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Hands down, my favorite thing about 2013 so far has been the birth of Sophia, my brother and sister-in-law’s first child, and my first niece. There’s something pretty spectacular about being an aunt (I know Rhiannon would agree), and something even cooler about the fact that Sophia was born the day before my birthday (Happy Early Birthday to me!) So when Bianca mentioned an idea she had for a photoshoot for Sophia about a month ago, I was thrilled, because I knew it’d be adorable. Little did I know that events would transpire that would put me in the role of photographer, but man, was it fun!
Because Halloween is right around the corner and we were dealing with a rainy forecast for the weekend, Bianca wanted to make sure we started out with her first Halloween costume (ever) – Snow White. With a borrowed bridge and mirror, a basket of apples, and the seven dwarves, we managed to stage a pretty magical outdoor retreat in just a few minutes.
This was Sophia’s first time playing in the grass, and we definitely had our hands full trying to keep her attention. But she was a trooper, and gave me enough time to take about 100 photos or so before she’d had enough of outfit #1.
Because Sophia was born right after my brother deployed to Afghanistan, she hasn’t had a chance to meet her daddy face-to-face yet. When Bianca told me what she had in mind for outfit #2, it took everything I had not to tear up. (I’m a total marshmallow.) While Bianca got Sophia ready, Chris and I set up the backdrop for our “Welcome Home, Daddy” pictures. Equipped with Sean’s white barracks cover, combat boots (which he wore while in Iraq) and dog tags, as well as an American flag, confederate flag and camouflage, we were ready to add Sophia.
My brother is coming home from Afghanistan toward the end of October, and I can’t wait for to see his reaction when he meets his little girl for the first time. Sean’s dog tags and boots were a hit with the littlest princess (which made all of us smile), and she put up with Bianca and I rearranging her constantly quite well, although toward the end of this round, she let us know in no uncertain terms that she was close to her limit.
Outfit #3 proved to be the last straw for our little darling, and she had a mini meltdown before letting me take any pictures. She still looked ridiculously adorable dressed up in the butterfly fairy outfit Bianca made for her, but she was tired and hungry and ready for a break.
I’m still going through all the photos I took yesterday, and haven’t had a chance to add any filters or make any edits, but as a proud auntie, I couldn’t help but share her cuteness as soon as possible.
It’s hard to believe that our trip to Hawaii is only a week and a half away. With a little help from my friend (and current local) Emily, we’ve managed to put together a pretty substantial list of things to see/experience while Chris and I are there. While I doubt we’ll manage to squeeze in everything I’ve listed below – it definitely gives a great jumping off point. I can’t wait to follow-up post-trip with photos and highlights from our adventures!
- Lanikai Pillbox
- Maunawili Falls
- KT Hill
- Pali Lookout
- Diamond Head
- KoKo Head
- Makapu’u Lighthouse Hike
- Deadmans catwalk
- Manoa Falls
- Chinaman’s Hat
- Kaena Hike
- Olomana Trail
- Lanikai Beach
- Kailua Beach
- Sharks Cove (snorkeling)
- Hanauma Bay
- Waimanalo Beach
- Bellows Beach
- Halona Blowhole/Beach Cove
- Waikiki Beach
- Hickam Beach
- Island Snow shaved ice
- Haleiwa Joes
- Pinky’s Pupus Bar & Grill
- Kona Brewing Company
- Maui Tacos
- Champa Thai
- Shrimp trucks (North Shore)
- Chief’s luau at Sea Life Park
- Sam Choy’s Island Style Seafood Grill
- Pearl Harbor – Arizona Memorial
- Pearl Harbor – Museum & Bowfin Tour
- Valley of the Temples Memorial Park
- Summer Palace
- King Kamehameha Statue
- Waikiki Downtown
Byodo-In at the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park
Been to Hawaii? I’d love to hear your recommendations. Leave them in the comments below!
A couple of weeks ago, Chris asked me if I’d be willing to help his team at work by making something for their bake sale to support Light the Night. If you’re not familiar with the event, it’s a walk to support the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Our Jacksonville walk will be taking place on November 7 at the Jacksonville Landing, and leading up to the event, teams from all over Merrill Lynch are working to raise money to support the cause.
It’s been awhile since I’ve baked anything spectacular, and I wanted to make sure I made something that people would love (purchase), so I scurried off to Pinterest for ideas. It didn’t take long for me to stumble across Lizzy’s (Your Cup of Cake) recipe for Andes Mint Cupcakes and after salivating over her photographs, I knew I’d found a winner.
Photo Credit: Lizzy from Your Cup of Cake
You can find her incredible Andes Mint Cupcake recipe here.
I did make a couple of modifications to her recipe to cut some corners on time (no, I didn’t make my frosting from scratch), and overall was pretty happy with the result. I think Chris’s co-workers agreed, because all 24 cupcakes sold, raising $48 for the cause, which makes me think I should have made more. (Can I now take a moment to lament the fact that I didn’t get to sample one?)
I’m looking forward to making another batch in the near future so that I can actually taste them for myself and make the frosting from scratch according to Lizzy’s recipe (she also has a cupcake cookbook for those looking for even more tantalizing treats.
For anyone who was curious about my frosting shortcut, it took 2 1/2 containers of cream cheese frosting, 1 tsp. of peppermint extract and 10 drops of green food coloring to get the desired result. On my next go-round, I also want to purchase some frosting tips and disposable frostings bags, because while my cupcakes were cute, they lacked the “finished” look you get with the decorative frosting tips. Lesson learned.
What’s your favorite kind of cupcake?
To celebrate my dad’s birthday this year, we loaded up the car and made the 45-minute drive down to Fort Matanzas in St. Augustine. Located on Rattlesnake Island on the Matanzas inlet, it’s one of my dad’s favorite local haunts. We got to the park right right as the opened at 9 a.m. and were fortunate enough to catch the first ferry over to the island.
For those of you not familiar with the history of this particular monument, Fort Matanzas was built by the Spanish in 1740-1742 to protect St. Augustine from British/French invasions to the south. The area got its name, “Matanzas” (the Spanish word for slaughter) because of the massacre of Ribault and his men that happened earlier in 1565 by Menendez.
I know a lot of general history about the fort from past visits, but the park ranger who led the tour on Sunday really knew his stuff, and I learned a lot. For instance, when the Spanish soldiers built the fort back in 1740, they used 400 pine trees to create pilings to bolster the marshy terrain. And when the Spanish controlled the fort, its coquina walls were plastered and white-washed, the main barracks had a stone floor, and personnel consisted of an officer, four infantrymen, two gunners and a dog.
When the English gained control of Fort Matanzas in 1763, they bumped up the regular roster at the fort to 31 soldiers and nine dogs, replaced the stone floor of the barracks with dirt, and removed the plaster covering the coquina walls, which eventually led to the introduction of mold and mildew into the fort.
I could probably go on at some length about everything we gleaned from this as well as other visits, but instead I’ll finish up the history portion of this post with some other random fun facts gleaned from today’s adventure (I probably should’ve been taking notes):
- The Spanish soldiers of that day and age were very short – usually around the height of a musket (just over 5 feet tall).
- If a soldier wore red, that denoted that he was a gunner.
- The “men” who staffed the fort were actually boys 14-16 years of age.
- In the Catholic church at that time, you could get married as early as 12 years of age with permission of the church, although St. Augustine was a bit more conservative, and required newlyweds to be at least 16.
- Life expectancy at this time was 44-45 years.
My dad’s a huge lover of history and made sure that all of us (Sean, Rhiannon and myself) got healthy doses of the local lore growing up. We spent a lot of time at each of the local forts: the Castillo de San Marcos, Fort Matanzas, and Fort Caroline, as well as hiking the trails through salt marshes, woods and beaches that make up each national park.
We couldn’t have asked for better weather today as we explored the for: the sun was shining, and there was a great breeze. When we returned from exploring the fort on Rattlesnake Island, we “hiked” the short trail back on the mainland, watched the 8-minute overview and history of the fort and national park, and then combed the beach taking in the sights.
Sean and I especially have some great memories at Fort Matanzas with Dad. He took us fishing at the park one summer, and we caught more than a dozen fish between the two of us. Dad spent so much time helping us take the fish we caught off the line (we were strictly catch-and-release), and baiting and casting our lines, that he didn’t get the chance to fish at all. And one of the best parts of that adventure was the fact that we each caught a fish that was our favorite color: green for Sean, purple for me (just ask my Dad, he’ll vouch for us). ;)
We had a pretty awesome adventure today as well. While walking on the beach, we saw an army of fiddler crabs waving to potential mates, an osprey with a fish struggling in his talons, and a little green snake who’d fallen out of a tree at the edge of the beach. He was bright green, about a foot and half long and skinnier than a pencil. He was also having a difficult time getting traction in the soft sand, and navigating his way back to the brush at the edge of the marsh. My sister and I ended up using a couple of reeds placed in front of him to help get back to his tree.
While I’m by no means an expert on snake identification, I’m pretty sure he’s what’s known as a “rough green snake,” and as such, nonvenomous. I know there are a lot of people out there that feel pretty strongly about snakes, but as far as this little fellow goes, I thought he was beautiful, and watching him stretch his body back up to the tree (no small feat, I wish we’d taken video), was fascinating.
We wrapped up the day’s adventures with lunch at Mango Mango’s . Dad and I both chowed down on the Island Burger (my favorite item on the menu), complemented by a side of yucca fries (which are to DIE for).
As a family, we tend to do a lot of outdoor activities. How do you celebrate birthdays in your family?
[And to see more photos from today's adventure, check out my gallery on Flickr.]
For our anniversary this year, Chris gifted me a subscription to a monthly service called My Olive Box. Despite my daytime dealings as a social media director, I have a deep-rooted love for papercrafts – so the subscription is akin to getting a surprise present each month full of my favorite things. (Isn’t my hubs the BEST?!) The items in the box vary – sometimes you get cards or books, other times it’s artwork or gift wrap – but each one is crafted according to a surprise theme and delivers a delightful mid-month treat.
In May, the box included a book, Snail Mail My Email, which has inspired me to renew my own personal correspondence, hence the purpose of this post. During the month of July, I’ve set a personal goal to send 31 letters in 31 days. Now obviously, given holidays and weekends, my mail-sending won’t line up perfectly with sending one letter per day, but I will be sharing one letter a day on my blog and social channels. (Please forgive the irony.)
The letters will vary from handmade to letterpress and from postcard to packages. Brainstorming all the notes and their recipients has been a blast, and I can’t wait to get to work on my first batch. The fun kicks off next Monday on the blog, so stay tuned!
As I’ve probably mentioned more times than it matters, I’m a pretty avid reader and always on the lookout for new authors and series (otherwise I just end up reading the same hundred books or so). This past Friday morning, I reached out to Scholastic on Twitter and asked if they had any new YA fiction authors or series they’d recommend. Instead of just responding with a couple of quick recommendations, they did me one better by retweeting my question to their followers and asking them to help me out. The response was overwhelming in a good way, and reaffirmed not only my love for Scholastic, but also my love for Twitter.
Because it was such an awesome list, I figured I’d share it with you as well. Stay tuned for my reactions and reviews as I work through the list this Spring!
Crowd-sourced Reading List:
Additional recommended reading included Ellen Hopkins, Lauren Barnholdt, Lauren Myracle and Maureen Johnson (already a favorite)!
If you’re interested in learning more about the authors listed above, I’ve added hyperlinks to their various Twitter accounts, or to make it easy on yourself, you can just follow my YA Author list here. I’m always looking for more authors and series to add to the list, so if you have any recommendations of your own, please feel free to add them in the comments below!
Happy Reading, everyone!
I’ve never felt as full of life, energy, and dare I say zen, as I did when Chris and I were running regularly. Training for races like the Minnie Marathon and the Gate River Run was both exhausting and exhilarating – but after several frustrating injuries, I’ve struggled with returning to a regular run regimen.
Thankfully for me, Runner’s World announced this week that they’re kicking off their first ever Summer Run Streak, a friendly challenge to runners everywhere to commit to running at least one mile every day beginning next Monday, May 27 (Memorial Day) and continuing through July 4th – a whopping 38 straight days of runs.
This is great for a couple of reasons:
- I always do better when I have a firm goal in mind. In the past, it was working up to a particular race distance like the Gate River Run or the Outback Distance Classic, but since I’ve been out of the game for awhile, this particular goal of running 38 days in a row gives me a flexible framework, allowing me to run as much or as little as I want so long as I at least strike one mile off the to-do list each day.
- The challenge includes a hashtag (#RWRunStreak). Not only will tracking the conversations surrounding the hashtag help keep me motivated, it will also help keep me accountable. I’m making a public declaration that this run streak is important to me, and I’m going to make it happen.
- Beach season. As Runner’s World mentioned in their blog, the temptations of the summer season (vacations, hot weather, etc.) make it easy to put off running for a day, week or altogether.
- The distance shouldn’t affect other planned workouts. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been working on building strength in my core in preparation for making a return to running. (Little bit of kismet there, no?) The first week of core training was brutal, and I doubt I would’ve been able to successfully push my aching muscles into more than a sad shuffle if that challenge has been presented any sooner. However, after two weeks of workouts, I’ve already noticed a difference, and while the core workouts are still challenging, my muscles are recovering faster. In short, adding a one mile run (or more) each day should be just the extra push I need to keep things fresh!
If you’d like to join the challenge, it’s easy! Simple commit to running the 38 days, and if you feel like sharing your progress you can either post in the comments below or use the #RWRunStreak hashtag in your tweets!
Good luck, everyone!
Last Sunday, my coworker Tim rescued a tiny mess of a kitten from a gutter on Beach Blvd. After dubbing her “Sandy” due to her bedraggled appearance (and the location where she was found), he brought her into the office for some intensive TLC. She’s been in my care since Tuesday, and in that short time, she’s already made tremendous progress – evolving from that frightened creature cowering in a diaper box to a frisky kitten full of life (and mischief).
My crew still isn’t quite sure what to make of her – her first encounter with Ares left my poor pup terrified (hissing kittens are her kryptonite as we discovered last year when we fostered a litter). Kyo wants nothing more than to be allowed to play with her (she’s still not allowed out of the bedroom unchaperoned), Pixel and TicTac follow her every move, Sushi couldn’t care less and Jackie wants to smother her in kisses and nibbles.
The current game plan is to slowly acclimate them all, get Sandy up to a healthy enough weight to have her fixed, and then help her find her forever home through First Coast No More Homeless Pets. If you know anyone who’s interested in adding an adorable, sassy kitten to their family, be sure to let me know! She should be adoptable in 6-8 weeks.
I’m not quite finished with this project, but I’m SUPER excited about it, so I couldn’t help but post a teaser image of the work I’ve done thus far. It’s going to be a series of paintings, but I’ve got two left to go before I write out my tutorial and explain where my inspiration came from. If all works according to plan, the series should be finished by the end of the weekend. That being said, I would love to know what you think thus far!
If you ever feel as though your well of inspiration has dried up, or perhaps that pesky muse has indeed fled, I challenge you to spend five minutes on Pinterest. (And I’m betting you can’t spend JUST five.) Even if you don’t consider yourself crafty in any way, I GUARANTEE there’s something on this site for you.
That being said, I’ve been a little quiet on the web during the holidays because I decided to take a dose of my own advice, and have buried myself in the creative projects I’ve been dying to get around to for months. I kicked excuses to the curb and cranked out quite a few groovy little projects in between all the family gatherings, day trips and gorging.
Since I’m still stretching my writing muscles (which have been hibernating over the past few weeks as I stuffed myself silly with all my holiday favorites), I figured I’d share one of my simpler projects first – to warm up, as it were.
My hubs has been a driving force behind me returning to my crafty roots. We’ve been in our new house for almost a year and a half, and while I was a driving force in making it our own when we first moved in, I’ve been a little lax these past few months in finishing up the décor in some of the rooms. One of the things especially lacking has been artwork for the walls, which brings us to my first Pinterest project – the criss cross wall art you see below.
The example project you see above, I found on Pinterest and tracked back to the blog “Living in the Woods.” Taylor does a great job of explaining the process, and has included some step-by-step photos should you decide to try something similar, so instead of walking through the entire process myself, I’m just going to tackle some of the differences between her approach and mine.
- I decided not to put down a white base coat on the canvas. I could go into some lofty explanation about the fact that I prefer the texture of the canvas to the smooth, gloss of the white paint, but let’s be honest – I was impatient to try out the project and didn’t feel like driving to Home Depot once I realized that the white house paint we’ve had on-hand (that followed us to three houses and cities over the past four years) was no longer usable.
- Instead of using multiple widths of masking tape, I decided to keep it simple and use the one width. By limiting myself to one type of tape, I thought I might be able to save myself from adding too many layers. (I go a little overboard sometimes when excited.)
- Taylor used interior paint and a paint brush to coat the canvas and masking tape. I opted for some silver spray paint I had lying around for another project I’ll be sharing with you soon. I thought about using some of the interior paint we have left over from our latest painting projects, but I’m in love with the metallic silver spray paint and decided to give it a go.
The finished project is what you see below. Now the hubs and I just need to agree on a place to hang it!
- If you’re on Pinterest, I’d love to check out your boards! Let me know your username in the comments below! (Mine is MusesFled, if you’re interested in reciprocity.)
- Not a member of Pinterest, but looking for an invitation? Send me an invitation request below!
I’ve finally decided where to hang this! It’s going in my dining room (see photo below). And I’m already working on a new project for my kitchen. I can’t wait to show off what I’ve come up with! Stay tuned!