Hanes Christmas Giveaway Dec 2017

Christmas is Here, Better Get Comfortable

I love working with companies that help me live a better life. Comfort is everything! This is a sponsored post with Hanes®.

Christmas Traditions

On Christmas Eve, my brother, sister and I would get dressed in our pajamas, slip on tennis shoes and load up into the car with our parents. We would all pick out a candy bar and a drink from the small town gas station for a special treat.

We would get all sugared up before bedtime, tune the radio to Christmas music and drive around town to see all of the Christmas decorations.

We laughed and enjoyed each other, and I’m sure my parents benefited from us being corralled in the car instead of running our usual figure 8’s all over the house. Our parents allowed a little more crazy in the car on these nights, and those nights were the best.

© Sensay

(Read more: The Magic of Pajamas and Christmas Lights)

I do the same thing with my kids now and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Christmas Morning

To me, there’s nothing better than sipping on hot coffee on the couch in a warm house with wrapping paper all over the floor and happy squealing kids… while adults get to work assembling toys and wrestling other treasures free from toy packaging.

Warm and cozy is my jam, so I make sure to have leisure clothes ready so I can relax and be myself while spending time with family when we’re home for the holidays in my small hometown.

Comfort is king at home and on the road, so I’m a Hanes® girl. Fat pants, big sweatshirts, leggings, workout socks, comfy shirts, you name it.

Hanes Christmas Giveaway Dec 2017

I’d love you give you the gift of comfort too. I’m teaming up with Hanes® again for a Christmas Comfort giveaway!

Hanes® Christmas Comfort Giveaway includes:

2 Favorite Hanes X-Temp Styles

$50 VISA Gift Card

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Enter the giveaway here and check out all of the comfortable selections from Hanes® for the whole family right now!

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Giveaway ends 12/20/17 at 11:59 EST.

We are heavy into the Christmas planning stage. Please remember to build in healthy breaks and self care. You’re worth it!

May the force be with us, may the coffee be strong, and may we all be stronger than the toy manufacturer’s packaging this year! 🙂

Cley nativity scene made my kids

The Greatest Christmas Decorations of All

We just put up our Christmas tree, and wow did it bring back some memories.

Our tree looks pretty, and I like pretty things to a degree. But what makes the tree beautiful are the things that really aren’t very pretty on their own.

But the memories they represent ensures that I proudly display them every year, and what sends love and gratitude bursting out of my chest.

My favorite part

I love spending time with my family putting up the tree and laying out our favorite items. But my favorite part of Christmas decorating is opening my box of keepsakes and gently unwrapping my homely little treasures from the tissue paper that cradles them in the box.

I always let out a quiet “awww” as I reveal each one.

My very favorite decorations aren’t very pretty, but they are priceless. They each represent the passage of time and different little memories.

These are a few of my favorite things

Like these salt dough hand print ornaments that I made with the kids when they were 6 and 1. I was so tired then, but I wanted to do something special with the kids.

salt dough handprint ornaments

Photo: Audra Rogers, RealHonestMom Blog

The little wooden toy soldier my oldest made in first grade.

wooden soldier ornament

Photo: Audra Rogers, RealHonestMom Blog

The Baby’s First Christmas rattle ornament that my sister-in-law bought the year my oldest was born. Amen for the wooden keepsake box that keeps it safe every year.

baby's first christmas rattle ornament

Photo: Audra Rogers, RealHonestMom Blog

A clear glass ornament with sand and pretty shells that I bought on a weekend girls trip to California with my best friend a few years ago.

huntington beach christmas ornament

Photo: Audra Rogers, RealHonestMom Blog

The big breakable Merry Christmas ornament my husband ran in and bought for me after I admired it in my little hometown flower shop before we were married. The lid broke one year and has been glued back together.

big ornament keepsake

Photo: Audra Rogers, RealHonestMom Blog

The “Jesus” wood slice ornament given to the members of my sweet mom’s group at church, so we would remember the reason for the season. And keep our eyes on the prize, if you will.

Jesus wood slice ornament

Photo: Audra Rogers, RealHonestMom Blog

The sweet little angel ornament given to me by a sweet friend.

fabric angel ornament

Photo: Audra Rogers, RealHonestMom Blog

My little one’s hand print ornament from preschool.

hand print ornament

Photo: Audra Rogers, RealHonestMom Blog

The popsicle stick picture frame that I made in school.

preschool ornament

Photo: Audra Rogers, RealHonestMom Blog

The little nativity set my little one made at the preschool church nursery, flanked by two clay angels that I made when I was little.

Cley nativity scene made my kids

Photo: Audra Rogers, RealHonestMom Blog

My mom kept the angels and this (I’ll go ahead and use the word) ugly Santa on a String that I made in kindergarten. Hey, I could write my name at least.

ugly santa on a string

Photo: Audra Rogers, RealHonestMom Blog

It’s been through a lot.

My mom kept and proudly displayed our homely school projects every year at Christmas. We used to groan when we would see them, but she has since passed them on to us as adults and they hold a lot of meaning to me now.

♥♥♥

The keepsakes generate that warm special feeling of Christmas. They sit in the storage box next to multiple strings of lights that may or may not work from year to year, and other glittery, shiny standby bulb ornaments.

Every time I open the box, I take a deep breath and choose to celebrate the growth, relationships and people the keepsakes represent. The ones who are still here, those that sadly aren’t, and the ships that have sailed. The decorations remind me of the important little things mixed into the big picture, and how life is so full of them. And how much they matter.

They aren’t perfect. But to me, that makes them the greatest Christmas decorations of all.

Enjoy this post? See also:

 

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A lumpy, mishapen patched up pie crust before baking

You Can Learn a Lot from an Ugly Pie Crust

“Can I help you with the pie mommy? Please?”

“I WANT TO HELP!!!!”

Two young boys bound into the kitchen on a Thanksgiving morning.

My first response was an internal sigh. It’s so much easier and faster if I just do it, especially when it comes to a finicky pie crust. But I thought, hey why not. It was the point of the morning where they start to tire of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and I like teaching them new things.

I made the pie crust the day before and it was chilling in the fridge so I laid it on the counter. They helped me measure the flour and cinnamon and they snacked on the apple slices and dipped their wet fingers in the sugar to sample.

Kids helping to bake a pie in the kitchen

My eager kitchen helpers. Photo: Audra Rogers, RealHonestMom Blog

Cooking with kids

It’s cooking with kids…but then again it’s cooking with kids, you know? A wise woman once told me to let kids make messes in the kitchen when they’re young, and though it goes against every fiber in my being sometimes, I oblige within reason. It does clean and they enjoy it.

We were all crop dusted with flour by the time I explained how we would divide the dough in half and make a top and bottom crust. They took turns sprinkling flour on the counter and rolling with the rolling pin.

They really enjoyed the process and laughed at the “argh!” style noise I made when I used too much pressure with the rolling pin and a part of the crust rolled off. The granulated sugar crunched underneath my shoes on the hardwood floor.

Even though I use a very forgiving and pliable pie crust recipe, this is our final product before oven time:

A lumpy, mishapen patched up pie crust before baking

Made with love. Photo: Audra Rogers, RealHonestMom Blog

Not my best work, and it required several patch jobs that they helped with, but they were so proud of the pie we made.

I of course threw in a comment about how this just goes to show that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover because it was going to taste AMAZING no matter what it looked like.

And it did. It really, truly did. It was the best pie I have ever had. Ever.

Lumpy, patched up baked pie crust

Baked with love. Photo: Audra Rogers, RealHonestMom Blog

You can learn a lot from an ugly pie crust

I think it’s so important to make sure kids know that mistakes are okay. It’s important to try new things, and maybe even expect that it won’t be perfect the first time. If you aren’t making mistakes, you aren’t learning and growing.

It was baked with love, laughs, sweet memories and an honest effort, which is always welcome here.

I put a lot of effort into making a nice meal for the day, but in the end, the pie was the best part of all.

I spent sweet time teaching my sons how to make an apple pie with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in the background, and Christmas music on the radio. I will always remember that, and I think they will too.

I was incredibly thankful for our little family Thanksgiving. And that’s the whole point, isn’t it?

Thank you, ugly pie crust.

♥♥♥

Mom’s Dream

My 2 favorite passions: teaching kids basic life skills in the home and using my gifts of video and writing to explain things in a loving way.

I am going to combine the two to try something new in the new year. I am currently in the thick of creating the content to launch soon, and I’d love your support!

Even if you aren’t my target customer, you can help by spreading the word when the time comes.

I will still write on this blog, because it’s my first love that has saved me in countless ways.

I’ve had this idea burning in my soul for quite a while now, and it’s go time.

I am currently available on a consulting basis in the ways of the home in the meantime. I asked my sons to give me a few testimonials and they did!

You can see those, check my availability and schedule an appointment here. And stay tuned! ♥

children dressed in vintage costumes in the 1970's

Throwback to a Vintage Halloween

My mother is a saint. She gets texts like this from me on the regular, and she always delivers.

“Do you have that old picture of me in the library in my Woody Woodpecker costume?

-Oh my goodness, I don’t remember it. I can look in the trunk.

It might have been a newspaper clipping. It was in the story well in the library and I was sitting next to Michael Wayne.”

Michael’s last name isn’t Wayne but I knew if I said it like that she’d know right away I was talking about one of my all-time best childhood friends.

Seriously, how great were 70’s Halloween costumes?

They were total fire hazard suits and the molded plastic masks were sure to cut your face by the end of the night, but were they not the greatest? I enjoyed them in the 70’s and the 80’s.

children dressed in vintage costumes in the 1970's

Photo: L. Hudson and RealHonestMomBlog

I couldn’t wait to be Woody Woodpecker and my mom came through. Michael Wayne was the Hulk, I believe. (Some things never go out of style)

My mom is standing at the top of the picture (dark hair) holding my little sister, who is now 39 years old. I was hit with a wave of nostalgia as I saw this picture of the story well in the library where I spent a great deal of time as a kid. I remember the librarian reading stories and moving around characters on the felt board at the front of the room.

nostalgic halloween costumes

Photo: L. Hudson and RealHonestMomBlog

It also took me back to old school trick-or-treating in our small town.

It was back before safety was much of a priority, but it was the best.

Our parents would load us all up in the car (seat belts, schmeet belts), drop us off at the end of the street and we would run up and down the block with our cousins and friends searching out the good stuff.

vintage halloween costumes

We would run down the block with our masks flipped up on top of our heads just before ringing the doorbell. Then it was masks-down and a big, breathy “trick or treat!” in unison.

Then we would flip the masks back up on top of our heads and race to the next house, oblivious to the larger-than-life high school kids throwing eggs at each other at the town square and t.p.’ing houses and trees.

vintage woody woodpecker halloween costume

Photo: Ebay

Okay, well maybe not oblivious exactly, but we definitely had bigger priorities.

The weather mattered even less than the time on the clock, and we would stay out until we scoured every block and found every porch line shining bright.

We would get home and dump our bounties in close, yet territorial piles and count out the loot.

Mom would check for needles in the apples and popcorn balls. Not that it mattered, she would end up eating those herself because well, you know. Not at the top of the kid list, really.

I try to keep trick-or-treating with my own kids as close to what I got to experience growing up.

As much as you can today, anyway. We hit several streets full blast with breathy trick-or-treats. I walk closely with them, but I enjoy dressing up just as much as they do.

 

Some things never die.

Except fire hazard suits, thin plastic-molded masks, eggs and t.p.

Another 1970’s gem from the trunk (treasure chest):

A picture of my preschool class in 1979.

Photo: L. Hudson and RealHonestMomBlog

I’m on the upper right.

My mom loves to tell the story about how my grandma dressed me for school that day. The clothes were too small and if you look closely, my belly is hanging out the front of my shirt. Amen for pilgrim hats and a sweet friend in the middle row!

Not that it wouldn’t be awesome for me to see now. It’s still a classic memory.

Take. the. pictures.

Looking back on times like these ensure that I’m taking all of the pictures and videos I can of my kids now. One day I will be the mom at the top of the picture holding the baby that has long since grown up.

What are some of your favorite nostalgic Halloween memories?

Whole30 meal of smoked pork loin, butternut squash and a green salad with Whole30 ranch dressing

Best Tips for Whole30 Success

I did it. I survived the Whole30 eating program. 30 days without added sugar, alcohol, bread, legumes and processed foods. I am very much the average Joe, and I simply wanted better health after an entire summer eating pop tarts, chips, ice cream and fast food.

I’m a sweets and carb-loader from way back, and I knew the food I was eating was driving my down moods, anxiety and difficult digestion. Inflammation was so common it was the sad norm, and I knew my physical health was also affecting me as a parent.

I read up and studied on the Whole30 body reset and wondered if I could possibly live without sugar-my favorite emotional crutch-for 30 days.

Whole30 meal of smoked pork loin, butternut squash and a green salad with Whole30 ranch dressing

Smoked pork loin, butternut squash, green salad with Whole30 ranch. Photo: RealHonestMomBlog

How Did You Prepare for Whole30?

I prayed for will power and a taste for things that come more naturally to the Earth.

I got busy creating margin in my freelance writing life so I could give this program the time and attention I deserved. I take terrible care of myself when I’m over-committed, and I had been for some time. I resigned from one regular writing job and scaled back on blogging and social media. I knew it was a sacrifice, but I really wanted a change.

I took a week to read the books and do a 7-day trial run to get a feel for how I would do meal preps with school back in full swing. I probably should have taken longer, but I didn’t want to lose momentum.

My results on Whole30

No cheating, no formal exercise, no measuring food or counting calories. Just a sole concentration on changing what was on my plate.

Here’s what happened:

  • 12 pound weight loss
  • Down 2 clothing sizes
  • Elevated moods and energy
  • More active, plus the will and motivation to be productive
  • Reduced appearance in varicose veins (was not expecting this one!)
  • Zero need for caffeine (I have 1 cup of coffee in the morning, more out of habit than need, and no sodas)
  • Whiter teeth
  • Smooth digestion, almost no inflammation, zero heartburn
  • Clearer thinking, less anxiety
  • Sense of calm, more patience, better parent
  • Better self esteem and body image
  • Restful sleep
  • No aches in hands in the morning
  • Desire to get out and be more active (family bike rides, nature walks, etc)
Whole30 selfie

Boom. Photo: RealHonestMomBlog

What was Hard on Whole30?

Lack of cheese. I thought I would die without bread, but I didn’t miss bread at all. I missed cheese, and the dinnertime burger commercials on tv with melted cheese almost did me in, but I refrained.

Dishes. So many dishes. I tried to do bulk preps on the weekend to reduce the load during the week, but I was cooking food for myself separate from the rest of the fam, and the dishes are real. (Helpful hint: paper plates)

Smells. Driving past Sonic made my mouth water, and I actually took my own little lunch box when I ate with the fam at McDonald’s. Fast foods have distinct smells that you recognize right away, but I felt so good on Whole30 I really wasn’t tempted.

The unexpected. I had to quickly grab leftovers from the fridge to eat before rushing to a school meeting I forgot about, but I made sure to regularly cook enough to have leftovers so it was okay. And I keep an apple and macadamia nuts in my purse if I’m out and about.

Portion sizes. This is something you work on from day 1, figuring out how much you should eat of each kind of food so you are satisfied and don’t need snacks between meals. I overate a few times and under-ate a few times, but you’ll get the hang of it.

Headaches. I started out with a 2-day headache from sugar withdrawals. I knew it would likely happen based on the “what to expect” schedule from the book so I planned to start on a weekend when my husband was home and I’m really glad I did. (My advice: STICK WITH IT, happy days are straight ahead.)

Whole30 meal of roasted chicken, potatoes, onions, carrots and squash

Hip hip hooray! Comfort food. Roasted chicken, potatoes, onions, squash, carrots. Side of green olives (not shown) Photo: RealHonestMomBlog

My Tips for Whole30 Success

Thinking about trying it for yourself? I highly recommend it. The whole30 book has a ton of suggestions on how to handle things that will come up. Here are the ones that really helped me, plus suggestions of my own:

1. Make a To-Do List

Make a list of light tasks to do around the house to keep your mind occupied when cravings hit. This helped me a lot. I cleared out and organized a few junk drawers and huge boxes of school papers. I cleaned out my closet and organized a book shelf.

2. Don’t Try Too Much at Once

Overwhelm is very real if you do too much at once. Go through the book and make a list of things to buy from 2 or 3 recipes you think you would like per week. Don’t run out and buy all the weird stuff you don’t need right away, slow and steady wins the race. I rarely use the coconut aminos, coconut flour and shallots I bought, but I use the heck out of ghee (it’s like regular butter without lactose). I had fresh herbs go bad because I didn’t use them fast enough. Go as simple as you can. Eggs are easy, as are canned olives and raw nuts and you don’t have to buy organic everything.

3. Cook in Bulk

Easy recipes in the book that guarantee leftovers are a good way to start. I loved the sweet potato soup, pot roast and roasted chicken recipes. If you find something you like, make large portions. It will be a relief on many occasions to just reheat stuff that’s already made.

4. Plan, Plan, Plan

The books helps you a lot with this. It runs you through several If/Then scenarios to think about. For example: If there is an office birthday party, then I’ll eat a healthy snack beforehand so I’m full. Or if I am traveling, I will pack xyz in a carry-on until I can get to a grocery store.

We just visited a pumpkin farm and I knew we would get hungry while we were there. They weren’t likely to sell Whole30 foods, so I ate a big healthy lunch before we left the house and I packed an apple and nuts in my bag to snack on. The family ordered food there so we all ate together.

It’s also a great idea to keep a food journal. Stuck on figuring out what to make? Look back to what you made in previous days to get ideas. Also notate what was good, what wasn’t and how you felt that day.

I’m old school like that. Photo: RealHonestMomBlog

5. It’s Okay to be That Person

I took a little lunch box to McDonald’s a few times and no one cared. I was there with family from out of town and we bought food for others there. You have the power to choose what you eat. Research nutrition info for various restaurants on their websites ahead of time when picking a place to go, they are very detailed.

I only felt confident ordering food at a restaurant once on Whole30. It was our wedding anniversary, and my husband was happy to go there. Thank you Chipotle! You can get the pork carnitas salad bowl with pico and guac and it’s a-ok! A whole, compliant, glorious meal in one. Not exactly romantic, but happy wife, happy life.

I’ve done this long enough now, I would feel more confident ordering like Meg Ryan or just bringing my own dressing or making a special request.

6. Prep Work Makes the Dream Work

There is a ton of prep cutting vegetables on Whole30. I ended up buying some pre-cut at the grocery store to save on prep time. It’s more expensive, but to me it’s worth buying zoodles since I don’t have a spiralizer, and diced butternut squash because that stuff is hard to cut! I do most of the prep myself but a little break is nice once in a while starting out.

Whole30 meal of grilled chicken, cucumbers, watermelon and guacamole

Grilled chicken, cucumbers, watermelon, Whole30 guacamole. Photo: Audra Rogers

7. Meals 1, 2 and 3

I love how they say in the book not to think of meals as breakfast, lunch and dinner but as meals 1, 2 and 3. Because then you won’t limit yourself to only certain foods at certain times.

This was a lifesaver because I ate approximately 8 billions eggs in the beginning. It was getting old, so I am fine eating grilled chicken in the morning. Trust me, at one point you’ll be all cooked out and you won’t care what you eat when, and leftovers are a blessing. It’s great for variety too. I’ve even mixed up diced chicken with eggs for protein in an omelet.

8. Pay Close Attention to Your Body

They describe this phenomenon called “Tiger blood” when you feel so good, it’s amazing and you feel like pure power is running through your veins. It’s true! I had it, though it was more mild than eye of the tiger. But I could definitely tell when I had crossed over into real health.

9. Eat with as Few Distractions as Possible

If you have kids and you just laughed out loud, I hear you. I got up 30 min before the kids in the morning and quietly sat and ate by myself. No tv, no phone, just concentrating on every bite, the taste and how I felt before the kids woke up.

We get so busy and eat on auto-pilot a lot of the time, so this was really valuable to me. Sometimes the kids get up and it’s business as usual, but it’s a good exercise.

10. Savor Favorite Foods

I am massively in love with sweet potatoes. When I knew I would be taking my own food to eat somewhere, I would pack things I truly love that feel like a treat, and sweet potatoes always got me through. I also love green olives. So I try to slow down and savor the foods I like. I’m a fast eater and I can throw down on a big meal, but slowing down to savor things helped me feel satisfied.

11. Fails Happen

It’s okay to fail. Sometimes you have no idea how to care for fresh herbs.

Sad herbs went bad

My apologies, cilantro and parsley. I’m trying. Photo: RealHonestMomBlog

Sometimes you use coconut flour to dredge the chicken in your favorite chicken marsala recipe and it destroys the whole meal. It’s okay.

chicken marsala failed recipe

Chicken marsala fail using coconut flour. Doh! Photo: RealHonestMomBlog

This is another reason it’s a good idea to keep a running cycle of leftovers. I had hard-boiled eggs in the fridge as a protein and I ended up mixing and matching weird foods together to make a compliant meal.

Don’t be too hard on yourself. You are taking steps to get healthier because you want to do better, and that’s a win in any ledger to me.

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Interested in learning more? See also:

2 Weeks In: How I’m Surviving Whole30

I Went Without Sugar for 30 Days and Lived to Tell

Also, here are the books I followed: (affiliate links)

Whole30 and It Starts With Food books

I once was blind but now I see.

It Starts With Food concentrates more on the way your body processes food, which is great background info to know how your body is reacting to what you eat. It also includes details of the program.

The Whole30 Book is all about the program and what to expect, how to plan for travel, the unexpected and a busy schedule. I recommend both. And please feel free to ask me any questions!

(Also available in paperback and Kindle)

 

Best Tips for Whole30 success and winning in a whole foods diet.