Happy November 28, 2018...aka my 30th birthday!

It's crazy to think when I started this blog in 2011, I was just 22, still in college, and a few months shy of meeting Bryce. It's been with me for most of my 20s and huge milestones like graduation, teaching, leaving teaching, a new career, Millie, an engagement and wedding (Sheesh! I'm so behind on getting y'all these posts!), and more; so it only feels fitting to document this milestone. I'll start this post recapping my 30th birthday cocktail party that was a couple weekends ago on the 17th and then end with 30 thoughts. Thoughts on turning 30, life lessons, random tidbits, and more.

Now buckle your seatbelts, you're in for a long ride with this post!

Before jumping into the cocktail party, I have to recap you on the night before. Bryce's hunt club is not far from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, and from the dock in their marsh there is a clear view of the rocket launch pad. Bryce has always dreamed of seeing a rocket launch, but they are often in the  middle of the night during the week, and also frequently get cancelled due to weather. The morning of the 16th, the day before my party, Bryce told me a rocket was being launched that night/morning at 4:01 am- weather forecasts were clear and there was a 95% chance of launch. He asked if I'd be game to go. I think he was shocked when I said yes! I told him I had plans to get a mani pedi after work, so if he would get Millie packed and loaded, we could head out as soon as I got home and had a few minutes to throw some yoga pants in a bag. I also requested that we stop and get brunch at my favorite Virginia Beach brunch spot Leaping Lizard Cafe on the way home, and that we get back with enough time for me to run before my blow out at 4:30. (Spoiler Alert: I skipped the run, but ran 8 miles the next day!) Y'all, what an experience it was! How amazing to see the sky light up and a rocket launch all the way up into space. Not to mention the rush we got from the spontaneity of it all. We've talked about embracing this time pre-kids to be spontaneous and it really inspired me to be more adventurous day to day! Here are a few photos recapping, and you can see more from the adventure on my Insta highlight reel here.

We arrived at about 9:30, popped a bottle of Moet, and then headed to bed at 11:00.

The alarm was set for 3:30 am, we got up, bundled up, and headed down to the marsh!

We followed along on Facebook Live in advance of the launch hearing cool tidbits (like the fact that the rocket had materials to study crystals that could teach us more about Parkinson's) and the final countdown.  

We went back to sleep from about 4:30 to 8:00 am, and then took in some final marsh air before heading home with a pitstop for brunch along the way. I really truly don't think there's any place more beautiful than Virginia.

So now onto the partay! My mother-in-law, RoseMarie, was so sweet to host a cocktail party. While I didn't get as many detail photos as I would have liked, I did get some great photos throughout the night!

RoseMarie believes homemade birthday cakes are the most special
and made each one of these cakes herself: the top with hot pink candles is a lemon cake, 
middle with yellow candles is key lime pound, and bottom with light pink candles is chocolate.
Yes, I did have a piece of each. The chocolate (recipe here) was my favorite!

Heavy hors d'oeuvres (also all homemade by RoseMarie) were served buffet style and passed. On the buffet, guests enjoyed beef tenderloin with grainy mustard, horse radish, and rolls; ham salad biscuits; artichoke dip, and chicken salad tarts. Mini crabcakes, ramekin-sized pastas in the pinks, and cranberry brie bites were passed. Cheese straws were also available at the bar for munching.

How gorgeous are these peach roses?

Personal-sized pastas in the pink!

I always enjoy the opportunity to bring separate groups of friends together, and the party included childhood friends, work friends, college friends, and more. Here are some snapshots with some of my guests.
With my mama!

Look at that stud in the background...
hope our kids are as cute as B was!

Blowout Buddy...
I met this lady a decade ago when we were 20!

Hostess with the Mostest! I certainly hit the jackpot 
when it comes to mother-in-laws.

Gal Pals

This guy knows how to make a birthday girl
feel like a million bucks!

Finally, you can't have a birthday post without some pictures recapping the birthday song and blowing out the candles!

 And now, if you've made it this far, let's jump into 30 thoughts and tidbits as I embark on 30. I'll try to mix up serious, random, and fun so it doesn't get too heavy along the way.

1. I recently had a phone conversation with a donor who turns 70 today. I commented that we both had milestone birthdays coming up on the 28th. He chuckled and when I told him I'd be 30, he told me to watch out. Turning 70 seemed like a big one, but the only other milestone birthday that had hit him hard was 30. Today, luckily, doesn't feel hard at all. I have a feeling this next decade might be my best and I'm excited to feel more like an "official" adult. Though, I do think 31 is going to hit me hard.

2. While I don't feel like 30 is old at all, I have cracked myself up a little bit on the vanity side of things. I've thought "I'm nearly 30, I can't wear this" a few times trying on clothes; took my hair back to a blonder shade from my youth during my last appointment; recently gasped upon discovering and then plucked a gray eyebrow hair; and told Bryce I wanted Botox to tackle forehead wrinkles (started using this peel about a month ago instead).

3. Your twenties are such a decade of growth, learning, and change. I started my twenties single and in school and am ending it married with a dog seven years into the workforce. What's funny, is while my early twenties may have been a time of less responsibility, I'm actually ending my twenties with  more of a carefree spirit. I'm still Type A, but I think a lot of my growth this last decade has been in learning to let go, and to choose where to focus my Type A energies.

4. I was born the Monday after Thanksgiving, two weeks early, and my dad, godfather, and other family friends worked tirelessly to finish an addition which included my nursery while my mom was in the hospital with me. Talk about nesting!

5. What I'm looking forward to most in this new decade is starting a family. I'm actually tearing up writing this, because being a mom has been my greatest dream all along. In fact, so much of my life's path up to this point has been chosen with a focus of that in mind. For example, when I started college, I had a serious interest in International Relations and working for the UN (I had traveled to the Hague my senior year of high school for the International Model UN), but realized I didn't want to live or raise a family in a big city like DC, New York, or abroad. While I don't regret a thing about my path, and think I've landed in literally the perfect career and spot, I'm glad to be ending my twenties with more a view of having both a career and motherhood.

6. On the flip side, if you had asked me in my early twenties my life goals, I would have told you I wanted to 3 kids, two boys and a baby girl, and have them all between the ages of 28 and 32. The closer I've gotten to 30, the more I've realized babies can wait a little longer.

7. I've always been bubbly, but the older I get, the more I realize just how important and powerful positivity is. I do my very best to always find the silver lining and also have learned it's okay to unapologetically let go of commitments, relationships, and things that bring you down.

8. Growing up my grandma always got my birthday cake from Westhampton Pastry Shop, a Richmond classic that is right down the street from our home now. Around the time that I was 8 or 9, I opted for ice cream cake instead which she would get from Baskin Robbins. In high school, I made the switch to Dairy Queen cakes (yummmm...cookie dough blizzard cake), and now I usually just get a special birthday dessert wherever I choose to go for my birthday dinner.

9. In addition to personal growth and development in my twenties, my palate also grew. At 20, barely any vegetables crossed my lips and now as I write this post I'm eating broccoli and am not picky at all! I still am not the biggest fan of fruits, though.

10. Bryce's favorite thing about me is that I'm "fiery" and I love that he loves that in me. I can't to be more fiery 30 years from now at 60 and even more fiery another 30 years after that as an old lady when I (hopefully) reach 90.

11. My favorite childhood birthday parties were my 9th, which was a carnival theme with games, face paint and my favorite dinner of chicken fingers, Velveeta mac & cheese, and Coca Cola in glass bottles; and my 12th which was a sleepover and we all went to Fuddurcker's for dinner with milkshakes.

12. I feel most at peace when I'm on the water and have always joked to Bryce that if I ever wrote a novel (ha!) a theme would be the restorative power of water - think about it, a hot shower, a good cry, a dive into the pool, the sound of waves crashing against the shore. They all have restorative power.

13. It's funny how over time our preferences change, but some things always stay the same. Point in case, favorite colors. A change: As a child green was my least favorite color, now it's one of my very favorite. An always stays the same: Pink has and always will be a favorite ("Pink is my signature color." Name that quote, from one of my all time favorite movies, Steel Magnolias - I have the fondest memories of watching that movie again and again curled up in bed with my mom.)

14. Tonight we are headed to Heritage for my birthday dinner. It is one of my favorite Richmond restaurants, and I've celebrated 3 or 4 other birthdays there. If you go, you must order the pimiento cheese croquettes as an app! Also hoping they have the egg nog special I enjoyed on my birthday there last year.

15. Random thought--this is getting hard, and I'm only halfway done!

16. If I could change one thing in my life's path to this point, it would be my choice to go to UVA. Don't get me wrong- I received an amazing education, made some lifelong friends, and have a huge amount of school pride as well as love for Charlottesville. That said, I think I would have thrived more and been happier at a smaller school, though my 18 year old self didn't realize that.

17. Speaking of UVA, I'm most grateful to their Women's Center which offers free, unlimited counseling to students. My second year was a tough one. My grandpa whom I adored died and I broke up with an abusive boyfriend all in the same month. That year I was a mess (though I excelled in school and fitness - the Type A in me tends to go crazy over the things I can control when life seems to be in disarray); and the Women's Center was a refuge. After that year, I continued to go back occasionally whenever I needed a "tune up" and am so glad it exists for students. Whenever I make donations to UVA, I always make them to the Women's Center in honor of Margaret, my counselor.

18. In school, I was always a math and English person, not the typical English-history or math-science. When it comes to English, y'all know I love to read and write and a huge part of my career utilizes both my oral and written communication skills. When it comes to math, I always love looking for patterns around me and geek out over data!

19. I was excited to get the chance to take the StrengthsFinder test for work this year. My #1 strength is achiever (read more about it here), and at first I was disappointed feeling like it was callous and all about just going, going, going. Then I read in the takeaway materials that Achievers are driven by a desire to leave the world a better place than they found it and I thought "YESSS!!!" In fact, when we were in premarital counseling and the minister asked what we saw as the purpose of life, that was my exact answer. My #2 was Strategic, #3 was Individualization, #4 was Learner, and #5 was Responsibility.

20. As I've gotten older, I've realized just how much I'd rather buy less and invest or splurge on items I really love. Sure, I still love a deal and finding affordable items, but the things in my closet that have really stood the test of time have been those splurges (albeit many of them I've stalked and waited to purchase on major sale, haha). Those that follow on Instagram know Bryce treated me to a Goyard bag this year for my birthday, and I told him it could count for all my gifts this entire year, and maybe even a few more birthdays if he wanted. I'd rather have one big thing than lots of little. I also decided to splurge and treat myself to these Ferragamos in London for my 30th and have saved them to wear for the first time today!

21. On the flip, frivolous side, I did snag these on sale on a whim Monday to wear for my birthday and through the holidays!

22. We hosted my family for Thanksgiving this year which felt like a very grown up, almost 30, thing to do. All I could think as I prepared was just how thankful I am to have Bryce by my side. He really and truly is a partner, and how many men do you know that can make homemade yeast rolls, garden like nobody's business; and hunt ducks and do manly things?

23. One steadfast supporter and friend throughout my 20s has been my friend Maddie. We actually first "met" through blogging. She and I are the same age (literally...she turned 30 this month, too) and both started blogs right around the same time. Somehow along the way we became email pen pals and every few months would send each other massive emails updating each other on all aspects of our life, as well as sharing lots of deep, philosophical thoughts about the various phases we were in. When one of her emails would hit my inbox, I'd drop everything to read it and then let it all soak in and respond a few months later. She moved to DC about a year ago, and our pen pal days have stopped because we are now real life friends and have visited each other 3 or 4 times in the last year.

24. Speaking of supportive friends, one of the best lessons I've learned in the last decade was from my best friend, Angela. When I was grappling with the decision of whether or not to leave teaching she said to me "You can keep teaching and know you'll be miserable, or you can try something else and take a chance at being happy." I've thought of that advice so many times over the years since she shared it. Don't ever let the fear of the unknown hold you back from trying something that could be great, wonderful, amazing!

25. Millie is the light of my life. I never knew how much I could love a dog, y'all! While I know kids will be an infinitely deeper love, it breaks my heart to think about Millie losing her prime spot in our life once they come along. We regularly call Millie "baby" so much that she looks up when she hears it, so she's going to be so confused when a real human baby comes along. I even recently told Bryce, when we have a baby, we need to make sure to occasionally leave the baby in the crib so Millie can have Saturday morning snuggles in bed.

26. I'm so glad to be entering 30 in the best shape of my life. I've caught the running bug this fall and can't believe I now run around 5 miles on a "typical" run and have done up to 8 miles on a few long runs. What I've loved about running consistently and at longer distances, is that it's allowed me more balance in my diet. I tend to eat pretty healthy, but running has allowed me to indulge my sweet tooth more frequently while continuing to see the number on the scale go down! I also love that with running, you can really track your progress and set goals surrounding speed, distance, etc...must be that "Achiever" in me wanting to check off the next goal.

27. Speaking of fitness, I'm so glad that I'm also entering my 30th year as a barre instructor! I've loved barre since I started taking it in 2014 and have enjoyed getting to know the instructors I've admired for so long more closely. If you're local, come join me bright and early at BarReVA at 6 am on Tuesdays!

28. I hate that our world has become so polarized and hope to see that change over the next decade. When I think back to my education, the most pivotal moments are the ones that challenged me to think differently, see something from another perspective, and even sometimes be persuaded to change my opinion.

29. In terms of the world today, one of my all time favorite quotes is a Dalai Lama one: "My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness." Yes, I realize there are really really big problems in the world (too many of them), but I do strongly believe in the power of people and that a smile and kindness can go a long way toward achieving a better world.

30. This blog means so much to me and I love the community in you. While my posting frequency has waxed and waned throughout the years, and I do admittedly miss the "old" blogging days, I hope that the blog will live on through my 30s and all to come.

Whew! Did any of you make it to the end?

Many of you asked on Instagram for day to day lifestyle posts like these, so I hope this didn't bore or disappoint.

If you did make it here, can you relate to any of my thoughts?

What have been some of your reflections as you've hit milestone birthdays?

Have a great day!


2018 Holiday Gift Guide: GENTS

Happy Thanksgiving Eve!

I am busy busy over here! As mentioned, we are hosting my family for Thanksgiving tomorrow, so preparations are in full swing

I am so glad that you are enjoying the gift guides. 

If you haven't yet, check out the ladies here.

A few notes, before we start. I noticed that last year's guides have gotten some traffic since I posted yesterday. Though I can't guarantee things in those guides will still be in stock or that links will work, they can be accessed here for ladies and here for gents if you want some inspiration. (Hint: if you see an item from last year's gift guide that was repeated again this year that means I really love it!) I've also now set up the "SHOP" tab at the top of my blog to populate with all the items I've saved for Gift Guides, so you'll see there many items I loved but didn't make the cut. I'll continue to add to it throughout the season.

So without further adieu, let's dive into the Gents! As always, Bryce is the inspiration here. This year, though, we took it up a notch and Bryce wrote me a long list of things he loves that have been included. He's really disappointed, however, that I did not include this Churchill biography (under $15), so if your boyfriend/dad/husband/brother is a history buff check it out!

Again, today, many of these links are affiliate links, meaning I earn a small commission if you click and a purchase is made. And also again today, I've included comments below with more details about all 31 items, including promo codes for everything that's on sale (including a promo code JUST for Alexandra Bee Blog readers for the cuff links).

Monogrammed Leather Catchall: Bryce has a similar square version in a dark brown he keeps on his dresser, but I am loving the look of this "baseball leather" and shape and size; similar to the tray I posted in the ladies guide yesterday, this catchall can make a collection of items (spare change, collar stays, etc) look tidy; 20% off + free shipping with code FRIENDS
Sunglasses: these are a splurge item, but so well made and stylish; you can see Bryce wearing them dressed up here, dressed down here, and at our wedding here; rarely go on sale and currently 20% off putting them just under $300; they are on major sale in limited quantities here and here; also like this similar more affordable pair at $50 here and this very similar pair under $100 here
Cigar Case: under $15; Bryce has a similar Dunhill cigar case and loves to have it to take to special occasions, like a wedding where he'll share a cigar with the groom; this is a more affordable option and would make a great stocking stuffer; the alligator print is so chic
Lab Ornament: under $10; we have this exact ornament for our tree; dogs are called man's best friend for a reason, so gift a dog ornament
Needlepoint Hat: appeal to his wild and preppy side with a jolly roger needlepoint hat; Bryce has this one, but since not every man is a Deadhead, I chose the jolly roger for the guide; there are options sure to please every man on your list here, though!
Charging Carabiner: this tool is so handy; throw it on a backpack or use it carry your keys and always have a phone charger at hand; 20% off (and under $25) with code FRIENDS
Chef's Knife: repeat alert!; this knife is a splurge, but the best; it is my favorite knife we own and according to Bryce it's all about the Damascus blade; cheers to a gift that will get your man in the kitchen; get it while it's on sale!
Driving Mocs: get them while they're on sale for under $100; every man should have a pair of driving mocs in his wardrobe; they're stylish and comfy; love that Cole Haan is high on style with an approachable price point; I gifted Bryce this crocodile pair for his birthday that are on sale for under $65 and available in limited sizes here  
Party Animal Tie: because every guy needs a Christmas tie; up to 30% off with code GOWILD
Old Glory Blanket: for the patriot in your life that needs a housewarming...literally;  more of a splurge, but currently on sale; similar under $40 here
Custom Nautical Coasters: these make a truly one of a kind gift; made to order - you provide custom chart location(s); brass hardware and green felt on the bottom to protect your table; great price point for such a personalized keepsake
Cologne: Bryce has used this John Varvatos cologne since before we met and it has such a clean and masculine scent
Kanvus Jean: Bryce discovered these this fall and they are a new favorite; they're much softer and I'd say more chino like than a jean; a bit utilitarian/outdoorsy; come in several colors (Bryce has both the gray and khaki); they can be dressed up with a button down (B's fave) and loafers or dressed down with a fishing shirt (B's fave) and boots; Bryce prefers the relaxed fit and finds them to be true to size
Fleece Vest: Bryce wears this at least 3 times a week all fall and winter; comes in 3 colors; he also has a Retro-X version (loving that one in camo here), but prefers this one as it's lighter weight and less bulky, meaning it also packs well when traveling, bonus it's also less expensive than the Retro-X and under $100
Facial Fuel: repeat alert!; under $30; this facial fuel is a light moisturizer and is especially great for the cold winter months when skin dries out
Hunter's Tote Bag: repeat alert!; Bryce was gifted one of these as a groomsman gift last summer and uses it almost exclusively now for travel; it holds SO much and I love that it zips shut and has a strap with padding to carry on your shoulder; Bryce has it in the extra large which is just $55, plus you earn a $10 gift card with any purchase over $50
Adventure Chronograph: love how this orange watch really pops; nylon band ensures it is durable; perfect for the man with an adventurous spirit and bold personality
Pheasant Feather Cufflinks: I gifted Bryce these cufflinks with matching studs for Christmas a few years ago (remember this post?); simply said, they're stunning; made with real pheasant feathers; all York River Traders products have impeccable quality and detail (I've loved partnering with them in the past) and today is your lucky day because Alexandra Bee readers get them for 25% off with code BeeBlog through this Saturday 11/24
Dot Socks: I always gift Bryce at least one pair of J. Crew socks in his stocking and this might be the pair this year, love the dots; 40% off (putting them under $10) with code TOGETHER
Head Lamp: under $30; I don't know how many headlamps Bryce has laying around the house, but they sure do come in handy and Petzl are the best
Tervis Old Fashioned Glass: Tervis tumblers are the best, amirite?; we love the 12-oz old fashioned size for cocktails, especially in the summertime; couldn't resist the Virginia blue crab; set of 4 for under $50
Leather Sunglass Strap: every Southern gent needs a sunglass strap and this leather one is on point; up to 30% off with code GOWILD; Bryce has and loves these which I featured in my gift guide last year (not so stylish, but under $15 and functional)
Hot Pepper Bacon Jam: the way to a man's heart is through his stomach; we were just drooling over this jam yesterday at Fresh Market while choosing jam to serve with our baked brie
Griptilian Knife: this knife was on the list Bryce gave me, when I just asked him what comments I should add he said "Well, it's made by Benchmade which is made in the USA and they're just tough. I carry mine every day."; comes in 8 colors (Bryce has the plain edge silver)
FrostPak Soft Cooler: under $50; we love this cooler!; Bryce has the 12 quart (pictured above) in blue; it's lightweight and perfect for a day on the boat, taking beer or food to a friend's house for dinner, etc; we've checked out the Yeti soft coolers and just don't get the hype, plus they get so heavy; the 12 quart size is convenient and manageable; Bryce also was gifted this soft cooler last year by his boss and recommends it- it's a bit more heavy duty and stylish (less dad-ish, haha), but also more pricey
Foxfire: this book is a classic (my dad gifted Bryce his vintage set); the long title is Foxfire: Hog Dressing, Log Cabin Building, Mountain Crafts and Foods, Planting by the Signs...ie: all the man things; and if you really want to splurge you can get the full 14-book Foxfire series here
Hot Sauce Kit: under $50; Bryce has been on a hot sauce making kick lately after having quite the pepper harvest this year; this kit simplifies the process and would make the perfect gift for any man that need a little spice in his life
Dopp Kit: Bryce is a huge fan of Filson products; they're made in the USA and the quality is top notch; this dopp kit is nylon which makes it both easier to clean and more affordable; speaking of Filson, I ran out of room to feature this log carrier I gave Bryce for Christmas several years ago that he loves 
Cast Iron Skillet: this is a major splurge item, but worth sharing; Bryce has this "roaster" pictured above and this skillet and prefers the roaster I've featured in the guide; they're handcrafted locally in Charlottesville, Virginia; if that price point feels too high, this Staub skillet is great at a mid-range under $100 point, and you can't go wrong with a Lodge skillet for under $30 either
Working Hands: because men need soft hands, too; would make a great stocking stuffer; Bryce swears by this stuff and if you don't trust him, trust the 6,802 5 star reviews
Duck Boots: Bryce has two pairs of these without the shearling lining (which they don't seem to make anymore) and actually prefers this buckle style to the more popular lace up style; they're more comfortable and easier to slip on and off; a classic that will never go out of style or usefulness; do run slightly large order a half size down

So there you have it! All your men's gifting needs covered!

What men are you shopping for this year?

Do you shop ahead, wait for Black Friday, or wait for the last minute?

Have a happy Thanksgiving!


2018 Holiday Gift Guide: LADIES

Happy Tuesday readers!

I hope you're having a great week! 

Today is my Friday and I am so excited for Thanksgiving break.

We are hosting my family for Thanksgiving this year and I am glad to have the extra day to prepare. 

I'm excited to bring you my Ladies Gift Guide today. I always have so much fun putting these together and was glad to hear from so many of you on Instagram that you love shopping them. This year, I'm adding a new feature. As always, all items will be linked below the guide, but at the bottom, I'll have notes about each item (promo codes; why I chose it, personal experience with products I own, etc), so if there's something you have your eye on, be sure to scroll down for more details and to see if it's on sale. 

And for those of you that told me you always find your man's gifts on my guides, Gents is coming tomorrow!

Many of these items are under $100 and many already on sale as Black Friday seems to now be a whole "Black Week." 

As in past posts, many of these links are affiliate meaning I earn a small commission if you click and purchase. Thanks for your support!

Leopard Booties: booties are a go-to fall through winter and these might be top of my personal Christmas list; also come in a fun star print and solid leather options; Boden is known for quality and you can get these for 30% of with code V4N9
Rose Face Cream: I recently received a sample of this and it lasted me about a week- in that time, my face became so incredibly smooth, so as soon as I run out of my daily moisturizer, I plan to replace it with this one; it has a lovely rose scent and feels very decadent on so would be great for someone on your list who could use some pampering; a little pricey, but there's also a gift set featuring it here that you can get for under $50 with code BEAUTY20
Pearl Ring: I have been swooning over this since I found it for the gift guides and might just have to order it for myself; it feels very Julie Vos, but is under $50!
Leopard Ornament: I love this little guy and ornaments can make fun gifts or even look great tied on the outside of a present with your gift tag and bow; what's even better is he's chic enough to stay out year-round long after the tree is gone; 20% off with code HOME
Dream Design Live: under $25 and another personal wish list item; you may remember I mentioned it in this post; I've flipped through this book in Barnes & Noble and have a major design crush on its author Paloma Contreras
Bow Back Sweater: on sale for under $50; must see the back of this sweater; it was one of my very favorite purchases last winter so I'm thrilled it's been restocked and you can see it styled on my Insta here; it does run large (mine is petite XS and still roomy enough to be cozy or layered over a button down)
Hoops: currently on sale with free shipping; I've seen these in person in a local boutique and love;  they make a statement while still being subtle enough for daytime wear; and if you really want to splurge and spoil a special lady with hoops, you can get these which are a staple in my wardrobe that I wear at least 3 times a week
Overnight Peel: I started using this peel about 3 weeks ago and holy moly, y'all: what a transformation in my skin!; you've even been commenting on Insta and asking for a skincare post- it's coming - but in the meantime, get this; I use it nightly; if you don't believe me check the 1,183 5 star reviews and snag it while it's on sale for under $50 (from Kathleen Baker, if you don't have your own consultant)
Pink Scarf: okay, I'm ordering this- it's on sale for $10...I may order 10 and get them for all my friends; love that the pink is versatile for post-holiday wear (hello, Valentine's Day!), but it also comes in 4 other colorways including a tartan that screams Christmas!
Wavy Bowl: I'm a big fan of Susan Gordon Pottery and these wavy bowls; they are stunning and I've gifted them to others before; bonus points for supporting a female small business owner!
Sunglasses: there's just something so glamorous about a big pair of tortoise shell sunglasses; I've been eyeing (pun intended) a pair of Karen Walkers for years, and one of my faves Katie Chalk wears these so well; these hardly ever go on sale so snag them now for up to 25% off with code MORE18
Leather Leggings: these were a favorite of yours and mine last year and for good reason; they're high waisted and suck you in in all the right places; if between sizes, I recommend sizing up; I wear a medium; I recently learned they come in a maternity version for any readers who are expecting and a friend who is due in late December was raving about them, and you can get them up to 25% off here with code MORE18
Tray: trays are one of my favorite design elements because they can make a table look pulled together; also love them for entertaining; natural fibers ground a space, but I love that this one takes the design to the next level by modernizing the rattan with acrylic; 20% off with code HOME
Candle: under $50; I'm really picky when it comes to candles; I don't like anything strong or fruity; I prefer crisp, clean scents and this one is amazing, y'all; I had it burning when I hosted barReVA Friendsgiving last week everyone was asking where I got it!
Champagne Ornament: under $15; another fun ornament for any ladies with an effervescent personality; this one, too, can stay out on the bar cart through New Years and past the holidays
Olive Vest: this fleece lined vest can be dressed up with a blouse or down with athleisure gear; it is made to be a Barbour liner, but doubles as a vest; if you want to purchase as a liner, purchase in the same size as your Barbour coat; if you want to purchase as a vest, I recommend sizing up one size; up to 30% off with code GOWILD
Crossbody Bag: I have this in navy and it may have been my best purchase of the year; it is big enough to hold a wallet, keys, phone, and more, but still sleek; I used it during our entire England trip; the strap is removable so it can be worn as a clutch or crossbody; dressed up and down; since getting my Goyard, I keep mine in my bag with my wallet in it at all times, so I can just slip it out if I don't want to carry my big tote somewhere; Gigi New York always has amazing sales, so I'd watch this over the next few days leading up to Black Friday
Lip Balm: under $10; this Mint Rose balm is my absolute favorite; I've been using it for probably 10 years now and always have a jar on my bedside table and a tube in my bag so I'm not using germy fingers when out and about; would make a perfect stocking stuffer or teacher gift paired with some nice hand lotion and a candle
Lip Gloss: I actually wore this lip gloss at my wedding in the "Giza" shade; it can be worn as a gloss alone, but I love it most layered over lipstick, particularly red lipstick
Southern Appetizers: under $15; I came across this book in a Norfolk boutique and added it to my wish list; it is filled with recipes for favorite Southern appetizers, but the recipes are divided into sections focused on a party theme so the book does double duty as a cookbook and party guide
Cashmere Throw: comes in 10 colors!; perfect for the friend who has everything; more of a splurge, but 40% off with code TOGETHER
Mocassin Slippers: I've had these (in the color pictured) now for 6 years and absolutely love them; come in 7 colors and an animal print here; come so cozy, water resistant and have a rubber sole so they can be worn outside; I often slip them on when I'm headed to the barre studio at 0 dark 30 to teach 6:00 am class; run large, order one full size down; also love this more affordable monogrammed version (just over $25 with code NOVEMBER 40)
Nail Polish: this shade "No More Film" might be my very favorite nail polish; it's almost black, but has a subtle navy/purple tint to it; I always get compliments on it; perfect as a stocking stuffer or bundled with other beauty gifts
Tan Towels: another great beauty stocking stuffer; my favorite way to get a faux glow; perfect for your friend who dreams of tropical places during the cold, pale winter months
Champagne Key Ring: this "Press for Champagne" key ring is too cute and again, would be a great stocking stuffer; I also think it could be a fun white elephant gift; attach it to a bow tied around a bottle of your favorite bubbly!; 10% off with code SHOPSMALL10
Cashmere Tech Gloves: for your friend who's always gramming, texting, emailing - ensure her fingers stay toasty all winter; come in 9 colors; 50% off TODAY 11/20 (putting them under $30) with code GOLDENDEAL
Keepsake Cutting Board: what a keepsake!; submit an image of an heirloom family recipe and have it engraved on this board; would be perfect for a newlywed; order by December 8 for Christmas guarantee; 15% off (making it under $150) with code SHOPSMALL15
Pearl Cluster Earrings: these were actually my wedding earrings! - see here; I've gotten asked for a source a few times, so knew y'all would love them; what's great is they look equally cute dressed down as they do up, and I love wearing them on special occasions (like my 30th birthday party this past weekend); 40% off (putting them just over $40) with code TOGETHER
Y'all Socks: just $15; perfect for the friend you can have yoga pant wine nights with; socks make the perfect stocking stuffer, too; 10% off with code SHOPSMALL10
Oyster Dish: I received this oyster dish as a wedding present and it is a stunner; it can be used for entertaining or would be equally useful on a nightstand for jewelry; aluminum so it never tarnishes; I also have the medium and the small can nest inside the corner which is great for serving dips with raw veggies, etc
Garden Stool: I have one of these in our dining room and am thinking of getting it a mate; makes a great little side table, too; if you're local check out Three Swallows in Norfolk to get one, and other blue and white finds, for a steal!
Crossover Cuff: I've had this cuff for 3 or 4 years now and love it; it is delicate and elegant and can also be stacked with other bracelets; also comes in rose gold here
Pajamas: on sale for under $50; pajamas are one of my favorite gifts to receive; love the colors and "sweet dreams" detail on these; I don't have them, but have found other J. Crew pajamas to run true to size
Perfume Roller: just $30; this is my favorite perfume that I've been wearing now for probably 5 years; the roller is great for travel and I always keep it in my purse; nothing like some perfume and red lipstick for a boost; awesome stocking stuffer
Pink Velvet Pumps: vavavoom!; perfect for the glam girl who has everything; pink - check; velvet - check; pearls - check

Have you started your holiday shopping yet?

Who's on your gift list?

Who do you find the toughest to shop for?

And for fun, what's on YOUR wish list?

Happy shopping!


Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup

TGIF readers!

What a week it has been here!

I came down with a cold Sunday, had to travel for work Tuesday-Wednesday, took a sick day yesterday, and am finally feeling on the mend today! On top of that, Bryce and I have been ships in the night. He left Sunday morning for a conference, got home Tuesday (while I was traveling), we had Wednesday night together, and then he packed up again yesterday to head to South Carolina for a work shoot. He'll be back late tomorrow night.

I had promised my "Must Have Vests" post this week, and had planned to take photos and write that post on Sunday but was feeling too crummy. I always get requests for more recipe posts, though, so hopefully today won't disappoint.

Aside from bingeing The Affair (still can't decide if I like it or not) and snuggling Millie, the only thing I accomplished on Sunday was making a big pot of soup. Nothing brings comfort during a cold like chicken noodle soup and this Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup is the perfect spin on the classic. The original recipe was found on Good Life Eats and I'm sharing my slightly modified version below.

Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup
Serves 4-6

For the chicken:
1 lb chicken (I used chicken breast tenderloins)
half of a lemon, sliced
handful of fresh parsley
2 bay leaves
1 c water
1/2 c chicken broth

For the soup:
1 tbs olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic
1/3 c white wine
3 carrots, sliced into rounds
7 1/2 c chicken broth
3/4 c orzo pasta, uncooked
3 egg yolks
3 tbs fresh lemon juice
2 tbs fresh parsley, minced
2-3 large handfuls of baby spinach, chopped

For the chicken:
Combine all ingredients in pot on stovetop. Bring to a boil and cook for 8 minutes.

Remove from heat, drain, and shred (this trick is life changing).

Set aside.

For the soup:
Add 1 tbs olive oil into large dutch oven. Saute the onion over medium-high heat until golden and tender. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute more.

Add the white wine and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the broth and carrot. Bring to a boil. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks and lemon together. Add 1 cup of hot broth from the dutch oven very slowly to the egg yolk mixture, whisking as you pour. Then, transfer the mixture to the dutch oven. Stir in the orzo and the chicken.

Continue cooking over medium-low heat until the pasta and carrots are tender, 15-20 minutes. Add the parsley and spinach, and stir until wilted, 1-2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.


This soup was just what the doctor ordered! I ate it for dinner that night, shared some with my mother-in-law who watched Millie while Bryce and I both were traveling, and froze the rest for us to eat for dinner another night soon. In fact, making soup on Sundays has become a bit of a tradition this year. It's so comforting for a Sunday night, and perfect to freeze for a simple meal later.

What are some of your favorite soups?

What comfort foods do you crave when you're under the weather?

Have a great weekend!


30th Birthday Inspiration

Happy November friends!

I can't believe November, and my birthday month (!), is already here!

This week has been a crazy one so I knew I wouldn't have time for a big post and polled y'all on Instagram to see what you'd rather see: Must Have Vests or 30th BDay Inspo.

Birthday Inspiration won with 59% of the vote, so I'm posting that today and will get to vests next week.

November 28 is my 30th birthday and believe it or not I am really excited about turning 30. While I have felt a little old here and there (hello forehead wrinkles!) and went back to a blonder shade during my last hair appointment, perhaps in an effort to cling to my youth, I overall can't wait to be the big 3-0. I've always thought my 30s would be my best decade. Bryce and I are in a great place and have settled into married life, my career is in a place I actually didn't anticipate even reaching before 30, and finally, we have our sweet Millie baby with plans to grow our family even more at some point during my early 30s. So, yeah, 30 is looking good!

Being a milestone birthday, I'm thrilled to report that my mother-in-law is hosting a 30th birthday party for me! I haven't had a true birthday party since my Sweet 16 surprise party, so this should be fun!

In an effort to guide her planning, RoseMarie, my mother-in-law requested some ideas and inspiration and pulling together a Pinterest board for her made me even more excited. I'll share the overall vision with you here.

The theme is a little Kate Spade-ish, with black and white stripes, gold, and varying shades of pink and red. I also decided some zebras needed to be thrown into the mix and lots of bubbly.

Here's a proof of the invitation that hit mailboxes a week or so ago:

It will be a traditional cocktail party with heavy hors d'oeuvres. My mother-in-law even has bought a bunch of ramekins to make my favorite Pasta in the Pink (recipe coming soon) to be passed! 

Those that have been following along for a while, know how much I love the iconic Scalamandre zebras (anyone remember this post from almost 6 years ago?). When thinking of a party, though, zebra print runs the risk of getting tacky really quick. That said, classic Scalamandre cocktail napkins add a subtle and chic pop of zebra, don't you think? 

You can't have a birthday party without cake, and I am loving this one! 

Bubbly and balloons are also a birthday must, and these photos are oh so feminine and chic:

Does a millennial even turn 30 without 
giant gold 3-0 balloons to document it!?

Because gold tinsel makes everything more fun!

Every birthday girl needs a crown right?

I'm pretty sure I need this?

Finally, on the docket, and of top priority for the evening, is my birthday suit...jumpsuit, that is! 

I scored this jumpsuit on mega sale a couple of weeks ago! It's price has since been marked up a bit, but it's still heavily discounted, and also available at less of a discount, but in more sizes here. If you do order, know it runs small! I am a typically a 4, sometimes 6, and the 6 was a bit more snug than I'd like. I've exchanged an am waiting for the 8 to arrive and am really hoping it fits nicely. 

See the full Pinterest board, including many other swoon-worthy cakes and fun details, here.

So what do you think? 

Any details I'm missing or recommendations?

How do you celebrate milestone birthdays?

Have a great day first day of November!