An Uncomplicated Life Blog: September 2016

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Holistic Living Fails

I try to implement an all around holistic lifestyle but some things I just fail at.

Like many parents, I'm concerned about the "crap" we have in our home. I'm concerned about the environment I provide for my kids. I don't want there to be unnecessary chemicals or toxins that we're constantly exposed to if there are better alternatives. I use essential oils for skincare and other beauty/personal DIYs. I've recently cleaned out my makeup bag after reading about how the FDA doesn't regulate what's in cosmetics - and you know they just banned the crap that's in antibacterial soap, so they're way behind the curve. Your skin is your biggest organ and if you're spreading cheap drugstore cosmetics all over it, I'm concerned for you. I really am! All of that said, I'm not perfect. I don't fully implement a holistic living life. In fact, I have some pretty big holistic living fails. Here are my top offenders:

So funny! This crunchy blogger talks about when she chooses to not go organic and why

Wearing standard deodorant
Yup, I wear good ol' toxic-y Secret deodorant. I tried to do a DIY deodorant with essential oils and arrowroot powder, amongst other things, and it was a FAIL. It actually did keep me from being stinky, but I developed a rash in the folds of my armpit (TMI?), I'm assuming from the starchiness of the arrowroot powder. Anyway, I gave it a solid try and went back to conventional brands. We all know the natural deodorant aisle doesn't have anything that works and I couldn't make some thing that worked, so there you have it.

Gimme the deodorant that WERKS

Using conventional dishwasher detergent
I have tried EVERY (ok, not really, but it sure feels like it!) natural brand for dishwasher soap. It's almost as if these brands leave your dishes dirtier than when you put them in, no? There's literally a nasty residue left on all your glasses, and your silverware still have food on stuck on plus that nasty, grimy residue. We use Finish . Oops. But dirty, cloudy dishes are a pet peeve, not to mention just plain out gross! And Finish leaves them sparkly and squeeky clean. There's something about the dishwasher specifically that doesn't work with crunchy detergent, because I've used the natural stuff for hand-wash only dishes with some success.

#sorrynotsorry I want my dishes sparkling

Using traditional carpet cleaner
This is one I wish I didn't use, and really want to look into other options. So far, all the other options involve vinegar of some sort, and call me crazy, but I'm NOT putting that on a carpet! Would the smell ever come out? Wouldn't I just be trading a stain for a smell? We have hardwood or tile everywhere except the playroom and the bedrooms, and let me tell you: Boys do a number on them. All my boys. Not a day goes by that my husband doesn't spill coffee (not kidding) in one of the rooms, my dog will have wet and muddy paws that leaves a mark somewhere, and Henry will use a carpet as his own personal napkin after a messy PB&J. I NEED a good carpet cleaner! Someday we'll replace all the carpet with more hardwood, but until then, I'm going to steer clear of all this vinegar talk I see and use some good old chemically cleaner. Sue me.

A boymom's best friend

I visit a drive thru several times a year
I know, I know, "several times a year" isn't anything to be ashamed of in comparison to the national average... But I wish I never went at all. The only place we go is Chick-fil-a or Jakes (local to Dallas) because daaaaaang, sometimes I'm tired and don't want to cook and a burger with a poppy seed bun is calling my name, or a fried chicken sandwich (why get grilled when you can get fried? If I'm going out, I'm going ALL out!) with pickles on it is the only thing that will do. I try to keep it to no more than six times a year. And those are some glorious six times, friends. Sigh. Don't worry, I eat extra-organic the next day for balance!

Hey guys, I'm not perfect. I try to live the healthiest lifestyle I can. I try to make sure my house has as few chemicals as possible, and I sure do try to be as holistic as possible in my lifestyle and approach to healthcare. But sometimes, just sometimes y'all, the crunchy way isn't the best way. Sometimes I just gotta go the conventional route, and write my loss off as a holistic living fail!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Weekend Update

Just a good old fashioned weekend update!

How long has it been since I posted a good old weekend update?! I tried to look back through my published post feed and made it three pages in before I got bored and didn't find anything, so I'm going to say it's been at least a year. Fixing that now! Hold on guys and gals, because this post won't show you how to do anything, won't list 10 steps to a happier you and you'll likely learn nothing. Hopefully, you'll be entertained half as much as we were this last weekend. Here's a weekend update, for your entertainment needs.

Friday was date night. I captured no pics even though I showered and had a real bra on. That's a shame, huh? Anyway, we went to Studio Movie Grill, where you get to drink 9oz wine pourswreath&o=1&a=B00NAQ8TZO" style="border: none !important; margin: 0px !important;" width="1" /> and eat mediocre food while you watch your movie. We saw Don't Breathe. Now in a normal viewing environment, this film would have fallen short of any shallow expectations I would have had. But at Studio Movie Grill, it was a hoot! I was on my second 9oz wine pour when the film took a bizarre shift, and the crowd started hooting and hollering at the screen. Hubs and I died laughing, right along with everyone else. It was a good time, and I had a solid cheap wine headache the next day.

Saturday was grocery shopping day, and per usual, I forgot several key items on my list. I finished decorating the inside of our home for Halloween, and hubs got this wreath I made hung. I'm not sure the pic does it justice - it's MASSIVE. I had so much fun making it this past week, too! If I had more hours in the day I'd consider opening an Etsy shop to sell my wreaths, but right now, it's all I can do to post here and keep an Instagram feed going, knawwhatimean?

In the afternoon, hubs took the boys to the gym so I got the house to myself for two hours. I chatted with a friend and made lasagne roll ups. See, during the week I nuked an Amy's Organic spinach lasagna and Henry ate most of it. In case you're new here, Henry is the PICKIEST toddler eater ever. He's a vegetarian (what two year old decides that?!) So I made these spinach lasagna roll ups and hid some portabella mushrooms in it, and he ate it with vigor! My husband even ate two plates full. Totally winning. Oh, and Otto? He's my champion. He'll eat anything happily, as long as it's what we're eating and not baby food. Love that little baby for that!

It might technically be fall, but it's still 100 degrees in Texas, so after the boys got home from the gym and while the roll ups were baking, we swam in the pool. And by we, I mean the boys and husband. And by swam, I mean splashed water on each other and on the poor dog.

Sinking Henry
Floating Otto

Happy Henry

Happy Otto and a cautious dog (who hates water)
Sunday rolled around and that means football. I threw some chili together in the Crockpot without following any semblance of a recipe, crossing my fingers that it would turn out ok. If it didn't, I planned on feeding my husband few beers beforehand so he wouldn't notice... However, it turned out great! Don't ask me for the recipe because I just threw crap together and have no idea what I did. There's some cumin and some tomatoes and some beef in it though.

What didn't turn out so great was the banana bread (recipe here) that is normally the BEST ever. I think my baking powder was expired. Actually, yes, I just went to look and it's indeed expired, so the loaf is a little... er... dense and flat. Still tastes good though!

Banana bread fail
And that's how the weekend was done! How did y'all weekend? Hope it was a good one! I have a hilarious post planned for Thursday, all about how I fail at being crunchy. See you then!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The State Of Blogging

Why have bloggers become extensions of brands, spitting out nonstop marketing content and affiliate links?

I had reserved myself to no longer blog about blogging, because I was informed that no "big time, career blogger" talks about "how to blog." I was told not to blog for other bloggers, but instead to try to reach the general public. Article after article and professional resource after professional resource will tell you this, and it makes sense. Bloggers make up a small portion of the population, and if you really want to "reach" people and make a career of blogging, you have to think bigger. "Niche down!" They say. "Only talk about your niche so people know what to expect and you become the expert in that area!" Well, I'm here to call bu**sh*t on that. All of that hoopla is ruining the state of blogging, if you ask me.

I don't mean to say that those recommendations aren't the recipe for success. Maybe they are. But it also ruins your blog. Why? Because it makes you BORING.

Blogging with affiliate links, niching down, and what else NOT to do with your blog

One of my former favorite bloggers and the true inspiration I had for creating my own blog easily makes six figures a year blogging now. At first, I liked her because she was funny and genuine and was passionate about what she was writing about - hair. Yes, even me - the anti-beauty blog - got into blogging by reading a beauty blog, she was that good! I looked forward to pulling her site up everyday on my lunch break to see her personality come through in her video tutorials or a life update post. She talked about date nights with her husband, the struggle she had trying to conceive her first son and the shock she had at her surprise second pregnancy a few short months after the birth of her first baby. Of course, there would be hair and style posts scattered in there too, and I bought clothes off her links more than a few times.

I felt like she and I would be best friends, if we only lived in the same city! And ummm, you know, if she knew I even existed.

Today, I no longer read her blog. I check in every now and again, but it just makes me sad. She has entire posts created for the sole purpose of pushing her affiliate links on her readers. "Gift guides" and "makeup must haves" posts have replaced her likable, relateable posts on her life and family. She landed some huuuuuuuge contracts with Ponds and an eye wear company and had a post a week on how great those products were. It was forced content and painful to read. It was the same post, chewed up and regurgitated week after week with a "different angle." I officially stopped reading her when her videos began lacking her fun and playful personality and started to be more about the products and tools she was schlepping.

It's a bizarre thing to admit, but it was like the loss of a good friend! A friend who wouldn't know my name if she saw me on the street, but a friend nonetheless.

And here's another thing painful to admit: More and more of my blogging friends are dropping like flies, abandoning their fun personalities and lovable quirks to push affiliate links and sponsored content, talking about one subject ad nauseam. Now let me be clear - I have sponsored content here. I also have affiliate links. But I don't create posts for the sole purpose of including those links, like a makeup gift guide or promoting the Nordstrom sale. That doesn't make me better than anyone (hell, I'm not making a few grand off the NSale like some of my friends - I'm lucky if I can pay my phone bill with my Amazon link income!) But ladies... I wish I had my friends back. I wish I still enjoyed reading your blog for your personality, life updates, funny stories involving your husband or dogs or your kids. But all that has been replaced by "niching down!" and "becoming the expert!" and making money off promoting sales and products.

I went to check out a few new blogs from a blog support group on Facebook. Many of the bloggers are young and fairly new to blogging, so I thought it would be refreshing to read some posts from people who are just getting their feet wet and still blogging about what they're passionate about. My expectations were sadly mistaken. Even from bloggers who have been at it for 6 months or less, the posts were developed solely to push the affiliate links from the programs they've signed up for. One post had a great title on something I was interested in, but the post was completely the opposite! It was supposed to be low key beauty but the blogger listed (and linked) about 30 products she uses for her "low key" look. Ugh! Why?!

Besides nonstop affiliate links and out of character sponsored content, the other thing killing blogging is this drive to ALWAYS be engaged. "Reply to every comment on Instagram!" "Build a community!" "Always offer your reader value!" "VALUE ADD VALUE ADD VALUE ADD!" "Engagement is king, nobody cares about your follower count anymore! Engage engage engage!" Y'all, the social media component alone is enough to drain a blogger! I could easily spend four hours a day on Instagram, "engaging." It's insane. And right as you think you've built an engaged community, Instagram changes it's algorithm and your statistics drop. There's nothing quite like counting your worth (as a blogger, mom, woman, etc) in terms of the number of likes a photo gets, eh? *insert major eye roll*

Valid question bloggers should ask themselves

I've taken a huge step back from sponsored content this month. I wanted to take some time and really focus on why I was so bummed out with the state of blogging, and what I planned on doing about it. I needed to figure out if I was going to continue participating in some of my blog groups, or if it was time to let them go. I had already let my first 'blog crush' and inspiration go, because she was no longer inspirational. I need to be excited about using social media again, because right now it feels like a big, dumb chore.

Niching down can go straight to hell. I get that my classification is "mommy blogger" and that's cool - I work from home and hang out with my kids all day. It would be weird for me not to talk about them! But I love DIY beauty and I love decorating for the holidays and I love to cook. So I'm going to write about that, too. And no, they're not kid friendly recipes, have you seen my toddler?! That kid will eat cheese, crackers, fruit/veggie pouches and the occasional fish stick. If I only cooked "toddler friendly" recipes, we'd be malnourished over here.

This post isn't intended as a rant against bloggers who've decided to monetize. Hell, this blog did it too. I think I've just reached my threshold with the state of blogging. It's become one massive blogging blob of consumerism. Bloggers use and reuse the word "obsessed" and "crushing on" and "this needs to be on your radar" because they have no other way to describe the links they're trying to get you to click and the crap they want you to buy. And in terms of social media, if you leave me a meaningful comment, I'll certainly try to get back to you! I love getting them. But I can't be on my phone all day anymore. It's bumming me (and my kids!) out.

I say, write about what you're passionate about, let your personality shine through, and stop hustling your affiliate links and brand partnerships so hard. If you only talk about beauty, or only talk about fashion, or only talk about motherhood, you're limiting your audience... And quite frankly, you're most likely pretty boring. Posts purely for links are the WORST. It's not genuine. It's painful to read. I'll readily admit that this blog perhaps became painful to read at times. But I intend to fix that. I'm bummed about the state of blogging but that doesn't mean I need to be bummed about my own blog. I'm going to let profit margins take a backseat and focus on the things that I love an enjoy. Hopefully that love shines through in my posts and hopefully, more bloggers follow suit. We as bloggers can change the state of blogging, even if brands and marketers are trying to ruin it.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Better Than Campbell's Crockpot Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup

Cream of mushroom soup is in many holiday dishes, but the canned stuff is full of preservatives. Make your own in the crockpot for a healthy, cost effective holiday season!

Green bean casserole. Gravies and sauces. Specialty side dishes. Cream of mushroom soup is in lots of food served during the holiday season, isn't it? And those creamy dishes are soooo good too! However, the stuff that's in Campbell's cream of mushroom soup is disgusting. Did you know it has over a five year shelf life - for a product that contains dairy? At least, I think there's dairy in it, I can barely pronounce the derivatives and preserved versions of the whole food products. It comes as a surprise to nobody that I'm not into that. And I've devised my own recipe, that's super easy to make (it's done in the Crockpot so the work is done for you!) that tastes even BETTER than Campbell's, minus all the preservative crap.

So easy to make in the Crockpot and so much better for you than Campbell's!

The extra bonus is that this all organic, homemade, better tasting cream of mushroom soup is almost as cost effective as Campbell's. In Dallas, canned soup is $1.19 a can. I bought all these ingredients at Whole Foods and dollar cost averaged the price per mason jar out to $1.88. So for an extra 69 cents and the time it takes you to throw this stuff into a Crockpot, you can have fresh, homemade, preservative free, REAL food cream of mushroom soup for your holiday dishes. 

And the best part is that you can make it right now and freeze it. I bought 8 and 16oz mason jars to store it in my freezer. Then you can take them out as you need them for recipes. This soup is condensed, so no need to change grandma's recipe - just use this soup as a trade in for Campbell's! You're going to be amazed at how much better your food tastes when you use whole foods and real ingredients. Why cook from a can when it's so easy to make your own?

Better Than Campbell's Crockpot Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup

- 1 pkg white button mushrooms, chopped*
- 1/2 pkg mini portabella mushrooms, chopped*
- half a white onion, finely chopped
- 2 sticks celery, finely chopped
- 1 stick of butter
- 3/4 C flour
- 1T salt
- 1 32oz container chicken stock
- 1 can evaporated milk

*I chopped my mushrooms to slightly larger than the chunks you'd see in a can of Campbell's. They cook down, too. 

Plug your Crockpot and turn it on high. Add half the chicken stock to begin warming. In a large skillet, take 2 tablespoons of butter and brown the mushrooms. Add them to the Crockpot and chicken stock. Use the same skillet to saute the onions and celery. Add the rest of the butter once the veggies are soft. Add the flour and cook for 2-3 minutes to cook the "flour" taste out of the super thick roux. 

Whisk the flour-butter-veggie mixture in to the Crockpot. Let everything come to temperature, then add the remaining stock. Add the salt. Let simmer on high while covered for about 2 hours. The soup should be thick and simmering. Then remove the lid and cook on high for another 2 hours to allow some of the moisture to evaporate. This is what "condenses" the soup! 

Finally, after the soup has been on high for 4 hours, it should be really thick and chunky with the mushrooms. Add the evaporated milk and stir. Turn off the Crockpot and let cool for an hour or so before ladling into your desired storage containers.  This makes exactly 64oz of condensed soup. 

Great recipe to make your own copycat Campbell's soup for all those holiday recipes! So easy and so much healthier

Use as you would Campbell's condensed cream of mushroom soup in any recipe! This one is so much better, you'll even want to eat it as a bowl of soup this fall and winter. Just remember to dilute it with water or milk. Enjoy your more flavorful, healthier and less sodium laden holiday season!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

How Ditching All Mommy Facebook Groups Made Me A Happier Mom

Mom groups on Facebook are abundant and an active social scene. But these Facebook mommy groups can also be destructive.

I'm sitting down to write this at 5:25am. I've been up since a quarter past 4am, looked at the clock and immediately began to anticipate my husband's annoying alarm going off at 5:30. If he were gone for business, I'd have had no trouble going back to sleep until 6am, but today, I get the joy of being up at 4am just because of that dang impending alarm. Anyone else like that?! Long way to say, I'm already annoyed. But not nearly as annoyed, not even CLOSE to the level of annoyance, I got from a few Facebook mommy groups. Recently, I clicked "unjoin group" on all of them. Every single one. Sounds extreme, but lo and behold, I became a happier mom after I did it.

"But, um, weren't those groups started to HELP moms?" You're probably {not} asking. Yes, I think so. I don't think anyone says, "Hey, I'mma start this group so that we all have a place to complain and whine and commiserate!" Well, actually, I'm not sure about that one entirely... People are pretty weird. And mommy groups? They're especially weird.

Mommy Facebook groups have become a toxic place to be a mom - ditch yours and watch yourself become happier!

Let me rewind to a few weeks ago, before I joyfully hit "unjoin group" again and again until there were no more mommy Facebook groups to unjoin. I rarely scroll my personal Facebook page. After dealing with my blog's social medial all day, I rarely care to do anything personal on it. I'm over-saturated with the social medias, you know? Anyway, this one day I decided to check things out. Bad move, Paige. This is what I saw:

One mom in one group wrote a 2000 word manifesto on a night she had with her daughter. Her almost two year old still gets up at least once a night to eat (yeah, hold the eff on, what?! Why are you allowing that to happen at nearly 2?!) and this time, she couldn't get her back down. The manifesto went on and on about how she gave her daughter whatever she wanted, including sugary snacks, but she couldn't get her daughter to listen to her. A 2000 word manuscript on the play by play that lasted until normal people are well out of bed and up for the day. And friends, I'm not an early riser... So we're talking almost 9am! Did she end it with, "Help me, this can't go on, what are some tips you have to getting a toddler back in bed in the night?" Nope. She didn't want to hear any of that. She wasn't using the group for what the group was intended for. She hijacked that group's purpose for her own dysfunctional gain.

The comments on her post were many. All were commiserating comments. Other parents who not only have been there, no - moms who deal with the same thing regularly! And wonder why. "My Sarah is the same way. I give her whatever she wants from midnight to 7am, and she still won't go back to sleep! It's a nightly struggle. You're doing a good job mama!" Then there were other, "Stay strong mama, you can do this! You're being a great mom! Coffee, stat!"

Ummm, hold on. Nope. She's NOT doing a good job. Her toddler is an a$$hole and the mom is enabling her. Her daughter isn't listening to her not because she doesn't want to, but because the toddler is smarter than her mom and she knows she doesn't have to. Why is that getting congratulated in a mommy Facebook group? If this mom dealt with that and didn't blast it on social media for all to commiserate with her, THEN she'd be a good mom, because she'd be dealing with the monster she created (both literally and figuratively) and managing it quietly. Not begging for attention or praise or desperately seeking validation on her terrible parenting choices publicly.

Ahhhh, there! I said it. No, not all moms do a good job. I don't always do a good job. But seeking praise for when you air your dirty laundry in a Facebook mommy group is just a bizarre way to behave.

I wanted to respond, "You're wondering why your daughter won't listen to you, but your answer is in your own manuscript. If she's up in the middle of the night, you make it a quick affair - water/Tylenol/whatever the immediate need is gets done quickly. Then it's back to bed. You don't offer her choices and you don't take her downstairs for a snack and you sure as hell don't give her sugar and expect her to go back to bed! She has no boundaries. She doesn't listen to you because she knows she going to get what she wants anyway. How can you not see this?!" But did I say that? No, I know better. This mom, and the other commiserating moms, would have jumped down my throat with that common sense, obvious, smack you upside the head with some truth comment. So I eye rolled, didn't feel even a tad sorry this woman hasn't slept in nearly two years, and scrolled on.

Another group I was in I had to pay to be in. It was a local group. They had events and elected leadership, thus the fee to join. This group was a real piece of work, because the SAHM scene in Dallas is insane. Competitive, braggy, elitest... some other adjectives come to mind but I'll keep those to myself. Anyway, some women just commented to comment. Like, "Hey, is there still a dry cleaners on Walnut and Skillman? I should know this but with the construction of the new Sprouts and my sleep deprivation, my mind escapes me! Thanks ladies." What, you couldn't pull up Safari on your phone and google that in less than the amount of time it took you to write the post in the group?! Did you comment just to make sure we all knew you were still around, or what? Perhaps you felt the need to participate in a non-offensive way to get your annual membership fees worth?!

Then there were the real intense people who would respond to questions: I remember one woman wanted to know how much a medical procedure would cost for her kid at a local clinic given her insurance company. I used to work in insurance so I commented with general rules about in network/out of network, copays and coinsurance. Then a particular woman (who had commented previously lashing out at a woman for CIO and was a breastfeeding martyr in the Dallas La Leche League too, so you already know I don't like her) comments, "No, that's now how it worked for me and my insurance!" Ok lady. That's YOU and YOUR insurance. Not helpful to the commenter or her question. You piped up just to be an a$$hole. One more piped up that I was wrong too. She had military insurance - not even related to what the original commenter was asking about! But she had to put her two cents in to create controversy.

(If you're wondering how that comment thread ended, I held my tongue on the idiots and told the original commenter to call the number on the back of her insurance card for a specific quote. I tried to exit that scene as quickly as I {mistakenly} entered it.)

Here's the thing: Mommy Facebook groups have become a place to commiserate. To dump all the ways your toddler isn't behaving the way the mom wants, and not get tips on how to correct it - just to bitch about it. I'm sorry, I just don't find motherhood to be that awful! My kids aren't perfect, but they're pretty kicka$$. We have fun together. If my toddler misbehaves, I discipline him. Trust me, not all of my nights as a mom have been good, but when I did have a bad night, I wouldn't put it in a group and expect to be told I was doing a great job! I don't need validation on my parenting from women I don't know.

I left mommy Facebook groups because all the nonstop complaining of their children was exhausting. If anyone attempted to provide some insight or tips, even in the most encouraging way, she was lashed out against by the moms who wanted to keep it a bitch-fest. If you didn't go there to complain about something, you asked a stupid question that was better answered by google. Like I said, I don't spend much personal time on Facebook anymore. I finally got my act together and decided that when I do, I don't want to see these ridiculous groups with their ridiculous comments. If I have a bad day, I'm texting a girlfriend who will say, "Ohhhhh nooooo! I can be over after nap time. Rose or Pinot and one bottle or two?" And while I don't go to dry cleaners anymore, if I didn't know where one was, I'd pull up my phone and have a quick chat with Siri.

Since ditching these groups I'm happier and more confident in my own parenting. I don't have to worry about what overzealous moms think about CIO ("cry it out" if you're wondering) and my feed isn't clogged with other mom's negative experiences with their toddlers. I no longer spend my time rolling my eyes at the moms so desperate for validation from others. I simply do what I think is best given the personalities of my children. Ditching mommy Facebook groups has made my feed (and my general overall mood) so much more positive! If you're sick of the martyrdom, I suggest you do the same. It's freeing!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Helping Your Infant Sleep Better At Night

 This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #FormulaForHappiness #CollectiveBias

So many friends have had babies recently, am I right? It was like Otto was the beginning of a wave of babies that were born between December and March. There's another wave of my friends right now who are due between October and December. I think this generation of kids is going to outnumber the Baby Boomers for sure! Anyway, I've had so many discussions with friends on infant sleep. After Otto was born, I had the privilege of hiring a sleep consultant and night nanny for 6 weeks, and have been relaying her advice to my friends with sleepless infants since.

Great tips on getting your little one to sleep through the night! #ad #formulaforhappiness

Otto was the typical infant who was up all night and slept all day the first two weeks he was home. I wanted to die from the lack of sleep! Thus, how we hired a sleep consultant. I also called the FREE sleep consultant offered by Gerber for her help before the night nurse's start date, I was so desperate. Both women had wonderful advice that worked wonders (seriously - WONDERS!) on Otto. By nine weeks, he was sleeping through the night. I've learned that it's not so much that you "get a good sleeper or a bad sleeper" - there  are many things that you as the caregiver can do (or not do) that affects how the nights will go. With Henry, I was clueless and did none of these things; low and behold, he was a terrible sleeper. With Otto, we did them as soon as we learned about them; go figure, he's a great sleeper! Thanks for Gerber® Good Start® for sponsoring these sleep tips and ticks.

Great tips for helping your baby sleep through the night! #formulaforhappiness #ad

You're wondering what those things are, huh? Well here's my short list on how to help your infant sleep better at night:

1) Establish a routine.
Babies are creatures of habit, and starting a routine as early as possible is essential to setting their circadian rhythm. Put them down for a nap(s) at the same time everyday, and start a bedtime routine that's the same and done at the same time everyday. Consistency really pays off here! My sleep consultant recommended 7pm-7am for all babies and toddlers. I know that's early, but it results in my children getting enough sleep! Also, personal time for me in the evenings, which is a plus.

2) Put the baby down for naps the same way you do at night.
For us, that meant Otto was swaddled in his bassinet for all naps and night time sleeping. This way, he learns that when he's swaddled and in his "space" it's time for sleep. This was a HUGE mistake I made with Henry - I let him nap on me, on the couch, in a swing - where ever! No wonder he was such a terrible sleeper at night. He didn't know that the crib meant sleepy time. Now Otto is just in a sleep sack in his crib, but I still put him down for naps the same way I put him down at night. Dark room, sleep sack, and sound machine on.

 4) Place them in light during the day.
This was some of the best advice I got from my Gerber sleep consultant! She told me babies are in a dark womb for 9 months, so when they come into the world, it's very common for them to be up all night and sleeping all day. To help set their clocks to the real world schedule, put their bassinet/have them do tummy time/playtime in the light of a window or outside. Then when you put them down for naps, make sure their room is dark. This will help them learn that light is for awake time and dark is for sleeping. This did wonders for Otto! Within the first week of trying it, he started to actually sleep at night instead of being awake/coo'ing/talking/crying all night.

5) Watch for environmental allergies.
This was a huge lesson learned with Otto! Henry can wear any diaper, use any wipe and rarely ever has a diaper rash. Tough skin on that one! But Otto? Even diapers labeled "sensitive" were too much for him. For those first dreadful two weeks home, he would fuss all night long. He had what I just thought was a diaper rash... That never went away. My hired sleep consultant said a diaper rash lasting as long as Otto's did wasn't normal, and to try switching out his diapers and wipes to an all organic, chemical free brand. The second we did that, his "rash" cleared up! He was likely extra fussy at night with it because he was lying on it and irritating it further. So make sure your baby is good to go with the diapers, wipes and even things like laundry detergent, bath washes, etc you're using. Even a little irritation can keep baby up from discomfort all night! This is also true of infant formulas. Gerber® Good Start® Soothe has Comfort Proteins® for babies like Otto who have excessive fussiness and gas. This formula is great for tiny tummies, birth to 12 months! In fact, even if you don’t have a particularly gassy baby (lucky you!) Gerber® has a range of infant formulas to suit your needs, from supplementing your breastmilk to Stage 2 formula (for babies 6-12 months) all the way through Stage 3, which includes probiotics and is designed for your toddler. Check out Target's Cartwheel app for deals on the formula, too! 

Thanks to Gerber® for providing me samples of their Good Start® Soothe formula!

Lack of sleep is tough to handle, and only gets worse the more children you have! With the first baby, you can "sleep when the baby sleeps." But after that, you're on your own because you have to be up with your other children! We hired a sleep consultant and I spoke with the sleep consultants at Gerber for Otto, and I learned some great information. Even if you think you have a "bad sleeper" you can implement these tips and right the ship - trust me! Helping your infant sleep better at night is directly correlated to what YOU do during the day. With a little consistency, you can do it mamas! Comfort for babies means happiness for all. When my baby is happy and well rested, I'm happy and well rested and the whole family is happy and well rested!

Gerber sent us some samples to have on hand, but you can also find Gerber® Good Start® at your local Target.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

6 Essential Oils Blends You'll Want In Your Diffuser This Holiday Season

6 Great essential oil blends to get you in the mood for fall, balance your stress levels and excite you for the holidays!

Diffusing essential oils is by far my favorite way to use them. Well, it's a tie between diffusing and applying topically, but for the sake of this post we'll say diffusing. The holiday season (which I define as Sept through New Years) is my favorite time of the year. I'm basically a grown-woman-child this time of year, decorating the house nonstop. Everything gets covered in a layer of glitter, even if I don't intend it to. Despite all my love for superficial parts of the holidays, I also love to really celebrate the season and all the true meaning behind it. These essential oil blends for my diffuser help me to do just that.

Great blends to get your home holiday ready!

First, the essential oils! Revive oils are my new go-to. Yup, I used to be with Young Living, but the expense of those oils were insane. I asked some of my oily gurus who they got their oils from and learned about Revive. They're therapeutic grade, indigestible essential oils that are NOT a multi-level-marketing structure. You can go on their website and buy them like you'd buy something on Amazon - no need to sign up for some membership! They have packages with diffusers and single essential oils, plus roller bottles and other lifestyle items. Use code Paige10 for 10% off your order and experience the same quality of Young Living or doTERRA without the obnoxious price (and minus the sales people always trying to get you to buy things...)

I've broken it down into two blends per "holiday" if you will - two that are great for fall/Halloween, two that are helpful around the stressful Thanksgiving holiday and finally, two that promote the spirit of Christmas. Don't limit them to their use around that particular holiday though! Full disclosure: I've diffused Christmas Spirit essential oil in the middle of July before, just because I love the spicy scent. Christmas in July was a real thing up in my house this summer! Oh well. At least I wasn't watching a Christmas movie too? Right? 

Enough endless banter pointless writing, let's get to those blends! I've combined them all in a handy pin you can put on Pinterest for later reference, too. Y'all that graphic took me an embarrassingly long time to make so please, use it at your convenience! While I'm a woman of many talents, I'm riding front row of the struggle bus when it comes to using graphic design software. Just keeping the full disclosure theme of this post rollin'...

Le Blends:

Fall Air
You know that crisp, sharp air that indicates fall is settling in? Well, I don't anymore, but I used to know it well when I lived in Minneapolis. In Texas, I just breathe a sigh of relief that I get to go outside again without wanting to die. Good news is, I can recreate those crisp fall morning memories (minus the cold!) with this fall air diffuser blend:
Fall Air
3 drops Sandalwood
2 drops Fir
2 drops Cypress
1 drop Frankincense 

Pumpkin Spice
You either love or hate pumpkin spice. The funny thing is that pumpkins literally have no spice in them - this now excessively popular "spice" is a blend used to make pumpkin pie, and has been shortened to just pumpkin spice. While I don't love PSLs, I DO love my house smelling like a pumpkin pie is baking (minus the guilt of eating the pie!) so this blend is a winner:
Pumpkin Spice
2 drops Cinnamon
1 drop Clove
1 drop Nutmeg
1 drop Orange
1 drop Ginger
*Also winning? All of these oils are SUPER affordable, with each one coming in at $18 or less!

Feeling Thankful
Sometimes our gratitude spills out of us and sometimes it takes a little help to remember all the good things you've got going in your life. Young Living makes two amazing blends that, through the power of aromatherapy, helps bring to your consciousness exactly what you're thankful for. If you struggle around the holidays with all the family around stressing you out, this one is for you! I actually diffuse these year-round just because I love them:
Feeling Thankful
3-5 drops Family 
3-5 drops Gathering

With how busy and chaotic the holiday season can be, sometimes it's good just to remember that you're in the moment. That it's not about having the perfectly cooked turkey or the most beautiful table scape. All you have is right now and what's around you, and all of that is perfect in and of itself. THAT is called "grounding" and taking a minute to ground yourself during the holidays is essential! This blend is a good one to diffuse in the early morning before a crazy day or later at night, after the chaos has left:
2 drops Sacred Mountain
2 drops Cedarwood
1-2 drops Patchouli 

Christmas Tree
Growing up in Minnesota, we ALWAYS had a real Christmas tree. All my friends had real trees. In fact, we'd even go to a tree farm about an hour out of Minneapolis and cut ours down ourselves. The smell of  a Christmas tree reminds me of happy childhood memories. In Dallas, I don't think I've seen one pine tree. Not one. I don't know if it's too hot here or what, but my neighborhood is full of Live Oaks, Crepe Myrtle, and Magnolias. People (ourselves included!) do have holly bushes that bloom in the late fall with the red berries, but if I want the smell of my childhood around, I have to bolster our fake Christmas tree with this blend:
Chirstmas Tree
3 drops Balsam Fir
1 drop Christmas Spirit

Wise Men
Sometimes I try to talk with someone who's had too much science education about essential oils. They normally roll their eyes and say, "I can't wait for that trend to be over." To which I silently respond, "Oh, bless your heart." You see, essential oils precede Biblical times. Frankincense and Myrrh are noted throughout the Bible for their health properties. Egyptians anointed with essential oils, and used them to preserve bodies. So I'm not quite sure what "trend" naysayers are referring to, because oils predate big pharmaceuticals. The only trend I see is that people are sick of being sick and sick of expensive meds and want alternatives, and are looking back into history to find ways to take control of their health! That's a long winded, semi-tangent way to say, this blend is some of the oldest essential oils on earth, and are are some of the most spiritual oils you can diffuse:   
Wise Men
2 drops Frankincense
2 drops Myrrh
1 drop Orange

All of these essential oil blends are great year round, but are especially relevant during the holiday season! Most of the oils are very affordable, especially all the citrus and spicy oils. These 6 essential oil blends will help you and your family celebrate the holiday season!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Semi DIY Haunted Fireplace Mantel

When you want to decorate for the holidays but you're not super crafty, use a semi DIY decorating method to save money AND get the look you want

In the most basic of ways, fall is my favorite season. But not for the pumpkin spice lattes and blanket scarves... I'm here for Halloween! My birthday falling on October 16 is a plus too, but mostly Halloween. I actually might enjoy decorating for Halloween more than Christmas! Black, orange, green, purple and everything seems to be covered in glitter... What more could a girl want?! I enjoy a good craft, but these days, I have limited time for my hobbies. Yet buying decorations from a store is expensive. I've found the semi DIY decorating method to be the most efficient and cost effective for a great Halloween fireplace mantel.

If decorating your home seems too expensive or like too much work, check out this semi-DIY method! It saves money and time so your home can be seasonally decorated easily #fall #Halloween #seasonaldecor #homedecor

Ever since I could remember, I've been fascinated with Halloween. Not for the death and gore, but a fascination with ghosts and spirits and life after death. I know some people don't celebrate Halloween because "it's the devils' work" and that's so outlandish to me I have to hide a snort laugh. I don't want to laugh at anyone's religious beliefs, but I don't believe in devils or hell and I find it absurd that others do as a way to put fear into a person to "do good." I'm getting a bit off topic and going deeper than I intended to here, so I'll end saying this: Halloween was created in the early 10th century to remember the departed. Throughout the centuries, tall tales have been added about ghosts and ghouls of those who have passed and everything has gotten covered in about six layers of glitter. To me, it's all in good fun. Decorate on!

Have you ever been in a craft store, or Target, or anywhere really - and have seen all the great decorations, but choked at the price tag? And then you think, oh heck, I can make that myself! So you start to fill your cart with the individual pieces, and before you're even 10 minutes into it, you're so overwhelmed with how time consuming it's going to be, you leave your cart in the aisle and walk away? Hey, I've actually done that. I really thought I could build my own haunted house and share a tutorial on it and before I even had $30 of supplies in my cart I was like, "I CAN'T" and moved on.

What I COULD do, however, was this semi DIY haunted bouquet to round out my Halloween fireplace mantel. It's so simple: I used a Mason jar and leftover moss I had to form the base. Then I selected some favorite pieces of glitter-covered Halloween faux-flowers/plants from a craft store. I formed the bouquet in the store so I would know what would look good together. Boom! Insert moss in Mason jar, form my bouquet and you're in business with the semi DIY haunted bouquet. I spent $21 on supplies for this. Had I bought it pre-made from the craft store, it would have easily been $50. Semi DIY saves you tons of money and you get it to look the way you want!

I also semi DIY'd the garland for the fireplace mantel. It's actually four garland pieces I've strung together to make it thick, then I added the pumpkin lights. A robust, pre-lit garland is outrageously expensive, but if you semi DIY it, you can get it to fit just the right space with just the right colors for a fraction of the cost. It only takes you a little bit of thought and some time to put it together.

For the rest of the haunted fireplace mantel, I used pieces and decorations I've collected over the years. A skull cookie jar. A glittery haunted house. My fall DIY pumpkins got a Halloween face lift with some new ribbon. Now if only I can get Henry to leave them alone... They're reachable down on the fireplace hearth, but since they're plastic, he hasn't been able to destroy them. Yet.

If decorating your home seems too expensive or like too much work, check out this semi-DIY method! It saves money and time so your home can be seasonally decorated easily #fall #Halloween #seasonaldecor #homedecor

What's your favorite holiday to decorate for? I know there's more than a few of us die-hard Halloween and fall lovers out there! Whatever holiday is your jam, try out the semi DIY decorating method. It's just enough of a craft to be fun without the frustration. It saves a bunch of money compared to the pre-made items and you get to make it just the way you want to fit your home and style. My semi DIY haunted fireplace mantel is right up my weird, Halloween loving alley!