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 7 years as a mrs.

Today we celebrate 7 years of marriage! I feel like I say this every year, but I still always wonder how time has gone so quickly since our last anniversary. I guess it’s true that time flies when you’re having fun, right?

This past year has hands down been the best one yet, for one obvious, chubby little reason named Leighton. 😉 Becoming parents has been the most exciting and awe-inspiring thing we’ve ever done together, and I wake up every day so thankful that I get to share this experience with you, Craig. And I know the adventures are really just beginning!

You are my best friend and the best teammate and partner I could ever have asked for. You never fail to impress me with your handy skills, you work so hard to support our family and plan for our future, you can cook a mean dinner, you go along with my wacky ideas and various projects, and you never tell me “no” when I say that we just have to have dessert.

You love me so well, even when I sometimes probably don’t deserve it. You make me laugh, you make me feel safe, and you make me so very happy. Cheers to SEVEN incredible years of marriage! Here’s to many, many more years of memory-making with our little family!

And of course I couldn’t write a post without photos, so here are some of my favorite moments from our past year together…

unnamed (2)





my 1st mother’s day


There’s really no better way to start my first Mother’s Day than by being woken up by my favorite two people in the whole world. I usually get up first thing with Leighton to feed her, but Craig got her up and brought her into our room so they could give me presents (which included these super soft Mama Bear and Baby Bear tshirts) and cards in bed – so sweet!


We met my parents, brother and sister-in-law for brunch at Paces & Vine, which we’ve been wanting to try since it popped up in the Vinings. I wanted about half a dozen things on the menu, but I chose the Chorizo Frittata with grits, and it did not disappoint. Biscuits and blueberry muffins, the malted waffle, and the chilaquiles dish were all highlights, too. Miss LL was a little angel during our meal – she’s gotten so much better at hanging out in her high chair, as long as she has things to play with (usually a spoon or straw instead of her actual toys).


Afterward, we showered my sweet mom with some gifts and played with Leighton and Coco, and then mom and I got to sneak off to Polished for pedicures and mimosas. Yay! This has become our new yearly tradition, and I love it.

Mother’s Day ended with the most delicious home-cooked meal at my sister-in-law’s parents’ house. My brother seriously should have been a chef, and I’ll happily eat his creations any time. On the menu: grilled skirt steak, blistered tomatoes, polenta, crusty bread, and a couple salads. Oh my, those tomatoes! And the polenta and steak! I’m still so stuffed as I write this.

We sat on her parents’ new deck, enjoyed the beautiful evening weather, and played with their Dachshund, Meyer. As you can see below, Leighton was a big fan of this dog that is about the size of Coco’s head. Meyer enjoyed having her ears pulled and feet massaged by tiny baby hands.

I made this butter pecan bundt cake with caramel icing, which is a recipe that Craig’s grandmother gave me last year. I appreciate that it’s super easy, but it looks impressive and is SO GOOD. It was almost demolished, but I did get to bring a little bit home. I’ll probably have it for breakfast. 😉

It’s absolutely wonderful having my parents living here now to celebrate these special days (as well as so many of the regular, run-of-the-mill days), and we had such a great time visiting with family. Craig and Leighton made me feel extra special, and we all got to do the same for our amazing mom. She’s the best mom we could ever ask for, and she’s also the perfect example of how to be a loving, selfless mom to Leighton. I’m so happy we have her nearby to be such a big part of our lives now.

Sunday was the best day, and I still just pinch myself that this is the life I get to live. I’m forever thankful to call this happy little ladybug my baby girl. 

Leighton’s 1st Easter


We went up to Nashville (well, really to Franklin) to spend Easter weekend with Craig’s family, and it was egg-cellent! 😉 That was our first time back to visit since Christmas, so Leighton had changed quite a bit and had a lot of fun playing with all of her TN family.


Thankfully, since we didn’t have to worry about time off from work, we were able to make a long weekend out of it, which was so nice. We celebrated Craig’s brother’s 23rd birthday with a cookout, had a delicious brunch with a bunch of friends at Tupelo Honey, and ate a lot of good home-cooked meals with his family.




On Sunday, we went to church with Craig’s family — Leighton made it about halfway through the service before being over it, which was all sorts of fun. 😉 She woke up at 5 that morning, so needless to say, she was not too happy to have been awake for over 4 hours at that point (and neither was I!). But aside from wrangling what felt like a tiny baby alligator while standing in the back, it was a lovely Easter service.  Afterward, we ate a massive lunch feast at Craig’s aunt and uncle’s house with about 50 family members. The kids had an egg hunt in the backyard, and I can’t wait for  Leighton to be big enough to participate next year!








Leighton got three more Easter baskets (she already got one from my parents, which included a flamingo beach towel and an adorable pink bunny, both with her name embroidered on them). Craig’s parents gave her a pink swing to keep up there for our visits and a cute spring outfit… and we’re going to keep all of her candy for ourselves. Sorry, baby! Craig’s grandparents also had a basket of goodies for her, including some yummy baby food, board books about animals, and a silver bank and cup/fork/spoon set from when Craig was a baby. His grandmother made the sweet little macrame basket years ago, which she gave to Leighton to keep.



I had so much fun putting together Leighton’s first Easter basket. In true “planner” fashion, I’d started thinking about it a couple months ago. We got her a cute white basket and pink gingham liner with her name embroidered on it, and I just love it! She got two swimsuits, a sweet pink and white embroidered bib, a Winkel toy, and a couple springy cotton headbands. I love buying her books, so we included one with illustrated Bible stories and a board book about a funny dog named George — and of course a chocolate bunny, which I’ll eat for her. 😉


It was so nice celebrating this special holiday weekend with Craig’s family and having a few relaxing days to visit with everyone. With each visit, Leighton is able to interact with everyone more, and it’s been so fun seeing her laugh and play with each of them. We can’t wait to come back next month – this time, for Craig’s 15 year high school reunion! Eek!

Ringing in 2016

Welcome to 2016, friends! To ring in the new year, we actually headed back out of town (for the 3rd weekend in a row) to the mountains in Helen, GA. We rented an amazing little cabin with 4 of our friends and their 3 kids, so we had a total of 6 adults and 4 kids… total insanity, but so much fun. Despite being exhausted, we managed to make it well past midnight on NYE! Leighton celebrated early with her sparkly gold top hat and a party blower, which she preferred to eat and slobber on.

We took a quick trip into downtown Helen for lunch one day. I really wanted a funnel cake, but we settled for giant pretzels and beer cheese sauce at the Troll Tavern instead. 🙂
We each took turns cooking dinner for everyone and ate like kings all weekend. We spent our nights by the fire roasting marshmallows for s’mores after the kids were asleep, playing “Fibbage” (a fun trivia game using the tv and our iphones), and telling stories and laughing for hours until we all snuck quietly back into our rooms so we wouldn’t wake the sleeping babies.
The cabin was on top of a hill with the prettiest view of the mountains, especially at sunset.
This is the best dessert ever. Leftover s’mores ingredients used to make a dip. So good and so bad at the same time. A perfect treat to end our weekend away!
I love how vacations seem to make us more tired than we were before going, but they’re still always worth it. We laughed and commiserated about non-sleeping babies with our friends, and we made another batch of memories to add to the ever-growing list. It’s certainly an adventure to travel with so many little ones in the same house for several days, but we wouldn’t have had it any other way. I’m so thankful to have incredible friends to share in this crazy, busy, exciting season of life. Here’s looking forward to another year filled with love, laughter, joy, travel, and many adventures!

Leighton’s 1st Thanksgiving

Last week we celebrated Leighton’s first Thanksgiving, and oh how much we have to be thankful for this year!! The addition of our little girl to our family is of course the biggest blessing we’ve received not just this year, but ever.

Our first trip to Nashville with baby in tow was definitely different than last trips, but we had so much fun trekking around the city introducing her to family and friends. We spent 4 nights there with Craig’s family, but we managed to pack about a month’s worth of visits in while we were there. And along the same lines, we packed half our house to make the trip! Here are a few of our favorite moments from the trip (not pictured are visits with several other friends — somehow, I forgot to snap any photos!).

The perfect baby traveller is a sleeping one::
Cheering on Aunt Cassie at her basketball game::
4 generations with Craig’s grandparents and a portrait of his mom, Karen::
I think it’s now confirmed that L looks just like her daddy::
Thanks for my Gobble onesie, Addison!

Thanksgiving #2::
12299320_994450433951629_2009683306865888208_n (1)
Craig’s family surprised us with a mini shower and sent us home with all sorts of goodies!
A fun afternoon at Arrington Vineyards::
Quality time with some of my best girls::
L didn’t quite cooperate for a photo with Craig’s parents, but we’ll take it!

The holidays have always been something I look forward to — spending time with loved ones, eating delicious food, doing nice things for others, and taking time to really appreciate our many blessings. Having a baby has made these occasions so much more special and memorable, and I know that feeling will only multiply as she gets older. We can’t wait to get back to Nashville next month for Christmas!

Leighton’s First Halloween


Halloween marked Leighton’s first official holiday, and what a fun one to start out with! We dressed her up as a cupcake because I joked throughout my pregnancy that she might come out as a cupcake or donut due to the amount of desserts I ate. 🙂 I found the cutest knit cupcake hat on Etsy and finished off the simple costume with a brown onesie to look like the “cake” portion of the cupcake.



Our neighborhood gets really into Halloween and has a big potluck outside in our green space, followed by a parade of kids in costumes and trick-or-treating. Even before we had Leighton, we’ve always loved this neighborhood tradition. We’d set up shop in the driveway and hang out with the neighbors well after the last trick-or-treaters had passed through. This year, my mom got to join us for the fun and also helped watch L so we could enjoy the night with everyone. Craig set up our fire pit and Adirondack chairs on the driveway, as well as our new Coolest cooler speaker (that also holds drinks this time) and a wagon filled with candy. The fire drew in all sorts of visitors until way past the last round of trick-or-treaters!

Some of my favorites from the neighborhood costume contest were the tiny astronaut, the little green race car (complete with working headlights),the Orange Cabbage Patch Doll, and the family of vampires and a miniature bat.


Little cupcake managed to sleep snuggled up next to me in her carrier for the majority of the festivities, but she promised that she’d be up for more fun next year when she’s 1.

celebrating 90

unnamed (4)

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.

unnamed (1)

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.

unnamed (5)
unnamed (6)

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!

unnamed (9)
unnamed (3)
unnamed (8)
unnamed (7)

a garden party for baby girl!

My sweet sister-in-law told me she wanted to host a baby shower for me as soon as we announced our exciting news at the beginning of the year, so I’ve been looking forward to this special day for a long time! Lauren is quite the party planner, and she completely outdid herself this time! It’s obvious how very much baby girl’s aunt loves her by the creativity, thought, and sweet touches she put into every detail of the shower.

Lauren’s talented dad painted this piece below for us to hang in the nursery, and it couldn’t be more perfect! He’s a self-taught painter and woodworker, and we just love his artwork, so it is extra special to have a custom piece for her room!

The shower was held at her parents’ home, which is like being in an art gallery because every wall is filled with her dad’s paintings and wood pieces. I was thrilled when she told me it would be there — it’s such a beautiful place! 
Also — baby girl finally has a name! After much debate, we settled on Leighton Lane Hayes, and we couldn’t be happier with our choice. We wanted something unique but not weird, and I thought that Leighton was such a pretty name (for those who haven’t heard it before, it’s pronounced “lay-ton”). Her middle name Lane is in memory of Craig’s mother, Karen Elaine. We joked that she’s going to end up with the nickname “LL Cool Hayes” (like the singer LL Cool J), but that only “old” people like her parents will be the ones making that reference. 🙂

The best hostess/sister-in-law there is::
Neighbors having babies this summer — future bffs::
Thank you to our moms and sisters and all of my fabulous friends who came out to celebrate Leighton’s upcoming arrival! She is one loved little lady, and we’re incredibly blessed and thankful to be surrounded by so many amazing people to share in this exciting time! We love you all.

travel:: a charleston affair

Last weekend, we traveled to Charleston, SC to celebrate our friends Casey and Connor at their wedding, and what a fun weekend it was! We and about 25 of our friends stayed on Folly Beach and made a long weekend vacation out of it. I don’t know if it could have possibly been any hotter and more humid, but at least we had a beach to spend our days at. 🙂

While we were out on Folly or at wedding festivities most of the time, I just love visiting the Charleston area — it’s such a beautiful, fun city with so much to do. We had the best time celebrating our friends, and it also served as our “last hoorah” before baby Hayes makes her debut in less than 2 months. I may be tired with slightly swollen feet, but it was one for the books! Congrats, Mr. and Mrs. Warfield!

[lunch on Folly Beach]
[welcome party in Mt. Pleasant – such a fitting name for the setting]
[kicking off the wedding weekend with the bride]
[beach day with the groom]
[rehearsal dinner at the Country Club of Charleston – such a beautiful view!]
[out and about in Charleston]
IMG_9542[wedding reception at the Carolina Yacht Club]
[Mr. and Mrs. Warfield]
[our last wedding and big outing before baby H arrives!]