Aug 172015
 

Looking for an all-in-one device to tackle cardiovascular, toning, and abdominal fitness? Meet the Bosu Ball and why I love it--and you will too! Bet you never bargained on the fun element I found...When Wayfair asked me to choose an item for myself to celebrate Back to School, I was stumped. I shook my head in an effort to clear away the pencil sets, glue sticks, and Star Wars backpacks that were overtaking my mental space and forced myself to concentrate hard.

What do I want for ME? I have spent the past three months loving the the gorgeousness of summer while simultaneously beating my head against a wall praying that the school bus would hurry up and get here. What have I been longing for during that time? Crazy things, like time to chip away at this blogging gig, catch up on watching Astronaut Wives while folding laundry so I don’t feel too indulgent, make yet another pass at my attempts to firm up… you know, all the insane crazy fantasies of a WAHM.

So I thought and thought.

And then I remembered.

A Bosu Ball.

A what? And why?

You see, once upon a long, long ago, in the far away land of Before Kids, I worked as a Fitness Consultant at a gym. I’ll wait while you find a seat to recover from the shock…But it’s true, I really did. I got paid to work out with clients and teach them ways to build strength and get in shape. It was awesome, and I loved it.

After cranking out some harsh hours in grad school, I’d pop over to the gym and play it out on the circuit with a heady amount of focus on the Bosu Balls. I never knew exactly what I was doing; in college I had taught step aerobics (another I know), and I would work out whatever moves I remembered from this time with a bunch of random hops and jumps. It was blast.

Looking for an all-in-one device to tackle cardiovascular, toning, and abdominal fitness? Meet the Bosu Ball and why I love it--and you will too! Bet you never bargained on the fun element I found...

I was in the best physical shape of my life and despite endless sleepless nights filled with paper-writing and lots of stressing over how we’d ever get bills paid, in so many ways, these were my Glory Days. They were fabulous and they were fun.

Fast-forward 10 years, 1 dog, 2 houses, and 2 kids later, and you find yourself at my current life situation. One without a lot of “random hops and jumps”, many extra pounds, and a whole, whole lot of playdates, panic over getting the proper art shirt for 1st grade and wondering whether or not I can pack peanut butter in my son’s lunch box. It’s a life that very possibly needs reclaimed.

A life that could very possibly benefit from the fun of bosu ball. And the fitness benefits: it allows you to combine all elements of fitness with one apparatus. Cardiovascular, toning and flexibility are all schooled with the Bosu Ball. Game on, friends. 

Looking for an all-in-one device to tackle cardiovascular, toning, and abdominal fitness? Meet the Bosu Ball and why I love it--and you will too! Bet you never bargained on the fun element I found...

I knew what I had to order for myself. It was time to welcome back the Bosu Ball. High time.

My kids aren’t objecting; in fact, they love it. The coolest toy Mommy has bought in years. A win-win, I’d say?

While Jillian has served me well, so very well, in the past years, it is time to move on. Move on to the Bosu Ball and all of the magical bouncing and harkening back to a time in my life that didn’t include a sizable muffin top. A time when I regularly knew that exercising was fun and something to be enjoyed. A time when a part of me was a little more me.

Hello, Bosu Ball. Let’s get this party on.

****Many thanks to Wayfair for encouraging me to reconnect with a part of myself that I loved and sponsoring this post. Back to School is many, many things to a mom, but slicing out care for ourselves is one of the most important parts. Get Back to YOU, moms!****

Aug 122015
 

Crazy days with the kids getting away from you? Need control over the chaos? This solution saved our sanity and helped us get the most from our days. An easy-peasy win, mom!Long about 3 months ago, I took stock of the coming summer months and realized I was crap-screwed. School was ending, and with it, the delicate tether to schedule and order that keeps me from piddling away time online while the kids play Angry Birds and we all pitifully hang out in our pajamas until 4pm.

We had this glorious gift of TIME upon us. Gorgeous days of sunshine and childhood that were made to be spent well and not wasted fruitlessly. I wanted to have fun with them this summer. I wanted to play and do things we would remember.

I’ve learned that with my personality, I can’t ever really relax and enjoy things until I feel like some responsibilities are addressed. It’s such a carefree lifestyle, I know. This means, to have a “good” day in my book, I need to cross a few things off the list so I feel freed to truly delight in play. Otherwise, I spend my evenings grouching over having fussy, dull days of nothingness.

Not to mention, there were things that actually needed to happen this summer. I am nervous upon nervous for my son’s entry into 1st grade, and when the school “strongly suggests” he bone up on his reading skills, you’d better believe this mama is going to do everything she can to make that happen.

 

Homework beating you up? It doesn't have to, really! Make it an easy-peasy part of your day with this simple trick!

Also, I think there’s something solid to be said for brushing teeth every day, no matter how bohemian-relaxed you are in all other regards of cleanliness. And I’m not exaggerating when I say this teeth cleaning wouldn’t happen unless I checked myself. I must make it an intentional point to rock some of these tasks or it’s not going to happen.

So, it was time to get organized. Time to find a solution. I thought, I pondered, I Pinterest-ed. And suddenly those chore charts that I spent the early years of my kids’ lives eschewing didn’t seem so very crazy. In fact, they seemed incredibly smart.

To be clear: this is NOT a sponsored post. I don’t have any dedicated belief that one chore chart over another is better. And I know that far craftier gals create brilliant homemade versions. I went with the Melissa and Doug version for the sole reason that Melissa and Doug has never failed me and that I will never be a crafty girl.

Crazy days with the kids getting away from you? Need control over the chaos? This solution saved our sanity and helped us get the most from our days. An easy-peasy win in 6 simple steps, mom!And this is the very real-life account of how the chore chart saved our summer:

1) I ordered two of this chart. Two because I have two kids, and it seemed far easier and clearer for them to each have their own.

2) I made it seem like Christmas morning when the charts arrived. I talked them up to be better than sliced bread and got the kids really excited.

3) I filled in slots with things I knew needed to happen this summer: Reading Eggs (an online reading program my kids love that teaches skills), homework (I am not totally insane: I made my son do only one sheet/day of the ginormous packet his teacher sent home for the summer), practicing piano (again, not insane: I will take 5-10 minutes/day), brushing teeth and getting dressed.

4) I filled in the rest with things we are shooting for: keeping hands to ourselves, not whining (Please God), putting toys away, etc. Note that most of these are small tasks and often intangible: this is summer, a time of kicking back–not huge demands.

5) I threw the kids in the minivan and trekked us to Target. I set them loose in the dollar aisle (Have I mentioned I love the Target dollar aisle? LOVE IT) I told them to choose prizes they’d like to get throughout the summer. I spent less than $30 and came home and threw all the loot in a bag.

6) Every week, if they marked off enough boxes on their chore charts, they got to grab one of their prizes out of the bag. Let’s be honest, it’s summer, as long as they have a sizeable number of checks on their charts, they’re getting a prize. Read: they will get a prize every week for motivation’s sake, but they don’t know this.

Final story: yes, there are days we forget about the chore charts altogether (I think this is a healthy thing), but there are many more days they inspire us to get a few important things done and then go play the rest of our summer days away. The kids think it’s really cool to see a tangible reward for their efforts–things like setting the table and doing a sheet of homework feel like a huge effort to them in the summer months. The charts motivate them to keep going and teach them basic principles of time management.

Crazy days with the kids getting away from you? Need control over the chaos? This solution saved our sanity and helped us get the most from our days. An easy-peasy win in 6 simple steps, mom!

Moreover, these chore charts serve as a semblance of order and purpose to days which could so easily be otherwise lost. For us they are a total win. A saving grace of sanity in the otherwise mess of this child-rearing gig. Count me in!

Aug 072015
 

Are you a reader? You are in the right company! Here are 20 books from fellow gals who read that you need to grab NOW! Plus, the chance to score them all for free is a pretty sweet deal!It’s here, friends. The end of summer is upon us. I know. But that doesn’t mean you need to put your beloved books down! In fact, just the opposite. No time like the present to dig into your reading and escape the hassles and woes of Back to School prep and fuss. There is something solid to be said for hanging on to these last days of summer and making the most of them.

To embrace the end of our summer months, I teamed up with a bunch of my blogging buddies and asked the uber-important question: what book would you recommend for a last-blast at summer reading? What book would you love to share with others? Every month, The Mom of the Year and Normal Level of Crazy meet through a virtual book club* to allow moms to come together and chat about fab books while still rocking their pj pants in the cozy-comfort of their own homes. It doesn’t get any better, really.

This month, we’ve blown the skies wide open and are coming to you with an entire list of great reads that you need to check out! Even better, we are giving one of you a $225 Amazon gift card along with seven of the titles on this list to read! Use the gift card to snatch up your reading wish list and dig into the books sent to your door. In short, you will be in a reader’s heaven. It’s sweet deal!

Enter to score the gift card and the hard copies of the books before 8/14/15 at 5:30am ET through the Rafflecopter below. As long as you are resident of the continental U.S. and 18 yrs. or older, you are eligible to win!

Are you a reader? You are in the right company! Here are 20 books from fellow gals who read that you need to grab NOW! Plus, the chance to score them all for free is a pretty sweet deal!

What’s on the list of recommended reads?

The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks (Jessica of Herd Management)–Possibly the best Sparks’ book I’ve ever read. Two couples in completely different time periods paths cross and the end result is amazing. Tear-jerking romance is enfolded within the pages of the characters’ captivating challenges. Plus, I can’t resist a cowboy. Read this before you see the movie!

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan (Courtney of Our Small Moments)– How would you feel if the one you loved turned out to be from one of the richest families? Crazy Rich Asians shows the complexity of that situation.

The Liar by Nora Roberts (MamaRabia of The Lieber Family)–What would you do if you found out that your recently deceased husband was not only a liar and a thief, but possibly worse? Shelby Pomeroy decides to take back her life by clearing her name and fighting to make a better life for herself and her young daughter. But her dead husband still has some surprises in store for her!

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline (Jennifer of Real Life Parenting)–The primary female characters in this historical fiction are strong, feisty, and full of heart and personality. The way their lives in time are so far apart, their connections are close and poignant. I loved the blending of history with modern day happenings! A quick read because you just don’t want to put it down.

Are you a reader? You are in the right company! Here are 20 books from fellow gals who read that you need to grab NOW! Plus, the chance to score them all for free is a pretty sweet deal!

Child, Please, How Mama’s Old-School Lessons Helped Me Check Myself Before I Wrecked Myself by Ylonda Gault Caviness (Stacey of One Funny Motha)–Maybe I like this book because I’m old-school myself. Or it could be the author’s funny, lively, entirely personable voice that makes reading it feel as though you’re talking to a friend. Or it could be that I write about similar issues myself and found much to agree with in the author’s perspective. Whatever the case, this memoir is a throughly enjoyable read of one woman’s straight-talking journey through motherhood and was selected by Ebony as 1 of the top 4 must-reads of the summer.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (Alyson of The Shitastrophy)–Was the most amazing read for me. After having walked away from reading for pleasure for some time due to work commitments I selected this book to read on an airplane. I couldn’t put the book down and finished it within 2 days. The story winds and weaves through three friends lives together. The ending was something I didn’t see coming and was suiting to see how justice can come to fruition, even when not done judicially. I have gone on to read the rest of her books available and none have disappointed.

Now the Hell Will Start by Brendan I. Koerner (Femme of FemmeFrugality)–Part history, part thriller, all non-fiction.  Now the Hell Will Start is the story of Herman Perry, a WWII American soldier on the run in Burma after shooting his commanding officer.  Not only does it expose a massive part of WWII history we never learn about in school, it also follows his incredible run from the law, including marrying into a local, headhunting tribe.

The Reluctant Tuscan by Phil Doran (Alicia of Sadler House)–Many writers have extolled the virtues of Italy’s countryside, but no other story of Italian transplants is quite like this one. This witty memoir recounts how an award-winning Hollywood comedy producer finds himself renovating a 300-year-old house in Tuscany, where escapism gives way to real-life hilarity.

The Ocean at The End of The Lane by Neil Gaiman (Janene of More than Mommies)–We all have those reader friends who we want to be like. You know . . . the ones who are always reading WAY cooler books than we are reading? Well, this book came HIGHLY recommended by my reader friend who I have reader envy of, so, I think we should ALL read it and discuss! (I’m planning on reading it in August . . . so if you pick this one to read I’d love to hear your thoughts!)

Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives by Josie Brown (Dani of Cloudy, With a Chance of Wine)–My BFF sent me Secrets of Husbands and Wives by Josie Brown for my birthday in March and I absolutely COULD NOT put it down. I only ever trust her book recommendations, and she was spot on with this one. It’s the perfect late summer / back-to-school read, and will not disappoint!

House of Mirth by Edith Wharton (Norine of Science of Parenthood)–Though it reads like a Downton Abbey-esque drawing room drama, behind the mansions and manners and horse-drawn carriages, Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth is a fierce social commentary on the proscribed roles for American women in the 1880s. Wharton is a social commentator bar none. And Lily Bart, whose story this is, is my favorite tragic heroine. Every time I read this book, I root for Lily to emerge victorious … and am heartbroken all over again when she falters.

On Borrowed Wings by Chandra Prasad (Amy of Funny is Family)–On Borrowed Wings is the story of a girl who disguises herself as a boy to attend Yale University in the 1930s, before women were allowed to enroll. It’s a fantastic read that weaves well-researched historical details and the strong desire of a girl to break away from her predetermined life path.

All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner (Meredith of Meredith to Mommy)–This book really struck me. Well-off, suburban, mom blogger who is trying to do it all winds up addicted to pain meds. This constant monologue of “I can fix this myself. I have a plan. I don’t REALLY have a problem.” as she falls deeper and deeper into addiction made me choke up at how easy it is to lose control and wind up in a hole that you have no hope of clawing yourself out of alone, while still keeping up a strong facade as someone who has it all. I’ve read it multiple times, and find myself just as drawn in as I was the first.

Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe (Kimberly of Red Shutters)–Did you love Rob Lowe in “The Outsiders” and “St. Elmo’s Fire” as much as I did? Then, you’d love this memoir in which Lowe pulls back the curtain on his life in Hollywood, from 19-year-old heartthrob to award-winning actor, sharing life wisdom along the way. I enjoyed the audio version of this book, which Lowe narrates himself, complete with impressions of Christopher Walken, Francis Ford Coppola, and other film industry luminaries.

The Martian by Andy Weir (Kim of Let Me Start By Saying)–A man gets left on Mars by accident and his personality, smarts, creativity, and sense of humor carve a place in your heart for him as he tries to figure a way to survive–and eventually leave–his new home in space. What is happening back on Earth and in the ship that left him will have you cranking through the pages, itching to know what will happen next, because this book is full of surprises, laughs, details that make you feel right there.

We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver (Stephanie of When Crazy Meets Exhaustion)–A thought-provoking punch to the gut that, unfortunately, mimics reality a little too closely. I read it before I had kids, then again after I had my three, and I think a parent’s perspective is far more frightening. In the novel, a sociopath “kid” commits the darkest of sins and turns a town–and his family–upside down. *Shivers*

Finding Zoe by Brandi Rarus (Stephanie of Binkies and Briefcases)–the story of a deaf mother and how she came to find herself raising an adopted daughter who is also deaf, as well as her biological children. As an adoptive mom myself, it can be hard to find other stories that relate to my own journey mothering a child with special needs who joined us out of foster care, and this book certainly does that. More than that, Finding Zoe also gave me a glimpse into deaf culture (which was neat for me because before my grandmother passed away she volunteered as a sign language interpreter) and was full of cool trivia, like the author being cast as Marlee Matlin’s understudy in a play, but it was also real and relatable on a human level. I think any mom will be able to relate to this memoir.

Are you a reader? You are in the right company! Here are 20 books from fellow gals who read that you need to grab NOW! Plus, the chance to score them all for free is a pretty sweet deal!

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty (Melanie of Not So Super Mom)– I like it for summer reading because it’s not too heavy of a story but it does make us think a bit about our own lives, the expectations we had when we were younger and how changing priorities can set our lives on a different course than we imagined. What a difference a decade makes, right?

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn (Ellen and Erin of Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms)–Stop looking to other authors to give you the next Gone Girl and just read Flynn’s earlier work. Dark Places is told in a captivating flashback format, with Libby–complicated and damaged from a horrific tragedy in her childhood–narrating the present-day chapters in first person, while the flashback chapters, told in third person, describe the actions of several key characters on that one winter’s day in 1985.
The plot is gripping and complex enough to have you guessing how the puzzle really fits together until the very end. I only wish the story had been longer because it was the type of read you just want to binge on, but are sorry when it’s over.

Cutting Teeth by Julia Fierro (Carrie of Normal Level of Crazy and Meredith of The Mom of the Year)–With raw and heartwarming honesty, Fierro’s debut captures the sacrifices we make in order to seek understanding, compassion, and love.

Now that you have the whole list of fav recommendations, it’s time to get reading, friends! Grab up these titles and make sure to enter in the Rafflecopter below for a super sweet $225 Amazon gift card and seven of these books for your very own!

We are thrilled to have you reading with us in this last blast to summertime!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

A huge thank you to the publishing houses that offered copies of the books included in our giveaway! All the books were chosen because we genuinely think they are fantastic. We love reading and we so appreciate working with you, Grand Central Publishing, St. Martin’s Press, Tarcher, BenBella Books, The Crown Publishing Group, and Penguin Press.

* Note to our dedicated book club fans: We WILL be discussing Judy Blume’s In the Unlikely Event as promised, but in the interest of this ginormous giveaway and recommendation list post, we’ve decided to table this discussion until September. Check in on the first Friday of the month, 9/4/15 to catch our thoughts on this book and snag our pick for the next month! We love having you read with us!

 

Second image credit: depositphotos.com, Image ID:73432021, Copyright:Wavebreakmedia

Third image credit: depositphotos.com, Image ID:1884440, copyright:phodopus

Fourth image credit: depositphotos.com, Image ID:7214753Copyright:mac_sim

Jul 292015
 

Check these amazing dress finds at Belk! Your wardrobe--and your budget with these FANTASTIC deals--will thank you!Let’s be straight: I drool for fashion. I sit in my perfectly ensconced-by-budgetary-concerns world of preschool pick-up-friendly athleisure and fantastize about more. More pretty things. Less advertising to the world at large that I work solely from home in my yoga pants. I reverently flip through the pages of People Style Watch and think, “This could be me??”.

True story, with a teensy more effort and some savvy bargain hunting skills, it could be me. Sites like ShopatHome make it ridiculously easy to bank the savings while scoring big on the goods you’re crushing on.

What is ShopAtHome.com? It’s an online coupon and cash back site that partners with thousands of online retailers and more than 60 million members to deliver savings and rewards. In short? It’s a sweet deal!

It allows me to pop over to one of My Favorite Stores of All Time, Belk, the Southern fashion mecca, and snatch up some fantastic savings for a fraction of the original cost. Currently, ShopatHome is offering 12% cash back at Belk! Score!

Belk was the source of my go-to amazing leather boots I snagged a few years ago that I wear non-stop come October; I trust this store endlessly to provide fashionable, quality choices for my wardrobe. Belk has a skilled knack for snagging incredible finds that look fantastic. To prove the point?

When the most fashionable (and incredibly sweet, nice) gal I know (seriously, I was floored by her savvy gorgeousness and fab Southern-style at BlogU), Harmony Hobbs of Modern Mommy Madness, sent an urgent heads-up that AN AMAZING SALE was happening at Belk, it was time to pay attention.

This is how cute Harmony looks when scoring an adorable dress at Belk:

Check these amazing dress finds at Belk! Your wardrobe--and your budget with these FANTASTIC deals--will thank you!

I know. I KNOW. She is TOO adorable. I hate her a teensy bit too ;)

When I’m not busy jealously scowling at Harmony’s beauty, I am swooning over these Belk finds:

The jeans everyone needs. Seriously, they flatter every body shape.

This is the cutest fall dress of all time. Hip, fun and comfy? A total win!

Check these amazing dress finds at Belk! Your wardrobe--and your budget with these FANTASTIC deals--will thank you!

This one statement necklace will go with everything you own and that will make you feel like a rockstar every time you put it on.

These comfy chic slip-on boat shoes feel like a dream and work with so many outfits.

I would swoon to snag this leather watch that goes with EVERYTHING and would make you feel boss every time you slip it on.Oh my goodness! I am crushing on this watch BIG-TIME. Adorable, trendy and will go with so much. Go here to save a ton on it!The fall tote that carries everything you need while looking uber-cool.

The agenda notebook that makes you feel boss while schooling your insane days.

The one pair of stud earrings that will go with over half your wardrobe and you will never regret buying.

Looking for a pair of simple earrings that will go with over half of your wardrobe? Delivered! These are simple, sweet, and fit the bill! Plus, link through here to snag INCREDIBLE savings on your pair!

As Harmony reminded me, every Southern gal needs a good hat. Not sure how Southern this is, but the fedora is SO in!

A trendy tunic sweater to match up with your fav pair of skinny jeans? Yes, please!

Listen, I can’t realistically promise to shed my yoga pants in the interest of fashion every single day of my mom-fab life, but with the tremendous savings-power of shopping Belk through ShopAtHome, my reasons-not-to are fast fading. Bring the sweet Southern-style, bargains included, on! It’s time to get fashionable, friends!

Check these amazing dress finds at Belk! Your wardrobe--and your budget with these FANTASTIC deals--will thank you!

****Thanks to Belk for sponsoring this post so I could share some sweet fall fashion finds with all of you! My hope of actually snagging and sporting these fab duds remains 100% genuine!**** 

Jul 172015
 

Cape May, NJ is FULL of sweet, small shops, but trust me--this is the ONE that you can't miss! And here are 4 reasons why--did I mention that it's kid-friendly?? ;)I have endless memories of my mother, a natural-born shopper, delighting in browsing the shops at Cape May, NJ on our vacations. Much to my husband’s chagrin, I’ve inherited her shopping gene. That’s cool; he can go ahead and roll his eyes in the corner, I’m too thrilled with my hunting for special treasures to notice his silliness. I’m shopping it up on our vacations and I’m loving it.

In the past couple years, in between wave jumping and pitiful sand-castle-building while sneaking out for my shopping fix, I discovered the most incredible shop in Cape May: Across the Way. This gift and home decor shop was opened seven years ago at the end of the Washington Street Mall across the way from it’s sister store, Madame’s Port. It’s been so successful, they recently opened a second store in Stone Harbor, NJ.

 

Why do I love Across the Way and why is it so popular?

Finding a sweet shop you'd love to return to again and again can be hard! Here's the 4 things that keep me coming back--small business owners take heed! I'll bet you never thought #4 through before!

1) They sell really cool stuff. Like, really. The owners are uber-dedicated to finding unique items, buying from local artisans and American-made product as they can. From gorgeous jewelry to trendy bags to pallet-board wall art to games and books for the kids to eco-friendly gifts, you’ll have fun looking around and checking out their stock. Find something perfect for whomever you’re shopping for–yourself included! They are also known for the tremendous line of Lenny and Eva jewelry they carry and as a sweet treat, are giving away a large sentiment/brass combo to one of you readers! Find more details about this below.

Cape May, NJ is FULL of sweet, small shops, but trust me--this is the ONE that you can't miss! The selection of unique one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces is supreme. And you can even design your own bracelet cuff with the amazing brand featured in the shop--and online! Here are 4 reasons why you will go back to this shop again and again! Check out this boss leather cuff my sister put together!

Check out this boss leather cuff my sister put together!

Cape May, NJ is FULL of sweet, small shops, but trust me--this is the ONE that you can't miss! The selection of unique one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces is supreme. And you can even design your own bracelet cuff with the amazing brand featured in the shop--and online! Here are 4 reasons why you will go back to this shop again and again!

I love the sweet matching rings my sister and I found!

2) The store is set up really well. Aside from the fact that they have two register stations so you never have to wait in a long line (always a plus when you have whiny kids in tow), they very smartly have some kids items stashed towards the front of the shop. And they encourage the children to play with the display toys (I know–awesome!). Even cooler, they have some guy-friendly items (puzzles, books, games, etc.) right beside the kids’ area. This allows Mommy to at least hope her family will be happily occupied while she shops through the rest of the store.

Love shopping but hate having to worry about bring your kids with you and having them crash into or break something? Finally a small shop with unique treasures and finds for mom--and a family-friendly environment for the kids!

3) The staff is really nice and helpful. Of course I fell in love with a particular necklace that happened to be in the front display window, buried in front of about a zillion display stands and other items. Basically, the staff had to dismantle the entire store front to retrieve the necklace. And they never batted an eye during the whole process. Not only were they not grouchy with me for making them work so hard, they were very friendly and kind. They were also more than willing to answer my questions about different products as I sorted out all selections.

4) They have a very cool online presence. I understand that as a blogger, I may be more into this than most, but here is why this is a good thing for you too: so many small local shops lack an online site where you can order their products. Across the Way does have a website to order from, and this is fantastic. If you aren’t visiting Cape May soon, or were in the store, saw something you weren’t sure about, then got home and were kicking yourself that you didn’t buy it? No sweat! You can pop over to their website and get it sent straight to your house.

In addition to being on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Google +, Across the Way also has a gorgeous Instagram account–follow along to capture some more inspiration and beauty in your day!

Cape May, NJ is FULL of sweet, small shops, but trust me--this is the ONE that you can't miss! The selection of unique one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces is supreme. And you can even design your own bracelet cuff with the amazing brand featured in the shop--and online! Here are 4 reasons why you will go back to this shop again and again!

I love my favorite shop, can you tell? When I leave Across the Way, I feel inspired. And it’s not just the inspirational quotes on the wall decor or engraved in the jewelry, it’s the the store is dedicated to genuine things of beauty and artisanship. I never got to shop here with my mother, but I know she would have LOVED it.

This sweet wooden sign says it all. How to find your own perfect sentiment to snag for your own home.

This sweet wooden sign I found at Across the Way speaks volumes to me!

If you’re headed to Cape May, NJ, swing by and tell them hello from me and pick out something fun! It’s the kind of place you want to visit again and again–in-person and online. If you’re looking for something special, Across the Way is the way to go.

Cape May, NJ is FULL of sweet, small shops, but trust me--this is the ONE that you can't miss! And here are 4 reasons why--did I mention that it's kid-friendly?? ;)

And be sure to enter the giveaway through the Rafflecopter below for your very own Lenny and Eva bracelet (a wide cuff of your choice with the pictured antique silver sentiment). As long as you live in the continental United States, are 18 or older and enter before 5:30am ET on 7/24/15, you are eligible!

This sentiment on this bracelet is this perfect way to honor what being a Mom of the Year is all about. Enter and then get your shopping on at Across the Way!

The greatest thing she learned is that there's no way to be a perfect mother, but a million ways to be a good one.

“The greatest thing she learned is that there’s no way to be a perfect mother, but a million ways to be a good one.”

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****Many thanks to Across the Way for creating such a gorgeous shop and sponsoring this post and giveaway so I could share them with you!****

 

Jul 122015
 

Have a purchase to make? Pop by here first and save yourself a bunch of dollars. One quick click makes all the difference! Wish I knew this trick from the get-go!Readers, we know I love my bargains. We also know I love to shop, but we can also all see Dr. J cringing visibly in the background while he vigilantly stands guard over our family budget. God bless him.

The thing is, how is a Mom of the Year, with all of her dedicated commitment to providing the best for her family sans breaking the bank supposed to get by? She gets savvy. Very, very savvy. She learns her ins and her outs of online deals and steals and learns to bargain-stalk like no one’s business. It gets real.

She falls in love with sites like Groupon, which allow her to grab sweet finds for a song from the cozy comfort of her jammy pants at home. Someday she may be able to get dressed before 10am, really. For now, she rocks the bargains with a few clicks and feels like boss for being so smart about saving money.

When Groupon makes a mind-blowing announcement that they are introducing Groupon Coupons? The Mom of the Year swoons. World rocked.

Yes, it’s true. Groupon recently launched Groupon Coupons, which features over 77,000 coupons from more than 8,900 stores. Your favorite deal-scoring site just went and made themselves bigger, better and snagged its way into every place you want to shop.

How does it work? If you are planning to buy from store online, first click over to Groupon Coupons and search for the store you are shopping. Click on that store and all the available coupons for that store will pop up. Select your coupon, and it will automatically take you over to the store site, applying the coupon to your purchase. Nothing else you need to do!

Have a purchase to make? Pop by here first and save yourself a bunch of dollars. One quick click makes all the difference! Wish I knew this trick from the get-go!

You could shop without Groupon Coupons, true. But this would be silly. Before making an online purchase, why not pop in through Groupon Coupons and snatch up the savings waiting for you at sites like KohlsNordstromNeiman Marcus, and Macy’s? Linking in through Groupon Coupons leaves more money in your bank account, and in my case, leaves Dr. J less snarly scowly at me.

You work hard for your money, friends. Be smart about it. Shop through Groupon Coupons and stretch those dollars further. Here’s raising my piggy bank to our coupon-saving genius!

****Thanks to Groupon Coupons for sponsoring this post and allowing me to share their money-saving genius with you!****

Second image credit: depositphotos.com, Image ID:19721969, Copyright:robynmac

Jul 102015
 

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Rocking an incredible once-in-a-lifetime experience? Get your jam on this summer with Pringles® and it could happen--really! Get the scoop--and all the silly musical laughs here!Do you remember that hip little beat we rocked at summer camp, the one made by tapping and flipping cups in the dining hall? Kind of like what Becca did when she tried out for the Bellas in Pitch Perfect. I was so boss at this. When Pringles® asked me to partner with them to spread the word about their Summer Jam Promotion, I cued up some of the Pringles® Percussion Prodigies videos and was thrown back to these camp jam sessions.

I doubt I’ll ever be that cool again with my groovy beats, but music is a tremendous part of our family life. Not only does my husband play in the weekly band at our church, he’s dedicated over half of our basement finishing project to display and storage of all his guitars, amps, and other musical paraphernalia. It’s a struggle to cut a path to the washing machine, I won’t lie.

We also work hard to teach our kids to play the piano, sing often, and almost always have tunes playing in the background in our home or in the car. And I couldn’t even count the sweet nights we spend out on our deck, chilling with some albums after the kids are in bed. Music has this gorgeous power to energize, relax, and feed your soul. It’s a gift.

We value music so much, and if there is something that celebrates it and makes it fun, count us in! This summer, Pringles® Summer Jam is the perfect treat for music fans nationwide. This campaign is offering exclusive access to favorite artists and cool music. Since people have been Pringles® cans as instruments for ages, Pringles® challenged M4Sonic and musicians of other styles and backgrounds, officially calling them the Percussion Prodigies, to incorporate the brand’s iconic can into their musical expression. Check out their videos and score some inspiration on how to rock your own Pringles® can as an instrument.

Even more, Pringles® is offering you and a friend the chance to win a VIP experience to a Live Nation concert in the U.S. How do you get in on a chance to win this incredible prize? Just pick up a specially marked can of Pringles®, enter your code online before 7/31/15 at 11:59pm ET.

Rocking an incredible once-in-a-lifetime experience? Get your jam on this summer with Pringles® and it could happen--really! Get the scoop--and all the silly musical laughs here!

Feeling inspired by all this musical fun? Go ahead and get your groove on, friends! All you need? A can of Pringles®. Drumsticks and cute kids are optional. Actual musical talent? Definitely optional. Check our fab rendition of Old MacDonald had a Farm below to what I’m talking about. It’s amazing, I know. Old MacDonald will never be the same.

Then go create your own fabulousness and share it on social media with #PringlesSummerJamSweeps.

This summer? The jam is on! Go rock it out with Pringles® and feel that beat!

Rocking an incredible once-in-a-lifetime experience? Get your jam on this summer with Pringles® and it could happen--really! Get the scoop--and all the silly musical laughs here!

Abbreviated Rules. No Purchase Necessary. Open to legal residents of the fifty (50) United States and District of Columbia who are 18 years of age or older at time of entry, and are a registered Twitter user. To enter and/or for complete Official Rules, go to https://www.pringles.com/us/promotions/summer-jam-2015/percussion-prodigies/official-rules.html. Promotion ends on 7/31/15 at 11:59:59 PM (ET). Subject to complete Official Rules. Void where prohibited. Sponsor: Kellogg Company, One Kellogg Square, Battle Creek, MI  49016.

****This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Pringles® Summer Jam.****

Jul 082015
 

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Socks that are comfy, soft, uber-washable, silky and QUALITY? I never knew they existed! Pure bliss! Treat your feet now!My sister and I recently had an intense fight about socks. I was, of course, right, and she was wrong. Obvs. You see, I was standing in defense of socks. She had this not-fun dry heel situation going on with her tootsies, yet still foolishly persisted in favoritism of going barefoot. Having a recent uber-delightful experience with Gold Toe after they asked me to partner with them for this sponsored post to check out their new Ultra Soft, Oh. So. Soft. socks, my (very wise) commitment to covering up those peds with some coziness was only further solidified.

I won’t lie, I first started wearing socks at night as a young child as I believed that they would protect me from any rogue snakes nibbling my toes. I know, the logic of a preschooler cannot be denied. Regardless of how my love affair with socks kicked off, my passion for them  remains deep. I could not, would not, sleep sans a pair of socks.

While a somewhat bizarre habit in toasty summer months, a major plus is that, with the addition of a sweet foot cream, my feet never, ever, dry out out. Seriously, I have the softest tootsies around outside of the newborn-baby crowd.

Since I hang out with my socks so much, I tend to get a bit particular about which ones I like. I need them to be warm, but not too warm. I need the exact proper rise over the ankle, so they look hip with my sneaks (because when you are rocking three day-old yoga pants, this is what matters…), and I really, really need them to be soft.

The Gold Toe Ultra Soft, Oh. So. Soft. socks? Fit this bill and then some. Last night as I was dozing off in my fancy new socks, I thought (don’t laugh at me), “My feet feel silky.” They do. You know how some socks are bulky, almost difficult to jam inside a sneaker? Not the case with Gold Toe Ultra Soft, Oh. So. Soft. The quality is obvious in the smooth fine fabric that slides easily into a pair of shoes. They almost made lacing up my sneaks for exercise seem fun. Almost.

Socks that are comfy, soft, uber-washable, silky and QUALITY? I never knew they existed! Pure bliss! Treat your feet now!

Even better? They wash like a dream–none of the silky soft quality was lost after being tossed through the wash/dry cycle a couple times. And they are so reasonably priced. Gold Toe Ultra Soft, Oh. So. Soft. defines affordable luxury. I wear my socks from sun-up through sun-down so I need them to stand up to frequent wash and wear. This brand delivers.

Socks that are comfy, soft, uber-washable, silky and QUALITY? I never knew they existed! Pure bliss! Treat your feet now!

Learn more about Gold Toe Ultra Soft, Oh. So. Soft. socks by following along with them on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. And don’t hesitate to hands-on check out the sweetness for yourself!

Socks that are comfy, soft, uber-washable, silky and QUALITY? I never knew they existed! Pure bliss! Treat your feet now!

Let’s be honest, as moms we rarely snag the chance to treat ourselves. Go wild and snag some Gold Toe Ultra Soft, Oh. So. Soft. It’s a handy way to sneak a little bliss into your everyday without rocking the budget. Pamper yourself with these socks, friends. Really.

Your feet will thank you from their blissed out state, I promise.

****This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Gold Toe.****

Jul 012015
 

Moms! Finally a shoe that is TRULY comfy AND stylish. They amaze me, and did I mention they are machine-washable?? You have to check these out!Swoosh. Swoosh. Swoosh.

Oh don’t mind me, friends, that’s just the noise of my feet waving their white flag of surrender to all the insanity I’ve already put them through this summer–and it’s only the first day of July. Truth told, the rest of me might be waving that flag right along with my feet, as these intense days are indeed rather intense and Mommy may be feeling a tad cranky-tired from all the fun together time, but another story for another time…

My feet. You see, as far as seasons go, summer is pretty demanding on the peds. There is the whole no-shoes bit, with bumpy driveway gravel, hot sand and roughed up grass. The constant battle against cracked heels and the endless attempts to pedicure-up toes with a pretty polish. Add up lots of park runs, swing pushing, pool swimming, and the unified commitment my children and the dog make to jumping on my baby toes at least 16 times each hour and you have yourself a summer in the life of feet.

It’s a wonder they haven’t up and walked out on me, really. I feel horrible for them, I do.

So when Bzees introduced their shoes to me, they had me at their tagline, “light feels right.” Something light and refreshing for my tired soles? Yes, please.

And then Bzees explained more, “Filled with magical unicorn down, Bzees Cloud Technology is designed to feel, well, like a cloud…weightless, energized and free.” I laughed at their fun humor, my feet cried in relief, and together, we were completely sold.

Moms! Finally a shoe that is TRULY comfy AND stylish. They amaze me, and did I mention they are machine-washable?? You have to check these out!

What does Cloud Technology actually mean?

The Mom of the Year answer: My Bzees arrived, I put them on and wore them for five minutes. I was so amazed, I took them off and made my 13 yr. old Mother’s Helper put them on. She is the coolest 13 yr. old in the history of the world, so she didn’t bat an eye and fully agreed that they were blissful. Bzees are so incredible they demand to be shared.

The official answer: there is an air-infused outsole (micro-cellular air bubbles trapped within that enables them to be lightweight, extremely soft and bouncy), dynamic stretch uppers (a dynamic fitting stretch upper material over/across the top of your foot that enables your foot to move freely with support),  free-foamTM footbeds (specially blended micro-cellular polymer foam that delivers high resiliency without compacting and creating a low pressure walking experience that’s like walking on a cloud), and THEY ARE MACHINE WASHABLE.

Really. I know. I’ll let that last point sink in. Kids’ dripping ice cream or those horrid melty red ice pops? No match for Bzees. You can wash them, mom!

Moms! Finally a shoe that is TRULY comfy AND stylish. They amaze me, and did I mention they are machine-washable?? You have to check these out!

 

As Bzees explains, their shoes are “the simple and stylish footwear choice to add a spring in your step through your day’s highs and lows. Easy-to-wear and easy-to-wash, they’re your ideal companion for everyday reality: all that’s unexpected, whimsical, and downright messy in life.”

Let me break this down: we moms are horridly rough on our feet. Bzees has created stylish, fun options that feel like a dream and are okay to throw in the wash after our kids work their worst on them. In short, they are a miracle.

Even cooler? One pair is up for grabs to one of YOU, readers. Any in-stock pair of your choice! Enter through the Rafflecopter widget below. As long as you are 18 or older and live in the continental United States, you are eligible! Giveaway will close on 7/8/15 at 5:30am ET.

In the meantime, shop Bzees, friends. Your feet will cease sending you daggers while you press on through the summer frenzy of toddler butterfly-chasing, I promise.

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Moms! Finally a shoe that is TRULY comfy AND stylish. They amaze me, and did I mention they are machine-washable?? You have to check these out!
****Thanks to Bzees for sponsoring this post and introducing me to a brand that my feet will love for years to come!****
Jun 282015
 

Well, crap. We’ve been at the beach this whole past week, and when my dear friend Femme Frugality asked me to help her celebrate her four year blogiversary, I was eager, but didn’t have a chance to read her post until right now. And now I’m tearing up.

As I told my sister this week (before I even read Femme’s words), Femme was my first friend in this blogging world. We dove into this online business right about the same time. I have met and hugged her in person, but moreover, the blessing of being able to cheer on and support each other as we have grown has been an incredible blessing. She has such a sweet heart and is wicked smart. If you don’t read her, do.

While I love her blog, above all, I love her. She gets me. Read on, and you’ll see why. And then help me celebrate her four years with this boss giveaway! xo, Femme!

Celebrate the heart of friendship--and the very real coolness of blogging with this sweet anniversary giveaway from this amazing woman!Hi, Mom of the Year readers! I’m Femme Frugality, a personal finance blogger and mother. I know what you’re probably thinking. Personal finance is boring. You’re right. It can be. But it can also be the means to achieving major life goals, the methods for tracking your progress, or figuring out how to afford the little luxuries that you want. (Or your kids are begging for.) In my book, that’s some pretty exciting stuff.

So that’s what I do. I started doing it four years ago yesterday. Very early on in that process, I met Meredith who was also staring out. And I fell in love. While I feel like I’ve got my money in order, I totally don’t feel like I have this whole parenting thing down. Simultaneously, I feel like every other mother around me does.

Or at least I did four years ago. The Mom of the Year was a breath of fresh air. I wasn’t alone in my struggles. I wasn’t alone in the sheer joy that comes with all the small wins. Meredith was with me. As time went on, I started realizing something. The moms who look like they have it all together? Most of them are faking it. The moms who say they have everything together? Most of them are lying. I don’t know that I ever would have gotten over my feelings of isolation in my struggles without Meredith’s honesty, and good humor to boot.

As if that weren’t enough, she’s also been an amazing friend. We’ve worked on navigating this whole blogging thing together over the past years. While we write about different topics, we’ve found that many strategies are similar, and the help she’s provided along the way has been such a propelling force in my growth. We exchanged guest posts at least once. She wrote about some awesome ways to save money as a mother. I wrote about the optionality of hair brushing, and other ways I was screwing up with my first-born.

The past couple of years, I’ve been sharing giveaways with my readers on my blogging birthday. I make some money from my blog, and without readers that doesn’t happen. So giving something back at least annually feels like the right thing to do.

This is one of the many times Meredith’s friendship comes in, and this time I’m not the only beneficiary. She’s always generous enough to take part in my giveaways. When she takes part, she extends the opportunity to enter to all of you, her readers.

This year that opportunity is to enter to win a $75 Target Gift Card. It’s open worldwide. My hope is that it helps someone struggling with their budget this month, or allows someone who’s been keeping their nose to the grindstone to finally go out and splurge. Really it’s the winner’s to use as they wish, and I’m wishing The Mom of the Year readers the best of luck as they enter!

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