Top 5 Blog Posts of 2016

I always find it interesting to see what blog posts are the most popular, so today I am looking back at the top viewed posts in 2016, starting with number five.

5.  Friday Favorites 10.21.16.  It seems like you all appreciated the passage Sarah shared with me, as well as an awesome pair of boots and a dress that we all probably know and love!  

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4.  Friday Favorites 10.7.16.  Who doesn't love a good service project, catching up with co-workers, a great plaid shirt, my mom's home decor, and hitting a monthly goal?!

3.  Friday Favorites 4.15.16.  I was excited about my mom visiting, the newest Real Housewives addition (Dallas), a work out challenge at work, spring clothes, and breakfast bowls.  

2.  Christmas Home Tour 2016.  You all are after my own heart on this one - I love a good home tour, especially a holiday one!  My Christmas decorations were my very favorite this year, and while it will be time to put them away shortly, I plan to enjoy them a bit more!  And while this isn't a top five, you should check out my parents', too.  My mom does such a great job!

my apartment

my parents'

1.  Fall Favorites 2016: Decorating.  I have to say, this was one of my favorite posts, too.  I love decorating and I love fall, so putting the two together is always a good thing.  The grouping on my table was one of my favorite features, as was the fun cider tray.

You can see the top viewed posts in 2015 here

I hope you all enjoy the last bit of December, and have a fabulous New Year! 

Linking up with AndreaApril, and Katie.


Looking Back at My 2016 New Year's Resolutions

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It's hard to believe that the year is almost at a close.  Being that it is almost over, I wanted to take a look back at my 2016 New Year's resolutions.

1. Improve my overall health.  I think I did reasonably well with this one.  I went to the gym regularly and attempted to eat better.  I really think I got into my groove this past month and a half, though, with the 21 Day Fix (review here).  I know this is something that is going to be a continuous struggle for me, as I love alllll the bad food, but I do think there has been an improvement.

2.  Stop putting things off.  While I didn't do this all the time, I do think that I have gotten to be better about procrastinating and putting things off.  I know how I best function, and that is when I don't let things pile up and add on unnecessary stress.  One big thing I have started doing this past year is cleaning on Fridays (most of the time).  This way when I wake up on Saturday morning, cleaning is one less chore looming over the day and it just makes the weekend seem a bit more pleasant.  There were and I know there will continue to be weeks I am not on top of my game, because sometimes you just have those off weeks and life gets in the way, but I really do think I can say that I have made some improvements on this front and will continue to do so going forward.   

3.  Focus on the positive.  I know there were months where I definitely did this, but then there were months that I didn't.  If I think back, though, I can pinpoint some of the things that made a difference.  It's definitely all about the little things - spending a half hour at the library, just looking up and down the aisles even though you already have an armload of books, making a new fall recipe because it's fall, even if it doesn't necessarily turn out, finally trying out Starbuck's to see what the fuss is all about, realizing it really does live up to the hype and treating yourself to a little something every week, sending out Christmas cards, just because you want others to get that same feeling you get when you receive a card - those are the types of things that can make that difference, at least for me.

2016, it's been real.  2017, let's do this!

Linking up with Annie.

21 Day Fix Review

Back in November, I decided I need to change up my work out plan.  I was always doing cardio at the gym, but not much more.  I wasn't seeing the results I wanted, and I really wasn't sure how to change it up.  I knew I wanted to do more exercises, but the weights and machines area at the gym was a bit intimidating to me.  I reached out to you all for suggestions in my November Goals post, and the 21 Day Fix was recommended, along with some others.  My co-worker's wife had done the program with success, and I was able to borrow the DVDs from her to try it out.  I wanted to make sure it was something I could see myself sticking with, before spending the $70+ it costs.  I ordered off Amazon - link here.  I tried out the DVDs for a few days, and decided to go for it.  As you can tell from the name, it is 21 days, so I thought the perfect time to do it would be the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Here is how it went...

The DVDs.  I really enjoyed the work outs.  Some, of course, I enjoyed more than others.  The big win for me was the fact that they were all close to 30 minutes.  I was able to get a great work out in, without having to commit a ton of time to it.  I felt like I got so much of my evening back, because I wasn't spending time driving to the gym, working out for 40+ min, and then driving back.  I would do the work outs right when I got home from work, and that was that.  While the time and quality of the work out was great, there were a few downfalls.  I began to know what was coming, so if I didn't like a specific exercise, or it was a lot harder for me than others, I would start to dread it a little bit.  There is a countdown clock at the bottom of the screen, which was both good and bad.  If I looked too early into it, things seemed to just drag on and on.  I would have to remind myself that all together it was only 30 minutes (give or take) and that really, in the scheme of things, that is no time at all.  Another con was the fact that it is a straight 21 days, with only active rest days.  I was tired.  My body was tired.  I wanted a day off from working out.  Which I actually did end up taking one Friday off, so technically for me, it was the 22 Day Fix.  I didn't plan well in advance, so while I should have done the work out in the morning, I thought I would do it in the evening and ended up not feeling great so the work out did not happen. All that being said, though, I thought the DVDs were great.  They were what I wanted and what I needed.  Even with the feelings of dread and wanting a break, I would (and am) do them all again.  I think they are just great to have on hand to do even if you aren't following the total program.

The meal plan.  I found the meal plan very overwhelming.  First off, I decided against the Shakeology.  For 30 days, the cost was $130, which in my mind, was a lot.  I have only heard good things about it, though, but I just didn't want to endure the cost.  I know there are ways to get it discounted, but I just decided to not mess with it.  In the materials, you are given a formula which then steers you to the appropriate meal plan.  From there, you are allotted a specific number of each colored container.  Each one represents a type of food, like protein, carbs, fruits, veggies, etc.  Pinterest and blogs are great resources for meal plans, but unfortunately, I am one of those people that needs a bit of variety, so I couldn't just copy them directly.  The planning and prepping takes a bit of time, so you need to make sure to give yourself that when getting ready for the week.  In the end, I did well about one week with the meal plan.  The amount of food you get really is substantial, so I was full, but not overly so.  One of the major things I noticed was less bloat, which was great.  The containers help you realize what you may have been missing from your diet, such as helpings of veggies, or the amount of protein you should be getting, as well as make you aware of proper portion sizes.  Unfortunately, I slacked on the planning due to being busy and holiday parties, so the second two weeks weren't near as good as the first.  I spoke with a co-worker who did the 21 Day Fix awhile ago, and she said she felt like it took her one round to really figure out the meal plan, and when she did the program a second time, she had a lot more success and felt the meal planning portion was a ton easier.  

Overall, I think it's a great program.  Even with falling off the meal plan wagon a bit, I still think it was a successful round.  I could tell a difference in my physical appearance, both my arms and legs felt toner, and my stomach flatter and when I stuck to the meal plan, I just felt a lot better in general.  I didn't weigh myself or take measurements beforehand, but I did ask a few of the people closest to me if they could tell a difference, and they said yes, which really made me feel good.  And I could tell my clothes were fitting better, which I think is a great way to gauge how things are progressing.  

I plan on starting another round next week.  With it being the new year, it's always a fresh start, especially with health goals.

If you have any 21 Day Fix tips or tricks, please share!  I am not a coach, but enjoy talking about my personal experience, so if you have any questions feel free to leave a comment or shoot me an email!

Linking up with Jenn and Jessi.     

Weekend Recap: Christmas 2016

I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas!  Mine was filled with lots of family and good food.

Christmas started on Friday night, with my dad's side of the family.  It's hard for all of us to get together, because everyone is scattered all over the place, but there was a really great turn out.  Many of my cousins have their own families now, or are expecting, so it was fun to see the older ones running around, passing around the little ones, and see the two who are expecting.  I feel like it was full circle - this is what my aunts and uncles must have felt like with all of us running around and now it's the cousins' turn.  My aunt made fudge, of course, and we had lots of other yummy food, too.  After we left, we headed around town to see some lights.  There were some nice houses, but I am definitely partial to my parents.  I just love the classic look.  Ohhh, and we finished the Christmas puzzle!

Christmas Eve was spent in the kitchen.  We were cooking for Christmas Eve meals, as well as dishes for Christmas the next day, not to mention finishing up some sugar cookies!  One thing I wanted to do this year was to make some Christmas cookies.  My dad choose sugar cookies as one, so that was the first thing on the agenda that morning.  It took us a few batches to figure out how to roll them nicely.  We used a recipe my mom had from a fellow teacher and holy cow, were they delicious.  I can totally understand why people go through all the effort of making the dough, chilling it, rolling it out, baking, cooling and then frosting.  Seriously delicious.  My mom made a potato soup for lunch, which was delicious and very easy.  While I love my baked potato soup, this one seemed a bit lighter, which is a nice alternative.  We finally got out of the kitchen around 4:30 and started in on some Christmas movies - The Santa Clause.  Dinner was stuffed shells, a favorite of mine, with garlic cheese bread and chopped salad - yum!  We watched A Christmas Carol afterwards, but I passed out around like 8:00 and missed the majority of it.

I was up bright and early Christmas morning, so I ended up watching the movie I had missed the night before.  We opened presents, then had our usual monkey bread for breakfast.  It was SO GOOD.  My mom paired it with scrambled eggs and a little bit of bacon, which was a nice compliment.  After eating and getting ready, we hit the road to go to my grandma's.  While the crowd was smaller, it was still a nice Christmas.  We snacked while opening presents, then turned on the basketball games.  The guys watched, my grandma, mom and aunt started on dinner, and I poured over my new cookbook, Skinnytaste Fast and Slow.  I really have an obsession with cookbooks, and this one is no exception.  There are a ton of recipes I want to try out, and since I was gifted the book from Target, it includes 4 bonus recipes at the end!  If you have any recommendations on recipes you have tried from this book, please let me know!  Dinner was amazing, as were my aunt's cookies.  The evening ended up with cards, and then a foggy and rainy drive home.  

The day after Christmas was one to just relax and recharge.  Christmas on the weekend is the best, because that means you automatically get a longer weekend.

Happy Tuesday!

Linking up with Biana.

Friday Favorites: The Friday Before Christmas

It's almost Christmas!!!  So hard to believe it is almost here.  This whole year has just flown by, and the same can definitely be said about the Christmas season.

I shared my mom's Christmas decor on Wednesday.  I have to say thank you for the sweet comments - it really made her day (and mine)!  I know I am repeating myself, but there really is no place like home for the holidays.

I have been watching all the Christmas movies lately...The Holiday, Muppet's Christmas Carol, The Preacher's Wife, The Grinch...the list goes on and on.  

Along with Christmas movies, I have continued my Christmas reading.  I got through Elin Hilderbrand's Winter series.  I will be honest, I stayed up super late for me to finish the books - I just had to know what happened!  The first was definitely my favorite, followed by the third and then the second.  I really appreciated the final book in the trilogy.  I felt like all the loose ends were tied up nicely, which is exactly what you want in the last book.

One of the items on my Christmas "to do" list this year was to make some type of Christmas cookie.  I picked up the Southern Living Magazine last weekend when our Christmas got cancelled, and wouldn't you know, it had an article with 30 different cookies!  It was meant to be.  Two were picked out to try, with the first one being white chocolate peppermint blondies.  You guys, these are amazing.  I would say they are relatively easy to make, and they really turn out delicious.  Not to mention, they make a ton.  If you are a peppermint fan, you just need to make these.

I finished up the 21 Day Fix this past Monday.  I will be doing a full post on my 21 days next week.  I always find it interesting to read about how things actually went when others try out a new work out plan, so I am excited to share about my experience.

Hope you all have a great weekend, and a very merry Christmas!

Linking up with AndreaApril, and Katie.

Christmas Tag Q&A

Yesi, over at Love, Yesi, tagged me in this Christmas Q&A on instagram.  I love a good Q&A and Christmas, so "merrying" (my attempt at a bad pun) the two together was a must answer / post for me.

1. What is your favorite Christmas film?
Miracle on 34th Street - the original.  It's such a classic.  I just love, love it.  You can see my top five favorite Christmas movies here.

2. Have you ever had a white Christmas?
Yes!  Although the Midwest does not always cooperate, I have been lucky enough to experience a few white Christmases.  Unfortunately with the rain in the forecast for this year, I think it's going to be more of a muddy and wet Christmas than a white one.  

3. Where do you usually spend the holiday?
Christmas Day usually starts at my parents for presents and breakfast, then moves to my grandma's for more presents and dinner.  With the family expanding and people not all in one place, it is starting to vary a bit every year.   

4. What is your favorite Christmas Song?
This is a hard one - I love so many Christmas songs.  My two favorites may be White Christmas and Silent Night.  I do love The Christmas Song, too.  

5. Do you open any presents on Christmas Eve?
My brother, sister in law and I usually exchange our presents on Christmas Eve.  It's something we have done since we were little!

6. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? 
Yes, although I had to say them out loud as I was writing this to make sure!

7. What holiday traditions are you looking forward to most this year?
All of them?  I seriously love traditions, especially around Christmas.  You can check out my Christmas traditions here.

8. Is your Christmas tree real or fake?
Fake.  While my mom has told me we had a few real trees in my lifetime, I don't remember them at all, so I have no sentimental ties to having a real tree.  Since I only remember growing up with a fake tree, that is kind of what I think of when I think of a Christmas tree.  To me, fake is the best.  You can put it up whenever, you don't have to worry about watering it, or think about it being a fire hazard.  It's just not my thing.  I picked up a really great fake tree after Christmas some years ago and have been loving it since.

9. What is your all time favorite holiday food / sweet treat? 
Do I have to pick one?  Because they are all pretty fabulous.  Monkey bread is at the top of the list, as is broccoli, cheese and rice casserole, my grandma's dumplings, my aunt's cookies, my other aunt's fudge...the list goes on.

10. Be honest, do you like giving gifts or receiving gifts better? 
Definitely giving, although it may be both.  I think I love giving gifts so much because I like getting them so much.  So the fact that I can give someone the same feeling that I feel when getting a gift just makes me really happy, if that makes sense?  I also love shopping and coming up with the perfect gift idea.  Granted it's not always "perfect", but the thought behind it is always there for me! 

11. What would be your dream place to visit for the holiday season?
I would love to go to New York City.  I went there for the first time earlier this year and I just fell in love.  I have heard it is even better at Christmas and I would love to experience that.

12. Are you a pro present wrapper, or do you fail miserably? 
I think I am a pretty darn good wrapper.  When I was still at home, I would help my mom with all the Christmas wrapping.  She always makes them pretty with added ribbon and such, but the actual wrapping part is definitely my forte.  Not to mention, I actually really enjoy doing it, as well.

Christmas is fast approaching, but we still have a few more days to enjoy the season.  I plan to do so with lots of Christmas movies and books, cookie baking and Christmas light looking.  I can't wait!

Christmas (At My Parents') Home Tour 2016

I have mentioned quite a few times that I get my love of decorating from my mom.  There is nothing quite like home, and that is especially true at Christmas.  All her little touches around the house just make it seem even cozier than normal.    


The Living Room

It never ceases to amaze me how my mom gets all the ornaments on the tree.  Every year it seems that no more can fit, but yet she always adds to her collection and they always make it on the tree!  The tree is a mish mash of ornaments, collected over the years, filled with memories.

One thing I ask my mom every year is that she put my Baby's First Christmas ornament front and center, towards the top.  It is my very favorite ornament, and she usually sends me a picture after it is on the tree to show me that it indeed is front and center!

Mom gets super creative with her wrapping and tags every year.  these are just a few of the packages under the tree!

My parents have had this nativity scene for as long as I can remember.  I am on the hunt for my own nativity, but haven't found one quite as good as this one!  

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care...

The Dining Room

This is normally in the middle of the table, however, when I took this, we had already put the puzzle out on the other end.  Still looks so cute, though!

The Kitchen

While not the best picture, I love how my mom has little wreaths on the windows - just a cute little touch that makes doing dishes a bit better.  They are trimmed with the same juniper sprigs that are throughout all her garlands / decorations.

The Basement

The basement is my dad's domain, and it is only fitting that the tree down there is a "car" tree.  Every year we get him a new car / truck ornament from Hallmark to add to his collection.

My mom has a huge collection of snowmen, which are dispersed throughout the basement.

The wind up drum on the end table is one that we have had since I was little.  Such fun memories of winding it up during the Christmas season.  Also, the left snowman on the shelf, was made by my grandma (my dad's mom) which makes it extra special.

The toolbox has special meaning, as it was my grandpa's (again on my dad's side).  Decorating with meaningful items is one of my favorite things, and you can see I definitely get that from my mom.

My (Old) Room

Since my mom gave my brother and I the little trees that used to sit on our nightstand growing up, she added this tree to my (old) room, which you can see a little bit of in all it's pink glory.  It's so simple, yet provide such a gorgeous glow in the evening.

There you have it, a little peek into my parents' at Christmas.  As the song goes...there's no place like home for the holidays...

Linking up with Jenn and Jessi.

Show & Tell Tuesday: Holiday Traditions

Today is all about holiday traditions - something near and dear to my heart.  I LOVE having little traditions, especially around the holidays.  

For me, the Christmas season starts out with a tradition - Black Friday and then Small Business Saturday shopping with my mom!  We always shop together.  I love to knock out the majority of my Christmas shopping on this day, as well as pick up some goodies for myself, and it is a great opportunity for my mom to do her Christmas shopping for me.  We also use this as a time to bounce gift ideas for others off each other, which is so helpful.

Between the time of Thanksgiving and Christmas...and honestly even a bit before Thanksgiving, Christmas movies are a constant.  I love all the Hallmark movies that come out and I always have to get in my favorites, which I shared here.  This year, I watched The Gathering with my parents, and this will be added to my "must watch" list at Christmas.  It's an oldie, but one of my grandpa's favorite movies, which makes it more special.  I will be honest, though, I will watch and enjoy almost any Christmas movie.  In addition to movies, I love reading some holiday books.  I shared the books I have made it through so far this year here, and only have added one more to the list, The Nine Lives of Christmas by Sheila Roberts.  I believe there is a Hallmark movie based off this book, or super similar, so if you have seen that, I wouldn't really recommend the book.  However, it is a cute little story, and I would have probably enjoyed it much more if I hadn't already seen that movie.

Every year I love driving around looking at Christmas lights.  I just can't get enough of all the pretty lights and seeing how others decorate.  I already made it out once this year, and am hoping to go again before Christmas!

In the past 3-4 years, we have done Christmas puzzles.  My mom originally started this so that we would have something extra to do when home for the holidays, and it has quickly turned into a favorite.  We keep it out on the table until it's done and it's the perfect "extra" when you need a break from watching movies or visiting, or even as a little pit stop when getting a snack or refilling a drink.

On Christmas Eve, my brother and I (when together) exchange presents.  We have done this since we were young, but the best was a few years ago when Matt and Jen gave us all special presents on Christmas Eve to announce their pregnancy!

Another Christmas Eve tradition of ours is to eat Italian food.  I think this one started a few years back, too.  I love Italian food and we switch it up year to year - although yummy cheesy garlic bread is always on the menu.

Christmas morning always means monkey bread.  I LOVE monkey bread.  This is something we have been doing for as long as I can remember, and it is always so special.  It's pretty much the only time we have monkey bread, so it's always a treat.  You can find my mom's recipe here.  Over the years we have added to the spread, but the one thing that always remains is the monkey bread.  Food and holidays go hand in hand for me - you can read more about my family's traditional foods / recipes here!

Before the monkey bread, though, we open presents.  Stocking stuffers are a tradition in my family, and those are always fun to see what my parents came up with.  Usually I know my "bigger" gifts, but the stocking stuffers are usually all a surprise!  We always do presents first thing, and go by age, so I used to get to open first. :)  Same at my grandma's!  We all take turns by age until the last present is opened, so it's round and round til then.  I know everyone does it differently, but I like doing it person by person, that way it really lasts and seems more special. 

The Christmas season is always my favorite and I feel like traditions at this time of year are a must!  I can't wait to read yours and see what new ones to incorporate into mine!

Linking up with Andrea and Whitney.          

Weekend Recap: Showering Baby N!

I was hoping to share with you today all about my family Christmas, however, that did not happen.  My brother came down with the flu, so needless to say, they were not making the drive.  It sounds like a good thing, because unfortunately I think my sister in law was feeling the effects of a sick household on Sunday!  Thank goodness for FaceTime - we "showed" Jack grandma and grandpa's house all decorated for Christmas and got to see each other for a bit.  Let's hope they are all feeling 100% soon!

Between the sickness and the crazy weather, most of the weekend was spent at home, with the exception of Sunday.  We ventured up north for my cousin's baby shower.  It was really fun, because my mom and I rode up with two of my aunts and one of my cousins.  The roads were reported as a bit iffy, but luckily they were pretty much all clear and we made it there and back, no problem.

It's always a blast when we all get together, especially for such a wonderful reason as a new baby!  The shower was held at my cousin's house, which I loved being able to see.  It was so fun and cozy, I could have just hung out there all day.  I snapped some pictures of all the decorations and details - I just loved everything.  The food was delicious and the company even better.

I loved the bunny garland on the staircase, especially layered on top of the Christmas garland.  Such a sweet little bunny for baby!

My cousin has this massive chalkboard wall in her dining room - how awesome?  So perfect for the "It's a Boy" banner, along with the added "and he will be loved".  So simple, and so lovely.

The centerpiece was gorgeous, and the table was covered in kraft paper, which was perfect for the food labels to be written right on the table cloth.  

A better look at the chalkboard - so awesome!

I was obsessed with this log cake - it was like a big ho-ho, and looked almost too pretty to eat!

In addition to these mocktails, they had hot cider and coffee.  I just love the presentation.  The mocktails were so yummy, too.  Very refreshing!

Game prizes!

Favors - who doesn't love those chocolate covered pretzels?!


While the weekend didn't turn out quite as planned with celebrating Christmas early, the wonderful shower definitely helped to make up for it!

Linking up with Biana.