Friday, November 20, 2015

3rd annual ornament swap

I am SO excited!! GUESS WHAT?!! It's time for our annual Ornament Swap!! The thing I love about this exchange is that people get super creative and put together some incredibly swag-tastic packages. Think outside of the ornament box...put together a movie theme: Elf ornament, Elf movie, Candy Canes, striped elf socks...White Christmas: snowglobe ornament, movie, white chocolate, knit scarf.

The key to an awesome gift exchange is to RESEARCH UP on your recipient! Get to know their likes and dislikes! Stalk their instagram, Pinterest, FB ----> whatever!!

BE SURE if you join in, you abide by the deadline and SEND YOUR GIFTS!! It is no fun when you sign up, you send a gift and then you never receive one. Boo hiss. Don't be a cotton headed ninny muggins.

When you sign up, please update your profile. Tell the peeps what you dig yo. Write down your social media links...have FUN!!

I will link peeps up on the 27th of November. MAIL NO LATER THAN December 5th. <----- NO LATER! Got that?!! Please mark on the Elfster when your package has been mailed! Now who is excited?!! We will have a U.S. and Canada exchange!

For U.S. you will wanna click HERE!!

My Canadian friends...please click HERE!!

NOW...what are you waiting for?! Clickity click right up there ^ and be sure you help spread the word so we have a super rad Ornament swap. I LUUUUURVE to get crafty! I am debating if I will make mine or if I will go to Pier One (seriously Pier One and Crate & Barrel have the cutest ornaments of all times!) Don't forget to tell your fave colors and decor style in your Elfster profile!

May your stockings be stuffed and your tree!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas - Hallmark style

Confession. I love Hallmark.

Like, when I say love...I mean "Hallmark holiday card" love! My husband makes fun of me because I can spend HOURS in a Hallmark store. AND whenever I am in charge of the remote, you can bet your biscuits I have Hallmark channel ON! SO...when I got asked to blog for them...I about cried! The lovefest has even been genetically passed down to my daughters! If they had to choose Ice cream or a trip to the Hallmark store...yep...they would choose Hallmark! My friends will even nod their heads in agreeance...I need a shirt that says "Hallmarks #1 fan"!

I love that Hallmark has something for literally everyone! My aunt {who is more like a big sister...I seriously love her to bits. She is one of my most favorite people on this entire planet!} LOVES all things Mickey and Minnie...I can find the cutest gifts for her there! IN FACT she is coming for Christmas and my girls are overly giddy to share their new lunchbox kit that came with cookie cutters, recipes and more! Today they pretended they were baking cakes and I let them mix flour, water and food coloring in a would have thought they won the golden ticket to the chocolate factory!

We found holiday goodness galore while shopping! From stocking stuffers (Itty bitties are ALL the rage right now! I show them in the video!) to Peppermint Bark <---- my dad and I already devoured this!

Christmas is my to Valentines. And Easter. And any other holiday that I can go ga ga over! I know the turkey hasn't been served yet, but there is something magical about twinkling lights, cups of hot cocoa and finding the most incredible ornament that floods memories to the forefront of your mind.

I am dreaming of baking.

Wrapping presents and delicious baked goods with sweet details and spending time with my family. 

I have a fun little contest for you! Go HERE tell me what 3 things YOU love and I will be giving away a fun Christmas surprise for 1 lucky winner! You have until November 24th to enter. Winner must be at least 18 and also a U.S. resident!
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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Empowering young girls...

As a mom of four kids, I am constantly feeling as though I am being led into uncharted territory. Is this safe for them? Will they eat this? Are they getting enough vitamins and fresh air? Will they be teased? Do they feel good about themselves, or is there a bubble available for purchase through Amazon Prime?

My oldest going to be 9. We are entering an area where she is finding herself. New found confidence and even areas where she is lacking in confidence. She is learning self discipline. She is deciding how she wants to do her hair. We have had to talk about showering daily vs. every other day. Deodorant has joined her bathroom as well as training bras. She is watching me and seeking out advice from the confidence she finds in me. It is my job to give her the tools to empower herself and make her confidence soar.

Enter Willa.

My dear friend contacted me as her daughter is a consultant for the company. She didn't contact me as a "hey would you buy some products from my kid?" instead it was a "could you take a look at this site and give me some insight?"

I logged in.

My eyes lit up. I told her...the website in itself made me happy to look at. I love the look, the feel and now I wanted to get my hands on some of the products. This is where Christy enters the picture.

Christy is the founder of Willa. Her story started when she was 29. Shortly after she had her daughter Willa, she was diagnosed with skin cancer. When Christy was younger, she did everything she could to make her skin more "healthy". This included a regimen of baby oil, sunshine and good ol' fashioned cookie sheets. If a pimple reared its ugly head, she knew it was time to tan. Her confidence vanished when she would sit in class with hands over her cheeks to cover the blemishes and red pimples. She knew she didn't want this life for Willa, her now 15 year old daughter. Willa came to Christy asking how to take care of her skin. She knew what she liked and knew what she didn't like and so the story begins.

Willa was created as a way to empower and bring confidence. The products are created and designed to let your true assets shine through (minus the shine!).

What is it that sets Willa apart from other brands out there? Well, for one. MOST brands are not formulated to meet the needs of younger girls and can be harmful and damaging to the skin. I am so impressed with the fact that they have enlisted the help of Bruce Akers, who is a well respected green chemist and has been formulating natural products for the last 15 years. AS well as Matin Maulawizada, a health and beauty expert who has worked with celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Beyonce, Claire Danes and the amazing Angelina Jolie! Since adding this duo into the mix they have launched NEW products and have more in store for us...Christy told me some that are in the works. BUT I don't want to be the one that spills the secret. SO my lips are sealed! {Speaking of lips, I cannot get enough of the Skinny Mini lip shimmer...I am ADDICTED!} Let's just say I will be stalking the website {or waiting for Christy to call me personally!} for the new launch!

Why do I care?

Well, as a mom of 3 of which is already showing signs of preteens I want to give my girls the tools that can benefit them for the long run. Em is starting to deal with small pimples. She is noticing dry patches on her skin. It is my job to teach her how to take care of herself and in turn when she becomes a mom, she will be able to do the same. Wanna know a secret? I have been personally using the products as well and am a huge fan! One of my favorites is the Balancing Act, which is a misting toner that you can spritz on any time of the day for an extra boost. The smell is AH-MAY-ZING and the look and feel of the bottle makes you feel like you just spent gobs on it, when in all reality the prices were so ridonkulously bananas!

Emily Grace happily walks you through her skin washing regimen! I love this kid!

Home from soccer and covered in mud, she felt fresh and so clean clean after using Start Fresh foaming face wash. She takes it in the shower with her everyday and washes her face both morning and night!

Spritz with the Balancing Act toner. Then...

She follows it up with some moisturizer that comes in a liquid form! I think that is what she likes best about it! Face Friendly is CLEAR! So no endless smoothing. It goes on with a quick and easy application!

I personally like to follow up the Balancing Act with step 3 of the Acne line called Zero Shine which is an oil-free mattifying lotion!

So why am I telling you all of this? Well, because I want to get the word out! Willa is a NEW company! They originally launched at J Crew, Target and a few other stores but decided why not help others make money while promoting a product they love! They pulled out of the retail world and dove into the DS market on a mission to help others. Willa became official in April and has big dreams and aspirations to give young women financial opportunities! You can learn more about that opportunity HERE!

Wanna hear something rad? Christy is giving 1 lucky winner ALL of the products I mentioned above! YEP! You will get: Start Fresh, Balancing Act, Face Friendly, Zero Shine and my all time fave lip shimmer Skinny Mini! Valued at over $90...

Giveaway ends November 12th. Enter below!

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Friday, October 23, 2015

So you remember that one time...

So you remember that one time, when I had a hysterectomy?! Yea. That sucked! I mean, just keeping it real! Today marks 1 year. A whole year of over the top emotions. I have days that I am like "I DID IT! I am FREE!" and other days where I just want to curl up in a ball and cry. As the one year mark approached I am grateful. Eternally thankful for the chance at living again. Yes, you heard that right. I never realized how much pain I was in. How miserable I truly was. I no longer have to stock up monthly *until the girls get older!* I don't have sporadic mood changes and I look at the world around me with fresh new perspective.

Perspective. Gosh is that a mouthful or what?

My heart aches. The emotions are raw and the scars are still prevalent inside and out. The pain shifted from physical to emotional. I struggle as I watch my 2 1/2 year old hit new milestones, knowing I will never see these milestones again. There is pain in knowing I will never have late night snuggle sessions with a sweet smelling, soft skinned newborn. No skin to skin. No more nursing. I fight back tears when family announces pregnancies. SO excited for them, but mourning my own loss. Um, it was just a damn uterus. It was tired, it was run ragged and it was wonky. It HAD to go. I am grateful I no longer have to deal with all THAT...but it was also an ending to an era.

I am shifting my thoughts to the joys that come from growing children and away from no longer bringing home a squishy faced baby. We were able to go to Disneyland. We will be able to take more trips and create new experiences. I will get to watch my kids ride horses this Summer. We are planning on moving to a new house and I am excited about what comes with age. Watching my daughter earn the spirit stick for cheering at the game. Seeing my son kick another ball into the goal. Watching the joy of sisters as they form a bond that can never be replaced.

My tummy is flat now. I lost 4 pant sizes since my surgery. I can see my hip bones again! I thought they were long gone. My scars are healing nicely but are a constant reminder. A reminder of new seasons. Fresh found strength. I have phantom pains. As if my body from time to time relives what the hurt was like. I forget sometimes that I am now barren.

Weird word.
Weird truth.

I was literally dying inside and I had no idea. I am so lucky to have 4 healthy kids and have only lost 4 unborn babes. What I never knew is my odds were against me living with adenomyosis. I thought I was unhealthy and overweight and it was my fault...really it was because of that pie shaped uterus. It was holding onto everything. Weighing me down. Bursting from the inside. Creating so much hurt and so much pain.

I know that the pain in my heart from the yearning and the ache will pass with time. A friend told me it's OK to mourn. Unlike her hysto which she fought for 3 years to get, mine was taken from me without me even being able to wrap my mind around it. Like all things, this pain will pass. I am strong and I will get through this. The month of October has been hard. I realized the other day I don't remember much from last year at this time. It is like my October of last year was erased. Zip, zilch, nada. Not this year, darn it I will remember all of it!

Would I recommend a hysterectomy to others? I get asked this a lot.
It depends. Do you need one? I wouldn't recommend it unless you actually need it. Sure it is convenient to never see Aunt Flo again. But you still need an annual (hopeful these will decrease as well!) and really my tummy will never look the same again. The scars are small, but there are lots of them.

Am I glad I did it?
Well, I didn't have any other options! I am sad, but glad. I get to see my children grow. I get to be their mom. All of this was almost taken from me. Had it not been for steadfast hands I wouldn't be here to say that.

How can I help a friend going through this?
BE present. Be open to listen. Validate their feelings. Bring donuts and coffee and show them you are thinking of them. I know for me, had it not been for friends I would have been lost.

Some hysto recoveries are easy. Others, are not. Please remember this is major surgery. If you are preparing for a hysto, finish projects before! This way they are not "staring you in the face" as you recover! Let others help. This is super hard for me! I am one that "can do it myself". Let others bring meals. Be open and honest to friends. Let others in. <---- meaning let them hear your heart. LISTEN TO THE DOCTORS when they tell you to lay low and recover. If you do too much too fast, you can pop internal stitches and more. You can set yourself back weeks or even months! BE smart! Be present and find God in the quiet moments.

I am learning to jump back in the saddle. I have a new vision. I am retraining my thoughts, my goals. Currently we are trying to convince my husband we need a puppy! Oooh or another kitten! Call me crazy but I love me some bebe's!! Adoption could be in our future. Or maybe not. I just don't know, but I am learning to be content in the now. I try to hide my pain. Most days I do a fantastic job, but then there are other days where I just can't. And God is teaching me that this is OK too.

Thank you for being so supportive in the last year. Your messages have meant the world to me. For now I look to my blessings, as these 4 bring me the greatest joy in life.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Hey good lookin' whatcha got cookin? Chicken Casserole

This time of year we are always on the search for something fast and easy. With sports 5 out of 7 days of the week our time is limited, but our bellies cannot wait! We are all about eating dinner as a family. Let's face it...easy recipes are hard to come by!

This is a tried and true recipe I made up back in college! Bertolli® Riserva has given it a homemade taste. I grew up on TRUE Italian food. Family dinners were filled with laugher, jokes, stories and food as far as the eye could see. I really don't know how they did it!

The thing I love about Bertolli® it has been 150 years since Francesco Bertolli began selling olive oil in the small town of Lucca, Italy! Family history is the best! Although, they are not apart of MY a way they are! We have been using Bertolli® for as long as I can remember. In celebration of 150 years, for each photo shared via social media using #MyTuscanTable throughout October, Bertolli® will make a $1 donation to help end childhood hunger in America through a partnership with No Kid Hungry. With each dollar, No Kid Hungry will provide 10 healthy meals to kids in need, up to a half a million meals. No Kid Hungry is ending childhood hunger in America by ensuring kids have the healthy food they need, every day. The Bertolli® brand is proud to lend its passion for uniting people over food to help connect kids struggling with hunger to the nutritious meals they need to grow and thrive.

Here is how I feed my family...

1 box penne rigate pasta
1 jar Bertolli® Riserva Pasta Sauce
Swiss Cheese
1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs

Using my grill pan (a regular skillet will work too!) I cook 1 1/2 pounds of boneless skinless chicken thighs on medium heat. Flavored with crazy mixed up salt, pepper, garlic seasoning salt. I love using chicken thighs as they are juicer and hold more flavor than chicken breast.

Now comes the hard part...deciding which flavor sauce to use! I am a sucker for the jars! Aren't they pretty! When chicken is cooked through, no pink. Dice in pan using your spatula. Turn to low and pour in 1 jar of Bertolli® Riserva sauce. I do not drain the chicken, I let all the juices simmer together into the sauce.

While the sauce is simmering cook your penne rigate noodles till al dente. <---- cooked just right! Preheat oven to 350.

Drain noodles and pour into a large mixing bowl. Pour chicken/sauce mixture over top and combine.

I love the rich color and taste! Yes, I may taste test just a bit! Every great chef does, right?!

Pour into a baking dish and top with layers of swiss cheese. YES, swiss! Just trust me! Stick in oven. Bake 15-20 minutes or until cheese is melted completely.

OH the cheesy, yummy ooey gooeyness. Seriously. SO good! I serve with salad and carbs ---> I mean french bread! As you can see from the picture, I never get the bread to the plate before "taste testing" it's edibility!

Want to find some more easy recipes?! Just go HERE and pin to your hearts content...for real yo! You are going to be hungry just perusing!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Captive: book review & giveaway

Ever feel utterly captivated by a book? Like you are so mesmerized you literally cannot put it down? This is how Captive {the untold story of the Atlanta hostage hero} was for me. Imagine my delight when I found out there is a movie made by Paramount about it as well!

I think the thing that got me the most was how completely different the character in the book is from most people's reality. From her husband, her daughter, her habits, lifestyle and then to on top of it be taken captive in her own home. But she then spiritually leads her capturer into turning himself in to the authorities. A man that killed multiple people and had also threatened to do so to her as well.

The book had me engaged the entire time. It was very well written and it painted a great picture that I could visually see in my head as well. I love that in the center of the book it shows actual pictures of Ashley Smith as well as Brian Nichols {the man that took her hostage for 7 hours}

Ashley was in the depths of despair. She was looking for a way out of her horrible habits and was trying desperately to create a life for herself so she could then in return make a life for her daughter as well. It is amazing to me how God works within each one of us. He knew she needed this very moment to "snap out of it". To take her life into her own hands and to come clean. Nothing had worked before this moment. It was like a switch had been flipped within her. What happened over the course of 7 hours was miraculous. And to think a book many of us have read {The Purpose Driven Life} gave her the tools she needed. God prevailed.

Wanna hear something awesome? One of you get to win the book! Trust me when I say, you won't be able to put it down! It is SO good!! Here is what you need to do:

* Enter using the Rafflecopter
* Open to U.S. & Canada residents only
* Must be at least 18 years of age to win
* Winner will be drawn on the 20th

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"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Easy as Pie!

Ever just have a day. Not like an average day...but like a "I just need to cram chocolate into my face super fast" sorta day? Well, that was this day for me!

From the moment I woke up my day was NOT playing in my favor! But you know what did? I made up a recipe and have dubbed it my "Get in my belly" fast pie! Yep, start to finish this bad boy took about 20 minutes to make! And then an hour to "set up"! NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE put me up to a challenge! Recently they did a hackathon. You can click HERE to see some super incredible recipes that are tasty AND easy!!, who DOESN'T like easy?? The challenge was to use NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE products and come up with a tasty little treat. I brainstormed ideas with my big. Her request...that it be lactose free so she could partake! Here is the Speed Scratch recipe we came up with!

We first picked a cookie. Our pick was Chocolate Chip Lovers...the more chocolate the better! Let stand 10 minutes before starting to let the dough get a bit softer.

Using a rolling pin, we flattened out the cookie dough and pressed it together to make 1 large cookie. 

When lifting the dough, find something flat or else it will fall apart in your hands!

Once rolled out we pressed into an ungreased pie plate. Forming it around like a pie crust. Preheat your oven to 350 and bake for 15-18 minutes.

When golden brown, using a paring knife cut a few slits in the dough to release some steam. This will help the dough to sink down and become more flat. 

I then squished the dough down along the center to create a crevice for the filling to go inside. Anything with a smooth flat bottom would work great! For me I found a measuring cup!

Since the big requested lactose free, we made dark chocolate pudding to go inside for our filling. Pour directly inside the "crust" and then let stand in fridge for an hour.

Of course no pie is complete without a whipped dairy free topping and Dark Chocolate Morsels on top! It was DELIGHTFUL!!! Creamy, crunchy and sweet!

How's about a little giveaway?! I am giving away a $10 gift card for PayPal or Amazon to 1 lucky winner on Instagram! Go HERE to learn how you can enter and win! It's super easy!
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