On the coldest day in December, Mary Courtney and Amelia {of Studio MJW} set out to do classic indoor/outdoor maternity pictures. Mary Courtney's home and surroundings, along with Amelia's vision, made for some amazing photos. Check out our favorite shots by Studio MJW.
Photos by Studio MJW
 
 
{Guest Post} Elizabeth Tardio

If you’re getting married, listen up! And if you’re already married listen up too! I’ve always loved traditions. Always. Doesn’t everyone? (Yes. The answer is yes.) So, without further ado… a tradition you’ll want to start.

I remember the moment like it was yesterday. Chris (that’s my husband) and I were at dinner with two other couples, all of us great friends and all newly married.  The conversation turned to sports (does it ever end?), babies (none of us were ready for 2 feet additions), and travel (AHHH! Can we just go on a 2nd honeymoon already?) Something in the travel segment of the dinner conversation had me spitting out my steak, hushing the men, and asking to hear it again. One couple, the Carters, would be going to West Virginia over Labor Day weekend. A hush fell over the crowd, followed by much inquiry as to why they were planning a trip to West Virginia of all places. (Sorry, natives of West Virginia.) The answer:  “We started a tradition this year of drawing a state on New Year’s Day. We then have a calendar year to visit that state. In 50 years, we will have visited all 50 states.” That’s all I needed to hear! We Tardios would have no shame in copy-catting this idea. I was on this like white on rice. We would see 50 states in 50 years of marriage, a state a year. I was sold.
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Chris immediately got on board too, as we both love to travel and there are so many states that I haven’t seen at all and he has only seen in passing for work. We’d traveled a little in our dating relationship, to Atlanta a couple of times, to Mississippi and Kentucky several more to see our respective families or take in…wait for it… wait for it… a football game. We’d been to out-of-town weddings in New York and Biloxi. We even spent a few days in Miami. Most recently, we’d taken an exotic honeymoon to Belize.  Each time we traveled, whether in the car or on an airplane, we always came home saying what wonderful quality time we had, how much we learned about the other person, how much our bond felt renewed and strengthened, and what wonderful memories we made exploring a new place together. For instance, during our trips, I learned that Chris brushes his teeth more than any human I’ve ever met, leading to what our lovely dentist Dr.Pittman terms “impeccable dental hygiene.” Chris also repeatedly forgets underwear, socks, and a belt when he travels. His favorite travel snacks are Sunbelt Oat Bars, and he is diligent with timing out his restroom breaks. He has learned about me that I get incredibly cranky when I’m hungry. I always  WAY over pack, like 50.0 pounds for a weekend getaway over pack. I also always fall asleep on car rides, and I do not time out my restroom breaks in the least.

So, it was decided immediately that we would openly copy this idea, but we’d add our own twist as well. We’d have rules, and we’d do this old-school, drawing from an actual deck of state flash cards (which can be purchased at any parent-teacher store). If you’re really resourceful you could even make your own. (I was not.)

Rules for the Traveling Tardios Edition of 50 States in 50 Years:

1)The state must be drawn on August 11th of each year, our anniversary. The drawer alternates each year. The other must photograph the monumental draw.

2) We have one year to visit the state.

3) There are NO putbacks, except for Hawaii or Alaska, which may be put back until a “big anniversary year” or a year when time/finances better allow for extended travel.

4) We must stay in the state at least 48 hours.

5) If we travel through other states along the way, only the actual state drawn is recorded (yes we have a map to record the travels…)

6) If we travel elsewhere in the year, that’s fine but no other states are removed from our deck.

Since this GENIUS idea didn’t come to us before our wedding and we couldn’t draw the state on our wedding night, we actually just picked our first state. Thus, we settled on California and we decided to make an anniversary trip of it, going just a few days prior to our first anniversary. (Aren’t we romantic? Watch out Bachelor.) We spent 3 nights in San Francisco and then traveled up to Sonoma for 2 more nights. It was the perfect combination of city-life and charm. In San Fran, we saw (translation: froze) a Giants game, went to Alcatraz, toured Stanford (my lawyer husband gets his kicks from a)me and b) law schools across the country), checked out Lombard Street, went on a hike overlooking the bay, and ate. A lot. In Sonoma, we toured a vineyard, drank lots of wine, ate a lot (again), went to a festival on the Sonoma square, and got our first (and last) couples massage. Besides the couples massage disaster, where my husband attempted to take his phone and reading materials along and tried to get his massage through his blue jeans and fleece jacket (true story), it was an absolutely wonderful first state to visit and perfect way to celebrate our first anniversary.
We drew our second state on our anniversary this year; Vermont was the lucky pick. Neither of us had ever been to Vermont so this was immediately exciting. I also have a good friend who just moved to Maine so we planned to see her too. Chris vouched for a summer trip when it’s hot as Hades down here, and I rallied around the idea of a ski trip in the winter. And, I won out. (Can you see who wears the pants around our house?) We decided on a New Year’s Ski Trip to Stowe, Vermont. This would be Chris’s first time skiing and my first time in many years.

We stayed in Stowe for 3 days and skied two. Stowe is the perfect little New England town, and it was absolutely beautiful. Snow everywhere and Christmas decorations at every corner. That said, we are exceptionally terrible skiers. Chris had two wipe-outs just getting on the chair lift, and I was the slowest skier Stowe has ever seen. We also decided to borrow ski clothes instead of making the investment, and we were quite the sight, clad in too big, too tight, mismatched ski gear. In short, we were an embarrassment. But, we had the time of our lives and can’t wait to go back soon.  We wrapped up the trip with a New Year’s Eve dinner date with friends in Boston (though, as you are now informed, Vermont was our state to visit not Massachusetts…Following our rules, Massachusetts is still in our deck of states.).
We are anxious for August 11th to roll around again, of course to celebrate another year of wedded bliss (right honey? right?) but also to draw our next state. We’re hoping for somewhere sunny, which means we’ll probably draw Michigan or Wisconsin. But, no matter what we draw, we’ll have a blast traveling somewhere new together and growing in our relationship.

I hope this idea might be one you’ll want to consider in some form or fashion. Some people we’ve told think they might alter it a bit, only putting in states they desperately want to see, maybe drawing for each vacation taken.  Maybe it becomes a family thing or maybe it always stays a sacred treasure for just the “grown-ups.”  There’s so many ways you can go with it, but most importantly, we’ve learned it’s a great way to make memories with each other that hopefully last a lifetime.
Credit: Map by Groovy Gravy Etsy Shop
 
 
With all of the icy cold weather we've been having here in Mississippi, we were inspired to share this winter wedding with you. The bride loves a themed party and her holiday spirit was shown in every detail. So, for all of you winter 2014 brides, here is some stunning inspiration captured by Danny K Photography.

Jane and Adam met in Olympia, Washington at a dive bar called The Reef. Jane knew right away that Adam was something special because he wrote her number down on his hand using a pen with Abe Lincoln's head on it! The two hit it off and were engaged at the beach during the summer solstice and married exactly six months later on the winter solstice at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Oxford. The reception followed at the cozy City Grocery on the square. 
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Jane searched for what felt like years (two afternoons, but they were long afternoons..) for her perfect wedding dress before deciding to have it made. What she was looking for was a 1950's style cocktail dress and she knew she would never find it in a boutique. To go along with her one-of-a-kind dress, she had one-of-a-kind shoes! To ensure that they were the exact color she wanted, her mother put her DIY skills to use and spray painted them gold. And the complete the look she carried a bouquet accented with winter greenery such as pine, spruce and douglas fir.
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The wedding party was filled with the people that Jane and Adam love most and each of them are different, so they didn't want to make them wear something specific that was not their style. Each bridesmaid got to choose her own dress and each groomsman was allowed to sport their best tacky Christmas sweater vest. Only if they wanted to, of course! But, who wouldn't?
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Along with the traditional bride and groom's cakes, Jane and Adam had a third cake made for her grandparents. They celebrated their 60th anniversary the day before the wedding and got their very own surprise celebration.
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From the colored lights lining the room (must always use colored lights!) to the one of a kind ornaments hanging from the ceiling (made by Jane's mother), the spirit of Christmas was everywhere at the reception. Guests were greeted by a copy of the "Night Before Christmas" to sign in place of your normal guest registry book and the groom's cake looked like a gorgeous Christmas gift topped with a big gold bow.
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{Guest Post}: Rev. Heath Ferguson
One of the hardest things about loving someone is continually taking an honest looks at our selves.  Our tendency is to default to selfish, self-serving opinions of our selves when challenged or confronted with difficulty, but difficulties and challenges are a part of every real relationship. 

So what do we do?  We listen.  We stop being afraid of hearing that we are wrong.  We recognize our tendency to ignore our own flaws and begin to get real with our selves, right there in front of those that we love.  It’s right then and there that something magnificent happens.  We begin to understand that not only are we not perfect, but it is actually our imperfections that allow others to love us.  True love isn’t found in perfection, but imperfection.  We think that the best thing we can do is hide behind lists of accomplishments, in hopes that we impress those we care about into loving us. When all along, it’s those very people who are also struggling with their own flaws and weaknesses.  They’re desperate to find someone who will be with them in their imperfections and not judge their weaknesses. 

1 Corinthians 13:4 says, “ Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast. It is not proud.”

It is no accident that Paul starts to describe love by suggesting it be done with humility.  Love must be entered into humbly if it has any chance at succeeding.  When we face the truth of our fears, failures, and weaknesses with those we love, we find the treasure of acceptance that floods our hearts with hope, joy, and the peace of belonging. 
 
 
New York Fashion Week is in full swing and the Ready-To-Wear pieces for Fall 2014 are fabulous. There is lots of black and white, but there's also lots of color pops. In honor of Valentine's Day, we would like to share with you some of our favorites featuring romantic reds, pinks and creams.
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Prabal Gurung
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Victoria Beckham
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Desigual
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Prabal Gurung
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Mara Hoffman
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Monique Lhuillier
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DKNY
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Desigual
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Kate Spade
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Herve Leger
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Reem Acra
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Oscar de la Renta
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Oscar de la Renta
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Pamella Roland
 
 
{Guest Post}: Lindsay Martin-Nez
Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and we all know what that means. Hallmark cards, flowers, teddy bears and of course, delicious treats!  From those “mystery candy boxes” to conversation hearts, sweets are a staple of any Valentine’s Day celebration.  For those of you who are living gluten free, you either dread the holiday or love it. 

For those of you who dread it, you probably eye every treat from a friend or co-worker suspiciously.  After all, it could be loaded down with evil gluten.  Or, if you’re anything like me, you anxiously look forward to Valentine’s Day as an excuse for making some of your favorite treats.  I love to whip up quick and easy recipes for any occasion – all gluten free of course! 

Here are some gluten free treats I love that will hopefully inspire your inner-chef this Valentine’s Day.
{The Heart Shaped Cake}
No matter what the occasion, you cannot go wrong with a cake; especially one shaped like a heart!  Consider decorating your cake like a Conversation Heart with a cute message (“Kiss Me” or “XOXO”) written in icing in the center.  Or maybe even write a secret message to your special someone. 

For those of you who don’t like to bake things from scratch, there are lots of incredible gluten free cake mixes out there.  My favorite gluten free cake mix has to be from Betty Crocker.  Probably because it is SUPER simple to whip up and you can purchase it at your local grocery store. 
{Rice Krispie Treats}
Rice krispies are my favorite treat of all time.  Nothing is easier than mixing together butter, marshmallows and some gluten free rice krispies.  But when the holidays roll around, it’s fun to add something special. 

Strawberry marshmallows are a great substitute for regular ones – and your rice krispies will turn out pink!  (Red food coloring works for this too.)  Consider topping with white frosting and pink or red sprinkles for extra sweetness.  Or consider using a heart shaped cookie cutter to cut your treats up! 
{Red Velvet Cupcakes}
I am not a big red velvet fan, but for some reason, Christmas and Valentine’s Day always make me think of red velvet.  Nothing screams festive like that rich red cake topped with cream cheese frosting. 

If you’re looking for an easy gluten free red velvet mix, try Williams Sonoma!  Their line of gluten free products is absolutely amazing, and their red velvet cupcake mix is no exception. 
{Chocolate Covered Strawberries}
Whenever I make chocolate covered strawberries, I always convince myself they are healthy because they’re packed with fruit!  How could fruit possibly be bad for you?  But they are so easy to make and so gluten free that sometimes I find myself whipping them up for no occasion whatsoever. 

If you’re looking to try something new, why not try the mini semi-sweet chips from Enjoy Life?  Gluten, soy and dairy free, these little morsels can accommodate almost any diet! 

Bonus: for Valentine’s Day, strawberries bring an extra element of sexiness to your dessert.  Maybe consider feeding some to your special someone? ;)

I know that holidays, especially ones filled with so many goodies, can add an extra level of stress for those who are living with allergies.  But hopefully now you have some new ideas to make this year’s holiday super sweet.  Happy Valentine’s Day! 
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While we all love a dozen red roses and getting all dressed up for a big fancy dinner, sometimes it's fun to get a little more creative with our Valentine's Day plans. Below are 14 fun, different ways to celebrate Valentine's this year. Whether you're married, dating or single, we've got a little something for everyone!

{Walk and a Picnic}

Want to do something romantic, but want to keep it low key and budget friendly? Go for a stroll in a pretty park, along the beach or near the reservoir. Take along a picnic dinner. Lay out a cute quilt, grab some wine, relax and enjoy each others company!

{Backyard Bar B Q and a Movie}

Are you looking to keep it casual? Grill up your favorite masterpiece, light up the fire pit and spend some time outdoors.  If you have an outdoor television, even watch a movie outside!

{Dine at Your First Date}
It's Valentine's, so it's perfectly acceptable to be a little cheesy. Go out to eat where you had your very first date or where you celebrated your first Valentine's Day together and reminisce!

{Baseball Game}
There's nothing better than spending a gorgeous afternoon at a baseball game with good company, tasty hotdogs, and a cold drink! Both Mississippi State and Southern Miss kick off their baseball seasons at home on Valentine's Day. Take a road trip and enjoy the whole day together! You could even make a weekend of it since Valentine's Day falls on Friday this year.

{Boys Night Out}
Speaking of sports, this one's for the single boys! Head out to the local batting cages with some buddies, then go for a round of drinks at your favorite sports bar and catch a game!

{Manicures and Margaritas}
Single this Valentine's? Will your husband be away on business? No problem! Grab some girlfriends and head out for manicures. Follow it up with some tasty margaritas at your favorite happy hour.  (This idea even comes with a hashtag!! #manisandmargs ..We love a good hashtag.)

{Wine Tasting}
Who doesn't love a wine tasting? This would be a great first date or double date, as it's interactive and takes a bit of pressure off of constant conversation.

{Home-Made Pizza Night}
Making home-made pizzas is fun for everyone but is also a great first date idea! Buy all sorts of toppings and just have fun with it. It will keep you entertained and give you a chance to learn about the other person.

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{Girls Night In}
Call up your girlfriends and have a night filled with all things girly: champagne, cupcakes, gossip and a good chick flick!

{Singles Mixer}
Host a party with all of your single friends and ask everyone to bring a friend with them. You never know when love may be in the air!

{Scavenger Hunt}
Guys! Do you want to really impress the lady in your life? Take a few minutes and put together a scavenger hunt. It can be as simple as a few sweet post-it notes around the house or as elaborate as you'd like! She will just love the extra thought you put into making her day special.

{Breakfast}
Do you already know that you will be working late on Valentine's night? If so, start the morning off with a surprise breakfast!

{Dessert}
Valentine's is all about the chocolate and sweets, right? Go out for yogurt or a delicious GiGi's cupcake.

{Pay the Love Forward}
Not really into Valentine's? Pay the love forward by volunteering with a local charity, paying for someone's meal anonymously or going to visit with the sweethearts at the nursing home!

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In the middle of the ceremony, the lights went down and a video began; a video telling the story of how their relationship began, a love story rooted in Christ. 

Grant and Rachael's
story is centered around Christ and they just had to share. For one, they wanted a way to uniquely memorialize Grant's late father who had passed away six months prior. Second, they wanted their friends and family to know how important their relationships with God were and the major part He played in their story. They wanted everyone to know how their faith brought them together and wanted to take the opportunity to witness a bit to any guests who may have been non-believers. And lastly, they wanted everyone to know just how special the very room was that they were gathered in. Not only was it their sanctuary, but it was the very room where they met; the very room where their relationship began.

Below is the video Grant and Rachael shared with their guests; a video of a love story and how one room, one prayer and one night at Church changed their lives forever.

{Psalm 27:14}
Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.