Happy 2014!

It’s hard to believe that 2013 is over (in 7 hours), and we’ll be on to 2014 and a whole new year of adventures and memories. This past year was one of the busiest years of our lives, but mostly in good ways. We were blessed with having the opportunity to go to grad school, take on new jobs, travel together and with our families, watch several of our friends get married, run 2 half marathons (well, that was all me), and of course, planning our wedding and of course, marrying the love of my life.

This was also the year that I lost my most favorite person in the world. I’m so grateful for the many times I got to see my Paw Paw this year and the talks we had, how he always lit up when I came to town and for all the hugs we shared, but I miss him and this year will always be marked by the year that he left us.

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I traveled a lot this year. A lot of it was for work, but a lot of it was also for fun. By my count, I visited 9 states and 2 countries this year. One of my most memorable trips this year was my bachelorette party in Charleston and Folly Beach. For work, I visited Duluth and Alpharetta, Georgia (multiple times), Boston, MA, Knoxville, TN, Nashville, TN, Memphis, TN, Birmingham, AL, Jackson, MS, Tampa, FL, West Palm Beach, FL and Orlando, FL. Most of that travel was enjoyable (especially the food! I LOVE trying new food in new places *thanks, YELP!*), but my really enjoyable travel came with my other half. Together we visited Boston, Pittsburgh, Blacksburg (Go Hokies!), Tybee Island, GA, Savannah, St. Augustine, FL, Columbia, SC, Northern Virgina, Blowing Rock, NC, Wilmington, NC (+Wrightsville and Carolina Beaches) and of course, our favorite trip of the year was ARUBA!

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Graduating from grad school was also a big part of this year. I was cramming in 3 classes a semester for my last 2 semesters (on top of planning a wedding, working full time and trying to train for my half marathons). I was busy but it was all worth it. Shortly after graduating, I took a job that required having a masters degree in Communication, and I was qualified. Now I’m rooting on my super-close-to-graduating husband as he finishes up his last 5 classes and prepares to take a new job (more to come on this hopefully in the near, near future).
943540_10100445916691483_1553453878_nAlthough we missed the annual beach trip with our Hokie friends, we got to see them so many times this year and loved every moment of it. On occasion we toss around the idea of wanting to live closer to DC where so many of our friends moved after college, but for the time being we’re content in the Carolinas.

In 2014, I’m looking forward to relaxing. To spending time with my husband and focusing on our marriage and our first full year of being married. I’m planning to be more patient and to let go of things out of my control. I’m planning to run more for health and be less competitive. I’m planning to shower two of my BFFs with love as they enter the year of their weddings and can’t wait to celebrate with them on their respective big days. I’m planning to read more, and Facebook less (except when I’m consulting and then social media is kind of a must). I’m planning to get back to my creative roots and paint, draw, write, read, and teach more, instead of letting my craft drawers be full and my creative juices dry up. I’m planning to travel all over with my favorite travel partner. While these are just a few of the things I plan on doing in 2014, there are many more, but they are not resolutions, they are all things I should be doing anyway.

Ashleigh_Landon11302013_0108Wishing everyone a magical NYE, and a happy New Year. Thanks so much for following along in 2013! xo

Love like in the movies

A few days ago, I saw a Facebook post from a high school classmate that said “I want a fairytale. A love like you see in the movies.” I immediately started running movies through my head and wondering what exactly she wanted. A love like in Titanic? Where one of you freezes to death in an icy ocean?
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When Harry Met Sally
? Where it takes you YEARS to realize that it had to be him/her?

WHEN HARRY MET SALLY...
Love Actually? Lord knows we all love this movie around the holidays but seriously, this is what was written about it for IMDB. Is that what you want?

“The characters are falling in love, falling out of love, some are with right people, some are with the wrong people, some are looking to have an affair, some are in the period of mourning; a capsule summary of reality. Love begins and love ends.”            – Written by Rosemea D.S. MacPherson 

Or maybe she was thinking Sweet November. There was great love there, but also cancer (that she didn’t tell him about). No bueno!
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Perhaps it was the love story of Rhett and Scarlett that she wished for? Jealousy, eyes for another lover, drunken nights, unwanted children? gonewiththewindSeriously though, those “love stories” all have undesirable parts. They have fights, accidents, trials, and death, the real story is overcoming those things and living in happiness and  sharing a life with someone you can’t imagine living without. No matter what movie she is watching, she’ll see that the love isn’t always perfect. The Notebook left us all in tears. The Vow made you pray you never, ever lost your memory – and neither did your significant other. The point is, love isn’t a fairytale like we grow up thinking. Even Disney princesses go through hell before finding their prince charming.

It’s easy to think that your relationship isn’t as perfect as someone else’s when you see their pictures on Facebook and they look so in love. Or when all of your friends are getting married and you’re still just dating, or even still single. Forcing love isn’t the right route, and probably will end up at a dead end. Wishing to have love that’s all cotton candy and candy apples all the time isn’t realistic either. I’ve been married for four months and while I think we’re a great couple with a great love story, it doesn’t mean that we haven’t fought. It doesn’t mean that one of us isn’t annoyed when the other one doesn’t empty the dishwasher or take the laundry out of the dryer as soon as it’s done. But we’re still in love, and it’s perfect for us. That’s all that matters.

I’m not sure what this person meant by wanting a love like the movies. Maybe they wanted those few moments we see in a two hour film where we swoon – mostly we can attribute that to Bradley Cooper/Channing Tatum/Ryan Gosling being the guy who is saying all of those sweet, perfect lines in his oh-so-sexy voice. Newsflash, the other two hours of the movie aren’t like that. And if you were to watch “their life” together, you’d see more moments where they were bored, fighting, working, and doing all the things that life requires and less of those moments where they’re having candlelit dinners and holding hands on a beach and running into each other’s arms swearing to never be apart again. It’s great when those moments happen, and I’m not saying they don’t happen. I missed LW so much when I took a trip to San Diego that I couldn’t wait to get home – and we had one of those moments in the airport where I ran and jumped in his arms, the same arms that were holding flowers for me and I melted right there. However, when I get home from business trips these days, we don’t have that reunion. It’s more of a kiss, throw the luggage in the car and decide where to go for dinner kind of reunion. While it’s not as dramatic, it doesn’t make me feel any less loved.

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The ultimate goal should be a love, relationship, and/or marriage where your love is cultivated. Where you focus on each other’s needs, wants, desires and make sure you love that person to the best of your ability – and then some. Focusing on movies or other people’s relationships will get you nowhere, and will probably only drum up some unnecessary resentment for your other half. Don’t let that get in the way of what can be your fairytale. A fairytale that no one else can have. A fairytale that is so wonderful, you can’t wait to tell your grandkids about it one day. Focus on you and your relationship. Focus on the good, and if it’s not good enough for you, make it better or move on – but don’t pine for unrealistic, scripted love. Real love is so much better.
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I’ll leave you with this and hope you’ll stop comparing yourself to others and the movies: “Comparison is the theif of joy” – Theodore Roosevelt

4 months into Forever!

Today makes 4 months since we said “I do” and walked down the aisle into our happily ever after. It’s been a busy 4 months and we’re so grateful for things to slow down a bit over the holidays and soak up some time with each other and our families. We recently got our wedding video from ShutterHutch and have so enjoyed looking back on our special day.

CharlotteWeddingFilm Ashleigh+Landon from Shutter Hutch on Vimeo.

We are so thankful to have this keepsake in our hands and although I’m sure we won’t watch it on a weekly basis, we will certainly hold tight to it and who knows, watch it on our anniversaries? Share it with our kids one day? Re-live that special day whenever we want.

I’m so glad that we decided to have videographers at our wedding. And I’m glad that we chose Jaime and Chad with ShutterHutch.

I’m looking forward to many more months and years of marital bliss with this guy. Even on our busy days, I’m reminded of how lucky I am and how loved. I’m so thankful for each sweet memory that we have made together – and excited for all the ones to come. {Love you, LMW, to the moon and back.}
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10,000 hugs!

Yesterday, my blog hit 10,000 views (actually 10,022) – and it’s been viewed all over the world which is even more incredible. I want to give all of my readers a big, big hug today for reading along through my wedding adventures and staying tuned even after the big day!
10000Some of the most interesting places that I never thought I would have readers from:

Austria + India (thank you!)

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Germany (thank you!)

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Nigeria + Canada (thank you!)

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Mexico + Indonesia (thank you!)

blogviewsI’ve also seen views from Ukraine (Thanks, Inna), Australia, the UK and Kenya. So exciting to be connecting to folks all over the world. I’d love to hear what you think of the blog or if you have any suggestions for upcoming posts. I’m definitely thinking of moving into more of a “life” blog, perhaps Eat, Run, Be Married? Those are three of my favorite things.

Thanks again and know that I’m sending everyone big, virtual hugs today – especially all of my readers from the USA since you make up the large majority! If you want to connect with me on other platforms, I’m on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram (all with the name @ashleighwnc).

xox

11.

Inspired to share a little more about my life, thanks to those silly Facebook posts that are going around. So here are 11 things about me on this 11th day of December:

1. I was in a sorority in college. We were “The Pretty Fam.” And I took my first out-of-the-country trip with these girls to the Bahamas in Spring 2005.
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2. I made my high school basketball team as a freshman (I was 4’10), but was made to choose between cheerleading and basketball. I chose the former and ended up participating on 3 squads, including a traveling All-Star squad.

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3. I collect stationary, notecards, and pretty paper – and love sending and receiving handwritten notes. I also love writing in general and started a book when I got out of college. I also blog for a magazine currently.

4. My 4th grade teacher told my mom that I read too much. I still read that much. Sometimes I go through an entire book in just one day (slightly OCD).

5. I told my friends within the first week of dating my husband that I was going to marry him. (He says he’s thankful I didn’t tell him this, but he knew too).
beach6. I finished grad school in 19 months. I never took less than 2 classes at a time. When I get something in my head, I just have to do it and finish it – even if I’m also taking on new jobs, consulting and planning a wedding.

master7. I became a Social Media Consultant by accident. I was volunteering while in grad school and heard this business owner telling a large audience that he had no clue what he was doing. Afterwards, lots of folks approached him and handed him business cards. I handed him a card and told him I was in grad school and while I didn’t own a SM business, I was passionate about it and would be willing to help. A few weeks later he called, we met, and he offered me a set amount to help. I’ve since honed my skills and offer them every now and again to various businesses or organizations.

8. I worked on Bald Head Island for a summer as a kayak guide. My BFF Amy invited me to stay with her for a summer in Oak Island, NC. One of my favorite college summers, by far! I still love Bald Head and was happy to introduce my husband to it a few years back.
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9. I met Will Ferrell. Will supports Cancer for College and we attended an event a few years ago with my sister-in-law and got to meet Will.

will10. I didn’t always run. I started running after my freshman year of college and my first race was the Monument 10k in Richmond with two of my cousins. I also taught spin classes when in college and went through a brief period of wanting to be a body builder before realizing that I didn’t want my legs to be THAT big.
race11. I love food. By love, I mean, I have an obsession with eating sometimes (last week it was Pho from the Viet-Thai place down the street). My husband says when it comes to food, I eat like a 300-lb. man. My favorites? Buffalo wings (or just the sauce), mac n’ cheese, shrimp n’ grits, jalapenos, Zuppa Toscana, real beef burgers (I grew up on a beef farm), all salads, sweet potato anything, tomatoes, anything chocolate, Thai food in all forms, avocado, and ice cream year round. Also, I dislike pizza very much unless it’s homemade. #10 helps me stay in my size 2 pants! 😉

Okay, that’s it. I promise not to share anymore annoying facts. Feel free to share in the comments something people don’t know about you!

I’m April Kepner

Any Grey’s Anatomy fans out there? Yeah, I’m still watching that show. Got addicted in college and still incorporate it into my Thursday night routine (or Friday/Saturday thanks to DVR or Hulu). Anyway, I finally got around to watching last week’s episode last night and it was a pretty easy comparison to make when Kepner told her 3 sisters that they were no longer going to be her bridesmaids. I guess I’m not the only one who makes those big decisions. However, since it was her sisters, I’m guessing they won’t opt out of her wedding day, or life (and if we’re being honest, it’s a TV show and not real life). I did talk to several people back when I was still planning my wedding, and it’s not all that uncommon apparently to have changes to your wedding party. The reasons tended to be different in each situation but it happens. Life goes on. And hopefully, friendships/relationships aren’t ruined in the process, but occasionally they are.

Anyway, I also think I could be Dr. L in Mindy Kaling’s show “The Mindy Project”. I just love her. Reading Mindy’s book, I laughed out loud, a lot, and I do the same with her show. I also am finding myself rooting for her and her relationship with Cliff. Just saw today that there are no new episodes until January, so I guess I’ll have to find another way to occupy my Tuesday nights.

I’m 100% addicted to the show Nashville. I remember scoffing at the idea of it when it first came out, but after watching two recent episodes, I spent one of my sick days on the couch catching up on every episode and I am a fan. Who knew Hayden Panetierre could play a part like that?

Have I mentioned how much more TV I am watching now that we have Hulu and Netflix? Oh, tons. We got rid of our cable a few months back (don’t worry, we’re still able to watch sports through ESPN-go, and news & basic shows with our antenna), but I swear I’m watching more TV without cable than I ever did when we had a package! I flew through Orange is the New Black and cannot wait for Season 2 in 2014. I’m still addicted to Parks and Rec (although this is clearly the last season), Scandal is basically an obsession – I hate waiting a whole week to see the next episode (wish Kerry Washington was my BFF so she could share all deets with me for upcoming shows), and since we haven’t found a show to replace Breaking Bad for us, we’re using Saturday Night Live. Slightly devastating to find out Seth Myers is leaving, but they have a solid cast right now and have had some good hosts lately.

So I’m basically your blogging TV guide today (for guilty pleasure shows anyway). I really just had to chuckle a little at the similarity in myself and April Kepner last night and thought I’d share for anyone else who didn’t make the connection. Would love to hear if you have any must-see shows that you’re loving right now. Maybe I’ll add another one to my already-too-long docket.

What a week!

Last week was intense. We were so busy it felt like we only saw each other in passing. But I can happily say that big things are on the horizon for us! Luckily, this weekend we were able to regroup and spend time together now that the hubs is done with grad school til 2014 and we had no planned events to attend (and of course being stuck inside on Saturday voiceless and with a sore throat helped). So here’s a recap of LAST weekend and also a new recipe that left us licking our fingers!
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After spending the holiday with my family and finally getting our kitchen back in order, we spent Friday night watching the Bobcats play (but of course we were wearing our Hornets colors!). We even got cute toboggans for showing up early!
w3While Saturday marked the last day of November (and no-shave november for my husband), it was also the day that we had Fall photos taken with our city in the background. I love this one that our photographer shared from the back of her camera. A little late on the Christmas cards this year, but I am glad we will have these beauties in our home and on our family’s fridges.

w2Later we explored NoDa and met up with our friends to see Matrimony in concert at the Chop Shop. We had dinner at Revolution Ale House and stopped in the Crepe Cellar for some post-dinner drinks (coffee for this girl – who was yawning at 8 PM).

w4We capped off the weekend by picking out our first real Christmas tree together. I love starting new traditions with this guy – and this is one we will definitely continue. It’s all decorated, with a brand new tree skirt and colorfully wrapped presents beneath it now.

While it seemed like a busy weekend, it also seemed normal and calm for us. We’re at “that age” where every weekend holds something (most of the time that other people have planned), so it’s nice when we have a weekend at home where we can pick and choose what we do, hang out in pajamas if we want and curl up on Friday nights and watch a movie on our own couch instead of in a hotel room somewhere. We’re thankful for those moments, but also thankful to be blessed with so many friends and family members that we get to travel to see. We’re especially looking forward to all of the upcoming weddings we’ve been invited to – with a few more that I’m betting get added to the list (wink, wink):

Dec 21 – Pittsburgh, PA
April 26, – Nassau, Bahamas
May 4 – Austin, TX
May 17 – Wilmington, NC
June 6 – Baltimore, MD
June 7 – Blacksburg, VA
Sept 20- Winston-Salem, NC
Oct 11 – Charlotte, NC

Looks like 2014 is going to be a busy one for us! Even more reason to soak up our weekends at home!

Here’s last night’s dinner, which was delicious – my husband told me at least 3 times this morning that he couldn’t wait for lunch to eat the leftovers: Buffalo Chicken Enchiladas (click on the picture once there to go to the recipe)
buffalo chicken enchiladasThis was the perfect meal to accompany Sunday night football. When you want wings but would rather a real meal, go for the enchiladas. Yum!

#GivingTuesday

Today is Giving Tuesday. A day to give back after we splurge on Black Friday in the stores and online on Cyber Monday. Okay, so maybe you weren’t out trampling other shoppers on Friday and maybe you didn’t peruse Amazon yesterday for deals, but you can still give something today. It doesn’t have to be monetary, and it doesn’t have to be a lot, but a helping hand to an elderly neighbor, a random act of kindness paying for the guest behind you at Starbucks or volunteering for a local charity can go a long way.

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I was always grateful to hear of one of the neighbors helping my grandfather, whether it was helping him cut hay, hauling cattle or cutting firewood, it was nice to know that he had company and wasn’t doing all that manual labor on his own (even though he would assure us that he could). And while I’ve never had a stranger pay for my coffee, I do it every once in a while, in hopes that it will brighten someone’s day – and maybe that they’ll pay the gesture forward. I’m lucky that my company offers a day a year to volunteer in the community, as well as matches our charitable giving. One year we painted and cleaned at a new hospice facility and last year I helped sort socks and gloves for a 100% volunteer run charity. Giving doesn’t require a lot of money – or even a lot of time. Every little bit helps – whether it’s money or time.

In honor of Giving Tuesday – here are my top 10 charities to help out:

1. Isabella Santos Foundation – Charlotte, NC

      A kids foundation for Children with Cancer

2. Hands N Feet Foundation – Charlotte, NC

A consistent sense of warmth and comfort for the homeless

3. HopeMatch Organization – Charlotte, NC

Providing Holiday assistance to those in need

4. Hospice & Palliative Care  – Charlotte, NC

Improving the quality of life through hospice care

5. Greater Charlotte SPCA – Charlotte, NC

Helping to save (animal) lives from shelters, bad situations and unwanted homes

6. Ginger’s Fund

Fighting animal cruelty, and saving those who were cruelly treated

7. Dog Days of Charlotte – Charlotte, NC

Saving lives from high-kill shelters, transporting to rescue, boarding/foster until a furever home is found
    *while my husband hasn’t given in to fostering yet, I continue to support this organization in their efforts

8. United Mitochondiral Disease Foundation

There is no cure for this illness but a lot of hope for those who have it. My younger cousin has this disease and we’d love to 
    find a cure. Here’s a story on another child suffering from Mito and her mother’s hope.

9. Pretty in Pink Foundation – North Carolina

Providing financial assistance to support underinsured and uninsured people with breast cancer in North Carolina

10. The Birthday Project (North Texas) or Birthday Wishes (MA, RI, NY)

Giving Birthday parties to homeless children (remember what it was to be a kid on your birthday? Themed parties? Friends?
Cake?)

In addition to these amazing charities (with tax-deductible donations), I always recommend supporting your local agencies for the homeless, battered women, elderly and children in need.

  • ARC – providing care to those with intellectual disabilities in NC
  • Urban Ministry – bringing the community together to end homelessness
  • Charlotte Rescue Mission – helping our homeless
  • Friendship Trays – delivering nutritious meals and a welcome moment to our ailing neighbors
  • Clean the World – not local, but offers hygiene kits to kids in areas of need (clean water!)

Sometimes people just need a helping hand to get back on their feet, or to see that there is still kindness in the world. Today is a great day to show someone that you care.

I shared more than 10 organizations, but I am passionate about all of them. I may not be able to give a ton to each of them, but I can give something to all of them, whether it’s a donation today, an hour here and there, or a Christmas gift for a child in need. I’d love to hear about the organizations that you are passionate about! Please leave a comment to share – and spread the word on social media about #givingTuesday!

 

“No one has ever become poor by giving.” – Anne Frank

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Full to the brim!

This year, we hosted our very first Thanksgiving at our home as a married couple. We celebrated the day with my grandparents, mother, brother, sister-in-law and nephew (and two scavenger dogs).

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Our menu consisted of:

  • Fried Turkey
  • Ham
  • Salad with honey goat cheese, cranberries and walnuts
  • Sweet potato casserole
  • Green bean casserole
  • Mac N’ Cheese
  • Cornbread stuffing
  • Deviled eggs
  • Gravy
  • Brownies
  • Pumpkin Pie squares
  • Chocolate Chess Pie

Is your mouth watering? Wait until you see the pictures!

My husband fried the turkey. It was not only his first turkey cooking adventure, but first time frying. We started with the marinade the night before all of which he mixed up. On Thursday, he put together the rub and covered the turkey with it and let it set for a few more hours before entering the fryer. At first he thought he had burnt the turkey when it came out but we quickly found out that it was DELICIOUS – and the marinade made it super juicy. Everyone devoured the turkey (almost wish we had bought a little bigger one!).

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My Maw Maw brought the ham (and brownies), which she had put a glaze on and of course this country mouse loved the ham. Who doesn’t love ham? I know Thanksgiving is all about the turkey, but I was thankful for ham.

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My sister-in-law (above) brought the Mac N’ Cheese and cornbread stuffing. Both were delicious and were much needed starches to the semi-healthy sides I tried to make.

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I had apple cider warming when everyone arrived. A simple recipe but was delicious and kept us warm on such a chilly day! Just add cider from a jug in the crockpot, 2 cups of water, 2 cups of rum, 5 cinnamon sticks, 18 whole cloves, zest of an orange and a lemon and cut up an apple in chunks. Bring to a boil and then keep warm while serving. All of our guests (even Maw Maw) enjoyed this warm drink!

My sweet potato casserole was a favorite of everyone. It’s such an easy recipe and is semi-healthy. It calls for 5 medium sweet potatoes (chopped and boiled to soften), mix 1/4 cup brown sugar, sweet potatoes, 3 tbs orange juice, 1/4 tsp cloves, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, 1/4 tsp ground ginger, and 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 cup low fat margarine together and layer in baking dish. Use marshmallows or pecans to top. Put in oven on 350 for 10-15 minutes or until top is browned.

unnamed-9While the main dishes were amazing, dessert was still (and always is) my favorite part. My husband made Chocolate Chess Pie at 8 A.M. to accompany my pumpkin pie bars (literally pumpkin pie cut into squares) and my grandma’s brownies.

unnamed-10I could not be more thankful for the family that we were surrounded with and the opportunity to spend that time with them. My heart is overflowing with love and gratitude for each and every one of them – including my husband. Not only did he cook, but he did most of the cleaning up post-apocalypse, I mean, post-Thanksgiving dinner. Feeling lucky & thankful to have him by my side, not just on Thanksgiving, but every day.

unnamed-11Happy December!