Holiday, Life and Marriage

5 Last-Minute Mother’s Day Gifts For The Mom In Your Life

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Mother’s Day is just around the corner and it’s about time to start thinking gifts if you haven’t already. Give mom the gift she really deserves without looking like you waited until the last-minute! Enjoy a few of my favorite choices for moms this year!

MAGNOLIA TABLE COOK BOOK

All hail Joanna Gaines, goddess of all things country and beautiful! Her new cookbook brings her love of food and fun together at one table and it’s perfect for that mom who just loves to cook or try new recipes! It’s available exclusively at Target in store and online.

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BOOZY AND SWEET CANDY

Give mom the much-needed break she deserves with some sweet and twisted candy from Sugarfina! This store is my go-to for odd gifts last-minute because it’s a play on the old “box of chocolates” you traditionally give as a gift. Design mom a custom bento box with candy of choice or gift any of the already existing candy concoctions.

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HEART PHOTO COLLAGE FROM MINTED

When I can’t design my own stationery, Minted is my go-to because their ideas are so fresh as a collective market of artists thriving on uniqueness. This heart collage is perfect if a mother has little ones or grand kids to cherish the sweet smiles.

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MARBLE JEWELRY BOX FROM ANTHROPOLOGIE

For the chic mom like yours, gift her an ultra-luxurious jewelry box with gold and blush accents. This gift will surely make her eyes pop with joy! Have a little extra dough in the budget? Add the vanity organizer or coordinating box!

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GARDENING AND TOOL BASKET FROM WILLIAMS SONOMA

Some moms have a green thumb and love to garden fresh floral and vegetables, so give them the chic-est little accessories on the block! This adorable basket is perfect for carrying your vegetable haul, or just your simple gardening tools out and about while working on the home.

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Holiday, Life and Marriage, Shopping

My 2018 Valentine’s Day Gift Guide

From your husband, to your dog, to everyone in between, Valentine’s Day isn’t just a day to treat the one you love the most. It’s the one time anyone can share heart-shaped everything and be overly gushy because we all love someone, and that’s great! See a few of my favorite gifts for your special someone (or yourself) to give this year.

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FOR THE WOMAN YOU LOVE

The Traditionalist – Flower Arrangement
Because what girl doesn’t love to receive a beautiful bouquet of fresh flowers?

The Homebody – Tea Sampler Set
A cozy night in sounds just perfect, and sampling a few new tasty teas makes the whole night a little more warm.

The Hot Mama – Adore Me Lingerie Subscription Membership
Spice it up and give your significant other a little sexy pep in their step… plus you get to enjoy the benefits too!

The Fashionista – Stitch Fix Personal Styling and Clothing Subscription Gift Card
Make your girl feel good with some threads handpicked by a personal stylist and delivered straight to her door!

The Stresser – Life Around 2 Angels Bath Bombs
A hot bubble bath sounds amazing, but isn’t complete without these fizzy favorites. With real flowers inside, they make every bath feel magical.

The Long Distancer – Homesick Candles
Let’s be real, the smell of home never leaves your memory, but these candles make your new home feel a little more comfortable.

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FOR THE MAN YOU LOVE

The Traditionalist – Heart-Shaped Cookie Cake
Cake is so overrated, but cookie cakes are double the fun!

The Homebody – Gin Making Kit
Because if you’re going to home, you might as well enjoy a few of your favorite things.

The DILF – BirchboxMan
Sculpt up that beard and finesse your style with some beauty secrets strictly for the man in your life.

The Fashionista – Whisky Barrel Wood Watch
Whisky and watches? What a combo! This unique gift is sure to wow.

The Stresser – MiniPresso Espresso Maker
When you’re on the go, cut your time in half and take the brew with you.

The Long Distancer – Out Of This World Donut Kit
When you’re far away, a little taste of home makes your day a little easier.

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FOR YOUR FURRY FRIEND

The Puppy – PupBox Subscription Box
Always on the go and getting into new things, help your poppy along with some of the best things on the market.

The Toy Abuser – Bully Make Subscription Box
Our pup is a pain with ripped toys everywhere, but her tough heart still deserves love. Give the gift of the toughest surprises out there for your bully.

The Furry Jerk – KitNip Box
Let’s be real, cats are kind of like that uncle who doesn’t have a filter, but we still love them! So gift them with something to entertain!

FOR THE PERSON YOU LOVE MOST (AKA YOURSELF!)

Bombshell By Victoria’s Secret Perfume
Sexy, mature and desirable – don’t we all deserve to treat ourselves to that?

A New Phone Case
Because fashion isn’t just about the clothes we wear, but the accessories we carry.

100% Pure Bright Eyes Undereye Mask
Brighten your look with a little something to take those late-night bags away.

A  Makeup Shopping Spree
It’s the perfect time to toss out that two-year-old lipstick for some new shades.

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FOR YOUR FRIENDS OR COWORKERS

The Boss Babe – Kate Spade Let’s Do Lunch Business Card Holder
On the go and always working it, this little piece of sassy is perfect.

The Soccer Mom (Who Needs A Break) – Stemless Travel Wine Glass
Let’s be real, taking a glass of wine to a game isn’t the weirdest thing you’ve seen.

The Home Lover – Bedside Smartphone Vase
The smell of fresh flowers in the morning makes the annoying alarm a little more tolerable.

The Office Right-Hand Man – Compliment Pencils
We all deserve a little high-five to ourselves every so often.

The Coffee-Jacked Shopper – Large Funny Target Mug
A Target Run isn’t a Target Run unless you walk each and every aisle (twice).

The Makeup Guru – Sephora Favorites Selfie Kit
Make your Instagram photos on point without the filters!

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Holiday, Style, Style and Beauty

My Favorite Looks for Valentine’s Day Dates

The holiday of love is approaching quick, and it’s time to start thinking outfit! Whether it be a new fling, loving boyfriend or adoring husband, we all aim to dress to impress on this first major special occasion in the new year. Being dolled-up for a night out or cozy for a night on the couch marathoning your favorite movies, everyone deserves something a little cute (to treat yourself of course!). Check out my favorite looks for all occasions!

A NIGHT OUT IN THE BIG CITY

Dark plums and vibrant reds are the color of Valentine’s day! Show off what you have to work with in a flattering sheer or backless dress tucked tight to each curve for a little extra sexy appeal, or rock a stunning, flowing maxi with a sexy slit up the leg. For those who like a little more coverage, a simple skater dress can be accessorized with your favorite metallic heels and jewelry.

Featured Styles:
Essence of Style Plum Purple Maxi Dress – Lulus, $98
So Good Coral Red Bodycon Dress – Lulus, $52
Remarkable Black Lace Dress – Lulus, $57
Cumulonimbus Clouds Burgundy Skater Dress – Lulus, $56
DATE NIGHT

Elevated, sheer and feminine – a few of the best words to describe fashion heading into Valentine’s Day. Up your game with a look that will be having heads turn in the right direction, and making your partner feel special. Simple floral dresses are perfect for casual dinners at your favorite place or a few cocktails. For those of you (like myself!) trapped in the winter blues, bodysuit turtlenecks have made a huge comeback for the chic ’70’s vibe, paired with high wasted skinny jeans and simple accessories.

Featured Styles:
Mile High Light Wash Super Skinny Jeans – Levi’s, $98
Dream of You Ivory Floral Print Off-The-Shoulder Shift Dress – Lulus, $49

Sweet Secrets Mauve Pink Lace Turtleneck Top – Lulus, $40
501 Skinny Washed Blue Distressed Jeans – Levi’s, $70
A NIGHT IN

Low key and cool – max out your couch marathon in comfort with cozy sweaters, flowy tops and classic cotton tees. Pair your top with a favorite pair of fitting jeans or a great pair of leggings (TIP: invest in high quality, well fitting jeans over wasting money on cheap styles that make your booty sag!). Layer your style with a slightly sexy bralette for added flair.

Featured Styles:
Free People Laguna Thermal Top – Nordstrom, $68
Light of Dawn Blush Pink Floral Print Off-The-Shoulder Top – Lulus, $39
Lift My Spirits White Buttons-Up Crop Top – Lulus, $41
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Holiday, Home, Life, Life and Marriage, Marriage

My Ultimate Rules to Planning the Perfect Celebration

It’s the holidays, which means so many things: holiday dinners, New Year’s brunches and even the start to engagement season! Those who know me best know that I am a bit of a wedding and party planning nerd. I love creating an environment down to the smallest details with fun and excitement to make the best experience possible. Having just spent two years planning the perfect celebration, I’m excited to share my favorite tips and tricks that can be applied to any event, no matter how big or small.

Base Everything on the Guest Experience

This is the number one thing people forget when planning an event. It may be an event totally about you, like a wedding, but you’re really hosting it for your guests to enjoy, so make sure every aspect reflects that. From table settings to decor and fun, every detail truly matters in the guest experience. People truly care about a few things: is the food good, will they have fun and will they be comfortable. If they answer all three of these questions with a yes before they go, when they’re there and when they leave, then they’ll be loyal attendees to every one of your parties going forward.

Make Sure the Event Flows

There’s nothing worse than being a wedding with huge downtime where it’s neither eating time nor dancing time. That’s when events get awkward and people begin to think about leaving. Ensure that you keep the party moving with a set schedule of events. It’s OK to verge from the plan if the vibe of the event changes, so flexibility is key, but little things like making sure dinner is served on time will help your guests from starving and complaining. Keep the party going with planned music, fun games and special features, like fireworks at you New Year’s Eve bash.

Sarah & Jeff's Pavilion at Orchard Ridge Farms Wedding

Keep a Consistent Theme and Style

To many people find themselves trying to do too much to plan an event, but the less the better. Sure, a ton of decorations work for a Christmas party, but they shouldn’t take away from the comfort of the event and they should fit the style of the event – you wouldn’t have kid-theme decor at an adult’s only holiday shindig. Same goes for the big events like weddings. You want the style to reflect you, and keeping it consistent helps to set the expectation. For our wedding, we kept a simple color palette of three major colors – navy, ivory and gold – to ensure that the room didn’t look overly crowded with different decor.

Let the Venue Speak for Itself

Many people often choose a empty, blank-slate venue to build everything up, but finding a venue that speaks for itself helps to reduce the stress (and price tag) of decorating. The uniqueness of venues available are growing, from barns to breweries and hotel ballrooms, any type of event can fit in any space if the style fits. It would be difficult to host a royal wedding in a small barn when a ballroom is the best fit. Finding the perfect venue exists, and finding one to fit the flow and style of your event is crucial to its success.

 

 Be Thoughtful in All Aspects of the Event Planning Process

Every time you make a decision there are a few questions you should ask yourself: Does this fit the style of the event? Will this fit in the flow of the event? Will my guests enjoy it/will it add to the guests experience? Is this a waste of time or money?

These are crucial to decision making. For our big day, we opted to not do the traditional wedding favor, and worked in smaller enhancements to make it memorable. When it came to price and time, ordering favors could be consuming: roughly $1 per person times 100 to 150 people adds up really fast, plus time to assemble and transport seemed quite exhausting. Instead, we opted to pick up a few cigars from the local shop, a handful of $1 cutters from Amazon and a small pack of custom matches to feature a mini cigar bar – something my husband and all of his friends loved!

We used the remaining balance from our favors budget to set up a mini lemonade stand at the ceremony for guests who arrived early with a light refreshment in the late summer warmth. It was such a hit and people loved the idea of pre-cocktail tasters to keep themselves from getting parched during our 35-minute outdoors ceremony.

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Holiday, Shopping, Style, Style and Beauty

Dress Like a Boss: Winter Event Wardrobes with Rent the Runway

This time of the year opens us up to a huge variety of life and business events with different style demands, and most of our wardrobes are littered with sundresses and cute outfits for warmer weather. Opening your closet for a winter event can be a daunting task, and it’s hard to justify spending so much for an outfit when it’s only meant for 3 months of the year.

Rent the Runway has been a message from the heavens when it comes to contemporary, seasonal fashion for any event! Simply find the item you love, rent it, receive it and ship it back! Forget long store trips and trying multiple things on trying to find the right outfit. Know your style and find something that works for anything! Explore of few of my favorite high and low priced picks for the events you may encounter this winter season!

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There are two things you can predict from a winter wedding: it will probably be indoors in a ballroom or nicer venue, and it will probably be a little bit chilly, especially if the ceremony and reception are at two different locations. Winter weddings let you break out the satin and nicer gowns, while accessorizing with fun things like fur coats and gold jewelry. Take advantage of layering and wear an outfit that allows for you to shed layers when you’re hot from tearing up the dance floor or cold when outside traveling to the event.

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Just because it’s a party, doesn’t mean you can be any less professional. If you have personal relationships with your coworkers, than riskier dresses may work but for the majority of us, keeping your professional coverage while maintaining style can be tricky. These two looks offer a little bit of pizzazz from the normal office attire but still remain classy for the holiday soiree.

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Not all of us have a formal get together to attend, but fashion may be equally important at your family events. Those formal dinners at your aunt or grandparents’ house can be a battle of “who’s life is the best” so put your best foot forward with a fashion statement outside the tradition ugly Christmas sweater.

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Let your wild side roam and show a little something-something for your night out on the town. These two looks let’s you show off those legs you love and even a little sparkle to make you stand out in the crowd! Longer sleeves help to fight the winter blues, while keeping the rest of your goodies a mystery.

 

To learn more about Rent the Runway, visit their website and start exploring your dream dresses at discounted prices!
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Fitness, Holiday, Life and Marriage

Staying Fit During the Winter Season

I will admit that I am just as guilty about indulging during the holidays and the winter season: creamy soups with warm bread, rich hot cocoa with whipped cream, and delicious candies with rich truffle fillings and candy coatings are just a few of my guilty pleasures. Although, those ten pounds we give ourselves to gain in the winter isn’t as easy to fall off for those summer bikinis, making each year a repetition of failure and further gaining. Break the cycle and implement a plan to help yourself stay on track using a few of my favorite rules of life to live by when it comes to surviving the chilly months.

Find a fitness routine that you can actually stick to.

I was so spoiled in the summer because running and walking outside was a more convenient work out than going to the gym, but I can’t let winter ruin my routine. With the brutal Chicago winter rolling in, and being forced to take my fitness indoors, it’s important to find a routine, location and schedule that works with your life. After a day of working, it’s easy to bypass the gym, especially when it’s already dark outside after leaving work, but set yourself responsible for spending certain days and times at the gym. I love going to a gym that offers fitness classes – make friends with class members (or coordinate to go with a friend) and hold yourself responsible for going the same time every week. Those friends will make sure you go and call you out if you don’t.

My favorite tip: join a gym with flexible for 24/7 gym hours to give yourself a wider window for work outs. Plus, you can squeeze in a quick on the morning before your holiday parties to help with those few extra calories burnt before dinner divergence.

Aim to maintain, not change.

Winter is not the right time to push yourself to engage more fitness than you did before. Winter is a season for maintaining because the natural cycle of the day and the frigid temperatures make days feel longer and more exhausting. Setting yourself a goal of losing significant weight during this period just makes you feel significantly defeated when you realize that it’s a lot harder during these months, which is one of the reasons that many New Year’s fitness goals fail. Maintaining your current status should be revelled as an achievement because it’s one of the hardest things to do during this period of time and hit the ground hard for fitness come spring.

Now, this is not me saying that you should stop trying for progress. You can maintain and still make progress. Personally, I work to maintain weight and muscle mass, but always aim to improve on your fitness goals, such as achieving more flexibility or increasing my cycling distance during one hour classes. Never discontinue to challenge yourself.

If you’re cooking holiday dinner, include healthier food options.food-salad-dinner-eating

Adding a few extra small portions, or completely swapping them all together, will help you and others who watch what they eat to maintain their fitness goals, but still indulge in delicious food. A few of my favorite food additions or swaps for the holidays include:

  1. Offer roasted or mashed sweet potatoes without butter or marshmallows instead of heavy mashed potatoes.
  2. Use a few more vegetable sides, like green beans, corn and broccoli, instead of bread or creamy casseroles.
  3. Create healthy starters to replace traditional platters, like cucumber cups instead of cheese displays.
  4. Create a dessert alternative such as a sugar free fruit tart or fruit tray to help quench the sweet tooth without the sugar indulgence.
If you’re not cooking, choose your plate wisely.

I come from a thick blooded Midwestern family who loves butter, sugar, bread and everything else on the wrong parts of the food period. We are raised around food and food to us means family. When celebrating with family at others’ homes, I had to learn to switch my mindset to know that spending time with family is what makes the holiday special and it’s not all about the food. When celebrating, make sure to consider where you’re going and the options you have to eat:

  1. If it’s a potluck or bring a dish event, try to bring something healthy that you love – then you know there’s something you can definitely eat. Although, ensure that others may like it too to prevent any food from going to waste.
  2. Asses the spread before filling your plate: It’s easy to just start stacking food you see, but knowing what options you have will help you plot your course down the buffet line or dinner table. Try to max out on vegetables as much as possible and avoid the multiple trips back to the rolls bowl.
  3. Be selective about desserts. Think about sugar and carbs when choosing a dessert (if it’s an ABSOLUTE must). Surprisingly, a double fudge brownie may be not be the best option next to a cupcake with the frosting removed or a small cookie.
Learn to have self control.

This is easily the number one reason why people fail to reach their fitness goals or maintain during the winter. Being surrounded by food and drinks that are delicious and only available this time of the year is a weakness we all have, but you’re in control of your own hand, mouth and mind. Only you can stop yourself from eating certain foods and make time for fitness routines.

 

 

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Holiday, Life and Marriage

Classic and New Christmas Traditions in our Home

Home for the holidays is a feeling one cannot bypass – the warmth of a cozy, familiar bed, the homemade meals full of delicious ingredients and the laughs you have with those around you. When I lived away or even just in Chicago, traveling home was something that brought comfort, and the activities I grew up on were things that I needed to make my holidays feel real. We still continue traditions to this day, and now as a newlywed, we’re beginning to form traditions just our own that we will pass down to our kin one day.

Classic Traditions

Classic Cookie Decorating and Candy Making

Although I typically have quite the sweet tooth, I somehow manage to make it through ur annual treat baking without adding a few dozen pounds to my frame. Decorate shortbread classics, gingerbread men, caramel corn and cracker toffee are just a few treats my mother passed down to me – each time tasting them makes it feel like the warm, sugary tingle of the holidays. Baking is a great way to put some time together as a family and explore your goofy, creative side. There’s no right or wrong way to bake cookies, and even if they end of burnt or gross, it’s the laughs of messing them up that matter.

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Christmas Eve Games with Family

Our holidays are always quite the fluster because my family is large, and now with an in-law side, the holidays are multiplying. Since all of my family members are now growing older, marrying and having children, our Christmas is actually celebrated on Christmas Eve to ensure that everyone can get together. When you pack that many people in homes every year, a little family fun is bound to happen and our family continues to find creative ways to make that happen.

One of the many games we host is the “Right-Left Story” Ornament exchange. Everyone brings one ornaments and sits in a circle. A story is read that features frequent and random occurrences of the words ‘left’ and ‘right’. When each is said, you pass the ornament in your hand in that direction until the story is over and everyone has a new ornament to take home. The laughs start when people begin to forget their different sides!

We also celebrate every year with a 12 Days of Christmas grab bag – the different lines to the 12 Days of Christmas song are folded into a grab bag and everyone takes one without revealing what they have. We sing the story starting at one and repeating all the way to 12 until everyone has sang (and messed up) and laughed until they almost soil their shorts. Those with a little extra dramatic flair garner the greatest giggles from the whole room.

New Traditions

Visit the Local Artisan Market – The Chicago Christkindlmarket

This tradition we started when I was in college – this local market filled with delicious, traditional German food and handcrafted trinkets make it something unique to vibrant and diverse immigrant culture of Chicago. Over the years, it has slowly expanded to have locations in Naperville, which is a short distance from our current home in the suburbs, and newly inaugurated Wrigleyville location in 2017. Even if you don’t aim to buy anything, seeing the unique ornaments and wood crafting is something to make you remember that Christmas isn’t just about the newest toys, but about the warmth of tradition and culture.

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Decorating the Christmas Tree and Annual Ornaments

Every year, I loved spending time with my husband decorating the house and the tree. This year posed a little difficult since he just had foot surgery around Thanksgiving and his mobility is limited, but we still found time to ensure we both took in the beauty of our home. Additionally, we buy a new ornament every year and put a photo in it of our biggest highlight from that year. This year, we obviously featured our wedding photo, and in the past, have featured engagement photos, pictures of our first date and a photo of our dog the year we adopted her.

What is your favorite holiday tradition? Leave it in the comments below!

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