Saturday, December 29, 2012

Don't Believe The Lies That You Tell Yourself

My parents tell me that I was a happy child in the beginning. Apparently as a toddler I was friendly and outgoing.  But somehow, sometime before my memories begin, I was infiltrated with a damaging lie.  Sometime in my formative years the idea that I wasn't good enough began to seep into my heart. 

I was shy, I was empathetic and I was chubby - a dangerous combination in a public school where kids acted up, teased, and took down the 'little guy' so they could ease their own ache a little.  I don't know if the lies started with them, with the devil or with myself - but I believed them.  I believed that I was ugly.  I believed that I was weird.  And worst of all, I believed that I was unlovable. 

Of course I knew that my family loved me - but they had to, right?  I had a few friends, but frankly they often weren't much nicer to me than my enemies.  And the more I believed I wasn't worthy of friendship, the fewer friends I had. 

Eventually, we moved to a new state and started a new school (private all-girls' school).  Even though I met new friends and got involved in activities, I still felt lonely, still felt like a freak.  I felt fat and ugly and awkward and couldn't bear to look a boy in the eyes.  I tried to blend in with the walls, because disappearing was so much less painful than risking rejection.  I thought of myself as someone with few real friends, who would always be a loser.

Even when I starved myself down to 95 pounds, I still felt ugly, still felt like a freak.  I still didn't believe I was worthy of friendship or real love.  I always assumed that I'd end up with whatever guy would deign to be with me, who probably wouldn't treat me well because, fankly, he'd be settling.

And then I grew up.  I met this guy who treats me like a princess and doesn't feel like he's settling at all.  He helped a lot to open my eyes to the truth. 

And, oddly enough, I had my biggest revelation while digging through my boxes of old photos.  Not only was I not nearly as fat or awkward looking as I'd thought, but I wasn't unpopular, either.  I found photos of parties I hosted where 20+ people showed up.  I found photo on photo of myself posing in groups of smiling girls, all of whom I considered to be good friends.  I recently had a boy I knew a long time ago tell me "oh, yeah, I always thought you were pretty, I just didn't ask you out because we were into different stuff."  Wow - boys noticed me?  I had real friends?  I wasn't a freak? 

Everything I've believed for the last 25 years has been a lie!

And worst of all, I was the one lying to myself.  Excluding a few (probably not atypical) instances in jr. high, no one else has ever told me I was fat, ugly, or weird.  In retrospect, the boys who picked on me were, essentially, dipping my pigtails in the inkwell - they were flirting.  The only reason I didn't feel like a part of the group was because I chose to withdraw. 

And most importantly, I allowed these lies to fester because I didn't believe the greatest truth of all.  God loves me.  HE made me worthy.   Nothing I do or don't do can change that truth.  Nothing someone says, nothing I say to myself will ever change the fact that my worth comes from God.  HE will always love me no matter what. 

Sometimes the lies come back.  Sometimes I still feel like I'm worthless.  But those are the moment I decide to change my focus.  I stop thinking about how I feel and start thinking about what I can do.  It's hard to feel like a loser when you're doing something good for someone else. 

So the next time you feel down on yourself, ask yourself this - are my feelings true? or are they just lies I'm telling myself?  So often our self-perception is SO inaccurate.  We don't know exactly how the world sees us because it doesn't tell us.  But we know how God feels about us because HE told us - HE showed us. 

Don't believe the lies.  Believe the truth.  You are worthy, you are loved.  You are good enough!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

DIY Holiday Poppers and New Years Goals

Well, December 21 has come and gone and it looks like we're going to live to see a new year after all! 

New Years eve is one of my very favorite holidays. Not only is it the one time of the year that we get to visit with old college friends, but it's a time to celebrate a fresh start and new beginnings.  It's time to set some healthy goals, forgive some old wounds (even those self-inflicted) and reinvigorate important relationships.  

And while our NYE celebration tends to be pretty low key (Railroad Tycoon and Wii anyone?), I still love to make a celebration special.  Some day I'll host a soiree where I can finally wear that perfect party dress.  But this year, I'll settle for a little DIY crafting.

Our kids spend the holiday with Grandma while we're off with our friends - but I didn't want them to feel forgotten.  So I dug into my pile of empty toilet-paper tubes (I love upcycled crafts) and threw together some festive party poppers for my kids to open on the big night.  I want them to know that even if we're not together to ring in 2013, Mommy is still thinking of them.  Here's how to do it.

DIY Holiday Poppers
(also known as party crackers)

 empty toilet paper tubes
wrapping paper scraps (at least a few inches longer than the tubes)
candy or trinkets
ribbon or string

1.  Cut paper scraps so they just wrap around the toilet paper tubes and extend 2" beyond each end.  Tape in place.
2.  Fill tubes with candy or small toys.
3. Tie string around each end of the tube.  
4.  On the big night, untie string or pull on paper until the ends tear off.  


1. For a more 'grown-up' look, use leftover scrapbook paper in coordinating colors.  Cut one pattern as above, then fashion a sleeve the exact length of the tube and wrap around the outside.  
2.  Decorate with butcher paper, twine and custom stamps.
3. Use fabric scraps and monogram a paper sleeve.
4. For a "girls' night" fill with mini polish bottles, chocolates and jewelry.  
5. Consider including a small fortune or blessing for the new year inside each popper.  
6.  Up the stakes and create a "grand prize" popper for one lucky recipient. 

The possibilities are endless!!  

After all the celebrating is done, I like to write down my list of goals for the new year.  For 2013 I plan to work toward the following:

1. Get into the best shape of my life.  No more eating disorders (super skinny but unhealthy isn't attractive), no more junk food binges.  I plan to make healthy meals (and not cheat on my new food-sensitivity diet) and get my tush to the gym.  I'm hoping to start dancing again and I am definitely going to work on building muscle.  Who cares what the scale says, I want sexy abs!

2. Spend less money.  There are so many worthy things we want to put our money towards in the near future (private school for the kids, animals for the farm, charitable causes) but somehow it seems like money just vanishes from the bank account.  I'm going to make a very concerted effort to keep tabs on spending and to save save save.  I'll be canceling the subscription boxes, finding ways to DIY any decorating or household wants, swapping for 'new' clothes instead of hitting the stores, learning how to stretch my grocery dollars - and reading every 'frugal' blog I can find (this one is a great start).

3. Get organized and STAY organized.  I am so tired of living in chaos.  I'm tired of toys all over the floor, of overflowing shelves, of helter-skelter kitchen drawers.  In a few weeks we'll be moving to a new house and I'm looking it at a chance to start over.  If I can't find a logical, attractive place for something, it doesn't come in the house.  The new playroom will be organized top to bottom (no more messy bedrooms or toys in the living room).  The office nook will be both immaculate and easy to use (no more bills piling up on the table).  The kitchen will be tidy and logical (no more hunting for the spatulas).  If you haven't read The House That Cleans Itself, I recommend you do it now.  It has revolutionized the way I think about cleaning and organizing and I cannot wait to put that system to work for me.  I'm pretty good about cleaning binges - getting everything lovely and clean for a big event - but inevitably it all deteriorates again in a few days.  This time we'll find a cleaning routine we can stick to, and set up the house so that staying neat is a nobrainer. 

4. Spend more quality time with the kids.  I spend a lot of time with my kids.  I'm with them from the moment I wake up, till the moment they go to bed most days.  But the realization that they'll soon be headed to all day school has thoroughly freaked me out.  It made me stop to take a good hard look at how I use the time I have with my kids right now and I don't like it.  Sure, I'm with them physically - we're always in the same room, sometimes even in the same chair.  But I'm a little ashamed to admit how infrequently I'm really, truly engaged with the kids.  It's more "they play while I cook/clean/finish my book/check my email/get distracted" than "we play/cook/clean/read together."  Which means that they don't get quality Mommy time, and I'm robbing them of important life lessons (learning to cook, learning to clean, learning to read).  It's my goal, once we're moved and organized, to stop 'doing near' and start 'doing with.'  Sure it'll take longer, but they can help me fold that laundry, stir that soup, read the easy words in that book.  I want to have a daily craft that I do with them, not leave them to do while I'm off doing xyz.  Pretty soon I'll be sitting at home wishing they were there to mop the floors and chop the peppers with me while they're off at school.  I'll be wishing they were snuggling in my lap with a book while they're off playing with school friends.  I want to make the most of these moments instead of letting them slip by unnoticed. 

So - those are my new years goals.  Leave me a comment and let me know what's on your list - I really love to hear what other people are hoping and planning for their fresh start!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

$100 Walmart Card Giveaway

$100 Walmart Gift Card Giveaway

Have the holidays made a dent in your budget?  Would you like to recover some of that cash?  Well thanks to Tip Hero, we're offering one lucky person the chance to win a $100 Walmart gift card to start 2013 off right.

This giveaway will run for 2 weeks and end on January 2, 2013 at 11:59pm US Eastern time. Open to United States & Canada, 18+

Enter for your chance to win this helpful prize by filling out the PromoSimple entry form below. Good luck!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Toilet Paper Tube Trees

With five people in our home, we go through a lot of toilet paper. And while it drives my husband crazy, I tend to hoard empty toilet paper tubes.  Why?  Because they are so handy for crafting!!  We've used them for everything from safari binoculars to beads for stringing (on huge necklaces). 

This time, we're making holiday trees!!  Here's how we did it.

1) Corral a bunch of empty toilet paper tubes.

2) Paint the inside of all the tubes green (we skipped this step and it doesn't look nearly as nice).

3) Decorate the outsides in various manners - coat them in mod podge and glitter, decoupage on green tissue paper or wrapping paper.  Or if you're in a big hurry, just coat them in green paint and get on with it.

4) Let all tubes dry thoroughly.

5) If any tubes have gotten squashed, roll them gently until they round out again.

6) This is the part that made my liberal-arts brain hurt a little - stack tubes in rows, adding 1 tube to each row until you run out.  I had to divide my stack between 3 kids, so doing the math made me a little dizzy.

7) Hot glue the bottom row together.

8) Attach next row by hot gluing tubes both to the row below and to each other.

9) Embellish! (Add stickers, glue on tiny ornaments, cover the ends with colored tissue paper - what ever your imagination dictates). 

We left our trees fairly plain and they sit on each child's night-stand guarded by his brand new nutcracker. 

If your trees will be getting a lot of use, or if you used a bunch of glitter, consider giving each a coat of spray-on acrylic sealant. 

Happy holidays everyone!!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Stuff I Love: Veggie Tales: St. Nicholas: A Story of Joyful Giving

Christmas time is a season of great excitement in our household (if you can't tell by the expression on my boys in their Christmas sweaters).  But at this particular stage in their lives, Christmas is also a season of confusion.  We are struggling hard this year with finding a balance between the spiritual and the cultural sides of Christmas.  We want the kids to be able to revel in a little of the material side of the holiday (Santa, presents, treats) while still teaching them plenty about the true meaning of the season (baby Jesus, generosity and togetherness).

Our kids have never believed in Santa, perse.  We've always said such things as "he's a fun character, why don't we read more books about him?" or "there's another man in a Santa costume, would you like to talk to him?"   Meanwhile we try to pepper their days with scripture (during our Advent reading each night) and talk about Jesus (while we put up the nativity).  But somehow, we've never been able to make a smooth transition between the two concepts. 

Then one night, while we were visiting Grandma, we happened upon the Veggie Tales video St. Nicholas: A Story of Joyful Giving.  My kids are big Veggie Tales fans and they were glued to this film.  It's a little bit history and a little bit silliness, but they (and we) seemed to take away from it a new understanding of how one family can celebrate both Santa and the love of Christ without an ounce of hypocrisy. 

As you'll see from the numerous reviews, this Veggie Tales version isn't terribly accurate from a historical perspective.  But it's a great tool for opening the door to further research into and discussions about the real person of St. Nicholas.  And, by blending some culturally relevant Christmas symbols with the religiously significant story of giving both of wealth and compassion, this film allows children to see typical holiday themes in a whole new light.  Suddenly stockings and presents and even the Jolly 'Ol Elf himself become a representation of generosity instead of greed. 

Now, when our kids ask questions about the origin of Santa we no longer feel that we have to choose between lying or crushing their imaginations.  We can tell them "well, let's think about what we learned in that Veggie Tales film - can you tell us what's significant about St. Nick?"  And they do!

So if you've been struggling with a similar household dilema, or even if you're just big fans of Bob and Larry and those great silly songs, you should definitely check out St. Nicholas: A Story of Joyful Giving.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Grain-Free Lemon Sugar Cookie Bars

You've all heard my spiel about food sensitivities.  I was miserable, I turned out to be sensitive to a boatload of foods, I eliminated those foods, and now I feel better.

But the better I feel, the more I notice when certain foods make me feel uncomfortable.  And I've come to the conclusion that, in general, I need to avoid eating grains.  All grains.  No wheat, no corn, no rice, none of them.  So now I'm pursuing a way to give up these foods without living on fruits and veggies alone.  I like to bake and bake I will, even if it means getting a little creative.

So, here is my adaptation of a favorite cookie recipe.  Please, only attempt these cookies in bar form, OR use shortening instead of the coconut oil.  If you make drop cookies as is, they will run all over your oven and start a fire (I kid you not).

Grain-Free, Dairy Free Lemon Sugar Cookie Bars

1/2 cup coconut oil, chilled
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
pinch lemon zest
1/2 cup potato starch
3/4 cup tapioca starch
3/4 tsp  baking soda
1/3 cup lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In large bowl, beat coconut oil and sugar until smooth.  Add egg and mix well.  Add remaining ingredients except lemon juice and mix until lumps are gone.  Slowly stir in lemon juice.

Pour into greased 8x8 square pan.  Sprinkle top with additional sugar.  Bake 15 minutes or until toothpick tests done.

Friday, November 30, 2012

My Old Navy Steal

Go ahead and say it - I'm cheap
I love to shop, but I hate to spend money.  And despite the fact that I want to stay on top of trends and look at least a little bit fashionable, I really really hate to spend money on clothes.  I usually keep my closet full by shopping at garage sales in the summer, and accepting hand-me-downs from my fashion-plate sister-in-law all year round.  And I almost never set foot in a mall (if I really want to splurge, I head to Target).

Case in point: the outfit I wore today.

The shirt and watch are hand-me-downs.  I've got on $10 Forever 21 jeans, $7 Sears clearance boots, $4 Target earrings and a bracelet I made myself. 

So I have to say an enormous thank you to Crowdtap for allowing me to occasionally indulge my urge for a brand-new brand-name splurge - without breaking the bank! This has been my 4th Crowdtap sample opportunity at Old Navy and I had a blast!  I've been dying to try out some of the new lines that Old Navy introduced this winter, so I was beyond thrilled to receive the chance to try out an Old Navy sweater for free!!

The selection at the store was overwhelmingly large - everything from simple cardigans to sparkling pullovers.  Here are a few of my favorites:
Mommy/daughter matchy-matchy in stripes (these are so soft!)
It's hard to tell, but those grey stripes glitter!  A fantastic party cardi.
 This is the sweater I finally chose.  Chunky, cozy, and cute!
I really loved the fit and style of this sweater (also in black).  The sparkle makes it party-perfect, but also made it a little scratchy.  I'm really sensitive about material, so I had to pass (sad).
See it shine?
Here's the sweater my friend chose (shouldn't she be a model?) - a real 'statement piece' as she put it.  I loved this one, too, but it's a little overwhelming on a petite.  

And of course, I can never resist falling for the ol' marketing ploy- go for the free sweater and leave with a bag full of other clothes.  In my defense, I've been looking all over for a sweater dress.  At Target, I was swimming in the Extra Smalls (and I'm really not that tiny), so I definitely snapped up this purple beauty when it fit so well. 

I also loved this cowl neck sweater-dress (it would be great for the office), but it wasn't so flattering on me. 

And while I was there, of course, I browsed the clearance aisle.  I was shocked at the great deals I found!  Camis and shorts for as low as $1.50, shirts less than $5!  All in all I left the store with all these clothes for only $34!  Even stingy ol' me can live with that deal!

Want to score amazing deals like this yourself?  First, run (don't walk) to Old Navy and check out their newest lines (and hottest sales!), then sign yourself up for Crowdtap.  In just a few months you could be qualifying for amazing sample opportunities, too!

(Disclaimer: Clearly, I was compensated for this review with a free product.  However, I never recommend products I don't wholeheartedly love, and all opinions expressed are my own.)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Stuff I Love: Dark Chocolate Dream

I am an unabashed chocoholic.  I've always been particularly fond of dark chocolate, but really any chocolate is better than no chocolate.

Imagine my dismay when I discovered just how many common chocolates contain milk.  Even the dark chocolates.  As if giving up cheese isn't hard enough, I was afraid I'd have to give up chocolate, too!  Eventually, I found some 70% and darker chocolate bars that were dairy-free (Green and Black, Chocolove and Endangered Species make some very nice ones), but every now and then I have a craving for a slightly lighter chocolate - something not quite so intense.  I've also really missed rice-crunchy chocolates, since Hershey's Crackle isn't gluten-free.

Then, in my local grocery store's organic section, I stumbled on Dark Chocolate Dream's Rice Crunch chocolate.  Granted, at around $3/ 3-oz. bar this chocolate is pretty expensive - but in my humble opinion, it is totally worth it.  This is the kind of chocolate you savor, eating it one little square at a time.  Despite being certified gluten-and-dairy-free, it is incredibly creamy and yet crispy at the same time.  It's much lighter than the dark chocolates I'm accustomed to, but in no way waxy like some milk-chocolates can be. 

To save on costs I buy these bars in bulk and save them for special occasions when I'm really craving a treat.  Not a fan of crispy chocolate?  No problem!  Dark Chocolate Dream (made by the same company that brought you Rice Dream and Soy Dream) comes in several other varieties as well (including Almond and Raspberry).

So what are you waiting for?  Give it a try - you won't be sorry!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Recipe Of The Week: Honey Glazed Apple French Toast

On a cold winter morning, I love a hot breakfast.  However, we've been stuck in a bit of a pancake rut, lately.  Daddy to the rescue!  My husband was inspired by our big pile of Honeycrisps one morning and whipped up this delicious breakfast.  We all gobbled it right down!

Honey Glazed Apple French Toast

1 large honeycrisp apple, cut in thin slices
3 tsp honey
1/2 tbsp butter

2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp cinnamon

6 slices whole-grain bread (or 6-8 slices Gluten Free bread, such as Udi's)

In small skillet, melt butter.  Add apple and honey and cook until apple is soft.

In shallow bowl, combine eggs, milk and cinnamon.  Beat well.

Heat non-stick skillet.  Dredge bread slices in egg mixture.  Cook in non-stick skillet until both sides are golden and egg is set.

Top with 1/6 of the apples and serve.   

Monday, November 26, 2012

Book Of The Week: Berenstain Bears Old-Fashioned Christmas

We've been reading Christmas books since Halloween.  Our library has a HUGE selection of Christmas books and for some reason I feel obligated to read them all every year.  Which means starting early.  This year, there was a special treat waiting for us.  We LOVE the Berenstain Bears.  We read one of their books almost every day, and the kids are constantly begging to watch the tv show. 

This holiday, there is a brand new Berenstain Bears Christmas book!  When we came across Berenstain Bears Old-Fashioned Christmas we were elated.  Fond as we are of the old classics, we couldn't wait to open up this new treasure.  And we weren't disappointed.  Not only is the book filled with a classic tale of Bear Family hi-jinx, it also includes lots of Christmas tutorials - the words to a couple classic songs, instructions for making ornaments and treats for woodland animals, designs for decorating Gingerbread Bears and more!

If you're a fan of the Bear Family, or of Christmas - head right out and find yourself a copy of Old-Fashioned Christmas.  We can't wait to get started on those crafts - and maybe throw in a verse of two of Twelve Days Of Christmas while we're at it.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Small Business Saturday!

It's Small Business Saturday! 

And in honor of this event, both my shops are celebrating!  Between now and Monday, any order placed at either

Will come with a FREE surprise gift!!  
No coupon code required.

So run on over and have a look around, cause everyone loves free stuff :)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Shabby Apple Sale!

It's no secret that I'm addicted to Shabby Apple.  I LOVE their vintage style clothes.  And rumor has it that most of you are pretty enthralled with them, too.  So, I have some great news!!  Shabby Apple is having a great Black Friday sale!  Here are the details:

You can save 20% off EVERYTHING on our site with code JOYFULSEASON at checkout.  Yes, you read right, EVERYTHING!  Sale ends 11/30/2012.
Plus, keep your eyes on our Facebook page for even more deals happening this week. 
Coupon code goes live Friday - so make your list and head on over on Black Friday!
Dresses from Shabby Apple

Recipe Of The Week: Spicy Red Beans

You may have heard me mention lately that I'm dealing with a lot of food sensitivities at the moment.  Long story short, I was feeling sluggish and cranky and just not myself - for two years.  After lots of testing and "oh, you're fine, how about some Prozac?" I finally found a Functional Medicine doctor who took one look at my paperwork and said "Let's check your food sensitivities."
We did and I wound up being moderately to severely sensitive to 35 different foods!  Odds are, there's just one or two culprits that have so badly messed up my system that I'm now hypersensitive to everything.  But while I'm waiting for my insides to heal, I have to swear off all 35 foods - including gluten, dairy, celery, honey, cinnamon, garlic, thyme, sage, bay leaves, avocados, beef and so much more! 

I was amazed at how many foods contain at least one of those ingredients - everything from conventional ketchups to deli meat to pickle relish - it's been crazy trying to shop and cook for this diet.  However, it has led me to a few recipe gems and I plan on sharing them with you!  (I'm working on an allergy-free Thanksgiving right now - keep yours eyes peeled for the results).  During detox, as I was scrambling to make plain ol' beans exciting, I threw together this recipe and was shocked at how good it tasted. So - enjoy!!

Spicy Red Beans

1 tsp olive oil
1 can red beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 large red onion, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1/4 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cilantro
liberal dash cayenne pepper

In medium skillet, heat oil.  Add onion and pepper and sautee until onion is tender.  Add beans and spices and heat through.

Serves 2

*If you like things more flavorful or spicy, double all spices.

Cuisinart Smart Stick Stainless Steel Hand Blender & Chopper (Google Affiliate Ad)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Hello January $200 giveaway opp!

$200 Amazon Giveaway
  • Event Date: January 4 - January 18
  • For companies/ non bloggers/business owners who are interested in sponsoring an event, please send me an email at: admin at divafabulosa dot com

Friday, November 16, 2012

On Giving

First of all, let me give you a preview of what's coming up soon:

  • 1 exciting project centering on beauty and what makes women beautiful (complete with a super special photo-shoot I'm in the process of planning)
  • 2 new allergy-friendly recipes (along with a brief synopsis of my recent food-sensitivity saga and how it's led me to better eating)
  • 3 awesome holiday book reviews to get you in the spirit of the season
  • 4 product reviews (and a couple giveaways as well!)
I hope you're as excited as I am - I'm busy getting these posts scheduled!

Now for the meat of what I wanted to talk about today. 

We all hear that the true spirit of Christmas is giving - so often that it's become a cliché.  And I've always been the sort who was more excited to watch my family members open the presents I'd carefully selected for them than I was to open the gifts they'd bought me.  But it's only been the last few years that I've really started to grasp a wider vision of what "giving" really means. 

One of my favorite Bible passages is Mark 12:44 about the widow who, though she only gave 2 coins, made the biggest contribution of all because she gave all she had.  From this passage I take two things:

1) I don't know the meaning of 'give till it hurts' - I've never in my life gone without so that I could give to someone else.  If I gave abundantly it was because I was abundantly rich.  If I felt that money was tight, I wouldn't give.  I find myself becoming a little more generous at the holidays, but nevertheless, however much I give, we still always have plenty of food on the table, heat in the house, clothes on our backs, and funds leftover for treats.  I have never given so much that I had to rely on God to cover the next week for me. 

2) Any amount of giving can have an enormous impact.  Right now Momastery has once again facilitated the annual Holiday Hands drive.  500 posts asking for donations are accepted and then fulfilled by generous souls around the country.  Some people are able to donate extravagantly - covering $1000 ultility bills, buying special-needs children new ipads, or sending large gift cards so a family can afford gifts.  Others can only spare a few dollars or the time it takes to hand-knit a warm hat for a cold baby.  But you know what?  The responses from the people who have been helped are equally effusive whether they've received a second-hand sweater or a full reprieve from debt.  It's absolutely true that every little bit helps.

So what have I learned about giving this holiday season? 

1) Giving more feels good!  We are preparing to move in a couple of months and I finally went through my closet and weeded out some of the old clothing that I hadn't worn in ages.  Some of it was a remainder of my eating-disorder years - clothes I really shouldn't ever fit into again, but for some reason hadn't been able to part with.  I halfheartedly bagged up a few of my least favorite items and put out an ad on Craigslist in their free section to see if any slender ladies might like a few gently worn pieces of clothing.  Let me tell you all - my inbox was flooded!  I had a response from a man who was out of work and couldn't afford to buy his wife new clothes.  He lamented that she was so thin that Good Will didn't even carry her size.  I had an email from a mother whose family had recently lost everything in a fire.  I had a reply from a man who 'knew a tiny lady who works really hard and could sure use some new things.'  Good heavens - how I could I say no to any of these people!

My closet is now much more sparse than it was last week.  But my heart is so much fuller.  One woman remarked that it "felt just like Christmas" when she opened her bag of clothes.  And you know what?  I don't miss a single thing I donated.  In fact, I can barely even remember what all I cleaned out. 

2) One woman's clutter is another family's treasure.  Now I'm searching through my whole house to see what else we can donate.  Surely my 2 year old doesn't need a whole closet full of clothes.  And no one has played with those baby toys in months.  I even had a woman who was thrilled to receive a $10 necklace from my shop because she didn't own a single piece of jewelry!  Granted, we have a lot of used items in our home that really are better suited for the trash.  But I'm frequently surprised by what people are grateful to have.  At our garage sale this summer a man was thrilled to come across a pile of stained and threadbare t-shirts in our 'free' box - he was a painter and hated to buy new t-shirts only to cover them in paint. 

I've still got a lot to learn about giving and generosity.  My greed glands often win out even when my rational mind tries to remind me that I could feed several starving children for the price of those new leopard print heels.  And I constantly struggle to remember that giving is important 365 days of the year - not just at the holidays when reminders are everywhere.  If anyone knows of a site like Holiday Hands where needs can be matched with donors - please let us know!

I want to challenge you to join me in my journey to greater giving.  Below please find some of the resources I've found most helpful in seeking to be charitable.  Please feel free to comment and let us know about your favorite charities or causes, too!  And remember - some of the greatest gifts - a smile, a 'thank-you,' a hug - are totally free! - post items you no longer need but want to rescue from the trash - Use their Free section to post items you no longer need
World Vision - Provides poverty relief for children worldwide
End Child Hunger - Hunger relief for children in America
Samaratain's Purse - Poverty relief and sponsorship for children worldwide
Dress for Success - Donate gently used office clothes

Book Of The Week: I Love You Through and Through

We are big readers at our house. Even baby sister (who is almost 2 already - holy cow!) won't go to bed without a story.  And a perennial favorite at our house has always been I Love You Through and Through by Bernadette Rosetti-Shustak.

As you can tell, this book has been well loved, oft read, and even occasionally chewed on.  My children have taken it to bed with them, toted it in the car, and snuggled it closely.  In fact, we've loved this book so much we're on our second copy (the first met an unfortunate end at the hands of a leaky sippy cup).

Not only does this book feature a tender story of how much a parent loves his/her child, but the pictures are darling and engaging.  The story is simple and easy for even an 18 month old to remember and follow along.  And it helps a child to learn about opposites (happy and sad, top and bottom, inside and outside) as well as body parts (eyes and ears, fingers and toes, nose and hair).  We like to mimic the emotions or point to the body parts as they are each named in the book - it's become a fun little bedtime game!

My daughter asks for this book before bed every single night and I am absolutely happy to oblige.  Unlike most of their stories, this is one book I never ever tire of.  

If you're looking for a good story to share with your young child, or if you need a great gift for a friend, be sure to check out I Love You Through and Through!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Moment Of Shameless Self Promotion

Ok guys, no beating around the bush - here's what's up.
I could use a little extra holiday cash.  And odds are, you could use a great gift for your girlfriend/wife/mother/sister/friend/self.  Win win!  I have TONS of items in my shop that are classy, classic and totally customizable. 

Have a friend with a young daughter?  How about this Mommy and Me bracelet set? 
 Or, consider a customized Birdnest necklace for Grandma (birds for her kids, eggs for the grandkids).
Attending a snazzy holiday party?  How about adding this silver Sparkle Bracelet to your ensemble?

 And over in Big Red Kite I've brought back the ornaments!  In addition to the ornaments shown we have an angel and a polar bear available.

Also, for the next couple of weeks, we'll have lots of unique one-of-a-kind pieces on clearance on the Facebook page.  The first person to comment with paypal gets the piece - so hurry over!  And check back daily as I'm adding new pieces all the time! 

You could score something like this pretty bracelet

or these delicate earrings

Got questions? Want to customize something from the ground up?  Feel free to shoot me an email!

And keep your eyes peeled on the blog - I've got several new recipes and holiday book reviews on the schedule!

Friday, October 26, 2012

It's Baby Time!

Next month, my 'baby' turns 2.  It's a little hard to believe.  I feel like we were just in the newborn stage.  It makes me a little sad because she is our very last baby.  

However, it seems like everyone else we know is having a baby within the next few months.  How exciting for them!

When our oldest was born, we were surprised with a precious diaper cake at our shower.  Not only was it a gorgeous decoration, but every little piece of it came in handy.  The diapers, the toys, the bath products.  I loved it.  

Which is why I'm super excited to introduce you to

Here's what they have to say:
E Diaper Cakes has a vast selection of diaper cakes including cakes with favorite childhood books and their characters, such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Peter Rabbit, and Pat the Bunny. 

We use quality ingredients in all our diaper cakes, they include: Pampers Swaddlers, Johnson's baby products, Kids Preferred, Disney, Ty, and OXO Tot to name a few. 

 Now, guess what? 

One of my readers will receive a $25.00 gift certificate to! 

Wouldn't this make the perfect gift for your pregnant friend?  Or, why not spoil yourself if you're currently expecting?  

Want to enter?  Just fill out the easy peasy Rafflecopter below.  Good luck!!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, October 12, 2012

Weigh In On Beauty

I've been going through some weird health things lately. Nothing serious, just finally figuring out why I've been feeling the way I feel.  And the upshot of one of my new medical discoveries is a renewed sense of peace with myself.  

For the first time since I can remember, I've put aside the self-loathing and I'm starting to love myself for who I really am

 I cannot stress to you what a relief this is to me.  And it's really challenging me to rethink my entire concept of beauty.  So - next week, on Wednesday October 17th, I'm going to be asking you all to link up with me and weigh in on what beauty means to you.  

Is it having a flattering wardrobe?  

Is it being strong from a life of hard work?

Is it having a soft lap to rock your children in?

Please share the button and get the word out - I want all of us to let our voices be heard and to celebrate the many many meanings of beauty! 

Stuff I Love
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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Can You Help Me Out?

Some of you have probably seen me post ad-nauseum that I can't eat gluten.  However, I'm still a pasta-a-holic and I can't seem to get enough of the stuff.  This, however, presents me with two problems:

1) Gluten-free pasta is quite high in calories (and I'm trying to lose a few lbs)
2) Eating too many refined carbs leaves me with a tummy ache

I'm also awaiting the results of a super intense screening for food sensitivities and I foresee a serious detox in my future.

In the meantime, I want to make a slow change in the direction of eating almost exclusively whole grains.  I've replaced sandwich bread with rice-cakes, cereal with oatmeal, and dinner-rolls with a side of brown rice.  But I really really miss pasta.  My goal is to revamp some rockin' pasta dishes to replace the pasta with a whole grain.  I've seen quinoa mac'n'cheese recipes floating around, and my sister taught me an amazing quinoa lasagna dish.  But, other than a fancy spaghetti, I don't really know many good pasta dishes.  And by "good" I mean more complex than simply a jar of sauce. 

Soooo - here's where I'm asking for help.  Will you send me/link me to your favorite pasta dishes?  I'd love something medeterian, something creamy with vegetables, a great chunky red sauce - anything that's healthy-ish and interesting.  I'll test them out with different grain bases and report back what I find.

Are you up for helping me with this challenge?  I'd be more than grateful!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Old Navy Challenges Me Again

So, every time I think I know what looks good on my body - every time I think I know my own sense of style - Old Navy comes along with a new Crowdtap challenge and totally shakes me up. 

You  may have seen my posts  about the free Old Navy swimsuit I was awarded.  Or, perhaps, this post about the free Old Navy dress.  Well, this time they really stepped it up.  Not only did they increase the number of friends I got to take from 1 to 3, but instead of giving us one free item, we each got 3!  We got to put together entire outfits!  Huzzah!  I'm the queen of buying random pieces that go with nothing else I own - so it was fun to have the challenge of building a whole outfit.  

I took along 3 friends who'd never met before, from three completely different spheres of my life.  Fortunately, they are all amazing women and they got along swimmingly.  We had a little trouble finding things at first - the skirts, scarves and cardigans are all in different parts of the store (in fact, the cardis were in 3 separate places!), but once we got things sorted out, we had a blast putting things together in the fitting rooms.  And each one of us was surprised to discover what clothes looked the very best on us.  We came in four very different lovely shapes and sizes, but each of us was able to build an entire outfit that flattered us.  Here are some photos of our adventure.

 Here's what I wore to the store.  Yup, those are Old Navy shorts from many seasons ago.  Definitely my go-to pair.
 What my racks looked like - so hard to choose!
 And, of course, I couldn't just stick to the promotional items - I found sweats I'd actually wear out of the house!  That is so rare for me, so I bought them in two colors ;)
 I did have a little trouble finding the right size in some things.  This cardi was supposed to be a small, but it was super long!  Looking at the website, I thought this sweater would be my favorite.  Not so much.
 And I really wanted to love this cardi and scarf (look at the adorable ruffles!  and the gorgeous pattern!), but they just didn't work on my shape.
 Ah, much better.  Though I exchanged this scarf at the last second for a pink and grey infinity scarf.  I figured I ought to infuse the outfit with a little color. I was surprised, given that I have curves, that the long sweater and the skinny pencil skirt were the most flattering.  Way to go Old Navy!
 Much nicer on my silhouette.  I love the long lean sweater and the slinky skirt will look killer with heels.  Made me feel elegant while still being SUPER cozy.
 And my other lovely ladies found awesome outfits, too!  I love all the colors (wish I'd been more brave) and the way they pulled their outfits together.  Aren't they gorgeous!?
 And I had no idea that Old Navy had such amazing accessories!
 I wanted to buy everything on these racks!
I finally picked out a bracelet and some earrings to match a boutique dress I'd bought for a wedding.  Pricey dress, but the accessories were dirt cheap!  Here's to looking classy without breaking the bank!

So that was my adventure at Old Navy.  If you haven't checked out their latest fall looks, head over there asap - you won't regret it!  

Also, if you're interested in participating in similar promotions, consider signing up for Crowdtap.  Answer a few simple product questions each week, rack up megapoints (which you can trade in for Amazon cards), and eventually you'll qualify for awesome deals like free clothes from a fantastic shop!

Note: clearly, I was compensated for this post with free products.  However, my opinions are always honest and I would never recommend a product I didn't love.
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