September 2015 Goals

August was a truly special monthI'd say it's one I'll always remember. We bought a house and I turned 30! All 31 days were full of activity, but they were also full of reflecting and savoring the sweet gifts of those days. 

 All these wonderful people helped make my 30th birthday so special. Meaningful relationships don't just happen   
  
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    —  you have to value and cultivate them. I want to do even more of this in my thirties!  Photo by   Mary Margaret Smith Photography

All these wonderful people helped make my 30th birthday so special. Meaningful relationships don't just happen you have to value and cultivate them. I want to do even more of this in my thirties!
Photo by Mary Margaret Smith Photography

I actually found myself a bit surprised (and so grateful) when I realized I accomplished ALL my goals for August! Now, don't be fooled, this is not because I have wonder-woman-like goal-accomplishing skills, rather I believe it is a testament to the hard work I've been doing to simplify my goals for the past several months. After feeling a little overwhelmed with all the expectations I was putting on myself each month, back in April, I started taking a simpler approach to my monthly goals. It's taken some effort and practice, but I'm starting to get in a good swing!

 Y'all, I'm 30!!!  Photo by  Mary Margaret Smith Photography

Y'all, I'm 30!!! 
Photo by Mary Margaret Smith Photography

The thing is, I'm realizing more and more that goals in and of themselves are not the end game (although, for a lover of list-checking like me, it can feel this way sometimes). Rather, it is the big, important purpose each of us are put on this earth to fulfill that matters. Digging down deep to understand your own heart, where you've been and where you're going is key to setting focused, intentional goals that lead you to living a life that matters and makes a difference. 

If you're new to goal setting, don't be intimidated. Start by looking back at where you've been, looking present at where you are, and then looking forward to where you want to go. Once you do this, you will slowly but surely be able to set meaningful goals that aren't just about checking things off a list, but instead are small steps in the journey to living your purpose fully and joyfully.

 Happy little homeowners.

Happy little homeowners.

You may wonder if a life of purpose and joy is on reserve for only certain people, but I assure you it's not. It's for everyoneyou included. It's not about being perfect, it's about making progress for a purpose. If you would like something to give you a jump start to living with purpose, I have just the thing! Lara Casey's PowerSheets have truly changed my life as they have taught me to set goals and make what matters happen! If you want to jump head first into goal setting, order PowerSheets today! Seriously, stop reading this and go order them!  (They are even having a perfectly imperfect sale right now!)

August Goals Progress

  • Celebrate my 30th birthday in a meaningful way
  • Close on our home! Hooray!!!
  • Develop new products for September Pop-up Shop
  • Complete groom card for custom order
  • Celebrate Dad's birthday
  • Focus on home renovation projects with intention and heart
  • Continue tidying process with Woody
  • Speak on goal setting at The Orchard

Standing monthly goals

  • Goals blog post
  • Budget party with Woody

September Goals

The numbers beside each monthly goal represent the corresponding yearly goal

Write and send 30th birthday thank you notes (33)
Love Woody well by keeping our marriage as a top priority (3)
Continue home renovation with focus and plan to finish well (2)
Complete product development and printing for The Orchard Pop Up Shop (5, 7, 10)
Attend The Influence Conference (!!!) (18)
Launch 2016 Birthday Card giveaway (6, 38)
Purchase 2016 Simplified Planner (I'm still trying to decide between daily and weekly edition any recommendations?!) (37)
NYC planning night (9)
Continue tidying with Woody (46)

Standing monthly goals
Goals blog post
Budget party with Woody

What hopes and plans do you have for September? I'd love to hear what you're up to!

July 2015 Goals

Well, hello there, July 13! Woody and I embarked on an impromptu beach vacation at the end of June through the weekend of the Fourth, and that put a kink in my goal setting flow. I'm realizing more and more these days that I simply can't do it all. In this case, a week away with my love won out, so here we are with the first mid-month goals post! 

 Sweet moments on the pier in St. Simons captured by our friend and photographer,  Sarah DeShaw .

Sweet moments on the pier in St. Simons captured by our friend and photographer, Sarah DeShaw.

In every year of our marriage so far, Woody and I have saved the majority of our vacation time for our anniversary celebrations in November. Last year, as I watched friends and coworkers head to the beach in June and July, I realized waiting for vacation until November just wasn't cutting it! There is something about a midyear break that is good for the soul, and I wanted in on it.

We began the year intending to take a summer beach trip, but when we got a contract on a house in the spring, June and July turned into home renovation months. Then, that contract fell through (full story to come), and we found ourselves in late May with no house and no beach plans. When June arrived, we decided it wasn't too late to make it happen and planned our summer vacation in about two weeks. As we quickly made plans, I realized it would be our first full week away since our honeymoon two and a half years ago! I couldn't believe it.

 These bikes are the best! We rented them and rode around  Sea Island  even as the rain sprinkled down on us. They were adding more bikes for the weekend of the Fourth, which explains the lovely truck and cardboard boxes behind us! 

These bikes are the best! We rented them and rode around Sea Island even as the rain sprinkled down on us. They were adding more bikes for the weekend of the Fourth, which explains the lovely truck and cardboard boxes behind us! 

Our vacation week was so good for us, and it's safe to say we won't let another year pass without taking off for a full week (or two!). It was refreshing to step away from the flow of daily life and breathe in some different air. We have a lot of great things happening in Birmingham right now, so it was actually a little hard to leave, but it was so important that we did. In addition to giving ourselves time to retreat from life's everyday responsibilities, it was a helpful reminder that things can go on for a week without us (shocker, I know). For our getaway, we chose to return to St. Simons Island, one of our favorite spots in the world. I hope to share more with you about why we love this place soon.

How is your summer going, friends? Have you made time to retreat? Whether it's a day, a week, a month, or some length of time in between, I hope you'll create the opportunity for your soul to rest this summer. In fact, it would make a great summer goal for all of us!

 S'mores in the summer! While on vacation, we got to see our dear friends,  Sarah  and Brent, who live in the St. Simons area. This particular evening, we went to hear the bagpiper play on the golf greens at The Lodge at Sea Island as the ocean waves rolled by. And yes, it was as dreamy as it sounds.

S'mores in the summer! While on vacation, we got to see our dear friends, Sarah and Brent, who live in the St. Simons area. This particular evening, we went to hear the bagpiper play on the golf greens at The Lodge at Sea Island as the ocean waves rolled by. And yes, it was as dreamy as it sounds.

June Goals Progress

  • Make vacation plan with Woody Not only did we make our vacation plan for the year, but we also took an impromptu beach trip! Double hooray for accomplishing this goal!
  • Clean out my closet in prep for capsule wardrobe This hasn't happened yet, but I did start reading "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" which is setting me up for success!
  • Write and post three blog posts
  • Celebrate Christy's wedding
  • Continue triune wellness plan with Woody I'm learning I need a really solid plan to make this happen effectively
  • 30th birthday planning
  • Celebrate Father's Day with my dad We had a special weekend at the lake, and I prepared all the meals, which is a big step for this cook-in-training!
  • Sigma Kappa work group research
  • Make prayer list

Standing monthly goals

  • Send June birthday cards
  • Write Woody a love note
  • Goals blog post
  • Budget party with Woody
 Happy Independence Day! Love this festive flag at the  Sea Island  Beach Club.

Happy Independence Day! Love this festive flag at the Sea Island Beach Club.

July Goals

The numbers beside each monthly goal indicate the corresponding yearly goal.
Also, I am continuing to work on staying simple, yet very purposeful with my goals.

Write four blog posts (5)
Close on our home! (1) I can't wait to share the full update on our house journey!
Host Sarah and Brent in Birmingham (31)
Send 30th birthday party invitations (12, 33)
Watercolor (10, 11)
Celebrate July 4th with family (25, 33)

Standing monthly goals

Send July birthday cards
Write Woody a love note
Goals blog post
Budget party with Woody

What are you excited to do in July? Even though we're now mid-month, there is absolutely still time to make it count for what matters in your heart. I'd love to hear from you in the comments below or leave a link to your own goals blog post!

Amy's baby shower

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby carriage! Most of us have sung this little song since childhood, and sometimes it's hard to believe we're now adults living out its rhymes. With The LovingKind being a love and marriage blog, I suppose talking babies is inevitable! 

Last spring, I helped host a baby shower for my dear friend, Amy, and it was a truly special day. It's been a year since the shower, and now spring is on its way again, so I thought I'd share our party with you! If you are planning a shower, decorating a nursery, or just enjoy fun event ideas, I hope you find some useful inspiration here.

Many of the shower elements were created DIY-style by the hostesses, and are things you could do yourself too! If you see something you like that you want more details for doing it yourself, feel free to ask!

Also, big thanks to shower guest and photographer, Ashley, for all these fabulous images of the event!

 

festive invitation

Being the lover of paper products that I am, I was very excited for the opportunity to create a special invitation for Amy's shower, and the other hostesses graciously obliged. Amy and Todd had announced the name of their baby boy, London, and we decided to incorporate it into our shower theme, and it started with the invitation.

I illustrated the London Bridge (a nod to London's name and the popular nursery rhyme) along with London's name and worked with Amy's husband Todd, a graphic designer and photographer, to complete the piece. 

IMG_6118.jpeg

We kept the invitation a surprise for Amy, and it was such a sweet moment when she called me with such sweet, genuine excitement after receiving it in the mail!

We also framed a copy of the illustration to use at the shower and to give to Amy to display in London's nursery. It turned out to be a wonderful keepsake from the event.

 

tasty food

Amy's shower was held at brunch time, and we loved picking out delicious brunch items to offer guests. We served fruit kabobs, orange juice, coffee, mini quiche and mini muffins. These items were easy-to-eat finger foods and were just right for a morning event. In addition, as any Southern hostess knows, you can't have a shower without something sweet! We couldn't resist a festive cake being part of the celebration, and one of the hostesses, Lindsey, selected this darling baby blue one from Edgar's, a popular Birmingham bakery.

Also, check out that fabulous doughnut hole tree! In my opinion, there is no better sweet morning delight than a doughnut! The tree was made by Lori, one of the hostesses, and was such a fun and tasty treat for the table! I found a couple great resources to help you make your own: Rachael Ray and Oh Happy Day.

 

fresh elements

One of the hostesses, Ammie, offered her home for the event, and it truly was the perfect location. From the natural light to the colors of her home decor, it was the ideal backdrop for the shower. 

Ammie also brought in beautiful, fresh elements in the beverages served and the floral touches throughout her home. The orange slices and mint leaves in the water not only looked nice, but tasted fresh too! Notice how she kept the flowers simple by only selecting a few types of blooms; this made a beautiful impact without feeling over the top. The colors were bright and happy, just right for an early spring, boy baby shower. 

 

personalized decor

One of the first things I always ask parents-to-be is if they are sharing with people the name for their baby. The name parents give their new little one is so special, and I just get so excited! If the parents have announced the name for the baby, personalizing the shower is a really sweet touch. We incorporated this starting with the invitation and continued it throughout the event decor.

The cheery, green monogram was made from floral wire, floral tape, greenery and craspedia (commonly called billy buttons). I used the floral wire and tape to create the letters, making loops at the top where I could tie ribbon for hanging. Once I had a letter shape I was happy with, I used the floral tape to attach the greenery and then the billy buttons to the volume that looked right. The finished product was lively and happy, and I love the statement it made hanging in the window!

Anxious to put my new calligraphy skills to use, I also made these little flags with toothpicks, scrapbook paper, and glue and personalized them with London's name and monogram. They looked adorable in the delicious Magic Muffins mini muffins and mini quiche we served. 

 

creative guest book

We wanted to provide a memory of all the friends who came to celebrate Amy and Todd and baby London, and decided to take a creative route over the traditional guest book.

We found this great map of the London Underground Transportation at Paper Source  and used spray adhesive to mount it on a foam core board to be used as the guest "book." We loved that we were able to incorporate London's name into so much of the event, and guests enjoyed finding the perfect place to sign their names to create a memory. 

 

little details

As Amy put together London's nursery, animals became a theme of the decor, so we wanted to incorporate these into the shower as well. One of the hostesses, Mandy, made these fabulous metallic animal figurines, and they looked amazing! She bought plastic toy animal figurines and spray painted them in metallic gold and silver. They looked so special throughout the shower, and we were also able to send them home with Amy to add to the nursery decor if she wanted. 

As another tribute to the animals, we got her two Little Darlings prints from The Animal Print Shop as a gift from the hostesses. Also, we gave her a few of the toy animals (pre-spray painted) for London to play with one day!

As I look back, one of my favorite things we did throughout the planning was to create special items that were personalized to Amy and London, and that Amy could take home with her to remind her of the shower well beyond the actual event!

IMG_0166-Edit.jpg
 

loving friends

 All of the shower hostesses with guests of honor, Amy and London.

All of the shower hostesses with guests of honor, Amy and London.

At the shower, Amy was surrounded by so many friends who were excited for London's arrival, and we truly celebrated their growing family that day. While all the decor and sweet touches were great, it was the love felt in the room that made the event truly meaningful. 

 

a year later

It's been a year since the shower, and London is just weeks away from his first birthday! He is one of the happiest little boys, and his parents are beyond smitten with him (I'm sure you can see why!). It has been a joy to be part of his life in this first year, and I can't help but kiss his little cheeks every time I see him. Amy and Todd are great parents and there is so much love in this little family of three.


Wherever the baby carriage may find you, as the hostess of a shower or preparing for a little one yourself, may your heart be ever focused on what matters mostthe gift of life you are celebrating and the foundation of love you are blessed to be part of laying. 

I know there are so many great shower ideas out there, and I'd love to hear from you! What are your favorite baby shower ideas or tips?

Shower photos by Ashley Bowers Photography
Family photos by Grant Benton

Valentine’s Luv & Strawberry Swirl Marshmallows

Valentine's Day is almost here, and I for one am loving this sweet season! There are so many good ways to celebrate, and I am excited to share one with you today through a special treat! 

 Strawberry Swirl Marshmallow from  Luv Cooks ,  Happy Valentine's Day card  from the  TLK Shop ,  Mug  and linen from  West Elm ,  Pink Hot Chocolate  from Sur La Table. 

Strawberry Swirl Marshmallow from Luv CooksHappy Valentine's Day card from the TLK ShopMug and linen from West ElmPink Hot Chocolate from Sur La Table. 

For those of you who have been visiting The LovingKind for a while, you may recall that I am a cook-in-training. I choose not to claim that I am "not a cook" or a "bad cook" so "in training" seems to fit the bill! This is why I decided to team up with my fearless, cooking friend, Callie of Luv Cooks for a series of collaborated posts (see posts one and two on The LovingKind, and one and two on Luv Cooks)!

 Callie of  Luv Cooks

Callie of Luv Cooks

I love the way Callie cooks because she is brave to constantly try new things, and she always includes the most important ingredient in any recipelove for those she is serving. I've seen this shine through in her "honeymoon inspired" chocolate pomegranate cookies she brought to our cookie swap, the handmade caramels she gave as favors at her NYE/wedding celebration party, and the skillet-baked cornbread she made for a weeknight dinner with friends. 

Not to mention, Callie loves Valentine's Day just like I do, so the focus of our third installment was obviousa Valentine-worthy celebratory treat! I hope you will feel Callie's heart and sparkle come straight through the screen, and also check out my post for Luv Cooks! 

Here's Callie!


The LovingKind_Luv Cooks Strawberry Swirl Marshmallows

Essential cooking tool: wooden spoon
recipe: Strawberry Swirl Marshamallows


True love, they say, is a "many splendored thing" (cue Andy Williams). Love in the kitchen, I say, comes in many splendored, shapes and sizes. 

It looks like slow-simmered, homemade chicken broth, carefully watched into the wee hours until bones and onion are discarded, then stirred into carrots and celery; noodles boiled al dente, chicken shredded and topped; served steaming to the one who needs to be soothed. It looks like a crazy day, schedule full to the brim, halted when the one who makes your heart skip a beat walks in the door with just the spice you needed. It looks like early morning scrambled eggs, whisked with gusto, while French press coffee fills the cool morning air with velvety richness.

To me, love also looks like a wooden spoon. Ironically, and of all of my kitchen tools, they are the first to show the stains of recipes gone by- smudges of sauce, caramelly burnt sugars, lowly hot water spots. But they are by far essential for oh-so-many kitchen taskssautéing vegetables; guarding a boiling water pot so it doesn’t overflow; scraping browned bits off the bottom of a braised pan.

The LovingKind_Luv Cooks Strawberry Swirl Marshmallows
The LovingKind_Luv Cooks Strawberry Swirl Marshmallows
The LovingKind_Luv Cooks Strawberry Swirl Marshmallows

My beautiful sister Caroline actually gave me my current favorite wooden spoon that she had monogrammed just for me. It’s luv cooks logo reminds me of the intention and care she put into buying it for me every time I stir. But for those of you looking to purchase your own wooden spoon, I adore sturdy, well handled varieties that stand the test of time. This olive wood version at Williams Sonoma is spot-on, but bamboo is also a solid option, as these tools tend to be lightweight and more flexible. Birch wood can be an excellent choice too!

In this recipe for marshmallows, a well built wooden spoon is key to the best marshmallow experience you can have. Make sure you watch your sugar mixture and stir it frequently so the sugar dissolves. Then, stifle your desire to stir as your mixture reaches the perfect boiling point (240 degrees). Finally, the stirring comes full circle as you fold in your egg whites. Its a beautiful, stirring process (wink wink).

All in all, the wooden spoon may be the most loved kitchen tool I own. Yet, it really is the one that shows wear the most. It hit me a few days ago that maybe that’s how real love actually is- messy sometimes; but always steady; always helpful; always solid; always beckoning us to stir more deeply into the good that awaits.

May you enjoy this sweet treat, and this sweet week, with the ones you luv.

The LovingKind_Luv Cooks Strawberry Swirl Marshmallows
The LovingKind_Luv Cooks Strawberry Swirl Marshmallows
The LovingKind_Luv Cooks Strawberry Swirl Marshmallows
The LovingKind_Luv Cooks Strawberry Swirl Marshmallows

Strawberry Swirl Marshmallows

What you will need:

For the marshmallows:

1/2 to 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 cup cold filtered water, divided
2 tablespoons plus 2 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

For the strawberry swirl:

1 pint fresh strawberries, halved and tops removed
1 tablespoon sugar

What You Will Do:

  1. Spray the bottom and sides of a 9x13-inch baking pan well with cooking spray. Scoop about ¼ to ½ cup confectioners’ sugar into the pan and toss the sugar around to coat the top and sides of the pan, discarding extra sugar.
  2. In a large bowl, pour ½ cup cold water over the gelatin. Let it sit for a few minutes to soften.
  3. Put halved strawberries and sugar into a blender to sit while you prepare the marshmallows.
  4. In a heavy saucepan, cook the granulated sugar, corn syrup, remaining ½ cup water, and salt over low heat. Stir the mixture with a wooden spoon until all of the sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to medium, and bring the mixture to a boil. Cook without stirring the mixture until it reaches 240 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove pan from heat, and pour sugar mixture over gelatin mixture (don’t worry if you now have a gelatin dome- just keep blending), stirring until dissolved.
  5. Beat mixture with a mixer on high speed until fluffy and tripled in size, about seven to ten minutes. Once it gets so sticky that your beaters aren’t really working anymore- stop there!
  6. In the bowl of a separate stand mixer, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes. Beat in vanilla and almond extract.
  7. Add egg white mixture gently into the sugar mixture with your wooden spoon until combined and still fluffy.
  8. Pour the mixture into prepared pan, using an oiled spatula (or spoon) to spread the mixture evenly.
  9. Make the strawberry puree: Blend the strawberries in blender until smooth.
  10. Use a wooden spoon to dallop strawberry puree in center, then corners of pan. Using a toothpick, make a pretty swirl pattern, gently combining the strawberry puree with the marshmallows.
  11. Chill in the fridge for a few hours and up to a day. I found it helpful to spray a piece of plastic wrap with cooking spray, then stretch it over the top of the marshmallows. 
  12. To remove the marshmallows, run a knife around the edges of the pan. Cut marshmallows in to a grid of your desired size. Use a spatula or knife to remove. Enjoy!
 We decided to bag up a few of our marshmallows to share with friends!  Hi, You card  from the  TLK Shop .

We decided to bag up a few of our marshmallows to share with friends! Hi, You card from the TLK Shop.

The LovingKind_Luv Cooks Strawberry Swirl Marshmallows
The LovingKind_Luv Cooks Strawberry Swirl Marshmallows

Extra fun:

As you can see, Mattye and I fully embraced the celebratory nature of Valentine's Day treats with a fun white and dark chocolate dipping station! All you need is some melted chocolate; we melted Divine 70% ginger chocolate bar and white baking chocolate. Once dipped, sprinkle the mallows to your heart's content (we loved the Valentine-themed sprinkles from Sur La Table)! This is the one case where double-dipping is officially allowed! 

Also, if you have extra strawberries from the puree, they are great for chocolate and sprinkle dipping too!

Happy early Valentine's Day!

New love + Valentine Cards available in the TLK Shop!

I have always loved greeting cards. They combine two of my favorite thingswords and illustrations. In fact, as a little girl, I used to create cards for my parents on the regular and even started my own card "business" drawing custom cards for all my parents' friends (think: Lemonade StandHallmark edition). 

I don't know what it is, but there is something about those sweet pieces of folded paper and their messages of love, thoughtfulness and celebration that I just adore. Knowing this, it comes as no surprise that when I set out to create products for The LovingKind, a card collection was the obvious starting point. 

The TLK Shop had a great launch at Christmastime, and with the my favorite holiday, Valentine's Day, right around the corner, I knew the next opportunity was to release some designs I had been dreaming up for a while. Some of these ideas have been sketched out in my sketchbook since before the launch of The LovingKind, and I am jumping-off-my-seat excited to finally get to share them with you!!

 Complete Collection

Complete Collection

I hope you love these cards as much as I do, and more importantly, I hope they inspire you and help you show the important people in your life that they are loved. From a classic "Happy Valentine's Day!" greeting to a playful "Love is the Jam" card, this collection is created to make you smile and to make celebrating those you love easy and enjoyable.

Each card is created from my hand drawn illustrations and hand lettering. My dear friend, Michelle of Parapalla Design Shoppe, helped me get my illustrations turned digital to be printed for you! And, I couldn't be happier with them! The illustrations just come to life printed on 110lb smooth ultra white paper and paired with a colorful, coordinating envelope. All they need is your personal message of love and celebration and a stamp to make someone's day!

And, these cards aren't just for Valentine's Day. If you ask me, every day is a reason to celebrate love and the people you care about, so choose your favorites and use these cards throughout the year! They're perfect for saying "I love you" to your sweetheart, "Congratulations" to a newly engaged friend or bride and groom, "Happy Anniversary" to a couple you love and admire, or just "You're awesome" to a good friend.

Whether you pick up one card, a few, a collection, or just browse through them, I hope they bring so much love and cheer into your life and relationships!

As always, thank you for visiting, for reading, and for being The LovingKind!

New Year's Eve: a time to celebrate!

It's New Year's Eve! This day always bring so many emotions for me. As someone who is sentimental by nature, NYE can be a little much for my heart to handle. From nostalgia for the year ending, hope for the one to come, and a wistful feeling as I want to savor what it's like to be living in the moment, I have a lot going on inside!

If I'm really being honest, most years I kind of just want NYE to be over so that I'm not so dramatically confronted with the passing of time. I'm a "savorer," and the conclusion of an entire year, and the knowledge that it will never be that year again is just hard for me to process.

Does anyone else feel this way?

 Ringing in 2014 last NYE with my darling husband!

Ringing in 2014 last NYE with my darling husband!

 We couldn't wait until midnight for a kiss!

We couldn't wait until midnight for a kiss!

I'm glad to say, in the past couple years, this has really turned around for me, and I've learned to truly celebrate NYE. By surrounding myself with people I care about and ringing in the New Year with joy, I have come to think less about the passing of time, and more about how blessed I am. I shift my focus to all that the concluding year has given me, and embrace a wild excitement for the possibility of what's to come.

Last year, we hosted a "sparkly" NYE party with our good friends, Callie and Jake, and it was a true celebration in every sense of the word! Woody and I's favorite part of the party ended up being the Hope Tree we set up in our loft (the sparkly photo booth compliments of Jake, Callie, Taylor and Bo came in a close second!). We found the inspiration for the Hope Tree at The Paris Market in Savannah, Georgia, the year before, and Woody had looked for an opportunity to recreate it ever since. 

 Our NYE Hope Tree

Our NYE Hope Tree

 Hopes and dreams waiting to be made and hung on the tree!

Hopes and dreams waiting to be made and hung on the tree!

We set up a lighted wire tree and asked people to "Share a dream, a hope a wish for 2014, hang it on the tree, and surely it will come to be!" It turned out to be one of the sweetest, most meaningful parts of the party. Seeing each couple find a moment during the festivities to hope and wish together was so special. Then, reading the collection of dreams was remarkable. The sincerity and individuality of each couple was heartwarming and inspiring.

 Lucas + Rachel // Bought their first home in 2014!

Lucas + Rachel // Bought their first home in 2014!

 Todd + Amy // Welcomed first baby, London, in 2014!

Todd + Amy // Welcomed first baby, London, in 2014!

 Jake + Callie // Got married in 2014!

Jake + Callie // Got married in 2014!

 Bo + Taylor // Got pregnant and renovated home in 2014!

Bo + Taylor // Got pregnant and renovated home in 2014!

 Michael + Amber // Welcomed first baby, Daniel, and moved states in 2014 (We miss them!)

Michael + Amber // Welcomed first baby, Daniel, and moved states in 2014 (We miss them!)

 Matt + Natalie (Natalie pictured holding the "0") // Fostered their first child in 2014!

Matt + Natalie (Natalie pictured holding the "0") // Fostered their first child in 2014!

Here we are, a year later, and God has done so much in our lives and the lives of our friends. Not everything is exactly as we each hoped and dreamed, but isn't it really better that way? Ephesians 3:20 tells us that God is able to do "immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine." As we conclude 2014 and look forward to a new year, there is nothing more that I hope and pray for all of us in 2015. 

So friends, whether modest or extravagant, I hope your New Year's Eve celebration is one of gratitude and hope. God is doing good things. Happy 2015!

 

TLK Shop Launch!

I am so excited to finally share with you the launch of the TLK Shop! From the beginning of The LovingKind brand, I knew I not only wanted to inspire love through writing, but I also wanted to create products that inspire love in our everyday lives!

I love celebrations and beautiful paper products, so there was no better debut product for the TLK Shop than a collection of Christmas cards! It all started with some of my hand drawn illustrations, and turned into a darling collection of love-inspired holiday greetings! But, there is more behind these cards than just pretty illustrations and paper.

 There are four designs in the TLK Christmas card collection. See more details in the  TLK Shop !

There are four designs in the TLK Christmas card collection. See more details in the TLK Shop!

When we first got married, I was so excited to send out our first Christmas cards as Mr. & Mrs., but the process ended up being more challenging than I expected. With our timeline and budget, it just wasn't as easy as I'd thought. With this in mind, I set out to create my collection of Christmas greetings to be cards that celebrate the love and excitement of a first married Christmas, while being easy to order, ready to go, and fitting for a "newlywed budget!"

I partnered with Nicholas Keaton to create a special video to introduce you to the collection and shares the heart behind the cards. I hope you enjoy!


Also, the cards aren't just for newlyweds! The two folded card designs are so sweet and perfect for anyone wanting to send an extra dose of love along with their Christmas greeting!

TLK Shop Christmas Card
TLK Shop Christmas Card

special offer just for you!

TLK Shop

To celebrate the launch of the TLK Shop, everyone who places an order between Wednesday, November 12, and Friday, November 14, receives 20% off! I hope you'll enjoy shopping the new collection, and since this is the season of giving, share the launch special with a friend!

Thanks for being part of this special day! I would love to hear what you think of the new collection! 

xoxo. mattye

 

it's our second anniversary!

I loved our wedding so much. So much that I was honestly concerned that our anniversary would make me miss it. I feel like on Instagram this is where I would follow with #sadbuttrue.

While I love looking back on our wedding, and do miss it from time to time, our anniversary is not just the "reminder" celebration of our wedding that I thought it might be, but it is truly a special celebration all its own. 

It's easy for a wedding to feel like the "main event," but the truth is, it is just the beginning of the real main event: the marriage.

 I love this first-married moment right after we walked back down the aisle as husband and wife. I feel like our excitement could just leap off the page!   Photo by Sarah DeShaw Photography

I love this first-married moment right after we walked back down the aisle as husband and wife. I feel like our excitement could just leap off the page!

Photo by Sarah DeShaw Photography

I am so proud and honored for each year (today marks two!) I have been able to spend as the wife to my dear husband. Every anniversary is a time to remember the vows we made and the fabulous event that kicked off our marriage, to be thankful for the years we've been given, and to renew our love and hope for the future years to come!

This year, we're celebrating our second anniversary at the most magical place on earth: Disney World!

In the spirit of our anniversary this month, soon I'll be sharing what I've learned in the first two years of marriage, as well as some thoughts on ways to celebrate an anniversary. But for now, I'm going to spend time with my sweet husband having new adventures! I hope you'll also begin this month by doing something fun and by giving a kiss to the one you love! 

Happy November from the Woodcocks!

giving gifts from the heart

I really love to give gifts. I enjoy the thrill of selecting the perfect item by finding a creative solution for celebrating someone in an authentic and personal way. It’s not about the price, the brand or anything superficial. Rather, it’s about knowing someone and celebrating them in a way that says, “I know you. I pay attention to you. I care about the details of your life.”

gift giving the lovingkind

In light of this, I have realized I am a high maintenance gift giver. It just makes me cringe to give a gift “placeholder” that feels insincere. You know what I’m talking about, the I-couldn’t-find-what-I-really-wanted-to-get-you-and-thought-would-serve-as-a-heartfelt-celebration-for-this-moment-so-I-got-you-this gift. Y’all, I just can’t do it! If I am giving a gift, I want to feel inspired and connected to it. Most importantly, I want to be confident it will bring a genuine smile and warm heart to the one I'm giving it to.

gift giving the lovingkind
 Gift packaging adds so much to a gift! I found these adorable bags and tissue paper at Target and couldn't believe how perfectly they coordinated with The LovingKind! They also work nicely with my "So this is Love" cards!

Gift packaging adds so much to a gift! I found these adorable bags and tissue paper at Target and couldn't believe how perfectly they coordinated with The LovingKind! They also work nicely with my "So this is Love" cards!

This outlook is a blessing and a challenge. It’s great when I am successful finding just the right gift, but when I don’t feel inspired or a gift isn’t coming together how I want, it’s agonizing. It’s at this point one might suggest getting the best thing I can find because after all, it’s the thought that counts. But that is just it! It is the thought that counts, so if I get a gift that I don’t think much of, then not only is the item not a good fit, but the accompanying thought is lacking too! See my predicament?! Because of this, I've come up with some solutions I'm excited to share with you!


Wherever you find yourself on the gift-giving spectrum, I hope to meet you on your journey today with some tips and ideas! First, I’ll share my own recent holiday gift solution followed by eight tips for becoming one of the most thoughtful and successful gift givers your friends and family have ever known!

Flashback to Valentine's weekend with the Woodcocks

This year, for Valentine’s Day, I was a bit troubled to find myself on February 13 with little-to-no inspiration for Woody’s Valentine’s gift. In fact, not only was I not inspired, but honestly, with a February 14 launch of The Lovingkind, I had spent so much time focusing on the launch that I’d hardly given his gift much thought. Well, no blog is as important as celebrating my true love, so I swiftly shifted my focus and determined myself to get him a Valentine’s gift that was special, thoughtful, and still within what I like to call our “newlywed budget.”


Valentine's gift solution

I was able to find all but one gift at Target and kept the entire collection under $100!

 Our sweet collection of Valentine gifts for each other this year.

Our sweet collection of Valentine gifts for each other this year.

1. Little goodies

I accompany many of the gifts I give with small, extra treats—it’s so fun and inexpensive I can’t resist! Candy at Valentine’s Day is an expected yet favorite treat so I picked up little heart shaped boxes full of two of Woody's favorite candies. Also, Woody often borrows my Eos lip balm so I was delighted to find one for him in his favorite shade—orange!

 Eos Tangerine Lip Balm at  evolutionofsmooth.com

Eos Tangerine Lip Balm at evolutionofsmooth.com

2. Personalized print

My dear friend Michelle who collaborated with me to design The Lovingkind has a fabulous little design shoppe called Parapalla. She has a “famous couples” design and she created one for me and Woody! My husband loves when I add little touches to our home so I knew he would appreciate this thoughtful and personalized addition to our downtown loft. I got a great quality 8x10 print done on semi-gloss paper at Staples for $1.19! What a deal! Then, I picked up a frame at Target to make the perfect presentation of this piece of art.

3. Practical yet romantic item

Woody and I have talked for months about getting our phones out of the bedroom. The bedroom is meant to be a peaceful, personal place for rest and intimacy and having a cell phone flashing, buzzing, ringing and notifying you constantly does not help promote any of that. But, as many people do, we use our phones as alarms, so they have stayed despite their interfering ways. In order to finally rid us of phones in the bedroom, I bought Woody an alarm clock for Valentine’s Day! I found a simple, sleek design from Phillips that does not have lots of bells and whistles making it just as distracting as a phone. It simply serves as an alarm clock. I was so proud to find this gift and to reach one of our 2014 goals for our home and our marriage—phones out of the bedroom! What may not seem like a romantic gift, is, in fact, all about inspiring romance!

Woody responded to each gift just as I had hoped and I could tell he felt truly loved, which is what matters most. While I'll admit this collection of gifts is a bit random, what made them special is the thoughtfulness that tied them together to feel personal and intentionally selected for him.


Meaningful gift-giving is something we can all do. It takes more effort, but if you’re going to invest time and money into a gift, why not do it in a way that you and the recipient will enjoy?! Here are my tips for finding gifts that will truly celebrate the ones you love.


 Gift giving tips

 

1. Consider Conversation

Think about recent conversations you’ve had together. Have there been any recurring themes come up? Do they keep mentioning anything in particular? If someone talks about something a lot, that means they are thinking about it even more. Thinking about what they have been thinking about is a sure way to have a successful gift-buying adventure.

2. Think Hobbies and Interests

What are their hobbies? Finding something they already love and supporting them with supplies, books, or inspiration to help them along their journey is a perfect way to encourage their interests and make them feel loved. For example, Woody loves to golf, so for his birthday I got him a private golf lesson at one of his favorite courses!

3. Rely on Favorites

What are their favorites? Are there things they love to eat, do, wear, listen to, or watch that you could turn into a gift? Use these triggers to get your mind going: candy, dinner, concert, clothing, brand, experience, subscription, music.

4. Pay attention

Pay attention when you are with them. Whether watching television, shopping, traveling, or being out and about, chances are they will see something they like and comment on it. Having your eyes and ears perked up for the little things they point out along the way helps you to not only give them something they want, but to say, “I am paying attention to you.” One of my favorite examples is by the groom of a recent wedding we attended who needed a wedding-day gift for his bride. He remembered a beautiful perfume she pointed out while they were in Paris, searched it out, and gave her a bottle of this special scent to wear for their wedding day and beyond.

5. Innovate

Think for them! What a great gift in and of itself to be innovative and buy something that will benefit them and they don’t even know it! These are harder to come by, but keep your eyes out for new items that are relevant to them and could add value to their lives even if it’s something they don’t know they need or want!

6. Share

Share what you love. If you love something, it’s possible that they will too. People will trust products or experiences given to them with an endorsement from you! What are your favorite products or brands that you could share with them?

7. Experience

Think about experiences. Gifts most often come in a tangible form, but experiences make amazing gifts too. Whether it’s seeing a concert or a play, traveling to a new place, or checking out a restaurant you’ve never tried before, experiencing something with someone is a wonderful gift and creates a special memory.

8. Speak their Love Language

Consider their Love Language. The way a person receives love can also impact they way they receive gifts. For instance, if their love language is “quality time” then spending a day together and taking them to dinner would be an incredible gift. If their love language is “acts of service” then doing an out-of-the-ordinary act of service like washing their car, planting new flowers, or making their favorite room of the house white-glove clean would blow them away. If their love language is “words of affirmation” then don’t ever give them a gift without a card to accompany it!


Most importantly...

Remember it is not money or status that is most impressive in a gift. It doesn’t take someone special to drop hundreds of dollars on a nice item, but it does take someone special to give a gift that is personalized to one's interests, hopes, passions and personality. So often in my own experience, the journey someone went through to get me a gift that was “just right” meant even more to me than the item itself. It takes someone close to you to give you something that says “I really know you,” and that is the best gift any of us could receive. It’s the thought—the real, intentional thought that does indeed count the most.

What are your favorite gifts to give or tips that make thoughtful gift giving fun for you?

a birthday celebration: aunt ruth's yummy cookies

Y'all know I love a good celebration, so as my birthday drew near this year, I wanted to find a special way to celebrate with you, dear friends of The LovingKind!

As I thought about how to celebrate with you in a meaningful way, I was drawn to this line from the heart of "We are The LovingKind:"


The LovingKind is about accepting, appreciating and celebrating who you are, who we are, and the life we have been given.


What a sweet thing to think about on a birthday! We have all been given precious life and with each year, it is something worth celebrating! So, for my birthday this year, the final of my 20's, I want to share with you a little piece of who I am through a cookie recipe.

I love to bake, and cookies are my favorite treat to create. What I'm sharing with you today is more than just a delicious cookie, but it carries with it a little piece of my history. I once was told that one of the best gifts to give someone you love is something that means a lot to you. In that spirit, I share with you my very favorite family cookie recipe, Aunt Ruth's Yummy Cookies!

 Handwritten recipe from my mom. Photo by  Rachel Coffey Photography

Handwritten recipe from my mom. Photo by Rachel Coffey Photography

You may think I'm about to tell you about my dear, Aunt Ruth, but you see, I don't actually know Aunt Ruth at all! She was the aunt of one of my mom's good friends who shared this namesake cookie recipe with our family years ago. These cookies are special to me for another reason.


My mom has made these yummy cookies many times over the years, and she happened to whip up a batch August 20, 1985, the day before I was born. Later that day, after the cookies had safely made it out of the oven, she went into labor and brought me into the world just barely after midnight on August 21.

 Hello, world!

Hello, world!

With their first baby having arrived, my parents were consumed with all the newborn activity, leaving everything else behind, cookies included. Until, my dad returned home to rest while my mom and I rested at the hospital. He saw the cookies, told himself he had just had a daughter and deserved to celebrate, and he began eating.

He ate so many cookies (my mom guesses probably three dozen!), he had to stopnot because his stomach was full, but because his jaw was actually fatigued! I've heard him tell this story many times and relate the feeling to lifting weights and reaching the point where your muscles simply cannot lift another pound. He said that is how his jaw muscles felt, and he physically could not take one more bite! It's fantastic and hilarious, and not at all surprising knowing my dad's sweet tooth!

mom and baby_The LovingKind
baby and daddy_The LovingKind

I love this story because it makes me laugh, it makes me think of my mom and dad as young parents, and it makes me grateful for family. These cookies have been a family favorite literally since the day I was born, and every time I bake them, I think about this funny moment from my beginning and smile. They will always be my birthday cookies.


I hope you will take this recipe into your own home, and that the yummy cookies will accompany your family for many great moments, big and small, along your journey.

Baby Homecoming_The LovingKind

Here's to you! Here's to birthdays! Here's to yummy, yummy, yummy cookies!

Aunt Ruth's Yummy Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 cups oatmeal (I use rolled oats)
  • 1 cup coconut
  • 12 oz. bag chocolate chips (optional- I started adding chocolate chips on occasion and it's become a favorite in the Woodcock household!)

 

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Combine eggs, butter, white sugar, brown sugar and vanilla and stir well.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda.

Stir everything together and add oats and coconut (and chocolate chips if you choose!).

Drop by spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet covered with foil or parchment paper and bake for 8 to 10 minutes.

Transfer the foil or parchment with cookies onto cooling rack.

Let the cookies cool and then share and enjoy!

recipe yields 6 dozen cookies

Let's celebrate the 4th of July!

I don't just enjoy a good party, but I truly believe in the value of the art of celebration. There are so many people, milestones and occasions worth pausing for, noticing and appreciating with a spirit of fun and enjoyment. The dictionary says to celebrate is to publicly acknowledge (a significant or happy day or event) with a social gathering or enjoyable activity.

fourth of july celebration the lovingkind

Enter the Fourth of July. As Americans, this is a most precious day we get to celebrate. It's a day I find myself being grateful for and intentionally enjoying the freedom I can so quickly take for granted. It is a day to acknowledge the courage of our forefathers who committed and signed their names for our freedom, and the bravery of so many since then who have sacrificed to maintain it.

I love that we live in a country where we are not only allowed freedom, but are encouraged and expected to make the most of it. What we know to simply be our way of life is a luxury and gift that so many people pass through this life without ever experiencing. In my book, that kind of gift is a mighty good reason to celebrate.


Along with a salute of appreciation for our country, I wanted to share a few ideas and resources to help you with your own Independence Day celebration!

Last year, Woody and I decided to have a Fourth of July gathering with our friends. We live downtown, so we are just a few steps away from a great view of the Birmingham fireworks show. We opted for a festive yet simple approach to our party that you could easily duplicate for this year between now and Friday.

Fourth of July the lovingkind

Our dear friends, Todd and Amy, got excited about the idea of a Fourth of July party too and offered to co-host with us. It made it extra enjoyable to plan our little get-together with the help of friends!

I just love a paper invitation, but in the laid-back nature of this party, I didn't want the time or the expense it would take to get them designed and printed. So, I opted to handwrite the invitation, make copies on cardstock paper, and pass it out to friends. An invitation is the first impression for a party and I thought this one communicated a low key, yet personal and festive energy for the gathering.

Fourth of July invitation_the lovingkind

We provided BBQ sandwiches, drinks and dessert, and encouraged guests to bring their favorite side or dessert too! It was kind of like a backyard picnic only inside!

Fourth of July the lovingkind

One of the great things about a Fourth of July party is that the color scheme is already decided for you! These tissue paper pom-poms would be a fun DIY to try, but for my party timeline, I was thrilled to pick up this set of colorful red, white and blue pom-poms from Party City.

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I absolutely love flowers and was inspired to do a patriotic bouquet. I just adore the soft white and blues with the pop of deep red.  I used blue hydrangeas, white snapdragons, red alstroemeria, red gerber daisies and mixed greenery. This set of miniature vases in an oblong basket made it so simple to do a larger arrangement by grouping small bouquets! I love that it made an impact, but was still easy to arrange.

Fourth of July flowers the lovinkind
Fourth of July party the lovingkind

This paper table runner by Kitchen Papers that we already had on hand provided a classic touch of gold and made for easy cleanup!

Fourth of July cupcakes the lovingkind

For a festive treat I made blueberry muffins, iced them, and added patriotic toppers from World Market. Make your own cupcake toppers with this cute DIY from My Sister's Suitcase. Or pick these up at Party City.

Fourth of July the lovingkind

Colorful straws are an easy way to add a fun accent to your event. As guests carry them around in their cups it adds little pops of color throughout the party! Find a similar patriotic straw here.

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Fourth of July the lovingkind
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Everyone got to take a flag to wave as we watched the fireworks later in the evening.

Fourth of July the lovingkind

One of my favorite parts of our celebration was this photo wall. It was a great activity for guests to enjoy together and it made for the most precious memories! My mom gave me these star-spangled garlands from World Market, and they were just the right touch for a photo wall against the rustic, wooden surface right outside our loft. You can find similar garland from World Market this year too. We also provided some cute and silly props to use in the photos!

Fourth of July the lovingkind
Fourth of July the lovingkind
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Fourth of July the lovingkind
Fourth of July the lovingkind

As day turned to night, it became time for my most favorite part of the evening—the fireworks! There is something whimsical and exciting that happens during a fireworks show, and getting to enjoy it with friends on a downtown street in my favorite city made for one special night! Whether you see a grand fireworks display or create one of your own with a few sparklers, its the light, crackle and sparkle that makes it celebratory!

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I'm pretty certain this is when Woody was playing his favorite patriotic tune for everyone from his iPhone, Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the U.S.A." This is so "Woody" of him which would explain the adoring smile on my face.

Fourht of July the lovingkind
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I'm still working on my cooking skills, but I do love to bake. After an enjoyable summer night with friends, there is nothing like a homemade chocolate chip cookie for the ride home. These star-printed goody bags from Party City finished with a sticker and "happy 4th!" message made it easy to create to-go treats to thank our guests for joining us for a wonderful evening.

Fourth of July the lovingkind

I hope our happy little party has inspired you with a few ideas to make your own Fourth of July a special one. However you choose to celebrate this Independence Day, just remember the point is to celebrate. Acknowledge, appreciate and enjoy the blessings of being an American and being free.

Happy Fourth, friends!

I would love to hear about your Fourth of July traditions or party tips! Share in the comments below!

selecting heartfelt bridesmaids gifts

Recently, the mother-in-law of one of my dear friends and bridesmaids asked me where I got the bags I had monogrammed for bridesmaids gifts. This question got me thinking about bridesmaids gifts in general and I thought it'd be a fun topic to bring to the lovingkind!

Having received many bridesmaids gifts over the years and having given them once, I recognize it is a special opportunity to honor your friends, but it's not an entirely easy process. First of all, choosing a similar or identical gift to fit the taste of multiple people can be challenging. Secondly, depending how many bridesmaids you have, even an affordable gift can become pricey when multiplied several times.

LaSuer Woodcock Wedding-01 Bridesmaids luncheon-0046.jpg

To help, I'm going to offer a few things to consider as you decide the best way to honor your bridesmaids. I'll also share the choices I made for my own wedding. But, before we get to that, let me remind you that your gift to your bridesmaids does not have to be elaborate or expensive; rather, it is a token of love and appreciation to thank them for the investment they are making into your wedding and your marriage. You may choose to get one gift or a few, and your budget and number of bridesmaids will certainly help you determine what is best. My hope is that these tips will help you navigate the road to giving bridesmaids gifts they will love and that are sincerely from your heart.

bridesmaid gift the lovingkind

1. A gift that has purpose on the wedding day.

A great place to start is to think about something your bridesmaids will find useful on the day of your wedding. This could be jewelry to wear with their dress, a tote to carry around their belongings for the day, comfortable flip flops to change into for dancing at the reception, a cute water bottle to make sure they stay hydrated, a shirt or robe to wear while getting ready, or a special nail color to coordinate with their bridesmaids dress.

My choice

I have been in a few weddings where I received a tote bag as a gift and I loved it. I found it so useful the day of the wedding to carry around all the unexpected things I ended up with throughout the day. Because of this, I knew I wanted to get bags for my bridesmaids and I was thrilled when I found adorable canvas totes at Pottery Barn for a great price. To make them "wedding ready," my mom helped me find a woman in our hometown to monogram them in the most perfect wedding day lavender!

 Stella & Dot  Love Bracelet  from the "Friendship Ties" collection

Stella & Dot Love Bracelet from the "Friendship Ties" collection

2. A gift that has purpose after the wedding day.

You might not feel a connection to anything that is useful the day of the wedding, so getting your bridesmaids something they can use in their everyday lives is also a fun option! A few ideas include a journal, a book, jewelry, a spa gift card, bath and body products, stationery, or a coin purse.

My choice

I love jewelry and I wanted to give a special piece to my bridesmaids. However, I quickly realized I couldn't afford the kind of jewelry I envisioned for their dresses so I opted for a piece that would work in their everyday collection. I chose the sweetest little bracelet from Stella & Dot. It is called the Love Bracelet and is packaged with a card that says, "the richness of life is in love." I chose this because I adored the idea of them having a piece of jewelry they could wear regularly that reminded them of our friendship and how rich and good love is.

 I love the look on my precious mom's face in this moment when I gave her the monogrammed shirt I had made for her.

I love the look on my precious mom's face in this moment when I gave her the monogrammed shirt I had made for her.

3. A gift that is personalized.

One of the best ways to create a gift that your bridesmaids will instantly love is to personalize it! In the South, we personalize anything and everything with a monogram, but you can also personalize gifts by color, scent, or style. Personalizing a gift is a special touch that shows the recipient you notice them and appreciate them for who they are as an individual.

My choice

One of the things I was most excited about on my wedding day was the time at the salon getting ready with my friends. Putting time and attention into this part of the day, I knew I wanted to give them a shirt they could wear that would be easy, comfortable and adorable in photos to boot!

My mom, mother-in-law-to-be, and sister-in-law-to-be would also be at the salon with us so I wanted to make sure they were included in the group too!

bridesmaid gift the lovingkind
LaSuer Woodcock Wedding-01 Bridesmaids luncheon-0050.jpg

4. A budget that works.

Once you get going, bridesmaids gifts can be so fun, and if you're anything like me you might be tempted to start picking out more than you can really afford. The best thing to do is the same thing you did for your wedding: set a budget. Once you allocate how much you can spend, you will be able to enjoy the process of choosing gifts without harboring any stress about the expense. Also, once you set a total budget, you can figure out how much it breaks out for each bridesmaid. From there you can decide if you want to invest in one large gift for each girl or if you prefer to give multiple, smaller gifts.

my choice

I knew early on there were a few items I hoped to give starting with a small gift when I asked them to be bridesmaids. Because of this, I set a budget at the beginning of our engagement and as I picked up items throughout, I was able to track my spending. This truly made it easy and fun for me to purchase gifts and focus on the heart of what I was doing since the finances were already settled.

 I love how clean and beautiful the shirts looked on all my sweet friends!

I love how clean and beautiful the shirts looked on all my sweet friends!

bridesmaid monogrammed shirt the lovingkind
 Isn't Deneb, my darling mother-in-law, adorable in her lavender "D" monogram?

Isn't Deneb, my darling mother-in-law, adorable in her lavender "D" monogram?

 Of course, I wanted to match too! I had looked at different robe, wrap, and shirt options to give my bridesmaids, but this shirt sealed the deal on the monogrammed white oxfords. It is actually an old shirt of Woody's (an authentic "boyfriend shirt!") with a soft lavender plaid. It is also made by Billy Reid who is the same designer that created Woody's made-to-measure wedding suit. Once I found this piece I knew it'd be the perfect compliment to the white oxfords I had considered for my bridesmaids.

Of course, I wanted to match too! I had looked at different robe, wrap, and shirt options to give my bridesmaids, but this shirt sealed the deal on the monogrammed white oxfords. It is actually an old shirt of Woody's (an authentic "boyfriend shirt!") with a soft lavender plaid. It is also made by Billy Reid who is the same designer that created Woody's made-to-measure wedding suit. Once I found this piece I knew it'd be the perfect compliment to the white oxfords I had considered for my bridesmaids.

 Starfish ring by  Premeir Designs

Starfish ring by Premeir Designs

5. A gift that is significant to the location or time of year.

You may find that you are getting married in a special place, whether it be your hometown or a destination wedding, or a special time of year that inspires your gift. This has endless interpretations depending on the special feature you want to highlight. Some items to consider are locally made food like jelly or jam, or locally made gifts like bags, jewelry, scarves or a piece of art. If you're getting married in December choose a special Christmas tree ornament, if you're getting married at the beach give a personalized beach towel, or if your getting married in Louisiana give them a fleur-de-lis coaster set (one of my favorite gifts from a Louisiana wedding welcome basket!). 

my choice

My mom also wanted to give a gift to my bridesmaids. She knows most of my friends well, and it was really special to see her honor them and appreciate them with a thoughtful gift.

She picked out the starfish ring pictured above by Premeir Designs, to be a symbol of St. Simons Island where we got married. I love the elegant simplicity of these pieces that give a subtle nod to our destination nuptials. She also selected these lovely silvery gray pashminas for the girls to use in the case of a chill at our outdoor November reception. She chose the perfect gifts as my bridesmaids looked beautiful in their rings and made great use of their pashminas throughout the evening!

 This is my dear sister, Lucy, looking precious in her pashmina as she gave her maid of honor speech at the reception.

This is my dear sister, Lucy, looking precious in her pashmina as she gave her maid of honor speech at the reception.

 If you look closely, you can see my mom wrapped up in her very own pashmina in lovely wedding lavender!

If you look closely, you can see my mom wrapped up in her very own pashmina in lovely wedding lavender!

 And for a little game of "Where's the pashmina?" take a look at the husband of a bridesmaid who turned it into a scarf!

And for a little game of "Where's the pashmina?" take a look at the husband of a bridesmaid who turned it into a scarf!

At the end of the day, be confident that you know your friends well and will select just the right gift to make them feel loved and appreciated. With a little thought, attention and planning, you will create the opportunity to bless them with a heartfelt gift to honor your friendship and celebrate sharing your special wedding season together.

 all photography in this post by  Sarah DeShaw Photography

all photography in this post by Sarah DeShaw Photography

What gift did you give your bridesmaids or what is one of your favorite bridesmaids gifts you've ever received?

#tlkpretty

Part of the mission of the lovingkind is to celebrate who we are and the life we have been given. In creating tlk, I had a vision for brides, wives and women to come together to share seasons of love and celebration as well as many moments in between.

I think about this vision as we enter into the heart of wedding season where parties, showers, and grand celebrations abound. The lovingkind is about people who are made to love, and there is so much love shared through gatherings large and small to celebrate special people and love itself!

I personally adore a good party, and finding beautiful inspiration in the details is always one of my favorite party perks. From invitations to flowers to sweet treats and even sweeter friends, there is so much celebratory goodness to enjoy and to share!

I am excited to create a platform for the tlk community to share ideas and event inspiration from wedding season and anything else you’re celebrating in between—I hope you'll join me! Whether you're experiencing this season as a bride, bridesmaid, family, guest or just lover of all things beautiful, I invite you to share delightful details and memorable moments on Instagram and Twitter with the new hashtag #tlkpretty.

The heart of this hashtag is simple—use it to identify anything you find pretty and inspirational from parties, weddings or everyday life. Together, we will build a heartfelt collection from which to draw ideas and to inspire love.

There's more! I will choose one post each month to feature on the tlk blog! The original creator of the post will win a set of “so this is love” notecards or a print of your choice (designs coming soon)!*

*update: I will choose a post to feature and one winner per month for a limited, undetermined time frame. Also, qualified posts are those created and tagged with #tlkpretty by the same Instagram account.

We live in a beautiful world, so head out and find all the #tlkpretty there is to share!

xoxo

mattye