“…in a world where there are October’s…”

It has become super cliche over the past few years, but I love October. Yes, I’m just another woman obsessed with boots, sweaters and pumpkin flavored everything. It’s also more than that. For me, it’s always been the beginnings that I see in this month. Maybe its because I was proposed to in October. Maybe it was because the very next year, I stood in front of family and friends and said always to my husband in October. Cliche or not, this is my luckiest and favorite month.

When I lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains, October turned the mountains into an entirely different place. Sunrises hit the colorful trees and set the mountains on fire. Early morning hikes where you could see your breath in front of you, but by the time you finished you were warm and breathless were my favorite.

Don’t get me wrong. I love summer. But I am always ready for it to end long before it does. There is a limit to how many cook outs and beach days my heart can handle. Apple picking is always better then a barbecue. I’d prefer a corn maze over the pool any day, but maybe I’m biased. That’s where my husband proposed.

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The older I get, the less time I get to enjoy this month and this season. Part of it is because I no longer live in the mountains. It is the 15th today and there is a high of 81. This is definitely not sweater weather! It’s hard to get into the Fall frame of mind when you’re still wearing shorts. But it’s not just that, it’s the limited time I have of late. October is always my busiest month. Instead of spending yesterday apple picking, we pressure washed our house. Necessary, but not nearly as much fun. I tend to live my life by to-do lists, but this season I want to focus on a different type of list. Below is my bucket list for the month and I want to cross off as much as possible in the next 16 days. Here’s to enjoying life and not just completing a to-do list!

  • Apple picking
  • Watch Football
  • Carve a pumpkin
  • Watch a scary movie
  • Corn maze
  • Go through a haunted house
  • Make chocolate chip pumpkin bread
  • Travel to Savannah
  • Celebrate my 3rd anniversary with my husband
  • Drink a caramel apple spice or a pumpkin spice latte
  • Give out Halloween candy
  • Decorate for Halloween and Thanksgiving
  • Make chili
  • Play fantasy football
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Traveling to Hogwarts

I read my first Harry Potter book in 4th grade, and I immersed myself in an entirely new world. It was an exciting world, a world where witches, trolls, and werewolves roamed, where magic was real and the impossible was possible. Somehow, without ever stepping foot in Hogwarts, that world defined me. The story took residence in my soul and I lived it over and over again. Dumbledore’s wisdom got me through middle and high school and somehow my love of all things magical never wavered.

Sometime in middle school, the movies started coming out and I was able to see the world I had spent years envisioning. Instead of satisfying my desire to live in the world of Harry Potter, it only strengthened my yearning to be a part of it.

When I discovered there would be a Harry Potter theme park, it was an immediate bucket list item. Despite being in my 20’s, I experienced the same rush as when I was 9 and pouring over Rowling’s words for the first time. I could finally live out the dream I had harbored for 20 years. I never actually received my acceptance letter but I would, at some point, be going to Hogwarts.

It took longer than I thought before I was able to make the trip, but my husband and I finally made it last year. I’ve tried to describe my experience there, but I can only come up with one word: Magical. Everything about that experience was everything I wanted it to be, with the exception of it ending at the end of day.

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My first view into the world of Harry Potter

We spent too many galleons on wands, hippogriffs, and fizzing whizbees and I don’t regret it. We rode on the Hogwarts express and after years of imagining what it would taste like, I was finally able to try butterbeer. On a hot and humid July day in Florida, it was well worth the decades long wait. We traveled to 12 Grimmauld Place and spent hours exploring the shops in Hogsmeade.

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Enjoying our second butter beer of the day.
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Hogwarts Express

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I was amazed by the amount of detail that went into creating this world. I wouldn’t have been surprised if I saw someone break out their wand and perform a spell, and as a matter of fact, it did happen. The interactive wands within the park were such a nice touch and made the world even more believable.

Unfortunately, at the end of the day, our trip to the world I’ve lived in for almost 20 years was over, but I know I will be going back someday. I can’t wait to introduce our future kids to this world and let them believe in magic for as long as they desire.

In the meantime, I will have to settle for rereading the series over these butterbeer cupcakes. See the recipe here:

Butterbeer Cupcakes

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Florida Trip pt 2; The Foodie Version

Foodie (n): a person with a particular interest in food

You probably don’t know this yet, but I am a foodie. That word gets a lot of flack and sarcasm. How can you be a foodie when we all need food to survive? How hipster of you!

But food is a lot more than my bodies nourishment. If you want to truly understand people, you can start with what and how they put food into their body. Do they eat hand held food from street vendors while on the go or do they sit for hours and savor each course over wine with friends and family? Do they eat farm to table or is the food fried and covered in cheese? It varies by country of course, but it also changes drastically between states and even cities. I immerse myself in the local culture through food and the rest follows.

Sometimes when I travel, I can’t help but act like a tourist (Hello Irish Coffees at the Buena Vista Cafe in San Francisco). But most times, my husband and I try to eat like a local. We find spots with local ingredients. Local Beer. Local Wine. I spend hours before every trip looking at the food, finding amazing restaurants or bars that are must sees. I make endless lists of where we should go for lunch or dinner in different parts of a city or which places we will go out of the way for. A lot of times, I get to the city and scrap those lists. If I found it on the internet, other tourists probably found it as well. Sometimes I wander in to any door that looks interesting and sit at a table and people watch. Though the best choices come when I speak to a local. They always wind up referring us to the best cheap, hole in the wall place with the most authentic food.

 

When we took our trip to Florida this year, of course, I was excited about food. I love seafood and Florida has some of the best. Add in our trip to St. Augustine which has such a rich history and with it, amazing food, and I was in Heaven. My only regret was not taking pictures of all our meals.

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Oysters on the half shell in Clearwater
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Some almost disgustingly sweet but good beach drinks to kick off the vacation
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Crab Legs at a little beach shack. 
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Probably the best breakfast biscuits I’ve ever had. Please go to Maple Street Biscuit Company in St. Augustine and order The Squawking Goat. It’s seriously the best. 
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Homemade, all natural ice pops. I tried Pineapple Cilantro and Kevin had Avocado Coconut
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Ice Plant Bar. Probably one of the coolest bars I’ve been to. Just go.
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St Augustine Distillery

 

Fishers Farm Lane, Apt D2

What causes you to remember your past?

For me, it’s usually songs. I relate and live through the lyrics so intensely that it anchors me to certain moments in my life. Sometimes its big moments: the song that made me start learning guitar, Kevin and I’s first big fight after I moved to Charlotte, my college graduation. But often times its seemingly irrelevant moments like studying for zoology in college or getting ready for work in the morning. The music imprints itself on my brain and creates my own version of home movies whenever I hear them.

This week, A Drop in the Ocean by Ron Pope played on my phone at work, and immediately, I was back in my first adult apartment. It was a brisk fall day and my windows and back patio door were open, and the breeze smelled the way perfect October days smell: crisp and clean and earthy. There were pumpkin and cinnamon candles burning in every room.  I had a caramel apple spice in my hand and was dancing through the apartment while haphazardly attempting to clean. My husband (then boyfriend) was probably either in the shower or back at his own place for the morning. Ron Pope was on repeat.

It was 11 AM on a Monday but I swear I could smell those candles and feel the breeze on my face. It’s been 5 years since I’ve set foot in, or really even thought about, that apartment but I realized I was incredibly home sick for my old home.

Looking back now, I find it funny I can have such longing for a place I spent one year of my life in. Especially because I spent every day living in that apartment counting down the days until I moved out. I knew at the end of both our leases, Kevin and I would find our own place. We had spent two years dating long distance and the idea of finally living with him had been something I thought impossible only months before. It was all I wanted. Instead, we rotated between our apartments and I grew frustrated and impatient. One of us always seemed to forget something important at the apartment we just left, which resulted in a constant back and forth. Truthfully, our apartment complexes weren’t even a mile apart but at that point in my life it was just another reason we should have already been living together. I began to have a love-hate relationship with my apartment and what it represented: a contract that kept me from living with Kevin.

In retrospect, it was a good thing we didn’t live together right away. After 2 years of being together once a month, it was borderline overwhelming to see him everyday. It changed everything about our relationship and felt as if we were getting to know each other all over again. Being the introvert that I am, I regularly need “me time” and it would have been almost impossible to get in my apartment. I think we both needed our own safe haven; a place we could each escape to when we needed some space or some quiet. Ultimately, that’s what my apartment became: my safe haven.

It was a tiny thing, but that apartment on Fishers Farm Lane was 625 square feet of all mine. For the first time in my life, I was completely independent. I had a job, my own apartment, and responsibilities. If I wanted to, I could completely screw up my life and my credit score. Thankfully, I did neither! But I thrived in my freedom, financial and otherwise. Being my first job and living alone, the above mentioned financial freedom didn’t include a cable bill, so I spent hours pouring over Netflix shows, both awful and entertaining, which is how I found the Ron Pope song.

That song brought up so many memories that I’d forgotten. I decorated for the holidays. I had family and friends come to visit. I laughed so hard I cried. I also cried so hard I eventually laughed at how dramatic I was being. I cooked and entertained people. I studied for licenses I needed for work. I celebrated Kevin’s 25th birthday there. I built a “fort” in the living room. I loved there. I lived there.

It may have been a cramped apartment, but there was so much love and happiness squeezed in between those walls. It was home.

 

The only pictures I have of my apartment
Rearranging the furniture to build a fort
Packing up to move out

Simple Loves, Volume 2

I’ve been planning on writing the second part of my Florida trip but decided to save the post for another day. I woke up this morning with such joy in my heart and wanted to share the simple (and not so simple) loves that are currently driving my life. 

Quiet Mornings

I have always been a morning person. For the most part, I don’t even need coffee, I just hop out of bed and I’m ready to go. Occasionally it’s hard for me to remember not everyone exists the way I do. I’d spend the eary hours getting increasingly irritated by how much time was wasted waiting for others to get up and get caffeinated.  Some weeks, I’d wake with self created stress, determined to cross as many things off my to-do list as possible, without even taking a moment to breathe. It was exhausting from the moment I leapt out of bed and it showed. An hour later, I’d give my husband a lackluster good morning as he smiled and mumbled he loved me, while half asleep and adorably rumpled. When he wanted to snuggle, I’d snap and say how much time we already wasted and there were things to do. It was unhealthy. So instead of getting frazzled and anxious at 6 am, I have been focusing my mornings on love and self discovery. There is something about being curled up with a cup of tea, enveloped in silence while the sun comes up. Even just 30 minutes alone in the mornings, whether I’m writing or simply sitting there, recharges my batteries and sets the mood for the day. I can appreciate how Kevin’s face lights up when he sees mine first thing in the morning. Instead of snapping at the little things, I spend more time being grateful for what I have in my life. I don’t always remember to focus on self-care and self-love, but these mornings inspire me to make myself a priority. No area of my life will thrive if I don’t allow myself to first. 

Bullet Journaling

I am surrounded by technology: my phone is normally within arms reach and there are tvs and radios in most rooms of my house, but I do my best to disconnect when I can. I still feel the need to write things down; to put pen to paper and let my thoughts tumble out, fast and free. My house is littered with notebooks overflowing with important dates, to do lists, and thoughts that have no where else to go. So when I heard of bullet journaling, I was intrigued but hesitant. I’m not artistic and I’m also a perfectionist. I’ve been known to throw out a to do list (or 20) just to recreate it neater and more organized. It could be a disaster. But since I will literally find any excuse for a new notebook, I decided to give it a chance. And I am so glad I did. It gives me a creative outlet that I crave, allows me to blow off steam, and have something functional to organize the sometimes chaotic life of mine. 

A Sample from my Bullet Journal

Labor Day Weekend 

Seven years ago, my husband, then boyfriend, told me he loved me for the first time. (I only remember the date because every year I get a reminder that X years ago I posted “ahhhh so happy this weekend!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” on twitter). A million “I love you’s” later and that memory still brings me such warmth. I woke up this morning, joyful, and spent my quiet morning reflecting on our relationship. This amazing man I share my life with has grown so much in the 7.5 years we’ve been together. We both have. And so has our relationship. I can barely recognize the girl who was so indescribably happy to finally say I love you back to the boy who made her heart race. There was so much we didn’t know and couldn’t possibly guess about our future. I didn’t realize how much my love for him could grow or what it would even mean to become equal partners on the good days and the bad. There has been dreadful fights and ugly, mascara stained tears but there has also been more laughter and love than I even thought possible in a single lifetime. I didn’t know where we were headed 7 years ago, but I’m so thankful it led here. 

Engagement Photos, 2014

Florida Trip, part 1

I’ve been back from vacation for less than a week and I’m not adjusting well to real life. Every morning, I wake up anticipating adventure, great food, and the sun beating down while I float on an inner tube in the lazy river. For a few blissful minutes, I stretch out in bed and enjoy the feeling of total peace. Then I remember that my alarm is actually going off because I have a job and responsibilities and stress. Yay!

As an escape, I have been reliving my vacation constantly.

We woke up at 2 AM for the ride down to Florida and were on the road by 2:30. We headed straight to one of my favorite beaches in Florida: Clearwater. I feel like this beach represents everything it means to be on vacation. There’s white sand beaches, a tiki bar by the water, and a nightly festival at the pier.

The next day we went snorkeling in Tierra Verde. When my alarm went off that morning, I regretted booking the trip. I was exhausted from the day before and wasn’t even sure if I would be able to see in the murky water. I quickly turned off my alarm and hoped Kevin would oversleep, but no such luck. It turns out a beautiful day on the water was just what I needed. We were able to see schools of fish and even a few jelly fish. After snorkeling, we went and explored Edgemont Key. With the heat, we cut our exploring short and just bobbed around in the water near our boat. Then it was time to head to Orlando.

I’ll be honest – I’m not a fan of Orlando. If you are going to the parks, it’s great but otherwise it’s overrated and overcrowded. Our hotel had a few pools and a lazy river and that was really all we wanted from the next few days.

We planned on a day trip to St. Augustine in between our Orlando pool days, but we were too tired and knew we wouldn’t enjoy it. Instead, we extended our vacation with a night in St Augustine at the end of our trip and I am so glad we did.

St. Augustine was easily the highlight of our vacation.  There was so much culture and history there and I was immediately charmed. The streets were walk-able and the sites beautiful. My only regret was that we couldn’t stay longer but I foresee another trip to St. Augustine in my future.

I adore the memories we made on this trip and a part of me wishes I was still there. But Kevin and I have two smaller trips planned for the rest of the year and until then, these pictures will just have to do!

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Clearwater Beach – Isn’t it beautiful?
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Where we spent the morning snorkeling
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Edgemont Key
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Exploring Edgemont Key
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Where we planted ourselves for a few straight days in Orlando
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Oldest schoolhouse in America
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We drank from the Fountain of Youth!

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Peacocks
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Castillo De San Marcos

 

A Little More Love

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” – Martin Luther King Jr

My parents raised me to love, to treat people equally and with respect. It’s difficult to understand a world in which others didn’t learn that lesson, but that is the reality we face. 

Every day I read another example of an injustice, of others being treated like less than human for the so called rights of others. Every time I turn around, I see hate. Hatred of peoples color, religion, gender or sexual orientation. 

For the past few years there has been a persistent ache in my chest. My heart hurts. More often than not, the hate I witness overwhelms me and drowns me in my anger. It’s sometimes so strong I struggle to even breathe and I’m left with nothing but questions. How can fear and hate appear to constantly win against love and human decency? How could I possibly even consider raising a child in this world one day? How can we change the endless cycle of hate? How can I do more?

Thanks to the internet, we have 24/7 access to people who aren’t afraid to share their hate filled opinions. They can bully and blame all they want without having to show their face. This week, I read plenty of venomous comments and I needed to step back and remember that just because the hateful people are loud and conspicuous, it doesnt mean we all feel this way. 

I keep quiet sometimes because I don’t know what to say. I hold onto my words because I want them to matter and am afraid that anything else will do an injustice. But saying what I believe is more important than how I say it. 

I believe in equality. I believe extending rights to other groups of people don’t diminish the rights I already have. I believe  being different makes us stronger. I believe in the right to self expression. I believe a good person is a good person regardless of the God they pray to. I believe in the beauty of all skin colors. I believe that love is love in any form. 

And I believe if we all love a little bit more, we can leave this world a better place than we found it.