How to: Set New Year's Goals

The start of a brand new year is always so exciting to me! It's the opportunity to set new goals, come up with plans to try new things, and start afresh! There's often lots of talk about creating resolutions, unfortunately, most of those tend to fail after a few weeks. Instead of making resolutions, I like to set some goals that will help me to stay on track as I work toward accomplishing new things in life! Here's a few tips that have helped me on the path to success, and I know will be of benefit to you in your goal setting process.

1. Set short-range goals in addition to long-term goals. (Think in terms of day, week, month, and six-months. You'll need these in addition to a year long or even 5 year goal. Be specific!)
2. Set goals for a variety of levels. (Some should be easy to accomplish, while others may require more effort, time, and team members.)
3. Set incremental goals. (Little by little gets you to the big picture. Set benchmarks for progress assessment and accomplishment along the way!)
4. Get group reinforcement (Regular encouragement, accountability, and wisdom from mentors and those who are on the same journey with you can be of great benefit to accomplishment.)
5. Celebrate the achievement! (It's time to celebrate when you achieve your goal! Give yourself a reward, go out to a nice dinner, take a trip, get a new's ok to celebrate your success! You did it!!!)

Here's to a fabulous, successful, and fun 2016 ahead! 
Happy New Year!

P.S. Have a minute? Here's three extra tips for making this year your best one yet!


Merriest of Wishes

Hooray! It's one of the merriest weeks of the year! Wishing you and yours the most wonderful, fun, and joy-filled Christmas celebration! Among the presents, hot chocolate, twinkling lights, and parties with family and friends, may we never forget the reason we're celebrating this beautiful time of the year.

"That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep.  Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in highest heaven,
    and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger.  After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child.  All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them."
Luke 2:8-20

Wishing you the merriest Christmas, and best wishes for a fabulous new year ahead!

5 Tips for Stress-Free Holiday Entertaining

This time of the year often provides many opportunities to host family and friends for the holidays, and it can be overwhelming if you're not prepared. When it comes to entertaining, here's my five tried and true tips that will help you prepare for and actually enjoy the season's many celebrations. 

1. Create a gift closet/stash. 
You never know when you're going to need that last minute gift for an unexpected guest, late invitation, or surprise event. I like to keep a couple of things on hand like a set of nice notecards, candles, and even a few Starbucks gift cards. No matter what pops up on your calendar or who arrives at your family gathering (Oh hi, Aunt Martha...nice to see you again!), you'll be prepared with gift in hand! 

2. Pick up fresh flowers for the home.
Never underestimate the power of a vase of fresh blooms to spruce up your home! Even if it's a last minute get-together, keeping some flowers on your table is a great way to brighten up the room and provides an 'I was expecting you' kind of vibe for your guests! There's no need to heavily invest into a super expensive arrangement every week. Instead, swing by your local grocery store or even Trader Joe's to pick up a beautiful bunch at a great price. 

3. Light a candle. 
I love candles. There's something so cozy about a big three-wick candle flickering and creating a delightful and festive scent to the home. Guests on the way? I usually will light them about 15-20 min ahead of time to allow the smell to fill the house without being too strong. 

4. Know when to make and when to buy. 
This is a busy time for all of us, and sometimes there's just not enough time to invest an entire day in the kitchen preparing food. One of my go-to's is a gourmet market in town that makes some of the best soups, quiches, and treats. If I'm pressed for time, I'll swing by to pick up a side dish or two, throw together a big toss salad with seasonal fruits and veggies, and pick up a few desserts that can be served in addition to whatever gelato flavors are in the freezer. If you have a favorite recipe that you can whip together in record time, do that and pick up the rest. As long as it's served beautifully, no one will know the difference. It will be our little secret ;) 

5. Enjoy the moment. 
Amidst the hustle and bustle, the hunt for the perfect gifts for family and friends, and the many parties that this season brings, don't forget to enjoy the celebration! One of my favorite things to do around this time of year is to take a moment and reflect on the reason we celebrate this season, and many things I'm grateful for. It is easy to get caught up in the whirlwind or even the stress of the season, but when you're with friends and family, be present. Don't worry if the food is perfect or if so-and-so loves your gift, just enjoy the laughter, listen to the stories, and experience the beauty and joy that comes from being together. 


Rustic Holiday: Lydia Magazine Winter Issue

I recently styled a Rustic-inspired Christmas party for Lydia Magazine's Winter issue! Obviously not everything can make it into the glossy pages, so here's a few of my favorites from the cutting room floor and a little behind the scenes video! From a hot chocolate bar to blissful appetizer bites, and sips of french sparkling raspberry punch, we toasted to friendship, fun, and holiday cheer! Be sure to pick up a copy of the newest issue to see the full feature and to find all my tips and tricks for hosting a fabulous, fun, and festive holiday soiree! Cheers!


Holiday Favorite

(Dress: Lilly Pulitzer// similar here, here, here

One of my favorite things about the holiday season is the many occasions to dress up! I love any reason to throw on a party dress and a pair of heels. This one-shouldered dress is so whimsical, playful, and the perfect silhouette for a night out on the town or hosting a stylish soiree. I'm always drawn to bold colors around this time of year, and there's something so elegant about a cool blue flecked with gold. It just might become my holiday favorite this year! As social calendars begin to fill up, do you have a go-to outfit? What are your favorite trends this season?

Attitude of Gratitude

Thanksgiving week is here once again, and now more than other days we are mindful of the many things we've been blessed with. While we may think about the food, football games, parades, and even starting our holiday shopping, my hope, for both you and I, is that we continue to live with an attitude of gratitude. It's not just a one day kind of is a lifestyle that is less about self and more about others. As you share stories and food with family and friends this thanksgiving, challenge yourself to practice gratitude daily. Wake up and thank God for another day to live and to make a difference! Sit down for 5 minutes and make a quick list of things you're grateful for, look for ways to bless other people with unexpected kindness, and give of your time, talent, or resources in a new way this season! Not only will this bless someone else's life, but you'll find that it blesses you, and expands your capacity to give even more! Gratitude is essential to a fulfilling life. Start today! 

Wishing you and yours the most wonderful Thanksgiving celebration!

"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
    His faithful love endures forever."
Psalm 107:1

What Matters Most

As the sobering events continued to unfold worldwide last week, we were both rocked and reminded to focus on what matters most in life. It's easy, isn't it, to get wrapped up in the little details, and to be so tunnel vision that we get fanatical about things that don't really matter.

Have you ever been so busy creating a lifestyle that you forget to really live your life? I mean more than just existing and going about routines. Have you stopped and thought about the last time you were grateful for the basic things? Life. Breath. Sunshine. So many people live their lives looking down, so focused on their own little world, that they forget to look up, look around, and appreciate. It's not just a matter of taking in the surroundings, but actually focusing on what matters most in life. Who cares if you make millions if your family life is in shambles? What difference does it make if your work attendance is perfect, but you never have time to enjoy a beautiful day or catch up with a good friend? Balance. All of life is a balance, and it's easy to get out of balance if we're not careful. Instead of debating the small nuances, practice gratitude, inspire change and growth.

Today I encourage you to not only focus on what matters most, but to take time to be grateful for those things we often take for granted. Hug your loved ones, give someone a smile, do something kind for another person. Allow someone grace instead of taking offense and be passionate about the things that will make a positive difference. Live your life, rather than casually observing or vicariously living through other's virtual highlight reels. Ask yourself, what matters most to you? Is it worth living for? As you begin to answer that question, with greater focus on the things that have true value, I have no doubt that you will discover an incredible, beautiful, full life that's worth living. Embrace it; this is the life you have been designed for.

Monday Motivation

In a world where photo filters, curated posts, and social media runs rampant, remember that this is not a competition with one another. Strive to be the best version of you, and not only will people be drawn to your authenticity, but you'll find that you are far happier than you ever imagined. The world doesn't need more copies, it craves those who are original, authentic, and real. It has been said, "be you, everyone else is already taken", and those words ring ever true today. Instead of looking around and wishing you were living another's life, take a moment or two to think of all the blessings you have experienced in your own life. Comparison is the thief of joy. Don't let it rob you of a happy life, but rather see each day as an opportunity to become better, learn more, love more, and inspire those around you. Your life makes a difference, never forget that! Today is a new opportunity, seize it!

10 Commitments of Leadership

Leadership is not simply about power, position or prestige. In fact, leadership is often challenging, involved, and sometimes even messy; however, when a leader rises to the occasion, it is always rewarding. We're all in different points of the leadership journey, and each person has different areas of strength and growth. Here's a few commitments that a successful, captivating, and effective leader should make, no matter where they may be in the process.

As a leader, I commit to...
1. Search out challenging opportunities to change, grow, innovate, and improve.
2. Experiment, take risks, and learn from the accompanying mistakes.
3. Envision an uplifting and ennobling future.
4. Enlist others in a common vision by appealing to their values, interests, hopes, and dreams.
5. Foster collaboration by promoting cooperative goals and building trust.
6. Strengthen people by giving power away, providing choice, developing competence, assigning critical tasks, and offering visible support.
7. Set the example by behaving in ways that are consistent with shared values.
8. Achieve small wins that promote consistent progress and build commitment.
9. Recognize individual contributions to the success of every project.
10. Celebrate team accomplishments regularly.

I challenge you as a leader to read this out loud to yourself, and when you are in a challenging situation or season of life, remember that leaders are called to do more, be more, love more, and live life in a way that's different than average. Commit to live and lead beyond what you think is possible, place the interests of others first, and watch your influence skyrocket in a positive direction.

Vested Interest

(Top: Target, Vest: Lilly Pulitzer, Skirt: F21, Shoes: Lauren Conrad)

Fall weather makes me want to wear plaid shirts and vests everyday. I recently got to get away for a quick trip up north to experience the color and crisp air! I'll have to share more photos soon. It was so much fun to be able to layer up with cozy cashmere sweaters and break out the riding boots. One of my favorite layering pieces this season is this lightweight quilted vest. While I love traditional puffer vests, this silhouette adds warmth without adding bulk. It's definitely going to be my go-to all season long. I added this cute pair of black patent pumps because I love how the gold bows accent the gold buttons in the vest, but to make this a little more casual, I'd throw on my tall black riding boots, or even a pair of tan ballet flats. Restyling is the key to outfit interest. Do you have a favorite piece for fall? 


Cozy Up

(Sweater: Lilly Pulitzer, Top: F21, Denim: Target, Scarf: Lilly Pulitzer, Boots: Amazon)

I love the beginning of fall that shows up as a cool breeze, late afternoon golden light, and brilliant skies at sunset. When the mornings are cool, the first thing I grab is a cozy cardigan and a lightweight scarf. This print of this scarf is so soft and beautiful, so I paired it with the grey cashmere to let the colors do all the talking.

It's hard to believe it's mid-October...where has this month gone?! While temperatures won't drop significantly until later, it's fun to take advantage of the early signs of fall. Besides sipping on apple cider and trying pumpkin flavored everything, I've been burning this candle which makes the house smell incredible. If you're a candle person, or wanting to make the house feel festive and cozy, you absolutely need this, it's definitely the best. Happy Fall, friends!

Rhythms of Grace

Have you ever felt like something was forced? Like you were trying so hard to make something happen that maybe just wasn't quite right? Lots of effort and no movement or return? I've been there before, and thought a lot about this recently. Sometimes I think we see things like faith or even our daily routines in this light. We do all these things to keep "busy", but what kind of return does it provide? I recently spent a weekend by the beach, and one of the most soothing, mesmerizing things is the consistency of the waves breaking upon the shoreline. As I watched the sun sinking below the horizon, and listened to the sound of the waves, I was reminded of the effortless rhythm of the ocean. It isn't forced, it's free--free to be wild and strong, and never tries to become something that it isn't. Isn't that a picture of what grace is like? We may paint it to be something that's constricting, and perhaps in light of how people view/do religion, that may very well be, but in reality, grace is freedom, unforced and consistent. As I've pondered this thought for the last few days, I awoke one morning with the phrase "unforced rhythms of grace" in my mind. A quick search provided the full passage found in Matthew 11, verses 28-30, which says,

"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Unforced rhythms of grace...simple, easy, freeing. Isn't that how we want to feel? Not weighed down by the burdens of this world, or confined by what society says we should say/act/do, but free--free to live, to breathe, and to love. Unforced, unfettered, and alive. I love how scripture describes the way in which we can obtain this kind of life. In fact, it almost sounds like a rhyme or rhythm in it's sound.
Walk with me, work with me--watch how I do it
There's the key. I don't have to do things on my own, try to become perfect, or conform to something that isn't consistent with who I am. It's grace, unforced and consistent. I don't have to try to earn it, I just have to live in it. All I have to do is walk with Him, work with Him, and watch how He does it. It's something so simple it's almost could it be that easy? Are you sure?
Walk with me, work with me--watch how I do it. 

Unforced rhythms of grace. You are not confined to standard of perfection, walk in the abundance and freedom of grace.

''Walk with me, work with me--watch how I do it.'' 



What are your goals? We throw that word around a lot, take a look at the phrase #goals and you'll find a variety of images and words that have been attached to it, yet not all of them are actually things that would qualify as true goals that people want to achieve. Goals give us vision, passion, and a desire to change, obtain, create, or work hard for something. Goals give meaning to our lives, and can push you and I to do more than we may have first thought possible. If you don't already, set aside a time to look at the major areas of life: business, home, social, physical, mental, and spiritual, and create a plan. As you plan, make sure that your goals are in line with your mission statement (if you don't have one yet, here's a guide to help you create one). Some people say to work with a 10 year, 5 year, and then a 1 year plan. What I like to do, personally, is to write out 8-10 goals for the year, and also write out a broader view of where I want to be in 5 years. This not only gives me some direction, but then allows me to ensure that the goals I'm setting for this year are in line with where I want to be in 5 years. Choose a system that works well for you. Someone once said that if goals aren't written down, they are only pipe dreams. Let's leave the pipe dreams behind and make things reality in our lives! Ready to get to work? Here's three key steps to help you in the process of setting and achieving your goals.

1. Verbalize: Tell yourself aloud what you're going to do. Write out your goals on an index card, and read your goals (written in present tense..'I am, I have') out loud to yourself every morning, every night. Tell others what you are in the process of working for so they can help you to reach your goal.

2. Visualize: See yourself doing or accomplishing your goal. The more feelings and emotion you can attach to the goal, the better!

3. Vitalize: Actually do what you set out to do! Goals don't work unless you do! Get out there and start on the process to accomplishment.

Don't ever be complacent with where you are. You can always keep growing! Think about where you want to be and the many things you can accomplish in a year, and then write it down. Here's to a successful year ahead! You can do it!

5 Signs of A Solid Relationship

Relationships are foundational to all of life. We're always in relationship with people, and it is oh so important to be good at getting along with others. More often than not, we form relationships with people, and never give second thought to why some stand strong and others fall apart. Whether you're single, dating, married, or looking to build some solid friendships, here's 5 telltale signs that your relationship is headed in the right direction.

1. Mutual Enjoyment: Spending time together just for the enjoyment of being together. Sometimes it's not about the activity, but rather, the company that makes things a whole lot of fun.

2. Respect: When you value someone on the front end of a relationship, you earn respect on the back end of the relationship. It always starts with how we treat one another. Do you see the other person as someone of great worth and value? If not, start treating them that way and you'll discover a world of difference. It's good to do a little perspective shift every now and then!

3. Shared Experiences: Going through a significant experience with another person creates a mutual bond. Think back to the times when a good friend stuck with you when you needed that most. It is often the crazy moments, major life happenings, or the events that become 'well-loved stories' to tell later that bond you to another!

4. Trust: Trust is the foundation of any relationship. Get this one right from the get-go, and you are set up for success. There always is an element of trust in any relationship, and if you cannot trust someone, find out why, and how you can take steps to begin to rebuild that trust again.

5. Reciprocity: Solid relationships must be beneficial to both parties. Each person has to put the other first, and both have to benefit. Here's the deal, relationships are not a one-way street; each one needs to give a little and take a little. If one person is constantly giving, and the other never reciprocates, that relationship is headed for burnout and disaster. Instead of always thinking of your needs, anticipate the needs of the other person, and do something for them! When we begin to think of others first, it will radically change how we view relationships.

How do your relationships measure up? How can you continue to grow in these areas? 


Better Together

(image credit: Peter Lee)

We live in a self-focused society. We're all about the things that will cater to our needs, wants, and wishes. With iPhones and selfies, it is no wonder that we can become so focused on our own lives that we forget the power of community. I love my iPhone and admit to participating in the selfie trend; however, I cannot help but be reminded of the incredible power of relationships. We were not designed to be alone, man is not an island. We need one another. There's something that you bring to the world that I do not. My purpose on earth is different than yours, and instead of comparing one to another, we should celebrate the differences! I am always interested when some one is praised as "self-made" because no one truly accomplishes anything great without help from someone else. Everyone needs other people to help them in the process of achieving their dreams. Whether that help is something big or small, everyone experiences the input and influence of others. The late Jim Rohn said something powerful in regard to this concept.

He says, "We become a powerful force when each of us understands how powerful all of us are and when all of us understand how valuable each of us is."

You are created to great things in this world, but you are not called to do it alone! We all benefit from the help, encouragement, and support from others around us. Life is always more fun when lived with other people, and when you succeed, there's someone to celebrate with! Take a good look at your recent successes. Who played a part, big or small, in that victory? Have you ever thanked them for it? It's amazing to see the kind of things that we can accomplish when we all work together, not simply competing, but rather, completing one another. There's a reason that people say, "teamwork makes the dream work". Life is far sweeter when we appreciate the beauty and the differences in other people. It is good to step out of our own life bubble for a bit, and to invest in someone else. What kinds of things could we accomplish if we decided to work together? Challenge yourself to invest into the relationships in your life, and I can promise that you will find that we are all truly better together.

Coffee Talk: Creating A Successful Morning Routine

When it comes to the morning, most people find themselves in one of two different camps. Either they love waking up early or they don't. I happen to be one who enjoys the morning hours, and I have created a routine that helps me to start my day off in a positive direction. While you certainly have to find what works best for you, here's a few suggestions from things that I do to begin my day.

1. Respond: Set an alarm.
While it's easy to slip back into snooze mode, decide to get up when your alarm goes off. If this is a challenge for you, set two alarms with the first one as your initial wakeup call, and then the second one after a few minutes of planned snooze time. If you don't plan, it's easy to oversleep and then to be rushed.

2. Refocus: Resist the urge to check your phone first thing.
I know it's easy to simply scroll as soon as you wake up, but challenge yourself to begin the day screen-free. What has worked for me is to set aside some quiet time in the morning to read, reflect, and journal. While I understand that each person is different, and has different priorities, starting my mornings with some quiet time and devotions is always the set up for a good day. Regardless of what you do, give your eyes a rest from the screen and take in the morning light's less stressful, trust me.

3. Re-calibrate: Start your day reading your goals out loud to yourself.
This may sound strange, but studies show that those who read their goals aloud to themselves have a higher goal achievement and success rate. I have about 8-10 yearly goals that I read aloud every morning, and I can honestly say that this practice actually works. Speak your success into existence!

4. Recharge: Begin the day with some exercise.
And...all of the night owl gym goers just collectively sighed. I get it, it's hard to wake up and immediately go for a run or workout. Do it anyway. Working out in the morning revs up the body's metabolism, boosts energy levels, and is one less thing you have to do after work. Stretch, run, do some yoga, or amp things up with a HIIT workout. You can even use the 7 Minute Workout App for a super quick sweat session! Not enough time you say? Perhaps you may need to get up a little earlier...See step 1.

5. Refuel: Eat a good breakfast!
Never underestimate the power of a good breakfast. After the body has been rebuilding and restoring itself in the night, it needs fuel to be ready to go again. Too many people skip breakfast and wonder why they can't seem to lose weight, or experience low energy levels throughout the day. There's a reason it's called breakfast. During the night we're sleeping, or fasting, so in the morning, it's time to break the fast and provide the body with nutrition for the new day ahead. If you're not a big breakfast person, there's all kinds of smoothie recipes, nutritious toast combinations, or fruit and yogurt ideas that you can ease your body into. Here's a link to some of my favorite recipe ideas!

One final thing: Choose to have a great day, everyday! A big part of starting the day off right is the decision to make it a productive, successful day no matter what happens. A resilient attitude is independent of circumstances and a common denominator of champions. Decide that today is a fantastic day and it will be!

 What is part of your morning routine? 

3 Major Questions For Those in the Pursuit of a Successful Life

We're all striving for a better life, and while there's many things we can do to improve or adjust our current circumstances to grow and achieve, answering these three questions will have an incredibly powerful effect on one's personal direction and growth. It has often been said that what we think determines what we believe; what we believe influences what we choose; what we choose defines what we are; and what we are attracts what we have. If that's the case, we must be aware of how our thoughts are affecting the direction of our lives. What kinds of things will influence our thoughts? Attitude is a major determining factor in how our lives turn out; however, we must also consider the kinds of influences we accept from other people. Everyone needs others to come along and help them in achieving their dreams. How we feel about ourselves is a matter of choice, yet how we feel is often influenced by the associations we have. With that in mind, ask yourself these three incredibly important questions to determine if your associations and relationships are providing the kind of influence that is beneficial to your best life:

1. Who am I around?
Take a personal inventory of the relationships that are closest to you. What kind of attitudes, conversations, and decisions do they partake in on a daily basis? Weigh the effect that they're having on you and your life. 

2. What effect are they having?
It is essential to be deliberate about the kind of input that we receive and accept as reality in our lives. While it may be some minor habit or negative thoughts and opinions, those small behaviors, over the passing of time will become deeply rooted habit patterns in your own life. Is that the kind of influence you want in your life? If it is positive, continue to invest time in that relationship, but if not, it may be time to make some changes. 

3. Is that acceptable?
Personal growth is not always the easiest to work on, but remember that the worst days experienced by those who give attention to their relationship input, and utilize self-discipline are better than the best of days of those who don't give any thought to it. Recognize when it is time to part ways with someone who is not having a positive effect on your life. It is not worth investing into a relationship or association that is inhibiting your growth.

Remember this, it is better to spend a little time with the right people, than to spend a lot of time with the wrong people. Surround yourself with winners and positive people of character! You and your future are so worth it!


How To Handle Criticism

At one point or another, we're going to face some criticism. When this happens, we have two choices: to react and take things personally, or to look at it objectively and grow from it. How do you most often respond? Experiencing conflict and criticism is a normal part of life, as we are all different people with various opinions/backgrounds/life experiences; however, the way in which we handle it will determine if it has a positive or negative effect on us. Here's a few ways to handle criticism in a healthy, beneficial way.

1. Understand the difference between constructive and destructive criticism. 
(Criticism is destructive, but suggestions are constructive.) See criticism as a positive stepping stone on the pathway to your growth.

2. Don't take yourself too seriously. 
Learn to laugh at yourself, and enjoy a big dose of grace. You are not the first, nor the last, to experience correction and critical words. Smile, dance, shake it're going to make it.

3. Look past the criticism and see the critic. 
What are they dealing with in their own life that they are filtering the criticism through? Is there anything in their criticism that can actually be beneficial to you? If so, grow! If not, drop it.

4. Realize that good people get criticized. 
As someone once said, "You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there's still going to be someone who doesn't like peaches." Seriously, even the nicest, most wonderful people are going to discover someone who doesn't like what they're doing. Even Jesus faced frequent criticism.

5. Keep up your strength.
Stay strong in your faith and in the physical sense. Feelings of depression and discouragement tend to take root in fatigued bodies and spirits. Build up strength by engaging in spirit-building habits (suggestions here), and stay strong physically by doing some sort of exercise on a frequent basis!

6. Focus on what counts. 
It's easy to get stuck on what someone said or did that bothered you, but instead, shift your focus to the many people that are focused on helping you! In reality, there's many more interested in your success than the few that want to take you down. Invest your time with the ones who build you up!

7. Concentrate on your mission, then address the mistakes. 
What is your end goal? What's the reason why you do what you do? That goal or mission will never be accomplished if all you continue to dwell on are the mistakes. Learn from the experience or the criticism and move forward! There's greater things to come!


Coiffure Class 101: French Side Braid

I've not done many hair tutorials on here, but after receiving some requests, especially over the past year or so, I thought it would be fun to show you (with a little help from my styling maven of a sister) how to create some of the styles I wear on a regular basis. First up, the French-style side braid. This is a simple twist on a classic summer look, and a favorite of many a camp counselor. Having invested many years in summer camps, this fun, oversized braid is a subtle, styling nod to those happy memories. It looks so pretty, and in the high temps, will also keep you feeling nice and cool! A few subtle tweaks take it from camp-style to chic in a matter of seconds. 

{Step 1}
Brush out your hair, and sweep all of it over to one side. For those of you with thin or extra silky hair, a spritz or two of texturizing or styling spray will help with a little extra grip. For added volume and fullness, I like to use Big Sexy Hair Powder Play, and for extra hold and to zap oil, Psssst Dry Shampoo is pretty fantastic. 

{Step 2}
Begin by french braiding*, starting a few inches back from the top, pulling hair across the back of your head to keep the braid on one side and not down the middle of your head. 
*If you need help french braiding, here's a good tutorial

{Step 3}
Finish braiding off the rest of your hair, making sure to keep the braid tight, and secure with a hair tie. 

{Step 4}
Here's where the magic happens! Start loosening up or pulling apart the braid to give a softer, fuller effect. Begin at the top of the braid and work your way down; this gives your braid the 'Disney Princess hair' effect. If you have super thick hair, this step will alleviate a lot of the pressure and weight that comes from braids pulled tight on your scalp. 

{Step 5}
Fluff up the end of the braid, as well as around the top and crown of your head. Tuck in any super loose ends, but remember, this looser-style braid will naturally have a few pieces that may stick out, that's part of the casual I always look this fabulous charm of the hairstyle. For those of us with lots of layers, myself included, you may need to employ the help of a few bobby pins to keep the larger, shorter pieces from falling out, but use your layers to your advantage to keep the style from looking too slicked back from your face. Your braid should look full and effortlessly glam, not sloppy. 

{Step 6}
I always pull out a few pieces around my face for a little extra softness, and because I think it makes the style look better and less 'done', if you know what I mean. After you've tweaked it to your liking, I always finish the look off with a spritz of natural hold hairspray and a bit of shine spray. I like to use Chi Enviro 54 Natural Hold and Mermaid Hair Shine Spray (It has the perfect hint of coconut, tames frizzies, and makes your hair super soft and shiny!). Voila! Enjoy your fabulous, french side braid!

Happy Styling!


Summer Sweaters

(Sweater: Gap, Shorts: Lilly Pulitzer, Necklace: Target, Sandals (on major sale right now!): Lilly Pulitzer)

The thought of summer sweaters seems to be somewhat of an oxymoron, but I have to admit that there's actually something to them. Lately I'm all about a comfy, open-knit sweater. They're the perfect piece to transition from the super hot afternoons into the breezy evenings, and whether you pair them with sweet scalloped shorts or white denim, toss them over a swimsuit after a dip in the ocean, or even slip it over a solid color maxi dress, you'll always look perfectly chic. This one I found from Gap is on major sale right now, and I think you'll love the effortlessly cool look for those long summer days. Also, can we talk about how much I still love the lace-up sandal trend? Whether you're in shorts, a dress, or even cropped denim, there's something so stylish about these shoes that pulls together any look. I've worn my gold ones so much this summer, and am looking forward to the lace-up flats that seem to be the next big thing come this fall. On another note, did you make a summer reading list? I always enjoy catching up on a bunch of books I've been wanting to read. I spent the past weekend doing some reading, and am always looking for good book recommendations! There's nothing like finding a new favorite! Have any suggestions? 


Floral Favorite

(Dress: c/o Eshakti, Jewelry: Etsy, Lilly Pulitzer, Clutch: Vintage)

We're still in the middle of the sweet summertime, and there's nothing better than a simple look that is unfussy and effortless. This pretty, custom chiffon piece from Eshakti is so light and feminine, and the soft blue floral print is reminiscent of an old French print. I've gravitated toward more skirts and dresses lately, simply because it's just too hot for structured pieces. Maxi dresses are great for their simplistic silhouettes and chic appeal. Easy, breezy, beautiful...oh, and did I mention it has pockets?! Definitely a winner. In fact, I think this one is coming to brunch with me next weekend. 


Are You Listening?

It's hard to listen when you're always talking. I know that sounds obvious, but how often do we find ourselves in conversation, and while the other person is talking, we're thinking of our own next response? I know I've done that before. A wise person once said that a person cannot learn if they are always talking. Not long ago, I met someone who wished to be mentored; however, they were so concerned about sharing their own experiences and thoughts that they never stopped talking long enough to listen and obtain the wisdom and advice they so deeply craved. Have you ever felt like even though someone said they were listening to you, that they were really only 'hearing' and not truly listening to what you were saying? That's not a person that you want to share your thoughts with, especially when that person is constantly trying to interject their own thoughts and feelings into the conversation all the time. How do we go from just hearing others' words to being a good listener?

There's two types of listening, passive and active. As we've discussed, no one enjoys speaking to a passive listener; they are there, but they're not listening to what's being said. Active listeners are engaged and interested in what is being said, as well as desiring to understand the full message from the communicator. This is the kind of listening that all of us crave and will respond positively to. To become an active listener, here's a few tips:

1. Listen more than you speak
2. Actively engage in the other person's story
3. Look at the person who is speaking
4. Ask for clarification if you don't understand something
5. Keep the focus on the other person
6. Listen beyond the other person's words...what are the implied messages, body language communication, tone of voice...etc.

Think of a couple situations in your own life where you've been a passive listener, and a few where you've been an active listener. Would it make a difference in your life to become a better listener? Let's challenge ourselves today to be actively engaging in our listening to others. It will not only benefit your understanding, but you'll also find that it builds trust in all of your relationships with others.
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