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.

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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;) 

PANTRY REFRESHER! Win your own PANTRY MAKEOVER

WIN YOUR VERY OWN PANTRY MAKEOVER from RUBBERMAID®

As I’ve mentioned on the blog already, March is National Nutrition Month.  It spurred me to take a look at our pantry and see what snacks we have readily available. I also wanted to make sure they were easy to find and healthy! Although we did a great job making over the pantry last year, it’s a good idea to give it great refresher every 6-9 months. It was the perfect time to go throw a few things out and combine items in baskets. If you’re in need of more than a refresher… like a  FULL BLOWN MAKEOVER valued at $5000!… keep reading! This is NOT a sponsored post. I worked with Rubbermaid® this to spread the word about their giveaway on social media, but this blog post was not a part of it. I just really want one of you to win!! LOL. So, read on and ENTER! Also, I had too much fun organizing with my mini-me (see photos below:) and wanted a place to share all these silly, fun pictures. I’m definitely oversharing here—- there’s so many!

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Last year, Metro’s Other Woman came to help with organization and gave a few tips that stuck with me.

1. DO NOT keep boxes. This takes up unnecessary space and you can’t tell when you are running low on commodities. Throw out the packaging and DO KEEP items in containers or baskets. Rubbermaid® Easy Find Lids™ are an awesome solution.
2. DO KEEP “like with like.” For instance, keep all your bars (protein, granola) in one basket (I like wire ones I can still see the items, some people like solid baskets). All the pastas together in containers, crackers and chips, etc…. you get the idea.
3. DO USE Lazy Susans and can holders to maximize space.
4. DO utilize back of pantry door with racks (we haven’t done this yet, but I’m looking into it).
5. DO NOT keep expired items. Check your dates, throw out expired items to create space!

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Honestly, the first rule of thumb about not keeping boxes will make a world of difference. I created so much extra space, I was able to carve out a section for the kids. Hayden and Huck’s little art cubby was one big messy basket. But now, it looks so creative and inviting, with little kid-friendly snacks. Hayden LOVES to “help” me in the kitchen, so this one way to keep him engaged!

So just in time for that spring cleaning fever, enter the Easy Find Lids™ sweepstakes between March 17-May 5 for a chance to get your dream pantry: www.EASYFINDWIN.com. There are two ways to enter: with a receipt of a qualifying purchase of Easy Find Lids™ or without a qualifying purchase. All info can be found with that link ->easyfindwin.com. If you have any questions, please comment below and I will get answers for you! In the meantime, start your organizing! Rubbermaid® made these Easy Find Lids especially for me, I swear. Lids are like socks sometimes. They just get lost. These lids are “easy to find” because they are red and snap to the base of the container. They are stackable, dishwasher, microwave and freezer safe-- and affordable.  
How often do you go through things in your pantry? It feels SO GOOD to declutter and create space. If you’re one to keep up with organization, what is your top tip to share?

ps- my super soft t-shirt is on SALE FOR $9! And jeans are on SALE FOR $37!

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Some of the BEFORE AND DURING shots below. By throwing out the boxes and combining items in the containers, I created more space.

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FRIDAY THOUGHTS AND UPDATES

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Hi everyone. Happy almost weekend! I had a bigger plan for this post, but it’s not done, so I’m just popping in to say hello. And this photo is not me. But I’ve saved it for a while. It’s a stock photo on the internet. LOL. In my memories of European days (which WILL happen again), this is me. So, stay tuned for a copycat.

I’ve been thinking about some of you that have commented on recent posts. Those of you that are dealing with health issues or health issues of a loved one, I hope today is a good day. Sometimes, it’s just a day at a time.

And those of you that commented to on the post about fertility, I wanted to thank you for the encouragement. Some of you are right there with me, so I’m sending up great thoughts in my prayers tonight. For all of us!

I’m heading into the doctor tomorrow again to check stuff for fertility. Bright and early. And then tomorrow night is the Bold and Beautiful Anniversary party. 

On a different note, the movie I filmed in Canada last year, HOME KILLING QUEEN, is set to premiere on Lifetime May 11th! I’ll share more soon. It’s such a different role for me. The other actors and actresses in the film are excellent. And it was written by my friend Andrea Canning, Dateline corespondent. It’s a thriller, with a darker comedic tone. What I appreciate about the film is the overall message of values. We become what we feed our souls. Choose wisely.

UPDATE:

That was all written last night and I never posted it. All looks good for now from the doctor after my appointment, so we wait. UGH. We tried and we wait. This is the hardest part, am I right? Fertility is amazing and so hard sometimes.

I’m gonna distract myself and go get ready for the B&B party. Also, for you guys out there that know or have younger children, I have a fun post up for a giveaway…check it out on instagram. It’s the Chickapig book, game and soft fluffy chick creature! (So cute, actually). A great Easter gift, so go WIN it! Here’s the exact link-> instagram post giveaway.



30 years ago...HAPPY BIRTHDAY WORLD (WIDE WEB).

Since you are here on this site, you might have already opened google. If you haven’t yet, you inevitably will.  And then you’ll see Google is celebrating 30 years of the world wide web!

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Well, that makes me feel old. Do you remember where you were the first time you plugged in to “dial up?” That bee-bo-bop-oh, ch-ch-beep sound. I remember getting those AOL disks in the mail and doing free trials. What is all the fuss about? It’s alien to my preteen-age brain. 

I also remember my parents not loving the idea for us kids. I don’t recall specifics- but now that I am a parent, I can only imagine what they were thinking. We want to protect our children any way we know how. And this was a totally unknown connection to strangers (and expensive…remember?)!

This thing we all are so accustomed to now certainly changed the world. Forever. Made it smaller in some ways for some people and much larger in ways for others. You? How has it affected your world? 

Ironically, I was forced to think about this last night. Joel went to a concert, Hayden was asleep and I had big plans to work in bed (with Bachelor on in the background, since we all knew what was happening anyway)— but our internet wasn’t connecting properly for a bit and messed up the tv, too. Immediately I felt disconnected, frustrated, and annoyed. Like… how can I go all night without the internet? 

It rebooted and all was normal again.

Just 30 short years ago…. before cell phones, social media, kindle, netflix, and even before the world wide web, there was the dewey decimal system. And snail mail. And newspapers. And coffee where we just had words with friends (like actual words, not the game on our phones).  And pagers! Remember pagers? I’ll never forget getting those beeps on my pager driving back to Pepperdine from my audition for THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS. I got off the freeway to use a payphone and hear the good news.

I love this “connected” stuff as much as the next person, but to celebrate the 30th birthday, I might go offline. Go crazy like it’s 1989.

At least for a few hours. 


Anyone out there feel this way? Fertility in 40s.

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Anyone that frequents this blog knows we are trying to have another baby. Sometimes I say “discussing” it or “considering expanding the family” in posts and such. I think I do that to take the pressure off of us, make it seem like we are okay no matter what happens- baby or no baby. 

And, of course, we are. Hayden and Huck are amazing blessings straight from God. When I walked into Hayden’s room this morning (bright and early cause he needed to go potty) he said, “I’m so excited to see you, Mommy. I had a good sleep.” I mean, just so precious. And Huck never forgets to say, “I love you,” when he leaves to go to his Mom’s house. We have the family I prayed for long ago.

I haven’t talked about this openly much, if at all really. There’s still a strong feeling we are not done. We have been trying. There were a few months I felt for sure I was pregnant. It must have been psychosomatic feelings. Anyone that has gone through this process knows the disappointment every month when you see a negative on the pregnancy test, or your cycle comes. 

I know it can take time. It just happened quickly with Hayden. I also was pregnant with four of my closest friends. This time it feels different for us. I shouldn’t speak for Joel, but I feel more alone going through this process at my age now. 

However, from what I’m reading, I am not at all alone. According to a recent study, the only female age group that saw an increased birth rate was for women 40-44! The percentage of millennial women having children is at an all-time low! The surge is mostly women my age, so I’m wondering how many of you out there are in the same boat? There’s got to be some!

I don’t want to dwell too much on anything negative, but it is a very depleting, anxiety inducing, crazy making process at times. It’s hard not get down on ourselves. We’re suppose to relax and let stuff go, yet my instinct is to be proactive. 

So, I am trying to be as proactive as possible. Cutting way down on the following: caffeine, sugar, wine, processed food and Diet Dr. Pepper. I’m not being crazy about that list, but trying very hard. No hot yoga (ugh, I love it, but I can do every other kind of yoga). I started seeing an acupuncturist that gave me the most disgusting herbs I’ve ever tasted to drink everyday. (She suggested three times a day). I’ve only seen her a few times, so I’m thinking I should increase the frequency. Thoughts?

I never froze my eggs. I haven’t tried any fertility methods. I’m absolutely supportive of all of that, I just haven’t done it….yet.

I’m seeing my doctor (OBGYN) today. Gonna drive over the hill in the pouring rain later. 

I would much rather write all this as post-journal success story. I’ve been waiting for that. But, that’s not our journey right now. I believe it will be. We don’t seem to talk about this stuff much. I understand why, but I wish we did discuss it more. So that’s why I’m writing this stuff here. This is a personal blog about lifestyle, fun, food, family, style (sometimes!) and it makes sense to find out if there are more of you out there feeling the same way I do? What steps are you taking? My hope is to make us feel more connected and less alone. If you have success stories- please share! 

WATER, WATER, WATER

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It’s March 1st! Happy National Nutrition Month! Last month, I wrote some posts on wellness; I’m happy to go into March with a few posts coinciding with nutrition. 

I wanna start with one of the basic six essential nutrients…. WATER. You may feel like I’m beating you over the head discussing water. I realize I’ve been talking about drinking enough water for basically the passed 6-12 months. I guess I’m not done! #sorrynotsorry (scroll all the way down for fun art on how to get more high water content foods in your diet!).

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Hayden is picking up on our habits— and I’m proud this good one he is choosing to copy. LOL. He loves saying, “I need more water, mommy,” while grabbing his bottle and stool and heading to turn on the filter. Little mess!! But so happy because I’ve read potty training is an incredibly important time to stay very well hydrated.

Yesterday, if you saw my post (here) I squeezed in a hard workout, drank a ton of water and felt so much better afterward. Less anxiety, more focused. I believe endorphins help greatly, but I also notice a distinct difference when I drink my water, specifically my filtered mineral water. The main difference is feeling more focused and energetic and grounded. It’s easy to forget the importance of water… but it only takes a headache or lots of anxiety to remind us.
I thought this was a perfect day to answer a few more of your questions that keep coming in about our Water Filter System! And I love it!! The main questions have been about the Home Master® Filters RO system Joel and I have. I also want to say the only thing I regret is waiting so long to get this. It has made our lives easier! If you’re on the fence, lemme know! I drink probably 25% more water now that I have this mineral water on tap.

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What do you mean by “mineral water on tap?”

Great question! I kept asking Joel this, too. These Home Master® Filters are patented, advanced pH balanced water purification systems that ADD minerals back to your water two times during the process of purifying, hence, #MineralWaterOnTap.

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Did we get upgrades?

I asked Joel to go over everything we got (I honestly just loved the mineral on tap at my sink, I didn’t know every little thing Joel did, but I’m learning!). YES, we got the loaded package which Joel strongly recommends. 

The Loaded version adds:

1. Luxury Standard Brushed Nickel RO Faucet

2. Fridge Connection Kit

3. Dow Filmtec High-Performance RO membrane (75 GPD)

4. Permeate Pump

Customers can pick and choose what they want for upgrades and/or choose a different faucet from our Faucet Line here: HERE as well via our Home Master Reverse Osmosis System Products Page.

For more information regarding our Home Master Upgrades visit here.

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Can I just buy the refrigerator kit? 

Yes - you can install a Home Master® RO System and connect it solely to the refrigerator. You simply have to purchase a Home Master® Refrigerator Connection Kit, and also cap off the line going to the faucet with an additional 3/8 inch inline ball valve. All of which are available right on the company website.

What if I want hot and cold water at my #MineralWaterOnTap filter (like ours at the kitchen sink)?

YES! I hear you and I feel you! This is our next upgrade. And it is possible, affordable and doesn’t take up much space.

Check out the Chiller Daddy (hilarious name and you won’t forget it!) and the Hot Tank that would easily fit under our sink.

HOT TANK INFO:

You can purchase the Waterstone™ Hot Tank to add to your Home Master® drinking water filtration system for instant hot tea, coffee, instant soup, water with lemon in the morning, etc!  When you purchase the Waterstone™ Hot Tank, you will need to purchase one of the four Hot/Cold Waterstone™ Water Filtration Faucets.

  1. Parche

  2. Hampton

  3. Annapolis

  4. Pembroke

 Hot/Cold Faucets will come with a secondary lever. One lever for cold water, the other for hot water.

 CHILLED WATER INFO:

You can add the Chiller Daddy®, a compact undersink water chiller to your Home Master® RO system to provide you and your family with chilled purified water! The Chiller Daddy® is compatible with any of the Home Master® Water Filtration Faucets.

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QUESTIONS? So much info here!! Please leave any thoughts or concerns in the comments below. If you can, tune into our Q & A live next week (scheduled for 10:30am PT on facebook and I’ll be chiming in on instagram live, too. Home Master will be on there with us helping answer questions). Home Master® Filters and I will make sure all your questions are answered. You can also contact HomeMaster at 1-877-693-7873. Tell them I sent you and you will get free shipping and a second year filter free on your RO system. 

Or use codes ASHLEY for free shipping and free second year filter ON YOUR RO SYSTEM. Or ASHLEY2019 on your whole house system!

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PLAN FOR THE FUTURE

I’m thrilled about our new sponsor: CFP Board. They’re shedding light on something I want all of us to think about and discuss – our finances. It’s not always comfortable, but it is extremely necessary.

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As you may already know from my other posts, Joel and I are thinking about expanding our family (eeep!); this has led to discussions about our finances.

Lately, I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night with my mind racing about these discussions. I know stress is not the best during this “process,” but it’s also hard to avoid.  Joel and I both have family in the financial world that have impressed upon us the importance of planning for the future. We were told it was time to get help and make a plan created by a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional.

First off, I’m learning that many people without the necessary qualifications call themselves financial planners, so just beware. It’s essential to get someone who has a CFP® certification upholding the ethical standards required of a CFP® professional. Just like you want a doctor that has the proper license, you want someone guiding your finances that has the proper qualifications.


Like my desire to KonMari style organize my house is strong, my desire to get organized financially is even stronger. Meeting with a CFP® professional near us (letsmakeaplan.org) can help Joel and I start working on all of those questions that keep popping up in the middle of the night. I mainly want to plan for education (from preschool to college) and know how much we should be putting away for retirement and life insurance. It must be our age, but retirement seems to come up in conversation a lot lately. It’s easy to get stuck in the day-to-day and be happy just making ends meet every year, but I know there is a way to WIN the rat race one day–and enjoy retirement–IF we stay on a targeted plan.  

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Like most Americans, our financial needs range and change. The above thoughts are my urgent issues today, but I also have so many others. For instance, lots of little questions about our personal taxes for those of us with blended families. A CFP® professional will work with us today and grow with us as our needs change, especially if (and when!) another little one joins the family. How can we make our money work for us, not the other way around!??  My father gave me the best reason to work with a CFP® professional: worry less. He said money is a terrible master, but a wonderful servant.

Do you feel like your money is working for you? I hope so! But could it be working harder? I’m excited to let the professionals do what they do best, so I can be the best for those I love and be the best at what I love.

It’s so easy to just meet with a CFP® professional. Go to letsmakeaplan.org and find one in your area. The best part of CFP® professionals is that they work with you to build a plan to take care of a myriad of needs–both big and small. If you are starting your own family, there is NO better time than now to start planning ahead and securing your future. If you’re even younger, let me tell you: when I bought my first house in my 20s, I thought that was enough to secure my financial future, but in hindsight, I could have done so much more had I retained a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional. See what they have to say!

If you’re interested, I hope to share our journey with you all–and show you how much financial planning can serve you in your lives. It can be a lifelong relationship, my CFP® pro and me!

As always, any comments below are welcomed! Have you ever worked with a financial planner?

xox

AJH

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forget Partying at the Oscars, we're all about: PARTY AT THE POTTY

Our first attempt at potty training at 19mo did not go over well.

Our first attempt at potty training at 19mo did not go over well.

PARTY AT THE POTTY

If you follow me on social media, you know I’m in the middle of potty training Hayden. 

Hayden’s pediatrician believes we need to work on weaning diapers before I try to wean the thumb sucking (that’s a polarizing topic for another day). I thought there was a good chance I’d be working on set on a show this week, so when that didn’t pan out, I had a few free days. Hayden seemed to understand what I was talking to him about (I know, he’s TWO, but he really did seem to get it). So one full day we discussed it, then off went the diapers the next day.

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I must say I was dreading potty training, but maybe since I expected the worst, it’s not as bad? I tell you one thing- I’m over diapers!! For all you parents out there about to start the process, I feel for you, but just go for it IF YOU FEEL your child is ready. I tried potty training Hayden at 19 mo. and he was NOT ready. His imagination came alive, creating many other uses for the potty other than the intended one (see photo above!). I’m weary to say much just yet because we are only on day 3. So, what I will discuss is preparation

Here goes:

I did nearly nothing. Ha! We read some books on the topic at night on and off recently. Not books for me, books with stick figures that talk about walking to the potty and sitting down on the potty, etc. I talked to my friend Willa Ford @wfordinteriors that went through this process before me and she recommended some products that I highly suggest using! So, I spent about 5 minutes amazoning the below. I’ll link them. I bought them all!

I’m grateful Willa gave me her list! I would have NEVER thought of the “piddle pad” for the car seat until it was too late and been super frustrated trying to clean it! Trips anywhere we don’t want to carry a potty with us, these portable silicone fold up seat covers with liners are genius. My biggest thing is not letting Hayden touch anything. This basic POTTY book really helps them understand what is happening. And I ordered the padded undies because they will catch the initial dribbles! The thin one that come in packs of 10 will NOT do that. And finally, I’m keeping the travel potty in the car. I have one at home that is simple, but this one had a COVER LID if we need to hold off on dumping for a moment.

Potty training must be one of those things that is hard to recall once it’s all over and time has passed. I met Huck when he was about Hayden’s age. We went through potty training together. I helped implement “no more diapers.” We used pull ups for a short period at night, then big boy underwear. I remember moments of the process, having to rush home after accidents, Huck holding my neck as he pooped in the potty for the first time telling me he was scared. But, over all, I don’t remember that much. Is it human nature to selectively forget the hard parts or we would never want to do it again?? I can’t imagine that time was a super easy process for any of us, especially Huck, because he was going back and forth between his mom and his dad. But, he adjusted, as kids do.

I know there are books on the subject that outline it all. I skimmed the jist of them on google and just went for it. Lemme tell you one thing I quickly noticed: there are two schools of thought.

1) Never put the diaper back on them again. Even for naps or nighttime.

2) Put the diaper on them for sleeping or traveling distances. 

I chose the latter.

For now, it’s all “party at the potty!” ha! We’re handing out little mini prizes and limiting the sweet treats as much as possible. Stay tuned for how it goes. Do you remember potty training your child? Or are you thinking about starting??

Please please share any ideas, tips and tricks. One of you (I don’t share names without asking first) shared Brandi Bruck’s Potty Training in 3 Days. I may order that book! Thanks for those of you that are so encouraging of this process!! #MYtribe is awesome.

xo

AJH


SINCE I POSTED THIS, OTHER ISSUES HAVE COME IN TO PLAY. CONSTIPATION WAS MY BIGGEST CONCERN.

UPDATE 2/24/19 10am

While many I know were at Oscar parties last night, we were home partying at the potty! I got concerned that Hayden had not pooped. Now, it’s been over 2 days. Who has dealt with potty training constipation? I’m googling and it can quickly turn into an alarming situation. I’m feeding him more foods that might help that issue right now. I’m reading I might need to give prune juice. He is peeing in the toilet every time, but clearly holding the poop for one reason or another. Is anyone else dealing with this or have you recently?

Also, I am so grateful and overwhelmed at everyone’s comments on DM, but I would rather us all share here where others can benefit from your wisdom. I know it’s frustrating to have to sign into squarespace before you leave a comment, but it’s pretty easy- give a name and an email. The email is not for my purposes, but squarespace security. (Honestly, you could probably make one up…not sure, but it is not connected to my website, so I will never know). We only see addresses if you voluntarily sign up for newsletters (which we are working on finally accomplishing!). All that to say—- PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT so others can benefit;)

I’ll be leaving updates here of anything that works for us. For those of you that are just now tuning in and are questioning potty training, the main thing I’ve learned so far is that YOU have to be more ready to do this than your child. It’s really TRAINING THE PARENTS.

UPDATE: 2/24/19 10pm

Ok, I got so preoccupied with stuff- sorry for the delay here. Thank for those of you checking on us! He ate a lot and had quite a few apple slices. Nothing was happening and it had been 2 days. I read a great deal online and got concerned. I didn’t want to develop contipation issues. At 4pm, I rubbed a bit of vaseline back there with Joel helping me hold Hayden (tiny bit, on the outside). He finally started pooping around 5pm (cried a tiny bit). I said he could poop anywhere he wanted - in a diaper, in his (padded) big boy undies or in the potty whenever he wanted to. He started to go in his undies, then I gently took him to his little potty. He finished there and was very excited to show daddy and flush it. He continued to go in the potty (pee) the rest of the night ( 2 more times). One of you mentioned that I should explain he is a big boy and he can come tell Mommy or Daddy when he needs to go to the bathroom. I tried that and it did work with pee, but I still reminded him he could go potty every hour. I put a diaper on him for bed tonight.

UPDATE: 2/25/19 10:16 pm

I’m so tired. This gets draining. I do believe this will help others, so that’s why this is so detailed.

I’ll start by saying he waited till 4pm to pee AT ALL today (even with a ton of food and water and milk in him). He just kept saying he didn’t need to potty. At nap time, I put a diaper on him and it was bone dry when he woke up. I’m less concerned today, but still went to the store to get some raisins and more apples. He ate them. Finally at 4pm, he went. He waited till 5p to poop. He started in his big boy pants, then I lured him over to the potty with the promise of a little toy car. He was so excited to flush it, he forgot about the toy. I brought it up anyway and praised him.

NOTE: I am SO happy with these slightly padded undies I wrote about below. I wasn’t sure if they would work, but he loves to put them on and feels very comfortable in them. If he starts to go, it doesn’t soak up like a diaper, so he is aware, but it also doesn’t leak immediately. We have 4 pairs (one pack). I got a 3T, which are perfect for him.



Hayden much more “relaxed” about the process now.

Hayden much more “relaxed” about the process now.

A DIFFERENT DIRECTION

It’s a dreary, cold day here in LA. I don’t feel like doing much. I’m a bit down mentally and physically. I’m congested and worn out. Probably the exact time I should force myself to go workout. We’ll see. I’m also in the midst of potty training. Lord, help me! lol.

Last Friday I mentioned on inststory I had an audition. Yesterday, I found out it was down to the wire. I was what we call “pinned” in the auditioning world. I’m not sure if I should say what show, but I don’t really see why not? For the sake of the show, I will wait and say what series later…It was for a recurring role on popular primetime show.  The character was very interesting and complicated. Truth be told, there aren’t that many roles right now for Caucasians my age. I should feel good that I got so close to getting it. But, alas, last night, I learned it went to the other woman. There’s lots of fun ways they tell you the role is not yours.
They “went another direction,” or “it didn’t go your way this time.”  Makes me want to make a change… what can I do to shake things up? Go back to my natural dark hair? Yep, this photo below is my natural color. (By now, a little grey has seeped in, though). Silly thing to change my hair, but maybe not? Maybe I should go in a different direction!

Side note for those of you that might ask, I would be so happy going back to your favorite daytime shows or working on Hallmark or continuing with Lifetime (next movie airs in May). So, thanks for your support in those endeavors.

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The business side of our industry is depleting at times. I don’t like to call it rejection. There are so many puzzle pieces to making a project work, sometimes it really is not about me. So, I have to let go. I usually allow myself 20 minutes or so of being bummed, then I must move on and forget about it. I come home to my family, my reality… where we have plenty of other things to worry about.

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I know we all go through things like this in life where we are so close to the “next step,” or getting a new campaign or case or position at the company. And then it doesn’t happen. But we have to understand there’s a bigger picture. Sometimes it’s just so hard to see or even want to see. It just feels like failure. I wanna get mad at…. I don’t even know who really. 

Some of you have left comments here about current situations. Health issues, or job changes….or both. I truly cannot begin to imagine how frustrating, depleting and devastating some of those circumstances are. I am so encouraged by your strength and it puts things into perspective for me. Also, I appreciate this blog and communicating with y’all. Thanks for sharing with me, too.

One book in the bible that I like to read (and should read more) is Isaiah. If you are interested, here are two of my favorites that help me change my perspective and give my thoughts to God. Also, unanswered prayers are often protection. 

Isaiah 41: 10 Have no fear, for I am with you; do not be looking about in trouble, for I am your God; I will give you strength, yes, I will be your helper; yes, my true right hand will be your support.

Isaiah 40:28 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. 

Have a great day, y’all. Feel free to share in the comments!!

HOW GOOD ARE YOU TO YOUR FUTURE SELF?

CANCER PREVENTION #realtalk today

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Continuing with the health and wellness series, I want to thank the American Cancer Society for sponsoring this discussion about cancer prevention. This is all my own #realtalk, but trying my best to bring positivity to this heavy topic.

A bump in my breast led to being slightly cut open for a surgical biopsy. I was very young. Too young to know about cancer yet. I don’t recall that much about it, although I remember the look on my mother’s face when she was listening to the doctor. It was a scare, a benign fibrocystic lump. But something about that time stuck in my mind forever.

Fast forward to my twenties when a dermatologist dramatically reacted to moles on my body. And more biopsies happened. I have long, deep scars from the scares that time. And although my parents taught me a lot about protecting and taking care of myself, this series of tests really woke me up. I started reading more about prevention and taking some big steps. I slather on sunscreen and have never gone near a tanning bed again. 

It seems I hear way too often that someone is going through chemo. Or was diagnosed with stage...you name it. These people have their lives changed in an instant. The thing about cancer is this: it does not discriminate. It affects any race, any way, at any time. But, the more knowledgeable we are, we can actively work to try and prevent it to some degree. 

There’s so much we cannot control with the unknowns of cancer, but if we can make small daily changes, it definitely won’t hurt and very well might greatly help. Approximately 42% of cancer cases and 45% of cancer deaths in the United States each year that are linked to modifiable risk factors, thus potentially being preventable. Those statistics woke me up! February is world cancer prevention month. It’s a great time to gently remind those we love of little habits we can implement to change our world...and BE GOOD TO OURSELVES, too. Any regulars here know I’m all about clean living. DOESN’T MEAN I DO IT EVERYDAY. I try. I’m not a doctor (even though I'm Dr. Bridget Forrester on B&B;), but I have the privilege of meeting with specialists that lead me in the right direction.

I bet you could write the below on your own. However, it never hurts to be nudged. I just took a break from writing this to refill my water bottle and go walk on the treadmill because all this is reminding me of the benefits. You all help me stick to my regimen, too. It’s so easy to get lazy; accountability helps. 

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MY TOP TIPS:

  1. SCREENING

I got my first mammogram last year. It’s already time to get my next one. I’ve been avoiding scheduling the appointment, but I’ll do it today. Will you?  Screening and early detection of certain types of cancer is paramount. If you’re feeling something is off anywhere or if you have a question, please, talk to your doctor. And even if there’s not a question, talk to your doctor about what screenings are best for you. PLEASE. 

2. NO TOBACCO

Quitting smoking is not easy, but you can do it. To have the best chance of quitting and staying quit, you need to know what you’re up against, what your options are, and where to go for help. Check out a great source here at cancer.org

3. FOOD AND ALCOHOL

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Diet: what are we putting in our bodies food and drink related (if it’s not pure water)? High calorie foods, regular consumption of alcohol, and processed foods are not wise choices. We know we should be eating more whole foods: fruits and vegetables high in anti-oxidants, limit processed foods.  My boys love going to our local farmer’s market. I remember blogging about it last year and loved reading your responses about your local markets — those that have access to one.

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4. EXERCISE

Exercise. Yep. Yep. Just do it. I try to get in at MINIMUM 3 hours a week. I’ll be honest, before Hayden, I was a 6 day a week girl. I did the work. Now, it’s harder, so I get that life can take over. If we are trying to look like Cindy Crawford, we probably need to put in the time, but if we are trying stay healthy and work at preventing cancer, a little goes a long way. 150 moderate minutes a week, or 75 high intensity minutes will fit the bill. (And when I make time to do this, I feel like I’m floating afterward. The natural endorphins seriously kick in.) If you’re following my stories, you often see me participating in yoga. I love the intensity and principles of yoga.

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5. PROTECT FROM THE RAYS

SUNSHINE I love it. I need it. I live near the beach for it. A little goes A LONG WAY. My family and I are so used to slathering sunscreen all over us, my kids know the drill, even thought Hayden hates it. Appreciate the sun and all its Vitamin D benefits and mental health benefits, but don’t worship it. Our skin cannot take the heat, so to speak. Even in cloudy, snowy climates— wear your sunscreen. And your sunglasses; protect your eyes! Just a reminder that the top of our heads, hands and tops of our feet need protecting, too. Hats, glasses, enjoying the sun IN THE SHADE, and sunscreen protect us. Give your whole body the love of protection. You all know I’m pale. If you ever see me tan, it’s spray or makeup. The real me is as white as Capser the friendly ghost.

Joel loves picking a shady spot wherever we go.

Joel loves picking a shady spot wherever we go.

I sincerely appreciate and praise those that share their own stories with cancer. I followed the hashtag #worldcancerday and broke into tears. It isn’t fair.

BE GOOD TO YOURSELF. Love life. Visit the American Cancer Society’s website for more tips. Don’t forget to share this post with those you love as a gentle reminder. And will you share with us in comments what you’re doing for yourself for disease and cancer prevention? We can continue to encourage each other.

xox AJH

WHAT'S IN YOUR FRIDGE?

Continuing the new wellness series with this post supported by FAGE yogurt. In full disclosure, we have been a FAGE family for a long time. This partnership just makes sense to spread our love and we hope to continue to partner with more awesomeness in the future.

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What’s in MY fridge?

It’s the middle of winter. Whether you’re in Arizona’s 69 degree weather, or you’re in the snowstorm in the northeast freezing or here in California where it’s been raining, it’s winter. And this, my friends, is an excellent time to start our spring cleaning preparation of mind, BODY and space. Last year, I embarked on a wellness series with y’all and enjoyed it. I feel like we’ve already started with all the “drinking more water” talk. And I’m not gonna let down on that..reminding myself to drink more clean water everyday.

Today, I’m continuing the topic with healthy food choices. So many of you ask me what I make for dinner, or what I’m feeding my kiddos. I also get asked if I EVEN make dinner or what I heat up that’s frozen! VALID, I’ll admit! Any parent in the world has to figure out food for their family—a normal question, albeit a DREADED ONE. Anytime I have the opportunity to ask friends and get new ideas— you bet I do! 

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Today is a busy day. It’s raining in LA and I have appointments. So, I threw chicken in the slow cooker with salsa as a base. Later when it’s time for dinner, I’ll shred it, add a bit of yogurt, yes, FAGE (read benefits of greek yogurt from HEALTHLINE here), low-fat cheese, cilantro, and roll it into a burrito and voila! When I got home, I gave Hayden a FAGE Total Split Cup yogurt container. We have been eating yogurt a lot. FAGE reduced the sugars in FAGE Total Split Cups (fruit varieties) by 30%!! From 16-17g down to 11g per serving! That’s incredible sugar cutting with no artificial sweetners. I love nothing more than to feel like I’m giving my family GOOD, whole foods that help their bodies function properly and fight off sickness.

And for ME!

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Who can relate to this? Whatever I give the kids or my husband, I usually give a portion to myself. Or at least take bites here and there. So, if our snacks or dinner are really fatty (which we went through a phase), I take those bites. Then, I would also eat my dinner later. I have gained a bit of weight (different topic) but am working to makeover our family lifestyle. We are committed to good food, organic or all-natural as much as possible, locally grown, etc, but then my husband still loves melted cheese all over chips. Or brownies. Or muffins. (okay, fine, I like those things, too!). I know there’s a balance, so when I can offer lower calorie, lower sugar snacks, I will. More nuts, fruits and yogurts, or yo-guns, as Hayden calls them. My husband loves FAGE and the individual split cups were easy to tote for the kids.  If we go to the Huntington Gardens (a regular activity when it’s nice outside), I throw a few packages in my backpack with some mixed nuts and a banana. I keep them in stock for my own pre/post workout snack. If I’m leaving the house for auditions and meetings, I have one with me. I can park, read over my lines and eat a high protein snack. The probiotics are healthy for our digestion and fighting toxins in our bodies, too.  The benefits run deep!

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One thing I love about FAGE Total Split Cup packages is that you add the fruit component. So, I control how much I put in. I can add a few nuts, a few spoonfuls of the fruit component and mix it together. AHHH so good. I also mix the two components in oatmeal most mornings. Hayden and Huck LOVE it.  Even if I do make low fat blueberry muffins for the kids, instead of butter, we spread FAGE.

What’s in YOUR Fridge?

Check out recipes idea here under the “recipe” section at the top! Their sweet potato toast pictured below looks amazing, so does the Macaroni and Cheese!

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Now, it’s YOUR turn. What’s in your fridge? What are you making for dinner? gimme ideas! Any new things with Greek yogurt;)? Would love to hear about it in the comments below or on my latest post on social media!

XO

AJH