home alone.

After surprising my mom on Wednesday, I have been enjoying a quiet few days at home in Indiana. The peace and quiet has been so refreshing, literally. Thanks to my Jawbone, I confirmed something I've always known: my childhood bedroom is the best for deep sleep. Though these vacation days may not be spent in an exotic locale, I am in one of my happiest places with a few of my favorite people--my parents.

Since {cv} couldn't get away from work during the week, I made the trip home by myself. {cv} and I revert to our long distance ways so quickly when we are apart. I find it incredibly reassuring to know we haven't "lost" those skills. Communicating with your significant other long distance is definitely an acquired skill. Our days apart are like glances through the window of the life we left behind.

Thanks to mother nature and the impending snow, {cv} is staying back east to avoid the storm coming this weekend. It is so strange to be home without him, even though we met out of the context of my hometown. Since we married, I can count my solo trips home on one hand. I feel like I immediately revert to my 18 year-old self when I walk in my house, especially as an only child. The only difference is that I now have a self-imposed curfew, my own bank account, and my own "home" in Rhode Island {as picture above--because I couldn't think of a better graphic for this post!}.

My plan is to soak up another day in the peace and quiet before my return to the hustle and bustle of my daily life. I can't wait to get home to {cv}, but these days apart help me appreciate waking up to him every day. I'll spend the night alone in my childhood bedroom and say a grateful prayer for finding the man I only dreamed of for years in that same room. For those who have survived long distance, where do you find your most acute reminders of how far you've come? xoxo {av}

insta-update: winter 2014.

row one: door - spoons - dress | row two: barn - museum | row three: Gus - water view - macarons 
row four: earrings - cookbook | row five: snowy night - ice cream - bedroom

Since we got home from Europe, {cv} and I haven't strayed far from home. Aside from a family wedding in New Hampshire and our "staycation" in Boston, we have been in and around Rhode Island for the past two months. There are few things I love about the snowy New England winters, but if there is one thing I'm learning to appreciate it's this: the winter forces you to slow down. If you take a look at my Instagram, you'll see a lot of cozy shots from the last two months--which is just fine by me.

In the past few months, I have also been falling in love with VSCO CAM. I wasn't a huge fan of their previous design, but the last few updates changed my mind. You can even buy extra packs of "filters", which make it way more fun. If you're a VSCO user, do you have any favorite "filters"? I'm a huge fan of F2. What other photo apps do you use? I also dabble in Afterlight and Snapseed, but VSCO has really become my go-to. xoxo {av}

how to choose your facebook cover photo.

how to choose the right facebook cover photo for your blog or business.

Happy Monday! Since I'm a serious nerd, I conducted a little experiment over the weekend on Facebook and learned a thing or two about cover photos in the process. To save you the time {and advertising dollars!}, I wanted to share my takeaways from my two-day ad campaign. I was super curious to see what photos engaged the most people and drew enough intrigue for someone to click over to my blog's Facebook page.

I chose four rather different images: a sailboat, macarons, hydrangeas, and a scene from Cape Cod. Each of these four things are close to my heart, thus I would hope to find readers who enjoyed the same things. {Note: I'm not a sailor, but I do love boats.} It may just be super dreamy, but the photo from the sailboat outperformed all three of the other images by nearly 400%. After that overwhelming vote of confidence, I changed the cover photo of my Facebook page to the sailboat scene this morning.

Facebook cover photos have always intrigued me, mostly because it is just another thing to "get right" in the game of attracting new readers or fans. The image you feature needs to grab their attention without going over the top. Here are four things I considered as I chose the images for the ad run, which ultimately translated into my new cover photo:

1) If at all possible, use your own photo or graphic. By using someone else's photo, you're not showing off your work. Sure, someone else's image may be pretty, but giving proper credit on Facebook isn't the easiest thing to do. It also allows for someone to snipe the image and use it for their page, thus causing the same problem that happens frequently on Pinterest: lost, stolen or missing image attribution. Avoid all of that--and use one of your favorite Instagrams or snaps from a recent vacation.
2) This may seem obvious, but choose something that appeals to the type of people you'd like to reach. I would love to attract readers who have a thing for New England, hence several photos in this experiment having a northeastern pull. Ask yourself if this particular photo would make you want to click over or stay for awhile to scroll through your page.
3) Don't overdo it. A busy image with lots of text may seem appealing, but the attention span of most people is under ten seconds. You only have so long to "hook" someone. In a very literal sense, think of your cover photo as your magazine cover: would you want to pick up a magazine with a super cluttered cover? No...
4) Adhere to Facebook's sizing suggestions. I created my images in the 851 pixels wide x 315 pixels tall format. You should too! Whenever Facebook gives clear suggestions on sizing, I follow them! No one likes distorted images or text. 

What other suggestions would you have for bloggers and businesses as they create their own cover photos? What appeals to you? What turns you away? I think the best way to help one another is by sharing our own observations. Even if you're not a blogger, I still think these suggestions can apply to your own cover page. Last but not least: if you're here as a result of my "experiment" this weekend, I'm glad to have you! Thank you for the insight into making my little corner of the internet better. I hope this helps beautify and boost your own Facebook page in the process! xoxo {av}

find happiness in the simplest of things.

find happiness in the simplest of things.

First things first, this isn't the post I sat down to write. I love editorial calendars, but this post evolved on its own. Follow me here: by the end of the week, I find many {seemingly} random photos on my phone because I'm a constant picture-taker. There are so many photos which I don't share on Instagram, mostly because I don't want to overwhelm your feed. I try to pick the best of the best to share with all of you, but it does mean my phone fills up with plenty of funny snaps.

I realized that many of those photos are little moments of happiness, which only mean something to me. Case in point: the photo featured above of the bookshelves in the entry of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum {touched up a bit with everyone's new favorite app, Waterlogue}. For me, this photo represents a perfect afternoon spent exploring a historic hideaway with my main squeeze {cv}. For everyone else, the photo looks like a random set of bookshelves.
In this internet-driven world, we're compelled to share everything.  Somewhere along the way, I made the choice to share the things I think others will like too {probably because it's called a "like"--go figure}. If I shared everything, you'd see just how normal my life really is. I just assume you'd rather not see my sweaty post-gym selfies or a bazillion snaps of my favorite kitties. I'm okay with that. I will treasure those random snaps from my typical Tuesdays for years to come. Who knows? Maybe they'll even become a future #tbt post.

In my pledge to you at the beginning of 2014, I promised you the best. The same applies to all elements of my "internet" life. I will continue to spare you my sweatiness, but I promise to share some of those hidden gems with you here on the blog. When you've long forgotten me ten years from now, I'll be grateful for those gems as I scroll through old posts. Maybe that is what blogging is all about...

How do you draw the line between the internet and "real" life--or do you? xoxo {av}

P.S. Does the idea behind Waterlogue remind anyone of those funny mall photobooths with the paint effects? I know I'm dating myself here.

geometric goodness for your home.

geometric goodness for your home.
This month, I created an ideabook for Houzz all about adding geometric goodness to your home. I've long been a lover of straight lines and right angles, so these patterns and motifs have a special place in my heart. Here are seven of my favorite pieces to add a little {or a lot} of angular flair to your own space:

Does that rug look familiar? It should: we have it in our master bedroom {see it here and here}! Though geometry was far from my best subject, I still feel the pull toward these designs. Have you incorporated any geometric goodness in your own decor? If so, where? Share the love! xoxo {av}

one day in bruges.

how to spend one day in Bruges, Belgium.

Last week, I shared some photos from our rainy stay in Amsterdam. The morning we left, the clouds started to fade while we were on the train to Bruges. When we arrived in this little city, the sun was finally shining--and we were able to ditch our heavy winter coats in favor of our lighter jackets. After some consultation with friends and family who have visited Bruges, we decided one day would allow us to get a good taste for the city. It also served as a great via point between Amsterdam and Paris. As a warning, this post is a bit photo heavy, but consider it your little getaway for the day!

{one little note: there are a number of conflicting ways to spell Bruges {i.e. Bruges, Brugges, Bruge}, but for the sake of this post, I'm sticking with Bruges.}

pretty windows in Bruges, Belgium.
quaint streets in Bruges, Belgium.
pretty windows in Bruges, Belgium.
quaint streets in Bruges, Belgium.

We arrived in Bruges just before noon and set out immediately in search of some lunch. I quickly fell in love with the cobblestone streets and vibrantly colored homes. Bruges is an ancient city by European standards. Many of its medieval buildings remain, which allows you to slip back in time. I had been to Bruges for a singular afternoon in 1999, but I remember little from that trip other than the weeping willows over the river.

Once we neared the center of town, we stumbled upon a quiet café near the center of town called Brasserie Rozenhoedkaai. {cv} and I shared an enormous order of moules frites {aka mussels and fries} to fuel up for the day. After lunch, we continued our stroll into the true center of town, finding a full-on Christmas market along with an ice rink. Though we didn't lace up our skates, we did pay a couple of euro to try the glühwein {aka mulled wine}. While on the market square, we wanted to see the Belfry, but the line to enter was two hours long. With time in short supply, we kept on exploring the city.

Brasserie Rozenhoedkaai in Bruges, Belgium.
a taste of glühwein in Bruges, Belgium.
winter in Bruges, Belgium.
Bruges, Belgium.

In true Belgian fashion, {cv} and I decided to seek out some beer. With some encouragement from Trip Advisor, we ended up at Cambrinus. We were lucky to score a few seats at the bar and witnessed the beer-pouring spectacle firsthand. Every beer was served in a "matching" glass. With countless beers available, this was quite a feat.

After Cambrinus, {cv} and I found The Bottle Shop. Though they didn't serve beer, they did have an incredible selection of bottled beer paired with their matching glasses. We knew the Belgians took pride in their beer, but this shop illustrated it in a magnificent way.

Cambrinus | Bruges, Belgium
The Bottle Shop | Bruges, Belgium

I promise beer wasn't the only thing on our brains while in Bruges. Of course, we had to be on the hunt for chocolate too. {cv} and I did a little research and ultimately ended up at The Chocolate Line. As one might expect, the smell of the shop was out of this world. I didn't want to anger the shopowners, so I sadly don't have any photos to illustrate the beauty of their chocolate. One thing is for sure: if you go to Bruges, you need to save a few minutes for a visit to The Chocolate Line.

t' Brugs Beertje | Bruges, Belgium

Though we didn't have a dinner reservation, {cv} and I were able to squeeze into a corner booth at t' Brugs Beertje. Full to the brim with both locals and tourists, we couldn't get enough of the sights, sounds, and smells of this place. I would definitely recommend it for an authentic Bruges dining experience. One word of warning: they only accept cash. {cv} had to leave me for ransom {as noted in this Instagram} while he went to an ATM to pull out the appropriate funds. It was definitely a learning moment.

Bruges, Belgium at the holidays.
Bruges, Belgium at the holidays.

After dinner, {cv} and I made one final lap through the quaint streets of Bruges. My nighttime photos of this charming city don't do it justice. Before we turned in for the night, we had some late-night fries at Friterie 1900, though I must say they paled in comparison to my NYC fave Pommes Frites. With the help of Hotwire, we scored a room at the Hotel NH Brugge. Though it wasn't a super posh hotel, the rooms were well-kept and it was easily walkable to the train station and the city center. We wouldn't hesitate to stay there again.

In any season, I would certainly recommend a visit to Bruges. It is a nice change of pace from the larger cities in Europe, but it isn't too small to entertain you for a full day {or more}. Our wintertime visit provided even more charm {if that's possible} with its twinkly lights and holiday markets. In retrospect, we could have taken a ride on the river or booked a brewery tour, but {cv} and I enjoyed our visit immensely the way we did it. As we've found, smaller cities are best enjoyed while on a leisurely stroll--without ten million places to stop.

Have you ever been to Bruges? What else would you recommend for a one-day visit? xoxo {av} 

I love you more than peanut butter.

I love you more than peanut butter.

As most couples do, {cv} and I have our fair share of inside jokes. Peanut butter is a legitimate food group for me, so my valentine will know just how much I love him with this graphic. We say the "I love you more than..." phrase on many occasions, but today, I love him more than peanut butter ;)

{cv} and I are headed on a little staycation in Boston this weekend. Even though we live less than an hour away, I cannot wait to get away for a few days. We have two fun dinners on the books--and we're even going to see a comedian we've loved since our Georgetown days. I just can't wait to roam the city a bit slower than I do on a quick visit, even if the weather is looking a bit snowy.

Don't forget to add your Valentine's looks for this month's #FridaysFancies--it's open all month for you to share your outfits and inspiration! I may or may not have rented a super Valentine's appropriate dress for tonight's date. {Keep an eye on Instagram to see it!}

Thanks for indulging me in this funny little valentine for {cv}. {I've made him much sweeter ones in years past!} Whether you have a date with your best pals or your main squeeze, I hope your Valentine's Day is filled with love. I just wish every day could be filled with this happy spirit! xoxo {av}

P.S. I love my alma mater. Even if you didn't go to Georgetown, these stories of how people found love on campus will warm your heart. I decided to play along using the #hoyalove hashtag yesterday in my #tbt Instagram :)

last minute valentine's day ideas.

easy last-minute valentine ideas!
Whether you're celebrating Valentine's Day or not this year, you have to admit its cheery colors are essential for surviving this dreary winter! These seven ideas will solve your last-minute woes: whip up any of the bunch and your valentine will be singing your praises to the moon and back...

1) Crunchy Creamy Sweet: This Valentine's Day Bark is the perfect treat: colorful, yummy, and easy to share. If you make a large batch, you can still save some for yourself!
2) Real Simple: Use an old matchbook to create this clever little card. Make it extra special by using a matchbook from your favorite restaurant!
3) Martha Stewart Weddings: As a map lover, this simple DIY stood out from the pack. Print a map to place on the existing mat in a frame and share one of your favorite places with your valentine and/or best friend. {If time permits, you could even buy a vintage map on eBay or elsewhere on the interwebs!}
4) Style Me Pretty: Though the Style Me Pretty team is spot-on with their suggestion to make these for your bridesmaids, these glitter tote bags serve so many other needs. Whip together one of these glittery concoctions for a quick gift or use it to transport your goodies--and conveniently leave it behind as a gift. Sneaky sneaky...
5) The Novice Chef: The first moment I saw these marbled red velvet cheesecake brownies, I knew it was love. The rich red color is perfect for Valentine's Day--or any day really ;)
6) Young House Love: Displaying keys can be a poignant, everyday reminder of how much your love has endured. As a long distance survivor, I think this little DIY is extra meaningful.
7) Paper & Stitch: Long after Valentine's Day is over, you can still create your own mylar goodie bags. Until then, whip up these shiny bags to serve your tasty treats in style!

Still stumped on what to make for your sweetheart {or your best friend!} this Valentine's Day? There are plenty of other ideas my future diy + sweet tooth boards on Pinterest. If you want to send your love on paper, you better get a move on. Though my preference is always snail mail, I think Paperless Post is the best for virtual valentines! What other treats do you have up your sleeve for Valentine's Day this year? xoxo {av}

two days in amsterdam.

how to spend two days in Amsterdam.

I don't know if you remember, but {cv} and I had a little European adventure at the holidays. {My Instagram has the evidence, I promise.} Life has been a little nutty around here, so I finally have the first round of photos for you today. I know you were all waiting with bated breath ;)

wintermarkt in Amsterdam.

{cv} and I landed in Amsterdam a few hours late, courtesy of a mechanical delay in London. It seriously cut into our tourist time on day one, but we hit the ground running. Knowing that our next day was already jam-packed {but also knowing it was on our must-see list}, we headed straight for the Anne Frank House after dropping our bags at the hotel. We went about 90 minutes before the museum closed, but we still had a significant wait. Be sure to budget at least an hour of wait time--unless you're one of the smart ones that books your ticket in advance. It is an incredibly powerful experience to walk through the doors of the secret annex, so in my opinion, it was worth the wait.

We decided to get familiar with the lay of the land after our visit to the Anne Frank House. It was already dark, but in true holiday fashion, the streets were beautifully illuminated with twinkle lights. {cv} and I always like to get our bearings when we first arrive. We stumbled on the Wintermarkt, a few streets packed full of travelers and residents--and street food. Our first meal in Amsterdam was a favorite of mine, established on our trip to Munich the previous summer: currywurst. No judgments, please ;) {cv} and I ended up at two very Dutch establishments for some refreshements over the course of the evening--nothing fancy but certainly scenic: Café van Beeren and Café-Hotel International.

canals in Amsterdam.

{cv} and I woke to more rain on our second day in Amsterdam, which unfortunately became the overwhelming theme of our time there. {It also impeded me from taking more photos with my Nikon, rather than my iPhone.} We started the day with a super quick breakfast around the corner from our hotel at Café Nielsen. From there, {cv} and I set our sights on seeing the newly renovated Rijksmuseum. {We had tickets for the Van Gogh Museum in the afternoon, so we figured this would be an easy way to get out of the rain. Little did we know, every single tourist had the same plan.} No exaggeration: {cv} and I found lines nearly a quarter mile long. Lesson learned {again}: pre-purchase tickets whenever possible.

canals in Amsterdam.

For lunch, we were determined to have some Dutch pancakes. Though we'd wanted to go to The Pancake Bakery {aka Pannekoeken}, it was nearly a mile walk back to our hotel. Because of the rain, we opted for another pancake establishment, which was much more touristy and not as yummy. We did, however, find a cute spot across the street called In de Buurt. We got out of the cold rain for a quick beverage before trekking back toward the Van Gogh Museum.

canal houses in Amsterdam.

I must admit I'm a big Van Gogh fan, so I made sure this was a stop on our itinerary. On my only other stop in Amsterdam {at age 14}, I fell in love with his work. It was so interesting to go back 14 years later and pick up on things I hadn't at that age. I also loved being able to share my favorite painting with {cv} for the first time. One interesting note: you should definitely pre-purchase your tickets for this museum, especially on a Friday when they have an incredible installation in the evening with a live DJ. {The tickets allow you a certain time window to check in, but we observed it was more of a one-in, one-out situation.}

the canals at night.

After an incredible afternoon at the Van Gogh Museum, we made our way back to the hotel to freshen up for dinner. Through Trip Advisor, we found the lovely Restaurant ANNA in the Sint-Anne Quarter. We were one of the first reservations of the night, so it was a bit empty when we first arrived. However, by the time we left, there wasn't an empty seat in the house. This was one of our most memorable meals of the trip, both for the ambiance and for the food. It wasn't the cheapest meal, but it was worth the "investment". My mouth still waters thinking about their truffle risotto.

Amsterdam at the holidays.

We ambled back toward our hotel, making the requisite pass through the Red Light District. {If I could put emojis in a blog post, I would use the super wide-eyed one here.} We did one last pass through the Wintermarkt before turning in for the night.

early morning in Amsterdam.

{cv} and I woke up early to catch our train--so early that it was still dark out at 8:00am. I wanted a few last pictures {without the rain} and I managed to snag them right as we got in our taxi bound for the train station.

{long distance loving} on Amsterdam.

Our accommodations in Amsterdam were courtesy of Starwood points from {cv}'s work travel in the last couple of years. Cashing in those point was worth it: we absolutely loved our stay at the Hotel Pulitzer. It was one of the most unique hotels I've ever seen--made up of 25 canal houses that they'd converted into one large hotel. Our room had a gorgeous view of the canal, some of which can be seen in the background below. All in all, it was one of the best rooms of our trip.

The "two" days we spent in Amsterdam were lovely. Looking back at the photos, the rain added even more to the charm. It really was such a treat to experience Amsterdam at the holidays. I would like to get back there in warmer {slightly less wet} weather and take a ride on the canal or go on a bike ride. If you've visited Amsterdam, what else would you add to the list for those who have two nights in the city? xoxo {av}

P.S. In case you're planning a winter trip to Europe, here's a post on how to pack for your adventure!

friday's fancies: february.

the perfect little date night number. #fridaysfancies

Happy Friday, friends! With Valentine's Day on the horizon, I wanted to pull together a little date night number. {cv} and I will be having a little staycation in Boston next week--and I couldn't be more excited. Budgets and cold temperatures aside, I would love to wear this classic black Zara dress with a few extras for our date night next week.

This month's Friday's Fancies link-up will be live through March 1st, giving you plenty of time to add your own ensembles. Any and all fashion links are welcome; you don't have to commit to the theme to participate. You'll simply be able to get eyes on your posts all month long, rather than just one week. I can't wait to see what you have up your sleeve this month! xoxo {av}

why not you?

why not you?

On Sunday, Russell Wilson led his Seahawks to a serious Super Bowl victory. In pre- and post-game interviews, commentators highlighted Wilson's mantra for the season: why not you? His father asked him this question repeatedly throughout his childhood and into his pro career. For a "smaller" quarterback like Wilson, he had to prove he was worth the extra look. At the beginning of this pivotal season, Russell Wilson asked his team the same question: why not us? The Seahawks are proof positive of a team rallying behind their leader--and believing they really could go the distance. I enjoyed the commercials this year, but truly, my takeaway from Super Bowl XLVIII was this question from Russell Wilson's dad.

Since the Super Bowl, I have been continuously asking myself the same question: why not me? Every day, I have the opportunity to share a part of myself with others--at my job, through my blog, and with my family and friends. I started blogging in 2010 to find a creative outlet and to find a community. I didn't start blogging to get a book deal or to make big money {though either of those outcomes would be tremendous}. Big props to Harrison Wilson III for making me realize something important about life: if I don't believe opportunities are out there, I'm never going to find them. Whether in blogging or in life, I have to keep pushing for more. I have to believe that what I do is good {and even great, on occasion}. I need to have the confidence to seek out the things I want. Little reminders from the Wilson family serve as that extra push to reach even higher--and not stop until I get there.

If you're a blogger, how do you quiet the nay-saying demons and keep your voice alive? Some people may beg to differ, but I don't measure a blogger's success in their pageviews or followers. I measure it in their ability to affect the way I see things and to inspire me to do something differently. My new goal is to be this same blogger for others. At beginning of 2014, I pledged to bring you my best. This post is my promise to you that won't quit until I get there. I'd rather give you two great posts a week than four which don't somehow enrich your life. Above all, thank you for sticking with me on this journey. You're the reason I'm here. xoxo {av}

P.S. I did some digging and found a long excerpt from Steve Maraboli featuring this same question. I figured it was worth mentioning if he laid claim on this phrase. 

hunters alley.

an antique love affair with @huntersalley.
(Before I introduce you to the magic of this new website, I want to let you know I'm sharing this without any sponsorship or affiliate benefits. I just love what they're doing.) With that out of the way, my little history-loving heart is so excited to introduce you to Hunters Alley. I've always loved the vintage selections on One Kings Lane, but Hunters Alley wrangles all of this goodness together in one place. It should come as no surprise then that the fab folks behind OKL are also behind Hunters Alley. Every detail of the website is incredible--and I'm not exaggerating.

Antique lovers and sellers alike can browse their website and "love" certain items. In the end, you get a curated collection of the goodies you'd love to make your own. {See the start of my treasure hunt here!} I know the collage above is a bit random, but it is only indicative of the wide variety of items available on Hunters Alley. I also love that you can easily browse the other items from shop owners you love and follow other "hunters" in the process. 

From a girl who would spend hours digging through her local antique mall at age 16: thank you for simplifying my life, Hunters Alley.  I love finding items which have a story behind them, especially stories which reach back a few decades. While the clearance aisle at HomeGoods is a hotbed of fun, the 100-year-old flag I found at the Rhode Island Antique Mall wins every time. What items do you have in your home with a story behind them? Happy hunting! xoxo {av}

P.S. If you want to follow along with my hunt, click here. My taste may be eclectic, but I promise plenty of fun!