Friday, November 30, 2012

A Christmas Dining Room and Guest Post at Savvy Southern Style

With Thanksgiving past us, I've been making a few wintery changes around our home.  As each new season approaches, I always look forward to adding a few elements to our home that remind me of all the things the season brings.

 Pine cones, greenery and hickory nuts have been collected from outside and put out.  As always, my decorating tends to be on the simple side, but even the few little touches make me think about all the things I love about this time of year. 

 You can see more pictures of our dining room decorated for the holiday season over at Kim's today... I'm so happy to be sharing my favorite room (our dining room) over at her beautiful and inspiring blog, Savvy Southern Style

P.S.  My favorite thing in our dining room are the mini grain-sack stockings you see hanging under the mantel.  These were an extremely thoughtful gift from my friend, Ann, who always sends me encouraging words... when I opened the package from her, I was gasping.  She is so talented and makes the most beautiful things... you can find her Etsy shop here

Have a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Our NYC Trip - Part Two

 Do you mind if I share just one more post from our trip to New York City?  I wanted to share the rest of our trip with you, and truthfully, I took so many pictures while we were there that it is hard to narrow it down to just one blog post!

 When we arrived in New York City, Country Living had so kindly arranged for a car to pick us up at the airport... the driver was holding a sign with my name on it, and as we got inside I wondered what he thought about us country-bumpkins.   

(I so badly wanted to get a picture of my husband carrying his hiking backpack with all our clothes inside... I get tickled just thinking about it!)    

   I know my eyes were huge as we drove through Queens and then Manhattan to our motel.  I didn't know which side of the road to look!  Our hotel (the first picture above) was a perfect location... we were within walking distance to so many attractions. We were on the 10th floor and we loved the amazing views out the windows. 

 We didn't waste any time getting started; after checking in, we were off, walking through Times Square and then up to Central Park.  The people... the architecture... the fast pace... it was incredible to take in. 

 I gasped when I first saw Central Park.  Here we had just walked through throngs of people and beside huge buildings and then there was this.  Central Park was beautiful (I think I said something to my husband about it looking like the movies)... I would have loved to have had time to walk the entire park. 

 The next morning we were up bright and early as we had reservations to visit the 9/11 memorial downtown.  Amazingly enough, I had made reservations almost immediately after finding out we would be traveling to NYC, and it was fortunate since after the hurricane hitting they were only honoring reservations already made.  

We also had our first subway experience!  Somehow we made it to our destination without getting lost (smile).  Walking to the memorial, we saw this beautiful old church in the midst of skyscrapers.

We were amazed when we saw the construction of the new towers.  Above is the tallest of the two towers, which will be the tallest building in the United States.  I love the description of the memorial in the brochure we picked up.  It says that the memorial "commemorates the lives lost, recognizes the thousands who survived, and allows visitors to come together again in the spirit of unity that emerged in the wake of 9/11". 

 The memorial was beautiful and yet sobering.  Two pools were placed where the original towers stood and waterfalls cascade into the pools, which then descend into a center empty space. 

 The names of the victims are engraved in bronze panels that surround the pools.  A sign was posted beside the panels inviting visitors to touch the names engraved.  As we walked along, I had a lump in my throat.  And when I saw the name of a woman with the words "and her unborn child" beside it, I was blinking back tears. 

The memorial was amazing.  We were thankful we had the opportunity to visit it and it's something we'll never forget. 

Afterwards, we walked down to the bay to get a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty.  I took this picture of a grocery store on a corner... the city has small grocery stores and delis everywhere.  I could hardly believe the variety of flowers available at this store.

We spent quite a bit of time walking Battery Park alongside the bay.  It was a beautiful day and the park was peaceful and quiet.  


 That evening, after navigating the subway system like professionals (smile) back to our hotel, we walked to 5th Avenue.  It's amazing that this picture doesn't show the vast amount of people... we were often rubbing shoulders with others.  Of course we had to visit F.A.O. Schwarz where we bought the girls their presents from the city (smile). 

 The next morning brought many butterflies with the anticipation of the awards ceremony.  I showed you in my last post the outside of the Hearst tower, but here is a picture of the inside.  We had just ridden up an escalator beside a waterfall and here we got on the elevator to take us up to Country Living.

 We were greeted so warmly and we got to tour the offices of the magazine and see things like a peek of the February issue and their prop closet.  

(They tried to get out of showing us the prop closet as it was "messy"... but then somebody had the nerve to raise their hand and say loudly, "Oh, PLEASE?".  Yes, somehow my shyness evaporated at the thought of not getting to see the prop closet!) 

After the tour, we met with Rust-Oleum and then headed up to the 44th floor for the beautiful award lunch, which you can read about here if you missed it. 

Our last stop of the day was the Good Housekeeping Research Institute tour, which was so fascinating.  

I wish I could share a photo of every room, but we saw everything being tested, from appliances to paper towels to beauty products.  We also got to see the test kitchen... can you say dream job?  I've noticed the Good Housekeeping seal many times, but I didn't realize that Good Housekeeping honors a 2-year warranty for every product in their magazine.  Neat!

And can you believe there was a room tucked beside the labs that looked like this?  The rooms here are replicas from the original Hearst Tower and the dining room pictured above is often used for entertaining. I loved looking at the antiques displayed... even the rug is original.

It was such an amazing trip! I never imagined I would have the opportunity to visit New York City and I'm not sure I'll ever have the chance to go back.  But if I did have another opportunity?  I would in a heartbeat.

I joked later that we saw many sights and all kinds of people while we were there, but we definitely only saw one John Deere hat (smile).  I'm thankful for my travel buddy... the trip would not have been what it was without him.

And I want to thank you again... I would not have been there without you.  Yes, I know I didn't win Reader's Choice, but your visits and comments are often what have kept me blogging!

Have a wonderful week!  

   P.S.  I also wanted to thank my friend Brenda at Cozy Little House... she asked me recently if I would answer some questions for her blog about blogging called Cozy Inspiration and she had so many kind things to say.  If you'd like to read about my thoughts on blogging and photography, you can check it out here

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving Roses

 We've started our morning out leisurely after getting back home last night, and before getting busy with things like laundry and painting, I thought I'd check in real quick to see how your Thanksgiving was.  Ours was wonderful... we just enjoyed two full days of family, food, and fun! 

A lot of my husband's family live out in the country in Alabama... a couple years ago my in-laws bought quite a bit of the acreage with a home after a relative moved away.  Now they usually spend every weekend out there and it's become our holiday gathering place.  When we arrived, I was shocked to see the rose hedge in the front of the house still in bloom. 

 So yesterday as we were all outside bundled up in the cold (the men were working on the tractors clearing out some brush while us girls were playing with the kids), I asked my mother-in-law if I could clip some of the roses to bring home. 

 Somehow the majority of the blossoms survived the ride home underneath Rosetta's feet and this morning as I walked into the kitchen, I was greeted with a beautiful, fragrant reminder of another wonderful Thanksgiving. 

I'm so anxious to hear how your Thanksgiving was... and I hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cranberry Orange Relish and Thanksgiving

 It's beginning to look a lot like Thanksgiving here... 

What are your plans for the holiday weekend?

Every year we spend Thanksgiving with my husband's family.  It seems like the weather is almost always just perfect and we spend a lot of time playing outside after a huge, delicious meal. 

I only have to contribute a few dishes and today I got a head start by making a cranberry relish.  This relish is made with cranberries and oranges... it's tart and sweet at the same time and brings back so many memories.  My mom always made this relish and a traditional cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving. 

4 cups of cranberries and 1 quartered orange (including the peel) get thrown into the blender (or a food processor) until the mixture is thoroughly chopped.  Then add almost 2 cups of sugar and blend again until just mixed. 

 The relish tastes best after sitting in the refrigerator at least overnight.   

But Jillian and I have already sneaked in several samplings... just to make sure it tastes all right, of course. 

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays and always has been.  Each year I find that I have so much to be thankful for...this year I count your friendships among my many blessings. 

Happy Thanksgiving, friends!  I hope you have a wonderful holiday and weekend.  

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Winter Frosting

 This week I've felt like I've had a constant lump stuck in my throat as comments were left on my previous post.  I can hardly express how touched I have been by the genuine, sweet comments and emails.  Although this seems so inadequate, I just wanted to say thank you.  

I had actually planned on sharing more pictures from our New York trip (and I still do), but as typically happens on my blog, we do something or I have a particular thought on my mind and that's what I end up wanting to write about! 

The weather was so beautiful this weekend that yesterday my husband suggested a ride in the Jeep to my parents' farm.  Brainstorming as usual, I asked if we could pick up some pine cones and other goodies since I had in mind exchanging pumpkins for winter elements around our home. 

(Note: We just recently "acquired" this old Jeep... it's been in our family as long as I can remember.   In fact, my brother and I learned how to drive in this Jeep.  Every time we go for a little ride, I think of us barreling down country dirt roads in it together when we were growing up.) 

 So we went down to the nut trail and walked and looked for a few treasures we could bring back home. 

Hickory nuts were scattered everywhere...

 And by the time we left, I could even distinguish a hickory tree from other trees.  See the bark peeling?  A sure sign of a hickory tree.

Later, after the girls napped, we went outside and added some pine cones and leyland cypress branches that we found at the back of our property to our collection. 

Recently at the Country Living event, Rust-Oleum told us about this glitter spray paint and they mentioned using it to spray pine cones for the holidays.  I loved the idea and wouldn't you know it, when I came home I had a package from them which included some glitter spray paint.   I wouldn't consider myself much of a gold glitter person, but I thought it would be fun to try it out. 

 So I spread the pine cones and hickory nuts out and sprayed a little of the glitter paint. 

 And I just love the way they transformed!  Instead of the glitter coming out in big flecks, it's just a little shimmer, not overwhelming at all. 

You can continue to spray the glitter as heavy as you desire... but I liked just a light little sprinkling.  Rust-Oleum also mentioned using a clear sealer, which I sprayed lightly, and it helps prevent the glitter from coming off as much. 

Meanwhile, Justus was working around outside and suggested a light spray on the cypress branches too.   (He's really the creative one out of the two of us.) He even took a break to hold them so I could do a quick even spray.

 It makes me think of looking outside in the morning and seeing nature covered in a light frost. All of a sudden I was picturing snowflakes and hot chocolate and cozy Saturdays indoors.

 It seems hard to believe that winter is almost around the corner, but this weekend I was remembering all the things I love about the season.

You may have already tried this idea or know about it, but I thought I'd share it with you just in case you want to bring a little winter frosting inside too (smile).

Sharing at Savvy Southern Style

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Country Living Blue Ribbon Blogger Awards

 I think this is probably the hardest post I've ever written.  I'm overwhelmed by the past few incredible days I've had and it's hard to sum up an amazing experience in just a few words!

  If you recall, awhile back I was notified by Country Living that my blog had been nominated and chosen as a finalist in the 2012 Country Living Blue Ribbon Blogger Awards.  I was so honored and excited but never dreamed I would actually be chosen as a winner.  When I was notified last month that I was selected as the judges' pick for the best lifestyle blog, I could truly hardly believe it.  I'm pretty sure there was some jumping around followed by, "Oh my goodness, what am I going to DO?

I've never been away from Rosetta longer than just a few hours, so the thought of leaving my girls for a few days was terrifying.  But I am so thankful for my mom, who reassured me that this was a once in a lifetime experience and she would take care of the girls and they would be just fine.  The amazing part?  She was right... they had a fabulous time with my parents and my husband and I had an absolutely amazing time visiting New York City just the two us.  

I took so many pictures of our time there, but I think I'm going to start with the awards and work my way back in another blog post! 

Country Living is located in the Hearst Tower in Manhattan.  It's a gorgeous building 46 stories high and was the first "green" building in the city.

First on our agenda for the day was a tour of the Country Living offices.  As we stepped off the elevator, I could hardly believe I was there.  Oh yes, there were many butterflies in my stomach!

 I didn't realize until recently that Good Housekeeping is a sister company to Country Living.  (We actually got to tour the Good Houskeeping Research Institute, which was fascinating... I'll share it in another post!)

After the tour, we got to meet with Rust-Oleum, the sponsor of the awards.  I'm so anxious to try out some of their products I learned about.

 Then it was time to head up to the 44th floor, where the award luncheon was being held.  Isn't it just beautiful?  Country Living put so much effort into this lunch... they were all warm, welcoming and gracious.  I was so honored to be there. 

The guests began trickling in.  It was definitely a surreal moment. 

 Here is a picture of the amazing view of Central Park and the city from the 44th floor. 

 The photographer was sweet enough to offer to take a photo of my husband, Justus, and I.  I am so glad he was there with me!

Funny side note here.  Prior to the event, I took a trip to our nearest shopping mall to try and find the "perfect" outfit.  Shopping for clothes for myself is not something I particularly enjoy, so after two hours of nothing, I was about ready to give up (especially since my husband and girls were following me around).  That's when my hubby came to my rescue and suggested that maybe I would just be comfortable being "myself".  Which meant I went to a Country Living event wearing my Justin cowboy boots and a dress from Target!


 Here is a photo of the winners... it was so wonderful to meet them!  (From left to right: KariAnne of Thistlewood Farms, Katrina of Made by Katrina, Stephen and Michelle of Gourmandistan and myself)

I love this picture of us laughing with the judges (Jodi Kahn, Cooper Boone and Brent Ridge) before taking a series of more "serious" shots. 

 A final group shot of us with the lovely ladies from Rust-Oleum. 

 The tables were set so beautifully... the flower arrangements were stunning.

The seating was assigned, which I imagine was not an easy thing.  One of my favorite things about the lunch was visiting with everyone at our table... every one of them were so sweet and a real pleasure to meet. (I wish I had thought to take a photo...)

 The awards ceremony began with an introduction by Kassie Means, the publisher.  (Unfortunately, Sarah Gray Miller was not able to attend.)  Later, with dessert, Cooper Boone handed out our blue ribbons and also said some wonderful things about each of our blogs.  I wish I could remember word-for-word what was said, but it was absolutely touching. 

Oh, the food!  It was incredible.  This was the main course, which was every bit as delicious as it looks! 

And finally, a last picture of Cooper Boone and I, who I had the pleasure of sitting next to.

It was an amazing day and I'm so glad I can share it with you!

I would not have been there if it was not for those who believed in my blog.  I started my blog at a time when I needed a little outlet... it reminded me of my many blessings at a time I needed the reminder.  I had no idea of all that would come from sharing a few things on my mind or something we had going on that day.  Since then I've been inspired, I've made some wonderful friendships, I've discovered a love of photography, and I still enjoy writing as much today as I did in the beginning.

Thank you, friends, for reading and always for your sweet encouragement.  And thank you, Country Living, for a truly amazing day and experience.  It was such an honor! 

To read more about the talented winners and awards, visit Country Living here.

(To read "Part Two" of our trip, click here)
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