days.

Tips & Tricks of Dry Shampoo

I think at this point it is safe to say that we’ve all heard about dry shampoo. I mean… who loves to wash their hair? Not this girl. Dry shampoo can help me get 4 days out of a shampoo – five days if I’m lucky! But did you know that there are tips and tricks of dry shampoo? There are, and I’m going to help you get the most out of that time saver in a bottle.

First off, my favorite dry shampoo is Pssst! (not an affiliate link).  I’ve been using this for years, ever since I read in a magazine that this was the dry shampoo that Jessica Simpson uses. What can I say – I was on a huge Newlyweds kick at the time. You can find Pssst! at just about any drugstore for less than $5.

Tip #1: Drugstore Gets the Job Done

I know some may disagree with me, but I think drugstore dry shampoos do just as good of a job as higher end dry shampoos. I personally don’t see the point in spending more than $7 on a bottle of dry shampoo. I’ve polled my friends, and the following drugstore brands get two thumbs up:

  • Pssst! (my personal favorite)
  • Batiste
  • Not Your Mother’s
  • Dove (I have personally tried and I like it)
  • Suave

At $3.74, Dove is the cheapest of the bunch, but none of the brands I listed above are more than $10 on Amazon.

Tip #2: Use Dry Shampoo for Volume and Hold

Do you have hair that often falls flat? Does your hair refuse to hold a curl? Dry shampoo can be used to “dirty” up clean hair so that it has texture and hold. This is great for days when you’ve just washed your hair, but you want to curl it or put it up. It can add extra texture to hair that is helpful for getting thin or fine hair to stay in a braid or updo. Fine hair girls, dry shampoo can be used to give you extra volume. Spray it at the roots and tease!

Tip #3: Spray on Your Roots at Night Before Bed

I know this sounds crazy,  but you can experience incredible volume and absorb oil by spraying in your roots before bed. DO NOT COMB IT OUT. Spray, massage into your roots, and let it sit overnight. Brush your hair and style in the morning.

Tip #4: Don’t Use Colored Dry Shampoo

I know colored dry shampoo is all the rage for brunettes, but I have had terrible experience with colored dry shampoo. It can get on your clothes as you spray, and if you scratch your head, the color will transfer to your nails. Not cute!

Now let’s move on to how to apply dry shampoo for your best results.

Trick #1: Hold the Can At Least 6 Inches From Your Hair

Think of dry shampoo as a mist. You don’t want to hold it close to your scalp, because you are going to get a concentrated burst of product only in one area. You are also going to waste product. Hold it away from your hair and move your arm as you apply.

Trick #2: Spray Your Hairline

Spray your hairline first. A lot of people make the mistake of just separating their hair into sections and applying to the roots, but where do you see oil first? The hairline. Make sure you blast the hair at the top of your forehead all the way to your ears. If you are wearing your hair up, pick up your hair and get the back as well.

Trick #3: Divide into Sections and Spray Your Roots

This is the point where you want to begin sectioning off your hair. I start by parting my hair in the middle and then I move down each side towards my ears.

Trick #3: Massage Into Your Roots

Using the pads of your fingers, massage the dry shampoo into the root area.

Trick #4: Let the Dry Shampoo Absorb

Let the product sit on your hair for anywhere from 3-5 minutes. I use this time to brush my teeth and put in my contacts.

Trick #4: Brush It Out

Boar bristle brushes are best because they distribute the oil down the shaft of the hair. If you don’t have a boar bristle brush, use any brush you have. I like to brush away from my natural part. This step is really just meant to remove any excess shampoo and blend any residue into the hair.

Now style your hair!

Tell me – what is your favorite dry shampoo? Do you have any tips or tricks for dry shampoo that you can share?

 

Grits and Greens Casserole

I’ve posted this recipe on the blog before, but I snapped some better pictures tonight and wanted to repost. I found this recipe in a book by my favorite author, Mary Kay Andrews. Each of her books talks about a recipe, and she includes the recipe at the back of the book. I was really intrigued as I read about this casserole, and I decided to try it out. It has become a family favorite! I make it for all of our holiday gatherings, and I also take it to potlucks and church gatherings.

I can’t tell you how many people have been adamant that they would not like this, but once they tried it they ended up asking for the recipe. I’ve had many people tell me “but I don’t like collards” or “but I don’t eat grits.” That’s OK! Something about this combination together appeals even to the non-Southerners.

The best part? It uses canned collards. Real talk: Glory brand makes far better seasoned collards than I can, and that’s a-ok with me.

I do have to acknowledge this isn’t the healthiest dish. Let me know if you decide to attempt to lighten it up, and how it turns out.

Grits and Greens Casserole

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups quick cooking grits (not instant)
  • 2 large cans Glory brand canned collards (Margaret Holmes is a good substitute if you cannot find Glory brand)
  • 2 sticks of butter
  • 2.5 cups parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 1 cup cooked and crumbled bacon

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Add 2 cups heavy whipping cream and 6 cups of chicken broth to a large stock pan. Bring to a boil and then add grits, stirring constantly.
  3. Turn heat to low. Continue to stir until grits stop bubbling.
  4. Simmer grits for 5-10 minutes or until thickened.
  5. Add butter, black pepper, and parmesan cheese and stir to combine.
  6. Drain collards in a colander and then add to dish.
  7. Pour grits into a greased 13X9 casserole dish.
  8. Top with crumbled bacon.
  9. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

This makes two 9×13 pans. This recipe freezes beautifully! I usually make one pan and pop the other in the freezer for another day.

Meet My Family!

I’ve been blogging for a long time. I started my first blog in 2008 with My Chihuahua Bites. Blogging was creative outfit; it was an opportunity to connect and establish friendships with people all over the country – in some cases all over the world! I’ve always had a passion for writing and I love to share my life and learn from others. I love the community of women I’ve “met” throughout the years. Although blogging has changed, our relationships have not. Women who first read My Chihuahua Bites migrated to Twitter, then to Instagram, and hopefully now you are back here at Tickled Peach. To those old friends – thank you. Thank you for supporting me through the birth of three children, through countless military moves, through job changes and promotions, and through my depression and anxiety. We may have never hugged each other’s necks, but you are important to me. You are a part of my story.

If you are new here, I hope you will become a part of this community. I’m passionate about women supporting other women. Being a mom is hard. Raising tiny humans is HARD. My mom is fond of saying “it takes a village to raise a child.” In her days of raising babies, that meant her extended family – her grandparents, her parents, her siblings, and her friends. Now, for me, it means my community – the community outside my door and the community of friends I’ve met online. I really hope you will become part of that community!

So without further adieu… Meet my family!

Hello, friends, new and old. I’m Andrea. I’m 38 years old and I am a mom of three. In my professional life, I was a social worker who worked primarily with foster children and adults with special needs. I was a working mom until I had my second child, and I have been staying at home with my children for the past 4 years. I do have a Bachelor of Social Work degree, and I have two years of course work towards a Master of Arts in Teaching. I’m also a trained Mediator, specializing in Parent/Youth mediation, Peer Mediation, and Victim/Offender mediation. (That felt like a resume – but I’m always curious about what SAHMs did prior to staying at home, so I figured you might be, too.)

I am a South Carolina native turned Georgia girl. I grew in North Augusta, SC and attended Winthrop University for my undergraduate degree. I attended graduate school at the College of Charleston, and that is where I met my husband (also the reason I never finished that degree, ha!). I traveled around a good bit in the early years of my marriage as a military wife, but we returned to the area in 2011 and settled in Augusta, Georgia just 25 minutes from where I grew up. I still catch myself saying I am a Palmetto Girl, but I guess in reality I am now a Georgia Peach.

My faith is very important to me, and it is something you will hear me talk about a lot on this blog. I was saved when I was in the 6th grade, and I have identified myself as Christian throughout the years, but it is only within the past two years that I would say my faith has truly rooted and grown. Last January, one of my New Year’s Resolutions was to grow as a Christian, and in the past year I have seen God do extraordinary things in our lives. I completed my first year of BSF, which truly changed my perspective about studying the Bible (and what I learned in BSF is a large part of why I’m writing this blog!). My family joined a church. I am serving on the leadership team of LILY Moms (formerly MOPS). I shared my testimony of overcoming depression in front of a large group – something I can honestly say I never thought I would do. My oldest son was saved, and he and my husband were baptized. I am co-leading a bible study at church this fall. SO MUCH GOOD STUFF! I will never claim to be an theological expert, but I am a woman who loves Jesus, and I hope you will see that through my blog.

I’m not really sure what free time is anymore, but on the rare occasion I have it, I like to read and take bubble baths. I love everything beauty related, so you’ll hear me talk about skincare and makeup quite often. In another lifetime I think I would have trained as a makeup artist. I am certainly no professional, although my vanity may tell you otherwise. I wouldn’t really say I’m a fashionista either, but I do enjoy putting together cute outfits. Plus size shopping can be hard, and I love sharing my fashion finds!

Meet Jason! Jason and I met when I was in graduate school at the College of Charleston. He was also in Charleston attending Navy schools and believe it or not – we met online. IN A CHAT ROOM. I feel ancient saying that, because chat rooms no longer exist, but the truth is we met online way before meeting online was cool. Ha!

Jason is a two years younger than me, so I guess that makes me a cougar. He’s originally from Illinois, but I’ve converted this Yankee to a Southerner. He likes to say he now has an accent… he does not.

Jason was active duty for 10 years as a Navy Submariner. We made the decision to separate from the Navy in 2011, but he still wanted to serve his country, so he entered the Navy Reserves 6 months later. He has been in the Navy for a total of 16 years and he just made Chief Petty Officer this past month. We are so proud of our CPO! Jason’s “regular” job is at a nuclear power plant.

Jason works really long hours and has a 2 hour daily commute, so he doesn’t have much free time either. But when he does have free time, he loves watching SEC football and playing fantasy football. He loves politics, and if he had his way our television would be permanently affixed to a news channel. He’s recently started attending local political meetings and volunteering for campaigns.

These are my babies. Cooper is 7 years old, and he is in the second grade. He loves Legos, Super Mario Brothers, and he recently started taking archery lessons. He thankfully has inherited his dad’s mathematical ability and lately has been sharing my love of reading. Cooper and I have a special bond, partly I think due to his medical diagnosis (which you’ll read about more later) and due to the fact that he just loves his Mama. Cooper is my child who loves to cuddle (not so much as he has gotten older… TEAR) and he is always very quick to say “I love you.”

Sullivan just turned 4, and he is our joker. He always has an infectious smile and is quick to make you laugh. He is the most athletic of our bunch. We just finished up a season of t ball and we are looking forward to playing again in the spring! Sullivan is my rule breaker… he’s definitely the child who has tested the limits the most. (Case in point: the paint I just found on my living room rug and the 4 year old that had green palms.)

Poppy Grace is our baby. She turned 2 in August, and she runs this house. She has had her brothers wrapped around her fingers since the day she was born, and they are quick to comfort her when she is upset. Poppy Grace loves playing kitchen and taking care of her baby dolls. She is fiercely independent and does things in her own time. We’re starting to get into battles over clothing – I can tell the coming years are going to be fun! She and Sullivan are the best of friends and the biggest troublemakers together.

I am so very thankful for this family of mine. God has blessed me beyond measure, and I’m so thankful to my husband for his hard work, which allows me to stay at home. If I had to describe our lives in two words, they would definitely be chaos and joy. It’s always loud, crazy, and messy around here but being a mom and wife has refined me and brought me unspeakable joy. I wouldn’t change a thing about our lives!

I would love to hear from you in the comments! Please tell me where you are from and a little bit about your family!

Cast Your Net

I can clearly remember a conversation that I had with my husband in 2014. It was one of our “checking in” conversations – we have these periodically just to discuss how we’re feeling, any goals we want to accomplish, or things that we weighing heavy on our hearts and/or minds.

“I feel like I should be doing something more.”

At the time of this conversation, I had a 4 year old and a 5 month old. I dearly loved my children, but I felt like I had lost a sense of who I was beyond being a mother. My days were wrapped up with caring for their needs, and somewhere along the way I felt like I had lost who I was.

“Well, what do you want to do?” my husband asked. That was the problem – I didn’t know!

“OK. Well, what are you good at? What makes you happy?” he asked.

Blogging has always made me happy. I started blogging in 2008 with My Chihuahua Bites. I love to write, and I’m really passionate about sharing my life and my story with other women as a means of encouragement and community. Over the years, blogging has changed. We’ve moved from Blogger, to Google Reader, to Twitter, to Instagram, and onto whatever social media platform happens to come along next. What has remained constant throughout the years is that I’ve maintained that passion for sharing my life. I’ve always tried to live my life in an authentic way, and I’ve hoped that my transparency will help some other woman through her own struggles.

It was through that conversation that Tickled Peach was born. I wanted more than anything to create a community. I am right here, in the trenches, raising my children and I wanted to reach out to other women who are doing the same. We are meant to live life in community and my goal has always been to create a safe, judgment free zone for women of all ages.

Well, life happened. I could offer you a thousand excuses as to why Tickled Peach didn’t take off the way I had hoped that it would. In the end, it comes down to me. I allowed myself to buy into lies – that blogging was dead, that there was no way I could ever write professionally, and that I would never make money off of a blog. I allowed myself to get caught up in stats, blog traffic, and engagement, and I told myself that I was putting in a lot of effort for something that wasn’t giving me the results I wanted.

But what if the problem was that I had a skewed sense of what my results really should be?

Over the years God hasn’t let me let Tickled Peach go. Even though I had “quit”, I continued to pay my monthly hosting fee and my yearly domain renewal. Why? Because something inside me said that I wasn’t done just yet.

Last spring I had a major AHA moment. I was participating in BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) and had been studying the book of John. We had reached the end of the year, and we were focusing on John chapter 21. Jesus has been resurrected, and has risen from the dead. From John 21:

Simon Peter said to the others, “I am going fishing.”

“We will come with you,” they told him. So they went out in a boat, but all that night they did not catch a thing. As the sun was rising, Jesus stood at the water’s edge, but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.

Then he asked them, “Young men, haven’t you caught anything?”

“Not a thing,” they answered.

He said to them, “Throw your net out on the right side of the boat, and you will catch some.” So they threw the net out and could not pull it back in, because they had caught so many fish. – John 21: 3-6

I couldn’t stop thinking about that passage. Let’s think of the disciples for a minute – in those days, fishing was both a profession and a means of feeding your family. I’m not sure why the disciples went out that particular day. I don’t know if their ultimate goal was to fill their own belly or to sell their bounty. Whatever the reason, they had spent an entire night fishing with no result. They were likely tired, discouraged, and at the same time, they were likely struggling with their own feelings regarding the resurrection. I image they were grubby, exhausted, grieving, and discouraged…. and here comes Jesus.

Who they believe is a stranger speaks to them, and tells them to cast their net over the side of the boat.

If that were me, I can imagine I would be skeptical. If I’m honest, I would probably be a little annoyed. I’d likely be thinking “yeah, sure, don’t you think I’ve tried that already?

But they listened. They cast their net. And they were rewarded beyond measure.

The story continues. When the disciples dragged the net ashore, scripture tells us the net was full of 153 fish, much more fish than the net should have ever been able to hold. Yet the net did hold, and it did not break.

They listened. They did what they were asked to do. And they were rewarded.

I just kept turning this passage over and over in my mind. God has never let me forget about Tickled Peach. It’s always been there, in the back of my mind, as something I needed to do. But I’ve refused to listen. I’ve made a million excuses. I’ve pushed the thought away, time and again. But still I heard: Cast your net.

What needed to happen, for me, was a shifting of my priorities. Maybe I needed to let go of this idea of being a “success” and just go. Maybe I just needed to write, and let God do the rest.

I find myself at somewhat of a crossroads right now. I identify myself as a Stay at Home Mom, but my children are getting older. My oldest is in school, and I have one more year before my middle child starts kindergarten. In three years all of my children will be in school full time, and I need to start thinking about what I want to do at that point. Do I want to return to my career as a social worker? Should I complete my Masters degree? Maybe I should go into another field entirely.

When I start to ask myself these questions, my anxiety skyrockets. The truth is, I don’t want to do any of these things. After 10 years as a social worker, I feel burned out, and while the work is rewarding, it had become exhausting and emotionally taxing. I’m almost 40, and the thought of returning to school at my age is scary. So what do I want to do?

I want to write. I want to be home with my children, even when or if they go to public school. I want to be the person handling drop off and pick up. I want to have the freedom to volunteer at their schools and at my church. I want a lot of things that a full time job will never be able to provide for me. And….

Dare I say it? I’d love to write a book. I have a passion for speaking as well, and nothing would make me happier than to book speaking engagements.

Here’s where the doubts creep in. If I can’t even successfully launch a blog, how could I ever launch a book? Who would ever want to read what I have to say? This is all crazy talk. These are just dreams. Dreams are just something that sound really nice, but they aren’t achievable.

Except what if they are?

The problem is that you will never know if you never even try. I’m stepping out in faith, doing what I believe God has called me to do, with the desire to do great things in His name. I’m letting go to my definitions of success and instead and choosing to let God define me.

I don’t know your circumstances today. Maybe God has placed something on your heart, something that seems impossible and that you are telling yourself that you can’t do. He might be telling you to move. To apply for a new job. To have another baby. To adopt. Whatever He is asking, I’m here to tell you that he will equip you to do. The money you need will come. The house will sell. The baby you are praying desperately for is waiting for you as well. Whatever the circumstance, God’s ability is far greater than our own. Don’t worry about the how’s – walk in faith. Take that first step. See where God can take you.

Cast your net, friends. If He calls you to it, He will equip you to do it.

Halloween Themed Food

As I said in yesterday’s post, I really can’t turn down an opportunity to turn an everyday occasion into a special occasion. I’ve learned with my family that it doesn’t have to be perfect or expensive to make something ordinary extraordinary! Themed food is an easy way to make a weeknight or weekend dinner fun.

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For our Boo To You Halloween Dinner, I made quite a few Halloween themed food items.

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Zombie meatballs – I used frozen meatballs and placed them in the slow cooker with a bottle of grape jelly and a bottle of chili sauce. These were delicious, and they were not spicy at all.

Pumpkins – these were just peeled mandarin oranges with celery sticks stuck in the center.

I made boxed mac and cheese and served them in clear cups with jack o lantern faces.

Monster rice crispy treats – I made rice crispy treats, and cut them out into rectangle shapes. I dipped the tops into colored chocolate and stuck on edible eyeballs.

Mummy dogs – These were made using crescent rolls. Roll out the crescent rolls so that it is a solid sheet (or buy the full sheet crescent rolls). I used a pizza cutter to cut the crescents into strips and just wrapped around the hot dogs. Create eyes with ketchup.

I also served my Copycat Starbucks Caramel Apple Spice.

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Another night we had mummy pizzas – these are super easy as well! I use french bread as the dough, and I top with pizza sauce and whatever toppings my family desires. Instead of using shredded cheese, I used mozzarella slices that I again cut into strips with a pizza cutter. Black olives make great eyes.

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Last year I made these fun pudding cups. I used clear cups and filled with chocolate pudding. Then I topped the pudding with crushed oreos, a tombstone peep, and gummy worms. If you cant find the tombstone peeps, you can make a tombstone using Milano cookies and icing.

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Don’t forget school lunches can be themed too! I have a pumpkin, bat, and ghost cookie cutter that get heavy rotation during October.

For Halloween night, I always serve Buffalo Chicken Chili and cornbread, and I made this pumpkin cake that is to die for.

What have you been cooking this October?

Boo To You Halloween Dinner

If you know me well, you know it is no secret that I love celebrations. I love taking seemingly ordinary days and turning them into special parties for my kids. Life is too short not to grab a little fun when and where you can. Cooper in particular gets so excited about our celebrations which is why I continue to do it.

This year was our first annual Boo To You Halloween Dinner and I wanted to share in case you wanted to plan a Halloween dinner for your family! It isn’t too late and you probably have most of what you need already on hand.

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First – decorations! I can’t throw any party without fun decorations. Thank goodness for Target’s one dollar spot, right?! The tablecloth, spiderweb chargers, tree and ornaments, pumpkins, and aliens are from Target. The plates are from Kroger.

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Each child got a Halloween pajamas (except Cooper – he’s unfortunately out of child pajamas and into the big boy sizes now) and a Halloween book.

I themed our food as well.

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We had pumpkin oranges, mac and cheese in jack o lantern cups, vampire doughnuts, monster rice crispy treats, zombie brains (meatballs), and mummy dogs. I also served my Copycat Starbucks Caramel Apple Spice to drink.

Do you do any special themed meals to celebrate Halloween? Share your ideas in the comments.

Check back tomorrow for recipes and more ideas for Halloween food!

Advent Calendars & Activities for Preschoolers

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Hello friends! Thanks for coming by today. I wanted to discuss Advent Calendars & Activities for Your Preschooler today. I’m going to be sharing what I personally do to count down the Christmas season, and I’d love to hear what you family does as well!

I’m a little advent calendar obsessed. What can I say? Candy and countdowns are two of my favorite things. Last year I did some reflecting and I realized two things: 1) Christmas was flying by, and I felt like our family wasn’t taking advantage of all the fun things there is to do during the season and 2) I felt like I wasn’t focusing enough on the true meaning of Christmas, which is the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. I decided to incorporate both of these things into our daily activities and calendars as a way to be intentional and really reflect on the true reason for the season.

First up: teaching my children the true reason we celebrate Christmas.

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Reason for the Seasons: A Jesse Tree Advent Journey is a 25 day guided devotional for young children aimed towards teaching the true meaning of Christmas. It has two options: the Jesus Storybook Bible or the Big Picture Story Bible. It has 24 reading passages, 48 crafts that correspond to the passages, 27 activity ideas, 24 food ideas, and coloring pages for each day. I’m so excited about delving into the Christmas story with my kids! I love that this includes craft templates and all the activities are simple, short, and inexpensive.

Last year we did Truth in the Tinsel but I thought it was geared towards older children, and some of the crafts were quite complicated. I think it is a great option for school aged children, however.

Both devotionals are available as instant downloads and you can either print out at home like I did or you can use an iPad or iPhone to read.

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We also own The Story of Christmas, which is a story book set and advent calendar. Each day has a mini book that tells the story of Jesus’s birth, and each mini book is an ornament. Each day we read the book and add it to our playroom tree.

I’ll be talking about this is more detail tomorrow, but our Elf on the Shelf also incorporates both kindness and being a servant into his daily visits. Each day I have a task for Cooper to do that will help him focus on showing kindness and love to other people, just as Jesus did.

Second: incorporating Christmas activities and traditions into our daily routines

Every single year it seems like December just flies by. It wasn’t as much of a big deal before I had children, but as soon as I got pregnant I started dreaming of all things I would do with my kids during Christmas. I wanted to decorate the tree, bake books, wrap presents, look at lights… the list went on and on. However, every December it seemed like less and less got crossed off my list. I have found that I have to be very intentional and plan things out so that I do not get overwhelmed, stressed out, or miss out on precious memories with my children.

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Every year I sit down and make a list of things I want to do during the Christmas season. I also look at my calendar and plan out our December activities – parades, parties, visiting Santa, etc. Then I make a list of 25 things to do during December. Each day I write a task down on a piece of paper and put it into our advent calendar, and we do one activity a day. I’ve learned from past experience that if I pack in too many places to go or complicated projects that I get stressed out, so I make sure to add lots of simple activities and things we can do at home.

Here are some of our ideas:

  • Make hot chocolate
  • Build a gingerbread house
  • Go look at lights
  • Make reindeer food
  • Make snow
  • Write a letter to Santa
  • Make cookies
  • Watch a Christmas movie
  • Make Christmas munch
  • Go see Santa
  • Ride the Polar Express
  • Listen to Christmas music
  • Make a Christmas ornament
  • Make a Christmas card for someone you love
  • Do a Christmas craft
  • Go sing Christmas carols to a neighbor
  • Drop off a surprise gift to our friends
  • Decorate a felt Christmas tree
  • Have a picnic in front of the tree
  • String popcorn
  • See a live nativity
  • Have a PJ day and watch Christmas movies
  • Make oven smores and fudge
  • Make cookies for Santa
  • Make a birthday cake for Jesus
  • Read the story of Jesus’s birth
  • Kiss every time you walk under the mistletoe
  • Check out Christmas books at the library

The second piece of paper you see is a prayer list. Every day we pray for one person. I write a name down on a piece of paper and place it in the calendar, and then we spend some time praying for that person throughout the day.

The daily boxes also have a piece of candy as well. 🙂

christmas booksWe also do another type of advent – 25 days of Christmas books! I have 25 Christmas books that I wrap, and we unwrap one book and read it before bedtime.

I know this one can be expensive, but if it is something you want to do don’t be discouraged. I purchased books inexpensively at library sales, consignment shops, Amazon, and on sale at Barnes and Noble after Christmas. You can also utilize your library!

Do you use advent calendars in your home?