jumpsuit from ZIA Boutique

With a year and a half of store ownership (and two years since I began putting my business plan into action), I still have so much left to learn. It gets easier, that's for sure, but things happen just about every day where I think, "Hmm, what should I do in this situation?" or where I use Google or my mentoring resources to solve a problem.

I definitely feel like I'm finally at a place where I don't second-guess every decision I make and where I've finally come to terms with some of the inevitables of retail (like the fact that you just can't predict store traffic). I'm fortunate to have mentors and collaborators in the industry that I can "talk shop" with and that is always incredibly helpful. It's also important to have those collaborators instead of viewing every other store owner in your industry as competition - it's helpful for no one.

The following doesn't even begin to encompass everything that comes with opening a retail business, but it will give you a brief overview of what my experience was like! (And as a reminder, this is my personal experience so I can't speak for what is like for other business owners).

How did you get started?

This is the #1 question I'm asked in regards to opening ZIA Boutique. From the time I was a little girl, I told my parents I wanted to open a store. I remember seeing an article in a local magazine about a new boutique opening and I was both inspired and envious as I desperately wanted to tackle that for myself. I remember it clearly - I was sitting on the floor of my parents' kitchen after working out and I said to them, "I just really want a store." I had said it for years but this time, my dad said, "Well, if this is something you really want, now's the time to do it." I was newly engaged, working in a job I really loved, so I was overwhelmed at the thought of planning the wedding & quitting the security of a "normal" job, but I decided to at least investigate.

I put together a business plan - it looked very professional, though the realities of what things are like vs. what I imagined are laughable! Despite the fact that some of my numbers weren't quite realistic, I did my research. I looked at brands that weren't in Wilmington, I read tons and tons of articles about store ownership and the retail industry, and I even visited my prime location (and the shopping center where I ended up) so I could have an accurate idea as to what rent would cost. I presented a portfolio to my business advisor and while he warned of the hardships of retail, he was was supportive and on board with my concepts and so we made the move to get things rolling. 

Location scouting began after that. I had a hard time committing to a space as I knew where I wanted to be, but it's also a premium location so rent is a huge factor. There were several space options and the one I liked ended up getting leased by someone else as I wasn't quit ready to commit. Finally (several months later), we locked in the space with a target open date of mid-summer. The space I ended up with was actually where I really wanted to be, but was a bit larger which made me hesitant. However, I can't imagine the shop being anywhere else (at least right now)! I first looked at it on January 27th and fell in love with the bright light and large wall of windows. 

As I began to work on build-out concepts, brand scouting, etc., I realized my timeline just wasn't going to work. I was planning a wedding (August 5th) and was the maid of honor in a June wedding, and a bridesmaid in a July and September wedding. I realized that the ideal time would be to push opening until September (exactly one month after I got married.) Between all of that, here's a brief look at how things worked:
  • Research and business plan creation
  • More research
  • Location "scouting" - non-committed, just research
  • Met with business advisor
  • Loan approval
  • More location scouting
  • Point of sale research
  • Brand scouting
  • And more...
  • Market trip
  • Lease negotiations
  • Point of sale purchase
  • Store build-out plans
  • Another market trip
  • Build-out begins
  • Hiring
  • Inventory arrives
  • Set up store - inventory in system, steaming, tagging, store layout, furnishings, etc. 
  • Opening
There is so much more to the above timeline, but that's a brief overview of how it went!

What was the process of renting space?

I touched on this a little bit in the above but I had a pretty decent idea as to where I wanted to be located based on the brands I wanted to carry, price point, etc. I spent a lot of time searching through online rental listings but even more time driving around town and looking at spaces that looked vacant. Several times I came up empty handed because the spaces were empty but spoken for. Some didn't work due to being too large or too small. One space I liked, but I didn't like the parking situation, so I skipped that one. Ultimately, I kept coming back to the center where my store ended up and though it took some time negotiating lease space, coming up with a timeline, and figuring out the exact right spot, I'm happy with where we are. 

What could one expect to spend when opening a boutique? What was one expense you overlooked or that you weren't expecting?

The first part is a tough one as it honestly depends on location, cost of inventory, lease terms, etc. My ballpark number for what I thought it would take to get started was not quite right, as there were certain things that I under (and over)-estimated. Insurance costs are definitely one of those much needed but pesky expenses that I never even thought about in the beginning. I also definitely underestimated the cost of what my ideal build-out would be. I ended up scaling back on a couple of my initial build-out ideas so that I could have better quality on some of my bigger projects (like my custom cabinetry and cash wrap).

How do you acquire brands for your store?

Prior to attending market, a lot of what I did was scouring Instagram and online to find brands that I liked. I hit a lot of dead ends at first, and it made it frustrating. Thankfully, brands offer distribution protection, meaning that in most situations, the store next door can't carry the exact same things as you. As a store, I'm thankful for that! But that also meant that I couldn't carry a lot of my favorite brands because other places were already carrying them (even if it was only one or two pieces). That being said, it made me dive deeper and try to find brands that had either never been found in Wilmington or that maybe had previously been in another store but were no longer being carried.

My first market trip was in April 2017, and very few people even knew I was opening a business, so I was carrying the weight of all of it on top of literally having no clue what I was doing. Mom and I went to Atlanta for our first market and I remember her looking at me and saying, "Are you going to be okay?" I thought I was going to be sick at some points because I was signing my name to thousands of dollars of inventory with no clue if I would develop as to if I would have any customers! It was a very overwhelming experience. Despite that, my mom and I had a great time diving into our first market trip and finding brands that we felt would be a good fit for the shop.

What are the legal things you have to do?

The legalities of owning a business was one of the things that stressed me out the most! I wanted to make sure I had everything correct. I created my business as an LLC and that was the very first thing I did. I have to provide my EIN to every new vendor I work with to prove I am a valid business and I also have to have my NC Resale Certificate. I provide that as well and it is also displayed in the store as evidence that I am a valid retailer.

Did you have a mentor to work with you in the beginning? Starting a brand new business is hard!

I definitely had some mentors, though I didn't really have anyone to reach out to that was in my direct industry. My parents were huge resources for me as they have both been business owners (my mom owned a dance studio for years and years and my dad is a general contractor & part-owner of a boat company). Despite being able to pick their brains, they didn't have specific retail knowledge which was difficult at times, so I felt like we were all learning together. My business advisor was (and still is) a huge resource for me. He helped me get my business plan tailored, walked me through QuickBooks, helped me with tax documents and made sure I had correct legal documents. I still will randomly call or text him with a random question I should probably know the answer to, but he's always quick to give me the correct answer. I also consider my husband a mentor throughout all of this - he is much more "math-minded" than I am, so he helps me with a lot of numbers things and he's also my sounding board (along with my parents) for just about every business decision I make.

Now that I am actually up and running, I've been very fortunate to connect with bright and inspiring people in the creative and business industries. Lindsey Cheek, owner and designer for Gathered Group, was and still is a big mentor for me. She has given me so much advice in being a young female business owner and also walked me through some hard decisions I had to make early on. I also love connecting with the other boutiques here in The Forum (my shopping center) - they are all locally owned and operated and the owners are in the shop most every day, so every so often we get together to chat and brainstorm on ways we can collaborate. 

What is a hard or non-glamorous part of your job?

Though this job is rewarding, there are definitely some hard parts! One of the toughest parts to me is managing people and sticking to policies. I've had some sort of manager role for the better part of 5 years, but being the ultimate boss is still a tricky one for me. I'm a people-pleaser, so it's sometimes hard to stick to my guns and address issues that arise. It's also hard for me to stick to our policies because I want every one to have a great experience, but another friend of mine told me, "Policies is what will make you successful." You have to find the fine line of giving every one the ultimate customer experience without compromising your business.

Another hard part is the fact that retail ebbs and flows. I remember the first day we were slow hurt my heart so much. We were just off of the opening month momentum and it was quiet. Now, I've just come to terms with the fact that retail is a tough biz to be in. There are weeks when people love to shop and others where they just aren't into it. So instead of dwelling on that, I spend that time coming up with new events, working on our website, and creating new ideas to reach new customers. 

There have also been some non-glamorous parts. Many days are spent putting together furniture or clothing racks, steaming, cleaning base boards, loading up a car for a pop-up, staying at the store extra late to make sure everything gets done because you're under-staffed... Steve has also had to put together quite a few pieces of furniture and I think he's now forbidden me from anything that has more than 10 pieces (haha). There are a lot of 12-15 hour days and the work doesn't stop when you leave the store. 

Despite all of that, those things are what makes this a small business. At the end of the day, it's me and my family and my sweet employees running the show and I love the fact that this little shop has a small-business feel. Blood, sweat and tears have gone into this place (literally all three) and I wouldn't have it any other way.

What is your favorite thing about owning a business?

It's pretty surreal to work for yourself. I remember walking into the store early one morning not long after we had opened, and I just looked around and could hardly believe that it had all come together. Similarly, as I closed up the shop on December 23rd to be closed through Christmas, I literally had tears in my eyes. There was a great Christmas song playing, the sun was setting, and our Christmas tree was lit. I was running numbers and feeling so thankful for a blessed holiday season. I have so many incredible customers and the people I have met are so rewarding. 

I do like the flexibility of being my own boss. It's still weird to me sometimes that I set the hours, "choose" when to work, etc. Even though I work long days and often weekends - and I feel like I'm glued to my phone and email even more now - I do like that I can occasionally sneak out for a random week day errand or appointment. 

The store has also opened up so many doors to connect with incredible people. This town is filled with smart, talented people - whether they are business owners or stylists or photographers or teachers or stay at home moms - they are all people with individualized talents and I feel blessed to know them. 

What is a good piece of business advice you have received?

One of my best friend's dad is a long-time business owner and when I worked for a marketing and advertising agency as an account executive, he was also one of my clients. Every so often, he checks in, and as I was going through some difficult decision making, I said something about the fact that sometimes I'm a control freak and a little too type-A and that maybe I needed to lessen that aspect. His response is something I think about every day: "You should never have to apologize for the way you choose to run your business, if you are doing it in an honest and integrable way." From that point on, I gained a bit of confidence which has since empowered me to make other decisions.


I hope you've enjoyed reading a little bit about my business opening experience! Have more questions? Feel free to leave a comment and I will get back to you ASAP!
Thanks to Kelly Starbuck for the photos. You can check out her website here.
One of the questions I get asked most on Instagram is where I like to eat in Wilmington! We are sometimes creatures of habit, and we tend to go to the same places over and over again, but one of our goals this year is to try at least one new restaurant each month! There are so many great places that I haven't tried and I'm sure I've left off a ton of favorites, but these are some that we love to frequent.

Seaside Ambiance:

Bluewater - If you want a good meal with a beautiful view, check out Bluewater! It's a great tourist favorite but plenty of locals enjoy it as well. Located on the Wrightsville Beach, just over the bridge. 
What I Order: Crab Dip

Dockside - Need a quick bite to eat while out on the boat? This is a great option. Beach coverups are accepted and it's a great summer happy hour spot.
What I Order: Fish tacos

Bridge Tender - One of my family's fave places to go during the summer - or year-round, if we're being honest. Great seafood and steaks and it overlooks the Intracoastal Waterway, on the Wilmington side of the bridge.
What I Order: Crab Dip Appetizer, Blackened Mahi with Mashed Potatoes and Brocollini, Key Lime Pie

Downtown/Riverfront:

PinPoint Restaurant - the menu of this downtown favorite changes daily and offers seasonal favorites that are sourced from local farmers, fishermen, and markets when available! It's been awhile since I've been but it's on my date-night dinner list for 2019!

Elijah's - Overlooking the Cape Fear River, Steve and I used to grab a bite to eat here on his lunch break when his office was located downtown. From seafood to steaks, they have something for everyone.
What I Order: Fish Tacos

Mexican:

Live Eat Surf Restaurants - this includes Tower 7, K38, K-Bueno, and Cruz. All great options! Tower 7 is located right on the beach, so it's often crowded during the summer but most definitely a crowd fave. Steve and I love checking out K-38 for half priced fajitas on Tuesday nights. You won't be disappointed. 
What I Order: Tacos in a Blanket, Queso, Wannabe Margarita

Beer Barrio - This little taco bar is located in the heart of downtown Wilmington. We love sitting at the bar for appetizers and tacos and there is always a great local beer selection available.
What I Order: Tequila Chicken Tacos, Guacamole 

Italian:

Osteria Cicchetti - fun fact: Steve got this for take-out the night we got engaged! Safe to say it's one of our favorites. Great Italian dishes with a nice atmosphere.
What I Order: Fried Mozzarella, Tortellini Michaelangelo 

Italian Bistro - located in Porter's Neck, this is one of our favorite new spots an easy dinner. We normally dine-in, but it seems as though take-out pizza is a huge hit here as well.
What I Order: Pesto Tortellini 

Brunch:

Boca Bay - looking for the ultimate brunch buffet? Look no further. There's literally something for everyone, from an omelet to eggs Benedict to salmon. 
What I Order: everything

Sweet 'N Savory - I've had SNS plenty of times (it's a great brunch, lunch and dinner spot) but I tried the french toast for the first time right after Christmas. No words. Fun fact: It was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives
What I Order: French toast

The Basics - Located downtown, this is a great breakfast and brunch spot. Especially when the weather is nice, we love to head downtown on a Sunday morning, grab breakfast here, and then wander around. 
What I Order: Migas Mexican Scramble

Coffee:

Bitty & Beau's - Coffee with a cause? Absolutely. Bitty and Beau's is run by people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It's a place that leaves you happier than when you arrived and it's a must-visit in Wilmington.

Drift Coffee & Kitchen - this is the perfect spot for a coffee date with friends and is also one of my fave spots for a coffee meeting. True story, I've never had avocado toast but I've heard it's amazing here. Another true story - Drift had a shop in Ocean Isle, but, wanting to expand, they also operated a coffee cart out of Stephen's old office building here in Wilmington. Steve would stop by their cart just about every morning, and now they have an amazing spot that is perfect for meeting friends. 
What I Order: Ham, Egg & Cheese Toasty and Caramel Mocha

Bespoke Coffee - Downtown and need a pick-me-up? Walk into Bespoke for a quick cup of coffee or stay awhile in this beautiful space.

Port City Java - there are several of these located around time and some feature a drive-thru, so if you're in a hurry but want a cup of coffee, this is a great option. This is also Steve's go-to (pretty much every day). 

Lunch/Deli Spots:

David's Deli - A club sandwich is one of my fave things to get for lunch, and David's Deli is normally where I get one. They also have burgers, salads and more, and it's located right before crossing the bridge onto Wrightsville. 
What I Order: The Club Sandwich with fries

Sweet 'N Savory - I've mentioned it above, but for a delicious sandwich and an after-lunch sweet treat, stop here.
What I Order: Johnny Appleseed on a croissant

Pender's Cafe - Walking into Pender's takes you back in time. A great "mom n' pop" burger joint, this is a great lunch option for classic old-school burgers and fries.
What I Order: Cheeseburger, fries & lemonade

Trolly Stop Hot Dogs - To be honest, I actually don't like hot dogs at all, but my entire family does and their favorite place to go is Trolly Stop! I hear it's great, so stop in to get one the next time you're at Wrightsville Beach!

Steak:

Portland Grille - Steve has actually been here more than I have but it's another great weekend or date night spot. Its "progressive American cuisine" offers something for everyone and I can guarantee you won't be disappointed. It's a great place for a good steak though I normally opt for seafood.
What I Order: Sea bass with pound cake mashed potatoes

Port City Chop House - this one of our fave date night spots. We love checking out their 5-7pm happy hour specials and if you have a sweet tooth, the skillet cookie is a must.
What I Order: Beef Tenderloin Tips with Grand Marnier Sauce

Burgers:

True Blue Kitchen and Butcher - this is a relatively new addition to the Wilmington restaurant scene, but it's unique in the fact that it not only serves as a restaurant but also a butcher shop. The appetizers are delicious and the burger is probably the best one I've had in Wilmington (personal preference).

JohnnyLuke's - this restaurant has a great bar area as well as a rooftop bar and seating arena that's perfect for happy hour or even a casual birthday party. Steve and I like to go sit at the bar for a quick after-work dinner.
What I Order: New Orleans The Kicker Burger

Fork 'N Cork - Located downtown, this little restaurant is tough to get into without calling ahead, but it is definitely worth the wait. Their burgers are delicious but every so often, they offer a Monte Cristo sandwich that is absolutely amazing.

AcaĆ­ Bowls & Smoothies

Adapt Kitchen & Juice Bar - located on Wrightsville Beach, this is the perfect spot to grab a smoothie or bowl. I've walked the loop at WB and then stopped in for a refresher and it is (insert raising hands emoji here). We will also snag coffee here when we're staying at the beach house.

Pizza

Benny's Big Time Pizzeria - owned by chef Vivian Howard, this pizza spot is the perfect place for date night, girls' night, and all the things. The pizza is amazing as is the dessert.
What I Order: Southern Fried Chicken Parm + Tony Pepperoni Pizza

Local Neighborhood Spot:

Ogden Tap Room - this is located not too far from our house, so it's a fave spot for us to meet some of our best friends, who are also our neighbors. 
What I Order: Chicken and Waffles (burger is great, too)

Girls' Night Out/Date Night:

The Little Dipper - Looking for a great place for a girls' night or birthday? Check out The Little Dipper. I went for the first time in years to celebrate my best friend's birthday a few weekends ago and it was so good. Fondue is always a fun experience if you want to hang out and chat for a bit. The meal was delicious, but let's be honest: I was there for the dessert!
What I Order: Tuscan Sundried Tomato Cheese Fondue, "The Undecided" (I chose Filet, Ravioli, and Pot Stickers), and the Milk & Cookies Chocolate Fondue

Indochine - Love Thai food? This is your spot. It's a great place to go in the warm weather seasons so you can take advantage of the beautiful gardens and outdoor dining.
What I Order: Pork Pot Stickers, Chicken Thai Fried Rice

Ceviche's - I first tried this spot for a friend's birthday but have since gone back to meet friends. In complete transparency, I haven't tried their ceviche as I'm not a huge fan of the dish (seafood isn't always my favorite), however there are so many other great options that regardless of your favorite food, there is something for everyone!
What I Order: Guacamole Sampler, Chorizo y Goat Empanada, Arroz con Pollo

Places I Want to Try:

There are so many amazing restaurants we want to try and the list below doesn't even begin to cover it!
  • Catch
  • Manna
  • Roko
  • Rx
Where to begin?! When I look back on this year, I honestly feel so content.  2017 was an amazing year - I got married, opened the shop, and had such an incredible year, so I was interested to see how 2018 could ever top it. 2018 hasn't had quite as much of the excitement, but it has been filled with self-improvement, accomplished goals, exciting travel, and time spent with family. It's been a building year - building my business, my marriage, etc.  There were some definite low points - but I'm thankful that the good outweighed the bad. Here's a look back at some of the favorites.

Favorite Travels:
This year, I was lucky enough to take several fun trips. From Key West to New York City, it's safe to say I loved every second. 
February - Charlottesville, VA
I kicked off 2018 travels with a girls' trip to Charlottesville with my friends Shelby and Taylor-Rae. You can read all about it here but it was so fun to get together with my two favorite bloggers who are also two great friends. 
March - New York City
Mom and I headed to NYC for Coterie and it was our first time at this show. The first day was crazy overwhelming, but the second day was a blast. The Javits Center is huge so having that many vendors to choose from when ordering for future seasons is overwhelming but fun.
June - Atlanta
June held another trip for market, but this time to Atlanta! Mom and I hit the road late one evening (never again) and we snagged some goodies for fall and holiday for the shop. 
July - Key West
In the middle of the summer, I headed to Key West with the best group of girls for my cousin's bachelorette trip. We had the absolute best time! I planned to recap that trip as we had a great experience (maybe one day!). Regan is getting married in February, so I'm excited for all the girls to be together again. 
August - Charlottesville, VA
For Labor Day Weekend, I headed back to Charlottesville, but this time for a fun bachelorette trip to celebrate my friend Cameron! We had the best time, stayed in the cutest little townhouse, and drank and ate our way through Charlottesville. 
September - Outer Banks
In September, it was time to celebrate my friends Cameron and Brad! They had an absolutely amazing wedding week and it's a time with friends I will cherish forever. 

Other Favorite Memories:
I think one of the things I truly loved most about this year were the little moments. Days on the boat with my family, grilling out in our backyard with Steve, nights hibernating in the fall watching Game of Thrones together, friend time. Here are some other memorable moments:
Snow in Wilmington - On January 4th, it snowed in Wilmington! Coastal snow is so magical so waking up to a winter wonderland (that stuck around for a few days) was so much fun. 
27th Birthday - I turned 27 this year, and we spent Memorial Day Weekend at the beach house! I love spending our summers there and kicking it off with birthday celebrations was the best. 
Celebrating Our 1st Anniversary - We celebrated our first year of marriage with a staycation at the beach house and honestly, it was one of my favorite memories of 2018. We did our favorite things, just the two of us, and it was so nice to just unwind and not be in such a rush. You can read about our staycation here

Reader Favorites:
So what did SS readers love this year?! These were the top products:

Ruffle Strap Tank: This top is one of my top 5 purchases of the year. It was such a steal and I have worn it countless times. It was also a SS favorite and featured by the liketoknow.it app, which was a highlight for my Instagram this summer. It goes in and out of stock, so it's never a bad idea to check in from time to time to see if it's available in your size! It's also available in this pretty pink. Click here to shop!

Shona Joy Wrap Dress: This dress will never get old! It continues to be my most pinned look on Pinterest and my most read blog post. It comes in so many gorgeous colors, but my favorite is Seaweed. 

Roll Sleeve Tunic: I've had this tunic for 3 years and it's my go-to piece for when I don't know what to wear. I love it front-tucked with jeans or on it's own with my favorite faux-feather leggings! And it's such a great price point. 

Oh Hello Door Mat: Our front door mat has been another reader favorite! I have it layered over this one from Wayfair, and I love the combination!

Cowl Neck Sweater: This sweater is hands-down my favorite one I own! I bought it in dove grey last Christmas while in NYC, and I've worn it so much that it's definitely seen better days! I also snagged it in a camel color and love rotating the two. 

Top 5 Blog Posts:
I always enjoy looking back to see what SS readers checked out the most. These were this year's top 5:

+ That One Dress
This post was written in 2016, but it still is a reader favorite.

+ A Girlfriends' Guide to Charlottesville
This trip was such a fun way to kick off 2018 travels. Be sure to check it out here!

+ On the Eve of Hurricane Florence
My emotions were so high as we prepared to evacuate for the storm. I was so overwhelmed with emotion, but putting my thoughts here on the blog seemed to calm me down.

+ #NSALE - Nordstrom Sale Early Access
This post is another one that was originally written in 2016, but each year during the Nordstrom sale, it gets a ton of traffic. I keep it updated with that year's sale so all content is relevant!

+ Wedding Planning Tips & Tricks
I still get a good amount of questions about our wedding, so this little list is an overview of what worked for me!

My heart is so happy thinking about this year, but don't get me wrong - there were some lows. Some very, very low lows. At various points during the year, I developed anxiety that would leave me feeling incredibly overwhelmed or even physically sick. I was in a car accident on Father's Day, and the thought of driving was very overwhelming at times. I remember the first time I drove a group of gals post-accident and I was so anxious before we left because I was terrified that something would happen while I was driving.

Hurricane Florence also brought on a kind of anxiety I've never felt before. Weather has never scared me, but the night before we evacuated, I was literally hysterical. I couldn't even look around our house without instantly crying and I was checking the weather non-stop, praying it would downgrade. Over the course of the next week, the anxiety only got worse as several situations made it so I couldn't eat without feeling sick. Slowly, the anxiety crept away when I was able to get back home and to my "safe" place, but I've experienced that kind of emotions very few times in my life.

I share those moments to be transparent. Every year isn't perfect. When I go through certain emotions, it feels like nothing will ever get better, but time passes on, and things do in fact get better. Those difficult moments are stepping stones to something more, and more often than not, something better. So if 2018 was a rough year for you, I hope and pray that 2019 brings blessings to your  life!

I also want to say THANK YOU to everyone who continues to read my blog, shop with me, and support the brands I collaborate. I treasure this creative space and the relationships that have stemmed from it. Cheers to 2018 and hello 2019!
Merry Christmas Eve! The next few days will be filled with family time and I am so excited to take it all in. It's been a busy holiday season at the shop as retail at Christmas is always a bit crazy (thankfully), so I'm looking forward to a few days off spent with my Stephen, Sophie and our family. 

There's nothing like sharing our Christmas home tour 2 days before Christmas (I took these photos 2 weeks ago!) but I did want to document our 2018 holiday home. Our Christmas tree is the same one we've had for the last two years (this makes year #3) and I have a feeling that we'll put it to good use next year as well. I decided to use a lot of our decorations from last year bt accent with a few blue ornaments.

A few things I snagged this year included our reindeer trio (I have the small, medium and large) and our stockings. Stephen and I opted to just do stockings this year because a). we really don't need anything and b). we are planning to take a trip in the next month or so (location TBD) so that was our gift to each other! The stockings I ended up purchasing are huge (laughably large) but I love them and can't wait to use them for years to come and they're now on sale! I also got this mini nativity set for our console table and I absolutely love it. I can't wait to set it out each year. 

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and a happy New Year! I'm holding onto every second as it flies by way too quickly!

Shop Our Holiday Home:

Less than a week away from Christmas?! Say it isn't so! I'm trying to hold onto every single minute as this time of year is truly one of my absolute favorites. I've still been on the hunt for a few great gift options, so I stopped by Perry's Emporium to see what fashion jewelry they have in stock. Although they've been very busy with the holiday season, they still have some amazing gift options (and I have now added a couple to my wish list). 

Even better, if you have an upcoming holiday party, it's not too late to grab a couple of pieces that will accessorize your look but can easily work into your everyday jewelry as well. Though I loved so much of their in-stock options, a few pieces from the Gabriel & Co. collection really caught my eye. This gorgeous 14k gold and diamond bangle is something I could easily see myself wearing every day, as it's a simple statement that I can stack with my watch or other bracelets. 

I have a bezel diamond necklace I wear every day, but then I saw this gorgeous turquoise and diamond necklace, I thought about how fun it would be to switch it up! It's a simple statement piece, which I love, and while it adds color to your wardrobe, I would also wear it as an every day necklace. 

It's always nice to receive beautiful jewelry pieces, so if you are looking for a great fine jewelry option that's under $1000, both of these would make great gifts for the special gal in your life!
Shop the Post:


One of the things I get messages about most on Instagram is surprisingly my makeup routine! After years of doing pageants and wearing heavy makeup for events and appearances, my every day has been pared down to my favorite products for a more natural every day look. I'm sharing my tutorial on Instagram Stories (saved to my highlights!) but below you can find what I use on an every day basis!

Foundation
Top Pick: Peach Perfect
I've been using this foundation for a short time, but I'm loving it so far! It's a lightweight semi-matte finish, but if you like a more dewy look (like I do), you can always use a dewy setting spray at the end of your makeup! I use it with this brush

Concealer
Top Pick: Naked Concealer
I love this concealer! I've been using it for almost a year and it's worked great for both my summer and winter makeup routines. 

Blush/Bronzer/Highlighter
Bronzer/Blush Combo: Too Faced Sweetie Pie Palette
Highlighter: Bobbi Brown Mini (I also love the Shimmer Brick)

My blush trio from Estee Lauder is so old but this palette is very similar (thinking about making the switch soon!) I use a combination of the above pretty much every day. The Too Faced Sweetie Pie is the perfect blush/bronzer option for the gal on the go and it's my go-to for when I'm in a hurry. 

Eyeshadow and Mascara
Mascara: Diorshow
I have lash extensions so I very rarely wear mascara these days, but I will occasionally layer on Diorshow on my bottom lashes (and on my extensions if I'm getting close to needing a fill-in). I have also been using the Superhero Palette by It Cosmetics for quite some time and I absolutely love the color options!

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