Which books are you must grabs for the summer reading list? What are the five best ways to style a scarf? Where are my spots for pimento cheese in the South? Find my favorite quick tips at Easy Pickins!
When we consider the countdown to Christmas, we normally think about a race to finish last minute gifts and a mad dash to wrap everything perfectly. But in the Swann family, countdown means one thing: Hallmark movie marathons.
A few of our favorites from this year?
It’s Christmas, Eve: LeAnn Rimes and Tyler Hynes headline this recent addition to the holiday lineup. Think “meet cute” + small town love, under the magical starlight of Christmas!
Christmas at the Palace: Who doesn’t love a fairytale love story set in a castle? Enjoy a holiday twist on a classic love story with this Swann favorite.
Entertaining Christmas: What happens when you’re supposed to go into the family business…but you don’t know how to do any part of it? Add this one to your list for a comical and heartwarming holiday film.
What are your favorite holiday movies? Share the must-watch list in the comment section below. Enjoy the fireside fun this Christmas, dear friends!
As this season brings holiday gatherings and trips to visit family, it is common to find ourselves swept up in the chaos of Christmas. Between travel obligations and family visits, we can lose sight of the true meaning of this joyous season.
Here are a few pointers to keep calm and enjoy the holidays:
- Set parameters. Create space at least once in your week to walk for an hour, enjoy a yoga class, or sit with a friend over coffee. Developing respites will allow your mind to calm and settle in on what is most important.
- Start your mornings in quiet. In the last several weeks, I’ve set my alarm an additional 20 minutes in advance to wake up and enjoy quiet by myself. Again, tying into boundaries, this space has offered me some calm before a busy day begins – allowing me to align my priorities and be present.
- Create lists. Often, chaos is created through our thought process. If we have a lot on our mind, it is important to get it on paper and let it be. Emptying your brain of what you “must do” gives space to set what is most important, and enjoy the time and space in front of you.
- Focus on the Reason. Christmas is a time of celebration. The season is an opportunity to reflect on God’s greatest gift to us, His son. When we step back and center our hearts on His promise, the chaos fades away.
How do you keep calm in the Christmas crazies? Share some tips with me in the comment section below!
This time of year is, of course, my favorite. Vibrant colors illuminate the roadways. The temperatures lower and the breeze sets in. And when I step outside, I hear a family’s laughter and smell an outdoor grill preparing a delicious meal. Dear friends, welcome to fall in the Carolinas.
On Saturday afternoon, during our daughter’s nap, we lit a fire in our outdoor fireplace and snuggled up with a book. Somewhere in between the cool breeze and the crackling fire, I considered a brief life change to a city where this season occurs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Then I realized North Carolina is the closest thing to perfect, because we have the gift of four distinct seasons.
The key to really enjoying this time of year? Spend time outside! I’ve selected a few of my favorite pieces to take you from a cozy afternoon indoors to a lounge filled afternoon on the back porch. Click on the images to read more about my favorite “lazy Saturday” options. Which one is your favorite?
In early October, Thomas and I hopped on a surprisingly short flight to cross off our number one bucket list destination: Iceland. Since our first month of marriage, we’ve discussed celebrating our 10 year anniversary in Iceland. We’ve dreamed, schemed, saved and planned. And after years of wondering and hoping – we did it. Friends, it was without question the best adventure I’ve taken (and my favorite with my best friend).
Some of our favorite sites included….
a stroll down the Black Sand Beach outside of Vik,
a tour of one of many waterfalls in Iceland,
a walk to the top of Godafoss Falls,
and a hike to the top of a crater!
Friends have asked what I loved most about our time abroad. Of course, it was incredibly special to share one on one time with Thomas without our little on racing around us. We missed her during our time away, tremendously, but we also realized the importance or time together – how it used to be before her beloved arrival!
In addition to the exciting exploration of a new place with my husband, I loved the simplicity, ruggedness, and isolation of Iceland. During our last two days in the country, we found an Airbnb in a remote town 30 minutes from the nearest gas station (and that gas station was located in a town of 25 people). Soaking in the vast creation – without the distractions of city lights, billboards or bustling streets – afforded an appreciation and connection to the surrounding area.
Are you considering an international adventure? Here are a few packing and traveling tips I learned from our time abroad.
- Dress – and pack – in layers. Specifically in Iceland, this tip is incredibly helpful. We experienced sun, snow and rain during our 9 days abroad. I packed tank tops, long sleeve shirts, mid layers and large winter coats.
- Check accepted credit cards. We’ve used American Express for nearly 15 years. I have traveled with it consistently, but upon arriving in Iceland, we found it challenging to use our card. We leaned on our Visa debit for most purchases…and we never used cash (to our surprise!)
- Choose an airline that operates all legs of your flight. We booked the cheapest flight we could find and, if I’m honest, got what we paid for. Our experience with Icelandair was less than ideal and has resulted in continuing customer service issues we’re trying to resolve now that we’re back in the states. Icelandair partners with other airlines to service U.S. flights and ultimately departs from large airports (Newark, JFK, Boston) with its flight to Iceland. Our travel woes began the minute we got to Raleigh Durham and continued on our return journey. We recommend flying United (normally not my favorite, but we booked a United flight last minute when things went haywire with Icelandair and it was incredible), American Airlines, or Delta for all international trips.
I’ll be sharing more tips from our travels in future blogs. What questions do you have for me about our trip? Let me know what I can share by sending a message through the comment section below.
Yes – of course I cook in the summer. But let’s be honest. It’s already blazing hot outside, so my cooking is pretty simple. Some baked chicken and roasted veggies with a fresh summer salad for color – that’s been the routine around here. And we’re ready to shake things up!
As the calendar ticks closer and closer to September 1st, I can already smell the fragrant aromas of fall filling our home for months to come. Apple and cinnamon spiced cider, creamy pumpkin soup, baked pumpkin loaves and all the squash – ALL the squash! I’m preparing our kitchen for what’s ahead and sharing a few of my favorite kitchen gadgets with you!
First and foremost, I love seeing my recipes on display. Keeping the current recipe in clear view eases the process of cooking and ensures each ingredient makes it in the dish. If you use a paperback book, consider a traditional wooden display to keep your book open and within eye sight. If you use an electronic device like an iPhone or iPad, opt for something to keep the lights on!
Another favorite gadget – this little contraption that helps me turn vegetables into spiral noodles! I often use this to create a base of veggies to act as a pasta substitute or to create spiral “fries” in the oven.
My newest kitchen addition allows me to make smoothies, sauces, and much more. I can easily dice vegetables for a beautiful and fresh pico or finely puree spices and more for a topping or salad dressing.
Last but not least – and possibly the most important – the ultimate pie baking dish. My mother-in-law informed me (early on in my relationship with her son) that a pie dish can make or break the entire recipe. No pressure! I opt for a deep, ceramic dish to craft the perfect pie – and display it beautifully!
What are your go-to kitchen gadgets? Share them with me in the comment section below.
Happy cooking and baking,
The Carolinas are well known for beautiful outdoor music venues. When our family travels to Blowing Rock, we enjoy Fridays on the Lawn – an event at the Inn at Ragged Gardens held each week throughout the summer and early fall. here in Wilmington, I’ve had the chance to enjoy a special event in Airlie Gardens, a local botanical garden and event center.
Airlie hosts a wide array of bands including hip-hop covers, bluegrass, country and more. Thanks to Airlie’s commitment to varied music, I have expounded my summer playlist to include new artists. Click on the links below to hear more of what I’m loving this year!
Who are some of your favorite artists? Share your go-to music in the comment section below.
We’re on day 5 of rain here in the Carolinas, and I can feel my energy bank depleting with each passing cloud. It is important to maintain energy, and as a new mom I have struggled to find opportunities to fill up that energy bank after care taking, grocery runs, house repairs, and work. Today, I am sharing a few personal tips, inspired by an article from 60 and Me (click here or the image above).
What are some of your tips on refilling that energy bank? Share your go-to practices in the comment section below.
- Take deep breaths. Each hour, take a couple seconds to pause your breathing and take in some extra air. This will still your mind and energize your body.
- Switch for water. While coffee seems like a source for energy, water is an opportunity to cleanse your body and refuel it with what it needs!
- Take a walk break. When you feel your energy waning, get some endorphins running through with a 20 minute walk break.
Last week, Thomas and I discussed our afternoon plans on our drive home from church. He remembered we’d purchased a large rack of ribs and was eager to grill in the blissful summer sun. Given the amount of food we had in our fridge, it was clear we needed more mouths to feed! I sent a message to four families, and three hours later – neighborhood party!
We asked each neighbor to bring an easy side, and before our eyes a feast appeared. Our menu included:
- Smoked barbecue ribs
- Barbecue chicken
- Sliced fresh watermelon
- Potato salad
- Macaroni and cheese casserole
- Arugula salad with berries and goat cheese
- Toasted baguettes
- Chocolate chip cookies + peanut butter cookies
In a short amount of time, we managed to gather 15 folks and lots of kiddos to enjoy an afternoon of great food and conversation. Thomas and I try to keep some delicious meats frozen for spontaneous get togethers, and a stock of potatoes and salad fixings for easy sides. Of course, when in doubt – just grab a watermelon and watch the party start!
How do you prepare for an afternoon with friends? Share your tips with me in the comment section below!
Recently, we’ve hosted our neighbors for spontaneous evenings of food and fun. Instead of purchasing the traditional sweet tea, I’ve tried to incorporate summer flavors in beautiful beverages and punch bowls for all to enjoy!
These recipes are simple to craft and bring so much color to your dinner table. Consider using produce local to your state for added brightness and flavor, and grab the fancy glasses for another pop of presentation! Click on the images to get the full recipe, and share which one you’re trying by commenting below.
To dress up my favorite outfits, I love layering pieces with a simple outfit. During the summer, I find it easiest (and most comfortable) to choose lightweight options. When selecting a necklace, I opt for materials like bamboo or wood for an earthy look. If I need a dressier option, I go for a long lariat necklace with a thin chain and statement piece. If a scarf is in order, I always select breezy materials like breathable cotton or a crepe finish.
Below are a few of my favorite options, available now at ShopNational.com. Of these, which is your favorite? How would you pair it with something in your closet? Share your suggestions with me in the comment section below.