A “Grand” Christmas Vacation

Hello 2014!

I have been on Christmas break for the past two weeks and it has been WONDERFUL! At first, I set out with the intention to blog at least once or twice, but once our travels started I got way too involved with our family and friend time and decided to unplug entirely. It was so nice to just soak up every minute with loved ones!

Step one of our break was to go visit my family in Ohio. Since they live about 7 hours away from us, I don’t get to see them often. This was the first time I had been home in six months! It was SO nice to be back for a few days.

When we were home, Macie was introduced to my sister’s cat, Simba. After a rather timid greeting, they both got along well for the time we were home. I was very impressed!

simplifythechaos.com simplifythechaos.comChristmas morning, Justin and I woke up SUPER early . . . to go to the airport. Not exactly your typical Christmas but we were excited nonetheless! And at least it was a white Christmas!

simplifythechaos.comWe flew out to Phoenix, AZ for my college roommate’s wedding. The wedding wasn’t until Saturday, but we wanted to go out early to get the chance to explore the area. From the airport, we got a rental car and drove up to Flagstaff. By the time we had arrived, it was dark; however, we were able to drive around and see some beautiful Christmas lights!

simplifythechaos.com simplifythechaos.comWe also hit up a Sonic because it was literally the only thing open. Justin had never been to one before (!!!) so he was excited. How’s that for our first married Christmas together?

simplifythechaos.comThe next morning we woke up super early and headed out to the Grand Canyon. I really wanted to catch the sunrise! It was SO worth the loss of sleep!

simplifythechaos.com simplifythechaos.com simplifythechaos.comSTUNNING! Pictures simply do not do it justice.

We traveled back to Flagstaff for lunch and hit up a place called NiMarco’s Pizza. It was recommended to us from a friend who has lived in Flagstaff and it did not disappoint! Definitely a must try if you are in Flagstaff!

simplifythechaos.comI wish we would have had more time to explore Flagstaff but we needed to head back into Phoenix for the bachelor/bachelorette party so we got on the road after lunch. The drive was so scenic — I loved every minute!

simplifythechaos.comAfter a super fun lingerie party for the bride-to-be, we headed out into Phoenix for a joint bachelor & bachelorette party. We hopped around to a few different bars and restaurants before ending up at a place called The Duce. Honestly, I had some reservations when we walked up to what seemed like a huge warehouse but inside it was like no place I’ve ever seen before! A combination bar/karaoke lounge, it has ping pong, hula hoops, a clothing store, milkshake/sweet shoppe stand, and tons of other random and fun things to do. It was absolutely amazing! We loved it.

simplifythechaos.com simplifythechaos.com

After my friend Kelsey and I rounded out the night with a crowd-pleasing rendition of “It’s Gonna be Me” by N’Sync (crowd-pleasing in that they liked the song choice…not necessarily our singing!) we called it a night. So fun!

Justin and I were able to do a lot of sightseeing and some hiking in the days before the wedding. Our favorite was a morning hike that overlooked all of the Phoenix area. It was breathtaking!

simplifythechaos.com simplifythechaos.comThe wedding took place at a winery about an hour outside of Phoenix. It was such a beautiful setting and the weather was perfect!

It was so good to see all of my best friends from college and celebrate my friend’s wedding! Justin and I both agreed we have to come back to Phoenix sometime. We loved everything about it and had such a great time there!

simplifythechaos.comAfter a super-early flight back, my family picked us up at the airport on Sunday for a quick lunch and reunion with Macie (she was VERY excited to see us!)

simplifythechaos.comAfter lunch, we hit the road to Virginia to celebrate Christmas with Justin’s family.We had a great time visiting with them! I especially loved playing with our little nephew, who absolutely loved playing with my phone and taking pictures of himself.

simplifythechaos.com simplifythechaos.com

Overall, Christmas was a HUGE success and we loved every minute! Now it’s back to work and starting out a new year!

Happy 2014! May your year be blessed!

***

Today’s outfit was almost entirely composed of Christmas presents. What a fun way to start the new year!

01-02 Outfit

Sweater: Old Navy

Blouse: New York & Company

Pants: New York & Company

Pumps: Maurices

Bib Necklace: Forever 21

Advertisements

A little blogging perspective

I originally thought this post would begin with “I am a HUGE failure.”

Over the last two weeks, my blogging has been sporadic at best. The Christmas season truly is the busiest time of the year! The to-do list lengthens and the obligations/holiday gatherings/travel plans pile on.

In the midst of this, my blog has fallen to the wayside. I faithfully posted outfits each day in “Wear,” but other than that, the blog often sat idle.

The recovering perfectionist in me relapsed and I felt like a blogger dud. I started this thinking I’d post every day! Why am I not able to keep up!? What is wrong with me!? Why can’t I handle this!?

Luckily, I had a revelation. A better description is actually that I got smacked in the face with reality. But whatever.

My women’s bible study is currently reading a book by Emily Freeman called Grace for the Good Girl (find on Amazon here.) One chapter talks about when Martha, a woman in the Bible who is much like me and tried to do every. single. thing. right. all. the. time, is brought to reality by Jesus.

“You are worried and bothered about so many things, but only one thing is necessary.” [Luke 10:41-42 NASB]

Hmm. Talk about reality smacking me square in the face.

My blog isn’t perfect. I can’t post every day and keep my sanity, particulary at this time of year. And there are so many things happening in both work and life that it’s easy to quickly feel overwhelmed with millions of details.

But I cannot be worried and bothered about all of these things. I need to do what I can, and let go when it gets to be too much.

I started this blog as a place to show how to simplify the chaos that life can become. It’s all about finding a balance. I need to take my own advice and simplify my blogging expectations to find a reasonable balance.

Posting outfits daily is something I can handle. Posting about other topics is something I can handle…sometimes. My priority will always be my marriage, relationships, and experiences. I refuse to let those suffer for the sake of doing a million other things because I think I have to or I’m a failure. I define my own success. I define where my balance is.

I choose JOY over perfection.

So I’m not, in fact, a “huge failure” like I thought. I’m just a recovering perfectionist and I don’t expect this to be my relapse. I just keep on trying to find that place where life is as simple and joyful and I enjoy it to the max.

Happy Tuesday!!

***

Today’s outfit! Details can be found in “Wear

12-17 Outfit

Sweater: Express

Khakis: Maurices

Ballet Flats: Kohls

Bangle Set: Ruche

Necklace: Bluetique

Christmas Cookie Extravaganza!

Hello hello!

Feels like I haven’t posted in forever! We have had some mean winter weather the last two days (translation: NO SCHOOL!) so I have been taking it easy at home. No outfits to post since I just stayed inside in comfy sweats all day Monday and Tuesday and I decided to postpone blogging so I could be productive around the house and enjoy extra time with my little family. Macie and I spent hours running errands together on Monday and we even had a nice long puppy play date with my friend Lindsay’s dogs. It was so fun and we were both tuckered out afterwards!

As fun as it was to have a long weekend, I’m ready to get back into the swing of things at school now, especially since being at home all day meant I was in constant close proximity to . . . CHRISTMAS COOKIES! On Saturday my friend Tristan hosted a cookie decorating party for a bunch of our friends. She baked dozens of cut-out sugar cookies and had each of us bring icing, sprinkles, etc. to decorate them with. It was so much fun but now I have TONS of cookies sitting on my counter!

My finished products!

You may be wondering about the strange-looking one on the left. Tristan created a cookie-decorating competition for the Christmas trees. We all got one tree-shaped cookie and had to decorate it according to a theme. The theme she and her husband chose was “travel.”

At first we all thought it was a difficult theme, but people got SO creative! Here were some of the final results:

We had everything from maps to tropical islands to train cars to snow skiing angels to locations afar such as Africa and Paris. I was so impressed with everyone’s ideas! Even Tristan and her hubby couldn’t pick a winner! They had to choose two.

Justin and I kept our cookies separate, but without knowing it we had similar ideas.

We both did “methods of travel” and chose similar things! Justin drew a plane flying through the sky and I did a rocket ship blasting off. I used a green peel-apart Twizzler for my outline.

Neither of our trees won but we had such a great time decorating with our friends!

It was a great way to get into the Christmas spirit and have a fun Saturday with some awesome people.

Now just a few days left in this short school week! Whoo hoo! Gotta love this time of year!

***

Two days off in sweat pants was nice, but I was itching to wear my new Target corduroy pants! So warm and comfy — perfect for layering in this winter weather! As always, details for specific pieces can be found on my “wear” page.

12-11 Outfit

Cardigan: Target

Cami: Old Navy

Corduroy Skinny Pants: Target

Boots: Maurices

Necklace: Ten Thousand Villages (LOVE this organization!)

Redbox Movie > The Sound of Music Live

Happy happy FRIDAY!

Am I the only one who didn’t watch “The Sound of Music” last night on TV? I honestly just couldn’t bring myself to watch (even though I’m a huge Carrie Underwood fan!) In my opinion, it was set up to fail and I couldn’t bear to watch. You just can’t re-make a classic and expect it to be as good as the original, no matter how much you try. While I knew all of the actors were talented (musically, anyway),  I also knew I would end up disappointed. Judging by the buzz in social media today, I made the right decision. Seems like the music was pretty awesome, but the acting was not. One teacher friend said it was good “for a high school play” but not even in the same zipcode as the original.  I’d love to hear some opinions on it if you watched!

Instead of watching The Sound of Music, my hubster and I got a $5 Hot N Ready from Little Caesar’s and rented a Redbox. We watched Monster’s University and loved it! Such a cute movie. I loved how they really set up the first movie well and showed different sides of characters we already knew. It was entertaining and Justin and I both really enjoyed it. Solid Redbox win!

In other news, my board today reads:

Whoo hoo!!! So excited. 🙂

Hope you have a great Friday and a relaxing weekend!

***

Love me some Casual Friday! As always, links to available pieces can be found on my “wear” page.

20131206_070151Top: Express

Black Skinny Jeans: Maurices

Boots: Forever 21

Jewelry: Lia Sophia

Ultimate Holiday Playlist

I don’t know about you all, but lately I have been playing nothing but Christmas music! Today at work I even kept this lovely YouTube video on during my planning period so I could have some nice festive background while I worked.

I have different “categories” of Christmas music based on what I’m doing or what mood I’m in. Today I thought I’d share the songs that are definite holiday musts!

Classic Christmas Tunes (some are the original artists, some are covers I love)

Michael Buble: “It’s Beginning to look a lot like Christmas”; “Holly Jolly Christmas”; “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”

Glee Cast: “The First Noel”; “Let It Snow”

Cynthia Basinet: “Santa Baby”

Bing Crosby: “Winter Wonderland”; “White Christmas”

Mediaeval Baebes: “The Holly & The Ivy”

Harry Connick, Jr.: “Sleigh Ride”

Nat King Cole: “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)”

Andy Williams: “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”

Brenda Lee: “Rockin Around the Christmas Tree”

Wham!: “Last Christmas”

Jessica Simpson: “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”

Britt Nicole: “Jingle Bell Rock”

Zooey Deschanel and Leon Redbone: “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”

Kelly Clarkson: “My Grown-up Christmas List”

David Archuleta: “Joy to the World”; “The First Noel”

Faith Hill: “Little Drummer Boy”

Martina McBride: “O Holy Night”

Carrie Underwood: “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”; “Do You Hear What I Hear?”; “What Child Is This?”

Whitney Houston: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”

Mindy Smith w/Allison Krauss: “Away in a Manger”

Running/Work-out Jams

Mariah Carey: “All I want for Christmas is You”; “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”

Jackson 5: “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”

Glee Cast: “We Need a Little Christmas”; “Deck the Rooftop”

Christina Aguilera: “Christmas Time”; “This Year”

N’Sync: “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays”

Destiny’s Child: A “DC” Christmas Medley

Jessica Simpson: “Here Comes Santa Claus”; “Let it Snow”

Jose Feliciano: “Feliz Navidad”

Whitney Houston: “Deck the Halls/Silent Night”

Straight No Chaser: “The Christmas Can-Can” (They are such an entertaining group and if you haven’t checked them out before, you must!)

Instrumentals

Kenny G: “Winter Wonderland”

Tchaikovsky: “Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies”; “The Nutcracker March”

Trans Siberian Orchestra: “Carol of the Bells”

Vince Guaraldi Trio: “O Tannenbaum”; “Christmas Time is Here”; “Skating” (All of these are from A Charlie Brown Christmas CD and the entire CD is fantastic! So fun!)

Norman Brown: “The Christmas Song”

Kiddie Classics for Fun

Burl Ives: “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”; “Frosty the Snowman”

Thurl Ravenscroft: “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”

Vince Guaraldi Trio: “Christmas Time is Here (vocal)”

How The Grinch Stole Christmas Soundtrack: “Welcome Christmas”

 

Enjoy! And let me know if I missed any good ones. 🙂

***

Here’s today’s work outfit. I’m loving my new animal print infinity scarf from TJMaxx! Check out my “wear” page for links to available pieces!

“Quilted” Lace Shirt: Rue 21

Cami: Express

Grey Dress Pants: Maurices

Ballet Flats: Maurices

Infinity Scarf: TJ Maxx

Simple, Inexpensive Christmas Decorations

Christmas is in full swing at my house! Whoo hoo!

Today I want to share two simple Christmas decorating ideas. Both are so easy and take no more than 10 minutes each. And both are for common areas in your house — kitchen and bathroom! (Although you could really put them anywhere.)

I shared in an earlier post about my Halloween decoration using candy corn, candles, mason jars, and ribbons. To change this to a Christmas decoration, I dumped out the candy corn and took off the ribbon. I kept the cream candles inside the mason jars since they all had plenty of life left in them. I took some of my $2 garland (thrift store!!) and wrapped it around the jars.

20131127_142702I wanted to add cranberries (real or fake) but I ended up buying a couple bags of Cherry Sours at Kroger. They were $1 a bag — way cheaper option and they are super similar in appearance!

I dumped a handful of sours in each jar and made sure they all looked equal. I also added two pine cones for extra festivity.

20131201_185401While I was pleased with the way it looked on my bathroom counter, something still felt missing. I also didn’t like that there was an outlet right behind the jars. I got out my little chalkboard from another fall decoration and searched Pinterest until I found a cute, simple chalkboard saying that inspired me.20131201_192046Ta-Da! Quick and easy but oh so festive. Just the way I like it!

The other decoration was a simple kitchen centerpiece. I have a store-bought, large centerpiece for holiday gatherings, but I wanted a simpler one for everyday use. I got our trifle bowl out and emptied another bag of Cherry Sours into it. I put another cream candle in the middle and surrounded it with pine cones.  The candle looked a bit too short for this, so I decided to heighten it. Rather than buy a new candle, I set three wine corks on end in the center of the bowl.

20131201_190225

This gave the candle a lot more height and I didn’t have to spend money on a new, taller candle! The pine cones and sours hid the wine corks well. I set the candle on top, set the whole bowl on top of a simple green placemat and voila!

20131201_190210

A very simple and festive centerpiece! I like that it is small so it doesn’t take up a lot of space on my table. Success!

I love that both of these took less than 10 minutes and it was super inexpensive since I had most of the items already.

Happy Hump Day! One day closer to Christmas! 🙂

***

I was in such a Christmas-y mood that I chose a holiday-inspired outfit for school today.

Cardigan: Express

Button-Down: Express

Pin-striped pants: Express

Pumps: Maurices

Necklace: Maurices

Teacher Tuesday: Picture Schedules!

Happy Teacher Tuesday!

Today I want to share something that I came up with last year and used on a daily basis. At the time, I was teaching students with multiple disabilities, and all of my students had sensory processing needs. On top of that, nearly all of them had visual needs and limited fine motor skills.

When it came time to create our classroom schedule, a list on a wall just wasn’t going to cut it for me. I wanted to come up with a way to involve my students and ensure that they could actively participate when we talked as a class about our schedule and daily activities. I also wanted to have a schedule that was versatile and allowed the students to understand the transitions we were making throughout the day. Here’s what I came up with:

Tactile Picture Schedule Baskets!

Here’s how it worked:

I bought several baskets from the Dollar Store. They came in packs of 3 for $1 each. I had six students so I bought enough baskets for them each to have a white one and a green one. (Twelve baskets at $1 for 3 = $4 total. Definitely worth it!)

I printed out a small sign to attach to the front of each basket. The white basket’s sign said “It’s time for . . .” and the green basket’s sign said “I am finished with . . .”

Next, I created visual representations of all of our major activities, starting with our morning routine. I first cut out strips of black construction paper. I then printed out Boardmaker symbols for each of the major tasks we complete each morning. I laminated the symbols and attached them to the top of the strip of black paper. I then found a real-life, concrete example of each activity and Velcroed it to the bottom of the paper, which allowed the students to pull it off if they wanted to explore the object closely. The end result looked like this:

For “meal time,” I attached a real plastic fork identical to the ones the students ate with. For my students who used a feeding tube for meals, I used an extra feeding tube in place of the fork to make it applicable to them.

For “wipe face,” I attached a piece of a real wipe identical to the ones we use after meals.

P104

For “brush teeth,” I attached a dollar store tiny toothbrush, and for “comb hair,” I attached a dollar store comb.

 

As we went through our morning routine, we would show the students the picture and object for each task. The students had a chance to touch and feel each object. When we started a task, the picture went into the white basket. When we finished a task, the picture went into the green basket. Some students were able to move the picture from one basket to the other independently. I think this provided a great transition visual!

As tasks finished, we allowed the students to stack the tasks in the green basket so they could see how much we had already done.

I also created strips for our daily “specials” classes.

This one was a little more difficult to come up with concrete objects for, but I’m very pleased with the results!

For “arts and crafts,” I used pieces of Model Magic, which my students frequently use in art class.

For “P.E.” class, I used a small plastic ball identical to the ones they sometimes use in the gym.

For “music” class, the music teacher did me a HUGE favor and lent me some small instruments (small maracas and bells) that he didn’t use anymore. I Velcroed these on so we could still pull them off and use them for musical activities in class.

For “library”, I found tiny board books (at a thrift store for cheap! Whoohoo!) and attached them to the strip.

“Guidance” class was the hardest for me to come up with a concrete object. I finally settled on a giant fuzzy ball. The guidance teacher often used these as visuals for feeling “warm and fuzzy” and also for rewards in class. It was something my students were used to seeing in guidance and no where else so it worked out perfectly! (I’d also like to note that there wasn’t a good picture for “guidance” in terms of attending a class, so I used another picture and wrote in “guidance” at the top. This was in the best interests of my students’ learning and understanding.)

I should mention that I did a picture strip of everything for EACH student. I had six library strips, six music strips, etc. It was exactly what I wanted: a simple way to keep my students actively engaged and allow them to access the schedule and understand what was going on in their surroundings. It was also a great visual way to teach transitions.

You could do this for an infinite number of school activities (recess, calendar time, subjects like math, science, etc. The list goes on and on!) It takes some work but it is worth it in the end!

***

Today’s teaching outfit:

Cardigan: Old Navy

Dress: American Eagle

Cami underneath: Express

Tights: Express

Boots: Payless

Necklace & bracelet: Lia Sophia