What We Did This Summer.

June was probably the most social month of my entire life to date. I’m a bit reclusive by nature, and at first the prospect of visiting with people nearly every day for an entire month struck terror into my shriveled hermit heart. I didn’t even know I was capable of spending so much time with people.

Alone Time

Happily (and contrary to my own personal expectations), I did not implode or shrivel up and die, and I even managed to enjoy myself! I really did have the most lovely visitors, so it was a very pleasant and easy way to be dragged out of my seclusion. :)

(Still, just to be on the safe side, I plan to be a hermit all autumn. If you enjoy quiet afternoons and rainy days and reading and falling leaves and peaceful thoughts and pumpkin spice, feel free to bring your knitting needles and a book, and we can be hermits together. I’ll provide the coffee).

Awesome hermit

At the end of May, my husband’s parents and his seven youngest siblings came to visit for Memorial Weekend. They stayed in a lovely farmhouse at Historic Leiper’s Fork, which we enjoyed exploring with them.

Rope Swing 2They even discovered a rope swing just a little down the road from the house. Can it get more perfectly summery than that?

Ropeswing

Beatrice was doted on by her loving aunts and uncle, even though she was a bit of a bear and refused to nap or go to sleep for almost the entire weekend until my amazing, gracious, and loving in-laws somehow rocked Beatrice to sleep with their grandparent magic while I cried outside. Ah, the humbling moments of vacation. That’s life though, and we still managed to have a wonderful time visiting and getting lots of hugs in, in spite of the Energizer Baby who can cry for three hours straight without falling asleep.

Memorial Day Visit

We were sad to say goodbye, but the next weekend we were off to Arkansas to visit Will’s Nana and Grandad.

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It was wonderful to see Will’s grandparents again, and it was a very relaxing weekend.

Nana & Grandad

They have one of the most beautiful, interesting homes I’ve had the pleasure of visiting. Also, it was so quiet and peaceful. I took some amazing naps.

Nana & Grandad's House

When we got back from Arkansas, we had some surprise car repairs and celebrated National Donut Day.

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And of course, Beatrice managed to look cute, so there’s a photo of that too.

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The weekend following our trip to Arkansas, my Mom flew in for a visit. :)

Mom & B

We explored the shops in downtown Franklin, and of course visited the Frothy Monkey… multiple times. Mmm, coffee.

Frothy Monkey

Another highlight of the visit was eating dinner at The Pharmacy in Nashville. I love burgers and fries, and we got to eat outside on this gorgeous patio.

The Pharmacy

When we weren’t trying as much local food as possible, we also managed to get lots of quality relaxing and chatting in (and more iced coffee at the Frothy Monkey). Here Beatrice is sleeping through a passing fire engine while we enjoy our refreshing beverages. The sleep habits of babies are truly mind-boggling.

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Eventually it was time for us to head to the airport and say goodbye to Mom…

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…and hello to Laura and Anne!

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Beatrice is only a few months older than Anne, and they are obviously bosom buddies, as I have mentioned before. It was so fun to see them playing together (or… near one another). Anne is such a jolly baby and we loved hearing her little squeaky laughs!

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We spent a Saturday exploring the Farmer’s Market and The Factory again.

Farmer's Market

We also sewed things and took photos. The usual. ;)

Laura's Visit

We somehow forgot to take a moms-and-daughters photo of the four of us, but we did get this photo, which is pretty swoon-worthy. ;)

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It was so fun to have Laura visit, and to be able to chat while we fed the babies, or worked quietly during their naps, or tried to get them to sleep. Sometimes it’s just nice to have another mom to commiserate with. :) And did I mention that she and Anne are completely gorgeous and photogenic (see below)?

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After Laura and Anne flew home, Will and I discovered this lovely park.

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And I took more photos of Beatrice.

Beatrice

Because… well… it’s hard not to.

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June 21st was Father’s Day. Beatrice is so blessed to have such a loving, thoughtful, protective, hilarious, kind, caring father, and she absolutely ADORES him. Every evening when he gets home from work, Will scoops B up to talk to her and read books and shower her with kisses. Her first laugh was for her Daddy, and they share the same mischievous twinkle in their eyes (and impossibly long eyelashes!). I am so completely smitten with these two, and so thankful for them both.

Will and Beatrice

Will has been such a loving, caring, incredible father from the moment he knew our little one was on the way. His strength and encouragement and love and joy carried us through pregnancy, and labor, and newborn-induced sleep deprivation, and with good humor and a servant’s heart he has shown Beatrice and I what it means to be loved by our Heavenly Father each and every day. He is amazing, and I don’t know how to say thank you enough.

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We were able to celebrate the day with Will’s three eldest sisters, who stopped over to visit us on their way to VA. :)

Beatrice & Aunts

Beatrice enjoyed every moment with her aunts, and hammed it up even more than usual. ;)

Beatrice and the Aunts

After church we walked around downtown Franklin and enjoyed frozen yogurt and coffee. We even finally visited Landmark Booksellers, which resides in a very lovely historic house and was all we had anticipated. :)

Father's Day 2

We were sad to see Beck and Grace go, but we got to keep Emma with us all week, and Beck and Grace returned the following weekend to pick up Emma and all head home. During Emma’s stay, we even got to spend some time with our first cousin once removed, Hans Royal. Isn’t he the cutest?

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When Independence Day came along, Will, Beatrice, and I strolled around downtown for Franklin on the Fourth, and just made it back to the car before rain started pouring down. The fireworks were cancelled, but we spent a cozy evening indoors watching a movie and eating a gigantic bag of kettle corn we had purchased downtown.

Fourth of July

In mid-July we drove to the NC mountains, where we met up with my parents and rode up to MA together for my brother’s wedding!

Mountains

The ride was long, but Beatrice was amazing. Here she is enjoying her first taste of sweet dark cherries somewhere in NY, and generally looking adorable.

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The day before the wedding, we got to meet Aubry’s family at a fun, casual coffee-shop breakfast with these two lovebirds… :)

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…we explored Shelburne Falls…

Shelburne Falls

… and attended the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. The dinner was delicious and it was a beautiful evening. I loved watching Sean & Aubry dance together.

Rehearsal

The next day the weather was delightful, the wedding was beautiful, and the festivities were so much fun. It was one of the sweetest, most joyful, and celebratory weddings I’ve ever been to (and not just because I love the people we were celebrating). :) Aubry was a gorgeous bride, and doesn’t she have the best smile? :) It was a delight and an honor to be her bridesmaid.

Aubry2

The reception was held outside and a delicious breakfast was served, with pies for dessert and plenty of dancing. It was so perfect for a summer wedding, and fit Sean and Aubry so well. :) I didn’t get any photos of the ceremony or reception, but here are a few from Aubry’s amazing wedding photographers (Katie Slater Photography):

Sean & Aubry Wedding 2

I am so overjoyed and delighted to see Sean so happy, and to have gained such a kind, lovely, amazing sister-in-love as Aubry! When I was growing up I often wished I had a sister, but in the past three years God has blessed me with NINE sisters far more sweet and loving and talented and wonderful than I ever could have imagined, and I am so thankful for all of them. :)

Other events of the summer have included…

Blueberry picking. Beatrice picked an assortment of leaves but no actual blueberries (though I did feed her quite a large number of them).

Blueberries

Beatrice learned how to wave. She waves at Will when he leaves for work, and when she goes to bed. She also waves at the bean plant outside. (?)

We attended our first Nashville Sounds baseball game, and Beatrice’s first baseball game ever. :)

Baseball

Lots of trips to the library. Sometimes Beatrice and I go together in the morning between her naps, and sometimes we all go as a family after dinner (one of our new favorite dates). :) I even stumbled upon the last day of the library’s summer book sale last month (quite by accident, I promise) and they were selling books for $5 a bag so… I might need another bookshelf.

I’ve been trying a lot of new recipes. I think I was in a bit of a rut, making the same meals over and over, so I’ve actually been attempting all those Pinterest recipes I’ve pinned.

Summer Food

Will joined a company volleyball team which met once a week for most of the summer – they just played their last game a few weeks ago. He usually played after Beatrice’s bedtime so it wasn’t practical for us to come along, but we came to cheer for him during his first and last games.

Will and I had a date night in East Nashville (courtesy of Will’s kind cousins) at Rudie’s Seafood and Sausage. This jambalaya was amazing, and if you ever go there, don’t even look at the rest of the menu. Order the jambalaya. Do it!

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And of course… Beatrice has been cute. ;)

Beatrice Collage

So there you have it – some snapshots of our summer and a few of the things we’ve been up to. If you made it to the end of this ridiculously long and rambling entry, your perseverance is astounding. I hope I never fall behind on blogging this much again because I really don’t think I could make it through waiting for so many photos to upload ever again. :)

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Did you all have a good summer? What were the highlights for you? Are you excited about fall? Now that I have this summer wrap-up post out of the way I can start talking about all things autumnal. :D Brace yourselves.

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Catching Up

IMG_20150404_134814 Hello again! I apologize for dropping off the face of the map for the past two weeks with no warning or explanation. I offer this quick catch-up post as a token of my remorse and future good intentions. :)

On second thought, this is me, and I’ve never been known for my summarizing skillz, so buckle up and get ready for some rambling and rabbit trailing. Or bail out now before it’s too late – save yourself!

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The lovely drive when dropping Will off to work in the morning.

Two weeks ago I visited my parents in North Carolina. It was my first time flying alone with Beatrice but we only had one short flight each way and no layovers, so it was very quick and B was a gem.

IMG_20150330_114554IMG_20150413_124853IMG_20150331_115438IMG_20150402_090003 Beatrice has just recently decided she is nervous about strangers so it took her a few hours to warm up to Pop and Gammy, but once she did it was so much fun to see my parents holding and playing with her, and my brother making her smile. So sweet. :) Pop Gammy and B Besides seeing my parents and brother (and getting my fill of Bojangles biscuits, NC barbecue, coffee, and Bananagrams), the other highlight of the visit was getting to meet Anne girl, my best friend Laura’s new baby! Even before they were born Laura and I hoped our babies would be friends someday, and when we both had girls, well… now they are destined to be friends. ;) They even share a name and have the same first two initials reversed (AB and BA) completely unplanned, I promise. As you can tell, I’ve thought about this maybe a little too much. ;) In any case, Anne is adorable and it was such a joy to meet the sweet daughter of my dearest friend, who is such a wonderful, loving mama. IMG_20150402_085713 Besides getting my fill of Bojangles biscuits, NC barbecue, coffee, chatting, and Bananagrams, another highlight was going to the movies to see Cinderella with my Mom and Beatrice. I’m glad there were only 5 other people in the theater at 1pm because Beatrice spent half the movie babbling, singing, or fussing by turn. I can’t say it was the most relaxing experience, and I was a little distracted with walking up and down the steps to amuse B, but I absolutely loved the movie. It was so sweet and genuine, and had this lovely innocence and kindness about it. I thought it was a cute first movie for Beatrice (even if she doesn’t remember it… so much for raising a low-media child, haha). My first movie theater experience was also a Disney film – my Dad took me to see Beauty and the Beast (we’ve been movie buddies ever since). :) If you have a little girl, or know a little girl, or were once a little girl, you should definitely go see it. It’s a beautiful, classic-fairy-tale film, and has a great message. I haven’t fallen so much in love with a movie for a very long time. I don’t have space to review it further but you can read a short review by a friend here. :) courage and kindness After 5 fun days in North Carolina I was ready to return home to Will, and he was definitely missing his girls (and not having to make dinner, teehee). ;) When Beatrice saw her Daddy the night our plane got back into Nashville, she startled and stared at him, and then her eyes just LIT up and her whole face split into the most adoring smile… and she laughed for the first time! Beatrice and her Daddy definitely have a special bond, and it just melts my heart to see how much they adore one another. :) IMG_20150405_091213 The rest of the week was spent catching up on laundry and housework and planting some lettuce and kale in my little patio garden. Will and I visited the Franklin Farmer’s Market again over the weekend and got some of the fresh micro greens (baby lettuce and arugula… YUM), and they were every bit as delicious as they looked. :) We got a bag of them for $2 and it lasted us all week. For that price and freshness, I’ll definitely purchase them there again. When I buy a tub of greens at the grocery store they always go bad before we can finish them and they’re definitely not as fresh, whereas at the Market we can buy exactly the amount we want, very fresh, and pay by the pound. :) IMG_20150413_123200 We celebrated Easter over the weekend with a festive breakfast before the Sunday service. Since a kind family from church had invited us over for lunch, I made a coffee cake for breakfast instead of a ham for dinner. :) IMG_20150413_123456 It was a joy to worship with our brothers and sisters on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. During the services our friend Josh kept coming to my mind and I almost cried with hope and joy to think of him singing praises in the presence of our Lord and Savior, celebrating Christ’s victory over death, and what a joyful feast he would be sitting down to that day with all the saints at the table of our King. It made me long for heaven with a sharp, intense, tugging sort of hope and joy in a way that I’ve never experienced. I’m so happy to live the life God has me in, and I feel like there is so much to see and do and love and rejoice in here on earth, but I also hope and trust that the adventure that waits when God calls each of us home is going to be even fuller, even richer, even more glorious. He is so good! IMG_20150405_235440IMG_20150405_233257 I know I’m biased, but Beatrice was pretty cute in her little Easter dress. She brings us so much joy. :) Following Easter weekend, Will and I celebrated our 2nd Wedding Anniversary last Monday. I can’t believe it’s been two years! Sometimes I feel like it was just yesterday, but at the same time it feels like we’ve always been together, and I can hardly remember or imagine life without Will! Weird. :) erin and william-411 A very kind co-worker of Will’s offered to watch Beatrice for a few hours and we were able to go out to dinner (I requested burgers at Red Robin because I’m classy like that) followed by ice cream for Will and a coffee for me. It was SO refreshing to be out together and to talk and listen and really focus on one other without distractions. We had so much fun laughing and catching up. :)

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Anniversary flowers from Will. He’s the best. :)

We celebrated all week in little ways and had a lot of fun talking about our courtship, engagement, wedding, and the past two years, reminiscing and laughing over funny stories or moments. William really is my best friend and true love, and the past two years have been the best years of my life. In fact, every day is better than the last, as we grow to love and understand each other more deeply. I treasure the past two years and am so excited for the years ahead. :) erin and william-491 Other than that, not too much of interest to report. Beatrice and I had a minor cold, and two days of caring for a sad baby while combating vertigo and a sore throat myself were pretty consuming but thankfully went by quickly. Laundry, ironing, grocery shopping, cleaning, gardening, cooking, baking, taking care of Beatrice… the days are just packed! I should be back to my regularly scheduled posting though, now that things have settled back down to normal, so stay tuned. :)

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What have you all been up to? Did you have a good Easter holiday?

Exploring Franklin: Farmer’s Market

At his old job Will usually had to work on Saturdays, so it was a real treat to enjoy this past weekend with him. We started the day with a leisurely breakfast… IMG_20150316_171905 Sometimes when we’re feeling fancy we drink our store brand orange juice from goblets. As you can tell, we were feeling fancy. IMG_20150316_150220 After breakfast we headed off to the Franklin Farmer’s Market. IMG_20150314_125111 Beatrice was pretty excited. One of our first stops was Hatcher Family Dairy, and, naturally, we wanted to try the chocolate milk (we’re all about those healthy choices). It was probably the creamiest, most decadent chocolate milk I’ve ever tasted. Sadly, I had to limit myself to a tiny sip, which I still paid for the next day when poor Beatrice’s digestive system revolted and chaos ensued. IMG_20150316_194949 Milk may be Beatrice’s kryptonite but Will’s is definitely donuts, so we also stopped by Ellie’s Old Fashioned Donuts. :) We purchased a few piping-hot pumpkin donuts that were melt-in-your mouth delicious and just the thing for a rainy day. I don’t know if it’s wrong to go to a farmer’s market and only buy desserts, but if it is, I don’t want to be right. IMG_20150316_203310 I don’t have a photo of the donuts because we scarfed them so quickly, but here is a picture of me after eating one of the donuts. So… technically… there you go. :) IMG_20150317_101759 I also bought a small pot of miniature irises to brighten up our kitchen table. The lady who was selling them said that they propagate like crazy and you can winter them over in pots – when they die back just bury them at the bottom of a pot, plant your summer flowers over them, and they’ll pop back up in the spring. IMG_20150316_194331 We wandered through a small greenhouse set up on the edge of the Farmer’s Market which was so lovely that we wanted to bring half the plants home with us. IMG_20150316_194035Before we left, Will showed me around The Factory, which is an old factory (surprise) right next to the Farmer’s Market that’s been renovated and filled with boutiques, cafes, and studios. IMG_20150316_192815 After the market, we dropped by Home Depot so I could pick out some herbs and gardening supplies with my birthday cash. I’m attempting to plant a little potted garden on our back patio, but more about that another day. :) In any case, we had a great time picking out the plants, and stopped by Starbucks for a celebratory coffee on our way home. I finished out the afternoon planting my herbs and repotting the fig tree Will bought me for my birthday (there was definitely a gardening theme this year).

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I think we’ll probably visit the Farmer’s Market again next week with some of the grocery budget to buy a gallon of milk and some of the very delicious-looking greens I had my eye on (you know, actual healthy stuff). What did you all do this weekend? Is there anything you particularly enjoy picking up from your local farmer’s market, or recommend buying there rather than at the grocery store?

The Quest for the Birthday Coffee

Will and I spent most of last week at home unpacking or doing tedious things like swapping car insurance policies, but on Friday we decided to end the week with a little new-town-excursion to celebrate my birthday. After a delicious breakfast in bed prepared by Will and a generous helping of Beatrice cuddles, we set out for Starbucks to claim the much-anticipated birthday coffee.

When we arrived at our destination, I hopped out of the car, walked in alone, and nervously drifted towards the counter. The barista was brisk and asked what drink I’d like. I was prepared for this question: Venti Cinnamon Dulce Latte. Bring on that caffeine! But then… the dreaded part. How would I like to pay? “Um… well, it’s my birthday… and… I have a registered card, so… do I get a free coffee?”

The cashier’s face was impassive. Did I have an email? I should have received an email with a code to redeem for the free coffee. Oh no. I hadn’t received an email that I knew of. The barista was still staring at me with condescending impatience. I began to panic on the inside, while coughing nervously on the outside. I think I stumblingly repeated the question and said something brilliant like: “Sooo… to get the free coffee, I need to show you an email with a code?” He looked at me like who is this moron and does she think she can get just waltz in here and get a free coffee? SO SELF-IMPORTANT. SO CONCIETED. Don’t you know you need a code? Get your act together! All the coffee beans in this entire store are disappointed in you!

Actually, he probably was just looking at me matter-of-factly and thinking about what he should eat for lunch, but I was in full embarrassed panic mode, so, who knows.

A small footnote: claiming free things has always been embarrassing to me. Don’t get me wrong, I love sales and discounts and getting a good deal. I have mad coupon-clipping skills. I gloat over the “Today You Saved…” portion of my grocery receipt and have even been known to give a small cackle. But when it comes to getting something for free, I don’t even like taking those samples at Sam’s Club (feigning interest while I enjoy my little bite, nodding brightly and agreeing that maybe I WILL buy that box of 100 frozen burritos, and then quickly veering away with an intense, furrowed brow like I just remembered something else on my list that’s REALLY important). It’s not that I don’t want the free thing, but I hate the human interaction that goes with it. Do I stare at the cashier with an unnerving smile and say, “It’s my birthday. You WILL give me a free coffee.” *subtle Jedi mind trick motion*? Do I look imperious and in my most commanding tones say, “It’s my birthday, peasant! Bring me a goblet of something cool and refreshing… that Very Berry Hibiscus will do.” Do I mumble my request, avoid eye contact while they prepare it, and then pretend to be surprised when they give me the free thing? (Yes, usually yes).

Anyway, so there I was, still teetering indecisively in line, contemplating whether maybe I should just pay for the coffee and beat a hasty retreat. I mean, it’s just a birthday. Do I really deserve a reward for being born? Is my existence so important that I should expect strangers to give me free coffee? WHAT WAS I THINKING? I was feeling pretty small and humbled at this point, but then I remembered William in the car, and imagined the look of disbelief and how he would lovingly shake his head at my weirdness. B.W. (Before William) Erin would have just bought the coffee in a fit of flustered blushing and gone home to sip it guiltily and think about what she’d done. But A.W. (After William) Erin is a bolder breed. A.W. Erin would fight for this coffee!

I girded my proverbial loins and informed the barista I would be right back. I dashed out to the car and related my dilemma to Will as I checked my email. No code from Starbucks. Oh the humanity! However, now my course was set. That coffee would be mine. I returned to the counter and spoke to a second barista, a cheerful looking girl who had replaced my skeptical and disapproving nemesis. I told her I had not received an email, but my card was registered, and what did I need to do to get a birthday coffee? Oh, just order and we’ll swipe your card – if you’re registered you’ll automatically be given the coffee for free. WHAT. I silently cursed Former Barista with a stream of gibberish words (Foobily! Arghsnarg! Gwerkish!) and felt pleasantly vindicated. I ordered a Grande Cinnamon Dulce Latte (still feeling a bit cautious after my ordeal… let’s not get too greedy, A.W. Erin), and returned to the car triumphant with with my spoils in hand.

My success made me giddy. I felt so powerful, so alive! What else could I get for free? William and I shared my coffee and discovered a helpful list of birthday freebies on our way to get my TN driver’s license. We spent the rest of the day pleasantly, perusing Barnes & Nobles for a few hours, where William gave me a beautiful birthday gardening book and Beatrice gave me the pleasure of several remarkable blowouts (and some beautiful smiles, to be fair), and taking advantage of nearby birthday deals. At the end of the day, our final freebie tally was as follows:

– One Grande Cinnamon Dulce Latte, acquired with some difficulty.

– Two free glazed donuts and a coffee at Krispy Kreme, eaten in a quiet, sunny window booth with a sleepy baby.

– One 16oz Pomegranate Paradise Jamba Juice, as an enjoyable midday pick-me-up.

– One medium Smokehouse Beef & Cheddar Brisket from Firehouse Subs.

– One Steak ‘N Shake Double Steakburger w/ Cheese Fries. We split the sub and burger for dinner – no cooking for the win!

So there you have it. Here’s the list we used to find our birthday freebies – I was shocked by how many there are! If you have a birthday on the horizon and are feeling bold, you might want to check it out. :)

Do you all have any harrowing stories of freebie trauma, or a favorite birthday special you look forward to each year?