Celebrating 33 with a Staycation

When Craig asked what I wanted for my birthday this year, I asked for an experience instead of tangible gifts. He happily agreed to my idea of doing an overnight staycation in Atlanta, so he booked a room at the Intercontinental Buckhead, and I got to planning. (Of course I wanted to plan my own birthday outing, right?)

My amazing mom kept Leighton for the day and night so we could have a fun little mid-week getaway all to ourselves. We started the staycation off with a walk on the Beltline and took a break for lunch at Ladybird Grove & Mess Hall — somewhere that we’d yet to make it to, but that has been on my list for quite a while. It did not disappoint! We shared the fried pickles (the basket included fried red peppers, which were our favorite) and a couple beers along with our sandwiches. He had the Torta Cubano and I had the Spatchock Chicken Melt – both were super filling and tasty. The decor inside is like a campfire mixed with a lodge with a big screened porch and tons of outdoor seating to enjoy the Beltline. I can’t wait to go back!


We wandered around Krog St Market (and may have made a stop by Little Tart Bakeshop) and then walked the Beltline back to Ponce City Market to kill some time until Skyline Park (the Coney Island-style rooftop park) opened for the afternoon.



Skee-ball is one of my favorite games ever — it totally makes me feel like a kid again! So we of course got a few rounds in, and it was so nice being there on a weekday because we practically had the place to ourselves. We won a little plush duckie for Leighton, which was so fitting, as she just started saying “dut” (for her rubber ducks) this week!




We also rode the Heege Tower, which is so not scary like it looks, and it gives an even better, 360 degree view of the Atlanta skyline.



Another perk of being there on a rather empty day… we beat the bartender there, so the manager treated us to samples of a few of their most popular drinks! They included 2 frozen options, which were yummy and so refreshing on such a hot day.


We finished up with a friendly game of putt putt… I can’t even remember the last time I played this game. It was a little tricky, so that’s what I’ll blame my loss on…. 🙂

Ah…. so nice to check into a hotel (or house/wherever we’re staying) and not have to haul half of our house in with us! Our room had the prettiest view of so, so many trees and Stone Mountain in the distance! We spent a little late afternoon time at the pool, helped ourselves to the complimentary lounge bar and snacks, and came back to the room to find a birthday cake and balloons from the hotel! Nicely done.



We capped off the most amazing day with a wonderful birthday dinner at Aria in Buckhead. The atmosphere is dark and romantic, and the food was delightful. I loved my beef short ribs, and Craig loved his scallop dish. Even though I’d already had the best peanut butter cookie at the hotel earlier (and a couple bites of that birthday cake), I couldn’t resist the warm caramel and chocolate cake for dessert.


Despite originally wanting to sleep in on this staycation, I ended up booking a tour with Bicycle Tours of Atlanta for the next morning, and I am so glad I did! Waking up early was not welcomed, but once we got going on our bike tour with the owner, Robyn, I think we were both happy we decided not to be totally lazy instead. 🙂 We rode for 3 hours and covered about 8 miles on part of the Beltline and through the neighborhoods of Inman Park, Candler Park, Old Fourth Ward, Little 5 Points, and more. It was such a cool way to see the city!

Robyn was kind enough to offer a discount code for my blog readers! Use code: MELISSA to receive 15% off any future tour booked by Labor Day (9/5/16). I’m going to share more photos and tidbits we learned in a dedicated post, so check that out soon!

We had the best 24 hour staycation. It was just what I wanted and just what we needed. A little relaxation, a lot of fun adventures, and some solid time for just the two of us. Best of all, we didn’t even have to go far to do that! Our city is filled with so much to do, and I have a new appreciation for the greatness that is the “staycation.” Before it was even over, we decided this needs to become a regular thing. A big thank you to Craig for treating me to an amazing birthday gift of adventure, great food, and time together!

celebrating 90

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My grandmother Nana turned 90 this month — what an incredible milestone in life! We packed up what seemed like everything in our house to travel with the bebe down to Jacksonville, FL last weekend for her big celebration.

To be honest, I’d been stressed about this trip for weeks. Taking a barely one month old baby on a 5 hour drive out of state did not seem like the most fun idea, especially considering she’d never spent more than an hour in her car seat. But we were pleasantly surprised at how well she traveled! She slept almost the entire trip down, and she was pretty easy the entire weekend. Maybe everyone was right by saying this really is a good age to travel with. 🙂 My cousin Alli and her family were gracious enough to host us at their home so we didn’t have to be cooped up in a hotel room with a newborn, and it made our trip so much better. She even had mints on our pillows… Hotel Vogt is the 5 star!


We had the best time visiting with all of my mom’s family, and I’m so happy that all of my aunts, uncles, cousins, and other extended relatives got to meet Leighton so early in her little life. Most importantly, our grandmother Nana got to hold and love on her newest great granddaughter! It was a sweet, lovely sight.

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Aside from visiting with family, we spent some time down in Avondale, which is the cutest area of boutiques and restaurants. We had a fantastic brunch at Brick Restaurant, and mama got a long-awaited mimosa! After helping with some birthday party setup, we headed back to Avondale for some football watching, beer drinking, and hot pretzel eating at the nicest Mellow Mushroom I’ve ever seen.

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Saturday night, we celebrated Nana’s 90th birthday with a big party at my aunt and uncle’s home, which used to belong to my grandparents. I love going back to this house because it brings back so many great childhood memories – and it’s a fantastic place for parties! Nana was surrounded by not only all of her family, but many of her lifelong friends, which was really neat to see. We dined on Cuban food outside under strings of lights and colorful lanterns, watched college football (not happy about that Georgia game), and watched a sweet slideshow documenting Nana’s wonderful life. It was a perfect celebration for our favorite Nana!

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nashville recap

You are probably tired of hearing about birthday celebrations, but I don’t care! hehe just kidding. We had such a fun weekend celebrating Craig’s birthday and Auburn’s win (not even going to talk about that UGA disappointment) in one of our most favorite cities. Nashville has so much to offer, yet we rarely get to take in much of it because we’re always visiting for a short amount of time and have lots of people to see while we’re there. I think we need to plan a trip back sometime to play tourist in Craig’s hometown. We did manage to squeeze in a tiny bit of time wandering downtown and taking in the beautiful weather from the rooftop of Rock Bottom Brewery, though, so I’ll take that for now.

We got to spend a little time with Craig’s family in Franklin, which included this delicious homemade cheesecake.
And then, for the first time in our 8+ year relationship…. I got to ride in his beloved Super Sport! It was an exciting moment in time. This gal is an “antique” and was the best car ever, from what I’m told. Craig’s grandparents have been babysitting her for the past several years, and I’m glad I got to take a quick joy ride in it before he sells it…. and speaking of, for anyone in Nashville area, it’s for sale!
We got in a little time downtown at sunset. It was the PERFECT weather for happy hour on the rooftop!

And we had some honky tonk adventures.


My bestie came in town from NYC. Yay!

Saturday, we literally spent 12 hours watching football. All of our teams won except for Georgia, the team we actually came to Nashville to watch play Vandy. A very disappointing loss, indeed. We still managed to have a good time.



For gameday, Craig wore one of my grandfather Bop’s Auburn shirts that he recently inherited. I know Bop was smiling down on us about Auburn’s big win AND Craig’s choice of shirt for the day!

The Batman Building in all its glory

MMM… nothing beats waffle house for birthday breakfast! When did they start making waffles with their logo on them?

It was a most fun weekend with Craig’s family and several of our favorite friends. Thank you to everyone who made Craig feel extra special, and especially to those who helped us celebrate all weekend. There’s not a much better way to celebrate another year, right?

celebrating 31

October 20th is a pretty special day in our house. Craig turns 31 this Sunday, so he gets a special little post all to himself! I bet he’s blushing as we speak.

I promise not to be too mushy, because I know Craig just looooves when people do that for all the world to see, but I wanted to give him a shout out while we’re in Nashville for his birthday this weekend, because he’s pretty awesome.

He cooks dinner! (And sometimes, he even helps clean up the mess he’s made while cooking said dinners.)

He builds and fixes things!

He’s the sweetest dad to Coco, and I know he’ll be even better with our non-furry children one day.

He likes organizing cookouts and bus outings to football games for us and our friends to enjoy.

He humors me and is generally just along for the ride (like driving a total of 3 hours just to go pumpkin picking or pretending to be attacked by a fake bear for our family’s entertainment on vacation).

He’s not afraid to dress up like Santa, a redneck, or a pilot from Top Gun in the name of a good time.

He loves my family like his own.

I don’t know what I did to deserve it, but God graced me with the most incredible best friend and husband I could have ever asked for.
I hope you have the HAPPIEST of birthdays, Craig! I love you more than you’ll ever know!

super chase is one!

Our friends have the most adorable little boy, Chase. It’s been so much fun watching him grow from a teeny tiny baby into a walking, “talking” one-year-old this past year. Over the weekend, we were invited to celebrate his 1st birthday at the park with a superhero-themed party — costumes encouraged. I’ve never seen so many crime fighting babies!



The birthday boy with his dad and mom::

Batman + Robin!

Some of the most adorable superheroes (and a princess)::



Smash cake::

It was a BIG hit::




Uncle Chris + Super Chase::

Best friends + their babies::

Lots of superheroes showed up to celebrate::

Proof of a good party::

Happy Birthday, little guy! We are excited to see what the next year brings you!

cabo san lucas birthday trip:: part 2

The guys spent Sunday golfing at the course across the street, so we picked out prime seats at the pool and stationed ourselves there for 8 hours. And of course we treated ourselves to some salty dogs and ritas at the swim-up bar.


The Hilton had such wonderful service. Each day at the pool, someone walked around with a wooden cart and handed out the tiniest, cutest popsicles I’ve ever seen. We chose coconut. What a refreshing treat after being out in the sun all day!

One of my favorite dinners was at Fenicia, an Italian restaurant at the resort.  We sat poolside and had the prettiest view as the sun set over the ocean and reflected onto the pool. 




They surprised me with a birthday dessert (one night early).

After dinner and drinks, we did a little night swimming. The perfect way to end a wonderful day!

8.26.13 — happy 30th birthday to me! The day was absolutely perfect from start to finish — minus one thing. Craig was taken prisoner by Montezuma’s revenge of some sort, and he sadly had to stay in bed the entire day. I hated leaving him inside while we enjoyed our last day of the trip, but I’m thankful that he at least got to enjoy the first few days with us. For those wondering, he’s mostly better now. That Montezuma is no joke.


For my birthday dinner, we were driven on a golf cart to the nearby Las Ventanas Resort. It was one of the neatest, most beautiful resorts I’ve ever seen. Cacti everywhere, white pueblo-style buildings, and an infinity pool that looked like it flowed right into the ocean. We ate at The Restaurant and had the most gorgeous view. It was a most perfect meal — all of us agreed it was one of the best we’ve ever had.




Aside from Craig’s illness, our trip was one of my most favorite that we’ve ever taken. We didn’t do much other than relax by the pool, eat fantastic food, and take in the gorgeous views at the beach, but that was exactly how I wanted to celebrate my birthday. I’ll always cherish the family trips we take, and this was no exception. Can’t wait till our next one!

cabo san lucas birthday trip:: part 1

We just returned from Cabo San Lucas, Mexico in celebration of my 30th birthday (and my dad’s 58th birthday, too!). My parents are so incredibly generous to have treated us to this trip, and I will always be grateful for these family trips we’re so fortunate to take together.

Our trip got off to a rocky start in Atlanta when our flight was cancelled almost immediately upon getting to the airport. After a lot a bit of griping and complaining, we were moved to the next flight out to Dallas and then onto Cabo… which left us with about 5 hours to kill. We managed to pass the day away with mimosas and a most delicious lunch at One Flew South, which is the fanciest airport restaurant I’ve ever seen.


After a full evening of travel, we arrived in paradise!
(This photo was actually taken on our way home — I just loved the giant letters on top of the airport.)

We chose to stay at the Hilton Los Cabos, which is in the “corridor” between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo, so we rented a van to have our own transportation (I hear cab rides are rather pricey there).  On our way to the resort, we stopped at Mi Casa in the sleepy town of San Jose del Cabo for dinner. The restaurant was really neat — lots of small, colorful rooms, a big outdoor seating area, and a beautiful shop with all sorts of Mexican-inspired trinkets and art.

We had the most yummy, fresh margaritas at dinner, and then when we arrived for check-in at the Hilton, we were greeted with frozen strawberry ritas! That’s what I’m talking about, Hilton.

Saturday morning, we woke up to this. It’s the most gorgeous view I’ve ever seen from a hotel balcony. We seriously lucked out with the location of our rooms — almost top floor and smack dab in the center of the building, giving us the perfect view of the pool and ocean.

I was so worried the week leading up to the trip because of the weather forecast — 60% and 80% chance of rain the first two days. But after a couple quick showers the first two mornings, we had nothing but beautiful sunshine the rest of the trip.

We didn’t get to see it up close, but that giant fenced-in area is where they were burying sea turtle eggs, which should hatch this fall. 

I’ve never seen so many aloe plants in my life.

Our one trip down to the beach.  The first day, the water was so rough that every time it hit the rocks, it would spray up probably at least 20 feet in the air. Quite a sight. The sand was really coarse and sort of hard to walk in, so we stuck to the infinity pool for the rest of our stay. It was closer to the waiters anyway.


The most perfect day. The infinity pool was incredible!
This was the view coming out of our rooms. I love the contrast of the bright clay roof with the blue sky, palm trees, and mountains. 

This is as close as we got to Land’s End, the famed rock formation out in the ocean. We went into Cabo San Lucas just once for dinner, and that was enough for me. I’m not a fan of being harassed by salespeople as we walk down the street, so we decided we’d prefer to stay by the pool at the Hilton instead. I’d have loved to take a boat ride to see Land’s End closer, but maybe next time! 

Dinner at 12 Tribes at the Casa Dorada Hotel. Best tres leches cake and churros ever. Craig tried to lick the plate.


We may have ordered a second helping of this — and extra ice cream.

That covers the first half of our trip! I wish I could share every photo, but you’d be here all day. Check back soon for the second half — and a post about one of the best dinners we’ve ever had.

hola, 30!

I’m 30 and celebrating in Mexico with the 5 people nearest and dearest to me. How in the world did that happen (turning 30, I mean)?

Growing up, I’ve always thought of 30 as a pretty big milestone for which to have accomplished various things in life. When I was in middle school, I made a book about my life (past, present, and future). Let’s see if those predictions ring true. At the ripe old age of about 24 (which I must have thought was ancient back then), my future self was living in Woodstock, GA (funny, right?), married with TWINS (even funnier), and owned a clothing store called Ziggy’s. I was quite ambitious.

Although I don’t own a clothing store or have twins who are 6 years old, there is no doubt in my mind that my life at 30 is more than I ever could have imagined or hoped for.  I’ve been married for over 4 years to the love of my life and we’re building a pretty awesome life together, if I do say so myself. I’m so loved by family and friends, and I love them all just as much in return. We have the funniest, most adorable puppy who never fails to bring a smile to our faces. I have not one, but two jobs that give me a purpose in different ways. I’ve gotten to travel the world and have a travel bucket list that’s still a mile long… I have no doubt I’ll get to cross off many of those items over time.  I count my blessings every day, because sometimes I just can’t believe I’m living the dream. Here’s to a new decade — I am so excited to see what it brings!


ringing in 30!

Last weekend, my darling husband and sweet, sweet sister-in-law and brother threw me the most amazing 30th birthday party! I am one lucky lady. They’ve spent the past couple months talking and planning and planning some more for this special bday bash, and I couldn’t be more thankful. It was evident all the thought and preparation and creativity that they put into the party, so I had to share. I truly couldn’t have planned a better celebration myself — it was perfect!

Koozies, Mad Libs, a photo guest book documenting my 30 years, and fun little pony pens! Why ponies? I’d been asking for some details about the party for weeks, but of course they would give no information. Craig finally told me that there would be ponies at the party, and it quickly became a running joke. I’m glad they followed through. 🙂

How cute are those goggles? PS — Publix makes a delicious cookie cake. Watch out, Great American Cookie Co. 

Coco’s sweet face even made an appearance at the party! 

I am obsessed with these giant balloons and can’t wait to use them for whatever party I host next. Although I hear it’s not easy to transport them once blown up… 

I am so glad we got this photo of most of the girls. I love my friends like family, and all of these girls are so special to me!
Best hosts and hostess, and also best family. Couldn’t ask for anything more with these three.




Love these gold balloons, too.
It really was the best night and the best way to ring in 30 (a tad early).  They even had my favorite pizza-making friends, S & J’s Pizza, cater the party. It was a huge hit, as always. I am so thankful for amazing friends to celebrate with, and even more thankful for the most thoughtful, generous husband, brother, and sister-in-law for making me feel so special! Now on to Cabo this wknd to continue the celebration with my family!

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 etsy.com (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?


MyPublisher.com 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!