Monday, December 31, 2012

butlers, brandenbergers, and gamboas - oh my!

our annual end of the year family picture. 
apparently, peyton hates these more and more every year. this is him protesting.

blurry but you cannot miss out on these facial expressions. epic.

my sister, her hubby and baby bb making his/her appearance come june 2013!

the butlers + the brandenbergers = two gamboa girls and two Ryans.

 the boys. don't they look like they are about to break into some gangman style?

the pretty ladies! like one man told my dad at church: "guess your girls got dad's looks 'cause it looks like mom still has hers!"

much love.
{happy new year's eve, friend.}

Thursday, December 27, 2012

no complaints.

 blazer: f21 / scarf: charming charlie's / wide leg jeans: GAP / bag: c/o Chicnova / wedged boots (india): c/o Blowfish Shoes

as you can imagine from all that has been going on, Ryan and i have hardly had the chance to catch our breath! since the whirlwind of getting ready for a wedding in a week to our time in Maui to flying back home to the Mainland and then of course, the regular busyness of the holidays on top of that - whew! 

but hey, i am not complaining one bit. i love the reason for our busyness plus all of the Christmas festivities and the time with family. and besides, all that matters and what has mattered to me and Ryan for a very long time is that we are together. so i have no reason to complain. not one stinkin' bit.

much love.
{happy thursday, friend.}

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

it all started with a pair of water shoes: part one.

so...remember a couple weeks ago when Ryan surprised me with a visit? it truly was a surprise to me, but let me just say, it was only the start of the surprises. so let me back up to earlier that day: it was a typical Monday yet with the holiday in full swing, i needed to get moving out of my PJs, get orders out the door and my own Christmas shopping list to tackle. so just as i was getting ready for the day, my phone rang - it was Ryan. he was called in for a job interview in Savannah, so he was wondering if we could either meet up in Savannah or if it was okay if he visited with my family overnight. already knowing the answer, i ran the request past Mom who practically ran to get the guest room ready before completing a yes for an answer.

Ryan arrived at the house close to 2:30 that afternoon. he visited us for a little while then asked if it was okay to take me out for coffee or an early dinner. since he only had the short visit, he wanted to be able to take me out on a date. being in a long distant relationship causes you to savor every single second you have with each other, no joke.

so we headed downtown, an area lined with adorable local shops and restaurants. since neither of us were hungry yet, we parked the car and walked to one of my favorite coffee shops. i ordered an apple cider and we continued to make our way down to the waterfront.

seriously, at this point, i was elated to be able to just walk hand in hand with Ryan. the weather was cool and crisp with a light breeze and warm sun on our skin. as we gazed over the Beaufort river, i hugged Ryan and told him that i felt like i was dreaming since we didn't know if we were even able to see each other until the new year. he hugged me back and said that he felt the same.

the breeze started to pick up and Ryan said that he wanted to run back to the car and grab his jacket. we walked back to his car, where he popped open the trunk. he stepped back and said, oh, wait a sec - i have something to give you. i started walking towards one of the swing benches that lines the waterfront, and he motioned for us to get back into the car as he carried along a large, awkwardly wrapped gift (Ryan is known for his signature gift wrapping - but it's the best because i always know which gifts are from Ryan, especially when they are practically covered up in scotch tape). i laughed and said, okaaaaay as i got into the car.

he set the box on my lap. so this is NOT your Christmas gift, okay? he said to me. it's just something small i wanted to give to you now, but your Christmas gift is coming - but this isn't it.

i started unwrapping the bright red Christmas paper and pulled back the lid of the cardboard box. beneath layered of red and green tissue paper, i pulled out a paper of black and yellow water shoes. i immediately slipped them onto my feet, lifting my feet up to the dashboard of the car to take a good look at them (i have short legs if you didn't figure that out already, people). oh, my goodness, Ryan - i love them! they are perfect! i gave him a quick kiss on the cheek and said, they are perfect but too bad we aren't going to any beaches anytime soon.

do you really like them? Ryan asked. do they fit alright? i found them the other day and totally thought of you so i thought you might like them. 

i took the water shoes off and placed them back in the box. i remember thinking how funny Ryan's timing was in giving me the shoes. we always have talked about snorkeling  - it's something that i have never done but i have always loved aquatic life and so does Ryan, so we dreamed about doing it together one day.

Ryan picked up one of the shoes and pulled out the crumbled up brown papers that formed the shape of the left shoe. hey, is there one of these in that other shoe? he asked me.

i pulled the other shoe out of the box and pulled out a folded up piece of paper. i immediately thought i was the receipt and handed it him, is this yours? now that i think back to it, there was a twinkle in his eyes that i had missed. he had the goofiest of grins and waited for me to unfold that paper.

first i caught the Orbitz logo. nothing registered until my eyes drifted their way down to the middle of the page. Ryan's full name. my full name. departure time. arrival time.

and then my heart stopped and it all clicked. Maui, Hawaii. 

the Maui guidebook we ended up using all week long

Ryan and i have always wanted a small intimate wedding. the largest wedding he and i have ever envisioned included our family members and the two of us. to be honest, we mentioned this to our closest of friends - and then only mentioned to our immediate family our dream of possibly eloping to a secluded beach. though our family was very supportive and Ryan and i continued to dream of the possibilities over the past two years we were engaged, we never felt the timing was right and therefore, never took the leap.

yet here i was, holding our dream in my hands and the next thing i knew, in utter shock, as the emotional girl that i am, bawling my eyes out. is this real? am i dreaming? i remember blubbering in between my tears.

it felt like the day Ryan proposed to me all over again. the rush of emotions. the beauty of unbelief and sheer joy. the eruption of every bit of happiness exploding in that car between me and Ryan. we hugged. we kissed - each other and the water shoes probably. we laughed and cried.

i asked Ryan to pinch me. i needed to know this was not a dream. ouch.

Ryan suggested that we forget our early dinner and run back home to my family and repeat the surprise to them. i agreed, making sure to rub the stream of eyeliner and make-up from my cheeks, putting the shoes and the Orbitz page back into the box. though we had to wait till my dad arrived from work about a long hour and half long later, Ryan and i reenacted our surprise to them, asking mom oh, wait. what is the folded piece of paper in that shoe? and just like Ryan and i did in the car, we all laughed and cried and hugged each other (and the water shoes) all over again.

so it was no lie that Ryan was here for two very short days. in those two days, we celebrated with my family amidst only having a few days to get everything together for our flight the following Sunday morning. i already had my entire wedding ensemble, stored neatly and carefully in the back of my closet, so i packed that as well as everything i needed for the honeymoon that would follow the wedding ceremony.

and another part of the surprise, Ryan had always told me that he never wanted me to be one of those brides who had to deal with stress and drama on her wedding day. so...he had already been in touch with a wedding coordinator in Maui (he had been talking with her for quite some time now), who was taking care of all the details for us, including the photographer, bouquet, location, who would marry us, etc. all i basically needed to do was decide on what bouquet i wanted, write my wedding vows, and "show up and look beautiful!" it sounded good to me!

 dad, ryan and i being silly with our serious faces. dad said this was him pretending to marry us.

after a tearful yet excited good-bye to my family, Ryan and i traveled to Georgia to continue in our wedding preparations. we sent off our Christmas cards turned wedding announcements, picked up our wedding bands, shopped for Ryan's wedding ensemble, painfully canceled a Christmas party for my small group girls, writing our personal wedding vows, wrapped up work and closed up shop for the month, and tried to tie up as many loose ends as possible without giving away our secret!

seriously keeping this whole thing a secret was one of the hardest parts of eloping! i had to keep texting and talking to friends as if i were still in town. i had to be careful to post anything on my blog, twitter or facebook to make people think that i was skipping town. i even made plans with one of my girlfriends to see her next week! eeeek! but i knew that all of this secrecy would pay off since i was freaking getting married!

on Sunday, December 16th, we started to make the long trek from Atlanta, GA to Maui, Hawaii. i didn't think that i could be happier than when we stepped onto that plane with my best friend, especially since i knew that the next time we stepped foot in Atlanta's airport, we would be husband and wife.

to be continued...

much love.
{happy thursday, friend.}

p.s. are you... Joni Warren (#50)  - Jototes Bag giveaway winner AND Patricia (#33) Sunglasses Shop giveaway winner?! shoot me an email at muchloveilly at gmail dot com to claim your prize! congrats to Joni and Patricia and thank you to Jototes and Sunglasses Shop for two fabulous giveaways! you all rock!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

all i want for Christmas is you.

if you were to ask me earlier this holiday season what i wanted for Christmas, all i really wanted this year was to finally be with Ryan -  and man, was i ever blessed with him and so much more (will promise to share more pics soon about all of that)! i am married to my best friend and was welcomed into his very loving family. we celebrated Christmas morning at Ryan's home with his parents, brother, sister-in-law, and i'm sure many of you remember Ryan's adorable niece, Lily. with soft Christmas music playing in the background, we opened up our stockings, ate a Christmas breakfast, watched Lily play with all of the wrappings and boxes, and just enjoyed each other's company. the rest of the day was spent lounging in PJs, eating leftovers from the Christmas meal, munching on candy from our stockings  and watching lots of movies. and also one of my favorite parts of the day was waking up and reading the Christmas passage from the book of Matthew with my husband.

my heart feels very full today - being with Ryan (it's our first EVER Christmas together!), spending time with his family, grateful for technology to keep in touch with my own family back in SC and my sister in IA, and of course, remembering the true reason for the season, Jesus. however you celebrated this day, my friend, i hope that you were blessed with family, loved ones, or even a delicious take-out box of Chinese food and i certainly want to wish you a very, merry Christmas!

much love.
{merry christmas, friend.}

Sunday, December 23, 2012

sorry i've been a little MIA...

i've been snorkeling with sea turtles, eating the world's best pineapples, walking through a black sand beach, traveling the Road to Hana, and oh, btw, married my best friend on a beach in Maui at sunset. 

much love.
{happy christmas eve, friend.}

Thursday, December 20, 2012

dear daddy.

i want to wish the happiest of birthdays to the best father in the whole wide world. i could not have been blessed with a better daddy. you were the first man that i ever loved and so you will always have a special place in my heart. thank you for not only being my daddy but also one of my best friends. thank you for always truly caring for me. thank you for telling me that i was beautiful so that i wasn't looking for that affirmation in the wrong places. thank you for always being so proud of me in anything that i pursued in life. thank you for the respect you instilled in me for our Filipino heritage but also the love and patriotism for America. thank you for your sacrifice and for serving our country and our family. thank you for being such a loving husband to mom - and in your example, you showed my sisters and i what to look for in a future spouse. thank you for making life hilarious when the rest of us girls in the house were dramatic and took life too seriously. thank you for always pointing me to Jesus, making him priority in our home and in our lives. thank you for family movie nights, for our family traditions, and for our long 30-mile bike rides.

i love you, daddy!
happy, happy birthday!

much love,
ilene joyce
much love.
{happy birthday, daddy.}

Sunday, December 16, 2012

is it the most wonderful time of the year? really?

 sweater: TJmaxx / moisturizing lipstick (Park Avenue): c/o Radiant Cosmetics / knitted cowl (mint): c/o Susannah Bean Handmade / rings: Pandora (gift from ryan's mom) + engagement ring (Ryan, duh)

the most wonderful time of the year often turns into the most hectic, crazy, manic, stressful time of the year. and every year before the holiday season makes its appearance, i take a deep breath and say, we are not gonna let that happen this year, ilene. and i repeat it to myself over and over again as the dates on the calender switch from november to december. i then find myself saying that phrase less and less and give myself over to the stress and the to-do lists and all the joy and fun and true meaning of the Christmas season has been sucked right out of me

am i alone in this? tell me that i'm not.

and i refuse to get sucked deeper into that black hole. i want to savor every single bit of the Christmas season. i want to relish the time with my family and close friends instead of worrying about their presents. i want to laugh late into the night even if i should be busy marking things off the to-do lists. i want to drink hot chocolate and watch Christmas movies. i want to soak in what Jesus did for me and for humanity so many years ago, coming to earth in the form of a human baby. i want to think about Mary and Joseph and the wise men and the shepherds and all of those who lived out their faith because of Jesus. i want today and Christmas and every day be savored and lived out to the fullest.

i'm not saying to ditch the to-do lists, forget the Christmas parties and happenings, throw out the traditions. not at all. i'm the last person in the world to say that. but i am saying this: life is short. we were harshly reminded about that last Friday when we heard the horrific tragedy that took place in CT. we have today. let's soak up what we have right now here in front of us.

be in the moment. stop living tomorrow. we need to live today.

savor this Christmas season. hug your parents, your siblings, your special someone, your dog a little tighter and never take them and the moments we have today for granted.

and really, let's make this the most wonderful time of the year.

much love.
{happy monday, friend.}

p.s. are you Kaity (#31) of the brownie diaries 'cause you just won the JoTotes Bag giveaway! shoot me an email muchloveilly at gmail dot com with your choice of JoTotes bag (up to $119 in value) and your mailing address and we will get that to you asap! congrats to Kaity and thank YOU, Jototes for a fabulous giveaway! 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

these are a few of my favorite things (from the week).

beanies + sneaker wedges.

 sweater, beanie: forever 21 / boyfriend jeans: GAP / sneaker wedge: c/o Blowfish Shoes / lipstick: NARS, heatwave

this photo scavenger hunt picture of someone pretending to be a reindeer.

taken last week during the youth group's Christmas party. yes, my sister is the reindeer, and our friend, arianna is the antlers. that face kills me.

surprise visits from Ryan.

totally threw me off guard! stayed for two whole days with me and my family. loved every second of it! even if it was short, it was very sweet! i've missed this guy so much.


i also read this quote earlier this week from the book Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist (i've mentioned this book on the blog before) that has really resonated with me in the midst of the holiday craziness:

it's rebellious to choose joy, to choose to dance, to choose to love your life. it's much easier and much more common to be miserable...when i live purposefully and well, when i dance instead of sitting it out, when i let myself laugh hard, when i wear my favorite shoes on a regular Tuesday, that regular Tuesday is better.

something to think about, you know? 
here is to one regular but better Thursday, folks!

much love.
{happy thursday, friend.}

Monday, December 10, 2012

sponsor love + giveaway with Sunglasses Shop.

runaways sunglasses via Sunglasses Shop

meet Sunglasses Shop.

Sunglasses Shop is now the UK’s largest online retailer of sunglasses. Our customers come for our huge range of products and our top level of customer service. We have trusted and long-standing relationships with the main suppliers in the eyewear industry; we’ve been in Grazia and Look magazines among others and Easy Living has contributed to our own in-house magazine.

Sunglasses Shop for Ray-Ban Oakley Prada Persol Police Designer Sunglasses

i have written up my mad love for my Le Specs from my friends at the Sunglasses Shop on this here blog before, so i am super stoked about having the chance to feature them! their glasses are made in the utmost quality with awesome packaging and cases to protect your frames. honestly, the black runaways that they sent me a couple months ago have been my go-to sunglasses! 


today Sunglasses Shop is giving away this pair of polarised black sunglasses to a very lucky Much Love, illy reader! talk about luuuuucky! so perfect for a sunny, winter's day or for that beach getaway for those winter birds!  

{how to enter:}

Like the Sunglasses Shop Facebook page and let them know that Much Love, illy sent you!
(mandatory entry)

{really, really wanna win?}
additional entries - keep in separate comments to count as individual entries

-  visit Sunglasses Shop and let me know what is your favorite pair of sunglasses (1 entry)
- be a public GFC follower of this blog (1 entry)
- Like the Much Love, illy Facebook page (1 entry)
- follow @muchloveilly an @Sunglasshop via twitter (1 entry)
- blog, tweet, or facebook abut this giveaway and include its link (1 entry)

Giveaway is open to ALL Much Love, illy readers thru Monday, December 17th.
Winner will be announced on Tuesday, December 18th.

much love.
{happy tuesday, friend.}

Sunday, December 9, 2012


 leopard dress: Belk / tights: c/o We Love Colors / wedges (India) : c/o Blowfish Shoes / necklace: c/o Fair Ivy / lipstick (Park Avenue) : c/o Radiant Cosmetics / nailpolish: Ulta green, gold glitter

feeling extra sassy; therefore the dark red lipstick and the leopard print sweater dress.
feeling festive being in the middle of the Christmas season, attending and planning parties, wrapping presents, mailing out orders in time for Christmas morning, drinking hot chocolate with extra whip cream and candy canes, and belting All I Want For Christmas is You around the house!
feeling humbled and grateful for the reminder of Jesus' birth.
feeling excited about seeing my sister, brother-in-law, and the baby bump at the end of the month! 
feeling hopeful about God opening doors for me, Ryan and our future together.

and feeling excited about so many new friends here on the blog - thanks so much! i looooove discovering new blogs, so be sure to leave your link and i'd love to visit your part of the blog world!

and now, my tummy, tastebuds and i are feeling like Christmas cookies. off to bake and eat!

much love.
{happy monday, friend.}

Thursday, December 6, 2012

sponsor love + WINNER'S CHOICE giveaway with JoTotes.

meet JoTotes.

"We have been creating and sending camera bags to women photographers around the world since 2009. Our bags provide a fashionable way for women to safely carry their camera bodies and lenses, along with regular purse items, every day—whether it be to a photo shoot, while traveling, or just while out on a regular day. " 

what makes these bags extra special is not only do they look pretty (they have every style possible for every woman out there, i'd dare say!), but each bag is lined with padding and changeable sections so that any photographer can carry their every day essentials but then also know that their cameras and lens will stay protected even as they go about their busy lives! i can personally testify that these bags are legit and every photographer should own one (or two, or three...). might want to let Santa know asap.
via jototes / inside varies per bag


my fabulous friends over at JoTotes are giving YOU a chance to win ANY camera bag on their site (valued up to $119)! did you hear me, people?! ANY camera bag - which means you could go for this mint beauty or my personal favorite, but you wouldn't have to go for either of those...because like i said, any bag could be yours! 

{how to enter:}

visit the JoTotes website and tell me in the comments below which bag you would pick if you win! 
(mandatory entry)

{really, really wanna win?}
additional entries - keep in separate comments to count as individual entries! 

- Like the JoTotes Facebook page (1 entry)
- be a public GFC follower of this blog (1 entry)
- follow the Jototes Pinterest Boards (1 entry)
- follow @muchloveilly and @Jototes via Twitter (1 entry)
- tweet, blog or facebook about this giveaway and include its link (1 entry)

Giveaway is open to ALL Much Love, illy readers thru December 13th.
Winner will be announced on December 14th.

much love.
{happy friday, friend.}

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


sweater, white tee, tank: Forever 21 / pants: TJMaxx / sneaker wedges (Tugo in earth faux): c/o Blowfish Shoes / fox pin: c/o Wonder Forest / necklace: c/o ChicPeek / lipstick: Nars (heatwave)

my brain has been turned to mush with the busyness of everything this week. i keep forgetting stuff and leaving my mind in more than a few places. so we are gonna go the super-duper random route for this post, mmmkay?

1. is it really december?! and i'm not talking about the pace of the year - i'm talking about the weather, people. even here in the south, it's a little too weird. i guess keep listening to my Christmas music, drink my hot chocolate and keep dreaming about a white Christmas.

2. been watching XFactor and totally rooting for 13 year old, Carly. daaaaang, that girl can sing! i also think that Emblem3 is pretty entertaining - goofy, but entertaining. but let's be real, i am the biggest fan of Simon Cowell - so basically, any show he produces, i'll watch and root for him! 

3. the hair is getting far too long these days - and people like to point it out to me. oh, wow. you're hair is sooooo loooooong. and that's that. i never know if that's a compliment or a sly way of saying, you gotta get a trim slash haircut slash chop ASAP, woman! actually my hair is personally driving me nuts these days, so lately i've been rocking the messy bun more often. but even my messy buns are giving me issues. the hair is so thick, the bobby pins aren't doing their job. i guess every one (including hair and bobby pins) are more tired at the end of the year.

4. the necklace featured in my outfit was sent to me from my friends over at ChicPeek, a super fun site that is all about personal style! this is how it works: set up an account by taking a style quiz. ChicPeek takes your results and picks out jewelry for you according to your style. now this is the sweet part - all jewelry pieces are offered to YOU at 50-80% off of their retail prices. and i can tell you, the necklace i received was a high-quality quality piece. this is definitely a fantastic option for yourself or for a special person in your life this Christmas season - and how can you pass it up with the pretty packaging that it's all wrapped up in?! 

5. i think i am finally out of my reading rut. i got my hands on the 3rd book in the Matched series, Reached. i'm only on the fourth chapter so i haven't read enough to give it a good enough review but excited to finally have a new book to read. 

so yes, mush goes the brain. there you have it, folks! 
how about you? any random mush to share today?
it's almost the weekend, so it's allowed.

much love.
{happy thursday, friend.}