December 8, 2016

A Gift Guide for a Cat Lady

Since I made the formal declaration to you that I've become a crazy cat lady, I was thinking what is more appropriate than creating a gift guide for the cat lady in YOUR life. Even though I think things with animals on them can sometimes be a little bit hokey, so I tried to pick things that we a little bit more sophistocated.

December 7, 2016

#teamwhywedding: Bridesmaid Gifts

I seriously love giving people gifts. I love picking out exactly what I think they'll like and then giving it to them. For my bridesmaids, my best girls, this wasn't any different. I had already given them a mini gift when I asked them to be my bridesmaids, but I wanted to also give them something else that they could use on the wedding day.

I started off by buying embroidered tote bags from The Knot Shop. I purchased them on Black Friday, and they were on super sale! I highly suggest all brides shop for gifts and other things on Black Friday, even if you have to get stuff way ahead of time. I just looked at the selection of bags that The Knot has, and some of them are SO CUTE. I want one.

Like most brides, I was looking forward to getting some photos of all of us getting ready. I knew that I wanted to order some matching robes for us all, and I was lucky to find a good deal on these Lilac Bridesmaids Robes from Laughing Cherries. I think that this makes all of the photos look cohesive, and I know that my sister still uses hers. 

It was so easy for me to order these for each girl, as they ask for size and height. One of my bridesmaids was 9 months pregnant at the time, and they had a maternity robe that fit her perfectly!

For my little sister, I wanted her to have something special to wear on her head. She had been talking about a flower crown for YEARS (yes, I know), but I wanted it to be one that she could keep and wear again if she wanted. I ordered this white and ivory paper flower crown from Kamipapa on Etsy, and it looked perfect. She's even worn it since, so I'm glad I went with paper.

I just love this photo of Caroline. My beautiful girl inside and out!
One of the things that makes me the MOST uncomfortable ever is when my feet hurt. I love wearing sandals, especially to dance and party. I purchased flip flops from Old Navy (similar to these) that had straps on the back, and a couple of the girls changed into them. It wasn't really necessary, but I think it was a nice gesture.

The last thing that I gave my girls were these beautiful bracelets made by my friend Becca at A Jones of All Trades on Etsy. Becca made these bracelets to match the color scheme of the wedding, and they turned out beautiful. The girls all wore them the entire time.

Becca does custom orders, and she will even gift wrap for you! Right now My favorite thing in her shop is the Emily White Statement Necklace. That would be perfect for any bride for a number of different events.

Becca has been so kind, and she's offered my readers a 25% off code! Use the code ALWAYSAL2016 before December 20, 2016, to get the discount! This is a huge savings on beautiful items that make wonderful holiday gifts!

Now it’s your turn to link-up and share your wedding tales. I love reading all about your big day, someone else’s wedding adventures, or anything else wedding related. Nikki and I can’t wait to read all about it!

Always Al

December 5, 2016

27 Things About Me

I turned 27 yesterday. I have a lot of feelings about it. On one hand... WHO in their right mind allowed me to be this old, and when do I officially become a grown up? Because I don't feel like it. On the other hand, I got ID'd when I tried to buy a 5-hour-energy a couple weeks ago. You have to be 18 to buy them. So there's that.

I thought it would be fun to share 27 different facts about me and quirks that I have. So that you can get to know me blogger (hi to the newbies out there!), and also because it's Monday (riding the struggle bus, y'all).

1. The realization that I am now 27, and am a full fledged adult is really weird to me. Why doesn't adulthood come with a manual? Will I ever feel like a REAL adult, or is REAL ADULTING just this game of pretending that you know what you're doing?

2. On the other side of that coin, I am a full-fledged grandma. And proud of it. I would rather stay in, wear some jammies, cuddle with my cat and go to bed early ANY DAY than go out. Yeah, that's fun too, but not as fun as Netflix.

3. One of my biggest office pet peeves is when people don't refill things. We have a Keurig in our suite, and some people leave it empty with the "needs water" button flashing. I just think that is so inconsiderate and rude. (but hey, at least I don't sit in a cubicle anymore!)

4. I love to have my nails painted, but once they chip, I can't stand it and pick it all off. For this reason, I hardly ever paint my nails.

5. I love plants. We have never had a great space to grow things, but right now I have 5 plants growing (and flourishing) in my office.

6. I'm not a really big TV person. I like to think that I can be devoted to shows, but I can't. I binge watch stuff on Netflix, and then I'm done with it.

7. I love the feeling of checking off something from your to-do list. I'm a huge list person, and I don't feel like I've accomplished anything for the day unless it is written down.

8. Dave and I adopted a kitten in October, and I've realized how big of a crazy cat lady I am. I just bought some mittens with cats, and I probably send my mom 41653644 cat pictures a day. I just love our Ruby!

9. I have a weird addiction to selling our old stuff on Craigslist or Facebook. Once I start listing things, I just want to find more to sell!

10. I love to travel, but we certainly don't do enough of it. My favorite way to travel is to drive, and explore all the fun things along the way.

11. My go-to order at Starbucks right now is a Grande Caffe Latte with Cinnamon.

12. Using a paper planner is an absolute must. I am getting ready to start my third Day Designer, and I don't know if I can switch it up at this point. I'm not someone who decorates their planner, though I love looking at layouts on Instagram. It's all pen and pencil for this girl.

13. My favorite fruit is pineapple. #bloglife. Not really, I've just always really liked it.

14. I really like to donate blood as often as I can. The phone calls from the Red Cross do get annoying, but it is SUCH an easy thing to do and is such a help to the community.

15. I believe that leggings ARE pants, but are such that you should wear a longer type shirt over them. Most of all, wear what you like and feel comfortable in!

16. I love to learn! I always try to take webinars and have even started using to take some classes. In January, I am starting my MBA in Sports, Arts, and Entertainment Management, and I am SO EXCITED.

17. I drink a good 3-4 cups of coffee on weekdays. Around 2 on weekends. I prefer my coffee with a good amount of cream but no sugar. Also, I have a really weird love for powder creamer, which is just weird.

18. The chore that I hate doing the most is laundry. Part of it is because it has to be lugged all the way down 3 floors to the basement, and then it costs quarters right now. Maybe this will be different once we have our own washer/dryer in our home.

19. I consider myself both a saver and a spender. I love to save money, and frequently tell myself no to things that I "don't really need," but I also want what I want. I have a full Amazon wishlist of things that I want, but will probably only buy one or two of them.

20. My favorite color is purple, but my favorite colors to wear are navy and emerald green. I love me some jewel tones.

21. Personalized things are my favorite ever. Slap a monogram or my name on it, and I don't care what it is, it's my new favorite. I purchased a return address stamp recently, and I am obsessed with it.

22. I'm seriously concerned about the cold and snow this year. We didn't see any really cold weather for the entire 4 years we lived in Norfolk. Now that we are in Pittsburgh, I actually needed to buy a winter coat!

23. The two things that I can cook REALLY well (if you call it cooking...), are butter noodles with cheese, and avocado toast. We eat avocado toast probably three times a week for different meals, and butter noodles once a week. Otherwise, I have to follow recipes pretty strictly.

24. If I was rich, I would subscribe to every subscription box out there. I currently get an Ipsy bag, but I would try all of them. I love getting mail, and I especially love trying new stuff. See #19.

25. I probably wear a dress or skirt to work 4 out of 5 days. I just feel more comfortable in that. This is despite the fact that when I was young I REFUSED to wear dresses and skirts ever.

26. Ice Cream is the best dessert ever. I could eat it any day, anytime, no matter how full I am. I love it so much that we served it at our wedding.

27. I can't think of anything else really, but if you are at the end of this list, we just became BFFs. Thank you always for reading, my friends!

December 2, 2016

Decadent No-Bake Chocolate Torte

This should probably be called a tart instead of a torte. But whatevs, I'm not hung up on the name, because this cake is freaking delicious. I made this for Friendsgiving at book club, and it was a hit. I'm a huge, huge fan of easy-to-make recipes, so of course this jumped out at me when I was searching the old Pinterest.

This recipe originated from Pretty. Simple. Sweet. I made a few tiny adjustments, and obviously Shiran's tart turned out 100% prettier than mine.

Oreo Crust:
-24 Oreo cookies
-1/2 stick melted butter
-6 oz (1 cup) coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate
-6 oz (1 cup) coarsely chopped milk chocolate
-1 cup  heavy cream
-1/2 stick butter

-Crust: Pulse Oreo cookies, with filling, in a food processor until finely ground. Transfer crumbs to a medium bowl, add melted butter, and mix until combined and moistened. It should be the consistency of crumbly dough. Press the mixture onto the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch tart or pie pan.
-Filling: Set aside milk and bittersweet chocolate. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the heavy cream and butter to a low boil. At this point I added a little bit more cream to thin it out. Remove from the heat and pour mixture over the chocolate. Let stand for 1 minute. Using a rubber spatula, stir mixture until melted and smooth (if not completely melted, heat in the microwave for several seconds). Pour mixture over chilled Oreo crust and refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours but preferably 6.
-Tart will keep, covered well, for up to 4 days in the fridge.

To make homemade whipped cream, it is SO easy. I use one pint of heavy/whipping cream, with 2 tablespoons of sugar, and whip it in the mixer. I like to add a dash of vanilla (maybe 1/2 teaspoon), just to give it a little flavor.

This tart/torte is SO decadent. The combination of the ganache with the Oreo crust with the whipped cream is so good. I chopped up some chocolate slivers (of both the milk and semi-sweet chocolate) to sprinkle on top.

The ladies at book club went nuts over this. I actually didn't get a piece because it was gone by the time I got to it! But that makes my heart happy, knowing that they enjoyed it so much.

December 1, 2016

Personalized Gifts with Tiny Prints

Hey guys! Now that December is in full swing, I wanted to bring you some gift guides (I'm jumping on that bandwagon), to give you some great ideas for any holiday gifts you might still need. I know that I am always scrambling for one or two last minute things, so I'm here to help you, my friends!

If there is one thing that I always turn to when giving gifts, it is personalized things. I love giving people things that are made specifically for them, because it feels so special.

My MIL loves photos of family. My first thought for her was to make a photo book of the nice family photos that were taken at the wedding. I may do that in the future, but when I saw the Fab Four Lapis Glass Ornament, I knew I had to get that. Whenever we are home for Thanksgiving, we ALWAYS get our Christmas trees together on Black Friday. We haven't been able to be in Rochester for a few years, but I thought an ornament with the year and a wedding photo would be a great gift for her.

This is a very nice glass ornament with a photo printed on it. It comes with a red ribbon to hang it on your tree. I also loved that it came with this cute cloth bag to protect it when it's stored.

I also picked out some personalized stationary for myself. Why NOT get yourself a gift this holiday season, am I right? I love sending snail mail, and what is better than having some beautiful stationary with your name on it. I went for the Dotted Greenery Letterpress Stationary in the color Berry. I absolutely love how this turned out, and can't wait to send some letters to some special friends!

Is it weird that I am still giddy when I see my new name? These cards are thick, and the raised design makes it feel so elegant.  

Tiny Prints has a ton of options for personalized gifts, especially for the holidays. I really love their Simply Stroked Sea Glass Personalized iPhone Case (my mom would love this), and the Watercolor Gratitude Notebook (my sister would be nuts over this). You really can't go wrong with a gift that has a photo of your family on it. 😊

There is also a very impressive selection of Tiny Prints Christmas Cards that are just stunning. I'm not sure how I could possibly choose a favorite. I LOVE me some gold foil on Christmas cards, it just feels so special. I love to frame our Card for the year, and have it out. Is that just me?