Quilted Boots & Dotted Babes

24jan2015Button Up Shirt: unknown // Jeans: H&M Maternity // Boots: HauteLook

Those boots just arrived last week and I am obsessed.  I’ve been looking to replace my old pair of black boots that I’m not going to lie I got at Walmart on a whim for $20.  I got some compliments on them, though, but I wanted something different in terms of style and I’m so happy I got these!

Anyways, a few thoughts on motherhood:

Being a mom is wonderful.  It’s a path I always knew I wanted but never believed I was ready for — does anyone ever feel completely ready?  Today, I have a six week old.  Though the shock has worn off (you know the “can you believe we have one of these?!”), the love lust continues.  As Valentine’s Day approaches, I’m seeing a lot of posts about date night ideas and such.  I recently read an inquiry about what we do as couples for fun date night ins… well, I certainly recommend adding a newborn.  I swear we can be pretty entertained just looking at her and we just love seeing one another as parents.

My husband recently commented I’m different than how he expected I would be.  He says I’m more patient and more calm than he predicted.  Well, I was a type A, over-analytic, always “on” person before.  Now, I definitely would say I’m a wee more go with the flow.  He also comments how it comes so naturally to me considering I never read any books (he does that for me).  To my credit, I went to nursing school, did two semesters of pediatrics, and then was a nanny/frequent babysitter for two infants.  Believe me, before all that I was definitely freaking out about just touching them, similar to how my husband is now.

But six weeks.  My goodness.  Time sure flies.  I can remember that first week so well and I hope to carry those memories with me for a long time.

24jan2015-4

I dressed her in a Carter’s top, some jean leggings from Gap, and Zutano booties.

Husband thinks she’s just adorable in this outfit.  Ignore the fact that her face says she’s fussy.  I think she just didn’t want to be in that position but I wanted her face in the picture!

Now that she is finally out of the newborn size and into 0-3 month sizing, I have so much adorableness to dress her in!  I’m so excited.  Ah, I love having a girl to dress.

Our Puerto Rican Babymoon

Content and/or other value provided by our partner, Target. All opinions are my own.

PR snaps

At the end of June, Mr. Charming and I went to Puerto Rico.  It was a vacation we desperately needed to take together and it most likely will be the only one we get together until well after the baby is born.  I had a gap of five days from work and we went for it.  Could we afford it?  Technically yes, though we weren’t planning on it so we did take a wee hit in July making up for it. But, hey, we have to live sometimes, right?!

I still feel regenerated after that trip.  I was desperate for a relaxing vacation and we got one together.  We relayed on the beach all day one day, we had a few adventures, experienced some Puerto Rican culture, had some delicious food, and have wonderful memories.  Now, I can check spontaneous weekend getaway off my list of things to do (does it still count as spontaneous if you booked it ten days prior?).

Why Puerto Rico?

We chose Puerto Rico for three reasons: the flight was under 4 hours from Atlanta, there was a rainforest (El Yunque) there for us to trek through, and they have something called Bioluminescent Bay where we went night kayaking and experienced these little microorganisms that lit up the water and made it shine like diamonds.

Packing Lightly

I’m a believer in packing lightly anyways, but it isn’t as easy as you think to pack lightly for a five day beach trip.  We had a range of activities planned (yes, I know, we were supposed to relax, but we aren’t going to pay to go to the Caribbean just to lay around – we can do that at home!): kayaking, trekking, swimming, snorkeling, and a nice dinner out on the town one day.  Not too mention, I’m a photographer, I definitely brought my DSLR and two of my favorite lenses!  Personally, I’m a Nikon girl and I recently recommend this beauty to a friend as a starter DSLR.

Husband and I each had a carry on suitcase and a backpack.  His was similar to this SwissGear City Pack where it could double as anything we needed it double as and hold some of the non clothing items during the flight, like our snorkeling gear and electronics.  We always bring heavier duty backpacks like this when we travel.  Yeah, it may shout “tourist!”, but when you travel like us (I always plan perfect itineraries in my opinion) and like packing and traveling lightly and economically, it really is so helpful.  Plus, you want to protect your valuables, right?  Like my aforementioned DLSR and any tablets, e-Readers, phones, headsets, etc.

Why We Loved Puerto Rico for Our Babymoon

Day One: we got in late and just chilled at the resort and in the pool.  It was a one hour drive from the airport in San Juan to Fajardo.  We stopped at a spot for some lunch and tried some local cuisine that was definitely delicious.

Day Two: we went to the beach and just set up shop for the day.  It was also my husband’s birthday.  We did a little picture taking, read, did some snorkling (with our own equipment to save money – we dive/snorkel), had some drinks (mine were virgin), and just enjoyed the beautiful scenery.  Then we went back because we had reservations to kayak Bioluminescent Bay.  I do not have pictures from that because it isn’t wise to really bring electronics when you go kayaking, much less at night.  Friends, I tell you that was such an incredible experience!  I honestly think it’s a main reason people go to Puerto Rico and a must-do if you are ever on the island.

Day Three: we drove to the El Yunque rainforest and just walked around, doing some very light hiking because it was very crowded.  Giving up trying to find a parking space, we started to leave when we just happened to find a little beaten path at the very edge of the rainforest we thought we should explore.  This is where we set up shop along the river with the rainforest all around us.  It really was like a scene out of the movies.  The picture above with just me is where we were.  We spent the next few ours there where we chatted about our dreams and our hopes for the baby (not knowing the gender at the time).  That night we tried another restaurant around our resort that had the best piña colada I’ve had in my life.  Did you know piña coladas were invented in Puerto Rico?

Day Four: we had a lazy day, just wanting to spend another day in paradise on the beach.  Had an easy dinner at the resort and then retired early (because we were tired bums).

We left on day five relatively early (an hour to airport with a flight around noon).  We didn’t want to get in too late to Atlanta and home so that we could be well rested to return to work the next day.

So we created a lot of great memories and we didn’t even need our passports!  We had passed through San Juan together on a cruise a few years ago and though we enjoyed it briefly, we weren’t expecting to ever visit Puerto Rico again.  However, we both are so glad that we did.  This trip was perfect!

Quick Tips on Saving Money

  1. Definitely buy your airline tickets on a Tuesday morning.
    Never do it on a weekend.  There was a $150 price difference between Friday night and Tuesday morning.  Obviously, it’s cheaper to buy in advance, but we did it only ten days in advance so we did what we could.  What helped was that we use Delta 98% of the time (honestly, people, Delta is actually very competitive in pricing and is rarely more expensive than other airlines — at least for where we fly).  We used our SkyMiles for husband’s flight and I was able to book my ticket using something I have making it interest-free credit for six months, same as cash.  Maybe that’s ill-advised, but we always pay our credit off quickly, expect with these special offers in which case it’s just nice to not pay everything right away.
  2. Grab yourself a great, heavy duty backpack like this SwissGear City Pack, and bring what you can to save money while traveling.  
    Eg, we bring our own snorkeling gear (saved $20 per person), we bring our own sunscreen (you know sunscreen is incredibly expensive at tourist spots!), and we bring our own nonperishable food items for the plane/car ride/etc.
  3. Grocery shop.
    We always find a local grocery store and stock up on some food items and drinks to hold us over and lower the cost of spending money out.  And even just stocking up on water and bring your own snacks and drinks to the beach is so much cheaper than buying from the waiters in that tiki hut.
  4. Make your pictures your souvenirs.
    I used to buy things when I traveled, but it quickly became excess crap.  Then I just fell in love with taking pictures and stopped buying things.  I create photo books of each vacation and even blow up prints of my favorite photos from that to hang around the house.  It really does bring me back to that memory.  I refuse to put up pictures that weren’t personally taken by husband and I (unless it’s of loved ones or ourselves) because any other artwork just doesn’t have the same effect as a picture from the time we found a picturesque little spot nestled in the Puerto Rican rainforest.  Invest in a great camera, like this Nikon, and you’ll never really need to waste money on hoarding souvenirs again.

Now, friends, spoil yourself with a $25 giftcard to Target so you can go invest in your next trip by picking up a great camera, grabbing a heavy duty backpack, or even just getting some camping gear to really save money and just camp the island of Puerto Rico yourself! (I know someone who just camped throughout Hawaii for a few weeks and I’m totally jealous!)  There really is just so many ways that Target can help you on your next adventure!  Take a look for yourself on their registry here.

Meditation for Beginners

Meditation for beginners

Meditation can be hard to embrace in our fast paced, technology driven world.   It requires so much stillness, quiet, and concentration that many people think it’s not even worth it to try. However, meditation has been shown to change the brain in a way that makes it easier for you to access a better state of emotional health.

What Exactly Is Meditation?

Buddhism places great value on the practice of meditation. According to the religion, it is the greatest thing you can do for yourself as it’s the best medicine for sorrow, fear, anxiety, and other ailments that commonly afflict the human condition. Meditation is essentially a means to transform the mind. Regular meditation helps you learn the patterns of your mind and helps you find a clearer, less negative way of living.

Now How Exactly Do I Meditate?

The first step is to set a good attitude towards meditation. Much like setting a tone of friendliness towards another person, we garner the ability to feel acceptance when we feel friendly or kind towards something. If you can’t accept the idea of meditation, it’s going to be harder to achieve a meditative state. Remember that there is no “right way” to meditate; let your practice be what it is on any given day.

Set a time that’s best for you to meditate. Morning is usually the best time because you’re fresh from sleep and your mind isn’t overloaded from a day at work or school.   However, if you can’t consistently practice in the morning, it’s best to choose another time of day where you’re usually able to devote some uninterrupted time.   Next, choose how long you want to meditate. A shorter duration of time is easier to devote yourself to when you’re just starting out. Dedicate a space to your practice.   Make it peaceful and fill it with things that bring you peace and contentment.

As you sit in an upright, comfortable position, embrace your “natural presence” which is just recognizing what is going on around you and accepting any feelings or experiences without judgement or resistance. Let what is be what it is. Awaken all of your senses, listening to sounds within and outside of your body. Feel the air on your skin and the breath moving throughout your body. Select an “anchor” that you can bring yourself back to as your mind wanders. The breath is the easiest anchor as you can draw yourself to the sound or sensation of it. Set an intention for that day’s practice.   Do you want to calm anxiety? Bring joy to your day?   As your mind settles, it will embrace this intention and allow you to be in the moment.

Benefits of Meditation

Previous studies have shown that meditation changes the structure of the brain and its benefits aren’t just from a state of relaxation. Participants in the study had MRIs done two weeks before and after they participated in an eight week meditative workshop. The MRI images focused on areas of the brain where meditation-caused differences were seen in earlier studies. After the workshop, the images showed differences in grey-matter density in places in the brain like the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory and learning. Decreased grey-matter density was seen in areas of the brain that are responsible for decreasing stress, anxiety, and depressive disorders.

The neuroscientist on staff for the study stated that, “Other studies in different patient populations have shown that meditation can make significant improvements in a variety of symptoms, and we are now investigating the underlying mechanisms in the brain that facilitate this change.” Participants reported that they felt significant improvements in their memory, sense of self, stress levels, and ability to feel empathy for others.

Meditation may take a while to master but the results are immeasurable in overall mental and emotional well being. If you’re experiencing significant amounts of stress, suffering from depression, or want to sharpen your mental focus, partaking in a regular meditative practice may be just what you need.

Pimm’s Summer Cocktail

Ingredients
1-2 bottles Pimm’s No. 1 Liqueur
1 2-Liter of Sprite
1 2-Liter of Ginger Ale
Strawberry slices
Cucumber slices, thin
Mint leaves
Ice Cubes
Instructions
Pour all the liquids in to a dispenser.  1 bottle of Pimm’s makes for a very weak alcoholic beverage, 2 bottles makes for (obviously) a stronger alcoholic beverage so use 1-2 bottles as you desire.
Add strawberry slices, thin slices of cucumber, and mint leaves to the punch.
Add ice cubes or pour over ice.
Traditionally, this summer drink also has orange slices and will use lemonade instead of sprite and ginger ale.  However, this is our family recipe that makes for a popular refreshing summer cocktail.

5 Attractions You Have to See For Yourself in the United States

A guest post by Jennifer Gilligan.

Author Bio: Jennifer is a freelance writer who enjoys hanging out with her over-sized pup on the weekends. Often times, she can be found at the beach running amok with the mutt when she doesn’t have a pen and paper in her hand.  Meet her here.

No matter where you live in the country, there’s something to see. Whether you’re going on a road trip or just looking for an idea for this weekend, check out these attractions that you have to see for yourself.

The Grand Canyon

Image via The Charming

I’m sure your friends have said it, and I’m sure you’ve heard it from other people in your life as well, but it’s true — pictures can not, and will never do justice to the Grand Canyon. Travel to the South rim and pay for parking, make your way up to the edge, and just admire nature’s work. The Grand Canyon spans over 200 miles and, at some points, is 15 miles across. Just be careful not to lean too far over — it’s a long way down.

Walt Disney World

Bored this weekend? Why not hop on a United Airlines flight and go to Disney World? Grab a two day parkhopper pass and visit the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. Go on a safari and spot wild animals, scream your head off on Space Mountain, go to another world on Star Tours, or play Toy Story Mania. No matter what you do, there’s an attraction for everyone. For added fun, go on the Keys to the Kingdom tour. In this tour, you’ll learn all about Disney World, why things are set up the way they are, the back story behind a lot of things, and more. You’ll even go underground to the rarely seen Utilidoors, an entire underground area for employees only. It’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, unless you live near Orlando, in which case, you’re probably already an annual passholder.

SeaWorld

After spending some time at Disney World, you’ll need to wind down a bit. Why not head over to SeaWorld? SeaWorld Orlando recently opened their renovated arctic section, so you can get up close with penguins. After spending some quality time with the penguins, check out the One Ocean show featuring Shamu, after the show, grab some dinner with the whales with Dine with Shamu! Seeing how well the whales are trained is truly amazing.

Niagra Falls

If you find yourself near New York, but you’ve grown bored of Times Square, head over to Niagra Falls. Hop on board the Maid of the Mist and get up close and personal with the huge waterfall. After you’ve had your fill, cross the border over to The True North and take in sites from another land.

Hawaii Outdoor Guides

If you can manage to survive the long plane ride to Hawaii, hire a Hawaii Outdoor Guide. The guides will let you experience the beaches, temples, waterfalls, hot pools, and the Volcanoes National Park. You’ll hike, walk on lava, and snorkel, all while enjoying everything Hawaii has to offer.

If you’re looking for something to do or somewhere to go this weekend, try one (or all) of these suggestions. What’s your favorite thing to do on a weekend getaway? Where do you like to go?

DIY “Bright Ideas” Stocking Stuffer

Happy December!
To kick off the month, I’m featuring an easy, super affordable DIY stocking stuffer!
Happy Crafting, friends!
Baker’s twine, washi tape, and gift wrap items courtesy of Bahana Splits Boutique.
You will need:
– a lightbulb container, I found mine from Hobby Lobby for like $1
– a computer and printer
– optional: embellishments
Directions:
1. Search for quotes, facts, or write personal love/inspiration notes.
2. Print them off, cut them out, fold them, and stuff them in the bottle.
3. Decorate & enhance with fun items such as baker’s twine, washi tape, and assorted paper products.
Bahana Splits Boutique has such a great selection of items for all sorts of packaging and gift wrapping needs.  And for The Charming Holiday magazine readers, you get a special discount for the holiday season!