A New Adventure

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Today, Michael and I celebrate our anniversary. It's the last anniversary we'll celebrate as an un-married couple. Next month, we'll be husband and wife and we'll have a new anniversary to enjoy together. Today though, we celebrate still. We celebrate our beginning; finding each other; falling in love. We celebrate how far we've come. If you only knew how far. We celebrate our struggles and our strength together throughout them all. We celebrate promises kept, devotion, and lessons learned. We celebrate the bond we've created for ourselves, and our family.

Today we also celebrate something else. Something unexpected. Something difficult, yet exciting. Together yesterday, we made a decision to leave our Florida home and create a new one in Northern Virginia. We've accepted an offer that's been extended to Michael to pursue a new career that would change our family's life. Today we celebrate a new chapter.

We're sad to be leaving our family, friends, and all of the people who have helped build us up so high throughout the years; but we'll save the mourning for another day and instead look to the future. Today we celebrate.

Today we celebrate memories; together and apart. We celebrate the city that joined us and the home we created here. We celebrate beer guts and late-night football games. We celebrate long drives stretched across our miles of highways and even the terrible drivers that fill them. We celebrate brunches, bridges, and our favorite hole-in-the-walls. Today we celebrate traditions.

We celebrate all the beautiful people who rallied in our corner- our biggest fans. We celebrate our parents who've made our success in life and our happiness possible (and their top priority.) We celebrate the laughter we've shared with loved ones. It's echoes quite possibly still present in this big city of ours. We celebrate all those who helped shape us here; those whom we confided in and whom offered us the best love and advice. We celebrate the people who supported us; the people who loved us unconditionally. 

Today we celebrate life, all the love that fills our hearts, and a future that looks so bright. 

Today we celebrate a new adventure.

xoxo, Courtney.png

Wedding Stationery Decisions with Basic Invites

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The following material may be sponsored or contain affiliate links. While I do get paid to promote certain products, I only promote products that I use personally, or would recommend to my readers. Rest assured that although this post may be sponsored, all opinions are my own.

I touched base about many of the lesson's I've learned throughout my wedding planning process in one of my latest posts, Eight Things I Wish I'd Known Before I Started Wedding PlanningI spoke candidly about the many mistakes I've made along the way in hopes of making someone else's life easier if not my own! 

There's this sort of blind area when it comes to wedding planning. You go into things so unsure and uninformed. After all, how many weddings does one have in a lifetime? It can be so incredibly hard to make decisions! There's literally a million-and-one choices out there, so where do you begin? Everyone seems to have an opinion and a recommendation for everything. But no one could seem to tell me anything about stationery!

Stationery was such an important wedding decision for me. I wanted our invitation suite to reflect the aesthetic of our big day, and also our personalities. I searched and searched but found very little that I felt confident purchasing. It felt like every time I found an invitation set I liked, I hit a wall. I either couldn't customize it enough, couldn't preview it, or my selection just cost a fortune! 

When I stumbled on Basic Invites, I instantly felt like all of my stationery worries would disappear. Unlike the majority of the invitation and stationery websites I'd previously looked into, my options were limitless! Not only were there over 200 suite options for me to choose from, but Basic Invite has over 180 color options that you can preview right online! You can decide even when you're like me, and can't decide! 

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My favorite part about my experience was the ability to receive sample kits in the mail. With a few simple clicks, and only a few days wait, I received a whole sample package containing so many options that I could now visualize in real life! My sample kit came with five GORGEOUS wedding invitation samples; each varying in size, shape, thickness, and detail. I really got to see just how beautiful their typography, foil, and color options were- and they even sent me sample envelopes! Even better, you can order your own custom samples from Basic Invite and see EXACTLY what your own invitations will look like BEFORE spending all your dollars! No more card swiping and finger crossing!

Overall, I'm so impressed with the quality, affordability, and versatility of Basic Invite's stationery. I can't wait to receive more in the mail from them (I'm talking about those gorgeous wedding guest books) and not worry for one second about what will show up at my door!

I slowly, but surely learned that wedding stationery decisions didn't have to be hard. To check out Basic Invite for yourself, feel free to click here. Or check out some of the incredible invites created every day on their Instagram. And remember to keep them in mind for all your events and stationery needs. 

Happy Planning!

xoxo, Courtney.png

 

 

Eight Things I Wish I'd Known Before I Started Wedding Planning

I'll let you in on a little secret-I didn't want a wedding. I know, I'm the anti-bride, I get it. But seriously, I had no desire to have a wedding. If it had been solely up to me, I would have hired an amazing photographer, called up my closest family and friends, driven up to the mountains, and I would have had a tiny elopement-style ceremony atop Max Patch. But it was important to Michael to have a wedding. His first wedding was a teenage whim outside the juvenile detention center. Not exactly the dream ha! So, I gave in, and we're having a wedding. Eight months we've been planning and throughout that time I've learned a lot.

I was pretty uninformed going into my planning. The do-er in me wanted to jump in, take control, and just make my decisions as I went. I didn't leave myself too open to advice from others about the process. Looking back, I wish I'd been more open to receive it.

I wasn't though, which has brought me my own challenges and lessons learned. After eight months, here's a few things I wish I would have known prior to planning our wedding:

That Time Will Go Faster Than You Think

I guess this lesson pretty much applies to life in general.  Being the 'Chill Bride' is all fine and dandy, but you can't be so lackadaisical that you put things off. My entire thought process while wedding planning has been incredibly relaxed. The two most important things to me were finding a beautiful venue, and most importantly an amazing photographer to capture our moments. After that I was like, "No rush, it will all come together." Yeah, it totally will all come together- but at the cost of being a little stressed out. I didn't even buy a dress until three months to-the-date of my wedding, and left way too many decisions until the last minute. We started planning at about the ten-month mark, and while ten months sounds like plenty of time looking ahead- it will go so fast! Next thing you know you'll be like me right now, figuring things out last minute at the two-and-a-half-month mark!

To Think Before You Book

When I say, "think before you book," I don't mean that you should extra consider whether or not you want to get married, or whether 'x' vendor is the right fit for you (although those are definitely thoughts you should consider beforehand.) Really, think about the date of your wedding and what's going on at that time. Michael and I weren't really partial on a particular date, we just knew that we wanted something in the fall. If we booked something for the following fall, we'd have plenty of time to plan our wedding, no problem. But Michael would also be transitioning out of the military a month and a half before that. At the time, it seemed like no big deal. We'd manage just fine right? And who wants a two-year long engagement? Well, fast forward to now and we're right in the middle of our big life transition and the most involved portion of our wedding planning. We're changing careers, possibly moving, and stretching pennies. Not our smartest move (you were right, mom.) Think about what life events could be surrounding your date and plan accordingly. It can get crazy and the less stress, the better.

That It's NOT Just About You

As vain as it sounds, it took a while for it to sink in that my wedding day was absolutely not just about Michael and me. At first, I found myself frustrated at decisions that felt beyond my control. It was my day, right? Well yeah. But it's also our son's day, our parent's day, our grandparent's day... our whole family's day. It's a day they've been waiting their whole lives for, just like us. So much of wedding planning is about pleasing other people, and while that may seem frustrating sometimes, (trust me, I know) this day is bigger than just you. Sure, it's a celebration OF you, but it’s certainly not all about you. The sooner you realize this, the more relief you'll feel (and the less resentment you'll have for others.)

...But That It Is Ultimately Up to You

If might not be solely about you, but you do get the final say in most decisions. Choose your battles wisely, but if it comes down to it and you feel strongly about something, stand by your choice. It is your wedding, and the day is meant to reflect who you are as a couple. No one is going to blame you for speaking out about what you want at your wedding.

That It's Expensive... No... Like REALLY Expensive

Some of my friends have joked to me that I'm like the 'anti-bride' and when it comes to the financial aspect of weddings, that might be completely true. I'll come right out and say it: I think it's completely asinine to spend this kind of money on one day. I knew coming into things that weddings were expensive, but holy cow I had no idea. We're projected to hit nearly $12,000 total for our big day, and that's considered modest in the wedding world! The thought of it still triggers my frustration. Luckily, we've worked hard to keep things as frugal as possible while also trying to be accommodating of our guests and realistic. We decided ahead of time what our big splurge items would be, and the rest we're budgeting hard and DIYing.  There's many small costs that completely slipped my mind when planning my budget, like postage, flatware, and guest books. Be prepared for high tickets, deposits, and expenses that you didn't anticipate on. Save your dollars and have a "just-in-case" fund. You know, just in case. As far as expenses go, don't be afraid to negotiate and to use as many connections as you can. You won't be disappointed to have a little extra savings to shove towards your honeymoon!

That Traditional Isn't the Only Way

I'm still struggling with this a lot. There's this fear of remorse I get at times while planning. I worry a lot about regretting my non-traditional choices later on, and also worry about how others might feel about them. Like, will my parents be disappointed if I don't cover my tattoos on my wedding day? Will my Catholic family be offended by my agnostic officiant? When really, who cares? It's 2017, and there isn't just one way to have a wedding anymore.  I'm learning to sit back and be accepting of who I am as a person. If my wedding is supposed to be a reflection of my personality- I'm doing everything right. I'll have to get back to you after the wedding, but I'm almost certain nobody loses sleep ten years after their wedding because they chose to wear a crop top wedding gown. Don't be afraid to go all out and be as fun as you want. It's your day.

That Reading Your Vendors is Key

This was a huge thing I learned along the way. Reading your vendors seeming competency and professionalism early on can save you A LOT of time when vendor shopping. For a long time, I waited far too long for responses from vendors, gave them the benefit of the doubt when they'd cancel appointments last minute, and remained way to relaxed about lack of portfolios or references. Yeah, I know, 'Chill Bride.' But then, after several months of being fed up with the lack of response, professionalism, and accountability from vendors- I started reading people. Now if representatives don't immediately put off an acceptable level of professionalism, a seeming passion about what they do, and most importantly; act as if being a part of my wedding team is important to them- boy bye.

I think roles are something that have become a little misconstrued throughout the years in the wedding industry. The greatest thing about planning your wedding is that YOU are the consumer. Your role is to shop and decide who YOU want to represent you on your day. A vendor's responsibility (besides the service they provide) is to market to individuals (like you) and PROVE why they are a good choice for your wedding. Guess what? If a vendor takes three weeks to respond to my email, all they've proved is that:

A. My business isn't important to them.

B. They don't consider my time valuable, or

C. They have poor time management, business management, and customer service skills

Either way, they don't get my business. I mean really, if someone doesn't have their ish together before your wedding, how can you trust them to handle the biggest day of your life?! That's my motto now.

To Be Happy

Let’s face it, wedding planning is stressful, overwhelming, and sometimes feels like a chore. I feel like this is especially true for me because a big wedding was never on my agenda. It's easy to get lost in all the stress, and forget about what the day really means to you. I recently had to take a step back and be my own hype-man. This day will be one I remember for the rest of my life. It will serve as one of the best days of my lifetime, and that's something to be excited about! So, take an initiative to be happy and enjoy the little moments while planning your wedding. Laugh about your slobber soaked wedding envelopes, and all the crazy "great ideas" you get from others for your day. Be with your partner and be happy. It can make tedious plans, seem a whole lot less tedious.

 

For the first time along this wild planning ride, I'm really starting to enjoy the process. I'm excited for what our future holds, and I'm grateful for all the 'planning wisdom' I've gained along the way. I'm glad I could pass it off on someone! 

Have advice of your own? I'd love to hear all the lessons you've learned/are learning in the comments section below!

xoxo, Courtney.png

Five Books to Finish Before Summer's End

I've been a long time reader. My parents can attest to the countless vacations we took while growing up, where instead of enjoying family activities- you'd find me lost in a book. I'd huff and puff if you asked me to put it down. But the older I've gotten, the more my reading has come to a halt. I've had less time, less motivation, and technology has me looking at a screen more often than the pages of a book. But the last year I've really been trying to change that. If you've read my post all about incorporating self-care into your day, you know that this year, I've made it a point to give myself a little more me-time. So, I've been reading every morning. I wake up, pour myself a cup of coffee, sit on the porch, and enjoy a good book for about twenty minutes before work. Since I've started the routine, I've had the chance to read so many more titles! So, I thought I'd share my top favorites with you guys. If you can get a chance to read some of these before summer is over and your days of sun-bathing with a book in hand are over- I highly suggest it!

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town

by Jon Krakauer

One of my favorite parts of the BlogHer 17 annual blogging conference, was hearing from Amy Ziering about the production and stories behind The Hunting Ground. It's a documentary bringing to light the cover-ups, rationalizations, victim-blaming, and denial that college campuses have long-time taken part in. Jon Krakauer's Missoula does the same. While Krakauer is most widely known for his titles Into the Wild and Into Thin Air, Missoula is a title of different proportions. It focuses on uncovering the truths and sharing the stories of real victims of rape in the college town, and acts as a tool of enlightenment when it comes to the injustice that these women face. It's a real eye-opening read that I wish more people would be open to. I could only imagine how far we could come, if everyone was just a little more informed when it came to these issues. This book is real, informative, and serves an amazing social purpose. 

Milk and Honey

by Rupi Kaur

I'm such a huge poetry lover, and even more now that we have such amazing female-advocating poets like the lovely Canadian, Rupi Kaur at the forefront. Milk and Honey was such a phenomenal collection, so of course I can't wait for The Sun and Her Flowers to be released this October. I've already pre-ordered my copy, and you can too by clicking the link below. Kaur's poetry brings wisdom into words and speaks gently, emphatically, and eloquently all at once. She speaks truth of womanhood, love, loss, and healing. It's the deepest collection divided into chapters with different purposes. It's gut wrenching, relatable, and thought provoking- and truly the most spiritually rewarding collection of poetry I've had the pleasure of reading. I'm proud that fearless women like this exist; women who are so willing to share their pain and suffering, to bring to light the issues that women face and most importantly the way we overcome. There's a reason it's on the New York Times Bestsellers List. READ THIS BOOK.

Click Here to Pre-Order The Sun and Her Flowers Now

The Trespasser: A Novel

by Tana French

I was first introduced to Tana French's 'Dublin Murder Squad' through my subscription to Book of the Month Club- which if you aren't a member of, I HIGHLY suggest you give it a try! Each month they send you a new book in the mail. I always joke that growing up, we were excited for an email in our inbox and much less charmed by something in our mailbox. Now as an adult, I'm disappointed by my full inbox and giddy to receive mail.  This was the first of the Dublin series I read, but luckily, they don't have to be read in any particular order. French's novel The Trespasser is chilling and terrific. Two detectives find themselves on the scene of what first seems like a standard domestic call, but quickly turns into a discombobulated murder guessing game. It's really easy to find yourself emerged in, with its winding plot. It leaves you wanting even more mystery, which is perfectly fine because French has a whole series of incredible 'Murder Squad' novels you can delve into.

One Plus One: A Novel

by Jojo Moyes

At the end of every trip I take to Asheville, (which is like three times a year now) I always make it a point to stop by Malaprops and pick up a new book. Every time, I choose a title from their staff-faves, or 'blind-book-dates' and they never disappoint. This book was a staff favorite I picked up on a trip last spring. It's actually a really atypical book for me to read, but I couldn't have enjoyed it more. The story line is centered around a mother whose life seems pretty in shambles. She's raising two children on her own because their father skipped out, her oldest is being bullied, and her youngest is basically a kid math genius whom she can't afford to take her daughter to the Math Olympiad on her house-keeping wages. She's at rock bottom until in hops in a geeky tech millionaire. It's such a romantic and quirky title, in the least corny way. It's certainly not one I'd ever have seen myself enjoying- but it's a real feel-good read with well-developed characters, and consistent humor. Totally worth reading.

Smart but Scattered: The Revolutionary "Executive Skills" Approach to Helping Kids Reach Their Potential

by Peg Dawson, EdD, and Richard Guard, PhD

This is actually a title I finished last November, but I only wish I could have read it last summer prior to the start of the school year. If you have children, and could only afford the time to read one of the books on this list- I'd ABSOLUTELY recommend reading this one. It's hands down, the most enlightening parenting book I've had the opportunity to read. I picked it up after a friend (who is a child psychologist) suggested it to me. I found myself struggling throughout last school year with how to help Ry battle through some of the attention, organization, and self-esteem issues; that were greatly impacting his behavior as a whole and his performance at school. 

After reading this book and putting the practices into action we saw SO MANY major improvements in Ry's behavior, and coping skills. It's definitely a title I'd suggest to anyone who'd like more insight on how to provide their child with the skills to become more organized, responsible, accountable, and in control.

 

I was a big fan of all of these titles, and recommend that you give them a chance before your sunny reading days come to a close. Each one is unique in genre, but all are amazing reads. 

I'm gonna keep reading my little heart out and will keep you updated on all of my upcoming favorites. Until then, give these ones a try and let me know how you like them! Or drop me some suggestions for future reads in the comments section below! Can't wait to hear from you!

Me Time & Tee Time with Zany Du Designs

Working from home, while a wee lonely and monotonous at times, has its perks. Take the past two weeks for example. Every single morning for the past two weeks, I've been waking up and delaying my work day to give myself some me time. It's been a total game changer for me.

On a typical day, I wakeup, power on my Mac, brew myself a cup of coffee that I inevitably forget about, and begin my work day. But lately I've been throwing that routine out the window and reaching for one that's been leaving me a whole lot more fulfilled throughout the day. Every day I've been waking up and heading right for the shower. I do my makeup, and get ready for the day- opposed to my normal tendency of waiting until Michael gets home to do something with myself. Then I make myself a cup of coffee and ENJOY it quietly while I update my progress on goals on my Coach.me app. After I'm finished I do some stretching, make myself a wholesome breakfast, and don't touch a single email until I've finished eating. It's been sooo glorious!

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This 'me-time' is EXACTLY what I've been needing and I think it's here to stay! Even just the subtle change of being dressed and put together makes the biggest difference in how I feel about my day, and how productive I am. And I don't even have to get super dressed up! Typically I'm just rocking a cute tee and some yoga pants!

I'm admittedly obsessed with cute tees and tanks that I can easily throw on, like this one from Zany Du Designs! I met the maker, Alexandra at a local arts event I was a part of and have since become hooked on her screen printed tees, which is why you'll probably recognize a few that Ry wears on her website.

(like this cutie:)

I love them so much that I've teamed up with 'Zany Du' to give all of my loyal readers a sweet deal!

Enter the promo code: ZDFAMILY to receive 20% off your purchase. She's got tees for the whole fam, which is equally amazing and dangerous! So head to her website or etsy page and drop a few in your cart!

As for me, I'm off to have some more me time in this super comfy 'Highway Vagabond' Zany Du tank. Cheers!

Something Happened.

Something happened just three nights ago.

And when I woke up the next morning, I was sure it was the first day of the rest of my life.

Something happened.

It began with a trip out to Durbin Creek- a little tucked away preserve here in town. It’s a beautiful nature walk that leads right out to the water, and it’s become one of my favorite spots to shoot photos at. I’d loaded up my camera equipment in hopes of snagging some good photos of the boys and me for use in some rather late, uh New Years Cards we’ll call them.

All was fine and dandy until I couldn’t get my shutter release remote working, which meant unless one of us was physically behind the camera- the shot wasn’t happening. In retrospect I wonder if this was the universe’s way of helping Michael.  Ry quickly jumped in asking if HE could be the one to take some photos. I agreed, although weary about the fate of my expensive equipment. Hey, cut me some slack. I’m still working on this whole live and let go thing.

Ry snapped five or six photos of us, before I was ready to jump back behind the camera. But I didn’t. Just as I began walking away, I heard Michael say, “Wait, lets take a few more, but first I need this…”

And just like that something happened.

It was like- in that moment, every beautiful experience, every bout of joy from the past year-and-a-half of my life washed over me.

Just like that I said yes to the rest of my life.

It’s a moment I’ll treasure the remainder of my days. I’ll forever replay Ry’s gasps and ecstatic chants of “Yay! Yay!” in the background. I’ll never stop enjoying this memory I’ll be able to share with them for the rest of my life. Because it’s them I’ll have for the rest of my life.

And so now as I sit here, I recount just how thankful I am to have joined this warm and loving, oh-so-perfect man for lunch one day, in a dinky little Thai restaurant on the other side of town.

Never could I have dreamed that what would happen would be this good.