Gift guide // Christmas 2017

one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine

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!

FriYAY feels!

FRIYAY!

Yesterday was our last school day of the week and I accidentally wore my Friyay shirt because I was that excited for the weekend. I didn’t even realize it until someone told me at school.

Is anyone else completely obsessed with the new Hearth & Hand with Magnolia collection? Target picked it up this week and I am   l  o  v  i  n  g   it. I’m dreaming of plaid placemats, chargers with ceramic plates, and allllll the holiday gift wrapping. So far I have exercised a smidgen of self control and have only bought a holiday scented candle. Here’s hoping!

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.

Enjoy your weekend! 🙂

Trying to do it all

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 downBut 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.

Andrew + Julia

boo thang & a picture within a picture

Two years ago today, I met Andrew and had no idea it would turn into anything other than just an introduction. My friend Kelly is married to his friend Tyler, and both of us were single at the time. One Friday night, I had plans to go get Mexican with Kelly, and Andrew had invited Tyler to a basketball game. Kelly came over to my apartment before dinner and casually asked if I’d want to meet up with the boys after dinner once the game was over. I wasn’t sure if it was a setup or not, so I asked if Andrew was single – and she said he had asked the same about me! So we all met up after doing our own separate things, and the rest, as they say, is history! I thought Andrew was funny but spent most of the night acting totally aloof and uninterested- that’s how you get them, right? So silly. The craziest part is that we had actually met a couple of years before at Kelly & Tyler’s wedding, but didn’t even realize or remember because at the time we were just not interested in each other (I was newly engaged at their wedding so obviously not looking for anyone!). Andrew likes to remind me  how purple my lipstick was that night we met. I had been trying a new bold color by MAC and was kind of feelin’ myself.

the purple lipstick that started it all (kelly & me)

Somehow Kelly found a reason to put Andrew’s number in my phone that night, but I didn’t do anything with it. I’m a little old fashioned! The next day, he added me on Snapchat and sent me a picture of his dog (obviously the way to my heart). He asked if he could see me again and we planned our first date for the upcoming Tuesday. Andrew lived in Greensboro at the time, so he drove to Cary from Greensboro for our date! I had planned for us to go get some tacos at Chubby’s tacos (they changed their name to Guacamaya, but you can’t change a name like that and expect everyone to just fall in line, am I right?). I actually think they’ve closed since then, which is a little sad but just one of those things. We finished dinner and came back to my apartment and watched one of my all-time favorite childhood movies, Heavyweights. Such a classic. Andrew said that’s how he knew I was pretty cool, haha!

We became serious really quickly and about a month later we had the official talk about being together. For the longest time, we were traveling back and forth between Cary and Greensboro, transporting dogs and planning dates around work schedules and life events. An hour and a half is juuuust far enough to be really, really annoying. I knew Andrew had always wanted to teach, and had gone to school for education originally before working in the golf industry. When I found out there was a position at my school, I talked to one of my assistant principals about the chances of Andrew getting it. It seemed like such a far-off maybe, but Andrew took the Praxis, interviewed, and got the position. He moved to Raleigh in September and started working at my high school in the Special Ed department, and was re-hired for this school year. It has been so fun getting to work together and knowing who each other is talking about when we talk about work at the end of the day. The kids all love figuring out that we’re dating, and I’ve been able to make some great friends in the Special Ed department that I probably wouldn’t have gotten to know so well if it wasn’t for Andrew.

For so many reasons, I’ve realized in my relationship with Andrew that timing is everything. We met each other and started dating at the right time in both of our lives. He’s my best friend and the person that I can laugh for hours with (and at!). Being with Andrew is like coming home. Even though neither of us is perfect, we are a really good team and can just be ourselves without any explanation, expectation, or apology. I am so thankful that Kelly and Tyler introduced us that night two years ago and that other things didn’t work out so that this could. Here’s a little picture montage of our two years together:

our first picture as a couple – look at oliver trying to sneak into the shot

happy plaid couple

looking like little babies

at a greensboro grasshoppers baseball game

prom night! forever a chaperone

always super serious

date night for my 30th birthday

Two years has flown by so incredibly fast. Here’s to many more with my main squeeze in the future! 🙂

FriYAY feels!

Yay!!!

This week went by so fast for me. We had a teacher work day on Halloween, which is always much needed and also never enough time to get all my boxes checked on my to do list! For Halloween, Andrew and I went to Whitney and her fiancé Romain’s house to have delicious tacos, pass out candy to kids in their neighborhood, and have a fire pit with s’mores. You mayyy or may not have seen mine and Andrew’s punny costumes – he went as “construction” paper and I was “legal” paper. I was so pleased (but drawing lines on fabric with sharpie and a ruler is not ideal – just an FYI).

This weekend, I have a full couple of days! Tonight, I think Andrew and I are going to our school’s football game – still undecided. I’ve got a new school spirit long-sleeved tee so I’ll probably be rocking that and feeling pretttttty cool.

Saturday, I’m helping throw a baby shower for one of my best friends Kelly! We have been friends since high school and our other friend Maggie, Kelly’s mom, and Kelly’s mother-in-law have been planning this shower for a couple of months…and it is finally here!!! I think it’s going to be such a fun time with lovely decorations, good food, fun activities, and showering Kelly with love for her baby girl! I can’t wait. After the baby shower, I’m going straight to a birthday party for the coolest (almost) 12 year old I know. 🙂

In other news, Andrew and I have been watching the new season of Stranger Things and we killed the last episode last night – so epic. I am so sad there were only 9 episodes. I love that show. That and Big Little Lies have been my latest two obsessions, and now I have to wait for the next seasons again  🙁 How will I ever make it?! I don’t even watch TV typically! What other series should I get hooked on in the meantime?! I don’t have cable, but Andrew and I like to watch a new show here and there between a rolling favorite like The Office or Parks and Rec on Netflix. Recommendations are welcome!

I’m dying for a long cardigan. I picture myself wearing it on the weekend with a shirt like this, my favorite leggings, and my Steve Madden slides. (I’m mostly picturing this because I saw a woman wearing a very similar outfit last weekend and I had FOMO).

I started my Christmas gift list this week. Coincidentally, Elisabeth Ashlie launched their holiday collection. As always, you know I’m a huge fan. The stocking stuffer gift box is a great set, and I see a lot of cute holiday-scented candles in my gift-giving future.

I ordered a November Target Beauty box and a December Fab Fit Fun box and I am so excited to get my goodies!

That’s all I got! Happy Friyay and have a great weekend! Only a couple more weeks until Thanksgiving! 🙂

Arizona trip recap

grand canyon at sunset

Finallyyy!!!

I have been wanting to get this post up for a couple of weeks now, but I needed the time to give it justice. I just saw my mom this past weekend, and we were still talking about how great our trip was. I have been lucky enough to have traveled to some amazing places in my life, but Arizona has easily made its way to my top five! The weather was amazing and the scenery was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before! Mom and I stayed in wonderful places, met some cool people, ate great food, hiked a ton, and got to relax and pamper ourselves, too. It was the perfect mix and I still can’t believe I got to see the Grand Canyon!

I spent a ton of time researching what to do, where to hike, where to eat, etc. in Arizona and how to make the most out of just a few days there since I’d be missing school (and because $$$). It’s tricky to get to Sedona because you have to fly in through Phoenix and rent a car – it’s about a 2 hour drive. So over the summer, I had planned everything out and we got it all booked. Here’s a breakdown of our amazing trip! Get ready to tuck in for a long post and lots of pictures!

Day 1

After school, I met mom at my apartment and we headed to the airport. We were able to get a non-stop flight (it’s about 4.5 hours). We landed in Phoenix and got our rental car; we were both starving and I had been dreaming of an In-N-Out burger for weeks, so that was our first stop and Mom’s first experience with In-N-Out! I don’t know if we were that hungry or if it’s just because it’s that good, but I felt like it was the best burger I’ve ever eaten (of course we got everything animal style with 1,000 island dressing, grilled onions, and melted cheese!).  If you ever make it to the west coast, you HAVE to make this a priority.

We drove for what seemed like 18 hours (really about two and a half) and finally made it to our perfect little Airbnb, which was a guest house with a rooftop terrace overlooking Thunder Mountain! It was the perfect location and our host had thought of every little detail. We were so tired from traveling so we just went straight to bed!

Day 2

On our second day, we woke up early so we could have coffee on the terrace and watch the sun come up over Thunder Mountain. It was so beautiful! Afterwards, we got ready and headed out to our Pink Jeep tour! We chose the Red Rock Tour and had such an amazing tour guide. We got to stop off at a few places for pictures, and the tour lasted about two hours.

After our jeep tour, we spent a few hours hanging around in town in Sedona. We had lunch at Wildflower Bread Company, which has a patio with a great view of Snoopy Rock! We walked up and down Main Street and went into some shops to look for souvenirs.

Afterwards, we walked back to our car and drove to Cathedral rock. It was a really great hike and makes its way all the way down to Oak Creek if you take a side trail. We didn’t make it all the way down because it was getting late in the day and we had other items on our agenda! We drove to the Chapel of the Holy Cross and it was such an amazing and beautiful sight.

Finally, we rounded out our day by doing a quick hike of Sugarloaf Mountain at sunset. It was incredible to see all the rocks turning more and more red in the orange/red sunlight!

We showered and got ready for dinner! We ate at Elote, a place I had read rave reviews about. We had a delicious and fresh margarita on the patio while we waited, and they handed out little bowls of popcorn for people to munch on while they waited for a table! The food and atmosphere were both great.

We made it back home late, but took a few minutes to sit on the terrace and look at all the stars before bedtime! There is very little light pollution in Sedona, so the stars were incredible, even with a full moon!

Day 3

We woke up on our third day in Arizona and checked out of our Airbnb. We were so sad to have to check out because it was a perfect place to stay, but it was already booked for the following night! We ate breakfast at The Coffee Pot, a local favorite and a cool little diner with a gift shop attached (there is a rock formation called Coffee Pot behind the restaurant).

coffee at the coffee pot – see what i did there?!

We had a big day ahead of us with a lot of driving to do! At first, we had decided just to head to the Grand Canyon, but our Pink Jeep tour guide convinced us to drive to Page, AZ to see Horseshoe bend and Antelope Canyon. I am so glad we took his advice! It was a long day – four hours driving there and four hours back – but so worth it. We got to Page and stopped at Horseshoe Bend first. It’s where the Colorado River makes a horseshoe-shaped turn (hence the name!). Pictures of it are amazing, but I can’t explain how incredible and massive it was in real life. The colors are unreal. This was one of my favorite things about the entire trip.

We drove to Antelope Canyon which is supposed to be incredible, but there was such a wait to see it and we still needed to hit the Grand Canyon, so we had to pass on that. But we were so excited from Horseshoe Bend that it was okay! We had a little picnic in the car and headed back to stop along the way and see the Grand Canyon.

fancy whole foods rental car picnic

We had originally planned to do the South Rim entrance of the Canyon and do a couple of small trails I read about, but with our detour to Page, AZ we came in on the east entrance at Desert View. There weren’t any hiking trails, which was a little disappointing to me, but we did do a 25 mile scenic drive with overlooks along the way, and we got to see the Canyon as the sun was setting and with the huge orange harvest moon. Pictures do nothing to truly capture this; it was such an incredible sight! I can’t explain the feeling of being so small in such a vast world. It sounds nerdy, but it was just a really crazy feeling and experience.

After our big day to Horseshoe Bend and the Grand Canyon, we drove back to Sedona and checked in to our second hotel, Amara resort!  They had left some champagne and treats for my 30th birthday, which was a thoughtful touch! The hotel is gorgeous and tucked away off of the main street in downtown Sedona.

Day 4

This was our big spa day to pamper ourselves after all of our adventuring and hiking. Our poor feet definitely needed it! We had breakfast in the room from room service (Amara’s restaurant is SaltRock and it was all so delicious). Then, we walked to the spa to check in for our appointments! We both had relaxation massages and facials, which was so divine. The entire spa was so cute, relaxing, and the staff was very knowledgeable and friendly. We had hot tea and a sparkling pomegranate juice toast afterwards and hung out in the relaxation room for a while.

We spent the rest of our day by the infinity pool overlooking Snoopy rock formation, sipping margaritas (and water!!!), having lunch from the hotel, and reading/floating/lounging. It was the life! Then we went back to our hotel room, showered and got ready, and went down for the manager’s wine hour (Kimpton hotels do a complimentary wine hour every day from 5-6pm). We sat out on the hotel patio/lawn under the market lights and just chatted and enjoyed ourselves! We ended the night with a long, late dinner on the patio at the SaltRock kitchen restaurant with absolutely delectable food.

hotel pictures + pool overlooking snoopy rock formation

Day 5

Our last day in Sedona! I will forever miss this quiet little town. We woke up and had breakfast at the resort right next to ours. Their restaurant is called Cress at Oak Creek, and we sat at a table right by the water. It was honestly one of my favorite experiences of the trip! So beautiful, and different scenery than the red rocks and desert we had been seeing the entire trip. We had the best time at our breakfast, and the food was amazing, of course.

We checked out of our hotel and headed out for a last hike before driving back to Phoenix for the night. We hiked Baldwin trail to Templeton trail to Oak Creek! This is the creek we hadn’t made it to the day we did our Cathedral rock hike, so we were really glad to be able to feel like we completed that! It was a beautiful hike, perfect weather, and the creek was so peaceful. After our last hike, we ate at Open Range Grill and Tavern for a late lunch in downtown Sedona. We had a cactus cheese dip which was so delicious, and we each got a prickly pear margarita! The prickly pear cactus is everywhere in Sedona so we felt like we had to! They were just okay, haha – a little sweet for our liking.

After lunch, we drove back to Phoenix where we had to fly out from. We stayed at the Hotel Palomar (another Kimpton Hotel). They had another celebration package for me on our arrival – more champagne and a delicious peanut butter chocolate mousse cake! We packed up to be ready to leave the next day, ordered room service for dinner, showered, did face masks, and relaxed because we were so beat from our trip!

Sunday was basically just a travel day. We woke up, had coffee and breakfast, and drove to the airport to return our rental car and fly home! We had another non-stop flight, but this time we lost 3 hours going back home, so it was late by the time we got in and we had dinner with Andrew and then pretty much fell right to sleep! My only regret from the trip is that I didn’t follow my friend’s advice; she lived in AZ for a while and told me to hug a cactus for her – but that wouldn’t be safe, so I had to make a smart personal decision 😉

flight home! (sorry guy)

Those are the most basic basics of our trip! I would love to make my way back to Arizona again, because there’s just so much to do there that 5 days barely even scratches the surface. But my mom and I packed in as much as we possibly could, and we had such a blast together. It was one of those “life”  moments that I’ve mentioned before where you just really feel alive and appreciate everything so much. I’m incredibly lucky that she gifted me with this trip for my 30th and couldn’t have asked for anything more!

Friyay feels!

source

Friyayyyyy!

This week was so exhausting! I’m teaching about prenatal development in class right now, and the kids are so interested, but it’s a LOT for them to learn. So I’ve created a ton of assignments/games/study guides for them to work with and try to remember all of the tiny details of every month of pregnancy. It’s my favorite unit to teach, but it takes a lot out of me!

Highlights of the week:

Last weekend, I catered another wedding brunch for a bridal party of one of my assistant principals! My friend Kelly helped me and we made so much food and set everything up on Saturday morning. It was a long weekend, but it’s so nice to be involved, and I love putting things together. Feeding people is just one of the things that brings me a lot of joy!

I got a gift card for my birthday to Amazon (I’ve become quite the online shopper), and I needed a pair of knee-high tan boots. I have knee-high black slouchy boots that I love and have worn season after season (like…this is my fourth year with these boots, I think). And then I have two pairs of tan booties. So I needed a pair of tan, taller boots for the fall. These came in clutch and I am loving them! Easy and comfortable for teaching, but can transition to my normal life, too. Don’t worry, I also balanced it out by ordering a pair of flat black booties since I only have tan…but now I’m REALLY done for this year!

I   l   o   v   e    a good mani/pedi, especially since I work on my feet all day and then walk miles at the pub on Wednesday nights. Last night was my night to treat yoself, so I went to Urban Chic. I’ve been going there on and off for a couple of years now, but now it’s so close to where I live that it’s my new regular spot! It’s always so relaxing, and they offer a lot of different services and color options. The staff is always so friendly, too! My nails are so good – the color is “Oxblood.”

I also got some new makeup this week:  I was looking to replace my forever favorite powder, and I stumbled across this foundation powder that my friend Kelly has. I’ve heard such great things about IT Cosmetics and have used their Bye Bye Undereye concealer. This is only my third day wearing the foundation powder, but I am really happy with how it looks, the coverage, and the illuminating look! My blush and bronzer sit really well on top of it, too. When I get a few extra dollars, I’ll still go get a new POREfection powder, but I’m really enjoying this for a more full-face look without having to use liquid foundation. A girl needs her options!

Finally, the students in my FCCLA club at school are selling bracelets for their big fundraiser this year through The Apparent Project. It’s so fun to see them get excited about a good cause. Each bracelet tells a story, and each sale sends money back to a mother or father in Haiti who is trying to provide for their family in some way. People say to me a lot that they don’t understand how I can “stand” to teach teenagers, but the truth is I love it! They are learning what’s really important to them in life, and they are finding bits and pieces of who they will become as adults. It is so rewarding to me. I have already bought a few of these bracelets for myself and for Christmas gifts this year!

Speaking of Christmas gifts, I’m getting secretly excited about starting my holiday shopping! (Or as the kids are saying these days, I’m “low key” excited. But I guess if I’m sharing it with you and the internet world then it can’t really be that low key, can it?). I love the satisfaction of planning for gifts, making my lists, and checking them off as they’re acquired (ahem…delivered to my door). Then I take a day and wrap everything up with the same wrapping theme, and it’s just so fun to give people I love things that I hope they will love! Who else are my gift givers out there?!

This weekend, I’m off to Charlotte for my sister’s second NPC Bikini Competition. She has been killllling it and I can’t wait to watch her rock it out!

What’s everyone doing for Halloween? Andrew and I are going to Whitney + Romain’s house for a little dinner party and s’mores by the fire pit!

Enjoy the weekend!

Sur la table cooking class

It has been a few weeks now, but I wanted to finally post about my amazing birthday surprise from my sister! She put in so much work to plan a surprise cooking class for us at Sur la table at Southpoint Mall, and she secretly got two of my best friends in on it! It is one of my absolute favorite experiences, ever. I can’t describe the happiness and excitement I felt the entire evening. She put so much thought into every single detail, from balloons to decorations and champagne, to having my friends block off the night as well!

Emily had asked me to block off September 21st weeks earlier; I figured it was for a birthday surprise but had no idea what exactly it could be. I am a person who loves the idea of a surprise, but if I know one is coming, my mind goes crazy trying not to obsess over it, which makes me obsess over it even more! Am I alone in this?! So I was reallllly curious about what she had up her sleeve! I thought maybe a wine and design class, a concert, a festival or something…I never would have guessed a cooking class! We both love to cook, and I am such a fan of the gift of an experience you can share! It is so meaningful and something you can always keep as a special memory.

Emily drove us to Southpoint and tried to tell me my gift was dinner and shopping for a birthday outfit for that coming weekend celebrating with friends, and as bratty as it sounds my heart kind of sank – if you know me, trying on clothes is not necessarily my ideal time because I am so picky and hard on myself – but I tried to sound upbeat about the surprise. (Actually, no, I didn’t; I mean, I tried, but what came out was something like, “Oh, well…I mean, I’m not sure if I’m in that kind of a mood to try things on…and I told you I was planning on wearing Whitney’s floral dress…but we can see after dinner!” I felt like such a brat). Then we turned the corner, and there were Whitney and Kelly holding pink 3-0 balloons, wearing aprons, and yelling surprise! I was SO overwhelmed I just immediately started to cry (imagine that:  Me, crying). Like, couldn’t stop crying with joy pretty much the entire night! I just felt so special and loved, and it was one of those memories where you just remember feeling alive, like when you go to a great concert or a big life moment happens.

during the cooking class, chef-ing it up and having so much fun

We made the most delicious meal together, and our chef/instructor helped us through every step of the way. It was so much fun to see everything come together, and to have everything already pre-measured and planned out was an added bonus. Not to mention that all of the cooking equipment we were using was high quality and what kitchen dreams are made of! We sipped champagne while we cooked and I just felt like a lucky and happy gal the entire time. Our final meal was champagne butter shrimp, a surprise lobster tail that our chef made for us, zucchini fritters with a garlic-basil aioli, a red wine risotto, and a caramel pear torte cake – all from scratch! Our instructor also made me a surprise happy birthday plate with truffles for dessert.

the finished plate – amazingly delicious!

Like I said already, it was just one of the best nights, ever. When we were done, we all signed up for another cooking class during the holidays to spend some time together and re-create this fun evening! My sister gets maaaajor props for this gift, and I will always remember how special it was! Here’s how you can schedule your own cooking class. I would definitely recommend it for a gift, or as an experience to do together with a friend, group of girls, or even a double date!

with our instructor after our class!

Back to life, back to reality

horseshoe bend, arizona 

I am back from Arizona! The trip was absolutely amazing, and I’ll write up a post about it soon – I have to sort through my hundreds (and hundreds) of pictures first! I feel like I need a vacation from my vacation. We landed late Sunday night, and I had to wake up at 5am to teach! So I’ve also had to do laundry, unpack, get back in the swing of things with school, and try to catch up from the three hour time difference!

I have a super busy week ahead of me, like always! There is a lot of stuff going on at school this week, meetings after school, work on Wednesday at the pub, and I’m trying to get back on track with cooking meals and packing lunches since I was mostly gone last week and eating only salads indulging with my mom!

Fall is (pretty much, almost, basically) here! I am in the mood for a nice deep berry color like this for my next manicure, or if I’m feeling froggy, a nice dark blue (colors are “raisin’ the bar” and “less is norse – dark ice blue.” Is anyone else obsessed with color names like me? Someone has that job!) I love this lip paint in “Fomo” or “Manbun” for fall, and I can’t wait to start shopping for some tall boots to wear with leggings and cozy sweaters! Call me basic if you will, but it’s time for those cozy fall favorites. Some year-round favorites I’m hoping to re-stock soon include my Philosophy Amazing Grace lotion, my Benefit Hoola Bronzer, and my splurge mascara (I missed it when it was on sale for $10 and I am kicking myself!). I also do not need another bag – I repeat – I do not need another bag – but if I did, I’d get this one in gray! I mean, it’s not even really a bag, right? It’s a clutch…totally different?!

I hope everyone has a great week & makes it through to Friday the 13th without any spooky and strange happenings! 😉 Before you know it, we’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas. It always feels like it comes faster each year!

Arizona!

For the next five days, mom and I are vacationing and adventuring in Arizona to celebrate my 30th! Can’t believe what an amazing trip I have been gifted.

I’ll do a recap post eventually – of course – but in the meantime, you can follow along with me @missjweaves on Instastories! I’ll be blowing it up.

view from our air bnb – thunder mountain 

Vacation mode:  On. Later! ✌🏼