I. Love. This. Bag. My friend Meghan posted on Instagram about the ‘4 THINGS’ Personalized Tote Bag and mentioned to me that I might like one for myself, and when I learned more about it, I hopped right online and ordered my own! I loved that the shop it came from donates to charities with great causes (you can read more about The Shop Forward here). To me, spending a few extra dollars towards something I believe in is totally worth it, and this bag is great quality.
I had a little bit of a hard time picking my four things, because so many things are important to me! But I settled on these four, and staggered them so it would read shortest to longest (and also, because dogs). I think I’ve been pretty straightforward about my love for dogs, coffee, and school supplies, and I think the world needs a lot more kindness and grace for others.
Bruno loves the tote, too!
I love any company that has a good cause, and I’ll be sporting this baby around town whenever I need to carry extra stuff!
Happy New Year! I cannot believe we are in 2018. I feel old! I remember the year 2000 when the world was anxious about Y2K; I was only 12 years old and just didn’t get it. Here we are almost 20 years later, and I’m ringing in the new year with two of my favorite people, my sister and Andrew (+ all the dogs, of course!). This year, we decided to keep it really low-key and celebrate with Mexican food and soft clothes. We watched an old childhood movie (Camp Nowhere), and we have the ABC Rockin’ New Year’s Eve playing in the background in another room for check-ins and for when it gets close to midnight. I’m thinking of what a great year 2017 was – and how great I hope 2018 will be!
In 2017, I finished my eBook with my buddy Tony and we got it up for purchase on Amazon! That was a HUGE life goal of mine. I got to start wedding plans and help find a wedding dress for my best friend Whitney, I finished and got to start out two fantastic school years, got to see Andrew every day at work, and got to teach so many amazing teenagers. Almost all of my best friends turned 30 years old, I turned 30, and some of my favorite people got engaged, got married, got pregnant, or had babies! Andrew and I moved into the same apartment complex, did a lot of grilling by the pool, went to prom together (so nerdy), I got to watch him coach his first season of baseball at the high school, we celebrated 2 years together, and most importantly, we got engaged!!! I got to be roommates with my sister, cheer her on through her first fitness competitions, had a lot of good eats, and an amazing trip to Arizona with my mom. I spent so much special time with friends and family, and the list could go on and on.
In 2018, Andrew and I will be getting married! I can’t believe it. Whitney will get married, another best friend Kelly will have her baby, and Andrew and I will go on our honeymoon and hopefully buy our first home together! Big job and life things are happening for a lot of people I love. Maybe it’s just that time of life for me, but I’m so excited to experience my own and share in joy with others!
I love setting goals and making plans, so a new year is just a naturally great time to do just that, and to look ahead at your big overarching goals for the upcoming 12 months. I have a few resolutions for 2018 and I’m sharing them here so I can speak them into existence and hold myself accountable!
1. I mentioned the Year of Cozy book in a previous post, and I got it for Christmas! I plan to make my way through it, month by month. I am not going to tell myself I’ll do everything in it, but I do want to follow along and pick some crafts, recipes, and ‘do’ items from the book! I’m really excited to work through it!
2. I plan to kick my rear into gear (#shreddingforthewedding), and work out at least 4 times a week. That is doable, and I know once I really commit and get back in the swing of it, my body will remember how much it loves to exercise and I’ll start seeing some progress! Walking, get back into my yoga, lift weights, whatever I feel like that keeps me active.
3. Get back to – and stick with – my Weight Watchers plan so I can feel better, look better, and confidently walk down the aisle to marry the man of my dreams!
4. Skincare, hair care, self care. I want to be consistent in my morning, night, and weekly routines to get in some ‘me time,’ and really take care of myself and my skin. I ain’t no spring chicken!
5. I wrote an entire blog post about my Passion Planner a couple of years ago, and I have mentioned my shameful obsession/addiction love for planners in general and Type A personality several times on the blog. I don’t need any judgment, but I bought a new 2018 Passion Planner for all my exciting 2018 plans! I want to stick to the goals and to-dos I put in there, and create weekly grocery lists, workout plans, and whatever else I need to keep myself on track.
I tried to keep my goals simple and realistic. I think looking ahead and mapping things out is a great way to reach important goals, but you also have to keep it within reasonable limits and make goals that you know you can achieve. I think 2018 is going to be a fantastic year, and I can’t wait to celebrate so many important milestones in my own life and huge life events for my best friends and family! 🙂
What are everyone else’s goals this year? I hope everyone had a safe and happy NYE, and cheers to 2018!
Friyay! I still can’t believe we’re engaged and I am still just so happy and excited! My friend Lindsey got me this mug as an engagement gift. I also had a couple of students who got me little engagement gifts, which is so sweet. We are working on securing a venue and date right now, and I just signed up for an account with The Knot to help me keep track of all my wedding planning and details!
Other things I still can’t believe include the fact that Christmas is in THREE DAYS. What?! I feel like such an old fuddy-duddy saying this, but it seems like it just comes faster and faster each year (I also feel like a fuddy-duddy for even actually saying fuddy-duddy…blame my future husband for that lingo).
My Christmas gifts are all wrapped up and ready to be delivered. I won’t see some friends to celebrate until after the new year, so that’s always a fun thing to look forward to once everything else has quieted down. I got everything ready last night for heading home: Laundry, wrapping gifts, last-minute cleaning before leaving, packing up myself + the doggies, etc.
One of the best Christmas happenings is that one of my very best friends had her baby girl this week!!! She has the sweetest face and name, and I can’t wait to hold her and love on her as soon as I possibly can. A lot of the people I care most about are having babies, getting married, and making big life changes that are all exciting. It just feels like a happy – yet hectic – time in life.
Finally, yesterday my department at school had a Christmas party and it was a pot luck. I brought my “famous” banana pudding. Everyone raves about it, so I thought I’d share it here! I actually got it from my dad’s wife Kathy, but it is always a HUMONGOUS hit and it is so delicious. It’s adapted from Paula Deen’s recipe, and I think the difference is in the pudding mixture, lemon juice for the bananas, and the type of cookies that you use. Literally every time we have a department function, everyone wants the banana pudding. Give it a try this Christmas and see how delicious it is!
Not Your Momma’s Banana Pudding
1 (12 oz.) container cool whip – this generally comes in 8oz containers so I usually just use the leftover 4oz for low fat desserts!
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
2 cups milk ( I use 2%)
1 (5 oz) box instant French vanilla pudding mix (I can never find this in French vanilla and just go with regular vanilla. MAKE SURE it’s instant!)
6 to 8 bananas, sliced (dip them in a small bowl of lemon juice before layering them)
2 bags chessmen cookies (Pepperidge Farm – I always buy 3 bags, because sometimes there are broken ones in the bag and I am extra and want it to look nice…and also because extra cookies)
Note: Of course, you can make any of these lighter by using low-fat options.
Line the bottom of a 13x9x2-inch dish with 1 bag of cookies and layer bananas on top.
In a bowl, combine the milk and pudding mix and blend well using a handheld electric mixer. Using a separate large mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese and condensed milk together and mix until smooth. Fold the whipped topping into the cream cheese mixture. Add the cream cheese mixture to the pudding mixture and stir until well blended. Pour the mixture over the cookies and bananas and cover with the remaining cookies. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
There it is! The best banana pudding I have ever had, seriously. The lemon juice keeps the banana slices fresh and correctly colored, and it also adds a nice something to it. On top of that, the pudding part itself really is delectable. This time my sister made it for me while I was at school to help out – she is the best!
That’s it for now! I am heading to Andrew’s mom’s house for a night, then to Asheville with my family for a few nights over Christmas, and then I’ll be back in town to enjoy my last few days off before school starts back up again. I plan to write before or on the new year, because I have a couple of resolutions I want to share! Everyone have a very merry Christmas!
I have always been very patient with people. Things tend to be a different story. If I’m waiting for something to arrive in the mail, for instance, or waiting for payday so I can get something I’ve had my eye on, or for a birthday or last day of school before a break…those things I can certainly get impatient about. But people? I have always had a soft spot for people and have always had a high threshold for giving the benefit of the doubt.
If you ask me, we all deserve a second chance. We are all fighting different battles that no one knows about, yet as humans we still tend to judge someone based on one exchange we have with them, or we get impatient or irritated and snap at them or write them off. As soon as we do that, we’ve lost the opportunity to learn something about that person or help them through something that they may greatly need support for.
I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise that being a teacher is a great way to use my people patience. I am an understanding and forgiving person, and some would probably say that I give too many chances. But when I look at some of my students who come from homes filled with violence, neglect, substance abuse, poverty, or dysfunction, it’s hard for me to be a stickler about a particular due date or a quiz retake. We are all worth noticing, we are all worth fighting for, and we are all worthy. To be impatient with people is to say we aren’t willing to consider what they might be going through. We aren’t willing to understand where they are coming from, put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, or change our opinion of someone due to a new perspective. We aren’t willing to step outside of ourselves and really think hard about someone else. I think that people, for the most part, are good. Developmental psychology studies tell us that we need people to trust and count on, and that we need a place to belong in order to feel secure. We depend on these things in order to live a fulfilled and content life. So before we write someone off, or lose our patience with them, maybe we can remember that we’re all in this together, and it takes all of us to make it through.
As the holiday season is most certainly upon us, I think people need a little extra TLC. For some people, this time of year is difficult due to loved ones who have passed away or can’t be here. For others, there is the stress of having family in town, traveling out of town, packing, shopping, preparing…and for those who have families who just don’t do family stuff very well, the holidays can be painful.
We need more kindness in the world, and not just at the holidays. We need people to understand each other better. We need more people patience.
I wrote about our story/how we met a little while back, and Monday was the 2 year anniversary of when Andrew asked me to be his girlfriend. On Tuesday, he asked me to be his wife! It is so surreal to even write this post, and it has only been a couple of days, but the week has been packed and full of emotion and excitement!
Tuesday at school, Andrew told me he had made us reservations for Sullivan’s Steakhouse in downtown Raleigh, and so I was already excited and looking forward to a fun evening out together. We were getting ready to leave for dinner, and he stopped me in front of my Christmas tree and said he wanted a REAL reason to celebrate, and he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him! I was so shocked I asked him if he was serious or if it was a joke! We were so excited and all of a sudden the shock wore off and I started boo-hooing (of course!). I made Andrew tell me all of the details of how long he knew, did anyone else know, allllll the questions! We headed to dinner and he told me all the things he had rehearsed in his head all day to say – when he actually proposed, he was so nervous he forgot everything he wanted to say! We had such an exciting and happy dinner. The manager brought us a glass of champagne, and we just enjoyed ourselves so much!
at sullivan’s after our dinner!
The ring was Andrew’s mom’s. His dad gave it to her for their 30th wedding anniversary, and with his dad being gone now, it is such a special reminder every time I look at my ring. It is beautiful and exactly what I wanted! I was giving Andrew a hard time because I have been getting regular gel manicures for months, and the weekend I decided to do my own nails and stop going to get them done professionally, he proposed! That’s how it goes, right?
Hopefully soon, we’ll be picking a date and starting to nail down some details, but for now, I am just so excited and trying to soak it all in!
Another week of non-fall weather here in Raleigh. As always, as soon as we think it’s finally time to pull out the scarves, chunky sweaters, and boots, the temperatures go back up again! It is messing with my wardrobe, but more importantly, my allergies and sinuses! I mean, it’s December first!
Enough complaining. Last week, I was getting an oil change for my drive home to Asheville, and the man that checked me out reminded me that every day is Thanksgiving – every day that we wake up, have love, food, clothes, and air in our lungs, it’s a day to be thankful for. It was a nice reminder that I’m trying to hang on to as we get into this time of year when people can be so focused on things, or checking items off a list just because.
This week, I tried to be really productive and get things done at home and at school so I could enjoy the weekend and set myself up to be prepared next week. I’m excited for the weekend: Decorating for the holidays, going to a Christmas party with some friends from school, and spending a little time with my sister!
I got paid this week, so obviously I had to go to Target to re-stock on some vitals, like my favorite pens and my daily moisturizer. I’ve used the moisturizer for years, but if you are any kind of pen fanatic like I am, these are your last stop. They are so smooth, they don’t smear (I’m a lefty so that’s important), and they come in such pretty colors! My students are constantly borrowing mine to work on their class projects.
I recently switched back to an old favorite shampoo and conditioner. My hair stylist recommended it years ago, and when I asked her for another recommendation, she still said it was her favorite, so I re-ordered it! It does such a great job on my fine, thin hair! Squeaky clean, no build up, I love the smell, and my hair dries silky smooth rather than fuzzy or fluffy like some shampoos and conditioners can do.
Although it was warmer this week, I’m looking forward to more chilly days and bundling up a little bit! I got a really beautiful pink winter coat last year, but I’d also love to have a puffy one for running around town, snow days, and when I’m not as dressed up. I love the look of this and this!
Everyone enjoy the weekend! Only a few weeks until we all (hopefully) get a few more days off and we’ll be celebrating a new year again!
There are two kinds of people in this world: People who get ready for Christmas well before Thanksgiving, and people who follow the “after Thanksgiving” rule. I am with the second group! I absolutely love Christmas time, but I also love Thanksgiving, and I like to keep things in their boxes!
I had a great time with my family for Thanksgiving. We always go to my aunt and uncle’s house in South Carolina, and we have a big, loud, crazy group! There are always about 12-15 of us, and now we have some young ones again in the family running around, which always makes everyone happy! We eat a ton of delicious traditional Thanksgiving food and we are champion snackers. This year, my family brought a huge cheese platter and it was a big delicious hit!
I got sick over the holiday and then my car broke down when I tried to come home, so I spent an extra day in Asheville than originally planned. Luckily, I’m starting to feel better and my car is fixed, and there is still a lot to be thankful for – a warm home, loving and kind family and friends, Andrew, food in my belly, and two sweet and crazy pups! But I had planned on decorating for Christmas right after Thanksgiving, so that had to wait.
This weekend my sister comes home from her clinical rotations (she’s been staying in Asheville with our mom), and we will deck the halls of our 2 bedroom apartment together! We won’t get a real tree, which is of course always best, but less convenient in a 2nd floor apartment. I love decorating for Christmas and baking yummy treats for the holidays! This year, I plan on making these pretzel rods, Christmas Crack, and the always classic Chex mix. A few things keeps it simple and then I can divide it out in little goodie bags or small mason jars that can be reused! I love to just burn a holiday scented candle, put on the Christmas tunes, and get to it! I can’t wait.
What are your holiday traditions? I always love to learn what other families and people do. One of my students said for Thanksgiving, they always have an annual party on Friday afternoon and everyone brings their Thanksgiving leftovers to share. What a cool idea!
Before we get super caught up in the next few weeks, I wanted to say thank you to all of you guys who read my blog regularly! Several of you have stopped and told me in person, left a comment here or there, or written me to let me know you’ve enjoyed a particular post. It means the world to me and I appreciate it more than you know! This has always just been a hobby and a happy place for me to be creative and hopefully spread some cheer. That’s what life is all about! So, thank you. Enjoy the holiday season and hold those you love close; we never know how much time we have. Focus on what’s important, treat yoself with some yummy holiday food without judgment, and enjoy each new day as it comes.
It’s that time of year! Everyone is coming out with their gift guides, so I’ve rounded up some ideas for mine! Sometimes I get frustrated with gift guides because I feel like they are nothing like the people I want to buy for, or they cost 18 times my budgeted gift amount. Especially with gift guides for men – I’m always like, “Is there really a real man out there who would actually enjoy these things?”
I digress. So anyway, consider this more of a gift-giving guide than an actual list of items you should purchase for someone. I love to give gifts, and if I had more money I would do a lot more of it! I’m personally not a huge fan of pre-packaged gift sets because I like the idea of putting together a gift myself. Read along for some helpful hints at putting together some gifts for the holidays.
1. I think a thoughtful gift comes from really knowing the person you are buying for. Duh, but what I mean is this: Think about what they do in their free time, their hobbies, what they talk to you about, the way they dress, etc. Do they like to be outdoors or snuggle up inside? Do they like to go to concerts, shop, read, pamper themselves, go out to eat, cook, etc.? If you think of a person’s interests and what they spend their time doing, that can lead to solid gift-giving.
2. Start paying closer attention to your conversations with people. Inevitably as humans, we will throw out in conversation that we really need a new xyz, or we are obsessed with the new xyz, or we would die for xyz but can’t justify spending money on it for ourselves. You get the picture. Start listening to what your friends and family mention as you’re having regular conversations with them. Make a mental note, and when you give them that gift, they’ll be so surprised and impressed that you remembered!
3. I always go to Etsy for anything personalized. The world is your oyster when it comes to that place. You name it, someone has a shop for it. And I love that you’re supporting a small business owner who is working hard for what they’re passionate about. Everything I have ever ordered from Etsy has been a huge hit. You can get personalized prints, maps, mugs, shirts, jewelry, signs, decor…literally. Anything. You. Can. Think. Of. In the past, I have ordered hand-lettered inspirational quote paintings, custom t-shirts, cute maps for friends who have moved from place to place so they have all of their ‘homes’ with them, jewelry with birthstones, initials, important dates, words, etc., and much more. The best part is, probably no one else you know will have what you order!
4. Consider the gift of time rather than expensive gifts that might not get a lot of use. If you find yourself buying something “just to buy something,” consider asking that friend or family member if you can just do something together this year instead. Whitney and I started a tradition a few years back of just picking a day in the calendar around Christmas time and spending the whole day together. As life gets busier, that time is so much more important and valuable to me! In the past, we have gotten massages, gotten our nails done, had fancy brunches, gone to our favorite restaurants, tried new restaurants, cooked our favorite meals together at home, hung out and watched TV/movies, gone to see movies, etc. This year, instead of gifts, my siblings and I are going to do a sibling sleepover and watch old movies, hang out, eat, go on a hike, and just enjoy each other’s company. If you’re someone who values time together, try that with people who you think will enjoy it. It takes so much stress off of the gift part and really focuses on what’s truly important – and you can always sneak in a card or a small gift if you feel the need!
5. Gift an experience. This is similar to #4, but includes purchasing an actual item. A concert, a cooking class, a weekend away, a food truck rodeo, gift card to a restaurant you know someone wants to try, candle-making class, etc. I also love the idea of an experience that is new to both people! Groupon, Offline, and Skillpop are all great places to buy stuff like that.
6. Don’t forget places like TJ Maxx, Home Goods, and Marshall’s for discounted gifts that are still really nice. It doesn’t matter what you spend on someone’s gift, and it is just plain smart to try to save a little money on things, especially when you have a lot of people to buy for! Home gifts like coffee table books (I asked for this one!), trinket trays, pretty coasters, and vases are always nice – anything that you think someone might actually use. And obviously, Target is one of my favorite places to buy little gift items! I love the idea of buying a cute and useful basket like this or this to hold the rest of the gift items. A cozy blanket or a themed gift like bath products, manicure items, or winter favorites would fit perfectly in one of those baskets!
7. Clump your gifts so you don’t have to agonize so much over one main thing for someone. I am a big fan of gifting in twos and threes; whatever feels complete. Find a base gift to give someone, and then add in a smaller gift or two that you can’t go wrong with. I always love to give and get candles, dainty jewelry, nail polish, body lotions (my favorite), face masks, cozy socks or scarves, and good books. A simple pair of Kate Spade studs is always exciting and still a really nice gift (I like these, these, and these). They also always have a $50 and under page where you can look for pretty little things to fill in a gift (or to be the main event!).
So there you have it! Some actual gift guides I’ve enjoyed this year are here, here, and here (for linked and shoppable items). For the guys in my life, I always tend to really nag politely ask until I get an answer, but when that fails, I have never gone wrong with flannel shirts, funny t-shirts, vests, books, movies, shoes, a nice wallet or watch if needed/used, and everyone’s favorite, soft clothes (sweatpants, gym shorts, pajama pants, hoodies). But the men in my life are not very picky, so I’m lucky!
Happy holiday shopping! What are some gift-giving guidelines you follow? I am not much of a Black Friday sale shopper, but I love to get my gifts bought early so I can enjoy the rest of the season spending time with my favorite people and wrapping up everything to put under the tree!
On Tuesday, Andrew and I went on a hot date to celebrate our 2 year anniversary of meeting each other! My best friend Lindsay lives in Nashville and is kind of the epitome of cool. She works in the music industry and manages bands, so she put us on the list to see The War and Treaty and it was the most fun we have had in so long. Their show was EPIC and their talent and energy is amazing.
Last weekend, I got some serious half off deals from Old Navy and ordered a few things the rest of my new clothes until 2018. (I don’t know if you know this about me, but Old Navy texts me when they have deals because I am very important to them…) I also needed a new pair of jeans and have had the Madewell Roadtripper jeans on my list for months and months now. I finally pulled the trigger and I’ll keep it simple: They. Are. Everything.
Ev. Ry. Thing. Just read the reviews and when you’re ready to splurge, thank yourself in advance and click “Place Order.”
I’m working on a holiday gift guide to post next week (don’t quote me on that if it doesn’t happen). I’ve mentioned before that I love giving gifts, and Christmas has always just been such an exciting time for me. I try not to take it for granted or let it pass me by as I get older.
The last two days were super chilly and gray/drizzly in the Raleigh area, and last night I made my first chili of the season. I really loosely followed this recipe. So good! It was the perfect “Friday” fall night. Andrew and I stayed in, invited another teacher friend over for dinner, ate chili, watched a movie, and hung out with the dogs.
Last, but not least, Happy Veteran’s Day! We have today off from school, and while it’s always so nice to have a day off, it definitely does not go without notice. I’d think today was important anyway because we should always honor those who fight to protect our country, but my granddaddy fought in WWII and I miss him every single day. He was a true human treasure; he was the wisest man I’ve ever met and someone who was the backbone of my family. He never talked much about the war, understandably, but I know that anyone who serves our country in that way deserves huge respect and recognition.
I’m currently sitting on my couch with a cup of coffee, candles burning, and all the windows and patio door open to let in the crisp fall air. It’s a perfect morning. I’m making a list of all of the things I need to get done today, like laundry and grocery shopping and cleaning the apartment, and thinking of ideas for lessons/better seating arrangements in my classes. I am also thinking of how I would really love to just sit here all day and hang out with the dogs and put everything off until next weekend. I recently had a chat with a friend at school about trying to do it all in life. I guess I could make this post short and sweet and just say, “don’t,” but I think we all know me a little better than that.
I’m not sure why, as humans, we feel like we have to go, go, go, until we get ourselves into a corner that we can’t get out of. We have so much trouble admitting that we might not be able to handle everything, or that we may need a hand with something that we’ve committed to. “Too much on my plate,” “Burning the candle at both ends…” We sprinkle around these cliches like confetti, peppering our conversations with superficial statements to sweep under the rug the hideous reality that we are secretly flailing around and gasping for air. We act like we have it all together and cover up our stress with a smile and a winning, can-do attitude, when really if someone would just ask us what’s really going on, we might be able to say that we’re only human, and we can only take so much before we drop something or stop taking care of ourselves.
Here’s something I think we all need to hear: Let something go. Feel good about taking something off of your clichéd plate. Here’s permission to fail. To say yes to too many things and then realize you may have taken on too much. Permission to say out loud (or at least to admit to yourself with zero shame) that you need help, or a break, or some time for yourself. We are only human, after all.
The more we try to fake happiness and act like we have all of our ducks in a row, the more power we give to the idea that we have to be successful and happy at all times. To admit that life is tough, that we can’t be good at everything or have everything together all of the time, that is where the power lies and where we can share a human trait together. No one’s life is as perfect as their social media newsfeed; we have to be empowered to admit defeat, to ask for advice or help, and to proudly face the fact that we are not perfect.
For someone who is about as Type A as it gets, I have a really hard time with saying no. I’m a control freak, so I find myself saying yes to so many things because I can’t stand to think that they wouldn’t be done “the right way.” In addition, I have a hard time saying no to things because I have a terrible fear of letting anyone down. But at some point along the way I’ve had to admit that it’s better for me to preserve some of myself than to drive myself into the dirt by trying to please everyone else or make everything perfect.
Sometimes, we need the reminder that we’re all in this together. It’s not a competition of who has a better job, a cleaner house, or a fatter bank account. This isn’t about the latest clothes, or the newest line of makeup. It’s life. It’s messy and complicated and we barely make it – but we do make it, and it’s so much easier if we do it together and stop competing with each other and comparing ourselves to everyone else.
I hope everyone takes some time this week to just focus on you. Take a walk, take a bath, do some yoga, read a book, whatever it is that helps you decompress. Soon it’ll be the holidays, travel, more to-do lists, and stress, whether good or bad. Take some time in advance for some self-care, and maybe practice admitting to yourself that you don’t need to do it all.