Your Guide To A Carefree Holiday Season

I don’t know about all of y’all but I can’t believe that it is already November. Christmas is in full swing at stores, media and I suppose here on 30 Shades of Stephanie. The holidays can be the most stressful time of the year, but only if you let it. A few years ago, the holiday season became too much for me and it was miserable. I’ve never hated the holiday season as much as that year and I knew something had to give in order for me to enjoy my favorite time of the year, so the following year I made a few changes that immensely helped. So here are a few things I do in order to actually enjoy the holiday season and make the best of it.

Plan Holiday Travels, Outings and Make Reservations 

Now is the time to book your plane tickets and hotel rooms. It will be much cheaper now and you will actually be able to get a flight or room. Since it is November you can now start making reservations for any holiday dinners out especially on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day because those reservations tend to fill up fast. Living in a tourist town, trust me, book any December special event dinners now. Also go ahead and try to buy tickets now to any holiday events like the ballet, concerts or light festivals. You can generally get them cheaper now, get better times or seats and of course they aren’t sold out yet!

Make Your Christmas Cards

I don’t know how many times I have planned to take the perfect Christmas card photo and make those cute custom photo Christmas cards or buy the perfect witty and festive card to tuck the photos inside. I either never have enough time to take the photos, let alone make the cute photo cards or buy cards. Don’t even get me started on the actual mailing of the cards. Sometimes they get sent a few days before Christmas or they don’t get sent at all. Right now is the perfect time to get on the ball with this. Plenty of time to take the pictures and get the perfect picture picked out. Plenty of time to make those cheesy custom cards or buy cards and print out the photos. Plus if you by now you don’t have to be left with the unwanted card selections! Also now is the time to make sure you have everyone’s correct addresses and make a list of all the people you want to send cards to. You don’t want to leave anyone out. And last but not least, buy your stamps now. The lines aren’t as long and you can easily slip them in to your mailbox once you have everything filled out. Now who doesn’t love some snail mail, especially festive snail mail?!

Start Thinking About Meal Planning

So not only do you have to plan for Thanksgiving meals and Christmas meals but you are going to be busy, busy during the holiday season. I know I tend to work longer days and have more social events filling my free time that the last thing I want to think about is making dinner. I like to start looking for easy and quick recipes that are perfect for the long days I seem to have during the holiday season. I like to look for crock-pot recipes and one pan dishes on Pinterest and make note of those recipes for the season. But I have also recently discovered Seeds of Change thanks to Influenster, which makes dinners at home a breeze. Seeds of Change offers rices and sauce packs that are not only healthy but extremely easy. Win, win. I received a complimentary Sweet and Sour sauce pack and made an awesome stir fry packed with veggies and protein. The best part, it took hardly no time to make. I stir fried garlic, mushrooms, onions, green beans, asparagus, chicken and the sweet and sour sauce and served over rice. It was a hit in my house and I will be purchasing more of these sauce packets to make during the busy season. The full range of Seeds of Change products are available at Target!

****This product was sent to me to test and review. All thoughts and ideas are my own.****

Start Planning Now 

One of the things I learned from the year I knew I was starting to despise Christmas was because I wasn’t using a calendar or planner. This may not seem like a big deal to some, but to me it’s a huge deal and it is for a lot of people. For me, if it isn’t written down or planned in advance it generally isn’t happening. I remember that year I lost the holiday spirit, the biggest bummer was double planning two events in one night (twice). One was an early Christmas present (the ballet, which I hadn’t seen since I was a child) and then a social media event. I got a message on the way to the ballet asking where I was for something I was supposed to be co-hosting. I remember yelling, crying, making up an excuse and not paying attention during the ballet worried I had let a few people down. Ohhhh and something similar happened the following week. Now I write down everything. Work, social events, blog post and social media schedules, dinners, freelance meetings and even when I am wanting to go and do certain Christmas events. I also like to write down a list of things I want to do like going to the ballet, seeing Christmas lights, Christmas at Biltmore,  the gingerbread competition at the Grove Park Inn or art events so I can prioritize and plan out those “Christmas Bucket List” things so I can actually do them. I’m telling you it makes a world of difference. So use the calendar on your phone, a standard calendar or a full blown planner to get it together. Plus you won’t miss out on the things you really want to do if you plan accordingly.

I have recently found this little holiday planner from One Swell Studio which is adorable for the holidays and perfect for keeping it together. The design is so chic and I love the large daily layout. It doesn’t start until December but perfect for the craziest month. This one is super unique because it acts as a keepsake of the holiday as well. Not only does it have a to do list for every day, but also spots for special moments from the day and a spot to write what you are thankful for. It also includes portions for budgeting, spending and gift tracking. I will use this in conjunction with my regular planner, this one as my to-do list and holiday memory keeper. How cute would it be to add a Polaroid picture to each page for each day?! Seriously considering this.

Block Off Downtime and Be Okay With Doing Less

Though I like to plan hardcore for the holidays I have also started to make sure that I have time where I haven’t packed the entire day with festive activities. During the holiday season you really need to focus on self-care more to avoid getting depressed or despising the holiday. Also if you can’t do everything, that’s ok. It’s fine to not do every festive activity in your town or go to every social event. If it doesn’t all get done, everyone around you and yourself will be fine. I like to pick a few days where I just do things I like, generally by myself, like getting my nails done or getting a massage. You deserve it girlfriend! Plus I will be sharing tons of self-care ideas here on the blog and on Instagram throughout the holiday season.

 

 

Cozy, Warm Layers + Halloween Traditions

Fall I love you. Layering I love you. Car rides on the Blue Ridge Parkway to peep leaves, I love you. Rolling fog I love you. Scarf season I love you. Chilly temperatures I love you.

I feel like I’m always running around trying to squeeze in as much of seasonal activities that I can.  Lately I’ve been trying to see as much of the autumnal foilage, cross off lists from my Fall bucket list and see as many misty, foggy mornings as possible. But when running around I just can’t fathom getting dressed up for chasing leaves and walking around in the clouds.  So I go for my trusty favorites.

If I’m going to be doing any type of hiking of course I dress accordingly and will wear leggings, etc. But when I’m not going on a lengthy hike I go with my trusty skinny jeans and a common pullover. I actually acquire a few of these pullovers every season. I wear these fore everything from work, to adventures, to lounge wear. For this particular day, I knew I needed to run a few errands afterwards and was also having a lunch date so I threw on my favorite leather jacket I purchased from Nordstrom a few years ago and a scarf to keep my neck warm. I’m loving all the different earthy colors, textures and layers I have going on in this outfit. And though it may not look the warmest, it kept me warm in the below 50 degree weather.

Stay tuned to next week because I will actually share in more detail how I love styling basic pullovers for every day wear so it doesn’t look like you haven’t changed from pajamas all day.

 

HALLOWEEN TRADITIONS

Like most holidays, we all have our own traditions. Some times they change, some times we don’t stick to them and some times we are trying to find something new to add to your traditions. So I thought I would share my old and newer traditions.

When I was younger we always had typical family traditions. My family was big in to Halloween. We always went to my grandparent’s house where we had some kind of homemade soup. Oyster stew, chicken stew, chili or chicken noodle soup. No matter which one it was always soup. We always went trick or treating in the same neighborhood and always ended the night with scary movies. As I got older, the soup remained a constant but the activities changed, like parties and haunted houses.

As I’ve gotten older, live on my own and start my own traditions, I have tried to incorporate some old things and some new. Every single year I no longer do the trick-or-treating but instead am the lady who passes out candy and comments on each costume. All while each child asks about my cat and some kids have even just walked in to my apartment. It’s interesting to say the least. It never fails, I always try to make a soup I like because honestly I’m not the hugest soup fan (even though I had it every Halloween, still doesn’t mean it was my favorite). So I have a few recipes for soups (love this one) I actually like or I try to make a crock pot meal (Winter staple in my house) or a casserole of some kind (easiest one I have ever made). Some thing easy but warm and hearty. After the trick-or-treating is over, I make a wicked cocktail or have a pumpkin beer and put on a horror film. But no Halloween night is ever over without watching Hocus Pocus. Since moving to the mountains I have actually stayed up extremely late on Halloween to wait for the first snowfall of the season, it has happened a few times since moving here.

Let me know what your traditions are in the comments!

6 Non-Scary Movies Perfect for Halloween

On Tuesday I shared my top 10 favorite horror movies to watch leading up to Halloween and on Halloween night. But if gore, paranormal activity and things that go bump in the night are not for you, I’ve still got you covered girl. So grab a cocktail, dinner, popcorn and dessert and enjoy all these movies. And I’ve got your back that you are never too old to watch these Halloween movie picks!

1. Beetlejuice

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Your favorite dirty and hilarious ghost, ready to party! Just don’t say his name three times.

2. The Addams Family

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Normalcy is overrated. Settle in with the craziest family around.

3. Edward Scissorhands

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Have you been thinking about getting some landscaping done or going for a new hairstyle? Johnny Depp in all his weirdness with awkward hands. Plenty of laughs to be had with this one.

4. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

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I’m not big on cartoons or animations but how adorable is Charlie Brown. Plus you will get all the nostalgic vibes from this movie.

5. Nightmare Before Christmas

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My grandparents used to watch this movie every Halloween. So it’s kind of a tradition. And Tim Burton is a master of creepy animations. Are you the pumpkin king?

6. Hocus Pocus

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You are never, never too old for some Hocus Pocus. By far my favorite Halloween movie. And I would be lying if I told you I didn’t watch this movie year round. “I put a spell on you, and now you’re mine”.

10 Horror Movies to Watch Before Halloween

It’s officially a week until Halloween. I love it. And one thing I have been doing to get in to the spirit and of course an annual tradition is watching scary movies. I have been trying to scope out all the newer and less known movies on Netflix, HULU and HBOGO and have found a few good ones but also there is nothing that compares to some classics. So here are my top 10 picks for horror films that you need to watch leading up to Halloween and on Halloween night. So grab your pumpkin flavored beer, PSL, pumpkin cookies, popcorn, Halloween candy bowl, fuzzy blankets and your girlfriends or #BAE and get to watching.

 

  1. The Exorcist

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There have been numerous remakes of this and spin offs. But nothing can top the classic. Head rolls, green vomit and walking down the stairs backwards. All of these things terrified me as a child and will honestly still give me slight nightmares if watched again.

 

2. IT

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We all float down here. There is something about that clown totally different than the newer one that can give absolute nightmares. Be prepared to realize your deepest darkest fears watching this.

 

3. Halloween

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Would it really be the Halloween season unless you actually watched any of the Halloween movies. This will definitely make you jump and possibly yell at the t.v. Also it will make you try to figure out how in the world Michael always catches up to his victims without running. I wondering if I can drop the pumpkin cookie pounds with moving at a Michael speed?

 

4. The Shining

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This is one of those movies that will keep you on your toes and also wondering what the heck is actually happening and how do these things really happen. Hopefully it isn’t going to snow where you are soon or that you are traveling to a creepy hotel any time soon.

 

5. Silence of the Lambs

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Clarice, Clarice, Clarice. Getting in to the mind of a serial killer, probably not the smartest thing to do or think about. But watching this and after you’re going to be thinking about it. You will also think differently about putting lotion on all your skin after watching this movie.

 

6. Hannibal

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If their is a sequel watch it. Just watch it. You need to know what happens.

 

 7. The Conjuring

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Turn the lights off and be prepared for the paranormal activity to scare you enough to watch the movie with the lights on.

 

8. Saw

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If you need a little gore in your night this is the must have horror movie for you to watch. You may gag, cover your eyes or squirm but one thing is for sure, you may be a little more aware of the things you take for granted every day.

 

9. House of 1000 Corpses

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What appears to be a makeshift home made film makes this even more terrifying because it seems a little more real. This movie will keep you on the edge of your seat and possibly saying “WTF” several times throughout the movie. But nonetheless you will be a little freaked out and may steer you from heading on a road trip with friends.

 

10. Hush

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What better way to evoke fear and make you feel like someone is watching you better than having you feel like every emotion and sense of privacy has been violated. Make sure with this movie you are not distracted by your phone or computer and void out all noise and light before watching.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Affordable Restaurants in Asheville For Rent Week

It’s creeping around the weekend, rent is coming due. And if you live in Asheville you know how much of a stress giver, headache and drain on your bank account that can be. It also sucks even more if you are like me and most of my bills are due the last week and first week of the month. A fun two weeks of paying bills, paying bills. Whether you have a roommate, live with a SO or by yourself I know it’s hard and I understand the hustle. But we still got to eat. Sure there are some great affordable finds at Trader Joe’s and Aldi; and there are some great recipes for serious budgets, but sometimes you have to go out to keep your sanity in this dog eat dog world. Even if you are broke. So I’ve come up with two restaurants in Asheville that have an entire full affordable menu perfect for solo meals, splitting meals, date night or the just I’m tired of eating ramen meal!

 

DEL VECCHIOS

Del Vecchios is a newer Italian eatery in Asheville and really new to me. It’s a smaller restaurant on Merrimon Avenue with major cafe vibes, it’s small and quaint so perfect for solo dining when you don’t want to cook or perfect for a date or even a meal with your girlfriends. Offering pizzas, subs, salads and these delicious fries it earns the spot in one of my two affordable restaurants. All of their sandwiches and pasta dishes are under $10.00 and large enough portions to share or eat half there and half for left overs. Ohhhh and these garlic Parmesan fries are to die for and you get a huge serving for $5.99. Two people dined here both with entrees and these fries, plus tip for $30.00; plus we both had lunch for the next day. For Asheville this is a cheap meal. We could have gotten out cheaper because we had never eaten there before and could have shared. Ohhhh and did I mention the service is absolutely amazing! And I’ve heard their pizza is off the chain!

 

TAQUERIA MUNOZ

Taqueria Munoz is one of my favorite affordable Asheville eats. Literally everything on the menu is under $7.50 and who doesn’t love a good taco shop. This place is authentic and worth the trek to West Asheville. The tacos are huge portions and you can get anything from tongue meat to pork or chicken. And the best part is each taco is $2.50. And it’s no lie when I say I can’t eat two full tacos. There is that much meat on there. But they also serve other yumminess like tortas, soups and meals. I have only braved to try the tacos and tortas because when I say it’s authentic, it’s legit. I have gotten enough courage to try tongue and head meat tacos. Too good. And don’t judge it before you try. Budget friendly and leaving me in a food coma. Count me in! But take cash, because that’s all they accept there.

 

Ladies and Gents, it’s tough out there and rent is due on Monday! Let’s make the most out of living in our crazy over priced town!

A Real Statement Dress

Dress // Necklace (custom design) // Shoes

My style is ever changing, though consistent. I like to keep with blacks and neutrals but the cuts and prints I am attracted to are changing. I am not the biggest fan of the embroidery trend that is insanely popular, nor am I generally attracted to trendy pieces; but here I am in a dress with some embroidery on it. But the bodice, sleeves and bottom of this dress is what made me put this in my shopping cart.

I previously would have never put on anything that cut as deep as this dress or with two slits that go way above my knees in the front. And it’s not like I am not self confident and recently just discovered it. It’s more like I want to try something I would never do and if that means wearing a dress that doesn’t require a bra, I’m all in. But the winning factor of this dress is the fun details, it is comfortable and the dress was extremely affordable.

So this dress is not your going to the grocery store dress but a  dramatic statement piece perfect for date night, parties, weddings or even upcoming holiday events.

Hilton Head Island Travel Diary: The iPhone Version

So if you aren’t following me on Instagram (which you should because sometimes it’s funny) you may not have known that I took a much needed vacation last week to Hilton Head Island. It’s one of my favorite places for a ton of different reasons. I love the atmosphere, the scenes, the fact that it is a quiet community and the food! So here are some of the highlights of my trip!

For the first time in almost four years we stayed on the South end of the island, right down the street from Coligny Beach. We were walking distance from food and shopping of any kind; and the most important, we were on beach front so we could easily walk to the beach at any given time during the day. It was so easy to have a relaxing vacation when everything was at your fingertips. Plus it didn’t hurt that according to the FitBit, we got well over 10,000 steps a day. Plus you could constantly hear the waves crashing which is the ultimate sound for relaxation.

Being so close to the beach and the fact that this was a much needed vacation was a no brainer that all day, every day I was at the beach. I loaded up on the SPF and literally chilled. The beach was quiet after Labor Day Weekend and even more quiet with the threat of a hurricane. But still I relaxed. And swam in the ocean. And played with sea creatures. I’ve got plenty of questions about this hat, the striped bathing suit and the kimono cover up; so they are all linked here!

Hat // Striped Bathing Suit // Kimono

Hilton Head Island is known for their world class golf courses and food. And well let’s just say I prefer food over the links. I have been waiting 5 whole years to try this place. They shut down for a week before Summer and it just so happens that’s always the week I visit. But it was worth the wait. Perfectly cooked cajun southern food. I had the etoufee and it was amazzzzzinggggg! If you visit Hilton Head, I suggest visiting Kenny B’s.

I found Java Burrito Company on Instagram and I am so glad that I did. It’s like a local Chipotle but for every meal and a full coffee bar inside. I had a breakfast bowl and iced dirty chai. Hands down one of the best decisions I made on that trip.

Ela’s is becoming a favorite on the island for me to visit. A little swanky, quiet, on the waterfront and the service and food is outstanding. We visiting the day before the evacuation was in order for Irma and they were still open. We had the place to ourselves and the service nor food suffered due to being understaffed or the island becoming a ghost town.

Marley’s Island Grill was a first for me, but not a last. Sooooooo good! A Caribbean take on local seafood. I got chorizo almond crusted scallops which may actually be one of the top 20 best meals of my life. So good.

There is just beauty and magic every where on the island. Maybe it’s because you are on vacation or island time. Whatever it is, it works. My soul feels a little more full after my visit there.

Happy Travels!

Farewell To Summer But Not This Dress

I just got back from a much needed vacation in one of my favorite spots! (I’ll be haring a travel diary on Wednesday about where I went and what I did if you don’t follow me on Instagram.)

But I packed basics for this trip, nothing special because my only real plan was to truly relax on the beach for the majority of the time. I did pack this black dress that makes me feel like Adele and this little bomber both from Nest Boutique and DIY studio, and they were the perfect pairing for some waterfront dining one night at a swanky little place. And so easy to wear. Which is the key for vacation.

Now that Summer is unofficially over, I came back to Asheville and it really felt like Fall y’all; I am starting to put away my shorts, tanks and off the shoulder tops. But this dress is not going away yet. Neither is this bomber despite the bright colors. This dress will be great with tights and heels plus a fur coat for chillier days and it’s the perfect little dress for Holiday get togethers and festive holiday outings. Plus I also think this dress would be perfect for a few Halloween costumes I have up my sleeves (because store bought costumes are just gross).

So I challenge you while you are packing away your Spring/Summer goodies to see what will carry itself in to the colder months and holiday season. Not only is it fun to try to think of new ways to style something but your wallet will really thank you.

I hope you all had a great unofficial end to Summer and now the basic bia inside of me is ready to live for the Fall fashion, weather and activities. Make sure you are following along to stay up to date.

 

Hurricane Harvey Relief

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Hurricane Harvey has already dumped more than 15 trillion gallons of water on to the region, forcing thousands from their homes, displacing many and costing an ungodly amount of structural damage. FEMA has called this disaster  a “landmark event” that will take years for Houston to recover from. And with the threat of more rain to eventually fall in the area in the coming days, the situation will only worsen.

I personally think the most stylish attribute is a giving heart; so if you are like me and saddened by the articles, interviews, images and coverage of this natural disaster, I wanted to share ways to give back either near or far. Our Texans are in need of all of our help y’all.

HOW TO HELP FROM AFAR

The Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund

Houston Humane Society

United Way of Greater Houston

Texas Diaper Bank 

L.G.B.T.Q Disaster Relief Fund

American Red Cross

Global Giving’s Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund

 

HOW TO HELP IN TEXAS

Any of the above charities can be donated to from anywhere. If you are traveling to Texas or live in Texas and are physically assisting, please be safe. The Sheriff of Houston actually made a call for anyone with boats or high/rough terrain vehicles to assist in the process of search and rescue.

There is a serious need of blood donations. South Texas Blood and Tissue Center and Carter BloodCare are in crucial need and desperately asking for locals to come and give.

The Houston Food Bank is currently accepting any donations of non-perishable items

 

HOW TO HELP IN ASHEVILLE

Hearts With Hands– Bring any new, unopened non-perishable food items, toiletries, clothing, household items or water. There is also the option to donate money as well if you can not make it to the warehouse for physical donations.

Crossfire Diesel Alliance is setting up a truck at the Tastee Freeze September 1st at 7:30pm for donations. Unlike Hearts with Hands you can donate gently used clothing and blankets along with non-perishable items.

Brother Wolf Animal Rescue is also accepting donations.

Though not stated it would be a good time to donate to your local food bank. I highly expect them or Ingles to make a donation to the relief efforts.

New Belgium Brewing Asheville is donating all tips from August 31st until September 15th to relief efforts.

I will keep this section updated for all my local peeps as I come across information for this.

It is horrible that people would try to scam others during such a trying time in our country. But there are still shitty people out there every day. To protect you, your wallet and your efforts, I have spent the past 36 hours doing extensive research on reputable charities and donation centers. The ones that I have listed above have been supported by Charity Navigator (which is an awesome tool to see if a charity you are considering is legit or not). And I would never post anything that I do not fully support and stand behind. If you are still wondering if where you are donating to may be a scam, or you just want to really make sure before you donate; feel free to check out this article about how to protect yourself from a potential scam.

Although our leader of our country may try to rip us all apart, I have witnessed people of all different backgrounds scrambling to help each other. Though tragic, we are all in this together.

Love to you all!

 

 

 

 

Currently Craving: Fall Wish List

Dress

Ever since I have discovered the designer YANA K, I have been obsessed. And dying to have a piece in my closet. Luckily a local boutique carries the designs, but just lacking the color I’m looking for; black go figure. And when this babe was added to the new collection, I’ve been smitten. It is a bit pricey, but I’m really starting to focus on quality over quantity. Handmade in the U.S.A and from a smaller business. Just let me add this to my shopping cart and then my closet, mmmkay!

 

Boots

These boots are giving me all the heart eyes! And from a reliable company, made to stand the test of time. I really want a boot that is going to go with everything whether it be jeans or a dress and of course not fall apart after a few wears (damn you $40.00 boots). How cute would these boots be with the above dress?!? I mean come on.

 

Necklace

I posted Wednesday about my love for layering necklaces. And I’m wanting something dainty but oversized, plus a little more personal. This coin necklace is just the ticket. You can get anything engraved on it, it comes it different sizes and lengths as well as two different metals. Pretty perfect for achieving that Stevie Nicks look.

 

Work Out Gear

Shoes 

 

I’m really wanting to get some new work out gear including leggings and shoes. Perfect for hiking, yoga classes and barre (that I’m just getting in to). Or ya know that whole athleisure trend of running errands in work out gear.