Black Friday Traditions

November 27, 2015

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Happy Black Friday! Do you usually go out shopping today? I've never been a black Friday shopper...I prefer to shop in my jammies from the comfort of my couch. Did you score any awesome deals today? Let me know what you got!

In our family, it's our tradition to get our Christmas tree and decorate it the day after Thanksgiving. But today, my husband had to help his parents instead, my mom and I are listening to Christmas music with the kids and enjoying a yummy Hickory Farms sausage and cheese spread! We'll get our tree tomorrow (hopefully)!

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Seriously so yummy! It's not the holidays unless you see Hickory Farms set up at your local mall. Am I right? Hickory Farms is America’s most famous holiday food gift brand, enjoyed by holiday shoppers seeking the perfect gifts for family and friends for over 60 years.

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I'm thinking that enjoying some sausage and cheese will become a new holiday tradition. Hickory Farms’ food gifts are available at Holiday Market locations nationwide, their website, and at leading retailers.

While we are enjoying our sausage and cheese we are also plotting my Elf on a Shelf strategy! This is the first year we've had an elf and I think Hudson is going to get a huge kick out of hunting around for our elf. If you have any easy and fun ideas let me know! I found some great ideas here...but the elf being held hostage might be my favorite.

Want to win a Hickory Farms Sausage and Cheese Gift Box just like mine? Enter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: Compensation and products for review were provided by Hickory Farms via MomTrends. I received a free sample of the product for the purpose of this review and to facilitate a giveaway. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions of Hickory Farms.

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We Said Goodbye to Cable TV

November 24, 2015

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When we sold our house and moved in with my mom while our new house is being built, we also made some pretty big changes to our daily routine and lifestyle. We brought with us less toys, less clothes....and basically a lot less junk. We simplified our routine and I've got to tell you...I'm sort of loving it. We also said goodbye to cable TV. As a nursing mom this change was the most worrisome for me. I had got in to the habit of nursing Sadie (all hours of the night) while watching TV. I also used it to entertain Hudson WAY MORE than I should have. It was an easy way to distract him while I took care of Sadie. And while it worked, it wasn't the best for our family. I felt like the TV was on too much. Basically it was the easy way out. And it wasn't healthy. 

I'm happy to report that after over a month of living TV free we are all happier. Can you believe it? We survived. And we have a little extra money in our budget. We have Netflix if we want to watch an old show or movie. But now in our house, watching a movie is a treat. We don't have the TV on constantly and instead play games, do puzzles, listen to music, and generally just enjoy a little more simplicity.

Now, when I have free time, I don't waste it sitting on the couch watching TV. I get my work done, read a book, spend time with my's so much better. 

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And when I'm missing my favorite shows, I can use NBC TVEverywhere to catch up on what I missed! It's hard to be left wondering what happened on my favorite shows. I wanted simplicity, but I didn't want to completely shut myself out! Basically it has redefined how we watch TV. NBC TVEverywhere allows us to watch the latest episodes of all our favorite NBC shows on our computer the day after they air, plus we can watch a live stream of our local NBC station (in select markets).

So basically I can still watch all of the new fall shows – no TV provider login required! And I can do it on my computer while the kids sleep.

One of my favorite guilty pleasures is watching The Voice. I have always wished that I had the ability to sing well....but the reality is, if I was on The Voice not a single judge would turn their chair around. And they would probably cover their ears and cringe a little bit. I've been watching it on my laptop thanks to NBC TVEverywhere and I'm hooked! I'm totally Team Adam....what about you?

Click here to watch your favorite NBC shows on your computer!

I also just watched the first episode of Heros Reborn. Have you watched that show? It's so good!

So here's my question....what NBC fall show are you hooked on?
The Voice
Heros Reborn
The Blacklist
Chicago Fire
Chicago Med
Chicago PD

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Christmas Mantle and Giveaway

November 23, 2015

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It's no secret, I'm little red truck obsessed this Christmas season. And so is a certain red-headed little boy. Hudson and I decorated the mantle over the weekend and let me tell you this.....he is totally my child. He was giddy with excitement every time I pulled out a new decoration. 

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And when I pulled out this new little red truck sign from Embellished Living he was in love. 

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I went back and fourth over how to decorate since we are staying at my mom's house. A lot of our Christmas stuff is packed away who knows where, but I did manage to find some of our stuff. And I'm loving how it turned out. The red tuck is the perfect addition to our mantle. (Merry Christmas sign from here, the various Christmas trees are from Target or Michaels a few years ago). I also wrapped the artwork that my mom had displayed above her fireplace with Christmas wrapping paper.....super easy and it makes a big impact!

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We usually don't start decorating until after Thanksgiving, but this year we just couldn't wait. Or Hudson couldn't wait. Or I couldn't wait. It's a tie.

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If you follow me on instagram you already know I picked up this pillow too.

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I just love working with Jacy and Chandra from Embellished Living! They are so great to work with and always have the most beautiful things in their shop! I fell in love with this red truck 'Tis the Season sign and I had a feeling you all would too.....and luckily, you have a chance to win one! You can even customize the color of the truck!

I'm also loving this sign with the camper...isn't it cute? And I might need this one too. I can't decide, I love them all! I think I might be able to cross a few names off of my Christmas list.

Enter below for your chance to win a 'Tis the Season Christmas sign, just like mine! Official giveaway rules available here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*affiliate links used

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Because I Love Personalized Jewelry....

November 20, 2015

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If you've been reading my blog for a while then you know I'm a big fan of supporting other moms in their small business ventures. I've found nothing but support for my own little endeavors from my readers and blog friends...which means I'm more than happy to help another mom pursue her dreams. Especially when that other mom happens to be a real life friend of mine. Lauren and I met in West Virginia when we were both camp counselors for a summer during college. Here's where I wish I could insert a photo of the two of us...but lucky for you (or for me, really) I can't find one. Because I didn't have a digital camera then (can you believe it?). Darn. You don't get to see how incredibly LARGE my hair was. Let's just say this: West Virginia humidity and I were not friends. But Lauren and I were. Lauren recently became a designer for a company called Origami Owl....and ladies, get ready, because I just found the perfect Christmas gift idea for your hard to shop for mother-in-law....or your own mom. You can thank me later.

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Lauren sent me this personalized locket and I just love the little details inside! With Origami Owl jewelry you get to pick your locket, and then pick a bunch of fun things to put can even switch it up whenever you want because the living locket is really easy to open and personalize to your taste...or your outfit that day!

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Origami Owl lockets help you share your personal story through stylish, customizable jewelry. There are tons of options available and Lauren would be thrilled to help you select the perfect gift for that hard to shop for person on your list....or a gift for yourself!

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My locket has a two engraved plates with Hudson's name on silver, and Sadie' on gold. Lauren also put in each of their birthstones and a "love" charm.

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I love how pretty and simple it is.....yet I have the ability to jazz it up if I ever feel inclined.

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Isn't it sweet? I love how this locket tells the story of my crazy little life.

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Because there's nothing I love more than these crazy monkeys. I love being able to carry a little bit of them with me wherever I go. 

I don't know about you, but these lockets just scream new mom or new grandma gift to me! If you want to place an order, you can do so via Lauren's Origami Owl site here. She has also generously offered to give The Girl in the Red Shoes readers a free dangle with any purchase. Lauren will pick something that will go with your order! If you look up at my locket you'll see Lauren selected a crystal dangle for me. In order to insure your jewelry arrives by Christmas, the deadline to order is December hurry!

*This post is not sponsored. All opinions are my own!

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Christmas Countdown and Serving Others

November 19, 2015

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I'm so excited for this Christmas. Now that we have two little ones, everything is just so magical and exciting. Hudson really is starting to understand Christmas more and more this year, so I'm determined to show him how amazing it can be! I want us to celebrate the season...not just one special day. To help with this, I've created a countdown to Christmas list for our family and I can't wait to get started! I need to get our Advent calendar made so that I can write each activity on a card for Hudson to open each day. Instead of planning each activity for the month in advance I'm going to pick from this list each day so that each activity will fit our schedule as we go. There's nothing worse than suddenly getting to "bake Christmas cookies" and being unprepared! (read on for a giveaway at the end!)

So here's our 2015 Christmas Countdown

- Make an outdoor wreath with food for the birds
- Drive around in our pajamas and look at Christmas lights
- Make Christmas cookies
- Decorate an ornament
- Make homemade Christmas cards for the assisted living center
- Set up the Christmas village
- Read Christmas books
- Set up the nativity and talk about it's meaning
- Write a letter to Santa
- Have a snowball fight
- Visit Santa's reindeer
- Purchase items for the family my mom's group is sponsoring
- Make cinnamon rolls.
- Decorate a gingerbread house
- Have a "Silent Night" - no TV, computer, or phone
- Go Christmas shopping
- Visit Santa
- Make a craft out of handprints/footprints (still searching for the perfect one!)
- Watch The Polar Express
- Build a snowman in the front yard
- Sing Christmas carols
- Give a toy to a child in need
- Have a birthday party for Jesus
- Attend Christmas Eve service
- Open presents!

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This year we are a little ahead of the game thanks to a trip to Hallmark Gold Crown Stores. Hallmark isn't just greeting cards...they have some of the cutest holiday gifts! The kids picked out some toys to donate to a child in need and they are so excited! Hudson LOVES his Jingle puppy and was so excited to pick out a Jingle and Bell to give away.

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I love that this little trip to Hallmark helps make our holiday more meaningful and memorable. I want to teach Hudson and Sadie to grow up in a home where serving others is the norm. I want them to see the value in putting someone else's needs above their own. And even though they are 3 and 5 months, it's something we can start now and make it a tradition.

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I know a little child out there will be thrilled to receive these toys. Aren't they the cutest? Sadie loved her Bell so much that we had to buy another one for her to keep. 

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Want to make someone's Christmas merry and bright? You can find these adorable toys at your local Hallmark

Also, gift alert! While I was shopping I discovered that Hallmark makes some great artisan soaps, teas, and candles that would make an excellent hostess gift, if you are on the hunt!

Want to win a $50 gift card to Hallmark? Enter below! 
Official giveaway rules here.

And be sure to check out our video of our experience at Hallmark Gold Crown Stores too!

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The Breastfeeding Diaries: Gina from Baby Blue Mom

November 18, 2015

Hi, I’m Gina and I blog over at Baby Blue Mom. I live in San Diego with my husband Nick and two boys Calvin and Maddox. I’m a stay at home mom and I love to go on date nights with my husband, hospitality, and reading to my boys. I’ve been reading stories from Breastfeeding Diaries for almost two years now and am always encouraged by each mom’s journey. The first thing I quickly learned about motherhood is that nothing can truly prepare you to be a mom until you actually experience motherhood for yourself.

I’ve been exclusively breastfeeding my son Maddox (besides being on solids) for 11 months now and nursed my son Calvin for 17 months before that. Both my boys have never taken to a bottle despite all my best efforts at trying to get them to take some pumped milk. But my journey with breastfeeding was definitely a bumpy one from the start even though I had read countless books and took a great breastfeeding class.

I attribute a lot of my initial problems with nursing because of postpartum depression. Everything I thought I would remember from my research was forgotten because I was unable to emotionally remember. I had so many resources at my fingertips and friends willing to help me but I was so overwhelmed with exhaustion, tears, and frustrations as to why I wasn’t loving motherhood--something I had prayed about for so many years.

With Calvin I was told by the lactation consultant at the hospital that his latch was great and was given a nipple shield to help just in case. My milk came in almost immediately and since that day I have always had an extreme over-supply. Calvin had jaundice and I was told by his pediatrician to supplement with formula because his weight kept dropping. I ended up not following her advice since I had so much milk and decided to just nurse him longer each session. After getting home from the hospital and nursing around the clock the pain from nursing and exhaustion from a long labor kicked in. I would cry every time he latched and I was quickly hating the very thing I thought I would love. My pantry had two containers of formula ready to go and I had bottles washed. I was ready to quit, something I do often when trying something new. Thankfully, my husband, close friend, and sister-in-laws were there to support me and to remind me of my initial desire to breastfeed Calvin for a year. If it were not for them I would have thrown the towel in very early on.

Fast forward two weeks and my nipples were pretty much on the verge of falling off--I’m not exaggerating! I was given a lactation consultant's number by a friend who owned a nearby boutique and made an appointment. Within minutes of my visit with her she fixed Calvin’s latch and the excruciating pain I had went away within seconds. I was so upset with myself for waiting so long before getting help. And even though it took a few weeks after for my nipples to completely heal, the fact that I could nurse my son without biting my fist at the same time was LIFE CHANGING. 

My lactation consultant told me to always offer dinner and then dessert and to go by my baby’s cues instead of the clock. Within a few days both Calvin and I were getting used to each other and to nursing. Those long nursing sessions in retrospect were such sweet times where I was able to read, watch a show, and relax.

Calvin weaned right when I found I was pregnant with our second son at 17 months. He was only nursing twice a day at that point. Once my son Maddox was born I was excited to nurse again because I surprisingly missed it. Thankfully, I had journaled and remembered all my problems I had with Calvin and made sure to avoid any damage to my nipples this time around. Maddox latched on just fine right away and has always been a easy and fast nurser. I actually don’t think he has ever been super into nursing very long because he is always curious as to what big brother is doing. I don’t see myself nursing him as long as I did with Calvin since he’s showing less interest lately.

I truly believe that if you decide to breastfeed it is so critical to have lots of resources and a support team for yourself. During the really hard days that is what will help you see the positives and for you to consider your options. Sometimes it’s just a position change, or a latch, or some much needed hydration in order to fix a problem. When you ignore the little problems with breastfeeding they turn into big ones quickly, which is why addressing any issues right away is so essential.

Some pointers to take away.
  • Breastfeeding is HARD initially BUT it does get much much mucher easier and enjoyable (for most).
  • If you decide to not breastfeed you have not failed. There are many obstacles and challenges in raising a child but choosing to feed and nourish your baby in whichever way best suites your family is what is important.
  • Get a good pump and all the parts needed for it. Familiarize yourself with it BEFORE baby arrives.
  • Find a few moms who have breastfed successfully or are currently nursing so that you can have a support team and someone to call for questions
  • Find a lactation consultant that is IBCLC and keep their number handy at all times. At the first sign of any problem or if you have any questions go see her right away. It’s not worth it to wait it out when a problem could be fixed very simply with their help.
  • Give yourself small goals. 2 weeks, 1 month, 6 months, etc. Having goals where you can re-evaluate how it’s going will help you look toward the future and not get bogged down in the present.
  • Always bring baby to breast NOT breast to baby. This is where I had all my problems and had I remembered this important fact I would have saved my breasts from some serious damage.
  • Take a breastfeeding class and take your notes to the hospital with you.
  • Know that milk can take a few days to come in but your baby's tummy is so small in the beginning. Just because your baby wants to nurse all the time does not mean you don’t necessarily have enough milk. Babies just love to be close to you and nursing is their way of getting comfortable.
  • If your baby spits up all the time or has acid reflux it does not necessarily mean your milk is bad. Many babies have sensitive stomachs for the first few months. Judge their intake based on how much output they have (#1’s and #2’s)
  • Make sure your spouse is on board with you and can encourage you. My biggest supporter was my husband and it was his help and motivation that helped me get through those challenging two weeks.
  • Lastly, download the Baby Connect App on your phone. It tracts feedings and which side you last nursed on. This was so helpful for the wee hours of the morning when you basically can’t remember anything.

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