Thanksgiving is now officially behind us, and the gift-giving season of Christmas is (acceptably) in full-swing. At home, our stockings have been hung, our tree has been decorated and gifts are already wrapped and waiting patiently under the tree for Christmas morning. I’m telling you – I love this stuff. Swoon.
I’ve always been head-over-heels in love with Christmas. For me, it’s everything. The colors (white and gold), the sounds (“Last Christmas”), the scents (pine trees and baked goods), the traditions (candle carousels, Chinese food and Charlie Brown trees) and the sights (gifts under the tree and smiling faces). I believe it brings out the best in people – the spirit of Christmas is kind and giving.
But my favorite thing about Christmas is giving gifts. And not just any gift. The perfect gift.
Tomorrow morning, I am leaving on a jet plane. Don’t know when I’ll be back again. Actually, I’m leaving on some kind of Southwest aircraft, and will be back next Wednesday night. I digress. First stop: Memphis for Hailey and Dan’s wedding! Then, I’m scooting over to Nashville for a few days with my very best friend.
As I’m pacing around my house, sorting through laundry and shoving (too many) clothes into my suitcase, I’m making a mental note of the things I need to survive and keep myself entertained as we go up, up and away.
- A portable cell phone charger. This is the 21st century, after all.
- Archer Farms Caramel Cashew Trail Mix. The perfect mix of salty and sweet.
- A wide brim, floppy hat. I’m not positive that this serves any kind of legitimate purpose, but my friend Madison looked like a straight up celeb walking through the airport last weekend. Imitation is the greatest form of flattery, right?
- My iPad. Ever since I received this gift for Christmas, I’ve hardly gone a day without it. Besides, I’ve got a few games of Trivia Crack to win.
- A pack of gum. Changing altitudes, bad breath, there a multitude of reasons why having gum on hand at all times is a good idea.
- A bottle of blk water. Blk water is fulvic-enhanced, all-natural mineral water, which is basically scientific jargon for “a really good thing to drink before and after a night of wild wedding celebrations and a three days with your best friend.” Trust me.
- Sunglasses. Sun in the sky, not in my eyes. Pretty self-explanatory.
- The Goldfinch. Described as “a mesmerizing, stay-up-all-night and tell-all-your-friends triumph, an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate,” it only made sense that I try to tackle this read on our a whirlwind trip.
- Bare Minerals Moxie Lip Gloss in Dare Devil. The perfect addition of color to a weary traveler’s face.
My whole entire life, I have loved fall on the farm. 153 sprawling acres of nature calling my name.
I used to play in the leaves and the flowers until I squealed. In my little grip, I carried the small pumpkins my grandma used as decoration in the front yard. I even tried to befriend the farm cats. Something about this place as the weather gets cool and the leaves begin to change just has always felt like home.
This year, I’ve been lucky enough to spend two wonderful autumn weekends here (and next weekend makes three). My days have been filled with walks to the barn, sipping on hot coffee, and sitting on the picnic table reading Real Simple. But the best part has been spending time with my family.
I drank PBR with Claude, and as I type, he’s making his traditional Saturday night pizza. (He buys a pepperoni pizza from a local joint, picks it up, brings it home and towels off a hefty amount of grease. Then, he adds his own peppers, onions, and mushrooms, and cooks it a little more. Truly, he’s been doing this every Saturday since I can remember.) I got to catch up with my aunt Michelle, whom I don’t see nearly enough. I may look exactly like my mother, but my adoration for the finer things in life comes directly from her.
I played with my baby cousin Stella, who in all sense of the word is not really a baby anymore. She walks, she talks (“Ab-by! Ab-by!”), and she laughs the kind of laugh that is loud and moves her entire body. (And, as it turns out, her love for the leaves on the fall is the same as mine at that age.) I even got to spend some quality time with my mom and all my brothers on a spontaneous lunch excursion to Pennsylvania.
And, I got to bake my very first apple pie with Granny. On our drive home from Pennsylvania, we stopped at Peter’s Orchard in Adams County to load up on Northern Spy apples. We were on a mission to bake the perfect pie. As soon as we got home, we started coring, and peeling and slicing, and soon we had the most wonderful, decadent, aromatic apple pie I’d ever seen. And, it was the fruit of our own labor — no pun intended.
Ingredients: 6-7 cups Northern Spy apple slices / Sugar / Cinnamon / Nutmeg / Salt / Flour / Pie crust (store bought, or my homemade recipe)
Directions: Preheat oven to 375° / Evenly coat sliced apples with mixture of dry ingredients. / Fit half of pie crust dough into the bottom of a pie pan. / Add apple mixture to pie pan. / Top with 4-5 small pads of butter for a little extra oomph. / Cover with remaining pie crust dough. / Lightly brush top with milk and eggs. / Sprinkle sugar onto pie crust. / Bake 50-60 minutes. / Enjoy your lovely fall treat.
A few months ago, my friend Hailey told me that the first floor of her apartment building was under construction. “I think it’s a dress shop,” she said excitedly. Fast forward a few weeks, and I had offered to watch her devilishly handsome little pup, Moe, while she was out of town for work. I pulled up to sidewalk, and there it was: glitteR & gRit. A dress shop, indeed. In each window hung some of the most unique and beautiful wedding dresses I had ever seen. It was dark outside, and the delicate lighting inside made these dresses seem like they were glowing.
Fast forward a few more weeks, and Hailey and I decided that we wanted to play dress up at glitteR & gRit during Shop Late Night in Lawrenceville. No, neither of us are engaged (or even close to being engaged), but hey, we were curious. It turns out this little dress shop had also piqued the interest of my photographer friend, Rachel Tokarski, who was shooting the event that night. After an hour, Hailey and I had each tried on a few dresses, developed girl crushes on the owner, Erin Szymanski, and fell absolutely in love with glitteR & gRit.
Fast forward another few weeks, and I had volunteered to participate in a stylized bridal shoot. I arrived to the shop on a beautiful Wednesday afternoon, and dove headfirst into the madness of my first ever bridal photoshoot.
I hopped into the director’s chair to have my hair done by the wonderfully talented Candice Orlandi. Next, the lovely Julie Marckisotto made me look like a brand new person in the makeup chair. I slid into a stunning Elizabeth Dye gown, grabbed a whimsical bouquet provided by Mt. Lebanon Floral, and headed out the door. Rachel chose an old red church a few blocks up the street for our first location.
After I changed into my second gown, a delicate dress designed by UPoppy, added a bohemian fascinator to my new updo, darkened my makeup, and swapped out my elegant and earthy bouquet for a more playful one, we headed out to the railroad tracks to capture the true glitter and grit of this bohemian style.
Many thanks to all of the talented women that made this wonderful Reclaiming Romance shoot a reality! I can’t wait to see what’s next!
- Accent Pillows: I’m in the process of moving, so plans of redecoration are constantly flowing through my head. This pillow from Crate & Barrel provides the perfect pop of color to the white palette of my new bedroom. And — it’s only $35!
- Chicken Salad Sandwiches: I don’t know what it is about chicken mixed with mayonnaise, but this is one of my staple summer dishes. For a lighter meal, replace the mayo with Greek yogurt, and add some dried cranberries to kick up the flavor. Can’t lose.
- Haagen Dazs Raspberry Sorbet: Knowing that I have developed a dairy allergy over the past year and that I have an insatiable sweet tooth, this has turned into my weekly go-to. It’s the perfect combination of tangy and sweet, and it’s the most refreshing summer treat.
- Benefit They’re Real! Mascara: My best friend Autumn first introduced me to this mascara and I haven’t looked back. Summer is the perfect time to bare your face (literally), and this mascara makes your eyes pop. Almost as much as your freckles.
- Brave New World by Aldous Huxley: Published in 1932, Aldous Huxley presents a combination of old world order and a brave new world, with a debate between science and emotion, and freedom and government-imposed stability. I first read this book in high school, and it quickly became one of my favorites. It has lived on my bookshelf, slowly collecting dust since then, but it remains a classic that I will always suggest to book-lovers everywhere.
- Iced Soy Skinny Vanilla Latte: I recently became a (gold) card-carrying member of Starbuck’s Rewards program… and this is the drink that got me there.
- Birch Candles: In June, I hosted an event for the Regional Director’s of American Eagle, and it was decorated exactly how you think a Pinterest party would be decorated. We used burlap, mason jars, moss, and craft paper — it was magical. My favorite prop, however, were these birch candles.
- Statement Necklaces: There are fewer things I love more in a piece of jewelry than turquoise and tortoise shell. This necklace wonderfully combines the two, and — bonus — statement necklaces are huge this season.
- TOMS Natural Crochet Wedges: Every girl needs a pair of wedges to add to her summer wardrobe. The best part about these shoes (besides the fact that they are adorable) is that they included in TOMS One for One model. In other words, when you buy this pair of shoes, a free, new pair of shoes is delivered to a child in need. Makes my heart happy.
- Michael Kors Watch: For Christmas this year, I received a watch. A gold watch. A beautiful, wonderful Michael Kors watch. And I still adore it.