Hi friends! Let’s skip all the awkward apologies (again) and just consider this my attempt at “blowing the dust off” and re-entering the blog world in 2018, k? #newyearnewme 😉
Before this week, we’d only been to school for three days since December 19th thanks to Christmas, an extreme cold spurt, MLK Day, the end of the grading period, some sickness, and snow… So I basically have no idea what day it is or where this month has gone. (For the record, my Christmas decorations are still sitting in our front office patiently waiting to be put away.) I’ve got big goals and plans for 2018, as usual, but I’ve basically given myself a free pass until February to get back into routine etc. (Here’s a pass for you too in case you need one!)
Anyway, I realize I’m weeks behind most of the blog world with this, but I just can’t resist a good round-up of my favorite things from 2017. There were A LOT, so get ready…
First though, can I just say that 2017 – as a whole – was NOT my favorite? Without blabbing on and on about all the things that went “wrong” last year (Ok, ok… I’ll name a few things: water leak, broken femur, fender bender, scarlet fever), let’s just say I was GLAD to see it come to an end… Jeff and I had Chinese food, a dance party, and a Netflix countdown with friends around 9PM on New Year’s Eve, but we officially rang in 2018 with a champagne toast in bed. It felt like the end of a very long run (not that I actually know what that feels like), and I think we both let out audible sighs of relief. Good riddance, 2017.
BUT… Since then, I’ve had some time to reflect and look back (i.e. work on my Chatbook instead of putting Christmas stuff away), and I realized 2017 was actually FULL of really happy and wonderful things too (mountain and beach vacations, reunions with college friends, birthday parties, our tenth anniversary + a trip to NYC, Kindergarten, skiing, etc.). What kind of jerk gets to do all that in one year and *still* says it was a bad one?!? It’s funny how the good things can be overshadowed by the bad when you let them, you know?
I think, in 2018, I’ll try harder to pay attention to the good stuff – even when it is small.
On that note, below is a list of 20 small things I enjoyed in 2017. It’s mostly insignificant and unimportant stuff, but it’s a quick and easy way for me to remember and document some of the “little luxuries” in my life lately; and, hopefully, introduce (or re-introduce) you to some new favorites too! Enjoy! *** Short on time? Make sure to check out my VERY favorites – #4, #12, #14, #18, & #20 ***
1.) The Enneagram | I’ve known about the Enneagram for a while, resisted it for a long time (it’s a little intimidating at first), then struggled to really figure out my type. This year it finally clicked (I’m a 3 through and through), and every single thing I’ve learned since then has totally blown my mind. I’ve got LOTS to uncover still, but I’m all in.
2.) Overdrive (through my public library) & Audible (& Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Daily Ebook Deals) | I’m not going to break any records or anything, but I did more reading in 2017 than I have in years. That was, largely, due to the audibook. It is just perfect for a serial multi-tasker like me. (Read while doing dishes? Sign me up!) These apps/resources helped my reading life SO much by making it easier and cheaper!
3.) Big Little Lies on HBO | I don’t want anyone getting the wrong idea and thinking all I’m doing is reading over here… 😉 I used a 7-day Free Trial of HBO on Amazon to watch this, and I knocked the 8-episode series out in that time. It was SO good. I’m a big fan of Liane Moriarity, but when I read this book years ago it wasn’t one of my favorites of hers. The combination of an awesome cast, great costuming, and the beautiful Monterey scenery WITH the plot though was just perfect! (Dare I say, the show is better than the book? (There are some pretty intense and uncomfortable scenes FYI. Not for every audience.)
When I was done watching, I even found myself re-visiting an old I question I used to get dressed in college — WWRW? (i.e. What Would Reese Wear?) Haha! Man, I just adore her!
4.) Blue Babies Pink | I listened to this in March and, not exaggerating, it was life changing. Or at least perspective changing, in a big way. You can read more about my thoughts HERE, but if you haven’t listened to it yet… Do it.
5.) Best of Both Worlds Podcast | I’ve read all of Laura Vanderkam’s books (mostly on time and time management), so I was thrilled when she announced she was starting a podcast (with friend and fellow blogger Sarah Hart-Unger) earlier this year specifically for working moms. They’ve released more than 20 episodes now, and it has not disappointed. I love the passion Laura and Sarah have for both their families AND their careers… They bring a refreshing and encouraging (while also realistic) perspective to all topics related to those two worlds and I find myself nodding along – and pausing to take notes – every week! (If you want to dive in, I love Episode 2 on “the second shift”/evening routines, Episode 4 on childcare, Episode 5 on the “mental load” of parenting, and Episode 9 on division of labor at home… They are all great though!)
6.) Emily Ley Simplified Planner & Home Based Binder (c/o) | Will I ever make a list like this without including something from Emily Ley? Answer: probably not. As always, I continued to use and love my Emily Ley Simplified Planner in 2017 (I used a Daily last year, but have switched back to the Weekly for ’18). I also got to try out the beautiful, re-designed Home Based Binder and have enjoyed having somewhere pretty and practical to store meal plan ideas, important papers and schedules from the kids’ schools, etc. It’s one of the few things I actually don’t mind leaving sitting out on my desk or kitchen counter all the time. !!! I have an extra HBB I’ll be giving away SOON. Stay tuned. !!!
7.) 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club (c/o) | In partnership with my friend Linda at Teach 4 the Heart, I signed up for this club – created and run by Angela Watson of The Cornerstone for Teachers – back in July after a particularly hard 16-17 school year. The 12-month course offers weekly lessons and practical tips/printables/etc. to help teachers bring balance back to their lives and teach in a way that is engaging, practical, and sustainable. I’m only halfway through, but I’ve already learned SO much from these materials and implemented helpful changes to my own routines etc. (If you’re interested and want to read my full review of the first six months, check out my blog post at Teach 4 the Heart and/or listen to the podcast interview HERE.)
8.) XL Post-It Note Easel Pads (in my classroom) | These things are NOT cheap, but if you can get your school to pay for them, order some NOW. I use them ALL the time in my classroom for group projects, presentations, etc. Seriously, all.the.time.
9.) Teachers Pay Teachers | This certainly isn’t new, but I found myself using TPT a lot more last year. There are just SO many great things out there, and the prices are reasonable enough to make my time VERY worth it. Some of my favorite shops for ELA resources are: Laura Randazzo, The Daring English Teacher, and English Bulldog.
10.) Lily Jade Rosie School Bag (c/o) | Lily Jade makes diaper bags, but they sent me their Rosie to try out as a “school bag” last spring, and I immediately forgot any qualms I’d had about using a diaper bag to carry research papers and binders around. (FYI: They have since released a “lifestyle bag” that’s very similar without the diaper insert, but since I have a diaper-wearing kiddo still, I actually love that I can pull out the insert and get two bags for the price of one!) I have carried this bag to school every single day since August (and also on several trips), and it does not show one lick of wear… It is GORGEOUS and SO FUNCTIONAL. It just makes me feel happy and put together every time I pick it up. This is a splurge, for sure, but you totally get what you pay for!! (See my full review from June HERE.)
11.) 100 Days of Whole Foods: Fast & Fabulous Cookbook | I’ve been telling all of my real life friends about this book because it’s helped me make healthy, easy, AND quick meals for my family this year. I strongly recommend the pork tenderloin, the pulled pork and black bean tacos, and the weeknight beef bourguignon. Yum!
12.) Fresh Market Little Big Meals | Speaking of healthy, easy, and quick meals — this is the perfect little “trick” for busy moms (or anyone). If you have a FM near you and aren’t doing this, you need to start ASAP. Here’s the gist of how it works — each week (Tuesday – Tuesday) Fresh Market offers a complete meal for a family of four — something like tacos, stir fry, pasta — for $20-$25. At my store, there is a set-up in the front with a little cooler and a checklist of all the components included in the deal. It’s usually a meat, a veggie kit (fresh veggies already cut and ready), a starch (bag of rice/pasta/etc.), a seasoning sauce or packet, and a dessert from the bakery. You do have to actually cook the meal, but it’s super simple and can be done fast. I just look up the meal for the week on Sundays when I’m doing my meal planning, and grab one almost every week. BONUS if you want to be a super “lazy genius”: Grab an extra meal to drop off on the porch of a new mom or sick friend AND/OR save the calories on dessert (a loaf of pound cake, box of cookies, etc.) and, instead, give it to your kid’s bus driver, daycare teacher, or an elderly neighbor. *You’re welcome for this one!
13.) The Starbucks App | So basic; but… have you tried ordering ahead and having it waiting for you? There’s a lot to be said for convenience (and caffeine) when you have little kids. Also, I love the “games” to help you earn Rewards. They totally know my number.
14.) Sam Edelmen Penny Boots | These were actually a Christmas gift from my mom, but she gave them to me early so I could wear them when we went to NYC in November, and I’ve basically worn them every day since. I’d had my eye on these for years, seriously, and now I wish I’d not waited so long. They are PERFECT: a great color to wear with everything, just the right height (slightly below the knee), and I love the subtle details like the gold snap and the little tassel on the back. Also – my personal favorite part – they come in wide-calf, so I feel like I have skinny legs. 😉 (Note: I had to send back my first pair because they were *so* narrow – I couldn’t even get my foot in. They do come in Wide also; but, I ended up just going with one size bigger than my regular size and after I wore them once/they stretched a little, they were perfect.)
15.) BP. from Nordstrom | I don’t know why it took me so long to jump on the Nordstrom bandwagon (every fashion blogger out there is a fan), but I’m so glad I finally did. I probably shopped at Nordstrom more than anywhere else this past year, and I was not disappointed with my purchases (their free shipping & great return policy helped too). The BP. brand, in particular, lines up perfectly with my style (#allthestripes) and my budget, so that’s where I do most of my shopping. Plus, they have everything. Here are just a few things I’ve purchased from BP this year — Side Slit Tee, V-Neck Long Sleeve Sweater, Circle Pendant Necklace, *Note: items run large, order down!
16.) Simple gold bar necklace | I realize that these have been “in” for quite some time now (it’s basically a requirement for all contestants on The Bachelor), but I just ordered myself one (err… Jeff did?) at Mother’s Day. Mine is gold and has a simple “S&N” on it, and I wear it almost every day. It makes my outfits feel pulled together, and I love the sweet reminder of my two little loves. (I also got my mom one, and she loves it too!)
17.) American Beauty & Co. Bows (c/o) | I can’t enough of these simple cloth bows for Nora. (In fact, I *much* prefer an under-stated bow over the giant things the south loves.) I’ve tried (and liked) lots of brands; but, I’m partial to these because the company is owned by my sweet friend and was inspired by the baby girl she lost at 31 weeks in April of 2015 to a chromosome condition called Triploidy. (You can read more of her story HERE.) Today, Mary Wynne is momma to a sweet little boy and has another baby on the way. This brand new company (launched in November) is helping her stay at home full time AND honor and remember her girl. The bows are beautiful, great quality, and very affordable. Plus, a portion of every sale is used to send kids with disabilities to experience the best week of their life at Young Life’s Capernaum camp. Nora has several of these bows already, and I’m anxiously awaiting the release of the “Sweetheart” capsule (shown below & also available in clips) on February 1st. Follow them on Instagram for more sneak peeks, updates, giveaways, and more!
18.) Zara little girls’ clothes | You guys!! Why is no one talking about the ADORABLE clothes for babies and little ones at Zara?!?! I randomly checked out their stuff back in the fall for Nora and ended up ordering two dresses and four tops because everything was SO CUTE and the prices were amazing. I feel like it’s higher quality and more “classic” style at the same prices as H&M or Old Navy. Like this shirt, which we have, for only $5.99 or the dress shown below (no longer available) from our Christmas photos that I got for less than $20. Seriously. This is my new “go to” spot for girls’ clothes.
19.) Valspar Tempered Gray Paint & Dark Doors/Bannisters| Over spring break, we had our whole house painted. It ended up being a much bigger project than we expected (i.e. we were out of our house for over THREE weeks), but the end result was beautiful and has completely refreshed our space. We used Tempered Gray (a color we found for our bedroom a few years ago) by Valspar for pretty much the entire house – minus the office and back of the bookshelves which we kept teal and a slightly lighter gray/white in the sunroom) and have been SO happy with it. The entire space is so light and clean looking. I love it and would recommend that color to anyone looking for something neutral with gray and brown/tan tones. It goes with everything! (Look closely and you can see this on the walls in a couple of the pictures above!) Along with a fresh coat of paint on everything, we also opted to paint all of the interior doors in our house + the bannister going up our stairs a dark navy (almost black really) ,and I am obsessed with it. It seems small, but out of everything we’ve done to our house since we moved in, I think it’s the thing that has made the biggest impact on the overall “style” of the space. It just give a POP to my otherwise pretty boring color scheme and ties everything together perfectly. The only two downsides though: I’ve run in to quite a few closed doors when I’ve gotten up in the middle of the night and the house is dark; and, as you would expect, nicks and chips in the paint stand out a lot more than they would on white.
20.) Black & Decker Cordless Hand Vacuum | I saved the best for last here… I’m serious. This was, for sure, my best purchase of 2017. My parents have one of these, and when we used it this summer, I discovered two things. One, it is SO much easier for cleaning up minor messes like breakfast crumbs and tracked in dirt, and two, the kids actually LIKE using it, and are way more inclined to clean up with it. Obviously, that was all the convincing I needed. I had an Amazon Prime box waiting on my doorstep when we got home from our visit. My house is cleaner (at least with the naked eye) than ever before. Every family needs one of these. End of discussion.
And four little “bonuses” I’m loving already in 2018….
- Up First Podcast from NPR (15 minutes every morning on my drive to work, & I’m smarter/more informed than ever)
- NYX Dark Circle Concealer (only $6)
- First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream Pink Grapefruit (Grapefruit is my very favorite scent & my skin is SO dry)
- Tom Ford Neroli Portofino Body Spray (this was a gift and totally NOT something I’d buy on my own, but it is heavenly.)
Alright. Blog post DONE.
I’m making no promises (clearly, I’ve learned that that doesn’t work for me), but I miss this space, and I want to get back to documenting life, writing regularly, and connecting with you guys… I’ve got posts up my sleeve on the books I read in 2017, some things I’m learning about myself re: personality, goals, and motivation, and some exciting new things I’m trying in my classroom this semester. Check back (hopefully) soon (ish) for those.
Until then, if there’s something above you’d like to hear more about OR just have an idea for a post/conversation moving forward, please comment here or shoot me an email, and I promise I’ll do my very best to reply.
Have a good week!