Monday, October 9, 2017

The Small Things

Hi Everyone!

Wow, long time, not talk, right?!

I am SO, so sorry for neglecting this space. I have talked about starting back up my blog for a long time.  I have even drafted posts about my return to blogging.  But, for some reason, I just haven't felt like the time has been right to press "publish" yet.

I am coming at you today in hopes of a long overdue blog chat, but also to share something pretty awesome that I feel like you need in your life.

Church of the Small Things.

What's that? Well, if you follow me on social media, you may already know that I have been hocking this new book by one of my favorite authors, Melanie Shankle, for a couple of months now. 


The book just released last week, so now you can all get your hands on it too!

Instead of dragging you all through a chapter by chapter review of the book, which I tend to find kind of boring, I thought I would share with you what this book has meant to me.

First off, it might be kind of fun to explain to you how I got hooked on Melanie! :)

It was about the middle of 2015 when I stumbled upon the Big Boo Cast podcast. The Big Boo Cast is a podcast where you basically eavesdrop on a telephone call between two bloggers, Sophie Hudson and Melanie Shankle.  They are two women who both live in the South and are big lovers of being wives and mamas, along with football, cheese plates, anti-aging products, their hilarious dogs, a good mascara, and their faith. 

I was going through a pretty trying time in my personal life, and somehow listening to this podcast brought me a whole lot of comfort.  It brings me back to the days where I would sit gabbing on the phone with one of my girlfriends for hours upon hours on end.  Do you miss that as much as I do??

Anyway, after listening to a ton of the podcasts, I read through every single one of these ladies' books.  So, when I found out Melanie was releasing a new book, I was totally in!

Little did I know, this book would speak to me in so many unexpected ways.

As a new mother (yes, I have a son now - he is 15 months! - more on that later), a wife, and a full time attorney, I have often felt pretty overwhelmed.  Grateful as heck, but SO overwhelmed.  I am someone who has been striving to achieve at everything for a very long time. I feel like I have always been looking forward to the next challenge, how I can reach that goal, and how quickly I can get there. 

But, for once in my life, I have truly felt stretched so thin. I have felt like there are not enough hours in the day. I have felt like I am racing to do this thing, then that thing, and all at the same time, I  have felt like I am MISSING everything!

I often ask myself, shouldn't I be able to handle this all with grace like everyone else seems to be doing? So what if I have a full time job, isn't that the norm for women now? People have babies, then they have ANOTHER baby, then they buy a bigger house, then they get that promotion, and they do this all while never uttering a complaint or breaking a sweat.

That whole inner monologue has made me feel a lot of times that I am just not ENOUGH. That if I do not do ALL OF THE THINGS or if I can't achieve ALL OF THE THINGS then I am not going to be enough.

This book, people, stopped me in my tracks. 

Literally in the Introduction of the book, Melanie says: "We can spend so much time wondering and worrying if we're fulfilling God's primary will for our lives. Yet, ultimately, God's will isn't about the things we achieve; it's about the people we become.  Life is more about how He use us to make a difference to the people who cross our paths, even while we are just going about our normal, sometimes boring, lives.   He is a God who used twelve men to change an entire world. He is a God who clearly finds value where we tend to look and see nothing special.  God's primary will for our lives isn't about a particular job or circumstance. It's not about the city we live in or whether we're married or single.  We are in God's will when we wake up with a willingness to go wherever he leads the day, to seek him in the ordinary, and to love and influence the people around us.  Sometimes that can look a whole lot like packing a lunch."  

I mean, wow.  I so needed to read that when I did, and I really need to just read it over, and over, and over again. 

Melanie goes on, "...and so we decide that maybe it's the next big moment that will finally make us truly happy.  Meanwhile, we are ignoring the fact that we woke up that morning with air in our lungs, had a cup of coffee, and laughed on the phone with a friend."

This book taught me so much about gratitude.  About slowing down.  About self worth. About the happiness that can and should be felt by being present and taking a look around myself in the quiet times. 

It's the sip of a warm cup of coffee first thing in the morning. It's the way my little boy is bobbing up and down with the biggest smile on his face at 5:45 a.m. when I give up on him going back to sleep.  It's a good, long afternoon nap.  It's a sincere hug from your significant other or spouse when you needed it the most. It's windows open on a crisp, fall day.  It's when your favorite song comes on the radio. It's a warm chocolate chip cookie. It's catching that beautiful sunrise and realizing the blessing it is just to have been gifted another day to wake up and put our feet on the ground.

To get check out Melanie's blog and get the book, go HERE.  I am confident that this book will lift you up like it did me.  It will encourage you to bloom where you are planted.  It will have you reminiscing about your childhood, your precious memories with your grandparents, and the hilarity of things like auto-correct and why it is NEVER a good time to get bangs.

Something to talk about: what small thing is blessing you today?? If you've read the book, tell me how much you love it??

I hope to be back soon to spend some more time with all of you!

Have a fantastic Monday!

xoxo

Jess






Thursday, October 1, 2015

Throw Back Thursday: Costa Rica Trip - Part 1

Good morning, everyone!

Today I'm doing another #TBT post and throwing it back to our trip to Costa Rica.  My mom so graciously planned this amazing trip for us back a the beginning of July.  

Justin & I packed ourselves up very carefully and ordered a car to take us to the airport. We always use American Coach Limousine (888-709-LIMO) because we find it to be cheaper, more reliable, and a little more luxurious than a cab. 

Things were going great until we found out that our flight out of O'Hare was significantly delayed, causing us to miss our connection in Florida.  We realized this right when we checked in, so after fighting with the front-desk lady for about an hour, they agreed to put us up in a hotel in Hollywood Florida for the night so we could catch a morning flight out to Costa Rica. 

We drowned our sorrows in a couple of Goose Island beers waiting for our flight to Florida. 


I believe the hotel we stayed at in Florida was a Holiday Inn, and we were shocked at how nice it was.  I even took a picture of the view from our room! :) 


We got a few hours of sleep, a shower, a quick breakfast, and we were off to Costa Rica.

Once we finally got to Costa Rica, we found my mom and brother who had been patiently waiting our very LATE arrival with our driver for the week, Emilio.  Emilio had a big van and he was going to take us up the tretcherous, winding roads to Monteverde. 

But first, we stopped for an authentic lunch at a roadside restaurant. 


I think those were fried plantains and some garlic shrimp. It was very good, but probably not the best choice for the ride we were about to embark on.

I'll just say that if you go to Costa Rica, you absolutely must go up to Monteverde. However, do NOT attempt to rent a car and make this drive yourself.  We are talking unpaved roads twirling around the sides of a mountain.  

The view from the top was incredible. 

We pulled off the side of the road to catch this picture - we were literally ABOVE the rainbow. 


We stayed in Santa Elena at Poco-a-Poco Resort (little-by-little, because it described how you came up the mountain to get there!).  

The views from the resort were incredible, and the rooms were so fluffy and relaxing.  

Really, I could just go there and take a week-long nap with the windows open. 

Some pictures from the resort: 





Just look at the view from our shower...


So, I will tell you that even though this was July and throughout the rest of the trip I was dying of the heat, I did NOT pack correctly for Monteverde.  It was chilly, and a lot of the time it was either lightly raining or a torrential downpour.  

A jeans jacket over a maxi dress and Old Navy flip flops were not the greatest dinner attire up there. 

Our first night we walked in a downpour to an Italian restaurant - Mar y Luna. 

We had an appetizer of chips and 4 dips (umm...amazing!). 


I got a salad with a ton of hearts of palm...obsessed. 


The boys got steak, and their plates came decorated. Soooo festive! :) 


The next morning we were up bright-and-early (trust me, very early) to have breakfast at the resort and then catch a bus to go zip lining through the cloud forest.  


Now, what you need to know is that the only other time I have ever been zip lining was at summer camp in Michigan. It was over a little lake. What I was about to do in Monteverde would be VERY different from that. 

We decided to go up to the Salvatura Zip Line, which was another steep trip up higher on the mountain above the clouds.  Once we got up there, we were strapped into these wet harnesses and asked to sign a waiver that I don't even want to talk about.  Then, we were sent on our way with our 18-year-old native guides. 

I wish I could use emojis on here because the scared face would be on repeat. The amount of trust in complete strangers that was involved in this process cannot be over-stated. 

We were hooked up from tree to tree (about 14 total lines) and thrown out at times over 1000 meters over the trees. 


I was the only one of our group that did the Tarzan swing, which is basically a straight down dive from a tower on a bungie, then a swing to some trees across the way. 

I'm sure my family has never heard me scream like that before! :)

The Superman zip line was the hardest part for me. The spot I am at in the picture below...I stayed there for about 20 minutes paralyzed in fear and not sure if I could make it the rest of the way.  


The Superman zip line was going to be the longest one we did and it was very, very high. 

What freaked me out is that they hook you up from your BACK, then you literally lie down and spread your arms out like "Superman."  

On the other lines, you were hooked up from the front of your body and your hands were up on the lines.  So, logically, I told myself if my caribeener failed, I could just hang on with my hands...right?!?! 

Well, with the Superman, if your caribeener fails, you're falling body first with no chance to grab on. 

The good news is that I overcame my fear, conquered the Superman, and it was so incredible. I may have been praying out loud the entire time, but I did it!! 

After the zip-lining was done, we walked through the forest on the suspension bridges. 




Before heading back into town, Justin and I grabbed a beer at the bar and some chicken tortilla soup (we were COLD and very wet!). 


By the way...a good backpack on this trip was an absolute must. I bought a Marmot backpack from Dick's Sporting Goods before the trip and I think it was the most-used item. Everyone handed off there stuff to me for the backpack. 

When we came back to the resort, I had a glorious massage at their spa.  I was the only one in there, and the lady let me lay for about 30 minutes afterwards on the table with the door open to the mountain air.  It was AH-mazing. 

I spent some time out by the pool and hot tub before showering up for our night out. 



That night, we headed out for happy hour at the Treehouse restaurant. 


After happy hour, our dinner was at Morphos.  It was my favorite dinner in the Santa Elena area, but somehow I didn't take any pictures!! 

We sent my mom and brother back to the resort, and Justin and I went on to a sports bar (Referees) where we hung out with the locals for a while and learned some more about football (aka soccer). 

The next morning, we headed out for a guided tour of the cloud forest. 






We saw some wildlife, I wore my ridiculous poncho again (should have brought a rain jacket!!), and got eaten alive by a swarm of ants. Good times! :) 

After the walk, we ended up going to Taco Taco for lunch, which was great for being super hungry. 


We then went over to have some drinks and catch some WiFi at Orchid Cafe, which would also be a great spot for breakfast or lunch.

I adore mango anything, so I had to get a mango smoothie...


After lunch, we shopped around a little and then headed back to the hotel to relax before Emilio was back to pick us up and take us down south to our next destination...Quepos and Manuel Antonio. 

I think that is enough recapping for today.  I'll post the second half of our trip in the next #TBT post. 

Have a great Thursday, everyone!

xoxo

Jess 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Sunday Shopping: Fall Basics

Hi friends!

Fall is in full swing and the thought of sweaters, leggings, scarves, and boots (with my #pumpkinspicelatteinhand) has me grinning from ear to ear.

I have been waking up super early on the weekends with not much to do, so online browsing has been in full effect.

(I'm sure any minute now Justin is going to run downstairs and confiscate my wallet).

I haven't pulled the trigger on a ton of stuff, but I wanted to share with you all some of my "must haves" basics for fall.



I've been eyeing this cardigan (also known as the "Blardigan") for a long time now and finally took the plunge. 

Let me first say that I do not walk around in my bra and underwear wearing this thing (see picture). It is great for when you just wake up on a cooler fall morning and want to throw on something warm and a little more put together than your bathrobe.  You can also throw it on with a long tank, leggings, and boots and call it an outfit. 

I bought the Pewter/Midnight color shown and I decided to size up in it because the S/M was super tight on my arms (thanks body pump). 


These boots.  These are not just your typical black boots. They are stretchy in the back, which means they will literally go over any pant leg comfortably, and they are WATERPROOF!

I wore these boots to death last year during the fall, winter, and nasty early spring. They are pricey right now, but they did go on sale for under $200.00 last year. 



Have you ladies bought these leggings yet? If not, go over immediately and purchase them in black and grey. You can thank me later. 



These are the most comfortable flats I have ever owned.  There's something about the elastic band that goes around the top. And if the animal print is wrong, I don't wanna be right. 


I love that this scarf will go with everything and it is only $20.00. No brainer! 



I'm sure everyone already knows about this necklace, but it has to be on my must have list. Justin got me a silver/white stone version last Christmas and if you've seen me since then, you know I wear it just about every other day. I need all.the.colors ASAP! 





And...while we are at it I have been dying over this necklace for a couple of months now.  It is a splurge, but I'm putting it out into the universe that this would be a great gift for me :) 

Happy fall & happy shopping! 

xoxo

Jess 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Wedding Flowers

Hey there! 

Happy #tbt to you! It's almost the weekend! Weeeeee!!!!

As you know, I took a fairly long blogging break. So, I didn't get to share a lot of fun and exciting things with you guys. I'm talking our wedding, trips, buying a house, etc. 

My plan is to recap some of the highlights #tbt style.

It is raining AGAIN in Chicago, so why don't we brighten it up with some flower pictures today? 

If you aren't planning a wedding, maybe you can use these pictures as inspiration for a shower or party you are planning, or to help create pretty bouquets to brighten up your space! 

Flowers... :) I have a confession to make. Another thought when I was little was how AMAZING would it be to own a flower shop? I know what you're thinking...how is this going to work with my terrible skills at keeping plants alive?? 

I hadn't really thought that far. I just loved the HEAVENLY smell of walking into a flower shop. 

Flowers were going to be big for me when it came to our wedding. I set aside a big chunk of our budget for the flowers. I thought for sure I would be covered, especially since we were opting to forgo the lavish downtown Chicago wedding for a more reasonable event back in Indiana. 

My florist was the sweetest little lady named Polly. She is everything like she sounds. Sugary sweet, tiny, with a sort of high pitched voice, and you just want to put her in your pocket! :) 

Polly owns Poppies Florist back in the South Bend/Mishawaka/Granger Indiana area. I had seen her work all around town when I was shopping for venues, and I knew I had to have her! 

So, I met Polly on a sunny Saturday at Starbucks with my HUGE wedding binder. She asked me to walk her through my vision. I wanted crisp whites with hints of green, a little rustic glam, and tons of mason jars. Love me some mason jars.  

Here are the pictures I pinned on Pinterest to show Polly:










Can you guess what sweet little Polly said to me?? 

"Increase your budget!"

I couldn't believe I had to put more money aside for the flowers! We shifted things around and it worked. 

The other thing was having to be realistic about what flowers were going to be available for September. For example, peonies...out for the Fall. 

The flowers we had in our wedding included a mixture of: vendela roses, white nerine lilies, white freesia, green mini hydrangea, green cymbidian orchids, ivory spray roses, green dendrobian orchids (boutonnieres and corsages), white hydrangea, fresh mint, white roses, white tulips, and white lisianthus.  That list is from my invoice, so I think I covered it all! 
 
Here are the pictures from our wedding! :) All photography by the amazing Just Love Me Photography + Design

mason jars hanging from shepard's hooks at ceremony





floral on gazebo


bridesmaid bouquets 


boutonnieres


my bouquet (locket was my grandmother's)


groom's boutonniere 


little bouquets on hightop tables for cocktail hour


escort table


three different arrangements on tables in reception hall






toss bouquet


cake topper


I absolutely LOVED how everything turned out. Worth every penny. 

What do you think? Do you like the Throwback Thursday idea?? 

Have a happy Thursday, everyone! 

xoxo

Jess