Girls Weekend at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville

As you know, we’ve been doing a ton of traveling the past month.  One of the first trips I took was with my four best girlfriends from my neighborhood.  You might remember my friend Rachel, who moved to Asheville a couple of months ago.  As soon as she found out she was moving, we began planning!  Our first Girls Weekend away included a trip to the famous Skyline Drive, a spa day, LOTS of food and wine, and of course, girl talk!

Girls Weekend at Biltmore Estate

Girls Weekend at Biltmore Estate

Girls Weekend at Biltmore Estate

But by far, the highlight of our weekend was our visit to the Biltmore Estates…home of the famous Vanderbilt family.

Girls Weekend at Biltmore Estate

I had seen pictures and flyers of the estate, but nothing could compare to the grandeur of the house as you round the corner from the parking lot.  Can you imagine actually living here?  I think I would have spent all of my time just trying to navigate through the 250 rooms {let alone keeping track of the kids!}.

Girls Weekend at Biltmore Estate

Dave would just die for a man cave like this!  Complete with a “secret panel” door in the corner!

Girls Weekend at Biltmore Estate

Girls Weekend at Biltmore Estate

And I would love an indoor garden or pantry storage like this!!

Girls Weekend at Biltmore Estate

Girls Weekend at Biltmore Estate

I was just amazed at the sophistication of some the house’s elements….considering that many of the luxuries that the house had were not available to the public yet.  For example, indoor plumbing was a rarity in homes, yet the Biltmore has 40 indoor bathrooms.  Electricity was also not available to individuals back in the 1890′s, but the Biltmore was completely wired!  Not to mention the luxury of having an indoor {heated!} pool, gym and bowling alley in the basement.

Girls Weekend at Biltmore Estate

Girls Weekend at Biltmore Estate

Girls Weekend at Biltmore Estate

The balconies and porches off of almost each room were huge living areas with magnificent views of the  mountains and the rest of the 125,000 acre estate.

Girls Weekend at Biltmore Estate

Girls Weekend at Biltmore Estate

We seriously underestimated how long it would take us to explore the house and grounds before our champagne tasting reservation at the estate’s winery.  So I highly recommend anticipating spending your entire day {at least} there.

Girls Weekend at Biltmore Estate

Girls Weekend at Biltmore Estate

Girls Weekend at Biltmore Estate

We had a few minutes before our “Bubbles” tour to visit the gift shop and do some free wine tastings.  Needless to say, by the time our Champagne tasting started, we were already a little, um….giggly. *wink wink*

Girls Weekend at Biltmore Estate

Girls Weekend at Biltmore Estate

Although I think our tour guide hated us {insert more giggling here}, we actually learned a lot about the art of making Bubbly.  And we also learned that one of the fun things about going on a wine tasting with a pregnant friend, was that *someone* else got to drink her share of the wine!!! {insert more giggles, and maybe a hiccup or two here!}

Girls Weekend at Biltmore Estate

A Girls Weekend of fabulous friends, great food and wine, and good times?  I’ll Cheers to that!

Girls Weekend at Biltmore Estate

Palmettos and Pigtails

A FirePit of Friends

If you know us personally, you know that it’s been kind of a rough year socially for us.  But I think we’ve finally turned a corner.  We’ve found a small group of friends (who also happen to be neighbors!!) that we can truly count on.  We all have children in the same age range.  And although we have different jobs, different personalities and different ways of raising our children, we are all alike in being there for each other.  And these women have become my support system….my core group of friends.And I think it’s for the best.  I’ve been able to really focus on the people who mean the most to me, and who have been there for me!  And boy, do we have fun!  One of our five couples recently moved back to their hometown of Asheville, and so what better way to send them off, than with a firepit party?DSC_1042We had a blast!  The girls gossiped chatted while the guys stood around drinking beer and poking the fire.Rachel {and her fabulous hubby, Josh} has been a Godsend for me this past year.  We went from barely acquaintances to being the closest of friends this year, and I can’t imagine what I would have done without her.  From the late night bike rides to her house for some much-needed girl talk {and wine} to the knowledge I’d always have a last-minute babysitter, she has always been there for me! {And have I mentioned that her little one, E. is Millie’s BFF?}  Rach, I miss you!Anyway, while the rest of our clan are eeking by without Rachel and Josh, we are already planning a girls’ trip to Asheville this summer, and a massive family outing to the lake as well!And what I’ve learned through all of this?  It’s not how many friends I have, but the quality of our friendship that really matters!{source}

Palmettos and Pigtails

The Neighborhood Treehouse

Have I told you about our neighborhood?  We LOVE it.  It started out as a overpriced custom home neighborhood, and has become a family friendly haven!  Amongst the continual development, they are preserving the green space, with fields, parks and ancient oaks prominent at every turn.  Well, the developers have outdone themselves lately with a new treehouse down by the pool and farmhouse.Neighborhood Treehouse from Palmettos and Pigtails

Nestled in the branches of one of the huge oak trees, it has three levels with two slides and several swings.  And has instantly become the favorite place of all the neighborhood kids, and the gathering place of moms!Treehouse Swinging from Palmettos and PigtailsPlaying in the Sandbox at the Treehouse from Palmettos and PigtailsTop of the Treehouse by Palmettos and PigtailsBoys in the Treehouse Field by Palmettos and Pigtails The little slide is super slow….even the babies are eager for a little more action! {But it does make for some cute pictures!}Little Slide at the Neighborhood Treehouse by Palmettos and PigtailsBabies Sliding at the Treehouse by Palmettos and PigtailsAnd the big slide is on the other end of the spectrum!  It’s huge and F.A.S.T.  Good thing there is a pile of sand at the bottom for the kids to land on!Slide at the Neighborhood Treehouse by Palmettos and Pigtails Even the youngest members of our crew enjoy getting a little fresh air!At the Treehouse by Palmettos and PigtailsAt the Treehouse by Palmettos and PigtailsPalmettos and Pigtails

 

Montreat 2012

Well, we are finally back from Montreat, NC and slowly getting back into the swing of things.  It’s amazing how even four days away can mess with your household!  Unlike last year, it was a beautiful week in the mountains….not too hot and no rain!  We shared my last post with the scrapbook photos with the high schoolers that Bets and Jay brought this year, and they loved it!  They were completely amazed at how I used a disposable camera (no retaking those blurry shots!), and at how cool the three of us were back then! =)

So, to recap…Bets and Jay are our best friends from Maryland.  They are our kids’ godparents, and their little Lulabelle is like our third daughter.  Betsy, Jay and I grew up together in our church, which they are still members of, and now the youth counselors at.  So they are continuing our church’s tradition of taking the youth group to Montreat each summer.  And since Montreat is just a couple of hours from us, the girls and I try to meet up with them for a couple of days while they are up there.  While the youth group stays in the lovely dorms at the college, the girls and I prefer the local Marriott!

And although Jayna did sleep in her own bed at night, this is what I awoke to each morning!

And since this trip was a first for Millie….I decided to bring and break in my brand new stroller.  Can I just say that it is awesome!  It has like 12 different sitting combinations, but the one we used was Millie in the front seat, Lulabelle sitting on the jump seat, and Jayna standing.

And Betsy pushing. Did I mention we were in the mountains?

We finally gave up on pushing all three girls, and put Millie in the front pack and made the big girls walk!

Jayna and Lulabelle were so stinkin’ cute together.  Jayna was all about playing the cool big sister….and although she is great with Amelia, I think she truely enjoyed manipulating helping Lulabelle…from buckling seatbelts for her, to convincing her that she liked pickles, to teaching her how to hula hoop!

And every year, the scenery just takes my breath away.  Lake Susan is like glass, framed by a baby blue sky and mountains.

Jay and some of the boys noticed huge fish sitting on some of the rocks at the bottom of the lake….tadpoles?  Man, they are gonna be some HUGE frogs!

But even the small details had me appreciating the scenery.  All of the buildings are stone, and they have gorgeous hydrangias around every corner.

I even caught this little inchworm hanging {literally} by a thread!

While the big kids were in small groups, we took the opportunity to spend some time with Betsy and Jay.  There is this cute little park at Montreat that has great playground equipment, and then several creeks running through for the kids to play in.

And although they tried hard not to get wet…both girls ended up soaking wet and laughing!

It’s a good thing Jay was willing to get wet too…that mountain water was COLD!

Now we just need to get Dave up here!!

Happy Birthday Betsy!

I am a terrible friend. It was my best friend Betsy’s birthday yesterday. And not only did I not call her yesterday (we were running errands and I forgot my phone charger!), or yesterday night (Dave and I went out to dinner for a belated Valentine’s Day), but I only got a hold of her voicemail today. But at least I remembered to send her a card. Ok….Jayna remembered. So, Jayna made her a card. And, under the guise of wishing Betsy a public Happy Birthday, I’m gonna brag on my kid now. Apparently, she can copy letters now. Who knew? Here’s the card we made for Bets…..obviously I wrote the Happy Birthday, but then the rest of the card she wrote all the letters after I modeled them for her! I helped with marker positioning for a couple of the words….but still, not bad!

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A Candyland Birthday

We know how to do parties in this house. I believe in pulling out all the stops and creating the best DIY party I know how. Buy, boy, is it exhausting!!! For Jayna’s first birthday, I enlisted the help of my besty, Betsy (you like that wordplay?!?!?) to put on a Crayola themed party at my in-laws’ house. We wrapped their columns to look like giant crayons, Betsy made a custom cake, we had crayon letters in each kid’s name for favors….it was awesome.

Last year, we decided that Jayna wouldn’t know the difference (and certainly didn’t need any gifts), so we opted to have a pajama themed party and have everyone bring pajamas or books to donate to kids who had been victims of natural disasters. We had a cookies and milk buffet and the kids made puppets.

This year, we stuck with the short and sweet. And boy, do I mean sweet. I may have lost some friends as their kids hit their sugar highs!!! After seeing some cute lollipops made out of balloons and plastic wrap, I decided that I wanted to do a Candyland themed party. Thanks to the help of Loo Loo and Dave, we pulled it together Saturday morning. About a week before the party, I ordered a party kit off of Etsy….it included banners, cupcake toppers, invitations, thank-you notes, candy wrappers, etc. All of the paper goods I could possibly need. It was so nice to have everything in one little jpeg file that I could send off to Staples to get printed! It ended up costing me about $80 between purchasing and printing costs, but I think it was worth it in the end, since everything matched and there wasn’t a whole lot for us to make.

Except for the dresses. If you know me, you know I love me some matching outfits!! I made Jayna’s last week, but decided at the last-minute to make Amelia’s match completely (originally, she was only going to color coordinate with existing clothes). So where was I an hour before the party started? In the shower? No. Finishing last-minute decor? No. At my sewing machine making a dress? YES!!! =) But I’m really pleased with how it turned out (not bad for a 20 minute project!), and only Dave couldn’t tell it was a lollipop on the front!

And in case you were wondering how to get a three-year old to pose on cue?
A Skittle bribe will work!

The kids hopped along the Candyland path between our playroom, our dining room (where they decorated cupcakes), our living room (where they were supposed to play Pin the Nose on Mr. Peppermint…but nobody did.), and the kitchen (where they decorated and then filled Tupperware with candy from our lovely candy buffet).

And it’s a good thing no one else played because Jayna would have swept it!  She got him right on the nose, the very first time!!

And of course, I copied the oh-so-cute idea of the balloon lollipops outside, along with a little bit of Jayna decor! The paper kit that I bought had lots of pictures of Jayna….quite funny seeing her face everywhere! But for $80….I was gonna use every last piece of that kit!! =)

Nothing like a little upcycling!  Remember when I made this wreath?

Jayna got lots of wonderful presents….many with Princesses as the theme. Which was awesome as she is soooo in to them right now. In fact, she actually asked to take a bath tonight (I’m sure the brand new mermaid bath toys were a complete coincidence!!). And then we finished out the evening by meeting Sue Sue and Papaw at Taco Boy downtown (Jayna’s favorite restaurant). Great, but exhausting, day!

Halloween at Hundred Oaks

Last night was our Fifth Annual Halloween Party.  Now, if you don’t know much about me and Dave, know this.  We LOVE Halloween.  Well, really all things Fall.  I mean….my birthday, a cool relief from summer in the south, changing leaves, hayrides and bonfires, pumpkin patches, and HALLOWEEN.  What time of year could be better?!?!?

We love Halloween so much, that we have spent a small fortune on our parties….food, costumes and decor.  We’ll start with the costumes.  We spend so much time on decorating and cooking, that we usually kind of forget about our costumes until the last minute, and have to resort to buying your stereotypical couple costume.

Last year we attempted to get a little creative and piggy-back off of the Tiger and Elin scandal.

This year, we wanted to incorporate Loo into our costume….and we couldn’t afford all the face paint again! =)

And every year, we have a costume contest.  All the guests vote for the Funniest, Most Creative and Best Couple Costumes.  Winners get Halloween themed wine courtesy of World Market.  Here are some of our favorites through the years:

And our winners this year…

We always prepare enough food for a small army…and although people seem to eat the entire time, we always have a ton of food left over!  This year I added my zucchini muffins and some mummy and pumpkin cake pops.

Admittedly, we go a little overboard on decorations.  In fact, we get so into them, that we have to specifically put on our invites that children aren’t invited because our house is too scary!  We start on the friendly decor about a week before the party, and then send Jayna to Sue Sue and Papaw’s on the Saturday of our party and spend the entire day outfitting our home with bloody corpses,

Hollywood Horrors,

Ghosts, Gouls and Goblins.

We have a blast rearranging our dining room into a scientist’s lab, and last year, had a haunted maze in our garage that guests were required to walk through to get into the party.

But Hannibal is definately the scariest prop as far as I’m concerned….he is sooooo life-like.

And somehow he manages to pop up in different corners of the house every Halloween and scares the you-know-what out of me!  So Dave decided to capitalize on that this year, and put him in the bathroom!  Guests got a double dose of Hannibal as they saw a glimpse of him in the mirror as they walked into the bathroom, and then were forced to stare at him as they did their business!  What kind of sick-os live here anyway?!?!

But, I am exhausted as we have been planning our shin-dig for the past few weeks and were up late last night and up early this morning attempting to clean up before Buggy arrived home.  So, I’m off to bed for tonight….to dream about tomorrow!  Happy Halloween!

The Big 3-0!

That’s right….my darling Dave can no longer gleefully proclaim he is married to a 20-something!  I turned 30 on Friday and celebrated the entire weekend!

My weekend started on Friday, as I was given the entire day OFF!  As in, I could do anything that I wanted!!!  So I bummed around the house a bit in the morning and then went to our church’s Tea Room for lunch with Loo and the girls.  Their shrimp and grits (hold the shrimp, please!) is to die for, and we each got a piece of cake to finish off our meal.  Jayna especially enjoyed hers!

After lunch I took off on my own for the afternoon and headed to Lowes first.  I love browsing their garden section, and I wanted to check out some of their garden decor as I start to plan for my vegetable garden and flowers for the yard (coming this spring, hopefully!).  I picked up a couple of yellow and white mums for the front porch.

After Lowes, I headed into town to visit my two favorite places…Michaels and Hancock Fabrics!

It’s amazing how just gazing at all of these little rows of patterns and textures can make me so relaxed…and happy! I coulda stayed there all day!  So…..I did!  For the most part….it was so nice to just browse Michaels without having to worry about taking anyone to the bathroom, or double checking the basket for incidental shoplifted items.  All I had to do, was think about all of the fun projects I don’t have time to start, much less complete! But I did get a few things with a few simple projects for the house in mind.  Got any ideas of what I’ll do with this stuff?  Hmmm….I feel a tutorial or two coming…..

Since Loo had watched the girls all day, we gave her the night off =) and sent her to an oyster roast with some friends, while Dave and I went to our favorite restaurant in our town, The Mustard Seed, for dinner.

The next day, Linds and I had a lazy morning, sleeping in with the girls.  Then she cooked me pumpkin pancakes and we went for a walk in our new neighborhood.  There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and it was about 80 degrees. Beautiful! Remind me to just read this post if I’m ever caught whining about living here!

Saturday night, a driver came and picked Dave and me up and drove us into Charleston.  We hopped on the Sandlapper, a sunset cruise boat, and took a two hour tour around the coast of Charleston.

Dave and I did a little dream shopping for yachts.  This was one of our favorites….both for the ironic name, and for the mini cooper on the second deck!

I swear I only had one glass of wine on the cruise!

After the cruise, we caught a rickshaw over to our new favorite Charleston restaurant….SNOB.  Where we both were so predictable and got exactly what we ordered last time! We switched it up with our appetizers though…I got a sweet potato ravioli and Dave got a salad with seared tuna.  Fruit with a passionfruit sauce was for desert! (Along with a chocolate martini!)

While we were out playing grown-ups for once, this is what was happening at home….

We love free babysitting Loo! Thanks for all your help this weekend!

Back to my fabulous weekend….

I got the chance to skip Sunday School and sleep in a bit (and contrary to popular belief, it had nothing to do with the sangria I had with Saturday night’s dinner!), and then Linds and I took the girls to buy pumpkins from a local church.

We ended up straying from the normal round orange ones, and chose some of these more interesting ones.  We have some ideas to use them as part of the decor for our upcoming Halloween Party.

My weekend ended with yet another surprise from my fabulous husband!  He whisked me away on Sunday night and we ended up meeting some of our great friends for a surprise dinner at Wasabi.  Good food, good company, GREAT weekend!

Just a quick hello!

Hey y’all!  We are officially in the new house now….send me an email or comment if you need our new address.   Unpacking is slowly happening…thanks to the help of Mom Mom, Sue Sue, Ms. Deb and Loo Loo (aka our honorary Baby Holders and Jayna Entertainers).  We’ll keep plugging as getting back to a normal schedule is my top priority right now (and then I can come back to you more often too!).

Amelia is six weeks old today.  Hard to believe its already been a month and a half!  For those of you who don’t care about baby details, thanks for checking in and I’ll see you soon!  Those who DO care about baby details, all is well….she is starting to sleep for more than 2 hours at a time at night (YAY!), and so Dave and I are slowly catching up on sleep too!  We also got a couple of smiles today….

In other news, its a good day for us breast feeding moms….I’m not sure where this is, but some mom out there got sick of not having a private place to feed her baby, so she created a truck for that very purpose!  Rumor has it that you can call, text or tweet if you are lacking a place to nurse, and the truck will come to your rescue!

You can go to www.themilktruck.org to get more info on it!  What a great idea!…..and I must say, I wouldn’t be the least bit embarrassed entering a giant pink truck with a boob on the top! =)  Have a great weekend and I’ll check back in soon!

Tips for Going to the Mountains in Your 9th Month of Pregnancy.

#1  Maybe, don’t go. =)  Believing I am Superwoman, I decided kind of last-minute (aka last Thursday) to drive (on Friday morning) to the mountains of Asheville, NC to a little slice of heaven many of us call Montreat.  On second thought, maybe I am just Crazy.  It takes 4+ hours (depending on how many bathroom breaks you your two-year old needs) to get there.  Half of which is up and down crazy hairpin turns through the mountains.  Throw in a few logging trucks going 10 miles per hour.  In the rain.

#2 Oh wait!  DO go!  Because it is a wonderful place and your wonderful friends (Bets and Jay) are there leading their youth group!  Let me back up a little and give you some background.  Oh boy, I wish my old, fun pictures weren’t in storage and I could use them to reference to for this! (If you are reading this and have some old fun pictures from the good old Montreat times, please email me with them and I’ll add them in!)   A long, long time ago (think mid 90′s)… the church I grew up in would take a group of us high schoolers to Montreat for a week for their annual Presbyterian Youth Conference.  Thousands of high schoolers would gather in the mountains of NC to worship, bond, play and eat ice cream.  It was fabulous!  Truly some of my favorite growing-up memories!!  And because I don’t have any pictures of hallway human pyramids, ice-cream cone unicorn horns, boys wearing make-up, or piles of stolen undies….let me see if I can set a classier scene for you…

#3 Bring a stroller to push your 35 lb kid in…..I don’t recommend trying to carry her up the vertical hills.  Especially if she falls asleep and should be considered “dead weight.”

#4 When you get tired of carrying that sack of potatoes around….make sure you have a couple of teenagers at the ready to entertain your two-year old!

#5 You are nine months pregnant…..enjoy as much ice cream as you can without any guilt!!

#6 If Bets won’t share her ice cream with you, yell at her!

#7 Sit down and put your feet up while enjoying thousands of youth singing and dancing to energizers, and then try to stay awake and focused for the sermon (don’t worry, you have an excuse….you are growing a life inside you, and you woke up at 4am to get here!!).

#8 Be so thankful for your safe trip to the mountains as you bask in the glow of the waterfront candlelight service.  Treasure the memories you have of this place, and pray that all of the youth that are here are equally touched by God as you have been.  Pray for their safe travels home and for each of their journeys in their faith.

 (Thanks to the Montreat website for this last one…my nighttime pictures couldn’t have done this moment justice)

Lord prepare me

To be a sanctuary

Pure and holy

Tried and true

With thanksgiving

I’ll be a living

Sanctuary….for You.