Friday, September 30, 2011

Pinnable Me: Pumpkin Season

Today, I'm liking up with Stefanie over at Paw Prints & Pastry Bags for Pinnable Me Friday! I've been lusting over everyone's Pinnable Me posts for quite some time now and I'm excited to finally join the Friday fun.

I just can't get enough of everything that comes with this time of year and I embrace it fully! Our house has been covered with glittered pumpkins, cozy touches and the smells of the season. This should come as NO surprise. I'm high on pumpkin spice, loving the new additions to my fall wardrobe and with the magic of Christmas just around the corner, I'm giddy and already starting to spread holiday cheer.

Pumpkin overload is never a bad thing and I have found plenty of swoon-worthy pumpkiny goodness. It's the first weekend of October and what better way to celebrate than giving your home some special touches, baking something delicious and joining me as I ride the pumpkin spice high.

Source: via Nina on Pinterest

Source: via Nina on Pinterest

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Today, on

In case you don't have a daily habit of catching up on your celebrity whereabouts browsing through People Magazine's Star Tracks every morning, here's what you missed today:

The full spot on Star Tracks can be found here.

This is not the first time this has happened! As most of you know, I had a little spot in People Magazine back in 2009. You know, the days when I only ate pretzels and hummus for lunch. I have never been able to live that one down. Mark enjoys telling everyone about this. It's like he uses it as some sort of ice breaker activity. "You know, Nina is famous. She was in People Magazine". And then I have to explain that I was highlighted for not eating enough calories in one day. And why I opted for 8 pretzels instead of 7.

I'm now happy that my past People appearance is behind us because the second time around is so much better!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Workout Wednesday

I love working out almost as much as I love food. I know. I cant' believe I just said that either.

The thing is, these two pretty much go hand in hand for me. It's funny how that works. The better we eat around here, the more motivated I am to back it up with intense workouts and the harder I workout, the more my body craves the good stuff. We stick to a mostly clean diet and never make ourselves feel guilty about the occasional late night ice cream indulgence. Everything in moderation is what works best for us. It's all about having a good balance.

Ever since my freshman year of college, I have been a fitness fanatic. I started by using the elliptical and as I worked up my endurance and saw the pounds melt off, I was running 5 milers on a regular basis. I quickly realized how great my workouts made me feel and when I noticed they were also forcing me to make healthy decisions without even thinking. WIN! Since then, I have changed my workout routine dramatically, adding in resistance and strength training and more variety in my cardio for the day. Mark has been preaching to me about interval training but I will admit I kind of didn't listen. Fast forward to my Google session entitled "Carrie Underwood's leg workout" and "operation: MUST add interval training to my workout regimen" began. Sorry I didn't listen to you, Mark. The main thing about my workout routine is that I try to keep it fresh with variety and intensity. Great music helps, too. Oh, and cute workout clothes.

Though I quit doing the whole CrossFit thing, I did learn something very valuable from this little endeavor; I'm tougher than I give myself credit for. Not only did I learn how to push myself physically, but also mentally. And what a feeling that is!

Below are some of my favorite go-to websites for workouts that work:

Iron Mamas: (Check out the 5k-50s workout. I do this one at least once a week. I attended Kelly's classes while we were both living in Charlotte so when we both moved and I found out she was blogging workouts, I breathed a sigh of relief. Iron-Mamas workouts are by far my favorite and work me the hardest. I swear by them! Kelly just launched a new blog as well for clean eating. Be sure to check it out:

Blogilates: Cassey is hilarious and full of energy! I love her POP Pilates videos, interactive website community and good health tips. She also offers workout printables! I love a good printable. Try challenging yourself with the 20/20 workout or this killer fat blasting abs workout. If you are on Twitter, you can follow Cassey- @Blogilates.

Tone it Up!: (Karena and Katrina are adorable! Fun workouts, videos that are easy to follow and tons of great recipes. Follow them on Twitter- @ToneItUp)

This type of post may or may not become something I regularly blog about but when I am passionate about something and find resources to fuel my excitement, I love to share.

Make today a great day!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Return of the Le Creuset

I have a confession. After all of the hooplah over finally getting my beloved Le Creuset French oven, I have only used that thing once. Not three times, not even twice. Just once. What the what!? I am choosing to blame it on Joe. Summer is for grilling anyways, not French ovening. At least that's what I'm telling myself to make me feel better about the lack of use of that expensive pot. The good news is that Fall is here and cozy meals are a must. I have 100% faith that I will make up for lost time and be showing my French oven a lot of love over the next several months.

Mark and I celebrated the first Sunday of Fall doing some of the things we do best. Our day consisted of this; church, lunch, naps and football. A Sunday isn't complete without a fantastic meal and as we welcomed in the season, chili just seemed the most appropriate. I browsed some recipes online and when none of them seemed to tickle my tastebuds, I decided sprinkle my magic dust and come up with a recipe of my own. Normally I do not measure when I'm creating, but luckily for all of you, I kept track of what I was doing so that I could post this accordingly. I added Italian sausage for my "more meat please" husband and a little bit of cocoa powder and cinnamon for a slight sweetness. Ground espresso in chili may seem oh so wrong, but I promise you, this cozy bowl of goodness is oh so right in all of the best ways. I loaded it with fresh spices, vegetables, Italian tomatoes and my favorite surprise ingredient- pumpkin beer!

Sunday Chili

1 lb. lean ground sirloin
1lb. mild Italian sausage
1 Vidalia onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, chopped
1 large green pepper, diced
1 bottle Blue Moon Harvest Pumpkin Ale
1 28 oz. can stewed tomatoes
1 28 oz. can Italian crushed tomatoes
1 cup water
1 can light kidney beans
2 cans dark kidney beans
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. coriander
2 tsp. cocoa powder
1 tsp. ground espresso
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
Olive oil
Salt to taste at end

Coat the bottom of a French oven (or large heavy bottom pan) with olive oil. Saute garlic and onion on medium heat until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add sirloin and sausage, cook all the way through. Once the meat is completely broken apart and cooked, add in remaining ingredients. Simmer on medium-low for at least two hours. If extra flavor is needed, add salt to taste when the chili is done cooking. (I hardly needed to add any)

Garnish with shredded cheese and sour cream.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Rainbow Cupcakes with Marshmallow Buttercream

I don't think I have ever mentioned this on the blog, but aside from my lovies I have another "little sister". Late last fall, Mark and I decided to both become volunteers with Big Brothers Big Sisters. It's been a wonderful experience so far and I would highly recommend it to anyone. If you want to give back, but are struggling to figure out how, I would love to talk to you more about this fantastic organization. I got paired with the sweetest 10 year old girl and we have play dates about twice a month. It's been so much fun to make memories and provide a constant presence in this little girl's life that she will hopefully look back on in the future and smile. If just one action or one thing I say makes a positive impact on her, I will have made a difference.

I have to admit, it's fun having a 10 year old around. I am always looking for excuses to act like a kid so having an accomplice is a win in my book! We sing Justin Bieber at the top of our lungs in the car and don't care if we are putting on a show for our neighboring drivers at stoplights. Sometimes we do homework, but mostly we play. Our time together is supposed to be fun and spent doing something we can enjoy together. Like making friendship bracelets or Watching Glee in 3-D.

And making rainbow cupcakes.

Vanilla Rainbow Cupcakes with Marshmallow Almond Buttercream Frosting
cupcakes adapted from Baking Bites, frosting adapted from Baked Bree

1 cup all purpose flour (I used pastry flour)
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup canola (or vegetable) oil
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
food coloring (red, yellow, green & blue)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 10 cups of a muffin tin with paper liners. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix together sugar, eggs, oil, buttermilk and vanilla. Pour in dry ingredients and mix until completely combined.

Divide cupcake batter into 5 bowls. Each bowl should have about 1/3 cup of batter. Using about 1/2 tsp. of food coloring, color each bowl, making red, orange, yellow, green and blue batter. Add more coloring for brighter, richer color.

Start with the blue batter, and add a small spoonful (a little over a teaspoon) to each cup. Continue with the rest of the colors in this order; green, yellow, orange red. Spoon each color on top of the other. Do not try to spread the layers, just let them be where they drop.

Bake for 15 minutes or until a cake tester or toothpick comes out dry. Allow cupcakes to cool before frosting.

NOTE: this recipe makes 10 cupcakes. We doubled it, making 22 cupcakes.

1 cup room temperature butter
7 ounces marshmallow fluff
1 tsp. almond extract

Cream the butter until it's light and fluffy. Add the marshmallow fluff and almond extract. Whip for two minutes.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


I love the daily photos I get from my blonde sister and I couldn't resist posting this picture of my sweet nephew Jack in his gameday attire. This little fella is loved so, so much. I think we have a future little Mountaineer on our hands and I have a feeling his Auntie Lovies are going to teach him the art of professional tailgating someday! Don't worry Sophie & Doug...we won't be sneaking anything in his bottles. We'll wait awhile until we introduce him to Cottonwood Pumpkin Ale!

Happy Game Day Y'all. Go AppState!

Friday, September 23, 2011

DIY: Pumpkin & Moss Wreath

{the inspiration from Williams Sonoma}

I may be temporarily transplanted in the Midwest for right now, but I'm a Southern girl and hospitality is kind of our thing. There is nothing more welcoming than a cheerful entryway. It's the first thing guests see when they enter your home and I always appreciate a festive touch. I was flipping through Williams Sonoma last week and my heart skipped a few beats when I saw a pumpkin covered wreath on the page. So fun and perfectly seasonal, but with a $100 price tag, I knew this wreath couldn't be mine unless I figured out a way to make it myself. One of my very best friends was here for a visit this week and we tackled this project together. I just love the way this turned out and the pumpkin overload looks so happy on our front door. Please don't tell Hobby Lobby that we shut down their stock bought EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. of their miniature pumpkins!

Supplies Needed:

Straw covered foam wreath (mine is 18 inches)
25-35 miniature pumpkins (with wire on the bottom is best)
Hot glue gun
Wreath hanger

Start by using a hot glue gun to cover the wreath with moss. Do this with small chunks at a time, as the hot glue dries fast. Cover the outside and inside of the wreath, leaving empty the backside of the wreath that will be against the door. When the wreath is covered, trim up any unruly pieces of moss.

The pumpkins I used were pumpkin "picks", and were on a piece of wire. I cut the wire down to make it shorter. I did not have to use any glue to get the pumpkins to stay and just stuck them into the wreath. If you are using plain pumpkins, you will need to hot glue these.

Starting with the inner circle, line pumpkins, side by side and stick (or glue) them into the wreath. Next, arrange the next ring of pumpkins outside of the first one. Leave a small gap at the top to leave room for your bow. Play around with the placement until you are happy with how it looks. Make a pretty bow and attach it to the wreath with floral wire. Ta da!

If you give this pumpkin project a whirl and have any questions, send them my way- I'll be happy to help!

It's the first day of Fall...have fun making your home festive!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Best People

Well said, Julia.

I think this print has a future home on the wall in my kitchen nook. (found here on Etsy)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Happy Birthday, Natalie!

Happy birthday, you gorgeous thing! I wish I could squeeze you tight right now. I can't believe my not so little anymore sister is 19. Love you so, so much!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Avocado Arugula Pesto

Giada does it again! (Y'all should know by now that I have a slight kitchen crush) Peppery arugula paired with creamy avocado and a hint of lime. Add garlic and parmesean to the mix and you have yourself an outstanding mess of pesto-riffic goodness. It's so perfect in every way that you are not sure if you want to go swimming or just pour it all over yourself. I wanted to do both. Though it was tempting, I resisted the urge and simply served it over Spaghetti Squash tossed with sauteed shallots, baby portobello mushrooms and turkey meatballs.

Crostini with goat cheese, roasted mushroom pizza, penne- I see a lot of happy marriages made in food heaven with this pesto. Oh. My. Goodness. I'm going to grab a spoon now and steal another taste. I'll clean up the drool on my keyboard later.

Please. Make. This. NOW.

Avocado Arugula Pesto
recipe adapted from Giada DeLaurentiis

2 medium avocados
3 cups baby arugula leaves
1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
3 Tbsp. fresh lime juice (about two limes)
1/2 cup grated parmesean
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 Tbsp. olive oil

Scoop out both avocados and place in a food processor. Add in arugula, basil, lime juice, parmesean, and garlice. Pulse until smooth. Add salt and olive oil at the end as needed to adjust flavor and consistency.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Christmas Countdown

{image via}

Get out your jingle bells and, if it's cold enough where you live, you might as well put on those flannel pajamas covered in images of gingerbread men, twinkle lights and candy cane stripes. That's right. Today marks the official start of the Christmas Countdown! Only 100 days until the best day of the year! To celebrate the season, head over to ACCORDING TO NINA for a fantastic eBook download. I'm so thankful that she shared this great tool. I have mine downloaded, saved and ready for use. Nothing like a little something extra to get you in the spirit. Cheers!

Have a lovely weekend, everyone!

Baby Greens with Figs, Goat Cheese & Champagne Vinaigrette

Do you feel fall in the air where you live? The weather where we live has been gorgeous this week and perfect in every way. I desperately miss the South but there is something unique and special about fall in the Midwest and since we won't be living here forever, I am savoring the seasonal moments! I think some DIY sparkly pumpkins and an autumn wreath are in my near future.

I popped into The Fresh Market this week to pick up some of their delicious Pumpkin Spice coffee and a few other specialty items. The black mission figs looked extra plump and beautiful and I knew we needed them in a salad. Figs are one of my favorite fruits and this is the time of year that they taste the very best. I love mixing sweet bites of fig with a tangy, slightly sweet dressing. Soft, creamy goat cheese that melts slowly on your tongue is always the best finishing touch! Figs and goat cheese truly are the best of friends.

Baby Greens with Figs, Goat Cheese and Champagne Vinaigrette

Mixed baby greens
Black Mission Figs, sliced
Crumbled goat cheese

For the vinaigrette:

1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/8 cup champagne vinegar
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tbsp. honey
salt & pepper to taste

(This is the perfect amount of dressing for a two person salad. Recipe can be doubled, just use equal parts oil and vinegar. Add more honey for extra sweetness)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Chicago Anniversarymoon

One year has come and gone and I could say that it was the best year of my life...but life is only getting better! It's been so much fun creating a life with the person that makes me want to be better and love harder, all while knowing we are in it together forever. Since our anniversary was conveniently during Labor Day Weekend, we stretched out the extra long weekend even further and spent 4 glorious days in Chicago. It's amazing being so close to such an incredible city. Chicago truly is at the top of my list of favorites! The weather was fantastic and the hint of fall in the air was a warm welcome from our "oppressive heat" we have had here in the Midwest.

Much unlike my OCD planner oriented ways, we didn't head into the city with much of a plan and I loved it that way. Aside from our anniversary dinner at a restaurant we have been dying to try, we did everything on a whim and explored at our own pace. Delicious Doug, my "brother in law" and husband to my blonde sister, knows his Chicago spots! He recommended some Windy City gems that were the sprinkles on top of the frosting of the weekend. Thanks, Doug!

WARNING: Picture overload begins now.

Mark started every morning "like an adult". It looked a little something like this.

We thought we didn't like deep dish pizza until we sat down at Lou Malnati's. Oh. My. Goodness. Please hand me my stretchy pants!

We hopped on a train, then meandered into beautiful Wrigley Field for a Cubs game.

We stopped by a local bar post game for some day drinking and to experience a Saturday night atmosphere during the day. Nothing like a hardcore dance party and jammin' out to Journey at a bar. At 3:00 in the afternoon.

We ate at Lawry's Prime Rib per the recommendation of my sweet parents. This building is drop dead gorgeous! A fun experience and something everyone should do at least once.

We enjoyed a Chicago by way of boat, up the river and on the lake.

We sat at the bar at Purple Pig for drinks, fried olives stuffed with chorizo and mussels that were swimmable. We were smack dab in front of the kitchen and we watched the chefs in action. Best seat in the house. This place was packed full!

We walked along the lake under a clear blue sky.

We walked to Buckingham Fountain.

The Bean. We have enough pictures with this gigantic piece of metal to make a large gallery wall.

We celebrated our anniversary with one of the most stellar dining experiences we have ever had. Pane Caldo was like a dream taken out of Italy. The food was outstanding, the atmosphere was warm and intimate and everyone was just delightful. I could do an entire post on the amazing-ness that is this restaurant. If you ever go, just trust me and ask for the window seat! (thanks for letting me in on this little gem, Nina!)

We spent our last night in Chicago at the Signature Lounge on the 96th floor of the Hancock Tower. This is a Chicago MUST! The most breathtaking view of the city and we enjoyed the sunset, cocktails and Nutella bread pudding. shared with us by locals, the VERY BEST view of Chicago is most specifically in the women's bathroom of the 96th floor of the Hancock. Brilliant!

We can't imagine a better way to have celebrated and we are looking forward to year #2! Ot was a magical weekend. We'll see you soon, Chicago.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Closet Management

Pumpkin spice lattes have been back at our fingertips for over a week now and the tiniest hint of autumn-y crispness has made its way into the air. Tailgating is now the #1 weekend activity for all college football fans (GO MOUNTAINEERS!) and the windows are left open at night. It's also the time of year that when a Christmas song gets shuffled into the mix on my iPod, I really don't fight it.

With the changing of the seasons, also comes the ever important, changing out of the closet! Ahhh...this is one of my favorite things to do. When all of the airy clothes of summer are carefully put away and it's time to bring out the jeans, riding boots, pashminas and long, open cardigans. It's a beautiful thing. With changing seasons also brings the sudden urge to purge what you haven't worn and purchase what you "need"....ahem, want. We have so many resources literally at our fingertips these days. Fashion inspiration is coming from all over the place and if you are like me, you take advantage of all that is available. When it comes to getting dressed for the day, I like high quality items that embrace timeless styles and can easily be easily enhanced with a trendy pop for a little something extra.

This handy little printout has been floating around Pinterest and I currently have a copy of it printed out and on my desk. After looking through it, I think every girl's closet could benefit from this! These are all staples that will take your wardrobe through the year and keeping it classy like Audrey Hepburn. I'm working my way through this list to see what I already have, what I still need. I'm a total sucker for a good, old-fashioned check list!

Happy closet managing!

{image via Matchbook Magazine}

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Whirlwind Week!

Well, we have been married for a year! I still feel like I need to pinch myself every day to remind myself that this life of ours is real. Our anniversary weekend in Chicago was perfect and I can't think of a better way to have celebrated our first year of marriage. This truly is the good life. We enjoyed every morsel of our weekend to the fullest and I will post a fun (mouthwatering) recap next week.

We arrived home yesterday and I unpacked my suitcase only to pack it up again to fly south to the "homeland" tomorrow! My bachelorette beach trip to Pawley's Island last summer was so dreamy that we decided to plan a round two for my BFF this weekend. She is getting married in exactly a month and I can't wait to celebrate with a girls weekend. Looking forward to lots of sun, freshly painted toes, Sonic Happy Hours, late night dance parties and plenty of sweet tea vodka.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

One Year.

One year ago today, our happily ever after began. I would say that September 4th, 2010 was the very best day of my life, but in reality, it was just the start of the very best days to come. Now that we are married, everyday is truly the best because we have each other to live this wonderful life with. It's been a whirlwind of a year filled with so much love. Happy Anniversary to my best friend, my husband. I love you more everyday!