Nov 262014
 

Knowing what to buy for holiday gifts can be tricky. I love this list of finds I put together! Save money and bargain shop with these unique Christmas present ideas. I would never have thought of some of these!I love Christmas, and  I love shopping. Add them together and you have a delightful perfect storm of holiday fun. And a very crammed-full closet of packages waiting to be wrapped. 

But I also love saving my money and being really smart about my purchases. I want to make sure that each item I purchase is worth the cash I’m sinking into it and that it’s something the recipient will truly appreciate.

After checking out A LOT of different items this season, I’m tickled to share these with you as my favorite items for everyone on your list. These are things that my family and I have used, read, tried and fallen for. Worth your hard-earned pennies and guaranteed (with the very official Mom of the Year seal of approval!) to bring holiday smiles.

The best news for you? A bunch of these items are up for grabs in the  two giveaways below! Make sure to enter both giveaways–there is one for the kid stuff and one for the gifts for grown-ups.

Cross some items off your list or treat yourself; just think of how fun scoring all this loot would be!

Gifts for Kids:

http://www.yoxo.com/yoxomoto-doon/

My son looooves to build and put stuff together, so when he met these YOXO toys, it was a very, very happy day around these parts. He uses these toys to construct his own toys using chipboard pieces in the shapes of Ys, Xs and Os. For even more creative building, the pieces are compatible with paper towel rolls, toilet paper tubes, cereal boxes, and other maker stuff around your house. Green AND encouraging imagination? Snatch up a set for the builder on your list!

Up for grabs: YOXOmoto Doon and YOXObot Orig (total value $40)

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These sweet mini korker bows are the perfect gift for the little girl in your life! Make her feel like princess with a pretty touch of dress-up!

When I found these super-sweet mini korker bows from Aria’s Bowtique, I fell in love. Pretty, affordable and a shop owner who is eager to give individual attention to make sure you get exactly what you are looking for? Every little princess will swoon over all the options available!

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The personalized childrens books make such a creative and sweet gift! Allows kids to focus on spelling skills and name recognition while having a lot of fun along the way!

I remember having a personalized book as a kid and loving it. I was the hero of my own story; what could be cooler? This modern twist on the fill-in-the-blank name books from Lost My Name is such a creative gift for little ones! Each book tells the story of a child who has lost his or her name, and bravely sets off to track down the missing letters. Along the way the child meets lots of weird and wonderful characters, who each give the first letter of their name. You can’t go wrong with this sweetly written and illustrated story book!

Up for grabs: One personalized Lost My Name book (value $30)

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This sweet childrens book captures the wonder of the holiday season when anything is possible! Find some Christmas magic with the Peppermint family!

This time of year, a children’s book that captures the magic of the season is such a wonderful treat!  As author of The Peppermints: Thanksgiving Day Parade, Nikki Maloney describes, “The Peppermint family travel to New York City for the Thanksgiving Day Parade. Expect the unexpected, where surprise and excitement are right around the corner. It’s that wonderful time of year when anything is possible.” Grab a copy for your kids and a few extra for the other little ones in your life!

Up for grabs: A copy of The Peppermints: Thanksgiving Day Parade (value $15)

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For Grown-ups (aka persons who occasionally drink from something other than a juice box):

I LOVE my paper and pen planners! The customizable options at this site are fantastic! Order one ASAP and get organized today!

I am an old-school planning addict. My husband has tried to bring me over to the dark side of tech-savvy scheduling on my phone and such, but it simply a lost cause. I love my paper and pen planners to an obsessive degree. My annual shopping and selection of the next year’s book is a tremendous event–or was a tremendous event, I should say. When I recently discovered Personal-planner.com, I was a goner and will be snatching up this treasure every year. The customizable options were a dream–I could opt to include Sudoku pages in the back of my book?? Bliss! They also sell really gorgeous stuff like notepads and pretty pens. What busy mom wouldn’t swoon over this planner?

Up for grabs: A $40 voucher to spend at Personal-planner.com

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This gorgeous, trendy, STURDY phone case is a mom's-dream-come-true. Deck out your phone today with this sweet new design!

I got a phone case, and it was a flop, seemingly soaking up dirt and getting dingier by the day. Then I got another phone case and it shattered the first time I dropped it. Instead of getting uber-grouchy, I finally found the perfect phone case with this Kim Parker for Trident design case. It’s cute. It’s pretty. It holds up when I drop it about a gazillion times a day and keeps my phone running smoothly. Score! Check out all the different designs and gift a durable chic to a lady on your list!

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A boss leather cuff is the signature piece of my dreams! The shop owner is a dream to work with and customize your leather jewelry order!

I can’t get enough of this leather cuff–ever. I wear mine nearly every single day. There’s something about tough boss accessories that excites me to no end. I chose to simply get my children’s names engraved on the plate, but that’s the dream of Custom Leather Jewelry by Michelle and Rob. YOU pick exactly what you want–band width and length, plate metal, and enagravement text. There are other items available in the shop too. The shop owners are a delight to work with and will make sure you get the piece that you have in mind–perfect as a treat for yourself or as a gift for a friend!

Up for grabs: $35 voucher to create a bracelet of your choice

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This shop is a sweet gift-giving favorite! Head over now and cross off your whole list with these gorgeous jewelry and Christmas ornament finds!

Penny Jules has been my favorite small business shop since I ventured into this blogging business. The genuine heart she pours into every item she makes is so apparent. There is rarely a day that goes by that I’m not sporting Penny Jules item–in my hair, in the form of jewelry or on my Christmas tree. Everything she creates is unique and personalized.  Shop around her site and cross off your list with the work of this creative genius!

Up for grabs: Snowflake ornament (value $14) and $20 merchandise credit to Penny Jules

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This skin care line is phenomenal! Care for yourself and take charge of your beauty regimen with Belli!

In recent years, I have become rather focused on skin care. I figure it’s one small way I can take care of myself, plus the ritual of washing it at the end of each day works as a little shout-out to sanity. No matter how insane the day has been, at least I can wash my face. I search for and stalk products to help me love on my skin. So when I was introduced to the quality skin care products from Belli Skin Care, I was thrilled. From their eye brightener to their facial wash, I am glowing! Grab a few items to stuff in a friend’s stocking and she will be thanking you!

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Suburban Haiku from Peyton Price is a perfect way to let your friends know you care! The gift that says "I get it!" is precious indeed!

When I’m not busy beating my head against a brick wall over the agony of attempting to responsibly raise a 3 yr. old and a 5 yr. old, I like to take a few milliseconds to laugh. Hook me up with a funny book like Peyton Price‘s Suburban Haiku: Poetic Dispatches from Behind the Picket Fence, and I’m good to go. Reading Price’s quick and smartly witty haikus about day-to-day mom life was a delight, and gifting it to a friend is a the perfect way to share a supportive hug and some hearty laughs!

Up for grabs:  A copy of Suburban Haiku: Poetic Dispatches from Behind the Picket Fence (value $10).

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This Van Gogh vodka is gorgeous in presentation and quality in taste. Would make a perfect gift for the hard-to-shop-for person on your list!

At the end of long day of filled with lots of kids-driving-Mommy-nuts nonsense, there’s nothing sweeter than a tasty drink.  So when Van Gogh Vodka asked me to sample their designer vodka, there wasn’t a whole lot of arm-twisting. While I don’t generally enjoy liquor straight-up, this product was delicious. I added a few cubes, poured myself a finger and delighted in a few yummy sips to close off the evening. What a perfect hostess gift during this holiday season!

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Looking for a classic, gorgeous pair of earrings? Delivered! Check out these pearl earrings that go with everything!

The older I get, the more I crush on classic treasured items. As far as I have learned, you can’t miss with a pair of well-chosen pearl earrings. When I found this pair from Pearl & Clasp, I was tickled! At 9mm, these white freshwater pearls are the perfect accent to any outfit. Look like a fancy lady with this one simple add-on–Audrey Hepburn-esque vibe delivered. What a sweet simple gift to give to the sweetheart on your list!

Up for grabs: One pair of white freshwater pearl earrings (value $24).

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Clean teeth with a shiny finish? Sounds perfect to me! Snatch up these products ASAP!

And don’t forget the stocking suffers! Call it a mid-life teeth-cleaning crisis, but I am really crushing on my Spinbrush and new Colgate Enamel Health products. A way to clean up after noshing on all those Christmas treats? Sounds like a win to me!

Lest this list still leaves you wanting, for even more ideas, check out last week’s post about my new favorite site for making gift-shopping easy-peasy. If you haven’t yet, hop over to GetThemGifts.com and save yourself a ton of hassle trying to find the right gifts!

Whichever of these fabulous finds you decide on, HAPPY SHOPPING, friends! Go get your savvy holiday buying on! And make sure to enter below to score a bunch of these items for free and make your wallet smile ;)

Shop smart and save money with these unique gift ideas that will leave everyone on your list saying "Wow!" Trust me, Gift Giver of the Year title is up for grabs with these creative ideas!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

****Featured products were received for review purposes, but any and all enthusiasm for products is 100% genuine!****

First image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:15854487, copyright: Syda_Productions

Last image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:8181207, copyright:belchonock

Nov 122014
 

Having kids makes it a bit tricky to get an evening out. Here's how my family figured out a way to have a fun night with friends while staying in--and keeping the kidsMy husband and I have never been very big on leaving the house. At first, it was money, or lack thereof. And then it was kids piled on top of money. Let’s be honest; even if we could manage to find a sitter, she probably doesn’t want to get paid in leftover Goldfish crackers?

So we’ve gotten good, very good, at the at-home date. Stash the kiddos in bed, crack open a bottle and cue up the latest episode of Parenthood. Or, if it’s a really adventurous night, it might just be worth a swing by that nifty Redbox. We cozy in and love it up. It works.

Most of the time.

But see, once in a while…I want a teensy bit more of a soiree. Rarely, as people generally scare me.

So when one of my very best friends mentioned she had to burn an hour every week during her daughter’s lesson across the street from our house, my wheels got to turning.

What if…? No, that would be insane.  But we could…

And as soon as the thought formulated, I knew it was meant to be. With a swift call to my friend and a bottle of wine snagged, it was official. Thursday night Happy Hour in our house was ON.

How does it work? My friend brings her kids. If it’s nice, they run wild on the yard while we chill on the deck. Now that it’s bit chillier, who really cares about a tidy house? I can put all the legos away tomorrow…or never. The point is that the kids are playing together and having a blast.

The adults, my husband, friend and I cozy up to the table, pour a glass and munch away on whatever culinary fail I’ve dreamed up for the week. I am not a chef.

(But truth told, it is kind of fun to put together some yummy bites I’d never normally serve. This week I’m doing homemade soft pretzels with cheese fondue. I know, my waistline is drooling with you. But what better excuse to make something so comfort food-worthy?)

After a few weeks of our weekly dates, I got smart and started beefing up the spread a bit so it could count as dinner and I didn’t have to cook again. Score!

While the food is yummy-ish and the company superb (my friend is amazingly cool and easy to hang with), the real win of the night is that we RELAX.

Come again?

I know, I said relax. Because we do. Yes, with the kids present. After our very first Thursday Happy Hour, my entire family was in bed and snoozling by 8:30pm. It was a miracle. Talking to my husband about it the next day he said, “But we actually stopped. Hanging out like that let us all relax.”

 

Kids tying you to the house? Have fun anyway! Invite friends (and their whole families!) over to hang out! No stress, easy family time for everyone.

Come Thursday night, I feel beaten up by the week. Something that can help my family chill and smile? A Godsend. We pour ourselves into our hours, our days, and forget to take minutes to come up for air. Thursday nights are a sweet reminder to lift our heads up and breathe deeply.

I love them. We all do. We all look forward to our weekly Happy Hour and all the sweet breathing room that it offers.

My excuses of no money or no childcare? Shove them under the kitchen table. Uber-cheap wine and allowance for kids’ temper tantrums between sips works perfectly well when the friends are real–and the value of time together supersedes all else.

Cheers, friends–however you find your Happy Hour or make it happen!

 

First image credit: depositphotos.com, ID:3756992, copyright:Valdemar

Second image credit: depositphotos.com, ID:10836012,copyright:Wavebreakmedia

Oct 172014
 

For me, having polished nails is important, so I was more than eager to test run the new products from Sally and see if the time and effort was really worth the finished product of this DIY gel manicureMy daughter is adorably into “Ladies’ Time”. What is Ladies’ Time? It involves the two of doing anything together one-on-one.  This can range from not-fun, “The ladies love to grocery shopping in the rain together!” to the very fun, “Ladies are so excited to troll through sale papers on the weekends!”. Sometimes she will walk around the house singing, “Ladies! Ladies!” because she is so delighted with the idea of our time together. I know, it kills me too.

When Sally Hansen asked me to check out some of their new nail products on the market, I knew this would definitely qualify as “very fun” Ladies’ Time. I’ve shared before about how much I enjoy dolling up my nails through at-home gel manis–allows me to still feel a bit fancy while scrubbing dishes, but without the crazy cost of salon visits.

So casing out their at-home gel manicure kit? And their new Miracle Gel product and some pretty sparkly nail polishes?  Yes, please!

I was thrilled with the Wine Not shade of gel polish I chose. I have used several other brands previously, and the glossiness and vibrancy of this color was unique!  Using the three tips I follow with at-home gel manicures, I enjoyed a long-lasting shiny manicure without a single chip:

Do DIY gel manicures ever really work? Some tips and tricks I've found for making them last!

1) Always use a base and top coat (the Sally Hansen kits come with both).

2) Cure each step for 2 minutes total under the UV light. Yes, this takes time, but it means your manicure LASTS.

3) Take the time to fully clean (using the kit cleanser) and buff your nails ahead of time.

If you follow these steps, the manicure actually lasts for the full two weeks, which makes it well worth the time expenditure for me!

Does the New Sally Hansen Miracle Gel really work? For the promise of a at-home gel mani without the need for a UV light, I was willing to try!Knowing how much I enjoy my gel manis and the classy look of finished nails, I was beyond eager to give Sally Hansen’s new Miracle Gel product a go.  The same long-lasting power as gel without the UV light curing? Able to take it off with regular polish-remover? Sign me up!

This polish definitely lasted longer than regular non-gel polish, and I love that I don’t have to soak my nails in acetone to get it off (regular polish remover works fine!).  It didn’t seem quite as glossy as a traditional gel manicure, but it lasts far longer than a non-gel polish. It’s perfect for my toes too–what mom has time to constantly be up-keeping her feet? After 10 days it looks as good as when I first put it on.  I also love that there are over 45 color choices availableIt is terribly hard work to stop myself from snatching up ALL of them.

 

I also received some NYC New York Color glitter polishes and THIS was it.  This was the Ladies Time I knew my daughter would squee over.  The sparkly polishes are perfect for her little piggies.

 

Painting toddler girl toenails @meredithspidel

The only problem? Choosing which shade to go with!

Good news, these polishes are so cheap ($1.99/piece!), you can snag up a bunch and have easy girls’ weekend fun for a song.  They made her day and it made my day watching her enjoy them so much!

Make a little girl's day! Paint her nails with these cheap, sparkly finds. And hey, she won't judge any smudges!

 

Bottom line: I love doing my nails. In my days as mom when so much is so chaotic, glancing down at my fingers and seeing them look pretty helps center me a teeny bit and allows me to feel a little sane.

I love that Sally Hansen and NYC New York Color works so hard to provide economical and long-lasting solutions to make the time I invest in my nails not only worth-while, but fun!

Now you’ll excuse me, friends, I’ve got some polishing to do.  It’s Ladies’ Time, after all…

These new nail products are rolling out all these new nail products and polishes and I decided to give them a try! My thoughts on what works for a busy mom in caring for her nails

 

****Thank you to Sally Hansen and NYC New York Color for providing me with all products to review for this post!  All opinions remain 100% my own.****

Oct 132014
 

Coordinated Halloween Costume Ideas for Kids and Dogs @meredithspidelI fully enjoy most of my eccentricities.  And truth told?  I don’t have enough energy to humor the notion of change.  That I can only sleep with purple ear plugs in every single night? I am a light sleeper. Stashing chapstick in my bra? Convenient.  And my stubborn refusal to take down last year’s Christmas cards until I have time to update addresses in my book? This makes sense to me–even if they are still up and it’s October.

I like stuff the way I like it. And I like coordinated Halloween costumes.

I suppose it all started in college when my roomies and I decided to channel the Spice Girls as a group.  Yes, I’m that old.

Then I got married and we got a dog.  While this was really a bit of a dry spell, as he dressed up solo sans coordination with others (my obsession only extends to dressing others up; not myself apparently), I always made sure he embraced the holiday.  I squeezed the poor 70+ lb. pooch into an endless parade of XL costumes. This larger size was still too small for his frame, but I refused to recognize defeat and stuffed him in anyway.  Apparently the costume industry doesn’t recognize the value of turning chocolate labs into Western cowboys.  They are wrong. 

Then…then it was my year.  I had had a child.  With my infant son AND my dog at the ready, it was finally time to let my coordinated Halloween costume fascination actualize.

The first year I went tame.  Pumpkins, but still pretty cute.

Coordinated Pumpkin Halloween costumes kid and dog @meredithspidel

The second year I got a tad more creative.  A bear costume for my little guy, a bee suit for the pup, and a hand-painted honey pot for a treat basket? I could feel the momentum building!

Baby Boy dressing as bear for Halloween with Hunny Pot @meredithspidel

The dog was a bit shy this year...

The dog was a bit shy this year…

Then I got knocked up again.  While this was largely a blessing, it was a bit dicey in that my daughter wasn’t due until mid-July. Any coordinated Halloween costume-planner worth her salt knows you must start strategizing months in advance.  I decided to play it safe since I wasn’t sure of her gender: I secured matching monkey costumes in appropriate sizes well in advance for both kids.  The costumes had bananas sticking out of the pockets, so it only made sense that the dog would be well suited as a banana split.  The children, of course, rocked banana treat bags snagged on Pottery Barn clearance.

Year two of having two found us celebrating our Mickey and Minnie obsession–with the dog moonlighting as Goofy and adorable little matching treat bags found on Etsy.  (Yes, I’m crazy).

The year no one would be photographed.

The year no one would be photographed…

Dog dressed in Goofy costume for Halloween @meredithspidel

Last year was the first my husband solidly balked at my plans, “You can’t keep doing this forever. They are going to want to pick their own costumes.”  So I did it, readers–I pulled out all the stops and went for the Big One: “What if we did Luke, Leia and Darth Vader?”  His protestations immediately fell silent, very silent. It significantly helped that I had purchased the dog’s Vader costume 1/2 off the year before in the event that the Star Wars route would be necessitated.

Luke, Leia and Darth Vader Star Wars Halloween costumes @meredithspidel

It’s that the dog is so dignified…

This year, I knew I was pushing it–REALLY pushing it.  My husband is right–they are outgrowing this.  Rapidly.  I am going to have to adopt cats in bulk or something to further the cause in future years.  But surely, I could eke out just one more year? In desperation, I forewent sleep, scanning the recesses of my mind for inspiration (not really, but it’s always fun to sound a little dramatic, right?). Brilliance hit me! A win for everyone: Son–knight, Daughter–princess, Dog–dragon (okay, the dog might not be so thrilled).

Getting excited to sport your costume is half the fun! Plan ahead now with these cute, fun and creative ideas for coordinating your family for Halloween!

 

So glory with me, friends.  I think this is the last one, but I’m going for it, and I’m going for it big.  Tiara and sword at the ready, we’re coming for you, Halloween 2014!

Sep 152014
 

myCharge Giveaway

The kids are back to school, but Moms know that’s only the beginning! Now that the school year is in full swing, there’s no slowing down. In fact, things can start getting pretty hectic this time of year between your work and your kid’s homework, after-school clubs and sports, music lessons and carpools, birthday parties and play dates…the list goes on and on!

Even the most organized Mom will tell you things can change at the last minute, and Moms of all people can’t afford to run out of power…we mean for your phone or tablet, of course! myCharge knows how important it is for you to stay charged and connected all day – and all school year – long, so they’re giving the gift of portable power so you’re never left in the red!

To keep you charged and connected myCharge is giving 3 lucky winners each an iPad mini with a myCharge HUB 6000 portable charger! The amazingly compact Hub 6000 features built-in cables and connectors for smartphones, tablets, e-readers and more. Get up to 27 hours of additional talk time for your devices, as well as integrated, quick-charge wall prongs. The Hub series is commonly known as the “Swiss Army Knife of portable power devices.

myCharge HUB6000 @meredithspidel

 

Additionally, 40 winners will each receive an Energy Shot compact portable charger for their smartphones that delivers an additional boost when you need it most. They come in a variety of styles and can give you up to 10 hours of talk time! (Please note, smart phone not included in giveaway).

 

myCharge Energy Shot

So Moms, stay out of the red this school year! myCharge is here to keep you charged and connected! For more information on products visit the myCharge website or follow them on Facebook. You can find myCharge products available at retailers such as Target and Kohl’s.

Fill out the entry form below September 15, 2014 – October 15, 2014 for your chance to be one of 40 winners to receive an Energy Shot Charger (10 winners randomly selected each week) and one of 3 grand prize winners randomly selected on October 15, 2014 to receive one iPad Mini with a myCharge HUB 6000 portable charger. Entrants must be at least 18 years of age or older, must live in the United States and have a valid shipping address. See giveaway form for complete list of rules and details.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This is a sponsored post from myCharge.

Sep 012014
 

My Dearest Summer,

I’ll be honest, love, I thought about not writing you.  You are busy saying goodbye to your fans, and who else really cares about how we spent our last three months, anyway?  But then I remembered that sometimes it really isn’t about anyone else.  It’s just about you and me, and we had a pretty magnificent affair this season.  I would be remiss not to send a thank you (my mother would have found it rude), and after all, what is any decent fling without a passionate love letter to record it for future memory?

To start, you were in your finest form, spookily on your game.  Very little brutal, slaying heat, and only a few adorable rain showers thrown in for variety.  In fact, I may have longed for a good raging hot day to irrationally blame some excess irritability on, but you gave me no room.  You were too busy filling our evenings with perfect lightening bug-catching temps and blowing gentle breezes across the moments we played in the sun.

...and this.  Minor obsession with fresh farmers market flowers here...

…and this. Minor obsession with fresh farmer’s market flowers here…

While winter selfishly incapacitates us and dominates our hours with obscenely long grocery store lines for bread and milk, you shine your sunny glow upon us and send us off to play.  Under your reign, while our skin chicly bronzed (albeit under safe UV-protection, of course), we hit amusements parks, frolicked endlessly in the pool, fell in love with Daniel Tiger, vacationed with family, and snuck in countless hours swinging on swings and sliding on sliding boards.  There were too-fun birthday parties, grilling galore, and visits with friends more precious than words can capture.

Truth told, we were all exhausted all the time.  But who doesn’t know that comfy pillows and crisp sheets are really made for summertime?  Sweet exhaustion is, after all, sweet, most especially when done with the windows open and the fresh night air filling the house.

There is some powering magic to your sunshine.  It allows Mommy to do things like tackle massive body challenges, host an author afternoon at the library, and be part of the most awe-inspiring blog conference ever.  There was also the less significant, but equally scary, day she decided to make homemade tomato sauce, but miraculously did not burn the house down. Victory!

...and this. I dont have words for this one.

…and this. I don’t have words for this one…

And then she got this blog thing trademarked and for a day, became her own hero.  Told you Summer, your power is magic.

In the months of your fabulousness, husbands psychotically foster bee-keeping hobbies, build gorgeous fountains, and make mad progress remodeling basements.  Children grow inches, teach themselves to use the potty, and get on the school bus for the first time. Yes, Mommy is still a bit sobby about that one.

You have packed our days and filled our hours.  Through you we have grown, flown, and delighted to our hearts content. So maybe part of those alleged bus-stop tears are due to the fact that you are leaving me.

I love you, anyway.

So stash this note in your memory box in the back of the closet.  Dig it out in the lonely cold months to come if you long for a sunny smile, but don’t mourn too long or hard for our lost days.  I have a feeling you and I run pretty deep–and we’ve got loads more of these hot hot weather flings in the years to come.  To the future, my love.

I’ll be hibernating and busy being a slug until we meet again. xo…

...and this.  I know.

…and this. I know.

Aug 152014
 

In most books, I find something that I like.  It might be the uniqueness of the plot, the strength of one of the characters, the time period in which the story is set…endless possibilities of cool attractions a book can hold.  At the beginning of this summer, though, it had been a while since I found a book I truly loved.

One that carried me away and swept me up in its world.

One that I couldn’t put down and didn’t want to put down.

One that made losing all that sleep in the wee hours totally worth it…

And then, somehow I met up with Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell and was a complete goner.  I couldn’t exactly put my finger on why I loved the book so much if I tried; I just delighted in being caught up in Cath’s world.  In the warmth and love of the college-age characters, in the tender sweetness of new love, and the slow unveiling of the realization that in staying true to ourselves, we are far stronger than we might imagine.

I was so taken with Fangirl, that I bought it.  I haven’t bought a book in years, but I desperately wanted to hold onto this one and read again–and make sure everyone near and dear to me read it too.  I then immediately put all three of Rowell’s other books on hold, counting down the days until her most recent, Landline, would be released on July 8.

 

In Eleanor and Park, I visited the world of fiery teen facing a horrible battle.  Attachments hit all the funny and poignant notes of relationships and employment in today’s twenty-something world.  And then Landline blew me away by revealing some of the most true truths of parenthood I will ever know.

On page 220-221 of Landline, Rowell reached out and grabbed my heart with the words,

“Georgie was pretty sure that having kids was the worst thing you could do to a marriage.  Sure you could survive it. You could survive a giant boulder falling on your head–that didn’t mean that it was good for you.  Kids took a fathomless amount of time and energy…And they took it first. They had first right of refusal on everything you had to offer.

Having kids sent a tornado through your marriage, then made you happy for the devastation.  Even if you could rebuild everything just the way it was before, you’d never want to.”

Wow. WOW.  The rawness, the realness, and the honesty of these lines are magnificent, especially to this mom, who spends about 99% of her day figuring she must be doing something wrong because it’s so darn hard.

Rowell’s writing is like a sweet, welcome gut punch of the vulnerability that is within us all as we travel through life’s stages, And I can’t get over how classily she takes readers on this journey without relying on unnecessary shock factors or salacious content.  She allows her fantastically-developed characters stand on their own, telling beautiful stories of self-discovery.

It’s been a good summer, a great summer, for many reasons, but in my book, it’s Rainbow Rowell for the win with her books.  What a perfect summer treasure.  Thanks, Rowell.

*********************************************************************

What have YOU read this summer?  I can’t get enough chatting about books, so let me know below!  And if you’re looking for some more recommendations, check out the titles my Facebook friends shared:

Jen of People I Want to Punch in the Throat –anything by Tana French and the Game of Thrones series (she has finally convinced me to dig into this epic series!)

Michelle of Frazzled ShellBig Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (I LOVED this book!)

Rebecca–the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich (or anything by her, really) and The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Claire

BarbaraThe Enemy series by Charles Higson &  Ken Follett’s new Edge of Eternity in The Century Trilogy.

Jenn of Something Clever 2.0–Anything by Vonnegut, especially Breakfast of Champions, & anything by Christopher Moore (but she recommends starting with Lamb)

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And I continue to regularly stalk books on Goodreads, so please join me there too.  Happy reading, friends!

 

 

Aug 112014
 

Running with Melissa Physical Therapist Goodbye Hugs @meredithspidel My son is brilliant.  I love the way his mind works, jumping from one cool discovery to another. I love his strength, the way he’s risen through adversity and allowed it to make him stronger.  From the first summer of his life when his colic was so severe I questioned whether either of us would make it through, to when he was body-casted at 28 months as a result of a severe femur break.

Though he still remembers almost every detail of his hip spica cast, it’s now a thing of the past.  While my little guy had to learn to walk all over again and worked hard for two and a half years to be able to run and keep up with the other kiddos his age, I’m now so proud to report that he has officially finished with physical therapy!

It’s been a long road, a bit of messy road, and there is no way we could have trod it without the encouraging, smart skill of his physical therapist, Melissa Geffers from Austill’s Rehabilitation Services.  You see, my son is a sweet, neat kid, but he is stubborn. No idea where he gets that from…If he gets a notion into his head that he doesn’t want to do something, forward progress can be tricky at best.  Nothing makes his resistance more apparent than situations that are fearful to him.

Learning to jump and ride a bike can be scary for any kid, much less one with his disposition and the resulting challenges of his break. He needs someone who can be endlessly patient, but who can be firm in pushing him on to new goals.  Someone who is wicked clever at tricking him into trying new tasks in the form of creative play and games.  Someone who makes him work, but makes the work fun.

Son playing hopscotch as part of physical therapy @meredithspidel

I feel so blessed that God brought Melissa into our lives two summers ago.  She was just the person we needed and He knew it.  Through her work and instruction I saw my son grow in ways I was never sure he would.  Melissa is also just a very, very neat person.  For two years, she has visited our house weekly and accepted us for all that we were. She put up with my fussy toddler daughter, my unwashed hair, the millions of teeny Legos all over our carpet, our psycho chocolate lab, and the fact that my preschool son sometimes was simply having a bad day, like preschoolers tend to do.

Physical therapist playing with kids @meredithspidelI was touched that Melissa always brought little gifts for not only my son on the holidays, but my daughter as well.  Both kids got to squee together over bubble and sticker time at the end of our sessions.  She got to know Isaac’s best friend and my Mother’s Helper. During her visits, Melissa updated me about all the exciting things in her life and patiently let me babble about the latest books I was reading.  She truly treated our whole family with her therapy, befriending us all, and teaching us new skills that we could do together to help Isaac.

That’s his name: Isaac.  It means laughter, and I will never forget Melissa’s part in helping my sweet, smily boy get one of the most precious parts of his childhood back–running around laughing.  Because he can run now, you know.

Son running and laughing--finally!  @meredithspidel

****Melissa, we love you and will always be so grateful for what you have done for our family.  So excited to see all of the wonderful ways you bless others with your talent and all of the beautiful things to come in your own life!*****

Aug 062014
 

Clothes Mentor West Chester @meredithspidelMy husband has adapted very well, with a general acceptance, to my endless string of crushes.  These crushes range in subject from Jesse Pinkman to new TV shows (Orange is the New Black, anyone??) to an incredibly pretty shade of Urban Decay lipstick.  Most recently, my fashion obsessions have been raging, finding exciting territory in StitchFix, maxi skirts and collectively, anything found in People Style Watch.

The only slightly sticky wicket of all my fascinations is that they cost money. Snap! It just feels like rocking out sweet styles should be a given freebie or something, right?

Mmhhh…sadly, looking gorgeous isn’t necessarily an easy no-cost-given on this earth.  Enter Clothes Mentor.  Self-advertised as “a huge walk-in closet for fashionable women”, I started swooning immediately upon learning of this local shop.  I have long been in love with consignment and re-sale.  The truth?  I like brand-names and adorable stuff, but our still-paying-endless-school-debt/WAHM salary doesn’t allow for a lot of first-pass Kate Spade and Micheal Kors.

I like Kate Spade and Michael Kors.

A lot.

So it was time for a Clothes Mentor-intervention.  Could my budget really meet my high-brow taste?

Shopping at Clothes Mentor @meredithspidelI grabbed my friend Sara for the Christmas in July sale and we were off to discover the depths of money-saving/brand-name snagging glory at the West Chester location of Clothes Mentor.

And…Holy Cow!

I was wowed by how huge the store was and how very-filled the racks were.  Throw in a brand-new Free People dress in my size? I was swooning. It wasn’t entirely pretty.  When the Ann Taylor new-with-tags dress entered the scene, the drooling got rather intense.

This store was HUGE and packed to the gills with sweet finds.  Moreover?  The staff was so very friendly and helpful.

In Main Line suburbia, there are a boatload of excellent consignment shop finds, but the pleasure of uncovering a store that not only has so many nifty items but also excels in customer service?  I’m a goner.

Check out this sweet staff...ready to help you! Carrie, Juli & Aly...at your service!

Check out this sweet staff…ready to help you! Carrie, Juli & Aly…at your service!

I have already scheduled my return to Clothes Mentor in my personal calendar and am counting down the days to my next visit.  I’m also sort-of crushing on an adorable brown leather clutch I saw in the shop, but don’t tell my husband this; cool?

Clothes Mentor @meredithspidel

As the Clothes Mentor website says, “Clothes Mentor is a resale store like you’ve never seen before.  At 70% off mall prices, we carry current women’s fashions in sizes 0-4x, plus athletic wear, petites and maternity–with thousands of better name-brand clothes under one roof. We also carry jewelry, handbags, shoes, wallets, belts and so much more! You’ll find a huge designer selection, from handbags to jewelry.”

Clothes Mentor is also a great place to sell any extra items you may have: “How do we build our fabulous inventory of like-new women’s fashions? By paying our customers CASH-on-the-spot all day, EVERY day for their items…We understand that life changes–so bring those fashions that no longer fit, whether they are the wrong size or just don’t fit your personality any more.”

The selection was endless...

The selection was endless…

Ready to try Clothes Mentor for yourself?  Locally, they have shops in both West Chester and Springfield, but check out their shops nationally.  And the owner of the local stores, Chris, is so very cool.  She is offering one of my readers a free retail therapy party.  What is a retail therapy party and why is it such a neat event?

Local shop owner Chris explains her philosophy, “Clothes Mentor is a store based on a community of women.  Women who support each other and who empower each other—no matter how big your budget or how important your job, everyone is on a level playing field in our store and our team makes you feel like royalty even if you are not.  Women do not spend enough time building each other up.  We need a place to celebrate and throw “attaboys” at each other—with a high-five and a butt bump or two!  Here is what the give-away of a retail therapy party for 6 or more includes:

  1.  Appetizers and beverages of choice
  2. Personal stylist assigned to the party to help with outfit/clothing selection and to help with party set up.  This stylist will support the entire party at the dressing rooms to make trying on clothes easier and will take photos to share with the hostess after the party.
  3. 20% discount for everyone who attends the party—but there is no requirement to shop or to buy, just come and have a fun evening out with girlfriends.
  4. If the party (at either the Springfield or West Chester store) is scheduled before September 1, the hostess also receives a $25 shopping credit to use during the party.”

I love the way this party is set-up as a way for women to celebrate each other and enjoy some fun with fashion!  Are you also swayed? Ready to check out Clothes Mentor for yourself?  Enter to win this retail therapy package!  Pop in the Rafflecopter below.*  

Another great reason to head to Clothes Mentor soon?  Chris is also offering all my readers a 20% discount through September 1 if you mention “The Mom of the Year” at checkout!

Friends, when isn’t it time to update your wardrobe?  Having some fun, new, affordable cool clothes and accessories is within reach.  Go find your inner-fashionista at Clothes Mentor.  Fall in love with a new item…or two or a bunch.  I’ll be here cheering on all of your adventurous money-saving shopping from the comfort of my jazzy new leopard-print pants!

Appalling, I know.  But I really like that consignment-pricing afforded me the chance to rock these pants that I would never have otherwise-looked at...

Love that consignment-pricing afforded me the chance to snag these pants that I otherwise wouldn’t have even tried on!

And make sure to follow Clothes Mentor on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to stay tuned on the latest store items and events!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*E-mail addresses entered in Rafflecopter will be added to Clothes Mentor’s mailing list.

Our total haul? 7 (yes, SEVEN!) dresses (tags still on Ann Taylor and Free People), 2 pair of shoes, 2 pair of earrings, and a pair of jeans and a pair of pants for $119!

Our total brand-name haul? 7 (yes, SEVEN!) dresses (tags still on Ann Taylor and Free People), 2 pair of shoes, 2 pair of earrings, a pair of jeans and a pair of pants for $119!

****Clothes Mentor has compensated me for reviewing their store, but my awe of their business remains 100% genuine!****

Aug 032014
 
We may have gotten our spots mixed up a bit...

We may have gotten our spots mixed up a bit…

Dutch Wonderland‘s tagline of “A Kingdom for Kids” couldn’t be more perfectly fitting.  Upon walking through the castle gates, you enter a land of fairytales-come-true.  There are princesses and dragons (all friendly, of course), kiddie rides galore, a water park, and magic.

I still remember going here as a kid and being wowed.  (Most specifically, I remember my grandparents taking me, sailing down a sliding board into a puddle of mud and my grandma hauling me to a store across the street to get a new outfit because I was a hot mess, but this is another story…).

I remember the mezmerizing-to-kids Dutch Wonderland signature features: the giant pretzel, the milkable cow (not real), the mini church, the birthday cake you could walk through and the gingerbread house with the teeny bakers-at-work.

A few days ago, my family got to spend the day at Dutch Wonderland, and one of my favorite parts was watching my daughter as enraptured with those gingerbread bakers as I used to be:

Sweet captivation

Sweet captivation

We visited on a gorgeous day, and I think my son would have played in the water park area for forever if we had let him.  I love Dutch Wonderland‘s water area because it is truly little-kid friendly.  It is isn’t too huge, so it’s easy to keep track of your little ones.  There are three separate areas: one for little little kids, one for water gun-shooting and other water play, and another with three not-enormous slides that are very well-manned by life-guards.  All are closely lined by lounge chairs for parents who want to grab a seat, but still keep a close eye on their kids.  In short, it’s a paradise for both kids and adults.

He was in his bliss!

He was in his bliss!

After running around the water park all morning and breaking for lunch, it was then time to hit the rest of the park.  We were all excited to visit Exploration Island with its new-for-2104 dinosaur exhibit and take a spin on the remodeled Turnpike:

What I love most about the picture is that my daughter wasn't quite tall enough to make it in--out her hands are still peeking out.

My daughter wasn’t quite tall enough to make it in, but her little hands still make an appearance ;)

Nothing like a late-afternoon drive.

Nothing like a late-afternoon drive.

Then we were off to (not-so-scary) roller coasters, the big flume ride, bumper cars, a family boat cruise and few old-fashioned kiddie rides for good measure.

Seeing her delighted over this ride was especially sweet–the exact same first one I rode as a kid and then operated as a teen!

Let’s be honest: a day at an amusement park with kids is never a relaxing event as a parent, but Dutch Wonderland makes a big day out pretty darn easy and fun.  It is truly a child-friendly park.  All of the rides are geared for little ones.  While my husband took our son on some of the “bigger” rides that my daughter was still too small for (The Kingdom Coaster and the bumper cars), there were loads of toddler-friendly rides (and gingerbread exhibits) within easy reach to keep us amused as we waited for the guys.

All of us had fun and were thoroughly delighted with our day in the Kingdom.  The only thing I’m left wishing for? That we get to back again very soon.

*****Thank you to Dutch Wonderland for hosting our family for the day!  Our delight in the park is 100% genuine, as is our desire to return ASAP!*****

Despite my best intentions to get a cute photo of my guys playing at the park in their new Tom and Teddy swimsuits "the softest, most comfortable suit Ive ever worn", according to my husband), I had to settle for capture their summer cuteness at home!

Despite my intention to snag a cute photo of my guys playing at Dutch Wonderland in their new Tom and Teddy swimsuits (“the softest, most comfortable suit I’ve ever worn”, said my understated husband), I ended up capturing their summer fashionableness poolside.  They are loving these suits–and I’m loving them in them!

 

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