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     I grew up on the coast of Wilmington, North Carolina. As a kid, nearly every day was summer. My family owns a house in what's referred to as the "Promised Land" in Morehead City. The house is a quintessential 1940's cottage with original hardwood floors, crown molding, and outdoor shower. Over time, they've made cosmetic renovations but the original metal kitchen cabinets still stand... one of my favorite details. The best part? The house is about a hundred yards from Bogue Sound giving us access to a private beach with a quick walk back to the house for snacks and bathroom breaks. Head fifteen blocks down the street, passing quaint cottage after cottage and you'll find waterfront shopping & dining. So, every year John and I plan a week long vacation to the "Crystal Coast". For weeks, we talk about how excited we are to sleep in, suit up, and slather on the SPF before noon. We start thinking about how we can't wait to fill our bellies with fresh, local seafood while we sit in plastic patio chairs on the dock while sipping sweet tea, before walking it all off on the way back home - or how amazing those burgers and dogs will taste hot off the grill after a long, sandy day in the sun. We lay in bed and wonder how many different types of crabs and conchs we'll find while we're wading out at low tide and laugh about how much fun we'll have boogie boarding across the bridge at Atlantic Beach. I can't wait to talk long walks back and forth to the pier and I think about the baby bunnies that live under the shed and how much bigger they'll be every year. We count down the days for months leading up to our get-away!

Unfortunately, for the first two days the weather was really cloudy & overcast. So, I stayed in my cover up for most of the day. BUT, underneath I wore a super-cute black scallop trimmed bikini (I also tried out the one-piece trend this year and purchased one very similar to the one below). No worries, I got to show it off later in the week because although the forecast predicted rain & clouds, the sun came out and we had some really great beach time!

COVER UP: Old from H&M but VERY similar, here | SUNGLASSES:  Similar, here.

Our #1 vacation priority is: to relax and reconnect with ourselves and each other. Every year, I am very mindful of 5 "rules" that always ensure we have the BEST vacation...

1. Abandon whatever your "normal". Stay up later than you normally would. Sleep in late. Forget alarm clocks. Eat too much. Drink too much (ok, not TOO much). Indulge in every single piece of your vacation. You can get back on track when you get back home. 

2. Disconnect. Unplug. Ok, I admit this can be so hard for us. Our careers revolve around emails and social media... but sometimes it gets to be too much. We both make a conscious effort to put the iPhone down and spend as much time reconnecting with each other - talking, taking walks, reading new books, being outside, etc.

3. Stay outside until the sun goes down! We even shower outside in the outdoor shower every day - even if we aren't sandy! There is just something about being outside, washing the day off in the breezy, wide open (but not too open, hello neighbors!) air. After, walk downtown to dinner & shopping or grill outside. Soak up that fresh air!

4. Wear Sunscreen! Because there is NOTHING worse than ruining your vacation with a painful sunburn on Day 1. I wont wear anything less than 50 SPF and I coat my face & neck in 100. 

5. Stop saying, "When we get back home..." Because it will all be over before you know it and you'll be back to reality! Take each day by day. Don't make any plans. Live in the moment.

I wore this outfit out to dinner on our first night. Confession: I did NOT wear these shoes on the 15 block hike but had we decided to drive, I would have. In fact, on the walk home, I kicked off my flip-flops and walked barefoot through the thick, soft grass - and suddenly, I felt 6 years old again. Also, one of my favorite things about being on vacation: minimal make-up and simple hair. ** The sunglasses I'm wearing are a luxury brand but I feel like I should clairfy - I did not buy these. They were a gift. While I do believe in buying quality over quantity, I would never spend this much on a pair of sunglasses... unless, I also felt like selling a kidney.

TOP: Loft (in Black, on Sale!) | SHORTS: TJ Maxx (very similar, here) | SHOES: Loft (ON SALE!) | WALLET: Hobo (in "Granite") | SUNGLASSES: Tom Ford

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I can't get enough of this Maxi! It looks super classy and almost elegant but it's a rayon/spandex blend making it really soft and comfy. I got the most sun on Thursday and the soft fabric felt really good on my sun-kissed skin. I wore this to dinner on Thursday night and I got so many compliments! 

DRESS: Loft | SHOES: Jack Rogers | EARRINGS: My own, most similar to Kendra Scott - here.NAIL COLOR: OPI, "Let Them Eat Rice Cake."

Ok, so the secret is out... I LOVE Loft. Mostly because their 'petites' fit me like a glove AND they usually have some pretty awesome sales! I ordered this dress and the quality was WAY better than I expected - It's really thick because it's made of 100% cotton but it's super breezy with the lace. On Saturday. John headed out for a little fun with his buddies so my Mom drove up and met me for a girls night. Again, I got lots of compliments and something about this dress just made me feel really girly & pretty.

DRESS: Loft | SHOES: Jack Rogers | EARRINGS: My Own - similar here. 

We had a really great time soakin' up the sun for 6 days and we're so lucky to not only vacation somewhere so beautiful but, to also call this place home... See ya next year, Carolina.