Longing for Paris

I received this book to review as part of the Longing for Paris launch team. I was not compensated in any other way for this post and all opinions are 100% my own. This post contains affiliate links.

I love to travel. I was fortunate enough to go to Europe for the first time when I was just 18 years old and I’ve been back twice since. I love getaways with my husband, road trips with my family, and traveling to conferences. New places and experiences are exciting to me.

Longing for Paris

When I heard the title and topic for my friend Sarah Mae’s new book, Longing for Paris, I knew I would relate. Because sometimes my soul just wants to wander to the newest place or experience or thing. I’m an ENFP who gets distracted by “bright, shiny things” and can sometimes miss what is right in front of me.

Long for Paris Architecture

Before I get to the book, I have a confession: the first time I visited Paris, I wasn’t really crazy about it. It was beautiful and interesting, but overwhelming as a new high school graduate. I wasn’t too excited about going back five years later. But the second time was different. I was with a similar type of group, but this time I was a chaperone and was with my husband. We were able to make our own plans. We wandered and visited some smaller, lesser-known places. We searched out a great loaf of bread. We sat outside of Notre Dame and watched Parisian life happen in front of us. And this time, I really loved Paris.

Longing for Paris Notre Dame

Had I not gone back to Paris the second time, I think I may have avoided this book. I wouldn’t have known the beauty of just sitting and watching and soaking in the culture. I would have only know the hustle and bustle of a whirlwind tourist visit. I would have felt no connection to Paris. But I’m so glad I picked this book up, because it’s really not about Paris, but about what Paris represents.

My longings are the reminder that there is more – another world, another place where I am meant to be.

Longing for Paris is about what our souls long for: beauty, passion, confidence, light. These are all things I witnessed firsthand in Paris, but as Sarah Mae points out, they are not only found in Paris. We can find the things we long for right here because they are all found in God. And when found in God, they will satisfy like nothing in this world.

Paris will leave me thirsting for more, and it will ultimately let me down, because I wasn’t made for Paris. I was made for all the things that I long for in Paris: beauty, art, culture, romance, light, and joy.

Sarah Mae talks about how our longings and reality meet. This can be a tricky place full of discontentment when we are not surrendered to God’s will.

I want to know how to not shut out my longings, while at the same time giving myself to the daily work of raising my children well and not being so divided to neglect them.

I was deeply impacted by the way she has searched for the beauty God has placed around her right where she is AND included her family in these discoveries. It doesn’t have to be one or the other, but our longings do need to be directed and filled by our wonderful Creator.

Longing for Paris Courtyard

Longing for Paris touches on so many aspects of our life that I can’t possibly mention all of them in one post, but I know that it has helped me open my eyes to the wonders surrounding me in my home and community. God has given me an appreciation for beauty and discovery. I don’t have to travel far and wide all the time to fulfill this longing. I just need to look to Him, then look around.

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This weekend, I tried a salted caramel macaron from a French bakery in my hometown and I thought of God and beauty and Paris and Sarah Mae. This is where my life is happening and He is leading me to everything I need and long for in His perfect way. This is beautiful.

Today is release day for Longing for Paris! Hooray! The paperback is less than $8 on Amazon right now! Grab your copy today!

What are some things you long for more of in your life? What longings has God fulfilled in your life right where you are?

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Weekend Snapshots

I have included affiliate and referral links below. When you purchase through these links, I may receive a small commission. Thank you for supporting this site and our sponsorship of our Compassion child, Samson!

As I write this, The Hubby is taking his boards, that last test before his life as a “real” physician commences. It’s a ten-hour test. That sounds like torture, right?! Please pray for him during the home stretch this afternoon!

To give him a relaxing, QUIET weekend before his test, the boys and I went up to my parents and all sorts of fun was had!

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The cousins, Urkel style. We decided this needs to be recreated in twenty years.

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Grandma made a family-style dessert to die for. Eating it outside was a genius move because ICE CREAM AND CHOCOLATE EVERYWHERE. Messy and delicious go together well.

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I finished one book that I’ll tell you about tomorrow and started this green gem by Kristen Strong. It could not be more perfect for this season of life.

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My sister and I ran eleven miles Saturday morning which was great except for the humidity and heavy legs at the end. Go away, humidity. I rewarded myself with a maple bacon donut. No further explanation needed.

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Today is my sweet mom’s birthday, so us girls had pedicures and did some boutique shopping to celebrate! My last pedicure was for my sister’s wedding five years ago. My toes are happy right now. And my niece’s fingers and toes were so adorable.

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My oldest friend – as in the one I’ve been friends with the longest – is moving away from our hometown and I am absolutely thrilled for her! We got together this weekend to process and celebrate. Macarons were involved. I was a macaron virgin before this, but the salted caramel one (on the left) from C.H. Patisserie will have me coming back for more every time we visit. HEAVEN.

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Baby niece snuggles are just the best. That is all.

WS 8-3 8Last but not least, I am the mom who took her child to church Sunday night with a giant marker scribble in the middle of his shirt. According to him, “I look cool like this.”

There was lots of other fun and games, but this is our weekend in a nutshell! What were you up to this weekend?

I’m linking up with Weekend Snapshots over at Her Heartland Soul!

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These Kids Are Runners!

I’ve been a runner for just over three years now. The Hubby started running a few months before me. Running has changed so many things about our lives for the better and our boys have taken notice.

This spring, our nine-year-old, Big J, mentioned he would like to do a 5K. We looked at the calendar and picked out a race in our area for the end of July. Big J and I sat down with the Couch to 5K plan and made a training plan for him to check off for eight weeks.

He amazed us during those eight weeks. If you don’t know about the Couch to 5K plan, it starts with long intervals of walking and short intervals of running. As the weeks progress, you walk less and run more. Big J did some runs with The Hubby or I outside, but many of them were on the treadmill. He was so dedicated and got through every single training run, even during the week he went to camp.

Along the way, Little J, our seven-year-old, decided he wanted to try the one-mile race on the same morning. He did some treadmill walking and a few spontaneous runs during his big brother’s baseball practice, but no formal training.

On race day, the one-mile race was first and Little J had Daddy by his side. We really had no idea what to expect from him, but when they took off, I thought it might be a while before they made their way back.

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Imagine my surprise when we saw Little J headed towards the finish line less than ten minutes later!

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The Hubby was surprised as well because Little J ran the whole time and finished with a time of 9:50! He came in second!

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Little J says he can’t wait to do his next race to get better and get another medal. I love it.

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Big J’s 5K race started a half hour later and I had the privilege of running with him. We said a little prayer before we started – for strength, endurance, and a fun experience!

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Summer races in Nebraska are not my favorite. Even with an early start, the humidity was no fun and the sun was shining down pretty bright. All of this just makes it even more impressive that Big J only walked for a few seconds a couple times the whole race. And he’s just like his mama – talking most of the time.

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I peeled off at the end of the race to let him finish on his own, sprinting those last few minutes with cheers and pictures and an announcer calling his name, telling everyone a nine-year-old was coming in at 34:53!

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Yes, I cried. When both kids crossed the finish line. The perseverance and determination they showed through training and the race left us incredibly proud. We saw a new side of them. Running means so much to us and we could see how much our boys enjoyed this running experience. These kids are runners and are already thinking about what races they want to do next, maybe when it is a little cooler!

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Our boys also know the best way to celebrate after a great race. We teach them well.

Are your kids interested in running? Have they ever run a race?

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What I Wore

I have included affiliate and referral links below. When you purchase through these links, I may receive a small commission. Thank you for supporting this site and our sponsorship of our Compassion child, Samson!

It’s about time for another What I Wore, don’t you think? Heat and humidity have been in full force here in Nebraska. The Hubby and I keep saying to each other, “Is it fall yet?” Sure, we enjoy swimming in this weather…but that’s about it. Thanks to air conditioning, I’ve been able to wear some hoodies, but only sporadically. Who else is ready for cooler weather?

While we all wait for the change of seasons, here’s what I’ve been wearing this past week…

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I’ve been looking for an all-white hat for many months now, so when I spotted this beauty – the last one in my size – at Scheels, it had to be mine. It’s already had plenty of wear this week because it goes with everything!

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Late Wednesday afternoon, I received a text from a friend who had free tickets to the FIVB World Grand Prix for women’s volleyball. I’m a huge volleyball fan and three former Huskers were playing for the team, so I scrambled to ok it with The Hubby and find a friend to go with me. We made it just in time for the match and watched Team USA destroy their competition. And we both showed up with the same hoodie from Evy’s Tree. We’re cool like that.

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I know I said the only thing we like to do in this heat is swim, but we do get outside for other things like attending the best zoo in the whole world. Our zoo is C-R-A-Z-Y in the summer, so we went as soon as they opened to beat the crowds and the heat. In the shade, we found the cutest little elephant statue. Elephants are my favorite and the real thing will be returning to our zoo next year – I CAN’T WAIT. This pineapple tank from WalMart makes me happy about summer and I promise I am wearing shorts. You just can’t see them behind my amazing Brynnda from Better Life Bags, the perfect purse that holds a lot but isn’t huge. And Saltwater Sandals are the best summer sandal. This tan color is perfection because they match everything, but they come in every color of the rainbow.

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I now own my first kimono (from Cents of Style) and it is just as lovely as I thought it would be. This was my church outfit and I didn’t want to change out of it because COMFY. Props to The Hubby for going with my “let’s take a picture in front of Target” idea. He’s a keeper. Also, if I’m not carrying the Brynnda bag, I definitely have my Mamuye tote from fashionABLE in hand! The most lovely, versatile leather bag ever.

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This outfit is my “PLEASE HURRY UP FALL” outfit. Really I’m wearing a tank and shorts just like every other day, but threw on this new Ashley hoodie from Evy’s Tree because I was feeling rebellious. Take that, summer.

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It rained yesterday morning and we were inside most of the day, so I felt completely justified in putting on jeans and a gorgeous lightweight hoodie. I didn’t really know how much I liked hot pink until this hoodie came along. My Maurice’s jeans are still the best ever and I’m living in these Bzees shoes because they are amazingly comfortable.

I’m planning out some fashion posts for the fall and wondered what you’d like to see! Let me know in the comments if you have questions or need ideas + inspiration!

How are you feeling about summer – love it or leave it?

Linking up with What I Wore Wednesday at The Pleated Poppy!

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The Baseball Experiment

Our boys tried out several different sports and many of them have been through our local YMCA. They have an excellent fundamental program for many sports that allows kids to learn the basics of a particular sport before trying it in a team and game setting.

Big J has tried out soccer and basketball in this fundamental format and went on to play on a rec basketball team this year. We love the low-pressure opportunity to try out a sport before they commit a lot of time to it  – and it keeps them active!

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This summer, Big J decided to give baseball a try. For eight weeks, he has gone to clinic-style practices every Saturday morning, practicing the proper form for throwing and hitting and learning all about the fundamentals of America’s pastime.

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This past Saturday, they wrapped up the program with a scrimmage game that was both great for practice and hilarious to watch. When you have about twenty boys ranging from first grade to sixth grade who are just learning the game of baseball, the first time they play a real game is full of chaos and excitement. I loved it.

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This scrimmage game was also the first time the boys tried to hit a thrown pitch from the coach. Big J got a single on the second pitch and ran the bases hard each time a teammate got a hit! He also had some good fielding plays in the outfield.

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He really enjoyed his time playing baseball, so this experiment was a success! I think he makes a pretty handsome baseball player, don’t you?!

What sports do your kids play in the summer? Did they try any new ones this year?

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Your Ears Will Love These Headphones!

I received these items to review. I was not compensated in any other way for this post and all opinions are 100% my own!

I’ve had my fair share of bad experiences with headphones and running. This pair hurt my ears, that pair wouldn’t stay in my ears, the other pair started shorting out and shocking me while I tried to run…yeah, not so good luck with headphones and running.

Whenever someone tells me I should try a certain pair of headphones because they love them, I usually pass. I just don’t believe there is one magical pair that works for every runner…but maybe I’m wrong. Panasonic recently sent me two new pairs of headphones for our active family to try out and we’re loving both of them!

Panasonic Headphones

All of the headphones I’ve tried for running in the past have been in-ear headphones. Most of them either hurt or fell out. I was pleasantly surprised to find this wasn’t the case with the Panasonic Sport Clip Headphones!

Sport Clip Headphones

They are very lightweight and fit perfectly over and in my ears, holding snuggling but not with too much pressure. The sound quality is exceptional and they also work with your smartphone so you can answer calls while running! I don’t do that very often, but it is a nice feature to have!

Bone Conduction Headphones

While I loved the sport clip style, it was another pair of headphones that really blew all of us away. Panasonic Open Ear Bone Conduction Headphones are like nothing else I have ever tried. They don’t go IN your ears, they sit on the bone right in front of your ear. You hear the music through vibrations in your skull. It sounds crazy, but it totally works and everyone in the family had to try them!

Big J Headphones

The nice thing about using these headphones for running is they don’t plug up your ears completely, so you would be able to hear a car coming or a biker passing you on the trail AND hear your music with great clarity. This is a really valuable safety feature for outdoor runners. And that makes these water-resistant headphones the perfect choice as you’re training for your summer and fall races!

Speaking of races, we’re adding another race runner to the family this weekend as our oldest (nine years old) has been training for his first 5K! We have been so impressed by his dedication to sticking to a training plan, doing three runs a week, some outside and some on the treadmill. He followed the Couch to 5K program for eight weeks and the big race is this Saturday!

Headphones Warm Weather Pack

It’s going to be a warm morning, so we’re packing a great water bottle and cooling towel for after the race. Not a big fan of the heat and humidity, but it comes with living in Nebraska!

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I’ll be running with Big J for the 5K and probably crying when he finishes. Yes, I’m that mom. Our seven-year-old will also be doing his first one-mile race with The Hubby that morning! This running lifestyle has become quite the adventure, but I wouldn’t have it any other way and I LOVE sharing it with our whole family!

What’s your experience with headphones for exercise? Do you have a pair you love?

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Books for Kids: Jack Staples

I was given this book to review, but was not compensated in any other way for this post. All opinions are 100% my own or my son’s! This post contains affiliate links.

My kids are voracious readers. They devour chapter books, asking for more reading time, carrying books they’re engrossed in with them wherever we go. I absolutely love it.

I’m always on the lookout for quality chapter books to throw their way next, so I was thrilled to learn of a new young adult series from author Mark Batterson, best known for writing The Circle Maker. When I read the plot summary, I knew our nine-year-old, Big J, would be all about the Jack Staples series and I was right!

Jack Staples Book 1

I interviewed Big J after he finished the first book in the series, Jack Staples and the Ring of Time, and here were a few of his answers:

What is the story about?
“It’s about Jack and his adventures as one of the Awakened who sees life with different eyes than the rest of the world.”

What did you like about this book?
“I really liked the sword-fighting! It was like our world, but there were no guns, only swords and other primary weapons. The story was exciting, scary, and intense!”

Who were your favorite characters?
“Jack Staples and Alexia Dreager are the main characters and I liked them best. Alexia was really cool because she has the gift of climbing. I also like that God is called the Author and Satan is called the Assassin.”

What were your favorite parts of the story?
“I like when Jack defeated the enemy and the lion helped save him!”

What lessons did you learn from this book?
“Mrs. Dumphry (a character in the book) said something I really liked: ‘A true leader does not need to be asked to do the right thing; he does it.’ I think that’s the most important lesson I learned.”

I loved his answers, but more than that, I loved his enthusiasm about this book and the series as a whole. Immediately after finishing the first Jack Staples book, he asked when we could order the second and third!

Jack Staples Reading

The first piece of good news is the second book in the series, Jack Staples and the City of Shadows, as well as the third, Jack Staples and the Poet’s Storm, are both available now. My bookworm is thrilled he doesn’t have to wait for them to be released. I totally know how he feels!

The second piece of good news is that I’m giving away a copy of Jack Staples and the Ring of Time for your child today, along with a copy of Mark Batterson’s book, Praying Circles Around the Lives of Your Children, just for you!

To enter, just leave a comment telling me who in your life would love to read the Jack Staples series! I will pick one random winner Wednesday night, July 15th at 9PM CST!

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Easy Iced Coffee On the Go with Folgers!

I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Folgers. I received a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

I’m really picky about how I like my coffee. When I get it just the way I want it, I’m hesitant to try it any other way. I’m even more picky about iced coffee. It has taken me a long time to find any iced coffee I really enjoy, and the ones I do enjoy can’t be made at home.

Well, I USED to only like iced coffee from a coffee shop, but that all changed when I recently tried the new Folgers Iced Cafe Coffee Drink Concentrates!

Folgers Iced Cafe

Folgers Iced Cafe Concentrates are the most convenient way to make iced coffee. They come in a cute squeeze bottle just like you’ve previously seen for water flavorings. With the coffee, sweetener, and flavoring all in one bottle, you just add two squeezes of the concentrate to eight ounces of milk, stir in some ice, and enjoy!

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The beauty of this iced coffee is you can make it just how you like and with very few calories. I’ve tried mine with both skim milk and unsweetened vanilla almond milk with great results! I’d love to try it with coconut milk as well.

Folgers Iced Cafe Concentrates come in four flavors: Original Latte, Vanilla Latte, Hazelnut Latte, and Caramel Macchiato. My favorite was no surprise…

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We traveled for the Fourth of July and I threw all four bottles in our food bag to enjoy while on vacation. If you’re not sure the place you’re staying at for your summer travels will have the right fixings for your necessary coffee, these portable concentrates are the perfect solution. You can get milk anywhere, so bring the ingredients for great iced coffee along with you! I spotted them in my local grocery store the other day, so check yours to pick some up!

I’m still hooked on a warm cup of coffee every morning, but these hot summer afternoons are just begging for great iced coffee and now I don’t have to go anywhere (or spend a fortune) to have an iced coffee I really love!

Folgers is providing you the opportunity to win prizes all summer long on Facebook and Twitter! Each Friday through September 4, 2015, Folgers fans can enter for weekly chances to win a prize basket of Folgers products worth $200!

  • To enter on Facebook, answer in the comments of their Friday giveaway post.
  • On Twitter, send an answer to their Friday contest question in a non-private tweet to @Folgers, and include the hashtags #FolgersFridays and #PromoEntry. You still have several Fridays left to win!

Promotion is open to legal residents of the 50 United States and D.C, 18 years of age older. Internet access and a valid Facebook account are required to enter the promotion on Facebook; to enter on Twitter you must have a public Twitter account and follow the Twitter account @Folgers. Void where prohibited.

Are you an iced coffee drinker? Have you tried the Folgers Iced Cafe Coffee Drink Concentrates yet?

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Summer Love at the Courts

I started taking tennis lessons at the age of five. Tennis was a huge part of my childhood, but not in an intense, competitive way. Sure, I did some tournaments here and there and played freshman tennis in high school, but tennis has mostly been for fun in my life. I still love playing and watching the game. This is my awesome parents and sister showing off our strong love for tennis…

McCarthy Family Tennis Rock

Yeah. We’re cool. We know it.

I never want to push any activity on my kids just because I love it, but the boys took an early interest in tennis and we signed them up for lessons through our local tennis association. We have a beautiful outdoor tennis complex not too far from our house where the boys have been taking lessons for three summers now.

Little J Picking Up
We spend two hours at the tennis courts two mornings a week for most of the summer. That might not sound like much fun for some people, but I just love being at those courts, watching our boys fall in love with a sport I adore so much. When Big J hit his first serve over the net AND in, I just about jumped out of my seat with excitement!

Big J Hitting

Big J Water

While I love almost everything about our time at tennis, there is no shade and the sun can be brutal for those two hours. We’ve left the courts with extra pink skin more than once, but not this year. We go to tennis lessons armed with great sun protection from Banana Boat®!

Summer Love at the Courts

Whether we’re headed to the tennis courts or the swimming pool, planning ahead is key! This definitely applies with sunscreen. Before heading to your family outing, consider how long you will be outside and how many times everyone will need to reapply. This even goes for activities in your own backyard!

Be sure to apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to you and your kids’ entire bodies 30 minutes before going outside and reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating. One application of Banana Boat® Kids Tear-Free Sting-Free SPF 50 Sunscreen is usually good enough for us at the courts, but on extra sunny days, I reapply after an hour because they are so sweaty!

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Fair skin runs in our family, so I pay extra special attention to the face, ears, and back of the neck. The Banana Boat® Ultra Defense® Stick Sunscreen SPF 50 is great for quick, mess-free application for our whole family.

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I have lots of love for our summer court time, and even more so when we don’t leave the courts with skin burnt to a crisp by the summer sun! Now if I could just get out there to play tennis myself a little more!

What summer sports is your family involved in? Do you have great summer sports memories from growing up?

 

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Banana Boat® . The opinions and text are all mine.

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Fourth of July Outfits!

Who’s ready for the Fourth of July weekend?!

I’m totally ready – time with family, a day at the lake, celebrating our country, the food – it’s all good. I also love the fun Fourth of July outfit options. Red, white, and blue can be mixed together in so many different ways. Whether your holiday celebrations are at the lake, a backyard party, or anywhere else, I have some ideas for how to style your patriotic colors!

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A navy striped dress is a great staple to have in your summer closet and you’ve already got the blue and white covered for your Fourth of July outfit! Add some red beads and white slip-ons like these from Bzees to keep this classy outfit both dressy and comfy. I’m always a big fan of completing a summer outfit with a fedora.

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This is my lake Fourth of July outfit – a great patriotic tank, neutral shorts, comfy shoes and simple accessories. Lake days are all about being able to move and be comfortable not matter how hot it may be. We’ve been going to the same lake every Fourth of July since I can remember and this type of outfit has never failed me – why change now?! Did you notice the shape of the flag? So fun.

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If I was spending the Fourth of July at a backyard party or restaurant with friends, this would be my outfit of choice. I love the long, bold graphic tank paired with classy white capris and the best wedges ever. I really should wear white pants more, but hello, mother of three boys! Actually, I’m the one who usually spills on them…

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One of my favorite parts of the Fourth of July is sitting around the campfire, making s’mores, singing, laughing and talking with my aunts, uncles, and cousins. By that time of day, we’ve changed into jeans and hoodies, partially because it has cooled off, but mostly to ward off those Minnesota mosquitoes! This year, I’m adding these amazing Mitscoots “The Mark” socks for a little extra USA flair! It’s too late to get your own pair in time for this holiday, but you’ll want to order them now anyways because they are on sale for just $10 AND you can get an extra 20% off your order with the code HWTB20 at checkout!

4th of July Style Collage

How do you wear your red, white, and blue? Which of these Fourth of July outfits fits your style and plans for the holiday?

 

 

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