Thursday, May 30, 2013

on the road (again).

{sleepy eyes and goofy faces happen at the crack of dawn}

Today we woke up at the crack of dawn and hit the road to head on home for my baby sister's graduation!  I normally would not have been wide awake at 6:30 am but I guess I was pretty excited, so I didn't have too hard a time getting up. We had a smooth trip and are looking forward to a weekend with my family and friends - and especially to celebrate my sister. It's crazy how fast they grow up, right? The fact that she is headed to college this summer is seriously blowing my mind! 

{i promise we are not twins - there is almost an 11 year age difference between us!}

So until Monday, I am off to partaaaay like it is 1995 (the year Ashley was born)  - yeaaaaaah, baby!

Happy weekend, folks! 

much love.
{happy Friday, friend.}

P.S. this post was created on the BlogGo app - making it super easy to blog on the perfect for all the traveling I'm doing this summer! and btw was created by my friend, Dana of The Wonder Forest! the girl is crazy talented, right?! So be sure to check it out at the Apple store and download your copy of it today for your days at the beach and on the road! 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Engagement Ring Trends for 2013.

~ one of our engagement pictures in Chicago, IL by timtab studios / August 2010  ~ 

there is no bride that can deny that the day an engagement ring was slipped onto that left ring finger to be one of the happiest days of her life. as i type that out, my own mind brings back memories of a very surprising and exhilarating day. and i remember before i got engaged, how my roommate and i talked about what sort of engagement rings we would want if our boyfriends happened to pop the question to either of us anytime soon. my roommate knew exactly what she wanted - every single detail of the ring, from the cut to the color while i, on the other hand really didn't know but i always knew that whoever i married should know me so well, that whatever ring he designed or picked out for me, would be perfect for me. and if you've read mine and Ryan's engagement story or have seen my ring, i think you all know how well my husband knows me - and could not have designed a more perfect ring.

and so to all girlfriends or brides-to-be, today we have a very special guest post from London-based ring designers (so you can imagine when i first read this article, i read it in a British accent in my mind - you know my obsession with those accents!) and stand behind the belief of making wedding rings the center piece of your special day. their designs offer a variety of styles - from modern to vintage, made just for you. 


“Out with the old, in with the new” is a saying fit for the fashion world. Each season, we get muddled over what garments we can remove from our closets and which we dare not get rid of. Similarly, today’s brides-to-be are doing away with the classic ring in traditional settings and opting for a unique look. Not that designers are totally getting away from beauties like the classic solitaire diamond engagement ring, they are just upgrading this design for something a little more eye-catching for this new breed of brides. Today’s couples are currently going for on-of-a-kind styles in diverse designs, metals, and stones. Rare gems, brazen settings, and special cuts are just a few of the options that engaged couples can choose from. Whether it’s an avant-garde, specially crafted piece or an elegant traditional design with a lovely twist, modern engagement rings are bolder and more ornate than rings of the past.

Today's brides-to-be are bombarded by the assortment of remarkable, eye-catching rings currently trending. Ring styles such as the updated classic solitaire, vintage-inspired pieces, and rings embellished with colorful jewels in place of the typical white diamond are only a sample of what engaged couples can choose from. Because of the absorbent amount of different styles and designs, choosing the perfect engagement ring can be a little intimidating and overwhelming, especially if you don’t know what you want. Additionally, the ability to design your own, individual ring has given couples even more of an option that best suits the future bride. From sparkling, blinged out rocks like those worn by celebs and royalty to a more personal ring with its own distinctive charm, you’re sure to find the ring that’s right for you.

Vintage-inspired Designs

Engagement rings that incorporate a modern design with a vintage setting have become popular among many brides-to-be. These rings are not only perfect for those who adore anything vintage as many couples embellish their rings with family gems or significant birth stones—infusing something old with something new. Brides who desire a new ring, but still want something with an antique flair should peruse 77 Diamonds for an engagement ring with a classic appeal. Whether it be a vintage design or an inherited, family ring, an engagement ring with an antiquated twist is both classic and unique.

Colorful Stones

Engagement rings bearing colorful gems or diamonds are nothing new in the wedding ring industry; however, this trend has increased when celebrities such as Reese Witherspoon and Penelope Cruz and royalty like Kate Middleton began sporting stones in different colors that this fad grew. Now a multitude of soon-to-be-wed couples are adding some color to their own engagement rings. If you’re dying to incorporate some color into your engagement ring and don’t have any specific gem in mind, there are many stones that are currently popular, such as emeralds and sapphires.

No matter if you choose an antique ring or a double halo with diamonds in a myriad of colors, there is an abundance of gorgeous rings that will make your engagement magical.

what is your favorite engagement or wedding ring design? 

much love.
{happy thursday, friend.}

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

memories to music.

leopard sailor's knot headband: c/o nora and jac

day 29 of the challenge. five songs or pieces of music that speak to you or bring back memories.

this is a pretty random playlist - then again, i am a pretty random girl but there is indeed method to my madness. this i promise you (dang it, should have included that one on my list. brings me back to a hot summer day, helping my high school best friend pack up her room. the joys of being military brats.)

we are young. this brings back the memory of the 45 min drive back from our beach wedding in maui. the sun had already set and the we turned the radio super loud, as we drove through gorgeous maui scenery. the first song that came on was this one and we had never felt more young and free. Ryan and i sang at the top of our lungs - so much laughter and sheer happiness. one of my absolute favorite memories from our wedding day.

pumped up kicks. my baby sister and i were obsessed with this song two summers back (still obsessed with it). it brings me back to our long family road trip through the midwest in the summer of 2011, constantly playing it on repeat on our ipods.

don't worry about a thing. Ryan always plays this song for me whenever i am super stressed. he tells me take a deep breath and break out in this song. cracks me up every time - and yes, it does bring the stress levels down quite a bit.

how he loves us. one of my all time favorite worship songs. Ryan made me a "mix-tape" (on CD) and included this worship song on it when i was going through a particular tough week. the words are always such a major comfort to me.

the time / dirty bit. my family loves to break out in dance whenever we are all together. we broke it down after thanksgiving dinner to this song and every time i hear it, i think of my crazy and hilarious family.

much love.
{happy wednesday, friend.}

p.s. are you Jens Ken Lundstrom?! you just won the Diligent Joy Target GC giveaway! shoot me an email at muchloveilly at gmail dot com with your mailing address to claim your prize. congrats to Jen - and thank YOU, Abby, for a phenomenal giveaway! 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

neon aztec print, tastebud satisfaction, and a long over-due letter.

 dress: c/o Winnter Lennon / wedges: Belk / earrings: Francesca's / lipstick (park) : c/o Radiant Cosmetics 

day 27 of the challenge (last week! where did this month go?!). a letter to your readers.

first things first, grab yourself a cup of coffee, your bowl of cereal, smoothie or chocolate milk because i think conversations are so much more fun when one's taste buds are being satisfied.

second, the words that come to mind when i think about you are thank you. whether you have been faithfully reading since February of 2010 or just stumbled across this little area of blog world yesterday, thank you for reading. thank you for every single comment you have left that has made me feel loved or made me laugh or made me feel like i was not alone in my thoughts. thank you for letting me geek over my latest movie or book obsessions - and for the times we fan-girled together (ahem, Hunger Games, Twilight or whatever else i have might have blogged about more than an adequate amount of times). thank you for your kind words and for your honesty even if your opinion differed from mine. thank you for the emails you have sent my way with your own stories and your own vulnerability, reminding me that blogging is something more - it's one special way where lives criss-cross across cyber space, friendships blossom, and we remind each other that we can relate to one another in this crazy world. 

and most of all, thanks for just being there and listening. there is really nothing more you can ask for from a friend, so again, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.

much love.
{happy monday, friend.}

Thursday, May 23, 2013

these are the worst.

day 24 of the challenge. your top 3 worst traits.

this is awkward. we're just gonna throw that out there. day of 24 should have made it to my post on things that make me uncomfortable. (guysssss, remember that one?) 'cause this is def uncomfortable. like when my mom or college roommate would catch my dirty underwear on the floor instead of in the hamper. yikes, it's just plain aaaawwwwkwaaaard. no ifs and buts (or butts) about it.

so let's take a deep breath and just do this already.

1. sensitivity. the same trait that made it on my best qualities post (the one where we had to sell ourselves like on a resume) is making this list. the same trait that makes me feel sympathy towards another person or feel elated when someone encourages me is the same trait that affects my heart so negatively when i am targeted by someone's criticism or not so positive comments (even if that person may not have even meant it to be malicious). 

2. over-thinking things. this is probably a result of my sensitivity. conversations. situations. opportunities. retail purchases. i think through conversations and wonder what did he really mean by that? or what did she think about when i said that 'cause i didn't mean it that way?! or i'll stand in front of my closet and be like did i really need that pair of shoes? (okay, maybe the retail part is not so bad. Ryan certainly doesn't think it's a bad thing.) 

3. worry wart. when i call my husband or my family's cell phone and they don't reply after 3 calls and 10 text messages, i start to worry and my mind goes to a different million worse case scenarios. when i can't remember if i unplugged the flat iron or turned off the oven, i start to worry about burning the house down. when i lay down to sleep for the night, i can't help but wonder if we locked the door and set the alarm. if it starts to rain, i can't seem to recall if i closed the car windows or not. my mind sometimes is a freaking computer desk-top, waaaaaaay too many windows and programs are open and running. 

these are traits are not obviously not uncommon. and before you all start freaking out on me and not wanting to be my friend, some of these are extreme cases but it does not make them less true about me. however, i will note, as i have recognized these traits in myself, i have intentionally and personally been working on these specific areas of my life. i think growing up and marriage does that to you. to survive this world, you really can't sit around and let people or situations affect you so negatively. i am not an absolute pro at this yet, but i am learning to be better at letting things go. ah, yes. no fun, but it's truth. and alas, i know i can't just put my head between my knees and rock back and forth, worrying that the world is going to fall apart around me. 

despite my worst traits, my insecurities and my own brokenness and the madness of this crazy world we live in, i believe in a God who is in total control...both in my life and in the world around me. i am confident that He who started a good work will complete His work in me (Philippians 1:6) and that all things work together for good (Romans 8:28).

thank God! literally.

so there you have it. we just got down to the nitty-gritty (where's the toast, Nachooooo?!) and you got my three worst um, can we still be friends? 

much love.
{happy friday, friend.}

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

sponsor love + giveaway with Datevitation. is the web's first online platform to create a custom love coupon book. Unlike the pre-packaged love coupon books on the market, you pick the dates and can customize the text to your liking.  Once you are done customizing the text in your book, Datevitation will print it out and ship it to you. Our library contains over 350 super fun date ideas, as well as over 100 book covers to fit whatever occasion! This is a family run business by the husband and wife team, Alex and Olga Karpman. Get to know them over at the Datevitation blog - and be sure to check out Alex's proposal to Olga over at You Tube (it has received over 1 million views!).

i surprised Ryan with his Datevitation earlier this week - and he loved it! when you create your own date book online, they allow you to customize each one, so i even included inside jokes in a few of them. at first Ryan didn't realize this and was like, how did they know that?! 

i personally loved how easy it was to make our Datevitation book - and normally, Ryan is the one planning all of our dates (and he is so good that i didn't know if i could top them!), so this was a fun gift to give him. what will be even more fun is when he starts redeeming his coupons! (i still can't believe that i put a sky-diving coupon in there - what the heck was i thinking?!)
Datevitation is giving away one of their custom coupon books to a lucky Much Love, illy reader! like i said, it's perfect for that significant other in your life - but since it's customizable to just about any one or for any occasion, these books would also make the perfect Father's Day present (which believe it or not is just a couple weeks away - better get on that!)!!

{don't want to wait?}

use coupon code LOVEILLY for $10 off of your purchase through the months of May and June - meaning one of your custom books would ring up to only $10! if you plan to create a custom book in time for Father's Day, remember to place an order by June 6!

Giveaway is open to US Much Love, illy readers thru May 30th.
Winner will be announced on May 31st.

much love.
{happy thursday, friend.}

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


1 - love my scarf from Ecoshag and in a super giggling mood / 2 continuing to fall head over heels for this man / 3 - crunching the leaves under my favorite Minnetonka Moccs / 4 - got 'em bangs and hair cut / follow me via instagram at @muchloveilly

day 21. a list of links to your favorite posts in your archives.

this week has been a complete whirlwind, so i am running very behind on le challenge. i also am lacking on much mental capacity so we are going with this easier challenge. and actually it was really fun to look through some of my old posts - lots of good memories and growing moments. so for those who have been here since day 1 can have fun reminscing with me, or if you are brand new, get to me and my little ole blog just a wee bit more!

i never would have imagined where blogging would take me when i wrote this post.

this one was absolutely one of the happiest days of my entire life.

includes some of my favorite pictures ever. sorry about the mushiness. mmkay, not sorry.

saying goodbye is always hard to do.

first outfit post ever and made a promise that i broke.

meeting blog friends is always a heck of a good time: here and there.

we are a little obsessed.

this weekend was about more than being around crazy teens and tackling the great outdoors.

i am an ugly crier.

making this apology before i felt like i was going to explode.

super high up there on the list of happiest days ever: here and here and here.

any post involving my family being together is def one of my faves.

spent my first Christmas away from home but feeling welcomed by my new family.

he really, really loves me.

marriage is a learning experience.

sometimes, always, and never.

on the edge of something.

good thing, i gotta to head out the door and grab dinner with Ryan or else, i would be going on and on with this list. i would be very impressed if you made it through every single link!

it made me think how one day i'd love to turn this blog into a book - not one i'd publish to the public, but rather one for myself to pass on to my kids or to keep alongside with all of my journals...since this blog has been one of my favorite ways to document my every day. and as always, thanks for reading - enjoy! xo

much love.
{happy wednesday, friend.}

p.s. are you Zoe Aron and Krysten Gautreaux 'cause both of you just won the Naked Hope book giveaway!?! shoot me an email at muchloveilly at gmail dot com with your mailing address to claim your prize. congrats to Zoe and Krysten - and thank you so much to Abby for a fabulous giveaway! 

Monday, May 20, 2013

sponsor love + Target GC giveaway with Diligent Joy.

meet Abby of Diligent Joy.

I'm Abby and I write the blog Diligent Joy. It's all about me, my family (one husband, one daughter, and two dogs), the books I read, the places I go, the music I play, my goals, my thoughts, and the beauty products that I love. 


first off, totally stating the obvious here,  Abby is just down-right beautiful! the pictures on her blog of her and her precious family always bring a smile to my face. be sure to get to know them a little bit more in this cute post - i loved reading through it! actually i've loved reading through Abby's blog - it's refreshing and so down to earth. you won't regret adding her blog to your list of daily reads, my friend.

I'm a bit of a beauty aisle addict and I love sharing tips and favorite finds with my readers (for hair and makeup tips, check out my Beauty Aisle series). Most of the products that I purchase come from that Heaven-on-Earth that is known to us as Target. I find lots of goodies in the Target beauty section (and in all the other Target sections, which proves to be both a blessing and a curse on a regular basis) and would love for one of you to as well, which is why I'm giving away a $25 gift card. ~Abby 

Giveaway is open to ALL Much Love, illy readers thru May 28th.
Winner will be announced on May 29th.

much love.
{happy Tuesday, friend.}

Sunday, May 19, 2013


 t-shirt: c/o Skip N' Whistle / skirt: Forever 21 / sandals: c/o Blowfish Shoes 

day 20 of the challengeshare something you are struggling with right now.

i am struggling with...

...not being able to hold back from eating the entire bag of sour gummies sitting on my desk right now.

...not not wearing this Skip N' Whistle t-shirt every day because it has easily become a favorite.

...the fact that i finished the first season of Hart of Dixie last week and cannot find season two anywhere.

...missing my long hair and being able to put it up in a messy bun especially this morning when we ran out the door to church in a hurry and it was rainy and icky outside - so really, what was the point of straightening my hair? 

...all these pesky spiders making their appearances around the apartment (due to the warmer weather, people - i promise i have kept a clean home for me and the husband)

...missing Chicago and springtime city happenings.

...that i have not yet seen The Great Gatsby or the new Star Trek yet!

... trying to organize and settle on all of my wedding reception ideas because Pinterest is so freaking awesome. tell me, how did people plan weddings before it?!

much love.
{happy monday, friend.}
p.s. are Erika of Rouge and Whimsy 'cause you just won the Minnetonka giveaway!?! shoot me an email at muchloveilly at gmail dot com with Minnetonka shoe of choice, shoe size, and mailing address to claim your prize! congrats to Erika and thank YOU, Minnetonka Moccs, for a fabulous giveaway! 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

the Guy Behind the Camera series: vol. 2

first off, thank you for last week's incredible response to the first installment of Guy Behind the Camera. i loved giving our men a big applause for their hard work and their support of our blogs and our dang outfit posts. and today, i am even more excited to show off more fabulous bloggers and their incredible husbands. and after you read through this, i am sure you will agree with me, that these are some very lucky ladies!


caroline and david hulse of Sew Caroline.

Sew Caroline is a creative lifestyle blog that focuses on sewing tips, do it yourself projects, handmade fashion, and everyday life. David and I have been married for almost two years and he still gets annoyed when I ask him to take my outfit pictures. Although, I think he has actually come to enjoy it, he still loves to tease me about snapping all those photos. I know this because he has started directing me, posing me, and finding great spots for pictures....

sandy and marv of Sandyalamode.

Sandy a la Mode is a lifestyle blog that has bits of fashion, style, inspiration, recipes, photography, and everyday life of a family with a toddler.  It wasn't until a couple years into blogging that I first asked Marvin to take outfit pictures for me.  We would take some on the weekends and some after work.  And a few months into taking these pictures, I became pregnant... which meant the outfit pictures revolved into capturing "bump" progress pictures.  And after our son was born, it had become increasingly more difficult to find time to take the pictures, but we end up just taking a bunch in a row all on the weekends when our toddler naps.  At first when we started taking pictures, Marvin didn't really know how to use my DSLR and I'd have to direct him to take "fully body" shots and "detail" shots and explain all the angles I wanted... but now, he's a real pro and TELLS ME how to pose and considers the pictures his work of art, HA!

jessica and brogan of Jessica Jean Blog.

I am so excited to be a part of this wonderful segment on Ilene's blog! Let me tell you, it has taken a lot of convincing for Brogan to really take my outfit pictures and to take them well. He has never loved being in pictures- whenever we take formal pictures (our wedding, couple pictures, etc.) he HATES it. It is just very obvious that he would rather be anywhere else haha. I, on the other hand, am a picture fanatic. Opposites attract, right!? I think that's why it was easy to convince him to take my pictures- because he isn't in them! He really is very supportive and does whatever I ask for- for the pictures that is. We usually do shoots until I get the perfect poses that I want... and he puts up with me for it! He really is a wonderful husband for that and he must really love me because sometimes I can be a little difficult. It has become something fun for us to do together and I think he secretly enjoys it. We don't take pictures on any specific day- just whenever is convenient for us. We both have busy schedules so sometimes it is hard to fit it in. A lot of times we just step into our backyard and take them before work/school. Brogan has a really hectic schedule between his two jobs and school, so I just love that he squeezes in time to help me with my blog by taking my pictures!

kristine and nate of The Foley Fam {unedited}.

So thankful that Nate is so patient about taking my gazillion pics for my "fashion" posts. Even tho I enjoy them, photo seshs are not natural to me at all, and Nate is so awesome about making me feel so beautiful, even if my "outfits" usual consist of jeans and a shirt. Love when he offers to take them, and since we've been doing them more often I've become more confident and he's getting to be quite the photographer. #winning 

erika and evan of Rouge and Whimsy.

I texted the husband the other day:  "Guess what we should do after dinner? ;)" Evan knows me so well and texted back "Outfit post!" Not only is Evan incredibly patient with me (I'm kind of demanding about the photos --"can you take one like this," "tilt the camera like so") but he's also so encouraging about my blog (and my number one reader even though I never post about his favorite topic: sports.) I may be the one authoring the posts about fashion, food and life, but the husband is a huge part of what makes my blog what it is.

blair and david mcleod of Wild and Precious

My husband is a full time artist (oil & canvas portraiture - you can check out some of his artwork HERE) so he knows a thing or two about capturing people.  He works so hard and helps out so much around the house that sometimes I feel bad pulling him out of things to stop and take pictures for me.  But he is always gracious and I think truly enjoys helping me because he knows blogging is something that I really enjoy.  I only do outfit posts once a week usually, so when Tuesday rolls around he usually is expecting it - especially during our daughter's nap time.  There are always giggles involved during photos, but  what is awesome is that even on my "yuck why am I taking pictures of my mess of a self" days, he always makes me feel beautiful.


and as always the original inspiration to this series comes from Ryan, my husband, best friend and my very own guy behind my camera! i have moments where i can't believe how blessed i am to have such a loving, patient man in my life. he deserves more credit than i give him, and this is one small way i am able to do that. i love that man so much, it's ridiculous! 

*the original Guy Behind the Camera series was started by my friend, Tieka of Selective Potential who was so kind to pass on the baton. be on the look out  on the blog for more volumes of this fun little series!*

much love.
{happy friday, friend.}

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

don't laugh at me.

 dress: F21 / vest: c/o Vintage Urban Renewal / wedges: Belk / lipstick (park): c/o Radiant Cosmetics 

pointing something out that is quite obvious: these outfit pictures are not yet up to date but this is the last batch more up to date pictures with the new hair cut are to come. woohoo! and now back to the regular scheduled programming...


day 16 of le Challenge. something difficult about your "lot in life" and how you're working to overcome it.

now don't laugh at me but i am being for reals about this. the "lot in life" that i wanted to throw out there on the table is that i am not a runner. i really am not. i was not born with the skills and the endurance of a runner. i was a gymnast for most of my life and so i was always physically in shape and still dreaded the days we had to run laps around the gym. and when it came to P.E. for school or for college, i always started hyper-ventilating and always ended up in last place. i remember running with some friends back in college - we were all trying to get in shape together, and even though they hadn't run in forever, a mile was the most normal and easiest thing in the world to them. for me, i couldn't even run the mile (only a freaking mile!). i walked most of it and probably stopped by Mcdonlad's for a large coke. 

exercise and staying active has always been an important part of my adult life. whether it was scheduling time to go to the gym or going bike riding outdoors, i made it a priority. but running? no, i just accepted the fact that was not in my DNA. 

the pain in my legs. 
the constricted chest muscles. 
the lack of oxygen making its way into my lungs.
the irritating stitch in my side.
not for me.

however, i don't know if it was the lack of sunshine last month or the boredom i was experiencing from riding a stationary bike every day or the motivating running scene from Silver Linings Playbook, but i got the itch to run. at first, i shook my head and was like naaaawww, you've tried that before. don't waste your time. i told Ryan about it and you know what? he thought it was a good idea - so good in fact, he decided to join me. 

sometimes Ryan and I re-enact this scene when we run. i'm Bradley, trying to stay focused, and Ryan is Jennifer, running around me in circles like a crazy person. it makes me laugh every single time.

so the next morning, we put on our running shoes and headed out the door. slow and steady. my ipod shuffle blasted Runaway Baby by Bruno Mars, the beat in sync to the pounding of my shoes on the pavement. i had to stop and walk a couple blocks but we kept going. and then we went for it the next day. walk and run, walk and run. 

and this week is our third week of running, and i finally have been able to run a mile without stopping or walking! so some people that may not be a big deal, but for me - that is me overcoming my "lot in life," people, so heck ya, it's a big deal for me! 

so this is me overcoming my "lot in life" of not being a runner and how i'm overcoming it involves this:

- running with a partner (in this case my husband)
- blasting upbeat music (i do not work out well without music!)
- good running shoes (so that your shins and your feet don't hate you later on)
- good running attire (the kind of shorts/leggings that don't ride up your butt - that def helps)
- stretching out beforehand (i discovered that the best stretch to wake up your sleepy leg muscles is steadying yourself against a wall or chair and swiping your leg back and forth several times in front of your body - this helped ease the muscle soreness)

i am no expert runner, but the point is that i am trying and that i'm running with it. ha! no pun intended, of course. *wink* so for all of those with the same "lot in life" as me and want to overcome it, be encouraged. if i can do it, you totally can, too.

much love.
{happy thursday, friend.}

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

naked hope.

i have always been amazed when a book drops into my life at the right moment, right when you needed it right then and there. almost as if the author was eavesdropping on your life and heard through the grapevine that his or her words were written out exactly for you.

and most recently, the book that fell in my lap and knew it  felt like it was written for me was Naked Hope: Discovering Beauty in Our Vulnerability by Abby Jackson. Naked Hope is more than a memoir about the experiences of a nurse and her interactions with her patients. it reveals the honest, raw moments that Abby (who works as a nurse in an inner city hospital among both the poor and the elderly) has experienced in her lifetime as well as within in the walls of the hospital, being stretched and learning to what is truly the definition of hope.

if i were to hand you my copy of this book, you would flip through the pages and find phrases, sentences and whole paragraphs underlined in bright pink ink. you will also find the pages dog-eared and the cover bent from the afternoon on the couch or the late nights in bed when i devoured this book. some of the most pink-highlighted of chapters were the ones that brought tears to my eyes, gripped my soul and made the goosebumps raise on my forearms.

i also appreciate an author who writes from the depths of her soul - not just the pretty parts, but even the ugly struggles and real heartaches. that is what i loved so much about Abby and her writing. i felt like we were having a conversation, sitting across from each other at a coffee shop, and she was baring her soul to me, a complete stranger.

what i was reminded in Abby's writings is this: everybody is looking for hope. some people try to find it in their careers or in a husband or in a cure. of course, none of those things are wrong at all - but hope is more than that. it isn't something temporary. and realistically, we live in a world where parts of it feels rather hopeless. as Abby writes:

  Hope isn't just a plastic rosary or a prayer on a patient's deathbed. It is a way of life, a daily practice for those of us who fight to see and serve as we are called...real hope endures because it is confidence in and reliance on what is everlasting...As a verb, [hope] changes our life. Its conjugation changes lives: I hope. You Hope. He, she, or it hopes. We hope. We have hoped. She is hoping. I will hope. (pages 170-171, Naked Hope)

and as you delve deeper into the pages of Naked Hope, you will see that Abby points readers to the fact that beauty is found in the midst of our messy lives and our vulnerability - and within that process of discovering, you will then discover true hope.

purchase a copy of Naked Hope HERE or check out the Naked Hope Book Trailer HERE.


and today Abby has more than generously offered to giveaway TWO copies of Naked Hope to TWO Much Love, illy readers! if you are looking for something refreshing and inspiring or maybe you are looking for another book to add to your ever growing summer reading list, this is a great opportunity to get your hands on this book! 

Giveaway is open to ALL Much Love, illy readers thru May 21st. 
Winner will be announced on May 22nd.

much love.
{happy wednesday, friend.}

Monday, May 13, 2013

happy stuff.

 button-up: Belk / tank: c/o Tailor and Stylist / shorts: GAP / moccs: c/o Minnetonka / bag: c/o Asian i-Candy / sunglasses: Forever 21

day 14. ten things that make you really happy.

gummi bears. 
making summer plans.
the near arrival of Baby BB.
DOTS app.
hair appointments. 
morning runs with the husband.
chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream.
re-reading and  re-watching Harry Potter.
my husband and best friend, Ryan.
God's apparent grace in my life.

and speaking of hair appointments, i got my hair cut today...finally! no more birds trying to make a home in this old nest on my head! these outfit pictures were taken a couple weeks ago when my hair was long and bang-less. ha! i'll post updated pics here soon but you can also check out my instagram where i posted a pic of the new do. and bonus: Ryan loves the new hair cut. always a major score!

much love.
{happy tuesday, friend.}

Sunday, May 12, 2013

sponsor love + WINNER's CHOICE giveaway // Minnetonka Moccasin.

meet Minnetonka.

Since 1946, Minnetonka has been a staple of American style. As post-war Americans took to the highways exploring the country's natural beauty, they stumbled upon resorts and souvenir shops carrying traditional handmade goods. And in the process, rediscovered America’s original footwear in Minnetonka moccasins.
Today, our products can be seen all around the world—from the Boundary Waters of Minnesota to the streets of New York, London, and Tokyo. No matter the footprint, all are made with the same uncompromising craftsmanship using only the finest quality materials. Minnetonka continues to define American culture with classic design that is forever connected to our natural, free-spirited heritage.

a week doesn't go by that i don't wear my Minnetonka moccs and boots. they are one of the most comfortable pair of shoes i have ever owned. seriously, they feel like you are walking on a cloud. i also have never found another moccs company that creates so many styles and colors with varying leathers. this one might be my favorite pair of boots and if i have to choose a favorite pair of moccs, i think it's this one.

and be sure to check out Minnetonka's blog 'cause i am honored to be featured as this week's Minnetonka Blogger Spotlight! you'll be able to check out the three different ways i styled three different pairs of Minnetonka products. woohoo! thank again, Minnetonka!


and because i love my Minnetonkas so much, i am super giddy to announce that Minnetonka is giving away any pair of Minnetonka moccs or boots to a super lucky Much Love, illy reader! so peruse the site and take your pick - if you can narrow it down to one. *wink*

Giveaway is open to US Much Love, illy readers thru May 19th.
Winner will announced on May 20th. 

much love.
{happy monday, friend.}