Some Favorite Advertising Activity Of Late

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It’s been a while since I posted a good ole ad round up for you lovely readers, and since I’ve been seeing some great work out there I thought it was time to pass a few ads along. Some of these fall into the more traditional space while others are definitively out of the box (ahem…Tim Hortons), but all are clever and well executed.

Hope you enjoy these as much as I did!:

  • Starbucks recently released a series of great commercials told through a combination text message/face-to-face exchanges that illustrate in a very relatable way how much more fulfilling in-person time can be as opposed to time spent communicating via technology. Here’s my favorite of the bunch (and you can watch the other two here):

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  • Aldi Australia just rolled out a new ad series called “Like brands. Only cheaper.” It allows the discount grocery chain — known for being able to keep its prices low by offering their own store brands rather than any mainstream brands — to discuss their brands’ quality in relation to more expensive competitor brands, but they bring it to life in a downright silly way.

  • Kit Kat had a short and sweet response to the iPhone 6’s much-discussed #bendgate drama. Nice move, Kit Kat:

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  • I don’t love Budweiser, but I sure do love most of their ad work. They’ve created another winner with their latest work — a spot highlighting responsible drinking habits (i.e. choosing not to drive when you’ve had too much). Puppy? Check. Sweet, peppy music? Check. Storyline that will tug at your heartstrings? Check. Solid, Budweiser. Solid:

  • Orange — a French telecom corporation — released this ad that I just had to include in my list. Obviously, I don’t think “spending time with your kids” while actually watching soccer games is the best way to parent, but it’s inarguably a funny play on the whole “quality time” bit. Here’s “Best Dad” by Orange:

 

 

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Ringing In Fall With Glazed Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Bread

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The last couple of days, I’ve had to remember to grab a jacket before leaving the house in the morning. It’s getting darker earlier in the evening. There are more and more apples appearing on grocery store shelves.

It seems as though fall has officially arrived, and so on this rather lazy Sunday morning I went on the hunt for a new recipe to deliciously usher it in. This quick bread has fall written all over it (or, I suppose, baked right into it). It’s full of apples (in the form of applesauce), cinnamon, and oats, and — bonus! — will make your house smell like autumn while it’s baking.

I’d recommend enjoying a slice of this bread with a cup of tea or coffee. It would make a great hostess gift, too, for get-togethers this season. Just split the batter between a few small loaf pans and you’ll have adorably tasty gifts!

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A couple of things in particular that I love about this bread:

1. It’s not too sweet. Unlike many quick breads, this actually feels like an appropriate breakfast option. (Don’t you kind of feel like you’re doing something wrong when you have banana bread for breakfast? Feels more like cake or something.) This is an exception in the best way.

2. In most other recipes I’ve tried with a glaze or frosting element, the glaze/frosting to cake ratio is way off. I often end up with WAY too much glaze/frosting than cake to put it on, and just have to toss the extra. This recipe, though, makes just the right amount of glaze for the bread. (It’s the little things, right?)

Okay — let’s get to it:

Ingredients (for bread)

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup applesauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Ingredients (for glaze)

  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • Sprinkle of cinnamon

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Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease two loaf pans. (I used one tiny pan and one slightly larger than average one, but you can split the batter between two standard-sized pans instead.)
  • In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, oats, salt, cinnamon, and baking powder, and set aside.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine sugar, oil, eggs, yogurt, applesauce, and vanilla.
  • Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients by hand until just combined.
  • Divide batter between your two loaf pans and bake for 30-35 minutes (small loaf pans) or 40-45 minutes (larger loaf pans), or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  • Once you’ve removed the bread from the oven, prepare the glaze by whisking together the powdered sugar (be sure to sift it first so the glaze isn’t lumpy!), applesauce, and cinnamon.
  • After the bread has cooled for a while, remove the loaves from their pans and transfer to a cooling rack, then spoon glaze over the top. (Be sure glaze sets completely before slicing.)

Happy fall!

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Is The Pumpkin Trend Out Of Control?

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Let me start by saying that I’m a big fan of fall. I like the clothes, the apples, the roasting of vegetables, the soups, the bonfires, Halloween, the whole deal. And, while I can get down with lots of pumpkin-themed goodness, I’m starting to feel like the whole trend is getting a bit nuts.

Is anyone else with me?

I mean, there are certain pumpkin things that are undeniably amazing. Pumpkin bread. Select pumpkin beers. Pumpkin donuts. All solid. But when I walked into Trader Joe’s (one of my favorite places on the planet) the other day and saw that seemingly about a third of the items in the store started with “pumpkin,” I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. Really? Pumpkin cornbread? Pumpkin toaster pastries? I saw pumpkin hard cider recently at another grocery store. Come on — that CANNOT be good. Not to mention the fact that the ever-popular Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte (I’m sorry — #PSL) was released this year on September 2. September 2? All of America just got done grilling out for Labor Day weekend!

I don’t want to be a hater. I really don’t. And I’m sure many of these pumpkin-prefixed foods are perfectly delicious. What I suppose I really don’t like is the obviousness of it. Are we consumers are really going to load up on just about anything with “pumpkin” in the title? Where’s the line, people?

(Don’t even get me started on “gluten-free.” I get slightly enraged every time I see a product that obviously has no gluten — something someone with a gluten sensitivity would absolutely know doesn’t contain gluten — prominently declaring “Gluten-Free!” on its packaging. Bags of spinach. Fruit. Seriously? GLUTEN-FREE DOES NOT MEAN HEALTHY OR LOW FAT OR ANYTHING OTHER THAN BEING DEVOID OF GLUTEN. Plus, there’s this. Please excuse the poor quality of this video, but you have to watch this scene between Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel from This Is The End where they discuss gluten. Best quote: “Gluten’s a vague term. It’s something that’s used to categorize things that are bad. Calories — that’s a gluten. Fat — that’s a gluten.”):

(Okay, Anna. Focus your frustration back to the pumpkin stuff.)

I asked the interwebs to show me some of the more ridiculous pumpkin-flavored products, and here’s what I found.

WHO IS BUYING THIS STUFF?*:

(*Yes — those are pumpkin spice flavored condoms there at the end. I rest my case.)

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Sunshine Cupcakes: A Ginger-Flavored Sweet Treat

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I’ve told y’all about Sunshine, the pick-me-up ginger berry flavored goodness that’s straight out of Winston-Salem via the ad agency I work for, but now I’m taking Sunshine to a new level. I’ve merged my love for this delicious beverage with my affinity for baking, creating a deliciously crisp cupcake, with Sunshine integrated into both the cake and icing.

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I’d been planning to bake these cupcakes, for a while, and since it’s a friend’s birthday at work today, I thought it was a perfect opportunity to give it a try.

I plan to play with different versions of a Sunshine cake recipe (and perhaps quick breads and other treats as well), but this is my first attempt. My icing turned out much thinner than I’d hoped (I think perhaps I didn’t let the Sunshine and cornstarch “gel” together enough, or that the mixture didn’t cool completely before I added it to the butter and powdered sugar mixture). To help it set, I refrigerated my cupcakes overnight and that worked like a charm. The cake is quite good chilled, in fact, so for this batch I plan to serve them that way.

Ingredients (for cake)

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup Sunshine

Ingredients (for icing)

  • 1 cup Sunshine
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 4 cups powdered sugar

Directions (for cake)

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin pan with cupcake liners.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  • Add vanilla.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and ground ginger, and set aside.
  • In another separate bowl, whisk together Sunshine and Greek yogurt (mixture will be slightly fizzy).
  • Add flour and Sunshine mixtures to butter mixture alternately, both beginning and ending with flour mixture. (Batter will be rather thick.)
  • Fill cupcake liners about halfway with batter, and bake for 16-20 minutes, until toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
  • Set aside to cool.

Directions (for icing)

  • Place Sunshine in a small saucepan and simmer over medium-high heat until reduced to 1/2 cup, then reduce heat to low.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch and water until lumps are gone. Add mixture to Sunshine reduction, whisking constantly as you add it in. Mixture will begin to thicken and have a soft, gel-like appearance.
  • Remove from heat and whisk in ground ginger.
  • Transfer mixture to a bowl and let cool completely. (You can put the bowl in the fridge to speed up the process.)
  • Gradually add powdered sugar, adding about 1 cup at a time to the butter/cream cheese mixture.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and cooled Sunshine mixture together until smooth.
  • Stir in powdered sugar 1 cup at a time on low speed until thickened. (You may have to add more or less powdered sugar depending on how the Sunshine mixture settles.)
  • Once cupcakes are completely cool, frost them and enjoy!

What Sunshine treat should I try next? Cookies? Blondies? More cupcakes? Quick bread? Cast your votes!

 

Affordable Fall Wardrobe Must-Haves

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Admittedly, I like to shop just about any time of year, but season changes are what really get me in the mood to make some wardrobe additions. After finally coming to terms with the fact that summer is ending (with such a drawn out winter this past year, I really hate to see the warm weather start to fade), I’ve started focusing on fall — and what I’ll be wearing this season.

As someone whose wardrobe largely consists of Target and T.J. Maxx finds, affordability is definitely a priority. After all, if something’s less expensive, that means you have a bigger leftover budget for even MORE fall clothes, right? Right. And thankfully, Target, T.J. Maxx, Forever 21, and other reasonably priced retailers have some great options that don’t mean you have to sacrifice trend or quality for a budget-friendly item.

Here are some of my top picks so far this season — items that check both the “adorable” and “affordable” boxes:

  • I love me some Nordstrom, and their Junior department (BP) is surprisingly affordable. (Plus, they have free shipping both ways on all orders — score!) Some of my favorite clothing and accessory items are from that line, and they haven’t disappointed this season. Some of my faves for this fall:

Stripe Long Sleeve Tee, $16 (Nordstrom):

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Short Sleeve Textured Knit Shift Dress, $46 (Nordstrom):

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Piper Skinny Jeans, $39 (Nordstrom):

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  • As far as I’m concerned, leggings are one of the best parts of fall. (Just think: a whole season where you can get away with not wearing “real pants” when you play your cards right!) One quick ground rule, though. I firmly believe that “leggings as pants” only works when the top you’re wearing with the leggings is longer than your butt. No exceptions. This is a critical piece to consider when styling your leggings looks, and is the reason you’ll see several slouchy tops in this post. My favorite places to get leggings is from Nordstrom’s BP department. They’re cute, hold up well, and are long, so they’re perfect for pairing with boots or booties during the fall season.

BP Essential Leggings, $18 (Nordstrom):

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  • I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Forever 21. I’ve had some pieces from there that I adore, but really dislike their return policy (you get store credit back — not an actual refund — so all the money you spend at Forever 21 stays at Forever 21 in some form). Still, it’s undeniable that their prices are incredible and they always have several great items for each season. Some looks I’m loving from Forever 21 right now:

 Favorite Waffle Knit Sweater, $15.80 (Forever 21):

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Oversized Marled Top, $12.90 (Forever 21):

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Mosaic Cutout Embroidered Blouse, $24.90 (Forever 21):

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  • Oh, Target. One of my favorite places on Earth. The place that laughs at shopping lists (I inevitably buy at least three unplanned items during each Target run). The store full of both basics and trendy seasonal picks each year. Here’s what’s topping my Target list at the moment:

Perfect Fit Longsleeve Crew Tee, $14.99 (Target):

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Ava Ankle Boots, $44.99 (Target):

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Quilted Skirt, $17.99 (Target):

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Burnout Tank Top, $17.99 (Target):

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  • Asos is another must on my list. They have a huge inventory, free shipping both ways (which is a mega plus), and also feature on-model runway videos of all clothes on their site so you can see what the piece looks like in motion. It’s such a helpful feature. This season at Asos, here’s what’s catching my eye:

Peg Pants in Mono Tile Print, $31.42 (Asos):

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Cable Knit Sweater With Elbow Patch, $45.70 (Asos):

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Don’t Just Feel Love — Show It

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I’ve been a fan of author and speaker Shauna Niequist since a friend recommended her book Cold Tangerines as a book club read a couple of years ago. I admire her passion for creating and cultivating community, the way she strives for transparency, and her ability to address seemingly everyday topics in insightful, heartfelt ways. She just feels real, you know? Like she wants the version of herself that the world sees to actually be, well, herself. It sounds simple, but isn’t nearly prevalent enough.

I saw a piece by Shauna posted on Donald Miller’s Storyline Blog the other day, and was immediately drawn in based on just the headline: “Why It Doesn’t Matter How You Feel About Your Friends.” The main takeaway: Don’t assume your friends and loved ones know how you feel about them. TELL THEM you love them. SHOW THEM you love them.

Shauna writes:

“It’s so easy for me to feel warm, loving thoughts about friends or family members…and then go on about my day, never reaching out, sending a text, or setting a date to connect. I think about them all the time, pray for them, and watch the details of their lives spool out over Facebook—first day of school photos, last moments of summer photos. I feel connected and warm, full of affection for these lovely people. But how on earth would they know that?”

The idea seems like common sense, but it really is easy to just live your life and forget to remind the people you care about the most that you admire them, love them, miss them, whatever. Despite the many modes of communication we have at our fingertips — text, email, social media, phone calls, carrier pigeon, and more — it’s easy to get wrapped up in life without using them to reach out to our favorite folks.

And it’s more than just telling them you love them — it’s showing it, too. Granted, we all have our different personalities and “love languages” and the like, which means we communicate our emotions and affection differently, but, when you think about it, a key component of “being a good friend” involves letting people know you’re their friend. It’s that simple. That can manifest itself in helping a pal with a move, taking initiative to invite a friend you’ve been meaning to catch up with out for coffee, rearranging your busy schedule to make time for a friend going through a rough spot, or just sending a “Hey — I think you’re pretty great” text on an average Monday afternoon.

All this to say, I hope the special people in my life know how much I appreciate their love and friendship. I hope they feel treasured by me, and that I do a good job of reminding them of just how much I love them. Thanks, Shauna, for reminding me to take the time not just to love my friends and family, but to SHOW them how much I love them.

 

Send Some Sweetness: A Baked Goods-Themed Giveaway

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If you’re anything like me, it’s amazing how a treat can brighten your day. Sometimes I’m just a cookie away from a rotten Monday being a pretty okay one.

With that in mind, I’m starting a giveaway I’m calling Send Some Sweetness, which is a way for y’all to nominate special people in your lives who might enjoy a sweet surprise in the mail one random day. (And — BONUS! — you’ll get some sweet stuff to enjoy, too.)

Here’s how it works:

  1. Leave a comment on this post telling me about this awesome person in your life and why he or she deserves a baked-and-then-mailed-with-love treat, but DON’T LIST A SPECIFIC NAME!
  2. I’ll select at least one winner, and will then work with that winner to get the name and address of their nominated guy or gal to hook them up with some homemade deliciousness.
  3. I’ll also send the same baked goods to the nominator. Sweet treats all around!

Winners will be able to select from the following delightful Curiouser and Curiouser baked goods (some of my all-time faves!):

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Sweet stuff, wonderful people, and surprise deliveries. That’s happiness waiting to happen, folks! So come on — start the commenting and let me know who in your life deserves a treat. (I’ll be accepting nominations through next Friday.)

 

Arnold Palmer Cupcakes (a.k.a. Sweet Tea Lemonade Cupcakes)

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It’s funny: though I don’t LOVE sweet tea (I know — what a bad Southerner!), I’ve always been a fan of Arnold Palmers (a combination of sweet tea and lemonade named after the famous golfer who loved the delightfully refreshing beverage).

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When I came across a sheet cake version of this recipe in a recent issue of Southern Living, I knew it was something I needed to try. (Delicious, perfect-for-summertime Arnold Palmers? In the form of baked goods? Sign me up, stat!)

Fun fact: Arnold attended Wake Forest University, making this recipe seem even more appropriate for Winston-Salem.

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For these cupcakes, the cake portion contains the tea component of the iconic tea/lemonade flavor while the icing brings the lemon to the party. The result is a sweet-with-just-enough-zest-to-cut-it treat, which is exactly the charm of the beverage version. Success!

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Ingredients (for cake)

  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 3 family-sized tea bags
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 3 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Ingredients (for icing)

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon zest
  • 4 Tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice

Directions (for cake)

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin pan with cupcake liners. (Note: I made 24 cupcakes, but overfilled them a bit, so I think this recipe actually makes closer to 30 cupcakes when filled appropriately!) :)
  • Pour boiling water over tea bags in large measuring cup and cover with plastic wrap. Let steep for 10 minutes, then remove plastic wrap and tea bags and let tea cool for 20 minutes.
  • Once tea has cooled, beat butter in mixer until creamy, then add both granulated and brown sugars, beating until light and fluffy.
  • Add eggs, one at a time.
  • Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.
  • Add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with tea, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.
  • Spoon batter into prepared pans (see my note on step one about not overfilling — I’d recommend filling the cups about halfway) and bake for about 25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
  • Cool completely (about 20 minutes) before frosting.

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Directions (for icing)

  • Beat cream cheese and butter at medium speed until creamy.
  • Gradually add powdered sugar, adding about 1 cup at a time to the butter/cream cheese mixture.
  • Beat in lemon zest and lemon juice until just blended.
  • Increase speed to high and beat icing until light and fluffy.
  • Ice cupcakes once they’ve cooled and enjoy!

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My 30-Day Wardrobe Challenge: Week 5 Recap

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That 30 days went by fast! I enjoyed my 30-Day Wardrobe Challenge, and was glad to discover some pieces in my closet I’d forgotten about a bit.

The best part was probably taking a month off of buying anything new, though. It was a good reminder that I already have quite enough, and that it’s worth really thinking about things before I add them to my closet.

I might actually continue the challenge (Kevin suggested I call this part the “lightening round”), since I still have lots of outfits I could wear that didn’t make it into this 30-day period. We’ll see just how long I can keep this up! (Although it will be nice to be able to re-wear some favorite outfits again.)

Did anyone else participate in the challenge along with me? If so, what did you get out of it? Did you find it difficult? Rewarding?

Here’s a quick overview of the outfit line-up from the final week of my 30-Day Wardrobe Challenge:

Day Twenty-Four: Monday, August 18

(top: TJ Maxx / pants: J. Crew / sandals: Target)

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Day Twenty-Five: Tuesday, August 19

(top: Theory / skirt: Loveapella — via Stitch Fix / shoes: Nordstrom)

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Day Twenty-Six: Wednesday, August 20

(top: 4Hawthorn — via Stitch Fix / Pants: Old Navy / shoes: Target)

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Day Twenty-Seven: Thursday, August 21

(top: Express / skirt: H&M / sandals: Target)

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Day Twenty-Eight: Friday, August 22

(dress: thml — via Stitch Fix / sandals: Target)

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Day Twenty-Nine: Saturday, August 23

(romper: Free People / sandals: Target)

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Day THIRTY!: Sunday, August 24

(dress: Missa — via Stitch Fix / sandals: Forever 21)

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A Weekend With The Schmids!

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Kevin and I are so lucky. We have incredible family members and love spending time with them — something that I know isn’t true for all families. Not only is my sister, Susan, one of the most awesome people we know, she also married a guy we adore. Honestly, Kevin and I couldn’t have chosen a better addition to the Swindle family if we’d been able to handpick a husband for Susan. Marty’s a perfect fit.

So, as you may have gathered from the paragraph above, we like hanging out with these two, and were pumped when they made plans to come visit and check out our new house. (They live in Columbia, South Carolina, so it’s an easy drive between our houses. We’re so glad they live as close to us as they do!)

Kevin and I have been busy trying to get our house in order over the past couple of weeks, and were excited to finally have the guest room set up in time for Susan and Marty’s visit. (Our house is finally starting to feel lived in — there’s just one room that’s still full of boxes at this point!)

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Not only did we get to hang with Susan and Marty this weekend, but we also got to meet their adorable puppy, Piper, for the first time. Y’all — this pup is TOO cute, and so sweet, too. We quickly learned not to let her small size fool us. This girl can hold her own, and before long had commandeered many of Fulton’s toys. (Her favorite was Fulton’s bull toy which is, quite literally, exactly her size.) She has more energy than Fulton knew what to do with, but they became fast friends and played well all weekend long.

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While we weren’t busy being entertained by the pups, we enjoyed hanging around in some of our favorite Winston spots. Susan and I hit up Pure Barre on Saturday morning (she’s a Pure Barre goer in Columbia, and we love going to class together when we’re visiting each other or are at my parents’ in Atlanta) and also stopped by the Cobblestone Farmers Market in Old Salem to grab some veggies to grill that night for dinner. We found purple okra again (Kevin and I discovered this last week at the market and LOVED it), mini cucumbers, squash, tromboncino zucchini (also new to us — not pictured below), bell peppers, and cherry tomatoes. Quite the lovely, local haul!

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For lunch Saturday, we stopped by a food truck event where the girls enjoyed sandwiches and the guys chowed down on noodles. Everyone was happy (and sweaty — it was hot out yesterday!).

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After our outdoor meal, we decided to opt for an air conditioned activity, so we moved the party to Winston’s wonderful independent movie theater, Aperture, and saw Boyhood, a fictional film captured over a 12-year period and showcasing a boy’s journey from young child to freshman in college. It was definitely an interesting new way to film a movie, and one we all enjoyed.

Saturday night was low key, and we grilled out (all those delicious veggies we’d picked up that morning plus some lamb sausages Kevin and I got from the Cobblestone market last weekend) and watched Step Brothers with Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly (a movie Kevin and I hadn’t seen and one that came highly recommended by Marty).

Sunday morning, we wore the pups out with a nice long walk around Ardmore and grabbed a leisurely brunch at The Porch before Susan, Marty, and Piper hit the road to head back to Columbia. (And, obviously, we had to take pictures of all three girls and all three guys before they left. Documentation, y’all.)

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We’re so glad the Schmids came to visit us!

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