Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from Amp and Abi. 
Here's a toast to your 2015 being full of laughter, happiness, and love! 
Thanks to all my readers for reading and journeying with us. 
We're looking forward to a new year full of new possibilities.

Have fun and stay safe tonight, everyone!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Home for the Holidays

Clutching luggage in each hand, one bag balanced on the  very edge of your shoulder, you kick the door with the toe of your boot. Thunk thunk thunk. A distant patter of footsteps, someone hurrying to greet you. The knob creaks and turns, and then the door swings up, suffusing the winter night with warm air and yellow light. It slants across the law, a distended rectangle reaching out to welcome you home. 

Panting, you heave your burdens--duffle and gift bags--over the threshold. As the chill ebbs from your limbs, you breathe hellos and how are yous, fielding hugs and backslaps. A bundle of fur bumps past your shins--the dog rushing in before you. His head low and his tail beating, he innocently displays all the excitement you feel as you let your luggage fall to the foyer floor. Your shoulders ache from the relieved weight as you think "I'll worry about those later." For now, you are home. 

This year, we spent Christmas in Virginia with Mark's family: the Hobbs and the Richardsons.

Every family has its own unique holiday traditions, but Mark's family always ensures that a few of my own family's traditions are observed. Every year, without fail, my own mom made sausage and cheese balls. After opening our gifts, she would pull trays of sausage-cheese balls, crumbly and warm, from the oven. Crispy and brown, they were always too warm to touch, but we grabbed them anyway, bouncing them around on our palms before dropping them onto a small plate. Too good to wait. My sister, father, and I would wolf them down, pausing only to douse them with Tabasco sauce. (Some families are wine connoisseurs. The Black family are hot sauce snobs.)

The first year that I spent Christmas with Marks, I passingly mentioned that I would miss Mom's sausage-cheese ball breakfast. To my surprise, I awoke the next morning to their familiar smell and found a small plate sat before me, complete with a side of Tabasco.

It's the little things that let you know you are loved.

For me, Christmas can be described through its various tastes and smells.

Heady cinnamon. The buttery, velvety softness of chocolate-peanut-butter fudge. The tartness of cranberry. Sweet boiled custard, smooth and thick on your tongue, like melted ice cream. Juicy ham, spiced with brown sugar. The creamy whirl of mashed potatoes, drizzled with salty ham gravy.

The day after Christmas, Mark's maternal grandmother hosts a Maryland-style holiday dinner, and her dining room swells with family. Having lived in Baltimore before relocating to Virginia, Gram whips together a seafood feat that makes everyone's mouth water. Steamy shrimp, fried oysters, and lumpy crabcakes whose "one per person" rule would test a saint's willpower. Marylanders are as proud about their crab and seafood as Carolinians are of their BBQ or Georgians of their fried chicken. The pride is well-deserved.

Eating seafood at Christmas surprised me the first time I ever encountered it. Being from the Deep South, I associated tinsel with casserole, Santa Claus with chicken and ham. But after having been a member of Mark's family for three holiday seasons, this tradition now feels just that: traditional. It simply wouldn't be a proper Virginia Christmas without shrimp.

Recently, I encountered an interview article of the ever-vivacious and cherry-lipped Taylor Swift in which she remarked that some of us love to give gifts and some of us love to receive gifts. I definitely fall into the former category. I honestly derive as much or possibly even more joy from selecting paper, ribbon, and trimmings than I do from unwrapping my own presents.

However, this year, I received an unexpected gift that upended my giving preference. On Christmas Eve, my iPhone pinged with a text message: a video file of my father reading The Night before Christmas. As a little girl, I would snuggle on my parents' bed with my sister (along with a stuffed animal and a kitten or two) to listen to him read the familiar poem. Even though my sister now has children of her own and I'm married and living hours away--when we're all together for the holiday, we still curl up like little girls, ready to be read to.

It's funny how something as simple as hearing your dad's voice can make you feel both gut-wrenchingly homesick and content to your very core.Such is the magic of the holidays, I suppose.

What are some of your favorite Christmas traditions?
How did you and yours celebrate? 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Do You Happy? Or Do You Merry?

The time of gift-giving and tinsel-decking is upon us.

The malls, outlets, and post office overflow with customers. A jazzy , forcibly jolly Christmas jingle plays everywhere you go--so that later, no matter how you may try to rid yourself of it, you find yourself "dashing through the snow" in 50 degree, Southern weather. Among all your other to-do's, your mind churns with your gift list and baking ideas... how to find time for it all? At the next check out line, your arms heavy with purchases and your wallet lighter than when you entered, you flippantly remake to the clerk:

"Happy Holidays."

You can hear onlookers' mental tires screech as they register your words. And so ensues the great debate: to happy or to merry? That is the question.

 In a moment of unthinking holiday cheer, you wish your fellow human a happy holiday season, only to have the manner in which you wished come under close scrutiny. Did you say Happy Holidays? Well, surely you are an atheist attempting to spread your atheism by word alone. How dare you not say Merry Christmas! After all, isn't Jesus the reason for the season? Yet, conversely, if you say Merry Christmas, some view you as a Bible-thumping fanatic ready to bop someone over the head with said tome.

So, I asked myself...Which way do I typically wish people a happy holiday season? And why do I say what I say?

The answer: I use both expressions.


In my opinion, the two are somewhat interchangeable with "Happy Holidays" being a more general expression encompassing the entire holiday season from Thanksgiving to Hanukkah to Christmas to New Years Day.  On the other hand, as a professional in the education industry, I also feel compelled to acknowledge the varied holidays my students and coworkers may be celebrating. Therefore, I often say "Happy Holidays" as an encompassing, general expression.

As a Christian, I do celebrate and love the Christmas holiday. Therefore, yes, I'm also going to wish others a Merry Christmas--both as a sincere wish that they as Christians too have a happy Christmas but also just out of sheer joy for the holiday commemorating the birth of my Savior, a joy I wish to spread with anyone regardless of their religious affiliation. (Even though, historically, it's unlikely that He was born on December 25th.) I would never be offended if someone wished me a Happy Hanukkah, even though I do not celebrate Hanukkah. I can still appreciate that that holiday is just that, a holy day, to those celebrating it. Who am I to sneer at their kind expression or belittle their belief? I hope that I would not offend another by belittling their holiday just as I would prefer to not have my holiday belittled. Expressions of kindness and happiness occur rarely in this world. In my opinions, the holidays remind people to do just that: share a little bit of their own joy with others.

While I'm sure that this explanation will seem insufficient to some people, it captures my reasoning for why I both Happy and Merry my fellows.

So which expression do you typically use? And why? Leave a message in the comments-I would love to know!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Eve of Autumn

Over the past two weeks, Old Man Winter officially blew Autumn away.

A few great gusts and the sky turned dim and then all that was left of our beautiful fall was a pile of dry leaves, forgotten and shivering in the gutter. Huddled in coat, scarf, and gloves, I stepped onto the street and thought "Forget winter is coming...Winter is here." You could detect its sudden presence in the heavy grey sky, the bare branches, the lack of bird song.

While each season is beautiful in its own right, winter is a season I sometimes struggle to appreciate. Sure, you've got your holidays and family gatherings--but once those are past, all you have is snow drifts and cold toes.

In memoriam of Autumn, I thought I would share a few images of Frederick's lovely fall season. It's a brief period, but it brims with vivid color, spicey aromas, and yummy harvest. In opinion, Frederick was made for fall. Here are a few of my favorite images captured around our little city.

What is your favorite thing about the changing of the seasons? Do you have a favorite aspect of Winter? Mine is definitely the holidays--spending time cuddled by the fire with either a steaming mug of cocoa or a glass of moscato, chatting with friends and reminiscing with family. How about you? 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Dill House Diary: Bedroom Reveal

Several weeks ago, before I took my unannounced blog hiatus (blame graduate school), I hinted that Mark and I may renovate our bedroom. For a reminder, I detailed our ideas and inspirations in this post.

When searching for design inspiration, one of my favorite things to do is scroll through Apartment Therapies' Home Tours. Apartment Therapy is a great resource when you need affordable, functional, and yet still aesthetically pleasing ideas. Unlike most design magazines, which feature multi-million dollar homes, Apartment Therapy often features the cutesy little apartments of your average Joe. It doesn't matter if you have dingy linoleum floors or dated cabinets... If you made the space work and the design is worth sharing, you can have a spot on their blog.

In addition to their wonderful Home Tours, Apartment Therapy is a treasure-trove of practical advice. One such tidbit of useful information was an article on selecting paint colors. The article suggested color shades based on the room's orientation and lighting. For example, you may paint a north-facing room an entirely different color than a eastward facing room. To my surprise, the article actually recommended avoiding light colors--like white, pale grey, or tan--in north facing rooms. Apparently the limited direct sunlight can render the pale colors a bit yellowy.  Instead, they recommended using darker, moody shades. Charcoal greys, browns, navy blues, even blacks (if you dare.)

I suppose the philosophy is a bit devil-may-care. You don't have much direct sunlight; the room is going to be dark anyway...So you may as well make the darkness a dramatic statement.

Eyebrows raised, I realized this yellowing issue was probably the reason our bedroom color bothered me so much. The cream-in-coffee tan--while lovely throughout the rest of the house--seemed a completely different color in our bedroom. It just looked...blah. I decided to test out Apartment Therapy's advice by going with a bold dark color.

And so, without further ado, here is our bedroom reveal. Dun-dun-DUN!!

What I would still like to do:

  • Buy blackout shades for the windows. At first, our new curtains did the trick. But since the City of Frederick decided to erect new light-posts downtown, the front of our house has been illuminated with all the wattage of the Second Coming. I've been eyeing this pair.
  • Buy an area rug for the foot of the bed. Mark is a staunch fan of carpet in the bedroom. I much prefer hardwood or laminate floors. To compromise, I'm letting him keep his carpet and hoping for a pretty area rug to hide said carpet. I like this and this
  • Replace the painting over the dresser. (Maybe). I love that painting--so I'll most likely use it elsewhere in the house. I'm thinking I may replace it with two sleekly framed photographs. 
The only major changes were paint color, window treatments, and bedding. So, an easy weekend redo with relatively low cast...yet it still delivered a big-impact change. Let us know in the comments below what you think about our bedroom's new look! I personally love it!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Currently, 12.8.14

Crafting: a soft little baby blanket for a sweet friend and mommy-to-be. I'm using this pattern from PurlSoho.

Despite Saturday's torrential downpour, I was seized with knitting inspiration. Donning boots and grabbing my umbrella, I set out for Joann's Fabrics. Apparently everything I did that day was irrational: case in point... I marched into the store (slightly damp but no worse for the wear) and thought "I don't need a shopping basket!" Needless to say, I found myself waiting in a line wrapped half-way around the store, juggling seven yarn balls. A note of warning: don't go to craft stores in December. Middle-aged knitters and crafters descend in droves. They'll take you down with a buggy full of tinsel and bows. It's dangerous, people, dangerous.

Reading: In a bow to Greater Nerddom, I have been rereading the Harry Potter series. I started this venture late September, and I've made it to the sixth book. I haven't read these books since my pre-teen years; so reading them from an adult perspective has been very interesting. I notice different things, laugh at different things, but have been enjoying them as much as I did as a braces-wearing, ponytailed tween.

Writing: a creative nonfiction essay about peaches. Yes. I have somehow managed to write eleven pages worth of narrative about a fuzzy fruit.

Watching: Arrow and Gilmore Girls. Arrow is our husband-and-wifey show. Mark loves the action; I love Oliver Queen's abs.

Listening: to my Pandora Classical Christmas radio, Tchaikovsky radio, and Avenged Sevenfold radio. It's an interesting mix. I've taken to loudly belting carols around the house, much to Mark and Solo's dismay. Tis the season to be obnoxious.

Cooking: Christmas treats! Sugar cookies, no-bake cookies, peanut butter cookies, and pumpkin bread. I'm anxious to try this recipe.

Needing: a camel-colored coat. To me, a camel-colored coat just speaks "classy." I've been eyeing this one and this one. Although I have also have been eyeing this JCrew option.

Wanting: a unique right-hand ring. This Etsy shop has the most unique rings I have ever seen. Who doesn't love one-of-a-kind, handmade sparklies?

Anticipating: the Christmas holidays with our Virginia family. Whatever the wintry weather may bring, I know for sure the holiday itself will be filled with good food, family, and a ton of laughs.

What have you been up to lately? What have you been watching, reading, and cooking? I'd love to know! Link to your most recent "Currently" post in the comments below. I'll stop by and read!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Two Years Together

Happy Anniversary to the best husband a woman could ever ask for!
Thank you for always helping me be my best self. 
You mean everything to me. I don't know what I'd do without
your crinkled-eyed smile and forehead kisses.
Here's to many more years together!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Our Wedding, Part 6

Saying Goodbye

Our "farewell song" can be found here.

The final image I have of our wedding day: the stone steps of the Community House, fanning upward and outward, with every step packed with our family members and closest friends. The stone arches framed the scene as if in anticipation of the postcard quality it would someday hold in my memory.  Sitting in the black festooned carriage, I blinked and thought "This is the last time I'll see many of them, for a long time." The tinkling of miniature bells washed over us, quiet and subdued so as not to scare the carriage horse. Their metallic sound lent a surreal quality to the whole scene: a magical overlay that crinkled and effervesced at the edges. Like some video-editing tool, it felt like the whole scene would blur and sparkle away, a transition to the next special moment.

So my parting advice for enjoying your wedding to the fullest: hold on to every second of it, enjoy every second of it, smile for every second of it. Don't let any little technical details or party-hosting issues steal the magic, because all that matters is the man in the carriage beside you and all those sweet people waving goodbye on the steps. It's a huge, beautiful day that passes before you know it.

It would be unrealistic to say that every second leading up to and leading away from the wedding was perfect. There were plenty of blunders and last-minute "oh dear goodness" moments preceding the day, but the day itself--at least to my knowledge--was exactly the wedding I had always wanted. This is not to say that no disasters occurred--oh no. The cake nearly caved in, the groom's shirt was about four sizes too large (rendering him a swash-buckling pirate without his vest and coat), a groomsman was given toddler sized shoes, one of my poor bridesmaids had to go to her grandmother's funeral the day before, and we almost forgot the fireplace decorations. But all these issues were corrected: how? Because of the amazing people who pulled this whole mammoth event together. Our parents, our friends, our families--people came out of the woodwork to help, support, and get us hitched. Without their support and love, the day would not have been what it was. Because of those people, when I remember our Big Day, I remember an overwhelming sense of happiness, fun, and love.

It's pretty amazing, isn't it, to think of all the people who love you? Who stand by your side, exuding love, kindness, and support, freely, just so two young people have the perfect "send-off." What better beginning could you hope for? Needless to say, we've been riding high on that love for two years now--and I have a feeling that it will continue for many years to come.

This is the final installment in a six-part series sharing details
of our wedding day. For the previous entries, follow this link. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Our Wedding Part 5

The Reception:

Our wedding reception was one which shall live in infamy. 

The evening began with the usual: cake, champagne, dancing, sweet heartfelt toss. But then came the garter toss. 

We decided to attempt a Pinterest find: place the garter on a football. Sounds cute and simple right? I thought my sports-fanatic fiancee would love the idea. Well, he loved it all right. And so did all his cousins. A little too much! Mark chucked that football, and next thing I knew a gaggle of fifteen young men began leaping and grasping, practically knocking each other over in the attempt to win it. (Let's just say, the ladies were much more graceful when it came to the garter toss.) But did the garter toss end here? Oh no. The man who did grab the football proceeded to rip across the field with his cousins and friends hot on his heels. And so ensued a garter wrestling match, played by grown men in tuxedos and suits, I might add. Meanwhile, the bride had to hold her groom by his coat tails to keep him from chasing after his cousins!

To this day, it's not the cake, the pies, or the toasts that people remember about my reception: but that infamous garter toss. Who doesn't love having a memorable wedding? 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Our Wedding Part 4

Part 4, The Ceremony: 

For the most part, our ceremony was pretty simple and straightforward. I remember thinking "Is this really happening right now? Is this really the ceremony? Right now?" 

We followed the basic order of things: blessing of marriage, a word of welcome, prayer, a reading, the exchange of vows, and so forth. Yet, we did deviate from the norm in a few ways. 

A unique quality about our wedding: we didn't have a brides' side and a groom's side. Although Mark and I never knew each other growing up, our families were interconnected without our even knowing. My mother and father's best friends were cousins in Mark's family. So, as a little girl, I was best friends with two of Mark's cousins. This interconnection was wonderful; it seemed to underscore everything right about this union. But when it came to seat planning... I found myself juggling names--"Do they sit on Mark's side or my side? Technically, she is Mark's cousin, but she's been my mom's friend for years...?" A dilemma.

My sweet father crafted the solution. He built a chalkboard sign and, in his perfect doctor's penmanship, wrote the phrase "We are two families becoming one, so choose a seat not a side." To reinforce that our wedding didn't have sides, we had the parents sit together on the front left-hand row while the grandparents sat together on the front right-hand row. 

I wish I could say I remember every word in my vows. But I don't. What I do remember, distinctly and clearly, was an overwhelming happiness. My cheeks ached and trembled from smiling. I kept laughing--which I was afraid would  make me seem flippant and goofy. If you could have peeked into my mind, you would have seen a whirligig of thoughts, something along the lines of "I can't believe this is happening! Yay yay yay I'm so excited! Oh, Wow. This is happening. I need to be serious. Abi, be serious. Okay, serious face. Yay Mark is so handsome! Oh, now I'm smiling again. Oh my gosh, pay attention, you're going to miss your cue to talk. Oh, we're already to the singing part!" 

Yes. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a glimpse into a bride's brain. You're welcome. 

Needless to say, I couldn't maintain my enthusiasm for very long, because, as you will see in the last photo, I did a flower-bouquet fist pump. Note Mark's grin and overall expression of "yep, there she goes!" 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Our Wedding Part 3

Before the Ceremony:

One of the best decisions I have ever made, to date, was to have our wedding photos taken before the ceremony. Now, I know that tradition holds that the groom shouldn't see the bride before the ceremony, but pooh on that! Frankly, laying eyes on that handsome man and spending time with our family and friends was well worth breaking tradition. We knew we had a plane to catch after the reception, an necessity which was already cutting into the time we would get to spend with friends and family after we said " I do." I also knew that Mark would hate having to stand around taking photos when everyone else was laughing and talking at our own reception.

So, let's be honest: there are no vengeful tradition-gods casting their might and ire down upon wedding-tradition breakers. No. If your love is real and blessed by God, changing it up a little isn't going to seal your doom. Your vows are stronger than that and, if not, well...Moving on.

Those secret silent moments--seeing Mark before the wedding--completely calmed my nerves. I knew he was there. I knew we were ready for this step. I knew our friends and family blessed this step. And I got to hold his hand up until the last moments before the ceremony started. What better way to walk into one of the biggest moments of your life, than with the person you're to whom you're committing your body and heart right by your side?

To this day, laughing, dancing, praying, planning, and swapping family stories in the basement of the Community Center remains one of my favorite wedding and life memories. We were in this sheltered room with only the people closest to us. Surrounded by their jittery laughs, teary eyes, smiles, and hugs was just the boost of confidence two young people needed to commit their lives together, forever.

So in short, if you can and want to take your photographs before the ceremony, do so! It is so worth it.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Our Wedding Part 2

Part Two, The Venue:

One of my favorite aspects of our wedding was the venue. The tiny town of Cornelia, Georgia--my stomping grounds--houses this rare gem: the Cornelia Community Center. Its rather un-exciting name belies its architectural beauty. While the name conjures images of a plan-brick, blue-carpeted, drop-ceiling place, the actuality is much different. And much better. Trust me.

Built by the W.P.A. during the  Great Depression, the Cornelia Community House is all windows, wood, and stone. The interior boasts vaulted ceilings with exposed beams, hardwood floors, and massive stone fireplaces. A moss-covered fountain cascades in the front lawn, and the basement has the vibe of a cool wine cellar. In short, it's a perfect place to host an event. It provides the look of a high-dollar Atlanta wedding for a fraction of the price.

However, using the Community House as our wedding venue nearly slipped my mind. This, despite growing up in Cornelia and driving by the center and its surround park every day of my life. I knew I wanted a rustic look for our wedding, but wasn't sure if I wanted to commit to an outdoor barn wedding. Then, one day, it hit me. Duh! The Community Center! My parents, two bridesmaids, and I went to scout out the spot, and we all instantly fell in love with it. As a history minor, I loved the building's story and the  warm woodsy-musk that filled the inside. Knowing my husband-to-be was an avid outdoors-man and climber, I figured he too would love the place. I was right!

Since our wedding, the venue exploded in popularity and gained bookings for almost every weekend of the year. (Seriously, it's beautiful... just Google it.) This just goes to show that you don't always have to break the bank or head for the stylish cities to find a beautiful nook. Even small towns can boast big style. Personally, I wouldn't trade my wedding venue for any other spot in the world. The day was beautiful, magical, and perfect--and this grand old building did much to help create that atmosphere.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Our Wedding, Part 1

As our two-year anniversary draws near, I thought I might take this week and share some favorite photos from our beautiful day.

This time two years ago, I was experiencing daily butterflies and grinning entirely too much. I knew that on the upcoming Saturday, I was going to marry the sweetest, smartest, strongest man I had ever met. As surreal as that week was, this week--knowing that I've spent nearly 2 years with this amazing person--is almost just as surreal! It's hard to believe that so many days, hours, and moments have flown by. Especially when I can still close my eyes and remember every second and every detail of that beautiful day.

Our Wedding, Part One: The Little Details: 

Wedding planning is truly a behemoth task. Even if you plan to host a small event, there is a lot to think about. The gown, the cake, the flowers, the suits...the venue, the photographer, the music...the food, the drinks, the programs...So many big-ticket items and so many little details. Leading up to the event, I had a tight rein on every detail of the day. From the flowers used in my bouquet to the tiny glass bottles decorating our tables to the boy's boutonnieres to the font on the programs. I wanted all details to complement each other and produce a larger effect: a romantic, rustic theme.

But you know what? When the day finally arrived, I somehow forgot every detail. The only thing that mattered was the man at the end of the aisle. Every little aspect that I had sweated over--the font on my programs, the painstakingly blotted puffpaint on the pumpkins, the dahlias on the cake--melted away, eclipsed by the unfailingly-calm side-grin of my soon-to-be-husband.

 So even though it has been said a million times, it bears repeating: don't sweat the small stuff. Because you're not marrying those place-holders or party-favors or one-season-only blooms or those to-die-for table cloths. You're marrying your husband, your partner for life, the best person you know in the world. Don't let anything --even that wonderful, beautiful, memorable big party--diminish that amazing gift.

All photos are copyrighted to Bianca Hubble of Axsys Design, our wedding photographer. These photos and all other photos (taken by her) that will be shared in this series are either photos already shared on this blog with her permission or photos whose digital rights I have purchased.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...