Saturday, July 13, 2013

Natalie's First Birthday

Last weekend was Natalie's first birthday!  We all went out to supper at a Japanese hibachi restaurant (she's been before but this time was not a fan) and then had her party that evening.  

My sister went with a classic pink theme this year since we know Natalie will have her own preferences in the future!  I love these monogrammed cookies.

She enjoyed her own little smash cake...

and (after a little clean-up) lots of presents!

 (with a little help from some friends!)

I can't believe this sweet little girl is already a year old, but I can't wait to see what kind of spunky personality she develops! :)

Happy birthday, Natalie!  Your Aunt Ellen loves you!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Fourth of July Party!

We had a great day yesterday with friends and family.  The weather has been nice this week so we were able to stay outside most of the day.  I love any excuse to put together a table!  We kept all the food inside, so the outdoor table was for drinks and fireworks.

(I got this wreath idea from Puttin' on the G.R.I.T.S.)

We ate, talked, played games....  

 (our favorite local hot dogs)

(and I took advantage of the new dill in our herb garden and made this potato salad)

And it was Natalie's first Independence Day!

Then we enjoyed fireworks into the night.

Hope everyone had a great fourth of July!  How did you celebrate?

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Independence Day!

I've always been patriotic.  I feel a deeper, more personal connection to Independence Day than I do to any other holiday.  I grew up as an Army brat (my dad retired as a Colonel after 28 years) and I really miss hearing the National Anthem playing over loud speakers across an installation and seeing everyone get out of their cars to salute and cover their hearts.  
I remember that touching me, even as a kid. 

One of my very first memories is of singing Lee Greenwood's "Proud to be an American" while swinging on the playground at my preschool.  I would practice my high-swing and sing it over and over and over. 

As a kid, Dad made every effort for us to visit all 50 states in America.  (I've only been to 45 so far, but I know I'll make it to all of them one day.)  My mom is up for a trip anywhere and Dad wanted us to experience all we could, so we traveled A LOT.  Dad always got a photo of

us with every state sign.  A lot of them are in the middle of the night with the only illumination coming from the headlights of my parents' Suburban.  "Kids, wake up!  We're hitting another state!"  Nearly all of my memories of childhood center on the road.

I remember laying my head over the back seat of the car the summer I was thirteen, driving through the empty desert in Arizona, staring into the darkest, starriest sky I'd ever seen.  The thoughts I contemplated on that trip still affect me in my core.

I remember eating the spiciest gingerbread and huddling into a tiny--and warm!--blacksmith shop at Colonial Williamsburg the winter I was seven.  Every time I smell wood burning, I'm transported back to my first--and foggy, and drizzly, yet fantastic--trip to the historical triangle in Virginia (a trip that inspired a still very deep love of American history).

I remember the 20-something hour drive Dad made (in one stretch) from southern Georgia to South Dakota because he'd "always wanted to see Mount Rushmore."  We saw it...and a million prairie dogs, the Badlands, and sunflowers bigger than our heads.  

I remember Dad giving a man in Times Square a bite of his pretzel, just because he asked.  I remember being amazed by the height of the Statue of Liberty and by the mist from Niagara Falls on that same trip.

I remember not being able to take my eyes off of Chimney Rock as we approached from miles away.  I remember driving every back road in Wyoming trying to find wagon-wheel rutts that were supposedly still visible from the Oregon Trail (we never found them) and running around the Dalton Gang hideout with my brother and sister.

I remember peering into the Grand Canyon with my sister while my poor (deathly-afraid-of-heights) mom hollered for us to "get back!"

I remember riding on the back of a horse down the narrowest, steepest trails in Big Bend National Park and walking across the border to Juarez so I could say I'd visited Mexico.  

I remember drinking coffee and eating beignets at Cafe Du Monde...and a muffaletta and Zapps at Central Grocery...and countless other treats shared with my grandparents in New Orleans.

I remember the chills I got when I stepped off of the ferry and onto Fort Sumter during my first trip to Charleston (where Mom took me for my senior trip in high school).  

I remember taking frequent jaunts off of I-40 to ride on the fragments still left of the original Route 66...and sharing a HUGE strawberry shortcake at The Big Texan, a photo opportunity at the Cadillac Ranch, and a creepy night at the historic, haunted St. James Hotel in New Mexico.

The U.S. has such an amazing history and such an awesome span of natural wonders and cultures.  I could honestly write forever about my love for this country.  I feel truly blessed to have been born (although ironically, not in the country) a United States citizen.  Independence Day reminds me not to take that for granted.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Summer Wardrobe Wishlist

A new season always leaves me wishing to update my closet.   There are a lot of pieces that need replacing (every year when I unpack my seasonal clothes there are a few things that just don't suit me anymore) and a lot of pieces that have proven they deserve to be in my closet in more than one color or print.  This summer, I'm liking:

1.  J McLaughlin Gilchrist Dress.  I just bought one of these earlier this year and already can't wait to get another (or five).  Super comfortable and flattering and so easy to throw on for work (no ironing!) or a day out.  I love all of the bold prints.
Factory Winnie pant in stretch twill

2.  J. Crew Factory Winnie Pant.  I try on the Minnie pant at J. Crew every time I go in, but the Winnie just fits me better (maybe the inseam is slightly shorter? or the ankle is slightly wider?) so I keep going back to these.  Unfortunately, I have them in black, navy, and a pretty red-orange called flame...but they don't make these in enough shades!  I check in on the site frequently hoping for new ones.

FINAL SALE - Worth Shift

3.  Lilly Pulitzer Worth Shift.  Sadly, the Worth Shift isn't available anymore, so I spend way too much time every week scouring eBay pre-owned ones. :(  There are plenty of cute new styles this season, but nothing fits me like the Worth.

4.  While we're at it, let's throw in the Lilly Pulitzer Roslyn Skirt, too.  See above note.

5.  Jack Rogers Napa Valley Navajo.    I'm loving all of the cork around this year, and who doesn't need another pair of Jacks?  

6.  Vineyard Vines Seersucker Scallop Hem Margo Skirt.  

     Seersucker?  Scallops?  Sold!

Perfect shirt in suckered gingham

7.  I love the J. Crew Perfect Shirt and want to make this precious pink suckered gingham my next one.  I went through a phase where nearly everything in my closet was pink, so I bought other colors for a long time...and now I have almost no pink!  I'm working on remedying that. :)


J Crew Seville wedge espadrilles, $128

8.  Although I love wearing color, I tend to wear neutral shoes. My go-to black summer shoes are nearing the end of their time. I think these J. Crew Seville Wedge Espadrilles are great for work and still summery and fun enough that I'd want to wear them outside of work, too.

9.   I am usually a stud earring kind of girl and most of them are a bright, solid color.  I own several pairs of Kate Spade ones, but not any in hot pink!  A lot lately I've put together outfits that I think would look so much better with a little touch of these Kate Spade Small Square Studs are definitely on my wishlist.  

10.  I've been wanting a crossbody bag for a while, but I'm quite picky.  I want something simple and small to wear at antique stores, farmers markets, etc. but something that is still cute enough to take out at night if I don't want to deal with a clutch or regular purse.  This Tory Burch Stacked "T" Leather Small Crossbody is perfect.  I love the leather and the skinny adjustable strap.  The only problem is I want both the brown and the black!