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Bridal Magazine Photo Shoot (A Behind-the-Scenes Look)

You know, I have a pretty fabulous life. It’s not something I really stop and think about that often, but it’s true. I have everything I could ever want … I’m healthy, I’m about to marry the man of my dreams, I have a roof over my head and a bed to sleep in every night, I have a family with the kindest hearts, and friends I love dearly. But on top of all that, as if that’s not enough, I have experienced so many incredible things that most people probably don’t get to experience. Call it luck, but I’ve done some pretty neat-o things. For example, last year I was on the TLC show Randy to the Rescue. See, that’s neat-o, right??!! My BFF Brittnee got married last October, and she was selected to be one of the brides that Randy (yes, THE Randy Finoli) rescued in Savannah. I was her MOH, so she invited me to be a part of her entourage during her appointment with Randy. You can read all about that here.

I tried to get Randy to come rescue me (especially when I was having second thoughts about my wedding dress), but he wasn’t filming in my area this time. Bummer. It’s okay though, because I got to experience a kick-ass wedding-related experience of my own, and it reassured me on my dress decision without having to consult Randy.

I got to have a photo shoot in my killer wedding dress. Not your typical bridal portrait photo shoot. A bridal magazine photo shoot. Oh yeah, baby.

A few weeks ago, my friend Aliera asked me if I’d be interested in getting a makeover for her friend’s bridal magazine. They were looking for a ‘real bride’ to feature, so knowing I’m getting married in December, she extended the invitation to me (thanks, lady!). Of course I agreed. How could I pass up an excuse to have my makeup done? After a few date changes, I was told to be at a location at Jax Beach at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday, August 24. I was already staying the weekend with my mom in Savannah, so I had to wake up bright and early (as in 5:30 a.m.) to quickly shower and make the two-hour drive to Jacksonville. And I was on time! (Score!)

I found the location, threw my [what feels like] 30-pound wedding dress over my shoulder, and headed inside. All I knew what that I needed to bring my dress and come prepared for a makeover. That’s all. I walked inside a little warehouse-type building to find a full-on studio, complete with lots of professional cameras and equipment, backdrops and stagings, makeup stations, and models doing their thing.

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After meeting the crew and talking with the Editor, Amanda, I learned that the magazine I was “modeling” for wasn’t just a little Jacksonville bridal magazine like I’d initially thought. The magazine, Bridal Beauty, is a 100+ page national publication with four publications a year: two of which go to print (all four are available digitally), and this would be one of those two print issues. And I have a two-page spread. Oh, and it’s being distributed at New York Fashion Week in October. (WHAT?!?!)

Moments after finding this out, the unthinkable happened. I was instructed to stand in front of the camera and pose for a “before” photo. I don’t really mind the no makeup thing, but I was wearing a terrible, completely unflattering outfit (because I was just dressing comfortable!). So not only will I be pictured with no makeup and day-old hair, I also looked like a slob. Ew.

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I snapped this selfie in the car when I arrived so I could have a before and after photo. Excuse the 16-year-old breakouts taking over my face.

Then it was time for hair and makeup with the fabulous and extremely talented Brooke Smith! The theme of the October issue is “ballerina bride,” so everything in the magazine will tie in with that theme – including my look. She had a hair and makeup look in mind, but I wasn’t allowed to look in any mirrors until the very end. All I knew was lots of pinks and purples.
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Before moving on to hair, Brooke was called to the set for a step-by-step bridal makeup tutorial piece that will be featured in the issue. If you love the Urban Decay Naked 2 pallet, be sure to check it out!
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While Brooke was working magic on my hair, the rest of the crew was shooting a piece on DIY hair styles and another on ballerina fitness. A few final touch-ups to my makeup and it was time to get dressed.

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Okay so, let me back up for a minute. About a month ago, I found another wedding dress that I fell in love with. I loved it on the TV show where I originally saw it, I loved it hanging on the hanger in the bridal boutique that I drove 75 miles to, and I loved it even more on me. But I also loved my original dress that I already owned and paid for. I’d been wracking my brain for a way to come up with an additional $2K to buy that other dress, but it wasn’t looking too promising. This would be the first time I put on this dress since I tried on “the new one,” and I was nervous.

Ten minutes, three people and four covered-up mirrors later, I had my gown on, and it fit like a glove (whew!). The girls laced me up, accessorized me, and Brooke added a silk flower in my hair.

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Then I turned around and looked into the full-length mirror, seeing myself for the first time as an actual bride. It took all I had not to cry! There’s something just so emotional about seeing yourself as a bride, and the overwhelming happiness that shoots all the way through you is inescapable. I loved that feeling and loved what I saw – dress and all! Fortunately, Amanda has a “no cry policy” for brides when they see themselves (because it’ll mess up the makeup!), so it forced me to laugh instead.

The next few minutes were filled with lots of clicks, flashes, and moments of extreme awkwardness. I hate being alone in front of a camera! I think I asked, “How do I stand?” and “What do I do with my arms?” a dozen times. Then the photographer said, “Do you remember when you first looked in the mirror a moment ago? And did you like what you saw? I just want to see that same expression and happiness.” That helped, and I had fun pretending to be a model :).

Aliera snapped a few photos on her phone during the shoot and shared them with me (thanks for the pictures!). I’m not going to post the full pictures here – you’ll have to wait until the issue comes out in October! – but here’s a little teaser for ya. Jimmy, the magazine is off-limits to you until 12/14/14!!!

photo 13(2) pixelated photo 13(1) pixelated Screen shot 2014-08-28 at 8.55.48 PMI didn’t want to take the dress off. It was a total blast, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the issue next month to see it all come to life. It was definitely an experience that I will never forget, and a magazine I will hold on to forever. Thank you, Bridal Beauty team, for allowing me to be a part of this issue!

P.s. As incredible as this entire experience was, the best part about it all was realizing that I DO love my wedding dress, and reassuring me that I might the right decision. Whew!

Five hours later, it was a wrap!

With that, I will leave you with a few more photos from the day.

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I’m not typically a fan of my hair up, but this fun and messy up-do Brooke created was amazing!
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Post-makeover selfie.
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39 Bobbie pins later …
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LOVED the eye makeup!
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A mid-way selfie. I even resisted looking at the screen and this picture so I wouldn’t ruin the surprise at the end.
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Hey there, pretty eye makeup :)
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I was in makeup heaven! Some of this was used in the tutorial piece.
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Two of the beautiful models working hard.
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We’re supposed to be in Door County eating and drinking too much right now.

Nothing has ever called for a #ThrowbackThursday post as much as this.

For the past three years (and every year of Jimmy’s life), Jimmy and I travel from Jacksonville, Florida to Door County, Wisconsin for a peaceful 10-day vacation with his family. We either fly into Chicago on a Friday night and stay with one of Jimmy’s friends in the city, or fly in super early Saturday morning, where his parents and sister pick us up from the airport. We all five pile in the car and hit the road for a fun-filled day of driving, eating and stopping at necessary places along the way. When we finally arrive in Door County (which should be a 4.5-hour trip but takes us at least six), our phones don’t work, there are no chain restaurants to be found, and there is no sleeping past 7 a.m. for the next week …. and it’s absolutely glorious.

Unfortunately, this year Jimmy and I decided to forgo the trip so we could save money and vacation days for our wedding and honeymoon, but the decision wasn’t an easy one … because these are the things were had to give up (here come a bunch of pictures).

Filling up on a good road trip Chicago dog.

Stopping at the important places like Mars Cheese Castle
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…where we load up on string cheese, blueberry cheese, beer, cheese curds, and a gazillion other cheeses.

Some other stops might include the PBR Brewery in Milwaukee for some brews, Bearcat’s Fish House in Algoma for smoked fish, Bobby Nelson’s Cheese Shop in Kenosha for some sausages, and Connie’s Diner (previously Phil Rohrer’s) in Two Rivers for the best burger ever.

Shopping at adorable shops and markets like these:

Drinking Brandy Old Fashioneds …

… delicious local beers …
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… and the best Bloody Mary’s ever.

Waking up early for Eggs Benedict at The Viking
…famous Stuffed Cherry French Toast at White Gull Inn
Screen shot 2014-07-31 at 8.55.40 PM… or Swedish pancakes, meatballs and awesome bacon at Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant
… where goats hang out on the roof.
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Eating fresh lake Perch almost every night for dinner (usually at Greenwood Supper Club)…

… except when we go to the Fish Boil at the White Gull Inn.

Somewhere throughout the day we manage to squeeze in chilli (with noodles in it!) at Bayside Tavern
… and fried cheese curds.

Reading and relaxing on the balcony with a postcard view …
…and watching the most breathtaking sunsets over Green Bay (no two ever look the same).
Walking to Wilson’s Ice Cream Parlor for a good old-fashioned chocolate malt.
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Eating (and drinking) cherry-everything …
Screen shot 2014-07-31 at 8.53.45 PM… picking our own cherries …
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… and seeing who can spit the pits off the balcony the furthest (it’s never me).

Spending some quality time having drinks, snacks and playing bags at AC Tap.

Enjoying yoga by the beach with J’s sis.
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Visiting the distilleries and wineries.
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Paddle-boating on the Bay.

Seeing a cute play at the Folklore Theatre in the woods.
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Enjoying the beautiful scenery.

And goofing off.

But the best part of all is getting to spend some quality time with J’s incredible family, and making plans for the next year.

You can see how it’s so hard for us to not be there right now, can’t you?

His family has been updating us with texts and pictures all week, but it’s still not the same. I’ve also been trying to recreate some of our favorite Door County meals and treats, but again, still not quite the same. The only good thing is that next year there will be TWO Mr. and Mrs. Vinicky’s there (his parents and us)!! Plus, I think my waistline appreciates us taking the year off.

So, until next year, Door County! Stay beautiful, and don’t run out of pickled mushrooms (or my Heath Rum).

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Life-Changing Mascara + Giveaway!

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Are you ready for your world to be rocked and your life to be changed? I hope so, because I’ve discovered the most amazing (and yes, life-changing) mascara! Let’s be honest, no matter how much or how little makeup we feel like wearing, mascara is one of those we just can’t do without. That and lip gloss … it’s a fact. And unless you were blessed with fabulous lashes sans mascara (like my friends Megan, Chantel and Georgia .. it’s seriously not fair), then you know what I’m talking about. And if you have short, blond, thin lashes like me, you know there’s no such thing as owning too many tubes of mascara. Not kidding … all of these are mine.

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Don’t judge.

As you can see, I’ve tried pretty much every mascara on the market (well, sort of), and I’ve spent anywhere from $2 to $50 on a single tube of mascara. So what would you say if I told you I’ve discovered one mascara that’s better than every single one of those times ten? Yes, even better than the Too Faced Lash Injection. And to make it even better, what if I told you this mascara is paraben-free, made of green tea fibers, is gentle, hypoallergenic, doesn’t destroy your lashes, and makes you look like you’re wearing falsies? Ladies, I introduce you to Moodstruck 3D Fiber Lashes by Younique.

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To prove to you how amazing this stuff is, I took a million weirdo pictures of my eyeballs for you. (P.s. Please ignore my terrible eyebrows. I had a waxing mishap and am trying to grow them back out. And it’s happening painfully slow!) Here’s the difference between this mascara and regular mascara:
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And here’s how it works:
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It’s that easy! The Transplanting Gel is like a thin mascara, and the Fibers are literally like fuzzy fibers that attach to your lashes, making them longer and fuller. You just apply one coat of Transplanting Gel, follow immediately with one coat of the 3D Fibers, then seal it with a second coat of Transplanting Gel. (The curling part is completely optional.)

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Add it on top of regular mascara or, as I do, use it by itself. You can do one coat, or add as many as you’d like until you’ve reached your desired look.

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Doesn’t it look like I have on false lashes? I love the look of falsies, but the glue gets everywhere, I always end up making them uneven, a corner always sticks into my eyes, and they start falling off halfway through the day. This is SO much easier. I can’t get over the greatness of this stuff. It’s 100% the best $29 I’ve ever spent.

PLUS it comes in this fun little case.


The fibers don’t flake off into my eyes, and the mascara doesn’t make my eyes water so much that it looks like I just finished watching Steel Magnolias three times in a row (because most mascaras do that to my sensitive eyes). It also stays on all day, doesn’t smudge and comes off easily when you wash your face. I honestly can’t say one single negative thing about this product. But don’t take my word for it. Try it for yourself! I have a virtual Lash Bash going on right now, so you can purchase this fabulous mascara for yourself without leaving your computer! Younique also has a ton of other great beauty products, so I would totally encourage you to check them out at well.

WIN IT! Because I love this mascara so much, I have decided to purchase an extra one to give away to one of my amazing readers! To enter, leave a comment below telling me why you’re excited to try this mascara, or which Younique product you’d like to try the most! You can receive a bonus entry by Tweeting about this giveaway, just be sure to tag @BlakeleyA and link to this post in your Tweet. (Sample Tweet: I want killer-long lashes like ! You should enter to win 3D Fiber Lash Mascara on her blog, too. If you happen to purchase any products during my Virtual Party, I will give you an additional five bonus entries as well :). (Purchase any product through my link to receive the bonus points.)
Note: If you are selected as the winner and have already purchased the mascara from me, I will give  you the option of selecting another mascara, or choosing any other product under $35!
Contest runs July 27 – August 3, 2014. Winner will be announced on this post and contacted via the email address associated with your comment below.

Good luck, and happy beautifying!
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Pick up your own Moodstruck 3D Fiber Lash Mascara HERE.

Disclaimer: I purchased the mascara for giveaway and all opinions are my own.

UPDATE: And the winner is …
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Congratulations, beautiful – you are going to LOVE your lashes! Thanks to all who entered. If you weren’t the lucky winner, I encourage you to still pick up a bottle of the 3D Lashes. 2-Day shipping and the most amazing mascara you’ll ever own … you can’t beat it!


Nailpolish Lovers, Rejoice! (+ Giveaway)


Hi, my name is Blakeley and I have a confession: I am addicted to nail polish. Like, seriously. I have two shoe boxes and a drawer FULL of polish. Maybe I should go on that TV show ‘Hoarders’? Because, yes, I hoard nail polish. I have never once finished a bottle and I never get rid of it, yet I can’t stop buying more. I probably have the exact same color in three different brands. But I paint my nails 2-3 days a week, so that makes it okay, right? The moment it starts to chip – BAM! Time for a new color. I even kind of struggle with gel manis because it lasts too long and I get bored with the color. See, told you have a problem.

BUT … in the words of Juan Pablo, “ees okay!” Because this time it paid off. A few weeks ago, I came across some pretty fabulous Maybelline nail polish colors and gave myself a fun manicure, which I posted on Instagram.

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About a week after, I discovered Maybelline’s limited release Bleached Neon polishes that were available during the month of May only. Of course, I had to have them, and shared my mani using two of the colors.
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Not long after, I received a direct message on Instagram from Maybelline saying that I was a winner in their #ColorShowoff IG Contest and had won their entire Color Show nail polish collection. SCORE!!!! I assumed I’d won maybe ten bottles of polish.


I got a knock at my door last week, signed for a package, opened it up, and THIS is what I found inside:
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Holy nail polish!! You know that sound that plays in cartoons when something magnificent happens, kind of like the heavens opening up? I’m pretty sure that played when I opened this box. The contents of that box translated into 48 bottles of nail polish.

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It was like color overload. I couldn’t get the bottles out of the box fast enough, and then I couldn’t decide which color to try first! I decided to go with this amazing pastel pink. I’ve been searching high and low for the perfect pale pink, and have finally found it in Maybelline’s Pink Embrace. Or should I say, it found me.
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Now, y’all know me. I can’t keep a good thing to myself. Which is why I’ve decided to share my good luck with YOU! Two lucky readers will win four bottles of nail polish from my new collection. One will win these three colors + a mystery color, selected by yours truly:
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And another will win these three + a mystery color:
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Fun, right? (P.s. That Gilded Rose above is amazing. I already own that and the Pretty In Peach next to it, which is what I used in the first IG picture.)

To enter, just leave a comment below letting me know a fun fact about you and nail polish! It can be a tip or trick you may have, your favorite colors, favorite brand, or even just the colors you would like to win. I will select two winners at random on Friday, July 11th. For a bonus entry, tweet a link to this post so that your friends can enter, too. Just be sure to tag me, @BlakeleyA, so that I can include it in the drawing. (Note: Winners will be contacted via the email associated with their comment below, so please make sure you use an email that you check! I will also post the winners on this blog post.)

So, what are you waiting for? Get to commenting so you can get to painting! I know that’s what I’ll be doing for the next five weeks …
Good luck!

Peace. Love. And nail polish.
xo, Blakeley

Disclaimer: I was not encouraged or compensated by Maybelline to write this post or give away their polish. I simply won and decided to let you in on the phone :).

Update: Congratulations to my winners!
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Wedding Bells: I said “YES!” to the dress!

I did, I did! I found my wedding dress. Eek!!


I’m not going to share details about my dress, but I have decided to share my dress shopping experience with you, along with some of the other “close call” dresses. (Warning: this is a lengthy post with lots of pictures.)

I’m sure I’ll catch some grief for sharing pictures of me in wedding dresses before my wedding, but how often will I really get to play dress-up in wedding gowns? It was so much fun and I tried on so many pretty dresses that I just can’t keep the whole experience to myself. Besides, I like to think I will look much different in THE dress on our big day.

Jimmy’s parents came in town for a week in February, so I thought it would be the perfect time to go try on dresses so that Jimmy’s mom could be a part of it. The day after our engagement party in Savannah, we all piled in my mom’s Explorer and headed to Jax for a 4:00 appointment at Alfred Angelo.

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While we waited on my consultant, we browsed the hundreds of dresses.
I was at the same place almost a year ago when one of my best friends was wedding dress shopping, which is why I decided I wanted Alfred Angelo to be my first dress stop. We had such a great experience before and it was exactly like what you see on ‘Say Yes to the Dress.’ (For real, I lived through the real experience with Randy Fenoli himself!) After a few minutes, my consultant, Sherry, called us over to the seating area and asked me a few questions about what I envisioned wearing on my wedding day.
IMG_1950Being on this side of things was so different! I was nervous, excited, shaky, jittery, and couldn’t wait to try on dresses. I told Sherry what I liked and didn’t like, what I wanted and didn’t want: mainly that I wanted a romantic, classic and timeless dress, and I really wanted lace. And no bows.

Sherry took some notes, then went to pull a few dresses she had in mind from my descriptions and pictures I showed her. I headed into the dressing room, piled on the corset, slip and heels, and started modeling for my girls.

We’ll talk about the first dress last.

The second dress I tried on was this lace mermaid dress with a high neckline, cap sleeves, an organza bottom and keyhole back (AA style #2454). I knew I wasn’t going to like it, but tried it on anyway.

IMG_1981IMG_1979_2Hey, I said I wanted lace, so she gave me lace. I’m sure this dress would look incredible on a tall, slender size 2 with a toned back, but not on a curvy gal with hips. Next!

Next up: a charmeuse semi-mermaid dress with embroidered cascading flowers and ruching (AA style #2362). Again, it just didn’t feel “right” when I put it on, but I still wanted to see for myself.

A beautiful dress, but not for me. I wasn’t crazy about the material, it seemed to hug all of my “wrong” parts, and I’m not really crazy about tiny little flowers on my wedding dress.

Next was fun and sparkly little number from the Princess Jasmine collection with a jeweled neckline, organza bodice, and multi-tiered ruffled skirt (AA style #215).

The weaved bodice was flattering in the mid-section, I loved the train, and I liked that the dress was fun and had some personality, but still – it wasn’t the one. Too bad, because Princess Jasmine was one of my favorite princesses!

After trying on that fourth dress, I still couldn’t get the first dress out of my head, so I put it on again. It was my favorite from the day. Two hours in, it was time to call it quits.
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The next weekend, I went home to Savannah and decided to visit David’s Bridal with my mom, my sister Sarah, 6-year-old niece (and flower girl) Bailey, and one of my matrons of honor, Brittnee. Sarah and Bailey weren’t able to make it to the first appointment, so this gave them a chance to be a part of the dress shopping experience and me another chance to try on more dresses. Shopping at David’s Bridal was much different from Alfred Angelo, and much more pleasant that I expected it to be. I still had a consultant who pulled dresses for me based on what I told her I liked and didn’t like, but we also had the opportunity to walk through the entire store and pull any additional dresses that we thought I should try on for ourselves.

First up was this strapless lace A-line gown with a side split and subtle jeweled detail (DB style #YP3344).

I actually really liked this dress, even more the second time I tried it on. It was classic, simple yet elegant, left a lot of room to spice it up with accessories, and made me feel pretty. But it also seemed a little too classic and lacked the personality I wanted it to have. After all, I’m only getting married once, so I want to wear a dress like no other dress I’ll ever wear again!

Next, I tried on a Vera Wang organza fit and flare with a modern flange skirt (Style # VW351011).

I liked how the dress fit and the diagonal drop-waist, but I wanted a sweetheart neckline and I wasn’t crazy about the big flowery thingy in the front. Maybe if they were smaller cuts?

Next up, a fun and spunky vintage-inspired Galina Signature trumpet gown with a basket-woven bodice and ruffled tulle skirt (style #SWG523).

The dress was beautiful and totally would have fit right in with our Gatsby-esque wedding theme, but I wasn’t loving the way it accentuated my “pooch,” and it wasn’t a timeless enough look for me. It was fun to play with, though!

The fourth dress I tried was a sweetheart tulle A-line gown with lace appliques by David’s Bridal (style #3587). (Ha, just realized the style number is my birth date!)

For a few minutes, I thought this was the one. It was light and comfortable, left lots of room in the hip and leg area for dancing, the perfect combination of classic, elegant and modern, and it was flattering in all the right places. I LOVED the train, loved the color variations, and it made me feel feminine. I still love this dress.

The last dress I tried at DB was this Oleg Cassini strapless ball gown with an organza ruffle skirt (style #CWG568). Let me start by telling you that I didn’t want anything poofy, I didn’t want a ball gown, and I didn’t want any crazy ruffles. (FYI: It wasn’t really this puffy on my hips. There was a layer bunched up that we didn’t catch until later, but didn’t get any pictures of it the “right” way.)
I don’t know what it was about this dress, but I REALLY liked it! Maybe because it was so unexpected? It was so fun, had personality, and I absolutely loved the detail on the bodice. And that train! (I am such a sucker for a long train.) The seamstress came out and fitted it to me perfectly, they put the veil on me, and I was sold. I rang that bell and said “yes” to that dress!!
But before going through the whole buying process, we walked next door for a late lunch and planned to pop back over after we ate to seal the deal. Annnnddd then I thought about it. I looked back at pictures of the first dress I tried on and changed my mind. (Oops, I’m so sorry sweet consultant at David’s Bridal!!!)

No dress yet. At this point, I was confused, frustrated and wanted to be done. Two days later, my friend/bridesmaid, Amanda, accompanied me back to Alfred Angelo so that I could try on dress #1 again and compare the two back-to-back. While I was there, Sherry found two more dresses for me to try.

One was this A-line gown with a sweetheart neckline and re-embroidered lace (AA style #2438).

Crap. I liked this one, too. It was the lace that I wanted, had the train that I’m such a sucker for, had the perfect neckline, the lace-up corset was my BFF, and I was nearly sold when she put that rhinestone belt on. Talk about confusion! I still wanted to put the original on again.

The second was this organza A-line gown with a deep sweetheart neckline, an embroidered bodice and rhinestone accents (AA style #2450A).

It was extremely lightweight and pretty, and I liked the silhouette of it., but it felt a little too princessy for me. I was going for the classic and romantic look, not fairytale look, so I vetoed this one. The $699 price tag, however, sure was tempting!

Finally, I put the very first dress back on and before I got it all the way up in the dressing room, I knew it was the one. I walked out and Amanda’s eyes teared up (it was the first time she’d seen it). I think it’s a pretty good sign when another bride is trying on dresses next to you and she and her entire entourage turn their heads and tell me the dress looks like it was made for me. I looked at myself in the mirror and saw the bride I wanted to be on December 13, 2014, realized I was covered in goosebumps, eyes were watering, and I had the biggest grin on my face. That’s when I said “yes” to the dress, and the whole store cheered.

I’m not going to give you any details about the dress that I chose, but I will tell you that everyone’s faces when I came out the very first time I put it on said it all. I got the exact reaction I wanted to get when I put on THE dress.

And to think I hated it when I saw it hanging up! Thank goodness I listened to Sherry. I still can’t believe it’s the very first dress I tried on. The biggest shocker: it’s nothing at all like the dress I thought I’d wear, and nothing at all what I initially wanted. Funny how that happens!
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I am so happy that I found the dress that I’m going to walk down the aisle in. The dress that I’m going to say “I do” and commit my life to my person in. The dress that I’m going to party the night away in, celebrating with friends and family. The dress that made mine and Jimmy’s mom cry. The dress that’s everything I dreamed of and more. The dress that was made for me. I can’t wait to put it on again when it comes in next month!

Oh, and most importantly: it will look absolutely fabulous with my wedding shoes my mom surprised me with!!!
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Happy Iced Tea Day!

Fellow-sweet tea drinkers rejoice: today is National Iced Tea Day! Yes, it’s pretty true … there is a “day” for everything. But this is one day that I am excited about! I mean, I clearly love sweet tea, so any day to celebrate it I am all for. After all, sweet tea is a way of life down here in the south, so it only makes sense to have a designated day to this southern staple.

tea 1Now that you know what a glorious day today is, I can’t have a blog with “sweet tea” in the title and not post some sort of tea-related post now, could I? I mean, what kind of person would I be if I withheld my passion for this fabulous summertime concoction?

So in honor of this holiday (yes, holiday), I have decided to share some of my favorite iced sweet tea recipes. If you’re boring, weird, sick, lack taste buds, or just have poor taste and prefer to drink your tea unsweetened (like my fiance. Yes, I am ashamed), please click the little X on the upper corner of your browser. (J/k, you don’t have to do that. You can just omit the sugar from these recipes. But be warned, they may not taste good. Just sayin’.)

tea 4Get ready for some front porch sippin’ and get to fixin’ the goods. Here we gooooo!

Sweet Mint Tea

Mint tea is one of my all-time favorites. There’s just something about the combination of mint and tea that is so refreshing! It’s absolute perfection on a hot summer day.

2 family size tea bags
2 quarts boiling water
10 sprigs mint
1 cup sugar (or to taste)
2 lemons, sliced

1. In large tea pot, pour boiling water over tea bags and mint and allow to steep for 20 minutes.
2. Place sugar in 2-quart pitcher (that will tolerate some heat).
3. Pour freshly brewed tea (minus mint and tea bags) into sugar and stir until sugar is dissolved.
4. Place in refrigerator until ready to serve.
5. To serve, pour into tall glasses over ice.
6. Serve with lemon slices.
Serves 8.
Recipe source.

Classic Southern Sweet Tea (my grandmamma’s recipe)

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This is what I grew up on in Savannah. My grandma made it, my aunt makes it, my mom makes it, and now I make it. It’s what my dad likes to call “syrup.” (P.s. Sorry the directions aren’t more specific. This is how we share recipes in my family. Measurements, what?)

2 family size tea bags (Tetly or Lipton)
1 1/2 c. sugar

1. In a pot or microwave-safe bowl, heat tea bags and about 4 cups of water to boiling.
2. Add sugar to a one-gallon pitcher, then pour hot tea mixture over (minus the tea bags). Stir until sugar is devolved.
3. Fill pitcher with cool water and stir.
4. Pour over ice and serve with lemon, if desired.

Sparkling Sweet Tea

I’ve honestly never tried this recipe, but I can’t wait to do so. The recipe came from The Loveless Cafe’s website (the most amazing southern restaurant in Nashville), so it has to be good, right?

A twist on the classic- Sweet tea with a little fizz!

2 cups sugar
2 cups water
1 large family size tea bag
Club soda or sparkling water
Ice and lemon

1. Bring water to a boil and add tea bag. Reduce to simmer and let simmer for one minute before removing from heat. Let sit for five minutes.
2. Remove tea bag, add sugar and return to medium heat to help dissolve sugar. Once dissolved, transfer to a glass bottle or jar and cool the concentrated tea syrup completely.
3. To serve, add a few tablespoons of syrup to a glass, add a splash of club soda and stir to combine. Add ice, top with more club soda and lightly stir as to not lose carbonation.
4. Garnish with fresh lemon and enjoy.
Photo and recipe source.

Sweet Tea Julep

Is it Friday night yet? This is another one I can’t wait to try! Sweet tea vodka is my summertime go-to, and you can’t beat a good mint julep.  But here, a combination of sweet tea AND a mint julep? I think I’ve died and gone to cocktail heaven.

Sweet Tea Julep ~ A Tennessee take on the classic bourbon-based cocktail. Delicious!

½ gallon Classic Sweet Tea
12-15 sprigs fresh mint
Tennessee whiskey

1. In a glass, muddle 2-3 sprigs of fresh mint. Add 1.5 ounces of whiskey (more or less to taste).
2. Fill glass with ice and top with cold sweet tea.
3. Garnish with a mint sprig and enjoy!
Photo and recipe source.

Sweet Peach Tea

Sweet tea, ginger, peach, mint … what’s not to love about this recipe? It just screams southern deliciousness!

Sweet Peach Tea recipe

1 ounce tea leaves (Earl Grey or Darjeeling, about 1/3 cup loose tea or 7 bags)
1 lemon, sliced
1 piece ginger (about 2 inches), peeled and smashed
1 quart boiling water
8 cups ice cubes
2 peaches, peeled, pitted and diced
1/2 cup sugar
8 sprigs mint
1 peach, pitted and sliced

1. Place tea, lemon and ginger in a heat-proof container and add boiling water. Let tea steep 7 to 8 minutes.
2. Place 4 cups of the ice in a pitcher, then pour in tea.
3. Blend diced peaches and sugar in a blender until smooth; mix into tea.
4. Serve in glasses over remaining ice and garnish with mint and peach slices.
Photo and recipe source.

Sun Tea

Nothing like a glass of classic sun tea. This one takes some time, but it’s well worth the wait. Just stick it outside in the sun in the morning before work and you’ll have a perfect pitcher of tea in time for dinner.

Sun Tea. Photo by Chef*Lee

4 family size tea bags
1 1/4 cups sugar or sugar substitute
Water, to fill container
Lemon wedge, for garnish
You will also need a 1 gallon container or jug with lid.

1. Fill your pitcher with the water, and tea bags.
2. Let the tea sit in the sun for most of the day, a prime full sun location is best. (It usually takes 4-6 hours of being in the sun in order to steep.)
3. When bringing the tea in, boil one cup, and then mix it with the sugar (in the summer, the heat from outside can often times be enough to dissolve the sugar). Boiling the cup of tea only helps to make dissolving the sugar easier.
4. Combine the sugar, tea, and more water to make one gallon.
5. Pour over ice and serve with a lemon wedge.
Note: You can eye ball the tea, and bring it in after the tea looks dark enough.
Photo and recipe source.

There you have it! A few delicious sweet tea recipes to try this summer.

Oh, and if you’re anything like most of us southerners and you like your tea extra sweet, don’t be afraid to add more sugar. Sweet tea calories don’t count! (Shh … don’t tell my trainer I said that.) Maybe I should start experimenting with honey and agave nectar recipes … hmmm.

Anyhoo … What’s your favorite way to drink tea? Do you have any super-yummy sweet tea recipes that you swear by? If so, leave the recipe in the comments below! I am always down to try new recipes.

Thanks for stopping by, happy sweet tea drinking, and always remember …
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Still thirsty? Check out even more delicious sweet tea recipes from The Loveless Cafe!

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Lipstick Mania: 12 Shades Every Girl Should Own

12 shades pin
I know what you’re thinking: Do I really need to own 12 shades of lipstick? And the answer is YES. Yes, you do. At least 12. Especially these 12 because they are all fabulous. I’ll admit, I do have a bit of an obsession. (Seriously, I have nine different lip products in my purse right now.) Andddd my friend and I frequently have lipstick lunches (you know, a trip to the beauty store on our lunch break to stock up on new shades.)
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But it’s okay, because lipstick is kind of like shoes. No matter what kind of day you’re having, no matter how fat or skinny you feel, lipstick always looks great and can totally make any outfit 10x more exciting. Which is why it is A-okay in my book to splurge on a twenty-something dollar tube of it. Just think how many wears you get out of that one credit card swipe!

I, like many women, adore MAC lipstick. They are just so on-point with their shades and textures that spending $16+ on one tube doesn’t even make me think twice. I have, though, started stepping outside of my comfort zone and have been trying other brands as well. So, without further ado, here are my 12 [current] shades of lipstick that I rotate on a regular basis.

(P.s. I even took all kinds of weird pictures of my lips in the same lighting just so you can see what each color truly looks like. Thoughtful, right?)

1. MAC Lustre ‘Snapdragon’: This is the perfect pink for all skin tones, all seasons, and all occasions. It has a hint of purple, a tiny bit of shimmer and is the perfect combination of sheer meets color.
2. Wet N Wild ‘Stoplight Red’
: This is a fabulous bright red with a small price tag. The color goes on nice and smooth, and lasts all day. (Unless you’re wearing it when you get engaged … then it will last on him all day! Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything…)

3. MAC Lustre ‘Cockney’: Another fabulous red, perfect for the holidays. It’s a bit of a deeper red but still brighter than a cranberry red. Semi-glossy, semi-shimmery, and completely beautiful. I ALWAYS get complements when I wear this shade!
4. MAC Matte ‘Please Me’
: A perfect pinkish-nude that is perfect for a flawless day-to-night look. This was the first shade of MAC lipstick that I ever owned, and I can’t imagine my makeup collection without it. I don’t know what I’ll do if they ever discontinue it!

5. MAC Retro Matte ‘Relentlessly Red’: Feeling sassy? This hot pink shade has a tint of orange and is perfect for those hot summer days. Trust me, you’re going to have a good time no matter what you’re doing as long as you’re wearing this color.
6. MAC Frost ‘Costa Chic’
: A beautiful, pearl-like coral shade that will live in your purse all Spring and Summer. It’s a great color for every skin tone, and will complement any look and style.
7. Wet N Wild ‘521A Fuchsia with Blue Pearl’
: Just like it sounds, this shade is a beautiful, glossy fuchsia with shimmery blue hues. Rock it in those summer months with your bronzed skin!
8. MAC Satin ‘Twig’
: This is another one of those perfect colors that you’ll never want to run out of. It’s the perfect mauve/berry color that can be worn with casual makeup during the day, or dramatic smokey eyes at night.
IMG_3130Screen shot 2014-06-02 at 4.52.03 PM
9. Rimmel London ‘Rossetto 14′: From their Lasting Finish by Kate collection. If you’re going for an “I’m not wearing any makeup” look, or just want to keep it simple, this is a great color. It also looks fab when paired with super smokey eyes!
10. Wet N Wild ‘Dollhouse Pink’: This Barbie-pink matte is my new fave. Coincidentally, it’s also Jimmy’s favorite of all the lipsticks that I wear, so it’s a double-win! It goes on creamy and lasts for hours. (Warning: You may be singing Barbie Girl in your head all day when you wear it.)

11. Bare Minerals ‘Moxie Get Ready’: I loooove this lipstick. The shade is perfect for every occasion, and the formula is incredible. Your lips will stay hydrated all day while looking like you just jumped in a swimming pool. I love the wet, glossy look of this lipstick!

12. MAC Amplified ‘Girl About Town’: Another of my all-time favorites and go-to shades. It looks amazing on everyone I’ve seen it on, and is definitely a head-turner. How could a color this fabulous not be?

So, there you have it! My 12 favorite [current] lipstick shades. Did I mention any of your favorites? If not, what are some of yours? Any I should try? I mean, I’m always down to add to my collection … ;)

With that, I will leave you with a silly little collage of pictures from days when my lipstick made me feel so great, I felt it called for a selfie. (And so you can see what some of the colors look like on, duh!) The shades I am wearing are listed on each picture.
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Wedding Bells: Our Engagement Photos

Woah – I can’t believe I haven’t posted our engagement pictures yet! I am so proud of myself. Usually when I have great pictures from a fun or special event, I share them on Facebook almost immediately. While I have posted a few from our engagement shoot on the Book, I decided to save the rest and share them here on my blog first. I wanted to wait until our save the dates went out, and now that [most of them] have, I figured it’s time!

After having to reschedule three times due to weather, we were finally able to have our photo shoot in downtown Savannah on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in March. We decided that since we are getting married in Savannah, it would be fun to take our engagement photos there to give everyone a feel for what to expect at our wedding. And since most of our guests will be coming from out-of-town and many have never been to Savannah, we thought it would be a great way to introduce them to my beautiful city. Plus, we won our engagement session from La Bella Vita Photography of Richmond Hill, so it worked out perfectly.

Choosing an exact location for our pictures was challenging. We wanted to do something that was “us,” and we also wanted to play up the city-boy/southern-girl thing, but we didn’t want anything cheesy, forced or cliché. So after much deliberation, we decided where we wanted to shoot and thought it would be fun to incorporate a few of our favorite things (including our shoes!). The ladies at La Bella Vita Photography did a beautiful job capturing our personalities and keeping with the theme that we wanted.

I’ll admit it: at first, we both felt extremely awkward and silly. After all, who is really used to two ladies with cameras following their every move? But the photographers were great at making us feel comfortable, and after a few minutes we started to loosen up and have fun with the whole thing (hence the many laughing pictures where I look like I am trying to eat Jimmy’s face). So without further ado, here are my favorites from our engagement shoot!

We started out on the rooftop patio of our favorite bar, Rocks on the Roof. It couldn’t have been a more perfect afternoon!

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Next, we moved inside to the bar for a much-needed cocktail to help calm our nerves.

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Next, after a quick wardrobe change, we headed out to Johnson Square for a few more casual pictures under the mossy oak trees.

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My biggest request was that the photographers capture those natural, “in between” moments, and I love knowing that I will have those moments forever. I so can’t wait to marry this man in 208 days!!

Thank you Chantel and Paige for giving us the opportunity to win a free engagement session, and for capturing these moments for us!!

Chick-fil-A Goes Grilled (+ Giveaway)

Get ready to drool. And get ready to WIN free Chick-fil-A!

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If you’re anything like me, your week isn’t complete until you’ve visited Chick-fil-A at least once. There’s just something about it that other fast food restaurants just can’t come close to. (And if you’re living in a city that doesn’t have a CFA, I feel really, really bad for you.) My splurge meal there is usually a #1 (Chick-fil-A sandwich and waffle fries) with a sweet tea (they have the BEST sweet tea.) And again, if you’re anything like me, you always really crave it on a Sunday. When they’re closed. *Sigh.*

However, this year I have been trying to make better decisions when it comes to food and my health, so these days I typically order a Grilled Chicken Cool Wrap with a side of fruit and a diet lemonade. It’s always been good, but never came close to the #1 … until now.

I was recently invited to a blogger tasting event at a local Chick-fil-A to try their new grilled chicken menu, and was completely blown away. First of all, because I was handed a full-size portion of all of their new entrees.
 photo IMG_4437_zps97651142.jpgHoly cow. Second of all, because everything was DELICIOUS! I mean, cravable-can’t-wait-to-have-it-again delicious.
 photo IMG_4422_zps778a61f4.jpgI know, I know. When you want Chick-fil-A you want that delicious, perfectly-fried, juicy chicken sandwich on that buttered bun and those perfectly-salted waffle fries that you can never seem to have enough of. But healthier menu options were CFA’s #1 request from their customers, and they figured they’d better give the customers what they want. So after a $50 million investment, 11 years creating the perfect grill, 1,200 recipes, and 7 years to perfect the recipe, they finally created the perfect grilled chicken that will make us all very happy.
 photo IMG_4438_zps2aabad37.jpgLet me tell you – I have had their grilled chicken meals on several occasions before they released this new recipe. They were fine, but nothing to really write home about. But now … This new recipe is the bomb dot com! It is seriously perfect. AND they are all under 400 calories.

Just look how delicious this Grilled Chicken Sandwich looks.
 photo IMG_4428_zps1c5c6887.jpg
Their new multi-grain bun is even delicious!
(Grilled Chicken Sandwich: 320 calories, 5g fat, 30g protein)

And look what happens when you add cheese and bacon!
 photo IMG_4427_zpsb274dbaa.jpgOmg. So good.
(Grilled Chicken Club Sandwich: 440 calories, 14 g fat, 38g protein)

So what could be better than a juicy, flavorful sandwich dripping with melted cheese, you ask? How about their new and improved grilled chicken nuggets? The yummy chicken without the carbs of the bread, plus you can dip them in your favorite CFA sauce!
 photo IMG_4433_zps5e97bfb0.jpgThey’re tasty enough that you don’t really need to, but I’m a dipper … so dip away.
(Grilled Chicken Nuggets: 140 calories, 3g fat, 23g protein)

Another great option for a dipper (like me) is their improved Grilled Chicken Cool Wrap.
 photo IMG_4435_zpsc82dab73.jpgJust wait ’til you try it with their new Avocado Lime Ranch Dressing! Mmmm.
(Grilled Chicken Cool Wrap w/o dressing: 340 calories, 13g fat, 36g protein)

And if you’re really trying to get ready for summer, opt for a fruit cup instead of a side of fries. They’ve switched up the fruit a bit, replacing the grapes with blueberries to include some antioxidants.
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Finally, if you’re more of a salad person, then the Grilled Market Salad is the way to go.
 photo IMG_4469_zpsc6c27733.jpgIt’s loaded with the delicious grilled chicken, fresh fruit and blue cheese. I recommend dressing it with the Zesty Apple Cider Vinaigrette, but you can’t go wrong with any of their dressings. (Grilled Market Salad: 200 calories, 5g fat, 23g protein)

Doesn’t everything just look delicious? It it. Trust me. I can’t thank the folks at Chick-fil-A enough for inviting me to try all of these new menu items! And for the Peach Milkshake (oops!) …
 photo IMG_4448_zps0990f6a7.jpg… and for the fun swag bag!
 photo Screenshot2014-05-16at20427PM_zps3e15fd61.png… AND for the gift cards for my readers!
 photo 28bcc810-8d49-4394-be85-c489ac81d2c4_zps5a3f0b95.pngSo, who wants to win one free grilled chicken sandwich for the next three months? I have four gift cards to give away! To enter, just comment below letting me know which new menu item you’re most excited to try, or your favorite that you’ve tried so far. I will randomly select four winners on Wednesday, May 21 at 3 p.m. EST. For an additional entry, Tweet what you’re excited to try! Be sure to include @BlakeleyA and @ChickFilA in your tweet for it to count. (Sample Tweet: I just entered to win three free grilled chicken  sandwiches! Head over to ‘s blog for your chance to win.

(I’m also giving away two more gift cards on Instagram. Follow me @BlakeleyA for more info!)

Good luck, and happy eating!

UPDATE: The winners are …. Mary Jacobowitz, Sandra Meaders, Kristina Klausser and Barbara Nixon! Thanks to all who entered!

 photo IMG_4445_zpse3d264bb.jpg photo IMG_4430_zpsa257015a.jpgThanks again to the wonderful folks at Chick-fil-A and the Jacksonville Beach and Hodges location. Your hospitality and kindness is much appreciated!

Disclaimer: Chick-fil-A provided me with free food and the gift cards in exchange for my honest opinion. All opinions are my own. Facts mentioned above from Chick-fil-A’s press release.


A Fabulous Day Celebrating A Fabulous Woman

 photo IMG_5139_zps6ed5139d.jpgThis Mother’s Day was, without a doubt, my favorite in years. And the first one that I haven’t cried in three years! I’m sure that sounds pathetic, but I have serious family withdrawals living two hours away, especially on significant days and holidays. Usually on Mother’s Day, Jimmy and I go to Sunday brunch and spend the day at The Players golf tournament, and call our moms several times throughout the day since neither of us live in the same city as them. And a few tears usually leak out of my eyes at some point throughout the day. But not this year! My mom and step dad decided to make the two-hour trek to Jacksonville to spend the day with us!

They arrived at our apartment Sunday morning, just in time for Eggs Benedict and mimosas.
 photo IMG_5136_zpsd4aecf6c.jpgAfter breakfast, (and after cleaning my kitchen and doing the dishes, no matter how many times I told her to stop – because that’s what moms, do I guess) Mom got to pretend like it was Christmas morning and open a couple goodies I got her.
 photo IMG_5133_zps5c569c59.jpg photo IMG_5134_zpsd8b5d7a6.jpgWhich included these big floppy hats that we were going to wear to the golf tournament (except it wasn’t sunny, so we didn’t wear them.)
 photo IMG_5138_zpsecf8ec3e.jpgAfter opening her gifts, we heading out to the tournament, and enjoyed a nice little ride in Jimmy’s Jeep. (P.s. It was the Pink Out for Breast Cancer Awareness at the tournament, which is why we’re all wearing pink.)
 photo IMG_5141_zps04958676.jpgWe made our way through the gates and to the golf course. This was Mom and George’s first golf tournament, let alone first time at Sawgrass, so we had to show them around. We made our way through the club house, then stopped for a picture on the lawn with the trophy.
 photo IMG_5147_zpsa0a5d323.jpgAfter our photo shoot, we headed to the 17th hole and made our way to the Jags Den, where we were able to enjoy the tournament in the AC with some of the Jaguars players :).
 photo P5110499_zps0ff8e3d1.jpg photo P5110482_zps07768d60.jpg photo P5110489_zps922b6f24.jpgAnd though it was nice sitting in front of the mist fans in the 90+ degree heat, we had to make a run for the 17th tee to catch my boy Adam Scott tee off. (Which is when Jimmy decided to yell out to him, “Adam, my fiance loves you!” And yes, he turned and looked. And I waved like a dorky school girl.)
 photo P5110474_zpsd8255798.jpgShortly after, lightning struck, the horn blew, “Sever Weather. Seek Shelter” warnings flashed on the screens, and the game was postponed.
Which meant we had to squeeze in another beer …
 photo P5110480_zps5b357a2e.jpg… and another photo shoot before the rain started coming down.
 photo P5110500_zpsa7ebd355.jpg photo P5110504_zps19797b84.jpg  photo P5110501_zps3d104cad.jpgMom was so excited about all of her VIP wristbands!
 photo IMG_5156_zpsef31b54d.jpgThen the rain started coming down (hard), and things began to shut down.
 photo P5110511_zps9dcb9475.jpgWhich, of course, called for a picture in front of the “weather warning” screen.
 photo P5110510_zps9a0ada27.jpgPlay was resumed about an hour-and-a-half later, but we didn’t stick around to find out. At that point, we were soaking wet and ready for dinner, so we hopped in the Jeep for a rainy drive back toward home …
 photo IMG_5162_zps1dda18fc.jpg… and wrapped up the evening with a yummy hibachi dinner.
 photo IMG_5165_zps8cd180c8.jpgOnce our bellies were full, we headed back to my apartment for a little relaxation time on the couch and watched one of our favorites … “The House Bunny.”
 photo IMG_5168_zpsb468303f.jpgShe and George stayed the night and headed home this morning. It was so nice waking up and sitting in the kitchen having a cup of coffee with my mom before heading to work. I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better way to celebrate the woman I admire most in the world.

Unfortunately my little sister couldn’t be there, but she enjoyed the day with her two little girls back in Richmond Hill. Next year, we will all celebrate together, for sure!

It was so great getting to spend Mother’s Day with my mom for a chance, and getting to share mine and Jimmy’s favorite event of the year with her and George. We had so much fun, made wonderful memories, and I was reminded yet again how lucky I am to be her daughter.

Mom, when I grow up, I want to be just like you :).

Mama and me, Dec. 1987

P.s. It was also a very special Mother’s Day for one of my best friends, Heather, who welcomed her son, baby Connor, into this world and became a mom Saturday morning! I know she’ll make a great mother, as well. Congratulations!!


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