Celebrating Us with Carnival Cruise + Eastern Caribbean

Hey sweet folk!

Three weeks ago my Darling Man and I flew south and embarked upon a glorious, fun 2nd anniversary trip (which isn’t actually until March 7th!). We just loved our seven day Carnival Cruise in the Eastern Caribbean. I only wish I had enjoyed it more! (And for you’re enjoyment click on the picture to see them up close.) 😉

We loved starting our trip by visiting wit Dalton’s aunt and uncle … they were so awesome and dropped us at the St. Louis airport at the crack of dawn (3 am!). We’re so thankful for you, Bob and Judee!

Oh, I also have to mention “Clubby,” the one-footed pigeon in the Fort Lauderdale airport; we loved being greeted by a tourist friendly bird. 😉

The ship was so beautiful. We sailed on the Conquest which housed … I think up to 2,000 visitors from all over the country. It was hard to choose what to do with the many pools and hot tubs, water slide, giant movie screen, live entertainment and music, and several restaurants.

We were so excited to get a suite — we decided that we were willing to pay to have a view! There were no regrets. Our room was beautiful and we really enjoyed our sweet room attendant, Aileen, who made our bed, turned down the sheets and always had our ice bucket filled up. I especially had fun squealing over her towel-animal creations; she was so talented! It was fun feeling like royals for a week! 😉

We sailed the first two days, and then visited one of the ports on Grand Turk (the capital of Turks & Caicos Islands). Such a lovely place! We went on an excursion where we snorkeled over a reef and then went to Gibbs Cay where sting rays were swimming around. I didn’t touch one but it was fun watching other’s squirm with them!

Before our trip was over we also spent a day at Amber Cove on the Dominican Republic and Nassau, Bahamas (which was my favorite).

What was our personal favorites on the ship? I know I enjoyed the coffee bar and since Dalton worked out at least 2-3 times a day I’d wager he enjoyed the gym. 😉

It was so special to spend my 26th birthday at on our cruise. Early in the morning we got a knock on our door where someone delivered Dalton’s surprise gift to me — a yummy chocolate cake and rose! He is SUCH a sweetheart! It was a lot of fun to spend the rest of the day docked in Nassau. We walked several blocks of the old, downtown area … I especially wanted to visit their library and my dear Dalton went to take me but we got lost among the old buildings!

This is where I have to stop and say how much more I wish I had enjoyed this trip. I had been feeling queasy most of our vacation (due to sea sickness, I think) but the day of my birthday ended with me spending several hours sick to my stomach. (What a waste of a perfect birthday cake!) 😉

Because of that I was a real party-pooper most of the trip. I’ve got to brag on my Man because all through the trip he continued to bless and encourage me despite my grumpiness. One of these vacations I’ll learn to take full advantage of it! 😉 Anyways, I have got one great man! Hearts!

IMG_4062I loved seeing D all dressed up for the elegant dinner on the 2nd day of sea. He’s such a stud!

I’m pretty sure all eyes were on us during the trip because of our (fairly) conservative appearance. More then once we were asked if we were Mennonite and which colony we came from! Haha!

I think that’s why I loved our “dressing up” night You can’t see it here but I had a beautiful, colorful hi-low skirt on paired with a black top and D looked super cute in his dress jeans, button up and black vest. We must have looked like very stylish Mennonites. 😉

p.s. I just have to ogle Dalton’s gorgeous beard! I love it when he can grow it out since work requires him clean shaven. Hahaha … oh, are you uncomfortable? But just look at how GORGOUS his manbeard is?! Okay, okay, I’ll stop. 😉 😀

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Overall, it was a splendid trip and I’m so glad we were able to go. Since we try to go on a big trip with each other every year I’m looking forward to next year’s anniversary itinerary. Next week I’ll have a packing list of what to bring on a cruise from my point of view.

Love, blessings and coffee!

Frannie

Hello 2016!

Currently Series with Authentic Virtue Blog

We all celebrate milestones differently. Me? I light candles, pour coffee and snuggle in; especially now as I reflect over what the Lord did in 2015 and what He may do this coming year.

It’s been a blessed, beautiful, adventure-filled year.

First, we celebrated our 1st anniversary and went on our postponed honeymoon to Las Vegas (baby!). We absolutely loved being able to afford our first nine day vacation with each other. We walked the strip (a lot), swam in our resort’s lazy river every day and thoroughly enjoyed our friendship and recalling our first year together.

Las Vegas! Las Vegas! Me and my Darling!

We logged hundreds of hours on our local interstate visiting family and making memories with the folk who really make our life tick. I’ve got to say that we really love Dalton’s 3-day weekends! We’ve been to Branson, Missouri with both sides of our family, surprised parents, and spent a lot of time in my mother-in-law’s salon. I’m so thankful our dear family are only 3 hours down the road.

What a silly group of folk

I began last year substituting in a local Christian school and then accepted an official, part-time position this school year as librarian and p.e. instructor. I’ve learned so much from accepting this position. I’ve helped put together a book fair, discovered how to prepare usable lesson plans, spent hours decorating my space and countless time loving (and being loved) by awesome kids and staff. It’s a challenge I’m so glad I accepted.

I even hosted my very own brunch! 😉 Only one soul was able to attend but we sure had a delightful time and I finally branched into hosting!

Hello, brunch!

This blog has also grown! I feel like Authentic Virtue became an adult this year when I moved from my beloved BlogSpot space to my own domain and WordPress! 😀 I enjoyed the excitement of having one of my articles featured by To Love, Honor and Vacuum and felt the thrill (and freakout!) of branching into an actual Facebook site and Periscope channel!

Speaking of the blog, here are 2015’s top five posts of the year! (I still can’t believe #1 got 1,752 views! I also can’t believe I wrote about such a controversial topic!)

Yes, it’s been a beautiful year. I’ve become more adultish. I’ve had to schedule my own doctor appointments, successfully completed a sugar fast (twice!), read more, made friends (hey! it’s a big deal for an introvert in a new city 😉 ), and pushed myself to work harder for my goals and dreams.

(I’ve also failed my sugar fast, gained a few pounds and cried a lot over little things … all things in moderation, right? 😉 )

Soon I’ll be penciling plans and dreams into a new calendar. Ordinary, day-to-day tasks will need to be inspired and revamped. I’ll need to find new ways to keep my home better and do small things with great love. We’ll need to organize our priorities as we discuss what we think God desires from us in our mid-Western town. Should we begin a Bible study? Should we get involved with the Boys and Girls Club? Should we look into renting the adorable house up the street?

There’s also the possibilities. Will I get pregnant? Will Dalton apply for a promotion? Will we stay in Jefferson City?

(I’ll also turn twenty-six in eight days … I’m getting old, ya’ll.)

So many possibilities, so many opportunities for God to reveal Himself through our lives.

What has your year looked like? Care to share some of your 2016 schemes and dreams?

I know one thing about 2016; we’ll sure enjoy our 2nd anniversary Eastern Caribbean cruise … 😉

Love, blessings and coffee,

Frannie

Decorating for Christmas on a Newlywed Budget

Christmas Decor on a Newlywed Budget

It’s a joy-filled, sunny day in our neck of the woods. Christmas is only ten days away and my little heart can hardly stand it! 🙂 This is our second Christmas as a married couple and it has been enjoyable in every way — what a blessed, love-filled month it has been!

One of the difficulties many new brides (and single folk too!) experience is decorating for Christmas on a budget. We fret, stress and grumble remembering how lovely our childhood Christmas’ were; we want our homes to be as cozy and festive as the one’s left behind. Can any one relate? Or am I alone in this? 😉

Thankfully, creating a beautiful, cozy holiday home does not need to break the newlywed’s budget. Join me as I show you eleven of my favorite affordable decorating ideas for Christmas. (This is an excellent excuse for me to browse Pinterest … cue the hot coffee, chocolate and Pinterest marathon!) 😉

DIY Advent Countdown

Isn’t this Advent calendar delightful? Start with toilet paper rolls, ribbon, tape and paper and end with something you can hide treats in. I love it! (link here)

Handmade Ornaments

Cinnamon ornaments smell yummy and add a rustic charm; I’ll be making some of these this week! (link + recipe here!)

Isn’t this little nest so sweet? Our tree is very reflective of our home and personalities; I have a few birds nest tucked away and several berries springing out of branches; this little nest would be a perfect addition! (link here)

Delightful Decorations

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Stop by Lowes and ask if you could have the pine branches left from the tree cuttings. Branches are a delicious (free!) way of bringing the natural elements of the winter season  inside. (link here)

Wrap a few miscellaneous boxes in scrapbook paper or pages of books you no longer use (if you have the heart to rip up a book!) 😉 I think these little, hanging gifts would be enchanting above a kitchen sink. (link here)

Use your library to add a unique, quirky “tree” in your home! I loved this idea and made three “trees” in the school’s library using various green books — I just love how bookish and Christmas-y it looks! (link here)

Smells for St. Nicolas

There are so many affordable, natural ways to make your home smell delicious for the holidays. Toss some apple or orange peels, cinnamon sticks and sprinkle various spices to get a yummy November smell or add pine and evergreen for a fresh Christmas smell. (link + recipe here)

Chalkboard Creations

I love Callie’s Christmas décor and her chalkboard is no exception! (link here)

Isn’t this chalkboard by Dear Lillie a delight? Add personal charm to your Christmas home by lettering a unique phrase or bit of Scripture you love. (link here)

Wreath Wishes

Again, Callie’s Christmas coziness inspires me! I love her wreath above the dining table and even the branch in the pitcher. So adorable!! (link here)

Finally, this set of wintery wreaths delight my Christmas-loving heart and have me wishing for inches of snow and never ending coats and mittens. (link here)

The wonderful thing about each of these pictures is that the sort of coziness oozing from them is available to even the tightest budget. If you crave a welcoming, wintry haven but are on a tight budget rejoice! You have the perfect excuse to use your hands and make something beautiful with them.

How do you decorate on a budget? Have you ever known a holiday where finances were tight but your inspiration abounding? Share with us, dear, and let’s grow together in grace and beauty!

Love, blessings and coffee,

Frannie

p.s. Here’s some of my own Christmas inspirations!

Our Christmas tree is very earth toned — it simply delights my heart! Glittery pinecones, bird nests, white berries and fruits of the Spirit written on log slices make it truly unique to us! <3

Of course the quirky, uneven string of lights add to the mood of sweet fun in our home. And leftover Thanksgiving pumpkins sit happily beneath the limbs; I couldn’t bare throwing them out! 😉 Naturally, Braveheart would be an excellent companion to such a wintery day.

Kitchen Table diy with One Step Paint + Alotta Love

Around these parts we believe in celebrating moments of upcycling, diy victories and decorating successes.

So, when our neighbors told me know they had a spare table they’d love to pass our way I couldn’t help but say yes. Because, #tbh, I absolutely love all things that have to do with decorating our little abode.

Thus, the story of our tiny, yellow, adorable table begins.

Yellow Table DIY

Except that it didn’t begin that way at all.

It began with a small can of Amy Howard’s One Step Paint, the cheapest paintbrush Ace Hardware had and many handfuls of excited expectations (aka me).

Step one required washing the table down and applying black chalk paint around the edges (for eventual distressing purposes).

Step two involved applying the first coat of paint — which I now love! This stuff sticks to almost anything including my little laminate table. (Without the need for primer or sanding!) 🙂

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Step three is a continuation of step two …

… finally, one afternoon and three coats later I had the most adorable, little table settling into its new home. I distressed the edges to give it that shabby look I love. While this little guy is just a “for now” I can’t help but be attached to him. 🙂

Every time I walk into my kitchen I can’t help but smile a little; the yellow is just perfect and the chalky finish delights. And, to be honest, it’s just fun to have somewhere to place dinner plates.

What have you been crafting lately? Any diy success stories you’d love to share?

Because I love celebrating the little things!

Love, blessings and coffee,

Frannie

p.s: tune into Friday morning’s live Periscope moment at 10:30 CST (@FrannieAnneDuncan) to see the lovely goodies I’d love to send you way! I’ll be there with a full mug of coffee! 😉

How To Properly Pamper Your Partner

Dalton is the warlord of pampering.

Did that come out correctly?

I mean, D has pondered, studied, practiced, and executed the most perfectly planned pampering a girl could receive. He’s the king, the bomb, the warlord of treating me well.

I’ve got you curious don’t I? Well, let me explain.

Occasionally, we like to sanction a day for the each of us where we plan to pamper, bless and spoil the other. It’s a lot of fun. Think of it like your un-birthday that happens whenever we have extra cash in the budget; honestly, we’ve thrown pamper days when we had zero to spend (those days just require a little more creativity). 😉

A few weeks ago we sanctioned two days for our fun and my day came first.

I woke up to the sound of my Beloved leaving the house. I knew he had something up his sleeve! I dressed and tidied the house while I waited for him. He came home with two fresh, delicious doughnuts! I LOVE DOUGHNUTS! He had noticed that I had been drooling over the local bakery’s selection and picked the two he knew I’d like best. What a guy!! 😀 He also finished making my coffee and we settled down for a glorious, slow morning.

I prepped to leave for school when he told me that I’d find something yummy in the car. And there, in the passenger seat, lay a king-sized Reese’s peanut butter package! YUM! I LOVE REESE’S! It was the perfect treat to carry me through my 5 hours of p.e. class in the smoldering sun.

I came home, showered, was massaged and then asked to pick where I wanted to eat. We journeyed on to our favorite Thai place and had a delicious meal. I had two (2!) Thai teas … I think the calorie count of the day was high. But hey, it’s pamper day! It isn’t the same as every other day of the month! 😉

My Darling Man had set several candles throughout our bedroom which made for a very romantic evening … what a guy! (blush, blush!)

Yes, my Man is the king of pampering. And I am one very blessed girl.

But this post isn’t just a brag on D, it’s a how-to for pampering your partner perfectly. Here are five (5!) steps to becoming the best pamperer!

  1. Know your person

Love languages are very real and very easy to follow. I’m a gifts and quality time person so D knows that to really impress me it takes just a thoughtful gift and a little of his time. D is quality time and physical touch. What’s your person’s language? Figure it out and aim to meet it and you will be one step toward perfectly pampering your partner!

(By the way, check out this site if you want to take the quiz and read more about your love language! 🙂

2. Plan Ahead

This *is* important. Of course life is spontaneous and flexibility is key but if you want to perfectly pamper someone a little thought goes a long way. D had figured out my favorite type of doughnut, left a treat in the car and sent sweet texts throughout the day. His thoughtfulness ensured success!

3. Pursue the Heart

When pampering it is important to remember that all of the gifts, time and care you give will pale if you forget to pursue your partner’s heart. This means that it is important to care about their spiritual and emotional needs as well as blessing them physically and maybe even materialistically. D conquers every day because he always cares about how I am doing; he doesn’t wait to pursue me till date night. He pursues my heart always.

4. Be creative

To perfectly pamper your partner you’re going to have to put on your thinking cap and be creative. We’ve done pamper nights often throughout our marriage but they rarely look the same. Variety is fun and meaningful!

I’ve found it fun to plan a theme around D’s day. One day may be movie themed or Minecraft themed (we’re nerds). Another may be all about food (think meals they will love) … I think that day involved taking my guy out for sushi.

5. Don’t be afraid to be cheap

In real life money is tight and you may think setting aside a day for your mate may be costly. Don’t buy that lie, folks! Blessing your spouse (or friend, or parent, or …) can definetly be done with little to no money.

For D’s pampering day I knew the budget would be tight. So, I planned ahead, prepared a menu I knew he would *love* with ingredients we already had on hand and then told him he had $15 to spend on whatever he wanted. I think he bought a small container of icecream, a pizza from Aldis and a watermelon. The rest of the day was spent relaxing, getting massages and enjoying homemade meals.

There you have it — five ways to perfectly pamper your partner. I would love to hear how you pursue and bless your people. Do you follow any of the steps? Or maybe you have your own original recipe for pampering? Do tell!

One very happy girl,

Frannie