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2013 Christmas Gifts That Give Back

4 Dec

gift-giving

It’s that time of year again… Thanksgiving has come and gone and Christmas shopping is in full swing for many as they try to wrap up their holiday shopping. I definitely fall into that category and find myself thinking about my gift list too many times throughout the day while I should be working. If you’re like me, you want to find something special for each person on your list – something that you know they’ll love and appreciate. Over the past few years, I feel like I’ve realized the value of charity more, and of supporting a cause that you feel strongly towards. So this year I’m going to try to incorporate that as much as I can into my Christmas gift giving. And I’d like to encourage you to do the same!

So, how do you give a charitable gift? There’s always the traditional way of making a donation in someone’s name, which is an excellent way to directly support a cause. However, I like to have something wrapped up that my friends and family can open – the best part of gift giving for me is watching their delight while they open it!  I sought out items online that, when purchased, give back to a charitable organization but that are also sparkly enough to light up someone’s face when they receive them. Here are my suggestions for 2013 Christmas gifts that give back.

Sevenly

Sevenly.org has become one of my absolute favorite websites this year and I can’t say enough good things about this company. They are an organization that chooses a different charity each week, sells merchandise to support that cause for seven days, and donate $7 from each purchase to the charity. From child sex trafficking awareness, to ending teen suicide to supporting adoption in children with down syndrome, they support so many worthy causes, and help bring awareness to the growing needs of our world. Sevenly has some pretty awesome inventory, like the most amazing graphic tees, some fab prints, notebooks, jewelry, accessories and baby goods. You should be able to find something for anyone on your list from Sevenly – a cool tee for the guys, some beautiful jewelry or a print for the girls, and a onsie, tee or stuffed animal for the kids! Their current charity is  Operation Christmas Child, and remember to check back every week to see what they’re selling and who they’re supporting next!

(Bonus Facts: Your Sevenly package will arrive in the coolest designed packaging imaginable – they have some serious graphic designers over there. And each purchase comes with a nifty Sevenly sticker, asking the recipient to snap a picture of them in the product and tag themselves on one of Sevenly’s social media sites. How fun!)

Sevenly-tees

Sevenly cause tees

Sevenly-Prints-and-Jewelry

Sevenly charitable gifts including jewelry, bags, and prints.

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Sevenly home decor, note pads, note cards.

Toms

Ok, let’s be honest – everyone loves a good pair of Toms! This is a real easy gift idea. Toms makes groovy shoes for women, men and children, and the best part is their motto: One For One. For every pair of Toms purchased, they donate a pair of shoes to a person in need. So you can walk around in comfort knowing that somewhere in the world there is another pair of shoes on someone’s feet who appreciates it more than you can imagine – all because of you. I recently received the leopard print pair as a gift (best gift ever!) and am currently crushing on the serpentine pattern.

But Toms is no longer just offering shoes; they’ve now added eyewear to their wheelhouse. And with every pair of Toms glasses purchased, you give sight to one person by way of prescription glasses, sight-saving surgeries, and medical treatments. There is also a Marketplace page, where you have access to tons of charitable gifts from organizations benefiting various causes. Jewelry, apparel, ear buds, this page has it all!

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Toms Men’s Classics

Toms-eyewear

Toms Women’s Eyewear

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Toms Marketplace

West Elm

I was recently looking for a birthday gift for one of my dearest friends, and this particular girl (along with her wonderful hubby!) is very involved in St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital charity work. So, when I stumbled across the glass bird paperweight on West Elm’s site which benefits St. Jude, it was like serendipity! While on their site I found some other really nice charitable gifts. They have mugs with the designs on them that benefit various charities including ASPCA®Architecture For HumanityOceanaTeach For AmericaDoctors Without Borders, and It Gets Better. Seriously, something for everyone!

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West Elm charitable gifts benefiting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

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West Elm charity mugs benefiting multiple organizations

Some other great sites to check for charitable Christmas gift ideas are Project7, Sephora, Grounds For Change, and Build-A-Bear Workshop.

Do you have any suggestions for charitable gifts? Happy Holidays!

Hiatus Over + Etsy Shop Coming Soon

1 Oct

I’m back from what turned out to be a longer than expected Summer hiatus. I took some time to myself and also started a long overdue project that I’ve been telling myself I’ve needed to launch for quite some time now (why yes, I am a procrastinator, thank you).  For the past few years I have been tossing around the idea of doing something creative, and I think I used blogging as a stepping stone. I finally decided I was ready, and have spent the past few months working on tweaking my graphic design skillz with the intent of opening an Esty shop by the end of the year!

Print

I am sticking with what works for me and going with the name “Good Girl Graphics” with the idea of incorporating my shop into my blog. I’ll continue to do posts on whatever I feel like blabbing about but will throw in some posts on my latest graphic projects, as well.  Good Girl Graphics (GGG) will feature party supplies like invitations, thank you cards, and cupcake toppers, as well as announcements and prints. All items will be sold as digital files to be printed by the customer. My goal is to have my shop open by Christmas.

So what do you think? I am constantly looking for inspiration in the form of party themes for invitation ideas, so if you have any please leave me a comment below! Did your child have a birthday party or go to one that had a cute and popular theme?

Oh and by the way…

Happy October!!

Mama Always Said…

11 May

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother’s Day! Tomorrow we celebrate Mom and everything that she has done for us. All our lives she has loved us unconditionally, hugged us tight and made everything better, told us we can do anything we set our minds to, and been there for us through thick and thin. Mom is the person who made us who we are today, and I think a day of celebration is definitely in order for this wonderful woman.

Everyone learned pretty much everything they needed to know from their mother, right? Her words of wisdom have echoed in our heads  when faced with tough decisions throughout our lives, and today I’d like to remind you all of some of those wise words. Don’t forget – Mom knows best!

Audrey Hepburn’s Beauty Tips

8 May

Audrey Hepburn

I received an email from a family member a few weeks ago with a poem that was said to be written by Audrey Hepburn. The poem was so beautiful and captivating that I wanted to share it with you all on my blog. To do so, I did a little digging and found out that it was actually not written by Audrey Hepburn but by writer Sam Levenson. Titled “Time Tested Beauty Tips”, Levenson wrote it for his grandchild, and it just so happened to be one of Audrey’s favorite poems. It is said she read it to her children on her very last Christmas Eve.

Hepburn submitted this poem to a member of the media when asked to share her beauty secrets. Known for her beauty and charm, I think this poem gives us a clear picture of the type of person Audrey Hepburn really was. Please take a few minutes to read it and take to heart what it conveys – that the true beauty and grace of a woman is not seen with the eye, but felt with the heart. It is measured by the good deeds she does for others and by  random acts of kindness. Let’s all strive to be better!

Time Tested Beauty Tips

For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.

For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.

For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.

For beautiful hair, let a child run his or her fingers through it once a day.

For poise, walk with the knowledge you’ll never walk alone.

People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived,  reclaimed, and redeemed; Never throw out anybody.

Remember, If you ever need a helping hand, you’ll find one at the end of your arm.

As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.

The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the  figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides.

The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mole, but true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows, and the beauty of a woman with passing years only grows!

Sam Levenson 

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Dove Shows Women We Are More Beautiful Than We Think

24 Apr

Dove Ad

Alright, ladies. I’ve got a bone to pick with y’all. A new advertising campaign from Dove called “Real Beauty Sketches” demonstrates how we often think less of ourselves in terms of natural beauty and self-image than what complete strangers think of us when they first meet us. Have you seen this commercial yet? If not, please take a few minutes to watch it below.

Pretty powerful, right? The sad thing is, I think that all of us can sympathize with the women in this ad because we all feel this way about ourselves in one way or another. Who doesn’t wish there was something they could change about their features, their face or body? And what woman doesn’t have a makeup bag full of synthetic material that will easily cover up any trace of her natural beauty? Whether big or small, we all suffer small self consciousnesses.  I think that just as the women in the commercial were taken aback to find out that complete strangers thought more highly of them then they did of their own selves, this Dove campaign will catch female viewers by surprise in the same way when they realize they are guilty of this, too!

So why do we do this to ourselves? Sure we can take the easy way out and blame it on the media and fashion magazines who have conditioned us to think we all need to look like supermodels to lead happy lives. But that doesn’t fix the problem. I think what we need to do is take a step back from all of our criticism and negativity, and focus on the positive things about ourselves. Make a list of things that you like about your face and body, and once a day when you look in the mirror pick one to focus on. Be thankful for your natural beauty.

And since we are all in this together we should make it a point to tell other women in our lives that they are beautiful.  Compliment them on something specific that they may take for granted about themselves – you never know when someone may need it.  I think you’ll find many women will be surprised and grateful to hear someone compliment them on a specific feature, and it will definitely boost their confidence. And who doesn’t need a confidence boost every now and then?!

All in all, I think Dove was right on with this advertising campaign, and I’d like to thank them for reminding me (and countless other women) of our natural beauty.

Wedding Anniversary Traditions To Try

3 Apr

Wedding Bands

This past weekend my husband and I celebrated our six-year wedding anniversary. 6 years! You hear people say “time flies” all the time and don’t really take it to heart, but I can honestly say the past 6 years have flown by in a blur. It’s so easy to fall in to a routine with work and home life that when an anniversary sneaks up on you there isn’t much time (or money) to plan some big extravagant way to celebrate. My hubby and I celebrated this year by just spending the day together, starting with breakfast at our favorite cafe and a romantic dinner at a special place for the two of us. And it was perfect.

However you celebrate your wedding anniversary, below are some very simple, inexpensive things you can do to make the day a little extra special. I love all of these and aside from our tradition of always buying each other something off the traditional or modern wedding gift lists each year, my husband and I have done several of these in the past and plan on doing others in coming years. Hope these ideas inspire you to do something memorable on your big day!

  • Dance to your wedding “first dance” song. Most likely, the song you and your significant other danced to at your wedding is a pretty romantic, meaningful song for the two of you. And every time you hear that song, you think of your wedding. What better way to remember a special wedding moment than to relive that first dance at home, to that exact song?!
  • Toast each other with your wedding champagne flutes.  Chances are you still have those champagne flutes you used on your big day when you shared your first toast as husband and wife. Why not break them out and pop some bubbly? Toast the number of years you two have been happily married, toast to your future, or just toast to the fact that you two haven’t strangled each other yet.
  • Go back to the place where you got engaged. Whether it’s a vacation destination, your special spot, or a romantic restaurant, it’s fun to take a stroll down memory lane on or around your anniversary and reminisce on a very important day for you and your spouse. Especially at the place where it all started. If it’s too hard to go back where you got engaged (like in my case – we can’t just sporadically take a trip to Las Vegas every few years, unfortunately) try going to the place you shared your first date, or recreate the date. Either one would be a romantic way to spend time together.
  • Take a photo holding your framed wedding picture. My best friend told me about this idea (probably something she saw on Pinterest!) and a few years ago when I went to visit them around their anniversary, I took the picture below of them. You probably have a framed wedding photo hanging somewhere in your house, so just grab it and have someone take a picture of the two of you holding it. It’s a great way to capture a “now and then” moment of your love story.

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What are some of your wedding anniversary traditions? 

New Year’s Resolution Inspiration

1 Jan

Happy New Year! I hope your 2013 is off to an amazing start. I’m sure many of you are thinking about your New Year’s resolutions today, as I am. Our resolutions are made when we are full of hope and determination for what’s to come. I hope you feel that anything is possible, and look at today as a clean slate for the year that lies ahead of us.

From weight loss to getting organized, make your resolutions count and stay positive! Here is a little inspiration to help you get started and stay focused. Good luck!

So Long, 2012 – My Year In Pictures

31 Dec

Well, 2012 is just about over and now is the time to  reflect on the past year. I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and hopefully enjoyed some time with family and dear friends, celebrating old traditions and making new memories. Today I have been reflecting on 2012, and put together a little post celebrating my year in pictures. Enjoy!

My husband and I spent New Year’s Eve 2011 in Gatlinburg, TN. We rang in 2012 downtown in twenty degree weather with about 10,000 other people, and enjoyed an impressive fireworks display. In February, we celebrated Valentine’s Day (of course!). My sweetie had a beautiful bouquet of red roses delivered to me at work, and when I came home I had lots of treats and sweets waiting for me. I’m one lucky gal!

January February

In March my husband and I celebrated 5 years of marriage! After eating at our favorite restaurant for dinner, we went to see the symphony perform songs by Pink Floyd in an amazing music and laser lights show. Also that month, after many months of anticipation and excitement, I finally got to see The Hunger Games! I also took some silly pictures in weird hats, apparently. April brought Spring Fever and many afternoons spent sitting in my backyard, or visiting the local botanical gardens to see all the flowers in bloom. I also got to spend some time with my bestie!

March April

In May we celebrated my Mom’s birthday and Mother’s Day by throwing her a “fiesta” at my house. My Spring Fever continued and I spent a lot of time outdoors that month. June was probably the busiest month of the year for me. My sister, two nephews and brother-in-law came down to visit for a week, and I spent a lot of time hanging out with them. We celebrated my sister and my dads birthdays, as well as Father’s Day. We also travelled to Huntsville, AL to visit my in-laws. And sadly, tragedy rocked my little world with the news of the very sudden death of a dear friend from college. I gathered with friends and sorority sisters to attend her funeral, and we all went to lunch afterwards to share memories and celebrate her life.

May June

July brought the most fun thing about 2012 for me and my husband – a trip to Universal Orlando! This year I decided to get serious about checking things off my bucket list, and one of them was to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal (yes, I’m a nerd). We had the best time ever! I got to tour Hogwarts and Hogsmeade Village, drink a Butterbeer, and fly with Harry on a broomstick. It was kind of amazing. We also really enjoyed the Jurassic Park and Marvel exhibits there. In August, I attended a birthday party for my best friend’s little girl, hung out with my kitty, Gus, and acted silly with my mama.

July August

In September I went home to Tennessee to visit my family and some good friends. It was so great to get to see my sister and her kids, and one of my oldest and best friends, Anna. Also in September, my husband and I enjoyed our last beach day of the year – soaking up some sun and sipping on a cold one. Then it was on to October, my most favorite month of the year! Not only is it my birthday month, but also brings my favorite season, Fall, and Halloween! I spent my birthday with my hubby, who got me the most amazing birthday daisy bouquet! We also carved pumpkins and I finally started to see the first signs of Fall.

September October

November brought Thanksgiving at my parent’s house where we ate lots of my mama’s home cooked, delicious food. It also meant the final Twilight movie, Breaking Dawn Part 2. Of course my BFF and I went to see it, and here is our reaction to the ending of the series. Pretty classic. And finally, December. It has been a wonderful month – I’ve had two weeks off of work and have been able to truly relax and enjoy the season.

November December

I hope you all had a fantastic 2012, and wish you many blessings in 2013.

Here’s to the New Year! 

Think Happy Thoughts

6 Oct

Every now and then life gets tough. I think it’s important to try and stay positive during such times (I know, easier said than done) so here are some words of wisdom that have brought me hope and encouragement. I hope they do the same for you!

Bucket List Check Off: Visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

10 Jul

Every year around this time I feel ready for a vacation; a weekend getaway; a break from the monotony of work and stress. My husband and I love to travel and have many destinations on our “places to go before we die” lists. Remember my recent post on bucket lists and what was on mine? Well I can now check off something on my list having recently vacationed at Universal Orlando. Visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was pretty high up there on my bucket list (haven’t I told you I am a huge nerd??) and we got to experience it in all its glory last Thursday.

Entering Hogsmeade

Having never been to Disney or Universal, it was a new experience for me. The largest amusement park I’ve been to is probably Dollywood (which is amazing, by the way! HUGE Dolly fan!) so Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. We had early access to the Harry Potter exhibit for one day, and we headed there first thing on Thursday morning. When I say first thing, I mean we were in line at 6:45 am before the park doors opened – and we weren’t alone! We kept up with the crowd and arrived at the entrance to a replica of Hogsmeade, complete with snow-capped roofs and window displays in every store front, exactly like the books and movies. We visited Honeydukes Candy Shop, Zonko’s Joke Shop and Olivander’s Wand Shop. Then it was off to the castle where we toured Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. To say it was amazing just doesn’t do it justice.  When we rounded the corner and it stood before me in all its majesty I was speechless. It looked like a real castle!

Our first view of the castle

We walked through the gates and in to the castle and immediately got in line for the ride, Harry Potter and The Forbidden Journey, which was beyond fantastic. There were dragons, dementors, spiders, a whomping willow, and quidditch! You got the sensation you were flying on a broomstick, being chased by a dragon and almost getting a demontor’s kiss before Harry swoops in and saves you with a patronus. To get to the ride you have to walk through the castle a bit, along the way visiting the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, the Gryffindor Common Room and Dumbledore’s office. After the ride you can tour the castle again, taking your time walking through and viewing each room (which we did).

The Hogwarts Express

After the castle we were ready for breakfast (since it was only 8:00 in the morning by this time!) so we headed to The Three Broomsticks for a bite to eat. We had American breakfasts (they had English breakfasts but we didn’t think we were brave enough to stomach “black pudding”) with pumpkin juice and it was SO yummy. We also had a frozen Butterbeer but the pumpkin juice was much better, in my opinion.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was definitely the highlight of our trip, but we also really enjoyed the Marvel Super Heroes Island and Jurassic Park exhibits. At the end of the day, we finished our trip back in Hogsmeade with a drink at the Hog’s Head Pub.

Inside the Hog’s Head Pub

Bucket Lists

18 May

You know how people say “I want to do that before I die” or “Before I die I want to go there”? I’m one of those people. I find myself saying that all the time and recently wondered to myself if I will actually ever really do any of those things that I want to before I die. I was advised by someone this week at work to write down my goals and put it on my office wall or some place where I can see it everyday as a constant reminder of what I hope to accomplish in life. Also this week I watched my best friend lose someone very dear to her; someone much too young to leave this Earth so soon. With both of those things on my mind I decided it’s time to get serious about my hopes, dreams and happiness. I officially created a bucket list.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day grind and lose sight of our own happiness. What better way to ensure you are living life to the fullest than by identifying what you know will bring you joy, and then putting them on the ultimate “To Do List”? It’s brilliant, and I can’t believe I never had a bucket list until now! When I created mine, I realized a lot of the things on it are going to cost a lot of money (like traveling to the UK – particularly Scotland, Ireland and London) and aren’t going to happen overnight. But they’re things that I can save up for and work towards over time. I think that by officially putting them on my bucket list, I will be more likely to make them become a reality – much like the advice of hanging them on the wall where you can see them everyday. Once I really started thinking about what to put on my list I discovered some things that I didn’t even know were that important to me, like growing my own vegetable garden. I was also surprised by how achievable a lot of them are.

Here are  just a few of the things I have added to my list:

  • Go to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando (I realize that by identifying this as a life goal this makes me a huge nerd, but I don’t care)
  • Travel to Scotland, Ireland and London
  • Have a baby…maybe two
  • Write a book
  • Grow and maintain an organic vegetable garden
  • Attend Comic-Con in San Diego

The more I think about these, the more I want to make them happen. I am really looking forward to checking them off my list! My husband and I are going to post our bucket lists someplace where we can see them daily, so we can constantly work on making them a reality.

Do you have a bucket list? Leave me a comment below and tell me something that’s on your list! 

Happy Mother’s Day

13 May

There is really no love like a mother’s love. Today is Mother’s Day, so take the time to do something nice for your mom. She gave birth to you, after all! Just think of all the little things that she has done over the years to make you feel special or show you how much she loves you.

I celebrated with my mom last night – we enjoyed lots of laughter, margaritas and sweet treats. It is so nice to be able to do something for her every now and again – and I realize I don’t do it often enough. I look back on my life and understand that who I am now is a direct result of all her encouragement, support and direction. I hope you all are able to celebrate with your mothers today, and if not, I encourage you to celebrate your memories of her.

Enjoy some Mother’s Day media that I think celebrates motherhood.

jademccullyphotography.blogspot.com

I have been seeing this Publix commercial all week and I cry every time. Every time.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Five Tips For A Happy Marriage

4 May

I recently came across this video on the internet and was captivated by the sweetness of the little elderly couple in the video. I found myself nodding in agreement, laughing out loud, and even crying a little bit. They have been married for 72 years and made this video as a wedding toast to someone they know. In the video, they give the newlyweds some good advice that they claim has helped their marriage last so long, and it’s clear they are still very much in love. Here are their “5 tips to a long and healthy marriage”.

See what I mean!? They are precious! I got to wondering after watching this what it must be like to be married to someone for 72 years. I mean, 72 years, y’all. That’s longer than some people even live. My husband and I have only been married for five years (take a stroll down memory lane with some of our wedding photos, here) so we still have a long way to go to get to 72 years. We have had our ups and downs along the way (mostly ups!), and have learned a lot so far. The way I see it, a happy marriage is something you constantly have to work at; it’s not something that people just have, like in the movies. So, for what it’s worth, here are my 5 tips to a long and healthy marriage – based on my whopping 5 years of experience!

  1. Make your spouse your best friend. I can honestly say that my husband is my best friend. I can tell him anything, can be myself completely with him and can even laugh so hard I shoot food out of my nose in his presence and not get embarrassed. Now that is true love!
  2. Communication is key. I have found that even when I’m so mad I could spit fire at my husband, it is always better to yell talk it out with him. The only way to find out how to settle an argument is to find out what it stemmed from, how it can be resolved and how to prevent it from happening again in the future.
  3. Make time for a date night. I have had some people sort of make fun of the fact that my husband and I still have “date nights” and I just don’t get it. We honestly enjoy being in each other’s company and I think it’s important to slow down and make time for  a little fun in the midst of all the stresses of everyday life.
  4. Do nice things for each other. Remember when you just started dating and you did nice things for each other like brought her flowers, or baked him cookies – just because?? Well, it’s not just for dating! Show the love by leaving little notes, cooking a favorite meal or simply picking up a special treat in the grocery store for your spouse.
  5. Share a kiss more often than once every 25 years! (This one I learned from Kenny & Selma.)

It will be interesting to look back on this blog post several years from now when we (hopefully) have children and things are much more complex than they are for us right now!  I can’t wait to see what is in store for us and hope to make a video similar to Kenny and Selma’s one day.

What advice do you have for a happy marriage?

Office Etiquette 101: Ten Basic Rules For The Workplace

4 Apr

If you are like me and millions of others, you are a working professional. You spend the better part of your day in an office environment; usually a cubicle-filled area with the occasional water bottle station, print room or break area. You also are forced to spend your day with co-workers. There are all types of personalities found in the workplace: the gossipers eager to spread the latest workplace rumor, the brown-nosers who will do anything (and I mean anything) to bask in appraisal from their manager, those creepy old men whose eyes you can feel undressing you every time you are forced to engage in a conversation with them, and that one weird guy who smells funny and brings a container of liquefied food for lunch each day. (No? I’m the only one who works with that guy? Drat.)

Since we already put up with enough crap in the workplace, let’s try to make the daily experience a little bit easier on each other, shall we? Here are a few things I have encountered that I would like you all to be aware of in your day-to-day work activities.

  1.  When composing an email, try to refrain from using all caps. This could give the reader the impression you are yelling at them. Also, contrary to what you may think, putting twelve exclamation points at the end of a sentence does not get your point across more effectively.
  2. Men: when speaking with a woman in the workplace, your gaze should be fixed on her eyes. It should not wander south of her general face area throughout the conversation. Believe it or not, we can see you looking at our boobs. We really can.
  3. Do not cough up loogies and then spit them in your trash can. It demonstrates poor hygiene and I am pretty sure the cleaning lady does not appreciate it.
  4. Try to avoid the use of foul language as it can be offensive and really doesn’t make you seem “cool”, despite what you have been telling yourself since you were 13. (Click here for a list of creative alternatives to curse words.)  Refrain from cursing in meetings, on conference calls, when speaking to co-workers/managers, or simply talking to yourself.
  5.  Avoid talking to yourself. It’s pretty creepy.
  6. When having a personal phone conversation, try to be discreet. It is not polite to yell and curse (see #4) on the phone at your significant other about a personal matter. Your cubical walls are not made of lead and your co-workers can hear every word you say (and probably wish they hadn’t).
  7. Fight the urge to sleep at your desk. Even if you are sitting up in your seat, people can tell you are asleep because your eyes have been closed for more than a minute and your head starts to nod. You aren’t fooling anyone.
  8.  Do not go to the bathroom and sleep on the toilet. People can hear you snoring from the bathroom stall. Again, you aren’t fooling anyone.
  9. Avoid office gossip. Sure, talking about other people is fun and we all do it, but it’s really not appropriate in the workplace. You can almost guarantee that whatever you say about someone else at work will get back to them.
  10. Don’t become Facebook friends with your co-workers. Especially not your boss. Personal life should stay separate from work life, and your manager doesn’t need to see your weekend check-in’s at the bar. And certainly not the pictures that go along with it.  Do you really want him/her bringing that up and then telling you what their favorite body shots are on Monday morning? I didn’t think so.

The message is pretty simple: just use some common sense, people. And in case you’re wondering… yes, I have observed all of these behaviors (and then some) at my various places of work throughout the years.

What are some of your basic rules for office etiquette?

The Wedding

31 Mar

Five years ago today was my wedding day. My husband and I were married in the gardens of a beautiful historic home, surrounded by our close family and good friends. The day flew by in a blur (just as I was told it would by former fellow brides) and I tried to sit back and take as much in as I could. There are certain things that stand out in my mind about that day. I remember being so happy that my sister, cousins, aunts, uncles and grandmothers were there with me. I remember my best girlfriends being by my side the whole day, helping me get ready, taming any stray hair  or touching up my makeup, making sure I had a drink or food whenever I wanted it. I remember the flowers – we had the most beautiful flowers at our wedding! I remember walking around and seeing for the first time all of the hard work that my mom and dad had done by setting everything up and decorating. And taking it all in as I realized “I am about to get married; all of this and all of these people are here for me and Alan”.

But most of all I remember seeing my then future husband as I walked down the aisle towards him, and I remember the ceremony clearly.  It was a very magical day. I know that sounds cliche’ but I don’t know how else to describe it! It was truly magical. I spent some time this morning looking at our wedding album, reminiscing on that day and all that it meant to me. Here are some of my favorite photos I’d like to share with you from that special day in my life.

My beautiful wedding cake that tasted as good as it looked!

Getting ready with my bridesmaids.

Precious flower girl.

My sweet Gran.

Flowers lining the aisle.

My "something borrowed" - locket from my great-grandmother.

The groom (right) and groomsman just before the ceremony. I guess they were getting out last minute jitters!

We're married!!

Sweet family.

Ceremonial serenade by cherished friends.

At the reception we danced the night away!

Even my Gran got in on the dancing!

And then we did the Thriller dance. Oh yes, we went there.

And they lived happily ever after. The end.

Maybe I’m a little biased in saying this, but I think I had an amazingly beautiful wedding. I hope every girl gets to have a day as special as mine for her wedding day.

Spring Outdoor Activities

20 Mar

Happy Spring!

Spring has officially sprung, and it sure feels like it where I am down here in Alabama. We have had beautiful warm, sunny days and I’ve really enjoyed being outdoors the past few weeks. Our summers are usually sweltering hot and last well into the Fall months, so we welcome springtime around here with open arms. It is an opportunity to thaw out from several months of being cold down to your bones, and there’s a “new” feeling in the air that makes me feel like anything is possible. I always get sort of a jump-start in Spring and find myself wanting to start several projects (how many said projects I actually finish is a different story, however). While Fall is my favorite season, there are many things about Spring that I look forward to and most of them involve being outdoors. Here are some of the things about Spring that I am most looking forward to enjoying in the coming weeks, accompanied by some photos I took last Spring of these very things.

Longer Days. This means that when I get home from work, there will still be several hours of daylight left, allowing me to do one of my favorite Spring activities: what I like to call “backyard sitting”. This involves me grabbing a beer or a big glass of wine with my camera and two cats in tow, and sitting in the fading daylight, just listening to the outside sounds and breathing in the fresh air.  There is something to be said about springtime dusk in the South. It’s extremely relaxing.

My cat talking to me in the backyard.

Sunlight through the trees in my backyard.

Farmers Market. We have a wonderful Farmers Market in my town that starts up each Spring. It happens every Saturday morning in the heart of downtown and is where can you find locally grown fresh vegetables, honey, wine, pasta, handcrafted soaps, art, jewelry, and so much more. When the weather is nice, it is a wonderful way to start the weekend. My husband and I always look forward to Saturday morning strolls through the Market, followed by a big breakfast at one of our favorite downtown cafe’s. And not to mention a huge meal that evening of fresh veggies and other finds from the Market!

Saturday morning Farmers Market in Mobile, AL

Fresh Silver King corn, peppers and green tomatoes at the Farmers Market in Mobile, AL.

Saturday morning Farmers Market in Mobile, AL

Yard Work. Most people see having to do yard work as a chore, but not me. I look forward with anticipation to spending a weekend outdoors cutting the grass, trips to the local garden center for new plants, planting flowers and planning a garden.  There’s just something about sinking your hands into the dirt that is so exhilarating!

Some of last year's Spring flowers.

One of last year's zinnias.

Outdoor Photography. Photography is my biggest hobby.  I used to dream of becoming a National Geographic photographer, and although that never happened and I don’t take pictures professionally, I still see it as a creative outlet and do it just for fun. One of my favorite ways to pass time is to strap on my camera and go “exploring” outdoors. I’d much rather take pictures of landscapes than portraits, and the outdoors provide so many interesting subjects for a camera lens. Take a good look around next time you are in your backyard, driving in your car, or strolling down the sidewalks of your town. Art can be found in some of the most unsuspecting items, if you just look at it from a different perspective.  And what better time to be outdoors than right now?!

A bit of twine naturally wrapped around a branch in my backyard.

A fisherman throws his net off the Fairhope pier.

A little lizard sunbathes on top of a statue in the gardens of Cathedral Square in downtown Mobile, AL.

What are some of your favorite things about Spring, whether they involve being outdoors or not?

Five Times It’s Okay To Cry

25 Feb

As a woman, I have been blessed with a wonderful little thing called estrogen. Men have it too, but women really get the mother-load when it comes to estrogen. Our bodies need it to be able to do all the things that our girl bodies do, and sometimes it can cause us to behave a little oddly.  Many men have noticed this odd behavior when their lady proceeds to bawl uncontrollably while watching Folgers coffee commercials (you know the ones when the son comes home for the holidays from the war), or when she unexpectedly begins to cry while listening to Elton John’s Candle in the Wind.

These are things that are just part of being a girl, and I’m here to tell you that it’s okay. We shouldn’t feel embarrassed or have to explain ourselves for shedding a few tears. Just let it all out, ladies. And just so we’re clear on when it’s okay to cry, here is a quick list of 5 instances when you shouldn’t feel ashamed to let those tears flow.

  1. When browsing cards in Hallmark. When my mother’s birthday rolls around and I browse the cards in Hallmark, searching for the one to sum up exactly how I feel about her, I always bring tissues with me. I can’t help but get misty right there in the store, reading the heartfelt sentiments, blinking back tears and trying to read the words through water-filled eyes. And don’t even get me started on what the cards do to my mother. We haven’t had a birthday or Mother’s Day in the past 10 years where she hasn’t sobbed while trying to read her cards. There is a reason Hallmark cards are the best. It’s because they are the only ones written well enough to make us cry. Thanks, Hallmark.Hallmark logo
  2. When reading sappy chain emails. We all get chain emails from friends or family members. Most of the time we delete them after scrolling past all of the other email addresses that show how many people before them forwarded it and we see that the content doesn’t interest us. But sometimes we get sucked in to the ones that tell life lessons in the  form of the sweet old couple who never had much money but are rich because they always had each others love; or little Tommy befriending the school outcast and 20 years later getting a letter from that same kid telling him that he wants to thank Tommy for saving his life.  You know the ones. Don’t be afraid to let those emails get the best of you, girls!
  3. When you are sick. No one likes to be sick. When you feel awful, are so tired that all you want to do is curl up in your bed and have your mama bring you some soup, it’s okay to have a good cry. Sure you may think it’s something only a big baby would do, but you can’t help it. You’re sick! Tell your man he’s just going to have to deal with it and wait on you hand and foot, just like you do for him when he’s sick.
  4. When you leave home. Whether it’s for college, moving into your first apartment or when you get married, leaving the comfort of your parents home is really hard. Going into the world on your own is an exciting rite of passage for every girl, but it can also be scary. Most of us can’t wait to be on our own, but when we are driving away and look back in the rear-view window at our family waving goodbye, the harsh reality hits us and we cry like a child getting their favorite toy taken from them.
  5. When watching Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.  I seriously don’t think I’ve sat through one episode without crying. Not one. Ty Pennington and his gang really know how to lay it on thick. Seeing the joy on families faces as they look at their new home that they would have never been able to give their children on their own moves me to tears. Even though the show doesn’t come on anymore, I still catch repeats of it during the day and always watch with my box of tissue ready.


There are so many occasions when it’s okay to cry as a woman other than just these that I mention above, but I couldn’t possibly list them all! Do you have any others to add to this list?

Valentine’s Day: To Celebrate or Not To Celebrate?

6 Feb

With Valentine’s Day rapidly approaching, I feel the need to do a few posts about this special day. So here’s my first one; I think it’s a good place to start.

Valentine’s Day is the one day a year that is whole-heartedly devoted to romance and love. It’s basically an opportunity for people to express their feelings to that certain someone, mostly by wooing them with roses and chocolates. I personally am a big fan of Valentine’s Day. I don’t go all out and decorate, or make a big spectacle of the holiday or anything like that. But I do see the importance of this one day a year dedicated to love, something that is essential to our nature as human beings.

Now, while I enjoy this holiday and choose to celebrate it, I realize there are a lot of people who do not see this day as a real holiday and choose to treat February 14th as any other day of the year. There are even some who take it as far as going out of their way to make it known how much they loathe this day and everything that it stands for. I have come across several people like this in my life, and I must admit I do not understand why they hate Valentine’s Day so much. I have flat-out asked them but no one has ever really given me an answer. It’s usually a girl saying she and her boyfriend/husband just “think it’s dumb” and don’t do anything to celebrate. This response usually gives me the impression that this girl is just going along with it because she knows her boyfriend/husband is not the type of guy who does anything nice for her, and she really wishes he would, but she knows he won’t. And that’s just sad, because every girl wants to feel loved and special, whether they admit it or not.

I also often wonder why some men don’t want to do something nice for their girlfriend or wife on Valentine’s Day. Did they have a bad experience in a past relationship and now feel scorned by love and everything that it stands for? Did they think as children that since they didn’t get this day off from school then Valentine’s Day must not be a real holiday?  I don’t know, they won’t tell me. But these are things that I’m willing to get to the bottom of.

Celebrate
If you are like me and you enjoy Valentine’s Day, you may have started thinking about what you are going to do for your significant other this year. There are the obvious choices: roses, chocolates, jewelry, dinner and a movie, etc. Then there are some not so traditional choices, like a creative gift specifically chosen or put together for your Valentine. Personally, I enjoy these types of gifts, as they are more personal and show that some actual thought went in to the gift – which in itself, is one of the best ways you can tell someone you love them. If you are having trouble thinking of creative ways to say “I love you” this Valentine’s Day (don’t worry, you aren’t alone), here are a few ideas and sites that may help you:

  •  Create a handmade Valentine. Everyone loves something handmade. It clearly shows that you created something especially for your sweetie, and is a sure-fire way to score some major romance points with the ladies. From homemade cards to love coupons to sweet, edible treats, go to everythingetsy.com for 101 amazing and easy ideas.
  • Make a mix tape. It may seem a little 90’s but let’s face it – we are all still suckers for personalized relationship soundtracks. I really like the list that Entertainment Weekly put together of their picks for the 25 best love songs. Get inspired at ew.com.
  • Plan a scavenger hunt with presents hidden along the way. The first time I saw this was when my sister’s boyfriend in college did this for her for. It was their first Valentine’s Day together, and it was so romantic. You could tell he put so much thought into it! He gave her a clue to go to a place on campus that was meaningful to them, and when she got there she found a little gift, with another clue to a different location. After several cute clues and sweet gifts, she found him waiting at the final location. Yes, ladies, it was swoon-worthy. Needless to say, she’s married to him now. Go to mastersofthehunt.com for some ideas and resources to help you plan your own scavenger hunt for your Valentine.

Don’t Celebrate
If you are among the population who doesn’t see February 14th as a better day than any other to practice the art of romance (I’m just going to tell myself that this is what these people think, because it’s a much nicer version than them hating romance and love in general and not wanting anything to do with it) and are wondering what on Earth you’ll do to celebrate the boycotting of Valentine’s Day, here are a few ideas:

  • Find something else to occupy your time. Do something you wouldn’t normally do for yourself or someone else. It’s a great way to take your mind off the holiday and make yourself feel good. Take a look at lite987.com for a list of ideas.
  • Have a slasher movie marathon.  Rather than watch the traditional romantic movies that most couples will be watching on this day, why not watch the complete opposite? Curl up with a good horror movie. Check out rottentomatoes.com for a list of their Top 50 horror movie picks.
  • Unite with fellow boycotters by throwing an Anti-Valentine’s Day themed party.  You and your friends (mostly dudes without girlfriends, no doubt) can come together and watch slasher flicks (see previous bullet), listen to unromantic heavy metal music, play violent video games, etc. Squidoo.com has some tips on how to throw a great Anti-Valentine’s Day party.

In summary, I guess I will never fully understand why some people don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. In my eyes, love and romance should be something that everyone experiences in their life, and most people do and are experiencing it right now. So I don’t get why someone wouldn’t want to say to their sweetheart, “hey, I love you, and I know you probably know that, but I’m going to tell you again anyway and I’m also going to do something that I don’t do on a day-to-day basis just to make you feel special”.  I think it’s a beautiful and natural thing that brings us all so much happiness, and who couldn’t use a little extra happy?? Even if it is just one day of the year.

Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? Take the poll below and leave me a comment letting me know why or why not. I’d really like to solve this Valentine’s Day mystery of mine. ;)

The Importance Of Writing A Thank You Letter

30 Jan

It seems like in this digital world we all live in these days, people are replacing a lot of their normal activities with the convenience of technology. Things like talking on the phone, which has been replaced by instant messaging or texting.  Reading a weekly newspaper or some other type of publication has been swapped for websites and television, and buying your favorite band’s new album in a local music store is now traded for a digital copy online (hopefully you at least paid for it). One of the tasks that I refuse to stop doing,  however, is writing a thank you letter to someone, and it really irks me that a lot of people have stopped doing this simple and thoughtful task. I believe Emily Post said it best with:

“Never think, because you cannot write a letter easily, that it is better not to write at all. The most awkward note imaginable is better than none.”
~Emily Post
 

Growing up, my mother always made me and my sister write thank you notes after we received gifts for our birthdays, at Christmas, etc. At first, I always saw writing letters as a chore and was never really happy about it. But as I got older I began to see the value in it and why she made us do it, and I am so thankful she instilled this in us at an early age. I look forward to teaching my children the same thing one day and sharing the importance of thank you letters with them.

I love receiving a letter in the mail. Who doesn’t?? It’s like a little prize in the mailbox just for you! A letter is more personal than an email, especially a thank you letter. With a hand written thank you, I know that the sender genuinely appreciated my gift, the time and effort I put in to doing something for them.

The alternatives (which should be avoided) to sending a thank you letter are: 1) saying “thank you” in person and thinking that was enough, 2) sending an email/text message/instant message instead, or 3) sending no letter at all. The first (telling someone “thank you” in person) is a mistake a lot of people make. They think because they said “thank you” when they opened their present or last saw the person, that it was enough. This is not enough, and we should always assume that a written thank you is required for a gift or favor from someone. This person did something for you, and the least you could do is write a letter saying “thank you”. The second (sending an electronic message instead of a letter) is probably the most impersonal way someone can say thank you. This tells the person that you took the easy way out by shooting a quick email rather than taking the time to send a hand written note. It’s just tacky, y’all. And the last (no letter at all) is the crummiest of the three. Not sending a thank you is never OK. If you received a gift or a favor, you need to say thank you. This is basic stuff we all learned in pre-school. It is totally idiotic impolite not to, and could cause a serious riff in your relationship with the person (who went out of their way to do something for you). It sends a message that you don’t appreciate them, and no one wants to keep someone around who makes them feel unappreciated.

So, next time someone does something nice for you, gives you a present, or if you just want to let someone know you appreciate them, take the time to write them a short letter saying thank you. It’s really simple, I promise. It doesn’t even  have to be long. If you don’t know how to write a thank you letter, click here for a great article that is sure to help you. Not only will it make the day of the person you are sending it to, but it will also make you glad you did that for someone who obviously cares about you.

There are so many cute stationary and card designs out there, and you can even get personalized ones made. You can usually find a set of boxed thank you cards at any mass merchandise store, and here are some of my favorite websites to shop for stationary:

tinyprints.com

papyrusonline.com

thestationerystudio.com

You can also get crafty and create your own stationary and envelopes. Check out this blog post by my BFF Cassie showing how she made her own envelopes. How cute!

Resolve To Be Nicer To Yourself In 2012

5 Jan

Sometime during the past year I realized that I was kind of unhappy with my life. I have spent most of my adult life trying to make other people happy, and not really paying attention to what I want for myself. I found I am much too concerned with what others think, put other people’s needs and wants before my own, and often put myself on the back burner.

This is not necessarily a terrible quality to have. I have always thought (and still think) it’s an imperative human quality – to go out of our way to do things for other people and make others happy. But this year I became surprisingly aware that I wasn’t always receiving that satisfying feeling in return. This was mainly due to the fact that more and more, the people I was doing things for weren’t appreciative of my gesture. Over time, this made me a sad, unhappy and a little bitter. Those are not feelings that I want to have on a regular basis.

After months of some serious soul-searching and many long talks with my sweet husband (that usually started with me misdirecting my anger at him by lashing out abruptly – sorry, sweetie…did I mention you are the best husband ever?) I have finally pinpointed the things that I am unhappy about, and realized that I alone can change it. I control my happiness, and to become a happier person, I need to pay more attention to myself. I need to do more things that make me happy. I’ve already begun by starting this blog!

Here are some of my goals for 2012. “Resolutions”, if you will.

  1. Learn to say “no” and say it way more often than I’m used to. I get myself into situations that I realize I don’t  want to be in. I usually take the easy way out by caving in and just agreeing to things. So I’m going to put my foot down and say “no” when I don’t want to do something. That is going to be hard, but I can do it!
  2. Stop being around people I don’t really want to be around. Part of the reason I was having the problem of not receiving gratitude in return when doing things for others was because I have been doing them for the wrong people. I plan on spending my time with the people in my life I want to continue to have healthy relationships with, and who truly care about me in return: my husband, my family, and my closest friends.
  3. Start doing more things that I really enjoy.  Reading, photography, writing, blogging, and spending time with the people I love. I want to laugh more and have things to look forward to.
  4. Make healthier decisions that will impact my life for the long haul. I want to eat more natural foods, live a healthier lifestyle, and lay some ground work for my “golden” years. This should give me more energy and make me feel better, too!

I hope you all decide to make some “selfish” decisions in 2012, also. Take a moment to take an internal look and ask yourself if you are really happy with your life, and where your future is headed. If the answer is no, change it!

“If you want to be happy, be.”
~Leo Tolstoy

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