5 Ways to Spice up Valentine's Day for Your Guy
Pink. Sparkles. Chocolate.
I know that there are a lot of people out there who aren’t fans of the holiday of love, but I have to confess: I’m a fan of Valentine’s Day. I know, I know. It’s a commercial holiday. You shouldn’t just express love one day a year. I get it.
But I just can’t help myself when that sparkly aisle of hearts and candy shows up.
My husband and I met when we were twelve when our art teacher sat us across from each other at the same table. We’ve been together ever since, which means we’ve been through twenty Valentine’s Days through the years. We’ve been through the traditional dinner and a movie Valentine’s Days, the at-home nights cuddled on the couch, and the cheesy gift days. In short, it’s getting hard to spice it up as we are in our tenth year of marriage.
Covid-19 certainly has also made celebrations more challenging. Still, I think the element of surprise is always a healthy thing in a marriage, especially if you’ve been together a while. Even if you’re not a fan of the holiday of love, I think we all could use some fun festivities this year and a way to mix up the mundane. I’ve got six simple ways to spice up the holiday this year for your man—and leave him feeling loved, surprised, and maybe even inspired to love the holiday a little bit more.
1. Get him a monthly subscription for something he loves
I love doing subscription boxes for a unique gift. Skip the chocolate this year if you have some cash to spend and get him a gift that will keep surprising him for months and months. My husband's a gamer, so I am all about the LootCrate. If you search, though, there are subscription boxes for just about anything--the guy who likes to cook, beer, hunting, cars, etc.
I love this idea, too, because it doesn't involve hours of shopping but still is thoughtful.
2. Cook him something special.
Even if you're not a cook, you can pull off a new recipe to spice things up. Make something special or savory that he'll love. Try a sheet pan nacho recipe from Pinterest and some fun finger foods. Make a decadent desert. I love heading to Pinterest and typing in party foods. Then, I make a mini buffet just for the two of us. There's something fun about festive foods that just breaks up the week.
3. Lingerie. Need I say more?
Let's just say this: If you've been married a while, you know that oftentimes, lace gets traded in for holey sweatpants and comfy T-shirts. There's NOTHING wrong with that. However, if you're looking to mix it up this holiday, why not grab something a little sexy? It's not just about dressing up for him--putting on something outside of the norm can boost your confidence and really make you feel great, too. You don't have to invest in a new piece, either. Maybe just dig out that piece from your drawer that's been gathering dust for a few years. Anytime you can do something different, it brings excitement back in for both of you.
4. Go beyond the ordinary gifts.
Gifts can be a fun way to spice up the holiday. I love gift giving, probably because it's my Love Language. However, if you've been together a really long time, gifts can even start to feel stale.
I like to go beyond the Valentine's Aisle in the stores (although I do love the chocolates and pink sparkles as a gift for myself). Think about what he loves, and then get him something he wouldn't normally buy for himself. Online shopping is a great place to look because there are all sorts of unique options.
My husband, for example, is into alcohol and whiskey. I really love this Godinger Whiskey Decanter and glasses set. It speaks to his interests but is something a little fancier than he normally would buy himself--but it's a great price. You don't have to spend a ton of money to get something meaningful, unique, and memorable. I love how it's a piece he'll have for years to come, too.
5. Do a new activity together.
You don't have to buy a gift to spice things up. Try a new activity together. My husband loves video games, so for Valentine's Day, I will let him pick a game he's been wanting me to play with him. Maybe the two of you have never painted together, so you could check out some free painting tutorials on Youtube and make a canvas. It can be anything that you haven't gotten around to doing but sounds like fun.
If you really want to invest in the adventurous spirit all year long, check out some of the date book options online. My husband got me one for Christmas. It has fifty-two date ideas in it. You scratch them off at random and do whatever it says. It's a fun way to try new things and learn about each other.
If you don't want to invest in a book, though, you can simply create your own random jar of dates. Use Pinterest as a guide, or make up your own ideas. Then, select a date at random from the jar once a week and spice up your date nights.
What ideas do you have to keep Valentine's Day feeling fresh? Comment below and give us your tips! I'd love to hear from you
3 Important Considerations If You're Thinking of Buying a House
Buying a house is such an important milestone in one's adult life...but how do you know when it's the right time?
My husband and I lived in an apartment for our first two years of marriage. We loved the location and the overall charm of our rustic apartment, but when we started to run out of space and wanted to grow our family, buying a house seemed like the next natural step. However, speaking from experience, making the leap to home ownership can be terrifying and confusing. If you jump too soon, you could set yourself up for buyer's regret and disaster.
Especially with this past year being so volatile and difficult, how can you tell if you are really ready to take the leap? If you're considering home ownership in the next year, I've put together three questions I would recommend asking yourself before you take that next exciting step.
1. Can you afford to buy a house right now?
As a planner and a worrier, this was the first question I was concerned with when we started thinking about buying a home. It is so important to make sure you are at a place financially to make such a big investment. For us, we were in comfortable, stable jobs when we made the leap. We also started to realize that spending more on rent was actually a detriment because we weren't building any equity.
Once you know you have the financial means to pursue home buying, it is so important to know what you can actually afford. According to My Home by Freddie Mac, you should plan on spending no more than 28% of your monthly gross income on housing. Once you figure out this number, start doing some research in your area. What is the typical cost of a home in your area?
After your preliminary research, you can start to do some more number crunching. Take the average home price and figure out the estimated monthly payment by putting in your figures in a Simple Mortgage Calculator.
If you've already spotted a dream home you love, you can also use this calculator to see what the minimum income you would need to make to afford it would be. Number crunching can be scary and daunting, but it is so important to look at the cold, hard facts. All of these tools, though, make it easier than ever to figure out if you can actually afford to buy that house of your dreams.
2. Are you ready for the responsibility?
Owning a home comes with its own additional responsibilities. If you are used to renting, you may be used to picking up the phone to call a landlord to deal with any repairs or maintenance. Once you own a home, it's all on you.
A month after we bought our home, for example, our $800 water heater broke. That was an expense we hadn't budgeted for, and it really taught us very early on that homeowning is expensive. It is important that after you buy your house, you still have money in reserves for extra expenses. You can check out some average costs of House Maintenance Projects just to help you get an idea of how much you should have set back for surprise expenses.
Don't forget, too, that there is a time commitment that comes with these maintenance jobs. If your job requires many hours or a lot of travel, you may want to add this into the equation when deciding if it is the right time to buy a home.
3. Do you have the time to commit?
The home buying process can be intense. From scanning potential properties to the actual process of buying, you need time to be able to do it right. Be certain that if you are going to take the leap into homeowning, you are ready to put time into the process. This is a big step, and you want to make sure you don't cut corners.
Be sure to research the home buying process from start to finish so you know what to expect. For example, I didn't realize that my lender would require paystubs and financial information for the previous year. It took me some time to get those documents together.
All in all, buying a home can be scary. However, taking the leap can also lead to a rewarding, fulfilling life. I am so glad we bought our home when we did because it has helped us build the life we have always dreamed of.
Finding Affordable Gifts for the Gamer on Your List
Anyone else have a hubby or significant other who is obsessed with gaming?
Anyone else struggling with gift ideas for the holidays, birthdays, or just because?
My husband is a tech-obsessed guy who is always wanting new equipment and tech options. It can be hard, though, getting him what he wants on a budget. But then came Monoprice.
If you haven't heard of the site Monoprice, you'll definitely want to check it out. They specialize in home improvement items, but I love that they have a lot of tech and gaming equipment because this is exactly what my husband loves. They have all of the hardware, cables, and tech equipment you need for your equipment. I love that they have very practical items like wall mounts and adapters, but fun stuff, too. They even have gaming systems like the Nintendo Switch, which are so hard to find at some of the big box stores.
I love that they have all sorts of other fun stuff, too, that isn't just gaming or tech related. From camping items to various hobbies, they have stuff for everyone on your list without the high prices of some of the other tech stores you might shop at. They also have so many home improvement type buys, so you can get your house in tip-top, high-tech shape. Plus, they have a whole section devoted to free shipping, which I find really convenient (I hate paying shipping!).
If you do end up shopping their site, Slickdeals is a really nice place to check because they will show you some awesome Monoprice coupons that you can use for your order. They are a great go-to for promo codes for all of your favorite stores. I've mentioned them before because I really do find their site so convenient! It's my go-to for getting the best online deals and prices. I love the alert feature on Slickdeals, too, so I make sure I don't miss a discount at my favorite store.
Have you shopped at Monoprice? Tell me in the comments what your favorite item was that you bought there.
3 Reasons You'll Love Chewy If You Have Pets
As many of you know, I'm pet obsessed. We have a mastiff who is basically my child (and shows up in all of my books) and six rescue cats. We have a full house, which means we're never done buying pet supplies.
I've tried so many companies and sites over the years for my pet supplies, but one of my all-time favorites is Chewy. Whether it's scheduling auto shipments for the items you regularly need or finding fun gifts to make every special occasion great, Chewy has literally everything you could need for your pet. Here are some of the reasons I absolutely love Chewy, and why you should check them out.
1. The most amazing variety of pet supplies
I love that I can find anything I could ever want on Chewy. I mean, they have the regular items that I use a lot and put on auto-ship: vitamins for Henry, cat litter, cat food, dog food. But the other reason I love their site is that they have really unique items.
I have a cat who is finicky with the litter box, so we had to have one in a very conspicuous area. I found one on Chewy that looks like a potted plant (Like seriously...people have complimented our plant in our home it looks that good). They have so many unique items just like this. Our mastiff also takes vitamins that are really hard to find, but Chewy has them so I was able to auto-ship them. I love this feature because it is convenient but also you can save money from an auto-ship on the items you use all the time.
From items for your pet's health to fun items, Chewy has so many more options than any other pet store.
2. Amazing Deals and Prices
Whenever I need an item, I always go to Chewy first because they have way lower prices than their competitors. The auto-ship option saves me money on the regular items, but they also have so many sales. I am always able to find the items I need for way cheaper, such as their pet crates and carriers as well as dog beds.
I love that they offer free shipping over $49, too, which is really nice and a good threshold, I think. You can also find great coupons to get extra off your order. Slickdeals is a great place to look for Chewy coupons because they always have the best deals. They are my go-to for promo codes for the site, and I love that you can actually even set up a notification at Slickdeals so you don't miss a new Chewy discount. With as much pet stuff as I am always buying, this is such a helpful feature that ensures I buy at the best time.
3. Awesome Customer Service
Chewy is there 24/7 to answer questions, which is a really nice feature. They are so helpful if you are looking for an item or have an issue with a shipment. I have never had an issue, and my items always ship so fast.
I love, too, that Chewy really loves their customers. They do fun things like send out random pet portraits to their customers. I actually got one of my mastiff, Henry, last year, and it was such a nice touch. It actually was handpainted.
They are quick to respond to emails, and if you have some sort of issue, you can rest assured that they treat their customers well.
Have you shopped with Chewy? Tell me in the comments about what your favorite items are to buy from them.
2020 has been a year that has transformed the workplace... and potentially business casual attire forever. As a teacher who has spent many months this year working from home, I've definitely transformed my style over the year.
I know that at first, working from home makes it tempting to bust out the sweatpants and live in loungewear. However, I quickly found two things:
1. Sweatpants really don't inspire confidence sometimes.
2. I missed wearing my nice dress clothes.
Now, listen: It's fine to be comfortable while you're working. It's also fine if you feel your best in sweatpants, truly. But if you find yourself in a slump when working from home, I'd suggest checking out your outfit. We all know that when we feel confident in our looks, we just feel better the whole way around.
Still, it can be hard to feel inspired to dress your best when your meetings consist of Zoom calls, and no one ever sees you except from the shoulders up. How do you find a middle ground? How do you dress for the job you want while also being comfortable?
This fall, I feel like I turned a corner in my work-from-home wardrobe and found ways to balance it out. Here are my top five tips for fashion if you're working from home.
1. Experiment with bright colors and patterns.
Let's face it: Those little zoom squares make it easy to feel washed out and dull, especially with harsh lighting or fuzzy computer cameras. Use this time at home to experiment with bold colors, colors you typically wouldn't wear, and fun patterns. I'm not suggesting breaking out the Tropical bird shirt in the back of your closet for that investment meeting. But this is the time to try new colors and new styles. I have found that bright red and blue really liven up my look on camera.
2. Invest in jackets.
I blame the show What Not To Wear for my obsession with jackets (Clinton Kelly and Stacy London always talked about how they add structure to an outfit). I love that a jacket takes me from casual to professional in one second. I also love that if you are squeezing in a lunchtime workout, you can toss the jacket over your solid color exercise tank or top and pull it together for a meeting in less than a minute.
One of my favorite jackets is the Lauren Conrad Jean Jacket from Kohl's (I'm not sponsored by LC... I wish haha). But I also have a few moto jackets, a few bright jackets, and a few just fun jackets to mix it up.
3. Play with fun accessories.
Do you have some sparkly earrings that are "too much" for daytime office lights? Do you have a bold necklace or a lipstick you have been dying to try?
The distance created with online meetings lets you experiment without the fear of getting odd looks all day. I have been wearing my bolder jewelry and makeup. I've been experimenting with my James Charles Morphe eyeshadow palette more as well. I've been embracing bold because on the Zoom square, it's really hard to look overdone.
I have found that playing up my fashion and experimenting has kept it interesting and given me a judgement-free period to try new trends I wouldn't have.
I've read so many articles about how you should wear dress pants or jeans everyday at home to keep yourself motivated. I do think there is some truth to the point of wearing "real pants" to stay motivated. However, do I wear dress pants everyday?
I suggest mixing it up. On days I have a lot of difficult work to do, I'll wear jeans or nice pants. I'll go all in on the workwear so I trigger my brain to work hard. But other days? Nice leggings suffice for sure.
I also make Fridays leggings day no matter what. I think it's perfectly fine to be comfortable and enjoy the perks of being home.
4. Mix up your bottoms.
5. Wear perfume.
There's something about an expensive perfume that makes you feel confident. I've been wearing perfume everyday from home just because it makes me feel better about myself.
I am a commitment phobe when it comes to expensive scents, though. That's why I love Sephora. Anytime you order from them, you can choose two samples...and they almost always have perfume samples in tiny vials that last quite a while. I rely on these to mix up my daily scent, which also keeps it fun.
At the end of the day, fashion is always in the eye of the beholder. But I hope if you are working from home, you're using this as a chance to mix up your look and experiment--because that's what keeps it interesting. What are your best fashion tips for working from home? Tell me below!
3 Important Considerations When Renting
I'll never forget when my husband and I moved into our first apartment together. It was exciting--but also terrifying. Combining our lives into one space brought with it a lot of important decisions and choices to make. As young twentysomethings, we struggled to figure out how to make the best choice.
Certainly, there are all sorts of ways to go about picking the right place for you. Many people go purely for the aesthetic vibe of a location, but there are several other significant considerations to make when choosing the perfect rental.
1. How close is it to work?
Commute times for you and your roommate or partner are a really important consideration to think about. Certainly, the charm of that adorable apartment or the luxury features of that townhouse rental might beckon you in, but make sure you stop and consider this more practical consideration. How far is the rental from your work and anyone else you are sharing the rent with? And are you truly willing to drive that distance to live in the location?
It is easy to get wrapped up in the excitement or charm of a new place and forget this detail. However, a commute is something you won't be able to finagle down the road. Be certain you consider the drive time from your new place.
2. Can you afford it?
These are trying financial times for many, but even if you aren't experiencing financial hardship, you need to ascertain that you can afford the rental. Again, so many get wrapped up in the aesthetics of a place that they forget to consider their budget.
Before you start looking at rentals, figure out your budget. How much are you bringing in a month? What bills do you have other than rent? Sit down and do a hard look at the numbers.
Once you have your budget figured out, you need to determine how much you can afford based on the location you are renting in. use a rent calculator like this one to help you assess what you can actually afford to pay in the area you are living in.
As a rule of thumb according to Zumper, you want to make sure your rent costs aren't more than 30% of your income.
Go into the rental process knowing your budget and what you can actually afford. This will prevent you from making a choice on impulse and suffering financially for months or years to come.
3. Does the neighborhood align with your needs?
Be sure to look beyond the cute window or kitchen island and consider the neighborhood where your prospective rental is. Are you a couple who likes to walk to local, small-town community events? You'll want to consider this when making your decision. Does the school district's quality matter to you because you have a child who is school age? Make sure you analyze the district's performance.
Another thing to consider is the crime rate in your prospective rental's area. I love using Neighborhood Scout to analyze crime data for a particular area when considering a move. It gives extremely specific data for specific areas of a community and allows you to assess where your rental is sitting.
Overall, choosing a rental property is a big decision. Be sure to discuss with your roommates or partner what goals you both have and what you are looking for. Being prepared before checking out properties will help you make the wisest decision for you.
How do you make sure you choose the right rental? Tell me below.
This product actually helped my mastiff's failing hips...and is still working
I first want to say this... I am NOT sponsored by Honest Paws at all. I am not writing this because I was paid to. I am writing this because for months, I searched the internet in desperate search of a product that would actually help my mastiff (who is practically my child) when his hips were failling.
If you own a mastiff or a large dog, you know that hip and joint issues are always a fear. From the time Henry, our American mastiff, was a puppy, we tried to do everything we could to protect his joints. Joint supplements, special therapeutic dog beds, etc. We tried to keep him from jumping wildly. But still, at the age of six, every mastiff owner's worst nightmare started happening: His hips started failing.
At six and a half, it got so bad that he could barely move. The dog who used to play and run around the house was immobile, spending his days on the floor. His hobbling made my heart break. The vet gave us some supplements and eventually shots to try. He was too worried to do surgery because of his age. The shots worked for a while. The supplements worked for a while.
And then they stopped.
I had heard about CBD oil over and over again, but I was too afraid to try it. I decided it would be my last resort. I'm a paranoid dog mama, so I was nervous about side effects. And I was also nervous if the price tag was worth it. After trying so many failed products, I felt like it was just another sad attempt to revive my best friend that wouldn't work.
Finally, though, things got so bad I gave it a try. My husband was skeptical...but two weeks after starting him on Honest Paws for Mobility...he was better. So. Much. Better.
I wish I had used it earlier.
Let me be clear: there isn't a miracle product that will restore Henry to puppy state. His hips are still not great. He still can't get in our car. He still has bad days where it's hard to get up. But, for the majority of his days, he is back to being his old self. Playing in the yard. Running in the house. Chasing balls and playing with toys and just being a dog.
We literally went from being afraid he would have to be put down soon because he was suffering to watching him play and be happy again. I wish I had started his regiment sooner.
I have Henry on two dropper fulls a day, which is still about half of what he should take with his weight. With the auto renew feature, I spend $144 a month because of his size. However, this is cheaper than what I spent on his shots and supplements by far....and to see his quality of life actually improve makes it worth it.
As always, be sure to check with your vet before starting a new regiment. But I'm telling you...if you are in my shoes and have a dog that breaks your hear with joint pain, struggling to get up, and struggling with mobility, please try it. You will be so glad you did. We are six months in, and it is still working effectively even on this lower dose he is on.
If you want to give it a try, you can use this link to get $20 toward your first purchase of $30 or more. I am not sponsored but will also get $20 to put towards Henry's CBD oil purchases.
If you have questions, feel free to reach out. I'd love to chat more with you about how this has helped my four-legged friend. If it works for him with his hips as bad as they are, I know it can help other dogs, too. Let's spread the word and help our fellow dog owners out there find some hope in a terrible situation.
Quality, affordable skincare
Up until November, I was all for the Drunk Elephant line of skin care. These all natural, cruelty free products really did make my skin seem smoother, brighter, and better.
But then in November, my husband lost his job and I could no longer afford the HEFTY price tag that came with Drunk Elephant products. I was devastated, certain my skin would fall prey to wrinkles and dullness. I tried to find other, cheaper alternatives, but I struggled to find anything that was cruelty free and seemed to work.
Enter The INKEY List products. These products are winners for so many reasons:
I purchased my first threeproducts from Sephora but will definitely be buying more.Here are my recommendations so far:
For 14.99 you get a large amount of this moisturizer with peptides to help with fine lines and wrinkles. It is silky smooth and soaks in so you aren't greasy. I love this as a replacement for my more expensive moisturizers.
This was my first purchase from The INKEY and I'm in love. I was having issues with large pores. This scrub helps with pores and also is super cleansing without drying your skin out. You only need a tiny bit to do your whole face, too, so it has lasted a long time.
Eye cream and retinol products are sooo pricey. I've spent between $60 and $90 on these two products. So when I found this eye cream from Inkey, I was skeptical. However, after a month of use, I can say my eye wrinkles do seem less prominent and my eye area is definitely smoother. It truly works for the price. I'm obsessed!
I can honestly say I'll never go back to pricey skincare again. These products are AMAZING and such an affordable price. I love their mission to bring healthy, high quality skincare into the hands of all women. Definitely give these a try.
Have you tried THE INKEY? tell me in the comments below
With COVID completely shifting our worlds, going to the nail salon might me impossible due to quarantines, health concerns, and even financial reasons. But for me, having my nails done is a confidence booster. Even if I'm just at home, cue nails make me feel so much better.
That's where imPRESS Manicures enter the scene. These at-home kits are extremely affordable. For less than $10, you can get two manicures out of one set.
I am obsessed with the colors and when I use these nail sets, I get so many compliments! Below from left to right are:
How Do I Apply Them?
I love imPRESS manicures because I can apply a full manicure in about five minutes. Each pack comes with 30 different nails, a small file, an alcohol prep pad, and a cuticle tool. Here's what you do (and some tips I've learned along the way)
When applied like this, these nails truly do last up to two weeks! I usually get about 9 great days out of them. I always get so many compliments, too.
I definitely recommend checking them out. I haven't tried the pedicures yet but they are next on my list.
Have you tried imPRESS nails? Which designs are your favorite?
An Honest Review of Every Plate From a Not-So-Great Cook
So first, you should know that I am a TERRIBLE cook. Like burns everything, can't follow a recipe, smoke-filled house kind of cook.
I've tried many subscription food boxes because I wanted to get better at cooking and because I'm terrible at coming up with recipes for dinner. I've tried all of them out there, pretty much. And usually, I find that they're really expensive, I can't recreate the meals, or the meals are so odd, my family hates them.
I gave Every Plate a try after a friend suggested it. I've received one box so far and chose the following meals (Pictured above):
And after one week of trying the box, here are the pros and cons.
Pros to this box:
Cons to this box:
All in all, Every Plate has been my favorite food box I've received to date. I think it's definitely nice to mix up your dinner routine and to not have to think about finding recipes or making shopping lists. It was fun to try new recipes and to just know what was for dinner three nights this week.
If you want to give Every Plate a try, use this link and get $20 off your first box.
*As an Amazon Affiliate, I get a small fee for any books purchased through the links below.