January 26, 2014

Recipe: Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore

This past week my husband asked me if I could make him Chicken Cacciatore so I hit my trusty recipe sites searching for a good recipe. I have never made this dish mainly because I was a bit intimidated by it. I had seen recipes in the past and they seemed so involved and even though I enjoy a challenge in the kitchen this was one I wasn't interested in. First, I typically don't cook Italian because the only the person that eats it in our house is my husband and secondly I hate tomatoes. However, I decided to give in and make this since Mike specifically asked for it. After browsing for what seemed an eternity on the web I came across one for the crock pot and it seemed easy enough so I gave it whirl. I am glad that I did because my husband enjoyed it and it did make my kitchen smell phenomenal. I did tweak this recipe from the original one I found on the blog "Stuff I Make My Husband". I have made the changes below that I took from her recipe. Once cooked I served this with angel hair pasta, mixed green salad and garlic bread. My husband said this was a keeper so if your family enjoys Italian food and you want something that you can set and forget then you should definitely try this recipe! This recipe will serve 4 people. 

- 2 lbs of skinless chicken thighs (I used bone in. DO NOT use chicken breast for this recipe!)
- 1 bag of frozen onion, peppers and celery mix. (If you can't find that then any onion mix will do)
- 3 Tbs of tomato paste
- 1 Tbs of extra virgin olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, minced (I used the pre-minced garlic in the jar)
- 1/3 oz of dried mushrooms (I used Porcini and my food processor to grind them up)
- 8 oz of sliced mushrooms (I used pre-sliced Baby Bella)
- 1 can of diced tomatoes (I used the can with green chilis because we love spice)
- 1/2 tsp of dried Italian seasoning
- 1/3 cup of a dry red wine
- 1/4 tsp of red pepper flakes
- salt and pepper to taste

1. Combine the frozen veggie mix, dried mushrooms, garlic, oil, tomato paste and pepper flakes into a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 5 minutes.

2. Add the above ingredients along with sliced mushrooms, wine, dried seasoning and diced tomatoes to the slow cooker. Stir to combine all ingredients well.

3. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Nestle the thighs into the sauce.

4. Cook 4-6 hours on Low. I did turn mine up to high halfway through because I didn't start this until later in the day.

January 15, 2014

Beauty Post: Beauty Favorites of 2013

Hey Guys! I hope that all of you are having a fabulous week and are staying warm. I am a bit behind with this post but I still wanted to get it up for everyone since I have been receiving great feedback from friends, family and followers regarding my posts. It makes me feel so incredibly good that I have been helpful to you regarding beauty products that you have been trying from my blog/vlog posts. I seriously can't tell you how much it means or thank you enough!!! It's so awesome!

When picking the products that I am featuring in this post I highlighted the ones that I used the most in 2013. These products are the ones I applied and used almost on a weekly if not daily basis so you can guarantee that I love them and stand behind the product. I am going to try not to elaborate too much on the products because most of these have been mentioned in previous posts. If you do see something that you want more information or feedback on please leave me a comment below or send me a message on Facebook; I will be more than happy to answer them! So, without chatting up a storm, here are my 2013 favorites.....they are in no particular order so please excuse the randomness. There are a lot of products that I am covering so as I mentioned in my video this will be a longer post than my typical ones.

Garnier Skin Renew Miracle Skin Perfector BB Cream ($12.99) - This is the most amazing BB cream that I have tried from a drugstore (I have tried 5). It's coverage can be compared to a foundation because it literally gives you medium coverage and helps conceal flaws/pigmentation. It's very moisturizing without leaving a greasy residue or shine on your face. I have used this alone and under my foundation and it works well both ways. I use the shade Light/Medium and it matches perfectly and blends out smoothly. You definitely wouldn't wear this for full coverage but just for an every day "non" makeup face this is perfect!

Revlon Colorstay Whipped ($10.97) - This is one of my favorite drug store gems! The foundation is lightweight but provides medium to full coverage. It is supposed to give you 24 hour coverage and I would have to agree that it lasts all day. I do not have a problem with this oxidizing or sweating off of my face during the summer. I use the shade 220 - Nude and I use this during the Spring and Summer only. I have very dry skin and I find that this is too drying for me during the Fall/Winter months so I have to switch foundations. However, I love this foundation and think it's great for normal to dry skin types. The only downfall with this product is the packaging because it's too bulky and hard to store.

Maybelline Dream Smooth Mousse ($7.97) - I must admit that I am not normally a fan of Maybelline foundations but this one blew me away. The formula is wonderful for those of you that suffer from dry, dull skin. This provides a medium to full coverage and keeps my skin feeling hydrated throughout the day. This has been a lifesaver for me during these cold months because I've really suffered from dry skin. I wear the shade 200 - Creamy Natural. When you open the package don't let the foundation in the compact scare you because it does look like a pot of grease but it doesn't appear that way on your skin.

L'Oreal Revitalift Miracle Blur Instant Skin Smoother ($19.99) - This is something that you are going either love or hate. And I have had an ongoing love/hate relationship with it myself....BUT...it does work great so I wanted to include it because I have worn this a ton. I can only describe this as a type of primer but it's not really a primer because it's used to blur your imperfections on your face. This weird cream basically blurs the look of fine lines, wrinkles and pores. Amazingly, it works. When I wear this I can tell a difference and it does help minimize the appearance of my pores. I believe the reason I have this love/hate thing going on with it is due to the consistency of the formula. It's a thick paste that you have to blend into your face and it is somewhat tacky to the touch and I don't care for it. However, they do have a "Oil Free" version now that is a gel so I may try that next because I think I will like that much better.

e.l.f. High Definition Powder in Sheer ($6.00) - I am not a huge facial powder person because I do have dry skin but this is an exception. This is a great white translucent powder that helps soften the appearance of your fine lines and wrinkles. This is a "must" in the world of photography because it does help produce an airbrushed, soft finish. This is said to be a dupe for the HD powder by Makeup For Ever which is pretty pricey.

MAC Definitely Defined Extra Dimension Skinfinish ($32.99) - This is a really nice highlighter that I enjoy using during the summer when I have some sun on my skin. I have found that when I am pale I don't enjoy wearing this as much as my Fergie highlighter. This has a nice sheen that doesn't have any glitter or flecks light some highlighters. It can be a bit bold so a little really does go a long way so you can justify the price because you will hold on to this compact for a while. It does have two shades but I just swirl the two together to get a nice shade of pearly light pink. My favorite areas to use this is on my cheekbones, bridge of my nose and cupids bow. This also can be used to highlight your browbone and a nice shade of eyeshadow. Very versatile product in my opinion.

Wet n Wild Fergie Centerstage Collection "To Reflect" Shimmer Palette in Rose Champagne Glow ($5.99) - Wow. Wow. Wow. This is the most stunning highlighter that I have ever used. It floors me that this is actual made by Wet n Wild because the quality is outstanding. It's the perfect highlighter because it's not too shimmery or overpowering like the MAC can be. It provides just the right amount of highlight that looks so natural and pretty. I honestly would choose this over the MAC when it comes to repurchasing one or the other. It's finely milled, highly pigmented and the staying power is phenomenal....a must in your collection!

Physicians Formula Bronze Booster Glow-Boosting Sun Stones in Light to Medium ($12.99) - Bronzers are always an iffy thing to purchase because many of them can leave you looking like a clown. I actually *hate* picking out bronzers because it's difficult to choose the right one. Luckily, you don't have that problem with the Physicians Formula Sun Stones because these are the perfect shade that provides just the right amount of sun kissed color without leaving you muddy or orange. These stones don't pack on color like a pressed powder bronzer so this is best to just use around your face for a hint of color NOT for contouring. I also like this bronzer because you don't have a ton of gold sparkle all over your face after application.

Physicians Formula Bronze Booster Airbrushing Bronzing Veil Deluxe Edition in Light to Medium ($15.99) - This by far is my favorite out of the 2 bronzers I own by PF. This is the perfect color for contouring fair skin. So many bronzers are too dark and muddy on light skin and this is the perfect shade of brown. This is buildable and blends out easily with your kabuki brush. I also love the fact that there is minimal shimmer in this bronzer too. This will definitely be a bronzer that I will repurchase once I have finished this compact. The picture makes the brown look very dark but I promise you it's not -- it's the most perfect shade of "sun".

Milani Baked Blush in Luminoso ($6.99) - Talk about a "Holy Grail" item!!! This is beyond the most FABULOUS color on the planet earth. I adore this shade by Milani and I can guarantee you that you will too. It would look amazing on any shade of skin because it's the perfect mixture of coral and pink. It is a pretty Mosaic of pinks, corals and gold shimmer but once applied it gives you the prettiest glow. It's highly pigmented, blends easily, buildable and lasts all day. It's the perfect blush. It is also said to be a dupe for Nars's "Orgasm". You need this in your life and you can thank me later! Seriously, buy this because you won't regret it.

Wet n Wild Color Icon Blusher in Pearlescent Pink ($2.99) - Once again, WnW has amazed me. This blush is so similar to the Milani shade "Luminoso" but is a tad pinker. It's more pigmented than Milani's and the staying power is insane. I also think this shade would be perfect for any skin tone because it's just so natural and pretty. I did tend to wear this shade more in the Spring and Summer because it was a bit darker than the Luminoso but I loved it just as much as the Milani. The crazy thing is the price of this blush because the quality ranks right up there with higher end blushes!

Stila Eyeshadow in Kitten ($18.00) - Another "Holy Grail" item in my collection that I use every single time I apply makeup to my face. I kid you not....every. single. time. If there were a "perfect shade" this would be it for me. I use this as an all over color because it's such a beautiful champagne color. It is the right amount of sheen without being to blingy. I even like to pack on a little more color at my brow bone and inner corners of my eyes to use as a highlighter because it does help brighten everything up. This is HIGHLY pigmented and I never have a problem with it creasing on my lids. It lasts all day long even without using a primer. I have had my pod a year and I still have at least 6-8 months of use out of it. Run to your local Sephora or Ulta and pick this up because I don't think you will regret it.

Maybelline "Bad to the Bronze" 24 Hour Color Tattoo by Eye Studio ($5.99) - These cream shadows made their debut in the drugstores this past year so naturally I had to try them. I have 5 shades in this line and the "Bad to the Bronze" was my most used this year. This is a very creamy shade that stays on your lid until you use some type of remover to take it off. I like to use this as a base color too when I am using neutral shades because it does help those colors pop. This has a lot of sheen to it so don't come near this shade if you are a matte only shadow user.

"Silent Treatment" trio by Wet n Wild ($2.99) - Love, Love, Love this trio from WnW!! Their shadows are so buttery, smooth and blendable. I own almost every trio they offer and this was the one I used the most out of all of them. It's the perfect combination of colors and I have even used them with other shadows. These are highly pigmented and these don't have a problem with creasing. I have found they do last longer with a primer than without. The only downfall about the WnW shadows is the packaging -- it's cheap but other than that you really can't complain because the quality of the product is outstanding.

"Comfort Zone" Pallet by Wet n Wild ($4.99) - This is a great natural palette that would be perfect for those who have brown, green or hazel eyes. The color pay off with these shades is unbelievable and rank up there with high end shadows such as Urban Decay (I'm not kidding). This palette does not have any matte shades; all 8 shades have sheen or shimmer. I like this palette because it's very versatile and you can make a day and night look using just this palette. The color combinations you can use are endless because they all compliment one another and you have the 8 shades to play with. Once again, the only con on this product is the cheap packaging. Be prepared to have a dusty black palette within a couple of uses.

L'Oreal 24 Hr. infalliable Eye Shadow in "Amber Rush" ($ 6.97) - Another color that I think everyone should own because it's so beautiful. I have raved about this shadow since the day I purchased it because it's gorgeous and the pigmentation is unbelievable. It's a pretty copper, rose gold shade that blends easily on your lid but stays put until you take it off. I have several shades from this line and they are all great but this was the one I used the most last year. I reached for this shade at least 2-3 times a week because I fell in love with it. This is also another shade that is high in sheen; no matte here!

Fergie Take On The Day Eyeshadow Primer "For my Primas" by WnW ($4.99) - This was the only eye shadow primer that I used this past year and that was for a reason....it was that freaking good. I could tell a major difference in my shadows when I used this because the colors were more vibrant and lasted longer on my lid. I did find that you could use too much of this which could lead to "cakiness" so a tiny dab is all you need. I have used the Urban Decay Eye Primer Potion and I feel that the Fergie does a better job for the fraction of the cost. According to their site there are 2 shades of this but the only one I have seen in stores is the nude color that dries clear. That is the one that I use daily.

Pixie Correction Concentrate in "Brightening Peach" ($12.00) - Holy Cow! This little pod of peach goodness is a lifesaver for my tired eyes. I have dark circles that are inherited and I have never been able to cover them fully until I found this at Target. If you suffer from dark circles you need to find a peach/salmon color to help mask them. This helps brighten my under eye area without caking up or creasing underneath my eyes. I have fine lines around and underneath my eyes and this does not settle in them like most concealers do. This is a very tiny pod so you can really talk yourself out of buying it for the money BUT it does last a very long time and a little goes a long way so just go for it :)

Maybelline Instant Age Rewind Brightner ($7.99) - This nifty little pen is used as a treatment for dark circles but is great as a highlighter! The sponge tip makes for easy application and the nice pink shade compliments and brightens wherever applied. I have used this over my concealer without any issues but I don't feel it covers as well alone. However, using this strictly as a highlighter this is awesome! This product claims to "erase" your dark circles and I never saw them diminished but I have enjoyed using this product and will continue to repurchase it. I will tell you I have bought the concealer in this line and I prefer the brightener. The only con with this is that it seems to be used up fairly quickly.

Urban Decay "All Nighter" Makeup Setting Spray ($29.00) - I have tried to avoid the whole makeup setting spray thing but I broke down and purchased a trial version of this at Sephora a few months ago and have used it every day since. I am addicted to the stuff. I can tell a big difference when I use this because my makeup does not move -- it looks fresh all day long. I have also used this when I feel like my face needs a "pick me up"....you know, those afternoons when your face looks dull and tired. I honestly thought this was a gimmick until I personally used it and now I know otherwise. I can't wait to see how well it works this summer when it gets hotter than hell here! I'll keep you posted.

Instead of putting up all my lipsticks individually I am just going to mention them. If you are looking for a high gloss lip plumping formula try the Lip Inflation Xtreme by Sally Hanson. I use the sheer gloss as well as the shade "Sheer Bare" when I am wanting the effect of a fuller lip. This past spring my favorite color of coral was in the Color Whispers line by Maybelline called "I Crave Coral". It's almost like a sheen instead of a lipstick because it's not highly pigmented but does provide a nice pop of color to your lips. I feel like the perfect nude shade comes from Milani and it's called "Dulce Caramelo". It's ultra hydrating, pigmented with a bit of gold flecks and it smells great. I wear a nude lip at least 3-4 times a week and the Milani is the one I reach for the most. I have raved and raved about "Red Rival' from the Maybelline ColorSensational line the past few months and it's worth the hype. It's a beautiful red shade that doesn't run or feather nor does it turn pink after applying it. It's a great true red shade that should be a staple in your lipstick collection.

Finding the perfect mascara was a challenge for me up until 2013 and I discovered THREE from L'Oreal that I can not live without. All three are perfect and don't irritate my super sensitive eyes which is a huge relief! They all do something a little different but all are worth the praise because they are outstanding. The "Voluminous False Lashes" has to be my favorite out of the three and the one I use the most. It's skinny wand helps accentuate all of your lashes by separating them therefor making them look long and full. The other mascara that is newer on the market is the "Lash Out Butterfly" mascara and it lives up to it's name because the angled brush helps feather out your lashes making them appear wispy. If you want a very thick lash effect you should try the "Voluminous Million Lashes" because the thick brush helps apply a ton of product on your lashes making them full and thick. I do buy the waterproof formulas and you MUST by some type of eye makeup remover if you want to get this mascara off because once it's on it does not move -- even during a massive crying spell.

Josie Maran 100% Pure Argan Oil ($52.00) - I am currently using the travel size bottle of this (.5 fl oz for $14) and I am amazed by this product. I have seen countless videos on YouTube promoting this oil and I could never bring myself to purchase it because of the steep price. While in Sephora I noticed they do offer a travel size bottle so I picked it up and I am so glad I did. This oil is so moisturizing and has done wonders for my super dry face this winter. I apply it at night before bed because it is very greasy and by the morning it has absorbed completely leaving my face glowing and feeling incredibly nourished. Many reviews suggest using this if you do suffer from oily skin (say what?!?!) because it helps balance out the natural oils in your face leading to fewer break outs. This will be a "HG" item for me.

e.l.f. Studio Line Brushes ($3.00 and up) - I have been floored at the quality of the studio line brushes because they are amazing. I wash mine often and they are durable and I never experience bristle fall out like you typically do with cheaper brushes. These are high quality and can be compared to higher end brushes. Save yourself some money and try these because you will be happy. Check for deals on their website because they offer 50% off from time to time and you can get the entire set for less than $20 which is a steal.

Equate Oil-free Eye Makeup Remover ($3.97) - This is the Walmart version of the Neutrogena remover and I have compared the ingredients and it's the same. I like this remover because it doesn't burn my eyes and it removes all of my waterproof makeup without having to rub my lids raw. Your skin is very delicate around your eyes so tugging to remove your makeup is only going to break down the elasticity of the skin which will make fine lines and wrinkles appear faster. This says it's oil free but it does leave somewhat of an oily residue behind but I just use my makeup cleansing towelettes afterwards and it's easily removed. I prefer this Equate version over the one they have for the L'Oreal version that I used to swear by. I think it works a lot better!

Equate Makeup Remover Cleaning Towelettes ($3.48) - These towelettes are the Walmart version of the Neutrogena brand and I have enjoyed using them. I have a hard time finding towelettes that don't sting my face and eyes, smell good and don't dry out my skin. I feel like these towelettes are the best that I have found so far. They remove everything but waterproof formulas so I am pretty happy with them. I have never used the Neutrogena towelettes so I don't know if they are a great comparison but I do enjoy using them.

Viva la Juicy Perfume ($70.00 for 1.7 fl oz) - This has been my favorite scent for the past 3 years and even though I have purchased other perfumes I keep going back to this one. It's a light floral scent that lingers on your skin all day long. I often get asked what scent I am wearing when I have this on so I guess it appeals to others. I think this would be a perfect gift for a girlfriend or daughter because it's very "girly". The notes of this scent are Wild Berries, Mandarins, Honeysuckle, Gardenia, Jasmine, Amber, Caramel, Vanilla, Sandalwood, Praline. 

Freeman Avocado & Oatmeal Clay Mask ($4.19) - I have been using this mask 1-2 times a week for over a year. I really enjoy this clay mask because it purges my pores without drying my skin out. After using this my face is completely clean and feels really good. When applying this be sure to only put a thin layer on because if not it will take forever for it to dry. I would also use an old wash cloth when taking the mask off because I have noticed it can stain them easily. I think this would be the perfect mask for someone that has sensitive or inflammed/irritated skin because the oatmeal is very soothing on your face. 

In my video I mentioned my favorite products from Organix. I have been using the Coconut Milk Shampoo and Conditioner on my hair for the past year. I love the shampoo because the scent lingers long after you have washed it (like 3 days) and my hair is always soft and never weighed down. I like to use the hydrating Moroccan Argan Oil body wash in the shower and bath because it smells great and doesn't leave a film on my skin after washing it off.The scent also lingers and your body feels well hydrated after you get out of the shower. All three products are sulfate free. I am also using other items from the Organix line but I am including those in an upcoming video/blog post. 

Dove Invigorating Dry Shampoo ($3.49) - I have tried several drugstore dry shampoo's this year and I keep coming back to this one. I love the scent because it's a nice fresh, clean scent. It doesn't leave a white powdery residue on my brunette hair when I use it. It's lightweight so it doesn't weigh your hair down and it instantly adds volume. When I use this you can't tell that I have been a day or two without a washing -- it works great! I use this right after washing my hair to add volume and texture if I am styling it to go out. This is actually one of the cheaper dry shampoo's and it works better than the pricier ones. This is a must if you suffer from oily hair or if you are active and don't have time to wash your hair after dance or the gym.
Garnier Fructis Extreme Control Anti-Humidity Hairspray ($4.19) - I am typically not a hairspray person because they always make my hair feel crunchy and gross. I picked this can up almost a year ago because the 'Anti-Humidity" part caught me eye since it is so miserably hot and sticky here. I have been pleasantly surprised with this hairspray because it doesn't make my hair sticky, crunchy or dried out. It's a nice scent that is lightweight but holds my style when I need it to. 

I believe that this wraps up all of my favorite beauty products for the year 2013! I know this blog post was extremely long so thanks for reading it! Be sure to Check out my YouTube video here. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and spread the word to your friends and family. I will be having a GIVEAWAY in the near future (possibly next week) so please stay tuned for that! Let me know if you want to see specific videos and/or blog posts in the future. I should also have another "Must or Bust" entry up by the end of next week. Until my next post, take care!! 


January 8, 2014

A Must or a bust: L'oreal Youth Code BB Cream Illuminator

I am starting a new post on my Blog and YouTube channel called "A Must or A Bust"; this will highlight one beauty product and I will give my review on whether I think it's a "must" or a "bust"! I am really excited about these types of posts because I find them very helpful when I am considering buying a new product. I am constantly reading reviews or watching YouTube videos on the latest and greatest trends and they have really helped me, in most cases, make a wise purchase.

Today I wanted to talk about a BB cream because they are everywhere these days and every time you turn around a new company has added one to the market. A BB cream, also known as a Beauty Balm or Blemish Balm is supposed to be an all in one product. It's a tinted moisturizer that nourishes, perfects, corrects and evens out your skin tone. Some have anti-aging properties, SPF,  illuminators and soothing/healing ingredients. It starts to get overwhelming when you are trying to find the "perfect" BB cream because everyone makes them now and they all claim to do wonders and each one is different. I honestly think I spent an hour the first time I picked out one because I was so indecisive. I have tried several over the past few weeks and I have been pretty pleased!

I am going to discuss the L'Oreal Youth Code BB Cream Illuminator today because it's the one that has threw me for a loop. This BB cream unlike the "basic" BB creams has an illuminator in it that is supposed to give you the appearance of "perfect skin". The packaging claims to:

  • Even Skin Tone with a hint of color
  • Illuminates
  • Perfects Texture
  • 24-Hour Moisture
  • Helps protect against future damage

When I saw this at CVS I was pretty intrigued since it had the illuminator because I am a sucker for highlighters and a dewy finish. I have very dry skin so anything that helps out with moisture and dullness I am game for. I am also a huge fan of L'Oreal products so I even with the steep drugstore price tag ($17.99) I was willing to try it out. I decided to choose the Light shade because I am very pale and I figured the medium would be too dark. I am glad I did because even the light was just a tad too dark for me but was still wearable. This does not have a "cream" texture as it's more runny like a lotion. It blends well and feels good on your skin; it left my skin feeling moisturized. I did not like the smell because it almost smells like medicine and I don't like that in my beauty products - I prefer clean or floral scents. As far as the illuminating factor I can honestly say it was OVERKILL. It left my face looking greasy and too shiny. I actually had to use a powder to matte it out because it was just too much for me and that's shocking considering I like that type of finish.

As far as coverage I do not think it's as good as the other BB creams I have tried. I have areas of pigmentation and those were still visible using this cream. As far as evening out my skin tone I don't think it did that because it actually defined my dark under eye circles. They were noticeably darker when I used this cream and I am not sure how that even happens. As I mentioned above I think the shades tend to run on the darker side because the light was almost a medium shade in my opinion. I also tried using this under my normal foundation to provide a fuller coverage and that was okay. It all blended well and you could still see the glow that the illuminator provides.

All in all I was pretty disappointed with this BB cream especially considered the price. I have tried 2 other BB creams that were cheaper and worked so much better than this one. So, for me, this was a total.......BUST.

If you have tried this product let me know because I would love to hear what you thought about it. I hope that this has been helpful and I look forward to featuring another product soon! Please be sure to check out my YouTube channel for the coordinating vlog. Have a great week!

January 3, 2014

The Neverending School Break.

First and foremost; I love my kids! I absolutely adore every ounce of their being.....BUT....this Momma needs this Christmas break to cease. I think this has seriously been the longest 2 week break in the history of school breaks. I know so many of my friends who are mothers get so sad when school breaks are over because they enjoy every single second of it. I respect that and sometimes wish that I were more like them but let's face it, I'm not. I enjoy little breaks (like 3 day breaks) but around day 5 it's starting to wear on my every nerve and I start to get a little crazy. I feel claustrophobic and my anxiety is off the chain. I am snippy, miserable and just want to go hide somewhere until the break is over. I also need earplugs to muffle the sound of my children yelling at one another.

I think part of the problem is that my kids can not entertain themselves. Growing up as an only child I was forced to play alone in my room and I was fine with that. I was creative, imaginative and I didn't mind being alone. I didn't have the latest game systems, tablet, laptop, iPhone or television with endless channels of movies (and yes, sadly, my kids have all of that) -- I had a room full of toys and my brain, that's it.

Brody can't stay focused on anything for long and gets bored easily. He has a room full of toys and refuses to play with them. He would rather be right under my feet every single second of every single day. It's insane. I beg him to go play in his room and he just won't do it. I really don't know what to do about. Like I have stated in an earlier blog post I have tried everything and none of it works. School really is the best environment for him because he does so well when it's in session.

Victoria has gotten better since she has her license because she can actually leave the house but she still has her moments of boredom. She was also just as bad as Brody when she was younger, always complaining of being bored even though she had technology and a ton of toys at her disposal. She spends her break sleeping in and staying up late watching television in our bonus room. She has very little patience for Brody so she ends up getting annoyed with him fairly quickly. When her patience wears out it's like World War 3 has broken out in my house because the two can't get along. It's like a crazy episode of Jerry Springer has broken out in my living room. It's complete and utter chaos.

I know that my friends and family who are in the school system need their well deserved breaks. I mean, they do spend more time with our kids than we do during the day. It always makes me appreciate Brody's and Victoria's teachers more when the holiday break comes to an end because I don't see how they do it 5 days a week for weeks at a time. I would go nuts. I also question myself on why I ever wanted to be a teacher. What was I thinking???

Thank God school starts on Monday -- I can't wait. Bring on the final weekend of school break!!!!

January 2, 2014

Goodbye 2013....Hello 2014

There is always something exciting about a "New Year" because it's a time to start a fresh beginning and closing the last chapter on the book of the prior year. I used to get wrapped up in making a long list of resolutions but found myself getting upset when I broke those resolutions. It was actually a very unhealthy process because I would feel guilty which lead me to be depressed because I failed. Human beings don't like to fail at anything...even silly New Year's resolutions. I actually quit making resolutions several years ago but decided this year that I would make "goals" instead. In my mind this is a healthier approach and may be more attainable than "resolutions". Call me crazy but I am rolling with it! These are my "goals" for 2014; things I want to change, accomplish or improve on.

1. Add romance back to my marriage. My husband and I love each other dearly but we have also lost some of the "romance" factor in our relationship. We've been so wrapped up in Brody's illness, Victoria's school life with band and sports, everyday life and just normal stress that we have forgotten to really focus on us and why we're together in the first place. We try to do date nights but even then it's just going through the motions. I want to add back the butterflies and excitement to those date nights. I know that things will never be like they were before life got insanely busy but we can do better. We need to do better. Once the kids grow up and move out it's just going to be us and I don't want to be that old couple that has nothing to say to one another because they've grown into two different people. It's easy to do and that scares me. I want to still be excited when he gets home from work, I want to still look at him and think about how lucky I am he's mine. I don't want us to take each other for granted, I don't want us to just go through the motions. Marriage isn't for the weak and you do have to keep working at it or you lose the spark -- once it's gone it is hard to get back so it's best to not let it burn out in the first place.

2. Get back to Volunteering. I have missed volunteering at the Alzheimer's center and want to get back to that sooner than later. It was something that made me feel good about myself and gave me an outlet from my routine.

3. Visit my parents more often. I really miss my parents and it's harder for them to visit me than it is for me to go to North Carolina. Right now I only see them every 3-4 months but I would like to see them every 2 months. That's only 6 times a year when you think about it's not nearly enough. They are getting older and I need to do better about visiting them.

4. Continue doing my Makeup Vlog on YouTube. I have *really* enjoyed the few videos I have uploaded on YouTube. I love makeup and I enjoy spreading my knowledge of the products that I have tried. When I was younger I worked behind a makeup counter and I loved that industry. I was good at what I did and my love for makeup and beauty products have never faded. Will I be the next YouTube Guru sensation? No. However, I feel like I can help friends and loved ones make good choices with their hard earned money regarding makeup purchases :)

5. Spend more time in my craft room. My husband helped assemble a beautiful craft room for me in my home. It's full of nifty gadgets, papers, ribbons, stamps, glitter, glue....I have a tiny Hobby Lobby in my home. I am very creative and crafty; it's therapeutic to me so I need to get back in that room and dust the cobwebs off of it.

6. Take more pictures. I have natural talent with my Canon camera and I love taking pictures but something happened and I just quit spending time behind the camera. I don't know if it was because I had been going through severe depression and anxiety. It was a great hobby and I was good at it. I want my children to have thousands of photographs to look back on when they are older and I was doing a great job until 2.5 years ago so I need to do better.

7. Be a better housekeeper.  I used to be a clean freak up until the past 3 years. My house isn't nasty per say but it's cluttered and stuff is always laying around. I think once Brody was old enough to just keep trashing the place I eventually gave up. I grew tired of cleaning up every night just for him to destroy it the next day. It was frustrating. I know I am a SAHM and I guess some call that a "duty" but it is a team effort and when your team just gives up you don't want to try anymore either. My husband vacuums and mops but honestly he is SOOOOO good at it and I completely suck at it. I just move the dirt around the floor -- it's crazy but it's the truth. I also think moving into bigger houses over the years it has just become overwhelming. We went from a 900 sqft house to a 2300 sqft house to a 3,000+ sqft house. It's a lot to keep up with and I get overwhelmed easily.

8. Quit sweating the small stuff. I think I have been saying this for years and it never happens but I am still going to try to do better. I really do try not to let the little things in life annoy me but I can't help it. I think I was born that way and maybe it's a character flaw that will never change. I know there are so much bigger and more impending things to worry about instead of dirty dishes in the sink but I can't help it.

9. Make more memories with my kids. I think I am actually pretty good with this but I want to add more to the mix. I try to keep up with our holiday traditions so they will have memories to hold on to and carry on with their own families. I do want to make special memories like more family vacations, family pictures, and family play dates. We were really good at this a while back. We were always scoping out the local festivals, going to zoo's, geo-caching, little trips here and there. We haven't done any of that in a long time but I must say we have narrowed down the dates for a trip to Disney in May so that will be a HUGE memory making event for our family.

10. Try new recipes and throw out the old ones. I love cooking for my family and friends. I feel wonderful in my kitchen whipping up a meal for my family but I've got stuck in cooking the same old stuff. I had done great for several months by adding new recipes to the mix but I have gotten lazy again. I need to venture out some and try new things to keep our meals interesting. I know when my husband stops thanking me after he's done eating that it's time for a change; he is bored with it. This is one role of a SAHM that I take seriously.

11. Take better care of myself. This is something I struggle with every single year. I start off really good in January and by the summer I am losing weight. I know I should exercise but I don't. I know some people really enjoy it but I don't. I like random walks here and there but to do it daily is just not in my DNA. I know that's a very unhealthy habit so you don't have to give me a lecture on it. However, I do know that 85 pounds is not healthy for a 35 year old woman. I need to do better about eating 3 meals a day. I would actually be happy with 2 meals a day at this point. Call it an eating disorder, or whatever but I don't have a desire of food like most. I can take or leave food. I will never turn down a good steak and loaded baked potato but most foods just don't appeal to me.

12. Keep up with my blog. I have been doing better about this lately but I want it to continue. Blogging is like therapy to me. When I blog I can put my thoughts and feelings onto paper and it's an outlet. I always have a lot to say and this is the perfect way for me to do it. Do some people think I share to much? Yes. Do I care? No. Blogging is my right and I can discuss anything I want to. It's a personal thing and if you don't like what I have to say then quit reading it. I do feel so much more healthy mentally when I blog so I want to continue doing so.

13. Attend Church regularly. We have been very bad about this the past year; some of it was our fault and other times Brody's illness made it impossible. I feel better when I go to church but I also find it unhealthy when it feels like a chore. It shouldn't feel like that -- ever. I think religion is such a personal and unique thing and I guess I am still finding myself as far as religion is concerned. I know this will ruffle some feathers but I have a problem when people judge me on whether or not I attend the Sunday service or not. My relationship with God is my OWN -- not yours. It doesn't make me less of a person because I don't attend Church every single Sunday. I pray, I confide in Him and I can do better as far as Church is concerned but it's the place of anyone to disregard me as a human being based on my attendance at Church.

I think I will stop with those because that is a lot to work on! I am sure I could come up with a ton more if I thought about it but those were the ones I had on my mind recently. I hope that I can achieve some if not all these goals in 2014 but I am not going to beat myself up if I don't. If you have made any goals or resolutions I hope that you are able to keep to them or achieve them :)