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photoOr “the advent calendar we made with stuff we found around the house.”

Growing up we always made a paper chain to mark how many days were left until Christmas, and it was just thrilling to visualize the countdown. I love the advent calendars I’ve seen on Pinterest, but didn’t want to spend a lot on supplies. So this is what we came up with!


We used a big ol’ stick we found outside, butcher’s paper to wrap the little treats/trinkets for each day (you could also reuse paper grocery bags for the same look), ribbons & hemp string to decorate & hang the wrapped gifts. The numbers we cut out with our Cricut machine, but you could totally cut or draw something freehand. And Landon got some sort of wall mounting thing to secure it to the wall, because once we put it all together that thing is heavy!

DSC_0025DSC_0029Kaden loves it. Except for the part that he only gets to open one each day :-/DSC_0041DSC_0052We wrapped up some little snacks (boxes of raisins, candy canes), & got some fun little Christmas things at Target for the gifts (stickers, stamps, mostly from the dollar spot.) This was today’s, a make your own gingerbread ornament kit. How cute are they?
DSC_0059Merry Christmas everyone :)

Pullen Park


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We had a couple hours to fill before we flew home from Raleigh yesterday, so after reading about this cute little place online we spent our morning there. I’m so glad we did! We all had a nice time & the kids really loved it. The rides were $1 a piece & the playground was free.DSC_0005DSC_0065DSC_0034 DSC_0042DSC_0100 DSC_0085It’s one of the oldest amusement parks in America – built in 1887! The train was a fun little ride.DSC_0203DSC_0117 DSC_0119DSC_0125DSC_0134DSC_0208

The carousel was like a thrill ride – seriously the fastest merry go round I have ever been on. Landon said it made him feel sick. I thought it was fun :) Funny thing, it didn’t even have seat belts like every other slow carousel I’ve ever ridden.DSC_0192 DSC_0167DSC_0193DSC_0199

And now we are home. And there is no place I’d rather be :)



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Some more pictures from our trip to Virginia…

Every once in awhile I’m watching Alia or take a picture of her and I just think, my gosh, you are the prettiest little thing I’ve ever seen. I love these two of her.DSC_0120 - Version 3DSC_0133DSC_0237Admiring cousin Amanda’s Christmas tree.
DSC_0224DSC_0015DSC_0245At Nana & Papa’s.DSC_0338 DSC_0495 DSC_0484We made puffy paint socks & got a pair of slippers, but Alia really just liked wearing her red shoes :)DSC_0989 I finally got around to reading The Hunger Games series. They were really good. Very thought provoking. I’m wondering, are the people in the Capitol supposed to resemble Americans? A little bit? Exaggerated obviously. And I must say after the books that I absolutely love Peeta. From the first movie Gale was really convincing. But Peeta? You just can’t do better than that. I’m looking forward to seeing Catching Fire soon (asap!)DSC_1003Oatmeal for breakfast.DSC_0010DSC_1000DSC_0030snuggles. DSC_0057Making apple juice. Kaden loves it.DSC_0092DSC_0067DSC_0085Dinner time.DSC_0107 DSC_0097Nativity sets make fun toys.DSC_0045DSC_0042DSC_0076And now it’s December! Presents to wrap, cookies to bake. Most wonderful time of the year :)DSC_0061



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Hope you had a very happy thanksgiving with your family & friends! We are in Virginia staying with Landon’s parents & had such a nice time.

DSC_0415This year I was especially thankful to Landon who did all my grocery shopping while I was in bed puking. Then he made cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, & stuffing!DSC_0420Her “pick me up” face. It’s so cute I have to snap a picture before I obey ;)DSC_0419DSC_0430Waiting to see Santa!DSC_0446I was happy to feel better enough to do a little cooking.DSC_0459DSC_0473 DSC_0505DSC_0510 Kaden with his great-grandmother.DSC_0515Nonnie’s such a good sport :)DSC_0540 DSC_0554DSC_0569 DSC_0591 DSC_0586Kaden loves a good conversation.DSC_0595 DSC_0607DSC_0612DSC_0637She loves little chairs.DSC_0682 DSC_0717 DSC_0705DSC_0730 DSC_0756DSC_0759 Blowing out candles. From the moment they’re lit, he can’t wait.DSC_0767DSC_0771 DSC_0817 DSC_0804Kaden & aunt Nancy.DSC_0956 (1)Baby cousins in their Christmas jammies.DSC_0840 DSC_0875DSC_0893

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I have loved taking pictures for as long as I can remember. It’s artistic and fun and so meaningful to me. Four years ago when I was pregnant with Kaden I got my first DSLR for Christmas. I was excited about it but really didn’t know how to do much beyond turn it on, point, and shoot.

A little while later I was introduced to Pinterest and started reading articles on photography, trying to find ways to improve my style. I realized that my camera could do more than just “auto mode” and tried figuring more out a couple times, but didn’t get far.

Then two years ago this November, Photography Concentrate (an awesome little company ran by the sweetest husband & wife team) ran a Black Friday promotion on their eBook “Super Essential Camera Skills” on how to shoot in manual mode and I decided to get it. They said that I was smarter than my camera and could take better pictures than auto mode could. I remember the one afternoon I spent Kaden’s nap reading the material and watching the videos. After months of trying on my own, I was able to shoot in manual mode in under three hours! It was so clear and simple. And I loved it! More creative control with better results. It was everything I wanted to know, presented in a way I could understand and had time for.

And that my friends is how my pictures went from this:


to that. (And I got a 35 mm 1.8 lens. I’d say 80% of the improvement is due to shooting in manual, 20% to a lens with a nice wide aperture.)


This year I’m getting their course on Lightroom called Super Photo Editing Skills. I’m pretty excited because editing is where I feel my skills are lacking now. Ready to learn some more!

If you’re interested, check out Photography Concentrate’s Tutorial shop here.

They’re running a Black Friday special this week for 40% off all tutorials. That is awesome…

Happy Monday :)

p.s. if you use the links above to purchase, I receive a small commission. As always, this will never influence my opinions/reviews. Thanks, friends!