This is a sponsored post. I was compensated in the form of a discount, free product, or monetary payment in exchange for this post. All opinions are my own.
Well, my friends, we are now halfway done with the first month of 2017. I don’t know about you, but this is about the time I typically lose steam with my resolutions, which is why I didn’t make any this year! Instead of resolutions, I made myself some promises that are not so all-consuming that I am setting myself up for failure. One thing I would like to do is take a little bit better care of myself. Now that I am mostly working from my home, my daily look has gone from cute to pajamas with no stops in between. And while I can totally get on board with the PJ’s look when I am in the comfort of my own home, out and about, it ain’t so cute. So I am trying to step up my fashion game a bit this year, and I have found that it is super easy to make a big difference with a couple of small changes. Mostly these changes come in the form of accessories, and one of my favorite new accessories is my JORD Wood Watch. These watches are absolutely stunning, and they are so unique! When mine arrived, I was sold just on the box alone.
I love the simplicity of this particular style of watch (the Frankie 35 in Zebrawood and Navy). It’s perfect for giving my everyday looks some style, but it can also be dressed up for wedding consultations and networking events (and when it comes to investing in accessories, I am all about versatility).
Now, let’s talk about how I am stepping up my work-at-home-mom style game. This is what I usually wear when I am running around town hanging out with Squirt. (Full disclosure here: my makeup never looks like this on a normal day…I do have a small amount of vanity folks.) You can see how basic (and boring) my look is: jeans, white T-shirt, and flip flops (and no pedicure, because it’s winter y’all).
But by making just a few small changes, I can totally take this look from bleh to stylish mom. I swapped out my regular jeans for skinny gray jeans (which I am obsessed with) and my flip flops for nude ballet flats (cuter, but still comfortable enough for toddler chasing). I added a long necklace (also doubles as toddler hypnotizer when needed) and my JORD Wood Watch (also great for keeping track of time out length, should your little angel need one).
I may not be winning any style awards anytime soon, but hey, I think we can all agree that look number two is way more interesting than look number one.
If you are interested in checking out JORD Wood Watches for yourself (which should be a duh), then you will want to click on this link right here to enter for a chance to win a $100 gift card to use to purchase your very own JORD Wood Watch. In addition, just by entering the giveaway you get a code to receive $25 off your purchase, what what! But please make sure you jump on this deal fast because the contest ends on January 22, 2017 at 11:59 pm (you can redeem your $25 credit until April 30, 2017).
Seriously folks, so in love with my new watch and I am so happy that I have found a couple of easy style tricks to make me feel a little more human and not like a total slob when I am running around LA. Make sure you take advantage of the awesome JORD deals available!
Do you have any easy style tips for me? Let me know if the comments!
This is NOT a sponsored post. I just love sharing awesome products and services with my readers!
Okay. Confession time. I am a terrible mother when it comes to recording memories and those magical “first” moments. My mom often says “Make sure you write that down in Squirt’s baby book” and I smile and nod. I don’t even have a baby book for Squirt. Seriously. Never went out to buy one, never even looked for one on Amazon. I know myself and I know I would never actually use it, so why waste the money. I know that I will remember the important details without a book to remind me, but I do feel like a pretty crappy mom when I think about all those lost little memories. Scratch that. I USED TO feel like a crappy mom. And then I discovered the beauty of Chatbooks. Chatbooks is an app for your phone that allows you to collect all of your Instagram photos in an actual real life printed book. I don’t have to write down Squirt’s reaction to his first taste of rice cereal because I (duh) photographed it and shared it on Insta. And now that moment will live on forever in my Chatbook. So all of the big moments–first steps, holidays, new experiences–are compiled all together with all of the everyday moments and I barely have to lift a finger.
Okay, so let’s walk through this so you can see just how easy it is. This is the home screen when I log onto my Chatbooks app. I have titled my book series The Three Bees, so this is automatically printed on all of my books. Each volume holds 60 photos, and you can check in on the progress of your book at any time.
When you click on the cover of the book in progress, you can scroll through all the photos that will be included in the volume. Your Instagram captions are automatically uploaded with your photos. This is great because it allows you to not only have the picture, but also whatever description you have already created. The date and the geotag location (if you used one) are also included on each page.
If you click on an individual photo, you can edit the caption (say if you wanted to get rid of the hashtags). You can also exclude a photo from your book if you don’t want it printed.
One of the best things about Chatbooks is that you can have more than one Instagram account linked to your book. Since the main purpose of the books for me is to record memories of Squirt, I also have my mom’s account and Matt’s account linked so that any photos they share of him are also included.
Once you have amassed 60 photos in your book volume, you have three days to edit and make changes if you want to. Your book is then printed and shipped to you and your account is charged. Softcover books are $8 per book and hardcover are $13. I typically fill one book every two months, so for $50 a year I have all my photos and memories printed and bound. You can’t beat that. The quality of the books is also really high. The covers are sturdy (and I have only gotten the softcover) and the printing beautiful.
These are some of our actual books so you can see what they look like in a real life setting. I am always so excited to receive a new book.
So I might be really crappy at writing down memories and special moments, but given that we capture everything on social media these days, I still have a full collection of all the important life moments. Really, for you moms out there, it is the best $8 you can spend. You literally have to do nothing other than share your photos on Instagram (which you are likely doing anyway) and check your mail. No arranging photos, no printing photos, no recording the dates of every picture. It is all done for you, and it is done beautifully.
I also want to add that the one time I had an issue with a delivery (it got caught in the middle of our two addresses when we moved), I sent customer service an email and they shipped me a new copy of my missing book within two days. That kind of customer service is becoming an endangered species. If you are a lazy/busy/not crafty/unorganized mom (and I’m gonna bet at least two of those adjectives apply to most of us!) Chatbooks can make your life so much easier. Seriously y’all. Check it out for yourselves. And you’re welcome ;o)
Today I want to share with you one of our favorite places to go in So Cal: Travel Town in Burbank, on the north end of Griffith Park. Not only is Travel Town free (holla), it is one of Squirt’s preferred hangouts as he is OBSESSED with all things moving vehicles. He is one of those examples of true nature vs. nurture as my husband and I are so not into cars at all and Squirt can’t get enough. So obviously a whole outdoor museum dedicated to trains is his jam.
This is NOT a sponsored post. I love sharing my positive experiences with you, whether I am paid for them or not!
With my work schedule right now, I am home with Squirt two to three days a week. I love so many things about our days together, but as he has gotten older, it has become somewhat of a challenge to keep ourselves busy. Squirt wants to be out of the house all. day. long. With the exception of his morning viewing of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, he is begging me to go outside from morning until bedtime. So we try (and by we, I mean me) to find lots of fun things to do together. Obviously we spend quite a bit of time at Disneyland, probably two to three days a month, depending on how crowded the park is. But Disneyland is a long drive for us now and we have to time it just right to miss rush hour traffic in both directions, so I have been on the hunt for places a little closer to home.
Enter the Americana at Brand. If you’ve never been to Southern California, we love our outdoor malls and the Americana is one of the newer ones. It was built by the same people who designed The Grove, which is a pretty popular destination for both tourists and locals (it is attached to the original LA Farmer’s Market, which has some of the best food in Los Angeles, definitely go there if you are visiting Southern California). I have been taking Squirt to Americana sine he was just a little baby (back in those two to three months of hell sweet baby cuddles when he would only nap in the moving stroller), but now that he is old enough, we are starting to enjoy all the activities Americana has to offer.
Americana has a very accessible parking structure (gold in So Cal) and as soon as you step out onto the ground level, you see this beautiful fountain. They periodically have a water fountain show dealy with music and all kinds of cool water tricks, which Squirt is a huge fan of.
All right, lovely readers, I’m going to give it to you straight today. Right from the horse’s mouth: What do teachers really want for the holidays (and what they wish you would stop giving). I’m currently in my eighth year of teaching, am married to a teacher, and hang out with almost all teachers, so I know what I’m talking about when it comes to good teacher gift giving. Let’s break it down…
What Teachers Want:
1. Gift cards. If we could accept cash, we would, but that’s illegal (whatever) so gift cards are the next best thing. Popular gift cards include Amazon, Barnes and Noble, restaurants, and movie theaters. However, the clear favorite when it comes to teacher gift cards would be the tried and true Starbucks card. Every teacher I know drinks a lot of coffee and can’t really afford to splurge on Starbucks every day so a SB card is always going to be a hit.
2. Food. Candy, baked goods, and snacks are usually a hit with teachers. If we choose not to eat it ourselves, it’s always nice to have something to take home to the fam. I’ll include wine in this category because it is not given to teachers very often (for obvious reasons), but sure is appreciated if you can swing it.
3. Something personal. I’m hesitant to include this because it doesn’t apply to 95% of teacher gift giving situations, but there are certain occasions when you can get a teacher something that appeals to their personality, and they will love it. I love Disney (clearly). My students know this, and several over the years have gotten me little Disney tokens and trinkets that they knew I would like. I love these because they show thought, and many of them are things I would buy for myself anyway. However, be careful in this category. This should only be done with teachers that your student has a real connection to.
What Teachers Don’t Want:
1. Lotion/body wash/smelly stuff. These seem like thoughtful gifts (and really all gifts are thoughtful), but people can be very particular about their scents. And for people like me who don’t use scented body wash/lotion, I ended up either trashing those sets or regifting them (sorry).
2. A picture of your child. Seriously. Just don’t do it.
3. Any craft you found on Pinterest. I love crafting and I so appreciate the effort that goes into crafts, however, I do not want (nor do I have room for) a crayon monogram or homemade body scrub. Skip the crafts and grab the $5 gift card instead. You’ll save money and a whole lot of time.
First, let me state for the record that this is not a sponsored post. I did not receive any compensation or perks from La Jolla Cove Suites in exchange for writing this post. This, like all my reviews, is a reflection of my personal thoughts and experiences.
My mom invited Squirt and me to accompany her on a business trip down to the San Diego area and I jumped at the chance. San Diego is beautiful and I knew it would be a fun little getaway for a couple of days. She was in charge of booking our room, and found a suite at the La Jolla Cove Suites.
I did a little research online before our trip and the reviews of the hotel were pretty mixed. It seemed they were in the middle of renovating and some of the rooms were really nice, and some were not so great. (Side note: I did email them and ask for any press kit or info they might want to give me about the property and the renovation and they told me to just look at their website.) So I was a little wary going into our room, but was mostly pleasantly surprised when we walked in.
The suite is basically like a one bedroom apartment, with a separate living and dining room, and small kitchen. For a hotel room in Southern California, it’s huge.
The decor in the living room had a bit of a sixties vibe and I honestly couldn’t tell if the room was one that had been renovated or not. It was definitely clean and spacious, but also looked like it was straight out of Mad Men, but not in a chic retro way, just a this looks old kind of way.
By far the best part of the room, and the hotel in general, is the location. We walked out onto our balcony to see this…
We probably spent more time on the balcony than we did in the actual room. One great factor of the suite was the kitchen. I cannot express enough how awesome it is to have a real kitchen when traveling with a toddler or baby. Between washing bottles and binkies and storing milk, a kitchen is a must. While this one was certainly not the prettiest ever, it was large and got the job done.
The bathroom was also spacious, and seemed clean, though it did look like it was out of the seventies. The shower and tub were nothing noteworthy. I do love lots of counter space in a hotel bathroom, but the space could have been better served by adding another sink.
The bedroom looked like a standard hotel room with two queen beds. I did love that it was a separate bedroom, so we were able to put Squirt down, close the door and still be able to hold a conversation while he slept. It was so dark in there (great for nap time!) I couldn’t get a good picture, but it was again, spacious and seemed clean.
The hotel serves a complimentary breakfast each morning, and it was one of the better ones I have seen at a hotel. They had waffles, bagels, muffins, fruit, cereal, and juice and coffee. Bonus, it was served up on the roof deck, so we got to start off our morning with this view…
In many ways, this hotel had a lot of pros: the size, the view, the kitchen, the separate bedroom, the breakfast. All of those are qualities I look for, especially now that I travel with a kid in tow. However, there were some big problems with the hotel that would prevent me from staying there again.
First, the rooms have no air conditioning. I’m sure that this is not a big issue most of the time, however, California has been experiencing a very hot and humid summer. While there was a nice ocean breeze, it was definitely not enough to cool off the entire suite. In the bedroom, the only window overlooked the walkway so there was no good way to leave it open when Squirt was sleeping because people were constantly walking by and talking. They did have two fans in the room, which helped, but not having AC in Southern California is a big minus in my book.
The balcony of our room was one of our favorite places to hangout, and the view was killer. But there were two rods on our balcony railing that were completely detached at the bottom. This would be a serious safety hazard for anyone, but given that we were traveling with a toddler, it was a huge concern.
We also had some major problems with the hotel on the final day of our stay. My mom was gone for the morning for her work event so I loaded Squirt into the stroller to take him up to the roof for breakfast. In order to get to the breakfast without encountering stairs, I had to go down to the first floor, walk across the property, and then take the main elevator up to the roof deck. Our room was in an adjoining building and there was no direct way to get from our floor to the deck without encountering stairs. It wasn’t a huge deal, though it did seem odd that they would put us in one of those rooms when they knew we were traveling with a small child (as I had asked about portable cribs beforehand and Squirt was with us, in his stroller, when we checked in). After breakfast, Squirt and I went to go for a walk. There was some construction going on and the only ramp from our room to the front of the hotel was blocked off, meaning the only way we could get out was to go down stairs. Again, not the end of the world, but since I was on my own with him, I had to take him out of the stroller, hold him, and walk with him and the stroller down the flight of stairs.
When we were walking back to our room, I asked one of the workers how we were supposed to get our luggage cart down to the first floor as we were going to be checking out soon. He told me I could walk over to the other elevator (in the main building). I told him there were stairs in between my room and the main building and he said there weren’t any. Given that he works there, I figured there must be a way. I went back to our room and started packing up our stuff. My mom was going to be arriving back at the hotel right when we needed to check out so I was on my own for loading up our stuff. So I called down to the front desk to ask for bell service. The woman told me they didn’t offer bell service normally but since I was alone with the baby they would send up a cart. I asked her about the route from my room to the elevator that didn’t involve stairs and she couldn’t given me directions, only told me that there weren’t any stairs. Okay? I mean, it’s hard to mistake stairs. Either they’re there or they’re not.
A few minutes later there was a knock on the door, I opened it and one of the male housekeepers was there. I asked him if he had a brought a cart since we had a lot of stuff. He communicated that he didn’t speak any English. I pointed out the bags that needed to go and watched him walk out the door and down the emergency stairs to the first floor. I got Squirt loaded up in the stroller and grabbed the rest of the bags, figuring I would make my way to the elevator in the main building as ours was still blocked off and apparently, there were no stairs.
Except there were definitely stairs. And not one or two, because that I could have handled with the stroller and the bags. More like five or six. At that point my mom came up the stairs and she was not happy. You do not want to mess with my mom when she is not happy. Apparently she had parked the car, got out to come to the room, and noticed that all of our bags were sitting on the ground in the middle of the parking lot unattended. And when she tried to get up to the room, she found the elevator blocked and the door to the staircase locked. One of the construction workers let her in and then came to help us get down the stairs, with our remaining bags, the stroller, and Squirt. The construction workers (not employed by the hotel) were by far the most helpful in the whole situation.
In all, it took us about forty minutes to get all of our stuff, and the baby, down to the car. The first hotel employee we talked to seemed to think that it was no big deal and we shouldn’t really be upset that we were trapped in our room (no elevator and stairwell locked), which aside from being unsafe and annoying, is also totally illegal. What if one of us had been on crutches or in a wheelchair? Luckily, the manager was much more understanding. He did refund my mom the cost of one night’s stay. He then informed us the construction was unplanned and they had to be called in on short notice as the landing in front of the elevator on the floor above us was starting to collapse. So this totally unsafe situation was created due to a totally unsafe building.
I do appreciate that the manager took the time to rectify the situation, at least financially, but these were some big problems we faced. And I’m not sure why a hotel that has a lot of bad reviews online wouldn’t take the time to make sure someone who has forewarned them they will be writing a review (I mentioned the blog when I asked for the press kit) has a good experience. I don’t ever expect perks or special treatment, but you might want to make sure I’m not trapped with my toddler. The room charge (during the week, mind you) was $250 a night. Outside of the Disneyland properties, I have never spent that much on a hotel (and wouldn’t, my mom did :o)). If I were going to spend that much, I would expect a lot more than what this property provides. I am from LA, I know the value of a good location, but for me, this location, while stunning, was not worth the cost and the downfalls of the hotel.
I thought living in a one bedroom, 350 square foot sublet with a toddler was bad. Then we moved into our new house and I was SO EXCITED to get back to a normal life with normal living space. And then I spent a day or two looking at this kitchen….
….and I wasn’t so excited anymore. Originally the plan was to do some quick updates in the bathrooms and then focus our attention on converting our detached garage into a music room/man cave for the hubs. But after just a couple of days with this kitchen, we decided that it needed to be our first priority in the remodel game. One, because it was ugly, and two because it wasn’t functional. The layout was weird and the cabinets were installed incorrectly, rendering the uppers mostly useless. So we went for it. Not going to lie, I went into this project thinking it would take 7-10 days. Are you laughing at me? You should be. We’re currently on day 22 (including weekends, which are not work days, but are still days I have to live with an unfinished kitchen). The end is in sight, but we still have at least five more days of work before the kitchen is complete. And it has been rough. Here’s what I have learned so far:
1. Set up one of your bathrooms as a makeshift kitchen. You will not have a sink for most, if not all, of your reno time. We marked off our biggest bathroom as the new kitchen sink, which means no one gets to use the toilet in there. It is now where we wash dishes, complete with a drying station comprised of stacked boxes and a dish towel.
2. Stock up on disposable plates, cups, and silverware. I know this is not the best for the environment, but when you don’t have a dishwasher and your “kitchen sink” is actually a bathroom sink, the less dishes to wash, the better. We have to wash bottles, but we don’t have to use real plates.
3. Set up your work hours according to baby’s schedule. Squirt is pretty good about sleeping until nine in the morning, so that is when the workers arrive for the day. Also, try to time naps with lunch time. Our guy usually eats during the meat of Squirt’s nap, which limits the noise. He hasn’t been woken up by them once during this whole process.
4. Have a baby safe area set up and ready. Squirt is still okay in the play pen so I have it set up in the living room. I can put him in there anytime I need to look at something in the kitchen or deal with anything I don’t want him around (since he grabs for everything under the sun, if I’m checking out anything in the work zone, I leave him in the play pen).
5. Make sure baby’s food is readily accessible. There are times when we physically can’t get into the kitchen so we set up a folding TV tray in the living room with all of Squirt’s food. That way when he needs it, we can get to it no matter what is happening in the kitchen. Additionally, we made sure our contractor knew we needed to have access to the fridge (mostly for milk). If the fridge area is going to be blocked during the day’s work, they move it for us so we can still get into it when we need to.
6. Socks and shoes are a must. Squirt is not a fan of wearing either, but anytime he is walking around the house these days, he’s got them on. In general, the rest of the house is pretty clean, but you never know what’s lurking on the floors during a reno and it’s better to be safe than sorry.
7. Have a place you can go to escape. There were a couple of days during the process when we took Squirt to our parents’ houses. The water was turned off for two days while plumbing was being relocated, and there were an additional one or two days when it was too noisy for him to be in the house and have a normal day. If you don’t have friends or family nearby to crash their pads, you might want to look into a hotel for those days (for us, they were early on in the process).
8. Remind yourself, daily, that it is going to be worth it in the end. There have been many times over the past 22 days that I have questioned why we are going through this. When I have those thoughts, I look back at the before pictures and think about how much that kitchen sucked. And then I think about how awesome the new kitchen is going to be. And I tell myself that four weeks in the grand scheme of life is nothing. And I pray that it really is going to be only four weeks.
If you’re interested, here’s what our kitchen currently looks like…
Needless to say, we are still undergoing renovations, but the end is near. It has been really tough and sometimes very frustrating. But our new kitchen is going to make it all worthwhile. If you are considering a renovation and have a toddler, well, I would honestly put it off as long as possible! But it can be done and if you must do it, try to keep these tips in mind, and most importantly, keep a positive attitude!