Five On Friday No. 1

Friday, February 24, 2017
Gushing, swooning, completely in love with this week's weather. Please never leave. Today's high is 71° for a late February Friday, and my heart could explode with joy. Our lawn needs to be mowed, the bushes and some of the trees are blooming, and the birds are tweeting up a storm. That groundhog may have declared six more weeks of winter, but I'm declaring it unofficially spring!

I'm currently sitting in my family room with the windows open, iced coffee, and a napping babe. It's been a beautiful week, and I can't complain a bit about it. Monday was full of sweet visits, one with one of my high school best friends and her littles, followed by girls' night with five girlfriends and life-giving conversation over scones and painting our nails. The rest of the week has held front yard picnics, a neighborhood stroll with a friend and her little, clear night skies full of sparkling stars, and spring breezes coming through my open windows. I think this must be a picture of what heaven will be like. Don't you?

N O.   1
Our spring line of Twine & Cotton candles will be released at the end of next week. I'm so excited to have these candles in the shop. They're perfectly spring in every way! Be on the lookout for them and your chance to win all of them... **hint hint**

N O.   2
Wallpaper may not be the easiest thing to hang, but it sure is beautiful when you have a stunning pattern. Have you seen the wallpaper husband and I are currently hanging in our foyer? It's pure perfection. 

N O.   3
I've been carrying around the most beautiful tote this week. I'll be sharing more about it in an upcoming post, but for now you should know that my favorite part about it is that it stands up on its own. That's life-changing in my book. Oh, the handles are super sturdy too! And that monogram?! Yes, please!

N O.   4
Decorating and designing my home is one of my biggest passions. I'm currently working on three rooms, and the dining room is in some serious competition as one of my favorites. The prints husband hung for me last week are taking my breath away. They're even better than I imagined. Stay tuned for the next update to the dining room and its reveal!

N O.   5
With spring upon us, I can't stop thinking about all of the spring fashions, nail polish colors, baseball hats, and sneakers that I want to combine for a comfy, casual spring wardrobe! Like this jacket, and this flowing shirt paired with slip on sneakers (my favorites!). Or this off-the-shoulder blouse. I'm not sure how well this would work with carrying a baby on my hip, but I want to try this look this spring! What is your must-have piece for the warmer months?

Now off to play in the yard with my little bit! You think it's too early to get a tan?!?! I kid....but not really. Happy weekending, lovelies! If you need a side dish for this warm weekend, check out my recipe from earlier in the week! xo

**Affiliate links were used in this post. Thank you as always for supporting Hill Collection Blog!**

Cold Italian Pasta Salad

Tuesday, February 21, 2017
Lunches. I really despise making them, coming up with them, and grocery shopping for them. It's just not my favorite part of meal planning for the week. So if there is something that I can put together on a Monday, and eat all week, then I'm a happier camper. Anyone else feel this way? 

One of my springtime favorites is cold Italian pasta salad. It's easy, calls for five ingredients, takes little time to prepare, and stores well in the fridge for the work week. The inspiration for this lunch came from a friend who dropped off a cold pasta salad after Greer was born. From then on out I've kept this in the lunch menu rotation during the warmer months.

  • What You'll Need
    • 16 oz (1 box) rotini noddles
    • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
    • 1 English cucumber, peeled & diced
    • 4 oz (or more) feta Cheese, crumbled
    • Tuscan House Italian Dressing
    • Salt & pepper

  • What You'll Do
    • Boil the noddles according to the box directions.
    • While the noodles are cooking, halve the tomatoes then peel and dice the cucumbers. I cut out and toss the cucumber seeds. 
    • Once the rotini is done, drain it and put in a large bowl. Add the grape tomatoes, cucumbers, and feta cheese. Toss.
    • Slowly add the Italian dressing, stirring as you go. Add to taste. 
    • Season with salt and pepper.

It's as simple as that! I will add some fresh fruit or yogurt as a side. And sometimes I'll get crazy and go with Sunchips as my side too :) 

Do  you have a cold pasta salad you love to serve up? I'd love to know! Drop the link to your recipe or recipe you go back to all the time in the comments!

A Year Of Breastfeeding Pt. 2

Wednesday, February 15, 2017
Several weeks ago I started sharing my breastfeeding experience. That post focused a lot on the very beginning of being a breastfeeding mama, the anxiety and challenges + the joy and successes. After becoming accustomed to nursing, and finding our stride as mama and baby, breastfeeding became second nature. I figured out what to expect, and soon enough I was able recognize signs in my body and signs from my baby when it was time to nurse and/or pump. Instinct kicked in and became a leading force in knowing what to do. Expecting mamas hear that all the time, and I truly believe that instinct is a huge part of mothering. 

Speaking of instinct, it's also what I heavily relied on when it came to determining when I would stop breastfeeding. Once I was certain that I would be going forward with nursing, I set a goal to make it to the six-month mark. I didn't know when I would stop being comfortable with nursing a growing baby. Would it be the half year mark? Maybe the year mark? Again, I tried not to put expectations on myself. Instead I set goals.

S I X   M O N T H S   T O   A   Y E A R 

When Greer turned six months old, she had been eating solids for about three weeks. She was still nursing frequently, and heavily relied on milk for her diet and growing body. With my body still producing the exact amount of milk my daughter needed, and then some to freeze, it was an easy decision to keep moving forward with nursing. My body and brain, as well as my baby, told me it just wasn't time to stop. The next goal I set for myself was the one-year-mark. But, I knew that there was no guarantee that I would want to take it that far. 

As six-month mark started to fade into the distance and the one-year mark grew nearer, I kept feeling a sense of finality to breastfeeding. I was ready to stop, ready to take my body back. But, even when my mind was saying, "let's call it day," my body wasn't ready. I paid careful attention to my supply, noticing at one point that I only had enough milk for two feedings. Once in the morning and once at night. This is when I relied heavily on all of the frozen milk I had been storing up since Greer's birth. Through the frozen supply she was still getting the amount of milk she needed, just instead of nursing, she would take a bottle. We did this for a couple of months until my supply dropped once again. This time I only had enough for one feeding, and it wasn't a lot. I cut the nighttime nursing, and instead gave her a bottle of breastmilk so that I could make sure she was getting enough milk to fill her belly and hold her through the night. From then out, she nursed first thing in the morning followed by eating breakfast. This continued for the last month and half of nursing.

I eventually ran out of my frozen supply with three weeks left until my girl turned one. My first huge storage of frozen milk was ruined when the freezer it was being stored in lost power, thawing the milk. I cried ugly tears, y'all. They call breastmilk liquid gold for a reason. But, I was thankful to have stored up double that in the following months, which carried us almost to the end, sixteen days until her first birthday. With Greer's physician's approval, we gave her cows milk for all of her feedings, with the exception of the early morning nursing session. She transitioned so smoothly, which was a blessing because we had no extra breastmilk to ease the transition if she didn't do well.

The morning of Christmas Day was our last time nursing, though I didn't know it at the time. I knew my supply was little to none, and Greer was mostly nursing for comfort and routine. She was successfully drinking cow's milk with no problem or allergy, and I the day after Christmas I heard my body say, "Now it's time to stop." So, I listened and closed up shop. 

Weaning myself from breastfeeding was something I started dreading about the time Greer hit eight months. I knew it was coming, but dreaded how my body would handle it. In large part, it's why I kept nursing the second half of her first year. In hindsight, I know it's because my body wasn't ready to stop. And at that point in time I was happy to oblige, if only to put the unknown off a bit longer.

As it turns out, we had been unintentionally weaning as my supply dropped. By paying attention to my body and my baby, I determined that she was no longer getting enough from me at a certain point. And as I mentioned, that's when we introduced the frozen milk heated in a bottle. Looking back, I know that eliminating one feeding, then two, then three over the course of weeks is what did the trick. Hence, it wasn't difficult to end breastfeeding. My right breast emptied immediately, while my left took about two weeks. I experienced a clogged duct most of that time, and only pumped when I was uncomfortable. I think during those 14 days I pumped two or three times. And without realizing it, the left breast finally caught up, and just like that it was over. 

If you're feeling anxious about weaning, my best advice is not to push it, and let it happen naturally. Don't rush it nor force it. Your body was miraculous enough to grow a baby and then to produce milk to sustain your baby. So it will certainly know what to do when it's time to wean. Breathe easy, my friend, your body has this one under control. I wish someone had told me such insight in the throes of my worries. 

M Y   W  H Y

I've always viewed breastfeeding as my choice, for my well-being first. If it was going to be something that troubled me, it wasn't going to be good for me nor my daughter. Though this may sound selfish, I never wanted to put myself in a position to resent an aspect of motherhood. For me, being the best mama I can be relies on doing what is right for me, taking exceptional care of myself in order to take exceptional care of my child. I knew all of the benefits of breastmilk for baby and breastfeeding for mama, which is why I pushed through my initial stigma of nursing. And I'm glad I did. I was able to provide the nutrients my baby needed, which made me feel empowered and proud of what my body was capable of doing. It was so rewarding as I watched her grow and gain weight. I kept thinking, "I did that!"

My biggest reason for giving breastfeeding a try was not having to wonder "what if," had I chosen not to breastfeed. I gave myself knowledge about nursing and the experience too, which as a combination, is sometimes how we can make the best decision. I say all of this, though, knowing that had I gone the way of formula, my daughter would be no less the healthy, bouncing, full-of-energy, toddler that she is now. I'm thankful for my decisions and how they played out in my first year of motherhood, but this in no way declares that it's right for all mothers. So mamas, don't you feel bad or carry guilt if nursing just didn't feel right for you or simply didn't work out!

Feeling right and healthy as a breastfeeding woman is also something your body will tell you; it will be the first to alert you, so be sure to listen. From mastitis to several rounds of clogged ducts, and two incidents of being bitten (we kicked that quick, my friends), I experienced my share of the ugly side of breastfeeding. Even while taking the best care of myself, I wasn't exempt from the transition and acclimation body made as it began producing milk, leveled out my supply, and then started to drop my supply. Both mastitis and clogged ducts are horrible, but mastitis also leaves you with a fever and flu-like symptoms. Utilize a lactation consultant to help your breasts stabilize again. Wether it's a prescription for mastitis or a clean baby diaper soaked in hot water as a source of compression and heat to put on your breast for a clogged duct (yes, it really works) , there are a lot of differnt ways to help yourself. Be your own advocate, and make sure to take care of your body so that it can keeping taking care or your little. If it happens to you, know that you aren't the only one to experience it. I did, and so do countless other woman. Forge on, mama!

N O W   T H A T   I T ' S   O V E R
I thought I would be so sad to stop my breastfeeding journey. But, I wasn't, and I think it's because I let me body make the decision, which felt natural. Greer handled the end to nursing so well too. For the two weeks after we stopped, she would pat my chest when she was ready for milk, but gladly took the bottle. And that was the extent to any confusion she may have felt. It's been almost two months now since I stopped nursing, and ladies, I must say that it is SO nice to have my body back. And my girl is thriving on nutrient-packed meals and 19-21 ounces of milk a day, divided up between two naps and bedtime. We successfully breastfed for one year and four days, and that is what I call a win. 

I'm thankful for the opportunity and the ability to breastfeed. It's something that not all women get to share with their baby, and I don't take it for granted. It was a beautiful experience that I would have robbed myself of, had I not just taken a leap of faith. Though breastfeeding is a sacrifice, it is also a joy and a privilege. I can't properly share my story if I don't share all of it, and I hope in this post and the last post, I've done just that. From the highs and lows of my year of breastfeeding, my hope is that I have been able to encourage and inspire you.

Photo by the talented Rachel Wells Photography.

It-Felt-Like-Spring Weekend

Monday, February 13, 2017
This weekend was such a taste of spring! The temperature on Sunday hit the low 70's later in the afternoon, and it was pure perfection and completely uncharacteristic for February in Virginia. We took advantage of the winter "heat wave" had the windows open, sunlight streaming through, with a slight breeze. Saturday wasn't quite as warm, but it was still beautiful out. I'm bummed that the warm weather is going away this week, but soon enough springtime will be here.

We kept ourselves busy this weekend, working on Greer's nursery, while Greer got to hang out with her Sidda (my mama), and beginning some DIY projects. From paint to succulents, sunshine and blooming bushes, Saturday and Sunday were full and sweet. I'm excited to share these projects with you soon enough! Here's a little taste of our weekend in photos..

I wish her little face wasn't blurry, but I loved her expression too much not to share. Even with the laundry pile, messy table, and Christmas-themed chalk board in the background, this was too good to keep to myself. I could eat her up!

The need for succulents came from my want to bring some green plant life into my kitchen. Since I wanted something low-maintenance, I opted for some of my favorites. I'm working on a planter DIY, and if it turns out well, then I'll be sharing it here. Fingers crossed. 

After transplanting the succulents from smaller to bigger pots, we headed outside to dust off the extra dirt and walk around in the sunshine.

I'm looking forward to cleaning the clothesline up and hanging linens on it to dry this spring and summer. Who doesn't love that line-dried smell?! Until then, grab a Twine & Cotton Heirloom Linen candle to fill your home with a fresh linen scent! 

And speaking of Twine & Cotton, the spring scents will be rolling out in March! For now, though, take 10% off of your order for a Valentine's treat today and tomorrow! Use the code SPREADTHELOVE

From my potted succulents to the bushes, little pops of color are springing up in our yard, and it is making me terribly happy!

Around 3:30, I threw some garlic and onion green beans on the stove to simmer down until dinner time. One of my very favorite things is to have a clean house full of sunshine, windows open, and food cooking, the smell wafting around. Cooking and baking are becoming so much more fun with my little helper. I see lots of time together in the kitchen with my sweet girl in the years to come. 

I insist you try these green beans:

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a saucepan. Add half of a diced onion, and let cook until the onions are translucent. Sprinkle garlic salt, then add in the liquid from the green beans. Add two beef bullion cubes. Bring to a boil. Add the green beans, returning to a boil. Then lower the stovetop heat to a simmer. Cook for two hours. 

In my opinion, you have to use the Hanover Blue Lake Fresh Cut Green Beans. I don't think they would turn out otherwise. 

This recipe is SO simple, and they taste aaaaaa-mazing! Plus, your house will smell incredible while they simmer away. 

Our weekend was lovely. I can't get enough time with my people! I hope your weekend was just as wonderful!

p.s. Find Greer's bow here!

Week Wrap-Up

Friday, February 3, 2017
Happy Friday and Happy February!! This week, now that I'm looking back, went fairly fast. But, y'all by Wednesday I was wondering if the weekend was ever going to come. To my delight it has! And speaking of, our weekend is going to be full of paint, food, family, and [hopefully] hilarious commercials. I would say sleep too, but let's be honest, my wake-up call comes at 7:00 AM. So someone sleep in for me!

Overall, this week was a good one. I'm loving the hint of spring with the longer bouts of sunshine and the slightly warmer temperatures. It has me ready to decorate my home with fresh flowers, burst the windows wide open, and picnic in the backyard. I'm in denial that the weather is getting colder again over our weekend, so maybe some flowers really are in order.

As I wrap the week up, I thought I would share some favorites from the past five days:

  1. This nail polish. I'm so excited for it to arrive; I'll report back on how it looks on my nails!
  2. My peplum top.
  3. I'm living in my slippers.
  4. My family room gallery wall.
  5. Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
  6. A Hobby Lobby is coming to my neck of the woods! #finally #allpraisehands

And last, but not least, CONGRATS TO KELLY MINYARD!! You won the Par la Grace Giveaway! Be sure to check your email and get back to me!

p.s. Check out this post for a code for $35 off of your first HelloFresh box!

*Affiliate links were used within this post. Thank you so very much for supporting Hill Collection blog!

Dinner With HelloFresh

Thursday, February 2, 2017
Raise your hand if dinners can sometimes be a challenge; if coming up with five to seven meals every week gets old; and if all the prep work just makes you want to throw the [kitchen] towel in. If you raised your hand or nodded your head to any or all of these, you are not alone. 

While we love to cook in the Hill House, there are just some weeks that we are so over it. Whether we're busy with projects, getting home from work later than planned, or dealing with a fussy baby who refused her afternoon nap, there are a handful of reasons why having our meals delivered to our door, ingredients ready for a simple prep, and dinner completely thought out feels like a lifesaver. 

HelloFresh isn't just an answer to dinner prayers, but it spices up our dinner routine with fun new ways to create a meal. I love carrying the inspiration over into other meals too. In addition to the novel recipes, I can't say enough about having the ingredients for each meal already divided up, pre-measured, and ready to be whipped up. It makes the prep time SO much easier, and the clean-up that much quicker. Easier than that, the meals are delivered straight to my front door. Amen?!

For our week, we selected three meals for two people. Greer was able to enjoy some of the meals with us, but since she's still little, she's not eating all the things we are quite yet. I must say though, she was crazy about the pearled couscous in the Sweet Italian Sausage with Couscous and Spinach. If Greer were eating all the things with us, we would have opted for a family sized portion. Since we went with a two-person meal, there was exactly enough to feed and fill both husband and I up. Only one meal had leftovers. And since I'm not a fan of leftovers, I fell even more in love with HelloFresh

Over the next two days we enjoyed Mozzarella-Crusted Chicken with Blistered Tomatoes and Potato Wedges (seen being cooked) and Citrus Skillet Shrimp over Basmati Rice.

So  how does it taste? Awesome! I kid you not. HelloFresh did not disappoint us. And the variety amongst the boxes kept meal prep exciting. We never felt like we were eating more of the same thing, which I appreciate. Everything, from the produce to the meat, was fresh and tasty. 

Let's be honest, sometimes I just don't want to cook at the end of a long day. But, HelloFresh makes a way for us to get in the kitchen together, enjoy what we're making (with little time needed), and eat a well-rounded meal. Not to mention, their customer service is phenomenal. All in all, our experience with this ready-to-make-and-eat concept, delivered to our door I might reiterate, will definitely have us coming back! If you've never tried Hello Fresh, what's stopping you? 

Use ASTLEIGH35 for $35 off of your first HelloFresh box!

A special thank you to HelloFresh for sponsoring this post. All opinions are my own. 

Building A Gallery Wall

Wednesday, February 1, 2017
Y'all, it finally feels like home with our photos on the wall! I can't begin to explain just how much cozier it feels in here now. Though we moved in mid-September (over 4 months ago!), I wasn't ready to put pictures and frames up until I had decided on something I would love. My personal style has been evolving over the last several years, and I'm beginning to find my decorating niche. Moving into our house gave me the blank slate I was craving to put those new design preferences together. I knew the look I wanted to achieve, the type of gallery wall I wanted to hang, and the aesthetic I wanted in our photos. After narrowing all of those choices down, I was able to pick out the frames. From there, the fun part began!

I knew this gallery wall needed to be a statement piece in my fairly large family room. I wanted a combination of classic + bold, with the photos being the focal point, and the frames acting as an accent. To achieve this look I selected a thin, matte silver frame. Additionally, because I had decided on a 3x4 layout, I knew using a white matte in the frame would help to break the space up, giving more visual room in-between each photo since the frames would all be close together. The last part was selecting the photos and having them printed.

My good friend and photographer, Rachel, has taken a bunch of photos of my family over the last year and a half. Her photos are soft and airy, which is exactly the look I was going for. I didn't want the saturation to be too high nor too low, and I wanted colors that would fit into the existing colors of the room. It was so easy selecting the photos I wanted to frame. Even easier was using MPix to print my photos. Every time I have used their printing services, I am more than satisfied with the result. My photos come back looking just like they do on my computer screen. The color is spot on, the quality is impeccable, and the photo paper is superb. I've never been disappointed with their printing, and their staff is so helpful, going above and beyond to make sure you are getting what you want. In this particular case, since I was going with large 11x14 photos, I needed the print quality to be exceptional. Again, MPix came through helping me to complete my gallery wall.

My theme for this wall was BIG, BIG, BIG! It may not be Texas, but the bigger the better in this Virginia home. Using some design knowledge I've picked up over the years and combining it with my personal taste, I accomplished a gallery wall that I've been dying to put together. It made the entire room change, and filled it with so much personality. Not only am I crazy about the finished look, but husband is too, and y'all, that's saying something!

To achieve this look in your own home:
  • Frames
    • Frame size = 16.299"L x 20.354"W x .787"D
    • Matted (in white) for an 11x14 photo
    • Thin silver, metal frame
  • Photos
    • 11x14
    • Professionally taken and professionally printed
  • Hanging 
    • The photos are spaced 1.5" apart on all sides
    • I started hanging from the ceiling down, but spaced it all out before putting nails in the wall to make sure I had enough room.
  • Other Decorative Pieces

A special thanks to MPix for providing the printed images used in this gallery wall. 
Affiliate links were used within the post. Thank you for supporting this blog!