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Monday, October 20, 2014

Enagagements, Anniversaries, and Ready for Home!

Last Thursday we were invited to attend the surprise engagement of our friend's Tom and Erin. Tom proposed after dinner at a park and then coaxed his fiancée into the nearby Neighborhood Pub where all of their friends and family were waiting to celebrate. She explained that he literally asked about a minute prior to walking in so her reaction was amazing; tears, laughs, a priceless look of shock (in a good way)! Tom did a great job of planning everything...and an equally great job picking out a gorgeous ring ; ) We are so happy for them!

Brad and I celebrated our first anniversary this weekend. We went out for a delicious steak dinner and then exchanged the traditional first-year paper gifts. Brad surprised me with orchestra-level seats to my absolute favorite show, Phantom of the Opera! I've seen it many times, read the original novel by Gaston Leroux, and can even play some of Andrew Lloyd Webber's music on the piano....needless to say I am super excited!

For his gift,  I put together 12 envelopes, one for each month, that contain "Brad" themed dates. I won't go into too much detail about what the dates are because the idea is for him to open one each month and be surprised : )

I am going to be taking a break from blogging this week as we are flying to NY tomorrow. It's been a year since I have been home, which is absolutely crazy to think about as I have never been away this long. I can't begin to explain how much I miss my friends and family, and am looking forward to soaking in every moment with them!

It's going to be a busy and emotional week. Thursday is the year anniversary of my dad's passing. I am so thankful that we will be together on this day, and hope to keep the focus on celebrating his life together.

Saturday I will be a guest at one of my dearest friend's wedding. Angela and Steve will be married a year to the date of their daughter Makaila's Open Heart Surgery; it has been an incredibly difficult journey for them but what a beautiful way to celebrate their health and happiness as a family!

 I also get to meet (and love on) Stacey and Jon's baby boy Jack for the first time. She had just found out she was expecting right around the time of my wedding, and now he is already almost 5 months old!

I look forward to sharing many new happy memories with you when I get back : ) 

Thursday, October 16, 2014


This week marks our one-year anniversary of marriage. This has been a difficult year for us, but we have grown stronger and more united than before. Some have asked if I still planned to celebrate my anniversary since it's so closely associated with my dad's passing. It does feel unnatural to be celebrating this week. It's a struggle to handle this mix of feelings, and it's true my wedding will always be bittersweet. I have been thinking about this a lot; and ultimately this day was made even more special in that these are my last moments and memories I have with my dad. I am so thankful we had that time together as a family. When my dad passed he knew he was loved immensely and his heart was filled with joy.

 I've gone back and forth with whether or not I wanted to write this post. I finally compiled all of my photos and seeing the smiles and happiness, I had my answer. I thought what better time then on my first anniversary to share them with you...

Our Wedding Weekend

 We had our destination wedding in Tulum, Mexico at the Dreams Tulum Resort & Spa. It was in The Riviera Maya a  year prior that Brad first mentioned that he wanted to marry me. We had the best time on that trip and were so excited to get married in paradise...

We used Vista Print for invitations, place cards, menus, and personalized stickers for our cake boxes. Having the finest stationary wasn't super important to me, but I wanted them to look nice. Brad's brother Jeff did our calligraphy as his gift to us; it was a special touch!

Friday Night Cocktail Hour

Instead of a rehearsal, we planned a welcome cocktail hour for our 21 guests to get to know each other. We gave out destination wedding survival-kits with things like hand-sanitizer, Tylenol, and sunscreen just in case they forgot something essential. This was my only real DIY project...because we won't talk about the botched unity candle experiment! I also had guests sign this really fun book I had made by Shutterfly with all of our engagement photos.


Wedding Day

The morning of the wedding I had breakfast with friends and family. My friends from NY  gave me a  cookbook  they made with their family recipes in it. I keep it on my coffee table; such a personal and sweet gift . 

After breakfast my dad and I rehearsed our father-daughter dance. While we didn't have much time to practice, it really came out beautifully in no small part due to my dad ; )

 That afternoon I had my hair and makeup done at the spa. I had lots of inspiration pictures and was really nervous but everything came out great. It was a really nice morning and I was happy to have my friends and family by my side. Brad spent the day with his parents. The photographer did a little mini session with us individually but we decided not to do a first-look.  

My dress was from Allure Bridals  and I had my shoes custom made from Etsy. My jewelry was a family heirloom. I wore a necklace (though I made it into a bracelet), that is passed down to the youngest daughter in my family. My something blue/borrowed was a beautiful
handkerchief made from my friend Laura's wedding dress. She had it embroidered in blue with my married name.

The resort florist provided flowers based on my chosen color-scheme. When you have a destination wedding a lot of things are left sight unseen until the big day. It's definitely tough for someone who likes to know every-detail of everything, but it also allowed me to relax more than I normally would. I loved the centerpieces for the table and my bouquet, but my only gripe were the yellowish babies breath...just not a fan. It goes to show you that there will always be things that aren't perfect about your wedding day but honestly it just doesn't matter! 

  The Ceremony

We got married at the little blue church on-sight. It was really small and quaint and most importantly air-conditioned! We did get some photos done at the beach but it was extremely hot and uncomfortable; this was definitely the right way to go! 

I chose to have both of my parents walk me down the aisle. My Mom and Dad did the same for their wedding so I wanted to keep the tradition. I literally took two steps toward the door and ripped the bottom of my lace dress with my heel. I immediately started to stress but my parents both just said relax and enjoy this moment. I  took a deep breath and thankfully forgot all about my dress.

While we didn't write our own vows, we chose all of the prayers and readings. Brad's mom and both of my sisters gave the readings. We decided not to have a wedding party but Brad's dad stood beside him and served as Ring Barer and my mom did the same for me as Matron of Honor.

We walked down the aisle to fairly traditional songs Canon in D, Ave Maria, and Arioso but our recessional was Dream a Little Dream of Me. We chose our musician without hearing him play which I am not sure I recommend. Trust me when I say it is near impossible to find an English speaking Spanish Guitarist in Tulum, Mexico!

I was afraid I would tear up at my ceremony as I tend to cry at every wedding I go to; but it was just the opposite! I couldn't stop smiling...beaming actually. I have never been happier.

The Cocktail Hour

We had group photos, cocktails, and  hors d'oeuvres outside after the ceremony. While we aren't big dancers, we hired a mariachi band which fit in with the locale. It was a lot of fun and I was able to dance with my dad (though I don't know which song), but Brad and I danced to La-Bamba ...which I requested because oddly enough we have memories with that song.

The Reception Dinner

Since we had a smaller group, we decided to have a private dinner at the wine cellar in lieu of a traditional reception. Again, air conditioning won out but I think our guests appreciated that! I found cute starfish wine stoppers as favors; and we had guests sign matting that we eventually framed with our wedding photo and put in our living room.

 My dad and sisters gave speeches and Brad's Dad said a beautiful prayer. Surrounded by loved ones enjoying a wonderful meal together is basically my idea of perfection. I  wasn't running around table-to-table, I could just focus in on being present and I loved every second of it!
Afterward there was a fire dancer show and live music...a fabulous ending to a perfect day!

Thanks to my friends Beth, Lindsay, and our photographer for these beautiful photos!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Chicken Riggies With a Twist!

I make many different versions of the Utica, NY specialty riggies (like the vodka version here), but I rarely make them the same way twice. I tend to use what I have on hand which is how I came up with the recipe below.

This recipe has a little twist as it uses bacon which gives a nice smokiness that works well with the peppers. Instead of heavy cream, I use half and half since the bacon adds richness. This sauce has a kick but not overly-so, if you're not a spice fan you can always dial down the number of cherry peppers. Brad and I both agreed we loved the sauce and it tasted just like home : )

Chicken Riggies with a Twist 


1lb chicken breast cooked & cubed ( I saute with olive oil, salt & pepper)
3 cups of marinara, recipe here
1/2 cup half & half
1 tbsp butter
1 small onion chopped
3 slices of bacon chopped
5 hot jarred cherry peppers chopped (discard seeds)
1 green bell pepper chopped
1 can of whole black olives
Parmesan (for topping)
3/4 of a 1 lb box of rigatoni


1) In a large/deep saute pan cook bacon till crisp over med-high heat
2) Add in butter and onion and cook until onion is translucent.
3) Add in olives, cherry, & sweet peppers. Cook a few minutes until they begin to soften
4) Turn down heat to medium and add in marinara sauce. Stir in chicken and continue to cook until peppers are completely cooked through (10-15 minutes)
5) Boil water and cook noodles one minute less than directed.
6) Add in half & half and continue to cook until sauce thickens
7) Drain noodles and add them to sauce and continue to cook about a minute.
8) Top with Parmesan and serve!

*Just a note this sauce freezes fine, just be sure to prepare the noodles fresh.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Vapor Meditation

"We could recognize our humble place in this universe. We could recognize the silliness of human arrogance...empire, and perhaps as a result we could learn to appreciate and fully experience the moments we have as the gifts that they are."  - The Liturgists

I wanted to share this with you today. I found this incredibly thought-provoking video through Watershed.

The Vapor Meditation puts a lot into perspective; and says more in nine minutes about why I believe in God than I could say in six months of writing this blog.

"So set your hearts not on things of earth, not on the vapor....but let go. Fully open your heart to both the gift and the giver. The mystery, the beauty... that in which we live and move and have our being. That which we call God, the oneness who holds the vapor together, who somehow brings meaning into the meaningless..."  - The Liturgists

I'd love to hear your thoughts. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

South End Hops Festival

Friday night we stayed in, ordered pizza, and watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. It was entertaining. In my opinion this is the best way to unwind after a busy week... 

Saturday I won VIP tickets to the South End Hops Festival.We brought Bindi along with us, and enjoyed some good beers and great live music. Be on the lookout for Southern Pines Brewery.  It's not quite local, located in Moore county, but they brewed a delicious IPA and Saison. D9 out of Cornelius also had some impressive beers; Brad really enjoyed their Sour. They also had some of the friendliest staff, and really loved-on Bindi.

Sunday we visited my in-laws. Brad's mom made us all breakfast for dinner and we just relaxed since it was pretty miserable outside. Leslie is still recovering from her surgery. It's been a tough road for her as she's experiencing a lot of nerve pain still; please keep her in your thoughts and prayers.

Friday, October 10, 2014

FOF: Herb-Infused Cream Sauce, House Update, & Special Anniversary

So I am a little late to the party but Five on Friday is back from its Summer hiatus ...


My friend Laura came over this week to catch up. We've been having incredible weather lately so we just hung out on my front porch. I know we're getting older (and wiser) when after two drinks we switched over to hot tea! This photo is from our last Laura-Shauna day : ) She is working on her PhD in Psychology and will be most likely leaving for an internship soon, so our days of  living a mile away are numbered.These moments together are extra-special to me; it's going to be a sad day when she moves away.


Want to whip up an easy sauce in 5 minutes flat? This herb-infused cream sauce is delicious and made with half and half so it's a little less fattening than a full-fledged heavy-cream sauce. I absolutely love it over any ravioli. If you don't want to make your own, Trader Joe's sells many different versions of ravioli.I've paired this sauce with Butternut Squash Ravioli and their Girasoli Ricotta and Lemon Zest Ravioli.

Herb-Infused Cream Sauce 

1/4 cup half & half
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 sprig of Rosemary (you can also use Thyme, Sage, or Basil)
1 garlic clove (thinly sliced)
Pecorino or Romano Cheese (for topping)
Sea Salt, Cracked Pepper, and Red Pepper Flakes (to taste)

1) In a sauce pan over medium melt butter
2) Add a small pinch of red pepper flakes (optional) and garlic. Saute for about a minute
3) Whisk in Heavy Cream and rosemary. Let thicken for two-three minutes-keep whisking.
4) Season with salt & pepper and taste
5) Serve sauce over pasta and sprinkle generously with grated cheese.


House update: 
We just got the second appraisal we were waiting on which means we are getting closer to breaking ground! We are still waiting on some details which will dictate whether this happens this month or early next... fingers crossed!

We decided to go with the Boral Brick below. It was our favorite and I think it is going to look awesome. It was the priciest option but it's a big thing so it's not a place to cut-back, and the price difference wasn't that much to warrant the budget option. 

We also decided to forego the built-ins we were considering and add more windows on either side of the fireplace (similar to below). The only other windows in the living room lead out to a screened-in porch so the sunlight would be indirect. Our current home is rather cave-like so we want lots of light in this house...I'll have to get creative with storage.


A little inspiration/prayer for the weekend...


October 10th would be my parents 33 year anniversary. The love they shared was so special and created a stable and comforting environment for me as a child. My parents demonstrated love, kindness, respect, and compassion for one another. I look at the years they had together and am so inspired. I realize not many people have the kind of relationship they shared; what an amazing gift from God.

Sending you peace and love this weekend friends,

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

25 Awesome Halloween/Fall Events in Charlotte:

There are SO many amazing events and activities in Charlotte this time of year. Whether you prefer your entertainment scary, tame, or somewhere in-between, there's something on this list for everyone! 

1.Scarowinds -(Through November 1st)  Carowinds with a scary twist! You can read more about my recent visit here.

2. Brews for Babies - (October 28th)  Okay, so maybe this isn't exactly Halloween/Fall related but my friend is organizing this event and it's a great cause so why not come out to enjoy drinks & appetizers at Heist brewery, all profits support the March of Dimes.

3.Yelp Gets Freaky at the Factory - (October 28th) Ever want to attend a Yelp Elite event? If so, here's your chance! Free food, drinks, live entertainment etc. and it's all open to the public! Check out some of my past Yelp Elite events here, here, and here.

4.Carolina Renaissance Festival - (Through November 23rd) Best people watching ever! Bonus, this festival has one of the lowest alcohol prices of any Ren. fair in the country; craft beer, wine mimosas, and even ye old margaritas (who knew?!) Grab a turkey leg or a sausage-on-a-stick and be prepared to be amused!

5. Carrigan Farms Pumpkin Patch Tour and Hayride -(Through October) While technically Mooreseville N.C, this is definitely worth the short trip. $10 gets you a hayride, pick of your own pumpkin, and a taste of homemade cider. They also have non-scary night hayrides and their very scary Scarigan Farms attraction  for ages 12 and up.

6.Triple C Brewing Company Harvest Fest & Oyster Roast -(November 1st) Arts and Crafts Vendors, Beers, and an Oyster Roast. They are also partnering with Canine Cafe on (October 26th) for Barktoberfest

7. Yadkin Valley Fall Colors Wine Tours - (October 11th & 25th) Includes lunch, tasting fees, and transportation.

8. Oktoberfest at the Waldhorn - (Through October 11th) Traditional foods, beverages and music...bring your lederhosen!

9. Fall Finale at the Whitewater Center - (October 11th) Live music series at the Whitewater Center

10.  Theresa Caputo Live at Ovens - (October 12th-13th) Nothing quite says Halloween like an encounter with an actual Medium....I am too wimpy to go to something like this, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't the tiniest bit curious!

11. Pineville Fall Fest -(October 17th-18th) Again, not quite in Charlotte but it's free, family-friendly, and offers carnival games, food, and live-music.

12. Have kids? Spinning Spiders & Creepy Crawlers (October 18th) is a free event put on by the Charlotte Nature Museum that incorporates education, crafts, and of course some Halloween fun!

13.Spirits of Rosedale -(October 24th, 25th & 31st) - Take a tour of Noda's 200 year old plantation, learn about the spirits that haunt the grounds there. While the tour is milder, they also offer a paranormal tour for the truly brave!

14. BooTanical Gardens- (October 25th-26th) Fun for the younger set and adults; pumpkin "chunking"/ throwing,  hayrides, fire-pits etc.

15. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (October 17th, 24th, and 31st) My friend Laura and I went to one a few years ago around Halloween and we had an absolute blast. Just be sure to read up on it first so you are prepared for all the fun!

16. Howl-O-Ween (October 31st) Re-live those post-college memories if you dare... cash costume contest and Angry Orchard will be present.

17. Amazing Maize Maze (Through November 1st) I haven't been myself but I've heard this is not your average maze, it's pretty tough but equally fun. Really adventurous? Try their family-friendly flashlight maze at night.

18. Lazy 5 Ranch Fall Festival (Through November 2nd) If you're an animal lover or have kids you need to drive to Mooresville and go to Lazy 5! We have taken various family members here and everyone always enjoys it. Besides, where else can you go pumpkin bowling and play pumpkin-checkers?

19. Duke Mansion's Homeland Halloween Party (October 25th)  Calling all Homeland fans, see VP William Walden's Home, participate in the silent auction, eat gourmet food, and enjoy live-music!

20. I'll be honest scary movies aren't my style, but if they are yours check out the Retro Horror Film Series at the Arsley Grand Cinema (Through November 6th)

21. Southern Fall Favorites Cooking Class -(November 11th) Learn how to cook like a pro! Chef Alyssa teaches you how to make some fall-inspired dishes like Seared Trout with brown butter, sage and pecans, and Homemade Apple mouth is watering just thinking about this!

22. Need some R&R? Or perhaps you snuck into that candy stash a little early? Check out Be Yoga's Fall Retreat  (October 16th) to the Carolina Mountains

23. Rocktoberfest -(October 11th)  15 breweries, 3 live bands, and a Stein-hoisting competition

24.The Charlotte Good Eats & Meets Dinner with the Ghost & the Devil -(October 30th & November 5th) Good Eats & Meets Candlelit walking tour with a period-costumed storyteller in Charlotte's most-haunted locales followed be a multi-course meal at Dandelion Market.

25.  Hall Family Farm -(Through November 8th) This farm near Ballantyne offers a Corn Maze, Pick Your Own Pumpkin Patch, Hayrides, and Bonfire.

Anything I missed? Comment below if you have another Fall/Halloween event/activity you would like to share.

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