Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Top Posts of 2014

It's that time of year! Time to look back & reflect on 2014. Here's the best of Back to Bliss from the year past... 

5. My Hunter Boots

My favorite Christmas present from last year & they were equally loved by all of you! My color block Hunters are ah-mazing!  

4. A Pinterest Recreation

Seriously, one of my favorite outfits ever. I love the mint with the polka dots. Actually, I just love the polka dots. I wear this skirt all of the time at work & always love how it looks. I can't blame everyone else who loved it... 

3. What I Learned from Weight Watchers

Probably one of my favorite posts ever, I got to share everything that I learned on Weight Watchers. It's a program that I love & one that helped me finally be successful at losing weight. No promotions, just love, because it works! 

2. Another Pinterest Recreation

This outfit recreation is my most popular of the year & for good reason - I still wear it all of the time! Super comfy & easy to throw on.

1. Snowed In HITT Workout 

Last year, just about this time, Rochester had a huge snow storm & I was stuck inside with my one year old going nuts. So... I made up this HITT workout & shared it with you all. It's become one of my most popular posts ever & a go to work out for myself, even when I'm not snowed in! 

Cheers to 2015 & All That It Brings! 
Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Pinterest Hits from My Holiday Season

One of my absolute favorite parts of the holiday season is all of the get together that it brings. On an average day, I don't have a whole lot of reason to make five different types of cookies or three different appetizers. Thus, my Pinterest boards tend to get backed up on things that I'm dying to try. Since we had a ton of places to go, and my mom decided to host an appetizers only holiday party, I figured it was the the perfect time to try them out! 

Our first big event was my mother in law's for Christmas Eve. I was only asked to bring a tossed salad, which is actually a huge step for me. Normally, I'm not asked to bring anything at all. After ten years, they're finally starting to trust me! 

On Christmas Day though, I was busy busy busy in the kitchen. My family hosted Christmas dinner at my parents' country house and like I said, it was apps only. I made three, and gave one recipe to my aunt to try too. We had fifteen different appetizers & trust me, it was just as good as any "real meal" that my family has ever made. We loved it so much that we decided to make it a new family tradition! 

I made Mini Taco Cups... which were probably the easiest ever. I just took a bag of Scoops, filled them with taco meat, melted Taco Cheese on top, & set out bowls of salsa, sour cream, and lettuce for people to garnish with! Huge hit... 

Pinned Here

I also made my favorite Buffalo Boneless Bites. For some reason, I can't find my pin for it, but this is the same recipe, only in whole finger size. If you love chicken wings, but hate frying, these are the answer to your prayers! A total go-to in our house, I get asked to bring them to parties all of the time. 

Found Here

And last, I made this mini-hot dog wreath... because really, who doesn't love pigs in a blanket? 

Found Here

And at my suggestion, Aunt Babs brought Pepperoni Pizza Pull Apart Bread.
Pinned // Originally Found
For our last Christmas celebration, I was in charge of bringing my famous Chex Mix, which really isn't all that fancy... I just follow the recipe on the box & add Cheerios and cashews. But if you're looking for an even easier Chex Mix option, check out this crockpot version... 

Found Here

What are your favorite holiday party foods? I'd love to try them out!! 
Monday, December 29, 2014

A Goal for 2015

At the end of 2013, I set a goal for myself in 2014. I didn't want to lose weight or save money. What I wanted was far more simple than that, I wanted to take the time to appreciate my life. As I reflect back on 2014, I feel like there were seasons where I truly embraced this & made it a priority. For instance, I spent my entire summer home with Ella, without a schedule to follow, just the two of us having a good time. I appreciated the simplicity of being home with her & truly enjoyed what may possibly be the last summer of just the two of us at home. 

Then, I look back at the fall & cringe. I was a hot mess, running from work to practice to practice - getting home at 7:30 every night, just to be up & out the door again by 6:30 a.m. I've fully admitted that I stretched myself too thin & that I regret taking on more than I could chew. It wasn't worth the money I made, nor the frustration that it brought to my life. 

It got me thinking that when I take on extra things, I'm not typically motivated by my passion or a higher calling - I'm usually doing it for the money. It's kind of a sick realization to reach. Knowing that I was willing to give up so much of my daughter's precious childhood to make an extra $1500. It simply isn't worth it for me anymore. It's time to scale back.

Since I've already announced my retirement from coaching & I'm on a "farewell tour" of sorts, I think it's a good time to set a new goal for myself in 2015. In the next year, I plan to... 


Linking Up with Andrea for Show & Tell Tuesdays! 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Still Going Strong...

I know many of you are sitting in your living rooms sipping coffee & watching your little ones play with their new toys. I envy you. Today, we've got another full agenda of friends, family, food, & gifts! We're starting with lunch with friends who live in NYC & San Diego at one of our favorite pubs. Then we're headed to Eric's dad's house for another Christmas celebration!   

Whether you're relaxing or still going strong... have a great weekend! 
Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas Eve

Today is our last day with Sprinkles! She decided to bake Ella a cookie while we slept. That's about as fancy as our elf gets. Thankfully we've been able to get away with being really low maintenance this year. I'll probably have to step up my game as Ella gets older... 

I'll be spending the morning at the grocery store with my mom. Then Ella & I will meet up with Eric at his mom's for Christmas Eve dinner. We stay the night there & open gifts with his family in the morning, which is followed by a HUGE Christmas breakfast... which I'm clearly excited about! 

I'm so looking forward to these next few days with our families & I hope you get to enjoy yours as well. Merry Christmas! 
Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Winter Wedding Recap

On Saturday, 12/13/14, approximately 13,000 weddings occurred. My baby sister's was one of them... 

Before I get into everything, can we all just take a second to appreciate the fact that my sister's name is officially Brittany Gross. Yes... she went from Brittany Bliss to Brittany Gross. #grosspartyof2 

We had a winter storm on Wednesday, so the ground was covered with a thick blanket of white snow, but the roads were cleared so everyone made it safely. We had spent a lot of time worrying about the weather (even though it was totally pointless) so it was a huge relief to get the perfect conditions. 

I had also spent a lot of time worrying about Ella's performance at the wedding... which were merited. We had to wake Ella up from her nap around 1:45 in order to have her ready for the 3 p.m. ceremony. It did not go well... she cried the whole time she had her hair done. But she started to pull it together & I was hopeful the ceremony would go fine. We made it down the aisle, hand in hand because there was no way I was going to risk having her walk alone, and she immediately went to sit with my mom. That's when I made the mistake of letting out a sigh of relief. Just as my dad sat down with my mom, she started crying. It only lasted a minute & a half before Eric's mom popped out of nowhere with a Curious George book, but I'm quite sure that my dad had his hand over her mouth at one point... 

She was content for the rest of the ceremony, and walked right up the aisle with her daddy afterwards. Then the tears started again. Then my mother-in-law (seriously, my hero of the day) swooped in to take her & get her calmed down. Thankfully... we got her pulled together again for family photos & I actually never saw her cry again the rest of the night. But OMG, she was a mess for awhile there people. 

a very blurry family photo... praying that her photographer got a better one!

Once we finished with family photos inside, the bridal party put on our boots & coats to head outside for our photos. It was cold, but based on even the most preliminary photos I've seen, it was worth it. The photographer was kind enough to let us wear our coats over our dresses, then her assistant held all of them whenever we had to strip down for photos. My sister was a serious trooper... she wore only her off the shoulder fur the whole time, except for the 5 minutes that they shot the boys when she let me wrap her up in a blanket. The girl must have been running on adrenaline, because I was wearing a puffer coat & still freezing! 

an instagram sneak peek from @teamswales

Cocktail hour started at 5 p.m. in the ski lodge's pub, then was immediately followed by the reception just down the hall. I cannot say enough good things about the food at Greek Peak or the DJ. They were both phenomenal. I always think a good wedding boils down to three things - a good meal, good music, and dessert. We had all three.

Instead of opting for a traditional buffet, my sister chose to do stations. So, we had a carving station with the juciest meat I've ever had on a buffet, a build your own potato bar, and a Mexican station. Yes - my sister had tacos at her wedding & it was awesome. 

Then there was DJ Napps... if you are getting married anywhere in Upstate NY, you need him. I've never heard a wedding DJ this good (and trust me, I loved my wedding DJ at the time.) What made him stand out was that he didn't just play a song, then another song - he actually mixes all the music into medleys & mashups so that the dance floor is packed all night long. My fave of the night? Easily Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" mashed up with Rihanna's "We Found Love." Although his 90's boyband mix was a huge hit too... 

So yeah... my sister's wedding was amazing. I am so happy that my whole family got to be a part of it. It was a weekend that I know we'll always remember & I hope it was everything my sister dreamed of. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Recovery Mode...

Hello friends! I am still in recovery mode from my sister's wedding weekend and it's going to be complete chaos at work this week because Christmas Break starts on Friday... but I did want to stop by & share a few photos. The wedding was absolutely gorgeous & the day was practically perfect. I'll be sharing a few funny stories & some of my favorite moments tomorrow, but until then... 

heading down to the lobby for the ceremony

outside taking pictures on the slopes

pre-wedding selfie with my mom

DJ Britt in the House!

dancing with her daddy
Wednesday, December 10, 2014

It's Go Time People!

This week... it's flying by & dragging at the same time. I have so much to do, because my baby sister is getting married this weekend! 

it seems like we were just wedding dress shopping! 
And while I'm trying to focus as much of my energy into the wedding, the rest of my life hasn't stopped, so it's pretty much been chaos all around. With all three of us in the wedding, I have lists coming out my ears. I'm trying to get all of our laundry done so we have everything we need to pack tomorrow night. Last night we had to pick up Eric's tux, which led to me picking up Moe's for dinner & nothing beats Moe's. Tonight I need to bake for a school function tomorrow, because I wasn't paying attention to dates when I volunteered. #oops And tomorrow night, I have a pedicure with my sister on top of cooking food for wedding weekend. Oh... and we have an Elf on the Shelf to move around every damn night too. 

Despite the craziness, I am so excited for tomorrow afternoon to arrive so I can officially go into wedding weekend mode! We have manicures & facials scheduled for Friday morning, then right after lunch we're headed to the lodge. It's about a two hour drive from Rochester to Greek Peak, so we should arrive mid-afternoon & have time to get things ready for rehearsal. 

where the ceremony is being held... only with a whole lot of Pinterest pizzazz added
My sister has me in charge of basically everything on the morning of the wedding. I'm coordinating arrivals & reception hall set up - which thankfully will all be taking place right across the road. We kind of went Pinterest 0ver-board on things... so we have a lot of setting up to do in both the lobby & the reception space.   So if you happen to be in the area & see a lunatic in Hunter boots with an up-do running around with her cell phone attached to her hand... that's me. Thankfully, Eric & my dad will be entertaining Ella at the indoor water park, so I won't have her to worry about.

So... I'm not sure I'll be around the blog for the next few days, but if I don't make it back, be sure to follow along on Instagram & Twitter! I'll be sharing pictures of the big weekend... and you won't want to miss Ella's flower girl debut! 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Family Photos - Winter 2014

It's been two weeks since I got our family pictures back from my aunt, and while I shared a teaser in my Christmas cards post, I wanted to share my absolute favorites with you all today! We had these shot on November 1st & I was not expecting snow, but OMG I love the snow! We had them shot in the side yard of our country house & it was FREEZING outside. In some of the pictures you can even see tears in Ella's eyes. For that reason, we had to move fast. I didn't get to do quite as many as I'd hoped for, but I got plenty to help me remember this special time in our lives, happy as just the three of us. 

A quick story about this rocking horse... it was made for me by my Great Grandpa Theodore Atkins. He was an amazing woodworker & we have several of his pieces around the house. This fella happened to be in my parents' attic & as I ran up to grab the wreath, I found him. It was completely spur of the moment & perfect! 

If you're wondering where our outfits are from, you can check out this post (most items are still available) & if you want to see how our family Christmas card turned out, you can read about that here

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

What's On Our Calendar...

So... I'm two days late getting this post up because Thanksgiving kicked my butt. Truly. I've been sick since 5 p.m. on Thursday. It started with a runny nose & scratchy throat then escalated to full on vomiting yesterday, resulting in my calling in sick the day after break. Not pleasant. Despite the sickness, I really enjoyed my time with family & can't wait to be at home with everyone again for Christmas.  

Now onto December, which is going to be a jam-packed month of awesomeness for us! Let's take a look at what's on the calendar... 
  • Tonight is my first game of the season! With my recent promotion to the JV team, I get to have my games in the big gym (versus the hole in the wall where Freshman play) & I'm really looking forward to it. 
  • This weekend, we're taking Ella to see Santa! Last year was pretty disastrous, but I'm optimistic because she seems pretty interested in the whole Santa thing. She's even been telling everyone, "Santa come down chimney ho ho ho." #fingerscrossed We haven't quite decided if we're going to the mall or if we'll go to Holidays at the Market again, but either way I'm sure she'll love it. 
last year's disaster...
still not sure... 
best shot we got... Santa sneaking in from behind
  • Next weekend is a pretty big deal. My sister is getting married! The whole family is in the wedding - I'm the MOH, Eric is a groomsman, & Ella is the flower girl. It's a destination wedding too, so we'll be at a ski lodge from Friday to Sunday, with all of my crazy extended family. I can't wait !

    At the same time... I'm really quite nervous about Ella getting down the aisle. I'm afraid she'll freeze & want my dad to carry her. I don't want to ruin my sister's walk down the aisle, so I've been practicing with Ella every night. We talk about it all the time. "Go after mommy, walk down the aisle, carry your flowers, go sit with Grammy." Seriously, I'm drilling it into her head.
  • Once we get my sister on a plane to Aruba, I only have a week left of school! I am planning a fun party for my class that day & I have our team party that night too, so even though Britt will be on a white sandy beach, I'll still be having a good time! 
  • On the 20th, we're headed home to make Christmas cookies with my mom & grandma. It's pretty late for us, but with the wedding, we didn't have a lot of other options. Everyone is supposed to bring ingredients for two cookies - right now I'm leaning towards Oreo Balls & Monster cookies - two of my absolute favorites. 
last year's family Christmas with her cousin Ophelia
  • And then we finish out the month with three family Christmas celebrations - one at each grandparents' house! 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone! I absolutely love this day of the year! I get to spend the entire day with people that I absolutely love, eating food that I absolutely love, and reflecting on how extremely blessed I am. 

Currently, I am lounging in my pajamas in my parents' living room, waiting for the parade to start. We don't cook dinner at our house, we go to my Grandma's, but the smells from the kitchen are still amazing. We have cinnamon rolls cooking & bacon frying - two of my favorites. I can't go overboard with breakfast though, because I've been dreaming of turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing since Sunday. Thus, I'm going to wear leggings & an oversized sweater to dinner, then stuff myself to the gills. Don't worry though, I've been tripling up on Jazzercise all week (Goldberg's reference - if you don't watch the show, you should) & found this article to help me fight off my food hangover. Tomorrow will be radio silence on the blog, as I'll be out shopping til I drop. See you all on Monday !

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Picking the Perfect Christmas Card

My family (most specifically my husband) will tell you that every year, I get a little too worked up over designing our family Christmas card. It starts when I start planning our outfits for family pictures in September, then escalates when I get the pictures back & begin to pick which ones to use in the card. What happens in between those two episodes though, is that I scour every site known to man searching for the perfect Christmas card. I always end up picking about 20 possibilities, then narrowing it down once our family photos are in.

This year, I was dead set on having a card with a foil design. I loved everything about them. They were shiny, classic, and totally my style. I was going to have a foil card this year – end of story.

Then, we got our pictures back, and the laid back, playful vibe of our pictures didn’t mesh with any of the foil designs I'd picked. What I'd loved just a day earlier, suddenly seemed so formal with our photos in place. I was crushed. (OK, maybe that’s a bit of hyperbole, but I was definitely disappointed.)  And I felt like I was back at square one, scouring the Tiny Prints website for new ideas. Thankfully, there are literally hundreds to choose from.

To streamline the process, I asked myself these five questions…  
  1. 1.       Am I doing a holiday card or a Christmas card?
  2. 2.      Do I want formal or playful? Traditional or unique? 
  3. 3.      How many photos do I want to put on the card?
  4. 4.      What is my price range?
  5. 5.      Do I want to add anything extra?

Question #1:
I’m a Christmas person, so even though I really loved some of the holiday cards, like this one, I really felt strongly that I wanted a Christmas card. Not necessarily one with scripture, but one that honored the season.

Question #2:
Like I said, formal was out this year. Our pictures just weren’t formal. They needed a more laid back card, which is why this one, this one, and this one – were contenders. I also knew that though I absolutely love cards that turn themselves into ornaments - Eric really wanted a traditional card. So that's what I went with, it is his Christmas card too after all... a fact that I've forgotten in the past, which has gotten me in trouble.

Question #3:
Normally, I’m a fan of multiple photos. Last year, I did two photos on the front, then a collage of 16 on the back. Yes, sixteen. This year, I opted for a less is more approach & decided to put my absolute favorite family picture on the front, and then put my second favorite on the back. I kept playing around with a few collages on the back, thinking that if I have all of these gorgeous pictures, I should use them. Then, I decided that I should stick with what I love for the card & post everything else on Facebook once the cards have gone out. 

Question #4:
I try to be pretty reasonable with my Christmas cards, and since we sent out at least 50 every year, I have to stay on budget. Thankfully, Tiny Prints & Shutterfly offer huge discounts on Christmas cards, starting as early as September. (Remember, the early bird gets the worm people!) The card I chose ended up being so reasonably priced with the discount that I was able to add envelope liners to my order! Which leads me to question #5…

Question #5:
I always love when I open a piece of mail & can tell that the sender has really gone the extra mile. For instance, when I open mail from an Etsy shop & see colorful tissue paper or a few hair ties thrown in. I’m big on presentation. If I had an unlimited budget, I’d have envelope liners, metallic envelopes, and matching address labels. Alas, I am on a budget so this year I decided just to add the liners to the plan white envelopes, but OMG – what a difference it made!

Our cards have just arrived and I’m totally in love!

If you find my tutorial a little too complex, because really I may be overthinking the whole thing... check out this one from Tiny Prints that streamlines the whole process from start to finish! 
Monday, November 24, 2014

Favorite Things Party - Stocking Stuffer Edition

Today I am linking up with Andrea & Erika for their Favorite Things Party! I love this link up because everything featured has to be under $10 & that fits everyone's budget. Normally, there isn't a theme, but today, I'm making my own - stocking stuffers for every girl on your list. 

Idea #1 - Mentha Lip Balm

This is my absolute favorite lip balm & it has been for years now. I love the minty taste & how it leaves my lips feeling. I'm not a gloss girl, but they have glosses too. 

Idea #2 - OPI Nail Polish

I know that we all have our favorite brand of nailpolish. Mine is OPI. This color - Cajun Shrimp - is my absolute favorite too. I've gone through multiple bottles over the years & can never have enough. 

Idea #3 - Bamboo Tongs

You might be laughing over this one, I know I was confused when I first got them as a gift, bu they're amazing. I use mine all of the time & would be stoked to get another set. These bamboo tongs are perfect for fishing things out of the toaster & just as perfect for turning chicken nuggets in the convection oven. 

Idea #4 - Fuzzy Socks

I've never met a woman who doesn't love fuzzy socks. Even the chicest fashionistas love a good fuzzy sock underneath their over the knee boots. They simply can't be beat. These ones from Old Navy come in at only $5 too! 

Idea #5 - Starbucks Gift Card 

Not everyone likes to give gift cards, but personally, I always love to receive them, so I never mind giving them. Starbucks is one of my go-tos because I know that a lot of people see Starbucks as a special treat, not as something they drive thru & get every morning. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday Favorites

Happy Friday Everyone! This week has flown right by. I've been so busy with practices, parent teacher conferences, meetings, and such that I have no idea how it is already Friday, but I'll certainly take it! This weekend is a rare occasion - we have nothing to do! Eric was supposed to go to the Bills game on Sunday, but since The Ralph is buried under 6 feet of snow, they moved the game to Detroit... and Eric isn't going to Detroit. 

Even though Buffalo, which is only an hour away from us, got 6 feet of snow, we ended up with less than a foot. It has been COLD and we've had some icy drives this week, but all in all we lucked out. Although, I will say Eric is dying to use his new snow-blower & it's killing him that we are only getting shovel amounts. 

Moving on to my favorite things of the week... 

I saw this salt & pepper shaker set at Pottery Barn last weekend & just loved it! I don't have a kitchen that is easily decoratable. I basically have a little space on my counter & my windowsill over the sink. I dream about having Shay or Andrea's kitchen.... but alas mine is tiny, so I'm always looking for small ways to decorate it for the holidays. These were perfect, so I snagged them while they were 20% off. PS - they still are! 

I now own this sweater in 2 colors. I love that it's long enough to wear with leggings & high boots. It's also loose enough that I can layer another long sleeved shirt under it on extra frigid days, since my classroom is typically chilly. It's not on sale today, but knowing LOFT, it'll be 50% off again in no time! 
leggings - Anthropologie // sweater - LOFT // necklace - Nordstrom // boots - MIA

You all know about my love for Gymboree. Ella wears their clothing all of the time & it's some of the best quality I've found for her size. Well, everything on their site is 50% off today & I'm just in love with their Polar Pink collection! I want to buy it all for Miss Ella. I mean how cute are these little ones?! 

And my last favorite of the day is this recipe! I love all things Fettucine Alfredo and I love crockpot meals too, so this was right up my alley. If you're looking for something yummy (albeit not at all healthy) to make over this cold winter weekend, here you go! 

Recipe Found Here

Have a Great Weekend & Stay Warm! 

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