Thursday, December 8, 2016

Just what I wanted.

  It's probably a little silly for me to be sitting down and blogging right now. I need to finish the dishes and fold some laundry and get ready to host book club tonight- and the boys will likely wake up any minuted from their naps. But here I am, blogging anyway.

  I'm tempted to say that this week seems to have kicked off the holiday busy season for us, but then I thought about it. We actually hosted Thanksgiving and then Tyler's birthday party a few days after and that is probably what kicked off our busy holiday season. We seem to have something going on (one, both, or all of us) every single evening from here until Christmas. That's probably a slight exaggeration, but you know what I mean. 

  All that to say, this morning as I was sort of rushing around packing up teacher gifts and baking breakfast to share at Bible study and loading the boys in the car- I had a moment where I let myself feel a bit overwhelmed and said to myself "just get through these busy weeks." You've been there too, I'm guessing.

  Then I remembered something my friend Chelsea had said a few months back in reference so balancing motherhood and marriage and keeping up with housework and everything- this is just what I wanted! The very things that were overwhelming me this morning are the exact things I intentionally added to my calendar and have been looking forward to doing. Even more, they are things I specifically prayed for! (mom friends to spend time in the Bible with every week, a safe place for my kids to be loved on by others, making gifts of food to love on others) So I snapped out of it instantly! I decided to stop complaining and embrace the crazy of this busy holiday season. I want it to be busy and full of the best things! And who cares if my house is really really clean or my Christmas decorations look good or my gifts are perfect? 

  Maybe you still have 90% of your Christmas shopping to do, ten parties to attend, teachers gifts to buy, treats to make,  challenging family members to host, whatever. I know I'll have to remind myself of this at least a dozen more times over the next few weeks, but will you join me? The very things that can stress us out or frustrate us this Christmas, they are just what we wanted to begin with. Take a step back. Embrace them and love them (and stop trying to making everything picture/pinterest perfect)! And while we're at it, we should all probably embrace this saying too!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Holiday Gift Guide. {under $30}

  Raise your hand if you love a good deal! If you have a teacher to shop for, need some stocking stuffers, or just want to treat your closest friends without breaking the bank, here are 6 deals you might love. Know of some great ones I missed? Let me know!!

Grace, Not Perfection// For only $10 (today only!) this book would make a great gift for any girlfriend, sister, or mom. Emily also has the most adorable office supplies (I use this notepad for every date night out).

Cultivate What Matters// This is my new favorite shop for small gifts for friends- it has so many great options! I love this set for $25- you basically 4 gifts in one bundle. Either of these prints (1//2) make great stocking stuffers and I love this set to gift to friends (and they're all under $10!)

Twin Sparrow// These sweet $12 leather keychains are so sweet and classic. I love that you can pick a word that fits whoever you're shopping for! Bonus? One of my most favorite friends from college is the creative mind behind them and I love how she genuinely pours love and prayer into all of her work.

Colorful jewelry roll// For only $20, you could tuck a gift card inside or leave it empty and have a cute (and unique!) teacher gift.

Measuring spoons// I don't know about you, but I can always use another set of measuring cups and spoons. These are super cute, would go in anyone's kitchen, and won't break the bank at $10!

Colorful pencil pouch// So cute, comes in lots of colors, and you can even personalize one. Only $25!

Holiday Gift Guide. (for her)

  It's officially Christmas shopping season! In case you need a few ideas for your sister, best friend, or even yourself- I'm sharing some of my favorites this year. There is pretty much something for everyone and at every price point. If you especially love a bargain or are shopping for a little one, check the $30 and under and little ones gift guides!
  What's on your Christmas list this year? I'd love to hear! And be sure to click through to each shop to check out their Cyber Monday deals- most expire tonight at midnight and you don't want to miss out.

1. Between You And Me Signs// Looking for a bigger gift that will last for years? Tara and her husband make the most gorgeous signs (and have been doing so for years before they became super trendy!). They have smaller signs that start as low as $60 and collections that go up to $300- basically something for every price point. These make a great heirloom-type gift for a mom or sister or close friend! (I have this one in Tyler's nursery and can attest to how pretty and well made it is! And I'm eyeing this one for our living room.)

2. Graphic Tees// These long sleeve tees make the cutest layering pieces for cold weather! Bonus: Mandy donates $ from every purchase to a different organization every month.

3.  Gorgeous Jewelry// Classic earrings that literally anyone would love. (Need a more funky option? This leather pair is amazing!)

4. Prayer journal// I'm pretty sure I include these journals each year, and there's a good reason. I truly, truly love these. They are a great tool for focusing on prayer and being intentional. They make such a great gift and Val creates a ton of different types (pregnancy, singleness, marriage, thankful and kid's  and men's prayer journals). Stay tuned for a fun giveaway!

5. The Jones Market// Candis makes lovely and simple jewelry that is tug-able and durable (perfect for moms, but really anyone!). There is such a range of options, from beaded infinity necklaces to adorable bracelets and keychains (stocking stuffers!). My current favorite? This oversized tote!

6. Dear Mushka// I have had my eye on this shop since I noticed some of my favorite bloggers wearing pieces a few years ago. I just love that each piece has a story and meaning and they are so well priced (most is under $30!). This Hope necklace may be my current fav, but there are a ton of different and creative pieces to choose from!

7. Giving Keys// Have you heard of these? You can read more about the story behind them here! My friend Meg gifted me a Peace key months ago and I wear it almost daily. It's a great reminder to hold onto God's peace and not anxiety. There are a dozen words to choose from and I love the idea of passing your key and your word onto someone else when you don't need it anymore! I have this one, but there are a lot of gifts under $50 to choose from!

8. Mom Sweats// I'm not sure why, but I am obsessed with these sweats. They're a little pricier for sweatpants (or maybe I'm cheap?) but I definitely have them on my own Christmas list!

9. Sseko Designs// The cutest sandals (and other leather goods!) that help send Ugandan girls to college. How fun, right?! 

10. The Flourish Market// This shop actually has a little of everything, in every price point! From shoes and clothing to home goods and jewelry- there is something for just about anyone on your Christmas list. Everything is fair trade and ethically made!

11. World Vision// If you're like me, you may have lots of people on your Christmas list this year that don't actually need anything. If that's the case, consider giving a gift in their name through World Vision. There are a ton of different options/causes and each comes with a printable gift card that explains how your gift will make a difference for someone around the world! (ps. you can do this any time of year, not just at Christmas!)

12. S'well Bottle// I know there are a million awesome water bottles these days that will keep things hot/cold forever. But these are the cutest of them all! 

13. Address stamp// Have I included this before? Probably, because I love it! It makes the perfect housewarming gift or present for the girl who already has everything.

14. Speak Out// This game seems HILARIOUS! I don't have it, but I would love to play it and it seems perfect for family gift exchange or to give someone who loves silly things.

15. Photos// Have a friend that loves to take photos or just bought a new home? I love the idea of buying one (or a handful!) of white frames and adding a gift card to a great printing service like That way they can start to fill their walls with gorgeous photos (like their recent wedding or baby or move or vacation or whatever). Cute, right?!

Holiday Gift Guide. {little ones}

Ok, I'm definitely no expert on gifting for littles. But after 2 1/2 years of receiving gifts for my little ones, I have a good handle on the gifts we've loved and used the most! I've rounded up some of our favorites, ranging from super pricey to perfect for budget buying and handmade shops to big retailers. Whether you need ideas for your own little one or just a simple gift for a friend- I've covering it all.

{be sure to click through to each shop to see their great Cyber Monday deals! I'm not getting paid to advertise any of these things at all- I just genuinely love them!} And be sure to read last year's gift guide if you need more ideas!

1. Cubbie Lee Toys// My favorite shop on the list this year! Some of our college friends started their own toy company and it is WONDERFUL! (Really, I am saying that unbiasedly- I've already ordered gifts for my nieces and nephews without any incentive at all!) They have all the classic toys at incredibly affordable prices. The tea set, train collection, and animal truck are my favs! For the next week, you can save 15% on your entire Amazon order with coupon code CUB15OFF

2.  SoapSox// I love these cute bath toys! They were on Shark Tank a few years ago and I bought some for my niece and nephew, so I can attest to how fun they are. These oversized bath sponges come in different animal or disney characters and add lots of fun to any kiddos bathtime!

3. Free Day Popcorn// This makes the PERFECT stocking stuffer! You can buy one ear of popping corn for less than $3 and it would be a ton of fun for a family movie night. You simply put the entire ear of corn in your microwave and watch it pop! They also sell regular popping corn kernels and I hear everything from their farm is delicious.

4. Hooray Mail// If a grandparent or long-distance family member needs a great gift idea, this one is awesome. You can choose a 3, 6, or 12 month mail subscription and Hooray Mail will send personalized and age-specific activities in the mail to your kiddo with the sender's information on the return address! I bought this for my nephew this summer and it was a fun way to give a gift that lasts more than one day, doesn't take up a lot of space in the house, and gives them something to look forward to each month.

5. Graphic tees// These adorable shirts from Milk & Honey are adorable! My kiddos receive compliments every time they wear them and they are super soft. I also love all of the fun sayings on these tees (Caleb and I talk about this one every time he wears it).

6. Just Like Mommy Cosmetics// I don't have a daughter or wear makeup, but I can't even handle how cute this shop is. My sister bought a cosmetic set for my niece a few years ago and it looks SO real! It looks like the shop will be reopening in the next week and it seems like the owner is a bit hard to get ahold of, but I promise it's worth the wait if you order anything for your little girl. So many cute makeup pieces that actually do look just like mommy's!

7. Reusable stickers// Another great stocking stuffer! We saw this at a friend's house last week and I immediately added it to Caleb's Christmas list. For only $5, it is perfect for a toddler who doesn't quite understand real stickers. These are reusable and last for a long time!

8. Star From Afar// It's on my list again because I love it! It makes the perfect kid for littles on your list that are too little to truly care about what gifts they receive this year (think babies!). And you can get free shipping if you order today by noon!

9. Ikea play kitchen// Another repeat on my list because it is hands down the most used toy we own. My mom gifted it to use last year and I have been so surprised how much use it gets. Caleb still loves it and even Tyler plays with it each day. It's just the right size (not too bulky or heavy), durable (love that its wooden!), and has the perfect amount of compartments to open and close and store things. If there is one big gift you put on your kiddos list this year, this should be it!

10. Museum or Zoo passes// As much as we love and use all of our favorite toys at home, we also love getting out of the house and experiencing things. So many zoos and local children's museums sell yearly memberships AND daily passes that make awesome gifts! We love both our zoo and museum. Each has so much to do that our kiddos really never get tired of visiting them.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Simple and inexpensive Thanksgiving.

  Ok, I realize I'm no expert when it comes to hosting holidays. In fact, this is our first year ever taking the lead on either (both!) holidays. And to be honest, my entire family is doing the work for Thanksgiving- we're all bringing dishes and no one person is doing the majority of the work. Justin and I are simply hosting it at our house!

  If you're like me, you want simple and easy but still pretty and fun this Thanksgiving. Oh, and also inexpensive! So I thought I would share some of the ways I'm saving money and making life easier on myself while still (hopefully!) having a great day with family. And since Thanksgiving is only 3 days away, I promise these are easy things you can get done before then!

// Need greenery or something to pretty up your table? Trader Joe's has big bouquets of eucalyptus for only $2.99 each! Don't live near TJ's? I've seen bunches of eucalyptus and pine at Kroger, too. Layer three of those babies along your table and top with some oranges or bud vases or pumpkins or pinecones and voila! Easy, pretty, cheap, and it smells soooooo good.

// Make people think you're fancy by printing off these 'thankful' placecards and handlettered menu! They're absolutely free and Caitlin even printed hers on cut up paper grocery bags. (find the downloadable file here)

// Go grocery shopping tonight (if you haven't gone already). You can buy nearly everything 3 days out, so sit down for 20 minutes and make your list and go pick up everything! Don't wait until Wednesday.

// Need a salad idea? I love this one.

// Top your table with pretty mercury glass votives for only $2 each (!!!!) and some pretty chargers for basically $1 (!!!) from Michael's. (Bonus- if you download their mobile app, you can get an extra 20% off your entire purchase)

// But the biggest tip? Don't worry and genuinely try to have fun this Thanksgiving! We legit have a big hole in our basement wall and SO many unfinished or just not-pretty parts of our house right now, but I'm got letting that bother me. Let's all agree not to let imperfect homes and recipe-flops and stressful relatives and whatever bother us this year! Just be thankful and look past those things and have fun! This tip is as much for you as it is for me :)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Friday. (a weekly round-up)

 Happy Friday! After a date to see Brian Regan last night and another for my sister's annual dinner party tonight, this weekend is already off to a great start. We have the best high school babysitter who literally lives two doors down and it has been a complete game changer! The boys love her (we do, too!) and it is so fun to have more date nights.
  I have big plans this weekend to stay up late working on Tyler's Project Life album and finalize the little details for his birthday party next week! And I love it. Going through all of the photos from the last year has been so much fun!
  I'm also putting together this years Gift Guide- stay tuned next Friday for it!

// Some of our college friends started a toy company that is both adorable and affordable! (ps. if you sign up for their giveaway here you'll also earn a 25% coupon code)

// I CAN'T WAIT FOR THE GG SPECIAL NEXT WEEK! I'm re-watching the last season right now and finding myself torn all over again between Christopher and Luke. Who are you rooting for?

// One of my favorite accessories holders is on clearance and makes a great Christmas gift.

// I'm in love with this sweatshirt.

// I always love Jamie's gift guides- this year's is no different. (Free Day Popcorn is my favorite this year!)

// Want to mix it up this Thanksgiving? Here are 19 different ways to make pumpkin pie!

Happy weekending!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Christmas traditions with littles.

 I remember last year thinking "Caleb is one! We have to start good traditions this year- its now or never!' and feeling a bit of pressure about deciding or finding the best things to do to make Christmas magical and fun and something he remembers forever.

  Yeah. I got over that really quickly! I still want to be intentional about what we fill our days with leading up to Christmas and I love the idea of traditions, but I have a lot more grace for myself and less pressure to do any of it perfectly. And after listening to this fun podcast a few weeks ago, I am feeling even more freedom to do only what works for us and what we love this holiday season!

  Maybe you're the same as me- you find yourself just wanting to have a happy Christmas this year. You want to find things that are fun and life-giving and take away the extra stuff that you feel pressured to do, but just leaves you feeling crazed or exhausted or guilty because you never actually got to them.

  Well, this post is for you! I hope you read this and see a list of ideas to celebrate Christmas with your family and grace to do all or none of it. We are all so different! I know Christmas cards can stress the heck out of some people (getting the perfect photo, designing the card, getting it sent on time- all because you think its something you have to do). For me, Christmas cards are fun and one of my favorite new family traditions! But you know what I don't do? Decorate my house much. Right now, in this stage of life for so many reasons, that stresses me out. We will for sure have our tree and some little things set out. But it honestly causes me stress to think about making our house beautiful for the holidays. So I won't do it! Know yourself and your capacity, and stick to things that bring you joy this Christmas.

  If you're on the hunt for some fun and easy Christmas traditions to adopt, here are some of my favorites! And I want to hear from you- what do you do (or not do!) with your family at Christmas?

Star From Afar// Hands down my most favorite Christmas tradition we do with our kids. If you know me in real life, I'm sure I sound like a broken record when I talk about this. If you want a simple way to teach your kids (even toddlers!) about Christmas and include the magic and whimsy that a lot of traditions have- this is perfect. It is basically a cute wooden nativity, complete with a large star that sets on top of the stable. Leading up to Christmas day, you hide the star around your home for you child to find and move the Three Wisemen to- leading them closer and closer to Jesus in the manager on Christmas morning. It comes with the sweetest book perfect for kids and you can honestly adapt it any way to work for you. Last year, we simply played with and talked about the nativity. The colorful and classic wooden pieces are perfect for little hands! This year, Caleb understands a bit more but is still probably not ready for a full Advent-long activity. So we will probably just hide the star everyday for two weeks (instead of closer to 4!). I'll put little pieces of candy or acts of kindness or other treats with the star for him to find each morning and I think he'll love it! Bonus! Natalie, the creator of Star From Afar, is so generous. (Ie my dog ate a wiseman last year and she helped me replace him!!) From now until Monday, if you order a Star From Afar kit and use the code KATIE10 you'll receive 10% off your purchase! It's already super affordable, so this is a steal. And it makes a perfect gift!!

Polar Express// I had never heard of this fun activity until last year (have I been living under a rock??), but we are going with my family in December and I think Caleb will love it. I don't know if it will become a yearly tradition, but it is for sure a great one time activity! We are doing this one in Indy (if you're local, reservations fill up fast!), but I'm sure a google search of 'polar express' in your city will show you fun options where you live!

Help someone in need// Yes yes yes. We should be thinking of others all year round, but I love how universal it is to help others during Christmas. And the options are endless! Operation Christmas child is a great (and affordable) way to involve your kids in shopping for others, donating canned goods or filling grocery bags to help give a Thanksgiving or Christmas meal to local charities, or 'adopting' a family to shop for are all great places to start! Don't love any of those? Call your local Women's shelter or elementary school or church and ask them how you can tangibly bless a family this Christmas. I guarantee they'll have ideas for you! And get your kids involved! 

Christmas books// Ok, I love this and can take zero credit for it. Two years ago, my mom spent some time scouring local Dollar Spots and thrift stores collecting second-hand or inexpensive kids' Christmas books. She bundled them together in different bags and gifted them to each grandkid. SO CUTE. She gave each kid 12- one to reach each day leading up to Christmas! Such a great gift idea and perfect for kids of all ages. (Need a place to start? This is my all-time favorite kids Christmas book! It explains the holiday so well in kid language.)

Movie night// There are so many fun and classic Christmas movies! How fun would it be to have a yearly family movie night after you decorate your tree to sit down with hot chocolate and popcorn to watch Home Alone or Elf or one of the adorable claymation movies?!

Christmas cookies// I haven't done this with my kids yet (hello 1 and 2 year old!), but growing up my mom always made a huge batch of sugar cookies and let us go to town decorating them. Really simple, inexpensive, and fun! Bonus? Decorated cookies or other baked goods make great neighbor gifts and I bet your little ones will love marching next door to drop them off!

Jesse Tree// This is such a cute way to celebrate advent with your kids and help them dig into the Bible at a really kid-appropriate level. Also, the fun craft ideas are endless!

Elf on the Shelf// You've surely heard of this tradition where you hide the Elf around the house for kids to find each morning. Typically he's done something naughty (like unrolled the toilet paper), but I love the idea of making him a 'kindness elf'. You could even save yourself some $$ and make your own adorable Kindness Elves

Advent Calendar// This is one of the 'possibilities are endless' traditions. Which makes it great for any family and you can change it as your kids get older. The whole point behind Advent is to prepare our hearts for Christmas, the celebration of Jesus' birth. You can talk about verses around the dinner table or buy one of the chocolate candy calendars or a cute display that has drawers filled with little presents. Or make one with your kids! You can focus on Bible stories, acts of kindness, or even center it around something your kids love, like this LEGO one! Here are three easy and adorable DIY advent calendars I love: one, two, three