Christmas Wishes Granted | My Christmas Gifts 2015

Every year I am amazed by how generous my family and friends are. I wanted to share a few of the gifts I received both as a way to say thank you, but also just to show off my sweet new stuff. People in the blogosphere always say ‘I’m not trying to brag’ when they share their gifts.. I’m totally bragging. Look at how amazing my family and friends are, and how well they know me, and how now I have all this sweet stuff. BRAGGIN’! That doesn’t mean I’m not super grateful and humbled, duh.

All the way from the Great State of Texas, my cousin Patty sent me this makeup travel roll.. WITH MY NAME ON IT!! I don’t care how old I get, anything with my name embroidered on it is immediately like 10 times fancier and makes me feel like a princess. She also included a few items already in the roll, such as nail polish, mascara, and lotion. This baby is super practical for a makeup crazy person like myself. I even travel with a mirror and, depending on length of stay, a cup for my brushes. My obsession with makeup is even crazier than my obsession with Christmas. THANK YOU PATTY AND TONY!

This sweet little pencil case is from my dear friend Jessica. To be honest, it’s not the coolest gift she got me. She bought me this little baby shelf that you hang on the wall and then you can put lipsticks or compacts on it. It was sort of a weird thing to take a picture of, so I used the case as a filler. Another practical gift related to makeup. Did I mention these people know me so well? THANKS JESS!!

Without fail, my brother Sye sent me some Aesop. I’m addicted to this brand. For Christmas, he sent me Remove, their eye makeup remover. You can use Remove with just water or add a few drops into your cleanser to help beef up the removal process for stubborn makeup. Goodbye lash glue. Are we seeing a theme here? THANKS SYE!

Oh look, something not makeup related! Alright if I had to give away all my presents except one, or if this was a competition, these boots.. I can’t. My Mom nailed it. I probably wouldn’t have even tried these boots on, because as a lady who is 5’9″ I just automatically avoid heals. I am so glad that my Mom took the ‘risk’. I’ve worn them almost everyday since Christmas Eve. THANKS MOM AND DAD!!

Oh hello another practical gift. So I have the Camelback water bottle that everyone and their Mom has (literally, my Mom has one), but it sucks. It makes fart noises when you drink out of it and it leaks. I haven’t used this yet, but the mouthpiece locks down, there’s a bit so you can clip it on things, and the straw unscrews instead of just being able to pull it out. I’m thinkin’ this Contigo is going to be a winner. THANKS MOM AND DAD!

And lastly, THIS STOCKING. How flippin’ adorable!! I saw this on Kate’s Instagram and almost went out bought one, but I figured my Mom would probably get me one, because … crazy cat lady (wow, I’m crazy about a lot of stuff). Kate Brennan Hall  has like a million adorable prints, but I’m officially calling this one my favorite of all time. I also got 2 sets of cards with the same print, I’m framing one to have out at all times. THANKS MOM!

This is not even half of my gifts, and I literally love all of them, but for sake of not looking like a spoiled brat I just shared a few. I hope you enjoyed! I will be back with some reviews of other things I got such as a new planner and a couple books.

I hope you were as happy with your Christmas gifts as I was. What did you get? What was your favorite item that you gave to someone? I bought my BFF’s new purses because they’ve literally had the same ones the entire time we’ve been friends. I think I they both loved them. I love practical gifts.

 

Next Year’s Holidecor | Day After Christmas Shopping

Christmas is my absolute favorite holiday. While I am not a religious church-goer, I am a religious Christmas decorator. This year I set up a new personal record of three Christmas trees. In early November I went through all of my decorations with my fellow Christmas addict, Becca. We sussed out exactly where I was.. lacking, planned out all my tree decorations, and cleaned out the stuff I really wasn’t using. What I’m trying to say is all of today’s purchases were totally justified, I swear.

I can’t believe this this, but I think my Mom and I have been day-after-Christmas decor shopping for almost 10 years now. This year she picked me up at 8:00 a.m. and we headed straight for Target. We also stopped at Wal-Mart, Menards, Dunkin’ Donuts (gotta fuel up for serious shopping powers), Kohl’s, Dollar Tree, and Hobby Lobby. Everything I bought throughout the morning was at least 50%-75% off. Without further ado, My 2015 Holidecor Haul!


I tried to limit myself when it came to buying wrapping paper. I have way too many rolls already, but when I saw this sweet little angel with her perfect dutch braid, I couldn’t not get it. I also got a color matching roll with poinsettias and gold accents. To go along with the wrapping paper I grabbed these sweet tags from Sugar Paper. I sort of absolutely hate the sticker tags. I mean, I have this gorgeous paper, why would I want to cover it up with something that doesn’t perfectly match? Wrap game strong.

IMG_5741

The largest of my trees is a pre-lit white pencil tree, which I got a couple years ago on the day after Christmas from Menards. This year it is decked out in shades of blue, purple, and pink. While I love it, I am ready for something a little more light and bright. I picked up this big box of ornaments that are more in the theme I am wanting, but that will allow me to still use several ornaments that are currently on the tree. This whole box cost me $10.00, and the smaller tree shaped box cost $2.50. Despite the tree being pre-lit I still wanted to add some colored lights, so I got this strand of pink lights. Can someone please tell me why all lights don’t also come on white strands? I may or may not also add the twinkle lights, and the colored lights.. but that could possibly be too many lights….


My number one mission and reason for waking up at 6:45 a.m., these beautiful bottle brush trees from Target. I am a bottle brush addict. It’s easier to tell in the first picture, but these trees are actually quite large. I wish I had been able to get a teal one, but these were the only colors they had left at our Target. Still very happy with what I got!



Well, that wraps up my Holidecor haul! Sally and her nasty eye boogers love Christmas almost as much as I do. I mean, that would explain why she’s always all up in my business whenever I’m wrapping presents or decorating. Did you go day after Christmas shopping? So like, I guess what the rest of the world would call Boxing Day shopping? If so, what did you get?

‘It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change.’

I’m writing this post after getting a few inquires from my last post when I mentioned I had lost weight. I am no expert, CLEARLY. Not to mention I ate breakfast twice today, once was at Dunkin’ Donuts, and I then followed that up with chicken strips. But hey, it’s totally okay to eat like crap sometimes, it taste good.

So here is my average human being advice on how I’ve been working at being a healthier average human being. I bet I have said this like 300 times, and there are probably a few people in the world that are really tired of hearing it, but it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change. SERIOUSLY. The word diet is basically a swear word, like the really insulting super bad kind that never accidentally slips out when you’re around your Mom. You might lose weight on a diet, but you will 99% of the time gain it back. A diet is a quick fix, not a solution. More than likely you have to change your lifestyle to become healthier, so here’s how my lifestyle has changed.

IMG_3441

I have not been meal planning like I planned to back in May, but I have been counting my calories. I use the Lose It! app. I have tried My Fitness Pal, but that thing is not a pal. It made me feel bad. Lose It! is not trying to be your pal, it’s just telling you how many calories you ate, how much exercise you’ve done, and how many calories you’ve consumer/burned in your day. Yes, it gives you a goal, but it’s not yelling at when you go over…Okay My Fitness Pal doesn’t yell at you either, but I just didn’t like it.

IMG_0512

I’ve committed myself to not buying bread or sweets (other than cereal which is basically candy), and trying not to drink alcohol during the week. Bread leads to grilled cheese, and peanut butter and jelly, and BLT’s, and breakfast sandwiches, which are all great in moderation, but who the hell is moderating my sandwich intake? It’s supposed to be me, but I have no control over making sandwiches. So if there is no bread, there is no excessive sandwich making. And alcohol, well that’s a no brainer.

IMG_2169

Without sandwiches, I’ve been eating healthier alternatives such a zoodles, spaghetti squash, and all the vegetable stuff in between. My Mom recently gave me a smoothie maker, which is both convenient and fun. I highly recommend investing in one. Clearly, produce is my new best friend for all meals. Besides produce, I eat eggs or Greek yogurt at breakfast, at lunch I like low-fat cottage cheese and deli meats, and at dinner I usually toss in a protein like chicken and whip up sauces to make meals more exciting.

IMG_2888

Lastly, in the food department advice, follow the serving suggestions. If you’re counting calories you have to put in the serving. ONLY EAT THE SERVING. I can’t live without a crunch, especially at lunch, and crunchy vegetables don’t count. I pretty much always have wheat thins, or pita chips, or something in the crunchy category. As I reach my 30 pound goal, I may have to cut these out, but for now I will take the 100 some calories for the 14 crackers. It’s worth it. But only eat the 14 crackers, otherwise you might as well just eat a grilled cheese because SCREW IT.

Oh one more food thing, if you have an ALDI, buy your produce there. Seriously. So much cheaper than anywhere else. SO MUCH CHEAPER. Really, why are you shopping anywhere else for anything else unless you need Jiff or Q-Tips? Oh and weekends are for eating whatever you want, especially pizza. And drink water, like all the water.

Physical fitness wise, yoga is my go-to activity. I can’t recommend Yoga with Adriene enough. She is the most hilarious, positive, chill person on the Internet, I swear. I really want to be her best friend, but practicing with her videos will suffice. I kicked off my ‘fitness journey’ by doing her 30 Days of Yoga. Really, I’m not a huge exercise till you sweat person. I don’t mind sweating, but I hate showering. My skin is sensitive and I have better things to do with my time than bathe. Thus there is no dedicated cardio time in this lifestyle change, but again, might have to happen to reach the big 3-0.

IMG_8837

I live the pedestrian life. I haven’t had a car in over a year now, which obviously only works if you live within a certain proximity of your daily activities, have a Mom who takes you shopping when needed, and have friends who will always pick you up (THANKS EVERYONE). Life without a car has literally forced me to be physically active. On average I walk just over 3 miles a day. I believe this has hugely contributed to being more active and positive in general.

IMG_8741

LASTLY, I believe the number one contribution to my lifestyle change is cutting out negativity in my life. I’m sure the health benefits of eating and exercising make me feel better too, but I’ve weeded out a lot of negative, and filled in the gaps with lots of positive stuff. From a whole pack of new friends, to new responsibilities that have lead to new passions, the positive feels I have for life right now make everything easier. So smile, live in the present, and do what makes you happy!

I hope this has inspired you, or encouraged you to try something new, or just made you laugh a little. What do you do to live a happy healthy life?!

 

 

25 and a Half

IMG_3382

I’m halfway to 26 today! I have been diligently working on my 25 before 26 goals. Okay, maybe not diligently, more like ‘through some sort of miracle’ a bunch of my goals have been checked off. Many of them are more long-term, mental goals, which can’t really be checked off until the big 2-6, but I feel pretty good about where I am at with all of those.

1. Create blog content that I am proud of, and feel less guilty about how often I post. Feeling much less guilty now that I am writing for Odyssey. I still really want to focus on this little gem of a blog come spring because I know it could be a vital resource when I apply for jobs. Oh god.. jobs.
2. Maintain my current GPA. 5 weeks left in the semester, really not sure where I am at on this one.
3. Appreciate Iowa through travel. Doin’ it. Lovin’ it.
4. Go on a mother/daughter adventure – Chicago: Holocaust Museum and IKEA
5. Build a professional portfolio. After this semester my portfolio should be lookin’ pretty darn beautiful.
6. Propagate an excessive amount of succulents and give them away to friends! Crossing this out despite not giving anyone a succulent. I propagated, they grew into tiny succulents of adorableness, and then they died because my human life was happening and there wasn’t a lot of room for plant life. Oops.
7. Grow an herb garden from seedlings.
8. Finish the beauty room: hang pictures, cover pillows, etc. Just one more pillow to cover, and one more picture to hang, then I’m calling it good.
9. 30 days of biking COMING SPRING 2016
10. Put a bird feeder in the yard.
11. Paint the front door red.
12. Complete a month of yoga challenge.
13. Get in the habit of meal planning, and grocery shopping once weekly. Ehhhhhhh… see item 25.
14. Be more patient.
15. Finish at least one internship. 5 weeks left.
16. Update and re-design my resume.
17. Mail birthday cards often. I’ve mailed 3, so not doing super great but not failing.
18. Host a themed party each season. FAIL.
19. Wear my glasses (and maybe get new ones). FAIL.
20. Clean out my closet, and stop hoarding clothes that I never wear.
21. Be kind, caring, and more available especially to those who need me.
22. Have a girls night at least once a month (sorry Jess and Becca, I guess you have to do this too). Successful thus far!
23. Look at events in life with a best-case instead of worst-case interpretation. Or just ask. (goal inspired by this article)
24. Make at least 5 of these crafts. Christmas, a time for crafting.
25. Drum Roll Please….. Lose 30 pounds! The loftiest (but totally achievable) goal on the list! So probably the most exciting part about this, I’m over halfway there. Yep. Totally crushing it. Writing about this in a separate post, because turns out I have a lot to say about it. Shocking, I know.

IMG_3580

I am super duper happy with how 25 is coming along. 25 is like the chapter before what will probably be one of the best chapters in my book of life, and so I am trying to do everything I can to prepare for it. In the last 6 months I have made so many kind, passionate, and talented new friends, built stronger relationships with the people I love the most, and have felt so much happier and healthier in doing so. While I have pretty much no clue what 26 will hold, I love knowing that 25 has given me a plethora of new skills and experiences to be able to do almost anything I set my mind too.

Here’s to six more months of 25! Cheers!

Cedar Rock | Frank Lloyd Wright

At the beginning of the month, my lovely friend Becca and I visited Cedar Rock. The home, built by Frank Lloyd Wright for Lowell and Agnes Walter, was completed in 1950. It’s basically heaven. Built in the Usonian style, the design is all about simplicity and connecting with nature. There are so many unique features, both inside and outside, from the almost entirely glass living room, to the boathouse by the river. While I would love to share every magical detail of this home, I hope my pictures speak for themselves. It is worth noting, that this home is incredibly special and one of a kind. Almost all of the contents, from the fabric of the chairs to the dishes the Walter Family ate off of were chosen by Wright. If you would like more information on the home, I encourage you to visit it in Quasqueton or check out the Friends of Cedar Rock website.




















A special gigantic THANK YOU to our docent, Rick Knivsland, who also happens to sit next to me at work. He is an excellent guide, and only looked at us like we were slightly crazy when we asked to go on the tour twice. His knowledge of the design was beyond your average docent, and I would highly recommend visiting in the Spring when he can be your guide.

October Occasion

There is something special about the start of a new month. This month in particular feels like the start of a new season as well. I think most people associate September with the beginning of fall, but last month my tomatoes were still providing lunch on a daily basis, I was wearing shorts and flipflops, and drinking anything pumpkin flavor sounded revolting… Still kind of does. So October claims fall this year for me. I wanted to share a few things I’ve been enjoying lately, random pictures that I’ve yet to post, and some general updates.

Drinks on the patio at Cypress with Jessica.

First of all, I’ve been writing for Odyssey. Writing for an online magazine has been more challenging than I expected. With my blog, if I don’t feel inspired to share anything, I don’t have to. But, when you’ve committed to writing once a week, you have to write once a week. Thus far I’ve shared how I ended up in college at 25, the awkwardness of singledom, tattoos and interviews, gifs of teen dramas, and a short photo essay. Posts go up every Monday, and if you like them please share them via social media. Unfortunately shares determine the success of articles.

C&C Music Factory headlined at Cedar Valley Pride Fest this year. It was raining, but nothing can stop Pride attendees from dancing.

I have been fully addicted to television. It’s a great way to focus less on the quietness of my house, and it servers as an excellent distraction from the stress of college. In terms of teen dramas, I would highly recommend Pretty Little Liars and Switched at Birth. But, if you’re looking for something with a little more quality, I can’t say enough good things about NARCOS. It’s a Netflix original about the criminal exploits of Columbian drug lord, Pablo Escobar. There’s drama, drugs, murder, and lots of amazing scenes set by swimming pools in the mountains/jungles of Columbia. What more do you want?

A shot from our Super Blood Lunar Eclipse Watch Party. I took this shot through our spotting scope.

Onto beauty products, because what would any kind of synopsis of my current life be without a beauty product or two. Number one favorite product at the moment is the L’Oreal Infallible Pro-Matte Foundation. If you’re a beauty product junkie, YOU NEED THIS IN YOUR LIFE. It’s real matte, as in really matte. But doesn’t result in chalk face. It’s buildable, long lasting, yada yada yada. Yah need it. But buy it at Target or Walmart, it’s cheaper. You’re welcome.

Visiting my favorite Des Moines girlies.

Next product you need in your life, CoverGirl The Super Sizer mascara. Can someone please explain how they name mascaras? I mean I’m sure it’s a difficult job, but.. The Super Sizer? No. Names aside, this mascara is fabulous. It’s got one of those itty bitty tiny wands, so if big clumpy lashes are your thing, don’t buy this. But if you like 10,000 tiny fairy lashes, winner! Doesn’t flake, a zillion lashes, new favorite.

I can’t believe I had a tiny part in this flower showing up in my yard. Zinnias may be replacing the peony as my favorite flower.

October has been great thus far, and we are only seven days in! I’ve got almost every weekend filled with fun this month, so I’m going to push myself to blog about all of the adventures. I know in a few short months I will truly cherish being able to look back at all of the fun I had with my friends.

Chicago’s Calvary Cemetery

When my Mom and I visited Chicago in June our Airbnb was right next to this amazing cemetery. As cemetery.. enthusiasts, we of course had to stop and check it out. The Calvary Cemetery is located right next to Lake Michigan in Evanston, and is the oldest existing cemetery established by the Archdiocese of Chicago. It was established in 1859 on All Souls Day as the main burial site for Catholics from Chicago and the surrounding areas. In the nineteenth century, when there were less cemeteries and high death rates, it was not uncommon for Calvary to exceed 4,000 burials a year. The amazing thing about Calvary is all of the burial records are intact. It is the burial place of Mayors, Governors, public figures like White Sox and Blackhawks coaches, and thousands of Irish immigrants. Today there are over 16,750 laid to rest in Calvary, and it is nearly at capacity.


At the center of Calvary was a lagoon, which many of graves faced. But in recent (as far as being established in 1859) years the lagoon was filled in. I was not able to find an exact date, but these two statues dedicated to St. Peter and St. John the Baptist flank what would have been either end of the lagoon.

Artie and Willie were brothers who died at the ages of 4 and 2. Their grave would have over looked the lagoon when they died, just 10 days apart, in 1879.

As we drove around the cemetery we came to a crossroad, complete with tiny parking lot. In the center of this crossroad was an island like grave site. The whole island has stone ledges surrounding it, creating a diamond shape. Stone coffin shaped graves are the headstones of John A. Lynch and his family. The two angels flank the entrance into the island. This site really stood out to me. I wish I knew more about Mr. Lynch and his family.




When my Mom and I happened upon this beast of a mausoleum we were both totally taken aback. This thing is gigantic. I believe John F. Cuneo Jr. is still living. According to his fathers obituary, John F. Cunero Sr. was a self-made multimillionaire, so I guess it makes sense that his son has the largest most beautiful art deco inspired mausoleum.




After researching the graves I took pictures of, I found many other sites I wish I had seen. I guess in a cemetery of over 16,000 you literally can’t see them all in one morning.