Thursday, December 31, 2015

Looking Ahead


Today is the last day of 2015... that is insane.  We had such a great year with settling into our new home and town, making new friends, a couple fun vacations, and of course lots and lots of weddings :)  2016 though... pretty sure 2016 is going to rock our world, in the best possible way!  

We're going to be ringing in the new year pretty low key, just hanging out at our next door neighbors house - ordering Chinese and watching football - and it sounds absolutely perfect.  As much as we really wanted to get away on vacation, I just couldn't bring myself to spend the money and book anything when I wasn't feeling good.  I mean, I felt terrible just sitting on the couch the last couple of months, I couldn't imagine putting myself on a cruise ship, ha!  

I'm always looking to improve/better myself and have been doing a lot of reflecting the last couple of days on how I can make 2016 the best it can be.  Resolutions or goals - whatever you want to call them - here they are!

Giving Back | Joining the Junior League has brought me so many amazing opportunities to get involved in the community and give back, but we don't do anything monetary.  I'd love to start regularly tithing to our church, start sponsoring a child, and make contributions to our favorite charities.

Exercise | I've really fallen off the exercise bandwagon the last couple of months.  Poor Brady isn't even getting regular walks and that makes me feel terrible.  I'd like to get in at least one walk a day with him right now (even if it's only 10 minutes) and after the baby is here, possibly join a gym or start running again.  We already have a beach vacation planned for August so the bikini body pressure is on, ha!

Wear Lipstick | This is my one frivolous goal ;)  I have never been a big lipstick person, until this holiday season. I've realized how much it can really make a dramatic difference in your look and totally brighten up your face.  I just feel better when I get ready every day, so here's to upping my lipstick game!

Home Projects | Oh boy, there is going to be so much to do this year on the home front.  A baby's room, finishing the guest bathroom and bedroom since we're going to have lots more visitors, and buying the random pieces missing from other rooms.  I just purchased this media cabinet yesterday (on major sale!) so this one is already in progress.

Devotionals | In 2014, I read the entire Bible from cover to cover.  It was an awesome year long program and I'm so glad I did it, it was one of the best parts of each day.  But then this year, I really struggled with doing a daily devotional.  I did She Reads Truth emails, but for some reason, an email doesn't do it for me.  I need a book in my hands and to make a set time each morning to spend doing it.  Any recommendations?

Blogging | Two and a half years later, and I still love blogging.  I want to invest a bit more into the blog this year: a new design, up my social media game and also learn how to better manage my time since come June, that will be a bit more limited.

And I say this every year, but most of all I just want to be present and live in the moment.  Appreciate life for what it is and where we are, not anxiously waiting for this summer or this vacation or this next big event.  I want to enjoy all of the little moments and just be happy.  Cheers to a fabulous 2016!

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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The First Trimester

THANK YOU, thank you, thank you for all of the well wishes over the last week!  It's been fun finally getting to share the big news and actually talk about it!  There has been so much I've left off the blog over the last couple months and I thought I'd just go ahead and cover the entire first trimester - which praise the Lord is over! - so settle in for a pretty long post ;)

Let's start at the beginning... October 12th aka the day we got the biggest surprise of our lifeee.  I had been experiencing some of the normal PMS symptoms starting the week before, although they seemed to be more exaggerated than normal, but nothing that made me think anything different was going on.  Honestly, a baby was the last thing I was even really thinking about - I thought we had our bases covered (thought being the key word), I was applying for jobs, planning a spring Europe trip, maybe starting to think about getting pregnant summer 2016 after my step brothers wedding (this all makes me laugh now).

Anyway, back to the week before the 12th, I started spotting a bit (TMI, sorry) which I thought was the start of my period... but then it stopped after a couple of days.  Strange, but again didn't even think twice.  And went ahead and had a weekend full of drinking, oops (that recap here).  That same weekend, I was also SUPER tired, like took a nap every single day tired and I'm not really a big napper.  Nick was the one that started to think something was up and mentioning that maybe I should take a test and I remember specifically saying, "no, I'm pretty sure I would know if I was pregnant" - haha!


It wasn't until Monday night, the 12th, that I thought I would just take a test because then it would be negative and I would get my period the next day... that's how it always goes, right?  So after dinner that night, we went out and bought our new couches, stopped at Walgreens on the way home and then I was going to take the test, rinse off and go to bed.  Aaaand then I took it and the thing turned positive in about 5 seconds flat!  I started freaking out and went and told Nick and he calmed me down, before putting me in the shower and heading out to buy more tests (such a good husband!).  When he got back, I took one more which was positive and saved the rest for the morning, because I literally still couldn't believe it.  But wouldn't you know, the next morning they were all positive, too! ;)

I called my doctors office and they made me wait an entire agonizing week to come in and see them.  It was tortureeee.  But on Monday the 19th, I went in and met with the nurse practitioner who gave me the low down on everything and then scheduled an ultrasound for the next week to determine how far along I was.  The ultrasound showed a beating heart and everything looked good, putting me at 6 weeks, 5 days with a due date of June 16, my birthday - which made it officially official!

Soon after that appointment, I started to feel pretty terrible.  I was literally a slave to my bed, so so so tired all of the time and I swear I would sleep for like 15 hours a day (I'm still taking a nap almost every day).  The nausea would hit after lunch time and get progressively worse throughout the day, so dinner was a no go for a few weeks there.  Poor Nick ate a lot of fast food and frozen meals!  I just couldn't eat anything, like anything at all.  The only things I could stomach were cereal, smoothies and mac-n-cheese.  That was rough because I really like my food and I was scared I would never enjoy it again!  I never actually threw up (other than when I had the flu) which I'm 134803248 times thankful for, but there were quite a few nights spent just praying I might so I would get some relief from the nausea.  

Luckily, during week 11 things started to clear up.  And the headaches kicked in ;)  For the most part now that I'm almost 16 weeks (tomorrow!), I'm feeling pretty good.  Other than the tiredness, I don't have too many symptoms and I've got my fingers crossed things stay like this.  I am hoping my immune system will pick up a bit though - I've had three head colds/sinus infections and the stomach flu in the last 15 weeks which has been rough, especially with not being able to take ANY medications during the first trimester.  If anyone has all natural ways of boosting the immune system, let me know!

We have our next appointment on Thursday, January 21st during which we will find out the gender!  I am sooo flippin' excited for that.  As of right now, I literally have no clue what I think it is - my mind changes all the time. I would say more people say boy than girl though so we will see, ahhh!  We won't be doing any big gender reveal, but we are going to have our parents come to town for dinner on Saturday the 23rd so we can share the news in person.  And then I'll be sure to share on Instagram, of course!  So many exciting times to come! 

Thanks for sharing along in our excitement and I'll be asking for all of your recommendations/tips/tricks over the next few months as I am literally clueless about babies, ha!  I'll think I'll be doing monthly updates from here on out, but let me know if I missed any of your questions :)  Happy Wednesday!
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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Pictures, Cameras, Oh My


Happy Tuesday!

I'm slowing coming out of my Christmas coma - so much good food and lots of traveling and visiting can really tire ya out!  We had such a nice holiday though and I can't believe it's all over, why does it always seem to go so fast?!  Christmas Eve through the 26th was spent with Nick's family on the east side of Michigan and then on Sunday, we headed west to see my family.  We were all properly spoiled with gifts (my favorite being this one!) and stuffed full of good food - it doesn't get much better than that. 

We're back home now and actually literally stuck at home, after an ice storm hit our area all day yesterday.  I can't say I mind though - Nick is taking a few days off of work and we're just hanging out watching Netflix, eating all of the leftovers, and taking naps.  Oh, and online shopping because hellloooo, Christmas money!  

Speaking of Christmas money, this is where I need your help: I'm going to use my money to invest in a nice camera (finally), but all of the different options out there are so overwhelming!  I solely use my cell phone to take pictures and that has been fine, but now that there is going to a baby around, I really don't want all of our pictures to be phone pictures.  You can't beat the convenience, but the quality just isn't the same.  I'm currently debating between these two: a Canon EOS Rebel T5 or an Olympus E-PL7... but am totally open to other options, too.

My main requirements are that it be lightweight and portable, have a fast shutter speed (like iPhone fast, if possible), be easy to use (major beginner status over here), and takes great pictures, duh.

Any recommendations?  Also, I'd love to hear how you guys store your photos.  One of my 2015 resolutions was to organize my pictures and I haven't touched them yet because again, talk about overwhelming.  I did some searching online and found Mix and Match Mama's 'how to' organize photos if anyone else is in the same boat as me, but otherwise I'm taking any and all tips or tricks!

Ps. sorry this was such a boring post, I'll be back tomorrow with some baby FAQs!
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Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Christmas Surprise!


In case you missed it on Instagram last night...

Brady's new BFF will be coming this summer - due on my own birthday, June 16th!

I still can't even believe it myself!  The whole thing is so surreal.  Ahhhh! There is just so much to update you guys on and tell you and it's been so hard to keep my mouth shut - hence the lack of 'life lately' type posts recently, haha.  I am 15 weeks today and am feeling pretty good, although that wasn't quite the case over the last few weeks.  We've been to the doctor a couple times now, with a great appointment yesterday so we decided it was finally time to let the cat out of the bag!

Also, just wanted to quick pop in and wish you all a Merry Christmas.  I'm so thankful for every single one of you that reads this blog and watching your awesome comments pour in on Instagram last night meant the world to me.  It really showed me how many amazing women I've met here and I appreciated your well wishes and congratulations more than you know!  I'll be back next week with all of the details about what's been going on these last couple of months :)

Merry Christmas, my friends!!
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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Countdown to Christmas

We're here already, can you believe it?!?  The countdown to Christmas is officially on - 3 days to go.  The holiday cards are sent out, the cookies are baked, the presents are (almost) wrapped, and the Christmas movies and music are playing around the clock.  It really is the most wonderful time of the year.  
Images: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

A quick round up of my favorite holiday posts and then it's back to wrapping my gifts and packing for our weekend away!

GIFT GUIDES
Stocking Stuffers For Her
Great Gifts for Dads
50 Gifts Under $50
For the Pets
Last Minute Ideas for Him or Her

Anyone still shopping?  I'm over here just buying things for myself now, haha.  Picking up this beauty in red, thinking this Patagonia will be perfect for our upcoming Colorado trip and how cute is this fringe sweater?!

RECIPES
Gingerbread Hot Chocolate
10 Easy Christmas Appetizers
Festive Holiday Cocktails
Pioneer Woman Cinnamon Rolls
My Favorite Christmas Cookies

I seriously can't think of a better way to kick off Christmas morning (or any morning), than with the Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Rolls.  And then continue your day with hot chocolate, appetizers, cookies and cocktails ;)

TRADITIONS
Holiday Traditions for Kids from 1 to 92
Christmas Movies You Can Watch on Netflix
Giving Back
Christmas Eve PJ Round Up
Holiday Bucket List

Traditions are one of my favorite parts of the holidays.  It's been fun starting some of our own with Nick (fireplace sleepovers!) and keeping some of the old - like watching White Christmas every single year and attending a Christmas Eve candlelight service.  What's your favorite?

Hope this week is filled with magic!  I'll be back with a couple more fun posts before the big day, but enjoy the last minute shopping/wrapping/baking/traveling craziness!




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Friday, December 18, 2015

Christmas Confessions


I usually only do one of these posts a month, but honestly, Christmas time deserves it's own confessions post!

I confess I'm already sad thinking about taking down our Christmas tree.  It just makes our living room feel so much cozier and homey (is that a word?).  I am most definitely leaving it up through New Years, maybe February, too...

I confess that I cannot get over the fact that ABC Family is changing their name to FreeForm.  FREEFORM??? Why?  So next year is it going to be FreeForm's 25 Days of Christmas?  Honestly, is anyone happy about this?

I confess that I had to return this coat because I was in between sizes and I'm really bitter about it.  I love it so much, but the arm holes/shoulders were just so tight.  I thought maybe I could deal with it and wore it one day, but knew it had to go back when it cut off the circulation in both of my arms haha.

I confess that I sent out my Christmas Cards on December 16th.  Whoops, nothing like waiting til almost the last minute.  It wasn't all my fault though, I had a lot of problems dealing with the photographer to actually GET the pictures... long, long story.  The tight deadline ended up meaning cards I didn't love, but what can you do?

I confess that while everyone loves this warm 50/60 degree weather, I want the snow!  The holidays just don't feel the same without it.  Give me the snow now, and these temps in January, February.

I confess that I wouldn't mind if this necklace showed up under the tree for me.  All the heart eyes.

I confess that I wish I wouldn't have discovered Christmas Cadbury Eggs.  They are my weakness and I've almost polished off a bag in the last couple of days by myself.  And I'm considering stocking up on a few more bags to get me to Easter...

I confess that I cut myself off from buying things until January, and then two hours later I placed an order at Gap.  I couldn't help it - everyone is raving about these leggings and a fair isle cardigan for less than $40?!? The sales are just too good to pass up right now.

Tell me I'm not alone with some of this stuff?  Now I'm off to spend my day baking my Christmas cookies - and probably consuming about 15 of them myself ;)  Happy weekend!

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Thursday, December 17, 2015

2016 Planners and Calendars For Under $60

Despite all the fancy technology we have these days, I will forever be a 'write it down' kind of girl.   I live and die by my old school planners and calendars.  We have a monthly calendar hanging in our kitchen to keep track of everything from Nick's business trips to weekend dinner plans, and I have my own little planner that I bring everywhere with me.  Since I like to throw it in my purse all the time, my main requirements are that it's on the smaller side, lightweight and of course, CUTE.  

I've rounded up 9 of my favorite 2016 planners and calendars, and they're all under $60 so you don't have to break the bank.

Sugar Paper Classic Black Desk Calendar // Kate Spade 12 Month Planner // Sugar Paper for Target Blush Casebound Planner (I bought this one!) // Emily Ley Daily Simplified Planner // Sugar Paper for Target 2016 Paperboard Planner // Rifle Paper Co Garance Dore Wall Calendar // Henri Bendel Shopping Girl Pocket Journal //
Sugar Paper for Target Blush Wall Calendar // Kate Spade 17 Month Planner 

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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Giving Back


This time of year really makes me take stock of all my blessings.  However, it can be so easy to get caught up in the other side of the holidays at the exact same time - the busy, rushed, expensive, materialistic side. Sometimes we get so focused on the gift giving side of the holiday, that it can be hard to remember that not everyone out there is doing the same thing.  Not because they don't want to, but because they can't.

Our local Junior League organization works really closely with the Salvation Army and I've been enjoying being a part of that this year.  But it also really pains me - it's hard to see families with young children come in to pick up winter coats, Thanksgiving dinners or visit our 'toy shop' for their Christmas gifts.  Their situations break my heart and remind me of all that I'm SO blessed to have.  I'm thankful to have gotten involved in volunteer opportunities through the JL, but there is more that I want to do.  I rounded up a few different ways that anyone can give back this holiday season - after all, "to whom much is given, much will be demanded" Luke 12:48.

ONE | The Salvation Army is an amazing organization that offers so many different opportunities to give back throughout the holiday season (and all year-round).  This is especially close to my heart because every Christmas growing up, my dad and I would spend one week night ringing the Salvation Army bell for donations outside our local Walgreens.  Visit their website to find ways to get involved either through bell ringing, donating items, or sponsoring a family.

TWO | Operation Christmas Child sends care packages to children all over the world that otherwise would not receive a Christmas gift.  It's not too late to 'build' a shoebox online so hop on over to learn how or find out how to join their volunteer team.

THREE | Visit a local homeless shelter and volunteer to serve a dinner meal.  This is on my bucket list to do on Thanksgiving one day.  Use this website to find a local shelter to help out at - you wouldn't believe how many there are that need assistance.

FOUR | One Warm Coat is an organization that collects coats to give to those in need, free of charge.  Can you imagine not having a coat to keep you warm?  They have drop off locations all over the country or you can learn more about hosting your own coat drive.

FIVE | Operation Give sends thousands of stockings to areas around the world in which the United States military is serving.  Stockings are distributed to the troops and also families in the communities around the world that we are helping.  You can donate a "stocking" or just send money to help with shipping costs.  Such a great way to give back to the soldiers that already give so much for us.

SIX | Project Linus gives handmade blankets to children that suffer from terminal illnesses or are spending their holidays in the hospital.  We spent our fair share of holidays in the hospital with my mom and always appreciated these types of things more than you could know.  Find out where to drop off blankets here.

SEVEN | Volunteering at a food bank is a great way to get involved during the holidays.  Growing up, we volunteered each year to pack boxes of food so that less fortunate families could have a holiday meal.  Use this website to find a local food bank near you.

EIGHT | The holiday season is all about giving, so practice random acts of kindness.  Pay for someone's coffee behind you, hold a door for someone, help an elderly neighbor with their yard work, or just say "hello" to a stranger.  You never know what could make someones day.  This website has tons of great ideas of little things you can do.

What do you guys do to give back?  I am looking forward to getting more involved in volunteering in 2016, both through our Junior League chapter and here at home.  I'm hoping to start sponsoring a child and tithing to our church more regularly, among other things.  Here's to making someone else's holidays that much better! :)
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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Last Minute Gifts for Him or Her

Ten days until Christmas!!!!  (Insert wide eyed emoji.)  Thankfully I JUST finished my shopping, but let me tell you, that has never been the case in the past.  I've always, always been a total last minute shopper - I'm talking at the mall on Christmas Eve, stressed out and running around like my head is cut off.  Anyone else?  If you're nodding along, than this gift guide is for you - because I feel for ya and want you to know you are not alone ;)  It's a mix of things for him, her or even yourself, all from companies that have amazingly fast shipping - Nordstrom, Amazon or Shopbop.  Happy shopping!


A Nespresso espresso maker for under $100 (in silver)?  An amazing deal - we picked this up for Nick's dad.

Another family member will be opening this cashmere scarf (also $100) which is the softest thing I've ever touched.  Comes in a bunch of different colors, too.

You can never, ever go wrong with gifting a plush bathrobe.  Nick got me one last year and I wear the thing to death.

For the truly impossible person on your shopping list: an Amazon gift card.

This Bose bluetooth speaker is actually on my wishlist!  I love the sleek design and the small size makes it easily portable.

I'll forever be wanting this Clare V leopard clutch - perfect for your fashionista friend.

The Patagonia Better Sweater for him is a go-to gift.  Nick has a similar one and it's probably the most worn item in his closet.

You guys know how much I LOVE my Clarisonic.  This is the one I have and this is a great option for the men in your life (both under $100).

Another favorite of mine: the Hot Tools 1 1/4in curling wand.  Can't say enough good things about this super reasonably priced hair tool.

I've been going so back and forth on getting a DSLR, but this Canon EOS Rebel is the one I have my eye on.  Lots of bloggers have recommended it and it has tons of amazing reviews.

How cute are these home state stemless wine glasses?!  I want!

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Monday, December 14, 2015

Weekending: The One With The Trifle

Good morning!  Hope you all had a nice weekend - hard to believe it's over already!  

Ours was good, although things didn't quite go according to plan after I twisted my ankle on Thursday night while we were walking Brady.  It was dark out and I stepped up on the curb because a car was coming down the street and next thing I knew, I heard a loud 'pop' and I was on the ground.  This ankle was injured pretty bad a few summers ago and it just hasn't been the same since, but luckily this time it was just twisted and I'm feeling much better after some R&R this weekend!

Friday night we just stayed home instead and had leftovers and watched Lost (my kind of night anyway, ha) and then Saturday morning I had to bail on the craft show which was a bummer.  We were having our friends over for dinner and I really didn't want to have to cancel that, so I just took it easy between setting the table and prepping our meal.  I so wish I would have gotten a better picture of the table, but of course didn't remember until after our friends arrived and our wine glasses were already filled, but I did get a quick snap!



Don't mind the burnt out light bulb, didn't realize that was happening until after the picture either!  Back to the good stuff - our meal.  SO SO SO delicious.  We had bacon wrapped dates which are my new favorite food, Italian salad, Annie's weeknight Bolognese (one of my favorite pasta recipes ever), bread and then I made a chocolate brownie trifle for dessert which we totally forgot about until after everyone had left and we were cleaning up the leftovers!!  What the heck?!  We were just having too much fun after dinner and I was so full, it never even crossed my mind.  Oh well, more (all) for us ;)


The next day, we just took it easy, ran errands, watched Lost - typical Sunday stuff.  We wrapped up the weekend that night with Nick's hockey game and dinner at the rink with friends!  Looking forward to lots of holiday fun this week now that my ankle is feeling totally better :)  Happy Monday!
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Friday, December 11, 2015

Friday Links


Happy, happy Friday!  We've got a weekend full of holiday fun ahead of us, along with some seriously warm weather for December in Michigan.  60 degrees?  I'll take it.  Other than spending lots of time outside (lucky Brady may get a trip to the dog park!), a friend and I are going to a Christmas craft show and then our neighbors are coming over for a holiday dinner on Saturday night.  Hoping to squeeze in a sleepover in front of the fireplace, too :)  My fave. 

A few things from around the web that have caught my eye lately...

+ The guys in my life are by far the hardest to shop for, but Zelle put together an awesome list of gifts for him that you have to check out.  And please tell me I'm not the only one still shopping?

+ Brown butter scallops with parmesan risotto... my mouth is watering.  I can't wait to have an at home date night and cook this up soon!

+ A round up of my all time top favorite Christmas movies - what's yours?

+ I popped into Target this week for a new planner (and $100 worth of other stuff, of course) and picked up this pretty.  I love the Sugar Paper planners - adorable and the best prices.

+ How unbelievably comfortable do these jogger pants look?  I would l-i-v-e in them.

+ 10 holiday hashtags to use on Instagram.  #hashtag

Ps. I'm looking for a new blog designer... time to spruce this place up again.  Any recommendations?
And with that, have a great weekend!! xoxo

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Thursday, December 10, 2015

How I Cured My Dry Skin


We are at that lovely time of the year where the cold is really starting to kick in and affect our nice, healthy, moisturized skin.  I've dealt with dry skin for a really long time, but a couple of winters ago it got SO BAD - we're talking literally peeling off, so tight it hurt to smile, chapped, practically bleeding skin on my face.  It was awful and I knew things had to change.  I thoroughly reviewed my entire skincare process - swapping products in and out - and learning as much as I could about how to best treat my skin during the cold, winter months.  Two years later, I can confidently say that my dry skin is healed and I consider myself to have normal skin again.  

If any of this sounds familiar, here's what worked for me and what hopefully could work for you, too...



{Only wash your face once a day}  Cleansing your face removes your skins natural oils, no matter how hydrating the cleanser, so it's best to only wash your face when absolutely necessary.  I wash my face each night and then in the morning, just splash some water on my face to help wake me up (followed by toner, moisturizer and eye cream).

{Switch to a hydrating cleanser}  I swear by La Roche Posay Toleriane Purifying Foaming Cream.  I've been using it since 2009 and it is so soothing and gentle, and the creamy formula truly moisturizes your skin while cleansing.  CeraVe's Hydrating Cleanser is another great option if you're looking for something a bit cheaper that can be picked up at the drugstore. 

{Exfoliate} I know exfoliating seems like the opposite of what you should be doing, but it's crucial to get rid of all those dry, dead skin cells on your face.  I use my Clarisonic about 5 times a week and it's been a game changer. I'd say behind the La Roche Posay face wash, the Clarisonic has been the biggest saving grace in helping my dry skin.  Make sure to use either the sensitive or cashmere cleanse brush heads because you just want gentle exfoliation, nothing crazy.

PS: tons of Clarisonic stuff is on sale at Nordstrom right now!

{Every other night}  If you use harsh skin treatments that can dry out your skin, such as a retin A product, start using it every other night instead of each night.  It will give your dry skin time to recover in between days.

{Avoid alcohol in your products}  This is another big one: avoid any skin care products containing alcohol as it is an ingredient specifically TO dry out the skin.  Great for those with oily skin, but us - not so much.  I'd been using this Clinique toner for years until one day I looked at the ingredient list and realized it contained alcohol.  I immediately switched over to this alcohol-free Aloe Vera toner by Mario Badescu and I really love it.  It's super mild and the aloe vera in it helps calm red skin which definitely comes along with the dryness.

{Night time slather}  Going to bed is not the time to look cute when you're dealing with dry skin - it's the time to pull out the big guns.  Sorry husbands.  If your skin is REALLY, REALLY bad, I'd 100% recommend giving Egyptian Magic All Purpose Skin Cream a try (found at Amazon, Whole Foods or Costco).  It's heavy duty and it's gross, but it helps so much.  You rub it in your hands and it turns to oil and then you slather it all over your face while you sleep.  The oil base prevents the moisturizer in it from drying out in the air and allows it to really skin into your skin.  

I'd really only recommend Egyptian Magic for the worst of the worst dry skin - if you're as desperate as I was. Otherwise, I also love CeraVe's PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion, or my latest favorite, First Aid Beauty's Ultra Repair Hydra-Firm Sleeping Cream.

{The eyes}  My favorite, favorite, favorite eye cream is Clinique's All About Eyes Rich.  It keeps my eyes hydrated, less puffy and I swear helps with dark circles.  *Make sure it's the Rich version because I think the original All About Eyes is not great.

{The usual tips} Drink LOTS of water, avoid long hot showers/baths, use a humidifier in your home, and moisturize, moisturize, moisturize.  

What are your tips or tricks for beating dry winter skin?
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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Winter White

No more white after Labor Day?  Yeah right.  I'd say that rule has been 110% thrown out the window and white is wearable all year long.  As long as you stick with classic pieces and heavier fabrics - like wool, denim, leather - you can't go wrong.  I've rounded up a few of my favorite pieces below... 

This J. Crew cambridge sweater has been a staple for many bloggers for a couple years now and for good reason - it goes with everything and looks beyond comfy.  I'm just patiently waiting for my size to come back in stock!

Another must have piece for every closet: a nice white blouse.  You can wear this year-round and I think it would look awesome during the holidays with a sparkly skirt.

A silk cashmere wrap scarf for under $75?  Yes. Please.

I own these Gap white jeans and they're my favorite.  The 'skimmer' length is perfect for us shorties!  On sale right now, too.

This leather envelope clutch is the perfect shade of cream and the zipper detailing is a fun touch.  Under $100 so it would make a great gift.

I'm obsessed with earflap hats this year and how cute is this one?!

Essie 'Blanc' is one of my all time favorite nail polish shades - I wear it all year long.

This 5th and Mercer long sleeved dress has been on my wishlist forever.  It's perfect for holiday parties! 

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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Favorite Christmas Cookie Recipes

These Christmas cookie recipes are my go-to: this will be my 3rd year in a row of baking these four recipes and I can promise you that they are all so so so good.  My big baking day is going to be next Friday and I already can't wait!  These recipes make tons of cookies, so I love to deliver some to the neighbors, bring them to Christmas parties and of course, eat way too many of them myself.

Without further ado...


Peanut Butter Blossoms
via Epicurious

Ingredients
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup smooth or chunky peanut butter (not natural)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla or almond extract
30 chocolate kisses, unwrapped

Directions
Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and a second rack in the lower third, preheat to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt.  Place 1/2 cup sugar in a separate small bowl.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the remaining 1/2 cup sugar with the brown sugar, butter, and peanut butter -- beat on medium speed, scraping the bowl occasionally, until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat on medium until fully incorporated, about 1 minute.  With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture and stir until just combined.

Roll the dough into walnut size balls, roll in sugar, and arrange on baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between cookies.

Bake, switching cookies between the upper and lower racks about halfway through, until just starting to brown, 8 to 10 minutes.

Remove the cookies from the oven and press a chocolate kiss into the center of each.

Cool the cookies on baking sheets for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.


Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies (Grinch Cookies)

Ingredients
1 pouch (1 lb 1.5 oz) Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon mint extract
6 to 8 drops green food color
1 egg
1 cup creme de menthe baking chips
1 cups semisweet chocolate chunks

Directions
Heat oven to 350 degrees.  

In a large bowl, stir cookie mix, butter, extract, food color and egg until soft dough forms.  Stir in creme de menthe baking chips and chocolate chunks.

Using small cookie scoop or teaspoon, drop dough 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until set.  Cool 3 minutes; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack.


The Best Snickerdoodles

Ingredients
DOUGH
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cream or tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt, optional and to taste

FOR ROLLING
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Directions
To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or large mixing bowl and electric mixer) combine the butters, sugars and beat on medium-high speed until creamed and well combined, about 3 minutes.

Stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the egg + vanilla and beat on medium-high speed until well combined, light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the flour, baking soda, cream or tartar, optional salt, and beat on low speed until just combined, about 1 minute.

Using a medium 2 inch cookie scoop or teaspoon, form approximately 14 equal sized mounds of dough (2 heaping tablespoons each), roll into balls and flatten slightly.

Place mounds on a large plate or tray, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, up to 5 days.  Do not bake with unchilled dough as cookies will be thinner, flatter and more prone to spreading.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine the rolling ingredients: sugar + cinnamon and stir to combine.  Dredge each mound of dough through cinnamon sugar.

Place dough mounds on baking sheet, spaced at least 2 inches apart and bake for about 9 minutes, or until edges have set and tops are just set.

Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for about 10 minutes before serving.


Oreo Balls
via Mix and Match Mama

Ingredients
1 package of Oreo cookies
8 ounces of plain cream cheese, softened
2 packages of Bakers White Chocolate, melted

Directions
In a food processor, finely crush an entire package of Oreo cookies.

Mix the crushed cookies and cream cheese together in a bowl.  Roll into balls and place on a baking sheet lined with wax paper.   Freeze for 10 minutes.

After, dip each ball into the melted white chocolate and place back on wax paper.

Top balls with WHATEVER!  You could do sprinkles, crushed Oreo's or my favorite: melted dark chocolate.

Place baking sheet in refrigerator to chill for at least 1 hour.

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Are you drooling yet?!  What are your favorite Christmas cookie recipes?   

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Monday, December 7, 2015

Chicago Weekending


We had THE BEST weekend in the Windy City!

This tradition of holiday shopping and having lunch at The Walnut Room with my family has always been one of my favorite days of the year and after missing out on it last winter due to just having moved, I couldn't even contain my excitement for it this year.  I mean what's not to love about a day/weekend of eating + shopping?  Only two of my favorite things ever.

Saturday morning we headed into the city (after dropping Brady off at a kennel for the very first time!) and met up with my family.  Our first stop was to Macy's on State Street to put our name in at The Walnut Room because it's always a minimum of 4-5 hour wait at this time of year - we got there at 10am and didn't have a call back time until 1:30-2!  After that, it was shopping shopping shopping.

We hit all of my favorites J Crew (picked up this hat that I loveeee), Nordstrom, Gap, Old Navy, Anthropologie and also checked out Athleta for the first time - obsessed.  As soon as I saw this vest when we walked in the store, I knew it was going to be mine.  

1:30 came pretty quickly so it was back to The Walnut Room for lunch!

blanket scarf (only $14.99!) // jacket 

I mean, how amazing is that tree?!  The Walnut Room has been a Chicago tradition since 1907 and a different famous person (a couple years ago it was Martha Stewart) plans the decorations for the tree each year.  The food is always good and the service quick - once you get seated ;)  The place is nuts, but it's a fun tradition for us and one I think we'll keep up for a long time!

We shopped some more after lunch, but once it started to get dark, my family decided to head home.  Nick and I went back to our hotel to get ready for dinner with our friends - and of course that is where I stopped taking pictures!  I do so good at the beginning of the day haha but have nothing to show for the second half.  We had dinner with two of our closest couple friends at Orso's an Italian restaurant in Old Town and it was delicious.  Like, had to roll ourselves out of there afterwards.  We finished the night off with beers at a bar down the street and watching MSU win the Big Ten Championship.


Sunday morning, we were up bright and early for some of Chicago's best donuts at Glazed and Infused, checking out Eataly (alll the cheese) and - you guessed it - more shopping.  We went all out at Zara: I picked up a super soft warm scarf, this turtleneck that's perfect for layering, and this blazer that I plan on wearing on Christmas Eve!  Along with a couple of Christmas gifts and some things for Nick.  We had a late lunch at Big Bowl (our FAVORITE) and then had to drag ourselves home.  So full, so poor from shopping - ha!

We barely made it back to the kennel in time to pick up Brady before being charged another day - oops - and it was the best welcome home.  I was a little nervous about leaving him there for the first time, but they were so nice and I could tell he had a great time.  His ears were all slobbery from playing with other dogs and he slept the entire rest of the night!  As did I... pretty sure I was passed out on the couch somewhere around 9pm.

Hope you guys had a great weekend, too!  Don't forget to join us tomorrow for our Countdown to Christmas - I'll be sharing my favorite Christmas cookie recipes :)
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Friday, December 4, 2015

Friday's Five


Cheers to Friday!  Starbucks red cups are a favorite thing of mine all of the time.  We made it to the end of another week aaaand there is now officially only three weeks until Christmas!

+ Speaking of Christmas, thank you so much to everyone who participated in the link up this week!  It was so much fun and I loved all of the festive holiday cheer.  If you missed out, no worries - we will be back next Tuesday, the 8th so join us then :)  I'll be sharing my four favorite Christmas cookie recipes!

+ I picked up a couple pairs of these socks this week and the are the bomb.com.   I think I'll be picking up a few more pairs in Chicago this weekend while they're still on sale!

+ Just thought I'd report back on one of my purchases from the Sephora VIB sale a few weeks back: this Butter London polish collection is awesome.  I've tried every color (love them all) and can't get over how well they apply and stay on.  Definitely a great gift idea for any of your girlfriends!

+ We've been eating these breakfast burrito's ALL WEEK LONG.  You can never go wrong with a Pioneer Woman recipe, especially one that makes tons of leftovers.  5 stars for sure.

+ Definitely saying lots of prayers for everyone involved in the California shooting on Wednesday.  It's a sad and really scary world that we live in right now.  It's hard to process all of these random acts of violence that keep happening and it sort of makes you want to just hole in up in your house.  I just wish there was a way to make it all better and to go away, but for now, sending them lots of prayers and love.

Enjoy your weekends and stay safe, friends!  Xoxo

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Thursday, December 3, 2015

Where To: Eat & Drink in Chicago

I am anxiously counting down the days/hours/seconds until this weekend because we are going back to CHICAGO! Chicago at Christmas is my favorite time of the year in the city and I can't wait to partake in some of our favorite holiday traditions that we developed throughout our five years of living there.  My family is coming with us and we'll be hitting up Michigan Avenue and State Street for some holiday shopping, having lunch at The Walnut Room and checking out Zoo Lights at The Lincoln Park Zoo.  Not to mention getting together with some of our friends! So excited.

Anyway, in the spirit of my brain being consumed by all things Chicago, I thought I'd share this that was actually a guest post on Sara's blog this summer: my favorite spots to eat and drink in Chicago.  There's about a billion restaurants in the city, but these are the ones we favored while living there... 


Little Goat  West Loop
Eat: Fried Chicken
We lived in the West Loop so Little Goat was one of our favorite restaurants.  The 'diner' vibe is so cute, and the food - amazing.  You honestly can't go wrong with any restaurant on Randolph Street, but this one has never disappointed us.  They also have a fabulous rooftop bar in the summer!

Terrace at The Trump  River North
Drink: White Radiance
Speaking of rooftop bars... if you're visiting Chicago in the summer, you MUST stop at The Trump to grab a drink. And I mean just one drink, because they aren't cheap ;)  But the views are beyond worth the steep prices - looking over the Chicago River, Michigan Avenue and River North will have you almost speechless.

Summer House Santa Monica • Lincoln Park
Eat: Pan Roasted Great Lakes Whitefish
Summer House Santa Monica has a super fun, laid back vibe.  The goal of this restaurant is to feel like you're not in the city, but in Santa Monica, and they've definitely accomplished this.  I mean they actually pump fresh air into the restaurant!  The food is delicious, too - especially the seafood.

Big Star • West Town
Eat: Taco de Pescado
If you want the best tacos in town... Big Star is your place!  While the menu may be small, there isn't a bad dish on it.  We loved going there after playing volleyball, sitting on the patio and just sharing a boatload of tacos. Yum.  They also have great drinks, make sure to try a jalapeno margarita!

RM Champagne Salon • West Loop
Drink: Sparkling Rose
Think shabby chic French bistro with an amazing wine/champagne selection.  It's a great place for a pre-dinner drink, especially while on a date as it has a really romantic vibe to it.  Very fun in the summer with an adorable patio (Chicagoans love their outdoor dining), but also really cozy in the winter with the roaring fireplaces.

Bongo Room  South Loop
Eat: White Chocolate & Caramel Pretzel Pancakes
Chicago has so many amazing breakfast spots, but one of the most unusual is the Bongo Room.  If you have a sweet tooth like me, you'll LOVE this!  I'm talking red velvet pancakes, chocolate tower french toast... are you sold?  So is everyone else, so make sure to get there early since they don't take reservations and can have long waits!

Bub City  River North
Drink: Back Porch Tea 
Bub City has it all - great food, delicious drinks, live country music and a crazy late night scene.  It's one of my favorite places in the entire city and you'll never not have an awesome time here.  Make sure to check out the ladies restroom while you're there, too - that's all I'm going to give away ;)

And of course, it's the land of deep dish so I would be remiss to not mention the pizza!  My personal favorite is Lou Malnati's, but you can't go wrong with any of the big three: Lou's, Gino's East, or Giordano's.  

Have you been to Chicago before?  Or better yet, at you hungry now?!  

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