What’s In My Travel Bag?

February has been a month of travel for me. I will be out of town every weekend this month except for one because of visiting family, traveling and work. While that can be exhausting, I have pretty much nailed down my packing process, no matter what the occasion. I tend to wait to pack my clothes until the last minute to allow for the weather to try to make up its mind about how it wants to be, but I always make a list at the beginning of the week of what I want to pack to ensure it is all clean and ready to go, should I decide to take it.

I’m a little bit of an over-packer in the clothes department because I believe there is nothing worse than arriving to you final destination to find the weather changed last minute. With that being said, I try to keep my accessories and primping products to a minimal, effortless process.

8fafb1d3-60dd-4dee-ab97-79cc5bc74a28.jpegSince I tend to always be on the go, I found the easiest way to not forget anything is by having a pre-packed bag full of the necessities. I always keep travel sized essentials such as shampoo, conditioner, deodorant and toothpaste in my bag at all times, which is great because I don’t have to carry any giant bottles around and since it’s already in the bag, it’s one less thing to worry about when I’m packing. I also started keeping a small bottle of dry shampoo and make up remover in there as realized that I tend to pack it anyway every time I’m traveling. Extra cotton balls and body wash never hurt either, even though some hotels have some stocked in their rooms.

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As for the rest of the goodies that I pack, I always am sure to have my glasses and an extra set of contacts, just in case something happens with the current set that I’m wearing. If I’m headed to a city where a lot of walking is sure to be involved, I grab my Mint Bliss Energizing foot and leg lotion by Mary Kay. And ever since I forgot any type of hair band on our honeymoon (🤦🏻‍♀️), I keep a small bag full of elastic bands just in case.

Ever since I started keeping my bag half packed, it hasn’t eliminated forgetting things all together, but it has made my process of preparing for a weekend away much more effortless. Now, if someone could figure out a way for me to remember to pack my face wash that I am just now realizing I forgot, please send your suggestions my way!

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Sweet Valentine’s Day Details

As a girl who doesn’t need an excuse for any celebration, I have always found Valentine’s Day to be one of the sweetest of the year. Even before I met Jody, I usually spent Valentine’s Day celebrating with my gal pals. Regardless of who I’m with, I’m celebrating with all things pink, sweet, and a cheesy too (ahem, watching Valentine’s Day). 

While Jody and I traditionally tend to keep things low-key, I’m all about adding a few extra details to make the day a little more special, especially years like this year when Valentine’s Day fall in the middle of the work week and on Ash Wednesday. If you’re looking for a little last minute Valentines/ Galentines Day inspiration, look no further for some simple ideas that can work for all kinds of lifestyles!

Heart Garland // Pancakes // Love Letter // Valentine’s Mantle //

Heart Balloons // Flowers // Love Cookies 

Garland is one of the easiest, last minute decorations out there. You can usually find some at Target, but I just love an easy DIY, like these heart doilies. You can hang it anywhere, but I love it off a piece of furniture for something different!

Due to our work schedules and lack of desire to wake up any earlier than I have to, Jody and I probably won’t do anything cute for breakfast, but if we did, we would definitely be making heart-shaped pancakes. I made some a couple of years ago, and while they didn’t turn out Pinterest perfect, making them together is such a sweet memory.

The easiest way to show a little Valentine’s love is through handwritten words. Even if writing isn’t your strongest skill, taking a few minutes to share the reasons why you love your beau means more than any gift could. If you are celebrating Galentine’s this year instead, take a moment to send a few loving thoughts to a close friend!

I love this simple mantle with a pop of pink from fresh flowers and the cute wooden heart decor. Just this simple piece can bring some love to the whole room! Heart balloons can do the same. Whether you use them to surprise your love or just bring a little pop of color to the room for the day, they are such an easy, fun addition to a little Valentine’s spirit.

I’m such a huge fan of flowers, especially when they come in all shades of pink! I’m hoping I can pick some up this week to add a little bit of spring love to our living room. Plus, how cute are these flower bouquets?!

I made Jody a box of heart cookies for Valentine’s Day a few years ago and they were such a hit! I wrote “How sweet it is to be loved by you” on the cookies (cheesy, I know 😉 ). We decided to not do anything to celebrate that year except have him cook me dinner, but I decided to surprise him with cookies anyway! If you have a free evening, it won’t take too long to whip up a batch of this sweetness!

As for this year, Jody and I had a very rainy date day this past weekend, and are planning to have dinner on Wednesday at the place where we held our Rehearsal dinner. After dinner, we are heading to the church where we were married for their Ash Wednesday service, which will be our first time back there since our wedding. While we haven’t officially decided this, I imagine we will probably end the night cuddled up on the couch, sharing a bottle of wine while watching some of the raw footage from our wedding. I can’t think of a better way to spend our first married Valentine’s Day. What are your plans for celebrating your guy or gal this year? I’d love to hear in the comments!

February Goals

Perhaps it is because I didn’t have a planner for the entire month of January, so I couldn’t visibly see the month pass by, but I’m pretty sure that was the fastest January on record. Admittedly, I’m not super happy with my goals progress this month, but progress is more important than perfection.

As we look ahead to February, I hope that I am able to really invest some time into making these goals a reality to continue to cultivate a life that is centered on those things that matter. I already know it’s going to be a busy month, but I’m hoping these goals will help me focus and utilize my time well.

January Goals

  • Help Jody set our 2018 financial goals
  • Make my reading list for 2018
  • Get back into an exercise routine
  • Start my prayer journal
  • Create content schedule for the blog in January and February
  • Invest in updated necessities to encourage goals — order new glasses, buy a new water bottle, and purchase new laptop I’m considering this two-thirds checked. I bought myself a new water bottle (and now am drinking more water!) and ordered my new glasses but still need to bite the bullet on the laptop. 
  • Read “A Magnolia Story” by Chip and Joanna Gaines I haven’t finished it yet, but it’s so good so far
  • Complete a purge my closet and sell or donate clothes I don’t wear

February Goals

  • Start my prayer journal and find a Lenten devotional study to follow
  • Finish “A Magnolia Story” and start a new book off of my reading list
  • Try one new recipe a week (Similar to what I did last summer, which you can read about here!)
  • Celebrate Valentine’s Day with my husband
  • Go through my closet one more time and be honest about what I’m not wearing
  • Celebrate someone’s special birthday with joy and gratitude
  • Purchase the laptop and new planner (a little embarrassed that I haven’t done this yet!)
  • Book our anniversary trip

Date Night Ideas

With Valentine’s Day just a few short weeks away, Jody and I have been brainstorming about how we want to celebrate this year. We don’t usually do anything big; just doing something different that our usual routine. A few years ago, we went to VMFA, an art museum in Richmond, followed by Italian for dinner, and last year we went bowling, had more Italian for dinner and then snuggled up for a movie at home.

While it may be apparent that Italian is our easy, go-to, date night, we try to mix it up when planning to go out on a date. I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes, it is hard to not fall in the same “routine date”, for the sake of time and planning. Luckily, one of the activities at my bridal shower was to leave us a date idea in a jar, so now we have an arsenal of different types of dates that Jody and I wouldn’t have originally thought of ourselves. Today, I thought it would be fun to share some of the date ideas that we received, as well as some of our favorite dates that we’ve been on!

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On the trolley ride at the state fair last summer.
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Our last time at the Diamond in Richmond for a Flying Squirrels game!
  1. Spend the day walking around a nearby town, visit local shops and get dinner. Jody and I love going over to Annapolis to walk around the Naval Academy’s beautiful campus, as well as walking around the downtown district. St. Michaels is also another local town that we love to visit — extra points if there is a winery nearby!
  2. Wine tasting. It seems we tend to do this a little more in the winter months, but a majority of our weekends include a stop at various wineries in the region. We try to not visit the same ones every time, but our location can make that a tad bit difficult. To keep it interesting, we’ve even had a wine tasting at home complete with a variety of wines and a cheese board. 🙂
  3. Day trip to the beach. One of the best parts of living on the shore is how close we are to the beach. Jody and I love going on warm days during the off-season to walk the boardwalk, play a round of mini-golf, and enjoy Thrasher’s fries while watching the waves.
  4. Cocktails at a swanky bar. We did more of this during our weekend getaway to Charleston, and I have to say, I’m looking forward to a lot more of this in the future! We don’t necessarily live near one now, but our substitute is drinks at the restaurant where we hosted our rehearsal dinner.
  5. Create a progressive dinner. Stop at different eateries for appetizers, entrée, dessert, and after dinner drinks. This idea sounds so fun, and can also be adjusted for a night-in too with different take-out options.
  6. Go to a pro or semi-pro sporting event. Jody and I used to make a trip once a summer to see the Richmond Flying Squirrels play. Neither of us are huge baseball followers, but it doesn’t seem like summertime without a baseball game and stadium food!
  7. A simple picnic. I am just giddy for spring for us to finally pull out our picnic basket! You can practically picnic anywhere — a park, a beach, by the river, or on a lookout spot. Pack a bottle of wine and sandwiches for a relaxing afternoon in warm weather.
  8. Hit the water. I guess this is slightly dependent on where you live, but obviously we don’t lack water around these parts. There’s kayaking, paddle boarding or even sailing! Watch the sunset with your beau after you return from your water adventure!
  9. Stay at a local bed and breakfast. This is a bit of a pricier date, but if you have the room in your budget, it is sure to be a day to remember! Spend some time exploring the town if you are unfamiliar with, get to know some of the local spots, and of course, enjoy a delicious breakfast in the morning!
  10. Cook together. Jody and I rarely cook together in the kitchen but one of my favorite memories is one random Sunday night when Jody and I made enchiladas together. Turn on a favorite playlist and open a bottle of wine and try to cook a new recipe together!
  11. Go to a drive-in. Different than the classic “go to the movies” date, this one can be fun, because it actually lasts longer than just the movie. There was a place near Richmond that always showed double features, and the catch was you had to arrive hours early in order to get a good spot!
  12. Nostalgia date. This one is fun! Relive a favorite memory like a first date. Go to the places where you first met each other and do what you did on your first date. You could even relive an event or trip, such as your honeymoon. Eat that locale’s cuisine, listen to music that is reflective of that location, and remember how much fun you had with your beau. I think Jody and I will be taking an impromptu “visit” to Jamaica soon. 😉

I hope these date ideas will help spark some ideas for your Valentine’s Day plans and every day! I firmly believe that dating is extremely important in any phase of a relationship, so I hope some of these ideas listed here will encourage you to make time for you and your partner. I’d also love to hear some of your ideas too! Happy dating, y’all!

My 2018 Reading List

One of my favorite things to do growing up was to read. I read all of the American Girl stories that corresponded with each doll, every Harry Potter book, and the entire Little House on Prairie collection (I was even in a monthly book club!). I remember hiding under the covers many nights reading Nancy Drew with a flashlight, and spending countless summer days laying out in the grass with a good book. Even now, my beach bag isn’t fully packed until I throw in the latest story that has captured my attention.

As one of my goals for this year was to invest in a little more self-care, I decided that I wanted to spend more time reading, rather than in front of the TV or on the internet. I’ve come up with a list of books to start with, and I thought it would be fun to share with you as well. These books range from juicy dramas, to self-help, to faith-based books of encouragement. I hope to have a well-rounded list of books that I’ve read by the end of the year. I decided to start my list at 12, with a goal of one a month, but I would love to add to this list. I already have a couple of these and I’m eager to dig in!

  • A Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines || This book has been on my to-read book for quite some time. Especially with my favorite “Fixer Upper” HGTV series coming to an end soon, I need my favorite shiplap couple in my life more than ever.
  • Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul by John and Stasi Eldredge || I picked up a copy of this book almost a year ago and still have yet to read it. I’ve tried to pick it up a couple of times, but it is a little deeper than your average beach read. This books shows women about setting their hearts free so that she can grow to be all that she aspires to be.
  • Wild and Free by Hayley Morgan and Jess Connolly || Many faith-driven women that I look up to have read and suggested this book, which is all about learning how to let go of our insecurities to fully respond to God’s desire for us. This is perfect for any Christian woman who feels like she is too much and yet, not enough.
  • Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman || Jody and I have both actually read this book before, but it is filled with so much good truth about loving your spouse that I’m reading this again this year as a reminder of how to love my husband well. Engaged couples and newlyweds, I highly recommend this one!
  • A Simplified Life by Emily Ley || Y’all know I love me some Emily Ley and I have been so anxious to get my hands on this book since it came out last November. Especially in a year where I am eager to simply areas of my daily routine, I’m excited to dig in to this one.
  • Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris || I came across this book when I was scouring the internet looking for some “must-reads” for this list. This is like a thriller movie in a book. Just the summary on the back cover has me anxious to find out how this story ends. I may I have to read this one next!
  • Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty || By the same author of Big Little Lies, this piece of fiction tells the story of a barbecue and how it unleashed a fury of lies and  betrayal for a normal couple trying to find the balance between work and family. Fun fact: Shortly after this book was released, Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman received the film rights to it, which means we may have an adapted version coming to TV soon!
  • Still Me by Jojo Moyes || I have loved the entire Before You and After You series by Jojo Moyes, and I’m excited to read the next part of Lou’s story. I’m pretty sure I’m saving this for an easy summer read at the beach.
  • Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella|| Y’all, I honestly laughed out loud just reading the description of this book. This romantic comedy is sure to be a great read this spring all about keeping this couple’s marriage fresh and alive after panic sets in that they might still have sixty-eight years left together. I literally can’t wait to read this.
  • Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst || Originally, I wasn’t interested in reading this book, but after seeing it recommended by many different bloggers, I changed my mind. This book is all about feeling loved while dealing with rejection, loss and loneliness through God’s word and honest remarks.
  • Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult || There hasn’t been a Jodi Picoult book that I haven’t loved. Easily my favorite author, I didn’t have to think twice about adding one of her books to my list. I’ve heard nothing but stellar reviews about this one and can’t wait to get lost in the mystery myself!

Do you have any books that are on your list to read this year? I’d love to hear what you plan to read, as well as some of your suggestions that I could possibly add to my list!

Our Charleston Trip

Months ago, Jody and I decided that we wanted to go on a weekend getaway to celebrate six months of marriage. Since the actual anniversary fell on Christmas Eve, we chose to wait to celebrate over the long New Years weekend. Wanting to escape the North, and needing to find somewhere that would allow us to stop in Richmond and celebrate Christmas with the Cox side of the family, we ultimately decided on one of my favorite southern cities, Charleston.

While I had been to the Holy City once before, it was only for the day, and it was super rainy so I didn’t get the chance to truly explore the city. Jody had never visited, so we were excited for three days of roaming through the historic town.

I decided to break this post down into what we did and what we ate, since one of the main reasons of going to Charleston is to eat your way through the southern delicacies, which we had absolutely no problem doing. 🙂 It is also worth mentioning that we decided to stay at an Air b+b on James Island, rather than in the downtown area to save a little money. Honestly, it wasn’t that far (maybe 10 minutes into the historic district), and it was definitely cheaper than one of the gorgeous, historical hotels that are scattered through the district. I do hope to stay in one on our next visit though!

What We Did:

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Relaxing after dinner at Meeting on Market

After grabbing something to eat, Jody and I took our time strolling through the market place. It was probably four blocks of vendors, each with unique products and local gifts. It was a nice start to the morning to slowly make our way through the vendors, while sipping on coffee, as well as a nice way to start our trip.

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We loved that the city was still decorated for Christmas!

Before leaving for Charleston, my dad had gifted us with a reservation for a carriage ride through the city. This is not a tour I would have typically planned for us to do since they can be a bit cliché and pricey, but I’m so thankful that we did. Our tour through the historic district was so informative, and it was so cool to learn how to identify the buildings that were built prior to the Civil War. Plus, Charleston is absolutely breathtaking, so it was the perfect way to see different parts of the city before exploring it on foot.  I highly recommend looking into carriage tours if you find yourself in the Holy City!

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I loved looking at all of the southern architecture throughout the city.

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The famed Rainbow Row. We walked to find it since it was such a beautiful day. It took a little longer than anticipated thanks to a faulty GPS but it was still just as beautiful. I can’t imagine walking past these homes every morning without stopping and staring at them!

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After we found Rainbow Row, we made our way to Waterfront Park. We grabbed our picture in front of the iconic Pineapple Fountain and then walked along the pier, waiting to see if we’d see the cruise ship that was docked sail off. Unfortunately, it didn’t leave before we were ready to find a drink and an afternoon snack and head back to our home away from home before our evening in the Holy City.

One of the things we really wanted to see while we were in Charleston was Fort Sumter, which is recognized as where the first shots were fired to begin the Civil War. Being a history lover and frequent visitor to various national parks, I was definitely excited to learn more about the Fort. Since it was the off-season for traveling in Charleston, there were limited ferry rides out to the Fort, and due to our carriage reservation the day prior, we ended up going out to Fort Sumter on New Years Eve. The temperature had dropped overnight so everything about this part of the trip was cold. The ferry did have an educational recording playing during the 20 minutes cruise to the Fort, as well as a Park Ranger talk once we arrived. We walked around the inside of the walls, and tried to walk on the side that was built up to be level with the height of the walls, but the wind coming off of the ocean and cold temps was too cold for me. We spent the rest of our time in the museum strolling through the museum before catching the ferry back to shore. It was Jody’s first time to a National Park, so I was happy to share some of my past experiences with him. Fort Sumter ended up being one of our favorite parts of our trip!

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We made the rookie tourist move of not making reservations far enough in advance to eat at any of the fancier restaurants in Charleston, but still had a fantastic dinner at the bar of Stars Restaurant on New Years Eve. This restaurant had such a great atmosphere (and a rooftop bar!) that we ate late at the bar and stayed through ringing in 2018 at midnight. While it was entirely too cold to celebrate on the roof, we really enjoyed ourselves, and made a couple of friends in the process. 🙂

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One of the main attractions that we hadn’t seen at this point was the Battery, which is a defensive seawall and promenade at the tip of the peninsula. There are also a ton of stunning, historic houses near there so Jody and I made a stop on the way to breakfast on New Years day. We tried to walk along the promenade but with the cold air and windy, it was honestly miserable, so we opted to drive slowly along the shoreline (a much warmer decision, I might add). It was nice to enjoy the city one last time with little to no traffic.

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I also want to add that usually I can deal with cold weather, but this trip conveniently occurred during the blast of Arctic temperature along the East Coast. Like Charleston, South Carolina had snow and ice on the ground not 48 hours after leaving. My husband may beg to differ with me on this, but the snow makes my case on this one, y’all.

What We Ate:

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Since we decided to drive to Charleston rather than fly, our first meal on the road was decided for us. It is not a road trip in the Cox household without a stop at Chick-Fil-A!

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Once we arrived in Charleston, it was already 6:30pm, besides checking out our Air b&b, the first thing we did was find somewhere for dinner. We went into this blindly, as I hadn’t started to look for different dinner places for us to check out, so we wandered around until we found something casual enough for our attire, but that also had a nice atmosphere. We stumbled upon Meeting at Market, which had a lot of small plates and drinks, perfect for sitting back and watching some bowl games. It was too dark to get many pictures, but we enjoyed our little sofa seat as we relaxed after a day of traveling.

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One of the most highly suggested places to eat in Charleston was Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit, so we decided to start our first morning off with this great choice. We didn’t go to the original location, as it was kind of far from where we had planned to spend our morning, but instead inside the City Market off of Meeting Street. We avoided the long lines that I had read about, but there was no seating available for us to sit and eat inside, so we opted for one of the metal tables that lined the outside of the market. It was still a bit chilly for an outdoor breakfast, but once I took a bite of the biscuit, I didn’t mind. I chose the egg, sausage and pimento cheese biscuit (I mean, what’s more southern than that?!) and Jody ordered the egg and bacon savory option. We quickly made a mental note to stop back again before the end of our trip!

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My friend, Emilyann, was in Charleston a few days before we went, and had suggested that we stop at Kudo Coffee and Craft Beer. I had never been to any coffee shop that served rosé, let alone any type of alcohol but Jody and I enjoyed our mid-afternoon snack and drink. It was very relaxing at what seemed was like a locals’ hub. Thanks for the suggestion, Em!

On Saturday night, we were struggling to decide where we wanted to go eat, because the place we originally had planned on going to was further out of the city than we expected. Jody found Poogan’s Smokehouse, which was conveniently two blocks from the rooftop bar that we had planned on going to that night. We wanted a little southern barbecue while we were in town and holy cow did we get it.  We order mac and cheese as an appetizer (literally some of the best I’ve ever had) and then Jody and I split some (20 ounces!!) pulled pork, which was equally delicious. They had a bucket of different sauces to try with the pork, and they were all so good! I’m so happy that Jody found this restaurant — easily our favorite dinner while we were in Charleston!

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I had heard about how great Toast was before we arrived, and was happy to find it was close to a lot of the places that we were visiting. It was pretty busy when we arrived, but luckily we got seated within a few minutes. We really enjoyed our food, but I don’t think it was anything special, and we got rushed out of there pretty soon after we were done eating. I think we would go back, but I wouldn’t suggest it on a Sunday morning, if you’re looking to sit and relax for a while.
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On our last morning, we went to Kitchen 208, which is a little cafe that we had passed on King Street the day prior. I was very happy with my scrambled eggs, bacon, biscuit and grits (finally!) and Jody got a southwest egg burrito, which smelled amazing. If I wasn’t so set on getting my grits, than I probably would have ordered that too. They were taking down their Christmas decoration while we eating, which was a little depressing for this let’s-keep-Christmas-up-year-round kind of girl, but nonetheless, it was a yummy breakfast.

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Fear not, our last stop on the way out of Charleston was once again at Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit. We bought three mini biscuits (country ham, buttermilk, and cinnamon — definitely the best) for the ride and I bought a bag of biscuit mix so I can make some at home. If you have taken nothing away from this post, please do yourself a favor and stop here whenever you find yourself in Charleston. And then come see me, so you can bring me one as well 😉

All-in-all, we thoroughly enjoyed our weekend getaway to Charleston. It was short and sweet, but perfect to celebrate how wonderful our first six months of marriage had been. There are still a couple of things on our Charleston to do list that we didn’t get a chance to do, but I’m eagerly awaiting our next opportunity to return to the low country!

Winter Decor after the Holidays

I’m pretty confident that the day that I take down my Christmas decorations is singlehandedly the worst day of the year. The house seems so empty, the walls seem bare, and the railings that I don’t notice for 11 months out of the year seem especially sad. It is just depressing to look at remembering the joy and warmth that filled the rooms just days prior.

I’ve always assumed that when it comes time to take the tree down, we would just return the decor that we had out prior to decorating season to its original place. But if you recall the last time you didn’t have some type of seasonal decor out (ahem, summer), using that just seems a little overeager in the beginning weeks of January. Even our Carolina blue throw pillows seems too bright and cheery for twenty degree weather! So over the past few days, I’ve been scrolling through ideas for winter decor to display after the holidays and I thought I would share them with you!

Winter Counter // Pine Stem Greenery // Cozy Blankets // Silver White Winters Mantle // Let It Snow // White Winter Living Room // Wintery Entryway

I love the idea of whiting out as much as possible to give the feel of a snowy, white, cozy day. I’ve been replacing all of our holiday throw blankets and pillows with soft, textured pillows rather than bringing in our blue throw pillows this soon. Adding some easy seasonal decor such as pinecones and snowflakes are a great way to add to the wintery wonderland theme. If your able, I suggest keeping some greenery in your space to add a pop of color and a bit of texture. Of course, a wreath is an easy, but effective place to start. I even decided to keep our small flocked tree on our bar cart to bring a bit of the outdoors in!

Do you keep decor up for the remainder of winter or do you completely strip everything down for a fresh, clean slate to start the new year? I’d love to hear more of your ideas and suggestions and how you like to decorate your home! Let me know in the comments below!

2018 + January Goals

I just love how hopeful the new year feels as the clock strikes midnight ringing in 2018. In the mere seconds of this new year, I always have a feeling of renewed hopes and dreams for the year to come. Similar to seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, the new year tends to make me feel like there is a atmosphere of newness and joy ahead.

I firmly believe that you don’t have to wait until January 1 to make a change in your life, but it definitely serves as a good reminder of the light that change and growth bring. For those of you who regularly follow my blog, you know that near the beginning of each month, I share my goals for that month ahead, and my progress from the weeks prior. Sharing them with you helps me with accountability, and I hope they encourage you if you’re also exploring the world of goal-setting.

Admittedly, I struggled a bit deciding on my goals for 2018. I resonated well with the goals set in 2017, and generating new goals proved challenging.  I have been following Lara Casey’s Goal Setting Series since I started setting goals, and one thing that she encourages goal setters to do is to choose a word to describe what youre looking to achieve that year. In 2017, the word I chose was grace. With many life changes happening last year, I wanted to focus on facing all of them with grace and not expecting perfection. Choosing this word gave me courage to face the different challenges and decisions (especially in regards to planning a wedding!) with a calm and positive mindset, rather than trying to make my life Pinterest perfect.

In looking at my short list of things that I want to accomplish this year, I decided that I want to start off by digging deeper into the goals of 2017.  2017 was such a wonderful and busy year, and while I definitely scratched the surface on the goals that I had set,  I want to continue to grow them into something even more wonderful. Upon making that decision, that led me to my word for 2018 — steadfast.

steadfast (adj.):

  • firm in belief, determination, or adherence; loyal
  • unwavering, as resolution, faith, adherence

So…why choose to focus on other things, when there is still room to grow with the goals that are already (most) important to me? I want to continue to remain loyal to things that mean the most by cultivating what matters; not trying to grow through other distractions that may lead me away from where I am headed. I want to grow my home, my marriage, my relationships, my faith and myself. In 2018, that’s exactly what I intend to do.

My 2018 vision board

2018 Goals

  1. Create and maintain life-giving home. Simplify, de-clutter, and learn to use our finances well. Focus on the people we host, rather than space limitations or other challenges. Cultivate a haven of rest, joy, friendship and warmth that will bless all who enters it.
  2. Grow deeper in a relationship with God. Attend church more often. Dive into the word through prayer journal and writing the word. Complete devotional series throughout seasons of this year.
  3. Love my husband well. Tend to our marriage with joy, grace, friendship, love and spontaneity. Say yes to new adventures together. Create memories to build our legacy. Relentlessly encourage him and live out the promises we made in our vows.
  4. Cultivate our relationships with friends near and far. Without a wedding to bring all of our family and friends together, find ways to encourage and love our community in different ways throughout the year.
  5. Invest in self-care to continue to grow as an individual. Find more healthy recipes. Drink more water. Exercise often. Take more pictures. Scrapbook the pictures already taken. Travel. Read more books and blogs.
  6. Grow Blissful Moments. Write content that encourages readers to celebrate all of life’s moments. Share the blog with friends. Learn to grow my blog through classes and guides. Focus on content rather than statistics.

January Goals

  • Help Jody set our 2018 financial goals
  • Make my reading list for 2018 (if you have any suggestions, send them my way!)
  • Get back into an exercise routine
  • Start my prayer journal
  • Create content schedule for the blog in January and February
  • Invest in updated necessities to encourage goals — order new glasses, buy a new water bottle, and purchase new laptop
  • Read “A Magnolia Story” by Chip and Joanna Gaines
  • Complete a purge my closet and sell or donate clothes I don’t wear

2017 Year Review

 

What a wonderful, beautiful, crazy, emotional year. So so many good things happened this year, as well as some not so fun, but this definitely has been a year that has been completely full of life. When I think back on this year, all I can think is “I’m so lucky”.

While looking ahead to the new year is always encouraging and exciting, I love looking back at all that was accomplished and experienced over the past 12 months. For those of you who are new to this corner of the internet, I’m sharing a review of my 2017 (ahem, the best year ever). And for those who have been following, I hope you enjoy looking back at my year, and seeing about a handful of other things that I hadn’t shared!

January We kicked off the new year by checking wedding tasks off of our to do list, like mailing our save the dates and cake tastings. We hosted a fun cousin-friend visit, full of wine, cake and seafood (friends, we always promise seafood if you venture our way for  a visit!).

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Celebrating at my friend Olivia’s bridal shower!

February In February, we booked our honeymoon to Jamaica, as well as purchased our wedding bands, which made this whole experience even more real. Jody and I celebrated Valentines Day with a low-key afternoon of bowling and dinner at Olive Garden before heading home for a relaxing movie night on the couch. We even met our friends for a day of wine tasting in St. Michaels.

March We kicked off the month of March by celebrating our 100 day mark to the wedding with dinner in Annapolis. We travelled to Virginia later in the month to stand by one of my best friends as she said “I do”, and had the best weekend celebrating their love. On the way back, we stop in Richmond for a mini surprise birthday party for Jody with our friends at his favorite brewery in the city. On his birthday, we went to dinner and came home for cake and celebratory drinks with my family and some friends.

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So honored to be one of Olivia’s bridesmaids. Such a beautiful wedding! Image is by Sharon Elizabeth Photography,  Associate Ashley

April This month started off in the sweetest way. My family and friends threw me a bridal shower that so many special women in my life were able to attend. It was extra sweet to see so many people all in the same room — a taste of how our wedding would feel! A few friends and I surprised one of my bridesmaids with a bachelorette weekend to celebrate her upcoming wedding with a trip to the National Harbor in Washington D.C. I finished out the month by celebrating Easter with family and traveling to Pennsylvania to watch my sister’s Senior Day for her college’s tennis team.

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Easter Morning
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My sister’s Senior Day at her last home college tennis match.

May Life threw a few curveballs at us this month. Just two days before my grandfather’s memorial service, his wife — my grandmother, passed away suddenly. We were able to celebrate their lives together, and were able to spend some time with family in Pennsylvania and Ohio that we don’t get to see that often. My family and I attended my sister’s graduation from college, while Jody was the best man in one of our good friend’s weddings that same weekend. Towards the end of the month, just four weeks shy of our wedding and the day after we signed the lease on our apartment, I unexpectedly lost my job. This month was challenging, but I’m grateful for family and friends that sent their love and support all throughout this month!

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My sister’s college graduation day!

June This may be obvious, but June was most definitely my favorite month of 2017. My bridesmaids threw the best bachelorette party I could have imagined. Jody and I got our marriage license, and then we celebrated my 24th birthday with wine and pizza. We welcomed our family and friends to the Shore for wedding weekend. On June 24, I said “I do” to my best friend and then celebrated on our honeymoon in Jamaica. I would repeat this month every single day, if I could!

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Celebrating my 24th birthday at St. Michaels Winery

July After returning from our honeymoon, we celebrated the 4th of July with some family for a cookout and fireworks. I started a new job and Jody became a manager at one of the stores he was working at. We went on a weekend getaway with family friends to Kerr Lake, which was one of the most fun weekends of the summer! At the very end of July, after a brief illness (and overcoming a stroke to attend our wedding!) my great-grandmother Nettie passed away at the age of 99. She lived such a full life, and I am forever grateful to have her in my life as long as I did.

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A day on the lake

August Due to our opposite work schedules, Jody and I didn’t see a whole lot of each other this month, but we made the most of the time we got. We had dinner together every time it worked with our schedules, including Jody as the chef a few of those nights! We tried a new winery, and relaxed for a few days by the pool, and took a weekend trip to Richmond where we planned most of the trip around trying out a new place for brunch!

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Visiting friends while in Richmond

September Over Labor Day weekend, I took a trip to the Big Apple to visit my sister, who moved there in late June. Later in the month, we also went to Ohio for one of my cousin’s wedding and completed the trip by swinging through our favorite wineries on Lake Erie. Jody and I also started making real progress on our porch update, and enjoyed a few last days of the summer breeze.

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There always laughter involved when the whole family is together, especially for weddings!

October After many prayers, I started a new job with Maryland Business Roundtable for Education. I went on my first overnight work trip for training, which was fun and rewarding! We spent a weekend in Pittsburgh to celebrate my cousin’s wedding, where we were able to finally able to convert Jody into the “Steel City” fan that I always knew he would be. 😉 We returned to our Alma-Mater for homecoming and completed the trip with a swing through Carter’s Mountain for apple picking — a four year old tradition!

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Viewing the Pittsburgh skyline from the incline

November Jody and I hosted our warm and cozy Housewarming Party on what was most likely the warmest day of November. We took a short weekend trip to visit some friends in western Maryland (check our Big Cork Winery if you are ever in the area). We spent most of Thanksgiving week in Richmond with Jody’s family, but was back home with enough of the weekend left to cut down our first Christmas tree the old-fashioned way!

December With the holiday season in full swing, December is always a favorite month for me. I had so much fun decorating our home for the holidays, baking Christmas cookies, and choosing new traditions for Jody and I to start together. We took a quick trip to Richmond to celebrate one of my beautiful bridesmaid’s birthdays and say “see ya later” as she and her hubby prepare to move to Arizona for her new job. Christmas brought us so much joy to celebrate our Savior’s birth with family and friends, and we had the best Christmas as newlyweds. We hit the six-month of marriage mark on Christmas Eve, and we took a weekend getaway trip over New Years weekend to Charleston, SC to celebrate the best six months (and year!) that we could have ever imagined.

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Christmas Eve with my hubby — so sweet!

We can’t wait to see what’s ahead in 2018! What was some of your favorite memories in 2017? Let me know in the comments below!

 

 

 

Favorite Reception Moments

We celebrated our six month wedding anniversary on Christmas Eve (that happened so fast!!) so I figured there is no better way than to end this series than sharing some of my favorite moments from our reception. While I would love to relive any part of our day, the reception is the one that I most often close my eyes and wish we were back at — surrounded by your closest 100 friends is a feeling that is hard to beat! I had so carefully planned each part of our day, but the reception was a little more laid back and so much fun! This post is a little photo heavy, but I didn’t want to leave out anything!

Jody and I were introduced by our DJ, following our parents and wedding party, and played “Brand New” by Ben Rector as we made our way to the dance floor — I love that we chose a song by Ben Rector because Jody had another song by him, “When She Comes Around” playing when he proposed!

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We made our way to the dance floor and shared our first dance to “In Case You Didn’t Know”, by Brett Young. This is probably the moment that I try to flash back to the most. I don’t remember a single thing from our first dance, expect the look on Jody’s face as we sang the song to one another and spun around the dance floor. We don’t consider ourselves dancers, so it probably got boring for everyone watching but I think it was just perfect. 🙂

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Following our first dance was the father-daughter dance. I was a lot more nervous about this one because I knew the lyrics of the song my dad chose made me cry just hearing it on the radio. We danced to “Tough Little Boys” by Gary Allen. I held it together better than I expected I would, but thanks to my sobbing bridesmaids, and my dad’s sweet words, I couldn’t help by tear up, but at least I held it together better than my mom did, who bawled through me and Jody’s first dance, as well as me and my dad’s.

Cox_0908Cox_0915Dinner came out after, and it was just amazing. I don’t actually remember eating any of it the day of, but the leftovers were still pretty tasty one week later. We kept the food as southern as possible: pulled pork, grilled honey chicken, mac and cheese (with all of the toppings!), seasonal veggies, rolls, and honey butter.

Following dinner, Jody and I were pulled away for a couple more portraits as the sun was setting over the vineyard. As we finished, a number of guests had migrated outside and all cheered as we kissed for one last picture. It was so surreal to have so much support all day long!

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One we made it back into the reception hall, the toasts began. We had asked our Maid of Honor and Best Man to give toasts and they were equally funny as they were sweet. My dad also gave an unplanned toast, which was super sweet as well! They all were so wonderful, filled with words that Jody and I will cherish throughout our marriage. Our wedding video has some clips in it as well, which you’ll be able to see on here soon!

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Our cake cutting wasn’t very long after the toasts. The cake was delicious; each tier was a different flavor. The top-tier was almond cake with lemon curd filling, the middle lemon cake with raspberry filling and we cut into white cake with a strawberry filling. Admittedly, we cut entirely too small of piece but luckily we had some sent with us when we left!

My dad then became the star of the show. After dancing on the table to “YMCA” at my aunt’s wedding 20 years ago (which I was a flower girl in), he brought the dance to our wedding. It was hilarious and everyone enjoyed it, although I was so worried the table was going to collapse!

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Although, we chose to not do a garter toss, we did do a bouquet toss. I chose to toss it to “Love Story” by Taylor Swift. It felt like a right of passage to toss my bouquet, especially to a song I listened to endlessly in high school!

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I wanted to spend most of the reception dancing, and I’m so glad that’s exactly what I did! Thanks to our wonderful DJ, the dance floor was full for the entire night. I had so much fun spinning around the floor with my new hubby and family and friend who I’ve known for so many important moments throughout my life.

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Jody chose our last dance of the night with our guests, which was “Time of My Life” from Dirty Dancing. That may have been the most magical three and a half minutes of my entire life. Having almost every guest circle around us, and dance and sing at the top of our lungs was such a beautiful moment. In a quick turn of my head, I could see every person in our lives who have cheered us on, laughed with us, cried with us and were celebrating the best day of our lives with us. I had to choke back tears as I was overcome with how incredibly blessed we were!

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As our guests lined up for our sparkler exit, Jody and I shared one last dance with just the two of us to “From the Ground Up” by Dan + Shay. There couldn’t have been a better song to end the most magical day to. The wedding was over, but it was only the beginning of the rest of our lives. And with that, as soon as the song ended, we took a deep breath and ran through the line of sparklers, hand in hand, straight into the next chapter of our love story.

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