Ugly Christmas Sweater Ideas

It’s that time of year again and everyone is in full holiday mode. There are so many parties to attend: office parties, family parties, and parties with friends. Don’t be Scrooge and show up in a grey sweater. Put on your holiday best for your next Ugly Christmas Sweater party! Here are a few ideas that aren’t so ugly for your next party.

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Dresses

I was obsessed with my dress I found this year. Here are some of my favorite picks from Amazon, Target and more.

Sweaters

Who says your sweater has to be UGLY for the Ugly Christmas sweater parties. Here are a few cute options I found from Shein, Amazon and more. read more

Surprise Proposal, I said YES

Engagement photos dallas

How we met

Justin and I have been dating for 3 and a half years and it all started with a swipe right. Isn’t that how everyone meets now? Our first date was a total flop.  I don’t know why the date was so bad. It was a Tuesday and we had decided to get dinner after work, maybe it had been a long day for both of us. We decided to give it a second try and go on another date…. obviously I’m glad we did!

Planning the Surprise

This past weekend my boyfriend, now fiance, planned the perfect proposal. I had mentioned I wanted a photographer to capture the moment and luckily Justin was listening when I had suggested that. He had planned for my friend Sarah, from Sarah Kelly Photography, to drive to Dallas for a day and take photos of the proposal. For them to surprise me took a lot of planning. They came up with the idea of making the photo shoot seem like my idea. Sarah told me she was trying to build her portfolio and asked if she could take photos of me and Justin. Without a doubt, I wanted a photo for a Christmas card and I said yes. I had asked Justin if he was available Saturday to take photos…. of course, he was free, he had planned it. He faked being reluctant to take photos and said he could only spare 20 minutes. read more

Nordstrom Rack Picks for Christmas

Many people are shocked to hear that you can shop at Nordstrom Rack ONLINE!! I’ve rounded up my favorite picks from Nordstrom Rack below. Nordstrom Rack has all the same great products and brands from Nordstrom and discounts them after the season is over.  You can get all your favorite brands at discount prices and use your Nordstrom Gift Cards. You do have to pay for shipping and return, but you can return in store if you don’t want to pay the shipping fee. Shipping is a flat fee of $6 and free for orders over $100! read more

Gift guides: Monogram, Home, and Traveler

The holiday season is in full swing with decorations going up and holiday shopping. This year I made a few gift guides that I hope you enjoy and are able to find something you like!

  • Monogram Gift Guide
  • Home Gift Guide
  • Traveler Gift Guide

Monogram Gift Guide

We all have a friend that loves a good monogrammed gift. Here are a few ideas ranging from earrings to stationary.

1  Bauble Bar | Alpha Ice Pendant
2  Bauble Bar |Block Acrylic Monogram Coaster Set
Marley Lilly | Monogrammed Reversible Disc Earrings
4 Mark & Graham | S’well Water Bottle
Amazon | Kate Spade New York Women’s Initial Thermal Travel Mug Tumbler, 16oz, S (Pink)
6 Paper Source | Monogram Border Stationery
7 Mark & Graham | Dreamy PJ Set, Navy
8 Mark & Graham | Blanket Scarf with Fringe, Ivory and Charcoal Window Pane
Mark & Graham|Travel Jewelry Case
10 Marley Lilly | Monogrammed Jewelry Tray read more

Hermes and Cartier Designer Bracelet Dupes

I snagged these designer dupe bracelets last spring and love them! These bracelets and necklaces are a great gift for a friend or a nice treat for yourself!

Click here to shop my favorite designer dupes on Amazon!

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Paired the designer bracelet dupes with this plaid poncho from Nordstrom, a black tank top, and my favorite JCrew factory jeans. I’m 5’3″, so these jeans, with a 28″ inseam, are perfect for my height. I have these jeans in 4 colors…. that’s how much I love them! read more

Home Office Redesign

I had a blast changing the guest bedroom into a home office and craft room. My only regret was not doing before/after photos! This room used to be the guest bedroom and had more or less turned into my extended closet. We weren’t using the space so Justin wanted to make a more usable space and turn it into a home office.

 

We raised the curtains all the way to the ceiling to “expand” the room. Older houses or condos have the curtain rod right at the top of the window. However, if you raise the curtain all the way to the ceiling it really expands the room. you can still see the holes in the wall where the curtain rod used to be… cleaning those up next weekend. 🙂

The desk, rug, and dresser all from the Crate & Barrel outlet store in Dallas (linked here). I feel like not too many people in Dallas know about the Crate & Barrel outlet. I’ve found some really good deals there. Some of the furniture has been returned or slightly damaged, but you can get 40% off a sofa or new dining table and fix it up. You also have to arrange for pick-up and delivery, so find a friend with a truck or rent a u-haul if you’re buying a big piece of furniture.

I love this new letterboard that I found at Home Centric. I linked similar ones from Amazon.

My favorite part of the room is this wall with the 9 square photos frames. These photo frames are just under $50 and such a steal! This dresser is full of crafts. I can’t wait to get started on some holiday crafting.

Be sure to follow along on Instagram and Pinterest! Also, don’t forget to sign up for my email list to get notifications about the latest blog posts.

Best,
Rachel

Winc Wine Night

It’s no secret that I love a good glass of Chardonnay. Lately, I’ve been sticking to the same wine labels and haven’t tried anything new until I found out about Winc. Winc is a monthly wine subscription service that delivers 4 bottles of wine right to your door.

Try your first month for $40.

To start, you take a quiz to determine your Palate Profile. Then Winc recommends four bottles of wine for the month. The recommendations improve each month based on your feedback. There is a wide selection to choose from including a variety of “classic blends to obscure, single vineyard fringe projects”-Winc.com

For my first month, I select the wines below

  • 2017 Pretty Young Thing Rosé
  • 2017 Summer Water Rosé
  • 2017 TBT White Wine Blend
  • 2017 Pacificana Pinot Noir

You can get a discount on your first month of Winc

I was pretty excited for my first wine delivery and celebrated with my boyfriend. We had a little wine night to celebrate the end of a really big project for him. He has been working crazy hours for the past month so it was nice to relax for a little bit.

The wine from Winc was great. I would definitely recommend getting a subscription if you want to try something new or treat yourself! You can also send a box of wines to a friend for Christmas.

My Favorite Wine “Accessories”

Be sure to follow along on Instagram and Pinterest! Also, don’t forget to sign up for my email list to get notifications about the latest blog posts.

Best,
Rachel

Guest Post: Kelsey Barnes – Classy Outfit Formula

I’ll be starting a guest post series on Simply Sheppard to feature other bloggers that I’ve connected with and I’m inspired by. I hope you enjoy this series and enjoy following new bloggers.

For my first guest post I’d like to introduce Kelsey Barnes. I first met Kelsey while at SMU back in 2010! Fast forward to 2018 and we’ve reconnected through blogging. Since our Freshman year at SMU Kelsey has started a career in NYC, and now moved to Amsterdam and is living the expat life. In addition to blogging Kelsey does freelance work and is training to become a spin instructor!

I love following Kelsey on Instagram (KelseyyBarnes) because of her authenticity and unique content. Oh, did I mention her breathtaking pictures of Amsterdam and multiple travel guides throughout Europe?

One of my favorite blog posts from Kelsey is her “Classy Outfit Formula” blog post. Read below and enjoy the guest post!

From www.kelseyybarnes.com:

I love fashion, but sometimes it can be really hard to decide what to wear. Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time in leggings and a comfy top while working from home. This makes it even harder to decide what to wear when I need to look like I’ve got my sh*t together. Which is why I’ve developed an outfit formula for when I want to look put together, but I also don’t want to put in a ton of effort.

Last week, I met two girlfriends for a drink at the cutest all pink restaurant in Amsterdam, Mama Kelly. I’m not kidding when I say this place is pink – everything from the velvet booths to the bar to the cocktails. I wore an outfit based on my formula, and it worked perfectly for the setting.

I always start with dark skinny jeans. I wear this distressed pair (that pair sold out, similar here)  from Gap often because they’re so versatile. A dark wash always elevates every look. Even with sneakers and a t-shirt, these jeans manage to look just that little bit nicer.

Next, I add a blouse with an interesting detail. I picked this lace panel top up in my last Shein haul, and it’s just too cute. I love all of the girly details like the lace neckline and the slightly puffed shoulders. Going with something that’s a little dressier helps to elevate your look, but you could look just as put together in something basic. I’ve linked some tops in the below carousel that are perfect for looking put together with minimal effort.

Lastly, throw on a cute pair of block heels and grab a bag. I hardly ever wear heels anymore, but it’s so true that they instantly make you look like you’ve got it together. I wore a Kelsi Dagger Brooklyn block heel because I didn’t want to go too over the top. This is Amsterdam after all, and no one dresses up here. I grabbed my YSL clutch to carry my phone and was good to go.

Dark Denim + Interesting Blouse + Block Heels + Clutch

Just four items. All pretty simple, which is why I always go to this outfit formula when I don’t know what to wear. It’s perfect for so many situations, dinner with the girls, date night, even an interview. Just change up little things here or there to fit the situation. For example, for an interview, you can just change the denim to a pair of nice cropped pants.

Do you have an outfit that instantly makes you look put together? Let me know!

Xx, Kelsey

Mix and match below to find your perfect outfit!

I hope you enjoyed this guest post from Kelsey!  Sign up for my email list to get the latest blog post right in your inbox. More guest posts to come. Send me an email at simplysheppard@gmail.com if you’d like to be featured.

Best, Rachel

 

 

 

Life update: Puppies and Holiday Plans

Thanks for following along as I continue to grow my blog. This is my first “life update” post. Comment below if you enjoyed it and want to see more. Today I’m talking all about life as a “Dog Mom” and my holiday plans.

Dog Mom Life

If you’ve been following along on Instagram you know I adopted a puppy in August and since then I’ve had my hands full. Literally full… Like picking up Reagan, the puppy, or picking something out of her mouth lol. She is a sweetie, but a lot of work. We adopted her from Shasta Flat-Coated Retrievers out in California. She came home to Dallas right at 8 weeks and that is the minimum age to be separated from the litter. She was 10 pounds in August and is now 30 pounds! Fully Grown she’ll be about 50 pounds.

Reagan, the puppy, has a great time playing with our older dog Winston. Winston is a 5 year “young” Flat-coated mix from GRRALL. The toughest part about raising Reagan was the health scare we had last month. Reagan started vomiting and wouldn’t eat or drink for a day. We brought her to the vet and they didn’t know what was going on either. The second day the vet did an X-ray and discovered something in her intestines.

We brought Reagan to the surgery center to remove the “foreign object” from her intestines. Turns out she had eaten a lot of our other dog’s hair and it just got stuck….. It was a stressful week for us. Reagan had to stay in the ICU for three days to recover and I took three days to look at my finances and create a budget. Dog surgeries are expensive- get dog insurance.

Since then, Reagan has fully recovered from the surgery! She had another health scare at the start of October. This time she was able to pass the hair wad (TMI?). Now on my restricted budget, I am reprioritizing many things. I haven’t been able to go on a weekend get-a-away and I hope to be able to go on one soon.  After all, that was the reason I started this blog- to give you travel inspiration.

Holiday Plans

I am looking forward to seeing my family for the holidays and eating some delicious home cooked food. For Thanksgiving, I’m headed to Houston to see my parents. We are road tripping with the dogs. It’s a four-hour drive from Dallas and it will be Reagan’s first road trip. I hope to take the dogs to Galveston so they can see the beach for the first time while we are in Houston.

The real fun is our Christmas plans. Justin and I are thinking about driving to his families house in North Carolina… 14 hours with 2 dogs in the car. Call us crazy, but it’s so hard to find a dog sitter over the holidays, especially for a puppy. If we do go to North Carolina, it will be the first time not spending Christmas with my family- talk about a milestone! We haven’t finalized our plans so I might end up staying in Dallas.

That’s all for now, be sure to follow along on Instagram and Pinterest! Also, don’t forget to sign up for my email list to get notifications about the latest blog posts. Next week I’m starting a new series of guest posts. My first guest post will feature Kelsey Barnes! Stay tuned.

Best,
Rachel

 

Website and Social Media Analytics: How to Use Them to Achieve Success

Hey everyone, you might know that my day job is in website analytics and this blog is my hobby. I’d like to share how to analyze your website and social media analytics to achieve success for your own business or blog. “Success” is a broad term and is different for everyone. So the first step is to define “Success” for you. Most people would define success in terms of revenue, but if you’re blogging for a hobby, success might be defined as a number of blog post views. Here are a few definitions.

I feel successful when…
  • I’ve achieved X amount of revenue
  • I’ve achieved X number of sales
  • I’ve achieved X% engagement on Instagram
  • I’ve gotten X number of followers on Instagram
  • X number of people have read my blog post

Pick a goal and work backward from there. When you have an online business, there are many data points to analyze. However,  when you have a brick and mortar store,  analyzing sales can be more difficult. Maybe you had more sales in your store because the weather was good that day. Sometimes it is difficult to quantify. In this blog post, I’d like to walk through a few examples of how to use your Social media and website analytics to achieve your definition of success.

Website Analytics

There are many ways for bloggers and small business owners to analyze Website analytics.  I use the free Word press analytics tools and Google analytics is also free.

Take a few minutes and go look at your website analytics if you haven’t already and answer the following questions.

  • What is my most viewed page in the past 30 days?
  • What pages are directly related to achieving my goal?
  • read more