travel:: Scottsdale, AZ

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For the last leg of our anniversary trip, we headed down to Scottsdale for 3 nights of resort living. We stopped by Old Town on the way in, and it was just the cutest place — even more so at night once the streets and trees are lit up with what seemed like millions of tiny white lights. Old Town is filled with tons of great restaurants and bars, and even more jewelry and souvenir shops.

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It was so hard to choose a resort — there were too many that all looked fabulous. We ended up at the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch… largely because of that water slide below! The resort had something like 10 pools (some tiny, but who’s measuring), including an adults-only pool, and that giant slide, which was so fun! I may or may have not been the only adult in line with a dozen 5-year-olds. We sat by the pool for 2 solid days, which I think we earned after our rigorous hiking excursions. ūüėČ

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What I loved most about the resort property was the huge open courtyard and open-air lobby area. The view was so inviting for breakfast, lunch, sushi/cheese/wine happy hour, and¬†for nighttime entertainment. Southwest Bistro¬†was my favorite restaurant onsite — I got the southwest chicken caesar salad both days for lunch, and I kinda wish I had one right now.¬†¬†
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In between laying hanging out at the pool and hugging cacti, we tried a few really great restaurants, with our favorites¬†being The Mission and El Chorro. You know I’ll have a blog post coming soon.¬†
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The last full day of the trip, we were up at literally before the crack of dawn to do something I’ve been wanting to do for years — ride in a hot air balloon!! This was the 2nd item I was able to check off my bucket list during this trip, and I’ve been so excited about it since booking it a few¬†months ago. We had to call the night before to ensure that the weather would be good enough to fly, and thankfully it was. After reading tons and tons of reviews, I chose¬†2 Fly Us Hot Air Balloons¬†(if we were going to float thousands of feet into the air in a tiny basket, I wanted to at least make sure we were choosing a SAFE¬†tiny basket and a great pilot).

Kevin is the owner of 2 Fly Us, and he was our pilot and tour guide of the open air. He and his “chase crew” — an ex-Seattle Seahawks player named Gene — were so professional, friendly, and really made us feel comfortable. The cool thing about these companies is that they ¬†coordinate take-off sites so that their customers get to see all of the other balloons being blown up and photograph them while they’re flying near them in the air. Our basket held just 5 people, which we really liked, but one of the groups had a basket holding 20!

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It was so neat to watch each team quickly but very carefully unroll the balloons, connect them to the baskets (which were lying on their sides on the ground), and then turn on the fuel to essentially air up the balloon and lift it upright. To me, the only really unnerving part of the process was hopping into the half-upright basket and having it wobble around until it righted itself with the flow of the wind and took off into the air.

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Once up in the air, the balloon just¬†sort of goes where the wind takes it. The ride was surprisingly incredibly smooth and stable. We reached a height of about 5,300 feet and then (very) slowly swooped down in between mountains so low that I thought we might end up on top of a cactus… and then before we knew it, we’d be heading right back up into the sky again.
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Our pilot and chase crew communicated via radios to determine a landing spot. I was a little worried about crash landing, but it was so smooth. Kevin really knows what he’s doing. Once we disembarked, Gene quickly rolled the giant balloon back up into its container. I would most certainly¬†have had that thing in a colossal knot if that were my job.¬†
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And another fun¬†part…. a champagne toast to celebrate a successful flight! We held our glasses toward the rising sun and Kevin recited what is called “The Balloonist’s Prayer,” which goes like this:
May the winds welcome you with softness.
May the sun bless you with its warm hands.
May you fly so high and so well that God
joins you in laughter and sets you gently
back into the loving arms of Mother Earth.
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I¬†can’t say enough how much I loved our hot air balloon experience. Flying peacefully through the sky, between mountains, above cacti in the desert, and next to several other giant, glowing balloons was one of the single most amazing things I’ve ever gotten to do. It was the perfect cap to an incredible trip celebrating 5 wonderful, joyous years of marriage. I’m excited¬†to see where we end up for our 10th!

travel:: the Grand Canyon

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From Sedona, we drove up to the Grand Canyon National Park, which has been a longtime item on my bucket list. The 2.5 hour drive up to the park was really pretty, with a good bit of the first half¬†being through the mountains. I don’t know what I expected, but I certainly didn’t think we’d be taking¬†a drive through the forest in Arizona.

We aren’t incredibly outdoorsy people, so instead of staying several days to hike down to the bottom of the canyon and camp (and then hike back out!), we opted for a night at the historic El Tovar Hotel, positioned at the South Rim. You couldn’t get much closer to the rim unless you slept on the sidewalk. There are several lodges and cabins located in that area of the South Rim, but I really liked staying at El Tovar for our first time there. From the moment you step onto the large, rocking chair-filled front porch and enter through the wooden double doors into the lobby, you can feel the rustic, turn-of-the-century charm. The hotel was built in 1905, and I would bet that¬†a lot of aspects haven’t changed since then. The rooms are somewhat small, but they’re well-equipped with modern amenities (even a Kuerig coffee maker) — and I loved the tile work in the bathroom.

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We arrived late in the afternoon and took a scenic drive out to Grandview¬†Point (thanks to a suggestion from our Canadian friends in Sedona) to get our first glimpse of the canyon. It was so incredibly impressive — photos we’d seen just did no justice to how magnificent the sheer size is.

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Bright and early the next morning, we started our hike down the Bright Angel Trail, which was only¬†about a quarter mile down from the hotel. Like I said… we’re not hikers. So going about 1.5 miles down into the canyon and 1.5 miles back out was PLENTY for us. Add in the high altitude, and we thought me might not make it out. I will say that it’s supposed to take twice as long coming back up, but¬†we did it in equal time… so maybe we were going¬†a bit faster on the way out than we should have. We must have looked tired, because there were several people who passed us and asked if we’d gone all the way to the bottom — HA!

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The trail¬†itself, though, was quite peaceful. It was neat to just stop every so often and take in the grand view and how far we’d made it down. We decided afterward that we liked the hiking in Sedona better, but I’m so glad we did the GC.

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After cleaning up (we were COVERED in orange dust!) and checking out of the El Tovar, we hopped back in the car to make the 4 hour trek down to Scottsdale. Once out of the park, we came back¬†by this bizarre little place called The Flintstones Bedrock City. It has been around for over 45 years and consists of a campground, diner, and theme¬†park. Craig was just dying to check it out, so we took a chance on it and stopped for lunch. While the place was¬†pretty deserted, the lunch was a nice little surprise. It was nothing fancy — burgers, hot dogs, and the like (all with Flintstones-themed names) — but it was well-made and much better than stopping at McDonald’s. We didn’t end up paying to go through the theme park, but I’m sure it would have brought back many fond memories of one of the best cartoon families there ever was.

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travel:: Sedona, AZ

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Craig and I took a trip out to Arizona last week in celebration of our 5-year wedding anniversary. We got married in June, but while researching our trip, I found that it would be well into the 100s by then, so we chose to go a couple months early. We flew into Phoenix and rented a car so we could road trip it to Sedona, the Grand Canyon, and Scottsdale for 6 days. I took way too many photos (surprise!), so I’ve broken the trip up into 3 posts.

We¬†absolutely loved Arizona. The landscape must have changed a dozen times along our various drives, and I just couldn’t get over all those giant cacti! We met so many friendly people, hiked the most gorgeous trails, ate too many yummy things, sang along to approximately 1,000 songs¬†on our¬†drives through the desert and mountains, and I got to check not one, but two, items off my bucket list! It was the perfect way to ring in 5 years with my one and only. I hope you enjoy our road trip through Arizona!

First up, lunch at MacAlpine’s Restaurant & Soda Fountain in Phoenix. It’s a little time warp back to the 50s with a soda fountain featuring too many flavors to count. We sat at the counter and enjoyed lunch and shakes before hitting the road to Sedona.

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Our view from the Best Western Plus in Sedona — I could not get over that view! I’d highly recommend this hotel, especially for a short stay.¬†
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Pink Jeep Tours:: One of our favorite things we did! This was recommended by almost everyone we talked to who has been to Sedona, and they were right. It was the perfect way to get an up-close view of the Red Rocks without having to huff it through the mountains on foot. Our tour guide was awesome — just enough interesting info and funny jokes — and he was a very¬†experienced driver, which is important when driving up and down 45-degree inclines and HUGE rocks. I would ¬†have had that jeep upside down¬†in no time.¬†
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The photo below is¬†in memory¬†of my cousin Stuart. He took a similar photo on a GA mountain not too long before his passing, and it perfectly captured the pure joy of his personality. While having a little photo shoot out on the Red Rocks, Craig had the sweet idea to pay homage to¬†him¬†with a reenactment¬†of his “jumping” photo. Not so sure about mine, but I think Craig totally¬†nailed it. ūüôā
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We were up bright and early the next morning to hike Devil’s Bridge. Our neighbors recommended that trail, and it was another of our favorite activities. The views were unmatched, and the trail was really fun to hike. The drive into the trailhead, however, was not for the faint of heart. I was wishing we had that pink jeep from the day before…. and I’m surprised we didn’t completely break our rental suv in the process. Those “roads” are no joke! We even ended up picking up a¬†nice older Canadian couple on the drive out from the trailhead because they’d accidentally walked the wrong way to their car. They in turn gave us their Grand Canyon Park pass, which saved us $25! Karma, people.
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The town of Sedona is so cute. It was a sort of random addition to the trip itinerary, but I’m so, so glad we visited. Nice people, lots of restaurants, great hiking, too many palm readers and “crystal” shops to count, and unparalleled views of the Red Rocks.¬†It ended up being the surprise favorite for both of us!¬†

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.
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He cooks dinner! (And sometimes, he even helps clean up the mess he’s made while cooking said dinners.)
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He builds and fixes things!
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He’s the sweetest dad to Coco, and I know he’ll be even better with our non-furry children one day.
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He likes organizing cookouts and bus outings to football games for us and our friends to enjoy.
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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).
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He’s not afraid to dress up like Santa, a redneck, or a pilot from Top Gun in the name of a good time.
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He loves my family like his own.
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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!
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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!

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Hoopla, Vegas style:: part 1

Another Hoopla has come and gone… and I’m only just recovering. What is Hoopla, ¬†you may ask? It’s only one of the best trips all year — Stella & Dot’s annual conference for Stylists. This was my 4th Hoopla and the first one that’s been in Las Vegas since I’ve been with the company. I think it’s safe to say the trip lived up to the hype. The conference took place at the Paris Hotel, so the theme of “Joie de Vivre” was very fitting. ¬†Join me on a little trip to Paris (in Vegas)!

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Ok, so this doesn’t look much like work, but it was a fantastic way to start the week.
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Without a doubt, this year had the BEST free swag for Stylists. I received the How Does She Do It tote in Painted Zebra,  Union Square Scarf in Painted Zebra (which now comes with a handy little storage bag), Linda Studs, Moxie Stretch Bracelet, and other fun goodies! 
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We started Hoopla off with the fashion show and debut of the new fall 2013 collection, which is always one of my favorite parts. One of my team members, Devon, attended Hoopla for the 2nd time, and I’m so glad I got to share in the fun with her! (And of course my Stylist friend and roomie, Shannon, too!)
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Who else has legit Vegas can-can dancers at their work conference?
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This year, there was a fun Stylist boutique where we could have our makeup done, portraits taken for new business cards, and sample new Smirnoff flavors. We thoroughly enjoyed it.
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IN LOVE with the new Madison Tech Bag in poppy!!! It has zippers on the sides to make it more compact, the strap is adjustable/removable, and it’s coming out in black in August! This is a definite must-have for the girl on the go.¬†
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Another favorite thing about Hoopla is the time we get to spend just visiting, celebrating, and learning from with our fellow Stylists from around the country, many whom we only see once a year. I’ve made so many amazing friends through my job with Stella & Dot, and I so look forward to spending this time with them. It’s incredible to see the success that so many of them have achieved over the past year — from earning an incentive trip to Mexico, to being top in sponsoring, or being #1 in sales in the ENTIRE company (I’m looking at you, Alex!). That’s what is so wonderful about the Stylist community — we help and encourage everyone to go above and beyond their goals, and when they do, we CELEBRATE! This year, the Dixie Dots did it in style with a penthouse suite overlooking the Nevada mountains.
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Our Senior Director and leader of the Dixie Dots team, Anna, made awards for lots of our team members. This was mine, which I greatly appreciate. Thanks to Anna for making everyone feel special!
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You can’t go to Vegas without seeing the beautiful Bellagio fountain show.¬†
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Or the Chihuly blown glass sculptures in the Bellagio lobby.
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That was one looong day, but so fun and so worth it!  Part 2 coming later this week.

Friends + Food + Floating + Fireworks!

I hope everyone had a safe/fun/relaxing/exciting weekend! We traveled to Mt. Juliet, TN for the 16th annual 4th of July weekend at our friend’s family lake house.¬†As with most of the Southeast, we had a pretty rain-filled holiday, but we made the best of it! We got some games (Sour Apples to Apples, Cards Against Humanity, and Heads Up for Iphone) and had the most entertaining time waiting out the rain. We had a much smaller group this time around… around 12 or so compared to 30+ in past years, but we had a fabulous time, as we always do!

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We set up a giant tent so we could at least enjoy the outdoors while we played all afternoon. 
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BFFs since high school, and the mister on the left is the reason we met! They also love America. 
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Every year, we have a big, fancy dinner at the Cherokee Steakhouse. Meaning that it’s an all-you-can-eat steak and bring-your-own-cooler type of place. ūüôā It’s always a great time. And I hear it’s for sale with the marina behind it for a cool $6 million if any of you are interested.¬†
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Last year, we started a new tradition of going into Nashville to celebrate our friend Hunter’s birthday. This year, we stepped it up a notch with a party bus, complete with a dance floor, which came in quite handy for travel entertainment.¬†
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Nothing but magic.
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Downtown at the honky tonks — this is Craig’s favorite, The Stage. I love the giant mural of country legends along the wall.¬†
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On our last day, we finally got a break from the rain and were able to take the boat out. Perfect way to end our weekend!
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Actually, this was the perfect way to end the trip — a private fireworks show by the neighbors. So pretty!
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Despite the less than stellar weather for the 4th, we had a fantastic weekend because we were with wonderful friends. You can’t beat a trip ¬†filled with friends, food, floating, and fireworks!

4 years + a beach trip to celebrate

As I’ve mentioned in a couple of my last posts, we took a vacation to St. Augustine, FL last weekend in celebration of our 4th anniversary. St. Augustine is one of my most favorite places in the world. My mom’s family has had a beach house there for over 30 years, and I grew up going there every year. We have so many cherished memories of spending time there with our family and friends. And one of the very best memories is having gotten married there on 6.6.09! I love the historic downtown and cobblestone streets, great seafood restaurants and funny biker bars, private beach and orange sand covered in colorful tiny shells, and really just everything about the area. So what better way to celebrate than bring 8 friends and a baby with us for the long weekend?

The trip started off a little rocky with crazy rain all the way to FL from the impending tropical storm Andrea. When we got to the beach house, the waves were some of the craziest I’ve ever seen there, and the tide was almost up to the walkway. I was more than nervous that we’d all be spending our trip cooped up inside, but the sun miraculously came out on Friday morning and saved the trip. So we stocked up on lots of food and drinks to entertain ourselves with for a few days of uninterrupted beach time bliss.

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Craig and I arrived earlier than everyone else on Thursday so that we could celebrate with dinner at The Columbia, our favorite spot downtown. There are several locations throughout Florida, but we’ve made a tradition of eating there every time we visit. Their white sangria made tableside, cuban bread, and Chicken Salteado dish are my absolute favorites.

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Our morning view from the back deck. Doesn’t get much better than this.
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Our baby friend LOVED his first beach trip!
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I think the guys really wanted to hang out in his pool with him.
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The family beach house.
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The boys found the toys.
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Such a beautiful little face!
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Dining on the deck at Cap’s on the Water. Oysters, fried gator tail, tasty cocktails, fantastic weather,¬†sunset watching, and swordfish that wasn’t on the menu. Such a fun night.
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Neon!
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The last night called for a homecooked seafood feast — sausage/shrimp app,
grouper, mahi, swordfish, grilled corn, and salad —¬†all prepared by the guys.
Best meal of the trip!
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Last weekend flew by way too quickly, but I guess that’s what happens when you’re having a great time, right? We couldn’t have asked for better weather, more laughs from playing late night games, better food, or more fun. I’m so happy we got to spend our anniversary weekend with some of our favorite friends. Till next time!

A Few of My Favorite Things (27)

[June Stella & Dot team meeting in Atlanta Рthe best way to start the month]
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[1st summer trip to Smyrna Food Truck Tuesdays]
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[homemade salsa and bell pepper nachos]
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[look of the week (perfect for beach travel):
navy and white striped dress (Guess, from many years ago) //orange J. Crew cardigan (similar here) // Stella & Dot Cameron Pendant // Wanderlust Triple Wrap Bracelet in turquoise // Renegade Bracelet // Secret Garden Ring]

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[4th anniversary beach vacation in St. Augustine, FL]
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What a week… it started off with a Stella & Dot team meeting with some of my favorite ladies and a picnic in the park for Smyrna Food Truck Tuesdays. This is the first time we’ve been this summer, and it was so much fun. We took a cooler and some folding chairs and set up a little picnic area with several friends (and a couple of their kiddies). The truck lines were HUGE and the air was more than hot, but it was a fun way to spend a Tuesday after work. I chose the coconut fried chicken fingers with sweet rice from Ibiza Bites, and I loved it. Can’t wait to go back!

This week was extra special because June 6th marked our 4-year wedding anniversary! Yippee — we made it! We celebrated with a trip down to my mom’s family beach house in St. Augustine, which is where we got married (in this city, not at the house). It’s one of my most favorite places in the world, so it deserves a dedicated post later this week. We had a fabulous trip with several friends who joined us for the weekend. It’ll be hard to top last weekend, but I’m looking forward to this week’s fun as well!

summer bucket list

BUCKET LIST

Memorial Day has come and gone, and summer is officially here! And while we’ll still be working all summer, I can’t help but want to squeeze in more fun outings and activities than we normally do the rest of the year. I was inspired by this summer bucket list from my friend Natalie and decided I had to have my own. I hope we’re able to cross everything off the list by the end of August!

1. Day trip to Zoo Atlanta (where we were on our 1st official date back in 2005!)

2. Take friends out on our boat on Lake Lanier — DONE

3. Beach trip to St. Augustine for our 4th Anniversary — DONE

4. Braves game¬†— DONE

5. 4th of July at Old Hickory in TN¬†— DONE

6. Try 2 new restaurants each month — DONE

7. Hoopla in Vegas!¬†— DONE

8. Have a big ‚Äėol breakfast at the Original Pancake House— DONE

9. See the Center for Puppetry Arts’ new show, Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat. It’s going to be awesome! — DONE

10. Cookouts with friends and hanging out on the new patio and pallet bed — DONE

11. Lots of Saturday pool time — DONE, but will do again

12. Tuesday night picnic at the Smyrna Food Truck Park — DONE

13. Figure out the curtain/valance situation for Craig’s office windows and guestroom #1¬†— DONE

14. Hit up the Peachtree Road and Marietta Farmers Markets

15. Make a summer sangria recipe like this one¬†— DONE

16. Hike to the top of Stone Mountain

17. Build a cabinet to update our master bathroom counter/mirror space

18. Finish the projection screen project in the basement and break it in with a Bad Boys screening (just for Craig)! — DONE

19. 30th birthday trip to Cabo!!! What better way to end the summer?¬†— DONE