Quirky. Type A. Workaholic.

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I am so excited for today's post. I have some amazing bloggers lined up in the next 10 days to post here on Practically Imperfect while I'm in India! My first guest, Carly Heitlinger of The College Prepster, is sharing her thoughts on blogging, branding, and life. Carly has definitely influenced me since starting my own blog. She always posts relatable and inspiring content that really sets a standard. She knows who she is and stays smart with her brand. Getting to chat with Carly at the Smart Girls Conference last summer was a pleasure, and I can't even begin describe how much I learned from her and her fellow panelists!
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How do you stay inspired? I try to just take in everything that's around me. There are ALWAYS things to be inspired by, you just have to look for it.

What do you think has been the biggest contributing factor to your success as a blogger? There is definitely a mix of things that I think contributed to the success of my blog. I absolutely started at the right time– that is, very early on. And then I also stuck with it. I also try to write and share things that I would want to read that I haven't been published everywhere. 

When did you did you decide to turn your hobby of blogging into a business? It wasn't so much a decision as something that just happened. I started to be offered money from brands and for taxes I incorporated. The income steadily grew throughout the years and it just kind of clicked over time! 

You put out new content every single day and sometimes multiple times a day. How do you maintain such consistency and discipline? A big part of it is that I LOVE what I do. When I was in college, blogging was the best distraction from school, a great creative outlet. I just got in the habit of posting every day! (Now, there are things I wish I could do every day like working out, but I'm just not passionate about that enough I guess, ha!) It's also become my job now, so posting every day isn't that difficult when I don't have to be in an office working for someone else eight hours a day! 

What you are three favorite wardrobe staples? Blazer, skinny jeans, and cable knit sweaters.

What are some of the challenges and perks of being your own boss? It's the best and worst thing in the world. The best part is that I have complete control over what I do, and the worst part is that I have complete control over what I do. I don't have someone giving me a set agenda every morning or week, or setting goals and milestones for me to hit. I have to do that for myself. I tend to over-discipline myself and not recognize the good work that I do. Sometimes, when I'm stuck on a problem, I wish there was a "boss" I could ask for advice from. BUT, I definitely learn the most by having to figure it out on my own, even if I make a few mistakes along the way. 

During the weekend, your favorite thing to do is…Take Teddy to the park to play!


How has your personal brand evolved over the years? I think it's evolved in the sense that I evolve as a person, as I grow up. So much of the "brand" is myself!

What are your tips for living in New York City? Stock up on patience and learn to budget. It's a bit ironic that half of the things in NYC are SO convenient and the other half of things are the opposite of convenient. You can order groceries online and have them delivered straight to your door, but traveling three miles can take over an hour.

Things are expensive in NYC too. Budgeting is key, and it looks different for every person. 

At the Smart Girls Conference this past summer you discussed the transition from “The College Prepster“ to “Carly”. In what ways do you anticipate change and in what ways do you plan on keeping your personal brand the same? I take it one day, one opportunity at a time. I don't have a master plan, but I have a feeling it will sort itself out. (I also have a manager now who will help with the growth!) 

What is your biggest piece of advice to new bloggers? Do it because you LOVE it. If you love what you do, you will ALWAYS be successful. From Day 1!

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? I can never answer this question! I could not imagine five years ago that I would be where I am now. I prefer to take things as they come and enjoy the ride!


Thank you, Carly for bringing your wonderfully quirky, type a, workaholic self to Practically Imperfect for this post! Just in case you aren't already, you can follow Carly on her blogInstagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr

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Merry Christmas!


Wishing you and yours love, peace, and joy on this Christmas day. This year, my family is breaking out of our holiday traditions by spending Christmas in New York City. Usually we host a big Christmas Eve party (with a guest appearance from Santa himself!), go to the candlelight service at church, and wake up early Christmas morning to open gifts with the whole family. It's always so wonderful. What are some of your favorite Christmas traditions with your family? 

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Holiday Happenings

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVE!! I hope everyone has been having a wonderful holiday season. Mine is usually full of lots of food and family and tradition, but this year I'm spending the holidays a little differently! 

If you haven't already noticed from my Instagram feed, I'm on quite the adventure! After a crazy week of finals, I spent two days packing, and then hopped on a plane to New York City with my family! This year, we're spending Christmas in The City, and it could not be more magical. We've been here for less than 24 hours and it's already shaping up to be one of my favorite trips yet. 

On the 26th, my family is taking me back to the airport and I'm leaving for India for the next 10 days. I have been looking forward to this trip for years and now it's almost time! 

I can't wait to share my experiences (and many, many photos!) with you all! Posting from me may be a bit sporadic, but I have some amazing guest posters lined up! Like, uh-maze-zing! So be sure to check in often! 

Happiest of holidays from my family to yours. I hope tonight is merry and bright and that your Christmas is filled with love, peace, joy. 


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Neutral Tones

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Being serious for more than two seconds is just impossible. 


Photos by Bill Payne

This is one of my new favorite outfits! I had been searching for a pair of booties forever and finally found these Vince Camuto's hidden on a shelf and on huge sale at Nordstrom Rack. #score When I got home from shopping, I dug around my closet and put together this outfit! I have always been hesitant with mixing neutral tones, but now I think the "never mix black with brown" philosophy is completely wrong! I love this look because it is perfect for a casual day out, but the heels and hat add a dressier aspect as well. Aside from how this outfit looks, it's one that I just feel really confident in. And that's what matters when it comes to style. 

Do you have an outfit or specific piece that boosts your confidence? Share below! 

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Gift Guide

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The lights are up, my house is decorated, and holiday shopping is now in full swing! I personally LOVE shopping for Christmas presents and today I rounded up a few of my very favorite go-to gifts. What I have found to be most helpful when it comes to gift giving is to keep it thoughtful. Spending a certain amount on a gift isn't the point, buying a meaningful and special present is. Of course budgeting is important, but if one friend gets a homemade gift, one gets a $12 present, and another gets a $50 one... it's okay! This is why the items on this list don't stick to a specific price point and range from about $10 to $100. 


What are some of your favorite go-to gifts this holiday season? Happy Shopping! 

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I Am Thankful For...

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dress (similar)//jacket//shoes//necklace//bangles (similar)//balloon

Happy Thanksgiving! What better way to celebrate this wonderful holiday than with a giant pink balloon?! I spent this past weekend shooting a few upcoming blog posts, including this one! Thank you so much Bill Payne Photography! I couldn't be happier with how the photos turned out! Today's outfit post is what I will be wearing for dinner tonight. The three-quarter sleeves on this jacket keep it light but add the perfect structure. I found this dress at Forever 21 years ago, but linked another really cute and similar option. I love the subtle sparkle (and the fit and flair is perfect for hiding that Thanksgiving dinner food baby!). 

Today, I am going to wake up, watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, do a little baking, and then head over to my grandparent's house for a HUGE meal. This day is full of tradition and family fun, but it also holds something even more awesome: a time to reflect. Personally, life's busyness just gets in the way of being grateful sometimes. I rush from one task to the next and don't make time to just take it all in. I am so blessed. We are all so blessed. The statement "I'm thankful for..." seems so fitting because there are so just many things in life to have gratitude for. The list endlessly goes on, which is why the "..." is perfect. I am thankful for the turkey and cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes I will consume today, my absolutely wonderful family, being accepted to my first university this week (woohoo!),  my high school, my church, my friends, the opportunity I've had to travel, everything about this world of blogging, and the list goes on! In fact, I'm thankful for the not so great things that have happened too. Without the bad, we wouldn't be who or where we are today. Lately I've really taken this Bible verse to heart: Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." We may not know why something happens, but God sure does. He has our best interests in mind in every aspect of our lives. I hope you feel the love and blessings this Thanksgiving and every day! Finish this statement in the comments below: "I am thankful for..."

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For the Chocolate Lover

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When I became friends with Carrie, we immediately shared our love for baking and decided to do a holiday baking collaboration together. Today on her blog, she is sharing the yummiest dessert for the Pumpkin Lover. I can't wait to try the recipe! I decided to make my all-time favorite dessert that also happens to be perfect for the Chocolate Lover. So whether you're craving chocolate or pumpkin, you'll be sure to find a treat that you love and just in time for Thanksgiving tomorrow!

Some recipes contain more than just a yummy taste. These cookies contain childhood memories of baking in the kitchen, sharing laughs from across the table at Thanksgiving dinners, and of course, sneaking tastes of that delicious frosting. In my family, whenever we make a recipe, we write a little note about when/why/how we made it. If you look closely at the next picture, you can see that the page for this recipe is marked up and falling apart...the most beautiful kind of mess! I love how rich and cakey these cookies are, but the best part is  definitely the marshmallow surprise inside! 

Cookies
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour 
3/4 cup cocoa powder 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened 
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup milk 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
about 18 large marshmallows, cut in half horizontally 

Frosting
3 cups confectioners' sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup cocoa powder 
1/4 cup milk 
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 


Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. 



In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). 
Add egg, milk, and vanilla and beat until well combined. 
Add the flour mixture one 1/2 cup at a time until fully combined.



Scoop dough onto baking sheets with parchment paper, placing them about two inches apart (12 cookies per sheet). 
Bake for 10-12 minutes, rotating the baking sheets half way through. 



Remove from the oven, place a half-cut marshmallow in the center of each cookie, and return to oven.
Bake until marshmallows begin to melt (about 2 minutes).
Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting. 



To make frosting, melt cocoa powder and butter in a saucepan. 
Combine powered sugar, butter mixture, milk, and vanilla and whisk until well combined. 



Spread a spoon full of frosting over the marshmallow and cookie until completely covered.


Grab a glass of milk and enjoy! If you have any questions about these surprise cookies or if you'd like to share your favorite holiday recipe, comment below! This recipe was originally published on marthastewart.com.


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Denim, Checked, and Army Green

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top//jeans (similar)//jacket(similar)

When I shot this look, I wasn't really intending for it to be a blog post. I was having my head shots updated and pulled this outfit together very last minute! Imagine picking random clothes from the trunk of your car, discovering that (literally) the only thing you forgot to pack was a simple pair of jeans, borrowing pants from your makeup lady, and then getting dressed in a tent in the middle of a parking lot. So much craziness, and so much fun! Shooting with Jay Dixon was a blast as usual and having Kala Ketchum for hair and makeup was so awesome. I can't believe I've been working with them for five years! 

Some of the best outfits originate when you don't spend hours styling and perfecting them. This denim, checked, and army green combination is a perfect example of that. The combination of relaxed, neutral colors and structured, bold prints really caught my eye. And the small tribal detail on my jacket added the perfect touch! This outfit wasn't as girly as I tend to pick, but that was what made it so great! Three pieces that I normally wear in very different ways were seen in a completely new light. I usually style this checked shirt with a chunky sparkly necklace and cropped pants or a skirt, but I discovered that it also looks great this way too. I try not to follow one specific style or trend, because one of the most important aspects of style is being able to stretch the limits of your comfort zone and allow your taste to develop, mature, and change. What are some pieces you've been wearing that are outside of your "style comfort zone"?    

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It's The Little Things

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The other night I was up really late doing homework and felt myself quickly falling into an abyss of stress. I decided to take a quick five minute break to just take care of myself. I got up and brushed my hair. As simple as it sounds, that little act completely got rid of my stress and made it possible to get through the rest of my homework. That got me thinking about the small, seemingly insignificant joys that each day brings. It's the little things in life that bring the most happiness. In this season of thankfulness I think it's important to remember not just the big things that we're grateful for. Every second of the day contains a little blessing, it's whether we choose to see them that makes the difference. From now on, I am choosing to see these blessings, whether they be walking to the mailbox, writing a letter to a friend just to say "hi", or unwinding from the day with a good book. I'm curious, what are some of the little things that you're thankful for? 

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It's {Still} Fall Y'all

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Please tell me that I'm not the only one who gets so annoyed by all of the holiday advertising, decorations, and red Starbucks cups before Thanksgiving has even passed? Every year, the holiday season seems to creep up even faster, and now, it's not uncommon to see stores deck the halls before Halloween! Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas! It is my favorite holiday. It just drives me crazy that Thanksgiving gets no love.


In honor of it STILL BEING FALL, I put together a fun (and very fallish) outfit. I picked up both this beautiful jeweled top and this classic skirt from my local J. Crew outlet on a huge sale and paired them with my favorite riding boots. Fun fact: I have terrible vision. Like can't-see-a-thing terrible. Usually, I never wear my glasses in public, but recently I ordered this pair from Warby Parker and fell in love! It really was so helpful to do the home try-on and then decide which pair worked best. Now I am wearing my glasses all the time, and couldn't help but add them to this outfit.

I hope you enjoyed this little reminder that it's not quite winter yet! Now I'll go back to being the Grinch, and wait until Black Friday to turn into Buddy the Elf! Happy Fall!
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Throwback Thursday {It's My Birthday}

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Today I say goodbye to childhood and hello to being an adult! I'll admit, I don't feel much different! But looking back on my childhood does make me a little sentimental today. For some reason, I have a really good memory, especially of when I was really young. I remember my third birthday so vividly, and now I'm celebrating my eighteenth! Time just goes by so fast! As I approach a lot of change in the coming months, it's fun to look back on what really does seem like yesterday. 
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Seventeen

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In honor of it being my last day of being seventeen years old, I am interviewing the lovely Meaghan O'Connor of...Seventeen Magazine! For the past year, Meaghan has been Assistant to Editor-in-Chief, Ann Shoke, and has gained pretty amazing insight, knowledge, and experiences! Meaghan was so gracious to answer my questions. Make sure to scroll below to follow her on social media! 


How did you end up working at Seventeen? It’s a fun story, actually! The summer after my sophomore year in college at the University of Michigan (go blue!), I interned for Food Network Magazine (another Hearst title) in the Marketing department. While I was living in the city for that internship, I attended the annual Her Campus Conference, which is an incredible way for New York interns interested in Fashion/Media/Writing to get their foot in the door and network with professionals in various different fields. Ann Shoket, my future boss, was the keynote speaker at the conference and her assistant happened to be sitting in the back. When Ann was done speaking, she asked if anyone had any questions. While everyone else hesitated, I was one of the first to raise my hand. I told her that my parents and friends had expressed concerns about me pursuing a career in magazine journalism, since it’s an industry going through a lot of transition. She asked me if I wanted to videotape her answer to show my parents. (I said of course!) So that day I videotaped one of my role models telling me that 1) people are always going to need/want good content to consume, and 2) people are always going to need to be on the back end to create that content and tell good stories. The medium may shift and change, but the essence of good storytelling skills would always remain the same. (After seeing the video, my parents were convinced!) After Ann answered my question, I went up to introduce myself, and she told me to introduce myself to her assistant as well. I managed to get her contact info and keep in touch while I went back to school for my final junior/senior year. A year later, when I heard Ann’s assistant was moving on to a new opportunity, I reached out and she told me to come in for an interview! After that, it was just convincing everyone else on the team that this was where I belonged. Easy, since working at Seventeen has been my dream since high school!

Describe your daily routine. Oh boy! No day is ever the same… especially since I live in New York, but I’ll try! I’m a morning person, so I typically wake up early around 6am to workout first thing in the morning. I just finished training for a half marathon, so this fall I spent a lot of mornings running in Central Park. If I’m not running, or on my days off, I hit the gym. After that, I get into the office around 8:30 or 9am to start answering emails and tackling work assignments. Day to day, I’m managing a workload of research requests for our Features editors, managing our team of interns, keeping the office organized, and securing a ton of freebies for our monthly freebies calendar. I’m usually pretty busy and generally work through lunch, but if I get a chance to pop out I typically frequent Hale & Hearty or Balducci’s (when I’m feeling healthy) or Chipotle (when I just need a burrito, guacamole and tortilla chips). I usually leave work anywhere from 6-7pm and then either hit a yoga or Pilates class, grab drinks/dinner with friends, or head home and cook dinner for myself. I love to unwind by either reading or watching my favorite shows on Hulu and cooking dinner for myself --- so relaxing! It’s really important to me to keep work/life balance at the center of my life, along with making regular time for exercise. If I work too hard or forget to take care of myself, it takes a physical toll on my body!

What is your favorite part about your job? Least favorite? It keeps me on my toes, which I definitely think is my favorite part! I’m never doing the same thing every day and there is so much opportunity to have fun with the things I’m doing (who else gets to go to a Pretty Little Liars finale premiere party and call it work?!)… which is so important if you’re ever really going to enjoy your job! I hate picking a least favorite! But if I had to pick one, it’d probably be doing expenses. I’m not a math person. But everyone has to do them, so they’re unavoidable and just part of working in general. 

Meaghan with Shay Mitchell

You have what many people would consider a dream job. What is your biggest piece of advice to those trying to make it in the professional world? My biggest piece of advice is to never let anyone else tell you that you can’t do something. If you want something, go after it! And I mean that, go after it with your whole heart and make it happen. And that also goes along with something I’m learning myself lately, and that’s to go with your heart and trust your gut. Especially when you’re young in your career and can afford to make mistakes and try everything. If your heart is telling you to pursue an opportunity, it’s probably the decision you want to make!

What keeps you inspired? The people in my life, for one. I’m so, so grateful to have such an incredible network of family and friends who inspire me to keep chasing my dreams and who would definitely support any career decision I make. But I’m also inspired daily by listening to music, looking at blogs (I’m a huge fan of food blogs!), and reading lots and lots of magazines. I also have a wide array of wall art in my bedroom with inspiring quotes and reminders. I love words in general, and cheesy quotes, too! I actually scribble inspirational quotes in my planner every week to help me set goals and keep focused.

Any tips for living in New York City? Whew! One of my favorite subjects because I’ve already learned so much about life and about myself living here for a year and a half. I’d say two things… The first is that budgeting is so important. New York is a really expensive city, and if you let your finances get out from under you it can be really overwhelming and you can dig yourself into a hole pretty quickly. Learn to limit yourself to the essentials (especially for the first few years!), and know that you’re going to spend a lot of money on food and rent… and that’s just the way it goes! The second is that New York can be a really lonely place, especially if you don’t find activities and other things to keep you fulfilled outside of work. I’m really lucky to be involved with several organizations and circles of amazing individuals who make living here a lot more fun and a lot less lonely! The people I know in New York (all hard-working, inspired, dedicated and motivated people) are the reason I enjoy living here so much.

Describe your 17-year-old self. I was the shy, smart girl, who had a close circle of girlfriends in high school. I was super motivated to get into a good school, so I focused on getting good grades and being involved in a variety of different things. I was on the varsity volleyball team for three years, a leader in Student Government, a member of the National Honor Society and very active in YoungLife. I’ve always really enjoyed writing and reading, and have had big dreams to change the world and make a difference ever since I was young!

Meaghan with Janel Parrish 

You also have a passion for blogging. What inspired you to start My Big Dreams Big City? I started the blog during my first internship in New York, primarily so that close friends and family could keep track of me during that summer and read about the kinds of stuff I was doing (it was all foreign to them!). I ended up talking a lot more generally about falling in love with New York City and pursuing my big dreams than just talking about my internship, so it ended up turning into a larger narrative about what it means to be in living on your own, in a huge city, working in a highly competitive and exciting industry, all while balancing other things in life and enjoying the little moments, too. It’s kind of like my diary, but also a chance to help other small-town girls understand and realize that they can do anything they set their minds to… my story is proof!

What has been your biggest "pinch me" moment? My first day on the job! Everything that happened that day was a pinch me moment. I still remember my first ride up the escalator that morning. I kept repeating to myself over and over, “this is really happening, this is really happening…” To be honest, I don’t remember much about what I did that first day, just that I was incredibly excited to be here. I was probably smiling all day!

During the weekend, my favorite thing to do is… a long, leisurely run in Central Park with a friend, followed by a HUGE brunch (blueberry pancakes!), an afternoon of reading/blogging, and then cooking a new recipe from one of my favorite food blogs for dinner.


Thank you so much to Meaghan for being Practically Imperfect's very first interview! Since this interview, she has transitioned to another brand within the Hearst family and is now an Editorial Assistant at Food Network Magazine. Congratulations, MeaghanYou can find her on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or on her blog. I hope this interview inspired you to work hard, stay passionate, and live your dreams like it did for me! 

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18th Birthday Brunch


I am so excited to share my 18th birthday party with you! After months of planning and dreaming, I couldn’t be happier with how everything came together. Honestly, turning in my first round of college applications made this past week absolutely crazy and this party was the light at the end of the tunnel that kept me going!

I had always wanted to throw a girl’s brunch, and my 18th seemed like the perfect opportunity to do that. The theme for the party was whimsical yet classy with touches of pink, gold, black, and white. I hope that vision in my head translated well! The party was held at my favorite restaurant, City Cafe. We had a delicious brunch (complete with a waffle bar, chocolate fountain, and quiche), did a fun craft (you're never too old for crafts), and took plenty of pictures. Photographer Jennifer Jens captured the day perfectly. Not only is she such a talented photographer, but she is so friendly and fun to work with! These wonderful photos I'm sharing are all thanks to her!


How great is this photo backdrop? I bought three three-foot pink streamer backgrounds from my local party store and then added these "Party Party" balloons to the top. The 16" gold mylar letters from Northstar Balloons added so much fun to the room and were such a cute way to capture the day! Northstar provides a huge selection of balloons including the whole alphabet in multiple sizes and colors. I am so glad I found them on Instagram. They have the cutest feed ever, so make sure to check them out! 


From the flower arrangements to the table runner to the bow napkins to the pink sugar rimmed glasses, I couldn’t have been more happy with how the table scape turned out! Since I wanted everyone to sit together, that meant the huge twenty-five foot long table would be the focal point of the room. My mom and our close family friend, Vicki Page, both used to be florists, so they did all of the arrangements for my party. They are so talented and created such beautiful center pieces.  Then there is this table runner. How perfect is it for the party? Having a twenty foot table, I was pretty concerned with finding one that would work. But then I found Vintage Fantasy Bridal on Etsy. They create custom table runners in any size and carry the cutest prints. I couldn't be happier! 


These bow napkins are so cute and so easy to make! My mom and I probably spent fifteen minutes total folding and tying them all. I'm thinking I might do a DIY post soon on how to make them! 


My dad and I! My dad and brother even got dressed up in their all white clothes and made an appearance at the party! They helped so much by running last minute errands and even putting together the photo backdrop. Love them! 


Caught mid-selfie. 


To incorporate the brunch aspect even more, my “cake” was actually a stack of chocolate chip pancakes with cream cheese frosting, sprinkles, and the cutest topper. This beautiful gold and pink topper from Kiss Me Kate Studio perfectly fit my party. Funny story, Kate and I found each other on Etsy and then realized that we live less than an hour away from each other! Small world! She makes the most adorable and girly party products. If had a reason to buy everything in her shop, I would! 


Another selfie! This time with my Grammie! 


Not only did my mom and Vicki learn how to make a floral crown for me, but they learned to teach every girl at the party, too! Making floral crowns is so fun and not as hard as you would think! Maybe another DIY soon? ;) 




Each of these people are so wonderful! I invited my aunts, grandmas, girl cousins, my mom, and girl friends! Basically all of the special women in my life. They are what made the day so amazing.  


My mom, aka best friend. I am so thankful for her! Her creativity and positivity not only made so much of this day possible, but it makes everyday so happy and wonderful. Love her! 

If you have any questions about my party or how I planned it, comment below! Thank you so much to Jennifer Jens, City Cafe, Northstar Balloons, Kiss Me Kate Studio, Fantasy Vintage Bridal, Vicki Page, my parents, and the lovely ladies that attended for making the party so special. TWO DAYS UNTIL I’M EIGHTEEN! 

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