A Trip to the Greenhouse by Brooke Courtney

Is it just me, or does anyone else feel totally crazy because it's still cold, and wintery, and everyone I know (ourselves included) is sick right now!?! Gah!

June, bless her heart, asks to go to the park every single day, but it's just too cold, or too wet to be able to play outside.. So, this morning, she and I took a little trip to one of the local greenhouses - to breathe in the fresh air, see all of the pretty plants, and get some of her energy out. I think I needed it just as much as she did. I just kept saying to her, "Look! Everything is soooo green! And, not... dead." Then she started saying, "Dead?" and pointing to different things and I figured, ehhh... I better stop saying that. 😂

She stayed in the cart for a little while, but quickly realized there were puddles to splash around in and wanted out immediately! She also kept asking me if I needed to put the "lid" (lens cap) back on my camera. So cute.

June will be two years old next weekend (gasp!!), and all she wants to talk about is colors. Colors of crayons, and birds, and food, and blankets, and animals. Needless to say, she was pumped up about all the different cactus colors. She just stood there pointing at each one, saying "ohhh, pink!", "ohhh, yeyloww", "ohhh, bwue!"

(Note: her sweet little cheeks with a rash from being sick.)

We stomped in puddles for a long time, walked up and down each aisle over and over again, and she pointed out every single lawn ornament animal and made the sounds to go with them. 😂 Ribbit, ribbit!

Eventually we wandered over to where all of the planters and pots are, and she pointed out each color, clapping for herself when she got it right. I dreamt about filling my front and pack porch with 5,000 potted plants. Seems like a realistic goal.

If you're ever looking for something to do with your kids on a rainy day, or when it's just too cold out to function, check out your local greenhouse! I always leave feeling refreshed, with a brown bag full of plants. No complaints here. 

June and I visited Esbenshade's Garden Center and Greenhouse in Lititz, PA. But you can Google "Greenhouses Near Me" and find your own!

My Favorites From 2016 by Brooke Courtney

Holy moly. I cannot believe it's the first of the new year. 🙀 Like most new years, I am so excited about everything that is to come in the next 12 months -- June's 2nd birthday, our new business opening, new traditions, and travel, and pool memberships, and meals on our new back deck, and time with family and a string of endless opportunities to slow down, enjoy the moment, and love those closest to me well.

As I scrolled back through the last year of my blog this afternoon, I was overwhelmed with thankfulness and joy. If you're relatively new here, you probably don't know that I was a wedding photographer with a large blog following for 7+ years. It's only been in the last year that I've stepped away from weddings (🎉) to focus on my job as the Creative Director at walk in love., and spend more time with my family, thus leading me to blog about my personal life. And I am so, so grateful that I did.

Besides the fact that I have a pretty terrible memory, so photographing things actually helps me remember what's happened in my life 😂, it was so awesome to scroll through the pages and see the things that I love show up time and time again -- T.J. + June, my house, food, and creativity. It has been such a fun "1st year of blogging" and I cannot to wait to share all of the things I have on my list for 2017 with you.

Below, I've compiled a post with some of my favorite posts from all of 2016 - just click the underlined text if you'd like to see the original post in full. 😎 In no particular order... here goes:

2016: The year of front porch living.

2016: The year we basically only ate snack trays. #notjoking

2016: The year of our kitchen remodel!!

2016: The year I spent in my new kitchen -- making all the things, and eating a lot of deviled eggs. Like, a lot.

2016: The year we ate sweet potato fries 100 times.

2016: The year we ate these cookies... 100 times. 😳

2016: The year we finally started a garden!

2016: The year June was a kangaroo for Halloween, and melted everyone's hearts.

2016: The year I simplified almost everything -- including my beauty routine.

2016: The year June tried her first cake pop.

2016: The year in which I was no longer embarrased for our bedroom.

2016: The year I took time to actually make things.

2016: The year I made a frame, and thus I printed one photo for our home. 😂

2016: The year we got family photos taken!

2016: The year we did Christmas cards with said photos. #whatareweadults?!

2016: The year June was 10x more stylish than I was.

2016: The year we made our house feel even more like home.

Thank you for following along, reading my posts, trying my recipes and posting your #snacktrayz photos for me to see on Instagram. It's been such a fun year! Cheers to 2017! 

O Christmas Tree! by Brooke Courtney

Quite possibly everything related to Christmas is more fun when you have a toddler, and getting and decorating our tree was no exception. It's not that June wasn't fun last year, she was! But being that she was only 10 months old at the time, she wasn't even crawling for us then. She actually started crawling on Christmas day... which was very exciting. Anyway! This Christmas has just been such a sweet season in our lives. Busy with work, but also filling it up with all the things we love about the holidays.

We started off by getting our tree from a little, local, roadside stand here in our small town of Manheim. It was SO. COLD. the day we went to get it. June was turning blue within minutes, so we picked our tree super duper fast. All of their trees were beautiful though! So it wasn't hard to choose the perfect one quickly.

While T.J. paid for our tree and loaded it into the van, June ran laps around their little wreath shop, giggling up a storm. 

For the last several years, T.J. and I always watch Arthur Christmas while we decorate our tree. But we opted out of that this year because we knew June wouldn't focus with the TV on, or "fee-vee?" as she calls it.

We gave June her ornament(s) for the 2016 year and showed her how to hang them on the tree. She was thrilled that Nemo and Dory were on her tree. It was precious. Also, note that sweet outfit she's wearing. 😂 We purchased new shoes for her about a week ago cause she's growing like crazy, and she's wanted to wear them ever since they arrived in the mail. She also did not want me to tuck her shirt into her skirt.  Bless her.

Annnnnd the ornaments came off immediately. She's been taking them on and off the tree everyday now, to play with them or take them in the car as toys. Thankfully they're just plastic and styrofoam, cause she's sent them down her "slide" a few times already.

For every year that we've been together, T.J. and I have also gotten each other an ornament. This year, T.J. got a gold microphone for me -- to represent 2016 being the first full year I've had with my voice in yearrrrs. (I had voice surgery in late 2015 to remove a large growth and regain my vocal functions! Praise Jesus!)

And naturally, I got T.J. a grilled cheese ornament -- because 2016 was the year we started Grilled Cheese Tuesdays. Yes, it is exactly as awesome as it sounds. A different grilled cheese sandwhich every Tuesday night at our house, with friends.

When T.J. pulled it out of the box, he said "Ohh this is great. I'll add it to my food section on the tree." 

June chewed on her Nemo and Dory ornaments HARD one day while in her carseat. Ha ha! How perfect?! At first I thought, "Eh, I'll just get her new ones." And then I was like "NO! This is perfect. What a funny thing to remember." #twoyearmolarsaretheworst

We love our little Christmas tree this year and can't wait to open all the sparkly gifts underneath it on Sunday! If we last that long.... cause T.J.'s already given my 2 of my gifts. 😂 He just gets too excited! I love it though.

Does your family give ornaments every year? Or do you have another tradition relating to your tree? I'd love to know! Comment to let me know - here OR on Instagram!

How To Address Your Christmas Cards! by Brooke Courtney

In my last post about our 2016 Christmas cards, I told you guys I'd give you a little tutorial on how to address your own - and here it is!

YOU'LL NEED:

  • Envelopes (That fit your cards, obviously. 😂)
  • A Sharpie - regular or skinny. I used regular.
  • Scrap paper to practice on.

First, you'll want to practice this alphabet a few times. Keep your letters long and tall, while putting your extra lines (like crossing your A, E, F, H,) up high on your letter. Notice how close to the top of the H the connecting line is in my image above where I wrote "Christmas."

You can also practice your alphabet with some of these alternate letter options, or invent your own. Sometimes I'll mix both alphabets together just to make things look more fun! And don't forget to add a little extra sparkle to some of your favorite addresses!

Before I start writing someone's name, I really study their full address to see which option (below) I should go with. Are their first and last names short or long? Are you going to add their kid's names? Do they have extra things like "apt #" or "cabin #" or things like that.

There are definitely more combinations than I included below, but these are the three I use most often!

So there you have it. Do your best not to over think it and enjoy it. Sometimes I'll totally mess up and write their first names so large I have to put their last name on another line. 😂 Or draw extra hearts in one area cause everything is so lopsided. But that's the beauty of it. Each one is different.

Be sure to tag me on Instagram @brookecourtney if you address your own and post a photo of it!

A Merry Minted Christmas by Brooke Courtney

You guys. I did it. I sent out Christmas cards this year. ( Fist pumps like Nick Miller. ) I'm pretttty sure the last time T.J. and I sent a Christmas card was in 2010, when we posed with all FOUR cats in our Smilebooth. 😹 Which, don't get me wrong, was totally amazing, but now that we've got sweet little Junie to take pictures with, pshhhh - our cats simply won't do.

I literally squealed at my desk when Minted ask to partner with us on our Christmas cards. I have ogled over their cards for years - all beautiful and letter-pressed and metallic, and did I say beautiful - and was thrilled to order ours through them this year.

The entire process was incredibly easy and user friendly. They even have this awesome "Find It Fast" feature that you can toggle on, where it'll insert the photo you uploaded into every design. This was a life. saver. Because, I had a whole folder full of "favorites", but when I saw my actual photo in the designs it was super easy to pick the perfect one! 

Everything arrived - invites and return address printed envelopes - in a beautiful box, lined with the names of some of their designers. Being a small business owner who frequently hires other designers to do work for us, this made me smile.

I quickly pulled out our cards and got to work addressing them cause I was so excited! I could have had Minted address both the front and back for me, but I actually like addressing envelopes, so I opted out of that feature.

I've even made you a little guide to addressing your own envelopes, and I'm going to share that with you all tomorrow. (So, come back!) It's really fun to be able to do it yourself and then love the way they turn out. Give it a try this year! (And of course remember, grace not perfection.)

Once I had everything addressed, I used the cutest Charlie Brown Christmas stamps and a piece of colored washi tape to top it all off. 😍 Seriously, washi tape is easily one of the best things to hit the U.S. in the last 5 years. If you don't have some, get some. (Preferably the brand MT, cause they're the best.)

I chose one of my favorite family photos for the front of the card, and a few extras for the back, from a session my friend Liz did for us back in October. You can see all of those photos in the post just before this one -- right HERE

So there you have it. Our 2016 Christmas cards. I am so thrilled with how they turned out. And I can't wait for many of you to receive them in your mailbox this week!

Also, I totally believe in YOU to address your own like I did. Just practice each letter a few times on scrap paper and then take your time. Not only is it fun, but I try to take a little moment and think about who I'm addressing it to, how they impacted our 2016 year, and say a little prayer for them.

Merry Christmas ya'll!

This post was sponsored by Minted, but all opinions are my own. There's still time for you to get a baller Christmas card for yourself - shop Minted today!