Thursday, November 27

LIFE | Loss + Learning

I think it's only natural to do a bit of soul searching and a whole lot of reflection when tragedy and loss unexpectedly knock the wind out of you. Especially the kind of loss that has no rhyme or reason.

Since losing my cousin Holly in October, not only have I been doing all of that soul-searching and reflection stuff I mentioned, I've also been doing a whole lot of "trusting with all my heart" since there are really no answers for any of it. As a family…we are simply at a complete loss as to how any of this could have happened or why it happened.

Instead of torturing myself with all of the "what-ifs", "whys" and waiting on answers that may never come...I've REALLY been trying to look at all that I have learned throughout this process. I've been hanging onto the beautiful things, beautiful moments and beautiful change this whole experience has brought to my life.

With Thanksgiving Day tomorrow…knowing so many of us will be gathering together with our loved ones, friends and family members...I knew now is the perfect time to share with you the ways I've been inspired through having to say goodbye to Holly…yes…I said INSPIRED.

There's a whole list of things I've taken away from all of this…


Thursday, November 20

CRAFT | Santa's Cookies Christmas Plate

We have a new pretty plate and a matching milk jar to leave out for Santa this year.
He's going to be so excited...I just might score an extra gift or two! *wink*

Stay tuned for all the details and the full tutorial on how I made this using my Cricut Explore®!!

My cookie jar is empty right now and I seriously considered baking up a homemade batch of cookies just to use for these photos. But instead, I realized how ridiculous that would be and chose to make a quick stop for Chips Ahoy on the way home from picking up my younger two from school. That made MUCH more sense to this mama who's REALLY trying hard to keep things simple! *wink*


Tuesday, November 18

STYLING | Simple Frozen Themed Dessert Table

Most simple dessert table EVER in the history of dessert tables…I'm certain of it…and I'm lovin' it!

You all probably knew I wouldn't let Ella's 6th birthday go by without SOME sort of pretty dessert display…but I was completely in the dark because I had myself convinced there wouldn't be anything of the sort. #sillyme

You see when Ella decided she would rather go to Fun Spot with a few of her friends vs. having a birthday party at the house I fully expected to just forgo the usual party styling and just revel in the simplicity of the day at the local amusement park.

BUT...then I NEEDED to create some invitations for Ella to hand out. So...I asked Ella what kind of party she WOULD have if she were having an actual birthday celebration at the house and she said "Frozen". Which I'm sure is the wish of every little girl these days

 So…I kept things simple and used the Frozen themed snowflake invitation in my shoppe, had four printed at Office Depot and then added some glitter to the edges to "fancy + fun" them all up.

Horrible pic from my phone…boo! But at least you get the idea.

Then I got to thinking…"I could have Cupcake Delights make up a dozen of their adorable Frozen themed cupcakes to help tie in the invitation theme since it literally has NOTHING to do with Fun Spot at all. So I did just that.

And then I ordered an oversized chocolate Elsa cupcake too for the chocolate cake-lovin' birthday girl - the mini tiara on top does double duty as a hair comb for after the party too! 

And I had regular cupcakes with even tinier tiaras for Ella's BFF's!
Aren't they cute!!??

So…the night before the party…
I found myself throwing together a super simple something to make the start of the day special and more "birthday-esque" for Ella and her guests before we headed out for the day.

1. I chose an old window I already had to use as the backdrop.
2. I sprayed the backside of the window panes with a can of fake snow I already had. (took me a couple of tries - it was either too much or not enough and in the end I still think it wasn't enough).
3. I used my Cricut Explore® to cut out the snowflakes I'd designed for the invitation to be used on the window. (can't believe how perfectly the machine cut them).
4. I made a "Happy Birthday Ella" banner out of white card stock using my Cricut Explore® and added some white and blue glitter. (I applied the glitter old-school-style using Elmer's glue - had to let that dry overnight and then put it together the next morning using hot glue and white yarn).
5. I used my favorite Rosanna Decor Bon Bon Cake Stand as the centerpiece.
6. I used the tiny Rosanna Decor Bon Bon Cupcake Pedestal in the middle of the large cake stand to hold the oversized cupcake.
7. I added fake snowflakes to the large cake plate for added whimsy.
8. I removed the labels from 8 mini water bottles and then wrapped a piece of plain white card stock around each one - securing with double stick tape. I tied each with either a blue or pink ribbon I had.
9. I used the blue and pink paper snowflakes I still had from the Cookie Exchange I styled a couple of years ago. I sprayed the tips with the can of white snow as well but it didn't make a significant difference. I could've skipped that step altogether.

So there you have it...
Birthday cupcakes and coordinating water bottles…that's it.

The birthday guests (3 little girls) showed up to our house at 10:30am on party day - all wearing Frozen shirts which was completely unplanned but oh so perfect!

We sang Happy Birthday to Ella.
Ate cupcakes.
Opened presents.
Then did a quick clean-up and caravanned to Fun Spot for the day!

Kyndal, Ella, Elise & Camille
Yep! That's my finger to the left in this picture - but it was too cute not to share!

Easiest birthday ever.
We had a clean house when the party started.
We had a clean house when the party was over since there really was no clean-up at all.
J said he LOVED it. (of course he did). *wink*

The regular cupcakes with tiaras?
I couldn't actually display those for the party because I ordered two - thinking there were only two of Ella's friends coming. We ended up with three little girls so I just kept the tiara cupcakes hidden in the fridge. Olaf wasn't on display either since he's not Ella's favorite.
But since he's MY favorite I requested one be made especially for me. Ha!!

And with that said…I'm back on another Whole30 as of yesterday...with my friend Katina.
I went 107 days straight…took a 2 week break and I'm back on the train.
I just feel like crap eating any other way. It's just not worth it.
And because I know you are curious...I've lost close to 30lbs doing Whole30.
Gotta keep going.


Monday, November 17

INSPIRE | Giving Thanks :: Compendium

Hi you guys!!
While I'm working on a different post that will go up tomorrow…
I thought I'd share with you this "Giving Thanks" book by Compendium.
I'll be using it for my own Thanksgiving Dinner with family next week and thought you might want to hurry and order one for yourself as well.

The thought of sitting around the table this year…
knowing there is forever an empty seat with the recent loss of my cousin…
well…I just figured this book would be a great thing to use to continue the healing process for all of us. I'm a believer that when we acknowledge our gratitude for the smallest of details…especially during the difficult, trying times...we continue to find things to be grateful for.

Hope you are inspired to start this new tradition with your family this year as well.

See more details and photos of the book on the Compendium website.
Although it's currently sold out on the Live-Inspired website...
you can still purchase Giving Thanks on Amazon.

Love you guys!!

Hand me a box of tissues please.
Between the cold I'm fighting, thinking about Holly and the emotion this video conjures up about family and family holiday traditions...I'm just not able to hold back the tears or the sniffling today! #emotional


Friday, November 14

LIFE | Happy Birthday Ella Pie

Happy 6th Birthday to this sweet girl of mine!!
I tell my Ella Scarlet ALL the time to stop growing up…she just doesn't seem to listen very well! *wink*

We call her "Ella Pie" most of the time but over the last week or two she's thinking we should change it to "Ella Angel" - because I'm always telling her I believe she is an angel sent to me (and our family) from God. I even pretend sometimes like I can feel angel wings on her back - which is kind of weird, I know…but it makes her smile…and me too. And I honestly believe with all of my heart that she really IS an angel…which I guess is kind of weird too. Ha!

This birthday girl woke up to our annual tradition of breakfast in bed.
She had Chocolate Chip Hello Kitty Waffles with homemade syrup, oranges and a bit of apple juice.

I thought I would share some of the things that define Ella at this point in her life.
This is a fun way to document the little details that are sure to get lost as the years go by.
I'll love coming back to read through this…and her too one day.

Song: Shake It Off - Taylor Swift
Color: Pink (and purple when mom's not looking)
T.V. Show: Wild Kratts
Toys: My Little Pony, Hello Kitty, Barbie, Disney Princesses
Collections: Palace Pets, Baby Dolls + Stuffed Animals
Food: Spaghetti, Hawaiian Pizza + Spaghettios - NOT happy about that last one...thanks to Dad!! 
Dessert: Chocolate Madness or Chocolate Mousse cupcake from Cupcake Delights
Restaurants: Five Guys + Cracker Barrel

Running - she did NOT get this from me
Frozen - in particular Princess Elsa
4 Wheelers
Bell Peppers + Heart of Palm + Olives
Saturdays with Dad
Doing Cartwheels
Taking Hamilton (our dog) for walks
Sidewalk Chalk
Saying Prayers
Coloring + Drawing
Temporary Tattoos
Manicures & Pedicures
Bounce Houses
Being tucked in by mom and dad
Her BFF Elise
Playing Dress Up
Putting her head out the sunroof
Wearing Skirts and Dresses
Her Swing Set
Monkey Bars
Riding her bike
Hugs and Snuggles
XOXO Before You Go
Playing "Spidery" - a game her and I made up with a friendly, pretend spider (my hand) that lives under my bed sheets and typically only comes out on Saturday mornings to play with Ella. Ha!!

Yellow Squash
Spiders or Bugs
Wearing Pants
Loud Noises
Dogs (aside from her own)
Olaf - from Frozen - aside from Ana - he's actually my favorite?
When Mom doesn't want to play "Spidery". (see above)

I keep an ongoing list of Ellaisms on my phone and just add to it whenever Ella comes up with or says something new. I thought it would be fun to share a few today - in honor of her birthday:

1. Chuck-E-Cheez-Itz (for Chuck E. Cheese) - I don't want to correct her - so I just pronounce it that way too! *wink*
2. "I love you 100 and 50 60" - when she's trying to express the tremendous amount of love she has for you
3. "I'm not going to fall into THAT joke" - instead of "fall for that joke"
4. Do you believe in me - instead of just "believe me"?
5. Chalk-O-Latte - for chocolate
6. "Dear Jesus...Thank You For a Wonderful Day…I hope we have a wonderful day tomorrow..." - this is how she starts her prayers nearly every night.


Birthday Presents
GoGo My Walkin' Pup + anything Hello Kitty, Frozen or Littlest Pet Shop

Five Guys

Still waiting on her verdict

Ella also chose to go to FunSpot this year with a few of her friends instead of actually having a party at the house. Had she had a party she would've chosen a Frozen themed birthday so I decided to get some Frozen-themed cupcakes from Cupcake Delights.

I have to say my heart sank when Ella didn't choose a home-cooked meal by mom - but hey! I DO love that she knows what she wants and is excited about it! And that means no cooking for me! *wink*

I sooo love this girl….one hundred and fifty sixty…(see Ellaisms above)
And I'm so happy to have had these photos from our recent "Field of Dreams" photo shoot to share on her birthday. These are some of my favorites of Ella from the photos I used for our Shuttefly Holiday Card this year.

For those who might be wondering:
Ella's Dress came from my favorite little 1920's Parisian Boutique in downtown Mt. Dora called The Secret Garden. I think you can actually place orders online now, if you are interested.

I never even noticed the old chippy fingernail polish that was left on a few of Ella's fingers until I was editing the photos for this post.
I could've easily gotten rid of it in Photoshop but I couldn't bring myself to do it.
Nor could I cover up the scar over her left eye.
That just wouldn't be "keeping things real"…now would it?! Ha!!


Thursday, November 13

HOLIDAYS | Gold Foil Holiday Cards :: Shutterfly

I've let the past two years go by without sending out Christmas Cards…
and that makes me really sad.

This girl used to be the "queen of holiday cards" because I would design them myself and come up with really cute themes every year. Everyone looked forward to them and anticipated what I would come up with next. got busier and I just got burnt out on coming up with something new and frankly didn't have time to breathe let alone sit down and design a card.

Besides that, my life circumstances changed in the middle of all of that and…well…so…
it just didn't feel the same anymore.

But THIS year…thanks to my friends at Shutterfly
and their Perfectly Personal™ Holiday Cards
I got some GORGEOUS Gold Foil printed cards to send out this year!!
Before the hustle and bustle of the Holiday Season - which is almost unheard of for this girl. *blushing*

They have a HUGE selection of Holiday Cards.
I chose the Happiest Holidays Christmas Card - a beautiful but simple flat card with rounded corners. I LOVE how pretty the gold foil pops off of the photo.

Shutterfly made the process of creating Holiday cards SO simple.
I picked my favorite photos from our recent Field of Dreams photo shoot and then chose cards that would work with the layout of the photos.

For this card, I had the option of choosing a photo for the front and then I was able to include a smaller square photo on the back to include with the personal note you can have printed for your family and friends.

For the back of our cards I came up with
"Wishing you the Happiest of Holidays and a New Year filled with lots of love and laughter."

And you can choose from a wide range of fonts to match your style - love that!

I didn't even realize what I wrote went so perfectly with the "Happiest Holidays" on the front of the card until I actually received them in print from Shutterfly. I love when that happens!!

But wait…it gets better...
Coordinating envelope stickers and personalized postage too!!

I went with the Enchanted Frame Sticker and the Gallery Photo Personalized Postage Stamp and love them both. I chose to use the same photo for both but you could totally use a different image for the card, postage, stickers and they even have Address Labels too!! I personally LOVE this Snow and Sparkles Address Label.

Now…I do have to confess.
I had several "favorite" photos and couldn't decide between the three…so…
I ended up ordering these Bright Bokeh Christmas Cards too.
Which is awesome because there are no "limited quantities" when ordering from Shutterfly so I just divided up my order so I could have some of all three of my favorites.

PLUS…my girls were happy too because they had their personal favorites!

I have to say - the whole process was super simple and the cards came really quick!
The quality is awesome and I don't foresee me going back to custom designing my own cards any time soon. And I'm okay with that.

I can't believe all I have left to do is address the envelopes and get them to the post office.
I prefer to hand-write my addresses but would you believe Shutterfly offers the service of addressing the envelopes for you?! Wow!!

I know you'll be shocked when I tell you this…
While I was in the middle of ordering my Christmas Cards, I went ahead and ordered the invitation for the Annual Cookie Baking I'll be hosting at my house again this year. Yeah. I know. I'm completely ahead of things this year.  I'll be sharing those with you soon - they are SO completely adorable.


I think one of the most important things J has taught me is this:
"Don't start programs you can't maintain."
That's been a hard pill for this mama to swallow because I want to DO and BE everything to everyone.
Letting go of designing custom Christmas/Holiday cards was NOT easy for me.
after all...I'd been doing it for 12+ years previously.
I could NOT maintain it any longer - at least not if I wanted to stay sane.
I have to say what a relief it was to just sit down at the computer this year and not have to design anything or come up with something cutesy or clever - I just picked out a design I liked, uploaded my photos and pushed send.
Thanks Shutterfly!
And thank you J…you are a wise man.
You don't even know how many ideas I've walked away from after realizing it wouldn't be something I would want or could possibly maintain on a long-term basis.
Lucky me.
Lucky you. *wink*


Wednesday, November 12

FUN | Fall Kitchen Art Prints :: The Cake Blog

"Be whisked away by your dreams and Pumpkin Spice"…

When I was approached a couple of months ago about a fun idea from Carrie Sellman, founder of The Cake Blog and a long-time blogging friend, I was all ears!!

It's been such an exciting time watching The Cake Blog (TCB) grow by leaps and bounds since first meeting Carrie in real life at a local blogger meet up a few years back. I LOVE Carrie's cakes and posts and style. I'll never forget the Little Lamb 1st birthday party she styled for her daughter, Sadie.

Needless to say I was super flattered to know the fun idea she had was to have me design monthly kitchen art prints that her readers could download and print for FREE!!

She specifically requested the art prints be "…something girly, sweet and sugar coated to make their kitchen (and their day) bright and beautiful."

Do you like what I came up with for my first post?
I was so torn between this one and another one that had to do with apples and aprons but in the end, Pumpkin Spice won out. (it usually always does for me anyway). *wink*

I created three different versions to accommodate a variety of design preferences.

Color + Black and White + Chalkboard

Head on over to The Cake Blog for the link to DOWNLOAD YOUR FAVORITE!!
Oh and don't forget you can Print + Frame + Gift these for all of the people in your life that love to bake!

If the art print has left you craving Pumpkin Spice you might want to try these recipes:
Deconstructed Mini No-Bake Pumpkin Cheesecakes
Pumpkin Oatmeal Bites

Carrie's inquiry couldn't have come at a better time…and she didn't even know it.
I think God totally works like that. You put things out in the universe - whether it be a prayer or thought or even a list of dreams, plans, or goals and it comes to you. I really believe that.

See, I've been having so much fun creating the daily quotes on Instagram over the course of the last year and I've got an entire list of "kitchen-friendly" ones I haven't had time to share. I've just kept adding to the list as I think of things but haven't known how to share them all. This is totally the motivation I needed to actually put them on paper!! Yay!

Not only that, with my recent admission of needing to refocus and move back towards authenticity here on the blog, being able to create these art prints for The Cake Blog allows me to really do something I love - which is to inspire and uplift through hand-lettering. That makes me happy!

I still REALLY love the apple art print I mentioned that didn't make the cut this month.
I may just have to load that one into the shoppe - it's a keeper for sure!!





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