eating around the outer banks

eating around the outer banks

We love the beach.  The fun with family, the relaxation (if you can get it) and the escape from every day life!

One of our favorite beach spots is the Outer Banks.  It is a bit of a drive from our hometown of Charlotte, NC, but totally worth it.  You may remember Heather’s post from a while back.  Horses, relaxing, eating and more.  Life is slower there, you do not get the overly crowded beaches and it is, in our opinion a great place to escape to.

Last month I packed up our new family of 4 and headed to Nags Head for a family trip.  My dear friend was getting married and I knew I couldn’t miss it!  We stayed at this adorable house we found through VRBO – my favorite way to travel as you may remember – and enjoyed the beach, local spots and amazing food.

nags head, outer banks

When we vacation or visit any new city, we always look to YELP for recommendations on restaurants, things to do, shops, etc.  We are RARELY disappointed.  We eat at dives that get great ratings and below I have shared a few spots we really enjoyed.


When my sister lived in Hawaii she turned me on to acai bowls.  You guys, these are bowls of amazing blended fruit topped with anything from fresh fruit, to coconut and granola, or even peanut butter.  They are refreshing and filling at the same time.  So when I saw there was a local spot walking distance from our vacation home in OBX, I knew we had to go.  This place was everything I was looking for.  Acai bowls, smoothies and even poke on the weekends.  My husband now has me make bowls at home and my two year old LOVES them.  Add it to your OBX places to go.  Photo: The Spot

the spot


So.. confession time, my husband and I love watching the Food Network and one of our favorite shoes is Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.  So, we figured if Guy had been there, why not give it a try and just like that we found Tortuga’s Lie.  This place is just what we wanted, low key, amazing food, great atmosphere and easy for our boys.  I am currently staying away from dairy for my 4 month old’s allergies and they were more than accommodating!  If you go, try the beans and rice… I am not sure what they do to those beans, but they are the best we have ever had!  Photo: tortuga’s lie

tortugas lie


Finally I’ll share this small, hidden in a shopping strip, piece of heaven.  This was another yelp find and was probably our favorite.  The freshest sea-food, great local beer selection and great for families.  It was tight, but our boys handled it well.  I got a tuna burrito that was one of the best I have ever had.  It was the special of the day, so maybe try that as they work with what is in season.  Don’t forget those rice and beans – seriously the OBX has those down pat.

food dudes

What about you?  Do you try yelp?  Do you have any favorite places to eat in the Outer Banks?  Any favorite places to stay?

best organic sunscreen

best organic sunscreen

A baby changes you.  Your mother having cancer for no reason scares you.  Your family members having to have pieces of their skin cut out because of sun damage scares you.

With that said… this mama is making changes.  We eat healthier, we exercise regularly, we live a balanced life, and we do research as to what some of the best sun protection lotions, sunscreens, SPF clothing, and beach gear are.  We do the best we can with what we can and we protect our families, our babies, and ourselves the best we can.

I have done some research on what I feel would be safe for my kids and for myself.  Note that I am not an expert, just a mom that has talked with other moms, read online and done some research on what I would feel comfortable using myself.

in one month i will be driving across the country

in one month i will be driving across the country

Exciting news! My little sister is moving to Portland, Oregon next month and I am going to drive with her to get there.  Of course, I am a little sad that she is moving so far away to the west coast, but I am so excited for this new adventure for her.

I have always wanted to drive all the way across the country.  Definitely an item on my bucket list. I have been to the Southern California many times and a few cities in between, but have barely seen the mid-west/north-west.  Little did I know my sister would bust out the news a few months ago that she was moving across the country!   I quickly jumped on the opportunity to make the trip with her.  And did I mention her sweet one-eyed “Jack” is going to make the trip with us… he is the cutest!

One Eyed Jack

We have planned our trek, booked our hotels, booked my flight back home and we are ready to explore!  Last month we spent the morning at a coffee shop with maps, a computer and calendar.  We used my favorite road trip planning guide – Road Trippers.  You can set your destinations and search on the interactive map for extraordinary places, unique hotels and sightseeing must-sees.   Then, you can pin your stop to keep up with milage, timing, etc.  To keep a 3,000+ mile trip interesting, you want to see some cool stuff for sure!  Here is our planned trek as of now…

Road Trip Map from Charlotte NC to Portland OR

Some of the highlights we are planning to see along the way…

St Louis Arch

(image source) 

St. Louis Arch.  Showing you this at night because that is how we will see it when we roll into town.  Trying to drive all the way the first day here from Charlotte.  That’s over 700 miles.  Wish us luck….and no traffic.

Corn Palace South Dakota

(image source)

The Corniest Stop we will make goes to the Corn Palace in South Dakota. Because, why not.  I mean, I’m sort of excited about it.

Prairie Dog Town USA

(image source)

Prairie Dog Town USA.  Can you believe their is such a thing?  I can’t wait.  According to this website, they will eat peanuts out of your hand!  Cue cuteness overload!!

Mount Rushmore South Dakota

(image source)

Mount Rushmore.  How can you not take a trip through South Dakota without seeing this magnificent rock sculpture!

Dinosaur Park South Dakota

(image source)

Dinosaur Park in Rapid City, South Dakota.  This vintage road side attraction is a must for some great photo ops!

Beautiful Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park.  This is definitely one we are really looking forward to. Driving through Yellowstone is going to be a dream!   Hoping to see this amazingly beautiful Grand Prismatic Spring.  Mandi’s sister has been traveling through Yellowstone this past week (on her way to Alaska!) and has shared some crazy cool photos. I need to chat with her and get some road trip tips for sure.

Road Trip Across North West

Yellowstone National Park

From Yellowstone, we are pretty close to Oregon.  We will stay over one more night and see some cool roadside sights like this giant red wagon slide….

Giant Red Wagon Slide

(image source)

Can’t wait to see Portland too!  I have never been and neither has my sister.  Pretty exciting and brave of her to move to a city she has never been to, right?  Love it!  I am so proud of her. She rules.

Portland Oregon Sign

(image source) 

Portland Orgeon at Sunset over Mt Hood

And you had better believe we are planning some sweet road trip tunes and lots of entertaining activities for the car trip….


So in just about a month, my sister and I will hit the road for this very exciting trip!  More details to come on how you can follow our adventure on Instagram.  And if you aren’t already, be sure to follow Sunny Slide Up on Instagram so you don’t miss the photos!

Have any travel tips or places not to miss to share?  Please comment below and let us know!

On top of Chimney Rock overlooking Lake Lure NC

Cheers to our adventure sister!

Heather Johnson - The Creative Stack

wedding pictures are worth it

wedding pictures are worth it

If you have read the blog for a while, you will know that I have a strong opinion on photography.  Engagement, Wedding, Maternity, Child Births and Milestones.  I have even gone as far as encouraging you to hire a videographer.

Well,  I knew that photography was going to be one of the main “must haves” for my wedding.  After all of the planning, all of the details, all of the check lists, phone calls, and decisions, the day comes and goes.  It is almost like you blink and then it is gone.

We recently celebrated 2 years and I can honestly say that am so thankful for my photos and my video.  Except for our memories, that is all we have left!

My wedding photographer, Crystal Stokes, is one of a kind – she made us feel so comfortable in both our engagement photos as well as our wedding photos.  I wouldn’t have traded our experience with her for anything!  The pictures below speak for themselves…  Every moment, every detail – all captured perfectly!  Below are a few photos from our special day.

This wedding was filled with special moments.  I hand designed and hand painted (with the help of my sister) my invitations, my mom and sister made the butters as party favors, instead of one wedding cake our aunts made their favorite cake or desert, and I hand wrote all of the signage and party favor tags.  It was filled with love to every inch!

To our surprise over the years a few blogs have picked it up and featured us as a “DIY Bride“, a “Vintage DIY Wedding” , “Shabby Chic Colorful Wedding“, and a “Crafty Floral Wedding”  I would say that those words definitely describe it!  I wanted bright, fun, vintage, and hand made to show through and I guess it did!.

Thank you to the amazing blogs that all have our wedding featured on it.  I was honored with some of the large names that chose our wedding.

I can’t end this post without thinking my amazing photographer, Crystal Stokes.  All of the photos used in this post are a thank you to her!

The amazing flowers are by Springvine Design, planning by Magnolia Events, and the wedding was at the beautiful Brawley Estate.

let’s throw a virtual birthday party for mandi

let’s throw a virtual birthday party for mandi

It’s Mandi’s birthday today!  Yay!  Happy Birthday Mandi!

Happy Birthday Mandi

It’s also Mother’s Day, so happy day to all of the baby mamas, furry baby moms, grandmas, soon-to-be moms, and wishing to be moms!   Mandi is a super mom, and her little guy just celebrated his first birthday.  Happy Birthday Hudson!

Super Mom Costume

So, for Mandi’s birthday, I thought we should throw her a virtual birthday party!  First, let’s dream up some fun party decorating ideas. Pinterest is THE BEST party planning place ever.  Follow our “Party On” board on Pinterest for a ton of great party ideas.

Painted Pineapples

Painted Pineapples from Life, Love and the Pursuit of of Shoes

Yay Cake Topper

DIY Pom Pom Cake Topper from Momtastic

Design Inspiration from Ruffled Blog

From Simply Savannah Events via Ruffled Blog

Also, some great ideas on a past post of ours – 10 Easy DIY Party Decor Ideas

Now, let me share some favorite birthday gifts to give these days, or shall I say some of my favorite things lately!  (Mandi, I have one of these goodies in a birthday bag for you… see you soon!)

Creative and Funny Birthday Gift Ideas

  1. Alter Eco Sea Salt Truffles
  2. 25 oz. S’well Bottle (it holds a whole bottle of wine!)
  3. Fitkicks Active Lifestyle Footwear
  4. LZ Pencils
  5. Leather fold over clutch from Sans Map Bags
  6. Unicorns are Jerks Coloring Book (hilarious!)

Virtual Birthday Party for Mandi

Happy Birthday Mandi 2016

Now, let’s party!  Please take a moment to leave a comment below and wish Mandi a very happy birthday!  You can also connect with her on Twitter and Instagram and send some birthday wishes her way.


live healthy – finding local support

live healthy – finding local support

As you know, we love healthy meals and try to keep a healthy lifestyle for our families.  Well recently I had a baby and I will tell you that gym time and healthy living were both put on hold.  More important to me was finding time to spend with my little guy and my big guy – the gym had to wait.  While breast feeding, food wasn’t about me, it was about what I needed to eat to make sure I could feed my son, and the bad habits started there…and just didn’t quit.

Fast forward a few months, I knew it was time for a change.  My husband and I strongly believe in showing our son a very active healthy life and guess where that starts… me!  We officially gave up sugar in January (my husband immediately dropped 20 lbs) but I needed another push… I needed a gym I can love and truly get behind!  ENTER – Burn Boot Camp.  This place is dedicated to women and especially moms.  They have dedicated childcare and they are so motivating!  For the first time in a LONG time I felt a sense of community!  The work outs are 45 min long, you are in and out in an hour and trust me… they make it worth it!  I felt like I may die some days ha!!!

I started with a month groupon and then moved on to a 30 day challenge.  This was so the way to go and get myself motivated!  But, I will say that if you are there, you can’t help but be motivated…  all of the locations are full of energy, women working their hardest, before and afters, and motivational posters everywhere!  Below are a few that I designed incase this community would like to download full size and put up in their homes!

Full sizes are available for download here or by clicking the images below:  Strong Women, Machines, Fit Life

If you find a place near you, you will want to have some cute clothes to work out in… and no one likes a deal better than us!  Below are some fab finds we found that will not break the bank!

  1.  Work it out Tank – 2. Swell water bottle – 3. Pink Running Shorts – 4. Workout Pants – 5. Striped Sports Bra – 6. Gym Hair Tank

And don’t forget…you can’t workout and just eat whatever you want!

Some of our favorite healthy meals are below!

  1. Home Made fruit roll ups by Seasonally Jane
  2. Greek Turkey Burgers – a reader (and crowd) favorite
  3. Cheesy Balsamic Cucumber Tomato Salad
  4. Ah-Mazing Paleo Granola
  5. You Won’t Be Single Long – Sweet Potato Fries
ma’s famous chocolate cake recipe

ma’s famous chocolate cake recipe

Ma is 91 years young and makes an amazing chocolate cake.  She is my husband’s grandmother and she has so kindly been feeding me this cake for the past 11 years. The recipe has been in an old family cookbook for decades, but no one has ever been able to truly master her secret icing technique!  I was visiting Ma in Nashville earlier this month and she baked the cake with me step by step for the first time.  I documented with photos and got her permission to share with you.  She is already known for this cake, and I told her now she was going to be an internet star! 🙂

Isn’t Ma the cutest.  My grandmothers both passed away when I was younger and she scooped me up as her own granddaughter shortly after my husband and I started dating.  I just love her!

Ma and Me

Alright, let’s bake a cake!

So, the cake part really isn’t a secret.  Just use the easy boxed stuff!  You can use yellow, white or chocolate cake mix.  Follow the directions on the box to bake the cake.  Ma suggests Crisco for greasing the pans before adding the cake mix to bake.

yellow cake mix

Yellow Cake Mix Baking

Once the cakes have baked, then let cool on a cooling rack.  You can slice each of these in half if you would like to make more layers of the cake.

Ma Cutting Cake

Now, to the famous chocolate frosting.

STEP ONE: Mix all ingredients in a heavy saucepan. (Scroll to the bottom for recipe)

Chocolate Frosting Recipe Step By Step

Mix Ingredients Together


STEP TWO: Bring to a boil on medium heat, stirring.  Cook until soft ball forms in cold water (or 234 degrees on candy thermometer). We didn’t use a thermometer – Ma uses the old fashion trick.

Boiling Chocolate Frosting


Chocolate Frosting Tip

STEP THREE:  Remove saucepan from heat.  Place saucepan in pan of cold water.  (We used Ma’s sink).  Stir frosting until creamy.

Cooling Chocolate Frosting

STEP FOUR: Place parchment paper on cake plate or cake container bottom.  This will help so much with clean up! Spread between layers and on top of sides of cake. Frost two layers or four if you cut your bakes cakes in half.  (I only cut one in half, so I had three layers)

Frosting a Cake

(Don’t you love the minion paper towels! I felt like that little guy was judging my frosting technique!)

Layers of Cake

Chocolate Frosting on Cake

And there you have it!  The frosting was definitely tricky.  I think I need to make this a few more (dozen) times to even come close to Ma’s perfect version. It’s all about timing with the frosting during boiling/cooling/icing.

Choclate Frosting Cake Recipe

Please don’t judge my lopsided cake!  I love to cook, but I don’t bake very often.  My first cake in quite some time and I didn’t line the layers up just right.  You can use toothpicks if you need to hold it together.

As you can see this is messy!  But a delicious clean up.  Once you have it all iced, slide your cake knife under the cake to lift a tad so you can pull out the parchment paper.

Lopsided Chocolate Cake

Let cool and then enjoy! YUMMY!


Ma’s Famous Secret Chocolate Cake


  • 3 cups of sugar
  • 3/4 cup evaporated milk
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1/4 cup of cocoa
  • 1 pinch of baking soda


Mix all ingredients in heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil on medium heat, stirring. Cook until soft ball forms in cold water (or 234 degrees on candy thermometer). Remove from heat. Place saucepan in pan (or sink) of cold water. Stir frosting until creamy.  Spread between layers and on top of sides of cake. Frost two layers or four if you cut in half.  Cool and enjoy!

Tips for this recipe – see photos and text above
Lower fat alternative – you must be kidding!

Heather made Ma's Chocolate Cake

I was so proud of myself and my little lopsided cake.  I will do better next time.  Practice makes perfect, right?

Chocolate Frosted Cake Cut


A big thank you to MA for sharing her kitchen and cooking expertise with me and her recipe with all of us!


Heather Johnson - The Creative Stack

family, work and slowing down

family, work and slowing down

First, hello.  I have missed the Sunny Slide Up blog!  It has always been a fun, creative outlet for me. I’m so happy to be back.

What have I been up to?  Wow.  Where do I start?  I can’t believe it has been a year since posting last here!  And at the same time – it seems like time has flown by.  My dad got very sick at the end of last year.  It was very scary and I dropped everything to help him.  I was happy to do so.  That’s what you do when your family needs you.  Especially your parents that helped you through so much of your life. I am happy to report that my dad is doing amazingly well now.   The whole experience brought us so much closer together.  Love you Dad!

family quote



Can you believe that is it already November? The holidays last year were a complete blur with everything going on.  Then before you know it the new year was here.  Unfortunately, I found less and less time for my creative outlets like this blog and I was working nonstop.  My business was going really well, so I can’t complain…but I needed to slow down.  I sometimes think I am superwoman and I can do it all.  Don’t we all, ha.  Well I am trying to be more realistic these days and stop over-commiting!  It is a fault of mine. I stopped saying yes to everything and started adding more turnaround time to by work projects.  I schedule my downtime.  I need a lazy Sunday every once in a while…or every week.  It is amazing how refreshing a day at home with no project deadlines and plans can be!


slow down life quote(source)


This past summer flew by without enough beach vacations.  That is what I always end up saying.  I love the beach and will totally live by one someday.  Talk about slowing down.  I could sit on a beach everyday soaking up the sun.  It is one of my favorite things ever.

And now fall is here with its beautiful leaves.  It has been raining here in Charlotte this week which has been kind of blah, but I welcome the cooler weather when I can wear my fuzzy sweaters and have my fireplace on every evening.


Fall Favorites



Halloween is over and the countdown to the holidays begins.  Only 22 days until Thanksgiving!  Need some turkey day ideas?  Here are some from when I  hosted Thanksgiving a couple of years ago.  Gobble!  Gobble!

I’m super excited for this holiday season.  I just love buying/making gifts for people.  I gather gifts all year long and stuff them in a box in a closet – then it is so exciting when I open the box to see what I have collected all year and start the wrapping!  And the decorating – I would leave my Christmas tree up all year long if my husband would let me.

I’m going to try to remember my “slow down” motto through the rest of this year.  The holidays can get so rushed.  I’m going to sit back a bit and enjoy.  And I am really looking forward to sharing some of my favorite finds from this past year with you and playing a bit of catch up here on the blog.  More to come.  Cheers!

(P.S. – have you entered our giveaway this week yet?  There is still time!)


Heather Johnson - The Creative Stack



giveaway with dry ink designs

giveaway with dry ink designs

This week you heard from Mandi and her etsy shop… Well, you are in luck as one of our readers will win a hand painted quote handmade by Mandi herself!

As Mandi talked about here, she has found a new love for hand lettering and experimenting with new pens, ink and paint.  Her post on easy calligraphy from last year has been a huge hit on our blog!

And now, to the Giveaway….

Hand Lettering Process




I was made for sunny days quote


This one-of-a-kind hand lettered water color print can be yours!

($35 dollar value)


TO BE ENTERED TO WIN, you must… (more…)

new shops, baby, and life… oh my

new shops, baby, and life… oh my

Hey guys!

It’s Mandi… We are so excited to be back here on Sunny Slide Up!  We took a little time away, but I will tell you it was for good reason.  We all had a full plate and today I am happy to be able to share with you what I had going on.

As you all know, I have been running my own graphic design business, Dry Ink Designs, for almost 4 years now!  It has been an amazing journey that continues to grow.  I love design, I love everything logo and brand, and I love working with clients of all shapes and sizes to communicate their best selves graphically.

However, in my free time (we all have plenty of that, right) I caught myself drawing, experimenting with new pens, ink and paint.  I continued to push my hand lettering and calligraphy. I wanted an outlet to be able to share these with others and Etsy felt like the right fit!  It is a platform that allows me to easily sell world wide and I have had the most amazing luck so far!  Please go and like my page for all new items that I put up there!

hand lettered water color

baby stats nautical theme

baby quote for nursery with watercolor

As we get closer to the holiday season, I have had many people ordering these custom gifts for babies with first christmas, for loved ones with quotes and as gifts!  They turn out great who doesn’t love custom, one-of-a-kind items!

custom christmas ornament


I love packing off things to ship to their new homes, I love getting custom orders and work with people on making something special for their home!

I have also partnered with Little Ornery to do custom shirts for mamas and babies!  These are just to cute and you are going to want to snatch up one of everything!  How cute is this little one for Thanksgiving?

baby thanksgiving onesie

Here are a few more – I literally could live in these sweatshirts!

little ornery clothing

With all of this, you wouldn’t think it could get more exciting, but I tell you…  I have had the most amazing year not because of shirts or business, but this one special amazing little boy.

I didn’t know my heart had this capacity to love.  I didn’t know a smile so small could be so big and warm me to my core.  I didn’t understand that I no longer did for myself, but that I would do everything I do, with every ounce of my soul, for another person.  I love who I have become, I have fallen in love with my husband in a new, unexperienced way, and I live for each moment I get to see his special face.  I live now to see him live, see him grow grow and watch him learn.  He has all of our heart!



How can he not with that face, right!

It is great to be back and I look forward to sharing more of our crazy journey and things that are happening!

In the meantime – follow my personal journey on Instagram and Facebook through Dry Ink Designs.

Mandi Heilig - Dry Ink Designs