(Entry sign posted at Renaissance)
Many of you know of my deep, unconditional love for our dear Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Hey, it could be one of the things we have in common! This is my home and where I've grown up, so naturally I'm partial, but I don't think anyone would disagree that it's a great place to go to school, raise children and even grow a small business. I've never felt the urge to leave this city. Instead, I often feel a strong wish for more people to check our city out (whether visiting or moving), to understand how beautiful it is, how friendly the community is, and bonus, the great shopping available!

I began this post as a ''Shop Small for Christmas,'' but hey, I'm not a perfect person, and my Christmas schedule just really filled up to be able to write this post the way I wanted. Shopping small is really fitting at any time of the year so we're going to dive in this week! There are many shops and boutiques that I frequent and want to call attention to. In an effort to not overwhelm you, my reader, I've decided to break "Let's Shop Small" up into several parts over the next couple months.

The downtown/riverfront area is really, I mean REALLY, booming. It's been exciting to see the growth in the last few years alone. With the renovation of the old Marquette Tower into the Marquette Tech and a new tech district and businesses moving in, there's a call for more food, more shopping and more entertainment now than ever before. A Marriott Courtyard hotel is in the works through renovation of the old H-H building across the street from the new Marquette Tech District.

So, I wanted to focus more on the downtown area and share a few of my favorite shops with you and what they have to offer you! So I took a field trip to some of my favorites for "Part One" of this series over the holiday shopping season, and SWOON! It was fun. I should really do this more often.

First stop... Renaissance at 127 North Main

Renaissance is your local fine art and gift boutique as I like to call it. It's a super fun store to walk around in. You always feel like there's something fabulous to look at each time you turn your head. They have so many different types of products that I never have to worry about buying a gift that someone already has. I'm always excited to walk into Renaissance. The store has been an ever-changing shop. The window displays change of course like any other shop, but the rooms within are revamped and worked around too, giving customers a refreshing new look at their products. The shop owner, Jenna Beussink, was kind enough to walk me around and talk to me about their best sellers including Lampe Berger, Vera Bradley, Modern Burlap baby swaddles, and a touch of Kate Spade. I first walked into the store close to 10 years ago to buy my first Lampe Berger glass oil lamp, a product that's always been their top product to this day.

This muff was one of my favorites for winter. 
Glitzy glam Christmas decor has also gone over so well! Some of these trees were purchased right as they were being unpacked by excited shoppers.

Just throwing this one in for my sister... She has this thing about owls. But I think they're cute!

 Ah yes, the Lampe Berger glass oil lamps! These are the new lamps in stock, but there are so many to choose from!

I found some goodies for Christmas gifts on my trip in. Free gift wrapping! 

Next stop... Annie Em's at Home at 42 North Main

Annie Em's at Home is a trendy and refreshing boutique where you can find gifts galore and home goods that you'll want to spoil yourselves with. I can always find some of my favorite products within this shop including, Little Unicorn baby accessories (one of my absolute favorite baby shower gifts), Rifle paper goodies and books, Barr-Co and many more!

Gifts everywhere; from candles and kitchenware to notepads and calendars.

Trendy jewelry - I want it all!

Little Unicorn popular prints

Trendy ornaments for everyone!

Rifle paper and other gifts. 
My little Elaina wanted this deer so badly when I took her in the shop. He is a cute little guy.

Last stop... Pastimes Antiques at 45 North Main

Pastimes Antiques, owned and operated by the Maevers Family, is my family's favorite antique store. Pastimes is home base support of the VintageNOW Fashion Show and the ever popular Christmas live mannequin window displays. Their selection is uncomparable to any antique shop in my opinion with their large main showroom, the basement showroom and the clothing and accessory showroom at the side. My husband, daughter and I love to browse antique shops, and Pastimes is the one we frequent most! I often have people on my gift list who appreciate a great antique gift. Books, magazines, decor, kitchenware and more are available!

Great ornaments available at Christmas and for an even better price!

Lots and lots of great items.

Oh. My. Hats. So many fun options! If you've never taken an afternoon to spend time in Pastimes clothing and accessories room, it's a MUST!

I found some gently-loved jewels easily!

That wraps up Part One of this series. And the best news is, many of these stores are going through their after-Christmas sales. So get down there and shop small! 

Stay tuned for Part Two featuring several more of my favorite downtown shops!


So FIRST of all, hello again! It's been almost two glorious weeks that I've really been "away" from my home office for the holidays. Having a five-year-old and almost-Kindergartner really makes you think about pushing back and simplifying life, especially around December in a life like mine. My year is almost always a constant back and forth of things to do and projects to complete. Every Fall seems to fill up and get slammed with birthdays, events and lots and lots of fun things. So December has been kept as hallowed as possible. I've stepped back and hey, I think I'll do this every year!

I know the holidays are not quite over, but it IS December and I have yet to review my December Birchbox. I've finally gotten around to opening the box that arrived weeks ago and just wanted to do a quick share! Not necessarily about each product, because we all know I'm no professional in the beauty industry, but to share how I find this box worth the money each month.

A tip for newbies? When first signing up, be sure to make use of the monthly coupon code in order to get the free full-size product that Birchbox will send new subscribers! 
(Photo credit: Birchbox)

Here's a peek of what came in my box!

An honest first glance, I was a tiny bit disappointed this month. I'm not sure what I expected to be different, but I tend to shrug when I get shampoo and conditioner samples. They just aren't my favorite. Dry shampoo, definitely. But trying different shampoos doesn't thrill me really. I'll try to commit and actually try them. 

Here's a run down of the products:

LOC: One & Done Shadow Stick - Rock Ready - $10 (full-size)
Creaseless, waterproof shadow stick - perfect for the smokey eye. Apply from the inner corner to the outer lid, gently smudging along the way.

IPKN: Flash Cream Radiant Primer - $28 (full-size)
Nourishing SPF 15 primer creates a smooth, luminous canvas for makeup.

Organic Pharmacy: Double Rose Rejuvenating Face Cream - $88 (full-size)
Rose hips, ginger, gotu kola, and marigold for cell regeneration. For any skin type, reduces broken capillaries, and make skin radiant.

Rene Furterer: Lumicia Shampoo - $22 (full-size)
Luxe French shampoo to lift daily residue for a soft glossy finish.

Rene Furterer: Lumicia Conditioner - $24 (full-size)
Neutralizes hard water buildup on your strands for a weightless finish.

Also included was a Birchbox hand mirror and gift tags (I'm thinking those were the extra gift from Birchbox in December) and a liquid eye-liner full-size promo product (my sign-up subscription promo after cancelling for a few months and yet another reason the $10 is worth it). I love the liquid liner product. I'm just not always the best at applying it! 

I have to say, I did need a new primer and face cream. So between those two products, I'm happy. I like the shadow stick a lot! The first three products alone are worth the $10 subscription price. The shadow stick is a decent size for a sample and the cream and primer will last for quite awhile for me. As for the shampoo and conditioner, I'll use them, but they won't last long.

I did a little peeking and have found January's Birchbox to be exactly what I want. Mascara, dry shampoo, cleansing oil, collagen eye pads, etc. AND a super cute box. If you're a subscriber, you can log in and choose from a selection of samples or the curated box (I'm going with the curated box!)

And if you're a newbie, the promo for January is a free full-size MILK Makeup Highlighter with promo code "GLOWFORIT"
Join at www.birchbox.com


Elaina has been five for about a month now! But I'm finally getting around to posting about her birthday. Hey people, I'm going for grace, not perfection. I've been asked about party specifics so I thought I'd share with the group. Secrets don't make friends, remember? 

Each year, we've given Elaina the choice of what her birthday party theme is. We've had a couple "bigger" parties (30-45ish guests) and "small" parties with only both of our families in our home. It usually comes down to how busy we are that year or how much effort I feel like putting forth! Ha! In any case, Elaina enjoys! So far the past themes have been cupcake party, a sunshine party, a polka dot ball party, rainbow/unicorn party, and this year she insisted on a My Little Pony Pizza Party! Actually, she really wanted a My Little Pony, Pokemon (thanks, Daddy) Pizza Party, but I ran out of time to be creative on that end (hence the black and white stripe table runner compromise). 

So honestly, this was one of the easier parties I've thrown for her. People don't always believe me! Ha! And I get it. I did not simply grab plates and napkins and a bunch of cupcakes - though there's absolutely nothing wrong with that! I've thrown so many wedding showers, baby showers, and birthdays; and along the way, I've gathered quite a few party platters, trays, decor, etc. So that in itself makes it much easier to plan a party. 

We decided to go a little bigger this year and let her invite all of her friends as well this year for the BIG FIVE. We're planning on smaller evening family parties for the next few years, so we thought it'd be nice to have a fun one this year. 

I usually design, professionally print and send invitations out. This year, I designed the invitation and kept things easier by starting a Facebook event and attached the invitation there. Easy, right?! I did print some invitations at home to take to school for all of Elaina's schoolmates, but we just took a pile and her teacher put one in each kid's box for us. Easy!

If you're just starting out with planning birthdays and other events, I'd recommend buying supplies that will last even though you may spend a bit more at first. John and I actually registered for Food Network white platters and different kinds of serving trays for our wedding. We received them (thank you family and friends!) and have used them over and over and over. 

These discount tablecloths are a MUST. I wish I would have purchased them a long time ago. I know it seems like a bigger cost on the front line, but it's worth it. I promise, they'll save you money in the long run and you can share them with friends and family. I purchased these this year and spent the same amount I would have spent for two parties on plastic tablecloths. And have already loaned them out to people twice! I now cringe at how much money and waste I threw away on plastic or paper tablecloths in the past. Renting is not economical usually. I bought three or four tablecloths for the price of renting one at our local party rental supply.

I did spend money on table runners at the last minute for this party, but that wasn't a terrible cost. I purchased fabric from Hobby Lobby and cut the runners the week before in "even" pieces and about 6 feet long. 

Younghouse Distributing is our local party supplier and my party store of choice. We have another party supply store in town, and even though their selection is bigger, I can never find exactly what I'm looking for. Younghouse has the "prettier" items that you'd find in a boutique party supply store. And they are absolutely wonderful people. And I think their helium is better too. Ha!

Another party saver - we held the party right down the road from our home at our local Civic/Community Center. It's a new building so the finishes are neutral and nice for a party with windows from floor to ceiling to the outdoors on two sides of the room. You can give them a layout for how you'd like the room set up and they take care of it. We were able to play music through speakers and even had video capabilities. We also had one side of the gym for the kiddos to run and play. We brought a big tub of Elaina's balls and just dumped it in the middle of the gym! It also made for a great place to hit the pinata! The center was such a help. I didn't have to worry about cleaning up my home or having enough room for everyone as we have done in the past. 

Another tradition we began was on her first birthday. Each year, we take a photo of our family with the photo from the previous year! It looks like this eventually... It's so cool to look at it and see Elaina's personality and changes from each year. If you plan to start this tradition, be sure to grab a photo frame that's big enough. Also, it helps to remove the glass from the frame when taking the actual photo. As you can see below, we kind of ended up with some glare. 

Look how old she looks... !!!

So I had planned to make a naked cake or have one made. But we opted for these DELICIOUS cupcakes that we've ordered every year. We special order them from Schnucks with a whipped Strawberry frosting that they have to special order from STL. No extra cost for the frosting - it looks so pretty and shiny like it's almost ready to melt and it tastes like smooth, yogurty strawberry goodness. The chargers and cupcake stands were items that we already own.

Because we ended up saving money by going with cupcakes (and because I refuse to pay $3 per serving for a NAKED cake! Haha!), I went with the extra and easy touch of ordering cupcake toppers by Betnie Bakes . Totally didn't realize that she's been seen on TLC and Food Network until after I ordered (pretty cool!). She did a great job, was very timely and even did a little custom pony to match our decor. They were a big hit with the kids too! Just a helpful hint on cupcake toppers. I ordered the cupcakes that would have toppers to have just a dollop of icing on the middle of them. You don't have to do it this way, but I prefer the icing to not look squished by the topper.

Of course we still needed to blow out a candle...

I love the Cutie Mark fondant toppers and Elaina did too!

Sorry for cupcake overload... I bet you're hungry now.

I did spend time the night before making fresh strawberry lemonade. Try to make it the night before and then put it all together the day of.
The last two years, I've developed an addiction as a result of the girls who make lemonade (with lots of flavors) at the farmers market. I tested and retested my own recipe to come pretty close to theirs. It's pretty easy. I have no actual recipe, but I make it to taste.
Determine how many cups you'll need. Make a simple syrup (boil water and add sugar).
Cool syrup overnight.
Squeeze lemons (I use about one lemon per two cups) and refrigerate.
After syrup is cool, add lemon juice and Torani Strawberry syrup to taste.
 I made several gallons. And we ran out, so I should have made more! When in doubt, always make more. It will go fast! 

We've owned the dispenser for awhile. I purchased the stand in black and painted it gold one year.

I had these glass jars gifted to me after a party years ago! We're still using them! 

A fresh veggie spread is always appreciated. I've found it more cost efficient to purchase fresh and cut up veggies. It's not hard and it's easy to do the night before. I place them in bags and bring extra bags for leftovers! We also bought a couple bags of veggie straws (because we love them and most of our friends do too!) I threw them in this glass jar (which we already owned) for easy grabbing and storage for leftovers.

We kept the tables simple. Each table got a runner and a plant purchased from IKEA. I had grabbed these for our home on our last trip there and thought they'd work for simple centerpieces at the last minute. A trick to make the table seem more colorful and put together (thus making it seem like you put forth more effort) is to set out the plates at each spot. I purchased 50 place setting papers for $3, gold dinner plates and pink dessert plates at our local Younghouse Distributing (I love love love that place!). John and I tagged teamed and put these out in like three minutes! You could also set your utensils and cups out. We had pizza and finger foods so we skipped utensils altogether.

In the very background, you see "Happy Birthday" balloons. These were sort of random. I got them for $3 on Amazon with another purchase and Younghouse Distributing graciously blew them up with regular air for free. They didn't hold air well, but it was easy to just tape them up.

I purchased the "5" balloon from Younghouse and the other colored balloons came from Shop Sweet Lulu. Younghouse blew them all up and my hubby picked them up that morning. I had attempted at a previously party to "save" money by purchasing a helium tank myself and doing the work myself. Will. Never. Do. That. Again. It's just another thing you have to do and figure out heights, etc. Leave it to the pros people. And, a whole month later, the latex balloons are STILL flying, which like never happens. Could have been the great quality balloons from Shop Sweet Lulu, but I feel it's worth mentioning. 

The "Happy Birthday Elaina" Sign is a sign I made over three years ago. I kept it plain and simple with a white background and gold sparkle letters so that I could use it every year. 

For the food tables, each one had a runner and then a leafy garland and little blooms (from IKEA). I cut the stems off of the blooms and placed them randomly. And Elaina's touch - her ponies from home! 

We ordered pizza from Pizza Hut (the only pizza E will eat). I purchased four pizza pans and two stands from a restaurant supply a month before the party. They were a decent price and I use them in my own kitchen now for various baking needs. The pizza went over very well and I was happy to serve an easy meal that everyone would like (and I didn't have to cook it!).

And there you have it! A My Little Pony Pizza Party fit for Elaina! This party was so fun and enjoyable! Mainly because I was mostly stress free that day! Besides a two hour set up, we really didn't feel too rushed from all the early prep that we did.
The reality is, that she's growing up and life keeps getting busier (even with just one child!), so we're beginning to plan special trips for her birthdays for the next few years in lieu of parties to mix it up!


Meet Vivian Noel, my niece! She was born on December 1st and had the sweetest red Christmas stocking hanging on her hospital bassinet. Her mommy was induced on November 29th, so naturally we assumed she'd be born on November 30th. Vivi had other ideas! I think I remember correctly, that her middle was possibly going to be "Eve" - not exactly for "December eve" but still, it did fit! 32 hours of labor and two epidurals later, she was born on December 1st. And so, "Noel" for her middle name was perfect!


Every month, the Cape Girardeau downtown area holds a "First Friday" with later gallery and shopping hours, appetizers and drinks on the first Friday of that month. The idea is to encourage and draw the general public to browse the varied art galleries and artist shops and boutiques. In December, First Friday becomes magical! Deemed the "Downtown Cape Girardeau Christmas Open House," you'll find Christmas decor in the streets, most shops are open late, carriage rides, Socials Cafe Hot Cocoa Bar, pictures with Santa, Hudson's Furniture Train Display, a fantastic raffle drawing, and my favorite, live mannequin window displays!

Each year, for seven years, Pastimes Antiques has a live mannequin display featuring vintage/mod clothing that you can find in their shop! It's so fun to see! And this year, I was asked to participate!
This year was the first year to have a window display theme, and personally, I think it was absolutely perfect! "It's A Doll's Life" window displays captured that Christmas Joy in each little child's eye!

The Book Tree!

A full look at each display. This was Ballerina Doll, China Doll, and Holiday Barbie. :)

German Doll, Most Loved Doll, Wind-Up Doll, and Raggedy Ann... We were missing our Marionette Doll at the moment. :)

Our fearless leader and doll designer, Deb (left) and my stylist for the fashion show, Rachel McNeely!

Kyleigh, the genius behind the window decor! 

Classic German Doll

Marionette Doll

Raggedy Ann and Most Loved Doll

China Doll!

German Doll welcoming patrons into the shop

Ah! Here you see a close-up of my key! The girls did a fabulous job making this thing! It was so sturdy, even after I whacked some people and christmas trees (accidently of course!). Hearts were my theme. The back of the dress even had the cutest little heart shaped buttons! And thank you to Miss LaKrisha Moore (my daughters dance teacher) for lending us the awesome wig!

Marionette and Wind-Up Doll team

Oh how I excited my little girl was to see Mommy in the window!

So here's a full shot of some of us!

Ballerina Doll

China Doll

Wind-Up Doll

Holiday Barbie
I love this photo! Jeanne really looks like Holiday Barbie!

German Doll

Deb and her Dolls

Oh it was such a blast. I had so much fun waving to the little girls and boys who stopped by with their parents and seeing the "little kid" in every adult come out as they stood watching. The girls did such a great job getting into their doll characters! What a fabulous memory!

A big thanks to Joel Lillevig Photography for capturing some great photos! Check him out at www.lillevigphotography.com