Sunday Sayings {Merry Christmas}

Hey y'all,

I just wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas today! I hope that you are able to spend some time with your family and remember the meaning behind this holiday.
My church's Christmas celebration service is now posted here and you can watch a part of the video played during the service below:
Why Did He Come? from The Summit Church on Vimeo.

Merry Christmas,

Five on Friday {December 23-Christmas Eve Eve}

Hey y'all,

I can not believe that we made it to the holidays! I have a half day at work today and then I am off until January 3rd! 10 days off is crazy to me so I am ready for some time with family, blogging, reading, and getting ready for a new year. This week has been busy but I feel that way everything we hit the holidays so my list is very random this week.

one. Cyclebar. Saturday and Sunday I got my butt up to go for a ride and I do not regret it one bit. They were tough rides with a 75min endurance ride of Brittney vs. Beyonce on Saturday morning and then a ride followed by mimosas on Sunday. This holiday season has got me. In total I will have gone to 10 parties/meals/church services to celebrate the holidays so the scale is currently not my friend. I have also been guzzling green juice since I have not been getting in enough whole foods.


two. Christmas at the DPAC. Last night I attended Christmas at the DPAC. For the last few years my church has rented out the Durham Performing Arts Center in Downtown Durham for our Christmas services. It is such a great mix of concert and message to celebrate the Lord. This year I ended up in the 3rd row! It was so incredible and I will share the video when it is posted but until then you can watch previous years here.

My roommate and I even twinned at the service. 

three. Southern Weddings. This year I participated in the Southern Weddings Ornament swap. I had some of the best swap partners since I love every single ornament.
Also, I won the Southern Weddings and Paris 312's Instagram contest so this week a huge package arrived on my doorstep filled with the most beautiful paper goods. I am thinking of having a drinks and dessert gathering for my birthday in January so these will be put to good use soon.

Four. This week has been the week of babysitting so I have been living in my Charles River monogrammed pullover from It's Gee Gee Baby. I also have one from Carolina Dandy. Wednesday I got to enjoy an hour of my favorite movie, Pride and Prejudice.

five. Black Flats. I think it is finally time to get rid of one of my pairs of black flats (I always have two in rotation since I literally wear them all the time. So now we hunt for black flats. I am pretty picky in that I want a round toe, not a lot of embellishment and preferably leather or suede. If you have favorite black flats that are under $200 please share!

six. Max Cat. Of course I couldn't not include photos of my little guy. This week his favorite things were my laundry and helping to wrap up my presents.

Link up with April, Christina, and Natasha.
Also linking up with Tif and Katie.
And Erika
MERRY CHRISTMAS!
Best,
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12 Days of Gift Guides {Clean + Ethical Beauty}

Hey y'all,

The holiday season has taken a lot out of me with 6 parties in the last 2.5 weeks along with lots of babysitting, gift grabbing, and post office runs so it looks like y'all will only get 6 of the 12 planned 12 days of gift guides (unless I post like crazy Friday evening when I get off work). One of my sweet friends and fellow bloggers, Traci of Choosing Better actually decided to help me out with a gift guide focused solely on clean and ethical beauty. Traci over the past 12 months has been working on a challenge to transition her beauty produces to more safe and ethical options. You can read all about her journey and some of her favorites she has discovered on her blog here. So check out her recommendations below if you are shopping for a beauty lover or are just curious about what clean beauty encompasses.

 
The Christmas season is always a super fun time for beauty lovers, because all of our favorite brands come out with pretty holiday packaging, exclusive sets of the newest winter hues, and lots of sales and deals to entice us to buy new goodies for ourselves and our friends. But how much do you really know about the popular beauty companies you typically purchase from? Sometime last year, I realized that I loved buying new makeup and skincare products and indulged this habit frequently, yet I didn’t really know much at all about the companies I was supporting, the research and methodology behind how they made their products, and most importantly, what was actually in these products I was putting on my skin each day.



Over the last year, it’s been my goal to educate myself on ingredient safety and to become more knowledgeable about the world of “clean beauty," which encompasses beauty and skincare products that don’t contain chemicals that are toxic to the human body. I've also learned to ensure that the companies I support are cruelty-free, meaning they don't employ animal testing in their development process. I’m so excited to share some of my discoveries with you in this gift guide! Check out these beautiful, safe and ethical products that you can feel great about gifting to yourself and your friends this holiday season:




1. 100% Pure Eye Shadow PalettesFor the eyeshadow lover, these palettes from 100% Pure are the perfect gift! Each palette comes with three coordinating shades of eye shadow, a blush and a luminizer, making this one of the most useful and versatile palettes I've seen. I love these palettes because they use 100% natural formulas, deriving their rich colors from from the pigments of fruits, vegetables, flowers, and seeds. Most importantly, they are free from talc, which is contained in most conventional eyeshadows on the market and has some concerning safety data. 



2. Alima Pure Eye SetsAlima Pure’s motto is “minimal ingredients for maximum impact.” They strive to provide high-performing cosmetics free from any unnecessary or harmful fillers, and I love them for it. They’ve created two eye makeup sets just for the holidays (Smoky Eye Set and Soft Metallic Set) which each include two shades of eye shadow, mascara, eyeliner, and a cosmetic bag, all for $75. As if their gorgeous and clean products weren’t exciting enough, they’re also donating $5 from every holiday gift set purchased thru January 15th to the Global Fund for Women



1. S.W. Basics Organic Lip Balm Flight: I rarely wear color on my lips, but I adore a good lip balm set and always have one (or two!) on my Christmas list. S.W. Basics is a darling little company based in Brooklyn, NY that believes in plain and simple ingredients (most of their products contain 4 or less) and responsible, ethical sourcing and production. Their philosophy is that the simpler your skincare is, the better. They released this adorable lip balm set for the holidays, which includes Peppermint, Cocoa, Citrus and Cinnamon flavors. At just $15, it’s a perfect stocking stuffer!

2. Herbivore Coco Rose Coconut Oil Lip Tint: When I do wear color, I love subtle shades that go on smooth and moisturize my lips. This coconut oil lip tint from Herbivore Botanicals fits the bill perfectly. The versatile shade complements a variety of different skin tones, and the nourishing ingredients are great for sensitive skin, especially during the dry winter months! 

3. Savannah Bee “Bee the Balm” Gift Set: Savannah Bee is another one of my all-time favorites for lip balms. Their founder, Ted, is passionate about beekeeping and educating the public on the value of these hard little workers and the natural resources they create. Savannah Bee lip balms use organic beeswax as a base, along with a host of other natural and nourishing components. I adore their unique, delicious flavors! This adorable set includes their 7 classic flavors in a cute zipper pouch, all for $22.50.


1. Little Barn Apothecary Aloe + Rosewater Balancing Facial Mist: LBA is a luxury clean skincare line based in Atlanta and founded on the principles of simplicity and nature. Their Aloe + Rosewater Balancing Facial Mist smells divine, feels light and luxurious on the skin, and is great for toning after cleansing, setting makeup, or just providing a refreshing pick-me-up. I would certainly love to find one of these in my stocking!


2. Hidden Forest Theo Face Wash + Mask: Hidden Forest is the premiere natural skincare line from NC’s own Be Pure Beauty, and this gem is one of my favorite discoveries of the year! Theo is a multi-tasking chocolate face wash and mask. (Yes, real chocolate). It has 8 simple ingredients, all hand-picked to deliver maximum nourishment to any skin type. Plus, it smells like the most decadent dessert you can imagine. This is perfect for any chocolate lover in your life!



3. 100% Pure BB Cream: Another great option for the makeup and skincare lover is 100% Pure’s BB Cream. The simplicity of only 3 shades takes the guesswork out of gifting, and the smooth, creamy formulation works beautifully for a variety of skin types. And of course, the ingredients are natural and nourishing!



Body:

C & Co. Skin Therapy Gift Set: I can’t resist mentioning one of my favorite brands for all-natural body care: C & Co Naturals. C & Co. products are handcrafted in their flagship shop in Asheville, NC by talented skincare artisans who know their stuff. I adore their soap and lip balm (of course), and use their lotion bar on the regular - so this set that includes all of those goodies, plus their luxurious sugar scrub, is a huge home run in my book. This gift is perfect for anyone who could use a little pampering!



Organize:
Raven + Lilly Ashoka Plume Print Organic Cotton Makeup Bag: Last but not least, I couldn’t resist including these beautiful organic cotton makeup bags from Raven + Lilly as the perfect accessory to hold any clean beauty treasures you plan on gifting! These bags are from their India Collection, and provide employment opportunities for women who have been freed from sex trafficking. Isn’t it empowering to know that something as small as the bag you put your makeup in can have a positive impact on someone’s life around the globe?

Thanks, Traci for all of your recommendations! I am adding the Hidden Forest Theo mask to my "to buy" list!

Did you miss a gift guide:

Best,

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Sunday Sayings {December 18}

Hey y'all,

I hope you have had an awesome weekend, its in the 60s here in NC so my windows are open and I am getting some laundry done before I meal prep. With this crazy holiday season I am reminded that kindness goes a long way. From a smile, thank you or small gesture it can really make your day especially when you have times like spending an hour at the post office on Saturday since you waited forever to get some packages out. whoops. But you take it in stride and know that everyone is working hard. Molly over at Still Being Molly has been doing a Random Act of Kindess each day here in the triangle and I love that the community has gotten behind her. I love looking at the hashtag, trikind25 and seeing all the small acts that are making a difference. So I challenge you to do one small act this week as we are leading up to Christmas.

• pinterest: ashleytips •:

Best,


Five on Friday {December 16th}

Hey y'all,

This week has been jam packed with work, writing Christmas cards, a few Christmas parties, and babysitting. We made it to Friday and I do not have any major plans this weekend apart from cleaning, taking some Cyclebar classes, and teaching my preschool class at church. As always I am writing about 5 things that have made my week this Friday but I am going to have to go ahead and say thank you to Katie from Cup of Tea, Tif from Bright on a Budget and the other hosts of High Five for Friday for having me as their feature blogger of the week!
http://www.ktcupoftea.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/H54F-Main-Graphic.jpg 

one. Skinnytaste recipes. For Christmas I am making my baby sister a recipe binder filled with our family's favorite recipes and some recipes I have found and love since moving out of the house. It is crazy how many come from Gina's blog. I might have had next weeks meal plan written out since Wednesday after looking over all of my favorites from her blog and cookbooks.
This quick turkey chili taco soup satisfies my soup cravings, takes just 20 minutes to cook but it tastes like it was simmering for hours! Top it with your favorite chili toppings such as sour cream, cheese or whatever you like for a healthy meal that can be prepped for the week or frozen for another night.
Turkey Chili Taco Soup. The one that started my obsession.

two. American Housewife. Y'all, this show is so great and perfect for when you just want something funny on at the end of the day. I love all the characters, except of course Katie we just have to forgive went to Duke. #yeswehateevenfictionalfans #GOHEELS
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three. Small Group Fun. This Wednesday my bible study got together for the holidays and had a gift card exchange. It was fun to see everyone one last time before the new year. I gave a Chick-Fil-A gift card and ended up with one to Amazon so book suggestions are welcome! The highlight of the party though was Lindsey's cat, Ellie, who sat for the most hysterical version of Watch Me. You can catch the video here.

Have y'all seen the new Chick-Fil-A calendar? I had to grab it when I was getting the gift card since I love the theme.

four. Dean Dawson's retirement. This past Tuesday, I left work a little early and headed to Graham Memorial on North Campus to celebrate one of my old coworkers Alice Dawson who after serving UNC for over 30 years is retiring.Dean Dawson is seriously one of the sweetest people and I hate that she won't be at Carolina anymore but she wholeheartedly deserves retirement.

five. My Christmas tree. I love that I have a hodgepodge of ornaments from my first Christmas ornaments to the one I just received at my gift exchange. They all have some great stories behind them. My godparents for a while sent me a Christmas ornament each year and I treasure all of them.
 
 Santa in a Hot Air Balloon when my god parents were living abroad.
 Octopus from Crate and Barrel last year since I went down to Atlanta that year to see a friend and the aquarium.
 Ornament I made with my Mom right before I turned two.
 My Monogram on a glass ornament from a Phi Beta Chi Christmas party in college
Clara from my godparents since I used to dance ballet and went to the Nutcracker almost every year.

Link up with April, Christina, and Natasha.
Also linking up with Tif and Katie.
And Erika

Are you a hodgepodge or themed tree person?
What's your favorite place for recipe inspiration?
Best,
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Miscellany Monday {Weekend Update+First Cyclebar experience}

Hey y'all,

I had a jam packed weekend and thought I would share some of my adventures in the Triangle. Let's just jump right in.Beware of the picture heavy post.

Friday.
After a busy day at work I ran to pick up some books a friend had borrowed and headed to downtown Durham. I met a few friends from my small group for dinner at Lilly's Pizza. After dinner, we wandered around Morgan imports and then ran to Whole Foods for cookies before going to watch A Christmas Kiss on Netflix. It was a night filled with a ton of laughter and the perfect start to the weekend (although this grandma thought it was crazy to be up at midnight).


Saturday.
I woke up Saturday and headed to Cyclebar. It was a Rhianna themed ride. It was my first ride at Cyclebar and so much fun. I love cycling classes and this one had a lot of high energy. I also was happy to break the top 8 during one of the sprints (there were 16 people on the board). It helps to challenge you and I'm excited to try out more classes this month. They have fun themed rides like 90's top hits, brunch on Sunday, Wine Not Wednesdays, and a whole slew of other rides. Plus, if you loved the music from the ride, just check your email after class, they send you the playlist you you can rock another workout. You can check out the Brier Creek Cyclebar here. Through December, new riders get a class free and they are opening up a studio less than 10 minutes from my apartment in Cary in January. You can't tell but I was soaked in my sweaty selfie below post ride.Cyclebar has over 100 studios so if you aren't in the Triangle, check them out here.


After Cyclebar, I headed to Big Lots and Target to look for white elephant exchange gifts as well as get some grocery items for my ornament exchange and the rest of the week. I also stopped by the library to grab some fun reading.

I went home and watched a few episodes of Fuller House with my roomie before we both had to get ready for events that night-my office Christmas party and her Christmas card photo shoot. I got to the party early to set up and I am happy that everyone had a wonderful time. The white elephant exchange did get a bit heated and I eventually ended up with some organic green tea considering I started with owl salt and pepper shakers.

I got home a little before 9pm and then my roomie and I were off on an adventure. We stopped at Starbucks and then headed out to see Christmas lights. We drove over to the Raleigh/Cary area and saw a few crazy houses and ended up not getting home until almost midnight!
 NC State fans will appreciate this house.

First red cup of the season
Sunday.
I ended up sleeping in after our late night out so I decided to go to the 10am service at church. Afterwards, I ran a few errands and then went home to get my apartment all cleaned up before having friends over for my annual ornament exchange.

I was a bad blogger and only snapped a photo post exchange with the ornament I received. I do not play a white elephant game but rather read a poem that includes the words left and right and the gifts move around the circle.

After the exchange, Elizabeth hung around for a while and we caught up and watched a Hallmark movie and got lots of Max cuddles. It was the perfect restful Sunday.

How was your weekend?
Best,
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