MOTHER DAUGHTER JEWELRY

Do you remember friendship bracelets? I always felt so special when I was given half of a necklace from my best friend. Well, they have mother-daughter necklaces now, and they are the perfect gift for Mother's Day. Carrie Saxl Jewelry makes beautiful necklaces and bracelets in all different shapes and metals, so I got one for Elle as a gift to us both.

When I gave it to Elle she couldn't wait to wear it. Not only did it feel special to her because it was a gift from me but because it looked like mommy's jewelry. She hasn't wanted to take it off since.

Check out Carrie's shop for other designs and styles.

Photos by Rennai Hoefer; Necklaces gifted to me for promotion.

GETTING A BRIGHT SMILE

After all of the orthodontia I went through (headgear, braces, retainer, etc.) you better believe I am doing everything I can to keep my pearly whites looking their best. As I have gotten older and started drinking drip coffee in the mornings, I have noticed my teeth have started to yellow. I used whitening toothpaste for a bit but I found it made my teeth very sensitive so I stopped. I have tried Crest White Strips, but they tasted terrible and were really expensive. But, recently, I tried a toothpaste that did the trick in three days. 

It's called AP24 by Nu Skin. I was skeptical about it when I started seeing friends post about in on Facebook. I thought, "Oh no. Is this another get rich quick scheme?" When a close friend of mine started selling it I had to ask her the million dollar question, "Does this stuff really work?" She said, "Yep, and it tastes like normal toothpaste and doesn't make your teeth more sensitive." Noticing I was still skeptical, she said she wold give me the toothpaste at no charge to try it as long as I gave an honest review about it. 

I accepted her challenge, and just three days after using it I saw a dramatic difference. In fact, I have been using it since then and they don't seem to be getting whiter than the white I got after three days. So, that means, you just have to use this toothpaste for three days and then return to your paste of choice. At least, that's what I have done, and the next time I see my teeth getting yellow again I'll bring this one back out because it works like a charm. 

This toothpaste is expensive compared to any normal tube you would find at a drugstore, but $20 isn't much to pay compared to expensive whitening treatments like white strips or trays. If you are in need of a brighter smile I highly recommend AP24

All photos were taken with my iPhone to ensure that no post editing or professional photography would alter the results. I do not make any money by promoting AP24 toothpaste.

ARE YOUR EYES HEALTHY?

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This post is sponsored by Visionworks. 

A few months ago, I started experiencing blurry vision. I found myself driving at nighttime unsure of myself as the bright lights of oncoming cars blinded me. During the day I was blinking more than normal to try and refocus my eyes, and by the end of the day my eyes were tired and burning. I knew I needed to get an exam, and so I partnered with Visionworks to make sure my eyes were healthy. It was very timely too because April is Women's Eye Health Month. Who knew, right?

It had been about seven years since I had my eyes examined. We didn't have vision insurance, and so I just kept telling myself I didn't need glasses that badly. I had some glasses for reading, but I barely wore them because I felt I could read just fine without them. Truthfully, I couldn't. I just ignored the signs: tired eyes, holding objects too close and blurry vision. It turns out that my right eye with perfect vision learned to compensate for my left, and that's how I was getting by. But this past year, my right eye just started getting too tired. It was time to take care of this problem.

Setting up an eye exam with Visionworks was easy as pie. I located my nearest store, called ahead and chose a time that worked with my schedule. I filled out some paper work, and right away a technician walked me through the four different eye tests. I didn't even have to dilate my eyes because they have a new machine that can see all of the way back to your eye without dilation. It was really fast and easy. After 20 minutes I was sitting with the optometrist figuring out the right prescription for my eyes. From start to finish, it only took 45 minutes to make sure I was healthy. That's the fastest doctor appointment I have ever had.

I learned so much while I was there, and I thought I would pass along some of this helpful information with you:

  1. You should be getting an annual exam if you have an existing prescription. Your eyes and prescription can change every year, so it's important to make sure nothing has changed.
  2. For adults that don't need glasses, they should get their eyes checked every two years.
  3. Children should get their first eye exam around the age of three, and definitely before they go to school to make sure they have the best learning experience. They will need to have their eyes dilated though, so be sure to anticipate that before the exam.
  4. Certain mascaras and makeup removers can cause blurry vision. Make sure you are using the best one for your eyes and pay attention to any change in vision after use.
  5. The distance that you should be holding your book or computer can be found by putting your hand to your nose and sticking your elbow straight out. If you can't read well at that distance you need to get your eyes checked.
  6. Your eyes change during pregnancy and you can experience dryer eyes while carrying a child. It should go away after delivery, but if it doesn't you could have Dry Eyes Syndrome.

You can check out the below graphic for more health information. I don't know about you, but I didn't realize that I wasn't doing a good job taking care of my eyes until this appointment, and I definitely am committed to doing a better job in the future.

I got my new pair of glasses after my appointment, and I LOVE them. I tried on about 30 different pairs, and these stood out among the bunch. I'm wearing them as I type this post, and I can see much better than before. If you need new glasses you can be confident in knowing that Visionworks has everything you need in one place. I highly recommend a visit!

Photography by Rennai Hoefer. 

PILATES: IS IT WORTH IT?

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A month ago, I decided I was tired of wishing my body would be stronger and fitter, so I did something about it. I started going to Core Body Pilates three times a week after meeting the owner, Melissa. She told me it takes only 10 sessions to feel differently and 20-30 sessions to see results. I thought, "Well, that doesn't seem too bad at all. Summer is coming, so I'll try it!" I declared it on social media to help me hold myself accountable, and I dove in head first.

I hadn't worked out in about two years when I walked into that studio. I wasn't overweight, but I was definitely skinny fat. I appeared thin, but I didn't have much muscle tone or strength or flexibility despite climbing the stairs multiple times a day with a 30 pound kiddo. It sure was an intimidating sight at 5am to see an intimate classroom of up to 8 people and 8 pilates reformers (pilates machines). At first glance, they look like a torture devices with all of the straps, springs and cables. I definitely was out of my comfort zone.

But, I was quickly greeted with smiles and encouragement from the instructor. They knew it was my first time (the benefit of a small studio) and the instructor walked me through the moves the whole way through. In fact, they still do that for every class. I've been to classes at gyms where there's 30 women crammed into a room and you're fighting for the last yoga mat. So, this was refreshing compared to that. 

The first week was the roughest. I wasn't used to waking up at 4:15am, and it was obvious how weak I was. Not to mention, there was a lot of new vocabulary I wasn't familiar with. Pilates classes are one hour long and give you a full body workout focusing on strength building, flexibility, balance and cardio. But what you don't expect is that the first month is a bit of a mental workout too because you are concentrating on getting the moves down, interpreting new words and, of course, simply trying to keep your stamina up. 

But it's sooooo worth it. I've already lost five pounds, I can see that my back looks stronger, my arms aren't as jiggly and my love-handles are disappearing. My pants are fitting better and my family and friends are starting to notice a change too. Most importantly, I just feel much better and stronger. I look forward to going to pilates whereas before I dreaded the thought of working out. I can't wait to see what the next month brings for me.

I wrote out a helpful little list of advice from the perspective of being a newbee. You might appreciate these tips if you're planning on giving pilates a try for yourself:
1. Leave your gym shoes at home. You are either barefoot or wear toe socks.
2. Bring a water bottle. (My mouth gets dry from all of the deep breathing).
3. Wear leggings. You are bending all different directions. To ensure modesty, I highly recommend leggings.
4. Go to class about 10 minutes early in the first couple weeks to see if there are any new moves they can demonstrate for you. That way you can transition to different exercises easily.
5. Sign up for all of your classes for the month ahead of time. This will keep you accountable. You can use the Mind Body App or go on their site.
6. Go in the morning. It's nice to get the hard stuff out the way first and have the rest of your day to relax.
7. Don't schedule back to back classes the first two weeks. It's going to take your body a bit to recover and get used to pilates. After a month I'm able to do back to back classes with no problem, but the soreness was more intense the first couple of weeks. I usually workout Monday, Wednesday and Friday. 

I hope you have a great first experience, and if you are living Chandler, Arizona come on out to CoreBody Pilates with me!

Photography by Amy Hanen

BEFORE & AFTER: TOY STORAGE

This post is sponsored by PureBond. 

Our open floor plan posed a decorating challenge for me. There is an awkward, transitional space connected to our family room and our kitchen. I really didn't know how to furnish the area, and shortly after we moved in it became the toy dumping ground (see below). What I love about the space is that I can see the kids playing from every angle of our first floor, but I hated all of the toys everywhere. The room always looked messy and cluttered. So, I had the idea of creating a storage bench that would serve as both a toy box and extra seating. This would have to be a custom project, and PureBond and Pneumatic Addict were excited to help bring this idea to fruition. 

After searching through Pinterest to figure out what I wanted my bench to look like and what type of materials I would need, I reached out to Elisha from Pneumatic Addict. She is a fellow blogger with serious DIY skills. She designs and shares her plans on her blog as well as the process of how to create each DIY. When I reached out to her about this idea she told me PureBond plywood was exactly what we needed for this. Sure enough she was right. 

They sell high quality plywood in a gorgeous maple color that is sourced and manufactured in the United States. It also has a UV protectant to avoid discoloration over time, and is formaldehyde-free ensuring a safe product for my kids. A lot of times you'll see unfinished edges on plywood, but they also have a iron-on banding that matches the color perfectly to create a finished, rich look. Once we measured the area, we ordered what we needed and PureBond delivered it straight to Elisha's doorstep. You can get PureBond from your local Home Depot. 

Elisha built the frame at home and then brought it over and installed it. It took about a day of work to put it all together. One of my favorite parts of Elisha's design is how she thought to install struts on each lid so that the lids wouldn't come crashing down on Elle or Levi's fingers. When you try to pull the lid down it slowly closes no matter how much force you put on it. (Get the full design details and DIY process on Elisha's blog). 

Once it was installed, I knew I needed to put some textiles on top of the bench to make it more cozy. I'm also not a fan of the traditional banister, so pillows help disguise it a bit. I chose blues to tie in the blue in the kitchen, earth tones to tie in the family room and blush pink to tie in the dining room (all spaces you can see from this area). 

Since the kids play in this space I wanted to have a table for them to color on or play with their cars. It also serves as a great entertaining spot with comfy chairs and poufs. Adding an area really defined the spot too, and now it's obvious that this room is great for sitting and playing.

Now, I'm sure you are wondering how the kids get to their toys with all of those pillows on it. Well, the pillows are often on the floor, but because it's all very cohesive it doesn't bother me. It just feels like a cozy spot no matter if things are in disarray or in order. 

I'm so pleased with how this project turned out. Be sure to head over to Elisha's blog for the DIY details and use PureBond for your next project. Stay tuned for more updates on our family room space in the coming months.

Photos by Rennai Hoefer.