Sunday, August 28, 2016

Summer's Close in Nags Head

Last week we skipped town, driving down to the Outer Banks to spend a few days with family at the beach in honor of savoring these last few days of summer. A quick getaway turned out to be just what we needed and today we're rounding up a few of our favorite snaps if you care to see.

The cottage rental where we stayed was just behind the main road in Chicahauk, secluded among scrub oak trees and situated in the same neighborhood as our family-owned cottage from childhood. It had an outdoor shower and full wrap around wooden deck, just perfect for boisterous little children during the day and sips of wine during the sunset each evening:

Each morning we'd walk along the access path to the beach and take turns teaching my sister's children to jump the waves, build sandcastles or look for sand crabs. And while the fishing was less fruitful, Tim had a chance to work on perfecting his surf cast and we did catch a glimpse of a family of porpoises making their way along the surf line.

Thursday afternoon Tim indulged me in a drive down the ocean road to check up on old favorites like the Kitty Hawk Pier, Wink's, the now retro motels:

Oh, and John's Drive In, which seems to be a local institution — we couldn't pass up a boat of dolphin bites, crinkle cut fries and a couple of thick homemade milkshakes.

Separately, my sister and I piled the 3 oldest kids in the car to go see Jockey's Ridge for the first time. This had been a favorite stop from our childhood and we were eager to introduce the same fun memories of climbing the "tallest natural sand dune in the Eastern United States" to the next generation.

Boy it was hot, but we made it up to the very top!

It's amazing to look back at photos from our last family beach trip and see just how much the children have grown in the last 5 years. In fact, we celebrated Sophia & Benjamin's 5th & 6th birthdays while on vacation since they fall so close together (they were both born in August within the same year).

In the evenings, Tim also took advantage of being outside of the city to experiment with night photography. One night in particular while trying to focus in on the stars just above the ocean sand dunes, he captured what I consider to be a pretty incredible shot of the big dipper.

As always, thank you for taking the time to check in on what we've been up to. Now back home and with September just around the corner, it's the time of year where a fresh start feels possible. The little children are heading back to school, Brandon is embarking on his last year of college, Stephanie's moved into a new house and is preparing for a new teaching job that begins this week. Tim and I are also making plans to tackle a few house projects from the back-burner this autumn and are generally feeling optimistic about what the busy season ahead may bring.

How about you? Do you have an end-of-summer ritual or also feel like September's return welcomes a new beginning?

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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Before & After: DIY Antique Pallet Coffee Table

If you follow us on Instagram or Facebook you may already know we took advantage of the three day Memorial Day weekend to tackle a project we've had on the list for quite some time — a tiered coffee table:

We love not only the function of larger table surface and tiered storage, but are pleased with how the rustic industrial vibe turned out.

For a little background, this coffee table came to life from two antique pallets Tim had brought home from a warehouse close to 4 years ago. Yep, four years. Toss in a move, a wedding, travel and everyday life — here we are years later with the end result!

While we tackled the project over the span of three days, much of the length was due to waiting on dry times for the stain and final sealing — the actual process was simple and had us wondering why we hadn't attempt this project sooner. Such is life.

The first step in the process was clearing the pallets from storage in the garage and cleaning away the dirt, dust and debris that had collected over the last several years. I used a power washer to make this job not only speedier, but thorough. Once fully cleaned, we left in the sun to dry out for the rest of the day and overnight before moving onto the next step.

Once clean and dry, it was a matter or smoothing and refinishing the original pallets — buffing the metal portions to clear away any rust, sanding down the wood exteriors to smooth away any jagged splinters and edges, then applying a wood stain and seal before bringing inside to stack for a tiered effect. For those that are interested in a bit more in depth look into the process, we've laid out the full step-by-step tutorial below...

To clean and buff the metal legs and side frames, we used two different wire brush attachments for the drill (like these), one in a wheel shape, the other in a cup:

Lightly running these wire brushes over the metal cleared away any added debris or exposed rust, and applying pressure made the original metal sheen come through.

Tim particularly liked pulling that sheen through overtop each of the original pallet rivets. The cup shaped brush was great for sweeping over larger areas while the wheel shaped brush was nice for smaller details and tight corners.

Next up, we smoothed the wood using a belt sander with a fine grit sandpaper over the top of each pallet board. Doing so helped remove any jagged splinters, but also exposed the fresh original wood without losing any of the markings or deep stains that give these pallets their antique character.

After clearing away the sawdust, it was time to stain the wood. Out trusty shop-vac came in handy when trying to clear away all of the smaller bits from the cracks and slats.

Oh, and our trusty supervisor was on duty, running a tight ship as you can see:

We chose a wood finish stain in a shade called "Early American" as a way to pay homage to the pallets' original hue and went with a single coat as not too overwhelm the the end-result with a dark stain. Brushing on the stain as opposed to wiping on with a cloth allowed for getting into each of the wood crevices. This step was rather satisfying, as with each brush stroke, the stain brought out and accentuated all the original markings, nicks and scratches from the pallets' previous life in use.

We left the stain to dry overnight before applying the final seal. We chose a satin finish to keep the natural look of the wood instead of a high sheen, but allow for easy clean-up from potential spills or snacks on the final table surface.

After another overnight of dry time, we brought each of the pallets indoors and simply stacked them for a tied table effect. The older nature of the pallets made them both very heavy, so their weight alone holds them securely in place. that we've lived with the new coffee table for a few weeks, we can say we're really happy with it. We feel like we've got more room to spread out, more table space to take advantage of and a new shelf to hide odds and ends under to keep the surface clean.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Wedding Memories & A Third Anniversary

Three weeks ago today, Tim and I celebrated our 3rd wedding anniversary. I took the day off from work and we spent the day together pretty low key with a couple fun stops including Pearl's Cupcake Shoppe and dinner (aka 2 artichoke moussakas) at Stella's.

We both agreed how the time since has seemed to pass quickly, and also enjoyed reminiscing over just how much has changed — a new career path, one college graduation and another college start, a new baby in the family, selling our old house, trips to NYC, the United Kingdom, Italy, Mexico and now Budapest. It's enough to fill more than three years and we're eager to see what the future holds — most of all, finding out together.

With every June that rolls back around, I enjoy taking a peek back through our archive of wedding photos. Doing so inevitably brings favorite memories rushing back, that same reminder of just how much has changed and with each year that passes, different snapshots seem to pop up as new favorites. This year it was the candid, smaller moments and smiles that seemed to speak in new ways:

While we celebrated 3 years of marriage, on our anniversary we toasted to the 12 years our relationship has grown over. Perhaps cliche, but one of the sticking pieces of advice we got while planning our wedding was how marriage only begins with the wedding — it's the way time is spent cultivating the experiences and relationship after the wedding that defines the nature of your marriage.

Thanks for taking the time to stop in and share in a few favorite wedding memories with us today. If you're interested in strolling further down memory lane, you can peek through the photos from both our ceremony in the Edgar Allen Poe Museum garden and wedding party at The Roosevelt.

All of the images in today's post were captured by our talented wedding photographer, Tori Watson.

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Friday, June 17, 2016

July 4th Patriotic Desserts: Cherry Firecracker Cupcakes

Decorate a batch of these cupcakes with seasonal fresh fruits to add a patriotic focal point to your next summer table spread or bring along as the crowd pleaser to that 4th of July party on the calendar. Reminiscent of bursting fireworks, these cupcakes are simple to make and combine fresh blueberries with ripe bing cherries.

  • White frosted cupcakes
  • Bing cherries, stems on
  • Blueberries
*Rinse fruit and remove cherry pits, if desired, from the bottom of the fruit as this portion will be nestled into the frosting, hidden from view.

The base for these bright desserts are the white frosted cupcakes. Begin by whipping up a batch of your favorite recipe and don't be shy on the frosting as this will act as the "glue" to holding the fruit in place. Plus, who doesn't love a generous dollop of frosting?

If you're like me, your favorite tried and true cupcake recipe may come from a local bakery. In Richmond, nobody does basic vanilla quite like Ukrop's, so I was happy to pick up half a dozen to decorate with.

Tip: It's best to decorate these cupcakes with fruit the same day you plan to serve in order to achieve the freshest taste.

Position a single bing cherry, stem side facing up, into the center of the frosted cupcake. I like to choose cherries where the stems are still fully intact and have a bit of a curve in them.

One by one, surround the cherry with blueberries, gently pressing into the frosting to hold all of the fruit in place. I like to position the blueberries stem side down since the bottom tends to have more visual variation — but completely up to your preference!

Once complete, these cupcakes are ready to serve and enjoy. 

When paired together and elevated on a cake stand, these colorful cupcakes make quite the focal point and patriotic statement on your summer table.

To take it a step further, try using different fruits to make different variations. For example, slices of strawberries and star shaped watermelon come together to create a 3-dimensional showstopper:

Look for the full step by step tutorial for making these star shaped watermelon and strawberry toppers making an appearance over on in the coming weeks in honor of the long 3 day weekend ahead!

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