Halloween Holly: A New Family Tradition

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Halloween Holly: A New Family Tradition

Okie dokie, Parents! Halloween is just around the corner and that means that the decorations are out, the costumes have been decided upon, and you’re gearing up to stock up on your  Halloween candy favorites. I was just telling my husband this week how we used to have our candy bowl set out on the kitchen table always filled to the brim with our favorite candy minis and we’d snack upon them all month long. That tradition quickly fizzled out after the first year we were married after discovering the yucky ingredients that’s found in conventional Halloween candy.

But we needed to limit the amount of sugar we were consuming period. I’ve always enjoyed letting my kiddos dress up and trick-or-treat for gobs and gobs of candy. Let’s be honest; the best part of letting our kids trick-or-treat is so that we can paw through their stash, lol! I will never forget when the twins were four years old and they’d run down the neighbor’s sidewalks yelling, “Mommy! I got an Almond Joy for you!” Yep… my kiddos knew how much a absolutely loved Almond Joys. I still do. But I no longer consume them.

On our journey to healthier living it quickly dawned on me that the amount of candy my kids received at Halloween time would last until Easter. I noticed my kids reaching for candy instead of fruit or healthier snacks. I would let my kids pick out a few pieces of their favs and bag up the rest to take with me to school to hand out as rewards for my students at school or send my husband with the leftovers to drop off in the break room at work.

Then one day last fall I came across Halloween Holly.  Cara Via is a mom of two boys and a Halloween enthusiast. She is the creator and author behind Halloween Holly. Cara was also faced with the candy dilemma that parents face each year: too much candy, meltdowns, upset tummies, and dreaded struggles. Her goal was to keep Halloween fun while avoiding all of the downsides and aftermath that often comes after the Halloween festivities.

Holly is an elfairy (part elf, part fairy) that lives at the North Pole with Santa. While visiting Santa’s workshop, Holly learns that the secret to the Christmas elves’ energy is CANDY! When a candy shortage threatens the Christmas deadline, Holly springs into action and comes up with a marvelous idea! Holly tells Santa that everyone needed to know about the candy secret and emergency at the North Pole. She’s sure that once the secret is out that everyone will be willing to share their Halloween candy to help the elves out.

Holly quickly spreads the news to children far and wide and encourages them to collect as much candy as they possibly can while their out trick-or-treating. With a parent’s help, each child would get to pick out 10 pieces of their favorite candy to snack on and then they’ll place the rest in a special bowl. After Halloween, Halloween Holly comes to collect the candy and bring it back to the elves. So now, Santa needs each kids help in order to save Christmas. And Mom and Dad’s sanity is saved knowing that their kiddos still get to participate in the Halloween festivities without experiencing the negative cons afterwards.

My twins were really excited about adding this new tradition to our home because they agree that there is an overload of candy after all of the Halloween events and this is a healthy balance of fun and having treats in moderation all while saving those pearly whites!

Cara has created such a fun and ingenious family tradition to add to your family traditions and transform your festivities! A huge thank you to Cara and Halloween Holly for gifting this to our family! You can get your very own Halloween Holly here.

What are some of your favorite family traditions? I’d love to hear about them! 🎃🍬👻

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Nat Geo Kids: Kids Almanac Review & Explorer Academy Preview With A Giveaway

I received these items for free from Moms Meet (momsmeet.com) to use and post my opinions. Compensation for this post was provided and may contain affiliate links.

A Classic Favorite

As a kid I remember looking forward to Library days in school. It meant a new chapter book for the week and a chance to read the latest edition of National Geographic for Kids after checking out my books. I always enjoyed watching National Geographic on our local PBS station with my family on the weekends. It made it possible to travel the world through our television from the comfort (and safety) of our living room. National Geographic has been a household name for as long as I can recall and I’m thrilled to have been able to share this experience with my kiddos.

The National Geographic Kids Almanac 2019 is chalk full of amazing information for school aged kids. It’s a fun resource to inform and educate children on the world around them. This almanac came packed with more than 500 vivid pictures, fun games, jokes, and activities, quizzes, homework help, and updated maps and reference materials.

The Kids Almanac always includes their mind bending Weird-But-True facts, incredible animal stories, and new places to see. Did you know that a peanut isn’t actually a nut at all? Or that bees visit about five million flowers to make one average-size jar of honey? That’s a lot of flowers for just a little honey!

Haylee absolutely loves animals and really enjoys the Amazing Animal Facts and pictures. Noah is our little history, mathematics, and science buff. He enjoys reading up on anything historical and learning about how things work. He’s constantly computing numbers. Noah genuinely loves learning about everything. Haylee is more artistic and enjoys taking in all of the pictures and drawing. She was super excited to see the Lions Forever Almanac Challenge! You can read more about that here to learn how your kiddos can enter, too!

An All-New & Interactive Explorer Experience

The twins are really into reading new chapter books right now. I’ve challenged them to read a new book each week. They’re only required to read a book a month and then do a book report on it at the end of each month. When our National Geographic Kids book set arrived, they were already in the middle of their book reports for the month of September. They couldn’t wait to dive in to a new adventure! Noah and Haylee both wanted to read Explorer Academy: The Nebula Secret. This new series is perfect for kids age 8-12. It’s fact-based fiction inspired by the real-life experiences of true National Geographic explorers adventures and their work.

I had to have them wait until their September book reports were completed and turned in and for them to be back from their dad’s house before I could let them dive in. The anticipation has been growing! During their much anticipated wait, Noah and Haylee checked out the all-new Explorer Academy website. The twins enjoyed watching the book trailer, preview the characters the were about to read about, and enjoyed the challenge of the code breaking game. To celebrate the launch of Explorer Academy you can enter to win a spectacular ship-based experience! The grand prize is a family trip for four to Alaska’s Inside Passage from National Geographic Expeditions. You can enter the sweepstakes at exploreracademytrip.com

Noah previewing the video for the new Explorer Academy Series.

Checking out the characters of The Nebula Secret before diving into the new book!

This fiction-based series is compiled after real-life National Geographic Explorers!

Trying his hand at Crack the Code.

Perfect For The Whole Family

Our family had a great experience with these new books. They provided hours of educational and informative information not only for our older kids but for our whole family! With Fall now here and some days surprising us with unpleasant weather, National Geographic Kids books offer a healthy dose of fun without screen time. Parents can feel good about their child spending an afternoon on an amazing, new adventure! These would also make great gifts for school-aged kids. Expand their minds and opportunity to learn and grow with the always amazing National Geographic Kids! Or try an extended gift-giving experience with the new Explorer Academy seven-part series.

A huge thank you to Moms Meet and National Geographic Kids for sending us these wonderful books that our whole family is still enjoying!

I’d love to hear what your children and family’s favorite series and books are. Please comment below and don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss new posts from us! 😊

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Protein Packed Snacks For On-the-Go

I want to thank Moms Meet for sending me these products for free in exchange for my honest opinion and review. Compensation for this post was provided and this page contain affiliate links.

The SAHM “Diet”

As a stay-at-home-mom I often neglect to take time out of my day to make sure that I’ve eaten a healthy and well-balanced meal. Even though my resume includes healthy grocery shopping on a budget for meals for the whole family, I somehow manage to forget to include myself in my day to day routine. Guilty, I know. Often times I find myself grabbing some kind of bar to eat on the go with a piece of fruit or veggie. But I forget to grab a key part of any healthy diet and that’s protein. I have crashes on a regular basis and let me tell you, it’s not fun.

My family and I really, really love smoothies. Let’s be real for a minute; unless you buy prepackaged organic fruits and veggies that have already been washed, sliced, and come conveniently packaged (as well as spendy) then who really has the time to do all of that prep work?

I know that it makes meal prep and eating much easier but there are definitely those times when the schedule doesn’t always go according to plan. A toddler didn’t take as long of a nap as expected, school-aged kids have projects or after-school activities. Life happens and things come up. So, that’s why I really like the idea of a healthy, protein packed snack that’s convenient and delicious!

Fuel For Fire Smoothies

Fuel For Fire‘s founder is six-time Ironman Triathelete Ron Gilfeather. His mission is to change the way people snack on the go by making wise and impacting changes to their daily routines to support healthy nutrition.

Key the trumpets as I announce Fuel For Fire‘s protein loaded smoothies made from real foods! Nothing artificial, no added sugars, and gluten free Fuel For Fire Smoothies are perfect for on the go. I replaced a smoothie with my typical bar and was pleasantly satisfied. They’re delicious and wholesome. I felt content and didn’t experience a crash that I usually do from not eating enough protein to sustain me on a crazy-busy day. They’re great for kids, too! My entire family couldn’t get enough of them. The twins were chomping at the bit for a new after school snack.

My husband and son really enjoyed the Coffee Blend. I personally didn’t care for it because it wasn’t what I expected. I’m a coffee lover and maybe it was the texture with the flavor? Not quite sure but I am absolutely raving over the Sweet Potato Apple smoothie! Oh, my goodness! I’m actually craving one as I sit here telling you about it! It is definitely my favorite! The Strawberry Banana, Banana Cocoa, and Tropical are all very yummy as well! They’re what you’d expect from a smoothie only more delicious. The best part is even though these smoothies contains whey protein you can’t taste it at all! There aren’t any funny textures or weird after tastes which I give two big thumbs up for! Way to nail the deliciousness and healthiness of a protein smoothie without the funkiness, Fuel For Fire!

The smoothies come packaged in convenient on-the-go squeeze pouches. You can pack them in lunchboxes, backpacks, gym bags, and even diaper bags. This is what I did when we took our youngest to the zoo for the first time and in my excitement I forgot to eat. I was able to enjoy my time with my family thanks to the Fuel For Fire smoothie I had tossed in the diaper bag!

I even managed to grab one on the way to church because Heaven knows I’m always running late for church and don’t even have time to make myself a couple of eggs. Peanut butter and apples are too messy and not ideal when I’m applying that last coat of mascara or my lipstick.

Find Your Fuel

With so many great smoothie blend options its easy to say yes to clean and fun snacking. Did you know that childhood obesity is on the rise (1 in 5 children are considered obese) and that 91% of children get less than half the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity a day? That’s why is so crucial, now more than ever, to spread the word about wholesome nutrition and the importance of staying active. Fuel For Fire supports fueling America with quality whole foods.

You can find Fuel For Fire products here or even on Amazon. Now through July 31, 2018 you can save 40% and receive free shipping on your purchase at fuelforfire.com with code SAVE40.

What are some ways that you like to keep your family fueled on the go? Please share your ideas below.

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Fall Family Photo Shoot


A little known fact about me is that I used to coach cheerleading at the high school I attended. I ran into one of my former cheerleaders and found that she, too, is dabbling in blogging and photography. Since we’re on our debt-free journey I did something that I’ve not ever done and asked if she’d be up for taking our family’s photos. As uncharacteristic as this was of me, my inquiries led to a memorable moment for our family.

Paige Baker at Paige Baker Photography is an absolute dear!  She understands that we are on a  debt-free journey and was generous enough to capture our family. This was the first time since my wedding that we have had any photos taken and we certainly haven’t had any professional  pictures taken as a family since our youngest was born.

 

We had already taken our annual trip to one of the local pumpkin patches when my in-laws visited earlier in the month so I called the owner of a random pumpkin patch I had driven by on my way home from the grocery store. They had the perfect little set up with the patch, hay bales, tractor, and yard filled with autumn leaves.

If you have children then you know what a challenge it can be to get all of them to smile and look in the direction of the camera at the same time. Paige was wonderful to work with! She knew just how to get the kids to look her way and was able to obtain the perfect photo.

I really like the way that she edited the photos with a warm tone; just perfect for fall!

Finding an outdoor setting was extra special for me because I was raised on a farm growing up. It felt like I was at home with the dirt and farm equipment. The smell of hay was especially reminiscent for me.

The pumpkins at this patch were some of the biggest and perfectly rounded pumpkins I have ever seen! There is something about those farm fresh pumpkins that are extra special.

Paige spotted these cute little pumpkins and gourds that were just the right size for Lily’s little hands to hold during the shoot.

I am absolutely in love with this photo that Paige snapped of the twins! It sums up their bond in one photo. They’re the very best of friends and are going through that silly stage where all they want to do is tease one another.

Paige has a real talent for capturing those precious little moments and this picture absolutely warms my heart! I can’t wait to frame this one and put it on my nightstand so I see my loved ones first thing when I wake up and when I close my eyes before bed.

A huge thank you to Paige Baker for taking these pictures for our family to enjoy and remember forever! She is such a talented young lady and I highly recommend her to take your family’s next photos. You can check her other work out on Facebook and Instagram.

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How To Beat the Stomach Flu Quickly & Naturally

This post contains affiliate links. Please read more about my disclosure policy here.

Well, the stomach flu bug has invaded our home and prompted this post. I have found it nearly impossible to avoid all forms of illness as long as my twins are in public school. They’re the breeding grounds for rapidly growing and spreading germs. After working in the public school system, owning my own preschool, and being married to a Type 1 diabetic I have tried several methods for beating multiple illness that sneak their way into our home.

Today I’m going to specifically cover the stomach flu because it has made it’s most unwelcome presence.

Stomach flu symptoms

The stomach flu symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Stomach cramps
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

This can lead to severe dehydration which inhibits the body’s ability to regain strength and fight off those nasty flu invaders. When my family members come down with something icky I try to heal them with healthy and natural alternatives. You may already have these items in your pantry or refrigerator and they can also be much more cost efficient than traditional over-the-counter medications.

first measures

When the stomach flu hits it usually has the domino effect. It starts with one person and just keeps jumping from person to person. If you can give the other family members pure grape juice without sugar added that will be their best defense if the illness is already in the home and they’re not already showing signs of flu symptoms. If they are then it’s too late. Don’t give grape juice at this point or you’ll be dealing with purple puke.

Grape juice works by changing the pH in the intestinal tract so that the virus can’t multiply. It contains strong anti-viral chemicals as well as Vitamin C and antioxidants. Pure grape juice is supposed to flush and kill the virus and severely lessen the symptoms. When someone gets the stomach virus it really isn’t even in the stomach at all but is in the large and small intestines. The stomach flu keeps changing the acidity in the intestines and makes you feel sick to your stomach. By keeping the pH of the intestines slightly more alkaline can prevent the virus from taking its toll and making you sick.

So if your other kiddos and you are around someone with the stomach flu, start drinking the grape juice as soon as you know you’ve been around it.

***UPDATE*** As soon as the twins showed symptoms of the stomach flu my toddler*, husband and I started drinking pure concord grape juice and didn’t come down with the flu so I can personally attest to the grape juice working. It’s definitely worth a shot!

*My toddler is 18-months old, is still breastfeeding, and hasn’t ever been sick. You can read more about how to increase and maintain your milk supply here.

disinfect everything

In the past you would have found me hoarding bottles upon bottles of Lysol disinfectant spray. I used that stuff like it was going out of style when I owned my preschool and at the end of each school day I was wiping down tables, chairs, and doorknobs at school. Now, I can’t even stand the smell of the stuff. Commercialized cleaners have ingredients in them that I certainly have a difficult time pronouncing. I also have two dogs that live indoors with us and a toddler who is touching, climbing up on, and putting everything in her mouth. So, naturally, I had concerns about what I was spraying on everything in my home.

I’m new to essential oils but am really loving my experiences with them! Below is a natural disinfectant spray.

Natural disinfectant spray

1/2 cup Vodka

1/2 cup of water

15 drops of Rosemary Essential Oil

25 drops of Wild Orange Essential Oil

15 drops of Eucalyptus Essential Oil

15 drops of Lavender Oil

Glass spray bottle

Mix all ingredients together and add to the glass spray bottle. Shake the spray bottle while cleaning. Spray all surfaces that are touched frequently in your home.

If you’re like me and  don’t drink alcohol and don’t have any at home get a inexpensive bottle for $5. Do not leave it out of the disinfectant spray. It will help sterilize all of your surfaces.

Be sure you’re using only the highest quality essential oils and buying USDA Certified organic oils.

Wash up!

Get everyone to wash their hands and frequently! I’m the Soap Nazi at my house with this one. I’ll admit that I’m guilty of constantly asking my kids if they washed, how long they washed, did they get between their fingers, when they get home from school, after they use the restroom, before and after they eat or help out in the kitchen.  I’ve even noticed how many people I know personally that I have observed first hand NOT washing their hands or getting their fingertips a little damp. C’mon guys! Eww!

Just like with disinfectant spray, hand soaps contain several harmful ingredients like triclosan and octylphenol. Here’s an easy and safe antibacterial hand soap you can make right at home.

DIY Antibacterial hand soap

2 Tbsp unscented castile soap

1-2 tsp fractionated coconut oil

10-15 drops of essential oil of your choice

1 foaming soap dispenser

Directions:

  1. Pour the castile soap and fractionated coconut oil into the soap dispenser.
  2. Add the drops of essential oils – I like lemon, eucalyptus, and rosemary because of their antibacterial properties.
  3. Fill the soap bottle up with water.
  4. Screw on the pump lid and shake gently to mix all of the ingredients together.
  5. Give the lid 2-3 pumps and wash thoroughly.

The fractionated coconut oil helps moisturize your hands while the essential oils smell great!


I wash my hands even more frequently when someone is sick in the home. More than usual! I feel like I’m washing my hands every few minutes and I notice my hands start to get dry. I absolutely loveThe Honest Company’s Organic Healing Balm. This balm truly is the all-purpose ointment and can be used for a multitude of reasons. They recently changed the name to All Purpose Balm because of it’s many uses.

Hydrate and rehydrate

As soon as the sicky can tolerate sipping on liquids I grab a box of coconut water. Coconut water has more hydrating properties than a glass of tap water and helps bowels. It also can fight off viruses because of its anti-fungal and anti-viral properties. Its a rich source of electrolytes and natural salts, especially potassium and mangesium, which is crucial for rehydrating especially if that nasty flu bug attacked at both ends. Coconut water is a living food with easily absorbable electrolytes, sugars, antioxidants, enzymes, amino acids, and vitamins. It’s very valuable in treating vomiting and is a much healthier alternative to sports drinks. I would highly recommend choosing the pineapple coconut water for kids since plain coconut milk may not be as fun for kids to drink down especially when they’re not feeling well. My kids lovepineapple coconut water and always ask for more of it!

starting solids

When said sicky is no longer making trips to the restroom you can slowly start to offer solids. Here’s a list of easy to digest foods:

Little Extras

My husband and I drink two tablespoons of organic apple cider vinegar every morning to help boost our immunity. Make sure it has “The Mother” in it. If you’re not used to drinking apple cider vinegar be prepared for the smell and taste. It reminds me of stinky feet and is so vinegary that I always pucker and shudder after taking two tablespoons. Think of it as taking a shot and having a “chaser” helps to get it down. I like to follow up with the pure concord grape juice.


This, along with with proper diet, exercise, plenty of water, and good hand-washing practice has kept us well. We haven’t been sick in two years! When our twins come home from school with any ickies we have been able to avoid getting sick ourselves by implementing these steps.

When I’m out and about running errands and can’t immediately get to a sink to wash my hands I always keep hand sanitizer on hand. Think of when a kiddo gets sick in the car. It’s happened too many times to count and when I have to pull over to clean them up I spray a generous amount on my hands. Make sure to follow up with a good hand washing. This works well for the kids when they’re at school and aren’t allowed to keep getting up from their desks to thoroughly wash their hands.


What natural home remedies are tried and true within your household? I’d love to hear what has worked for you and your family! Please comment and share below.

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Best Halloween Books for Kiddos

This post contains affiliate links.  Read more here.

 


Yes! Fall is finally here! For our family the decor, toys, and books change each month in our home according to not only the season but also the holiday that comes along with each month. I set out a basket of books with my kids’ favorite seasonal reads.

My kiddos and I have enjoyed reading these Halloween favorites again and again since the twins were babies (they’re almost 10 now!) and have added one or two each year. Now my youngest can enjoy these reads as well. She absolutely loves when big sister reads to her!

 

baby & toddler books

mouse’s first halloween

Mouse’s First Halloween is great for little hands because it’s a sturdy board book that little ones can’t rip or chew apart. Mouse is out and about one spooky night and on his journey he finds things that “aren’t so scary after all”. I love how it helps teach younger children about their surroundings and to discover new things.

Biscuit’s pet & play halloween 

Biscuit’s Pet & Play Halloween is one of my personal favorites! It’s a wonderful book that explores sensory play. This Biscuit book comes with touch-and-feel textures that my youngest enjoys feeling over and over again. It’s also a board book – no soggy pages!

here comes halloween

Here Comes Halloween has adorable graphics and gives young ones idea on what they, too, could be for Halloween. Each costume idea has descriptive words to expand your child’s vocabulary. This particular book is geared towards boys but my youngest daughter loves it just the same. It cracks me up to hear her imitate the BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! sound the robot makes!

picture me happy halloween & peek-a-boo

 

Picture Me Happy Halloween and Peek-A-Boo are awesome because you can personalize these books. All of my kiddos love to see their own faces in these books! My youngest squeals out her older siblings names so I love that she has facial recognition down.

Children’s books

 


 

Fisher Price little people halloween is here

 


I am obsessed with any and everything Fisher Price Little People! My goodness are they CUTE! Not only does Fisher Price Little People make amazing toys for kids ages 1 up to 5 but they also offer super-duper cool books and jammin’ music CDs. They’re quality items as well because I have had this entire Halloween collection since the twins were one and this is the first year I’ve whipped them out for my youngest. It adds a bit of sentiment that I was able to pass this along to her and they are still as great as they were almost ten years ago.

 

The Halloween Is Here book is a hard board book with bright, colorful pictures. There are even flaps that your child can lift up to discover more fun within their reading. This helps build cause and effect skills. The book encourages counting, too. I say awesome-possum to that!

fisher price little people halloween sing-Along

The music lover in me went gaga for this!The Fisher Price Little People Halloween Sing Along includes Halloween favorites like Monster Mash, the Purple People Eater, and Ghostbusters along with classic preschool favorites with a Halloween twist.

Fisher price little people trick-or-treat surprise

Okay, how cute is this Little People Trick-or-Treat Surprise set??? Absolutely adorable! When my husband pulled this out of storage for my little one I told him that it felt like Christmas; our youngest had hit the jackpot with the new book, music and toy overload! It’s really good to rotate your children’s toys so that they don’t get board and receive new stimulation through play and discovery. Fisher Price even offers additional Halloween character sets on their website to add to the fun! Right now the Trick-or-Treat Surprise play set is on sale saving you $10. Woot-woot!

 

Room On The Broom

 

Who knows of the book, The Gruffalo? The same creators of The Gruffalo also wrote this fantastic children’s book. I love, love, LOVE books that rhyme and Room On The Broom executes this beautifully. There is even a Room on the Broom movie to go with the book! Read this book with your kiddos first then have a movie night as a family.

Happy Halloween, Little Critter! 

When I was just two years old I received my first Little Critter book when my mom was pregnant with my little brother. The Little Critter books bring back wonderful memories of reading as a kid and that’s why I’m even happier to share them with my kids. I like how Little Critter’s friends, Spider and Mouse, are hiding on each page because my kids like finding them. Happy Halloween, Little Critter! has lots of great illustrations with flaps to add more to Mercer Mayer’s holiday story.

The Berenstain Bears

Also a childhood favorite, the Berenstain Bears books always have a teachable moment for young readers. I like this 2-in-1 combo book from Target that features Trick or Treat and The Prize Pumpkin. The Prize Pumpkin even leads into the Thanksgiving season.

Pippa the Pumpkin Fairy

This wonderfully animated tale is a bit new on the scene. The vibrant cover first caught my attention at my kids’ book fair when they were in first grade and I just couldn’t resist. Glitter decorates the cover while bouncy fonts capture the readers attention and whimsical illustrations dance throughout this book. It’s modern day FAIRY tale approach teaches a valuable lesson. Pippa the Pumpkin Fairy is one that will surely please the little ladies of the house. Did I mention how much I love books that rhyme??

The kiddos also have these books in their Halloween library:

What are some of your children’s favorite Halloween books they enjoy reading this month? Please share some titles that are in your collection below!

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Content Coming Soon!

A Work In Progress

Thanks so much for stopping by! I’m so glad that you’re here and am beyond excited to have you along for the ride. I’m currently working on content that will be posted soon so don’t go too far. I’d LOVE to see you soon!

~Nikki

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