Summer Bucket List

After a long and very cold winter in NC, I was counting the days until my skin would be sun kissed and the weekends would consist of lots of outdoor activities, pool dates and afternoons on the boat. Summer is here and quickly flying by, how is it already the end of June?! We have been busy over the past few months but I can't wait to scratch more activities off of our Summer Bucket List.

ONE: Spa Day at The Umstead Hotel & Spa
TWO: Weekend Getaway to The Greenbrier Resort
THREE: Attend the Food Truck Rodeo in downtown Raleigh 
Complete: Read more about it here.
FOUR: Enjoy cocktail hour on our deck more often than last summer
FIVE: Visit the Summer Farmer's Market in downtown Apex
SIX: Spend the afternoon fishing with TC
SEVEN: Plant a garden & enjoy fresh vegetables all summer
EIGHT: Attend a few outdoor summer concerts
NINE: Spend the evening shagging to our wedding band, Band of Oz, at a local venue
TEN: Go on a picnic in the park with TC and the pups
ELEVEN: Soak up the sun by spending the afternoons on Lake Jordan
Complete: Our lake adventures will continue but we kicked off Memorial Day on Lake Jordan. 
TWELVE: Celebrate our 1 year anniversary on September 20th!!
How are we already celebrating our 1 year Anniversary?! 
THIRTEEN: Enjoy cookouts with our friends & family
FOURTEEN: Go on a road trip {or a day trip} with TC
FIFTEEN: Find a few good books to enjoy while sitting by the pool
SIXTEEN: Visit 2-3 local breweries in the area 
SEVENTEEN: Train for the Philadelphia Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon 
Oh, hey Danielle! I can't wait to cross the finish line with you.
EIGHTEEN: Visit Washington, DC for a weekend
NINETEEN: Host a 4th of July party, read more about my plans for our celebration here.

What do you have on your Summer Bucket List? I hope everyone is staying cool and enjoying some fun in the sun! 

Hosting & Toasting: 4th of July Celebration

We all know that I love a reason to host a party. I am so excited to have our friends over to celebrate the 4th of July next weekend. I know that Saturday is going to be filled with our favorite American foods and a lot of red, white and blue. As I start to put together the menu and gather a few other ideas, I thought I would share what we are planning so far.

We must have a festive cocktail to go along with all the delicious food that we will be enjoying throughout the day. So when I saw this White Wine-Berry Sangria I knew that was going to be the winner! What will you be sipping on during the 4th of July?
Strawberry and blueberry ice cubes. How perfect are these?! You can toss them in  your glass of water or maybe even the Sangria. 
One of my favorite things about hosting a party is decorating our home for the special occasion. I believe the small details make all the difference. Since I went to NC State, I have a lot of red and white decor so all I have to do is find a few ways to incorporate blue into our tablescape.
If you are looking for a few outfit ideas, Owen's 4th of July outfit is perfect, I can't get my hands on enough maxi dresses right now. I also love this red, white and blue dress that Shelby is wearing.

I hope everyone is having a great week! Just 1 more day until Friday, HOORAY! :)

Motivation Monday: Change

I haven't written a "Motivation Monday" post in a long time so I thought today would be the perfect time to share my recent motivation. Yes, I know today is Tuesday but I had this post 90% complete yesterday and never found those handful of minutes that I needed to finish my thoughts and hit publish. So without further adieu...
I have always believed that "if you don't create change, change will create you." I was never someone that embraced change when I was young because I preferred to stay in my comfort zone but over the years I have realized that change is the only constant so why am I resisting it?

As I was having a conversation with my Dad over the weekend, I realized that many amazing things in my life are the results of change. The most recent and biggest change in life occurred 9 months ago when I became a wife. One of the greatest days of my life. That change has brought love, laughter, peace, adventure and comfort into my life.

Discovering a passion which has lead me to my career in University Relations. These career changes have brought significant knowledge, new friendships, self-confidence and a greater understanding on how to achieve your professional goals.

When I relocated to Greensboro, NC for my first job after graduating from college. I was alone in a new environment. I found myself without my friends and family. I felt overwhelmed with the change and uncertainty. During this time, I learned the importance of independence, I realized that my true friendships would remain regardless of how many miles were between us, my family will always be my rock, and the training and experience that I received during those 18 months propelled me to where I am today in my career.
Through the many changes, I have realized a few valuable lessons.
1. Acknowledge change. It is inevitable. Regardless of the type of change, there will be a level of fear because we are taking on something that is unknown and sometimes uncomfortable. But I have learned that if I acknowledge and express my fear {or any other emotions} that I am able to navigate the change with much more ease and grace.
2. Accept and learn from change. Being able to accept change rather than resisting it {like I did when I was younger} has allowed me to handle change more effectively. I have come to realize that change happens for a reason and we need to be open to reflecting on the lessons that can be learned from the change.
3. Realize your growing stronger. Karen Kaiser Clark, an Inspirational Speaker, once said, "Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely." I have to appreciate the changes that occurred because I have proven to myself that I can overcome the uncertainty of change. Realizing the powerful impact that change can have on my life, I found that I'm becoming a stronger person when I am able to acknowledge, accept and learn from the changes taking place. Having the ability to continuously accept change allows me to grow personally and professionally. Change has provided me a level of strength to persevere.  
6. Change brings opportunities and new beginnings. I am a planner {always have been and always will be} but I have learned that each change is an unplanned new page in your book of life. Change will bring new opportunities and choices along with new beginnings and perspectives.  

A few additional thoughts...
My Company's Vice Chairman, Tom Mendoza, is also motivational speaker and wrote this great article that was featured in Forbes about embracing change.

If you are looking for a quick read that will provide a refreshing perspective, check-out The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra. 

Thoughts for Thursday: Travel Addition

This week I have been traveling for work so I am sure you have noticed that it has been a little quiet around here. Ever since I touched down in Denver on Monday morning, I have been on the go. A few flights later and I am now enjoying a cup of coffee in the hotel lobby before I begin my day with our interns in Wichita, Kansas.

The weather in Colorado was absolutely beautiful, the crisp air and 70 degree days were perfect for all the outdoor activities that we had planned for our interns. I snapped this picture as I was leaving the office, wishing this was my view every day! :)
Our office is in Boulder, Colorado which is about 40 minutes northwest of Denver. Boulder is a quaint town that has an amazing food scene that many describe as being "hip and contemporary." When I am in town, I try to go to restaurants that I haven't tried in the past and this trip was no exception. I ventured to Oak at Fourteenth and SALT, both had been recommended by locals so I knew they were not going to disappoint...and they didn't at all.  
Quinoa Strawberry Salad, Tomato Braised Meatballs and a glass of Rose from Oak at Fourteenth. 
Tom's Tavern Burger with hand cut fries and homemade ketchup (yum!) from SALT. You get to create your own cocktails based on your "personalized flavor formulation," which was really neat. The house-infused simple syrup that I selected was blood orange rosemary to be mixed with vodka and served as "cocktail style." Oh, it was heavenly!
Speaking of travel, if you have recently flown on a Delta flight then you may have seen these safety videos being played instead of the Flight Attendant rehearsing their safety script. It is entertaining, you can watch it here.

This has been my go-to travel outfit recently because it's guaranteed that I will be sweating one minute and then freezing cold the next. I have loved the Ruffneck Jersey Dress by Gretchen Scott. It is the perfect dress because it has three quarter length sleeves, doesn't wrinkle and is very comfortable.

I hope everyone is having a great week! I can't wait to kick my feet up tonight and catch up on what everyone has been up to recently!

Beer Can Bacon Burgers + Summer Playlist

Recently, our Sunday nights have been spent on the deck with great company, enjoying a cold cocktail, listening to good music and grilling. We have taken advantage of the beautiful 80 degree weather which has recently turned into triple digit temperatures this week {hello, summer}!

I promised many of you that I would share the delicious hamburger recipe that I mentioned in my post on Monday so here it is. A huge thanks to the BBQ Pit Boys for putting together such a delicious recipe for all of us to enjoy.
4-5 pounds of 80/20 Ground Chuck
2 pounds of regular cut Pork Belly Bacon
1 cup of shredded Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese
1 Red Onion
1 Red Bell Pepper
1 Green Bell Pepper
1 container of mushrooms
2 tomatoes
2 15-ounce cans of Chili 
1/2 cup of BBQ sauce
1 package of hamburger buns
3 tablespoons of Olive Oil

1. Bring charcoal grill to a temperature of approximately 300 degrees with the coals offset for indirect cooking.
2. Prepare the vegetables by dicing the mushrooms, tomatoes, onion, green pepper and red pepper. Thinly slice 4-5 pieces of bacon.
3. In a large pan, mix 3 tablespoons of olive oil with the diced mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, and peppers. Cook for 3-4 minutes on medium heat. Add the thinly sliced bacon into the vegetable mix and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat.  
4. In a small pot, heat the 2 cans of Chili on low heat until boiling. Cover and let simmer until the burgers are done. 
5. Prepare 6 hamburger balls, 8-12 ounces each then press the beer can into center of each meatball forming a pocket around the can. 
6. Wrap 2 pieces of bacon around each hamburger. Remove the beer can from the meatball carefully {make sure the burger stays together}.
7. Add the vegetable and bacon mixture to the pockets that you created with the beer can. 
8. Cover the top of the burgers with shredded Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese and top with BBQ sauce.
9. Place the burgers on the opposite side of the hot coals for indirect cooking. Put the lid on the grill and cook for approximately 1 hour. Check occasionally and cook until they have reached your preferred temperature.  
10. Remove the burgers from the grill. Let them sit for 2-3 minutes and then serve. Enjoy the most delicious burger! :)

This playlist has been on repeat the past week and I completely okay with that. After watching the CMT Music Awards last night, I'll be adding a few more country songs to this list especially Jake Owen's new song, "Real Life." What's on your playlist right now?!

Weekend Highlights

Happy Monday! After this weekend, I am feeling refreshed and ready to take on the week ahead of me. It was the perfect mix of friends, family and house chores.

{Picture 1 and 2} I spent the week in Anaheim, California for a work conference, it was a blast catching up with friends that I don't get to see very often because we are spread across the country. After our sessions were finished, we would meet to enjoy cocktails on the gorgeous patio of nFuse which is located at the Anaheim Marriott. I highly recommend this hotel if you are visiting the area, the staff was extremely accommodating, the hotel was beautiful and it is very close to Disneyland.

{Picture 3}Speaking of Disneyland, we were able to squeeze a quick trip to Disneyland before I headed back to the East Coast. You can't travel all the way out there and not spend a few hours there, right?! I grew up going to Disney World in Orlando, Florida and regardless of my age, I have always had a blast. I may be a bit bias but I think Disney World is better than Disneyland. I love all the different parks at Disney World and the entertainment at Disney World is over-the-top too. If you have visited both, what are your thoughts?

{Picture 4} After a long day of travel on Friday, I was so happy to see TC. We had a quiet date night at home and we were able to sit on the porch to enjoy the beautiful weather that NC has recently been experiencing. After dinner, I was loving puppy cuddles from Tenley. She was attached to my side for the first few hours and I was soaking up every second!

{Picture 5 and 6} On Saturday, we headed to Pinehurst to spend the afternoon by the pool with my mom and then we enjoyed another evening of outdoor dining at The Porch of 195. I had an amazing Indian-Inspired dish - Local Goat Cheese Curry Paneer, Organic Basmati Rice, Peppers, Onions, Naan, Pompadon, Raita and Chickpeas. I am already getting hungry just thinking about it.

{Picture 7} In the Summer, Sundays are spent in the yard. No questions asked. I spent most of the morning mowing grass and listening to my newly updated playlist that I created for my nightly runs. You can tell that I was too excited and impatient to wait until my run on Monday night. TC was thrilled since he had to listen to me sing Taylor Swift, Andy Grammer, Ellie Goulding, and Ariana Grande on the top of my lungs :). I spent the last few hours, cleaning up our flower beds so we can finish laying the new mulch next weekend!

{Picture 8 and 9} The weather couldn't have been more beautiful than it was this weekend so we wanted to take advantage of it before it becomes 100+ degrees. On Sunday evening, we had a few couples over to grill out and we made the most delicious vegetable stuffed hamburgers that were wrapped with bacon and topped with BBQ sauce. By no means, is it the healthiest meal but my goodness it is a-m-a-z-i-n-g. I'll be sharing the recipe later this week. I also loved spending time with my adorable Goddaughter, Emery. Isn't she adorable?

It was a perfect weekend, it made my soul happy! I hope you had a wonderful and relaxing weekend too! I am linking up with Biana and Meghan to share our weekend highlights.

Summer Favorites

I apologize that it has been a little quiet around here recently, work has been very busy over the past few weeks as I was preparing to attend the annual NACE {National Association of Colleges and Employers} Conference in Anaheim, California this week. I always look forward to attending because it is an opportunity where campus recruiting and career services professionals are able to connect and collaborate, share challenges, trade best practices and listen to fresh ideas and perspectives about recruiting university talent.
Speaking of Anaheim, this place is beautiful! I hope to find a few hours over the next couple days to venture to Laguna Beach, San Clemente or LA. Stay tuned but until then I will leave you with a few of my Summer favorites.

Favorite Summer Salad:
During the summer, I love a fresh salad. On the weekend, I enjoy spending the afternoon walking up and down the aisles of the Raleigh Farmer's Market or visiting our local produce stand to find the freshest fruits, vegetables and flowers. A few weeks ago, I was craving a salad but not the typical house salad that I usually find myself making or ordering. I wanted something different and I found it!
1 Green Pepper
1 Red Pepper
1 Yellow Pepper 
1 Cucumber 
1 bunch of Scallion Onions
1 container of Cherry Tomatoes
6 Ears of Corn
5 ounces of Feta Cheese
4 tablespoons of Olive Oil
3 tablespoons of Red Wine Vinaigrette
2 tablespoons of Sugar
Salt and Pepper

1. Shuck the corn and place it into a large pot of boiling water. Add 2-3 teaspoons of sugar to the water. Cover and let cook for 7-8 minutes or until soft.
2. While the corn is cooking, wash all of the vegetables then dice the green, red and yellow peppers. Slice the cherry tomatoes and cucumbers into halves. Thinly slice the scallion onions. Then combine all of the vegetables into a large bowl.
3. Once the corn is cooked, drain the water and let the corn cool for 4-5 minutes. 
4. On a separate plate, cut the corn off the cob and place the corn into the bowl with the vegetables.
5. Add the Feta Cheese and mix thoroughly. Once everything is well mixed, add 4 tablespoons of olive oil, 3 tablespoons of red wine vinaigrette, and salt & pepper to taste. Mix together thoroughly. Enjoy!

Favorite Summer Outfit:
Don't get my wrong, there is nothing better than wearing a dress or a maxi in the summer but I also get very excited when it is finally time to break out my white pants again! Yes, I am one of those people that will begin counting the days until we can wear white. I love pairing white jeans with a bright and fun top for a date night or even during the work week - it is the perfect balance between professional and fun. 

Once I arrived in Anaheim, CA for a work conference this week, I was ready to change into this outfit for an afternoon of meetings and networking events. 
Outfit Details:
Top: Lilly Pulitzer {old}
Favorite Summer Cocktail:
The past few weekends have been spent from sun up to sun down {literally} working in the yard. As many of you know, we have been focused on updating the inside of our home over the past 6 months. I have to admit that I have really enjoyed the entire process and seeing the transformation take place in each room. But once the warm weather arrived in North Carolina, TC convinced me that we should take a break from the inside and focus our time and energy on the yard {which also needed a lot of attention}. Our list is lengthy but I can't wait to see what our yard looks like once we are finished! 
After a long day of working in the yard, there is nothing more refreshing than a summer cocktail on the porch with beach music playing in the background, right?! For those of you that follow me on Instagram {stephaniechalk08}, this picture may look familiar. :)

Favorite Summer Quote:

What are some of your Summer favorites?