#19for2019 and Christmas Re-Cap

Hi friends! Happy New Year!

I always love the fresh-start feel that a new year brings but I’m not usually one for resolutions. However, you know I love the Happier podcast, and one thing they have been talking about lately is a “19 for 2019” list. It’s like a combination resolutions list + to-do list and I enjoyed hearing about their “18 for 2018” lists last year so when they started talking about 2019 lists, I decided to write one as well. Today I thought I’d share my list and also give a quick re-cap of our Christmas travels since I’ve been unplugged from the blog through the holidays.

My 19 for 2019

1- Rough start, but this one is personal and I’m keeping it to myself. If there comes a point where I feel I want to share about it in this space, I will, but today is not that day. Next!

2- Plan an adults-only trip for Justin and I (We may not be able to actually take the trip in 2019 but I want to start planning and budgeting for it now!)

3- Update instagram account and create Chatbook for LJ

4- Select pictures for family photo albums (I want to do one for each year of marriage. We’ve been married 5 1/2 years so this is a big project!)

5- Plan out family photo albums (Such a big project I had to break it up into two items!)

6- Create a master list of my top book recommendations (I get asked for recommendations so often and I want to have a go-to list to easily share)

7- Replace our ugly brown recliner (Justin bought it used for $20 in college. It has lived a good life and it’s time to move on. 😉 )

8- Write and track our monthly spending budget

9- Send birthday cards

10- Find a local tailor

11- Find a reliable, nearby babysitter (we have some already but weeknights are always tricky to find someone)

12- Have house siding washed

13- Find comfortable black heels

14 – Plan our will with an estate lawyer

15- Invest in buying plastic alternatives (stainless steel straws, etc)

16- Set up accounts for LJ’s future

17- Have budget meeting with Justin for each paycheck (roughly 2x/month)

18- When buying clothing or shoes, look for fair trade, ethically made options

19- Learn more about finances (401K, 403B, investments, etc.) through books or podcasts

We’ll see how this goes. Some items are quick, one-time items that I just need to schedule time for. Others are ongoing or very time-consuming. I’m going to take it one step at a time and just try my best!

As for the recent holidays, we spent about 10 days away from home. It was a lot of travel but it was so great to spend so much quality time with our loved ones.

Christmas

Chicago

We left after lunch on the 21st for Chicago for Christmas with my mom’s side of the family. My uncle lives in Chicago and while his apartment didn’t have room for everyone, we were able to rent out the entire Lang House B&B nearby and stay together as a family. The B&B was absolutely gorgeous and we all enjoyed our stay there!

Friday evening most of the family (minus Justin and my dad, who stayed back at the B&B with LJ) went downtown to see “A Christmas Carol” at the Goodman Theatre. The play was amazing – the actors were all super talented and the set and special effects were incredible. We all enjoyed it!

Saturday was spent exploring Michigan Avenue in the morning and early afternoon. We did a little shopping and just enjoyed walking around in the festive atmosphere. Justin, LJ, and I ended up heading to Christkindl Market with my two sisters and my sister’s fiance and while it was extremely crowded, we did feel like the Christmas spirit was going strong! It was fun to walk through the tents and see unique ornaments and other decorations.

We all headed back to the B&B in the early afternoon to relax and rest up for a big night ahead. LJ found the L ride home especially relaxing 😉

Chicago17.jpg

Saturday night was one we had all been looking forward to for a long time: a 1920’s murder mystery! Months ago, my uncle purchased the scenario and assigned us parts. He put in a lot of effort to give everyone a part that worked with their real-life personality and all the details he put in place were just perfect! We all worked hard to get costumes in place and learn about our character. We had a catered meal, only to later discover that while the meal was catered, all the “servers” were actually friends of my uncle who were characters in the scenario as well. Justin actually was the one who was murdered, but he got to come back in Act II as the detective investigating the mystery. It was SUCH fun evening! Everyone got super in to their characters and we had all an awesome time.

It was a great weekend with extended family!

Ohio/Virginia

Sunday morning we packed up after breakfast and headed to Ohio for an evening Christmas celebration with my parents and siblings. Then we headed out early on Christmas Eve for a week in Virginia with Justin’s family.

Because of Justin’s work schedule, he hasn’t been able to travel to Virginia to see his family since last Christmas. It was SO wonderful to get to spend some good quality time there with his family. Our six-year-old nephew especially was excited for uncle Justin to come around and play with him and it was sweet to see their special bond strengthen. And don’t even get me started on the sweetness of seeing LJ with his cousins! I didn’t take many pictures during this trip but our four-year-old and ten-month-old nieces each had some especially precious moments with him that I managed to capture on camera. Oh my heart.

We were able to squeeze in a few short visits with some friends in the area but for the most part we focused on spending time with family and were so thankful to not only have Christmas Day together but also be able to get together other days for meals or just to hang out. It was a great holiday!

We got back home on Sunday night and spent Monday as a family of three (five including our dogs!) together at home. We got LJ one small present and the dogs each had treats in their stockings, but other than that, we kept it super low-key and just enjoyed a cozy day at home with each other. It was the perfect way to cap off a great holiday season.

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday as well! Cheers to 2019!

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

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 [last-minute] Thanksgiving Decoration

Finally Friday!!

Even though I have officially brought out my boxes of Christmas decorations (YES!), I still need to have a few Thanksgiving decorations around. My entire family is coming into town next week and we’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner.

I decided to keep the Thanksgiving decor simple since I want to be able to easily take it down and transition to Christmas ASAP! And since I waited until the last minute, I needed simple, easy ideas!

Here’s one idea I came up with:

Justin and I had a couple small chalkboards that we used at our wedding, and my mother-in-law grew a bunch of tiny pumpkins and gourds in her garden this year. I drew a quick pennant, chose a cute little pumpkin out of our gourd stash, and set it on a bookshelf over a small leaf table runner from Bed Bath & Beyond.

Simple? Check. Quick? Check. Festive? Check. Happy? CHECK!

Hosting a holiday is stressful enough without stressing out over the small details. No need to spend a ton  of money or time. Keep it simple and spend time enjoying family and yummy food!

***

Today’s outfit was simple, casual and bright! Keeping it fun on Friday!

Shirt: TopShop

Pants: Target

Wedges: Target

Necklace: Lia Sophia

It’s beginning to look a lot like . . .

Today I opened my mailbox and instantly felt my mood lift!!

 My first holiday magazine arrived!

I love all holidays but I have to admit that I have a special place in my heart for Christmas. It’s just so gosh darn jolly! I love the decorations, the lights, the merriment, the food, the festivities . . . I could go on forever! Justin actually told me at the dinner table last night that he is ready to consider putting up decorations! I was shocked. Normally he is not so big on decorating but I think I have rubbed off on him a bit. 🙂 I am still going to wait for decorations but I may start some Christmas music soon!

***

I adore maxi dresses and love finding ways to transition them from summer to fall. Today I added boots, a bright scarf, and long sweater to make the look appropriate for cooler weather.

11-07 Bracelets

Maxi dress: Modcloth

Sweater: Express

Scarf: Bought in India

Belt: Bluetique

Bangles: shopruche.com

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!

P1040960 P1040953 P1040973

Please mom, are we done now??

P1040969

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