Galantine’s Gift Guide

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As the wise Carrie Bradshaw once said, “Maybe our girlfriends are our soul mates and guys are just people to have fun with.” I don’t know about you, but I definitely consider my girlfriends my soul mates. Some of them I’ve been friends with for nearly twenty years. We’ve seen each other through all seasons of life and they’re all definitely people that I can truly be myself around. What better way to show your girls just how much you love them then with a little something-something for Valentine’s Day! I’ve rounded up some of my favorite gift ideas for your girlfriends for V-Day, or any day you feel like showing them some extra lovin’!

  • Bath Bombs– These bath bombs from Lush are A-M-A-Z-I-N-G and any girl would be over the moon to have them. Just plop it in your tub and watch the magical swirls of essential oils take over!
  • Pajamas– I think we can all agree that you can never have enough cute, cozy pajamas!
  • Lippies-A cute pack of lipstick is the perfect way to show your girlfriends how much they mean to you! But then the real question is…will you tell them if they get a little on their teeth?
  • Sugarfina gummies- These come in a variety of fun flavors, and would brighten anyone’s day! (I recently got the tequila grapefruit sours- YUM!)
  • Statement bracelet- I love these because you can customize them to say anything! Whether it’s an inside joke or just an encouraging message!
  • Sugarfix by Bauble Bar– Tassels are in and going strong right now, and some of these styles you can snag for as cheap as $10!
  • Pom beanie– We still have a few more weeks of winter, and these pom beanies are the perfect way to stay warm! Use my code “msamanda20” for 20% your ENTIRE order!
  • Gold initial necklace– Such a simple, but yet meaningful gift! Use code “Welcome10” for 10% off your order!
  • I Woke Up Like This” coffee mug– Every girl has an inner Sasha Fierce, so why not have a mug that shows it off?
  • Movie date box- This one I don’t necessarily have a link for but if your girl loves chocolate covered espresso beans + La Croix + Skinny Girl Popcorn…throw all of that in a cheap popcorn bowl with a classic, girly movie and you’ve got the makings for an epic girls night in!
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My Go-To Products To Fight Off Dry Skin

Well…it’s official; the ole’ groundhog saw his shadow and now they’re calling for six more weeks of winter. Personally, I love a long winter! Being snowed in around a fire, eating warm chili and soup, cute sweaters, tall boots…but the one thing I don’t love about winter is how it affects my skin. The cold air plus harsh winds really dry out every part of my body. It seems like everything starts to get affected once the temperatures drop, from my hair to my face to my hands. I’ve always had ultra sensitive skin so I’ve always had to work hard to maintain a good skin care routine.

Over the course of the past few years, I’ve officially found what works for me and my skin and thought I would share! I’ve rounded up everything from shampoo to lip products that really work to help product your body from drying out. Check out each product below + direct links to where you can buy them for yourself!

My Go-To Products for Dry Skin

  1. Olay Complete All Day Moisturizer
  2. Mario Badescu Facial Spray
  3. Vaseline with Cocoa Butter
  4. ESO Lip Balm
  5. It Cosmetics Lip Vitality
  6. Head and Shoulders with Almond Oil
  7. Ultrabland
  8. Dove Soap with Coconut Milk
  9. Aveeno Moisturizing Lotion; Stress Relief

My Favorite Lush Products

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Calling all lushies…it’s time to let the cat out of the bag. There is the perfect skin care brand for everyone with the best and freshest products, and it’s Lush. Lush Handmade Cosmetics is a company out of Canada and their mission is pretty simple; they are passionate about making fresh, effective products out of real fruits, vegetables, and essential oils. Each and every Lush product is made literally by hand. Don’t believe me? Next time you buy a product from Lush, check out the sticker that’s on the side of it…you know the one with a cute little picture of someone, their name, and the date it was made? Yeah, that is each Lush employees ID that they post on each of the products they make that lets you know who it was that made your product and when they made it.

I’ve been using Lush for almost ten years and I can honestly tell you there is no product I’ve ever tried that I didn’t love! Now overtime I’ve found what works best for my hair and skin, as well as what scents/products I love most! In creating this list I feel like I could go on and say that every product is perfect for you…but I was able to narrow it down to my top 12. These products are things that I always have in my bathroom and that I use almost every day. Lush is not going to have a drugstore price, but that’s because it is higher than drugstore quality and I think it’s totally worth it. You can easily walk into Lush and drop $200 on a brand new cosmetic routine for yourself, but if you budget it out and buy things slowly, I promise it won’t break the bank!

If you use Lush, let me know what you use! I’m always looking to try something new!

  1. Ocean Salt– The OG of Lush products. The best exfoliator for your body and it smells like a margarita! Do you need to know anything else?
  2. No Drought– The BEST dry shampoo there is. All you do is pour a little in your hand and dab wherever your hair is greasiest. Seriously it’s been a life saver for me and I kid you not when I say I use it every single day, and one big bottle lasted me for two years. GO GET YOU SOME!
  3. Jersey Bounce– One of my favorite Lush Shampoos…it gives your hair so much natural volume!
  4. Sea Spray– I have naturally wavy hair, so this spray is perfect to help emphasize and hold those waves!
  5. Ultrabland– This face wash has changed my skin care regimen for the better! It’s so moisturizing and gets off even the most stubborn eye makeup! I recommend using nightly, and a small amount goes a long way!
  6. Sex Bomb– The first bath bomb I ever tried from Lush and it’s still my go-to! Scents of jasmine and ylang-ylang make for such a soothing, relaxing pink bath!
  7. Cup O’ Coffee– The perfect exfoliating face mask that literally wakes up your skin when you use it!
  8. Curly Wurly– Another one of my favorite shampoos! Perfect for wavy/curly hair and it has fresh flakes of coconut in it, which I love!
  9. Buffy Bar– The BEST exfoliating bar for skin! Use this when you’re about to shave your lets…and you will be change! Leaves your legs beyond smooth and silky!
  10. Happy Hippy- This shower gel is literally happiness in a bottle. Citrus scents of grapefruit will leave you smiling ear to ear! Great to help you wake up in the morning.
  11. R&B– Technically it’s a hair moisturizer, but this amazing cream is so much more than that! Great for styling and texturizing your hair + it smells A M A Z I N G! Basically perfume for your hair!
  12. Each Peach (And Two’s A Pair)- Lush massage bars are the BEST to rejuvenate dry skin. Feet, hands, back…great for them all! Plus so much easier to deal with then lotion!

 

 

 


The Truth About Long Distance Relationships

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Coming up on my three year anniversary with Greg and I feel like it’s time to shed some light on the truth about being in a long distance relationship. So, the gist about us is; we’ve always been long distance. When we started dating he was in Auburn, Alabama and I was in Anderson, South Carolina. That’s pretty much a three and a half-four hour drive. Fast forward to post grad life and I’m in Greenville, South Carolina and he’s in Raleigh, North Carolina. Ironically, it’s still a four-hour drive.

So first off, yes we’re both longing for the day that those long drives are over. I truly envy those couples who can go on a Tuesday nigh date to the movies or who get to run to Target together after work just to pick up a few things. However, our career paths are what have led us here. I’m in the midst of repaying a state scholarship where basically I need to teach four years in a South Carolina public school unless I want to pay back almost $30,000…which I do not. Greg has a degree in geology and entry-level geology jobs are hard to find. He searched in Greenville for a long time but when he found the Raleigh job we both knew it would be a good opportunity because it would get his foot in the door. Right now it’s not the situation we would want, but we’re thinking ahead to the future. Having as little debt as possible and establishing a career that we love is worth it for extending something we were already doing.

How it works: Well, take one 3rd year teacher salary + one entry-level geologist salary and you don’t get flights every weekend back and forth. Basically, we take turns every two weeks. I’ll drive there one weekend, then we both stay home the next, then he’ll drive to me the following weekend. That’s our typical routine. Now of course we can take some days off of work to extend the trip, there’s holiday’s, and sometimes we’ve seen each other multiple weekends in a row. But there have been times we’ve had to go three or four weeks without seeing each other. It can be tough at times, but we always make it work. Phone calls and FaceTime help a lot, and so does making your next visit plan when you’re together. Whenever we’re together we always discuss the plan for the next time we’re going to see each other.

Why do I choose to do it? Well, sometimes Greg and I laugh about where it all started. We’ve actually been friends for years (another story for another time) and I truly never thought I would be in a true long distance relationship with someone. The only way I can really explain it is simple: I love him, there’s no other person I’d rather be with-even if they lived five minutes away, and we both know this is just our ‘right now’ situation. I can honestly say I’ve never gotten in my car to drive to see him and been mad about the drive. I might get mad about traffic or wished I had a snack with me because I was getting a little hangry…but it’s always worth it. There’s been times when we’ve both spent the last of our money on gas to make the trip, and you know what? It’s ALWAYS money well spent. That’s the thing with long distance relationships…if you’re both really in it, it’s really not that bad. Thankfully we both have families who are in it with us, and we all make it work together.

Truthfully a big tip for anyone in a long distance relationship is to not let time stop just because you’re not side-by-side. When you’re mad at them you still have to let them know and work it out. When you’re sad, you still have to find a way to really be there for them. We’ve gone through family deaths, being without a job, getting new jobs, bad days at work…and I’ve never felt alone during any of them. I know there will come a day when we can reminisce on these days, but I’ll be thankful for the day when we finally share the same zip code. But for now, I’m content in knowing there’s no other relationship I’d rather be in than with the man who is four hours away.


Holiday Traditions

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The holidays are hands down my favorite time of the year, but there’s no denying that they can be stressful. Making sure you’ve bought gifts for everyone, planning family time, planning friend time, traveling…it’s a lot to handle all at once. However, pushing all the stress and worry aside the thing that I love most about the holidays are all of the traditions. Things that no matter what, I know that I will do and I look forward to each year. My mom always calls me a ‘traditionalist’ (which is really just her way of calling me an old fuddy duddy) because I’m all about my traditions.

She always says she would love to go on a vacation for Christmas but if that was the case I would be pullin a Kevin McAllister and celebrate by myself at home. Now don’t get me wrong, I know there might come a time when I don’t spend Christmas Eve night at my parents house and spend Christmas morning opening presents with my brother in our pajamas. But I think knowing this makes my love of holiday traditions even stronger. No matter where I am or who I’m with I can always make Christmas Eve cookies. Plus, traditions have to start somewhere so it’s not always a bad thing to make a new one.

Here are some of my favorite holiday traditions that I look forward to every year.

  1. Baking Christmas cookies with my mom on Christmas Eve.

 

  1. Watching a Christmas Story the full 24 hours. (Well watching it really once or twice, but it’s definitely on in the background on at least one T.V. in the house.)

 

  1. Opening one present on Christmas Eve.

 

  1. Going to look at Christmas lights with my dad.

 

  1. Waking up my brother…I’m the younger sibling so it’s my duty to jump on his bed to wake him up.

 

  1. Making Christmas breakfast with my family and it eating it while we watch movies all morning long.

 

What are some of your family’s favorite holiday traditions? Comment below!


Gift Guide for Teachers

Christmas is the perfect chance to show your child’s teacher how much you appreciate them. As a teacher, I know just how special it is to me when a child runs up to me grinning ear to ear with a present for me in their hands. They’re always so eager for me to open it in front of them and see my reaction. I’ve received all kinds of gifts in my short time teaching…gift cards to the movie theater where Greg and I could have a date night (popcorn included of course.) I’ve received ornaments that I now hang on my tree every year.  I’ve even received stuffed animals from a child’s personal collection of toys that they brought me, just because they wanted me to have something of theirs.

Don’t get me wrong, teacher’s don’t expect gifts from every student…I know I certainly don’t. However for the families that are capable of providing a small gift for your teacher I hope this gift guide helps you with deciding what to get!

  • Faux Fur Slippers Everyone loves to relax when they get home from work, especially teachers! These faux fur slippers from Pottery Barn are the perfect gift for any teacher AND right now they are on sale for $20!!
  • Coffee Travel Mug If your child’s teacher is a coffee drinker, then a cute travel mug would be PERFECT for them! On occasion I can sit down and drink some coffee in the morning, but more often than not I’m taking it to go with me. It’s basically become another outfit accessory! Stick a ten dollar Starbucks gift card in one of these adorable Etsy mugs and this gift will make a teacher literally jump for joy!
  • Body Butter This body butter is by far better than ANY lotion I’ve ever used! My hands feel 10x smoother after I use it and it doesn’t leave me with that yucky feeling that I’ve just rubbed a bunch of chemicals on my skin.
  • Water Bottle It’s no secret that teacher’s don’t drink enough water throughout the day. Having a cute, durable water bottle will make remembering to drink enough water throughout the day a lot easier!
  • Lush Gift Set So I may be biased with this one, but I adore everything lush. They have tons of Christmas gift sets for under $20, and this one has 2 of my favorite products in it!
  • Bath Salts Nothing is more relaxing than a hot bath…so why not add some bath salts into the game? Great for detoxing and relaxing after a long day of grading!
  • Letter Board Okay I have one in my classroom and I LOVE it! Such a cute, easy way to decorate for any occasion throughout the year or to write a quote you think your students’ would benefit from. I have this exact same one and it’s been amazing!
  • A Book for the Classroom Nothing is more sweet than when a current student gives you a book for your classroom library! A good read aloud can hang around for years and years and dozens of students’ can benefit from it! This particular book is a new favorite of mine, it is so cute and funny! Any elementary school teacher would LOVE to have this in their classroom library!
  • Pom Beanie I am definitely a fan of the pom beanie trend! When we go outside to recess in the winter…it’s cold! We aren’t running around staying warm like the kids are, so having something on our head to keep us cozy would be awesome! PLUS this adorable beanie can be matched up with any color pom!!
  • Marble Monogrammed Cheeseboard  Okay now this is what cheeseboards are made of. It’s timeless, functional, and not to mention gorgeous! Select one with their last name initial, and there you have it! Currently on sale for just $26!!

Saltz Medical Spa: Himalayan Salt Cave

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Okay so if you’re anything like me you’re reading the title of this blog and thinking, what’s a Himalayan salt cave? Before my recent visit to one, I had no idea what that meant! I had heard of people going to salt caves before but I had no idea why or what that really event entailed.

Growing up in Upstate South Carolina I feel like the only time I’ve ever heard of people going to a salt cave was if they went on a spa weekend up to Asheville or traveled to some other far away city. Well I have news for ya, we have our own salt cave right under our noses!

Saltz Medical Spa is located in Greer, and lays right off Pelham Road. At the spa you can get all of your classic spa treatments like pedicures and massages, but what makes them so special is their salt cave! The Himalayan Salt Cave is located in a custom-built room and is filled with handpicked Himalayan salt crystals. When you’re in the cave you can lay   back in a zero gravity chair, sipping on some vino or water, breathing in all pharmaceutical grade salt produced by a halogenerator. The salt cave is supposed to reduce stress, congestion, acne and ease the affects of asthma and allergies after just one visit!

A visit to the salt cave is typically a 45-minute session to relax and enjoy all the benefits of salt therapy, but you can also book personal massages in the cave! For one 45-minute session in the salt cave you can pay $20, or you can join the Saltz for an exclusive membership of $110 monthly for unlimited access to the salt cave plus tons of other amazing benefits! You can also purchase Himalayan salt lamps from the spa so that you can take a little piece of relaxation with you to your own home!

Not sure of what to really expect from salt therapy I went in with an open mind. While I didn’t leave feeling those same physical affects you might after a deep tissue massage or facial, there were lots of things I noticed after my visit. I opted to go on a Wednesday evening, which is pretty much prime stress time for a teacher. I had been super broken out with acne all week just from the stress of getting back to the grind after the holidays. When I was in the salt cave I definitely felt relaxed, but it wasn’t until after I left that I realized how at ease my mind had really become while I was in there. I truly felt relaxed and the biggest plus for me, my skin felt like it had calmed down and the next day most of my breakouts were cleared up! I’m sure the affects vary for each person, but for this being my first visit I was super happy with the results and how lasting they were!

Girls night out, Christmas present, date night…a trip to the salt cave at Saltz Medical Spa seriously would make anyone in your life happy! The cave can fit up to 5 people, so it’s perfect to do with a group of people! No need to drive to the mountains to try out the benefits of salt therapy, just hop in your car and drive right up the road!


Thanksgiving Non-negotiables

 

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Thanksgiving is a time where we give thanks for all of the important things in our life. Family members being able to come together, friendships we’ve made and maintained, new family members, jobs we’ve earned…it’s a time for us to focus on all of the good in our lives. It’s also a time that we look forward to because of all the delicious foods that we get to eat. Food that is literally prepared with love for hours upon hours by our relatives. For many people (me included) there are some Thanksgiving food staples that are simply non-negotiable. Food that seriously needs to be laid out on that table or you might shed a tear or two on the drive home.

Even last year I was missing Thanksgiving with my family because I was in Disney World with Greg’s family. I was over the moon to be in the happiest place on earth…but I would be lying if I weren’t a little sad to be missing out on dressing and macaroni and cheese. Even though I knew there were going to be tons of leftovers at my parents when I got home, it did feel a little weird to not be eating any traditional Thanksgiving food they day of. Well thank goodness for the Magic Kingdom because they actually had a Thanksgiving Dinner feast available on the day of. Even Mickey Mouse needs his turkey, dressing, and green beans at least once a year.

So in preparation of the big turkey day, I’ve rounded up some of my non-negotiable food recipes. Some are treasured family recipes that have been passed down to me and some are some personal recipes that I’ve learned over the years myself and started to add to the table. Enjoy and happy eating!

Grandma’s Cornbread Dressing

Mama’s Macaroni and Cheese

3 Ingredient Green Bean Casserole

Sweet Potato Casserole


Sweet Potato Casserole

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Sweet potato casserole has always been a staple at our holiday dinners however it wasn’t until a few years ago that I actually started to partake in sweet potatoes. I was at my friend Caitlin’s house for dinner and she ended up making some thick cut sweet potatoes with just some olive oil and sea salt…I tried them and it’s like my world literally spun around. I felt like I’ve been missing out on a whole new delicious food group all these years…and it was definitely time to make up for it.

So naturally, I eat sweet potatoes any chance I can now…including at holiday dinners. This sweet potato casserole recipe is partially from family inspiration partially just what I picked up that I love in a sweet potato casserole.

Ingredients

5-6 sweet potatoes

2 cups granulated sugar

4 beaten eggs

2 sticks melted butter

2 tablespoons self-rising flour

1 tablespoon vanilla

2 cups brown sugar

1 cup chopped pecans

(marshmallows optional…but I love to have them on mine!)

First thing you’ll want to do is peel and boil your sweet potatoes. You want to boil them just like you would if you were making regular mashed potatoes…they need to be soft enough for you to mash together.

Once your potatoes are good and mashed drain them of any access water and return to pot. In the same pot with your potatoes add the sugar, eggs, 1 stick of butter, and flour. Mix well and pour in a casserole dish.  Next, melt your other stick of butter and in a separate mixing bowl mix the butter, brown sugar, and pecans together. Layer this on top of your sweet potato mixture…top with marshmallows if you like.

Bake at 350 for one hour.


3 Ingredient Green Bean Casserole

 

Green beans have always been a staple at any of my family’s gatherings, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I was really introduced to green bean casserole. Green beans…in the delicious form of a casserole, um yes please! Now I realize most people have been eating green bean casserole for a long time and have coveted family recipes, but for me I didn’t so I had to find what I liked! For me I obviously enjoy the green beans, creamy mixture, and the crunch of the fried onions. So here it is…one easy, cheap way to make green bean casserole!

Ingredients

2 cans of cream of mushroom soup

2 cans of classic cut green beans

1 small container of French onions

(Salt and pepper to taste)

In a large baking dish mix your green beans and cream of mushroom soup together. Add salt and pepper to the mixture for taste. Top with fried onions. Bake for 30 minutes at 350.