5 Christmas Gifts I am Loving

My family is great at giving gifts, but my husband is like no one I have ever met before.  Not just for me, but for many other people, he is very intuitive and can instinctively pick out things that they will enjoy, just by knowing them.  Needless to say, many of the items on my list were gifted to me by Will.  

Recommendation: if you don’t know what to give someone as a gift, or you don’t know how to let people know what you want, make a public Amazon wishlist and share it with everyone.  You can also encourage others to share their wishlist with you.  I have my wishlist set up so that if someone buys me something off my list, it won’t spoil the surprise and it leaves the item on the list for a few weeks once purchased.  

All of the items on my list of Christmas gifts I have been loving have been well used and well loved almost every day since they were received.  I’ve linked each one to Amazon in case you are interested!

LapGear Designer Lap Desk

This first gift was a very intuitive gift from Will that I hadn’t thought to ask for.  I had a lap desk from childhood that I used all of the time.  I mean ALL of the time.  I left it in our storage unit while we were in Arizona and, as I am sure many of you can guess, it was lost when our unit flooded.  I was not expecting Will to get me one for Christmas, but he went beyond that and got one for each of us!  Not only has it been incredible for use while blogging and editing photos for photography, but it has also been very beneficial during game nights and the occasional meal on the couch in our bonus room.

He got two of the beige quatrefoil desks, linked above.

Giantex Bedroom Wooden Full Length Mirror

This mirror was on my Amazon wishlist for a while.  I got hooked after seeing similar mirrors at the Christmas Tree Shop and on Instagram influencer pages.  I was surprised and blessed to find two of them under the tree this year and get to have one in my room and one in our guest room!  

After returning from Arizona and losing my cheapo full length mirror in our storage unit fiasco, it has been lovely to finally see my full outfits again.  Our girl Blue also enjoys building a relationship with the puppy in the mirror.  haha.

Spring Form Pan 

My mom came in with the win and got me a spring form pan!  It was an awesome surprise, especially because Will and I were able to buy a food processor on Black Friday back in November so that I can make cheesecake.  I have already tried them both and made a super delicious chocolate swirl cheesecake that was to die for, even after we accidentally dropped it (crust side down) in the yard.

Land’ End Hooded Squall Winter Jacket 

God bless the Lands’ End squall.  It is wind proof, waterproof, hooded and fleece lined.  I have put this coat to good use, through photoshoots and cold winter days, it has yet to let me down.  I took photos of a house in a downpour recently and was completely dry and warm afterwards.  Another time I took photos of a house in freezing temperatures and felt nothing but cold hands because I neglected to wear gloves.  It is legit, cozy, and absolutely what every adventurer needs on their list.  Bonus: Lands’ End has great sales and coupons so you don’t have to pay full price.  Like ever.

Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle Cooperative Deck Building Card Game 

Last but certainly not least was an awesome gift from my sister and brother-in-law.  Will and I had many date nights involving this game and recently beat the seventh game.  However, with four players we have yet to get past game two, so we are enjoying the strategy and variables.

It is a deck building card game that includes seven games (just like the seven books/years).  There are four heroes (Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Neville) that must defeat the villains who are trying to gain control of different locations.  Each game gets more difficult with different obstacles and abilities being added in each deck.

Next up, I think I may look into getting the expansion, which adds another hero and some other cards and items.  Who knew I would love a deck building game?  All it took was a Harry Potter theme, I guess.   

Have you and your loved ones started using Amazon wishlists yet?  It seriously makes gift giving so much easier.  Whenever I think of something I need or want during the year, I add it to my list!  #LifeHack

Let me know your favorite Christmas gifts you have been loving down in the comments.  If you enjoyed this post, please give it a like and don’t forget to join the family and subscribe if you haven’t already.

Until next time,
Jamie out

My Word for 2019

Do you ever give your self a word, or a mission, or a phrase to cling onto?  Something that makes decisions easier and priorities clearer.  Will and I started prioritizing early on in our relationship.  Underneath God and our relationship, we put family.  This helps us make so many important (and maybe seemingly insignificant) decisions clearer and easier.  

I have never chosen a word for a year before now.  Sure, I have set new years resolutions that I rarely, if ever, keep, but this year I am approaching things differently.  I have set personal and professional goals, as well as giving myself a word to focus on.  To be my driving force for learning and growing in 2019.

My word is Simplify.

Much in the way that people say “don’t put yourself in debt during the holidays to show people how generous you are, or how much you love them,” my approach to Simplifying is very similar.  I view Simplifying as a way to gain freedom.  Freedom from overcommitting.  Freedom from clutter.  Freedom from being overwhelmed.  Freedom from feeling obligated.  It is a means to prioritize, and that prioritizing begins with practical steps, that turn into habits, that change the way you look at things, so that the things you look at change.

Some practical steps I have already taken include deleting unused and unwanted apps from my phone and turning off notifications for basically everything.  I already feel this freedom.  There is much less pressure—much less anxiety—much less obligation when I look at my phone. 

Other practical steps include cleaning out the fridge every time I go grocery shopping.  Making the bed every day.  Throwing out expired medications.  Keeping lists on my phone for easy access at grocery stores.  Reducing the trips I make to stores so that I have more time for my family and other priorities.  Making a master spreadsheet for my photography business to simplify keeping track of everything for myself and my taxes.  Getting rid of clothing that has holes, that I never wear, and that doesn’t bring me joy.  

Etc.

I am so excited to dive into Simplifying my life this year and to experience the freedom it brings.  Does anyone have any suggestions for me?  For ways that I can Simplify in 2019?

Do you have a word for 2019?  Leave it for me in the comments!  If you enjoyed this post, please give it a like and don’t forget to join the family and subscribe if you haven’t already.

Until next time,
Jamie out

10 Creative Winter Date Ideas

I have a confession to make.  I LOVE going on dates with my husband.  When we have one planned, I literally look forward to it all week.  I think about what I’m going to wear and what we might do, but mostly I’m just excited to spend that quality time with my best friend.

Anyone else’s love language quality time?  Getting to spend time together just the two of us is worth so much more to me than any other display of affection.  

Will is really great at planning dates.  He usually doesn’t even tell me what we’re doing.  He gives me as little information as possible and then surprises me as we go along.  It’s fantastic.  

You would think that because we love hiking and exploring that winter might be a little bit of a downer for us.  But really, we just get to enjoy a whole different realm of the dating world.  So without further ado, here are our top 10 winter date ideas.

Take a cooking class together

Or if you don’t want to go to a class, you could find a recipe you want to try and then make it together in your kitchen.  But if you cook all the time in your own kitchen and you want to be inspired by someone else’s genius, Google the most recommended cooking classes in your area and sign up!  

This is such a unique date idea that you will definitely make some memories.  Instead of all the dinner and a movie dates that begin to blend together, this one will stand out among the rest.  So take a chance and get cooking!

Have a game night with a prize for the winner

You could even turn this into a double date, winner take all!  Will and I registered for some games when we were getting married, and I also got a really good one for Christmas.  Our favorite game lately has been a Harry Potter deck building card game that has consumed our most recent date nights.  You don’t have to know much of anything about Harry Potter to enjoy the strategy of the game, but if you do it will make it that much more fun.  

Other favorites for game nights include Catan, Sequence, and Nertz.

Go to a hockey game

We have a local hockey team here in Fayetteville.  I also went to university in Canada and went to the rec hockey games almost every week.  It was a blast.  

Get bundled up for the ice rink for your hockey date and prepare to eat classic sporting event cuisine like nachos and hot-dogs.  Try to snap a photo with the mascot and catch a free t-shirt that you know they will be launching into the stands.   

Go on a winter hike

Why should a little cold weather stop you from exploring the great outdoors?  Put on your good hiking boots and find a trail you’ve been dying to try.  Ask around with locals to find the perfect wintery spot and set out in your adventuremobile for some great exploring together.  Winter doesn’t have to be enjoyed solely from your very cozy couch.  

Go to a local museum neither of you have been to before

I’ll be honest, this one is high on my list.  Is there a mansion-turned-museum where you live?  Those are my favorite.  What about a cool transportation museum that really tells the story of where you live?  Or how about an art museum with a cool new exhibit?  Try something new—maybe an interest you haven’t explored together yet—and get to know each other a little more as you spend some time with culture.

Go to a trivia night

This is super fun, whether you know the answers or not!  Will and I recently went to a Christmas movie trivia night with my sister and brother-in-law and had a blast!  I only knew like two of the answers and my family carried us all the way to second or third place, but we still had so much fun.  We ate tasty appetizers and tried different drinks, and all just had a really good time together.  

Take a look on Facebook events or ask some local restaurants if they know of any trivia nights around you.  The host at our trivia night knew a slew of others around town we could try out in the future.

Catch a play

I grew up going to a lot of plays with my mom and sister.  I think it is something that I look a little for granted, to be honest.  Now that I am an adult I hardly ever get to go to plays and shows.  I took my sister on a sister date once to see Avenue Q when it was in town and it was every bit as hilarious and inappropriate as I thought it would be.

Even if plays aren’t necessarily your thing, give it a try to do something a little different.  It will definitely create a more lasting memory for you two!

Try indoor rock climbing

I’ll be honest, this one intimidates me because I often feel out of shape, and I also have bad wrists.  However, if you are fit and adventurous and down for trying something new and different, this is a fantastic winter option!  First of all, it’s indoors.  Secondly, it is active.  Thirdly, it is DIFFERENT!  And if you can’t tell by now, I’m a sucker for different date ideas because I’m all about lasting memories and trying creative things that are out of the norm.

See a movie at the fanciest theatre in town

Okay, so I know this may sound normal and routine to you, but trust me.  Especially if you can somehow pull off the surprise date.  Does your significant other really want to see a specific movie that’s out?  Do they know that a small theatre downtown recently renovated and upgraded to heated reclining seats in all of the auditoriums?  Do they enjoy a little wine with their movie?  Pull out all the stops—don’t make this just any other dinner and a movie date.  Make this a reclining seat and wine movie date with Jason Momoa in Aquaman.

(Disclaimer: Will, I don’t actually want to see Aquaman so don’t take me to that one.  Haha.)

All right, friend, my job of inspiring you is over!  Now it’s your turn to plan and execute!  Good luck and happy dating!

Until next time,
Jamie out.

Goodbye 2018, Hello 2019

2018 into 2019—a natural progression of time that often spurs on resolutions, attempted life changes, and goal chasing.  Does the new year make you joyful and excited?  Or does it make you sad and anxious?  

New years typically make me anxious.  This great vast unknown of a fresh twelve months just loom in front of me.  Sometimes there is excitement, but often just a great unknown and feeling of having to do everything all over again.  This year is a little different, and since January first, some of my anxiety has gone away.  #Blessed  

Before I get ahead of myself, though, here’s a look back. 

2018

Something positive that happened 

We got married! What is actually one of the best moments of the year—possibly the best day of my life—was getting married to William.  A day that I had anticipated being full of anxiety and overwhelming emotions was exactly the opposite.  It was peaceful, and joyful, and felt just exactly right.  It wasn’t so much about the dress and the flowers and the desserts (although all of those things were great).  It was, however, absolutely about the beginning of forever, and finally getting to promise forever to the one man I couldn’t wait to do life with.  

A personal highlight

Besides our wedding day, my personal highlight was our Maine honeymoon.  This vacation trumped all of our other adventures in 2018.  We couldn’t see ourselves in a big city or on a beach with a mojito.  What we really wanted was mountains and cold air and a little place with a kitchen and a view.  We flew into Maine just before the season started—before the trees began to come back to life.  We rented an adventure-mobile and a cottage in the woods with a great big couch in front of floor to ceiling glass doors.  We drank coffee and ate lobster, went hiking and exploring, and wore great big coats and hats to keep out the chill.  There was still snow on the ground in the mountains.  And it was all perfect.  All of it.

Blogging highlights

Our biggest highlight was obviously LAUNCHING the blog.  I bought the domain and constructed the blog, then had a 5 Days of Blogging week to kick the whole thing off.  You guys have been GREAT and I have loved getting back to blogging, sharing, writing, and photographing.  Life just feels right this way, you know?  

Relationship highlight

Well… we got married.  Haha!  But in an effort not to be redundant, another highlight for me was actually when I got in a car accident my car was totaled.  Believe it or not.  Despite how scary it may have been, or how stressful it was, or how frustrating it could have become, it taught us so very much about each other.  How to depend on one another.  How to encourage one another.  How to be there for and with one another.  And how to tackle a difficult situation together.  Even beyond that, our love and respect for one another grew a LOT because of the situation.  So weirdly, that is a big highlight for me.

2019

Things that I want to do and am looking forward to

I want to explore historic sites and locations on the east coast and in North Carolina—to dive into the rich history that the east has to offer.  We did a lot of outdoor exploring in the desert last year.  This year I would love to focus a little more on history.  

I am looking forward to a couple trips we have planned and getting to watch our pup grow into a real dog.

What about personal goals and personal life?

I have a few personal goals with the worship team that I will keep to myself for now.  Mostly because I’m too nervous to even say it out loud right now.  I want to read at least 12 books, read through the whole Bible, and to discover how to maintain a good work out schedule.

Where in the world will I go?

To Utah to visit Will’s family.  I would love to go back home to Nevada for a little, or maybe back to the mountains.  Will and I have another secret trip planned as well.

What do I want to accomplish professionally?

I want to grow my photography business to more than just supplement our income.  I want to offer us more financial freedom.  

What about the blog?

My goal is to publish at least five blog posts a month.  I want to build in such a way that I will be able to monetize certain things.  I believe in multiple income streams, passive income, and financial freedom.  I kind of view years without kids as building years for me and hope that once we have kids I will be able to supplement Will’s income to offer us more options.  That isn’t to say that my entire goal with the blog is to earn money, but in all honesty I don’t see anything wrong with it when bloggers earn an income from their hard work.

Is there anything that you want to hear from me this year on the blog?

What about you?  What goals and dreams do you have for your 2019?

Until next time,
Jamie out.

my Instagram Top 9 2018

This is my official “top nine.”  The one the app pulls up for you and says, “Here!  This was your year!”  And these were my most liked posts on mrsjamieshugart from 2018.

While I actually think this Top 9 did a pretty dang good job, I still stare at it and think, “How on earth can my 2018 ever fit into nine little photographs?”  

According to this photo, 2018 was our Golden Retriever Blue (who is quite important, don’t get me wrong), our new furniture, our NEW HOUSE (first time home buyers—holla!), us, and adventures.  Not a bad representation, but probably not exactly what I would choose.

2018 in a nutshell:

  • Will and I spent the first three months apart.  We took our engagement photos and then he was whisked away.  
  • Just as soon as he got back, we got married, honeymooned in Maine, lived a few more weeks in North Carolina, and then packed all of our possessions into a storage unit for safe keeping.  
  • We drove over two thousand miles away to Arizona to spend four months with each other, with work, and with the desert.  
  • I launched my blog, we road tripped to Utah, explored several national parks (including the Grand Canyon), spent a weekend in San Diego, and ate all of the tacos we could stand.
  • After four months of desert living, we began our trek back to North Carolina and I got rear ended on the first day of our drive.  My trusty little car was a total loss.
  • Just a few days later we arrived in North Carolina and closed on our house.  
  • The next day we emptied our storage unit (that had flooded in our absence) and discovered that basically all of our furniture was toast.
  • Within 5 days, we bought a house, lost all of our furniture, picked out our puppy, and bought a new (to us) Toyota.  
  • Just two weeks later we brought our Golden girl Blue home.  The first month was extremely overwhelming and all of the emotions of the car accident and storage flood caught up with us during our lack of sleep during puppy and potty training.
  • Will started his new job with a much busier schedule that will demand a lot from us in 2019.
  • I started working almost full time as a photographer, being self employed and working a lot from home.

WHAT.  A.  CRAZY.  YEAR.  WE.  HAD.  If I could choose my own top nine for this crazy year, these photos would be it.

#1

My baby nephew was born and adopted in February.  This is what I had to say at the time:

For this child I have prayed.

Little baby Harkni, how we have prayed. And we know now, why it all happened the way it did. Because you were absolutely always His plan, and without the years of waiting and praying and sadness, we wouldn’t get to love you the way we get to love you. We wouldn’t have YOU, and what a beautiful and miraculous thing that there is now this precious new person in the world. And that precious new person is ours to love.

We are so blessed. We are so happy. We are so in love. Our family is growing this year, and 2018 is The Best Year Ever.

With all of our hearts, baby Harkni.

#2

My bridal shower!

This was a crazy season for me.  I was stressed beyond measure (planning is NOT my thing) with the wedding, Will was far far away from me, and I was working all hours of the night and day with my full time job, photography on the side, and worship team shenanigans.  My amazing work family threw me a surprise bridal shower that was extremely generous and made me feel so loved.  My bridesmaid/bestie and her mama also threw me this shower on the day I got my hair done for the wedding (conveniently) at this adorable and delicious restaurant downtown with some of my very favorite ladies.

May you all feel loved the way I was blessed to feel so loved.

#3

#4

#wamieswedding

In April, we got married in my parents’ backyard under sunny blue skies.  I wore lace and tule and we didn’t have a first look.  I watched all the guests arrive through a slit in the blinds of my parents’ master bedroom and ogled my fiancé in his tux from afar.  Will cried when he saw me and we said sweet simple vows.  We snapped a couple pictures and then spent the reception with our loved ones before we jumped in a very decorated car that told passersby to honk, JUST MARRIED! and drove to Raleigh to stay the night in a fancy hotel before setting off the next morning for our honeymoon.

#5

On our honeymoon, we went to the beach, but in coats.  We didn’t get tan, or drink cocktails, or go snorkeling.  We flew to Maine—my dream vacation—and stayed in a little cottage outside Bar Harbor on an island called Mount Desert.  We drank wine and ate blueberry preserves.  Our first little breakfast, I got crepes with Maine blueberries and we drank our way through the island’s coffee supply that week.  We wore activewear and fleece and hiked up mountains to see the views.  We looked off into the distance of the Atlantic on a very clear day and had lobster multiple times at fancy restaurants on the bay.  Will tried a glass of twenty dollar scotch and we did a Marvel marathon to prepare for the release of Infinity War.

We even went to see a lighthouse that I had been ogling pictures of for years.  I had saved a photo of the very lighthouse to my phone exactly two years prior.  To the day.

#6

Our Arizona adventures!

After packing up and moving, discovering hotel and desert life, and launching our blog, we began to realize our dream of visiting as many National Parks as possible, beginning with the Coronado National Memorial.  We love hiking, camping, and exploring.  We were stoked when we found out that Coronado has a cave that you can explore without a guide!  We hiked the half mile trail up the mountainside and then spent a long time exploring the depths of the cave with one headlamp and one sort of okay flashlight.

We then drove up a windy, dirt road to a view point.  If you turn around, you can see well into Mexico.  It was beautiful and green because of monsoon season, and we were so blessed to experience it.

#7

The Grand Canyon

Another dream of mine!  And a culmination of all of my goals and aspirations in Arizona.  I did a work out program called 80 Day Obsession specifically to be able to keep up with my super fit husband on all of our adventuring in the desert.  At the Grand Canyon, we got up around 3am to make it to the rim in time to watch the sun rise.  We then hiked the rim trail for over twelve miles and spent over 13 hours in the presence of the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my life.

#8

A Cacti Goodbye to Arizona

This photo is a great representation of our Arizona adventure.  On our last weekend, we drove up to Saguaro National Park to catch the sunset among some of the biggest cacti I have ever laid eyes on.  We had a mini photo shoot with my camera on a tripod and the remote in my hand.  It gave us a moment to slow down and cherish every adventure we had been on, the four months we had gone through just the two of us, and this incredible way to start our marriage.  It was a bitter sweet last adventure in the desert, but it was probably one of the best ideas we have had to date.

#9

All of our last two months of 2018 wrapped into one photo, with our new house and our new furniture and our new pup.  What a whirlwind the last 70 days of 2018 were!  I’ll be honest, I hope we don’t go through any more of those, but WHEN we do I will be grateful to do it with Will by my side.

Last year was a blast!  (Most of it!)  I was a little sad to see it go, to be honest.  2018 was very very good for my soul.  For our marriage.  For our future as the Shugarts.  We are so blessed to have had 2018.  

Now here we head into the unknown of a new year.  Our bags are unpacked.  We are setting down roots.  We have plans and adventures and explorations to do.  The world is a big place, so let’s hop to it, shall we?

Until next time,
Jamie out.

Puppy’s first holidays

Blue update #3—3 Months Old!

Our girl Blue is three months old, growing like her life depends on it, and loves spending time with us and her toys.

My favorite things about the past month:

  • Blue’s explosive growth
  • How she is finally learning that her crate isn’t a negative place
  • Watching her run behind a grown dog and how cute and clumsy she looks
  • Watching her with my 10 month old nephew and how quickly she has learned to be gentle with him

My least favorite thing:

  • How she won’t stop chewing on my bathroom rug

Things I have learned:

  • She looooves learning
  • She notices when one of us is gone
  • She is still a puppy and new to this world

Blue turned three months old on her 13 week birthday!  She has changed so much since we brought her home just a few weeks ago.  She weighs over twenty-five pounds now and her paws are ginormous.  She got her rabies shot and has only one set of shots left in her puppy vaccines.

Around week thirteen, she began to become a little more aware.  She recognized that things can be scary, or that she can get hurt, or that some things are unknown.  She would get nervous and distrusting of things she didn’t know or understand, and if there was a loud startling noise, she reacted more dramatically than she would have just a week before.

Blue has gotten better since then and is growing in confidence in her own home and den.  She got too big to ride on my lap in the car, so she is relearning about car rides by riding in the back and isn’t the biggest fan.  She started playing with my sister’s dog, a five year old chocolate lab named Coco, and has so much fun with her in her fenced backyard.  Coco is really good with her, being gentle enough but still having fun rough housing and being pups together.

She is growing like a crazy pup!  She is super playful, but her eyes will suddenly droop and she absolutely must take a nap.  The other day when we were wrapping presents, she couldn’t sleep through the noise so she went to our bedroom to take a nap by herself.  That’s the first time she has done that!  She always loves being underfoot or napping with her head on our feet.

We are excited to start taking her on walks, to dog parks, and to keep teaching her more things.  She loves sitting and laying down, and her new chew toys she got for Christmas are her favorite toys still.  She loves her big fluffy bed, but isn’t so sure about baths or being brushed.  The last time I had to give her medicine, she did great and ate the whole thing.  

Over the next month we expect her to continue growing quickly and hope that we can accomplish more leash training.  We hope to get her a fenced backyard ASAP so that she can explore and enjoy, as well as become comfortable outside on her own.

Until next time,
Jamie out.

Christmas With the Shugarts

2018 was the year of the tabletop Christmas tree due to our tiny puppy.
The breakfast master.
We opened stockings at home, had a giant breakfast, and then went to my parents’ house for family time.
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It is hard to be a little pup when there is no time to nap and so many people to take care of.
Dinner.
Nephew.
Finally able to rest with Auntie Kasey.

Until next time,
Jamie out.