Operation Stress-Free Christmas Card: Step #2

Last week, I wrote a blog post about my attempt to have a stress-free Christmas card this year. I can officially say that I am getting closer!

I wanted a simple, but cute set-up for our card. Justin and I are fun-loving people so I wanted the picture to reflect that part of our personalities as well.

First, I set the scene. I found an old lace curtain in storage in our basement (we are renting and the crawl space has a ridiculous amount of stuff left over from previous tenants. Sometimes it’s annoying, but in this case, it was very helpful!)

I hung the curtain against a cream colored wall with small push pins. The tacks left very little trace and since the curtain was light, they were strong enough to hold it up. Then I strung two strands of white lights in columns across the lace background. The tacks came in very handy because they also held the light strands up.

Tacks up close

I then put our teeny pre-strung fake Christmas tree (I got it for $7 at a yard sale in college!) by the edge of the lace for a little extra festivity. I put a green comforter on the ground and voila! (Pardon the dim picture . . . these were taken on my camera phone which does not adjust to light well)

Christmas Card Background Lights up close

Our Christmas photo-shoot was set up! It took 15 minutes tops and cost me nothing. I count that as a very successful stress-free step!

The lights in the basement are not super bright, so we kept them on while taking the picture. It kept our faces well illuminated but still showed the lights on the tree and background well. We set up the timer, put our camera on a chair at our eye level, and got into position!

P1040963What do you think? I personally love how it turned out! I bought Macie’s puppy hat here and already had the elf hat and antlers from previous years. I think they added a touch of fun, which was perfect for us!

Not gonna lie, taking a picture with a puppy was far from stress-free. She was not a big fan of her hat and it took about 30 takes to get her to pose. In the end, we had about 3 good ones  to choose from (most were blurry fails) but the rest were pretty funny to see. We ended up having a lot of fun!

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Please mom, are we done now??

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Ahhhhhh I can’t even handle her cuteness sometimes!! She did a good job for a puppy. Proud of my girl!

Step #3 will involve actually putting together a card, but for now, I’m happy with my progress!

***

Today’s outfit was simple with a touch of flair in the jewelry. I love pops of color!

11-06 necklace 11-06 Outfit

Drape-neck sweater: Express

Lace cami: Express

Casual khaki pants: Maurices

Brown flats: SO* (they are old…possibly bought at Kohl’s?)

Necklace & earrings: Lia Sophia

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Candy Corn Overload

I am on candy overload.

We had absolutely NO trick-or-treaters come to our house on Halloween and therefore have an abundance of candy leftover. I took a ton to school today because as you can imagine, it is not a good idea to leave that stuff lying around our house. Too tempting!

I also had a TON of candy corn left over. I didn’t want to bring that to school but I also didn’t want to have it all around the house. Here’s what I came up with.

candles

I have to confess that I saw something similar on Pinterest using votive candles but I tweaked it to use mason jars. We can a lot of food so we have a seemingly endless supply of mason jars. I picked three different sizes (decor looks best in odd numbers), threw some cream candles in the center, and surrounded them with a few handfuls of candy corn. I also had some thin orange ribbon stashed away and I used a few pieces to tie bows for a nice finishing touch. (Don’t judge the bows…I am notoriously bad at tying bows  and this is about as good as it gets for me.)

Simple? Check.

Easy? Check.

Budget-friendly? Check

My kind of decoration! And I figure candy corn is”fall” enough that I can leave it up through Thanksgiving. Yes!

I clustered these three together but I still have a ton of candy corn left so I may put a few solo candle jars around the house for a more festive feel.

***

Today’s outfit was based on my energy level. I think I finally caught that extra hour of sleep that we got with Daylight Savings and I woke up feeling energized and ready to go! I wanted a nice bold color to match that energy level and it doesn’t get much more bold than cherry red! However, I was so energized that I left for school early and forgot to take a picture so you’re stuck with a lovely selfie from the teacher bathroom. Classy, huh?

11-05 Outfit

Cardigan: Express

Lace cami: Old Navy

Grey dress pants: Maurices

Shoes: Fergalicious by Fergie

Necklace: Premier Jewelry

Bracelet set: Express

Time to get fancy!

This weekend Justin and I got to attend a formal gala for his medical school. We are so not fancy people and prefer to lounge around the house in our sweatpants (which we may or may not be doing right now as I type this . . .) but it was fun to get dressed up and have a special night out!

Before taking off to the gala, we met up with some friends to take pictures.

P1040869 My handsome date and I. (Side note: I got my dress from a store called D.E.B. in the spring during prom dress season. As soon as I saw it on the rack, I knew it would be perfect for this evening!)

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Aren’t my friends absolutely gorgeous!? The color-coordinating was totally unplanned by the way. Black and red seemed to be the popular colors at this event!

The event took place at a breathtakingly beautiful luxury resort. After sitting down to a delicious meal (various types of pasta, shrimp, roast turkey, vegetables, fruit, and tons of delicate macaroons and tarts for dessert!), we danced for a while and then took off to explore the resort. The rooms seemed never ending and they were all just so grand! There were luxurious bars, cozy seating areas, marble floors, huge windows, and elegant ballrooms. I felt like a princess roaming her castle. And the place was already decorated for Christmas which just made it even more stunning.

 

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I love this picture of my friends! They got tired and sat down in these chairs in a hallway and I snapped a picture quick. How cool is the lighting? So warm and cozy!

We also hit up the casino in the basement. Justin and I are not gamblers at all, but we decided to have some fun with it and agreed to spend $20 and just see what happened.

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We split it and each took $10. Justin lost everything on one bid in roulette, and I decided to try out a slot machine. I ended up winning $82!  Technically I only got $62 because we spent $20 but it was so much fun!

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We had a GREAT night! Now off to cozy up next to my love (in our comfy sweatpants) and watch The Voice. The gala was fun, but I can’t get enough of special time at home with my hubby–no fancy dress needed!

***

For today’s outfit, I wanted to keep it classic. Black is hard to mess up and I just love the texture of this jacket!

11-04 Outfit

Jacket: Maurices

Cami: Express

Black Dress Pants: Express

Wedge shoes: Target

Necklace: Premier Jewelry

Halloween Party Time!

I have always loved Halloween, and this year was no different!

Justin and I hosted a Halloween party Thursday night and it was so much fun!

I had high hopes of creating some type of “family” costume theme for us, but when we saw a cute bumblebee costume for dogs at a thrift store ($2!!), we just had to get it. So Macie was a bee, I was Little Bo Peep, and Justin was my “lost” sheep. I have to give Justin credit; while I was working on the food preparation, he was slaving away gluing all those cotton balls on his t-shirt. That’s commitment to a costume!

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For the party decorations, I wanted to keep it fun and festive without causing too much work. I tend to like more classic, simple decorations and don’t often go for the loud, somewhat cheesy decor.  I made a few simple pennant banners to hang around the house.

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I just cut out black and orange triangles and created patterns on each orange pennant with an orange marker. I then taped them to a black ribbon and hung them around the house. I also had some scrapbook supplies so I used perforated letters to add a festive “boo” to this banner. The banners were f-r-e-e- since I already had all the supplies.

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I also made a “photo booth” using a black tablecloth and a super-stretchy spider web. I already had the tablecloth and the spider web cost $1.97 at Wal-Mart.  Simple, easy, and budget-friendly! And it was a huge hit for photos!

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How cool are my friends who dressed up as people from Edward Scissorhands!? Their costumes were so awesome!

For the table, I bought a cheap plastic tablecloth ($.97 at Wal-Mart). The “table runner” is actually four black placemats found at the dollar store for $1 each. The paper lanterns and skeleton were also $1 each. The black paper plates were $.97 at Wal-Mart and orange-and-black polka-dot napkins were $.97 a pack. I got two packs of each. Total spent on four placemats, decorations, plates, and napkins = $13. Not bad!

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Food was SUPER simple.  I made mummy and ghost cookies the night before, and my friend Lindsay brought adorable mummy dogs.

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I found an EASY recipe for a “pumpkin” cheeseball here. It was delicious and everyone commented on how cute it looked! It was covered in Doritos and I loved the extra crunch!

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I put the left-over Doritos from the cheeseball coating in a tiered serving bowl with orange-and-black drizzled yogurt-covered pretzels and candy corn.

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Since many of our guests were in med school, I figured I should also have a healthy snack so I threw together a quick and easy veggie jack-o-lantern. I wish the picture turned out a little better but several people told me how cute it was and it was super easy so I count it as a win.

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Overall, the party cost me around $50 and was SO much fun!! My biggest tips on throwing a successful Halloween party would be:

1-Use white plates/serveware to display food. It makes the presentation so much nicer and matching is SO easy so it all looks put together.

2-Keep decorations simple. A nicely presented table and a few key decorated locations are all you really need to make the atmosphere fun and festive!

3-Try to do as much ahead of time as possible so you can be in a calm, relaxed mood for the actual party! I loved that once people showed up, I could just enjoy hanging out and not rush around trying to finish things.

4- When it comes to food, find easy, budget-friendly recipes. Don’t feel like you need to have super extravagant dishes or decorate like a Cake Boss.

5-HAVE FUN! That’s what the Holidays are all about!!

***

Friday was a Jeans day at school and I was pretty tired from the Halloween party so I kept it casual and easy!

11-01 Ourfit

Sweater: Takeout

Cami: Maurices

Jeans: American Eagle

Flats: Fergalicious by Fergie

Necklace: Lia Sophia

Halloween Procrastination

I am way late on yesterday’s blog post! After school, I hit the ground running with preparations for the Halloween party Justin and I are throwing tonight. After several trips to the dollar store (and, I confess, I even caved and went to Wal-Mart), I had plenty of decorations and ingredients for everything I needed!

Two things I love are the holidays and hosting people at my house. Put them together and I am one happy girl; however, the night before the hosted holiday party, I’m typically one stressed-out girl. This is mostly because I tend to procrastinate. One way I tried to cut out the most stress this time was with food preparation. Our party is after dinner so I knew I just wanted finger food and treats. My requirements for the food were: quick (due to procrastination), easy, budget-friendly, and able to be made ahead of time! I’m a bit of a procrastinator, so waiting until the day before limited my options, but I’m happy with the results!

Final Treat Collage

Let’s be honest. As much as I love things to look cute and festive, I also know my limits as far as time and skill. Decorated cupcakes and cookies look so great (and relatively simple) in pictures, but I know I just do not have six hours to figure how how to decorate them and then actually do the decorating. As as for the intricate decorations, my skill level would fall embarrassingly short. The simple process with making these treats was much more my speed.

Final Oreo Collage

I started with Oreo “mummies.” If you are an Oreo freak like me, these are going to be right up your alley.

Step 1: I purchased a package of Oreos (double-stuf of course!) and vanilla candy coating.

Step 2: Follow the directions on the package to melt the candy coating. For me, this meant heating for one minute, stirring, and heating for 15 more seconds. Then I dropped an Oreo in the goo and used a spoon to cover it with the coating.

Step 3: I lifted the Oreos out with a toothpick (to let the extra coating drip off) and placed them on parchment paper to cool and harden.

Step 4: I used white cookie icing and drew it back and forth to make the “mummy” wrap. I then put mini chocolate chips on each cookie for the eyes.

Step 5: Let the mummies completely cool and harden before storing.

See? Quick and easy!

I also employed a similar tactic to make super simple “ghost” cookies.

Final Ghost Collage

This time I did the same thing, but with Nutter Butter cookies. I added the mini chocolate chips to make eyes and a mouth. I think this could also be easily adjusted to make snowmen cookies at Christmastime!

From start to finish, this whole project took about an hour to make tons of cookies. The candy coating cools quickly and once they were cooled, I just put them all in an airtight container so they’re ready to go for tonight! I’m so excited! And the whole thing cost under $15. Yes!

Have a happy Halloween!

***

Yesterday was so chaotic I had to just snap a quick photo at school.  It was an Express kind of day 🙂

10-30 Outfit

Sweater: Express

Ruffle Tank: Express

Cream Pencil Skirt: Express

Peep-toe Pumps: Lulu Townsend

Necklace: New York & Co.

I may as well post today’s outfit too since tonight will be party time! Since it’s Halloween, we were allowed to dress up. Comfy scrubs all day? Yes please!

Doctor

Label-less scrubs: From my husband’s closet 🙂

Three Words: Apple Cider Donuts

Today was one of those Mondays where I woke up in disbelief that my weekend was over. Okay, truthfully, this happens nearly every Monday, but today was especially so! This weekend FLEW by!

Justin had a study-free weekend and since that rarely happens, we decided to take advantage by road-tripping to Charlottesville, VA to visit some friends. We have several friends who live in the city and we don’t often get to see them so it was a treat to spend the whole weekend catching up!

Some highlights:

-Taking Macie to her very first dog park (She LOVED it! She ran the whole time and was the star of the show; the dogs all flocked to her puppy energy! And I had two people tell me and I quote: “She is the cutest puppy I have ever seen!” I was one proud mama!!)

-My first time ever inside a Trader Joe’s (I think I’m in love.)

-Made homemade pizza with friends (One of our friends is pregnant and pizza is her craving! How fun!)

-Annual trip to Carter’s Mountain Orchard!

If you are ever in the Charlottesville area in the fall, you simply must check this place out. It is a GORGEOUS orchard on top of a mountain! You can walk down the mountain into the orchard on both sides and the view is incredible.

Orchard

This picture does not even do it justice at all!

After getting our bags, we made a beeline to the Pink Lady trees (my favorite!) Unfortunately, by this late in October, many of the trees have no apples within reach anymore so Justin and I employed some married teamwork to get the yummy ones at the top of the trees!

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As you can see we do not mess around. And it was worth it when we got perfectly pinkish-red apples! Yes!! We also got some Jonagolds which were also delicious! And since it was all outdoors, dogs were allowed to go in the orchard. Macie loved it!

Before leaving, we had to take our “annual” family pumpkin picture! We were actually at Carter’s over the same weekend (with the same friends!) last year. Justin and I took a picture in front of a giant pumpkin painting and we decided to make it a tradition and take a picture again this year.  Now I guess we will just have to go back next year and take another one!

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It was a lot colder this year, hence the winter coats! But I love seeing how our family has changed; now we’re married with the “cutest puppy ever!”

Speaking of love, Carter’s Mountain also has little stores at the top. One of them is a bakery and they sell APPLE. CIDER. DONUTS. My life is completely changed. Delicious! I forgot to take a picture of ours this year, so a picture of last year’s will have to suffice. Although it should be noted that this year we upgraded from a half dozen to a full dozen. Yum!

Donuts

And yes, my man was rocking mutton chops last year. We went to a country concert later that day so it was fitting. Love that guy!

As fun as our trip was, it went way too fast! I’m already looking forward to our next visit!

***

Since today was one of those “I can’t believe it’s already Monday” days, I went for a simple, comfy look. You can’t go wrong with a classic v-neck sweater and understated jewelry! Since I didn’t have time to take a picture this morning (may have slept in a bit too long!) I had to take a mirror selfie in the gym locker room before my workout after school. Classy, huh?

Outfit #1

Sweater: Express

Layering Tank: Mossimo (Target)

Dress Pants: T.B.A.

Shoes: Maurices

Monogramed necklace: Lia Sophia

Operation Stress-free Christmas Card Picture: Step #1

Today, a very exciting package came in the mail!

Macie Hat #2

A puppy Santa hat for Macie!

This past weekend, a few friends and I drove to a nearby city for an overnight girls’ shopping trip/weekend away. (It was SO nice to get some quality girl-time in . . . and of course, score some major deals!) As we were browsing one of the many stores, one of the girls picked out coordinating outfits for herself and her husband and casually mentioned they’d probably wear them for Christmas card pictures.

Pause. What? People are thinking about Christmas? Didn’t fall just begin?

Truth is, I’m a bit of a procrastinator and had my friend not said something, Christmas card pictures wouldn’t have even crossed my mind for about another month. Then it would have taken me a week or two to decide what to do and at least another week to get it done. I’d be lucky to get the cards out by Christmas eve! The  whole thing would be rushed and stressful, and I’d probably be dissatisfied with the results.

Not gonna happen this year! I’m inspired to “simplify the [upcoming] chaos” by planning ahead! Let Operation Stress-free Christmas Card Picture begin!

All my enthusiasm aside, I have no delusions that I’ll be able to pull off something glamourous. I see all the adorable Christmas card pictures where the couple is wrapped up cozily in Christmas lights (J & I would just look like a tangled mess) or is having a cute snowball fight and still looking picture perfect (My face gets ridiculously red in the cold so I’d look like Rudolph). Then I realized that J and I don’t need to do anything spectacular because we have a spectacularly cute puppy who can steal all the limelight and be adorable enough for us all!

Macie Hat #1

Cue Santa hat! (Bonus that is was only $2.99 plus shipping!) Now I just have to get her to like wearing the hat so it will stay on long enough for a picture. So far, she’s up to keeping it on for about 1.2 seconds. Anyways, I consider this a significant success on Step #1 of Operation Stress-free Christmas Card Picture. Yes!

***

Last week, I posted about re-vamping spring clothing to give it new life for the fall/winter. Even though I did score some new clothing on the shopping spree, I’m still digging out spring clothes and giving them new life. It’s actually fun to find new ways to wear things and it’s also very budget-friendly!

Here’s today’s teacher-friendly work outfit:

Outfit #1

Cardigan: Old Navy

Lace cami: Express

Grey pencil skirt: Laundry by Shelli Segal (found at Ross!)

Grey suede pumps: Bandolino

Bangles and earrings: Ruche (shopruche.com)

I LOVE mint and paired it with other pastels all spring and summer long. I paired it with grey to transition it to winter and really like the way it turned out!

On a side note, taking self-timed shots with a puppy in the room sometimes leads to this:

Outfit #1b

Hmm. We might need to work on her a bit before she’s ready for her big Christmas card debut after all . . .