a lovely living


Be My Valentine

It may feel as though the year has just began, but Valentine’s Day is already less than a month away! I’ve gathered some items below that can serve as inspiration for yourself, someone you love or a not so subtle hint to send to your significant other. This neutral garland would look pretty over a mantle, window or hutch in your home. I love a cute lounge set or new pair of festive pj’s. This airpod case, a pair of hair clips, a cosmetics bag, and a bracelet and/or earrings would all work just as well for your teens. And a cute set of cups, a cozy pair of slippers or a sweet key fob are great little ideas for your girlfriends. Oh, and not to forget this thoughtful puzzle that any wife or mom I know would appreciate.

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Family Photos 2023

It has been a few years since we had our family pictures taken so I was eager to capture these kids in a moment as they continue to grow up right before my eyes! We may have had to reschedule due to the weather (wind being the main culprit) but I’m so grateful for the gorgeous day we ended up with and the incredible photos my friend Heidi captured.

Cinnamon had yet to make it into any family photos and it only felt complete to have here there.

When I was coordinating everyone’s outfits, everything spiraled off of a dress that I found for myself at TJMaxx. It had a pretty mix of colors that I knew I’d be able to work off of for the rest of everyone’s looks in addition to bringing in some other textures. I wanted to keep the colors relatable to those that I use in my home since I’d be hanging a number of these pictures on our walls. For the same reason, I was after a somewhat season-less look.

Narrowing down our final selections was no small task. I love how Heidi manages to pull the best out of everyone and it’s helpful that all of the kids are now at ages where they willing smile on demand!

Pictures may not be my husbands favorite thing, but I’m grateful he puts up with them for me ;)

Thank you Heidi Lynn for the incredible gift that you are to so many.

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Rome, Italy

Last month Jack and I were fortunate to be able to visit Rome for a few quick days. It was in part a work meet-up for Jack and I tagged along as his lucky +1. It’s rare these days that we travel without the kids, but being just the two of us we were able to pack so much into our days despite the jet-lag and high temps.

I’ll be linking everything that I wore and my travel essentials at the end of the post, so scroll down for more of those details. I will say, cobblestone streets certainly put your wheeled luggage to the test! And when it came to clothing, I focused on packing lightweight pieces that would be practical for the 90 degree temps.

We took a red-eye over and landed around 7am. With very little sleep on the plane we both took a quick nap once we checked in and then hit the streets to explore. I immediately fell in love with the beauty of the architecture that was literally around every single corner. The details, the colors and the sheer beauty of everything around us had my jaw on the floor for the first few hours.

There was so much to see within walking distance of our hotel and we enjoyed walking because we wanted to look at everything there was along the way. Teva’s are not a shoe I’d typically gravitate towards, but they were so practical and comfortable in the heat while we logged mile after mile every day. The Pantheon was one of our first stops which we saw in daylight (seen at the top of this post) but also saw as we passed by it at night. We didn’t take the time to wait in line to venture inside, but I did wait for this delightful treat that I had read about in this little tour book

The granita di caffe con panna (coffee and crushed ice with whipped cream) that we found at one of Rome’s top coffee shops, Caffe Tazza d’Oro, was so delicious. It was such a unique treat and so refreshing in the heat!

From the Pantheon, we continued on to see the Spanish Steps. It was crowded but not overwhelmingly so. We did a bit of shopping around and I found a Zara that I happily popped into.

We met up with Jack’s team for dinners which were planned and reserved ahead of time and took the thinking and planning out of the equation for us! Our first dinner was was a private event hosted by the fabulous Barbara. She prepared a six course meal from scratch (her lasagne was out of this world) and wined and dined us for hours! Definitely worth looking into if you plan a trip.

Happy and full following our dinner and heading back into our hotel.

We had a tour booked for the Vatican (as well as the Colusseum), which was very helpful to avoid the massive line to enter the Vatican. Our particular guide was a bit difficult to understand but it was breathtaking walking through the various parts of the Vatican and Saint Peter’s Basilica. As a side note, you were required to have your knees and shoulders covered inside.

The detail surrounding you inside is just incredible, especially when you realize the thousands of years it’s been in existence and how intricate every detail is.

Trevi fountain was another favorite of ours. Out of all the sightseeing, this location felt the most crowded, but I can understand why. Pictures simply don’t do it justice.

In an attempt to avoid the crowds, we circled back through at night time only to realize that Rome does not sleep! Midnight seems to be when things get started in that part of the world and we had such a wonderful time walking around at all hours of the night, our bodies not having any idea what time (or time zone) we were in.

For as much as we ate on this trip, we only managed to end up have gelato once and I think that’s our biggest regret! Mastro Cono was outside of the Pantheon, and after reading tips on how to find the best gelato, this place lived up to it!

On our last day (we were in Rome for a total of three full days), we toured the Colosseum. What I didn’t realize was that the tour would also include a tour through the Roman Forum. Our guide for this tour was wonderful and we learned so much about the history of the Romans culture.

The Colosseum is every bit as impressive as you’d expect it to be. We learned that it was built by 20,000 slaves in only 8 short years. It’s such a surreal feeling standing in an ancient arena trying to imagine all that it has been through.

I could, and we did, wonder the streets for hours admiring everything around us.

Front doors in America just don’t have the impact they do in Rome!

Jack was constantly reminding me how much of a ‘bloggers paradise’ Rome was. He isn’t wrong.

I wore a belt bag both day and night. They were practical and eliminated any worry of pick-pocketing. Jack actually carried this bag which was lightweight and perfectly held both of our water bottles during the day.

The last evening, we dined at Rione 13. They served our large party family style and this is where Jack and I became addicted to Carbonara. We now do our best to recreate the meal every other week! Everything we tried was out of this world and sitting outside along the quaint street was simply perfect.

It was certainly a whirlwind or a trip, but we made the most out of every day and hour. We are already dreaming of heading back to explore more of Italy. If it’s not already a place that you have visited I’d highly encourage you add it to your bucket list!

Below you’ll see links to similar and exact items I traveled with and wore while in Rome…

Eyelet Details

There’s something about a bold color to bring an outfit to life. I’ve had these pink trousers for a while now and love pulling them out of my closet, especially during the spring/summer months. I had had my eye on a pretty eyelet top from JCrew but grabbed this one when I saw it in Rome instead. I love both as they add such a feminine touch to anything you pair them with. I layered it over a nude bodysuit for a chic yet easy look! Many of these pieces have been in my closet for years, but I’ve linked similar options that would allow you to piece together a similar look below.

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NSale 2023: Top Picks

Each year Nordstrom hosts their Anniversary Sale, temporarily marking down new, fall items for this pre-season sale. There is a lot of inventory to scroll through, but over the years I’ve learned to track down some of the key pieces that are practical to purchase. While I’m not sharing my mens and childrens top picks, know that there are some great options for them as well. Especially when you’re doing your back to school shopping. While things do sell out, they are known to periodically re-stock throughout the length of the sale, so it’s worth checking back. Here are my picks from this year…

Cardigan: A classic sweater in a handful of color-ways. I love that you can wear this style alone or layered to create various looks.

Tunic-length top: I’m always looking for longer layers to wear over leggings in the cooler months. Free People always has great options. And if this one does sell out during the sale, you can always find it straight from the retailer, here.

Chelsea Boot: This style of boot has been my most worn over the past few years. They seem to go with everything from boots to dresses giving you the most bang for your buck.

Bracelets: I love a pretty stack of bracelets and this color combo is lovely.

Sunglasses: I have this particular style of sunglasses in two other colors and they are one of my most favorite styles to wear. Light-weight, comfortable and cute. They also come in a beautiful lilac.

Underwear: Hanky Panky have been my go-to underwear for forever. This sale is when I restock every year.

Bombas: Another one of my go-to’s. These socks are my absolute favorite. They are comfortable and stay in place. They are pricey for socks, so grabbing them on sale is always the way to go.

Cardiagn: Lilac is my current color crush, so I had to order this classic sweater. It’ looks to be a great late-summer layer to throw on with white denim.

Jacket: Coats and jackets are great pieces to take advantage of during this sale. I ordered this lightweight quilted jacket in ivory which I’m hoping will be a great staple to have for the fall.

Tunic Sweater: I own this sweater in three colorways and it’s been a go-to for years. It’s a little pricey, so again a great splurge when it’s marked down.

Sneaker: I own and love these sneakers. They quite literally feel as though you are walking on a cloud. I wore them all around Universal when we went last spring and my feet didn’t hurt a bit.

Pink + Blue Combo

I love a good pink and blue combo as you cans ee from today’s look. This light-weight, ribbed top from JCrew is different from anything else in my closet and I love the style of it. It comes in a bunch of colorways and although it’s cropped, it’s a great fit to allow for tucking it in without worrying about a bunch of excess material. I do recommend sizing up as it runs on the small side. You’ve seen these trousers a number of times which is a testimony to how much I love them. You’ll find similar options linked below. I added this cardigan for warmth and a neutral layer to ground the look and these adorable chambray heels that I ordered during a recent Loft sale. They make a great neutral shoe that will work with so many warm weather looks!

LOFT: New Arrivals

Loft has been filling up with all of their new spring/ summer arrivals! Their website is one that I feel never gives their clothes justice and it’s one store that I am thankful to have locally. I end up trying on pieces that I never would have given a second glance at online! I found a bunch of pieces to share with you today that I’m so excited to wear in the coming weeks and months. Loft’s Friends and Family sale is still taking place so it’s a great time to grab pieces at a deep discount!

top / pants / top / jeans

There were plenty of adorable tops to choose from. I loved the navy gingham and paired it with these cute pants (they run large, I’d size down) and would also love it with white denim. The lavender top looked much cuter on than it did on the hanger, I’m so glad I grabbed it! It lays nicely and the eyelet detail is so petty.

shirt / jeans / sweater

Jeans are hit or miss for me at Loft, but this pair was fabulous. I had to order one size down from my normal (which is typical at Loft for me in bottoms) and I’m hoping they work! The denim was soft, not rigid and the wash looked like a $200+ pair of jeans, which these are not! I brought the white linen shirt home because it’s a great basic for summer. I wear them alone with jeans/pants or unbuttoned over a tank or even with a swimsuit and shorts. This sleeveless navy sweater is a great staple. I have it in white from last year and wore it on repeat.

tank / pants / tank / jeans

Two great tanks that I brought home. Excellent quality. The grey henley tank has a longer length and is soft and comfortable. You could easily wear it as a pj top. The ribbed top is a bit more chic and could be worn under a cardigan or blazer for work.

tank / jeans / tank

Same top, different color ways. I wanted both but brought home the baby blue pinstriped version. I went with the small in this top as the arm holes were a little snug in the xs. I love the look of wearing this one untucked as well. It gives off Free People vibes (for a fraction of the cost).

dress / dress / dress

I loved this variety of dresses. The maxi came home with me and I know I’ll get a lot of wear out of it. I’ll probably drape this cardigan over top while it’s still chilly out and I’ll wear a denim jacket for other outings throughout summer. This tiered shirtdress was so sweet. You could wear sandals, wedges or even cute tennis shoes for a more casual vibe. The third dress is perfect for summer weekends where you want to be cute and comfy. Perfect for kids sporting events and practices!

tank / shorts / jacket / skort

Ending with some athleisure pieces. These drawstring shorts came in a few colorways and were a great fit (just size down, they run large). Enough length so you don’t feel exposed and a cool/comfy material. The ribbed tank has a shelf bra and will be a good option for yoga and beyond. This jacket is a true 90’s flashback and I loved it. I tried it on with the trending skort which is another great ‘mom on the go’ summer piece!

Below you’ll find all the pieces I shared above…

Blazer Basics

When I’m looking for a classic, go-to look, I typically reach in my closet for a blazer and let everything else quickly fall into place. Blazers make the perfect jacket for springtime and in the summer, they are a great option when you need to be in air conditioned spaces. I love pairing them over dresses just as much as I love wearing them with a t-shirt and jeans, or in this case, a bodysuit and jeans for a bit sleeker of a look. This blazer in particular, is one I have had for a year or two and I love the fit of it. It comes in some neutrals as well as a beautiful blue and purple that I’m tempted to grab. Depending on the outing, sneakers could certainly be an option to pair with this look, however for church I chose to wear this cute pair of heels. They are so comfortable and I highly recommend grabbing a pair. They’ll be my go-to’s this summer with my maxi dresses.

blazer / bodysuit (see similar below) / jeans / heels / headband (similar) / sunglasses

This year we spent Spring Break with the kids visiting Universal in Orlando, FL and we had a blast! The weather was perfection with a high in the low to mid 80’s everyday which we gratefully embraced. We stayed on-site at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel which is one of their premiere hotels. One of the biggest perks of staying in a premiere hotel is that unlimited express passes are included with your tickets, meaning your wait times for just about every ride are drastically reduced. Waiting in lines isn’t something anyone looks forward to, so this was a big perk in our book. You can also take advantage of early park entry when available (which comes with staying at any Universal hotel).

Loews Portofino Bay Hotel

Although the hotel was less than a 10 minute boat ride to the parks, it felt like a remote getaway when you were on property. Although it is a rather large resort, it felt quaint and charming….unless you were at the beach pool which was a non-stop party!

Beach pool at the Portofino

We loved the fact that they had three pools to choose from; the beach pool which was a lot of fun for the kids with a sandy beach and a waterslide, a large villa pool with lounge chairs and cabanas and a smaller, more remote pool on the opposite side of the hotel. No matter where you were, the service was fantastic and you always felt taken care of.

cocktails and mocktails with Jack

I should mention that I would not have known half of this information had it not been for Ashley with Great Adventures Travel Co. She is always so helpful booking our vacations and makes sure everything is planned out seamlessly. She’s a pleasure to work with if you are ever in need!

Another perk that’s an available add-on for Portofino guests is their Club Level. Not only are the rooms slightly larger (very much appreciated with a family of five) but you also get access to their Club Lounge which offers breakfast, snacks throughout the day and hot appetizers in the evening. Although they don’t claim to provide full meals outside of breakfast, it was more than enough food on the days we were on-site and able to take advantage of. Not to mention you could grab snacks, drinks and waters at any point during the day. It was well worth it for our family!

We purchased tickets for three park days which were interchangeable between Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. The parks and hotels are all in one general area and very easy to navigate from one place to another.

My kids (especially the older two) are big Harry Potter fans, so this was a very special trip for them. They researched every ride and basically navigated us throughout the parks and Jack and I were more than happy to follow along! We rode the Hogwarts Express back and forth between the parks (which you are only able to do with a park to park ticket) a couple of times and everyone loved that.

Everyone was so friendly and there was a lot of comedic interaction which only made everything that much more appealing.

Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade were both very impressive…even for those of us that haven’t read through the series! It truly was a magical place.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but after having a frozen butterbeer it only left me wanting more! So yummy!

Jack bought an interactive wand that he was able to use throughout the Harry Potter areas. We all got a kick out that!

We didn’t ride every ride (some of the 3D and twisting and turning is a little more than we can handle), but we did ride most of them. Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure was probably about Audrey’s limit, but she claims it as her favorite ride!

After some of the more adventurous rides, we all welcomed a slower pace in Seuss Land! Overall, I’d say these parks are better for the older kids, but this area was so well done and quite adorable.

Speaking of adventurous rides, the VelociCoaster turned out to be a favorite for the three of us after we dug up the courage to ride it! It was intense but a very smooth ride. And it turns out you will survive going upside down with only a lap bar!

I stayed back with the girls while the guys rode the Hulk coaster, which they both loved! I remember riding this one as a kid, so I figured that was enough!

We all had one of the best meals at the Chocolate Emporium which came highly recommended by a number of people. It was located along Universal’s Citywalk, the hub of the area.

These trips always fly by, but we made the most of our time and had a great time visiting Universal, even with a few meltdowns and ‘hangry’ moments which are par for the course! We would certainly consider visiting again in future!

Two Toned

I have a funny feeling I’m going to be on the colorful trouser train for the foreseeable future! There’s something about brightening up these dreary months (at least for those of us in the north) with our wardrobe that makes things a bit more cheerful. You may have seen me wear these same pants last week with heels and a cardigan here. This week I styled them slightly differently with a pair of sneakers and a cropped sweater. I love wearing the same color in different tones for a fun, monochromatic look. This sweater is great with any high-waisted pant. It comes in a few colorways and is the perfect weight for spring. There are so many beautiful colors out this season that you could pull off this look in blue, purple, green or yellow just as easily!

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