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Sam Dobson Writes: November 2014

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Calligraphy For Beginners: My New Hobby

With such a busy schedule, it can be difficult for me to find time to do things just for fun. Don't get me wrong, I get to do lots of fun things like playing with rescue pups, researching (aka tasting) new yummy cocktails to write about, and spending time with friends and family. What I'm referring to is more of the hobby-type stuff. I will attempt a new craft or cooking ideas for blogging material but even that's not the same. Between my work for the magazine, my blog, the rescue, and my normal day to day tasks, it's nearly impossible to find time to do something different just for fun with no strings attached. Well, I finally squeezed in something just for me, just for the heck of it.

Calligraphy Workshop For Begginers
The pretty set-up and started kit Jenna had for each of her students. 

This past Saturday, my mom and I took a calligraphy workshop for no other reason than we thought it would be cool to learn, or attempt to learn. I didn't do it for my blog (although I am writing about it now because it was awesome) and I didn't have a hidden agenda behind my reasoning. I've recently started following a few very talented typography stylists (I think that's what they call themselves) on Instagram. I'm a word whore, so I enjoy seeing the words I love in an aesthetically pleasing form. Seeing such pretty lettering had me wondering if I could pull it off. That was a big question mark, because although I have decent hand writing, cursive was never my strong point. Nevertheless, my mom and I gave it a go.

Mom did the research and found a Monvoir Calligraphy class being held in Brea for a reasonable price (damn, calligraphy can be expensive to learn!). We signed up weeks in advance as space was limited. The class lasted just a few hours but I can honestly say that I felt that I learned a lot or at least enough to keep practicing on  my own, something I need a lot of. That's my problem, when am I ever going to find time to practice calligraphy? Despite the challenge of a packed planner, I have convinced myself that I will continue to practice so that one day I may produce beautiful words in appearance too. Cheesy I know, but this is what I find cool. I'm a nerd and I know it.

Calligraphy Workshops for Beginners
My mom (on the left) and me learning the basics in a Monvoir Calligraphy class. 

Anyways, as Jenna (our calligraphy instructor for the day) was explaining the certain techniques to use, we traced our pens up, down, and around, and it was easy to see why people get so "addicted" to it. It's almost therapeutic, not to mention the sense of pride you feel when your lettering turns out the way you were hoping. I've said it before and I'll say it again, every one needs a hobby or two to stay sane. Blogging started as a hobby for me but with the amount of writing I do in a professional sense, my blog is sort of taking on that life too. Maybe calligraphy can be my therapeutic hobby? I resolve to keep at it but we will have to wait and see if push comes to shove.

In the meantime, if you are interested in learning this awesome art form, you should absolutely try to take Jenna's class. For pretty words and other cool things, follow her on Instagram < @monvoircalligraphy >.

Calligraphy Workshop for Begginers
From my Instagram @samdobsonwrites


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Holiday Shopping List {Free Printable}

It's exactly five weeks until Christmas and holy crap, I haven't shopped for a single gift. Yikes! Needless to say, it's time to get a move on. However, I can't just dive into Christmas shopping all willy nilly. I've got to have a plan of execution and that means making a list. Every year I find a random scrap of paper and start jotting down the names of family and friends who will be getting something better than a lump of coal. Well, at least they will from me, but I don't speak for Santa (Ho, ho, ho!). Anyways, this list doesn't leave my purse until all the shopping is done and all the gifts have been received.

The list really is important for me, just as it is for Santa. With dozens of family members from my side and Blake's, plus the many close friends we are grateful to have, it's necessary to have a system to stay organized. The list starts with names of recipients. Writing them all out helps me make sure I don't accidently leave anyone out. That would be uncomfortable and awkward and no one wants that. Then, I like to jot down gift ideas for each individual. This helps me brainstorm and allows me to make a map and schedule of shops and stores in my head for shopping day. I painstakingly record the cost of each gift so I can better manage my gift budget. Last but not least, I allow myself the simple pleasure of checking off each person when their gift has been purchased and wrapped. It really does make the whole gift-giving process a little bit easier.

Holiday Shopping List Free Printable

That scrap paper list has turned into a more formal list as the years have gone by. Now, I've created a blank template that I can use year after year. It's simple and to the point. Since it's the season of giving, I'm going to share my template with all of you. Click this link for my free holiday gift list. May this small gift bring even the tiniest bit of structure to your holiday madness.


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Monday, November 17, 2014

Ten Things To Do Before Having Kids

Yesterday Blake and I took the old jelly bean car (I had a little hatchback) and traded it in for a more "grown up" vehicle. We upgraded to a Volkswagen Tiguan, a crossover or small SUV. I'm still not totally convinced that I actually have a new car, some pinching may be necessary. Anyways, I was in desperate need of more space. Transporting rescues in a teeny, tiny automobile is not fun; especially when said rescues are huge and obnoxious. I've literally had dogs try to climb into my front seat while driving on the freeway and that's some scary shit. This new vehicle will allow me to better contain the sometimes naughty dogs I chauffeur around.

Eager to show off my first big girl car, I quickly posted a photo to my social media accounts. Turns out, most of my family and friends only have one thing on their mind...babies. Numerous people thought it necessary to point out how such a vehicle could be useful in the event of an "accident" on our part. Well, I quickly assured everyone that Blake and I are no where near ready to add a human member to our family. Even so, some people are getting antsy. After we adopted our last dog, my mother and I were getting a pedicure when she turned to me and said "you're never going to have kids, are you?" Truth is, I'm not really sure what's going to happen in that facet of my life. We are undecided as of yet and in all honesty, we aren't in any hurry.

Now that I'm getting older, I realize how much having a kid will change our lives. Yes, most of those changes will be good things, but there are plenty of things you can't do, shouldn't do, or won't get away with doing once you have little munchkins running around. There are also plenty of things you should get out of the way before you plan on popping one out. Here's a few things you should do before creating mini-me's.

Blake and I with my nieces Ava and Sage

1. Establish your career goals and decide if you will want to be a stay at home mom. Work is important to me and it will probably be something I'll always want to do. I don't know that I could be happy being a legit stay at home mom, but maybe I could compromise and attempt to work from home? But first, I have to get my career moving and successful so that could be an option. I know that I'm not exactly where I want to be in my professional life and having kids right now would make it that much more difficult to achieve my career goals. If you prefer to stay at home with the kids, you'll want to make sure that will be financially possible.

2. Do some traveling. If you didn't get to do a post-college Europe trip or if you just can't enough adventure, take a dream vacation now when you don't have to do so with a baby in tow. Traveling with kids can fun, but hiking up to Machu Picchu is no easy feat for a toddler. Once the kids come, your trips will most likely consist of amusement parks or family-friendly camping. I may not have taken all my dream vacations thus far, but I have done a month of backpacking through some parts of Indonesia and a few trips to Costa Rica. And yes, I hope to cross more destinations off my list.

3. Get situated in a home. I realize that it may not be in everyone's financial abilities to buy a home in the present time and that's okay. I don't believe you have to own a house to successfully care for a baby. However, I do believe you should be established and settled in the home in which you reside. If you're renting, make sure it's a suitable place for a baby. Loud, partying neighbors or a sketchy part of town should be enough to give your current landlord notice. If you can afford your own home, it's probably a good idea to get all major renovations done before the kids come. Might be difficult to finish those projects when the baby needs feeding, burping, and changing, among other things.

4. Have a lot of sex. Seriously, as much as you can. All I hear from parents with young kids is how difficult it is to keep the sex-spark going. It can already be difficult for busy, child-less couples to avoid slacking in the bedroom, I can't imagine adding a kid to the mix of obligations. You proud mothers out there, don't go getting your panties in a bunch. I'm not saying it's impossible to have sex or that your kid is just an "obligation". All I'm saying is that with so much on our plate these days, it's easy to let intimacy with your spouse fall through the cracks. Get as much sex in before the babies come, you don't know how much you'll get for the next eighteen years...dun, dun, dun! (That was my dramatic, shock sound effect.)

5. Ask each other the tough kid questions. Blake and I get along seamlessly in so many facets of our relationship, it's hard to believe that we would have any problems when it comes to kids. I married a man with similar morals to my own, so there should be no issues, right? Wrong. We took a short quiz on kid-based decisions and it became apparent that we aren't exactly on the same page for all aspects of raising a child. And no, I won't go into detail regarding our disagreements here. No need to get either of our mothers worked up. But seriously, discuss the basic, but important, parenting questions with your partner before bringing an innocent child into the world. Discuss religious beliefs, educational path, grandparent involvement, breast feeding vs. bottle feeding, etc. Make sure you are on the same page or at least compromise where you can.

6. Get your partying done now. Yes, people with kids can still have loads of fun. The reality is those people usually have kids who are a bit older. If you have a toddler or younger, you find a trustworthy babysitter or you stay home. Even if you do have reliable friends, family, or help in general, it's kind of crappy to go out every Friday and Saturday night to get shitfaced while your baby is cared for by someone else. Am I wrong? And if you're breastfeeding a baby, you'd have to pump and dump all the time and that's just far from classy. By all means, go out and have a good time, but do so when the timing is right. It's easy to go out and party your ass off on a consistent basis when you don't have a child to raise.

7. Spend some time with young kids. If you are thinking about having kids but not so sure that you're ready, test the waters. Offer to babysit for a family member or friend. If you can't handle a night with two year old (no matter how terrible this two year old may be), you probably aren't ready. Any time I babysit my nieces, I always think about how it would be to have one of my own. They are pretty well behaved little girls, but they are still kids that require a lot of attention and tending to. It's easier to gauge whether or not you're up for something when you get hands on experience.

8. Go ahead, spoil yourself a little. Once you have kids, they will be the light of your life and the financial black hole. Your trips to the mall will consist of Baby Gap instead of Steve Madden, you didn't really need those sexy new pumps anyways. That precious bundle of joy will cost you a pretty penny or two. Splurging on unnecessary buys may become obsolete once you pop out a kid. I get buyer's remorse from buying Old Navy jeans on sale for $15. What the hell will happen to my wardrobe (if you can even call it that) when I have kids!?! I don't want to be the mom who looks like a homeless person, so much so, that their kid would rather walk the few miles to school than be caught dead in the same car.

9. Address any problems you may be having in your marriage. Of course you and your partner will bicker and argue from time to time, but if there appears to be one reoccurring theme to fights, it may be a bigger issue. If you constantly argue about frivolous spending or lack of intimacy, your relationship may need a little TLC before adding kids to the mix. A baby will not fix your existing relationship problems. Don't bring innocent Junior into an environment in which his parents will continuously fight over shopping sprees and lack of sex. Face those issues head on and attempt to fix them before cutting the umbilical cord.

10. Make sure you have a reliable partner in crime. No, I'm not talking about your bestie who always helped you provide an alibi to your parents after an all-nighter. I'm talking about your spouse. Make sure you have a partner you can depend on to be there for you and your new addition. Both future parents should be on board when planning for children. If you can't depend on your partner to stand by your side through thick and thin, you might not want to raise a child with him or her. If you know your husband will rub your back when you're in pain, hold your hair back when you're puking, attempt to not pass out during labor, and be an overall amazing father, then you've got the green light. I know with all certainty that if and when the time comes for us to add to our pack (yes, it's a pack because the dogs outnumber the humans), Blake will be an amazing father. I said "if and when", don't get all excited.

*As I said above to all of you proud mama bears out there, don't get your panties in bunch. I'm not a mom, nor do I pretend to be. I'm simply providing what I believe to be commonsense information to my fellow twenty-somethings contemplating whether or not it's the right time to have kids. And of course, none of this really matters if you have an "accident". Then you're screwed and you better just hunker down and get prepared. If that's the case, good luck to you and yours!

Oh! And here is a picture of me with my new car because I can't stop bragging about it :)

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Holiday Gift Guide For Wine Lovers

As we are already half way through November, I find the gift-giving season has already crept up on me. It's that time of year again where I get to play "Santa" and shop for those I love. With just under six weeks to finish all my holiday shopping (and wrapping) done, it's about time I come up with a game plan. I have an eclectic group of people to buy for; sports enthusiasts, fashionistas, book worms, dog lovers, etc. I'm attempting to tackle my gift hunting and purchasing one group at a time. Many of my girl friends are big winos, like me, so it may be easiest to start there. This week's Fab Five Friday features gifts for the winos in your life.

Holiday Gift Guide For Wine Lovers

Holiday Gift Guide For Wine Lovers

Scratch & Sniff Wine Book (Barnes & Noble, $15)

A wine sommelier from Colorado named Richard Betts has created the first wine book you can actually interact with, "The Essential Scratch N' Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert". This is my kind of book. This book is no novelty joke. Betts gives us a serious book that helps us understand the complicated world of wine in a simple way. It's genius really. This book paired with a bottle or two of wine would make the perfect gift for wine and book lovers. 

Picnic Wine Tray (Amazon, $30)

This is the perfect gift for the outdoorsy wine lover. The Picnic Time Mesavino Portable Wine And Snack Table makes picnic-ing with wine easy. It has a convenient little holder for a bottle and two (plastic) wine glasses. Added bonus, room for cheese and crackers. What more could a wine lover ask for?

Holiday Gift Guide For Wine LoversWine Sippy Cup (Amazon, $10)

For the wine lover constantly on the go, this sippy cup from Vino2Go is a life saver or at least a drink saver. You know that friend that is always going somewhere or doing something (the river, tailgating, beach getaways, etc.)? Well, she needs this insulated wine tumbler. Not only will it keep the anti-glass authorities away, but it will also keep the bugs out, prevent your wine from spilling, and keep chilled wine cool.

Holiday Gift Guide For Wine Lovers

Shower Wine Glass Holder (Amazon, $15)

I'm a huge believer that a nice, warm bubble bath can be all you need to fix a bad day. The only thing that could possibly make a candle-lit bubble bath better is wine but balancing a wine glass on the edge of the tub can be tricky. This shower wine glass holder by WaveHooks solves this pesky little problem. Pair this genius tool with some bubbles, a candle, and a good book.

Holiday Gift Guide For Wine Lovers

Wine Shirt (Etsy, $15)

A shirt after my own heart. While this one may not speak specifically to all the wine lovers on your list, there are tons of similar shirts with different sayings out there. A quick Etsy search will lead you to cute shirts like this one from the OppulentDesign shop.

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Friday, November 7, 2014

5 Ways To Give This Thanksgiving

Happy Champagne Friday everyone! With holidays creeping up on us, I've already been knee deep in festive planning. Our Friendsgiving (Thanksgiving with your closest friends) is next weekend, I'm organizing a holiday photo shoot to benefit the rescue I manage for the weekend after that, and Thanksgiving is just days after that. This is just November, don't even get me started on December. Needless to say, it's easy to let the days get away from you during the busy holiday season. It's important to think about how you can give back this holiday season, don't let charity get pushed out of your mind to make room for party planning and gift shopping. In an effort to help everyone put "giving" on the top of their to-do list, this week's Fab Five Friday will feature five ways to give, this Thanksgiving.

5 ways to give this thanksgiving

If the holiday season really is all about giving, those who are really in need should be on the receiving end. So, while your buying your turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, pick up an extra one and give it to someone who may not be able to afford a fancy dinner or maybe someone you know who has just fallen on hard times. Find out if the company you work for does a food drive. If they do, help spread the word; if they don't, get permission to organize one. Sign up for the Turkey Trot or a similar marathon-style event where the proceeds are donated to help feed the hunger or shelter the homeless. Volunteer at your local soup kitchen after or before you've finished your delicious gourmet meal in your warm and cozy home. Send a care package overseas to soldiers who will be spending the holidays far from home through organizations like Operation Gratitude or Give 2 The Troops. There are plenty of ways to give a little more to help others. 

The rewards of helping others speak for themselves. Always remember that not everyone may be as lucky as you are. I know that I much rather be doing things like this on Thanksgiving instead of signing up for the "Thanksgiving Trample" as I like to call it, aka Black Friday. Think of those in need this holiday season, don't be a selfish bitch (winky face). 

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Monday, November 3, 2014

Remedies For Period Pain

Warning To All Men: Turn Back Now!

The other day I started my "special" time of the month, more like especially painful time of the month. My husband knows that as soon as the blood starts flowing (excuse the graphic pun) the complaining doesn't stop. The older I get, the more painful the side effects of my period get. The cramps are so painful it feels as if my uterus is imploding on itself. The pain in my lower back can only be compared to the kind Atlas must feel; you know, the guy who carries the world on his back. Okay, I'm being melodramatic but I think you can understand my discomfort. I know this may be caused in part by my lack of birth control use. That's right, I'm not on (or have been in the last three years) any birth control. No, I'm not trying to get pregnant. I just don't like being on it, so I choose not to. Anyways, there is no birth control to damper the unpleasant symptoms. So really, I'm on my own.

Aside from making me uncomfortable in every possible way, Mother Nature always has to rain on my parade, seriously. The day before my wedding I was running around, tying up loose ends and making sure all the finishing touches were done. In the middle of all that scrambling, I started my period. SHIT! My worst day is the second day...which just happened to land on my wedding day. From that moment, my new priority was doing whatever I could to ensure that bitch, Mother Nature, and her "special delivery" wasn't going to ruin my big day. I began by asking all the women around me what they do for cramps and bloating. The following is a list of remedies for period pain from the all the women I love.

Remedies For Period Pain

Over-The-Counter Drugs

First things first, might as well throw back some Advil or Ibuprofen in an attempt to ease your discomfort. You can pick up a bottle of Midol but it's essentially the same thing as your run of the mill aspirin. One of your basic over-the-counter drugs will usually alleviate my cramps and back pain a small amount for a short bit of time. Either I keep popping pills all day or I try some other remedies.

Supplements & Herbs

There are plenty of natural herbs and supplements you can take that will ease cramps, pain, and bloating. Magnesium, vitamin E, and evening primrose oil are just a few natural ways to relieve painful period symptoms. When my period came the day before my wedding, my mom and aunt suggested primrose. I'm pretty sure it helped to alleviate the cramps but I will admit it could have just been all the adrenaline. 

Turn Up The Heat

It's amazing what simple heat can do to alleviate pain. Invest in a hot water bottle or heating pad, it can't cost you more than $20 and it's totally worth it. We have a heating pad and it gets plenty of use when I'm on my period. You can also try Icy Hot products although the creams can be messy and the patches can easily loose adhesive. Another alternative, and the most relaxing, is a warm bath. Soak in the tub to relieve stress and pain. 

Cut Out Caffeine & Alcohol

As much as it pains me to say, according to the experts, a few of my favorite beverages will actually make your period worse. I have indulged in a glass of wine many of times while on my period and I never skip my morning coffee. Caffeine constricts blood vessels which causes cramps and apparently alcohol is just bad for you in general. The experts say to ditch these liquids as they can increase discomfort. I'll leave this one up to you. For me, I think that glass of wine to help me relax is totally worth it and I don't see me giving up my coffee anytime soon.

Stretch & Strike A Pose

Stretching and practicing some gentle yoga can help reduce your discomfort. Stretches that target my hips and lower back are especially relieving for me when suffering from period pain. Many experts say exercise works wonders in alleviating period pain. I don't know about you, but my first and second day are so miserable I can't even fathom going for a run. Light stretching and gentle yoga are just about all I can manage, but they do help. 

Indulge In Massage

If you can afford it, go to the spa and relax with a good massage. On a budget? Go get a pedicure and sit in one of those fancy massage chairs. Maybe if you ask real nice, your husband or boyfriend will help you out with a back rub. Whichever path you choose, your body will be thanking you for it.

How do you alleviate symptoms of your period? What's your secret to relieving cramps, bloating, and back pain?