10 Real-Life Valentine Cards for the Love of Your Life

It’s Valentine’s Day, and you forgot to Amazon Prime 2-Day Ship yourself something good for your bae. No worries, guys. I’ve got you covered.

I give you 10 free real-life Valentine cards that will help you express what you really want to say. #truelove

The Married 10+ Years Valentine Card
The To-the-Fucking-Point Valentine Card
The Personal Space Valentine Card
The “Surprise, We’re Pregnant!” Valentine Card
The Painfully Honest Valentine Card
The Best Problems Valentine Card
The Salty Wife Valentine Card
The Shallow Hal Valentine Card
The Teamwork Valentine Card
The Guilty Pleasure Valentine Card

Download, share, and enjoy the real-life magic sure to unfold. Happy Valentine’s Day, friends. I love you all.

Before the Internet: A Childhood Flashback

With all this talk of simplification and minimalism going on in the world right now, I’ve taken some time to sit on my cozy bed, in the dark, listening to only the whirr of the fan, reminiscing on what life was like 20 or so years ago. I was always ready to be a grown up, and though I think being an adult is the perfect age for me, there are a few things I miss about the “olden days” of the 90s. Here are a few of them:

Playing Grocery Store

“BEEP.” That’s the sound my make-believe cash register would make as I pulled a jug of milk smoothly over the “scanner.” I loved playing grocery store, because it gave me the chance to click away at the spare computer keyboard my parents let us play with. I’d make receipts, and write special “codes” on them for returns. My sweet mom let me save empty containers and boxes to keep on my grocery store shelves. Even now, I’ll find myself holding a box of Teddy Grahams in my hand for a few seconds too long, contemplating the joy it might bring Maggie and Ruby, who I’ve sort-of recruited to the cashier position that’s been open for 20 or so years. The sight of play food and kitchens and grocery toys still gets me thinking about our next “sale,” even though the reality of adulthood hits me when I drop $400 real dollars at H-E-B.

Collecting Chicharra Shells

Recently, I plucked a chicharra shell from a solitary tree in my parent’s backyard to show Maggie a relic of my childhood summer nights.

That’s really disgusting, Mom.” -Maggie, 4.5

That’s not exactly how I remember our brown paper lunch bags stuffed to the brim with those tiny, crunchy locust exoskeletons we’d throw in each other’s hair. We thought of them more as a treasure, a prize. Whoever collected the most was the winner (of what, I still don’t know), so we’d scour from backyard to backyard plucking, crunching, and laughing. I still don’t hear the sound of a chicharra chirping without feeling the warmth of a memory.

Playing School

“Excuse me, Johnny, will you please sit still?!” I’d scream at my imaginary class no matter where I was – inside my room or outside on the “playground.” My poor Mom probably wondered a few times if I was insane (WHICH I AM, thank you very much!) when I’d spend the afternoon grading papers, writing frantically on the chalkboard, and pouring over that day’s lesson plans. ONE TIME, my mom volunteered to make copies up at the school, and while in the copy room patiently waiting for her, I snuck a triplicate nurse’s slip into my backpack, and basically won the lottery. We never dreamed of writing on that slip until the moment was absolutely right, when a troupe of cousins came to play. When we finally “sent” that student to the nurse’s office, we slowly, firmly pressed our white-bodied Bic Pen ink on the form, letting our letters glide importantly over the lines and check boxes, one by one. Don’t forget the tacky, huge signature at the bottom that every teacher must sign when doing something as important as this.

Coloring the Day Away

I can close my eyes and SEE the box of used, broken, very loved crayons we had at my Grandma Glen’s house next to a stack of coloring books. There were skinny crayons, fat crayons, sharpened map pencils, and even a few pens in that bucket of gold. I had no idea what stresses and worries anyone around me felt, or even the fact that my Grandma Glen was dying from ovarian cancer, because I was in another world. A waxy, beautiful world where the extent of the world’s sadness was just having to stop coloring.

Fun fact: my favorite color in the box (still!) is Cerulean Blue. Thanks, Crayola.

Stealing My Mama’s Coffee

Didn’t everyone drink the rest of their mom’s coffee while she chatted with her mom on the phone every morning? I found out years later that my mom knew I was drinking her coffee, but let me do it so that she could talk to her mom just a few minutes longer. I get it now, Mom. I totally get it.

Playing Outside Under a Street Light

Despite mutant mosquitos and the fading sun, the neighborhood kid bunch carried on, while our parents sat in the driveway in lawn chairs that looked like colorful seatbelt straps woven together, drinking margaritas, eating chips and queso, and playing board games on card tables. The front doors of our houses would be opened and shut, about 25 times each night, while we decided whose house to create our next mess in. I remember playing hide and seek, and almost peeing my pants a few times. We’d play basketball by the glow of the streetlight until someone scraped their knee and ruined the night.

These are things I know I can’t exactly recreate for my kiddos, but I hope to channel the warmth and energy to them through similar experiences. Even when Maggie says, “Hey, Google. Read me a story” when the night finally ends.

5 Little Tips That Will Save You Big Money

I’ve come into the new year swinging at debt, you guys. I have thought of every little way we can save money. I’ve stared at our budget (post coming!), and have done all the math, which you know I hate doing. From an Amazon, Target, H-E-B, shiny object-loving Mom to another, I give you these 5 little tips that will hopefully help you save money like they’ve helped us!

Tip #1 – Plan your dinners monthly.

I know it’s annoying. I know it’s time-consuming. I know it seems unreasonable and kind of gross. But TRUST ME, it can be done! Print out a blank monthly calendar. Write in a dinner per day, or any other meals you want to plan, like breakfasts. Grab another sheet of paper and write down the main ingredients you need from the store, going from one day to the next until you finish the whole month. Write them in store categories if you can. E.g. Spaghetti means I need spaghetti noodles, spaghetti sauce, and hamburger meat. That’s the pasta aisle and the meat aisle, so write those in two separate aisle categories. If you already have spaghetti noodles, don’t write them on the list. It seems primitive, I KNOW, but it’s worth it. It’s January 21st, and the Smith Family has NOT spent $1 on fast food or last-minute dinners. I have had a meal planned and prepared every night this month, and it’s been fun tracking along with what we’ve cooked and what’s left. Budget a certain amount on main groceries ($100/person) and then $100 a month ($25/week) for fresh stuff like salad, fruit, milk, etc. Freeze what you can. I’ll be doing a YouTube video on my detailed process for February so STAY TUNED!

Tip #2 – Unsubscribe from marketing emails.

I am in marketing, you guys. It’s my job to market, and I love to be marketed to. So it seems a little weird for me to be telling you to unsubscribe from marketing emails, but if you’re like me, and you get a Scrapbook.com marketing email, you’re going to head right on over there (through the link conveniently provided to you on the image!) and spend WAY too much money on stuff you don’t need. I haven’t received a marketing email from any scrapbook stores or craft suppliers in months, and I’m embarrassed to say how well “out of sight, out of mind” works. As long as I keep my eyes closed to the distractions, I don’t see them! Try it on a few subscriptions you can live without at first. You’d be surprised how you *don’t* actually miss it. Bonus points for cleaning up your inbox too. If you have a red circle with a number like “3,892” showing on your email app, we’re not friends anyway.

Tip #3 – Create a list of free or cheap events in your area.

In our house, we’ve called our free outings “Nature Walks,” and for the four and almost-two year old in our house, those Nature Walks are the best thing since sliced bread. It’s easy for this mama of littles to say “do something free!” But honestly, even older kids appreciate the time you spend with them. Get your tennies on, and go look for some bugs outside. Go take a walk on a trail, and see how many different leaves you can collect. Bake some cookies and share them with a neighbor. You don’t have to spend a ton of money to go find an adventure. If you really have an itch to get something new, head to the thrift store and see what kind of treasure you can find for under $1. Have a list of backup ideas that vary in location and category in case of bad weather, or if you just don’t feel like digging for bugs.

Tip #4 – Grocery shop online.

I’m going to catch a lot of crap for this one, but I’ll take my chances. I LOVE grocery shopping at the store as much as the next guy, but since we’ve had kids, we are online grocery shoppers ’til the day we die, or at least until our kids don’t scream/throw fits/want everything from the store. You should definitely support local if you can, but if you’re a family like ours, you know EXACTLY what you need from the grocery store (especially if you planned meals!) and you don’t need to get distracted by the Doritos on the end cap. Again, I’ve saved an embarrassing amount of money by just getting what I need. If you have been wanting something that’s not on the list, the next tip will help you figure out what you need to do.

Tip #5 – Wait 10 days.

I’m a millennial, and in classic form, I want things, like, right now. And I want them shipped to me in two days or less or I’m throwing a fit. But set aside your lack of patience, and put the splurge on a 10-day wait list. I was Mrs. Impulse Buy, so I’ve had to teach myself to *really* think about if it’s something I want or if I’m just being a brat. As part of your self-care routine, I definitely think it’s important to get things that actually bring you joy, but the things really worth waiting for will still be there in your heart and mind after 10 days. And those really cool yoga socks? They’re still cool, but you’re probably going to figure out that you already have 3 pairs, and you don’t really need 2 more.

If these tips don’t exactly work for you and your family, adapt them as necessary and figure out how to make small changes that will make a big difference. I bet you’ll come up with other little ways to save money, and DAMN it’s gonna feel good when we pay off some debt, huh? Share your ideas with me too. WE GOT THIS.

Can’t Stop Candied Pecans

No-bullshit intro: Every year, my grandparents get “the boys” (our husbands) a bag of pecans for Christmas. And every year, I hijack those pecans from Marc and turn them into candied pecans, because if there’s one thing that makes pecans better than they already are, it’s sugar. Duh.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED: 

  • 1 Cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla (Mexican vanilla, if you can get it)
  • 2 Cups pecans (halves are my favorite unless you’re making pieces to sprinkle on something like ice cream)
  • 1/4 Cup water + a reserved splash to help cool down the pecans later

THROW IT TOGETHER: 

  • In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon and set aside. In another small bowl, combine water and vanilla and set aside as well. (Don’t forget to leave a splash of water for later!)
  • Place all pecan halves in a medium, heavy pot. Add the cinnamon/sugar mixture and then the vanilla/water over the top of the pecans, and stir constantly like a crazy person over medium heat until it boils until everything becomes thick (5-10 minutes).
  • When it’s nice and ooey-gooey and hard to stir, remove the pot from the heat fairly quickly, and add in that splash you reserved.
  • When everything is coated, spread the pecans on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet and do your best to spread them out, using a spoon because they’re hot as f*ck.
  • Let them cool, if you can manage, and break up any pecans that were stuck together. Or shove those in your mouth and run away before anyone can see you. Put the rest in a bowl for guests. Just kidding, you won’t want to share them. Enjoy!

Antipasto Not-So-Salad

No-bullshit intro: my mother-in-law made something similar to this years ago, and my whole family loved it so much. This has just been adapted a little bit, but it’s a really flexible recipe that you can add what you like to. Here’s our favorite version. Enjoy! 

What You’ll Need: 

  • 2-12-oz boxes tri-color rotini 
  • 2-19-oz. bags cheese tortellini, frozen
  • 24 oz. bite-sided tomatoes, (half red, half yellow if you can shake it)
  • 1 ounce fresh basil
  • 1/2 pound white cheddar, cubed
  • 1 pound hard salami, thinly sliced
  • 2- 6-ounce bags pepperoni 
  • 16 oz. mozzerella cheese
  • 1- 6-ounce tub shredded parmesan cheese
  • 2- 9 1/2 ounce jars green Spanish olives
  • 2- 6-ounce cans black olives
  • 2 bottles Newman’s Own Family Recipe Italian Dressing 
  • 2-12 ounce jars marinated artichoke hearts 
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
  • Olive oil 
  • Salt & pepper up in heeeere

Throw It Together: 

  • Boil the rotini according to package directions, and salt the shit out of it, because you won’t get a chance to flavor your pasta later
  • Drain pasta, set aside in a HUGE bowl and drizzle with a tiny bit of EVOO so it doesn’t stick. 
  • Boil the tortellini according to package directions, salt, drain, and throw in the same bowl as the rotini. Toss it all together. This is the base of the whole salad. The rest is just adding ingredients that you like! Omit anything you don’t like, and add what you do! 
  • I chopped the pepperoni in half, cut the salami into small triangles, halved the tomatoes, quartered the artichoke hearts, left the olives whole, thinly sliced the onion, cubed the cheese, and chiffonaded the basil. Add pepper to taste.
  • Pro-Tips: If you’re making this the day ahead, don’t put the cheese in yet. Toss the cheese in a few minutes before you intend to eat it, unless wet cheese doesn’t freak you out. WET CHEESE FREAKS ME OUT. Also, easy on the red onion, and don’t add this until last minute either. It will ALL taste like onion if you add it too soon. 
  • That’s it! Super easy and really delicious. Enjoy! 

Holidays Don’t Have to Suck

You heard the good news, right? Lola is going to be up and running for 2019 and I’m soooooo excited! But before we get the confetti cannons going, I wanted to share a little checklist I made for those of you that have complicated holiday situations like Marc and I do. It’s FREE, and it gives you permission to take care of yourself, so download if you need a little bit of holiday self-care inspo.

DOWNLOAD LOLA’S HOLIDAY CHECKLIST HERE!

Happy Holidays, my friends! Share with your friends who need a little love.

LOVE, LOLA (1)