The Best Christmas Gift

Companion Pass

How was your Christmas? Ours was an absolute blast! We spent the holiday with my family in my home away from home, Florida, and I’m actually still here. James had to head back to Dallas to hold down the fort but I couldn’t resist spending a few more days at the beach with my parents and brother.

This year my family decided to treat our Florida trip as our mutual Christmas gifts, which I really loved. As much as I enjoy gift-giving (okay, and gift-receiving), I thought this was the perfect idea – truly, none of us need anything except more time with each other. But James and I were treated to a gift from our favorite airline, Southwest, that we are so dang excited about: a Companion Pass! This means that James and I will get to fly together for two for the price of one for a whole entire year. AMAZING. We earned this through our Southwest credit card, as points added up through a combination of purchases on our card, flights around the country, participation in the Rapid Rewards Shopping Program, and an extremely generous credit card sign-up bonus of 50,000 points. We are already plotting out the trips we want to take together (you can even apply your points to the fare, meaning that on some adventures, both of us can travel for free!), and we feel totally liberated and empowered by the fact that we have all 0f 2016 to plan more travel. Three cheers for Southwest!

Presence > Presents

mholmlund_76This post may be coming a little late, considering that it’s Christmas Eve already (!!!), but I thought I’d share my most recent piece for Darling Magazine about 3 Ways to Add Presence to Your Holiday Celebrations. This was my favorite piece to write for Darlng (yet!), and I hope it can be a sweet last-minute reminder to cherish the time you have with loved ones this Christmas. Here’s a little excerpt from the piece:

In this season, there will always be more to do — more cards to write, more gifts to buy, more parties to attend, more people to see. But what if this year we opt for a little less, not in an attempt to sacrifice the richness of this season but rather in hopes of giving our loved ones the gift of presence?

What if we strove to connect more intentionally with one another by saying no to invitations, taking a break from social media, and really living in the moment? Though we may have less on our calendars this holiday season, we may find that we end up with so much more joy.

Head on over to Darling’s blog to read my tips for engaging with your loved ones in a more committed, intentional way this Christmas! And enjoy your celebrations with family & friends!

Image via Madison Holmlund

Paris Photo Shoot

PPRJ-01bOne of my most favorite memories from our Europe trip is the photo shoot we had in Paris. There is truly no better souvenir than wonderful photos, so when my friend Lauren told me about Stacy Reeves, the Texan photographer behind L’Amour de Paris, I knew I wanted to book a mini-session with her during our visit. It may have been one of the best decisions I made all year; when I got the photos back from Stacy, my jaw dropped. That girl knows what she is doing, no doubt about it. She was so much fun to be with, and our photos turned out so beautifully – I already have many plans to use them in frames and books, and we chose two to use in our Christmas card. The session itself was short and it took place at an outlook near the Eiffel Tower early in the morning, which left us with the whole day to play. Stacy gave us fun tips about things to do and places to eat (Breizh Café, one of her recommendations, became a favorite of ours), and overall our experience with her just took our trip to the next level. We are going to cherish these photos forever and ever. Thank you, Stacy!

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All images credited to the super talented Stacy Reeves of L’Amour de Paris

Birthday Surprises

IMG_1937 (1)I have been basking in my 30th birthday celebrations for nearly three weeks now, reveling in the thoughtfulness of my loved ones, all of whom made me feel so incredibly special on my big day. First of all, I have to announce that the $30 for 30 campaign raised $2,500 – I am so blown away! Thank you, thank you to those who gave to Touch A Life – your gift means the world to me and to the amazing children in our care.

IMG_1939My birthday party itself was an absolute joy. Kyla and Laura planned a gorgeous evening that started with Mambo taxis, chips, and guacamole at Mi Cocina, where we sat in a special secretive bar area on the top floor of the restaurant. When I walked in, I was so stunned to see my mom there – she had flown in from Chicago just to celebrate my birthday! I was so excited. Isn’t that such an amazing gesture? It meant so much!

IMG_1866 Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset IMG_1816After noshing on beverages and snacks, we made our way over to Rise for soups, soufflés, and Champagne. We got to sit in the most gorgeous part of the restaurant, a cove of sorts surrounded by birch trees encircled in sparkly white lights. I looked around the table in awe as I thanked God for the amazing women who have become my home team here in Dallas. I felt so blessed.

IMG_1820 IMG_1938 IMG_1812The girls presented me with the most thoughtful gift – a darling clutch filled with 30 letters from 30 special people in my life. I struggled not to cry as I thanked them for this amazing gesture. Since birthdays should last all month long (right?!), I have been reading one letter every day, and I am seriously overwhelmed by the kind things my loved ones have written.

IMG_1845 IMG_1858On my actual birthday, the 3rd, Mom joined me at the ESPA at the Joule Hotel, which was the perfect birthday treat. I hadn’t been to the spa since my bachelorette party and I had been dying to go back, and the whole day was made so much better with my mom in tow! We had coffee and donuts at Weekend Coffee before spending four blissful hours at the spa, indulging in our treatments, our bento box lunches, and the complimentary shortbread cookies that seemed to continually reappear at our sides. It was dreamy.

That night we spent a low-key evening in with James and the pups, noshing on pizza and drinking wine and reflecting on the whole whirlwind celebration. Loved ones near and far made me feel so incredibly spoiled; it was almost difficult to take it in. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to enter my 30s. Cheers to an amazing year ahead!