Prepping For Black Friday?

It’s only October, but if you’re anything like me, the next couple of months are going to fly by! I love the holiday season. From October through December we have plans almost every weekend. This is the time of year we spend the most time with friends and family. So even though it’s only October, I’ve started thinking about Christmas shopping. Because Thanksgiving will be here before you know it. And the day after that is Black Friday – the day the stores pop into the black because we are shopping our little hearts out! For me, Black Friday has become a holiday all it’s own. And I’ll tell you why.

Black Friday is the best day that I’ve found to get the best deals and prices on so many of the items that I purchase for Christmas. But there’s more to it for me than just that. Years ago on the night of Thanksgiving, my brother would bring out the store ads from the newspaper. We would sit and read through them, circling the items we wanted. And he would be making a game plan for early shopping the next day! He is the type of person to stay up all night or get up at the crack of dawn for those deals. He’ll stand in line until the store opens and shop all day. I am the opposite. I tend to wait until the flurry has died down a bit before venturing out in the afternoon. I’m more interested in the overall sales than the big ticket item deals typically.

Now, however, there’s a more modern approach if you don’t want to purchase the ads in the paper, or if you do, but find that they are sold out everywhere. This has happened to us in the past. I have partnered with a website this year for this particular blog to bring you the best place to search for the best deals this Black Friday! Slick Deals offers an incredibly easy way to prepare and shop Black Friday deals. You can see their website here: https://slickdeals.net/blackfriday/

Slick Deals has done the work for you. As information on Black Friday comes out, you’ll be able to find it on their site. They have compiled all of the information you are going to be looking for this Black Friday. They provide information from the store hours themselves to the deals you’ll find there, as well as coupons and coupon codes. Not only that, but they provide advice on how to shop smart so that you can spend your money wisely and get the best deals out there. It is likely to be your best friend this shopping season!

This year, you can get a head start on your holiday shopping with Slick Deals. It’s the best website I’ve found for information on the best deals for Black Friday, and it’s easy to navigate and find the information you’re looking for. It’s a great tool for planning and budgeting, as well as creating your Black Friday shopping strategy! I find it incredibly helpful for finding all of the information I need in order to enjoy my shopping experience on Black Friday.

For me, Black Friday is a fun and exciting day. It is the kick-off to the Christmas season. I don’t just love the deals though. I love the people. I have had wonderful experiences out shopping on Black Friday. I enjoy talking to and laughing with the strangers I am standing in line with. I love the hustle and bustle of the people. I love the togetherness, the holiday music and decorations, and the excitement that comes from finding the perfect gifts for my loved ones.

This year, keep Slick Deals in mind as you prep for your Black Friday shopping. You can access the site here https://slickdeals.net/blackfriday/ – or save it or bookmark it for easy access, because if you’re anything like me, the Autumn season will fly by and Thanksgiving will be here before you know it!

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FabFitFun is Cheaper Than Ever!

If you’ve ever thought about trying FabFitFun, now is the time! For a limited time you can receive the Fall 2019 box at 50% off!!! Use my link https://prf.hn/click/camref:1011l7UyZ
(this is a personal affiliate code) and the code FALL50 now, before the promotion ends in a few days!

The Fall 2019 box is my favorite box of the year, and some of the customizable items are still available!

FabFitFun is a quarterly subscription box service. They deliver a box to your home once every 3 months, for Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer. The also have Editor Boxes. Those boxes are available if you join in between the seasonal boxes. The are comprised of the favorite items of, you guessed it, the Editors. Members are able to purchase these boxes in addition to the seasonal boxes if they wish. However, you aren’t required to.

Fabfitfun has a wide range of items in their boxes. You can get jewelry, wraps, scarves, socks, makeup, haircare, skincare, tech items, fitness items, and so much more. Every box I’ve received has been worth over $300. (Each box costs $49). Some of the items are a surprise, but some you are able to choose. If you are a select annual member (meaning you pay for the year upfront) you will get to choose more of what is in your box. You also get priority shipping. Contrary to what people think, this is NOT more expensive than paying quarterly. As a matter of fact, it’s a little cheaper as when my bill comes it’s $180, which means that each of my boxes are $45.

FabFitFun also has an Add-On sale at the beginning of each season, where they offer products at up to 70% off of their retail value. They also have Edit Sales that do the same thing. Again, you aren’t required to purchase anything at the sales, they are just available to you if you want to shop them.

I love FabFitFun’s boxes, of course, and I’ve found so many of my new favorite products this way. However, there’s a lot more to it than just the boxes. FFF has a community page on their website where members can go to talk. They talk about FFF, of course, but they also use the community to find support, talk about problems, trade items, and make friends. The discussions are so wonderful, and it makes me so happy to see strangers coming together the way they do in the community. There’s even a group who does a Christmas in July gift exchange. There’s so much to be found there, and it’s completely free when you join FabFitFun.

In addition, FabFitFun has a TON of workout videos available to its members, again, completely free with your membership. They also send out newsletters with helpful tips, healthy recipes, and fun information.

I actually love FabFitFun so much that I became an affiliate. We say #fabfitfunpartner. Which just means that I have a link to use to sign up (and I do earn a small commission on sales). I’ll post it below if you are interested in joining. I’ve taken several pictures of the actual boxes I’ve received as well, so I’ll post those here too. If you have any questions, feel free to ask, as I’m happy to help!

FabFitFun is more than a subscription box service to me. It’s inspired me to live a more happy and healthy life. It’s motivated me to connect with people all over, and it’s helped me find some incredible products that I’d probably never found otherwise.

Get yours here and receive 50% off your first box using the code FALL50  https://prf.hn/click/camref:1011l7UyZ
(This is my personal referral link.)

My Fall 2019 FabFitFun box!

Start A Book Club

Last year some of my best friends, women I’ve been friends with for over 20 years, and I started a book club. We all love to read, but as women who are married, working, and/or raising children, we found that we were not reading as much as we used to. Or we wanted to read but didn’t like taking chances on something we wouldn’t like. Years ago we had a book club. It had a few different people in it and It was short lived as we became busier with life, but we got to talking about it at my daughter’s first birthday party and decided to revive it.

Our book club works like this: We each take turns choosing a book, and that person also purchases copies of the book for everyone. This way, we can stay within our individual budgets. We meet once a month, typically on the last weekend of the month, and whomever chose the book hosts the gathering. We also purchase a gift for everyone that is either on theme for the book or the season, or has something to do with reading. For example, a Christmas ornament in December. Doing it this way allows us to choose any book we want a couple of times a year, and we don’t have to worry about the cost because we are choosing the books we purchase. We can decide on an expensive book, or a cheap one. This also introduces us to all types of different books that we might not normally have chosen ourselves.

And while reading is the central reason for a book club, it’s not exactly the real reason that we started it. We started it because we found that we weren’t spending much time together. Our book club meets once a month, every month. If, for some reason, we aren’t able to make it occasionally, that’s alright. If we didn’t have time to finish the book that month, that’s ok too. Because while we do want to read and encourage one another to read, the book club isn’t about books. It’s about self care.

Women are notorious for putting everything in the world above and before themselves. When we are sick, we still take care of our family. When things need to get done, we put completing those projects ahead of our own needs. We are nurturers, problem-solvers, and we are, if nothing else, dedicated. And I can tell you right now, our mental health takes a back seat almost every time. And it happens before you know it. Having this book club puts reading, something I adore, at the forefront of my thoughts. And so at night, instead of being on my phone before bed and researching things or checking my email, or getting caught up in some Twitter drama, I read a book. It’s far more relaxing, and I feel accomplished as well. I also just love getting lost in a story.

But beyond that, beyond reading or the books themselves, the point is that we make time for each other. We make it a priority. In this way, we remember how important it is to take care of ourselves, and that then remains in the forefront of our thoughts throughout the month. For example, about a month ago my life got pretty hectic. My son started school, both the boys started soccer, and our tenants who lived in our rental home vacated without warning, leaving a mess in their wake. During that time I did what I always do and put my focus on what needed to be done. I stopped working out (a venture I had begun only two weeks before), I stopped reading, and I almost skipped book club. But instead, I remembered that book club is the priority. And so, instead of spending a few more hours cleaning our rental property, I stepped out of the madness and spent time with my best friends. Making that the priority reminds me to make myself a priority.

Our book club is more than just a book club, and that’s what makes it special. I encourage you to start one with the people in your life who you love but don’t seem to make time to see. We started our club a little over a year ago, and in that time we’ve spent more time together as a group than we have in many, many years. And in doing so, we are not only making time for each other, but we are taking time for ourselves. We get one night a month to be together, take a break, eat great food, laugh, tell stories, vent our frustrations, share our dreams, and relax. And sometimes, we even take the time to actually discuss the book.

Here are our picks so far, if you’d like to know what we are reading. Note the incredible variety in the novels we’ve chosen. I’ve enjoyed them all and would recommend them as well!

Pumpkin Season Is Upon Us!

Fall is my favorite season. I am definitely one of those girls for sure. I do try my hardest not to decorate until at least mid-September though. And once it’s time, I am ready for all of it! I want pumpkins and cornstalks on my porch. And of course, lots and lots of mums. I want to wear cozy scarves, drink apple cider, cuddle by a bonfire, and bake apple crisps. I want to attend hayrides, travel through cornmazes, pick apples, and of course, picking out our pumpkins!

This year we happened to stumble upon the sweetest little market on our way home from my niece’s wedding. The sign by the side of the road read “Pumpkins, $2” – and that was something we couldn’t believe! No pumpkin I’ve seen costs less than five dollars. My husband, ever the thrifty one, immediately pulled in. He expected teeny pumpkins for two dollars, but what we received instead was a fun little stop, fresh produce, HUGE pumpkins that were – indeed – only two dollars apiece, and the nicest people you can imagine.

The place is called Kiels, in Swanton, Ohio, and if you’re in the area, it’s absolutely worth a visit. I’ll link the website for you here! https://www.keilsgreenhouse.com/

My children had a blast running around and looking at all of the pumpkins. I’m not exaggerating when I say that they had more pumpkins, and a larger variety, than I have ever seen. Here’s a peek.

My kids really enjoyed choosing their pumpkins, and seeing all of the different sizes, shapes, colors and varieties of gourds. They also loved seeing all of the fresh produce there. Kiels not only had the pumpkins and produce, but huge, beautiful mums. It made me wish I hadn’t already purchased and planted mine! They had cornstalks as well. I would have bought some of those too, but our van was already filled with us, our luggage, and was soon to be overflowing with pumpkins as well!

The produce was wonderful. We ended up purchasing some apples as well as some corn on the cob and some zucchini. We will be having the corn on the cob today with dinner, and I’m planning on making zucchini bread this afternoon! Here’s a look at their produce.

They even had the cutest little setup where you could take photos! Of course I had to have all of my kids pose. They loved it. Well, except for my oldest who was on the phone, but hey, I’ll take what I can get. He smiled, so I’m happy!

We honestly spent quite a bit of time there because we were having so much fun. I loved seeing the beautiful displays they had set up. They were obviously so talented at creating them. And the quality of the pumpkins and produce was impeccable. I was impressed. But the real treat was the price. We got 12 ears of corn, 5 zucchini, 6 HUGE pumpkins, 3 apples and 5 little pumpkins for $23. Honestly, how is that even possible? We couldn’t believe it! And the women there were so fun and sweet. They even threw in this free spider decoration for the kids to use when Halloween decorating arrives! In all, it was a beautiful afternoon and the perfect start to my favorite season!

(Cook) Book Review: Reese Witherspoon’s ‘Whiskey In A Teacup’

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I received Whiskey In A Teacup in a subscription box, but if I hadn’t, I’d have bought it anyway. I’ve been a big fan of Reese’s since the 90’s when I first saw her in the movies Fear and Freeway. I’ve also loved her in Cruel Intentions, Sweet Home Alabama, Walk The Line, Legally Blonde, Election, and several others. So when I heard she had a book coming out, I was ready to snatch it up.

The book is full of Reese’s ideas, thoughts, insights and traditions. It’s a nice, sweet, light read. It’s easy to just keep going once you start. I laughed at a couple of parts, and teared up at others, as nostalgia seems to make me emotional these days. Her stories made me think of my stories and memories of my childhood and my grandmothers. It was very enjoyable and fun to read.Even as a northern girl, I just love those southern girls and their traditions. I like to think I’m part southern girl, since my Grandpa Gerard hails from New Orleans.

Along with the text, this book contains beautiful pictures of Reese and members of her family. It also has fun little music playlist suggestions and an index for all of her recipes. There’s even a Metric conversion chart in the back, which is very helpful. The pictures of her food are also gorgeous, and the entire book is truly lovely to look at.

Now on my favorite part of reviewing books – the cooking. Reese fills her book with many recipes – some from her grandmother’s kitchen, some from her own, and some from other family members and friends. Out of the 48 recipes included, for everything ranging from drinks to main dishes to desserts to side dishes, I’ve tried several and liked them enough to try more in the future. But for now, I’ll share my thoughts on what I’ve made so far.

Dorothea's Corn Salad

Dorothea’s Corn Salad

This is probably my favorite of what I made. It’s DELICIOUS and really, really easy. My oldest son and I ate this until it was gone. It will definitely become a staple dish for us in the future!

Pop Pie

Reese’s Chicken Pot Pie Casserole

This is a tasty little dish. I, for one, however, prefer a mushy pot pie. Using fresh veggies makes it crisp, and that’s not my style. And I think we added too much onion when I made it. So I will try this one again in the future using canned veggies and less onion. It’s worth a redo!

Veggie Plate in a Jar

Veggie Plate in a Jar

This one is a favorite. It’s delicious and so good for you. Reese’s recipe for her dressing is delish. I love the idea of putting the food in these jars, however, eating out of them is super irritating. And since you put the food in in layers, it’s hard to get different items in one bite. I’ll make this veggie dish in the future, but I’m just going to put it all in one big bowl!

Pecan Chicken Tenders

Pecan Crusted Chicken Tenders

This crust was amazing. And putting the chicken on a stick is super fun for kids. I actually got my super picky 5-year-old son to eat this chicken, and he loved it. I will definitely be making this again!

cake

Applesauce Cake

I have to admit, I was most excited about this one, and it was a disappointment. I think the main issue for us was the icing. It wasn’t a flavor we loved and it hardened up so much that it was almost a separate item from the cake itself. If I made it again, I think I’d try a simple vanilla glaze instead. However, I didn’t love it enough that I’ll make it again I don’t think.

Sweet Potato Casserole with Candied Pecan Crust (shown full and plated)

This one is delicious, but not worth the effort. I’ll make it again in the future, but instead of purchasing fresh sweet potatoes and peeling and cooking and mashing them, I’m going to buy Bruce’s Canned Yams. It will remove most of the work, and I’m pretty sure it’ll still be just as yummy!

Chili Cornbread

Reese’s Corn Bread Chili Pie

This one we loved. I would say that it was my husband’s favorite recipe out of all of the ones we tried. It was a favorite for me as well because it was just so simple and delicious. This one will become a staple for us, hands down.

asparagus

Asparagus with Mock Hollandaise Sauce

This was good, but I couldn’t follow the recipe 100% and had to substitute the cayenne pepper and the mayo (with Miracle Whip) which I’ve learned, when you’re cooking, they aren’t the same. So I liked it enough to try it again the right way and see if we like it a little bit better.

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Frozen Fruit Salad

This is probably my favorite recipe in the book. It’s so good! And again, I can’t get over my love of these little jars! The only issue I had here was the pineapple. When frozen, it makes this a bit of a bear to eat, and the flavor just didn’t fit for me. In the future when I make this again, I think I’ll leave the pinapple out and perhaps just substitute with more banana.

In all, I’m loving the recipes in Reese’s book. They were not all winners for us, but I like them enough that I am excited to try more. And as I said, the book itself is so lovely to look at and fun to cook from, it will most certainly be a staple in my kitchen from now on.

 

Kindness

I had to see one of my doctors today and I told him that I wanted to thank him because I referred a friend to him and she told me that he was the first doctor to actually listen to her and what a difference it made to her. And when I said that he put his hand on his heart and listened to the story and when I was done he said, “Oh my God, thank you. You know, sometimes things are hard, in any job, and you think, “Why am I doing this?” But hearing that and knowing I made a difference to someone, that gives me what I need to keep going.” And then he hugged me.

And this is a DOCTOR people. Whom we assume has the best job, right? I’m just sharing this to remind you that you can 100% make all the difference for someone, anyone, even a stranger, and you have that opportunity every single day.

I stumbled upon a Twitter feed as well today, where writer Nicole Cliffe asked the question, “What is the kindest thing a stranger has done or said to you?” The responses had me sobbing in minutes. I added 3 stories myself, but feel free to read the responses here:

Stories like this restore our faith in humanity, am I right? Whenever the horror in the “news” gets to me, I remind myself of one simple, clear and unavoidable truth. People, for the most part, are good. When I feel like the world is a big bad place, I remind myself that for every unspeakably awful thing we hear about, for every person we feel has done horrifying things, there are 100 people – hell, maybe 1,000 – who are not that way. Who will help. Who will show kindness, or compassion, or a smile.

sunset hands love woman
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi

The Kindness Factory helps me to remember this as well. If you’ve never heard of it, The Kindness Factory is looking to log a million acts of kindness. You can go there to log your acts, or log acts that have happened to you, or – if you’re like me – go there to read the acts that others have logged, in case you need some help smiling today. Check it out here.

http://kindnessfactory.com/

Remember these things when you are losing hope in the world. Remember that it literally takes one single act of kindness to change someone’s day, someone’s week, someone’s life. And the most incredible thing about that is that every single one of us already has the power to make that change happen, every day, multiple times a day, just by being kind. How incredible is that?

For the Love of Copper

For awhile now, I have been obsessed with copper. Anything copper, or rose gold, immediately gets my attention. When we first saw our house, I immediately fell in love with the home. There were many reasons to love it. But one of the major reasons was the ceiling in the kitchen. The woman who lived here before us, rest her soul, put that ceiling in and we are told that she adored it. It was the one thing we didn’t change when we renovated the kitchen. At the time I thought it was awesome, but I didn’t have my copper obsession back then. Imagine how exciting it is for me now that I do! We named it after her, and whenever people see it for the first time and marvel at it, we say, “Yes, that’s Holly’s ceiling.”

As it turns out, I’ve fallen for a very expensive metal. This is not a surprise – for reference, please see my earlier blog!

https://berkanalynx.com/2017/09/02/champagne-taste-and-a-beer-budget/

All of the things I fall for tend to be the most expensive. I tease my husband that he must have the same problem, because he fell for me – HAHA! But seriously, I have to find ways to get this stuff for far less than its typical retail value. For example, I recently became obsessed with these mugs. Everywhere I find them they are at LEAST $10 each – typically more. And I can’t stand having one or two of something. What if we are having a get-together? I typically want everything in a set of 12. But for things like this, I’ll settle for a set of 8. Recently, I’ve cut that back to 6. So we’re talking $60 for 6 cups. Not going to happen. But my patience paid off, and over the weekend I found them in a Tuesday Morning for $4.99 each. I had to pick through because several had defects – but I manage to scrape together 6 perfect mugs, and got them for $30! I have to seriously restrain myself from going back for 2 more so that I have my 8 – my self-control is at an all-time high!

To curb my spending I set budgets and limits. When I see something I love, I’ll think to myself – what am I willing to pay for that? If I then look and the price is higher, I don’t buy it. When it comes to great sales on beauty and home products, I set a budget prior to the sale. Then I do not buy items that I don’t actually need. This is oftentimes hard to do because sometimes the deals are AMAZING. But I make my rules, and I stick to them.

When it comes to copper, I’ve made another rule to curb my spending. That rule is: Kitchen Only. I do not allow myself to buy copper items for any other room in my house. This way, I breeze right past a LOT of beautiful copper things, because they wouldn’t belong in my kitchen.

As I’ve said before, I find incredible deals on high-quality items at TJ Maxx, Home Goods, Marshalls, Tuesday Morning, Burlington Coat Factory, and Amazon. And for beauty, skin and home items that are super good deals, I try to stick to the sales in FabFitFun. Here’s a link to my blog if you want to know more about that:

https://berkanalynx.com/2018/08/10/why-i-love-fabfitfun-so-damn-much/

My rules for spending sometimes mean that I pass up things that I genuinely love and desperately want – but they are not things that I need. I’m not perfect, and I bend my rules from time to time. But I really, really try not to. And sometimes those things that I refuse to purchase because of their high sticker price manage to find their way to me through a very generous, handsome, loving man who happens to pay attention to the things that I love. My husband.

The Grove Collaborative

For years now I’ve seen these brands on store shelves and didn’t get why someone would pay for cleaning supplies what they were marked. I was using my usual cleaning supplies. The stuff I’d just always used, either because it was what I had become accustomed to, or because it was the most affordable at the time.

Then I saw an article on The Grove Collaborative and, wanting to know more, I checked out the website. I was honestly moved. Their dedication to the environment is something that inspired me. And the prices on their site were far cheaper than what I was seeing in the store. I had an offer for a free set of supplies, so I decided to give it a try and placed my first order. (If you want to see it before reading the rest of this, here is my referral link. If you use it you will get the 5 free items that I also received when I placed my first order, and I will receive a discount. Please note, however, that all opinions are my own, and I have paid for all of the items I have ordered from them at full price, with no sponsorship from TGC. This review, like all of my reviews, is 100% my honest opinion.)

Get your 5-piece set for FREE here:

https://www.grove.co/referrer/31644675/

Some of these items have become my new ride-or-dies, and some of them I will pass on. I’ll tell you why below. But to start, here is a picture of my first order, including the items I received for free:

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Whomever had packaged my order hand-wrote a little message on the order slip inside the box. It said, “Megan, you’re beautiful. Never let anyone tell you differently.” I was surprised that they were allowed to do things like that. It was lovely. Not all of my shipments have contained a little note like that. My last one did, it said, “Thank You” – you can see it in my video at the end of this blog.

Anyway, I went on to try the items and, as I stated, love some, didn’t love others. Before I break it down, let me explain TGC to you. They are a company very focused on lowering their carbon footprint, and helping us to lower ours as well. Here’s the exact wording on their website:

“Doing no harm

As a Certified B Corporation, we are recognized as a business doing good for people, animals, communities, and the planet.

Treating the planet with care

We offer products that are gentler on the earth, prioritize post-consumer materials for packaging, and carbon offset every shipment that goes out our door.

Planting tomorrow’s forest

A portion of every Grove shipment goes to the Arbor Day Foundation to plant trees across the United States. We’re aiming to plant one million new trees over the next three years.” – The Grove Collaborative Website

So how does it work? Technically, you become a member of TGC. That worried me at first, but it’s actually really flexible. To be a VIP it costs $20 per year. That’s it. You can order what you want, when you want. Right now I have mine set up to send me things every 2 months. They put suggestions in my cart and I just go in and take out what I don’t want and add in what I do. You get free shipping on your orders with your membership as well. They also send you free stuff with your orders. In my last order they sent me a full-sized GC hand lotion. In the one before that, they sent me a great lip balm. In addition, if you order a certain amount in your order, they will send a free gift (which you can opt out of if you don’t want it – but why? IT’S FREE! LOL)

All of that is fun and great but it’s not why I switched. Ultimately, I switched because I have 3 children aged 5, 3 and 1 – and I am scared to have toxic, caustic chemicals in the house. I like this site because they make these healthier products more affordable, and I don’t have to be scared if my kids grab the window cleaner when I turn around to answer the phone. It’s plant-based and non-toxic – and a relief. Obviously you don’t want to spray it in your eyes or drink it, but it is so much safer than the stuff I’ve been using up until now. So here’s a breakdown of my first order and what I thought of each product. You can also watch my video at the end to see the order I received the other day. And again, if you want to try it and get the 5-piece set for free, here’s my referral link:

https://www.grove.co/referrer/31644675/

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The GC Cleaning Caddy. This came free and it’s adorable. It’s metal and can be used to store and/or carry your cleaning supplies. But it can also be used as a decoration. Which is probably what I’ll end up doing with it because it’s freaking adorable.

The first item here is the Meyer’s multi-surface cleaner. It comes in a ridiculous number of scents. It’s literally like 10 or more. So far I’ve purchased the Pumpkin (smells more like those candles that are supposed to smell like baking sweets – not bad, but not my jam), Basil (my favorite so far) and Iowa Pine, which I just got and haven’t smelled yet. I love this for spraying and wiping down my counters, kitchen table and chairs. I’m obsessed.

TGC Floursack Towels – These are awesome. Watch my video to see the size.

Method Glass and Surface – I have only used on glass. I bought the Mint scent and OMG I LOVE IT. It literally leaves ZERO streaks. Until now I used Windex and it was decent but I often still had some streaking or foggy areas. The Method leaves my glass so clear and is my new go-to!

Meyer’s Dish Soap – This one I won’t be reordering. I like it well enough, but it’s more expensive than Dawn, which is my old go-to, and it uses essential oils for scent. That’s nice if you like the smell, but I don’t. So this one’s a pass for me.

Method Daily Shower Spray – LOVE this. I have the Eucalyptus Mint scent but it smells like pine to me. Which I love, so that’s the scent I keep ordering lol Just a quick spray down. It says no need to rinse, but I give my shower a quick rinse anyway.

16 oz. Spray Bottle – it’s glass and it’s pretty. I haven’t actually used it yet.

Cleaning Gloves – I love these so much I’ve ordered a second pair. They are perfect for doing dishes. They are soft on the inside and don’t leave my hands smelling bad after I use them.

Meyer’s Hand Soap – (Not Shown) I don’t love this soap. It’s OK, but if I’m going to pay that much for hand soap, I’m going to TJ Maxx and getting some Pecksniff’s hand soap (my fave!)

Walnut Scrubber Sponges (set of 2) – These are good sponges, they do the job and the best part about them is they are pretty, so I don’t mind leaving them out. However, the price is just too high for me. I’ll stick with my Scotch Brites for now.

GC Hand Sanitizer Spray – LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this!! I have it in the Blood Orange, which is one of my favorite flavors, as well as smells. I’ve reordered this little guy as well.

GC Towels – Okay. These are basically my favorite thing in the kitchen. I literally have 5 of them and just put 3 more in my cart today. They are the BEST freaking towels. They are thick and absorbent and I am going to replace all of my kitchen towels with them eventually. Seriously.

Method Squirt and Mop Hard Floor Cleaner – I’ve used this on our hardwood laminate flooring with great success (ours is Pergo Outlast +) without issue. It smells amazing – I have it in the Lemon Ginger (there are 2 other scents) and I also have the Wood Floor cleaner in Almond. Not sure what the difference is between the two. Both smell good. These are the perfect little thing if you want to spot mop. However, if I’m getting down and scrubbing all of my floors (uh, not that I do that often) I wouldn’t use this. I’d dilute something else in a bucket of water. But for a small room like a bathroom or spot mopping, this is perfect.

The Grove Collaborative gives you a free trial VIP membership and they were super clear about it ending for me. I decided to re-up and pay the $20 because I did end up liking it so much. Along with cleaning supplies, they have allllll sorts of other things for pets, home, babies, personal care, etc. So feel free to check it out and, should you decide to order, use this link and get a present for yourself – and for me!

https://www.grove.co/referrer/31644675/

 

The Gifts We Give

The holiday season is a time that brings more emotion to the surface than any other time of year. Sometimes we are reminded of those we have lost. That loss weighs more heavily on us when the holidays are approaching. But it also helps us to be thankful and grateful for what we still have. And while those painful feelings might be magnified during this time of year, it’s important to remember that we have the capability to affect change, and to allow our pain and loss to shape a more promising future for others.

Years ago, when I was pregnant with Max, I worked in an office and I had decorated my desk and office for Christmas and was listening to Christmas music while I worked. A coworker, an older gentleman, stopped in and asked my why I loved Christmas so much. He wondered if it was because I like getting presents. I laughed. Of course, who doesn’t love getting presents?! But actually, no. I do love giving presents. I love the look on peoples’ faces when you give them something they love. I love the lights at Christmas, and the decorations. I love the sentiment of Christmas’ past and I love the music. I love that we gather with the people we love.

But the thing I love about Christmas is actually even more than that. The holidays are a time for reflection, and I truly believe that a miracle happens. This beautiful, incredible thing happens. We open ourselves up to possibility, and to hope, and to generosity. We become the thing that we really want to see in the world. We are more generous, we are more thoughtful, and we are giving of ourselves to others. Even people who aren’t Christians and aren’t celebrating the birth of Christ, participate in that miracle.

Helping others gives us a feeling that is hard to describe. It’s a feeling that I would say is the closest we feel to being a part of something bigger, and better than the things we know. It’s a universal connection, and when we open ourselves up in that way, when we sacrifice or help or heal, we become a part of that connection. And we feel it.

I recently read a great article online about something I could do at my children’s birthday parties. I always tell people that gifts aren’t necessary, but everyone still brings one. Our home is full of toys. And so, I took the idea from this article and applied it to my son’s birthday party and decided that this is what we would do from now on.

Guests were welcome to bring a gift if they wanted to, but they could choose the alternative of bringing money in an amount that was divisible by 3. Then we took the money and divided it among 3 jars. The first went into my son’s piggy bank, which teaches him to save money. The second jar was money he could have and use to buy whatever he wanted to. The third jar would go to charity.

We chose the Humane Society as our charity because the children are so young, we wanted them to physically participate in the act of giving. I think that if the act is more palpable, they will understand a bit better about what it is that we are doing. And as they grow up, this will become a practice in their lives. We called the Humane Society and asked what they needed, and then we went to the store. At this time, we are also participating in a Pay-It-Forward at church. So we took the money from our church, matched it, and then added Bennett’s charity jar money. We purchased the items and went to deliver them and visited the dogs and cats!

It was an incredible day, and while my children might not yet understand it, in time I know they will. And the gift of teaching them to save money and to act charitably is a greater gift than any toy they would have received. As they get older, we will introduce them to other charities and they will be able to decide where that money goes all by themselves. And in this way, we can continue to make the world a better place even more than we have been in the past.

Here’s a video of our experience! Thanks for reading, and Happy Holidays my friends!

It’s Time To Slow Down

In 2006 my husband (who was then my boyfriend) got the opportunity to travel to Switzerland for work and he asked me to go with him. It was my first trip to Europe. After we arrived, we took a little nap and woke up around 7 or 8 pm. I was hungry and searched for a vending machine. I found nothing and then went to the front desk. The concierge laughed when I asked about the vending machines. “You Americans.” He said. “We don’t have machines with old food in them.” I asked if there was a convenience store nearby and he laughed again. “No. We aren’t like you. We don’t have everything 24/7. We end our day at 5 o’clock. We do not go, go, go all of the time. What is it you were looking to find in a vending machine?” I told him I was hoping to find some chocolate, and he said, “Well, you are in Switzerland.” And with a smile produced two handfuls of chocolates for me from under the desk. His tone wasn’t one of condensation, but one almost of pity. And now I understand why.

The ten days I spent in Switzerland are still some of the best days of my life. He wasn’t kidding. Everything closed at 5. With the exception of some bars and a few restaurants, the city essentially shut down. And the people stayed home and relaxed with their families. Or they took to the streets. I remember one wonderful evening where we sat on the steps of a museum with many other people who had brought picnics, or were just talking or playing games. It was so relaxing and fun.

One night we found a little restaurant with only about 8 tables. We were expected to dine with the other people there. We were the highlight of their evening. No one spoke English, only German, and so the woman sitting at our table did charades to help us understand what was on the menu. That meal lasted 5 hours. We simply sat and relaxed and ate. The restaurant was in the downstairs of the owner’s home. We were served course after course while we smoked cigarettes and sipped wine and found ways to communicate with the other patrons.

Another thing I noticed is that they took their dogs everywhere. If they owned a shop, the dog was there all day. Dogs were in stores, on public transport and in bars, relaxing under the tables. And the news was so different there as well. While we were there, a man here in the U.S. went into an Amish schoolhouse and shot 8 girls, killing 5, and then shot himself. It was briefly on the news there, and then they were on to reporting other things. I kid you not, the big stories on their news channel were a debate about which is better, black tea or green tea, and a great story on composting, where they interviewed a family about how they compost. I’m serious.

Imagine living in a place like that. Where the news is informative and helpful, and not focused 24/7 on scaring the ever-loving shit out of you. We get moment-to-moment updates on every horror don’t we? Even when the news stations are only speculating or reporting what they think is going on, only to change the story later once they have actual information. They want to be first, and they don’t care if they are right.

We have a failing mental health system. A society in which we are led to believe that we are broken if we aren’t perfect. We live in constant competition. Feeling the need to be as beautiful, as intelligent, as successful as everyone else. We’re in a constant race. And we’re never winning because there’s always more to obtain. We work long hours. We work different shifts. Our children are bringing home tons of homework. They are in several extra-curricular activities at one time. Each day is a struggle to get through. The stress, the pressure, the frustration…never stops. There’s never a break.

I haven’t been shy about sharing the fact that I am on an anti-anxiety medication. What might shock you is to know that I have 6 best friends and 4 of them also take anti-anxiety medication. And a 5th is asking her doctor about getting on something. We have so much stress we don’t know how to manage it, and even if we did, we don’t have time to.

Society needs to change. The acts of horror being committed, the number of suicides, the divorce statistics, the number of children in foster care, the mentally ill without access to help…it’s all a syndrome of a society that has lost some core values: self care, relaxation, enjoyment. The list can go on.

So what do we do? Well, it’s hard to control the outside world. So all we can do is try to control our own.  The first thing I do is set limits. My anxiety recently spiraled out of control and my doctor made me realize that I never take a break from my kids, or for myself. So now, once the kids are in bed, I do whatever I want to. I used to clean, but now I watch TV, do my nails, read, or take a bubble bath. I practice self care. I also ensure that my husband and I go out at least twice a month without our children. That time is just for us to relax and enjoy one another. I also limit my kids’ extra curricular activities. They are allowed only one thing at a time. And if they overlap, it’s a no. I have family members who never attend family functions because their kids have games/practices/recitals all the time. They are so entrenched in that world that they don’t even make exception for family events. To me, that is an issue because it’s another example of moving us away from our roots, our core.

Don’t misunderstand, I see the value in extra curricular activities.  The life lessons our children learn are invaluable. But I believe that those lessons can be learned without being in 6 things at a time. It’s important for our children to have down time as well, and not only on breaks. They are developing and need time to be creative without structure. To be with friends. To relax and figure out what they like and who they are.

The last, and perhaps most important thing that I do, is turn off the news. It’s not helpful. It’s a horror show filled with scare tactics and misinformation. That doesn’t mean I don’t know what’s going on or keep up on current events, but I find ways to keep up that don’t involve mass hysteria. And I think it’s important that we continue to stress these ideals. To slow down and not contribute to the mess. To show that we want a new way, a different world to raise our children in, where we aren’t terrified to let them walk outside and where we aren’t pulled in so many directions that we lose focus on what is truly important: being happy, enjoying life, and making the world a better place for all of us.

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The people of the city on the museum stairs.

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Exploring!

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The owner of that little restaurant.

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The beauty of Basel

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Le Rhine et moi