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.

 

 

Your Guide To The Holiday Season

It’s officially the most wonderful time of the year!! Now I know you think I’m crazy because it’s only November 1st but let’s face it, I’ve been planning holiday posts since early October. Plus we all know the moment the clock strikes midnight after Halloween it is full force Christmas. Now mind you my pumpkins are going to stay put for a few more days but I’m ready to dive head first in to the holidays here with all of you.

Now I’ve been in a creative rut for both fashion and the blog lately. I know I’ve said that before but this time it’s a little different in the fact that I’m not seeing or feeling enough diversity in the blogging world. I feel like we are constantly seeing the same things over and over and over again. To the point where I get tired of seeing the same sweater styled essentially the same way by 15 different bloggers. And the holidays are no different. It’s the same decor, the same wrapping paper, the same items in the gift guides, the same necklace to spice up a holiday outfit, the same sales and the same Christmas dresses. So I want to make my mark for something different. Something we may not have seen a million times (okay over exaggeration) over.

So here’s what to expect: unique gift guides leading up to Black Friday, unique and affordable home decor ideas, DIY ideas, style and outfit inspo, traditions, self care ideas, Asheville happenings and so much more. These sound like a million blog posts you have already read around the holidays. But I promise you I have tried to make mine a little different. Also social media is going to play a bigger role this holiday season (thank the phone lords for that new phone this year). I’m wanting to do “special segments” on Instagram Stories like how to shop locally, gifts I love to give, shopping for Secret Santa gifts, day in the life Christmas edition and maybe even trying all the insane peppermint flavored product. Even though I have a bunch of ideas scratched out I love hearing from you! What would you like to see on 30 Shades of Stephanie for the holidays?

My goal is to have 30 Shades of Stephanie be on the top of the list of websites you visit during the holiday season. I want you to feel inspired, feel the Christmas spirit and included! The world is in shambles lately, a lot of negativity going on, and the holiday season is a time of happiness, cheer and unity for me. So I want us all to feel that and share it.

Bah Humbug

Bah HumbugBah HumbugBah HumbugBah HumbugBah HumbugBah HumbugBah Humbug

Top // Leggings // Similar Booties // Bag // Necklace

I hate to be the Grinch, but I really have been lately. I put my tree up before Thanksgiving because I was in the spirit (plus let’s face it I knew I wouldn’t have time), I had Christmas music blaring on Thanksgiving, I have all my presents bought and am in the process of wrapping. But I haven’t been in the mood. I have cried because I love Christmas and it just doesn’t feel right (cue this Christmas song). Life and mother nature have both got in the way. My heart has been broken by the tragic fires throughout WNC and Eastern TN so when it rained I did a happy dance, but also cried because I needed blog pictures for the week and couldn’t get them. Some things have happened in work and there is the possibility of receiving a promotion so I have been killing myself trying to prove myself. I’ve literally worked and slept. On Wednesday I didn’t even eat all day because I worked a long shift, forgot lunch and passed out hardcore when I got home.

But it changed on Thursday. Andrew and I normally do a secret santa situation for a child in need, but this year the opportunity hit closer than we thought. A former coworker was in need. We decided to help this individual other than someone we don’t actually know. It’s the first day in almost a week and a half I put on clothes that weren’t jeans and work shirts, put on make up and actually fixed my hair. Oh it was photo worthy because I hadn’t seen myself like this in a while. Maybe it’s because I finally felt festive, or maybe because I was heading to Target.

A giving heart is always stylish and something every person, even the #fashionistas need to have. I got in the spirit. So as planned for this week, but dampened by the rain and lack of photos, I will be doing a week of giveaways on the blog from some awesome boutiques and companies. Because I truly want to give back to you guys!

Gift Guide: For The Artist

Gift Guide: For The Artist

I am lucky to live somewhere where I am surrounded my artist and creative minds alike. They fuel my creativity and inspire me every day. I have created a gift guide fit for artists (also everything is under $40.00) that artist could actually use besides those awkward gift sets you can find at your local craft stores. These are things artists can actually use and as an artist these are things I would love to get as a gift. If all else fails you can always opt for a gift card to your local craft store or art supply store.

Brush Cleaner– Yes it is very easy to wash your brushes with soap and water and it is done a lot. But to preserve your brushes every once in a while an artist needs to deep clean their brushes so they last longer. I really like “The Masters” brand because it works well with all mediums for deep cleaning brushes.

Palette Knives– As an artist I think a good stock pile of palette knives is needed. These things are so easy to bend so grabbing a few for the artist in your life is always a good idea. Artist use these for both mixing paints, creating their own paints and even painting with. This is also a good idea if you have an artist who is wanting to experiment with different types of painting techniques. This whole set is under $7.00!

An Art Book– Artist like to enjoy other artists work, they like to display art. Why not get them a coffee table book specifically about the kind of art they like. I like modern art so this book would be perfect for myself. This is the kind of gift that would go great with a season pass to their favorite art gallery!

Pocket Journal– It’s important for artist to have an artistic outlet any time, anywhere. Where they can make quick sketches or jot down ideas they pull from their surroundings. An unlined drawing journal that can fit in their bag or pocket is perfect. If you think they have plenty lying around, they use them and sometimes can use them up fast. It’s always good to have an extra one and especially a smaller one.

Art Palette– Some palettes are a little more expensive, especially airtight ones. Not all artists are starving but they are normally on a budget, so splurging on something like this Martin Universal Airtight Peel-Off Palette might be out of the question. These are perfect for painting not just to hold your paint, but also if an artist is working on an in depth project this conserves paint. You can store your paint overnight or for days, you can mix a unique color and not have to continue trying to get it the same because you can save it. I had one very similar to this in college and loved it if I wasn’t getting a painting done in one sitting. Plus if you buy this from Michaels you can use a coupon!

Micron Pens– First, let me just rave about these pens. I love them! These pens are a little on the pricey side for pens but they are worth it. These pens are acid free and smudge proof so perfect for art. An artist can use these for signing pieces, doodling, drawing, mixed media; the options are just about endless for these pens!

Some other great gifts for artist that are very affordable could be good soap and lotion (since artist wash their hands a lot), drop cloths, iTunes gift cards or albums (artist generally like to have music playing while they are creating), gift cards to craft stores (Dick Blick, AC Moore, Michaels, etc.), membership to a local museum or gallery or a piece of art.

 

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Making A List, Checking It Twice

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It’s finally here; the weekend before Christmas! It is the busiest weekend of the entire year, and when a lot of us are traveling and running a ton of errands. This weekend besides work and going to the grocery store I plan to keep my booty at home, relaxing and taking in every moment because I just finished finals this week. This will be my go to outfit for errands this weekend! Red boots, layers and of course a hat. I found this J.Crew inspired hat at Target for only 13.00, I’m also loving this one and may have to buy it after the holidays..

Christmas Eve Ready

Christmas Eve ReadyChristmas Eve ReadyChristmas Eve Ready 12-22

 

Plaid Button Up-Target // Shirt-Target // Jeans-Forever 21 // Ring-Ashkal

I hope your shopping is done, presents wrapped, and the tree trimmed because we are so close to Christmas. Just a little over a week and Saint Nick will be paying us a visit!! If you can’t tell I am excited! On Christmas Eve plenty of people have a fancier get together or head to Christmas Eve mass, but I like to keep it very casual, almost PJ comfortable. On this Christmas Eve, I will more than likely be found in plaid of some type, a messy bun, and comfortable pants for all the cookies. I really don’t have a specific Christmas Eve tradition but I have a feeling this year there will be some hot chocolate and scary movies involved. What are your Christmas Eve traditions?.

Holiday Gift Guide for Him: Under $75.00

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Guys really are the hardest to buy for! I’ve created a list of affordable gifts for all different styles of men in your life. If you are on a very strict budget for gifts these would make great gifts, or if you are looking for a smaller gift to pair with their large gift these would be great for that without breaking the bank!

Grill Set– Guys love their grills and meats, so a perfect gift coming in under $50.00 from target is perfect for the grill master in your life.

Chrome Cast– These are extremely affordable and allow your movie buff/ tv show buff guy to watch anything from any device!!

Ties– If you have a guy in your life that works in a professional work environment or likes to dress up for date night, a tie from the Tie Bar is the perfect gift plus almost all of the ties are $15.00 and comes in style perfect for the office or for more of a hispter look!

A nice bottle of liquor– Johnnie Walker screams class, and what man doesn’t love a good bottle of scotch. If they over 21 and enjoy a nice drink, hit up your local liquor store to check out some higher shelf bottles!

Gloves– It is supposed to be a rough winter so a nice pair of gloves would be an ideal present! Plus a lot of gloves are now becoming touch screen compatible which is perfect for cold mornings! You can find these just about any where from Wal-Mart, Target, department stores and discount stores.

Sports Team Clothing– For the sports fan in your life, a hoodie or t-shirt is the perfect affordable gift for that guy. Fanatics has some really affordable sports memorabilia.

Cookbook– Some guys love to cook, so get a cookbook that goes along with their favorite food! It’s a win win because you might get some yummy meals out of this gift.

Cologne– Cologne is the best gift to give to the man in your life. It is one of the most expensive gifts on this list, but you can actually pick out a scent that you find attractive and give it to the man in your life. Again it’s a win win! I really love this Gucci Guilty Black, if you haven’t smelled this step into your local Ulta or department store and take a whiff.

Pizza Kit– Guys love pizza, it’s known fact. Investing in your guy a pizza cooking kit can save lots of money in the long run and let him experiment with different toppings. This kit is under $27.00 from Wal-Mart, to make this gift perfect you could add either a pizza cookbook or you can add a gift card to your local grocery store! I’m really considering getting Andrew one of these (pizza could be his staple food).

Another thing that couldn’t be listed on here that I love to give as a gift is a foodie basket. I did this last year and it was a hit with Andrew. It’s nice to include some unique spices, unique snacks, fun coffees, local beers, fancy mustards and expensive nuts!.

Prepping for the Holidays

Sorry about my lack of posts this week, I have unfortunately been spammed and WordPress has had an issue with my scheduled posts and pictures. I have fixed the issue after much frustration but my scheduled posts have been deleted. So those posts will be added at a later time. For now I have come with a post that encourages feedback and interaction.

Christmas at Omni Grove Park Inn

It is becoming that time of year. I work in retail so the holiday season officially began for me the first week in October, but it is creeping up on us, it’s 68 days until Christmas. If you look in craft stores or Wal-Mart, there are already Christmas goodies in stores, right next to your pumpkin carving kits and Halloween candy. I love the holiday’s don’t get me wrong, but it can be a very stressful time of year especially if you work, go to school and blog, so it is my saddest remarks to say, but I am getting ready for all the holiday posts for the blog. I can’t feel to bad because stores have prepped (Ulta already has some of their holiday collections out in store which I’m swooning over), small businesses are getting ready, and bloggers are getting ready. I also have to be prepared because one of my grades for school is to have a holiday outline for blog posts outlined by Halloween (how can I think about candy canes and ornaments when I am planning a Halloween costume and buying pumpkin shaped candies??). So here I am once again taking to my interweb peeps to see what you guys would want to see on the blog!

The only thing I have planned for sure is a huge holiday giveaway that would in turn be a holiday donation to the Hope Center in Asheville, and a gift guide in a video form. These are the only two things set in stone, so feel free to let me know what you would love to see on the blog! Don’t hold back! Leave me a comment here, on Facebook or send me some ideas on Instagram! I appreciate all of you and all of your feedback and advice. I can’t wait for this holiday season on the blog and I know it will be a great one!.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

 

Dress-Ross // Shoes-Target

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from my home to yours! I hope all of you have a great day with family and friends and making the most of the day. Remember what the season is all about but I do also hope Santa brought you everything you wanted!.

Christmas at Omni Grove Park Inn

Christmas at Omni Grove Park Inn

 

Scarf-Target // Shirt-Thrifted // Jacket-Charlotte Russe // Jeans-Old Navy // Shoes-Chuck Taylor

This weekend I went to the new and improved Omni Grove Park Inn to see the National Gingerbread House Competition Display and all the Christmas trees. The inn holds the competition every year and there were some great gingerbread houses, it still blows my mind that people can make something so detailed out of food products. Also the inn has numerous trees and no two are decorated a like. The inn came under new management earlier this year and the whole site has been revamped, and personally I think for the better. It was too cold to snap any pictures of the new outside decor due to the wintry mix and freezing temps. Make sure if your in Asheville this holiday season to visit or plan a visit for the future!

Christmas at Omni Grove Park InnChristmas at Omni Grove Park InnChristmas at Omni Grove Park InnChristmas at Omni Grove Park InnChristmas at Omni Grove Park InnChristmas at Omni Grove Park Inn.