Texas Forever <3

Last week, Ryan and I took our longest solo trip without the little guys. We headed way down south to Fort Worth and Dallas, Texas. I had a work meeting in Forth Worth, and since we have friends from college in the Dallas area, Ryan decided to join me.

Quick fun fact: Ryan was born in Texas and spent the first 7 years of his life in El Paso.

Before this trip, I had never been to Texas, so I was super pumped to visit the state home to one of my favorite shows ever.

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A DIY Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is all about telling the special people in your life how much you love them, and what says “I love you” more than a homemade gift? Plus, DIY gifts are usually easy on your wallet – and give you the satisfaction of putting effort and an added touch into your gifts.

Break out of the dinner-and-a-movie mold this Valentine’s Day, and get crafty! Here are some ideas I love:

Mugs

Does your significant other, best friend or family member live too far away for you to spend Valentine’s Day together? Let them know you’re thinking about them from afar with these distance mugs. Full instructions are here.

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Even for those lucky enough to their sweeties, DIY mugs are great gifts. Below are some adorable ones I found online:

You know I love anything with a mustache!
You know I love anything with a mustache!

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Truth.
Truth.

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The possibilities are really endless. The Internet has about a million ideas, so you’re sure to come up with one that fits your loved one perfectly! Just fill the mugs with chocolate, add a bag of their favorite coffee (or tea) and the present is complete!

Scratch-off Cards

I first did this for a friend’s baby shower, and I just loved how they turned out. It’s easy to make them for Valentine’s day, and you can get really creative with how you want to make them.

My favorite way to use scratch off cards for ANY occasion is to include “lucky” in the card somehow. Try making a “Are You Lucky in Love?” card – with a few presents your loved one can scratch off. These don’t have to cost a lot of money; in fact, free presents are sometimes the most appreciated! Some ideas might include a back massage, breakfast in bed or getting to pick the next movie you rent. You know them the best – so pick things they will love and appreciate! Here is an example of a card I found online:

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Another idea is to tell someone just why you love them with a “10 Things I Love About You” scratch off card. I like the look of this card, but I wouldn’t do one every day. I couldn’t stand the wait!

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Food

There’s a saying that the quickest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. That may be true for the man in your life, but it’s most likely also true for the friend, mom, dad, sibling, co-worker and children in your life as well! Take the time to make your loved one’s favorite meal, snack or dessert and your effort will not go unnoticed! If you need some inspiration, check out some easy recipe ideas here, here and here.

Another great way to show love on Valentine’s Day is to cook WITH your loved one, instead of for them. Ryan and I did this the first Valentine’s Day in our new house, and it was such a fun time, we do it every year. Make the dinner special by whipping up something you usually don’t cook, open a bottle of wine and just enjoy each other’s company. We always do a surf-and-turf dinner with filet mignon and scallops, and we change up the sides every year to suit our taste-buds. Even with a “fancy” dinner like that, it’s MUCH less expensive than going out to eat, and we get 100% of each other’s attention. Perfection! And don’t worry if you aren’t a culinary expert – our favorite Valentine’s Day story is when we messed up dinner SO BADLY that it was inedible. It was funny then – and it’s even funnier now! So even if everything doesn’t go as planned – there’s always pizza delivery!

One last food gift: I saw this idea on Glitter Guide and fell in love with the idea. No matter what your “significant other” status is, your friends have been with you through life’s crazy up’s and down’s. So why not show them how much you love them by hosting a Friendship Brunch? Just you and your friends, with mimosas, waffles and plenty of love. I am sad that I didn’t think to do this before – but for sure next year, girls!!

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Cards

A few years ago, my college roommate started making her own cards. They are cute, they are unique, and most of all, there are personal. Hallmark has nothing on her! I’ve been inspired by her creatively and started making my own cards, and even though I’m nowhere near her abilities, I have a lot of fun doing it. Google “DIY Valentine’s Day cards” and start crafting! Whether you go with “Owl always love you” or “I mustache you to be my valentine”, you’re sure to make an impression.

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Happy Valentine’s Day to you, my loves!

Why I love getting old: Saturday nights

There was a time in my life when the thought of staying home on a Saturday night was darn near horrifying. To me, Saturdays were invented to combine friends and fun – and preferably outside of the place where I spent the entire work week. People who stayed in on Saturdays were one of three things:

1. Battling the flu or a cold or some other illness preventing them from having a good time,
2. A loner who hates the company of others, or
3. Old.

Not going out on a Saturday night was something I would NEVER, EVER do. Like, ever.

Fast forward some years later. While I still believe that Saturdays should be spent breaking the restrictions of Monday through Friday, these days I prefer to spend my Saturdays nights in a much different way, even – dare I say –  spending a night or two in the comfort of my own home.

GASP!

My 24-year-old self would be so disappointed in me. But please, give me a minute to explain, sweetheart.

First of all, I’m not saying that I want to spend every Saturday night for the rest of my life on my couch watching Bravo and eating ice cream (although that sounds pretty darn good right now) . As much fun as I have with other people, sometimes I just need a break. A break from going somewhere. A break from doing my hair. A break from having to stay up past the un-Godly hour of 9:00 pm.

The unfortunate fact is: things just wear me out more than they used to. I could try to blame this on being almost 8 months pregnant, but that would be a lie. I’m almost 30, and my priorities have taken quite a shift since my early twenties. I use to LOVE getting dressed up – and taking a long time doing it – every time I went out. I wouldn’t think twice about driving all over Northeast Ohio to meet up with friends. And if I had my way, there’d be no dinner reservations earlier than 8:00.

But now, just the thought of doing my hair makes me want to take a nap. I grumble if we have to get on the highway to go out. And by 8:00 I’m yawning and dreaming of my yoga pants.

As I write this, I realize how sad that sounds. But it isn’t as pathetic as it may seem. Really! My social life has, is and always will be a priority to me. My husband and I are a weird combination of social-butterflies and home-bodies – and so far it’s worked out very well for us. I can’t speak totally for Mr. B, but I think we both are fulfilled with our balance of alone-time, us-time and friend-time. Of course, it really helps that we have some pretty kick-ass friends. They make it pretty easy to have a good time.

But over the past few years, these good times have morphed into more laid-back kind of outings. I’m much more likely to accept an invite for a friend’s dinner party than one for a bar-crawl. I’d much rather chat with friends at a local wine bar than scream to be heard at the newest downtown bar. I can’t even remember the last time I went dancing with girlfriends, but I could quickly name my last 10 coffee dates. Fortunately for me, I’m not the only one: most of my friends seem to be going through this as well. And when we talk about our fast-declining desire to go out, we laugh and explain it away with “We are getting soooo old!”.

I know many people my age – and older – still enjoy wild and crazy Saturday nights on a regular basis, and that’s good for them. Some weekends I wish I had the energy for all of that. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that as time goes on, it also becomes scarce. Increasing responsibilities take up more and more of the time that I used to spend having a good time. Therefore, I’ve been pickier about what I want to do with this time. So if I want to spend a Saturday night making kale chips and watching the entire first season of Orange is the New Black while cuddling with my husband and dogs, well then I’m going to do just that. 

For me, it’s not the quality of WHERE I’m spending my Saturday night – it’s the quality of WHO I’m spending my Saturday night with. My mom always told me that as I got older I would find I would need less and less friends; instead, the friends I did have – the ones that stuck with me through life’s ups and down’s – would be the best friends I could ask for. She was right, and I think that philosophy applies to my social life as well. I might go out less as I age, but when I do got out, the people, places and activities are of much higher value and substance than they used to be.

And if that’s part of getting old, I’ll take it. Gladly.

Advent Calendar – 2013

Christmas time is officially here! I couldn’t be more excited for my favorite holiday and all the wonderful activities that go with it. Last year, I posted our Advent calendar, and while it was a lot of fun, I changed it up a little this year. This is mostly due to my more realistic idea of our “free time” during the holiday season, but it’s also because some of the activities (ice skating, winter beer tasting, etc.) cannot be done while I’m pregnant and on moderate bed rest. No worries – there are still plenty of fun Christmas activities to do while taking it easy!

The actual calendar I created turned out so well! At least in my humble opinion. Every day for the first 25 days of December, we will open a bag from the Advent calendar. The bags are hung on tension rods I wrapped in glittery red and gold ribbon, and each bag contains instructions for the day, as well as a little gift / trinket / other goodie to help with the activity. For example, for our Starbucks date night, the bag contains a $5 gift card; for our Christmas Vacation “drinking game”, the bag contains the recipe for a yummy Christmas cocktail (virgin of course!); and for our family picture in front of the Christmas tree, the bag contains an ornament that we’ll hang on the tree.

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It was quick and easy to make, and the total cost was under $10. The bags are just paper bags from a craft store, stamped in gold with a round design and in dark red with different numbers. Easy peasey!

Of course, the $10 cost doesn’t include the cost of the daily “goodies”, but I didn’t spend more than $25 on those. Use what you have – the more random the object, the funnier it will be.

Ok, enough talking about it. Here is our Advent Calendar for 2013:

Dec. 1 – Watch The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” in our Christmas PJ’s, while sipping hot chocolate

Dec. 2 – Take a family picture in front of the Christmas tree

Dec. 3 – Shop for our giving tree family

Dec. 4 – Pick out an ornament that describes our lives right now

Dec. 5 – Design and order Christmas cards

Dec. 6 – Order take out and play Wii Winter Olympics

Dec. 7 – Cookie exchange with girlfriends (Whitney only)

Dec. 8 – Drive around and look at Christmas lights in our area

Dec. 9 – Make lattes (decaf for me!) and watch a Friends holiday episode (“I’m the Holiday Armadillo!”)

Dec. 10 – Send a Christmas card to a soldier overseas (here is the information if you’re interested)

Dec. 11 – Play Christmas Vacation drinking game – with “mocktails”

Dec. 12 – Address and mail Christmas cards

Dec. 13 – Girls night with my Heidelberg girls 🙂

Dec. 14 – Double date for Trans Siberian Orchestra

Dec. 15 – Brunch with my godmother and goddaughter

Dec. 16 – Each pick out our favorite Christmas book for our son to enjoy someday

Dec. 17 – Warm up with our favorite Starbucks drink: salted caramel hot chocolate

Dec. 18 – Movie night out! A holiday movie is recommended, but not required

Dec. 19 – Happy hour with work friends

Dec. 20 – Wrapping party! Get all remaining gifts wrapped and under the tree

Dec. 21 – Annual Love Actually screening / Girls night with Katie and D

Dec. 22 – “Snowman pizza” night

Dec. 23 – Relax with the dogs. That’s it.

Dec. 24 – Make paw print ornaments for each dog before heading to my parents’ house

Dec. 25 – Before Ryan leaves for work, eat breakfast together on Christmas Day and open our presnt to each other.

Hope you all enjoy every second of the holiday season!

Akron Symphony

Last night, Ryan and I went to a “Young Professionals Forum” at the Thirsty Dog Brewery in Akron, hosted by the Akron Symphony. As the flyer explained, the purpose of the event was to get ideas from some young professionals in the Akron-area about how the Symphony can attract younger attendees, donors and volunteers.

Even though I have never gone to the Symphony, I am definitely not against the idea, so this forum really interested me. And once I explained to Ryan that there would be food and excellent draft beer a la the Thirsty Dog, he was in.

The event was really nice – and the discussions were quite interesting. My contribution to the forum was that I would love to go to the symphony – but I have no idea when the concerts are. To find this out, I would have to 1) think of going to the symphony and then 2) go to their website. It’s sort of sad, but unless something pings my attention, I probably won’t think about it. Thus, I wouldn’t  (and haven’t) gone to their website to look up dates. That seemed to be a common theme among attendees, so I hope the marketing director has some ideas to address this issue for the generation with the shortest attention span, like, ever.

The best part about the evening? We got a voucher for a pair of tickets to an upcoming concert!

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Holiday Pops concert – I definitely want to go to this!

It may not seem like the “coolest” thing to do on a Friday or Saturday night, but checking out your local symphony, whether it’s Akron or not, is definitely a cultural experience we should take advantage of more often. Plus, telling people “Oh, we’re going to the symphony tonight.” makes you sound soooo classy!

P.S. Quick fun fact about the Thirsty Dog Brewery’s Raspberry Ale: the canine beauty who modeled for the bottle is owned by one of my co-workers. How cool!

Red, White and Blue-tiful

If you’ve spent any amount of time on Pinterest, chances are you have seen those lovely fashion boards created on the website Polyvore. I have no idea what took me so long to try out the website – but I finally did. My inspiration was the approaching Independence Day holiday and the desire to wear something festive without a) going overly star-spangled-banner-y and b) not buying anything new.

I started by “shopping” my closest for red and blue pieces. If you haven’t tried “shopping” your closet, you should definitely give it a go! The concept is to go through your clothes, shoes and accessories and try as hard as you can to put new outfits together. For me, this can be tough, since I get into such a routine when it comes to clothes. As silly as it sounds, I have actually asked my husband to help me put together outfits. His “fresh” eyes see combinations I never would have. So, while I certainly do not have the exact items of clothing on Polyvore (I mean, who can afford that?!), I do have items like them.

So, by being a little creative, I put together several outfits on Polyvore that I think are the right combination of chic and Americana, or what I am calling Red, White and Blue-tiful. Check them out below, or on my Pinterest board! And don’t forget about your nails – try this polka-dot trick with any combination of red, white and blue!

I hope everyone has a safe and happy Independence Day weekend! And THANK YOU to all those who have served or who are currently serving to protect our beloved freedom!!

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What I plan to wear for the Rib, White and Blue festival in Akron this weekend.

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For the Indians game this weekend. Topped off with a Tribe hat and it’s perfect!

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I won’t be wearing this outfit anywhere near food. redwhiteblue3

And finally – what I wore to work today 🙂 It transitioned perfectly to wine-night with a friend.

P.S. Polyvore is amazing! I’m already addicted. It really reminds me of Cher’s computer program she used to put together outfits from her closest in the movie Clueless. Does anyone else remember that?! It was the coolest thing ever! My inner 11-year-old’s dream has finally come true!

Tuesday Ten – 7/2/2013

Happy second day of the best month of the year. : )

We are half-way done with 2013! I can’t believe it. Life has been a little crazy lately, so I wanted to post a little something today about my 10 favorite recent purchases that gave me joy. Luckily, none of them cost a lot, but they definitely make me smile. : ) It’s the little things!

1. Tone It Up! Perfect Fit Protein – I am in l-o-v-e with this vanilla-flavored protein powder. It’s made from brown rice and is raw, organic and vegan. Most importantly – it is GOOD! Even my protein-powder-snob husband loves this stuff.

2. Mason jar tumbler – I can’t think of anything more perfect to drink my smoothies out of. It’s fabulous.

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3. Star-shaped ice pop molds – just in time for Independence Day, these star-shaped Popsicle molds will be getting a lot of use this summer. I love the combination of functionality and adorableness!

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4. I’ve been eyeing this maxi dress I saw on Pinterest for a while, and I’m so happy I broke down and bought it. It’s so comfortable and can be wore about a trillion different ways.

5. This congratulations card we bought for my mother-in-law when she recently became president of the American Dental Hygienist Association (ADHA). I am so proud of her amazing achievement, and I hope she does exactly what this card instructs everyday!

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6. “The Whippoorwill” by Blackberry Smoke. We saw this southern rock/country rock band open for The Zac Brown Band last year, and I’ve been a fan ever since. I just adore this group – long hair and beards and all.

7. I guess this really does’t count as a purchase, but it was inside a recent purchase. How funny is this fortune? It makes me laugh! I guess I am a crispy noodle!

 

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8. An iPhone 5. Big smiles : ) My old iPhone 4 was on its last legs – it wouldn’t charge and the main button wouldn’t work. I held out as along as I could, but I’m so happy with my new phone.

9. This entire ensemble:

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I wore this as part of a 5K scavenger hunt in downtown Cleveland with three other ladies. Collectively, we were the bearded team called “Duct Dynasty”. The whole day was so much fun, from running around looking for clues to posing with some of our fans for pictures. My first (and probably only) experience as a “celebrity”! That beard was the beast $7 I ever spent.

10. Dinner for my wonderful husband on his 30th birthday. Any time spent with this guy is worth every single dollar spent. : )

P.S. Like the new look of the blog? I’m feeling the lighter look for summer!