A Front Porch that Screams "Sit & Stay A While"

When we first bought our house, I had a vision for my front porch that I shared on this blog. I wanted to create a calm and peaceful sanctuary that would transport me to Charleston or Savannah--where life moves at a slower pace. Well, I'm happy to say that it's finally complete! Just last week, my amazing father installed the pièce de résistance--the ceiling fan. On the most amazing of southern porches, you'll find a ceiling fan or two that provide the required breeze to keep you cool and make you feel like you're not far from the beach.

Since we first bought the house, we've made a bunch of updates to the exterior. We updated our house number, installed a new porch light, added faux shutters and painted all of our exterior trim a glossy black. In addition, my talented father (as previously mentioned) built an awesome planter that helps to create more privacy between our porch and the neighbor's porch. While we love our neighbors, it's always nice to feel like you have a little privacy when you're sitting out there with a glass of wine or cup of coffee. Check out more photos of the porch below!

As seen: Rug - Overstock // Porch light - Home Depot // Wicker chairs, love seat and end tables all scored on Craiglist // Ceiling Fan - Home Depot // House Number - Etsy // Rocking Chair - Overstock // Lanterns - At Home


3 Things I Learned While Sleeping on the Street

I've done a lot of reflecting since the Sleep Out for the Covenant House on Friday night. First and foremost, I want to say thank you for everyone that donated to the Covenant House or shared words of encouragement! Your generous gifts and your words of appreciation and enthusiasm were such an inspiration to me.

I know a lot of people (even if they didn't mention it) were concerned about me sleeping outside at seven months pregnant. To be honest, the accommodations were unbelievably safe. While the "Sleep Out" event is designed to raise awareness and provide a small sampling of the experience--it is in no way meant to put anyone in danger. 

During my fundraising efforts and on the evening of the event, I kept thinking about the young women that seek out the Covenant House services because they are pregnant and don't have another bed to sleep in. The may spend countless nights on the street--fearing for their and their baby's safety--and I had to spend a measly five hours sleeping in a locked courtyard that was patrolled by security.

I want to share a few reflections and key learnings from this experience:
  1. It became undeniably apparent how much in my life I have taken for granted. I have been fortunate enough to not have to worry about fulfilling my basic needs for food, water and shelter since the day I was born. The young adults that end up at the Covenant House were not as fortunate--by no fault of their own, they were just dealt a particularly bad hand in life. No one deserves to be born into poverty, or have parents that are suffering with mental illness or addiction. No baby/child/youth/adult asks for that or chooses that. Hearing from these individuals and understanding their stories not only broadened my perspective but made me incredibly aware of my unearned privilege. While I've always known that proximity and exposure create empathy, that sentiment was never clearer than on Friday evening.
  2. The most notable characteristics of the young people that spoke during the event were strength and hope. Despite all of the unfairness they have faced in their lives, each of them showed incredible strength, resilience and hope for a brighter future. I was dumbfounded by the amount of optimism and gratitude that the kids demonstrated and all I could think is that if I had been through half of the things they have been through, I'm not sure I could be as courageous or optimistic about my future.
  3. One night is not enough. It's not enough in terms of fundraising or awareness. It's not enough in terms of listening. It's not enough in terms of making a difference. I'm not sure what my involvement with the Covenant House will be in the future, but I have been really touched by this organization and the young people that they serve and I want to find a way to continue giving back. I'll try to keep you all updated on my involvement, while respecting the fact that you likely don't want to continue being harassed for money. 

So last but not least, thank you! Thank you for being my community, for supporting me and loving me unconditionally. Those are just some of the things that I have truly taken for granted. 

My fundraising page will stay open for another month or so, and if you're so moved, I'd encourage you to give (or continue giving) to an amazing organization that is transforming lives!


All Aboard the Blue Apron Bandwagon

About six months ago, Bry thought it would be a good idea to ask why I wasn't cooking as often as I used to (free advice for husbands, this is not a wise decision...) While my mind was racing with all of the things I wanted to say, "I'm taking care of a baby!" "Work is crazy!" "I'd rather go to the gym!" and so on. Instead, I simply said, "I'm not feeling inspired in the kitchen, but if you are, I would love if you would take care of dinner one night a week." We had a good chat about how he likes to cook but doesn't feel comfortable improvising and how grocery shopping for new/more adventurous recipes can be a hassle. We have some friends that have used different dinner kit delivery services and most of them have nothing but positive things to say, so Bry did some research and we settled on giving Blue Apron a try. 

After a few months of Blue Apron deliveries, I can truthfully say that I'm a fan. Not only does it relieve the burden of planning three dinners during the week, but the food is really delicious. Below are some pros and cons, and I'd guess that most of these are true for most meal delivery services. Read the pros and cons below:


The Perfect Lake Vacation

I can't remember the last time I took a summer vacation. Usually my husband and I take a week-long early spring vacation (right when I've hit the peak of Seasonal Affective Disorder) and then we use the summer to do some long-weekend trips and whatnot. 

This year, however, we've really thrown all caution to the wind and planned not one, but TWO, week-long summer vacations. The first was during the Fourth of July holiday (last week) and it was absolutely glorious. While we weathered some tumultuous uhhh...weather on our way up to the Adirondacks, once we got there it was nothing but blue skies and sunshine. Seriously, we lucked out with the most amazing weather ever--seven continuous days of sunshine and boating! I realize that this likely means our August beach vacation will be laden with precipitation, but whatever, I'm still riding on the high of my last trip.


One Year of Lulu

Yesterday was June 2, which means Luisa is officially 16 months old, or as I like to say when people ask how old she is, "uhhh... a year and a few months...?" 

Since we're not totally terrible parents, we did throw her a little first birthday soiree with a small group of family and friends. I refused to put a lot of money or effort into a day that she wasn't even going to remember, but my mom and sister came to the rescue and made sure the party wasn't a total flop. 

However, since I AM a totally terrible blogger, (and there was that small little incident with all of my photos going bye-bye) I'm only just getting around to posting pictures from her first birthday party. You can't quite make out the banner but it says "Winter ONE-derland" Clever, huh? Thanks Pinterest. 

I used all of the monthly photos I took throughout the year to make a Lulu gallery. I loved looking back at how she's changed so much in such a short period of time. The three, four and ten month photos totally crack me up! 

Special thanks to my parents and siblings for all of their help in prepping and to our friends and family that came and made her first birthday so special! 
This last group of photos is a little series I call, "Oh, you're here for me?! Ooooo, fire! This is not bad... ABORT, ABORT!" 


Back, back, back it up.

Yesterday, my husband said, "You should just write a blog post. It doesn't have to be anything great, just write from the heart." First things first, husband, it does have to be great--because I have standards. And secondly, my heart doesn't have anything special to say right now! As some of you may know, I've been struggling to keep this blog going. Not due to a lack of desire, passion or content, but mostly because other priorities are just that, taking priority. 

Also, there is this one super infuriating thing that happened to me (and it's totally my fault) and if one more person gives me sh*t for it, I'm going to scream. 

...My hard drive crashed.

The hard drive that held all of my photos and videos of Lulu's first year. 

The one that had the album of all her "firsts" so I could make a Year One photo album right after her first birthday. 

The one that I hadn't backed up to my external hard drive in over, oh.... 11 months or so. 

So, on the morning of Luisa's first birthday, when my computer wouldn't boot up and there was a horrible clicking noise coming from the hard drive (*gasp* platters were off, for you techies.) And I lost it. Tears, shaking, clenched fists, the works. Then, because I was afraid to find out that I did actually lose the photos and videos that were most dear to me, I proceeded to do nothing with my laptop for three solid months. Three months of no photo editing software or a computer that would accept my SD card. Three months of not taking my nice camera places because I couldn't do anything with the photos anyway. 

In some ways it was liberating. We took Lulu to the aquarium for the first time and while I snapped some cell phone pics of her, I wasn't distracted playing with the settings on my fancy camera trying to capture the perfect shot. 

Well, I finally bit the bullet, I followed a lovely YouTube tutorial instructing me how to remove my hard drive. I ordered a new solid state drive (thanks friends, for all of your sound advice during this process) and sent my sad HD off to a recovery company to see what files could be restored. 

About two weeks and $800 later, it looks like I'll be able to get most of my stuff back. I really wouldn't wish this experience on my worst enemy and if you learn anything from this blog post, it's that backing up your files is important. I can tell you from experience that you won't realize just how important it is until your stomach drops to the floor and you think everything is gone.


My First B&E

All my life (okay, since I was nine) I wanted to get into this house. My camera phone doesn't do it justice, but when I was a young kid running around in the woods at the end of my street, It seems like a mansion. Something about it was mysterious but approachable, and I always had the secret desire to peek inside. It wasn't always in this state of disrepair. In it's glory days, it had a perfectly manicured lawn and smoke from a warm fall/winter fire billowing out of the chimney. 

The house sits on a nine-acre estate with another farm house and was owned by the late Judge John E. Holt-Harris. It's been uninhabited for quite some time, and both time and weather have taken their toll on this once stoic residence in the woods. 

Well, the university near my parent's home recently purchased the estate and with that, they are demolishing the homes (there's a barn house on the estate as well.) Upon hearing the news, I saw my childhood dream of sneaking a peek inside, flash before my eyes. So I did what any law abiding citizen might do, I planned a little B&E (breaking and entering, for all of you squares.) 


Turkey Mango Picadillo

This meal is everything. It's comforting, hearty, flavorful, fresh, easy-to-make, it's just damn near perfect. Which is exactly why it's become a part of my regular dinner rotation. Seriously this spice combination? Bomb dot com. This version of the recipe uses ground turkey  although the original recipe called for ground pork. I've tried it both ways and you can't go wrong with either. Get the full recipe below. 

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