'Twas the Friday before Christmas

Friday, December 19, 2014

Holy moly - I am in disbelief that Christmas is less than a week away! I'm not even tired of Christmas music yet! And I'm definitely not done with my shopping. Looks like it's going to be a mad dash to the finish line this weekend along with the rest of America!

But truly, there are so many wonderful things about Christmastime. I'm trying to soak it up over the next few days and enjoy the sights, smells, sounds and love all around. Awwwwwwwww.

ONE. I hosted a cookie swap a few nights ago for some Junior League gals. It was so fun! The best part about going to a cookie swap is that  you only have to make one batch of cookies and end up with dozens of different kinds. Love it!

TWO. I just LOVE opening the mailbox every day to see beautiful faces of friends and family smiling back at me! I've got all the cards on display above our kitchen window, and I'll probably leave them up through the end of January to keep Christmas going just a little longer.

THREE. My new Erin Condren Life Planner has arrived!! This is my fourth planner from EC, and there's a reason I keep going back. The organizer in me loves the functionality; the creative in me loves the colors. I'm hooked! Can't wait to fill it in and get prepared for the fabulous year that 2015 is going to be!

FOUR. Holiday baking! Aside from the cookie swap, I haven't done as much baking by now that I've usually done. But I did whip up a batch of these Peppermint Melt-Away Cookies for our neighbors this week. I made them last year on a whim and my neighbor raved about them - so if it ain't broke, why fix it? Here's the easy-peasy recipe:

Peppermint Melt-Away Cookies
1 8-oz package of cream cheese
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup peppermints or candy canes, finely crushed (tip: put them in a big plastic bag, wrap it in a dishtowel, and beat the daylights out of it with a hammer on your driveway)
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 box Duncan Hines Classic White Cake Mix, divided
1 cup white chocolate chips/morsels

Preheat oven to 350. Place parchment paper on 2 large cookie sheets. Let cream cheese and butter come to room temperature. Mix with electric or stand mixer until barely blended. 
Add egg, vanilla, and one-half of cake mix. Mix for 1-2 minutes or until thoroughly blended. Stir in remaining half of cake mix, morsels, and 1/2 cup of mints until blended. 
Place remaining mints in a shallow bowl. Shape dough (which will be soft and sticky!) into 1.5 inch balls and roll tops in the mints. Place on cookie sheets mint side up, 2 inches apart. Bake 11-13 minutes or until golden and center is barely set. Let stand 3-4 minutes then cool on wire rack. Makes 2-3 dozen cookies. 

FIVE. Alex and I have been so blessed by the flowers, notes, texts and prayers from our loved ones over the last 10 days. It has been a rough journey: hard to believe the journey started only one month ago and it's over, for now. {Read about our loss here} I'm taking each day one at a time and know that great things will happen. We have so much to be thankful for and so much to look forward to! The best is yet to be! 

Have a lovely weekend, everyone! My wish for you:
May you find that perfect last-minute gift you've been searching for;
may you enjoy extra Christmas cookies without worrying about calories;
may that quintessential Christmas song come on the radio at just the right time; 
may you escape your family for a breath of fresh air when it's needed most;
may you enjoy the magic of the season through the eyes of a child; 
may you remember the reason for the season: Jesus is born!


Linking up with
 AprilChristinaNatasha and Darci

A year of loss

Thursday, December 18, 2014

**WARNING: this is not a happy post. But it's true, it's very real and it's from my heart. I wanted to share because this is a topic that often goes un-shared, un-discussed and un-mentioned. Maybe you needed to read this today, for yourself or for a loved one. I hope it finds its way to someone who needs it. 

When Alex and I look back on 2014, I hope we think about our life in Columbia...maybe our vacations to Chicago or Pebble Beach...or that I turned 30. But I'm afraid we might think of 2014 as a year of loss.

The tidal wave of loss started in August. Alex's Mimi, who had been ill for some time with dementia and Parkinson's, left this world. We were saddened but knew it was coming, and when she died, we knew she was no longer suffering. In some ways, it was a bittersweet relief for we knew she was so much better off in heaven.

Then, a few weeks after she died, Alex's Papa (Mimi's husband and Alex's last living grandparent) found out he had untreatable, widespread cancer. He had not been overly sick - just weak (and brokenhearted), but the cancer diagnosis quelled his will to live and fight - and who could blame him? We lost Papa in September just 1 month and 1 day after Mimi passed. His death was more sudden and shocking: just like that, Alex's mom had lost both of her parents in 31 days and Alex had lost all of his grandparents.

October seemed to be going alright until my grandmother had her knee replaced at the ripe old age of 87. Now, not many folks elect to have total knee replacement at that age, but she wanted to - said she had a lot of things she wanted to do! The surgery went great, and she was healing wonderfully in rehab. Then, out of nowhere, she caught pneumonia while still in rehab. She was admitted to the hospital. Within two days, she was moved to ICU and had a mild heart attack due to the stress on her heart caused by her labored breathing. She died on Sunday, October 26. I was in shock. How could this happen? My Grandma was sharp as a tack, in great health and a reasonably young 87. I took the loss incredibly hard (and am still taking it hard): I was very close with her. We emailed (yes, emailed) on a regular basis. She called to chat about football games. I inherited a lot of my hallmark traits from her, like bargain shopping and organization. She was the first grandparent to lose, which just opened a fresh wound for me and a haunting realization that I'll have to go through this three more times for three people I'm equally close to. I still can't believe she's gone.

November came fast and brought with it a slew of activity, mostly work related. I'd started to have another Crohn's flare (the 3rd or 4th of the year), but I really didn't want to start prednisone again because, quite frankly, taking steroids is no fun at all and causes me to blow up like a balloon, have a ferocious appetite, and most importantly, jacks with the timing of ovulation. Yep, we've been trying to conceive for a year now so our world pretty much revolved around ovulation (fun times!!). I'd also started taking Clomid that cycle (which makes your body ovulate - my doc prescribed it because my progesterone was slightly low. Also, it's an excellent first line of defense if the horrid label of "infertility" is getting near as it's super cheap and easy). I didn't want to undo the hard work Clomid was doing by taking prednisone, so I asked my gastroenterologist for a milder med to treat the flare. I knew I was taking a risk that my flare could get worse, but I was bound and determined that nothing else was going to get in the way of having a baby.

With the grief from my grandmother's loss, the stress from work and the Crohn's flare, I knew November was a gonner for us in terms of conceiving. But God has a funny way of showing us just exactly how in control He is. I found out I was pregnant on Thursday, November 20 - at my OB-GYN's office! I was there because I *thought* I'd started my period, so I was going to get another round of Clomid. The nurse did a pregnancy test (just in case) and lo and behold, it was positive.

I was in SHOCK. I mean, shock I tell you. I had to wait ALL DAY LONG to tell Alex because I wanted to tell him in person that night after work. I surprised him with a gift - a little onesie and my positive pregnancy test - when he got home that night. You know that country song, "Laughed Until We Cried" by Jason Aldean, where he talks about trying so long they almost gave up hope and they find out they're pregnant and they laughed until the cried in the kitchen? That was us. Laughing, crying, looking in amazement at that positive test (actually, two tests - I'd taken another when I got home). We felt so blessed, so unbelievably grateful that I'd conceived after 11 months of disappointment.
girls, you're gonna be big sisters!

Just a week later was Thanksgiving, and A's parents were going to come to my mom and stepdad's cabin for the weekend. We knew that even though it was really early, it was the perfect time to tell them since they'd all be together (we FaceTimed my dad and stepmom, who were in Florida). And I could not keep a secret like that from my mom for long!

Right before Thanksgiving dinner, I told everyone we were going to  play the "What are you thankful for?" game and I'd placed a message in a little box for everyone to read aloud. Slowly, they began opening and reading the tiny pieces of paper: "I"m thankful to become a Grandmother!" and so forth. The reactions were priceless. Tears, laughter, hugs, handshakes. It was everything I ever hoped it would be. This would be the first grandbaby on both sides. Finally!
the place setting...holding a secret!
my mom's surprise
my brother and our parents with their notes! 
our family
A week later, I was 6 weeks pregnant and starting to feel the joys of pregnancy. Food aversions, extreme tiredness (not helped by giving up caffeine), and even a little nausea. Crohn's had continued to get worse and I was worried that it would hurt the baby, so my GI put me on 20mg of prednisone which had some risks to the fetus but my health was seen as more important. It wasn't helping, and my symptoms were getting worse.

A few days later, on a Saturday night, I started to bleed. Not much, but any time you see blood when you're pregnant, you naturally freak out. Then I started cramping: again, not horribly, but the combo was unsetting. We decided to go to the ER to rule out an ectopic pregnancy and for peace of mind.

After 6 awful hours in the ER (including an ultrasound that literally lasted one hour), there was no conclusion. The doctor said that they hadn't detected a heartbeat, but at 6 weeks along that was hit or miss. He said some women have bleeding and cramping and everything turns out fine, while others will eventually miscarry. There was really nothing to do but go home and rest.

The next Monday morning, I had my hcG levels tested to see if they were rising as they should - the only good indication that the baby was alive and thriving. I had to wait an excruciating 30 hours to hear from my doctor's office with the results. When I finally got them on Tuesday, December 9, they hit me like a freight train: my levels had dropped. The pregnancy was not viable. I was losing my baby. I had a decision to make: miscarry naturally at home or have a D&C.

I opted for the D&C because I wanted it to be over as soon as possible. I had the surgery the next day, on December 10. If I'd waited it out completely naturally, it could have taken weeks. Even with the assistance of medicine, it could have taken several days. I wanted it to be over. I wanted to mourn the loss of that tiny life inside me and heal. I also had Crohn's to think of, which has gotten so bad that I was having a hard time keeping food down and the thought of going through a painful miscarriage on top of that sounded miserable. But most of all, to be completely honest, I chose to forego the emotional toll I knew a natural miscarriage would have on me.

The D&C was easy. My doctor came in beforehand and prayed with Alex and I. The nurses and staff were so sweet and caring and were really considerate of the reason we were there. They put me under; I woke 45 minutes later (in pain, but speedy drugs to the rescue!) and went home a few hours later. I rested for the next several days in bed where Alex played nurse in the most excellent way.

Emotionally, it has not been easy. While I am glad that I opted for the D&C, I am still (I'm only 8 days post-surgery) mentally tender and emotionally exhausted. I KNOW God has a very special plan for Alex and I and our family. I know that this baby was not meant to be - on earth, anyway. I am so relieved to know that I CAN get pregnant. But I am devastated. I cry at the most random things. Some moments I'm pissed at the world. I wonder, why me? why us? why not this baby? But you know what? It doesn't matter. God took me to this place for a reason. He will lift me out of it, too.

Needless to say, we're ready to bid farewell to 2014 and are SO hopeful for 2015! I know that there are great things in store for us. We may not have a baby in 2015, but I do believe that we will be closer to becoming parents. Right now, it feels like we're starting over but hey - that's OKAY! A new year is the perfect fresh start. Bring it on. Right now, I'm focusing on healing physically and emotionally and getting Crohn's under control.

I hope that I haven't depressed you a week before Christmas, but I thought it was important to openly talk about my miscarriage. About 50% of women will miscarry at some point, and no one talks about it. You may know a few people who have miscarried, but I promise you know a TON more who have experienced loss and never told you. I know it makes me feel better to have friends and family coming out of the woodwork to tell me about their losses - and to see them now with a few cute, healthy kiddos they're hauling around town, frantically trying to finish their Christmas shopping! It will happen. I know it will. I have faith. And it's going to be worth the wait.

"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." - Hebrews 11:1


Merry monograms!

Monday, November 24, 2014

As a good Southern girl, I was raised to appreciate the perfectly-sweetened pitcher of tea, dainty smocked dresses on little girls, hunting on holidays (or at least tolerating it when the men hunt on holidays), and of course, monograms.

The best thing about a monogram? It's uniquely yours. Sure, someone else has it too, but you probably don't know anyone off the top of your head who has your exact monogram. The second best thing about monograms? There's no "season" for them - you can wear them year-round.

I'm starting to think about Christmas gifts...and naturally, monograms come to mind. Even if it's something small, giving a monogrammed gift means you really thought about it (because there's no ready-made monogram store that I'm aware of and because there are 17,576 combinations of 3-letter monograms. That's a lot.) And every lady - and some gents - in your life can appreciate a monogrammed gift.

One gift I'm considering gifting to my mom, MIL, step-mom and besties is this cashmere-feel scarf from Marley Lilly. Think about it: you don't have to guess the size, you can get everyone a different color, and it's sooooo soft. Like seriously luxurious-feeling. It's classy, comfy, $22.99 and one-size-fits-all: so in other words, it's perfect.

If you haven't heard of Marley Lilly, you have got to take a looksie around their site. If it can be monogrammed, I'm pretty sure they have it.

Some other gifts I'm eyeing:

Now keep in mind: Marley Lilly has LOTS of sales and flash sales. I follow them on Instagram @marleylilly to stay on top of their sales and see their newest products. Sometimes they even offer free gifts with purchase (and there's nothing wrong with keeping the free gift for yourself...) I hope this helps you as you make your shopping list - and wish list - this year!

Love and monograms!

A huge thanks to Marley Lilly for sending me this scarf and accepting me into your Blogger Review Program!

Falling for autumn

Friday, October 24, 2014

I know, I know. I'm late to the "I love Fall" party and I've all but disappeared over the last few weeks. What can I say: I've been busy! 

Now that it's nearly Halloween, I figured I'd better share my Fall decorations before it's time to bust out the Christmas boxes. Last year, I did very minimal decorating for Fall, since we moved into our house last August. Because we'd just unpacked all the normal decor and gotten that situated, I didn't want to take it all down and decorate for fall. So I was soooo excited to get out ALL of my fall stuff this year, some of which I haven't seen since fall of 2012! 

ONE. Living Room
I took down most of my everyday decor and replaced with autumnal lovelies. Those little raffia pumpkins are some of my absolutely favorite decorations: my mom gave them to me years ago when I was in college, and she'd had them for years then! I made the bunting a few years ago, and I love how it looks on our mantle in this house. 
mantle decor + bunting
pumpkins in the fireplace (because it will be awhile before we light a fire in there!)
new pillows! I made the orange pillow covers to fit my Pottery Barn inserts

TWO. Dining Room
We don't eat in our dining room much, which is one reason I can set the table like this and it won't get messed up very often! 
burlap + candles + pinecones/leaves
just a few leaves on the mantle add some fall color

THREE. Front Door
The front door is probably my favorite thing to decorate seasonally. I made the burlap wreath a few months ago and had planned to swap it for a fall wreath, but I thought it looked so cute with the fall stuff that it stayed. And what's fall without mums and pumpkins on the doorstep, amiright? 
love coming home to this! 
burlap for the win 
FOUR. Kitchen
I keep things simple in the kitchen: a few candles, candy corn, fall dish towels, and a leaf-shaped candy dish (that I shouldn't fill, EVER, because I'll eat it all). 

candles and candy corn on the island
FIVE. Back Door
We don't really use the front door, so I had to do something at the back door to greet us with fall fanfare when we come home. I'll trade out the Halloween door hanger after the 31st for a grapevine wreath with fall leaves. 
protected by CPI Security and Ellie :)

In addition to this stuff, we have a few more decorations scattered throughout the house (and enough pumpkin candles to make it smell like Thanksgiving). Happy fall, y'all.


Linking up with
 AprilChristinaNatasha and Darci

I'm 30!

Monday, September 22, 2014

On September 3, I crossed over into the scary, unknown world known as My Thirties.

To be honest, I was dreading this birthday. Here's why:

  • It felt like my youth was literally slipping through my fingers. Like I had squandered the last 10 years, the period known as "My Twenties/Supposedly the Best Years of My Life" - did I make them count?
  • At 30, you can't get away with being a young, naive fresh-from-college girl who's still learning what she wants in life.
  • 30 sounds old (well...compared to 23, amiright?)
  • And to be perfectly honest, I thought I would be a mom before I turned 30.

In the weeks leading up to this day, I was struggling, y'all. Which is so, so stupid - I mean, it really is just a number.

BUT - thanks to my husband, mom, and friends, September 3 came and went without much pain. Instead, the day brought me a lot of laughs, big smiles, and an overwhelming feeling of I am blessed.

The week started off strong: Sunday night, I got back from Pebble Beach, and Alex arrived home with the team Monday morning. We went straight to my in-laws house (about an hour a way) to pick up our dogs and visit, then headed back to Columbia for dinner. Alex had made reservations for us, which I knew about, since we were planning to eat with my mom and stepdad the next night (birthday eve) and Alex would be at another tournament the night of my actual birthday. Unfortunately, I wasn't feeling too hot (Crohn's and travel don't play well), and I told him "I don't think I want to go to dinner" - we were both exhausted and I honestly just wanted to crawl in bed with takeout. Alex boldly said "If you really don't want to go, we won't go" - but something in his voice told me he really wanted to go. So we went!

And I am SO glad we did! He surprised me with 4 of our friends at dinner - two of which drove from Greenville just to surprise me! I was so happy to celebrate with friends, and the fact that Alex planned it and pulled it off made it 10x better!
Love these people!

On Tuesday, I had to go back to work (going back to work after a sweet vacay AND the day before your birthday is pretty rough). I knew my mom and stepdad were coming up from Florida that night en route to their cabin in NC, and Alex was going to grill out for us. I was excited to see my mom, as I hadn't seen her all summer. As I'm driving down our street, I see all these bright pink plastic flamingos...and thought "Whose yard is THAT?!" Yeah, it was ours. I had been flocked! I died laughing because I knew my mom had done it. Everyone in the neighborhood kept slowing down as the drove by, and my neighbors were probably praying the birds were not a new permanent fixture!
Mom is photobombing

Alex grilled us an amazing meal, then I opened presents (a day early, but I wouldn't be able to celebrate with Alex the night of my birthday since he had to leave for another tournament). My mom decided to give me 30 presents to celebrate the big 3-0, one of which was the flamingos (I'm now the proud owner of 30 of 'em - let me know if you need to borrow one). Another was this beautiful Le Creuset Dutch Oven!! I cannot wait to make some yummy fall and winter meals in that thing!
Please note Alex's decoration on his back.

Alex surprised me with all kinds of goodies: an espresso maker, a bathtub wine/book/candle caddie, and a set of golf clubs! It only took him 7 years, but I guess he's ready to make his wife a golfer (or just look like one).
My face. LOL.

He also gave me a very special gold coin that belonged to his grandmother, who just passed away a few weeks ago. He had it set into a pendant for me. I love sentimental gifts, and the thought he put into that was sooooo sweet.

We celebrated with cupcakes (mom made butter pecan with cream cheese frosting - delicious) and I blew out a candle and made a wish. Thankfully, I didn't have to blow out 30 candles. That could have been disastrous! 

Last pic at 29!

Because Alex had to hit he road on Wednesday (my actual birthday), we went to lunch with my mom and stepdad before he left town. That night, mom and Dave took me out to dinner, making it three consecutive nights of birthday celebrations!
Right around the time the clock struck 8:31pm and I became 30

When we got home from dinner, I decided I needed to make another wish, just in case the one I made the night before didn't count.
Making a wish!

Between the dinners and cupcakes and gifts and birthday cards and texts and phone calls and Facebook posts, I felt so incredibly loved! I have to admit that a few weeks into thirty I'm still a little freaked out that this is my age, but it's not so bad. I felt - and still feel - overwhelmingly blessed to have all that I do. No matter what this year or this decade might bring, I will embrace it!

Cheers to my first thirty, and to my next thirty years! The best is yet to be!


California Dreamin'

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Over Labor Day weekend, I had the opportunity to tag along on the hubby's work trip (read: a college golf tournament), which ordinarily wouldn't be super special or necessarily be an option at all. But it was pretty special that the destination for this trip was the one and only Pebble Beach Resort - so I was all, "uh yeah, I'll go. If I have to." Ha!

I was expecting cooler weather and sunshine, beautiful views and luxury. What I didn't expect was to whale watch from my balcony, feel like I was on a wildlife tour on the golf course, and for everyone to be soooo friendly. I guess I would be pretty friendly, too, if I lived somewhere so beautiful! 

The view from our balcony

Long sleeves in August!

The tournament included accommodations and perks for the spouses that tagged along, including several treatments at the Spa at Pebble Beach. After traveling for nearly 12 hours the day before (flying from Columbia, SC to Houston to San Francisco to Monterey), the pampering was most welcome!
The tournament organizers graciously gave the ladies a spa day...heaven on earth, I tell you!

I didn't do a lot of sight-seeing, but that was by choice. I just couldn't get enough of the golf course and its views, which was sight-seeing in itself. From the Lodge or the course, we saw whales, dolphins, seals, and sea otters. And of course, jaw-dropping views of the Bay and mountains. 

It was so fun to watch the team play and the hubby coach, since I don't get to go to many tournaments. Even better that we were staying right there at The Lodge, which was elegant and luxurious, full of old-world charm, but not stuffy: the perfect balance.

At #1 Tee
Wood-burning fireplace in our rooms.
And no A/C, because it's just not needed!
The hubs. He's adorable, no?
Watching the seals from #18 tee
I stood at this place and watched for about an hour. What. A View!! (And I was freeeezing!)

17-mile drive and the Lone Cypress Tree

Sunset over the Bay

If you ever, ever have the chance to stop by Pebble Beach - even if for the day - do it. I've seen this place on TV, but it's hard to appreciate its beauty on a screen. If you're a golfer, you're in luck: it's a public course, and you can play a round for the low, low price of $495. No, seriously.

It was an amazing trip, and SO worth all the connections and traveling! A bonus was that it was just a few days before my 30th birthday, so it doubled as a birthday getaway!

I'm still dreaming about that view. 


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