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Spiritual Growth, Reiki, and the Journey Continues
This post leaves me short of words. It is hard to describe what I have been feeling and what I have been going through, but I shall try. Not long ago, I was sitting in one of my favorite local salon's Lindsays Organic Salon in Leesburg, VA. By the way, they are the only "Organic" and Eco-concious salon in Leesburg. I was sitting there getting my hair trimmed when I heard some noises coming from the suite above. I asked, "Is someone above you?" The owner replied, "Yes, Heavenly Skincare is above us." She started to sequentially list her services: facials, massages, and surprisingly Reiki came up as well. I insisted that the owner take me upstairs to introduce me to Heather(the owner of Heavenly Skincare). I scheduled my first Reiki session right then and there.

When I arrived for my first Reiki session, I had no idea what to expect. Heather is very "in tune" and started the conversation about my state-of-mind and current happenings before my back even hit the table. I knew that I was in for a wild, but enlightening ride. Reiki uses life force energy. There is a transfer of energy between the Reiki healer and the person being healed. My mind and body felt incredibly calm and content. I left feeling elated and at peace with the world. I cannot explain how or why, it just is. The session is focused on the 7-chakras and the balancing of these chakras. I still have much much to learn, but I have started to read about Dr. Mikao Usui(who is the Founder of Reiki). I have also found an interest in practicing and for now the self-healing aspects of the first attunement. This led me to research Reiki masters in the area. I found a Reiki master that I am drawn to: Padma Jen Koch. That leads me to the present or last night rather.

Last night, I awoke in the middle of the night and took my nightly walk to the facilities. As I snuggled back under the covers and closed my eyes, I saw something magnificent! It was like a muted scene from a movie(almost like a sketch or drawing). At first, I saw a beautiful Christmas tree and I believe my family was around me. I came together with my husband and then I saw my children. Underneath the Christmas tree was a sack and pouring out of this sack was tapers. Not just any candlestick, however, it was the plain rust colored candlesticks from "Scotland" that I just purchased from a thrift store for 10 cents. A man(God?) took one of the candlesticks, lit it, and handed one to me. It was a truly beautiful exchange. One I do not think I will forget. I know the path I must travel for now. Light and love to all this holiday season. See you in 2016.

Video produced by The Social Media Doctor ℠
Eco Beauty Holiday Gift Guide
What do you buy for the Eco Beauty lover who has it all? Perhaps this comprehensive list will help with your shopping woes! The small businesses in the Organic beauty industry who are in constant search for higher quality ingredients, more sustainable manufacturing procedures, and tirelessly improving their recipes reign supreme. In my book, the Organic beauty businesses below are the best in their industry. Some names you will recognize immediately, others you will have to try to believe. Regardless, be kind to your skin and fill your stockings with these Eco-friendly brands this holiday season!

Green Beauty Holiday Gift Guide
Earthwise Beauty is one of my very favorites! Top-notch "Organic" ingredients. Ava, the beautiful owner, also prides herself in using the minimum form of preservation for her products. She encourages her customers to refrigerate their products and use within 6 months of purchase. My favorite Earthwise Beauty product is the Tangerine Skies facial oil. When they say this product will make your skin "glow", they are not lying. I am in my 30s now and I get complements daily on the radiance of my skin. That is the Tangerine Skies facial oil. Also, it is great for your locks too! Do yourself a favor and get 2.

Organic Beauty Holiday Gift Guide
Oh So Good Organics specializes in Organic, small-batch, handcrafted soaping! Their soaps are so amazing that when I order their soaps I simply tell Jennifer Naqvi, the enlightened owner, how many bars to send me. I do not care which of her soaps she sends, because they are all truly amazing! If I had to pick a favorite, then I would steer you towards the Bamboo Charcoal soap with alaea lava salt and notes of ylang ylang, but believe me you will be happy with any soap you choose!

Natural Beauty
Do you have a lipstick lover to buy for this year? Then, you must stop by and see Red Apple Lipstick! Their lipsticks are gluten-free, allergen free, and paraben free. Only safe ingredients for your pucker reside here. My very favorite colors are "gypsy" and "ravishing", however, their winter 2015 collection looks lip worthy too. I sure hope one of these falls into my stocking this year. Santa, I have been very good this year!
Eco Beauty Holiday Gift Guide
A local makeup artist @theillytrilly introduced my to Jane Iredale mineral cosmetics. Hannah raved about their skin enhancing ingredients with skin-loving benefits. They naturally preserve their products and are cruelty-free. They also support the charity Living Beyond Breast Cancer. One of my favorite products is actually Smell the Roses Hydration Spray. Jane Iredale gives 100% of the proceeds to Living Beyond Breast Cancer from that product. Now that is something you can feel good about on Christmas morning.

Green Beauty Holiday Gift Guide
John Masters Organics is my hair care everything. I absolutely love their products, but my favorite is their 100% Organic argan oil. I use it on my hair, face, and body. John Masters Organics prides itself on using as many high quality Organic ingredients as possible. Seen above is their Shine On leave-in hair treatment. Aloe based with Organic sea kelp, carrot seed oil, and olive oil. The previously listed ingredients are all Organic. My hair has never felt so silky smooth! Santa, you may leave any of their products under the tree for me.
Organic Beauty Holiday Gift Guide
Skincando is run, owned, and operated by Sara Damelio. Sara uses only the cleanest, purest, and 100% Organic ingredients for her products. She is a local gal out of the DC area and I have the pleasure of saying that I know her well. Sara's miracle cream is appropriately named. This is the only jar of facial cream you will ever need! The miracle cream is cold processed with essential fatty acids + vitamins a & e. You will see diminished fine lines, a more even skin tone, and beautifully hydrated skin from this Eco-conscious product. Just think, it could be sitting under your Christmas tree this year!
Pixi Beauty has really broken through the industry and paved the way for many other Eco-friendly beauty brands. I could not leave without recommending their phenomenal brow palette for the Eco beauty fashionista who has it all! My brows have never looked stronger and more natural. I also highly recommend the glow mist and the palette bronzette. A little Pixi glow will ensure a Merry Christmas indeed!

Light + Love from my family to yours this holiday season.

My experience with EMDR

Inspiration can come from the most unlikely of places, even from the office of your therapist. Therapy is a new revelation for me, but it is time to heal wounds from my childhood that have long remained. Pushing them deep down inside is a tragedy just waiting to happen. Last week, I located a therapist in our area that specializes in EMDR(Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). therapy for childhood trauma.

EMDR uses eye movement and mental imagery to replace negative thoughts with happy ones. That is what I take from the large textbook-like description from I also want people to know that it is a good option for anyone diagnosed with PTSD(Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). PTSD acquired from childhood and war have both been successfully treated with as few as 3 EMDR sessions and as many as 10 to 12. Not only that, but many insurance companies pay for this therapy, because it has been studied and documented in its effectiveness.

So what of my first session? I think it was just first session. I did note lots of resentment towards my mother following the session. The session felt like a roller coaster of emotions, but primarily it evoked happy thoughts, which I believe is the point. My life at present is quite happy. I have a great support system via my husband and his extended family. I have two wonderful and very bouncy boys. My life is generally a very happy one, but until I face myself and these open wounds I can never truly heal. I no longer have to merely survive. I can get myself to a place so that I may thrive. The negative demons no longer have a place in my life.

You can follow along with my EMDR therapy progress here. I will blog about each session consecutively. Perhaps, this may help someone down the line and if this information helps just one person then it is worth putting my strife out there for all to read. Want to know more about my childhood trauma? Read more here and here. Positive feedback? Please comment below. Negative feedback? I have a sage stick with your name on it. Have a great Thanksgiving holiday everyone!

How to Make & Use a Smudge Stick
First off, you might not even know what a smudge stick is. A smudge stick is typically made of sage and looks like an earthy wand. It is used for the cleansing and clearing of negativity. Winter is quickly closing in and I have a bountiful herb garden growing in our backyard. Before the first real frost, I thought it a good idea to make as many smudge sticks as I could before winter when my sage will be in hibernation. I also had the inclination to use peppermint, a few lingering sprigs of lavender, and some calendula. Before I used those herbs, I needed to know the meaning of every herb I included to make sure this is something I wanted in my smudge stick.

The herbs I used in my smudge sticks(The herb meanings minus calendula were researched from this blog).

Desert Sage: used to drive out bad spirits, feelings, and influences. An important, strong, and herbaceous Native American plant. Burning for wealth, wisdom, knowledge, protection, and purification.

Peppermint: used for healing, protection, prosperity, growth, and renewal.

Lavender: used in love and healing rituals. Used to attract and protect relationships. Promotes sleep and peacefulness.

Lemongrass: used for psychic awareness and purification. 

Calendula: the states that calendula is used to bring comfort to those who are nervous and prone to fear. It is also used to temper anger and rash behavior.

When choosing your smudge stick ingredients. I believe you should follow your intuition while building your smudge sticks. I knew sage was good choice for cleansing negative energy, but all the other herbs I chose were on instinct. They are probably just the herbs I need right now for healing and cleansing. Calendula is something I desperately need in my smudge sticks right now.

How do you make your smudge stick? Making a smudge stick does not require a degree in aerospace engineering. Find cotton string and wrap your sticks tightly. Snip any dangling herbs and string with scissors. If you can wait, allow your smudge stick to dry for 2 to 3 weeks.

How to use your smudge sticks. Light the top of your smudge stick and let it burn. You can place it on a plate or take it to a particular room to cleanse negative energy. I suggest you follow your heart and do what feels right. There are many rituals for cleansing and I am not going to sit here and tell you that one way IS the way, because that is just not true.

Good luck making and using your smudge sticks. Do thorough research if you are looking to take it to the next level and do a cleansing ritual for yourself or your home.
Personal Mastery and Meditation.
Blooming in defiance of the season. Blooming in the eyes of adversity. This year, I have been on a spiritual journey. Progress has been made, but right now I feel stuck. Meditating at night has proven to not only be disruptive to my sleep, but everyone else's. My old home is also home to lingering energies from past residences and they are very interested in my new found hobby too. So, what does any good fighter do when faced with adversity? Push through of course, but perhaps also taking on a different perspective or direction.

Yesterday, I meditated during the day. Something I thought I did not want to do, because everything is so much more vivid at night. However, the nighttime vivid imagery is total chaos and the chattering of the mind constant. Needless to say, I did not make much progress. I did discover that I have the ability to tap into my intuition on a very deep level and even communicate with a young spirit living in our home. This was fabulous, but a very different part of me. Now, I want to go deeper within myself. Which I have to be honest, seems like a scary place. The ultimate spiritual goal? Personal mastery and spiritual enlightenment.

 "Personal mastery teaches us to choose. Choosing is a courageous act: picking the results and actions which you will make into your destiny." - Peter Senge
Mastering a skill is something we do from the moment we are born, but mastering ourselves is something few of us even consider as a possibility. I suppose personal mastery is the goal for me. Not only to unlock potential secrets of the universe, but to get to know me on a deeper level than ever before. My new strategy is meditating with my mala beads during the day for an hour everyday. I also wear turquoise and tiger's eye for protection. During the course of the previous week, I have been receiving images of someone very close to me that I believe will pass soon. At first, I was simply seeing his face. Yesterday, I had a nightmare that I was chasing after him and inside this nightmare I knew it would be the last time I would see him. He lay before me on a stretcher with multiple IVs and an intubation tube protruding from his mouth. He was dead.

I rarely dream...ever. This is significant for me. I cannot tell this person about these dreams, because I believe I am being prepared for the inevitable. I believe the wheel of fortune is turning and there is nothing that I can do to stop the events set in motion. Also, think of the pain I would cause my loved one by telling them about my scary nightmare. I refuse to do this.

My first real lesson in meditating has been to let go and to not be afraid.....and to meditate during the day. I would love to hear about your meditation journey in the comment section below. 

How to Make a Chalkboard Tabletop
This year for Halloween, I became obsessed with black furniture. I bought some chalkboard paint for some scary DIY craft projects, but then I wondered if I could use the chalkboard paint to renew a few tables for our Halloween party. Never one to venture from an unusual painting project, I decided to go for it! At best, we would have a fun chalkboard table during the winter months that the kids could create chalk masterpiece's on and at worst I would have to re-paint the whole piece. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

How to Make a Chalkboard Tabletop
I purchased Martha Stewart's multi-surface chalkboard paint in black. Martha Stewart and I have this love/hate relationship. Her products are of a great quality, but ungodly expensive. I decided, however, that her chalkboard paint is definitely worth the extra money. The bottle was only 6 fl oz. and I painted two tables with 2 to 3 coats each. Not bad, eh? The coverage is fantastic and it seems that it is fairly water hardy as well. I am pretty stoked and very happy with the results. If you have a home with lots of solid white rooms then a black table will really stand out and the black n' white combination is truly a classic.

Chalkboard furniture painting tips? Start by using thin brush strokes and allow your chalkboard paint to dry at least 12 hours before applying additional coats. You do not need to scrape or remove any old paint, but just make sure you have a clean and dry surface before you begin. That is it!

This was a really easy last minute project and a chalkboard painted table can be fun for everyone...including the big kids! Good luck with your next painting project my friends. Questions?? Just leave them below.
Ghostly Apparition: A Halloween Story.
Disclaimer: This is a true story.

It seems appropriate that my ghostly apparition appear to me the week before Halloween. There are many times(almost every night) that I hear static or "mechanical-sounding" drips in our bedroom, but having a ghost whisper in my ear is something entirely new. First, let me share a little back story about where we live.

Our home resides in the historic town of Leesburg, VA, which is full of Civil War history. Leesburg was in a "precarious position"(according to Leesburg's online record of Civil War history), because we basically border on the North and the South line. During the Civil War, the online record also indicates that our city changed hands a record number of 150 times between the Union and Confederate sides. Back to my creepy house.

Our home is an old Victorian built in 1870 just after the ending of the Civil War. We only know a very brief history of the owners who lived here, but as you all know 1870 is a long time ago. When you move into an old home, it should be anticipated that it may contain lingering energy from past guests. Ours definitively has a guest. We have a young and curious spirit that "comes out to play" late at night. This young spirit has been trying to communicate with me ever since we arrived here in Leesburg several years ago and oddly enough, right around Halloween.

Static drips or "mechanical-sounding" drips in our bedroom is the norm. At first, I would run back and forth to our adjacent bathroom wondering why I cannot find out where the dripping is coming from. One day, I heard mechanical drips in succession ringing out in every corner of our bedroom. That is when I decided it was not our faucet.

Last night, I was awakened around 2 am and having difficulty getting back to sleep. I can barely see without my contacts, but I thought I saw something "misty" by my side of the bed. I ignored it and rolled over to cuddle with my husband. Then, I heard a voice of a young girl whisper in my ear. The whisper almost sounded as if from a slight distance. She said, "I want to know you". I also thought I heard "Why...", but I could not make out the rest of the sentence. Did it freak me out?

A little. However, this is obviously not a negative energy. If anything this experience leaves me with an answer and a few questions. For me, it confirms that there is an after-life. The question I have is why has this spirit become lost and trapped to wander the halls of our home? She does not seem to be distressed. Is it by choice? Have you or anyone you know had a ghostly encounter? If you are crazy, please feel free to go to a "crazy person" ghost forum instead of posting here. Happy Halloween everyone!
Hot Glue Halloween Nails
The devil really is in the details, especially when we are talking about Halloween night! Makeup, hair, nails, shoes, eyelashes, and accessories matter. I know you can buy glue on nails at the grocery store or Target, but have you ever considered making your own Halloween nails with hot glue? Sounds like too much work, right? Nope, not anymore work than meticulously gluing on your plastic nails that look cheap, unrealistic, and are falling right off in ten minutes anyway. My only work of caution. Be careful with that hot glue gun, so you don't have a nasty burn for the big Hallow's Eve night. Hold onto your seats, we are making nails out of hot glue.

What you need:
- Hot Glue Gun
- Hot Glue Sticks x 4
- Halloween Nail Polish(your choice, however, black is the best)
- Top Coat Nail Polish
- Nail File
- Scissors

First, make sure your nails are clean, dry, and free of nail polish. Take your nail file and gently file the entirety of your nail for good "hot glue" adhesion. PLUG IN your hot glue gun and keep it on the "low" setting. Wait 1 to 2 minutes. Put a thin lay of hot glue on your nail bed being careful of staying away from the surrounding skin. Do this with all 10 fingers and then UNPLUG your hot glue gun for 1 to 2 minutes.

Hot Glue Halloween Nails
Next, PLUG IN your hot glue gun and keep it on the "low" setting. Wait 2 minutes. Use gravity on this step and allow the hot glue to drip down toward the tip of your nails. Again, be careful and stay away from the surrounding skin. Work quickly to cover all 10 nails then UNPLUG your hot glue gun.

Hot Glue Halloween Nails
Lastly, PLUG IN your hot glue gun and keep it on the "low" setting. Wait 2 minutes. It is time to shape those nails with tip of the hot glue gun. I would also go back to the tips of the nails to define the tips. You may think they look a little gnarly, but they are Halloween nails and gnarly is what we are trying to achieve.
Hot Glue Halloween Nails
Let your nails dry and paint your nails per usual. Pay attention to the sides and underneath the tips. They look awesome right!? Word of caution: If you get a nail caught on something it will rip right off. Also, keep them as dry as possible. I hope these DIY Halloween nails make you the creepiest guest at this year's Halloween party. Happy haunting everyone!

DIY Roman Soldier Helmet
The base of this costume is from Amazon. I simply did not have the time to create the entire outfit from scratch. The helmet we received was beyond lame. My boys needed warrior helmets! Where is the fur, the feathers, the pizzazz? I thought, we can do better than that! This project takes under an hour to complete with a hand drill and half the day with a manual screw driver. I took both roads and believe me when I say the hand drill will save you tons of precious time. The first thing you need to do is stop at the craft store for two packs of feathers. We chose a traditional black & red. Two packs will yield one super-awesome warrior's helmet.
DIY Roman Soldier Helmet
What do you need?
- Hot Glue Gun
- Hand Drill
- Feathers(2 colors of choice)

DIY Roman Soldier Helmet
DIY Roman Soldier Helmet
This project works best if you have a helmet that looks similar to the Castle Toy Roman soldier play set seen here. The top "faux feather" portion is hollow and perfect for drilling holes . Word of caution, be careful drilling your holes...sure would be fun explaining that ER visit. I drilled 4 holes across for each row. I kept the rows about an inch apart going the whole way to the back. The area gets more slender heading towards the back, so I eventually did 3 rows of holes, 2, and then 1.

After drilling the holes, it is time to warm up the trusty hot glue gun. Also, grab your feathers. I like to position the feathers in the helmet and hot gluing(one row at a time) around the base of the feather, but please do what works for you! I cannot believe how easy this project was and as you can see the feathers really make the difference between realistic warrior and people asking, "What are you dressed as little fella?".
DIY Devil Horns
If you are going to be something dark, evil, and Epic for Halloween perhaps you should try the original dark angel: Lucifer! Dark angel, "The" Dark Angel, Satan himself, and ultimately the evil entity that represents Hallow's Eve. The Devil is a classic and easy costume that cannot be beat, but you must have an awesome pair of Devil's horns. To be honest, I have been known to make a mean pair of Devil's horns. And by "mean", I mean totally awesome! You cannot simply buy a spectacular pair of Devil's horns at Walmart or even online. Take a minute and Google search "Devil's horns" to view the lame Devil's horns you would be purchasing. No my friends, you must create that "wow factor" yourself and I am going to show you how to do it. You need the best Devil's horns in town for the big Halloween night, but you better get started right now. These horns take at least a week to finish, but the wait is absolutely worth it!

What you need:
- White "Super Light" Air Sculpting Clay
- Paint(color of choice)
- Glitter(color of choice)
- Head Band
- Hot Glue Gun
- Multi-purpose Clear Sealant(located in the painting section)

DIY Devil Horns 
You can find all the needed items to make your horns at your local craft store. First, Mold your Devil's horns to the shape you desire. I usually break one air sculpting clay pack in half and mold each horn individually. I like the classic horn shape(as seen), but you can get as crazy as you like. I thought of doing something more twisted or horns resembling rams horns. The design portion is whatever suits your fancy. Use a tiny bit of water on your finger tips to keep the clay smooth. After you achieve your desired shape, press the bottoms lightly to your head band and let dry overnight. In the AM, flip your horns over to let them dry as evenly as possible. This process might take several days. Be patient and let those horns dry! Depending on how thick you make your horns, the drying process might take 4 to 7 days.

Next, use your sealant to harden your horns! Let them dry completely. Next, start to paint your horns with the color of your choice. Cover your horns with glitter as you go.

Third, Let dry completely and add a second layer of sealant to your horns. Cover your horns with additional glitter as you go. Let dry overnight.

DIY Devil Horns
Finally, hot glue those bad boys to your head band. Hot glue around the base to fill any gaps and be sure to cover any additional hot glue with glitter. When applying the horns, give yourself more space then you think. In fact, test the spacing by looking in the mirror and holding the horns up to see where you should glue them. When you put on your head band the horns will be closer together as the head band expands to fit your noggin. See the YouTube video below for additional information. Happy Halloween preparation my little Devils!

DIY Halloween Paper Wheel
These paper wheels are outta this world and very appropriate for Hallow's Eve! The idea came to me as I was painting some tree branches black. I was using a large paper lawn bag to protect my table and as I looked at the black-glittery mess a disturbing light bulb went off: PAPER WHEEL!!!! Of course, I have never made a paper wheel in my life...but that hardly matters. These paper wheels turned out very thick and textured...they look incredible! This is an Eco-friendly and thrifty way to liven up your home for Halloween. Best of all? Not a lick of skill is required(my favorite part). After you are done, simply recycle or stow away your paper wheels for next season! Let's do it...step by easy step.

Items you will need(ONE lawn bag makes FOUR medium paper wheels): 
-Paint Brushes
-Paper Lawn Bag
-Hot Glue Sticks & Gun

1.) Hap-haphazardly paint and glitter a large paper lawn bag. There is no right or wrong way to do this, but try to leave some dark and light space for a beautiful contrast. not paint the whole bag one solid color.

 2.) Let the bag dry, then cut the entire painted and glittered side off the large lawn bag. Make sure you have a single sheet. Do not fold up the enter bag!

3.) Fold the sheet accordion-style the whole way to the end.

4.) Fold the accordion strip in half.

5.) Take your scissors and poke a hole through the middle(carefully, so you don't hurt yo-self).

6.) Take a large piece of string or yarn and knot it in the middle. This is how you will hang your paper wheel when you are done.

7.) Take your two accordion ends, fan them out, and hot glue the ends together. Glue any lingering paper pieces that need glued to make your paper wheel look like a "paper wheel".

That is that. Directly above is the YouTube video so that you can see the steps in LIVE YouTube action! These Halloween paper wheels are really quite simple and the result is shockingly eerie and stunningly beautiful! The month of Halloween has just begun my friends. Expect many more creative Halloween ideas all month long. Stay spooky my friends.
Survival Guide: How to throw a Kindergarten B-day Party.
Okay, so I am being a tad dramatic. On the other hand, if you are throwing a birthday party with 20 to 30 small children fleeting about this title could be painfully accurate. Lucky for you, I am going to take you through some easy, thrifty, and sure-fire ideas on not only how to survive the onslaught of that many little children, but to actually enjoy the birthday party yourself...and possibly looking forward to throwing another one next year(possibly).

My eldest is turning 6 this year and I can see a glimpse of what he may look like as a grown man. He is so handsome and he has a smile that lights up the room...oh and those dimples! Initially we invited local family and friends, but it is the beginning of the school year and I wanted to invited both my son's kindergarten class as well as my other son's preschool friends. Needless to say, we got to 30 people quite quickly. Not only that, it was supposed to rain....I was not even remotely prepared for that!

Survival Tip #1. Try to have the party outdoors. Luckily, it did not rain and the children ran around, climbed trees, and hit each other with foam swords for quite some time before becoming bored.

Survival Guide: How to throw a Kindergarten B-day Party.
Survival Tip #2. Introduce toys or other activities upon noted boredom. I had bounce balls, little containers of play dough, and stickers you could foil at the ready. All of these activities are activities the children can entertain each other with. That is the key to happy children and happy adults during a large birthday party. They can play and you can eat...genius.

Survival Tip #3. Include holidays when applicable. My son was 4 hours away from being a Halloween baby. I was already in labor 12 hrs+ when he arrived, but part of me wanted to hold out for the last 4 hours so that he could be an October baby...yes, I love Halloween that much. Because the party was "Star Wars themed" we got Star Wars masks at Target that included stickers to decorate them! This is also a perfect party favor for the kiddos. These masks were sold in a pack of 10 for $7.00. Relatively cheap and they were already assembled!

Survival Tip #4. Balloons. Out of all the little toys I purchased, the balloons reigned supreme. They chased the balloons, kicked the balloons, dragged the balloons, squeezed the balloons, popped the balloons, and everyone left with a balloon. I am obsessed with Knot & Bow. If you live in VA, know that Creme de la Creme is one of their carriers. I bought the cutest vintage-swirled balloons from them!

Survival Tip #5. Keep your party short and on a Saturday. This tip seems like common sense, but I am going to throw it out there anyway. As parents of multiple children, we are chronically overworked and very tired individuals. A short Saturday party ensures both a good turn-out plus the keeping of the party throwers sanity. This tip is win-win for everyone involved. Sunday is a fabulous recovery day!

In short, I hope these tips prove helpful and lead to a Happy Birthday celebration for all!

Alas, the time has come that a fire has been lit under my buttocks to finish painting our chippy back steps. Our home is an 1870 Victorian and these steps have seen lots of wear with many coats of paint. My mother-in-law generously stripped the stairs when we first moved in during October of 2011. Since then, I have been in a creative funk regarding these steps. I have tried many different colors and have re-done my work 10 times over. I think, however, I finally have it! I have settled on Old White and Chateau Grey accompanied with dark wax to bring out the details and to help cover the high traffic dirt. The biggest painting obstacle in painting these steps is the elderly and narrow nature of the staircase. In a very small space, you must choose your colors wisely or your finished product will look more like a cave then a beautiful "livable" and "walk-able" space. I know this, because I initially started painting the stairs using Coco(a beautiful light cocoa color) and the stairs looked dark and ugly. The door below is the beautiful Annie Sloan color Coco.

How to Chalk Paint your Steps with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint.
How to Chalk Paint your Steps with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint.
So, you really want to chalk paint your stairs? Warning: This is an advanced level undertaking. It will take up to a month to complete this project and because people "walk on stairs" this is a very hard project to complete in a timely fashion. Step 1.) Clean your stairs. Wash them once and then wash them again. Once you have no dirt, hair, or particulate on your stairs proceed to the next step. Step 2.) Start painting. Again, choose your colors wisely. Dark colors will permanently close off your space. Try a light color palette...avoiding white if you do not want to wash your floors everyday. I used Annie Sloan's Old White for the top portion of the steps using 2 to 3 coats. Chateau Grey is an olive greenish color that I used on the front of the stairs and on the side wall. I used 2 to 3 coats of Chateau Grey. I also used about 1 can of each color for the stairs. 

Step 3.) Wax your steps with Annie Sloan clear wax. Please take safety precautions. Use gloves, a mask, and good air ventilation when working with Annie Sloan wax. I used 1 can of clear wax with 2 to 3 light coats for my high traffic staircase. Let the wax dry overnight. Step 4.) Use the Annie Sloan dark wax to bring out the nooks and crannies. A little goes a very long way. If you use too much dark wax simply take the excess off with your clear wax. I used 1 light coat of dark wax. I use old rags to apply the wax and promptly throw them away as soon as I am done working. Step 5.) Buff it out. Take a dry, clean rag to buff the wax to a shine.When you can no longer buff your stairs to a shine, apply more clear wax. I would re-wax your stairs every Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter to keep the stairs looking fresh and beautiful!

-------> Check out the LIVE action before and after YouTube video! Questions? Please leave them below and I would be happy to answer them. Happy Chalk Painting!

My semicolon story: National Suicide Prevention Week
This post is as spontaneous as it gets. Spawned from seeing photo after photo of "semicolons" on people's wrists. The semicolon symbolizes a deeper meaning. According to The Semicolon Movement, "The semicolon is used when a sentence could have ended, but didn't". It symbolizes hope in the face of suicidal ideations. Suicide has been a subject of sadness and fascination for more years of my life then I care to admit. First, as a daughter to a suicidal mother and then as a witness of suicidal behavior as a registered nurse. I speak scientifically of course, but we are talking about the human element of it all: pain. Deep seeded pain from which their is seemingly no return.

My mother's journey with multiple attempts at killing herself was enough of a heartache that I could not even conceive of suicide as an option for myself. The hurt was real enough, however, and I dealt with it the best way I knew how; reading, writing, and music. True teen angst. Initially, it was reading the pain of others. Nothing has quite the feel of depressing camaraderie as Edgar Allen Poe's short stories or a Shakespeare tragedy. This transitioned into writing. Writing has always been an outlet for my pain for as long as I can remember. I wrote in my journals(Note to self: I need to remember to burn those.), but I enjoyed writing poetry the most. My poetry was one of a angry and distraught teenager, but it helped me get my feelings out. It saved me. Nothing tears the soul into pieces quite like keeping your sadness inside.

Why share my story? I cannot even begin to tell you how utterly alone I felt during my teenage years. I had a few close friends, but relatively speaking I felt like an alien. The suffering I endured, I did so behind closed doors and in my bedroom alone. No one should feel that level of loneliness and void of all hope. I want everyone to know that it is not only possible to come out of the depths of hell relatively unscathed, but you can learn to thrive. The only possible roadblock? Yourself of course. You and you alone must use your suffering as motivation to "feel good" again.
My semicolon story: National Suicide Prevention Week
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Here comes my main point; I do not need anyone's sympathy. Empathy is welcome. Feeling sorry for someone is wasted energy. Letting someone know they are not alone, however, can change someone's life. Giving someone hope, well that is always energy well spent. There is always hope. As long as you are standing here, there is hope. When I was a child, I still remember my mom showing me the picture of the crane trying to eat a frog. The frog is squeezing the crane's throat in an attempt to prevent the crane from eating him. It says, "Don't ever give up". My mantra.

Giving up is the point of no return. Giving up is letting the world win. Giving up is not in my nature. I will go on fighting until the very end. If I am able to instill one single virtue in my children it is this: be kind to all. You never know who is fighting the battle of their life. Life takes us at a furious pace. We sometimes forget to slow down and notice. Or, perhaps we just simply ignore the suffering of strangers or friends. It is too tough to talk about...right? Wrong. It takes no thought to smile. Both kindness and a smile can turn a life around.

A word of advice to those who are currently struggling; Adversity makes us stronger. Do not let life break you. Life is full of bumps and bruises. It is your duty to get up and try again. Let it mold you...let it make you better. There is always a way out of is a slow road, but one day you will see the sun shine again and be grateful that you never gave up. The key is never giving up and believing(always) that you will make it.

Need to talk? Call 24/7 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or visit for more information on suicide prevention.

Treadsetter. from Atinga Team on Vimeo.

Even in the most dire situations, we can change our direction for the better. There is hope. Hope is a positive human element that drives us forward. For the artisans of Atinga(Ah-tinga), they are hand-crafting more than recycled taxi tires into beautiful footwear. They are hand-crafting their future. At Atinga, it is said you must, "walk a mile in their shoes". These artisans in Rwanda, East Africa run a business and support their family with their entrepreneurial endeavors. I could feel the love and positive vibrations radiating from these shoes as I retrieved them from their box. 30% of the profits from these shoes go back to the artisans, their families, and communities. All of the artisans are paid a fair wage. So, when you purchase your Atinga sandals you can be assured that you are supporting a local small business in Rwanda and that YOU are directly making a difference.

The Atinga Project review & giveaway #SpreadTheTread
The Atinga Project review & giveaway #SpreadTheTread
Atinga(Ah-tinga) means honor, dignity, and humility. Holding these shoes, I can feel everything. The pride in craftsmanship, the honor and dignity in providing for your family, and the humility of the shoemaker. I received the Atinga trail in a beautiful Jade green color. I could not get these strappy sandals on my feet any faster! They are beautiful, comfortable, and truly aesthetically pleasing. I do, however, need some practice lacing them up, but I am sure I will be an Atinga trail pro in no time!

Walking is a breeze with the Atinga trail sandals. I feel close to the earth and snug in my sandals. We have all walked many miles. Everyone on a different journey, but we are all connected. Now is the perfect time to invest in these beautiful shoes for you or a loved one. I can see them under the Christmas tree for many family members this year. Invest in a community when you are investing in your shoes. Invest in The Atinga Project. Are you ready to walk a mile in someone else's shoes? Win any pair of Atinga sandals! Winners Choice. Giveaway time. BOOM.

Past Life Snippets and Supernatural Stuff.
*Photography by Second Ave Photography.

The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Some of you may already know that I have embarked on a spiritual journey this year. Like any journey of faith, I have no clue what I am looking for. I am simply following my intuition and guiding forces. Last week, my good friend "Irish Lady" started to tell me more about her extraordinary talents and precognitive abilities. She had a dream or "vision" that we would meet and details of our conversation months before we actually "talked". Her demeanor was one of disbelief wrapped with nervousness. It really freaks her out and as I suspected, this is not the first time she has had this precognitive experience. In fact, she has been able to predict personal major life events(some a year or more in advance) before they ever happen. Our conversation about her precognitive abilities last week led me to the Google, which led me to Jenny Cockell.

Her book, Past Lives , Future Lives is something I felt drawn to. Her book is not available as an E-book, so I had the hubs order it on Amazon immediately. I am half way through it and I just got it yesterday! Her visions of past and future lives are nothing short of incredible. She has a very refined psychic ability. Jenny can touch personal objects and retrieve details about the previous owner as well as the object. Needless to say, Jenny has incredible job security. Many of her experiences, I have felt on a very low level. I am just now exploring my potential past lives and(if I am honest) I have never even considered future lives as a potential exploration. The whole thing is mind blowing. The snippets I get through meditation are circulating very fast.

I have gotten a close up of two distinct images. One was a Civil War soldier on a horse. He was charging, holding a sword, and in the middle of battle. I felt he was a Union soldier. The second image was actually "zoomed" into my head. It was that of an adolescent girl. She was very pretty with wide "doe-like" eyes. She looked a bit like the princess from Frozen...the blonde one. The rest of the images were fast moving and I could not tell what belonged where or if anything belonged anywhere. My current life had a very dark beginning and I feel many of my previous lives are probably very similar. I feel a great deal of trepidation in the exploration process and like Jenny, I may seek the assistance of a past-life hypnotherapist.

You see, I am an open person, but I am of an extremely analytical mind. I do not defer to the paranormal immediately. Instead, I think about it...analyze it. My visions have all come to me right before sleep. Last night, we all had a restless nights sleep. Especially, my five year old son. I could tell he was a fright and I certainly did not want to ask him if their was a ghost walking around his bedroom. I simply asked him if their was something bothering him. First he said, "Yoda is in the bathroom" and then he said, "I see monsters". I did the mom thing and told him that nothing could hurt him, your dad and I are right next door, and to think about "happy things". I knew he saw something, but we all needed to go to sleep.

This morning my eldest came to me and he mentioned Yoda again, but I pressed him and asked him if he saw anything else. He said he did. He said their was a man covered in mud and a little girl in the bathroom. Well, the man is new, but I knew about the little girl. The little girl is very playful and happy according to my close friend "Organic" who can see auras. We were sipping wine in the family area one night and she just stopped. I said, "Are you okay?". She began to ask if I have ever felt a presence. I said yes and she asked if I thought it was a child. I said yes. I then asked her about the energy and she then commented on the child's playfulness...that she seemed happy. *Please note: My children and I do not sit around talking about ghosts or spirits. I want my children to make their own conclusions about life and faith.

I want to do more research on our home, but I don't. We only know about 20 to 40 years of the house's history from a neighbor. He died from a self-inflicted wound recently, which has been weighing heavily on my mind. Our house was built in 1870 and that was a long time ago. I have to make a trip to the court house and library to see if I can dig up any additional information regarding the previous owners. Also, I want to know about any potential tragedies, deaths, and bad energy that has transpired.

Last night on 8/28/2015, I had a vision of a waxing crescent moon and snarling wolf. The symbols bounced one at a time in the background and then foreground. This was a vision, not a dream. I was trying desperately to get back to sleep after awakening suddenly in the middle of the night. The waxing moon symbolism is a time for new beginnings. The wolf normally appears as a spirit guide animal. I decided to give up my past life meditation recently due to the overwhelming energy that I have been feeling. It does scare me. As to what the defensive position of my wolf, I do not know what it means right now. I do know that I must listen to my intuition. I never run from a fight.

Met with "Organic" 8/30/2015, I had two margaritas. Full moon. That means I am taking everything I saw last night with a grain of salt. Upon returning home, my German Shepherd was acting extremely submissive. She piddled on the floor a bit as well. Very unusual. While meditating, I saw a man with salt and pepper hair, a kind smile, blue eyes, wearing an apron? I felt he may be my husband from a past life. I saw my current husband in his blue eyes. The wolf remains present.

Fresh Wave "Natural Odor Removing" Giveaway
Fresh Wave is here with completely natural "odor removing" powers. These products are truly all natural! These Fresh Wave products are non-toxic, non-gmo, non- hazardous odor removers made from a combination of plant oils. That's it, can you believe it? Plant oils. I have been waiting for a main stream "odor removing" product to become available at Target for ages! Now, the time has arrived. So the next time you are in Target and reach for an odor removing and air freshening product, do not hesitate to take Fresh Wave from the shelf! Target is leading the way for the main stream stores by stocking Eco-friendly products such as Fresh Wave. I am stoked...simply stoked!!! Fresh Wave is keeping your family happy, healthy, and odor-free.

What is the smell like? The scent is very clean smell with perhaps a hint of Frankincense.

Do you have boys? Kids? Pets? Spouses? Then look no further. Fresh Wave has you covered, so open your noses once again to a naturally fresh home! I love the odor removing packs. The inside is filled with plastic beads and plant oils. I place these packs in the car, back packs, shoes, toy bins, laundry baskets, and just about anywhere an unpleasant odor may linger. Recycle when finished.

The next natural odor-removing lifesaver is the gel. I have a small bathroom. No further explanation necessary. The gel works for a 30 to 60 days. When the gel disappears, you get a new one! Also Earth-friendly and recyclable.

Fresh Wave "Natural Odor Removing" Giveaway
Lastly, the odor removing spray. This is fantastic for refreshing your space...any space! The family room, kitchen, bathroom, and a great travel companion. The best part? Fresh Wave is safe for the entire family including the fur babies.

Who is ready for a Fresh Wave "natural odor removing" giveaway??

I'm back with another edition of "So you think you can thrift?". This week we are talking eclectic vintage! I really scored some awesome finds last week and today it is show and share! I found one vintage piece and the others were modern finds. The most important point is that I got a fantastic deal on everything. I am going to start with my large Pfaltzgraff khaki-colored bowl. Priced at $10 with 50% off, so I got it for $5! Pfaltzgraff manufactures American kitchenware and is known for their practically indestructible dinnerware. "Practically" being the key word.

When you have a house full of boys, "well made" and virtually indestructible matters. Comparing the size of this massive bowl with prices online, I would say this bowl has a retail value of $50+. This is a great bowl for parties and would make a fine salad bowl. Right now, my large Summer squash has taken up residence and it looks quite smashing!

So you think you can thrift? Eclectic Vintage.
The next find is not very exciting, but I saved lots of money with this one! I found a three-section canvas laundry sorter. $80 estimated retail value. I paid $10. We sorely needed more than one laundry bin and this heavy duty laundry holder will ensure that we do not have laundry scattered to the fore winds! Cleanliness is not the ultimate goal at our house, but we are looking for a standard above "hobo status". The photo above is not the actual find, but it is very close. This is a Crate&Barrel number, but you get the point. Mine has an attached canvas lid, so you do not even have to look at the dirty laundry! This find will help me take laundry procrastination to a whole new "unsanitary" level.

The last, and perhaps the best find, is a 1970s "India Imports" dress! There was a small hole on the seam underneath the armpit that I quickly mended. This dress is 100% cotton and makes you feel like royalty. The dress is tailored beautifully with a free waist. I did not know when I picked up this dress that it was vintage. Closer inspection of the "India Imports" tag, with additional Google research, revealed that similar dresses were circa 1970s . So, it is my suspicion that this dress is indeed circa 1970s as well. I believe this dress would sell for at least $100+. I paid $10.

So you think you can thrift? Eclectic Vintage.
One more thang! If you live in Northern Virginia or close to Frederick, MD then you have an amazing eclectic vintage shop near you called Sweet Clover!! They are having a "Back to Style" event September 5th & 6th next month. If you love vintage shopping, you must stop by!
Annie Sloan Chalk Paint: Cabinet and Floor "Small Space" Makeover
Annie Sloan is the master of chalk paint. I have used many different chalk paint brands and I always come home to Annie. I am, however, looking to replace her clear wax. The fumes are noxious. The Annie Sloan clear wax works wonderfully, but I am worried about my long-term health from excessive use. van Gogh has a clear wax alternative that is non-toxic and "safe to use on baby toys" according to the van Gogh Furniture Paintology website.  I chalk paint way too much to be using a wax that is potentially harmful to my health. Anyhow, I plan to do a major chalk painting project every week until school starts at the end of August. I have already made major progress with this incredible Annie Sloan "small space" makeover!

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint: Cabinet and Floor "Small Space" Makeover
We live in a very old home closer to 200 than 100 years old. Civil war era. It makes for fun, yet challenging chalk paint projects. One of the most challenging areas is a teeny hallway that is both our laundry room area and adjacent to our tiny bathroom. The bathroom is so tiny the previous owners added a partial mirrored wall to give the illusion of a larger space. This space is highly trafficked when we have family or guests over. The goal was to create an enjoyable space to "feast your eyes on" while walking to the bathroom and I think that goal was achieved! At our local Annie Sloan emporium, I found the minty ladder of my dreams. This rustic ladder gave me the inspiration for the entire teeny area.

The mint ladder is being using to hide the wicker laundry bin. I am also going to buy some Turkish or perhaps hand printed towels to hang on the steps. My fresh drying lavender gives off a beautiful herbaceous scent and the rustic chicken feeder turned light adds a warm glow to the dark hallway. There is one thing I forgot to take a photo of....the floor! I ended up having to paint it with old white and chateau grey. You will have to watch the above before and after video to see it. It was hard enough taking the photos you see here. The lighting is atrocious in that hallway!

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint: Cabinet and Floor "Small Space" Makeover
I painted the surrounding walls with Annie Sloan Old White, which is a neutral that adds warmth to any room. The cabinets were painted with Chateau Grey and accented with the dark wax. I sealed the cabinets with the Annie Sloan Clear wax and then used the dark wax to pull out little details. Because the area is SO dark coupled with the darker chateau grey paint, the dark wax is absolutely necessary. The chateau grey was darker than anticipated and blends "into the shadows" of the wall. The dark wax gives the cabinets the depth and added rustic element they sorely needed. Dark wax tip: If you use too much dark wax, take your clear wax to remove the excess. The adorable candle in the corner is a botanical soy candle from Oh So Good Organics!

Please leave any questions or comments below. I would be happy to answer them. Happy chalk painting my friends!

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