30 December 2013

Next Year & Beyond

I'll admit it.

I'm not a big fan of New Year's resolutions.

Let's be honest - the shelf life of New Years resolutions lasts what - a month? A few weeks if we're lucky? And I think the biggest problem that people have with being able to stick with NYR's (New Years Resolutions) is that they get into the new year with a clean plate but have a whole list of stuff they feel they have to accomplish right away and start the year off immediately feeling stressed and overwhelmed so most say, "Whatevs!" and move on. I know. I've been there and done that. 

Having said this, I am however, a fan of constant and continual life, self, family, and spiritual improvement. I much prefer to look at my life as a journey to be enjoyed while working on me at my own pace without the pressures of feeling like I have to compete, keep up with the Joneses, or go crazy in the process. My philosophy is simple - keep it clean, straight to the point, and easy. I make goals for myself but I refuse to stress myself out with a laundry list of wishes, wants, etc. 

Why?

Because when I get to the end of the year and take stock of what I did during the year it's just downright depressing to have to see what I didn't do that I said I would do. And who wants to feel like that??

Not this girl!

So here are a few things I'm focusing on a little more in twenty fourteen. No NYR's. Instead, a better life for now and always. Cheers to a fantastic New Year!




But seriously...

A bad habit to break:
Being glued to my phone.
 I remember a time when I lived without a cell phone at all. 
I'm willing to venture that I'm able to live that way again.

A new skill to learn:
Knitting.

A person I hope to be more like:
My TuTu. 
She is the most generous, loving, strong, and kind person I know. 
The true epitome of grace, class, and steadfastness to character & beliefs.

tutu & maddy | thanksgiving 2011

A good deed to do:
Volunteer more to causes I hold dear and to my community. 
I have really let this fall to the wayside since becoming a mom and there's really no good excuse for it. My soul and spirit need to be refreshed and as Madeline gets older, she needs to learn the concept of giving, selflessness, and care for others.

A place to visit:
Nashville.
 I haven't been back in years and my roots are there. It's time to reconnect again.

A book to read:
The Great Gatsby. 
I've read this book every year of my life since I found it in high school. 
This is the first year (2013) that I haven't read it. 

A letter to write:
A letter to my PaPa.
He now lives in an assisted living home suffering from the horrible affects of Parkinson's and dementia and while he will never be able to comprehend the words I write or even know who I am anymore, he still deserves to know how much of an inspiration he is to me and how he was truly the first man I ever loved. (Blog post dedicated to PaPa coming soon).
Holding hands with my best guy in assisted living this year during Christmas.

A few other things to improve my life overall:
Not checking work emails on days off or weekends.

Scheduling more me time.

Reduce time on social media, websites & the Internet altogether. 

Read more & watch less.

Simplify, simplify, simplify. Life was so much more fulfilling and easy when I had less.


How about you? What are some things you're doing to improve your life for the upcoming new year and beyond?

XO & Happy New Year,










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©2013 Shiraz In My Sippy Cup










22 December 2013

Merry Christmas!

So, this happened yesterday.
Merry Christmas from our family to yours!




20 December 2013

5 on Friday | The Last Full Week of Christmas

It's Friday which can only mean one thing. Y'all know what's up!
Today, I'm linking up with Darci at {the good life blog} for 5 on Friday.
Today, I'm sharing my top five favorite moments from this last full week of Christmas. 


Decorations | Since these babies only come out once a year, I'm taking every moment possible to enjoy them all. My Christmas decorating philosophy is easy; classic, simple, and clean. Right now I'm in love with all things gold so that pretty much dominated by decorating for this year. Take a look!

I found these beautifully decorated balls at The Dollar Store and simply added them 
to my favorite reclaimed wood tray.


Pinterest was my go-to for printables this year. I found so many amazing blogs of designers that were nice enough to share their work for free. I was then able to print these for free and found perfect frames for each of them at where esle - The Dollar Store. 




Beautiful gold and burlap used for our dining room table runner.
Thanks to the amazing Erin at hello erin for the idea!

Cinnamon scented pine cones

Garland with lights on the buffet

Aren't these tea light candle holders adorable?! Just $1 at the Target Dollar Spot!
{Plus, they can be used over into the rest of the winter season!}


Holiday Beverages | My most favorite drink during Christmas and through the winter months is a hot beverage called Wassail. 
This is the perfect drink to curl up with on the sofa while watching Christmas movies, enjoying the tree or while reading a great book. A while back, I did a separate blog post about how to make this delicious beverage. Check it out here. 


O Christmas Tree | Is there anything more beautiful during this time of year than a tree? We've also been really fortunate this month to have an abundance of snow which has simply made the season beautiful. Couple this with the beauty of a tree, and it has felt magical...like the way Christmas should feel. Also, for the first time since I lived at home, I used colored lights on our tree this year. 
Madeline really loved all the colors when we went out to buy lights so her happiness really trumped everything else and you know, I've really really loved them. I didn't think I would but I have and I'm so happy we have them. 


Holiday PotpourriThe holidays just aren’t complete without the delicious aroma of Christmas. A stove top potpourri mix is an easy, and inexpensive way to make your home smell wonderful in just a few minutes. 

Here's what you'll need:
{1} whole orange
{1/2} cup cranberries
{1} Tbsp. whole cloves
{3} sticks of cinnamon
A few drops of vanilla extract
A sprinkle of grated nutmeg or cinnamon

One batch of stove top potpourri will stay good for weeks {the mix will turn brown, but still smell delicious}. Just add water as needed to your pot and don't be afraid to experiment! Throw in berries, grapefruit, lemons or all spice berries. 


Christmas Movies | As I write this, I'm watching 'A Christmas Carol' from 1931 and I couldn't be happier or feel more content. I love them all - the sappy ones, the funny ones, and all of them in between. 
{But if I'm being honest, this one is really my absolute favorite}

I hope each of you are enjoying your last few days of the Christmas season and in the words of Tiny Tim...

"God bless us, everyone." 







11 December 2013

Blog Update

I think that pretty much sums up how I'm feeling right now.

Friends, it is indeed the most wonderful time of the year...

But it is also the busiest, craziest, and most 
whirlwind time as well. 

I've had every intention of joining every one's link-ups, online parties, and following along with all the fads and trends of the season but it just hasn't happened. I even (ironically) started my own 'Surviving (Enjoying) Christmas' mini-series 
but in all honestly y'all...

Whoa.

Sometimes life just happens and for me right now, I'm overwhelmed on many levels and need to re-group. To be even more honest, I want to enjoy the holiday myself without feeling the pressure to perform. I feel like when that happens, the quality of blogs just really go downhill and I don't want that happening to mine. 
(Sorry. Not sorry. Just keeping it real)
Chickie is now at the age where she is really discovering Christmas for the first time and I want to soak up every minute of that and not lose out because I'm so wrapped up in trying to get material for the blog. It's just non-negotiable for me at this point. #priorities

Having said this, my posts will probably be a little sporadic right now and I'm pretty sure that I won't get to a lot of the holiday posts I wanted to do - including my own mini-series - but that's just the reality of life so I ask for 
your forgiveness and understanding. 
I'll be back up and running at full speed soon!

I hope you're each having an amazing Christmas holiday!







06 December 2013

Five on Friday - My Madeline Moments

It's the most wonderful day of the week...Friday!
Today, I'm linking up with Darci at the good life blog for 
Five on Friday. This week I'm showcasing the best
Maddy Moments from this week. 

This week, our Christmas decorations went up and my little diva was so excited to jump in and help mommy decorate. Now that she's older, I think this is the first year that she is really starting to understand what is happening and how she can be involved. It is so exciting and amazing to watch her eyes light up at the Christmas tree, or to see Santa, and all the other fun things that come along with the holidays.
Is there anything cuter than a child excited over the tree?? I don't think so!!




Speaking of fun, this week I linked up with one of my favorite bloggers Jenny from Growing Up Jacobson to participate in her Five Days of Christmas Link Up Party. This week's theme was goodies and oh. my. goodness. can I just say that we had an amazing time cooking and decorating sugar cookies as a family. We turned on Christmas music, Michael and I enjoyed a couple of adult beverages, and Maddy giggled and smiled her whole way through a roll of sugar cookie dough. By the time it was all said and done, my heart was so full and wanted to explode from all the cuteness at the same time. Too, too much. You can get the full story from my blog post here but in the meantime, check out this face...


Seriously, I die. 



Once again this week, we got snow!
To say that Maddy loves the snow would be an understatement. I don't really know what the right word is to describe how much she loves snow but whatever it is, insert it here __________. I think sometimes I gave birth to a penguin but it's cool (Pun fully intended.) Maddy loved watching the snow fall and in addition, kept an eye out for the fat man in the red suit. She kept pointing and screaming at birds flying by, "Santa!!!" Apparently, she thinks Santa is supposed to come every night. It's so funny!



This week, Maddy received a great Christmas craft package from Grandmama that included DIY Christmas cards, Christmas stickers, Hello Kitty Christmas 
coloring pages, and this...
Every night this week, Maddy has asked to, "Put balls on Santa's face" (You can't make this stuff up.) So we pull out the glue and plop a cotton ball down on this cute little countdown to the days of Christmas.  



Last but not least, Maddy had a chance to flex her painting muscles with this DIY hippo painting kit that I found at - where else - The Dollar Tree. Y'all, seriously - if you haven't discovered The Dollar Tree for these kinds of kid crafts and more then you're really missing out AND spending way more money than you should for these types of things. At any rate, my little Chickie had the. best. time. painting this ceramic hippo and it kept her busy and stimulated for a whole hour (It's also pretty great at helping to develop fine motor skills as well.) Get thee to a Dollar Tree soon and grab one for your toddler!


So that's a wrap for my favorite 
Madeline Moments from this week.

While I have your attention, I'm going to throw in a shameless plug for my Christmas series, 'Surviving (Enjoying) Christmas'. Over the next couple of weeks, I'm discussing the top four things that can bring the most stress (And distress!) to us ladies during the holidays and how to juggle it all; maintaining a healthy lifestyle, decorating, giving back and charity, and gift giving. 

My hope is that you will each find happiness and inspiration during this month of celebration, peace, and love and will be able to share your ideas, thoughts, and struggles with others to have the happiest Christmas possible. This week I kicked off the series by talking about maintaining your healthy lifestyle while still enjoying those Christmas goodies. Check it out here

Next week, I'll be discussing decorating on a budget. 
Here's a little sneak peak...
You don't have to break the bank to deck the halls. I'll show you how to get the biggest bang for your buck while having that gorgeous and fabulously decorated home for the holidays that you have in mind.

Take care, friends and Merry Christmas!!















05 December 2013

Surviving (Enjoying) Christmas - Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle



Today, I'm kicking off my four part series, Surviving Enjoying Christmas. Over the next couple of weeks, I'll be discussing the top four things that can bring the most stress (And distress!) to us ladies during the holidays and how to juggle it all; maintaining a healthy lifestyle, decorating, giving back and charity, and gift giving. 

My hope is that you will each find happiness and inspiration during this month of celebration, peace, and love and will be able to share your ideas, thoughts, and struggles with others to have the happiest Christmas possible. So let's get started!

I am very honored to introduce my friend (And sorority sister) Kelly Guy, the blogger behind the award-winning weight loss blog, No Thanks to Cake. I met Kelly in 1995 at Middle Tennessee State University when we both pledged Kappa Delta Sorority. Kelly was an amazing friend through college and I recently had the opportunity to reconnect with her when our family moved to Denver. Kelly has inspired thousands with her blog and adventures in healthy living, exercise, and cooking. She has personally been an inspiration to me in many ways so I know you guys will love her just as much as I do. Make sure to check out her blog and information - you won't be disappointed! Take it away, Kelly!

Hi Folks – My name is Kelly and I’m the blogger behind No Thanks to Cake (www.nothankstocake.com.

Over the past three years, I’ve lost and maintained a 79 lb. weight loss (http://www.nothankstocake.com/about/) by following the Jenny Craig program initially and then adopting a healthy eating and active lifestyle to keep it off.  
On NTTC, I share my new adventures in healthy living, experiments in exercising, and a few new healthy recipes each week.  Most of all, I connect with my readers on our mutual quest for health, and I write about my journey along the way.

When Courtney mentioned that she wanted me to share tips on surviving the holidays, I was excited to share how I survive my holiday season, with all the extra parties, and all those special occasions…

Since it’s already December, we’ve got no time to lose.  Let’s get started!
Via Pinterest
BE AWARE OF YOUR PORTIONS
The holidays are very much about spending time with family and friends, but it’s also very much about FOOD.  In my family, that means homemade cinnamon rolls and a big Italian dinner on Christmas Eve. 

Let’s examine my family’s traditional Braciole dinner.
Now, I certainly don’t want to say “no thanks” to my sister-in-law’s cooking… but I do want to be realistic about my portions.

My strategy is simple:  I enjoy a small portion of pasta and meat, and fill the other half of my plate with a beautiful green salad.  My eyes see a full plate, but my body consumes a reasonable portion of those items that are higher in calories.

I have a “taste” of everything I want to enjoy, and then fill up on what fuels my body.  It works!

CREATE NEW “ACTIVE” TRADITIONS
Watching football and baking cookies may be how you’ve spent holidays in the past, but consider adding in some new physically active traditions into your festive schedule.
·        Walk/run a family 5K on Christmas Eve morning
·        Jump on the trampoline with the kiddos
·        If weather permits, take the family (young and old) out for some good old-fashioned sledding.

If you take the time to get outside, you’ll have the chance to snap this priceless photo and create new memories that will endure all while burning a few extra calories…

Speaking of special moments:  This season, I’d like to take a yoga class with my niece while I’m home for the holidays.  Sharing an activity I love with her will be memorable for both of us…

PLAN FOR SPECIAL EVENTS
When your work Christmas party is on the calendar, you’ll know ahead of time that you may be tempted by holiday indulgences. 
However, it’s important to remember that the party food will only make up one meal of your entire day!
·        Enjoy a healthy breakfast and lunch, and have something healthy to eat before you arrive. 
·        Gravitate toward the healthy appetizers – There’s always a veggie tray, a green salad, and/or fresh fruit at these types of events.  Fill your plate with the fresh foods and lean proteins.
·        Don’t hover near the food table – Back away from the cheese dip!  Don’t start a conversation where you can see the food.  Tuck yourself far from the chocolate fountain, and you’ll less tempted to eat it and everything else on that beautiful spread.

BRING A DISH YOU WON’T FEEL GUILTY ABOUT
When celebrating with friends this season, offer to bring a dish that you can enjoy without guilt!  

My website has hundreds of healthy recipes you can choose from (www.nothankstocake.com/recipes); however, here are four of my favorite party dishes you may want to bring to your next bash.
1.     Skinny Taco Dip (http://www.nothankstocake.com/2013/04/11/skinny-taco-dip/)
2. Roasted Red Pepper Veggie Dip (http://www.nothankstocake.com/2013/04/18/roasted-red-pepper-veggie-dip/)
3. Sriracha Turkey Meatballs (http://www.nothankstocake.com/2013/11/05/sriracha-turkey-meatballs/)
4. Veggie Appetizer Pizza (http://www.nothankstocake.com/2011/11/29/new-recipe-veggie-appetizer-pizza/)

MANAGE HOLIDAY STRESS
Truth: The holidays can be stressful.  Please don’t ignore this detail.  Take time to manage your stress in the way that works best for you.  Here are a few ideas for how to calm your nerves:
·        Make a List and Check it Twice – It can be extremely liberating to get all of your to-do’s out of your head and onto paper.  
Instead of worrying you might forget a detail, make a list and refer to it  often.There’s also something fun about crossing items off (or is that just me??)
·        Take Time to Hit the Gym – Alone time at the gym can be REALLY powerful.  Spending an hour jamming out to music and sweating is a great way to clear your head and re-gain perspective.
·        Ask for Help – Don’t be afraid to ask for help. When you’re starting to feel overwhelmed, call for reinforcements!

HIT THE “RESET” BUTTON
After an indulgence or enjoying a little too much holiday cheer, wake up the next morning… and START OVER.  You get to start over as many times as you need to - - Just keep doing it!
Remind yourself of what you’ve accomplished and of how much you want to achieve your goals.  Don’t wait for Monday or for New Years.  You get a chance to “reset” every single day.

Act immediately.  Your body will thank you for it.

What healthy strategies have you put in place to make your holidays a healthy hit?

Kelly Guy is the author of No Thanks to Cake (www.nothankstocake.com), a weight loss blog dedicated to sharing guilt-free recipes and inspiring others to adopt a healthier lifestyle. To read more about Kelly’s story, visit 
No Thanks to Cake (www.nothankstocake.com)