February Goals

Friday, January 31, 2014

My oh my! I'm sure ready for February to be here. I want to wear a lot of pink and not apologize. I can't wait to celebrate my 23rd birthday. I am all about an excuse to give some treats to my valentine. And if we're honest... January, you did me wrong. That's dramatic, but I really am ready for a fresh new month.

January Goals:
Finish working through Lara Casey's Goal Setting series Shared my vision, here.
Tweak our budget and get everything in order for our finances in 2014 We cut $100 out of our monthly budget! Saving an additional  $1,200 this year by small changes is something to get EXCITED about! 
Work on decorating our dining room 
Welcome a regular guest blogger that I'm really excited about!
Complete 4+ blog redesigns for clients (YAY!)
Start our KITCHEN RENOVATION!!! It will be done next week! YIPPEE!
Start writing 52 handwritten letters (a goal from my 101 in 1001 list) by sending four this month
Host a baby shower in our home (also on the list!)

Feburary Goals:
Host friends for the Super Bowl
Celebrate turning twenty three!
Have a sweet Valentines Day with the hubby, wearing lots of pink, of course!
Order Blog business cards for Hope Spoken in March (and to cross off 101 in 1001!)
Write 8 handwritten letters (womp womp on this from last month)
Continue our Valentines tradition (more on that soon!)
Welcome a regular guest blogger
Make or buy decorative pillows for our bed
Complete and order our 2013 photo book

What about y'all? How was the start of the year? What's planned for 2014? :) 

Wicky Wicky Remix (on our Kitchen Reno)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Hi there!

I'm not sure why I felt like that greeting was appropriate for this blog post.. but it just was. A few weeks ago I shared our plans for a kitchen renovation. I was excited about white subway tile with grey grout, and white quartz with grey veins.

And then real life happened. The quartz countertops were going to be twice the cost of choosing granite. So, as much as I love white, I love saving money more. It was back to the drawing board. I personally don't love the look of really organic looking granite. Lots of colors and movement are just not really me. Especially with our already white countertops, I wasn't loving it. I had a few ideas in my head before going to the granite yard yesterday to choose. This was so hard because Ben was at work but praise God he could answer his phone a few times. He said he trusted me 100% with design and budget decisions... but that was a lot of pressure. I called him twice. Whoopsies!

I was in this HUGE warehouse with rows and rows and rows of options. Also it was freezing in there. And the way they wanted me to go about this is to choose what I like and then they would go get me prices on things. So that kind of threw me off because I felt like I would be able to better determine what I liked/would choose based on the price. I knew going in that I was going for a solid black look. These new inspiration photos lead me to that.

Photo from the Magnolia Mom, whom I met this fall! Read about it here.

And this is the kitchen from a Nancy Myers movie. Love. Obviously.

These images made me confident that I could make black work in my kitchen. I actually got excited about it more than the original white. I truly believe this will be a better design decision long term.

After comparing several different blacks and prices, I discovered that the cheaper option I could live with was only $4 a square foot less than my absolute perfect dream granite. So we decided to go for it and get the biggie. I felt weird about choosing the more expensive option.. but in the end the money difference wasn't that much.. so we went for it! I was so giddy about it.

Then this happened:

They pulled out my granite sheets so I could inspect them. Meanwhile it's freezing. But this was a fun thing to watch.

And here's a really goofy photo of me displaying our granite. Lovely. Pretend I'm normal, please. :)

So what do y'all think? Is anyone cheering for me choosing something other than white? Especially when our bedroom is all white and creme?


Monday, January 27, 2014

On December 29, 2012, I got my first ever (and only ever) husband. 
I also got my first sister. 

I'm thankful for the two more brothers I gained as well, but there was something special about getting a sister. Kayce is Ben's older brother Sam's wife. I will never forget on the night that Ben and I got engaged, she posted a photo to Facebook saying that she was getting a sister! I was obviously overwhelmed and surprised and just straight up crazy about all the other things that were going on, and that was the first time I had thought about it. It was just really fun for her to remind me. :) 

Since then, I feel like every time I spend with Kayce I walk away wanting to take action in some way. I become inspired to comb through scripture in different ways than before, to treat others in far better ways than would ever even pop into my nog, to create practical and beautiful things...  she has answered approximately 1,000 of my questions and decorated several boards of chalk art for our home. There's just something that makes my heart feel full about having a sister. I love having someone to vent to and laugh with and be girly with in a family with three brothers. We are so blessed by the closeness of our siblings on Ben's side of the family (all five of us!) and I think approximately six months there is a thankful prayer speech by Ben's dad being overwhelmed with joy at how close we are and that Kayce and I are really genuinely friends. Every time we eat it up and it reminds me to be thankful for that. 

Any who, the real purpose of this post is to announce that I'M GOING TO BE AN AUNTIE!!! YIPPEEEEE! 

Kayce made this chalk art to announce the pregnancy on social media this weekend. Isn't it amazing? I think it turned out really beautifully. I knew this would happen, but after sharing the photo myself quite a few people got confused and thought that we were the ones who would be welcoming a little one. I specifically included the photo farther down in the post to help you avoid that little shock process. Hoping it worked! :)

We are seriously SO thrilled to welcome the first baby into our extended family... AHHH YAY! The night that they told us (right before Thanksgiving) everyone immediately started crying and screaming. It's a huge deal for us and we are so excited to hold this precious babe! Although I think I may have to pry the child from my mother in law's arms anytime I want to! Haha! There is already SO much excitement and joy! It's really fun to think about how this child will grow up with ours (not on the way for a long time!) and hopefully be sweet friends.

This is a photo I posted a while back when we went maternity shopping for Kayce. So much fun!

It was funny how everything happened, because we had been trying to suggest that Sam and Kayce join us for our Europe trip this summer. Sam (a lover of Europe) acted weird and non interested and Kayce would pretend not to hear us talk about it and make me wonder if they hated us and thought we were weird aliens. Come to find out, they were holding this secret news! We're returning from Paris on June 24th and the due date is July 14th, so pray with us that we'll be here for the birth. I know that sounds silly but you never know what could happen with babies! I actually don't know anything about it so maybe she'll be super late. Who knows? All I know is that we'll start summer with our trip, and then greet our little niece or nephew for the first time. AHHHHH! Notice how excited I am? YAY!

I'm also going to be planning a baby shower to celebrate this occasion. My Pinterest inspiration board can be found here. Because the gender is going to be a secret until the birth, the shower will include all neutrals (whispering to my heart, basically!) and I have several thoughts already in the making. I've basically been dreaming of planning Kayce a beautifully styled shower for some time. I think it will really challenge me creatively, and I want Kayce and Baby to feel loved and celebrated. YAY!

Too many YAYS in one post, I know.

Does anyone with nieces and nephews have any sweet stories or tips to share? :) (I'm looking at you, Jamie!)

Ps. In case you missed my random weekend post about being featured on the Southern Weddings blog, check that out here.

Southern Weddings Web Feature

Sunday, January 26, 2014

I'm still pinching myself about having my humble little words published in Southern Weddings. What a blessing! Today, these sweet ladies gave a look into the print feature on their blog!

I'm truly honored to be featured on such a beautiful and sincere publication. Thank you again, Southern Weddings! The web feature can be found here.

Thoughts for My Daughters

Friday, January 24, 2014

As much as I love blogging for so many different reasons, a huge joy in it is that one day our children will be able to read all about what we were like, how we lived our lives, and things we wanted them to know.

This post is one of those things that is written with my future daughter and nieces in mind.

As I shared here, I've been on a journey to figuring out what healthy looks like for me. Growing up, I never really understood or was taught about healthy foods and being active in a way that was fun and enjoyable for me. I struggled with this, and only now, at almost 23 years old, do I see the importance and value of putting my heart and soul into my health. But I was sitting in our living room today and I caught a glimpse of this photo across the room.

I don't know why.. but this image really made me joyful. It's a photo of me and one of my very best friends who I care so much for. It's a photo of a day we had anticipated for awhile. I remember carefully picking out the details of my outfit. (That's  probably the last time I've worn bracelets! haha!) It's not the most amazing photo in the world of me, but I feel like I look like myself. I look really happy.

It really caused me to think about how in all of this.. in lifting weights during commercial breaks of the Bachelor, in eating tons of grilled chicken and veggies, in trying new things in front of intimidating people at the gym... the goal is to look like a healthy version of myself. Never anyone else.

Not to sound like a million other articles, but being constantly surrounded by photos allows comparison to come easy, and a lot of times the goal turns into "dressing like __________" , "wearing my hair like _________" or whatever. But I'm never going to look like anyone else other than myself. I'm never going to be tan, or blonde, or short, or a lot of other things. And that's just fine.

There's nothing wrong with a desire to be healthy (in fact, it's SO good! I'm so excited about it!) and I cannot wait to teach my future unborn babies of how much value is in them, and how important it is for them to know that, to walk in confidence daily, and to take care of the bodies that the Lord has gifted them. But I never, ever want it to turn into a quest to become a different person.

A friend I met on a mission trip a few years ago surprised a few of the girls by sharing that she had lost 100 pounds in the past year. It's funny how we were meeting her for the first time and had no idea. Her whole motivation is that she felt like she needed to make her body healthy in order to serve the Lord better. In order to go places and do things and walk out her faith. Although I haven't talked to that friend since our trip in 2011, I think about her often. Her heart was right and I loved it.

Part of my 2014 vision is to be a STRONG woman of God. I think a lot about our life in ten years, and I prayerfully envision us with several children, in a maintained home, serving my husband and children and community faithfully. I feel like I'm always holding one child and holding another's hand and checking on dinner. I want to be STRONG and active and play outside with our babies and to chase them and for us to do things as a family that allow for enjoyment of creation.

And in all of that, I want to still be the me in the photo wearing the orange top even though it was really bright and scared me a little bit.

I want my daughters to grow up being the healthy, confident young ladies because they are loved and created in the image of a holy God, created to run around and enjoy as opposed to sinking and hiding.

I want them to know that years before they were born their mom tried to change old habits in order to prepare her body to love them well. Maybe I'm totally ridiculous. But that just seems really good to me.

On the Creek

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The summer after Ben and I were seniors in high school, we spent a ton of time four wheelering around the land that we know as "the creek"... we had just admitted to mutual feelings for each other and basically riding on the back of his four wheeler was an excuse for a big old snuggle while all of our other close friends were around. (Sorry, guys!) I have so many sweet memories of him teaching me how to drive, how to shift gears and when to do so. I remember racing next to our friends and how tangled my long hair got every single time. It was always a sweet time and it was a great way for me to see how stinking wild my future husband is. He speeds around searching and chasing animals and it's always been fun to see that, especially when I'm hanging on the back of the four wheeler feeling like I'm in a combination of a high speed chase and an African safari.

But then, we went to college. The four wheelers broke down. Life happened. We genuinely hadn't sped through the trees of the creek since our junior year of college, and even then it had been awhile.

On Monday, while Ben had the day off, we headed out to the creek for a ride. It was such a blast. The familiar feelings from when we first liked each other came back and it was just plain great to enjoy being OUTSIDE! It was a beautiful day and everything about the experience was so enjoyable! It was great to unplug from everything going on around us and just be out in the middle of nature. It really was a sweet blessing.

What have you done recently to get outside? Or even to trigger fun memories? Happy Wednesday!

Dreaming of Europe

Monday, January 20, 2014

Hey folks! Long time no talk! :(

Last Monday, I really thought I had finally kicked the bug I picked up on the first of the year.. and was so excited and motivated to take 2014 by storm! I was so excited and motivated that I made the foolish decision to do a fruit fast too soon after being sick. The combination of that stress on my body, plus my immune system being weakened from a steroid shot the week before... well, a fever and chills and a ton of yucky feelings late Monday night sent me back to the doctor and in bed all of this week, all over again. I'm to a point where I'll be happy to never see my bed again.

It's funny how these things happen... I'm bursting with motivation and joy for the new year and have so many goals I'm ready to put into practice. Yet, I ended up helpless in my bed. I taught Sunday school yesterday morning to my 9th and 10th grade girls, we looked at Psalm 139.

 "All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." - Psalm 139:16 

This verse kind of helped to put things into perspective for me. Even though I sit here.. TWENTY days into the month and having completed nothing, let people down, left emails unread and my husband on his own for mealtimes... God ordained all the days for me. This simple thought was really powerful for me yesterday. I may not have felt like I needed that period (let's be honest I can probably refer to this as a season now.. haha!) but the Lord did. I don't know why, but I'm going to tuck that scripture away as comfort. And now, I'm going to jump back into life ready to take care of business! 

Before the start of this year I remember thinking that I didn't want to look back and remember how many shows I watched on Netflix. I didn't want to waste lots of hours in that way... tv is fun and I especially love watching during the cardio part of my workouts, but I felt convicted about this for some reason. It ended up being super ironic because literally all I've done is watch tv for weeks. Yikes! 

However.. the one thing I've been dreaming about a lot is our upcoming Europe trip (in June!)

We just booked our hotel for the Paris portion of the trip, and it's walking distance from the Eiffel Tower. I'm already daydreaming about us waking up, finding a bakery for some pastries, and eating our goodies on the lawn by the tower. YAY! I'm swooning just thinking about it.

We've also FINALLY located a realistic option for a photo session while we're abroad, pray with me for availability.. we're hoping to end up looking like these fine people:

Photo from here.

Except if we're honest, these are crazy beautiful people and we'll be less model-like. :) I will share more details once we book! EEEEEEEEEEE!

We've also been hooked on Downton Abbey since it's return. Ben snoozed through the first episode (typical!) but after the second one he remembered his love for the show and is now trying to persuade me to watch the whole season today... (he has MLK day off!)

We specifically planned to visit Highclere Castle, where Downton is filmed. I keep checking the website for Summer dates and ticket availability. But basically I've been envisioning myself walking around the grounds Lady Mary style during every episode.

This post doesn't have a whole lot of rhyme or reason to it.... but I'm back! 

What has been going on in your new year? Any Europe suggestions for us? Has anyone else been fighting the January sickness? I'm hoping February will be good to us. :) 

Plans for a Kitchen Update

Monday, January 13, 2014

As I mentioned on Friday, we're about to start a kitchen renovation/update. Let's take a little stroll down the kitchen memory lane, shall we? :)

This is what I saw the first time we looked at our house. You may be thinking "wow! you have an eye for fixer uppers!"... let me stop you there. When we first looked at our house I told Ben there was NO WAY I could ever live there. We made the decision to move forward after I got advice from my mother in law and uncle in law (haha!) that it could be made beautiful. After going through the whole process with our home, I think I have really trained my eye in how to transform spaces and would love to have other opportunities to transform homes! (More photos of our original home can be found here.)

Let's first look at the incredible features of this kitchen. Yellow tile with a brown border. Portable dishwasher chill in in the middle. Random sticky-outy lights. A large fluorescent light strip. Ooh baby!

This is what our kitchen looked like when we moved in. (December 2012.. just a month after we had closed!) During that month, some very hard workers made my dreams for our first home come true. I just showed these other photos in my last post, but let's look again. :)

We put in new flooring and appliances. Tore out the nasty existing lighting and put in some recessed can lights. The cabinets were painted and new hardware was added. We knocked out some cabinets that were kinda funky. We removed the doors from a few cabinets so that I could try out the open cabinetry look.

The kitchen came so far, and has truly been a place I've loved. I'm not too much of a design snob for the yellow tile. But what I will say is that it is awful to clean. The grout is already permanently dirty because of being around for so many years, the sink is stained and has no disposal, and the faucet fixture has permanent goop and grime around it. Again, all things that are livable and have been for the past year.. but we decided that a new sink, countertops, and backsplash would really simplify my kitchen cleaning. I've always said to Ben that one day in the far away future when we have children, I imagine a baby smashing stuff into the grout. I imagine that as a parent I'll have other things on my mind than scrubbing grout. Now seemed like the perfect  time to prevent that vision from ever coming to life. :)

If you follow me on instagram, or even just on this blog... you might know that I'm kind of a neutrals girl. I like color. I really do. I even purchased a bright pink shirt recently. But especially in design... neutrals win every time. Times I've strayed end up being regretted. Bring on the beige, people!! This clearly influenced my design decisions when daydreaming about the style I wanted to bring into the kitchen.

Here are some images that really inspired me:

Look! Even my girl Tory Burch loves the all white kitchen. We're basically twins. In celebration, she should give me all of her shoes!! :)

These images are in fact a little shwankier than what we're working with.. but this image gave me a really realistic look at what our kitchen could look like.


Luckily, the blog that housed the lovely photo above had a full and complete source list. As of now, we're planning to move forward with white quartz countertops, and a white subway tile backsplash with gray grout. EEEEEE! 

What do y'all think? Speak now or forever hold your peace? Do you hate me for hating color in my kitchen? I'll add some greenery, promise! :) Any kitchen reno advice? Help a sister out, friends! :)

How We Meal Plan

Friday, January 10, 2014

First, let me just say that there are so many women putting meal planning resources online that are much wiser and more experienced than I might ever be. :) However, I've received lots of questions about how we meal plan, and specifically, how we do it on a budget. Peppered in with my thoughts on the topic, you'll notice photos of our yellow kitchen... which won't be yellow much longer!! EEEEK!

I mentioned in my January Goals that we would be hopefully starting our kitchen renovation- after a year of living in our home, we decided it was time to pull the trigger on redoing the countertops and backsplash. I'm excited to share more as this unfolds!

Our grocery budget (as discussed here) is $80 a week. For some, that's a fortune. For others, it's pennies. For us, it evens out to be more than enough most of the time. Every week, usually on Mondays, I head to the store with my envelope full of $80. Whatever is saved sometimes goes into extra savings for special treats. :) Other weeks, I have to dip into next week's money. For the most part though, it works out. Not sure why I'm rambling about our $80 grocery budget.

How do I plan? At the beginning of each week, before my trip to the store, I look at our schedule and determine how many nights I'll need to cook. Some weeks it's four, others it's one. During football season I made one crock pot of soup each week, because Ben arrived home just as I was leaving for bible study. Every other night he had games or we went on our weekly date. It doesn't matter what the number is, but I then choose that same number of recipes to make. I made two lists during this process. One list of the recipes I've chosen for the week, and where they came from. The other list is my actual grocery list. I try to write it down by grocery store department (department? section? whatever!) as I go. I don't really nail down for sure which recipe for each night. For some people that might be totally crazy, but a friend of mine who taught my Sunday School class in high school taught me that way, and it's really worked for us. I do have to think it through every morning in case I need to defrost chicken or meat.. but this also allows us to be really flexible. Depending on the week, I'll also plan a soup or something that can be flexibly made during the weekend, depending on our plans. So essentially, my meal planning isn't really planning, but just making sure our fridge is stocked with ingredients to make several meal options for the week.

What else goes on the grocery list? We buy bulk bagged cereal and keep it in a big glass jar on our kitchen counter. We buy fiber granola bars for me to eat before the gym or if either of us needs a snack. I always make sure we have eggs because Ben likes to eat them for breakfast. I also always keep whole grain bread, and low fat yogurt. And a few fresh fruit options specifically for snacks. Milk. When I make my list, I'll check if we are out of any of these staple items and add them to the list if needed.

What do I NOT buy? Random snacks. Chips. The extra grocery shopping dollars build up when you drift from the list.. so I try REALLY hard not to do that. I've found that when I do drift, it's either on food that ends up going bad or is really unhealthy. So it's basically a loose loose situation. A good example of this is my fall obsession/pumpkin obsession. That's what had me reaching for a box of pumpkin pie pop tarts even though we don't ever eat pop tarts. I got the box home, realized how bad they were, and they haven't been eaten since. Maybe now would be a good time to throw those away from our snack basket in the pantry. :)

What meals do I make to keep the grocery bills low? I LOVE, LOVE, LOOOOOOVE the crock pot. It's my magic machine. I really do feel like I can just throw stuff in and pull out greatness. Last year at a shower I was gifted the Crockin Girls cookbook. Their recipes are truly incredible, and can be found on their website! Ben specifically loves White Chicken Chili, Enchilada Soup,and Chicken and Dumplings. I've made so many of them and we've always been pleased! Another clean, healthy chicken option is buffalo chicken lettuce wraps. Chicken breasts in the pot, with buffalo sauce, sprinkled with a packet of ranch. Served with lettuce. Yum! For guests or other fun occasions, I love recipes from the Pioneer Woman. I want to grow up to be just like her. A lot of times I'll cut out some of the butter/heavy cream that she puts in her stuff.. but these recipes are all crowd pleasers. Cooking from her books gave me confidence in the kitchen. We also love grilling chicken and eating veggies/sweet potato fries. We also don't shy away from the occasional bowl of cereal for dinner. When Ben has games, I try and eat the cheapest thing possible. :) This is my go to chicken recipe.

More recipes can be found on my pinterest board, here. I pin with entertaining in mind, a lot.

How do you plan your meals and grocery shop? Are there any recipe resources I'm missing out on that could change my life? :)

Photos courtesy of Zac and Kaitlin Photography.

2014 Vision

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

   I want to live a year cultivating my identity in Christ. 
I want to be a strong, confident, bold woman of God who loves my husband and community well. I want to continue to pursue a career that is flexible and brings light to my heart. I want to cross off some big financial goals. I want to build my body to be healthy and strong and be conscious of what I subject my body to (food, cleaning products, skincare, hair care). I want to simplify and organize our home to make living here leave time for fruit to develop in our lives. I want to host and care for others, with our door always open. I want to be the loving arms of Christ to others. I want to give to and support the people in my life. I want to celebrate accomplishments and milestones big and small.

Eight days into the year, I feel as if it's just starting. I've been mostly bedridden with a yucky bug, as you may know if you follow me on Instagram. This has left me feeling downtrodden, and with anything but a fresh outlook on all that can be accomplished in this new year. I've watched people post their goals and plans for 2014 and felt like I'm wasting every second. But you know what? There is nothing magical about January 1st. I can start pursuing anything at any time. I think January 8th will be my day. :) Above is my overall vision for the year. It is my hope and prayer that all of my actions and goals will be consistent with this vision. 

What are your visions and goals for the New Year? Is anyone else joining me in getting a late start this year? 

Ps. If you're stopping by from Elm Street Life, HELLO, HELLO! :) 

How to Budget for Christmas Shopping

Monday, January 6, 2014

I feel like it's a worldwide accepted thing for people to hold on a little tighter to their wallets after Christmas. Before making some changes in how we budget, I remember feeling like the stress on my finances took away a little bit of the joy of giving. I also think that when you don't feel like the money is there, you can start trying to buy the cheapest gift possible and end up buying gifts just for the sake of it.

Why am I addressing this in January, and not December? Because saving for Christmas should start now. Although I would recommend using the envelope system for all normal spending, if that doesn't sound like your cup of tea, maybe just using it for Christmas would benefit you!

Something I love about using envelopes to handle our finances is that when the money has been allocated for a specific purpose, I feel much more freedom in spending it. For example, when I spend money on mailing something at the post office I always cringe and feel awful about it. Postage can be pricey! However, I often dream of being able to mail packages to friends in different cities and states. When we set aside a certain amount of money each month for "Miscellaneous Giving".. I know that those dollars are to love on others. It makes $7 at the post office go a little smoother knowing it was allocated specifically for that purpose. I hope that makes sense. :) I've felt the same way about Christmas shopping. Knowing that I had a certain amount to spend on each person (and all of our Christmas shopping overall) kept me focused and excited on being able to thoughtfully choose gifts for all of our loved ones.

To get ourselves set for next Christmas, we followed the following steps:

Make a master list of everyone whom we plan to give gifts next Christmas.

I know, this can seem hard sometimes, a year away! For us, the family members aren't changing, so those names are the same as the previous year. If we think someone might be a "maybe" we'll go ahead and include them on the list. We also include an amount for "Friends" to either use for a fun baking project for everyone or in any other way.

For the upcoming year, I also put the printing and postage for our Christmas Cards in the budget. If you're cooking a big meal for Christmas, go ahead and plan for that too, if you'd like!

Set a budget amount for each gift. This is different for everyone, and I think it's great to be okay with that. Some people are going to be big spenders on their gifts, they just are. I think it is so important to not let comparison become the guide for your gift giving. Set a budget per gift that you are comfortable with.. an amount that you can joyfully spend on a thoughtful gift. That is what will be sweet and memorable in years to come... Example: Don't be Michael Scott and bring the iPod to the $20 gift exchange. That example doesn't quiiiiite line up. But I like The Office. :)

As for if you should set the same amount for every gift... that's what we do. The only exceptions are categories that aren't a person (Christmas cards) and our homemade gift exchange gifts. This works great because there will be some people I can score a deal for, and then I can move the extra budgeted amount over for use if I need an extra $10 (or whatever!) for another gift.

Add up the total budgeted amount and divide it by 12 (months). Plan to put aside that much money into an envelope every month. This can be a stretch, I know. It can be tempting to dip into early for other expenditures, I know. But I cannot stress to you the difference that this made in our Christmas experience this year. I was SO joyful in our Christmas shopping this year. SO. It brought me so much happiness to find a gift for someone, and to hit the price point. There was an extra bit of freedom and joy in my Christmas shopping/gift giving. For me, that's what brought more of the true focus of Christmas into our holiday experience. We weren't hurting for cash and frustrated when the holiday was over. Our hearts were full from celebrating the Savior's birth with our family.

If you have any specific questions about this, I'd LOVE to answer them. Shoot me an email! :) If you have any other method of saving for Christmas, I'd love to hear it! Does anyone really regret how they did Christmas shopping this year and need a change?

January Goals

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

I can hardly believe that I'm typing out my January Goals. For the first month of 2014. What? I'm kind of a broken record, repeating something along these lines at the beginning of every monthly goals post.. but really. It's crazy. The combination of celebrating our first anniversary and preparing for the New Year has gotten me so focused on reflecting on the past year and filling 2014 with meaningful activity. I am proud and humbled to say that looking back on the past year, there are lots of things that have dramatically changed for the better. God is good and I'm excited and hopeful for what's to come in the new year. It's my vision that this time next year, we'll feel the same way. 

First, let's finish 2013 strong and look back at my December Goals.

Celebrate ONE YEAR OF MARRIAGE! WAHOO!!! Yay! We never celebrated dating anniversaries, so it was really fun to celebrate a milestone of togetherness for the first time. Love! We had a full, great day. We went to church, grocery shopped, worked out, and got all dolled up for a delicious dinner and night on the town. It was just a really fun day. 
Celebrate our first Christmas as a married couple Best. Christmas. Ever!!
Mail out our Christmas cards I'm officially obsessed with Christmas card season. All of our other Christmas decor is put away until next year, but the cards are still up for now... and I don't really know when I'll be taking them down. :) 
Fill Ben's stocking to the brim with goodies :)
Put Matilda in her Christmas collar whoops! I forgot to do this. :) 
Host an overnight guest during the first bit of the month 
Soak up the joy of the Christmas season through lots of festive outings!!
Work through Lara Casey's Goal Setting series in preparation for 2014 Currently in progress! I just finished up step three! If you haven't looked into this series.. I greatly suggest checking it out. Even just the first two steps are really beneficial if you're really overwhelmed by the whole thing! 

January Goals:
Finish working through Lara Casey's Goal Setting series
Tweak our budget and get everything in order for our finances in 2014
Work on decorating our dining room 
Welcome a regular guest blogger that I'm really excited about!
Complete 4+ blog redesigns for clients (YAY!)
Start writing 52 handwritten letters (a goal from my 101 in 1001 list) by sending four this month
Host a baby shower in our home (also on the list!)

What do y'all have planned for the beginning of the new year? I feel like the big presence of the new year can be so intimidating.. might I suggest picking just a few things to accomplish this month, things you can really make happen? I'm excited to hear what y'all have going on! 

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