I’m thumbin’ my way into North Caroline

After work today, I’m heading to North Carolina for a long weekend with my grad school BFF! I think it’s been close to a year since I’ve seen her, so I’m dying for the work day to be over!

north-carolinaP has been in North Carolina for the week for work, so he’ll be meeting me there!

We’re planning to hang out in her classroom on Friday, helping her get things set up for the new year (she’s a high school English teacher!), and then we’ll likely head to Raleigh/Cary for the day on Saturday, for the 37th Annual Cary Lazy Daze Arts & Crafts Festival and then a Grease sing-along Saturday night! I’m geekily excited.

Oh, and also: my sister left on Tuesday for a month in Australia. I’m trying not to be jealous, but failing.

Have a great weekend, all!


back from vacation

Surprise! P and I went on a road trip/beach vacation from last Wednesday until yesterday. We visited the National Aquarium in Baltimore, stayed with his aunt and uncle in Towson for one night, then drove to Cape May, NJ for a mini-reunion with some of his grad school classmates. On Saturday, we hit the road from NJ back to D.C. for a Nationals baseball game (my first one ever), and stayed the night with a friend of his in Northern Virginia. We drove back home yesterday, at which point, instead of unpacking and relaxing, I began the process of moving! (No, not into my first home. Into the basement of my dad’s new house, which he closed on last week. It should be a temporary situation, but at this point I have no idea how long “temporary” might last.)

Today I’m dead tired and bummed to be back at work. I’m also trying not to stress out about the fact that I don’t know where most of my belongings are, and that there’s no cable or internet at the new house yet. I wish we could be back here, hanging out poolside:


The rest of this week I hope to pull together some vacation recap posts! Stick with me: even though it’s only Monday and I’m already exhausted, I’m hopeful I’ll make it to Friday…

brain dump

I feel like I haven’t been around much lately! But I’ve actually been busy. I think.

This past weekend, I was in Farmville for a wedding. P was in the wedding party, and it was a really good time. Nearly all of his college friends were back in town (as it was one of them who got married), and I always like to see them get back together. They all act like college boys all over again, which is more endearing and less annoying than it sounds. (Perhaps by the time we’re 30 it will be less acceptable.) I don’t know if a single photo of the two of us exists from the weekend. He wore a tux and I really wanted a picture. Oops.

The weekend before that, I headed to Rehoboth Beach for a bachelorette weekend for my college roommate. She gets married on June 29th, so P and I will be heading to Blacksburg for a wedding on my college campus! Again, I don’t know whether a single photo was taken to capture the weekend. We were also there during Tropical Storm Andrea, so we didn’t even see the beach (except for about 5 minutes after leaving a bar at midnight, when the bride-to-be declared “I want to put my toes in the ocean!!”).

Anyway, I worked today and am taking the rest of this week off. I’m pretty excited, as I’ve got some big things lined up, but I’m still not quite ready to share. (Hint: This is all part of the crossroads I’ve been dancing around in for two years now.) Hopefully sometime in the next week or so, I’ll have made some big decisions and will be feeling secure in them.

For now, you can find me pacing. My stomach has been in knots all day, and I’m a wound-up ball of anxiety. I feel like I’m simultaneously late for something really important and also forgetting about something major I was supposed to have done. I don’t like feeling this way, so hopefully things will shake out soon.

Swannanoa Palace

After our visit to the Charlottesville Southern Living Showcase Home on Sunday, my family also headed up Afton Mountain to explore Swannanoa Palace, at which there are several open houses being held this summer.

2013-06-02 13.47.40I was excited when I learned about the summer open house schedule, because my dad first told me about Swannanoa a few months ago, when he was interested in buying a house that had come on the market on the nearby golf course. I was really surprised to learn about a secret palace sitting on top of the mountain that I’ve driven past no less than 50 times in my life. As it turns out, there’s not much information to be found about Swannanoa on the internet, which made it even more secretive and appealing to me! (The wikipedia article is pretty good, if anyone is interested.)

Swannanoa was built by Major James Dooley, an executive with the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad Company (who also owned the Maymont estate in Richmond), as a token of love for his wife, Sally May. Swannanoa is a 52-room, 23,000+ square foot marble palace that was built for $2 million in 1912.

More than 300 artisans were hired to create the palace as a replica of the Villa de Medici in Rome, and it’s constructed with white Georgia marble on the exterior and Italian Carrera marble on the interior. At the top of the first-floor staircase at the center of the entrance hall is a 4,000 piece Tiffany stained-glass window bearing the likeness of Mrs. Dooley, capped with a domed ceiling mural. The name Swannanoa comes from Mrs. Dooley’s fondness for swans, which she liked because they choose their mates for a lifetime.

2013-06-02 12.46.05It was hard to get a picture of both the staircase and the stained glass because it was so dark inside, so above is the staircase and below is the window.

2013-06-02 12.53.25It’s hard to precisely trace the occupancy of the palace, but it’s been sitting empty since roughly the late 1990’s. Apparently some renovations were done beginning in 1999, but the palace has really begun to fall apart. Notice how the silk is shredding off the wall in the photo below? Some rooms on the main floor are still in decent condition, but most of the rooms upstairs have fallen into disrepair.

2013-06-02 12.49.04Here’s the dining room, which I think captures the magnificence of the hand-carved woodwork. It was just all so ornate and extravagant.

2013-06-02 12.46.41

2013-06-02 12.46.54None of the 8 bedrooms in the home are open to the public, so the tour really consists of the main level, staircases, some upstairs hallways, and one of the two towers. I have to admit that I had a jolt of terror when I made it about halfway up the staircase between the 3rd and 4th floors, because it was creaky and old and I felt unsafe being up so high.

2013-06-02 12.58.22When we reached the top level, we really got to see the extent of work that needs to be done to bring this house back to life.

2013-06-02 12.59.522013-06-02 13.02.19However, there are also some cool original architectural elements that are still around, like the antique doorknobs and the original fuse box.

2013-06-02 13.01.14

5592_1897510848507_1720294949_nOnce we had made it up to the tower, we got to see exactly why the Dooleys had built a palace in such an inaccessible place. The view!

2013-06-02 13.03.30We headed back downstairs, where I was tickled to find that the original blueprints were on display! They were laying out on a table for anyone to touch and sift through. So, so cool. I wanted to steal them and frame them!

2013-06-02 13.21.57Also after revisiting the first floor, I discovered a room I had missed the first time around! It was probably my favorite.

2013-06-02 13.13.33After finishing up inside of the house, we headed out to explore the rear gardens. Here’s a historical photo that shows what it used to look like:

2013-06-02 13.15.45But this is what it looks like today, looking toward the house from the highest terrace of the garden:

2013-06-02 13.34.17And this is looking up to the highest terrace:

2013-06-02 13.31.13All in all, it was a neat escape into a long-gone century, and a fun afternoon activity. The house smelled like mold and old age, but it appealed to everyone from my grandma, my dad, my sister, to me. We all found something that we liked.

2013-06-02 13.44.53(I guess I liked standing outside and pretending it was my palace!)

The pamphlet I got when I walked in said that “the future plans for the palace are to be a bed and breakfast hotel and executive conference center,” so maybe one day it’ll be brought back to its original grandeur! For now, though, there are stinkbugs in all the windows and a dead bird on the front porch… Kind of a monument to things that have long been forgotten. But how neat would it be if it could be restored into a B&B? Imagine all the weddings that would happen here!

Charlottesville Southern Living Showcase Home

On Sunday, I graciously invited (read: dragged) my dad, grandma, and sister to the 2013 Southern Living Showcase home, which is right here in Charlottesville!

I’m not totally clear on how the process works (there seem to be a lot of Southern Living Showcase Homes), but it was essentially another designed house to tour, so I wasn’t going to pass it up! (See my visits to the 2013 Charlottesville Design House and the 2012 Richmond Homearama for more design goodness.)

The house was built by Summit Custom Homes, and features nearly 5,000 square feet of finished living space. The house was split into chunks and designed by 3 area designers: Moyanne Harding, Stedman House, and the Gibson Design Group.

Let’s start the tour! Here’s the exterior:

Disclaimer: I couldn’t get the greatest pictures because 1) there were other people in the house and 2) I wasn’t sure whether photography was allowed!

Upon entering, you’re in a foyer with a dining area to your right. Straight ahead is a 2-story living space designed by Moyanne. I loved the palette of blues and grays.

2013-06-02 11.34.07Behind where the above photo was taken is the amazing kitchen (which was, in my humble opinion, one of the two best spaces of the whole house), also designed by Moyanne. [I love, love, love white kitchen cabinets. I loved the coffered ceiling. I loved the soft-close drawers. I loved that the upper shelves in each cabinet were lit and glass-fronted for display. I loved the pot-filler above the stovetop. I loved the black soapstone countertops. I loved the backsplash, and the hardware, and the flooring… Sigh.]

2013-06-02 11.54.28Accessible through doors from the kitchen and the living room above was the second of the two best spaces in the house: an amazing and cozy covered porch, complete with a fireplace. I’ve seen a few porches like this in the Charlottesville area, and I think whoever came up with this idea was a genius. It’s definitely on my list for my someday dream home. The porch was designed by Andrea Gibson. (Fun fact: she also designed the screened porch at the 2012 Charlottesville Design House, and it was awesome, too!) A porch like this would get so much use in this area: it would be perfect for springtime breakfasts, cool summer nights, evenings in the fall, and even cuddling in front of the fireplace during the winter. I really want one!

2013-06-02 11.32.44Also on the main floor were the Master bedroom and bathroom, by Andrea Gibson. I couldn’t get great pictures here because it was a little crowded, but I loved the bed, the trim + molding detail, and the wood ceiling in this room.

2013-06-02 11.34.28The modern claw-foot tub in the Master bath was really cool! I didn’t get a picture of the walk-in closet, but it was decked out with a full organizational job by the Closet Factory.

2013-06-02 11.36.04Obviously, these photos only capture a few of the spaces on the main floor (I didn’t get pictures of the foyer, den, dining room, half bath, laundry room, staircases, or garage), and I completely left out the basement and the upper level!

I’d recommend a visit if you’re in the Charlottesville area. The house is open for one more weekend, with tours available this Friday, June 7 through Sunday, June 9. A bonus: it looks like at least some of the cost of your $12 ticket goes to charity!



Memorial Day Weekend at the Cabin

P’s family has a cabin on a creek in Southwestern-ish Virginia. A week or so ago, when we realized that we both had Monday off for Memorial Day, I suggested that we spend the long weekend ringing in the summer at the creek! P ran it by his parents, and we were cleared for a weekend getaway.

On Saturday morning, I hit the road for Roanoke, where P met me at his parents’ house. We hopped in his car and drove the half hour or so out to the cabin.

Saturday afternoon we helped his parents open the camp up for the summer, which included unloading all the water paraphenalia (kayaks, lawn chairs, fishing rods, tubes, etc.) from the screened-in porch out to the lawn to be washed off. The porch (and everything on it) was coated in a whole spring season’s worth of pollen, so there was kind of a lot of work to be done. P’s parents bought a power washer, and P and I got put in charge of power washing the entire porch–which turned out to be no minor feat. It took us most of the afternoon and into the evening, as his parents both worked away at various other housekeeping tasks.

Here are 2 of the only 3 pictures I managed to grab of the weekend (apparently I was too busy relaxing to take any more):

the porch in the middle of cleaning

the porch in the middle of power washing + cleaning

the creek!

the creek! (and evidence of cleaning)

On Saturday night, two of P’s best friends from high school came out to spend the night with us, which is when I partook in the drinking of my entire bottle of sparkly and delicious Italian Moscato (purchased here), and the boys drank lots of beer. It was fun to hang out and relax with P and his friends, and we were up just cracking jokes, talking, and playing cards until nearly 4am.

On Sunday, we got up, made breakfast, and P’s family returned to join us for another day at the creek. We had plans to kayak, but it wasn’t as warm as we would have liked, and the water was pretty cold. So we decided to forego the water plans and instead hung out on land all day. I spent most of the day reading magazines and a book in a lawn chair, either creekside or on the porch. P and his friends played a lot of horseshoes and did some more housekeeping-type work. I also took a pretty awesome nap in the early evening.

On Sunday night, we headed back to Roanoke to visit a different set of P’s friends who recently moved to Roanoke together. Before our visit, we stopped by Bruster’s (because I wanted ice cream), and I had the most delicious waffle cone with chocolate chip cookie dough and white chocolate Oreo. (Seriously good stuff. I’d love some more white chocolate Oreo right about now.) We arrived around 10:30pm to check out their apartment (and their pets – a chubby Dachshund, 3 turtles, a Beta fish, and 3 shrimp in a terrarium!) and hung out for an hour or so before feeling wiped out and heading home.

On Monday, we got up and hung out around P’s family’s house. His mom always loves to see him, which I find endearing. I like to visit their house just to see the different dynamics – P is the oldest of 3 boys, and his 2 younger brothers are still at home. I only have one sister, so boys are a different world to me. I feel like I learn something new about them every time I visit, and I’m always impressed by how P’s mom takes their various antics in stride and also manages to hold down the fort all the time.

I hit the road for Charlottesville around 6pm, and arrived at home just in time for the Bachelorette premiere! I watched at a friend’s house, and we kicked off the season by choosing brackets for our own version of Fantasy Bachelorette. It’ll be exciting to see how that unfolds. The losers have to treat the winner to dinner and drinks when it’s all over!

All in all, it was a wonderful and relaxing weekend. Now that I’ve celebrated the official start of summer, I’m starting to really feel the summertime travel bug. I’ve never wanted to drive home and return to work less!

A Rockin’ Good Weekend

This past weekend, I dragged P to Richmond for Dominion RiverRock! I headed to Farmville on Friday night, and then we got up Saturday morning to hit the road. We met with some friends for lunch at the Cheesecake Factory, then after being temporarily waylaid by the rain, we headed to Brown’s Island for “the nation’s premier outdoor sports and music festival!”

I initially wanted to go because one of the headlining events at Riverrock was the Subaru Ultimate Air Dogs contest, where people could enter their dogs in a distance jumping competition! I knew it would be great fun to watch. Then I found out about the Interactive Village, where they had kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, slacklines, and other demos to try for free!

kayaks and stand up paddleboards

kayaks and stand up paddleboards

Once we got there, the combination of the overcast + off-and-on rainy weather and the big crowd psyched me out of trying a kayak or a stand-up paddleboard. But that’s okay, because I was more than happy just being surrounded by doggies all day long!

We arrived in time for the 3pm qualifying round. I’m just going to let my (less than great) pictures do the talking for me!

a German Shepherd preparing to jump!

a German Shepherd preparing to jump!

a pair of English Bull Terriers...aka the Target dogs! they were so cute and you could tell how much they loved people

a pair of English Bull Terriers…aka the Target dogs! they were so cute and you could just tell how much they loved people

I caught a Border Collie mid-air!

I caught a Border Collie mid-air!

a fancy Poodle 'do

a fancy Poodle ‘do

kayakers huddling on the rocks out in the river

kayakers huddling on the rocks out in the river


stand up paddleboarders trying to maneuver upstream

stand up paddleboarders trying to maneuver upriver

Next, we moved down to the lower area, where there was a slacklining demo and bouldering semifinals. I had never seen slacklining like this before: when I was in college, kids would set one up between trees out on the drillfield, but all they ever did was jump on and struggle to walk across. This demo featured some young kids doing seriously impressive tricks on the slackline. I wasn’t able to catch any really cool pictures, but trust me: it was neat stuff.

slacklining demo

slacklining demo

slacklining demo

slacklining demo


the male bouldering competitors, sizing up the course

the male bouldering competitors, sizing up the course


festive doggies!

festive doggies!

a girl rock climber!

a girl rock climber!

After we watched the bouldering semifinals for a while, we started to get antsy. So we headed back to the upper level, so I could watch the doggies a little longer! My favorite part about Riverrock was the overabundance of dogs! They were everywhere! I loved it.

a puppy by the port-a-potties!

squee! a puppy by the port-a-potties!

Near the very end of the day, I said to P: “the only thing we haven’t seen today is a Great Dane!” I’ve wanted a Great Dane for years. I love the idea of a 150+ pound giant who thinks he’s a lap dog. I love everything I’ve read about the breed, and I hope that one day I’ll add one to the family!

a Newfie puppy!!

a Newfie puppy!!

Just as I was obsessing over the adorable Newfoundland puppy above, I saw this handsome giant:



His name is Chaos, and he weighs 170 pounds!! He was SO FREAKING BIG!!! (Look at that girl and her dad behind him for scale!) His owner was the guy with the leash, who was also unusually tall, so they were a pretty perfect pair. I want one.

All in all, it was an awesome day. I was so, so happy to be surrounded by puppies all day long. I didn’t even mind the overcast weather! (And it was great to spend the weekend with P, too. I’m lucky that he’s so agreeable when it comes to me dragging him wherever I want to go!)