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For part III in my Shop Small Series I'm introducing a brand that I get to work with! Before I get to that, if you haven't been following along with my series, I'm showcasing some of my favorite small businesses in the weeks leading up to Christmas. The goal is to not only share my favorite brands, but also hopefully encourage you to focus on shopping small and local this season! To read about my shop small story click HERE, and check out previous posts on my favorite chocolate shop and this very unique hot chocolate.

Today's awesome small business is a diaper bag company called Ann Medeline. They make quality insulated bags with tons of pockets to stay organized. Among other things, they're water-resistant, come with stroller straps, and they just so happen to be super freaking cute. I'm not a mama, but I know that I can't do large one-strap bags. They put all the pressure on one shoulder and they're so uncomfortable, so my favorite aspect of these is that they're backpacks. On top of their main diaper bags, they also offer insulated lunch bags for pumping mamas (or lunch), as well as car organizers, changing pads, and my favorite: mini bags for your mini me's! Scroll down to see my photos, I sooo want one for my nephew. Are you a mama? What do you think of these? I know their products have also been used as college backpacks and camera bags!

These photos are some that I've taken for Ann Medeline's business over the past year or so. It's such a blast working with beautiful models and the sweetest kids for a little photo shoot. I'd recommend these bags to all my mama friends, I think they're beautifully crafted, and like any great bag, I'd be proud to carry it around all day. Shop their products HERE and read owner Grace's story HERE.












Welcome to Part II of my Shop Small Series! My goal for this series is to introduce you guys to some of my favorite brands, and hopefully encourage you to focus on shopping small this holiday season. To read my personal story on why I love shopping small, click HERE for Part I with my favorite chocolate shop.

Today I'm introducing a new favorite! This is a local brand that I've been excited to test out for a few reasons. Rogue Cocoa makes caffeinated gourmet hot chocolate, created for the purpose of offering energy without coffee, tea, or excessive sugar. Reasons I've been excited to try them: only 20 calories per serving, 1 gram of sugar, and...because chocolate. I whipped some up just today and I loved the taste - it has a deep chocolate flavor without being too sweet, and warmed me right up after a chilly afternoon out.

Besides the typical mug of steaming hot chocolate, though, there's something else I've really been excited to use my Rogue Cocoa for. My hubby has an all-time favorite shake that he makes often before heading to the gym. I can't remember the full recipe, but I know it has bananas, ice, caffeinated pre-workout powder, and a splash of cold brew coffee. I don't drink coffee, so I've been dreaming up my own delicious version using Rogue Cocoa to replace both the coffee and pre-workout powder. Imagine a thick banana shake with chocolate in it...ugh, chocolate and banana are my dream flavor combo. What an exciting way to start a gym sesh. Since Rogue only has 20 cals per serving I feel like I can use it liberally in whatever creations I dream up. What would you use it in?? Would you go the traditional hot chocolate route or add it to a new recipe?

Shop Rogue Cocoa HERE. They've got some holiday specials going on AND free shipping on domestic orders! Big recommend from me.






Thanks to Rogue Cocoa for gifting this deliciousness and being a part of my Shop Small Series. All opinions are my own. 

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser, Mars Wrigley Confectionery US, LLC. All opinions are mine alone. #SweetnessToShare #CollectiveBias


Hover over this photo to shop these special treats at walmart.com!

I love the multiple meanings that hide within the word "celebration." During this season we celebrate the holidays, what they stand for, the chance to gather with family, etc. We throw festive celebrations like ugly sweater parties and cookie exchanges to mark the special time of year. And during this giving season we put extra special focus on celebrating other people. I have so many people on my list who deserve to be celebrated, and the hardest part about the holiday season is figuring out how best to do that. So today I'm sharing one very simple, cute way that we can celebrate these special people in our lives.

The first person I'm celebrating is my hubby. This isn't his first deployment, but it's the first that runs over all the big holidays. That boy is passionate in his work, he's a patient teacher to his subordinates, and lately he's been my biggest supporter. Recently when I applied to a school program, I had to do an online interview. Part of it was written, and one of the questions was, "How would your best friend describe you?" I immediately started bawling thinking of some of the nice things my hubby has said to build me up. In a nutshell, I wrote that he says I can do whatever I put my mind to, and that I am kind and giving. Someone who keeps your insecurities at bay is definitely someone who deserves to be celebrated. The holidays are the best because they not only bring families together physically, but the traditions of the season also knits their hearts together as they join forces to celebrate their friends, neighbors, and people in need. If all this talk has triggered you to think of a person in your life deserving of a celebration, then here is my simple idea for how you can treat them to the sweetest gifts this holiday season:

These MARS® Celebrations® bottles full of yummy treats would be a fun and welcome surprise for anyone, but if you add some heartfelt words of appreciation it becomes unforgettable. So what I did is I DIY'ed these cute little mini notebooks, spelled out the word "celebration" with one letter on each page, and for each letter described a reason why I think my hubby should be celebrated. Wanna know what I wrote? I couldn't show each page in my photos, so I'll indulge you here, and maybe it will give you some ideas for your own:

You deserve to be celebrated because...

you have the Cutest patootie in all the land.
you give Exceptional bear hugs
you give our fur babes all the Love
you are Extra good at making me smile.
you have Biceps like Popeye
you let me eat Ramen at midnight
you are the best companion to have on Adventures
you never fail to Text me when you land and take off. Or when you're on the toilet.
you have Impeccable eyebrows. Those definitely deserve to be celebrated.
you are so patient and forgiving when I'm being Obnoxious.
you are the Nicest husband I could ask for.

Some of these are jokes and and some are heartfelt thoughts, but I love this little notebook because it gives you 11 chances to make your recipient smile. And of course, the sweet treats seal the deal.

You can find these Celebrations® bottles at Walmart in the seasonal section or online, and you can find my mini notebook tutorial below. So who would you treat to this sweet gift? Who in your life deserves to be celebrated? Everything you need for this easy gift can be found at Walmart, just hover over and click the photo above to purchase your Celebrations®.







DIY Mini Notebooks

What You Need:
  • pencil
  • white paper
  • decorative card stock
  • ruler
  • scissors
  • string or ribbon
  • glue gun
  • glue stick
  • marker or pen for writing

1. Gather your materials and heat up your glue gun.
2. Line your paper into four 2" x 11" inch strips.
3. Cut out the strips. 

4. Fold each strip in half. Repeat twice more. 
5. The strips should look like this.
6. Unfold the strips of paper and make sure the folds zig zag like an accordion, refolding where necessary.

7. On the side that shows pencil marks, use your glue stick to glue together the folds.
8. You should now have a mini booklet like this. Repeat for all the strips of paper.
9. Now to glue together the end pages of each booklet to create one large booklet. 

10. Cut out a 2" x 4.25" piece of card stock. Draw lines like so (zoom in to see photo) 1/2" from each edge and two lines in the middle at the 2" and 2.25" marks. 
11. Score gently along each line.
12. Fold along the scores and your book cover should look like this.

13. Using the glue gun, spread glue along the inside center of the book cover and attach your booklet pages like so.
14. Fold over the edges and hot glue those as well.
15. Your mini notebook!

16. Cut a string about 15 inches long and form a loop with it.
17. Use the glue gun to attach the string ends to the back of the notebook.
18. Write your celebratory messages inside, then hang your creation around a MARS® Celebrations® bottle and gift it to your special person.




Sometimes your entire family suddenly gets really into photography all at the same time and you roll with it. It's nice having people to go on photo excursions with and fun to see how our different styles all come out. Last month we decided to go on a mini adventure exploring Antelope Island State Park. The four of us squeezed all of our camera equipment, trekking boots, and a few changes of clothes into the trunk of a sedan and set off. 


Our initial view upon entering the park was golden fields that went on forever with misty blue mountains in the background. We waded through the fields getting soft prairie grass spikes stuck in my cloth Vans and hair. My only want for these picture-perfect fields was for a breeze to run through them. How 'mantic.


We continued down the road and then pulled aside after seeing these large reflection pools. The lovely way they mirrored the clouds and mountains was enough to compel us to don our boots and clomp through the not-so-great smelling sludge that stood between us and the water's edge. Turns out we made a good choice, I love the footprints in this photo. But a month later and my boots are still caked in mud sitting in a Utah garage, oops.


When we finally made it to the lake, we spent most of our time there. We stood above on the rocks watching a coyote trot along the beach until disappearing into the distance. I pretended to be a wandering hipster with a striped blanket, we each took turns gazing out into the distance pensively just long enough for some nice photos, I changed lenses about ten times not knowing what to shoot...you get the idea ;)



It wasn't until the sun was almost set that we decided to climb down to the beach. All the other photo-takers were packing up and leaving as we were strolling in, but it was perfect timing for us. We got there just in time to catch this beautiful blue sky and other-worldly sand puddles. All photogenic spots call for a jumping picture.


Utah is one of the best places to fulfill all of your outdoorsy dreams. Have you guys been? Have you visited Antelope Island Park? It's a beautiful area for all kinds of photos. I just recommend staying for sunset, and then sticking around for that beautiful blue light that follows it. Happy Travels <3




I'm so excited to begin a blog series about something I love to support - shopping small. My oldest brother ran a small business for nearly two decades before finally closing it's doors this past year. It was a game store selling unique board and card games, and had an area in back where you could rent and play games and buy snacks. I worked there through part of college, and because it was in the mall I would also often stop by to grab some cheap snacks to hide in my purse before walking upstairs to the movie theater. I love shopping small and local, and adore finding unique shops that the world doesn't know about but should. Through this series I'm excited to introduce you to some of my favorite small businesses and hopefully encourage you guys to focus on shopping small this holiday season.

That being said, I'm kicking off this series with my favorite chocolate shop in the world: Kollar Chocolates. Napa Valley is one of my favorite places on earth and I've mentioned so many times on my blog my favorite town in the Valley - a perfect little place dripping in ivy called Yountville. Nestled in that perfect little town is this perfect little chocolate shop. Think shiny, colorful truffles in unique flavors, festive displays like a giant chocolate Millenium Falcon or hanging chocolate ornaments, rich European-style drinking chocolate in the winter and gelato in the summer, and even a corner window area where you can watch the chocolatiers at work. Basically, heaven. One of my favorite truffles is the Dang Hazy which is full of coconut chips and hazelnut praline, but I'm so excited about their holiday flavors including blackcurrant and egg nog mmm. Scroll down to see the full lineup. I'm showcasing their full holiday gift set today which includes:

-25 piece box of holiday truffles
-Kollar Koal (dark chocolate lumps)
-Coconut Snowballs
-Gingerbread Bark
-Peppermint Bark

Right now they have a holiday shipping special: a flat rate of $12 for two-day shipping on orders over $50. These very melt-able, fresh with zero preservative, high-quality treats were not meant for slow mail, so they only go down to two-day shipping and that's an awesome price.

Is your mouth watering yet?? Which holiday flavor looks the yummiest to you? Last Christmas we wrapped a box of these for one of my mother-in-law's gifts, and she loved it, updating me on what flavor she ate each day. This year I'm sending these off to my hubby on his deployment. They're also his favorite chocolates, and I couldn't keep the surprise, so he's beyond excited for them to arrive. Who would you gift a box of these special treats?







Thanks to Kollar Chocolates for gifting these special treats. All opinions are my own.

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