Sunday, December 21, 2014

'Twas the Weekend Before Christmas

'Twas the weekend before Christmas and all was... crazy.  
I made the horrible mistake of hitting up Barnes and Noble... at the mall... on Friday at 4 pm. 
Bad move.  

Somehow, there were only three weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year and I was sick for two of them.  This is my excuse for being slow with the holiday preparations, and I believe I have learned my lesson. 

Leaving it all to the last minute meant turning my kitchen into an explosive wrapping station all weekend.  Friday, I had the pleasure of wrapping gifts for a kiddo in need.  It was really nice to do something for a little soul who needs a bit of excitement and love.  Although shopping for a little boy did prove difficult.  Neither I nor heather had any clue what to get him, but some nice Target shoppers helped us out, and all was well.  Apparently, Spiderman is very exciting.  Who knew?

Post gift drop-off we explored a new restaurant.  Asheville is such a foodie town, but I seem to stick to my favorites, so it was a nice change to try somewhere new.  I can now highly recommend Nona Mia, and it's in my 'hood!   With the advice of our lovely friends who we ate with, we all tried and shared their chopped salad, Sicilian pizza and some kind of roasted eggplant pasta amazing-ness.  I am a huge fan of thick crust pizza and this did not disappoint!  Clearly, Friday night ended in a food coma on the couch. 

Saturday commenced the wrapping for our families while listening to the last episode of Serial. (I am very unsatisfied with the ending, as is the rest of the world.)  I am actually pretty proud of some of my wrapping...and I discovered washi tape!  Made me feel like a real blogger.  I doubt I'll ever turn into someone who spends hours making their gifts look perfect, but it was actually fun to try and make my gifts look more than just disguised.  Despite wrapping all morning, I am still missing some things and the tracking is unavailable for those items.  Two-day shipping is a lie!  Post wrapping was...surprise...more shopping.  This weekend was full of wrapping, shopping and eating and I didn't hate it.  We also got to catch up with some lovely friends before we all part for the holiday.  

Today was more of the same and ended high, with some delicious local ice cream, and not-so-high, because Heather is currently 30,000 feet in the air on the way to the land of shuffleboard and Disney.

No matter what, I am feeling thankful for all the people I get to love in my life.  
God bless the corny-ness of Christmas!

Hope you have a fabulous holiday and feel the love!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christmas Traditions

When I was a kid, we had epic Christmases.
I am talking about a room full of presents and a house full of people, literally.  My dad's side of the family is big and everyone gathered at my great-grandmother's every year.  Granny was the matriarch of the family, for sure.  Great uncles and third cousins from Indiana, Pennsylvania, California, Kentucky, New York, and who knows where would make the journey home for the holiday.

Christmas, for me, always started with the packing of the car.  My sister and I would sit, each of us on our separate row in the minivan, between black trash bags full of presents.  We would poke those bags for the entire 600 mile drive, trying to figure out what was inside.  We would eat at Cracker Barrel (which I called Crackle Barrel for years) to commence our adventure South.  I always ate popcorn shrimp and played checkers by the fire with my dad.  If you can imagine, this was very exciting at the time since the chain hadn't yet made it across the Mason-Dixon line, and my poor mother only got her fried okra a few times a year.

Once we made it to Tennessee, probably after listening to The Bogart on tape, the celebrations began.  We celebrated with three full days of feasting:  On the 23rd it was dinner at my great aunt's house, then a Christmas Eve lunch at my grandmother's and THEN Christmas breakfast at my great-grandmother's house.  There is no Christmas dinner in this family, it is biscuits and gravy all the way.  Affectionately, this meal is still called the "festival of cholesterol" and it takes place at approximately 8 am every year. 

The absurdly early meal has not changed, but a lot has.  Branches of the family have planted roots in different states and many of the pivotal family members have passed on.  Time has shown me how precious my relationships are in my family and each year there is something or someone new to celebrate.  This year is Louisa's first Christmas and I can't wait!  
One day, I am sure I will feel nostalgic for 2014, but for now I'll just be sopping it all up.

This 90s flashback is a pretty accurate visual for ya:
(If you don't know who these people are we cannot be friends.)

Friday, December 12, 2014

Friday: Two weeks until Christmas!

True confession, most of my pictures are from phone.  I do posses a nice camera, but it needs replacing, so my lovely little iPhone 5 has been doing the job.  Except lately it has decided to take lots of blurry photos.  Cool, huh? Anyone else having this issue?

I've been sick about since the time we got back from our Thanksgiving travels, so not a lot has been going on in my neck of the woods.  Essentially, this is my week, as portrayed by Mozey: 

Here are a few little things that have been going on:

If you read any of my other posts about Thanksgiving, you will know why this gets the top spot.  This chocolate pecan pie cheered me up quite a bit when I was feeling like mud.  
Yep, mud. 

My big Saturday night excitement was getting a Christmas tree!  I stayed up until TEN AT NIGHT to decorate it.  Can you believe it?  Then I moved it, with all the ornaments on it, the next day.  I am fickle like that.

I came home to this one night and I found it hysterical.  It's the little things.

Have you ever mixed Porter + Framboise?  It is fruity, fizzy, chocolatey and malty.  YUM.

I enjoy my job more and more as time passes.  
This has got to be one of the highest items on my 2014 thankful list.  We spend so much time at work that it seems so wasteful to not be happy there.

How was your week?

As always, I am linking up with these lovely people below:

Monday, December 8, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

Wow, this is late, huh?

I got sick right after the holiday and have been down and out ever since.  Almost every one of my family members received the lovely cold Louisa brought with her from Philly, including me.  So, I blame my lateness on her kind generosity.   My neighbor (who loves his daughter, don't worry) recently called his kid a "disgusting beast" due to all the germs she brings around from crawling and day care and such.  I think that's pretty accurate.

We returned home safely on Sunday night around 12:30 am to a warm house and a happy pup.  Thank goodness for good friends who delivered our dog before we got home and turned the heat up so it was cozy! Leaving the Charlotte airport at 10pm Sunday night was semi-insane and Serial was really the only thing that kept me awake while driving the 2.5 hours back.  Hooray for a second season!

Here's how our holiday went:

I woke up the Tuesday before Thanksgiving to a text from my mom that said I needed to leave that morning or we weren't going to make it to her house because of the snow!  But clearly the airline wasn't having it, so we crossed our fingers and made it to Pennsylvania the next day without a hitch.  My dad deserves an award for driving through the snow to come fetch us at the airport.  Personally, I loved arriving to a winter wonderland.  It was the perfect welcome, especially since Heather had never visited my hometown before.
That made it extra special. :)

That night we all gathered for the ritual Beef Burgundy meal that my dad cooks every Thanksgiving-eve.  It was amazing, and as always, accompanied by lots of great wine.  I made a fire in the fire place that night and we all sat around chatting and reading...and it was glorious.

(this man needs a bigger stove)

Thursday morning it was time to preemptively run off our Thanksgiving meal pie.  As I mentioned before, I am pretty wedded to the annual Thanksgiving run on the rail trail.  Even though the trail had about four inches of snow on it and the neighborhood streets were clear, I can't part with the amazing scenery along that route!  We ended up completeing 3.5 wet, cold miles and it was great.

Here's a fun flashback to 2013, when Louisa was but a peanut:

Our 2014 reenactment:

Post run was all about the food.  There isn't much to say other than that we cooked, we ate, we drank, we chatted with new friends and had a great celebration.  

Friday morning was all about How The Grinch Stole Christmas:

The rest of our time in Pennsylvania was spent: Attending a Bucknell basketball game, catching up with friends, belatedly celebrating my dad's birthday with an amazing dinner on Saturday night, and lots of baby snuggling.  If you are ever in central Pennsylvania, which I don't know why you ever would be, you should eat at Reba and Pancho's and order the avocado salad and the spicy fish of the day.  Just do it.

All together, it was a perfect holiday spent enjoying my family.  I ate a ton, made THREE pecan pies, drank much nicer wine than I ever drink in my own house, cleaned up baby puke, wandered the downtown with my love and lounged on the couch with my mom.

Can't beat it :)

How was your Thanksgiving??

Friday, November 21, 2014

The last Friday before Thanksgiving!

This week flew by!  It was the perfect feeling of getting a lot done, but not feeling stressed about it.  That is ideal in my book!  A few highlights:

I saw my dad yesterday... and I get to see him and the rest of my family in six days.  I love when that happens!  I am so lucky he travels here for work fairly often.  He insisted we eat at 12 Bones and I did not complain.

Did I mention that I get to see my gorgeous niece in six days?  We chatted on the phone last night and when Amanda asked her if she missed me, she cried.  That obviously means yes.

I spent $100 on yoga pants.
You know where.
I have mixed emotions about this.  I cannot believe I paid that much (with a gift card, does that count?) and I also want to go back and get another pair.  They are super thick and high waisted, and have that just-tight-enough fit.  I just got rid of all my crappy, pilled-up, stretched out leggings so here's hoping these live up to the hype!

We hosted an impromptu Friendsgiving last Saturday and I did not take one photo.  I made Indian Lentil Cauliflower soup (odd choice, but everyone loved it) and my momma's crock pot mulled apple cider (so homey and even better with the Kraken !).   It ended in an old-fashioned, high school era cuddle puddle in the living room watching Mortified.

I really want to make these!  I love tiny little things, and apparently you can actually buy a set of these toy animals that are only North American wilderness folk.  I think that's pretty neat.  
(Thank god I have a child in my life to legitimize myself here.)


Happy Friday before Thanksgiving! What have you been up to this week?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Did you know, Thanksgiving is soon?!

I just wanted to say that... I am excited for the holidays! 
Oh, you too? 
Weird, I thought I was the only one.

I often reference the fact that I am an old person but... It's true!  And it may never be clearer than when it comes to holiday traditions!  In my normal life, I am not big on structure (although I am working on it).  But when it comes to events like Thanksgiving, I am all about it.  Here are some highlights that I know will repeat themselves again this year

Beef Burgundy

Every year, the night before Thanksgiving my dad whips out the Joy of Cooking and makes this dish.  It takes all day and uses every dish in the kitchen.  It also creates a mountain of leftovers.  Exactly like the very next day.  Two full days of cooking, cleaning and eating...who doesn't love that?  Well, one would be my mother, but she continues to lose that battle.  Even though none of us will ever understand his impulse to cook a huge, filling meal the day before turkey-day, I still love it. It's another excuse to use the fancy dishes and drink wine with the people I love most. 
Also, I call baby holding.  Called it!
Edit: my dad texted me this about an hour after posting, because apparently, Julia Child's recipe is much superior to The Joy of Cooking:
 The real name is Boeuf Borguignon. Recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, by Julia Child, Louisette Berthold and Simone Beck

The Run

Each Thanksgiving morning we wake up and start cooking.  Around the time that we are all waiting on a lump of meat to cook for a few hours, any number of family members will sneak off for a family run.  Last year it was just me and my sister, (and Louisa in her belly!) but this year hopefully my brother-in-law and Heather will join us!  I really love this tradition because we always run on the rail trail near our house and it is insanely gorgeous.  It passes in front on lots of quaint little farms and creates a very festive, country scene.  There is even a buggy repair shop along the route.  I couldn't even make that up if I wanted to.  There are mile markers on the trail too, which give me extra motivation to run for more pie! 

Chocolate Pecan Pie

AKA a sugar coma in a dish.  
My family often eats at Cracker Barrel when making the 600 mile journey up and down Route 81.  Mainly because my Southern parents can't get fried okra way up in Pennsylvania.  One time we were there around the holidays and discovered their chocolate pecan pie.  
Game over.  
My dad is a very skilled baker and cook and has helped me to recreate this super healthy dessert every year since.  Most years I try to hide it from everyone else because it is my favorite.  Thankfully, we usually have a pretty large gathering and lots of dessert to choose from, so I get to stuff at least half on my special creation in the fridge without too many complaints from the rest of the crew.

What are you most pumped about this holiday season?

Friday, November 7, 2014

High Five for Friday

Thank goodness it's Friday!  Here's a recap of five moments from this week:

I have almost forgotten that Halloween was last week.  I feel as if the transition from September to October is all about pumpkins and skeletons.  Two of my favorite things, actually.  But then, Halloween happens and suddenly it's time to plan for the holidays.

(Sorry for the poor photo quality)
A cat and two bats:

Adding to that holiday feeling was the snow we got Halloween night.  If it is going to be 30~ degrees, I want some snow! I resisted buying Christmas decorations, but I did try to watch Elf. 
It's not on Netflix, in case you were curious. 

I'm trying out The Everygirl 30-day challenge and not purchasing anything for 30 days, just paying attention to what items in my closet hit the heavy rotation. I'm not much of a shopper, but I like the purposeful process of rethinking a lot of pieces that have gone unworn for quite some time. 

I will never buy enchilada sauce again.  I literally licked this stuff out of the saucepan.  The scent of toasting garlic powder, cumin, chili powder and cayenne with a bit of oil and flour was heavenly.  This was another Oh She Glows recipe. 
I do not regret my obsession with that cookbook. 

I have never cared much about interior design or making my art/furniture/knick knacks "work" together.  I think my time working in an art gallery where clients were mostly concerned with matching a color scheme and not that feeling had me jaded.  
 But now I suddenly want my space to look more streamlined.  I was inspired by this photo of how Christina gathered and displayed what could potentially have been a messy situation.
I like it. 


Happy Friday!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Five on Friday!

Happy Birthday to one of my favorite people, and college roomie, Caroline!  In honor of her birthday here's an awesome #FlashbackFriday photo from our college days.  Clearly we dressed as the Seven Deadly Sins.  I believe I was supposed to be wrath.

Wednesday night we went to a Haunted Halloween tour at Highland Brewery.  It has probably been 10 years since I've been to a haunted house or anything like that.  I recommend it!

I am pretty proud of myself for voting early this year!  Go vote y'all!  

Look at this dog.  
No words.


Happy Halloween!  Linking up with these fine people:


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

What Yoga Has Taught Me

I don't believe I have written much about yoga here before. I am not currently teaching, which I have found has left me with more time and mental space for my own practice. Since my introduction to yoga, circa 2010, I have been fairly sporadic in my practice. I'll admit, consistency is something I have always struggled with and I have recently been working hard on improving that. 
Wish me luck!

If you are a yogi you know that absurd struggle a lot of us have with our practice. It's like pushing a child to eat vegetables:  it may not be as tasty as ice cream but dang you'll feel good afterwards. Actually, that metaphor is quite realistic in my life. I am often deciding between ice cream or yoga. 

Yoga has a long, beautiful history which you should look up on Wikipedia. 
What I will tell you is that before yoga came into my life I had anxiety, zero upper body strength and minimal self-awareness.  I have always been flexible, but if you aren't I would encourage to try yoga! Not being flexible is almost a benefit because once you are in a pose, you will FEEL it. 

Alas, I digress. The point here is to illustrate some things I have learned.  I hope this doesn't come off as preachy, that is really not my intention.  I struggle with staying positive and calm all the time, hence the necessity of yoga! So, something things I have learned:

Choosing to dislike something is useless.  
There are plenty of yoga poses I greatly dislike.  Each time one comes up in class, it pisses me off.  This is useless and I'm working on it.  This goes for plenty of other scenarios, too.  Having those solid barriers against fairly harmless things is silly.

Breath is a powerful tool.  
I still suffer from anxiety, but I now have the tools to help myself.  It has taken me years to figure this out.  Yoga has been proven to help with all kinds of things like depression, for example.

Most things are best when in balance. 
In a yoga pose, one is always extending and contracting at the same time. In a squat today, I was simultaneously tucking my tailbone and lengthening my inner thigh. Fun, huh?
Finding this sweet spot is what life is about! 

Self-knowledge is invaluable.  
Before I practiced yoga there were a lot of things about myself I would ignore. Yoga forces you to deal with your crap. This is why there is that internal struggle associated with yoga. Stress leads me to want to eat or drink something delicious and just veg out.  I often take this route and enjoy it immensely.  But when I choose yoga, the benefits of that last much longer. 
This knowledge also applies to the body.  Having the ability to name where that ache is coming from and how you can relieve that pain or strengthen that spot is pretty cool.

Hopefully, as my yoga journey continues I will have more to add to this list!

Namaste, Ya'll!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Weekend Recap

I can finally say that we had a very low-key and relaxing weekend!  This has truly been a long time coming, and I could not have been happier.  After a travel-filled few months, it was so nice to just hang out and sleep in. 

Saturday I slept until 11....30. What?!
It was amazing.  Let me tell ya.
We decided to stroll down to the new doughnut place by our house and grab some coffee and a treat.  I love that they are opening lots of new businesses near our house!  Sadly, they had sold out at 11am.  That's what I get for sleeping in.  That led us to wander around the neighborhood looking at houses.  Once you own a house, it seems like all you do is window shop.  We are always ooohing and ahhhing over other homes' gardens, fences, creative decorations, wind chimes, feral name it.  
This little stroll led us to King Daddy's!  At first I was so skeptical of this place but it has become one of our favorite spots.  Their patio is super cute, the staff is so friendly and they always love all over Mozey, which wins them big points.  I had a divine pumpkin waffle with toasted pumpkin seeds, peanut butter and strawberries on top!

Our wanderings included a photoshoot with this cool old truck.  I have a penchant for rusty, old things.  I think it's the Central PA in me.

Saturday night was a lazy one and I freakin' loved it!  I have not had a Saturday at home in forever.  I drank wine and watched Gilmore Girls and it was glorious.  Read = cat lady.

Sunday we went on another long morning walk with the dog.  If it wasn't for my dog, I would be quite a bit lazier.  Thanks for that, Mozey.  The afternoon was spent ridding the garden of all the overgrown summer veggies.  I sure will miss those tomatoes.  Later, I went on a nice little hike with my girl Sarah and her two pups.  We looked ridiculous hiking up that trail with three small dogs.  It was an insanely gorgeous day here yesterday, with a high of 75!  We met back up with Heather on the West side, ate some delicious food and then relaxed at home for the rest of the night.

It was an awesomely boring weekend and I loved it!  We haven't had an entire weekend with nothing on the agenda in a really long time.  My bum bonded with my couch and my head spent a lot of time on my mountain of pillows, and for that I am truly grateful.

How was your weekend?

Linking up with these two :)

Friday, October 24, 2014

High Five for Friday!

Happy Friday to you all!  I hope, wherever you are, that you are blessed with some gorgeous fall weather.  

Here's a look at my 5 favorite things from the week:

1. Each time the weather changes I am faced with a new footwear dilemma.  As I have mentioned, I have old-lady feet.  Each time I think I can get away with wearing cute, totally flat shoes I spend the next three days limping around and cursing myself.  I recently purchased these puppies and I hope they help me be semi-cute and comfy at the same time.  Wish me luck!

2. Hikes in the Fall are the best!! The colors of the leaves against the blue sky are so stunning.  This is a snap from Mt. Pisgah a few days ago.

3. I can't stop making recipes out of this cookbook.  Angela writes that she won't publish a recipe that is not meat-lover approved.  I think that is a pretty good measure of how hearty and delicious her meals are!  I am not vegan myself, but I like eating and cooking that way fairly often.  Her blog is chock full of gorgeous photos, too, check her out!

4. Speaking of cooking, I followed this recipe to make "healthy" pumpkin muffins and they were perfect!  I omitted the oatmeal and added chocolate chips instead. 

5. Hurray for the Riff Raff played at my favorite Asheville music spot last night, The Grey Eagle.  She is so good.
We first saw her at Bristol Rhythm and Roots last year and fell in love.
She has a great story, which adds to her allure.  Give her a listen.

Hope you had a lovely week!

Linking up with Christina and Lauren for High Five for Friday!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Fall Favorites

Fall has officially arrived in the mountains.
Here are a few little items spicing up my life these days:
(Warning: Makeup talk below!)

Fall Favorites

1. I normally go the Apple Cinnamon route for fall candles, but this Marshmallow one is YUMMY.    It's warm and home-y and not overwhelming like some of the Bath and Body Works ones that everyone, myself included, seems to adore. 

2. Sunscreen keeps my face pale year-round so during the summer a bit of foundation is necessary.  Now that my summer tan has faded, foundation has gone out the window.  This is the best dupe I have found for my beloved Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer.  I love that NARS shiz but I don't love the price.  This one has great coverage and blends well.

3.  It's hydration season. This smells so good and dries quickly, meaning you can get dressed ASAP and not stand around freezing your buns off!

4. This Milani blush is the right price and a nice peach color. I love a nice glowy (not sparkly) blush to bring more life to my face in the colder months.

5. This is a weird one, I know.  Hear me out.
I have never been a person who cares about laundry.  I don't buy dryer sheets or iron my clothes.  This was a total accident and actually took me by surprise.  As in, I literally smelled myself one day and thought "Wow, that's nice" after which it took me a minute to figure out it was this lovely soap!
6. CeraVe is the best. This is the only eye cream I have found that doesn't irritate my super sensitive eyeballs.
7. Hendricks + a splash of St. Germain + soda water + lemon = Refreshing and delicious.  Try it.

Happy Fall!  What are your favorites this season?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Finally home on Friday!

I am really feeling the TGIF vibes today.  Here's what has been on my mind lately:

1. Baby time is the best time!  That little thing is so dang cute, I don't think I am emotionally equipped to handle it.  And she wore a seasonally appropriate pilgrim outfit for her baptism.  She obviously shares her auntie's love of dress-up.

2.  I am so grateful for my friendship with my sister.  Our relationship was not so wonderful for most of our lives and I was always so jealous of my friends who actually had fun with their siblings.  
It took us 20+ years to get there, but Amanda has become my best friend.  She is probably the person in my life who is most honest with me and I can be just as honest with her.  And we share some amazing parents.  Life is beautiful, no?

3. There have been a lot of dogs in my life recently!  We had Pip, and her mom of course, stay with us all week and it was hilarious watching them interact.  I wish Mozey always had a dawg to play with all day.  Pip is so tiny she makes Mozey look like a big dog. 

4. Gilmore Girls. Is on Netflix.  Hello, nostalgia.  
I used to watch this every week in middle/high school with my Dad.  Obviously, that is the only recommendation you need to bond with your couch this weekend.

5.  The last few books I have read have been super sad, the last of which is my current read: Into the Wild.  I highly recommend it.  But, I am ready for something a bit more lighthearted.  Any recommendations??

Linking up over at The Lauren Elizabeth, check her out.

Hope you had a fantastic week and have a lovely weekend!