OBX Camping Pt. 1

Monday, June 30, 2014
Two years ago husband (then just boyfriend) and I camped in the sand dunes at Frisco. It was quite an experience, but I kind of really loved it. So this spring when we were deciding on vacations, we opted to head back to the southern tip of the Outer Banks for a vacation back in time. One with no electricity, cold pull-string showers, and lots of sand. We were pumped...really, I promise. 

And then we got there. It was hot, rainy, and crowded. Of all things, I didn't expect the crowd, the huge trucks and SUVS that lined the beach as far as you could see during the daytime hours. It was such a disappointment when just two years earlier we practically had the beach to ourselves for two weeks.

Isn't it beautiful? Really, the beach is gorgeous; if only the beach-goers weren't in vehicles taking up the view and all the space. Sigh.

Husband and I made it from Saturday to Tuesday nestled in our tent in the dunes. We took in as much of the ocean as we could and darkened our barely there tans. Yet, because we weren't feeling nearly as relaxed as we thought we would, we made the split decision to veer the course of our vacation while ferrying back to Hatteras from Ocracoke. 

Just like that, we packed up camp, loaded it into the car and took off back to Virginia to regroup and prepare for our new plans...plans that were quite the opposite of our current vacay spot.

I'm always in awe of our bravery to change plans at the last second and to take charge of a situation that feels slightly out of control. I like that our hesitance is short lived and our determination to make things happen is alive and well in our marriage. It makes things exciting!

Stay tuned for the next set of OBX photos and the new vacation spot reveal!

Dream Kitchen

Sunday, June 29, 2014
After coming to the bittersweet decision to call off the house hunting process, I still find myself dreaming about the dream home...the way it would look, the furnishings, the scent, the family that will one day fill it. When husband and I opted to put a pause on that milestone in our life, I felt my heart sink into the very bottom of my stomach. I felt sadness in giving up the possibility of being home owners in our very near/immediate future. Yet, I also felt free and weightless knowing we weren't tying ourselves down to the area. It's a strange combination of emotions to have all at once, and somehow it left me at peace with the choice we made.

In deciding to step away from buying a house, I knew I didn't have to give up on my perfect home and the rooms within it that I had completely finished in my imagination. One of my favorite spaces in a home is the kitchen and the family room (okay, so I can't just pick one; two of my fave spaces). I have meticulously planned every detail in both rooms, down to the paint colors and the gallery wall of frames. It's not hard for me to envision how those rooms would turn out. Truthfully, it kind of comes naturally to me.

Out of both rooms, I see the kitchen as the main hub of the house. Really, it's where a lot of time gets spent (prepping for meals, eating meals, cleaning up after meals, entertaining, having conversation), and it should be a cozy room that seems like it walked straight out of your dreams. For me, I know exactly what I see in my future kitchen; it's mapped out in my head from floor to ceiling. Easy.

Let me paint you a picture. The countertops would be a white quartz (durable and not so porous) and they would be placed upon white cabinets. The white subway tile backsplash would lead up to the bottom of the white hanging cabinets, and the recessed cabinet lighting would shine a brilliant white glow onto the countertops. An apron-front, farm sink would rest under a large, rectangular window, that I would be looking out of to watch my children play. The island in the center of the kitchen would host stools for little ones to sit on while I bustled around the natural maple hardwood floors. Can you see it??

Of course appliances are what make the kitchen, at least in the way of cooking. The stainless steel, bottom-freezer, double-door, refrigerator would be nestled amongst the white cabinets. And atop that beautifully wide and rectangular island would be the six-burner, gas stovetop. (Drooling, yet?). A dishwasher would be of the upmost importance too, and snuggled amongst those (yes, white) cabinets you would find one in the smoothest satin of stainless steel. My absolute favorite appliance would be the double ovens so perfectly placed in the wall. And not just double ovens featuring one oven smaller than the other. No, equally sized, stainless steel wall ovens perfect for cooking huge holiday meals in. Complete the look with a lovely KitchenAid mixer to grace the counter space (how I don't have one of these yet is still a mystery).

I can't forget to mention the kitchen accessories that would bring the room to life, like the fresh flowers on the eat-in kitchen table that would host a few chairs and built-in benches. There would be all-glass, pendent lighting hovering above the island and four accompanying stainless steel stools. Photos and wall prints boasting with cheer  would adorn the walls, and the herb garden would be thriving in the huge, sunlit window. These are just to name a few.

I could go on and on about how much I want my kitchen to look just so. About every little detail that I want to pour my soul into. Sometimes I think my calling was interior design (I did start my college years out with the intention of being one), but maybe I'll stick to writing and keep the designing to my own home. I think it's probably easy to guess that I can't wait to put my touches on a home one day. I'll keep dreaming until then.

Do tell, what is it you see in your dream kitchen??

[all photos are not mine]

Stop. Drop. Relax.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

That's what vacation is supposed to be all about. And while husband and I were relaxing the week away (okay, there was some last minute changes in our plans, which lead to a little less relaxation than we had envisioned, but that's for another post!), I turned the blog over to some lovely gals. I was so delighted to have a week full of incredible guests for the Happy Heart! mini series. Take a look at some of their heart happy lists and if you're interested in making your own list, send me an email at hillcollectionblog@gmail.com to be featured on the next Happy Heart! mini series. 

Check these ladies' lists out: Erin's, Andrea's, Shay's, Lisa's, and Laura's. Hope your weekend is all kinds of spectacular!

[Photo found on Pinterest]

Happy Heart! [by Laura Floyd]

Friday, June 27, 2014
Today Laura Floyd, of the blog Sweet Maple, is sharing her list of happy heart items and I'm telling you, you're going to want to head right for the water after reading!

happy heart delights...
  • listening to the sound of rain
  • saying good morning to my 8-month-old son
  • sitting on the dock at the cottage with a glass of white wine or a cold beer
  • going on a road trip with my husband (doesn't matter where)
  • listening to one of my favorite songs in the car really loud, or on my iPod (currently loving "Summer" by Calvin Harris)
  • making garlic bread or rice pudding
  • hosting a BBQ for our amazing family or friends
  • spending the day outdoors, especially if it's by a pool or the lake. 

Happy Heart! [by Lisa Leichner]

Thursday, June 26, 2014
A work colleague and friend of mine, Lisa Leichner, shares her list of Happy Heart items today. You're going to be feeling a lot of love for all things family after reading!

happy heart delights...
  • My middle son's sloppy, wet, and noisy goodnight kisses; he just won't let me get away without them at bedtime
  • Enjoying homemade iced coffee with my youngest son
  • Coming home from work to find my oldest son has put away the dishes or started a load of laundry without being asked. (My future daughter-in-law will be very pleased, right?!)
  • My husband, Dan's, dry wit and when he pretends he's not not flirting with me, but he really is
  • Rocking a bitty baby to sleep...*sigh*
  • That moment of the year when I realize the warm weather is here to stay - get out the summer clothes and pack away the sweaters
  • Watching my boys play soccer, which makes me grateful for their youth and energy
  • God; the thing is, every good and perfect gift I have in my life is from Him (James 1:17)

Happy Heart! [by Shay Shull]

Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Today Mix and Match Mama, Shay Shull, shares her list of happy heart items. And it can't make you feel any happier about summer and the coming fall! Check out both of her blogs, here & here!

happy heart delights...
  • eating cherry popsicles after a family walk
  • the sound of my kiddos laughing as they run through a sprinkler
  • the first sign of fall boots and sweaters appearing in store windows
  • the Pottery Barn back-to-school catalog showing up at my house
  • a good show on Netflix that I just can't stop binge watching
  • eating dinner on the patio
  • drinking coffee and reading my Bible early in the morning when the house is quiet
  • the way my kids always smell like chlorine and sunshine this time of year

Happy Heart! [by Andrea Burcham]

Tuesday, June 24, 2014
A friend of mine from high school/college days is sharing her list of Happy Heart 8's today and they'll make you thankful for the small and simple things in life!

happy heart delights...
  • driving with the windows down, singing country songs aloud ("Something 'bout a Truck", anyone?)
  • hearing my parents' stories about one another from their early twenties
  • stealing a lazy morning coffee on the couch
  • giving a sincere compliment; the effects are amazing - you should try it!
  • catching the scent of a creek bottom in the cool night air of summer, the sharp scent of snow on the wind, or my Mama's perfume left in a sweater I wore while she hugged me
  • basking in the beauty of Sundays, my favorite day of the week
  • laughing so hard I cry; who doesn't love a good laugh?!
  • seeing my wonderful boyfriend smile when I've landed at the airport ("You say it best when you say nothing at all...")

Happy Heart! [by Erin Bassett]

Monday, June 23, 2014
Erin Bassett from the lifestyle blog, Color Me Styled, shares her happy heart list today. Doesn't it make you want to soak everything summer up while sipping an iced coffee?!

happy heart delights...
  • seeing the cherry tomatoes grow in my very first tomato plant
  • being snuggled into the big chair under the comfy blanket while the AC blasts
  • interacting with new friends on Instagram; it's my favorite social media (@colormestyled for the blog; @erinmbassett for la joie de ma vie)
  • treating myself to a latte or iced coffee and croissant from our local coffee favorite, La Colombe
  • getting an offer to write for one of my most favorite websites (I would love to dish, but can't just yet)
  • having an impromptu night out with my husband, Danny
  • taking an hour and half out of my afternoon for a mani-pedi
  • smelling fresh cut grass (doesn't happen often in the concrete jungle of the West Loop, Chicago, IL)

"When Astleigh asked me to participate in the series, I was in a funk and creating my list helped me to bust out of it! All of these moments have happened in the last week and now I feel a little silly for being in a funk in the first place. Life is wonderful!"  -Erin Bassett

Happy Heart! Kickoff

Sunday, June 22, 2014
Last August I began to keep a list of things that made my heart happy; the kind of happy that feels like joy bubbling over. With every new season of life I find more things that give me that heart explosion. And I never get tired of finding new loves to delight in. While feeling exceptionally happy at the beach this week, I'm opening the blog up to other bloggers and a few friends who will be sharing the kinds of things that make their hearts smile.

happy heart delights....
  • big, bad thunderstorms with lightening so bright you would have thought night turned to day, & thunder so loud you jump in surprise/a little bit of fear
  • floral patterns on accent armchairs
  • a brand new journal with crisp, untouched paper
  • tan lines, especially the ones in between your fingers that you can only see when you spread your hands wide. 
  • a fresh made bed, with perfectly fluffed & placed decorative pillows
  • being a newlywed
  • peonies on my tabletop
  • early morning sunlight streaming through my open windows

If you ever feel like joining in and sharing your list of eight happy heart items, send an email to {hillcollectionblog@gmail.com}. Who knows, you might just be featured on Hill Collection for the next Happy Heart mini series!

Welcome Sweet Summer!

Saturday, June 21, 2014
It's here, that time of the year  when the days are at their longest and lightening bugs are the only thing needed to brighten the night sky. Summer is meant for travels and get-togethers; I hope you have an incredible summer planned! Happy weekend :)

See Ya Next Year, Spring!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Spring sure did take forever to get here this year, and just like all other things, came and went faster than I imagined. My favorite part of spring is watching the Earth wake back up from it's winter slumber. Mother Nature comes alive and transforms the brown, barren landscape into a lush green accented with blossoms. Sometimes I think this world can't get prettier than it is in spring, but then I remember fall *swoon*.

This particular year I tried my hardest to pay close attention to the trees and grass as they were popping with blooms, filling out, and turning leafy. While enjoyable, it almost made me anxious that I wouldn't notice the change from tiny bud into blossom, etc. I think I did pretty well though, and I still claim that the best part of the budding/blossoming process is when the trees look they're full of popcorn. That phase doesn't last long so you have to soak as much of it in quickly!

Husband and I are kicking off the official start to summer with a beach trip. I can't take credit for planning it to perfectly fall on the first day of summer, although I wish I could; sometimes life works out quite nicely like that. We will be headed to the Outer Banks (OBX) for a week of camping in the sand dunes! Yes, I said camping. Intimidating, I know, but fortunately this is my second go-round and I'm more excited this time than I was the first. That's saying something. Turns out I actually enjoyed myself in a camp setting, without electricity, with public bathrooms, and showers that only poured cold water when a string was pulled on (rugged!). But, oh you feel like a champ when you get through it all, empowered really. And you feel a whole lot more relaxed and connected to your loved ones.

That's the best part of beach camping, you have to completely 'disconnect' while connecting with your people. You go to bed with the sun and wake with it. You spend your day lounging on the beach, no agenda, no worries, no to-do's. You let your body relax, your mind shut off, and you enjoy every moment. Nothing else gets in the way. And while I know not many people are fans of camping, much less doing it at the beach. Try it, just once, if even for a day or two. Making your dinners on a camp stove, lighting your night with a lantern, and turning off the rest of the world does wonders. It takes the fast pace of life and literally slows it down. It's glorious while being so unglamorous.

After the chaos of last week, this is exactly what I need, exactly what husband I are so looking forward to. A week of salty air in my hair, sand flecked bodies, the darkening of my freckled skin, yes it is precisely what this gal needs. And when I get home, I'll be refreshed, thankful for warm showers, and even more sure that next year we'll head back to sweet Frisco.

Happy weekend, dear readers! xoxo

For more OBX adventures, check here, here, & here. And for some of our spring outings & a video, check here, here, here, here, & here.

A Few More Quirky Isms...

Thursday, June 19, 2014
...to this day I shave the corn off the cob to eat it; braces ruined me.

...love, love, love pairing cobalt and coral tones (I think I like mustard too, but that's a work in progress). Just check out my 
...let it be known that I take the tiniest bites of food humanly possible. I'd say my bites are in direct comparison to bites taken by a toddler. And I'm always the last person eating/at the table. Ridiculous, I know.

...if ever there were another language I spoke well, it would be Greek.

... I despise taking the clear, plastic cap off of a new stick of deodorant. It hurts my fingertips and takes me forever. (Good thing I now know to roll the deodorant up until you can easily remove the cap; it only took me a few decades to learn this helpful advice. Thanks Alicia!)

...husband & I have a list of children's names already picked out. No we're not telling.

...I have two middle names, one starts with an 'M' & the other with an 'R'; can you guess them??

...if I were an exceptional actor and singer on Broadway, I would play Holly Golightly singing Moon River.

...going to the dentist is the pits. There is just nothing worse than the buzzing, smoother tool (whatever its proper name is) and all the gritty particles it leaves behind. Gag.

...I'm not a huge fan of meat; I'd rather have pasta any day. But no, that does not make me a vegetarian nor do I think I would ever change over to that lifestyle. Long live meat, just in little quantities.

...when I can't decide where to dine out with husband, he will make a final decision, which only confirms to me the place that I don't want to eat. (sorry for being so complicated, husband)

...oh, shoulder freckles, I do love you and am happy to sport quite a few myself. Nose freckles are kind of cute too. 

...husband is the baked potato whisperer; he is the only one in our house allowed to say if they are cooked through or not, otherwise if I do it you'll get a very hard baked potato or basically no baked potato at all after the microwave has destroyed it.

...the smell of sunscreen and sun-warmed skin is a favorite summer scent of mine; it brings back childhood memories.

...milkshakes could solve the world's worries, at least for me. My go-to and favorite is the cake batter shake from Cold Stone (husband loves strawberry).

...I'm right-handed, but I kick with my left foot. I think it balances me out.

...reality television is my guilty pleasure. Who else is a Real Housewives fan??

...if I could be well known for anything, I'd want it to be for my writing and designs.

...recently, I've fallen in love with early morning light; the downside is waking up to catch it. I hope to be a morning person one of these days.

...I'll only wear sandals if my toes are painted; otherwise bring on the close-toed look.

...while I love coffee, I rarely drink it entirely. I never can get through an entire cup, no matter how delicious it is.

For more of my quirks, head on over here.

An Almost-Quarter Life Crisis & A Husband Who Can Scare Fears Away

Wednesday, June 18, 2014
Almost at the halfway mark in my 24th year, I think I can say that I have experienced a quarter life crisis. I take that back, I definitely did. Last week was a hard one for me in numerous ways. And what felt like a bag full of emotions that came out of nowhere, was really emotions just resurfacing from prior months. I thought husband and I had secured our immediate future, tucked that away, and checked it off of our to-do list. Husband was going to take on and complete graduate school, I was prepping for the beginning of my first full-time/adult job, we were starting the house hunt and had even put in two offers, babies were being planned into our next few years, etc. We had prayed long and hard for direction in our life and where to take it for His glory; God had faithfully answered. Life was coming together and I felt peaceful in our ten-year plan.

So imagine my frenzy two Mondays ago when I began feeling the overwhelming pressure to make a move, change our directed course, to just do something. Husband would tell you that I was ready to pack all of our belongings, leave town, and begin again in a whole new place. He was willing to go, to drop graduate school, to help me pack, and run away from life at that very moment. My husband is a blessing and I know it. But, I'm not a risk taker like that; I need plans, solid plans full of detail. Yet, there I was panicking and willing to do just about anything to calm myself and to feel secure in our future.

Through open ears and patience, husband listened to all my fears, all my worries. He held my hand, rubbed my back, and tried to calm me through tears that I just couldn't stop. He listened to my love/hate relationship of the area we are currently in. An area I have lived my entire life and has always been home. An area I am so comfortable in, but is also suffocating. An area that if I never leave will cause regret later in my life. An area that I love, while also wanting to distance myself from. It's a battle in my heart and in my head. A battle I'm fortunate to have husband's support in.

He continued to soothe me as I talked about my career goals, the biggest of which is being a mom one day. I'm not kidding when I say I have baby fever; my biggest aspiration is to be a mother and an exceptional one at that. What felt like time slipping through my fingers and my age exponentially increasing, caused fear to rise, starting in the deepest part of my stomach. I was completely overcome with thinking that we were going to be starting a family too late in life, we were waiting too long. I was irrational to say the least, but in that moment it sure didn't feel like it. Luckily, my level-headed and sweet husband talked me through our next several years and what that could look like in different scenarios. Babies will come when the timing is just right, when God decides so. And I'm okay with that; deep down I know that now is not that time. It will come.

Then there was the tug of heart strings in leaving family, friends, our church, our community to one day go somewhere else. How could we?! But, how could we not?! With every new conclusion I was ruining a previous conclusion. My mind was reeling, my tears just kept streaming, and I felt like I was racing time, time that was progressing at the speed of light and I couldn't possibly keep up with. Sounds exhausting, right? Because it was.

I woke the next day to more fears, to an unsettled heart. Then I met husband a bit before noon. We talked and talked, and came up with a plan. A plan that feels right. While I don't feel like it's the right time to share those plans in this space, just know I'm finding peace in our next several years and how that is currently looking for us. God has a lot of work to do on my little heart and I'm ready for it. I'm praying mostly for patience, for the ability to be happy in the here and now, to leave the future to Him. Pete and I have a lifetime ahead of us and it will all come together.

Phew, I hope I didn't' overwhelm you with this post. This morning I suddenly felt ready to put my feelings into words and to share it. And it feels good to get it off of my chest. Thanks for listening (well, reading)!

[photo found on Pinterest]

Let Me Tell You A Thing Or Two...

Tuesday, June 17, 2014
...husband is the king of making coffee and sweet tea in our household. Don't let me make it or you will end up with overly sugary sweet tea (not that I truly mind) and coffee that taste like black coffee no matter how much creamer you might add.

...I always start my days with the best intentions of tackling my entire to-do list. And somehow at the end of the day I've maybe accomplished one or two things. Bleh, anyone else experience this problem?

...I tell husband a million times a day that I love him; sometimes I will tell him as I leave a room, only to tell him again when I re-enter the room a few minutes later. At times I think I say it too much, but really can you ever say you love someone too much?!

...more mornings than fewer, I go through at least three outfits until I find one that I'm feeling okay in. And usually, I end up in the first outfit I tried on. Go figure.

...it never fails that just as I'm excited for a new season and it arrives, I find myself even more excited for the upcoming season. I've already got Autumn on my brain and summer hasn't even officially begun.

...I very rarely buy a new book because I'm always wondering if I'm making the best pick. It's a struggle. Oh how I love the smell of new book pages and the crisp stiffness of them before the book has been worn in. I need to just go with it sometimes. (p.s. I'm in the market for a new book; any suggestions?)

...I make quite a mess putting on mascara, but I bet you'd never have guessed that, would you?
(q-tips are life savers)

...I'm obsessed with subtle, natural-looking ombré hair coloring. Can you tell? If you're looking to change up your hair with some of this beautiful coloring, I've got just the hair dresser for you to contact.

...when stressed I bite my nails. I hate it when I do, but I realize it once it's too late and my pretty nails are gone. I need to break that habit.

...white wine or rosé only; red wine and my tastebuds don't get along.

...baby fever is never leaving and I've accepted that. Husband has too.

...Burberry is my favorite perfume; it's my scent and I hope it never leaves the shelves.

...I'm goofiest with husband. He just brings that silliness out in me and I love him for it.

...I love taking photos, but I feel shy in front of a camera. I'm working on that.

...I think I could live in New York City; I think.

...and I fall more in love with husband everyday.

Watermelon Season + The Giveaway Winner!

Monday, June 16, 2014

This weekend was lazy and nothing but fun. You need that kind of weekend every now and then; a weekend to put away the to-do list, to kick your feet up, and reconnect with your people. Husband and I jumped at the chance to have two days just like that! We celebrated my little sister's birthday with a Saturday morning pitstop at Waffle House for breakfast, followed by a round of putt putt where I lost miserably (I won't tell you by how much). The afternoon was spent in a kiddy pool, I kid you not (pun intended), with Better Homes & Gardens in my hand. See, last summer I had an epiphany...if I couldn't be at a pool then why not bring the pool atmosphere to myself. Thus, the purchase of a 6 foot kiddy pool and the addition of a plastic lounge chair was placed in it to 'float' about while tanning and relaxing. Genius and for the rest of my summers I will always use this trick.

Sunday was church, followed by lunch with some of our favorites. Can you guess what we did after that? Yep, more pool time in our backyard, but this time with strawberry daiquiris thanks to husband. Instead of rum, we sometimes opt to use a lemon-lime soda instead. Try it. The rest of our day was spent lounging, with an exception of a grocery trip because that was kind of essential. I'd say this weekend was a success and I feel refreshed on this Monday morning. Granted, I'd love a weekend that never ended, but I'll take the one we just had and patiently wait for the coming Saturday and Sunday. Did I mention, watermelons are now in season and rolling around on our countertop?! Finally, days filled with dripping, sticky watermelon juice, perfect for cooling you off in the middle of the heat. Plus, you don't feel guilty eating as much as you want, it's fruit after all!

p.s. the lucky giveaway winner is Ciara Price! Congrats, lady on your new Norah Collection candlestick holders. Please send an email to hillcollectionblog@gmail.com with your choice of stain. Check our Etsy Shop to see the available colors (found in the photos). 

Frozen Cocoa On Hot Summer Nights

Thursday, June 12, 2014
With the spring thunderstorms in full swing in southwest Virginia, the mugginess has upped its game. I'm a firm believer is open windows until the heat is just unbearable. Ridiculous perhaps, but there's nothing like letting the outdoors inside, with the exception of bugs. Tuesday night I was more than warm, feeling the stickiness coming on, and in need (okay in want) of a crunchy, icy, very cold, drink. Oddly enough I was craving hot chocolate, but that's not such a good pair with the warm, humid weather. Then the idea struck me to make it frozen. Husband agreed to my challenge and we created our version of frozen cocoa. I was pleasantly surprised at how it turned out and I'm thinking it may be a frequent beverage in our home over these coming summer months. 


  • What You'll Need:
    • 4 TBSP cocoa powder
    • 1.5 cups milk (we used skim)
    • 4 heaping TBSP cool whip
    • 2 cups ice
  • What You'll Do:
    • It's as simple as it sounds; make the cocoa just like you would on a winter night. For a quicker method, heat the milk in the microwave in a bowl. Stir in the cocoa powder and mix well. Cover and put in the fridge until it has completely cooled. 
    • Put the cooled cocoa in a blender with the cool whip and the ice. 
    • If you're feeling fancy and have the time, make cocoa ice ahead of time to use in place of regular ice. Just make the normal cocoa and put it in ice trays the night before or several hours ahead of time.
    • Blend until the desired texture is reached. For me that's a crunchy goodness.
    • Top with cool whip and place a straw in your drink. Enjoy your refreshing cool down! 

Blogging Because

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

I've chosen to blog, to be a blogger because...

...it allows me to capture the moments in my life and wrap them into a story full of detail almost on a daily basis. This blog keeps me accountable for writing down my significant and not so significant experiences. And I reap the benefits of that; I am in awe and complete delight when I take time to flip back through past blog posts only to rediscover a time of life that my brain has short-circuited and I have forgotten. I can pick almost any random day, find it on the blog and recapture the essence of what that moment felt like. For instance, on this day one year ago my post was reflective of the weekend during which Pete and I had our first wedding shower. I can recall the games, the people, and the emotions that were packed into that Saturday. I wouldn't have remembered a lot of those things otherwise, especially the exact day. This blog just won't let me forget and for that I am overly grateful.

...it lets me dig deep for happy words to express a day, an instant, a week that wasn't so happy. It pushes me to find the good things and to move forward. Although the most intimate and personal of struggles, ordeals, etc., will not be shared in this space, I do share the bumps. I'm human and I have a million emotions, sometimes in one day alone. I want readers to see that side of me too, to recognize that life isn't always glorious and that no one escapes the downs, only to have ups. My home does get messy, my photos don't always turn out how I want them, and I do get flabbergasted. My life is not perfection, but it is my kind of perfect and I will continue to gracefully express my feelings, those both sad and wonderfully happy. (here, here, & here)

...it exponentially grows my talents and abilities. I have learned so much in the year and half I have been blogging. I have strived to create a blog that exudes who I am and captures the essence of the Hills. I aiming for that, I have had to recall upon my college coding days to get this space just the way I wanted it. I have researched long and and tirelessly to figure out all aspects of the blog, from HTML I didn't know to how this whole blogging world rotates. I love looking back on my very beginnings of my blogging life (remember when it was Tales of Two Hills) and love even more to see how I have evolved. Just look at my very first post!

...it gives me a whole new community to interact with. A community that enjoys writing, reading, and all other activities that I love. Blogging can be so specific, from finance blogs to lifestyle blogs like mine. In and through that you meet others who share your interests. It's been an experience like no other and I only hope that it will continue to grow. I have been able to connect with other bloggers around the country, and even one across the pond. I love the connections I make with bloggers and my readers and hope to increase my readership, if only to make new acquaintances.

...it pushes my boundaries. There are times I get too caught up in people pleasing. It's an area I have to remind myself to stay away from in order to not constrain myself. So I write about the topics that matter to me most, even if it's about numbers and how that looks in my day. People will either read my posts or they won't. And while I hope that they do, I have promised to stay true to myself and maintain a blog that is purely reflective of me, and not one that pleases the masses.

...it makes me look at myself in a different light. With the blog comes readership, a group of people who takes in the words and stories I put forth. Being critiqued is hard, knowing you are being critiqued is hard, writing and sharing it anyway is even harder. Yet, it's worth it. I may gain readers through it and I may lose them through it and I'm okay with that. It took a lot to get to that point, but in writing and editing my blog, I have solidified my passion in writing and am learning how to take ownership of something I do well.

...it encourages me to explore the things that I am a novice to. Like opening my blog to sponsorships and sponsors. It is a whole new concept for me, and while it's extremely intimidating, I am learning and gathering as much information as possible. Blogging is my hobby, but as a creative writer, I would love to turn it into a career. And that means making it to a whole new platform. With over 1,500 pageviews monthly, I hope to attract potential sponsors, new readers, and other bloggers to collaborate with. It's an aspiration of mine to take this blog somewhere and reach new heights.

...it's rewarding. That is the biggest motivator in this entire journey. I have an entire collection of one of the biggest parts of my life. I started when the timing was just right for me and with every post I add another memory that might otherwise perish. I have a never-ending storybook, and outlet, a space of my own to free my thoughts, and hobby that I fall in love with over and over again.

I am a writer by nature, finding one of the best ways to express myself in the context of words strung together into sentences, paragraphs, and pages. I've said it once and I'll say it again, writing is and has always been a large part of my life. Writing is my day job and my hobby; yes I enjoy it that much. Maybe even it's my small and, possibly one day, big way of leaving my mark on this world. Regardless, I'll keep writing, keep sharing my life's story in some fashion or another. For now and the near future it will be through this blog of mine. Thank you so sincerely for reading!

A Healthy Morning Muffin Recipe

Tuesday, June 10, 2014
Eating healthy comes with a lot of adjustments, a clean-out of your pantry and fridge, and determination. It's hard to stick to a new eating lifestyle, I'll be the first to admit it. I'll also admit that in eating clean, I'm not perfect and more often than not will slip something deliciously sweet into my day. It is my kryptonite and as long as I remain aware of that, I can keep a balance of the treats I enjoy and the good, solidly nutritional foods I should be taking in.

Another HUGE aspect eating well for your body and sticking to it is getting creative in the kitchen. It can be hard, but you've got to be willing to try something you might not have before. And you have to be open to some extra work like researching the additives you can put into a recipe to boost the nutritional quality (i.e. ground flax seed). It will be worth it and your body will thank you for supplying it with the foods/nutrients it needs to take on the day.

A recipe I have found and want to share is a quick kick-start to your morning. There's some prep work involved at the beginning of your week, but that makes for a simple breakfast that's ready to go on your weekday mornings when there's no time to lose. It's healthy and taste great; no joke, I wouldn't misguide you. Imagine eating a healthy version of banana bread for breakfast. Not to mention this recipe is so versatile for adding in your favorite "toppings" (i.e. nuts, raisins, dried fruit, chocolate chips). It will store in the fridge for up to a week and half. When breakfast rolls around, you can microwave two muffins for 30 seconds and serve them on a plate with two slices of turkey bacon and a clementine or other fruit of your choice. In less than five minutes you have a well-rounded meal that will carry you until your mid-morning healthy snack. These muffins are tasty time-savers! 

Banana (fill in your "topping here) Muffins
  • What You'll Need:
    • 2 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
    • 1 cup plain, nonfat Greek yogurt
    • 1/2 cup honey
    • 2 eggs
    • 2 TBSP ground flax seed
    • 2 TSP baking powder
    • 1 TSP baking soda
    • 1 TSP vanilla
    • 2 medium, ripe bananas (sliced)
  • What You'll Do:
    • In a food processor pulse your oats for about 20 seconds. Then put them in a large mixing bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Before adding the bananas, cut them into slices, making it easier to whip the batter smooth.
    • With a hand mixer, starting on low, combine all the ingredients until well mixed and no banana still appears as a slice. 
    • Bake the batter in a muffin tin at 350° for 12-15 minutes or until the muffins look done.

*This recipe makes approximately 16 muffins

Life Gone By

Monday, June 9, 2014
More snippets of life these days according to my iPhone. I'm in awe of the speeding year that is 2014. It's been incredible, but oh so fast. How is it that June is here and July is coming?! Time needs a vacation and so do I, honestly. Maybe then time will seem a little slower and a bit more relaxed. I hate to say it, but my parents were right....the older you get the faster time goes. The almost-summer is going to be pretty spectacular though, I can feel it. Until then, a little reflection of the month of May and a bit of June. For more iPhone life snippets, check here & here

Overwhelmingly Beautiful

Thursday, June 5, 2014
This new season of life is a little crazy, a lot of fun, a test of my patience, and exciting. Adult life is feeling more and more like a reality every day as we make decisions for our present, but most importantly our future. While we feel slightly overwhelmed, we are also so incredibly thankful for the opportunities and the milestones we get to experience together. I mean, WOW, we get to be married to one another, we get to buy a house (seriously, how are we old enough for that?!), we both have professional jobs that we keep growing in, and husband just got into graduate school (so proud of my guy!). It's all happened at once, like most things do of course, and in and amongst all of it is where the business of life is really stirring for us right now. Yet at the same time, my heart could burst from pure delight.

To say the least, there is so much going on for husband and I right now. We feel busy, happily busy for the most part, as we strategize and plan for the upcoming adjustments we will need to make. We are prepping for the way life will change in the next few months and what that will look like for us. While the the adjective 'overwhelming' is a common description in our household (just see above, I've already used it once), there's also been immeasurable blessing from our Lord as He guides us through and answers our many prayers. Through Him we feel confident that we are headed in the right direction, that in fact our first years of marriage and the start of our family is meant to take place in our small town in Southwest Virginia. And we're full of peace in knowing that, especially with our people here in this small town too.

So while I sometimes bog myself down with the chaos, I know I can rely on the strength of God to settle me, I can talk out every fear and excitement with whomever will listen (husband, thanks for your patience!), and surround myself with those that fill my heart with joy. If I'm learning anything from this, it's of God's unending provision and love. All glory be to Him! And it's the understanding that no matter where we may end up, as long as I'm with husband it will all be more than okay. Here's to the continued house hunt (who doesn't love looking at homes?!) and the transition into a new normal for the Hills!

Summer's Coming + A Giveaway [now closed]

Wednesday, June 4, 2014
Summer is coming and to me that means a lot of socialization is also headed my way. There will be BBQ's, cornhole tournaments, latenight back-deck talks, large-bulb lights strung about, fireflies lighting up the navy colored night, etc. And if there's one thing I cherish, it's summer evenings and nights. With those summer nights also comes the entertaining aspect and I love entertaining. Sometimes I think there is nothing better than having people fill my home with conversation and laughter. So husband and I are always looking for reasons and free time to have our people over. 

I've found a little prep work ahead of time, leaves for an enjoyable time with guests. When I prep for a gathering, I always find myself paying meticulous detail to two things: the food and the ambiance/décor. I could be having the simplest of get-togethers, but my table will be put together with just the right touches. So, in honor of loved ones and your people gathered around a table, whether outside or indoors, Hill Collection is giving away some tabletop décor to kickoff your tabletop decorations. As proud Etsy Shop owners, we will be giving away our Norah Collection in the set of three (two small candlestick holders & one tall candlestick holder) to one lucky giveaway winner! The winner will be able to pick the color of stain they prefer (see the store for the color options) to create the tabletop look they are going for.

Entering is simple! See below and use the widget to rack up on entries!
  • Leave a comment in the comment section below stating what your favorite tabletop accents are.
  • Next share this page on your social media accounts.
  • For one extra entry, join the blog as a follower.
  • For three extra enteries, share a photo of your tabletop décor on Instagram using the hashtag, #HCtabletop
**Be sure to click on the widget options below in order to have your entries count!**

On Friday, June 13th, the giveaway will close at 5:00 PM Eastern Time and the winner will be randomly selected through an online selection tool. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

A Whole Lot Of Family Makes For The Best Memories

Tuesday, June 3, 2014
When my family comes together you better believe there's going to be a whole lot of fun had. The laughter is contagious and the people are the best. Our family is quite large (no kidding, my mom is one of six) and the more the merrier in my opinion. It makes family get-togethers and events that much better. Luckily, all the grandchildren were born in groups, leaving a handful of cousins all in the same age range. So while we range with thirty some years between the oldest and youngest cousin, we each have our own niche of closest cousins. And I've found that the older I've gotten the easier it is to mesh the age differences as if there were none in the first place. My experiences growing up with a large extended family, was a huge part of my childhood and still today. It has directly impacted the way I see familial relationships. And it leaves me dreaming of a big immediate family for husband and I, with lots of littles running around filling the Hill household with laughter and the best of times. 

For now, I'll cut out the sappiness and leave you with a little video collection of my cousin, Margie's, wedding. It's a little insight into the family dynamic and the kind of good times we share. I bet you're laughing by the end!

Music: Signed, Sealed, Delivered (Al B. Rich Radio Mix) by Colton Ford and Pepper MaShay

To see more videos, head over to my Vimeo account!

Homemade Lavender Lemonade

Monday, June 2, 2014

I'm a lover of fresh squeezed orange juice; you just can't compare it to the store bought OJ in a jug. Fresh juice is a winner through and through. And that's when I decided that homemade lemonade was a must try for my spring/summer drinks this year. Not just any lemonade though, I wanted to make lavender lemonade. I did some research to find out what type of lavender to use (of the culinary kind) and where exactly I could find it. Once my lavender came in, yes I had to order it, I set my sights on figuring out a recipe. Husband (my amazing kitchen partner) and I played around with our ingredients until we got just the taste we desired. Now it's your turn to try it out and let the soothing scent of lavender fill your home as you seep your lavender simply syrup. Then prep yourself for a little front porch sitting as you sip this delicious summer-inspired drink!

Homemade Lavender Lemonade
  • What You'll Need:
    • Lavender Simple Syrup
      • 2 cups water
      • 1 cup granulated sugar
      • 4 TBSP culinary lavender
      • 1/4 cup honey
    • Lemon Juice
      • 2 1/2 cups fresh squeezed lemon juice (about 7 lemons)
      • 4 cups water
  • What You'll Do:
    • Lavender Simple Syrup
      • Bring water and sugar to a boil. Remove from heat, then add the honey and culinary lavender. Cover the saucepan with a lid and leave to seep for 15-20 minutes.
    • Lemon Juice
      • While simple syrup is seeping, squeeze the fresh lemons. Once you have the needed amount, strain the juice into a pitcher. Discard the seeds and pulp left in the tiny-hole colander. 
    • Lavender Lemonade
      • Strain the fully seeped lavender simple syrup into a bowl. Once all the liquid has passed through the colander, use a spoon or plastic spatula to press against the lavender buds to release any extra liquid or honey. Discard the lavender buds.
      • Add the lavender simple syrup to the fresh squeezed lemon juice in the pitcher. Stir well. Begin adding the remaining cups of water. I recommend 4 cups, but you may add more or less to reach your desired taste. 
      • Serve on ice immediately or put in the fridge for at least an hour before serving. Cut some lemon slices for a decorative touch to your glass or for that extra lemony taste in your glass of lavender lemonade.