Thoughtful Gifts for the Chronically Ill

Since I often blog and speak about my chronic illnesses, I occasionally find myself on the receiving end of an email that sounds something like this, “Hey Stephanie, my friend so-and-so just found out they have insert diagnosis here. I really want to send them a care package or a gift to show them I care. Could you give me some kind of idea of what they would want?” In fact, I get these sorts of messages so often I’ve decided to dedicate an entire blog post to answering this, so I can point people towards this list in the future.

It’s important to remember: whether your friend or family member is facing a life long chronic ailment, is spending the next few months enduring chemo or radiation, is facing a long bedrest for pregnancy complications, or is learning to cope with a new physical handicap – every case, and every person, will be different. Not every gift is appropriate in every circumstance or personality, so above all, don’t be afraid to ask. But in the end, I know first hand how hard it can be to ask for help even when it’s offered, so hopefully this list will offer some great ideas when you have that friend says “it’s ok… we’re managing” (Yeah, guilty as charged on that one!)

Heartfelt Gifts

Caring Crate Subscription Box ($39.95 per month, or discount if ordering multiple months)
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Subscription boxes are all the rage right now, and this incredible company decided to create a box specifically to minister to the needs of the chronically ill. Every box has beautiful self care products for the body and mind, each hand chosen with those suffering from long term illnesses in mind. They are the perfect gift for somebody going through cancer treatments since you can arrange a 3 or even 6 months subscription so that when the initial wave of cards and calls start to taper off, they are still receiving beautiful reminders each month that someone is thinking of them.

Spoon Necklace ($14.99)
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Members in the chronic illness community have adopted the spoon as one our most important symbols, often referring to ourselves as “spoonies.” The inspiration behind this comes from an incredible post called The Spoon Theory, that you can read all about here.  A spoon necklace is a touching way to tell your friend that you understand the choices she faces each day with managing her “spoons.” I suggest adding a thoughtful note to let them know you always want them to have an extra spoon for those especially tough days.

 

 

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Cultivate Community with a Midsummers Soiree

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Each summer I host a dinner for 12 in my backyard. Months of planning go into the event: theme, decor, menu, no detail is overlooked. I figure if we can invest so much time and effort into celebrating events like baby showers, engagement dinners, or birthday parties, why not take one night a year to celebrate the people we appreciate simply for the role they play in making our lives more rich and full. Why not celebrate community itself?

8In selecting the guest list, which varies each year, I deliberately try to bring together a group of ladies who vary in social circles. In fact, many of the guests share only one thing in common when the night begins: they know me. A guest of this years event summed it up perfectly when she posted a photo on social media with the caption, “We ate appetizers with strangers and dessert with friends.” Sure, there’s always a little initial awkwardness as people get to know each other, but by the time the sun had set and the table was lit by the string lights overhead? The conversation was rich, the connections ran deep, and the authenticity with which these women spoke and shared was vulnerable and brave.

This year I used a floral theme, inspired by my desire to create a floral table runner to feature as the centerpiece of my tablescape. I waited until Michaels had a great coupon to combine with the clearancing of their spring seasonal decor to make room for summer. I grabbed some mixed bouquets from the clearance section that caught my eye, trying to keep to a believable color palette to better imitate the look of fresh blooms, and then supplemented with some greenery and single stems from the floral department. When I got home I disassembled everything and placed them all in piles so I could see all of the varying styles I had to work with. 90 minutes later, after placing each bloom individually on the burlap open-weave ribbon I was using as a base,  I had a beautiful faux floral table runner that set the tone for whole evening.

4The 2 sets of china were thrifted at low cost, the glassware was from my own collection but had also been thrifted, and the beautiful gold flatware was actually PLASTIC! Can you believe it? You never would have known until you picked it up. Thanks to some Amazon sleuthing I was able to invest in a very low cost grey table cloth and white linen napkins that are sure to get future use. One of my favorite finds those was probably a set of beautiful flickering led taper candles, so we didn’t have to worry about candles blowing out in the wind. (The set I purchased is no longer available, but was very similar to this set, which actually includes a remote as well.) The beautiful menu cards were designed by the talented Freshmint Paperie on Etsy, and I simply printed them on cardstock at our local copyshop and cut them to size. Yes, there was some cost to the event as not all of the items came from my existing collection, but one of the benefits to planning all year is that you can space out the costs, as well as use the time to search for the best deals. In the end, this is one of the ways I give back to the women in my life who have blessed me over the past year, so the cost is something my husband and I consider a worthwhile investment into the people we care about most.

Here are some photos from this years event:

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Easy Letter Play with Alphabet Stamps

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With Jack being three, we’ve begun to take on a little bit of homeschool preschool. We’re not using a strict curriculum or even a set schedule, it’s mostly just following his interests and his lead and getting him comfortable with school-like activities, pre-literacy skills, shapes, numbers, etc.

Today’s activity was a real hit! We had purchased a jar of alphabet stamps from the fun in a jar collection by Recollection (available at Michaels) earlier this summer. I’m unsure if this item is still available, but I found this gorgeous option on Amazon for only $7.96 with free shipping for Prime members! I’m tempted to get one of these for the boys since it has both upper AND lower case options, as well as numbers and some punctuation as well.

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Jack enjoyed spelling out his name and Aidan’s with the stamps, as well as copying words from his Melissa and Doug See & Spell puzzle set by stamping each letter on his paper. It was great to see how comfortable he was getting with the idea of sounding out letters phonetically into words without the frustration of needing to write each individual letter.

Some quick and easy ideas for incorporating alphabet stamps into your own homeschool routine or letter play:

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31st Birthday Wishlist

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Today is my birthday! So far today I’ve received the flu: sore throat, body aches, fever, fatigue… yeah. I don’t remember registering for this. At least it gives me an excuse to eat copious amounts of ice cream and watch all the old seasons of Grey’s Anatomy, right?

So what IS on my birthday wish list this year? Check out some of my most coveted items from my Wishing and Swooning board on Pinterest these days.

1. BAGS: A girl cant ever really have too many great bags, can she? (My husband says “Oh yes she can,” but we wont listen to him now will we.) No matter how our size may fluctuate through the years, a great bag wont ever stop fitting ;) These days I have my eyes on the chicest little leopard foldover clutch from Accessory Lane ($45.99). It’s the perfect pop of leopard print without being too overwhelming, and adds just the right touch of fun to a polished look. For future speaking engagements I’ve been eyeing this fantastic weekender bag from Sole Society. ($79.95.) Its the perfect size for a quick overnight getaway, and it even has a separate compartment on the bottom just for shoes!

2. BEAUTY:  My amazing mama was in town this last week and actually surprised me with one of my most coveted beauty items! The gorgeous Everything Eyes Palette from Bobbi Brown (a Nordstrom exclusive item) has $139 of value at a $75 pricetag. I love that Bobbi has already coordinated the colors for perfect eyeshadow looks, and even included 4 amazing travel brushes that fit right IN the compact. I can throw this right into my bag and chance from day to evening on the go, or just touch up my look wherever I may be. Plus the colors are universally flattering and age appropriate for anyone, Bobbi’s signature when it comes to her cosmetic line. I’ve also been eyeing an amazing new lip line called Lip Sense, which seriously holds up to its claims of being smudgeproof all day color. Google for some videos from their sellers and you’ll see: these colors hold up to just about ANYTHING you can throw at them. For somebody who speaks on stage for part of her living? Im thinking a collection of their amazing colors might be in my future.

3. MUGS: I collect coffee mugs (much to my husbands dismay) and am always looking for great ones to add to my growing collection. Two of my most wanted right now? The fantastic “Stressed, Blessed, and Coffee Obsessed” travel mug from Be Still Clothing company is definitely my #1 must have ($18.00). It’s like they designed it just for me! I’m also eyeing this adorable “Coffee, Because Adulting is Hard” mug from Etsy, because lets face it, Adulting IS hard. ($13.00)

4.CREATIVITY: I’m always looking for ways to play with my creative side, and so this years list includes the amazing Minc foil applicator set from Heidi Swapp. This incredible little crafting device lets you make gold foil prints at home, and Heidi even sells a variety of other colored foils and accessories to let your creativity really shine. Im also coveting the amazing Lightroom editing collections from VSCO ($59.00.) I use the mobile editing application from VSCO, but Im dying to add their beautiful film style editing tools to my Lightroom suite.

5. CUTE COMFORT: When you are a #spoonie, you’re always looking for comfortable loungewear thats still chic enough to be seen in. This amazing “I Woke Up Like This #Tired” sweatshirt is pretty much my life story! ($42.00) Im dying to get my hands on one. This adorable “Coffee Is My BFF” loungewear set from Target is both cute AND affordable, ringing in at only $17.99 for both pieces.

6. PAIN RELIEF: Life with chronic pain means your fantasy wish list looks a little bit different than most, with items specifically geared to minimize pain and maximize your ability to be a functional human being. Since my husband and I are currently spending our nights on a 12 year old mattress that honestly belongs on a trash heap somewhere, my biggest fantasy would be an amazing memory foam mattress with an adjustable base. But…. that may have to wait until we win the lottery. A little bit more reasonable may be this 2″ Foam Mattress Topper ($57.99) that might make our current mattress feel a little more tolerable for the time being. If all else fails, I could use this Shiatsu Massage Pillow ($34.95) to imagine I have a live in masseur ready to tend daily to my aches and pains. A girl can dream right?

What’s In My Bag?

 

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Got a request email from a reader for a “What’s In My Bag” post. Confession? I see the gorgeous and fashionable versions of these all the time, and this isn’t exactly one of those. My bag was less than $50 from Target, I don’t carry adorable lotions and skin care and Kate Spade office accessories, but you know what? That’s exactly why I agreed to do the post. I think many of us are tired of seeing the same lifestyle products shown over and over (often sponsored and paid for by brands) and we are left thinking we are the only gals left out of the loop. So today after the email I emptied my actual purse out onto the floor, and *confession* threw away some of the random trash I accumulate in my bag as a mama, and I have pulled together whats left to share what is really and truly in my bag.


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1) Journaling ESV Bible from Crossway: Yes, I really do carry my Bible around in my bag. With the circus I live in there’s just no way of knowing when a few minutes of peace will come, so I make sure I’m prepared anytime, anywhere. I can’t recommend this particular Bible enough. The ESV is a fantastic translation for accuracy (I’m a total Bible nerd, so this is a big deal for me,) and this version has a lined column on the side of each page so you can put your notes directly INTO your Bible. I often think of how neat its going to be to pass this on to my kids someday, so the investment was worth every penny. It’s a priceless heirloom.

2) Bible Study Kit: I made my own personal Bible study kit from an adorable expandable bag I scored at Target once, these great double ended colored pencils I use for highlighting, and items from the dollar spot at Target. A date stamp is a great way to show when you added your thoughts, so you can track your journey through the years, and page flags can mark spots of special importance to come back to.

3) Lego Mini Figure: This may seem odd, but this little lego guy is one of the most important items I keep on me. Every time I see this lego guy I remember to stop for a moment and pray intentionally for my boys. Its a great reminder in the midst of all the daily chaos of life.

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4) Notebook: Writers gonna write, and I never know when inspiration is going to hit.  (This notebook is from a collection sold exclusively in store at Target. Lots of matching pieces are available too, in case you love mint and gold as much as I do!)

5) Pens and Pencil: Im a writer, so I have a favorite pen I love and simply cant be without. For me its this gorgeous fine nib gold fountain pen from Pilot. Its incredibly affordable for a fountain pen, so its easily replaced if lost or stolen. Amazon sells refill cartridges, or the pen comes with the option to use traditional bottled ink as well. I also make sure to carry a mechanical pencil for the times that a pen just wont do, and a ball point pen that doubles as a tablet stylus – perfect for electronic signatures.

6) Business Cards and Case: You never know when you’ll need to leave your card! I have mine in this adorable case from See Jane Work.

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7. iPad Air and Bluetooth Keyboard: Rather than use a laptop, I’ve opted for the light portability and versatility of this more creative set up. I have the gold iPad set in this gorgeous bluetooth keyboard case, which has a matching gold exterior. It looks like a mini laptop and gets tons of compliments, and the case is a great way to protect my screen while its in my bag.

8) iPhone 6 and Headphones: I’m an apple girl 10000%, and my phone is no exception.

9) Charging Options: I always carry charging options when Im on the go. I keep an extra USB/Wall Plug Adapter in my bag, and I use cords from this collection – i love that they match my gold devices, and since they are woven rather than the usual cords they hold up much better to all the twisting and friction of regular use. (I was using my usual cord elsewhere, so its not shown in the photo here, sorry!) I also keep a portable charging bank similar to this one, in case I find myself low on batter when Im on the go.

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10. Health on the Go: I always keep a little of my most essential medication on hand, and I store it in one of these absolutely adorable macaroon cases. And I always keep a bottle or two of essential oils in my bag – this blend is great for when kiddos are getting a bit nutso.

11. Kate Spade Walk on Air Roller Ball & Gloss: This came as a part this set I received for Christmas. I don’t really use the gloss, but the roller ball is fantastic for a scent touch up on the go. ( I found the roller ball sold alone without the gloss here at Sephora)

12. Make Up from Bobbi Brown: My sweet mama got me the adorable Bobbi Brown mini lip and eye palette I had my eye on for Christmas. Its only $29.99 and well worth the price!I also carry a Bobbi Brown lipstick (the color varies) and a Bobbi Brown gloss, always in Buff (such a fantastic shade.)

Just throw in my keys, my wallet, and inevitably some stuff for the boys, and Im ready for a day on the go!

She’s The Boss: Andrea Cwik of Bliss & Bale

I’m excited to be sharing a super special Girl Boss with you guys today: the lovely Andrea Cwik of the hottest new gifting service, Bliss& Bale. You guys are going to adore her!

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So Andrea: tell us a bit about who you are and what you do.

Hi! Thanks for having me, Stephanie! I’m Andrea Cwik, I live in the Silicon Valley with my two boys and my husband. I’m a Christian and I’m also the founder of Bliss & Bale. In a nutshell I lovingly curate gift sets and hand-package them in beautifully wrapped boxes. I launched Bliss & Bale to enable individuals to gift thoughtfully and easily. Our gift sets are about celebrating and enjoying the goodness of life — friends, family, shared experiences and time well-spent.

Where did the idea for Bliss & Bale begin? Tell us about the journey from concept to reality.

Bliss & Bale was born out of my love for mixing and matching items into coordinated gifts that have wowed my friends and family. I believe when you give someone a gift it shows you thought about them and that makes the recipient feel special. I put a ton of care and consideration not only into each gift set as a whole but also into each item within the gift sets too.

The journey to launch Bliss & Bale was longer than I would have ever expected. It started with iterating on Bliss & Bale’s strategic direction (scope and scalability), evaluating platforms for my website, sourcing product photographers and graphic designers, creating the brand and name of my business, visiting gift shows, ordering products, going to IKEA for shelving solutions for inventory, converting our play room to a play room and office combo space, selecting my packaging, writing product descriptions, creating a pricing formula, researching and selecting shipping partners, negotiating shipping costs, building product pages and homepage assets and also launching social media pages. There truly is a lot of work involved in starting a business from scratch but I am so thrilled to be up and running! Now onto a marketing and sales strategy coupled with PR opportunities.

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 presetCould you tell us a bit more about the products. What can a new client expect when purchasing from Bliss & Bale?

So I will first start off by saying I LOVE what I do! I say this because customers can expect to feel this emotion when they make a purchase from Bliss & Bale. I travel to numerous gift shows throughout the year to curate and find the perfect products to go into each set. I even traveled across the country to New York because I learned that was the biggest and best gift show in the US. It took me 4 full days on my feet to explore that gift show but it was well worth it! I found some really fabulous products and vendors I would not have known about otherwise.

I’m really picky so I need to personally approve every single item chosen for a set. I taste every food item and as a foodie I have really high standards. I smell every candle, fragrance, cream and bath item. I handle every item to make sure each one feels great to the touch and is made of the utmost quality. Ultimately I pick items that resonate with me emotionally and that I know will do the same for the recipients of my gift sets. Picking the very best products like this takes a considerable amount of time but I love doing it and it’s time that my customers don’t have to invest themselves — they can trust they’re getting great items!

Customers can also expect a very high level of thoughtfulness ingrained throughout each gift set. The items are carefully combined into sets in such a way as to create a really memorable experience for the recipient. Our thoughtfulness also extends to our beautifully wrapped gift boxes which are shipped inside a shipping box — so they’re ready to bring as a gift to a party without the dirt and scuffs that gifts shipped in a single box tend to have.

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 presetHow do you personally define success?

Success to me means I have freedom and access to resources so I can help others when they are in need. It also means I can do what I love on a daily basis and share my passion for making others feel special.

Where do you see your brand in the next year? The next 5 years?

I just launched Bliss & Bale so I’m hoping in the next year to grow my consumer base but also I think there is a huge opportunity to accelerate my growth by partnering with more corporate clients who need a thoughtful gifting solution. I ultimately want my brand to have universal praise from my customers and to get there I’m going to analyze and adjust on the fly, see what’s selling well and listen to my customers. Much like a chef composing a meal and continually tasting and making adjustments!

In the next five years, I want Bliss & Bale to be recognized as an authority in the gifting space. I know it’s ambitions but I have some interesting ideas for collaborations with designers, artists, bloggers, and trend-setters that I’m excited to explore.

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 presetWhat’s the best piece of advice you can give to women who are thinking of becoming entrepreneurs and want to make the leap into working for themselves?

Here’s the thing: there are great days and there are stressful days. The biggest advice I can give is literally take one step at a time and still make time for yourself. After launching Bliss & Bale I thought I was going to be able to rest a little since I worked tirelessly to get to the point where I was up and running. The reality is that after the launch there was still so much to do. There will always be a To Do list but what I’m learning is that I can’t continue this path of working an insane amount of hours a day (I have a corporate job too, by the way!) because I’m going to lose steam. I’m in it for the long haul so I need to maintain a steady pace. One step at a time and add in little breaks. Doing what you love is so rewarding so make sure you take care of yourself so you don’t burn out.

Thanks so much Andrea! And I know all of you are going to be thanking Andrea too when you hear she has generously offered to provide one winner with ANY curated gift set of her choosing from Andrea’s gorgeous site! THATS RIGHT! There is no purchase necessary to enter, just follow the steps in the contest below before 12:00am PST on January 27th and you might be our lucky winner! Eeeek! Best of luck ladies <3

a Rafflecopter giveaway

bliss & bale site

Take Charge of the Internet Once and For All

Im so excited to finally be allowed to share this with you all that I just might burst. Its been the hardest secret I have EVER been asked to keep. When the incredible folks at Circle approached me to tell me about what they had created, the potential was obvious and my expectations were pretty high. Yet when I actually got my device and set it up? Expectations were so far surpassed you guys.

I am so incredibly honored to get to tell you guys about the one device I firmly believe EVERYONE who uses the internet should have in their home.

 

 

Now that you’ve seen a little taste of what Circle can do, let me tell you a bit about why I’m so head over heels in love with this tiny little device.

MULTIPLE USERS ACROSS ALL DEVICES: Circle is unlike any internet management tool I’ve seen, because rather than installing an app or program on a single device, Circle sets up an easy to use system for our entire home. Every single device that interacts with our home wifi connection is identified by our Circle, and each member of our family has a unique user profile that has its own customized settings.

SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE: Although the most obvious applications for Circle appear to be in the area of parental controls, don’t let that fool you! This device has something for EVERYONE. Whether you’re single, married, childless, or parenting a variety of ages, Circle provides a variety of tools for more intentional use of internet enabled devices. It can shed light on online habits that may have gone unnoticed, it can promote a new sense of intimacy in a marriage invaded by screens, it can even foster conversations with loved ones about how we use the internet and where it can take us in the future. Circle ultimately gives you what you make of it, no matter where you are in life.

TIME LIMITS: You can use Circle to easily set daily time limits for a family member on any app or category you want. You can also customize how much time your kids spend on each platform and even set a total online time for the day. The time limits are easy to adjust, and when a limit is reached that user and I both receive a notification, so I’m always in the loop and in the know. This sets up a great opportunity for my family to communicate regularly about our habits online so we know where to tweak and adjust these limits as we go.

FILTER CONTENT:  Circle has 4 preset age levels (Pre-K; Kid; Teen; Adult,) but it allows for further customization by platform, app, and category. I love that I can fine tune exactly what each member of my family sees online.

PAUSE THE INTERNET:  You read that right – the internet now comes with a pause button. With the push of a button I’m able to pause the internet on the fly, whether its family dinner time, date night with the hubby, or simply time to unplug and get to work around the house. The internet doesn’t have the power in my family anymore – I do!

SET BEDTIME:  With Circle, both our kids and their devices share the same bedtimes. I don’t have to collect devices from my kiddos or hide them every evening to ensure a good nights sleep. Their devices now disconnect automatically each evening and reconnect at a set time each day.

BLOCK ADS: Circle can block ads for any user or device. Ad Blocking was of huge importance to me for my impressionable kiddos, so this is a major plus.

STINKER PROOF: I have a genius and a stinker in my house, so I was concerned that either (or both) of them would find a way to circumvent the device. Luckily the folks at Circle are one step ahead of my little brood of schemers. Circle remains active even when unplugged and has no off button; the only way to adjust or change Circle’s filtering and time management settings is through the iOS app, which is password protected and can only be downloaded on a single smartphone.

DISCOVER INSIGHTS:  This is easily the MOST important feature of Circle. Circle tracks and displays an amazing panel of insights that show me things like the total time each user spends online, where they spend it, and the top 5 sites each user visits most. I can see when my kids get filtered and exactly what they were attempting to access when it happened. I can track my own personal web habits and make sure I’m practicing what I preach and setting healthy examples for my family. Most importantly, the insights panel provides a jumping off point for important conversations within our family about how we use the internet and what we choose to do with our devices.

B8-7ZDNY6gNffocV2ESrxRrDRPVIBg8VjJLkGGFY3aYRISK-PROOF INDEPENDENCE: Thanks to Circle, I have been able to grant a new level of independence to my children in regards to electronic devices. This tiny little unit has been the key that unlocked my ultimate dream: children who are learning to manage their own online behaviors and screen time habits without requiring my constant interference or supervision. Tablets, computers, streaming devices… none of them hold any fear for me any longer as a parent. They have simply become tools to grant my kids access to learn about the world, gain valuable skills in the technology age, further their education from home, and communicate with friends and relatives who aren’t close by. My children are thrilled to experience their new found independence, and I’m thrilled to foster their sense of personal responsibility for their own habits online. It’s a parenting win-win.

ONE-TIME COST WITHOUT A SUBSCRIPTION: Unlike many of the alternatives who market internet management or parental controls, circle is a one time cost and not a subscription based service. And considering all Circle does? It’s really affordable! Circle is available for purchase for just $99.

Have your attention? I hope so! You can get more information about what the device can do, see answers to all sorts of questions, and even order your own Circle at www.meetcircle.com. It’s time to harness the power of the internet for good and live intentionally in a whole new way.

LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW TELLING ME WHAT MOST EXCITES YOU ABOUT CIRCLE, OR ASKING A QUESTION ABOUT THE DEVICE, AND YOU’LL BE ENTERED TO WIN A JOY PACKAGE OF SOME OF MY FAVORITE TREATS AND GOODIES!

Winner will be selected by random.org on Wednesday, November 18th.

$20 Made Me “The Best Mom EVER”

A simple $20 investment each month has named me, and I’m quoting here, “the Best Mom EVER.”



You heard it here first folks: I am officially the best Mom EVER. I hope I get some sort of trophy or certificate or something. Now, the best mom ever title may already be claimed, but you could absolutely be named the SECOND best mom ever… and that’s still pretty good, right? How, you may ask, can this oh so coveted title be yours? Enter the amazing folks over at Kiwi Crate.

Kiwi CrateKiwi Crate is a subsccription box company with four different offerings: Koala Crate, which is designed for the preschool crowd, Doodle Crate, which is designed for girls over the age of 8, Tinker Crate, which is science and engineering projects ideally designed for kids 8 and up, and their main box Kiwi Crate, which is designed for kids in the 4-8 range. (Aidan’s Grandma has recently and generously subscribed him to the Tinker Crate, so we’ll review that service another time.) Inside the box is a magazine for the kids, and the supplies and instructions for not one but two projects that fit whatever the theme of that months box is. Within the magazine and some of the added materials are instructions for additional projects you could complete as well, often with supplies you likely have in your home already. They even included a page of pieces to cut out and use to make the box itself into a play stove! When all is said and done you could easily get a weeks worth of activities out of this one box if you did everything they included.

Our first box was a baking theme. Because it was our first box ever, our kit came with two extra items: a chart where Aidan can proudly display sticker badges he receives for each box he completes, and a bright green pair of children’s safety scissors, so that we always have a pair handy for future projects. Normally we would spread out all the fun things in his kiwi crate over the course of a week or two, but for the purpose of this review we headed out to the front porch to enjoy some unseasonally gorgeous Oregon weather and to demonstrate just how amazing this service really is. I could talk about our crate all day, but I’ll let the pictures do the talking instead.

(If you decide to sign up for Kiwi Crate to try it yourself, you click any of the photos in this blog and use the code KC25 on check out to get 25% your very first month! Best of all, you can cancel anytime, no obligation to go past the 1st month or to be “on contract” for any length of time, so it’s no risk to give it a try. The code works on Kiwi Crates other boxes, like Tinker Crate, as well!)

 

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Kiwi Crate Family Brands &gt;&gt;

She’s The Boss: Bobbi Bankston

I can’t even tell you all how excited I am to share today’s interview with you. I have had a small love affair with The Mason Bar Company and their products for some time now, so I was thrilled to have the woman behind the brand become our first interview in my She’s The Boss series. This series is all about showcasing some of the amazing #girlbosses behind amazing companies and brands, who are defining success for themselves and taking the world by storm. So without further ado, lets get down to the interview!

Bobbi Bankston
*Tell us a bit about who you are and what you do.
Hi Everyone! My name is Bobbi and I am the original creator of the mason jar tumbler lid and the owner of The Mason Bar Company.

*Where did the idea for the Mason Bar Company begin? What has the journey looked like to go from an idea to the brand you are successfully running today?
Answering this question has become more frequent and each and every time I go down memory lane, it always makes me cry. Lucky for you, you can’t see my ugly crying face…  hee hee. My two best friends (Jodi and Melissa) and I were sipping our latte’s in the car from mason jars- every sip we took the lid off because you know how “golden” and precious mid-day lattes are- spilling is NOT an option! I had the idea and said, “hey! let’s figure out how to put a hole in the middle so we can sip from a straw”. Because the three of us love brainstorming and dreaming together, the idea grew into a plan of action. My friend Melissa found a broken tool from her Dads sheet-metal shop that made the hole just perfect. Within a few weeks the first hand crafted “mason jar tumbler” was born! The concept caught on quickly via my first Etsy shop (Poppy & Pearl co.) and within a few months, I knew that I had found my “something”. Everyday since has been such a joy, full of unexpected goodness. On most days, I feel as though my heart might pop with excitement!
Is it ok with you guys if I give you a little of the back-story to the above? This is why my voice shakes when I tell it in person and why I have to fight back tears…
Mason Jar TumblerA year prior, my husband and I found ourselves in financial crisis. We were a young, hard working family living a simple life but as we all know, financial struggle is all too common. I quit my job is a Realtor to wait tables full time to help make ends meet. My youngest was only a year old at the time and leaving him killed me like nothing I’d ever felt before. Each month I would make just enough tips to pay what bills were left over. But, while I was working so hard to put a smile on my face during the day at work, my ferver for life was quickly dwindling. I became a very sad person… and friends, I’m not a sad person! I had no desire to get out of bed in the morning. It was bad. Six months into it I realized the intensity of my sadness, knew I needed a change, rolled over to my husband and said, “It’s time to start thinking outside the box”. When I said that to him, immediately I felt a little spark ignite in my soul. The thought alone and the possibility of newness was the refreshment I was longing for. That moment was the beginning of the end of my “dark hour” as I call it. In the following months, the mantra that kept going through my head was this: Refuse to look back and wonder. Refuse! We have but one beautiful life to live and I’d rather try and fail then look back and wonder what might have been. My Creator gave me a purpose. I refuse to settle for less than what I was created to for. I recited Jeremiah 29:11 every. single. day. Most days I felt defeated but this verse- it was everything. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”
Today, 3 1/2 years later, The Mason Bar Company is shipping world wide, retail and wholesale from our 3000 square foot warehouse. There are 8 amazing ladies on the MBC team- we have the BEST time together and love what we do! It’s the greatest ride of my life!!!! Who knew little ‘ol me had a future in product development without a college degree. Miracles really do happen, folks. They do!
Child With Mason Jar Tumbler
* How do you personally define success?
When our success becomes another’s benefit. I believe that with great success comes the ability to give in greater abundance. I could give you another back-story here but I’ll spare you the novel.  ; )


*Where do you see your brand in the next few years?
I see MBC in Whole Foods Markets across the U.S.A. ( this is huge but anything is possible! ) I believe our company will be supporting the young entrepreneur all across the globe in new and exciting ways. I hope that MBC will be a story of encouragement to those who are searching for something “outside the box”.

*What’t the best piece of advice you can give to women who are thinking of becoming entrepreneurs and want to make the leap into working for themselves?
I would encourage her to first choose supportive friends and family. A core group to cheer you on and lovingly lend advice or feedback is essential. Secondly, I’d remind her of how BIG the world is. It sounds silly but it’s easy to forget that there is plenty of room for everyone! Also, she might want to grab hold of a verse or quote that deeply moves her… for the first two years of MBC mine was “Dream Big and Dare to Fail”. It was posted all around my house. It picked me up and kept me going! Inspiring words are invaluable… hence our quotes on the back of all MBC info cards.
Mason Jar Tumblers With Floral SleevesThanks Bobbi! It’s such a joy to have you kick off this series and give us a little insight to the gal behind the brand. I really love what you had to say.

For those of you who entered my recent giveaway for a Mason Bar Company tumbler/glass straw/essential oils package, the winner has been selected! And the winner is…. **drumroll please** 

Jess Anne !

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*I’ve emailed the winner of this giveaway. She has 24 hrs to respond or a new winner will be selected

How I Lost 50 Pounds in Only Six Months

How I Lost 50Lbs A year ago I was the heaviest I had been my whole life. At 5’9″ tall, I was 212 pounds and was wearing a women’s size 1x or an extra-extra-large. I was constantly fatigued, my chronic pain issues were becoming more and more inflamed, and I was so frustrated with the way clothes fit that I was beginning to lose any sense of what my personal style really was anymore. As my confidence suffered, so did my marriage, and it was difficult to want to go to social occasions when I knew I was going to face the inevitable parade of trying on 20 uncomfortable and poorly fitting outfit ideas before ultimately settling back into one of the 4 or so comfortable pieces I had relegated to myself almost daily. I was finally unhappy about it enough to be ready for change. In 6 short months I was able to shed 50lbs, bringing me to 162 lbs and a women’s size 8 on top, 10 on the bottom, or a size medium. The transformation has been a dramatic one, with the weight loss visible not just in my body but in my face as well. It changed the entire way I look, but more importantly it changed the way I feel. Not only was I able to lose the weight, but in the past 6 months I have been able to successfully keep it off, fluctuating  in a range of only 5-7 lbs through different seasons and changes in activity and diet. Amazingly, none of this weight loss was from working out, as when I was losing this weight I was going through various health issues and wasn’t cleared for physical activity any more strenuous than regular walking or occasional hiking with my boys – so nothing with a caloric burn to really bring about significant weight loss. This means ANYONE can lose weight, even if you’re facing physical handicaps that keep you from strenuous exercise. So how did I do it? Three main components made up my plan.

 

1. Kick Preservatives to the Curb: Eat Whole Foods Instead

ProduceI actually began my dietary changes not to lose weight but to help with various health issues I was experiencing. Rather than count calories, I was intentionally limiting the amount of processed foods and preservatives I allowed into my diet. In fact, I wasn’t tracking calories in much of a meaningful way for most of my weight loss journey. My focus was on eliminating the amount of chemicals making their way into my body. I learned quickly that the battle was best fought once at the grocery store, rather than over and over at home. This meant trying to keep my shopping trips to the outer walls of the grocery store as much as possible, and avoid purchases from the aisles in the middle. We kept tons of easy to snack on produce, especially berries and cuties oranges, to make up for the sugary treats I had become rather addicted to. Salty snack cravings were satisfied with choices like lightly salted almonds, or specially chosen tortilla chips or baked pretzels from a trusted whole foods provider like Trader Joe’s. I had to change the way I looked at what constituted a typical meal, since I wasn’t always able to cook meals from scratch but still didn’t want to fall back on processed convenience food. I actually ate many a lunch that looked almost exactly how I would feed my young kids: a few pieces of a preservative-free lunch meat (like turkey or nitrate-free salami,) a few nibs of cheese, a handful of pretzel crisps, a large carrot, and a selection of fresh fruit. I ate regularly, I never excluded any major food groups, and I never let myself go hungry. And sure, I would occasionally cheat, especially if eating a meal out with friends, but my goals were less about following a perfect program and more about creating a different lifestyle in how we approached food overall.

2. Find Ways to Actively Treat Yourself: Too Much Restriction Leads to Cheating & Quitting

Trader Joes ChocolateOf all the times I’ve managed to lose weight in the past, the process has been full of starts and restarts, and usually the pounds I lost came back within months – and it would bring some of its friends. This time I wasn’t so much focused on losing weight as on overall health, so I was allowing myself treats more than on any previous diet attempt. As the weight continued to slide off, and all throughout the past 6 months of maintaining my new size, treating myself has remained an important way to KEEP with these healthy changes. I’ve found from experience that the more I try to stick to super restrictive plans that require you to cut out entire food groups or eliminate all sugars or fats, the more Im tempted to cheat;and the more I cheat, the more quickly I convince myself I’m going to fail and quit the diet entirely. By allowing myself treats (like these amazing 100 calorie chocolate bard from Trader Joe’s,) I wouldn’t feel like I was on a diet, and my attention would be less focused on what I “couldn’t” have and more on the incredible changes I was seeing and feeling in my body.

 

 

3. MY SECRET WEAPON: Essential Oils Were the Ultimate Game Changer

Essential Oils for Weightloss

Now some of you may have read this far and thought to yourselves, “this isn’t really anything new to me – eat healthier and dont worry too hard about it… been there, done that.” For you folks in particular, I’m about to share my secret weapon that changed my health and diet in ways I honestly thought fell under the heading of internet scam or too good to be true. And in the spirit of honesty, when my friend first started telling me about essential oils from Young Living and all they could do for my health, I thought, “Yeah, sure… and Dr. Oz has the magic kale smoothie cure for cancer right?” At the time though, my health was in a pretty nasty way, and after trying so many things that simply weren’t working, I was desperate enough to give it a try. When my starter kit first arrived, I would classify myself as a “hopeful skeptic.” I certainly didn’t expect the oils to live up to the hype, but I was desperately hoping they would help even a little. And man, did those little bottles exceed all of my hopes. Within a month we were successfully using oils to help everything from insomnia to viral infections to chronic pain to acne that had plagued me since my teenage years. It was at this point that I heard about a trio of oils recommended for helping in weight loss. According to the experts, an empty capsule taken each day filled with a mixture of lemon, peppermint, and grapefruit oils could help with weight loss in incredible ways. Peppermint would aid in digestive function, lemon would help detox and balance the system, and grapefruit would drastically curb sugar cravings and help speed metabolism. Since I had already seen such wonderful results with other uses for the oils, I decided to give the oils for weight loss a try – and within 6 months I was 50 lbs lighter. When taking the oils I could feel a noticeable difference in my energy levels, in how quickly I felt full at meals (my portion sizes were dramatically reduced,) in how regular I was, and most noticeably in how much less I craved sugar. At one point I even went off the capsules for 10 days to see if it was just placebo effect, and by the end of the 10 days I was swearing up and down I would never stop taking them again. When a sugar craving hits especially hard (::cough:: PMS much? ::cough::) I put a little grapefruit oil directly on my skin like eau de toilette or diffuse it into the air, and the craving is noticeably eased. Thanks to my amazing mason jar tumbler and glass straw from The Mason Bar Company, I have also been able to add various citrus oils too my water intake each day. Lemon, Grapefruit, and Tangerine have become my favorite oils to drink, and just a few drops make keeping up my water intake super easy and delicious, while also providing the health benefits of the oils themselves.
(*It’s super important to point out that citrus oils should never ever ever be consumed in plastic of any kind, as they can eat at the plastics over time and can pull toxic chemicals from the plastic into your water. Only drink citrus oils from glass or stainless steel products. I cant recommend the glass tumbler and glass straw I’ve shown here highly enough!)
(**It’s even more important to point out that not all essential oils are safe to ingest. In fact MOST essential oils are absolutely NOT. Please research all essential oils before you purchase or ingest. I did a lot of research before decided on oils for my family, and the only brand I can SAFELY recommend for these uses is Young Living, especially because of their Seed to Seal process.)

I’m so grateful for the way these oils have affected my health and my weight loss journey, that I’ve decided to give away a 24 oz tumbler with my favorite mint lid and a glass straw (generously given by our friends at The Mason Bar Company,) as well as a full sized bottle of grapefruit, tangerine, and lemon! Enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. Winner will be selected by Random.org. Contest will close at 12:00am on 4/1. Good luck!

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