Misc · Travel

Friday Favorites: Beach Gear

beach gear favorites

In a bit over a month we’ll be headed down to the Outer Banks for our first beach trip as a new family! (That exclamation point can be interpreted two ways; excitement and petrification. Both of which I am experiencing.)

Originally it was supposed to be we three and my mom, stepdad and younger sister and brother but they decided that a shorter, closer beach trip worked better for them. Then we decided that the three of us would go alone but still get a beach house as opposed to a room at a hotel. (It literally costs the same!) However…the week we decided to book our house my stepdads’ brother and wife tossed out that they would love to go with us sans their kids (who were apparently very difficult on their first trip to the Outer Banks earlier this year) and we happily agreed. Kicker? We ended up renting the exact same house with them as we did with my mom last year. Funny how things work out. 🙂

We love to be on the beach for hours, but we don’t love all the heavy beach gear. I have always looked for ways to minimize effort and maximize comfort not only for hauling gear back and forth, but for hanging out at the beach all day. This is especially true now that we have a baby and plans for more kids in the near future.

When I shop for any kind of long term gear (not just beach gear) I make a list of what is important for what that item will mainly be used for. For the beach that list is as follows:

must be water AND sand proof
must be lightweight AND easy to carry
must be compact
must keep our beach space neat and organized
bonus if it is dual purpose

After HOURS of searching, we have ended up with quite a few products that we would highly recommend for your next beach trip.

1.  Tommy Bahama Beach Chairs
It’s a chair! It’s a backpack! It’s a cooler! It’s the best beach invention ever! No, seriously. It IS the best beach invention ever. Last year when it was just my husband and myself we didn’t even have to use a beach bag or cooler because all of our stuff fit inside the pouches. We were able to fit: sunscreen, a book (per backpack), our towels (more on that later), snacks such as granola bars, extra water and our lunches for the day which included a sandwich, a bottled soda, a personal bag of chips and a few more small snacky items. All of that on our backs with no need for a beach bag or cooler!

2. Tommy Bahama Beach Umbrella
Literally the only thing we had to carry to the beach and even then, it comes with a bag that has a strap. My favorite parts of this umbrella are that it is SUPER sturdy with wind vents so it won’t get caught up in a strong breeze and that it tilts, making it easy to reposition the umbrella without completely moving it.

3. Parachute Beach Blanket
This has to be the second best beach invention ever. Towels get covered in sand and they’re just not big enough and some beach mats can get extremely hot. This blanket does neither – it’s sand proof and water resistant and squishes up to the size of a wallet for easy transport. One year Jeremy did not get back from the bathroom fast enough as the tide was coming in and our blanket got completely soaked; we held it up for 5 minutes in the beach wind and it was completely dry!

4. Pole-R-Bear Umbrella Hooks
As dumb as a flexible ring of hooks sounds, it actually keeps your beach space so much neater. We use it to hang our towels, beach cover ups, hats and extra gear; it keeps them out of the way, out of the sand and dries them much faster than just being on the ground. Bonus: you can install it once and just close it up in your umbrella.

5. Microfiber Beach Towel
No, they’re not as warm and soft to wrap up in but they are 100% better than a traditional towel. They’re super compact (even the largest beach towel size takes up no more room than a large water bottle), lightweight and they dry so fast! They may not be the most cozy option but as far as space goes (especially if you have a large family) they give you the most bang for your buck.

6. Beach Tent
This may be overkill for some of you, but with the intentions of having a house full of kids, we figured it was our best option. We still love having our chairs and umbrella for the two of us, but kids need safe spaces to nap or chill or whatever. We are planning on purchasing this tent for our trip. With only one child as of right now, my plan is to use a portion of the tent to keep our extra stuff corralled and the other half as Elias’ space to lounge and nap.

7. Beach Baby Sling
We have an Ergo – one of our splurge baby items – and although it is one of my favorite baby items ever, it is NOT sand or waterproof. Not to mention, having baby pressed up against you with no ventilation gets hot as Satans’, well, you know. This baby sling is made up of mesh so it will allow us to be in the water, get rid of sand easier, get some air flow and, most importantly, keep the Ergo off the beach.

8. Mesh Beach Bag
Babies mean more stuff. The beach means sand. Sand + diaper bag = no bueno. Our diaper bag is by no means a super fancy, super expensive diaper bag, but it’s clean. As much as I don’t like extra stuff hanging around, the beach is one area I don’t mess around; I won’t risk our regular baby stuff getting covered in sand and ocean water because that is more hassle than just having an extra set of beach and pool gear.

Do you have any favorite beach gear I left out? Let me know!

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beach chair beach umbrella beach blanket pole r bear beach towel beach tent beach wrap beach bag

Misc

Pregnancy Reveal Details

View More: http://chelsiegordonphotography.pass.us/laurajeremy

View More: http://chelsiegordonphotography.pass.us/laurajeremy

Laura + Jeremy-0012

Laura + Jeremy-0031

View More: http://chelsiegordonphotography.pass.us/laurajeremy

View More: http://chelsiegordonphotography.pass.us/laurajeremy

View More: http://chelsiegordonphotography.pass.us/laurajeremy

Laura + Jeremy-0057
Off Shoulder Sweater similar here / Levi’s Super Skinny 535 in Mid Roast / Glitter Heels similar here and here / Pearl Studs similar here

Reveal to my husband
So I found out I was pregnant on September 12th. I had had the most tiring morning – I could barely make it through my workout, the littlest things were making me cry or angry and I was just having a tough time. So as I’m cleaning the bedroom, I’m telling my husband about it and he just casually says, “maybe you’re pregnant”.

Not really thinking anything of it, I continued on until I needed to use the restroom. I picked up a test (I have a bunch since we’re trying) and did my business per usual. I waited the five minutes and picked up the test, ready to deem it negative and toss it. But, wait! There was the FAINTEST line. I am talking so faint I could barely see it at all. Immediately, my head went to all the things you hear about “if there’s any line, you’re pregnant”. Cue disbelief.

For the next three days, I kept it to myself and tested every morning. Sure enough, every morning the line grew darker and darker and I knew at that point I was expecting. By this time, I’m in a panic trying to figure out a cute way to tell my husband. I had seen all these super cute pregnancy reveals with a photographer and knew that’s the direction I wanted to go.

I headed down to Walmart to get a digital test, just to make absolutely sure, and sure enough as the test counted down it very quickly gave me a “pregnant” result. I immediately contacted a photographer with the title “I NEED A PHOTOGRAPHER ASAP – PREGNANCY REVEAL TO MY HUSBAND”. Needless to say, she was very quick to respond.

I had the idea that I wanted to do a Christmas theme under the ruse of Christmas photos for our holiday cards which would become our pregnancy announcements – the end of my first trimester would be right around the time to send them out. So I somehow managed to get my husband to agree and go along with it. At some point within a day or two of us, he started to get suspicious, but kept his mouth shut so not to ruin the surprise or upset me if it wasn’t what he thought.

I brought a bunch of props including a wrapped box that had a tee shirt inside that reads “achievement unlocked: fatherhood” and the photographer directed us to interact with the props. When it came time for the box, she said, “we’re going to do some with the box” and then, “I want you to open the box”.

The look on his face was actually kind of blank. 🙂 Afterwards, he told me all he really saw at first was fatherhood and he was having trouble putting it together. My husband doesn’t really react like you’d expect him to when he’s in the spotlight. He kind of keeps himself together, so I should have expected him to kind of look at me like he did. All in all, when he got the message he was super excited and we finished up our photos with some cute pregnancy announcement photos.

Would I do it again? Absolutely. Was it worth the money? Most definitely. Important moments only happen once and when the opportunity to document them is gone, it’s gone forever. Being able to show our child the exact moment their dad found out he was going to be a dad for the first time is well worth the money and effort.

If you are in Virginia and the surrounding states and are looking for a photographer, check out Chelsie Gordon. She did an amazing job on our photos and was so easy and fun to work with.

Reveal to our immediate families
This was a little more low key. My husband wanted to keep it private and low key. He just really does not like being the center of attention. So we decided on a couple different ways to break the news without giving it away.

His family is a little difficult because they’re spread out. We ended up having his parents over for dinner and gave his mom a candle. (Sounds weird, but she’s really into Yankee Candles, she uses a fake Christmas tree so she’s always trying to make it smell like a real one and I always get super cheap Yankee Candles with coupons – so when you put it all together it was kind of like a “hey, I picked you up this candle I got on sale so your tree smells like Christmas” thing. Still weird?) Anyway, I had it personalized with one of the photos from our Christmas shot and it says “baby due in May”.

For his brother and his wife and kids, we sent their oldest a birthday card that said on the front “the more the merrier” and on the inside it said “true of family, true of friends, true of cake” and I wrote “true of cousins” and we included the ultrasound with a little due date notice.

My family was just as difficult because there’s a lot of them. For my mom and stepdad, my sisters and brother and my mom’s parents, we used my brothers’ birthday as a cover. We got him a gift and card just like normal, but then we wrapped a box inside of a box inside of a box and each layer had a little note taped to it that said “the best gifts…”, “are worth waiting for…” and then in the final box it was a card that had our ultrasound and a little note that said “baby due in May”. He kind of stopped reading out loud at that point so my grandma was sort of confused while everyone else was screaming and carrying on (which ended up making my 1 year old nephew start crying), but it all worked out like we planned. 🙂

My youngest little sister had to work the night of the party so we got her a container of pretzel nuggets from Auntie Anne’s and wrote a little card that said “nuggets from our nugget” with a copy of the ultrasound and took it to her at work. All she could was jump up and down in the middle of the store pointing at me saying, “I knew it! I knew it!”.

Reveal to extended family
We only actually personally went and told our parents, siblings and grandparents. Everyone else had to wait until they got their Christmas cards (which I sent out immediately after Thanksgiving). I DIYed our cards (because $150 for 50 cards is absolutely insane) and we are just thrilled at how they turned out. The day we sent them out, we immediately started receiving texts from everyone saying how excited they were.

Reveal to close friends and coworkers
I really only have two close friends that I kept in real touch with after high school. So for them, I wanted a private reveal. We went to Olive Garden for lunch one day, but I was so excited I ended up breaking the news before we even left the house for lunch. I figured if there was any screaming, it was best done in the comfort of my living room rather than in front of a bunch of strangers.

For my husbands’ coworkers who are mostly guys and, in my husbands’ words, “don’t care about cute details”, he ended up just going in to work wearing his “achievement unlocked” shirt. Got the message across and cued the “your life is over” jests we also got after our wedding. Boys. 🙂

So now you know our little secret. And he or she will remain that way until D Day. May cannot come fast enough. 🙂

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OFF SHOULDER GREEN SWEATER MID ROAST glitter heels2 glitter heels 1 PEARLS

Fashion & Beauty · Misc

Holiday Outfit + Massive News!

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMock Layer Sweater / Levi’s Super Skinny 535 in Mid Roast / Glitter Heels similar here and here / CZ Stud Earrings similar here
Stockings

Few disclosures. One: we’re currently updating our outlets, so try not to pay attention. Two: we’re also choosing paint colors, so also try not to notice. Three: I decided to play around with Lightroom presets because our lighting was really bad. Fun part? It’s still bad, but it does look better.

This outfit is perfect for a casual holiday dinner or date night out. It has just the right mix of comfort and sparkle to get your holiday spirit on!

Now, on to the massive news, because I know you are DYING to know. And I have been DYING to tell you.

Maybe some of you have noticed (even though I’ve been trying very hard to hide it!) that my pants are a bit tighter and my waist is getting thicker, not to mention I’ve been breaking out. Did you have your suspicions?

We.

Are.

Pregnant!

Whew! Glad I got that off my chest! Since I found out I was pregnant I have been trying so hard to keep it under wraps from everyone. First I had to keep it quiet for a week because I wanted to surprise my husband with a pregnancy reveal photoshoot. Then I chose to keep it from my closest family until I was nearing the end of my first trimester, followed by the rest of the family so they could be surprised when they got their Christmas cards and finally, you guys!

We have waited a long time for a baby and are excited to be expecting our first at the end of May. It’s been a roller coaster from surprising my husband to picking names to cravings, but all totally worth it! (The very first thing I started craving was chocolate and peanut butter, but now I’ve moved on to cheese and sopressata!) We could not be more thrilled as we await our new addition.

I am currently 16 weeks, so I’m into my second trimester. The first trimester was so many ups and downs that I’m not even really sure which way IS up anymore. I was incredibly tired all the time, I didn’t even have the energy to blog like normal which is why I’ve been AFK on and off for three months. On the up side, I didn’t have any morning sickness and our baby is looking very healthy.

That’s enough excitement for today. Tune in tomorrow to see our pregnancy reveal pictures and how we told everyone!

And remember to enter todays’ giveaway! 🙂

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Fashion & Beauty · Misc

12 Days of Christmas Giveaway

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFlannel Sleep Shirt similar here, here and here

‘Tis the season! Where has the year gone?! I feel like I was just wrapping last years’ Christmas gifts and stashing them under the tree. Wrapping gifts is one of my favorite things to do this time of year – I turn on some classic Christmas music, grab a cup of cocoa and wrap until my fingers throb. In fact, I love wrapping gifts so much I decided to wrap up gifts for twelve lucky readers! If they will actually be wrapped or just shipped has yet to be determined. 🙂

Starting tomorrow, December 1st and through December 12th, I’ll be hosting a daily giveaway with a different prize each day. Each day, one winner will receive that days featured prize with a small surprise from me. Each person who enters is only eligible to win once during the entire twelve day giveaway. All winners will be announced after the entire giveaway has ended and prizes will be shipped shortly thereafter. The giveaway is only open to US residents.

Remember to come back every day for a chance to win a different prize! Good luck!

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FLANNEL SLEEP 1 flannel sleep 2 flannel sleep 3

Misc

Friday Favorites: Fall Activities Edition

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPumpkin Picking Outfit

Another Friday Favorites post featuring all things Fall? Yes. Plot twist: this Friday Favorites is dedicated to all the things I love to do during Autumn. I have waited all year for this!

Corn Maze
Growing up, my mom took us every year and it’s definitely a tradition I will continue on with my own kids some day. It started out all together and as we grew older we started splitting in to teams as a competition to see who could finish the fastest, collect all the puzzle pieces, etc. Now that the two oldest of us are married, the teams typically are my mom and stepdad vs my husband and I vs my two younger siblings. It’s a great active way to spend a crisp afternoon!

Pumpkin Patch
Also something my mom did with us every year. Fun fact: we’re still going to the same we have gone to for 25+ years. Bonus: the same man who drove us when we were little still drives the tractor that hauls people out to the patch. We all love to spend the afternoon wandering around the fields, taking photos and buying candy at the country store on the farm. Even though I’m married and moved out now, we somehow all end up at the pumpkin patch on the same day!

Skyline Drive
We live in one of the most beautiful places in Virginia – the Shenandoah Valley. We are literally surrounded on all sides by mountains and, I’ll be honest, when we go on vacation the first thing I think about is how weird it is to not see mountains. We like to pick a weekend in October (you can actually use this site to help determine when the peak leaf times are), grab some snacks and a pumpkin spice latte and just drive.

Booing
Okay, so this one is a little weird and probably a little nervewracking for the people you end up booing, but it’s totally worth it, I promise! You basically fill up a couple bags with small candy, grab a group of people and load up in a car. Pick a house to boo, keeping the car running and have a designated runner to run up to the house, leave the bag, ring the bell, run back to the car and drive! It’s basically a friendly, festive drive by and it is so incredibly fun! The best part is, the people you boo are instructed (by way of a friendly ghost instruction sheet attached to the bag) to boo one of their neighbors, so you can end up with a whole neighborhood that’s been booed. For further instructions, read this site.

Baking
Late summer is when I start to really feel the need to stay in the kitchen ALL THE TIME. I’m always busy whipping up muffins, cookies, pies, soups and roasts to name a few. 🙂 Some of my favorite fall recipes include: White Chocolate Pumpkin Snickerdoodles, Cheeseburger Chowder, Pumpkin Bread (duh!) and Buttermilk Biscuits (see recipe below) and Sausage Gravy.

Buttermilk Biscuits
I have been using this recipe for years without fail, but for the life of me I can’t remember where I found it.

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick cold butter, cut into cubes
3/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425 F and spritz a baking sheet with cooking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt until well combined.

Drop butter cubes into flour mixture and lightly toss them until coated. Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the mixture. Add buttermilk and, using a fork, gently fold it into the flour mixture until just moist. The resulting dough will be very sticky and lumpy.

Liberally flour a workspace and turn out dough. Fold the dough over itself a few times – it should quickly come together into a mostly smooth shape.

Pat out into a rectangle shape, roughly 1/2 inch thick. Using a knife, cut dough into 8 equal pieces and place them onto the baking sheet.

Bake 12-15 minutes or until the biscuits are golden brown.

And that’s a wrap! What are some of your favorite fall activities?

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Misc

1 Year Anniversary!

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I try not to think about our wedding day. Don’t get me wrong, it was the best day of my life, but think about all the details and the stress I was under gives me a mini panic attack. However, today is our anniversary and I will remember. As much as I give myself hives thinking about the hurricane and the little things that I had no control over, it all goes away when I think about the underlying meaning of our wedding day.

We’re married. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters. We have experienced so much together and there is not a single person I’d rather be jumping in feet first with. My husband is the most amazing man I have ever met. I am so blessed to have someone who truly completes me and has helped me create a life I never thought I’d have. He allows me to be a stay at home wife (and one day a stay at home mommy), focus on what’s important to the two of us and to go on trips I’d never be brave enough to take myself.

My husband is a million things to me, none of which I could ever put in words accurately enough to even begin to cover it. He is my logic and my comedy, my strength and my weakness, my greatest support and my most honest critic, my protector and my encourager. Without him, I wouldn’t know what to do.

Our first year of marriage has been full of adventures. We spent our honeymoon in the Dominican Republic, we bought our first house and in two weeks we will be heading to Ireland for nine days. This year has just flown by and I am truly looking forward my second year as a “Mrs”!

Almost all of our wedding was DIY. From the flowers, to the cakes and pies, to the signs and placecard holders, we did it all! If you all are interested in a more detailed DIY wedding write up, I’d be happy to do it! Just let me know.

*All photography was done by Glimpse Photography. They have since retired.

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Misc

Little Black Bloopers

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Polka Dot Tee Dress

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Vintage Plaid Culottes

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Recipe Roundup

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Sweater + Booties Craft Show Outfit

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Retro Glasses + 80s Studs

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Chiffon Blouse + Lace Up Flats

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Fitness + Diet on Vacation

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Friday Favorites Giveaway

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Striped Tee “Dress” + Booties

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Dinosaur Statement Necklace

As you can see from sneeze faces to your little brother photobombing your shoot, blogging is not all clean houses and cute smiles. There are a lot of very uncute things that happen and a lot of behind the scenes drama that readers don’t see. So here I am, again, keepin’ it real and giving you a sneak peek of the ugly stuff. These bloopers are unedited and proudly brought to you by my husband.

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