Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree(s)

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Toward the end of our Thanksgiving travels in Kentucky, we stopped in Louisville to spend some time with Nanny and Granddaddy.  Drew had mentioned wanting to help them get the house ready for Christmas and I couldn’t wait to help Nanny go through all the decorations she’s collected over the years – everything has a story.  While Drew went out to run some errands with his grandfather, Nanny and I made our way to the basement to pull out the ornaments, stockings and other decorations. She pulled out one of the stockings that she used for Drew when he was growing up – apparently all the grandchildren had the same patterned stocking but they would tell the boys’ ones apart by the stitched “UK” letters at the top. She gave it to us to take back home and it’s now hanging from the middle of our mantle.

ourmantle
Friday night, after decorating the tree with as many ornaments as it would hold, we all gathered around the dinner table for Thanksgiving leftovers, which I’d stand to argue taste even better than the day-of.  We brought leftovers from our Thanksgiving dinner up in Fort Mitchell, but silly us, of course they were stocked with some of their own! If there’s one thing both of our families can do equally well, it’s cook.  We definitely had ourselves a feast.

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We headed back to Atlanta the next morning and, inspired by Nanny and Granddaddy’s tree, decided to go out and get our own the following day. Now that we have a house, we’re able to get a much larger tree than when we were still living in the apartment. I think this one is double in size! Every night, as soon as I get home from work, I’ll plug in the lights and just stare at the tree while cozying up on the couch. Each time I seem to find an ornament I forgot we had.  I think I’m going to try to convince Drew to let me leave it up until well into January…wish me luck! 😉

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The Magic of Ordinary Days

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

Getting Settled

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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.

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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!