Category Archives: Home

So this is what they were talking about… (Chicago Winter Woes)

When we first decided to move to the Chicago area, in November no less, every single person we encountered would look at us incredulously and warn us about the frigid cold winters. Even when we were in Fairbanks, Alaska, where the winter temperatures regularly hover below zero, residents pitied the frosty plight that we were to face in the midwest.

So we were prepared. When the first cold front came through shortly after we moved here and temperatures hardly rose above 20 degrees for a week, I bundled up and went about my business feeling proud of my ability to tough it out and power through. But that was nothing…

This week, as a massive cold front swept most of the nation, we got a taste of our first real winter weather, where temperatures have plummeted to zero and wind-chills have gotten down to 35 degrees below zero. This is a cold like I have never known.

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When it started on Sunday, we were still in good spirits. The freezing temperatures blew in accompanied by beautiful snow. We enjoyed the day of rest while we watched the flakes fall, sun shining through, and cozied up drinking endless cups of cocoa. Eventually we got out to shovel the snow from our drive, treating it as a fun new adventure – my first time shoveling snow, how thrilling! 

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Monday was a sunny snow day filled with fun and frolicking. Though the temperatures stayed in the single digits, we alternated playing in the snow and getting out and about with bustling around the house cooking and cleaning and keeping warm. And at the end of the day, we enjoyed the vibrant colors of the sunset contrasting the stark white of the snow.

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Tuesday brought more snow. And more shoveling. Which by this point was starting to get old. But hey, the sun was still shining and this winter weather wasn’t going to get me down. So I put on a pot of soup, simmering with a mix of hearty flavors and a dash of hope for a bit of warmth. I layered on wool socks and knit hats and cozy scarves – just to stay inside.

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On Wednesday I pulled out all the stops to combat the cold. I packed on the layers and devoured the soup and drank the tea. I hovered by our space heater and broke out our new humidifier. I dashed out to the gym to warm up my body. And when all else failed I just crawled into bed early, cranked up the electric blanket, and tried to ignore the wind howling outside of our windows.

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But then came Thursday, and really I’d had enough. It was so cold, and so grey, and so cold, and so windy, and so cold. When I finally pulled myself out of bed, I discovered that there was ice lining the windows. Let me re-phrase that, there was ice lining the inside of the windows.

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Sometime around mid-morning even more snow started. The wind whipped around so wildly that it was impossible to tell whether the icy flakes were coming from the sky above or the already snow-covered ground below.

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By now my coping strategy had degraded to climbing under a pile of blankets, kept company by a marathon of House Hunters International. It was apparent that no amount of soup or tea could drown out the fact that were were living in the world of Frozen. And not in the happy Disney way, but in way that looks much more like this:

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Because we are all just so cold. All the time.

Then, out of the blue yesterday, a dear friend called me. While she lives in (relatively) warmer Tennessee now, she used to live in Chicago and consoled me with the story of her first Chicago winter meltdown (the only kind of melting we’ll be seeing around here anytime soon). She told me about a frigid day when she was walking to the train and she was so cold that she just started crying. Before a warm tear of relief even had the chance to slide down her face, she said, she realized her tear had frozen to her cheek.

Equal parts heartbreaking and hilarious, that story was just what I needed to hear to encourage me to keep going. Because, unfortunately, Chicago winter weather doesn’t care about our feelings. So we just have to find a way to (snow) plow forward, making the most of it, and looking towards the warmer days ahead. (Forecast is calling for double digit temps next week – hooray!)

And when all else fails, remember it could always be worse… (I’m looking at you Fairbanks!)

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Merry Christmas from the Moores!

I love Christmas cards. I love opening my mailbox and receiving the beautiful images of loved ones. I love sending them out and letting friends and family know we care.

So on December 5th, I decided it was time to order our Christmas cards and I would effortlessly address them and get postage and mail them within a week. But then my kind husband gave me a reality check which is that I have been more than a little overwhelmed with getting settled from the move, more than a lot tired from growing this baby, and had a long list of pre-Christmas to-dos (none of which had been started of course despite my insistence that this year I will finally have all Christmas gifts done at the beginning of December!). Oh, and I may have a slight issue with time estimation and imagining that it would only take me an hour to address and send all of the cards…

As I was about to hit that order button, we decided that in the interest of saving money, streamlining holiday stresses, and overall simplifying and embracing the imperfection this year, we would forgo the paper cards. Yes, it breaks my heart a little. But at the same time it relaxes my heart and mind knowing there is not yet another task that has to be checked off the list. Instead I can focus on what matters – enjoying time with family, relaxing and taking it all in as the last Christmas season just the two of us, and filling up with that joyful love and happiness of the holidays in order to share it with others.

Lovely family and friends, we hope you still enjoy our electronic Christmas card, with a few snapshots and words from this extra exciting year. Wishing you all things peaceful and wonderful this holiday season and beyond!

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Weekend Wandering: The Perfectly Imperfect Christmas Tree

Though I’ve been in the Christmas spirit for a while, we still stuck with tradition and waited until after the joy and mayhem of Thanksgiving to start the Christmas decorating. But this weekend it was time, so we set off to find our shining beauty – the Christmas Tree.

To save time and money, we planned to go the easy route this year and pick from the pre-sorted, pre-cut selection of firs at a local lot. But when we pulled up and learned that even the puniest of trees on the lot were going to run us a whopping $80, that wasn’t going to happen… So we made a last ditch decision to continue our tradition from last year and headed out to pick and cut our own tree at Larson’s Family Farm.

We drove an hour west, leaving the suburban sprawl behind and winding through midwestern farms and cornfields. When we finally arrived, we has less than an hour of sunlight left with which to pick our perfect tree. Though the sunset made for a beautiful setting, it also served as a stressfully ticking clock on my indecisiveness.

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I darted frantically from the firs to the pines to the spruces and back again searching for what would be the perfect symbol of our holiday cheer. While Larson’s had a vast selection and beautiful variety, every tree I came across seemed too short or too sparse or too crooked. In my eyes, one tree was not full enough while another was not green enough. As darkness began to descend, I fretted that we had driven all this way and I would still not find “The One.”

Then my husband, in his simple but infinite wisdom said, “They’re trees. They’re real and living, so they’re not going to be perfect.”

Ah yes, how I so easily forget that to be real and living means by default to be imperfect. And that’s not only okay, but wonderful. Because isn’t it far better to have the type of beauty and essence that is real and living than to strive for some artificial idea of perfection?

This season more than any other, I think it’s easy to forget the beautiful reality of life in our quest for perfecting the holidays. We strive for the perfect tree and the perfect gifts, for the perfect house for hosting parties and the perfect treats to share with friends, for the perfect Christmas card picture and the perfect gift wrapping. We can become so blinded by the sparkling lights that we forget what this season is truly about – the birth of a grace and love that allows us to be perfectly imperfect as real and living humans.

So with the sun descending below the stalks of corn, I finally decided to forget perfection and pick a tree that had a beauty and charm that we loved. We went with a pine, mostly because I loved how Andrew called them the “furry trees.”

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It’s shaggy and sparse in areas and a bit wonky at the top, but in our eyes, it’s taken on it’s own kind of real, imperfect perfection.

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Tips for a Joyful Move

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Over the past few years, I have moved more times than I care to remember. From hopping around college housing (including a stint overseas) to apartments in the Washington, DC area, a travel trailer that took us to Florida and back to Tennessee, a few houses there and now up to Illinois. By now you would think I’d be an expert, addicted to the art of packing and unpacking and creating new abodes. In honesty though, while I love new experiences and places, I really hate the process of moving.

I’ve finally found that there are a few things that help me keep my sanity, and keep tears to a minimum, when drowning in bubble wrap and boxes.

  1. Purge Everything – Before you start packing, take a day and go through all of your stuff and get rid of anything you don’t absolutely need or love. Then do it again the next day. With a fresh eye, day by day go through your things until you’ve narrowed it down to manageability. I have to admit, this process is really hard for me. While I’d like to be a minimalist, I tend to err on the side of hoarder – finding it hard to part with that sweet birthday card or that shirt that I might decide to wear in a year. But it’s so refreshing… and you don’t miss the stuff nearly as much as you would think.
  2. Take the Time to Properly Pack  – In my younger years packing and procrastination went hand in hand, meaning that at the last minute I would just throw everything in non-sensical order into boxes. This caused a lot of heartache and shattered glass as things ended up, unsurprisingly, broken. Since we are now apparently adults and have acquired nice stuff and beautiful wedding gifts, with this move I took the time (and recruited my wonderful momma) to wrap and strategically pack breakables. Bubble wrap is your friend. Packing paper (more than you think you could possibly need) is your friend. And a mom who is much more knowledgeable in this field is most definitely your friend.
  3. Label, Label, Label – Again, throwing everything into unmarked boxes is not the most efficient or effective strategy (unfortunately it took me many moves to learn this). You will save yourself a lot of time and headaches on the other end (unpacking) if you take that little bit of extra effort to properly label. I prefer labeling specifics of a box, rather than simply “kitchen” or “living room,” so that I know where to find exactly what I’m looking for. This method helps to decifer which boxes actually need to be unpacked immediately in order for to cook pasta or sleep on clean sheets and which ones can wait patiently in a corner. Thus saving you from living in an endless sea of half-unpacked boxes.
  4. Unpack Everything – Unpacking is the more fun, but no less daunting, part of moving. This is where you get to organize and decorate and make your new house (or apartment or trailer) a home. I prefer to do this slowly, taking time to figure out where I want each piece. However slowly you do it though, it’s important to sort through each box. Confession: I failed to do this on our last move and we ended up with what we not-so-affectionately referred to as our “Room of Shame” – an unused bedroom that remained filled with unpacked boxes for the duration of our time living there. If there are boxes with momentos or seasonal items that you’re not using in the near future, fine, throw them in the basement or back of a closet. Otherwise, unpack those boxes baby! Anything you find you don’t need or have a place for, revert to #1 (toss it). Remember, just because you moved it hundreds of miles doesn’t mean you can’t get rid of it now.
  5. Be Really Really Gracious to Your Husband and Father (or whoever helps you move) – This point is especially important if you’re pregnant and can’t actually move much and your role consists mostly of watching them do the (literal) heavy lifting. Both Andrew and my dad were a Godsend. They quickly and without complaint managed to Tetris all of our stuff into a couple trailers, then drove hours (through snow) and unpacked everything on the other end. So yes, I am endlessly grateful for the help of these two great men! All that to say, when people offer to help you, accept their assistance with gratitude (a few beers will usually do the trick) and no matter how haphazard the packing job may look (see image above), trust their superior skills.

Though we hope to be here a little while, this will surely not to be our last moving adventure. With each move we learn a little more and it becomes slightly less painful. Teamwork is everything. If moving with a partner or family – work together, be patient with one another, and chip away at it bit by bit. You’ll get to that happy home dear friend!

Settling In

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After a long couple weeks of packing and a crazy couple days of loading and moving, we’ve finally arrived at our new home outside of Chicago! Though we still face the arduous task of unpacking and making changes and improvements to make the house feel like home, we’re really loving this place already.

When we came to house-hunt, we spent a whirlwind couple of days seeing what seemed like every rental property within a 30 mile radius of the city. Though we know living in downtown Chicago would be an incredible experience, and I especially love the culture of city living, we decided that where we are right now in our lives (growing family, big dog who loves to run, desire for space, ease of parking and driving in the chilly winters, etc.) called for a more suburban locale. In the end, we decided on a little old house in Darien, Illinois, about 20 miles southwest of the city. (Fun coincidence: our landlord’s father built the house when he moved from Tennessee to Illinois).

We’re oh-so-happy with the location so far. At the end of our street is a lovely park with a walking path, sports fields, and playground – perfect for strolls with Bella or taking our little one to play. Just across from the park is a beautiful enormous library that just beckons me to come explore as the days grow colder. Within a few miles of us we have any convenience we could need – grocery store, Target, restaurants, shopping, train to the city – but our street is still quiet and feels tucked back from the hustle and bustle of it all.

And the neighbors – the wonderful neighbors could not be any nicer. Our first day moving, they came out and welcomed us with kind open arms and midwestern charm. They offered tips and recommendations on things to do and places to eat, and an endless supply of information on the area. Within 20 minutes I had been kindly provided with a guest pass to a local gym, offered a job, and met a potential future babysitter. Yes, I think we can be great friends. Moving to a new place and being immediately surrounded by a sense of community fills me with relief and hope and excitement for the future.

That’s what gets me through each box I slowly and carefully unpack – the excitement of making this unfamiliar place home. I can’t wait to share more about our adventures – past, present, and future. I have big hopeful plans!

Home

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After a long few (and fantastic) weeks away, we are finally home! Though I have so many more photos and stories to share, for this brief moment I am basking in the glorious feeling of simply being back at home. Along with the not so glorious tasks of unpacking, doing laundry, grocery shopping, and the list goes on…

But that’s ok. Because no matter the tasks at hand, there’s something so comforting about doing them in a place so familiar. A place we’ve made our mark on and is a reflection of us. A place that in turn has made its mark on us.

My mom gave me the beautiful print pictured, a Charles Dickens quote. In my traveling and wandering I’ve discovered the truth of this sentiment more and more. There are few things I love more than exploring and experiencing new places, and one of the reasons is because it makes me truly appreciate my home. Traveling shifts my perspective in a way that allows me to recognize what I already have; and for that I am so grateful.

This place we now call home will only be ours for a bit longer. In a few short weeks we’re packing up yet again and moving on to our next more permanent adventure – Chicago. Looking at the daunting task of finding a new place and moving, I’m scared the new house won’t feel like home. We’ll be in a new city without close friends or family, and though we’ve done it before, it’s no less frightening. So I just have to remind myself one other thing I’ve learned from my wandering: home doesn’t have to be a specific geographic location, but something you carry with you in your heart. It’s what Andrew and I have created together – the love, the joy, the fun, the humor, the honesty; the essence of us – that will fill our new house and make it a home.

Fun fact: While I was writing this post, Phillip Phillips’ song “Home” randomly started playing. It’s a good one folks…

How’s Married Life? My Messy Beautiful

Cochrane-Moore-701“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” Charles Dickens wrote. Though he was referring to 18th Century Europe, he might as well have been talking about marriage.

In the seven and a half short (but seemingly long) months since we said our vows, I’ve learned more about myself, relationships, and life in general than I did in the preceding 26 years. And what I’ve learned is not that love conquers all and “I do” is simply followed by happily ever after. I have learned that marriage, just like life, is messy and incredibly hard. But if I keep showing up, keep putting in the effort, there is also incredible beauty to be found shining through.

Nothing prepares you for the simultaneous glory and heartache that comes from committing yourself to another person for life.

I like to think I walked down the aisle with open eyes, prepared for what lied ahead. “Marriage is hard,” people tell you. That’s ok, I thought, I can do hard things. I’ve got this, I was made for this. We had been together for years, so we both knew what to expect. Or so we thought.

When we get too comfortable and confident, it seems that’s when life starts throwing curve balls. In a matter of weeks into our marriage, the curve balls started flying fast and furious, relentlessly pummeling the foundation of our marriage and our very selves. From a devastating loss to broken promises, from lies to issues with alcohol – the beauty we worked so hard to create was replaced in the blink of an eye with endless mess raining down.

Daily disappointments settled into the cracks of our broken hearts and shattered dreams. There seemed to be no space for beauty to shine through.

But seeds of hope, like wildflowers, bloom most beautifully in unexpected places; taking root through the sheer force of will to hang on under difficult circumstances.  And this hope is where the hard work of sifting through the mess begins.

Day after day we have to clear the debris and rebuild one block at a time. Day after day we have to choose to trust – ourselves and each other – and keep moving forward. Day after day we have to rediscover that person we chose to marry and learn to love them, to truly accept them in all their broken humanity, all over again. Some days one or both of us don’t think we can make it, and that scares me more than the mess itself. But we keep trying, keep taking tiny steps of grace; each step uncovering just a bit of beauty.

The beauty shows up in the unexpected and wildly ordinary moments. A glimpse of my husband’s face, alive with passion, as he prepares to pilot a plane. The soft brush of his hand on my hip as I wash the dishes. Working together, side by side, to weed the garden and make room for new growth. The magic of uttering “Thank You” and “I Love You” to one another, even on the worst of days. Sometimes it’s simply those precious few moments before we fall asleep as we hold each other close, our silent victory lap, we made it through another day.

When I get asked a dozen times a day, “How’s married life?” I know these are the things I’m not supposed to say. Hide the mess, sing out the beauty. I should, and usually do, smile and respond, “great!” But the truth is, beauty and mess coexist. It’s their inseparable intermingling that make life and love honest, real, and incredibly enlightening.

 

momasteryThis essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

Making Time

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In today’s fast-paced society, there seem to be limitless demands on our limited time, energy, and attention. With the continual emergence of new and better technology, along with the “there’s an app for that” mentality, there is so much more we are expected to do or know simply because we have the ability to do things quickly and simultaneously.

But there’s a problem with this idea of doing more at once, and it’s the concept of multi-tasking. I am exceptionally good at multi-tasking because I am exceptionally bad at focusing my attention on any single task. The problem is, though, when I multi-task I leave in my wake a slew of unfinished projects, along with the feeling that I haven’t really accomplished anything productive. I affectionately refer to myself as a half-assed multi-tasker.

I thought I was the only one who fell into this brilliant category, but it turns out humans as a whole aren’t actually as good at multi-tasking as we would like to believe. If we can’t do 7 things at once, then how are we ever supposed to accomplish the 7,263 things on our daily to-do (and want-to-do) lists?

Ironically my inspiration for time management came from one of the places where I often focus the least amount of time – creativity. For creatives like myself, time management proves to be even more difficult. We need to take time to tap into that mystical place inside ourselves and produce our own form of art, yet this need constantly seems to fall behind life’s other more pressing matters (who needs to cook dinner or get to work anyway?). But I read something by one of my favorite authors, Liz Gilbert, recently about the toll ignoring our creativity can take by manifesting in negative ways in other areas of our life. Her remedy for prioritizing this all-important creative need was to give it just a little time – to devote 30 minutes a day, even on her busiest days, towards her writing. Just 30 minutes – I can do that.

Then I realized I don’t have to limit devoting small blocks of focused attention only to my creative pursuits. This idea of time blocking may very well help me regain my time, sanity, and productivity. Rather than my usual mode of heading home with a list of tasks and no real plan, I’m going to block off specific and manageable chunks of time to focus on accomplishing a certain thing. 30 minutes devoted solely to cleaning the kitchen, 30 minutes spent just playing with the dogs, 30 minutes working on meal planning and grocery list.

One caveat to this whole plan of time-blocking is being realistic. For me that means not blocking out every half hour chunk of time to try to accomplish everything. The goal of time management is stress reduction, so flexibility is key. In a four hour evening, it would work to block out three half-hour periods.

Various tasks will of course take longer or shorter than the allotted 30 minutes, but that’s not the point. The point is to make a commitment to devote uninterrupted time to something and see what magic can be accomplished when we truly focus. As with all of life, it’s an experiment.

Do you have any fool-proof tips for time management? I’d love to know, because this crazy world seems to just keep getting busier…

Weekend Wandering: The Hunt for the Perfect Christmas Tree

What are you up to this weekend? We’ve got holiday parties, gift making, and card sending to look forward to. Last weekend, to get into the Christmas spirit, we went on a little adventure to find our first married Christmas tree!

Since it’s our first Christmas as Mr. and Mrs., we decided to do something a little more special than pick a tree from the Kroger parking lot.  So we headed out in the country to Bluebird Christmas Tree Farm in Heiskell, Tennessee to chose and cut our own tree.

IMG_4041Though it was a cold and overcast day, it was so much fun to get to wander around and see all the beautiful trees.   IMG_4034It brought back such joyful memories of childhood when my family used to visit local farms to pick a tree.

IMG_4055Everyone in the family seemed to enjoy it, so here’s hoping this is a Christmas tradition we can keep!

Another wonderful thing about visiting a Christmas tree farm are the choices! Who knew there were so many beautiful varieties of trees to choose from?

Of course there is the traditional Frasier Fir, also known as the “Cadillac of Christmas Trees.”

IMG_4046My team was not so impressed by the Caddies. Beautiful, but we wanted something a little different from the norm. (sidenote: Frasier Firs grow best in higher altitudes, so Bluebird Farm brings them in fresh daily from a friendly farm in North Carolina).

Next we had lovely Leyland Cypress.

IMG_4035Which was a top contender and obviously Bella’s favorite…

IMG_4040Then there’s the diminutive Norway Spruce.

IMG_4043As with most things we do, we were a little late in the game to getting our tree, so all the taller spruces had been picked over.

Finally, our favorite was the unique yet beautiful Arizona Cypress.

IMG_4052With it’s perfect shape, spindly branches, and silver-green color, we found it to be stunning.

IMG_4048 Though it’s not everyone’s style, for us the Arizona Cypress was the perfect balance of traditional style, with a twist of something just a bit different thrown in for good measure.

IMG_4049Besides, our first Christmas as husband and wife calls for something unique and special right?

The handsome husband set to the tough task of sawing down the tree.

IMG_4053IMG_4057While Bella and I helped of course…

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IMG_4054And… Success!

IMG_4060We left the heavy lifting to the man of the house.

IMG_4062Once home, we got her all lit up and, I know I’m a bit biased here, but I think she looks pretty fantastic.

IMG_4074Though someone’s not so happy about having to compete for attention…

IMG_4077All in all, our first annual Moore Family Hunt for the Perfect Christmas Tree was an overwhelming success! Looking forward to many many more.

Sweet Dreams

Much of my time is spent dreaming. And that’s not just because I love to stay snuggled under covers in a deep sleep; although that is fabulous as well. I mean the kinds of dreams that swirl around your mind in waking hours. The ones that expand to fill up any empty space that remains throughout the day. Or in my case, dreams that overtake my mind, around which daily life must settle into place.

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Most recently my dreams have revolved a great deal around houses – preferably ones without wheels. A place to call home.

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A place with some space to let my legs and mind wander. A place with nooks and crannies to fill with my inevitable clutter. A place that’s all our own.

I dream of a kitchen to cook up divine masterpieces; or just sit and enjoy simple breakfasts.

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I dream of an open sprawling yard for Bella to roam and run.

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I dream of a porch to enjoy a cup of coffee, a good book, and maybe even a leisurely nap filled with sweet dreams.

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But most of all I dream of the fella I get to share all these dreams with.

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What are you sweet dreaming of these days? Let your dreams shine bright under tonight’s big full moon!

(all images via the always inspiring Pinterest)