Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays!

This was the first year in my 33 years that my home did not have a Christmas tree. Which was sad and depressing, but putting one up alone would have been equally sad and depressing. Not to mention I can’t even wrap my head around the feasibility of putting one up alone (we do real trees in our house). So, no tree this year.

But even though we didn’t have a tree to hang it from, 2016 still deserved an ornament to commemorate the year. Back in January 2016, I declared 2016 the year or house and health. I had big plans to get the house in order, and to get healthy. The house thing happened. But because of the house thing, and the “screw it” attitude we have prior to a deployment, the health thing did NOT happen. So, I wanted an ornament that would remind me of our home. And that is definitely what I got! 2016-12-26-23-33-52-2

I ordered this from Lots of Happiness and there are no words as to how much I love this ornament. The detailing is INSANE. She has shingles on the roof, and even our house number etched into the white frame. She was so communicative and helpful, and got this done so much quicker than I expected. I can’t recommend buying a replica of your home from her enough! I seriously have no idea how any future ornament is going to come close to being as awesome as this one.

So, in other Christmas news…

I loved 2015’s black and gold gift wrap so much, I used that theme again this year. And I have to say that I loved it even more. The kraft paper and white that were in the patterns provided a really nice overall look.
2016-12-18-23-09-31-2Graham came home on the 19th, which obviously was the best thing ever! He flew into DC on the 19th (it’s obnoxious how much cheaper it is to fly into DC than it is to fly into Norfolk). Hermione, the cats and I LOVED having him home. Pretty much every night was spent like this, and it was completely perfect. 2016-12-20-22-47-39-2 We had such a great time while he was here. We had a few days in Virginia, just the two of us, then went home for Christmas, then came back to Virginia, then went back to Charlotte for New Years Eve (after a quick trip to DC for our “anniversary”). We ate, we shopped, we binge watched The Crown (excellent, by the way) and finally saw Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them. 2016-12-22-11-56-50We ate SO much while he was home. We had brunch at Bay Local Eatery (which I’ve mentioned before here). Graham loves their bloody marys, I love their sorbet mimosas. 2016-12-28-11-27-33 I had the shrimp and grits, with a fried biscuit and a side of tots. Graham had a kitchen sink scramble (eggs + about 6 kinds of meat). Mine was excellent, his was good, but would have been better with some vegetables. 2016-12-28-11-48-15-1 Of course we has a sushi date at Kero. All four of the rolls we shared were absolutely perfect, 2016-12-28-19-07-48His last night here, we had Indian food at Aago. He had the chicken tikka masala, I had the chicken jalfrezy, and we shared an order of garlic naan. Aago is, hands down, the most delicious Indian food we’ve had in Hampton Roads and I highly recommend checking them out. 2017-01-02-19-52-10-1 For our 5th Anniversary (part 2), we headed BACK to DC for the day/night. I made reservations at my favorite restaurant in the city, Zaytinya. The food here is so, SO wonderful. The service was excellent, and it was only about 2 blocks from the hotel we were staying at. I won’t bombard you with the photos of all nine of the dishes we ordered, but every dish was excellent. 2016-12-30-17-03-48-1 2016-12-30-17-06-33-1 2016-12-30-17-21-33 2016-12-30-18-19-58-1 After dinner, we headed to the Kennedy Center and say a production of Into the Woods. Into the Woods is my favorite musical of ALL TIME (and do not get me started on how much I HATE the Disney film that came out a few years ago). This was one of the more enjoyable live productions I’ve seen. The set was very minimal, the same actors played multiple parts, and it had a hipster feel to it. So, while it isn’t the version you’re familiar with thanks to the DVD of the Bernadette Peters version you’ve watched a million times (or is that just me…), that’s what made it so enjoyable. For the first time ever, I felt like the cast was trying to emulate those actors. They were doing their own thing, and looked like they were having a great time doing it. 2016-12-30-19-36-20 After seeing the show, I made my stop by the Lincoln Memorial. I always stop by the monument (since it’s my favorite monument and Lincoln is my favorite president). 2016-12-30-23-23-27-2 2016-12-30-23-27-34-2For New Years Eve, we carried on with a tradition we’ve had for about 6 years now: we spent a low key, fattening, alcohol laden evening with good friends. 2017-01-01-00-12-39-22016-12-30-15-47-41-2

Whole30 Compliant Chili

2017-01-03-21-28-28So… I’ve been tossing around the idea of attempting another Whole30. When I scroll through instagram and see the amount of crap I’ve had in the past year, I think even harder about trying again. But, even if I end up not doing one, I’ve committed to having at least one Whole30 meal a day (but I’m shooting for 2).

This chili is SO good. I know carrots may sound like a weird thing to add to chili, but I needed to bulk this chili up after removing the beans, and I had plenty of carrots in the fridge. And it totally worked. This chili is just as delicious as my original (bean heavy) chili, and just as easy to make. And making a huge pot of compliant chili (or soup, or pretty much a huge pot of anything) will make your Whole30 easier. In my opinion, being prepared and having a well stocked kitchen is THE MOST important key to having a successful Whole30, especially in the beginning. That first week SUCKS. And it’s really convenient having good food already cooked and ready to go. If you feel like most of us during that week (like you have a hangover, more than a little homicidal), you’re going to need all the help you can get.

Ingredients:

***Not all ingredients are created equally. PLEASE be sure to read the labels of any canned goods/packaged foods you’re buying.***

  • 1 lb. of ground pork
  • 1 lb. of ground sirloin
  • 2 14.5 oz. cans of fire roasted diced tomatoes (with their juices)
  • 3 10 oz. cans of mild Rotel (drained)
  • 2 T. of tomato paste
  • 1 lb. of carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 3 bell peppers (any colors); chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 jalapenos; finely chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/3 c. of Chili powder
  • 1/3 c. of ground Cumin
  • 2 T. of cayenne pepper
  • 2 T. of salt (or more to taste)

Directions:

  1. Brown meat in a large skillet. Drain grease & place meat in the bottom of the crock pot.
  2. Add chopped vegetables (I leave the seeds & membranes with my jalapenos, but remove them if you want to cut the heat a little), the canned vegetables and the seasonings.
  3. Place the lid on and cook on high for four hours or low for eight hours.

Just a note: This chili IS spicy. Since sour cream is not allowed for a Whole30, add some chopped avocado, or even a spoonful of guacamole before serving. It’ll help cool it down a bit.

Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts women will love

Y’all. We are so close to Christmas! 10 days for me (my family celebrates on the 24th) and 11 days for what seems like the rest of the world. So, I’m back and sharing some of my favorite gift items for the ladies in your life.

If the lady in your life is…

Obsessed with Homegoods & HGTV:

8bbae321e47b58b5c23ea0a1ec7f1fe2So those agate coasters I mentioned in the stocking stuffers post… how pretty are these? If Santa brings me any of these, I hope they’re in this color combo. These will look SO PRETTY on my bar cart!

40033946_028_bI’m not sure that I’d ever be able to spend $48 on measuring cups, so obviously I’d LOVE IT if Santa left these under the tree. They’re so pretty I can’t even stand it. When we do our kitchen renovation, it’s going to be super sleek and all white and grey. I’d love to have these beauties hanging out in my baking area.

A Sephora addict:_11983892I’m a huge fan of Kiehl’s products, and I’m super excited about this masque set. I’ve become obsessed with skincare over the past few years, and this year I’ve started using masques. I received a set of three in a Popsugar box earlier in the year, and since I’ve been different types. I received these yesterday, and I’m super excited to try each one.

lalicious-showeroil-brownsugarvanilla_croppedThis Lalicious Brown Sugar Shower Oil/Body Wash came in my Popsugar box a couple of months ago, and I’m in love with it. It smells so good, and it lathers so well. I was hesitant about trying it (anything with the word oil makes me uncomfortable – oily skin skeeves me out), but I realized mid shower I was out of body wash and didn’t have a choice. Now, I consider this in the top 10 of items that have been in my Popsugar boxes, and I’ll definitely order more when I run out.

A Foodie:Chrissy Teigan CravingsThe Chrissy Teigan cookbook is, hands down, one of my favorite cookbooks ever. I received it in a Popsugar box over the summer, and I’m obsessed with it. The book itself is hilarious, and the recipes are fantastic. Everything I’ve made from the book so far has been so delicious, the pictures are gorgeous, and it’s seriously hilarious.

box-kitch-organic-fbThere are SO many food subscription services out there, and I’ve tried a lot of them. I’ve talked about Blue Apron before, but honestly, I haven’t been pleased with my last few boxes. So, a few weeks ago I tried out Sun Basket. And I LOVED IT. More produce than Blue Apron, so many more options, bigger portions, better packaging, organic, and the recipes were delicious.  And by more options, I mean SO MANY MORE OPTIONS. They have paleo options, Gluten free options, vegetarian options, dairy free, soy free, AND they have breakfast options. Sign up for a week with my referral link, and get three meals for free!

Enjoys her cocktails:

50979137I LOVE this pink & rose gold cocktail shaker. I bought one for myself a few months ago. It’s so pretty and looks great on my bar cart. And when I’m feeling super lazy, I just take the top off, add more ice and a straw and drink right out of the glass.aa22529e55c073cfcaf665a9cfc4269a2a802c98If your friend loves her cocktails, you absolutely can no go wrong with a bottle of her favorite liquor. Especially if it’s a pricier one. I bought a bottle of Hendricks on our cruise last year, and I just finished it. I went to buy another one and was shocked at how expensive it is at the ABC store. So, if someone gifted me with a bottle of this, or a really good tequila, I would be a very happy camper.

Loves jewelry:
08cbaf0b2b8f66b5dc6ca5cb4c590296I love these Stella & Dot earrings. They’re super simple, but not boring and you could seriously wear them with everything.

island2_1024x1024I LOVE Erin McDermott Jewelry, and I recently bought a few pairs of earrings from her. Some for others, and of course one for me. I bought the mint ones (bottom center) and I’m seriously obsessed.

Loves to read:e1ebxqm1rms-_sl250_fmpng_Graham and I started listening to this series while we were driving to Boston in August. We listened to the first two books in the series (The Girl in the Ice (1) & The Night Stalker (2)) and I just listened to the 3rd one (Dark Water) last week. This is such a good series! The mysteries keep you guessing the whole time. I’m usually really good at figuring out the ending, but with each book I’m always surprised at the end.

51bzykg-d1lI absolutely love most of Karen White’s more recent books. Flight Patterns came out this year, and I could not stop listening to it. She creates interesting characters, and I love the way she weaves back and forth between the past and present. This method of writing is super popular these days, but she does it better than most authors. Also – if you’re a fan of audio books, I highly recommend the audio version of these. It’s the same narrator for most of her more recent books (I will say I am absolutely NOT a fan of her older stuff), and the narrators are really excellent.

Holiday Gift Guide: Stocking Stuffers

Guys. Christmas is in 18 days. I can’t even believe that it’s so close. I haven’t blogged much lately, but I’m really, really excited for Christmas since Graham is coming home for it! Seven years together, five years married, and we’ve never missed a Christmas or a New Years together, so I’m really excited that that this year in Honduras isn’t keeping us apart for this one.

So, While I count down the days to seeing Graham, and Christmas with our families, I thought I’d share with you guys some of my favorite gift items this year. I’m going to start simple, and share some of my favorite stocking stuffers first.

40877565_095_bWhen I was growing up, the stuff in our stockings was nothing special. Usually it was full with apples & oranges from a bag of assorted fruit, and a few small items. As we grew up, the items got a little more expensive, but when I was younger, it was small toys and games. I remember packs of ‘Go Fish’ cards and Uno. When I saw  these pretty playing cards from Anthropologie, I thought they’d be perfect in a more grown up stocking.

40027989_055_b10If your family is driving you crazy on Christmas, one of these gorgeous bottle openers (also from Anthropologie) will help get the booze in your system, and get you back into the Christmas spirit. I can already picture one of these on my bar cart, right next to the agate coasters from West Elm that I hope Santa is bringing me. 51h3iisvgl-_sl1237_Keeping with a boozy theme for a minute, these wine stoppers are one of my absolute favorite things. They are tiny, and when the top piece is lowered, they have a very low profile, which makes the bottle fit easily into the fridge. I’ve bought all of mine individually at over priced gift shops, so this is a great price for three.

cegjwcc9yxbo2jd1qukstmwzouqmgvqbux2icdtbzqu

 

If Santa leaves any of the Dizzy Pig rubs in my stocking (that sentence just sounds dirty…), I would be a very happy camper. If you only buy one jar, Tsunami Spin & Shakin’ the Tree are my absolute favorites. OR you can introduce someone to sample bags of all 13 rubs for $20. These are made in Virginia, all natural, handmade, gluten free, soy free, and SO good. Graham & I use these on EVERYTHING. They’re obviously great on meat, but they’re also really good on roasted veggies.

2251724

I’ve been using this makeup setting spray from Urban Decay for over a year, and it now has a permanent place in my makeup bag and the 1 oz. size is a perfect stocking stuffer. The days I don’t use it, my makeup is gone before I leave work at 4:00. The days I use it: my makeup still looks great right up until I wash it off for bed. Side note: small sizes of any beauty product that you LOVE makes a great stocking stuffer or small gift. This is a fun way for friends and family to try out products that you love, that they may not buy for themselves.

bold_overlap-personalized_notepads-hello_little_one-fuchsia-pinkI LOVE personalized stationary so much. And I would LOVE to find personalized note pads in my stocking. Especially if they’re bold and colorful like this one. These aren’t cheap ($14.99 for a 48 sheet pad), but right now tinyprints is offering 40% off + free shipping. So definitely stock up on a few of these pretties.

51kzvywsacl-_sl1007_

Don’t laugh, but I totally want a Beauty Light for my phone. It’s only $10, and not only makes taking selfies in dark areas easier, but it also helps to take better photos in dark restaurants (and it has a dimmer, so you’re not too obnoxious to other restaurant goers.

Our Virginia House: One Year Later

I can not believe it’s been a year. Well, it’s kind of been a year. Today marks one year since we first walked into this house with our realtor, Gwen. This was the first house we looked at that day, and we were both ready to write an offer before we even got back to the car. We had about 6 more that she had made appointments for, so we dutifully checked those out, but none even came close to this one. So, the next day we went to her office to make our offer, and the next day she called me to let us know that it was accepted. Yay!

We closed on the house in early December, and literally started tearing down the things we didn’t like on day two. I remember standing in the living room, talking about what we wanted to do with the space. Graham started taking down the chair railing, I started pulling off wallpaper, and before we knew it, the room looked like this:2015-12-20-11-24-39-1

We’ve done SO much over the past year. Everything from small projects (like painting the bedrooms), to HUGE projects (like brand new siding), and I honestly think we both love this house more and more every day.

So, let’s me bombard you with a ton of before and after photos.

The House: 2016-06-05 11.42.31grey-house-pink-front-doorgrey-house-pink-front-door-32016-06-16-20-52-24You can read more about our siding & the pink front door here. The only thing left on our exterior to do list is to update the landscaping. A very hot, dry summer killed nearly all the plants out front. Luckily most of them were planted in galvanized buckets, so they’ll be easy to get rid of. We’re going to keep it simple (and low maintenance): boxwoods & hostas in the front beds, aerate and plant more grass, and in the bed on the side, I think I’m going to plant something bee friendly.

The living room:living room 2016-06-17 00.11.292016-06-17 00.12.002016-06-17 00.09.46This space is so close to finished. All we have left to do in here is to hang pictures over the couch, and for Graham to build doors for the two bottom shelves of the built-ins. We’ve also updated the ottoman from the disgusting grey and white one pictured to a solid grey one. Considering it’s sitting on a grey rug, the room needs a pop of color. So, I’m on the hunt for a bright rug, but I’m not in any hurry. If you want to see more before and after pictures, you can read more here.

The Dining Room:Dining room2016-06-17-01-18-492016-06-17-01-20-322016-06-17-00-45-46The dining room used to be a second living area, which we don’t need. It would literally have ended up as another storage space. What we DID need though was a bigger kitchen. So, we decided to turn the second living area into a dining room, and expand the kitchen into the old dining room (we now refer to that space as the kitchen annex). This room was the easiest room of the house to update. There was no wallpaper, no paneling, no chair railing (the only room on the first floor with none of those things). All it needed was fresh paint (Benjamin Moore’s Black Pepper). It does still need a light fixture, but that’ll come next year when G gets home.

Half Bathroom:half-bath2016-09-02-03-52-022016-09-02-17-33-48This room is 100% finished, and I love it more than it’s probably normal to love a bathroom. You can read more about the remodel here. I’m so glad that I let Graham do the wainscoting, I’m so glad we splurged on the tile and the sink. I just love this space so much.

Master Bedroom:master bedroom 2 Master bedroom 2016-03-11 04.42.57 2016-03-11 04.45.052016-03-11 04.40.45Excluding the hallway, which has wallpaper, the rooms upstairs are only in need of new paint. However, our bedroom is the only room that has actually been painted. It’s not the largest room in the world, but it’s a good size. I can’t get over how tiny it looks in the before photos.

Kitchen Nook:12226966_10102221202589367_3226349745380194267_n2016-06-23-16-48-392016-07-05-23-34-172016-07-05-23-35-02
Taking down wallpaper only to put wallpaper back up felt pretty ridiculous, but it was necessary. It was after we started ripping down wallpaper that Graham mentioned how lucky we were that the wallpaper wasn’t covering really bad walls. That thought never occurred to me. Then I get to the nook, and the walls were REALLY, really bad. The walls were so bad, it made me wonder if the nook was an addition. They just looked and felt different. So, we decided to put up wallpaper, to save ourselves about 4 years of spackling and sanding. We also decided to put trim up on the opening. Corners are the worst part, and they’re so delicate. So, this substantial trim not only makes the opening look more finished, but it also will help protect the walls over the years when people inevitably bump into the corners with pieces of furniture.

And for the rooms that still have a looooooong way to go (and for the most part look SO MUCH WORSE than they did on that first day)… no pictures of those since they’re depressing to look at. Maybe next time I do an update the after pictures will be blog worthy 🙂

 

Life Lately

If I’m being honest, lately my life has been uneventful. It’s been a little over a month since Graham left, and while I had big plans to stay busy and positive, it’s been really, really hard. I usually give myself a good sized “wallow in self pity” period, but I feel like this time I tried to jump back into life too quickly, and it made everything so much harder.

The day before he left, we were walking Hermione, and he suggested I go get a massage to help myself relax. That was the greatest idea ever, so I immediately call the Spa at Colonial Williamsburg and make an appointment for the next day. I had a lavender and lemongrass body scrub, and then a 60 minute classic massage. It was amazing, and just what I needed.2016-09-07-10-55-08 2016-09-07-10-55-24

The next day I went back to work, and then that weekend my friend Sarah and I took the dogs on a walk. And I felt okay.2016-09-11-11-31-01-2

Then over the next few days, the depression seeped in. And it was bad. I just wanted to cry. All I wanted to lay on the couch and cry. I was better when I was busy, but then when I stopped moving, I wanted to cry. During the weekend, I drove to Virginia beach and went shopping, and I started crying while sitting in traffic, and just cried on and off all day. That day I did go home, and lay on the couch and do nothing for the rest of the day. I needed my time to wallow, and be sad. I needed to actually let myself feel the way that I was feeling. The next weekend was hard, but not as bad. The weekend after that, I finally started feeling like myself again.

I know why it’s so much harder this time then it ever has been. He’s gone for a year. A whole year. We don’t have an exact homecoming date yet, but my guess is he’ll be gone for one year + a week or two. And it’s hard to wrap my head around that. We’re going to see each other for Christmas, and in April (hopefully), but I still miss him so much it hurts.

But, the past few weeks, things have gotten better. Mom was supposed to come for a visit last weekend, but since the weather was terrible, we rescheduled. I’m so glad we rescheduled, because I work up Friday morning and felt like death. I literally spent the whole weekend on the couch watching movies.2016-10-08-03-31-36 My adorable companions kept me company 🙂2016-10-08-03-36-17-2

But, I’m feeling better not (both physically and emotionally) and I’m ready for the next eleven months to go by in a blur. I even bought a piece of furniture to refinish, so I’d have a project to do. 2016-09-30-12-23-16

I’ve wanted a card catalog for AGES, and when I saw this beauty at the ReStore, I knew I would absolutely hate myself if I left it behind. So, I bought it, went home for Graham’s car since it wouldn’t fit in mine, went back to get it, and then managed to get it in the garage by myself (after taking out all 60 drawers). I stared at it for about two days, before deciding I just couldn’t live with the color. So, I read up on stripping stain out of furniture, and got to work. It’s a process, so I’m doing one side at a time… Right now I have 2 sides pretty much done. One side needs more sanding (it’s a little splotchy), but I love how it’s turning out. It may very well take me the whole year Graham is gone (stripping those 60 drawers, and then cleaning 60 pieces of hardware may take forever…) but it’s going to be so beautiful when it’s finished.

The previous owner used this piece to hold small tools and accessories in his garage. I kept finding these slips of paper when I was taking the drawers out. 2016-09-30-03-22-34I’m glad the bottom detached. Otherwise it would have never fit in the car. I’m also glad that removing the drawers made it light enough that I (with the use of a hand truck) managed to get it in the garage. It took 3 guys at the ReStore to get it in my car. 2016-09-30-03-21-59It’s amazing how some Brasso and an old toothbrush can take away 50ish years of grossness and make the hardware shine like new. I don’t mind cleaning all of these though. The thought of buying new hardware sends me into a panic. Not only the cost of it, but finding something that matches up with the existing holes? Ugh. No thank you. 2016-10-03-16-22-09So splotchy…2016-10-10-16-44-13After a little googling, I found out I needed to use a grittier sandpaper for this portion of the project (I had been using 220, which is for the finishing step). So, after checking out a few forums, and Young House Love, I settled on 80 grit. This looks better, but it still looks splotchy. 2016-10-12-16-29-09I still don’t really have a home for it yet. The place I want to put it won’t be available till we start on our kitchen renovation when Graham gets home, so I’m seriously in no hurry to get it done. I’m so obsessed with it though.

So, that’s been life since Graham has been gone. I hope it continues to get better. I hope seeing him at Christmas doesn’t put me back into a deep depression once he leaves. I hope Hermione stops eating bags of baby carrots. I hope I can be productive. And most of all, I hope he continues to stay safe and I hope he’s home soon.

Hiking with Hermione – Snakes, and bears, and bees, oh my!

When Graham deployed last year, he left with 36 hours notice (due to a clerical error) and we were robbed of 10 precious days. We didn’t have a vacation planned, but we had lots of day trips planned. And the thing he most wanted to do was take Hermione hiking.

Graham returned from that deployment, but between buying a house, and fixing up said house, we never got around to going hiking. So, we decided to rectify that before he left for Honduras. We headed up to Shenandoah National Park, and hiked the White Canyon Trail. All three of us were out of shape, so we didn’t want anything too strenuous, and we wanted a trail with lots of places for Hermione to swim.

So, we made the drive, welcomed the cooler temperatures (60 degrees in late August? I’ll take it!) and started our hike. But when we ran into this guy not even 5 minutes into the walk, I wanted to turn around and go back.

2016-08-22-12-54-53The hike was pretty, but nothing spectacular. I’m still trying to play with my camera as much as I can, so I took a ton of random photos of things no one will ever find interesting except for me… 2016-08-22-00-24-112016-08-22-00-38-17Our adorable companion 🙂 Hiking + swimming + being with Graham and I really is her idea of the perfect day. I was never really a dog person until we adopted her, but now I can’t imagine my life without one. She’s so entertaining, she’s such a comfort to me when Graham is gone, and she keeps us (semi) active. 2016-08-22-00-41-482016-08-22-00-42-172016-08-22-00-42-482016-08-22-00-43-03-12016-08-22-01-04-242016-08-22-01-31-192016-08-22-01-35-452016-08-22-01-37-102016-08-22-14-34-47The hike was more or less uneventful, until we turned around and headed back to the car. Then we saw bear #1. We were going to stop and let Hermione swim some more, but luckily Graham saw this bear right as he had let her off the leash. We kept walking…2016-08-22-15-00-09On the way back to the car, we passed two more bears (no photos) and Graham got stung by a bee. I have never been so ready to get the hell out of the woods and back to the car in my life. We get back to the car, and see this guy at the wooded area across the street. 
2016-08-22-03-16-322016-08-22-03-16-34So, not the peaceful hike we had in mind, but if was definitely interesting. And we left the woods incredibly thankful that a bee sting was the only injury of the day.