Hi! Here’s my first pass at this once a month blogging thing. I think I like it and it was nice to gradually add to the post throughout the month. Takes the pressure off, ya know? Hopefully I’ll have some house updates to share soon! In the meantime, here’s what happened in November. 

Although it wasn’t technically in November, it is worth mentioning that Jonathan and I spent our first night in the “Beck Bungalow” on Halloween night!

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The house was still an absolute wreck, but we brought a mattress in from the shed, ordered a pizza, and sat out on our front porch with a few bags of candy. This ended up being such a sweet way for us to meet so many of our new neighbors as they brought their kids around trick-or-treating. Everyone was so welcoming and I felt particularly overwhelmed with kindness when a neighbor brought over food from a party they had been hosting, apologizing for not realizing we had moved in already, regretting that they hadn’t been able to invite us to the party. Such a small gesture, but it made us feel so welcomed into our new community.

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This month we had our first house guest! Our friend Michael was in Charlotte interviewing for a residency at Carolina’s Medical Center (CMC) and we loved having him in town to go out to dinner (Bad Daddy’s!) and spend the night. We didn’t have much to offer in terms of accommodations – just a mattress on the floor – but it made us so excited to host out of town guests once the house is in a little better shape.

Jonathan’s parents and my mom graciously made the drive to Charlotte several times this month to help us around the house. My mom and I washed all the windows, inside and out. We unpacked all of our wedding gifts and, thanks to mold from the basement, washed them all by hand. We unfortunately found lots of mold on everything from suede shoes to wooden spatulas, so all of those things went to the trash. I think I threw away 9 pairs of shoes. :( Jonathan and his dad installed cabinets, bathroom backsplash, and even baseboards! The house looks so much more complete with baseboards and I am loving it.

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One morning there was a knock at the door and I opened it to find an older gentleman that I did not recognize. To my surprise, it was the man that used to own the house! He came right in and gave me some of the house’s history — he and his wife lived there for 36 years! I think he liked some of the changes, but he did ask where lots of things were, “What happened to that shelf? Why did you get rid of the refrigerator? I hope you didn’t cut down my rhododendron bush!” Jonathan and I are planning to have him and his wife over for dinner some time next month.

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This month I read “The Stranger Beside Me” by Ann Rule, which I found to be utterly disturbing. Ann Rule is a true crime writer who was contracted to write a book on a case of missing girls back in the seventies. When Ted Bundy became the prime suspect in the serial murder case, Ann was shocked because she actually was friends with Ted and had worked with him at a previous job. Talk about a crazy coincidence. I read it because it was on a list of books recommended for people who liked the podcast Serial but it was a little too much for me.

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In the middle of the month we took a Saturday off from our house duties and made a day trip to Chapel Hill to watch UNC play Miami. When I was a little girl my dad took me to basketball and football games in Chapel Hill, I visited my siblings at college there, and Jonathan proposed to me on campus. So even though I didn’t go to school at UNC, Chapel Hill is still one of my “happy places.”

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My brother always hosts a great tailgate, and this time he did a bunch of mini sandwiches – burgers, bbq, pimento cheese, buffalo chicken, etc… It was so nice to take a day off from house work and enjoy the beautiful fall weather with family and friends. Plus, the Heels won, so it was an all around great day.

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I took two trips to the mountains of Virginia in November. The first of which was for a girls’ weekend with two of my friends from college, Kara and Laney. We sat around the fire, drank wine, went antiquing, laughed, watched movies, etc… I hate living in different cities than all of my best friends but it’s so sweet when you can spend time together!

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The second trip to VA was for Thanksgiving with my side of the family. Jonathan and I went up on Wednesday night and stayed until Friday afternoon. It was great to have the whole fam in one place for more than a couple of hours! Everyone brought a dish, but we also all worked together in the kitchen to make some more things on Thanksgiving day. It was a lot of fun!

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We spent the weekend after Thanksgiving in Durham with Jonathan’s family which was also great. It worked out well that they were planning on having Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday this year, so splitting our first holiday as a married couple was pretty painless! Jonathan’s sister Allison hosted the meal and we loved eating on the back deck while watching football around a fire.

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Last, but certainly not least, we celebrated Jonathan’s birthday at the end of the month! The big two-eight. I surprised him with dinner at Beef ‘N’ Bottle, a small steakhouse here in Charlotte. It looks so unassuming and honestly run down from the outside, but the food was delicious and the service was excellent. Happy Birthday, JB!

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For every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8

My friends, I have been writing this blog for nearly six years now. It has seen me through college, failed relationships, internships, career hunting, numerous moves, several jobs, engagement, marriage, house buying and home renovating. It has been years since I’ve posted with much consistency, but I’ve loved having a place where I could chronicle a few of the fun going-ons in my life. Not only that, this blog has stretched me as a writer and afforded me multiple different opportunities to work writing into a career.

But, for everything there is a season. Recently I’ve felt it tugging on me that this ol’ blog is coming close to rounding out its season. I’m planning to share several posts with room makeover reveals once we are settled into the house – how could I not? After that it is my intention to write once a month – just 12 posts a year – mainly to keep our families and far-away friends up-to-date with what’s going on in our lives.

I’d love to keep up with you on Instagram, so please feel free to find me there. And if you miss my writing so terribly you just can’t stand it, you can keep up with my freelance work on Charlotte Agenda.

Thanks so much to all of you who have read Meet Virginia over the past six years. I’ve made true, lasting friendships through this little blog, and for that reason alone, it has been more than worth it.

I’ll “see you” guys at the end of the month!

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Let’s talk about countertops! Or as Jonathan would say, let’s talk about my baby.

At the verrrrry beginning of this process, we were thinking we would use two different types of granite in the kitchen: White Mist on the counter surrounds and Steel Grey on the work island.

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Well, the longer I thought about it, and the more inspiration images I looked at, I decided I wanted something lighter and brighter in the kitchen. I did lots of research to try and find granites with a white base, but… there really aren’t any. That’s when I started considering marble.

Marble is absolutely gorgeous and has a timeless look to it, but there are a number of downsides to marble as well. For those of you who aren’t familiar, here are a few of the negatives:

  • It can be quite pricy, depending on the type of marble you choose. The more white it is, the more expensive it will be. Types like Calcatta are on the high end, and Cararra is on the lower end.
  • Marble is a soft stone, making it vulnerable to etching and staining. Basically you have to watch your countertops like a hawk and wipe up spills the moment they happen. Anything colored or acidic (grape jelly, pasta sauce, red wine, lemon juice, even water!) could stain or etch your countertops permanently. Once it happens, it can’t be undone.
  • Because it’s soft, marble can also be easily scratched or cracked. It’s so fragile that some fabricators won’t even install it for you.

I asked the opinions of everyone I knew who had marble in their kitchen. “Do you love it? Would you do it again?” I read lots of forums on Houzz and even posed the question to a large Facebook group I’m in. The general response seemed to be that there’s no way to keep your marble countertops looking pristine and perfect, but if you can embrace the “lived in” look, marble is a beautiful stone that gives your kitchen (or bathroom!) character. Count me in.

To rectify the issue of price, we decided to go with a White Cararra. People always think of marble as being outrageously expensive, but Cararra is comparable in price to your average granite.

As a solution to the vulnerable nature of marble, we decided to only put it on the countertop surrounds, and use something different on the work island, planning to do all of our food prep on the island.

Now, there are also a number of different finishes you can have for marble countertops. The main two finishes we were considering were polished and honed. Both finishes have their own benefits and drawbacks, of course.

  • Polished: Shiny, etching is more obvious, but it is less porous so it’s less likely to stain
  • Honed: Matte finish, etching is less visible, but it is more porous so it’s more susceptible to stains

Okay, SO, I’m going to keep breaking this process down because I had no idea how it worked before we started doing it ourselves. Hopefully some of you may find it helpful. :)

First things first, you have to find a fabricator. A fabricator is a person or a company who is basically the middle man between the customer (Jonathan and me in this case), and the slab vendor or granite yard. Your fabricator is also the person who cuts your stone to fit your countertops and installs it for you. We met with a few different companies to price out options and eventually settled on 704 Granite.

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Once you have your fabricator, the fun part starts! There are these big warehouses full of all different stone slabs. Marble, granite, quartz, you name it. You get a clipboard when you go in with a sheet to fill out.

There are rows and rows of slabs and you can walk around to your heart’s content, looking at all the different options, and running your hands over them. They are in large vertical stacks, but because of the way they cut the stone (basically like slicing a loaf of bread), all of the “slices” from one lot will look pretty much the same.

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When you find the slab or lot that you like, you write the name, size, and lot number down on your sheet of paper and take it back to the front desk. They take care of sending the info to your fabricator, who will be the one to give you a final price. If there are multiple slabs or lots that you like, it’s a good idea to write them all down to have them all priced out. This will also “hold” the lot for you for a certain amount of time. Depending on the granite yard, it could be anywhere from 10 days to one month.

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On our first adventure to a granite yard, we went to American Granite. For all you Charlotte peeps, there are countless stone warehouses, most of them out on Westinghouse Blvd. Right away we found a White Carrara that we loved! We put our name on it and thought it was a done deal, but after talking to our fabricator, we found out it was too small. Sad day for us.

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Side note: We had settled on having our marble honed for durability’s sake. Since it would be a matte finish, we didn’t want a shiny, polished granite on the island. That’s when we started considering Slate. It’s not very common for countertop use, and because of that, there was only one granite yard in Charlotte that had any slate slabs. They only had two, both of which were pretty small. Unfortunately the more attractive slab was sold before we had a chance to put our name on it, and the remaining piece had some pretty gnarly imperfections. We weren’t sold on it.

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Back to the marble hunt. One morning Jonathan and I must have visited five or six different stone warehouses. We discovered that it’s rather rare to find pre-honed Carrara in a warehouse. Most of the time, what they have in stock is polished, and you have to send it out to be honed. Of course, that’s an additional charge of about $9 per square foot. Ouch.

We did find one beautiful piece of marble at AGM, called Statuary, but after having it priced out, we realized it was out of our price range. Plus, it’s veining was a bit more bold than we were looking for.

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We were back to the drawing board at this point and because of the extra honing cost and the difficult to find Slate, I was leaning towards polished marble. We found this piece of White Carrara at a place called OHM that we liked a lot, aside from the big white streak on the far end:

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Eventually we went back to American Granite, the first place we visited, and stumbled upon this gorgeous piece of Frozen Quartzite. I mean, it was jaw-dropping. It had the look of marble, plus a little sparkle, and the tiniest hint of blue/green veining. I LOVED it.

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Quartzite is typically less expensive and more durable than marble, so I was sold. Unfortunately, when we went to take our sheet to the front desk, the representative told us that the entire lot of Frozen Quartzite was sold. Argh! They told us that they would be getting another shipment in, but not for 6-8 weeks, and sadly we just couldn’t wait that long. We had our fabricator call around to see if any other warehouses had Frozen Quartzite in stock.

IMG_2404Our fabricator confirmed that none of the Frozen Quartzite was available. They wouldn’t get any more for two months, and it would have a large amount of brown undertones. Sigh.

We set out for a third morning of marble hunting one week later. Back at American Granite, we found another quartzite called Damasco White that we were interested in. It had white tones like marble, but also had some interesting blue/green sections that made it very unique. But was it too unique? I wasn’t sure if it was the timeless look we were going for.

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We returned to OHM and found a large lot of Carrara that was nearly perfect. When we were looking on the tags to get the lot number, we saw that two of the slabs already had our name of them. Haha, I guess we had already decided we liked it and forgotten.

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At this point, our top two contenders were the Damasco White quartzite from American Granite and the Bianco Carrara from OHM. The problem? If we were to choose the marble, we previously decided that wanted it honed to prevent etching. However, the extra $1000 to have it honed was out of the question. Could we be super careful with it while cooking? Would I be obnoxiously sticking coasters under people’s drinks when guests came to visits? What about if we have kids while we still live in this house?

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While we were still tossing this around in our heads, a new lot of slate arrived at Granite Depot. After the last bad slab, we started considering other options for the island, mainly Steel Grey granite. The trouble we were running into with this was that the Steel Grey only came in HUGE slabs, much more than we needed. We couldn’t find a remnant and it’s difficult to re-sell, so this was not ideal.

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We were so excited to arrive at Granite Depot and find a slab of slate that was in amazing condition! Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely unique. It looks and feels much more like a natural stone than granite or polished marble. It’s rough, it’s bumpy, it’s not “perfect” by any means. But, it’s also non-porous (no staining), crazy durable, and simple to clean. Slate is also extremely affordable as compared to marble or granite.

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I personally think that slate looks an awfully lot like Soapstone, an expensive and very fragile (even softer than marble) stone that’s very popular in design trends right now. I love the organic feel of the slate and love that we will have a durable, unique work surface in our kitchen. Sold!

So, we got the island figured out, but what did we decide for the surround? The winner is…

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… polished Bianco Carrera! It’s exactly what we had in mind and I think it will be so beautiful and classic. I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t worried about etching and staining… I am. The good news is that it can always be re-polished. We may even have it honed a year or two down the road if we have the budget for that. For now, please forgive me if you come to visit and I am manically wiping up spills and sticking a coaster under your glass. I can’t wait to see it installed!

There’s no turning back now, but if any of you have marble in your kitchen, I’d love to hear about your experience! Any tips for cleaning/keeping clean are more than welcome as well. :)

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