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5 Tips For Healthy, Gorgeous Hair

Let me start by saying that I’m definitely not an expert on hair- BUT my hair has been through so much growing up, that I’ve definitely learned a thing or two. Finally, it’s at a length I love- and believe it or not, I haven’t even had a trim since March!

When I was in high school I wore my hair straight almost every single day- and washing it every two days! For whatever reason, I didn’t embrace my natural hair as much back then- but I do now!

I’ve grown to truly love and appreciate my natural hair- curls and all!

And during my pregnancy, my hair growth just took off! It was probably a combination of prenatal vitamins, tons of water and a few new hormones, but it just grew and grew.

Here are a few tips I’ve learned over the years that have really helped improve the health of my hair… as well as help it grow much longer!

  1. Stop Washing Your Hair!
    Being a new mom, I hardly have time to myself in the shower anyway, so I only really wash my hair once a week (sometimes I even go longer)… Can you say, “Hello, dry shampoo?!” I know some people may think that’s gross- and they just can’t do it- but if you’re trying to grow healthy hair this is my number one tip! When I stopped washing my hair as much I truly started noticing a huge difference in the growth… and it does save so much time when getting ready every day!
  2. Put Down the Heat!
    Like I said, I used to straighten my hair every.single.day… looking back now I cringe at the thought of doing that! Today I wouldn’t dare! In fact, I’m pretty strategic when it comes to putting heat on my hair! I use a blow dryer once a week to diffuse my hair so that I can wear it curly for a couple of days, then I flat iron it once the curls aren’t so cute anymore and start to get frizzy. I can wear it straight for at least three days before I wand the ends and use a lot of dry shampoo at the roots to get it through the week!
  3. Use Sulfate-Free Hair Products.
    I use sulfate-free everything on my hair! About a year ago, I switched to the Redkin sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner and LOVE how soft and smooth it makes my hair. I learned that products with alcohol are really bad for your hair because they dry it out so I try my best to stay away from those products to keep it healthy and beautiful.
  4. Masks Aren’t Just For Your Face
    I like to switch up my hair masks and try different ones, but my go-to is the It’s a 10 Miracle Hair Mask. If I just really need something natural… or if I’m running out… I’ll run to the kitchen and make a coconut oil & honey hair mask. I just spray my dirty, dry hair with a spray bottle full of water to get it wet, then start rubbing the mask throughout literally every strand of hair. Don’t get too crazy around the scalp because it will leave your hair greasier in the end even after washing it out.I really focus mainly on the middle and ends then tie it up in a bun with a shower cap and let it sit for about 30 minutes before washing it out. I like to wash my hair twice to make sure everything is really out! Do this once a week and you’ll  have soft, hydrated and bouncy hair too!
  5. It’s What You Sleep On
    It may seem funny, but sleeping on a satin or silk pillowcase really helps too. You could also sleep with your dry hair in a scarf or t-shirt… but NEVER a towel! I have been doing this for a few months now and omg I am noticing such a difference on my ends. Honestly, they’re not as brittle and dry as the used to be, I don’t have that many split ends anymore, and the soft pillowcase really helps me get the extra few days out of my hair <— which you know I love!

 

*Photo Credit Belongs To: Leigh Clifton*

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Gift Guide: For the Homebody

Hey everyone! Today I put together a gift guide for the girl who loves to be home- cozy and comfortable- in her own space!

I’ll admit, I am very much a homebody myself! I love to be home cuddled up watching one of my favorite shows or relaxing in a hot bubble bath. With an almost (how is that possible?) one year old, we do spend a lot of time at home keeping her on as much of a routine as possible!

With the holiday season fast approaching, I put together a post of some of my favorite gifts to get just about anyone on your list- but especially for the ultimate homebody!

Candles

One of the first things I do in the morning is light my candles around the house. There’s just something about the smell and aroma in the room that puts me in a good mood- and starts the day off right!

Laundry Detergent – Tyler’s Candle Company

Okay, so this laundry detergent is something I love to splurge on OCCASIONALLY. I use it for my sheets and towels more than anything else because they leave the room spelling amazing literally until it’s time to wash them again! It smells so amazing and is a must-get gift!

Slippers

I definitely wear my slippers while walking around the house while I’m home all day because why not be comfortable and cozy… even while chasing a baby, right? These are such a great gift for someone that’s home a lot too- or even needs them after a long day. Don’t forget: slippers tend to rip and fray with a lot of wear + tear, so your loved ones probably need a new pair (or two!)

Cozy Robe

There is just something about throwing on a cozy robe first thing in the morning, isn’t there? Especially with the cooler (or maybe colder where you are) months setting in, I can’t think of a better way to wake up and drink your coffee- it’s just so comfortable and warm! A must-have for EVERY homebody!

Face Mask

Easy to put on before bed or just when you’re relaxing around the house- this is hands down one of my favorite, hydrating face masks! Who doesn’t like to get pampered every now and then?

Coffee Mugs

In my house, coffee mugs are probably the most-used dishes- and these are a couple cute ones I found that would make the perfect gifts for all your coffee loving friends.

Cozy Blanket

I have so many blankets around my house because anytime I’m just relaxing on the couch, I have to throw a blanket over me. Yes, I am that friend that is ALWAYS cold- but in my opinion, you can never go wrong with a soft, warm blanket.

Bath Bombs

Have you tried Bath Bombs yet!? These are amazing + smell so good when you’re trying to have a relaxing bath. They’re the perfect addition to any gift for friends and family!

Coffee Maker

My mom actually got me this coffee maker a couple of years ago, and I have used pretty much every day since! It’s super easy to use: just pop your K-Cup pods in and you’re good to go. So quick and easy- another great gift for your coffee loving friends… especially the ones always on the move.

Wine Glasses

You can probably never have too many wine glasses on hand… especially for an impromptu girls night! And these ones are perfect for every day use: no stems to break, sturdy and adorable!

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Newborn Essentials

What an amazing learning experience it has been this past year. As we quickly approach the one year mark with our baby girl, I can still remember all the newborn moments and firsts we experienced- every time looking for advice from friends and family.

Every mama + baby is different, so this may not be a “one shoe fits all” approach, but these are some of the best products I found when Ariah was a newborn- and I hope they help you just as much as they helped me! And since my life is a constant go go go, I really wanted to make sure that the items I was using were practical for our fast-paced life!

 

Baby Bjorn Carrier/ Solly Wrap
What a lifesaver! If it’s any indication, Ariah’s first plane ride was at 2 months old, so we had to become instant pros at maneuvering an airport with a baby on board. I used the Solly Wrap a few times while she was smaller, switching to the Baby Bjorn when she was about 4-5 months and she could support her neck. It was amazing how I could carry my baby, keep my arms free and keep the weight off my back all at the same time.

Boppy
OMGOSH, we used the Boppy since DAY 1 and never looked back! Every day I found myself more in love with the Boppy, whether I was supporting her while breastfeeding or using it to keep her still in one place for a moment or two… of course, this was all before she learned to roll and crawl, then it was game over!

Diaper Genie
Who wants to smell the stinky diapers piling up in the trashcan, right? Having the Diaper Genie right next to her changing table kept everything clean and easy- without a single dirty diaper smell!

Maxi Cost Car Seat (From Seedlings– A Tampa Baby Boutique)
Easily one of the toughest decisions to make, we researched nonstop about which car seat to get for our daughter. Safety was obviously our number one priority… but that doesn’t mean it can’t be cute! We eventually found the perfect seat at our friend’s boutique in Tampa (Seedlings) and knew it was exactly what we were looking for. 10 months later and Ariah is still enjoying the safety and comfort of this seat, though it’s almost time to start looking for another… our baby girl is getting so big!

A major plus of the seat was that our favorite stroller, the Bugaboo Chameleon 3, had adapters to connect the two together, which made moving on the go a breeze! Snapping her in or taking her out was no problem, so whether we were doing it together or playing a little 1 on 1 with Ariah for the day, we were good to go.

Gucci Diaper Bag
While I was pregnant I was on the hunt for the perfect diaper bag. I knew it was something I felt comfortable splurging on since I would be using it ALL THE TIME- and yet it had to be practical for traveling as well.

From the start I knew an over the shoulder bag wouldn’t work well for me, so I had my eye on backpack diaper bags instead. When I found this Gucci bag, I was immediately obsessed! It is hands down one of the best investments I’ve ever made as a mom and I have no plans of putting it down anytime soon. With all of the different compartments and portable changing pad, it has everything we need when on the move.

Velcro Swaddles
Our little wiggle worm never liked to stay tucked in her swaddles, so when my mom found these Velcro swaddles, they were an absolute game changer! She stayed tucked and slept SO much better… and you know what that means, right? Yep… I slept better too!

Doc A Tot
I know that sometimes things don’t seem worth the money- and honestly, I went back and forth about buying this as well- but when I heard all of the moms raving about them, I knew it was worth a shot. I gave in and ordered the Doc A Tot bassinet dock and WOW, were they right… it was amazing! I used it everywhere: in our bed while we were watching TV, on the couch, traveling or staying at Grandma’s… you name it and we used it there. With so much added cushion and comfort, this is definitely a must-have!

4Moms Mamaroo
Knowing that I had been eyeing this for a while, my Nana and Pop gifted this to us at our baby shower. I loved all of the different settings, and obviously, it was adorable, so it was a must in our house! Ariah loved hanging out in it around the house, when I took a shower (can I get an AMEN for showering in peace mamas!?) and even napped in it during the day. Now that she’s a bit older, we still get use out of it, strapping her in for her morning bottle or to play and watch a few baby cartoons.

Babocush
I actually found out about this item from my wedding makeup artist and thought it was the coolest thing! You strap your baby in while they are laying on their bellies. Then you can turn it on to any of the different settings, add music or vibrations and just let them lay there… or even sleep for a few hours! Obviously, it has to be on a safe surface… it does vibrate after all… but it’s perfect for soothing them or relieving gas in their tiny, little, bellies.

Baby Tracker App
As first-time mamas we want to make sure we’re doing everything right, and the Baby Tracker App helped me to do just that. You can keep track of how much your baby is eating, ounces they are drinking, how long their naps are, when you changed their diaper, etc. Honestly, with everything going on… and hello, #MOMBRAIN is a real thing… it just helps to stay on top of all the things you need to do for your little one.

Wubbanub
At first as a newborn, I’ll admit, we were scared to give her a pacifier with a stuffed animal attached to the back of it for fear of it being a choking hazard. But we quickly fell in love with it and the Wubbanub has been her favorite comfort item ever since. Stay tuned because I think it may be a bit hard to wean her when the time comes!

Zip Up Onesies/ Gowns
Like a typical new mama, as soon as I found out I was having a girl I immediately thought about ALL of the adorable clothes I was going to dress her up in. And then I snapped out of it, haha! I HIGHLY recommend investing in long gown or zip up onesies ONLY and nothing with buttons if you ever want to get that squirmy wormy dressed!

Gripe Water
Where would we be without all of our mommy friends, right? Thankfully one of my friends recommended Gripe Water to me because though I had never heard of it before, I quickly found out that it’s basically magic for your baby’s tummy! It helps with hiccups and works to prevent colic or tummy discomfort so babies can pass all of the milk they’re drinking without getting fussy.

If Ariah was screaming her head off and I didn’t know what to do, I immediately went down the list: Sleep? Food? Diaper change? If nothing else worked I would give her some Gripe Water and the all-natural water would soothe her belly and change her mood within moments!

Dreft
Finally, I highly recommend this laundry detergent (or another baby safe brand) to keep your baby protected- especially for those with sensitive skin like Ariah. Remember, our clothes are always in constant contact with our little ones and even other people’s detergent would irritate her soft skin. Having natural and safe products to soothe our babies in should always be at the top of our list!

 

Down below I linked a bunch of our newborn must haves that I hope helps all of you new mommies, mommies-to-be or for you to pass to your friends that are new expecting!

 

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Fall Trends: Red + Leopard

We may still be in Florida until the season ends, but it’s officially Fall, so I’m taking every opportunity I get to dress in my favorite seasonal trends.

This season I am loving the bold statement red + leopard pieces popping up in most of my go-to stores.

For this outfit, I decided to throw on my favorite black jeans from Zara. They’re ridiculously comfortable and I’m finding myself reaching for them for just about any outfit these days- they’re perfect!

Then to make my outfit really pop I chose this soft, red knit sweater from H & M and finished them with these adorable leopard + floral sandals from Macy’s.

I know sandals aren’t really a “fall trend” but hey- we are in Florida remember? So it works!

To finish my accessories I needed two things.

First I grabbed my black Ray Ban aviators

and finished the look with my black, Chanel Boy bag that my hubby surprised me with for my 23rd birthday.

The best part about this outfit? I can switch it up endlessly to keep creating stylish looks without ever getting tired of these amazing statement pieces. You can definitely expect to see more of these pieces soon!

 

All photo credits belong to: Leigh Clifton

 

Looking for more red + leopard inspirations?
Shop this post 👇🏽 for all the items you see ☝🏽 + so many other of my favorite fall trends!

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Wedding Day Details Pt 2: Style + Fashion

Are you ready to talk all things wedding fashion + style?

While every part of our wedding will always hold a special place in my heart- and truly we were blessed to have an out of this world celebration- I have to admit, I’m SO excited to talk about the fashion!

But let’s save the dress for last…

 

Starting with our groomsmen, we headed to Men’s Wearhouse where the guys found beautiful suits in the Joseph Abound Collection. What was perfect for them was that they were able to be fully customizable, and so Mike- and each of his groomsmen- were fitted exactly to their different body types.

But best of all? They each had their nicknames and jacket linings customized to their liking… giving them each their own personal style!

I definitely had a back + forth struggle trying to pick the bridesmaids colors at first. While I won’t even begin to tell you some of my original ideas (trust me, I’m doing you a favor) I will say that I ended up choosing something that was flattering and timeless for my gorgeous bridesmaids… and thankfully, I don’t think I’ll hate it when I look back 10 years from now! In the end, we went with an Alfred Angelo dress from David’s Bridal, and just look at how beautiful these ladies are…

Oh… our beautiful flower girl.

I knew I wanted the perfect dress for Mackenzie because this day was just as special for her as it was for us. Thankfully, we found it rather easily: I was meeting with Nadine from Who Made the Cake when I saw picture after picture of her adorable daughters in these amazing feather dresses. Nadine raved about Melissa Jane Designs and after looking at her site we knew it was exactly what we were looking for. Of course Mackenzie’s dress- with rhinestones, lace and feathers- was dramatic and beautiful, but when she spun in it for the first time, she thought she was a princess and THAT made it so much better!

Two things I know for sure ladies…

One: no one ever wants to spend the whole night in high heels… and two: moms are always right! My mom had the best idea to provide all of the female guests with “Rescue Flats” that are the most adorably simple flat to keep dancing the night away in. By the end of the night, almost every lady at the party- myself included- had on a pair of them… what a lifesaver!

Speaking of shoes… I’m in LOVE with my wedding day Jimmy Choo’s! I wasn’t 100% sure which brand or designer to go with in the beginning, but I did know it had to be comfortable! Between you + I, my biggest fear was slipping while walking down the aisle, so this was a BIG deal.

I tried on everything from Louboutin’s to Valentino’s, but finally fell in love with my Jimmy Choo’s! Not only did they look fantastic, but truly, they were the most comfortable shoe I tried on all day.

Lucky for me my amazing hair stylist in Houston, Vincent, referred me to his friend Caroline, who was a talented wedding hairstylist. Caroline worked for a company called Blush + Co. (also out of Houston) and their specialty was wedding hair + makeup. I knew I wanted something down- but to the side– and with soft curls that would stay out of my face for most of the night… and Caroline did just that! Then she went on to work her magic for my entire bridal party!

For my makeup, I turned to Alaina from The Color Du Jour, who is super well known on Instagram for her work. Funny enough, she was local, so we met to do the trial run for the big day and I absolutely fell in love with the look she gave me.

We went with softer pink tones for the eye with a light pink/ nude lip… and it was perfect. On the day of the wedding, she flawlessly glammed up myself, my mother and mother-in-law, all the grandmas and a few bridesmaids- just the way I had envisioned it. Blush + Co. stepped in and perfected the makeup for the rest of the bridal party because again… it was quite a few!

And finally… the dress.

The one thing I had been thinking about since I was a little girl…

The dress that truly makes you a bride…

And what I would be wearing when Mike saw me walking down the aisle for the first time…

 It had to be perfect.

By April of 2015, I knew it was time to start searching and so with an idea already in mind- but totally open to suggestions- I made an appointment at Mia Bridal Couture. Coincidentally my appointment happened to be on the same day as a trunk show for couture designer Alon Livne… and wouldn’t you know every dress I was picking out was from that designer.

Every dress was SO stunning- and exactly the style I was going for.

So I tried on the first dress and just… loved it. Absolutely everything about it, I loved.

My mom and Grandma both kept asking, “but what is the ONE thing you don’t like about this dress?” and honestly I could think of nothing.

But you never buy your first dress right?

So I kept trying on other dresses- gorgeous dresses- but nothing struck me like that very first one. Finally, after going back to it time and time again, I just KNEW it had to be the one.

The detailing, the style… it was all so ME + everything I wanted Mike to see me walking down the aisle in.

My dream dress.

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Wedding Day Details Pt 1: Our Amazing Vendors

 

First comes L O V E, then comes M A R R I A G E…

The story of planning our wedding, all the way up to our actual wedding day is something I have wanted to share for SO LONG! For those nearest and dearest to us, you might have already seen the photos, but I promise this is still chockfull of behind the scenes and unseen pics.

As you all know from the From the Beginning post, we got engaged December 19th (2 days after my birthday!) and from there I took off with the planning process. With football coming to an end- and us headed back to Houston- I knew this was it… FULL BLOWN WEDDING MODE.

I was sooo excited, but first things first… I had to find a wedding planner.

There was so much to do… and I mean, SO much: meet vendors, pick a venue, + of course, find my DREAM wedding dress.

But we weren’t about to do all of that without the most important people in our lives by our side…

26 bridesmaids and groomsmen later we were set!

If you don’t know by now how amazing Pinterest is, then this is officially your introduction… it.is.the.best!

I quickly began ‘pinning’ things on Pinterest: dress inspo, décor, flowers + wedding gifts to give our wedding party. I don’t think you ever realize just how much planning goes into planning your dream wedding until you’re right in the thick of it… but with so many decisions- and so little time- I was on it!

I still remember choosing Todd Events to design + plan our special day. I had heard + seen the amazing events that Todd and his team had planned in the past and they were all absolutely S T U N N I N G!

Of course, first I sent them my favorite Pinterest inspirations…

Then we met to discuss color schemes, floral arrangements, centerpieces + so much more…

And with that I left completely satisfied that they not only understood my vision… but that they would make it even that much better!

The actual ceremony and reception venue turned out to be the second place that we looked at. We needed something that WOW’d us… while also fitting our list of 500 people!!! From the second I walked into The Corinthian, I knew it was the one… and funny enough, it was even on my Pinterest Inspo board : ) It was enormous… it was grand… and it was the perfect place to celebrate our big day!

Next we had to pick out the ever so important Save the Dates + Invites.

Wedding Paper Divas designed EVERYTHING from the save the dates to the invites to even the napkins at the bridal shower and wedding. They knew exactly what I was looking for and perfectly coordinated the tones and fonts to fit our wedding scheme. They were truly a great team to work with!

Next we had to pick photographer(s), caterers, and all of the entertainment!

From the moment I spoke to Martha (of Unique Design Studio) I knew I was going to love her! Known for photographing other NFL weddings, I easily found her beautiful work on social media. As soon as I found my wedding dress, I scheduled my bridal shoot in Miami at a beautiful location she had found.

On the day of our wedding she captured every.single.detail- and I mean everything! The thought and care she put into each moment will help us to treasure those memories for the rest of our lives! Thank you soooo much Martha!

We also knew we wanted to have a videographer, and so for that we went with Alex + Whitney from Sculpting With Time. We first met them at Kyle Field (Texas A + M’s home field) where they perfectly captured us running crazy with Mackenzie around the stadium… as well as on my Grandparents’ beautiful ranch another time. If they could capture those moments- especially, in the place where we fell in love- we knew they could capture our wedding day too… and WOW did they deliver! Not only are they an inspirational couple to be around and work with in general, but they produced a gorgeous 15-minute wedding film that we will always have to relive that incredible day… hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Ashli + Mike Evans | Feature Film from Sculpting With Time Productions

For our cakes… yes cakes… we went with Nadine Moon from Who Made the Cake (what a great name btw!) in Houston. Nadine effortlessly took my “want list” of cream colors, pearls and lace detailing and turned it into a masterpiece.

While she whipped up her design, my mom, grandma and best friend, Breanna, + I tasted all the different flavors she had to offer. When I say it was hard to choose… I MEAN IT! Everything was so delicious, but eventually we knew the one that was right for us!

As a surprise, I had a custom Groom’s Cake made but the initial design part was a bit…. challenging. Mike has so many hobbies and likes, but in the end we went with a Harry Potter Groom’s Cake with each tier designated to a different house at Hogwart’s!

If you know Mike then you know that Harry Potter is his absolute favorite movie series of all time- and yes he knows ALL 8 word for word! Forget going toe to toe with him over sports, he likes a good Harry Potter challenge and usually wins every time! Needless to say… the cake was a major hit!

Knowing we would want endless memories of the night, we hired a photo booth company to capture all of the fun + excitement with our family and friends.

 

Entertainment was a whole other ball game. We needed the party to start… and never stop! We ended up going with 3 different forms of entertainment: Our orchestra, Divisi Strings welcomed our guests before the ceremony. Next, our incredible wedding singer Trace Kennedey, a well-known singer from the X Factor, sang the most perfect rendition of our wedding song ‘Thinking Out Loud’ by Ed Sheeran.

And finally, to keep the dance floor hot all night, we had DJ Steve Nice, from the popular Houston radio station 97.9 The Box. From start to finish, it was literally music to our ears!

With only a few things left, we quickly found our rehearsal dinner spot and caterers.

As soon as Mike heard caterers, he was all about it! I mean what kind of guy wouldn’t want to go try all kinds of amazing food, right? With so many guests and different food preferences, it was SO hard to narrow it down. In the end, we went with Jackson and Company Catering and chose 4 different food stations so there was something for everyone! From the freshest seafood bar to beef and potatoes to a pasta station… NO ONE went home hungry that night!

Finally, it was about where to hold the rehearsal dinner the night before. JW Marriot Houston Downtown Hotel was more than gracious to host our sit down dinner, where we spent the night telling stories, laughing and friends and family sending us wishes for love + happiness.

Later that night, we extended the invitation to our other out of town guests to enjoy a casino and open bar with us, also at JW Marriot. That evening- and the following day after the wedding (which was also Valentine’s Day)- we stayed in the Presidential Suite at the JW. They also gifted us blushing newlyweds with a complimentary couple’s massage… it was the BEST way to start our first day being married.

I even pulled off a few surprises throughout the night…

Such as a video game truck for Mike and his groomsmen for the morning of the wedding! They LOVE video games so I knew this would be the perfect gift for them… and I have to say, IT WAS A HIT!

Then for added entertainment for our guests, we hired a caricature artist from Best Entertainers to sketch pictures of our guests all night long.


Not only was it fun… but it was the perfect souvenir for them to remember the night.

Finally, if you grew up in Texas, then you would know (and I mean… if you know, YOU KNOW) that Whataburger was always one of the go-to fast food spots- especially for late nights after Northgate!

Whenever we head home to Texas, Whataburger is usually one of our first stops, so it was only right that we brought something we love so much to all of our guests after a late night of partying and dancing!

The surprises may have been fun for everyone to see, eat and experience… but I loved being able to watch them all enjoy it even more I think. There’s no better way to thank your loved ones for the continuous support and love than injecting some added fun into the night!

Well, that’s that… everything from start to finish.

My next post will be ALL things wedding style and chic… and yes… that means the dress!

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Pumpkin Bread Love

Ever since I was a little girl I can remember my family making this pumpkin bread.

It’s the kind of memory that makes your mouth water just by thinking of it.

I remember so many times in my childhood, practically begging my Nana to help her mix all of the ingredients. Now, here I am making it for my own little family + all of the amazing memories come flooding back each and every time. And of course, they love it just as much!

*On a side note, I’m obsessed with anything pumpkin or cinnamon, so baking this in my oven leaves my house smelling AMAZING all day long.*

This recipe has been in my family for many generations… + now I’m passing it on to you! From my family to yours, we hope you enjoy baking up some Pumpkin Bread goodness for everyone to love!

 

 

 

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Our Love Story: From the Beginning…

They say nothing really ever happens by chance.

That the way two people meet…
Or the circumstances that brought them together…
Or the instant connection they share…

It’s not by chance- but by f a t e – and I couldn’t agree more.

That destined day back in 2013, when Mike and I met seems like a million years ago some days, and yet I still remember it like it was yesterday.

At the time he was at Texas A&M and I was attending Blinn Junior College, still trying to figure this thing called life out. It could have been like any other normal college day: friends getting together, meeting new people, hanging out and having fun.

But it wasn’t any normal day… it was the day I would meet the love of my life.

Our connection was intense from the moment we met: I’m talking butterflies + fireworks— the real deal.

We quickly realized that we shared so many of the same interests, one of them being going to the movies, so obviously it was a no-brainer to make that our first date. From that point on we spent every minute we could together, hanging out with our friends, seeing movies and going to Northgate.

And then football season started.

Of course I had heard how amazing Mike was- I mean, people literally stopped and asked him for a picture everywhere we went– but it wasn’t until I saw him play with my own two eyes that I was truly blown away.

He had such natural skill at Wide Receiver that he made it look almost easy! The chemistry he had on the field with his quarterback and good friend Johnny Manziel, his talent, and obvious love for the game was so impressive to watch!

I loved going to every one of his games, cheering him on, being there to support him- but it was the game that I finally got to meet his daughter Mackenzie that will forever hold my heart. It was a game against Auburn and his mom brought Mackenzie to watch her Daddy play- and WOW, did he play for his little girl! As it turned out, that game would be one of his best college career games ever and she was there to watch it all.

Meeting his daughter, spending that time with her, and seeing who Mike was as a father brought this whole new kind of love for him that I never knew existed.

What I DIDN’T know was that Mike’s college career was about to be over! He entered the 2014 NFL Draft and was drafted the overall 7th pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers!

How incredibly crazy/beautiful it was to watch the moment he was drafted- I almost remember it like it was yesterday.

It was such an anxious moment for everyone… so many mixed emotions and so many nerves… yet a lot of excitement! I remember the moment Mike got the phone call sitting at the round table, it was such an emotional moment for him, + then they called his name and it became real! He was holding Mackenzie and just thinking about how blessed he was to be in that position. It was incredible.

And that was that: we packed up and moved to Tampa… new town, new home, new team.

That first year in the NFL was crazy! We learned so much about each other and ourselves… and HELLO, remember, we were only 20!

But you live and you learn and you love and you grow… that’s life, right?!

So there we were later in 2014, it’s almost my birthday and Christmas is (TOO QUICKLY) approaching. All I wanted to do was plan the P E R F E C T Christmas for Mackenzie and our families. It was so important to me to welcome them into our home and make this an unforgettable experience for everyone.

We celebrated Christmas a few days ahead because the truth is that life in the NFL doesn’t always mean being there for the holidays, but making the most of the time you do have.

Sooo… again, there we were enjoying everyone’s company, exchanging gifts and loving this time together. After everyone finished opening their gifts Mike hands me one more gift to open… in the shape of a shoe box.

If you know me at all, you know how excited I was… and if you know my husband at all, you know it “probably” wasn’t just any pair of shoes.

I unwrapped the box and immediately see it’s none other than a box from Christian Louboutin… eekkk! Inside was THE cutest pair of blue Pigalle’s.

But that wasn’t all…

My eye quickly saw a smaller blue box from Tiffanys inside- and at that point I’m ecstatic thinking that I’m about to get new earrings too- but everyone gets super quiet.

Like waiting to hear a pin drop kinda quiet.

I’m staring at the blue box, hardly realizing that Mike is getting down on one knee right.in.front.of.me.

He takes the box from me….
Opens it…
I’m shaking…
And he asks, “Ashli Nicole Dotson, I have one question, will you marry me?”

Half crying/ half screaming I say “YES!”… and then cry and cry and cry.

It was absolutely beautiful and perfect: surrounded by our family, everyone in the holiday spirit and me completely surprised. To this day Mike says it was one of the most nervous days of his life… but like always, he does an amazing job.

We immediately set the date and I got to planning the wedding of a lifetime.

On February 13th, 2016 we had the dream wedding I had always hoped for… but that’s a story for another time…