More Pretty Dollar Tree Candles!

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Guys!  How cute are these candles?!

This is yet another super fun Dollar Tree find!  These are actual candles with wicks, not battery operated, and they smell lovely!  They each have the layered colors and a gorgeous gold lettered saying on the front.

In order from left to right they read:

  • Hello Gorgeous
  • Follow Your Dreams
  • Free Spirit
  • You Are My Sunshine

These would be so cute decorating a teen or tween’s bedroom!  Or a dorm room, or any room that needs a little pop of color and a pretty little saying to make you smile.  I grabbed one of each, they were just too cute to resist!

I am currently upgrading my girls room, and I think these would be lovely as little accent pieces!

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DIY Chalkboard

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We made a fun chalkboard for the kids playroom last weekend and it was so simple and easy to make!

Have you been wanting a chalkboard for your kids, but didn’t want to pay the crazy high prices for the dinky pre made ones?  Same here, friends!  This board was so easy and inexpensive, it just doesn’t make sense to even bother with the high priced store bought ones.  Trust me, even a beginner DIYer could tackle this!

Materials needed:

  • Sheet of metal from plumbing department in hardware store (you could also use a board, but we used metal so it would also be magnetic for the kids to use their letter magnets and other fun magnets on)
  • Trim pieces (they can even cut them for you at the hardware store if you don’t have a saw!)
  • Blackboard paint
  • Screws

To start with, you will want to put several coats of blackboard paint on the metal sheet.  Let the coats dry in between.  We ended up doing about 4-5 coats.  If you want, paint the trim.  The trim pieces we grabbed were pre painted, how easy is that?  You can get fancy and do mitered corners and what not, but we went super simple and quick for our assembly.

When the chalkboard paint is dry, lay out the trim and attach.  Abe just used short screws and screwed them on from behind the board.

To attach to the wall, we used anchors and screws directly through the four corners of the chalkboard.

That is it, friends!

Before you throw the chalk at the kids and tell them to have at it, prime the board by taking the side of a piece of chalk and covering the whole board with a thin layer of chalk.  Then erase and let the kids go wild.

Our kiddos love the new addition to the playroom!  Everyday there is a new masterpiece created.  So fun!

Happy crafting, friends!

Dollar Tree Ocean Theme Candles

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Have you seen these super cute LED candles at your local Dollar Tree this summer?  I absolutely fell in love with them when I saw them on the shelf!

The candles are votive sized, and have sand and pretty little shells in the bottom.  The blue “water” is a gel material.  Some of the candles even have tiny little starfish in them, so cute!

These are similar to other LED votives that Dollar Tree sells, with a toggle switch on the bottom and a flickering candle like light when turned on.

I think they are just perfect for summer decorating, and would be adorable in a beach themed bathroom year round.

Grab them fast if you like them, fall merchandise is already rolling out in the stores!

Happy decorating, friends!

Fish Stick Snack!

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Guys!  How cute are these “fish sticks”?!

I saw this adorable idea on Pinterest and made them for a recent playdate we had.  They are so incredibly simple to make and they are so impressive looking when they are finished!  And not to mention what a hit they are with the kids!

To make these is pretty self explanatory.  It’s just pretzel rods dipped in melting chocolate and then decorated with Goldfish Crackers and sprinkles.  I used the little mini pearls for the bubbles, and mixed pink and blue colored sugar for the aquarium gravel.

This would be a great Shark Week snack!  Sure, they aren’t Great Whites, but they are awfully cute and it’s an underwater theme, so that counts, right?

Happy snacking, friends!

DripJoy Coffee Subscription Review!!

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I love, love, love coffee!!  The look, the smell, the taste….anything coffee is pretty much amazing to me.  I enjoy it hot or iced, black or flavored, any way you serve it, coffee make this girl happy!

In our home, we have a Mr Coffee brewer for making full pots, and our Keurig Brewer for the convenience of single servings.  I really love the convenience of grabbing a pod, throwing it in the machine, and having an instantly fresh, hot cup of coffee.  But, finding a really good quality coffee pod is not so easy!

I have taste tested many, many different brands of coffee pods for the Keurig, and very few deliver truly delicious cups of coffee.  They are often too weak, or just oddly flavored.  We have also purchased the reusable pods, where you can brew with your own coffee of choice.  Meh.  I don’t know why, but the magic promised with those gadgets just does not deliver.

When I was asked to test and review DripJoy Single Serve Coffee pods, I was excited, because coffee, but wasn’t expecting anything different than what I am used to.  I was very pleasantly surprised!

First, lets talk about what exactly DripJoy is.

DripJoy was started with the frustration of single cup brewers.  Realizing there is no need to sacrifice quality for convenience, DripJoy started with constructing a brand new brewer, a machine that is available directly through them, that solves many of the frustrations of clogged and faulty brewers.   But they also chose not to chance just any coffee with their newly designed brewer, and went straight to the source, working with farmers across the world to get the freshest, highest quality coffee for their pods.

These awesome, high quality JoyPods work with Keurig machines, but you can also sign up for a greatly discounted Premium Brewer when you sign up for a subscription.  In the higher tiered subscriptions, you even get the brewer for free!  The website walks you through your order, helping you to decide what monthly plan works best for you.  You tell them whether it is for home or business, how many coffee drinkers you have in the home, how much coffee you drink, etc, and they come up with a plan best suited for you.

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Plans start as low as $14.99 a month, which is billed and shipped every other month, so one charge of $29.98 for two months of premium coffee shipped directly to you.  The price per cup goes down as you choose larger plans, but even at the lowest tier, it’s only $0.62 per cup!  Way less than a cup from the local coffee shop, more convenient and quicker than brewing a whole pot, and the coffee tastes amazing!!!  You can even try out a sampler pack for just $1.00, which includes a mix of  the different varieties so you can see how great the quality is and also taste the amazing brews!

There are seven different roasts to choose from: Morning Joy, Dark Bean Daydream, Colombian Cheer, French Elation, Vanilla Jubilee, Happy Hazelnut, and Delightful Decaf.  I chose Dark Bean Daydream and Colombian Cheer for my review, and I could not be more happy!

First of all, the package is designed to fit perfectly in your cabinet, unlike many other packages from other brands.  I love this!  And the cups have a happy little face on them, preparing you for the bliss you are about to experience.

As soon as the cup began brewing, my entire kitchen was filled with the amazing aroma of the rich, dark, intoxicating loveliness.  It even smells better than those other coffee pods!!  But the real test was in the taste, and let me tell you, DripJoy passes with flying colors!  I haven’t brewed coffee this good in ages!  Certainly not from a coffee pod!  It is strong and rich, but not bitter at all.  I enjoyed it hot and fresh and even as a nice refreshing iced drink.  Of all of the coffees I have used in my iced drinks, this is by far superior.  It is truly coffee house quality, in the comfort and convenience of you own home!

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I am a huge fan of DripJoy, and can’t wait to try even more of their yummy varieties.  This is a company that not only cares about giving you a delicious, convenient cup of coffee, but they do it sustainably,  harvesting only at the ripest moment, ensuring maximum yield and the most robust flavor.  Only the highest quality beans are used, which guarantees the best cup of coffee every single time.

With your subscription, you can change your roast preferences at any time online.  If you get their brewer, they guarantee it!  If it should ever break, they will replace it for free!  Your subscription will automatically renew, so you never have to worry about forgetting to pick up or order more pods.  They also send you an email before they renew your subscription.

Shipping for DripJoy is just $9.99 per order in the contiguous U.S.  But they also have a program called Shipping+, which entitles you to free shipping when you commit to subscribe for one full year.  This saves you over $115 a year, and makes it all an even better value!  There is a fee if you decide to cancel before your 365 days are up, but when would you ever not want to get amazing coffee delivered for free right to your doorstep?

Click HERE to check out the DripJoy website and customize your very own yummy coffee subscription!

Click HERE to check out and follow DripJoy on Twitter!

Click HERE to check out and “like” the DripJoy Facebook page! dripjoy3

The awesome folks at DripJoy provided me with free product for review purposes only and I was not compensated in any other way.  All opinions are my own, and I really do love their products!

It can always be worse…..

Having a crappy day, where everything is going wrong, I feel like a failure, I am so crabby and so defeated I want to scream and then sob.

Took car in for safety check to renew plates, hit with a $1000 completely unforseen repair bill.  Finally ready to renew the plates online, don’t have my property tax receipts, don’t even know if they still exist in our possession, or if they are forgotten ash from the house fire.  Rushed to get daughter off to dance class over 30 minutes away, find out she does not have dance on Monday nights.

I can rattle off a thousand more reasons for my foul mood, and in the back of my mind, I can’t help but realize that things could certainly be worse, as the universe has proven to us more than once in the last several months.

Does that make me feel better?

The answer is no.  I still feel like screaming and crying and hiding under the covers until all the adulting is done and over with.

Being responsible blows, folks.

We didn’t start the fire…..really!

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Been a while, friends!  Just as I left you with my idea of video blogging PCOS related content, I up and vanished.  I have a really good reason, I promise!  We had a house fire and have been out of our home since mid April.

It all started on laundry day, with my very last load of laundry.  The dryer had just buzzed about 15 minutes earlier when I noticed a burning smell.  I happened to look outside the master bathroom window and saw smoke coming from the dryer vent.

Immediately, I ran downstairs to investigate.  The first thing I did was unplug the machine.  I noticed a very small amount of smoke coming from the left side of the dryer (we have or should I say had, a stackable unit, to help you visualize) so I opened the dryer door, still full of freshly washed and dried clothes.  I pulled out the lint basket, and could see flames inside of the machine.  (Side note, I am super OCD about emptying the lint after every single load, always, and we had even recently taken apart the whole dryer and vent to vacuum every little bit of dust and debris!)

I ran and grabbed a cup of water, throwing it on the flames, which seemed to do absolutely nothing, meanwhile the smoke was filling the laundry room.

The power ended up going out, so I used my cell phone to dial 911 as I rushed to get the dogs outside and then ran out onto the porch with Sara while we waited for help.  It was pouring down rain, I was soaked, and completely freaked out.  We had no shoes on, my cats were still in the house, and by the time the fire trucks arrived, our house was billowing smoke.

I called Abe frantically after calling 911, telling him what was happening, and ultimately hanging up on him as I rushed around trying to figure out what I should be doing.  When he later showed up, I was shocked, it hadn’t even crossed my mind that he would leave work, that’s how scrambled my brain was, trying to digest what was happening.

I hurt myself, running barefoot up a wet, grassy hill to secure the dogs for the firemen.  I heard and felt a big POP, and was suddenly in excruciating pain.  It turns out I tore my calf muscle, pretty badly, and was in an insane amount of pain for several weeks to follow.

The cats were rescued by the firemen, and Abe, who had to collect Brady and Katie.  Moriarty was all chill, and let the fireman carry him and bring him straight to me.

The fire broke the main water line, which the fire marshal says helped to put out the fire.  I knew we had a lot of damage, but I honestly expected to be back in the house within a week or two.  That is, until the contractor told us his estimate for finishing was 3-4 months.  *insert jaw dropping shock here*

The amount of things we lost is mind numbing.  Nearly all of our clothing, I mean everything for everyone of us!!  My craft room and Abe’s office were completely destroyed, nothing left.  The vast majority of the kids toys, all completely gone, lost to the fire and water damage.

The playroom where we spent so much time, where we recently renovated with new flooring and built ins, completely destroyed.

Handmade gifts that took hundreds of hours to make, the kids artwork, photos, books, collectibles from childhood and little keepsake memories, all gone.

But you know what wasn’t gone?  My family.  My kids, my furbabies, even our aquarium full of fish!!  We are all safe, and other than my torn calf muscle, all completely unharmed.

What a BLESSING!!!

Our friends, our neighbors and our amazing dance family took care of us when there was no one else there to help.  When I woke up in the hotel room, hearing one of my babies coughing and then began to cry because I had no medicine, nothing to give them, our dance family answered with cough drops and toys and clothes and toiletries.  I cannot count the tears of gratitude I have shed, being lifted up by all of our adopted family members, when we had no one to turn to and no answers.

Yes, we lost all of our “stuff”, but it turns out we were rich beyond measure and never even realized it.

We spent about 6 weeks in the hotel, before the insurance company found us temporary housing at a rental house near our home.  On the second night in the rental home, we found ourselves once again surrounded by firemen.

A carbon monoxide alarm starting going off, just as we were preparing to go to bed.  Thank goodness, because when the fire department came out, and the fire marshal assessed the home, he told us had we gone to bed that night, not knowing about the leak, we would have likely never woke up the next day.

Take a moment to digest that.

After walking away from a house fire unharmed and living in a hotel for 6 weeks, we nearly died from carbon monoxide poisoning.  All of us, the children, the dogs, the cats, we all could have died.

Well, if we weren’t insanely thankful to be alive before, we certainly were now!!!

Can you imagine?!

So back to the hotel we went, for about 4 days, while the water heater, which was the cause for the leak, was replaced.

Having endured so much, and roughing it with so little, we got a letter in the mail from our insurance company.  What we had expected to be a reimbursement check, turned out to be a non-renewal notice.  The insurance company decided not to renew our policy, right smack dab in the middle of a huge claim!!  The house is demo’d and awaiting construction, and now we had to worry about finding coverage for our home that was unoccupied and destroyed.  Let me tell you, it is not possible.  The answer, is lender forced coverage which can cost 10 times as much for less coverage!

This is when I officially shut down and started having full blown panic/anxiety attacks.  We’re talking, not able to sleep, constant fear and stress, worried we will lose our house!  I started imagining having to rent a trailer, losing the perfect home that we loved and worked so hard for.  It was extremely painful, and excruciatingly traumatic on top of everything else.  Absolutely the straw that broke this camel’s back.

We immediately called our agent’s office, who was shocked that we got the letter in the first place.  They vowed straight away to “rattle cages” and find us answers.  This all sounded good, but weeks went by and time was running out.  I wasn’t sleeping, I wasn’t leaving the house, I was super depressed beyond words.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, we got the amazing news that they were able to get our policy renewed…..for a higher premium and higher deductible.  But still, the amount of amazing, sweet relief this gave us…….immeasurable.

So here we still sit, in the rental home, no construction started yet, grrrrr, waiting for some good news and very cautiously able to breathe again, hoping to have nothing but good news and happiness in our future.

We usually have big birthdays for our kids, something I absolutely love to do, but have not been able to do with the two kids who had birthdays since all this madness started.  And we are gearing up to have a third birthday away from home, along with starting the new school year.

I had really hoped we would be home by now, I miss our beautiful home, I miss our veggie garden and spending the days outside swimming or playing or just relaxing on our own furniture surrounded by our familiar things.

I hope we have big news on construction soon, and maybe the contractors will surprise us and finish ahead of schedule.  I won’t nit pick and get into all the other problems we have had with various companies, etc during this experience, because in the end, it just doesn’t matter.  What matters is family, and we are all still present and accounted for.  We will embrace this adventure, and I’m sure we will speak about it often in the future.

In the meantime, hug your babies and furbabies and spouses, tell everyone you love that you love them, and just be happy.  Life is too short for misery, and you never know which day is your last.

Love and blessings!!  xoxoxoxo

Ashes

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You were forced to murder me in loyalty to your keeper, and yet you still walk past my grave to enjoy my fruit. I can still see tiny glimmers of your life, under the robotic stare, but they are quickly stilled by your trance. I shiver from the bitter iciness that has become you, even these many years after my death. The grip he has, it’s terrifying. Why did you do this? Why let him win? I remember our bond, I cherish our memories, but they are fading along with my ashes. Sometimes when you pass my tomb, I don’t even recognize you. Do you see me? Do you recall what you did? Does it matter?

The gates are closing. Have you noticed that? On your last visit, you could barely squeeze through the thorn covered gate. The last blooms have died and rotted since then, and the gates are sealing shut. The fog has rolled in and with it a darkness that numbs my once warm and happy feelings for you.

It’s a funny contrast, seeing my beautiful fruit surrounded by all of this midnight cover. It intensifies their loveliness to me and whispers in my ear that nothing else matters. Not anymore. When I start to believe that, I see light. Not near the gates, those are sealed now and damaged beyond repair. It made me sad once, but I’m happy to have the ugliness locked out. My dust can swirl around my treasure, soaking up their glory and be rebuilt. New memories replace the bad, and as my mind and body become whole again, it is your ashes that take my place.

I promise to keep the thorns away from your tombstone. I will plant flowers there and tell stories of how you used to be, before you were strung up and forced to live life as the walking dead. Some days I will miss you and feel remorse, but mostly my wounds remind me why you are here, and I know it was your choice.

Teacher Gifts

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Can you believe that December is already here?!  Craziness!!  I like to get all the grunt work done as early in the month as possible, so I can try and enjoy the fun and traditions with the kiddos without worrying about last minute shopping, baking, etc.

Yesterday, between our water being turned off accidentally by the water company (new computer system apparently, but holyhell was that a major headache!!), a sick baby coughing her cute little head off, and our internet not working for most of the day…….I happened to hop online and quickly had my holiday spirit squashed like a bug.

I’m not sure exactly what I had searched, but I happened upon a blog with a list of items teachers really want for Christmas, along with a very long list of things they apparently hate getting for Christmas.  Basically, it boiled down to giving them cash or gift cards because they hate anything teacher related, handmade, or simply bought out of the goodness of your heart.  The post had soooooooo many comments from real teachers, agreeing with the list and groaning and moaning about all the tacky stuff they get each year.

Wow.

It got real ugly real quick, and the overwhelming vibe was how ungrateful the list and the people replying to it really were.

Now, valid points were made.  I guess.  Of course, the teacher won’t like every single lotion or candle or goodie that they receive.  But shouldn’t they love the thought behind it??  The love and the intention of someone carving out precious time and money during the holiday season to show their appreciation??

If I were swimming in money, oh the gifts I would give!!!  I would spoil every single person around me!  Being without oodles of cash, I still make a point to try and show our love and appreciation to our loved ones and the amazing teachers we have in our lives.  Isn’t that enough?  Shouldn’t the recipient of any gift at all just be grateful that you thought of them and made sure to include them?

This one little post soured my mood and filled me with more bah humbug than I care to admit.  Of course, I want to believe that we are the exception, and that anything we ever give is greatly received and appreciated, but now I am filled with doubt.  One thing this girl can’t stand to be is unappreciated.

Blah!

For the most part, each year, we give a gift to the main teacher, and then I have my kids make hand drawn cards for all the extra awesome people they encounter daily, like the special area teachers, the lunch ladies, the bus driver, janitor, school nurse, everyone we can think of that is a part of making each day awesome.  Along with the homemade cards, we usually attach a piece of candy or something of the like.

The response from all of the usually forgotten people has always been amazing, and we will continue that tradition for sure.  But I find myself on the fence now with the teacher gift because, well, I want to be appreciated for appreciating!  Is that so crazy?  I have four kids who are all very busy with school, scouting, dance, band, etc.  For me to carve precious time and money from our already overstretched schedule and pocketbook is a big deal to us.  I want to give a gift that is appreciated and makes the teacher feel loved and cherished.  I don’t want to imagine them rolling their eyes and throwing our gift in a pile of perceived crappy gifts.

I guess really, I will give them whatever the heck I want to, try and forget that crappy blog post I read, and just hope that the people in our lives are not as ungrateful and awful as the people that felt the need to trash the things they get for Christmas each year.  It’s hard to feel sorry for people who are showered with gifts, whether they are up to their snooty standards or not.

I choose to believe that we put good thought and intentions with our gift giving, and if the people want to be jerks about it, so long as I don’t hear about it, I don’t care!  Pffffffffft!!!

I guess I should get off this soap box before it splinters…….

Last thought, and something I am constantly saying to my kids since they were teeny tiny:

You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.

Rant over.  🙂

 

Blooming

“And the day came when  the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to bloom.”  Anais Nin

I came to a sudden realization this morning that I haven’t seen or spoken to my sister at all in over a year, my brother in over two years.  My reaction wasn’t one of surprise or sadness, really just more matter of fact.

My family is, for lack of a better word, bizarre.  On my mother’s side there is a lot of mental illness and addiction problems, and on my father’s side, more addiction and Latin stubbornness.  My parents are both the more anti social ones of the bunch, and are happy to stay at home and gripe about the world around them.  They are happy to have close family over, but never stray far from home themselves.  I can count on one hand the number of times my mom has been to our new home, and on the same hand, I can count the number of times my dad has ever been to this home or our last one.

When my paternal grandmother was alive, she would have everyone gather together for parties and holidays.  Everyone was welcome, everyone was family.  Friends, neighbors, people she just met, all were welcome in her home and each one loved and respected the same.  Her home was a happy one, filled with joy and love.  When her husband, my grandfather died, the get togethers were designated to different homes, sometimes my parents, sometimes different uncles, but it was never the same.  My parents complained when extra people showed up, if they weren’t immediate family, they had no business being there.  I never understood this.  As the years went by, the gatherings got smaller and smaller until it was just my parents and my siblings.  The emptiness was sad, the holidays felt lonely.

As the years have passed, my parents have only become more and more alienated by their own petulance.  With my brother still living at home with them, I can’t help but feel like their misanthropic tendencies have rubbed off on to him, and even my sister, who also lived with them for quite a bit longer than average.

My husband’s family is always together.  As my mom once not so eloquently stated, “They throw a party every time someone farts.”  Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, vacations, even just because.  They are very tightly knit, something my grandmother strived for and something, while my mother may put on show to loathe, I can’t help but think she is secretly envious.  Being crotchety is lonely work.

I miss my Grandma Ola and her ability to gather everyone together, grudges and work be damned.  This is the woman who would make a friend for life by asking the stock person at the grocery store if they had any rocky road ice cream, her favorite flavor.  They would point her in the direction and she would reply, “Oh no, I don’t need to buy any, just wondered if you had any.  That’s my favorite.”  Then somehow, this stock person would get invited over for dinner, or ice cream, or sweet tea, and just like that, they too were family.

I want my house to be like my Grandma Ola’s.  I want everyone to feel welcome and at home.  I want my friends to feel like family and to know that they are loved just as though they were.  I hope as my children grow up and make friends and eventually date, (ack!), that their friends and dates feel equally comfortable in our home.  All I want is love and happiness.

As we grow and become more of the people we are destined to be, sometimes it is without the people we grew up with.  Our paths and circumstances take us all to different places, and it is in these times when our vision is refined and able to see  surroundings for what they truly are.  I am surrounded by my husband and my children and my furbabies in our wonderful new home.  I have dear family and friends that I am fortunate to be blessed with and interact with on a regular basis.  My siblings aren’t around, but they have their paths, and perhaps one day our paths will cross again.  My door and heart are always open.