Thursday, October 25, 2012

All of the Lights

I was doing so well there for a second, eh? I was posting regularly and feeling great about it. Then we made our trip to Maine, and, well, I lost my momentary groove. Surely it took Stella more than one attempt?

Anywho, since we've been back in the South (full of lobster, pumpkin beer and sweet family time), we've been hard at work on the house. As I've mentioned before our house was move-in ready but with a lot of potential to be a prettier abode. We decided to start with some fresh coats of paint and some light fixture swaps. Unfortunately I didn't get shots of all the befores, but here's what we've been working with.

In our kitchen, we started with a huge box of florescent bars. It was extremely 80s, made our ceilings feel low (they really aren't) and just made the kitchen feel shabby. When the painters were scraping the popcorn, we asked them to go ahead and take the monstrosity down. The hubbers and I spent quite a while at Lowe's choosing this fixture. We wanted it to feel bright and not too heavy. This three spot light has double globes that I love. It instantly made our kitchen feel fresher.
Next up was the porch light. Nothing screams dated quite like shiny brass. We still want to change our house numbers, but this swap was a no-brainer, and we fell in love with this lantern at first glance.

Thirdly, we have vaulted ceilings in our master bedroom with an exposed beam running across the seam (heeey, I'm a poet!). It had a pretty hideous ceiling fan attached to it complete with some bare bulbs, woven panels on the blades and just crap all the way around. The bedroom tends to be warmer than the other rooms, so despite the fact that I tend to hate fans, we decided that we need one. I wanted to use the ceiling height to our advantage and pick a statement-style fixture, and behold, we found the combo of both. It's hard to see in this picture but the fixture is gorgeous, bold and has an attractive fan. I'm in love.
And lastly, we have a soaker tub in our master bath, and my less-than-bright-in-desperate-need-of-a-haircut Sadie sometimes climbs in post-shower while I beautify and gets lost. Behold the furry confusion.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Hangin' It Up

My goal for this house is to limit clutter. Much unlike our micro-condo, we have space and storage here, and I'll be darned if I let things accumulate and pile up (but don't like in our dining room right now... it's a clutter catcher). Jewelry is a huge clutter criminal, particularly long necklaces. I sort of hate most jewelry holders, so last night when I was unpacking my pieces, I didn't want to just pile them somewhere and let them sit until I could find a better place for them. I scoured our master suite and found this hand towel ring. Since we don't currently have a hand towel, I decided it was the perfect spot to keep my necklaces organized, neat and untangled. I also set up our new dresser... and see that wire bird thing in front of the picture of my husband? It used to sit on the coffee table with small eggs in each nest. Now, it's the perfect place to display bracelets, short necklaces and earrings. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Marry & Bright

One of the things I've been most excited about since our wedding is picking out Christmas cards. I haven't sent them out before, and even though we were engaged last Christmas, I wanted to wait until we were officially a family before sending them. Working at a church the size and pace of ours means that holidays are our busiest time of year, so I want to get a head start and order, stuff, and address them before Thanksgiving, that way, in December, all I need to do is drop them in the mailbox. This week I've been searching through Snapfish for cute, bright and cheery cards (I order prints of our wedding pictures from Snapfish and was so pleased with their turnaround and quality). We've pretty much decided on using this picture from our wedding on whatever card we choose (and we'll also be able to 2-birds-1-stone it by announcing our move as well)...
And here are a few of my favorite card options at the moment...

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Clean Slate

The house we bought was move-in ready. There are plenty of projects that we can sink our teeth (and wallets) into in the future, but for all intents and purposes, it was good to go. 

The biggest negative in the house are the popcorn ceilings in every. single. room. of the house. Those bad boys just made me ill. We were able to get into the house two days before closing and had a painter come out and give us a quote to scrape them all. And at the same time we had him quote painting trim throughout the house. The previous owners had installed crown molding in every room and chair rail in most, but some was wood stained, some was white... just a mismatch. We were eager to get all of that done before we officially moved in. 

When the quote came back we wanted to vomit, so we scaled back the project significantly having the painter and his team scrape and paint the trim in only the main living area, entryway, kitchen and master bedroom. We had grandiose plans to stay in the house through that process. The hubbers and I both wanted to be able to spend our first night as homeowners in our home... see how that works?

Well, as it turns out, popcorn scraping is not as delicious as popcorn consuming, and boy, is it a mess. We had plastic draped everywhere, ceiling dust coated everything, and I had minimal access to my kitchen. In fact, I spent my first evening as a homeowner huddled on the carpet in an extra bedroom with my 2 pups, a pillow, a blanket and my laptop to keep me warm. When the dashing fella of my heart got home from work at 2:00 in the morning, we dragged the mattress up through the mess and were able to camp out there for the next few days. It felt like our home ownership was on pause.

A dusty three days later, the painters had finished and unveiled a mostly-sparkling living space that was ours-all-ours. And I couldn't have been more excited to begin filling each room with our treasures and furniture. A clean slate for new memories.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Simple. Delicious.

When life feels out of control, as it has lately, I get an overwhelming desire to take control in any way possible... to cling to the strands of control I can find. That usually results in ignoring the complete and utter mess around me (half empty... or half full, whatevs... boxes strewn around our new house, for instance) and just make some meals. Nothing exacerbates that icky out of control feeling than several days of fast food. I just crave healthy, hearty, delicious, home cooked meals. 

Last night was that night. I spent the previous evening with my darling Little at Trader Joe's filling a cart full of meal necessities (I'm lightly treading into the world of menu planning, which goes hand-in-hand with my love of couponing). Instead of cooking that night, I just enjoyed a couple of Blue Moons and some delicious crockpot beef that Little had gifted us with.

Last night, though, I was going to own the kitchen and own it hard. I had pinned a recipe for barbecue chicken quinoa salad earlier in the week and couldn't wait to try it. I multi-tasked while I prepped the dish... organizing the cabinets, unpacking a few boxes to find my necessary gadgets, measuring cups, pans and so on and listening to a few podcasts (my favorite way to stay spiritually fed while working in the ministry). The end result (albeit it at 10:45 p.m.) was a tasty, easy meal with plenty of leftovers. A must-make for a busy week.

Barbecue Quinoa Salad:
- Barbecue Chicken (I used 2 chicken breasts seasoned with Cajun seasoning and slightly-more-than-simmered then in a small Le Creuset pan for 45 minutes with Trader Joe's Kansas-style barbecue sauce, so the chicken was able to be shredded with a couple of forks)
- Corn (I used three quarters of a cup of Trader Joe's frozen fire roasted corn... thanks for the recommendation, Little!)
- Black Beans (I used some miscellaneous amount... I couldn't locate a can opener, so I sort of jimmy rigged it open-ish with the counter, a spoon and a knife and just shook out the beans that I could)
- Cilantro (I just threw some in there without measuring)
- Shredded cheese (I had a shredded Gruyere-Swiss blend on hand, but white cheddar of pepper jack would be my recommendation)
- Quinoa (I ended up using 2 cups cooked)

Mix that mess in a bowl, add a little more barbecue sauce (I had extra in my sauce pan after shredding the chicken and just poured some of that goodness in my bowl), then top with avocado. I promise you won't be sorry.

A Bug's Life

My freshman year of high school included an honors biology class. In said class we were given a year-long project in which we captured, killed and displayed insects from several different species. We were taught the proper way to kill the insects without crushing them - simply place them in an airtight jar with a cotton ball soaked in nail polish remover. They will suffocate and die while being perfectly preserved. My pride and joy of the project was catching a gorgeous, huge emerald green cricket. He was beautiful. I gleefully put him in the death jar, eager to pin him on my bug board. My joy turned to sorrow, dismay and intense guilt, when I couldn't take my eyes away from the jar as he slowly, painfully suffocated to death. For some reason that memory is vividly etched in my mind, and I doubt I'll ever lose it.

In so many ways life has been extraordinary of late - an incredibly happy marriage, leadership and influence in my career, a brand new, beautiful house that I'm slowly but steadily turning into a home with my husband. However, I can't help but feel overwhelmed right now. It feels like so many major life transitions have happened in the past year - new position at work, engagement, wedding, new marriage, house... and despite the goodness and joy of it, emotionally it's all finally catching up to me, and quite frankly, I'm exhausted. I feel like that cricket, wishing that alcohol-soaked cotton ball would be removed and set me free. Yet, at the same time, nothing is bad or wrong, per se. It's just so much.

I work at a job that is hyper-all consuming... I work close to 80 or 90 hours a week, 7 days a week, every week. My adrenaline is running on maximum levels at all times, and I don't know how to relax and disengage. And despite my love for it, I have to. I have to learn how to be present for my family, for my friends and for the health of my marriage. I have felt so trapped by the need to be everything to everyone (a chronic female condition, I do believe) that I've been unaware that that is arrogance in its sneakiest form. The world will not fall apart without me, and my insistence to be "on" all the time points to my need to feel as though it will. 

So what does that mean? It means that it's okay for me to admit my exhaustion... to share my heart with my husband. To skip yoga to go the grocery store because I need the stress management. To say no to activities when all I want to do is piddle around my house with a glass of wine. For me, it means blogging again. Not anything impressive or showy, but just documenting life to be reminded of the simple things that fill my heart. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

My Favorite Subject is Subjectivity

I love cooking because while it's formulaic, there's also a lot of room for creativity. I love taking recipes and tweaking them a bit, and I take joy when I find a dish that my husband and I enjoy equally. Such was the case with Cilantro & Lime Crab Salad in Avocado. They were filling, fresh, healthy and delicious. And I couldn't wait to make them again.

On Sunday afternoon we spent part of our day playing cornhole, Jenga and Battleship at a local beer garden while we sipped our local brews (yep, you read that combo correctly. And, yes, I did kick the fella's ass in Battleship... multiple times), then we traipsed to the grocery store with a delightfully small sunny afternoon beer buzz to plan our meals for the week (which is always a challenge since the hubbers is rarely home for dinners). We immediately spied the avocados and decided that our crab salad was in order.

Fast forward to last night. I had just gotten home from hot yoga, dripping in sweat, exhausted and starving. I have also been intentional this week about finding ways to make my husband's life more convenient and easier as he and the restaurant prep for DNC madness (his restaurant is located in the heart of Uptown Charlotte and will be in the eye of the liberal hurricane). While I concocted the world's most perfect omelet (Trader Joe's garden veggie chicken sausage, mushrooms, asparagus and feta cheese, y'all), I decided to whip up some crab salad for him to enjoy for a late night dinner, lunches, etc. I took a cursory glance at the recipe and got to work. 

Crab-mayo-onion-cilantro-lime-cumin-red pepper... dump in a bowl. Easy. Except this time it was much runnier than the previous time. So I added more crab and more onion. Then a little bit more. But it still wasn't right. At that time I deemed it prudent to re-consult the recipe. At which point I noticed that the recipe had asked for 1/2 a TABLESPOON of mayo. Not the 1/2 CUP of mayo that I had added. So I did what any sane person who doesn't accept culinary defeat would do. I put a lid on the bowl, shoved it in the back of the fridge, chowed on my omelet and pretended it never happened.

We Bought a House!

On Sunday night the Hubbers and I Redbox'd "We Bought a Zoo," and now every time I think of our house I picture that little girl yelling "We bought a HOUSE!" And we did. And we're so excited. I have been living in our little Myers Park condo for four years now. The fella moved in in January (and I moved home until our wedding, so we didn't co-habitate), and we have loved starting our marriage in such cozy quarters, but we also realized quickly that we needed more space. With two of us, two pups and hopefully an expanding family soon, we need room. 

We worked with a fabulous realtor and looked at about 18 houses. We even put an offer on a huge foreclosure and spent time alone on its front porch one night praying over it, telling God that we knew He was the Provider, and praying for the family that would live there, be it us or another one. We were so disappointed when our offer wasn't accepted, but we were so excited knowing that God had something even better in mind for our family. 

And we found the perfect one. In a precious family neighborhood, our home is nestled on a triple cul-de-sac corner lot with a front porch, fenced back yard, and open floor plan. To say that we're excited about be an understatement, and I'm pretty positive that I've spent more time Pinning house ideas than I did wedding ideas. We can't wait to move and call it home. Assuming that everything goes through as planned we'll be packing up our micro-life and closing on our new abode on September 28th. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

To Have and To Hold

On August 11, I had the sincere pleasure of being a bridesmaid in my lovely Lobster's wedding. It is so special to me that we were able to in one another's weddings mere months apart. To no one's surprise, she was a stunning bride, and the wedding and reception were everything that she and her fantastic new husband are - elegant, classy, sophisticated, timeless and fun. We are so excited for many married double (and triple, MK!) dates in our future!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Every Day I'm Pedalin'

So here's the thing about me... I want to love surprises. I love the idea of surprises. I love the end result of surprises. I don't do so well when I anticipate there might be a surprise coming. Such was the case with my birthday last week.

My husband was able to secure an afternoon and evening off of work - a true gift in and of itself, and I assured him that all I wanted was a quiet night in with him and my family. And he assured me that was what we would have. As the day progressed, however, I began to sense that there may be more going on. Small things friends would say... or not say, overly descriptive texts about our plans... they started to make me wonder, and they started to stress me. I started slyly asking my beloved friends what they were doing that evening, and they began to squirm. Hubbers finally texted me and nicely told me to leave people the hell alone and just enjoy my day.

When I arrived home, I was delighted to find our condo door bedecked with arts and crafts and our living room swathed in stars and streamers. I found my husband cooking up a storm in the kitchen with a glass of wine in hand for me. I lounged on the couch - kind of... I was very antsy and asking too many questions, and finally heard a knock on the door. I excitedly let my family in and thought we were having the at-home celebration I'd requested.
Every few minutes, though, there would be another knock on the door, and our home steadily filled with friends. Like a reverse surprise party, since I had no idea who would come next. When it felt like we'd hit critical mass, we feasted on some chef-prepared lettuce wraps, unwrapped gifts (well I did that... it wasn't a group activity) and sipped wine and beer. 

The hubbers entered the room, clapped his hands and asked if we were ready to go. I was confused, but everyone else immediately headed for their cars, and we were whisked off on a mystery adventure. I began to worry when we arrived in a back alley Uptown right behind the Rescue Mission. But my fears soon subsided when I spotted The Party Pedaler... a communal bike, type contraption with a built-in bar. I soon learn that we'd been atop that vehicle for the night doing a bar crawl around Charlotte. 
Y'all. This was seriously the most fun. We pedaled all around Uptown on a gorgeous night stopping to drink along the way, singing Wicked show tunes or Xtina hits on the microphone and just being all around ridiculous. I know I was such a pain to deal with as I tried to control every plan and figure out every surprise, but my husband knocked it out of the park and made sure that 26 started on an amazing note.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Where in the World?

I can't believe it's been nearly a month since I've posted. Although, I shouldn't really be surprised. After working for 32 straight days, this is the first time I've felt like I could write and catch my breath. Here's what my month has consisted of...

1. Work. A lot of it. It's such a blessing to love my job the way I do. Although, 32 days straight is a long time for anything!
2. Yoga. When I can. I've been yog'ing 2-4 days a week for the past few months. I did have a forced 10 day respite during my work stretch, and coming back was painful, but dang if I don't adore it.
3. A rehearsal dinner. Since I have Fridays off, but only 4 weeks a year, I was able to take a quick trip down to Knoxville to celebrate my cousin's rehearsal dinner. Although I couldn't stay for the wedding, it was great to connect with family, albeit briefly. 
4. Sewing! I've been taking orders for my Hems & Hers line again. I thought it would add undue stress, but since the hubbers works nights, it's great for me to be productive while I wait for him to get home. 
5. I turned 26! My husband planned the best party for me... I can't wait to update about that... seriously. So. Much. Fun.
6. I learned how important changes of scenery are. 

I am so lucky to live in Charlotte, NC, where we're fairly equidistant from the mountains and the beach and day trip options are numerous. Hubbers and I have both been wading through stressful seasons at work. We also highly prioritize Sunday nights as date nights together. This week I wanted to shake things up, so after wrapping the 11:15 worship experience, I tucked my main squeeze in the car and jetted about an hour and a half up the road for a day of grapes and sunshine at Childress Vineyards. We spent the afternoon sipping, chatting, reconnecting and being refreshed. On the way home we stopped at Concord Mills for some perusing, and then planted ourselves firmly at Dave & Buster's for a couple of hours of arcade fun... because, well, why not? We capped our day with Jamaican jerk chicken nachos and a beer at our favorite English pub and some generous cups of TCBY. Even though we were still close to home, breaking out of our routine was one of the most invaluable decisions we've made recently.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

You Are The Best Thing, That Ever Happened to Me

It's my last wedding recap post, and I'm super excited to share the features of our reception. We had a blast visiting with our amazing guests, seeing our vision come to life and celebrating our new vows. Our reception venue was decided on quickly and easily - a huge, refurbished warehouse space provided the roominess and industrial feel that we wanted (my rule was NO carpet in our venue). I knew fairly early on in the planning process that I wanted to feature ladders at the reception - I'd seen a couple of cool Pinterest shots with ladders adorned with candles and loved the rustic whimsy of the look. My husband and my father-in-law are both amazing wood craftsmen, so I had my father-in-law whip up a couple of ladders to suspend over our buffet, and my mom scoured flea markets for five A-frame ladders to place around the site. Our incredible florist blew us away by adding lanterns, gold mercury glass, wooden boxes, candles, wooden table runners (that my mom made), burlap and fresh, eclectic blossoms all over the space. Seriously, y'all. She was INCREDIBLE. We also had a friend make some really fun art that we displayed around the venue that featured snippets of the scriptures that were read during our ceremony, and we chose to have guests sign a photo book of our favorite pictures together in lieu of a traditional guest book - a decision I'm so glad we made.

We also knew that we wanted to have corn hole at our reception - indoor corn hole. Hubbers made the sets, and I painted them - one a Mr. & Mrs. theme and the other one a hometown theme - Charlotte and South Portland, Maine. We loved providing our guests with another activity if they weren't in the mood for moving and grooving. I also stumbled across an old church pew at a flea market and knew it would be perfect for us to sit in as we dined. 

Our reception food was a mouthwatering buffet featuring shrimp and grits, ahi tuna tacos, sage crusted chicken, cream Brussels sprouts, wild mushroom risotto cakes, and roasted vegetables. Our cake was a five-tiered almond cake with strawberry cream filling, and I surprised my groom with a surf-themed groom's cake that was carrot with cream cheese filling. Both were to die for. We had a mix of square, round and cocktail tables... we didn't want anything too terribly uniform. I really, really dislike seated dinners, and I loved the relaxed feel that our buffet and casual seating provided, plus no stress of a seating chart for this bride!

Our first dance was to Ray LaMontagne's "You Are The Best Thing," a song I listen to on repeat regularly to this day. I just love it. We had taken one dance class before our wedding, and we sort of thought we'd use some of those moves for our dance but basically abandoned the entire plan and winged it when we got there. Despite almost having a wardrobe malfunction of the breast-y variety, I wouldn't change one things about that dance. My dad chose our father-daughter song, and I had no idea what it would be until it started playing... he made the perfect selection with Rascal Flatts' "My Wish." Seriously perfect. Although, note about wedding dances: the songs feel like they last FOREVER. Literally, they feel 12 minutes long. The hubbers and his mom followed us by dancing to Josh Groban's "You Raise Me Up." It was so sweet watching them twirl around the floor. 

In the middle of our escapades, my groom grabbed a mic and presented me an incredible wedding gift - my entire blog bound and published into a book. A sweeter gift could not have been dreamt up. 

When it came time for us to head to The Ritz for our first night as husband and wife, we outfitted each guest with a small bag of pink and gold sequins adorned with a "Let Love Sparkle" label I designed. We walked out to a shower of sparkles... so, so, so much fun.