2018: A Year in Review

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Hello from the other side of Christmas, friends! Did you all survive the holiday madness? Hope you not only made it through, but that you took time to slow down, sit back, and really enjoy. We had a great couple of days with our family and hosted Christmas dinner at our house, which I always really love. Still, the entire season can be chaotic, especially with small kids, and Steve and I watched this SNL skit about 142 times while we laughed our heads off.

The even better question is... what day is it? Does anybody really know? I've lost all track of time and I think midweek next week is going to be an abrupt and rude awakening. ;)


As 2018 comes to a close, I'm taking time to reflect on the past year, as I always do. These years as a young family are fast and full to the brim, and don't usually leave a lot of time for reflection, but when I look back on the year, there are so many highlights that I don't want to forget.


*Celebrated the New Year with a nice dinner out and tutus (for the children ;))
*Celebrated birthdays with family, friends, and lots of cake
*The girls' sisterly bond seemed to grow so much this month


*Celebrated a milestone birthday and threw a little party for my momma
*Welcomed a new little pal to our group of friends
*Steve turned 32! Celebrated with a date in Philly.


*Hadley's first dance class (mommy & me ballet)
*Celebrated more birthdays with family, friends, and cake :)
*Dyed Easter eggs and took the most epic bunny picture
*Carrington's first soccer practice


*Celebrated Easter
*Celebrated more family birthdays (can you tell we love our family and cake?)
*Went taste-testing at Kitchen Kettle Village
*Went to a baby shower for one of my close friends
*Took a trip to the aquarium (and bought our annual pass)
*Lost my Uncle Jorge. :(


*Celebrated Mother's Day and had a tea at school
*Spent a weekend in DC (kidless!) to celebrate our 8th wedding anniversary
*Officially brought out the shorts and bathing suits (summer is our favorite!)


*Took our yearly week-long beach vacation in our happy place! Had the best time (except for that food poisoning thing).
*Carrie had her first lemonade stand, of which she was so proud and it was adorable.
*Had a girls' night in Philly involving so much dancing that it felt like I ran a marathon for, like, a week afterward (in other words, it was a success).


*Celebrated Hadley's 2nd birthday with a Minnie themed party in the backyard! 
*Celebrated my 31st birthday
*Took our family photos
*Had a great day at Storybook Land with the girls


*Had our annual family day
*Celebrated babies-to-be and friends' birthdays in the summer sun
*Went to Dutch Wonderland!


*Back to school -- C's first day of Preschool 4s
*Swimming lessons started back up
*Celebrated my cousin's 30th birthday 
*Went to the aquarium!
*Did a day trip to the boardwalk with my brother and family, plus another bonus trip to the beach at the end of the month
*C started lacrosse
*Went apple picking!
*Brought the girls to my hometown's fair (an annual tradition)


*Went pumpkin picking and carved jack-o-lanterns
*Hadley started gymnastics (mommy & me)
*Hadley's first movie in the theater! (Smallfoot)
*Celebrated the birthdays of family and friends
*Did a day trip to Long Island to visit with family
*Trick-or-treating... the girls were mermaids this year!


*Celebrated Carrington's 5th birthday... three times! Haha :)
*Celebrated the birthdays of family and friends
*Our first Thanksgiving at home (due to sickness)
*Hadley's first hair cut!
*Went to Peddler's Village for dinner and Christmas lights (an annual tradition)


*December 5th -- C lost her first tooth!
*Visited Santa at the mall
*Stayed up late (and froze our butts off!) to see Santa come down our street on the fire truck
*Drove around looking at lights and drinking cocoa (two nights this year!)
*C had her holiday singalong at school
*Did a trip into Philly to do all things Christmas with the kids
*Celebrated the holidays with loved ones and hosted Christmas dinner
*Went to the aquarium

Whew! What a year! It was a really wonderful one for our family. The girls grew so much and their relationship did too. I think that was my favorite part of the year: watching them grow so close. Blog-wise, my favorite thing was launching the Women Who Inspire series, which will pick back up next month after a brief break over the holidays! Personally, I discovered a love for cooking this year. I didn't go out looking for it, but it was a pleasantly surprising result of one of my goals for 2018, which was meal planning (life changing, btw). I've really had fun experimenting with new recipes, planning our week's dinners, and just nourishing my family. I never thought I'd enjoy cooking so much... but I do! It's fun to discover different parts of yourself.

With all that said, of course there were also low points this year. We lost my Uncle Jorge in early spring, and he meant so much to me. That was really tough. We also watched family and close friends go through very difficult times, which was (and is still) hard to witness, and I wish I could have changed it for them. 


So, back to the insight I shared above... I'd love to know: did your 2018 ask questions or answer them? What were some of your highlights, or biggest challenges? What are you most proud of or surprised by within the past year?

FIVE ON FRIDAY: Read, Watched, Worn, Made & Bought

Friday, December 21, 2018

It's Friday! And not any Friday, but the Friday before Christmas. I can't believe we have only the weekend to go 'til the Christmas Eve and Day festivities begin. I know they will go by so quickly and there's so much excitement with the kids leading up to it, so I'm just trying to really soak it all in as much as possible. Easier said than done sometimes when you have sugared-up preschoolers and toddlers and a mountain of gifts to finish wrapping. ;) But I do feel a peace in my heart despite the sometimes-madness. I hope you do, too.

For today's Five on Friday -- the last post before the holidays -- I thought I'd bring back the "Read, Watched, Worn, Made & Bought" format that some of you seemed to like before. Here we go!

1. Read. I just finally finished Girl, Wash Your Face. I was really skeptical at first (and even partway through, really) but the more I read, the more I liked this book. I'm not usually a big fan of self-help books but I have to admit Rachel's tone is relatable and her energy is infectious. It often feels like you're chatting with your super-motivating BFF, which I'm guessing was just her intention while writing the book. If you feel stuck in a rut and need a push to get going in the New Year, this could be a good book to pick up!

2. Watched. I have three for this category! 

1. Dumplin'. Have any of you watched this new Netflix movie? It's about a teenager whose mom (Jennifer Aniston) heads up a Texas beauty pageant. She's not very close with her mom and has long felt judged/not good enough for her. After she loses her aunt (the mom's sister) who she was very close with, she decides to enter the beauty pageant to fulfill her aunt's dream -- despite not fitting the "typical" beauty pageant stereotype. This film was full of Dolly Parton, a little love story, and a lot of heart and had an overall confidence-building, believe-in-yourself message that was really refreshing.

2. Dirty John. I know a lot of people have listened to this podcast -- if you enjoyed the podcast or enjoy true crime in general, you need to catch this show on Bravo. The acting is really good (love Connie Britton!) and the creepy, based-on-truth storyline will have you all wide-eyed-emoji. 

3. American Meme. I'm in the middle of watching this documentary on Netflix right now, which basically follows a few people who have become rich and famous by being internet sensations and examines the perks and pitfalls of social media. So far, so good! I find this kind of stuff fascinating.

3. Worn. If you need a comfortable, easy-to-wear (and super affordable!) shirt for the holidays, check out your local Target. This peplum-style, thermal shirt is so soft, comfortable, and forgiving. 

4. Made. I haven't made anything too creative lately, with the exception of these cookies, which I've already shared with you. But seriously, if you're bringing dessert to your holiday get-together and need something simple to make, try these! They were the easiest ever, and this coming from a non-baker. ;)

5. Bought. I found these stackable containers at Target the other day and thought they'd be perfect for Barbie storage. They were $5.99 each and the top flaps easily fold out so kids can access what's inside themselves. I like how they could slide under C's bed, too. 

Well, friends, that wraps it up! I hope you all have a wonderful holiday with your family and friends. I'll be popping in later next week with a 2018 Year in Review post. Until then, enjoy every minute you can of these fun and festive next few days!

Our Holiday Card + Bucket List Progress

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Continuing the holiday spirit theme this week, I wanted to pop in and share our 2018 holiday card with you! I wish I could send each of you a card via good ol' snail mail, but this will have to do. :) 

The photos we used are ones from our family photo session this summer, so they were taken all the way back in July. We usually do one family shoot per year and it used to be around C's birthday, so closer to Christmas, but for the past two years we've chosen to do a summer shoot around H's birthday instead. So the girls both look a bit older now than in these pictures, but that's ok... it still works!


Now for the progress we've made on our Holiday Bucket List! We've crossed almost everything off in one form or another. I still have wrapping to do and need to nail down our menu for Christmas Day dinner and get those groceries, but otherwise we are ready to just sit back and enjoy the season. It's been a fun month so far!

Bake cookies & go to a swap: Check! Attended a cookie swap this past weekend and made these cookies for the first time.

Go Christmas shopping: Check! Alllmost completely done. This year I've done a mix of in store and online shopping (I always prefer in store, but there have been a lot of great deals online with free shipping). 

Deck the halls: Check! We decorated our house early this year... right after Thanksgiving!

Drive around looking at lights: Check! Just did this last night! Although we ran out of time for all the neighborhoods we wanted to hit, so decided we're going to split this into two nights this year. I think we'll do night two this weekend.

Watch Christmas movies: Check! We've watched most of our favorites. I plan to introduce C to "Jingle All the Way" during H's nap this Friday (I think it might be a bit old for H), and other than that the only favorite we haven't watched yet is Home Alone 2.

Go on a holiday hayride: We didn't check this one off and probably won't at this point, but that's ok. Instead of doing the lights hayride, we ventured into the city.

Visit Santa & get a picture: Check! The girls told Santa they would like "face paint and a wig, please" -- C beamed from ear to ear and H was not a fan (understandably!) but warmed up after a little.

Wrap gifts while listening to music: Check! Yesterday during nap time and while C was at school, I got a good chunk of wrapping done while sipping coffee and watching a cheesy Netflix Christmas movie. To be continued this week!

Donate toys and books: Check! We donated new toys to Toys for Tots and some of our old favorites to other families within our community. Another thing we did to encourage the girls to look outside of themselves this season was to bake cookies and bring them to our local fire and police stations. So much fun!

Go to a holiday village: Check! We checked this off a few weeks ago when we visited Peddler's Village.

Read Christmas books: Check! We've been reading Christmas books before bed for the past couple of weeks. Our favorites include: The Polar Express, The Sweet Smells of Christmas, How to Catch a Santa, and You Are My Merry among others.

Mail out holiday cards: Check! See above. ;)

Make a gingerbread house: Check! We did mini gingerbread houses this year.

Host Christmas dinner: Will check this off in 6 days! We plan to make our traditional ham with cherry glaze (yummm), mashed potatoes and maybe my mom will bring green bean casserole. I can't wait.

The key with these bucket lists, I think, is to make them an inspirational list of ideas to enjoy throughout each season. As you can see, I put a mix of everything from our yearly family traditions to things so simple as decorating our house. It's all part of the enjoyment of the season (plus, I love crossing things off a list that I know I'm going to do anyway ;)).

What has been the best thing you've seen or done so far this month?

Christmas in the City + The EASIEST Cookie Recipe

Monday, December 17, 2018

Happy Monday! How did your weekend go? I feel like these weekends before Christmas get extra hectic, jam-packed with activities and get togethers. And it's all good stuff... but it makes it just fly by, doesn't it?

On Friday Steve took the day off (he had some extra vacation days to use up), C had a well visit in the morning, I had a haircut at noon, and then we spent the evening in Philadelphia enjoying some Christmastime fun. We started off with dinner at McGillin's Old Ale House, which is decorated like an actual winter wonderland, and from there headed to City Hall. We checked out the ice skaters and caught a fun light show before walking over to LOVE Park. The girls thought the giant present made of Christmas lights was the best! After that we got cake pops and hot chocolate from Starbucks and enjoyed it in a prettily-decorated lobby. Once we were all stuffed with sugar, we went to the Comcast building and took in their really cool show complete with snow machines! It was such a magical little night and apparently the girls thought so, too, because they both fell asleep on the way home. :) Success!

On Saturday I picked up our groceries in the morning and we got some cleaning done. My mom came to visit so the rest of the day was spent playing and enjoying time with her. Steve and I even got to sneak out for a Starbucks date. Dreams do come true!

Sunday consisted of a Target run (and there was literal running involved since Haddie was my sidekick for that trip -- PS, how cute is that mug? Have you guys seen the Christmas mugs there? Amazing!) and a cookie swap in the afternoon. I made Almond Joy cookies to bring and it is the easiest recipe of all time. Although I enjoy cooking, I'm no baker, so the less ingredients the better... and this one has just FOUR! If you have a cookie swap or are making dessert for the holidays, give this recipe a try and let me know what you think. 

Hope your week is off to a good start, friends!

Here's to the Magic Makers | A Holiday Tribute

Thursday, December 13, 2018

What are your fondest memories of celebrating the holidays as a child? Maybe it’s that punch with the frothy top that Grandma always made, or maybe you remember plucking a piece of paper with a name written on it from a fake tree and choosing the perfect gift for someone in need. Perhaps it’s that whole day of baking that took place with half of your family crammed into the kitchen, feet aching and flour flying through the air. Or it could be leaving the midnight service, the air icy cold and thick with anticipation.

I remember the Aunt Kathy Christmas.

Growing up, we often gathered for Christmas Eve at Aunt Kathy’s house. This is when Aunt Kathy and her family still lived on Riverview Drive, which was neatly lined with smaller town-homes. I remember so clearly pulling up to that driveway the night before Christmas and being greeted by the display of caroler dolls and Santa statues positioned in her front bay window. Inside was cozy, with festive décor everywhere you turned and, of course, the shining centerpiece: the tree.

My family’s traditional Christmas dinner was a delivery pizza, but we knew to save room in our bellies for a table full of late-night hors d’oeuvres once we arrived at Aunt Kathy and Uncle Bob’s. There would be pigs-in-blankets (of course), mini meatballs, cut up vegetables, chips and dip, and, most years, baked ziti. For dessert there would be cake shaped like a wreath and leftover gingerbread houses that we had decorated when she invited all the kids over for some holiday fun days before.

We cousins would line ourselves up on her extra large, L-shaped sectional with plates of potato chips (sorry for the crumbs, Uncle Bob) and wait until we got the “okay” to begin peeking at tags on the gifts piled beneath the tree and commence the opening. I’m sure you can imagine it: balled up wrapping paper everywhere, squeals of excitement, hugs all around.

As we headed out into the frosty night at party’s end, Aunt Kathy would swear that she just heard Santa’s sleigh bells. I would spend the drive home searching the dark skies.

Christmas Eves were different once Aunt Kathy and her family moved from the Riverview house, I’m sure partly because I – along with everyone else – was getting older. But she still managed to make them special. I remember one year not so long ago especially fondly, when long folding tables were set up end by end in the new den and Aunt Kathy had us sit around them singing Christmas carols. While we were singing, we needed to pass something around – I forget what it was now – and when the carol ended, whoever was holding the object won a prize from a pile of small wrapped gifts she had prepared. This is one of my most cherished memories because it’s one of the last Christmases we were all together.

Right up until her last breath on New Year’s Eve two years ago (you don’t think she would have dared miss Christmas, do you?), Aunt Kathy brought the magic. And though she isn’t here today to thank for a lifetime of truly precious holiday memories, I feel her in the details of this season and like to think she’s proud that I’m trying my best to carry on her joyful spirit for my own girls.

So this December, let’s raise our glasses of frothy punch and forks full of baked ziti to the magic makers: the ones who bring us together year after year to create everlasting memories with those we love most. I know I will be, and you better believe I’ll be searching the skies once again this Christmas Eve.

Life Lately + This Week's Menu + My Wish List

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Happy Tuesday! How's your week treating you so far? It's been quiet around here, and I apologize for that. I've been wrapping up some work for 2018 and trying to really just focus on time spent enjoying the season with my family, so I haven't been wanting to force posts to go live in this space "just because." Instead, I've been dreaming up visions for 2019 -- where I want The Lucky Lifestyle and what it represents to go, who I want it to reach, and what I really want to accomplish with it.

Anyway! Thought I'd pop in with an update about what we've been up to lately, what's on this week's menu, and a few things on my own personal holiday wish list (really and truly, I want for nothing but my husband is adamantly requesting my wish list and just asked if I've posted one on the blog... so below are a couple of stocking ideas, babe. Haha) 

This past weekend we did a lot of catching up at home, playing, and sorting through things to give away. I finally tackled our donation pile -- just need to add a few toys and books and we'll get our pickup scheduled! On Saturday night we headed to a bounce place for our sweet little friend's 5th birthday party, and on Sunday we had one of our favorite family dates: dinner at Zinburger, followed by Barnes & Noble. The shopping center puts up a huge tree during the holidays every year, and the girls love it!

Yesterday I picked up my new planner for 2019. I get this brand every year because the layout just works for me. Please tell me there is someone else out there that gets just as excited for all of those blank calendars and spaces?! I will always love a good old paper planner. 

Last night the firetruck came around the neighborhood with Santa Claus aboard, tossing candy canes out the windows for all the kids. Does your neighborhood do that? The girls were SO excited, we waited in the freezing cold for at least a half an hour, haha! As a little thank you for the brave people in our fire department, we baked cookies this morning and plan to deliver them to the station after school. 

On to this week's menu:

Monday - Beef & wild rice casserole, with caesar salad (this was super easy and a hit with all members of the family, btw!)

Tuesday - Eggs & oven roasted red potatoes

Wednesday - Tacos, with rice and corn

Thursday - Chicken (Morningstar) nuggets with waffles fries

Friday - Leftovers

Saturday - Out

Sunday - Kielbasa, with mac & cheese and peas

My Holiday Wish List

I just updated my phone and it's case-less, so I'd love the same case I had for my last phone because it worked so well (and is a great price!).

I've been wanting brown boots for years, and LOVE these.

I'd love this marker-board to use for our weekly menus.

I need new blush, and love this brand -- this one looks great.

I've been craving a new book, so a Barnes & Noble gift card would be wonderful.

I am obsessed with the entire celestial line of jewelry at Madewell, especially this.

What's on your wish list this year? I love shopping more than most people you probably know, but this year I just have this incredibly overwhelming feeling of... gratefulness. I am endlessly grateful for our warm home and my healthy family, and it just doesn't leave room for a lot of other "wants." Keeping it simple this year!

Hope you have a wonderful day! 
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