We’re moving!

I know it’s been a few weeks since I’ve blogged and I promise you there’s a very good reason…we’re moving! I started this blog in 2012 using the free WordPress.com format and it’s been very good to me, but unfortunately, I’ve run out of space hence the non-blogging. No worries though because over the last few weeks I’ve been moving into a new home on the web, one that combines my website and blog into one place. Also, I don’t expect to have to move again for a long time as this new home has plenty of space. So, please, follow me there and update any bookmarks you have saved as I won’t be updating this blog anymore. As a bonus, my new web home also includes all of my posts from here so I haven’t lost any of my archives which was very important to me. Come visit me, okay?


Believe me, you don’t want to miss what I’ve been working on!

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Foodie Friday: Citizen Burger Bar

So tonight, for the first time in weeks, my husband and I went out to dinner at a new (to us) restaurant. With the warm weather and our close proximity to Charlottesville, we decided to try Citizen Burger Bar, which is located in the Downtown Mall area.

20160318_212839Citizen Burger Bar is just what it sounds like–a place to get a burger and a beer, but it’s really more than that. Yes, there’s a large bar with numerous offerings and multiple big screen televisions to watch sports games, a plus for March Madness fans, and yes, there are tons of burger options, but the restaurant also has a strong focus on fresh, local food, which I love. The beef is locally sourced, humanely raised and grass fed with no antibiotics; the cheese is locally sourced; the chicken is free range, vegetable fed; and the bread is locally sourced. You know where everything came from, and with a little research, how it’s made, what it’s fed and more. There’s something to be said about knowing where your food came from.
20160318_210618My husband and I both ordered the chicken sandwich, mine bunless (they do offer gluten free buns as an option) and his with a bun, bacon and an onion ring to boot. Both were good and were paired with an abundance of fries (mine were included in the price, his were an additional $3 or vice versa). With both sandwiches, fries, two specialty beers and a coke, the meal was right around $49 with tip, so a little more than the usual sandwich prices, but to be fair I think one of the beers was $9. I wouldn’t visit all the time, mostly because I’m a cheap date, but it could become an occasional go-to. It was also packed in there tonight, likely because of the March Madness games playing on every screen, so we waited about an hour before being sat and then service was a little lagging from there on. The good thing is they’ll take a number and text you when ready so you can kill some time walking around the mall.

20160318_211012Bottom line, if you’re in Charlottesville (or Clarendon or soon enough Carytown) and you’re looking for a locally sourced burger, it’s worth a visit.

Rustic Elegant Wedding Inspiration | Orange, VA

Back in August, on what had to be one of the warmest days of the year, I attended the Southern Grace Workshop hosted by Sarah Houston Photography at Rounton Farm.

The farm has become a popular local wedding destination, offering a beautiful barn with gorgeous scenic views nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. In addition to the barn, the farm offers a separate bridal suite and a groomsmen lounge.

The barn was the perfect space for the shoot organized by Sarah, which featured a rustic elegant vibe with beautiful candelabras, gold-adorned china and vintage details. It was the perfect inspiration for any bride planning a rustic farm wedding with a twist.

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Organized by: Sarah Houston Photography

Cake: Sorby Sweets

Makeup: BobbyPins and Blush

Apparel: Endless Creations Flowers & Gifts

Equipment Rentals: Festive Fare Rentals

Shoes: Kate Spade

Invitation Suite: Mayla Studios

Planner: Real Southern Accents

Dresses: Sealed With a Kiss and Shop Gossamer

Handmade Goods: Southern Grown Vintage

Jewelry: Suz Somersall; The Mrs. Box

Florals: Whimsical Floral Design

Venue: Routon Farm

Models: Loren and Ryan Brown



Travel Tuesday: Virginia Safari Park

One of my favorite places opened for the season last Saturday–the Virginia Safari Park. The park, which has been voted one of the top 10 animal attractions in the nation, is a 180-acre drive-through zoo located in Natural Bridge. Visitors purchase buckets of food at the entrance and then drive through, feeding the more than 1,000 animals out of the car windows along the way.

There are tons of different animals including deer, pigs, llamas, camels, cows, hippos, giraffes and more. As a side note, the camels are notorious bucket stealers. I actually had to wrestle my bucket away from one, so I’d avoid feeding them. Also, don’t feed the zebras because apparently it makes them aggressive. Otherwise, you’re good to feed anything that will come to your car. There’s also a wagon option which takes you on a different route, but I’ve always opted for the self-driven option.

After the drive-through portion of the park, there’s a walk-through village in which visitors can feed buggies and get up close and personal with kangaroos. They literally hop around you as you’re walking through their area. It’s one of my favorite parts.

The whole place is pretty amazing and definitely worth a visit. Be mindful that it can get very busy on the weekends, so if you can swing it, go during the week. Also, try to avoid hotter days when the animals are less likely to want to play and go earlier so they haven’t had their daily fill. Be sure to bring your camera as you’ll want to get lots of photos of the animals and leave any pets at home as Fido isn’t going to like the camel shoving his head in your car.

The Virginia Safari Park is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, but gates close at 4 p.m. There are also extended hours beginning in April. Admission is about $18 for adults and $12 for children 2-12. Children under 2 are free.

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Foodie Friday: Gluten Free Philly Cheesesteaks

Welcome to Foodie Fridays, a new blog series focusing on eating–both at home and at local restaurants.

A few years ago, after suffering from stomach issues since I was a young child, I made the decision to go gluten free and I haven’t looked back since. Removing gluten from my diet completely changed my life and all but eliminated my stomach issues. It hasn’t been easy and I may have had a few grocery store, “I’m going to starve” breakdowns, but it has certainly been worth it. As a result, not only are my stomach issues gone, but I’ve become somewhat of a whiz in the kitchen, taking normal recipes and making them gluten free. I’m also that girl that checks restaurant menus for gluten free options before even entering in the door. I sometimes get that server who has an attitude, thinking I’m in it for the weight loss (I actually gained weight after eliminating gluten), but that’s fine. I’ll take your attitude to avoid a stomach ache. Then, there’s the servers and kitchen staff members I love, who use new gloves and prep ware and I just want to kiss them!

At any rate, going gluten free has led me to cook more recipes at home. As an interesting by-product, I also no longer consume fried food (save for the occasional Chick-fil-A waffle fries) and generally just eat better, consuming more whole foods and less processed junk.

One of my favorite things to eat are Philly Cheesesteaks, and for the longest time, I couldn’t have one. A Philly Cheesesteak without the bun just isn’t the same. However, I recently found  an amazing recipe courtesy of The Aussie and The Owl and with some slight modifications, was able to make it gluten free. Here’s the recipe with my modifications in red:

6 French Rolls (Schar makes these amazingly soft baguettes. They come in a two pack, but are super long so I cut them in half to make four.) 
1 C mayo (I always use Hellman’s Light Mayo.)
2 cloves garlic, minced (I very rarely have garlic cloves and typically substitute with either garlic powder or garlic salt. In this case, I used garlic salt. One teaspoon of garlic salt equals two cloves of garlic.)
1-3 lbs Thin Sliced Carne Asada (I purchased shaved beef steak from the grocery store.)
2C frozen bell pepper strips (I skipped these, but if I hadn’t I would have used fresh peppers.)
1 medium onion cut into 1/4″ rings
1 tsp Montreal Steak Seasoning
1/2 tsp Garlic Salt
3 TBS Worchestershire Sauce (I used Heinz Worcestershire which is gluten free)
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp beef bullion (I used Better than Bouillon) 
2C shredded cheese (I used sliced provolone)

1.  Combine mayo and garlic in an airtight container, stir.  Cover and refrigerate until you are ready to use (at least 1 hour). (Definitely was a slacker and made this right before using it.)
2.  In crockpot place carne asada, onions and seasonings.  Cook on high four hours (until beef easily falls apart when pulled with a fork).
To Make Sandwiches:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees
Split a roll lengthwise.  Spread a generous TBS of garlic mayo on both sides of cut bread, add beef, onions and cheese.  Close sandwich and wrap tightly with foil.  Bake at 450 for 15 minutes until cheese is melted and bread is crisp on the outside.

Super easy and super tasty! I paired these up with baked french fries for an easy weeknight dinner. You could also make them in smaller sizes for a party since the assembly and execution is so simple. Below are a few photos. Ignore their less than stellar cell phone quality.


If you want to check out some older recipe posts, visit my Baking With Buddy page!


Travel Tuesday: Cherry Blossoms

One of my favorite things to do each spring is visit the Cherry Blossoms in Washington, D.C. Each spring, thousands of cherry trees bloom through the nation’s capital. The trees were a gift from the mayor of Tokyo in 1912 to commemorate the lasting friendship between the two countries. Now granted, the first batch of trees arrived diseased in 1910, but new trees came in 1912 and were planting and several trees were replaced and planted throughout the years. Each year, the trees are celebrated with a four-weekend festival which attracts more than a million people.

I know what you’re thinking, holy crowds, but they are so worth it. Even though the festival spans four weekends, the blooms are largely based on weather. There’s been years when the festival happened with no trees, years when the trees bloomed early and years when the trees have bloomed late. Catching peak bloom is somewhat of a crap shoot. Earlier this year, the National Park Service predicted peak bloom to occur the first week in April, however, they moved that up today to March 18-23. The festival itself doesn’t start until March 20.

However, if you miss the peak, no worries. Peak only means that 70 percent of blooms are open. Blooming starts several days before peak and can last up to two weeks depending on weather. If you can’t hit the peak, you still have a chance of catching the blooms. Keep an eye on the 2016 Bloom Watch  and the Blossom Cam to determine the best time to go.

Keep in mind it can also be hard to find a good, pink tree that hasn’t been swarmed by people. I usually go near the Tidal Basin, which is yes super crowded, but full of trees so you’re likely to find a good, unattended one for some photos without 50 tourists in them. I’ve also heard if you go early in the morning you’re likely to have a less crowded experience. And please, be nice to the trees. I get irritated when I see people cutting off branches and plucking off blooms. First, that’s just annoying. Leave them alone so everyone can enjoy them. Second, I’m fairly certain they’re National Park Service property and that little branch you just had to have could end up costing you.

Take advantage of a warm day, pack a picnic (which I’m absolutely horrible about because I never think of it until I get somewhere picnic worthy) and enjoy a day under the trees. You’ll be glad you did.

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Snowy Shoot | Ally

Last month, I shared the first part of a gorgeous snowy shoot featuring Emily. Now it’s Ally’s turn.

Ally is the daughter of a local photographer who participated in this impromptu shoot taking advantage of a January snowstorm. She graciously modeled for us in gorgeous gowns not only in the freezing snow, but also on her 17th birthday. She was absolutely beautiful and is beyond photogenic. Plus, I love the way her red hair pops in the golden light streaming through the trees. Gorgeous!

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Travel Tuesday: The National Zoo

This unusually warm, sunny late February early March weather has me dreaming of spring and one of my favorite spring activities–visiting the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. I love this zoo, which is owned by the Smithsonian Institution. It’s free for visitors and all the animals look super happy and very well cared for unlike those sketchy, rusty zoos where you just know all the animals are planning a Madagascar-style escape.

My favorites are the pandas, of course, and the otters. There’s something about otters that draw me in. They’re adorable and always look fairly sleepy, yet mischievous. I also enjoy the giant cats and I’d love to see a giraffe exhibit added at some point although I’m not sure if enough space exists for that kind of expansion. The zebras are also pretty great and I like the bird section with the flamingos.

A favorite for children is the kid’s farm where they can meet and pet the animals. I think they also have some kind of pizza garden in that area, but to be honest, I typically skip it. The zoo is fairly long and a little bit of a hike and the kid’s farm is outside of my usual route.

As the weather gets warmer, definitely plan a trip to the National Zoo. Don’t wait too long because once it gets hot, the animals tend to not be as active with some hiding in the cool shade. I can’t say I blame them.

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Travel Tuesday: Atlantic Beach

During the last Travel Tuesday, I focused on Cape Lookout, which is a place Ron and I spend a day during our trips to Atlantic Beach. Now, I’ll focus on Atlantic Beach itself.

We first started traveling to the Emerald Isle/Atlantic Beach area a few years ago and most recently visited in the fall. However, these photos are pretty old, from around 2013 so you’ll be seeing the area again on a future Tuesday.

While we’re in the area, we usually spend a day or two at the beach, travel to Cape Lookout, visit Beaufort which has great shops and restaurants, and eat, a lot. We have a few favorite restaurants, including Channel Marker, and usually visit it at least once per vacation. The shrimp are amazing, plus the restaurant is right on the water so it has a great view. McCurdy’s is also on the water and the food is good, but steer clear of the pasta dishes. You’re at the beach! Eat something that swims!

We’ve also stayed in a couple different places while visiting–The Islander Inn and Suites (which I think was recently rebranded into a hotel and resort), the Doubletree (which is the only mainstream hotel on the water), and more recently a condo rented through Airbnb. They all have their pros and cons, but if you can, opt for the condo because its right on the beach and you can cook some meals to save money.

It’s also a great place to take in a sunset. Something about the way the island is shaped makes it possible to see the sun set almost over the water and the land at the same time. It’s gorgeous.

Above all, just have a good time. The Atlantic Beach area is a little slower paced than the Nags Head area. It has less shops, more vegetation and more of a laid back vibe, if that’s even possible.

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Snowy Shoot | Emily

Last month, I met up with some local photographers at a Fredericksburg area park for an impromptu shoot taking advantage of the recent snow. This is the first part of that shoot, featuring the gorgeous Emily.

Emily is a photographer and stylist. She recently started Designing with Miss Southern Belle. Her fashion sense is amazing as she sources various pieces to pull together the most amazing outfits. She pulled together both looks seen here with very little notice, using mainly pieces she already had. The colors popped against the snow and were perfect. Of course, the golden light streaming through the snowy trees didn’t hurt.

The photos turned out amazing and I can’t wait to share the second part of the shoot.

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