Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!

I hope you're swimming in boxes of chocolate and flowers by this evening! 

I always feel bad for people who work in restaurants on weekends like this. I'm sure EVERYONE is going to be eating out this weekend.

We're not. And Ryan and I never have. The last two years we've made steak at home. But this year... we're making SUSHI! Don't worry, we've done it before so this won't be a complete experiment.

And unfortunately all of these yummy macarons are gone, but we'll be enjoying an old favorite, Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars. Maybe I'll even make them in the shape of little hearts!

Merry Christmas

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 

And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.

Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 

For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 

And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 

“Glory to God in the highest, 

And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

Wishing you and yours a wonderful Christmas day filled with love, joy, peace, and happiness. May the spirit of Christmas fill your heart not just today, but throughout the year.

Messer Family ~ Christmas Tree Session

I don't usually shoot indoor sessions, but Christmas is the perfect time of year for it! And tree trimming is the perfect activity for a family session! You pull out all those special ornaments and they bring back so many wonderful memories. Ornaments from when you were a kid. Ornaments that your children made. Ornaments given to you by a loved one.

Christmas is such a special time of year! Ryan and I had a blast hanging out with the Messer family while they decorated their tree and put together their Advent calendar.

4 Dates for $40 ~ Christmas Edition

Christmas is the perfect time of year for date nights. And unfortunately, there's so much going on that it can be easy to just put yourself on "survival mode" until the big day arrives and life can slow down again. But there are so many wonderful things to enjoy throughout the month. Here are some little date ideas to squeeze in between all the shopping and parties.

Date idea #1 - Make presents together

Cost: $5+

Bake boxes of cookies for your neighbors or make some ornaments for a family member. Pinterest is overflowing with great ideas for this time of year. Take an evening or two to enjoy one together.

Date idea #2 - Choose a new ornament

Cost: $10+

Ryan and I have started collecting at least one ornament that symbolizes each year of our lives together. We collected 3 or 4 our first Christmas since we wanted our wedding and our honeymoon to be represented and last year's ornament is from our vacation in Jamaica. This year I'm pretty sure we're picking out a house ornament. I'd love to get one of the custom ones from Etsy, but I'm pretty sure we waited too long for that.

Date idea #3 - Deliver a secret gift to someone in need

Cost: $10+

Whether you choose an Angel Tree present or drop off some groceries at a food bank, do something good for someone this month. It's so easy to focus on ourselves and the things we want and just say "we're on a tight budget", but there are so many who have less than we do.

Date idea #4 - Pick out a real Christmas tree

Cost: $30+

Ok, so this one breaks the $40 total budget, but you could always pick up some fresh garland or a wreath instead. We're hoping to find a tabletop tree since we have a full size artificial tree up already.

Wrap it Up! - Christmas Gift Ideas

Gift giving is not my forte. In fact, I spend months racking my brain for hints my friends and family might have dropped about things they love or need. Enter problem number one: Our parents don't need anything. It's such a blessing, but it definitely makes Christmas shopping difficult. And problem number two: I don't understand tools, so I can't figure out what my husband doesn't have or would use.

So without spilling the beans on what I've picked out for my loved ones this year, here are a few Christmas gift ideas to hopefully make your shopping a bit easier.

For Him:

- Go through his closet and find a well loved and well worn piece of clothing and buy him a new one. Shirt, shoes, pants, whatever. My husband definitely has his favorites and always has one piece that gets worn much more often than everything else.

- Tablet cover. Maybe he already has a boring one, so get him something personalized! There are so many possibilities: book cover, patterned fabric, monogram, leather, etc.

For Her:

- Look at her Pinterest boards. Seriously, guys have it so easy. Women these days are basically collecting boards and boards of things they'd love to have. So maybe you can't give her a monstrous walk in closet for Christmas and staring at her style board might give you more headaches than hints, but you could get her that print/purse/ornament from Etsy that she pinned. Here are some cute options to get you started:

Custom house ornament

Custom scarf - printed with a map, text from a favorite book, etc

- See tablet cover above. This would also be great for a planner or a cell phone.

For the Cook:

- Gifts from the kitchen are my favorite, because it's so easy to find something that people would use. A baking gift basket, a set of unusual spices, fancy olive oil or vinegar, customized recipe cards, etc.

- And if you don't think the person on your list actually cooks much, you can still get a gift for the kitchen! A  cute set of appliqued towels, serving dishes, a set of art prints for the kitchen, or a custom cutting board. Anything pretty that can sit out and doesn't necessarily have to be used.

For the Neighbor/Teacher/Hostess:

- Food! My go to for small presents is something edible. Most people don't need another coffee mug or picture frame and it's really hard to pick something out for people you don't know well. So whether it's homemade Christmas cookies, a gift basket put together with store bought yummies, or a package of macarons from a local bakery, an edible gift will almost guarantee you success.

- Seasonal decor - you almost can't go wrong here. All you need to know is what kind of style they have: modern, rustic, classic, glamorous, or hand-crafted. And then you can pick out (or make) just about anything, mantel decorations, ornaments, wreath, centerpieces, wall art, advent calendar, pillow, throw blanket, etc.

Giving Thanks

This weekend is one of my favorite times of year. I love the huge meal and eating until there's absolutely no room left. I love watching the parade and then falling asleep watching the football game. And then we get to put up the tree and decorate for Christmas!

So while I'm very excited for all the traditions of this weekend, I want the focus to be on just how blessed Ryan and I are.  I love any excuse to be with our families, and this is one day when the people we love most are all together under one roof. I am so thankful for them. Ryan and I both have jobs that we love, and we have a new home to make our own. We have been blessed with so many friends that make us laugh, love us in spite of our weirdness, encourage us, and make us better people.

We might not have everything we want, but we have everything we need.