Five Ways to Start Fresh in 2018

Friday, December 29, 2017

Call it what you will: turning over a new leaf, starting a new chapter, a blank page, new beginnings. Even if you are happy with your life as is (and I sincerely hope you are!), who doesn't love a fresh start? 

If you're feeling inspired to make 2018 your best year yet, here are five big ideas to embrace and implement:

1. Allow yourself to evolve. Ooooh, I love this one. This is the year to give yourself permission to change. Maybe you've already changed and you just haven't allowed yourself to accept it yet. What do I mean by "change?" Perhaps your goals have shifted, or you've reprioritized your life. Maybe your career aspirations have taken a sharp turn. You could have looked around and decided your relationships needed an edit -- your needs as a friend or spouse may have changed. Maybe your personal style has simply changed. Whatever it is, this is the year to tell yourself that it is not only okay to evolve, it is necessary. Some changes will be small and some will be big, but if they feel right in the depths of who you are, it's time to stop holding yourself back from a better life.

2. Allow others to evolve. Did you see this one coming? This was a tough one for me to learn and accept. One of my favorite quotes goes something like this: "We tend to want others to stay the same while we give ourselves the grace to evolve." If you are allowing yourself to grow and change, you must do the same for others. Acknowledging that the important people in our life won't remain the same forever, that they are also human and will evolve over time, is the most freeing realization in the world. Once you accept this, you can assess and embrace your relationship with others in a whole new way.

3. Speak kindly to yourself. You'd be surprised at how often you're kind of a jerk to yourself.

"Ugh, you shouldn't have eaten that."

"Why can't you look like her?" 

"I need to get it together. My life is so disorganized."

Would you speak this way to anyone else? A stranger? Your best friend? No, you probably wouldn't. So don't speak that way to yourself. Nobody is perfect. Be kind to yourself because you set the tone for how others treat you, and your inner voice narrates your life. Do you want it to be negative or positive?

4. End every day by mentally listing what/who you're thankful for. When your head hits the pillow, instead of thinking of all the things you still need to do or accomplish the next day, what went wrong that day, etc., try re-focusing your brain on saying thanks for all of the great people and parts of your life. Do it list style: Thank you for my daughters and their health, they bring me so much joy. Thank you for my husband who always finds a way to make me laugh. Thank you for my extended family who keeps fun and tradition alive. Thank you for... you get the idea. I find it always helps me fall asleep and ends the day on a peaceful, grateful note.

5. Embrace simplicity. I'm reading through A Simplified Life by Emily Ley right now and have been trying to work on each chapter at a time. I love the idea of embracing simplicity as it applies to real life -- and real life is anything but simple. But we can take control of certain areas of our life and simplify them in a non-extreme way, and those small changes add up to a big overall impact.

Do you already do some of these things? What are some ways you plan to better yourself and your life in the new year? 

My New Year's Resolutions

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

I hope you had a wonderful holiday! Ours was perfect. Time spent with our favorite people (and missing the ones we couldn't see!), watching the girls' excitement, eating treats, yule log on repeat, and cozy downtime. We're enjoying the afterglow of the holidays but I'm also starting to set my sights on 2018, which brings me to...

New Year's resolutions: Do you make them or are you totally against them? It's been reported that 80% of New Year's resolutions fail by February. Eighty percent! It makes me wonder if it's the types of goals people set, the way we go about trying to achieve them, or if the excitement of the holidays/new year simply give way to the blahness of deep winter. 

Personally, I love making a list of resolutions at the beginning of every year. It goes against logic and statistics, apparently, but there's something about the thought of a blank slate at the turn of each year that I just can't quit. Maybe it's the idea that we have the power to write some of our own chapter, and that chapter can be anything we want it to be. As is part of life, things will happen to us throughout the year that we have no control over, but by putting together a list of priorities/goals/dreams at the start of the year, hopefully it serves as something we can fall back on.

In a rare quiet moment recently :), I was sipping on some coffee, reflecting on the year, and imagining the year to come, and I felt inspired to jot down some resolutions for 2018. I thought I'd share them in this space to 1. Hold myself more accountable and 2. Maybe help some of you who may need some inspiration for goals in the new year. I've broken my list down into a couple of categories (I didn't make it like that, but once I read back over it I realized it sort of naturally happened).

2018 New Year's Resolutions


1. Take special time with each girl. We do so much as a whole family unit, which I love and feel is important, and when Steve is at work I am almost always out and about with both girls by my side. But as they get older, I feel it will be really nice to take some special time with each individual child, whether it be a special activity, date, or just a walk one-on-one.

2. Volunteer with the kids. This is something I've always dreamed of doing with my kids. I think it's so very important to show them the importance of getting involved and making a difference in other peoples' lives and in 2018 Hadley will be more toddler, less baby (sob). I think it would be a great time to introduce them to some volunteering.

3. Encouraging daily tasks. Admittedly, I haven't been great at enforcing chores. My oldest is only 4, so I don't feel I'm necessarily far behind, but I do feel it's a great time to start. Luckily, the kids already naturally enjoy helping (unloading the dishwasher, throwing the clothes into the laundry, sweeping, prepping dinner, feeding Layla) but I'd love to give them a few more independent tasks (cleaning up toys when they're done playing with them, putting books away in their rooms, things like that).

4. Implementing a "family time" block during busy weekdays. Again, we spend a lot of time as a family. I don't take that for granted. But the time of day that is usually most stressful and rushed -- dinnertime until bedtime -- can be wasted catching up on last minute workday emails, trying to clean up messes, etc. I'd love to remodel this block of time as a purposeful "family time." Play a game, clean up dinner together... you get the idea!

5. Take more family photos. I have so (so so so) many pictures of the girls; and don't get me wrong, I adore them. But we are really lacking in the family photo department, and I'd like to remember to ask for a family picture here and there so we have documentation that mom and dad did, indeed, exist as well.


6. Monthly date nights or days. 2 kids in 2 and a half years has the tendency to greatly reduce the number of date nights a couple has. Don't ask me how I know. ;) At one point, we went the better part of a year without a date... crazy! We've had a couple recently and they have been so fun. Nothing fancy or far away, just dinner or lunch out, a quick shopping trip, or coffee at the bookstore. Our sweet family has been more than willing to drive the two hours to help us out, but since they do live pretty far, we've also found a fantastic sitter to fill in when we need her. I feel like we have a recipe for date success going into 2018.

7. Meditate. Hear me out, heeeear me out. I have never really been into the idea of meditating, but then we meditated one morning on my recent work retreat (thanks again, Sarah!) and I was sold. I think waking up just a bit earlier to have 10 minutes of quiet meditation in the morning could really shape my days for the better. I also think this might be the most difficult resolution to stick to!

8. Make time for self-care. I like this particular goal because it's not about "losing 20 pounds by March!" or "cutting out all sugar!" I know myself, and I know those goals are neither realistic nor necessary. This is about purposefully and mindfully carving out some time for me. A hot shower all by myself. An hour to write midweek. Finally learning how the hell to style my hair (ha!). Going for a run. Whatever it is that fills up the cup just a little bit so I can continue to pour for others.

9. Read. Quite simply, I miss getting lost in a good book. It's been so long since I've allowed myself the time to sit with one, and I'd really love to change that this year. I actually especially love biographies/autobiographies (not shocking since I'm fascinated by people and their stories, I guess) -- are there any great ones you've read?

10. Continue to write and develop The Lucky Lifestyle. So this -- this little corner of the Internet -- is how I know goals can be achieved. Or, you know, in a constant state of achievement at least. :) This was a goal of mine for so long, and here we are almost 6 months later. I have had so much fun interacting with wonderful people here, learning from all of you, and writing. The writing has been good for my soul. In 2018 I hope to only expand on what's been started.

So there they are. Writing them here feels a bit vulnerable but also something else. Maybe... free? Like, here they are, world! Here's what I hope to accomplish during this next trip around the sun.

Are you making any resolutions this year? What are they? 

Five on Friday: Holiday Weekend Edition

Friday, December 22, 2017

Happy Friday before Christmas! I just really can't believe it. This entire season flew by. It has been mostly beautiful, with some touches of sad. But with our girls by our side, we've truly enjoyed all that these festive days have to offer. I will be taking the long weekend and likely some of next week off from work and this little space, but look forward to checking in once or twice before the New Year. 

Today I'm linking up with some of my favorite bloggers for Five on Friday! 

1. We visited Santa. It went exactly as expected and, honestly, this Santa photo might be my favorite of all time.

2. Our Christmas dinner menu is finalized and my online grocery order has been placed for pick up this afternoon! Once again, we're making this delicious cherry-glazed ham and this year we're trying out these classic mashed potatoes from the NYT. My mom is bringing her famous green bean casserole, my sister in law is making homemade rolls, and Steve's parents will be baking up delicious apple crisp. 

3. One of the bloggers I regularly follow (and have been for a while!), Megan at Holy City Chic, recently posted an honest account of early first time motherhood... and I loved it. It's so easy to put filters on everything but it's only by opening up about the ups AND downs of parenthood that we truly connect with others. Let's be honest: it ain't easy but it's so worth it. 

(photo via the Chunky Chef)

4. Tonight we're trying this Olive Garden copycat Zuppa Toscana soup in the crockpot... I'll let you know how it turns out. I can't wait!

5. This week has been full of fun, from C's school singalong and holiday jammie party (I was party mom and got to wear my jammies too! ;)) to a winter wonderland themed gymnastics class to visiting Santa. It has positioned us perfectly for a great weekend with family, and I can't wait to slow down a bit and enjoy.

Wishing you and yours a holiday filled with peace, love, magic, and wonder! 

If You're Missing Someone This Holiday

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Growing up, my Aunt Kathy was the Queen of Christmas. She hosted every other year at the cozy townhouse she shared with my uncle and two cousins -- her daughters. Even before her kids were born (the oldest is nine years younger than me), she took my brother, cousins, and me in to build gingerbread houses, play games, watch movies and get in the holiday spirit. Her house was always decorated to the nines and she chose Christmas gifts for each of us with care. One of my favorite Christmases she hosted was only a few years ago -- my grandma, grandma's longtime companion, and my great uncle were all still alive and were seated with the rest of us at a long and crowded table set up in her family room. Aunt Kathy had come up with a game to play where we sang Christmas carols while passing one of many wrapped gifts around the table until we had to stop and whoever was holding the gift got to keep it. The older folks were sort of holding up the line ;) and it made us chuckle, but mostly beam with happiness because we knew how precious their presence was; perhaps their time was limited. But Aunt Kathy's was, too.

We lost her last New Year's Eve, in the last minutes of 2016, after years of bravely battling cancer. This first Christmas without her has held so many reminders of her for our family. She was such an integral part of our holiday. She infused magic into it, even last year as she faded away despite her best efforts to hide it from us.

And so, as magical as this year has been with my two daughters at such fun ages to enjoy this holiday and everything that comes with it, it's also been difficult. I know that I'm far from alone -- I know that there are many of you out there who may also be struggling a bit (or greatly) through this season, whether you're grieving lost love or lost life. I want to extend my arms out to you. Sometimes the occasions that are supposed to be the merriest are the most difficult when we're missing someone. What has helped me this year is to pay close attention to the kindness of others and other little reminders of the true spirit of the season -- when I've felt down, those reminders have lifted me up, and I like to think my Aunt Kathy might have something to do with that.

Warmest wishes for a peaceful holiday, and hugs from afar.

Hostess with the Leastest

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Tis the season for holiday parties! 

It's so much fun to get together with family and friends, but if you're the one hosting the party it can be stressful (and hard on the wallet!). If you're hoping to celebrate while keeping things simple, affordable, and fairly stress free this year... it is possible! Here are a few ideas that are easy to implement and inexpensive, while making a big impact:

+ Host at home. Assuming your house/apartment/living space can accommodate the number of guests you're expecting, try hosting the party at home. Renting a space or going to a restaurant does take some of the pressure off (hello, no cleaning!) but it will almost surely cost you a pretty penny. 

+ Allow guests to bring a dish or drink. Many people offer to bring something to a holiday get together, and they truly mean it. Allow guests to bring one dish or drink -- maybe an appetizer, cheese and crackers, a bottle of wine, chocolate chip cookies. 

+ Use wrapping paper as decor. This is one of my favorite tried and true tricks! There are so many great wrapping paper prints out there and it goes far. Grab a festive roll at HomeGoods or Target for a few bucks at most and use it for back drops, disposable table runners, or lay it on the counter under the food spread to make clean up super easy.

+ Don't rule out the dollar store. You guys. The dollar store is a goldmine for party goods. Plates, cups, napkins, decor, and don't even get me started on their gift bag selection. You can do so much with so little by gathering up a bunch of goodies at the dollar store. Think about it: If you have 12 guests, you can even get 12 frames for max $12 to frame name cards for the table. Grab a tube of ornaments for $1 and spread them across your table runner for instant festive decor.

+ Go light on decor. The nice thing about hosting a party around the holidays is the decor is usually built in: the glow of some strands of lights, a Christmas tree, candles, greenery... they double as simple, perfect party decor.

PS - A couple of other tips for easy party throwing: 

1. If you're a shoe-free house, let your guests know beforehand and consider even calling on people to wear their most festive socks! 

2. Grab a pack of disposable bathroom towels (they have a ton at HomeGoods for just a couple of dollars a pack) and put them near your sink -- that way, guests don't have to all use the same soggy hand towel. ;)

3. This is probably an obvious one, but truly schedule your morning/day out before your guests arrive. Make sure you plan enough time to get ready -- shower, hair, get dressed -- not too early and not too late. There's nothing worse than rushing through getting ready upstairs while your guests arrive. 

PSS - If you're attending a party as a guest instead of hosting, here are some fun hostess gifts: 

A beautiful, festive mug. (Less than $10)

A cult favorite candle. (Have you ever smelled it? OMG.)

A hilarious party game. (Can be played during the get together!)

A pretty little ornament. (Bonus, the year is on it for sentimentality!)

Scenes from Our {Festive} Weekend

Monday, December 18, 2017

Did you have a good weekend? I can't believe Christmas is in one week. We still have a couple of things to check off the holiday bucket list this week, including: drive around and look at Christmas lights, watch Home Alone & The Holiday, and visit Santa. Needless to say, it will be a festive week. ;) It was also a festive weekend over here, though. Here's some of what we were up to:

Friday was pretty low key. We made a quick trip to Target after school and then it snowed for the rest of the afternoon. Carrington has been really into helping us cook lately, so she helped me prepare our dinner: Pesto pasta with roasted brussel sprouts and spicy chicken sausage. This was a really quick and tasty dinner, if you need something new to try!

Saturday I took Hadley into the doctor around lunchtime to have her ears checked since she hadn't been sleeping well for the past couple of nights (very uncharacteristic for her). Low and behold, she had fluid in her ears, so the doc prescribed an antibiotic to prevent it from turning into a full blown ear infection. So far, so good... she's already doing much better. Saturday evening we headed out for an early dinner at one of our favorite places, Zinburger, and afterward the girls marveled at the giant Christmas tree right outside. It is so magical to see this time of year through their eyes.

Sunday we played indoors, delivered cookies and cards to our neighbors, and after Steve got back from a lunch with friends I ran out to finish up some shopping. As busy as it was out there, everyone was being so kind, patient, and helpful. We had crockpot Italian beef hoagies for dinner -- another easy recipe idea. That evening I missed a phone call from my friend who lives two hours away. When I listened to the voicemail, it was her and a big group singing "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" into the phone! What a fun surprise. I love carolers, and especially love that she thought of us from afar. :)

I have a couple of fun posts planned for this week! Tips for hosting easy and affordable holiday parties, my New Year's resolutions, and maybe a little fashion post (I know!) if I get around to it. Hope you have a great start to the week!

(print via Roolee Paper Co.)

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Thursday, December 14, 2017

What's on your wish list this year? It sounds so cliche, but I really can't imagine asking for more than I have right now. Does that make sense? I'm just at a place where I feel so lucky and full, and this year I want to focus on giving to others to put a smile on their faces. I'm almost done crossing off my shopping lists, but I have had a few requests from family for my own list. I'm not making a formal one, but here are a few things I love:

+ An expensive-looking, yet inexpensive phone case. 
I'm pretty disappointed that my Rifle Paper Co. case practically shredded to pieces after six months. I usually keep my phone cases for a while and this brand has really stood the test of time in the past! However, since mine is falling apart and I should probably get a new one soon, I love the pretty marble look of this one.

+ A new fragrance.
Admittedly, I'm not a perfume person. I get headaches easily and most scents make that worse, so for every day I wear this (and have been for years!). But recently I was flipping through a Nordstrom catalog that came to the house and one of those little scented perfume ads fell out -- this one. I couldn't stop sniffing it! I even kept it out for a couple of days to see if I still liked it, and I did. So for more special occasions, I think I may have found a new fragrance winner.

+ New makeup brushes.
Mine are so old and falling apart. I'd love to start fresh with these!

+ Instant Pot. 
This is a real stretch but I wouldn't mind trying out one of these! I've been really into using the crockpot at least once a week at our house, especially during these cold months. I've heard the Instant Pot is like a crockpot on steroids. Slow cooked taste in 20 minutes? Sign me up!

+ No-show socks.
Am I the only one who willingly (and excitedly) wishes for socks every Christmas? Where do they all go during the other 11 months of the year? I could use these no-show ones for my sneakers and booties.

+ A beautiful 2018 calendar.
Oh, how I love office supplies. I would own all of the calendars and planners if I could. This one is functional and so pretty, don't you think?

PS - Here are two things I already treated myself to: a cozy new coat (in some crazy twist of events and combination of coupon codes, I got this $200 jacket for $36! It is still half off right now, though) and a book about simplifying

Things You Come to Appreciate When You're 30+

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

I'm not sure if it happened gradually or all at once, but there are certain things I have definitely come to appreciate more as I've gotten older. And maybe it's cliche, but once I turned thirty, these things became crystal clear to me:

+ A quiet waiting room. You mean, I'm forced to sit in a chair and flip through a magazine for fifteen minutes? The. Horror. ;)  

+ A good grocery bagger. Is there anything worse than getting home only to find your eggs and bread crushed by your gallon of milk and bag full of apples? Well, yes, there is. But I have come to appreciate the fine art of bagging groceries and those who have mastered it (and silently curse those who haven't). 

+ Naps. So rare and so beautiful. There is nothing like a couch nap mid-day.

+ Comfort TV. There's a reason the old people you know watch Matlock and Murder She Wrote and other old shows that make them happy. It's comforting and familiar, and my obsession with The Wonder Years and Everybody Loves Raymond understands completely.

+ Staying in. At one point in your life, it's all about what's going on when and where. Once you hit a certain age, it feels good to know where you're going to land every night: the couch, with your favorite blanket, and your favorite comfort tv.

+ A good appliance. There's something about using something (probably every day) that you spent good money on and that works beautifully that is indescribably satisfying. Whether it's a whisper-quite washer or a trash can (this Simple Human one is affordable and life-changing): so nice.

+ Mail that isn't bills. Isn't it nice to get the mail and see a hand written envelope with a return address you recognize among the stack of bills and junk mail? Instant day brightener.

+ Coffee. You thought you needed coffee in your twenties? Ha. Ha ha ha. Whether you prefer 'Bucks or DD, call it jo, java, or a Cup of Hope (like I do)... coffee is now your new best friend.

I realize the common themes of this list -- comfort, quiet, sleep -- might make it seem like life is boring thirty plus, but the truth is it's just the opposite. Life is so often busy, scheduled, and hurried (why do you think time goes so much faster as an adult?) and those simple pleasure can be few and far between... which makes me all the more appreciative for them. 

What do you appreciate now more than ever?

Our Weekend + Holiday Bucket List Progress

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

How was your weekend? Ours was fun! On Friday night after the girls fell asleep, I remembered we needed more dog food. As anyone would do when they head to the pet store, I first stopped at Old Navy and found a few gems for gifts (I can't share them just yet because their recipients read this blog!). I grabbed the dog food next, and then decided to stop in Barnes & Noble on a whim -- wild mom on the loose! I grabbed a couple of gift cards for teacher gifts but what I really loved was just walking around, leisurely checking out books, sipping peppermint hot cocoa, listening to the live jazz they had in the cafe playing Christmas tunes. There was the sweetest elderly man busting a move to the music and I can't really explain how happy it made me. Life is busy and messy but if this gentleman, who has been through who knows what in his long lifetime and is at B&N alone on a Friday night, can break it down without a care... I think we can take something away from that. 

Saturday we hung out at home for the day and then had one of Carrie's friend's birthday parties in the evening. The kids had so much fun! And Sunday was a snow day. It looked beautiful falling outside and the girls (mostly the big one) begged to go out in it. It took at least 20 minutes to get them both layered up and dressed, and we were outside for less time than that. Happens every time! ;) 

So, almost halfway through December and I thought I'd do a quick update on how our Holiday Bucket List is going. Here it is again:

Bake cookies & give to neighbors: Happening tomorrow! 

Put up the tree & decorate: Done! We watched The Santa Clause while decking the halls on the first weekend of the month.

Watch festive movies: Done (and still in progress)! So far we've watched The Grinch, The Santa Clause, Elf, Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas, and I've watched countless cheesy Netflix Christmas movies. Still left on the list: Home Alone I & II, Christmas Vacation, and The Holiday (one of my all time favorites).

Drive around looking at lights: We still need to do this with hot chocolate in hand. 

Shop for a new toy to give away: We are doing this today! C's school is doing a toy drive and I'm excited to get C involved. We also donated a children's book at the book store.

Go caroling: Haven't done this yet and not sure we will this year. I'd love to get some carolers at our doorstep, though. :)

Get dressed up and visit Santa: Still need to do this! 

Go on a polar express ride: We kind of switched this out for another Christmas experience -- the first holiday night at an amusement park, and our annual trip to a Christmas village that has a lot of meaning to us. We'll add this to our list next year!

Make a gingerbread house: Haven't done this yet, but still plan to. Would anybody be interested in getting really crafty and making something more creative this year? Shutterfly contacted me and offered a beach shack gingerbread tutorial (they must know me too well) for my readers! If you'd like to see it and share it with your kids, let me know and I'll be sure to do a post in the next week or two with step-by-step instructions.

Last Minute Gift Ideas for Kids

Thursday, December 7, 2017

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, toys in every store...

Have kids in your life and still need a few gift ideas for the holidays? Look no further! Today I'm sharing only tried and true favorites of ours, as well as a few stocking stuffers.

1. Kinetic Sand. Hear me out before you think I'm officially insane for suggesting sand as an indoor toy for your small child. If you've never played with kinetic sand, it sticks together, is relatively mess free, and is the coolest thing ever. I highly recommend this exact brand because we've tried others that are messier. It's as simple as dumping the sand in a big Tupperware, giving your kid a shovel, some plastic cookie cutters, or their mini figurines, and letting them go to town. This will keep Carrington busy for an hour straight -- it's incredible!

2. Play Kitchen & Accessories. The play kitchen is obviously a larger gift, although we got ours at a garage sale for $20 complete with lots of accessories -- if you search Craigslist and other yard sale sites, chances are you'll find one for a bargain! Both of our girls play with their kitchen every single day (and have for years). It encourages creativity and pretend play -- everything from chef, to restaurant, to house. Melissa and Doug food and kitchen accessories are our absolute favorite for their quality and simplicity. 

3. Dress Up. You just can't go wrong with dress up! There is such a wide range of costumes to choose from -- from doctor, to policeman, to princess, to superhero. They generally store easily and, again, are something my kids use every single day. This one and this one are especially big hits here lately.

4. Books. An obvious choice, but always a winner. We can never have enough books. Right now Carrie is especially into Amelia Bedelia and Hadley loves anything with flaps or touch-and-feel books. We got them each a holiday book for their stocking this year, plus a copy of The Polar Express -- which I can't believe we didn't already have! For a twist, try one of these personalized books (there are always Groupons available for these I've noticed!) or a Barnes & Noble gift card so the child can pick out their own book.

5. Legos, blocks, and magnetic tiles (depending on age). Both of my girls love to build. Right now, they're really into Duplos Legos (they are 4 and 1), but blocks have also always been a big hit, especially for the baby stage. Carrington loves to play with the Magna-Tiles at school, so they have been on our list for her. A nice, quiet activity with a million variations and that requires imagination (just don't leave them out on the floor... damn, it hurts stepping on those things in the dark). ;)

Bonus! Stocking Stuffer Ideas: Fruit snacks, kids spatula/spoon for baking, new gloves, bouncy ball, books, socks, underwear, notepad, gel window clings, candy, new crayons, play doh or silly putty, bandaids, an ornament, small stuffed animal, figurine or small doll, Gumby, matchbox cars, slinky, face paint markers, baby doll bottles or diapers, safety scissors, lip balm, stickers, sunglasses, play money, $5 bill.

The Proposal

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

All of this news about the royal engagement has me thinking about proposals. They are usually such fun, joyful stories to hear and to tell, and what I love is that each one is so unique. What's your engagement story?

How's that for a crooked picture of a picture? ;) Professional photog here.

Our own engagement happened nine years ago (!) on a freezing night in November. We were still in college (!!) so after class one Friday Steve picked me up and we drove over an hour to an absolutely magical Christmas village. I had told him before that for some reason (probably based on some cheesy commercial or movie I had seen at some point!) I always had these visions of a proposal outside in the winter. It just seemed so cozy and romantic. I had my suspicions about what might go down that night since 1. The horrific traffic didn't seem to phase Steve in the slightest and 2. He was humming "if you like it then you should've put a ring on it" (Beyonce's big hit back in 2008) under his breath. 

It was the first night this village would be lit up for the holidays, so the place was crazy crowded and the nice restaurant Steve had planned on taking me was completely booked. It worked out how it was supposed to, though: After walking around admiring the lights for a while we got a seat in the coziest tavern, ironically named Hart's Tavern. After we ordered our drinks (sodas and spiked hot chocolates) I excused myself to the restroom. When I came back to the table, we were holding hands and talking when he slipped the ring on my finger (and, of course, said some lovely things that made me cry). It all happened so quickly that, although I thought he might propose that night, I had no idea it was going to happen right then, and it really did catch me by surprise. 

Fellow diners congratulated us and we ate some complimentary cake on the house while I sniffled and smiled like a mad woman. On the way home that night, we called our friends and family to share the news!

Here are some other fun facts about our engagement:

+ I was 21 years old
+ Steve didn't get down on a knee
+ We skipped class on a whim one day to ring shop (sounded like more fun) -- I was literally wearing sweatpants at Bailey Banks & Biddle. Ha!
+ The woman who sold Steve my engagement ring gave him the idea of where to propose (I guess he told her my vision, and she suggested this place!)
+ We have gone back to this village every. single. year. since then (it was our very last date before having C, I was VERY pregnant and a photo there served as my 9 month pic)
+ The restaurant Steve was going to take me to (the one that was booked) was called the Cock and the Bull -- needless to say, I'm glad that in repeating our story time and time again I get to say Hart's Tavern instead. ;)

So now it's your turn. If you're engaged or married, I'd love (really really love!) to know how it went down. How did he or she propose (or did you propose)? I can't wait to hear!

Such babies, I can barely stand it!

5 Gifts for the Person Who Has Everything

Friday, December 1, 2017

Happy Friday, and happy December! 

To kick off the most wonderful time of the year, I'm sharing my first holiday gift guide (!!!) and linking up for Five on Friday. I wanted to start off with five ideas for the person who has everything, who you buy for year after year and are running out of ideas for (maybe your spouse or a parent), or for the person who is just plain hard to shop for. ;)

1. A canvas.

I've ordered a bunch of canvases from Easy Canvas Prints before (not sponsored, promise!) and have had great experiences. A canvas is a great gift for the person who has it all, because it's such a high-quality way to preserve something meaningful for them, whether it's a family photograph or a picture of their favorite place in the world. It can be any size (I have everything from 8x8 squares to one of their largest sizes) and can be hung or propped anywhere: home or office.

2. An experience.

For the person who has everything, check out Groupon's "Things to Do" section (again, not sponsored -- just a happy customer). One of my favorite gifts I ever got anyone was for Steve several years back: a helicopter flying lesson. He absolutely loved it and it was just a cool experience. There are so many cool options on Groupon for great prices, from sports car racing to wine tasting to helicopter tours of cities and more.

3. A charitable donation.

For the person who has everything or who might be extraordinarily picky, dig into what they feel most passionate about and advocate for and make a charitable donation to the cause in their name. It will show thought and care, and will positively impact someone else. Good for everyone involved!

4. Handwriting jewelry.

This would be great for the sentimental loved one -- a parent, best friend, special aunt. These custom bracelets (here is an example of a shop that makes them) take the handwriting of someone special and turns it into keepsake jewelry. How cool is that?

5. A mini-trip.

Personally, I would love this! Instead of an item, this would be a day trip, an afternoon out, an overnight trip. It could be lunch out, followed by a movie and coffee. It could be a trip to a nearby city, admission to a museum, and dinner. Quality time is definitely my love language, so I think this would make a great idea for a spouse or even a parent or friend who you'd love to spend more time with.

I hope this helped get your wheels turning for the tough-to-shop-for person in your life! Sometimes it's all about thinking outside the (gift)box. ;) Have a great weekend, friends!
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