Weekly Prep: Steps To Start Your Week Off Right

Confession time.

I’d like to say that my New Years Resolutions are still going strong, that I’m crushing my goals, and that I am rocking 2018.

Not so much.

The truth is that there were no New Years Resolutions. I haven’t set any goals for myself. January was a hard (and long) month and I’ve struggled through most of it, feeling as if I was doing the absolute minimum to get by. Excuses: my family has been sick, the weather has been dark and dreary, my depression is rearing its ugly head… whatever. None of that matters. Sometimes you just have to pull yourself up and tell yourself you are going to do better.

With that said, things have needed to change. I need to get back into a routine and on a schedule. I need to figure out what is working for me and what’s not. I need to focus on productivity and organization. When these things are being addressed in my life, my anxiety is lessened and both me and my family are both happier and healthier.

So what’s working for me? I’m still a work in progress, obviously. But lately I’ve been focusing on really using my Sundays to set myself up well for the week, and spending a little time each night to prepare for the next day. I’d love to hear from you as well – what do you do that helps maximize your organization and productivity?

Weekly Prep: Steps to Start Your Week Out Right

  • I’ve been using grocery pickup at Walmart for my groceries since the summer, and that has been a total game changer for me in terms of being organized, being efficient, and saving money. I schedule my grocery pickup on Sundays after church, and we swing by to pick up as we drive home from service.
  • When we get home, I immediately prep my produce. I wash all my fruits and let them dry thoroughly on the counter as I unload the rest of the groceries. When they are dry, I store them in Tupperware with a paper towel lining the bottom. This has been an amazing hack in terms of my fruits lasting longer! You can change out the paper towel as it gets damp. I love that I can just pull out fruit for meals with no washing or cutting.

  • I keep my lettuce in the plastic containers they are sold in, but again I open them up and line the container with paper towels. I replace the paper towels each day. This has been a huge help in making sure my lettuce/spinach/arugula lasts longer!
  • Another thing I like to do is make a huge batch of hard boiled eggs in the Instant Pot! I load up the pot with about 18 eggs, cook them, peel them, and store them in the fridge with a bit of water. Jason loves to grab a couple and eat them as breakfast, the kids eat them as snacks, and they are a quick meal or snack for me if I’m running short on time. I usually make about 18 eggs at a time.

  • I always skip breakfast. It’s a horrible habit that has wrecked havoc on my metabolism, and one I’m determined to change. One way I’m attacking this is breakfast smoothies! We have a Nutra Ninja and I absolutely love it for convenience sake. (We also have Vitamix, but I find myself using the Nutra Ninja more. It’s quicker to use and easier to clean.) To make things even easier, I prep our smoothie cups the night before. I add in greens, fresh fruit, and the protein powder. The next morning all I have to add is almond milk and some ice. I store it in the fridge and it is easy to just add two more ingredients, blend, and go!
  • Once a week, I made a big batch of soup. We eat it once during the week for supper, then I go ahead and portion out the rest into individual containers for easy lunches.
  • On Sundays, I update my calendar and to do list. I like to head into the week knowing what I’ve got scheduled and what needs to get checked off my list.
  • Each night I update my to do list and try and create a loose schedule for the day.
  • Every afternoon when Cooper comes home, I go through his folder and backpack, we do his homework, and I restock his snack and prep his lunch (if he is taking lunch that day). I also set out his water bottle so it is ready to go in the morning.
  • I try to set out everyone’s outfits, including shoes, the night before. Shoes are really the crucial part  – someone’s shoes are always missing as we walk out of the door and it results in me loosing my temper and yelling because I’m scared we are going to be late.

One thing I don’t currently do that I would like to start doing is getting up early! Cooper goes to school late (at 8:40) and I confess most mornings I sleep until 7:00, which is when I wake him up. This always results in me rushing, being frazzled, and a lot of times being in a bad mood. I never have time to shower, and if I do, I never have time to actually get ready. My goal is to get up at 6:00 so I can get myself ready and hopefully have a quiet time before the kids get up and things get hectic.

What about you? Do you have any mom hacks for smooth and productive days? I’d love to hear them!

Coffee Chats – Super Bowl Edition

Happy Monday, friends!

Let’s chat, shall we? If you are anything like me, you read blogs while you drink your coffee. Grab a cup and join me!

I don’t have any specific topic in mind – this will be a brain dump of sorts. Please feel free to join in – either by linking your blog post in the comments or by leaving a comment with your thoughts.

So…. let’s discuss the Super Bowl. Keep in mind I’m writing this just after halftime and thus I’m missing out on the second half of commercials. I plan to make Jason do a quick recap/rewind once I’m done.

 

Food:

Every year I usually do a smorgasbord of appetizers, but this year I wanted to keep it simple. I made buffalo chicken in the Instant Pot and served it on sweet rolls. SO GOOD. I put mayo on the buns and top with a thick slice of extra sharp cheddar cheese. On top of the chicken, I serve a dollop of blue cheese dressing.

Want the recipe? It could not be any easier.

Instant Pot Buffalo Chicken

  • 4 chicken breasts (I use frozen breasts; your time will need to be adjusted if you use thawed)
  • 1 cup Franks Red Hot sauce
  • 1/2 stick butter

Cook on manual pressure for 30 minutes. Quick release pressure immediately. Shred chicken and serve.

This is great on rolls, in lettuce wraps, on salads, and on baked potatoes.

 

Drinks & Dessert:

I made beer-aritas every year for Jason. I’m not really a drinker anymore – I went without for three years while pregnant and nursing Poppy, and it just has lost its appeal for me. But Jason loves this and it’s so easy to make! I made a big pitcher and he drinks out of it all week.

Beer-aritas

  • 1-2 cans of frozen lime-aid concentrate (you can use lime margarita mixer, found in the frozen foods section, if you can’t find lime-aid. Just omit the liquor.)
  • 6 cans of beer. Jason prefers Bud Light Lime.
  • 1 lime, juiced

Combine, stir, and store in the fridge.

Dessert was a vanilla cake with fudge icing from Publix – if you’ve never had this, IT IS AMAZEBALLS. They keep them in the frozen section by the bakery. It’s a 7 layer cake with fudge icing – the kind your grandmother probably made. You know, the icing that scrapes against your teeth as you eat it because you can feel the sugar granules? It is so good. Get you some.

 

Commercials

Like I said, I’m writing this having only seen the first half, but so far I’ve loved the Toyota amputee commercial. I also really liked the Doritos/7 Up fire and ice commercial.

Are we excited about Jurassic World? I’m a huge Chris Pratt fan, and I’ve seen every Jurassic movie, so the answer is yes from me. Question: why do they never just blow up the island that the dinosaurs are on? It’s a never ending cycle with these Jurassic people. {shakes head, mainly at myself because I think about these things.}

I also thought the Danny Devito M&M commercial was spot on – I mean, if ever there was a person I would think of as an M&M, it is Danny Devito.

 

Halftime Show/ Justin Timberlake Concert

I’ve been unbelievably pumped about this performance for weeks. I love Justin Timberlake and I think he puts on a great show. However, I was the teeny-ist bit let down.

Don’t get me wrong, it was a great show. I just… expected more, maybe? I’ve gotten used to guests so I was surprised that he didn’t have anyone join him. I think in the back of my head I thought he was going to bust out NSync for some Bye Bye Bye and obviously that didn’t happen. BOO.

Beyonce, you have ruined me for halftime shows.

I did LOVE that he closed with Trolls, and his interaction with the little boy was so wonderful – I bet that boy is on top of the world today.

 

Football

No clue. I’m not your girl for that. I spent the first half of the game (minus commercials) working on my bible study.

 

This Is Us

I’m not emotionally prepared. I’m going to give everyone time to watch and process and I’ll discuss my thoughts in my Friday Favorites post this week.

What was your favorite commercial? What did you think of the halftime show?

Women’s Ministry Kick Off Dinner

If you read my 2017 Year in Review post yesterday, you may have seen me mention the Women’s Ministry Kick Off Dinner that my church held back in August. This is the first dinner I’ve ever attended, and I had no idea what to expect.

Our church Women’s Ministry has activities/bible studies from August – May of each year. As a church, we take a break from Wednesday night activities from mid-May until school resumes in August. Every year in August, our Women’s Ministry team hosts a kick off dinner to jump start the year. They bring in a speaker and ask ladies of the church to host tables. Hostesses are responsible for decorating the table according to a theme of their choice, inviting ladies to sit at their table, and performing official hostess duties the night of the dinner.

As I said, I had never attended a kick off dinner before, so I didn’t know what to expect. We were told we could decorate according to whatever theme we desired, and we could use china or paper plates – the choice was ours. We would need to provide a centerpiece, napkins, silverware, cups, and coffee cups. The dinner was being prepared and served by the men of the church, so we used the church’s plates as it made service easier. A lot of women did bring in plates for decorations, simply because a table setting looks better with a plate, but they removed the plates when it was time to eat.

I wanted to host but I was nervous – while I’m great at tablescapes, they usually have a childish theme, and I always use paper products. My friend Wendy is far more classier than I 😉 so I asked her to co-host with me. She comes with her own china. 🙂

(Wendy is laughing at this, y’all. We have our own friend humor.)

We brainstormed a good bit and initially thought we would do a Back to School theme, but as we made concrete plans we discovered it would take more effort and money than we really wanted to put forth. August was a busy month for me, and for Wendy as well, and we didn’t want to become best friends with our glue guns. We ultimately decided to go with a fall theme – simple, appropriate, and between the two of us we had everything we needed.

We used the church’s white tablecloth, and layered Wendy’s blanket scarf on top. For chargers, we alternated cooper chargers with wooden chargers, and used gray plates, cream napkins, and gold napkin rings.

For the centerpiece, I used assorted size mason jars and filled them with white flowers, wine flowers, and baby’s breath. (I actually have no idea what type of flowers the white and wine flowers are. They were on sale at Publix.) Kroger had greenery on clearance and I used the greenery to beef up the arrangement.

We filled in the centerpiece with candles and pumpkins Wendy found at the Dollar Spot.

For the gift, we gave each girl a fall hand towel (not pictured – it was on the seat). Wendy had spotted these wooden blocks with inspirational sayings at Cracker Barrel, and her husband said he could help us recreate them for cheaper. He cut the wood, Wendy painted the blocks, and we worked on the lettering together. They all have shortened bible verses or words from scripture. We used paint pens and Sharpies.

Here are a few of the other tables. I was blown away! The ladies at my church are so creative and y’all know I eat this sort of thing up. I did not get pictures of each table unfortunately. Some ladies decorated the afternoon of the dinner and it was too crowded to get pictures once everything started.

This table had a succulent theme. How gorgeous is the centerpiece and those wooden chargers? The gift was a succulent to take home.

I loved this sunflower themed table with pops of turquoise. This entire arrangement was so layered and textured! The wicker chargers, the gorgeous cups, the burlap, and the greenery. Just gorgeous.

This table had a sunny yellow bee theme. The flower arrangements tied in perfectly, and I loved the stainless chargers.

This was a Christmas theme with a tree and Christmas china! LOVE! My wheel immediately started turning for next year, because you know I’ve got Christmas decorations galore.

This beach table was so incredibly creative. That was actual sand on the table, which they had to carefully scoop back up when the dinner was over. The guests got to take home bubbles!

I really loved this fiesta theme, and the hostess used a trick I often use – scrapbook paper as a place mat! The gift was a cactus sugar cookie.

This picnic table was super creative. I believe the guests got to take the red stainless cups home, and the hostess actually glued a line of ants to the tablecloth! So cute!

This “Abide” themed table was decorated by my friend Julie. The centerpiece was mainly greenery with a few flowers, and the color palette was neutral with that pop of lime green. I was in love with Julie’s silverware… it was gold and beautiful!

I really wish I had been able to get pictures of each table! We had 20 tables, I believe, and each were beautiful and creative.

The highlight of the evening, besides spending time with friends new and old, was that I got to meet Karen Ehman! As I mentioned, I co-led a bible study this fall. The study was Karen Ehman’s Listen Love Repeat. Karen was our speaker, and I got to have my bible study signed and take a picture with her.

Also pictured is my co-leader, Linda, who is also my Mentor Mom this year for Lily Moms Table 7.

Does your church do anything similar? I would love to see pictures if so!

2017 Year in Review

Hey friends! I can’t believe we are well into January 2018 already. If I still wrote checks, I would definitely still be writing 2017 on them. Cooper just went back to school yesterday, so in the absence of our normal routine I’m just getting to the point where I really feel I can look back on the 2017 and set some goals for 2018.

I want this blog to be a way for me to look back on family memories as well as a way for you to get to know me and my family better, so I thought I would do a little 2017 recap! Warning: this is a picture heavy post, at least more so than normal.

2017 was a good year for the House family. It was not without its challenges, but it was overall a very rewarding year for us. Jason was promoted and pinned to Chief Petty Officer, we joined a church, Cooper was saved, and both Cooper and Jason were baptized. Those were just a few of our blessings!

JANUARY

{Left} January is a birthday heavy month for our family, as we celebrate Cooper’s birthday, my dad’s, my sister in law’s, my brother’s, and my birthday. Cooper’s 7th birthday was a Pikachu affair and as you can see, he was quite excited.

{Top Right} I hesitated to add this to our review, but as this was a huge learning lesson in 2017 and I’m big on transparency, it makes the list. About a year ago, we found out all three kids had lice. LICE. Yep, it is as horrible as it sounds. I know some moms are very laid back about lice – and we are proof that it can happen to anyone, especially if your child is in public school – but I have to say this totally rocked my January boat. Picture was taken the morning we found out…. at church…. in front of all our friends. I told you it was traumatic.

{Bottom Right} On January 29th, we celebrated my 38th birthday!

FEBRUARY

{Top Left} I started letting Cooper help out in the kitchen more. His specialty is tacos!

{Top Right} Sister was looking extra sassy this day – the day we found out Cooper had the flu. He was out for a week and dropped 5 pounds, which is 10% of his body weight. February was spent working on his eating and increasing his calories so he could gain the weight back.

{Bottom} Valentine’s Day! It’s always a celebration at our house. Jason and I don’t go out to eat or anything like that, but we do like to get a few presents for the kids and have a special dinner at home.

MARCH

{Top Left} My nephew turned 16! If that isn’t enough to make you feel old, I don’t know what is. I remember driving from my college dorm to the hospital to meet him during my sophomore year.

{Top Right} St. Patrick’s Day is always a day my kids look forward to. Our leprechaun visits and plays tricks throughout the day, and he also leaves small presents, like Lucky Charm cereal for breakfast. My kids always have a blast trying to catch him, but he’s a wily fellow.

{Bottom} Our MOPs group (Mothers of Preschoolers – we have since changed the name to Lily Moms) always has Tea & Testimony during our March meeting. It’s such a special time! The table leaders create a gorgeous tablescapes with china, and our leadership team brings in tea party themed food. We have several ladies who come in and share their testimony. It is for sure the most special, emotional, spirit filled meeting of the year.

This year, I was one of the ladies who shared their testimony. I was absolutely terrified and to be honest, I don’t remember much about what I said, but finally speaking out about my struggles with PPD and depression were so freeing. It was SUCH a good day – definitely in my top 10 of 2017.

The picture on the right is my table, Table 7. These ladies were such a blessing to me in 2016-2017 and I’m so very happy God put us in each other’s lives.

APRIL

At this point I started using a collage for my pictures, and they loaded not in order. Bare with me! I’m not going to detail every single picture, but hopefully you can look and link them to the happenings.

Jason worked the outage in March in Votgle, which meant we didn’t get to see him much (he worked 12 hour days, with a 2+ hour commute, 6 days a week). In April we made up for that with lots of quality time! We attended the rodeo and our local children’s museum {middle top and middle}.

We also had lots of fun Easter activities! My dad’s company puts on a breakfast and Easter Egg hunt, we dyed eggs at home, and we had an Easter egg hunt with our Sunday School class.

On Easter, we went to church and then had lunch at my parent’s home with my parents and brother’s family.

My niece turned 12 and we celebrated with dinner at a Hibachi restaurant {top right}.

Cooper had a musical performance at school called Awesome Animals {top left}.

Not pictured: In April was when we found out that Poppy has alopecia.I’ll tell this story in more detail in a future blog post, but this was a challenge as well, and one that God has used to teach me that I am not in control and yet – He still works all things for our good.

MAY

May was filled with more family fun! We celebrated Cinco de Mayo with embroidered dresses (for Poppy) and margaritas (for me). For Memorial Day, we went up to Columbia and my brother rented a boat for the day. The top left picture is of me and Cooper, right before I lost my hat to the wind! We also celebrated Mother’s Day with church, lunch of my choice, and NAPS – every mother’s dream, #amiright? {bottom middle}

May was a bit of a bittersweet month, as it was the last month of MOPs, and it meant saying goodbye to Table 7. Our friend Mo moved way, and we lost two other girls who were unable to return to Lily Moms this year, so this goodbye celebration was extra special {middle left}.

Another top moment of 2017 – THE DAY COOPER WAS SAVED! {Middle right} I had prayed and prayed about this, and I had asked God to let me be the one to have the conversation with Cooper. The is nothing like the feeling of pride and thankfulness of knowing your child has made the most important decision of his or her life. You can see I had been crying (happy tears) – I am blessed beyond measure to know I got to pray that prayer with my son.

We rounded out May with the last day of school, and celebrated our summer days with trips to the lake and to play putt putt.

Not pictured: We joined our church! We had been attending for year, and made the decision as a family that this was where we wanted to make our church home.

JUNE

More summer fun – trips to the zoo, to the movies, eating doughnuts at Dunkin Doughnuts, and play dates with friends.

We also went on a beach trip with my parents and my brother’s family, which was so much fun. My kids love their cousins, and my niece and nephew are absolutely fantastic with my kids. We spent every single day at the beach, tooling around in the golf cart, eating delicious meals, and occasionally going out to eat for dinner. It was low key and utterly glorious.

In June, I decided to cut Poppy’s hair into a little bob {middle right}. Her hair had gotten so thin you could see her scalp, and her hair was scraggly. I decided to cut it off and it instantly added volume! Shortly after I cut it, it started to grow back in and thicken up.

The saddest part of June was that my precious chihuahua George {bottom left, the dog on the left} passed away. He was 14 years old and passed away peacefully in his sleep.

JULY

July was really low key. We didn’t really do anything for the 4th of July besides swim and do some sparklers in our yard. We did go to see Despicable 3 at the movie theater, we visited a snow cone stand that opened down the road, and Sullivan started indoor t-ball!

AUGUST

August is when things really started to get busy! My mom’s birthday is on August 1, and Poppy’s in on August 8th. We knew Jason would be headed out of town for 2 weeks for his Navy Annual Training, so we had Poppy’s birthday on the last Saturday in June. It was low key, just swimming at my parent’s pool with my family, but she had a blast.

On August 3rd, we went to Open House at Cooper’s school. Cooper got to meet his teacher and we got to register for the year. This was the day that we found out Jason had made Chief! We had no idea what they entailed at the time. {Bottom left} Poppy was wearing her anchor dress in honor of the occasion.

Jason left that Saturday to head to Maine for 2 weeks, and my solo parenting gig commenced. That happened to fall during the first day of school, Sunday School promotion, and Poppy’s birthday. We made sure to celebrate big – I did a Back to School decorated table and dinner, and of course there were lots of pictures taken to be shared with Daddy.

The t-ball league that Sullivan participated in requires parent involvement – you basically stand with your child and coach them. This was quite challenging as I also had Poppy, so Cooper stepped in and helped me coach Sully {middle}.

AUGUST, CONTINUED

Poppy loved Trolls, so I used that theme to decorate the table. As you can see, she was THRILLED with her Trolls costume.

While Jason was gone, he was also participating in Chief Season, which is a 6 week period where you go through trials and training of a sort to be accepted by the Chief’s mess. At the end of the season, if you are accepted, you are pinned Chief Petty Officer. Jason came home mid-August and immediately stepped back into work (during the day) and his Chief duties and training (nights and weekends) so we really only saw him in passing. He basically only slept at the house. It was tough, but very much worth it.

Another top moment of 2017: Jason and Cooper were baptized! {Middle right} is Poppy blowing dandelions at the baptismal luncheon, where they explain to the kids what will happen during their baptism and let them put their feet in the baptismal pool (which is outdoors, and is fed by a creek on church property). {Top middle and right} Jason was raised Catholic, and was baptized as an infant. When we joined our church, our church requires that if you are transferring from a different denomination you be baptized. Jason was happy to do it, and it was such an incredibly special day to be able to be baptized with Cooper.

Yet another top moment of 2017: Overcoming my anxiety to co-host a bible study at church! I led the study, Listen Love Repeat by Karen Ehman, with my Lily Moms Mentor Mom, Linda. {Bottom left} This was our first night of the study!

{Top left} Our Women’s Ministry Kickoff Dinner took place in August. We have table hostesses that decorate tables to match a theme of their choice, and the church brings in a speaker, who happened to be Karen Ehman, the author of the bible study I was leading {middle}. It was such an honor to meet her!

{Middle left} I told you August was busy! We had leadership training for Lily Moms, which is always so fun. We kick off with a dinner on Friday night and then train all day on Saturday. This was one of our ice breakers. This year I served as Social Media Facilitator and a Table Leader.

SEPTEMBER

September was less busy than August, hallelujah! Our kickoff meeting for Lily Moms was postponed because of bad weather, but we were able to enjoy a Lily Moms popsicles play date in the park {bottom right}. Jason was working crazy hours, so the kids and I amused ourselves by picking out Halloween costumes {bottom left}, attending the fall carnival at Cooper’s school {top left}, check ups for Sully and Poppy {top middle}, and cheering on on Gamecocks.

We also celebrated Sully’s 4th birthday {middle}.

Jason was finally pinned Chief Petty Officer, and we celebrated by attending the Khaki Ball {bottom middle and middle right}. This was another top moment of 2017!

Since we had to postpone our first Lily Moms meeting, we didn’t kick off until the end of September, but it was a wonderful meeting with tons of faces, old and new {top right}!

OCTOBER

The temps finally began to cool down the slightest bit in October. Jason went right from Chief season into an outage at work, so we didn’t see much of him again until the beginning of October. We celebrated his Chief achievement with a quick trip to Charleston {bottom row} where we ended up bringing home Saylor!

If you’ve followed Saylor’s story, you know we got her from a dishonest breeder, and she got sick just days after we brought her home. When I took her to the vet, she was diagnosed with giardia and parvo. It was very touch and go for a while, and I spent several days getting up every 2 hours to give her food and water by syringe, but she pulled through! My girl is a fighter and we are so happy that she’s part of our family.

We took family pictures in October {middle left} and Poppy had her first dentist appointment {middle}, which she handled wonderfully.

We attended lots of Halloween events in October – a pumpkin painting party with our Table 7 Lily Mom friends {top left}, a Halloween party at my dad’s work {top middle}, and Spiderman Sully even went to get ice cream with us one night at Dairy Queen.

OCTOBER CONTINUED

We continued our yearly tradition of visiting Steed’s Dairy {bottom right}. That same night, we attended our friend Andrew’s birthday party and the kids bobbed for apples for the first time {bottom middle}.

Other fall traditions included our Boo To You Halloween Dinner and carving pumpkins {bottom left and middle right}.

Grandma Mary visited from Illinois and we went to Boo at the Zoo {middle left}, Halloween story time {top right}, our Halloween Lily Moms meeting {top middle}, and the fall festival at our church on Halloween night {middle and top left}.

NOVEMBER

I participated in a Jesse Tree Advent ornament swap at church and had to prep 25 ornaments representing a candle/light {bottom right}. At the actual exchange {middle left} I was blown away by how creative the other ladies at my church were. Everyone really did a phenomenal job!

We had tons of fun at the fair – Cooper was old enough this year to ride some bigger rides, and Sullivan and Poppy thoroughly enjoyed the kid rides {bottom left and middle, middle right}.

Poppy developed quite a fondness for her brother’s too small crocs. She didn’t even care if they matched one another or her outfit – this girl is all “rocks” all the time {middle}.

We were invited to a friend’s birthday party and the kids got to ride horses for the first time {top right}.

We celebrated Thanksgiving with family, and the next day I started putting up Christmas {top left and middle}!

DECEMBER

December was busy! Of course it always is, but with Cooper being in school now I have to add in school commitments and parties to an otherwise packed Christmas schedule.

{Bottom left} Cooper did a presentation on Mexico and Jason and I got to attend. Here he is, giving his presentation to his dad. He was SO funny. The teacher had the rooms set up in stations and the kids had to visit each station and find a fact to add to their “passport.” Cooper spoke SO softly and kept his eyes on his paper the whole time, and kids kept saying “what? what?” I had to have a talk with him about the importance of speaking up in the right circumstances. He is LOUD at home but is so reserved in public.

Our church held a family night in December with a Narnia theme. I had no idea what to expect, but I was blown away! They had photo booths and characters, plenty of crafts, games, bounce houses, food, and even smores. Our children’s ministry has been doing a series on Narnia and its biblical parallels, so this was a great way to wrap up the series {bottom left and middle}.

We visited Santa {middle right}, attended a Christmas party at my dad’s work {bottom middle}, and Jason and I attended our Lily Moms leadership Christmas party {middle left}.

I ended up cutting Poppy’s hair once again into a short bob… she started to lose hair again and it just looks fuller when I lose some of the length {top right}.

We had our Women’s Ministry Christmas party and they always give out prizes for the most festively dressed. I was determined to win! I did some deer makeup with a red glitter nose, and I wore Poppy’s reindeer antlers in my hair and my most sparkly sequin jacket. I did win a prize! {top left and middle}

DECEMBER CONTINUED

We attended a Polar Express event at our local museum! They got to sit on the museum’s train and have a simulated train ride with a conductor. They finished the even with a visit from Santa, milk, and cookies. {bottom middle and right}.

Cooper was part of the children’s Christmas choir this year and sang with the adult choir during our Christmas musical {bottom left}.

We held our Lily Moms Christmas party and it was a blast! We had a tacky Christmas sweater theme, so naturally I wore a Christmas sweater, plaid leggings, and Mickey Mouse crocs. {middle right} What’s more tacky than crocs? Adult sized Mickey Mouse crocs.

Jason and I attended his work Christmas party. We go every year because not only do they host an incredible party, but they also give away some incredible door prizes. This year’s prizes includes Roombas, iPads, grills, and gift cards galore. Sadly, we didn’t win, but maybe next year. We did have fun in the photo booth though! {middle}

Our family Christmas get together also had an ugly Christmas sweater theme but I think most of my family forgot to participate, ha! Poppy dressed up as a gingerbread woman, and I put back on my reindeer getup minus the makeup. {middle left and top left}

We enjoyed our annual How the Grinch Stole Christmas night – I always decorate the table and do some fun food and activities – and we wrote our Christmas lists on special shrinking paper {top middle and right}.

DECEMBER CONTINUED

{Bottom middle and left} These are more pictures from our family Christmas celebration.

{Bottom left} I love little girls in sweet Christmas dresses. Poppy has worn this dress two Christmases in a row.

{Middle left and right} Another one of our traditions is to dress up in Christmas pajamas, go to eat at the Steak and Shake (yep, in Christmas pajamas!), and then drive around drinking hot chocolate and looking at Christmas lights. This year I found matching pajamas for the whole family, and to my surprise Jason was completely on board for Operation Christmas Jammies. We had an absolutely blast and I love sharing this sweet tradition with my kids.

We managed to fit in a few more annual Christmas activities – Lights at the Zoo {top left and middle} and Lights of the South {top middle and right}. Checking out Jason and Poppy in the Cinderella carriage. Daddy will always be your first prince, Poppy Grace!

DECEMBER CONTINUED

We finally made it to Christmas! We attended church that morning, and then headed home for quick naps before returning to church for the Christmas Eve service {bottom right and middle}. My parents spend the night at our house on Christmas Eve, so we returned home to eat dinner, decorate cookies for Santa, and help Santa put together some gifts {bottom left and middle right}.

Christmas Day is always so wonderful when it is experienced through the eyes of a child. The kids had tons of time to enjoy their gifts before my brother’s family arrived in the afternoon. We spent the evening opening presents, eating dinner, and playing Minute to Win It games.

I have no pictures for the time between Christmas and New Years – we laid low and hung out at the house. We took lots of naps, watched movies, played games, and in general just enjoyed our time off school and work! On New Year’s Eve we picked up groceries before returning home to eat our traditional cheese and fruit plate. Jason set off a few fireworks and we talked about our goals for the year. We were all in bed and asleep well before midnight!

If you made it to the end, thanks for sticking around! It was an amazing 2017 and I can’t wait to see what 2018 brings.

Recent Faves

Hello friends!

Wow, it has been a long time since I’ve posted. The holiday season seemed to swoop in and take me under – I feel as if I have no idea what day or month it is. Cooper has been out of school for three weeks and has returned today. Hurrah! Actually, I’m really going to miss him, but I’m hoping him heading back to school will the push I need to get back into a routine. I still have Christmas up, and we’ve been wearing daytime pajamas and nighttime pajamas for weeks. Can I get an amen?!

I thought I’d ease my way back into blogging with a light, fluffy post – just some Tickled Peach Recent Faves! These items were all purchased with my own money, and I love them so much I want to share them.

My mom gifted me a limited edition Breast Cancer Awareness pink Yeti rambler tumbler for Christmas. Jason and I both have stainless Yeti cups, but they were purchased before Yeti added the cool sliding closure top on the lid (I know, small things excite me). I usually use the Bubba brand (from Wal-Mart) of silicone straws in my Yeti cup because I can squeeze it through my Yeti lid. I was down to one Bubba straw and knew I needed more.

A couple of months ago, one of our Lily Moms meetings had a Favorite Things theme, and my friend Virginia brought a set of stainless steel straws to give away as her favorite thing. I remembered her saying how neat they were because they made what you were drinking extra icy and cool. When I was searching Amazon for silicone straws, I found this set that includes 6 silicone straws and 2 stainless steel straws, plus the cleaning brushes for both.

If you know me, you know I am an ice girl – I like my drinks super cold with lots of ice. I know it sounds ridiculous but the stainless steel straw keeps your drink super cold as the liquid travels to your mouth. (If that sounds weird, forgive me. I’m trying to avoid using a word that could bring perverts to my website.) I do have to say the one drawback is the sound it makes hitting against your stainless steel cup, particularly if you don’t have on the lid – it’s like nails on a chalkboard. I also love the silicone straws, too!

Click the picture below to purchase!

If you are like me, you are on an organization kick. I wanted to share two products I have purchased to help me get ready quicker and more efficiently in the mornings!

I have an antique desk in our bedroom that I use as a vanity. It’s beautiful and the drawers hold a ton of makeup, but the lighting in our bedroom is less than ideal. I’ve tried lamps, brighter bulbs in our fixtures, natural light, and even a lighted makeup mirror and I just haven’t been able to find the right lighting to do my makeup at my vanity. I’ve been using it mainly for storage and putting my makeup on in our bathroom. This involved carting my makeup back and forth each day, and what would usually happen is that I would leave it on the counter, only to be destroyed by a child or to migrate into my husband’s meager portion of the bathroom counter. Jason would not be amused.

I had seen these beautiful acrylic cubes used to store makeup on Instagram and YouTube – but I just couldn’t get behind the insane price tag. I purchased a few smaller acrylic drawer systems from Muji, but the drawers were too shallow to hold anything other than lipsticks or glosses. I finally found an acrylic storage tube that really meets all my wants/needs and I purchased in back in March.

It is glorious.

The drawers are deep enough to hold foundation bottles, powders, palettes – there is nothing I haven’t been able to fit into this baby. It’s easy to clean – I just use Windex and a paper towel. I’ve moved most of my makeup into this storage case, with the exception of palettes I don’t use everyday or items that I don’t use regularly but don’t necessarily want to get rid of.

I know that it is a little on the pricey side, but it is heavy-duty acrylic and I can see myself using it for years.

I purchased a smaller version for my mom for Christmas – that’s how much I love the organization and convenience of having all your makeup at your fingertips and in view. My mom just remodeled her bathroom and her jumbled makeup drawers make me twitch whenever I visit. Hers is more budget friendly, although it is smaller. This one also has the black drawer liners.

I also got this rotating, adjustable height acrylic makeup storage for my mom for Christmas and then decided to buy one for myself. I wanted to use it for my skin and hair products, moisturizer, makeup brushes, etc. I haven’t put mine together yet but I’ll let you know what I think when I do!

Last thing – my favorite calendar has long been the Erin Condren Life Planner. I’ve owned an Erin Condren since 2011. I’ve tried other brands such as the Mom Agenda, Day Designer, and the Simplified Planner, but I keep coming back to the Erin Condren Life Planner. I own and use a horizontal, colorful life planner.

I like to map out my month using the monthly calendar, and then I can go into the horizontal, weekly view to add reminders and to do lists. I’ve tried both the vertical and the hourly versions and they just didn’t work as well for me. I love all the personalization you can do with Erin Condren, and the customer service has always been top-notch to me!

When Erin Condren did their Black Friday sale and offered 40% off, I ordered a monthly calendar notebook and I think I’ve fallen in love.

The Deluxe Monthly Planner is a planner and notebook in one. It has the regular monthly calendar utilized in the Life Planners, but instead of a weekly view, it has productivity pages and note pages. I purchased this to use as my blog calendar, but if I really like it, I might use it in place of a Life Planner next year. I find myself using the monthly pages in my planner a lot, but instead of really diving into my weekly pages I will just scratch out daily to do lists on notepads. This might actually end up being more my speed. I’ll keep you posted on this as well!

If you’ve never purchased a Life Planner, please use my referral link – you will receive $10 off your first purchase!

Be sure to check in with me on Instagram today – I’ll be sharing little snaps of each of these products in more detail on my Instastories. You can find me on Instagram at @andrearhouse.

This post contains affiliate links, which means I may make a small percentage if you click the link or make a purchase. Thank you for your support of Tickled Peach.

What I Learned From Breastfeeding: Lessons from a Former Formula Feeding Mom

2 years, 2 months, and 31 days. That’s how long I breastfed my daughter.

I’ve known this day was coming. Once she turned 2, I knew that my time breastfeeding was likely coming to a close. For the past year, breastfeeding had become less about nutrition and more about a comfort. From 12 months to 24 months, she went from breastfeeding 4-6 times a day to primarily breastfeeding at night or when she was upset or anxious during the day. Since she turned 2, she has only been interested in breastfeeding before bed, and in the past month she has chosen to read books before bed rather than nurse. This week, after we went 5 days in a row without nursing, I knew she had made the decision for me: she was done.

And it’s hard. It’s so much harder than I thought it would be. If you would have asked me about this day when she was a newborn, when I had cracked nipples and she was cluster feeding, I would have said that I looked forward to this day with reckless abandon.

But I’m not happy. I’m sad.

I’m sad because it’s over. It’s the end of a era that signifies a great many things to me: that my baby is growing up. She’s a toddler now and not a baby. That she no longer really relies on me to meet her every need. That the special time that we had, each and every night before bed, a time when she would sit still and allow me to hold her and rock her, is over. And it means that I’m done with breastfeeding. Forever. I’m done with babies. I will never get this precious experience back again, and it’s one I never knew I would miss.

3 years ago I would have told you that breastfeeding was awful. It was painful, and inconvenient, and potentially embarrassing. I would have said that extended breastfeeding was weird and gross, and that if a baby was old enough to ask for milk, he or she was old enough to be weaned.

Today I know just how wrong and judgmental I was.

I wasn’t able to breastfeed my boys. For each of their first years, they were fed with formula. I did attempt to nurse both of them, but I wasn’t successful. With Cooper, I didn’t produce enough milk (or so I thought). I let his endless cries convince me that he wasn’t getting enough nutrition from me and I needed to supplement. Supplementing quickly turned into fully formula feeding. With my second child, I experienced two bouts of mastitis in the first 6 weeks, and after the second I gave up and switched to formula.

I went into my third pregnancy wanting to try to breastfeed, but I have to confess that in the back of my mind I had this thought that if it didn’t work out, I could always switch to formula. I did WANT it to work out. I knew this was my last pregnancy and my last chance to breastfeed. There was also the financial benefit of breastfeeding. But in the back of my mind I always knew there was a Plan B.

But it did work out. I went into breastfeeding thinking to myself “OK, Andrea, just make it to 6 weeks.” Breastfeeding was hard and painful and terrible and I just kept telling myself “6 weeks! You can do 6 weeks!” 6 weeks came and went and then I said “OK, Andrea, make it to 3 months.” 3 months came and at that point it was natural and easy and I said “we can do this for one year!” One year came and my husband said “when are you going to stop nursing?” All of a sudden, numbers and dates just didn’t matter to me anymore. She wanted to nurse and I was happy to have the ability to provide nutrition and comfort for her. I said that I would stop when I felt like stopping. She began to eat full meals. She began to drink cow’s milk. And still we nursed on demand, primarily when she was upset during the day and always at night before bed.

I’ve had people say to me “you aren’t still nursing, are you?” and I always say “Yes! I sure am.” Because somewhere on this journey I realized how beautiful and special breastfeeding truly is, how much of a privilege it is to be able to provide for my child in that way, and I had no desire to stop before she was ready. I told myself I would let her set the pace, and I have.

Until this past week. Our breastfeeding journey has drawn to a close, and I want to share what I learned with you.

What I Learned From Breastfeeding: Lessons from a Former Formula Feeding Mom

#1. Fed is best. Seriously. I truly, 100% do not care how you fed your child. You are a great breastfeeding mom. You are a great formula feeding mom. You are a great mom, period. You meet your child’s needs either way. Motherhood is hard – we certainly don’t need judgment on how we choose to feed our children.

#2. A lactation consultant is your best friend. Your hospital should have one on staff. Get to know her, and call her often. Ask her to come and watch you nurse. Follow up with her after you leave the hospital. I 100% credit my success with breastfeeding, after 2 babies where I was not successful, to my hospital’s lactation consultant. She taught me the proper latch. She reassured me my baby was getting enough milk at each feeding. She was so incredibly helpful to me that I confess I had fantasies of her becoming my breast friend best friend. Sigh. It wasn’t to be. Apparently that is stalking. Whatever. She’s on Facebook.

#3. Try not to supplement. Listen – I’m all about your making your own choices about how you feed your child. I’ve done formula – I’ve supplemented! There is not one single thing wrong with however you choose to feed your child. However, if you truly want to breastfeed, I would advise you to be cautious about supplementing. It’s a slippery slope. It makes it easy to give up and just fully switch to formula. (I say that because I did that!) Your pediatrician will often tell you to supplement if he/she thinks your baby isn’t gaining enough weight. THIS is when you talk to a lactation consultant! My LC had me come in and weighed my daughter prior to the feed, allowed me to nurse, weighed her again – the subtracted weight will tell you exactly how much milk your child is receiving from a feeding. That visit right there is what assured me that I did not need to supplement and it also reassured my pediatrician, who was supportive of my decision to continue to breastfeed and allow her to gain weight at her own pace.

#4. Find a pediatrician who is supportive of breastfeeding. I’m so lucky to have found our pediatrician, who is supportive of all of our parenting decisions, even when they aren’t always what he would choose or recommend. I had military doctors with my boys who insisted that I formula feed because I was starving my child and he wasn’t gaining the weight he needed as quickly as he needed to gain. Our current pediatrician did suggest supplementing when my daughter did not return to her birth weight in the recommended amount of time, but when I explained my desire to continue to breastfeed he was supportive – even if he did make me come in weekly to weight until she was where she needed to be weight wise.

#5. There are times when it will be difficult and painful and you WILL want to quit. Push past that. The first 8 weeks of nursing were terrible. I couldn’t figure out her latch. My nipples were cracked and would bleed as I fed her. It all seemed very hard and difficult and I was TIRED and I really just wanted to quit. A friend told me — give it 6-8 weeks. You will reach this magical point where something clicks and it becomes natural and easy. I held on, and she was so right – around week 8 my daughter just magically caught on and it stopped being painful and difficult. I figured out the perfect hold. I perfected my nursing uniform. It became like second nature, and suddenly it was less of a “grit your teeth and bare it” nursing session and more of a “this is a sweet and special bonding experience” nursing session.

#6. You’ll probably have an embarrassing nursing moment at some point. The primary thing I worried about, as a new nursing mother, was exposing myself as I nursed in public. I have large breasts, and the juggling of the baby and nursing bra and cover was always an ordeal. I eventually got the point where I would nurse her in the car, because I could just pull my breast out and not really worry about someone seeing me or offending someone. One night we were scheduled to have dinner with my extended family at Outback. My family arrived early, so that I could feed my daughter in the car before we went into the restaurant. I pulled my breast out, as I always did, and began to nurse, not worrying about who might see me because the two cars alongside us were parked and unoccupied. At some point, the car next to me must have left, and I looked up to see my brother had pulled up in the parking space beside me and was looking in the car to see why we were just sitting there. We never talk about that day. Ha!

#7. Tank tops will be your best friend. My friend Dana taught me this trick – as a well endowed woman, for modesty I would always layer a tank top beneath whatever shirt I was wearing. I could pull my shirt up, my tank top down, and my stomach would be covered without worrying about using a nursing cover (which I always found more of a pain that a help).

#8. You may not need a pump. My cousin gave me her breast pump, and I could have received a new pump through my insurance, but I wound up never really using it. I figured out early on that I just didn’t have the energy to pump and breastfeed. A lot of people do – a lot of moms need to pump so they can return to work or have time away from their child. I think, once again, either way is fine. I am a stay at home mom, and I learned quickly how to juggle errands and date nights so that I could nurse her and do what I needed to do before I returned home. I know some moms DO need to pump, and others prefer to pump to establish a supply just in case – again, you should do what works for your family. Just don’t feel like you HAVE to pump as a breastfeeding mom.

#9. Breastfeeding babies can still bond with dad. This is one argument I hear a lot in support of bottle feeding. I completely understand that some dads want to have the opportunity to feed their children. That would be a good case for pumping and using bottles. But the bond between dad and baby will not suffer because of the time that moms spends nursing. Your child will develop their own bond and special time with their father in their own way.

#10. Breastfeeding truly is a special, wondrous, beautiful experience. There is this sense of empowerment that comes from knowing that I was able to supply my child’s nutrition from my own body. I have a sense of pride knowing that I was able to do something I had previously been unsuccessful with. I will never take for granted all the special time spent nursing my daughter – and it is truly bittersweet that the time has ended.

Once again, moms, FED IS BEST. I support you no matter how you choose to feed your child. I hope you support me as well!

Crockpot Buffalo Chicken Pasta

I’m going to apologize in advance for this terrible picture below. It is one I snapped quickly for Instagram, and I meant to take a more stylish picture for the blog, but it slipped my mind. Oh well. I will win no Pinterest awards. I am working on improving my food photography though!

I really love buffalo anything, so Buffalo Chicken Pasta is right up my alley. I love that you can make this in the crockpot, and it is truly a quick and easy meal! The buffalo flavor of this pasta is super mild, so even my children gobbled this up. Mom tip: use rotini or bow tie noodles – I find that they are easier for my children to pick up with a fork, and it ultimately makes less of a mess than spaghetti or fettuccine noodles.

Crockpot Buffalo Chicken Pasta

Ingredients:

  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 box chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup Frank’s wing sauce
  • 8 oz cream cheese, cut into chunks
  • 2 cups extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 envelope ranch dressing mix
  • Noodles of your choice, 1 pound

Directions:

  • Pour the chicken broth into the crockpot. Whisk in the ranch dressing mix and buffalo sauce. Place the three chicken breasts on the bottom of the crockpot. Cook on low for 4 hours or until it easily shreds.
  • Shred the chicken. Add in the cream cheese and let it melt. This usually takes about 30 minutes.
  • While the cream cheese is melting, cook your noodles until al dente.
  • Drain off the water and add noodles to the crockpot. Stir so that everything is well combined.
  • I let this sit for 20 minutes or so on low. The starch from the noodles will thicken the sauce.
  • Serve and enjoy!

Cast Your Net, Part 2

For the past two weeks, I’ve been doing endless research on cameras. YouTube, articles, websites, purchase reviews – you name it, I’ve read or watched it. I’ve looked at comparison charts. I’ve created my own Excel spreadsheets. Honestly, at this point I just want to twirl around in a circle and buy whatever my finger points to, because my head aches and it all looks the same at this point.

I want to be able to create quality video tutorials. It’s something I’m passionate about, and it’s something I’ve dabbled in with good reception on Instagram. When I had this idea of re-launching Tickled Peach, it was always with the hope that eventually I would also launch a YouTube channel and offer makeup tutorials on the blog and on YouTube. I don’t have an expectation of being a star, but I think I have a voice, and an audience, and I want to share what I know.

But it’s become clear that my iPhone 6s will not cut it. I don’t even have the newest and fanciest model! Ha! I knew eventually I would need to get better quality equipment, and so lately I’ve been researching what some YouTubers use and what is recommended for creating quality blog photographs and video tutorials.

And the list is endless. And expensive. $3000 DSLR cameras. Ring lights, umbrella lights, reflectors. Microphones. Editing software. Backdrops. Sets. Last night as I watched yet another video titled “Equipment Every YouTuber Needs!” I started to feel discouraged. I don’t have the budget to buy everything on these lists. Even if I did, I certainly don’t know how to use what I would buy. It started to seem silly. Pointless. And I wondered if maybe I should just give up.

See, this is one of my character flaws. In my head, I shouldn’t do something if I don’t have every single thing I need to do it. I will have a goal, but I set roadblocks for myself in the form of lack of knowledge, lack of ability, lack of financial means.

I’d really love to learn how to embroider children’s clothes! But those machines are expensive, and I don’t know how to use them. I don’t even know how to sew!

I should start exercising! But I don’t have any workout clothes, and I don’t have a gym membership, and I don’t even have an tennis shoes.

I want to go back to school and finish my Master’s degree. But we don’t have the money, and I don’t have the time, and who would watch the kids while I went to school?

Jason will tell you that if it were up to me, we probably would not have children. We were married for 6 years before I got pregnant with Cooper. We had talked about the timing of starting a family, but there was always something I thought we needed. We needed to have a certain amount of money in the bank. We needed to live in a house and not an apartment. We needed to be closer to family so we would have help if we needed. We needed to wait until we were ___ years old. Jason is the one who finally had enough of my “we will do it when” and that’s how we had Cooper. And Sullivan. Sweet Poppy was a surprise, so I guess even God knew I would have found a reason we should have waited to have her.

You know what? I’m so incredibly thankful that my husband did insist. Because those three babies are the very best thing that have ever happened to me.

I originally launched Tickled Peach in 2014. I took a break in 2015 that turned into a 2 year hiatus from the blog. “Blogging is dead!” I told myself. No one would read my blog. What would I talk about? I didn’t have time. Why bother?

But the idea just wouldn’t go away. In the summer of 2015, I did a bible study, The Best Yes, by Lysa TerKeurst. I still to this day say that bible study was one of the most transforming studies I’ve ever done. In the book, she talks about how we make time for things that are really important to us. She says that sometimes when we have goals or dreams, we have to be very intentional about creating time to accomplish those things. She shared about writing her first book, and how she would carve out these little pockets in her day to work, because it mattered to her. It was her Best Yes.

As I read that book, I felt God saying “your blog is your Best Yes.”

I ignored it. Because it seemed crazy! Did God know that blogging was dead? I don’t think he got the memo that Google Reader died and a lot of blogs went with it.

That voice continued. I told you HERE about how, during a study of the book of John, the story of the disciples casting their net just blew me away. A very simple act of faith led to a huge blessing from God. They did what they were asked to do, and they were blessed for doing it.

And still I ignored that voice. I acknowledged it, sure. If you follow me on Instagram you may remember me sharing my reaction to that study, and how I felt like God was calling me to blog. That was back in April.

In June, our pastor was out of town, and our friend Ray preached the sermon one Sunday morning. Again, he referenced the disciples casting their net. “Go!” he said. “When God put something in front of you, DO IT.” After that sermon, my friend Wendy even texted me and said “hey – remember you talked about casting your net?” At that point I began to accept that this was something I could do and wanted to do. I set a goal of launching on September 1st.

And there I went, creating roadblocks in my own way. I didn’t have the right blog design. I don’t understand how to use Pinterest to promote my blog. What is SEO? How does one use affiliate links? Do I use ads? I began to make a list of all the things I needed and quickly became overwhelmed.

That’s when Satan steps in, friends. He senses your discouragement. He feels your fear. He knows you do not feel equipped. And he will magnify those feelings until you just want to give up. Because that’s what he wants! Satan wants you to walk away from that net God is telling you to cast.

It took my husband finally saying “Go! You’ll never have enough knowledge. You’ll never know every single thing you need to know. You will learn as you go, and that’s OK.” for me to actually take the leap and re-launch the blog.

Here’s the truth: there will always be a million reasons why not. You will never feel perfectly ready. You will never have a perfect body, or the exact right amount of money in the bank, or live in the perfect house, or have every bit of knowledge that you need to know. That just isn’t how life works. But I can tell you one thing – God tells you why. Even better, he tells you how.

Cast your net, he says. Jump. Go. Do.

Tickled Peach was a big leap of faith for me. I had a million reasons why I shouldn’t do this. I had one reason why I should: because God told me to. I want to have the faith of Peter, John, and the other disciples who heard some stranger on a beach say “Cast your net!” and just throw my net off the side of the boat. I want to go forth, boldly, trusting in his provision and equipment. Because he will give me every single thing I need. Maybe I don’t have every single bit of knowledge or equipment, but I have a voice. I have an audience. The rest will come at some point. I’ve got to stop being so scared of the “what ifs” and “but I needs” that I never even step foot onto the boat.

I don’t know how many of you are in the same boat right now. Maybe there is this lingering goal, or dream, or calling in the back of your mind that you are telling yourself that there is no way you can do.

Maybe you want to go back to work after staying at home.

Maybe you want to go back to school and get a degree.

Maybe you want to start a business.

Maybe you want to have a baby.

Find your why, friends. Listen to that calling. Step into that boat. Cast that net. Believe, just as I have, that if you are called to do it, you will be equipped to do it. God can see infinitely more than we ever could about our future. Trust and believe that if he has put something on your heart, there is a reason. You never know where it can lead.

Cast your net. Throw it with abandon. Know that He is the one who called you, and He will be with you every step of the way.

25 Days of Christmas for your Husband

So Jason and I don’t really do Christmas gifts for one another. It’s just what we have found works for us. We don’t really have a hard and fast rule on this… typically we may buy each other one small gift, or we skip gifts entirely. We just buy what we want and need throughout the year, and we choose to put the focus on our kids at Christmas time.

However, I always like to do something special for him. I’ve done a few creative advent type countdown ideas over the years, and I thought I would share what I put together for him last year in case this is something you’d like to attempt this holiday season!

The basic idea is that we had an advent style countdown, and he got one gift or activity per day. It would be so easy to customize this to fit any budget, and you could honestly make this completely free by using things you have on hand, free community events, baking treats, doing chores he dreads, etc.

Here’s what I included:

  1. I re-started the Sirius XM subscription in his car. It had lapsed, and it was one of those things he said we didn’t really need to worry about, but he did enjoy listening to a certain station every morning on the way to work. The note on the back of the countdown led him to turn on his car radio, where he discovered I had renewed his service. // This first gift is for your ears, listen well and news you’ll hear.
  2. Build a fort in the living room and watch a Christmas movie. I had popcorn and candy on hand for snacks. // Let’s cozy up this Christmas night. Popcorn, candy, blankets tight.
  3. I gave him a $10 iTunes card to buy some new music or games. // New tunes are what you need to hear. Use this card and get some cheer.
  4. Movie – you could buy a DVD or just rent a movie on Amazon. // This movie was once a favorite sight. Sit down tonight and watch it with some tasty bites. 
  5. Bubble bath – my husband rarely takes bath, but on this night I set up a bath with candles and fancy bubble bath. // Bubbles, salts, lotion oh my. A bubble bath ends your day on a high.
  6. Scavenger hunt – I set up a scavenger hunt throughout the house for him to do with the kids. Each stop had a piece of candy. // Our elves have set up a little hunt. Go find you some candy. Don’t eat it for lunch!
  7. Conversation starters, which we talked about while we enjoyed a glass of wine. // Grab a glass and pour you some wine. Let’s have a chat and a really good time.
  8. On this day, I sent him one text each hour, with things I loved about him. // Today you’ll hear from me, once every hour.
  9. Snack box – I filled a large box with all his favorite snacks and had it ready to go to work with him. // These are a few of your favorite things.
  10. $10 Starbucks card for a coffee date // Let’s use this card to go on a date. Some coffee and chatter; please don’t be late.
  11. We were planning on going to the zoo to walk and see Christmas lights, so this day was gloves and a hat. // You’ll need these to stay warm tonight!
  12. This day was a coupon to make his favorite meal. // Bring your appetite!
  13. Smore night! I had graham crackers, marshmallows, and tons of different chocolates. // Gooey and ooey and delicious and warm. Let’s make a fire and have us some smores!
  14. He needed a warmer jacket, so that was delivered this day. // The high of today is 45. This gift will keep you warm inside.
  15. I made hot chocolate and we drove around and looked at Christmas lights. // An annual tradition we just can’t miss. Let’s make some cocoa and look at some lights!
  16. New PJ pants and a Christmas shirt – we had a movie date after the kids went to bed. // Cuddle, cuddle, toil, no trouble – meet me at 8 for movies and snacks.
  17. Breakfast in bed // Get back in bed. No work for you! You breakfast, dear sir, is coming soon.
  18. Game night // After work you are due some fun. Let’s play board games hun!
  19. CD // Check your passenger side seat for today’s surprise.
  20. New dress socks // These are part of your daily uniform. They aren’t very sexy but they sure are warm!
  21. I made his favorite cookies. // This is a coupon for your favorite treat. Text me your preference and they will be waiting when you get home!
  22. Santa underwear // I think y’all can probably just make your own version of what this clue would be. LOL.
  23. I had the kids use index cards to make him a coupon book. // The kids have been working, working hard. These coupons are meant to do all your jobs.
  24. An ornament for the Christmas tree // Look on the tree and a new ornament you’ll see.
  25. His Christmas stocking, which was filled with some of his favorite candy, snacks, and a Yeti cup

I never once claimed to be good at rhymes. Ha!

I began planning this out in early November. I looked at our calendar and planned gifts or activities around things we already had scheduled. For activities, I just made sure we had what we needed on hand (for example, if I was making homemade hot chocolate, I put the ingredients on the grocery list for that week). I went ahead and ordered any presents/gifts. For the gifts, I made a notations on the card itself that it was a present, and the present was kept under the Christmas tree in our room.

For the actual physical countdown, I saw these card stock Christmas trees at Hobby Lobby. They came in packs of 10, I believe, so I picked up a few. The day numbers were written on the front with a metallic Sharpie, and on the back I typed up the clues, printed them on computer paper, and glued them on. I used twine which I anchored to the wall with push pins, and clipped the stockings and trees on with mini clothespins. I ended up putting this in our bathroom, over our bathtub, because that was the place our kids were least likely to mess with it. Ha!

Jason really loved this – he said it made him feel special and gave him something to look forward to each day.

Here are a few other ideas you could include:

  • Community activities: tree lighting ceremonies, church musicals, the Nutcracker performance, etc. Facebook is a great resource for community events!
  • Do some chores that your husband doesn’t like to do or doesn’t always have time to do: clean the garage, get his oil changed, detail his car, organize your filing system, go buy presents for his staff or family, etc.
  • Make some of his favorite things: cookies, meal, cake, snack food, etc.
  • Give him time to do something he loves, uninterrupted. Take the kids somewhere while he watches football. Let him go hunting and don’t complain about how long he is gone. Send him to the bookstore with instructions to buy a new book.
  • Talk to his mom and find out what some of their family favorites and traditions were. Recreate them! Did they get new pajamas each Christmas? Did they have a night of stringing popcorn for the tree?
  • Go old school. Play his favorite card game or board game.

I’ve also done this before, but for a shorter duration. I’ve done the 12 Days of Christmas, and just do 12 gifts or 12 activities.

Please let me know if you decide to do this! I’d love to compare notes!

Dupe Alert? Maybelline Master Precise Liquid Liner VS Kat Von D Tattoo Liquid Liner

I’ve got another Dupe Alert for you today! Today two liquid eyeliners are battling it out to see which is best: Maybelline Master Precise Liquid Liner VS Kat Von D Tattoo Liquid Liner. Let’s dive right in!

First up, let’s chat about the Kat Von D Tattoo Liquid Liner. The Tattoo eyeliner is well known in the beauty world for being one of the best, truly waterproof liquid liners on the market. Does it stand up to the claims?

Before I started using the Kat Von D liner, I was using Lorac Front of the Line Pro. I loved everything about Front of the Line Pro – it applies so easily, the tip is flexible but stiff, and it is so easy to make cat eye lines with this liner. But my main complaint was that the line faded throughout the day. It would start off black but fade to grey by the end of the day. Also, if my eyes watered, the line would gradually disappear at the corners of my eyes. I had always just dealt with the drawbacks, but one day I watched an Instastory of my friend Tricia (the makeup artist). She was raving about Kat Von D Tattoo Liquid Eyeliner, so I decided to pick one up about a year and a half ago. I’ve repurchased twice since then.

Before I review, let me first state that I have extremely oily eyelids. I use a primer each day before I apply my eyeshadow, but naturally my lids are just oily. I also have allergies and wear contacts, so my eyes water and I rub them a lot. In addition, I have hooded eyelids, so it’s pretty common for me to experience eyeliner transfer to my crease.

Buy It Here

I’ve been really happy with the Kat Von D Liquid Eyeliner. The felt tip is very stiff, which is both a good and bad thing. I prefer the tip of the Front of the Line Pro, because I think a little flexibility is good when creating a cat eye. But the positive about the stiff tip of the Tattoo liner is that you can create very crisp lines. It is truly 100% waterproof. It lasts all day. It doesn’t transfer to my crease or smudge once it is set. The other thing I truly love about this liner is that is a carbon black – and it stays that black all day long.

One negative is that it can tend to feather as you apply – meaning, as you trace the liner onto your lid, if you don’t hold the liner a very specific way, the line blurs slightly.

Pros:

  • It really is waterproof.
  • The color doesn’t fade throughout the day.
  • The felt tip makes it easy to draw crisp lines.
  • The color does not smudge or transfer once it fully dries.

Cons:

  • You can experience feathering as you draw your line.
  • The felt tip is very stiff – which in my opinion can sometimes make it difficult to apply.
  • At $20, it is more expensive than the Maybelline version.
  • It is only available at Sephora and online retailers.

Amazon / Ulta

Next up we have the Maybelline Master Precise Liquid Eyeliner. I really, really, really want to love this product. I DO love this product. I just love it knowing it isn’t perfect.

First up, the price: it is $5.49 on Amazon and $8.49 at Ulta. It’s a fourth of the price of the Kat Von D liner! This makes it much more appealing to me.

Application: I actually really prefer the tip of the Maybelline liner over the Kat Von D liner. It is felt tip, but the tip is longer. The base is stiff, but the tip is more flexible, meaning it’s just easier to get in and create those angles and curves. It comes out very wet, but it dries quickly. I find myself having to create a “surprise” face when I’m using this liner so that it can dry without transferring of smudging. The best part: the black is truly black. It doesn’t fade throughout the day.

HOWEVER, [crying emoji] it transfers.

I feel like I’ve tried this every which way to Sunday. The first time I wore it, I did not wear eye primer. Hmm, I thought, maybe that’s why it transferred. The next time I wore it, I set the liner with a bit of black eyeshadow. Nope, still smudged. In the picture you see above, I’m wearing eye primer, and still experienced transfer to the crease.

With that said, it isn’t like the smudging or transfer is impossible to work with. I know I sound wishy washy, but if you just need an affordable, easy to use liquid eyeliner this is for you. You will likely have to clean up some smudges, so make sure you stash a q-tip in your purse. They are easy to clean up with your fingertip or some light blending. But be prepared – it will happen.

Pros:

  • Affordable: using a coupon or store sale, you can likely score this for around $5.
  • It’s widely available online and in stores such as Walmart, Ulta, Target, and drugstores.
  • The color is very black, and it does not fade throughout the day.
  • I really enjoy the packaging! It’s nice and sleek. It doesn’t look cheap at all.
  • Has a stiff yet flexible tip that allows you to create crisp lines and angles

Cons:

  • It smudges.
  • It isn’t waterproof. Crying or watery eyes will cause the line to run or disappear.
  • It transfers to your crease throughout the day.
  • This is a tiny thing: when you shake the Kat Von D eyeliner, it makes noise. The Maybelline does not. I find something about the clacking sound of the Tattoo liner to be so reassuring!

Final verdict: although there are many things I DO love about the Maybelline Master Precise Liquid Eyeliner, I do not love that it requires tending throughout the day. With the Kat Von D, I can apply in the morning and know it will still look the same when I take it off 12 hours later. For that reason, I recommend purchasing the Kat Von D Tattoo Liner over the Maybelline Master Precise Liquid Liner.