Fertility Update

Hayden at 2 weeks. How is he about to start PRE-School?

Hayden at 2 weeks. How is he about to start PRE-School?

Hey ya’ll, it’s been a while since I discussed anything about fertility in your 40s, specifically my fertility journey. After reading comments in my post HERE, and the post HERE, I learned a lot about some of YOU that are in a similar boat. I have been thinking about you all, wondering how it’s going??

As most of you know, I started using the ovulation sticks (that I talked about HERE). That was/is helpful for sure, but I know it takes more time at my age.  I read from several of you that took fertility medications successfully.

I asked my doctor about clomid. I took that for three months in a row, along with a hGC shot before ovulation. And….nothing. 

I went back and looked at the comments here on the blog and one of you actually mentioned Letrozole, also called Femara. It was in the back of my brain…then, last month I decided to have a consultation with a specialist. She was very thorough and honest, reticently hopeful. She brought up Femara and a light bulb went off from reading it on the comments from one of you on this blog. So, I switched to that for a month.

Another one of you recommend IT STARTS WITH THE EGG by Rebecca Fett. I had never heard of it before. The book has a ton of good information (and you don’t just have to take our word for it, check out the reviews). It helps keep me feeling proactive, which is extremely helpful. There is a lot of info packed in this book, so my one bit of advice would be not to let it stress you out. It’s an excellent guide. Plenty of info on what the male counterpart can do to help improve sperm quality, too. (Not always easy to get your partner to comply, but worth a try!).

The book has a great guide for all the vitamins and supplements out there that can be helpful for both the male and the female.

I’ve received such good advice from you all. Anything else you can pass along, I’d be so grateful!

And if you are on this road, I’m hoping to read positive notes in the comments!

xoxo

AAJ



Got Kids? TOP THINGS TO DO IN LA WITH KIDS!

Photo: @Ographr

Photo: @Ographr

Top things to do in Los Angeles WITH KIDS— the second part of my VISIT LOS ANGELES series. (See the first post on TOP FREE THINGS TO DO IN LA). The City of Angeles has gems for children that are worth carving out time whether you are a local and looking for fun things to do this summer or year round, or vacationing on the West Coast.

There are many lists out there, but these are my curated picks from the past few years running around LA with Huck and Hayden. Nothing is sponsored, by the way…I’m so often asked these questions, I just decided to jot it all down.

THE HUNTINGTON GARDENS

CHILDREN UNDER 4  ARE FREE.

If you follow me on stories, you see how often we are at “The Gardens.” I truly love the wide open spaces, the unbelievable selection of different gardens and cultures. It is an amazing experience for kids of all ages. My suggestions for first time visitors:

If you live in the area, buy a family membership for about $150 or so. It will pay for itself quickly and you can also bring a guest (there are rules to how many and adults verses kids, please check). Otherwise, check photo below for pricing. 

I recommend giving yourself some time if you are paying the day rate. There are several places to eat throughout the gardens, but you could also pack a picnic. If you want to see it all, I would give myself a good 3-4 hours, maybe more. Get a map- there is a lot to see! Make sure you don’t miss the Botanical Garden, the Children’s outdoor museum and the Japanese and Chinese Gardens, where you can also grab a bite to eat on site. The Art galleries are worth visiting, but may be more of an interest to you, not the kids. If your child likes water, there are fountains and streams in the children’s section. I make sure we have a swimsuit that dries easily or a change of clothes. You don’t have to, but the younger ones tend to get wet. We definitely use a stroller for Hayden, FYI. There are stroller and wheel-chair accessible ways throughout the entire garden.

THE SKIRBALL MUSEUM

The Noah’s Ark Exhibit is not to be missed. From my experience, it seems to interest children until the age of around 11 or 12. ADMISSION IS FREE for children under 2 always and FREE for everyone EVERY THURSDAY on a first come, first serve basis starting at 11:45. Huck had the best time here when he was 3, and now Hayden is taking after him. It’s incredibly inventive, educational and historical (even I enjoyed it!). Plenty of activities to keep your interest, keep them occupied (ropes to climb, lightning to “make,” etc), and don’t miss the Family Art Programs.

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Courtsey of Museum

Courtsey of Museum

MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY

I have heard AMAZING things about this Natural History museum in Los Angeles, so I felt the need to include it. My usual rounds of the Natural Science and History Museum is in Houston with my parents and Hayden, so I added the text from the website. While writing this column, I’m making a separate list to take Huck and Hayden asap and I’ll update this with my thoughts!

Discover your world past and present. See dinosaurs in our new Dinosaur Hall, including the world’s only Tyrannosaurus rex growth series. Get the behind- the- scenes look at how scientists work on fossils at our Dino Lab. See 240 specimens, including skeletons from mastodons to whales, animal dioramas from North American and Africa, and more.Stroll through our extensive Nature Gardens, and discover true stories about plants and animals in our Nature Lab. See and touch more than 2,000 spectacular specimens displayed in our Gem and Mineral Hall, and enter into the vault to view diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and other exquisite gems. Our Butterfly and Spider Pavilions are open seasonally. Here you can wander through the changing ecosystem with over 30 species of fluttering butterflies all around you, or witness arachnids up close and personal. source: website.

Courtesy of Museum

Courtesy of Museum

Courtesy of instagram/museum

Courtesy of instagram/museum

BACK AT THE BEACH

I’ve talked about how Back at the Beach Cafe is one of my favorite spots in between Santa Monica beach and Malibu before (like in THIS POST HERE). I LOVE it.

PROS: Enjoy lunch while your toes feel the sand. Let the kids play on the playground on the beach right by the patio all in front of the ocean. If you aren’t responsible for any kiddos, btw, sit under the umbrella and enjoy a glass of wine. You are steps away from feeling the water on your feet! It's adjacent to the Anneberg Beach House, which is worth a visit, too.

CONS: Parking. On a good parking day, there’s inexpensive paid parking right in front… on a crowded summer weekend, it takes a long time to find parking and can take a while to get a spot at the restaurant outside on the patio. Indoor seating can be reserved for tables of 6 or more. You can also make reservations through the Anneberg for parking and a pool spot, which I would highly recommend if you want to make a day out of it.

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FISHERMAN’S VILLAGE

Right here in LA county, there is a little slice of New England seaside in the Marina called Fisherman’s Village. It definitely has some instagram worthy photo-ops, but I would only make a trip to Marina Del Rey if I was 1) staying nearby or 2) going on a boat ride. The village is still in need of a bit of renovation, however, there are restaurants and stores open that are charming.

Image: Getty

Image: Getty

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SANTA MONICA PIER

You’ll most likely get some great photos here, but I describe my reticence in the first segment of these posts HERE. If you’re visiting the area in an off season, I say go! But it gets very crowded otherwise. Still a famous site to see and kids love festival type games and rides, so it’s a must have on this list.


ECHO LAKE PARK

Rent a pedal boat and have a picnic in the park that dates back to 1860! After the extensive renovation, pedal through the lake or walk the path lined with palm trees with the Los Angeles skyline as the back drop. Have a bite at Beacon while you’re there!

LA BREA TAR PITS

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Again, this made the list on the first segment, but it bears repeating here because kids love it. Right here in the HEART of LA, you get to experience the Ice Age. The LA BREA TAR PITS next to the L.A. County Museum of Art is the most significant source of prehistoric fossils ever excavated. These fossils have made their way into museums around the world, but the largest collection is here at the Page Museum. It's free to wander the park and look at the tar pits and outdoor exhibits. During the summer, you can watch the excavators at work

ANGELS FLIGHT RAILWAY

Remember Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams riding this Angles Flight railway in THE NOTEBOOK? Well, maintenance is now complete and it is open! If you have reason to go to Downtown LA, this is a MUST SEE or must ride! I must say I had forgotten about this historical landmark until Katherine Kelly Lang and B&B producer Casey Kasprzyk added it to their Bus Tour! It’ll be one of the best dollars you spend in LA! And totally instagram worthy;)

Image: instagram

Image: instagram

TRAVEL TOWN

When Hayden was barely a month old, we took our first family outing to Travel Town to do something fun for Huck. This is a great space for kids to explore old trains, learn about the rich 150 year-old heritage and roam around. ADMISSION IS FREE. Train rides are a nominal fee (around $3) and really fun for younger kids. Bring a picnic to have a snack at a picnic table. There are limited snacks available on site.

HOLLYWOOD STUDIO TOUR

If your kids are a bit older (at least 8), your family might consider a studio lot tour to see behind the scenes of where the magic happens. This site does a great job at breaking down all the tours in town, prices and age limits. If you are a fan of a show (like FRIENDS, for instance, you might get a kick out of sitting on the couch at “Central Perk!”), take that particular tour! I’ve been on all the lots and seen the tours drive by. Generally, they are all pretty informative and fun. If you keep your eyes peeled, there’s a great chance you’ll see stars of shows walking around. I hear Universal reenacts the plane crash from WAR OF THE WORLDS, has fire, etc—- plus you get to spend the rest of the day at the Universal park! Most people I talk to after they take a tour rave about it! The studios are located all over the city, so make sure you plan your day’s events around traffic and parking.

HOLLYWOOD BOWL

Scroll down on my post HERE where I give away a great secret for kids that love music. Many concerts at the bowl have FREE rehearsals during the day with easy (nearly VIP) parking and so fun for the kids to run around and get a “private” day concert.

If you’ve done any of these activities and have some tips, PLEASE LEAVE THEM IN THE COMMENTS. I want to continually update this post so it stays current. Looking foward to your thoughts and if you have anything to add.

Happy Summer with the kiddos!!

xoxo

AAJ

MANY FACES and places OF FAGE

FAGE is back sponsoring this blog post...how much do we love our FAGE®? FAGE has become such a staple in our lives. My mom even stocked in her fridge in Texas this week for Hayden because he requested it! I bring it along running errands, to Disneyland (scroll all the way down for photo;), playdates at the park. If we’re planning on eating it sooner than later, I literally throw it in my bag without lugging a cooler. I even included it at the kids’ recent birthday party. I wanted an alternative for parents that didn’t want their kids eating so much sugar. And, although we had great food there, I wanted to make sure I had a quick, healthy, low fat, protein packed snack for me. Especially during set up time before the food arrived. 

We brought quite a few FAGE® Total Split Cups. They were gone at the end of the party! I could not believe how many parents indulged (guilt-free) right along with me, or said they were grateful we had an alternative to cake for the kids. (Just remember to bring spoons if you follow suit.) I loved sharing FAGE with our friends. 

Clearly, by the look(s) on my face, I was grateful to sneak away for one second and enjoy my split cup. My husband thought it was so funny, he wanted a photo of me “taking my moment.” Because I TOOK A MOMENT and indulged. These pictures crack me up. The love is real.  Do you blame me? A 3-year-old and 7-year-old’s birthday! I needed energy. 

Just a bucket of FAGE at Hayden and Huck’s birthday party.

Just a bucket of FAGE at Hayden and Huck’s birthday party.

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A friend at the party came up and mentioned they have the same ones in their fridge. She said her son thinks of them  as dessert! A treat worthy of bribery. She loves how they taste and appreciates how healthy they are! Sometimes her son doesn’t always eat his protein at dinner, but he’ll always have his FAGE

It’s true. I don’t worry so much about Hayden and Huck finishing their meal if they eat yogurt afterward. It’s packed with so many good benefits, it’s covers a lot of the basics. Probiotics, proteins, Vitamin D, etc. 

The split cups are almost like arts and crafts. The boys enjoy folding the perforated seam and pouring the flavored goodness over into the creamy white bowl. Hayden begs me, “let me pour it,” he says. Sometimes, if it’s right out of the fridge, it’s too cold to pour over, so I often set them out as I’m cooking dinner. By the time dinner is over, they are the perfect temperature for Hayden’s little arts-and-crafts-with-food time.

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The last post on the blog about FAGE I described what I like that it DOESN’T have! No GMO’s, growth hormones, artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners or preservatives and no added sugars. 

I have to admit, my husband did not want me to substitute the 0% fat FAGE® plain yogurt in our recipes or dishes.  He wanted all the fat of old school sour creams, heavy creams, butters and oils. There is a time and a place for all that, but living your daily life, it’s better to have healthier options. I don’t mind fat. But saturated fat catches up with you quickly. Once I did the swap out, he couldn’t even tell the difference. He loved it!! Substituting with FAGE Greek yogurt, lowers the fat content greatly.  Recently, we’ve made lasagna with 0% yogurt, crustless quiche with yogurt, and I took out sour cream and added FAGE in our homemade burritos (see photo). FAGE now makes sour cream, so don’t be surprised with a new list of recipes coming your way. Have you made the swap?

and ps- I got all your recommended FAGE flavors! (thank you!) Loving my new dessert choices;) What other recipes would you like to see on the blog? Below I’m adding a new mac and cheese recipe that is quick and easy and healthier than the normal ones because of a yogurt substitute. Oh, and it’s sooo good!!

I’m gonna attempt a fat-free cheesecake soon, so I’ll let you know how that goes, but I added the recipe below! HAPPY WEEKEND!!

Recipe is courtesy of ALLRECIPES.COM

Recipe is courtesy of ALLRECIPES.COM

Taking a Greek yogurt break at Disney! lol

Taking a Greek yogurt break at Disney! lol

SUMMER DRESSES!!

I HAVE IDEAS FOR YOUUU!!! In the past month, I’ve received so many questions on what I am wearing. I can’t get back to every email or DM, unfortunately, but I can communicate via the blog!

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THIS DRESS is kinda genius. The fabric is thick, but not hot or heavy. It balloons out just so to create a slight princess cut (and give you room to eat and not worry!!). And it has POCKETS. Need I say more? It’s definitely on trend with the floral print and cut. I see this dress working for a long time. It’s classic enough to not fall into the “80s grandma curtain print.” I stopped counting after the 10th Dm asking me where to get it when I wore it to Step Up’s Inspiration Awards So…. here you go!! It’s a perfect option for a dressy summer wedding or cocktail party. Btw- the red dress I wore to Step Up’s event last year is on sale in blush for under $32!!

I wish I had spent more time on my hair… but, you know, I’ll do better next time.

I got stopped more than once last time I wore this jumper. It has a cut- out back, wider legs with a tie belt. I feel so put together when I wear it. I added my red Rothy’s last time and loved the pop of color with the outfit.

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THE YELLOW DRESS worked well for the boys’ birthday party. And I will wear it all summer. I didn’t think yellow worked on me, but it worked with the cake!! lol I do love a subtle polkadot. This cut works well for a variety of bodies with the slight A-line. AND ALSO…POCKETS and adjustable straps. I promised several people in comments on instagram and twitter that I’d do a blog… I’m doing a full birthday blog, but for now—- here is THE DRESS;)

I posted about this dress recently when it was on sale. I think the sale is over, but I’m posting it again anyway. I have this dress in two colors because I love it THAT MUCH. You’ve seen me in it in white over and over! (Like HERE to the Inspiration awards, HERE on Easter, HERE with leather) I try to change it up with white sneakers sometimes, nude heels or my Rothy’s (like in photo above). Even though the dress is not on sale, it’s still affordable under $90 and no joke- you will wear it over and over!

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I know it’s kinda old news now, but I appreciated all the questions about the DAYTIME EMMY DRESS I wore. IT IS BACK IN STOCK and really affordable. The whole look is! It’s a great fabric, but I did WEAR SPANX. Yep, I felt like it helped with my tummy and thighs. It’s no secret that we’ve been trying to have another baby.. I’m now on medication that is known for gaining weight, retaining water, etc. So…. to counteract that for a red carpet, I wear THESE. It might be TMI or overly sharing to let you know that- but it’s the kind of information I appreciate from other people, so I thought I would tell you, too. My strapless bra I planned on wearing didn’t totally work, so I also wore THESE sticky nu-bra type things. (It gives you a bit of a lift if you push those puppies together before you put the stickies on-and with the gentle boning in the dress, it works!).

And the yellow floral dress above is on SUPER SALE under $50! Sizes with all these things so fast, so happy shopping if you’re looking for something special.

And Happy Thursday! Hope y’all are having a great week. My parents arrive tomorrow, so today I’m cleaning! LOL. And getting ready for them while I have a little mini-me undoing the work. Ha.

I’d really like to know if y’all want more fashion type posts like I used to do- with more detail and such. Actually, while I’m here asking, I’d love know overall topics you’re more interested in: food, travel, fashion, parenting, fertility (I have another post I’m working on for that), work stuff, kid stuff, etc.

thanks, Y’all!

XOXO

LOVE LANGUAGE WITH FAGE®

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This scene is sponsored by FAGE®, but it was a real moment documented at our home;)

Int. House-MOTHER’S DAY


MOTHER

Hayden, what is your favorite thing to do with Mommy?

HAYDEN

Um…what does that mean?

MOTHER

If you could do one thing with just mommy today, what would that be?

HAYDEN

Let me show you.

EXT. HOUSE- PORCH

Hayden takes his mother’s hand and leads her outside to the patio. Points to the outdoor couch.

HAYDEN (CONT’D)

Sit down right here. 

Mother sits.

HAYDEN (CONT’d

Let’s eat oatmeal right here. With yogurt. 

END SCENE

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Most weekdays, after his dad and brother leave, Hayden and I have our special moments. Sometimes eggs and toast, but more often than not, oatmeal. Even if we’re rushed, I grab an oatmeal packet (yes, I use instant often #busymom), boil water, cool if off with a large dollop of Greek yogurt and fruit. I think there’s lots of reasons he loves this. He gets to help me “make” it, even though it’s just combining a few ingredients. And I’ll have my coffee, he has milk. We cheers to the day, say our thanks and he talks. “Remember mommy? Remember yesterday when Hucky was here and….” 

If I grab my phone for something, he takes my face in his hands to let me know this is his time. I got that memo and honor that. Of course, we have moments all day everyday…books, learning our letters and walks and outdoor time and family time, etc. But I know he loves this breakfast time in the morning on the weekdays. It’s our love language. Sounds stereotypical that a boy’s love language is food…. starts early, I know! It may be more that toddlers like structure and habitual activities; Hayden is no exception. 

If you follow my stories, you’ve seen Hayden begging me for yogurt in the morning. It’s pretty funny how excited he gets over yogurt. Specifically FAGE® Greek cause that’s what we keep stocked. And that is actually an understatement… he and Huck beg for it for lunch and dinner, too. FAGE® is so creamy and rich in taste, it’s often dessert for our family. I appreciate FAGE® is Non-GMO Project Verified and all natural, no added sweeteners, no preservatives. All of FAGE®’s products are verified through the Non-GMO project, which offers the highest level of transparency about GMOs. I know exactly what -and what isn’t- going into my little boys’ bodies, and my body!

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I incorporate yogurt in so many dishes. Substituting yogurt in a recipe can lower the fat substantially. From simple things like oatmeal (pictured here), to taco dinners, baked potato (my personal favorite), lasagna and obviously desserts (angel food cake - or biscuits- with FAGE® yogurt and strawberries. Name something better in life!). Scroll down for the recipes. Substituting Greek yogurt in many recipes lowers the sugar and raises the protein (and LOVE) for your family. You can use FAGE® plain to replace butter, sour cream, oil, shortening or milk! I keep FAGE® plain fat free yogurt in our fridge, as well as the 30% less sugar split cups. I also brought a bunch to the boys’ birthday party last weekend. I liked the option to have this for dessert for people that didn’t want to eat cake, but I did NOT expect them to all be eaten. Every single split cup was gone! 

So… if you’re a regular here on the blog, you’ve heard me talk about FAGE®- have you tried it yet? What recipes do you substitute in Greek yogurt? Would LOVE to hear.

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Also, another fun summer idea I learned from FAGE®—- add yogurt to an icing dispenser. Squeeze the yogurt into the opening of raspberries, then let them freeze in the freezer to make frozen yogurt pockets!

See below for other recipes!

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TURNING PASSION INTO PURPOSE

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Thrilled to say I’m partnering again with American Cancer Society; they’re sponsoring the blog today!

What are your plans this summer?? I have an idea! Whatever you may already be doing, add a “good cause” component to it. Turn a passion into purpose! I was honored to work with non-profit health organization American Cancer Society earlier this year talking about cancer prevention. More importantly, it seems many of you also appreciated the topic, which meant a lot to me. I’m all about doing what we can to prevent getting sick, but the truth is that sometimes cancer is unavoidable. #RaiseYourWay is ACS’s summer campaign; we are both summoning YOU for help, read on, please!

Even though #CancerSucks, I want this post to be positive! I’m sharing a recent story of success in our lives. One of Hayden’s precious friends spent the 2nd year of her life battling cancer. Her family was turned upside down, weeks upon weeks in the hospital. Her mother, my friend, is a superwoman. Sweet thing is now almost done with the laborious treatments and cancer free….what a success story. There are many stories like that. But, there should be more. And with our help raising funds for researching treatments, recovery methods and supporting initiatives that provide care during the cancer journey, more and more families will be a living testimony of inspiration. It’s heartbreaking to think of any other outcome. Although I pray for another child, I’m beyond grateful for the healthy ones I have. I cannot imagine how hard it is to go through treatment with your child.

I mentioned my personal scare in this post here. The older I get, a couple of times a year, I hear about someone in my life getting a dreaded diagnosis. I feel paralyzed, somewhat helpless. But a few friends have lead the way to encouraging me to turn that helpless sadness into a purpose. Many of you know my mama on Bold and the Beautiful, the inspiring Katherine Kelly Lang. She has turned her passion into purpose for cancer. I have joined her in the past to raise money, and will most likely -fingers crossed- be joining her on her summer fundraising adventure (she tours the Bold and Beautiful locations around Los Angeles and 100% of the proceeds go toward the cancer organization of her choice).

And my girlfriend that I mentioned above (her toddler is a now a cancer survivor) recently put together a awesome cycling class and donated all the money to cancer research. The American Cancer Society is a national health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer, and their Raise Your Way platform lets you turn any passion into a fundraiser.

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My sons and I want to host a summer beach safety soiree for kiddos (sun-safety outdoors), so here in these photos I’m down at the beach checking out the space to do this. I’m gonna send out an invitation to join us and donate the entire day to ACS. Hayden scoped out Back On the Beach Cafe at The Annenberg Beach House (an awesome spot to go if you’re near Santa Monica/Malibu, btw. Crowded on the weekend if you don’t have reservations.) I’m hoping to raise awareness about prevention, but the goal will be to have everyone #RaiseYourWay and donate a suggested price of $25 to attend through Crowdrise.com/AmericanCancerSociety.

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It doesn’t have to be a big ordeal. It could be your own backyard BBQ!! So…Hayden and I are proposing you try and have one yourself! I’ll even make easy and lay the ground work! wink-wink.

Here are some other ideas I’ve been thinking about:

From a recent girls’ event;)

From a recent girls’ event;)

  1. GIRLFRIENDS. Wine/chees/movie night (or a bachelor night)….and DONATE! (MEAN GIRLS came out 15 years ago. I never saw it. My dearest Lacey Chabert is one of the stars. Sounds like a perfect set up for a girls’ night, amiright? lol)

  2. SUMMER BIRTHDAY…no gifts, but please donate. I just went to my girlfriend Ali Fedotowsky Manno’s house for her son Riley’s first birthday. She asked everyone to donate to the charity of her choice in lieu of gifts. I did- many of us did! Loved that idea.

  3. YOGA/SPIN/RUN day. Ask your local yoga studio if they would donate proceeds from one class! That adds up. Send out an email letting your friends know that your fundraising event is happening and you’d love them to join. And if they can’t make it, they can always drop a few dollars;)

These are just my personal ideas… but the point is, anything could work. And it turns a normal get together into a special purpose! I believe people love doing good work. So, given the opportunity, they will give what they can. We all know every $1 adds up. Let them know that you are dedicating the day to raising awareness and funds for the American Cancer Society. And also… It feeds our soul to DO GOOD for others.

GROUNDWORK:

1) Get creative: come up with an idea

2) Here is a very easy, tax deductible way to set up your event.

3) GO to crowdrise.com/americancancersociety

4) Set up an account or use facebook

5) Follow the prompts (it is sooo easy, I just did it) to create an event and goal.

6) Share your event before and after! Spread the word on your social pages with your friends.

So feed your soul…and tag me on social media when you do. I’m looking foward to reposting/retweeting/commenting on your adventures. And let’s inspire each other… what ideas do you have that others might implement?  Comment below and let’s get this (fundraising) party started!

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Swinging from the Chandeliers

Occasionally, I make great decorating choices and get very excited. I’ve said before that I’m not impulsive when finishing the house. Wait… ‘not impulsive’ is an understatement. I’m slow and get paralyzed sometimes making decisions. But these chandeliers were not one of them! 

I was waiting to post this when I could say, come on in….wish you could have a hot tea or a glass of wine and I could show you around the house. But, I’m still not done!!! UGH. I’m not even going to tell you when we moved in… well, I will. Hayden was almost one. He’ll be THREE on Friday (I’m thrilled for his birthday and in disbelief my baby is growing up, but that’s another post. I’m in birthday mode over here for BOTH BOYS. A joint one)!!

Back on topic- So, we’ve been in the house two years. But I have to give myself a break. He was a baby. I was working. We MOVED, for crying out loud. We were going through custody things regarding Huck. It was a lot. So….if metaphorically you’re in a similar boat, please give your self a break. Life happens. We need to enjoy it, live it, appreciate it. And things like this (decorating, redecorating, re-organizing your life) happen in phases. Or it does with me! I’m learning that is ok. I’m working with a budget and juggling many things. So, it takes time. 

I’m oversharing here…we haven’t finished the office and I’m showing you the unfinished version. Bookshelves messy- probably not even the bookshelf I’ll keep, but hey….we’re trying. I wanted you to see this photo to see the size of the chandelier compared to Hayden!

I’m oversharing here…we haven’t finished the office and I’m showing you the unfinished version. Bookshelves messy- probably not even the bookshelf I’ll keep, but hey….we’re trying. I wanted you to see this photo to see the size of the chandelier compared to Hayden!

  1. Long striped soft button down 2. My current favorite jeans 3. Chandelier Option ONE

    4. Chandelier Option TWO 5. Chandelier Option THREE

I ordered three of these chandeliers for the house. Originally, I wanted all three in the entry way, but when they arrived, I realized it was too overpowering for the space. So, I used them in the piano/playroom downstairs, office upstairs and entry way. The playroom/piano room has a very large curved window you can see from the street. The office upstairs faces the street, too. At night, when the front door is open, you can see all three of the chandeliers , dimmed. It was as if it was all designed that way! I wish I had a photo to show you, but I’ll get one soon. I linked three pendants for you in this post because I like people to have options. Sometimes I have credit or points at one store and not another, or one is offering free shipping, etc. The price points are slightly different- at amazon, houzz and lumens , but the Morgan pendant is the same! It comes in two different finishes and very well made.

Also, I’m linking the cozy outfit. I have talked about these jeans a lot. They are under $30. The exact ones I linked above are low on sizes, but THESE JEANS HERE are the same, without the exposed buttons. The top is muted colors with the softest fabric. I love that it’s long in the back so I can wear it with leggings, too, if I wanted, or tie it in front, or tuck it in.

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Part of my style is a bit more traditional.  But there is something to be said about “feeling the space you’re in.”  We put in the classic, traditional chandelier over our dining table. I often have it in stories on instagram, so you may have seen it. It hangs over a large table, against a glass wall of greenery. But overall, the house has more of a clean line, modern, Mediterranean feel. These gorgeous chandeliers still felt classic and match the house. 

I’m going off on a slight tangent here, but something got into me yesterday! I seriously wanted to feel lighter, decluttered. I cleaned out a few things I’ve been holding onto in the attic, in closets and the garage. I have lamps, rugs, bedside tables that “might work in another house.” But today— I loaded them into the car and donated them! I wanted to do it before I changed my mind. A dear friend of mine recently told me that things are meant to be in our lives for a period of time, in a certain space, to serve us… but sometimes, it’s ok to pass them along to another family. I know she is right. Plus, how often have I looked back and regretted passing things along? Not often.

Keep the family heirlooms, but things that we’re hoping will fit into our lives in the future that are only taking up valuable real estate, look at those things. Creating space is good thing. A great thing. Never know what we’re making room for;) But no, not pregnant yet. Keep the positive vibes goin’ for me/us…prayers welcome!

xoxo

AAJ

FAREWELL, BIG BANG...

The beloved character Penny on THE BIG BANG THEORY is played by my dearest friend, Kaley Cuoco. Over the last 12 years, many of our friends and family have had the distinct pleasure of hanging out on tape nights behind the scenes and in the audience. Memories have been made, stories have been told, secrets have been kept, and laughter and sometimes even tears have all happened during Tuesday night tape nights on Stage 25 at Warner Brothers; this is the same stage scenes from CASABLANCA, GIANT, KNUTE ROCKNE and BONNIE AND CLYDE have filmed scenes, just to name a few. It’s pretty special….we’ve shared plenty on social media, but I’ve never shared on the blog. Here are a few of my highlighted memories told in photos from my humble perspective attending the show. I’m sure I’m leaving many out, so I reserve the right to add to it… check back for more.

To the phenomenal cast and crew of a show I feel is more like family- you broke the mold. Here’s to going out with a BANG on TOP.

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PRESERVING TRADITIONS

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Thank you Newell Brands, makers of Ball® Home Canning products, for sponsoring this post and bringing us so much joy; but as always, thoughts are authentically mine!

I really can’t even explain the fun we had canning recently. And although I have used Ball® jars for years for many purposes, canning had not been one of them, till recently.

Lemme start from the beginning. My earliest memories of my paternal grandparents are picking strawberries on their farm. My Pa Jack, as we called him, would take my hand and show me how to gently collect the fruit. My Ma would take all the “pickings” and can them In Ball® jars. They canned concord grapes from the vines in the backyard, green tomatoes, even cabbage slaw! They lived in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, small town USA where people take care of each other, grow their own food, and share. My dad has vivid memories. And even getting to write up this column, it was lovely to bring up the “good ‘ol days” and let him tell me a little more. I even connected with some cousins and my Aunt Debi to discuss their memories of canning. It was more than a tradition for my dad and aunt growing up; it was a way of life.

WE DID IT!!!!

WE DID IT!!!!


As an adult, I was intimidated and overwhelmed by the concept. It seemed like such a huge (and somewhat messy) process to me. BUT I’M HERE TO TELL YOU DIFFERENTLY!! If I can do it (and do it WELL!!) so “can” YOU. And our experience canning in our kitchen was a family affair. We all pitched in some way.

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Huck and Hayden helped pick out the organic strawberries from the farmers market and mash them! I was excited to try strawberry lemonade marmalade (try saying that 5 times;) And Joel is ALL THINGS SPICY. All things. Anytime. So, Texas-style Maple Pickled Jalapeños were right up his alley. Our small-batch canning experience was such a success that Joel has it on the calendar for another upcoming weekend. He even wants to have a “canning” party. I’m sensing a new hobby in our household. But, hey, it’s a healthy one we all are loving.

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The cans turned out so well, I took them to a picnic birthday party with Hayden for a hosting gift for friends. Hayden was proud to tell the group that he helped make the “red jars.”  Hayden and “Mommy Marmalade.” lol So, if you are on my Christmas list, guess what you might be getting?! Hope you like Maple Texas pickled jalapeños or strawberry preserves! (I was even thinking of sending one of you a complete canning kit from Ball® with a sample jar of the jalapeños...thoughts?)

There’s something nostalgic about using Ball® Aqua Vintage jars available now. They look like the same jars my grandparents used years and years ago…because they are! Ball® Home Canning is celebrating 135 years of heritage and family traditions.

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In a world of instant gratification, microwaved speed and information at our fingertips, there’s something to be said about the art of canning and preserving.

I got to go first and do the Strawberries. I followed the instructions carefully using the Ball® Preserving Starter Kit and Ball® Jars. If you get this exact kit available at Target, it comes with everything you will need (outside of the ingredients). All in all, it was about an hour process to make. Then, they need to cool and sit still for 24 hours.

Joel was ALL ABOUT the jalapeños. We used this helpful cutting board to get the right sized pieces for the jalapeños and onions. (He also used a knife to perfect some and on the ends.) My husband used to brew his own beer, so he really enjoyed this process. I’m not into beer, but this newfound hobby I’m finding very rewarding.

I’m adding our exact recipes below. And in case you get an itch to preserve your special commodities of the season while they are fresh, I’m also adding a great list from Ball® about the do’s and don’ts of canning.

Is this something you would do with me?? I’m thinking about doing a LIVE facebook or instagram during our next canning experience! And leave a comment if you’d like to win a package of the memory-making Ball® jars!! What would YOU preserve or use the  Ball® Aqua Vintage jars for (even flowers would be fun!)?? Leave in comments..I’m asking the brand to randomly pick a winner;) We’ll just need your name, email and address if you win!

xoxo

A

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BRING ON MAY (cauli)FLOWERS plus a GIVEAWAY

Last week, I had the pleasure of hosting a fun day with Cali’Flour Foods. New and old friends joined to learn about cauliflower recipes, eat, pick out some jewelry and catch up with each other. It really was such a good girl gang that day!

I love friends from different parts of my life getting to come together and meet each other. I should add here that this post is not sponsored- I just enjoy sharing….PLUS I AM doing a GIVEAWAY in this post!!! And since we have all these fun photos,  I had to show off my friends;)

Top Row: Kaitlyn Villasuso and daughter, Kimberly J Brown, Angelique Cabral, Briana Cuoco, Chef Ameera, Amy Lacey, Chrissy Kling, Amy Davidson, Jessica Hall, Karen (Lisa’s friend), Caitlin Brandes (Friend of Jessica’s). Bottom Row: Kaylene DeVries, Lisa Breckenridge, me, Sarah Jane Morris, Virginia Williams, Nicole Levine, Casey Henricks.

Top Row: Kaitlyn Villasuso and daughter, Kimberly J Brown, Angelique Cabral, Briana Cuoco, Chef Ameera, Amy Lacey, Chrissy Kling, Amy Davidson, Jessica Hall, Karen (Lisa’s friend), Caitlin Brandes (Friend of Jessica’s). Bottom Row: Kaylene DeVries, Lisa Breckenridge, me, Sarah Jane Morris, Virginia Williams, Nicole Levine, Casey Henricks.


Amy Lacey wrote CALI’FLOUR KITCHEN, a book all about cooking with cauliflower and incorporating her brand, Cali’Flour Foods. We wanted to try out some recipes (and add a southern flare cause, you know, your girl IS from Texas!). Chef Ameera graced us with her cooking and dropped some knowledge. One of the my favorite things she said was that food should inspire you to be the best version of yourself— and her food will. I thought about that later. It’s a simple concept, but what we put in our bodies DOES affect a lot: our moods, our digestion/nervous system, brain power, waistline and even affects levels of anxiety. The old saying we are what we eat holds some truth. 

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So much of this blog is about healthy lifestyle choices, so it’s fun to bring another idea for you all to try and incorporate in your lives. I started enjoying Cali’Flour pizzas a while ago when I tasted them at an event. Then, I ordered some to try at home. We love the italian crust. I like to put it on this pizza stone the last few minutes so it gets extra crispy. IF YOU want to try it out, we are randomly picking from comments below to pass along a $50 gift certificate. Tell us why you’d love to try it for yourself or your family. One of the things I love about using their crusts or pasts? I sneak veggies in for the kids. Hayden and Huck happen to love mashed cauliflower, but it’s not the easiest to make sure they get a decent amount of vegetables everyday.

Amy wanted to heal herself from an autoimmune disorder- necessity is the mother of invention. This lead her to creating Cali’Flour foods. She shared her story with us while we (cried a little!) and munched on the awesomeness. 

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Dessert Pizza was sooo good. I’m getting the recipe, so stay tuned!

Dessert Pizza was sooo good. I’m getting the recipe, so stay tuned!

Our friends from EmmaJ Jewelry set up a mini-shopping experience where the girls got to pick a piece to take home. Vitacups provided the afternoon pick-me up! (They would love you to try out their sample pack for free! Just pay shipping at $2.95!) ALSO… THEY ARE GIVING 30% OFF TO YOU. Code ASHLEYJ works on their site until May 25th. Yay!

And last but not least, everyone went home with my some Usana goodies. Anyone that’s followed along on this blog knows I’ve been a fan and often times ambassador of sorts, so I asked for some of my favorites to share with my friends. We went with the Booster C 600, Pure Rest and new pretty in pink water bottle.   Polkatots did the cutest dessert cupcakes and our dear friends at Bashful Rose did the arrangements!! (If you are in the area and need flowers, I’m telling you… it’s been almost a week and these haven’t even wilted!!!)

Also, for those wondering, the dress I’m wearing is great for summer! Per usual, I love the pockets! I slipped my Tight Lip’d gloss in there and my phone while I hosted. It’s also in the shop section (under boutique) on the blog.

Love this shot of our coffee booth with our COOKIE FISHY. Guess who named our fish? lol

Love this shot of our coffee booth with our COOKIE FISHY. Guess who named our fish? lol

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These stunning arrangements from Bashful Rose graced the table.

These stunning arrangements from Bashful Rose graced the table.

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Kaylene DeVries, owner of EmmaJCo.com….see my bull ring???! It’s on her site now!

Kaylene DeVries, owner of EmmaJCo.com….see my bull ring???! It’s on her site now!

POLKATOT cupcakes

POLKATOT cupcakes

Amy Lacey and I before the food was devoured.

Amy Lacey and I before the food was devoured.

Lisa Brekenridge, me, Virgina Williams, Sarah Jane Morris

Lisa Brekenridge, me, Virgina Williams, Sarah Jane Morris

My sister-in-law Casey Henricks, Actresses Kimberly Brown, Angelique Cabral, Briana Cuoco, Amy Davidson

My sister-in-law Casey Henricks, Actresses Kimberly Brown, Angelique Cabral, Briana Cuoco, Amy Davidson

I’m gonna throw a few other items from our gift bag goodies in the package! So seriously— leave a comment letting us know that you’d love to try Cauli’Flour foods and we’ll announce the winner (maybe 2?) this Saturday, May 4th. So, may the force be with you. LOL.

LIVING LIFE with FAGE

This post is sponsored by FAGE; but you know it’s only written by yours truly. One of my favorite things about this blog is the opportunity to bring you (and me!) ways to make life healthier, simpler, and a bit more fabulous.

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Was life always this fast? I wonder if I popped back ten, fifteen years ago if life was as stressful and busy. I think it’s in my nature to stay busy and focused, so I’m sure it was. I could go out on a limb and say most women (especially parents) stay in a constant state of ‘busy-ness.’

Things change in life… our focus and needs change, but our nature is simply our nature. It’s become a constant of sorts. We switch hats all day… from boss babe at work to mom mode at home. From care taking a sick loved one, or being an ear for a friend, or putting on “chef” hat and making dinner for the family (then cleaning up!), we are chameleons that seamlessly switch into each of the role of our lives. (Today is a day with many hats for me— how about you? I’ve got to get better about not letting it stress me out. I’m trying.)

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A few days ago, I rushed home from work and running errands, I wanted to do something for myself for a few minutes before Hayden’s babysitter left…. the “changing of the hats” phase, if you will. I was hungry and tired and dreaming of something sweet like FAGE. I’m learning the best way for me to not get too stressed is take these few minutes to recharge.

I put my yoga mat down to do a quick routine and eat something easy, ready-to-go and utterly delicious. I’ve been doing more of these “mini” routines lately when time is not allowing a full workout. (Full disclosure, I later “reenacted” this set up for the blog because I was totally alone in the house the first time while Hayden played outside with the babysitter- no one else to take a photo— and the only little creature begging me for something was Oscar;) But on a typical day, I’m not alone! And as soon as the Split Cups come out, so do the munchkins! HA. (Scroll all the way down to see the photos with Huck sneaking beside me for a bite;)

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I often grab the FAGE Total Split Cup because it’s a staple in our fridge. I know I need to head to the market when we’re low on a few things and FAGE yogurt is one of them (Hayden LOVES Greek yogurt… I mean…happy dance time). It’s packed so full of taste, I relax for a bit and let it consume me. No joke- it’s really that good. Also, it’s low in calories, full of protein, probiotics and 30% less sugar with no artificial sweeteners. I love that it comes in 3 fat varieties: 0%, 2% and 5%. 

I’m really trying to remember to take care of myself even on the busiest of days working and taking care of everyone else. I am a better version of myself when I do a few simple things: fit in a workout, drink enough water and eat healthy throughout the day. I’m telling you- if you haven’t tried these Split Cups (btw- they were under $1 at my local grocer - find your closest location), do yourself a favor. You’ll feel satisfied and won’t need the dessert later, or an extra glass of wine. It’s satiable and good for your whole family. The other thing I love is that it fills me just enough. If I’m on camera that day, I don’t like the extended stomach feeling. And since I’m being personal here, I’ll go one step further. It’s not a secret we are trying to get pregnant. So, I have to take care of myself. I need to eat good food regularly. I need to take out the daily stress. I think tonight I’ll do double duty— take a nice bath WITH my FAGE Total Lime Split Cup (for dessert— it is really that good!). LOL. It’s like take me away with FAGE. I deserve it! #itsthelittlethings #LiveLoveEat #FAGE 

ps-I know some of you were going to try these after reading the last blog post. Did you?

xoxo

AAJ

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I promise I’m not teasing Oscar! He just can’t help himself when he smells the goodness. lol.

I promise I’m not teasing Oscar! He just can’t help himself when he smells the goodness. lol.

I swear, on a typical day, if I’m sitting outside trying to have a moment, little kiddos find there way when I bring out the treats!

I swear, on a typical day, if I’m sitting outside trying to have a moment, little kiddos find there way when I bring out the treats!

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ALL ABOUT THE MINI

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I’m all about the “mini” things in life right now! Mini-workouts when you need to squeeze them in and “mini” water filters when you’re in tight places. (This will make sense if you keep reading! lol)

I need a pick-me-up this week. Like an natural energy booster. When I don’t have time for a full workout, I’m trying to remind myself there are plenty of small “mini-workouts” I can do throughout the day that add up big time.

This is a basic, easy one that we can all do anywhere, anytime, wearing anything. Find a wall and stand up straight against it. As you lower your body, step your feet out until you are at a 90 degree angle. If you need to start at a slightly higher angle, it still works! I didn’t need to explain that, it’s pretty self explanatory;)

Once you get to the point where you can tolerate, start counting. Sometimes, if I’m home, I’ll have Alexa play a song and I will do my best to make it through. I never get through the whole song, but that’s a goal. You won’t believe what even 15 seconds does! I started at 3 sets of 15 seconds, working up to 3 sets of 60 seconds. It gets my heart rate up, muscles working and I end up downing some water!! Always a plus (see some NEW MINI WATER FILTER INFO BELOW).

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Now, that’s just for a pick me up. If I were incorporating into a workout, I’d add hand weights, lunges (ugh, but so good for us) and cardio.

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I might enjoy posting pictures of my jogs or hikes or post yoga fatigue, but I’m not fitness guru (yet!). I wanted to share my favorite feeds to follow on social media to get me motivated:

@laurenfisher

@erinoprea (we were on Dr. OZ together, that’s how I know her!!)

@gainsbybrains

@anna_ paquin (YES, that Anna I know from my time on True Blood, now she’s on THE AFFAIR. She is a cross fitness inspiration when she posts about that stuff.)

@torriewilson

Who do you follow? Also, if you have a favorite song for cardio, will you leave below? Compiling a list. I wanted to do this a year ago and never did. I know there are sharable abilities on apple, amazon prime and spotify, so we will find a way to share the “mix tape.”

AND I HAVE TO SHARE ABOUT MY LATEST WATER FILTER ADDITION, of course! I have loved working with Home Master Filters and this latest addition to our house has me just as excited. It’s a mini for over the counter!! It fits in my purse!!

Did you catch the live on facebook? If you missed here, you can watch here:

 


MINI FAUCET FILTERS INFORMATION

Perfect for tiny houses, shared spaces, travel, dorm rooms, and flexible living

Home Master® Mini Faucet Filters

Home Master® Mini Faucet Filters Compairison Chart

 Home Master® Mini 1CCB features all the performance and long life of a full-sized countertop filter, at the price of faucet filter. It delivers a full year's worth of filtered water for all your drinking, cooking, pet watering and veggie washing needs. The filter may be Mini, but it's a Big Purifier™ with a stout 1-micron catalytic carbon block that removes up to 99%: dirt and rust; chemicals like chloramines, chlorine, herbicides, pesticides, VOCs, and THMs, that create foul tastes and odors in your tap water. Dissolved solids like calcium and magnesium minerals (TDS) are not removed. For lead removal use Mini model PLUS

Easy DIY install -- fits on faucets with a removable aerator tip (does not fit on sprayer faucets) • Easily removed •Highly portable • Filter changes are clean and easy with no wrenches required • BPA Free • Made in USA

  • Typical filter life: 1500 gallons or 1 year whichever comes first.

  • The Home Master® Mini 1CCB Replacement filter is the MF1CCB – just $25.00 every 1,500 gallons or once a year

  • Home Master® Sinktop Faucet Filters do not work with pull-down sprayers.

  • If someone’s main faucet has a different adapter than the one provided with the Home Master® Sinktop Faucet Filters, you can purchase one or all of the Home Master® Sinktop Faucet Adapter Pack.

The 1CCB Faucet Filter helps filter for Chloramines and more. Depending on the one’s water supply and what someone is looking to filter out, can change which Mini Faucet Filter to get.

 The Home Master® Mini Faucet Filters do not remove fluoride. If someone is looking for a sinktop filter that helps filter for fluoride they can consider the Home Master® Countertop Filter Line, in particular, the Home Master® Jr. F2 Elite (TMJRF2E)
I’m thrilled to have this portable one for our laundry room upstairs and to carry along when I’m filming on location, but I still love our under the counter, RO system. See the previous blog posts for info on those below.

Don’t forget to use code ASHLEY so they know to give you free shipping and your free second year filter as a gift with your RO purchase or ASHLEY2019 Whole House filters THROUGH MAY 1ST ONLY!!! (Only RO systems or whole house filters receive the free gift, FYI).

I’ve already received some feedback from those of you that called and spoke to customer service! There’s a reason HOMEMASTER® Filters is so highly rated- their products speak for themselves, but also the service is impeccable.

I feel like this is really two posts in one, so I may separate them later. Just getting it all out there asap. If you get a water filter, you HAVE to let me know your thoughts. Let me know here in the comments!!!

Off to a busy day. I’m hosting an event tomorrow here at the house, so getting ready for that.

xoxo

AAJ

Beautifully BLENDED

Since I met Joel and started sharing some of our family life with y’all, many of you have commented about being a part of blended families OR potentially being a part of one in the future. After being asked the same questions over and over, I thought it’d be easiest to answer in a blog post! I am not a professional by any means; I’m only commenting from personal experience. And maybe I learned a thing or two from Jerry McGuire. Ha! #sorrynotsorry Or from my big beautifully blended family on The Bold and the Beautiful (now that is BLENDED). Wink, wink. 

Disneyland Day

Disneyland Day

Before I dig in, the term “blended family” has never sat well with me. I have images of a blender slicing things. Can we come up with a better term? PLEASE?

The question I get asked the most: What would I tell someone who is interested in seriously dating an individual with children.

I wouldn’t tell them anything, but I would ask them a few questions. Blended families are beautiful blessings when you you are ready for that responsibility. Again, I’ve learned from trial and error. I’m just trying to be the best wife, mom and step-mom I can, but miss the mark sometimes.

1) Do you enjoy long talks about poop, math quizzes or soccer goals? 

In other words: are you ready to be a mature, parental figure that puts the kids first (because they did not ask for this)? You will not be newly weds in the traditional sense. You don’t get that alone time in the beginning like two single people getting married. You are an instafamily. And an instaparent of sorts. Ready for that? (I wrote about the instant changes that occur in my column for PEOPLE here.)

2) Are you ready to make comprises, keep your promises and plan ahead?

Kids take planning. There are no “ let’s jump on a plane to Mexico for the weekend” (unless it’s not their weekend with the kids, but single parents are tired! Their spontaneity may have wained considerably). Also, if you make a date with a single parent on their custodial time, KEEP IT. Don’t flake. They may have moved mountains to get a babysitter. 

3) How serious are you about this individual? 

If the relationship is ready for a serious commitment, it’s may be time to involve the children. Children need stability, though, so if you’re one foot in— do not meet the kids.

4) Do you understand the “package deal?”

The most important thing to remember is they are a package together. The chid/children were there before you and will always be the priority. It’s extremely important to make time for each other, but it’s harder. You have to be flexible.

The other thing to remember is that part of the package is the ex-spouse/partner. If they are still in the picture, they will be a part of your life, good or bad. I am learning for most blended families, it’s an adjustment that takes time. And if you think the ex-partner will not affect your life in some fashion, that’s not true (at least not in my experience or most people I know). So, try and keep that relationship with the ex as positive as possible with open communication. When both parties cannot agree about what is best for their child, the law and lawyers get involved. Lemme tell you, this is not fun, but it IS expensive and often unfair. (I could write another blog post about this).

5) Do you like to DANCE?

The exchanges going back and forth with the two families, figuring out schedules and holidays and vacations— it’s not always easy, patience, sacrifice and compromise go a long way. Consider if you are ready for that juggle.  If you notice, Huck isn’t always able to be with us. We share him. So, when we want to do family activities, I coordinate around many factors. To be honest, it’s a really pain in the bum sometimes. I just wrote out a series of examples, then deleted it because this isn’t about my laundry list, it’s about YOU. 

6) Do you like being second fiddle? 

I am a stepmom and a mom. I don’t like the there is a distinction, but I can appreciate it. The only part of our family that technically makes us “blended” is Huck. And Huck already has a mother. I will never take that place in his life, but I can be a “bonus mom,” another parental figure in his life. And occasionally, my husband’s focus is on handling situations with his first son and ex-wife.

7) Can you rule without an iron fist?

With my son and stepson at the happiest place on Earth. We coordinate family weekends based on our time with Huck.

With my son and stepson at the happiest place on Earth. We coordinate family weekends based on our time with Huck.

Someone once told me that rules without relationship cause rebellion. In my situation, I met Huck when he was 2. His father did the majority of disciplining. Over time, we developed our own relationship. One that is familial and maternal and rewarding. Now, we have rules and structure, but I had to earn that over time.

If you or someone you love is considering making life decisions that involve children, these are points to consider from my personal experience. (Not sure how this turned into a PSA! ha!) They are basic concepts, just a sounding board to get a conversation flowing. Because you’ll be doing a LOT OF COMMUNICATING. 

It’s almost impossible to comprehend all of this when you are dating, but if you’ve met someone and started falling for them (and the child), it can be your fairytale. You’ll have the opportunity to love and affect another little human positively. I promise the little munchkin (or big munchkin) will be a blessing in your life and just might make YOU a better person. But the greatest thing to remember is there is no “right way,” there is only the right way for you. Be smart, listen to your gut instincts, follow your heart and remember the power of FORGIVENESS.

I’ve appreciated reading your notes about being from blended families. What I treasure most are hearing your thoughts about being a stepmother yourselves, or remembering moments from your own step parents. I wanted to open that discussion up here, too. I LOVE LEARNING FROM YOU.. So, feel free to share your beautiful blended stories. 

xoxo

AAJ

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TAX DAY REFLECTIONS with a PRO

Hi everyone. Happy After Tax Day!! If you’re like us, you’ve taken a look at your deductions, credits, spending verses saving habits and promised yourself to make changes in 2019.  I recently blogged about financial matters.  I was surprised how many of you visited the blog post, asked questions here or via email and wanted to know more. This is NOT a sponsored post. But, after chatting with Morgan McGovern, a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, I’d be remiss if I didn’t share our conversation. CFP® professionals are held to strict ethical standards and take a holistic approach to financial planning, so I felt comfortable taking her your questions and reporting her answers.
As parents, we have to think about summer camps or childcare, vacations, saving for college, retirement, life insurance... it’s a lot. Money is a terrible master but can be an excellent servant. If you’re interested in ways to make 2019 a financially better year for your family, keep reading. 

Just a shot that was taken when I was going through questions on turbo tax a bit ago. This exact top is (so comfy, boyfriend cut) on sale in plus sizes. I linked exact cut and other options below;)

Just a shot that was taken when I was going through questions on turbo tax a bit ago. This exact top is (so comfy, boyfriend cut) on sale in plus sizes. I linked exact cut and other options below;)

MONEY AND RELATIONSHIPS For many married couples, money is such a trigger in their relationship. “Money is tied to emotion,” McGovern said. She encouraged couples to take the time to figure out what their values are independently, as a couple and as a family. “Your spending and your saving habits should align with your core values. You ideally should spend not only your money, but also your time and energy, on the things most important to you and your family.” When you understand this logically, it’s easier to implement when things get emotional. 

There’s a plethora of reading material out there about relationships and money. Get ahead of the game. Know what works best for you and your partner before it becomes an issue. Are your values currently aligning as a individual, couple and family? I think this is a great exercise for all of us to sit down and write out our values once a year. Values are based on our core beliefs that determine our priorities.

RETIREMENT VS SAVING FOR HIGHER EDUCATION I got a considerable amount of DMs from people stating they’re more worried about saving for their children’s college fund than retirement. I imagine this is true for many Americans. I appreciated McGovern’s response: Education costs are increasing but retirement costs and healthcare costs are also increasing. The most important thing to remember is that loans can be taken out for children’s education, but you cannot take out loans for retirement. That really struck me. And inspired me to add more to retirement every year. It’s a discipline; saving is a way of life. 

TAKING FULL ADVANTAGE OF TAX CREDITS AVAILABLE The “child tax” credit has doubled for 2018 to $2,000 per qualifying child. There’s also a family tax credit, now known as ‘The Credit for Other Dependents’. McGovern explained that it’s important to be well informed of all the potential credits and deductions offered to us each year. Professionals learn your family dynamic and history, and can help you understand the best way to implement new policies, as opposed to someone plugging numbers into a program.  No matter how little or much you make, there are opportunities offered to each of us which we should take full advantage.

For us, we’re a blended family and child tax deductions currently do not apply for both boys. It’s imperative to know legally what your options are. (Plus, I work in Canada sometimes, from home a lot of the time, have a corporation, etc.) I feel more confident having another set of expert eyes look over our taxes and help plan.

BUT WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO CONSULT A PROFESSIONAL and start planning for retirement? What if I don’t have a lot of extra money right now? “The best time is now. It’s always better to do it sooner than later,” she said. “The more time you have to save anything, the better.” But it’s never too late, either. There are always OPTIONS. FIND out what ALL yours are! As far as being able to afford a professional, she explained there’s a number of different fee structures with a CFP® pro; there’s both comprehensive and modular planning options, and some advisors charge an hourly fee if that works best. Why not take a list of questions and sit down for an hour?

Specific Note for today: I’m heartbroken looking at the footage of Notre Dame today. My family and I had the privilege of getting to visit. I’ve luckily been able to go several times in my life. I look back and am grateful my mom and dad make it a financial priority to travel together. That didn’t happen without planning. Today is a sad reminder that there’s no time like the present to make a plan to make things happen. 

So, I hope this gets you thinking! If you want more info on a professional like Morgan, I urge you to check out letsmakeaplan.com. It’s an easy and very resourceful website. I like their blog. But, mainly I want us to continue this conversation often. Share your ideas and tips on planning for your future. A few of you had excellent advice in the comments of the last post. Do you make sure to put money in a pension or a 401K every year? Are you relying on property for your investments? How diversified are your investments? And (this has always been important to me) do you have a nest egg put aside for emergencies? Do your research and figure out what works best for YOU.

I am NOT, but thank you for thinking about me.

Hi guys!

I’ve been getting comments and DMs very kindly/gently asking about how the “two week wait” went. 

Basically, am I pregnant? In short, no. And I really thought I was, so it was depressing to find out. I just allowed myself to be bummed out for a few days…but now, I’m getting my mind focused again.

What really helps are reading comments of your inspiring stories, like the ones in this post here. It seems for some of us, perseverance is the key.

I opened up here to discuss this process because I know there’s a good deal of people going through some fertility issues (small or big). It helps me to feel like I’m not alone. After reading some of your comments (and especially DMs for those of you that felt it was too personal to write openly), I appreciate knowing it helps some of you, too.

I’m still hopeful for all of us. I’m gearing up to start all over again. Now, off to get celery juice. I’m hearing it helps. With everything;) And Hayden and I have a mommy/son date this morning. This precious child… We’re already so blessed to have him and Huck. Reminding myself gratitude is a great place to start.

I posted a simple “prayer” on instagram stories last week: Lord, show me how to trust your timing and not my own. No matter what we are all going through in life, this is worth reading.

Mommy and me.jpg

Lady In Waiting: the two week wait

If you’ve come here to this post and don’t know what I’m referring to, my guess is it won’t be that interesting of a read for you. If BBT reminds you of Big Bang Theory and not TTC, this post wasn’t written for you! (Unless you’re a man and your wife is going through this… might be beneficial? Just saying. lol)

I’m talking about the journey of trying to conceive. The time between ovulation and celebration. Or disappointment….sometimes devastation. 

It doesn’t start that way… the first, say, several months are so promising and exciting! You’ve made the decision to have a baby! The adrenaline from just that process can carry you for a few months. But some point, that adrenaline wains and you want to see results. Maybe you were just “trying to see what happens.” But now find yourself clocking your cycle in apps or consulting doctors, doing bloodwork, getting ultrasounds, acupuncture, taking herbs, taking medications, taking your BBT (basal body temperature)… etc.

This photo was 3 years ago at our little make shift photo shoot when I was pregnant with Hayden.

This photo was 3 years ago at our little make shift photo shoot when I was pregnant with Hayden.

For those of you that have never gone through this arduous process for one reason or another, it most likely seems foreign and possibly crazy. Perhaps you conceived your children easily, or adopted, or chose not to have children. Some of you tried for a long time to get their miracle baby, or came to terms with not having biological children.   

When I was 38, I got the feeling from doctors that I was going to have trouble conceiving. I thought it would take me a very long time. I was almost mentally prepared for the process to take  6-12 months. But, it happened quickly. We were blessed. 

This time around has been different. Yes, I know I’m older , so there’s that issue. I try not to put pressure on us or myself, but I know  it must be there. The pressure, I mean. I posted on instagram right at the new year talking about using an ovulation test. I started using those because the first several months of trying, nothing was happening for me.  After consulting with a doctor, I was told to track my cycle. I got hyped up and excited thinking it would work miracles within months, like it does for many couples.

This is when it starts to get difficult. I discussed the topic in this post here. I got some great advice in the comments last time I posted about this, so I wanted to continue being open about fertility. I found an acupuncturist. It’s not cheap and the herbs taste terrible and you’re suppose to de-stress, change your diet and have frequents sessions with the acupuncturist. It’s just one step that some women take during this process. I also am taking a break from hot yoga (that I LOVE) because you’re not suppose to do that right now. I should be going to regular yoga, but I don’t like it as much. I appreciate those of you that commented and shared your experiences. I instantly felt less alone and more supported. For those of you wondering, there’s a decently large group of us out there around their 40s wanting to conceive as naturally as possible, or any way possible. 

How many of you are in or have recently been in this two week waiting period time and time again? (I can’t help but laugh at this phrase. It gives “lady in waiting” a whole new meaning.) I want to run to the store and get pregnancy tests but my doctor says it’s too early and would only create more stress for me to think that way. I just need to be patient. UGHHHH. And my question is: do you feel supported? How are you getting through it? Do you go on forums or have people to talk to? Of course we have our DH (dear husbands in the TCC community) or partner that may or may not totally understanding. I’m also TRYING to remember that I need to be supportive of my husband during this time, too. So, I’m learning it’s unfair of me to expect him to understand this emotionally charged time. I try not to vent too much or stress out to him about this topic (hence my venting here— wondering if he gets this far in the post-lol). Of course, Joel and I are in this  together. It’s our family. Our triumphs. And our stress. That strengthens us. (eventually;)