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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A year ago this week...

This morning my sister in law Leslie is having surgery on her hip. She has gone through this process before, but we are hoping that this one can help eliminate her pain, and allow her to continue to be the active mom and wife that she is. Please keep her in your thoughts and/or prayers as she goes through the day and throughout her recovery.

This week marks one year since Brad and I legally tied the knot! Since we had a destination wedding,we wanted to avoid a lot of the legal stipulations to marry in Mexico like blood tests, mandatory early arrival, and the requirement of  a Spanish ceremony with English translation. Instead, we decided to skip the visit to the doctor and make a little trip to the magistrate office. This ended up working out very well because Brad's siblings were unable to make the trip abroad with us; so this enabled them to be part of our day too.

We wanted to keep the day informal, so I found a simple inexpensive dress and wore blue shoes (which for some reason I was dying to do) for the day. My friend Laura did my hair and makeup. I remember being a tad on the nervous side, but I had my close friend and parents by my side that morning. Brad went to his parents to help them set up and get ready for the day with his family.

When I arrived at the magistrates our nephew Walker greeted me with this sweet little bouquet my SIL Leslie made....

Here's the hilarious part; the magistrates office just so happens to share space with the jail.. so of course we  had a little fun with it....

After we signed some documents, and temporarily exchanged wedding bands (we didn't officially wear rings until after Mexico) with the help of our little ring-bearers, we had an extremely short outdoor "ceremony" all of maybe 5 minutes, and became man and wife in the eyes of North Carolina!

The entire group (minus Leslie who took our photos), outside the magistrates...

We had a small barbecue afterward and invited some of our local friends and family. My SIL Leslie surprised us with some amazing details; it was a really fun and special day!

and then we rode off into the sunset...okay, maybe just down the street and back : )

It's so much fun going through these photos, and all of the happiness I felt that day is still in my heart. This has been a tough year navigating through both newlywed life and loss, but I couldn't have found a better partner than my husband Brad.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Why My Blog Can't Be The Entire Story...

This weekend I spent some time with friends and the subject of my blog came up. My friends offered some extremely respectful constructive-criticism and I just wanted to explore some of their comments so that I can perhaps offer a better perspective of the direction my blog has taken...

My friend mentioned that she didn't feel that she recognized my voice in the blog. This was admittedly difficult to hear because I have shared a lot of my personal feelings in this space and always with the best intentions.But if I am honest with myself, my friend had a perfectly valid point. To a certain extent, The Healing Apron is a sanitized version of my life, and here is why...

When I first began writing about my dad's death I wrote without thinking about anyone else. It was raw, it was the way I felt, and I didn't feel that I owed any explanation for these feelings. There is a freedom in writing just for yourself, but there are also consequences. One afternoon I called my mom and I could tell that she was completely distraught. While understandably this has been common during this past year, I could sense something different about her despair that day. She explained that she had read my blog and that it brought up a lot for her. To hear your mother sob over the phone is a feeling of helplessness I can't explain. I felt so small in that moment, and though I didn't necessarily have anything to  apologize for, I can honestly say it was the first time I considered the feelings of anyone else in my writing. I did ask her if she would prefer that I didn't write about my dad, but of course she encouraged me to continue with my blog. I struggle with how to be true to my own grief while considering that my dad's wife, his mother, his sisters, brothers, and other children also have the details of his passing written on the internet.

 I want to write something my dad can be proud of, and take into consideration the feelings of others who have known him. I imagine many of you may think that this is a cop-out or that I shouldn't care what others think about my writing, but the fact is this is my family and I care deeply about their feelings and a blog will never be worth making them feel uncomfortable. As far as this hindering my ability to express my grief, that's valid as well. I have found the process of editing to be cathartic. I have written more than a few blog posts only to delete them without ever publishing, but in that process found relief and release.

This brings me to address the second comment my friends made, think about others who are going through this process. I want this blog to serve as a resource to those who are going through this process, but  I also want this blog to be more than that. I want to clarify that I am not attempting to "cook myself to happiness," and I certainly hope that building a house, or making homemade sauce does not come across as a way to hide or minimize the tremendous loss I have suffered. Yes, I think about my dad every single day...but at the same time it's ok that I am happy. I am learning to live my life with the realization that I will not be able to build new memories with my dad. He will never see my kids, he will never give me a hug, and I will never again hear his voice on the other side of the phone. That's tough, that's reality, and the truth of it is I don't want to explore how that makes me feel every single day. Sometimes I want to just live a quiet life, talk to my dad in the car on the way to work, and spend time with the loved ones I am lucky enough to have living on this earth.

Ultimately, I  want this to be a humble little blog that I can write about my life; the mundane and the emotional. I want to also extend an ear to anyone who is currently grieving. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me (my personal email is listed under contact-me) and we can talk. Not through the guise of a  blog comment, but through a letter or a phone call. I want to call you by name and know your story. At the end of a day, this blog will never be the entire story of myself. So yes, there are pieces of me that will always be reserved for conversations with those I love most and I am completely okay with that.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Rigatoni Contadina

When I was in college my favorite restaurant was this unassuming little Italian restaurant in Buffalo, NY called Billy Ogden's. The menu was written on a giant chalkboard, and the ingredients were always seasonal and fresh.While Billy's was essentially a hole-in-the-wall, it wasn't exactly student budget-friendly; they clearly spent money on what mattered- the food. My big sister Renea was kind enough to treat me to Billy's, and we both ordered the same dishes every single time; Chef Andy's famous Stuffed Peppers (that were so spicy I ordered with a side of milk), and the incredibly delicious Tortellini Contadina.

Chef Andy DiVencenzo created some of the best dishes I've ever had the privilege of tasting. Sadly, he unexpectedly passed away, and a few years later the restaurant closed as well. My sister and I often reminisce about the delicious food at Billy's and the memories we created over dinner together. 

Last week I created a dish inspired by Chef Andy's Tortellini Contadina and the results were wonderful! This is a perfect dish for fall. It's super comforting and is just the slightest bit spicy with the inclusion of hot Italian sausage. In my version, I use rigatoni since that's what I had on-hand, but you could easily serve this with tortellini. I hope you'll give it a try!

 Rigatoni Contadina
* Serves 6-8


4 cups of  a chunky-style marinara. I use my own version of  Marinara you can find here
1 pound of hot Italian ground sausage
 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano Cheese plus more for garnish
1 cup Half & Half (You can use heavy cream-this is my attempt to curb calories)
1/2 cup of peas (fresh or frozen)
1/4 cup of cooking sherry (optional)
Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
Salt & Pepper to taste


1) Brown Sausage over medium-high heat and drain excess fat
2) Add Sherry and cook alcohol off for 2-3 minutes
3) Slowly Pour in Half & Half and combine well
4) Toss in Pecorino Romano Cheese and let sauce thicken enough to coat the back of a spoon
5) Adjust all seasonings  if necessary (salt, pepper, red pepper flake)
6) Meanwhile prepare pasta as desired. Drain water and add noodles directly to the sauce. Mix well
7) Garnish with more cheese

Monday, September 8, 2014

NY/NJ Trip & Make-ahead Meals

Thursday morning I flew to New York to attend a career fair at NYU on behalf of my company. It was a great event, and I met so many talented students that would make great UFLP and Intern candidates.

 One huge perk of this trip is that I was able to spend some time with my good friend Nicole. Instead of getting a hotel, I stayed with Nicole and her fiancé Joe. Thursday night we went to Hoboken and had a delicious dinner at Trattoria Saporito.I loved walking around Hoboken and found the area to be really charming.

Due to two weather-related flight cancellations, we haven't been able to see each other since I was married last October, so we stayed up the entire night catching up over lots of wine : ) This is why I absolutely love my friends from home, it just feels like we were never apart. I am so lucky to have life long friends who also happen to be some of the loveliest people I know. Now if only I could convince them all to move to Charlotte....

 The next day we made time for bridesmaid shopping.  I love the dresses she chose, but I will keep the details of her wedding a surprise. That night, I met some of Nicole's friends who were all very sweet. I look forward to seeing them again at her Bachelorette party. Saturday I flew back to Charlotte, and was home by noon; It was a short- but fun trip!

From top left to right: myself at the NYU recruiting event, Breakfast Pizza at Crust in LaGuardia Airport, Unilever event signage, Nicole's new Kitty Cocoa, and Nicole and her dog Carter. I almost took her pets home with me, so sweet!
Saturday night Brad and I kept it low-key.We went on a little impromptu dinner-date at Greek Isles and then went to bed early...I was tired!

Sunday I worked on some make-ahead meals for the week. I have been obsessed with freezing things lately, it makes weeknight dinners super easy. I substituted lean ground turkey meat and made a healthier version of this Pasta e Fagioli and then added button mushrooms to The Pioneer Woman's Sunday Stew . I portioned everything out (including the potatoes) into labeled freezer bags and and we ended up with 6 meals that serve two. Both meals freeze-well and taste delicious!

From left to right: Sunday Stew, Pasta e Fagioli, and my ever-growing freezer meal collection

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Good Morning Monday

Family Dinner: 

On Friday we celebrated Brad's birthday. His Brother, Sister, and Brother in-law joined us for bread and homemade compound butter (courtesy of Jeff), steaks, Neely's Sauteed Spinach, Cozy Country Living's Sour Cream and Cheddar Baked Mashed Potatoes, and The Lady Olive's Key Lime Pie for dessert! Everything was delicious, and it was a really lovely dinner.
Love for Prosecco:

Deal Alert! If you're a huge Proscecco fan like me you need to try Costco's Kirkland brand. I know what you're thinking, how good can Costo-branded wine be? but It's surprisingly tasty and is completely on par with any $12-15 bottle. It's crisp, fruit-forward, and light and sells for a mere $7.49 per bottle! While it's certainly good enough on its own, it's equally great if you're wanting to whip up some inexpensive mimosas. Trust me on this one...

 Shopping for a Cause:

I know I've mentioned Jamberry nails several times on this blog. My SIL sells these cute nail wraps and is donating her commissions to a friend of hers that is currently awaiting a liver transplant. The proceeds will help with expenses not covered by insurance such as gas, food, and lodging. If you want to try them out email me at and I will put you in contact with Leslie to get a free sample. If you're interested in making a purchase for this cause please visit Leslie's Jamberry page here and choose "Ashleigh-Anne's Party."

Check out the new Fall designs I just bought! 

From left to right: Sweet Nothing, Black & White Stripe, Gray & White Polka, Berry Blue Tip, & Date Night.

Friday, August 29, 2014

OHF! Pinterest Recipes, Hubby Birthday, and Porch Reveal

1. Brad's Birthday

Today is my husband's birthday. He has proclaimed it the weekend of "grilling meat" so we are having some family over tonight to grill steaks. He has an entire list of foods he would like to grill through Monday ...hey, it's what he wanted! I bought some of his favorite beer and made a special treat for him (more on that next week). One of my favorite things about him besides his extremely kind and generous heart, is his sense of humor. There is never a dull day in our household, and it just makes life fun! I am so incredibly blessed to have him as my partner and for that I thank God every day.

2. Pinterest Recipe Success

I nearly always hunt for weekly dinner ideas and cooking inspiration on Pinterest. I had to share these two fall-inspired recipes I made this week because they are both simply awesome!  If you would like to follow me on Pinterest click here

This Creamy White Bean Stew with Smokey Bacon by The Cozy Apron is probably the best soup I've ever made. It's not only healthy but it's extremely budget-friendly as well. This will become a staple recipe in our home...just delicious Make it : )


I had some leftover sage from last weeks Sage & Broccoli Side dish so in my hunt for sage-forward recipes, I found this Butternut Squash and Sage Risotto with Goat Cheese recipe from Vikalinka. Next time I will add some mushrooms or more butternut squash, but overall it was extremely tasty and decadent. While risotto seems like a calorie gut-punch, most of its creaminess comes from cooking in its own starch and not from actual cream or cheese (there isn't a ton in this recipe).

3. Porch Revamp Update

Just a little update on our porch revamp.I did end up finding some nice cushions at Garden Ridge, they had a ridiculous selection. It's so much more comfortable now to relax and have a glass of wine or a cup of coffee on the porch. Our flowers did amazing this year; usually the squirrels hide nuts in our planters but they stayed away : ) 

 4. National Dog Day

In honor of National Dog Day this week I've posted some cute pictures below of my sweet girl Bindi. She loves to sunbathe so here she is catching some rays from the living room window. Guess we will need to replace our couch pillows soon too....

5. House Update

This week I am having trouble choosing kitchen hardware (and faucet) colors. You can see my kitchen design inspiration here, which would you choose? 

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Old Mecklenburg Brewery Brauhaus

Old Mecklenburg Brewery Brauhaus

Monday we went to the newly opened OMB Brauhaus for an after work Yelp event. This venue is absolutely incredible and you really need to see it in-person to do justice. It looks like an authentic beer garden and there is tons of space to just relax outside or enjoy a pint or two and some brats! They offer a full menu with lots of space(s) for events and this German girl was not disappointed with their fare. Bonus they offer FREE tours Friday-Sunday. You can read my full review here

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