The Little Things


What a week--despite being so happy with my life, this week was quite a doozie!  It dragged on and on; I've been sleep-deprived, migraine suffering, and scatterbrained.

When things get like this, I just do my best to take deep breaths and appreciate the little things that make life a bit easier.

I'll share a few from this week...

Seeing The Lion King and munching on M&M-Popcorn DELICIOUS-NESS.

Also, I was so lucky to receive the cutest "just because" card in the mail from my blog-turned-real-life friend Claire (Life in the Sweet Virginia Breeze)!

Isn't this card precious?!?

Getting in bed around 9:00!

I sleep like a baby these days..

Getting the chance to see the sweeties I babysat two years in Charlottesville.

Sweeties in the snow last December!

Getting my hair done--it had been FOUR MONTHS and my roots were the worst they have ever been!  

I was beginning to feel like this kitty!

Also, having a delicious dinner cooked by Bryce:  grilled chicken, rice, homemade cornbread, and pineapple made my night! I will be eating the leftovers for lunch today...mmmm!

Finally, each and every day knowing that I am making a difference in the lives of my students, who love me even when I am sleep-deprived and just a little bit wacky, makes it all worth it!

All that being said, I haven't had much time for reading this week.  I've had a hard time even getting my thoughts out clearly when speaking, so I can't imagine what my frazzled mind would do with a piece of quality literature.  The blog book discussion will be postponed one week!  I will now post discussion questions by NEXT FRIDAY, and will hold the link up MONDAY, OCTOBER 10!  Thanks for understanding and now some of you who may have been as busy as me may have time to join in!  To see all the details, click here!

How do you manage to stay sane when things get crazy?  What LITTLE things have made a BIG difference in your life this week?

Have a great weekend!


Virginia Wine Making

Happy Thursday readers!

Whew, this week has been a long one!  Yesterday I left the house at 7:00 am and didn't make it home until 10:00 pm.  Luckily, it was such a late night because I visited some special people after my seminar in Cville.  I was thrilled to have dinner with the family I babysat for over 2 years--C, the 2 and a half year old said "No, I want you stay forever all day" as I told him I had to go!   Dinner was followed by Arch's (fabulous Cville frozen yogurt) and girl talk with one of my residents from last year.

All that being said, I am SO glad to have Student Teaching Guest Post #7 today which is by none other than...BRYCE!  If I haven't mentioned it yet, Bryce has quite the green thumb (unlike me) and has been working on making his very own wine.  I can't wait to try this wine in the future and today, his guest post will share the story of his winemaking journey--enjoy!

As a young man, I spent many weekends and summers on my family’s farm in Southside Virginia.  My family has lived in Charlotte and Campbell Counties for the better part of three hundred years and were predominately tobacco and cattle farmers, as they still are today. 

I can remember spending many summer afternoons looking for arrowheads in between long rows of bright tobacco and listening to music and stories told by my great uncles who were born in the 1920’s and grew up during the depression-era. They would always have “homebrew” (homemade wine, beer, and moonshine) and passed on their love of farming and home brewing to all of their nephews.  Growing up on a farm, there were always extra fermentable fruits, such as wild blackberries, huckleberries, persimmons, apples, and wild native grapes (probably of the Scuppernong variety) and during The Great Depression, they made use of everything that they had.

The tradition of American winemaking is almost as old as the Commonwealth of Virginia itself, and can be traced back to Thomas Jefferson in Albemarle County.  Jefferson, who has always been one of my heroes for being a great statesman and horticulturist, also shared in my love of all things viticulture.  He saw the similarities of the Virginia climate and soil to those of France, and began cultivating grapes here in Virginia. 

Figure 1: The current vineyards of Monticello (photo courtesy of Monticello)

Unfortunately, Jefferson had limited success with imported ancient European varieties such as Vitis vinifera (a species dating to between 130 to 200 Million years ago). Due to native diseases and pests, he had to continually replant his vineyard and probably never produced any wine at Monticello.  It was not until more recent years, when grafting to native grape varieties and the use of pesticides were common practice, that growing good winemaking cultivars was a success in the United States.  However, Jefferson is arguably the greatest steward of growing grapes in Virginia and is the undisputed patron of American winemaking.

Three years ago, I decided to plant sixteen (16) Corot Noir grapevines in Middlesex County, Virginia.  The Middle Peninsula is probably not the greatest place to grow grapes, but I have seen some success in the last few years.  Generally, the first year is devoted to establishing your vineyard and allowing the young vines to mature with vegetative growth.  The second year is for training your vines to a trellis or wire. 

Figure 2: Early second year – BAC and Jeb (the best black lab ever) after I finished putting in the wires

The third year will see some grape production, if you have been successful in the endeavors of the two previous years.

This September, I harvested my first grape crop and began producing my first vintage. 

Figure 3: De-stemming the freshly picked grapes

After sorting, de-stemming, and washing the harvested grapes, they are mashed by hand and put in a bucket to ferment. To start the fermentation process, yeast and sugar are added to the grape juice, skins, and seeds.  During fermentation, the special strain of winemaking yeast eats the sugar (both natural and added), and as a product produces both alcohol and carbon dioxide (CO2). When either the sugar has all been eaten by the yeast or the alcohol content gets too high for the yeast to survive, the yeast will die and the fermentation is complete.
Figure 4: My homemade fermenting vessel made from a five gallon bucket.  The plastic piece on top is an air lock/water trap to allow CO2 to escape and to prevent wild yeast or undesirable bacteria to contaminate the wine.

Figure 5: The Must (from the Latin Vinum mustum meaning “young wine”) in the last stage of fermentation.  In parlance, must is the wine, before it can be considered “wine.”

This is the current stage in my production. To follow will include:

  • pressing - squeezing the grapes to exude any wine that they are holding
  • fining - the process that allows the lees (dead yeast and suspended solids) to precipitate and settle
  • racking - the process of siphoning wine off of the lees
  • bottling
  • maturation 
As you can see, there is a lot of labor and love that goes into making a very small amount of wine (there are about 2.5 gallons here).  This was the first year of grape production, so hopefully yield will improve.  I think that quality is always better than quantity and that artisanal production has much merit in any instance. 

Projects like these are often a great school in their own right.  They teach patience, forward thinking and planning, and most often humility.  It is a very special experience to see the fruit of your labors come to fruition (puns intended), and also the creation of a product that you oversaw from start to finish.

Lest we forget the most important thing…you get to drink the wine! It can take a good year (and arguably much longer) for a wine to mature enough to be enjoyable, so I will let you know how it turns out.

Virginiae Fidem Praesto.  Enjoy!


Have a great day!


Birthday List

Happy Hump Day readers!

Boy, I am ready for the weekend--for some reason this week is dragging along and despite going to bed early every night I am feeling quite exhausted!

In exactly two months from today, November 28, I will turn 23.  About now is the time that my parents and other family members start asking me for a birthday/Christmas wishlist.  I thought it would be fun to come up with a dream birthday wishlist for the blog.  I do, however, realize this list is quite extravagant, and am not expecting to receive all of these things.

I ABSOLUTELY love this and know I would wear it a ton--tortoise shell is one of my favorites and it matches with everything

I have a blue Patagonia vest, but have literally been ogling over this cream colored version for three years now!

I have read and enjoyed The Island and Barefoot so I would love to delve into some more of this author's work.

I just love the edgier look of these and know I would live in them!

I have the most gorgeous cream stationery with my monogram embossed, however, I would love to add some like this to my collection for more casual notes!

I liked this trend last year, but wasn't ready to embrace it.  Now I can literally just picture this vest with SO many outfits!

I have a pair of black patent revas I live in, but desperately need a pair in a tan color like this!

I adore this watch--see post here!

I know this is one of those movies I could watch over and over again!

What do you think of my list?  What's on your wishlist right now?

As a side note, be sure to stop by tomorrow for a guest post from the one and only BRYCE!

Have a great day!


The Lion King

Happy Tuesday friends!

Last night Bryce and I went to see The Lion King in 3D!  It was so fun and I actually think I liked it even better last night than I did as a kid.

Rocking the 3D Glasses

I usually don't get snacks at the theater, but as y'all can see, last night we went all out!  My favorite movie-going tip is to get popcorn and M&Ms--dump some of the M&Ms into the popcorn and you have the perfect mix of sweet and salty...delicious!

In honor of the movie last night, I figured I'd brighten up your Tuesday with some fabulous Lion King songs, I'm sure you all can sing along to!  (If you're at work, just sing quietly, hehe!)

"The Circle of Life"

"Hakuna Matata"

"I Just Can't Wait to Be King"

Have a great day!!


Sunday Supper

Happy Monday friends!

How were your weekends?

Mine was just what the doctor ordered--it involved lots of lazing around and also some fun time with friends!

Saturday, CCA and I had another blog date at Cafe Caturra.

Bryce had a work weekend at his hunt club preparing for the upcoming season and got back in town early Sunday evening. That night, we had ALG and her handsome beau who was in town over for supper.

I did a little Halloween decorating for the occasion...

I'm still deciding how I feel about this vase of pumpkins I came up with.  I think it needs a few more--what do y'all think?  Surprisingly Bryce really liked it!

 We got these bowls at Tarjay last weekend and I bought some candy to fill them!
We'll see how long this candy corn lasts...

I got this adorable sign for Bryce's front door at Home Goods, but he says he wants to wait until it's a bit closer to Halloween to put it up...

Also...remember the gorgeous bamboo wine rack I bought a few weekends ago (see post here)?  I have SUCCESSFULLY convinced Bryce it is a fabulous addition to his kitchen!  

Isn't it lovely?!?

Now enough of decor and back to the food and socializing...we started with a mix of appetizers:

Pimento Cheese and Crackers, Pineapple, and UVA-colored Iced Yogurt Pretzels

For supper, we dined on Hawaiian Terriyaki marinated steak, baked potatoes, asparagus, and rolls.

Bryce hard at work...

The set-up!

Pretty ALG awaiting the meal!


We finished it off with a delicious strawberry cake ALG brought--however, it disappeared too fast to get a picture!

After dinner we had a little photo shoot:

What a lovely couple!

Not my best picture, but I love my ALG!

The hosts of the evening!

What did you do this weekend?

Have a great day!


Reminder: Blog Book Discussion

Happy Friday, my friends!

Today I have just a short post for you. Last night I was busy getting everything done in time to make it to a girlfriend's for the season premiere of Grey's (are any of you fans as well?) and didn't have the usual time I put into my posts.

That being said, all I have for you today is a reminder:

I wanted to remind you all of the blog book discussion I introduced during August's installment of African Aspirations (see here).  The book we will be discussing is Ishmael Beah's A Long Way Gone.

I announced the discussion nearly two months ago to ensure I would have plenty of time to read the book, and....guess what?  I just started!  So have no fear--if you are just reading about this discussion and want to join in, you still have time!  The book is a quick read and really sucks you in!  The discussion questions and my responses will be posted Monday, October 3.  Additionally, I will have a link-up for you to add your posts and answers, as well as other thoughts/reflections you may have.  I will post the discussion questions on my Facebook page (here) by next Friday!   

To read the full directions, click here!

Have a great weekend---much of mine will be spent READING!


Racing High

Happy Thursday readers!  What a fabulous week it has been..not only has it flown by, but every day I am loving teaching and my students more!

Today, I bring you Student Teaching Guest Post #5 from Amanda, who happens to be my one of my best bloggy friends!  We text and talk on the phone frequently and it is so special to have her positive attitude in my life.  She is a big runner, and well....I am DEFINITELY....NOT!  So I thought it would be fun for her to share some of her motivation with not only me, but also with you!  Enjoy!

Hello Sundresses and Smiles followers, I'm Amanda! And I'm here today from Simple Girl, Simple Pleasures. I am so honored to be guest posting for my bloggy bff (yes, we have regular phone dates and still haven't met in real life...yet)! 

Anyways, I'm here to talk about my love of running and what keeps me motivated. To say that I'm addicted to the runner's high is an understatement, but I have discovered a new version of the runner's high...it's the runner's racing high. 

Rock 'N Roll Half Marathon
Providence, 2011

I used to go through phases where I loved running then hated it. It has always been a passion of mine, and it will always be a passion of mine. But after running a 5k several years ago, I realized the excitement of racing is worth the hard work, sweat, and pain. So I started to do training programs and run to work towards something.

Check out those leg muscles!!
(This caption is Allie speaking...)
During college, I knew I couldn't commit the time, effort, or heart to running and training for races. So after graduation, I decided it was time to get something in my calendar to keep me motivated, to keep me exercising, and to keep up my health. Bring on the Roxbury Half Marathon in Connecticut. For months, I ran long distances and worked my butt off. My goal was to run it under two hours. 
Race day came, and when it barely broke twenty degrees, I knew my joints were going to hate me. I had to walk part of the race, and I cried through the finish line. I came in 85th out of the 91 participants. I didn't come in last, and I finished the race. I was officially a half marathoner.
I struggled to walk the following days, but I felt proud of what I had done. As hard as that race was, I knew that it wouldn't be my last. Since that race, I have run another half marathon and my first 10k. I am trying to only run a max of five races a year (this year, I'm running at least four).


Running races (and training for them) keep me motivated and working hard, plus they keep me in shape. I love setting goals for myself, so each race is something new to look forward to or something else to accomplish. Do you have anything that keeps you motivated to workout or run?
Thanks again for having me, Allie!

Have a great day!


Widespread Panic

Happy Hump Day y'all!

How are your weeks going?

Mine is going great--yesterday was my first full day of teaching completely by myself and it could not have gone better.  It was a huge confidence boost and also was a fun glimpse into what will be my "real life" next year as an actual teacher.

The only challenge I faced yesterday was a bit of exhaustion, due to the previous night's events...

Monday night, Bryce and I went to see Widespread Panic at The National, here in Richmond.  They are on tour celebrating their 25th year.

I wasn't really sure what to expect--I have lots of friends that are Widespread fans, however, I tend to be more of a country music kind of girl.  Bryce was expecting me to hate it, BUT...

I LOVED it! 

Their music had a great beat and was fabulous for dancing!  They also had the most incredible lights shows throughout the concert and I really enjoyed being with a bit of a funkier crowd.

SO cool!

This was one of my favorites--the circles spun!

I love how this picture turned out!

Bryce got two posters and I especially like this one, with a bee on it:

To read more about the poster, from the artist, click here!

He also got me their "Stray Dog Tee":
Though it's definitely very different than many of my other tees, I'm loving the psychadelic colors!

We got some great videos from the night, BUT, if any of you have ever tried to load a video on Blogger before, you know how long it takes...so I'll leave you with some YouTube videos to get a feel for their music!

"Climb to Safety"

"Ribs and Whiskey"

Have you ever heard of Widespread Panic?  What do ya think? 


Needlepoint Flats

Happy Tuesday readers!

Today is a big day for student teaching--my teacher is gone all day so I will be the full-time teacher, all day by myself, for the first time!  Wish me luck!

Today, I have a new discovery to share with you!  A few nights ago as I was doing some "online window shopping," I came across a new obsession:  needlepoint ballet flats.

Be prepared to swoon...

If I haven't mentioned it yet..I LOVE a good animal print!

I'm picturing these with cute fall skirts!

The pairing of the powder blue with this sassy zebra print is to die for, if you ask me!

These would be so cute paired with jeans and a plain black top!

To browse the other styles, click here!

And for your mini-me, they even make needlepoint baby booties!

I'm buzzing over these precious bee baby booties!

What do you think?  Would you wear needlepoint ballet flats or think needlepoint should be left to pillows and belts?

Have a great day!


I Chose...C!

Happy Monday friends!

How were your weekends?

Mine was incredible--Bryce and I packed in lots of quality time over the weekend, which was so nice since he had been gone for 10 days!

Friday night we had a date night at Edo's Squid which was on our checklist (see here).  The food was delicious!!  We started with calamari.  Next, for entrees,  I had spaghetti with crab meat and Bryce had penne pasta with a cream sauce, broccoli rabe, and pine nuts.  We shared a tiramisu for dessert.  The atmosphere was bustling and a bit artsy.  If you're ever in Richmond or are from Richmond, I highly suggest checking out Edo's.

Saturday I was able to grab some Starbuck's with LPC who was visiting home for the weekend (she's currently in grad school at Wake Forest).  It was so great to catch up with her and see how much she is enjoying grad school.

Bryce and I then went shopping for a wedding present and headed to the wedding.  (Funny side story--we bought wrapping paper and ribbon while we were at Target, but when we got home, we realized we didn't have any tape.  We ended up having to buy tape on the way and wrapped the present in the back of the car between the ceremony and reception).

And now...what you've all been waiting for--I chose C!

Most of y'all selected Choice A or Choice C for the wedding, so I decided to leave the decision up to Bryce. He LOVED Choice C and thought the blue color really popped, so that's what I went with.

Allie & Bryce

The ceremony was at a gorgeous Lutheran church downtown that was built in 1911!  The reception which followed was at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.  I loved the venue--we were surrounded by gorgeous marble walls and columns and also were able to stroll through some of the art galleries.  

Bryce and the groom

One of my favorite aspects of the wedding was the couple's spin on a guest book.  In lieu of having a traditional guest book, they bought vintage postcards from places they have visited together or are significant to them as a couple.  They invited guests to select a postcard, write their wishes for the couple on it, and put it in a mailbox.

We also really enjoyed the art.  Bryce wanted a picture of us with abstract art as the backdrop.

I followed April's advice (see her blog here) and did some color-blocking with the dress, pairing the lime pashmina with the bright blue!

Bryce also wanted a picture with Andy Warhol's Triple Elvis from the pop-art collection.

What a goob!

The night involved good food (they had a mashed potato bar!), some crazy dancing, and lots of fun!

Sunday, we slept in and I grabbed brunch with ALG at River City Diner--we both had the chocolate chip pancakes which are heavenly!  The rest of the day I relaxed and prepared for the week!

How was your weekend?