Since 2020 took a lot from us, we knew that we needed a change of scenery. Back in January, we booked a house in Lake Oconee, Georgia for the end of July. We wavered back and forth for a long time on whether or not we should go, and even the weeks leading up to it. In the end we decided that we were minimizing our risk by driving and we followed everything we would have followed at home. We ended up having such a great time when we went in July and found the drive to be doable, so we decided to do it again for our Christmas vacation.
Because we did follow social distancing precautions, the travel guide is not that extensive. I'll share the few things we did do that we really enjoyed, as well as some of the things that there are in the area.
First of all, why Lake Oconee? We wanted a change of scenery, something we had never done before, and we wanted it to be within driving distance of Miami without having to stop at a hotel for the night. The drive is about 10 hours - while long, it is definitely doable. We packed sandwiches, snacks and electronics, and we stopped only for potty breaks, gas, and coffee. We left early in the morning and we arrived with daylight to spare.
Another requirement was being able to rent a house. We did not want to stay in hotels as we wanted to be able to cook our own meals and be okay with just hanging out at the house. We have had great luck with vacation rentals on vrbo.com. We stayed in two different houses. They were both very nice, but they were different and located in slightly different areas. The first house was more on the outskirts of the lake and part of the town of Eatonton. It was not part of a community therefore we did not have access to amenities and it was just the house. The second house we stayed at was in the Reynolds Plantation area, which is a (HUGE) community with a gated entry. There was a playground, a marina, a pavilion, a golf course, and plenty of walking paths as well. If you are looking to have additional amenities, I highly recommend the Reynolds Plantation area. Aside from that, both houses had docks, 4 bedrooms and 4.5 baths, outdoor areas, grills, and fully stocked kitchens (tool-wise).
There is a Publix in the area which is where we bought all of our groceries. I realized this time around that you can do a pickup order there so you don't have to go inside if you don't want to, but we didn't take advantage of that. We also wanted to have a special meal on New Year's Eve, so we ordered stone crabs from a local market called Pounders Meat & Seafood Market. We also had some food from Georgia Butts BBQ and it was absolutely delicious.
There are several restaurants you can dine at or order from, we ordered from Mellow Mushroom pizza once and Marco's Pizza. Both were great. We did have dinner one night at Linger Longer Steakhouse at the Ritz Carlton Lake Oconee.
Over the summer, we visited a farmer's market (it was next to The Harbor at Harmony Crossing). They had baked goods, fresh fruit, and local artisans.
Both times we rented a boat. Over the summer, the Lake is full of boaters and people stopping in different spots and jumping in the lake. We did this and had a really great time. We rented the boat from Oconee Wild Watersports for four hours and really took advantage, stopping in multiple places and jumping in the water. This time, we rented from Young Harris Watersports for 2 hours (because it was cold and we didn't think we would be able to be on the water for 4 hours). It was chilly but it was so nice to cruise around the lake for a little bit. Both rentals were smooth and the boats were in good condition, although the one from Oconee Wild Watersports was a little bit newer.
We also visited the Ritz Carlton Lake Oconee a few times - once for coffee and to walk around a bit, another time to visit the spa for a couple of treatments (which were absolutely lovely), and finally to dinner at the Linger Longer Steakhouse. They usually have marshmallow roasting and additional activities for the kids in the evenings, but a lot of those activities were not currently available to non-hotel guests. For anything at the hotel, make sure you call ahead and make reservations, as everything is not open due to COVID precautions.
There is The Alice Walker Driving Tour you can complete. This self-guided driving trail takes the visitor to various points of interest applicable to Eatonton native, Alice Walker and her family members. Alice Walker is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the novel "The Color Purple."
Aside from that, there are several other outdoor things to do in the area, and plenty of walking/hiking trails. I'm sure there are more things to do, but again, due to the pandemic we wanted to limit how much we interacted with others. We really enjoyed both times we spent in Lake Oconee. We truly felt like we were able to get away and disconnect, and we are already looking forward to when we can go back.
Hey you... yes, you.
The one mentally running through her to-do list every hour to make sure she’s not forgetting - just one more gift.
The one bouncing from store to store to make sure she has all the ingredients for the kids’ favorite recipe.
The one vacuuming crumbs for the 4th time today because the kids couldn’t wait to dig into their gingerbread houses.
The one trying to find safe and fun ways to celebrate the holidays with the kids this year.
The one who ordered three more rolls of tape, only to come across seven unopened rolls in the gift wrapping bag.
The one who jolts out of bed at 3 am because “I forgot to move the elf!”
The one who still hasn’t started shopping.
The one who thought she was done shopping and just realized she forgot someone.
I see you.
You are what makes Christmas magic.
And I invite you to take a break from whatever is stressing you this year. Cuddle up on the sofa with those little munchkins - who you swear were experiencing the wonder of Christmas for the first time just yesterday, but here they are writing their own lists to Santa. You’re so busy creating the magic for everyone else, but make sure that you soak up some of that magic for yourself.
Stop thinking about the next thing on your list for a few hours.
Snap the photo and come back to it later.
Put your phone away. Your e-mails can wait a few hours, and so can the texts.
Because while you are the one making the Christmas magic, you should also be lucky enough to experience it.
Thanksgiving is around the corner, and in case you are hosting like I am, chances are you are thinking about your table setting and what that will look like. A few years ago, I invested in plates and flatware, and I've been acquiring stemware over the years. But this year, Suzy and Magita from Plume Home Decor reached out to me about styling my table for Thanksgiving. They have these gorgeous placemats and all the items to put together a gorgeous table setting for your holiday table. What I loved about these placemats is that while they are gorgeous and look stunning in this table setting, they are versatile enough for everyday use! They wipe clean and are lightweight.
So I sent them photos of my space, and the items I thought we could use, and they got to work. They showed up at my house and worked their magic, and this was the result. This is a service they provide, so if you are in need of table styling for an event, don't hesitate to reach out to them! We also reached out to Melanie from House of Lilac, and she gave us this spectacular magnolia garland, which was the perfect touch for this table.
I think it turned out to lovely and I can't wait to hear what you all think!
Sweet Potato Casserole
Pumpkin Spice Syrup
This year, I am thinking about gifting earlier than usual. Due to social distancing measures, the threat of rising cases of coronavirus, slower-than-usual mail, and a busy November, I don't particularly want to find myself at a crowded mall a couple days before Christmas. I also knew that I really wanted to highlight local small businesses. Check out some of these shops and start checking those gifts off your list!
Selah Skin Studio - Selah is a holistic skincare studio offering hand batched clean skincare for your skin + soul. They will include a hand written note with your special message on all gift orders. I have been using their face masks and serum for a few years now, and they are incredible. I have also gifted their products on multiple occasions and they are always a hit!
Droplets of Love - Jennifer makes unique natural products for all ages for hair, skin, and everyday emotional support, using high quality oils and herbs, as well as pure, steam distilled essential oils. Her products are made from my smoke free home and shipped within the U.S. Aside from that, she offers products from DŌTERRA, which can be purchased on the site. All of her products are made with love and with you in mind. If there is something specific you are looking for, just ask her. Chances are, she can make it to suit your unique situation. Whether you are looking to improve your hair, or you have skin goals that seem unattainable, she can help. Her Persephone night time elixir is a staple in my skincare routine.
Mari Cabrera, Mary Kay - This Christmas, give a tired friend the gift of self care with these amazing hydrogel patches! Personal Skincare and Makeup Consulting services - Mary Kay products ranging from personal care to skincare and makeup. Mari has been in business for over 8 years and serves customers across the U.S. She can help you check off gifts for almost anyone on your list!
Plume Home Decor - Plume Home Decor is a globally inspired home accessories boutique offering a variety of interior design objects, cushions, florals, and table top decor. They also offer interior design services! Gift cards are also available. They have beautiful, unique pieces, and are always willing to help answer your questions.
The Family Candle Shop - Who doesn't love a candle? This shop, run by a mother/daughter duo, offers 100% soy wax candles. Made with all ingredients made in the USA. Poured in small batches in Miami, Florida.
Bee Made Handcrafted - This small local shop makes beautiful handcrafted items for the home. These make great gifts for almost anyone on your list!
Meet Lala - This is a curvy boutique in Miami serving our fellow plus size gals offering sizes XL - 3X. Their mission is to offer the boutique experience to the plus size community, by featuring thoughtfully curated pieces, including everything from their “not so basic” basics to styles for every occasion in sizes XL - 3X (sometimes 4X).
Taudrey - Taudrey is an all-female-led jewelry brand focused on connecting and empowering women through meaningfully personalized accessories. Their mission, their brand, and their work ethic are definitely setting a gold standard. I'll have a collaboration launching with them later this month so stay tuned for that!
Grow & Design - Natalie turned her hobby into a business after losing her job in the pandemic. She creates meaningful pieces - from earrings to decor with polymer clay. She actually sent me this heart shaped diffuser for the car, so I can have my essential oils diffusing when I'm on the go! Because her pieces are made with clay, you can add oils to the earrings, too - especially helpful for these anxiety-ridden times! She prays her pieces can give hope and peace. They are handmade with a lot of love.
So Me Jewelry - So Me Jewelry is a local handmade jewelry company that prides itself in creating on trend affordable pieces. Sophie started her business nearly 4 years ago on a total whim at 15 years old. Since then it has continued to flourish and grow in so many ways. They offer everything from bracelets, earrings and necklaces. This holiday season they're adding rings to their collection as well. They are also in the process of creating brand new packaging since this year many people may be receiving gifts via mail and they want the unboxing experience to be as special as ever.
Pretty Girl Charm - A luxury jewelry business that specializes in personalization and making your dream pieces come to life. Lina and Sarah are best friends and mommies to best friends that decided to make their love for dainty jewelry into a full time career. Every piece is gold filled and hand made with love. Whether it is your little one's initial on a gorgeous chain or a “Mommy and Me” set you can share with your little one, their goal is to make something you will always cherish.
Press Pause Essential Oil Diffuser Bracelets - Miami Mom, Janelle Fuente, is an advocate of pressing pause on the daily hustle to enjoy our life and the people right in front of us. When she's not encouraging us to care for ourselves through her blogs and on Instagram, she's creating tools such as these "Press Pause" Essential Oil Diffuser Bracelets to empower women with the ability to “press pause” from anywhere at any time to ground and gather ourselves. Janelle is a Miami native, a mompreneur of one (with another on the way) and 10% of her earnings goes back into our local community through charity.
GT Stitchery - GT Stitchery offers custom embroidery and personalized gifts. Their products include one of a kind personalized masks and holiday apparel. They will also be offering embroidered hats, baby blankets, masks and towels in our holiday sale. GT Stitchery is proudly run by a Miami mom of three little kids, and everything in their shop is custom made with love.
Little Owly - Little Owly is a boutique featuring apparel, accessories, play and decor, bath and wellness, feeding, nursery products and more for newborns and children up to age 6. They carefully curate each item in their store with products from across the globe for little ones to wear, create, explore, play and be inspired everyday. They are a place for families by family.
Caprilina - Caprilina is a baby brand, run by a local mom. They offer personalization of baby clothing items, blankets, and other items for baby.
Food & Drink
Pudding Parlor - A variety of homemade puddings include classic banana pudding, chocolate hazelnut, triple chocolate, and seasonal flavors such as pumpkin gingersnap, cinnamon apple and boozy banana. All puddings are made to order. If you have a small gathering you'd like to take a sweet treat to, this is your ticket to wowing your host (or your guests!). This pudding is homemade and so creamy and delicious.
Obvious Wines - Sustainable, Vegan & Obvious Wines! Because you can NEVER go wrong with a bottle of wine. My fave from this lineup? Bright & Crisp - but be careful, it's kind of like drinking juice!
A Taste of Well Being - In a year when so many of us have been focused on health, why not give someone you love a gift that will benefit their health? Alexandra offers personalized nutrition & health programs without fad diets, specific to your health needs. The nutrition programs focus on healthy habits for long-term health success. Each program establishes balanced eating habits with meal plans, nutrition education, virtual consultations, and healthy lifestyle habits. No matter your health, nutrition, weight loss, weight gain, or lifestyle goals the program will benefit your long-term health success.
VxV Consulting - VxV Consulting is a financial coaching firm that provides personalized insight, guidance and trusted advice for women and families. They provide independent, fee-based financial consulting services. They do not sell or manage any investments directly but offer personalized financial consulting services. Initial 30 minute consult is complimentary and can be scheduled directly on their site. What a great gift to give to anyone entering a new stage of life, or even yourself!
Shop Hello Happy - Shop Hello Happy was born out of a passion to make others smile and well, in this hectic world, to also bring some simplicity and ease to your shopping needs. They believe in gift giving and celebrating the little things in life. They hope you find what you are looking for in their shop and that you even treat yourself to a little something too. Our store carries gift items for home, her, kids and much more!
You thought you got everyone. Your list was made in November, you checked everyone off two weeks ago. And then you realize you forgot your great-uncle John on your list. Or your cousin Jenny.
Fear not! There are so many things you can get someone very last-minute. Most of these do not require you to even leave your house (provided you have a printer and some paper or a few other supplies at home already). And just because a gift was last-minute, doesn't mean it can't be thoughtful! Here I give you TEN ideas for super last-minute gifts.
I hope this helps you with any last-minute gifts you haven't taken care of! Have more ideas? Leave them in the comments below!
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