Open For Business!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Pete and I are so EXCITED to announce the opening of our Hill Collection Etsy Shop!! I'm thinking excited might be an understatement. We are absolutely thrilled to share our love of woodworking through opening up this business! From the get-go, Pete has been the builder, while I take on the role of designer. We've found we're a perfect team in taking an idea or concept and turning it into a real piece of furniture or home décor. Pete also has some design ideas he adds to our projects, which gives me a whole new perspective on how we can create something. And I get my hands dirty by sanding all of our pieces/creations. Together we stain each piece and put the finishing touches on every individual product.

We have made so many pieces of furniture for our home, from a dining room table and a fabric covered ottoman,  to a cushioned bench/chest and a side table. To add to our love of woodworking, we have found how much we absolutely love refinishing furniture, or turning it into a whole new piece entirely. In the last six months we have turned an old dresser into a nightstand table, taken some pretty ugly dining room chairs and given them a makeover, and taken a four-drawer, horizontal storage unit and converted it into a filing cabinet. 

The more we work with wood, the more accustomed to it we become with it and the further the passion grows. So opening up an Etsy Shop held a huge appeal for the two of us. With a lot of thought and the ever-present urge to build, we decided we were going for it! It's kind of a mini dream come true for us...building furniture and home pieces for our own little business. Yes, we've thought several times about forgoing our day jobs to open a furniture store, but we'll wait on that for now. Till then, please go take a look around our shop! We have put so much love and detail in every product and we hope you'll adore them as much as we do. We'll be adding new pieces as we create them, so make sure to visit often for the newest addition to our Hill Collection!!

Below are some previews of the products currently available for purchase in our Etsy Shop

Beach On My Mind

Friday, April 25, 2014
It's that time of year when the taste of summer is sweet and you know the hot days are so close you can almost touch them. I'm a girl who always thought I could live year round in the season of fall. But, the more I think about that possibility, the more I realize how I couldn't possibly go without being at or on the water. Water as in a lake, an ocean, a name it, I want it as a part of my summer. How can anyone possibly go an entire year without frolicking in deep blue water, floating about on the water's surface, casting a rod out into rippling waves, etc.?! That, and I love a good tan!

So, here I sit in my home office, listening to the rain fall through my open windows (because I refuse to shut them) and desperately craving the sea air on my face and tangled into my braided hair, the sun warming my skin while I lose myself in a book, a table full of fresh cooked, steaming crabs and the messy hands covered in Old Bay and melted butter, and a cold frozen drink in my hand that I'm sipping on an oceanfront deck while wrapped in a blanket, chilly from the day's tan. Now you're craving the ocean too, huh? It's contagious, I'm telling you. And I've got to make some plans to get there asap!

To find this print, go here. And to listen to a song that is playing over and over in my head, go here.

Running On A Prayer

Wednesday, April 23, 2014
I have a confession. I am not a long distance runner; there are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. So if you can imagine, when I have to run a mile for my boot camp assessments at the beginning and end of every camp, I get a little anxious. I even consider ways I can get out of running that distance. For me, I would much rather do all the other exercises that involve nothing close to running...well, maybe not burpees, but that's a different story. In the end my conscience makes me go and get it over with.

My running struggles begin halfway through when I hit the mental brick wall and I just don't want to keep going. You'd think after months of exercise/running that I would have conditioned my body to run well. Let's just say it hasn't happened. So during a mile-long run a month or so back, it dawned on me that running long distance is nothing I can lean on myself for, instead it's someone much bigger. And my what a difference it has made.

My secret to getting through the mile run is by praying and talking to God. From the moment the stopwatch starts and the group is told to "go", I concentrate on one thing, my relationship with the Lord. With every stride I take, I'm praying that He just carries me on. I talk to Him about life and pray for the direction He is taking me, that it will be made evident. I pray for my little family, my future, my struggles, and my blessings. When I start to come back to myself and realize that indeed I am still running, I turn my prayers back to asking that the Lord continues carrying each leg forward, not giving up, not ceasing. 

Praying while I run has turned my struggle/dislike for it into a glorifying act to God by using the temple He gave me to do what it was made to do. After several bouts of mile running, I have yet to shave off time, but happily I'm just glad to maintain my time and finish at my best. Then, a week ago today, I showed up for the mile run late and not warmed up. I settled in knowing that I would again run with God, but that my time might suffer and all was well in my heart. At the close of the mile, my boot camp instructor called at my time as I ran past her. I had shaved 34 seconds off of my mile time. Say, what?! My heart sung while my lungs burned, but boy did it feel good. I can't say how amazing it's been to see how my far my legs can take me when I rely on God to bring me through it.

Lilac Obsession

Tuesday, April 22, 2014
With spring in full swing, I have so loved filling my house with floral scents. The sweet pumpkin and balsam pine scents have been stored away till fall and winter come again (let's hope winter stays away for a good long while). I find that there is nothing sweeter than having your windows open with a slight breeze blowing through that wafts the smell of lilac around the room. It's one of my favorite parts of the warmer months, the open windows that is. And in figuring that the movement of air will help spread a delightful scent around, it makes all the sense in the world to light candles or other smell-good items in front of your open windows. I love the surprise burst of a strong fragrance. It's magic, I tell you. So, as an avid lover of lilac and other spring florals, I wanted to share some of my favorites with you. Because who doesn't want a home that smells of spring perfection?! Plus, I'm including on of my favorite spring accessories, nail polish, in an all-time favorite color of mine.

I can't get enough of Bath & Body Works fragrance oil in Lilac Blossom. I've never had anything that works quicker in getting a fresh scent throughout an entire room. It's simple, requires minimal upkeep, and works fantastically; not to mention, you can pick from a collection of their oil warmers for the perfect accessory to your home décor. Their wallflowers are amazing as well, and when I know I will have a house full of guests, it's my go-to. Simply plug it into the wall and within an hour the scent is wafting around like it's always been there. Just as with the oil warmer there is also an entire collection of plug-ins for the wallflowers and you can go as simple or spunky as you like. The best part is the price! With the amount of time these two products last, the cost is on point. If you're not a lilac fan, there is an entire assortment of other fragrances to pick from. And if you're like me, you will fall in love with several scents and put a different one in every other room.

One of my favorite candles, for two reasons, is the Tuscany Candle in lilac. The first reason, which leads to the second reason, is because it was a Valentine's gift from my husband when we were first dating. And I still have the exact same candle, burning it slowing because I don't want to use it all up. I remember the first time I lit it in my bedroom of the house I lived in senior year of college. Sitting it atop my desk in front of two open windows, was what made me fall in love with the smell of lilac. From then on I lit that candle at least everyday, if not twice a day in between classes and extracurriculars. I couldn't get enough then and I can't get enough now.

Nail polish. I love it, but only when my nails are long enough to cary it off well. Do you know what I mean? One of my top picks is OPI's "Do You Lilac It?". (Yes, I sure do!) It's a beautiful color on and complements any skin tone. I don't mind wearing it in the early days of spring when I'm still toting around a lack of tan. And I love it even more in the middle of summer after I've soaked in the sun and I'm a subtle bronze. You just can't go wrong with this shade of it's lilac, have I mentioned that??

In all this sharing, I hope you have some inspiration to turn your home into a floral paradise of scents.  I have used all of the above and can't recommend them enough. On a last thought, it's also fun to mix and match scents to create your own type of fragrance. A scent I like to combine with lilac is "Spring" (of course it is). What are some of you favorite smell combinations?

Easter Sunday

Monday, April 21, 2014
Yesterday was beautiful in so many ways, which filled my heart with abounding joy. This was husband's and my first Easter together as a married couple. And as we have done with the previous holidays when our marriage began, we have been putting our own touches on holiday traditions to make them our own. So, we opted to host Easter festivities at our home this year, and truly it couldn't have been more enjoyable to put a menu of tasty foods together, decorate our home with spring touches, arrange flowers to fill the counter with color and a floral scent, and to have our people in one place. 

Our day started out at church, and my word was it a message full of impactful reminders of the sacrifice our Lord made for us. I was soaking in every single word and letting them all stir in my heart as I fully emerged myself in the glory of the resurrection. My heart is still singing!

After church, family gathered at our house for egg hunting, food munching, cornhole playing, and back deck conversing. Birds were chirping, the temperature was warm, and the flowers were in full bloom. Seriously, I couldn't have asked for a better Easter celebration. It was a thrill to be able to host such a special day and to bring our families together. It's true in saying that husband and I had so much fun preparing and on Easter, that once everyone had departed ways we were brainstorming our next chance to have people over to entertain. Can't holidays happen a little more often?? 

I hope you and yours had a beautiful and happy Easter too! Here's our Easter from last year!

Burger In Paradise

Monday, April 14, 2014
Lately, the blog has featured a lot (seriously, though) of recipes. It's what happens when your family is trying to eat healthy and you're discovering what does and doesn't work in regards to your tastes, the health benefits, etc. I promise to get back to more day-to-day activities of the Hills' the woodworking we have finally gotten back into. But, for guessed it, I've got another recipe that I can't help but share and hopefully it's a catalyst in your kitchen for coming up with new ways to look at everyday foods. 

A few months back, husband and I discovered a scrumptious and healthy (yay, for that perk!) burger as we began our stint on themed eating. We wanted to take the ordinary, not-so-great-for-you burger, and turn it into something amazing and yet, healthy. The two of us already knew we would be substituting beef for turkey, but we needed something to take this better-for-you burger to the next level. And that's when the light bulb turned on for us and we realized we could combine vegetables with our meat and eat a burger that was jam-packed with really great nutrients. Such a no brainer, yet we were bewildered as to why we hadn't thought of it sooner.

So if you're one of those people, whom like us didn't realize that vegetables weren't just for topping your patty, here's a really simple recipe for getting more veggies in your meal. 

Zucchini-Stuffed Turkey Burger
  • What You'll Need:
    • 1 lb. turkey burger (the leanest you can get)
    • 1 small to medium zucchini
    • 1/2 of a red onion
    • 1 minced garlic clove
    • Salt & pepper
    • Your preference of toppings; we used:
      • baby spinach leaves
      • shredded mozzarella cheese
      • tomato slices
      • onion (yes, we add more)
      • 1 TSP of mayo per bun
  • What You'll Do:
    • Start by shredding your zucchini and onion. With the zucchini, wash it thoroughly, leaving the peel on and cutting out any bad marks. For the onion, pull off the outer peel, cut in half, and then grate.
    • Once you have grated both zucchini and onion, mince the garlic and add to the veggies. Next add your turkey burger, salt, and pepper; combine all the ingredients, using your hands, until well mixed. 
    • Shape into patties of about 3-4 oz. proportions (about the size of a deck of cards) and cook in a skillet drizzled with olive oil on medium heat.

As it is with every burger, fries are the go-to of sides. But, your typical french fry isn't going to cut it on the healthy meter. So spice it up, quite literally, and try out this super easy recipe for spicy sweet potato fries.

Spicy Sweet Potato Fries

  • What You'll Need:
    • 1 large sweet potato (this is good for two people)
    • 1 TBSP olive oil
    • 1/2 TSP chili powder
    • 1/4 TSP white pepper
    • 1/4 TSP garlic salt
    • 1/4 TSP crushed red pepper flakes
    • Sprinkling of salt
  • What You'll Do:
    • Preheat the oven to 450° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
    • Cook the sweet potato in the microwave for 3 minutes, to soften it up. This will making cutting it into slices, much easier.
    • After you have cut the potato, toss them with the olive oil in a bowl.
    • In a separate bowl, combine all of the seasonings and mix well.
    • Sprinkle over the potato slices and stir evenly to coat.
    • Bake for 25-35 minutes or until the fries are lightly browned and crisp. Halfway through, pull the fries out of the oven and stir around so that they cook evenly, flipping if you have to. 

Now you can have your burger and eat it too, guilt free I might add! And if you're feeling extra healthy, go sans bun! 

Backyard Shish Kabobs + [A Few Recipes]

Friday, April 11, 2014
This warm weather is warming my soul and it feels good. Winter seemed extra long this year and it left me yearning for sunshine and time spent outside. Mostly I'm only grateful for the cold weather because it is making me truly appreciate these lovely spring temperatures. I do hope they're around to stay. 

With this warmer weather comes the urge to have people over for backyard grilling and outdoor games. Since I've been married I have found that I'm a natural entertainer, at least I like to think so. It just feels like my thing and I'm loving it.  My heart craves throwing little parties, so I try to find any excuse or reason to invite my people over for some time together. There's just something so fulfilling about fellowship. Don't you agree?!

Last Saturday was a day just calling for a group of people, good food, and conversation. With too much time passing between the last visit with the Paulettes, it was a no brainer for us to all get together. Quickly, we added the other Hills to our plans, because we love them too and the six of us together is such a cool gathering of like-people. You know those friends of yours that feel like family and the family that feels like the closest of friends? Husband and I are blessed to know both types of relationships and by those people we are increasingly blessed. 

Our day went a little like this: several round of frisbee golf for the men, meaningful, enjoyable chat time for the gals, shish kabob making, corn shucking, backyard grilling, more conversation, entertainment by two of the cutest twins I know, cornhole, the Final Four, dessert, and goodbyes. Oh, Saturday how I loved you so!

In honor of the spring weather I tried to come up with a fitting drink. The result was a peach lemonade. Really any kind of lemonade combined with fruit is pretty delicious and festive for the spring and summer seasons.

Peach Lemonade
  • What You'll Need:
    • 2 cans of frozen lemonade concentrate
    • Small package of frozen peaches
    • 1 fresh lemon
    • 2 fresh peaches
  • What You'll Do:
    • In a container, combine the frozen lemonade, preparing as directed on the can. 
    • Purée the frozen peaches in a food processor and then add to the already prepared lemonade. Stir well. If you're looking for a sweeter drink, I'm sure you could add a tablespoon or two to the peach purée, but we didn't try that. So taste as you go if you want to add sugar. 
    • Cut the fresh peaches and lemon and add them to the drink mixture. Pair with fun straws and you're good to go!

Don't you just love shish kabobs, and aren't they such pretty food?? Their colors scream warm weather and sunshine. We found a recipe to marinade the beef in before grilling it, and oh my 'lanta it was incredible. I want to share it with you so you can try it out too! You'll most likely already have all of these ingredients (besides the sherry, which we just happened to have from another recipe we tried out earlier in the week).

Shish Kabob Marinade
  • What You'll Need (based on 2 lbs of beef):
    • 1 cup vegetable oil
    • 2/3 cup sherry
    • 2/3 cup soy sauce
    • 1/2 cup brown sugar
    • 2 garlic cloves
    • 1 TSP minced ginger root
  • What You'll Do:
    • In a tupperware or dish with a covered lid, combine all of the ingredients plus the beef tips.  Mix well.
    • Place in the fridge for approximately six-seven hours. 
    • Put your shish kabobs together, and using a brush, coat the other shish kabobs toppings with the marinade.

Mouthwatering, huh? You won't regret shish kabobs, especially after marinading in the above sauce. So good! I recommend spreading the shish kabob ingredients out buffet style for everyone to make their own. Pair it with corn on the cob, baked potatoes, and fruit salad and you have an absolute winning dinner. Not to mention it's simple to make and won't take away from your time with your guests. Everyone gets involved in making them too! 

We devoured all of the food and let it settle over a little friendly cornhole competition. If only the sun had stayed out longer and the day would have moved slower! This kind of day needs to happen all the time and it's a goal of mine to have as many backyard moments like this all summer long!

Peanuts & Cracker Jacks

Tuesday, April 8, 2014
Friday was beautiful even with the threat of rain. Rain, I was praying would hold off so that we could meet up with friends and catch a Virginia Tech baseball game. Those prayers were heard and the rain steered clear, but the chilly temperatures and wind not so much. Nonetheless the evening was too much fun not to ignore the cool breezes that swept through the stadium. It even gave me a legitimate reason to order hot chocolate from the concession stand, and who turns down an opportunity like that. Oh and that salted pretzel, yum! What's not to love about food at baseball games?!

I've got to admit, every. single. time. that I see the Hokie bird I secretly wish for a photo op with him. I think everyone else must feel the same way. It's just Hokie pride, right??

VT had some pretty outstanding fielding. I still can't get over how a ball that has been hit toward the left outfield can still be caught and thrown back in to first before the runner can even make it to the base. Impressive, that's all I can say. And a lot of physics involved, which I'm not even going to bother with (I'll save that for my engineer of a husband!)

At the top of the 8th inning we decided we were far enough ahead, runs wise, that we could skip the remaining innings and get in out of the cold. False. Turns out Miami's team came back and won the game. Sounds quite epic, just not in our favor. At first, I was disappointed to hear we had missed such a game changer, but I'm thinking maybe it was a blessing after all that we didn't have to watch that kind of comeback.

Being settled back in the burgs has been the absolute best. And we've got plans for taking advantage of all that is offered throughout the summer around here. That means a lot more of America's favorite pastime in our near future!

Six Of The Very Best Months!

Saturday, April 5, 2014
Today makes six whole months since the day we said, "I, do" to a life-long commitment to one another. In reminiscing on this day, by going through the photos, watching the video (over and over again I might add), I find myself wishing that I could marry Pete every single day. Our wedding day was more than I could have dreamt up. It was the start to a marriage that has been an absolute blessing. And I simply couldn't imagine going through life, every single bit of it, without the man I call my husband. 

I could go on and on about how much I love that man of mine, but I'll save you from all the sappiness. And instead, I will leave you with a collection of photos taken in the photo booth at our wedding reception. The song sums up my feelings and the photos fill my heart with the biggest kind of joy! How thankful I am for an incredible husband and the family and friends that surround us.

A Light, Spring Day Recipe

Thursday, April 3, 2014
It's been one of those rainy spring days where the sunshine peaks through the clouds every now and again. It's still warm out, but there's a slight chill in the air that's begging you to put on a blue jean jacket or rain coat. At least, that's how the morning and early afternoon rounded out. And I do love these days in a whole different way than how I love bright and cheerful spring days that are full of sunlight. Luckily, I have been enjoying both types of weather this Thursday; the late afternoon has brought out the sun in full force and the temperatures have steadily risen. It means my evening will be spent on the deck, soaking up some much needed vitamin D. In all, I equate today to feeling cozy and happy, and with that I wanted to share a cozy and so simple meal that seems fitting for a day like today. You won't spend much time in the kitchen, which will give you plenty of cherished outdoor time. Plus, who doesn't love gnocchi?! And just in case you were stocking up on gnocchi meals, here's another gnocchi-filled recipe for a chillier day or one in which you're craving a creamy and hearty soup.  

  • What You'll Need:
    • 1 package of gnocchi
    • 2 1/2 cups chopped broccoli florets
    • 1 TBSP salted butter
    • 1 TBSP olive oil
    • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
    • Sunflower seeds (the amount you prefer)
    • Romano cheese (the amount you prefer)

  • What You'll Do:
    • Cook the gnocchi according the the package directions, adding the cut broccoli florets during the last minute of cooking. Cook for another minute, then drain. 
    • Over medium heat, heat the oil and butter in a large skillet. Cook until the butter starts to brown, but be cautious and don't let it burn. Add the gnocchi/broccoli mixture and the ground pepper to the skillet, tossing to coat evenly.
    • Spoon out your desired helping, then add the sunflower seeds and the Romano cheese. And just like that, your meal is prepared and ready to enjoy!

*This recipe is based on feeding two people with a slight amount of leftovers. To feed a family of four, just double the recipe. And so on for greater amounts. 

Suitable Helper

Wednesday, April 2, 2014
As of late I've been entertaining a lot of musings in my head. Really, I guess that's not too uncommon for anyone. But, in my case I've been thinking a lot about my husband, the man that God put into my life to share ups, downs, milestones, and faith. From the beginning of our budding relationship I knew Pete came into my life not through coincidence alone, and that feeling only grew the longer we were together. This man was not only becoming a huge part of my life because he and I wanted it, but because it was the Lord's will. When I start to think about that, I can't help feeling overcome with such joy and appreciation, but also curiosity for how God picked him for me and me for him. 

Without so much as asking this aloud, my Sunday School class swiftly answered it while discussing a topic inspired by our current reading on marriage and its purpose. If you grab your Bible and open to Genesis 2:18 you'll find the following: Then the LORD God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him."

If one word were to jump out at you (ahem, maybe the one in bold), you might possibly turn up your nose and scoff, "I as a wife, am only my husband's helper?!" But, before you get too far ahead, let me stop you in saying that the word "helper" used in Genesis 2:18 and 2:20 is ezer, which is a combination of two roots, meaning "to rescue, to save" and "strength".

Now you're seeing this word, "helper", in a different light, aren't you? To go even further, I want to put into perspective the honor this word carries with it throughout the Bible. Only appearing 21 times in the Old Testament, "helper" is used in the context of the first woman, in military context, and most prominently in reference to God. It's a a vital and strong help that God gave man in His creation of woman. And not only that, but I am the suitable partner for my husband, as he is for me.

I believe it's important to remember this always, that in marriage your spouse was purposefully chosen for you. God designedly puts us with someone who will complement us, encourage us to grow, and better ourselves. We are given to one another in marriage to uphold a covenant between ourselves and God.

I can't be but in awe of the Lord's plan for marriage; He not only gave us a framework for marriage that we can live by and therefore have fruitful, happy marriages, but He also provided us with a suitable helper in which, together, we can ultimately display Christ's love for the church (and vice versa) through our love for one another. It's beautiful, isn't it?

In saying all of this, it leads me back to my musings about my husband. It made me rethink the ways in which I treat him, honor him, and love him every single day. I am his suitable helper, and likewise he is mine. I want to take the gift God has given me in knowing that and strive daily to intentionally live that calling out. So ladies (and gents), when it comes to your marriage, who's with me on this?