Thursday, December 19, 2013

The "Giving Back" gift guide

I love giving gifts... I don't think there is anything better than finding or making the perfect gift for a loved one to exchange this time of year. There are tons of gift guides bouncing around the blogosphere this year, and I wanted to make one of my own... with a little different focus. Everyone knows the whole Toms "one for one" deal, and I love that so many other companies have followed this model to make shopping doubly wonderful. Here are a few of my picks for gifts that give back... and I'm not talking about re-gifting!

1/ Headbands of Hope
This particular headband is the "Natitude", named in honor of a sorority sister of mine who found out as a college freshman that she was battling ovarian cancer. I am happy to report that she has now been cancer free for a year! The founder of Headbands of Hope is a student at NCSU who used a summer internship to change the lives of so many children battling cancer. For each headband purchased, a headband is donated to a girl who has lost her hair during chemo and $1 is donated to St. Baldrick's Foundation for cancer research. What an incredible way to share hope and joy with those you love!

2/ Heifer International gift of farm animals
For just $20, you can buy a flock of chicks for a family in need that provides nourishment and sustainable income. My home church has always been involved with this organization, and I think it is such a wonderful idea to give a gift like this in someone's honor. Wouldn't it be kind of fun to all chip in and buy a camel?! Guess what day it is, indeed!!

3/ WritefullyHis stationery
A dear college friend and sorority sister of mine started her own "one for one" stationery company, WritefullyHis, after being inspired while studying abroad. Grace's company has exploded in just the past year- what started as a simple operation stamping quality paper and collaborating with photographers to create beautiful cards has turned into a full-blown business complete with custom wedding paper, wholesale options, and a beautiful pop-up shop in the downtown of our college town. WritefullyHis strives to give back by providing children in Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda with writing supplies to help them learn, grow, and make a difference through their own education.

4/ Lily and Laura beaded bracelets
I never head about these beauties until I made it to Raleigh, and I swear they are everywhere! When I worked in retail ladies of every age loved going through our bowl of these colorful bracelets. Not only are they gorgeous, but each unique bracelet is handmade by a special group of women in Nepal who are fairly compensated for their work and have the satisfaction of creating beautiful artwork that helps support their families! Chances are a boutique near you carries them so load up!

These are just a few ideas for all you last minute shoppers like myself- I love getting more gift ideas from readers. What are your favorite options for gifts that keep on giving?! 


Friday, December 13, 2013

5 on Friday: 30 Days of Thanks Edition!

For this edition of "5 on Friday" linkup with Darci, April, Christina and Natasha (thanks ladies!), I wanted to continue on and work towards 30 Days of Thanks" challenge! I never intended on having to continue into December for this series, but I'm fine with it- it's more time to really appreciate my blessings past Thanksgiving and on into the Christmas season :) But I'm not going to lie- I'm ready to do some Christmas posting! Let's get going then!

I am thankful for the kiddos in my life. When we first moved to Raleigh, we knew almost zero families. Today, after almost 5 months here, I am blown away by the love we have been shown from so many families in our little neighborhood area. That's one of the most wonderful things about our home in Raleigh- it is part of such a community. First our neighbor with two little boys reached out to us, and I began to sit for her. Then she referred me to multiple other sweet families and now I am so overwhelmed by the kindness of the mamas who let me take care for their littles and the joy that these kids give me! I'm not ready anytime soon, but they make me so excited when the time will come to have my own kiddos! 

I am thankful for cozy winter nights at home. More specifically, dinner with my husband and Netflix marathons. There is nothing I love more than coming home and making dinner with Andrew and either doing our respective work we need to get done in the evening or hanging out on the couch with a "new" episode  on Netflix. Our latest addiction? How I Met Your Mother. Past favorites are too numerous to count: Mad Men, New Girl, The Office... who needs cable!? 

I'm thankful for my new business. Seriously, this is the happiest I have been in a long time and I am so thankful that I took the plunge and put my heart into Shut the Front Door! {burlaps by ryann}. My friends and family have been SO good to me during the holiday season... I even had to stop taking orders a week ago in order to guarantee I could get everything done by Christmas! If you haven't yet, go "like" my FB fan page! Here are a few of my favorite holiday creations as of late: 

I am thankful for NC State University. This week Andrew finishes up his first semester of grad school and I could not be more proud of him. I am so glad he found a great architecture program with classmates he likes and supportive professors. He's done so well and I know his hard work will really pay off!

I am thankful for the Trio! As I eagerly anticipate heading back to SC next weekend, I must say that I am SO looking forward to reuniting with my two best friends. We're pretty used to being spread out, considering we each went to different colleges, but I am about to burst from being away from them so long! Their recent visit to Raleigh just wasn't enough. I am so grateful for their constant encouragement and love, especially as we all struggle navigating the waters of post-grad life. If you're reading this, P and Nat, I'm coming for ya SO soon! In honor of the happy reunion, here's a Christmas throwback picture from high school:

I promise I love them.

Happy weekend, friends! 


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

30 Days of Thanks: Wofford College

Anyone who knows me even remotely well or has been reading this blog for a decent amount of time knows my intense love of my alma mater. Just this past May I graduated from Wofford College, and I am still just as thankful for my experience there as the day I graduated!

This picture was taken my senior year of high school at a Spring Hospitality Day on campus- I was SET on becoming a Wofford Terrier and couldn't wait to get on campus! I look so little here, I can't believe it! 

I am thankful that my parents encouraged me to attend my dream college. I am thankful for receiving scholarship that made this decision much easier for them. I am thankful for a learning environment that welcomed my "undecided" freshman self and challenged me academically each day, leading me towards a passion for writing and a declaration as an English major. I am thankful for the incredible faculty and staff that encouraged and challenged me to become a better person and a better leader. I am thankful for the incredible travel opportunities to travel all over the globe studying with Wofford professors and some of my best friends. I am thankful for the opportunity to serve as Vice President to an incredible group of Greek women. I am thankful for the place where I met some of the most wonderful friends I could ever imagine having. Most importantly, I am thankful for the community that Wofford provided everyday and still does. 

I can name very few professors that would dress up with their students at an annual college golfcart racing event... but Dr. Ware, next to me in the silver shorts, really embraced it!

Tailgating traditions at Wofford were the best. 

I am so honored to have been chosen to represent my sorority and the college as a whole my senior Homecoming!

What a joy to celebrate graduation from such an incredible institution with my closest friends!

Wofford was perfect for me. I loved the fact that you actually said "hello" to whoever you passed on the sidewalk between classes. That classes sizes were intimate, allowing for more than just simply student-professor relationships, but real conversations and even hugs for the favorites after advising sessions. That you knew the sweet old lady working at the on-campus coffee shop. That I had the opportunity to eat lunch with the college's president. That I was able to learn and grow in an environment that made me a better person, a better leader, a lover of learning, and a part of something much bigger than myself. 

Dear old Wofford, hail!


Monday, December 9, 2013

30 Days of Thanks: good health

Crazy enough, a miserable sick day yesterday prompted this post. You remember that episode of How I Met Your Mother when Ted claims he's been "vomit free since '93"? Well, I also had a solid record until yesterday-- I'll just leave it at that. I wasn't sure if it was food poisoning from my caesar salad the night before or a random stomach bug, but either way I spent my day napping, drinking ginger ale, and ironically, watching How I Met Your Mother. I was able to stomach a whopping meal of chicken noodle soup and 5 crackers yesterday... not exactly the way I was hoping to drop a few pounds before Christmas!

Okay, I'll stop the pity party because I'm actually doing really great this morning. I am rested, eating solid food, and able to go on a massive post-sickness cleaning spree. I am so thankful that Andrew was around all day to take care of me. Despite juggling preparations for his big final review for his first graduate architecture studio, he was always so attentive asking if I needed more fluids, something to eat, help getting something, etc. I am thankful for his selflessness that most definitely helped me feel a million times better today.

On a grander scale, I am so grateful for my overall good health. Other than the occasional day or week with a little sickness like yesterday, I have never dealt with a serious illness or condition. I am thankful for the good health that so many others are not fortunate to have.

However, that doesn't mean illness hasn't touched my life. I never knew my grandfather because he was taken before I was born due to leukemia. I lost one of my very best friends just two months ago to epilepsy. I've seen grandparents suffer from the health effects of old age. However, I've also seen the power of prayer at work. I've seen a sorority sister diagnosed with ovarian cancer as a sophomore celebrate a year cancer-free. I've seen my sweet little neighbor who is only a freshman in high school endure the hurt and pain of pancreatitis-- multiple surgeries, feeding tubes, month-long hospital stays-- and still claim in every Facebook post that the Lord is good! I am so humbled.

I am thankful for the access to medications, treatments, and doctors that provide incredible care. I am thankful for the means to use these resources for continued good health. May I never take for granted the blessings of good health for myself and those I love!


Friday, December 6, 2013

30 Days of Thanks: social media

Before you scoff at this post, hear me out. I know many of you fellow bloggers and blog readers are all about some social media, but you're probably thinking I'm crazy for writing a post about how I am thankful for it. I will admit it- at times I have an unhealthy obsession with social media, but there are some distinct advantages to living in the age of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and more.

Especially now that I have graduated and moved out of state, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep in touch with my friends and family. I try to make an effort to call my best friends and close family members, but it's hard to stay in contact even with the best of intentions. As much as I'm shying away from Facebook these days, I just can't get rid of my account because it is one of the main ways I can really see what's going on with my 239480 family members (slight exaggeration, but not much...) or my high school friends, or the friends I met at the Passion Conference years ago... you get the picture!

And if it weren't for social media, I wouldn't have the opportunity to get to know half of the lovely blog ladies that I now call my friends! I am so thankful to see the hearts of so many wonderful women through their blogs and have the opportunity to understand a little more about their lives and what is important to them through their social media handles! Can I get an amen, friends?!

In honor of my thankfulness for social media, here is my life lately according to Instagram:

If you haven't heard, go check out this post about my newest business endeavor! It has been such a blessing to make my burlap creations for friends and strangers alike! I have been working like a crazy lady to get burlap ornaments and hangers made before Christmas- I've even had to post on my Shut the Front Door! {burlaps by ryann} FB page that I cannot take anymore orders to be made in time for Christmas! God is good. 

I never really did a recap of my Virginia Beach trip, but I was so excited to have the opportunity to visit with my Little and also surprise my Grandlittle at her basketball game! 

Of course- obligatory roadtrip selfie! We had such a wonderful time visiting with our families over Thanksgiving break. I'm already ready for Christmas!

Ta Da!!!! Introducing our very first married Christmas cards! I wish those things weren't so expensive because I want to be able to send one to ALL of my friends... blog friends included. I guess this will have to do for now, though! Know I had the best of intentions in sharing Christmas cheer with y'all :) 


Monday, December 2, 2013

30 Days of Thanks: family

Unintentionally, I've dropped the ball a bit on my "30 Days of Thanks" blog post series. I realize that we are already into December (but really, how did THAT happen!?) but who says I can't be thankful on into December as well? The past 10 days that I haven't posted have been busy, but in the best possible way. Busy pursuing new hobbies, preparing for new opportunities, and spending time with the people I love most over a long Thanksgiving break-- all things I am thankful for! Let's get on with it, then!

Those who know me well know that I'm an only child. Since I don't have any brothers and sisters, my extended family is extremely important to me. I'm very close with many of my cousins- something I've only just realized is relatively rare! I am one of 16 grandchildren on my mom's side of the family- crazy, right?! I'm especially close to my cousin Sarah, who is only two months older than I am. We grew up doing gymnastics and dance together, were on student council at rival high schools, and she was a bridesmaid in my wedding! Most of my mom's side of the family is still in the area of upstate SC, so we all get to see each other pretty regularly at Thanksgiving and Christmas- such a blessing! A few of us (like myself) have moved away but we aren't far enough that we can't come back and visit. It's also so fun to have everyone together for cousin weddings- there are so many of us, that there is an average of one every few years! 

I'm so lucky to have both sets of grandparents in my hometown as well- my mom's parents, my Nana and Papa, live 10 minutes from my parent's house. My dad's mom- my Mimi- also lives closeby, in an independent assistant living facility. Though my Papa Bill passed before I was born, I am so blessed to otherwise have healthy, loving grandparents that I truly enjoy spending time with. We don't get to see my dad's side of the family as much since they are spread around the lower state, but we always pick up right where we left off when the family gets together! 

I am so thankful for the quality family time I was able to enjoy over the Thanksgiving holiday and I'm already excited for Christmas get-togethers!