December 31, 2012

My new toy

We kind of splurged on ourselves this Christmas: we got a Canon Rebel T3i! I haven't been this excited about a Christmas gift in a long time. I've only used a simple point-and-shoot, so this is quite an upgrade. I've already had so much fun taking photos and practicing different settings and functions. It is a little intimidating. I definitely feel like an amateur and my photos are not stellar yet. But it's awesome to have such a nice camera that most of the pictures turn out great because of the quality of the lens! It will be a while before I get experienced, but here is a peek at what I've been photographing since I opened the box.

some fun Christmas presents

my favorite niece (for now!)

handsome man

oh, the lights!

Charlotte skyline

a neighborhood walk

my beautiful sister

December 28, 2012

Merry Christmas!

I realize that Christmas day has technically passed already, but in my mind it's still Christmas season! We had a lovely long weekend visiting with my in-laws. Lots of good food, good conversation, and a few little kids running through the house. It was the first time we had done Christmas morning together at Michael's parents' house, so it was really special for me to be a part of their traditions and celebrate with them. We also went to a Christmas caroling party, complete with a full band and a woman who played the piano and the accordion at the same time!

After Christmas we headed home to welcome my family for a couple nights at our place! We didn't technically "host Christmas" but it was fun to have all of them come stay with us, now that we have a place big enough to fit everyone (my brother was on the couch, but I don't think he minded too much). We still opened presents, my mom gave us stockings, and we had our traditional sausage strata and cinnamon rolls for breakfast, so it felt Christmasy enough. We also fit a Les Mis showing and some Cheesecake Factory in there, which were some extra Christmas gifts in themselves!

It's been a wonderful Christmas and I'm starting to get sad it's almost over. But we've still got a big bright new year ahead of us! That's something to be excited about. Am I right? I hope you're still enjoying a wonderful Christmas with your loved ones!

December 12, 2012

Gift ideas: For her

Presenting: the Women's edition of Christmas gift ideas. We've all got moms and sisters to buy for too. And if you don't, it's always fun to look through things to buy with money and giftcards you get for Christmas (*crossing my fingers*). I've pretty much fallen in love with Etsy over the last few months, as evidenced in the collage below. Almost all of these are on my own Christmas wish list, so I hope you enjoy! Bonus: everything is under $50!
What's on your Christmas wish list this year?

December 11, 2012

Gift ideas: For him

Let's be honest: guys are hard to buy for. Most men don't love little accessories in every color or bakeware or candles or giftcards to Loft. They do, however, like technology. And while they may not admit this, they kind of need clothes for living, and they like it when you pick them out. So here are my favorite guy picks this Christmas (some of these have been requested by my guy, so they are credible). What will you be getting your favorite guy this year?

two: Ron Swanson print (Parks & Rec anyone?)

December 6, 2012

Christmas is here.

You guys, it's all sorts of Christmas up in here! We actually got our tree last Friday night, but we've been so busy that we didn't really have time to finish decorating until tonight. But we finally did, and it's glorious. I've never had a fireplace right next to the Christmas tree, and let me tell you, it's so cozy! I just love all the twinkly lights and red and green and sparkles. I feel ready to tackle this weekend. Tomorrow my Christmas cards are going in the mail and in the evening we'll be attending a Christmas party. Then Saturday we're going to the Nutcracker! I kind of bought the tickets on a whim for a show at NC State. Hopefully it's good! There will also be some Christmas shopping and baking mixed in there. Doesn't this season just make you feel so wonderful? It took a while for me to really feel like it was here, but it's kind of contagious, you know?

Hope you all have a magical Christmas weekend!

Linking up with
Ten June's link party:

December 1, 2012

Christmas Ornament Exchange

When Christina & Rachel announced they were hosting a blogger ornament swap back in October, I jumped on it! I love Christmas ornaments and I love getting to know other bloggers. I got paired with Amy from Dreaming, Wishing, Doing and it has been so fun getting to know her! She is the first person I've ever met from New Zealand, and she has an amazing story about her lifestyle change that she's been undergoing this past year. She is so positive and honest, and has a love for life that is contagious! Amy is also secretly an incredible decorator - just check out her Christmas decorations, some of which she made! I knew she would send me something adorable, and she delivered...

These little critters are both icons of New Zealand so I will always remember who gave them to me. I'm so excited to get them up on my tree!

A huge THANK YOU to Amy for sending a little Christmas gift to someone she's never met before - it's been so much fun to meet you and get to know you through this crazy little world of blogging!

November 29, 2012


Is anyone else completely wiped from the holiday weekend? This week has been a little rough getting back into the swing of things after our long weekend. We spent Thanksgiving with Michael's family and had such a fun time! We packed in a lot of activity, and a lot of eating. Thursday, instead of doing the usual Thanksgiving traditions, Michael's parents took us hiking to Crowders Mountain. It felt so great to be in the mountains again! Down here in the South the leaves are still falling, so it was a gorgeous hike and we had such a relaxing day taking it easy. While the rest of the family was celebrating with in-laws, the four of us ate our Thanksgiving dinner at McCormick and Schmick's, which was quite delicious and took zero time in the kitchen. It was the most relaxing Thanksgiving ever.

Friday was our day with the whole family, so that's when the big meal commenced! There was turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cornbread casserole, and Michael's famous mashed potatoes. And when our full bellies allowed us, we topped it off with apple pie, Tarheel pie, and pumpkin cheesecake. All of it was amazing!

The rest of the weekend we played with our niece and nephews, celebrated birthdays, and soaked up our time with family. I'm so thankful for long holiday weekends! Especially Thanksgiving, because when it's over it's CHRISTMAS SEASON!

November 13, 2012


I saw this idea on Annie's blog Turning Pages last week, and thought I'd try it out (AKA I'm totally copying her). Here's what I've been up to lately.

Listening... to Taylor Swift's new album Red. Seriously love it. Particularly songs "I knew you were trouble" and "The Last Time." Also, Christmas music. Yep, it's started!

Watching... Homeland!! SO GOOD. And of course Modern Family, Parks & Rec, and The Office.

Eating... Cheeseburger Pie for dinner last night and lunch today. Mmm mm good. Also apple crisp pie and apple muffins.

Drinking... spiked apple cider. Yes, I'm kind of on an apple kick!

Pining... after Young House Love's new book. I'm dying to browse through all those DIY projects!

Traveling... Claytor Lake in Virginia for a girls weekend a few weeks ago, Charlottesville, VA to go apple picking, Greenville, SC for my grandpa's 80th birthday party, and soon we're off to Charlotte, NC for Thanksgiving!

Wearing... lots of scarves and sweaters, gray skinnies, and Essie's "She's Pampered" on my fingernails (which is more of a deep red than the website shows).

Needing... new running shoes. I really need to go get an evaluation done at a running store to find out the best shoe for me. I have never done this, and since I've been running consistently lately, I think it's time!

Inspired...  by this amazing glitter garland. I can't wait to do something similar for my Christmas decor, once I get it all out after Thanksgiving.

Feeling... thankful and excited about my new promotion at work. It kind of just fell into my lap and I'm so grateful to be trying something new and to have more responsibility. Plus, a raise ain't bad either! I'll be starting after Thanksgiving, and I can't wait.

Enjoying... adulthood. I feel like I'm finally where I'm supposed to be and I'm loving this stage of life. I'm content and happy where I am, and that's a glorious feeling.

* image via Fine Art by Di, who happens to be my mother-in-law!

November 6, 2012

Apple Crisp Pie

Of course when you go to an apple orchard and come home with two large bags of apples, you must make lots of apple desserts! Every year for Thanksgiving (and sometimes Christmas too), my sister makes a traditional apple pie with a flaky crust topping, and it's amazing. But I was craving a crispy crumbly topping instead, so I tried this recipe from Jen at Beantown Baker. It was just what I was hoping for! It is packed with apples, sugar, and spices, and the crumble topping is perfection. Mine had more liquid than the one pictured Jen made. And I probably would use a deep dish pie pan if you had one. I didn't, so I used a 9-inch pan and that worked fine!

This pie was incredible. You should totally make it if you've got a bunch of apples lying around. And if you don't, just go buy some at the grocery store because this pie is calling your name.

Apple Crisp Pie

6 c apple chunks (I used 3 Pink Ladies and 3 Fujis)
1/2 c brown sugar
2 tbsp flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp lemon juice

1 1/4 c four
1/2 c brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c butter, melted

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Prepare dry filling ingredients in a large bowl, set aside. Core, peel, and slice apples (I used an apple/peeler/corer/slicer which made this normally long process a dream!). Transfer into large bowl with dry ingredients. Top off with vanilla and lemon juice. Toss to coat apples well. Set aside for 10-15 minutes while you prep the dough.

Fit your pie crust into a pie plate (I used a store bought crust). Fill pie crust with prepared apple filling.

In a medium bowl, combine the dry topping ingredients. Pour cooled melted butter into bowl. Toss and cut until small to medium sized chunks form. Break up large chunks as needed. Using a spoon, sprinkle crumb topping over entire pie.

Cover pie loosely with foil. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 375 and continue baking for an additional 35 minutes. Remove foil for a few minutes at the end to get the topping more crispy if you prefer. Cool and enjoy!

source: Beantown Baker guest post on Nutmeg Nanny

October 30, 2012

Choose your life

image via

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about being intentional. Every choice we make in the moments, shape our days, and shape our lives. Even our non-choices are in fact, choices. Choosing not to do something is choosing something else, and in essence, choosing against that something. If we're not careful, we can unintentionally say no to things that we don't even realize we're rejecting. Scary.

Am I alone in this? I think in this era of our culture, it is so easy to not think about our choices. We are so distracted by all the things around us. When we're in line at the grocery store, sitting at a red light, waiting on a friend at a restaurant - whenever we have any dead time - we are checking our email and our Instagram and Twitter feeds. We choose distractions, instead of reflecting on our choices, past and present. We don't just sit and think. I am just as guilty of this as the next person. What impact does this have on us? On our relationships? On society?

I want my actions to be intentional. I want them to mean something. Even my non-actions. I don't want to look back at this decade in my life and think, why did I do that? Or, why didn't I do that? I want to know why, because I thought about it.

In a practical sense, this might mean choosing to call a friend or family member to catch up when I'm tired from a long day at work. Or, it might mean leaving my phone and computer in the other room while I spend quality time with my husband. It might mean asking someone hard questions that I'm really not sure I want the answer to. It might mean investing money in a non-profit or ministry instead of investing in my wardrobe or my home. It might mean spending a couple hours baking alone simply just to slow myself down.

Whatever it is, I don't want it to just happen. I want to choose it.
Or not choose it.

"In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die. Where you invest your love, you invest your life."
- Mumford & Sons

October 29, 2012

Restfully busy

This weekend was a busy one! Friday night we visited with family in town (and got to love on our adorable niece and nephews). Saturday morning we got up early and made the trek up to Charlottesville with friends for some apple picking! We were nervous about the potential hurricane weather, but it ended up being fantastic. We drove 3 hours up there for just one day, but it was amazing and I'm so glad we did! We picked apples, sipped on cider slushies and wolfed down apple cider donuts, toured the downtown and drove through the pretty campus of UVA. We ended the day with a satisfying dinner at a local brewery before heading home.

It was a wonderful and full weekend, but busy.  I only had a few short hours to myself, that were divided between Sunday afternoon and late Sunday evening. While I could have spent that time indulging myself in my latest read, because "I deserved it," I decided to tend to mundane chores around the house. And it was surprisingly... fulfilling. After cleaning up the disaster of my bedroom, running a few loads of laundry, cleaning the kitchen, making coffee for the morning, and packing Monday's lunch, I didn't feel exhausted. I instead felt so satisfied and even rested and ready for the week. All I was wishing for was some time to relax, but that wasn't what I needed. I'm glad my subconscious knew better. I went to sleep last night feeling exhausted from a good weekend, but relaxed and prepared for the week ahead!

And that's very important, because we've got apple pie to bake.


How was your weekend??

October 18, 2012

Scenes of Fall

You guys, fall has come in full swing. And I love it! Last year I felt like we almost didn't get a fall. It was so warm here in NC all the way through November, and it didn't even get that cold all winter. I hardly got to wear my favorite sweaters. But this year... this year has been wonderful already. We have crisp, cool days & evenings. The leaves are already starting to change. It's made me feel right about putting my wreath on the door and decorating my house with pumpkins. And that I have! I also made a batch of these earlier this week. At last, we have a real autumn season.

To continue with the spirit of fall, last night my friends and I got together to carve pumpkins and eat pumpkin cookies. I think I have maybe carved a pumpkin only one other time in my life. It was so much more fun than I imagined! I wonder why I haven't done this every year? We had such a fun night! I am so thankful for these ladies!

I thought we had such a fun array of designs. Everyone's was so different!

Now my mouth is already watering for Thanksgiving food. What have you done to celebrate fall?

October 15, 2012

Home reveal: Kitchen

So remember where we left off? A few weeks ago we were looking at the living room and dining room, and now I've finally photographed the kitchen. This room was probably the one that came together the fastest, since there wasn't much furniture involved. I did change things around a lot at first though, like the stuff in the cabinets and the appliances on the counters. It's always so hard to figure out how to organize a new and different kitchen! Let's take a look at what it's looking like now...

Of course since we're renting I have no say in what the kitchen looks like, and while it's a little dated with the wallpaper, the stainless appliances and white corian counters make up for it! And at least the wallpaper is neutral. The blue tile is also not something I would pick, but it somehow goes with my kitchen colors and I love that it's unique and a little old feeling.

One thing that was tough to get used to is the lack of a pantry. My apartment had a great pantry in addition to a good amount of cabinet space, so coming to a kitchen with the same or maybe less cabinet space and no pantry was tough (my New Yorker readers are probably laughing at me). Those baskets that I found at Michaels were perfect for storing our coffee/tea on the counter and snacks above the fridge. We also ended up buying a small cabinet at Home Depot for extra food storage, which helped a ton. It's sitting in our dining room right outside the kitchen door.

This is probably my favorite thing about this kitchen! I don't love how it's closed off from the living room area, but this breakfast nook is its saving grace. I really love having a mini table where we & our guests can eat meals, or just hang out while there's cooking going on. I also like having wall space to hang things. Our old kitchen didn't have any wall space!

So that's the kitchen. Maybe in another month I'll post pictures of another room. Just kidding! I'm hoping to post more in the next week or two. Get ready!

Also, for those of you who care, here's a source list:
Table & chairs: Craigslist find
White desk organizer: Pottery Barn
Red pitcher: HomeGoods
Glass canisters: Ross
Baskets: Michaels
Rugs: HomeGoods
Extra cabinet: Home Depot (Martha Stewart brand)