Thursday, December 9, 2021

Ultimate Amazon Gift Guide - Women's Edition

LADIES!  I have to admitt, I have WAY too many of these items and I only recommend for the women in your life because I personally LOVE them. 

For the woman who has everything.. here you go!

1. Bentgo Salad Lunch Box- LIFE CHANGING FOR ME!  You can separate toppings, dressing, and several ingredients and easily take a salad to-go without a million containers.  At $15, it will be the best $15 you'll ever spend.

2. Traditional Espresso Maker!  Easy to store + much less expensive than a full automated machine.  Perfect for the woman who drinks coffee daily but like a good latte or esxpresso every now and then! 

3. BPA Free Food Savers: Again, life changing. A great stocking stuffer to preserve your veggies!

4. The cutest little cocktail set! Something she wouldn't buy for herself but would absolutely love to enjoy with an at-home happy hour with the girls!

5. A heated PLUS weighted blanket.  In these colder months, step UP the coziness. Excuse me while I hybernate. 


1. Flickering Flameless Candles. I have these in my living room and bedroom.  One click and no dangers for the forgetful ones.. create a relaxing ambiance anywhere :) 

2. Sherpa Plush Robe - every women needs a good, cozy robe.  Sherpa is so, so soft!

3. Fleece Lounge Set - Jammies that can pass as clothes?  YES and YES! 

4. Mircrofiber Cheetah Blanket- the most versatile blanket that is cozy + pretty. 

5. Faux Fur Cross Slippers- I live in these from November- March! 

6. Luxury Bath Caddy tray: For the Bath Lovers - the ultimate bath accessory is this Boujie Bath Caddy tray.

For the Foodie/Hostess with the Mostess 

1. The Ultimate Charcuterie Tray: The PERFECT functunial tray to SLEIGH the charcuterie goals.

2. Denim Apron: Modern Day Apron and BONUS- it has pockets! 

3. Nespresso Verturo Coffee + Espresso Maker: Move over, Starbucks, Barista at home! 

4. Taco Bar Platter: Taco Tuesday just got a WHOLE LOT BETTER! 

5. Picnic Basket Set: The adorable picnic set with function + lots of accessories 

6. Sushi Making Kit for Beginners: Such a fun gift idea that will spark a sushi-making night! 

Need MORE gift ideas?  Check out the entire women's gift guide here 

Ever After,

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

My Short Story: Confessions of a Petite Girl

For my fellow Petites, you know it can be a real struggle finding clothing that actually fits.  Whether you are just a shortie like me and/or have a small frame, it can be frustrating to wear the kind of styles that your "average-height" girlfriends wear.

So when I finally tried Short Story, I was so happy that there was finally a curated service that truly catered to my petite frame!  In the personally curated style box, there were high-end brands that were perfectly suited for my body type and I was able to keep and purchase what I liked best... so much more fun than trying things on at a store!  Not to mention, Short Story is offered a $25 credit with my referral link below.  A perfect way to try Short Story for the first time.  You will not be disappointed!

You know your petite when you have:

  •  Shopped in the Kids Section.  I admit I am guilty of this, especially for sneakers and sports tees. 
  • Go on your tippy-tippy toes when trying something on that you have to wear with heels to see how it looks.
  •  Felt "short" in flats because everyone towers over you.
  • Wear nude shoes to elongate your legs.
  • Try to appear taller in pictures by going on the "higher step" or being the one who always kneels in the front of a group pic!


Make sure to check out Short Story Box to get $25 off your box!  This is the first subscription box where EVERYTHING fits perfectly- a rare find when your 5'2 and curvy!  They are run by a team of petite women, specializing in curating styles for your petite body type.  It's the most personal service I have ever received from a subscription-style box!

No more cuffing your jeans or rolling up your sleeve or raiding the kid's section for something that may fit. The struggle is REAL my fellow petite gals, but FINALLY we can join in on the fun!  Tell me your "Short Story," what fashion challenges have you faced being petite?


Ever After,

Friday, May 21, 2021

10 Year Vow Renewal at the Aruba's Divi Phoenix

10 Year Vow Renewal at the Aruba's Divi Phoenix Resort

It's a little crazy how fast 10 years can go by.  I remember when we were Honeymooning in Hawaii, Ryan and I said we would come back for our 10 year anniversary.  It seemed like a lifetime away when we made those plans as young newlyweds.  And in reality, it sort of is a lifetime ago.  Two kids later, growing careers, several ups & downs together as a couple, and here we are.  

Even though our actual 10 year anniversary isn't until late August, we were itching to get away and were so happy we chose Aruba as the destination to renew our vows.  It was a MUCH quicker flight than our first honeymoon, which made us enjoy more time on the island as well as less exhaustion with travel. Although Aruba is extremely kid-friendly and safe, we decided to leave the kids behind (Thank God for grandparents!). 

I was married at 25 years old so you can say I did a LOT of growing up the past 10 years. I did a lot of maturing as a wife from my starting point as a 25-year-old self-centered, career-focused woman.  I don't mean that to bash myself but as I have grown closer to God, he's taught me a lot about love, family, and marriage. I can honestly say I love my husband more now after 10 years of marriage because instead of just puppy love when we were merely kids, we have a Godly love that is truly built on God, family, and prayer. Although they say men mature much later in life, Ryan is (almost) getting there.  Men don't quite reach maturity until... 50 (totally kidding)...  In reality, Ryan has become an incredible husband and father who has truly been my rock.  When you say your vows as a youthful, healthy bride, "in sickness and in health" seems so irrelevant at the time.  However, after a diagnosis with an autoimmune disorder that left me suffering in my late twenties and an experience with postpartum depression a few years ago, these vows became very real.  I can truly say that as we walked through these challenges together, it made my and Ryan's marriage much stronger.

A Trip Without the Kids to "One Happy Island"

We decided 10 years was great timing to renew our vows and were especially excited to do it with a "second honeymoon."  Traveling during COVID-19 restrictions was surprisingly much less difficult than expected and we were overly impressed with the entire island of Aruba, especially our resort, the Divi Phoenix for their safety precautions and overall accommodations.  
divi phoenix aruba resort

This time around, we decided to write our own vows, from the heart.  A good friend sent me this scripture before our trip: "A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."  This passage from Ecclesiastes illustrates the importance of a God-centered marriage. Two Christians that are bound together in Christ are stronger than the individuals themselves. Of course, this made it into my vows and it was the perfect word of wisdom that I could ever express when looking ahead to the next 10 years ahead. The truth is, when you put God at the center of your marriage, you have a better understanding of what a loving marriage really is, especially when you add all the craziness of life in... kids, Covid, careers, and everything life throws at us in-between.

It had been a long time before we traveled just the two of us overnight somewhere... I'm pretty sure it was the first time we've vacationed without kids since we had Gavin (except when I was very pregnant) so we were excited but definitely a little anxious about leaving our 5-year-old and 2-year-old.  We booked 5 nights instead of a full week so that we could enjoy a great trip while not being away from the kids for too long.

Staying at the Divi Aruba Phoenix Beach Resort

We chose to stay at this particular resort (which is a timeshare as well) because of the location and recommendations from friends and family who stayed there.  The Divi Aruba Phoenix Beach Resort location is RIGHT on the beach and every single unit is ocean view and my favorite part is that everything from the resort is accessible.  I love to walk a ton on vacation, especially in a beautiful place like Aruba and the Divi is connected to all of the other resorts with a well-lit safe path, making it so easy to access restaurants, other resort lounges, shops, and fresh food stands.  Another huge bonus is on-site Covid testing available so you do not have to leave the premises to get your COVID test (which was required for us to travel back home). 

I worked with the GM and told her about our vow renewal- nothing fancy just us on the beach and a photographer and their staff went above and beyond for our celebration.. it honestly felt like a second wedding day! It started with a day of pampering at the spa right on premises called the Pure Indulgence Spa.  Ryan experienced his first pedicure, looking out to the poolside & ocean with a Mimosa in hand-- he was not complaining. :) 
Aruba spa Pure Indulgence at Divi resort

Because I really did want it to feel like a "second wedding day," Ryan urged me to get my hair and makeup done right at the spa on-site and I was so happy I did.. all I had to do was write my vows, show up, and look pretty. We had local photographers shoot from Lensation Aruba while we were renewing our vows and they did an incredible job capturing such a romantically special, private moment. It was such a different experience writing our own vows because it was a lot more intimate and more romantic.  It was an amazing experience to just witness each other between us, the ocean, and God.. and 2 strangers taking pics of us! :)

The Best Food on the Island at PUREOCEAN

Next up was the most incredible dining experience I have ever experienced on vacation.  We had dinner reservations after we renewed our vows and since we had a little too much fun with the photos and got soaked in the ocean, we went back to change into more casual clothing.  The Divi Phoenix has an incredible well-known restaurant right on the resort called pureocean with seaside dining so you can watch the sunset and eat right on the beach.  The food was absolutely divine and we were blown away by the staff's accommodations since they surprised us with the most romantic, private table right on the beach.  Honestly, we were blown away by the hospitality in general by the staff at the Divi... we have never felt so welcome at a resort before.

I never thought I would be one to "renew our vows" but after 10 years, 2 kids, and an excuse to go on vacation... I would highly recommend it!  Let's just say we are in honeymoon season all over again... a romantic getaway like this can help you reconnect, relax, and a reminder to put EACHOTHER first!

Check out the romantic packages for the DIVI here and do not hesitate to ask any questions about the resort or Aruba in general!
Aruba Divi Phoenix Honeymoon

Aruba Divi Phoenix Resort

Ever After,

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

How to Take Your Kids Fishing in Connecticut: Guest Post by Fishing Father


As we turn the corner into our second spring of COVID and everyone is getting restless.  The kids are chomping at the bit to get outside and run around and you’re probably just a little bit sad that some of your usual spring activities are still on hold.  If you’re searching for a new activity to try with your kids that is safe and socially distant, you might want to take up fishing.  It gets your kids outside, they’ll love it, and there are few places more socially distant than the middle of a lake.  Win-Win-Win.

 There’s only one small problem: fishing is hard, or less you would have already done this.  No worries.  I’ll get you up and running so you can have a fun day fishing with your kids in Connecticut.  Indeed, I have an entire website devoted to helping parents learn how to fish with their kids,, but this article will give you all the practical knowledge you need to get going.


In this article, I’ll set you up with the proper gear without wasting your money, help you find a fishing spot in Connecticut (or elsewhere) that works well with kids, teach you how to catch a fish, and give you some tips to help you save a day when things don’t work out, so you can still be the hero.  Interested?  Then read on.


Gear Up

 Before you can take your kids fishing, you need to buy or borrow some gear.  Do yourself a favor: leave the kids at home while you go get this.  If you bring your children with you, I guarantee you that you’re leaving the store with a rod that “looks cool” as opposed to a rod that “makes sense.”  Remember, this could turn into a life-long passion.  Why buy a little princess rod that your daughter will only want to use for a year or two before it becomes embarrassing to her?


Rod & Reel

I once wrote an entire article on what the best fishing rods are for kids, but I’ll cut to the chase: get your kid an Ugly Stik that is about 4’6” to 5’ long for little kids (2-7) and 6’ long for older children.  You want something light and small enough that they can use comfortably. 

 I do recommend a spinning rod (this will be right on the label) as opposed to a casting rod.  The difference, essentially, is what type of fishing reel pairs with them.  Spinning rods accept spinning reels.  Casting rods accept baitcasting reels (which are a big NO-NO for kids) and spincast reels (which some people recommend for children, but I view as unnecessary and wasteful as they’ll soon fall out of favor from most anglers).

 Some Ugly Stiks come with a reel, which is fine.  If yours doesn’t, you’ll need to buy one.  I recommend getting one that is on the smaller size as it balances better and is easier for kids to use. 

 Fishing Line

 You will also need some fishing line if your combo doesn’t come with one.  I’ll make it super simple for you.  Use Berkley Trilene XL monofilament in 6lb test.  This is inexpensive, available everywhere, easy to work with, and strong enough for most fish your kids will catch from shore.

 Hooks, Weights, and Bobbers

 Tackle shops can be overwhelming (though I prefer the term, “breathtaking”).  They don’t need to be.  All you need is a box of hooks, and maybe a box of sinkers (weights).  Don’t bother with a bobber.  I know this may be counter-intuitive to you.  After all, when your grandpa took you out when you were a kid, he put a bobber on, right?  Well…  Are you now a full-grown adult who is reading an article about how to start fishing?  I guess that bobber didn’t enamor you, did it?

quote about fishing


Anyway, move past those red and white bore-balls and just buy a hook and perhaps some sinkers.  Use common sense when buying the hook.  Buy one that is small enough for a sunfish or other small species to get into its mouth.  I sometimes see rookies fishing with enormous hooks and while I admire their optimism, I don’t recommend going all-in like that.  Fishing with kids is about catching quantity.  Small hooks do that.


As for weights, you can buy little sinkers that look like teardrops, or you can simply scrounge up some nuts and bolts from home if you prefer.  Just make sure they’re relatively small (I like 1/8 oz). 

See – I told you this would be painless.  You walked into a tackle shop filled to the ceiling with all sorts of lures, but all you need to have fun with your kids is a hook.

 Where to Buy Your Fishing Gear

 If you’re reading this in Connecticut, your best bets for purchase is going to be Cabela’s in East Hartford, Bass Pro Shops in Bridgeport, or one of the two Fishin’ Factories (Plantsville and Middletown). I used to love going to Dick’s Sporting Goods, but they’ve recently remodeled some stores (such as the one in Plainville) into giant leotard warehouses, so not all of them carry fishing tackle anymore.  Call ahead!

 Finding the Right Fishing Spot

 If you aren’t that experienced at fishing, water looks like water, right?  Yet only some parts of that water will be productive for catching fish.  Much of this can be trial and error but there are a few things to keep in mind:


1.       You need to find a spot that has enough shoreline space for kids to cast and play near.

2.       This spot should be next to water that is at least 3’ deep and preferably reaches 6’ with a cast.

3.       This water should be near some sort of cover (meaning weeds, rocks, sticks, etc.) that fish can hide in.

4.       This cover should not be so thick that you can’t effectively fish it without snagging your hook.

5.       This spot should be next to a playground or park where you can move on to PLAN B if the fish aren’t biting.

 If you want to find spots like this on your own, just drive around and take a little walk.  It will be easy to see where most of the popular fishing spots will be because they’ll be worn down and sandy from all the people standing and fishing there.  Bear in mind that these spots fill up early.  Note that I did write an article with some great fishing spots in Connecticut that you can read here.

bass fishing ct

 If you want another shortcut, you might install the Fishbrain app.  It’s a nifty little program that takes satellite images of your local lakes (and they all are on there) and then allows its users to share data about where they caught fish.  This is great because you can find the lake or pond you’re taking your kids to and then zoom in to see where most of the data entries are.  If you find a spot with many clusters, chances are it is a good fishing spot.  As of writing, it costs $5.99/month.  I know that may seem a little steep for something your kids “might” like, but you can always cancel after your first month.  Anyway, you spent all that money on a rod, reel, hooks, line, and sinker but you don’t want to toss $5.99 at an app that will literally show you where to use them?


 What is a Good Time to Try Fishing?

 During most of the time of year you’d think about going fishing (meaning, during warm weather) fishing is going to be best early in the morning or late in the evening.  Fish tend to congregate in the shallows where they can be reached from shore during these times and are feeding actively.


Fishing in connecticut

In Connecticut, May is a FANTASTIC month to go fishing with your kids.  This is because many sunfish can be found extremely close to shore (so close that you can usually see them).  They are there to spawn their own young, and to feast on the eggs of largemouth bass.  They are very aggressive at this time, concentrated, easy to find, and easy to catch. 

 “The Spawn” can continue through June in Connecticut.  Once you hit July, it is mostly over, and aquatic vegetation growth is going to limit the places you can reach from shore.  While fishing is still good, it becomes more challenging and will remain so until about September when the cooling temperatures warn fish that it’s time to start feeding heavily and they again become easier to target.


How to Catch a Fish

 Notice that I entitled this section, “How to Catch A Fish” and not “How to Catch a Trophy Bass.”  If you are taking your kids fishing for the first time, they do not care what kind of fish they catch—they just want to catch something.  A running theme of my blog and my book is that every parent’s goal is to get a fish into the livewell or bucket as fast as they possibly can.  This means you’re targeting sunfish first and foremost.

connecticut lake fishing

 Catching sunfish isn’t that hard if you find a spot that has them.  It’s basically a matter of putting a worm in front of their face and managing to hook them as they peck away at it.  Most of these little fish have been caught so many times already that they know what the deal is and they try to nibble away at the edges, but eventually, they’re going to make a mistake and you’ll get them.  Just make sure you’re holding the rod when they bite so you can set the hook quickly and snag them.


I recommend using a technique called a “drop shot.”  It is simply a hook that is tied about 12” above a sinker, or weight.  You cast it out, and you hold onto the rod while you slowly work it back to shore.  Your child will feel every nibble this way and get the full excitement of feeling a fish take its first run after it feels the hook.  This is much better than having them stare at a bobber.


I’d recommend using worms such as nightcrawlers, but if you can’t find any or are against that for moral / “yucky” reasons, then some small 2” minnow-shaped lures from Berkley Gulp also work very well. 

 This article will teach you exactly how to tie a drop shot and cast it out.  Just make sure you’re holding onto the rod while you’re fishing, so you can feel a bite.  When you get a nibble, set the hook by snapping your rod back a few inches to drive the hook into the fish’s mouth.  Then, holler “fish on!” and hand it off to your child. 

 The handoff can be a bit tricky.  Your main goal is to ensure that there is no slack in the line when you give your kid the rod.  Any slack will more than likely let the hook slide out, so be sure to keep a tight connection before you hand off the rod to your little one.


What to Do When the Fish Aren’t Biting

 So, my son is going to start roller hockey on Thursday.  They have this little “learn to skate” program at Plainville Indoor Sports Arena that I signed him up for.  I’m a bit concerned that he might hate it, or it might not work out, so I’m pitching it to him as, “Let’s go to the rink, learn to skate, and get a cotton candy Slushy afterwards!” This way, if the skating doesn’t go so well, it still ends on a good note for him.

 Apply this tactic to fishing.  If you don’t make the trip exclusively about fishing, then it cannot completely go wrong if the fish aren’t biting.  Instead of saying, “Hey do you want to go fishing?” ask, “Hey, should we go to the park?” Bring a ball with you.  Make a picnic.  Include that treat your kids always ask for. 

 You can also say things like, “Hey, let’s practice our casting” rather than “Hey, let’s catch a fish.”  Then, if you do catch a fish, it’s super exciting, but if you don’t, well, that’s not really what you set out to do in the first place.

 You’re the one in charge, so you set the parameters.  Don’t box yourself into a corner where you’re going to “fail” if something as unpredictable and finicky as a fish doesn’t play along. 

 If you really want to try and salvage a fish out of the trip, bring a second adult along.  One of you should fish until you hook one and can call the kids over.  The other should play with them and distract them so they’re having fun.  What you don’t want to do is make the kids sit next to you, bored, while you stubbornly keep trying.  That’s a guaranteed way to make them hate this great sport.


Fishing is a wonderful activity to share with children.  It has all the things they love: water, slime, and animals.  I completely recommend that you try this with them this summer.  After the kind of year we’ve had, it could be just the ticket to break the monotony. 

 Even though it seems a little scary, you can do it.  Keep things as simple as a worm on a hook, have a Plan B, and leave the bobber at home.  I’ve sprinkled a few helpful hints in this article, but feel free to visit my blog for more in-depth help.  You can also feel free to reach out to me directly.  A friend of Jamie’s is a friend of mine and I’d be happy to help you.


Have a great day for fishing,


John Paxton

Fishing with Kids: A Parent’s Guide

Friday, March 12, 2021

Summer Bucket List in Connecticut

Lavender Pond Farm - I visited this spot when I was pregnant with Savannah and I would love to go back in peak season which is normally July. If you do end up visiting this amazing lavender farm and have children, I was amazed by the lavender bug spray they had!  It lasted an entire summer and was like $11 and all-natural.  It truly worked to repel bugs and we didn't have to worry about the harsh chemicals of a lot of the other bug sprays.

I love Ocean Beach for kids because it has fine, white sand and it's so big and rarely ever crowded on weekdays.  It also had some rides (they were closed last year due to COVID but may re-open this year) and a few waterslides, along with a long boardwalk with yummy icecream and some snacks for the kiddos.

My son's favorite part is the ankle-length water area where you can catch hermit crabs and snails in buckets.  Also, since the beach is located in New London, you can almost always spot a submarine which the kids LOVE.

If you + your fam have not visited Essex yet, be sure to put this on the top of your bucket list!  It's such a fun day trip and you can get a package to go on the boat and the train.  The store is adorable as well for the kids.. my son loves his little train whistle!  
They do a fantastic job and it's even fun for the adults so it's a win-win for the whole family!  Also, surrounding this spot, there are so many cute shops, restaurants, and scenic areas that you can explore before or after you experience the Steamboat and train!

This is such a fun spot and you don't even have to wait until summer to visit!  Located in the Trumbull Mall, this interactive aquarium has way more than just fish.  You can interact with an adorable sloth, swim with the sharks, and feed an enormous turtle.

The kids loved feeding the fish and they were entertained for hours.  I was pleasantly surprised at the prices in the gift shop.  Usually, I cringe at gift shop prices, but it was SO reasonable and the kids picked out adorable souvenirs and I didn't feel like I was robbed 😂😂


We almost always rent a house for a week on the CT shoreline, usually Old Lyme or Old Saybrook.  It's so fun to vacation in your own state because you explore things right in your backyard that you don't normally get to see!  
When we rent, we have our favorite spots but always try to find something new to try every year.

For lobster rolls, we love Lobster Landing!  They usually open for the season in April.  Are you team hot lobster roll or cold?  I am definitely a HOT BUTTERED lobstah-roll gal!

We always make a trip to Carousel at Soundview in Old Lyme.  I love it because it literally looks the same as when I was just a child so those nostalgic memories of beach days with my family bring my heart so much joy!  Not to mention, JJ Lawsen's Gourmet Icecream so so delicious with 32 flavors of ice-cream, sherbert, and yogurt. There is almost always live music on the weekends outside as well which adds for a fun backdrop on a beautiful beach day. 

Date night favorite for our "beach week" is always La Foresta in Killingworth. With homegrown ingredients and authentic Italian, La Foresta is my favorite date-night restaurant by far.  The owner is passionate and accommodating and the restaurant is beautiful and welcoming.  I've brought friends from all over the US here and they are equally impressed, especially the "foodies."  This is a true GEM in CT. 

The Connecticut Wine Trail is so beautiful in the summer and can be a day well spent with beautiful views of vineyards and sunsets.  I have yet to visit all of the vineyards in CT, but the ones that I have visited, have amazing wine and it's such a fun day for a picnic and to sip on some locally made wine!  I love supporting small businesses in CT so I always grab a few bottles to go as gifts and to have in my home for future dinners. 
Since I am in Southington, I am very close to Paradise Hills Vineyard which has incredible sunsets and even more incredible wine.  I love their Washington Trail Rosé in the summer since it's light and refreshing. 

I haven't been to the Southington Drive-in yet but am praying they open back up this summer!  I think my kids would LOVE it and I have heard nothing but great things about it.  Watching a movie on a huge screen, outside with lots of great snacks.. sounds like a perfect summer night to me!
Growing up, my favorite movie snack was Junior Mints & Sour Patch Kids. Oh the days where calorie-counting was not a thought in mind :) 


Last year was the first year since Gavin was 3 that we didn't get a season pass (due to COVID) and boy did we miss it!  The pass is 100% worth it and pays for itself after 2 trips.  We love the water park and love that we can go for a couple hours in the evening, hop on a few rides and get our energy out.  This will be the first year Savannah will really be able to enjoy it as well!

Ever After,