Monthly Archives: July 2015

Lessons From Vacation

Each summer, I count down the days prior to leaving for vacation. I anticipate the feeling of pure relaxation, envisioning myself alone and lounging by the shore with an ice cold beverage, wind blowing through my salty hair, and a 3-foot stack of books by my side.

And each summer, vacation never lives up to the expectations.

For some reason, there are loud children on the shoreline. My pile of books go unfinished. I get burnt on day one. Dreams of early morning runs on the beach seem amazing at night and ludicrous in the morning. The weather doesn’t cooperate. It’s never quite as dreamy as I dream it to be.

Because heading down to the beach is not a dreamy individual. It’s me, exhausted from a year of work, with entirely selfish goals going into a week away. I want my time to be relaxing and become bitter at anything that gets in the way of that–even a slightly stormy day.

I came to this week determined to not be bogged down by flawless hopes for the week, and it’s working!

I lounged on the shore this afternoon with my Kindle, settling into a few more hours with the novel that had sucked me in. Once glaring bright, it viciously greeted me with every Kindle-user’s worst nightmare: “Plug in your device. You’re at 10% battery power.”

Nightmare, right?!

I decided to suck it up because that is just the most pathetic first world problem ever. I spent some time just staring into the ocean and thinking, and these are all the good things vacation is teaching me this year:

My natural state is absolutely vegetative. I am a straight-up beached whale and want to do nothing but do nothing while on vacation. I am so freaking amazing at relaxing, and I love that about myself.

I am blessed by family. I grew up going to the beach each year with my family, and my childhood is earmarked by long and lazy days in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Life changes, and, with a house near the water now, a weekly beach trip wasn’t on our radar with my family this summer. Perks of marriage #942=more opportunities for free beach trips. My in-laws are the most generous and hospitable people, and I’m grateful to be living large at Emerald Isle this week.

As I was staring into the waves today, I watched a beaming grandfather looking over his brood of probably fifteen grandchildren. They were all young, and he looked at them as if to say to the world, “These are mine. This is the work of me and my bride.” His smile was infectious, and it reminded me of the years vacationing in Rehobeth Beach in Delaware with my fifteen cousins. My grandfather passed away years ago, but watching this man today made me reflect on his legacy.

Getting older means gaining more family. I love it.

I love watching my hard-working husband relax. When someone asks me to describe Morgan’s character, one of the qualities I talk about is his work ethic. He works hard, long hours and never complains. He is good at what he does and is quick to be respected for how much effort he puts into each and every task. As much as I love to watch him work, I love to watch him relax. He is on cloud 9 this week, with his big brother and best friend by his side to boogy board, play paddle ball, and talk soccer, bodily functions, and theology. The sun kisses his super handsome body almost immediately, and it makes me swoon. Seeing him breathe a little easier this week is making me smile every time I lock eyes with his. Did I mention he’s got the most gorgeous baby blue eyes I’ve ever seen?!


Ain’t nothing better than good seafood. We’ve been demolishing some seafood this week (shrimp and grits are my new favorite). I had a horrific realization today that I’m less than two weeks out from rocking a bridesmaid dress. Grateful for flowy fabric.


This restaurant is AMAZING. It’s in Morehead City, North Carolina. Make sure you get the rum buttered sweet potatoes or fried scallops.

I could do without my phone more often. I am loving feeling disconnected this week. The earth still rotates when I’m not checking social media and email constantly. Who knew?

Podcasts are AWESOMEWhy did no one tell me about these?! I’m hooked. (This point is right after the point about staying disconnected, but I promise that I’m only using my phone for podcasts!) Yes, I’m a year late, but I’m loving Serial. I keep going on long walks on the beach to hear the next episode to see if Adnan’s guilty. I’m on episode #8, and I’m thinking he’s REALLY guilty. Also, if you know me, you know I love hilarious Christian women. Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey is a podcast that interviews a bunch of my favorites, and I sit with headphones in and just giggle and giggle. It feels like you’re at happy hour with these super funny women, and you’ll just love it. Best part of podcasts=they’re FREE!

God’s creation is powerful. I always look at His creation as awe-inspiring. But it’s also full of power and wrath and justice, just as He is. The ocean is such a beautiful metaphor for God’s character and love–it’s deep and wide and bigger and stronger than we can fathom. It’s perfect. It can’t be reckoned with and never changes. And its beauty is overwhelming.

The ocean is the home of sharks. If sharks came into my home, I’d eat them. I’m just dipping my toes in the water this week because I have a strong appreciation for all of my limbs. Also, please tell me you’ve seen this video from the wisest woman in the world.

The best thing about vacation is that home is just as wonderful. It’s easy to come home when home is peaceful and relaxing and full of joy. For that, I’m thankful.



What To Do With A Massive Zucchini


This sucker was graciously gifted to us by our friends who get a crop share weekly. I think it was sort of a sick (albeit very generous) joke. What the heck do you do with a zucchini that’s the size of your torso?

I love this vegetable, though I propose we ask Kroger to put a special sticker on zucchini to distinguish it from cucumbers. Because roasted cukes aren’t quite as tasty as roasted zukes.

If you’ve got some ridiculously massive zucchinis in your garden, or you have ridiculously friendly friends like we do, try out some of the recipes below. These are tried and true unoriginal recipes–but I guarantee you’ll love them!

Grilled ZucchiniI would like it if Ree Drummond would move in with me. We’d laugh together about how stinky our farmer husbands’ boots are. And then we’d eat grilled zucchini until we turned into massive zucchinis ourselves.

Chicken Zucchini Casserole: This is very comfort-food-esque. If you come across zukes in the winter, this is the perfect meal choice. But really, these days I’d be unashamed to just crank the AC, light some fall-scented candles, and snuggle up in some plaid blankets while devouring this casserole.

Chicken Enchilada Stuffed Zucchini BoatsCan’t really imagine making these with a massive zucchini, but I’d like to see you try. Skinnytaste is one of my top three trusted sites I go to for recipes, FYI (along with Mel’s Kitchen Cafe and The Pioneer Woman).

Summer Macaroni Salad with Tomatoes and Zucchini: Speaking of Skinnytaste…this pasta salad is my forever go-to, and it’s healthy!

Roasted ZucchiniAs a super simple side dish, roast zucchini and yellow squash together and top it off with parmesan cheese.

And…because you’re all curious what we did with our child-size zucchini:

Parmesan Zucchini and Corn: The perfect side dish for our small group potluck this week. And free–thank you, vegetable friends!

Escaping the Registry

I was a bride two years ago and LOVED creating a registry. One of our favorite self-deprecating stories to tell is about the day we went to Target to register, and, because we were babies and were used to buying all cooking supplies from the Dollar Tree, Morgan scanned “Room Essentials” brand everything for our registry. And we fought and fought because I wanted the fancy stuff (read: I was a diva bride). It didn’t take but a few hours for both of our moms to check our registry and call to tell us we needed to delete everything we’d scanned, start over, and scan nicer things. People like to get the bride and groom nice things.


But, when I say “people,” I mean people who are a bit farther along in life. People who are capable of buying “nice things.” One day, I hope to enter into the “people who buy nice things” category, but I’m still very much in the $1-$3 aisle at Target (anyone else unable to walk past there without picking up some animal crackers? no? just me?).

Even though all I really wanted were things off my registry when I was a bride, I’ve become a bit selfish in my post-bride days. And, because our budget would often only allow us to buy a spatula and slotted spoon for wedding gifts, I like to get a little creative. Let the old folks buy the skillets and toasters and bed linens. The Paulettes will do our part to raid the dollar bins for you, dear newlywed friends.

I was at a shower earlier this year, and my sweet friend Ashley had the entire room crying with her gift–she gave the bride a box full of presents that all had marriage wisdom attached to them. Giftcards for date nights with a card about the importance of dating your spouse. A book about biblical marriage with a note to encourage the bride to keep pursuing it. A live goldfish in a bag with a note that said something about playing pranks (I didn’t catch the full back story of that one…). So many sweet, sweet gifts.

I decided to do my own little version for my friend Stephanie’s bridal shower back in May. Cost-efficient and with a lot of thought behind it all, feel free to steal Ashley’s idea just like I did!

IMG_2179The finished product. Probably would’ve been much cuter with some clear wrapping over it and a huge bow, but this is all I got done, people.

IMG_2187“Cook him good food. Remember his favorite meals and surprise him with them. Men LOVE food, and nothing says lovin’ like fresh from the oven.” Wooden spoons: $.99, Walmart

IMG_2186“Faithfully pray for him each and every day. Pray together. Tell him how you see Christ in him. And never stop thanking the Lord for Chris.” Prayer Journal: Walmart, $.99

IMG_2185“Affirm him. Tell him how handsome you think he is. Thank him for the little things. Leave love notes for him in secret places.” Blank notecards: Dollar Tree, $1

IMG_2184“Kiss him on the lips. Every single day. For a long time.” Lipstick: Target, $3

IMG_2183“Travel together. Just the two of you. For no reason other than to escape for a few days. (We go on weekend getaways every few months.) Budget these in!” Travel bag with travel toothpaste, deodorant, etc. inside: Target, $5

IMG_2182“Think big picture. Let the little things go and remind yourself (and him) that your marriage is much bigger than forgetting to fold the laundry. Forgive often and easily.” Frame: $5, Walmart; Print of couple: $2, CVS

IMG_2181“Spend time with your girlfriends! You need them, and it’ll make your time with Chris even sweeter. (Bros before hoes, though. Always).” Wine: Target, $9 clearance whaddup! Also, I apologize for the use of the word “hoes,” Mom, Dad, and Lucy.

IMG_2180This one was stolen straight from Ashley, and I love this wisdom so much. “It’s okay to go to sleep on an argument. It’s not okay to go to bed angry.” Chamomile tea: Target, $5

Not pictured: $5 giftcard to Target, with a note that encouraged them to date each other weekly–and to always leave the phone in the car to avoid getting distracted. Also not pictured was some pre-wedding-night-girly-things.

Shower your bride-friends well! Happy wedding season!

Taking Stock 6

Posting this after a two week hiatus AND I’m posting it on a Thursday! Crazy! I like this whole “make up your own rules” thing.

Cooking: We grilled a whole bunch of vegetables and some pesto-marinated chicken the other night. Drizzled some honey balsamic dressing over it, and I decided eating all those leftovers at midnight that night was necessary. Because it was so good, y’all. (Skinnytaste is my go-to blog for healthy recipes like this.) Another night, Morgan picked a whole bunch of fresh blueberries at work so I made these galettes and topped them with some vanilla frozen yogurt. Super easy, super fancy looking, and super delicious. “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” (Virginia Woolf)

IMG_2508Drinking: Water, coffee, wine (food pyramid=serving of fruit). I’m trying to embrace summer vibes as much as possible, and this beer that our friend from Alabama brought over for dinner solidified that summer-flavored anything is on point. Fall-flavored things are better, but summer is second best.

Reading: About to start The Language of Flowers. The librarian and I had a sweet moment when I checked this out–it’s about a girl who just aged out of the foster care system. The librarian was a former social worker, so, as a line of impatient bookworms formed behind me, I got to share my fears about the system and she got to relieve them. I’m also chugging along in Changes That Heal and loving the way it’s beginning to peel back the layers of my “everything-is-perfect-and-nothing-needs-to-change” heart.

Wishing: That I could hire a whole team of people to pack our house up because surprise we’re moving again! (Guys…I can’t even. I know it’s ridiculous. Four moves in two years. I promise we have a good reason behind it. At least that’s what I’m telling myself.)

IMG_1763Just a few more months in this cute house…we’re moving back to Blacksburg!

Writing: I’ve got all kinds of dreams, and a lot of them revolve around writing. I’m sold on the idea that words are power, and the idea that I can create that is exciting yet intimidating. As big as I am on the “no rules in writing” philosophy for this blog, I need to start putting pen to paper to create a framework for these big dreams.

Enjoying: Nights on our back deck–nights when it’s just Morgan and me, and nights when we have to haul out all the chairs in our house and move the grill so everyone can fit. And nights on other people’s back decks and back yards and sofas and dining room tables. We sat with some friends the other day and I just looked at them and said, “Can you believe that we have this?” Life happens in community–we are creating this thing that transcends what we can do alone. We are better because of the people around us, and I am so grateful.


Noticing: Through a friend’s puzzled look while she watched me inhale some watermelon, I’m noticing that it’s not normal to eat the seeds. Who knew! I just chew straight through them. She was like, “Holly. Oh my gosh. You’re not supposed to eat those.” I froze mid-bite, and, with some watermelon juice dribbling down my chin and black seeds probably stuck between my two front teeth, I shrugged and said, “Whateva.”

Waiting: The month of July is going to be a fun one. July 4th weekend in Wintergreen, bachelorette party at the lake, my sister coming to visit, and a trip to the beach! Fighting myself to not waste my days yearning for the next day, though.


Little bitty Holly and Morgan! I think this was just a few months in…the beach is our happy place.

Listening: We went to a beautiful wedding a few weeks ago, and the bride and groom danced to this song. Since then, I have: forced Morgan to learn it on the guitar AND sent texts that say “how long will i love you” and, when he doesn’t respond within five minutes, I text back the next lyrics “as long as stars are above you.” And so on and so on until the song is complete or until Morgan responds with a frustrated: “I love you too babe.”

Loving: I got the RunKeeper app a few weeks back to start tracking my workouts a little better, and I love it! It’s nothing fancy at all, but it tracks my split times and has really helped me to set goals, accomplish them, and track my growth. The one thing about the app that ticks me off is when I get a notification that says, “You haven’t gone running in a few days. Don’t you think you should?” It’s like…stop judging me, RunKeeper.

Dreaming: The house we live in now is great–and have I mentioned we really like our back deck?? But the downfall is that our landlord won’t let us nail holes in the wall. Note: I swear to you that this is not why we’re moving. I’m dreaming about filling our new walls with nail holes to hang up art and pictures and signs that make home feel like home. And, in all of our moving history, the inevitable fight that will be had is Morgan not wanting to screw any more screws into the walls. The fight ends the same way every single time: I start crying and convince him that it won’t feel like “our’s” without 90% of our wall space filled. #wrappedaroundmyfinger

Pondering: This notion of “preference over prescription.” If you’ve been following along, you know I’m pushing myself hard to become more open-minded. My instinct is “I’m right. You’re wrong,” way before I even let “you” speak. It’s ridiculous and a terrible quality, and, to quote Pitch Perfect, “I hate myself everyday because of it.” Jen Hatmaker says, “Sometimes we are so incredibly convinced, we elevate principles over people, forgetting that only a very small handful of human issues are concrete; most are fluid, nuanced, contextual, subjective. Different does not mean against, nor does it mean wrong.

Watching: Everyone needs to see Inside Out. It is not only hilarious in both sly and blunt ways, but it teaches a lesson about how to love those who are sad. This movie is the shiz. Another watch-worthy movie is McFarland USA. Copious amounts of tears were shed…and, as I ran the other day, I pretended to be Danny Diaz listening to Kevin Costner’s advice: “You’re my anchor, and not just because you’re fat. I mean, you are a little fat, but…you’re important.” and “I hear they can’t run without a cop behind ‘em or a Taco Bell in front.” (Amen.)

IMG_2505We dropped the boys off at Jurassic World and hit up Inside Out. We were those obnoxious girls cackling in the back row.

Marveling: Nicholas Winton died this week. I didn’t know who he was until I ran across this story on Buzzfeed yesterday, but you can bet that I sat at my desk with tears streaming down my face. You have to watch the YouTube video embedded in the article–this man risked his life to save hundreds of children during WWII. His life is a marvel, and the world is a better place because of him.

Craving: On the first Valentine’s Day that Morgan and I spent together, a new “Japanese steakhouse” had just opened up in town. Thinking that it was a fancy-schmancy hibachi grill, he got reservations and we dressed all nice for this date. We pulled into the parking lot and noticed there was a drive-thru line–needless to say, we were overdressed and for sure did not need reservations, but Sakura has become our favorite cheap date, and I would kill for some hibachi steak with a whole lot of yum yum sauce on top. Like so much yum yum that you can’t see the steak.

Rocking: The past few nights have been spent in my bridesmaid dress for my sweet friend’s upcoming wedding because 1. we had to try on different shoes for it and 2. I feel like a mix between Taylor Swift and a princess in it. Glitz and lace are my guilty pleasure.

Thinking: Nothing has fully encapsulated my heart toward last week’s SPOTUS decision as this article. (My dad said, “Please try to use a filter and don’t write your opinions about this on the blog.” But I didn’t write it…so it doesn’t count–right, Dad? 🙂 )

Feeling: A truckload of sadness on my heart following not only the Charleston church shooting, but the sequential burnings of so many black churches in the South. Are you kidding me? This world is ugly, corrupt, full of sin, sadness, and pain. But burning a house of worship or killing innocent people who just want to pray is just about the lowest low. And if anyone wants to fight me on that, come at me, bro. My favorite part of this news story is when they describe what was left over after one of the churches burned down: “Only two walls and the steeple still stood, with a large, unscathed white cross on top.

Admiring: Whenever something horrible happens, we Christians hold our heads high and say confidently, “The Lord will bring good out of this.” But, honestly, I struggle to believe that in my heart sometimes. And when I woke up that Thursday morning and learned of the Charleston shootings, my prayer was less of “You’re good” and more of “I have no clue what You are doing.” My doubting, faithless heart trembled as I listened to family member after family member publicly forgive the man who killed their loved ones, and I knew that this is what God is doing. He’s putting a face on grace, and that face is sketched over the mourning sobs of those who deserve to feel anger and pain. But nothing is out of His realm.

Bookmarking: Elisabeth Elliot died two weeks ago, leaving a legacy of faith and wisdom that’s unmatched. My favorite quotes of hers:

“Leave it all in the hands that were wounded for you.”

“I realized that the deepest spiritual lessons are not learned by His letting us have our way in the end, but by His making us wait, bearing with us in love and patience until we are able to honestly to pray what He taught His disciples to pray: Thy will be done.”

“Of one thing I am perfectly sure: God’s story never ends with ashes.”

Disliking: What the heck is up with all these shark attacks?! I think I’ll bring one of those blow-up kiddie pools to the beach this summer. I’ll inflate it and set it next to my chair and splash a bit in that thing when I get too toasty.

Giggling: Long days should be filled with 15-minute YouTube videos of the top 10 funniest scenes from Friends. Including my favorite: Joey trying to speak French.


cowgirl boots with no mud

Life Encouraged

cowgirl boots with no mud


cowgirl boots with no mud

Modern Mrs. Darcy

cowgirl boots with no mud

Taylor Schumann

cowgirl boots with no mud

blog - rachel a. dawson

cowgirl boots with no mud


Read by tens of people every single day

Jamie the Very Worst Missionary

cowgirl boots with no mud

Grab some tea. Stay awhile.

Keeping up with the Joneses

cowgirl boots with no mud

JIllian Lauren

cowgirl boots with no mud

Jamie Ivey

cowgirl boots with no mud

Shannan Martin Writes

cowgirl boots with no mud

Annie F Downs

author. speaker. loud laugher.

a travel + lifestyle blog

cowgirl boots with no mud

Darling Do

cowgirl boots with no mud

Skinny Mom

cowgirl boots with no mud


cowgirl boots with no mud