deck the halls

It’s December and the halls of the Hayes house have been fully decked for Christmas… so let’s talk decorations!

I’ve had this wreath made from red glass ornaments for a couple years now, and I love the contrast with the navy door… and how light and bright the entryway is with some garland/lights strung around it. I wish the garland was more full, but such is life… maybe I’ll remember to get something better next year. Not pictured are cute little wreaths hung on each of the 5 front windows with a red ribbon, as well as the front bushes covered in white lights. Yay for Christmas lights! It makes me so happy to pull onto our street this time of year… so many festive houses all aglow!

I wanted to update our dining room decorations without having to buy a bunch of new pieces, and when I found these feathery white balls at West Elm, I knew I could do something fun involving a couple of them. I bought 2 and decided they needed to be strung from the light fixture above the dining room table. Instead of the usual colorful decor I’ve had the past several years, I went more neutral and sparkly with white, gold, and silver. I strung a couple unused ornaments from the remaining arms of the chandelier for a fun, flowy effect.


Every Christmas, my grandmother Nana has given a Nutcracker to all of her children’s families. Once her grandchildren have a home of their own, she gives them one as well. Here’s my little collection of three — the new guy with the sparkly red and green jacket is my favorite. I have them displayed in the dining room on the buffet that Craig’s grandfather built. It’s a fun tradition to look forward to each year!


I love having a big, tall fireplace to decorate for the holidays. This giant wreath  is from the Martha Stewart Collection at Home Depot, and these great metal reindeer stocking hangers (and decorative reindeer on the left) are from Pottery Barn. They look like they’re made of silver sticks, and the bases are heavy and deep enough to hold really full stockings — the more goodies, the better! Except that Craig swears our adorable stockings are only big enough to hold a dollar bill… apparently they don’t stretch enough for his liking.


I grew up having live Christmas trees every year and just loved them — the smell, the feel, the fullness. But that was probably partly because I wasn’t responsible for buying/hauling/setting up/decorating/watering it. Now that it’s our turn, we opted for a fake, pre-lit tree from Home Depot. This is our 4th Christmas with our fancy tree, and it’s still going strong. One of my favorite parts is that all we have to do it set it up and plug it in, and it’s all shiny and bright! No unwrapping what seems like miles of tangled lights that we threw in the box the year before. No bristles to clean up, no tree-watering duties. However, I am a little jealous of all those instagram photos I’m seeing of friends at Christmas tree farms lately… so maybe next year, we can add a real tree somewhere in the house for a little extra festiveness.

Last year, I got a little crafty and made a big bow for the tree topper. I went with a shimmery gold ribbon that has wire through the sides to I could shape it nicely. As for how it came together…. staples. Lots of staples. But nobody coming to our house is tall enough to see that, so I’m ok with it.

I always ooh and ahh over those grand, immaculate trees covered with lots of colored glass balls and ribbon, but my favorites are the ones with personalized ornaments that have been made out of popsicle sticks, painted by hand, or filled with a photo of family. For years, I have been collecting special ornaments from all of our travels…. Austria (where I studied abroad), Charleston (where we got engaged), Peter Island (where we honeymooned)… you get the idea. Those ornaments fill much of our tree, and I love looking at them year after year and remembering those special events, people, and trips. Several childhood ornaments have also been handed down to us by our moms – Craig’s favorite is the one featuring Ninja Turtles riding a sled. And my mom just gave us the cutest personalized Coco replica, which is now front and center on the tree.

After a couple years of searching, I finally found a nativity scene that I really like. I got this at an antique market in Jacksonville last weekend. It’s more abstract than the typical nativity scene — each piece is made of rusted metal and secured to a little wooden base. Aren’t they fun?

I think this recipe is from the December issue of Food Network Magazine, and I’ll definitely be breaking out the crock pot for this one. I just need to find ‘Home Alone’ on TV and I’m set! I hope y’all have fun decking your halls, too!


restaurant review:: Lola’s Burrito Joint in Jacksonville, FL

You already know that we went to Jacksonville, FL last weekend for a covert mission… to surprise our mom with a big party for her 60th birthday! We got into town on Friday and had to sneak out to dinner (while looking over our shoulders the whole time, as our mom was staying with our grandmother nearby). My cousin Alli suggested a great pizza place called Pele’s Woodfire over in Riverside. It was so yummy! But on to Lola’s…

We also had to entertain ourselves for lunch on Saturday in between setting up for the party in the morning, antique bar cart shopping, and picking up food for the party that afternoon. We happened upon another Riverside restaurant, Lola’s Burrito Joint. Our waitress said it’s only been open about 6 months. It’s very Day of the Dead-ish with motorcycle-riding skeletons hanging from the ceiling and more skeletons airbrushed onto car hoods hanging on the walls. They also have 50+ beers on tap. The menu was pretty overwhelming, but our waitress was very knowledgeable and explained every section and gave her personal favorites.

There were so many choices…. I could have ordered 10 different things and been happy with any of them. Our waitress raved about the Mexican Street Corn, which is deep-fried (husk and all) and coated with fresh cilantro, Cotija cheese and Lola’s Adobo. Everyone but me got it as an appetizer, and it’s AMAZING!! Apparently customers call it “crack corn” and we all agreed that it is the perfect description. We also had the queso and chips, which I could have eaten for my meal… love some cheese dip!


Here are some of our other faves from the menu::

Tiajuana 2-Steppers (Top-Shelf & Grilled… like a burrito, but pressed and crispy on the outside)
I got the Philly “Wizza” Steak (grilled peppers/onions/mushrooms, diced tomatoes, and covered with Jalapeño cheese sauce). It was good — the meat was a little hard to eat in a burrito. The cheese sauce was definitely my favorite part. My brother got the Havana Nights Better that a Cuban, and I think I may have liked it better than mine.

Senora Gloria’s Empanadas (Hand pressed and made to order)
I didn’t try these, but I was told they were the most AMAZING thing ever. 🙂

Ragun Cajun (seasoned gator, cabbage, diced tomatoes, cheese with Cajun Ranch sauce)
I didn’t try this either, but Craig liked it, as well as the other tacos he tried. I just thought it was fun that they had gator tacos, along with lamb and other interesting meats.

I also got a side of refried black beans – they were hot and cheesy and so good!

All four of us raved about the food, especially that “crack corn.” I wish I’d gotten my own so I could have had more than a couple bites. But there’s always next time!

celebrating 60 years of mom!

My mom turned 60 on December 3rd… and what better way to celebrate than with a bunch of family and childhood friends? She is from Jacksonville, FL, and we still have a lot of family (and her friends) there, so it seemed like the obvious location for her party. The only problem is that my parents live about 4.5 hours away… so we had to come up with a plan to get her there on her own. Good thing my aunts and grandmother are good schemers! Mom was under the assumption that she was going to Jax last weekend for a little family welcome party for her aunt and uncle who are moving back to FL from CA. They aren’t moving until January, but she was none the wiser and agreed to come up to see everyone. She also thought my dad was going to be out of state for work all weekend. he he he

My aunt Lynn is a very talented watercolor painter, so she graciously offered to paint an image for the invitation. We went retro with the theme – the party was actually held at my mom’s childhood home, where my aunt and uncle now live. I scoured (which is essentially like an online handmade marketplace) and found some great party decorations, like this felt birthday banner. I love the festive colors and the fact that I can reuse it on my mantle for every birthday in coming years.


I really wanted some cute decorative cookies as party favors, and I happened upon a website for Ali’s Sweet Treats in Miami, FL. I’d originally planned to do something decorative with icing… until I realized I could put mom’s face on them! I chose this photo of her as a child because it’s been hanging in our house for as long as I can remember, and it just looks so sweet — like the cookies. See what I did there?

mom4 is my favorite way to make photo books. I found the website on the Young House Love blog last year, and I’ve been a photo book-making fool ever since. It’s such an easy site to use, and you have endless options on layouts and styles. All you do is upload your photos to the site, and then it can auto-populate them into the book — but I always choose to create my own layouts because it allows me to group photos together in a specific way. MyPublisher is ALWAYS having some sort of sale, so you can get great discounts on books whenever you make them… and if you don’t see one when you’re ready to buy your book, then just save it and wait a few days — one is bound to pop up.

Here’s the photo book I created for mom’s party as a guest book for everyone to sign. I borrowed photos from her albums (under the guise of looking for wedding slideshow photos) when we were home this fall and scanned them so I could do a “celebration of 60 years” book::



In keeping with our retro theme, my aunt suggested serving “Not So Shirley Temples” — a grown-up twist on the classic — because this was their favorite drink during summers spent at the local country club.


Mom’s favorite people::

Mom, her brother, and her sister::


I love that after all these years, mom is still so close with her childhood best friends::




The Birthday Girl::

We wanted to have something fun for the guests to do, so we created a photo station. I borrowed this great red/white striped curtain from a neighbor (it just happened to perfectly match our theme), and bought some funny disguises and mini chalk boards on sticks on etsy. I bought some chalk markers in neon colors for guests to write messages. I also have a stash of costumes and props from my sorority days in college, so I threw in a fireman’s hat, feather boas, masks, etc. And my aunt had a TERRIFYINGLY realistic snake to add to the mix. It was Lauren’s favorite, by far. The photo area was so fun – I just wish we’d gotten more photos!


This absolutely should have been our family Christmas card photo this year::



Two of my favorite ladies — my mom and grandmother, Nana::


Mom’s cake was from For the Love of Cake, a relatively new bakery in Riverside. My cousin Alli recommended it, and it was a bit hit! They perfectly re-created the red Mary Jane’s that my Aunt Lynn designed for the invitation. You can’t see it in the photo, but the cake was sparkly, too!


Happy 60th Birthday, Mom!! We love you so much!

And here are some out-takes from setting up the photo station before the party…. enjoy!


more patio funness! (sure, it’s a word)

The Patio Project Chronicles continue with minor updates on our first 2 projects — the hanging pallet bed and the wine crate planters. Craig finally had time to stain the planters and coat the insides and bottoms of them with a sealant to keep water from running out everywhere when the plants are watered. I think they look so great — especially considering they were in a trash pile at our neighbor’s house before Craig rescued them!

And we got plants! I wanted mums for the fall/winter, but Craig was told at the garden store that we missed the window for those. So after a little pouting, we I moved on. The plants that look like mini Christmas trees (how appropriate for the season!) are actually rosemary plants. I really like the way they look when paired with the pansies. They’re festive and a little unexpected. I just hope the bunnies that terrorize our neighborhood plants don’t sniff out the rosemary and eat it all!

Moving on to my favorite part of the patio — the hanging bed! We’d been brainstorming on how we could easily and cheaply create some sort of cushion for the bed… but we don’t own a sewing machine, and I don’t know the first thing about making something like that. I remembered that my favorite bloggers, Young House Love, had posted about some cute seat cushions they’d gotten recently for their new deck. I searched their blog archives for that post and found that they’d gotten them at Garden Ridge. I have never been to a Garden Ridge, so I looked them up and found one just north of Atlanta. They have like 100 different options for outdoor cushions, but most of them resemble something you’d see on your grandma’s patio if she lived in Miami in the 80s.

Luckily, we happened upon this modern pattern in black and white, and I’m in love!! We hadn’t thought to measure the bed before heading out on our cushion search (we were already out running errands), so we just guesstimated and got 4 cushions to cover the width of the bed. Turns out, they work perfectly! They’re outdoor material, but we plan to only put them out when it’s being used so as to preserve the fabric longer. When we’re ready to use it, we just have to tie each cushion to the slats in the bed so that they’re nice and secure. Craig also stained the bed to match the fence and planters.

Perfect for lazy afternoon reading and napping!