December Faves

Never has a year flown by like 2015 has.  This year had its ups and downs, definitely, but it's a year I'll remember for a long time.  Without further ado--and since December 2015 is slowly ticking down--here are my monthly favorites from a not-so-white December.
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1. Fair Isle Sweaters:  I was never a big sweater person until this year rolled around (ironically, this year has been too warm to wear them yet).  Before we went to Williamsburg, my mom surprised me with a lovely gray fair isle, and the rest is history. These iconic sweaters make me think of my favorite winter icons:  J Crew, nights by a fireplace, and reindeer.  What could be better?

2. Stationery:  2015 has become the year of the stationery to me.  I've always loved writing supplies, but I never dreamed that I'd be asking for writing supplies for Christmas!  Anthropologie has quickly become my go-to shop for the whimsical journals and calligraphy-covered stationery that we all know and love.

3. Pointed Flats:  After stepping into my first pair of pointed flats, I decided that there was nothing better.  The pointed toe adds a very sophisticated and fifties-esque flair to a simple ballet flat.  Pointed lace-up flats and strappy D'Orsay flats are also lovely options.

4. Skirts:  I vaguely remember having skirts as a favorite last December, and there's a reason that they're here again.  Skirts are so appropriate during the holidays that it's hard not to fall in love with them all over again.

As we wait for 2016, I'd like to conclude by saying:  "Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365-page book.  Write a good one."

Any faves from this month that you'd like to share?

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Love,

A New Year's Resolution

The end of 2015 is looming, and we all know what that means:  time to start making resolutions.
Making a resolution is a great way to reflect on the past year and get ready for the new year, all at the same time.  However, it's not as rewarding if you can't think of a resolution to focus on (a situation that happens to yours truly frequently).  I've rounded up a list of some very commonplace resolutions that anyone could decide to choose and personalize to their own lifestyle, in the hopes of solving that problem.  And if this list makes you think of a very personal resolution to pursue, that's even better!
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From basic lifestyle changes to travel to spiritual and family matters, there's a resolution out there for everyone.  Now comes the harder part:  keeping the resolution...

What is your New Year's Resolution?

Love,

Outside Looking In

Especially around the holidays, society seems more warmhearted and kind.  Suddenly people decide to walk down the street with smiles on their faces because it's December. They open doors, they become attached to the ideas of gratitude and good will. Wouldn't it be lovely if people acted like that year-round?
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Every holiday has a common foundation:  community.  Togetherness.  That's why no one really enjoys spending Christmas by himself.  Everyone wants to be included, especially around the holidays.  That's why exclusion is such a terrible thing.
If you've ever experienced exclusion, you understand.  If you've ever felt like the odd man out, or if you've been ignored by people you know, you've been excluded.  The saddest fact of all is that you probably didn't do anything to deserve exclusion.  It just happened.  I don't elaborate on this to inspire dislike for the people you know;  I elaborate because I understand what it's like to be left out.
Often, the only advice that can be given to excluded people (especially teens) is to ignore the exclusion;  however, that doesn't always give us any hope.  There isn't any way that we can change the minds of our excluders without confronting them again and again. So what is left for us to do?
If you've ever been excluded, or continue to feel isolated, I'll give you one little fact:  you are not alone.  There are thousands of other people (including yours truly) who feel like they're constantly on the outside looking in.  Besides, the world is an incredibly large place that houses over seven billion people.  Out of that seven billion, there's bound to be at least one who's more inclusive than the ones you know.

Truly, feeling alone is not as terrible as "ending up with people that make you feel all alone."  Because no one is really alone.

How do you deal with exclusion?

Love,

Being A Prep For A Week: 12/20/15 -- 12/26/15

December 26 is always a little melancholy for me.  Christmas is my all-time favorite holiday, so acknowledging that I'll have to wait another year for it to roll around again is a little disheartening.   That being said, my Christmas was wonderful.  My mom loved the Laudree recipe book she received, and Dad can't wait to wear his new shirt.  As for me, I can't wait to hop over to Target, Old Navy, and Amazon to put a dent in some gift cards.
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Now, on to some of my favorite links from the past week:
The book that I cannot wait to purchase
Lovely December wedding inspiration
The newest gingham J Crew vest that's the perfect shade of blue
Speaking of J Crew, the company's adorable new pajama set (polka dots galore)
For all book lovers:  the best situations that only you will understand

Even though Christmas is over, it's wise to embrace December while you still can;  after all, December is the "Friday of the year."

How was your week?

Love,

Secret Santa

My favorite day of the year has arrived, and I couldn't be happier.  Sharing Christmas with my family members, four-legged siblings, and even some Internet friends has been a blessing in itself.
I was invited to participate in a bloggers' Secret Santa--an invitation I quickly accepted. Assuming the role of Secret Santa was a blast, and opening up my own gift on Christmas morning was lovely. My Secret Santa, Abigail, was an absolute angel, and she even picked up on my love of calligraphy.  I am so grateful to her for such thoughtful gifts.
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More so than previous years, this year I've really come to realize the full joys of giving. As a Christian, I've also begun to realize that the true meaning of the Christmas season is giving whenever, wherever, and to whomever you possibly can.  A world-changing life was given to us thousands of years ago;  the least we can do is return the favor.

Merry Christmas.

Love,

Christmas Quotes

Nowadays, the holidays tend to be over commercialized and stressful;  everyone's focused on finding the best gifts and the best deals.  We tend to push away the real values of Christmas in favor of the latest technology and most expensive gadgets.  What happened to the Christmas dinners where Instagram and Snapchat were much less important than laughter and family?
In case you need a refresher course in the holiday spirit, I've rounded up quotes that perfectly convey the true meaning behind the magic of December 25 and the entire Christmas season.

1. Why Christmas isn't just twelve days long...
Christmas quote, "Christmas isn't a season it's a feeling" - Edna Ferber | The Stir:

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2. Why everyone yearns to be home during December...
Crafty Chelsea; At Christmas All Roads Lead Home Free Christmas printable and printables from 15 other top blogs!:
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3. Why the lights and sounds of the holidays are always appreciated...
Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. - Norman Vincent Peale:
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4. Why you feel compelled to love and help others...
"My idea of #Christmas whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others." -Bob Hope:
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5. Why opening presents is a grand occasion...
It is one of the best feelings in the world.:
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6. Why giving really is better than receiving...
SUCH a good quote about Christmas! Click for a bunch more.:
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7. Why family time becomes the best time...
#christmas #quotes #family:
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8. Why your heart grows three sizes on Christmas Day...
Maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store by Summer Snow Art.:
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9. Why Christmas is always in our minds...
8 Heartwarming Celebrity Christmas Quotes Guaranteed to Fill You With Holiday Cheer:
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10. Why we really celebrate Christmas...
Out of the silence....:
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There's a reason that we call it the most wonderful time of the year.

What are your favorite Christmas quotes?

Love,

Holiday Christmas Cookies

I don't know what your favorite part of the holiday season is, but one of mine is the baking.  In fact, I'm not sure whether I love the preparation or the actual eating more, as both are very relaxing activities that I look forward to every single year.
My mom and I have been making specialty Christmas cookies ever since I can remember, and these peppermint cookies are some of my absolute favorites.  Since they can be made from a store bought cookie dough mix, they're an extremely easy bake that yields delicious results.


Ingredients
1 roll of Pillsbury refrigerated peppermint cookies
3 cups of white vanilla baking chips or semisweet chocolate chips (or you can alternate between the two)
1/2 cup (about 16) hard peppermint candies, crushed
1/2 cup of all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil

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1.  Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  In a bowl, break up the cookie dough and stir or knead in the flour until it's well blended and soft.
2.  Shape the dough into 70 to 72 (1-inch) balls.  Place the dough balls 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets or parchment paper and bake for 10 to 14 minutes.  Let cool.
3.  Place the chips and oil in a microwavable bowl and microwave on the medium setting for 2 to 3 minutes.  Stir the mixture both halfway through microwaving and after it's completely melted.
4.  Dip half of each cookie into the mixture, allowing the excess to drip off, and set them on cookie sheets or parchment paper.  Quickly sprinkle each cookie with the crushed peppermint candies.

It doesn't get much simpler (or tastier) than this recipe!

What's your favorite holiday cookie recipe?

Love,

Being A Prep For A Week: 12/13/15 -- 12/19/15

And just like that, exam week was finally over!
The reason for my long absence is easily summed up:  school.  Exams, chapter tests, ACT practice tests (and even the real deal).  Thankfully winter break has arrived, which means that I am allowed to devote a huge portion of time to all things blog-related.  Look to see exciting changes around here...
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Now, on to some of my favorite links from the past week:
An Instagram account sure to make calligraphy lovers giddy
Vogue's unofficial history of the ugly Christmas sweater (featuring lovely runway views)
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in the quintessential Christmas card shot
My new pair of booties that I absolutely adore

To conclude with a quote:  "Always believe that something wonderful is about to happen."

How was your week?

Love,

Weekend In Pigeon Forge

It's not often that I get to go on extended trips during the holidays, so a weekend in Tennessee was an exciting prospect.  My mom and I got the opportunity to spend a weekend in Pigeon Forge, and we had a lovely time all by ourselves.  It's a very tourist-y city, but it has such a cheerful and bustling atmosphere--even more so during the holidays.
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While maneuvering along all of those windy mountain roads, it was hard not to notice the beautiful scenery everywhere.  If you love nature, I'd definitely suggest taking one of the scenic roads through the national park.  There are some gorgeous photo opportunities.
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The city itself--although crowded--is the perfect place to find an exciting new activity (or showcase a new favorite sweater).  My mom and I really enjoyed the Titanic Museum (if you're a history buff or just a movie fan, you'll really enjoy it, too).  The attention to detail was amazing, and the replica of the Grand Staircase was breathtaking.
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I think our favorite part of the trip was simply glimpsing all of the ornate Christmas light displays.  If you're trying to get yourself into the holiday spirit, look no further.
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Sometimes, a perfect mix between the hustle of holiday shopping and the serenity of nature is all a girl really needs.

How was your weekend?

Love,

Gift Guide: The Animal Lover

Another week, another gift guide!  Before we dive into the world of animal gifts, I'd like to announce that I'll be embarking on a road trip of sorts this weekend (follow along on Instagram), amounting to the absence of an updates post for this week.
Updates aside, this gift guide is one of my absolute favorites.  I think there's a bit of an animal lover inside all of us--what girl doesn't at least love animal prints?  For the more passionate animal and pet lovers, it's easy to customize a gift with an animal of choice, or even with a photograph of a specific beloved animal.  It's something that they'll be bound to love almost as much as their own furry friends!
Gifts For Animal Lovers

Shop the post (and other fun gifts):

What other gifts do you think are perfect for animal lovers?

Love,

The Etsy Gift Guide

My favorite month of the year is here, which means that my favorite holiday is only a few short weeks away.  In other words, it's time to get shopping.
If you're looking for very personal and heartwarming gifts, Etsy is a lovely place to start looking. There's something for everyone on this database of online boutiques, and prices are always wonderful.  I've rounded up my favorite Etsy shops to showcase some of their best products--products that would be perfect gifts!

1. For the Writer
Lilly Pulitzer Journal
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The Miss Petunia Mary shop specializes in beautiful custom journals that any word lover would be proud to own.  From her custom map travel journals to her charming Lilly Pulitzer printed journals and ornaments, you'll be able to find a lovely gift for anyone this holiday season.

2. For the Monogram Addict
Short Sleeve Monogrammed Comfort Colors Reindeer Antler Holiday Shirt
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With over 150 different options to choose from, The Initialed Life shop is a monogram lover's heaven.  Who doesn't love a personalized touch, especially when it's Christmas-themed?

3. For the World Traveler
Paris Photograph -- Laduree Macarons -- Travel Photography -- 8 X 10 Inch Print
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Not only does Ashley of History In High Heels have a wonderful blog, but she also runs a successful Etsy print shop.  She's made several of her own photos from her world travels into lovely wall prints perfect for any person with a case of wanderlust.

4. For the Avid Book Reader
Alice in Wonderland Altered Book Art Quote on Vintage Book Page Why is a Raven
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We all have friends who've read books so many times that they've all but memorized them;  a shop that combines famous book quotes and book pages into pieces of art is one that book lovers are going to love almost as much as reading.

What are your favorite Etsy shops?

Love,

Being A Prep For A Week: 11/22/15 -- 11/28/15

I've never been more thankful for a three day break.
My week was pretty exciting academically because I became the first sophomore to ever be inducted into my school's math honors society (perks of having my last name). Going Black Friday shopping was just as relaxing as ever--I've found that window shopping on Google Chrome is never quite as crowded.
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Now, on to some of my favorite links from the past week:
The best Black Friday deals from Kate Spade and Anthropologie
My ideal coffee table book:  The Dogist
A beautifully designed website by Jess from Bows and Sequins (I'm envious)
A list of the best education quotes for your perusal

And since Thanksgiving's over, you know what everyone's saying:  "It's the most wonderful time of the year!"

How was your week?

Love,

Gift Guide: The Quote Lover

Being "the blogger who has a quote for every situation,"  I'm thrilled that social media has driven the general consumer to appreciate witty sayings and phrases--especially those that are plastered on everyday items.  It's harder to shop for quote lovers, but never fear, I've searched the Internet for the wittiest gifts around (and some are under ten dollars)!

Shop the post (and other witty gifts):

What other gifts do you think are perfect for quote lovers?

Love,

Easy Cranberry Relish

Happy Thanksgiving!  To celebrate this much-needed holiday, I'm going to share one of the simplest (and most delicious) Thanksgiving recipes ever created.  It's always promptly devoured by my family, and this relish is one leftover that you won't dread eating.
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Ingredients
Food processor with a chop blade
2 medium oranges
4 cups of fresh cranberries 
2 cups of sugar
1/2 cup of pecans, halved or chopped

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1.  Remove the orange portion of the peels of both oranges with a pairing knife and put the peels in the food processor.
2.  Peel the white part off of the oranges and discard.
3.  Use the knife to cut the remaining orange slices out of the fruit and put these in the food processor.

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4.  Put the cranberries and pecans in the food processor.
5.  Pour the sugar over the top.
6.  Turn the food processor on low and let it process for a couple of minutes until everything is coarsely chopped and mixed together uniformly.
7.  Pour the relish into a large container and cover.  Let it chill in the refrigerator for several hours. Make sure to stir it before serving.

This tasty side also freezes well, but if prepared well, you won't have enough left to save!  It's zesty and sweet, and it happens to be my favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner (besides the pie)!

How was your Thanksgiving?

Love,

Being A Prep For A Week: 11/15/15 -- 11/21/15

November's flying by, and I must admit, it's a little disconcerting.
I've been a horrible blogger lately, only because my schedule has been extremely bogged down (think "missing three days of honors classes in the span of a week" bogged down).  With holidays coming up, I'm hoping that will change.  
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Now, on to some of my favorite links from the past week:
In light of the Paris tragedies, a beautiful perspective on the matter from a favorite blogger of mine
Gorgeous calligraphy menus that would be perfect for Thanksgiving
Old Navy's new "Pop Preppy" Collection--look out for the plaid!
A quick anecdote about the creation of the Kate Spade desk set

In a world that's lacking bravery, I think we should all remember that we "can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore."

How was your week?

Love,

Dog Show Days

An annual tradition in my household is having an outing to the dog show.  We're all self-proclaimed dog lovers, so stepping inside an arena that's full of the creatures is like waltzing into paradise.  To me, the dog show is also a symbol that fall has decided to make its presence known--and that winter isn't far behind.  First and foremost, I just look forward to being surrounded by welsh corgis.
Since I knew we were going to be walking on a dirt floor in a chilly environment, I opted for a simple long-sleeve and my most durable pair of rain boots.  I should've reconsidered my split-second decision to wear black leggings (dog fur and black don't cooperate), but for the sake of comfort, it was worth it.














How was your weekend?
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Love,

Photo Editing Secrets

Exposure, contrast, warmth, definition.  What do these words have in common?  They all deal with that special art that's becoming very prevalent in the age of technology: photography.
Whether you want to pursue photography as a profession, take photos for a blog or website, or just like taking pictures of things, it's important to know some basic photo editing skills because--sadly--most pictures are not perfect quality when you initially take them.  I'm no photography master, but I've picked up a few easy tips from blogging.  No matter what photo editing system you use, remember to ask yourself four quick questions as you're editing:
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Light Or Dark?
The single most important factor of photo editing is the exposure, or bright light, that you'd like to add to your photo.  Keep in mind that a bit of exposure is almost always a necessity for photos to achieve that nice, professional look.  Decide whether you want to crank it up for a sun-drenched snap or leave it lower to allow for more color contrast.

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Warm Or Cool?
After you've tuned the exposure in your picture, fixing the temperature will be much easier.  If the photo's color scheme consists of a myriad of bright hues, a warmer temperature will probably look best;  if the colors are soft neutrals and blues, chances are that a cooler temperature is the right choice.

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Fade Or Sharpen?
Although these tools can add the finishing touches to any picture, be wary of over-using them. Gradually sharpening a snap can make it look much higher quality, and fading a picture gives it that trendy theme that Instagram and Tumblr are dying for.

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Over-edited Or Under-edited?
Once you've edited your picture to your satisfaction, step back and look at the finished product.  Does it look too edited?  Are the colors distorted and oddly tinted?  If so, turn down the exposure and temperature for a quick fix.  On the other hand, does the picture look too plain and shadowy?  Adding more exposure and getting rid of some contrast will help.

If a picture can speak one thousand words, think how many a wonderfully edited picture can express!

What are your photo editing secrets?

Love,

Being A Prep For A Week: 11/1/15 -- 11/7/15

Is anyone else puzzled about how time suddenly picked up its pace and moved us to November?  I understand completely.
Over in my spectrum of the world, there was an abundance of Fiber One Bars being eaten and tests being taken, along with blog posts being written.  And, in case you didn't see on Instagram, Toby and I channeled our inner Halloween spirits.
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Now, on to some of my favorite links from the past week:
@kenthecorgi has only fueled my obsession with corgis--I'm thinking Toby needs one of these Instagram accounts...
Festive holiday photos from Pink Peonies (get ready to be inspired)
An ugly Christmas sweater that I'm dying to wear

With Veteran's Day and Thanksgiving right around the corner, I couldn't resist sharing this quote:  "As we express our gratitude...we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."

How was your week?

Love,

Patagonia Weather

The weather's getting crisp, leaves are falling, boots are stomping, and jackets are being pulled out of closets.  There's always been something appealing about breaking out my jackets in the mornings and being able to see my breath in the frosty air (well, until February rolls around, and then I'm quite ready for spring to come again).
I received my first Patagonia pullover as a Christmas gift last year, and I was so happy to have jumped on the bandwagon.  Patagonias are pretty pricey, but the quality of the jackets and pullovers makes up for it.  I'm almost positive that I wore my pullover at least fifty times last winter--that's saying something!

Patagonia+'Synchilla'+Snap+Tee+available+at+#Nordstrom:

If you want something that can easily be slipped on or off, I'd recommend checking out the pullovers (so many different colors!) and vests;  if you want a cold weather jacket, look into the fleece jackets, which are much warmer than you'd expect them to be.
What do you think of the Patagonia line?

Love,