something pretty for your morning.

Good Morning! :)

Wow. Where did I go? Sorry about that. Sincerely. I didn't mean to leave for that long since I do have events + posts I want to share with you. Before I tell you how I've been filling my time, I have to get business out of the way. The winner of the very london giveaway is: Eleise of One Artsy Mama! (Congrats Eleise! I wish I could keep the goodies for myself, but I'll mail it to you shortly!)

In the midst of jotting down blog ideas and topics, I was filling my time with other things. 

Simple things like...
crafting rosette flowers like a mad woman last night. Seriously. I loved working the fabric with my hands and burning my fingers on hot glue. Sometimes you have to have a night where you forgo the chores and just craft (amiright?)
finally figuring out simple things at my work (a daycare center) like how one child likes her back patted at naptime and how to handle arguments at blocks -- it's all about celebrating the little victories. 
cleaning my apartment. I'm getting my post-vacation life back in order and that involves cleaning every inch of the house until it sparkles. 
falling in love with Mad Men all over again. Thank you, Netflix. :)
driving around with Chad and listening to the most ridiculous songs imaginable -- ('Shots") is one of them.  
seeing my nephew + niece again after a 53-day absence. (Pictures of mr. UJ and baby Zara will be shared soon). 

P.S. The tutorial I used for the flowers can be found on pinterest.  


now i want a puppy.

In my family, we aren't big pet people. The closest thing we got to was a beta fish named Obadiah, that we lived with when I was 13. We always asked my parents "Why can't we get a dog or cat?" to which they'd reply "Because Dad's allergic." (The real truth is because he didn't want to pick up after the dog...you know, poo-wise. Which we found out later when my parents felt like we were ready to handle it. :) ) I never ever considered myself to be a "pet person". Little Amanda was more than happy to have brief encounters with her best friend's big black dog, Shadow. And leave it at that.

Then I met + married into Chad's family -- these people are all about dogs. and cats. Since Chad was a baby, his family has always had at least one dog (sometimes two) in the house. Chad tells me that the fondest memories that he has of his childhood was playing around with Rocky or Bear. Dogs will always be a part of his life.

Imagine Chad's surprise when the love of his life, his wife, says "Well...honey...I'm not really big on dogs. I like 'em, I just don't know if I could ever own one". Would that just crush a dog-lover's heart? He has always said to me, "Honey, we can just get a medium-sized one...right?" (Chad: always the compromiser.) which keeps me right on the fence about the whole Amanda-being-a-dog-owner discussion.

Braunie. This little guy might have just pushed me onto the pro-dog side of that fence, though. On Saturday, Chad's parents brought this little cutie home. And on Sunday, when we went over for our weekly supper, I got to meet Braunie. The sweetest, warmest, rolliest, softest puppy I have ever seen. How can I resist his warm body snuggled against mine as we lay on the couch? How can I not get a puppy since now I know it comes with giggling at the way he runs or how utterly adorable he is when he lays down on his paws? Slowly, I a warming up to the idea of having a dog on a more permanent basis -- just as long as he stays in the puppy stage for a while.

How about you -- are you from a "pet family" or not?

P.S. Tonight + Monday are the last days to put your name into the very london giveaway!



sometimes... you take a step back from the computer, the iPhone, the tv, and the Netflix and take a friend's offer to 'go camping' on a Saturday.
sometimes... it feels good to get your feet dirty (filthy dirty) and sit around a campfire.
sometimes... you spend 23.5 hours with the exact same friends and you love every single second of it.
sometimes... for the first time (ever), you are in a tent, and snuggle in your sleeping bag while breathing in the intoxicating fresh air.
sometimes... a morning canoe ride with your husband is required. 
sometimes... all you eat for dinner, breakfast, and lunch is made on a campfire.
sometimes... you come away from a camping trip with new inside jokes, new games, and a renewed love for outdoors.


a very london giveaway.

On the second-to-last full day we were in London, we did a little shopping. The morning was spent at Buckingham Palace wiping tears away when staring at Kate Middelton's dress (truly...does that make me the biggest sap in the world?). But, the afternoon was spent doing a little shopping on Regent Street -- which is exactly what Chad wanted to do! ... kidding. (I'll explain our deal in a later post.)

We started walking down the street looking for one store in particular -- Liberty of London:

Is this the very first picture of our trip that I'm showing you all? Eek...must remedy that soon.

This street is right in the middle of a shopper's dream (near Picadilly Circus and Oxford Cricus) and has the best of the best when it comes to quality shopping. Which means, of course, that we went to two stores and stayed in the 'affordable' section. Right when you walk into Liberty, they have all the stationary + notebooks. (Then you walk through the doors and they have the really expensive stuff -- the vintage Alexander McQueen and the Stella McCartney). I overheard one girl mention that she thought this area was "the Liberty of London gift shop". Girl, you might be right, but I was still squealing to Chad: "Look at this notebook!" "Oooh, look at these adorable stamps!"

But while we were there, I picked up some things ... for you. I wanted to find some souvenirs while we were over there not only for myself + Chad, but for a blog friend as well!

Call this giveaway what you will: a belated birthday giveaway, a beating the post-adventure blues giveaway, an almost-end-of-the-summer giveaway, a 101 followers giveaway, or a culmination of all four. It's my way of spreading the vacation joy to one of you. And to say, "Thank you for coming by my blog!" Here's what one lucky blog reader will receive:

From Liberty of London:
01. Two rolls of polka-dot masking/washi tape.
02. Eight studio pegs designed and made by Sarah Hough.
03. Two mini notebooks, back to school style, by Cavallini & Co. (very similar to these.)

In addition to the goodies I snagged in London, I wanted to find a little more Liberty love. So when we got home, I scoured etsy and beefed up this giveaway a little bit. The winner will also receive:
04. Liberty of London fabric pack (from alice caroline supply).
05. Liberty of London fabric magnets (from misschief).

This bundle of 5 pretty sweet goodies will be sent to one of you! If you are interested, please comment with an answer to a question of mine:

How are you spending these last few weeks of "lazy-crazy-hazy days of summer"?  

This giveaway is open until Monday, August 22nd and the winner will be announced Tuesday, August 23rd. As a special thanks to my readers -- if you are a follower, you can leave an additional comment letting me know you follow. :)

P.S. The question was inspired by this clip of Gilmore Girls. :)


post-vacation jumble.

I honestly have no idea where to start. How does one bounce back into the daily grind and the 9-545 schedule after a trip like the one I had? So many people have asked us "What was your favorite part?" or "What did you like the best?" and I really don't know how to answer that. How can I make the answer simple enough so that it doesn't have traces of "haha, we went on a trip and you didn't"?

Because to us, we are still in post-vacation fog. It took us four complete days to recover from jet-lag, and blog/mail back-up. We are finally feeling like we have a handle on our daily life -- instead of having sensory overload like we did when we darted in and out of museums every day.

We still have the topic of recaping to discuss. So many family + friends (and you!) have been asking about the trip and the pictures. 1029 pictures doesn't seem like it would be that fun to rifle through, photoshop, and do a write-up of each picture. I don't think I have the energy to clock in all those man hours. But I do want to show you all. I want to go through all the pictures and tell you about the amazing experience that we had.

I just don't know how to go about it. How would you recap a trip? Tons of pictures + posts or edit it down? What do you want to see?

Later this week come back for a very London giveaway...


not officially back...

This is my siblings and I on my 18th birthday. At home.

(I had to borrow this picture from my Facebook archives due to the fact that I typing this from Chad's iPhone in our hostel.)

When I was a teenager, our family summer vacation always seemed to take place during my birthday (Aug. 4th). While it completely made sense because of my dad's summer teaching schedule, I always found a way to see the negative. The whiny teen in me used to complain profusely to my dad "I hate that we are always gone for my birthday. We're always home for everyone else's birthday, why can't we be home for mine?" (My dad & everyone else in my immediate family can attest to me saying this).

But as I turn one year older this time around, I'm realizing that it doesn't matter where I celebrate my birthday. It's true that I'll be spending much of this birthday in Heathrow and over the Atlantic, but it truly doesn't matter. I'm glad that this birthday is a little less traditional (although, mom if you are reading this, I can't wait to eat birthday cake out of your metal 9x13 baking pan that has had so many birthday cakes in it over the years). I'm glad because it means that this birthday is just the icing on the cake (pun completely intended) of a truly spectacular and surreal trip. I'm waking up in London and falling asleep in my own bed with my husband by my side. Pretty great birthday if you ask me...

And, you better believe we'll be finding some cake to eat before we leave London. :)


a traveler's love letter... // michelle from i ripple. i dance.

While Chad and I are away wandering the streets of Brussels, London, Paris and beyond, I gathered some of my favorite bloggers and asked them to write a guest post/love letter to their favorite place on earth. These ladies are graciously babysitting my blog while I'm eating macaroons and taking postcard-worthy pictures of the Eiffel Tower + Big Ben. Thank you for reading and I'll see you when we get back! 
xo -- Amanda

Bella Italia

Ours was not just any holiday romance.  When I met you last year it was that cliche of love at first sight.  You were warm and welcoming and so beautiful, full of culture and wisdom.  I feel like you have so many stories to tell me and just want to sit in the sun with you and listen to them all.  You seem to have so many different personalities too.  In Bologna, it was relaxed and quiet.  Few people were around and I felt like we were alone wondering the porticoed streets.  In Rome it was exciting and you were full of suprises, around every corner there was something 'new' (but actually really really old).

In Tuscany we were able to relax and lounge by the pool and explore old towns on hillsides.  We discovered some antique markets too (that stuffed squirrel we saw still makes me giggle, we should have bought it). Together we discovered beautiful Renaissance art - Piero della Francesco frescoes on the walls of churches, Michelangelo in the Vatican, Carvaggio in Florence.  In Naples you showed your edgier side and were a little bit more, shall we say, carefree. 

We shared some great food together.  The gelato was heaven.  The peach + lavendar and ricotta + cherry were my favourite. The pastas, the gnocchi, so rich and delicious. Oh, and the pizza in Napoli.  Stuff that dreams are made of.

Mostly, I love how you love as though your life depended on it. Sunshine, food, friends, family are all precious to you and the passion you show everyday is contagious.
Don't think I have forgotten you.  I am coming for a visit again this year although it is brief.  Unfortunately I have promised Croatia that I will come and see her but we shall meet in Bologna for a few days.  Perhaps next year I can stay for longer.  I would love to discover Venice with you.
I promise that one day I will be able to stay with you permanently.  I imagine our life together, la dolce vita.  A little piece of land in the mountains of Tuscany where the light is so special.  I can't explain how it is different, golden doesn't do it justice, but I can understand how it inspired so many great artists.  The idea of this day is making me smile. 

Ciao mi amore, until we meet again.

i ripple. i dance.


a traveler's love letter... // megan from time after tea


While Chad and I are away wandering the streets of Brussels, London, Paris and beyond, I gathered some of my favorite bloggers and asked them to write a guest post/love letter to their favorite place on earth. These ladies are graciously babysitting my blog while I'm eating macaroons and taking postcard-worthy pictures of the Eiffel Tower + Big Ben. Thank you for reading and I'll see you when we get back! 

xo -- Amanda

Dear Edinburgh,

I had been on a plane for nearly 24hours and then sat in Heathrow airport for 8 hours before getting on another plane to finally make it to see you. I sat on the bus from the airport to my hostel completely exhausted, barely able to keep my eyes open. But then the gorgeous old cobblestone homes began to run alongside the bus and the green landscape spread out before my eyes, covered by a light hazy mist. Suddenly I became more alive and felt like I had truly stepped back in time. When the bus pulled up and I got out and saw the castle sitting over city I was completely awestruck and really felt as if I had entered a magical land. To go to a place that has castles and cobblestones streets was such a completely different experience for me.

You were the first city I visited on an amazing six week trip with my best friend and we had the best three days. We ate fried mars bars and lots of potatoes, dressed up in a vintage clothing store, went on a ghost tour and shopped along Princes Street. Thank you for giving me such an amazing experience and so many wonderful memories. I look forward to when we meet again.

Yours Sincerely,
:: time after tea


a traveler's love letter... // courtney from vintch


While Chad and I are away wandering the streets of Brussels, London, Paris and beyond, I gathered some of my favorite bloggers and asked them to write a guest post/love letter to their favorite place on earth. These ladies are graciously babysitting my blog while I'm eating macaroons and taking postcard-worthy pictures of the Eiffel Tower + Big Ben. Thank you for reading and I'll see you when we get back! 

xo -- Amanda

It was a quarter to seven in the evening when we arrived.

We pulled into the hotel parking lot, but we didn’t go in. We parked quickly, probably a little sideways, opened the trunk to grab our coats, and ran. It was a short walk, made shorter by our brisk steps and hurried movement. On the way to the coast, we climbed down cobblestone steps and into a brush thicket, a mini forest of deep sage green branches bent into a makeshift cave.

Robert grabbed my hand and pulled me along. The sunset was quick on our heels and we had to make it to the ocean before it sunk into the sea. As we walked out onto Cannon Beach, Oregon, Haystack Rock was the first thing that caught my eye. I’ve read books where the protagonist loses his breath when he sees the girl of his dreams. Where the wind is literally knocked out of you and a whisper makes it way out of your lips. That’s exactly how I felt.

There were teenagers roasting marshmallows by a campfire, and pieces of driftwood washed up on the shore. The sun set quickly and we only had a moment. But oh what a moment it was. It was freezing. My vintage white coat was so pretty, but it was thin and didn’t shield me from the blustery winds that grow fiercer when blown off the water. But I had Robert’s arms around me. I had 3,000 miles between where my feet were planted and home. I felt God there in my smallness. In the infinite height and glory of the Rock. In the European, whitewashed, gray haze that swept over the sand and gave a foggy mist to the evening.

We continued down the west coast that week. We saw the golden gate bridge, the Hearst castle, and the Hollywood sign. We sat in our car on the side of the road and looked out onto the unbelievable Pacific Northwest, and for two twenty-somethings from North Carolina, seeing the mountains jut up against the ocean like that was a sight to behold.

But I’ll never forget that moment on Cannon Beach. The time we raced against nature and beat the sunset to catch a glimpse of something bigger than life. Because that’s what travel should be. Feasting your eyes on something new and unknown. And sometimes, in the very best of times, you stumble upon sheer brilliance and remember why you left home, traveled across the country, and drove hundreds of miles down a road unfamiliar. For those twenty minutes of Heaven, you’d do it all over again.

From Amanda: Thanks Courtney! For more of Courtney's lovely writing, check our her blog.


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