The Most Gorgeous Thing.

This year, man. 2016. It was a year. It just started with a bang. I started 2016 with the kind of personal problems that made me lose 10 pounds. I’m not as petite I was in high school, thank god, but I don’t really have ten pounds to lose. Five? Sure. Not ten. I believe in changes and resolutions at any time, but I still welcome 2017. The year sailed on oddly after January with the kinds of national & global problems I didn’t think were possible. Have you seen this? Take two minutes and do so:

NAILED IT.

It was the year I turned the age my father had been when he passed away.

How could I discount that 2016 saw the births of my two nephews? Not in a perfectly linear fashion, of course, because Parker was born two freakin’ months early, but he’s big and beautiful and has learned how to snort, so.. that’s a gorgeous thing.

When one video isn’t enough:

This was also the year I fulfilled my greatest travel dream of all time – Alaska – and learned that fulfilling a life dream doesn’t mean the dream is ending or dying. In fact, it’s really just beginning and being born. That’s the most gorgeous thing.

..but spoilers. These are spoilers. It’s time now to do my annual end of the year survey recap! I think this is my fourth year and counting? Feel free to grab the questions and post your own answers! It makes you look at the end differently.

And sure as heckfire welcome a new beginning:

What did you do in 2016 that you’d never done before?

I’ve totally said this before, but this time I mean it. I went on my first roller coaster! I really did! Two years ago, I said I did at this ride at Universal Studios (below photo), but jury says it’s not a real roller coaster. It certainly thrills! What do YOU think?

Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I generally do, and I make more. I have my one word/resolution/goal already in mind, but I’m going to wait until we’re on the other side – next week – to share that. My one word of the year was consistency, and I think I was about 75% consistent. That 25% may irk at me, but what can you do. I worked like a dog. I worked out most of the year. I worked on personal problems probably more than ever. I fell behind, but aren’t the most gorgeous things two steps forward, but one step back?

Did anyone close to you give birth?

Yes! Both of my sisters! That’s a big deal!

Did anyone close to you die?

Yes, my Uncle Steve passed away in June. It was rather sudden and jarring. We had last seen him in February. I still can’t believe it but I’m staying with my Aunt at their house in just two weeks from now, and it will hit me hard then.

What countries did you visit?

Same answer as last year. One day, I’ll have an answer for this. 2016 was not the year.

What would you like to have in 2017 that you lacked in 2016?

I don’t want to give away my one word/resolution/goal of 2017, but doing things with my whole heart, doing things with integrity, doing things as ME, and not doing things that don’t work at all. Gonna be some changes made. I know it.

What date from 2016 will remain etched upon your memory?

I keep thinking of April 26th – our anniversary – but it wasn’t a milestone one. Also, February 24th & March 10th – for THIS:

What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Oh boy, this may come out in later questions and I may elaborate here and there but I was published in THIS BOOK. I also got rewarded for my work and that will come in a later question, I promise. Also, my husband wrote this a few days ago.

This is EVERYTHING:

“As I sit here voluntarily at work contemplating existence as one does I would like to take a moment to give a shout out to my wife, Tamara. In the 12 years I have known her she has loved writing and photography. In the last few years she took those loves and figured out a way to turn them into money while still keeping the love at the core of it intact (no small feat). She’s a brilliant photographer, of course. Her writing and photography resonate with people so much that companies now throw money at her to write and photograph their stuff. Somehow she does that while still retaining her Tamaraness that keeps people coming back. And she does it at such a high level that she is receiving awards for her excellence. Not to mention being consistently nominated for Facebook ads which sends her work out to hundreds of thousands of people. I’m oversimplifying it, but hey – that’s what I do.

The crux of this is that it allowed/allows her to work from home and be around our kids more. You can’t put a dollar amount on that. I am 100% certain that the reason our kids are the way they are is because they spend so much time around her. Being a mom is beyond a full time job as we all know. To do that while simultaneously growing multiple businesses to carve out the life you want – well, it’s pretty remarkable.

Any entrepreneur knows it ain’t all gumdrops and rainbows. If it were, we’d all be doing it. So, big props to all the women out there who are doing it all and then a little bit more each day to go for the brass ring. And especially to my wife who creates so much from nothing, especially the two littles who I love more than anything.”

new year

What was your biggest failure?

Last year, I wrote this: “I don’t like to dwell on failures, but I’m officially a full year behind on family photos. Not proud.” Now I’m officially more than a year behind. I think I’m 14-15 months behind. I also worked so hard and to the bone from about September until December, that I lost sight of what is most important to me – integrity, whole heartedness, honesty.

I’m going to get back to the good stuff in everything I do.

Did you suffer illness or injury?

I got a cold in the fall, I think? Also I started Pure Barre in early 2016 and worked out too much in one week. I twisted or pulled a muscle in my stomach so hard that I thought it was Appendicitis! Which is borderline hilarious. I’m an eager student.

new year

What was the best thing you bought?

Plane tickets to ALASKA!!

new year

Whose behavior merited celebration?

I’d be hard-pressed to think of someone whose behavior didn’t merit celebration, but since Scarlet is so awesome at self-congratulating, I asked her. She said it was rescuing our kitten – Juniper – in June of 2016. We love Junie.

new year

Where did most of your money go?

Oh, easy. Food, Disney World, and ALASKA! Did I mention I went there?

What did you get really, really, really excited about?

See above! Juniper, food, Disney World, ALASKA (I really went there), and also – LulaRoe leggings. Pretty much if I’m not enthusiastic about everything, that means something is wrong. What excited me the most? Possibility, time, travel, food, kisses, the first time I see a photo on my computer screen, the book I got accepted into in 2015, but it was published in 2016!

You can see it HERE.

What song will always remind you of 2016?

Compared to this time last year, are you:

Happier or sadder? I dunno. Both?
Thinner or fatter? I started the year much thinner but now I’m probably happily fatter.
Richer or poorer? Richer, despite Disney World and ALASKA!

What do you wish you’d done more of?

One word – relaxing! My mind, heart, and body. It’s like I don’t know how?

What do you wish you’d done less of?

Not relaxing. Eating sugar. Losing any part of myself.

Did you fall in love in 2016?

Always.

How many one-night stands?

I’m not really a one-night stand girl. I don’t think it’s in the cards.

Who were your best friends?

It’s so hard to really pinpoint that stuff. I have sisters, old friends, new friends, a husband, pets, and more. Des and Scarlet, you are up there because you tell me I’m your best friend. All the time!

What thing did you do that was meaningful to others?

I hope it’s not just one thing, but I try to be better about connecting, gifting, teaching, being taught, hugging, kissing, listening, being open, being awestruck, donating, working, laughing, crying, parenting, loving, being windswept.

What were your favorite TV programs?

I certainly love “This Is Us.” And every Christmas Hallmark movie ever. We finished “Jessica Jones”, we’re almost caught up with “Sherlock” and “Doctor Who”. I still named my son after a character in “LOST”. We’re getting swept up in “Westworld.” I laugh at “Life in Pieces” and “New Girl.” I watch “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” and “Jane the Virgin”, among many others.

I really like Frequency!

Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

No one in real life. There are people on the news who fill my heart with unpleasant feelings.

What was the best book you read in 2016?

Ohh.. I don’t know. How about, THIS ONE.

What was your greatest musical discovery?

I fell in love with Sia’s music. And this one Adele song:

What did you want and get?

Disney World, Alaska, LulaRoe leggings, good loving.

What did you want but did NOT get?

More than 25 moose.

What was your favorite film of this year?

I saw several in the last few months and loved them all: Rogue One, Doctor Strange, Arrival, Sing.

What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 36 and wanted it quiet. I did get my free ice cream sundae from Herrell’s and saw an exquisite rainbow.

What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Taking more chances and relaxing more. Ultimately, what’s done is done and it’s for a reason.

What kept you sane?

Regular exercise, good breathing, inviting books, cuddles, chocolate.

(She’s winking at YOU!)

Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

I don’t really do that – fancy people who aren’t in front of me. I don’t usually fancy ANYONE, no matter what they look like, until they say or do something intriguing to me. That said, there’s a really cute cowboy in “Westworld.” He’s my type.

What political issue stirred you the most?

Holy cow, take your pick! It’s astonishing and scary that people can be SO DIFFERENT in their beliefs. And let it be known – if you’re comfortable with who you are, you would never try to limit, diminish or take away from someone else. Get a life!

Who did you miss?

I always miss those who have passed in my family.

Who was the best new person you met this year?

It’s always the new school families – at Des’ preschool and at Scarlet’s school.

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2016.

You really have to work to carve out your happy place in life – it’s there for you.

Quote Song lyric that sums up your year:

I think I did this one last year and the year before and the year before. What can I say? I have a type.

“You could be my luck
Even if the sky is falling down
I know that we’ll be safe and sound
We’re safe and sound


I could fill your cup
You know my river won’t evaporate
This world we still appreciate”

**So that’s the whole questionnaire, but my friend Live By Surprise added new ones this year and I might answer one or two, or all of them. I’m just going to start and see what happens. Feel free to add your own!

What awards did you win – OR were you nominated for your blogging/writing/creative efforts?

As a matter of fact, YES! So amazing to be noticed. I got second place for applying to the most campaigns in my favorite company ever! And I took first place in getting accepted for the most campaigns I applied to for part of the year.

What notable achievements did you accomplish in blogging/writing/creative in 2016?

See above.

Did you publish a book in 2016?

It wasn’t my own, which is coming, but there was THIS!

Did you expand your professional network in 2016?

I did! I went to Blogger Bash NYC and it was so awesome! I learned so much. I am SO humbled and I realize how small I am, but all you can do is keep on keeping on. And being YOU!

Gift Ideas: Gemmies & Fright Factory Review

We received Gemmies™ & Fright Factory™ for review, but I was not otherwise compensated. All opinions are so my own!

One of the best things about Blogger Bash NYC this summer, other than meeting amazing people and eating great food, was going through the expos with my kids in mind. I tried to put myself in their shoes to figure out where they’d go first. It was overwhelming – like a kid in a candy store. And that’s pretty much exactly how I felt about being ALONE in NYC with my own hotel room, Cassidy’s awesome car, and a desire to learn more about everything for Scarlet, for Des, and for my readers.

I received two products from Tech 4 Kids – Gemmies™ Design Studio and Fright Factory™. Scarlet fell in love with Gemmies Design Studio, and Des fell in love with Fright Factory, but there was certainly some overlap too!

Des calls Fright Factory – “gross bug factory” and he was so delighted. He could barely wait the day we received the toy until we were all together to make some insects, reptiles, rats, bats, and more! You can make scary 3D creations.

You use the special light curing EwwGoo™ gel to fill creepy molds and then flash them with the eerie light from the Fright Factory Creature Creator. Fright Factory™ uses ultra-safe LED light to develop your creations. Gels are quick curing, non-toxic and kid friendly. It’s for ages 6+ and the MSRP is $29.99.

Scarlet fell in love with Gemmies Design Studio – the next revolution of the popular 3D beading craft. Kids can clip Gemmies crystals to elastic rings and then join completed rings to create a 3D sparkling creation, following a simple process.

The design templates are intuitive and they use a repetitive pattern that lets kids develop their cognitive abilities and progress to design their own creations. You can make ANYTHING out of the Gemmies crystals, and the starter series include animals and flowers. You can also store your Gemmies crystals and accessories in the Gemmies Design Studio, and display your favorite creation on the light up pedestal. Also for ages 6+ and the MSRP is $24.99.

Would your kids love one of these toys for the holidays?