Recent Reads: What I Read in January

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It's hard to believe that February is almost upon us! January has been full of so many things that have me anticipating the rest of the year and amazed that I had any spare time to breathe! Today I wanted to recap the books that I enjoyed reading this month - or the ones that I advise you to avoid. I really enjoyed several of my choices this month! 

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil - Before reading this one, I heard people say it was so fantastical that it was hard to remember that it's a work of nonfiction, and after reading it, I couldn't agree more. Now I really want to visit Savannah, GA! I watched the movie, too, and while it was enjoyable at parts, it failed to completely capture the true quirks of the town and drama of the story. I definitely recommend this one!

DIY Type - I am sorry to say that I was expecting a little more from this book. I had read a few reviews before receiving my copy from Blogging for Books that implied people were disappointed by how many stencils this book had, but what these reviews failed to emphasize was how the book was 95% stencils (or that the 50+ stencils it boasts are 2 sets of alphabet letters with a few special characters.) There were 4 brief sections describing how typography can be used in everyday life with a few suggestions, but no instructions to help you create the looks pictured. Though the pictures were inspiring, it lacked the details that would encourage me to attempt recreating them, and I was left sadly disappointed. A book like this with more tutorials or instructions on how to create your own stencils - even how to care for your stencils for maximum usage - would have been received much better! **

Paper to Petal & The Exquisite Book of Paper Flowers - These two books were probably my favorite, and the most inspiring, reads of the month! Paper to Petal is much more whimsical. The flower designs provided range from realistic to floral-like but non-traditional. It's incredibly colorful and fun to look through. The Exquisite Book of Paper Flowers is beautifully photographed and the floral designs are much more realistic. They are truly stunning and so inspiring. If you're interested in the art of paper flower construction and design, these books are must-haves for your library!

The G-Free Diet - I barely feel like this book should be included since I read the majority of it a year and a half ago and just now got around to finishing it. However, I wanted to mention it because I think it is a marvelous resource for people who are GF, thinking about going GF, or those who want to understand more about what it means for a friend or family member to have celiac disease. It's one of the best resources I've found on the subject!

Your Family in PicturesI am not a mother yet, but this book was still full of so many helpful tips for capturing fun, authentic photos. The book covered topics from group shots to individual shots, and provided tips for relaxing the atmosphere and getting the best responses out of your subjects. There were even tips for photographing your pets or children's performances, things outside of the realm of what seems like day-to-day photography! I found the book to be written in a very conversational tone. It was helpful without being condescending. Me Ra Koh was sharing her knowledge and expertise and genuinely wanting to come alongside and help her readers. It never felt as if her readers were being judged for their lack of knowledge. If you're a budding photographer, this is a great resource and inspiring read! **

What good books have you read recently? Any books that you absolutely hated?

xoxo, Stacia

P.S. If you want to keep up with what I'm reading on a more regular basis you should friend me on Goodreads or follow me on Instagram where I share mini reviews.

** These books were provided to me by Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. All views + opinions expressed are 100% my own, as always.

The Busy Girl's Exercise Routine

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We all know what it is like not to have time to exercise. Between work, meal planning, running errands, paying bills, reading to my one year old, folding laundry, cleaning, and brunch with the girls, finding time to work out can be a stretch on a good day! However, I also realize that without exercise, I become worthless. My sleep is sub-par, my diet suffers, my energy lags, I succumb to stress headaches, and the worst of all - my jeans stop fitting.

So in order to maximize my time and still insure I fit in at least the recommended 30 minutes of cardio a day, I’ve created a “cheat sheet” for myself - ways I can sneak in a little extra exercise into every part of my day without having to create large sections of time to go to the gym. Not all of them happen every day, and that is ok. The main idea is to help your body realize how much better you feel after giving it a little extra love and attention. Once you start, you may not be able to remember how you functioned without it.

1) Counter pushups while waiting for oven or microwave timer.

How many times do we stand in front of the microwave waiting for our food to heat up? See how many pushups or lunges you can fit in during the minute it takes to heat your lunch - you might be surprised!

2) Calf raises/lunges/squats while brushing teeth.

I have found that the time I spend staring at myself in the mirror, analyzing every minute detail of my body that I dislike does nothing but discourage me. Instead, I focus my attention on perfecting my squat form. It tones my lower half and puts me in a better mood!

3) Walking on lunch break - or while on the phone.

Walking while on the phone provides great privacy! And is an excellent use of multitasking. Leave your lunch in the car and speed walk out to grab it during your break. Every extra step will add up! Consider getting a pedometer and practice finding ways to increase your steps per day.

4) Turn up the tunes and dance around your house while you clean by hand (think, scrubbing the floor or shower, vacuuming, folding laundry, washing windows.)

Who doesn’t love a good dance party? And my house, for one, could always use a good cleaning. Get your heart rate up while rocking out to your favorite tunes. You’ll never see cleaning as a boring chore again!

5) Take a few laps around the mall before you stop in any stores.

This is my favorite way to get in a few more steps - and keeps my wallet happy as well! I get a chance to scope out all the stores, decide what I really need, and then buy it without regret. And it helps me resist the food court when I have time to think purchases over.

6) Stand or use an exercise ball at your desk for part of the day rather than sitting in a chair.

Your core is the foundation of your body. Tone it up and create stability in your core while chipping away at your never ending to-do list or sending emails.

7) Do a few reps with the grocery bags you are carrying inside.

Grocery bags are the perfect weight for toning your biceps without creating too much bulk. Take a reusable bag or two with you to the store and ask them to fill it up! Less trips to carry groceries in = more weight for you to lift. Just be careful not to use your back.

8) Schedule workouts - make them like an appointment you can’t miss.

Don’t think of workouts as an extra luxury to fit in when you can. Schedule them each day and then hold yourself to it as if it were a meeting with your boss. Make it a priority, and keep it.

9) Do them at the same time every day.

I am far less likely to skip a workout if I know that it is going to happen at the same time every day. There is no guessing as to if I will fit it in, no pushing myself to squeeze a workout in before bed, and no surprises. Take a few minutes to look over your schedule, and plan your workouts in advance.

10) Find something you LOVE.

Hate jogging? Love yoga? Energized by cycling? Choose a fitness program or class that you can really look forward to. The more you anticipate it, the less likely you are to cancel after a long day.

You’ll be surprised at how quickly a few minutes here and there will add up and the difference it will make!

Britney is an independent Beachbody Coach and a real foods meal planner. To check out her current fitness accountability programs or sign up for a personalized meal plan, follow her page on facebook at www.facebook.com/britneylynneammen.

My Week in Review

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I'm glad it's Monday, you guys! This weekend I got a bad migraine that was just no fun. I had enough migraines growing up that I can usually push through, but I'm always thankful when they happen on days like this weekend where I can just curl up in bed and let them pass. It makes me really thankful that I rarely get them anymore. Before the migraine hit, I did a lot of work around this site (check out the new About page and the new Packages + Testimonies page.) I also spoke with some bloggers about a fun collaboration that I'm excited to work on! Here are some highlights from this past week:

1. Some dear friends of ours got engaged on Saturday. I am SO excited for them! They are wonderful for each other and I can't wait to support them on this new part of their journey.  

2. My Facebook and Instagram friends rocked it with their suggestions for methods to cook brussels sprouts! Now I have so many recipes I want to try. I'm excited! Do you have a favorite way to cook them? 

3. This week I've been reminding myself just to try. Sometimes our ideas don't end up working out, but sometimes they go so magnifiently well that we are amazed. Instead of wondering what could happen this week join me and decide to just try.  :)

4. My friend Kate and I are reading Bread & Wine together right now. I am loving finding quiet moments to read it and soak up what it has to say. I think this book is going to be a favorite!

You May Have Missed: 

My Winter Wardrobe Recipe 

 11 Things to Try with Coconut Oil

What are some highlights from your life this past week? 

xoxo, Stacia

Winter Wardrobe Recipe

Winter Wardrobe Recipe - Paper Swallow Events

A key ingredient to keeping myself sane is keeping the number of decisions I have to make every day as easy as possible for myself. I've been working towards developing a capsule wardrobe, but while I do that I have also been working on determining looks (or recipes) that I generally enjoy. These recipes both make it easier for me to pick out an outfit in the mornings, and they help me determine what types of pieces I need to keep and which ones I need to part with as I form my capsule.

Recently the weather has been finicky where I'm located. One day we're having snow and the next I can walk outside and be relatively comfortable without a cardigan. This has made choosing my daily outfit a little more interesting. I think I've finally found an outfit that works, though. If it's chilly I can easily add layers like cardigans or coats, but I can also be comfortable without those things if it's a warmer day.

Outfit Details
Dress: American Eagle Outfitters (sorta similar) | Socks: Marshalls (old) | Glasses: Polo Ralph Lauren (similar) | Boots: Born (similar) | Scarf: Aeropostale (similar) | Rose Gold Stacking Bands: c/o Whisperwill | Bracelet: 31 Bits (similar) | Tights: Walmart

Because blurry, silly photos can be a lot of fun, too. ;)

Winter Wardrobe Recipe - Paper Swallow Events

Tip for brides (or anyone feeling nervous in front of the camera): If you do a couple large, goofy moves before you take photos, everything else you do will feel much more natural. Which will make you feel a lot more comfortable if you're nervous in front of the camera.

Behind the scenes of every photo you see of me is this pretty amazing guy. He's so supportive, helpful, and encouraging to me both in regards to this business and with everything else in our life. I'm so thankful that we found each other and that we get to spend our lives laughing and growing with each other!

What is your winter wardrobe recipe?

xoxo, Stacia

P.S. The perfect solution to your bridesmaids' dress needs!

11 Things To Try with Coconut Oil

11 Things to Try with Coconut Oil - Paper Swallow Events

Coconut oil is without a doubt one of my favorite things in the world! It has so many uses for every part of life. From cooking to beauty, home to health. Recently Oil pulling has been rising in popularity throughout the internet, and it's brought attention to a lot of coconut oil's other uses. I'm a HUGE fan of healthy, natural, chemical-free routes of self-care whenever possible, so today I want to share with you 11 things you can try with coconut oil. These are things that might be great to try before your wedding, or just as part of your daily life to replace some of the more chemical-filled products you might be using. 

1. Use coconut oil on a cotton ball to remove your makeup without chemicals. (I love doing this!)

2. Mix with sugar and use as an exfoliating body scrub (it feels especially great on your lips!) (If you do this one the bottom of your feet be really careful to wash your feet thoroughly before standing up...I may or may not have slipped the first time I tried this... Salt is rougher and does work better for your feet, but I don't like the way that feels on the rest of my skin. Give both a try and let me know!)

3. Mix some into your bath water to emerge with softer skin. (I haven't tried this yet, but you can bet I will be next time I take a bath!)

4. Use it to  help prevent fine lines on your hands and around your eyes. It also works great as a cuticle cream. (Multiple products combined into one? Yes please! I'm all for simplicity where possible!)

5. Mix with avocado to create a hair mask that will help hydrate and nurture brittle hair. (Plus, both smell amazing!)

6. Add a teaspoon to smoothies to give yourself an energy boost. (Coconut oil is full of healthy fats like avocados.)

7. Massage into your scalp during showers to help prevent dandruff. (I do this on my cat Max fairly frequently. He has some allergies that make his skin itchy and coconut oil has helped him a lot.)

8. Coconut oil has antibacterial properties and can be great for soothing minor cuts and burns. (I keep forgetting to try this.)

9. Coconut oil doesn't stain. So it's a great natural massage oil. (Also another reason why I never worry about letting Max run around the house with some in his fur.)

10. Mix with baking soda for a chemical free (and nicer smelling) Goo-Gone. (Especially helpful if you're removing price tags from all of the votives you've purchased for your wedding!)

11. Just a tad of coconut oil can really help you out if your zipper is stuck. (This can be helpful in so many situations!)

Are you a fan of coconut oil? What do you use it for?

xoxo, Stacia

*Disclaimer, I am not a doctor. These are things I have tried and observed, but I can make no guarantee and assume no responsibility if they do not do the same for you. If you are allergic to coconut, I do not recommend attempting any of these.

P.S. Stress-Relieving Foods to Help You Stay Healthy