The Return of the Holidays

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Hi, everyone! Remember me? I’m the one who writes this blog. You know, Mommy Boots? I’m still around, I’m fine, Nellie’s fine, everyone’s fine. Our internet’s not so fine but whatever. I promise I will write an update post soon, but for now I want to talk about the holidays.

I know, I know. You’re still knee-deep in Halloween candy and you’ve barely managed to get the toilet paper un-stuck from the limbs of your trees but hear me out. I’ve already written one post about my love for pumpkin spice (I love it so much, I literally bleed for it) but now I want to spaz a little bit about my love for the holiday season.

I love Thanksgiving and Christmas. For me, the Christmas season isn’t allowed to begin until Thanksgiving is over. Pretty much as the last bite of turkey is ingested, I am ready to run and pull out all of my Christmas decorations. Last year I even jumped the gun a little and put my stuff out early. I couldn’t help it. For a few years, after Thanksgiving dinner was done and we were home for the night, we’d put on National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and decorate our tree.

I love everything about the Christmas season. I love the smells, the music, the decorations.. I love it all. One of the things I get the most joy out of (after Thanksgiving, of course) is setting up my Christmas station on Pandora. I’m picky about my holiday tunes; if I hear too many different renditions of Jingle Bells I feel a little homicidal so I like a lot of variety in my holiday tunes. Holiday movies are another big mood-inducer for me. Christmas Vacation, Home Alone, Love Actually are just a few that I have to watch to get into the holiday spirit.

We’ve already established that I like holiday candles. Christmas is no exception. I like to fill my house with that Christmas-y pine scent, and there is one candle that’s mint vanilla or something that I drool over. I love Yankee Candle but not the price, so I usually opt for something from Wal-Mart or Target that’s not so scary on my wallet.

image courtesy of gettyimages

There’s something comforting about settling in to watch a few shows or blog with the soft glow of a Christmas tree beside you. It gives me warm fuzzies and I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because some of my favorite childhood memories are of the holidays, or maybe I’m just a sucker for small lights on a tree. I am kind of easily amused and distrac-oh and I forgot to talk about Christmas morning!

When I was a kid, I would always be up at like 4 A.M. practically having a panic attack I was so anxious to open presents. Once first light hit I was at my parents, clawing frantically at them and begging to open gifts. They’d roll out of bed and lazily head to the kitchen where they’d brew a pot of coffee. I’d be crouched in the living room, gift in hand, poised rip open the merry face of several Santas beaming up at me from the wrapping paper. They’d eventually come out with cups of coffee, dig around for eleven hours for a Christmas mix tape and pop it in. It wasn’t until the grown-ups had their coffee, the music, and were settled that my brother and I could dig into our presents.

It seems that I’ve inherited my parents’ love for torturing their children, because last Christmas I did the exact same thing. Nellie wasn’t old enough to have the Christmas Morning Antsies, but I didn’t want her opening presents until I had my cup of coffee, my pine tree candle lit, and my Christmas Pandora station open and playing. There, in the soft comforting glow of the tree I helped my daughter open her first Christmas gifts.

I experienced more joy and excitement that day than all of the Christmases of my childhood combined. There are a lot of things I love about the holiday season; the smells, the sights, and the music but the one thing that brings me the greatest satisfaction and most joy is anticipating the look on my daughter’s face when she experiences the holidays for herself. That, to me, is greater than any gift that I could receive.

What are some holiday traditions that bring you comfort and joy?

Comfort is the perfect gift for everyone on your holiday gift list, so be sure to take advantage of Tempur-Pedic’s Buy 2, get 1 free pillow offer! I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective.

Fall In Love With Your Skin

Thanks to Walgreens for underwriting this post. I was paid as a member of the Clever Girls Collective, but the content is all mine. Visit http://moms.dailybuzz.com/channel/style.

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I’ve written in the past about my love/hate relationship with my skin. I’m 27 years old, but sometimes my skin still acts like it’s 13. That’s not entirely true, because when my skin was 13, I never had issues! It wasn’t until I hit my 20s that my skin started being moody. Months-long breakouts, oil, and all sorts of other issues began plaguing me and keeping my skin looking red, blotchy, and pimply. I’ve tried so many different things before, from salicylic acid acne treatments to benzoyl peroxide (ProActiv) ones. I’ve tried natural, I’ve tried cheap, and I’ve tried expensive. It always seemed like nothing was going to work and that I was doomed to live with awful skin.

Until autumn of last year, when I decided to give Mary Kay a second try.

When I was first married (2005… whoa. That was a while ago.) I was a Mary Kay consultant for about two seconds. I wasn’t crazy about their Timewise line, as even the oily/combo line seemed too “heavy” for my 21-year-old skin (21…… whoa. I’m old.). This time last year I was desperate, and began thinking that perhaps scrubbing and treating my skin as if it were an oil spill (mattifying cleansers, lotions, powders) was actually hurting my skin. I was older now, and having a baby made my skin change a lot.. So I decided to try a different approach. I purchased a Mary Kay Timewise cleaning system for dry skin. Within weeks, my skin cleared up and looked better than ever. The face wash works as a cleanser & a toner and the moisturizer.. Well, moisturizes. I’ve finally found what works for me! Here is a look into my daily beauty routine nowadays:

  • Wash my face 2x a day with Mary Kay Timewise.
  • Put on Timewise night serum (at night only).
  • Apply Mary Kay Timewise moisturizer (day and night).

Now, since it’s autumn and the weather is getting colder I will be switching my moisturizer out. All summer I use the oily/combo moisturizer, but in the autumn and winter I use the normal/dry to give my skin the extra moisture it needs from the cold, dry autumn air. I don’t wear a lot of makeup, but when I do, my routine generally looks like this:

  • Concealer for the Samsonite baggage under my eyes.
  • Mineral foundation (usually L’Oreal) and blush.
  • Mascara.

Sometimes in the fall, I like to play with earthy tones on my eyes. Greens, browns, golds. Something about the changing leaves, crisp air, and addition of snuggly attire makes me want to look more.. I don’t know. Nature-y? Summer is for bright and fun, and autumn is more for muted and subtle I guess. Maybe I’m nuts. Who knows?

Photo: gettyimages

If you’re struggling with your skin like I have for so many years, don’t lose hope. It took me a long time to fall in love with my skin and there are still times when it doesn’t look as good as it could…. But keep trying, and don’t be afraid to try new things. Your skin is always changing, just like you are always changing!

What does your beauty routine look like? Do you change it with the seasons, or does it stay the same all year?

Thank you to Walgreens for sponsoring this blog post. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective. All opinions are my own.

Five Fabulous Bloggers

Thanks to Trop50 for sponsoring my writing about fabulous bloggers. This year Trop50 is granting 50 Fabulous Wishes. Click here to enter for a chance to win $1,000 to celebrate a friend with a refreshing attitude about looking and feeling fabulous!

I love blogging. I love reading blogs. I love saying the word “blog”. Blog, blog, blog. Bloggity blog. I myself have been (say it with me) blogging since I really even knew such a thing existed. I started writing on LiveJournal in 2001 at the tender age of 17. Little did I know that what I was doing was actually blogging (okay, now you have to take a shot every time I say any variation of the word “blog”). I digress. This post is about 5 bloggers that I love, and this is really hard for me to narrow down. I read a LOT of blogs, and it’s hard for me to decide which writers to feature here. I admire people who can blog long-term and still keep their loyal readers and keep their content fresh and interesting. I admire women who can write. I admire women who are funny. This list contains a little of all of those types of women.

  • The Bloggess: I’ve been reading The Bloggess since before I started this blog and knew how big the blogosphere was. Jenny is one of the funniest women I’ve ever read, and she is my blogging idol. Every single time I read a post of hers, I am shaking my head and thinking, “I will never be this funny”. She manages to write in her own unique style, and that style speaks to my bizarre sense of humor beautifully. If I meet her at BlogHer this coming August, I make no promises that I won’t do something extraordinarily embarrassing, like lick her face or beg her to take a picture of both of our thumbs or something.
  • All & Sundry: This is a relatively new discovery. My coworker Lisa turned me on to this blog, telling me that she loved the writing and I am really glad that she did. The author, Linda, weaves her words in a way that is a pleasure to read. She is funny, she is heartfelt, and she is just a damn good writer.
  • The Spohrs Are Multiplying: Another blogger I’d love to run into at BlogHer; Heather writes in a way that speaks to me. I began reading her blog after her older daughter, Madeline, passed away suddenly in April of 2009. She and her husband Mike had a daughter, Annabel, just a few days after I had Nellie. Heather and Mike are clever, creative, and their posts about Madeline break my heart. I’ve read a lot of blogs where the loss of a child was involved, but their posts about Maddie make me cry without fail. Something about the way they write grabs my soul and tears it open. They also write a lot about adorable Annabel, and feature hilarious and clever videos of her and their dog Rigby regularly.
  • Salt Says: Salt is a terribly clever blogger. She is another one who writes really well, and manages to be funny pretty much all the time. She unfortunately hasn’t blogged in almost two months (AHEM, SALT) and I miss her posts like crazy. She writes about all sorts of things, from pop culture to funny things that happen to her.. She is always clever and again, can actually write really well.
  • Mommy Wants Vodka: I love Aunt Becky, mostly because I also want vodka. I actually really like Aunt Becky a lot because she’s another hysterical blogger with a brain like mine. Her sense of humor and writing are both really random, and I almost always laugh out loud at her posts. The only time I don’t laugh out loud is when she’s not trying to be funny, and then I don’t laugh because I don’t laugh at people when they’re blogging about serious things, because that’s mean.

So that was really difficult. Like I said, I love a lot of blogs. It was hard to choose just five bloggers to give a shout-out to in this post. I hope that maybe you’ve found a new blog to follow from this post!

Who are some of your favorite bloggers?

Don’t forget to enter the 50 Fabulous Wishes contest for a chance to win $1,000 to celebrate a friend with a refreshing attitude about looking and feeling fabulous. I was selected for this Tropicana Trop50 sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do. I received compensation to use and facilitate my post.

Managing Finances

 

Thank you to TurboTax for sponsoring my writing about household finances.Learn more about how TurboTax can help you find every tax deduction you deserve. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

My parents didn’t teach me about managing my finances very well. I was on my own by the time I was 17, so I had to learn myself and by trial and error.

A LOT of trial and error. In the beginning of my relationship with my checking account, I used to go by the balance that I was given when I called the bank’s 800 number. What I missed was the concept of “pending charges”. Needless to say, I overdrafted when I was younger. I overdrafted several times, once to the tune of nearly $400.00.

Ouch.

As I got older, I learned my lesson when it came to overdrafting. The more you overdraft, the more fees the banks charge you and before you know it you’re up to your ears in overdraft fees. I’ve tried many different methods of managing my fiances and balancing my family’s budget, ranging from keeping a ledger and every single receipt to tracking only from online banking. I’ve set aside money for certain bills, and figured out exactly how much expendable income that I have each week. In our younger years, Josh and I had loads of expendable income. Now? Not so much. We do have some, but we used to just blow money like crazy. Movies, dinners out, drinking.. I marvel (and cringe) and how much money we just wasted before we had kids.

I’m still not great with saving. I have been trying to better my spending habits a little at a time. I know exactly how much I need to pull in each week to cover our expenses. Now, if I make more than that set amount I take 5% of whatever my paycheck is,  I put that 5% into our savings account. It may not seem like much, but it will add up eventually!

I think the biggest thing that’s helped me is creating a spreadsheet of our monthly expenses versus our income and using a formula to decide exactly how much we have to “play” with each week. This helps me keep track and not get in a tight bind when the end of the month bills come around. I’ve thought about taking that concept a step further and each week, taking out what we’re allowed to spend on things other than expenses out in cash so once that’s gone, I’m not tempted to just charge that Starbucks I want on my check card. If the cash isn’t there, then neither is the latte.

I know that as I get older I will learn better and more effective ways to manage our family’s money, and hopefully I will be able to clearly pass those skills down to my children so they don’t find themselves scratching their heads the first time they try and balance their checkbook. I’m not perfect, but I’m learning!

What are some tips that you have for managing a family budget?


 

 

The Gift of Surprise

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The Gift of Surprise

In 2004, I began dating my husband. I was living in Tennessee at the time and my family was still in Illinois. My brother and mom lived in central Illinois while the rest of my family (dad, stepmom, extended family) was closer to Chicago, where I was raised.

In May of ’04, I decided it was time to introduce my new boyfriend to my family. I took a week off from my job waiting tables and planned a trip to central IL to see my mom and my brother the first half of the trip while the second would be spent in Chicago with my dad and rest of my family. There was just one thing about our trip up North:

My mom had zero idea that we were coming.

We coordinated to arrive in Central Illinois on Mother’s Day and with the help of my brother and his girlfriend, we decided to give my mom a Mother’s Day surprise. We had everything planned: we would arrive at my brother’s in the late afternoon where he and his girlfriend would be getting ready to meet our mom at Olive Garden for her Mother’s Day dinner. Josh and I would wait until everyone had gotten there and make our grand entrance a few minutes after everyone had arrived.

When we got into town, we hit a small snag: my mom was tired and didn’t feel like going out but with a bit of whining and coaxing on my brother’s part, he finally got her to go to dinner as planned. As Josh and I began walking through the doors to the restaurant, I got an idea. I snuck into the bathroom and called my mom.
“Hey mom,” I said. “I just wanted to call you and tell you Happy Mother’s Day. I can’t talk long because I’m at work,” I lied with a smile on my face. She thanked me and I began walking from the bathroom to where I knew she was sitting at the table with my brother, his girlfriend, and her friend. I kept her on the phone as Josh and I rounded the corner.
I stood at a distance, looking at her sitting unsuspectingly at her table.
“Mom,” I said. “Look to your left.”
“What?” she asked, confused. She looked over to her left, and promptly dropped her cell phone on the table. She yelled something and started to cry. With a smile, I hung up my phone, walked over and gave her a hug. She was completely and utterly taken by surprise! It was fantastic. I introduced her to Josh, and she gave him a hug. The rest of the dinner went off well, with everyone feeling great about how well the surprise went down!

My mom and I don’t have the greatest relationship but that memory is something that I still smile about. The gift of surprising my mom on Mother’s Day is the best gift I can think of that I’ve given someone.. Coming in a close second is yet another Mother’s Day surprise; on Mother’s Day 2009 Josh and I surprised both our moms with messages written inside their cards: P.S…. We’re pregnant!

Learn more about the coolest new app that revolutionizes the whole shopping, gifting, and gift card-organizing experience and Download the SWAGG app to your iPhone or Droid. I was selected for this sponsorship by Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity.


Baby’s First Christmas….. Cards!

I’ve never been big on sending holiday cards or family letters. I’m one of those people that collects everyone’s addresses like a squirrel gathering nuts with the intention of sending them and then I lose my steam.. And by the time I get it back, it’s Valentine’s Day.

But this year is different. This year is my baby girl’s first Christmas! I want to make it special and memorable. I’m excited to share my daughter’s epic cuteness with all of our friends and family. Luckily, that’s what Shutterfly is for! They have an array of holiday cards for you to choose from.

Now, we aren’t Christian but we do celebrate Christmas (for us, it’s more about family tradition than anything religious) so I look for “happy holiday” type cards. One of my favorite designs that Shutterfly offers this year is the Mod Snowflakes Christmas Card design. I love the non-traditional colors featured on this card; it’s not your standard “Christmas red and green”.

Mod Snowflake

Another design I loved is the Shimmering Ornaments Christmas card. Again, I am in love with the non-traditional colors! The layout is fresh, and cute, and crisp and I puffy heart it!

Shimmering Snowflakes

My next favorite is the Top Ten Moments card. It has a spot for your family’s name, and then you list your “top ten moments” of the year. I think that this is so clever and different! I’m not sure what our top ten would be. Most likely it would look like: “Josh got a full time job!” “Nellie was born!” “We brought Nellie home!” “Nellie pooped!” “Nellie rolled over!”
You get the point.

Top Ten Moments

Shutterfly offers an array of cards outside of the Christmas holiday! They have Thanksgiving cards, Hannukah cards and even New Year’s Cards!

So if you’ve never sent holiday cards before, it’s never too late to start. Shutterfly offers completely customizable cards so you can send holiday wishes and greetings with pictures of your family, your kids, or your pets! I’m starting to get that “holiday fuzzy excited feeling”!

Do you want 50 free holiday cards from Shutterfly? Click here to go to Shutterfly for information on how you can get 50 free cards this holiday season, and make sure to select Clever 1000 as the referral source.

This post is part of a series sponsored by Shutterfly. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

Harry Potter Land or Bust: My Dream Vacation

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When I began thinking about this post, which is about my ultimate dream vacation, I was trying to conjure up something elaborate and exotic. A trip to Rome, perhaps. Greece always looks lovely in movies. Maybe Paris, with the Eiffel Tower all a-sparkle at night.

I voiced my thoughts to my husband who shook is head.
“Rome would be nice, but that’s kind of my dream vacation. You’re not into history like I am. You know what you should write about?”
“What?” I ask.
“Harry Potter Land. Or.. Whatever it’s called.”

And in that instant, I had my post. I began spazzing out just at the mention of the park.
My husband was of course, talking about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Orlando, which we both have unofficially dubbed “Harry Potter Land”. You can keep your fancy cruises and far-away places, my friends, because MY dream vacation can only be reached by finding Platform 9 3/4 and hopping aboard the Hogwarts Express!

I’ve been a huge Harry Potter fan since the first movie came out. In preparation to watch the first film in 2001, I ran out and grabbed a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone the morning that the movie released. I devoured the entire thing that day and practically ran to the theatre to see the first film on opening night. Since then, I’ve been hooked. Going to the WW of Harry Potter would be a dream come true for me.

While you’re at the WW of Harry Potter you can go to Honeyduke’s, the candy shop famously talked about in the books. You can visit Diagon Alley and pop into Ollivander’s wand shop for a chance to get a wand of your very own! Don’t even get me started on how amazing it would be to roam the halls of Hogwarts, the famous school I’ve read so much about and wished so many times were real so I could go there. You can go to the Three Broomsticks and have a Butterbeer! I’m getting all a-twitter just thinking about it!!

I’m reading the words that are coming from my fingers and feeling a little dorky, but I don’t really care. I’m usually not ashamed to let my Dork Flag fly high! On my dream vacation, I would most definitely take my husband Josh and daughter Nellie. I may want to wait a few years until Nellie was old enough to have read the books and watched the movies (she’s only 8 months old right now) so I could see the magic and excitement in her eyes, as well as feel it in my own heart.

My little dream vacation may be a bit unconventional, but it’s what I really want! One day, hopefully, my dream will come true and I’ll get the chance to see Hogwarts up close and in person!


Don’t forget to enter the “Do What You Love” Sweepstakes, for a chance to win your own ultimate family vacation. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.