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// A Boy + His Dogs

I think there are few things more meaningful than the relationship between a kid and his pet. To this day I still consider my Bichon Frise, Bert, to be one of my very best friends. We had him for over 13 years and he finally passed away (in my arms. wahhh!) when I was 16. We'd snuggle up together at night (he hogged the pillow), and be attached at the hip during the day. I owe so much to that relationship with Bert. I can even remember the very day we "got" him. (He was a rescue who had been thrown from the window of a truck). Seriously, I loved that dog more than life itself. I think that's one reason I am so so happy Toby has the relationship he does with our dogs. Especially Pipkin. I love having these photos from him when he was only 3 years old.

Georgia has taken to Linden like her own. If he cries, she runs to him. If he's laying/playing in the floor, she's right beside him. The other day she laid right up next to him so that he could pet her while they were on the blanket together. It's my sincerest hope that they grow closer and closer as they both age.

There's nothing like growing up with a special animal in your life, I'm sure of it. Seeing the way the boys interact with ours just makes my heart sing. I can't get enough of it! xo

// Vine Vera "Cabernet" Skincare

I've never been much of a "skincare" girl. Truth be told, my routine is as follows: Wash face, use some Aveeno moisturizer. Boom. Done. I'm not a complicated gal. But Winter does an absolute number on my face. My skin gets so dry. It's terrible. It feels awful. It looks awful. It's just awful! Like, sandpaper awful. I've tried a few creams, I've tried some exfoliating wipes and masks and whatever else. But nothing has really ever done the trick. Kerry from Vine Vera emailed me several weeks back asking if I might be interested in trying out some of their skincare goodies. Since it's not normally something I really use, I didn't know if it'd be a good fit. However I am trying to step up my game a little bit and not be "Sandpaper Face" haha! I explained to Kerry that I didn't know much about stuff like this, but that I had very dry skin. She recommended the Cabernet Collection products and said she'd send some over for me to test out for a few weeks. Spoiler alert: My skin is hydrated and so smooth! (And I still know squat about skincare.)

When the box showed up at my house, I was sort of floored at the bevy of goodies sent over. Pinch me! I only really expected to get one or two pieces, but was so excited to see a wide variety of products. I wanted to get as much use out of the stuff as possible before writing about it because obviously I needed to experience it. Before I even used the products I was drooling over the fantastic logo (the wine glass V!) and the packaging (magnetic flap clasp boxes!). Seriously packaging alone can be what drives me to buy a product (even if I'll never ever use it. This is not Mike's favorite trait ha!) And I'm sure you've picked up on it already, but the whole brand is wine themed and the collections are various kinds: Merlot, Cabernet, Zinfandel, etc. Reservatrol is the main ingredient, and is commonly found in red wine. My mom would probably love it. She really likes wine.
I didn't really know how to use the collection, so I Googled the brand and BOOM: showed up. It doesn't get much more straight forward than that. Anyway, now that I actually knew what to do with the stuff and when to use it, I started crafting my routine. Hands down, without a doubt, my favorite product in the collection in the Reservatrol High-Potency Cream. Before getting ready for the day I'd put some on my face and moisturize my skin before putting on my makeup. It helped everything stay in place, even without primer. What really sold me on it was that my foundation didn't crack on my nose during the day (from the wind/cold). Ugh that's the WORST! The Contour Eye Firming cream came in really handy when Linden's 4 month sleep regression kicked in. I've been using the Cellular Peel twice a week and the Serum at night (it moisturizes like the cream does, but goes on feeling so silky!) 

If you're into clean, paraben free cosmetics and brands that don't test on animals, this one is a hit. You definitely pay for the quality, but I know some folks who consider their skin care goodies gold. There wasn't a single thing in the collection that I didn't enjoy, though I think you might be able to get amazing results by just buying the cream or serum. They seemed to be the most effective for my skin type at least. The bottles/jars of product are VERY generous, so even with twice-daily use, the cream is sure to last me for a long time.  

So when it comes down to the final verdict, I really do love everything I've tried, though I think some of the pieces in the full collection could be a little redundant. I'd totally recommend the face cream/moisturizer above everything else. Would I buy it? If I could afford it, yes. It's probably pretty out of my league normally just because I'm still pretty clueless to it all, but I feel more comfortable with these products just from 4 weeks of use. Can you get similar results for less money? Good question! I'd like to compare the effects with something slightly more in my budget and see how they stack up. I'm certainly grateful for the chance to try it all out though, because now that I see a distinct difference in my face, I realize just how important a (good!) skincare routine is. You can check out the rest of what Vine Vera offers, as well as see where their store locations are, HERE. You can also follow Vine Vera on Twitter! xo

// Things I Love Thursday v.209

this amy poehler interview on npr is everything! ♥
this is accurate ♥
this tattoo! ♥
these little kitty ears. ♥
♥ this is proof that tina is my spirit animal ♥
this gorgeous area! ♥
this gorgeous pink lightning! ♥
these plants are so lovely ♥

// Exhausted new mom's hilarious take on "expert" sleep advice goes viral. (via Caitlin)

// I nearly ruined my relationship by constantly comparing myself to my boyfriend's exes.

// 33 times Mindy Kailing was the queen of 2014. YASSSSSS!

// An open letter to my daughter's step mom. This was beautiful! They're a lucky bunch.

// 15 simple moves that will change your career.

// No one is reading the CIA torture report so we turned it into 11 fun memes. There's seriously nothing fun about it.

// 22 life lessons you learned from George Costanza. I feel like I've maybe shared this 300 times, or a similar variation, but that's because I love the Costanza man!

// Unpopular opinion: 6 reasons why your utopic vision for a mixed-race future is my nightmare.

// Wishlist Wears: this plaid dress // the ballerina print on this dress is AMAZING -- it's a short and sweet list this week! haha

What are you loving this week?

// The Art of Gift Giving + a $100 Opry Mills Giveaway

So I totally went Black Friday shopping this year. Not the "wake up at 2am so you can be in the door by 6am" kind of Black Friday shopping, but still totally the "battle crazy traffic and hoards of people" kind. It was the first time I had gone shopping on that day in like... 10 years or more. And you know what? It was fun! I even had Mike and both boys with me... Haha I had a few errands I needed to run in Nashville anyway, so we decided to spend a few hours at Opry Mills on the busiest day of the year because the sales were calling my name. I partnered up with Opry Mills to do a blog post on gift giving, so I wanted to stretch my gift card as far as possible and this seemed like the time to do it! (Seriously, everything pictured below was at least 50% off. WIN!) Anyway, I managed to knock 5 people off my list during Black Friday, and below is what I scored. (Warning: If you're a family member, please skip this post! Or you know, ruin the surprise of your gift. No, but really. Don't.)

Up first is Toby! He was with us, so it might seem like the magic of the surprise is gone, but we let him pick out some pieces that he really wanted (and he's already forgotten about everything except his bear ha). He told us he wanted some new brown "dress" shoes since Mike had recently gotten some new ones. We picked up this pair at The Children's Place for all of $12! Then he saw the cardigan sweater at Old Navy and asked for it. He picked up a Linden-sized version and it took us until we got all the way home to realize it didn't match (That's why he asked to get it for Linden. He loves when they wear the same thing haha!) He had a couple of small Lego things that he had picked out, but I think they went in for an early wrapping haha. We also let him make his own bear at Build-A-Bear. He made a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle bear, complete with the theme song and all. He asked to spend the last bit on making Linden a bear and y'all, I about lost it. It was SO sweet to see Toby be so thoughtful. If that kid loves anything, it's being a big brother, and that makes my heart sing!

Then I picked up a few cozy things for my mom. I thought she might like some warm loungewear from Old Navy. Everything was 50% off so I got her a pullover hoodie and some super soft lounge pants. I love the coral color of the hoodie so much. I also picked her up a coffee mug from Bass Pro Shop to keep in the RV when we go camping/on vacation.

Mike was up next! He was with me, but I already knew what I wanted to get him. A new clinical bag. He had been saying for a few weeks that he would like a bag separate from his class bag so he didn't have to pack and unpack all of his books for each clinical day. I took him over to Fossil to find something he liked and he picked out this messenger bag. I love the navy and brown together. It was originally $148 but was 50% off! And since he's sort of into my whole coffee mug collection, I bought him this fun moose mug of his own. It was from Bass Pro Shop, too. (I totally got one for me and my step dad also. Matching RV mugs!)

I bought this gorgeous chiffon dress and infinity scarf for my sister in law, Laine. I was so jealous of the dress after getting home, I made a note to check Old Navy next time we were at Opry Mills so I could get my own. (Spoiler: It was last Saturday and I totally nabbed one. Is it weird to match your SIL?!)

And finally, the littlest Flynn! I know Linden can't really "appreciate" Christmas/gifts yet, but I had to take advantage of the sales at the mall that day. The two on the left are from Baby Gap and the two on the right are from Old Navy. Itty bitty tiny clothes are just so precious! So really, it's more like these are gifts to myself. Can you blame me?! 


Overall I'm pretty stoked I was able to knock off so much of my shopping list in one day. I still have quite a few folks to buy for, but I'm working up the courage to face more of the holiday shoppers at the mall haha. I'm definitely going to be shopping for my step dad at Bass Pro Shop, and probably picking something up for my mother in law on the "fashion wing" of Opry Mills. Even though I risk sounding like a commercial, I'm just going to say it: Opry Mills has a crazy amount of stores, and they span every price point and "genre" you can think of. Legos, Disney, and a candy store for the kids. H&M, Forever 21, and Old Navy for the young adults. And Coach, Brooks Brothers, Ralph Lauren, etc. for the more upscale crowd. If it's Saturday, we're probably at Opry Mills haha! (Seriously though. It's a little alarming how often I find myself there...)

Now if you're local to middle Tennessee/Nashville/plan on visiting soon, check out the giveaway below. One of you will win a $100 Opry Mills giftcard to spend any way you choose!

To be entered to win, leave a comment below sharing who you'd spend the $100 on. Would you use it for some holiday shopping? Or would it be more of a "Treat yo'self!" splurge?

For additional entries, do as many of the following as you'd like. Just be sure to leave a separate comment for each! -- Like Opry Mills on Facebook // Follow Opry Mills on Twitter // Follow Opry Mills on Instagram

A winner will be drawn at random next week and contacted shortly thereafter. The winner must arrange for gift card pick-up at the Opry Mills mall! Good luck! xo

// At A Glance + Happy Birthday, Toby!

We've been so busy lately, I can't tell which way is up. It's definitely the time of year where things get chaotic and crazy, but I'm trying to remember to always enjoy the little things. Here's what we've been up to lately.

First off, a very big Happy Birthday to our big brother bear today! He's a whopping SIX years old! Heaven help me. It's so hard to believe he came to live with us full time almost 3 years ago now. 3 year old Toby was so shy and timid. Now he's truly the life of the party. Our lives wouldn't nearly be the same without him. I wish y'all could see just how much he loves Linden and how amazing of a big brother he is. I really worried that having a baby in the house would cause some friction and make him jealous, but it couldn't be further from the truth. He's really the bee's knees. I snapped this photo on the back deck the other day when he came home from school. I didn't see him before he left that morning so when he walked into the house I exclaimed "Wow Toby! You look so handsome!" He snarled back and said "Mom, everybody thinks I's the principal" HAHA! He thought he was the big man on campus. But I guess that's what happens when you wear a blazer and oxford in kindergarten. Gosh I love him!

Linden has been my little co-worker this week. The only way I can get any design work done is to plop him in his Bumbo on my desk or sit him in my lap while I work away. I think he likes the big, bright computer screen.

I think I finally got the hang of my Sakura Bloom ring sling that my sweet friend Jen sent my way! Ring slings have intimidated me since day one, but now I realize just how comfortable and convenient they are!
Our big guy also lost his second tooth this week! He already has an adult tooth popping up.

Linden has hit that awful 4 month sleep regression as of late, so I'm relying on a lot of black coffee and a lot of hot baths in the morning. Bringing Linden's rockaRoo into the bathroom is the perfect answer haha
I took the boys to a Christmas event at the elementary school last night and to see Santa so that Mike and my stepdad could put together Toby's new bunk beds. He had been begging for some so it was the perfect surprise when he got home. -- I also have no shame in the fact that I dressed the kiddos in matching outfits. Chambray shirts, The Wishing Elephant letterman cardigans, and chinos. I can't wait to get the photo when they send it home with Toby.
This kid's entire face was BLUE afterward. And oh my goodness, please remind me to never let him have this much sugar after 4pm.. or well, ever haha!

How sweet are these two guys?!?! My heart!

I participated in the Candelles Holiday Swap this year and was paired up with Jen of Little Wife Power House. Her gift was SPOT ON! So many amazing things. She made this gorgeous mini quilt, and hit the nail on the head with this constellation mug (!!! It's been on my wishlist for AGES!) Seriously, she's so rad.
Of course Linden decides to sleep when he's on my lap. And the only way he'll sleep at night is on my chest. We've regressed back to full time cosleeping/bedsharing. It's not the worst thing in the world, of course. But our bed is only so big! haha

And these last few photos are snaps from Toby's birthday party on Sunday. It was a very small, no frills party and it was perfect. A huge gym to run around in, 10 kids all hopped up on sugar, and loads of fun. We did a "drive in theater" theme and we let the kids decorate their own cardboard "cars". Grampa (Mike's dad) was kind enough to cut out the leg holes for all the kids. They drove them over to the "drive in" (projector screen) and watched an Ice Age movie. They ate pizza, had boxes of candy and bags of popcorn, and took out all their energy on a Spongebob pinata. It wasn't a Pinterest perfect party, but we loved every minute of it. 

Grateful for these crazy, overly busy days. The best part is seeing just how much love these two boys are surrounded by. It feels so crazy to now be able to say "I have a six year old son." Whoa. I'm the luckiest gal, that's for sure. xo