Christmas Decor Ideas

I’m quite the homebody. I love a quiet day spent at home, tea in hand. This season, I’ve enjoyed decking the halls in our new apartment home. 🎄

My philosophy when it comes to decorating for the seasons, is bringing the outside in. I try to implement this strategy in as many ways as I creatively can. It’s certainly a budget friendly motto to live by!

Here’s some festive Christmas decor ideas that’ll warm your heart just as much as a cup of hot cocoa.

1. Homemade Potpourri

My, does this make for a pretty display! And the smell? Ah! Delightful! All I did here was dry some oranges in the oven, arrange them in a bowl with some fresh cranberries, a cinnamon stick, and a sprig of our fresh Christmas tree! Some fresh cloves would be a fragrant addition as well. I think I’ve made myself a new tradition right here!

2. Set the Scene

Display your favorite Christmas reads! This gives off that lived-in Christmasy home. I always like to take off the paper sleeves on my books. More often than not, there is a gorgeous book underneath!

3. Christmas in a Jar

Perhaps the easiest Christmas decor to accomplish! All you need is a large mason jar, some red ribbon, and some Christmas tree branches! I don’t put the branches in water, but let them dry instead. This prevents mold from building up in there.

4. Orange Slice Ornaments

I dried some extra orange slices to make ornaments! Simply string them with some twine, and hang them on a branch with a light behind it. Natural stained glass! I can see myself making these with my future kiddos one day.

5. Mantle Arrangements

Okay, so this isn’t exactly a mantle. More like an IKEA tv shelf, but let’s pretend, shall we? Here I took more Christmas tree branches, added some pine cones, a few berries, and some battery operated fairy lights! Magical.

6. Remember the Reason

Don’t forget to add some Christmas cheer to your kitchen! How lovely is this nativity? It was my grandma’s years ago. (Thanks, Grandma!) I love its simplicity. A beautiful reminder of what Christmas is all about–the birth of our Savior!

I hope you feel inspired to think outside the box when you decorate this season! Wishing you and yours a very, merry Christmas!

Youthful Faith

Faith came a lot easier as a child. Heights didn’t bother me as they do now. I’d gleefully perch a lizard on my shoulder. Now I can’t stand the sight of them. If I was told something, I would believe it. Without question.

I really like grapes. I always have. When I was little, I recall my dad telling me if I kept eating so many grapes, a grape vine would grow inside my belly. And I believed him.

Then, somewhere along the lines, that blissful, unwavering faith dissipated. As I grew older, I took life’s blows a little harder. Worry and doubt lurked on every corner. “Anxious” became a word I used to describe myself.

Jesus wants us to come before Him as children. With reckless abandon. Faith without hesitancy. Childlike faith. Or as I like to call it, “Youthful Faith.” When I was a teacher’s aide, I was blessed to witness this childlike faith lived out daily. It’s amazing how we adults can learn so much from God’s precious children.

As an adult, having youthful faith goes against my nature. I want to swim through my mess and try to fix things myself. Then, I find myself washed up on shore, breathless and drenched with defeat.

I love this quote by Oswald Chambers: “Faith is absolute trust in God—trust that could never imagine He would forsake us.”

And that’s just it. God will NEVER leave me nor forsake me. I can KNOW that.

My Nonno (that’s Italian for “grandpa”) was an amazing example of youthful faith. Every night he kneeled by his bed and prayed. And believed in the power of prayer. On his death bed, he had absolutely no fear. He said, “I am going to the place He has prepared for me.” And he said so with joy and confident anticipation. THAT is youthful faith!

When I first started blogging, I originally named my blog “The Young Wife”, because I was married at 21. A little while after, the name “The Youthful” came to me, and I felt the Lord telling me to change my blog’s name. It’s funny because “The Young Wife” had everything to do with age, while “The Youthful” has nothing to do with age and everything with attitude. Since renaming the blog, God has revealed new depths of its meaning: My name (Julia) means “youthful.” My goal is to live joyously and simply, seeking adventure along the way. And recently, the concept of “Youthful Faith” hit me. God is in alllllll the details, friends.

I am encouraged that I don’t have to “adult” my way through tough situations. I can cry out to my Heavenly Daddy, and KNOW that He will provide. That He will take care of me. That He will give me peace. That He will carry me through.

Whether you’re on top of a glorious mountain, or down in the depths of the valley, trust the Father. I encourage you, my spiritual siblings, to live a life of Youthful Faith.

(Walking in faith with these darling (comfortable) sandals, courtesy of Oka-B.)

Fate? or something Greater?

As I went to take a small nap one afternoon, I gazed out my window. Words starting coming to mind. Lots of them. Almost poetic in nature. I lifted my head and wrote whatever came to me. Here’s what I wrote.

Deep down humanity knows they come from something Greater. In their lame attempt to explain what only is defined by God, they created “fate” in His place. We hate what is wrong, what is immoral. But what makes something wrong? Something immoral? We all yearn so desperately for love. Yet what is love and why do we want it? In our hearts we feel things. Know things. Things that have been created in our nature by God. And yet, this world explains them away. Oh how they miss such fulfillment in life. The depth of their being could be so much more. And what a grave tragedy it is to deny God.

You credit your favor in life to chance? Fate? Coincidence? In that case, you think far too little of the good in your life. The realization that Someone, that cares so deeply for you, takes the time to orchestrate all the blessings you have acquired, makes the good fortune in your life so much more meaningful…so much more grand. We are so little, yet a big Creator gives so much.

Or do you credit your success to your hard work and talent? Where do you think you received the talent and means to perform so highly? Chance? …It all leads back to the Creator. Step down from your pedestal and stop fighting what you know deep down to be true. We were created by a God, through whom all blessings flow. Stop resisting and get to know your Maker. He is a truly remarkable, personal, loving Father.

The more intimately I converse with Him through prayer…the more I hear Him through the Bible…the more deeply I enter relations with Him…the more I see Him move.

Things I’ve Learned From Being a Teacher’s Aide


I’ve worked with kids since I was 18. In my 6 years of summer camps, aftercare, and being a teacher’s aide, I’ve tucked away precious lessons and sweet memories. As this chapter closes and I move on to the next, I am thankful for the morsels of experience I can carry with me. I truly believe that there are lessons to be learned everywhere. All we must do is slow down and observe. Look a little closer. Hug a little tighter. Love a little more.

Here are the lessons I’ve learned from my past three and a half years as a teacher’s aide.

  1. Bandaids have magical healing powers. Even if you can’t see a scratch, give the kid a bandaid.
  2. Kids will do anything for a piece of candy. Even just one skittle.
  3. The power of a sugar high over a child is no joke.
  4. Kids are brutally honest. “I don’t like your hair like that.” “Oh okay, thanks.”
  5. Kids genuinely care. If I was ever out sick one day, I’d have kids asking how I was feeling for a week or so after.
  6. Four square is serious business. And if they ever hit me with the ball, I was “interference!”
  7. Childlike faith is a truly beautiful thing. They believe with such reckless abandon. Unwavering, blissful, steady faith. 
  8. Watching a child break down walls–brick by brick, begin to trust, and flourish is one of the most heartwarming things to witness.
  9. The Bible doesn’t need to be watered down for kids. In fact, the more meat they learn from it, the more of the Bible they yearn for. Seeing them get excited in Bible class is so inspiring and uplifting.
  10. Copy machines have a mind of their own and they definitely aren’t people pleasers.
  11. Working at a school is like working with family. 
  12. Teachers work so hard. Not only do they pour into a child’s education, but their inner struggles as well. It’s been an honor to work along side the very best, loving, invested teachers.
  13. Rainy days= bad days at a school. No recess = no sanity.
  14. The teacher’s lounge is a sacred refuge. With donuts. Lots of donuts.
  15. I’ve learned a lot about discipline and resolving conflicts—valuable, fruitful lessons I can apply to parenthood one day.
  16. It has been an honor to work with children of all different personalities, backgrounds, and perspectives.
  17. Kids see the world through different spectacles. They’re not afraid to get dirty, dig, and be free—a trait I need to embrace more.
  18. Sometimes you impact a child, and sometimes they impact you.
  19. When a teacher’s aide enters the room, teachers look at you like a paramedic about to save the day.
  20. In a world saturated with technology, it’s refreshing to see that reading a child a book still deeply affects them. Sitting criss-cross-applesauce, with their mouths slightly open, their gaze in awe and anticipation—they are entranced by the power of a good book.
  21. Speaking of technology, I’ve learned that it is not only unnecessary, but harmful in excess to a child’s imagination. (This is merely my opinion.) Nothing makes my heart soar more than seeing a child play house, drawing treasure maps, building things…being uniquely and creatively, them.
  22. Children aren’t afraid. They climb to the top of the play structure with ease. No looking down. No second guessing. They just climb. And that’s where I’m at right now. I needn’t look down, but rather look up.

As I tread unwandered trails, I hold fast to the fact that the Lord has always come through. He always provides. In His perfect timing. And He sprinkles the path with blessings and lessons. A truly beautiful journey indeed.

To Be Brave


(Photograph by the lovely Yazi Davis Photography.)

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a heart rambling blog post. These typically go unplanned, and I wait til God leaves one on my heart. And He has. So here it goes.

The other day I was ill at work, and it was decided that a trip to the ER would be best, just to make sure I was okay. It wasn’t anything crazy, and why I was there is besides the point of this post. (But don’t worry, I am okay ☺️)

I will tell you that going to the doctor is one of my least favorite things in the world. Being in that ER waiting room (for 3 hours) sent my anxiety through the roof. Thankfully, Billy distracted me by pulling out his phone and putting on Netflix for me. Nothing better than a Gilmore Girls episode to lift my spirits.

I was eventually brought to a room where they were going to run some tests. The room was divided by a curtain, with another patient on the other side. I couldn’t see her, but I could hear her yelling at the nurses, telling them they weren’t doing their jobs, among other unkind things.

I was already nervous about what sorts of tests were going to be done to me. The tension in the room increased as I heard her yell at any nurse or doctor who entered.

Whenever a nurse left the room, she started talking to Billy and I from behind the curtain. Telling her life story practically. And it was heart breaking, honestly.

A nurse entered. She’d yell at them.

Nurse left. She started talking to us again. She’d crack jokes, start crying, and then change the subject again.

“Crying helps, you know,” she said.

My heart sank. There was a moment. A moment where I felt like I should say something. Something about Jesus, and how He can mend every broken heart. That He saves us. My heart pounded.

Let me warn you, this is a sad story.

It’s actually embarrassing.

But it was an eye opening experience, so I feel led to share…

I didn’t say anything. I got scared.

“But I can’t even see her,” I thought.

“She might yell at me the way she yelled at the nurses,” I reasoned.

A nervous wreck from the events that had transpired through out the day, and honestly a little afraid of her, I said nothing. I let my fear take hold of me. I allowed my discomfort with the situation to dictate what God was telling me to do. I was a coward.

When I arrived at home after 6 hours at the hospital, I immediately broke down in tears. Overwhelmed with guilt by the missed opportunity to share Christ with someone who needed him so desperately.

Thankfully, I follow a God who loves. Who forgives. Who listens. He laid on my heart a valuable lesson: I need to be ready. Sharing the Gospel can be uncomfortable. It can be offensive. It can be inconvenient. But, I need to be ready at a moment’s notice to follow God’s call. His still small voice. I need to be brave.

Since that day, I’ve prayed. For her. And for courage. That each time I step out my front door, I’ll be ready to speak the truth of God’s gift of Salvation. That He sent His Son to die on the cross for each and every one of us. That He took on all our sin. That death could not hold Him, so He rose from the dead 3 days later. All so He could save us. All so we could spend forever with Him in heaven. And all we have to do is receive. Receive His free gift.

Sharing the truth of God’s love and grace may be inconvenient. It may be scary. It may be uncomfortable. But it will be good.

 

Bringing Back Print…With Artifact Uprising


Photographs. Real, tangible photographs. The kind that can send you straight back to another time, another place, another era…with just one touch.

I remember going over to my Nonna and Nonno’s house as a child and spending hours looking through boxes of photos. My tiny fingers perused the photos with admiration. Their adventures in Italy made me dream. Their stories of moving to the United States fascinated me. Pictures of my mom and aunt growing up warmed my heart. (And made me laugh.)

It’s amazing how a simple photo can freeze a moment.

We live in the era of smartphones. We are taking pictures constantly, and with ease. Which is awesome. And yet, we are seldom printing these photos. They are at the mercy of our camera rolls. Lost in infinite scrolling.

This is honestly heartbreaking. There is a rather large chunk of my life that I have little to no tangible photos. If I had continued down this path, I would have very little to show for my kids one day.

Unfortunately, there’s something so utterly unappealing about drug store prints. The quality is rubbish and this takes away from the art of the photo. And I think this is why people don’t bother printing their photos anymore. Because the quality is so low. I was taking beautiful photos, yet I had no beautiful way of bringing them to life.

Then one day, I was introduced to Artifact Uprising.


Beautiful, thick prints. Matte finish. With an eggshell texture. A classic white border. Rich color. Timeless and quality. From the moment I held an Artifact Uprising photo in my hands, I was hooked. And a new habit was formed: ordering prints.

I think all it really takes is seeing these photos in person for yourself. My husband has a few prints on display on his desk at work. His coworkers were instantly intrigued, and one of them even ordered some for himself. That’s the power of displaying the everyday.

Bringing back print is something I am quite passionate about. Getting a box of Artifact Uprising prints in the mail is a little like Christmas. They come housed in a lovely box that allows you to label the collection. I am now in the regular habit of getting my pictures off of my camera roll and into my home.


My heart beats so greatly for the #bringbackprint movement, that I’d like for you to experience these divine keepsakes for yourself. Now through October 9, 2017, you can use my code JULIA10 to receive 10 free everyday prints, any size, excluding shipping. Everyone is a winner with this one! Get started HERE.

If you choose to order your ten free prints, please reach out to me and tell me how you love them! It would certainly make my day!

Remember the soccer game. The anniversary trip. The late night icecream run. The selfie you took by that funny looking statue. Get it all off your phone and IRL. ✌🏼

I hope I’ve inspired you to bring your Instagram feed to life. To display the everyday. To #bringbackprint

*This post is in collaboration with Artifact Uprising.


Fall Decor Ideas


What a fun occasion it is to unearth your fall decor items from the closet, and warm up your home with autumnal delight. Fall decorating is all about bringing the outside in. I like to incorporate as many natural, real elements as possible. To mention a few: acorns, pine cones, cinnamon sticks, apples, and if you live up north: real leaves.

Here are a few of my very favorite ways to spice up my home for the fall season!

1. Mini Pumpkins


While they serve little culinary purpose, mini pumpkins are my favorite fall decorative piece. Each one is uniquely cute. Once the season is over, you can toss them out, so you needn’t store them. An apartment must.

2. Leaf Garland

A classic. It does wonders to brighten a room. An added bonus: intertwine them with some twinkle lights!

3. Wreath


I made this lovely wreath a few years ago, and it’s still going strong! Wreaths look lovely over your bed, hung from your mantle, or of course on your front door. Smaller faux florals look more real. Try to find ones that look “wild” and “freshly picked.”

4. Faux Leaf Arrangements


These were the leftovers from my wreath. The bottle used to contain some sort of lemonade or green tea. I love repurposed glass jars/bottles. Free decor, y’all.

5. Eucalyptus


Eucalyptus. Give it to me all year round. Smells good. Looks good. And it’s real. Want it to last longer? Don’t put it in water and let it dry. It won’t get moldy this way. Also, how cute is this eucalyptus/apple arrangement I created for my sister’s bridal shower last fall?! 😍

6. Dried Babysbreath

While babysbreath is in season in the spring, it can look very appropriate for fall if you let it dry. Leave it out of water, and it will turn a light brown. Looks very earthy and whimsical. Cost effective and also another real decor item.

Wishing you a very happy fall! May your home be cozy and your coffee be pumpkin-y. Stay tuned for more Fall content on The Youthful. 🌻

September Favorites

Here we are. September has arrived and I’m ready to be swept away by cozy turtlenecks, warm sips of pumpkin lattes, crisp air, crunchy leaves, camping, smoky bonfires, suspenseful movies, evening walks, and delicious aromas coming from my kitchen. 🍁

With a few more weeks left before fall, I thought I’d share some things I’ve been quite taken with lately. Perhaps this will be a fun new feature of the blog!

1. Brown Tote

I typically use two purses: one is a purse I use strictly for work. The other is used for weekend fun. I purchased this tote as a work purse, but I’ve been loving it so much, I’ve been using it constantly! It’s large enough to fit a laptop, a small umbrella, and even that fresh eucalyptus from the market. At a great price, I’m happy with the quality so far. I’ve been seeing this style tote everywhere lately. Figures Target would come out with an affordable option!

2. Oka-B Flip Flops

These flip flops (courtesy of Oka-B) are perfect for “Florida Fall.” The black combined with the leopard detail doesn’t look too summery, but instead rather cozy. I love these paired with some rolled up jeans and a cardigan. Effortless. Keep your eyes peeled for these flip flops in their fall collection!

3. The Magnolia Journal

I read this magazine like a book: from cover to cover. This magazine always leaves me inspired and motivated. Amazing design ideas, beautiful (tear-jerking) stories, and recipes that have you reaching for your grocery list. Each issue is better than the last. I can’t recommend it enough! The Fall issue is on newsstands now!

4. Sips By Tea Subscription

Calling all tea lovers! Sips by is a monthly tea subscription box. If you know me, this is seriously a match made in heaven. With some natural light and a cup of tea, I’m in my happy place. The subscription has you fill out a profile so they can select teas from around the world, specifically catered to your tastes. This is also a great way to get a little adventurous and try new types of tea!

5. Rifle Paper Co. Recipe Box

This darling recipe box could easily become a family keepsake. It’s as pretty as it is practical! There are also a few other patterns to choose from. I find a daily little joy, reaching for a well loved recipe from this box, and adding a new favorite to the collection.

Summer ’17 Recap

This was the post I was dreading all summer.

Because writing this post means summer is coming to a close and school is about to begin. (Any teachers/aides out there? #wereallinthistogether)

All jokes aside, this summer has honestly been the best of my life.

It wasn’t overly extravagant. In fact, it was rather simple and modest. Yet, it was a darling time of rest, reflection, growth, and gratitude. I am overwhelmingly thankful for this time spent off from work, and the time spent with Jesus, my hubby, and my sweet family.

There were many a quiet mornings that began with oatmeal and a cup of tea. Followed by afternoon sun showers that turned the sky into arrogant sunsets. Peaceful evenings accompanied by popcorn and a movie. This summer wasn’t without flaw, but it was precious and appreciated.

At the start of the summer, I shared a few Summer Priorities I had. Goals, if you will. Here’s a little recap of how that went:

1. Quiet time with the Lord

This is an area that needs constant cultivation. Time spent with the Lord can never reach a point of arrival. We can always grow more. And that’s beautiful. With that being said, I have been working on dedicating more devotional time with God. One of Billy’s friends told us about a Bible app called “Read Scripture”. It’s designed to help guide you through reading the Bible from start to finish– and understand it more. Look up the free app!

2. Fitness

I’ve enjoyed being a little more active this summer. Working out has become more habitual and less of a dread. For me personally, I’ve come to find that fitness is less about looking a certain way, and more about feeling a certain way. Focus less on physical goals, and more on simply making long term healthy habits. 

3. A Little Bit of Everything

Among my two larger goals, were a series of smaller goals. Like read more, floss more, etc. I conquered those as well! Although, I must say, having the accountability of this blog certainly helped.

In closing, here are a few snapshots from this summer. I can’t wait to order prints of these photographs. What were you thankful for this summer?

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Everything (But) Plastic

Disclosure: The products featured in this post were gifted to me by EverythingButPlastic.com. All opinions are my own.

It all started with a conversation.

It was Father’s Day. We were all gathered around the table at an Italian restaurant. When my cousin (Will) and his fiancé (Shaleece) ordered their drinks “with no straw”, I naively chuckled to myself, thinking it was some funny quirk they had.  Their request for “no straw” started a conversation—a conversation I’m really glad we had.

They went on to explain the tragic plastic problem going on in the world. For example, did you know that Americans use 500 million straws each day? Yet, the problem extends far beyond just drinking straws. Plastic bags. Food packaging. Water bottles. Tooth brushes. Cups. Plasticware. The list goes on and on. It’s almost impossible to escape it. Here’s a few facts to help you wrap your mind around this problem:

  • Every piece of plastic that has been created is still on our planet in some capacity.
  • 50% of the plastic we use is single use plastic.
  • 1 million plastic bags are being used every minute.
  • On the surface of the ocean, there are 46,000 pieces of plastic per square mile.

Plastic is killing sea creatures. Dolphins. Whales. Sea turtles. Fish. Seabirds. We love to enjoy God’s beautiful and detailed creation, yet we are hurting the very creatures we love to admire.

Plastic is hurting us. BPA and other plastic chemicals are causing major health complications.

What can be done?

While recycling is a good practice to have, it is not a total solution for the massive problem that is plastic. There is simply too much plastic being produced. Recycling can’t keep up.

Make new (plastic free) habits. While plastic seems to be in every direction we look, plastic free living is being made possible. That’s where Shaleece and Will come in.

EverythingButPlastic

Shaleece and Will started a company called EverythingButPlastic.com, where plastic-free products are put all in one place.  Finding non plastic products with no plastic packaging can be extremely difficult. EverythingButPlastic.com serves as a solution. They sell everything from plastic free food wraps to dental floss. You can check out their amazing products here.

I was so stoked to try out a few of their products for myself!

1. Meli Wraps

I’m kind of obsessed with these. Made with organic cotton, beeswax, tree resin, and plant oils, these wraps bend and mold around your food or over a plate. Each package includes a small, medium, and large wrap. They are a reusable solution to plastic wrap. You can wash them and reuse them for up to a year. And they smell like honey. 🍯❤️ Needless to say, I’m sold.

2. Tall Kitchen Bags

The plastic bag is such a huge problem. These plastic-free kitchen bags are a huge game changer. They are made from GMO-free potato starch and are completely compostable.  I found these bags to be strong enough to hold a lot of food waste. Impressed.

3. Brush Naked Bamboo Toothbrush

I am loving this toothbrush. Not only does the bamboo make this toothbrush aesthetically pleasing in your bathroom, it gets the job done. I’ve had bamboo toothbrushes before, but I always felt like they were too harsh on my gums. The plant based bristles on this toothbrush are really gentle.

4. Dental Lace

This floss is yet another great solution. It comes in a glass tube and the floss itself is made from natural mulberry silk. I also liked that it still has the minty flavor that I like. I do typically use floss picks, versus traditional floss, so I’d be very interested in perhaps a bamboo floss pick.

Shaleece and Will recommend watching “A Plastic Ocean”. You can view it on Netflix. I watched it, and it completely opened my eyes to a problem I thought very little about. Ever since I watched it, I haven’t stopped thinking about this issue. It stuck with me, and that’s what starts change.

I encourage you to spread the word. People don’t realize how great the problem at hand is. If they knew that birds and sea creatures were dying from eating plastic, they would be more likely to make a lifestyle change.

If you’d like more information, feel free to reach out in the comments below. Be sure to check out the huge selection of plastic free products at EverythingButPlastic.com.

Let’s take care of God’s creation and the bodies He gave us!

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