November 30, 2015

7 Christmas Decorating Tips and Tricks

My favorite holiday is fast approaching and the thing that I love to do most is decorating my house. Inside and out. A friend once told me that during the holidays it looks like Pottery Barn exploded in my house (even though nothing I own is from Pottery Barn). The affinity for festive decor was passed down to me from my mom, and to her from her mom. I guess you could say it runs in the family.

Over the years I've developed my Christmas style, and (very slowly) built up my decor stockpile (I have a total of 5 tote bins and 2 boxes of stuff over 10 years). However, when I first was out on my own, I had to get creative. Sometimes funds are limited or you don't have much time. These tips and tricks I've learned have helped me so, so much.

1. If you have a smaller tree, elevate it to make it feel bigger. 
I love having our tree in the window so the lights can be seen from outside. We have a 5 foot tree, it's shorter than you think. To make it taller and feel a bit bigger, I put a box under the stand. The box I used this year is probably about 8 inches tall. We also have a 3 foot tree in our bedroom. I put that one on a TV tray. My Dad has a 4 foot tree and they have a small coffee-table-height table they put it on.

2. DIY "Mantle" Shelf
Much to my disappointment, we do not have a fireplace in our home. I'm 95% positive there used to be one (along with a second floor/attic room) that was taken out in a huge renovation to the house a few years before we moved in. We have some shelves in our living room that are above two of the doorways for the cats to get up and away from the dogs if they want. Well for Christmas, the larger one gets turned into a "mantle". I put up garland around the door frame, add some fairy lights, and hang the stockings. Another semi-permanent option is to purchase a floating Mantle shaped shelf (like this one) and designate a spot on the wall at the Mantle, then use it for candles and picture frames the rest of the year. More "mantles" could be bookshelves, window sills, hooks on the wall, get creative!

3. Use Clear Thumbtacks and Floral Wire to hang garland around windows and door frames.
Put a thumbtack just above the door/window frame on each corner and one in the middle. Attach a 6 inch length of floral wire around the coordinating spot on the garland in a loop, center and each side. Some measuring is involved with that part. Then hang the loops on the tacks. For a less damaging option you could use the small clear command hooks instead of tacks.

4. Dress up the decor you already have.
I use silk poinsettias, fake greenery, cinnamon (or not) pinecones, bows, fairy lights, candles, and bunting to transform my everyday decor items into a more festive version. For example, I have a hanging bucket in my gallery wall and I change out the flowers for each season. I put some cinnamon pinecones in a basket on the ottoman in the living room. I put fairy lights and a DIY mesh garland on top of my cabinets. I hung a DIY bunting on the bookshelves in my kitchen. I put a big red bow on my donkey planter on our porch. Even some holiday hand towels from the dollar section at target hung on your cabinets in the kitchen can liven things up.

5. Fill in your sparse artificial tree with garland.
Yep. Our fake tree is a lot less full as the box would have you believe. So I bought some extra garland and wound it in to fill in the bareness around the "trunk" part of the tree. Trust me it makes a huge difference.

6. Put fairy lights on the inside of your child's bedroom window
This doubles as a night light and decor! Plus it gives children a Christmas "chore" to do each night, to plug in their lights! Thanks to my Llama for this suggestion.

7. Hang extra ornaments from the curtain rod in the window.
I don't know about you, but I always have at least one box of Christmas balls leftover after I've decorated the tree. Sometimes I like to hang them at varying lengths with string/yarn/ribbon in my small kitchen window. But this would also be a great one for the kids rooms too!

Most people do up their main living spaces, but don't skip the bathroom when decorating. At least the bathroom your guests use, anyways. Holiday towels, candles, a wreath, or a rug can add a pop of Christmas spirit while you pee.

What's your Christmas style? Do you have any tips or tricks to add?

November 25, 2015

Captured on Film

If you follow me on Instagram, you're probably jealous that I got to hang out with Cassie from Sage and her husband Matt two weekends ago. If you don't follow me (or Cassie or Matt), you should, and after this post you, too, will be jealous of my blate (blogger date) with Cassie and Matt. Just saying.

Let me give you a back story of sorts: when I asked my mom what she wanted and what she thought my grandparents would want for Christmas, she told me they would love some professional photos of me and Hubs. We don't have any because we eloped and that doesn't require a fancy photographer and stuff. So, I started researching photographers in our area. I found a few, but they were on the higher end budget wise and all of them offered prints instead of digital copies.

And then BOOM. I remembered that Cassie's husband is a photographer. I found his website, Matt Boness Photography, and checked out his work. AH-mazing. His prices? Even more AH-mazing. So I reached out to Cassie hoping that she'd tell me he's not all booked up so close to the holidays, and she did! She, Matt, and I chatted about the theme and vision I had for the photos, then we set a date to meet up and make it happen.

We had so much fun! At first, posing is a little awkward, but after a few minutes, and Cassie's creative direction, we felt very comfortable and at ease in front of the camera. Matt took us all over the area surrounding the historic columns on the Mizzou campus, and the day couldn't have been more gorgeous.

Once the shoot was over, we walked to this lovely little tapas place they discovered close to campus. I can't remember what it's called, but everything on the menu looked delicious. The four of us fell into an easy conversation and there was a little bit of a beard bond between the guys. Cause, you know, beards are awesome and manly. I cannot wait to hang out with them again!

We got our photos the following Wednesday, and I literally squealed with delight when Hubs handed me the package. And then I cried because the photos were so wonderful. Matt was able to capture so much feeling in these photos. My parents and grandparents (and the in-laws) are going to LOVE them. I have plans to get one blown up to hang on our wall and our Christmas cards are going to rock this year!

So if you're in the mid-Missouri area and need photos taken, I highly recommend Matt. I've already told him we'll use him for all our future photography needs. Can you blame me?

November 18, 2015

It WILL Be Worth The Work

I was a pretty active kid. My bothers and I would play outside for hours and hours, running around, riding bikes, roller blades, jump ropes, you know, kid stuff. Then I had a bit of a rough patch emotionally with some family stuff right before and during middle school, and that's when the pounds started sticking. Ever since then I've had trouble losing and maintaining my weight. That totally made high school super fun... not. It was a slow build, the kind you don't notice until you're buying new jeans four sizes bigger than you remember. Yep, that was me Freshman year of high school, and it only went downhill up-scale (haha get it? just me? ok...) from there.

By the end of high school I was another 2 sizes bigger. I ate to make myself feel better, to bring my out of my slumps. I also ate because I was bored. I didn't really participate in extracurriculars that provided some sort of physical activity. Band Nerd and a member of the Art club, sexy right? Anywho, my health suffered. Emotionally and physically.

I attended one year of college right out of high school, and I totally gained those freshman fifteen. Because we had the best dining hall ever. People would come on Sundays after church and pay to eat our school food. Did I mention the DIY waffle bar and the soft serve ice cream machine? Anyway, after that year, my weight has yo-yoed over the past decade. Partly because I totally suck at sticking to a fitness routine. What? I just really don't like to sweat. It's stinky and sticky. Bleh.

If you follow me on Instagram, then you'll know that I had a doctors appointment on Monday. While she didn't tell me anything I didn't already know, she didn't hold back. I needed that honesty from her, someone other than my husband (who thinks I'm amazing no matter what, cue the awes) and my mom (cause who wants to hear that from their mom?). She put some things in perspective for me regarding our plans for the future, and to have a chance at those plans, some big changes need to be made.

The Biggest Change? I was put on the Paleo diet. Ok. I've read really great things about this plan and what it can do for your body. But, you guys, I really like cheese. And bread. And chocolate. And cereal with milk. I know there are variations of the Paleo diet that allow for some of that stuff, but the one she wants me to follow for at least these first thirty days doesn't. THE STRUGGLE IS REAL.

When we got home from the doctors, we looked up the site she gave us (cause she made a point to tell Hubs that he had to do it with me for support). Then we made a grocery list of things we can have. Next, we cleaned out the pantry, snack cabinet, and the fridge of all the items on the "don't" list. There was so much! We packed all of that food up and took it over to his parents house for them to have with instructions to donate what they don't want to the local food pantry. We did keep a few things from the "don't" list for the upcoming holidays though (because you can't have Thanksgiving without corn casserole or mashed potatoes, duh!).

It felt good. Like a juice cleanse for your kitchen. Until it didn't. After dinner that night, per the usual, I craved something sweet. Hubs had already moved the candy jar to his side of the couch to hold it hostage. I fought it. It was so hard. I just keep reminding myself that it will be worth it.

Have you tried the Paleo diet? Have any good recipes for sweets that are Paleo friendly?

November 11, 2015

Follow Your Heart

Follow Your Heart

So... I dropped my Spanish II class. And it had nothing to do with my performance (which was pretty good) in the class, or the teacher, or anything like that. I dreaded every second I had to spend on the subject. D R E A D E D. I never wanted to learn the language. Ever. And I honestly have no idea why I started taking it in the first place, other than it's the only in-seat foreign language class at my campus.

I thought about it for days. I had an intense and in depth conversation with my advisor and the financial aid advisor about my feelings and my options. After getting all the facts, I decided to go with my heart despite the financial losses and time setbacks that would result when I made this move. That's how much I disliked this class, guys.

I'm going to take American Sign Language (ASL) online instead. When I first started school last summer, I saw that it was available to take and got excited. I have always wanted to learn to Sign, I even researched some basics a few years ago. The one downside is that I wasn't sure how I'd do with an online class. So I settled with stupid Spanish. I should have followed my heart. It would have saved me the time lost and disappointment I felt when I had to go to that class.

Sometimes the logical and more practical choice is not always the best choice for you and your wellbeing. So let your heart win from time to time. Buy the pretty shoes, order that slice of cake, wear that bold lip color, dye your hair pink, or put up your Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving (just me?). You'll be happier if you do.

November 4, 2015

October Recap + a Giveaway!

It's finally starting to feel like fall around here and I'm loving it. Fall and winter are my two favorite seasons. The air is crisp and cool, the changing leaves are so beautiful, and it's the start of the holiday season! That's the best part, really. My October, while relatively quiet, was still stuffed with good things.

1. Hubs and I attended a wedding for one of his old work buddies. It gave us a lovely reason to get dressed up.

2. Getting my groove back. I'm still working on this. But I'm feeling much more optimistic about it now, than I was at the beginning of October.

3. Bear. He's such a puppy still at 2.5 years old. He loves getting his belly scratched and with this cooler weather, he's loving being outside more. It's getting harder and harder to get him to come inside.

4. Fall Foliage. This was taken at the wedding we went to. The ceremony was held under this huge tree and all the colors and the light of the setting sun made it that much more magical.

5. I finally got my diploma in the mail! I was officially done with my Associates at the end of July. But I applied for "graduation" a little late to get it in August, so I had to wait until the end of October. only 1.5 years til I'm done with my Bachelors. Then on to my Masters.

6. While Bear has a natural "sweater" to keep him warm during these cooler months, Robbie does not. So I made him this sweater. It's not his favorite (he likes his Chewbacca hoodie more), he looks so handsome in it.


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