Category Archives: Heidi’s Favorite Things

The Busy Mom’s Favorite Christmas Books 2016

It’s here! The most wonderful time of the year … to read!  Reading together is a favorite activity in our family, and over the years, reading aloud has become a cherished part of our family’s Christmas tradition.  I’ve spent years scoping out books at yard sales and thrift stores looking for hidden treasures to read to the kids. I won’t lie to you—I’ve also purchased some books that were total losers, and they ended right back where I found them.  Ain’t nobody got time for that.

I had a great response to the list of favorite Thanksgiving books last month, so I’ve compiled a few of our favorite Christmas books too, in case you needed some inspiration as you start or continue to build your own family library.
Remember, these books can be found at the library, thrift stores, eBay and a host of other places. If you’re like me, and you want to build a family library, make some room in your budget to purchase at least one or two every year. Those books will create their own special memories for you and your kids in the years to come.

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Coupla’ things before you see the list: I think moms need to be sneaky if they’re gonna teach their children to love to read. Sneaky moms put books everywhere.

Would you like your children to read more? You can put your Christmas books into a basket and simply put them in a cozy spot, complete with couch pillows and throw blankets. Don’t be surprised when you find the kids going back to those baskets over and over again.

Some ideas:
You could wrap each one, then pull out one each day to unwrap as you count down the days.  You could pick a few favorites that lend themselves to great crafts and make a special day out of each one—or— you could grab a few that specifically teach about some of the traditions in your home.  Keep it simple, busy mom!  (Remember: Your kids won’t miss what you don’t create an expectation for.)

And for the record:
I don’t do most of that stuff I just suggested. (sorry.)  I just put books in cozy places all over the house and when the opportunity arises, we read. Voila! Take the pressure off and enjoy this literature-rich season with your children— toddlers, tweens and even teens.  Here are just a few of our family faves. Merry Christmas!Read More

Favorite Thanksgiving Books for Families

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Yes!  Leaves are falling, candles are lit. Cider abounds. The ELECTION IS OVER! Bring it, holiday season! I’m ready for some good old fashioned holiday love. :)

I’m a little bit of a fanatic about Thanksgiving—because it allows us to be thankful for what we have without the pressure of gift exchanges. Thanksgiving offers us the chance to focus on what really matters in this life. To slow down. To reflect.

To be thankful.

Read More

Is Your Family Ready for an Emergency? Help is Here! Meet City Girl Prepper

I’m a little bit intimidated by emergency preparedness people. There. I said it.

Now hear me out … it’s not that I don’t want to be ready for a crisis, it’s that I’ve never had a good idea how to start getting ready. The supplies overwhelm me. How much water do we need to have on hand? How much food? How many batteries—and do I really need duct tape? I have it but it’s plaid and green and my kids use it for crafts-n-stuff.

The events of the past several months have caused me and my husband to shift our focus to what kinds of things we would need to have on hand if there was a disruption in everyday life. I know many of you are feeling the same way. There is a lot going on in our world. But what if you could find a way to have a little bit of peace-of-mind and know that if something does happen, you have resources to tackle the disruption or disaster at hand?

My blood pressure dropped just thinking about how much calmer your kids would be if they knew that mom had it handled. Can you relate? If so—I have good news for you. I met a mom in California recently who has started a business that helps moms like me make sure their family is ready for any kind of emergency situation. Jennifer Stewart-Tai has put together backpacks with literally everything you would need in case of an emergency.

Emergency PreparednessMade for MomsBy a Mom

Why should we be concerned? Because we need to be able to take care of our families in the event of an emergency. It can take a while to get help if first responders are overwhelmed. For example, did you know that there are only 15 first responders for every 25,000 citizens?

With just 80% of American families prepared, resources will quickly be tapped out if there is a natural disaster or disruption in services and goods.  So it’s up to you to have supplies for you and your family.

“As a busy mom it’s difficult to find the time to research and assemble a backpack and the supplies you need in case of an emergency,” says City Girl Prepper founder Jennifer Stewart-Tai. “That’s why I started City Girl Prepper. CGP focuses on making emergency backpacks for families, with a special emphasis on women.

All the backpacks are already assembled and take the guesswork out of the equation.”

If you already have a backpack, consider this: City Girl Prepper backpacks are different because they were designed by a mom for moms. In addition to the basics, like a 3-days’ supply of food and water, it’s filled with all the extras you really want to have in case of an emergency; women’s fit work gloves, quality feminine products, fun band-aids, and of course—chocolate.
You’ll gain comfort knowing that you are doing what you do best—taking care of your family.

And *newsflash!* We all know that a calm mom= calm kids.

But—here’s what makes City Girl Prepper even more exciting…you can get prepared and help other families do the same thing!

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Save 10% on your City Girl Prepper purchase!
Use code busymomprep

Become a Preparedness Coach today!
Use code busymomcoach

Have you ever attended a party for jewelry or candles? What about a Readiness party? Isn’t it time for a party with a purpose? City Girl Prepper is actually a direct selling company who is recruiting founding consultants. So you can get your family ready and help others too. City Girl Prepper is on a mission to inspire and create self-reliant women who are ready for anything that comes their way. It’s a big mission, and they need as many people as possible to join in and make a difference in their community. “The more prepared our community is, the stronger we all are!” says Stewart-Tai.

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Do you have sore, tired feet too?

You’ve heard me talk about being *that girl,* the one who spends time and energy pouring in to her marriage, the one who chooses to pursue her husband… that one!  And we’ve been talking on the podcast lately about purposing to strengthen our marriages, and I’m making that commitment too!  This is one way that I strengthen my marriage.

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My husband was actually more stoked than I was when we saw these—because he knows that it’s difficult for me to switch out of  laundry, carpool, dishes and meal mode and just focus on being together.  Massage gives us the gift of relaxation and time together to reconnect with my husband and spend time thinking about just the two of us. A simple massage with some essential oils (mixed with my favorite carrier oil) allows me to  focus on how my body feels—and for me (and many other women!) that’s 9/10 of the struggle. When I’m focusing on my body and my husband rather than my to-do list, good things happen for both of us.  But listen, maybe you’re like me and you just want to start with your feet?

{Foot rub Massage giveaway with each Melt purchase through June 19, 2016!}

When I share something, I choose it because I think it is something that will resonate with my audience.  This is that thing. 😉   And with Father’s Day coming up, I have a great idea.  Remember this podcast about creating a partnership that lasts?  I shared this at Valentine’s Day and we had such a great response, we wanted to share it with you again.  So many men are hard to buy for, but a gift that keeps on giving TO BOTH OF YOU is the perfect sort of thing our men like!  This is a brilliant way to show him how much you appreciate all he does for you and your family!

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Melt is a video series that will train you HOW to do massages for each other.  It is appropriately presented (PG!) by Denis and Emma Merkas, clearly presented, easy to squeeze in just 5 minute segments, and best of all, easy to implement!  Don’t miss the Father’s Day Sale good through June 19.
 Take just a sec to see if you think it’s a good fit for the man you are celebrating this Father’s Day!  (And don’t forget, this is probably a gift that will give you something in response… after all, you and your hubby will both learn to give fabulous massages!)

Here are the details:

Check it out and tell me what you think!

~ Heidi

Easy Bible Journaling Ideas

Perhaps you’ve caught on to the whole Bible Journaling Craze.  If you Google it or go on Pinterest you see beautifully illustrated Bibles EVERYWHERE!  Some are pretty spectacular and obviously created by talented artists. You’ll also find words of encouragement for Bible Journaling “Beginners” and lots of templates/coloring pages you can use if you don’t consider yourself an artist.

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I have been Bible journaling for 7 months now and I absolutely LOVE it.  From the time I was little, I have always had a passion for art.  Coloring was my favorite pastime and so I entered a lot of coloring contests as a kid (and won some).  There were also art classes I took in high-school that taught me things like how to blend and layer with colored pencils.  Although I found much pleasure with art, I never pursued it as a career, because I felt like my true gifting was with music, playing my flute.  Now that I’m a busy mom I hardly have time to play my flute, let alone sit down to draw a picture… UNTIL, I discovered Bible Journaling!!

Bible journaling is something that gives more meaning to taking time out of a busy day to create art.  Finding a scripture that resonates with me and then copying it with creative lettering, adding colorful illustrations in the margins of my Bible make God’s words even more beautiful than they already are.  The Bible verses leap off the page and come to life for me!  But, this post is not about what I can do in my Bible.  This is about what YOU can do in YOUR Bible.  So, if you’ve thought at all about starting to Bible journal but wondered how to start, here are a few simple and easy journaling ideas for you…

USE A PENCIL:  I don’t know about you, but I was a little hesitant to start drawing in my Bible.  What if I didn’t like the outcome?  It’s not like you can just throw the page away and start over!  That’s why I always use a pencil before outlining in pen or coloring with colored pencils.  It definitely helps with planning a good layout for your page.

TRY DIFFERENT FONTS:  I like to use a combination of different fonts when I copy a scripture.  It doesn’t have to be anything fancy.  Try writing a few words all in UPPERCASE letters (especially words that are important to you like GOD, JESUS, HOLY SPIRIT).  By using all caps it really makes those words stand out on the page.  Then, try writing in all lowercase letters, or making your letters tall and skinny.  Remember in high-school when we wrote in block or bubble letters?  That’s fun to do in your Bible too!  And, of course we all have different styles of handwriting.  Don’t be afraid of yours.  USE IT!!  It’s who you are.

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FLOWERS:  You don’t have to be an artist to draw flowers.  If you can draw a circle, you can draw a flower!  Even the simplest of flowers can be beautiful in the margins of your Bible.  For the more intricate flowers, try pinning some photos on Pinterest to refer to for inspiration.

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LEAVES:  I can never draw enough leaves in my Bible :)  They can be a simple border around your words or they can get wild and crazy like a vine that grows every which way!  All you have to do is draw a few long squiggly lines with little oval shapes attached to the lines in random places, and voila… LEAVES!

COLOR, COLOR, COLOR:  For me, colored pencils are the perfect tool that make your art come to life in your Bible.  I started with an inexpensive set of Crayola colored pencils.  But, then I treated myself to a set of Prismacolors that were on sale and that is what I use all the time now.  They are definitely worth the price!

PIGMA MICRON PENS:  They are awesome!   Amazon usually has these pens on sale.  They come in different tip sizes and colors. They even have brush pens, which are lots of fun to use.  The pens are good quality and won’t bleed through the pages of a durable journaling bible.

I hope this gives you a little motivation to give Bible Journaling a try.  If you’ve already been journaling, what are some of your ideas?

Hot Monogamy: 3 Ways Massage Can Ignite Passion in Your Marriage

Find out how massage can bring back or build up trust, intimacy and passion in your marriage!

 I don’t like to buy a gift just because Hallmark says I should.  That’s why I love this video series. It’s an investment in my marriage!  So what is at the top of your list this Valentine’s Day? If you answered “nothing,” or “folding laundry,” keep reading—because I get you. It’s not that we don’t love our husbands, right? It’s that we’re just.so.tired. After a long day, intimacy is often the last thing on my mind. I just want to unwind and relax. Trouble is, my husband’s idea of relaxing and mine can look very different, IYKWIM.

Does this sound familiar? “Hot monogamy, you say? I just want to sleep!”

Statistics tell us that men and women struggle to find time for intimacy in their marriage. In fact, most married couples I speak to tell me that one of the first areas in the relationship to take a hit when the stress of life comes is physical intimacy. It’s easy to put a tender caress to the bottom of the list amidst the busyness of life—when in reality, physical touch is one of the best de-stressors we have in marriage!

Last year, I was introduced to a series of videos that I think are going to change the way my husband and I see date night. I figured I’d check them out and was so impressed, I’m sharing them with you. Let’s just say I think you’re gonna love this idea. :)

Looks good, right? Show this to your man, ladies, because I know he’ll want to give it a try after seeing this video. My husband was actually more stoked than I was—because he knows that it’s difficult for me to switch out of  laundry, carpool, dishes and meal mode and just focus on being together.  Massage gives us the gift of relaxation and time together to reconnect with my husband and spend time thinking about just the two of us. A simple massage with some essential oils (mixed with my favorite carrier oil) allows me to  focus on how my body feels—and for me (and many other women!) that’s 9/10 of the struggle. When I’m focusing on my body and my husband rather than my to-do list, good things happen for both of us.

Forget “50 Shades of Grey.” The real thing is better.
Marriage should be a passionate love affair that never gets boring.
In short, monogamy should be hot!

If you’ve “lost that loving feeling,” here’s my challenge: This February, mark a few nights off on your calendar (Valentine’s day is a great place to start, but I’m talking about a habit,  not a holiday) and make an evening of relaxing together. If you enjoy wine, put the kids to bed and take some wine and cheese to your room. Light a candle (or ten, if you’re candle-obsessed like me) turn your favorite music on, and watch these videos together. (I tell you my 5 favorite things about them at the end, so keep reading!)

Find out how massage can help you connect with your husband and re-light the fire in your marriage@

Not sure where to start? Check out MELT as you make your plans. Not gonna lie: When I told Jay I was looking into this last year, his smile said it all. We have loved using these this year!

MELT — Massage for Couples — Click Here

Build Intimacy and Trust in Your Marriage through Massage: Here’s Why It Works:

1. Massaging each other is an opportunity to slow down… together

High-speed internet. 24 hour email access. Real-time status updates. Is it just me? Or does the world seem to spin faster these days? Sitting down to a decadent massage together provides a rare opportunity to stop and be together, focused entirely on each other. For just 30 minutes, you can dim the lights, play some soft music and treat each other to a muscle-melting massage. This is a wonderful escape for multi-tasking wives and the husbands who love them.

melt: massage for couples

2. Massage in marriage is a 100% “hands-on” experience

It doesn’t take a marriage therapist to tell you that giving your spouse a massage enhances your intimate connection and builds trust in your marriage. Intimacy is a requirement for healthy relationships, but it doesn’t always come automatically. We need to make space and time to foster our intimate connections, and massaging each other is one very simple way to do that. On top of the time you spend together, you very literally have your hands on each other, helping to reinforce the intimate bond. As you start to work knots from aching muscles and your partner falls back into you, you can take that as a sign of complete trust. The entire experience is seriously incredible. And, if you are both so inclined (and I promise you, it will be hard not to be) it can lead to wonderfully intimate and steamy sex, too.

3. Massage speaks to several “love languages” at once

Treating your husband to a massage is a beautiful way to show him that he’s very much appreciated and loved. In fact it hits almost every Love Language, if you think about it. Massage very clearly speaks to the Physical Touch love language, of course. But if you think about it, it’s also Quality Time spent together, it’s an Act of Service (especially if you don’t ask for one in return!) and if you play your cards right it can make for a gorgeous gift… just package up some massage oil and a scented candle in a big bow and then go on to actually massage your husband and watch him melt with joy.

Last year, I visited my massage therapist several times, due to complications from surgery. The last time I saw her, I asked how I could teach my husband to do some of her techniques at home. “Training,” was all she said. So imagine my excitement when Denis Merkas, a Registered Massage Therapist, contacted me about the MELT: Massage for Couples video series that he did with his wife Emma.  I was really excited (and not just because I got to watch the videos, too!).

Denis shows couples that massaging properly is easier than you think!

I really do think this can lead to closer marriages, and can help to reduce stress for both of you. If you’re worried that your husband will never understand how much you need massage, ask him to watch these with you and practice what you’ve learned together. It’s a great way to bring something new and needed into our marriages and invest in our future. Even the arrangement of how you sit is no mistake – before any technique was created or routine designed, Denis and his wife researched the most romantic way to position our bodies, because the bed simply wasn’t good enough.

It’s easy, too—Denis recommends you stage your massage experience into three separate date nights… “it’s unlike anything you’ve ever done before. Simply add oil and follow along to the videos online. Use your iPad, Laptop or even SMART TV, the videos are device ready.”

Here are a few things I loved about the MELT series:

1. Denis keeps things PG-rated.

Sure, there’s romantic music and the couple is massaging each other, but clothes stay on, and the focus is on learning how to give a massage. (Yes, she’s wearing a strapless top, but that’s so you can see the proper technique on her shoulders). As Denis says, if things lead somewhere else, that’s fine–but that’s not what his video series is trying to teach you. So you don’t have to worry that this is pornographic in nature! It isn’t–it really is just about learning technique.

2. We learned that we were doing massage wrong—and how to do it right.

These videos break down our misconceptions about massage—which shows what we’re doing wrong—and how to do massage right! (hint: no thumbs allowed!) I have now become the massage favorite during movie night at our house. It’s easy!

3. The videos are short to watch together

Each video broken down into short tutorials that are under 5 minutes in length. Each focus is on learning one technique. About 6 videos form a series, and there are 3 series altogether: The Basic Strokes, the Highlights, and the Deep Tissue stuff.  The Basic Strokes Series teaches you how to actually move your hands to achieve maximum impact–and maximum ooohs and aaaahs.

You’ll watch 7 short videos and learn a new technique with each one, and then at the end there’s a 15 minute video that features a routine using all your new techniques. The Deep Tissue Series focuses on how to use your thumbs to really work out knots. It’s so helpful–and at the end is a 30 minute routine that you can use on each other.

4. Everything builds on each other.

It’s amazing! Each night you feel like you’ve learned something new, and at the end of the series, you will have confidence in your technique and understanding of how massage works.

5. They’re easy to watch together and do together.

(Translation: great date night!) You just watch one of the short ones a night and then practice on each other. Because you’re watching the technique, it’s easy to say, “I’ll go first, then you try it.” Or, to make it more enticing for him, let him massage you first. That way you can’t fall asleep because you have to massage him afterwards–so he won’t worry that if he massages you the night will be over because you’ll be in dreamland. I’ve been saying a lot on this blog that it is so important to start going to bed together at the same time so that you have opportunity to connect.

Instead of watching one more show on Netflix, or browsing Pinterest, or playing one more video game, this gives you a reason to head to bed.

You watch a video, pull out some massage oil, and then do it! And as you touch, it does help nerves to fire. If that leads to something else, woo hoo! As someone who does carry a lot of stress physically, massage is such a service to me and helps me feel closer to my husband.

So many men carry stress on their backs and necks, too, and if we can learn to release that, we can actually change the dynamic in the marriage.

I hope you’ll make this no-brainer investment in your marriage and check out MELT: Massage for Couples.

Foot rub videos free, so $171 value for $99!

 Only $99.00 until February 14th with LIFETIME video access to some incredible massage techniques.  There’s a 60 day money back guarantee, so what do you even have to lose?

Visit MELT: Massage for Couples—because, as Denis and Emma, the creators of MELT, say every couple deserves a little massage.

Click here to check out MELT

I sent these to my daughter and her husband because they have a toddler and a newborn—and as you know— “T” is for “toddler” and “tired.” :) I’m winning points like crazy this Valentine’s Day… and I’m not even counting the ones I made with my sweet man.

I dare you to try it and not have fun.  :)

Give each other a romantic back rub at home – it’s the perfect Valentine’s Date idea, dim lights, scented candles and massage oil makes for the most memorable Valentine’s Day you’ve had in a longtime!

Current special ends February 14, 2017!  Click here

Oh yeah and one more thing… these are not only great for cheap stay home date nights (works out at around $25 a date night if you split it over three nights!), they also make amazing gifts for any couple. You can buy a few gift vouchers at the promotional price now and use them whenever – they never expire! That means you can stash them for birthdays, Christmas or even wedding presents and gift them along with a beautiful massage oil and a scented candle for a unique, awesome gift that will really make an impression!

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Need gift ideas? Here are my PERSONAL favorites!

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Many of you have asked about the things I recommend on Amazon—so here they are, all together in one place!

There are some great ideas for gifts this year, Busy Moms! I’ve seen a lot of bloggers writing posts with good deals, so I really didn’t feel the need to write one more of those.  While these are competitive prices, I have chosen these products to share because they are recommendations based on personal experience.  Everything on this list is something I or someone in my family loves and would heartily recommend.

{Affiliate links are included in this post.}

Family Gift Ideas

Roku Streaming Media Player – We canceled cable four years ago and never looked back.
BPA Free Ice Pop Molds

Ticket to Ride Game
Settlers of Catan
Funprint Drawing Book + Stamp Pads!

Gifts for Kids

Jesus Storybook Bible
Jesus Calling: 365 Devotions for Kids
Let’s Read and Find out Science Series (many books in this series, I linked to the search for them as opposed to one specific title)

Magic School Bus, Complete DVD Set
Liberty Kids, Complete DVD Set
Where on the Earth is Carmen SanDiego, Complete DVD Set

Little People Lights & Sounds Nativity Set
Little People Animal Sounds Farm
Learning Resources Teaching Cash Register
Dyson Toy Vacuum
Big Bucket of Dinosaur Action Figures
KEVA Structures 200 Plank Set
Kid K’Nex
K’Nex Building Set
Lincoln Logs
Jumbo Cardboard Blocks
Plasma Car
Bazoongi Bouncer Trampoline
21 Piece Art Drawing Set
Sony Headphones

Gifts for Women

The Busy Mom’s Guide to Daylight, by Yours Truly
The Busy Mom’s Guide to Romance, by Yours Truly!
Becoming Myself, Embracing God’s Dream of You
 by Staci Eldridge

Fred & Friends Mister Tea Infuser
Instant Pot: 6 in 1  Programmable Pressure Cooker
Cuisinart 77-7 Chef’s Classic Stainless Cookware Set
Rachel Ray Cookware
6 Quart Oval Slow Cooker
Thermal Laminator

A Few of Heidi’s FAVES for 2015 – Including ESSENTIAL OIL favorites

Spark Naturals Essential Oils (no membership required, great prices, great oils) use code THEBUSYMOM for 10% off!
Greenair Spa Essential Oil Diffuser

Hot Booties Foot Warmers
Neck & Shoulder Heating Pad
Mrs. Mug by Dayspring
Faith by Chuck Smith – perfect for reading with your spouse  (I read it with Jay this year!)

Gifts for Men

For the DIY Guy – Magnetic Stud Finder
For the Golfer – Medicus Dual Hinged 7 Iron
For the Techy Guy – Portable Headphone Amplifier