2013:: year in review

2013 has been one for the record books. I think the photos say it best, so here’s a little recap of our year. So many fun trips, weddings, new babies, bucket list items crossed off, and happy memories with the ones we love. I am so excited to see what 2014 brings!

Between the 2 of us, we traveled to Lake Tahoe, Charleston, Vegas,
Seaside, St. Augustine, Nashville, and Cabo::




We gained a sister -in-law (finally!)::

We celebrated 4 years of marriage with a trip back to St. Augustine::

I attended my 4th Stella & Dot Hoopla conference::


I turned the big 3-0 and was thrown the most amazing birthday party::



My resident handyman took on many home projects, including rebuilding the deck::

Craig turned 31 and we celebrated with a weekend in Nashville::

I started my photography business::

Coco Bear turned 3::

We got to see JT perform live – best concert ever::
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There were of course some not so great things that happened throughout the year, but I prefer to focus on the good and the happy and the many blessings that have been bestowed upon us. Not a day goes by that I’m not thankful for this little life we’re living. I hope you all had a wonderful 2013 — and cheers to the new year to come!

A Very Merry Christmas


Well, another Christmas has come and gone — and what a wonderful one it was! So many things to be thankful for, and so many people in our lives with whom to share this special time of year. We spent the past several days with my parents, who came up from Florida, and then headed up to Tennessee to spend the rest of the week with Craig’s family. It’s so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays and get stressed by the travel and everything else, but I know we are quite fortunate to be able to see both of our families at Christmas every year. Here’s a little recap of our past week.

For the past 3 years, we’ve hosted Christmas dinner at our house with my family and our SIL’s parents. We just love them.  My dad fried a turkey, and the rest of us made popovers, casseroles, and homemade ice cream (and brownies) — such a delicious meal, and something I think we all look forward to each year.





Another tradition that we have been invited to take part in the past few years also involves eating and family – such a good combination. Our SIL’s parents host a huge dinner every Christmas Eve, and it’s a P.F. Chang’s feast!  We spent the night eating, drinking, visiting with Lauren’s family, making new friends, and playing games. This year, the game of choice was “heads up!” — a charades-type game played through an iPhone app. By the end of the night, everyone who wasn’t playing had to move to a different room because we were causing such a commotion screaming and acting out words. If you’re looking for a fun party game, I recommend it.




By the time Christmas morning rolled around, I am pretty sure we’d all eaten our weight in various foods, but my sweet brother cooked us a delicious breakfast before we opened gifts. This year was the first Christmas in their new home, so it was fun to add their house into the rotation for the festivities.


The rest of the holiday week was spent in Nashville with Craig’s family and friends. We ate a lot more, got to cuddle with FOUR family/friend babies, and gave and received more fun gifts. It was a whirlwind week, but such a good one spent with our favorite people. God is great.


How cute is this guy? 

Another year down, and another one to look forward to. I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, and may your new year be filled with love, laughter, good health, and many adventures!


A Few of My Favorite Things (52)

[Christmas countdown!]
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[Stella & Dot outfit of the week:: black Express top // GAP skinny jeans // Toms wedges –  I am OBSESSED with these shoes // Phoenix Pendant // gold bracelet stack]

[backdoor winter sunsets]
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[Monday Night Brewing — winter bucket list item checked off]
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[date night @ Antico – best traditional pizza in the city]
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[donate to the World Wildlife Fund and get this adorable umbrella]
Well I don’t know about y’all, but I’m really over all this rain in Atlanta. Good thing I got that cute WWF umbrella just in time! I just love animals, and after talking to a coworker who works with them, I found a couple places to donate to — World Wildlife Fund, and a local favorite, Zoo Atlanta. You should check em out!

My parents have been here for a few days, so we’ve slowly been eating our way around the city (as usual), and I will have a few new restaurant reviews to share soon! I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas spent with loved ones. We’ll be celebrating with my family here, as well as Craig’s family in Nashville, so I’ll return to the blog next week!

Family Christmas in South Alabama


Every year, my dad’s extended family has a huge Christmas gathering in the tiny town of Samson, Alabama. Even though so many of our family members live in the Atlanta area, we don’t see them nearly as often as we should, so this weekend is always special and fun. Most of us stay at the only motel in the nearby town of Geneva, and our family literally takes over the place. In between family visits with our 99-year-old great-grandmother, our grandmother, and everyone else, we peruse the Family Dollar next to the Briarwood Inn, play some poker (mostly just the guys), and eat — A LOT. It’s something we look forward to every year.

The Porky Barn — a MUST for breakfast::

In my lifetime of coming to Samson, I’ve never really noticed this quaint city hall building::
Christmas lunch at the “party barn”::


A plate full of home-cooked goodness::

Finger-lickin’ good, to be exact::

Meet Miss Minnie, our great-grandmother::
Some of the great- and great, great-grandchildren::







I could’t resist this guy — he’s a stray that some family took in, and he got a sparkly red bow tie!
The little girls’ hair salon @ the Briarwood Inn::


31 family members, mostly kids, took over this place for our last meal of the weekend::
Thank you to our extended Finch/Sims/Smith family for hosting us all at the party barn, and for making our Christmas extra special and meaningful every year. Till next year!

DIY:: window treatments

So we have some nekkid uncovered windows in our house that needed addressing. When we moved in 3.5 years ago, all the windows in the house had window treatments. We liked them enough to keep them around for the time being, but some time this past summer, I decided I’d had enough. The 2 windows that overlook our front yard were covered with red valances that while nicely made, did not match one thing in our entire house. So out they went. And the poor kitchen window has been bare for a couple years now. He was just begging for some color to spice up the room.

SO — here’s a little DIY tutorial on how we made our new window treatments! Note: there aren’t exact measurements/prices of materials here, but I hope this gives you a general idea of how easy it is to make your own (or have your husband do it for you). 


Materials we used::
3/8″ plywood
Batting (for quilting)
Staple Gun

Step 1:: Measure windows. We measured to the edges of the trim around the windows and then added 2 inches on each side so that we’d have room for the board/padding/fabric.

Step 2:: Cut plywood to desired lengths (4 pieces per cornice box) and secure with brackets. 

Step 3:: Cover each cornice box with batting. I bought several bags of batting from Michael’s (in the quilting section) and we just cut off the excess as we stapled it in place.



TIP:: Be sure to pull the batting extra taut so you don’t end up with bunches or wrinkles across the front/sides/top.

Step 4:: Determine placement of fabric based on pattern. Flip over and begin same process as when securing the batting — pull material taught and staple in place.



Yay! The finished product(s)::




A Few of My Favorite Things (51)

[monthly Springbluff dinner, homecooked edition]

[new addition to the nutcracker family]
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[my prize from our girls ornament exchange]
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[pit stop in Auburn after our Alabama Christmas]

[one of my favorite Christmas gifts yet]
Last week was a fun, very busy one. I got to spend Monday evening chatting and eating delicious, homemade taco soup with my Springbluff girlfriends from college, and later in the week, I got to do that all over again at 1Kept with another group of girlfriends for our annual ornament exchange. I have to say, when my week consists of nights like those, it makes me realize just how blessed I am to have such wonderful girls in my life.

Over the weekend, we drove down to the teeny tiny towns of Geneva and Samson, AL for Christmas with my dad’s extended side of the family. We’re not able to make it every year, but we are certainly so happy when we are able to be there. All of our aunts/uncles/cousins/their kids stay at a little hotel in Geneva (the larger of the 2 towns), and we pretty much take over the place. The weekend is spent eating, catching up with family, and just enjoying this special time of year with the amazing family that we have. I took way too many photos, as usual, so I’ll have a post up later this week.

restaurant review & ornaments, too:: 1Kept

Every year, we plan a girls’ dinner and ornament exchange before Christmas. It grew out of our Bunko get-togethers that we had years ago, so I really look forward to having that night to celebrate the season with some of my favorite girls. And who doesn’t love the game of picking your ornament from a random assortment of gift bags and boxes — and if it’s one of the most coveted ones (i.e. not a Dora the Explorer microphone…), having it “stolen” back and forth until one lucky winner ends up with the favorite.

So anyway, this year, we decided to try out a newer restaurant in the Peachtree Hills area called 1Kept. It’s an American/Southern restaurant with a really neat vibe — lots of reclaimed wood, butcher block tables, and big tufted chairs. We sort of felt like we were at a king’s table.


I didn’t manage to get shots of any of the food (other than one dessert), but every single thing we tried was so, so delicious. Everyone at the table was gushing over how good their own food was, and then handing off their plates because everyone else needed to try it as well. At one point, I left the table and came back to find my bowl of pasta being eaten by the girls sitting across from me. That tells you two things — the food was amazing, and we are really good friends. 🙂

Just a quick recap on some of our favorite dishes….

Sausage + Peppers Flatbread
Warm Kale Salad — with chorizo, quinoa, garlic (this was the best kale dish I’ve ever tried)

Tagliatelle — fresh egg pasta, green peas, bacon, grated egg yolk & parmesan creme…. so rich and so, so good.
Grilled Veal Meatloaf — smoked potato puree, haricot verts & rustic tomato ragout
Short Rib Roisotto — wild mushrooms, butternut squash, fontina cheese & crispy shallots

Red Velvet Cheesecake — I didn’t order this one, and I wish I’d gotten one all for myself. It was that good.
Eggnog Creme Brulee — I’m not an eggnog fan, or really much of a creme brulee fan, but I think some of the girls were fighting over who got the last bite. So I’m betting it was a winner.

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So on to the ornament exchange. Here’s how it works::
1) Everyone draws a number, and the person with #1 goes first, obviously.
2) Max of 3 steals per ornament, and the person whose ornament is stolen can’t steal it right back.
3) Person #1 gets last choice, since they didn’t have the opportunity to steal from anyone.

Also, please excuse the horrible quality of these iphone photos.

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I picked #1, and this was my prize. The cutest little polar bear!
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And this was the winner for most amazing ornament. 
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It was, however, accompanied by a real ornament, too. Love this cute little guy!
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Our loot::
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Cheers to another year of friendship, fantastic dinners, pretty (and silly) ornaments, and fun memories!  And if you’re in Atlanta, you should definitely check out 1Kept. I can’t wait to go back with Craig!

A Few of My Favorite Things (50)

[happy bday to mom!]

[farm fresh green beans fedexed to from FL]

[Stella & Dot outfit of the week:: Green Sweater (Old Navy) // Frida Scarf // Renegade Bracelet]

[perfect cold weather lunch @ Breadwinner Cafe]

[final round of Christmas decor]

So who else has been sick lately? The dreaded cold got me last week and still hasn’t gone on its merry way yet, but at least it’s not as bad as some people have had. So I guess I can’t complain?  This dreary hot/cold/rainy weather reallllly needs to get a move on, though. At least we have festive Christmas decor to cheer us up! I wandered around Target last weekend (dangerous, I know) and picked up some really fun little things to round out our decorations. I think my favorites are the JOY doormat and the fleece plaid blanket. And the nutcracker squirrel. Isn’t he so cute? That blanket came in handy when it got cold out again yesterday — it’s so soft and fuzzy that I considered wearing it to work today.

In other news, Craig is on a continued high from Auburn winning the SEC Championship last weekend, which means they’re going to the National Championship in Pasadena. Which means Craig is also going to Pasadena. And last I heard, he was looking at a motel with the name “vagabond” in it. I think I’m glad I’m sitting this one out. 😉 Just kidding — I’m so excited for him that he gets to cheer on his Tigers in person this year at such a huge game!

This week will prove to be a busy one, but it’s filled with lots of things I’m looking forward to. Have a nice week, friends!

winter bucket list

I’ve decided that I really like making bucket lists for each season. Sometimes, the days and weeks go so quickly that each season is gone before we know it, so this encourages us to make the most of them!  The winter tends to be a little quieter around here after the hype of the holidays, so hopefully this list will inspire us to get out and do some fun things between December and February!

1. Try 2 new restaurants each month (Dec  / Jan / Feb) — Dec: 1Kept, Seed, Coast, Pallookaville; Jan: missed the boat on new places; Feb: Mali Thai, Ecco, Slice & Pint, drinks at Ink & Elm)

2. Drive around Atlanta to look at Christmas lights — DONE!

3. Beer tasting at Monday Night Brewing — DONE!

4. Bake Christmas cookies! (didn’t get to this one, but we did make brownies and peppermint ice cream! 

5. Plan our annual girls Christmas dinner + ornament exchange — DONE!

6. Find somewhere to volunteer together

7. Have exterior of house painted, trim fixed, and possibly add street number to front door — DONE!

8. Visit the million+ Garden Lights at Atlanta Botanical Garden — didn’t make it here thanks to the rain

9. Learn Lightroom photo editing program — in progress

10. Go to the gun range and practice shooting (my first time!) — DONE!

11. See another improv show at Dad’s Garage Theatre — DONE!

12. Have fondue and movie night — DONE (did this for Valentine’s Day)!

A Few of My Favorite Things (49)

[some pre-Thanksgiving eats:: The Smoke Ring in downtown Atlanta]

[Stella & Dot outfit of the week:: Flannel shirt (Old Navy) // jade green skinnies (Old Navy) // Rebel Pendant // Renegade Bracelet // Luxor Link Bracelet]
[contortionist dog]
[Thanksgiving Day in Franklin, TN]
[meeting baby Mason]
[thank you treats FROM the baby? what a good little host.]
[weekend family time]
[craziest win I’ve ever seen]
[it’s officially Christmas time at the Hayes house]

Wow, the holidays have a way of coming and going so quickly! It’s hard to believe it’s already December and my favorite eating holiday is over. We had a very fun, filling week with my parents in town and the headed to Franklin, TN to visit Craig’s family for the rest of the holiday weekend. We tried out The Smoke Ring in downtown Atlanta (sort of fancy BBQ, so it’s a little more $$, but it’s a cool atmosphere and good food), and we spent Thanksgiving Eve with my SIL’s family eating an Italian feast (a yearly tradition).

Thursday consisted of a drive to TN and 2 meals to top off Turkey Day (I had to DVR the Macy’s Parade for later). We have so many blessings to be thankful for this year, and getting to be with both families during the holidays is one of them! We finally got to meet one new baby who joined the family this summer and another baby who made an early debut this fall for one of Craig’s high school friends. It’s always so fun celebrating the new families and getting to cuddle those snuggly little babies!

I think the highlight of Craig’s weekend, or maybe even year, was the HUGE, unbelievable win over Alabama in the Iron Bowl on Saturday. They literally won in the very last second of the game, and from their reactions, you’d have thought every Auburn in the country had just won the lottery. Georgia also squeaked out a win over Tech in 2 overtimes, so it was a great night in the Hayes house. I think Craig is still checking the game replays to make sure it really happened.

And just a little something to make you laugh — this dog’s balancing act is amazing!