V E R O B E A C H

Have you ever visited a place that you can’t stop thinking about when you get home? Vero is one of those places for me. Last year, Matthew had to work a tournament in Vero Beach and when we heard the word, “beach,” MC and I were “all in,”…you know to “help.” I thought that I would throw some of those “” in for MC, she just learned how to use her hands as quotation marks and she doesn’t know how to use them correctly and it is HILARIOUS!

Ok, back to Vero. Matthew found this luxury boutique resort and spa online for a great price and I wasn’t thrilled because I really wanted to stay at an old favorite about 45 minutes south. I know, first world probs! (insert rolling eyes emoji here) Anyway, he won and we checked in to Costa d’ Este Beach Resort and Spa and from that moment, I became a self-proclaimed CDE Rep. Yeah, a title that I gave myself.

If I were only given two words to describe Costa d’ Este, it would be “freaking adorable!” My favorite parts in no particular order: front desk staff, pastel lavender bikes, frozen grape skewers, pool/beach staff, free parking, that gorgeous beach, Gloria Estefan, and don’t even get me started on their Cuban French Toast! Ok, I should probably give you the low down on this list so you aren’t reading this like, “what in the world is she talking about, lavender bikes, frozen grapes and Gloria Estefan.”

Trying really hard not to start with the Cuban French Toast because I don’t want you to see my inner food obsession more than you already have so I will try my hardest to share about the food last. **Sigh**  First things first, Emilio and Gloria Estefan opened Costa d’ Este in June of 2008 and it certainly has that Cuban feel in each little detail. Speaking of Cuban, did I mention the french toast? Ahhh, I’m trying so hard!!! On our first visit, and by first visit, I mean every single second, I sang, “the rhythm is gonna getcha,” and it really got on some people’s nerves who shall remain nameless but I will give you a hint, they were the two people with me and they share my last name, ok, that’s all I will say.

Let me tell you about the front desk staff, AMAZING! They are all really amazing, so incredibly friendly, but one standout is Ana, she has a way of making you feel like family. They are honestly one of the main reasons we returned for a second visit. The front desk staff at any business will make or break you and such an important part of setting your business “tone,” in my opinion. They are your first impression and you want your first impression to be perfection. Just go see for yourself, you’ll love them.

Have you ever in your whole life seen a more adorable bike than these pastel lavender cuties? I don’t want you to get the wrong impression from this picture, I did absolutely zero exercise on this vacation, but had I wanted to, this bike would’ve been put to good use. No, my dress just matched it perfectly so it made for a great photo prop. You all know that I’m a “pink” girl and like Shelby from Steel Magnolias, it is my signature color but I’ve really been in to lavender this season. It truly has been catching my eye, hence the lavender dress. I’m so hoping that I will wake up one day and miraculously be one of those people who enjoys exercise and love exercising even on vacation. It hasn’t happened yet but here’s to holding out hope and until then, taking pics with cute props.

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Y’all, I’ve just got to go ahead and tell you about the Cuban French Toast, I just have to get it out. Although I’ve lost over 30 pounds, I’m still working out the kinks inside that are trying to sabotage (i.e. this food addiction). Until then, let me share with you this french toast. You know that I love to take pics of my food, but guys, I didn’t even have time to snap one, they are that good! That’s how you know something is amazing! I’ve started a new scale of “1 to didn’t even have time for a  food selfie.”  WOW! This homemade bread is the softest bread I’ve ever eaten, EVER, and they made it in to french toast. One thing I will warn you about, the person waiting on your table will try to tell you that it’s enough food to share, and I, too bought in to this lie. Don’t do it, don’t share. I know what they say, “sharing is caring,” but when it comes to this French Toast, “sharing is just mean.” I say this to help you because you will actually end up resenting the person you have to share with (Matthew, if you’re reading this, I love you). Just order your own, yes it’s 6 pieces, and yes, it’s too much food, and yes you’ll feel physically sick, and yes, you’ll need to “cleanse” when you get home but you’ll thank me and the person you’re with will thank me too, I just saved them from resentment and anger. I say all of that to say this, I would get in my car, drive the 10 hours just to eat this toast! Sad, but true.

I’m going to bundle the pool/beach staff and the frozen grape skewers in to one little package and leave it right here. Thinking about how much you despise packing up all of those beach towels, beach chairs, beach umbrellas, snacks, drinks and the struggle to get it all out to the beach? Not here you won’t! You don’t need a thing except some sunscreen and believe me, if you’re pasty like me, get some good cream. You literally walk out, the kind people set chairs up for you, set your umbrella up and your towels, it’s amazing. Sometimes you’ll be serenaded with live entertainment and some times you’ll have the perfect blend of beachy/Cubanesque tunes, both perfection. You’ll be sitting out for a few minutes when low and behold, a sweet little gal comes around with a tray of frozen grape skewers. Never in my life…

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A few other things that I just adore about Costa d’ Este is the fact that they don’t charge to park your car. Seriously, it may not sound like a lot but go visit a few hotels where you spend as much to park your car as you do to park your rump, and you’ll grow to really appreciate free parking. Complimentary WIFI, can we all get a “whoop whoop” for this! If you’ve ever received that dreaded text message informing you that you’re 90% data usage for the month or maybe you’ve traveled with a child who desperately needs a little netflix/headphone time (or maybe you’re the one that needs them to have a little netflix/headphone time), you will appreciate some complimentary WIFI!!! Gosh, I know that I must be leaving out so much of the goodness but trust me, you need to visit this place for yourself!

Where to eat/snack/visit within walking distance of the resort? Well, I’ve got you covered there too:

  • Do you remember last year, when I shared on my Insta that sweet little Kilwin’s Salted Caramel Lolli? Well, I haven’t had one since and I had my mind set on that little lolli as soon as I saw the “Welcome to Vero Beach” sign in the distance. You may think that all Kilwin’s are created equal but that just isn’t true! I’ve been to many and Vero Beach Kilwin’s is by far, the best! They create special goodies (i.e. the Salted Caramel Lolli, the Vero Beach Cookie, the chocolate covered Nutter Butter) that will keep you dreaming until your next Vero visit. So, let me tell you a little story of what happened yesterday. The night before, we walked to Kilwin’s (please keep in mind that I’ve waited an entire year to be reunited!) and we see, in all of their glory behind a glass case, 4 Salted Caramel Lolli’s left so Matthew says, “we’ll take all 4!” We both ate one and were saving the other two to enjoy the following day, only Matthew couldn’t wait so he went ahead and enjoyed his second lolli before bed. So, the next morning, as I began packing up, I set my other lolli off to the side so that it didn’t get smushed and let’s be honest, I really needed a pic too. Matthew sets off for his tournament and about 30 minutes later, I asked MC where my Kilwin’s bag was and she replied, “I saw Daddy take it.” Y’all, he did it! Real life, he took my other lolli! I’d like to say that I handled this situation like a sensible adult but I clearly wasn’t wearing my WWJD bracelet. So, needless to say, we marched right over as soon as he retuned, to Kilwin’s for him to replace my lolli and what did we find? You guessed it, an empty glass case! The guy behind the counter said, “you’ll have to come back tomorrow, we won’t be making them again until then.” Um, tomorrow wont work, tomorrow, I will be 10 hours away from Vero, probably still sobbing. Again, I would like to share with you how I acted like a sensible adult but I really don’t want to lie to you. If you thought there was going to be a happy ending to this story, you’re sorely mistaken, no fairytale here people, only a tale of loss and heartache.
  • Last year, MC and I went to this great little breakfast/brunch spot across the street from the resort called, The Lemon Tree. They bring little mini muffins to your table and who doesn’t love mini muffins? I mean, I typically don’t make friends with people who don’t like mini muffins. You know? Anyway, we make the decision that we’ll definitely eat there again with Matthew so he can enjoy the mini muffins too, so we all get up early, get ready, walk over only to find that they’ve decided to close on Mondays for the summer now. They obviously didn’t know that we were coming. (insert another eye rolling emoji) Good news…this the point where we try to find breakfast so we go back to the resort to discover the Cuban French Toast, so this story did have a happy ending!
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  • Matthew spotted an orange juice spot, The Countryside Citrus, on the way to dinner one night and decided to go in for a fresh squeezed orange juice the following day. I thought that it was a little odd to have a storefront for orange juice but whatevs. Before we left, we went in and they didn’t have any individual juice but they did however have what is called an Orange Juice Slush.  MC got one and we tried hers once we left the shop.  WOW! Later that day, we went in for 3 more. That girl probably thought we were crazy but daaaaaaaaang those things are good! If you’re in Vero, you gotta get one or four!
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    Need a mani in the worst way!

     

  • Last place on our little food tour, Ocean Grille. We asked for recommendations from the gals at the front desk and they named off a few. We ate at a place last year that wasn’t so great but it was on the ocean so MC enjoyed that. This year, we ate at Ocean Grille (also on the beach), the atmosphere was odd, a little dark but the food was great and the service was too. Not the greatest seafood that I’ve ever had but still pretty good.

So, after reading this, I hope you’ve learned that Costa d’ Este is the greatest place to stay, real friends eat mini muffins and Cuban French Toast is one of the greatest things ever to eat in the history of forever and the rhythm really is gonna getcha.

 

S O U R C E S : 

 

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Monday? Where in the heck are you?

I was the master of, “I’m starting Monday…” Doesn’t Monday sound like the perfect day to start something new? A lifestyle change if you will? Well, for most people, for many different reasons, Monday never comes. For years, Monday never came for me either and it wasn’t that I didn’t want it to come, I just never made up my mind that I was ready for it to come. So much of breaking nasty habits is mental, not all of it, but a lot of it. You can do all of the right things, but if you aren’t mentally there, it won’t work. Let’s go for a walk together…

Many of you know my mom’s story but what you don’t know is what she asked us before she left. She told us that she didn’t want us to get to such an unhealthy weight that the doctors stop hearing us. She said that there is a point of obesity that most doctors stop “hearing” you, like they stop caring and leave you be. She tried for a year to get someone to listen to her that something was wrong but no one listened until it was too late and 3.5 weeks later, she was gone. Even promising her that I wouldn’t do that couldn’t stop me from heading down that road. Was I obese? No! but, I was very much headed down that path.

For a year, I attempted to comfort myself with food and when it didn’t work, I tried even harder. My whole life was built around food. If we were happy, we ate, if we were sad, we ate, if we were mad, we ate, we celebrated life with food. How do you break that when it is all you’ve ever known? I woke up one day, the heaviest I had ever been and was miserable.

I don’t know what it is, maybe the date approaching and hearing her voice asking us to take care of ourselves finally hit me. So, on the one year anniversary of my mom leaving for Heaven, I decided to invite Monday to come. It wasn’t easy at first, because when I finally ordered my 30 day system, I started thinking, “well, I’m planning to start on Monday but we have Spring Break in a couple of weeks so maybe I should start after that but then my birthday is right after Spring Break so I will start then but then a few weeks later is MC’s birthday and then our anniversary and then we’re going on vacation for a week and then to California for that thing…” Anyone relate to that? This way of thinking is what causes Monday to never show up!!! There will always be special occasions and there will always be good food, and if you are a lover of food like me, you just have to find what works for you like I did. You can enjoy those amazing foods, but you just have to learn the balance and that’s the new part for me. Back in my “dark days,” if I started trying to eat better, and had one bad meal, it was over, I would just quit. I was the epitome of a quitter but all of that has changed! I’m fueling my body with the greatest nutrition out there and feeling better than I have in years!

I want to challenge you to make a decision, whatever it is you need to change: weight loss, weight gain, attitude, showing kindness, relationship, etc., to allow Monday to show up and stay! Your Monday may not actually be a Monday, my Monday was actually a Thursday and let me tell you, it changed my life! Do I still have 10 more pounds to go, sure, but I’ve lost 30 and I’ve changed my life, transforming not only my physical appearance but also mentally and if you don’t start there, you won’t start. This is your day!!!!

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M A R C H – T H I R D

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One year ago, today, my momma went home. I’ve been anxious about this day, not knowing how I would handle it but to be honest, I missed her just as much yesterday as I do today and it will be just as hard without her tomorrow as it is today. Today is just a date.

Yesterday, I told you about how my mom lived life with strength and with such dignity and today I am going to share with you how she died with strength and with such dignity.

My mom had not been feeling well for about a year, so much so that she went to the doctor and my mom NEVER went to the doctor. She didn’t feel well and she complained a lot of pain in her stomach and side. She began losing weight without trying and although she ended up losing over 90 pounds, no one listened. They took her gallbladder out, nothing changed, they put her on antibiotics for a stomach infection, nothing changed. We even thought that it may be related to her heart issues but the cardiologist wasn’t interested in her case at all. Thankfully, my sister took matters in to her own hands after no one would listen and she pretty much strong armed the doctor in my hometown to refer our mom to a cardiologist at Emory. I took her to her appointment with him and he listened, finally someone listened. She told him that while she was there obviously for her heart that she was really hurting in her side and stomach and how sick she felt when she ate and how much weight she had lost. He immediately admitted her to Emory Hospital and within 24 hours knew that she had multiple masses in several areas of her body. He wouldn’t say the word, but she knew. As always, she practically became best friends with every person working at Emory because she was just that amazing. People were just drawn to her and she had a way of making you feel like you were the closest person in the world to her. Some of the phlebotomists even came to visit her daily and brought family and friends to meet her when she was moved to the cardiology floor. Then, there was the poor guy taking the biopsy…he had to tie her hands above her head to secure them while taking the biopsy and she said to him, “I’m going to go back and tell my girls that a handsome young thing tied me to a bed.” If he wasn’t scarred for life, he is still telling that story.

It took about a week to get an appointment with the oncologist to find out the diagnosis. When he listed the many, many tumors and said the words, Stage IV, it felt like a horrible nightmare that surely we would wake up from but unfortunately, it was reality. She sat there, looked him straight in the eye as strong as I’ve ever seen someone and said, “well, how much time do I have, days, weeks, months?” He refused to answer only saying that he wasn’t God and couldn’t give her a definite amount of time. …but she knew.

On the way back to Tifton from Atlanta, she made a plan. She wanted to make the most of her time, she said that she was going to fill the house with worship music so we made a playlist, she wanted to go to the beach one last time, and she wanted to get in her kitchen to bake goodies for random acts of kindness. She said, “I always wished that I had my mom’s recipes and I don’t want you girls to feel that so I want you to write them all down,” so we did. In her last days, still only thinking of others. In fact, one night, I went in to check on her, thinking that she was asleep but when I opened her door, she opened her eyes. I asked what she was doing and she said, “I’m just praying for Jane Grimes,” a friend also battling cancer. I will never forget that. We did everything on her list except make it to the beach. She was spiraling fast and knew that she couldn’t make it that far so she decided that we would go to the lake to have uninterrupted time together, no visitors, no phone calls, just us! She was so excited about going to the lake but when she got there, she was too worn out to do much so she ended up sleeping a lot. We made her a meme and when we showed her, she gave us her famous line, “look under the table.” Momma loved Jesus with her whole heart but she would give you the middle finger if you needed it.

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One day when we were sitting in her living room, she asked if we saw the little boy  next to her. When we told her that we didn’t see a little boy, she told us that he was trying to climb into her lap to hug and kiss her and at first she thought it was Marli Claire until she realized it was a boy. She said that he had the sweetest little face. It really bothered her that we couldn’t see him. She said, “I mean, I’m not even on drugs!” Mom wanted to be herself for as long as possible so she chose to wait until she really needed them to start. A couple of weeks, she said, “He’s back and he’s sitting at my feet with a tray trying to feed me. Can y’all see him?” Um, nope, couldn’t see him. …and that was just the beginning of it all.

Most of you know about the day she planned her funeral but in the event you don’t, lean in because you don’t want to miss this. When it came time to plan her funeral, she wanted to get it all done so that her girls didn’t have to worry about a thing. Her pastor and friend came over to discuss the service. She said, “Listen, I’ve been to some of your funerals and when I hear you talk about how sweet and good those people are, I wonder if I’m at the right funeral because that doesn’t describe the person I knew. Don’t do that for me, shoot it to them straight.” Then, the funeral director came to her house and we all sat there as she told him what she wanted. She said, “wouldn’t it be fun to have fireworks one each corner of my casket and as I’m lowered in the ground, they shoot off?” The poor guy had the look of fear like I’ve never seen. Apparently, it’s frowned upon to shoot fireworks off at a funeral so we did what she asked that night and I could almost hear that laugh from Heaven!

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At night, I slept next to her and we would hold hands and listen to music. I asked her one night, if she was scared at all. I wanted to know what she was thinking. She said, “well, I’m not scared about where I’m going but I nervous about the transition. I don’t know if I’ll go to sleep and wake up there or what?” I had never in my life thought about it, but now I wondered what it would be like for her. I told her that I would rather have her, the best mom, for only 35 years than any other for 100. She told me how proud of me she was. Those nights were so special, getting to have our last few talks and my last “one more thing” chats.

When she was too weak to move from her chair to bed, she had to remain in the hospital bed, so we moved the bed in to the living room so she wouldn’t miss anything.:)  She didn’t like to miss the action.  Somehow we knew that it wouldn’t be long before she left so we all gathered around her bed to sing to her and just be near her. She began sleeping a lot more but would open her eyes and talk every once in a while and mouth the words to the songs with us. On the day before she passed away, she opened her eyes, looked up and had a look of confusion. We asked her what was wrong and she said, “I see someone.” When we asked her who she saw she said that she didn’t know who it was then she went back to sleep. We had been praying since her diagnosis that God would heal her and she was praying for the same but she opened her eyes again, looked at us and said, “I have to leave y’all but I’m going to be ok.” We cried and assured her that we would also be ok. She went back to sleep but opened her eyes one last time, looked up and smiled. My sister asked her what she saw and she whispered, “I can see Heaven.” I cannot think of any sweeter last words than those. God gave us something so special in that to be the reminder that we need on days like today that she is home.

My mom was not blessed with a beautiful singing voice but that didn’t stop her from using it. Growing up, she would say that she had the voice that made the children at church sitting in front of her turn around to see what was wrong. When she would start singing a song, I would beg her to stop but she would say, every single time, “I can’t stop in the middle of the song, I have to finish what I started.” I was reminded of that as we were gathered around her, singing the songs from her playlist. And on March 3, 2015, just three and half weeks after being diagnosed, as we sang the very last word of “It is Well,” she took her last breath and was with Jesus. She couldn’t stop in the middle of the song, she had to finish what she started.

I believe her brother said it best when he said, “Linda Ann showed the world how to die.” What a legacy!

 

 

 

HOW SHE LIVED

10616039_10204958077065580_77394926022498946_nI’ve told her story to my closest friends but I’ve been trying to wait until the right moment to share it publicly and I can’t think of a better time than now to share with you how my mom died, but before I can tell you how she died, allow me tell you how she lived.

My mom championed her role as mom, I’m talking, she slayed it! If there were awards given out in each category of parenting, i.e. “Most Loving,” “Hardest Working,” “Funniest,” “Most Giving,” “Most Likely To Harm Anyone That Hurt Her Children…” well, you get it, if they had that sort of thing in life, no other mom would have a shot, she would walk away with them all. True Story. She was just that doggone good at being a mom. In other words, if you didn’t know her, I feel really sorry for you. Just because she was an expert mom doesn’t mean that she had it easy, in fact, just the opposite. She was truly set up to fail. Here’s the part that isn’t so pretty but facts are facts, Jack. My father left my mom when she was pregnant with me, and at the same time, was expecting a child with another woman. S I D E N O T E : When you think you have a dysfunctional family, please remember that EVERY family has “junk!” He had multiple extramarital affairs throughout their 12 year marriage but as a young child, I never once remember her speaking negatively of my father, and as I grew up I realized that she was allowing us to make our own mind up about him without any influence.  She was great like that. I could say so much more but this isn’t about him, it’s about her!

So, here she was, a single mom of three girls, with no child support and no clue how she was going to make ends meet. Some probably would’ve given up and God knows that she probably wanted to at times but you know what she did, what most women couldn’t, she put her big girl pants on and got three jobs and survived that junk! I remember my Kindergarten teacher telling her that I was the only child from a broken home that she had ever known that she couldn’t tell was from a broken home. Now, that is a good momma!

I’m going to fast forward a bit.  My two sisters are quite a bit older than I (they love when I say that)! They both got married and moved out and that left just the two of us, my mom and I. She went to college when I was 14 and earned a degree in social work so that she could help others like her. She had the house that everyone wanted to be at because everyone wanted to be around her. She was contagious and that laugh… We were as close as a mother/daughter could be. I used to crawl in her bed at night, just to talk. We talked about everything, laughed a lot, cried a ton, and when she was just about asleep, I would always say, “one more thing…” and wake her again. She never complained once. Even after Matthew and I were married, and even after we had MC, anytime we went for a visit, I would crawl in to her bed at night for our talks. I have to say that has been the hardest part about her leaving, just not getting to have our daily talks, well, and her horrible rendition of “You Are My Sunshine.” I knew it would be, after her diagnosis, and after I cried all of the tears that the world could hold, I looked at her and said, “I know how selfish I’m being, but I’m not worried about you, you’re going to be fine, living it up with Jesus but what about me, who in the world am I going to talk to five times a day, every day?” She looked at me and said, “well, Delecta, I guess it’s time for you to get yourself a friend.” Wow mom, way to make me feel like a big fat loser!:)

She just loved life, plain and simple and she taught me how to love life and how to love my daughter. My goal as a parent is to raise my daughter in the exact same way that she raised me.

Realistically, I don’t even know how to end this post because there is so much good that I could share about her so I won’t end it, I will say “to be continued” and send you off with that horrible rendition of “You Are My Sunshine” that has now become one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard.

…”one more thing,” yes, tomorrow’s post will be tough but it’s the most beautiful story I’ve ever known so you will not want to miss the best part of the story.

 

 

 

 

 

Anchors “Aweigh”

 

Matthew and I went on our first date, August 31, 2002 and our second, two days later. I didn’t know one thing about him, but as we sat on our second date, he told me all about the plans he had for his life, the baseball life. I remember telling him that night that I couldn’t marry a baseball player. I had plans for my life too and being a trophy wife wasn’t part of those plans. I mean, me on a red carpet…

“Who are you wearing?”

Me: Mossimo

Even though our future plans for life differed dramatically, I think we both knew on that second date that we would be married. Nine months later, we were Mr. and Mrs. Matthew Rollins and heading for the baseball life. The Lord had a bigger plan for us and for years we couldn’t see the reason but Tuesday night, it was so clear that what The Lord had planned all along was so much more beautiful than anything we could’ve dreamed. Like a parent dedicates a child to The Lord, to raise that child in a way that would honor and glorify Him, Tuesday night, we dedicated Anchor Bat Company to Him.

Three years ago, as we set out to make a dream in to a reality, many people thought that we had lost our minds; that we were crazy. They were right. We were just crazy enough to believe that if we trusted The Lord and were faithful in using this business for His glory, that with His help, we could actually pull this thing off. We have the greatest friends in the world and we are so blessed with their support throughout this journey. Tuesday, our closest friends and family gathered around and prayed specifically for the company, the wood, the young men who would hold an Anchor in their hands, that lives are transformed and that The Lord receives all glory and honor for it all. It was amazing, hearing two of the greatest men I know share our story and lead us in this night of dedication.

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Photo Cred: Alex Reynolds

I’m so incredibly proud of my guy, and I know you haven’t heard me say it enough. *wink, wink*. Not only am I proud of my love but also my father-in-law, who is the hardest working man I’ve ever known and my sweet, sweet mother-in-law for joining in on this crazy adventure. Thank you for everything. And to my momma, who would be so incredibly proud of her son-in-law. As he told her on her last day with us, “It’s not how you begin that counts, it’s how well you finish.”

View More: http://janacandlerphoto.pass.us/anchor-bat-launch-party

Photo cred: Jana Candler

We couldn’t have even made it this far without our Anchor crew: Eddie, Adam, Sean, Alex, and Miles.

I’m beyond excited to see what The Lord will do through Anchor Bat Company. Thank you all for the love and support you’ve shown us.

V E N U E : The Davenport, Greer, SC
F O O D : Hungry Drover, Taylors, SC
S P E A K E R S : Doug Mize + John Alexander
M U S I C I A N S : Scott Norman + Dan Walker (and they let me sing with them:)
S O N G S : Never Once / Come and See – Matt Redman + Good Good Father – 10,000 Fathers

Winter Wonderland

When you hear the meteorologist say the word, “snow,” do you roll your eyes in disbelief? Head out for milk and bread? Maybe you start looking for those snow bibs? I’ll tell you what I do, I make our snow day essentials list and I’m at the grocery store before they can say the word “accumulation!” Even if not one flake falls, we have enough junk food to last a month so either way, it’s a win.

Winter Storm Jonas dropped more inches of snow at our house than the brothers dropped hit songs…six inches of snow to be exact. It is beautiful and I may or may not have squealed like a kid in a candy store when the flakes started falling. There are so many reasons why Greenville, South Carolina is the greatest place to live but one of my favorites is that we get a good snow a year, we get to look at the beauty, have a day or two off from school and then it goes away and doesn’t come back for a year.  Perfect!

So, back to that list of Snow Day Essentials…

*Things we can’t live without on a snow day:

  1. Hot Chocolate with Marshmallows  – number one on our list at The Rollins house is most definitely hot chocolate! Even if I forgot everything else on the list, at least we would have the most important snow day staple, hot chocolate. When I say hot chocolate, I don’t mean just any hot chocolate, I mean Williams and Sonoma Hot Chocolate, which by the way is on clearance right now so you better go snag some before it’s all gone!!! When it comes to marshmallows, all three of us are different, Matthew likes just a couple of the standard size mallows in his but I find that extremely boring, MC likes one Peep depending on the occasion, and I like the jumbo campfire mallow that covers the entire mug. Williams and Sonoma has some awesome marshmallows too so while you’re loading up on their clearance chocolate, snag some of the mallows too (also on clearance)!IMG_0494
  2. White Chicken Chili – in a world of bazillions of chili recipes, this is by far number one in our book. You can find the recipe here and you should go ahead and double that recipe and even that won’t be nearly enough.IMG_0496
  3. Belgian Waffles – if you don’t have a Belgian waffle maker, this recipe may not be helpful but if you do, this is amazing! If you don’t own a waffle maker, pancakes on a snow day are always a good alternative…or cinnamon rolls, or homemade biscuits, ok, I will stop now.
  4. Snacks – my momma’s “doughnuts” are one the favorites at this house. They are so easy and so good.FullSizeRender
    • My Momma’s “Doughnuts”:
    • Ingredients –
      • 1 can of pillsbury biscuits
      • oil
      • sugar
    • Directions –
      • Cut center out of biscuits with a hole cutter. Heat oil on high, put biscuits in oil then immediately turn oil down to medium. Keep turning the biscuits until golden in color on both sides. Drain on rack then toss in sugar. Done.
  5. Movies – Movies are a must because snow days in the south means that you’ll be stuck indoors for a few days. There is no place on Earth that I would rather be than home, we are all three homebodies. Even though we travel so often, we always look forward to being home together.  Just like the marshmallows, our taste in movies is also wildly different. Now, you know that I could watch Mr. Darcy win the heart of Miss Elizabeth any day of the week, but for some reason Matthew doesn’t enjoy watching Pride and Prejudice seven days a week or even one for that matter. Rude! So, we compiled our snow day family favorites and Harry Potter always tops our list. When Matthew and I were first married, we lived in the lofts downtown and one year a crazy ice storm came through and we could not get out for a week, it was insane. Thankfully we didn’t lose power so we watched a ton of television. The Christmas before Matthew was gifted the Harry Potter DVD series and I remember him opening it and thinking that he would never watch it. We got them out that day and back to back, for hours and hours, we watched the entire series and it was the best day. So, Harry Potter is our go-to Snow Day favorite. Others that are included in our list: Chronicles of Narnia, Despicable Me, Frozen (obvi), Cool Runnings and The Holiday (for when MC falls asleep).
  6. Blankets – a lot of you have asked about the blush colored throw that was used in our hot chocolate pic. I purchased it a year or two ago and it’s made by Lauren Conrad (who else) and originally sold at Kohls. It isn’t sold in stores anymore but I did find it online here.  If you want something warmer, let me tell you about the greatest throw blanket ever created and perfect for a snow day. Picture this, throw blanket size, and HEATED! We purchased two of these for Christmas gifts for family this year and I really want one for myself. You can find all of the deets here.IMG_0374
  7. Snow Clothes – Ok, South Carolina doesn’t have a huge selection of snow clothes for obvious reasons, but as long as you have a good coat, stocking cap, waterproof boots and gloves, you’ll be set. I love all things Jillian Harris and when she posted these boots that were on sale, I had to have them. This was the first snow day that I ever had waterproof boots to wear and it was such a different experience. Once my feet get wet, it’s time for me to go inside. I was out with my people today for hours and my feet were completely dry when I went in. I purchased mine from Urban Outfitters on mega sale before Christmas and you should also note that you will need to order a whole size larger than you typically wear because they run super small! Highly recommend these for women and MC’s boots came from Gap Kids a year ago and they are no longer sold online but I’ll bet if you do some digging, you can find some similar.IMG_0501
  8. Sled – If you used your sled for a Christmas decoration and then you store it away with the other decorations and realize it AFTER the snow has already fallen, you make do with what you have. Today, it was a drop cord and an inflatable dolphin pool float. Redneck but awesome!

Wow, what a couple of days we’ve had!!! I’d love to hear how you spent yours so do share in the comments below.

 

 

 

F A C E P A I N T I N G

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I would be ashamed to tell you how many hours I’ve spent on Youtube lately watching makeup tutorials. I am obsessed! I literally cannot stop myself. I find myself even watching the really weird ones that no one in their right mind would wear outside of their front door but I’m completely mesmerized. Here’s the problem with watching makeup tutorials online, they make you want everything in the tutorial. Can I just tell you now that you can purchase every single thing they use in the tutorial, watch step by step so closely and you will still not end up looking like them. I don’t know how it happens? My friend sent me this the other day and this is legit me after watching a tutorial on contouring.

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I should’ve started this post off by stating that I am NOT a professional and you may find my opinions useless and that is totally cool, most of the time I find my thoughts useless too. Honestly, I’ve never really been a diva in the cosmetic area of my life, other areas, absolutely, but not makeup. I’ve been purchasing the majority of my cosmetics, outside of foundation, from the Target dollar spot for years. I cannot believe that I just confessed that. Real life, I think makeup is so overpriced and until now, really didn’t think that there was that much of a difference between good ole cheapies and professional products. I’m going to be straight up right now and let you know that there is a huge difference between cheap makeup and professional cosmetics. Since my obsession with Youtube tutorials began a few weeks ago, I have splurged and purchased some of what I’ve found to be the “must haves” for your cosmetic bag.

First things first, I have to pay homage to the best of the best. If you know me at all, you know my love for coconut oil and that still remains, it will always and forever be my first love. I use coconut oil for everything!

  • S K I N : I have the skin of an alligator, dry and scaly. I keep coconut oil in our shower and use it on the daily. While skin is still damp, apply coconut oil liberally and air dry. That may be a little TMI but it’s the best way for the oil to moisturize.
  • H A I R : My hair is even more dry than my skin if you can imagine. My hairstylist and one of the best of friends told me once that she could blow on it and it may fall off. Isn’t she sweet? I apply to dry hair, I mean a ton of the oil, just slather that junk on, cover with a shower cap, then, go to sleep and dream of the moisturized hair you’ll have in the morning. If you don’t want to sleep in it, you could just let it sit for 20 minutes then shampoo out twice and condition as usual.

S K I N C A R E : I’ve used tons of expensive skin care but I love my $4 face wash and coconut oil better than anything I’ve tried. I use Purpose face wash and then I apply a small amount of coconut oil while my face is still damp. P.S. – I cannot afford R + F so no need to send info.

Like I mentioned earlier, my skin is extremely dry so the same products that I use may not be the best products for you but if you have dry skin, you will want to read the next part.

*What you can find in my cosmetic bag:

  1. Primer – every beauty vlogger that I have watched lately swears by Nivea Men’s Post Shave Balm for Sensitive Skin as a primer. The reason being that the second ingredient listed on the ingredients label is glycerin. On freshly washed and dried face, rub the Nivea Men’s Post Shave Balm in a circular motion all over the face until it becomes “tacky” to touch.
  2. Foundation – I make a little “foundation cocktail” on the back of my hand, mixing:
  3. ConcealerUrban Decay Naked Skin Concealer aka the greatest concealer ever created! Apply after foundation under eyes, eye lids, lower part of the forehead, corners of the nose, and the cupids bow. Blend with a beauty blender.
  4. Translucent Powder – use the translucent powder over the areas where you applied concealer to avoid creasing.
  5. Brow pencil – with any brow pencil of your choice, outline and fill in brows, always.
  6. Blush – any blush of your choice. I recently purchased a professional blush after using cheap blush for years and I can tell a HUGE difference! The pigment in professional blush is unbelievable.
  7. Highlighting Powder – if I could, I would use the Becca highlighting powder but it was limited edition and I didn’t get it in time. I use MAC Mineralize Skinfinsh – Soft and Gentle and it works well too. I apply a small amount of the powder to the cheek bone right under the eyes and right above the brow bone. This gives the luminous and dewy look to the skin.
  8. Eye Shadow – ok, I was sitting across the table enjoying a coffee with that same sweet friend and hairstylist one day and noticed how amazing her eyes looked. She told me about the new MAC Burgundy x 9 palette. I didn’t get it immediately because if you shop at MAC often, you know that you have to sell a kidney to purchase a palette. A few months later I asked her to use it on me to see if it would look good on my eyes and I fell in love. I will say this about the price, you are getting 9 shadows, so there is that. I’m loving the warm burgundy tones for this time of year. Anyone else feel like a 10 year old when they walk up to the MAC counter? The people that work there are so intimidating to me. Don’t even ask about application because I have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to shadow application and it’s never ever the same twice. You’d never know that I went to school for this!!!
  9. Eye Liner – no other liner exists in my life other than the Urban Decay Perversion liner. Hate the name but love the liner. I use a small flat eye liner brush to soften the look of the liner because it is a little too dramatic for me without it.
  10. Eye Lash Primer – I went in to Sephora one day and when the girl asked me what I needed help with I told her that I wanted to look like I was wearing false lashes without having to wear false lashes. I have the smallest, shortest and lightest lashes ever…sometimes I cry about it. Ok, I don’t cry but I do long for gorgeous lashes! The girl suggested that I use a primer so I that’s what I did. I purchased the Tarte Opening Act Lash Primer and it is amazing! I don’t know what it does and I don’t care what it does as long as it keeps making me look like I finally have lashes!
  11. Mascara – I have used every drug store mascara ever created but I finally splurged after reading a bazillion reviews. I ended up going with the Too Faced…I can’t even type the name without blushing so I will let you just click on the link to see what it’s called. I LOVE THIS MASCARA! This is the first mascara I’ve ever noticed a difference with. It really is great.
  12. Lips – my favorite nude lip is a gloss by Revlon in shade 215 and my favorite color this season is Mac’s Rebel.
  13. Setting Spray – there are so many types of setting sprays but if you want a dewy skin look, go for the Tatcha Dewy Skin Mist. This is the very last step in your makeup process, spray over the entire face.

You are not going to want to run out and purchase all of this at one time, I mean, unless you won that 1.5 billion in last week’s lottery drawing. Wowza at the money we spend on painting our faces. The craziest thing is that Matthew always says that he likes it better when I’m not wearing makeup. What?!? I’ve accidentally looked in the mirror without makeup and caught a glimpse of myself and it was terrifying! When I don’t wear makeup out in public and I happen to see people I know, I’m always asked if I’m feeling well. I’m not even making this up, happens every time!

If you decide to try a product or two off of this list, let me know your thoughts in the comment section below. I love hearing from you guys.

 

 

 

Leaving on a jet plane…

 

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Right this moment, well, I guess not the moment that you’re reading this but the moment that this post is being typed, I am 34,986.9 ft in the air. Have I ever told you before that I don’t enjoy flying? If I haven’t, allow me to inform you now that I don’t enjoy flying.   I began flying alone at a very early age to spend summers in Jersey with my sister and I loved it. It was so exciting, navigating my way through the airport, crossing my fingers that no one was sitting beside me so that I could put my feet in the seats next to me, and seeing the familiar faces greeting me as I walked off the plane. Now, none of this is fun…navigating my way through the airport is an absolute nightmare, the seats in the airplanes these days are so small that even if the entire row of passengers failed to show up, my legs would hang off at the knee, and there are no more smiling faces greeting me after new regulations were put in place for our safety. But, I really stopped loving to fly on May 19, 2008, it was the day that I held my baby girl in my arms for the first time. Something happened inside of me when I became a mom that I cannot explain and I suddenly became cautious. Before May 19, 2008, you couldn’t keep me from adventure: cliff diving, bungee jumping off bridges, rollercoasters, you name it, I would be the first in line…not these days. These days, you’ll find me, pulling that seatbelt a little tighter, lathering on SPF 1.2 million and profiling every person that comes near.

On an airplane, I’m all, “Excuse me mam, does the engine sound funny to you? The engine sounds a little funny, don’t you think? No? That’s normal? Oh ok.” **flight attendant smiles politely** “Excuse me again, did you see that guy two rows up? The one with the beard? If you don’t mind, will you run go check the Official U.S. Watchlist for his name? Thank you. Oh, he is just a Duck Dynasty fan? Thank you for checking.” **flight attendant rolls her eyes as she walks away and I give a nervous laugh** “Excuse me Robin (because we are now on a first name basis), I noticed that you have a nervous look on your face, is one of the wings on fire? No? Oh, ok. I‘ve just been watching you through the turbulence and you looked a little nervous to me. Sorry to bother you Robin.” **Robin now whispers to the other flight attendants while pointing at me and I wave thinking we’re friends.** “Excuse me Ro…” ** Robin must have earbuds in because she can’t hear me anymore, that’s weird.**

Can we talk about flight delays for a moment? Why does it seem like every flight is as late as my husband is everywhere we go? Why don’t they just go ahead and give themselves the 50 extra minutes they always seem to need and if they do show up on time, they could say, “surprise, we’re early, we’ll just sit here and wait on you for 50 minutes for a change.”

To finish this blog post off, I’m sharing with you what I like to call “tips,” for your next trip.

 *Delecta’s Somewhat Decent Tips on Flying:

  1. Don’t fly if you don’t have to. My go-to method of travel is by car…      Matthew behind the wheel, Spotify playlist on shuffle, and my phone on with the sweetest three letters I know, LTE, at the top. No turbulence and no profiling. Don’t gasp, unfortunately, we have to think about these things these days people.
  2. Smile, smiling’s my favorite. When I arrive at the gate, I always do a “once over,” you know to check all of my fellow passengers out. If any of them have “the look,” I give them a really sweet smile, in the event, a little kindness might change their mind if they are planning anything stupid. Did you just roll your eyes like Robin? Ok, a smile is most likely not going to change much, but I still give it a go.
  3. Pack light. If you travel with Matthew Rollins, you don’t get to check bags. It’s true, we carry on, always! Once, we flew to London for 10 days and took only a carry on bag each. Can you believe that? Yeah, I can’t either, but we did it. The pros actually do outweigh the cons when it comes to traveling with just a carry-on bag. Do you want the pros or cons first? Ok, let’s go with cons so we can finish on a good note.
    • My personal “Carry-on Cons” :
      • My shampoo and conditioner is the biggest challenge, this white hair will fall out if I use some hotel shampoo that is good for “all hair types.” You’ve got to be kidding me, “all hair types,” even the hair that is hanging on for dear life due to excessive bleaching? Now, I know that you’re all shocked to find out that I’m not a natural blonde, cough cough but it’s true. And, I know that someone reading this is going to leave a comment below to mention that they have travel containers meant for shampoo and conditioner but let me stop you right there, I haven’t found one yet that doesn’t leak. Maybe, some kind reader will invent the first travel container that doesn’t leak for me?
      • Another “carry-on con” is all the looks that you get when you smack every person in the face with your bags as you walk down an aisle designed for a toddler all the way to the last seats on the plane, which is where we always seem to end up, which I whole heartedly blame on Robin.
      • Also a huge challenge for me is trying to stuff enough outfits in a carry-on bag that will give me enough outfit options based on my mood that day. For example, what if I pack jeans but I wake up and I just cant fathom the idea of all of the sweating it will take to get those jeans on or what if there is a cute graffiti wall that needs to be instagrammed but I only have tops that clash? It’s a real struggle people!
      • Your luggage never gets lost! Now, I know you’re thinking, “why is this not on the pros list?” Well, it is, it’s on both. Did you know if a carrier loses your luggage and it isn’t returned to you within 24 hours, they have to give you money for the lost contents? NEW CLOTHES PEOPLE!!! Sure you may have to wear the same clothes for a day or two until you’re reimbursed and yes, you may have to sit by the door praying that they don’t find your luggage on hour 23 but just think about the shopping spree you could potentially be on tomorrow!
    • My personal “Carry-on Pros” :
      • Your luggage doesn’t get lost! There it is again, she is lovely on the “pros” list too isn’t she? So, not much to say here except you have your clothes and toothbrush for the night…I’m starting to feel like this fits better on the cons list.
      • You can actually eat on your trip because you save on luggage fees. I cannot believe how airlines have started charging $50/bag. This is outrageous! You could easily pay more for luggage than your actual ticket which is just plain rude if you ask me. I mean, the luggage has to pay that much money to board the plane but they don’t get priority boarding, they don’t get to choose their seat number, in fact, they don’t even get a seat, they get carelessly thrown on to the bottom of the plane by Steve who is just ready to get home for the day. Steve doesn’t give a flying flip that those bags paid more to be on that flight that the guy in seat 21E.
      • You never have to go down to baggage claim for an extra hour to wonder if your luggage is going to be on the roundabout or not. You can just walk out bumping those same people down the aisle on the way out. JK, if you’re like us, you will be the last ones off the plane because you’re in the last seat in the back.
      • You get to purchase a super cute carry-on bag because your husband wants you to carry on so that justifies the purchase. Check out these cuties from Target!

So, there you have it, doesn’t this make you want to go purchase a ticket for a bazillion bucks just to be terrified until those wheels hit the runway? You’re welcome.

 

Saddle up…

If you aren’t quite ready for the Big Apple holiday but you just need to get out of town, I have the place for you. Grab your boots because we’re heading to the Nashville, Tennessee area.

Baseball Winter Meetings were held in Nashville again this year and I wasn’t complaining one bit. MC and I decided to tag along at the very last minute so we hopped in the car whether Matthew wanted us to or not.  The Nashville area has so much to offer, entertainment, great food, and amazing places to stay.  Let me share how this little quick trip went down…

  • W H E R E   W E   S T A Y E D : the meetings were held at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Conventions Center but they were completely booked for night one so we logged on to our ever so faithful Priceline website.
    • NIGHT ONE: We ended up with the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel in the heart of Nashville…stunning! The people were super friendly and because they weren’t crazy busy, they allowed us to have late checkout at no charge.
    • NIGHT TWO:  Hold on to your seats…we stayed at the Gaylord Opryland Resort using Expedia. She was all dolled up for Christmas and I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. Have you ever seen this place? How can I explain her size? Some might use the word, GIGANTUOUS?  This place is beautiful year round but at Christmas, it’s indescribable. Our room was located in Delta Island and had an atrium view right across from Santa’s station so we could sit our on our balcony and watch Santa. I don’t have too many negative things to say about the resort but I will say that you’re paying a pretty penny to stay but the majority of the staff won’t go out of their way to be kind. What I’m trying to say is, don’t go thinking you’ll feel warm and fuzzy inside, they won’t make you feel that way.  There are exceptions, one of the security staff members was so kind to MC and acted like they were old friends and then there was the concierge who should have received a raise after all that she did for us. Things that you’ll want to know about the resort: you have two options for parking, valet $32 + tax/day or self-parking for $24+tax/day.  If you just want to visit the resort but you aren’t staying overnight, parking is the same amount which I find a little outrageous but some say that you can park at the neighboring mall parking lot and take a short walk over to the resort for free but that’s just the word on the street. I’ll get in to the resort food and activities in the next few sections.

  • W H E R E   W E   A T E : other than the Krispy Kreme that MC and I snuck off to in Nashville, we did all of our eating in Franklin, TN. If Greenville, SC and Nashville, TN had a baby, it would be Franklin, and she is such a cute baby. Don’t get me wrong, Nashville has a crazy amount of restaurant options but we wanted to explore a little further out and had some recommendations from locals that we had to try.
    • 55 South – We were told that we couldn’t go to Nashville without trying “Nashville Hot Chicken,” the area’s iconic food. Get your big boy/girl britches on because this chicken is packing some heat. So delicious! They served the sandwich with homemade potato chips that were also a win in my food book. Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 9.29.36 AM
    • Puckett’s – I honestly don’t know where to begin. Just blogging about it makes me hungry. I ordered the Piggy Mac, are you ready for this? …Cherry wood smoked pulled pork in an iron skillet, topped with smoked Gouda Mac ‘n Cheese. I cannot forget to mention the Cajun Corn Cake that topped my dish off. I die, I just die, thinking about this.  I feel like the waiter may have thought that I hadn’t ever been out in public before after watching me chow down. As hard as it will be for you to believe, Matthew’s fried chicken was even better than the Piggy Mac. Unbelievable. I don’t even have to tell you what MC thought about their homemade salad dressing, just take a look for yourself.  Also, they had a stage for live picking…give that girl a stage and watch out.
    • Kilwins Franklin – If you know me at all, you know that I cannot pass up Kilwilns. Oh, it’s December? So what? We believe that it’s never too cold for Kilwins ice cream.  Don’t even get me started on their salted caramel. IMG_8520.JPG
    • Le Sel – when we visit again without baby girl, I am most definitely visiting Le Sel, if for nothing else, the pink velvet booths.  I didn’t feel that it was kid friendly after reading over the menu so we decided on a rain check. Found out about this pretty pretty from Mary Ellen, whom you will want to follow on Insta because she is fabulous and as a local, knows all of the Nashville goods.
    • Hog Heaven BBQ – Don’t judge the book by it’s cover, this tiny hole in the wall is most definitely a hog heaven. Gotta try their smoked chicken with their signature white sauce!  Bless your heart if you don’t go. Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 12.24.30 PM.png
    • Opryland Restaurants – The resort houses a ton of restaurant options and we did eat at a couple on this trip out of sheer convenience but none were good to enough to write home about and they are ridiculously overpriced so get out and take a drive and eat good food because isn’t that why we came?
  • W H A T   W E   D I D :  
    • Window shopping in Franklin is the best because of the little boutiques and the cutest little Anthropologie I’ve ever seen. We didn’t buy anything but it was fun to dream. Taking a walk to explore is our favorite.IMG_9708
    • Take a drive around the city then keep going to see the country. There are so many interesting places around Nashville. Keep going past Nashville, past Franklin and you run in to charming Lieper’s Fork. I have never seen so many deer during the day just walking around the fields as I did in Lieper’s Fork. MC decided that she wanted to take a pic in a field for some reason, so we did that. We just enjoy wandering and if you enjoy the same, just drive. IMG_9709
    • Opryland Resort had so many incredible things to do, some out of our price range, and some not. You do not have to stay there to enjoy the activities.
      • Elf on the Shelf Scavenger Hunt – SO MUCH FUN! They provided a book of clues and we had to follow the clues to find the 10 elves around the resort and then figure out each of their names with the additional clues. It took us about 2 hours but we’re slow and we took our time just to take it all in. Seriously, this was a blast and cost $12 total. At the end, you turn your information in to receive a prize (an Elf on the Shelf coloring book + crayons). Definitely worth the $12. IMG_9712
      • Nativity tour – learn about the birth of Christ on the front lawn with a gorgeous narrated Nativity scene. FREE
      • Light/Water Show – set to music, this light/water display is simply beautiful. It doesn’t hurt that it’s also FREE!
      • ICE! – an indoor winter wonderland kept at a chilly 9 degrees housing 2 million pounds of hand-carved ice sculptures, four ice slides (yes, you read that correctly, SLIDES made out of ice), six individual rooms depicting the story of The Nutcracker, a live carving zone, and a full Nativity from crystal clear ice. We opted out of this activity because it was $40/person but if we were rich, we totally would have.
      • other activities that are offered right inside the Opryland Resort include: Arctic ice skating/snow tubing, gingerbread decorating, Nutcracker Character Breakfast, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, The Musical, and so much more.

Whether you head to Nashville to enjoy the live music, the bright lights, the food or the shops, you will certainly have a great time.  If you head to Nashville any time soon, let me know and I will start packing. Questions? Go ahead and ask away in the comments below.

 

…it’s Christmastime in the city.

I’ve always dreamt of visiting NYC at Christmas. In my mind, it was so magical. So many movies further ignited my love for Christmas in the city,  Serendipity, Miracle on 34th Street, Home Alone 2, Elf, and don’t forget Elouise. I just had to see it for myself!

Growing up, holidays were made so special by the traditions that my mom created with us. My memories of every birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, always included her doing what she did best, hosting.  My mom suddenly passed away this year and I remember immediately thinking about the holidays. I decided to skip them, all of them, starting with Thanksgiving. I informed Matthew that we would be going away for Thanksgiving this year and pretending that it didn’t even happen…no turkey, no dressing, no parade, no smiling, it was going to be loads of fun. As November grew closer and closer, I think he realized that I was serious and suggested that we not skip Thanksgiving and maybe see New York at Christmas.  I suddenly decided that maybe a little turkey, some dressing, and a few smiles might not be impossible to get through if it meant seeing the city all dressed up for Christmas. So, we started planning.

We decided that we would go the first week of December, right after the lighting of the tree and we would ice skate at Rockefeller, and see the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City, and drink frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity, and dance in all of the snow…yeah, most of that didn’t happen.  For one, we didn’t end up going the first week of December because the hotel prices were just plain mean.  We waited and the prices started to drop as December went on and we ended up on the week of Christmas which was even more magical! Also, can we talk about the snow, wow El Nino, way to ruin some of the magic with your 60 degree NYC weather in December. So, the snow was marked off the list after much much much prayer that God would somehow change the temps. But, if you’ll keep reading, you can see what we did get to mark off of the list.

– P L A N N I N G   Y O U R   T R I P   T O   N Y C:

* GETTING THERE: First things first, how will you get there?  Car, plane, train?  We enjoy driving, most of the time it is less expensive for a family of three and you get to enjoy seeing more along the way and it’s only a 12 hour drive for us.  …but driving isn’t for everyone! Sometimes, you can get  a really great deal on airfare, and sometimes you have a child that doesn’t ride well, and sometimes you live a little too far to justify driving.  Other things you have to consider when driving are gas and tolls.  The car you drive makes a huge difference when considering the amount of money you will spend on the trip. Does it get good gas mileage?  The route you take to the city is extremely important, we have travelled there before without knowing and spent $100 in tolls, ONE WAY!  This time, we went about 45 minutes out of the way and paid around $10.

*STAYING THERE:  There are two bazillion hotels in NYC, so you definitely have choices. We’ve stayed in several different areas on the city before in several different hotels but this trip was definitely our favorite. We initially thought we wanted to stay at The Plaza because well, Kevin from Home Alone stayed there and Elouise obviously lives there so it had to be spectacular.  You want to know what else is spectacular about the The Plaza? The price! It was well over $900/night for a standard room in December. No thank you.  We use Priceline, Expedia, and Trip Advisor ALOT when traveling. If you use it the right way, you can get unbelievable deals on your stay.  This trip, Priceline won and we ended up staying at Loews Regency NYC on Park Avenue across from Central Park, a five star hotel for VERY little! The people were unbelievable, so accommodating, so friendly, and our room was stunning. Sometimes you have to give up some of the niceties as a Priceline guest of the hotel, for instance, you will most likely be next to the elevator or have a handicap accessible bathroom or have a beautiful view of the parking lot. …and have you ever seen the hotel rooms in NYC? Micro, teeny, tiny, itty bitty, however you say it, they small! …but Loews Regency showed out by giving us a Park Avenue view, huge (for NY) room that was absolutely beautiful. They even provided umbrellas for us and it was a good thing they did because my weave in the rain…yikes! Needless to say, we will be booking Loews Regency for future NYC visits.IMG_9330 4.JPG

*WHAT TO EAT:
Food is always a challenge for us when traveling to NYC because of the astronomical prices. They value their food! This time, I did some research and found some hidden gems thanks to some adorable IG users that live in the city. Our favorites?

  1. Dominique Ansel Bakery:  let me just say two words, cookie + shot!  This gem was a dream! DREAM! If you walk, it’s a haul, but so worth it. Can I just explain what the cookie shot is? It’s like you’re getting high-fives from Heaven, thats what it’s like! Close your eyes and imagine a chocolate chip cookie that is better than your imagination will allow in the form of a shot glass…WARM! Then imagine it is lined with chocolate and then imagine them pouring cold milk in the center. Heavenly high-fives!!! I just wish that I could explain it. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.  Hurry up, drink the milk, because that warm cookie is about to soak it all up.  *Things you should note about the bakery: they start serving the cookie shots after 3 PM but their other creations are divine as well, i.e. the frozen s’more, (black truffle ice cream covered in chocolate feuilletine and honey marshmallow, torched to order and served on a smoked willow branch, fresh to order warm madeleines, and the Cronut (cross between croissant and donut). Don’t be in a hurry, you WILL wait in line…for a long while! The DAB people are so friendly, seriously, they all were kind to us even though they were so incredibly busy. You just have to go! You have to! Seriously, go!12391054_845892688216_4500238167307239758_n
  2. Tompkins Square Bagels: allow me to inform you that they have sprinkles in their cream cheese. I could stop at that sentence and it would be enough to make any human dart off to NYC just for a bagel, but there’s more! They make their bagels fresh every hour!!! Obviously, I knew that I would get the birthday cake cream cheese on plain bagel but Matthew wasn’t feeling rainbow sprinkles for some reason. My suggestions, ask the TSB people and they will create you something special. They made Matthew a Bacon Egg and Cheese with chive cream cheese on a fresh everything bagel.  Delicious! Did I tell you about how kind everyone was in this place? I mean, we basically became BFF with the owner and almost convinced him to move to Greenville. I’m telling you, this is a place that you cannot pass up on your NYC visit. Things you should know: you WILL wait in line but that just means it’s that good! Also, you WILL walk a ton to get here if you don’t take a cab, also worth the walk. You get to see so much more of the city, parts of the city that you’d never see if you don’t take the cab and you save a ton of money.

  3. Tacombi on Bleecker Street: get ready for the CUTEST little authentic mexican joint you ever did see.  This little piece of cuteness will be so kind to your wallet too, the Crispy Fish taco is just $4.49 and might I suggest adding the Panucho De Lechon taco, a great suggestion from our waiter. Also, you’ll want to wash those tacos down with fresh Horchata made right there on the spot.  The atmosphere was perfection and the food was right there with it. Everything about this place has us wanting more.

  4. The Lobster Place at Chelsea Market: Whether you want fresh lobster, shrimp, delicious chowder or sushi, this is your place. It won’t empty your wallet and the CM atmosphere is one of our favorites. We ended up with three different chowders (lobster was the family favorite), fried shrimp and chips, and a lobster roll…all delicious, not life changing, but delicious. On your way out, walk across the hall to Amy’s Bread for dessert.

  5. Amy’s Bread: Raise your hand if you love carbs! *hand raised over here! This is where all of the cool carbs hang out and you want to hang out with the cool carbs. You have to get a piece of her Yellow Cake with Pink Frosting, thats actually what it’s called and that’s actually what it is. You just gotta get it!

  6. Serendipity3: If you want reservations for next December, go ahead and call this week. The shop is small and you will be waiting forever to enjoy a frozen hot chocolate. We ended up having to leave the line because the wait was so long and I did shed one tear on my left cheek like in the soap operas but I still survived and vowed to go back on our next visit.

You may think to yourself, “did they just eat sweets the whole trip?” I’m not ashamed to say, yes, we ate sweets the whole time. Food is FUN…until it hits those buns.

*WHERE TO VISIT: When people ask me what we did while we were there, I have to think, “what in the world did we do?” We did a whole lotta lookin’ and a whole lotta walking’!

  1. The ginormous window displays and sidewalks around the city are reason enough to walk, they are too unbelievable to even explain, some of them are even interactive. You have to see them for yourself. Macy’s honored the anniversary of Charlie Brown and created window displays that could hold your attention for hours.Just walk around with no place else to be, that’s the best part. No itinerary in the city that never sleeps! FREE!8761_845893331926_8390590336446131240_n
  2. The light show at Saks Fifth Avenue was something to behold. You can hear and see from miles away that something spectacular is going on. There are thousands of people crowded to watch, its like the entire city stops while it’s going on so if you are like me and not great in crowds, prepare yourself and stand a little further away to experience the splendor! FREE!saks-fifth-avenue
  3. The Radio City Christmas Spectacular was one of my favorite things we did. It was spectacular indeed. We didn’t purchase tickets prior to our visit like most planners would naturally do and I am really glad that we didn’t.  We spoke the Concierge at Loews Regency and he suggested that we go to the Radio City Ticket Office for the best prices.  We went up expecting to sit in the last row of the third mezzanine for $80/person but the kind soul behind the glass gave us Row 12, orchestra, in front of the stage and he will forever be in my heart for it. The show was breathtaking and they even had a live nativity which made me a little “teary.” Don’t even get me started about when it started snowing in the place! Finally got the snow I prayed for. It was a beautiful show that I will definitely go to again.10155736_845892523546_3077689505502997253_n
  4. Ice Skating: ok, here’s where I become heartbroken all over again. Ice skating is so expensive in NYC, no matter where you go. Several people suggested that we skate in Central Par or Bryant Park but if I was going to skate, it was going to be in front of that gold statue at Rockefeller. It was $200 so we opted out of the ice skating for this year. You will see a pic of us in front of that gold statue next year though!1238_845893117356_5381975591535480748_n.jpg
  5. Chelsea Market is one of our favorite places to visit. With it’s old brick exposed walls, pretty string lights in the archway, and adorable little pop up shops and restaurants, it’s a must! While you’re there, eat a little something from the list above. You will not be disappointed.1653467_845893616356_2359600006316481210_n
  6. The Today Show: if you can drag yourself out of bed after all of the eating and walking, you have to visit The Today Show. I can’t say for sure about the other anchors, but Willie Geist was one of the nicest people we’ve met. He carried on conversations with everyone without acting like he was busy or in a hurry and took pics with us, talked to MC and told us about his daughter that is the same age. If you want a good spot, you’ll need to get there around 6:30 AM. We didn’t, but still enjoyed being there. If you want to make it on camera, take a cute baby with you, they love cute babies!1936882_845892842906_3870814143636169236_n.jpg
  7. Santa – there are many Santas in NYC and they say that the Macy’s still houses the “real Santa.” I’m sorry, but the real Santa you will find at The Plaza Hotel.  The Macy’s Santa setup looks like Gatlinburg, TN and while I love visiting Gatlinburg, it isn’t something you’d expect from NYC. It just wasn’t at all what I imagined and really doesn’t fit with the vibe Macy’s puts off at Christmas which is amazing. So, we found the real Santa at The Plaza and he was so kind and we walked right up, no line and he immediately took baby girl by the hand and they chatted about all things Christmas. He told her all about Jimmy coming to him each night to tell him how good she had been and they talked about the new toys he had made. It was truly magical.10458438_845893187216_243457503073602909_n
  8. Stroll through Central Park…during the day! Or, get proposed to near the bridge. FREE!12391409_845893062466_8885424193046016274_n
  9. Dylan’s Candy Store – Every child’s dream and every parent’s nightmare, a three story candy store!  The floor is even made from candy, it’s insane. I’m talking, modern day Willy Wonka Factory folks that you have to see for yourself!M

We had so much fun on our trip and we crashed when we got home…already planning another trip for next December. Maybe we’ll find a few new spots, but we’ll definitely return to our favorite spots for sure.  Y’all pack your bags and let’s just all go together next year! Deal?  If you happen to go before our group trip next year, be sure to post your pics in the comments, I’d love to pretend that I was with you. …and you have any questions, feel free to ask.

 

 

 

 

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