Anniversary Plans

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Believe it or not, our 1-year anniversary is fast approaching! I seriously can't believe that it's already almost been a whole year. Time really does fly!

For a while now, I've been dreaming up all sorts of ideas of different things we can do to celebrate. From trips to dinner ideas to photos, I am so excited for September to come!

Besides a little getaway, the one thing I've had my heart set on was having anniversary photos taken. I contacted Natalie (our amazing wedding photographer) last month and booked the date for exactly one month before our anniversary. That way, by the time September 22nd rolls around, we will already have the photos in hand.

I had posted an inspriation board a while back that showed some of the ideas I had for the photo shoot. I originally fell in love with the idea of doing a picnic theme but after a few recent posts by some of the photographers I follow, I started to feel like it was really overdone. I thought for a while that forgetting a theme altogether might be the answer, but I really like how put-together the themed shoots look. I wanted to find something that was more "us" and then it hit me, what could be better than camping?

As you may have read a couple of weeks ago in this post, Mike and I love to camp. It's something that we've done quite frequently throughout our relationship and it's one of our favorite things to do together. I can't believe I didn't think of using it as a theme before! Photos and s'mores... what could be more perfect?!

So after a few nights scouring Pinterest, I came up with this inspiration board.

I am absolutely in love with each and every detail. The great part is, we already own all of the supplies! No need to hunt for anything. Ahhh I can't wait!

Happy Hump Day!

Book Review - Food Rules

Monday, July 29, 2013

Book #6 - Food Rules by Michael Pollan

[image source: Goodreads]

If you haven't noticed, this is the second book I've read about food. Part of the reason has to do with the fact that I was given several books about food for my bridal shower and I am trying to read what I've already got on my book shelf before I buy or borrow others. The other part is that I am absolutely obsessed with them! Who knew that food could be so interesting? I certainly didn't.

I've been trying hard to start doing more local and organic shopping ever since I read Animal Vegetable Miracle. Mike and I weren't really raised to eat this way and it's been kind of difficult to make the transition, so books like this really help! Healthy eating is really important to me and I have been working on actually cooking at home with whole foods instead of popping something in the microwave or grabbing a quick and easy dinner out. It saves us money, it's healthier, and it forces us to actually slow down and understand what it takes to make a delicious meal. Cooking in the kitchen and sitting down at our table for a meal (not in front of the TV) has become the highlight of my day. It's also a great way for Mike and I to spend some quality time together. We have also found that we have a greater appreciation for farmers and those that care for the earth that sustains us.

If you're intrigued or interested in learning more, I highly recommend this book. It's a great place to start!

Summary (source)
Michael Pollan's definitive compendium, Food Rules, is here brought to colorful life with the addition of Maira Kalman's beloved illustrations.

This brilliant pairing is rooted in Pollan's and Kalman's shared appreciation for eating's pleasures, and their understanding that eating doesn't have to be so complicated. Written with the clarity, concision, and wit that is Michael Pollan's trademark, this indispensable handbook lays out a set of straightforward, memorable rules for eating wisely. Kalman's paintings remind us that there is delight in learning to eat well.

It's an easy-to-use guide that draws from a variety of traditions, suggesting how different cultures through the ages have arrived at the same enduring wisdom about food. Whether at the supermarket or an all-you-can-eat buffet, this is the perfect guide for anyone who ever wondered, "What should I eat?"

The hardcover Pollan-Kalman collaboration will be the Food Rules edition that families will pass down for posterity, sharing lessons for eating healthfully-and joyfully-for all their lives.

My Review
What I Loved
1. It's simplicity. I like how the book is structured to make the rules easy to remember. It's not just long, drawn-out paragraphs about what's good to eat and why. Each rule is numbered and there is a short little description after each one. Easy peasy.

2. It was short. I seem to really like short books lately. Maybe it's because we've been so busy these last couple of months but I literally read this one in less than an hour.

3. The message: Processed foods are horrible for your health so instead... "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." The goal of this book is simply to teach us about what is really considered "food" and what are "edible food-like substances", what we should be eating instead of the stuff that's not really food, and then how we should be eating it. When I picked it up, I felt like I was going to be reading a book full of stuff I already knew, but I was surprised by how much I learned.

4. The illustrations were quirky, vibrant, and beautiful. It definitely added something special that the first edition lacked.

What I Didn't Love
1. It's really hard to come up with a lot of negatives about this book. Since it almost feels like a "how-to" guide, there aren't many things that can go wrong. The only thing I can really think to say is that some of the rules were repetitive. A couple of them were stated in different ways as several different rules but it wasn't really all that obvious.

Rating
4 out of 5 stars

Crab Feast on Friday

Friday, July 26, 2013

TGIF! So happy that the weekend is here! Well, almost... only a few more hours to go...

Mike and I have some super awesome plans this weekend to keep working through all of the boxes stacked up in our guest room and office. Yea, I know, woo to the freakin' hoo...

The good news about this weekend? Verizon is coming on Sunday and we are finally getting internet hooked up at the house! I can finally give my parents a break since I've been over their house several times this week to "borrow" their wi-fi. Gotta keep the blog running somehow! (And feed my Facebook addiction.)

Funny thing is, we are heading back over there tonight for a crab feast. Can't get rid of me yet guys! Okay, so we were invited over this time, but still...

Anyway, I'm super excited to kick back and enjoy some crabs and beer with the fam. A very nice end to a long work week.
Speaking of crabs and all things Bawlmer, I heard this on the radio the other day and it cracked me up. For those not familiar with the culture of Baltimore, check this out, you'll get a kick out of it.


That accent is not a joke...

Have a great weekend! :)

Homeownership Hiccups

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

I can sum everything I've learned about homeownership so far into one word: DOUBLE.

With any project, when estimating time, cost, materials - whatever - always double.

It's funny how things always seem so straightforward and easy when in reality, they never turn out that way.

Our first adventure started with the hardwood flooring. The company we chose was very highly rated and in the end, I have to admit, the work they did was absolutely fantastic.

Going from this..
To this...

Holy cow, we couldn't be happier.

But the process of obtaining these gorgeous floors was not as easy as we thought it would be. There were many things that went wrong. On the first day, the workers came three hours late and the company only sent two guys who couldn't speak English. They got straight to work, which was great, but I had really no way to communicate with them until the rest of the crew showed up. For almost two hours, I had no idea what was going on in the process. It would have been nice to at least have some updates.

When they started tearing up the carpets, I could see what I thought was just old padding remnants stuck to the floor but we later found out were stains (likely from pet urine) that had damaged the wood underneath.
Seriously so gross!

They tried to sand them out but you could clearly see the stains on the wood even when they tested spots of the color we wanted. It's kind of hard to see in these pictures but at least you can get an idea of what we were dealing with. See the blotchy discolorations? Yep, that's it.
At that point, we were told that the boards had to be replaced unless we wanted to live with the marks.

The stains covered about 70% of the floor we were having done so we knew it would be a lot of work. We wanted this to be an investment in the house for us and for the future should we decide to sell down the road, so we had no choice but to go ahead with the repairs.

Of course, this meant (yep, you guessed it) double the labor, double the cost, and double the time. What was supposed to be a two day project turned into four and we had a much bigger hole in our wallets as a result.

Overall, I am really happy with the floors and I think they did an incredible job but we definitely learned a lesson.

Unfortunately, the hiccups didn't stop there.

The carpet company was lined up to install our new carpet in the three bedrooms upstairs after the floors had dried. Because the hardwood took longer than we had originally planned, we had to bump the carpet installation back considerably. Due to our tight schedule, they were set to arrive at noon the day before our move-in.

Around 9:00AM that morning, I was on my way to work when the installers called me to tell me they were there and ready to install. (At least these guys were three hours early!) Confused, I called the sales guy we worked with to explain the issue and he apologized for the mix up but insisted that I try to make it work since their schedule was so backed up. Since I was almost at work, I had no choice but to turn around, call my boss to let him know what had happened, and head over to the house. After I arrived, they began installing and my sister-in-law Kristen was able to swing by soon after so I could go to work. She stayed until my parents could be there while the intallers finished up.

I then got a call around 1:00PM from my dad saying that they had run out of carpet and would have to come back another day to complete the job. I know these are all probably common issues but it was still so frustrating. Fortunately, this time, we only doubled the days of work, not the dinero.

The last issue we had was with our furniture. It was supposed to be delivered the day before we moved in but since two pieces came in damaged, we had to push the entire delivery back a week. This meant there would be no place to sit for a week. Well, except for the shiny new floors, or our bed. Grrr...

I can't say that I expected everything to go smoothly, but I also didn't expect everything to have issues.

Now that we are in our house with beautiful floors and comfy furniture, I feel much better. It's just hard when so many things go wrong all at once! Maybe in the future we should only take on one project at a time. That way, if we encounter bumps in the road, they won't feel so overwhelming!

Maine Vacation Re-Cap

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Our trip to Maine was incredible. We didn't have a lot planned for the week and I think that was what made it the most enjoyable.

Typically, when Mike and I go away on a trip, we tend to over-plan and hyper-organize our schedules to maximize the fun and make the most of our time. While it is fun to have lots to see and do, we end up coming back from our vacation more exhausted than when we left. Vacations are supposed to help you relax and re-charge your batteries, not drain you.

That's why we decided that for this trip, we would try to take a real vacation and not plan any activities in advance. No structure, no time schedule, just us and the cottage and the beach. And it. was. awesome.

We spent the first few days laying by the ocean, playing frisbee in the water, swimming, and napping. It was pretty scorching hot but the cool water was so refreshing.

We even found a sand dollar on our second day there!
By about 2:00 every day, we would head back to the cottage for lunch and then relax with a few beers on the porch for the rest of the afternoon. Mike would play his guitar, I would read and people watch as neighbors passed by.
Occasionally we would wander down to the Soda Fountain to grab an ice cream cone or a "Raspberry-Lime Rickey" - an Ocean Park favorite.
From time to time, a few of the other Whittakers would drop by to say hello. It was so nice to catch up with them! I love feeling like we grow a little closer to them each time we stay at the cottage.

We also had a chance to take a little hike out to see the Wood Island lighthouse. The lighthouse itself (as the name suggests) sits on an island that is only accessible by boat. We hiked out to the point just South of it in Biddeford Pool to get the closest view.
By Wednesday, we were ready for a change of pace and we got up early to beat the heat at the golf course. I didn't bring any clubs so I took charge of the golf cart driving and picture taking while Mike played 18 holes. He got his first par ever on the 15th hole!
Since he was a single, they paired us up with a father-son group from Massachusetts. We had a great time getting to know them. It was a very relaxing way to spend the morning. Even though I don't play very much, I've found that I still really appreciate the beauty of the game.

It was starting to get hot by the afternoon so we thought it might be nice to play a few board games inside. We started to do a puzzle but then realized that about half of the pieces were missing. Gotta love the Mayflower.
Yes, it was a puzzle of cats. We had a limited selection.

That night, we decided to go out for dinner and what better to eat than a delicious Maine lobster?!
Mike got a lobster roll, but I chose to tackle a whole one. I discovered that it's a lot easier to crack these guys open than it is to pick crabs. I couldn't believe how quickly I was done!

The next day, we were up early again for the Ocean Park Shuffleboard Tournament. I had only played shuffleboard once before so I was a bit nervous going into it, but Mike was so excited that I couldn't say no. And I'm really glad we entered because it was such a blast!
We lost our first game to an 82-year-old woman who trash-talked Mike the whole time. Comical to say the least. We then dropped down to the loser's bracket where we defeated every opponent from there on to win the consolation prize! I was completely shocked but in the end, we developed a great rhythm and worked great as a team! (I can't believe I'm saying that about shuffleboard.)
After the tournament, we packed a picnic lunch and took a quick ferry ride over to Peak's Island near Portland. We realized shortly after arriving that our camera battery was dead and my iPhone camera had somehow managed to fog up. I blame the humidity. So, that being said, these are pretty much the only pictures we have of the adventure.
Once we got off the ferry, we rented a couple of bikes and headed over to picnic cove where we ate lunch on the water.

The most memorable part of the trip was getting caught in a sudden torrential downpour in the middle of a field. We had no choice but to stand there and get drenched. It's not like we had a car to run back to! It was histerical and I was so upset we couldn't take any pictures!

We hit up a little bar on the island to dry off and grab a drink before heading back to the cottage.

We spent the rest of the trip relaxing on the beach as much as we could trying to soak up every last minute. I fell in love with the cottage the minute I laid eyes on it but being up there for a week has me loving it even more.
See you next year Ocean Park!

We're Back - with Peanut Butter Fudge Cake!

Monday, July 22, 2013

There's nothing I hate more than the Monday following a vacation.

If I could skip this day altogether I would. I'm trying to take it easy today so I won't be too traumatized.

Our vacation was an absolute blast! I can't wait to re-cap it all this week.

Our drive home wasn't great but we got back on Saturday with enough time to celebrate my birthday at my parents' house. (After this experience, I just have to say... don't EVER take an 11 hour road trip on your birthday - not fun.)

We had a delicious salmon dinner made lovingly by my mama. And, as I requested, she made the most decadent chocolate peanut butter fudge cake of all time.

Since I'm trying to keep things easy today, I thought I'd kick off the week by sharing the cake recipe.

Enjoy and Happy Monday!

[via]

Peanut Butter Fudge Cake

Ingredients

For the cake:
1 cup butter
1/4 cup cocoa
1 cup water
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
1 1/2 tablespoon oil

For the icing:
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup cocoa
6 tablespoons buttermilk
1 pound box powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions
To make the cake, combine butter, cocoa, water, buttermilk, and eggs. Stir constantly over low heat until the mixture bubbles. Mix sugar, flour, and baking soda. Pour the hot mixture over the flour mixture and beat until creamy. Add the vanilla.

Spread the mixture into a greased 13 x 9 inch pan and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan. While the cake is cooling, mix the peanut butter and oil. Spread evenly over top of the cooled cake the in pan.

To make the icing, combine and heat together the butter, cocoa, and buttermilk. Put the box of sugar in a large bowl and stir in the hot mixture. Beat until smooth. Stir in vanilla. Spread the icing on top of the peanut butter layer and serve.

Vacation Time!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Mike and I successfully made it to Maine yesterday afternoon and we officially began our week long vacation!

We relaxed with a few celebratory drinks on the porch last night as the cool ocean breeze swept over us. It was such a relief just to be here.
For months now, we've been dreaming about this vacation knowing that once it arrived, we would be all moved into our new home and ready to relax. I can't even begin to describe how much we needed a week away.

We have no real plans for this week other than maybe the local shuffleboard tournament, a lobster dinner, and some serious beach time. And naps. Lots and lots of naps.

The cottage does have wi-fi (obviously) and I will try to do a check-in sometime in the middle of the week but honestly, after all of the chaos, I think it might be nice to unplug for a while.

Wishing everyone a wonderful and sunny week!

Saying Goodbye

Friday, July 12, 2013

For the last year, this wonderful place has been our home, and today, we turn in the keys and say goodbye.
Although our time here was brief, the memories it gave us will last a lifetime.

While living under this roof we got married...
went on our honeymoon...
saw the Ravens win the Superbowl...
and celebrated our first "married" Christmas together.
We enjoyed many nights cuddled in front of that wonderful fireplace...
made many delicious meals together...
said goodbye to a very special lady...
and became homeowners for the very first time.
For one short year, we filled this tiny little apartment with love, laughter, tears, and life. So much life.

It's where we started our lives together as newlyweds and learned so much about ourselves and each other. Despite how small it was, how temporary it was, and how much we wanted to get out of there at times, I will never, ever forget our very first home.

The Big Move

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Well hey there blogland, long time no see!

I'm sorry for my absence over the last week but unfortunately, I didn't have a way to blog. Soon after we started packing, I realized that disconnecting our wi-fi before we had the internet set up at the new house might not have been the smartest idea. It's pretty hard to blog without it!

Things have also been so busy with moving, unpacking, organizing, cleaning, and more unpacking that I haven't had a second to sit down and write anything. I knew in advance things would be crazy so I tried to be all prepared and even had a post topic planned for each day this week. So much for that idea.

As I write this, I'm currently sipping a latte, sitting in a little coffee shop on the hospital campus during my lunch break, typing away with the help of their free wi-fi. And I'm feelin' pretty cool right about now. I may have to spend more of my lunch breaks this way!

I have tons of updates to share and I promise they are coming, but for now, I thought I'd start with a little recap of our move.

Our holiday weekend was busy to say the least.

The moment after I hit the “Publish” button on my post on Friday, things got rolling fast and the moving process still hasn’t stopped. My parents came over to help me pack and move everything except our furniture while Mike was working. When he got off, he helped haul over the last of three loads.

I was completely shocked that we got almost everything over in three trips. I thought for sure that it would take more than that. My parents are well-seasoned packers though, and they were able to load us up to the max on each trip. Without them, I have no idea how we would have gotten it done in a weekend. (Thanks so much guys! There’s a dinner on us coming your way real soon!)

By Friday night, we were exhausted and little sore but we knew that the real physical labor wouldn’t start until the next day. We crashed early to try and get some sleep. It was a little bittersweet knowing that it would be our last night in our apartment, but we were so excited to move into the new place the next day that it was hard to be sad for long.

Saturday morning, we were up bright and early. I finished packing while Mike ran a few errands. Our friends came by around 10:00 to help us get started and we were able to get the first load done fairly quickly. By 11:30, we were unloading at the new house. The unloading went pretty fast but the extreme heat and humidity made it twice as tiring. After the first load was done, we all needed a break so we swung by the pizza shop down the road and picked up lunch.

Since we didn’t have any tables or chairs set up at either place, we popped over to my parents’ house and chowed down there. After cooling off a bit, we headed back up to the apartment to pack up the last load and by the end, I was ready to collapse. I was so relieved to have a 20 minute drive between the apartment and the new house so I could rest a little.
Our sad, empty apartment :(

It took us almost an hour to carry the last few pieces into the house and we were all sort of stalling with the heavy stuff because it was so hot. We finally finished around 4:00.

One of our friends mentioned going for a swim at their house and the second I heard the word “pool,” I knew our plans to head to St. Michaels that evening didn’t stand a chance.

We dug around in our maze of boxes, found our swim suits and sun screen, and hit the road.

We had a few drinks and relaxed for the rest of the afternoon.
It was just what we needed. (Thanks Matt and Ali!)

Our first night in the new house was actually kind of comical.

For one thing, we had no idea where anything was. Each time we needed something, it took us 15 minutes of digging to find it. We were surrounded by boxes full of books, DVDs, office supplies, tools and just about everything but what we needed. In hindsight, we probably should have come up with a better labeling system since most of our boxes look the same. Ugh.

It became pretty clear to us that we probably should have spent some time setting up our room before trying to sleep in it. We quickly realized we had no sheets, no pillows, no phone chargers, no bedside lamps and no energy to find any of those things.

We also didn’t have any blinds or curtains up in the master bedroom so getting changed became a bit of a challenge.

We obviously still have lots of things to figure out but we could not be happier to be in our chaotic and wonderful home.

Have a great Thursday!

Time to get packing

Friday, July 5, 2013

We did manage to kick back, relax, and enjoy a few tasty adult beverages at a cookout or two yesterday. I'm really thankful too, because I honestly thought that this was how we would end up spending most of the day...
Not very festive, huh?

Fortunately, we weren't stuck inside the entire time packing boxes upon boxes while listening to everyone else have fun outside.

Unfortunately, we still have a lot to pack and since Mike is at work today, the responsibility falls on me. Bleh.

Because I will be up to my ears in cardboard and packing tape for the next few days, you may not hear from me much until next week.

The good news is that by the end of this weekend, we will have a new residence! YAY!

Have a great weekend!