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.

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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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MERRY MULTITASKING with AUTOTRADER

Who wants a new car for Xmas?? NOT ME... but, read why I changed my mind?! 

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Y’all.... I’m opening up here. First of all, this blog post is sponsored by Autotrader, but you know me.... these thoughts are definitely my own. If you frequent this blog or communicate with me via social media, you may know a few things about yours truly already.
Secondly, I can be indecisive. I deplore it and am WORKING ON IT. Finally, I don’t love change. WORKING ON IT. 

Something you probably DON’T know about me is this: I have outright owned my car since January 2005. Yep. In one month, it will be 14 years. I’m not sure what all that says about me, I’ll let you all make your own opinions (and feel free to share in comments cause I’m curious). 

All this to say, Joel wants me to get a new car for Christmas. I kept saying NO NO NO, I like my car. I take care of my car. It has served me well and is still very safe. But now, even my parents are chiming in....they think I will appreciate driving my children around in an updated vehicle with back up cameras and all the added safety components. 

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Ok. Fine. I will say when I get my car serviced and they give you a dealership “loaner,” it is tempting to want that upgrade!! But who has the time it will take to do this?? So, I put it off. I mean, I still haven’t picked that chandelier I’ve discussed with you! (oops, that was a confession). I can barely get to the grocery store! This is the most wonderful time of the year, but it’s also the most hectic. So many little things to attend, gifts to remember to buy. It seems everyday, I remember somewhere else I WANT to be. Holiday school performances, charity events, etc. My husband, kids and work obviously take a great deal of attention. So, when I finally have a moment to myself, I usually want to go for a run or yoga. Or sleep. (Or catch up on my shows, am I right??) Not go car shopping. UGH. It sounds overwhelming. 

When AutotraderAccelterate reached out to partner for Christmas, it seemed serendipitous. I thought, ok, if I needed ONE MORE SIGN to do get this car thing done, here I have it. I wanted to test it out to see if was really helpful before sharing anything with y’all. I started using their online (mobile, iPad, computer) service Accelerator. I could easily get so many answers from my fingertips. This is a merry-multi-tasker’s dream!! Could I trade my car in for anything? Or should I donate? What is the safest model out there right now? If we have another baby (I KNOW, A WHOLE DIFFERENT CONVERSATION), what vehicle comfortably fits THREE CAR SEATS. (Oh.MY.Goodness). Am I now only able to drive a minivan or are there other options?? 

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According to USNews.com, more people buy cars in December than any other month. Are any of you adding car buying to your already busy to-do list? It does make sense. People want to get inventory off their hands by the end of the year, make sales quotas, donate a car for tax purposes (and to be a good person- wink, wink!). So, the heat is on for me to make this transition 

You may already be using accerator, but if you’re not, I highly suggest checking it out. It does so much of the work for you. I put the kids to bed, pour a glass of wine, get cozy and shop for a car. On my own time. In my own weird, picky way. #MerryMerry to me! 

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They do so much of the work before hand. (Did you know an average buyer spends 3 hours in the dealership completing their deal. WHO HAS THAT TIME??) To learn more about car shopping online, look HERE.

Here’s the deal: So, basically, #AccelerateWithAutotrader has a search algorithm that drives more relevant results for you. It also has Kelley Blue Book so you purchase with expert, up-to-date data and pricing info. You do all the hard part with your hot cocoa in bed at home (even the majority of the paperwork, credit, etc), then all you have left to do is SHOW UP, TEST DRIVE AND SIGN on the dotted line. So, depending on how exciting my car driving adventure will be, I’m allotting under an hour on my schedule. No joke! Drop off gifts, go GET MY NEW CAR, pick up dry-cleaning, pick up Huck after school. Look at me, being decisive and getting stuff done. 

PLEASE, let’s encourage each other just to be decisive and get stuff done if you’re in the same boat. If not, feel free to encourage meeeeee! I’ll be reading all the comments today;)

xox

AAJ

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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.

Lamentations 3:19-24

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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CREATIVE WOMEN

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Yesterday was a day full of creative energy. I wanted to share a few thoughts in case some of you are like me and need a little nudging to make things happen. 

You know how you meet people occasionally and you say, "Let's get together!" The intention may be pure, but the follow through fails? Well, recently Ami Desai, Lisa Breckenridge and Jamie Greenberg found ourselves chatting away at an event. We said we would get together soon. But, you know, we ALL say that. We actually followed through!! 

Jamie (celebrity makeup artist) had to work, boo... (with Kaley funny enough!) but we STILL KEPT OUR PLANS. Lisa made lunch for us (if you're not following her blog and stealing her amazing cooking tips, you're welcome!) and Ami and I indulged as we all took notes for our future project. 

I left feeling full (literally full from food, but also full of ideas!!). I've felt like I needed something like this, so I'm grateful we connected. 

Sometimes, it's helpful to rearrange schedules and prioritize certain gatherings. It's not always easy, I know. Especially with kids. But, it is worth it when you find that group of people that inspire and encourage and excite. Share if you have a story... it might help someone out of a slump. Changing things up occasionally is good for the creative spirit. 

xoxo

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Oh and for those of you interested, the green floral dress I'm wearing is really versatile. I put it up on the liketoknow.it app. In case sizes sell out HERE, it's available HERE, too. It's Eliza J, a brand I've been wearing lately and like.  I'm wearing a 2. It came in the mail and was ready to go (no steaming required like some things!). Many of you DM'd me that you bought the blue and white striped fit and flare from the same brand that was featured in this post. Hope yours is working out, cause I love mine! For the green dress, it's fun with simple strappy sandals or even flip flops during the day. I wore dangled earrings because I wasn't with Hayden who loves to play with them, but usually I wear my studs!!

 

 

2018.

Hello. It’s been a good minute (or many good minutes) since I’ve written. In the last post, I said I would share some thoughts about my “intentions” or resolutions for the new year. Can you believe it’s February already? And I’m still making my list! I can be long-winded and a bit scattered, so I’m doing my best to keep the list short and sweet. This list is somewhat generic, but it's real. I love what readers wrote in a previous post about their goals and intentions for this year. Self care came up, morning routines, etc. Your thoughts are encouraging me. I appreciate what Robin Van Drunen said: Goals are important and they must be typed or written down somewhere or the accountability goes out the window.

So, here goes.

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PERSONALLY:

  • LAUGH (it off) MORE. Let it go. Underthink it. 
  • GET UP EARLIER.
  • DRINK 8 GLASSES OF WATER. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I say it every year. Probably because I truly WANT it to happen.
  • Take my vitamins and supplements EVERY DAY! 
  • GET ORGANIZED. I no longer want  to get frustrated as I’m getting ready to leave the house because I can’t find something. I want to DOWNSIZE MY BELONGINGS. And I want to streamline my mom-life. (I will go into better detail in posts to come, but if that doesn’t make sense, what I mean is this: I long for smooth mornings. Is there a world where it’s easy to find two clean socks (that FIT) every person in the house? Sounds trite, but lemme tell you…. Can I easily find my favorite lipstick (it could be anywhere between diaper bags or purse to my car glove compartment- not advisable because it melts, I know)? Does anyone feel me here? And if you don’t have kids, substitute water bottles for portable coffee cups. We ALL have these mornings where we swear we’re coming STRAIGHT HOME AFTER “THIS” AND GETTING OUR LIVES TOGETHER. So, that’s what I mean. 
  • WORKOUT MY BODY. Because this also works out my mind. I will do some form of a workout EVERY SINGLE DAY. I will. I’m writing my next column for Soap Digest based on this topic. I have a “strategy” that I’m borrowing form the business world. And I hope you respond to it. (I got many requests to discuss health and fitness). It’s currently helping me, so we’ll go into greater detail in that column and future blog posts. Hint: It’s about being S.M.A.R.T.
  • MOM and Step-mom. Just be better, I guess? This set of intentions is way more personal than the more generic ones above. I have a blended family. It’s hard and not something I often discuss. But, it’s my reality. Some activities we do, Huck is not present. He’s simply not with us (it's his time with his mother). I try and schedule as much as possible when I have him, but some things are out of my control. Like, we didn't have Huck for Joel's birthday party, so we celebrated again once we did have him. And Hayden… my sweet baby boy. We always feel we can do more as moms, right? Time goes by so fast and I want to soak it all up while he’s still little. Funny enough, I think if I’m aware of the previous intentions listed above, I’ll be a better, more present mom? I leave that as a question... if we work more on ourselves, do we have more to offer our children?
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PROFESSIONALLY:

  • Be more time efficient. I will learn to prioritize URGENT over IMPORTANT. Procrastination gets me nowhere I want to be. I want to be extremely prepared for all endeavors big or small this year. 

SPIRITUALLY:

  • Spend more time in prayer. Continue to attend the Women’s Bible Study.

Thoughts?  You know I love them and have missed being here on the blog, so leave a comment or piece of advise if you are inspired. Also, who has been implementing their own goals so far? Are any of you using certain tips to stick to them?

 


PS- for those interested in above photo details, sadly, I think this coat is sold out. But, my necklace is a staple. And I'm not the only one that loves it... if you visit the blog often, you might remember this post?


SLOW COOKER EASY RECIPES!

Hello!! A quick couple of things... I've started wanting to cook more, but a) am not great at it and b) hard to find the proper time needed. If you follow me on INSTAGRAM and watch the stories, you've seen us trying out new things in the kitchen... from Hello Fresh delivery system to the slow cooker. I've trying to learn the best new ways to be time efficient and healthy. I'm not so good at it all, but the intention is there! I recently discussed it all in a new column for Soap Digest, too. ps-This post was suppose to go up over a week ago. Somehow, it never got published. So, forgive the delay, please, and thank you for your patience. 

Photo by  @Ographr

Photo by @Ographr

My girlfriend Willa Ford (@wfordinteriors) shared these simple gems with me below. I'm just starting out discussing more food items on the blog, so bear with me here. Not caught up yet on great photos and such, this is a work in progress. If you're well versed in the kitchen and with the crock pot type dishes, this may seem remedial. But, maybe you'll find a new twist on an old faithful recipe. Hope so!

SHREDDED CHICKEN TACOS - so easy, it doesn't seem right.  You will need:

  • 4 chicken breast

  • 2 large jars of Pace Picante Salsa

  • tortillas

  • Your favorite toppings-- mine are shredded lettuce, shredded cheese, low-fat sour cream, diced avocado

Put chicken breast on bottom of slow cooker. Pour the salsa on top. Cook on slow for 8-10 hours or high for 6 hours. If frozen, cook on slow for 12 hours.  Remove chicken when done and shred in a different bowl. 

Make tacos as usual. I can't get enough of these. It's so easy and the salsa gives you so much bang for your buck!! Tastes much more gourmet than it is.

For extra credit: Use the juice left to make chicken tortilla soup. Add potatoes, carrots to thicken soup. Cook another 3-4 hours. 

MEATLOAF 

  • 1.5 lbs of ground beef or turkey

  • French onion soup packet

  • Chicken stock

  • Bread crumbs

  • 2 eggs

  • 1 tsp of minced garlic

  • Chopped onion

Mix all ingredients together. Make two smaller long dome shaped loafs. Put in crockpot. Smother the tops with ketchup. Cook on slow for 6-8 hours. Voila! 

Here are two options (high and low) for slow cookers:

 

I will be adding more recipes! I enjoyed getting recipes from you all, so I added THIS POST.  I'd LOVE to SHARE MORE OF YOUR favorite slow cooker recipes and photos of the finished meal. Please feel free to contact us sharing your favorites (or post in comments below). Happy Weekend!