Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 travel in review

I kicked off 2016 with a very cool work trip to croatia and then basically never stopped traveling after february. in 2016, we traveled to florida a lot, where we got engaged and continued to plan our wedding. I also got to travel to dallas, texas a few times to capture my good friend's engagement photos and later for her wedding. [side note, if you live in atlanta and need engagement photos, let's chat! I love taking engagement photos!]

we rounded out the year with an amazing trip to california for a wine-filled weekend and then to key west, for our annual holiday trip. what a beautiful year it was and 2017 is shaping up to be pretty awesome as well. I'm happy to say that we finally decided on and booked our 2017 honeymoon, drumroll........ the big island of hawaii!


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

a bright and budget-friendly christmas tablescape

this year's christmas day tablescape was inspired by these gorgeous milk glass vases that I found at goodwill a few weeks ago. usually, I spend the better part of a day buying and arranging flowers but this year, I decided to use only bright, red roses to contrast against the pure white of the vases. 

my parents have such a bountiful selection of evergreen trees and red berries in their yard, so my sister and I went "foraging" on christmas morning and I honestly loved it. I wish that I could forage at our house, but we don't have the landscaping like they do haha! I was really pleased with how one bouquet of $14.99 roses and a bunch of backyard clippings could create such a beautiful table.

Monday, December 26, 2016

casey's greek salad

I haven't done a meatless monday post in quite some time, mostly because we have not really been cooking anything worth sharing. we've been keeping it really basic lately - salmon, broccoli, etc. recently, a few ladies in my neighborhood had a holiday get together and the host asked me to bring a salad. I am all about making and eating salads, but I definitely was a bit stuck trying to decide on a salad that was "pretty" enough to bring to the party.

my friend casey makes her greek salad all the time, in fact, her husband requests it almost on a weekly basis. her greek salad is full of vibrant color and juicy ingredients, which made it a perfect choice for my holiday party. luckily she shared the recipe with me and I get to share it with you!


Saturday, December 24, 2016

merry christmas to all

warm wishes from our home to yours! xx lauren


Friday, December 23, 2016

little palm island

every december for the past couple of years, we have traveled to key west, florida to visit family on stephen's side. we look forward to the trip every year because it's great to get away, see family, and the weather is usually amazingly warm. the key west vibe is so laid back and makes for a great no-cares-given vacation. this year was extra special because we visited on stephen's dad's birthday and we took a day trip out to little palm island for lunch to celebrate.

it only takes a 30 minute car ride plus a 15 minute ferry ride to get to little palm from key west. definitely not terrible since the island views and accommodations are worth it! it reminded me of latitude's, which is closer to key west and also requires a boat ride, but little palm island is larger and there's more to see. as soon as I stepped off the boat, I felt like I was on gilligan's island and did not want to be found.

Monday, December 19, 2016

blueberry pancakes from scratch

a couple of weeks ago, my boss came to work with leftover blueberry pancakes for lunch. cue the brown bag envy. I couldn't remember the last time I made pancakes from scratch. sure, I'd whipped up some pancakes using a mix or bisquick, but they definitely didn't have fresh bluberries in them. 

so I searched for the tastiest blueberry pancake recipe and started our saturday morning out just right with fresh coffee and blueberry pancakes. I love the warm softness of the bluberries bursting inside of the pancakes, all smothered with sweet syrup on top. this recipe has a great texture and isn't too sweet. if you like sweeter batter, you could double the sugar since it only calls for two tablespoons.

Friday, December 16, 2016

paso robles wine trip day three // grey wolf, halter ranch, brecon

if you know me, you may know that I am notorious for never checking the weather. after many years of traveling near and far, my theory for travel wardrobe consists of lots of black layers so I can manage in all types of weather. unfortunately, we were surprised to hear from our B&B guests that our last day in paso robles had 100% chance of rain! luckily, I brought a hat so I threw it on and we made the best of it.

we decided to make the best of it, of course, by starting day three with some wine (start here if you're just joining the recap). we had a ticket for a complimentary tasting at grey wolf cellars so we started there first. it turns out that grey wolf cellars is absolutely the most adorable place in paso robles and you absolutely have to go there if you visit paso.


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

what I read in november

when both my mom and coworker told me that the goldfinch was their favorite book, I knew I had to read it. when I happened to finish a 400-page over the course of one day on a business trip (didn't think that would happen), I found myself with a plane ride home ahead of me without reading material. I stopped in the airport bookstore and found one copy of the goldfinch which was priced outrageously, but hey, I had no other options. so I bought it. the goldfinch was definitely a feat of a book, and was worth it. of course, linking up with steph and jana for show us your books.


the goldfinch by donna tartt
theo decker, a 13-year-old new yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. abandoned by his father, theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. bewildered by his strange new home on park avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don't know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his longing for his mother, he clings to the one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws theo into the underworld of art.
as an adult, theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. he is alienated and in love--and at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle. the goldfinch is a mesmerizing, stay-up-all-night and tell-all-your-friends triumph, an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate. {amazon.com review}

my take: A
for me, the goldfinch was a steady love. we started as friends and built a strong foundation for a lifetime of appreciation rather than a quick and passionate fling with some of the more popular books I've read lately, and likely won't remember. the story is endearing and interesting. it's the story of life, loss, love, fate, and what happens in between. the voice of the book shifts at the end and I really liked that part, in fact, I read the last page a couple of times. the message was both ironic and noble and I'm really in the mood to go to the art museum now!

now that I finished this almost-800 page book (the longest I've read in quite some time, maybe ever?!) - I don't know what to start next. I have a pile of books to choose from, mostly from recommendations from this link up... small great things, I let you go, sweetbitter... decisions, decisions. looking forward to reading all of your recommendations this month and thanks for stopping by!

Friday, December 9, 2016

paso robles wine trip day two // justin and kiamie

we started day 2 of our wine trip with a big breakfast from carolyn and roland, the owners at our B&B. carolyn served spinach and leek quiche, sausage (tomatoes for me), scones, and baked apples with a brown betty crisp. it was all delicious, but the baked apples were above and beyond. luckily, carolyn gave me her recipe. we all talked about our plans for the day and carolyn and roland gave us some suggestions for wineries and dinner. we made a reservation at paso terra, an italian seafood restaurant on the square, for dinner later. then we embarked on our day!

we started at justin, because it's the furthest away and it was also recently voted best winery of the year in 2015. after driving about 25 minutes out, we stumbled upon justin. we were pretty confused because the tasting room was closed and there was an event sign near the gate. I was already getting mad about driving so far to find justin closed for a private event, but as it turned out - the event was their annual holiday party and was open to the public!

Monday, December 5, 2016

holiday home tour 2016

we always wait to put up our christmas decor, but this year was an exception. maybe it's the fact that we're living in our first home and it's our first full size tree, but we were ready to start decorating the day before thanksgiving and so we did.

I found our tree on kingofchristmas.com and was very happy with how it turned out. I visited home depot and costco and preferred the tree that we ordered online, and it was a great price. a couple of months ago, the holiday pottery barn catalogs started arriving and I couldn't help myself. there was a spread with a faux fur theme and I knew I wanted to create that furry, soft, neutral holiday look in my home.

Friday, December 2, 2016

paso robles wine trip day one // tablas creek and whalebone

after spending my first day in california at beautiful terranea resort, I was ready to set out for our final weekend destination of paso robles. paso robles is short for el paso de robles 'the pass of the oaks' and is located in san luis obispo county. the city is known for its hot springs, its abundance of wineries, production of olive oil, and almond orchards. it took me quite some time to learn the correct pronunciation, but now I've got it down for sure - paaso de ro-bless. pronounce paso as you would 'el paso, texas' and you'll get it straight!

since it's a four hour drive from palos verdes to paso robles, we started around 10am in order to hit santa barbara for lunch around 12:30. we got a recommendation to eat at brophy brother's on the dock in santa barbara, and that's what we did...

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

thanksgiving tablescape 2016

thanksgiving is easily one of my favorite holidays and this was the first thanksgiving that I've had my legit camera so I'm not going to lie, taking photographs of the foods that we love was high on my priority list! as always, I come prepared with the table decor and my sweet potatoes while my mom typically does the rest. I actually don't know how she does it. sometimes I also do a holiday cocktail, last year I did fall apple sangria and this year I kept it simple with cranberry mimosas. 

this year, I got my flowers from costco which was a relief since I used to buy them at kroger and it was always hit or miss with inventory. costco always has a consistent level of inventory with lots of choices. I added a few of my colorful gourds that I've used in other tablescapes this season, some faux foliage, and candles and voila! I hope you all had a delightful and rejuvenating holiday with loved ones.

Monday, November 28, 2016

holiday baking with infinity jars

every year when it gets to be october (heck, sometimes september if I'm feeling extra impatient), I make a batch of my favorite pumpkin bread. this year was no different, except I decided to combine the ingredients in one bowl instead of using two for the solids and liquids. sometimes, I am lazy and usually it's no problem. well this time, it ended up being a major problem. I will spare you the details, but it turns out that my flour had been "contaminated"... so since I only used one bowl, all my ingredients were ruined. if you've ever had an issue with flour before, you know that it sort of scars you for a while. I couldn't even think about baking for a few weeks.

then I got an email from infinity jars. it was too coincidental! I was excited to try their jars because they are airtight, lightproof, ultraviolet jars that preserve freshness and they look much more chic than your typical storage jars. I knew I needed a couple for flour and sugar, but I was also happy to dump my baking powder in a smaller jar. trying to stick a teaspoon through the little slit on the side of the arm and hammer container is so annoying, and now that problem is solved too! I ended up using my jars for flour, sugar, brown sugar, and baking powder but there are so many storage uses for these jars such as coffee and tea, bath products, or nuts and herbs.


Friday, November 25, 2016

terranea resort at palos verdes

it's hard to believe that our much anticipated california coast wine trip has come and gone and that we are almost to the month of december! we had such a great long weekend in palos verdes and paso robles and I'm happy to share our photos and recommendations with you guys. get ready for a wine country overload coming soon. 

stephen went to LA at the beginning of the week for a work trip and I met him late that wednesday night for a long weekend. I picked up the car rental around midnight and wasn't able to see the gorgeous view driving to the resort but was pleasantly surprised the next morning to see the beautiful coast line, catalina island in the distance, and the stately terranea architecture.

Monday, November 21, 2016

sand is the new snow

as a family, we have been traveling to the beach multiple times a year for basically my whole life. my mom is super creative and talented; she's made custom drapes for a countless number of homes (mine included), mosaic shell mirrors, and jewelry. her newest collections are inspired by the beach, but are totally versatile. with the holidays quickly approaching, I thought it would be the perfect time to share my mom's new venture just in case I can help you with your christmas shopping. I personally love the pearl bracelets.


Friday, November 18, 2016

easy oatmeal raisin whoopie pies

if you read often, you've probably realized that my office has an unusual amount of potlucks. for our last potluck, I made the most amazing cookies and cream cookies, which received rave reviews and a marriage proposal. I don't know about you - but hitting it out of the park with a new recipe really boosts my ego and makes me want to try more new recipes. so the next time we had a work potluck, to celebrate halloween, I had the confidence to try another new recipe. 

we had big halloween plans to watch the sleepy hollow performance in serenbe, which meant that I didn't want to overcommit myself in the kitchen before our roadtrip. these easy oatmeal raisin whoopie pies were just the thing because I used pre-made cookie dough and sandwiched them with piped homemade cinnamon cream cheese frosting. I ended up having some leftover frosting, which I saved and used to frost my next batch of cookies for gameday saturday.

Monday, November 14, 2016

pure barre kennesaw holiday shots

I love sharing photos that I've taken on the blog, especially engagement photos and holiday photos! recently I popped into pure barre kennesaw to take some holiday shots for the studio and individual shots of the teachers. what a sweet and talented group of ladies!

Friday, November 11, 2016

beach house master suite reveal

hello, friends. I'm back with another beach house reveal for you today! it's been a while since I've posted about the beach house since I've been so consumed with our new atlanta home. 

by now,  you've seen the kitchen and bar, bathrooms, living room, and fun design details such as the sliding barn doors and gorgeous outdoor spaces - let's take a peek at the master suite. and if this is your first time visiting, start here for the full tour.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

what I read in october

I managed to read two books in october: black eyed susans by julia heaberlin and second life by s.j. watson. black eyed susans was recommended to me by a coworker, and the plot sounded so good. I bought it on amazon and started reading it a couple months ago. unfortunately, I wasn't loving it and read a couple other books instead, while putting it on the backburner. I had a bit of guilt for buying a book and not reading it, so I decided to power through it. conversely, I finished second life in one day... and it's just short of 400 pages. I traveled to chicago last month, which always means I read more but I was honestly impressed with how quickly these pages turned! of course, linking up with steph and jana for show us your books.


second life by s.j. watson
how well can you really know another person? how far would you go to find the truth about someone you love? when julia learns that her sister has been violently murdered, she must uncover why. but julia's quest quickly evolves into an alluring exploration of own darkest sensual desires. becoming involved with a dangerous stranger online, she's losing herself . . . losing control . . . perhaps losing everything. her search for answers will jeopardize her marriage, her family, and her life. {amazon.com review}

my take: A
something about this book just kept me coming back for more. maybe because it ended up detailing an illicit affair that was full of dangerous moments and questionable morals, which I wasn't expecting. I kept thinking "no, don't do this" and of course, julia kept doing it. there's something weird about reading a book that chronicles a bunch of terrible, immoral decisions that will completely rip a family apart. I think I assumed more guilt just reading than the main character in this book ever felt. the plot becomes pretty obvious toward the end and everything is intertwined with high stakes in terms of the future of her family. this author also wrote before I go to sleep, and I definitely preferred this book if that helps.

black eyed susans by julia heaberlin
tessa cartwright was found in a texas field, barely alive amid a scattering of bones, with only fragments of memory as to how she got there. ever since, the press has pursued her as the lone surviving “black-eyed susan,” the nickname given to the murder victims because of the yellow carpet of wildflowers that flourished above their shared grave. tessa’s testimony about those tragic hours put a man on death row. almost two decades later, tessa is an artist and single mother. she is shocked to discover a freshly planted patch of black-eyed susans—just outside her bedroom window. terrified at the implications—that she sent the wrong man to prison and the real killer remains at large—tessa turns to the lawyers working to exonerate the man awaiting execution. as the clock ticks toward the execution, tessa fears for her sanity, but even more for the safety of her teenaged daughter. is a serial killer still roaming free, taunting tessa with a trail of clues? she has no choice but to confront old ghosts and lingering nightmares to finally discover what really happened that night. {amazon.com review}

my take: B-
I really wanted to love this book. the plot sounded fantastic and I was partial to all the references to texas throughout the book (texas-born here). unfortunately, I just couldn't deal with all the back and forth between teenage tessa and current day tessa. even after I finished the book, I had to ask my coworker what I was missing. some things did not connect even after I figured them out, which I found to be frustrating. anyway, not the worst book ever but definitely not my favorite.

I am now reading goldfinch, which many people have told me is their absolute favorite book. it happens to be something like 800 pages, so I am reaallly hoping I can finish it in time for next month's linkup. what are you reading this month? looking forward to reading all of your recommendations and thanks for stopping by!

Friday, November 4, 2016

a spooky trip to serenbe

 and just like that, halloween is over and november is here! a couple weeks ago, my friend asked if we wanted to go see the sleepy hollow play in serenbe on halloween night. immediately, I was interested because I have been wanting to go to serenbe for years now. even though it meant missing our first trick-or-treaters in our new house, I persuaded stephen to agree to a play on halloween night in serenbe.

we had heard that serenbe playhouse plays are amazing and other than that, we didn't have much of an idea of what to expect. we left atlanta with several hours to spare and set out to explore the town of serenbe before dinner and spooky hollow.

Monday, October 31, 2016

crockpot jambalaya

jambalaya is hands down one of my favorite fall dinners. it is just the warmest, most comforting, yummiest dish that is perfect for brisk fall nights. if you're like me, you'll enjoy it with a large glass of red, all cuddled up in sweaters and comfy ugg boots. 

did I mention this is extremely easy since you make it in a crockpot? you can thank me later. I've been making this recipe for years, and even though I'm a vegetarian now - I can still talk to you about this melt-in-your-mouth sausage.

Friday, October 28, 2016

highlands, nc mountain weekend bachelorette

 recently we celebrated my bachelorette party in highlands, north carolina and I just have to share some of the sweet photos that I took. I actually didn't take that many photos because I think we were too busy having fun! I wanted a farmhouse mountain weekend with changing leaves, pumpkins, and wine and my sisters could not have done a better job executing the vision. highlands, north carolina is a gorgeous place and was the perfect destination.


Monday, October 24, 2016

charleston cheese dip

with fall in full swing, this is a recipe you definitely need to bookmark! I'm sure many of you have a short list of tried and true crowd pleasing appetizers or tailgate sides, sausage cheese balls and chili cheese dip are always a hit for me. these are the items I will make on repeat during football season, and I would say that it's rare to come about a new recipe that I love so much to add it into the rotation. charleston cheese dip is just that! 

my sister made this dip a couple times at her house, once for her boyfriend's dirty 30, and I knew I had to get the recipe. I made it for our housewarming party, and it was devoured in about 30 minutes. luckily, I was able to snag the absolute last bite. next time, I'll make two servings!

Friday, October 21, 2016

atlanta home tour: back patio

being that we're well into fall, it's high time that I talked about our back outdoor patio! I think the whole concept of outdoor furniture is sort of funny, that the summer is the peak selling season when in reality, we didn't sit outside this summer at all. it's just too hot in georgia! so now that fall is underway, we are definitely enjoying a cocktail outside frequently.

stephen got his prized traeger grill and enjoys cooking on it while I am just trying to keep the bird feeder full and the plants watered. we just need to spruce up the empty side wall and this outdoor space will be complete. I haven't decided just what to do with this wall... only time will tell.

Monday, October 17, 2016

halloween at our house

as it turns out, we are already over half way through october! which means it's time to change my door wreath, among other things of course. we've been sporting our 'house divided' wreath for auburn and texas a&m and I swapped it out for a few weeks with our halloween wreath.

I have a fun and easy trick for you guys today - I could go crazy buying tons of wreaths, a wreath for every month and every holiday. probably not the best financial investment for us at this time, but it's tempting. instead, I buy seasonal wreaths like the colorful one you see below and then add a holiday sign from the dollar store that complements. so after halloween, I can just remove this little halloween sign and we're back to a plain fall wreath.

Friday, October 14, 2016

atlanta home tour: guest room updates

stephen recently went out of town for the weekend and I was busy spending time with family that happened to be in town. I also had some down time, which of course, I filled with home shopping and decorating. I started with scott's antique market but much to my surprise, was a fruitless trip. I decided to hit homegoods, at home, and kirkland's after the scott's buzzkill.

I love our guest room, but there are some things that are still in need of a little TLC. our lamps had to go, they were old ikea lamps that my cat had pretty much broken from knocking off the nightstands so many times. I picked up some new lamps at homegoods, which are just beautiful. I also scored a shaggy rug and new wall art. our guest room is definitely on its way to becoming a cozy little haven home-away-from-home kind of guest room.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

what I read in september

sooo it's the first time I've read more than one book in the same month in quite some time. woo! both books happened to be written by the same author, ruth ware - but I definitely enjoyed one more than the other. have you read both of these books already? I feel like everyone has and I'm looking forward to seeing the movie. I also can't wait to see girl on the train soon! linking up with jana and steph, looking forward to seeing what everyone read last month!


lo blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. the sky is clear, the waters calm, and the veneered, select guests jovial as the exclusive cruise ship, the aurora, begins her voyage in the picturesque north sea. At first, lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. but as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and lo witnesses what she can only describe as a dark and terrifying nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. the problem? all passengers remain accounted for—and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong…{amazon.com}

my take: A
I'm probably the last person on earth to read this book, but I'm glad that I did. it's a unique premise and the plot left me guessing until the very end, which kept me going. trust your gut, and maybe don't trust others.... my takeaway :) at the end of the book, I kept thinking "don't trust anyone!!" but luckily, this book has a good and fair ending. if you can only read one book - definitely choose this one over in a dark, dark wood.

in a dark, dark wood by ruth ware
what should be a cozy and fun-filled weekend deep in the english countryside for a bachelorette party [aka hen do] takes a sinister turn in ruth ware’s suspenseful, compulsive, and darkly twisted psychological thriller. when writer leonora is invited to the english countryside for a weekend away, she reluctantly agrees to make the trip. but as the first night falls, revelations unfold among friends old and new, an unnerving memory shatters leonora’s reserve, and a haunting realization creeps in: the bachelorette party is not alone in the woods. {amazon.com}

my take: B
I just couldn't help the fact that my own bachelorette party is quickly approaching and will be hosted in the mountains of north carolina. I had to read this book - and I sent a copy to each attendee with a note about our bachelorette book club! I figured it would be a quick read, and it was. I plan on using the notes in the back of book to prompt book club discussions, I'm definitely looking forward to bachelorette book club (even if I get made fun of)! sooooooo one amazon reviewer called this book "a scooby doo mystery" - and I don't really disagree. it was pretty light on substance and there were quite a few times I thought the plot was a bit of a stretch. I actually think this will make a great movie, because the level of drama is quite high for real life relevance. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

cookies and cream cookies

work potlucks. all in favor - say I? I am a huge fan of work potlucks. they give me an excuse to bake things that I can not keep around the house due to my basically-non-existant-willpower. we haven't had a work potluck in quite some time, but we had one recently and of course, I wanted to try a new recipe. I thought about making these yummy pumpkin snickerdoodle cookies, and then I decided on the healthy route of broccoli salad [then realized it wasn't that healthy]... and then, I seriously finalized the decision with cookies and cream cookies.

maybe it's because I am a huge fan of the cookies and cream candy bars? I could just inhale those and I'm not even a packaged candy bar person. so yes, out with the broccoli and in with the cookies. let me just say that I have never tasted a cookie dough better than this one. people were flat out raving about these cookies, I even got a marriage proposal based on these cookies. I think this recipe may make it into my rotation of holiday cookies!


Friday, October 7, 2016

atlanta house tour: guest bathroom

{this post has been updated - see here!} our main guest bathroom is right off the kitchen, nestled between the stairwell which makes it convenient but also private enough for guests. after spending hours at the fabric shops in atlanta, I decided we could go a little wild in this small bathroom by stepping out on the fabric a bit. my mom suggested an ikat, and I loved this twist on a ikat which incorporates so many great, rich colors such as gray, camel, black, and espresso. 

I have a special piece of art that is a print of a watercolor rendering of midtown, atlanta. I knew I wanted this to be a part of the guest bathroom and luckily the colors in the print and the fabric are perfect. the piece also introduces a bit of teal from the skyline and reflection of the lake at piedmont park. I tied in some faint teal with tassel towels that I found at target.

Monday, October 3, 2016

vegetable kabobs with lemon-dill aioli

recently we had a wedding planning meeting and we got to do our cake tasting and taste our wedding menu with the chef, including each menu item that will be served at our reception. there were lots of choices to make ahead of this meeting, including the selection of four passed appetizers. we had a hard time picking, and ended up choosing five hors d'oeuvres to taste, knowing we would need to nix one after the tasting. this turned out to be a very smart move!

one of the most impressive hors d'oeuvres that we picked was the mini kabobs of grilled portabella, red onion, zucchini with a garlic aioli. stephen called it "sneaky good" - in fact, it was so good that we decided to go home and recreate it ourselves!

Friday, September 30, 2016

atlanta home tour: our newest addition


a couple of weeks ago, we had a pretty intense home appointment with an electrical contractor. in the short time that we've lived in our home, we'd managed to screw up our living room light by attempting to install a dimmer that rendered the light useless. ooops. we also wanted to install fans in two of our guest rooms and it just so happened that I strongly disliked our dining room fixture.

the dining room fixture that came with the house was fine, but it was really just that... fine. if you know me, I am not a fan of "fine." if you use that word near me about something that I'm asking for your opinion on, it's like sudden death. hatred is a better emotion than "fine." the chandelier had to go. we ended up falling in love with a chandelier on a weekend trip to home depot. with the traditional aspects of our home including the farmhouse-esque table and ginger jar accent wall, I wanted something to break it up and add a bit of an edge. this gilded, industrial piece did just the trick.

Monday, September 26, 2016

a {gourd}geous fall tablescape // two ways


this weekend, we had some friends over for dinner and I got to set the table for fall. I bought these napkins from homegoods a couple weeks ago and had been eagerly waiting to use them. I love the soft, muted browns and grays in the plaid. 

does anyone else have a thing for ugly gourds? the bumpier the better, in my opinion. I picked up a few yellow toned gourds at the grocery store and worked them into my table using muted peachy roses and green hydrangeas.


Thursday, September 22, 2016

fall home tour

today marks the first day of fall and I've slowly been turning over a new fall-ish leaf (pun intended!) in our home over the past couple of days. I don't decorate in a drastic way for fall, especially since the color orange doesn't particularly fit with our color scheme of neutrals, but I couldn't resist adding some pumpkins here and there. being that this is the first fall season in our new home, I've really had to pace myself and remind myself that I can't have everything immediately. especially since creating a look that you love can take quite some time and money to get it just right.


Monday, September 19, 2016

spicy cheesy veggie sausage quesadillas

sometimes you just need a super simple dinner and luckily, I have one for you today. stephen and I rely on simple dinners during the week that are a combination of foods we likely already have around the house. red onions, vegan sausage, potatoes, broccoli, rice, cheese, green onions, pasta sauce, tortillas... we are pretty much guaranteed to have these items in stock at all times. that, and boxed macaroni and cheese, but that is a story for another time.

I happened to have some peppers that needed to be used and we wanted to celebrate the fact that stephen's deadline to pass the CPA came and went, since he passed over 6 months ago. margaritas and quesadillas, it was! I love getting creative with this field roast vegan sausage. toss it in the food processor, and your options are endless. these spicy cheesy veggie quesadillas were a hit!

Friday, September 16, 2016

mini cheesecakes

cheesecake is one of the yummiest desserts, but can sometimes be a pain to make with a springform pan. much like making a cake in a bundt pan, I'm always crossing my fingers that it comes out of the pan perfectly. the beauty of these little babies is that no springform pan is required!

not to mention, you can change it up with toppings. caramel syrup goes really well, and chocolate chips too. you could basically make any kind of mini cheesecake that you feel like! I made these cherry cheesecakes for our housewarming party a few weeks ago, I love that the cherries bring out the most beautiful pop of red. these cheesecakes are great for parties because they're much easier to eat versus a whole pie. bonus, as a host, there's no slicing involved!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

what I read in august

another month has come and gone and it's time for another "what I read" linkup with Steph and Jana. I have lots of fun reading related news this month! first, I finally joined Goodreads... I know, I know, about time. I realized that I'm totally on track to read 12 books this year. for so many of you, that is like how many you read in one month but for me, this proves that I've seriously made time for reading unlike I have in the past. with the holidays, I can probably get to 15 books this year. yay! thanks, honestly, to steph and jana because joining their linkup motivates me to get shit done... er finish books. 

ok, ok.... for real, the best news is that the book I read this month was awesome. my coworker has a book club and she told me to buy this book so I could come to the next meeting. I'll be honest, when she told me the plot, I was not sold. it sounded different and like something I probably wouldn't buy myself. so very glad I took her advice!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

change is in the air

good morning and happy sunday! you may have noticed some pretty large changes around here if you read often... such as a completely new site name and design. don't worry - you're at the right place and it's still me!

as I approach two years of writing at laurensparkle.com, I was reflecting with some family members and we just got to talking about the blog - my strengths, weaknesses, and interests. lauren alford design was born out of this conversation. much of the content will be the same, with an increased focus on design and entertaining. of course, I'm still cooking and traveling and I'll continue to share on those topics.

as always, thank you for reading and if you have any feedback, I'd love to hear it. wishing you a joyful sunday and a wonderful week! xx lauren


9.11.2001 never forget

the monogrammed resort towel

with fall slowly approaching, I was happy to relax on the last official weekend of summer with my stripe-y marleylilly monogrammed beach towel over labor day weekend. I have a couple of trips this fall including dallas (um, so hot), california, and key west - so luckily for me, it's not quite time to put the beach towels away! lazy beach or pool days are seriously the best.

Friday, September 9, 2016

atlanta home tour: guest room

{this post has been updated - see here!} in many ways, this massive guest room (it's even larger than our master) was contingent upon our headboard. when we moved from our one bedroom to a three bedroom, we obviously had a lengthy list of items to buy. one item that I did not think we needed to buy was a guest room headboard. I was really excited to use a traditional wooden one that stephen had as a child. unfortunately, let's just say that due to some missing parts, the final look was definitely better in my head than it was in reality. about two months after we moved in, we stumbled upon this gorgeous gray upholstered headboard and were sold.

I love this west elm duvet and before our move, I had tied it together with gray euro shams, accents of yellow, and a black upholstered headboard. with our new gray headboard, I no longer liked our gray on gray look... and so went the search for a pillow refresh. I've become increasingly efficient during work lunch breaks lately, making it to up three different places in the span of an hour. in fact, our summer intern made fun of me because every time he asked what I was doing for lunch - my answer was "running errands." #homeownership, am I right?

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

floral arranging classes

I'm so excited to share my floral arranging classes on the blog! my love and interest for flowers has been a slow burn for quite some time. I took horticulture as an elective in college because I could never get into the floral arranging class (it filled up in seconds online). at least I did get into the wine making class. seriously awesome electives, right? woot woot texas a&m! anyway, I have always wanted to take floral arranging classes and was never able to find one that fit my schedule or was the right level of instruction. why, yes I'd like to take a week long full-day course, but I am busy with my real job. luckily, the classes at atlanta school of floral design fit the bill since they offer evening classes!

we made three arrangements over the course of two days, using some of the most beautiful flowers. my favorite is the hand tie bouquet below. we used boxwood in all of the arrangements, which I love as well. if you are interested in floral arranging classes and live in the atlanta area, I highly suggest you seek out atlanta school of floral design. no previous experience required :) you will learn lots of tips and tricks from the owner, don, and you'll go home with some gorgeous arrangements.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

engagement photo favorites

I honestly don't know how I've made it through the three weeks it took from taking these photos and receiving them as a sane person. I guess because life is so busy that there's rarely a moment to sit around and think. I will say that I had been refreshing my inbox every three minutes the week the photos were supposed to come in. finally, one night I woke up at 4am for a bathroom break in my charleston, south carolina hotel room and compulsively checked my email... and there... they were. my alarm was set for 5:30am and I told myself to wait and get that last hour of sleep. I tried, I really did. so there I was, in a holiday inn express, looking at our engagement photos on my phone at 4am. these photos were worth the wait and I'm really excited to share them you with you! dear wesleyann is one obviously fantastic and amazing photographer and I have a serious photography skills girl crush on her. ok... without further ado...


Friday, September 2, 2016

atlanta home tour: living room

happy friday and happy september! this year is really flying by like no other year has ever flown by, for me at least. it's like time is fast forwarding while I'm trying to hit the pause button. another friday means another home tour post today, I love these days! today I'm sharing our living room which is easily one of my favorite spots.

we built the living room around our couch which is a large sectional, perfect for football weekends. our next important find was the rug, this was a long and arduous hunt. we ended up finding the perfect rug at one of those random persian rug stores that usually has a sale sign up to drive traffic. it took weeks of searching and artful negotiation, so worth it!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

housewarming brunch

to say that we went back and forth on whether to have a housewarming would be an understatement. we moved in to our home just over two months ago and it has been non-stop buying and decorating. to host a housewarming on top of all that just seeming daunting. my mom finally talked me into it and I'm glad that she did since this is our first home, it will be a memory that we'll have forever.

I was apprehensive about having a ton of people over in the evening on a saturday in the summer (people are already so busy) and I also wasn't too excited about a dinner menu either. I didn't want to burden people with another party since we've had both a CPA party and our engagement party already this year so we kept the invite list to local people so no one felt pressured to travel. then I landed on the idea of a sunday brunch. copious amounts of mimosas and friends in the afternoon sounded like the best day ever. 

Monday, August 29, 2016

meatless monday: tortellini tomato salad

one of the best things about living in a neighborhood is having neighbors! often times, when we don't have weekend plans, we'll plan a casual dinner and people will bring sides. since I'm a vegetarian, I am always bringing the veggie sides! a couple weeks ago, our realtor gave us a beautiful cookbook holder for our housewarming party and I immediately added a cookbook to display. I randomly turned to this page with a photo of tortellini tomato salad. it looked delicious! I didn't realize that it would inspire me so much that I would end up making it a few days later.

I also like this recipe because it was very portable in this case, for neighbor dinner. I mixed up the dressing in a mason jar and only had to bring tortellini, tomatoes, and basil in addition to the dressing. easy peasy! I would definitely recommend this recipe for a quick, easy, and yummy side dish that comes together in about 20 minutes. not only that, it's super colorful and all the guys liked it too. 

Friday, August 26, 2016

atlanta home tour: entry way

happy friday!! another friday means another home tour post. oddly enough, the first thing you see when you walk into our home was the absolute last thing that we furnished! we left our entry way open for the first couple of months while we decided exactly what we wanted. it was also helpful for moving since there was no furniture in the way. this entry way was really built around the rug. both stephen and I love the look of a bright red persian-type of rug, but we did not want such a bold statement in our living room. we completely fell in love with the beige and light gray rug we found for the living room but were ready to make more of a splash with color in the entry way. 

our leisurely search for a red runner began and I wasn't making much progress until we randomly visited the dump one saturday. I found an amazing karastan on major sale that I snatched up, until I stumbled upon this thicker red beauty. while it was more than we wanted to spend, we acknowledged that it was exactly what we wanted. if you know us, we can justify just about anything.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

love, labels, and charitable donations

we have our big wedding planning meeting coming up in just a few weeks! during this meeting, we will sample wedding cake, taste our full menu that we've picked out (yay for florida grouper!), plan the floral arrangements, and more. we also have hair and makeup trials the same weekend. it's going to be intense and awesome at the same time, lots of decisions to make. I'm also looking forward to designing our paper menus once we finalize the wedding meal. I love love love paper goods including invitations (if you know me, you know paper > digital), programs, thank you cards, and more. one part of wedding planning that I have truly enjoyed is picking out all the paper goods and sourcing special stamps to go along with invitations.

something I have also thought a lot about lately is favors. since our wedding is a destination for most people, we are somewhat limited in favors since liquids and carry on space may pose constraints. while stephen and I haven't officially decided, I am leaning strongly toward a charitable donation in lieu of favors. for how much weddings cost these days (if you choose to go that direction), I feel like it's a nod toward reality to give a little something to a deserving cause. it doesn't have to be a lot, but to me, just giving something is better than nothing and what better way to draw attention to a cause that the couple cares about?! when wedding paper divas reached out to me about their 100 unique wedding favor ideas, I fell in love with all their gorgeous labels, especially those for donations.


Monday, August 22, 2016

banana pudding jars

I think I've told the banana pudding story on the blog before... 
my sister and my mom have the same birthday and my mom usually makes my sister a cake, one year I decided to make my mom a separate birthday dessert. I knew she'd told me once that she liked banana pudding, so that's what I picked. I found the perfect recipe and made the most delicious banana pudding to surprise her with! turns out, my mom is not a fan of banana pudding. I don't know where I came up with this in my head, now that I think back, maybe she said tapioca pudding. can't remember... while I did not impress my mom that day, I at least discovered an amazing banana pudding recipe.

we recently had some friends over on a weeknight and stephen said he wanted to serve dessert. I wanted to do something different and banana pudding came to mind. the perfect late summer, light yet sweet treat. I made them a few hours ahead of time in mason jars so I didn't have to fuss with serving them out of a trifle bowl. not only did they turn out to be adorable, this banana pudding was just as good as when I made it years ago for my mother.

Friday, August 19, 2016

atlanta home tour: dining room

happy friday, friends! I'm back for another installment of snaps from our new home. I hope you enjoy these posts. today, I'm sharing some pictures from our dining table room area. our kitchen cabinets and hardwoods are very dark, so this honey colored table really helps to brighten it up along with the cream upholstered chairs.

I took these pictures while we were getting ready to have a dinner party, which is why the table is set. you may remember when I traveled to cuba for a week with my mom and fell in love with their mismatched place settings. shortly after our trip, my mom gave me a ton of mismatched china that I just adore. I paired them with natural fiber chargers to casualize it a bit, given that we were serving burgers on a thursday!


 
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