Lifestyle

Not long ago I heard one of my favorite bloggers (Shelby at Glitter & Gingham) talk about what fills her up and how she’s really tried to live lately around those things.

That phrase got me. How trite, I know, but I couldn’t help but use that moment to think, “what fills ME up?” and “Am I doing enough of that?”

I know some things that totally fill me up; others not so much. And my goal for the rest of the year is to really identify those things and concentrate on only those things that fill me with joy and fuel, and give me purpose. Of course, that means also doing less of the things that DON’T fill me up.

What I mean are the things that remind me why I wake up every day and work by butt off to enjoy. I thought it would be helpful to make a list that reminds me of what fills me up:

  • Dogs, in any form or fashion
  • Family time
  • My husband
  • Writing
  • Lunch with a friend & dinner with the girls
  • Being kind to a stranger
  • Good cup of coffee
  • A WWII novel
  • Reality television

OK, OK I know some of these are silly (but not untrue) and I swear I have a more extensive list, but you get the jist.

I know this is probably some life message I am way late to the game on, but I thought I should share anyway. Because there’s got to me at least one other goon like me who hasn’t thought of things this way.

A good night with the hubs always fills me up
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Last week we talked about graduation gifts, now it’s time to talk graduation invitations. Some of ya’ll know I made my own wedding invites and I definitely do not regret it. They turned out exactly how I wanted! But, I think since graduation invites are not as elaborate or detailed, and you don’t need as many (ie expensive) as wedding paper suites, you can pretty much buy them exactly how you like and spend less than you would making them and have less of a headache.

Enter Basic Invite. Basic Invite is an online company that offers thousands of paper products, including business cards, stickers, and stationary. They specialize in invitations though, and they have some of the cutest grad invites I have ever seen.

Picture of Basic Invite graduation invitation

One really cool thing about Basic Invite that makes them different from some of the other paper companies out there is that they have nearly more than 180 color options for every element on your card, meaning you can completely personalize *everything* and make your invite look like YOU, and not just one picked off the shelf at Hobby Lobby. That’s the biggest thing for me— I want my invites to be as unique as I am, and Basic Invite lets you do that.

They also offer custom samples, so you can hold an actual printed sample of your invite before you put in your order. That way, you don’t order 100 and realize you don’t actually like the picture you chose.

Basic Invite also offers more than 40 colors of envelopes, and the envelopes are peel and seal (praise the LORD, you do not know how helpful this is unless you’ve licked 300 wedding invitations!). They also have an address service that works with a link you post on social media, so friends and family can directly input their address info and its saved to your account. The best part of this service is Basic Invite offers recipient address printing at NO COST on all card orders. What! 

Picture of Basic Invite graduation invitation

For my extra gals, like myself, they also have foil cards too in gold, silver, and rose gold.

If you want to try out Basic Invite for their medical assistant graduation invitations,save the date graduation invitations, invitations for college graduation, or anything else they offer, you can get 15% off with coupon code: 15FF51

If you get overwhelmed, some are my favorites are called The Tassel, Script Frame, and Gold Confetti Corners.

Thank me later! 

This post was sponsored; all opinions are my own.

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It’s that time of year! College graduation invites are coming in– and its match week for all my med school folks– and you’ve got to get shopping for the perfect gift for the lady in your life who is about to take her next step, whether that be a job, residency, a big move, or whatever.

I put together a list of some items at different price points that I think would be amazing college or higher ed graduation gifts for any woman in your life! Let me know what you think. What was your favorite graduation gift?

Gold Bangle: The Yearly Company is one of the coolest businesses I have found in a while. They make real gold bangles, designed to be given yearly or for special events like graduations, marriages, and babies. If you get your graduating girl one now, its so easy to just keep giving them when she hits major milestones! Built-in future gift ideas, and she will love stacking them.

Charm Bracelet: If you know me, you know I love Alex and Ani bracelets. They have the cutest college collection of charm bangles, so you can get your graduate a little piece of her alma mater to take with her wherever she goes. See them here.

Leather Tote: Your girl is about to be running all over the place, from job interviews to happy hour and everywhere in between. Give her a big tote bag that she can stuff her laptop, notebook, and a pair of flip flops in, and she will be a happy girl. Bonus if it comes with a wristlet attached! This is one of my favorite totes because it is designed to fit a MacBook, and it’s available in different colors! 

Bedding: Get her some cute pillows and bedding to make that college mattress look a little more adult. I love light colors with muted patterns!

Kitchenware: While really anything for the kitchen is a good gift, some real bowls and plates can really make the new college graduate feel like an adult. And look like one too when people come over! I love this baby blue set, and they are the perfect cereal size… which I ate a lot of at that time.

Books on how to kick a**: Books are one of the best gifts, especially for graduation. Girl Stop Apologizing is the new book by Rachel Hollis and is supposed to be amazing for women who want to learn how to fearlessly take on their goals and conquer them. Buy it here.

This post is not sponsored; all opinions are my own.

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Being southern is something I have always associated with my identity, and not just where I live geographically.

And, that can surprise people.

I think it was something engrained in me when I was younger, especially by my mom and my grandmother. There was no sort of strict “rules” of how to act…  but my grandmother definitely thought I needed to know how to snap a green bean, and my mother made it clear there should be a set table and fresh flowers in a vase every time guests came over for dinner.

And no, none of us lost any of our teeth and we wore shoes (in public)…

Never show up to a party empty handed. Plant your bushes and trees in the winter for the best blooms. Grow your own herbs. Never touch up your lipstick at the table. There were basic lessons like that, but there was one TRULY non-negotiable rule.

And that is Southern women are strong.

I never forgot the stories my grandmother told me about growing up on a farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and the hard work it entailed, and the physical strength she earned from it. But what always made an impression on me– and still does– is when she told me about marrying my granddaddy and moving to Alabama, leaving everything she had ever known behind for this foreign place.

Now, that’s strength.

All of these seemingly small things, from the way Ma churned homemade ice cream on the fourth of July every year to my mom’s constant gardening, made such an impression on me and made me appreciate the place and the culture of where i grew up. There’s truly no place like the South, and like southern people. These ideals were so engrained in me throughout my life that I forget some people don’t quite realize how helpful the Farmer’s Almanac is, or that you can wear red lipstick to any event you want and yes, you can pull off overalls.

Some people have such an idea of what they think southern women are like, but I’ve found that just isn’t true. I have a career, I’m independent, and I am educated. But I also love to bake, I think cowboy boots go with everything, and some of the best food I have ever had was from a gas station in Selma.

You can be both. You can be all of these things. And to me, that’s what being a Southern woman is about– being strong enough to know that.

Writing this blog is a way for me to share these ideals I was so immersed in and share them with people who weren’t.  And more importantly, to show that southern ideals aren’t what many people think they are. It’s a modern take on those ways of life that I want to share.

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When we booked our honeymoon at Sandals, I had no idea what to expect. I had seen the commercials like everyone else, but I was pretty up in the air on what it was really like. And, the online reviews are only so much help.

After we booked and I would talk about the trip with various people, everyone who had visited a Sandals resort raved about it. They would tell me the most amazing, complimentary things to the point where it sounded like an advertisement. But, that made me feel more at ease.

We visited the Sandals Montego Bay resort in Jamaica in December. There are several Sandals in Jamaica, so you definitely need to do your research about which you want to stay at or what part of the island you wanted to be on. That being said, keep in mind this review is based off of that resort! 

Sandals Jamaica, review and was it worth the money

The arrival

Once we landed and made it through customs, we were pointed to the Sandals lounge where they had a drink machine, coffee, snacks, etc. Someone there took our bags and tagged them, so we didn’t have to lug them through the lounge. Within a minute of sitting down and sending Mit to get me a drink, our driver was coming to get me. I mean, we were in the lounge a total of 4 minutes, maybe. Keep in mind we had a private transport as part of our package.

The porter carried our bags to a luxury, clean BMW and the driver took us on the less than 10 minute drive to the resort. He was super friendly and knowledgable, and it was the perfect first impression. Once we got on resort property, it took about 15 minutes to get checked in and in our rooms and then a few more minutes for our bags to arrive. Within half an hour of arriving, I was in my bathing suit and on the beach! 

Sandals Jamaica, review and was it worth the money

The rooms

We had a beachfront walk out room with the tranquility soaking tub. We loved our room’s location— literally you could step on the sand off the porch area. The porch area could also be closed off with a curtain if you wanted privacy, especially because the tub was on the porch (which def seemed odd at first but was exactly super relaxing). It was also great to be able to walk into your room from the beach and not have to walk around all the buildings to get to your “front door.” 

The actual room wasn’t 5-star hotel ish, but it was still nice. The beds weren’t the most comfortable to me, but I was so exhausted at night it didn’t matter. There was also a safe, which we kept rings/phones/ passports while we were in the ocean. I would definitely recommend using it if you have a walkout room because (while I don’t think it would happen) it would be easy for someone to walk in and grab your diamond ring or anything valuable.

If you’re a privacy freak, one of those rooms probably isn’t for you.

The food/drinks

I heard the most mixed reviews on the food, but we had a great experience at all the restaurants we visited (except the Stewfish place, but that was just not an appealing menu in my opinion). While you needed reservations at a few places, you could call that morning to get in for dinner so I didn’t feel super inconvenienced. Also if you have a butler, they will handle that. 

I really liked that the servers didn’t judge you or look at you weird if you ordered two plates or four desserts or whatever. They literally encouraged you to order as much as you wanted! Me and my husband love food, so we definitely liked that.

Of course, the drinks were awesome. I didn’t have one bad drink and neither did my husband. Everything was awesome and they have actual known brands— not some $5 thing they picked up at a corner market. They will also bring full bottles to your room if you ask! 

In full disclosure, I drank liquor and he drank liquor/beer. Neither of us tried the wines.

The butler

In full disclosure, we loved having the butler. If you have extra cash to spend, go for it. But, I’m not positive it’s worth splurging on if you are trying to be as economical as possible. 

The best thing about the butler was by far having them reserve our chairs on the beach (they’ll also do this for the pool too, but we never even got in the pools!). Each night we told them what area we wanted to be in the next day, and they reserved us a great set of chairs with an umbrella. If you don’t get up early and go save your chairs by putting a towel or something else on them, it could be easy to not have a spot. That being said though, it’s not a huge deal to run out there early and throw a beach bag on the chairs you want to save.

Also, the butlers will make your dinner reservations/excursion plans. We had them make our reservations because, why not… but we definitely could have handled that ourselves.

The bottom line is service is so amazing at the resort, you don’t really need the butler to have an amazing experience! We never waited long for drinks or food when we were without our butler.

The excursions

We did one excursion at Montego Bay- the snorkeling trip that also stops by the Jamaican Margaritaville. It was a BLAST. If you like the whole “booze cruise” crazy vibe with music and dancing, its totally for you. Even if you don’t though, it’s still a blast. We did the snorkeling and the famous water slide at Margaritaville, and then relaxed on the boat ride back without getting into the dance party that was happening on the lower deck. 

That trip was $90 a person, and I think it was worth it, primarily for the snorkeling experience.

The final opinion

We’ve already booked our next Sandals trip for this summer! I had the most amazing time, and was both relaxed and energized with all the stuff we did. I don’t think you can beat the Sandals Montego Bay resort, and we’re excited to explore more Sandals locations. Don’t hesitate to join the rewards club while you’re there— its free and you get points for all your Sandals vacations. Just our honeymoon stay got us over $100 off our next trip in points.

Sandals Jamaica, review and was it worth the money

I hope this review was helpful, and let me know if you visit Sandals Montego Bay! 

This post is not sponsored; all opinions are my own.

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The holidays are over and it’s a new year! I’m back at it here on SSD after a little holiday time off. We took our honeymoon to Montego Bay (pics coming soon, I swear) and then spent some quality time at home with friends and family. After two weeks of r&r, I went back to the real world this week.

Which is honestly, kind of nice. I thrive on a routine and it definitely threw me off having so little to do. I def missed the gym too!

I am not a really dedicated new year’s resolutions type of gal, but I do have some general things  I’d like to accomplish and incorporate into my life this year.

Home wise

Organizing is one of my favorite things (I know, I’ve completely lost it) but something I want to do this year is make it a priority to stay organized. Instead of having to totally redo my organizing system every three months, I want to continuously sort my stuff and make sure everything always goes back to its home.

Clothing wise

Lately I’ve really been trying to make sure pieces I purchase are things I will wear time and time again, and can pair with plenty of other things in my closet. I want to stop having to go through my clothes and donate things every few months so I can fit in more stuff and stop being stressed when it’s time to pick out an outfit— I want to only keep pieces I love and am excited to wear. It’s the “if it doesn’t bring you joy” method for sure, but it works for me. 

Life wise

It’s hard to make time, but it’s possible. While I definitely want to take time to center myself and regroup, I also want to make it a priority to use my time more wisely. My husband works full-time and is in law school, and that means he’s tied up a lot right now. When he’s holed up studying, I want to spend less time napping and being lazy and more time cleaning (see above!) and being productive. That means I will have more time this year to devote to my blog, too!

Blog wise

Obviously I want to grow my blog, but I really want to make sure my readers are happy and seeing content they really are interested in. If there’s something you want to know about, like what my favorite brand of makeup is or what in my closet is on repeat, please let me know! I would love to talk with any of ya’ll and write posts that you want to see on this blog. After all, that’s what its for!

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Can ya’ll believe we’re just 12 days away from the most wonderful day of the year?! If you’re like me and you haven’t totally finished your shopping list yet, it’s okay. I don’t panic until we start getting in the single digits.

I’ve had so many people ask me what my top gift ideas for men are– whether its your boyfriend, husband, brother, or best friend, I think I’ve got some ideas that he will love.

Next to each item I’ve linked several options- one more affordable choice and a splurge item. I hope this list helps you shop till you drop and finish that Christmas list this weekend!

-Slippers: SplurgeThese UGG ones from Amazon SaveFleece Deer Stags

-Robe: Splurge Plush Ralph Lauren robe Save Target lightweight version

-Travel mug: Splurge Insulated stainless steel version Save- Colored version under $10

-Sports poster: Splurge- Personalized jersey print Save- Unframed Lebron poster

-Grill accessories: Splurge- William Sonoma tools set Save- Amazon version of tools

-Espresso machine: Splurge- This Breville is my husband’s dream Save- Nanopresso bundle

Golf shoes: Splurge- The Golf Warehouse version Save- More affordable Nike version 

-Gloves: Splurge- UGG shearling glove Save- Fleece North Face set

-Kindle: Splurge- New Oasis version Save- Original paperwhite

-Headphones: Splurge- Beats solo 3 Save- JBL in-ear headphones

-Tennis shoes: Splurge- UA Curry 5s  Save- A range of styles from New Balance

-Gaming keyboard: Splurge- ROCCAT Vulcan 120 Save- Backlit USB keyboardFollow

So you’re planning a wedding- congratulations! But, you’re slightly freaking out. I get it. There are so many things you have to do and think about when you plan your own wedding, without mentioning working full-time or juggling regular life.

I had over a year to plan my wedding, and while I needed every second of that time, I tried to stay as stress free as possible. It’s not really my personality to get worried over every little thing, but there were definitely were moments where I was completely overwhelmed. Over the course of that time, I learned a few things that guided me throughout the process and into wedding day to keep me calm! That being said, here are my top 5 tips to doing this whole thing as stress free as possible.

If you’re interested in more of my wedding details or planning advice, let me know and I will be happy to share. & don’t worry, I’ll be posting an overload of wedding photos asap!

Take your planning stuff with you.

On my wedding day I brought my binder that had all my receipts, invoices, menus, agreements, etc stuffed in it and I am SO glad I did. There was an issue with some of the rentals, with the vendors saying I had only rented 6 tables, but I was able to quickly whip out that invoice and show them that I paid for 17. They recognized their mistake and quickly fixed the problem, but it could have been a disaster if that situation wasn’t resolved quickly. While I know you don’t want to think about having an issue on wedding day, it’s probably inevitable so you might as well be prepared for it!

Southern Style Diaries, Ivana Hrynkiw, wedding, wedding planning

Don’t flip if your fiancé doesn’t want to be involved.

This one is going to be controversial I’m sure, but my husband didn’t want to be involved in the wedding-planning process… so he wasn’t. And that’s okay! I was able to pick everything I wanted and make all the decisions, and didn’t have to worry about him being unhappy with the color scheme or the flower types. Really, there’s zero point to having him involved in these decisions or meetings if he isn’t interested. It’s only going to cause a fight and a headache for you! If he says he doesn’t care, LADIES, he truly does not care. Pick what you want.

Choose your bridesmaids carefully.

I am so lucky to have the most amazing group of friends and every single one of my bridesmaids was a blessing to have stand beside me on my wedding day. But, I’ve heard horror stories about women choosing a sometimes-difficult friend to be a bridesmaid, and that maid makes everyone else miserable. You don’t need that on wedding day, or during any type of wedding festivity. If you have a girlfriend who doesn’t get along with your core group or who can be a little rough around the edges, give her another job in your big day to feel included, but leave her out of the bridesmaids group.Southern Style Diaries, Ivana Hrynkiw, wedding, wedding planning

Be nice, but stern.

Vendors can be pushy, and you come to expect that. Be nice and accommodating, but know there’s a time to put your foot down and say what you need done- without being a brideszilla. I think it’s helpful to, in the very beginning, talk to your vendors about your expectations and what they can provide. If they can’t provide something you consider vital, that needs to be known up front. Also don’t forget to get prices on everything! I fell into the “oh, of course we can do that!” trap… meaning, sure they can do it, for a cost. Make sure every single thing is listed with a price on your contract or agreement.

Calm down.

Things will go wrong— like my table incident, or when my dad photobombed our first look. But that’s okay! Laugh it off, and know that the most important things are your family, friends, and— of course— groom. Everything else is small potatoes.

Pictures by Arden Ward Upton

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With all the hustle and bustle of the world, it can be easy to get drained. You know the feeling, when you’re so over your day job, but too tired to even enjoy your hobbies. By the time you feel recharged, its Monday all over again.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my job. But juggling everything can be exhausting, and sometimes its easy to put everything— work, keeping the house clean, taking care of family/pets/etc.— above yourself. Sometimes, you just have to put yourself first.

I feel like as women, we’re wired to think that we have to fix everything for everyone else… or at least, that’s definitely my personality. I also have a problem of thinking I constantly have to be productive, and I have to build Greece in a day. It’s obviously not my best trait!

I have had to learn over the years that taking care of yourself, mind and body, is so important for this very reason. You can’t take care of everyone else if you haven’t also checked on yourself, and anything you do won’t be done 100% if you’re not completely present.

For me, it’s super important to take a little time every evening for myself. Whether that’s reading a new book for 30 minutes before bed or having a cup of coffee on the porch, I find that I operate so much better in every aspect of my life when I have a little time to recharge.

Here are my top five ways to take a little time to center myself at the end of the day! I highly recommend trying some way, even if its not one of these, to check on yourself each day.

 

Take a nap

Yes, we’re adults. Yes, we need naps. Sometimes, as much as I want to do something productive and creative, I just need to lay down and sleep. A good 30-minute nap after work and before dinner has definitely saved my life many times.

Read a good book

I mentioned this earlier, but it’s one of my go-to things to calm myself down after a long day. There’s something so relaxing about losing yourself in a good story! I try to read before bed, and make sure I save my place in case I fall asleep in the process.

Have dessert

Let’s start by saying I am not really a cook. I love to bake, probably because I could absolutely live off sugar, and I have the biggest sweet tooth, it’s like ALL my teeth are sweet. I have something for dessert every. single. night. It can be a mini Hershey’s bar and a giant marshmallow, or a bowl of ice cream… but, I always look forward to it, and it can make my night if I’ve had a less than great day. Don’t deprive yourself.

Watch your shows in bed

We have a TV in our bedroom but we don’t have cable there, so I’ll watch a new Netflix drama after dinner while curled up with the dogs in bed. I also have a guilty pleasure of binging YouTube makeup videos, so I’ll lay down with my iPad and go to town. The dogs love having an excuse to lay down, and so do I.

Take a walk and listen to a podcast

A short walk around the block is good for your health, but it’s also a lot more enjoyable (for me at least) when you have something to listen to. I’m a podcast junkie, so I take my earbuds and listen to the newest episode of my favorite show while getting a little exercise and vitamin D. Win-win! And if you have dogs, or cats that like leashes (I’ve known a few), take them along to boost both of your moods.

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This is something that’s hard for me to put into words, but I’m going to try. I love new makeup, and a good pair of shoes, and my fancy KitchenAid mixer, but I think we’ve all started taking these things for granted and started giving too little.

More and more, as I slather on my tinted sunscreen and mascara before work in the mornings, I realize how lucky I am to do this, and to live this life. 

Just today I spent $30 at Walmart on beauty and skincare items. It hit me while I was checking out, couldn’t someone use this $30 more than I do? Couldn’t someone use this money for something more— like food, or water, or a blanket— than the new L’Oreal eye shadow palette I bought?

L'Oreal, Flower Beauty, makeup, beauty

(We’ll talk more about that later)

I think about this kind of thing a lot lately. Sometimes I fall into this thought that since I’m not a millionaire, I can’t give or make a difference. But then I remember the little things I try to do, like donate clothes I don’t wear, give cash to someone who needs it, feed the neighborhood strays, and listen to someone who needs to talk. While I can’t give $10,000 to charity, I like to think that these little things I do can make a difference in someone’s (or an animal’s) life.

On a slightly separate but related note, I think what you do with your words and actions is equally important. Last weekend, my fiancé and I went to Waffle House down the street from our house. We walked in and sat down and just then, a server approached a man at a nearby table. In a completely unnecessary, degrading tone, she told the man that he couldn’t sit there because he didn’t order food and he needed to leave the restaurant. The man, who had a WH to go cup in his hand, politely explained that he had ordered and was waiting on his food. Obviously surprised, she tucked her tail and walked off… while the clearly embarrassed man got up and walked to stand by the door. Turns out, the people next to us had bought the man a meal, and he was waiting to get it.

My amazing fiancé (who will kill me if he reads this) looked at me and said, “I know you’re hungry baby, but I can’t eat here with someone who acts like that.” Neither could I.

We got up, left, and ate somewhere that welcomes everyone for breakfast.

I’m not saying this to brag, but because it reminded me that goodness and giving doesn’t have to be measured by dollar signs. It’s measured by kindness.

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