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Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015: A Year in Review



Ah New Year's Eve. I've never been a big NYE partyer...heck...I've never been much of an anytime partyer. But I usually try to make an effort to stay up on NYE and I almost always (except one time) stay home. Partly because my redneck neighbors use any holiday as an excuse to shoot off big fireworks and terrorize my dog and partly because I'm a hermit. :)

This year we will continue the tradition of NYE fondue. And this time, I'll stick to the recipe and not try to omit anything. (that was disastrous)

When I think of where I was a year ago, I'm grateful for how far we've come. Our year was full of ups and downs.

Some highlights:

\\We bought our first house! And proceeded to decorate it and remodel the kitchen.
\\We celebrated our first wedding anniversary in beautiful Asheville, NC and had a spa day at the world-renowned Spa at Grove Park.
\\I became a "purse girl" and now own 4 beautiful bags.
\\I hosted my very first wine tasting and continue to learn more about wine!
\\I learned a little about myself and how I "vacation".
\\I did some wardrobe consultation work for my mom. :)
\\I turned 30!

Some not-so-highlights:

\\Exactly one year ago today, Hewitt was diagnosed with a disease called ITP. It's incurable but it can go into remission. One year ago the vet called me with his test results and urged me to take him to the emergency vet for treatment. That was one of the hardest days of my life. I remember eating  fondue and watching New Year's Rocking Eve and just crying because I thought Hewitt would be dead in a week.

Thankfully, he has responded well to his medications and treatment. He will be on medication for the rest of his life but he has a somewhat normal life now. His steroids make him retain water/fluid in his abdomen so he looks a little roly-poly but I'll take that over not having him around ANY DAY. Read more on his diagnosis and treatment here.
\\I turned 30! HEH. But really, this was a big deal to me. I was no longer "in my 20s" and it bothered me for awhile.
\\I only read 27 books this year. An extreme low point. And what's even sadder, is that I basically stopped reading books after the end of October. Other things like work, travel, travel-for-work, the holidays and family stuff ate up my time. I plan to change that for next year!

As for blog news, I'm going to keep at it for now. If any of you enjoy reading a certain type/kind of blog post here on TSF please share! Sometimes what sounds funny or like good reading in my own head...isn't.

Happy New Year to you and yours!

Read the 2014 year recap here.


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Christmas Recap

I'm off work this week spending time with family and M. So, my non-consistent blog posts will be even more inconsistent until I go back to work. Oh well...

Instead of a day-by-day recap (because you would probably die of boredom) I'm doing it a little differently.

BEST PARTS

  • Gift highlights: 4 cardigans, 4 statement necklaces, 4 pairs of ballet flats, 1 pair of cheetah print pumps, 2 different kinds of perfume (that I desperately needed) and lots of gift cards! 
  • Christmas Eve food: My immediate family always gathers on Christmas Eve for appetizers and present opening. We've been doing it since we were born. This year, everyone gathered at our new house and we had a lot of fun! 
  • Relaxing on Christmas Day by only visiting one house. Every year, my family has traditionally traveled on Christmas Day to multiple family members' houses. Last year, our first married Christmas, we traveled to 3 houses in one day and drove for many hours. This year, I wasn't going to have any of that, so we just went to M's parents' house for Christmas Day. It was lovely and we were back home by 3pm. DIVINE. 
  • I hosted the Annual Christmastime Mafia Party at my house last night and it was a lot of fun! There was definitely some chaos and ridiculousness, but we've come to expect it with our group. :)
  • M and I exchanged one gift early with each other and it just happened to be a Christmas ornament. I think we did a good job with each other's. :)


WORST PARTS


  • Waking up to severe intestinal cramps and GI upset on Christmas Day. It worked out that we didn't do a lot of traveling because I was having a really hard time. I'm thinking it was something I ate, but I was literally doubled over in severe abdominal pain for most of the morning starting at 6am. Needless to say I took it easy and ate bland food all day. :(
  • The weather was the pits. It was mid to upper 70s and rainy/humid. THAT IS NOT CHRISTMAS WEATHER! I'm sorry, I know lots of people loved the warm weather but I did not. And it's been raining every day since like August. I hated it. 
  • After Christmas shopping. I did manage to pick up some wrapping paper and gift bags on Christmas clearance, which was great. But I tried to go in to shop at a few places and it was madness. Not people madness, store-in-disarray madness. I went into Old Navy and literally there were piles of clothes on tables and stuff hung up and stuffed everywhere. It was like an expensive flea market and it gave me so much anxiety. Other places were clean/organized but the  sales weren't that good. WASTE. The saving grace was Bath and Body Works, which was organized well and was having a good sale. 
Today we are traveling to see my grandparents so I'll probably check back in later this week. Hope you all had a great Christmas! 


Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas


10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
 
Luke 2:10-14

Merry Christmas! 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Lessons I've Learned from The Grinch




The Grinch (both the 2000 and the 1966 versions) movie is one of my favorites. There's so much to love about the story of the Grinch and a lot of important life lessons you can learn from him.

Christmas is more about togetherness than it is about gifts.
Well this one is kind of given...it being the theme of the whole movie and all. The Whos in Whoville had nothing. Not a scrap of anything and they still gathered together to celebrate Christmas. Now, I could put some religious meanings in with this, but I won't. The basic idea is that you don't have to SPEND to celebrate Christmas. It's about togetherness and unity.

Teasing people about their appearance can ultimately lead to dire consequences.
In the later movie version, we get much more of an in-depth look at the childhood life of The Grinch. He wasn't born with anger towards the Whos. It grew out of mistreatment, teasing and torment at the hands of the Whos all his life. Ultimately, the Whos probably regretted being so mean to The Grinch when they saw all he was capable of and all he tried to destroy.

Comparison is the thief of joy.
I feel like this is an actual quote and not something that just came to mind. Maybe I've heard it before, but either way, it's a real lesson that can be learned from the movie. In the later version, we also see the competitive nature of the Whos (with all of their Christmas decorations and Christmas lights on their houses). Each year, they do more and more to win the best house prize and eventually they are spent. They've exhausted themselves competing with each other and the true spirit of Christmas is gone.

Heart growing is the same as heart softening and it does happen!
The Grinch's heart grows three sizes when he sees how the Whos celebrate with no Christmas "stuff". Now, IRL you don't want your heart to enlarge by 3 sizes, that's actually a bad thing. But you absolutely can soften your heart towards something. Maybe it's a group of people or that annoying coworker. Maybe it's a cause that's recently become dear to your heart. Ol' Grinchy can teach us a lesson in learning to soften your heart towards things.

Forgiveness restores unity.
When the Whos forgive The Grinch and accept him back into their community, all is well. He brings back all of their Christmas trappings and their food and the unity of Whoville is restored. Forgiveness goes a long way in repairing relationships. Christmas is an excellent time to let bygones be bygones and let grudges die. Forgiveness restores relationships and unity.

Merry Christmas!


Thursday, December 17, 2015

Unique Christmas Color Schemes

I'm a fan of Christmas trees with non-traditional or unique themes/color schemes. Though my tree is already done this year, I definitely have been pinning some ideas for future trees and a few of my favorites are below.

Black-and-white striped ribbon wraps around a Christmas tree that's adorned with flocked branches and faux marble ornaments. See more at Just Destiny.:


I love the traditional silver/white/gold with the black and white striped ribbon! So posh! 

Must be the new thing...   Turquoise spider christmas tree topper -- it's all the rage!:

I love the teal, lime green and cobalt blue on this tree! 

Pink Christmas tree:

Shades of pink on a white flocked tree! YES!

Choosing A Christmas Tree Theme - Christmas Decorating -:

Or shades of green! 

Totally type 1!!!:

I love how bright and cheerful this pink, green and orange tree is! 


Probably one of my favorite looks is a tartan plaid tree. It's so homey and warm! I would love to find ribbon/wrap in my mom's family tartan plaid to pay tribute to my Scottish heritage! 


Monday, December 14, 2015

Christmas Songs I Love


It should come to no surprise to you that as much as I love Christmas, I love Christmas music equally. Nothing really has the power to bring me joy quite like some Christmas tunes do. They conjure up feelings of happiness, joy, nostalgia and even sometimes, a quiet and reflective silence.

I've posted before on the Christmas songs I loathe, but never on the songs I love. And, let me tell you, it's quite a task to narrow down my list to just a few. However, after much deliberation, I'll present to you my favorite Christmas songs, in random order.

Silent Night
Especially this version by Mannheim Steamroller. A perfect song of quiet, hopeful solitude. It's one of those that makes you pause and reflect.

Carol of the Bells
Mannheim Steamroller's version has been my longtime jam for years. But also, have you heard the Pentatonix version? It's my new fave version.

O Holy Night
This is another slowish Christmas song that gives me similar feels to Silent Night. I don't like this song when it's performed fast or peppy. It's supposed to be majestic. But, OH, the words of this song are so beautiful. I think someone could even just read the lyrics to me and they would have the same impact as hearing the song sung.

White Christmas
I love Bing Crosby's iconic version. This song is totally a nostalgic one for me.

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas
Johnny Mathis' version is the best! I like having this one playing while I drive around Christmas shopping or wrap presents/decorate the tree.

Sleigh Ride
This is also M's favorite. We both love the Boston Pops version. This is another happy, peppy, joyful song that is great for doing "Christmas tasks" like baking, wrapping gifts, etc.

Now, your turn! What are some of your favorite Christmas songs?

Friday, December 11, 2015

Easy Gift Ideas for Acquaintances and Coworkers

We've all had to do it at some point...

...purchase a gift for someone we don't really know that well. #amiright? Maybe they are coworkers or maybe they are friends/family of your own family and you don't see them a lot. Or perhaps they are your hair stylist or the sweet old lady crossing guard. You know their name...and maybe a handful of things about them but they aren't close enough to really know that well. Every year, there's at least one of these people on my list.

Luckily for you, I've developed quite a talent at buying gifts for "Those we don't know well" (said in the same tone as "The one we do not speak of" from HP, HA!) Here are some suggestions for some quick and easy gifts that will make someone feel special...even if you don't know their last name. :)

If All You Know is Their Name and Gender

Candles
This is a standard for me. Most women love candles and I've even given them as gifts to guys as well. (men love candles too!!) Some of my favorites are from White Barn Candle Company (Bath & Body Works) and Yankee Candle. I know, I know, #basic. But a candle and maybe a pretty tea towel wrapped up make a great gift. 

Holiday-Themed House Items
Christmas is the only time I break away from my strict white-serving-dishes-only rule and bring out my green and red dotted dishes and holly glasses. A cute set of Christmas mugs or a little Christmas serving dish or dish towels would be very cute and festive. Also, every loves and needs liquid soap. I love the liquid hand soaps from Bath and Body Works (plus they have festive holders!) and from Mrs. Meyers.

Lottery Tickets
No idea why this is so popular but people love it! I love packaging up lottery tickets in a Christmas mug with maybe a few packets of hot chocolate or tea.

Gift Cards
These are virtually fail-proof. Some people think gift cards are impersonal, but to me they aren't. I like to wrap up my gift cards in a cute little bag with tissue paper. It's the thought that counts!

Bath Products
These are a go-to for me for female presents. I'll do a basket of lotions, soaps/body wash, body spray, etc. Again, B&BW has great sets and sales where you can buy multiples. I've gone in before during their buy 3 get 3 free and racked up! (I promise I'm not one of their sales people!! They are just really nice for these types of gifts!)


If You Know a Little More About Them

Accessories
These are great for male and female alike! Even M loves a nice scarf or pair of gloves. For ladies, you could do a pretty necklace or scarf/hat combo. Currently I love those gloves that have the fingertips where you can still use your touch phone.

Tech
Any cool techy item like a unique phone charger (as long as you know what kind) or docking station. Even some cool bluetooth speakers would be nice. And you probably can't go wrong with a nice pair of earbuds.

Food
Everyone loves snacks, right? A little basket or package of snacks and sweets are a nice touch. If you know enough about someone you could tailor the food to their tastes. Are they on a health kick? Include things like Kind Bars, Quest Bars, Complete Cookies and some sugar-free gum. Maybe they are chocoholics (like me!) you could do an assortment of chocolate candies or chocolate covered nuts, popcorn or even bacon! And if they are fans of salty snacks try individual bags of popcorn, chex mix, mixed nuts and trail mix.

Alcohol
As long as you know they aren't in AA or recovering, alcohol makes a great gift. Wrap up a bottle of their favorite wine or liquor...or build a 6 pack of craft beers. You could even include a couple bar accessories like a wine bottle opener or shaker.

Coffee
If you know someone likes coffee, anything coffee-related would probably be a hit. Flavored (powdered) creamer, coffee samplers, gift cards, flavored stir sticks, chocolate-covered espresso beans or maybe some flavored syrups. Go crazy!

Hopefully this list will give you some ideas. I know coworker gifts are hard...so maybe this helps? If you have any other gifts that you give to acquaintances and coworkers, please share!


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Tips to Make Your Photos ROCK



Recently I did an engagement photo shoot for a friend of mine. I loved how a lot of the photos came out post-production. I like to add a little oomph to my photos after I bring them into my computer. A lot of the time I just add sharpness or brighten up the contrast. Sometimes, I like to put a slight filter on them. I do this to enhance the photo and make it look even better.

So, since we are approaching the holiday season (and many of us take a lot of candid holiday family photos) why not talk about some simple tips to help make your photos pop even more? I'll use some of the photos from my friend's engagement shoot as examples. Photos on the left are raw (unedited) and photos on the right are edited.

Also, I do not have photoshop. I pay for a Royale subscription of PicMonkey and used that for these photos. PicMonkey also has a free option that is available to anyone.


1. Crop
Sometimes, cropping your photo gives you the best look. In this case, cropping out most of the bodies on the side made the hands the focal point. I also increased the vibrancy of the sunset a little to make it pop. (more on vibrancy below)

2. Filters
Now, filters should be used sparingly. I've learned over the years that less is more. However, there are some amazing pre-built filters in PicMonkey that I enjoy using. Here, I was less concerned about maintaining the blue in the sky and wanted to give this photo a bit of a warmer, woodsy feel. (actually wanted that for all of them!)


Filters really changed this one incredibly. The only other thing I did was sharpen the figures in the photo. I used the Dusk filter at about 20%.


I could just keep sharing how much I love using slight filters. You can really change the entire look of a photo just from the filters.
4. Vibrancy

Increasing the color saturation or vibrancy in a photograph can really make it special. While I do still love the original, I wanted the colors of the scarf to pop. I increased the color saturation a little and added a filter. It really made little details like the moss on the bricks and the scarf pattern stand out.


5. Soften
I added a filter to this one (which is why the colors are slightly different) but, more importantly, I used the softening tool to soften the trees and grass around the couple. This gives it a bit of a focal/3D effect that I love. It also immediately draws your eye to the couple...which is what we want!

There are a lot of free filters and options on PicMonkey to use as well. You don't need to pay for a subscription to utilize this awesome tool. And no, I don't work for PicMonkey nor am I being compensated by them. I just like making my photos look good!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Your Guide to Great Christmas Movies

I love Christmas movies. Now, there are a few that aren't my favorite (Miracle on 34th Street...It's a Wonderful Life) but most of the main ones are tops in my books.

Side note: why does no one say "tops" anymore? It's a fun word!

Here are some of my fave movies and a little handy guide to some of the common themes.


This year, I'm going to watch White Christmas with M this year. He's never seen it. (WHAT?!?!) And I always have to watch The Grinch and Christmas Vacation at least once. Are any of your favorites on the list? Which ones?

Thursday, December 3, 2015

#TBT - Office Holiday Party Dress Do's and Don'ts

Here's another timely and relevant #tbt post from a year ago. Enjoy!

'Tis the season! Well, the season for office/work parties, that is. Almost as soon as Thanksgiving is over, office holiday parties start to take over everyone's December calendars.

It's also the season for education on what IS and ISN'T appropriate to wear to an office party. Below is a quick guide to help you understand some of the fashion do's and fashion don'ts when it comes to partying it up with your coworkers. Many offices have holiday parties that are cocktail or dressy attire. These guidelines apply to those. (If you are one of the awesome offices that has a tacky Christmas sweater party...I'm 100% jealous!)


Sequins/Glitter: It's the holidays, so why not? However, I would encourage doing a more subtle or neutral color if doing a dress that is completely covered in sequins. Red glitter is gorgeous, but it might be a bit much if you're covered from neck to knee in it. :)

Mesh/Cut-Outs: Mesh/sheer fabrics are okay depending on where they are. I love the look of mesh shoulders/sleeves on a dress. It's festive but still classy. Mesh or cut-outs anywhere else are fashion don'ts. People should not see your cleavage, chest, abdomen or most of your back. Leave the cut-outs for the club.

Low/Plunging Necklines: These are fashion don'ts. (well, they are always a fashion don't in my book, but I am a bit more prudish than most.) Low necklines are fine for other situations...but not for office parties. (and definitely not for brunches with your grandmother either!)

Strapless: On the rare occasion that an office party is black-tie, a strapless dress is appropriate. (because usually that means it's more like a prom dress or gown) For cocktail attire, I think it's better to have straps or sleeves. Now, I am very partial to sleeves myself, but I think strappy dresses are perfectly appropriate too. Sleeveless and sleeves = okay. Strapless = probably will make you look either overdressed or underdressed depending on the actual outfit. I would venture as far as saying one shoulder looks also fall into a strapless category. Not so much for work parties.

Cliche Christmas colors: I love wearing red during the holidays. I love wearing green all the time. Wearing red and green together to your holiday party will probably make you look like you belong in the movie Elf. Avoid, avoid, avoid!

The most important thing to remember when selecting your office party outfit is that just because it doesn't look like work and it doesn't smell like work doesn't mean it isn't really work. You might not actually be working but you are with the people who see you working almost every day. Anything outlandish, overly revealing or inappropriate might change how your coworkers (and/or boss and supervisors) view you.

Now, ladies, don't get your panties in a wad. I'm not saying that your coworkers judge your professionalism based on your looks...but I am saying that if your looks don't compliment your professionalism it could change their opinion. Also, your behavior at these "after work functions" can also influence someone's opinion of you as well. So, if you get the outfit right but are falling over yourself sloppy drunk in front of your boss...that's not going to fare well either.

Just remember to keep it classy, fun and festive.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Our New Home: Kitchen Wall Update


One of the least favorite parts of our new kitchen is "the wall". (Read more about it in this post.) To make a long story short, we tried to cover up a black magnetic chalkboard wall with some dark blue paint. Well, the blue turned out to be a different color than we wanted and it made the wall basically look worse. :(

So, our only option (within reason) was beadboard. I love beadboard anyway, so I was totally on board with this idea (pun intended!). M was okay with it since it's only the one accent wall and not the entire kitchen.

To remind you...this is what we started with when we moved in.


Then this is after our failed blue wall experiment:


And now we are here:



We still have to cover up the nail holes and maybe add some photos/art to the walls. I'm actually considering doing something like this or this to display some of my dishes/china. Also, still not sold on the light fixture WITHOUT little globes/shades over the bulbs. We've had that for a few weeks and I'm trying to figure out how I like them bare.

I love how much bigger it makes our kitchen look. I think once we paint our cabinets it will tie in with the white wall nicely. We also want to put a panel of beadboard on our kitchen island (the part that doesn't have cabinets) to tie it all together.

I can't wait to really make this kitchen awesome! We've come a long way and still have a long way to go but I can't wait!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Thanksgiving Recap & Christmas Decor

I love Thanksgiving weekend. Why? Well because it's centered around food but also because it's the official start of the Christmas season. For my family, it means getting all the Christmas decorations out and starting to wrap presents. :)

This year, we did Thanksgiving lunch with M's family and dinner with mine. Our favorite football team happened to be playing on Thanksgiving this year so my family's gathering was much more casual and centered around the game. (which they won!!) I didn't take any food pics because...well...isn't all Thanksgiving food about the same? HA! But we did take some family pics...(which is kind of a thing in my family). M is learning that he's the obligatory photographer and he's getting pretty good at it. He knows to take them from up high and to make sure the background is good. Bless it.



Promptly the day after Thanksgiving, we commenced decorating the P household all-things-Christmas. This included the tree, fine-tuning the mantle (which I'd already got a head start on), bookshelves, tabletops and the outside lights.


Over the last few years I've been collecting Christmas trees and displaying them randomly throughout my house. This year, I decided to group them all together on the mantle. I love how it turned out. I'm going to add to some fresh greenery to it this week. New trees this year are the fourth from the left tall bronze one from Kirkland's (only $17!!) and the yarn covered one on the back of the right side. I made this one.


The tree this year is teal, silver and gold themed. I purchased a few additional teal ornaments this year to add to my current teal collection. I decided to purge my old Target ornaments from 5+ years ago because I'd grown tired of the color scheme. But I kept the teal ones and incorporated them into this year's tree.

For the first time in my life, we have a lit star on the tree. My family growing up was a bow-as-a-tree-topper family. M wanted to start doing a star on our tree so we got this awesome LED one at Target. It can either be white, multi-color or switch between the two. We obviously chose multi-color. which actually just looks mostly blue and green. But that goes perfectly with our teal tree scheme! :)



There's still a few things left to decorate and take photos of. Stay tuned for those. I only have a few more Christmas presents to procure and wrap and I'll be done with that! I try to be done before Thanksgiving so I'm a little behind schedule this year.

I hope your Thanksgivings were all great too!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thankful



I have so many things to be thankful for this year. Good health, friends, family, a good job, a great church and so much more. I love having a day (or two or three) each year to take some focus off of life's problems and issues and focus on the things for which I am truly grateful.

Today I'll be making a green bean casserole and a pineapple cheese casserole to take to both of my Thanksgiving gatherings.

Tomorrow, I'll be consuming said casseroles, along with lots of other delicious foods. Also, tomorrow, I will NOT be shopping. I'll spend Turkey day with those that I love and choose not to force anyone to work and be away from their own families. :)

Tomorrow, I'll also be consuming all the beige food I can possibly hold.

I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you have a wonderful day...however you choose to celebrate it. I'll be back on Monday with a Thanksgiving recap.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Gratitude & Blogging

I'll admit I've allowed other things to consume my mind as of late. 'Tis the season, right? I've honestly been struggling with whether or not to continue blogging. I feel lately like I don't have much to share...or what I do share is uninteresting to most. I struggle with the fact that I've stayed at 300 "followers" for over a year. I tried a weekly link-up that failed. I've kind of had the wind knocked out of my sails. Blogging has sort of become less of a passion and more of a...chore? 

It sounds bad to say that. I love the blogging community. I've "met" so many awesome bloggers and love continuing to read blogs every day. But as for mine, I just feel a little...tapped out.

I just need a successful blogger to adopt me and help me grow. HAHA!

No, but really, I've just been thinking about this for awhile. I'm not making any decisions until after the holidays. The holidays are full of blog material (for me) since I love to share photos, recipes, etc. But after, I'm not sure.

This isn't a call to rally or a solicitation for praise...it's just the culmination of my thoughts over the past few weeks. I stumbled upon this quote recently and it really stuck with me:


I've always been able to identify with the first 2/3 of the quote because gratitude does make sense of the past and helps to bring peace for the present. However, I've never thought about how gratitude or a spirit of gratitude could create vision for tomorrow. 

So in the spirit of gratitude, I will post the things I'm thankful for with relation to blogging and hope for clarity and vision. 

I'm thankful for...

  • The people I've "met" and the contacts I've made through blogging. Some of these people feel like old friends and seeing their posts on Instagram, FB and/or blogs really brighten my day.
  • The opportunities I've received from blogging. I've been able to review awesome products and services and learn about new companies. 
  • The ability to easily keep my family updated on my life. For someone that's not much of a talker, it's a great way to keep my distant family informed on my life.
  • The fact that it provides me with a voice. I love writing and though I'm not the best at it, I do love having somewhere I can spill my thoughts. (so to speak)
I promise to post something a little less morose tomorrow. :)

Friday, November 20, 2015

Chicago Trip Recap

This week I was in Chicago for work. I've been to Chicago once before and it was 10 years ago so I was excited to take on the Windy City again. 

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get out and do all the touristy things since I was there for work, but I did get to do a few fun things. My recap is below. 


So, I got there and they bumped me up to a junior suite since the room type I'd reserved was overbooked. Okay, Chicago, you're already doing right by me. 


One evening, I took it upon myself to walk around the city. I had a suggestion on a great local eatery from a coworker and it was only about a mile away so I walked there. Apparently, I wasn't supposed to walk around downtown Chicago by myself at night. I wasn't scared and it was great exercise. :)

I spent some time at the beautiful Shedd Aquarium and took these photos of the city from the aquarium. 



The aquarium was amazing! It was huge and had so many really cool exhibits. I also got to see one my most favorite animals in the world...a sea lion. We bonded. I think. He was showing off for the picture.

Upon the recommendation of a former Chicagoan coworker, I tried both Portillo's and Lou Malnati's Pizza restaurants. At Portillo's I had the famous Italian Beef sandwich, which was amazing...but very messy. Then I had (again, upon recommendation) a slice of their World Famous Chocolate Cake. It, also, was quite delicious.

At Lou Malnati's I opted for the traditional pepperoni deep dish pizza and it was great! Deep dish pizza is definitely a religion up there. People are firmly entrenched in their own deep dish pizza camps and you pledge allegiance to one local pizza chain. 

Yes, that's two slices of chocolate cake I had. One was at the hotel. When in Rome, right? 

My trip to Chicago, though short, was definitely fun. I absolutely want to go back with M and do more touristy stuff. I think next time I may go back in the summer though. :)

Thursday, November 19, 2015

TBT: How to Style a Plaid Top

Buenos Thursday, friends. In honor of #tbt (that's Throwback Thursday) I'm going to, on occasion, recycle older blog posts that some of my newer readers may never have seen. Each one will be updated and edited to incorporate new info. But I used to pump out some good content back in  the day too, so why not make use of it?!?! (Originally published 12/20/13)



Two fairly recent additions to my wardrobe are plaid shirts. (exact ones here) I love how comfortable and casual they are, but I often find myself stuck into only wearing them with jeans and boat shoes or jeans and boots. I also get hung up on the cowgirl and boots with plaid shirt stereotype and feel like I'm wearing a costume sometimes. But I just KNOW there is a lot of versatility with a plaid top, I just needed some inspiration for different ways to try it.

Below are some of my favorite unique or different ways to wear a plaid top.



How about a plaid top with a sparkly mini and some studded pumps? Okay, so I realize this isn't a look lots of people can, or feel comfortable pulling off. However, translate it into something a little simpler...plaid shirt+skirt+pumps. It's a dressed up plaid!


I love this look! Plaid top with a faux fur vest, skinny jeans and flats. It's casual, but looks very put together. Now, I just need to put my hands on a faux fur vest... :)


This is another one that might scare you initially, but is totally do-able if you simplify it. Plaid shirt+worn under a tank+with a skirt. Don't worry about the pattern mixing or sequins for a minute and think about the elements together. Maybe you just wear your plaid shirt under a plain tank with a solid skirt...but the inspiration of the original look is still there.

A classic. Plaid top+cardian sweater+jeans+flats. Another love!

Love, love love this! Ran across this page when I was looking up other's stitch fix boxes. THis was not a sf but I love it! I am a vest lover. <3:
via

Plaid shirt + a riding vest + jeans. YES! I have all of these things! I'm just waiting on it to get cold enough to not sweat my butt off wearing.

Cute preppy outfit for cold weather.:
via

How about UNDER a sweater? This could work with a pullover sweater or under a buttoned-up cardi. YES!
Would you ever experiment with different ways of wearing a plaid top?

Monday, November 16, 2015

On Paris, Lebanon, Israel, et al...

As a caution to my readers, this post has strong religious overtones. If religion isn't your thing, feel free to stop reading.

In light of the events in Paris, a hashtag quickly gained popularity to be the main trending  hashtag on social media. The hashtag? #prayforparis

This got me thinking. Specifically, two major thought trains emerged.

1. The fact that  #prayforparis is trending shows us that in times of tragedy and devastation, people go to God. It wasn't #thinkingofparis or #goodvibestoparis or even #parisstrong. It's #prayforparis. Deep down, people know that when things get bad, there is One who is good. When times are tough, there is One who can take it. When tragedy strikes, we cling to the One who never fails.

2. The other train of thought is this. We can make hashtag after hashtag and light up building after building to commemorate victims of terrorism, but when will it stop? The answer, it won't. The world is inherently evil. Terrorism has existed for thousands of years (though it's taken many forms and names over the years).

Here's what I propose, in addition to praying for Paris or Lebanon or Israel, et al, how about we pray for the TERRORISTS. Why? Because there will continue to be victims that we rally behind if the terrorists continue to terrorize. So, why not pray that God changes the hearts of the terrorists? He can. He is able to turn their hearts away from evil. He can change their mindset and he absolutely is strong enough to do so.

Until we start praying for our enemies, terrorists...those who persecute us, we won't see an end to this. Because terrorism will continue to grow and foster and pollute the minds of each generation until that generation begins to acknowledge that Jesus is Lord. And until that day, we will continue to struggle and fight and live in fear.

Pray for those that hate us. Pray for those that persecute us. Pray for those that want to kill us. Pray that they acknowledge the grace and love and compassion of Jesus.


Friday, November 13, 2015

Long Time, No...Blog

Well, hello there, friends. It's been awhile since I've blogged. 11 days, as a matter of fact and that is HIGHLY unusual for me. I've been traveling so much over the last 2 weeks I've barely had time to grocery shop and do laundry...let alone blog.

I have one more week of travel before things slow down a little for me. Next week, I'm headed to Chicago! Whoo hoo! I can't wait.

In the last two weeks I spent a couple of days in Charleston, WV. I've never been there before and it was so pretty! I stayed downtown and walked around on my first night there and just took in the area. I loved the mall there too! HAHA!


This was pretty shot from downtown near one of the parks (I forgot which one). It's overlooking the Kanawha river. 


Oh don't mind me. I enjoy taking airplane sky photos. #basic

During my time in WV I tried to sample a famous Tudor's Biscuit World biscuit but was thwarted! Never fear! I will probably return again in the spring so I'll try again. I will have a Tudor's biscuit in my lifetime. Mark my words.


I also spent a couple of days in Pittsburgh, PA. I'd NEVER been to Pennsylvania before so I was really excited to go. And, of course,  I had to take some #skyparty photos because...that's what I do. 

PA was very pretty and very hilly/mountainy. I wasn't expecting that. Not sure what I was expecting...but not that. 

Also, in Pittsburgh I did something else for the first time...I tried Uber. I know, I'm such a wimp but public transportation scares me so Uber scared me even more. So why not just dive in and try Uber for the first time in a strange city? :) I had two good experiences although I had a small panic attack when I couldn't find an Uber driver available to pick me up from the hotel and take me to the airport. Luckily, one was available after a while. I survived. :)


Whilst in PA, we tried a restaurant called The Juniper Grill in McMurray (or around there). It was so good! I like trying non-chain/local restaurants when I'm visiting new places. I had the Chipotle Flank Steak with mashed potatoes....um....DELICIOUS.

Then I had an amazing slice of chocolate cake for dessert and I tried Creme Brulee for the first time. It was pretty good too! But, alas, I don't think it could be my dessert of choice since it is missing a key ingredient...chocolate. 


 Navigating airports, Ubers, rental cars, new cities and lots of people has been fun, but also exhausting. I'm leaving for Chicago on Monday afternoon so until then I'm just gonna stay around the house, lay low, do some laundry and snuggle with this little guy. (Oh, and M too!) HAHA.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Halloween Recap: Why My Friends Are Awesome

I have a set of friends that rotate hosting an annual Halloween party and costumes are mandatory. (which I love)

Normally, my friends have some amazing costumes and this year was no exception. We had Trivia Crack, a flower bouquet, a skydancer, Wal-Mart associates, Popeye & Olive Oyl, Slutty Dora the Explorer, The Duggar parents (from 19 Kids and Counting) and a bunch of others.

I dressed as an upside down ice cream cone and M was Three-Hole-Punch Jim from The Office. Here a just a few pics:


My friend that was Trivia Crack had a spinning wheel and carried around actual Trivia Crack questions for people to answer. It was awesome! The best thing about my friends and our Halloween parties are that you will see no store-bought costumes. Parts of them may be bought but the final results never just comes out of a bag. In the past we've seen homemade Minions, Emmy awards, Queen of Hearts, Raggedy Ann, Mushrooms, naked SIMs, Chiquita Banana lady, aliens, Diet Pepsi cans, etc. We go all out and it's always something amazing! 

Also, a bodysuit and animal ears do not a good costume make. At least try with good makeup. Ugh. I will judge you. 

Before I close today, I wanted to share with you a precious and totally cute picture I found over the weekend. 


This just goat real cute, right there.

The picture isn't baaaaad at all. It's cute!

It's okay if you don't like goat pictures...I do. And that's all I have for this rainy, dreary Monday.

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