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INSPIRE | Awkward Inspiration

Wednesday, October 29

I took a break from Instagram - as far as posting the daily inspirational thoughts I share there.
I didn't feel very inspired considering the loss we are experiencing.
Today, however, I realized that I NEED to push myself to continue to find the good.
In fact, just as I responded to someone on Instagram: "It's much easier to be happy and cheerful when all is right in the world. It's a test of character and strength to continue putting out light when things seem so dark. I NEED to keep up with my daily thoughts…they will certainly help in the healing process of all of this."

And that is where I'm at today…and why I posted this here.

I tried posting a normal post yesterday…but it just felt awkward focusing on Halloween when that's not my focus at all right now.
One minute I'm okay - the next I'm in tears.
It's a roller coaster of emotions to say the least. I cannot imagine what my aunt and uncle are going through. I cannot imagine losing one of my children…and certainly not in such a horrific way.
Today I'm sorting through photos of Holly in preparation of a slideshow I have to create for the funeral on Friday…and it's so difficult.

The emails, Instagrams, Facebook comments and people reaching out has been so comforting. I so very much appreciate the prayers and thoughts and condolences expressed by so many of you. It means the world to me. Thank you. I  know my family would thank you too if they could.

STYLING | Halloween Poem Poster

Tuesday, October 28

If you aren't following my Instagram feed then you probably missed seeing how things turned out with how I displayed the Halloween Poem poster I designed.

I definitely wanted to share it here because I'm completely in love with how it turned out.
I ended up altering the size of the poem to be a 32x40 - which is the exact size of the large affordable foam board pieces at Hobby Lobby. I had the Halloween Poem printed at my local Office Depot (for under $5) and used double-stick tape around the edges of the poster to attach it to the piece of foam board. If you use the Hobby Lobby app you can get the foam board for 40% off making it around $3.50 + then with the printing you've only spent about $8.50 for some AWESOME decor impact.  I, myself, think it's pretty awesome anyway. *wink*

I kept the decor around the poster really simple by using a couple of blue mason jars to house some orange floral berry branches I had in the attic. I just stuck them right in and left them. Then I added a couple of pumpkins and called it done. I like the clean look keeping the focus on the poster but having the splash of Fall colors in the florals to accentuate it.

The foam board art is great because it's lightweight and can easily be displayed on a mantle or piece of furniture as a backdrop and it can be moved around easily too. I change my mind A LOT and love that I I don't leave behind holes in my walls from when I decide to change things up on a whim.

You can get the 32x40 Halloween Poem poster RIGHT HERE if you love it too.
You get both background styles: Chalkboard Background AND White Background with black text.

Hope you love how it turned out!!

I have had this blog post as a "draft" for nearly three weeks while trying to get the files to load properly on Etsy. I've given up and will just email the files directly to anyone who purchases them! It's almost Halloween for crying out loud!! *wink*

LIFE | It isn't always pretty

Monday, October 27

This is my beautiful cousin, Holly, with her adorable daughter, Maddie.
I took these two photos about 5 years ago at a Thanksgiving Dinner we were having at my aunt and uncle's house.

Last week…on Thursday evening, October 23rd…
Holly's life was taken by someone at gunpoint, while she was alone in her car.

As you might imagine...this is the hardest post I've ever had to write.
This is the most tragic, shocking thing our family has ever experienced.

This blog is a "safe place" filled with ongoing inspiration to celebrate the beautiful things in life.
This post today is anything BUT beautiful.
Which is why I really battled back and forth on whether or not to even share this here.
It's so private and so devastating and so ugly.
But how could I not share it?
This is "Keeping It Real" in the absolute truest sense possible.

The reality isn't always pretty.
There is pain.
There is hurt.
There is loss.
There is suffering.
And there are unspeakable acts of violence committed every. single. day. in this world.

This harsh reality of life is unfortunately my reality right now.
My heart is so heavy.
My family and I are experiencing a tragedy.
A tragedy I only thought happened to other people…
to other families…and certainly only in the news.
(So say all of the many others who have experienced the shock of something so devastating).

Please keep our family in your prayers…if you are the praying type.
Especially lift up little Maddie…who now has to grow up without her mommy.

And pray for Holly's mom and dad…my aunt and uncle.
Pray for Holly's sister Chrystal…and her brother Charlie.
Pray for all of us.
And pray that the person responsible will be found and held accountable.

While we are grieving and working through all of the thick pain and emotion of this…
I'm trying to focus on Holly's smile…and how it could light up a room.

I came up with this today…and I'm dedicating it to Holly!

We're all going to eventually find our smiles again Holly!
Right now we're just going to have to hang onto yours!
Love and miss you!
Give Grandma and Grandpa a big hug for me!!

With the funeral later this week…
helping with details of a baby shower for another family member…
finalizing Save-the-Dates for an upcoming wedding of a friend's daughter...
and finishing up 80th birthday party invitations for another friend...
you must know my emotions are ALL over the place.

CRAFT | Mini Monster Milk Jars + Cricut Explore®

Thursday, October 23

DISCLOSURE: This project is being considered for a prize from Cricut.

Are these not the cutest Mini Monster Milkshakes you've ever seen?
I'm in love with them!! The adorable bottles from The TomKat Studio are the perfect backdrop for creating these Mini Monster Milk Jars using your Cricut Explore® - or a pair of scissorsif you have the patience for the intricacies of the "Frankenstein" faces. *wink*

Yep! You guessed it. It's time for another Cricut Design Space Star Challenge.
My team and I chose a "Black and White" theme for our projects to go along with the pre-determined Cricut topic: Holiday Home Decor + Gift Ideas.

I thought these mini milk jars were perfect to share as they not only add some fun decor to your Halloween celebrations…but they'd make super cute favor jars filled with colored Sixlets® as well!! (these jars come with lids too - yes…yes they do!! - 4th picture from the bottom of the post).

What's surprising is that although all of these faces are unique…they were created from only two simple facial designs…a ghost face and a frankenstein face. I just mixed up the different elements (eyes, mouths) and even changed the size on a couple to create some real "monsterpieces". Ha! (I'm such a dork).

I think the Frankies are my faves!!

The bottles are filled with milkshakes…vanilla for the Ghosts and mint chocolate chip for the "Frankies". A little ice cream + splash of milk…blend it up and pour it in. You could also do healthy green smoothies for the Frankies too!!  And of course…don't forget to add a cute party straw. (cut a normal straw in two).

Before I get started on the "How-To" for creating the monster faces…please know that you can make them using black vinyl OR white card stock. I made mine using black vinyl…BUT I wanted to experiment with the brand-new "Print the Cut" feature on the Cricut Explore® - which allows you to print an image onto your home printer first and then feed it into your Cricut Explore® for cutting! Yeah. Pretty freaking amazing.

So…the images you see here were cut from black vinyl but you could totally do it with card stock too. The card stock isn't moisture-resistant like the vinyl but would work just fine if the jars were filled with candies!

So…enough with the ghoulishness…let's get on with the how-to for making these fun Halloween treats.

1 set of printable Mini Monster Milk Jar Bottle Faces - Pen N' Paper Flowers
1 set of 12 Mini Glass Jars - The TomKat Studio
1 Cricut Explore® Cutting Machine
12x12 Standard Cutting Mat
White Card Stock or Black Cricut® Vinyl

Upload saved image to Cricut Design Space

Use the "Select & Delete" option to erase the white background of the image.
Just click anywhere on the white background and it will disappear

Use the "Erase" tool to erase the black text on the image - push "Continue" when done.
Leave behind only the portions you want the machine to cut.

I figured out later I could've probably used the "Crop" feature (upper right) to select the images I wanted to cut instead of the "Erase" feature but hey…I'm still learning the ins and outs of the machine! *wink*

Save the image after naming it and adding tags in the boxes over to the right.

I made sure mine was about 8" wide (see below)

In the layers box, click on the tiny printer icon. 
This opens the pop-out window to the left showing the "print" feature.
***Skip this step if you are cutting from black vinyl and will not be printing***
Vinyl users can just push the "Go" button and load black vinyl into machine for cutting.

After you've printed your image using your personal printer, place your paper on your Cricut® Cutting Mat and follow the onscreen directions to load and cut your image. I used white card stock.

See those 3 L-shaped marks on the paper I printed? Those are a really important part of the Cricut Explore® "Print then Cut" feature. They are what the machine reads to ensure proper alignment before the cutting process begins. It's pretty cool…and amazing! See more photos below.

If you are using the new Print & Cut feature for the first time you will have to calibrate your Cricut Explore® machine first - the software walks you through the steps to do that. 
If you have ANY issues at all you can call Customer Support at 877-7CRICUT 

See that little beam of light shining onto the paper from underneath the cutting carriage? 
That's the machine reading the crop marks…prepping for cutting. It starts with the crop mark on the top left, moves over to the top right crop mark and scrolls down to the bottom left one. 
It's so cool to watch it in action!!

And now it's cutting…look at how precise the cuts are? 
Maybe you can't even tell what parts have already been cut because the cutting detail is amazing?

Here it is…all finished cutting. 
I peeled up the white card stock and left the black images stuck to the mat.

Mix and match the assortment of eyes and mouths to create a variety of faces.
Just by angling/tilting them a little differently makes a big difference in their appearances too!

For those of you who don't have a Cricut Explore® you can still print the FREE printable Mini Monster Milk Jar Bottle Faces onto a piece of card stock and then use a pair of handy scissors to cut them out. Use your favorite adhesive to stick them on.

Hope you love the project, friends!!
I'll be sharing the rest of the fun, creative things Team 14 came up with….soon!!

I think I kept these in the freezer for a week before I was able to actually photograph them!
You'd never even know!! Ha!!

STYLING | Favorite Fall Decor

Wednesday, October 22

I just ADORE this little tray of pretty Fall things I've got sitting on my kitchen island right now. It's really pretty simple - which makes it perfect.

Remember when I shared the pitcher and flowers just after I purchased them?
Well that adorable handmade fabric pumpkin is something that just arrived this week…and I thought it was perfect to add to the tray!  I was so excited to get it from my friend Tammy at Cloth and Patina. Remember Tammy? She's the one that supplied me with the pretty things for the "Unlock the Spirit of the Holiday Season" dessert table I did a few years ago. I adore her stuff and recently found her on Instagram! Yay! You can find Cloth and Patina on Facebook too - she's got a very loyal following of fans and shares the most beautiful creamy white home interiors and home decor photos - other people's photos as well as her own!

Hope this inspires you to get decorating for Fall…just in case you haven't started!

List of Sources
Dried Star Flowers - Hobby Lobby
White Pitcher - HomeGoods
Wooden Tray - JoAnn's (from a couple years ago)
Handcrafted Fabric Pumpkin - Cloth and Patina 
Pinecones - find these sold in bags at your local craft store…OR if you are lucky enough to have smaller ones like this around your home go out and collect some with your littles. (just make sure there aren't any bugs in them - *wink*)

I've been going from one project deadline to the next - things seem like a whirlwind around here.
I'm happy to say the "Friendsgiving" I've been dreaming about is officially on the calendar! Yay!
Not sure the fire pit aspect will actually happen…like I'm pretty sure it WON'T happen at all. Boo!

Oh!! And after 5 years of blogging I've finally got an official "ABOUT" page coming soon - stay tuned I'm pretty sure you'll be surprised by some of the things you may have never known… (oh the suspense…ha)!

BEHIND THE SCENES | Field of Dreams

Monday, October 20

Clara, Ella and Emalyn - October 2014

I shot some pretty photos of my girls over the weekend and thought I'd share a peek with you!!

Isn't this field just AWESOME!?  It's the same field I used to shoot Ella's Wildflowers photos and was the perfect spot once again for the sort of dreamy photos I was hoping for. I think I'm going to have to give it an official nickname:  Field of Dreams (or field of dreamy photos at least)

I love the candidness of this particular photo because as a mom…I can see right through the image and see the personalities of each of these VERY different girls.

CLARA has most likely just tripped over something and is laughing at her clumsiness and will probably not even like this photo because her dress was blowing which will make her feel she looks like she's with child. (which she is not…just to be clear). *wink*

ELLA is staring off at the next patch of flowers she can't wait to pick and is happiest surrounded by her sisters...and holding Ema's hand.

EMA is irritated and hates having her photo taken but is trying to make the most of it. She always lightens up though when Clara laughs so I managed to capture a little smirk she probably didn't even know I got.

I love candids vs. posed photographs when it comes to capturing people.
They tell so much about a subject…when the subject doesn't even realize the camera is rolling.

Which leads me to something I probably should've shared years ago...
I actually had a person tell me one time that they don't like how I take photos of people facing away from the camera or where the subject's face is a little obscured. I was a little caught off guard and responded by saying, "Well that's just my photography style…those are the types of photos I prefer." The person's response? "Well you need to change your photography style."

What the what?
Who says stuff like that?
The person was directly attacking my creativity…and ME as a person.
I could NOT believe it.

I think I was in shock and it was almost 5 years ago and it still gets under my skin. But bottom line is this…

I'm not taking photos for THAT person. I'm taking photos for ME…for my home…for MY family, documenting MY life the way I see it and the way I hope to remember it. Were my feelings hurt? Absolutely. Did I change my photography style? A big freaking "Heck No!" But that exuberant "Heck No!" didn't come immediately…to be honest. I second-guessed myself for awhile and sort of got lost in the disapproval of someone that really had no credibility on the subject to begin with.

There WILL be people out there who will find pleasure in attacking you…just because.
Turn away from it. Consider the source. And do everything you can to let it go.

I'm telling you…if someone has ever offended YOU for the way you dress, fix your hair, draw, create, design, write, cook, bake, blog, paint, interpret, decorate, or photograph your subjects...PLEASE don't succumb to the criticism. Differences make the world go around and I prefer to celebrate my unique perspective on things, whatever it is, as opposed to becoming something someone else would have me be or someone I think other people want me to be. I have DONE it. I am 100% guilty of falling into that trap; Probably because I'm a pleaser and want/need the approval of others. (like so many of us do). But I'm telling you…DO NOT give into it. It's NOT a place you want to be. You won't be happy there…I promise you. I know all too well.

Being something other than who you are is NOT authentic. I hope you will celebrate your uniqueness and always follow your heart and your gut…no matter the whispers or occasionally the loud, rude shouts by the crowd.

I will be sharing more photos soon…
so if you happen to agree with the person mentioned above…
and you don't prefer candid photographs either…
that's completely okay with me.
I respect your opinion.
You're allowed to dislike my photography style.
Just be sure to cover your eyes when you visit my blog…
and please don't request that I change it for you.  *wink*

For those who are wondering:
Clara's Dress - American Eagle
Ella's Dress - The Secret Garden
Ema's Floral Tank - Kohl's & Hollister

Hope you've had a great Monday!
Mine has been…weird.
Sort of productive but not nearly as productive as I would've liked. (story of my life)

I'm getting better and better at letting go of the little things…especially the things I can't control.
I will always be a work in progress though.

FREE | Monthly Blog Hop Printables :: Give Thanks

Tuesday, October 14

Soooo excited to share with you some really cute FREE "Give Thanks" printables as part of of the FUN monthly round-up I've been doing with some fabulous bloggers. We started the "FREE Monthly printables" in January and I have to say I think the collection this month is my favorite so far because our color schemes coordinate beautifully this month and makes for a really pretty collage! Don't you think? It's all about presentation for me anyway…so of course I'm going to love the collage!! 

The printables are just as cute and there's a wide range of things including candy bar wraps, Thanksgiving table conversation starters, art prints and more!! You're going to love them all!!

Be sure to "blog hop" by using the provided links above each image below to find your way to each of the free printables!! If you download a printable I'd love for you to "Give Thanks" and leave some love (a comment) for these fabulous ladies who take their time to create fun things to help make your holidays more fun and fabulous!

by Kori Clark
A beautiful way to have Thanksgiving dinner guests record what they are grateful for

by Nest of Posies
What a cute way to commence your Thanksgiving Feast

by Catch My Party
Perfect for all of your holiday baking and gift giving

by Living Locurto
These would be great as part of your place settings, as teacher gifts or even classroom treats

by No Biggie
Adorable little cards, place settings, or gift tags

by Skip to My Lou
A fun way to get the conversation started at your Thanksgiving dinner

by Hostess with the Mostess HWTM
Everything you need to set a mod Thanksgiving dinner table

by Pen N' Paper Flowers
A cute, gentle reminder to look for the good and have an attitude of gratitude

Don't you LOVE the fun variety of things we came up with this month? I love it all!!

Don't forget about the FREE Halloween printables we shared in September!!

If you've missed the FREE PRINTABLES from previous months you can find the posts below
January - Valentine's
February - St. Patty's Day
March - Spring
April - Mother's Day
May - Patriotic
June - Happy Birthday
July - Summer
August - Back-to-School
September - Halloween

Stay tuned for free Holiday and New Year's printables as we finish out the year…

Much better day. No car troubles…kind of.
Apparently the work they did yesterday to fix everything 100% is causing an annoying temporary "jackhammer-like" vibration. J says it'll go away in a couple of days…but of course that's easy for him to say when he's not the one driving around town. Ha!! Think I'll be staying close to home for the next couple of days anyway. *wink*

Here's my Instagram post from earlier today…and that's my outlook on today!!

Whether yesterday was fabulous or a complete brings a new opportunity to DO better...BE better...or BUILD ON the "awesome" you've already started. #keepgoing #keepbelieving #keepfabulous

HALLOWEEN | Fun Printables + Cute Halloween Party Ideas

Monday, October 13

Cute Halloween ideas and FREE printables in the haunted house!
I got together with some of my very favorite Party Blogger friends and I think we came up with some pretty FUN things you can put together easily for that Halloween Party you've got coming up - or even some fun things to use for classroom party favors. I think I'll be using the Trick or Treat Boxes by Bird's Party (shown above) for Ella's classroom friends. *wink*

I'll stop talking and let you start scrolling...

by Giggles Galore
Perfect for party favors, teacher gifts or even for Phantom Pumpkin Treats

by Catch My Party
So cute for school lunches too!!

by Kori Clark
And those white pumpkin cupcakes - too cute!!

by The Cake Blog
Hello most adorable Halloween cake ever!!!

by The Celebration Shoppe
Mix + Match how you please!!

by Celebrations At Home
The kids could even have fun helping to make these!!!

by Pen N' Paper Flowers
Can't get any easier than hotdogs and french fries…am I right?

I just love the fun, easy ideas we came up with to share with you!
Hope you'll be inspired to try one (or all of them out)!!

Looking for MORE Halloween Inspiration?
Check out my "Spooky" board on Pinterest!!

Monday was trying to kick my butt again for the 2nd week in a row.
But I'm NOT giving in. See the details in my Instagram feed.
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