How to Win at Your Wife’s Birthday

birthday-gift-ideas-wife { party hat, boots, cake, print, book, nail polish, necklace, cookbook }

Guess what, friends! My birthday is next week! I’m getting older, but I’m still excited to celebrate just a little bit. With birthdays on the mind, I thought I’d share with you a little bit about how I like to celebrate…

There’s a well known fact about men and how they are sometimes idiots when it comes to birthdays and other special occasions. For whatever reason, they can’t remember them. And when they do, they often come up with a last minute way to celebrate. Usually it involves cheesy cards from the drugstore and chocolate that doesn’t even taste good. Before you assume that I’m talking from experience, let me make a few things clear…

Phil has always been an amazing gift-giver. Seriously. (Only 1 time in the history of us did he give me a gift that wasn’t so great. I couldn’t even hide it from my face. But that’s for another story.) He always gives the most thoughtful things – jewelry that isn’t lame, books that he knows I’ll love, shoes that I’d freak out about but would never buy for myself, etc. He’s creative too. He just doesn’t give something to me. He writes a little note to go with it. For example, this year for our anniversary (6 years!) we both happened to give each other art prints. It wasn’t planned at all but it was pretty cute. I wrapped mine up and left a little “I love you so much!” note on the front. Phil? He wrote an entire love letter on the back of his. (!!!) So in the middle of this Irish bar while I’m drinking a huge beer and eating a ginormous hamburger, I’m also bawling my eyes out. He’s the sweetest.

Unfortunately, not many guys are like Phil. They just aren’t. Sorry. Sometimes, they need a little help, a little nudge. So today I give you some tips for WINNING at your woman’s birthday. (Go ahead, gents. Bookmark this one for next year! Ladies, send this on to your  manfolk.)

  • Give experiences. An epic date night would be amazing. A family photo shoot would rock her world. A trip to get a pedicure with her best girlfriends? She’d love you for it. A weekend trip. A fun concert. Experiences are what it’s all about, man. Even if she says “I don’t want to do anything for my birthday this year,” do something. Heck, even takeout from her favorite place and a good movie on the couch would be fun.
  • Cook for her. Every birthday and every Mother’s Day, Phil makes something special for me. It really does mean the world to me and even when I try to micromanage him in the kitchen (that’s MY space!) he loves me still. I can remember every single thing he’s cooked for me over the years. Last year? My favorite strawberry cake. Unfortunately, I threw it up because PREGNANCY. This year will be quite different. ;)
  • Keep track. You know when you’re out and about and she sees something that’s just so cute?! She says to you, “Oh, I love that art print!” or “Wouldn’t those be so neat on the front porch?!” PUT IT IN YOUR PHONE AND GO BACK TO GET IT LATER. I accidentally just found out that this has become a habit of Phil’s. Because we share an email address, I accidentlally saw the “your order has been shipped” message for my birthday present. (Anthro bedding, you guys!)  I FREAKED OUT. You see, I texted him a picture of the quilt a LONG time ago, only because I felt sorry for myself that we’d never be able to afford such beautiful stuff. The fact that he paid attention and said “what the hey, she loves it!” means so much to me. Let’s pray it lasts for decades!
  • Hello, Pinterest! You now have the complete ability to know exactly what she wants. No more bad chocolate or stupid cards. No more last minute mall stuff. Get on Pinterest and look it up! Chances are, you’ll find clothes or accessories she’d love to have. You’ll find art or gadgets she’s dreaming about. Better yet, find her “Make” or “DIY” board and complete one of the projects she’s got listed there. I can’t even tell you how surprised she’d be.
  • Don’t be lame. Unless you are her boss, you should not get her an edible arrangement. Victoria’s Secret lingerie? That’s really a gift for you, so don’t be selfish. You can do better than all of the above. I promise.
  • Do what she loves. Does she love to dance? Take her dancing. Does she love to cook? Surprise her with some fancy ingredients like vanilla beans or truffle oil. Does she love hiking? Go on a hike. It really is pretty simple.
  • Cake. I don’t care if she’s doing Whole30 or Paleo or gluten free or training to do the Ironman, a girl’s gotta have cake on her birthday. Bake one yourself or get one made at a local bakery. Cake is important. (And yes, they make gf, vegan, and “cakes that aren’t really cakes” cake.)
  • If she has to work, you better make sure to celebrate. Start out the day with a good breakfast. Make her a good coffee or surprise her with donuts. Send her to work feeling happy. Meet her for lunch or send her some happy b-day texts throughout the day. When she gets off, let the fun begin. Make a deal out of it, even if she wants to keep it low key.
  • It’s the thought that counts. You can even hide last-minute shopping with a thoughtful gift. Instead of running to Target, head downtown to a cute store to get something local or even handmade. Write her a letter or a sweet card and let her know how much you love her. She’ll cry, I can almost guarantee it. Give her some IOUs. “This is good for one romantic picnic on the next day it’s completely gorgeous outside.” Being thoughtful is like birthday cake, you guys. It makes a big difference.

So there you have it. No more excuses. You’ve got everything you need to know, now. You win! And I promise, she’ll repay you tenfold!  You’re welcome.. ;) xoxo, L

 

Saving for the Future + An Invisalign Giveaway

I like to think that Phil and I are good at living in the moment. We have always lived life with a bit of spontaneity and adventure and I’m thankful for that. When people ask us questions like “what’s your 5-year plan?” we can’t give them an honest answer. 5 years ago, I was newly married and didn’t have children, so a lot can happen in 5 years’ time. (Like 3 babies!) We intentionally had our girls pretty darn close together. As chaotic as it is, it’s also nice for them to have playmates. Even though they fight like cats and dogs sometimes, I know they’ll be best friends. And there is a little bit of glimmering hope, knowing that the baby/toddler phase will someday be a memory as we move on to the next stage, with all 3 girls in tow. At the same time, this means that the big life things (driving a car, going to college, getting married, etc.) will likely happen around the same time for all 3 girls. As fun and exciting as those things are, I just see money signs. $$$$$$$$

During the past year or so, we have started to pay off our debt and build a savings. It’s not easy, at all. It’s hard to know where to put it, (savings or debt pay-off) especially when we are trying so hard to buy a home of our own. Most of the time it seems like we are moving 2 steps forward and 1 step back. Just this week, Phil made plans to meet with a financial advisor to talk about long-term savings. How can we save for both a home and big future expenses like teeth straightening, cars, family vacations, college, weddings, etc. (ALL TIMES THREE! ACK!) Just thinking about it, I get a little weak in the knees…

I’m curious, how do you save for major expenses? Do you have a high-interest account? Do you get $20 cash back each time you visit the store? Do you keep a jar in your wardrobe? 

If the girls’ teeth are anything like their parents’, teeth-straightening is certainly in our future. When I was in high school, I had braces. To this day, I can remember the pain and agony of going to the orthodontist. I had a mechanism in the roof of my mouth that I had to turn with a key. (!!!) I couldn’t eat. I could barely talk. I got terrible headaches. It was horrible. One time, at band camp, (no, seriously!) my mouth hurt so bad that I had my mom come and pick me up. I remember hearing about Invisalign toward the end of my journey with braces, wishing so much I would have known about them before I put the metal brackets on my teeth for 2 entire years. (Prime dating years, kissed goodbye! Here’s proof.) A non-obvious way to correct my crooked teeth?! Sign me up!

I know it’s still a long way off, but I’m pretty intrigued in the Invisalign Teen system. It’s a teeth-straigtening alternative to braces, that allows you to carry on with normal life (sports, music, dating, etc.) without a mouth full of metal. I think many people assume that Invisalign only corrects small cosmetic problems, but from what I’ve learned, Invisalign can correct most common teeth-straightening issues, even severe ones. They can even be worn by pre-teens, which is good to know. You don’t even have to worry too much about your kiddo losing their aligners, because Invisalign will provide up to 6 new ones. Best of all, many insurance companies cover the cost of Invisalign treatment, just as they would traditional braces.

What to know how Invisalign works? Click here!

 

invisalign-straight-path-straight-talk-FINAL

What about you? Have you had your teeth straightened? What are your thoughts on Invisalign? As an adult, is this something you would consider? Are you planning on having your children’s teeth straightened?

Last, but not least, how bout a free Invisalign treatment!?! How exciting! Make sure to enter below…

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*Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. But like always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. And let’s be honest, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity for you guys to get a chance at a free Invisalign treatment! 

 

Bits & Pieces…

Happy Friday, friends! Stopping in real quick to say hello and mention a few things. What a crazy week! With the ordeal in Ferguson and the death of Robin Williams, I am a little stunned. I think we all are. I don’t have much to say today. I did want to say THANK YOU to everyone who filled out the survey. Your feedback has been SO helpful already and I’m so grateful you took a couple of minutes to help me out. If you haven’t yet done it, I would LOVE YOU if you would. You can click here to answer the short, 10 questions. curry-polenta I’ve got a few links to share with you this week…

 Have a blessed weekend, you guys, and make sure to hold your babies extra tight! xoxo, L

Survey Time

unnamed Hi, friends! As you know, I’m taking some time off this summer. Thanks again for understanding that. I’m still on Instagram and at The Gathering, so check us out there. As I’m making plans for fall and winter, I need to get some feedback from you! I created a super quick & simple survey. It’s only 10 questions and I’d be SO GRATEFUL if you took a couple of minutes to answer them for me. You guys know I love you very much! I’m excited for what’s to come, whatever it is! :) xoxo, L

CLICK HERE TO TAKE THE SURVEY

Be Brave: The #livingonloveproject for August

be-brave

I shared last week about being brave. I’ve still got that quote in my head. Authentic living without fear. I wish I was brave more often. It’s a quality that I want my girls to know and to grow in. Addie is always asking us if she is brave. We try our best to encourage our girls to be strong and brave. We tell them that it’s okay to be scared or nervous or afraid, but that going ahead, doing it, overcoming their fears – THAT’S the brave thing. That’s what matters.

You might have an area in your life that gives you anxiety, an area where you could use some encouragement, a nudge over the edge. Bravery is being scared, nervous, or unsure, and doing it anyway. Taking the plunge. Jumping off. Maybe you are afraid of heights. Maybe you wish you had the guts to get on stage and do karaoke. Maybe you need to have a certain conversation. Maybe you need to start working on that idea you’ve had for months.

This month, BE BRAVE. Challenge yourself. Challenge your kiddos. Recognize them when they are strong and brave. Set the example. Do something that is unlike you. Step out of your comfort zone. Overcome your fears. BE BRAVE. Make sure to take a picture and share it on Instagram. Tag it with #livingonloveproject when you do. I can’t wait to see your photos and to hear the brave stories behind them. This month is going to be an inspiring one! xoxo, -L

On Being Brave

photo1-30 Last week while at the lake, I did something that was very unlike me. It probably won’t impress you at all, but I wanted to make sure to tell you about it. I’ve been having crazy thoughts lately about how temporary life is and how we ought to live it up. In fact, I’ve got another post in the works about it all. Anyway. While at the lake, I finished reading Delancey by Molly Wizenberg. It was fabulous for all the right reasons. (More on Delancey in another post!) In the book, she references an article she once read and a quote from it stood out to me. In fact, I texted it to Phil because it was so poignant.

“Authentic living without fear.” 

I don’t think of myself as a scared person. But I do think I carry around a weight of anxiety and fear. Fear of rejection. Fear of my kids acting out. Fear of failing as a mother. Fear of embarrassment. You get the idea.

For several days, those words echoed in my brain. My new mantra. Authentic living without fear. Authentic living without fear. Authentic living without fear.

Saturday morning, Phil, the girls, and I, headed out for a boat ride with my dad and my brother’s family. After a 30 minute ride, my dad asked if anyone wanted to ski. Like I was 8 years old again, I felt a lump in my throat. I don’t want to ski. But I so wish I was brave enough to try. I wish I could say that I was a skier. I wish I could be that girl that would jump up and say “sure!” A few seconds later, the mantra repeated itself in my head. Authentic living without fear. And with it, I blurted out, “I’ll try.”

I decided enough was enough. It was time to be brave. It was time to let go of my fears. It was time to do something that was unlike me. It was time for my girls to see me be brave. How could I expect them to try new things or face their fears if I didn’t ever show them that I could do it, too?

I started shaking a bit. I’m a little bit afraid of the water and I haven’t skied since at least high school and I couldn’t believe that I was going first. I put on a lifejacket and jumped in. Fear came over me to the point of having to focus on my breathing. (No one saw this part. It was just me and the water and the not-so-distant memory of seeing a gigantic snapping turtle in the water the previous day. No big deal.) I got my crap together while I adjusted the skis and got ready for the boat to pull me up.

I tried to get up 3 or 4 times, with no success. In fact, the last time, I tried channeling my inner Beyonce. (Yes, it’s a thing. See my favorite mug, above.) But it didn’t work. The girls cheered for me from the boat and Ingrid was worried for each time I “fell” in the water. “Is Mommy gonna be okay?”

I didn’t really ski. I didn’t get up. But that part doesn’t even matter. What matters, is that I tried. I faced my fears. I was brave for myself and for my girls. And for the first time in a very long time, I felt pretty proud of myself. And a week later, I still can’t get that phrase out of my head. Authentic living without fear.

Like I said, this story proably won’t impress you it all. But maybe it’ll encourage you to step out of your comfort zone a bit. Maybe it’ll give you the push you need to be brave. If anything at all, it’ll serve as a reminder to me each time I am scared or anxious or full of fear. xoxo, L

 

Sew Darling Custom Doll Review & Giveaway

sewdarling-giveaway Last week, my family spent 5 days at the lake. It was so much fun and fairly relaxing. We got home Sunday afternoon and I was immediately overwhlemed and annoyed by mounds of laundry and an empty refrigerator. My husband went to check the mail and returned with a package for me. I opened it up to find 3 of the most adorable handmade dolls I have ever laid my eyes on. Immediately, my mood changed… custom-dolls Ashley of Sew Darling sent us 3 of her custom dolls, each one looking like one of our girls. Addie’s doll is dressed in her favorite heart dress, her blue shoes, and has “Anna braids” (because FROZEN!), Ingrid’s doll has cute blonde curly pigtails and is wearing Ingrid’s favorite grey boots, and Margot’s doll is dressed in light pink and mint to match the nursery, and even has a cute headband atop her head. They seriously could not be cuter. I wrapped them back up in the tissue and string they came with and took them to the girls so they could open their surprise. As expected, they were smitten. The girls have taken their dollies with them everywhere! In fact, it has now been almost 48 hours since they got ahold of them and the dolls have yet to leave their side. Pretty much adorable. Or should I say so sew darling! ;)

dolls You must stop everything and head over to the Sew Darling shop. Ashley is famous for her amazing Frozen-inspired dolls. (There’s even a Kristoff!!) She also makes adorable mermaids, hippy chicks, salsa dancers, and even boy dolls! Her custom dolls are quite amazing. You get to pick out the cute little details – hair, eye color, outfits, possible accessories, etc. Best of all, they start at just $22! Be sure to check out the hashtag #sewdarling on Instagram to see more photos of her handmade creations!

sew-darling-giveaway One lucky reader is going to win a custom doll from Sew Darling! There are lots of ways you can enter. Just use the Rafflecopter widget below. I’ll announce the winner Friday morning, so be sure to check back then! In addition to the giveaway, Sew Darling is offering all Living on Love readers a 20% discount, too! You can use the code LIVINGONLOVE at checkout! If you’re interested in a custom doll, send Ashley an email at ashleywhetman@hotmail.com. Be sure to mention Living on Love! You can get your 20% discount through July 31. (It’s never too early to shop for Christmas!) Good luck and happy shopping!
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3 Months of Margot

12weeksofmarge Last week marked 3 months of little miss Margot. Her birth seems long ago, yet the past 3 months have flown by. What I was calling “survival mode” has turned into our new normal. I feel like I have a pretty good handle on life with 3 little ones, now. That doesn’t mean it’s not crazy from time-to-time. It just means I feel like we have created a sweet little rhythm. It took around 2 months for us to get all of our breastfeeding kinks worked out and Margot has been nursing beautifully since. Around 12 weeks, Margot decided to become the best little babe on the planet, sleeping all night long, and napping well during the day, too. I’m serious. She’ll sleep in the middle of the floor with the vacuum going or her sisters running around, acting like hooligans in the background. [Insert applause emoji here.]

Of course, there are already things I miss about Margot’s early days and a million little things I wish I could bottle up and keep forever. Her smell. The way she snorts all the livelong day. (It’s seriously adorable.) How she finally figured out to suck her thumb. (Like a copycat of little Ingrid!) The way she coos. It’s like she’s singing me a little song. The way her eyes dance when you talk to her. The way she laughs and gets a kick out of it when you laugh at her. The way she lets her sisters smother her and doesn’t even try to be annoyed. The way she kicks her little feet when she’s excited about something. The way she gazes into my eyes when she nurses. The way she’s perfectly content when we go to the pool. The way her hair styles itself. The sounds she makes when we read her a story…

I do hope I remember her every sound, milestone, and personality. Margot is my constant joy, friends. We are so blessed by her life in ours. Here’s to month 4!

P.S. – Want to track Margot’s first year along with us? Just search #weeklymarge on Instagram. Curious about what it takes to do her weekly photos? Click here!

 

12 Practical Tips for Saving Time & Money

One thing I am asked constantly is “how do you do it all?” It might appear that I do it all, but that is far from reality. Very far, indeed. 

First of all, I have a lot of help from Phil. Some people expect stay-at-home-moms to do all the housework, but that’s not the case here. (We can do another post on this some other time.) Phil helps with his fair share, giving me more time and energy to do more.

Second of all, I do what is important to me. Some people take an hour to get dressed and do their hair. Some people use 30 minutes to watch a TV show. Some people spend an hour on the treadmill. Some people vacuum for 15 minutes every single day.

I use my time to do what is important to me, and what is important to me is making. Bread. Art. Ice cream. Dinner. Curtains. Pie. You name it, I want to make it. It’s who I am. But making takes time. Making dinner from scratch takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. And I tend to do this every single night. With 3 little ones, this might seem like an impossible feat. But with the help of a few time-saving tricks, we have managed to make it work.

So here you go. A list of practical tips for saving time and money.  None of these tips are going to completely change your life. Not really. (Well, maybe the TV one.) But I do believe they’ll help your family in the day-to-day. 5 minutes here. 10 bucks there. Etc.

save-money-tips Buy in bulk. We actually just purchased a small deep freeze off of Craigslist with the hope of purchasing part of a pig or cow sometime soon. Meat aside, there are lots of things you can purchase in bulk to help save time/money. Milk. The girls go through a gallon of whole milk in about 2-4 days, so I try to buy 2 gallons at a time so we don’t have to make an unnecessary trip to the store. Beans. Beans are cheap and good for you and we eat them a lot. When they’re on my list to buy, I always get extra. Toilet paper. It’s SO MUCH CHEAPER in bulk. We get a thing at Sam’s Club and it lasts almost 6 months!

Stock up during sales. Last week, Aldi had a huge sale on produce. I stocked up on sweet corn, blueberries, and strawberries. Lucky’s, another local grocery story, had an amazing deal on their house-made sausages, so I bought about 8 lbs of it and stuck it in the freezer. Any time pricey things that we use/eat a lot are on sale, I stock up. Olive oil. Meat. Organic everything. Deodorant. Soap. Toothpaste. You get my point.

Double a recipe. If you’re cooking for 2-4 people, this is super easy to do. It adds just a few minutes of cooking time and saves you SO MUCH TIME in the future. I always double a recipe if it can be frozen. Soup. Stew. Lasagnas. Cinnamon Rolls. Wheat sandwich bread. Shredded chicken. The list goes on and on. We used to waste so much money on nights when we didn’t have any food in the house because we’d drive into town and go to a restaurant instead. Now, we’ve always got a back-up.

Freeze things. When you buy in bulk, stock up during sales, or double a recipe, you’ve got to utilize the freezer! Just label things and keep it organized so that it’s easy to find. If you’ve got something that’s about to go bad, try freezing it! I do this a lot with chicken broth, buttermilk, and tomato paste or tomato sauce. It seems like I never need the entire container, but they freeze really well. You can also freeze already-made foods to save time later. Cookies. Waffles. Muffins. Bread. The things that make a huge recipe!

Use dryer balls. If you’re like us, the laundry is never done. Ever. Even when you do 8 million loads in one day, there’s already another laundry basket filling up again. A local friend of mine made me some wool dryer balls and they have cut our drying time in HALF! I kid you not. Not only are we saving a little bit of electricity (& $$$) we are saving tons of time. So I can get what used to take me 2 days, done in 1.

Utilize a clothesline. We have one of those umbrella clotheslines, so it holds TONS of stuff. And with as hot as it gets in the summertime, things dry out there in no time at all. If it’s really hot and your clothes get that crunchy/stiff feeling from the sun, just fluff them in the dryer for 10 minutes afterwards.

Open the windows. Today, for example, it’s like 75 degrees outside AND there’s a beautiful breeze. The air is off and the windows are open and it is purely glorious. When the weather is cool enough, use it! And save some monies while you’re at it. During the late Spring and early Fall, our windows are almost always open.

Say no to paper products. We used to spend anywhere from $10-$20 a month on paper products. Paper plates, paper towels, etc. While they are super convenient, they are also super wasteful. It takes half a second to rinse a dish and put it in the dishwasher. You can save yourself over $200 a year just by cutting out paper products. There are like 10 million things I’d rather spend $200 on. Brunch. Quilts from Anthropologie. A weekend trip. Getting my toes done.

Fill up the tank. I don’t know why, but I used to only put 20 or 30 bucks in my car at a time. Maybe I was hoping the price would drop? I don’t know. Lately, I’ve been filling up all the way, every time. Instead of making multiple trips to the gas station each week, I usually go just once. That’s about an hour’s worth of time that I now have with my family.

Make lists. If I had a dollar for every time we went to the store and only got groceries for that night, I’d be a rich, rich woman. Especially living 20 minutes away from the nearest store, it’s so important for us to keep lists. I always have a grocery list, a target list, and a to-do list in my phone. We try our best to only go to the store once a week. Same with Target. And if we have another errand that needs to be done, like the post-office or the library or something, then we try to do it during the same outing. Killing as many birds with the same stone.

Grow a garden. Gardening can seem intimidating. I get that. But I promise you, if you have 2 hands and some good dirt, you can make something grow. We spend about $50 on our garden each year and reap the benefits because of it. I love cooking with fresh herbs. Fresh herbs from the grocery store are EXPENSIVE. Often, more expensive than a plant itself! There is nothing like the satisfaction of picking your own basil, parsley, or rosemary straight from your backyard and chopping it up for your recipe. Same with veggies. Tomatoes, cucumbers, squash. These things are SO easy to grow. Fun and saves you money!

Turn off your TV. We actually got rid of cable a couple of years ago and I think it was the single best decision we have ever made in terms of pursuing our dreams. I used to dream about living on a farm or laying in a hammock or making food from scratch. And because we no longer have cable, I have time to do those things! My dreams, which were not impractical by any means, are now my reality. We still have a TV for watching Netflix, Hulu, or movies, but we’re no longer wasting time watching crap TV every night like we used to.

What about you? What are your best tips for saving time or money? I’d love to hear! xo, L

Saranoni Review & Giveaway

In this life, there are just a few things that you can never have enough of. Shoes. Brunch dates. Kitchen utensils. Coffee. Blankets. Etc. In the course of 1 day at my house, no less than 10 blankets are used. We use them for all types of things. Sleeping of course. Cuddling. Movie watching. Fort making. Picnicking. Super hero playing, etc. Blankets are kind of a necessity.

saranoni-giveaway When Saranoni contacted me about doing a review, I said “YES!” immediately. Super cozy blankets for the girls? Yes, please. A luxury throw for me and my man? Absolutely. You can never have too many blankets! (Can’t you envision this on an art print?!)

Saranoni sent us 3 blankets. 2 of the Toddler-to-Teen, and 1 home throw. All I can say is that OH MY GOODNESS, these are heavenly. Seriously, the term “luxury blanket” is spot-on for these glorious gifts. They are so soft and cozy. Perfect for the girls. Perfect for baby snuggles. Perfect for movie night with my honey. Perfect for reading to the chickens outside…

photo1 You should know that it’s darn near impossible to get a decent photo of all 3 girls at the same time. Case in point…
saranonicollage One lucky reader is going to win an XL home throw of their choice ($96 value)! All you have to to is enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!

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*This is a sponsored post. But as always, opinions are 100% my own!