Pantry and Closet Makeover!

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YOU GUYS....! I am thrilled to share my collaboration with Metro's Other Woman. Lemme give you a bit of back story. I met the owner, Sarah Benken, (above with Hayden) and immediately felt an excitement about working with her. The company offers different types of services, from personal and business assistants to room makeovers and even laundry services. I learned about Metro’s Other Woman through the ladies at Good Carma Studios. Women entrepreneurs connecting and building up other women! Amen to that.

I knew I could use the ladies in several areas of my life, but we decided to start with specific spaces. The pantry and surrounding kitchen cabinets were the downstairs focus. Then, upstairs, my side of the master closet got a "facelift." Over the phone and via emails, measurements and inspirational photos were shared. Then, I met Sarah and her her team, Taylor Gladden and Liz Williamson.

Before I launch into the before and after photos, I want to share their THREE TOP TIPS for you to implement today:

1. When starting any organization project the first step is to purge In your closet, get rid of anything you haven't worn in 6 months to a year. In the pantry, get rid of any expired items that you've had in your pantry for 6+ months that you haven't used/have no plan to use. Next you want to remove everything from your space and start with a blank slate! When removing, place things with like items so it's easier to put back in the right spots.

2. For smaller spaces we suggest baskets, lazy susans, food storage containers (place bulkier boxed items in food storage containers ie; cereal, pasta, chips, flour/sugar, etc.) NO bulky boxes!

3. If you can only buy a few new items to organize your space, baskets are always our first choice! You can use baskets to store (in the pantry: snacks, breakfast foods, etc./in the closet:scarfs, purses, hats, etc.) and make it look neater and prettier. Next we'd suggest food storage containers in the pantry, or hooks for the closet. 

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Lemme tell you, we took these tips and made such a difference in a fairly short amount of time. I know this is not the first time you have been told to purge, or put “like with like” and see how many scarfs you actually own. But, perhaps something in this post will encourage you to block out time on the calendar and just make it happen. I was shocked how much had expired (oops!) in our pantry. You may remember a few of my instagram stories from the days the girls were here. The pantry and cabinets were completely emptied. Everything was examined to see if it should stay or be tossed (or perhaps not live in the kitchen at all!). OXO sent over the most amazing assortment of their products to seriously organize the pantry and streamline everything. (I'ver been using that word a lot lately...streamline. I think I dream of "streamlining" my life. To be completely honest, I don't even know what that would mean or look like, it just sounds like someone that really has their stuff together, you know?!) 

AFTER

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BEFORE

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The ladies and I got excited about the products from OXO. My husband (don't get too jealous, y'all) unboxed everything, hand washed and dried it all so it would be ready to go for the makeover. We're talking lazy susans, cereal dispensers, canisters, baskets, etc. I linked some of my favorites below from Container Store, but you can find OXO products at a variety of retailers.

The ladies had such a vision...and worked so well together. While one person was color coordinating the upstairs closet (Liz), Sarah was tackling the pantry and Taylor made a Target run to get baskets for pantry and neccesities for the closet. I love these steel baskets with copper handles (see below in a variety of sizes).

When the ladies were done with the pantry, the craziest thing was how much space there was. When you put items in their perfect spaces and remove items that don’t belong, a natural zen begins to happen. I love it and now am addicted. I want to do it to every space in the house. And although I didn't do a huge closet purge, Liz and I conquered a decent amount quickly. I was ready to be honest and face some facts about where I am in life today. Not years (and pounds less) ago. (I still have WAY too many things I'm holding onto, but I'm making progress will pat myself on the back for that!) One thing that makes me feel good about purging is the thought of giving my favorite pieces from yesterday a new life. Someone else (often my sister) will make memories wearing these items. And women's shelters are a fantastic place to donate, too. I feel great about thinking someone might wear my favorite jacket to a job interview and work it!!

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I love how Taylor found certain items at Target that were repurposed for our closet. Like the kitchen lid organizing rack (top shelf in photo- only $10) that now holds my clutches! So genius!! Slim, space-saving hangers are a closet’s dream! Baskets and shelves were added to the shoe organizers (my mom made me put those in!) to tidy up even more.

Thank you, Metro’s Other Woman. I look forward to the next project!! I know we have quite a bit of work to do in the house still yet (hello, garage!), but WHAT A START!!

Check out their website HERE…also, take a look at their KNOWtribe magazine introducing you to influential women from cities they are currently highlighting! And they will most likely be in your city soon.

xoxo

AAJ




Back-to-School Relief?

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It's funny to hear my friends with kids discuss back-to-school time. It's as if they just walked into a spa. Such relief comes over them. Before I had kids, I was almost shocked to hear how excited people are to get their kids back in school. But, I'm slowly starting to understand. 

I suppose that's one way to look at it, but for many of us, the transition can bring on stressors that attack both parents and kids alike. I saw a meme on instagram that said "I can either have a good morning or get the kids to school on time, but I can't have both." 

I'm still new to the process. Hayden will start pre-school soon, but Huck started first grade. (I don't want to sound like that parent that can't believe her step-son is growing up so fast, but take a peek at the bottom of this post to his sweet face three years ago!!) Stress from this time of year mainly comes from the adjustment period. A new year can bring on anxiety for kids. New classes, different friends, teachers, new schedules, homework, lack of sleep, etc. Plus, if you are in our boat as a blended family, it can be an adjustment figuring out schedules and communication with two separate households. 

From what I'm learning, the best way to prevent these stressors from taking over your household is to be prepared to identify them, talk about them and hopefully prevent them. Am I paying attention to the overall vibe of my environment? Taking a mental note of what worked well in our day and what needed improving helps me. For my family, it usually comes down to these three things:

SLEEP: I wrote about overall wellness starting with sleep HERE. It's incredibly important for all of us, especially kids. The National Sleep Foundation explains most of us need more sleep than we are getting. We are sleeping considerably better with our new mattress. We also got an adjustable frame. I slept with my head slightly elevated recently because I was coming down with a cold. It helped me breath 10 times better than if I had been flat. If your child has trouble going to sleep, staying asleep or waking up in the morning, it's worth discussing with your pediatrician.* Would a melatonin supplement help? Good Day Chocolate makes chocolate bites with 1 mg. suitable for children. A good night sleep helps the morning routine, school performance, attitude...just about everything. We all know that from experience.

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ORGANIZE and MOTIVATE: Both kids know if they listen and do their chores or homework (clean up toys for Hayden and homework for Huck) they get one Good Day Chocolate MultiVitamin chocolate treat. They love the reward. It helps with routine and schedule. And I love knowing it's so good for them. I also give them a probiotic

And Joel and I need to be organized for the week ahead of time. Joel works best when he knows the schedule. He likes me to jot it down in our shared google calendar. I'm not good at remembering, but when I do, it makes life easier for him (and in turn, me). I am currently working on a space for the boys to drop bags, shoes and file folders from school. If you saw my stories recently revamping the pantry and master closet, we also got tips for this "practical closet." Stay tuned on that small redo. I wonder if it's sad how excited I am to get seriously organized? It really makes me feel good! I finally got the boys this adorable bistro table from Delta Children (so affordable, why didn't I do this earlier?). It's under $110, search "bistro table" on that link. They love that it's their own table. Huck does his homework here, too.

I know the mornings run more smoothly when I have clothes and bags laid out the night before. I never regret doing that;) This sounds like more for my daily to-do list, but if I get in the habit of it, life runs smoothly. And this isn't just for the boys, it's for me, too. When my closet is organized (my clothes are ready to go, make-up isn't in several bags, but where it should be), I get ready so much faster with less stress.

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FAMILY MANAGEMENT TIME AND SOCIALIZE: This is hard. I'll be honest. I know they want/need to play, eat dinner, have bath time and bedtime routines. As kids get older, they have after school activities, sports, etc. I'm not sure how people juggle it all and work. Hats off to you! What are your suggestions? I would imagine delegating and preparation are the most important. Right now, my priority is to be prepared for dinner and family time (even if it's brief) all happening early enough so the bedtime routine starts earlier so we're not all rushed. How many of you look at the clock and can't believe the kids finally got down and now it's almost 8:30... or 9pm. It's not enough time for them or for us! 

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These are basic points for success in many different situations, but seem particularly good to remember during this adjustment for the family. Lately, I've enjoyed adding a few extra resources if people wanna click away and glance. I like reading what teachers had to say about helping your child succeed in this article here. My mom taught school for many, many years. I know she would agree with the majority of this article. I notice getting to school on time and making sure kids are prepared for their day are on that list!

 

*Please always discuss any supplements with your doctor. Also, to find out more information on these scrumptious chocolates, go to the source: GoodDayChocolate.com

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#Blowout Blues: the World of Poop

This post is thoughtfully brought to you by Triple Paste, but if you know me at all, you know these thoughts are all my own.  

I remember the first time it happened. As a brand new mom, I was warned (even by some of you!), but for sure wasn't prepared. Hayden was about two months old. We had taken him out on his first real all-family event to Travel Town. Clad in the cutest overall outfit with a conductor hat, he nailed the occasion, if I do say so myself.

I was just beginning to supplement breast milk with a tiny bit of formula and his little system was adjusting to it. I pick him up and cuddle him closely for a photo opp (and of course, I choose to wear all white- again, new mom! eye roll!!) when I  hear something awful. I slowly walk toward Joel to see if anything was running down my shirt....and sure enough, by the look on his face, I just knew. There was dark "mustard" all over the back of his overalls and his legs, a ridiculously large amount transferred to my shirt and my arm where I was holding him. Then, suddenly, the smell. My goodness, that smell! It just seemed to bake in the summer California sun. As overwhelming as it can be, poop happens to the best of us. We set up a makeshift station in the car and did our best to remedy the situation.

That's when I first realized Hayden had pretty sensitive skin, so I needed to be on top of potential diaper rashes. At one point, right before the one year mark, he was teething and got pretty bad diarrhea, which I learned can also cause diaper rashes. Even though I changed him immediately, at times, it would flare up anyway. It was upsetting hearing him cry when we changed him. The skin would get so irritated so quickly, I felt helpless. I was about to leave to shoot 12 DAYS OF GIVING in Nebraska and was worried about traveling with him with a rash. To heal it, we did frequent baths, naked-time, etc. We even used prescription (expensive, not covered by insurance) compound, medicated diaper cream every time I even barely suspected one creeping up. My good friends Bill and Scout Masterson-Horn (The "Guncles")  told me they would slather Triple Paste every change to prevent diaper rashes and I should save the money and try it. So, I did.

Cut to today... this is a staple in our changing kits. I can see potty training on the horizon, but we are not quite there. I'll rephrase that. Joel and I are not quite there. I know we need a good few days to a week to completely commit to the initial endeavor in order to be successful. But seriously, I don't think he's fully ready. It's just an ongoing conversation in the house. Boys love to discuss poop. I mean.... good grief!

Hayden does come announce when there will be a "diaper change" happening soon, that is, if Huck doesn’t beat him to it. And I have the emergency kit upstairs, downstairs and in the to-go bag. Hayden knows he wants Triple Paste because it makes it "not hurt." I catch him grabbing it even before I do sometimes. It's a juggling act-- a slight cat and mouse game now with him! Anyone near the little stinker (pun intended) can sense it's time to change him (especially Huck!), but he plays hard to get. Likes a good chase. He is not loving diaper changes right now, but lemme tell you, when he's rash free, it's so much easier.  I know it's nearing the time for potty training, but what I didn't know is that diaper rash paste will be entering that phase with us, too. Our doctor recommends putting a it on at night and in the morning, just to protect Hayden's sensitive skin.

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So when Triple Paste wanted to do a collaboration, I was excited. If I could share my frustration with diaper rashes to help even one other mom out there going through it, that would be great. First of all, please know you didn't cause this! Let's get rid of the #momguilt. Obviously, change your little one as soon as possible every time, but occasionally that's not enough. What DOES HELP is prevention. All the time. Cover their area with Triple Paste and let me know if it helps;) And if you're in this diaper phase, share your own #BlowoutBlues stories with me. If you're way past it (congrats!), I bet you remember one or two big ones!!

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Touching Base

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I feel compelled to say thank you at times. Today is one of those times. Thank you to many of you that were so supportive of the recent visit back to The Bold and Beautiful. I appreciate all the comments and tweets showing your support. Perhaps we'll see more of Bridget on the horizon very soon... It's pretty nice to go to a place that you love with people you truly want to work with. I don't take that for granted when it happens anywhere. 

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My favorite thing is how the cast and crew support each other. John McCook (my dad!) has a very cool dressing room close to set. On long days shooting scenes like weddings, he allows us to congregate in there on breaks. He has been so inclusive to every member of the cast since day one. I love quickly catching up with everyone while lounging on his sofas. 

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A great deal of you ask about Parker often. With Lexi back on the horizon, (and much talk of Parker on the show recently) there are questions about "Pristina." I did get to chat with Frank Valentini, executive producer of GH, recently at an Emmy event. He wasn't able to confirm any future thoughts about Kristina or Parker, but what's great about the soap genre is this: things change all the time with the stroke of a pen from the writers. People can even "DIE" and come back to LIFE (hello, Hunter Tylo). I truly don't know what their plans are for Parker. Do I think it makes sense to Kristina and Parker on screen together figuring out whatever issues they may or may not have? Sure, of course. I believe there's story left to tell. But, from a production standpoint, there's a whole puzzle of characters to place every week in storylines that keep Port Charles alive and dramatic and fun to watch. This may sound like a politically correct response, but having been on the other side of the camera from time to time, I understand. 

I'm happy to be filming a movie for Lifetime in September. It's a VERY different kind of character. One I've never really played before. Looking forward to spilling the beans as soon as I get the go ahead. I'll be shooting on location in Canada. Excited to go back to the east coast up there. 

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Until then... thanks for visiting here. I like sharing ideas, mom stories, fashion choices, favorite products, etc. Always love your ideas, too. Hoping to upgrade the look of the blog soon, but for now, it's simple and straightforward. Curious of any ideas you all have come across for inspiration to update the look here? 

And last but not least, thanks to Soap Digest for the recent cover "casting news." Looking forward to being on your screens more soon. Your emails, comments, tweets and facebook messages get noticed by the powers that be (and ME), so thank you for voicing your thoughts. How would you want these characters to come back into the fold on your favorite show? Fun to hear sometimes.

Now, off to bed. Up early with Hayden and to learn lines for an audition. Magnum P.I.!!

Wellness begins in the Bedroom!

YOU GUYS…. I started August with this whole Wellness thing and I didn’t even know August is National Wellness Month. Crazy coincidence or perhaps there's a natural inclination this time of year to "tune up" our bodies. I'm planning on finishing the month strong: physically and spiritually (read all the way to the bottom for that part). Disclaimer: I'm slowly decorating the room, bear with me on that one. We're starting with the foundation of the bedroom: the bed.

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Today, I wanna talk about sleep. Sleep is a huge part of our health and wellness at every age. I just read that up to 75% of most children don’t get enough sleep. (1) New moms (on average) lose 700 hours of sleep the first year of their baby’s life. 

This is an interesting report about sleep habits in America and how badly they need to improve. Are we listening to our bodies? If our kids get better sleep, would that in turn help us? The National Sleep Foundation sleep released new standards increasing the number of hours most of us should be getting a night. 

Fatigue makes cowards of us all.
— Vince Lombardi, Football Player, Coach (Three time NFL championship)

What is your ideal bedtime routine? I like a bath with relaxing soft classical music, dim lights and lavender candle. Then, I moisturize, put on cozy jammies, crawl into a fluffy bed, lift my adjustable bed frame to reading height, grab my gratitude journal to jot a few thoughts down, as well as my One Line a Day for moms. Next, I grab a book and read. Finally, I turn on the fan, turn off the lights, kiss my husband good night and fall into a slumber. Now, does this actually happen?  Almost never…HA! Occasionally, but so rarely. Life is hectic and that is all a serious commitment. After the boys fall asleep, Joel and I are usually rushing to get work done, clean the kitchen, finish laundry and get to bed at a decent time. Hayden is up earlier and earlier these days. 

However, there’s many things we can do to improve our sleep. Some people have health issues that interfere (and I feel for you- this is very hard), but some of us can take measures in our own hands. I’m breaking it down to HOW, WHAT, WHERE.

HOW do you get ready for bed? Hours before?  Less caffeine after lunch, finish liquids earlier so you don’t get interrupted to go the bathroom, no phones or computers an hour before bedtime, wind our minds down, etc. Some of this falls under time management and planning. I started treating myself to two melatonin Good Day Chocolates for sweet treat after dinner. There’s also Pure Rest from Usana that dissolves under your tongue. Of course, with all supplements, please contact your doctor. I’m just sharing my ideas. 

Good Day Chocolate makes sleepy time chocolates for kids. 1 mg. of melatonin per chocolate. This could be something to bring up with your pediatrician if you have school aged kids not getting enough sleep. Please consult your doctor first. 

WHERE you sleep. Your bedroom!! What is the temperature? Can you dim the lights the hour before bedtime? Are you creating an environment conducive for sleeping? Noise maker? Black out curtains? (We don’t have these, but I’m looking into it). A while ago, I discussed getting an Awair in your bedroom to take note of dust, potential toxins, temperature, etc. Joel uses a decent size air filter that doubles as a noise maker. I like a fan on, too. In the kids' rooms, we use the Dome. I also started setting the "bedtime alarm" on my iPhone. It reminds me at 9:45 that I need to wind down. 

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WHAT are you sleeping on? My husband and I both have had issues with our backs. He was convinced the mattress was not helping his condition.  The experts recommend replacing your mattress every 7-10 years. I researched and researched different mattress and bed frames. I looked at reviews and pinterest for ideas. I visited sleep stores and tried a few out. I found Leesa and we went with it! But, lemme tell you what else we did… we got an adjustable bed frame! It’s like the updated, luxury version of hospital beds. And I CANNOT tell you how happy we are. My husband fully attributes getting more sleep to this bed. They kindly gifted us the Sapira California King Mattress. And we got two twin adjustable frames that connect. Check out my instagram post with a quick video. I LOVE reading in bed, writing, or watching tv (I know, some people disagree with this), while my back is supported and my legs are elevated. 

 

We are trying to implement some of the other above factors, too. It’s all a commitment and investment. Some investments are time, some are financial. But, if you have issues sleeping, your well-being is greatly affected. It’s worth taking the time to make it better. Leesa offers financial plans, too. And right now, there’s a significant discount being offered for Labor Day. NOTE: I’m not getting paid to talk about them, I’m just sleeping better! 

ps- as an added bonus, Leesa donates one mattress to every 10 sold; the company also plants one tree for every mattress sold. I just really appreciate that. 

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I jotted down the above a few days ago, but at church this morning, Rick Warren, our preacher and author of THE PURPOSE DRIVEN LIFE, talked about the importance of rest and sleep. So much of the sermon spoke to me, I wanted to share a bit in case it even speaks to one of you. One of my favorite passages is Psalm 23. David says, "God makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me besides still waters and restores my soul."  It's difficult to be spiritually and emotionally full when you are physically exhausted.

Warren gave us "hints" to know that you are running on empty:

1) Fear creeps in.

2) You find yourself running from things.

3) You begin to back out of commitments.

4) You make poor choices and feel indecisive.

5) You push yourself passed your boundaries.

6) Work begins to seem pointless.

7) You want to quit. 

8) You feel isolated and attacked.

9) You begin to compare yourself to others and feel bad about yourself.

10) You have a constant desire to "give up."

Warren mentioned several passages in the Bible where God commands someone to sleep and eat before making any decisions. The best example is Elijah in 1 Kings 19:5-7. I'm completely paraphrasing this fantastic sermon, but here are the three things to refill your emotional tank:

1) REST YOUR BODY

2) RELEASE FRUSTRATION. Find your small trusted group. Talk to God in prayer.

3) REMEMBER AND REFOCUS. GOD GIVES US HOPE.

Warren closed with an acronym for God's S.U.G.A.R.

"S" is for steadfast love.

"U" is for unfailing mercy.

"G" is for great faithfulness.

"A" is for always kind.

"R" is for Real Hope.

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I know this is more in depth that usual, but I felt compelled to include it. Even if you are not a believer in the same sense, much of this is just practical information. If you are interested in hearing the sermon: watch here.

How seriously are you paying attention to your sleep habits? Are you emotionally depleted? What is your number one nighttime routine to help you sleep? Here's to a great rest and refilling our emotional tanks. 

xo

AAJ

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MOM/DAD ALERT: MOST affordable Back-to-School run ever! Plus, a $50 OshKosh gift card for one lucky reader.

 Back to school Alert Post is brought to you by OshKosh, but of course, all opinions are my own!

Back to school Alert Post is brought to you by OshKosh, but of course, all opinions are my own!

Last week, Huck asked me if I would get him some new "stuff." He said, "You know, for my closet." So, I did. And boy, did I score. 

I went to OshKosh for new items for Hayden and came home with a huge bag of clothes for Huck for under $50. (And right now, there's free shipping online!) I knew the clothes would be great, but I didn't realize how genius the prices would be. And if I had a girl to buy for...it'd be over! I'm a sucker for unicorns and rainbows and sequins. I may be too "big" to wear stuff like that myself (although it sneaks its way in), but it's pure cuteness on little girls. Seeing tweens walk around shopping created a sense of nostalgia for the innocent years of my youth. Getting so excited over a unicorn. Remember when life was that simple? A unicorn t-shirt made you so very happy. (Okay, fine, truth be told, a perfect unicorn t-shirt would still make me pretty happy for the moment!) I digress, I tried to get Huck some pieces that he would think are really cool for his first week in FIRST GRADE. He isn't too picky about his clothes yet, but he knows what he doesn't like. I present things asking, "Do you like it, or do you love it?" No other options. Ha. And if he loves something, he gets very excited. It's like Christmas morning kind of excitement that makes the giver of the gifts feel like Santa. Rewarding.

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Huck is seriously developing a sense of his own style. He likes to button ALL the buttons of his shirt (up to his neck cause it's way cooler that way, he tells me). And he loves hoodies. I can't believe I met this child when he was was 2 and could barely talk, still in diapers.

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Hayden, on the other hand, just likes to be able to move and dance.  That's pretty much his only requirement at this point. He just started wanting to see what his outfit looks like in the mirror once we get dressed (so I just got him a little mirror for his room;) When I can, I like dressing him with a nod to southern prep. Is that what one would call it? I'm kind of copying a vision I have etched in the archives of my brain of boys when I was growing up in the south. A button-down, slightly collegiate look. I love the boys matching at times, but with Huck developing his style more, I'm going to get away with that look less and less. I got them both the dark denim skinny jeans from OshKosh, so they'll be twinning that way. #winning. FYI- make sure you wash the dark denim together for the first time. 

I got Huck the "piece out" long sleeved hoodie (with a pizza on the front, one piece out...), three new pairs of jeans (it's buy one pair get TWO free right now!!) and some t-shirts. And l wrote all text above for this moment here: I was Santa Claus. He didn't just like what I got him, he loved it!

I just saw their "character" shirts with Mickey or Batman, etc. are under $10 right now! I'm grabbing a few for Christmas gifts for boys and my nieces, too. (Scroll down to the bottom of the page here to find). 

And while I was already there, I picked out some pre-school clothes for Hayden (even though he isn't starting immediately, we still have plenty of "school" mommy and me or camp-type classes). I love these prices, did I say that already? Sorry if I sound like Dori. I'm grateful to find places like Oshkosh that are so budget friendly for these growing weeds of mine. I feel like we need a new size too often.

So, this is the really fun part. Because Oshkosh was kind enough to sponsor this post, one of you will get sent a $50 gift card! All you have to do make sure you liked the instagram post HERE and are following @ashleyaubra and "Like" @AshleyJonesOfficial on facebook. That's it. For an extra entry, leave a comment here and tag friends in the comment section under the instagram post. The winner will be picked  randomly on Friday, August 17th. If you know a mama or papa that could use this gift card, tag them!! And if you end up winning, tag Oshkosh in your photos on social media so I can can see how your little ones got decked out for back-to-school. And if you don't end up winning the gift card, you're still winning with this coupon code below for an extra 20% off your $40 purchase (which will get you a lot!). 

I added more photos if you scroll down because the boys are so fun together. Just over sharing;) And last but not least, even though this post is sponsored by OshKosh, all the thoughts are my own.

 
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Could I love anything more?

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I was recently at an event where I was asked by several other mamas if Joel and I are considering having another baby. It's a common question, I know. I get asked it a lot. It's such a cliche, but I can't imagine loving another child as much as I love Hayden and Huck. I loved the time with Huck (and loved him) so much before Hayden was even here.... now that I have these two, I can't fathom another little baby! So, I'm interrupting the wellness posts (and looming other posts on work) to ask y'all about this cause it's just on my mind.

Before having Hayden, I used to think it was so silly for parents to say they couldn't comprehend loving another child as much as they loved their current ones. Well, my mind couldn't comprehend something that sounded so ridiculous. You just do, I thought to myself. My parents had three kids. My best friend has four kids. All kids are loved immensely. 

But, I get it now. It's not that you think you wouldn't love them as much, it's more about spreading your attention. This time with Hayden alone is so special, I want to love him and teach him as much as I can. Hayden is the only child often. Huck is in school and with his mom when he is not with us. But we do everything in our power to make the most of every minute with Huck. 

I do believe the concern of spreading yourself too thin is legitimate. Do you? I don't work outside of the home everyday, so that's a plus. Who knows if it's in the cards for us to ever expand the family, but I'm hoping you will share your thoughts if you have more than one child...or a blended family. My guess is that most of you will say things evolve organically, the way God intended. 

 photos by  @ographr

photos by @ographr

*Jumper is on sale for $47. CUTEST cut out back. (I'm wearing a strapless bra). Really a great buy. I plan on adding a sweater (when it finally cools down here) and boots for a transitional look. 

On a different note, I plan on sharing more about the StarFish Project soon. Their mission "restores hope to exploited women in Asia." They provide life-changing opportunities through  Holistic Care Programs and social enterprise where women create beautiful jewelry and become managers, accountants, graphic designers, and photographers.

I am happy to support companies that are in the business of helping women and giving back to their community. I'm wearing these delicate dangle earrings here. FYI: the packaging is so sweet, with a note from the woman that made them. 

xoxo

AAJ

CALIFORNIA GROWN

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Growing up in the south, we took a lot of pride in our home state of Texas. I could (kinda) draw the shape of my state about the same time I could write my name. Texans love the shape of their state, if you haven't noticed. There's a Texas shaped potholder in every kitchen in that state! In 7th grade, we studied Texas history and I wanted to know everything I could about our great state.  The wildflowers (I would "flower press" the Indian paintbrushes and bluebonnets to glue to homemade cards!), the smell of BBQ floating through the humid Texas air when we would walk our neighborhood at night, the Alamo, TexMex (it’s a very special kind of Mexican food)…. I could go on, but you get my drift. 

So, I want my children to have the same relationship with California, their home state. It’s a special place with so much to offer. California has given me my life in a way…. many gifts. My university education, my career, my family….and amazing food and drink! Can we say Napa Valley wine and olive country? Avocados, berries, vegetables… ok, you get it. And I didn't even mention the gift of the ocean! But seriously, if you are purchasing California Grown products for your family, it’s a good thing wherever you are.

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We recently enjoyed a day at the Farmer’s Market. Have you done this as a family? It’s really fun…but beware, the kids want to eat and touch EVERYTHING. My goal was to show the kids how rewarding it is to go and personally meet the farmers that helped grow, harvest and pick the food that was going to be on our tables. I believe in buying locally grown food. Even in the heat wave we are currently experiencing on the west coast, I prefer the outdoor farmer's market. So, continuing part of the wellness series on the blog, today we're encouraging eating pure, clean and fresh. 

I could go into all the benefits for the environment (less pollution and byproduct shipping), so pat yourself on the back for doing something good for all of us, but specifically, I like the benefits for the family. I get a more intimate look at the food that will be going into my children’s bodies. And mine! California Grown for me means that it's fresh. It hasn’t been sitting in a warehouse somewhere being preserved, which in turn allows us more of the nutritional benefits. 

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We had one goal that day: making salads from scratch! Don’t laugh. I know that sounds silly. It’s a salad! But for a 6 year-old and a 2 year-old (that follows the leader), it was a fun endeavor to go find the green fluffy lettuce, kale, the cucumbers, carrots, berries, etc. Huck took samples from several California Grown olive oils (we met the people that made it and they explained the whole process). Huck found a “spicy” one (Jalapeño) and thought his dad would like it. I explained we’d use this home grown olive oil on our salads later. It's amazing. When you use FRESH INGREDIENTS, simplicity is the key. Each commodity has so much flavor, you don’t need any tricks or additional products. Simple, straightforward, clean ingredients make the taste buds sing! Tomatoes, pine nuts, avocado, parmesan, lettuce and cucumber with a drop of fresh Jalapeño olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt and ground pepper. WOW. (for extra credit, I finely chop the lettuce. AHHH. The best! And I like to aggressively "massage" the kale to soften it before I finely chop.) If you guys have a special salad recipe, I would love to hear it. I recently incorporated grapefruit in this same salad and it was marvelous.

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And all the berries! The blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, etc. We’re making  a berry salad and adding homemade whipping cream to it!  (I think we’re throwing in some peaches, too). The kids and I literally wash the berries and Huck drizzles a bit of the cream over it. If it's a dessert salad, add a bit of brown sugar. (And if it's basically for dessert, add a slice of angel food cake. Too easy!) That's it!

My desire to learn about the different parts of our great country hasn't ceased as I get older… each state has so much personality and specific gifts it offers. What’s the best thing about your state? What is your favorite locally grown product(s)? Is that something you value? What should I try to purchase from your state or at least try when I’m there next? 

To my boys’ home state, (and my honorary home state) I must say, thank you for the love, California! We love you right back. And we support CaliforniaGrown.org. I am so happy to partner with you for this wellness series to share this love!

ps- for those of you that are curious- my dress was just restocked in all sizes;)  I'm wearing a size small. 

And also, thanks for all the support you all showed about B&B. I'll be writing about all that very soon. 

xoxo

AAJ

Have a GOOD day (chocolate)!

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Hey y’all... sharing something too "good" to keep all to myself. No, it's not another baby (I keep getting asked) or what show I'm working on this week. But, I do get to reveal that soon! Actually headed in for wardrobe fittings in a few minutes. I'll try to share some hints in my stories if I can. SHHHh;)

This little secret is sweet goodness.

The wellness series is full of a lot of stuff I don't necessarily love doing, but know is good for me to do. Like swallowing huge supplements, downing all my water, working out, etc. I'm learning to love those things, but let's be real. So, I wanted to share a treat with you guys. Y’all asked for some of my favorite items from the Bloom Summit Health and Wellness day. I didn't forget. I've just been using some products and researching to find the ones I love the most. Now, part of what I think is cool about learning and experimenting with new products is two part: 1) I like switching things up occasionally and 2) not everything works for everyone's body. So, it's nice to throw ideas out there and see what might work well for you. 

One of the things I learned about is Good Day Chocolate. The creators are self professed “supplement geeks with a chocolate obsession.” It’s a chocolate vitamin (in the cutest packaging you’ve ever seen). Yes, it might sound confusing….a complete treat that is good for you? But, in the name of chocolate, I simply embraced the concept and have since enjoyed many a good days;) It is really hard for me to get everything I need from just food or one or two supplements. I really appreciate creative ideas to mix it all up!

I tried the “energy” chocolate first and loved the taste and gentle pick-me-up. Then, later that evening, I tired the “sleepy” version. I munched on a couple bite-sized chocolates and downed a large glass of water. I woke up refreshed. Hayden must have gotten the memo ‘cause he’s handing us the sleepy time version in the picture above! lol This mama could use a little extra sleep! He must know!

I'm interested in the turmeric supplement. Do y'all take turmeric? I looked up reasons why it's beneficial and was blown away. So, I would like to integrate these antioxidant bites into my weekly supplements.

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I did a bit more research and….this is why I like this company:

1) They support SmileTrain. (One of the founders is a plastic surgeon). 

2) Hayden and Huck beg for them (check out the kids section). Also, check my stories today on instagram. And for kids, they have a daily multi-vitamin that I love giving the boys. They are highly-tested, non GMO and made with fair trade chocolate. Your kids will remind YOU to give them their vitamins.

3) I can have a little sweet tasting something and know it’s beneficial. My go-to is one probiotic and one vitamin D in the AM. If I take one at night, it’s the sleepy time one. Since I'm trying to eat clean and drink the water right now (er...always!), it's a treat I'm adding that I don't feel guilty about. How fun to get a bite of something sweet that is packed with goodness in more ways than one? Really FUN. Great gift, too. Who wouldn’t want to receive this sweetness!? This variety pack is a fun hostess gift.

Warning for toddler moms: if your child is anything like Hayden, he likes to put any treat in his mouth, then hold it for a while in his hands, then put it back in his mouth. We’re working on this, but in the meantime, the chocolate does rub off on his little hands, so keep an eye. For more great info on this company, please visit: GoodDayChocolate.com where you can purchase (they also can be found here on Amazon and the kids' line can be found at your local Target). I have to give them a thank you shout out for sponsoring this portion of the wellness series! 

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BOTTOMS UP...drink your H2O

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Bottoms up!

However, this post is not about emptying your glass of Rose' all day! I just downed 14 oz of water from my DayBottle. (UPDATE: so many of you asked about this bottle you've seen in stories, I'm linking it here. Created by a kidney cancer survivor who needed to drink more water, this bottle easily helps you track hydration throughout the day.)

THIS POST is too simple. I really should get a big fat 'ol "F" for this. It's too easy, too on-the-nose. Everyone knows they need to drink water

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We’ve heard this our whole lives: DRINK MORE WATER. It’s basically the panacea to many ailments. Most of this wellness reminder series is simply that— great reminders. We know all of this already, but I still like new reminders. I recently overheard someone say in conversation, “Drinking water is a no-brainer, well, it’s 90% of your brain, so it’s more of a BRAINER than we think!” 

Anyhow, that joke wasn’t very funny. And I’m not trying to be funny here. Just straightforward. And bring your mid(ish)-year reminder about many of our new year’s resolutions. And if memory serves me, we all had several different resolutions, but the consistently ones were: drink more water and weight loss.

So, while typing and doing a bit of research here, I got super thirsty. As I said, I downed water. I think part of my issue is that I forget, then I get tired and and busy and distracted. I need a pick me up.  I instinctively reach for caffeine. And THAT IS MY DOWNFALL.

I appreciate my yoga teachers telling me all the benefits of water and why it's so important for me drink it. As I'm doing my last down dog of the class recently, I hear the lecture coming. I roll my eyes back so far, it's as if gravity is going to make them stick there. But, alas, I rise up once again and it is on my mind. 

For better or worse, the thoughts that get me thinking are more vanity based. Does this happen to you sometimes? I'm thinking, "Duh, we ALL know we need to drink water to make our digestive system work. Are you really saying this OUT LOUD. I mean, we're paying $20 a class to be here, we clearly on the "body-wellness" path, so tell us something I don't hear everyday." And then she did.

She reminded me of things like this:

Calorie control

Water simply helps people feel full, and as a result consume fewer calories. Timing can help, too. Drink 16oz. before meals. And cold water helps metabolism.

Fuels Muscle/Gives us Energy

When the muscles don’t have enough water, they get tired. So for extra energy, try drinking water to push through that final set of squats. And water in general can give us all more energy! If only I had the energy of my two year old! 

Clearer skin

Part of the detoxification benefits of drinking water, it helps flush out toxins that can clog our pores and cause acne. The jury is still out on if it scientifically helps with wrinkles, but I'll tell you this much, it doesn't hurt!

Improves Brain Function

I don't know if it's just from being tired a lot of the time, but I will take all the help I can get to improve my brain function! Like I said earlier, our brain is mainly water and needs enough of it to function properly. I don't know the science behind it, but it makes sense.

Relieves Constipation In Many Cases

Pretty self explanatory, but worth mentioning. If problems persist, see your doctor, but this is a good place to start.

extra credit: 

IT’S FREE!

Even if you splurge for bottled water, it’s cheaper than Starbucks or wine!

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You might remember my post with Dr Oz reminding us all to immediately drink 2 glasses of water upon rising. I do that about 40% of the time if I’m being honest. UGH! Coffee calls my name in the morning. SO Loudly!!!

BUT, bottoms UP. It’s time. If you haven’t been consistent, let’s start this challenge and get ‘er done. If you don’t love the taste—er— non taste of water, there are fun things you can do. Add mint! Add fruit. I add Usana’s Booster C and it gives me just enough flavor (and Vitamin C). This morning, I added the probiotic powder. I’m challenging myself to drink 64 oz every single day this week. I’ll report in my stories. Will you do it with me? Maybe we’ll go longer, but let’s start with a week. WE CAN DO THIS.

Tag me in any stories or posts…. What’s a hashtag we can all use? #bottomsupH2o? too long? thoughts? ha! And once again, if you want the  DAYBOTTLE, it's under $15. I'd love to know if it helps you drink more water.

Breathe. Exhale. Repeat.

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Hi y'all,

Thanks to all of you that read the Wellness Post yesterday. Today, I am focusing on breath. Most likely, this is not new information, but sometimes reminding myself of the benefits help motivate me to practice deep breathing exercises. Recently, my husband and I were asked what our top three goals were for improving ourselves. I like this question. What's going to make me a better partner in our marriage? One of my answers was to reduce stress and lower my anxiety. I can then be a more present partner and mother. Deep breathing is one way to get there.  DISCLAIMER: I'm not a doctor or a life coach or anything like that....I'm just another girl with a blog sharing what is working for me.

3 REASONS TO STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING AND PRACTICE DEEP BREATHING:

LOWERS ANXIETY

"When you undergo physical pain or stressful situations, your body instinctively reacts in accordance with its fight-or-flight mechanism and your adrenal glands release the stress hormone, cortisol, which leads to increased heartbeat, muscles constriction, eye dilation, an increase in breath rate and a decrease in breath duration.

Medical professionals are unanimous in the assertion that elevated cortisol levels pose a serious threat to our health. Breathing exercises can help to reverse or mitigate the body’s natural reaction to stressful situations, markedly decreasing the rate at which cortisol is released into your system." - UnbeatableMind.com

RELEASES TOXINS AND STRENGTHENS YOUR CORE

"Good breathing habits help the lymphatic system function properly, which encourages the release of harmful toxins. This cleanses the body and allows it to direct its energy to more productive functions." LivingthenourishedLife.com I know when I practice the correct way of deep breathing, it's a great core strengthener, too. Releasing toxins and bringing in oxygen is one of the best steps to an overall healthier life. 

FOCUSING THE MIND

"Increased oxygen flow to the brain allows it to function at its optimal levels, which in turn aids decision making and ability to focus on tasks. Studies have shown that breathing exercises have beneficial impacts on the brain’s state of awareness – increasing retention and concentration." UnbeatableMind. Ahhh... is this why I feel more motivated mentally after an hour of yoga?

There are many more benefits, these are just the ones that are helping me right now. I'd also like to include this link from the New York Times with simple images reminding us great ways to take a moment and take a breath. 


I really appreciate hearing from you guys. Please know, I do read the DMs on social as often as I can and I take note of what you all are saying. Sometimes it's positive ideas for me to hear and sometimes it's sharing info about your lives. 

Lately, I've heard from a few of you about health issues. I would love to be able to send you a link on amazon to fix those issues! OR magically take them away. I cannot. What can I do? I can pray. I can encourage and I can listen to you (read your comments). I can remind you to breathe. 

Happy Tuesday, folks! Take time to take a long, deep breath. See you tomorrow. 

"Be still and know that I am God." Psalms 46

 

HAVE YOU BEEN GOOD TO YOURSELF LATELY?

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MID-YEAR CHECK IN with ourselves!! Earlier this year, I wrote a Soap Digest column and a blog post about goals and resolutions I hoped to achieve for 2018. I literally cannot believe it, but we're halfway through the year. So, logic tells me it's time to check in and see where we are in this whole "wellness" let's-make-ourselves-better idea. 

Truth be told, mentally I'm still living in the month of March. I keep thinking I have time to figure things out for the year. But, you know, that's okay. Sometimes that's just how life goes.

And that's what this check-in is about. What did you wanna accomplish this year? Are you actively working on said accomplishments? Today is a good day to get started all over again. Let's keep our minds positive and as focused as possible.

I'm gonna break down a few ideas in various posts over the next week or so about overall wellness. Today, I wanted to start with something simple, but powerful. Simple, yet so often confusing for me. VITAMINS AND SUPPPLEMENTS.  I got to interview the brainiacs behind the science of Usana. This is in no way a sponsored segment or post. I just truly wanted some questions answered. So, it makes sense that they will discuss Usana products since I asked their scientists for answers. The important thing here is that we're getting what we need from whatever good food, vitamins and supplements we might be taking.

q&a

  • What are the most important supplements to take? I know some people don’t want to start off with the subscription of daily packed vitamins and supplements, so if they were just buying them individually, what are the top three they should not live without?
    • First, everyone should be taking the CellSentials—our two foundational products—with carefully balanced levels of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and patent-ending USANA’s InCelligence Technology that activate your cells’ natural ability to protect and renew themselves.*  
    • Second, USANA’s Probiotic. The human digestive system is a delicate balance of both “good” and “bad” bacteria. USANA Probiotics have been shown to support healthy digestion and sound immune function.* 
    • USANA’s Vitamin D.  Many people are deficient in this important vitamin. And there are many reasons why it is easy to become deficient- it is difficult to get enough from the foods that you eat, you don’t get enough from sunlight because most of your time is spent indoors, you use a sunscreen, you have naturally darker skin, or you have aging skin that is not as efficient in making vitamin D. 

 

  • For pre-natal, during pregnancy and post-natal supplements, should I not mix other products? For instance, if I’m taking the BabyCare prenatals or Prenatal CellSentials (and assuming I have a decent diet), is that enough by itself?
    • Every individual is unique; therefore, everyone’s supplemental needs are going to be different. For example, the amount of calcium needed increases during pregnancy and some women don’t get enough calcium through diet alone. If you're concerned about your calcium intake, ask your doctor about ways to increase your intake. Your doctor is a great resourcefor any questions you have for pre and post pregnancy health. 

 

  • Is there such a thing as mixing too many supplements together? For instance, if I’m taking the Prenatal CellSentials, can I add the Magnecal? What is okay to add with a supplement/vitamin like CellSentials?
    • It’s important to remember that supplements are designed to complement a healthy diet, not replace it. USANA’s supplements are designed to provide advanced levels of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are difficult to obtain from diet alone – levels that individuals can use every day to promote a lifetime of good health. So you don’t want to just take supplements to take them. It would be ideal to know what you need, what you may be deficient in and add that to your nutritional routine. However, it’s always best to contact your doctor with any questions you have about your health. 

 

  • After discussing Proglucamune with Dr. OZ, I was asked many times if it’s ok to take it on top of your one a day vitamin. For example, if someone is already on a regular vitamin routine, can they incorporate Proglucamune in the morning and at night safely?    
    • First, please note that Proglucamune is intended to be taken by healthy adults, 18 years and older. Proglucamune is not intended to replace your one-a-day vitamin supplement. This supplement is designed to be taken every day to  support healthy immune function.* But again, It’s always best to contact your doctor for any questions you have about your health to discover what the best suits your nutritional needs. 

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

 


What I got out of this quick Q&A is this: we need to take our balanced "one a day." Ideally, find one with anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals. Make sure it includes enough Vitamin D. Also, add in a probiotic and an immune booster.  What I really liked and now added to my never-ending to-do list? Make a wellness appointment with your doctor and write down what you are taking or thinking about taking. Don't just take supplements just to take them, as they said above. Perhaps I need levels to be checked to see if I need more of one thing or another. And I imagine, this changes periodically. 

The products below are the ones I am taking currently. I do switch it up sometimes, but right now, this is it! Hope at the very least, it gets us all thinking about our health from the inside out. What are your top health concerns right now? If you have additional questions, please let me know. I'd like to circle back around with this with a few doctors.

1. Biomega  2. Proglucamune  3.Usana Booster C (I put this in my water when I work out or am feeling sluggish or jet lagged, etc).  4. Vita-Oxidants and Minerals  5.Probiotic (I TRY HARD to remember to put this in my water in the morning or at night) 6. Hepasil (I don't take this everyday, but several times a week. It helps with overall detoxification). 

What I will say about this overall combination, it helps keep my digestive system going and moving properly (keeps me regular;) And I do notice a difference in my energy when I am consistent. So, whatever program you are on, consistency is a big part of it. Oh, and drink water. That will be another post;) Yesterday I was terrible about it and can feel the difference today!! 

xoxo

AAJ

ps- as a part of this "wellness series," what other questions or themes are you interested in? email or leave a comment below! 

 

 

 

 

WE'RE ON A BOAT!

Just a very quick post here...Living in LA, I get the opportunity to do some cool things with the kids. Last week, we were invited to Sony's screening of Hotel Transylvania 3 on a sunset cruise  hosted by the Millennial Mamas. 

I'll be honest, I didn't get to watch much of the movie because my child is obsessed with looking at the water. So, he was mostly watching other boats. And I was only watching him! But how often do I get to take a sunset sail on a boat? Not often, so I loved every minute. And seeing the world through Hayden's eyes is special. I know Huck would have loved it, so we'll have to do it sometime when he is with us. 

I also wanted to get this post up to share the outfit details. This floral blue piece is so easy to dress up or down. I've worn it to a fancy dinner and out for a day meeting. And I love how long this dress is if it's a day I'd like my legs covered! I'm wearing a regular size 2- no alterations (but I do have on slight wedges). 

And Amy's polka dot wrap dress looks so fabulous on her. Love it! Amy's wearing a petite 0.

COMING UP: stay tuned for the wellness series. I'm completing an interview with the brainiacs behind the scenes of Usana to go live soon. Not a sponsored post, either. Just wanted to share information with you all. Happy Thursday! And happy birthday week to Mary and Charleen;)  

 Veena Crownholm and Erin Ziering of Millennial Mamas 

Veena Crownholm and Erin Ziering of Millennial Mamas 

 

 

 

 

Nordstrom Anniversary Sale 2018

IT's here! Nordstrom Anniversary Sale is in early access to those that have a Nordstrom card and open to anyone with any card on the 20th. This post is super straight forward- scroll down to see just the pieces I'm eyeing in the women's department and a few home decor items. (This blanket/throw that I adore comes in many colors. I've given as a gift to my sister and several friends is on sale for $25.) I'm working on several posts right now, but had to get this one up for ya'll cause I keep getting DMs or comments asking about it;) And I love that! If you don't have a Nordstrom credit card, add items to your wish list and you can pull the trigger on the 20th. 

A FEW HIGHLIGHTS

This BP yellow plaid shirt  (I get one every year) comes in six colors and is one sale for $31. It's a knockoff of the more expensive RAILS line (that also is on sale here).

I'd pair this yellow with these $25 moto jeans (also in items below)!! The reviews are great, just order one size up. These are a no-brainer.

If you have a millennial in your life, or you are one or you young at heart (like moi), I love this LOVE top with the lips on the back! Now, it's cropped, so take note. Would be cute with a moto jacket over it.  Great gift at this price of $17, too. 

I just got an Eliza J dress (under $100) that is a perfect transitional dress from summer to fall. The colors are so pretty. It's better in person than it is in the photos. I know it's hard to imagine fall right now in the heat of summer, but good to think ahead with the sales. Like this Topshop long cardigan. Comes in several colors and under $50 right now on sale.   

Also, take note to this statement necklace (I wore it recently in THIS POST HERE). I don't think it's ever gone on sale, but it's under $50 right now!

And last highlighted item- this must have basic tee comes in a myriad of colors and patterns and is $11!!

In my last post, I discussed using Spanx. As much as I love embracing my "real shape," I think it's ok to have simple help to feel more confident. Spanx are not always on sale, so check them out if you've been eyeing them. There's no real order below, just all things I found on sale that would be great additions to my closet. I'd love your thoughts on what your scoping out right now. This is my list for today, but as more things pop up on sale and I am able to do more research, I'll have another list. I'm looking for the perfect lounge pants (that I could wear to the market and not be embarrassed and also around the house, etc). Kinda cute sweats. And I'd like a one piece bathing suit. 

xoxo

AAJ

 

Summer Sales

I'm working on another post right now for y'all. A health and wellness one. But, I absolutely had to interrupt that to bring you the sales going on right now. Basically, sales during summer are Christmas in July. I have some fun things to share right now, so I'm combining a few posts into one (most items are on sale, but not everything). For those of you that've seen some of this before, scroll right on by the repeats;)

Today, the big one is AMAZON PRIME DAY. I JUST ordered the amazon fire stick with Alexa remote and paid full price (eye roll), and today, it's half off. So, I'll be scrolling looking for practical things I need that are on serious sale today. Not sure how "practical" this is, but I'm thinking about this TV!? What are you scoping out?

Last weekend, I wore this tie-back, polka dot jumper below. Just love it. It's $58. I had it on with red flats (Rothy's), then swiped out for slips that I wouldn't mind getting dirty as I walked through the Huntington Gardens this weekend. Next time, I'll wear it with chucks. Cuter, right?

Moving on.... I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my star cut-out top below that is a conversation starter (and I get stopped by strangers every time I wear it). It is on sale for $20 right now!! Down from $78. (It's also at Nordstrom HERE if they sell out, but it's not on sale there yet). And my sunnies are $14. I mean, no brainer. Too fun. (update: I just saw the sunnies are sold out since my posts with them have gone up, but there are similar ones HERE). And Hayden is also wearing stars!

NORDSTROM ANNIVERSARY SALE

I've been wearing some bright colored dresses lately. And I love them. Read all about why in the post HERE.  I ordered some more "make-me-happy" pieces that are on sale now and wanted to remind you this yellow lovely item below is also on sale. It's hard to wear it and not smile a bit more. 

Below are the items I think are worth checking out. I have discussed this before and am not shy about admitting how much I love a little help with tricks of the trade (the post is over a year old, so links may need updating, forgive me. I'll work on it soon).  Like, literally squeezing into Spanx or another girdle-like undergarment. I wear them often. I felt smooth and better in this dress HERE IN THIS POST only because I had on these spanx. And they come in petite and plus sizes. How fun and lovely would it be to have a Victoria Secret model body, but alas, that ship has sailed for me! Anyway, I digress. I am sharing because this is the time of year I restock or try a new body shaper. Nordstrom Pre-sale (open freely the 20th to those of us who do not carry their credit card) has items normally not on sale, around 40% off. For instance, these spanx are under $24, but only for this sale. 

This list is random because I am so tired and need to go to bed, but I tried. HA. I have so much more to add for the next post! Love you all. Big Hugs. And know that some of the prices do NOT reflect the sale price. I will work on that. Some pictures do, but not all of them. Ok... night night!

 

ONE EASY WAY TO BRIGHTEN UP YOUR DAY

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1. Amy's adorable Romper 2. My Yellow Dress (40% off!) 

Life isn't always the easiest. I'm sure we can all attest to that. I know I often put on a happy face on social media (or I just don't post at all and take a break). I don't feel like venting to the world on such a public platform, but a blog is a more personal space to share or at least seems to be, even thought I try to be positive here, too.

And you all have been incredibly supportive when I do open up here. Thank you. Plus, I've really appreciated hearing your thoughts on things. You all give great tips! Some of my recent favorites were in a post on instagram where I asked about stress relief (at bottom of this post). 

I'm learning there are different levels of stress and disappointment. {UPDATE: after reading some of the comments below, I felt the need to edit this. Yes, I've always known there are different levels of stress, but not until certain life events happen do I realize how I would react. I can project how I would react to major events, but there's not way to know until you are living it.} Some things alter life permanently, while other stresses you won't remember in a month. When life feels so all over the place, sometimes I have to do small things that I can control. I remember Dr. Oz telling me the easiest three things I can do for myself are: drink water, do some sort of movement for the body (even if it's rolling your shoulders back and forth) and take a vitamin. I'm adding two things to this very easy list. First and foremost, prayer. I believe in prayer. It keeps me focused on God and changes my perspective on Earth.  

And this other one may sound silly, but wearing a pop of color like my yellow dress really does raise my mood. A doctor told me this when I was pregnant. She said even if it's underwear that only we see throughout the day, bright colors can elevate our mood! Ha! I thought it was bogus, but tried it anyway when I was pregnant.

So, recently, I've been opting for patterns that make me happy. This yellow dress did the trick! It's the ultimate summer pick me up color. I'm wearing a size 2 regular, for reference. And it is 40% off right now at $82. 

And Amy's romper is everything. Right? I love the pockets, too. I mean, if my yellow fruit basket of a dress is too much, opt for her romper. It really is the best. I would be borrowing, but as you can tell, one of is in in a petite size and one of us is not! lol For reference if you are petite like Amy, she is wearing a 0 petite. I would wear this in a regular size 2. 

What are your simple tried and true tips for elevating mood?

ps- a few of you have asked here and I've been getting DMs about vitamins and all around "health and fitness" type of stuff (which I believe goes right along with this post), so I'm going to do my best to make time for it this week if there is still interest?

 

Wicked Cushions

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I didn't even have to come up with a cleaver title because the brand name says it all. Wicked Cushions! Replace the existing cushions on your headset with upgrades, adding to the life of your headset.

Here is our story: 

Joel is a computer guy. That's how he makes his living. Many times he needs to focus and listen, so a headset is everything. (Especially when traveling). He needs a very comfortable, "luxe" if you will, headset. He already owned a very nice set of Bose headphones. But they were older and seemed like they needed tossing. 

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So, for father's day, I was about to invest. I say invest because these things are not cheap. I was about to purchase this set off amazon. As Joel and I like to multitask (for better or worse), we often find ourselves watching a show and on our computers simultaneously. I think surfing reddit, amazon, etc. is therapeutic to him like sifting through home decor on pinterest and instagram are to me! Somewhere he stumbled on wicked cushions and didn't even tell me. He got caught up in the amazing reviews and figured this might be his answer to needing a new headset. He was right. I wish I caught him on video the night his package arrived and he replaced his cushions. It was so simple and he was like a little boy with a choo-choo train on Christmas. So thrilled his headset was like new. The best part? It was less than $20!

Needless to say, I opted for a different father's day gift. With all the money we saved, I got him a back massager he had seen on...wait for it... reddit. Anyhow, I'm upgrading and extending the life of my own headset with their cute floral pattern.  I was so pleased, I reached out to the brand to give them our feedback and, duh--- had to share with y'all, too. Now, we're "friends" and they were cool enough to want to gift two readers with any choice from their website!

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So, follow both @ashleyaubra and @wickedcushions. Woo-hoo! You're entered. For more entries, leave a comment here or on social. We'll be checking (and answering) all my usual social channels. I'm telling you, if you have thought about upgrading your cushions or your headset (I am known for running/walking with mine, so **gross** the cushions can get sweaty and wear out)- don't delay. Just do it. Oh, and Joel says, "You're welcome." lol.

Winners will be announced July 5th! Winner picks one (1) product off of wickedcushions.com

UPDATE: WE HAVE OUR WINNERS. I'll be sending out DMs to Charleen and Mary! Thank you, ladies!

HEAL YOURSELF

YOU GUYS.... I asked you all what your favorite old, new and up and coming apps were and you all answered! So, I've slowly been doing some research and trying them out (even wrote about them in the Soap Digest article on stands now where I'm also highlighting the apps Ographr and Helpr). I want to share the ones you may not have heard me talk about yet starting with HEAL.

I wrote about 1 second everyday in THIS post here, the app that (in my opinion) is reinventing the home video diary. OGRAPHR is changing the way we document the events in our lives and HELPR is transforming the work/family balance with childcare. Now, (in my humble opinion) I think HEAL is re-humanizing the way we see doctors through modern technology. In Soap Digest, I mentioned all the reasons I would love to have an in-home doctor's appointment. I read the reviews. People are overjoyed by Heal's highly vetted, certified doctors and the ease of not having to leave the house while ill. If you're a parent with young children, you know how frustrating and exhausting it is to have to lug the kiddos to the doctor while sick (and expose them to germs in the waiting room) or bring them to the pediatrician when they already have a compromised immune system. I'm often in different locations filming and need someone quickly to come "heal" me for shooting the next day. Heal will be a godsend! And let's face it, people in general are babies when they are sick! The last thing my husband wants to do is leave the house if he's under the weather.

I often find it interesting who is "backing" these new ventures. Fidelity ContraFund, the Ellison family and  Lionel Richie are a few of the investors that believe in creating a more personal and convenient experience for patients and doctors.

The doctor visits you in the comfort of your own home 12 hours a day, 365 days a year and even takes insurance! If you're not covered at the moment, it's $99. To get started, download the app, then go to "register." You can put your zip code in to see if HEAL is offered in your area. If it currently is not, you can sign up for an email notification when it will be serving your area! Let's get this in more cities. It's a great service that will serve us all when we are in a pinch. For more info, visit heal.com

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Please let me know if you try it or have tried this new trend of in home doctors?? Hope you all have a great weekend and keep in touch. You know I love hearing from you all. 

xoxo

AAJ

BoyMom Twinning

A few weeks ago I put this dress and matching shirt for Hayden on instastory. I stumbled on it during a quick run into the Gap. I bought mine and ordered Hayden's (then ended up ordering one for Joel and Huck!). Hayden's just came in the mail. I think I'm gonna do that one cheesy picture this year where the whole family is wearing the same print for summer vacation. Too cheesy? I think it's kinda fun while the boys are still little. And it's not everyday that you find matching mom and boy outfits, so I'm taking advantage.

These matching outfits below (clickable images) are from the Gap. So affordable. There's usually some code for an extra percentage off, so check the website. Joel's shirt came to $24. For reference, I'm in an size XS. This dress is so easy. I love the map print reminding me of places I've been and places on my bucket list. Wear it by itself or with a denim shirt or jacket, or cardigan at night. I added the little toddler/baby girl dress for those of you with little girls! Ahhh. So cute. 

Wearing these extremely budget friendly white sunglasses too much lately, but they're fun (and $14).

Whatever you are up to today, hope it's a good one. Vacation plans soon? 

I'm off to an audition!!

xo

AAJ

Oh the place you'll go...! PEEK INSIDE

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I've claimed a zip code in Los Angeles for over 20 years. Hard to believe. I still feel like a Texas girl at heart. Before I travel to a new city, I enjoy scoping out spots online and read other people's experiences. So, I thought I would start sharing cool places I like in case any of you are visiting that area, too.

Pictures (shot by @Ographr) for a recent blog post were taken in The Butcher's Daughter Cafe, a little coffee/wine bar in Venice in a charming neighborhood pocket called Abbot Kinney. Of course, you've heard of the infamous Venice and Muscle Beach, the Venice Canals, the Marina, Santa Monica, etc. Nuzzled right there in the midst of it all is Abbot Kinney. Sounds English, huh? There is a bit of an English pub vibe as you walk the street. 

About 15-20 minutes (note: everyone says that here... so could actually take longer if there's bad traffic) away from LAX airport and you'll find Butcher's Daughter. A quick google search will tell you how fabulous this place is. Of course, the food is outstanding from breakfast to dinner, but what draws many inside is the design element. Owner and designer Heather Tierney creates a unique blend of old world charm with industrial elements. 

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I would love to create wall "art" out of ferns and succulents. Her hanging plants have my mind racing with inspiration. At meal times on each table, a glass bottle of water waits to greet you. Some of the bottles (I just ordered some of these) are filled with fresh mint and reminded me how much I love mint in many of my drinks! Tea, water- hot and cold, or a good mojito! 

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The palm tree lined street boasts unique mom and pop shops, as well as the diverse flavor only Venice can draw...we watched a women get her body painted in an alleyway. And directly across the street from the cafe, there's the "palm tree wall" (scroll on down;). Perfect wall mural backdrop for a photo.

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 Photos by @ographer

Photos by @ographer