100 days.

{photo via Instagram}

While working on our registry today, I was reminded that we have 100 days until baby {v} is scheduled to arrive. My iPhone also notified me that I'm two weeks away from the third trimester. If I'm being honest, it all feels a little surreal. After our miscarriage last fall, I wondered if I would ever feel the kicks of a little one. I dreamed of what it would feel like to have a baby bump which people actually noticed. In the sadness of those months, I truly questioned whether it would ever happen for us. As the deep freeze of last winter finally lifted, {cv} and I were blessed to have a second chance at parenthood. It was as if the change from winter to spring was our "new" year. A fresh start. A blank canvas. When we found out we were expecting in late March, it was as if the sun began to shine again.

Life is funny like that. I scolded myself for being down in the dumps, but I couldn't shake the sadness of the child that would have been. As tough as it was, I knew God had everything in His hands: the timing of this pregnancy meant my first trimester would be in the books around the same time I would have delivered. Somehow, it made processing that June due date a little easier. Our second pregnancy didn't take away the pain, but this child certainly gave me hope for what else 2014 would hold.

This pregnancy has been full of surprises. Somewhere along the way, this very strong extrovert has become a bit more introverted. I haven't gone the conventional blogger route of sharing weekly updates on my pregnancy. While I take bump photos every seven days, I don't always share them here or on Instagram. On my daily walks, I find myself soaking in the quiet time. Despite my "pregnancy brain", I feel as though I have more clarity than I have ever had. Though I want to share more, I find myself towing the delicate line of my private vs. public life. It is easy to share about mocktailsmaternity wardrobes, pregnancy skincare, and babymoons, but it isn't as easy to share the pitfalls of pregnancy. In my gratitude for this child, it doesn't feel right to complain about the little things. I can't say pregnancy is always peachy; I can say, however, that each passing day makes me more excited to meet this little one.

Since I've been a bit mum on the little details, here are a few tidbits to help answer those burning questions:
-Barring any complications or cold feet, baby {v} is due to arrive December 6th. We are waiting until baby {v}'s birthday to find out the gender! 
-Though we aren't sure when the house will be finished, we are hopeful it will be done before the baby arrives. If it isn't, we will survive. I am surprising myself {and all my close friends} by not being stressed by this prospect. 
-With our move-in date still up in the air, the nursery is also up in the air. I have some semblance of a vision on the gray and white spectrum, which should be no surprise after looking at my nesting Pinterest board. {I also pulled together this ideabook for Houzz as research for the nursery.} Since lead times are crazy for upholstered items, we ordered a glider and ottoman for the nursery...even if we don't have a place to put it today. We will, right? It shouldn't be delivered until early November, so hopefully we timed it right.
-After hemming and hawing about getting one of those big preggo pillows, the lovely folks from Bump Nest sent me a Pregnancy Pillow to try. I now can't think of a night without it. While I'll be happy to be close to {cv} again after baby, this Bump Nest beauty will be my best friend until December. The cats like it too ;)

My parting words are for those ladies who might be experiencing the sadness we did last winter {but are applicable to everyone}: take it one day at a time. As a lifelong planner, I expected things to go in the order I wanted them, but I learned very quickly that I was not in control. Learning I wasn't always in the driver's seat is one of the greatest takeaways from this journey. Sometimes, being the passenger and getting to observe life out the window for a bit isn't so bad. I'll enjoy the quiet rides for a few more months before baby {v} arrives. All of my love to each of you! xoxo {av}

P.S. Thanks for bearing with me in this post--and for sticking by me even if I post less frequently. If you want to be notified when I do post, click here. {You'll get my posts right in your inbox!}

big sur babymoon.

48 hours in Big Sur, California!

Though it feels like yesterday, {cv} and I have been back from our Big Sur babymoon for over a month! I finally had the chance to sit down and go through some photos to capture the highlights of our trip. {cv} planned the whole thing as a surprise, so I knew nothing about the destination other than the predicted weather. When we boarded our flight to the west coast in Boston, I was still in the dark about our final destination. {I knew we were flying to San Francisco, but that was it!}

When we landed in San Francisco, we made our way to the rental car facility and scored a convertible. {cv} hopped in the driver's seat and pointed the GPS southbound. This wasn't our first rodeo on US Highway 1: we took a quick trek down the California coast in 2011. While I was still in the dark about where we would eventually land, I had a hunch it might be Big Sur. {We spent a fantastic afternoon there in 2011; it had also come up numerous times as a place we would like to return one day.} After a quick spin down 17-Mile Drive, {cv} kept heading southbound. When he pulled in Ventana Inn in Big Sur, I was positively giddy. I had dreamed of staying there for ages! From start to finish, {cv} continuously knocked it out of the park with this surprise babymoon. This photo-heavy post will illustrate his handiwork...

the drive down to Big Sur, California!

the drive down to Big Sur, California!

48 hours in Big Sur, California!

When we finally got settled in our room, it was much past this pregnant lady's bedtime. {The time difference was no joke!} We ended up making the short walk to the restaurant on property for a taste of Californian cuisine, which was both tasty and beautifully plated. Though the picture below was taken during one of our breakfasts, you can see that the view from Ventana was one for the record books. The entire resort exceeded our expectations by ten thousand percent. Though it was certainly a splurge for us, we soaked up every minute -- be it in the hammock off our room or watching the stars on a crystal clear night. 

48 hours in Big Sur, California!

a Big Sur babymoon.

During our days in Big Sur, we spent a good deal of our time driving up and down the coast. Whether grabbing dinner or hiking the coast, {cv} and I had the chance to see the beauty of Big Sur up close and personal. A few of our favorite stops included:
  • Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park: {cv} arranged a photo safari through our hotel, which was essentially a three-hour session with a talented local photographer. {We were not the subjects -- the coastline was!} This was, hands down, one of the highlights of our trip. We caught golden hour at McWay Falls, which was truly a sight to behold. During this little excursion, we learned about the fantastic hiking trails around the park. {cv} and I came back bright and early the next day and took a nearly two-hour hike. The cell phone photos from the vista don't do it justice, but the views will be forever emblazoned in my memory. One point of note: the trail wasn't particularly well marked, so take a bit more precaution than we did before we started our trek ;)
  • Pfeiffer Beach: Though the name may be the same, this is not to be confused with the previously mentioned state park. We caught another sunset here and would highly recommend you do the same. The rock formations and the gorgeous sandy beaches made for a stunning sunset from nearly every angle. {Scroll down just a bit to see those photos -- I'm sporting a sweater and jeans in the middle of our Pfeiffer photos.} Though we didn't picnic here, we did bring a pair of ice cream bars for dessert. {cv} knows the way to my heart.
48 hours in Big Sur, California!

48 hours in Big Sur, California!

a Big Sur babymoon.

48 hours in Big Sur, California!

Beyond our favorite sunset spots and hiking trails, {cv} and I scored some tasty meals along the coast. asdfas
  • Nepenthe: As repeat visitors, {cv} and I knew to hit Nepenthe off "peak" dining hours. We made our way for an early dinner the night of our photo safari and were immediately seated with an incredible view of the coastline. {Reservations not accepted}
  • Big Sur Taphouse: Far from fancy, this roadside find was the perfect choice for a relaxed dinner in Big Sur. The portions were hearty and {cv} enjoyed a few brews. The patio out back was ideal for a short, quick meal or a long, lingering feast. We opted for a short meal before catching the sunset at Pfeiffer Beach, but we almost returned after the sun went down. {Reservations not necessary}
  • Big Sur Bakery & Restaurant: Though we only grabbed pastries from the bakery, we would certainly consider a sit-down meal on a future visit to Big Sur. With killer ambiance, it is worth the hype. Their homemade graham crackers took our in-room s'mores at Ventana to an entirely new level. Our room had a cozy fireplace for the colder coastal nights. {Reservations highly recommended for the restaurant; not necessary for the bakery}
  • We did not make it to Deetjen's, so I can't speak with authority on their food...but their parking lot told the story. It was always packed! From our frequent drive-bys, the entire property looked fantastic. Beyond the restaurant, they also have an inn, which looked equally as charming. {Reservations highly recommended}
48 hours in Big Sur, California!

Doing a solid visit of Big Sur in 48 hours is absolutely doable. With two nights to catch beautiful sunsets, the days are ideal for hiking and exploring the beauty of this slice of America. You'll also be able to get your fill of fabulous food. Big Sur has it all. Here are a few other pointers before you go:
  • Prepare for terrible cell service. Regardless of your carrier, reception is not ideal. While wonderful for a social media hiatus, you'll actually need to look at a map and plan ahead. The flashing blue dot on Google Maps will not be there to guide you ;)
  • Pack an extra sweater. On both of our visits {in May 2011 and again in July 2014}, the temperatures were lovely in the daytime. The evenings definitely cooled down. Even with my internal heater {aka baby bump}, I was chilly at night. 
  • If you are renting a car and can swing a convertible, it is worth every single penny. You can truly immerse yourself in the beauty {and smells} of the California coast. 
  • Regardless of where you stay, Big Sur is an incredible landing point for spots all along the coast. Be aware though: their days do not start as early as you might expect. We couldn't find any coffee shops before 8:00am on the day of our longer hike.
  • Should you choose to do Big Sur for your babymoon, you will love it. I would recommend going when you're still comfortable and mobile. We chatted a few other couples who went later in pregnancy and were more hotel-bound. I was 20 weeks at the time of our trip and it was truly the sweet spot. I was finally showing, but I was still able to squeeze in tougher hike. 

If you're debating a trip to Big Sur, I hope this post tipped you over the edge. I'll be forever grateful for the days we shared here before baby {v}'s arrival. Hats off to my amazing and thoughtful husband for making it all possible! If you're a veteran of Big Sur and have other spots to add to this list, please share them! It may be a few years before {cv} and I return, but we are already plotting our trip. xoxo {av}

creative avocado recipes.

11 creative avocado recipes.

TOP ROW (LEFT TO RIGHT): Avocado, Grapefruit and Edamame Salad via Joy the Baker | Avocado Toast with Cracked Black Pepper and Sea Salt via 1-2 Simple Cooking | Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Avocado and Lime via the little red house
SECOND ROW: Creamy Avocado Yogurt Dip via Two Peas & Their Pod | Avocado Caprese Salad via Foodie Crush
THIRD ROW: Avocado Coconut Toast via Martha Stewart | Chicken Avocado Lime Soup via Cooking Classy | Grilled Avocado Tacos via Oh, Sweet Basil
BOTTOM ROW: Hashbrown Avocado Breakfast Wrap via Dine & Dish | Avocado Baked with an Egg via What Should I Eat for Breakfast Today | Spring Quinoa Salad via Two Peas & Their Pod

Five years ago, I wouldn't touch an avocado with a ten foot pole. As a lifelong picky eater, adding this interestingly textured delicacy into my diet wasn't an easy task. It definitely didn't happen overnight. I began with light, half-hearted dips in guacamole. I slowly worked my way up from there. 

While we make this super easy guacamole on the regular, I want to diversify my avocado intake a bit. In usual fashion, I went to my veg out Pinterest board to pull a few recent recipes. These 11 creative recipes range in time and effort, but they would definitely satisfy my avocado cravings. What other ways do you like to prepare your avocado -- besides guacamole? xoxo {av}

how to build a maternity wardrobe you'll love.

how to build a maternity wardrobe you'll love!

As I begin my sixth month of pregnancy, there are a number of things I wish I could tell my eight-week pregnant self about building a maternity wardrobe. Though I cannot profess to be an expert on dressing for the entire duration of this journey, I figured I could share a few tips now and add more depth as I edge closer to delivery. Without further ado, here are my eight tips on how to build a maternity wardrobe you'll love...

1) Invest in a pair of comfortable maternity jeans early on in your pregnancy. I know a lot of people want to "hold out" to buy maternity clothes, but honestly, it isn't worth waiting to buy a reliably comfortable pair of jeans. After years of working in a boutique, I have high standards for denim, so I asked for this pair of maternity jeans for my birthday. They were worth every penny my mother spent. Since a fair portion of my pregnancy fell in the summer months, I opted to add a pair of white maternity jeans as well. It was another of my better maternity wardrobe decisions: even when I didn't feel super visibly pregnant, I was comfortable and could throw on a top without fear of a serious "taco belly" dilemma. 

2) Stick to the basics. Since most pregnancies last about three seasons, there is plenty of ebb and flow in the fashion world during those ten {yes, ten} months. My early 20's self often fell victim to some crazy fashion trends, but my late 20's self has finally learned her lesson. Fabulous prints and bold colors are fun, but they won't stand the test of time. Lord-willing, this won't be our last pregnancy. If things work out the way we hope they will, I will need these maternity clothes again! I don't want to buy things which look great now but will be totally faux pas in a few years. I decided early on in my maternity wardrobe building process that I would stick to the basics. From colors to cuts, I have been picking things which aren't so specifically 2014. {If you take one look at Shopbop's maternity section, you'll understand what I mean. ASOS Maternity is the polar opposite.} The clothes work together and aren't totally out of the box. This philosophy has worked well so far, so time will tell if it was a good call or not. One small note on this: if I am making more "trendy" purchases like this dress from TJMaxx {also seen here!!!}, I try to choose items I could wear whether I was pregnant or not. In other words, I won't buy trendy pieces from the maternity section of a store, but I will buy something a size up that I could comfortably wear for a few months in the post-baby days. 

3) Treat yourself to a few pieces you know you'll love. When you don't feel like yourself in clothes, you can feel pretty miserable. The first trimester was especially hard for me: while I wanted to scream to the world I was pregnant again, I also didn't want people to assume that I had a few too many slices of pizza. I found myself feeling very out of sorts in whatever I wore those first 12 weeks. I didn't want to accentuate the extreme case of muffin top I was baking under my clothes and I didn't want to wear a giant paper sack. I decided it was worth it for me to save up and buy a few pieces I would live in -- and love. Case in point: I love Splendid. {I always have -- and I always will.} Their soft cotton is my jam. Even if it is a casual outfit, I somehow feel extra confident in their pieces. I stalk Destination Maternity for sales on my favorite brands and have done very well with their redline promotions. Whether those splurges are at Old Navy or Shopbop, you'll be happy you made them. 

4) You can never have enough white tanks, pretty scarves, and skinny belts. These basics will solve some of your toughest pregnancy conundrums: hiding your lovely pregnancy "ladies" and giving some definition to your higher waistline. I live in these tanks {they're both super soft and cost-effective} and I know I'll wear them even more as the temperatures cool down. I purchased this belt in a few colors {it goes on sale frequently}. I love it because it has holes around the entire belt, making it easy to adjust based on where you want your waistline -- and if you had a big meal. I also scored this scarf on sale this summer and have been loving it for air-conditioned flights and chilly restaurants. No matter where you buy these staples, you'll be glad to have them as your belly grows.

how to build a maternity wardrobe you'll love!

5) Shoes and accessories will long outlive your pregnancy. This point relates a great deal to my third point, but go with me here.} These two wardrobe staples will make your maternity fashion feel much more fashionable--and work with you throughout most of your pregnancy. Example: I snagged these sandals on sale during those early weeks of pregnancy because I knew I would love to wear them, even when I felt large and in charge. Though I won't be able to wear them into the fall and winter, I will be able to wear them next spring and summer...and love them all the same. Also, I realize some folks may fight me on this tip because shoe size can fluctuate with pregnancy. I'll agree on the fluctuation, but I never buy shoes which are so constrictive that I could only wear them at that exact moment. The accessories are a no-brainer though: a fabulous pair of earrings or a beautiful statement necklace will go a long way into jazzing up a baby bump.

6) Max(i) it out. Because I'm on the shorter side, I don't always love maxi dresses. As a clumsy gal, I tend to get tripped up in them--and tripping isn't something you want to do in pregnancy. However, I have found that a baby bump raises the hem of a maxi every so slightly. This is a HUGE plus for me. The maxi I'm wearing in the photo above does have shorter hemline, so I found it worked well--especially with a belt. It just requires a bit of extra effort to identify a maxi which will fall at the right length and grow with you. Though it isn't my normal "look", I do anticipate wearing maxi dresses into the fall with a jean jacket or cardigan and boots.

7) Stock up on cardigans, which will fit now and later. Regardless of your due date, having a few of these easy breezy cardigans will improve your quality of life immensely. This simple cardi is nearly always on sale and available in a myriad of colors. {Word for the wise: buying in store often garners even better deals--I got mine for a whopping $9!} Though I haven't purchased these just yet, I love this cozy shawl collar cardigan, as well as this swingy jersey option. Cardigans are available virtually anywhere, so find one or two you love and call it a day.

8) Don't hold out on buying maternity clothes, just to say "you're not wearing maternity clothes". I see a lot of bloggers talking about how they didn't transition into maternity clothes until halfway through their pregnancy. All I can say is this: more power to them. As a person who has worked hard to stay roughly the same size throughout my 20s, I have also found styles which work with my shape. Let's just say this: most of those styles don't work well for pregnancy. At first, I was embarrassed to buy maternity clothes until I realized how much better I felt in my pregnancy skin while wearing them. I'm not joking when I say that the Secret Fit Belly line seriously changed my pregnant life. The Spanx-like top {without the tightness or constriction} smoothes out my midsection and makes me feel like a million bucks. I have also been a perennial lover of these J.Crew pants, so I was thrilled to see they made them for mamas too.  All in all, don't hold out because you want to "stay strong". Do what your body needs and prioritize comfort!

All baby bumps are different, so I know my advice may not work for everyone. If you've graduated from the days of baby bumps, I would love to hear any advice you might have. If you're going to be in the market for bump advice soon, pin this post for future reference ;) I also can't recommend the "dressing the bump" series on Oh Joy! more highly. Her insight {along with the guidance of a few recently pregnant friends} has helped me successfully navigate the first 24 weeks of pregnancy fashion. I still have a few months to go, but I am no longer scared of how to dress this bump! xoxo {av}

P.S. I think pregnancy fitness attire deserves its own post, so look for one of those in the coming weeks/months!

sweet sweet summer.

sweet sweet summer.
{my image, originally found here}

{cv} and I have been filling this sweet, sweet summer to the brim with memories. From our babymoon in California to perfect weekends with friends and family, this last summer sans baby {v} is certainly one for the record books. It may be the pregnancy hormones, but I find myself extra nostalgic. While it feels like the last few months have passed in the blink of an eye, there is a part of me that feels like this summer has progressed at a snail's pace. In some ways, it mimics a summer a decade in my past...

The summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college was, by far, the longest of my life. I was living in Kansas City and training for my first marathon in the worst of the Midwest heat. It was the summer my beloved grandfather passed, after a battle with cancer which was both too quick and too long at the same time. It was also the summer I really started to figure it out -- with boys, with friends, with school, and with life. I emphasize "started" because I am still a very long way from actually figuring out life. 

Though this summer has been much different than the hot one spent in Kansas, I realized recently it has held much of the same change. In 2004, I was returning to Georgetown after a transformational summer in the Heartland. This summer, I am embracing the craziness of life and what it will soon hold for us. On my daily walks, I get lost in thought about the next few months. With the baby and the house, {cv} and I have so many wonderful and "big" things on our plate. There is no shred of complaint in this happy anxiety; it is only the fear of the unknown. 

If you're a long-time reader, I'm sure you've noticed I have been posting much less frequently this summer. {cv} and I are doing our best to enjoy the peace and quiet of our life as it exists today. I find myself missing more regular posts {and, for once, have a queue of ideas a mile long in my head}. At the start of 2014, I pledged I would share only my best with each of you. I can look back on my posts from this year and say I didn't just toss something up for the sake of sharing a post. I'd like to think I saved you the pain of reading a tired post and I saved myself the misguided effort. {I will take it as a win for both of us.} Though the posts may be less frequent, I hope they are posts worthy of a few minutes of your time. 

The biggest blessing of this sweet, sweet summer is simple: I am finally working toward a more focused and fulfilled life. Many thanks for staying by me -- and I hope you'll stick around for the ride. I'm not going anywhere. xoxo {av}

P.S. Do you have any specific topics you'd like me to cover in future posts? Leave a quick comment below or shoot me an email
I want to make my content relevant to you -- and the best way for me to do that is by asking, of course. 

instagram etiquette: why it matters + why you should care.

instagram etiquette: why it matters and why you should care.

When I joined Instagram three years ago, it was little more than an auxiliary social media platform. I posted haphazard photos of everyday life and didn't overanalyze things. I don't know exactly when it changed, but somewhere along the way, Instagram became so much more. From photo editing apps like VSCO CAM to shopping platforms like LIKEtoKNOW:it, there are countless ways to make your snapshots more than just a photo. 

Far and away, Instagram is my favorite social media platform. I have always loved photography, so my favoritism should come as no surprise. In the midst of my love and affection for Instagram, there is also a bit of frustration. The seven points below encompass my view on Insta-etiquette in a nutshell:

1) IF YOU'RE GOING TO SHARE, USE PROPER SOURCING: If my most viewed {and pinned} post of all time is any indication, I am a sourcing fanatic. I won't pin a photo until I can find the link to the person, blog or brand who created the content. As a blogger, I know just how long it takes to craft new posts. Though I don't share "inspirational" photos from others on my Instagram feed, it makes my blood boil to see the hard work of my fellow creatives uncredited and unattributed on Instagram. Applying a new filter and adding some text below the image does not make it yours. Do your due diligence and find the source before you're tempted to share someone else's content. I have heard countless stories about missed attribution and have experienced it myself. While you may be inspired by someone else, prettying up your own feed with their work isn't the best tactic. If you do share someone else's work, always {and I mean always} tag them in the initial photo description. Otherwise, the quick passerby of your feed will miss the attribution completely. My personal opinion is that you shouldn't share the work of others, but I know I could be alone on this one.

2) DON'T PROFIT FROM OTHERS' HARD WORK: On the subject of sharing others' work, don't take someone else's image and make it shoppable. It may be a "smart" business move for a blogger, but you shouldn't be profiting from someone else's outfit or living room. Forever and ever, amen.

3) STOP SHARING FOR THE SAKE OF SHARING: In the past, I used to beat myself up for not sharing new content on my Instagram feed daily. These days, I don't give myself the guilt trip. You may read things about how sharing regularly is the best way to gain followers. I can't argue with those articles: when I'm posting more frequently, I do see my followers increase. When I mention "sharing for the sake of sharing", I mean the posts where you toss something up there just to say you Instagrammed that day. Chances are that if you don't like what you're posting...others won't either. Blowing up someone's feed with mundane things is just that: mundane. Allow yourself a pass. Instagram isn't going anywhere. 

4) DON'T OVER-GRAM: In a similar vein to #3, there are few days in life which require more than three or four Instagrams. Back in the good ol' days, I didn't pay attention to the number of snaps I shared. Fast forward to present day: I rarely share more than two Instagrams in a 24-hour period. On vacation or for a big life event, I may share three or four photos in a day, but it is incredibly uncommon. This is just one example, but follow me here: unless you work in the food industry {or have a food-oriented Instagram account}, no one needs to see all six courses of your dinner. I rest my case.

5) BE ORIGINAL: Peony season inevitably brings an onslaught of peony posts. If you're going to share these beautiful blooms, find some way to make yours different and stand out from the crowd. This concept applies to all of your Instagrams: don't knowingly re-create an Instagram you saw elsewhere. It is just the same as re-gramming someone else's work without attribution. Ick.

6) LEAVE GENUINE COMMENTS: Commenting is a fabulous way to join the "conversation" on Instagram. However, if you don't have something nice to say, leave it to yourself. Leaving a comment on Instagram is so much easier than leaving one on a blog. Quipping something rude and inappropriate may seem funny, but it can be incredibly hurtful. While bloggers are used to putting themselves out there, it doesn't mean that Instagram is the forum in which to criticize them. I may be on my own island here, but I don't think I am: keep your negativity to yourself. Nobody wants it.  

7) STAY TRUE TO YOU: My favorite Instagrams are often the ones which receive the fewest likes. This used to confuse me, but now I understand. Be it the subject or the timing, certain Instagrams will always perform better. {Think about yourself as a potential follower of your feed; it should all make sense.} When I look back on my feed in a few years, I will be glad to have those low-performing photos in it. In the end, all that matters is that your Instagram feed reflects you. Goodness knows, my Instagram feed isn't the most popular. {I gave up caring about the number of followers and likes long ago.} I share what makes my heart happy and this has made all the difference for me.

What would you add to the Instagram etiquette conversation? I share these seven pointers because I would genuinely like to make Instagram better -- not because I'm better than anyone else. Instagram etiquette matters because social media is, by definition, a public platform. We owe it to one another to  be supportive and encouraging, rather than catty and calculated. Agreed? xoxo {av}

P.S. The lucky winner of my $100 Rent The Runway giveaway is Anne from In Residence! Many thanks to all who entered :)