A week on the Connecticut shoreline

22 August 2016

Usually when we go home to Connecticut, it’s for a major holiday or a big occasion, like a family wedding. Every trip is fun, but on those occasions our schedule is often hectic and largely dictated for us. So to have a full week where we could simply enjoy some of our favorite restaurants, activities, and places in our hometown was a rare treat – and we took full advantage of it! Here are a few photos, if you’d like to see. At the bottom of the post I’m also sharing a list of our shoreline/southeastern Connecticut favorites, if you should find yourself in the area!

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The view from Abbott’s.

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The magnificent Ocean House. We went for lunch and it was as wonderful as you’d expect!

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June loved the penguins at the Mystic Aquarium! Everything else pretty much went over her head, but the penguins were a hit :)

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All dressed up for a high school friend’s wedding!

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Taking an evening walk to see my house.

Favorite places to eat:
Abbott’s
Caffe NV and NV Market
Sift Bake Shop
Oyster Club
Kitchen Little
The Ocean House
Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream and Buttonwood Farm
Paul’s Pasta
Del’s
Chinese Kitchen
S&P Oyster Company
Clyde’s Cider Mill

Favorite things to do:
Mystic Aquarium
Picnic at Harkness Memorial State Park and Avery Point
Hike at Haley Farm and Bluff Point
Beach day at Napatree in Watch Hill
Walk through downtown Mystic
Walk through Stonington Borough
Walk through downtown Madison
Kayak on the Mystic River
Pick berries, pumpkins, apples, or Christmas trees at Maple Lane or Holmberg’s

Connecticut peeps, did I miss any of your favorites?

Lisa’s all-white French-inspired baby shower

18 August 2016

Surprise! Lisa (unintentionally) tricked many of you with her shower outfit post from last week. Though the dress she wore to her shower had stripes, it was also white, which meant it was a perfect fit for theme no. 2! Though I adored all of the options (especially that juicy fruit one!!), a classic, fresh, all-white soiree was just right for my oh-so-classic pal.

Because I flew solo as the host, planning for this shower was a little different than past parties. On the one hand, I loved having complete artistic freedom (ha!), but I did have to carefully navigate all of the prep work and the expenses. Here’s how it went down!

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Lisa LOVES a good invitation suite (girl after my own heart), so I splurged on this silver foil beauty from Minted. She says she’s keeping it forever, so I count it as a win :)

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The guests did a fabulous job of dressing for the occasion! I know how much it meant to me to have the chance to gather with family and dear friends before June arrived, so it was sweet to play a small role in Lisa coming together with her dear ones — including her mom, sisters, mother-in-law, and family-friends-who-are-almost-sisters pictured here.

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Girl LOVES her some brunch, so I knew that’s the meal we’d be serving. I made a few of the items, supplemented with some favorite store-bought goodies, and relied on friends to pick up a few. This was our menu:

— cucumber sandwiches (homemade)
— cheese board with fruit and baguettes (put together by a friend)
— mini pancake stacks (Trader Joe’s)
— chicken minis (a friend picked up from Chick-fil-a)
— mini lemon scones (Whole Foods)
— deviled eggs (homemade)
— lemonade, coffee, tea, ice water

white-peonies

Let’s talk about those peonies for a minute. White peonies in July?! If you know your wedding flowers, you know this is highly unusual. Turns out a friend of mine had seen peonies at her Trader Joe’s the week before, so I called mine and asked about ordering some (they can custom order flowers for you if you call ahead, FYI!). The TJ’s gal said she couldn’t guarantee anything because peonies aren’t in season, but that she would call me if they came in. She did end up calling me, and the peonies did come in. However, because they had mold on them, she couldn’t sell them to me — BUT if I wanted them, I could have them for free! (!!!) After removing brown petals from a few stems and tossing a few others, I was left with about three dozen gorgeous white peonies. Thank you, mold!

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I also set up a separate dessert table with lots of bite-size treats. Our sweets menu:

— mini vanilla cupcakes (Whole Foods)
— mini pecan pies (made by Lisa’s mama)
— gourmet donuts cut into quarters (brought by a friend)
— chocolate and vanilla macarons (Trader Joe’s)
— chocolate, vanilla, and red velvet cake pops from Sugar Euphoria

opening-presents

We didn’t play any games, just chatted and ate and opened presents. I also had each of the ladies go around in a circle and offer Lisa encouragement as to why she’s going to be a great mama, which is similar to something I loved at my bridal shower.

baby-shower-advice-card

And, everyone filled out two cards before they left. One was for Lisa (above), and the other was for her little boy. I’m not sharing it here because it included his name, but it was pretty much pirated from my baby shower :)

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Lisa, you are thoughtful, smart, sentimental, intuitive, and loving, and you are going to be a wonderful mama. I can’t wait to walk beside you as you grow into your new role and was so happy to celebrate you last month. Much love to you!!

P.S. Lisa recapped the shower on her blog, too — see it here!

What’s in our diaper bag

16 August 2016

Walk the aisles of a baby store and you’ll likely find diaper bag options with a minimum of 15 pockets. (I’m not even sure that’s an exaggeration.) I’m the first to admit I didn’t know that much about babies before June arrived, but I just couldn’t wrap my head around supplying that many crevices for goldfish to get stuck in.

As with so many things, I was reassured by my sister-in-law Marget, who opted for a Herschel backpack as a diaper bag when my nephew was born. We’ve done the same. Here’s what we’ve packed in it from birth to six months!

diaper-bag-packing-list

— 1 package of wipes
Skip Hop changing pad
— 2-3 diapers
nursing cover
— a book
— 1 extra onesie
— small hand sanitizer
A&A muslin (this serves as a lovey and also a clean surface, if needed!)
a small toy
— 2 cloths
— 2 plastic grocery bags (for diapers, if we’re not near a trash can, or wet clothes)

I imagine if you’re using bottles for each feeding that might complicate things a bit, and I know we’ll have to add or switch out a few items as June gets older. But for right now, this set-up is perfect! And as I’ve mentioned before, the Herschel packs have the bonus of being gender neutral.

If you’re the mama type, I’d love to hear what you use for a diaper bag! Or can we call it an “on-the-go bag”? Sounds so much nicer than a diaper bag :)

P.S. Six week favorites and five month favorites. Seven month favorites coming soon!

Baby shower ideas for Lisa

12 August 2016

I have had the pleasure of knowing Lisa Kirk for three years. We are each other’s right hand at work, and through endless hours of back-and-forth chatter across our desks and extensive road trips around the South, I’ve gotten to know her pretty well. (Actually, let’s be real: I probably know her better than 90% of the people in my life.) We also happen to be very similar. So, it’s hard to think of an easier assignment than planning a perfectly fitting baby shower for this sweet, dear friend of mine!

I got a little overexcited and dreamed up three concepts, then left the final choice up to Lisa. Before I share the photos from the shower, I thought I’d share the three options I presented her with and y’all can guess which one she chose!

stripes-and-chambray

Credits clockwise from top left: unknown, unknown, Serena & Lily, photo by Megan Robinson via 100 Layer Cake

Up first: Stripes and Chambray! This theme celebrated a few of Lisa’s favorite things, with a little denim thrown in as a nod to her baby boy and a little gold to keep things girly. Guests would be encouraged to wear their best stripes :)

all-in-white-shower

100 Layer Cakelet, 100 Layer Cake, unknown, photo by 822 Weddings via Snippet & Ink

Second option: Summer Whites! This shower would have a soft French flair. The color palette would be almost completely white, with small silver accents. Guests would, of course, be invited to wear white!

fruit-party

Oh Happy Day, Tell Love and Party, Cup of Jo, How Sweet It Is, Evelyn Henson

Third option: Fruit Punch! Inspired by Lisa’s main pregnancy craving (fresh fruit!), this shower would be anchored with a monochromatic fruit salad, watercolor details, and a few fruity puns.

I’d love to hear: Which is your favorite? Which one do you think Lisa picked?

15 Things I Love About North Carolina

10 August 2016

After seven years in the South, I have come to love SO many things about our sweet, sweet adopted homeland (despite what you may have been thinking after my last post!). Some of the 15 I’m sharing today are about the Triangle (Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill), some are specific to North Carolina, and a few are about the South in general, but I’m grateful for all of them. Here goes!

1. Vibrant churches. I’ll start here because though all of these reasons are fun, this one has been truly life changing. It’s amazing to live in a place where the default is that people are actively engaged in living out their faith, and to have access to earnest, active, flourishing church communities. I have learned and grown SO much by being around the Christians I’ve met since moving here.
2. Biscuits and barbecue. Y’all, the food in the South can’t be beat. Biscuits and (Eastern North Carolina) barbecue are two of my favorite examples, but there’s also fried chicken, pimento cheese, deviled eggs, hushpuppies, red velvet cake… the list goes on, and it’s all finger licking good.
3. Amazing restaurants. The Triangle is overflowing with amazing, innovative restaurants that are constantly striving for excellence. (And I’m not the only one who thinks so: Southern Living named Durham the tastiest town in the South a few years ago!) Between the empires of Ashley Christensen (Poole’s Diner, Chuck’s, Beasley’s, Joule, Fox Liquor Bar, Death & Taxes), Andrea Reusing (Lantern, The Durham), and Matt Kelly (Vin Rouge, Mateo Tapas, Mothers & Sons, Lucky’s Deli), you’ve got more quality spots than most towns can claim.

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4. Bluegrass and country. I never listened to either genre before moving South, and now they’re two of my favorites! The Triangle is a great place to listen to bluegrass, especially; I got to see Steve Martin and Edie Brickell play with the Steep Canyon Rangers at Wide-Open Bluegrass a few years ago.
5. Warm ocean. This one’s pretty simple, but worth mentioning: the ocean is C-O-L-D in the north, and W-A-R-M in the South. Makes beach days even more pleasant :)
6. Greenways. The Triangle has miles and miles and miles of greenways, which are perfect for bike riding and evening walks. There’s one in our neighborhood, and we also love the American Tobacco Trail – 22+ miles of trails that wind through three counties.
7. Proximity to mountains. There are plenty of mountains in New England, but they’re all pretty far away from where we lived in Connecticut. Here, we can get to Boone in about two hours and Asheville in four — perfect, since hiking is one of our favorite activities!
8. Weekend trips. The Triangle is a fantastic launching pad for weekend trips! Greenville, Asheville, Charlottesville, Atlanta, Beaufort SC and NC, Charleston, Richmond, Wilmington, and so many more destinations are all options for weekend exploring. (Another one of our favorite activities!)
9. Community events. With three world-class universities, enterprising businesses, and awesome arts organizations in the area, our calendar is stocked with fun and often low-cost activities. Festivals, Durham Bulls games, antique fairs, pop-up shops, outdoor concerts, choral performances, and outdoor movies are a few of my favorites.

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10. Duke basketball. Speaking of world-class universities :) John has been a Duke fan since middle school, and it’s a pinch-me kind of thing to live so close to Cameron. Tickets are still hard to come by, but we’ve been to several games since moving here!
11. Swimming holes. I’d never been in an honest-to-goodness swimming hole until I got to NC, but they are delightful — the perfect antidote to blisteringly hot summer days.
12. Warmer winters and springs. I think this is the classic reason to love the South, and definitely the one that most convinces John! We have four solid seasons, but cut out the bitterest cold and the rainiest, most depressing days of “spring” that New England gets in March and April. Instead, we might have a 70 degree day in January, and switch on reliably delightful days in mid-March. John is also very proud of the fact that the sun never goes down before 5pm here.
13. Southern architecture. Creaky farmhouses, gracious front porches, snuggly bungalows, plantation drama… yep, the South sizes up pretty well against New England.
14. Great chains. The mall near my house in Connecticut is sad and the butt of many jokes, so the opportunities that come with living in a more metro area still kind of blow my mind. Pretty much every awesome chain you can think of, including Whole Foods, Anthro, Crate & Barrel, J.Crew, Madewell, West Elm, and Sephora, is an easy drive. And of course, NO list of great Southern brands would be complete without mentioning Chick-fil-a — I could write an entire post about all the reasons I love them!
15. Innovation. (Almost) nothing ever changes in my corner of Connecticut, which is both a blessing and a curse. The opposite is true in the Triangle, where things are always changing, growing, trying, failing, building, and experimenting. Sometimes it can feel like a whirlwind, but it’s also exciting, exhilarating, and inspiring. One of my favorite examples? The American Tobacco Campus, which was transformed from urban blight to one of my favorite spaces in Durham a few years ago.

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I’d love to hear: What’s your favorite part about the South? Did any of my reasons particularly resonate with you?