How To: Festival of Trees

How to: Festival of Trees
(Rustic & Bright)

Every year Kennedy Krieger hosts the Festival of Trees.  This event is filled with gorgeous decorated Christmas trees, wreaths, and gingerbread Houses.  There are also many vendors at the event and performances by the hour.

This event always happens during the Thanksgiving Weekend.  If you haven't gone you definitely need to check it out.

This is the first year that me and my friend Nicole decided to become designers and decorate a 7 foot tree.  The event ends up pricing your tree and is open to the public to buy.  All proceeds go to Kennedy Krieger Institute.

In case you're curious as to how to decorate a Christmas Tree for the Festival...or for life, I have provided you the necessary steps to designing your own beauty!
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DIY: String Art Ornament

DIY: String Art Ornament
(Created this cutie to send for an Ornament Exchange I participated in!)

A good friend and fellow blogger of mine, Sara from My Name is Sara, first told me about an Ornament Exchange she was interested in participating in which was hosted by another great blogger, One Artsy Mama.

It was easy to sign up, you just had to give a little info about yourself into a google forum and then you would be matched up with another person in the U.S.  (There was even a forum if you wanted to join internationally).

The moment I got the email with my match, I was on the hunt for the perfect ornament.  My ornament match, Cassie, said how she would like anything with "bones" so I thought a string art of a bone would be a cute and more modern idea to send then to just find a bone ornament.  So here's how I created my first string art ornament!

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How to: Recharge

Sometimes it happens.  When you feel like you've hit rock bottom and you don't know where to go from there.

I never thought it would happen to me, but recently it did.  I felt lost and not myself.  I wasn't happy with the way things were happening and I felt like I was not in control. 

But there is hope, the feeling will pass and you will be "fine".  I have been taking some time to try to recharge my "heart".  Not because of a romantic heartbreak, if anything my husband is the rock that has been the one solid thing I can rely on. I am so grateful for him.

But I found some things that have helped me fill my heart and recharge it:

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DIY: Flower Headpiece

DIY: Flower Headpiece
(In love with flower crowns! This is another creation made for my sister-in-law.)

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DIY: Ribbon Garland

DIY: Ribbon Garland
(I made this earthy beauty for my sister-in-law's Bridal Shower.)

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OODP: Cardigan & Shorts

(Outfits of Dear Paradise)
OODP: Cardigan & Shorts

My "summer" time is coming to a close, but weather-wise it doesn't feel like it's letting up.  
I wore this cute outfit this summer while museum adventuring and outlet shopping.
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Summer Adventure: Canada Road Trip

This 7-Day Summer Adventure lead my family though a road trip across Canada.

I took tons of pictures to document the journey, but instead of completely photo dumping into this blog post, I instead want to share the highlights of the the different places we visited.

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Be Inspired: Welcome Back Student Gifts

I have no idea how, but August is here meaning my summer is coming to a close.  

Teachers go back in less than two weeks so I have to somehow slowly turn down my summer brain and turn up my school brain!

I've been going into school to work on my new classroom since I switched grades and I continue to add onto my to-do list before the kiddos arrive!

I want to definitely kick off the year by welcoming my future students in with a treat from their soon-to-be teacher.  I wanted to find cute but affordable ideas, since I've been spending a lot of money preparing my classroom as many teachers do before the school year begins.

Here are some of the cute and cheap Welcome Back Student Gift ideas I've collected:

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Summer Adventure: Rustic 25th Anniversary

Summer Adventure: July 10th

One thing I love about my family is that I have many relatives who live nearby, so get togethers are yearly events. I always look forward to spending time with my relatives because they are quite a lively bunch!

This summer was my Tita (aunt) Joy and Tito (uncle) Chuck's 25th Wedding Anniversary.  So to celebrate this tremendous milestone they invited everyone to wear white and attend their ceremony and reception.

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Summer Catch-Up

There's nothing better then feeling settled back into the groove of things.

So many amazing events happened these past couple of weeks that has made me realize how fast my summer is going!

In two weeks I juggled feeling under the weather, working at a Tech Camp, celebrating anniversaries (both of others and my own), turning another year older, traveling all over Canada to spend time with family.  

I am so thankful for all of the wonderful experiences and hope to share them in future posts.

Here's a recap since I've been on hiatus. 

July 10th: 25th Wedding Anniversary for my Aunt and Uncle (Tita Joy and Tito Chuck, love you!)

It's amazing to be able to celebrate long-lasting love with family and friends.  It was a beautiful ceremony of renewing their vows and then a fun feast of a celebration afterwards. 
I luckily was able to help with some of the decorations so I hope to share how their reception space looked soon!

July 15th, Daytime: Last Day teaching at iDTech Camp & My Birthday

Although I am glad to be able to relax for the summer, it was an incredible experience to teach at this camp.  

The campers that attended were so resilient in their skills with technology.  But what really blew me away was the staff.  

In such a short amount of time that I spent with them, I never felt so welcomed so quickly before.  Each counselor and director brought their own skills and talent into the camp and it made working there so enjoyable.  I definitely miss working with them, but I hope it won't be the last time I see them.

(Yes, my camp counselor name was Coconut!)

It was a bittersweet last day teaching at iDTech Camp for the summer and the staff gave me a celebratory birthday send-off.  It was already pre-determined that I would get pied in the face that day.

Here's the video!

A video posted by Jenny (@dearparadise) on

July 15th, Evening: Birthday Surprises

Zach threw a surprise birthday dinner for me at one of my favorite sushi restaurants.  

I initially thought my birthday would be spent with just him and I but when we arrived to the restaurant, my friends were sitting at a table with menus covering their faces and surprised me!

Tons of sushi, sake bombs, and a fried ice cream later... we continued the celebration by watching The Secret Life of Pets in the movie theaters which I LOVED!

July 16th - July 23rd: Road Trip Vacation throughout Canada. 

What an exciting, exhausting, and amazing road trip.

Our stops included Montreal, Toronto, and Ontario.  I am grateful to have had Zach by my side to enjoy the company of my crazy, loud, but loving family!

More about this trip soon!

July 24th: Celebrated our First Wedding Anniversary.

8 years since the first day we met.

Who would have thought that going to that 4th of July party (that I didn't want to go to at all.) would bring me the man of my dreams.  

7 and half years since we first started dating.

2 years since he proposed.

1 year since we said "I do!".

And to many more years together.

So happy to have spent a good portion of my lifetime with Zach.  

We've learned a lot, we've grown a lot, and we've loved a lot.  

I can't wait to see what's in store for us in the future.

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How to: Pic-Tap-Go App

PicTapGo is my favorite and most used app on my iPhone.  I take tons of pictures on my phone and this app helps me touch up my photos to make them really stand out.

One thing I really love about this app is that it allows you to place a filter on top of another filter

This app is one of the only paid apps that I have.  With the price only at $1.99 it is totally worth buying.

So in case you were curious, this app has helped me edit many of the photographs featured on my blog!

How to: Pic-Tap-Go App 

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OODP: Red, White, & Blue

(Outfits of Dear Paradise)
OODP: Red, White, & Blue

Happy 4th of July!  
Such a great time to celebrate and be thankful for our freedom.
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Favorites: June Goodies 2016

Favorites of the Month
June Goodies - 2016

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How to: Vacation - Cruising Basics

Last week, I was able to embark on an incredible, laughter-filled, adventure!  A big group of 23 people met up together to go on a 4-night cruise.  Thank you to Ms. Kathy (a.k.a. Mom) for planning and organizing everything in the past two years.  We felt like this trip would never come but when it did it flew by in a flash.  We left from the port in Miami, sailed to Nassau, Coco Cay, and Key West.  Now all that's left are the wonderful memories I've shared with the people I grew to love and care about!

During this trip, I learned a lot about cruising and what to do the next time we go on one.  I'd love to share them with anyone planning on going on a cruise sooner or later!

Shout out to my husband Zach and my besties Maria and Nicole for helping me with collect this list cruising basics!  And also Scott for sharing your pictures with me!

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Be Inspired: Upcycle Wine Bottles

I love searching and finding upcycling ideas for different everyday materials!

Upcycling is when you reuse or repurpose materials into something new and useful.

Here's an example of a past DIY of a Wine Bottle Decoration I made for a friend's wedding!
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Can't Stop This Feeling

I wanted to share a project that I had been working on the past week leading to the last day of school.

One of my co-workers suggested that we make a end-of-the-year dance video to Justin Timberlake's "Can't Stop The Feeling".  I was completely on board and even volunteered to choreograph a dance.  

Somehow in the whirlwind of choreographing, teaching the dance, filming dance clips, sending emails, and editing the final product that the video finally came together... and it seriously turned out so amazing!  I'm so proud and thankful for the entire staff for helping out in anyway they could!

Thanks again to everyone who helped out and especially these two lovely ladies, Brittany and Jess!

Check it out below! We hope that maybe JT could see it.  
If not I hope it brings a smile to your face!

Feel free to like and share the video too! =)

Can't Stop This Feeling,
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Memoirs of a Teacher

As much as I countdown to those "no alarm" days, this last week at school has become bittersweet.  Some things I won't miss (like bringing home workbut there are many that I will miss.

As I reflect on my years of teaching, I've found these six important things that has kept me going even through the most stressful of times:

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Mid-Year Goal Review

Mid-Year Goal Review

We are halfway through 2016.  

I can't believe how fast these months have gone by.  This is my last week of school and everyday I feel like I'm "on-the-go" with something I need to do.  

When I was going through my planner, I stopped by on my "Goals for 2016" page and started to reflect upon how successful I have been with each of these goals.  

This is where I am:

I did hold a yard sale  a month ago and was able to let go of many things by finding new homes for them.  I've done well even after the yard sale, using Facebook groups as my source of sales.

My blog
I started out this year with the goal of posting maybe twice a month, but then I decided to increase it to once a week, which then increased to twice a week.  I've found a real passion in blogging.  It's the perfect combination of writing and sharing photographs with others.  Plus a great way to document life.

I would say this goal was really specific and I initially though it was unsuccessful considering I wasn't watching and learning through Youtube dance videos.  

But one life goal I was able to accomplish was teaching hip hop.  I held an after school club once a week and taught second and third grade girls choreography I created.  I currently am working on a project where I am teaching adults choreography.  (Future blog soon!)

This goal was suppose to be focused on learning how to use a DSLR camera.  I mainly use my iPhone to take pictures, but I feel like I've been pretty successful in learning how to capture more focused pictures and how to edit them to get the perfect vibe from them.

Guitar & Ukulele
I definitely haven't really touched on these goals.  For several months I needed to restring my ukulele and Zach was able to restring it a week ago. Hopefully later this year or during the summer I can pick it up.

Debt & Savings
I have to say that I really have to thank my husband for this goal.  He has really helped me get financially in tune with how to budget our money wisely while still enjoying life.  Currently I have no credit card debt and I am successfully paying down student loans while saving money.

A place to call Home
Zach and I decided that we needed to wait another year before really looking for a house.  We want to be financially ready and in a good place with our jobs.  Hopefully early next year we can start the process.

Scoring Goals,
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Be Inspired: End-of-the-Year Student Gifts

As much as I have been counting down the days until summer, it is incredible to think how fast time has flown by this school year.

Of course as the school year is winding down, I have been so busy preparing for my summer job, planning final lesson plans, completing report cards and comments, filling out last minute documents and data collections, working through my summer grad course, packing my classroom to move grades, and the list goes on.

With that, I realized I have a little over a week to think about End-of-the-Year gifts for my students!

I decided to compile a list of great student gift ideas that are easy and affordable.  I hope these are some helpful last minute ideas for teachers like myself!

So get ready and be inspired:

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Weekend Adventure

I just had my first experience traveling alone.  This past Saturday, I caught a train to Philly to participate in a Regional Training for a summer camp I will be working for this summer.

I was super anxious all this past week to be traveling because I for one don't like traveling alone.  I'm the type of person who has to know exactly where I'm going, be familiar with the area, and be able to be in control.  But that is the beauty of traveling is that it is an adventure and I was going somewhere unexpected and out of my control.

But reflecting on my weekend, I have to say that this was such an incredible, energizing, and inspiring experience. I learned a lot more about the summer camp,  more about others, and most importantly of all, more about myself.

These are my traveling reflections / realizations / thoughts (whatever you want to call them):

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Favorites: Summer Vibe Music

Happy June 1st!  The school years coming to a close and I'm getting hit hard with the summer itch.

I'm enjoying the weather getting warming, the sun shinning brightly, and listening to music that helps bring the summer vibe alive! 

I'll keep this post short and sweet and let the music take over.

Here are five songs that are getting me pumped for the summer!  Hope you enjoy!

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10 Things I Learned About Marriage

Zach (my husband) and I lucky enough to have two wonderful sets of parents that are so supportive to our relationship. We currently are living with my parents in order to save money for a house of our own.  

At first, the idea of moving back with my parents as newlyweds had me running the opposite way.  But, it became clear that this would be the best idea ever.

Long story short, living with my parents has actually been really wonderful.  Not only are we saving an incredible amount of money but I've also been learning some valuable key lessons in living a happy married life.  

I wanted to share what I've learned with you to inspire you in your relationship:

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OODP: Spring Dress

(Outfits of Dear Paradise)
OODP: Spring Dress

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How To: Embrace Change

Change is huge, whether it's a change in careers, college majors, living situations, family dynamics, or relationships.  

Some change can happen suddenly and some can happen gradually.  
Some change you have no control over but how you deal with it is up to you.

Why am I talking about change?
A couple of weeks ago, I was presented with an opportunity to switch teaching grades for the next school year.   This may seem like not much of a big deal, but for a teacher it's a huge decision.  There's a lot of factors that go into having a smooth school year for a teacher and switching grades can produce positive or negative results depending on how you look at it.  

I wanted to share some things I did that helped me decide to take on the change and how I continue to embrace this new grade change.  

These tips, I hope, can help inspire you to embracing a change you may be encountering now.

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Favorites: May 2016 Goodies

Favorites of the Month
May Goodies - 2016

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Things I Learned by having a Yard Sale

Things I Learned by having a Yard Sale

I thought about making this a "How To" post, but I honestly don't feel anywhere close to being an expert. I don't know if I rather be the buyer or seller, but there are perks to being on both sides.  

My best friend, Christina, has been doing such a great job going through her things to sell since she and her family are preparing to go back overseas.  She has gathered a lot of items that she wants to sell.  We have been talking about since last year how we would like to sell things at our own yard sale one day.  So we finally buckled down and decided to go for it!

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OODP: Plaid Shirt & Combat Boots

(Outfits of Dear Paradise)
OODP: Plaid Shirt & Combat Boots
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DIY: Flower Pen

DIY: Flower Pen
(A quick, easy, and adorable DIY you can even do with kids!)

I was trying to think of a cute Mother's Day craft for my students to do this year that was different than the typical paper craft.  That's when I was inspired by one of my teammates. (Thanks Kim!) She had her kids create flower pens to gift for their mothers or grandmothers for Mother's Day!  

I taught my students how to do this craft in small groups and they were so delighted with their finished products! 

This DIY is also useful if you have random pens that could use some sprucing up to bring more life to them! 

So here are the steps in making your very own flower pen!

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How To: Fluff Gift Tissue Paper

I use to work at a Hallmark for five years during my undergrad years and early on into my teaching career.  Although my store never had a "gift-wrapping" service, I always enjoyed helping last minute shoppers buy and wrap their gifts as they were on their way to their event.  

One trick I've learned is how to quickly fluff and stuff tissue paper into gift bags.  I like to say it's one of the talents that I possess!  

So here is a quick and easy how-to when fluffing and stuffing gift tissue paper.  
You too can do it like a pro!

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Be Inspired: 40 Fun Things to Do!

As I am growing deep into my late 20's, I noticed that I have been leaning towards activities that are outside of the whole "bar scene".  

Call it "getting old", "maturing", or whatever else,  but I prefer doing other (out of the box) activities with my group of friends!  

So I wanted to compile a list of activities/places (In alphabetical order btdubs because it looks so pretty that way.) that you can do/visit with all the people you enjoy being around!

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Favorites: April Links

Here is a round-up of favorite links I've found this month!

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DIY: Mason Jar String Art

DIY: Mason Jar String Art
(I have been eyeing up doing this craft for awhile. So excited to finally share it!)
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OODP: Ladies Night-In Outfit

(Outfits of Dear Paradise)
OODP: Ladies Night-In Outfit

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mMm Yummy: Pigs-in-a-Blanket

I don't often cook, but when I do, it's super simple!  This is my go-to party/get together snack that I love making!  What's great is that it's quick and SUPER easy! (Definitely good for the non-cookers like myself.)

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Favorites: April Goodies 2016

Favorites of the Month
April Goodies - 2016

I honestly don't do it on purpose, but this month's favorite has a white/cream theme to it.

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How To: Start a Coupon Binder

Do you love the feeling of buying something NOT at retail price?  I do! I get such a rush from it!  I LOVE shopping but if I can buy something on sale or for a good deal I LOVE even more!

Whenever someone sees my coupon binder I either get one of two reactions. A look of amazement or a look of you are insane! (I take both looks as compliments!)

So I decided to share how I put together my coupon binder!

How to: Start a Coupon Binder
(For aspiring "extreme coupons" or if you just want a better way to organize your coups.)

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