Total Relaxation –  something we all long for, like a fully paid vacation on a tropical island, eight hours of sleep a night, or even just 10 minutes of alone time on some days.  As much as I’d love world peace, I find myself selfishly longing for a day without doing dishes much more frequently. Alas, since most of us aren’t able to escape to the spa on a daily basis (or permanently eliminate the things that cause us the most stress), here are some simple ways you can have moments of relaxation and reduced stress throughout your day.  Spoiler alert… eating chocolate is one of them!


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1. Eat Breakfast Before Coffee
Caffeine on an empty stomach can increase blood sugar levels, which can lead to irritability.  No wonder we are stressed almost from the moment we wake up.  Also, as many nutrition experts will tell you, it is important to eat something within 30 minutes of waking up to kick-start your metabolism for the day. If you don’t have time for a full breakfast, something small is OK, but keep it healthy, like a hard boiled egg or 1/2 a grapefruit.  Reducing your blood sugar will keep you more calm throughout the day. Check out other quick and healthy options here. (Source)


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2. Tea Time
This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone by now, but green tea is one of the most healthy beverages on the planet.  It’s loaded with antioxidants that can help reduce the risk of cancer, has numerous heart health benefits that can reduce the risk of high blood pressure, and lowers your blood sugar level to keep you calm, among many others.  Take 5 minutes to kick your feet up and enjoy a cup of tea every afternoon!   Make sure you are super comfy from head to toe. I highly recommend keeping your feet cozy with a pair of Gold Toe Oh So Soft socks.  Unlike traditional spa socks, these are thinner so your feet can actually breath without sacrificing softness and comfort.  Love the fun colors, and I love that they are made with a little spandex so they fit my feet perfectly.  Since I work full time, my tea ritual is usually in the mornings or at night right after my shower. (Source)


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3. Take a Long Bath
This one might not be as feasible on a daily basis, but ALL moms need to dedicate at least one day a week to a long, hot bath.  I fill my tub with tons of bubbles and lavender-scented bath oil.  The scent of lavender is known to reduce your heart rate for increased relaxation (more on scents below).  I light a candle, turn off the lights, put on my favorite calming music, and zen out as long as possible. After the bath, of course, I put my Oh So Soft socks on and enjoy a cup of green tea. (Source)


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4. Take Time to Smell the Roses
It might be cliche, but there’s a very real reason this expression exists – aside from the obvious message of stopping the hustle and bustle of your daily activities to enjoy the small things in life (which, of course, is very important). There are many known scents that have been proven to help people relax: lavender (my all-time favorite), jasmine (my other all-time favorite), mandarin, vanilla, chamomile, bergamot, sandalwood, rose, lilac, and ylang-ylang. I try to keep a lavender candle lit whenever I’m home, and I spray jasmine on my pillow case at night. I even have lavender-scented dish soap so I stay a little more calm while doing dishes every day. An easy way to keep a scent with you all day is to spray a little bit of your favorite fragrance on a cloth and put it in your purse. If you start to feel stressed, pull it out and take a little sniff to calm down. Or, next time you eat an orange, keep a few of the orange peels in your car or in a bowl at home so you can be surrounded by the scent all day. (Source)


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5. Eat Chocolate
Yes, you read that correctly my friends.  Studies show that dark chocolate (in moderation) can lower your blood pressure and lower the risk of diabetes, stroke, and heart attack…. not to mention the shear joy of indulging in chocolate guilt-free!  Remember, everything in moderation, so go ahead and have a couple squares of your favorite dark chocolate during tea time.  You’re welcome! (Source)


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6. Exercise
Now that you’ve enjoyed your chocolate… exercise might seem counter-intuitive to the notion of ‘relaxation’, but it’s not.  Exercising even a moderate amount daily actually helps maintain your metabolism and reduce spikes in your blood sugar.  My favorite form of exercise is dancing.  For me, there’s nothing better than putting on my favorite music and busting a move.  While I take regular dance classes at a studio, I will often take a few minutes to dance to a great song if I’m feeling particularly stressed.  Even when I’m at work, I can put my headphones on and take a brisk walk around the block to calm my nerves. (Source)

 

My body is not perfect by any means. My fingernails are uneven and haven’t had a good manicure in a LONG time. My toenails need trimmed. I currently need a shower. My graying hair needs to be redyed sometime soon–the three grown out inches do not blend well with the rest of my chestnut brown hair. It also needs a trim. When I fail to put mousse into my curly hair, it’s the frizziest mess you’ll ever see. My thighs touch (gasp!). My belly is the furthest thing from flat. My arms could give someone a black eye when I wave at people. I have no eyebrows or eyelashes unless I draw them on. I rarely wear make up. I’ve got a black chin hair that grows back more rapidly the older I get. I’ve got wrinkles around my eyes. I’ve got stretch marks and dry skin on my body. I’ve got a double chin in pictures.

READ MORE: Seriously… The Thigh Gap?!?

And yet I am more beautiful than I’ve ever been.

My finger nails are uneven because I was so busy coloring with my kids that I forgot I only filed one hand. I failed to trim my own toenails because my daughter wanted her toes painted “just like mommy’s pretty toes.” I didn’t shower this morning because I wanted the fifteen extra minutes of sleep after being up until 1:15 a.m. (no I wasn’t up with a child, I chose to binge watch “Once Upon A Time.” Don’t judge).

I haven’t made time for a hair appointment because I’ve been having too much fun living life: an extra busy Christmas season spending time with those closest to us, I published a book, I went on a trip, I’ve taken my kids to the science center, we baked cookies, I took my kids sledding, I grew my business, I made new friends, I held new babies, I had date nights with my husband.

READ MORE: I Feel Fat

I often don’t put mousse in my hair so my kids can easily play with it. They love seeing how big it can get and I love that something that simple can make them laugh.

I carry the extra weight that comes with having three kids in under four years and not being able to afford a personal trainer and too busy to make time for a 5 a.m. class at the gym. Yet, I hike for miles on a whim with my kids. I haven’t worked out my arms in years because, well, I really hate arm exercises. And I’m okay with that because I’m finally aware of all that I truly dislike, what I can stand, and what I love to do.

READ MORE: I Have Never Felt Beautiful

I hardly notice my lack of eyebrows or eyelashes. I’m just thankful to have not had any other medical issues. It’s amazing how little focus others put on your flaws when you yourself no longer notice them.

I can be beautiful without the make up. It’s fun to done a full face of make up, a cute outfit, but that’s not my day to day attire. I feel just as beautiful and more myself in my yoga pants (which has a growing hole in the thighs from them rubbing together) and an oversize sweat shirt than I do in my new Banana Republic number that I spent too much money on.

The chin hair I could do without, but if anything, it shows my age. An age that I am at ease with. I don’t dread becoming older because I can look back on my years and know I’ve lived them with no regrets.

READ MORE: What I Wish I’d Known About Body Image

My wrinkles are from smiling because I’m happy, laughing, and smiling my way through life. This is something my grandma once told me as I danced on her feet around her kitchen and something I’ve never forgotten. It’s something I tell my children to remind them to smile through everything.

My stretch marks and scars tell the story of my last 7 years. The story of my children’s births, of my love of dark chocolate, of my surgeries. They show the maturity that I’ve come to find in my journey through motherhood.

READ MORE: Change The Way You Look At Pregnancy

How does any of this accumulate to being beautiful? Because beauty isn’t how you look, how much makeup you cake on to cover the flaws, and it’s most definitely not restricted to a size. Beauty is embracing who you are. It’s living your life the way you want to live it. It’s embracing your flaws and owning them. It’s confidence in yourself and willingness to try the things that you’re unsure about.

READ MORE: Breast Reduction Surgery: The Real Deal

I may not be the 5’11 size 6 twenty one year old I once was, but now I’ve got something I didn’t have then: I’ve got the belief that I have the power to do anything I want. I have the power to laugh at myself: at the finger nails being different lengths, my hair being extra frizzy, my stretch mark shaped like an S for our last name (according to our kids), my chin hair that I forgot to pluck away before I left the house, I’ve got the confidence to simply be me.

Once you learn to love all of yourself and be yourself, true beauty will shine.

Photo via Jade Beall’s A Beautiful Body Project

Turn on the tv, open a magazine, and you’re gonna see a woman who’s had work done. And there’s no shame in that game, if Botox or a little lift are what make you feel good we say go wild. But for those of us who just aren’t surgery people, there are plenty of simple skin fixes to look younger and healthier.

We checked in with Dr. Christopher Calapai, D.O., a NYC Osteopathic Physician Board Certified in family medicine and anti-aging medicine, for his suggestions on how to keep your face looking youthful without calling a plastic surgeon. He recommends that you:

 

1) Stop smoking.

“Cigarettes contain some 40,000 toxins, each deposited directly into the DNA of skin cells each time you take a drag,” says Dr. Calapai. “Numerous studies in identical twins have found that smokers look ten years older than non-smokers. That evidence is profound in lines around the eyes.” Talk to your doctor about methods to help you quit.

 

2) Flex your face.

“Facial muscles are just like body muscles,” says Dr. Calapai. “The more you use them, the stronger they get and the less likely they are to sag and atrophy.” Try this quick cheek workout to help build up sagging facial muscles: look in a mirror, smile as broadly as possible while keeping your lips closed and mouth corners turned up. Try to make your mouth corners touch your ears. Next, wrinkle your nose and see your cheek muscles move upwards. Stay like this for a count of five, then relax. Repeat 10 times.

 

3) Consider acupuncture.

Half of Hollywood is allegedly hooked on the face-saving, radiance-boosting power of cosmetic acupuncture. According to experts, it stimulates skin cells to lay down new collagen fibers under wrinkles, ‘filling them in’ literally while also toning different muscles to restore glow. The added bonus is that most cosmetic acupuncturists treat underlying problems that could be causing your skin to look older, such as insomnia and bad digestion.

 

4) Have more sex.

Having sex at least 3 times per week can make you look up to 10 years younger. According to Dr. Dr. Calapai, having more sex is the next best thing you can do after exercise to look younger because it also helps you to naturally release more growth hormones and it’s been proven that having more sex can help you live longer.

 

5) Avoid sugar.

“Too much sugar in your diet will lead to an age accelerating process in your body known as glycation and glycation does damage to the collagen in your skin making you lose skin elasticity causing wrinkles to appear,” affirms Dr. Calapai. Something as simple as cutting out sodas and sweet juices makes a difference fast.

 

6) Exfoliate your skin regularly. 

“Exfoliation increases dermal volume, making skin look less wrinkly. It will also help fade brown spots. You can use a physical exfoliant like a scrub, or a chemical exfoliant, such as a glycolic,” says Dr. Calapai.

 

7) Start intermittent fasting.

The 2 main reasons why intermittent fasting makes you look younger is because intermittent fasting naturally increases your human growth hormone which amps up the production of collagen for younger looking skin. Dr. Calapai explains that, “intermittent fasting induces autophagy where the cells in your body repair themselves to make a newer much healthier cell to prevent aging.”

 

8) Exercise.

You may think you carry your age in your face, but people “guess” your age by how you move. The youthful figure is thin, muscular, flexible, and strong. Your exercise program should include lots of cardio (this allows you to move around without huffing and puffing (a definite “geezer” give-away). Also be sure to strength train with free weights, and add in some stretching to preserve flexibility.

 

9) Improve your posture.

One of the biggest giveaways for looking old is a curved back with slumpy sitting, and shoulders that ride up too high with respect to your neck. Dr. Calapai recommends fixing your posture by thinking of the top of your head as a flat surface and then try to get that flat surface as tall as you can. Consciously push down your shoulders. Do this as you walk and sit. Take a “posture check” as often as you think about it during the day. Young people may not have perfect posture, but correcting your posture will make you look more youthful.

 

10) Eat more oily fish.

Eating fish rich in Omega 3 is optimal but if you don’t like fish take a high-grade fish-oil supplement. Dr. Calapai says that, “none of us consume enough essential fatty acids, which as well as helping our brains to function more smoothly are considered vital to keep skin-cell-membranes in good health and therefore stop the skin from getting too dry.”

 

Ready to get started? Eat a salmon salad, go for a walk, make some funny faces, and then text your hubby to let them know that tonight’s gonna be a good night.

 

Image via

We recently bought a new minivan (my dream car actually, but I won’t brag) for our family vehicle.

Car shopping changes when you have kids. You need to think about things such as how car seats fit in a vehicle, space for strollers, and what kind of storage a vehicle has. It can get pretty complicated. Luckily, my husband and I had a list of what was important to us so that our new vehicle was able to accommodate our needs. We narrowed down our list to the specific vehicles we wanted beforehand, making things so much easier.

Here are a few tips that really helped us out in choosing our new minivan:

1. Do your car research BEFORE going to dealerships.

We knew we wanted a minivan and did a lot of online comparisons. We knew what kind of features we wanted our new vehicle to have and our price range ahead of time. We even knew what make and model of minivan we wanted before we got to the dealership. Literally, all we had to do was take it for a test drive, fill out our financial application, and drive away in our new vehicle. It was really easy because we were prepared and we had an awesome salesman!

2. Have everything ready to go when signing the paperwork.

After we test drove and came to the conclusion that we wanted to buy that van. We did everything online and by email. It made everything super easy and when we went in to pick up the minivan, all we needed to do was sign paperwork and we were off. We were lucky that we didn’t have the kids with us at the time, but if we did, since everything was done ahead of time, it would have been painless to bring them.

3. Think about whether you plan on expanding your family and how much room you’ll /want need for bags, car seats, strollers, etc.

Will you need to fit more than one stroller in the vehicle? A double stroller? Will you be using the vehicle for any road trips or other travel?

4. Try out car seats and booster seats in the vehicle you wish to purchase.

No joke. Bring them to the dealership with you when you test drive. Some sales people actually have car seats at the dealership for you to try out in vehicles as well. I can’t stress it enough about seeing how the car seats fit in a vehicle you are considering buying, leg room, etc. We’ve met a lot of couples who purchase a vehicle right before having kids, only to find their new car isn’t “kid-friendly” at all.

5. Get a cover for car seats on leather seats.

So, I actually hated leather seats and worried the kids would tear through the leather easily. Of course, our new minivan is fully equipped with all leather seats (and I’ll admit, it’s not as terrible as I once thought). We weren’t prepared for needing seat covers when we picked up the van, so we improvised with using towels. If you don’t have seat covers, I highly recommend using a towels or some kind of cover as car seats/booster seats can dig into the leather and completely destroy the material.

6. Work with a sales person who values your time.

Not only were we crazy busy when we bought our latest vehicle, but we had to work around nap times. Our sales person handled everything by email and had all paperwork ready to sign for us when we arrived. We were out the door driving away in our new minivan in less than 45 minutes.

7. Think about what features you want in your new vehicle.

We had special features we wanted our vehicle to have. DVD players were a huge plus for us, but not completely necessary since we already had a portable DVD player set. We also wanted “stow-and-go” seating. Luckily for us, we got a fully loaded vehicle and all of our wishes came true. Honestly, think about what you can and can’t live without especially if you spend a lot of your time in your car driving to and from work, daycare, school, appointments, road trips, etc. Since we’ll be using this vehicle for our upcoming road trips, we thought a lot about our past road trips and what we found ourselves wishing we had.

8. Figure out the main use for your new vehicle.

Is it driving to and from work? Long road trips? As a second vehicle? As a family ride? We needed a second vehicle to become our new family car and something we could take on our upcoming road trip adventures. Also, we needed a vehicle that will be sitting in our driveway during the days that I work from home. Because of this, we decided to purchase a used minivan that is few years old. This way, I didn’t feel quite as guilty for letting it sit and deemed it as something that will last us for our future family road trips.

Please share any tips or information you have for buying a new vehicle for your family!
This article was originally published on Ashlen’s blog, The Kid Sperts. Featured image via.

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Mother’s Day is less than a week away! 

To avoid last minute breakdowns and stress, we’ve put together this kick ass list of awesome gift ideas for moms. Use this to shop for your own mother or mother-in-law, or forward this baby onto those looking to shop for you. Life’s too short to stress about gifts. Sit back, grab a glass of wine, and click away.

1. Cord Tacos

Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka-Cord Tacos

These awesome cords holders are limited edition “mom themed” and they are super badass. Not only will these keep you organized, but they’re perfect for pop culture lovers everywhere. The moms featured in these “cord tacos” are our fictional heroes: Sophia, Morticia, Joy Luck Club, Carol, Ripley, and Marge.

BUY HERE.

2. Book of the Month Membership

Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka-Mother's Day Gift Guide

BUY HERE.

If you’re a book lover, or you know a mom who is a book lover, this membership sends you a new book to read every month! Umm, anything to save someone a trip to the bookstore with a bunch of loud kids in tow.

3. Fire Tablet

Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka-Fire Tablet

BUY HERE.

Long gone is the luxury of toting around paperback novels in your purse, or having clean and decorated bookshelves. A tablet has everything all in one, and is the ideal convenience for a mom. You can have books, music, television shows and movies in one place. Plus, this doubles as entertainment for your kid so you can shut them up on long drives.

4. Cozy Chic Robe

Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka-Fluffy Robe

BUY HERE.

Every mother deserves a cozy, chic robe. This is definitely one of the best gifts for moms (including yourself). We hear fluffy robes pair well with a glass of Merlot.

5. Slow Cooker

Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka-Slow Cooker

BUY HERE.

Slow cookers=a mom’s saving grace. The last thing a mom wants to stress about is taking an hour out of their evening to cook dinner, and this bad boy makes it easy. Throw ingredients in it in the morning, let it cook all day, and enjoy the meal at night.

6. DeLonghi Nescafe Dolce Gusto Genio Coffeemaker

Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka-Coffee Maker

BUY HERE.

Totally the perfect gift for the mother who basically needs coffee to survive. This fancy pants coffee maker can make both hot and cold beverages, so it’s perfect for every caffeine craving a mom might have.

7. Stainless Steel Thermos

Felciity Huffman's What the Flicka-Mother's Day Gift Guide

BUY HERE.

Once you make all of that delicious coffee, you’re going to need something to haul it around that won’t spill all over the car or onto your rambunctious kids. Buy this thermos for a mom who’s on the go, or send the link to your family with a “wink” emoji at the end. Hopefully they’ll get the idea.

8. Mother’s Day Bliss Box

Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka-Mother's Day Gift Guide

BUY HERE.

Who doesn’t love getting a box full of wonderful treats to help you relax and feel rejuvenated? Buy a mom in your life a monthly subscription to Bliss Box, or treat yoself! You deserve it. You’re a damn mom which is basically the equivalent of being Xena: Warrior Princess.

9. Comfy Slippers

Felicity Hufman's What the Flicka-Slippers

BUY HERE.

Slippers are a must in general, but definitely for moms. Mothers are always running around on their feet, so it’s important to take care of them.

10. Chatbooks

Felicity Huffman's What the Flicks-Mother's Day Gift Guide

BUY HERE.

Chatbooks are awesome, because they take your Instagram photos and print them into books full of memories and captured moments. This would be the best surprise gift ever for a mom! Plus, you can easily access their IG feed and print the photos of your choice!

Of course, the ultimate Mother’s Day gift is a night off from the kids. Seriously…no mother will ever complain about that.

Featured image via.

The best part about having a friend that you have known all your life, or is as close to you as a sister would be (if you had a sister), is that she can tell you anything – no holds barred. Such is the friendship I have with my bestie. Not only do we tell each other when one has something in her teeth, but we will pick it out for the other. We are not beyond being brutally honest if it’s in the best interest of the other’s well-being – be it appearance, health, or otherwise. So when my new sweater, after only a few wearings was covered in a pilled mess, she was the first (and only) person to let me know that I need to fix it, and fix it fast.

I’m not the kind of person who needs a gadget for every need, but my bestie has a tool for every need. She probably has the best kitchen gadgets for someone who spends so little time in the kitchen (I just love her mini scoops for candy dishes). When she was getting married, she registered for a waffle iron (how often does a non-cook/cereal addict actually use a waffle iron?).

It’s not that I don’t like the newest gadget, it’s that I don’t want to wait long enough to fix the problem to get the right tool, and I like the challenge of using what I have to fix an issue. If I don’t have screwdriver handy, I use a coin (did you know you can do that with screws that require a flat head screwdriver?) and if I don’t have the “pilled sweater removal tool” that she has, I accept the challenge to come up with something else to do the job.

Her “pilled sweater removal tool” looks like the electric razor my grandfather used to use, and I just didn’t have something like that around. So I pulled my Gillette Venus razor from Costco out of the shower and tried it out. Just before shaving my sweater, I considered for a moment that it could damage this cashmere beauty, but I put the thought out of my head and in my kamikaze way, I got to work as a pill remover.

I took the razor, along with a sticky lint roller to a flat surface and laid out the sweater. I shaved the sweater in one direction; from shoulder to waist in a downward stroke. I followed the direction of the weave of the sweater, so to continue that on the arms (everything was pilled!), I shaved from armpit to wrist. I wouldn’t suggest going against the weave for fear of catching a stitch and pulling the sweater fibers out of place.

As the pills came free, some stuck to the razor while the rest balled up on the sweater. The best way to collect them was to use the lint roller to pick them up. The roller itself won’t remove the pills, but it will removed the pills that have been shaved from the sweater and left behind by the razor. You could sit and pile up the pills, but I found it faster using sheet after sheet of my little lint roller to help the process along.

In the end though, it was worth the ten minutes; my sweater looks as good as new.

Once the sweater was completely de-pilled, I removed the blade from my razor and stored it away for the next de-pilling session. Consider it a razor blade upcycle!

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I am so grateful to have my bestie in my life – now I won’t be walking around for the rest of the winter in a new sweater that looks old. And how did I repay the favor? I promised her that I would pluck her chin hairs for her when we are old and in the nursing home together; it was the least that I could do!

Originally posted at Beth’s blog

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