This post is sponsored by Gold Peak Tea.

When people ask me where I'm from I don't ever know how to answer them because I've lived in four different states (California, Wisconsin, Texas and Arizona). I usually just tell people I'm from all over. So, the word "home" is not so much a place as it is a feeling. Gold Peak Tea invited me to to share with you what feels like home to me as part of their Take Me Home Contest where one lucky winner will win a trip and a custom experience that takes them home (hurry, deadline ends September 1st, 2016).

To me, home feels like sunshine, warm breezes, snuggles with my kids, belly laughs, and sharing food and drink accompanied by good conversation with my friends and family. Home always feels comfortable, warm and easy. 

Holidays are often moments in time that we remember most because we are with family and friends. They can also feel stressful, which is the antithesis of what I want my home to feel like. So, easy entertaining is key. I wanted to share with you some "friends-giving" inspiration that's simple and easy and that showcases memories of my home growing up and my own home in Arizona.

Being an only child, our holidays were always spent with friends, especially when we lived in Texas. You could say we were doing "friends-giving" long before it was popular. Each year you could count on four things to be there: turkey, sweet potatoes, pecan pie and tea. Everyone always brought a dish instead of the host preparing the whole meal, but if you are going to do the whole thing here are some tips. 

Keep your place settings simple. White plates, classic linen napkins and a low key centerpiece. I simply placed a bundle of wheat in the middle of the table with some tea-lights. I also picked an accent color of coper to keep the palette warm and contrast with my blue rug. 

Make your dishes ahead of time. We did a turkey breast in the crock pot, stuffing in muffin tins (you can prep before), green beens lightly roasted (such a fast way to do it), potatoes scalloped instead of mashed (you can prep it before), pecan pies and galettes made in advance. 

There's nothing like eating a big meal and washing it down with some ice cold tea. Instead of having to brew it, you can count on Gold Peak Tea to give you the perfect, at-home taste. A lot of people like to add lemon or peaches to their tea. Instead, we add apple and citrus to the tea with cinnamon and star of anise to make it taste like fall. Stay tuned for the delicious recipe, and you can thank me later for giving you fall in a cup. 


Thanksgiving always started at dinner time in our house and went late into the night. The adults would sit at the table for hours talking and drinking, and us kids would go play and until it was time for dessert and eat second helpings of pie. 

That's what we do at our house. Foods change here and there, but I know our kids will have fond memories of this. Heck, even our dog loves the holidays. 

I'd love to hear what feels like home to you too! Please share in the comments below, and also be sure to enter the Gold Peak Tea contest too to win a trip home. The deadline for entries is September 1st, 2016. Stay tuned for some delicious recipes. 

Photos by Rennai Hoefer; Food by Brendan McCaskey, Styled by Alex Evjen, Copper cups designed by Katie Sterbenz

Winter Date Idea


This post is sponsored by Coca-Cola.

Our schedules get packed with extra events and gatherings during the holiday season, and it's easy to let the important things like date nights, family time and alone time fall by the wayside. Here is a sweet holiday date night idea for you and your special someone that will put you in the holiday spirit and keep you connected through the hustle and bustle of the season.

View More: http://melissajill.pass.us/cocacola
View More: http://melissajill.pass.us/cocacola

Pack a winter picnic in a cooler such as this American Retro Cooler from Coca-Cola. I included popcorn, a baguette, cheese, a pear, two candy canes and two bottles of Coca-Cola. Grab two cozy blankets to help you stay warm, and head to the ice rink. Skate until you are tired and hungry, and then enjoy your winter picnic as you watch the other skaters. If you plan your date in the evening, you can take a ride around and look at the lights to finish your date.


If you want to look special for your date, try wearing a sequin top with jeans. It's comfortable and festive. You can even paint your nails a metallic color to complete your look. I used Coca-Cola's OPI "My signature is DC" color.

Photos by Melissa Jill Photography; Styling by Alex Evjen of A.V.E. Styles

Modern Holiday Table Design


This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Coca-Cola.

It's the most wonderful time of the year. The season of parties and entertaining is upon us, and I'm sharing with you a simple, modern table design that you can put together in 20 minutes. You don't want to have to spend hours crafting away and stressing over details. You just want to create memories that will last a lifetime in a beautiful space.


I'm the first one to admit that I get anxiety over entertaining. My insecurities rise to the top, and I start thinking about all of the things that I need to do for my house to look "perfect." Here's what I have learned, fresh greenery and candlelight is really all you need. You don't even need to pick a trendy color scheme. Stick with neutral shades and metallic accents, and you will have yourself a picture perfect set up.


Here's what I did:

1| Buy linen fabric at your local fabric store. Fold it and lay it across your table. It's okay if it has raw edges. To clean up the ends of your runner, slide a napkin ring through the fabric and place some greens for a pretty touch.

2| Lay branches cut from your trees or nearby woods about a foot each. I used a mix of magnolia branches and evergreen branches. I even placed them in my chandelier.


3| Buy some sprays of berries at your local grocery store and place them in small vessels or votives along with some more evergreen or fresh herbs like rosemary. Place the vessels throughout the centerpiece. I used four.

4| To add some height, place candles through the centerpiece as well. I used some vintage brass candle holders I found at Modern Manor.

5| Forget the placemats. Just place simple white dishes on your table.

6| Roll up your napkins and place them in your napkin rings. I found vintage brass napkin rings that matched the candlesticks.


7| Place water and wine glasses on your table. I really love these Coca-Cola Reidel glasses. They have a beautiful shape, and they are so comfortable to hold. I even placed a classic Coca-Cola bottle on the table to add a pop of holiday red.

If you want to get crafty and go the extra mile without getting super stressed, try a couple of these personal touches:

View More: http://melissajill.pass.us/cocacola
View More: http://melissajill.pass.us/cocacola

1|  Write out the names of your guest on a tag and glue to cinnamon sticks on either side. Just hold tight for a few seconds after you glue them and start on the next.

View More: http://melissajill.pass.us/cocacola
View More: http://melissajill.pass.us/cocacola

2| You can also take a piece of black construction paper and write a special word with a chalk pen and pin it to the back of your chairs. Cluster any leftover greens you may have or cut some more off of your trees. You'll see a mix of the magnolia branches, rosemary and berries in this bundle. I found burlap ribbon at a local craft store and glued the paper to it.


Don't miss out on the special moments by putting perfection ahead of your family, but don't feel like you can't have a beautiful experience for your guests either. Share, connect and enjoy the process. Work with what you can find in your yard or at your local grocery store. If you want to get crafty that's great too, but go the extra mile after everything else is set.

View More: http://melissajill.pass.us/cocacola
View More: http://melissajill.pass.us/cocacola

So glad my dearest girlfriends could join me for this special moment. Each one of these women has helped support me in my career as a stylist, as well as my other roles of a wife, mother and friend. I am so thankful for each one of them.

Styling by Alex Evjen, A.V.E. Styles Photography by Melissa Jill Photography Florals by Hoot and Holler Calligraphy by Katie Sterbenz Design

Get the look: Drink glasses from Coca-Cola Vintage glass rim glasses from Modern ManorWhite plates from West Elm Dinner napkins from West Elm Napkin rings from Modern Manor Vintage candlesticks from Modern Manor Chandelier from Restoration Hardware Linen chairs from Cost Plus Wold Market White faux fur from IkeaVotives from West Elm Table from Chairish.com

Holidays & Family

This week I have retreated to Sedona, Arizona to relax, collect my thoughts, prepare for 2012 and spend quality time with my parents.


I look forward to this week every year because I'm forced to be still and take life slowly up in the mountains where there is nothing to do other than hike and marvel at nature.

Today I spent about two hours alone just looking through old family photo albums. I wanted to find some great pictures of my family to put on my family photo wall (one of my home DIY goals of 2012). It was a simple and powerful reminder of the love, hard work and laughter I come from. It was also motivation to continue to work hard at what I do to provide for my own family.

Do you carve out time to plan and set goals before the new year? Or maybe just reflect on what this past year has brought you?



This past Thanksgiving was very memorable for me because Ryan and I hosted our first Thanksgiving dinner in our new home, AND I survived my first turkey encounter. Well, meaning, that I cooked my first turkey and it turned out picture perfect - as you can see below in my before and after picture...I credit my success to all of the advice my family and friends gave me, and the Italian Food Network beauty, Giada. That girl knows what she's talkin' about!

You may be surprised, but the day after Thanksgiving I never go shopping. No way! My day-after-Thanksgiving-tradition is to decorate for Christmas. So, Ryan and I enjoyed a lazy morning, and spent the afternoon putting decorations up around the house.

This was a totally new and fun experience because it will also be our first Christmas in our own house. AND therefore we had to learn how to properly hang lights.

All I can say is thank goodness for staple guns. Amen!

Thanks to Ikea I found some rad wreaths for the three windows of our bright door.

I thought it would be fun to draw a Christmas tree on my chalkboard door too. I got the idea from a CB2 catalog. Although, their drawing was WAY better than mine. hehe.

If you haven't noticed yet, I don't really decorate in the usual Christmas colors. I love the idea of a modern Christmas. Case and point my white Christmas tree.

Oh, and you may be wondering why in the world it's way behind my couch...Well, let's just say my dog, Wendy, likes to eat ornaments.

BUT, I will say, I think we're going to get a real Christmas tree as the big day approaches because pine scented candles just don't do the trick. Of course, this tree will be wrapped in ribbon and lights only, and not tempting, shiny ornaments. =)

How was your Thanksgiving? What type of decorations are you doing for the holidays?