Be Right Back…in June

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Sometimes you just need a break….and I’m taking one.

I’ve been relatively absent from the blog for the past two months, and I apologize for not being more consistent. My client work is demanding, and my kids’ lives are very demanding this time of year. We have dance recitals, rehearsals, cheer tryouts, PTA events, cheer meetings, class parties, Mother’s Day teas, field days, graduations, events, gymnastics, dance, travel, and our regularly scheduled programming has to fit somewhere in there.

My kids’ schools own me the entire month of May, and that’s all right. It’s why I began my business and it’s why I love working for myself – and it’s what makes my heart happy. I love being there for them. I love being so involved in their lives, and I love how happy they are to have me around so much.

With that said, I’m out until June when things calm down a little. Summer schedules are a lot simpler and a lot more fun, so it’s easier for me. And that’s when I’ll be back with regularly scheduled posts that work around our kids’ camp schedules and our travel schedules this summer.

Enjoy the end of the school year, your Memorial Day weekend, and the rest of May…I’ll be back in June!

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13 Things I’ve Learned About Marriage On Our 13th Wedding Anniversary

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{At our favorite hotel in NYC with our oldest girls…it was their first time visiting our favorite city with us}

Lucky Number 13.

It was 13 years ago that I stood in the beautiful courtyard in Haile Plantation with the most handsome, most generous, kindest, funniest, most amazing human I know and said I do. We were just babies. Babies who’d been together three and-a-half years. Babies who’d been engaged for two of those years. Babies who were only 21 and 22 at the time. We were babies.

Sometimes we still are. Well, by “We” I mean me. But who’s counting?

It’s been 13 really, really, really fun years filled with so much love. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to grasp the fact that it’s been thirteen years since we were married! We’ve grown so much since May 15, 2005. We’ve also learned so much in the course of our marriage – and what we’ve learned has helped us continue to grow, become better, and to embrace everything that life throws at us – good or bad – as a team. Because that’s what we are. We are a team. Every. Single. Day.

We have many more years to learn, to grow, and to love even harder. I can’t wait to see what life continues to have in store for us. It’s been so sweet so far that it’s hard not to look forward to what’s to come. But for now, I’ll just embrace the moment, celebrate my love, and share 13 things I’ve learned in the past 13 years.

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  1. No one is perfect….and no one is a mind-reader

It turns out Raiford is not – I repeat not a mind-reader. I know. This is unfortunate as it means I have to actually say what I want and what I don’t when I want it. Sigh. Listen, life would be a lot easier if my sweet husband could read my mind. Alas, he cannot. So therefore, he is not perfect. Thankfully, I, too, am imperfect. Match made in heaven, am I right? We are not perfect, and we cannot anticipate every single need of the other. We just have to communicate and talk it out. Trust me…just speak up. It makes life a lot easier.

  1. You are a team…and this is most important when you have kids

If you and your spouse aren’t a team, it’s time for a team meeting. Y’all need to draft one another or something. You must be a team with your spouse, where there is no “I”. You are a team, and this is always important in every situation. It’s you and him (or her) against the problems. And by problems, I obviously mean the kids. We are outnumbered in the Raiford household, and we like it that way. Mostly because we are a great team, and it’s our biggest asset. When we don’t work together as a team, the kids…well….they know. And they use it. So we are a team. Even when we don’t wan to be a team because we disagree, we are a team. They can never see otherwise. They’re too smart.

  1. Fail Together

Failure is nothing more than an opportunity to learn and to grow, and that’s what you do in marriage. We fail all the time, take that lesson, and apply it to the rest of our marriage. And guess what? It totally works!

  1. Pick your battles

I always use this example, so you’ve probably heard it. I always complained to my husband that it drives me crazy when he hangs my clothes in the wrong place in my closet. In my mind, it’s blatantly obvious that all things are ordered by season, by style, and then by color. So why he continues to hang a black dress that hits above the knees with my black maxi dresses is beyond my level of comprehension. And the number of times I complained about it should have given him a hint to actually put it in the right place (it did not).

But I once complained about it to a group of girlfriends….and they were not amused. One of them said, “I can’t get on board with this. You’re complaining that your husband washes, dries or hangs up, and puts away laundry regularly in your house. Mine has never done a load of laundry in his life,” and that’s when I realized it’s time to pick my battles. Sometimes you cannot change things. And my simple “It’s short, not long,” explanation is way over his head. He sees black, he sees dresses, he feels confident – and I didn’t have to wash anything.

{The day I went into labor with the twins and we met our littlest loves for the first time. They spent a week in the NICU because they were so small and had some respiratory issues.}

  1. It’s all about perspective

There was a time in our marriage when we let things get to us. If we had a bad day, it got to us. If things didn’t go our way, it got to us. But then we lost two babies we wanted so badly. That’s when life changed for us. We realized in those moments following each loss that everything we thought was a problem really wasn’t a problem. Our problems are so small, and we realized we were just wasting time allowing them to get to us. The loss of a baby is a real problem, and it in that moment we became very grateful for the other ‘problems’ we thought we had. Perspective is important – so change it if it needs changing.

  1. Humor is all the good stuff

Hands down, the best thing about Craig is he is funny. We laugh so hard so much. I cannot even tell you how good it feels to know that I get to spend my days with someone who makes me laugh even when I don’t want to. It’s so much better.

{From Hawaii to Napa Valley to San Fran to Orange County to the Keys to Chicago to a million weekends in New York City to Las Vegas to Jamaica to the Carolinasto the Caribbean and so many places in between…we’ve traveled, and we’ve traveled well}

  1. Time Out is N.E.C.E.S.S.A.R.Y.

I’m not even going to specify who you need to send to time out. Send the kids. Send yourselves. Just take some time outs. Travel without the kids sometimes. Go out without the kids as often as you can. Put them to bed early and don’t feel guilty about it. Spending time together is so important. When we have date nights and trips without the kids, we reconnect in the best way. Do it.

{We built our first little home in 2004…and we bought our dream home in 2014}

  1. Life is better when you want the same things

I don’t care who you are, if you don’t want the same things out of your life together, you’re not going to be happy in your marriage. Listen, Craig and I are total – total – opposites. He’s the calm to my storm, the reason to my crazy, the patience to my temper, the kind one to my less-than-always-kind one. He’s the good one. But despite the fact we are total opposites in just about every which way, we want the same things in life, and we always have. It’s what makes this marriage work. Our goals, our morals, and our vision for the future is the same.

  1. Just do it

As often as possible, too. Daily is good.

  1. Respect your spouse – always

Aretha Franklin sings it, but we do it. Respect is so important. Even when we don’t agree with one another, we try hard to make sure the respect is still there. Well, I try hard. Craig is naturally kind and respectful and it doesn’t occur to him to yell or scream or harp on things. Me, on the other hand, I’m a raging B.I.T.C.H. with a hot temper. But I will always – always – respect Craig. I will never speak ill of him. I will never do more than good-naturedly complain about him to anyone else. Respect is the most important thing you can have in a marriage, and it’s the most important thing you have for your spouse.

  1. Have fun

I mean, this is obvious. But sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the mundane day-to-day stuff and forget to have fun. Even if we can’t do anything other than laugh at the fact the kids are literally insane sometimes, we have fun. I think it’s so important your spouse is the person you have the most fun with of anyone else. Craig is that for me. He said it best once. “At the end of every day, I just want to go to bed with you,” and that’s everything. We have fun, and he’s my person.

  1. It does get better over time

Like a wonderful bottle of wine or my personal fashion choices or kids over the age of 2 (or sometimes like four or whatever) marriage does get better with time. When I married Craig, I did not think I could love him more. I did not think that it was possible for it to get better, but it does. Every day in all the small moments, it gets better. It’s better when you hold your baby for the very first time. It’s better when you celebrate life’s little victories together. It’s better when your dreams come true because you both worked so hard to make sure of it. It’s better every day, but sometimes it takes paying attention to see it. It’s not always obvious.

{From our babymoon in Mexico bumpin’ with Addison in my belly on the beach to date night with Ava on the way to family photos of our family of 6 in the park…we have fun}

  1. Faith is so important

One of the most important parts of our marriage is our faith. I love that I’m married to a Godly man who prays for me and with me. I’m proud to be married to a man who has so much faith in God, someone who looks forward to going to church every week and growing in his faith. I love that he shares his faith with our kids. And I love that he is such a good role model.

Craig’s faith has made him one of the most amazing men I’ve ever met. He’s kind. He’s patient. And he is the best role model for our kids. Our girls will never settle for just anyone when they’re older. They’re going to look for a man who treats them well and with respect. And our sweet son will one day make a young lady’s father feel relieved because he is learning the best manners, and he is learning how to treat a lady like a lady.

You know that old saying about once praying for everything you have now? Keep that in mind. It’s not only a good reminder how far you’ve come together. I remember when my husband and I first got engaged, we were driving around looking at property for sale. We were building our first house while we planned our wedding, and we were driving around the neighborhood in which we currently live.

It was the neighborhood we went out of our way to drive through, to stop and dream about one day in the beautiful model homes. It was so far beyond our means to buy property and build a house in this neighborhood. But we said we’d one day live here with our family. We were 19 and 20. We bought property in another neighborhood, we built a small house that was just perfect for us, and we began our lives.

We brought all four of our beautiful babies home to the house we built when we were 19 and 20. We locked that house up regularly and traveled the world together both before and after we had kids. That was the house we wanted to come home to and fall asleep for days when we returned from Hawaii after we made the decision to try to have our first baby. It was the house I began my business in that house. I wrote for some of my biggest clients sitting at my dining room table in that 1,200-square-foot house.

And when I was 30 and the twins were born, it was time for us to leave that house behind (but not too far behind, because my mother-in-law now lives there) and move on. Our first house was finished the day before our wedding. We moved in the day we came home from our honeymoon. Nine years and four small babies later, we found our dream home in our dream neighborhood. And we’ve been happily every aftering here ever since.

When you love life, it loves you right back. It’s given us everything we ever wanted from our beautiful babies to one another to my business to a job my husband adores that allows him to work from home every single day. He gets to be here for everything. The days of him leaving before the babies are awake only to get home just in time to put them to bed are over. He’s here, he’s present, and we love it. We have a beautiful family, friends we love, a home we want to be more than anywhere else – and I don’t mean that just because we love this house. We have a home. The four walls don’t matter so much as the people inside of it, and the way we feel when we are here. It’s a feeling in our hearts, and that feeling is not even remotely possible without Craig. He’s every good thing that ever happened.

Babe, I’m thankful for you each and every day. Happy Anniversary. 13 years seems like so long, but I know we have so many more years to celebrate. Thank you. For everything. Thank you for loving me and our sweet babies. Thank you for taking care of us. Thank you for giving us all of yourself, and then continuing to give more even when you don’t think there’s anything left to give. You are the best thing in our lives. I love you.

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{My favorite picture of us. This was taken on November 17, 2007. We found out that morning we were expecting our very first baby. I was 3 weeks and 2 days pregnant and it killed me to wait that long to test. We bought these shirts at the Florida Gator game we went to that day and had someone take this picture of us. It was the start of our greatest adventure.}

Mother’s Day Gift Guide: The Luxe Edition

Mother’s Day is a little bittersweet in our home. It’s a day when we celebrate our moms, and it’s a day when our kids and my husband celebrate me. It’s also the anniversary of the very first baby we lost. We were expecting our second baby in 2010. I was a few months along when I began experiencing some issues – I knew it immediately. Our sweet Addison was almost 2, and she spent the day with my aunt while we were in the hospital learning that our sweet second baby wasn’t going to live long enough for us to give birth. It was the week of our fifth wedding anniversary, and it was Mother’s Day. Our hearts were nothing short of completely broken.

It was the first of two. Eight year later, we are a week away from celebrating our 13th year of marriage, and we have four beautiful babies who make me a mom. It’s a sweet, sweet day. But we never forget.

I love Mother’s Day. I love the beautiful church service every year. I love the big brunch we host with our own mothers. I love the sweet gifts from the kids (my favorites are the cards they make me and the gifts they actually pick out for me on their own…there’s never any shortage of imagination and a gift or two that might just benefit the giver more than the recipient).

When I was thinking about a Mother’s Day gift guide to share, I struggled. It’s hard for me to put myself in the shoes of others on this day. Part of me wants to keep my family all to myself for the day. The other part of me wants to send them all off somewhere while I spend the day at home doing things I can’t do when they’re home – drinking my coffee uninterrupted on the deck while reading a book, for example.

But at the end of the day, as crazy as they make me, it’s being with them that makes me the happiest. We typically go away for the weekend and come home Sunday morning for church and to host brunch for our moms at our home, but this year our oldest daughter has cheer tryouts the evening before…and we aren’t missing that! So, it’s a weekend at home for us.

But, there’s one thing I know for certain most moms will love – something outside the flowers and candy and beautiful meal you already do. What do moms do?

Oh, you know, everything. But what do they not do? They don’t get to spend nearly as much time pampering themselves as they do everyone else in the household. Between wrangling the kids and their schedules, their own careers, and maintaining a household, not much time is left for mom to indulge herself – which is why I’m sharing some of my favorite at-home indulgences. They’re the perfect gift for the mom in your life because she wants to be able to take a few moments during the day to feel just a little spoiled and a little pampered right at home.

But don’t forget the homemade cards and gifts the bunches of flowers that don’t go together at all, but totally represent each child and their amazing little personalities, the sticky little kisses, and the sweet hugs – those are always the best gifts. These are just a sweet second for all the moms who want to pamper the skin they’re in at home.

la mer

La Mer Lifting and Firming Mask

It’s a little pricey, but you can get a smaller jar here to try out in case you’re not certain mom will love it. However, if you have a mom who loves to take care of her skin, you have a mom who will adore this firming mask. It’s life-changing. I promise. Trust me as a mid-30s mama…tightening and firming your skin is never more important in life as it is right now.

jo malone

Jo Malone Red Roses Bath Oil

Full honesty disclosure here – I don’t take baths…and I’ve never used this. I have an unexplainable, unimaginable, weird-as-hell fear of grout and the corners of tubs pushed up against walls. The idea of sitting in the water and possibly having germs touch me…I shudder. You guys, I wear shoes in my own shower in my own home because I don’t want my feet to touch the grout. I know…I know.

BUT…I know most moms aren’t total paranoid freaks like myself, and they love a good bubble bath (it’s actually physically hurting me to even write about taking a bath…I have issues, I know). And I love Jo Malone soap. So I assume I would also love her bath oil. So there.

cannabliss

Cannabliss Organics

When Cannabliss Organics reached out to me and asked if I’d be willing to try their amazing skincare products, I was pumped to try something new – and it did not disappoint. It’s all natural, all organic, all vegan, and it’s really amazing. Basically, the products contain hemp oil and CBD, which works to help our skin grow healthy new cells while also getting rid of the dead ones. You cannot go wrong with the body oil or the moisturizing face lotion. I’m always a fan of a lightweight face lotion, and this one hits the mark.

peter thomas roth

Peter Thomas Roth 24k Gold Hydra-Gel Eye Patches

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you already know I am a huge fan of anything Peter Thoma Roth comes out with. From his cooling cucumber mask to this gorgeous 24k gold hydra-gel eye patch, I’m a fan. #Momlife ruins your eyes. I mean, listen; I have four kids who all slept through the night within a month of birth and only woke up once or twice a night to eat before that. I never went through the whole sleep-deprivation situation, even when the twins were newborns.

But, you guys, I’m always tired. Kids are just exhausting even on 8-9 hours of sleep per night. I’m always moving, always busy, always on. And the bags under my eyes are definitely not designer…at least, not until I discovered this gem. My eyes look brighter, firmer, and less mom-like as a result.

You took your mom’s bright eyes away from her, but the great news is you can gift them back with these sweet eye patches. Do it. She’ll thank you. Also, you probably owe her.

dipytique

Diptyque Candles

If you really want to get mom something that makes her feel all kinds of luxurious and relaxed, try Baies or Vanille from the Diptyque collection. These are my two favorite scents, and you’ll see I always keep one in my master bathroom to make the entire space feel more spa-like and inviting while I’m getting ready in the mornings.

Here’s the deal; Your mom is going to love any and everything you give her for Mother’s Day whether it’s a long weekend getaway or a day at the spa or breakfast in bed and a day of fun in the sun at home. She loves you, and that’s what matters most. However, you can help make her feel a little more luxurious, a little more spoiled, and a little prettier (if it’s even possible for your mom to be any prettier) with one or more of these boujie gifts.

**Bonus points if you throw in a luxe spa robe like this one, this one, or this one 

 

 

 

 

Cinco de Mayo Cocktails With La Luna Mezcal

Happy Cinco de Mayo Eve!

I’m probably not going to lie to you…I have zero clue why Cinco de Mayo is a celebration, only that it means good times for most of us. I do, however, promise that I will look up this information, stat, as a way of educating myself. And also because I hate it when my kids ask me questions I don’t know the answer to, and I have a feeling they’ll be asking soon.

What I do know is that tomorrow is the Fifth of May. And that means two things. 1 – it’s Cinco de Mayo. 2 – 10 days until my sweet husband and I celebrate our 13th wedding anniversary. I mean, can you even? Almost 17 years together, 13 married, our oldest little turns 10 this summer…where is life going?

I don’t know the answer to that deep question, either, but I know I’m going to make a delish cocktail. Thanks to the amazing people over at La Luna Mezcal, I’ve got a fun new cocktail perfect for your Cinco de Mayo plans. Or just for, like, Taco Tuesday or whatever.

Put it On Your Shopping List

  • 1 oz. La Luna Mezcal
  • 1 oz. Gustoso Blanco Rum
  • ½ oz. blackberry syrup
  • 1/8 oz. passion fruit syrup
  • ¾ oz. grapefruit juice
  • ¾ oz. lime juice (bonus points if you squeeze it all fresh and delish)
  • 1/8 oz. Luxardo Maraschino
  • A dash of bitters
  • Club soda

How to Create Magic

Mix all the above ingredients in a cocktail shaker, shake (shake, shake it off), strain into a fun glass – we love a margarita glass for this one – throw in a dash of club soda, garnish with something amazing like a sprig of Thyme (don’t we all need more Thyme? See what I did there? No? Not funny?), and drink. Oh – and don’t forget to ENJOY!

***Drink responsibly. Don’t overdo it. Don’t be stupid. Don’t even try it if you’re younger than 21. You know the rules – this girl doesn’t condone stupidity and careless, reckless behavior.

Photos by Puente International 

Recipe Wednesday: Healthy Chicken Caesar Salad Wraps in Under 20 Minutes

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Happy Wednesday, loves!

I don’t know about you, but my husband and I are pretty good about what we put into our bodies. Healthy food is priority in our home, but we don’t have much time. I swear, sometimes I’m not even sure how we function with all we have to do, but we get it done. One of the most frequently asked questions I receive in my inbox has to do with how we manage to eat well without much time to cook.

Honestly, we cheat the system a bit. We try to make recipes that are healthy but that take much time. I thought I might start sharing those with y’all. One, so you can also learn how to spend a lot less time in the kitchen as well as a lot less time feeling guilty about what you’re eating. Two, to inspire and motivate us to find and create new healthy, fast, and simple recipes to try. It’s a win-win.

I’m starting Recipe Wednesday with our typical Monday night dinner. Mondays are our latest night of the week. Addison – our 9-year-old – has gymnastics and advanced tumbling classes on Monday nights. Her last class doesn’t end until 7:30 and the drive home takes approximately 1 hour.

We usually take turns taking her while the other stays home and does bedtime and bath time with Ava and the twins, and whoever is home makes something fast and easy. And this is legit the fastest and easiest thing we make….so it almost always falls on a Monday.

Chicken Caesar Salad Wraps

All you need is a premixed Caesar salad, boneless, skinless chicken breast tenderloins, and some whole wheat wraps.

We like to bake the chicken with just a little salt and pepper on it until it’s done. We chop the bagged salad, put it into a bowl with a tiny bit of fresh parmesan and a small amount of low-fat Caesar salad dressing, and then we cut and mix the chicken and throw it in.

Mix it up, place it on a whole wheat wrap, wrap it up, and enjoy!

It’s flavorful, simple, and not so bad for you. And it’s one of our favorite things to eat when we have zero time. We love Publix chicken tenderloins (random and weird, but I have this thing where I cannot stomach the thought of eating “fat” chicken. Seriously, I cannot buy whole chicken breasts to cook. It has to be the tenderloins or the really skinny pieces of the breast that have been cut like they’re flat). They take about 20 minutes to bake. We usually stick them in the oven while we’re upstairs putting the twins to bed, and then mix up the salad and the chicken when we come downstairs.

It takes so little time, but dinner is ready when the other gets home with Addison. It keeps life quick, and it allows for easy clean-up and not such a late night!

Enjoy! If you make it, I want to hear how much you love it and/or how you’ve modified

Weekend Recap and IG Round-Up: The Best Dresses for The Season

Happy Tuesday, loves!

Well, it’s Monday my time – and I’m just sitting here on my deck living my very best life. The Florida sunshine is currently giving me all the happy feelings. It’s cool, breezy, and my back deck is shaded and perfect. I’ve moved out of mine and my husband’s office to sit out here today and work – and I’m thinking it’s been an amazing decision.

April was a crazy month (I say that every month), and May is ramping up to be just as crazy. I’m on the board of two PTAs, and next week is Teacher Appreciation Week (which means work, work, work), it’s the last month of school for the big girls, we have amazing trips the same weekend the next three months to pack for, field day at the twins’ school, PTA meetings, events, and things, last day of school stuff, cheer tryouts, dance recitals, gymnastics, tumbling, date nights, Mother’s Day to host – you name it, we’re doing it.

We planned on spending the weekend at Disney with the littles – because we don’t do Disney in the heat and crowds of the summer, so May is basically it before we skip out until September-ish with our passes – but they actually asked us if we could just not.

I know, right?

They’re tired. We’re tired. We had a fun Friday night with friends at a birthday pool party, and got home late, and the kids were overly tired. They didn’t have one normal night last week because of activities and such, and the late nights got to them (and us). So, we said of course to staying home. And we did. We spent all weekend having fun. The girls and I had a salon day Saturday morning while the boys took a golf cart ride and did boy stuff. And other than church on Sunday morning, all weekend was spent in our swimsuits. Our evenings were spent grilling and enjoying the cool breeze on our deck (this is the BEST time of year for that).

We even had movie night Saturday. The kids couldn’t agree on anything, so Craig and I made the executive decision to watch Beethoven, and they loved it – and now they all want a St. Bernard. Carter-man fell asleep on my lap during the first 5 minutes, and I cannot even begin to describe how sweet it was to spend an hour and-a-half cuddling with my littlest love, my sweet boy, before we carried the twins upstairs for bed when the movie was over. I needed all those sweet snuggles.

Life. Is. Good.

Now it’s back to the hectic weekly life we live, but we are all living it a little better this week because of that time. You guys – if you’re not taking time every so often to be low-key and hang with your kids, you’re so missing out. They’re a lot of fun. And it does wonders for your soul to just be still.

How was your weekend? We’re so excited about all that we have to look forward to in the next few months, but also enjoying the last month or so of pretty weather. Hot days with cool mornings and evenings. A month from now = death by humidity and heat.

I’ve rounded up a few of my most recent IG looks for you – some sold out or no longer available, but – always – something super similar and just as much fun to check out!

{ Dress (I bought it at Nordstrom last year, I think, but I can’t find it anymore so I’ve linked similar here, here, and here) Michael Kors wedges (old) similar here, here, and here, Ray-Ban Sunglasses, BaubleBar Earrings similar here and here }

I wore this fun dress to church Sunday. I love the color blue, and I had to wear it because both my boys were in blue. Sweet Carter asked me if I’d wear blue like him and Daddy, and there’s no saying no to that kind of sweet request!

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{ Dress (I just found this at Marshalls a few weeks ago, and I can’t find the exact one online but I’ve linked some similar maxi dresses in the tee-shirt style here, here, and here) Tory Burch sandals (old, but I love these, these, and these) Hat (sold out at Nordstrom but similar here, here, and here) Louis Vuitton Neverfull GM }

I love this dress. I think I might be all about the tee shirt dress this summer – and for like $20, who isn’t?!

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{ Lilly Pulizter Dress (I can’t find the same print online, but there are great ones here, here, and here) Tory Burch Millers, Ray-Ban Sunglasses, BaubleBar earrings similar here }

I think this Lilly Pulitzer dress is like 2 or 3 years old now? I can’t remember, but it goes down in history as my favorite LP of all time. Anyone who knows me knows this time of year at least 5 of 7 days of the week are spent in one form of Lilly Pulitzer or another, and I really just love all the prints. However, there is something about this simple stripe I just adore. I can’t find it online, but I still see it in stores regularly, so check it out!