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This post is sponsored by Michael Hill Jewelers. All opinions are mine alone.

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Last month I partnered with Michael Hill Jewelers to showcase my journey of love and a how a beautiful pair of halo stud earrings from Michael Hill represents just that. ‘Tis the season, and I’m partnering once again with Michael Hill Jewelers to help spread the joy of meaningful giving to our loved ones.

My mom and I have a complicated relationship. I wish I could say she is like those warm and fuzzy tv moms like Mandy Moore’s character on This is Us, or Family Ties’ beloved Elyse Keaton. But my mother, well, she’s more like the Vietnamese version of Ray Barone’s mom, and drives me mental. Ya feel me? I was (am) always the black sheep in the family, fiercely independent and frequently admonished for rebelling. I try my best to remember that my mom grew up in a different culture, and that her harsh persona and extreme nagging are par for the course for her generation and upbringing. We recently finished watching the The Vietnam War documentary film by Ken Burns. It gave me a renewed sense of pride and love for my parents for their sacrifices to bring me and my brother to America when fleeing the Fall of Saigon in the 1970s. (You can read more on the blog about my family’s perseverance to seek freedom.)

This Christmas, I decided to choose a timeless piece of jewelry to give my mom – to honor the unconditional sacrifices a mother makes for her children, time and time again. Jewelry is a luxury for my mom, so she never shops for it herself (not even costume jewelry), even though we all know moms deserve something pretty now and then.

With this in mind, I headed over to Michael Hill Jewelers at Oakbrook Center, in search of the perfect piece that would serve as an expression of my eternal gratitude. Michael Hill Jewelers is one of the few jewelry retailers to have an in-house team of master craftsmen, so this makes any gift from here even more meaningful! After studying the dazzling displays, I finally chose this vintage style pendant with luxe cubic zirconia in sterling silver that fits the bill. It has a classic design of a 10-point flower encircling the center cubic zirconia to ensure she will sparkle at every angle – perfect for those special occasions.

For her everyday style, I chose a modern sterling silver stud earring set featuring a circle design. It’s a simple piece my mom can wear every day without pomp or circumstance, but still looks put together. I can’t wait to see the look on my mom’s face when she opens her gifts on Christmas morning. In what ways do you gift love back to others? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments!

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This post has been sponsored by Groupon; all opinions are entirely my own.

 

Laying on a beach somewhere. Trying on all the clothes in the dressing room during an epic shopping spree. Reading a stack of magazines and sipping my morning coffee hot, without having to nuke it in the microwave. Basically, all the quiet things I dream of doing, sans kids.

But, as I usually don’t have that much solo time away from my three kids, I’ll just satisfy my need to treat myself with small luxuries, like a quick mani/pedi, now made more convenient and hassle-free with the new Groupon BeautyNow booking service! Available exclusively in the Chicago metro area, Groupon BeautyNow allows you to seamlessly book your beauty services and nab discounted appointments during select times at top salons and spas in Chicagoland – so great, right? It’s a busy mom’s best kept secret! (Scroll to the bottom of this post to enter an awesome giveaway for salon and spa services for an entire year!)

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I was excited to try out Groupon BeautyNow so I booked a nail service directly on the Groupon app for Red Door Salon and Spa in Chicago, and after a client shoot I had in the city last week, enjoyed a little solo R&R time getting pampered. Everything from the super easy booking process via Groupon BeautyNow, to the delightfully warm eucalyptus neck pillow they offered me at Red Door Spa, was a mom’s day out worth repeating.

A little about the BeautyNow booking process:

Appointments can be booked via iPhone or Android. If you’re based in Chicago, download the Groupon app and select “Salon & Spa Booking” at the top to start booking! If you have the Groupon app on your phone, click here to go straight to the experience.

Groupon BeautyNow is simple and streamlined, and you can choose from an extensive menu of beauty services at your favorite Chicago area salon. This means no more personal phone calls to the salon or wait time to request an appointment while the scheduler checks their system, because I was able to do everything from my smartphone! My kids may have been hanging onto my legs while I was booking away on my phone’s keyboard, but that’s a-ok because BeautyNow does all the heavy lifting and works to confirm your appointment ASAP, so you don’t have to!

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After I got my nails did (check out the gorgeous mani design my stylist gave me!), I didn’t even need to pull out my wallet – because there is no upfront payment when you use the Groupon BeautyNow service, you simply are automatically charged on your credit card (linked to your Groupon account) after your appointment for the service and gratuity that you pre-selected.

Everything about Groupon BeautyNow is so easy and convenient to use, it may just become a weekly “thing” for me to check out all the salons on their list… 😉 If you’re in the Chicago area and are curious to try BeautyNow, use promo code MTF10 so you can receive $10 off your services.

p.s. Make sure you ask for “no chip” nails if you’re always on the go – take it from me, moms need no chip! And if you need a festive nail inspiration for all your holiday shindigs coming up, try mixing it up with one or two statement glitter nails on each hand like I did!

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This post has been sponsored by Cuties in conjunction with Collectively; all opinions are entirely my own.

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What is it about this tiny, seedless citrus fruit that makes kids go wild for it? Is it the cheerful, bright orange color? Is it that it’s perfectly sized for tiny hands?

My children live for Cuties, especially my oldest son who insists it to be different than all the mandarins and other perfectly fine substitutes out there, and so I may or may not have called and/or driven around to at least 4 stores to get my hands on them. As lifelong fans of these darling clementines, and to celebrate the return of this delicious little citrus fruit this Cuties season, my kids and I are excited to partner with Cuties to share with you the #100DaysOfSunshine campaign, which its mission is to spread sweetness and sunshine to those we love!

As a mother of three, it is so important to me to teach my kids core values like kindness and positivity, all year round. Cuties reminds us all that no matter how big our differences, they are no match for the power of love. Here are three things you can do right now with your kids to brighten someone’s day:

  1. Make a homemade wreath made with Cuties and share with your friends. Perfect as a festive holiday gift or decorating accent, or simply just because you love your friends, you can check out this Pinterest tutorial for how to make one of your own!
  2. Extend kindness beyond your family and friends, and say hello to someone you don’t know. One morning the kids and I went into a local mall to escape the rain. We decided to eat in the food court and my youngest son, Cole, was very drawn to an elderly gentleman eating by himself. Cole even gave him a high-five as we walked past him. After we ordered our breakfast, I decided to introduce ourselves to him. I asked if we could join him for breakfast. We learned that Christopher came to the United States from Ireland in 1953 when he was about 20 years old. He has two kids who he doesn’t get to see very often, and one of his sons even attended my old high school and eventually became the principal for some time. He said it made his day that we stopped to say hello!
  3. Give free hugs. Smiles and kindness don’t cost a thing. A couple years ago, I joined up with a group of friends to give free hugs in downtown Chicago. Armed with our handmade signs and smiles, we must have given out at least a hundred hugs to strangers and it was one of the best feelings in my life! I love to talk about this experience with my kids, and more importantly, what it meant to me to inject positive energy and kindness into the world!

What are some things you and your family do to spread cheer to loved ones? I’d love to hear in the comments here, and don’t forget to join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #100DaysOfSunshine!

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This post is sponsored by Michael Hill Jewelers. All opinions are mine alone.

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Bye, beige. Moody mauves, matte blacks and white gold are the new neutrals. In fact, I have a little extra sparkle in my step today as I’m writing this post. That’s because last week Michael Hill Jewelers invited me to visit and shop its store at Oakbrook Center and today I’m gratefully wearing my very first pair of diamond studs. When Michael Hill Jewelers first extended the invitation to me, I was excited, though I couldn’t help but think, ‘really, me?’

We’re For Love

I’ve seen Michael Hill Jewelers’ ethereal and magical brand campaigns all about love before (you might recall this “We’re For Love” commercial – I  tear up every time I see it!). As you walk past the store’s dazzling displays it’s hard not to get the overwhelming feeling of everlasting commitment. Michael Hill Jewelers creates timeless, handcrafted jewelry that is accessible to all and serves as an expression of love for any of life’s moments, both big and small! A single piece of jewelry not only transforms your look, but also helps frame your mindset about love every time you wear it or look at it. With jewelry and love on the brain, it got me thinking, what does love mean to me? Through my own experiences I truly believe that there are three buckets where love serves as the biggest impact in my life: motherhood, partnership and marriage, and self-love.

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Motherly Love

There’s motherly love. I became a mom six years ago and not a day goes by that isn’t filled with laughter, screaming, or tears. Not necessarily in that order, and not necessarily coming from the kids. But above all, love trumps – it’s what makes motherhood so rewarding.

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Partnership

There’s the love I have for The Giant, love of my life for over 10 years and father of my three boys. Every time I look at one of my boys, I see him. I love how he’s an equal partner in raising our children, without me having to tell him what to do. I thank him for putting up with me and my crazy ways, his belly aching laughs, how he falls asleep on the couch while waiting up for me every single night just so we can go to bed together. I’ve fallen in love with him so many times.

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Self-Love

And then there’s self-love. For the woman I was before kids, the woman I am now after kids. And how none of who I was before changed simply because I am a mother. I’d say self-love is the most important of all these to me because you cannot pour from an empty cup.

Don’t be Afraid to Express Yourself

Did you know my left ear is deformed? I was born this way. I was told when I was newborn, my dad used to tape my ear down. (Kidding, obviously.) My dwarf ear doesn’t bother me. I’m not shy about it and I don’t mind calling attention to it with these beautiful halo stud earrings from Michael Hill Jewelers with ½ carat total weight of diamonds in 10kt white gold.

When I got married, my mom wanted to gift me diamond studs. At the time, I refused to accept this as a gift because she really couldn’t afford it, and because I just wasn’t into studs. Over the years, my taste has evolved, and two years ago, I started wishing that I would’ve said yes to my mom’s offer. Lucky for me, today I have the perfect pair from Michael Hill Jewelers and I’m ever so grateful to have had the opportunity to pick them out and to spoil myself. I loved the personalized shopping experience I received at Michael Hill Jewelers – which extended beyond the open concept, modern store layout to the knowledgeable store associates. I learned that Michael Hill Jewelers is one of the few jewelry retailers to have an in-house team of master craftsmen, which makes the piece I selected even more special to me knowing it was handcrafted by passionate pros. Diamonds really are forever and these round diamond studs are a classic piece I can wear every day!

Whether in love or life’s passions, don’t settle. This morning of reflection was a simple way to remind myself of this and of gratitude, and to feel like the best version of myself. What does love mean to you?

(p.s. I also got to meet Brett Halliday, President North America of Michael Hill. Any reality show junkies like myself out there? Guys, he’s the esteemed jeweler on The Bachelor Canada where the guy does the ring selection at the end – so cool!)

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