Thursday, December 31, 2015

Final 2015 Reflections

Image result for coffee and books
Pic from Joes Café
It's the last day of the year. I can't help but think about the past and the future as I sit here drinking a cup of coffee while my son sits beside me playing on his little tablet.

So much has changed in a year. Last year at this time I was still recovering from post-partum depression, my son was still crawling around on the floor, and I was still adjusting to it all. The whole becoming a mom thing is a huge adventure, and it has taken me quite some time to develop a new routine.

2015 was full of recovery, joy, and redeveloping purpose. I took a step forward and created this blog to assist me with reconnecting to my creative side. I had blogged before and enjoyed it immensely, but factors in life kinda stole that joy away. Depression is a terrible thing that just sucks the fun out of everything you love to do.

I had so much fun creating this new blog. I wanted to take things in a new direction. While I am not a 'professional blogger' and I really have no intention of becoming one, I am having so much fun writing again and trying to build a social following. It has truly become a fulfilling hobby.

I have also decided to start writing novels again. I don't care if I never finish one or if they all just sit unpublished on a flash drive. I just want to write.

Connecting with my family this past year has also been huge. My son is turning into a little boy with a sweet disposition and watching him grow enthralls me. My husband has also been very supportive of me and getting me back on track.

Needless to say, I am very satisfied with my progress during 2015. I have a lot to be thankful for. I have vey little doubt that 2016 will be just as thrilling. I cannot wait for the new year to begin!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Hello 2016!

It's that time of year. 2015 is ending and 2016 is right around the corner! Just like everyone else, I view the new year as a great opportunity to make resolutions, something that will make your life better. 

In years past I have always made the cliche resolution of either losing weight or eating better, and I always disappoint myself, because no matter how hard I try I never seem to lose weight. However, I have recently come to terms with my curvy body and have basically said 'screw it'. I want to continue to eat healthy, but losing weight is no longer a priority of mine. 

Now, I'll admit, I am notorious for setting goals and not keeping them. Remember my Advent goals? One of them was to make sure I go to confession. Yeah, totally didn't make it. I don't want to make excuses, but I can only go to confession on Saturday afternoon. I either had something going on during every Saturday during Advent, or I was sick. Ugh. Epic fail. 

So, what are my goals for 2016? Are they attainable? I certainly hope so. 

1) Reach 100 Facebook Likes! (I'm currently at 71, so I think I can reach 100 by the end of the year!)

2) Budget my money! (I took Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University class at my church and I want to apply the concepts more to my life. I got a cute Budget Planner from May Designs and I love it so far!)

3) Start a novel! (I plan on participating in NaNoWriMo this November. I have a story line developing in my mind as we speak and I want to put it to paper!)

4) Organize my room at a time! (This one is very important to me. However, I hate to clean and I have a hard time staying on track with things like this. Do you have suggestions on how I can stay on track?)

5) Pay more attention to my husband! (I love my husband very much! However, I work days and he works most evenings. We don't get to spend much time together and we have even less time on our hands now that we have a toddler on the loose!) 

6) Finally, I want to pray more! (Any of you following my blog know I have a problem remembering to pray and keep God at the center of my life. This is something I need to keep working on.)

Me trying to plan 2016!

I think having resolutions and goals in life are great. It gives us all something to strive for. What are you going to strive for in 2016?

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Merry Christmas from the Garlands!

Christmas in the Garland household was certainly interesting.

We had planned to have a few friends and some family stop by to celebrate, but we all caught a cold/flu bug that we are still recovering from. So, with a rather heavy heart, we decided to tell everyone not to come by and we would celebrate the holiday alone as a family.

It was kind of a good thing that we decided to have a quiet day. This was Richard's second Christmas and it doesn't seem that he quite understands the concept of the holiday.

He is not yet two years old, and is a child of routine. If it steps out of his normal routine, he does tend to get a little cranky. 

Christmas is a holy day of obligation for Catholics. Most Catholics go to Mass on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas day, and since many people only go to Mass on Christmas and Easter, needless to say the church was more crowded than normal...really, like a ton more people than usual. 

Richard was not used to having so many people in the church and he started to get a little cranky towards the end of Mass, so we had to 'Pull a Judas' as we say and leave after communion. 

He was a sweet little angel at dinner afterward, thankfully. I was a little worried he would act out because it was past his bedtime, but he was very well behaved at the restaurant we went to. 

Now, Christmas morning was very interesting. Richard and I woke up at our normal time, which is around 7, but we let daddy sleep in because daddy was in the Knight of Columbus color guard for Midnight Mass, so he didn't get home until about 2:30am. We didn't even begin to open presents until about 10am. 

When we tried to open gifts, Richard showed little interest in all the colorful boxes and paper. In fact, when we did get a few toys open, he started to fuss when they wouldn't do what he wanted him to do. So, we decided to take a break from opening gifts and take a little nap. 

The nap certainly helped and he woke up in a great mood. We were able to get a few more gifts open and he loved playing with the Micky Mouse figurines he received from his great-grandparents and god-parents. However, we didn't open all of his gifts because he was already getting overwhelmed with all of the stuff he was receiving.

When most people think of Christmas Day, they imaging kids rushing to the tree to rip open all of the gifts in an excited frenzy. Nope, not us. Richard, it seems, is not big on surprises. But, we have to remember that he is not even two years old yet,and probably doesn't understand everything quite yet. 

I am sure that next year he will show more of a Christmas Spirit. 

It was an awesome Christmas. Just a quiet day spending time with the family. No guests, but a nice dinner. It was wonderful not having to worry about impressing anyone this year. 

Has anyone else had a young child who didn't show interest in presents? Do you have any tips on instilling a Christmas Spirit, or do you think it is something children just grow into? I would love to hear your tips and suggestions!

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2015

May Designs

"Because life it too short for ugly notebooks." I received this cute little quote in an e-mail from May Designs and it has stuck with me ever since. 

As a writer, I am a sucker for beautiful notebooks and journals. I probably have way too many too count. Some of them have been used and some of them have not been touched, they are simply there for decoration. 

I came across May Designs last year and was intrigued by the designs. I have since ordered about 10 note books that I use regularly. I love these little notebooks because they are small enough to stuff away in the Awesome Mom Bag and they are also eco-friendly! They're made out of canvas and have a sewn binding. 

The website is awesome because it allows you to see your full design before placing it in the cart, so you know what you're getting. Also, you have a number of different insides to chose from. You can get basic lines, blank pages or, you can make your design into a planner or a budgeting guide! 

The price for the notebooks are typically $20, and all depending on the insides you choose, it may tack on an additional $3 or $5. However, she has a lot of great sales, so I always stock up when I see she has a sale running! 

They are great as gifts for a friend or for yourself! There are also beautiful options of stationary, calendars, and photo books. They are certainly unique and will make the inner dork drool! I certainly do!  

Monday, December 14, 2015

My New Planner

I am trying to get myself into gear for the New Year. I have already set out a  number of New Years resolutions, which I will discuss later. One of my resolutions is to be more organized, especially now that I am maintaining an active blog. I want to make sure that I keep track of all of my goals and ideas as well as my family's schedule. 

I looked at a number of planners and I wanted to make sure that the planner not only allowed me to maintain a schedule, but also gave me room to keep notes and plan my blog posts accordingly. I was also hoping to combine the number of notebooks that I carried around with me into one. 

I came across this beauty online. It is called a Color Crush Planner by Webster Pages. The reason I like it is because it has a number of tabs that allow you to keep notes, lists, track goals, plan ahead, and get inspired. It is also very beautiful. I was super excited when I received it in the mail. I couldn't wait to get started!

There are people out there who get all kinds of crazy decorating their planner, it's almost like a sub-culture! 

There are also those who have the planner in every size and color! 

 A  Facebook group dedicated to those who love their Color Crush Planner, and I tell you, those ladies spend a lot of time decorating their planner. Hey, whatever keeps them inspired!

I have no intention of blinging out my planner. I just thought it was beautiful and practical. 

You can't purchase the planner directly from Webster Pages. You actually have to get it from a retailer. I got mine on Etsy from My Rubber Stamp.  The total was $42, and that included shipping. 

My husband once told me that planners are  very personal, and I totally agree. When looking for a planner you need to make sure you get one that fits your needs, whether it's a simple one or one that is a little more involved. Just make sure you weigh all of your options and figure out how much you may want to invest. 

As for me, I am very happy with my planner and 2016 is going to be a beautiful year! 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Damsel in Defense Pepper Spray

My gift to myself!

Are you looking for a way to prepare yourself in case of an attack, an attack or any kind? We all know that we are living in violent times and we all need to prepare ourselves in the off chance that something may happen to us or the people we love.

There are lots of ways to defend yourself. If you are uncomfortable with guns, you can always go with non-lethal methods like stun guns or pepper spray. 

I work at a college and it is a gun free zone, which is understandable. However, things like pepper spray, mace, stun guns, etc...are acceptable to have on campus.

I have a friend who sells products from a company known as Damsel in Defense. They sell things like pepper spray, stun guns, portable alarms, and a whole bunch of other products that you can use to defend yourself or assist you when you find yourself in a precarious situation.

My husband purchased a stun gun for me about two years ago. I go carry it around in my awesome mom bag, but that is made for really close encounters. I also wanted to have some pepper spray that I can carry around with me. I procrastinated getting some, but when I saw that my friend Colleen was having a Christmas sale, I dived right in and said, "I'm interested!"

The pepper spray shown above cost me a total of $8.25, and that included the cost of shipping. It hooks to my key chain so I always have it with me. It looks super cute too!

You can reach out to my friend, Colleen, if you want to learn more about the products that they offer. You can check out her Facebook page here!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Book Review: The Next Always by Nora Roberts

I did it! I achieved one of my December goals and finished reading a book! I am actually in the middle of a couple of books, but I am so proud of myself that I was able to read one from beginning to end in a reasonable amount of time. 

I was in Four Seasons Books last week during my lunch break looking for a work of fiction that I could read to unwind. I didn't want anything heavy, just something I could enjoy with a nice cup of hot chocolate in the evenings as I watched Mickey Mouse with my toddler. (Moms are known for multi-tasking.)

The Next Always by Nora Roberts caught my eye. The reason I was drawn to it is because it takes place in a town called Boonsboro, which is outside of Sharpsburg, Maryland. (In case you're not a history buff, Sharpsburg was where the Battle of Antietam took place.) Boonsboro is about 30 minutes from where I live and 10 minutes from where I work. I was intrigued by a novel that took place in a local town. 

I was not surprised that Nora Roberts wrote a series of three books that take place in Boonsboro, she owns like half of the town and is a very prominent local figure. All of the places she mentions in the book actually exist and most of them, if not all, are owned by her family. 

The book tells the story of a trio of brothers who are rebuilding a dilapidated inn. They want it to be the finest inn in the area and really make it luxurious. In the meantime, one of the brothers, Beckett (cool name!), falls in love with the local bookstore owner, Clare, who is also a widow and a mother of three boys. It describes the complexities of starting a new relationship while also running a business. 

It's not the greatest book that I have ever read. While the characters have some moments of great development, overall they were mostly one dimensional. HOWEVER, I still enjoyed reading this book because I did not want to be heavily invested in character development. I just wanted to read a story. Nora Robert's writing style is great and she keeps you wanting to know what is going to happen next! I also could totally identify with Clare as she wrangled three young boys while trying to run a small business. 

Nora Roberts ingeniously wove actual locations into a book! I used to work at a bookstore and I know that there are some die hard Nora Roberts fans who would love to go to a location that was featured in some of her books. It's a pretty savvy business idea too. The Inn BoonBoro is gorgeous and costs about $300 a night! (Too rich for my blood, but one can dream.) 

You can bunk there for a night and walk across the street to Turn the Page Bookstore, owned by Nora's husband, where she does a book signing once a month. Then walk down the block to Vesta Pizza, also owned by the Roberts family, for a bite to eat! (Her fans probably consider this to be some kind of pilgrimage.)  

This is the first Nora Roberts book that I have read. I enjoyed it enough to continue on with the next book in the trilogy. I'll let you know how that one dishes out. In the meantime, if you're looking for a mindless read, I would recommend The Next Always.

*Note: There are instances of pre-marital sex, but not extremely graphic.*

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Savannah Bee Beeswax Hand & Nail Salve- Review

I was in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, this past weekend celebrating the town’s annual celebration of Olde Tyme Christmas. My husband performs a Christmas concert at Saint Peter’s Church every year. This was the second year that Richard was able to attend. He loved holding my hand and walking into town and pointing to the luminaries that lined the street.

There were two places in particular that I wanted to visit; The Vintage Lady and Tenfold. These two businesses were victims in a fire that destroyed 30% of the businesses in town. Thanks be to God they had insurance and were able to open in new spaces in a relatively short amount of time.

We stopped into the Vintage Lady and took a look around the new store. As always she had a lot of cute stuff, but one thing in particular jumped out at me; Savannah Bee Beeswax Hand and Nail Salve. Richard actually drew my attention to it. He was playing with the little tester tin and as I pulled it away from him I got a whiff of it and fell in love with the comforting minty scent.

For some reason the light smell of spearmint warmed my heart, like a warm cup of tea. The scent was not overwhelming. I put some on my hands and walked out of the store with Richard in tow to check out the other stores. Needless to say, I kept smelling my hands as we walked through Tenfold. That was a sign to me that I needed to purchase the salve!

It is great stuff! It is not too heavy or sticky and really makes your hands feel soft, not to mention that comforting smell! It also works great as a lip balm. This would be a perfect stocking stuffer for anyone, man or woman, who suffers from dry skin or lips.

If you’re in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, and you stop to see Cindy in The Vintage Lady, make sure you get some Savannah Bee Beeswax Hand and Nail Salve!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Pursuing a Passion...Part Time

I love to write. I have always loved to write. Music and writing have been passions of mine since I was in elementary school. They served as emotional outlets to help me stay sane in a very emotional and dramatic world. 

When I was in high school, my best friend and I would spend long hours together creating stories and poems. I immersed myself in all different kinds of genre's, but I loved writing fan-fiction. I even had an account at and had a funny kind of adrenaline rush course through me as I uploaded a new story or received a review. 

I continued writing throughout college and when I was in graduate school I started my first blog which I titled Catholic Woman. Writing about topics on faith that I was very passionate about made me grow in faith and helped build confidence. I also wrote other stories on the side and no one has read them. Not even my husband. They are saved on a flash drive that I keep hidden away.

Naturally, when I got pregnant and had my little ginger blessing (My case you didn't figure that out), I had no inspiration to write. My muse had abandoned me. 

Now, since I have overcome my period of postpartum depression, my desire to write is back full force! I have so many story ideas running through my head and I desire to put them to paper...or computer so to speak. You know what I mean. 

My problem is the fact that I have very little time to write anything more than a blog post. Working full time and having a toddler messing up your house can be a little draining. However, I am determined to somehow get my stories written. 

Anyone who has a passion for creativity knows that it can drive you mad until your vision comes into existence. 

But now I am finally going to to do it. Some way, some how. It will probably take a long time, but working on the project itself is the funnest (is that even a word?) part of all!

I'll keep you all updated on my progress, no matter how slow it may be. 

I would love to hear any ideas that you may have to keep me on track! Writers unite!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

November and December Goals

Pic Credit: Jennifer Grace Creates

I have reached 3 out of 5 goals in November. Not too bad for my first month of actually sitting down and creating goals for the month. I was able to reach 30 'Likes' on my Facebook page (This was the goal that I was most excited about!). I also planned and executed our Thanksgiving menu with no mishaps and I have my Christmas gift list mapped out (That will come in handy this month!). I did not organize my kitchen and of course, prayer seemed to be placed on the back burner. 

Just like it is for most families, December is a very hectic month. However, I want to stay on track and keep setting goals each month. Since things will be busy for us, I want to keep things simple and not set myself up for failure. 

So, my December goals are:

1) 35 'Likes' on my Facebook page. (I'm currently at 33)

2) No last minute gifts. (Since I have my gifts planned out, I am hoping to get everything in time and wrapped all nice and pretty.)

3) Finish reading a book. (Any book!)

4) Organize something. (Anything! A drawer would be helpful!)

5) Pray more!!! (Gotta work on that!)

I have a feeling that this month is going to be very special! Holidays always bring special moments and memories. I can't wait to see what this Christmas brings!

Do you have any goals for this month? I would love to hear them!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Advent Resolutions

The first Sunday of Advent is the mark of a new liturgical year. For the past few years I have made resolutions, similar to New Years resolutions but more spiritual in nature. I have never been successful in keeping my resolutions. 

I think that I give myself too much to strive for and as a result I fail. One year I resolved to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy every day. Things were going well in the beginning, then it kept slipping my mind. 

This year, I'm going to try to keep it a little more simple. I am going to read The Imitation of Christ and I am going to give myself a year to do it. I am also going to make sure I go to confession at least once during Advent. 

I have read parts of the Imitation of Christ and it is not a difficult read, but it is very spiritually fulfilling. I hope that this is a resolution that I can finally stick to! It is also a desire of mine to share with you all any inspirations that this book sparks within me! 

Have you tried making any Advent resolutions? This may be your years to start! 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Got Books?

Libraries are just plain awesome. I remember getting excited as a kid when I got my first library card. It was my magical little key to reading any book that I wanted. The Bookmobile would stop in my town every Thursday evening and my grandmother and I would walk down the block to get a new stash of pages to read. 

Sometimes we would drive to the next town where the big library was and I would walk through the stacks, or watch one of the movies the librarians would show in their little theater. 

Those are some very fond memories for me.

I didn't have much time for leisurely reading while I was in graduate school. But once I earned that lambskin the first thing I did was walk down to my local public library and get a library card. Let me tell you, there is nothing like the smell of a library, the scent of paper and binding glue...ah, strangely comforting!

Well, my obsession with the e-reader kinda put a damper on my trips to the library. However, I recently found out that the library in the town where I work actually has the ability to lend e-books! During my lunch break last week I donned my pretty purple coat and made the trek downtown so that I could take advantage of free e-books!

Granted, the selection of e-books is much smaller that he traditional books, but it's still awesome. 

The cool thing about libraries is the fact that they have so much to offer: books, movies, activities, and it's all for free! (As long as you return the books and movies on time, that is.) They are an undervalued resource in society and I think that the people who seem to appreciate them the most are parents and book dorks...I just happen to be both.

Now, I am actually a member of two libraries, one where I live and one where I work. I cannot wait for my son to get a little bit older so that I can take him to the event that are offered for children. I certainly hope that he will appreciate them as much as I did. 

Finally, I am always looking for good books to read, so please feel free to leave me some suggestions below!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Cute Gift Idea for Toddlers

I love books. They are a big passion of mine. It is my desire to instill the same passion that I have for books into my young son and I am always keeping an eye out for books that may pique his interest.

A friend of mine told me about Lost My Name. You can actually personalize the book to your child. The basic story is of a young boy or girl who loses their bedroom name plaque, and go on a quest to find their name. They reclaim their name by meeting friends along the way and earning each letter one by one.

Photo Credit: Babyworld
I ordered one for my son and intend to give it to him for Christmas. I think that would be a really cute idea for Christmas, Hanukkah, birthdays, whatever! I recommend checking it out! 

*Note-If you click the link above you will receive 15% off of your order*

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Curse of the Bad Sleeper

There it is, that little pink line on the stick you just peed on and in a moment you life is changed forever. Instantly, images of the perfect family life flash through your mind and your heart is filled with joy. You will spend the next nine months planning to ensure that you have that perfect family life. You read every book, browse through Pinterest, join every mommy friendly Facebook page, you even start a blog to tell everyone how you’re going to have that perfect life.

Then, the unthinkable give birth to a bad sleeper.

The curse of motherhood! Yup, it happened to me. My hubby and I were so excited to have a baby and I naturally imagined a life of nothing but happiness. You know, the kind where your child sleeps on command and is perfectly behaved. Needless to say, reality is much different, especially when nighttime is involved.

I could tell we were going to have sleeping issues during that first night in the hospital. I had a pretty rough delivery and was extremely exhausted. Since I had chosen to breastfeed, I thought it would be best for my son to stay with me in the hospital room so that I could have easy access to him. I never knew how much noise an infant could make! He didn’t cry or fuss, but he kept grunting and groaning all night. None of us got much sleep, and I desperately needed it.

The next few nights were not much better. We tried to start a nighttime routine and lay him in the cute little bassinet that we purchased just for him and set by our bed. The grunting and groaning continued keeping all three of us up at night. Strangely enough, my son seemed to drift into a deep sleep just as the sun peaked over the horizon. My grandmother laughed as she told me that the baby simply ‘had his days and nights mixed up’ and he would settle into a new schedule soon. When that didn’t happen she grimly stated that we were cursed with a ‘bad sleeper’. 

My son did not want to be on his back. When we tried to lay him down on a flat surface, he would either fuss or grunt. We then tried keeping him in a sitting up position by trying to get him to sleep in his car seat, which is what our doctor recommended. She also gave us medicine for infant heartburn to see if that would soothe him. The medicine helped a little, but not much.

First shift!

Things were really taking a toll on me and my husband. We started a routine that I was not happy with. He took the ‘first shift’, meaning he stayed up with baby while I got a few hours of sleep, then we would change shifts around 2 am. He would go to bed while I stayed up with baby.

This went on for weeks. I was overtired and cranky. Motherhood was not sitting well with me and I started to feel very depressed. One night when the baby simply would not stop crying no matter how much boob I gave him, I woke up the hubby in tears and said, “I can’t do it tonight. I’m so tired!” My husband graciously took over for the night (what a saint!).

We visited a friend who had a baby a few weeks older than my son, and she showed us her baby’s Montessori style nursery and told us how she co-sleeps with her children for the first nine months of their life. I never really considered co-sleeping because I had read how potentially dangerous it was. My friend then gave me some advice that I will never forget. “Just remember that there is no right or wrong when it comes to parenting. Do what is right for you and your baby.”

It was difficult for me to rummage through all of the articles on getting a baby to sleep through the night, and people seem to be very passionate about their approaches. Almost to the point of getting angry or judgmental. I had seen Facebook threads full of cry-it-out versus non-crying methods of sleep training. I couldn’t seem to make sense of it all. I simply wanted my child to sleep at night in his crib while I slept in my own bed with my husband. Was that too much to ask?

Six weeks after my son was born, we were still doing that hideous night time routine. Hubby taking the first shift and me taking the second. One night, I simply had enough. My son, was still grunting and groaning in his little car seat. I picked him up, breastfed him for a few minutes, then I laid down on the sofa with him belly down on my chest. He slept for 4 hours straight and it was the best night sleep I had had since he was born!

I did the same thing the next night, and then the next. We were finally getting some sleep! I then remembered what my friend told me about co-sleeping with her babies, and I figured that maybe it would work for us. One night, I took my baby to bed with me. I laid down on my back and placed him belly down on my chest. He slept soundly and only woke up a few times for his regular feedings.

My son loved to be cuddled and he also loved to sleep on his tummy. Now, I could have tried to lay him belly down in his crib to see if I could transition him that way, but I have a friend who lost a son to SIDS, and I could not bring myself to leave my son alone in a crib while laying face down. We stuck with co-sleeping where I could keep an eye on him. Yes, it took a little getting used to since I had to sleep more on my back, but adjust I did! 

I fully understand that co-sleeping is very controversial and that there will be a number of mothers shaking their heads at me, but I don’t care. Co-sleeping saved my sanity and my baby is a sweet and healthy child. He can sometimes be a little restless at night, but I still treasure the moments when he cuddles up into my arms.

I am not saying that everyone should co-sleep with their child. If my husband and I are blessed with another child I will still break out that beautiful bassinet and try that route first. I am just saying that if you are cursed with a ‘bad sleeper’, you may want to give it a try. Just make sure you do it safely.

The hubby snuck a pic at night...

Monday, November 16, 2015

5 Goals for November

Photo Credit: stargardner

Ok, so I know that we are in the middle of November, but for some reason, I've been inspired to set some goals for the month...we'll see how this pans out, right? 

Here we go! 

1) Reach 30 'Likes' on my Facebook page. (You need at least 30 'likes' to before you can view insights.)
2) Organize my kitchen. (This will be interesting with a toddler...)
3) Get my Christmas gift list together. (Plan now so that I won't have to scramble later.)
4) Plan our Thanksgiving meal. (The fact we are only in charge of side dishes this year certainly helps.)
5) Pray more! (Morning and evening prayers are important and I've been neglecting both.)

I'll let you know how it all plays out in the end! Maybe now that I've actually written out some goals and actually published them will make me be more accountable. 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Basic Chicken Soup Recipe You Can Customize!

Cold season is upon is and it has already struck the Garland household! I adore my husband, but he is a baby when it comes to being sick and kicks and screams when I suggest remedies to him (Like taking the Honest Company Immunity Defense capsules).

Pic from

The most comforting go-to remedy to the common cold is chicken soup! I will no doubt be making a big batch of it this weekend, so I thought I would take the opportunity to share my very basic recipe.

I love soup and I love to make soup. It is just one of those staples that is so versatile and comforting, especially in the winter. I could eat soup day in and day out. The great thing about chicken soup is the fact that there are so many ways to customize it to your own tastes and needs.

Things you must have
-1 whole chicken (or chicken parts that still have the bone)
-1 onion finely chopped
-Potatoes that have been cubed (as many as you want)
-Water (store bought broth is optional if you want to add a little for additional flavor)

Fill a pot with water (or broth if you have it) and start boiling that chicken. You can add salt/pepper/garlic powder to it if you so choose for some seasoning. Once the chicken is cooked, take it out of the pot and set aside to cool. Turn heat down to medium and add the potatoes.

Choose a Green Veggie
-Kale/Spinach (Or both)

When your potatoes are mostly cooked, add a green veggie. Then pull apart the chicken and add the meat. Save the bones and throw them in a crock pot on low with some water for about 24 hours and you'll have some bone broth on hand for later use.

Add a Carb
-1 cup of quinoa (not sure if that qualifies as a carb, but that's what I'm calling it)
-1 cup of Rice (not minute rice)
-Noodles of your choice (all depending in the type of noodle, it may be best to cook noodles separately and add later to prevent them from getting mushy)

This is my very basic recipe. However, there are lots of ways to customize it and I always end up addling other stuff to match what I am hankering for.

Things You Can Add
-Chia Seeds (You won't even remember they are there because they are so small and have no taste, but that are very healthy for you!)
-Spring Onions
-White Beans
-Diced Tomatoes
-Tomato Paste
-Poached Egg (For extra protein)
-Lemon Juice or Lemon Grass


Friday, November 13, 2015

The Jane Austen Book Club- Review

I have been dying to read a good book. One that can keep me enthralled from beginning to end. I have had a very difficult time finding good books, so I always end up reading either Sense and Sensibility or Persuasion by Jane Austen, even though I've read them both almost a hundred times. I decided to take a chance a purchase The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler from Amazon. The reason I purchased the book was because I was unable to find it in my local library. 

Yes, I read the reviews on Amazon and on Goodreads and noticed that most people did not care for it, but after all, it's about Jane Austen and I love Jane Austen, so how bad can it really be? Also, I did rather enjoy the movie, and books are always better than the movie, right? 

Not in this case.

It was disappointment from page one. Since I had already seen the movie I was familiar with the premise of the story; four women and one man basically identifying with the characters in the Jane Austen books that they were reading. It's a cute story idea!

However, the author's writing style seriously inhibits you from connecting with the characters. Some scenes are very descriptive, which is nice, but she jumps around too much for my liking. One moment we'll be in a book group scene and the very next will be a flash back of some childhood memory, and then we'll return to the book group. Also, it kept jumping from first person to third person narrative and there were time that I could not tell who was telling the story.

To me, it gave a very disconnected feeling that was just way too distracting.

I should have paid attention to the reviews and not wasted my time. Needless to say, this will be donated to my local library because I don't want it cluttering up my house. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Burt's Bees Renewal Refining Cleanser- Review

Pic by cutiebootycakes (find her review here)
As most of you know, I love products by the Honest Company and Honest Beauty. However, I do use a lot of products by Burt's Bees as well.

One of my favorite products is the Renewal Refining Cleanser. According to the Burt's Been website,

  "This refining cleanser, infused with our Hibiscus and Apple Rejuvenating Complex, is shown to improve skin’s texture and smoothness.* Our hydrating formula cleanses deeply without stripping moisture and gently exfoliates to reveal smoother skin." 

I typically use this product a few times a week when I shower. It's my go to facial scrub. I really like it because it is not too harsh, it smells great, and it makes my face feel really soft and rejuvenated. I can actually feel the dead skins cells and grime coming off and my face being renewed and conditioned at the same time. 

I also like it because it is not extremely expensive. lists it as retailing for $10, however, where I purchase it (Martins Grocery Store) it retails for $8.99. There are probably a lot of other instances, depending on where you live, where it is probably cheaper in the stores than on the website. 

I would totally recommend it over St. Ives. It truly has made a difference in the texture of my skin. 

I recently noticed that Burt's Bees is offering a Holiday Grab Bag  for $25 ($48 value). It comes with a number of products in a super cute bag. I have not purchased one yet, but am definitely considering getting one and giving it away as a Christmas gift. Check it out!

Thanks Burt's Bees for keeping my face beautiful!

Monday, November 9, 2015

12 Things That Make Me Happy

Thanksgiving is on its way! It’s my second favorite holiday (next only to Christmas) and when November rolls along I begin to sit back and think about the things that I am grateful for in my life. After suffering from depression for over two years (both during and after pregnancy) I am now seeing more of the little things that make me happy, and above all I am the most thankful for being happy!

The top 12 things that make me happy:

12) Chick-Fil-A Peppermint Chocolate Chip shakes (If you’ve never had one you’re missing out!)

11) Good Co-workers- They’re like family after all!

10) Prayer- Sometimes you just need to center yourself with God.

9) Pumpkin Pie…or really just about anything with pumpkin…

8) A good skin care routine- Thanks Honest Beauty

7) Funny YouTube videos- I love seeing a cute video come across my Facebook feed. They brighten my day!

6) Boots- Because who doesn’t love a cute pair of boots?

5) A good book- Preferably something by Jane Austen. 

4) Nice home cooked meals- They’re even better if hubby does the dishes.

3) Coffee- Gets my day started off right!

2) Cuddling with my son- Makes my day even brighter!

1) My family- My world revolves around God and my family! I would be nothing without them!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Postpartum Depression- You're Not Alone

I've suffered from bouts of depression for most of my life. I do have a rather complicated history that I believe has contributed to my periods of sadness, but alas, I have learned to live with it. As a personal choice, since I am neither suicidal nor homicidal, I have decided not to take anti-depressant medication.

I've had emotional ups and downs in my life, but I never thought that I would experience to most depressing period of my life while I was pregnant. My husband and I tried for 18 months to get pregnant. It took a little while longer than what I expected, but when it finally happened we were both ecstatic!  I wanted to be a mother so badly and I was so happy that I had an excuse to eat whatever I want whenever I wanted!

I did not expect to be as sick as I was during the first trimester. It wasn't as bad as some other ladies may have experienced, but I felt like I was walking around with a bad case of the flu and I was so exhausted. I was so happy when the second trimester rolled around because the sickness finally faded. However, that second trimester brought about a deep void that I would experience throughout the rest of  my pregnancy.

I wasn't necessarily sad all of the time. It was like I felt no emotion at all. I should have been happy, trying to bond with the life growing inside of me. I didn't really want to go out because I didn't want to talk to anybody. I just wanted to stay home and the only person I wanted to be around was my husband. I did have moments of elation when I felt my son move (and he moved a lot!), but overall my pregnancy was not a very happy time.

I experienced some minor complications toward the end of my pregnancy that would make the doctor put me on bed rest, which is the last thing I wanted. Going to work kept me occupied, now I had nothing to do but lay down on the sofa and watch TV. I wasn't even inspired to write about anything! Before I got pregnant I kept a pretty active blog, but during my those nine months, I had nothing that I wanted to blog about. I could no longer find inspiration in life. I just trudged through.

Finally, delivery day came, and it came 5 days after my due date. The doctors induced me due to me showing signs of eclampsia. After only 6 hours of hard labor (and not being able to have an epidural), my darling little boy was born and I could not have been happier. Those horrid nine months were over and now I could finally have my child in my arms. I caressed my beautiful boy and stared at him, trying to memorize every little detail of his face knowing I would never live this moment again.

I truly thought that the sadness, that emotional void, was done with. But I was wrong. I would go weeks with little or no sleep, I didn't want to eat but I forced myself to because I was breastfeeding. Also, delivery did not go as I had planned and I was not mentally or emotionally prepared to give birth naturally. (I can laugh about it now, but at the time I seriously considered never having another child because I was so afraid of going through that terrible process again!)

I longed for a moment to myself but I couldn't have one. My son needed so much attention, and while I still loved him dearly and studied every inch of his face, I just wanted some solitude. The only positive thing about this whole mess was the fact that due to breastfeeding and not eating as much as I probably should have, I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight within 10 days.

My doctor tried to prescribe medication, but I decided not to take it because I was concerned that the medication would affect my son since I was breastfeeding.

Baptism Day! It was a day mixed with joy and dread.

The time during my maternity leave was filled with trying to keep my house clean (which is a never ending battle) and adjusting to my new role as a mom. To top everything off, my son was not a good sleeper. It's something we still battle with twenty months later! After six weeks of about two hours of sleep a night, I just said screw it and we started co-sleeping. That arrangement may not have been ideal, but it certainly helped.

I  looked forward to returning to work because I could get a whole hour to myself during my lunch break! That meant that I would have an opportunity to do something like read a book!

Visiting mama at work!

It would take about a year after my son was born for the emotional void to fade.

Today, my son is 20 months old. I still have a hard time believing that he is almost two years old. I've had this sweet little boy in my life for almost two years! Watching him grow and explore the wonders of the world has been such a joy. It is something that only a parent can understand.

The emotional void has faded and I feel that I have returned to a semblance of self again. I still have some spiritual struggles, I have little time for prayer or reading the Bible any more, but I most definitely have made improvements over the past few months. This may seem a little vain, but I was actually inspired to clean out my closet, change how I dress, and I even started to wear a little make-up again.

I actually feel good. Happier. Life has taken a better turn and I'm viewing things in a more positive way. I've always enjoyed spending time with my son, but now that time somehow seems brighter and his smile even more magical! Alone time with my husband is still rare, but we have scheduled date nights that have been even sweeter and more memorable than any others that we've had before.

Date day! So happy!

Depression during and after pregnancy is more common than you may think. If I could give advice to any women who is struggling the same way I did, I would say that you need to do what is best for you and your baby. Tell your doctor, and if you feel medication is the right thing, then do it! Stay in touch with God! To me prayer is invaluable! While I may be struggling with keeping God as the center of my life, praying and turning to Him has assisted me with getting my life back on track.

Don't keep things bottle up. It is imperative that you communicate with your husband. I was very fortunate that my husband took everything in stride and assisted me during the times that I needed him most.

Recovery can take time. Take the days as they come. Things will get better and before you know it, they will become even more magical!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Messy Hair Day

I had a rather difficult time taming my hair this morning. Richard had a very restless night and this co-sleeping mama is on the tired side. The fact that he likes to pull my hair while he sleeps certainly doesn't help...

My biggest problem is the fact that Richard seems to have an innate sense of when I need to get up to get ready for work. He likes to cuddle into me right before the alarm goes off. It makes me not want to leave my bed and puts a damper on my whole day because all I think about is wanting to go home and be with my family. 

In the end, we gotta do what we gotta do to slap ourselves together in the morning and get inspired. 

Eh, at least my make-up looks good. (Thanks Honest Beauty!)

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Is The Honest Company Worth It?

I have been an Honest Company customer for about a year now. I really do like their products and I look forward to getting my bundle every month. There are a lot of people out there who really wonder if subscribing to the Honest Company is worth it. Personally, I have to say that sometimes you need to pick and choose. I'll give you a review of all of the products that I have used and tell you which ones I love and which I can live without.

The Honest Company is best known for it's bundles. If you bundle the products into a regular subscription you can save up to 35% on some products. I subscribe to the Essentials Bundle, which means I can get 5 products for $35.95 ($7.19 a piece) and 3 more products for 25% off. Sometimes you have to strategize how you place your bundle because some products are cheaper than others. You want to make sure the more expensive products are part of the regular bundle and the add some cheaper products on for the 25% off.

Image result for honest company essentials bundle

There are a couple of products that I cannot live without and that would be the Shampoo + Body Wash and Conditioner. It is the only shampoo that I will use on my son because it is tear free and I have never had any problems with it if it gets into his eyes. I like them because they are the only shampoo and conditioner combo that is reasonably priced and does not leave  build-up in my hair.

The Organic Body Oil is simply amazing. I mix it with the Honest Face + Body Lotion in my hands and slather it on my body for that nice silky feeling. They are scentless so you don't have to worry about smelling like a flower garden, but you can add a few drops of essential oils to the lotion if you want to have a nice smell.

The Conditioning Detangler has seriously helped me control the flyaways in my hair. Richard loves to pull my hair (it's a comfort thing) and it as caused me to have a number of short hairs around my neck. The leave-in conditioner helps me to tame those and makes my hair smell really nice. I also use it on Richard to help tame his crazy red hair!

The 3 in 1 Facial Towelettes are another must for me. I use them almost every night to clean my face or get the make-up off.

The Healing Balm is one of those miracle concoctions that is a cure-all for just about anything! It is great for bug bites, burns, rashes, cuts, severe diapers rash, and just about anything else you can thing of. I carry this around in my awesome mommy bag and have a tube in every medicine cabinet in the house!

The Diaper Rash Cream is another must. Fortunately, Richard has not had many diapers rashes, but for the few times that he suffered from one this cream has cleared it up within a day!

The Bug Spray is the only natural bug spray that actually works for us! I've tried other natural brands, making my own, and purchasing stuff from vendors at the local farmers market, but the Honest brand is the only one that is effective.

The Soothing Bottom Wash is meant to assist with really messy diaper changes, but I use it as a facial toner. It has witch hazel in it which is really good for toning the pores. This is another product I use at least twice a day.

I also use the Toothpaste and Mouthwash. I've tried making my own toothpaste and mouthwash, but that just didn't work out, so I've had to resort back to purchasing them. I like using them because they taste better than some of the other natural stuff on the market.

I purchased the Organic Breathe Easy Rub to have on hand. I have not personally used it, but my grandfather borrowed it from me and loved it. (He asked if he could keep it!)

The Hand Sanitizer Gel is great stuff! It makes my hands feel nice after I use it. The Organic Lip Balm Trio is also very nice. (I like the Honest Beauty Magic Balm better, but that is more expensive and not quite as convenient to carry around.)

I've used both the Laundry Detergent and the 4 in 1 Laundry Packs and I like them. I used to use cheap detergent but it seems that the cheap stuff makes my clothes fade faster.

The Honest Deodorant and I kinda have a love/hate relationship. My husband has insisted that I switch to a deodorant that does not have aluminum in it and absolutely no natural deodorant that I have used has worked for me. The Honest Deodorant does a somewhat decent job at keeping me smelling fresh, but there are some days where I can smell myself at the end of the day. *Update* I've decided to give up on the Honest Deodorant because it doesn't seem to keep me smelling fresh all day long, I actually stink by the end of the day. So the search for an aluminum free deodorant that works for me continues.

I have used and liked the Multi-Surface Cleaner, Bathroom Cleaner, and the Floor Cleaner. I liked using them, but I have found a natural alternative that works just as well and is cheaper. Gotta cut corners somewhere. Same for the Toilet Cleaner, Dish Soap, Hand Soap, Bubble Bathand the Rinse Aid

The Honest Company has had a recent controversy over their Sunscreen. Apparently they've changed their formula and many people found it to be not as effective. Personally, I have used both the old and new formulas and have not had any issues with it either on myself or Richard (and we are both VERY FAIR GINGERS).

I did not like the Organic Shave Oil. I think my skin is just too sensitive to shave with just an oil and I need something thicker. It gave me a rather nasty razor burn so I have never used it again.

I did have the Vitamin Bundle where I would get my pre-natal vitamins. I liked using the Whole Food Pre-Natal vitamins even though you had to take 3 pills a day plus the DHA pill. The vitamins didn't leave a nasty taste in my mouth and they didn't make me sick like many over the counter ones did. However, I have canceled my bundle for now because I needed to tighten my budget a little bit. If I get pregnant (which I am hoping will be soon) I will renew my bundle and get them again.

I have not tried the Honest Diapers because I find them to be a little pricey. Since Richard has not had any reactions to the standard disposable brands I have stuck with just buying Huggies from Amazon Mom (where I save 20% on a monthly subscription). However, if money were not an issue, or if Richard had a super sensitive bottom, I would definitely try the Honest Diapers.

Same with the Honest Baby Formula. They actually came out with their formula right after we weaned Richard from the formula and switched to regular milk. We used Earths Best Organic Formula for him to supplement after my breast milk production began to drop after I returned to work.

As you can see I do get a lot of products from the Honest Company, but I also have discontinued use of some of the products for slightly cheaper ones that I found to be just as effective. There are a number of products that I've not even tried, like the feminine pads/tampons. We are your average middle class family and need to pick and choose the areas where we need to tighten the financial belt.

If you are afraid to take the plunge, you can always order a trial for $5.95, which is to cover the cost of shipping. Just remember that you will have 7 days to cancel the subscription if you do not like the products or they will automatically ship you a full bundle and charge you for it.

I will probably write more posts about each individual product, but I just wanted to give a basic overview for those who are considering becoming an Honest member instead of making you surf through many different posts. You can check back later for more in-depth reviews on individual products.

Overall, I love the Honest Company and most of their products. The bundles typically arrive on my doorstep about 2 days after I order them and I have had good experiences with their customer service department. I highly recommend that you try them out and see what products would be good for you and your family!

This is a 100% honest review (no pun intended). I do not receive anything from the Honest Company for this endorsement.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Loving the Lamb Stew!

I love stews and soups, which is a big reason why I love autumn. I love being able to make big batches of soups that just make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Add that to curling up with a good book and a cup of hot chocolate and I can have a perfect day…as long as my toddler takes a nice long nap.

I made lamb stew for the first time this past weekend. I’m going to share the very simple recipe that I used to whip it up. I’m not much for measurements so don’t expect them. I just kinda throw it all together and it always turns out great.

I used:
1 package (1lb) of cubed lamb meat from Wegmans (though I wish I had two packages instead of one)
1 jar of pearl onions
1 box of beef stock
A few chopped baby carrots
1 can of peas
1 can of tomato paste
Some garlic
A bunch of cubed potatoes
Make sure you have some corn starch, flour, salt, pepper, fresh rosemary, and bacon on hand.

I started by throwing the broth, carrots, potatoes, garlic and peas in the pot to start to cook. I then cut the lamb cubes into smaller pieces and coated them in the flour/salt/pepper mixture in a Ziploc bag. I cooked a couple of pieces of bacon to get some good bacon grease then browned the lamb in the grease before throwing them into the soup pot as well.

After it cooks a little you can thicken it up using a little bit of corn starch.

Now, I am not a gourmet chef or anything, but the stew can out great and the hubby and I loved it. I just wish I could have added more meat to it, but one pack of cubed lamb was all I had on hand. Next time I make it I will definitely use two. 

You can eat it as is or serve it on top of mashed potatoes or rice. I will be making this again sometime very soon!