Currently Obsessing Over: L.A. Girl Lip Paint

IMG_8182Y’all. My life has been changed forever. I have found the most amazing lip paints and am beyond obsessed.

I went online to order my favorite concealer from LA Girl Cosmetics, and decided to browse through their other items while I was at it. Everyone knows I am a lipstick junkie, so of course that’s where I headed. When I saw that I could get a six-pack of their Glazed Lip Paint for less than $15, you know I jumped on it. Two days later I had a colorful surprise in my mailbox and my life hasn’t been the same since.

These little beauties are the perfect combo of pigmented lipstick and sheer lip gloss, and give some of the prestige brands a run for their money. I’m addicted to the Too Faced Melted lipsticks and thought these might be similar, but they’re a bit different. More glossy, less pigmented and not matte. But they do stay on and they are only a quarter of the price!

There are so many fun color options to choose from, but I ended up selecting the six-pack in their natural shades.

IMG_8173 copyThe colors included in the natural pack are: Tango, Peony, Flirt, Blushing, Whisper and Whimsical. Here’s what they look like in natural sunlight (in the order listed).
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As you can see, they are pretty pigmented but have a glossy-sheer texture, and are the right amount of pastel. I love them because they’re not crazy sticky like a lot of glosses, which I absolutely HATE, and the color lasts for hours! I’ve been wearing Whimsical, Tango and Peony on repeat and I can’t get enough of them. I just ordered the Intense Color Pack and can’t wait to see what those are like!

So if you’re looking for some great summer glosses but don’t want to spend and arm and a leg, these bad boys are calling your name! If you don’t want to get a six-pack, you can also order them in sets of three for right under $10, or individually for under $5. Hail to the goddess of lipstick!

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Let me know if you try any and what you think!

How to get a summer-ready pedi at home

Get your feetsies summer-ready with an at-home pedicure that’ll cost you a fraction of what you’d spend at a salon. I’m sharing some of my favorite products that will give your feet the TLC they need to make their 2015 beach debut.

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Summa, summa, summatime!

Wait, is it seriously JUNE?! Where the heck as the year gone already? It was just Christmas … now it’s 90+ degrees and time for those beach and pool days? (Thannkkkkk goodness.)

I absolutely love summer and everything about it: sand between my toes, bleached blonde hair from the sun, all-day pool parties, long, hot days, and even the humidity (there’s something so “homey” about it to me.) The only annoying parts about summer are having to eat like a rabbit so you look at least halfway decent in a bikini, and keeping up with those pedicures. Rabbit food sucks and pedicures are expensive.

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So to save money, time, the salon staff from having to beg me to get a design on my big tow, and my feet from a potential fungus, I’m all about giving myself at-home pedicures these days. Polish color options have never been an issue for me (I currently have 200+ different polishes – no joke), but I can never get my feet to have that same softness to them like the pros do. Until recently.

Enter Herbacin.

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Herbacin is a family owned and operated German beauty company now offering its organic products in the US.

About Herbacin: The Herbacin® Foot Care line was designed to keep feet and legs in tip-top shape with superior moisturizing, soothing and cooling products. The entire line contains organic camomile blossom extract and naturally rich oils, such as avocado and almond oils. Additionally, the line is free of parabens, mineral oil, animal ingredients or by-products and synthetic colors.

Organic, small business, soft feet – sounds good to me! I was sent a few products to try for myself and, I must say, I’m hooked. I’ve been using the products for a month now and my feet have never been smoother and softer, even when I come straight from having a professional pedicure!

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I have been using the Foot Cream when I get out of the shower, and my feet are seriously baby-soft. The Cooling Gel gives your tootsies a nice little tingling sensation, and is the perfect “feet treat” after an intense workout at the gym or a night in heels. I don’t really have any peeling on my feet, but my hubby sure does and the Foot Peeling cream is his new BFF. It’s even helped his Athlete’s Foot! (Not making any claims here, just saying it’s helped him.) If you have any roughness or callusing on your feet, this stuff is made for you. Smooth feet without that scary scraper thing? Heck yeah!

Pair these lotions with a fun bright or pastel polish on the toes and you’re ready to take on the beach, one little piggy at a time! Some of my favorite spring-to-summer polishes for the toes are Maybelline’s Color Show Lust for Lilac, Essie’s mint candy apple, go glazed, and e-nuf is e-nuf, and Sally Hansen’s Miracle Gel in Pink Cadillaquer and Pretty Piggy. (Pictured in that order.)

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Wanna hear something cray cray? You can buy all three of the lotions and one of these nail polishes for under $30. That means you’d spend less that you would on a pedicure AND you get more than one out of it! I don’t know about you, but I’m all about saving some dough these days.

Lastly and most importantly: Don’t forget the sunscreen! You don’t want to fry those perfectly-pedicured feet of yours.

Oh! In case you’re wondering where you can get these super-fabulous foot creams, you can order online from Herbacin’s website, or pick them up at your local Harris Teeter or Anthropologie, or locate your nearest retailer here.

shoesHere’s to soft feet and pretty toes.
Cheers <3

7 “No-Fuss” Hairstyles For a Lazy Day (Video)

We all love a good, simple, go-to hairstyle that we know we can turn to no mater what, right? Let’s be honest … we don’t always have time to curl our hair in the mornings (or even dry it for that matter … because those extra 15 minutes of sleep are so much more important), our hair doesn’t always corporate, humidity isn’t always on our side (in Florida, at least), and sometimes you just want to look presentable without having to work out your arms first thing in the morning by trying to get your hair to stay up with 3,000 bobby pins. Amiright or amiright?!

I recently found this article titled 7 No-Fuss Hairstyles for a Lazy Day and instantly got excited. I love experimenting with new do’s and finding fun and easy ways to style my hair. Especially right now – it’s longer than it’s ever been (and it’s quite annoying most of the time).

So instead of trying them and keeping them to myself, I thought I’d video myself on the first go-around so I can share them with you. Why, you ask? I am wondering the same thing and still haven’t come up with an answer. You’re welcome or I’m sorry … you can choose. I had a feeling some of these would be a little difficult, especially because step-by-step instructions were not included, but I didn’t know I’d fail as miserably as I did. Feel free to watch (and laugh) if you so dare.

Things I learned after trying these styles:

1. My hair refuses to stay when I tie it in a knot. Does yours hold?
2. Pictures lie. I need step-by-step visual instructions. Stop trying to be like Ikea instructions, hair “tutorials”!
3. Everything looks so perfect on Pinterest. Real life is NOT Pinterest. Real life is a 90’s cheerleader ponytail-bun.
4. I make a lot of really weird faces .. and look kind of pissed off a lot of times. I need to work on that! I promise I’m not an angry person.

I vote you go and try these now and report back to me so I know if I’m the only dumb-dumb who can’t do these stupid “no fuss” hairstyles that forced me to drink an entire bottle of wine. Kthanks.

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Weekend Recap: Kentucky Derby Party, TPC and Mother’s Day

These past two weekends were so much fun that I can’t let them pass by without sharing the details with you! Even though it’s already Wednesday and a new weekend is right around the corner … but better late than never, right? My weekends are typically full of excitement (because let’s be honest, Jimmy and I can’t sit still for very long), but these past two were ones for the books, full of Kentucky Derby, TPC and Mother’s Day festivities.

Let’s start with April 30 because that was a very special day: I was reunited with a high school best friend … who I haven’t seen in NINE YEARS! Sasha moved to Missouri with her family during our freshman year of college. She and I have kept in touch through long calls, texts and social media, but nine years is a long time to not see your friend. About a week earlier I got a call from her saying that she was flying down to surprise her brother, who just moved back to Savannah, for his birthday, and would be flying into the Jacksonville airport. Of course we made plans to meet up! I met Sasha and her sister-in-law for lunch and we did a little shopping at St. Johns Town Center before they made the two-hour drive to Savannah. It was so nice catching up, hearing about her last nine years of life, and picking right back up where we left off. 11164670_999540246868_9067666379400230461_o 11168473_10102134053816171_3177048605641286327_n
Friday after work we joined our friends Nick and Meghan for a relaxing evening of food trucks, a beautiful sunset and live music by Edwin McCain at Tee Off Downtown, an event to kick off TPC in Jacksonville. Nothing crazy, and the perfect end to a work week.
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Saturday was party time! We recently moved from a two bedroom apartment on the third story to a three bedroom house with a yard and lake view, so we thought the Kentucky Derby would be the perfect excuse to have a get-together and housewarming party. Besides, any excuse for a theme party and to get dressed up – we’re in.

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I prepared a Mint Julep bar, complete with bourbon, homemade simple syrup, mint ice cubes, and mason jars and the ultimate hangover prevention as party favors.

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Seriously – Tempo Tonight is where it’s at, party people. They were kind enough to send me several packets to share with my friends and test out for myself, and they WORK! Take it from a girl who gets a crippling hangover from just two glasses of wine. Take two all-natural vitamin-packed tablets before you indulge and two more before bed, and adios, hangovers! (Head to their website for more info, and use code SWEET20 for 20% off your order. Excellent for bachelorette parties and weddings, too!)

We served up a buffet of southern deliciousness: Meghan’s blue cheese cole slaw, tossed salad with cornbread croutons, white chocolate-dipped pretzel sticks, bacon-rolled goat cheese balls, Amanda’s homemade guacamole, corn and zucchini salad, fresh watermelon, banana pudding, and Jimmy’s smoked Boston Butt served with my all-time favorite BBQ sauce from Savannah restaurant Johnny Harris.
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The girls wore sundresses and big hats, and the guys looks quite dapper too, if I may say so myself.

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The best-dressed (and best dancer) award with to Travis, who donned a khaki three-piece suite (sans the coat), a matching pink Vineyard Vines belt and bow tie, and horseshoe cufflinks.
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My BFF Brittnee and her hubby (the winner above) came down from Richmond Hill, GA to celebrate, my former co-worker and lovely friend Ashley was in town from Austin, TX, and I won $20 on the race! It was a great day all around.

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Sunday morning started off with coffee on the back porch and chasing down the ice cream man, followed by a relaxing afternoon at the beach with Brittnee while the boys golfed. The perfect end to a weekend!
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Last weekend was a little more low-key, but still wonderful.
Friday night we stayed in and Jimmy brought home Taco Lu for dinner, along with Mother’s Day sunflowers from my dog Lexie. So sweet of them :).

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Saturday we headed out to celebrate one of our favorite times of the year – The Players Championship golf tournament at Sawgrass. We spent the day with our friends Nick and Meghan sipping summer cocktails, watching golf at the beautiful Stadium course, and stalking Adam Scott. Okay, well maybe that was just me who did that. And Meghan. And every other girl there. #NoShame
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Sunday morning we celebrated our moms from afar with brunch and mimosas at BlackFinn, followed by an afternoon at the pool with our friends Sarah and Amia.

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And, since I couldn’t be in Savannah to celebrate with my mom on Mother’s Day, I gave her about her gift over the phone: A photo shoot for her, her two girls and two granddaughters, which will take place next weekend in Savannah. I also made her this video. Don’t judge.

I hope everyone else had a wonderful Mother’s Day and weekend! I’ll be back next week with an update on this weekend, which will include a friend’s 30th birthday festivities. Have a great week, friends!

My Hubby’s Dirty 30 Full of Surprises

Birthdays are one of my favorites times of year. My family always made a big deal out of them growing up, and I’ve continued the tradition into my adulthood. We only get to celebrate the day of our birth once a year and we never know how many of them we’ll have left, so I am all for going all out and making the most of it. Which is why I celebrate birthday MONTHS!

April was a very special month for someone near and dear to my heart – it was the month of my hubby’s 30th! I kind of sort of went all out for it, and Jimmy specifically requested that I write a blog post recapping his birthday festivities. Of course I had already planned on it, but since he asked, I couldn’t let him down.

Instead of just a birthday, I decided to celebrate 30 days of Jimmy’s 30th. Beginning April 1st, I gave Jimmy a little slip of paper with a reason why I loved him (barf, I know) and a little gift which continued every day for the month.
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The Sunday before his actual birthday I threw a little cookout party at our house and invited several friends over for the afternoon (surprise #1). Jimmy thought this was his {only} birthday celebration, but couldn’t figure out why we weren’t doing something on his actual birthday which was the following Saturday. After finishing the food on the grill halfway inside – thank you rain and lack of patio covering – we enjoyed homemade burgers that the birthday boy whipped up. Present time! I had everyone bring some sort of Chicago-related gift and we forced Jimmy open them while everyone watched.
IMG_7628 IMG_7636 IMG_7653 IMG_7654 IMG_7669After opening everyone’s gifts and still not catching on, I gave him his gift from me (and his parents): plane tickets to Chicago for the following weekend (surprise #2), which I’d already cleared it with his boss and everything (surprise #3).
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He was very surprised :). He was even more surprised to hear that I’d already booked our hotels and made plans for our trip, which means he just got to sit back and have a good time (surprise #4).

Thursday afternoon we hit the airport and jet set to Chi-Town for a weekend of fun.
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We arrived around 5:30 p.m. CST, checked into Hotel Lincoln, then headed to Public House to have dinner and watch the Blackhawks game with the in-laws. We’d been sitting there eating, drinking and watching the game for about two hours when a random guy started making his way toward our booth. Jimmy thought he was some drunk guy who was being overly friendly and wasn’t very thrilled about it, but nope – it was his buddy Josh who flew in from California to celebrate with us (surprise #5)!
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Jimmy was so excited and at a loss for words (which is extremely rare). High-five to us, Josh!

Friday morning the three of us met up with Jimmy’s parents for lunch at The Local Chicago, then headed over to The Drake for a bloody Mary at Coq d’Or.
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Because the only thing we’re good at on vacation is eating and drinking our way through town, we made our way to a recommended spot, The Green Door Tavern, Chicago’s oldest pub, for a beer and mid-afternoon snack. While we were eating, Jimmy got another visitor: our friend Phil flew in from Jacksonville to celebrate, too (surprise #6)!
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We wrapped things up there and headed to check-in to our new hotel (because unfortunately Hotel Lincoln nearly tripled in price), The Willows Hotel in Lincoln Park, and rest up for a bit. Shortly after, Jimmy and the guys walked up the block to a nearby bar to throw back a few brews and watch sports (the original plan was for the guys to go golfing (surprise #7) but it was cold and rainy, so that didn’t happen), and his mom and I “went to the Art Institute of Chicago for some girl time.”

But really I went to set up for his surprise party (surprise #8).
Jimmy surprise party invitation
Jimmy’s fabulous friend Chris offered to let me take over his apartment for the evening to host the party, and it couldn’t have been more perfect. (Thanks Chris and Niki!) I decided to make it a 1920’s themed party because a) Jimmy loves that era and thinks he is the modern-day Great Gatsby, and b) he was “roaring out of his 20s and into his 30s.” So a few weeks before the party, I sent out invitations to local and out-of-town family and friends, ordered custom koozies with J’s favorite quote, shipped decorations to Chris, and had an outfit for Jimmy (surprise #9) shipped to his mom. Chris and his girlfriend made dips and snacks, J’s aunt brought a chocolate cake from Portillo’s (Jimmy’s favorite cake ever – surprise #10), his friend Mike picked up the booze and dropped them off the day before, and we ordered pizza from one of his favorite local places. Everything came together so perfectly.
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Josh and Phil brought Jimmy over to Chris’s to “meet up with all the girls and have a drink before going out for dinner,” and our sneaky plan worked perfectly. He had NO idea and was completely surprised!
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He was surprised again when he noticed a few other friends who came in town to share the weekend with him (surprise #11): Heidi, Dave, Stephani and Paige, in town from Iowa and a few hours outside of the city, and our Jacksonville friend Amanda’s parents from Michigan. The rest of the evening was spent catching up with everyone, dancing, and enjoying a fabulous evening celebrating The Great Vinicky.
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A HUGE thank you to all of our friends and family who came to celebrate with us, and for keeping this a secret for the past four months!

Saturday morning brought a little bit of sadness – I received an email saying that the White Sox game (surprise #12) had been cancelled due to weather. But, instead of moping and wasting a perfectly good Saturday in Chicago, we made the most of it and did what we do best: started the day with a good ol’ brunch, bloody Mary’s and mimosas at LuxBar downtown.

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After brunch and a quick pit stop at Walgreens for umbrellas (and random red noses for Red Nose Day) we walked ten blocks to our destination: Clark Street Ale House. (Quick back story on this place: I was in Chicago a few years ago with my mom and co-workers to see Oprah, and as we were walking to dinner we saw a neon sign lighting up the sky that said “Stop and drink” with an arrow pointing to the bar. So naturally, we stopped and drank, and it was the most amazing little bar ever. I’d been on a mission to find the name of that dang place ever since and finally did! So we had to go. And I was beyond excited.)
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Next rainy day distraction: The Signature Room on the 95th floor of the John Hancock Center. We were fortunate enough to get seated right away at a spacious booth, and enjoyed tasty cocktails and an incredible view. And then the sun decided to come out!

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After taking in the view of the city, we made our way to Wicker Park to watch the Blackhawks WIN at Fatpour Tap Works, where we posted up for 3+ hours. So much fun being in the city with thousands of Hawks fans during the playoffs! We wrapped up the evening with some loud singing and bad dance moves at InnJoy and Schoolyard Tavern, had a late-night meal at Golden Apple Grill & Breakfast House, then called it a night around 3:30 a.m. Ouch.
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Sunday morning came all too early and we were dreading having to pack up and head home. After dragging ourselves out of bed, we loaded up our suitcases and headed downtown to meet up with Jimmy’s parents and sister to squeeze in as much as we could in the last few hours we had in the city. Before leaving for the airport, we stuffed our faces and put ourselves in a food coma. We started with a “cheezborger cheezborger cheezborger” and bloody Mary at the infamous Billy Goat Tavern, then snatched up a Blackhawks and Happy Birthday doughnut at Glazed and Infused.

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We were sad to leave (though our waistlines appreciated it, I’m sure) and had such a wonderful time. It was so much fun being the planner and tour guide in Jimmy’s hometown of Chicago – a complete change for him (in that city, at least)! He didn’t have to be in charge of making plans or decisions, and we all got to experience many things for the first time – even the locals. Thanks again to our amazing friends and family for making the trip, taking the time off work, keeping everything a secret, and coming to celebrate Jimmy’s 30th with us. It was a weekend we will never forget!

Jimmy, I hope you had the best birthday ever and you’re ready to embrace your 30s. I know they will be the best years ever – I’ll make sure of it!

(Also, I nominate myself for the Wife of the Year Award. Kthanks.)

Happy Sibling Day, You Crazy Animals

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Did you know that today, April 10th, is National Sibling Day? (If not and you have a brother or sister you better go tell them how much you love them!) I’ve shared a photo on Facebook expressing how much I love my siblings, but it’s not often enough that I get to gush over them. I am extremely fortunate to have three (plus two extras!) of the best siblings in this world, and I want the world to know it. So what better day than today to let them and everyone else know how much they mean to me?

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Our family of four children was probably a bit different from most families with many siblings growing up. My two brothers, Kevin and Derek, are actually my half brothers and are 15+ years older than me, but since they have been in my life since the second I was born, I count them as my 100% brothers. Then there’s me. Then there’s my little sister, Sarah, who is 21 months younger than I. My brothers were teenagers when I was born, so you can imagine the fun they had trying to figure out what to do with a baby sister, being too cool to change my dirty diapers and picking on me, and my sister and I were so close in age that we would go from best friends to hating one another overnight.
10385295_10101820228260101_515876554317647900_nDespite all of that, we all love each other unconditionally, support each other in every way, and life wouldn’t be the same without the Ainsworth Foursome. Which is why I want to share five of my fondest memories with and of each of them today :).

We’ll start from oldest to youngest.

 Kevin (a.k.a. Bubba): The oldest of us all.
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1. I had him wrapped around my finger from the beginning.
I don’t necessarily remember it (because I was obviously too young), but the pictures and stories of him napping with me and reading to me make up for that. I think I knew he was going to make an excellent big brother from that moment on.
Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 11.36.18 AM 2. Hating every guy I brought around and threatening all of my boyfriends.
I know it’s the natural thing for a big brother to do, but he could be just plain mean! Looking back now, though, I appreciate it. And it just makes Jimmy that much more special because Bubba liked him from the second he met him. Score!
3. Babysitting his girls.
I always enjoyed babysitting his two daughters, Hope and Olivia, because a) they’re the best nieces ever, and b) he and his wife always ordered the best pizza! I know it’s strange, but for some reason that’s a memory that always sticks out.
4. Teaching me about wine.
He works in the wine and spirits industry and has learned a LOT about wines over the past years. I love drinking wine with him and learning about everything that went into making that bottle, how to properly and what to drink and pair it. #WineSnobSiblingsForTheWin
5. The Bubba Look.
Apparently when I was little he used to make this face where he’d cock one side of his nose upward (I don’t really know how to explain it) and it would always make me laugh. It stuck with him and has since been called “The Bubba Look.” His kids learned to do it, Derek and Sarah’s kids all know it, and we all did it at my wedding. It will go down in Bubba history, for sure. (Maybe we should patent it?)
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Derek: The youngest of the brothers.
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1. Bandwagon fan.
Derek has got to be the biggest bandwagon fan that ever was. He started out as a Bulldog fan. When they stopped winning, he hopped the fence and became a Gator fan. Gators had a poor record that next year, so back to UGA he went. Trying to guess which team he’ll show up wearing to our next family event has become a running joke in our family. Who’s next, Derek? Duke? (For the record, it was UGA as of December 2014.)
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2. Making out with my babysitters.
I remember him sneaking off with my babysitters many times. Where they went, I have no clue and don’t want to. There’s one girl I remember distinctly, but I won’t name names!
3. Scary jobs.
For some reason Derek always had scary jobs. He was a volunteer firefighter for a while, and I remember him going out during one of the summer’s bad forest fires and being scared he was going to catch on fire. Morbid, huh? He also used to drive semi-trucks and was in an accident once. No more scary jobs, Derek!
4. Shaved eyebrows.
I don’t remember who did it or why, but I do remember him coming home with no eyebrows one time. Or maybe it was just one missing? Either way, I believe someone did it to him in his sleep, and for some reason I want to say it was Bubba and their stepbrother Ross that did it. Mean! But it was pretty hilarious.
5. Dancing at my wedding.
First of all, I don’t think I have ever seen Derek dance in my LIFE. But at my wedding, he was tearing up the dance floor and boogying the night away – voluntarily! I have never seen him that happy and having that much fun in his life.

Sarah: The baby of the group.
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1. Her bowl cut.
I’m sorry for this one, sis. For some reason I thought it was a good idea to give Sarah an at-home hair cut one sunny afternoon. I came out of the bathroom with scissors and a chunk of her hair in my hand and proudly said, “Look what I did, Mommy!” Mom freaked, rand to the bathroom to find Sarah’s long, curly blond hair in the toilet and had a meltdown. At least I cleaned up after myself? (Don’t worry. Sarah got revenge by yanking out a chunk of my hair in middle school when we got in a fight.)
Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 11.29.40 AM2. Almost drowning.
We were walking on the dock at my Aunt Kathy’s house in Jacksonville and all of a sudden Sarah fell off the side and sunk straight into the muddy marsh. By some miracle, my dad had cat-like reflexes in that moment and reached down to grab her hand just in time before it was submerged into the mud like the rest of her body. Seriously, the only thing sticking out of that muddy water was her hand. He pulled her out like the Hulk would rip off a car door. Poor Sarah was covered in mud and crying like crazy. I was only around six years old, but it was the scariest moment of my life. (I’m pretty sure this picture was taken that same day, too.)
10394083_10153858307137837_5046890146004530212_n2. Sneaking into each others bedrooms to listen to music, read, watch TV and play dolls.
After we’d go to bed in our separate rooms, we would completely disobey Mom and Dad’s rules and cross the hallway when they weren’t looking. Shame on us for not listening to them, but some of our best bonding moments were made in those times! (And Barbie got some of her best makeovers.)
3. She punched a girl on the bus for talking crap about me.
I’m not even kidding! Leave it to my little sister to beat up a girl for bullying me on the bus. Don’t mess with me, folks. I have my little sister on my side!
4. Her speech at my wedding.
I cry just thinking about it. Sarah hates public speaking, doesn’t wear her heart on her sleeve, and wasn’t prepared to make a speech at all. And after I completely humiliated myself and embarrassed her in my MOH speech at her wedding, I expected she was going to do the same to me. Boy, was I wrong. Seeing her on that stage looking so beautiful and saying the sweetest things I have ever heard was by far one of the most meaningful moments of my life. (See for yourself, but have a tissue handy!)

There’s no way I can wrap up this post without acknowledging my amazing sisters-in-law as well! My brother Bubba married the woman of his dreams in 1996, and she has been a big part pf our family ever since. Tricia, you’ve always been like a sister to me, and I love you to pieces.

Tricia: sister-in-law, Bubba’s wife.
Her love of games.
Tricia LOVES games and is super competitive when it comes to them. Like, we can’t allow her and Bubba to be on the same team kind of competitive! It’s amazing. Thanks to her we always play board games at family gatherings and it never makes for a bad time.
Her wedding day.
I was a junior bridesmaid in her wedding, and I just remember her looking absolutely beautiful that day. My whole life I wished for a wedding that was as much fun as theirs was, and I wanted to look as beautiful and happy as I remember her looking.

On 12-13-14, I gained a NEW sister-in-law! Amanda is every girl’s dream SIL and I am SO fortunate to call her mine. She’s amazing in every way possible, and I can’t imagine life without her now.

Amanda: Jimmy’s older sister.
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The first time I met her was unforgettable and undoubtedly my favorite memory of her.
Jimmy and I had flown in to Chicago and his parents picked us up from the airport. Amanda was running late and finally jumped in the car with all of us for a family road trip to Wisconsin. She was hungover from partying too much the night before, her hair was soaking wet, and she was dying of thirst. I was sipping on a mint chocolate tea from Argo Tea that I’d picked up in the airport and first thing she said was something along the lines of, “Hi Blakeley, so nice to meet you! Can I have a sip of whatever that is? I am super hungover and I’m dying.” I knew I liked her from that moment on!
Nashville.
Just like all of the other girls, Amanda completely rocked my bachelorette party in Nashville. She had all of the girls create a scrapbook page and compiled it in a surprise scrapbook for me. She was sick as a dog one night and stayed out until 2 a.m. like a champ. She also gave me donut PJs at my lingerie shower because she couldn’t stand the thought of me wearing lingerie around her baby bro! Amazing.
– She introduced me to a chocolate malt shake.
How I lived my entire life without trying one of those is beyond me, but thank goodness for A. That’s our go-to treat in Door County that we split at least twice during our week-long trip every year.
10464326_10101786268650431_4375843158645651987_n– Also, this picture.
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I can’t forget a quick shout-out to Carrie, our guardian angel. My brother Derek lost his wife to cancer a few years ago and it’s been rough for all of us, especially his family. I have many fond memories of her, but my favorites are the two legacies she left behind: my nephews Michael and Landon. We miss you, Carrie!

See – Told you I’m lucky. I love you all beyond words and am so happy to call you my siblings. Thanks for making me the luckiest sister in the world!

Happy Sibling Day to all! <3

Happy Birthday, SJP

Sarah Jessica Parker (Terry Richardson/Harper's Bazaar)

One of my favorite actresses is celebrating the big 5-0 today, so I thought I’d celebrate! I am talking about the one and only Sarah Jessica Parker. Grace, beauty, style, brains, talent … she’s got it all and is definitely in the top five on my “people I’d like to meet” list. It’s hard to believe she is FIFTY and still looks so amazing. You go, girl!

So, to celebrate, I’ve decided to share 16 reasons why I love this Hollywood icon, and why you should, too! (I thought 50 might be too many.) Ready? Here we go!

1.She starred in the most amazing show ever.

2. And wore the most amazing (and bizarre) outfits ever. (That we all wish we could wear at least once in our lives. C’mon ladies, admit it.)

3. She taught us that tutus are not just for little girls anymore (and now they’re a HUGE trend!).

4. My BFF Whitney and I shared countless days and nights through high school and college on the couch watching Sex and the City marathons. Carrie Bradshaw got us through sick days, breakups, hangovers, celebrations, and was even a great excuse to skip class every now and then.

5. I used one of her Carrie Bradshaw moments, Carrie’s Poem, as a reading in our wedding ceremony, which my niece read.

6. She loves love.

7. I love this interview, especially right around 4:20 when the interviewer asks, “Heels or flats?” Her response is perfect. And her British accent. OMG I love her.

8. We want the same things in life.

9. No one has ever looked so amazing in black and white.

10. Some people are judgmental of her, but I think she is perfect and beautiful. And as long as she agrees, that’s all that matters.

11. She’s won 25 awards, including 4 Golden Globes, 2 Emmy Awards, 3 Screen Actors Guild Awards, and 39 nominations. Amazing.

12. Her priorities are in order.

13. I keep telling my husband this same thing, but he just doesn’t get it. At least she does.

14. She made everyone want to be Carrie Bradshaw.

15. Hocus Pocus, Sex and the City, Glee, The Family Stone, Smart People, The First Wives Club, New Year’s Eve, Footloose, Failure to Launch, ‘Til There Was You, Mars Attacks …. so many memorable movies, shows and characters!

16. She has her own shoe line!
The resort collection from SJP by Sarah Jessica Parker.

There you have it! Sixteen reasons Sarah Jessica Parker has my vote any day of the week. Do you have anything to add to my list?

Happy 50th birthday, SJP! I hope it’s just as amazing as you are!


Bonus: If you want more SJP, check out this article on life lessons we learned from Carrie Bradshaw.

 

Disclaimer: I do not own these images or GIFs. They were all pulled from a Google search.

Spring Break Fiesta at Cabana Grill

Do you have Spring Fever yet? I certainly do now that this weather is pretty much perfect. I could definitely handle blue skies and 74 degree afternoons year-round for the rest of my life. The only thing that could make this better is if the employment world gave us working folk an adult spring break.

But, since we don’t have one, we have other things to preoccupy us. Things like binge-watching HBO’s The Jinx and Netflix’s House of Cards, Spring cleaning, grilling out, Essie’s seasonal pastel nail polishes, moving into a new house (me, me!), Maroon 5’s new album, and Cabana Grill’s week-long Mexican Fiesta.

Cabana Grill is a new fast-casual Mexican restaurant in Jacksonville (off San Jose), and I’m putting a pretty penny on it that we’ll see more popping up around town over the next few years. It’s the perfect place to pop in for a quick yet delicious meal made with fresh ingredients and a friendly staff.

My hubby is a lucky man because CG is right down the road from his office, and he frequents this new lunch spot on a weekly basis. And he was thoughtful enough to take a picture of his latest meal there for me to share! He’s a creature of habit and almost always gets carnitas or beef tacos at any Mexican restaurant we visit, including Cabana Grill, and I love their taco salads (sorry I don’t have a photo!). You can view the rest of their menu here.
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My absolute favorite thing about Cabana Grill is their salsa bar! I am a sauce fanatic, and they offer all the options I could possibly ever want and then some.

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So now that your mouth is watering, plan an afternoon or evening this week to check out Cabana Grill during their Spring Break Fiesta! Their week’s schedule is below and is full of activities for people of all ages. Jimmy and I will be there Friday night for food specials and the caricaturist! And probably the next day for free Crispy Beef Tacos, too.

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If you’d like to try a free meal at Cabana Grill, follow me on Instagram (@BlakeleyAV) for your chance to win a Be Our Guest coupon! Just follow me, find the picture of that beautiful salsa bar on my page and comment on it letting me know you want to try CG. I’ll select a few winners at random throughout the week!

Happy eating, have fun, and let me know what you think!

Disclaimer: Coupons provided by Cabana Grill in exchange for my honest opinion.

Donuts, Doughnuts … I’m going nuts!

My life has been changed. Forever.

It’s dangerous, it’s glorious, and it’s so much fun. I’ve learned how to make doughnuts!

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Completely obsessed. Can’t. Stop. Making them. I only need a taste of one to satisfy me … they’re just so much fun to prepare. And decorate. And bake. And share. And watch the pure satisfaction on the faces of those enjoying them. No seriously – eyes light up when people see them, and they’re even more impressed to learn that you made them yourself! (Perk – they’re my hubby’s favorite treat, so I get triple brownie points when I make them.)

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These have been my go-to for parties, birthdays and celebrations lately and there’s never any leftover. Cake pops used to be my signature, but I have a feeling those little balls on a stick might just be getting the boot.

I’ve had several people ask me for the recipes, so I’ve decided to share them with you. You’re welcome (or I’m sorry!).

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These Brown Butter Pistachio Doughnuts were the first tasty little suckers that are to blame. One taste and I was hooked.

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I’ve recently developed and extreme love for anything with pistachio, so I should have known what was to come. But, like a weak little girl, I went on to bake them anyway. And they were worth every single calorie.

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Don’t even kid yourself. You know you’re making these bad boys this weekend. You can find the recipe HERE.

After obsessing long enough (as in two days) over the pistachio doughnuts, I decided to tackle yet another amazing recipe: the classic sprinkle doughnut.

sprinkle donutsThey were originally supposed to be Funfetti Doughnuts, but when it came time to add the colorful sprinkles I realized I didn’t have much. Shame on me! I only had one small pack of shark-shaped colorful sprinkles, which I ended up adding to the batter and to the top of one lucky doughnut, which I dedicated to Left Shark.

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These were super delicious as well, but pistachio still holds the key to my heart. Find the recipe for Funfetti Doughnuts HERE.

As of now, those are the only two doughnut flavors I’ve made. I know – I’m so ashamed! I just can’t stop making the pistachio ones for those times of need. BUT have no fear! I’ve rounded up a few other baked doughnut recipes for you that sound just as amazing. Can’t wait to give them a shot myself! (Just click the doughnut name for the recipe, which can be found on other websites and blogs.)

Not baked doughnuts, but still worth honorable mention:

Before I wrap up this post, I wanted to share a few tips and tricks that I’ve learned in my short life as a doughnut-maker.

1. First and foremost, you’re going to need a doughnut pan. You can get them at Bed Bath and Beyond for around $15.
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2. Spoon your batter into a piping bag or a large Ziploc bag and snip the corner off. It makes filling the pan so much easier.

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3. Line the inside of a large cup (I use a Tervis tumbler) and fold over the excess. This will help your baggy stand upright and make for easier filling.

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There you have it! Hopefully those few simple tips will help you make perfect doughnuts. If you try any of these recipes or have any others I should try, please leave me a comment below!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go enjoy. Please donut bother me. (Hehe) :)

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Weekend Getaway in Helen, GA

Every now and then you just need a little weekend getaway. Am I right, or am I right? And what better excuse than a friend’s birthday? Our friend Meghan celebrated her birthday just recently, and when her husband Nick asked if we’d like to join them for a mini-vacation in Helen for it, we immediately jumped at the idea.

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I went to Helen, GA for family vacations growing up and I’d talked about it to Jimmy, Nick and Meghan in casual conversation over the years, and they all were intrigued. I’d only been in the summer, though, when we’d raft and tube along the rivers, so I knew winter in Helen would be a little different. Plus, I hadn’t visited there in over ten years, so when Meghan decided that’s where she wanted to go for her birthday, I was stoked to check it out from a totally different perspective (and this time I’d be old enough to drink the yummy German beers!).

Jimmy and I drove to Richmond Hill Thursday after work and stayed at my mom’s so we could leave super early Friday morning. So Friday at 6 a.m., we stopped to pick up our friends Brittnee and Travis, who would be joining us for the weekend, and hit the road. I’m pretty bummed I didn’t get a picture of the stuffed-to-the-brim Jeep, but it was pretty impressive how much we fit in there (and also very pathetic how much four of us needed for a two-night trip). Time to make the 4.5 hour drive up to north Georgia!

After a few strops and an eventful drive, we made it to our cabin right around noon. It was so perfect!
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The cabin was only a few miles from town and was in a beautiful, tucked away wooded area. When you walked in, there were tall ceilings, wooden floors and walls, and a fabulous stone fireplace. The mater bedroom with jacuzzi tub was on the entry level, a private bedroom with a queen bed and bathroom took up all of the upstairs space, and a sitting area, full bath, game room and sauna make up the lower level. The hot tub on the back of the wraparound porch was icing on the cake. AND THERE WAS SNOW ON THE GROUND!

Once we all got settled in, the six of us bundled up in preparation for the 20-degree weather and headed out for lunch.

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We strolled through town and took in all the cuteness. If you’ve never been, Helen is one of those charming places full of character that you should probably add to your bucket list. The little town of Helen is a quaint little German village that is great to visit all seasons during the year. The “city” is made up of several restaurants, many of them German, pubs, coffee shops, and other locally owned shops. It really is like walking through a little Germany (from what I’ve heard and seen, at least)!
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We found a cute little restaurant called The Troll Tavern where we decided to stop for lunch, and enjoyed warm sandwiches and cold German beers. Annnnddd followed it up with a little photo shoot. I was WAY too excited about all of the snow and ice on the ground and in the water!

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After lunch, we walked up to Betty’s Country Store (a must-see, it’s precious) to pick up a few necessities. During the walk there we discovered this strange but interesting glass blowing shop …

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… Hansel and Gretel’s candy shop (where we picked up some fudge and caramel apples) …
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… and this mini frozen waterfall! (Okay, it was actually a fountain.)
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We headed back to the cabin for some wine and R&R before going back out for dinner.
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Oh, and some pictures in the snow.
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Dinner time and time to bundle up even more – it was going to be a low of 18! Back to town we went. We all agreed on German food for dinner, obviously, so we walked around until we stumbled across Old Heidelberg Restaurant. Walking in is a little deceiving.  The lower level is made up of a dated smokey bar, which I imagine is a great time when you’re in the mood for that sort of thing, but the restaurant is upstairs (and is not smokey). The atmosphere wasn’t super thrilling, but the food was amazing. Again, I’m bummed I didn’t take a picture. Brittnee and I split the schnitzel stuffed with cream cheese and chives, spaetzle and German potato salad. Drool.

*Spoiler: This was my favorite part of the trip.* When we walked outside after dinner it was SNOWING!! And not just tiny flurries – it was actually snowing! That was my first time ever seeing actual falling snow, so to say I was excited is a bit of an understatement. We southerners don’t get to see that very often!
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The rest of the evening was spent playing games and celebrating Meghan’s birthday.
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Oh, and the boys enjoyed some guy time in the hot tub with cigars and whiskey. Hehe.
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The next morning I jumped out of bed to see if it was still snowing. It wasn’t, but there was much more fresh-fallen snow on the ground! While Nick so kindly made us breakfast, I headed out to build a snowman.
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Ta da! My very own Olaf. (Cut me some slack. There wasn’t that much snow! I had to make do with what I was given.) Brittnee came out to play in the snow, too.
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A few hours later, we headed into town for lunch at Big Daddy’s. It was pretty dang tasty, if I may say so myself.
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Our initial plan for the day was to hike up to Anna Ruby Falls, but the roads were closed due to weather so we hit up the wineries instead. Rough, I know.

The first winery we stopped at was Frogtown. I expected all of the wines to be sweet and fruity, but they actually had a wide variety of dry reds and whites, along with fruity and dessert wines. Jimmy and I did the red and white wine tasting, Nick and Megan did the white wine tasting, and Brittnee and Travis opted for the sweeter wines.
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Next stop: Habersham Winery. They have several different wines as well, but I thoroughly enjoyed their sweeter ones. The peach and the red muscadine wines are divine! Opposite from Frogtown, their tastings are free which was a nice plus.
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After we were all wined up, we headed back to the cabin for the night. The guys decided to prepare us a nice meal (beef Wellington, roasted potatoes and a Swiss chard salad!) so while they cooked, us three girls ran outside for some hot tub time.

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Dinner and games followed!

Sunday morning came way too soon and it was time to leave. We packed up and loaded the cars … which is when I found Olaf decapitated and missing an arm :(! His head melted right off – bless his little heart.
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Nick, Meghan and their pups headed back to Jacksonville, and the rest of us went out for one last German meal before heading back. Hofer’s for the win. I had chicken and spaetzle soup, and a hot ham and Swiss sandwich with German potato salad, and It was probably the best meal of the weekend.
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Of course we couldn’t leave without taking a picture with Santa in front of the Christmas Shoppe …
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… and swinging by Jumpin Goat Coffee Roasters (where I found peach coffee!) for some delicious local caffeine to get us through our drive.
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The time came to hit the road and leave that little slice of heaven. But it won’t be long until we return … we decided we all want to go during the summer for tubing AND in October for Oktoberfest! Until next time, Helen.

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The everyday happenings of a southern girl living in a big(ger) city.

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