Nashville Bachelorette Party Surprise Photo Shoot

Twelve girlfriends and I took on Nashville for my bachelorette party, and it was pretty much the best weekend ever. The girls did SO many amazing things for me and had so many surprises planned (post coming soon!), but I wanted to do something to surprise them as well.

If you know anything about me at all, it’s that you know how much I love pictures. I love to take them, be creative with them, scrapbook them, show them off … anything and everything. They capture memories and create new ones as well. So, for my surprise, I decided that I wanted to hire a photographer to come to the house we rented for a photo shoot! That way it could be something we would all be able to enjoy forever. After days of searching through Google and asking friends for recommendations, I finally discovered Maria Santini Photography, who so graciously agreed to come to town and spend an hour with 13 excited ladies.

We rocked our cowgirl boots for some photos, pink dresses and heels for some, and incorporated a few inside jokes (like the splits) into others. It was such a blast, and I would highly suggest doing this for your next girls getaway or bachelorette party!

Here are some of the amazing moments she captured.
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Color in Motion 5K Giveaway + Exclusive Discount Code

Fresh air, physical activity, fun people and vibrant colors. Could exercise sound any more fun? The Color in Motion 5K is coming to Jacksonville, and I have free entries to give away to two lucky readers (and discount codes!).color run giveaway
If you’ve ever done a color run, you know how much fun they are. If you haven’t, it’s definitely something you need to add to your bucket list. Sure, you’re spending your Saturday morning running 3.1 miles (c’mon, that’s not that bad) instead of sleeping in, but you get to experience something you don’t experience at any other run. That, my friends, is color explosion. As you run through beautiful Nocatee, people who hate running even more than you do will be cheering from the sidelines and throwing bright handfuls of color at you, turning you into a beautiful, colorful chameleon right before their very eyes. You’ll never look so fabulous in your life!
Don’t worry – If you’re not the fastest runner, chances are you will just be the most colorful by the end of the run. And in no way is that a bad thing! Whether you’re a runner or not, this is a great way to get moving, get messy, laugh, and have a fun time. You can walk the whole thing if you want – whatever goes goes at this 5K!
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 So grab your friends, wear white (or tutus, knee-highs, Halloween costumes .. sure, why not?), and sign up for this race! The pictures will be worth every bit of it – I promise.
The Color in Motion 5K is coming to Jacksonville on Saturday, November 8 the Nocatee Community, and the fine folks who organize the run have offered to give two of my readers FREE race entry!
Ready to win? CLICK HERE TO ENTER! Just complete any or all of the simple tasks and you’re entered. I will announce both winners on this post on Tuesday, Nov. 4 at 3 p.m. EST. *Note: There is a $3.99 processing fee that we have to paid to the web provider by the winner.
Are your friends ready to sign up, too? My readers get 40% off their entry fee! Just use promo code SWEETTEA at checkout, or click here.
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Good luck, and happy colorfying yourself. I’ll be in Savannah for a wedding shower, so please share your race photos with me … I’m so sad to miss it!
Disclaimer: I received these photos and two free race entries courtesy of Color in Motion 5K. All opinions are my own.

Leapin’ Lizards, Annie is in Town!

Hold onto your curls, ladies and gents, the new U.S. National Tour of the Broadway musical Annie is in town! Now through Sunday, October 26, Annie is live on stage at the Jacksonville Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts, presented by the FSCJ Artist Series. And yes, great seats are still available!

I saw the show on Tuesday, opening night, and was completely blown away. The talent that the entire cast posseses, especially all of those little girls,  is unbelievable. I felt just like a kid again watching one of my all-time favorite movies. I was so bummed that I was hoarse and couldn’t sing along to all of my favorites, but I’m sure the folks sitting around me were appreciative.

(l to r) Isabel Wallach as Duffy, Lilly Mae Stewart as Molly, LillyBea Ireland as Tessie, Issie Swickle as Annie, Angelina Carballo as July, Sydney Shuck as Kate and Adia Dant as Pepper in “It’s The Hard Knock Life” Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

The show includes all of your favorite songs, including “It’s the Hard Knock Life,” “Easy Street,” “I Don’t Need Anything But You,” and the one and only, “Tomorrow,” along with a few new tunes.

Issie Swickle as Annie and Sunny as Sandy in “Tomorrow” Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

And, as incredible as everyone was, let’s get one thing straight right now: Lynn Andrews, who plays Miss Hannigan, is uh-mazing. She seriously had me laughing so hard that I had tears running down my face at one point!

Lynn Andrews as Miss Hannigan in “Little Girls” Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

Jimmy thoroughly enjoyed the whole play, but his favorite thing about it was Christmas.  Shocker. The play took place around Christmas time in NYC, and the final scene was on Christmas day at Daddy Warbucks’ mansion. Jimmy’s eyes lit up like the sky on the Fourth of July! It was adorable.

The Company in “A New Deal for Christmas” Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

Issie Swickle, who plays Annie, is a Florida girl with talents out of this world, and the dog who plays Sandy, Sunny, will melt your heart! Can his/her trainer please come teach my dog how to behave like that?

Issie Swickle as Annie and Company in “We’d Like to Thank You” Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

So if you’re looking for something to do this weekend, with your kids or your significant other, I highly recommend making a date night of it and going to see the show. It will be one of those feel-good nights that everyone needs in their life every now and then, and I promise you the smiles on all of the kids’ faces make it completely worthwhile. (Though you might leave smiling bigger than them!)

Great seats are still available for the remaining performances and shows run through Sunday night. Show days and times are:
Friday, October 24 – 8:00pm
Saturday, October 25 – 2:00pm & 8:00pm
Sunday, October 26 – 1:30pm & 7:00pm

Tickets start at just $37.50 and be purchased by phone at (904) 442-2929 or online HERE.

Better hurry, because tomorrow is only a day away and you don’t want to miss it!

Disclaimer: Tickets to the show were provided to me by the FSCJ Artist Series.  I am a member of the Artist Series’ Professional Theater Ambassador Program and am compensated with tickets to select shows in exchange for an honest review. Opinions are my own.

DIY “Thing” Halloween Costume

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I love Halloween! It’s one of my favorite holidays of the year. I love any excuse to dress up as someone else and get creative, and Halloween is the perfect excuse to do just that. It’s always been a big holiday in my family – my mom and dad always dressed up to the extreme, and my mom always handmade mine and my sister’s costumes each year. The older I got, the more into Halloween and making my own costumes I got. In fact, I honestly don’t remember the last time I purchased a ready-made costume from a store. What fun is that, after all?

Jimmy could really care less about Halloween, but because he loves me soooooo much that he let’s me make the plans and dress him up for this wacky holiday each year without one complaint. Okay, he might complain a little, but he sucks it up and ends up having fun with it :).

Last year, my friend Beth threw a Halloween party and the pressure was on. What to be, what to be? I decided to skip the sexy, skip the scary, and go straight back to our childhood. Jimmy and I would be Dr. Seuss’ Thing 1 and Thing 2. I started our costumes a few days before and had them ready just in time for the party.

Just as a refresher, here’s what the original Thing 1 and Thing 2 look like:

And here’s what we looked like as Thing 1 and Thing 2!
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So, want to make your own Thing costume?
You will need the following:
- Your choice of red shirt
- White scrap material, black paint, a small paintbrush, scissors and fabric glue (if you opt to hand-paint your design like I did) OR iron-on transfer paper and the Thing 1 and/or Thing 2 design
- Blue feather trim
- Your choice of skirt (see below)
- Blue hair chalk
- Accessories of choice (see below)
- A fun attitude!
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Here are seven easy steps to make your own Thing costume:
(P.s. It helps if you have a cute witch dog watching you.)
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Step 1: Make your shirt.

You can totally buy one, but what fun is that? I wanted a tank top and not a regular T-shirt, so I opted to make my own. I found a cute red tank from Old Navy for $5, and used the back of an old white T-shirt to create the logo on the front. I just eyeballed the design that I found online, but you could definitely print it off and use as a template. With black fabric paint (or a thick black permanent marker), create the Thing “logo” with the corresponding number in the center. Cut and glue to the red shirt using No-Sew fabric glue. If you don’t trust yourself with glue, paint or permanent markers, you can print the design on iron-on transfer paper and iron it on to your red shirt. (Do the same for the guy version, just on a regular T-shirt.)
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Step 2: Add feather trim.
Using that same fabric glue, glue blue feather trim to the neckline of your shirt. (I found the feather trim at Michael’s craft store for less than $5.) If you’re a sewer, feel free to sew this bad boy on instead, but the glue held up just fine. (You can omit this part for the guy version. Unless he likes feathers – then totally go for it.)
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Step 3: Buy or make your skirt.
If you’re not a skirt person, you can wear red pants or leggings. I made this blue and red tutu and was super pumped about it, but my cat apparently wanted it more than he wanted me to wear it (he ripped it – evil cat), so I found this red petticoat at a nearby Halloween store at the last-minute (which is why you’ll notice two different skirts in my pictures). But if you don’t feel like making your own tutu, the petticoat is great option! (For the guy version, red sweat pants are perfect!)
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Step 4: Time for that blue hair you’ve always wanted!
C’mon, you can’t say at one point in your life you didn’t go through a phase when you thought having blue hair would be really cool. Now’s your chance to have at it, baby! I found the perfect blue hair chalk at CVS and streaked away at my locks. (Warning: You may have blue hair for the next two days, especially if you have light hair … for realz). If you’re feeling super crazy, you can use a can of temporary blue hair spray (found in the costume section of most stores), or just buy a blue wig. (For the guy version, follow the same steps.)
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Step 5: Match your makeup.
You know that blue eyeshadow and eyeliner that’s been collecting dust in the back of your makeup drawer? Now’s the time to pull those bad boys out. Pile on the blue shadow all the way up to the brows – don’t be shy – and line your eyes with blue eyeliner on the top, bottom and in the inner corner. Throw on some thick black (or heck, blue!) falsies to really make your eyes pop. (Excuse the shine and lash creases. This picture was taken at the end of the night.) Finish the look with a bold red lip. (For the guy version … makeup is, um, optional?)
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Step 6: Accessorize!
This is one of the most important steps, as it can completely make the costume. Get creative here. I used the remainder of the blue feather trim and wrapped it around my wrists, securing it with a safety pin. I also found these great red and white striped knee-high socks that went along nicely. I finished my look with red pumps, blue earrings and a red feather hair clip (also from Michael’s). (For the guy version, you really don’t need too much. We rolled up Jimmy’s sweats so his socks would show, and he just happened to have red and white sneakers that went perfectly.)
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Step 7: Get into character!
What fun is dressing up as two blue-haired things that run around in pajamas if you can’t act like them? In the books, Thing 1 and Thing 2 are mischievous little creatures who are always getting into trouble. Jimmy and I decided to do the same … with Silly String. Poor Sarah might not have loved it as much as we did, but she’s still our friend, so that’s a good sign.
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And there you have it! Seven simple steps to becoming a Thing for less than $20. I love the fact that A. It’s an inexpensive look to create; B. No one else will have the exact same costume; C. It’s a huge hit with everyone; and D. It literally turns you into a kid for the night. I must say, it might have been the most fun I’ve had dressing up in a while!

Let me know if you end up trying this out! Tag me in Instagram @BlakeleyA so I can see your DIY Thing costume.

Can’t wait to share our costumes for this Halloween with you! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

XoXo, B

Savannah Takeover: Bachelorette Party Round One

Bach Party Collage

I have the best friends. Ever.

Deciding where to go for my bachelorette celebration was easy: Nashville. I’ve always wanted to go there for a girls trip, and everyone seemed to be pretty pumped about the idea of going for my bachelorette party. However, I knew that with limited budgets, few vacation days, kids, and very little free time, it was going to be tough for some of my girls to make it there and I was ready to accept that. But that didn’t mean they didn’t want to have fun.

Two of my bridesmaids, Whitney and Heather, decided to host a local bachelorette party for me, and invited all of the girls who couldn’t make it to Nashville. So, on Saturday, October 11th, 2014, we took over downtown Savannah, GA.

My mom and I decided to make shirts for all of us to wear. Mine said “Future Mrs. Vinicky” and the girls’ said “#Vinicky121314″, our wedding hashtag :).
photo 3(3) IMG_4333 IMG_4326 IMG_4328And Whitney got me this adorable cup to drink from for the day!
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We started the afternoon with a two o’clock Slow Ride through downtown.
bI’d seen these around, but had never have done one before. Basically, it’s a portable bar that is powered by pedaling and takes you on a two-hour pub crawl, stopping at 4-5 local watering holes.
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Thank goodness you can get a to-go drink to sip on the bike, because that thing is a lot of work! I got smart halfway through and sat on the bench on the end that DOESN’T require pedaling (after learning from Lora). (Note to short people: you may not be able to completely reach the pedals, causing you to shift from side to side so that you can, which bruises your rear! You have been warned.) photo 3
Sweat, bruises and tired legs aside, it was a TON of fun and I would highly recommend trying it with a group of friends!
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After the pub crawl and scarfing down a slice of pizza from Vinnie Van Go Go’s, we walked to our hotel, the Marriott SpringHill Suites, to freshen up and get ready for part two.
photo 3(1) 2Whitney made all sorts of fun things, including champagne-soaked Gummy Bears, inappropriately shaped Jello-O shots, cute decorations, and had champagne-a-plenty for us to sip on.
IMG_4340Before getting ready, the girls had another surprise for me: a lingerie shower! I’ve thrown several of these before, but being on the receiving end is much different.
IMG_4362My mom got me a beautiful silk Bride robe …
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… and [most of] the other girls got me beautiful nighties.
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And then there was Melissa’s gift. Leave it to my crazy, hilarious, completely random friend to get me the most incredible gift of all: a leopard-print onesie! She thought it would be “puuuurrrfect for the honeymoon.”
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And what’s a girl to do after receiving so many thoughtful gifts? Pile them all on for a photo shoot, of course!
IMG_4376 IMG_4369After getting a great ab workout in from all of that laughing, we all got ready for dinner and our night on the town. Once all dressed in our sequin attire, it was time for a self-timer photo shoot!
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photo 8OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter about sixty photos, we headed off to dinner at the The Distillery. If you’re looking for a place with a chill atmosphere, fun drinks and delicious food, this is your spot.
photo 2(6)Next, we changed from heels to flats (because no sane girl older than 22 wears heels in downtown Savannah), and headed out for some drinks, music and dancing. We found hanging facial hair in City Market …
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… brown bag PBRs and pickled eggs at The Rail Pub …
photo 5(4)… sequins galore at Gatsby’s …
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA… and syringe Jell-O shots at Savannah Smiles.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd then they managed to get me on stage with two other bachelorettes.
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The rest of the night consisted of lots of fun, and, imagine this, more pictures! It was such a nice treat getting to catch up with all of my high school and college girlfriends that I don’t get to see nearly enough, and I’m so happy my mom and little sister were able to make it out as well.
photo 3(1)Thank you Whitney and Heather for organizing everything, and thank you Megan, Melissa, Lora, Mom, and my sister Sarah for celebrating such a fabulous day with me. You’re all amazing and I love you to pieces. Can’t wait to do it all again on December 13th!

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Next up: Bachelorette celebration round two – Nashville style!

Time to celebrate one of the best days of the year!

Today, we celebrate America’s favorite beverage. No, not champagne. Not vodka, wine, tequila, beer, or rum either. And definitely not Coke. Today, ladies and gents, we celebrate the one that wakes us up in the morning. The one that warms us from the inside out on those chilly Fall days. The one that we look forward to at 3 p.m. when the work day seems to be crawling by. Have you guessed it yet? I’m talking about coffee, people! “Why?,” you ask. Because today, Monday, September 29, is NATIONAL FREAKIN’ COFFEE DAY my dears! (Did the “Hallelujah” song play for you when you read that, too?)

There are several places celebrating this magical *holiday*, but I, my friends, will be celebrating at Dunkin’ Donuts. Why Dunkin and not somewhere else? Here’s why.
1. Their prices are so much better. Seriously – you can get a large coffee for like $3 instead of $5.
2. They now offer Almond Milk as a milk option. YES! Thank you, DD, for getting with the times before everyone else.
3. They invite me to cool blogger events, so I’m a little partial to them.
4. They’re giving away a FREE medium cup of their new Dark Roast coffee today. Go get yours now! And if you’re at all hungry, keep reading.
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Last week, the fine folks of @DDNEFla invited me to a special #PumpkinatDunkin tasting event. And, even though I am on a hardcore diet and workout plan in preparation for my wedding, I couldn’t say no. I mean, c’mon. Who can say no to PUMPKIN? So I went in determined to only have a small taste of everything, and succeeded.

We were treated to all of the new Fall treats, including the Pumpkin Muffin, Pumpkin Glazed Donut, and Pumpkin Pie Filled Donut.
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To wash it down, we were served tastings of the Pumpkin Spice Latte, Pumpkin Creme Brule Latte and Pumpkin Mocha.
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All super tasty! I think my favorite is the regular Pumpkin Spice Latte (with Almond Milk), but they’re all delicious. *Note: The flavors are already slightly sweetened, so try it without adding additional sugar first!

To cool us off, we tried an Iced French Vanilla Latte and an Iced Hazelnut Latte (both available hot as well).
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After loading us up with sweets, they brought out something salty for us to try: the Spicy Smoked Sausage Breakfast Sandwich. Tasty and juicy with just the right amount of kick to it.
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We also got to be the first to taste new menu items before they were released (they’re available now): The Spinach and Artichoke Bagel (pictured) and the Chicken Snack Wrap (not pictured).
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Everything was, as always, extremely delicious and I wish I could have indulged more. If you haven’t visited a Dunkin’ Donuts lately, I highly encourage you to do so on your way home today, or next time you’re out and about. Their coffee is pretty dang tasty, they have several new menu items, and, let’s be honest, you can never go wrong with donuts.

Cheers to you, and MEGA-CHEERS to National Coffee Day!

Disclaimer: I was invited to a tasting event and received samples of everything mentioned above. All photos and opinions are my own. Thank you for having me, Dunkin’!

Sweating for the wedding: The start of my fitness journey

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If you’re friends with me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you’ve probably seen a gazillion gym-related posts over the past few months (because, let’s face it, I post everything online). I decided I need to get back in shape, and what better time to do it than the year I am getting married, right? I mean … I have five years of relationship happiness, six years of life at a desk job, and ten years of a post-high school lifestyle to erase from the scale.
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So after months of begging me to join her at her gym, my friend Morgan finally convinced me to schedule a session with her personal trainer. I’ve tried personal trainers in the past and just didn’t really care for it, so I wasn’t too thrilled, but figured it was time to stop making excuses. One step into Peak Physiques and one training session with Treasure later, I was hooked. Here I am, four months later, still going twice a week and still loving it as much as I did that first day.
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The gym itself is like no other gym I’ve been to. It’s more of a boutique-style gym, if you will, only available to members who work with their personal trainers or attend their classes (they offer TRX, barre, yoga, boot camp, lunch crunch, and more. And no, you don’t have to train to take their classes, so if you ever want to join me, come on!)

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I love that the gym isn’t packed with dozens of people on the treadmills or machines; only their clients that are being trained at that specific time. What’s even better is that you don’t use the typical machines and don’t do the typical workouts. The trainers customize each workout to fit your needs and help you reach your own fitness goals. The exercises are fresh and new each session, and target every single muscle while keeping your heart rate up. They also offer the option of one-on-one training sessions (where it’s just you and your trainer for an hour), or group sessions (working out at the same time as 2-3 others, each with your own customized workouts), which is what I usually do. But my absolute favorite thing about Peak Physiques: No one is looking at you like you’re doing it wrong, and you’re not left feeling like a dumb dumb because the person next to you is a beast.
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For the first three months, I was working out with Treasure, a new trainer and awesome chick. She pulled me out of my comfort zone, got me in the habit of a workout routine, and made exercise fun for me. Unfortunately, her [full-time job] work schedule and commute weren’t allowing her the flexibility she needed to continue training at Peak Physiques, so she had to say goodbye. (She and her friend are doing our wedding cake. Ironic?!) I am now training with Brandi, the owner (who is also a tiny 5-foot-nothing jacked chick with a banging body, a million pairs of cute neon sneakers, and a bikini competition trophy who could probably bench press me), who is kicking my butt and making me “her own personal project between now and December.” (There, Brandi. I put it in writing … now I definitely can’t slack off!) Brandi has amped up my workouts even more (they are so hard!) and has me on a strict meal plan. (And she has got me to start sweating! I have never been much of a sweater, but now that my metabolism has kicked up, so has my sweating. I mean *sparkling*. Never thought I’d be excited about that!)

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Photo taken Sept. 16, 2014
With that said, I am extremely proud (or sad?) to report that I don’t remember the last time I had cheese. Oh how I miss melted cheese. In fact, most of my meals look something like this …
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What’s really weird is that I don’t even miss the stuff I used to eat (except melty cheese). I no longer think about [cold] cheese, bread, potatoes, sweets … it’s really strange. But hey, I’ll take it! It really makes it worthwhile when I put on a dress that was tight the last time I wore it (so I put it in the back of my closet, where it sayed for almost two years) and now it comes off without having to unzip it.
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photo 4[1]I’m not where I want to be just yet, but I’m on my way and I’m doing it the right way this time. No fad diets, no diet pills and no quick-fixes. I am swapping out my previous lifestyle for a new one and adapting healthy habits that will stick around for good. Since I’ve begun this workout journey, I feel great, have much more energy, I’m learning a lot about fitness and proper nutrition, I am definitely stronger, I have more endurance, I can actually feel my muscles, and all of my clothes fit looser. Oh, and I lost EIGHT pounds last week!! In one week! Apparently I wasn’t eating enough … who knew?!

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It’s definitely an investment and commitment, but it’s something that’s extremely important to me and something that I’m enjoying. I could be spending my money on fatty dinners or at happy hour, but instead I am spending that time and money at happy hour at the gym, and it feels SO much better afterward!photo 3[1]

I finally gave up on the idea of  “high school skinny” and am now just trying to get “late 20s healthy.”

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I’m aware of how much water I drink each day, thanks to this nifty (and beautiful) Count Me Healthy bracelet that my soon-to-be sister- and mother-in-law got me …
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Not to mention working out is also a great excuse to buy fun, new gym clothes :). (And when you don’t feel like working out, putting on bright lipstick makes it at least a little more fun. Brandi does the same thing!)
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BUT, no matter how much work I put in, I’ve come to the realization that this is probably going to be my theme song for the rest of my life. Which I suppose could be worse. (P.s. This is a fabulous cover of the original song, if you haven’t heard it yet!)

Huge THANKS to Brandi, Treasure and all my “Peak family” for the encouragement, confidence and non-stop butt-kickings. I love y’all for it, and can’t wait to see where I am come December 13th!

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Accidental neon day! Morgan, Treasure, myself – June 2014

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35 minutes of cardio four days a week!
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We’re spending more time doing activities than happy hours these days.

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Water: My new BFF!
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For the first time in YEARS, I wore white pants this summer!!
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#gymselfie after a hard workout
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Jimmy’s football Saturday v. mine. Bad boy!
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On Saturdays before football, Meghan and I take a Pure Barre class. It’s a completely different kind of workout, switches things up a bit, and is a great way to start off our Saturdays!
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Pre-training cardio.
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True story :)

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.

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.
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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.
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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.
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Shopping at adorable shops and markets like these:
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Drinking Brandy Old Fashioneds …
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… delicious local beers …
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… and the best Bloody Mary’s ever.
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Waking up early for Eggs Benedict at The Viking
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…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
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… 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)…
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… except when we go to the Fish Boil at the White Gull Inn.
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Somewhere throughout the day we manage to squeeze in chilli (with noodles in it!) at Bayside Tavern
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… and fried cheese curds.
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Reading and relaxing on the balcony with a postcard view …
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…and watching the most breathtaking sunsets over Green Bay (no two ever look the same).
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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).
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Spending some quality time having drinks, snacks and playing bags at AC Tap.
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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.
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Seeing a cute play at the Folklore Theatre in the woods.
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Enjoying the beautiful scenery.
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And goofing off.
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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.
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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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::XoXo::
B.

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.

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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. http://wp.me/p22UdQ-11B). 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!

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