The Magic of Ordinary Days

BYpP5kUCIAIHGUA

As of late, we’ve had several back-to-back weekends full of, well, nothing.  Sure, we’ve gotten out and about and done things, but we haven’t had schedule full of to-do’s or traveling.  Of course all that is about to change this coming week as we head to Kentucky for Thanksgiving, but we’ve had several leisurely weekends at home.  Two Saturdays ago we got up early to hike up Kennesaw Mountain.  It had been a little over two years since the first time we went, hiking to the top for a lunch picnic with several other couples.  This time it was just the two of us and we stopped at a quaint little coffee shop along the way to pick up coffee and breakfast.  The view at the top is worth the short hike up and the Atlanta skyline is just beautiful.  Like I said in my previous post, I have definitely taken a new liking to Fall.

fall decor

We’ve had a lot of fun decorating our home for the Fall season.  It’s also been fun to take our time adding things here and there, like hanging up the gold window treatments in the dining room and finding new pillows for the couch.  I think I’ve been to TJ Maxx more times in the past two months than I ever have in my entire life.  This past Tuesday night, I headed to a friend’s house for a girls’ night full of laughter, hot soup, and crafting.  Several of us made wreaths and though I thought I could hold out hanging ours until after Thanksgiving, I just couldn’t wait.  Yes, I am one of those people that post-Halloween, I crank up the Michael Buble Christmas music on Pandora.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Thanksgiving (if you’ve seen the incredibly spread at my parent’s house, what’s not to love?), but as soon as November 29th rolls around, I am in full blown Christmas mode.

wreath

That being said, I’m using this post as an opportunity to hold myself accountable for being content and grateful throughout the holiday season.  I want relax and soak it all in, rather than spinning my wheels in anticipation of what is still left to be done.  It’s no fun wishing away the magic of the season, in hopes that it may arrive a bit quicker.  We’ve spent the last several weeks at church diving into what it means to intentionally seek out rest.  It almost seems like a contradiction to talk about during this time of year, but perhaps this is when we need it most.  I plan to journal each and every day, noting everything from the mundane and ordinary to the extraordinary.  Too many days go by where I try to remember what happened that day, only to forget or have one day run into the next.  By giving each day its own celebration, I think the season overall will be much, much richer.

Falling in Love with Fall

pumpkins

I have long said, “If it could be 80 degrees and sunny year round, I would be a happy camper.”  Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve loved the summer months and detested the cold, bitter winter.  However, now that I’m older, I’m finally starting to appreciate Fall.  I used to sulk for the first day in September or October where I’d have to grab a jacket before heading outside.  But when the temperature dropped a few weeks ago, quite a bit earlier than it has the past couple years in Atlanta, I was ready.  There are far too many great things that come with the changing of the season…

Leaves changing colors.  Pumpkin everything.  The red cups at Starbucks are back!  Warm cardigans and cable-knit sweaters.  Halloween.  Apple cider.  Thanksgiving.  Deep fried turkey.  The sound leaves make crunching under my shoes during my early morning runs.  Hot chocolate with mini marshmallows.  Carving pumpkins.  Early Christmas shopping.  Holiday office parties.  Fall baking.  Holiday displays in all the stores.  Decorating our home for Fall.  Fuzzy slippers.  Curling up by the fireplace with a good book.  The list goes on.

fallrunning

Fall is my favorite season for running. All the changing leaves are so beautiful!

This past week was Halloween, and I was so excited to finally be able to hand out candy to trick-or-treaters.  It was just something we just didn’t get to do living in an apartment complex.  Also, you know you’re becoming a real adult when you balk at the price of candy.  I literally stood in the aisle at Kroger for a good ten minutes, wondering how in the world I was spending over $20 on two bags of candy that little fairies, ghosts and goblins would gobble up in seconds.  Thankfully we didn’t run out, and I would stand to argue that I actually had more fun than the trick-or-treaters, “oohing” and “aahing” at all the cute costumes and waving at all the families from our front porch rocking chairs.  It’s definitely a tradition I’m excited to continue for years to come.

pumpkin cookies

Iced pumpkin sugar cookies, just one of our many traditions this time of year.

Not a surprise that another one of my favorite things about Fall is baking.  There’s just something incredibly comforting about the flavors of Fall–pumpkin, cranberry, and spices like nutmeg and ginger.  I also have a lot of childhood memories of days spent in the kitchen with my Mom and grandmothers, wearing aprons too big for me and getting more flour in my hair and clothes than in the mixing bowl.  Today, whenever I make something that reminds me of a family recipe, I’ll take a picture and text it to my Mom and it feels like we’re back in the same kitchen, baking and laughing together.

My Mom’s harvest pumpkin loaf is one of my favorite things she bakes.  I always look forward to it this time of year.  Since I won’t be able to have any until we visit over Thanksgiving, I decided to try making my own version.  It’s a bit different than hers–I added cranberries and left out the nuts and glaze topping–but it smells and looks just as good!

bread

Pumpkin Cranberry Chocolate Chip Quick Bread
Makes one 9×5 loaf

Ingredients:
3/4 cup white flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp each cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, ground gloves
1 container vanilla or pumpkin-flavored yogurt
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup honey
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9×5 baking pan.  In a large bowl, beat together pumpkin, yogurt, honey, egg and vanilla extract.  Slowly beat in flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices.  Once even combined, stir in cranberries then chocolate chips.  Spoon batter into pan and bake for 45-55 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Mom’s Visit to Atlanta

mom and me

Blue shirts, blue house. We take matching seriously in this family.

This past weekend was one of the most relaxing and rejuvenating weekends I’ve had in a long time.  We had a busy summer full of weddings and a family vacation, and even now that we’re traveling less, we’ve still been very busy lately getting settled into our home.  My Mom paid us a visit, arriving last Friday and staying through the weekend…our first overnight house guest!

The rocking chairs are the perfect addition to our porch...thanks Mom & Dad!

The rocking chairs are the perfect addition to our porch…thanks Mom & Dad!

It was nice not to have a set “agenda” for the weekend.  Back when Drew’s or my parents would come to visit when we were still living in the apartment, we would try to pack our schedule with lots of things to see and do, just so we wouldn’t be all crammed in a small space.  Now, it’s nice to relax on the front porch, go for a walk around the neighborhood, and cook a delicious dinner…or do nothing at all.  One of my favorite memories of visiting my parents during my college years were the late nights we’d spend curled up on the couch, talking for hours.  Years later, nothing has changed.

Mom love her granddog grandchild

Mom loves her grand-dog grandchild

Shortly after Mom arrived on Friday night, we went to Miller Union for dinner.  I’d been once before for a work dinner, but this was Drew’s and Mom’s first time.  The atmosphere is very lively but classic, and I could definitely see Drew and I going back sometime soon for a date night, or to just sit at the bar and watch the bartenders make cocktails from scratch.  We all enjoyed our dinner but the highlight of the evening was definitely dessert (duh).

Homemade s'mores with cherry cordial ice cream, and chocolate truffle cake with black pepper ice cream.

Black pepper ice cream…sounds strange. Verdict? Surprisingly delicious.

The weather was perfect all weekend long and we spent the majority of Saturday walking around Atlantic Station, and exploring shops on the Westside.  We didn’t even go back to Midtown, our old stomping grounds.  That’s one of my favorite things about Atlanta: there are numerous neighborhoods to explore and each pocket has its own charm and hidden gems.  Even though Miller Union was delicious, the two dinners we cooked at the house were just as tasty.  We made cajun shrimp pasta and toasted Drew’s homemade bread.  Mom picked up a bottle of red wine for us at a wine shop earlier in the day which accompanied the meal perfectly.  Sunday night we grilled veggies, chicken and salmon, and Mom made brownies for dessert.  Drew has definitely become a pro at using the grill!

us cooking

pasta dinner

The weekend ended far too soon, as it always does when you have friends or family visiting.  It was just the quality time I needed until I’m able to see everyone again during Thanksgiving…the holidays will be here before we know it!  And every time I sit in one of our porch rocking chairs (my parents’ housewarming gift to us), I’ll think of them.  Drew’s grandparents and parents will also be visiting in the coming weeks, so we’re looking forward to playing hosts again very soon.

Getting Settled

chalkboard

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been living in our new home for almost 3 weeks now…it still doesn’t seem real! Drew and I will catch each other looking gawking  around all the rooms, waiting to be woken up from this dream.  That being said, we are pretty much settled in – no moving boxes still lying around or odds and ends that still need a home.  I think we both wanted to make the house as live-able as possible from the very beginning…plus, it’s not like we had a ton of stuff moving from a one bedroom apartment.  No doubt moving day went as smoothly as it did thanks to help from our amazing group of friends.  From start to finish, it took less than 3 hours to have everything moved from our apartment into the house.  Offer people free beer and pizza and it’s amazing what can be accomplished 😉

living room

We’ve been on several shopping excursions, buying things like rugs, bar stools and (finally!) a KitchenAid…things we just didn’t bother with while we were living in the apartment, either from lack of space or because we knew we wouldn’t be living there forever.  The house is really starting to come along now that we’ve been able to put our own “spin” on it…it was beautiful and move-in ready before, but it’s amazing how a simple area rug and a few decorative touches can really pull a room together.  We’ve had several get-togethers already as well, including hosting house church and a housewarming party.

dining room1

The best part of being a homeowner?  Besides having almost 3x the space, it’s like a whole new adventure for us.  There were things that just weren’t possibly (or at least not in a fun way) where we used to live.  Cooking in our new kitchen is an entirely new experience; we’re no longer tripping over each other or running out of room while preparing dinner.  I’ve already put the KitchenAid to work (cookie recipe coming soon!), and I’m loving cooking on a gas stove.  We’ve taken Theo on walks around the neighborhood, met several neighbors, and enjoyed evenings relaxing on the porch.  It definitely probably sounds silly, but I get a real kick out of walking to our very own mailbox.  Forget about the one morning that I set off our security system (at least we now know it works!), and it’s been a very easy transition.

kitchen

My Mom is coming to stay with us this weekend and I can’t wait for her to see the house.  I’ve sent her plenty of pictures, and she probably would say that I talk about it way too much already, but I’m excited for her to see it in person.  Drew’s parents will be visiting a few weeks later, and I know they too can’t wait to check out our new place.  Even though we’re both grown adults, Drew and I definitely value our parents’ opinions and sought advice from all of them throughout the house buying process.  No doubt we wouldn’t be in this life stage without their love and support.

Oh, and Theo seems to be settling in just fine, in case anyone was wondering…

theo

Home Sweet Home

closing day

If you follow Drew’s or any of my social plug-ins, you’ve probably been bombarded with our “We’re buying a house!” shpeel by now, and this blog post will not be a huge surprise.  However, I think it’s worth mentioning exactly how we came to be homeowners, since we certainly weren’t planning to purchase a home this year.

The first weekend in August, during the drive home after a wedding in Kentucky, Drew showed me a house he’d spotted on Trulia, not thinking much of it.  I guess the fact that I really liked it surprised him, and on a whim we decided to contact the owner to schedule a tour.  The very next weekend, we met the owner and took a tour of the house.  5 minutes in, I knew this was the perfect place for us.  It gave me chills, much reminiscent of the first wedding dress I tried on…which also ended up being the dress I wore on our wedding day.  Coincidence?  I think not.

house

We loved the house but feared things would end there since the owner and his family were itching to sell after already purchasing another home.  Still, we couldn’t forget the house and decided to contact an agent.  After meeting with her, touring several other homes and finding out breaking our apartment lease wouldn’t be the financial catastrophe we were anticipating, we put an offer on the house.  I’ll never forget being in the meat aisle at the grocery store when Drew got the call that the owners had accepted our offer.  Could it really be this easy?  We’d heard horror stories from our friends going through the house buying process and assumed our situation would be similar.  Instead, it was 5 short weeks from the initial viewing to the first night we spent our new house.  I think we both walk through the rooms, in awe and still a bit baffled that this whole thing hasn’t been a dream.

front door

Since we’ve been married, this is without a doubt the biggest life event we’ve experience together.  At times it was exciting, scary, and frustrating, but in the end we know we we meant to have this house.  While the exact reason may still have yet to reveal itself, we feel beyond blessed by our circumstances.  Drew wrote a great post on his own blog about how much we learned from the process that’s definitely worth the read.  I have a feeling the next few months are going to be very exciting for us as we settle in and make this house our home.  So stay tuned!

 

 

A Last Hurrah of Summer

So this is a much delayed post…but as you’ll soon learn, it’s been a busy past few weeks for us!  Now how’s that for a cliffhanger?  Unless you’re know us well, then you obviously know what I’m hinting at 🙂

boat2

A few weekends ago we spent an afternoon boating on Lake Lanier.  One of our friends found an awesome deal on Groupon for a large group to spend several hours on the water, wake-boarding and just soaking up the last few precious rays of the summer sun.  I do no such thing as wake-board, but I definitely enjoyed the latter.   The weather was perfect with barely a cloud in the sky.  Even though it’ll stay relatively warm in Atlanta for another few weeks, it really was one of our final “hurrah’s” of the summer season.

boat1

The following afternoon we spent strolling the streets–literally–around Midtown.  Last May, the city put on an event called Atlanta Streets Alive, closing down Peachtree Street to traffic and letting people walk freely while checking out storefronts and pop-up events.  Drew and I had so much fun last time (climbing a rock wall was involved) that we were excited to find out they were bringing it back again so soon.  The weather was perfect and we spent over 2 hours walking several miles, exploring stores, running into friends and soaking up the sun.  We never doubted how wonderful it is to live in Midtown, right in the heart of everything, but it’s events like this that make me love Atlanta even more.

midtownlove

After spending several hours outside, where the temperature neared 90, we were quite grateful to be back in the AC.  The temperature has been slowly dropping since, and I can’t help but be lulled into the Fall season when my Pinterest feed is being overrun by Halloween decor and the return of Starbucks’ pumpkin spice latte.  So, true to form, I made a breakfast cake that has Fall written all over it.  I want to eat this while sitting on the back of a hay ride, snuggled in a sweater and watching the leaves change colors.  Also, the accompanying frosting is not optional. 

applecake

Apple Spice Breakfast Cake with Caramel Frosting
Makes 1 bundt cake or 2 medium-size loaves

Ingredients
For the cake:
1 container vanilla or plain yogurt
3/4 cup apple butter or applesauce
1 large egg
1 Tbs vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 large overripe banana, smashed
1 3/4 cup apples, chopped
1 tsp each of the following spices: cinnamon, allspice, ground ginger, cloves, nutmeg
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda

For the frosting:
1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tbs milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease bundt or loaf pans. In a large bowl, stir together yogurt, apple butter or applesauce, egg, vanilla and sugars until combined. Add in banana, apples and spices. Slowly mix in flours and baking soda and stir until just combined, but be careful not to overmix. Pour into pan(s) and bake 40 min. or until inserted knife comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, melt butter in a small saucepan over medium high heat. Allow to boil for one minute, add in brown sugar, and allow to boil for another 2 minutes while stirring continuously. Remove from heat, stir in milk and vanilla. Sift in powdered sugar, whisking until frosting becomes thick. Allow to thicken about 5-10 minutes before pouring over cooled cake.

Crafting (or just an excuse to go to World Market)

Drew and I spent last Saturday running several errands in the Buckhead area (after our usual breakfast stint at the Piedmont Farmer’s Market, of course).  Driving to Buckhead isn’t something I like to do regularly-even though it’s only 5 miles from our apartment, it can take up to 45 minutes.  I know, I know, can someone queue up the tiny violin?  Obviously I had to be bribed with candy a good reason to make the trip.  A.K.A., a $10 gift certificate to World Market, which can arguably be deemed the second Happiest Place on Earth.

I wouldn’t consider myself a jewelry fanatic, but I do have several pieces that I wear almost all the time.  I can’t remember the last time I walked out our front door without my pearl earrings (morning runs don’t count).  I also have several necklaces that I love, but constantly find them getting tangled in my jewelry box.  What’s the point of having a jewelry box if all the chains are still going to get knotted?  It couldn’t may possibly have something to do with my less-than-diligent storage….

Enter awesome DIY idea.  I’d seen several necklace holders on Pinterest that looked easy enough to create.  All I would need is a piece of wood or plaque, some decorative knobs, and PRESTO! A fabulous necklace holder.  Exactly how the idea would be executed, I wasn’t exactly sure, but I had a feeling it would take a little more skill and expertise than slapping on some Elmer’s glue and hoping for the best.  And that’s another reason why my husband is fantastic.  After picking out a slab of wood from Michael’s and the knobs from World Market, we headed home to put it together.  Actually, I worked on something else while Drew broke out the power drill.  Honestly, I don’t think it was too much of an annoyance to break out his tool box and play handyman for an afternoon.

photo 1

So while I may not be the craft extraordinaire, there is one thing that I can do well: bake.  Wanting to put a dent in the large container of blueberries still taking up residence in our freezer, I whipped up a batch of lemon ginger scones, throwing frozen blueberries into the batter last minute for an added sweetness.  I’d never added ginger to a scone recipe, but it sounded like a good idea at the time.  And thankfully, it was.

photo 3


Lemon Ginger Blueberry Scones

Makes 12 scones

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup chopped crystalized ginger
6 Tbs butter, cold and cut into pieces
1 Tbs lemon zest
juice from one lemon
1 egg
1 cup milk or half-and-half
1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut the butter into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or fork. The mixture should look like coarse crumbs. Stir in the diced crystallized ginger, sugar and lemon zest. In a small bowl, mix the egg, lemon juice and milk or half-and-half. Add the wet mixture to the flour mixture and stir just until the dough comes together. Do not over mix the dough. Pour in the blueberries.

Drop the scones onto a lightly greased baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes or until scones are lightly browned on top. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack or parchment paper to finish cooling completely.