Local Loves: Espresso Bar & Cafe

30 December 2012

This little coffee shop on the Loudoun Street Mall is my favorite in all of Winchester. Since going off to college I had been looking for a nook to meet up with friends in and this place has become my ideal spot for meet ups. 

Their coffee and tea is excellent. My favorite drink of all time is sold here and it's called Chaiway to Heaven. And yes, it really is a little bit of liquid heaven. Imagine chai flavors and spices mixed with a bit of warm white chocolate. 

The Espresso Bar is always warm with a little dim lighting. The building, similar to others on the walking mall, is longer than it is wide but it is minimalistic and a bit hipster in it's decor.

Truly, I love this place and I hope (if we can come back to the area soon) that I can have many more meet ups with family and friends here. 

Clearbrook Lights

28 December 2012

It's a tradition with my family and my 'second family' to go to a local park and walk through our local version of a Winter Wonderland. I love going with our family and friends, despite the cold, to look at the magnificent light displays. We buy $1 hot cocoa, bundle up in scarves, take loads of pictures, and tease one another about our favorite light sets.

Reason to Smile: Traditions keep the spirit of the season up, especially when you're with your family and friends.

Christmas Eve with Family

27 December 2012

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse,
the stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
in hopes that Saint Nicholas soon would be there...

We ended up having tremendous amounts of snow in Winchester, Virginia this year while home for the holidays so Noah and I barely made it in to my grandparents for Christmas Eve. We are so grateful to have time to be with our families, even if the snow meant cutting out our annual tradition of driving around looking at Christmas lights.

It was pretty cool to have a white Christmas for the first time in a few years though!

I'll be catching back up with you all now that our holidays are coming to a close. Can't wait to hear about your Christmases and holiday traditions!

Christmas Eve

24 December 2012

Today is my favorite day of the entire year. Christmas Eve means lots of time with my family, eating good food, driving around town looking at Christmas lights, and exchanging presents. I can't wait for the laughs, stories, and smiles tonight.

Hope this evening before Christmas treats you well!

First Event

23 December 2012

I attended my first geocaching event about a week ago at a local restaurant. It was a new experience for me, meeting up with people based solely on our joy in a shared hobby. There was certainly a mix of people. Some very outgoing and some clear introverts. We laughed as a man took on the challenge of eating the biggest sandwich the shop had to offer, we shared our usernames and real names, and shared stories of our favorite and most challenging geocaches.

All in all, I'd do it again. I'm hoping to meet up with some of these strangers and head out on the hunt together soon. I love finding ways to meet new people!

Scenes From Christmases Past

22 December 2012

I am so, so excited for winter break to be here! As of 3:01pm yesterday I have a holiday break that spans a week and two days! A break from school could not have come at a better time. I've been looking at old holiday photos to prep myself for all the fun events ahead.

Today begins a long train of days that include family, friends, and holiday celebrations and I am PUMPED for it all!

Book Review: Ender's Game

18 December 2012

Quick View: 4/5 Stars

Summary: A young boy is picked to be the next military commander against the aliens that have previously attacked Earth. He is humanity's last hope for defeating the invasion. He trains on a computer, in the battle room, and takes turns being the underling and leading a troop. Will he be able to defeat the alien enemy? Or will the stress of his training break him down before he even has a chance?

My Thoughts: I enjoyed Ender's Game. It's definitely shorter than my normal picks for reading, but that made it all the more enjoyable for me during this season. I love the bigger thoughts about government, self-sacrifice, and the idea of the "greater good" mentality. I found some plot points to be a bit predictable but the character build up was great considering the length of the novel and the scenario was intriguing.

Aspirations 101

17 December 2012

9. Read two books a month. In an effort to "find myself" again, I have been out of the house more and getting back into reading. I've been so busy that I haven't had time to read. Then I realized I need to pick and choose what is a priority. I'm cutting out some tv (and even some sleep -gasp!) each night in order to make time to read. I just finished Ender's Game and am now starting The Hobbit.

12. Be on the radio. Well, I wasn't technically on the radio (come on NPR, don't you just want to interview this amazing gal?), but a podcast did take my question and air it. I'm still waiting for my brother-in-law who listens to the Tested podcast as well to hear me and call us with enthusiasm.

27. Find 100 geocaches. DONE! This one is marked off the list. I'm so excited. I've been a geocacher since 2007 and finally, finally can mark this off. I even bought myself a coin to celebrate. Am I cheesy? Yes I am! I've actually found 12 more since marking off my 100th. I'm on a streak and I find myself happier geocaching now than at any other point in my day. I also went to a caching event which I'll post about later this week.

Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head

10 December 2012

On the East Coast we're getting a good drizzle. All I can think about is we're missing out on valuable snow days here in December. I like a quick, powerful rain in the summer, but in winter when the sun goes down at 4:30 I really want sunshine as much as possible.

The best days are either when it's snowing and you get to sit inside under a blanket or a warm, breezy day in summer. I like both ends of the spectrum.

What is your ideal weather?

Geocaching Date

09 December 2012

Noah and I went on a geocaching adventure downtown yesterday. I found my 100th geocache! That's a mile marker right there.

If you're looking for a cheap way to get out and have some fun then I definitely recommend checking out some geocaches near you. All you need is a GPS (or a smart phone!). After that it's free and I bet there's a geocache within five miles of you right now. It's like a scavenger hunts for adults. Perhaps make it a competition with some friends or join in on a local geocaching society.

Aspirations 101

08 December 2012

It's time to hit back on my aspirations in 101 list. Since my semester began it's been a little to harder to focus on my goals besides in my career. I think it's time to take a step back and have a breather. So, here are some goals that I plan to make progress on in the near future.

9. Read two books a month. I'm aiming to read Ender's Game over winter break. Although I will fully admit that since having a job two books a month has become an impossible task. I sorely miss my reading time!

14. Visit at least three museums in Washington that I have not yet visited. Last was the Newseum and that was nearly a year ago! We live so close but when life gets busy I forget to take time to enjoy the arts.

27. Find 100 geocaches. I'm only 2 away and this could happen TODAY.

46. Do a thorough spring cleaning. Okay, so it's clearly not spring in Maryland right now, but I am slowly making my way through boxes of stuff packed up from my dad's house.

75. Send more mail in the old-fashioned manner. With all this social media I haven't written a letter for far too long.

PS - How unnerving is it to see that many geese in one location all facing the same way? Hah, birds are strange.

A Healthier Me: Lose It

05 December 2012

As one of my steps to a healthier me, I'm using the app "Lose It" to record what I'm eating each day. I will say that I am quite surprised with how many calories I end up eating in a day. I don't eat a lot, but poor choices can really start to add up.

The app looks sleek but has a very simple user interface. Most foods that I want to add in are already listed in the database so that saves a lot of time.

If you want to become a little more self aware about your eating and exercise habit then I definitely suggest trying out this app.

Most Wonderful Time of the Year

04 December 2012

Noah and I have our Christmas tree up and decorated, although our little furball keeps knocking down ornaments from the bottom of the tree. I have a Christmas playlist on my phone that is playing in my car if I'm not listening to NPR. I'm definitely thinking that we need to get a Christmas Party on the calendar for this month!

What are your favorite types of Christmas parties? Ugly sweater? Cookie Swap?

A Healthier Me: Baby Steps

03 December 2012

It's cooling down around here. I am trying to take advantage of the last bits of semi-warmth by taking walks around the neighborhood and through our local parks. I've been thinking about a lifestyle change recently... I'm going to take at least a 15 minute walk each day when I get home. It's not a lot, but it's just a little more exercise in my day.

What are some small things you do to take steps towards a healthier life? I still feel quite stressed over my job and I'm hoping baby steps towards a healthier me will calm me down throughout the week.

Nutella Banana Ice Cream

02 December 2012

You know you have won the husband lottery when he makes homemade ice cream for you. Noah found this recipe at the Kitchn and made it for me on Sunday morning.

All you need is a few bananas, nutella, and a little dash of honey. Blend the bananas and a tablespoon or so of nutella with a tad of honey. Place the mixture in the freezer until it is fairly solid.

Ta-da! All done and all yum.

Snowman Charms

01 December 2012

Noah and I went Christmas shopping with one of my best friends and her boyfriend last weekend (don't you love double dates??) and we picked up these cute snowman charms for wine bottles. I think we're ready for our Christmas party this year.

My mom used to always have a "snowman tree" that she would leave up all winter which only had snowmen ornaments on it. So now, when we see little snowmen decorations that's my thing. I have a little snowman mug that I use during the season that is so darn cute as well.

Any guess what winter icon is Noah's symbol? 10 blog points to the correct guesser!


26 November 2012

My DSLR stayed in my overnight bag, forgotten, in the midst of our family affairs. So I leave you with some instagram photos from our holiday travels. 

I never realized growing up how I lived in the country. My family only had five acres of land, we had a ranch style house, and there were cows two plots over. You can't see the neighbors house from my dad's and there was one kid within walking distance of our house. This was always normal.

Now, even though I don't life in a big city, I live in town and when I come home I realize how dark and quiet it is in the woods. I can see why people from a city think the country can be scary, but really it's calming. I notice that the majority of the photos from my break center around the woods and nature. That's comfortable to me. While home we still went out and fed the fire (have you ever used a wood furnace for heat?) and took a hike around the lake.

I'm thankful that I have a family to come home to (two families even) and that there is a place I will always feel at home.


22 November 2012

We've already had one evening with family and are spending the day with my mother-in-law. It's such a wonderful feeling to have a few days off and spend time with people who really matter to us. Today we're enjoying a morning with geocaching and cooking and an afternoon with malt cider, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, oh, and you know, family.

It's looking to be a great day and I have so many things to be thankful for!

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with good food, family, and friends as well. Happy holidays.

A New View

21 November 2012

Kristen of Designer Blogs set up the new look here at Reasons to Smile. I was in dire need of a fresh look and this simple, feminine design popped up I knew I found the look for me.

Do you find that when you have a fresh space that your mojo comes back a bit? New ideas and inspirations seem to be popping into my head just by looking at the screen.

Hope you are already for a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend!

Thanksgiving Countdown: 01

What I'm thankful for:
  1. Sleeping in. Being able to sleep in on a Wednesday is such a huge blessing!
  2. Socks. Yes, the little things really do add up. I finally have socks that fit with my flats. Talk about comfy and cute. 
  3. A steady income. Alright, the little things are great, but the big ones sure do make life a lot easier.
  4. Family. We are seeing family over the next three days, some we haven't seen since our wedding. I'm really looking forward to catching up!
  5. Coffee. Yep, peppermint mochas, vanilla creamer, and a little extra energy in the mornings.

Thanksgiving Countdown: 02

20 November 2012

Things I'm thankful for:

  1. It's the last day of school before break. Words cannot express my joy of having a few days off!
  2. Having kids get in their missing work so they can go to their spirit day.
  3. Starbucks in the morning
  4. A great coworker... our long term sub is on her last day today. Tears everywhere.
  5. Butter. Yep, a Thanksgiving staple.

Thanksgiving Countdown: 03

19 November 2012

What I'm thankful for:
  1. Just two days of school until Thanksgiving Break!
  2. New boots
  3. Socks. It's chilly. I'm just saying. 
  4. Every bright color I see. They just make my day! 
  5. Technology. I love being able to talk with family from far away.

Thanksgiving Countdown: 04

18 November 2012

What I'm thankful for:
  1. Coffee
  2. Sleeping in on the weekends
  3. Great dates
  4. Brunch with family
  5. Finding my inner mojo again
What I'm making for Thanksgiving (Round 2):

What I'm Loving:
The "I'm Late" dress for Thanksgiving Dinner

*A reminder that I'm switching over to the domain www.reasonstosmileblog.com later today!

Thanksgiving Countdown: 05

17 November 2012

What I'm thankful for:
1. My husband
2. Our kitty
3. Having a stable job
4. Lots of delicious food
5. Getting time off of work to enjoy family.

What I'm making for Thanksgiving (round 1):
Sweet Potato Casserole

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