DIY: coffee filter flower twig wreath

In five weeks I am helping host my dear friend Michelle's baby shower! I can't wait. My mind has been going crazy with ideas, mostly pinterest-inspired. I find myself eating lunch at work and sketching out Dorothy's house (where we're having the shower) with all the decorations labeled, and making countless lists. I love it. Today, I was able to cross off the coffee filter flower twig wreath from my to-do list!  
It was so fun to make! I followed a tutorial from design sponge. I recommend following their directions instead of mine because they explain how to make the flowers a lot better than me! The first step is to dye your filters. All you have to do is add acrylic paint to water and soak the filters for up to an hour (depending on how rich a color you're looking for). 
 Then, hang them up to dry. Toby helped me find any that blew away int he wind.
Once dried, fold the filters and cut them so the edges begin to look like flower petals. Also, cut a small hole in the bottom center of the filters. This works best if you fold the filters into quarters and then cut.
Then you can assemble your flowers! Start with one sheet of the darkest color and twist at the bottom. Next, take 2 sheets of the medium color and pull up around the inner layer. Last, take 3 sheets of the lightest color and pull up around the medium color. Twist at the bottom and secure with masking tape. I made different sizes and used different numbers of filters for each flower. 
Lastly, hot glue the flowers to your wreath! I love the way this project turned out. I made two wreaths for french doors that open to the back porch at Dorothy's house. I can't wait to see how it all comes together!  

the rest of DC in pictures

So I mentioned that both Kristin and I were more excited about a trip to DC than we were the actual race. I think planning a trip and being in a different city added to the excitement of everything. It definitely took my mind of over analyzing and stressing over the actual running part of this trip which was good! We flew in on Thursday night after work and took the metro from Reagan to Metro Center and walked to our cute hotel!  
Charming, right? The Henley Park Hotel had nice character, but it also had it's quirks. When we first walked in, we felt an overwhelming wave of heat. Apparently, since it is an old building, the temperature is controlled by one unit, and they hadn't turned the AC on yet.. Neither of us thought to look for "individual air conditioning units" listed as an amenity... So we opened our windows to let in some cool air, but there were no screens which meant we had to watch out for birds! There were a couple close calls where a bird almost flew in... Also, for some reason, we both felt dizzy in the hallway and in our room after first walking in each time. The coffee maker didn't work, and the pillows were enormous and uncomfortable,  but all of that just added to the character of the hotel! It was clean, well decorated, and we loved the location.  

Friday morning we slept in, got ready and headed out to brunch at Founding Farmers. It was crowded, so we ate at the bar. I highly recommend this place. Great fresh food and a very fun, upbeat atmosphere. We had to stop for pics of the cherry blossoms along the way! I was thrilled they were already in bloom. 
 On our way to brunch, we just so happened to pass Curbside Cupcakes! This was a no brainer. We had to stop. Isn't this pink truck so fun? We plopped down on the curb and delicately ate our cupcakes as a little appetizer. It was lovely. 
 Then it was off to the Mall to see the sights! Unfortunately, it was kind of a gloomy day. The temperature was perfect though!
 From the Mall, we headed to Arlington Cemetery. The cherry blossoms were unbelievably beautiful!

Then it was off to the Armory where the expo was located to grab our goods for the race. We headed back to our room, rested a bit, and then went to Old Ebbit Grill for crab cakes and calamari! YUM. Neither of us had been to this restaurant before. I didn't take any pictures, but it is classic DC and was festive for St. Patty's Day. We headed back home by 9:30 or so, and were in bed before the race by 11. 

Saturday morning, we woke up early, grabbed coffee, and headed to the race. Later that evening, we met up with DOUG AND KAREEM!! This was one of my favorite parts of the trip. I miss these friends so much. Doug ran the full marathon and is running a 50 mile race this summer. He's crazy. We ate dinner at Bus Boys (an old favorite) near U St., and then went to American Ice Co. for a local DC brew. Lots of laughs reminiscing about our old days together. So fun!! Here we are all decked out in green for St. Patty's Day. :) 

Sunday morning, we took the metro over to the Eastern Market where we enjoyed crepes for breakfast. 
 This was one of my favorite things to do with Ginna on the weekends when we lived here.. Lots of memories. I especially loved this vendor. I wanted all of these old mirrors!!
 Our flight wasn't until 6 pm, so after the Eastern Market we checked out of the hotel and took a cab over to Georgetown! For cupcakes of course. We went to Georgetown Cupcake first. Love the floral arrangement!
And then to Sprinkles! We compared the vanilla/vanilla cupcake from both places. Kristin and I decided that we liked the icing from Georgetown Cupcake best, but the cake from Sprinkles best. It was like our own little mini cupcake tour! 
Love this colorful street in Georgetown.
We walked  hobbled up to Georgetown University to look at the campus. I had never been up there before. It was beautiful!  
Both Kristin and I were feeling a little sore from the race, so walking around all day the day after maybe wasn't the best idea. We took it slow though, and got to see so many areas of DC which was awesome. Both of us felt like we were able to do and see a lot, but also have down time. It was the perfect combination of exploring and relaxing. Good food, pretty scenery, fun company. We had a wonderful time! 

DC Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon

Back in November, I decided to run a half marathon. I never thought I would ever run more than 6 miles at a time. I had only ever really run 5K races until last spring when Brian and I ran the Cooper River Bridge Run, which was a 10K. I remember loving that race so much and feeling like I could definitely run a longer distance. A half marathon seemed almost impossible though. The decision to run this half was very impulsive... In November, Brian and I were on our way to Boone for a cabin trip. We were almost there when I got a text from Kristin saying, "Do you want to run the DC Rock 'n Roll half in March?" I thought she was joking at first because the girl HATES running. But she was serious. It was 11/11/11, and there was a discounted rate if we registered on that day! We were almost to the cabin, and I was about to lose cell phone reception! I had to decide quickly. I called Kristin to make sure she was indeed serious, and five minutes later, we had both registered... Really, we were more excited about a trip to DC! More details on that part of the trip later!

I followed Hal Higdon's training program and stuck to it loosely. As long as I got my long runs in on the weekends, I felt okay. I had 18 weeks to train, so I was able to stretch out the 12 week training program which worked out nicely. I even got to the point where I enjoyed the longer runs. I listened to The Hunger Games on audio while running, which helped pass the time. Toby was a great training buddy!  

Here we are in our hotel bathroom before the race. It didn't start until 8 am, so we were able to sleep until 6 which was nice... We were out the door by 6:30 and headed to the metro which was ridiculously crowded. So many runners!
I started out strong. I felt great for the first 8 miles. It was a pretty day, crowds were cheering, people were decked out in green, dogs were on the sidelines watching (my favorite part).. I was in a good groove. After mile 8 there was pretty large hill which was tough! My goal going into this race was to run the whole time. If I could run an 11 min mile, I would be happy. I definitely wanted to make it under 2:45. I grabbed water at mile 9 and continued on... My hands started cramping up and going numb, and I got a little light headed, but I kept on going... It was sunny and warm! Miles 10 to 13 were my slowest and the most difficult. I didn't stop, but was running slooowly.. 

I'm pretty sure this picture was taken around mile 11. I was struuugling to keep going! It was HOT!! 

But we finished!! I made it in 2:23:59! I was thrilled with my time for my first half. The greatest thing ever was the cold chocolate milk being handed out at the very end. It was the most refreshing thing ever. We got our medals and crashed under a tree. It was heavenly. 

And then we took the metro to Chinatown for pizza at Matchbox. We didn't bother changing or showering before going. In fact, we didn't even take off our numbers or medals. We walked straight into the restaurant looking like this and each ate our own pizza. Well deserved. 

Overall, the race was great. It was more hilly than I thought it would be, but it was good. I might very well do another! I don't think my poor joints are cut out for a full marathon, but another half wouldn't be so bad! 

little sister comes to visit

It's only appropriate that Natalie came to visit when I was going to be doing lots of baking! A friend at work asked me to make sugar cookies and cupcakes for a baby shower she was hosting. Natalie was on spring break, so she spent some of her time up in Atlanta with us right in the middle of my baking project! I was very happy she came and so appreciative for all her help. She came on Wednesday, and we spent our time making baby shower decorations, watching ALL of Downton Abbey (she had never seen it!), shopping, and of course, baking. This is how we spent her first night... We make a good team in the kitchen.

Sugar cookies finished! The colors were green and yellow since they didn't know the gender of the baby. 

Thursday night was cupcake night. I got home from work around 7:30, and we went straight to work. We made Georgetown Cupcake's recipe for vanilla buttercream  wedding cupcakes. These are SO GOOD. I'll post the recipe at the end. I got it from their cookbook that was released in November, Cupcake Diaries.

Toby doesn't snuggle like this with everyone... He loves aunt Natalie!  

Vanilla Buttercream Wedding Cupcakes (recipe from Georgetown Cupcake's Cupcake Diaries)
makes 12 cupcakes (made 24 for us!)

For the cupcakes:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
seeds from 1 vanilla bean (we omitted this)
1 1/4 cups whole milk, at room temperature

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line a standard cupcake pan with twelve paper baking cups, or grease the pan with butter if not using baking cups.
2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt on a sheet of parchment paper and set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a bowl with a handheld electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar for 3 to 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing slowly after each addition.
4. Add the vanilla extract and vanilla bean seeds to the milk in a large liquid measuring cup. 
5. Add one third of the dry ingredients followed by one third of the milk, and mix thoroughly. Repeat. Stop to scrape down the bowl as needed. Add the last third of dry ingredients followed by the last htird of milk. Mix slowly until fully incorporated. 
6. Scoop the batter into the cupcake pan using a standard-size ice-cream scoop until the cups are two-thirds full, and bake for 16-18 minutes (start checking at 15 minutes) or until a toothpick comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely. 

For the frosting:
16 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt

Combine the ingredients in a mixer and whip together at high speed until light and airy, approximately 3 to 5 minutes. Load the frosting into large piping bag and pipe away! 

my pregnant friend came to visit!

My dear friend Michelle is 7 months pregnant, and she came for a weekend visit before little baby Reagan is born! Michelle is my first really close friend to be pregnant, so this is very exciting. I took full advantage of her being pregnant and made yummy food. I had sympathy cravings while she was here... We tested out these lemon raspberry cupcakes. I had thought about making them for her baby shower..They were good, but not amazing. We decided to go with Georgetown Cupcake's recipe for vanilla wedding cake cupcakes with vanilla buttercream instead. YUM. 

She arrived Friday night right before the terrible weather came to Atlanta! Luckily, we didn't get the worse of it.. But it was pretty serious. This is how we spent our Friday night. Watching the very serious weather man tell us to get away from windows. We thought of Mr. Clement. He would have loved it.

While watching the weather, we browsed pinterest and I remembered I had everything to make bunny bait! So we made it. You know, she was pregnant! We added extra sprinkles. Very tasty!

Then we made a list for the next day so we could go register for baby stuff! You should have heard us. We had no idea what to write on our list. Then we remembered really important items and were shouting     outthings like a stroller! a car seat! diapers! We really had no idea, but it was fun to not know together. :) 

Saturday morning we headed bright and early to Baby's R Us to start her very first registry. How exciting!
We began in the least crowded section: the stroller section. It was exciting but quite overwhelming. Umbrella? All terrain? Jogging? Transitional? Travel system? So many options!!

Then it got pretty fun.. She just started scanning. My job was to keep up with the list that Baby's R Us gave us. I didn't know what half the stuff was on the list. We got a little carried away scanning receiving blankets though... I think we ended up with 14. I never knew they were called receiving blankets.. What are you receiving? The baby?
We felt a little exhausted after this endeavor, so we headed to lunch and to get pedicures! After a couple hours in a massage chair and getting parenting advice from the nail salon ladies, we felt energized enough for the antique store. My favorite. It was quite successful. I found a bench for the guest room, we each ended up with bird cages (so exciting!), and Michelle got an awesome trunk for the foot of their bed. But she was most excited about this little antique high chair! Only $30! She plans on painting it.. All of the brightly colored plastic chairs at Baby's R Us were so unappealing, so this was the perfect find. Look how cute she is next to her little high chair! :)

It was a very successful day to say the least and so fun to spend the whole day together with the perfect amounts of relaxation and productivity. Sunday morning we sad goodbye... Brian helped take the high chair apart so it could fit in the trunk of her car. 

And we said goodbye to Michelle and baby Reagan... until we meet again at the BABY SHOWER!! Now I have to go run 10 miles. Sad. Two weeks till the half marathon!!!!