Things We Love

Prime Day!

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I have a serious relationship with Amazon Prime. As a mom of four kids under 7 who also owns her own business, I don’t know any other mode than “crazy busy”, so convenience is key for me. I feel like I order almost everything on Amazon Prime these days. (Sidenote: Remember when it was just books? I barely do.) I mean, who has the time (or energy?!) to drive to the actual store with four kids in tow to buy things we need? Certainly not me. So, I’m super duper grateful for Amazon Prime. I order everything from diaper cream to printer paper and kids’ birthday party gifts to makeup on Amazon. And lately, some of these items seem to magically appear on the same day I order them. What kind of magical craziness is that?

I can’t imagine that you’re not already an Amazon Prime member, but if that’s the case, you can join here with a 30-day free trial. And if you are a member, then hopefully you’re taking advantage of their annual Prime Day sale, which is 24 hours of savings that started today at 3pm. There are a TON of deals to be had, but I wanted to share our five favorite items that are on sale now for Prime Day.

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Kindle Fire for Kids – Probably like you, I have a love/hate relationship with electronics, especially when it comes to my kids. I don’t want them hooked on electronics, yet with four boys, a mom needs some quiet time for sanity and electronics are one good (and inexpensive!) babysitter. We do our best to use them sparingly, but they are crazy helpful on long plane rides (and rainy days!) I love the Kindle Fire for Kids because it is relatively inexpensive compared to other options, so they they can each have their own, and it comes with a 2 year warranty – no matter how it gets damaged (I’m looking at you, 3rd child who left theirs outside for 2 days…) and they come with these awesome protective cases. But the main reason that I love them is that you can put MAJOR controls on them. You can limit content by age appropriateness, you can disable web access, you can limit by time of day or by time played and even let them earn more time by reading books on them! All in all, I feel much safer about them having these than I do iPads at this age (our oldest is 7 years old.) Also, with Amazon Free Time, all of the games are free (many of which you’d pay for on your phone or iPad) – which is a win! You can have a profile on them as well to read your Kindle books, but let’s be honest – your kids aren’t likely to share with you! Snag yours today for 31% off, making it $89.99.

 

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Ring Doorbell – We absolutely LOVE our Ring doorbell. I love being able to see who is at the door when I’m upstairs with the kids (or rocking a baby to sleep!) as well as who is there when we are traveling and away from home. Once, while on a trip, a strange man came to our door at 2am, peering in the windows, and my husband spoke to him through the Ring doorbell app and he high-tailed it out of there. As if I wasn’t already, I was definitely hooked then! You can snag one today on Amazon Prime Day for 30% off! We also use Ring floodlight cameras in the back. Love those, too!

 

Screenshot 2018-07-16 22.52.41 Nest Indoor Camera – This is what we use in our kids’ rooms. I love it because it is simple, easy to set up and allows two-way communication. (Yes, I yell at my boys to go to sleep using the app almost every night! Parenting is hard!) I also love that I can see all of their rooms in one place and it has a double layer of security for the WiFi portion. We used video monitors when the first three kids were little and I liked them, but the darned things all seemed to break right at a year. So far, our Nest cameras are going strong on year two. Save 10% on Prime day on these.

 

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40″ Saucer Spinner Tree Swing – My sister-in-law gave my kids this for Christmas two years ago and it was an immediate favorite. The 40″ version ensures that all three big boys can squeeze on it together and they LOVE spinning around on this and when Daddy spins them so high that they almost hit the tree trunk… #yikes! Snag this endlessly fun toy for 43% off here.

 

 

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Vitamix Blender – There is no question that our Vitamix is the most used tool in our kitchen. I use it for soups, smoothies, sauces, whipped mashed potatoes, salad dressings, homemade paleo mayonnaise and even making fresh almond butter, all of which are crazy easy in this blender. It pulverizes things so smoothly with its crazy strong motor that I don’t know how I lived without it before getting one. It even heats up soups as it blends, so they are piping hot and ready to eat when they come out. It’s a real time saver. And the very best part is that it is self-cleaning. Pour in some soapy water, press a button and watch the magic happen. Then, rinse and air dry and you’re ready to go for next time! That, in and of itself, makes me use it more often. We have the professional series, which you can grab on Amazon for 28% off, making it $499, which I love because of the automatic setting options, but if you want a lower entry price point, grab a refurbished Vitamix 5300 in this adorable red for just $269.99. It still comes with their amazing warranty options! I’m certain you’ll love this blender.

Obviously, there are a TON more deals to be had on Amazon Prime Day, but these are the items that are among our VERY favorites in my house. They’re ones that I would tell you to snag quickly if you don’t have time to pour over the entire Amazon website, searching for deals and steals. If you do have time for that, though, help a girl out and let me know what I’m missing out on in the comments below, because this year – I don’t have much time to shop the sale!

 

*Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link. Please understand that I purchased every item mentioned above on my own (nothing was gifted), and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the very small commissions I make if you decide to buy something through my links. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you.

It’s Time to Ditch It + Switch2Pure!

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I’ll be honest, since this is my fourth baby, I slacked a bit on the preparations. Partly, it was because I was overwhelmed managing three boys under seven years old while I had preeclampsia (and all of the OB appointments that entailed!) It was also partly because I know that babies don’t really need nearly as much as I thought they did with my first child. And, I’ll admit that a part of it was that I’ve forgotten what they actually do need since it has been four years since I brought home a newborn. Hello, mom brain!

And so, I found myself ordering diapers from the hospital before we headed home. (Thank you, Amazon Prime!) And when we brought our little man home, I wanted to give him a bath and realized that I hadn’t bought any baby shampoo or body wash. Oops! Honestly, I was too tired and overwhelmed to bathe him, anyway, so I just made a mental note to order some soon.

And then, I got a special delivery from my sweet friend Estela Cockrell who started Switch2Pure. You may remember me telling you about her back in December after I was invited to a blogger event at her beautiful home. (If you missed that post, take a moment to hop over and check out the lovely photos. I’ll wait.) I fell in love with several of her products and have been using them faithfully ever since (and yes, most of them have lasted the past 6 months and I still haven’t run out – amazing!) Estela is a darling Houston girl with a passion for sharing well-curated, safe + pure products with people and making it easy (and beautiful!) to shop them. So, when she sent me a box of her favorite safe + pure products for our newborn baby, I was over the moon excited! Here’s the scoop on what she sent, with a link to each product on her website for you to read all about it. I haven’t yet gotten a chance to try all of these, but I will tonight with our next baby bath and promise to share my thoughts with you soon!

 

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Erbaviva Baby Butter
 a nourishing cream for the little ones

Erbaviva Diaper Cream
soothing and calming for baby’s sensitive skin

Erbaviva Baby Soap
cleanses baby’s skin without toxic chemicals

Erbaviva Organic Baby Oil
luxurious hand crafted mix of oils balances that nourishes and protects the skin

Erbaviva Baby Sunscreen
an amazingly smoothy and effective sunscreen that is natural and zinc derived

Baja Baby Creamsicle Bubble Bath
a gentle, mood uplifting bubble bath for the most precious ‘littles’ of the house

Baja Baby Shampoo and Body Wash
a fantastically subtle, calming and gentle cleanser

Meliora Soap Stick Stain Remover
a wonder stick that does the work without the harsh and irritating chemicals left on the skin

Organic Radius Ginger Citrus Toothpaste
this whitening tooth paste has many added benefits (coconut oil) and is yum yum tasty, so I can’t wait to try it!

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What a sweet friend, right?! I look forward to using all of these and sharing with you which ones are my favorites. They smell just divine! What are your favorite toxin-free baby products? Tell me in the comments below – this mama wants/needs to know!

 

I’ve been keeping a secret…

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…We are having a baby – that cute little bean in the photo above!! Honestly, I really didn’t mean for it to be a secret. That’s the funny thing about it all. It just sort of happened. And the longer it went that I hadn’t shared the news, the bigger of a deal it seemed. In the end I think what I’ve learned is that our society is seriously reliant on social media for information and connection. I mean, I think we all know that, but some days, it really feels like if it didn’t happen on social media, it didn’t happen at all. And I have very mixed feelings about that, but we’ll circle back to that in a minute. Recently, a couple of dear friends that I actually see quite often told me that they had no idea I was pregnant. And then a few people asked me why I hadn’t posted anything on Facebook or Instagram about the baby on the way and truth be told, I don’t have a great reason. But, then the question kept rumbling around in my head and I realized that it was really the combination of a lot of small reasons and one really big one that I’ve been wrestling with lately.

So, the fun news is that I’m pregnant with our fourth child! We couldn’t be more excited. We prayed for this child for quite some time and God is so gracious to bless us with this baby, our little caboose! Looking back, I think our time of waiting for this baby is partly what shaped my caution in telling people that we are expecting. The Lord did quite a work on my heart during that time – probably more than words can adequately describe in a blog post. Suffice it to say, my heart has been changed in many ways. Just one of those ways is my increased tenderness for those who struggle with infertility, delayed fertility, miscarriage and the loss of a child. That’s not to say I wasn’t sympathetic before, because those have always been struggles very close to my heart, but this is different in that, at the same time, I was also struggling with the role of social media in my own life.

In the past year, I’ve had more than one friend close to me who lost a baby past 20 weeks. I don’t even have words for losses like that or for miscarriages at any stage, for that matter. What I do know is that life is so, so precious and we are called to be sensitive to the struggles of those around us. I’m still working through what that looks like in many ways. I also have dear friends who have been struggling to get pregnant for the first time for many, many, many years. And I didn’t really feel like I could talk about our own waiting with people, for fear of sounding like I was trying to compare grief or struggles, which was certainly not my intent and also because we have already been blessed with three healthy, beautiful boys. Nonetheless, God allowed this waiting time in our lives to be a part of our story and has faithfully used it to shape us to be more like Him. He sees our struggles and meets us where we are in those and I am learning to do that better as well.

All of that is to say that somehow, when the time came to announce our news, I just couldn’t bring myself to write the post. I kept looking for my reason for posting and I didn’t find it for quite a while. I told our family the news first and then dear friends, since it’s awfully hard to hide the constant throwing up that I have for the first 6 months or so of my pregnancies! I certainly wasn’t hiding it from anyone on purpose, but something kept me from actively posting about it on Instagram or Facebook. Meanwhile, I’m watching plenty of other friends announce their pregnancies and post every day about their joys about being pregnant and every detail about their plans for the baby and many of those friends were due after me. And there was a pang in my heart at each one I read as I thought of my friends who were still struggling with various difficulties surrounding children and what they must feel reading these posts. Getting pregnant, staying pregnant, having safe birthing experiences, adjusting to newborns, raising children responsibly, struggling with health issues in our children and ultimately letting them go off into the world – it’s all hard. And the pangs of empathy just weren’t going away. So, for maybe the first time in my life, I stayed quiet. And still. And did nothing.

Since I couldn’t figure out how to announce it and still honor those in difficult places on their own walks, and since I couldn’t clearly define my “why” for posting about it, I just chose not to announce it at all on social media. And, honestly, there was something liberating about it! I had long since been struggling with the use of social media in my life. I love so much about Instagram and Facebook, namely staying connected to friends and family who are far away, learning from the unique perspectives of others and reading articles that friends think are important enough to share, especially since I am not a big consumer of news media in general. Not to mention the memes, funny videos and ensuing laughter. I have a lot of love for these platforms and find myself spending time on them maybe a bit too often. They are fun and pretty and offer a bit of an escape from what can feel like a life full of mundane tasks at times. However, there are struggles with each platform that cannot be denied. Study after study has shown that people are less content and even more depressed after using them for an extended period of time. We all know that these platforms are a highlight reel of people’s lives and yet, scrolling through those picture perfect feeds understandably still leads to discontent in our own lives. And I’ve been convicted about my own role in adding to that discontent for some time now, because I think it’s incredibly dangerous and is the opposite of what we are called to do. And so, for a few years now, each time I post, I’ve been asking myself, both in my personal and professional posts – what is my intention in posting this? I don’t want to be the person who just shamelessly self promotes and in doing so, leads others to feel discontent in their own lives. That’s not helpful. We all know people who do that constantly and while their feeds can be fun to look at for a while, in the end, the effect on our hearts isn’t what I hope my followers feel when looking at mine.

I’ll take this moment to quickly add that the fact that I have a jewelry business complicates my desire to be intentional with my posting. Social media platforms are a wonderful way to share my designs with the world and I am so, so grateful for that opportunity. However, I do feel strongly that we, as social media consumers, need some healthy boundaries where social media is concerned and I want to honor those myself when posting as a designer as well. So many people are making LOTS of money convincing people to buy things on these platforms. More often than not, this is the result of people with great tips and ideas sharing those with their faithful readers and friends. And I love that! I’ve learned about fabulous products and services and free downloads from some of my favorite Instagrammers, bloggers and Pinterest-posting friends and they are, more often than not, the first place I look when I need a recommendation for something! I have dear friends who are bloggers and I value the opinions they share greatly and love the items they post about. I’ve found some of my favorite shoes, beauty products and clothing that way and it is awesome! After all, who better to get recommendations from than your friends? However, with some others, the basis of their promotions can be contributing to the discontent we all feel at times by seeing such beautiful photos of picture perfect lives being led by the people who own XYZ (insert product for purchase here.) That’s the game of advertising and always has been, but the lines have been blurred since social media was invented and blogging became an incredibly high paying career in and of itself for a few people on the platforms. That’s partially why the Federal Trade Commission has stepped in and created guidelines requiring bloggers to more clearly disclose when they are being paid to promote something, but that’s another discussion for another day.

So, for me, I chose to celebrate within our own little family and with my close friends with whom we are walking through life. And truthfully, with the insane busyness of life with three boys aged seven years and under, I didn’t have all that much time to think or worry about it. School, carpools, homework, making lunches, sports schedules and life in general consumes most of my days and that’s before my jewelry business kicks in! Add in the sheer exhaustion and constant throwing up of my pregnancy days, and I feel like I have been dropping balls right and left for months now. And I’m slowly learning to be more okay with that.

Fast forward a little bit and more and even more friends were surprised when my belly finally REALLY popped out recently or when they heard from other friends – and then I felt sort of bad, even though all of them were totally understanding! And I realized that I have friends far and wide from so many different times and areas of life and social media is just a really efficient way to tell people what is going on in your life. And people want to know and celebrate with you. So, here we are.

We’re having a baby…and soon! Our precious 4th baby is due in just over a month now. Before you ask, we’ve chosen to be surprised on gender and it has been so much fun! Since we had our first three babies in three years, this is my first pregnancy when my older kids are really understanding what is happening and that has been really fun and sweet to watch as well. We are so grateful for the crazy journey of parenthood and can’t wait to share more about our new addition with you. So, why am I sharing now? In part it is because I have some other related big news to share very soon, but I’m going to save that for another post. This one is already way too long and If you’ve stuck with me this far, thank you for that.

Have a thought about all that I’ve shared here? Share it with me in the comments below. I would love to hear from you!

You Do NOT Want to Miss This Sale!

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Well, friends! It’s that time of year again…

After-Christmas sales are heavily upon us and I know you’re getting a barrage of invitations to save money, but trust me, THIS is the one you don’t want to miss out on! This event is back for a fourth year and we’ve participated every year they’ve had it and it is ALWAYS amazing! (And by that, I mean that I score great deals shopping myself…Ha!)

This sale is different because over 50 local vendors come together to offer you HUGE savings in one place that easy and convenient for you to shop. Grab your girlfriends to come with you, because these Tri-Delts throw one heck of a fun party! Up for a splurge? I highly recommend the champagne shopping early access tickets so that you’ll get first pick of the goodies (and there are SO many deals to be had!) and come at 10am on Saturday. Don’t need first pick? Grab the regular shopping tickets (which are $5 cheaper in advance!) and some of your best gal pals and come see us starting at noon on Saturday or noon on Sunday.

This sale features some of our FAVORITE Houston vendors, so be sure you don’t miss out on them! Two years ago, I scored a Louis Vuitton Speedy for $200 from Cheeky Vintage, which always has amazing deals! Last year, I got a fabulous cashmere and fur wrap from Tootsies that was 75% off! And don’t get me started on the deals at Elaine Turner – you don’t want to miss those! I got a FABULOUS coat from Hunter Bell last year for 75% off – her deals are amazing! I scored two great short skirts last year at Muse that were an absolute steal and a darling skirt at Pinto Ranch that was also an incredible deal. And, OH the deals to be had a Monkees! I snagged a $395 pair of LK Bennett heels for $50. And I love them! And I’ve scored GREAT deals on fab items for my home from Savannah House/34th Street Design each year. A painting, a marble end table, a sweet little lamp, gorgeous dried flowers, fab mod pillows – too many great things to mention! And I’ve gotten some great gift items at Paris Texas Apparel Co, including cool Texas t-shirts for $10. Are you seeing what I mean? The deals are truly incredible. Also, I clearly shop almost as much as I sell – oops!

Of course, we’ll be there as well and you do NOT want to miss out on the deals we have for you! You won’t believe the prices on our jewelry – seriously, we are cleaning house before the new season starts and YOU are going to be the big winners on that deal!

So, make your plans to join us now and we’ll see you this weekend! We’ve got lots of only-one-left designs to sell, so you may want to pop by our booth first! Want more scoop, visit www.thesalehouston.com.

See you there…

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A PURE Breakfast Date

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I was recently invited to a fun blogger breakfast event at the gorgeous Tanglewood area home of Estela Cockrell, founder of Switch2Pure. It was so much fun catching up with other Houston blogger friends over delicious and healthy bites and tasty drinks in her house, which was beautifully decorated for the holidays – be sure to scroll through for photos of it, along with some of our favorite bloggers.We also got to preview some of her favorite items from her new website, Switch2Pure, which is well-curated website with the best clean and organic products.

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Estela started our time together telling us all about why she started this company. She and her children have battled various auto-immune issues for a long time and for a while, she was dealing with mysterious symptoms due to food allergies, immune disorders and Lyme disease, without really knowing what was causing them. Once she started doing more research, however, and figured out exactly what was causing them, she vowed to take a closer look at the products that she and her family were using every day. And she didn’t like what she found. She found complicated labels that made it hard to differentiate the good from the bad ingredients and she found “crunchy” healthy products that didn’t do what they promised. So, she decided to curate her own website of products that are safe, pure, clean, natural and nontoxic, yet effective and luxurious. Gotta love a woman who makes helping others simplify safe products her mission!

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After the talk and delicious gluten and dairy free treats, we got to head into her work area and sample some products. I was amazed at how luxurious they are for “safe” products. Estela pointed out to us which ones are her very favorites and I snagged a few things to bring home and try out. Here’s what I started with, along with a brief review of (and link to) each product…

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The Nurture Your Nest Natural Cleaning Non Toxic Kit – I have small children and I certainly do not want my cleaning products causing them harm. Enough said.

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Kaia Naturals Charcoal Deodorant – The idea of endocrine disruptors from the store shelf deodorants being placed so close to my lymph chains in my underarms every single day was enough to make me decide to make the switch immediately. So far, I’ve liked it. The brand tells you to expect a detox period when quitting regular antiperspirant, but so far, I haven’t noticed that. I think it comes a bit later on, though.

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InVitamin Charcoal Toothpaste – Same goes for what I put into my mouth. I definitely don’t want harmful toxins here! While the idea of black toothpaste makes me a little uneasy, Estela assured me that the lightly minted taste is good and that it also whitens teeth – bonus! So far, I’ve really liked it. It’s far less sudsy than normal toothpaste, but I don’t mind that at all. Just rinse any that you spit into the sink immediately and the black color comes off the porcelain super easily.

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Rare Elements Pure Natural Shampoo Hydrating Hair Bathe Shampoo – This one smells amazing and Estela promises that it does wonders for your hair. Yay for that! I’m super picky about what shampoos I use. I don’t like the ones from the grocery store that leave a wax buildup on your hair. I feel like I can also use less amounts of the more expensive ones, so it ends up being about the same amount of money investment-wise. So far, I LOVE this one and use only a dime-sized amount each time. And, I feel like it allows me to not have to wash my hair every single day. Yay for that!

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Rare Elements Essentials Daily Vegan Natural Masque Conditioner – There was a “lite” conditioner option as well, but I like a good mask-like conditioner, since I only put it on the ends of my hair (the ponytail area) which tends to get a little dry or get split ends between hair cuts. I like this one a lot so far. I put it on and wait about 3-5 minutes before rinsing it out. Like the other Rare Elements products, it smells amazing and lasts a really long time!

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Rare Elements Marula Cocktail Leave in Conditioner – I’m LOVING this one so far. It smells amazing (like the shampoo) and leaves my hair feeling so soft and hydrated. I only use two sprays per day and then come it through, to keep my hair from being oily.

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Kaia Juicy Bamboo Facial Cleansing Cloth – Estela told me that these are perfect for after you leave the gym, but have to go somewhere else before going home to shower and I agree. They are refreshing and smell great and are a good quick refresh after a sweaty lifting session at the gym. And heaven-knows I’m rarely headed home to shower after I work out, as much as I’d like to be. A mom’s life is rarely boring!

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Source Vital Free Micellar Water Cleanser – Estela swears by using this a “precleanser” before cleaning your face and so far, I have loved going the same thing. I feel like it gets my face extra clean, removing makeup and then washing my face for cleanliness. It has essential oils in it and leaves my face feeling clean, but not “stripped.”

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Honey Belle Organic Facial Soap – In all honesty, of all of the products I purchased, this is the only one that I might not rebuy. It’s not that I didn’t like it, I just didn’t LOVE it like I loved the others. On all of the other products, I am hooked! On this one, it’s good, but not something I’m obsessed with. I think maybe my skin is getting a bit drier as it gets older and I prefer something more hydrating for me. It does foam beautifully and smells great, however. I currently keep it in my shower, rather than using it every morning and night and it’s great for that! I love that it’s a clean and safe product, though, because your skin is definitely your largest organ, so its important not to put toxins on it!

After hearing Estela’s story, I was inspired that the switch to pure ingredients in the beauty, cleaning and food items we use every day really is getting easier every day, especially with websites like Switch2Pure. And the payoff is worth the investment of time to seek them out. In the case of the items at Switch2Pure, I was amazed by how low the prices on most items were. Usually, I feel like there is a pretty steep markup for “clean” items, but not here. There are well-priced items that are still organic and toxin-free.

Below are a few more photos from the party. It was such a fun event and I was so grateful to be included! Girl-time is such a rare treat these days and learning about safe products that I love at the same time made it all the more fun! Have you tried any of the products above or are you obsessed with any clean, non-toxic products that I should know about? Let me know in the comments below! I love sharing knowledge!

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Harvey

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As I sit here typing this, I am listening to the rain fall. I used to love snuggling up during a good ol’ Texas thunderstorm and I loved sleeping in one even more. It was actually something I missed during the time we lived in San Francisco. Strangely, it doesn’t really storm there. I only saw lightning and heard thunder two times in the five years that we lived there and it always struck me as rather odd. I actually missed it during our time there, as crazy as that feels to type now, in the midst of Harvey. It has been raining for four days now and has been raining without stopping for even a second for at least 24 hours straight. I’d love to tell you exactly how many hours, but I can’t, because I’m not even sure what day it is. Somehow, they are all meshing together in my head and I have lost all sense of time. It’s a strange feeling and I’m beginning to realize that cabin fever is a very real phenomenon. When you’re stranded on a makeshift island surrounded by water and unable to escape except by boat or helicopter for days on end, it really does alter your mind a bit. And we are among the more fortunate in this storm, of that I am very well aware.

The photo above was the view from our front porch yesterday. The floodwaters have filled the park across the street, with its hills and valleys that create a bit of a bowl that is 15-20 feet or so down. The street, which is probably 4-5 feet below our house is also flooded and impassable. You can see by the street sign shown how high it is. It is flooded in both directions as far as the eye can see. The nearest cross street is also underwater. And the water is in our yard and slowly moving up the driveway (which has a pretty steep hill to it) and closer to our home. My son’s baby swing in the front yard is halfway under water, so I’m guessing there’s about 2-3 feet of water in our yard. A family of ducks just swam by me the now lake that covers our front yard.

For four days now, I’ve been absorbing and processing. Absorbing information, photos, videos and the very personal stories of people close to me who are in dire distress. It’s an awful lot to take in. I’ve had so many thoughts I wanted to share, but neither the energy or the time to do so. It has taken all I have to keep life within these walls of our house as normal as humanly possible for my children. At the beginning of this ordeal, when Harvey was forming in the Gulf, I was checking the weather nonstop. It may have been a throwback to my energy trading days, when tracking hurricanes and their effects on production in the Gulf was a part of my job. Or it may have had something to do with the fact that though I have weathered Hurricane Alisha, Tropical Storm Allison, Hurricane Rita and Hurricane Ike, I have never weathered a hurricane as a mother. Now, with three boys who are dependent on us for survival, the game has changed dramatically. Regardless, I was glued to the weather. I quickly fell in love with Space City Weather, which offers information without the sensationalism. In the beginning, I didn’t realize how crucial that would be to maintaining my sanity. I left the news channels on for a while, as they had tornado alerts and other important information, but I couldn’t leave them on for long because of my children. When some desperate woman who had been rescued by boat started screaming about all the little children who were going to die in their homes and our three year old repeated those words and asked me why with a terrified expression, I turned the television off. Images and words on TV are powerful and my boys are so young that they cannot separate fact from drama. Please don’t get me wrong, I think the news people in Houston have done and are doing an excellent job and I am grateful for their selfless coverage of this unprecedented disaster, but my own heart aches deeply at watching the images and hearing the stories, so I cannot imagine what the little minds in my house are thinking as they try and process it all.

By now, however, I rarely even look at the weather. I’m simply exhausted by it all. Severe weather alerts have gone off on my phone around every 5-15 minutes 24 hours a day for the past 4 days. Flash flood warning, tornado warning, tropical storm warning, tropical cyclone warning. I get it. We’re all in great danger here. I just can’t even process them anymore. When the tornado sirens went off, we hunkered down in an interior hallway or in our basement. It’s a confusing thing when the authorities tell you to get upstairs because of flash flooding, but also to get to the lowest level because of a tornado. And when your kids are finally sleeping peacefully, do you wake them up to move from one to the other when the sirens go off? It’s a tough call, especially when you’re tired. When we were taking cover, my children were crying in fear. And I read one of my very favorite books to them, The Jesus Storybook Bible. I cannot recommend it highly enough. It’s a refreshing read of the stories we know and love that brings fresh tears to my eyes almost every time I read it to my children. It’s a powerful translation, even for adults. We read the story of Jesus calming the storm and talked about how we do not need to fear, because even in difficult times like these, God is still in control. Once it was over, my kids were “playing tornado” and hiding under the dining room table. I remember reading an article on child psychology about how this is how they process trauma in a healthy way, by acting it out again and again, so I let them do it and even joined in some. It was a bit of humbling experience.

We are just fine. We are safe and dry and our house has not taken in water other than some roof and ceiling leaks. We have food and plenty of water. We have electricity and we are all together. Though we are stranded here, we are absolutely fine and beyond grateful. God is merciful and through all of this horror, the loss of life is so much smaller in number than one might expect. For that, we are grateful.

More to come as I continue to process and reflect. There is much to share and there is much to be done in relief and recovery efforts. But for now, I will focus on our family. Keeping us fed and the house and dishes relatively clean, coordinating efforts of help for friends via the internet and Facebook and connecting people as we are so thankful that we have electricity. Until we are able to leave our home, we will do what we can to help, we will support and minister to one another in this time of crisis and we will pray. We will pray for the rain to stop, the storm to dissipate, the winds to die down and for peace for the people of our great city. And when we are able, we will act. We will join others in relief efforts, band together as a community and get our community put back together. We will be stronger and our perspective will be very different. May all of this experience change us for the better, starting with me.

A Cinco de Mayo Birthday Fiesta

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I’m still not sure how it happened. Somehow, my baby boy turned three this past week. Where the time went is absolutely beyond me, but here we are. . . and this occassion calls for a celebration! Since our little guy was born so close to Cinco de Mayo, we thought that would be a super fun birthday party theme and it was a huge success. Read on for all the scoop on how we pulled it off complete with loads of colorful photos, of course!

We decided to have the fiesta in our backyard and the Lord blessed us with amazing weather for the outdoor event. Houston in May is pretty hit or miss, but it was 70 degrees and sunny with very little humidity – a birthday miracle, for sure! To transform the space, we hung huge tissue paper flowers and paper fans (all found on Amazon) from the light strands that we strung over our patio last Fall. All of the color made for one festive fiesta! The fans were super easy to put together and even came with little white paperclips, which made hanging a breeze. The tissue paper flowers weren’t hard to put together, but were a bit more time consuming to fluff each one. They were totally worth it, but I recommend you buy yours in advance, rather than doing it the day of the party, like I did. Also, if you want to vary the height on them, you’ll need to buy your own coordinating color ribbon for them and using paperclips to attach them would have been SO much easier than tying each one, so toss some white ones in your Amazon cart as well.

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At the party entrance, we set out some flower hair clips for the ladies and self-adhesive mustaches for the gents, both found at Party City. For added flair, we set out some small piñatas and two blow up cacti (both borrowed from a dear friend) and a few bottles of Jarritos, embellished with a few of the sticky mustaches. I also potted some succulents in El Pato bean cans, which I bought at Fiesta. (If you don’t have a Fiesta near you, you can snag them on Amazon as well.) Those were an idea that I found on Pinterest and I love the way they turned out! They were easy, inexpensive and super cute. And now I have the goods to create a little potted succulent garden!

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For refreshments, we set out ice water and beer ‘ritas (recipe on the blog here) in these cute glass drink dispensers that we bought online at Pottery Barn about a year ago. They were a great investment. They’re really cute and we’ve used them a ton! Ours are the large size and we bought pretty silver stands for them to go on as well, which raises the spout and makes the dispenser useable even when it’s not on the edge of the counter, but we didn’t need them at this party. At first, I was leaning towards the acrylic version of the container, but in the end, I’ve really loved the real glass ones we bought. We also had wine and beer out and, of course, Jarritos and Topo Chico as well – what Mexican fiesta would be complete without those?! We tossed those, along with some juice and lemonade pouches for the littles into a cute galvanized metal tub on a stand that we bought on Amazon before our oldest son’s birthday party last Fall. It has come in quite handy at parties for a little extra counter space. We set out some fun striped paper straws and some bright green napkins along with some paper flowers on stems for a little extra pop of color.

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I tossed together a few brightly-colored flowers for a centerpiece on the gifts table, mostly because I’ll take any excuse to have fresh flowers in my house!

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We had El Tiempo Cantina cater a beef and chicken fajita dinner with chips and queso. The server was super nice and the food was delicious! And we had them bring tres leches for the adult dessert – yum!

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For entertainment, we set up lots of lawn games, just like we did for our oldest boy’s birthday Southern Lawn Party event. It was such a huge success and definitely a great investment on those games. We play them as a family all the time! Our boys particularly love ladder ball and corn hole and, of course, launching balls on our giant Angry Birds slingshot that my husband built.

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I LOVE the child-sized sombrero that I bought for the birthday boy and he loved it as well! It was well worth the $7.50, as it is quite well made and made for some really cute photos – highly recommend!

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All of our boys wore their monogrammed guayaberas, which they love. They’re comfortable and cool and super cute, especially with seersucker pants! I bought the two younger boys’ at The Monogram Shop here in Houston last Summer before a wedding, but they didn’t have one big enough for our six year old. (And, heads up, these things run small!) Thankfully, I found some online here and got one that matched exactly for him. Daddy wore his favorite one that we bought from my friend at San Cristobal Guayaberas. Theirs are gorgeous and I cannot wait until they start carrying kid sizes this Fall!

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The birthday boy playing ladder ball. People ask me about these adorable shoes all the time. They’re made by Native, but we bought them last Summer and they don’t seem to make them anymore. I’m just sick about it, as they’re my boys’ favorite shoes – and mine as well, because they work at church or on the beach! When they get dirty, I just hose them off in the sink. Seriously some of our favorite and most-often complimented shoes. Please bring them back, Native! In the meantime, these are the closest that I’ve found from them.

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“Flowers for you, mama!” Is my darling boy just the sweetest?

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I found this adorable paper flower crown (and the paper flowers on the table here) at Houston’s cutest party shop, Emerson Sloan. I was surprised how many people who asked me haven’t heard of it! It’s located in Rice Village and run by my friend Kim, who is so much fun. They’ve got upscale party decor, great gift items and fun gag-type gift items and hilarious cards as well. Get over there and check it out or shop online! (Also, my top is by Johnny Was. I’ve had it for a few years and I love it. It’s cool and comfortable and I always get compliments on it!)

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I snagged this sparkling number 3 at Emerson Sloan as well. I was amazed at what a huge hit it was! My boys thought it was the coolest thing ever. And we got some super cute photos with it as well (see the birthday boy’s face below!) I highly recommend it for your next shindig! We also picked up a golden number 3 balloon while we were there and from what I’m told – that thing will last months!

The cupcakes were from Moeller’s Bakery in Bellaire. We absolutely love this place. Their prices are super reasonable, their turnaround time is very quick (in case you’re forgetful like me and order the day before – oops!) and the taste is out of this world. I definitely recommend them for cakes, cupcakes and other treats.

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After the cupcakes, we remembered the piñata! (#oops again) and the kids had SO much fun smashing it with a baseball bat!

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All in all, it was a very successful party! All of the adults had fun, the kids had a blast and the next morning – the birthday boy was STILL talking about it. That’s the biggest win in my book!

Beer ‘Ritas Recipe

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When you’re throwing a Cinco de Mayo party and don’t have time to test and sample margarita recipes for the best one, you ask a few of your most “in the know” friends for a recommendation. And when you’re friend’s eyes light up and they say – ask Nancy Jane – she has an amazing recipe for Beer ‘Ritas – you do it. NJ did not disappoint. I cannot even believe how delicious these were. You’ve absolutely got to try them! (Sidenote, Nancy Jane is quite possibly the sweetest realtor in Houston. If you’re looking for a house, she can help you out – with patience, kindness and a bright smile. She’s wonderful!)

Everyone loved these at our party tonight (more fiesta details on the blog tomorrow!) So, without further adieu, here it is.  Enjoy!

RECIPE:

1 mexican beer (just pick your favorite kind)
1 can minute maid limeaid
1 can of good quality tequila (just fill the limeade can) – we used Tierra Fertile, which was recommended by the guy at Spec’s
1 can of Fresca

Mix & serve over ice! Serves probably 8-10 smallish margaritas, perfect for a party.

 

 

Men’s Style: A Great Gift Idea

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I always have a hard time thinking of good gift ideas for my husband. He’s a tough guy to shop for, not because he is picky or doesn’t usually like what I get him, but because he’s a man who doesn’t need much. He rarely asks for things, but he is a guy who really appreciates good craftsmanship, so when I can find something that is really well made, I know I’ve found something he will likely love. Whether it is a handmade pair of cowboy boots, a custom made button down shirt or a piece of jewelry that I handmade for him, I know he appreciates solid craftsmanship and good design.

As soon as he opened the gorgeous wooden box of his JORD men’s watch, I saw that smile that let me know I had chosen well. The grain of the dark sandalwood glimmered in the sunlight and contrasted beautifully with the burgundy face. He carefully took it out of the box and examined it closely and proclaimed it a win – he loved it! Neither of us had ever seen a wooden watch before, so I love that it is a unique watch style. In person, it is so, so beautiful. You can instantly tell that it is carefully crafted and I love the earthy feel of the wood and it’s just plain stylish!

Since he got it, hubs has worn it with casual clothes and dressy ones and it looks great with each. He’s gotten lots of compliments on this cool watch and people are thrilled to know that is also has a great price point. I have a feeling he’s going to be wearing it a lot this Spring (and I have a feeling I may be swiping it from him to wear myself!)

If you’re in the market for a great gift idea for the man in your life, I highly recommend you checking out the line of lovely wooden watches Jord has for men here. Jord also has gorgeous women’s watches as well. I personally LOVE the Frankie line of women’s watches. I love the oversized look and the face is so clean and pretty.

Are you loving these wooden watches as much as I am? Good news! JORD is doing a fun giveaway for my readers. All you have to do is click on this link and enter your name and email address. The winner will receive a $100 E Gift Code. All entrants receive a $25 E Gift Code, so everyone is a winner! The contest will close April 2nd at 11:59pm. The $100 and $25 Gift Codes will expire June 30th, 2017.

So, hop on over to their website here and enter to win. And let me know in the comments below what you think of hub’s new watch!

 

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Gorgeous, right out of the box!

 

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Love the way this dark brown contrasts with navy and white!

 

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And the burgundy face is so elegant! I love the way the watch looks with this sterling silver and 14k gold ring I made him!

 

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The watch looks just as good fancy! Shown here with his custom-made Andrea Montgomery Designs cufflinks.

 

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And, it looks good celebrating with a glass of vino!

 

Watch Gift Ideas

Mutton Bustin’

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If you’re not from Houston, my guess is that the term Mutton Bustin’ is new to you. If you know what it is, however, my guess is the term brings a smile to your face every single time you hear it. It has always been one of my favorite events to watch at the Houston Rodeo and this year, for the first time, my own son got to participate. And it was a blast!

Bull riding is always the main event of the rodeo, but for junior rodeo types, sheep riding is the thing, and down here, we call that Mutton Bustin’. And its a VERY big deal. Kids sign up to compete in the main arena at the Houston Rodeo over six months in advance and they are the last event of the rodeo, going on just before the entertainment as they’re setting up the stage for the singer of the evening. Over at the rodeo carnival, however, those of us who didn’t plan that far in advance still get a chance to try and tame those wooly beasts. Here are the details for your mini cowboy or girl…

Participants must be five or six years old and weigh between 35 and 55 pounds. Mutton Bustin’ is done every hour (on the hour) starting at 11am and signup begins an hour before each competition. The carnival opens at 10am, so if you show up right at 10am (or a few minutes before), you’re likely to get a spot in the 11am slot. We showed up at 10.15am and were 3 people too far back, so we stayed put and waited in line for the 11am signup for the noon competition. They weigh your child, you fill out a form (including listing the child’s favorite rodeo food, favorite event and what they want to be when they grown up, which is always fun to hear the announcer read out as each child comes up), then you sign a waiver of liability, pay $15 (and order a DVD for an additional $15 if you so chose) and you head to the carnival to play some games and ride some rides until 20 minutes before your showtime.

When you come back, you suit up, wait your turn and head into the arena…on the back of a sheep! It is so much fun to watch these little ones hold on tight to the back of a sheep for the ride of their (very young) lives. The goal is to make it all the way across the arena and one little girl did it! She was the winner of our hour and got an adorable belt buckle to celebrate her title. Our little guy started off a little too far back on the sheep (maybe we needed a reride?!) but he did great anyway and made it a little over halfway across the arena. He had no injuries and had a blast, so I’m going to call that a big win for us!

If your little guy has been begging you as much as mine has to let him do it, I would definitely invest the time and effort to head on down to the rodeo and give Mutton Bustin’ a go. You can scroll down for a highlight reel of our experience. We all had an absolute blast and little brother is already counting the days until he’s old enough to do it next year!

 

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The Mutton Bustin’ Committee was filled with super nice and super helpful people who made the process easy and fun.

 

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Waiting our turn.

 

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Gathering the sheep.

 
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Reading the fine print.

 
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All suited up.

 

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Hi, mom!

 
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Next in line.

 

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Our turn!

 

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…And he’s off!

 

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Hanging on tight!

 

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#Ouch

 

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All worth it for a blue ribbon!