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Sometimes life can be easy…and sometimes it can be hard. Aaaand sometimes it can be REALLY hard. When life gets overwhelming for me, I force myself to pull back and reevaluate where my priorities are. These five things have been working overtime to keep a smile on my face.

1. USING MY FREE TIME WISELY

This is embarrassing to admit, but recently I noticed that I have been spending way too much of my free time on social media. While I don’t think there is anything too terribly wrong with social media, I do feel bad about wasting my time. It got to the point where I would lay in my bed at night looking back and forth between apps. Before I knew it, hours had gone by. I’d end up going to bed much later than I wanted and then I’d be upset with myself for wasting all that time. So about a month ago, I started teaching online instead of putzing around on the internet. I’ve had to adjust my sleeping schedule a little, but now I’m making extra spending cash instead of getting lost on the internet for hours.

2. GLUTEN-FREE BAKERIES

I have been gluten-free now for a handful of years. At first this dietary change was by choice, but the older I’ve gotten, the more I notice that gluten products bother me if I try sneaking them in. I can’t eat them anymore! As much as I’m tempted to sell my soul to eat a real piece of chocolate cake again, the side effects just aren’t worth it. Luckily, I don’t have to do anything that drastic to enjoy my favorite baked goods. Gluten-free treats are easy to find these days. If I need a quick sugar fix, I can find something decent at my favorite grocery store. But when I want something a bit more decadent, I head to one of two gluten-free bakeries. Defloured (located at 1477 W Balmoral Ave in Chicago) and Sweet Ali’s (13 W 1st St in Hinsdale) are both bakeries dedicated to making amazing gluten-free treats. I don’t go to either too often because I do try to avoid sugar, but when I do go, I usually drop a fair amount of cash on treats. Spoiler alert, they don’t last long in my house at all!

3. GETTING MY EYEBROWS DONE

Those of you with dark hair might not understand this struggle, but anyone with lighter hair will. My eyebrows are super light. If I don’t take the time to darker them up in the mornings, it looks as if I don’t have eyebrows…and THAT looks super strange. Two years ago I had my eyebrows microbladed and I was impressed with the results. But over time, the tint faded. So, I recently had them done again and I’m happy with how they’re turning out! (It is a process. I had the first application done two weeks ago. Now I have to wait six more weeks for a touch up.) It might be a bit of a process, but waking up with visible eyebrows is such a time saver in the morning! 

4. DAINTY JEWELRY

I usually don’t wear too much jewelry on a daily basis. Between working with kids and then working out, most jewelry just doesn’t fit into the functionality of things on a daily basis. There are certain pieces that I can wear and I don’t have to worry about them getting in the way or getting damaged! These barely-there mini black diamond bar earrings from AU|Rate are perfect for wearing everyday! They add a subtle sparkle and also a little bit of edge. They also work with everything in my closet.

5. SUNDAY MORNING CUDDLE SESHIES WITH MY KIDS

I’m sure those of you with kids can relate to the struggle. Every single day of the week is filled with non-stop activities and there’s hardly any time to catch your breath. Between hockey practice, after school events, working out, and feeding the kids, I don’t have a whole lotta down time. (Keeping up with feeding kids is practically a full-time job itself!) That’s why I live for the weekends…especially Sundays. Come Sundays, we spend a good portion of the day hanging out in our pajamas. Julia and Ivan usually crawl into bed with me once the sun is up and we chit chat, snuggle, and take tons of Snapchat pics. I love it.

What little things help get you through life??

AU|Rate gifted me with the earrings featured here. All opinions are my own. And yes, I do really like they’re jewelry ; )

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This might sound a little extra, but I never leave the house without some sort of makeup on my face. I don’t even go to the gym without a little tinted moisturizer and a glossy lip.

There’s just something kinda magical about cosmetics that puts me in a better mood once it’s on my face…plus, it helps hide the 1,563 hours of sleep that I need to catch up on! Aaaaand you never know who you might run into when you’re out in public!!

Being a fair-skinned, redhead has it’s challenges when it comes to makeup! First of all, it’s so hard to find a great tinted moisturizer this shade of pasty! I usually end up getting the two lightest shades and blending them together. My skin color varies during the different times of the year and whether or not I’ve used sunless tanner, so I really like having both shades handy and adjust my tinted moisturizer as needed.

Even though I wear makeup everyday, I don’t typically wear that much. I’m more Team Natural when it comes to my daytime face.

Another obstacle of having light skin and red hair is that my body hair is really light. Like, it doesn’t even look like I have much in the eyebrow department unless I draw and shade them in. My eyelashes are just as light as my eyebrows! They’re not noticeable until I darken them up.

Side note…Two springs ago, I actually got my eyebrows microbladed. It hurt like a B, but they looked on-point for a solid year. They looked really natural, so when I put makeup on, I still had to darken my eyebrows with makeup too. But, it was definitely great to wake up with eyebrows on! I think if I ever get my eyebrows microbladed again, I will go with a darker ink.

So if you’ve been paying close attention, you can probably guess what two cosmetics I’m reaching for when I need more that just tinted moisturizer and lip little lip color…

If you thought an eyebrow pencil and mascara, I love you and thanks for paying attention! My face legit looks very strange when my eyebrows aren’t dark enough. I didn’t realize how important eyebrows are for faces until my late 20s. (If only those teenage YouTubers were around then sharing their beauty secrets!) But since then, filling in my eyebrows has become a vital part of my makeup routine.

I have been using and loving IT Cosmetics’s Brow Power Universal Eyebrow Pencil for about two years now. I love it! It’s super easy to use and I can control the coverage based on the pressure of application. It doesn’t smudge. At all. And, it never needs to be sharpened! Seriously…this stuff is great.

For my mascara, IT got me hooked with another goodie! Superhero Mascara has got to be my favorite mascara of all time! Hands down the best for lengthening and adding volume to lashes. I love that the pigment stays put all day too. You won’t have to worry about flakes or runs with this one.

With Christmas right around the corner, I was sure to stock up on my makeup favorites to add to my stocking. I mean, Mama deserves a little something too, right?!

IT Cosmetics gifted the makeup you see here to me. All opinions are my own.

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Let’s talk hair!

When I was younger, I really wasn’t into mine. It was too wavy and poufy, and I didn’t really like the color. One random teenage night I even tried dying my hair PINK! Luckily my parents weren’t too upset and thankfully my hair is terrible at holding color. That pink, and all the other shades I attempted to change it to, didn’t last long at all.

Since then, I’ve learned to embrace my ginger locks and their natural waves.

In the meantime though, I’ve had other hair issues on my hands.

One huge change I noticed with my hair is thinning. I don’t know if age has played a role in this, or if it’s from hormones, but I started using different products to help give my hair a boost.

One of my favorite products for this is Miracle Blowdry Volumizer by It’s a 10. After I wash my hair, I spritz some of this volumizer on my roots. Then I blow dry my hair. My hair looks so full once it’s completely dried. And, this stuff doesn’t make my hair greasy at all! Oh, and Miracle Blowdry Volumizer is also great at battling humidity.

Another product that I’ve been using and getting addicted to is Formulate. Formulate is CUSTOM made shampoo and conditioner. Yup. It’s designed just for you and your hair’s needs.

(Side note…The thing about hair is that it’s soooo different for each person. Kinda like clothes. Hair and clothes are best when you discover what your style is and how to work with it. That’s why I was drawn to trying Formulate. What could be better than shampoo and conditioner that’s made just for your hair??)

Getting started with Formulate was super easy. I filled out a short online questionnaire that asked what I was looking for with my hair cleaning products. I checked that I wanted to prevent thinning, mend split ends, hydrate, lengthen, and to get rid of frizz. Just a few simple requests, right??

I’ve been using shampoo and conditioner from Formulate for a few months and I’ve been loving the results! Formulate satisfied the hair requests that I had! My hair definitely has more volume when I wash and condition with it. And I have zero frizz!

I don’t use it everyday, because I feel that my hair works best when I rotate between different shampoos and conditioners.  Also, I don’t even wash my hair everyday! Dry shampoo has become a close friend on mine. I’m still hunting for the perfect one, but Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Dry Shampoo is pretty darn good! Baby powder also takes care of cleaning up any oily-looking spots in a pinch.

Have you found any products that are miracle workers for your hair? I’d love to hear about what’s working for you!

Formulate created and sent me products to review. All opinions are my own.

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Every November the kids and I look forward to The Chicago Toy and Game Fair, and this year’s ChiTAG 2018 was definitely a time to remember!

The Chicago Toy and Game Fair runs for two days at Navy Pier on the weekend before Thanksgiving. Usually the kids and I spend one day at the fair, but this year we went on Saturday and Sunday.

ChiTAG can be very overwhelming when you walk into the doors if you don’t know what to expect. I like to give the kids a heads up as to what they will be seeing at the fair so that they can mentally prepare themselves for it all.

1.

Julia and Ivan were both looking forward to saying ‘hi’ to Greedy Granny. In the game Greedy Granny, Granny is sleeping and players try to grab goodies off of the tray on her lap without waking her up. If she wakes up while you grab a treat, you’re out. Granny was awake when we first met her, but when we came around to the Goliath Games booth a second time, she was asleep. The kids each successfully grabbed a treat from her tray.

Seeing this made me realize that I better move the Halloween candy at home. Their ninja-like abilities are pretty stealthy, and that’s probably why I’ve been having a difficult time putting them to bed at night.

2.

I was looking forward to checking out the ‘adults only’ section at The Chicago Toy and Game Fair. This was the first year that the adults had their own special spot at ChiTAG. Conveniently placed right next to the Beer Garden, the adult games were pretty much what I expected. I did have fun talking with different game creators and playing a few of the games.

I came home with one called Spank the Yeti and had a chance to play it over the Thanksgiving holiday. I do have to say, as much as I appreciate a night on the town, there’s something so much more enjoyable just hanging out with my favorites while we laugh our faces off playing games.

3.

Funny enough, while I was checking out the adult games, Julia, who was sitting at a table nearby, befriended one of the creators of Spank the Yeti. Bryan, and his wife, came up with that game, but they also had another game called Schmovie. In this game, players are given a ‘what’ and a ‘who’ card, and a genre. They then use that information to create a made-up title to a movie. It’s Julia’s new favorite game. AND, she’s beyond excited because Bryan signed our Schmovie box.

I only chose to highlight our three top favorites of the 2018 Chicago Toy & Game Fair, but there were soooo many other toys and games that we enjoyed! Here’s a few more of our favorites from this year’s ChiTAG!

  • Seeing various people in costumes and learning how to use a light saber.
  • Getting creative with our story telling by playing Story Dealer.
  • Wearing a construction hat and posing with a life-sized version of the Build or Boom guy.
  • Watching and interacting with Ben and his bubble show.

And…technically not a game, but one of the main reasons why we enjoy The Chicago Toy & Game Fair so much…

  • Testing out new games and making memories.

ChiTAG, it was a blast! We can’t wait to see what next year’s adventures will bring!

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The thing about parenting by yourself after a split is that your to-do list just about doubles in size. I mean, there was always that list of things to do when I was married, but at least there was another adult around to help keep on top of things.

As I’m writing this, we are in the midst of our bedtime routine. The kids are running around upstairs when they should really be brushing their teeth and picking out books to read so that I can have a few minutes to jot down these words before they escape my brain forever. I currently have about 7 minutes and 35 seconds before the kiddos come creeping down the stairs looking for me…

One of the things I do to keep myself from going crazy, is to make sure that whenever I add something to my wardrobe, it can easily pair with at least three other items. It might not seem like a rule that makes complete sense, but for me, it really streamlines my time and saves me energy when I get ready every morning. Back in the day, I used to have the time to put together my outfits every Sunday.

Yup. Every Sunday. But hold on, it gets crazier.

I would lay everything out, iron it up, AND pull out accessories to go with it. I used to be way more organized! Nowadays I’m lucky if I can get laundry washed and dried by Sunday. If I get the clean clothes folded and put away before the next weekend rolls around…I better go grab a lotto ticket!

Why do I even care? Why do I even put energy into what I wear?? Slipping into yoga pants every morning would save me a time and brainpower, but it wouldn’t motivate me to get through the day. Back in high school, there were many days when I wasn’t feeling well. I wanted to go to school in lounge gear, but my mom encouraged me to “put some real clothes on.” She said getting dressed like I was going to conquer the day would make me feel better. She was totally right! And I’m still following those wise words to this day. Thanks, Mom!

I may not have that extra time like I did before to get outfits together, but I’m still going to appear put together.

Are you struggling with picking out clothes in the morning? Here are my favorite tips for keeping the ole wardrobe ready so you can get dressed super quickly when time is limited:

  1. Make sure everything in your closet and drawers fit your body. If it doesn’t, tailor it or get rid of it.
  2. Stick with neutral colors. They are super easy to mix and match. If you want to make your outfits more exciting, incorporate pieces with texture or use accessories to liven up your look.
  3. Don’t buy items that require ironing and/or dry cleaning if you’re crunched on time. You’re never going to wear that jacket if it’s in a ball on the floor waiting to go to the cleaners. (This reminds me…I have items to pick up from the cleaners. Do I remember what they are?? Not one bit. I know something is there though.)
  4. Put your outfit together from the bottom up. Pick your shoes, then decide on pants, etc…
  5. Try layering with a jacket or cardigan. I have a few outfits that I tend to lean towards when I’m super short on time (Hello, black pants and black blouse!), but I mix it up by changing my jacket or adding an over-sized cardigan. Need some visuals? Click here, or here, or here to check out with I mean!
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If you haven’t been to The Chicago Toy & Game Fair at Navy Pier yet, you’re missing out! The kids and I have been going to ChiTAG for the last handful of years. It’s our favorite event of the holiday season!

Each year The Chicago Toy & Game Fair has days full of fun for families and game lovers including viewing the hottest games of the holiday season, various types of live entertainment, and tons of hands-on exhibits.

Last year we super excited to see the massive Soggy Doggy game from Spin Master! We also saw part of the Illinois State Yoyo Contest. MY favorite part from last year’s Chicago Toy & Game Fair was witnessing the smiles on my kids’ faces when we walked into Navy Pier’s Festival Hall and saw booth upon booth of the coolest gizmos and gadgets for people of all ages. On second thought, that’s my favorite part of ChiTAG every year!

This year, besides for checking out all the new toys and games, the three of us are looking forward to meeting Greedy Granny! The kids have been hooked on the game, and seeing her IRL is going to be a treat.

We’re also going to have plenty of photo ops with our favorite characters from Star Wars! And, for the first time ever, there is going to be a beer garden with adult board games!! I’m not a beer person at all, but I love myself some great adults-only board games.

Side note on the adult games…Last year I got my hands on the family version of Utter Nonsense. I played it with my siblings one night after we got back from a late night of “adulting.” Well, we had such a blast with the family version, I bought the “adults only” game. Omg. If you’re looking for the perfect party game, I think Utter Nonsense might be it! Once we had an opportunity to unwrapped that sucker, we were hooked! I can’t remember how many hours we played, but my cheeks were sore and I nearly died about a half dozen times from laughing so hard. I can’t wait to see what grownup games ChiTAG has in store this season!!

The Chicago Toy & Game Fair is all set for this year at Navy Pier on November 17th and 18th! Click here for tickets and more info on this year’s ChiTAG!! There’s also special offers to educators, librarians, and scouts in uniforms! Hope to see you there!

xx April

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I’m a pretty big stickler when it comes to my dental health and the appearance of my teeth. So needless to say, I’ve done a number of things over the years to make sure that my smile looks good.

ONE.

I didn’t need braces as a kid. Fortunately, my teeth were pretty straight on their own. But as I got older, they started to shift a little bit. So, a few years back, I did Invisalign.

It took about six months to adjust my teeth and it wasn’t too painful or expensive. I’m super happy with how the whole process turned out. It wasn’t a drastic change when I look back at the before and after pictures, but if I had to grade the end result, I’d say my teeth went from a ‘B’ to an ‘A.’

TWO.

To keep my teeth stain-free, I use a whitening gel about once or twice a month. It’s another quick and easy step to ensure that great smile. I just put the gel into my retainer and let it sit on my teeth for about five minutes.

I do have sensitive teeth, so I have to be careful…otherwise they will be super-sensitive for a day or two. (Note if you haven’t used teeth whiten gels before: Be careful with them! Make sure to read the recommended times and build up from there. I’m currently using a strong gel, which is why it only takes five minutes, but some gels are less strong and require more time for the same results. It just depends on your preference.)

THREE.

The most important step that I take to have great teeth though, is to brush (at least twice) and floss every single day. I do not skip this at all! Even on those nights when I stayed out dancing waaaayy too late, I still brush and floss (and use my Invisalign retainer) before my head hits the pillows.

One of my new favorite tools to keep my teeth looking and feeling clean is the cariPRO Ultrasonic Electric Toothbrush from Smile Brilliant. I’ve used other electronic tooth brushes in the past, but I don’t remember them being as awesome as the cariPRO.

My favorite features of the cariPRO are the five different cleaning settings and the timer. The setting are great for a variety of cleaning needs. I usually brush with the “cleaning” setting because I like that fresh-out-of-the-dentist’s- office feeling, but if my teeth or gums are too sensitive that day (thanks, HORMONES), I switch to a more gentle vibration. The timer is perfect because it helps hold me accountable for that recommended two-minute teeth brushing. Every 30 seconds, the cariPRO does a slight pause so you can switch to a different quadrant in your mouth to clean. I love it!

Take a peek here to find out more information on the cariPRO Ultrasonic Electric Toothbrush from Smile Brilliant. FYI…Smile Brilliant is the company that got me started with the teeth whitening gel.

If you’re interested in trying out the cariPRO for yourself, take a stop here to enter for a chance to win your own cariPRO!

I do want to mention one other thing that helps create the perfect smile. I always, ALWAYS make sure that my lips are properly moisturized with a hint of color. I kid you not, I  currently have at least four lip tints in my purse, one in my car, and another three in my desk at school. Not to mention that there are random lip glosses and such in my jackets and coats. Dry lips do not make for a great smile. Gotta keep the lip moisturizer stash stocked!

Smile Brilliant sent me the cariPRO for review. All opinions are honest and my own.

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Over the last few years, I’ve been finding myself gravitating more and more towards tattoos. I think, if done right, they look sexy and kinda tough…though I have yet to put any on my body.

I have had a few different ideas as to the ink I would get, but then I never actually followed through with anything. I don’t know if it’s the needles that scare me, or the thought that I might get tired of a design over the years…buuuut, until I make up my indecisive mind, there’s always temporary tattoos.

Last time I had a chance to play around with temporary tattoos, it was for my brother’s bachelor party. I picked up a ton of LGBT party favors for the celebration including rainbow sweatbands, sunglasses, and endless amounts of temporary tattoos. Well, endless so I thought! By the end of our adventure, all that was left of the tats were the wrappers.

So when Ink Daze asked if I wanted to try out some of their temporary tattoos, I was all for it!

The cool thing about Ink Daze is that their tats actually look like ink you’d really get. They have a whole slew of designs. They also have a design-your-own option!! (Perfect for someone like me who would want to try out a design before committing to something more permanent.) Also perfect for any upcoming Halloween costumes that might call for a little artwork on your skin…they even have ghouls and goblins if you wanted to go that route.

If you’re interested in checking them out, Ink Daze is offering KUF readers 20% off orders with code KNOCKEDUP20. I might have to place an order soon…I told the kids to hold off on the ghosts and Frankenstein tats until we’re a little bit closer to the 31st, but I’m not sure how much longer they can last!

Ink Daze sent over temporary tattoos for me to try out. All opinions are my own.

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