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    Many of you may have received a puzzle piece in the mail last month. October 9th was my dad's 60th birthday so I had to do something BIG! Thanks to my friend Bri, who saw the idea on another blog and did something similar for her boyfriend's birthday, I got this idea!

STEP 1:
Purchase a Puzzle
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    I purchased my puzzle from Portrait Puzzles because I was able to get the best price for the size puzzle pieces I needed. I wanted each puzzle piece to be large enough for people to write more than just "Happy Birthday! Love, So-and-So" on! The quality was great, shipping was fast, and I upgraded to the metal tin because that's something my dad would appreciate.. if you know him, you get it. See below for a special coupon code for Portrait Puzzles!

STEP 2: Create Your "How To" Sheet
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    I basically copied the formatting from Bri [thanks, girl], and just changed the wording a bit! Not great at formatting and 'graphic design'? I kind of have a business where I get paid to do that, I have reasonable fees, and I'd love to help! *end shameless plug*
    I recommend not printing the "How To" sheets until you're 100% sure on all instructions. I decided last minute to put a piece of cardboard in each envelope to help protect the puzzle pieces from getting bent in the mail so I used a label sheet and placed a sticker at the bottom of each instruction sheet saying, "Leave the cardboard in the envelope to protect the puzzle piece" ..miraculously I still had people not follow that direction.. and I also placed a sticker in each envelope to seal his envelope with so I ended up hand writing on the back of each sticker, "Use me to seal the envelope!" Both of those items could have fit on the "How To" sheet if I'd just waited to print them!

Step 3:
Buy Envelopes and Stamps
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    This is another step I recommend waiting on! The puzzle information said that the piece sizes were approximately 3.5"x3.5" each, so while waiting on the puzzle to arrive I went to my local office supply store to get a head start on addressing and stamping the envelopes. I knew I'd need a larger envelope to fit everything in [the "How To" sheet, the pre-addressed/pre-stamped envelope, the sticker seal, the puzzle piece, and the smaller envelope with the cardboard inside] plus the smaller envelope to hold the cardboard and puzzle piece in. I purchased the "Invitation" and "Photo" envelopes, approx. 4.5"x5.75" and 4.75"x6.5" respectively. I started stamping and return-addressing away until..
    When the puzzle arrived I quickly realized that about 8 of the pieces were too big/awkward to fit in the smaller envelopes. Luckily, the cardboard cutting took so much of my time that I hadn't even gotten to addressing the envelopes so it was an easy fix - for those 8 pieces I used the larger, photo, envelopes as the "small" envelops then went and purchased "Greeting Card" envelopes as the larger, outer, envelopes! Major crisis averted!
    Why wait to purchase stamps? With the "weight" of the puzzle piece and protective cardboard, one stamp wasn't enough - wait until you have a puzzle piece, package one envelope up and take it to your local USPS to find out the exact amount of postage you need! Remember - you'll need the same amount for both the outer and inner envelopes [the "How To" sheet isn't going to remove that much weight!]

Step 4: Stuff Away!
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    By far the longest process if you're a perfectionist. I wanted to ensure everyone had a significant piece of the puzzle; I got my face, my sister got the piece with hers on it, my mom's family got pieces of her and my dad's family got pieces of him and so on.. I know, I'm weird. Ps. Sorry if you're just now realizing where you fell in that priority list!
    An "assembly line" set up works best for this to make sure each envelope gets everything it needs!

Step 5: Mail!

    I sent these out about a week and a half before I wanted them to start mailing them back. In all reality, it doesn't matter if they don't all come before the actual birth-date [or anniversary date] just as long as they start coming before then!

So, If My Dad Had Facebook..

    If my dad had Facebook, he would use it to post a status saying how grateful he was for all of the time and effort each and every single one of his friends and family members put into his birthday gift. Almost everyone went above and beyond just writing, "Happy Birthday! You're OLD!" and you all blew him away with your kind words. His status might say something like the text he sent me:
"Thank you very much for the puzzle. It was a very wonderful gift. The entire process was well thought out and nicely done. I was deeply touched by all of the effort and love that went into this birthday present."
    I'm sure on my dad's Facebook "wall" he'd have a "Joke of the Day," his thoughts on Ebola from a doctor's standpoint, countless "Happy Birthday" messages on October 9th, I'd hope he'd have plenty of "Thanks for all you do" notes, I know he'd have a million and one photos of his beloved dogs [seriously, who could blame him? Have you seen how cute they are?!], and this week, he would have posted a picture in remembrance of his father who passed away a year ago; the man who influenced my dad to be the amazing man he is.
    Now for a video of dad opening his favorite puzzle piece [sorry to my mom, sister, and myself, but this piece took us out of the competition.. not that there was one]! Disclaimer: My dad will have my head for putting this up because he'd already taken his dress shirt off and only has an undershirt on. Oops, sorry dad! But I had to post it to show how much he truly loved his gift! The heart-felt words you all sent were so wonderful! Also, you will want to cry in the middle but you will die laughing at the end.. maybe a puzzle wasn't the best gift?!
    Thanks again to everyone who participated and made this the best birthday present ever! Thanks to the original blogger who gave Bri the idea so I could copy, and thanks to Portrait Puzzles for the amazing puzzle! Want a puzzle of your own? Portrait Puzzles has graciously offered a $2.00 off promo code to my readers! Use code pporder06 at checkout!
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    Yes. It is past Friday - eek! We were traveling back from our House Hunting trip so this post got neglected. Even if it's late, I had to post to fill you in on a sale, so this is more of a PSA than anything.. everything Kate Spade is 25% off for Friends and Family through Sunday! Yay!
   
    Kate and I are kind of friends from afar. I love to admire all of the gorgeous purses but I have to steer clear of stores to keep my wallet [and marriage] safe. I wasn't even aware until recently that there was more to Kate than pretty purses, shoes, and accessories; she also carries a line of things for the home including fine china, vases, etc. Anyway, these are a few of my favorite home items!


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Clockwise from top left: 1, 2, 3, 4
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1. Scented Candles - I love Kate Spade for the witty quotes on most of her products. Not only do these smell good, they're beautiful and include cute and inspirational quotes and sayings. I think I need the blue one for our new adventures in North Carolina!

2. Market Street Collection - One of the main reasons I chose a white dish for our main dishes when we registered is because you can always dress them up! These fun dotted accent plates would be perfect on top of a white dinner plate for Easter with colorful antique drink ware or even these cuties from World Market for Easter brunch!

3. Things We Love Collection - This collection is cute, fun, and colorful, but what I really love is the coffee table book. I have seen it all over Instagram for some time and heard everyone ranting and raving over it. Quite honestly I didn't think anything of it or believe it could be that great. After turning through the pages at B&N, I can see why people love it - definitely gets the creative juices flowing [if being creative is your thing] and definitely looks good on the coffee table!

4. Daisy Place Collection - I saved the best for last! How stinking cute are these little dishes?! I love organizational items - especially ones this cute! I am so excited to be moving in to a new place in Charlotte where there's a designated "entry space" that these can sit near to place keys, sunglasses, mail, etc.! [While I love our current apartment, it is small and you enter directly into the family room so we often loose our keys and sunglasses before making it to the kitchen cabinet where they belong, and mail ends up everywhere from the coffee table to the dining room table and beyond!]


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And on that note, I'm going to head to the Kate Spade Outlet! Hopefully I can keep my husband under control this time..

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    This month of love, all Tuesday tips are about investing. Last week was "Invest in You," and still to come are, "Invest in Others" and "Invest in God."

Invest in the Ones You Love

    If someone asked you, "who do you love?" chances are that in your top 5 you'd have: your spouse [or significant other], your parents, your siblings, your kids, your BFFs, and [of course] your dog but he doesn't really count for this [we all know you already invest a lot of spoiling his direction]. Investing in the ones we love can be difficult sometimes. Many think that "investing" requires spending money, it doesn't [at least not much as you'll see]. Spending too much money can cause entitlement issues as Dave Ramsey's daughter Rachel Cruze points out in the article "Spoiled or Blessed". If you read the article, a snippet from their upcoming book, you'll see that everything comes down to attitude - are your gifts given with thoughtfulness in love or just given because you're conditioned to or feel you have to? Here are some ways to show the ones you love that you care about them not because you have to, but because you get to.
1. Send a Handwritten Note, Just Because
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    I really can't tell you how much this means to someone to receive a handwritten note in this age of technology, but Discovering Hadley [the blog where I found the picture above] puts it this way:
"Is there anything more pleasantly surprising than going to the mail box expecting bills, solicitations, and maybe (if you’re lucky) a catalog from a company you like, and finding a handwritten note? We think not .. no matter how small, it can make your day or your week."
    If the person is someone you live with like a spouse or child, sending mail isn't practical, but Post-it notes are! I LOVE Post-its and have often used them around the house to leave Tyler little notes to let him know I'm thinking of him. I've also been known to sneak little notes in between his clothes when he leaves on a business trip. Handwritten notes are the perfect way to let someone know you're thinking of them on more than just holidays.
2. Mini Gifts, Just Because
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photo credit: Flax and Twine
    So, maybe you can't knit, but if you have any crafty bone in you, I promise people will love homemade gifts. Maybe baking is your thing? People love food, too. Use your gifts to invest in others. A lot of times, handmade is less expensive [and almost always more thoughtful] to give. Can't think of something to make - Pinterest is always a good resource. Reeeeally struggling with this one [ahem, guys]? Bringing someone their favorite Starbucks drink just because is a plus. Doing anything "just because" is a big deal. It's nice to know someone cares about you - no ulterior motives or strings attached.
3. Turn Off the T's
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photo credit: iStockphoto
    There's no better way to show someone that you're not invested in them, than by constantly being on your telephone, tablet, or watching TV. Turn it off! In a world overrun with technology, it's important to have some off time to connect with people on an emotional level. At our house, we have a no cell phones at the table rule. Meals are our time to connect with each other and go over the day ahead or reflect on our day's accomplishments together.
4. Remember Them
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photo credit: Google search "Calendar"
    Don't forget important dates for the ones you love! Keep a calendar or list of the ones you love that includes their birthdays, graduation dates, weddings, job interviews, etc.! Even if you can't be there or can't afford to send a gift, sending a nice text or note lets them know you're thinking of them and they'll appreciate it! From personal experience, I can tell you how much it hurts to have a family member forget your birthday or not show up at your wedding.
A Big No-No.
    Something not to do when it comes to investing in the ones you love is gift-giving as an apology. Many will disagree with me on this but here are my thoughts on it:
    Gift-giving as an apology conditions the recipient to think that they will get something every time you do something wrong and they may start to nit-pick and find new reasons to be critical of what you're doing that "hurts their feelings" [consequently running you out of money]. See the link above for the Dave Ramsey and Rachel Cruze article - this is one of those things that could result in a spoiled child or spouse or friend, and cause you to be taken advantage of. I'm not saying don't take your kid out for ice cream to have a neutral ground to explain to him why you missed his baseball game, I'm just saying don't take him to Toys-R-Us.
    Something to also think about: how sincere is your apology if you're handing over a new diamond necklace at the same time? Are you truly sorry, or hoping the monetary value and shininess of the gift will cause them to overlook your wrong-doing?
Planning Ahead
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    Above you can see how my husband and I plan ahead to invest in the ones we love and keep within a budget. Every month we put down birthdays and holidays that gifts should be purchased for. We also have an "extra" tab each month - money that can be used to be thoughtful unexpectedly by sending a card, or a mini gift, or extra cushion for wedding gifts, etc. The amount we use for each person is blocked out for obvious reasons, but our "extra" budget is only $10 a month. That $120 a year seems to cover most additional charges such as wedding and spontaneous gifts.
    The total amount we anticipate spending we take and divide by 12 [months] to see how much we should be budgeting per month even if it won't be used that month. The columns to the right ensure we don't forget anyone's special day or remind us that we already bought a gift for someone ahead of time.

    Investing in the ones you love - not just monetarily - is a sign of how much you care about them. Let them know you love and care about them often, not just around birthdays, holidays, and Valentine's Day. Be sincere in your giving and remember, you get what you give.

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Gift Guide for Your Man

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Men can be ridiculously hard to shop for, especially on a holiday that mainly exists to make women feel better about themselves and more secure in their relationships. With the help of my own man, I put together this gift guide to help you out in your last week of shopping!

1. Shaving Starter Kit - The Art of Shaving
Sandalwood is personally Tyler's favorite scent, and my favorite scent to smell on him.
2. Sonicare Diamond Clean Rechargeable Toothbrush in Black - Best Buy
Nothing girly about this black beauty, but it's a wife's bathroom decor dream.
3. San Francisco Neighborhood Print - Flying Junction Co.
Does your guy have a favorite city? These prints are a cool way to help him decorate his bachelor pad or man cave, just don't get one that's too colorful - men appreciate simplicity.
4. Nate Three-Hand Stainless Steel Watch in Black - Fossil
For the businessman in your life. I'm extremely partial to watches and this one is the perfect combination to be dressy for work and casual for going out. Plus, it's a great price for Fossil!
5. "You Are My Greatest Adventure" Hand Made Print - Brown Fox Calligraphy
Bri has amazing handwriting! These are straight 'pen to paper' - no importing to Illustrator or any other program and reprinting. A sweet reminder of what your guy means to you.
6. Instagram Fridge Magnets -Sticky Gram
You may not be able to get into his Instagram pics [or you could screen shot them all and upload to a private account..] but chances are, you have pictures on your Instagram of things that you've done and places you've been together. Fridge magnets are a fun way to keep those memories alive! Use code FRIENDTE91 for $4 off your order!
7. Movie Date
They may not admit to it, but guys appreciate a girl helping out once in a while! Create a simple gift basket with popcorn, his favorite candy, and movie tickets for a date night - just make sure you let him pay for Valentine's and use this another time!
8. Chapstick - not pictured
According to Tyler this should be on the list because, "Manly men don't invest in their lips," haha!

"Hey, I just met you.. this is crazy"

Gifts #3 and #7 are for you! You don't want to come across as too into it if it's only been a few weeks, and you don't want to make him feel bad if you've spent more than him!
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#3 shows a bit of thoughtfulness, while #7 still keeps it cool. Either way, you don't want to spend over $25 or you'll risk him thinking that you're getting too attached too quickly! Whatever you do, steer clear of #'s 1 and 2!

"I think I Wanna Marry You"

If you've been together a while, it's okay to spend a little! Other than the gifts listed in "Hey, I just met you.." #'s 1, 5, and 6 are for you!
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#1 comes in a mid-size as well if you want to spend a little extra, but the starter kit is great if he's never tried it before! #'s 5 and 6 would be great combined - tell him he's your greatest adventure then give him the gift of some adventures you've had together!

Ball and Chained Forever

Obviously, any of the gifts are perfect - just base them on your budget or what you think he'd like the most or need the most! I chose #'s 2 and 4 specifically for married or seriously commited couples, but you know your relationship best!
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In addition to #6, I bought Tyler something nostalgic from his childhood - may seem silly to some but I know he'll appreciate having it and for us to start the tradition with our kids in the future!

Here's to a Happy Valentine's Day!

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    It's my favorite month! Mostly because it's my birthday month.. I'm not a huge Valentine's proponent, but I love an excuse to get dressed up and not have to cook! I also love to spoil Tyler with small gifts which since we got married and joined bank accounts, I've been doing less of. Valentine's gives me a reason to purchase something thoughtful for him - watch for guy idea gifts later this week!
Here are a few items I've been swooning over that are Valentine's day related!
1. Gold Lip Stain Mug - SHOP by Monika
2. Ephesians 4:2 Print - Naptime Diaries
3. Venus Bust - Overstock
4. Crazy Hearts Cosmetic Bag - Forever 21
5. Michael Kors Pave Delicate Heart Necklace - ShopBop //Splurge//
6. Valentine's Day Gentle Reminders Pencils - Amanda Catherine Designs
7.-8. Heart Water Bottles in Milk and Jet - bkr
9. Gold Heart Pillow in Coral - Sukan
10. Girl Bands in Super Cute Heart - ban.do

Happy Month of Love! Ps. Don't forget to enter to WIN FREE dresses!

Joss & Main Find of the Day

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Event Name: The French Kitchen
Item Name: Daisy Tea Kettle
Sale Ends: February 9

SHOP NOW

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Birthday Favorites

    Seeing as my birthday is in a week and 2 days, it only felt appropriate to use some of my Birthday Wishlist as my favorites this Friday. Feel free to ship any/all items to Megan P.. haha kidding. Kinda.
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1. Lollia Wish Eau De Parfum - Anthropologie
I love perfume but I've had a hard time finding one that sticks. I've sampled this twice while in Anthro and have been able to smell its goodness all day!
2. Black and White Stripe Skirt - Recycled Consign & Design
Black, white, and classy. PARTYSKIRTS had a similar one on SHOP by Monika that was almost quadruple the price and pretty much sold out immediately..
3.  Calligraphy Starter Kit - L. H. Calligraphy
There are two things I want to learn before having kids: calligraphy and sewing. Since I currently have no room for a sewing machine, calligraphy comes first.
4. Gold Sequin Loafers - Mindy Mae's Market
Uhm.. they're gold, and sparkly, and inexpensive. Need I say more?

Also appreciated: funny birthday cards. I love laughing! And Prayers for complete healing of my sprained foot. I'd like to go skiing for my birthday as originally planned.
No pressure, though.

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    There's one week left to shop and everyone has that one girl on their list that they don't know what to buy for them.. you know, the girl who constantly answers, "I don't know" every time you ask her what she wants. Sadly, I think I may be that person for my friends and family! If I want something throughout the year, I either work a few extra hours and save up for it or I convince myself that I don't need it - so by the time Christmas rolls around, it either doesn't exist anymore or I already have it stockpiled in the gifts my husband doesn't know he's getting me.
    Here are a few things that "that girl" probably convinced herself she didn't need but might like to have, broken down by category! And when in doubt, a Target gift card is always a winner.
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// Comfy Cozy //
[from Left to Right]
Kate Spade Candles - Kate Spade New York
Love the color combos and encouraging memos
Sherpa Robe in Beige - Anthropologie
Quite possibly the softest robe. Ever. Wish I'd taken it home with me!
Faux Fur Hot Water Bottle - World Market
Sold individually in stores, in sets online. One for them and one for you?
Sueded-Sherpa Moccasins - Old Navy
My mom may or may not have these under the tree for me. Love slipper moccasins!
Gold Stained Mugs - SHOP by Monika
I was able to get the Lip Stain before they sold out, but the Drip is super cute too!
Fleece-Lined Leggings - Target
These are THE BEST for winter!
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// Tech Essentials //
Baggu Gold-Dipped iPad Case - West Elm
Monogramming available!
Portable iPhone Charger* - Available on eBay, Amazon, and some J. Crew Outlets
Clearly I am old school with the iPhone 4, but I'm always low on battery!
SoundBender* - SoundBender
If you've seen Sharktank, you know what's up! Perfect for watching shows on the iPad.
iPhone Cases - The Everygirl and Rifle Paper Co.
Girly and durable. I love my RPC cover!
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// The Beauty Queen //
New York Glitter Socks Gift Set - Kate Spade at Nordstrom
Lavish Luxe Brush Set - Sonia Kashuk® for Target
Skinny Mini Bow Stud Earrings - Kate Spade
The Kate Spade outlet also has a similar version that is less expensive!
The Golden Hairbrush* - Sonia Kashuk® for Target
Pinch Mini Emergency Kit* - Pinch Provisions
They also have a male version - stocking stuffer?
Gold Sequin Hanger - Pearls and Pastries
Available in multiple colors, but I have gold of course! Love using this for outfit planning!
Tweezers and Eyelash Curler* - Forever XXI
eos Lip Balm Multipack* - Target
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Top Chef
Avocado Slicer - OXO for Williams Sonoma
My husband and I live in California and still can't cut an avocado correctly.
Bellezza Holiday Reindeer Dinnerware - Vietri
As featured in this Waiting on Martha Blog Post - how could you not fall in love?
Recipe Tin - Rifle Paper Co.
The Citrus Floral Tin reminds me of my Mammaw and great-grandma's home cookin'!
Gold Flatware - West Elm
For those fun brunches and fancy dinner parties!
iPad Under Cabinet Mount - Belkin
With very little counter space in our apartment, I usually keep the recipe in another room and run back and forth. There are many versions of this, but this is the only non-permanent one!
Dotted Linen Napkin Set - Anthropologie
iSpoon Kitchen Stylus - Umbra for CB2
"Saves Your Touchscreen from Messy Fingers" - perfect when using a recipe on your iPad!
Silicone Steamer - OXO for Target
Marketed for steaming veggies, but I use this with pasta too to drain in the pot!
Tips:
  • Try to steer away from clothes unless you know her specific style and size
  • Stick with neutral colored items [creams, beige, greys, blacks, whites, golds, and blush] - whether for clothes or decor these are sure to match or blend in with a majority  of what she has already.
  • If you can't find something in-store you know they want, check Google, Amazon and eBay, it's bound to be out there somewhere! Just try to buy NWT [new with tags!]
  • Gift receipts! Don't buy anything that can't be returned unless you're 100% sure about it!
  • *All items marked with an asterisk above are also great stocking stuffer ideas!
  • Happy Shopping!