Our Winter Staycation

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Psst! To view the photos in this post you may need to view it in your browser!

These posts have mostly been of our little family adventures, of us going somewhere. Would you believe it if I told you we haven’t been anywhere in months? It’s true! At least not outside of the Raleigh area. We wanted a quiet, restful winter in the comfort of our own home. I realized though since most of you are family or close friends, you’d probably like to know what my two leading ladies are up to even if it’s nothing too exciting. Here’s an update, and I hope you enjoyed the pictures of our first Christmas here in Raleigh and the first signs of spring.

Grace: Every day tells me I’m her best friend. And then tells Charlotte, then Carly, then Chris. She wants to help put Charlotte to bed every night and fix her breakfast every morning. Grace, may you keep this love of your family and willingness to help out into your teenage years and beyond! Your teacher pulled me aside last week to tell me you had been so comforting and concerned for a new student that was having a hard time. You’d ask “why are you sad?” Or say, “Your mommy will be back, let’s sing a song.” The teacher told me you have such a good heart. As your mom, that is the biggest compliment to me and all I care about, for you to always be kind.  While you are growing in so many ways that I love, the 3rd year of your life  has come with lots of emotions. Little things that happen such as having your food cut up or accidentally being put in the wrong car seat are the end of the world. Luckily, it doesn’t take much to cheer you up. Books, playing dress up or creating a puppet show will do the trick. You’re organized and mature and responsible. You sit up straight and listen to directions (usually.)  You’re content in your own skin and literally a dream. You are already a better first child and sister to Charlotte than I could have ever imagined.

Charlotte: Cheeky and coy as ever. A two (or more) parent child. Emotional, sensitive, independent and full of life and feeling. She’s saying more and more words, especially when food is involved. And she loves giving us all kisses! You have the most delicious thunder thighs and belly anyone has ever seen Charlotte. I worried when I was pregnant with you, we wouldn’t hit it off as well as Grace and I did. I wondered if I had any more room in my heart when Grace took up so much of it. But you, like me, are the second child:  you’re sensitive but want everyone to think you’re tough. You need love, nature, and breakfast as soon as you wake up and are full of fierceness. Because I already see so much of myself in you, it makes being your parent easier in many ways, recognizing that your needs are different than your sisters. You’re turned off when pressured and want to go at your own pace. You love digging in the dirt, dance parties, taking baths and drawing on anything you can get your hands on (especially recipes and my to-do lists). I look forward to your huge smile and wispy hair every single morning, no matter what time it is. I am so obsessed with you and love how much you love me, Grace and your daddy. Lucky us!

That’s all I have for now. As always thank you so much for reading.

Best,

Addie

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P.S. I recently wrote on article on eating out as a family and kid’s menus for Mother Mag. You can read it here.

Billiards and Bluefish

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It’s snowing now – and for the second time already this year! It’s nice to look at it but I’m over the cold weather already. Actually, I was over it before it even started, but I’m wearing my best poker face for the girls. They don’t seem to mind the cold at all. Every winter, I beg (plead!) for Chris to look for a job on the Gulf Coast. However, with Mississippi experiencing unusually cold weather this year, I’ve decided that idea must be nixed. The only option now to avoid ever feeling cold and stuck inside would be to move to Australia or the Caribbean.  To get through the season, I’ve been embracing all things hygge which is helping. Yet, I still just resist the cold. Today I can’t help but think of our last beach trip, the last time we were in swimsuits and felt our skin sweat. I longed for it and sat looking through these pictures and replaying the memories in my mind. Emerald Isle, early this past November for 5 days.

What do you do in Emerald Isle, North Carolina for 5 days? Not much of anything. Fish, play in the sand and of course, eat. You may have heard us mention our honorary North Carolina parents, Liz and Bill. To our kids and us, Bill is referred to as Guillermo, the Spanish translation for the name Bill. I met Guillermo on a mission trip in Honduras years ago. Since that meeting, you could say we have sort of inserted our family into theirs. They like to garden and eat good food. We do too. They like to make and talk wine. We like to drink it. They like the beach. We do too. They value their family, their marriage, their faith and love a good adventure –  they’re a couple we easily look up to and enjoy being around. We spend hours talking about anything under the sun, including the often-avoided religion and politics. I think it also helps that we’re not related 😉 Guillermo himself, a retired engineered from Cotton Inc., is full of interesting facts. He can somehow simultaneously make us all scratch our head and burst into laughter. We just never know if what he says is true or not! They spent most of the months of October and November in Emerald Isle, NC (#retiredlife) with visitors coming and going and generously invited us over for an entire week.

Most posts about our little adventures have just been general highlights of where we stayed, what we ate, the more vague stuff. Lately though, I’ve really been wanting to hold onto the little details that I never share and often forget. Funny things Grace says, conversations between Chris and I, images I want to ingrain in my mind of all of us together. Here’s what stuck out to me about this trip.

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Grace insisting I bury her in the sand over and over, accidentally eating sand over and over and laughing about it.

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The large amount of seashells we found each day and quizzing the girls on bi-valves. “Is it a scallop, mussel, clam or oyster shell?”

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How loud and close the waves sounded at night when we slept..all like we were milk drunk infants. The beach is the best remedy for a good night’s sleep. We slept with the blinds open so we could rise with the  sun. Chris was up early just about every morning to go fishing with Guillermo. Nothing like the prospect of catching fish to get a man out of bed early! 

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Charlotte being cheeky as ever all weekend, mischievously sneaking up and down the staircase having us wondering what trouble has she sought out now? She loved the sand, eating her weight in boiled corn and all of Guillermo’s fist pumps.

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Bluefish-the buzzword of the week. It was pretty much all anyone was catching. Still, every catch was exciting (and sometimes frightening) for the kids. We ate it for the first few meals, fried hot with seared vegetables and cold on sandwiches. It’s actually incredibly tasty but you must eat it the day of or after you’ve caught it. It has a reputation for having a fishy taste and not a favored seafood. But alas! Most of the fish you buy in stores or at restaurants have not likely been caught that day. I mistakenly did a Google search of its safety which led to a huge discussion of mercury levels and the safety of consuming certain fish. Note to self – never start a debate with a chemist and an engineer unless you have a huge glass of wine and a lot of spare time. At one point Guillermo repeated the phrase in his natural New York accent “forget about it” in what must have been five different languages. We concluded that unless we were catching huge bluefish (which we weren’t) there was no reason to be concerned about heavy metals. “They’re hitting, they’re hitting!” Guillermo or Chris would observe on and off throughout the day. They meant birds where huddled over the water nose diving to catch blues. Chris and Guillermo would then load up, walk down to the beach and follow the birds, catching their leftovers. “Still blues? Still blues?”  Mostly blues. However, Liz caught several puffer fish much to the girls delight.  We bought scallops one night to have with the blues, a surf and surf if you will. And the next night did a shrimp and crab boil feast on the balcony. Grace proudly got to stay up late enough to enjoy dessert, oven broiled s’mores. She’s doing some socially-conscious eating lately..aka vegetarianism. Can you believe it? My child decided against all fish and many meats and cheeses?!..Pray it’s a phase.

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Billiards-Chris and Guillermo decided to go for a walk one night, a walk that lasted well until at least midnight. At one point after realizing the time, Liz and I both looked at each other thinking, “did we really let our husbands go out together alone?” We still don’t know the entire story of why they were gone so long. According to them they were hustling a group of marines at a local bar over a few rounds of billiards. They apparently won 100 bucks which we’ve yet to see.

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Chris and I agreeing, “we need more of this, time at the beach with no plans.” Or just anywhere with no plans which I’m happy to say we’ve done well with so far this year. We stayed put for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, a first ever for us. By far it was a great decision. We’ve been enjoying a restful, cozy New Year.

I’d love to hear from our friends and family who we haven’t seen in a while. Hope you all are well! Feel free to keep in touch in the comments or connect on twitter or instagram.

P.S. I wrote an article (both print and online!) for Raleigh Magazine on a few unexpected places around town to bring your little ones. You can read it here. I also happily answered some questions for Mother Magazine about where to play and eat in Raleigh which you can read here and shared my granola recipe on Raleigh Moms Blog which you can view here.

Birthdays in Brevard

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The only year we’ve missed our annual fall trip to the mountains was when Grace was in my belly waiting to make her debut. She was four days late and we totally could have made it! Perhaps the change in elevation would have sent me into labor though. Typically, we are in the Banner Elk/Boone area but this year we met Christopher’s parents for a lovely weekend in Brevard, an area we’d yet to explore.  It was a joint celebration weekend between ringing in my 30th (wowza) and Grace’s 3rd birthday.  My mother-in-law (hi Juju!) pulled out all the stops with decorations all over our historic rental house, pumpkin spice pancakes in the mornings, and lots of fun things for the girls. Here are a few highlights and things to know if you ever make a visit to the Brevard area yourself!

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We stayed at a vacation rental house connected with The Red House Inn and made a point to actually spend some time in the house itself – drinking hot cocoa, reading, cuddling, etc. We even made smores on the gas stovetop one day. And as a birthday treat, I took the opportunity to get through some reading tucked away in the upstairs bedroom listening to the rain.  The house was walking distance to downtown, where we tested several local restaurants and played at this awesome toy shop. If you need eating recommendations, try Marco Trattoria for Italian (I loved their asparagus appetizer and crab risotto), Square Root for brunch or The Phoenix and the Fox for a fun farm-to-table, local place.

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We explored downtown Waynesville for their Apple Fest where I found a dream store: part local grocery, part coffee shop, and part gift shop, with a little corner for the kids to play!  Blossom on Main served us a bright, flavorful warm Thai lunch. Who would have thought you could find good Thai food in little ole’ Waynesville in Western NC?

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Transylvania County (where Brevard is) is famously known for the large number of enchanting waterfalls including Skinny Dip falls, pictured above and below. We’re looking forward to checking out more of these when it warms up and we can swim, especially Sliding Rock!IMG_9517 (2)IMG_9588 (2)Chris and I sneaked away one afternoon to take in the spectacular views of the Art Loeb trail. Even with the low visibility, it was breathtaking. Last time I hiked this, I was pretty heavily pregnant with Grace. It was late summer, and the views were lush green and bright blue, with wild flower patches everywhere. This time, the atmosphere was eerie, golden and gray. I loved it just as much.

IMG_9571 (2)IMG_9573 (2)IMG_9581 (2)We couldn’t not take the girls on a little hike of their own, so on our way home we stopped and hiked the Hard Times Trail Loop on Lake Powhatan (located within Pisgah National Forest right outside downtown Asheville and the Baltimore Estate). This is a great trail for young kids to walk on their own (or if you have babies in carriers). The trail follows Bent Creek (which houses a trout hatchery), gives glimpses of the mountains, has a natural tunnel made from clustered old winding tree branches, and lots more exciting things for a 3 year old 🙂

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Speaking of, Grace, I can’t believe you are THREE. You are wise beyond your years and filled with so much spirit. If I had one word for you, I would say content. The day we were packing to leave, frazzled running in and out of the house, I had a bit of a minor panic attack when I didn’t know where you were. I realized it’d been a while since checking in on your whereabouts and for all I knew, you’d walked down the street to make a new friend or “go to school.” I found you happily laying in the grass in the front yard with a doll, singing a song. I smiled and asked what you were doing. You replied, “Just lying in the sun mama.”

Today, while playing with you on the beach (yes-we’re currently at the beach!), we decided it would be fun to cover you in sand. Per your request, we decided to build you a “sand castle mermaid tail” over your legs. I was just about finished and without thinking, you kicked your legs up, wanting to wiggle out to see the finished product. Sand went flying everywhere, most of it landing in your eyes and mouth. I gasped a bit, looked at you, expecting some dramatics. You looked at me, started laughing, opened your mouth and said “look mom I’m accidentally eating it.”  I’ve said this before, to know you is to love you and I certainly do! Please never change.

Until next time folks, and thanks for reading!

P.S. If you read my last post from your email, you missed out on all the photos that went with it. To view those you would have clicked on the post title where it would have opened it in your browser. Here it is again if you wanted a look.

Addie

 

Summer out of a Suitcase

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Hello friends and family!

Apologies for the extended absence. We had a busy summer, as you will soon see.

It kicked off in the charming Matthews, NC visiting my Aunt Pat who proved to be a super host. Thank you for hosting our rowdy bunch Aunt Pat!

Then there was Emerald Isle for a long weekend with the famous Liz & Guermillo and some other super great cooks and friends.

Then the in-laws came in town for a week in the Outerbanks. There we celebrated Charlotte’s first birthday, ate our weight in birthday cake and seafood and discovered the idyllic, historic Manteo, NC.

Then we spent about 3 weeks in Mississippi (you can read more about my beloved hometown here) where we made play-dough, did fish prints, learned to overcome our fear of the water (good job Grace!), eat scrumptious homemade ice cream, collected chicken eggs and played with all the grandparents.

Then we spent a week in Grayton Beach, Fl where we “fished” with our cousins, built sandcastles and read lots of books.

I just scratched the surface on all the people we saw, the meals we ate, and the memories. But let the pictures and smiling faces speak for themselves. It was a good summer! Mostly it was a summer of growth for both girls as you’ll see how different they now look (and act!). September has been a month of catching up with friends, doing all the things we love around Raleigh, and relaxing at home.  I’m happy to be back into a rhythm and look forward to sharing some upcoming fall adventures with you all.

Hope you enjoyed the pictures and thanks for reading!

P.S. If you want to see more of some home-cooked meals we enjoyed this summer, check out this post on Grace Gourmet.

P.P.S. If you’re interested, I wrote a guest blog post on Carolina Parent.

 

Climbing Kitty Hawk

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If you’ve ever seen a car with a North Carolina license plate, you may have noticed the phrase “first in flight.”  While this claim to fame has been contested (which you can read about here), Kitty Hawk, NC is where the famous Wright Brothers, achieved the first successful aviation flight in the world. We had the pleasure of vacationing in this area of the North Carolina coast, known as the Outer Banks, a few weeks ago with my in-laws. One of the highlights of our trip was making a visit to the Wright Brothers memorial, which was conveniently just across the street from our vacation rental. It was a long, hot hike to the top but worth the panoramic views of the coastline. Grace, in all her confident grown-up acting glory, walked the entire way! From the top of the memorial, you can see the actual runway that the plane departed from. It is open for patrons to walk along from the visitors center and museum to the monument itself. Between the kiddos and the heat, we opted to save our energy for the hike up and just enjoy the views. There was also a very cool rendition of the first flight with statues of the crew aiding in take-off. Check out the pictures below and enjoy!

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Thoughts on parenting in the U.S. + a trip to Honeysuckle Tea House

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Lately it seems all the headlines I read online or in the paper sound something like: “What American parents are getting wrong” “American parenting is killing marriage” “French Kids Eat Everything” “Danish kids are the happiest in the world” and on and on.  I’ve even had articles shared with me announcing that parents these days are ruining their children, giving reasons that contradict each other. I’ve grown a bit tired of all the negativity around parenting in the U.S. and wanted to get something off my chest as I sit here looking at these photos from a rendezvous we had with one of my first “mom friends” and her adorable family. This might not be what you signed up for.  Like I’ve said more than once though, “I couldn’t help myself.”

Yes, maybe there is much to improve on, but there is one thing I believe parents in the U.S. are thriving at. From the start of your parenting journey, there is support and community in all forms and it doesn’t go away. When I had Grace two and a half years ago, I was quickly being told about “Mommy and Me” music classes, invited to baby storytimes, given pregnancy tips, added to breastfeeding support groups, baby-wearing meetups, birthing classes and basically anything baby/pregnancy/parenting related. Now, friends will even set up a meal delivery train for you so you won’t starve in those early months. This support continues well into parenting, whether it be a little comment from a stranger at a grocery store, small talk at the park or an invite to a kid’s birthday party. I hear and ask, “How are you doing?” and “How’s it going?” over and over.  Moms in this country support other moms. Even introverted moms who don’t want to get out much can find support on social media groups and have a good laugh from the endless Scary Mommy articles. Not to mention the wide range of organizations out there to help parents in need from birth and onward.

I have met, laughed and even cried a bit with moms of all ages, races, religions, sexual orientations, working, not working, older, younger, etc.  I have had some of the best conversations with moms I haven’t ever seen again, yet we happened to be at the same park that day, and we both were what each other needed, to be able to relate. I have become friends with amazing women who started out as my “mom friends” and now they are just my friends. I know that I can reach out to any one of them on any given day and they will be there, even if just to vent about something  trivial. I now look forward to getting together with them minus kids and plus lots of wine.

No job, no social status, no soul searching trip around the world, no advanced degree, no years of being a nanny and working with kids can prepare you for having your own. Some days are blissful, some are miserable. No matter what you’ve done in your life before kids, nothing will exempt you (apparently not even if you are the Duchess of Cambridge) from a teething clingy baby or an embarrassing toddler having an off day. When you have children, you are starting from ground zero and we are all in it together. You will need support whether you want to admit it or not. When they say it takes a village, it really does – parents in the U.S. get that and we take care of one another. We value the village, the tribe, and I’m glad to be raising my kids here.

Well, now that that’s off my chest, I thought I’d share a few pictures from a delightful day trip to visit the open air, seasonal Honeysuckle Tea House located in back roads Chapel Hill. If it’s any indication in the photos, we all very much enjoyed ourselves. Tea and treats for the adults, sand, swings and Locopops for the kids. I can’t even begin to describe their amazingly curated tea collection – so many I’d never even heard of before! The matcha lavender latte, the lounging in the hammocks, even with the heat and child monitoring, it all felt very Zen. It was a nice change of scenery from living smack dab in the middle of the constantly growing and developing Raleigh. Literally we are right next to a parking deck and there has been construction surrounding our neighborhood for more than a year! The Tea House on the other hand is surrounded by nature, thriving herb and flower beds, berry patches and more. They call it a pastoral oasis and it is. If you are anywhere in the Triangle area, it’s certainly worth a visit!

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Honeysuckle tea house

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Hope you enjoyed the photos! -Addie

Pit Stop in Darien, GA

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By now, it’s likely no secret that I enjoy discovering small, old, unheard-of towns, especially if they are on the water. Are you tired of hearing about them? I hope not because we’ve discovered another one. On our way home from Gainseville after Easter, Chris found this tiny historic town in Georgia named Darien.  Darien was a perfect stop for us to walk around, boat watch, eat and release some energy before getting back on the road. It’s located on the Altamahda Scenic Byway on the Atlantic Coast.

As soon as you cross the bridge into Darien it’s clear there is a rich history with plantations, museums, ruins and historical markers scattered through out the town. You can also fish, boat and swim to your heart’s desire. Chris and I agreed that this is the type of small town where we’d like to end up, where a slow pace of life is the norm and the huge amount of natural beauty could keep you occupied for days. Our stop was a few hours at most, so I don’t have much to say about it other than that we’d love to come back one day! Here are a few photos.

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Lunch with the rugrats at Skippers Fish Camp, a great waterfront restaurant that also has a huge deck with turtles swimming around, cornhole to play with and loads of boats pulling in and out of the docks.

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When I tell Grace not to smile for the camera..this is what I get!

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Crab cake, hush puppies, grouper strips, BBQ and collards, sweet potato souffle and green beans. Now I really want to go back. There were loads of options for everyone in the family, all delicious. 

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Darien was once a huge port town and the pictures above are of the old ruins from warehouses and naval stores. If you look closely, these walls, named the Darien Tabby Walls, are made of oyster shells. 

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Drink and dessert stop at Zio Carlo. We brought home a few bags of their pecan biscottis-a perfect item to sell at an Italian style cafe in rural Georgia.

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We didn’t even really scratch the surface of all there is to do in Darien, but I love having this little corner of the web to share photos of even our smallest adventures. As much as I know some of our family look forward to the pictures of the girls, I too love having a place to document these precious days. Hope you enjoyed them and thanks for reading!

Easter in Gainesville

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I couldn’t resist sharing a few photos from our short but sweet Easter weekend in Gainesville, FL. We went to spend time with our best friends, the Corrings (you may remember them from this trip), who are now a family of 3! They welcomed a perfect baby boy in February who I was just itching to meet.  Gainseville is a laid back, funky college town. A major perk of being in Florida for Easter was that it was actually warm! The weekend was filled with lots of baby cuddles, good food, a wonderful Easter mass service and lots of quality time before they made a cross country trip to their new home in Seattle.  Emily and I used to stay up all night talking about our future adult life and what we wanted out of it. It’s crazy to me that now we we are living it! Seeing friends you hold near and dear have children is incredible. Here are a few favorite photos from our weekend. Enjoy!

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We ate at a popular restaurant, The Top for both Sunday brunch and dinner. The Top is a very fun and funky place, much like Gainesville itself. The food didn’t last long, otherwise you know I would have included a photo 😉

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How sweet is this little family? Parenthood suits them.

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 The Baughman Performing Arts Center (pictured above) on UF’s campus made an awesome spot for a little Easter egg hunt for Grace. Afterwards we hung out around Lake Alice, took some photos and spotted both a turtle and an alligator!

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John bought dried fruit to fill the eggs with, which Grace was very happy about. By the end of eating all the dried fruit from the eggs she knew which was papaya, mango and kiwi (her favorite). 

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“Too much, Mom and Dad…too much.” Ha!

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Across from Lake Alice is a huge Bat Conservatory (pictured above) that you can read more about here.  Just before dusk every evening, you can apparently watch the thousands of bats swarm around outside their houses. While we didn’t stick around for that, Grace loved playing in the patch of wild flowers on the property. 

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Emily and I were laughing about the fact that before kids, we used to revolve these weekend meetups around our pets…notice there are no dogs in any of these pictures. Oh how times have changed! Hope you enjoyed the pictures and thanks for reading. Until next time!  -Addie

Two Weeks with Mimi

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For two weeks our family was blessed with the company of my mother. We cooked, we gardened, we moseyed around town, we played, we read, we slept and then gardened, cooked and played some more. There were many hours spent on the porch cracking pecans, swinging, talking and bird watching. My mom is too cool for Facebook and a smart phone (she has Instagram so she can see pictures of her children and grandchildren) so I thought I’d put together a little online scrapbook of her visit for her fan club back home in Mississippi. You know who you are! We are missing Mimi terribly. Two weeks was a long time to have her here, so long that I got too accustomed to her helpfulness! Luckily we went out of town for Easter, otherwise the house would have felt too quiet. This morning Grace woke up and unprovoked blurted out, “I want Mimi back!”  Enjoy a few highlights from an unforgettable two weeks! Thanks for reading.

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Art in Bloom at the North Carolina Museum of Art. People submit floral interpretations of various works of art on exhibit and it was so cool! We were both in heaven looking at all the creativity around nature and visual art.

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Fish Friday meal for Lent. Seared salmon with a seriously good salad (recipe here.)

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Above and below: Fun at the JC Roulston Arboretum’s Blooms Festival. Spring was the perfect time for my mom (an expert horticulturalist) to visit. There were all sorts of events geared around nature, not to mention all the beautiful things in bloom around this time of year.

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Bubbles! The Blooms Festival was part plant sale part kids outdoor fun. Grace and Charlotte loved playing in the bubbles and seeing all sorts of wildlife from bunnies to chickens to bugs!

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We hosted a champagne brunch/Easter egg hunt for Grace’s best buds and her parents. My mom made these little mini carrot cakes with died coconut and robin eggs on top, a big hit among both kids and adults. Below: Attempts to get a descent picture of Charlotte and Grace after the egg hunt which is becoming such a challenge!

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Above: Breakfast cookies on the porch. Below: Our favorite Caesar Salad

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We did yard work, yard work and more yard work and no one minded one bit.

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Plant and berry shopping at the NC State Farmers Market.

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Carb overload at Yellow Dog Bread which included a rosemary sea salt scone, a chai tea sugar cookie, a spinach and feta baguette and a huge strawberry and jam muffin!

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Neighborhood potluck prep with the littlest helper.

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Impeccable shrimp creole on her last night before heading home. Yes, it was super helpful having her here to do laundry, change diapers, etc. but what was more was just her company. My parenting is largely influenced by how she raised my sisters and I, and I’m realizing we have so much in common it’s frightening. Mimi-we love you, we’re grateful for you, we miss you and we hope July gets here soon so we can head your way! -Addie