Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Looking Back: 2013 in Review

Like 2012 before it, 2013 definitely wasn’t the best year for me, especially as I faced the loss of my beloved grandfather Pat just six short months after also losing my Nana. Overall, I've additionally continued to feel that I’m struggling to find my “place” and determine the right path in life.

Still, despite the difficulties, there were some bright moments, too, including an amazing trip to Hawaii, memorable visits with loved ones and plenty of new experiences. As we now head into 2014, here’s a look back at the good, the bad and the ugly of 2013.


-- Celebrated my husband’s 30th birthday, along with the two-year anniversary of adopting our beautiful kitties Molly and Twix
-- Supported Stephen as he began his first semester of grad school
-- Comfortably watched from home as crowds gathered in DC to see President Obama sworn in for a second term
-- Began blogging for All Women Stalk, where I shared advice posts focused on weddings, travel, beauty and more
-- Toured the exquisite Fairy Garden exhibit at the U.S. Botanic Garden


-- Attended an opera master class led by the talented Patricia Racette as the first of many 2013 trips to the Kennedy Center


-- Began working as a publicist to help represent a wedding-related startup company
-- With news of my grandfather Pat’s deteriorating health, traveled to California to say my final goodbyes before he passed away


-- Visited America’s Teaching Zoo in Southern California, where I got a firsthand look at a 90-year-old tortoise, an emu, a serval and many other cool creatures
-- Attended a performance by opera star Diana Damrau at the Kennedy Center
-- Was interviewed by the Washington Post Express about my experience living in our now previous apartment complex and neighborhood
-- Attended a Show Boat dress rehearsal at the Kennedy Center
-- Toured DC’s iconic cherry blossoms and headed out to Virginia wine country with a visiting friend from California


-- Coordinated a beautiful vineyard wedding for clients Lia and Matt
-- Celebrated our third wedding anniversary by attending a fun wine-and-sushi-tasting event
-- Attended a DC Jazz Festival concert at the Kennedy Center


-- Traveled to Hawaii's Big Island and Oahu for a spectacular vacation and the chance to be a bridesmaid in my sister-in-law’s wedding
-- Purchased our new Honda CR-V


-- Traveled to California to attend my friend Jess’ winery wedding and spend time visiting my family
-- Said goodbye to my 20s and hello to 30
-- Attended a birthday weekend performance of Tristan and Isolde at the Kennedy Center
-- Met up with my longtime blog friend Diana for a fun-filled day touring DC museums


-- Took in a Force of Destiny dress rehearsal at the Kennedy Center
-- Participated in the Favorite Fall Things Blog Swap


-- Moved to a new apartment in a neighborhood we love
-- Attended performances of The Nutcracker and the annual American Opera Initiative at the Kennedy Center, along with a musical theater master session led by Sutton Foster
-- Purchased a Karlstad couch from Ikea to help spruce up our new place


-- Attended Jazz Piano Christmas and Elf performances at the Kennedy Center
-- Caught up with my grad school classmates and friends at various holiday parties
-- Celebrated Christmas with my mom and sister in New York City
-- Toured the Christmas at Mount Vernon holiday displays  

Happy New Year’s Eve, everyone, and here’s to a great 2014! 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Big Apple Christmas

The countdown is on! In just two days, my mom and sister will arrive here in DC as the three of us get ready to head up to New York City to celebrate Christmas.

Even though I’ve been to NYC during the holiday season at least once before, I’ve never actually been there for Christmas itself or with my sister and mom. To say I’m excited would be an understatement, and I just can’t wait to get caught up in all of the holiday hustle-and-bustle while also enjoying plenty of fun sightseeing and taking in several Broadway shows.

Happy holidays to one and all! 
After our trip to the Big Apple, my mom, sister, Stephen and I will also spend another week back here in DC touring museums, visiting our favorite restaurants and heading to the Kennedy Center on New Year’s Eve to see Elf live on stage.

I’ll be back soon to share my 2013 year-in-review post and also recap our trip once it’s over, but for now, I wish you all a wonderful holiday and a very joyous New Year!

How will you be celebrating? 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Sweater Weather Blog Tag

I love reading tag posts to learn more about my fellow bloggers, and since I also love doing them myself, I decided to play along with this tag I recently saw over at the fabulous Elle See’s blog. Read on for a quick look at a few of my holiday season favorites!

1. Favorite candle scent?

Right now, I love all of the Bath & Body Works holiday scents, especially Twisted Peppermint and Vanilla Bean Noel. Even more than the candles, I tend to go for body lotion and shower gel.

2. Coffee, tea or hot chocolate?

Hot chocolate. I’m not a big coffee drinker but will occasionally drink mint or green tea during the colder months. I also have a container of Mountain Thunder’s Kona Coffee Cherry Tea that I brought back from Hawaii and absolutely love.

3. Do you switch up your makeup routine for the season?

Not too much, although I sometimes gravitate toward darker shadows with a bit more sparkle. I also like wearing holiday-themed jewelry and nail polish.

4. Favorite Thanksgiving food?

Peppercorn salmon, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie, all of which we had this year. I also miss my Nana’s delicious mashed potatoes, since no one can make them the way she did!

Peppercorn salmon makes for a delicious Thanksgiving dinner. 
5. Hats or scarves?

When it’s really cold, both, along with gloves. I can’t stand being cold!

6. Most-worn sweater? 

My cozy brown LOFT sweater cardigan, which I’ve been wearing for at least three seasons now. It’s warm and easy to pair with a dress or top.

7. Must-have fall nail polish?

Green and purple jewel tones, along with glittery top coats for the holidays.

8. Football games or jumping in a pile of leaves? 

Leaves and being outdoors earlier in the season, and staying inside with a good book once it gets colder. I never have been and probably never will be a football fan.

Staying warm indoors with a good book is my idea of a perfect snow day. 
9. Skinny jeans or leggings?

Leggings or yoga pants for days around the house, and a dress with tights or jeans for going out.

10. Boots or UGGs?

This is a silly question, as UGGs are, in fact, a type of boot. I have plenty of boots I love, but must admit I don’t even own one pair of UGGs!

11. What is your favorite thing about fall?

The start of the holiday season, complete with tasty food, pretty decorations and Christmas carols.

12. Do you have a song that gets you in the fall mood or a song you're loving at the moment?

I recently discovered Idina Menzel’s “Let It Go” from the new Disney movie Frozen. I truly love it and have been playing it nonstop!

13. What is the fall weather currently like where you live?

Winter has pretty much arrived here in the DC area, with two snow days already under our belts. I definitely think snow is pretty to look at, but don’t especially enjoy going out in it.

Tag, you’re it! What are a few of your own favorite things right now? 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Holiday Season Kickoff

I absolutely love the holiday season, and every year, I look forward to Thanksgiving weekend as the perfect time to kick off the celebration. This year was no exception, and we've already managed to squeeze in lots of holiday-related fun.

Here’s a quick look at what we've done so far and what we’ll be up to in the weeks to come. 

Thanksgiving Weekend Festivities

-- Feasting on a delicious dinner of peppercorn salmon, roasted sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie in keeping with the pescetarian diet I’ve been following and loving for almost a year now

-- Putting up our tree and decorations, even though we’ve decided to keep things pretty simple after just having gone through the hassle of moving and reorganizing everything we own

-- Buying a new couch to spruce up our apartment and get it looking nice for holiday guests later this month

-- Seeing The Nutcracker at the Kennedy Center

-- Listening to carols while enjoying glasses of wine and a tasty cheese platter at Vintage Ridge, one of our favorite Northern Virginia vineyards

Peppercorn salmon and roasted sweet potatoes. Delicious!

More Fun to Come

-- Heading to a happy hour reunion with my grad school classmates, along with a couple other parties

-- Traveling to New York City with my mom and sister for Christmas itself, which I’m incredibly excited about

-- Attending a piano Christmas concert at the Kennedy Center, along with a New Year's Eve performance of the musical Elf

-- Checking out the Christmas at Mount Vernon holiday displays

Twix wishes you all a very joyous season!

What’s on your list of holiday musts?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! After a couple incredibly stressful weeks, Stephen and I are finally all unpacked and set up in our new place just in time to kick off the holiday season. All that's missing now is the new couch we plan to buy and the big glasses of wine we plan to enjoy tonight alongside our Thanksgiving dinner of peppercorn salmon, roasted sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie.

What I'll be snacking on this weekend. 
After all the craziness of moving and unpacking, I’m definitely looking forward to relaxing, putting up our Christmas decorations, spending an afternoon out in wine country and going to see The Nutcracker at the Kennedy Center on Sunday.

What are you and your family up to this weekend? Wherever you are and whatever you're doing, I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and a great start to the holidays! 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

New Places, New Faces: The Joys & Hassles of Moving

It’s official. Eight years after moving to my current city just outside Washington DC, and five years after moving into this very apartment, which my husband and I have both loved, we're picking up and heading a bit farther out into the suburbs in order to save more money and hopefully make our dream of buying a house come true within the next year or so.

Honestly, had it not been for our original goal of eventually moving back to California, which we’d been discussing throughout the past couple years, we probably would have made this decision a lot sooner. But now, with opportunities on the West Coast simply unable to compete with those available here, we’re excited to feel more settled and focus on buying a home, starting a family and enjoying life in our 30s.

Space Shuttle Discovery flying above our current neighborhood back in April 2012.
As I type this post, we’re right in the middle of packing, scheduling cable and Internet installations, arranging to have our mail forwarded and all of the other joys that come with moving to a new place. But, despite the hassle and the fact that we’ve loved our current location, I’m also very pleased with our soon-to-be new community. What we’re losing in terms of proximity to the city, we’re gaining in terms of a quieter and more serene wooded neighborhood, an apartment with a fireplace, outdoor space for grilling, growing plants and sitting out during the warmer months, easy access to great restaurants and shops, and more.

I certainly hope time will demonstrate that we’ve made the best decision for our future and that we’ll be as happy in our new place as we have been in the one we're leaving behind. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Favorite Fall Things Blog Swap: Caramel Apples, Pumpkin Soap, a Scented Candle & More

Being able to enjoy the fall season is definitely one of the best things about living here on the East Coast, and every year, I look forward to crisp days, changing leaves, the start of the holidays and pumpkin, well, everything.

To make the fall months even more fun this time around, I decided to link up with a group of fellow bloggers for the Favorite Fall Things Blog Swap, where I exchanged a box of goodies with my fabulous partner Morgan Elise. It was great getting to know Morgan, who also has experience with wedding coordination and thinks sweet cinnamon pumpkin is the perfect fall scent. Plus, I completely loved everything she sent me! 

As seen here, Morgan gifted me: 

-- A purple tote bag
-- A House Hunters bingo game
-- Candy corn tissues
-- A ceramic pumpkin candle set with Spun Web scented cubes
-- An air freshener satchel 
-- A mason jar drinking glass with a couple Crystal Light packets and gum 
-- Two caramel apple kits
-- Pumpkin-scented soap 

Thanks, Morgan, for this fantastic collection and for being my partner! The caramel apples were especially fun to make and tasted every bit as delicious as they looked. Happy fall, everyone!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween, everyone! Life has been pretty busy lately, with some big decisions to make, but I should be back next week with a couple new posts, including one sharing all the cool goodies I got via the Favorite Fall Things Blog Swap.

In the meantime, Molly, Twix and all of their kitty friends on Pinterest wish you a very spooky Halloween! (Yes, these are the same two costume photos I've shared in the past, since the girls just weren’t feeling it this time around.)

"Tiger" Molly
"Cowgirl" Twix
Image Source: mostlycatsmostly.tumblr.com via Pinterest
Image Source: egotvonline.com via Pinterest

Image Source: costume-works.com via Pinterest

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Simple & Fun Fall Craft Idea: DIY Halloween Owl Wreath

While I’m not usually one to go all out with seasonal and holiday decorations, I do like to put out a few fun pieces each year once the fall season rolls around. Along with a couple new pumpkin-and-apple scented candles, Halloween-themed art pieces and owl throw pillows, one of my favorite additions to this year’s collection is the super cute DIY Halloween owl wreath Stephen and I made using a $20 kit from Paper Source.

Even for novice crafters like us, the instructions were relatively easy to follow, and although it did take a bit longer to complete than we originally expected (mostly because we had to curl each flower petal one at a time), I absolutely love the way it came out. Plus, at just $20, this paper wreath was a bargain compared with a few more elaborate ready-made designs I had recently been eyeing. Overall, it was a fun and simple project, and as you can see, even Molly and Twix had a great time getting in on some paper scrap action! 

Have you done any fun DIY projects or put up any new decorations this fall? 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

30th Birthday Weekend

Well, it’s happened. I’m officially 30 and happy to say that so far, things are looking good!

My birthday weekend started off Friday night with a trip into DC for an early dinner at Sweetgreen, my favorite gourmet salad shop, followed by a performance of Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde at the Kennedy Center. While the show was long (4.5 hours), the singing and staging were absolutely phenomenal! I also received an awesome gift pack from my family in California, which included my own little Despicable Me minion buddy. Speaking of great gifts, I just have to share a photo of the colorful bracelet my dear friend Joycelyn picked out for me during her recent trip to Mexico, too. 

Saturday, my actual birthday, was a low-key and relaxing day complete with a walk down to Old Town for cannoli and lemon lavender cupcakes, plus a taste of the free pistachio ice cream and blackberry pie being given out at a recently opened Sur La Table cooking store. Other than that, I enjoyed munching on the delicious blueberry pancakes Stephen made for breakfast, kicking back with a couple good books and magazines, and closing out the day with a home-cooked meal of mushroom ravioli and Vinho Verde wine.

Next, pushing the fun over into Sunday, Stephen and I headed back into the city to meet up with my longtime blog bestie Diana from The World Around Her, who had driven down from Pennsylvania with her husband Mike. We all had a great time exploring the Air and Space and Natural History museums on the National Mall, along with stopping in at the popular Capitol Hill hangout Tortilla Coast for margaritas and a Tex-Mex dinner. Isn't the Vintage Vinyl Journal birthday present she gave me cool? 

I guess 30's not quite so scary after all! 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Turning 30

Right on the heels of my amazing trip to California comes another exciting (yet also somewhat unnerving) event – my 30th birthday! Yes, like it or not, this Saturday I’ll kiss my 20s goodbye and welcome a new decade for the fourth time in my life.

Do I feel “ready” to turn 30? No. Do I feel like I’m in a better, happier, more secure place than I was when I turned 20? Without a doubt, yes. In fact, those I’ve talked to who are already in their 30s say that this decade has been by far the best time of their lives to date, which I certainly hope will be the case for me, as well.  

In an effort to focus on the positive, I recently wrote a post for All Women Stalk on “7 Awesome Things About Turning 30 That Will Get You Excited” and have been putting together a goal list for the next 10 years. But before I become too focused on the future, I also want to look back and remember all of the best memories from my 20s, including the 10 listed below.

Even though I can't actually head back to Hawaii for my birthday, I'll definitely be raising a glass to the next 10 years!
1. Being editor in chief of my college’s paper, Daily Sundial, during undergrad

2. Graduating with my bachelor’s in journalism

3. Moving cross-country from California to DC eight years ago

4. Meeting and marrying my wonderful husband

5. Adopting Molly and Twix, the sweetest fur kids ever

6. Obtaining my master’s degree in publishing

7. Traveling to cool places like Hawaii, Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama and, of course, California

8. Making memories with my grandparents during our final years together  

9. Writing, editing, being a congressional aide, coordinating weddings and working on various other professional projects I've loved

10. Taking ongoing steps (both forward and backward) toward living a healthier life

What’s next? I’m about to find out! Do those of you who are already in your 30s or about to celebrate this milestone birthday have any tips or advice for me? 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Beaches, Veggie Burgers & Vineyard Weddings

There are so many things I love about my home state of California, from the sandy beaches and mild weather to the delicious food and, of course, all of the loved ones I get to reconnect with each time I visit.

As those of you who follow me on Facebook and Instagram surely noticed, I took another much-anticipated vacation and blog break last week in order to spend a little time out on the West Coast, where I happily snacked on lobster tacos and veggie burgers, took in the beauty of the state’s Central Coast and attended the gorgeous vineyard wedding of my dear friends Jess and John.

As always, I’ve recapped my adventure below in photos. 

No visit to the Golden State would be complete without stopping by The Habit for a veggie burger with sweet potato fries. Another must-have? A grilled cheese from In-N-Out. 

There's nothing like the beauty of California's Central Coast, as seen here at Avila Beach, where I joined my close friends Bridget and Gianna for good food and music at the city's popular seaside Farmer's Market.

A group wine-tasting excursion hosted by the bride and groom was the ultimate way to kick off the wedding weekend. Here, Gianna and I are taking a quick water break before joining the others for a picnic lunch. 

Rolling hills, wine barrels, a candy bar, hand-drawn chalkboard signs and more set the stage for a fun and memorable wedding reception at Sanford Winery in Lompoc. Isn't the "Ring for a Kiss" bell too cute?

From the artfully designed centerpieces to the twinkling candles, Jess and John's table decor helped create the perfect rustic chic vibe. 

Hanging out with Gianna and Bridget during cocktail hour, then staying warm and getting ready to party with beautiful bride Jessica. 

Thanks for a wonderful trip, everyone! Now, it's back to DC in time to welcome the official start of the fall season, which promises cooler days, colorful leaves and, in just a little over a week, my 30th birthday. Yikes!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Sponsored Post: 40 Percent Off New Cantoni Font for Weddings, Parties & Events

Back when I was editor of the Weddzilla Blog, I had the honor of working with many amazing contributors, including talented lettering artist Debi Sementelli, owner of Dallas’ Lettering Art Studio.

Like other former Weddzilla bloggers, Debi has kept in touch throughout the past couple years, and I was thrilled when she recently contacted me to announce the launch of her new Cantoni font, which strikes me as being just perfect for a rustic wedding, whimsical baby shower, end-of-summer BBQ or just about any other type of event for which you're looking to create eye-catching invitations, signs and more.    

In addition to the gorgeous lettering itself, I absolutely love the unique graphic ornaments seen below! 

Best of all, now through October 5, Debi’s offering a 40 percent discount to all of my readers who purchase this one-of-a-kind font. Simply visit the Cantoni page at MyFonts.com to see an overview, view pricing options and make your purchase using the code heatherw. Depending upon the number of sales, I may also become eligible to receive my own discounted or free font package. 

Check it out today, along with Debi's other two original fonts, Belluccia and Dom Loves Mary.