Weekend in Photos: Laid-Back Fall

It was a quiet two days around here. An an unusual weekend with no commitments, we kept things easy and headed to the close-by Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis for Art at the Park and a stroll to the overlook. We had dinner out, watched lots of football, picked out favorites from the pumpkin patch to carve next week, and sipped apple sangria. Cheers to the week ahead!

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6 Low-Key Date Ideas for the Fall Season

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As the leaves begin to turn and the themed aisles of Target quickly turn from back-to-school to an odd combination of both Halloween and Christmas, there’s no arguing autumn is in full swing. In previous years, this is usually the time when I accept that I won’t see my husband until the end of March due to a busy basketball-centered travel and work schedule. However, the beginning of this summer brought about a promotion and change of work responsibilities for J, and he’s no longer at the office until nine every evening or on road trips through the weekends. With a new found ability to spend more time together this fall and winter, I thought I’d brainstorm and share some inexpensive and low-key “date” ideas for the months ahead.

1. Spend a Saturday afternoon at a local watering hole sharing a pitcher and watching college football
Even non-sports enthusiasts can appreciate the atmosphere of a cold drink, greasy appetizers, and cheers from fans on game day.

2. Head to the kitchen together and spend the day making each other’s favorite cookies
With the exception of after-dinner dishes and heating up frozen pizza, J pretty much avoids the kitchen at all costs. However, if anything is going to lure him in, it’s the promise of cookies. This is a great opportunity to turn off the TV, put aside the cell phones, and maybe even learn something new about each other.

3. Paint a wall in your home and share takeout pizza when it’s complete
Quality time together and little home improvement? Sounds like a win in my book! Painting just one wall is an inexpensive and easy way to add a quick update to a tired space. If you’re anything like us, you’ll appreciate spending the money on paint and supplies much longer than you would a date out.

4. Carve pumpkins and enjoy a meal from the slow cooker
Throw your favorite one-pot meal or stew in the slow cooker and spend a Sunday afternoon carving pumpkins outside. When you come back in you’ll have a hot meal waiting for you to enjoy. This would be an awesome date-in to invite another couple to share in.

5. Go for a hike – or head out on a geocaching adventure
As part of our anniversary date last month, J planned an 8-mile hike and picnic around a local state park. It was fun to get a little lost together and enjoy the peacefulness of our surroundings. I also had a really fun time pretending to see snakes so J would freak out. I think we would love the added adventure of geocaching with our phones and finding “treasure” at the end.

6. Create your own Oktoberfest tasting
So many beer and wine stores around us are now offering customers the option to create their own six packs by purchasing individual bottles of premium beers. This is a great way to try new brands and flavors without too much commitment or expense. Head out with your partner and select a handful of pumpkin or Oktoberfest beers to try and then take back to your home to pour and share while you discuss what you like and don’t like.

Do you have a favorite or go-to low-key date? What’s something small you’re looking forward to enjoying this season?

On Two Years

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Two years ago, I cried my way down the aisle to J. (Don’t worry, they were happy tears.)

A whirlwind of a day, one of my most vivid memories was before we left for the ceremony, standing outside the bridal suite on the top floor of the hotel and looking down into the open lobby. As I took a few nervous, deep breaths, I remember being in awe that the day I had always wondered about was finally here. Feeling beyond grateful, I thought about the friends and family who had traveled to join us, the perfect sunny fall day, and most of all – the guy that was waiting for me at the church.

I never thought I would get married at 24. To be honest, there was a time in high school when I would have told you I was never getting married at all. I never wanted to be the girl that needed a guy to be happy, and to say I was a cynic would be an understatement. Then, when I met J, I realized that it wasn’t that I needed him – I wanted him alongside me.

I think J and I would both agree that the last two years have been both the easiest and most difficult years of our lives. Since our wedding day we have lived in three different apartments, had a handful of job titles, welcomed a fur-baby into our lives, traveled to four different countries, and felt both rich with opportunity and poor with actual bank statements. Through it all, he’s always the one I want to share it with. Our lives aren’t perfect, but we sure have a good time living.

So to J – thank you. Thank you for pretending to care about curtains, for knowing which character in Pretty Little Liars is Spencer, for always offering me the last bite of dessert despite knowing that I’ll tell you to have it, and for holding my hand under the covers at night even though you get warm. Here’s to many, many years to come. xx

My Fall Bucket List

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Right before Memorial Day I shared my Summer Bucket List. As I recapped last week, not everything on the list got accomplished, but it was one heck of a good summer. Having the list in the back of my mind helped me to fully appreciate the season and the opportunities, so I decided to create one for fall as well.

1. Send a Surprise Gift to a Friend
I love to send mail, and try to make it a point to get some sort of written card out to a handful of friends every month. I want to bump that up a notch though and make it a goal to send one small surprise gift to a friend or two this season.

2. Carve Pumpkins
Each fall growing up we headed to the farmer’s market, chose our pumpkins, and sat outside on the porch carving our designs. Inevitably, my brother would pick the most difficult pattern, and I usually chose whatever cat design happened to be in that year’s kit. (You’re shocked, I know.) These days, the fall season gets so busy I usually forget it’s pumpkin carving time until Halloween (which also happens to be J’s birthday) is right around the corner. This year I’m making it a goal to take advantage of a cool autumn day and carve pumpkins with J outside on the patio.

3. Read Books
This is vague, I know, but over the summer I set a lofty goal of 8 books for myself and only got to 5. Despite the fact that I really do love to read, I’m the worst at making time to actually sit down and do it. Knowing that the season ahead is already looking to be a busy one, I’m going to scale back my expectations and just make reading a higher priority on my list.

4. Bake an Autumn Inspired Treat to Share
I love to cook and bake, but in our previous little nest our kitchen was pretty much non-existent, which took a bit of the fun out of it. Now that I’m in a kitchen I can turn around in and actually have enough cabinet space to store all my supplies, I’m looking forward to baking up some fun treats to enjoy and share.

5. Visit a Local Brewery
Like many other states around the country, Maryland’s craft beer scene has really been flourishing. We have a couple of breweries close-by, and I’d love to go check one out. Jailbreak Brewery is at the top of my list.

6. Go to a Football Game
As a former marching band member, nothing makes me more nostalgic for the fall season than the sound of a drum cadence at a football game. I couldn’t care less about watching the actual game, but the lights, sounds, and smells bring back some wonderful memories.

7. Host a Dinner Party
As I mentioned above, cooking in my old kitchen was more of a chore than I would have preferred, so now that we have a bit of a better layout I’m looking forward to having some friends over for a meal, some libations, and maybe even some board games sometime this fall. Who wants to come for dinner!? :)

8. Put Summer Vacation Photos into an Album
We live in a world where digital photos disappear into a computer never to be seen again. I used to love scrapbooking, and while that hobby has probably seen better days from me, I’d like to at least get my photos from the summer into an album. Whether I do it myself or order it from Shutterfly may be determined at a later date, but I’m making it a goal to get them captured in print.

9. Go on a Hike
With the temperatures cooling down and the leaves starting to change colors, there’s no better time to head outside for a hike at a local park or forest.

10. Make Our New Little Nest Feel like Home
As many of you know by now, we moved in August. After our move, we promptly left for ten days in Europe, returning just in time to get thrown back into work and end of summer craziness. We’ve unpacked and are starting to get into a groove around our new place, but we are still getting things organized and decorated. By Thanksgiving (when it is time to put out Christmas decorations!) I’d like to have the apartment cozy and situated. For those who may have not just gone through a move, fall is also a great time to take on an improvement project around your home or freshen up some tired decor.

What’s on your bucket list this season? Anything I should add to mine? What are you baking/crafting/reading/loving this fall?

Weekend in Photos: Charm City

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Five Things

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Phew, we’re almost to the weekend, friends!

Now that we’re more than halfway through September I think I’m past due to get back into a schedule of posting around here. I feel like I’m on repeat with this, but it’s been a busy month and the days are just flying by. Rather than sharing my highlights from the week, I thought I’d share five things I’ve been loving this month.

1. Birthday Celebrations

I kicked off the month with my 26th birthday. We kept it fairly low-key since we were still recovering from our trip and 26 is a rather ordinary age, but we took advantage of the Labor Day  long weekend and went out to dinner in Annapolis. We celebrated with a good meal, strolled around town, and enjoyed some ice cream at our favorite Annapolis Ice Cream Company, courtesy of the wonderful birthday gift certificate my mom sent me. I also received quite a few fab cards from friends and family around the country, which made my birthday week extra special.

2. At-Home Happy Hour, Al Fresco

After almost two years of having nothing more than some concrete steps to call our outdoor space, J and I have been taking full advantage of the patio area at our new apartment. Evenings have been spent out at our bistro table enjoying dinner and good conversation. Fridays are usually low-key for us, and we’ve been enjoying some at-home happy hours with a glass of wine or beer and snack plates to wind down the week while we enjoy the late-summer evenings. It’s entirely possible I’ll still be sitting outside in December in a scarf and winter coat, determined to make the most of the space.

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3. Fall is in the Air

Now let me throw it out there that I also love spring, summer, and winter (well, the holiday season part of winter.) But there’s something so refreshing about fall, and I have some pretty amazing memories associated with the season.  Our wedding anniversary, for one, but also high school football band season, being on my own for the first time when I moved to Pittsburgh for college, raking leaves around my hometown neighborhood with my brother and our neighbor/sister/friend, and so much more. After a whirlwind of a summer I’m so excited to welcome in the fall season.

4. New Cookbook Love

I’ve been a longtime reader of the How Sweet Eats blog. The author, Jessica, is so personable and genuine in her writing, and I always look forward to reading her posts.  When her new cookbook, Seriously Delish, launched earlier this month, I couldn’t wait to get my copy. In addition to recipes, Jessica shares wonderful stories, tips, and insight, and I’ve spent a little time every evening this week browsing through the pages. Now, who wants to come to dinner!? :)

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5. Kicking Off Kickball Season

In addition to my birthday, the start of September also meant the start of our kickball season! Earlier in the summer a friend of mine invited J and I to join the kickball team she and her husband play on as part of the Kickball League of Baltimore, and we happily accepted the invite. We have games every Wednesday evening in September and October, and so far we’re 3 for 3! I even got brave enough to catch the ball last week, which I followed up with an embarrassing proud squeal.

What’s something you’ve been loving lately?

Update on My Summer Bucket List

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So, my Summer Bucket List. It feels like just last week I was writing up the list and anxiously anticipating the summer months ahead. Now here we are in the middle of September and I’m already Googling new cognac boots and spending too much money on fall scented candles from Bath and Body Works.

This summer went far from planned. To start, we moved. We had started looking at some new little nest options but weren’t planning on moving until later this season. However, we fell in love with an apartment and it was priced appropriately. In this area those two factors mean ACT NOW. So we did. While we accomplished some things on the Bucket List, many got left behind or forgotten altogether. Despite that, it truly was an amazing summer. We traveled, we “cheers-ed”, we laughed, we lived in the moment, and we were certainly never bored.

Here’s the rundown on our list:

- Read 8 books between Memorial Day and Labor Day

So, I didn’t make it to eight. I think I read five? When I created the list I anticipated reading much more on my vacations to Cape Cod and Europe than I actually did. Aside from travel time in the car or planes, I hardly read at all on those trips, which is actually probably a good sign. I will say that by creating a book list I really made it a point to pick up the titles I wanted to read. The list helped put the reading process back into my daily routine (even if I was only reading a few pages before bed), and that was ultimately the point. I definitely plan to create a fall reading list to share later this month.

- Go to Six Flags

Yep, we didn’t make it. We truly had no free weekends, and with all the other awesome things we were doing it never even crossed our minds.

- Attend at least one outdoor concert

Woo! We can actually cross this one off the list. Early in the summer we saw that Gavin DeGraw and Matt Nathanson were going to be performing at Wolf Trap and we scooped up tickets and blocked out the evening on our calendar. Wolf Trap is a really fun and unique concert venue with a rustic vibe. They allow everyone to bring in their own blankets, picnic baskets, and alcohol, so we packed up nibbles and a bottle of wine and had a really perfect summer date night.

- Try three new restaurants in our area

I know we had to have done this, but I’m having trouble remembering what restaurants we frequented all summer. Crepes, BBQ, and lots of fresh seafood were all part of our summer diets, and we made it a point to try out new spots when we went out. While not at all in our area, the best meal we ate this season was hands-down at Barbecoa in London.

- Visit two new local Farmer’s Markets

I made it to the Annapolis market (meh), but so far I still haven’t gotten to Fell’s Point for theirs. Free Saturday mornings were at a premium. It is still on my list to get to though, and fall markets are sometimes even better than summer!

- Go to Sandy Point State Park

Nope, didn’t make it. Like Six Flags, it never even crossed our minds. Maybe next year!

- Visit a local winery

Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to an actual winery. I did get to a few wine festivals and tried lots of new local wines – even finding some new favorites and go-tos. Boordy still has some events happening this fall, and I’m going to keep this goal for the coming season.

- Make homemade doughnuts

In the midst of travel and moving this never happened. For a couple of weeks there I was doing minimal cooking, let alone baking. Now that my pots and pans are unpacked and I’ve gotten the hang of my new gas stove (love it!) I may give this a go.

- Have a picnic outside on a blanket

We did this a few times, but as mentioned above, my favorite picnic was definitely at the Gavin/Matt concert.

- Make caprese salad using basil and tomatoes from my own plants

So the neighborhood we lived in before we moved in August was pretty residential and had deer. Lots and lots of deer. When my first few tomatoes started to appear back in June the deer swept in and ate my plant down to a stump. It is just finally recovering and has a few lone green tomatoes sprouting, but I have low hopes. We have much better outdoor space at our new apartment and I can’t wait to start fresh in the spring.

- Craft something

I think I crafted a few things over the last few months, but I honestly can’t remember. I did finally get around to staining an unfinished wood crate over Labor Day weekend. We used it as part of our wedding reception decor, and I’ve been meaning to stain it for two years now. Inspired by my new outdoor patio space and a three day weekend, I set about staining it and turning it into a small bookshelf/side table. I love the end result and the bit of personality it adds to our primarily Ikea-furnished living space.

- Buy a piece of artwork while traveling

Unfortunately, this never happened. We never saw anything that really struck us that we loved enough to haul around. We do plan to go through some photos and hopefully get some great prints from our travels to add to a gallery wall that is on our to-do list.

So, we didn’t do all that well at crossing things off the list, but so is life. What was something on your summer bucket list that you never got to? Or, what was something fun and unexpected you did this season? xx