July 16, 2015

Celebrate Blueberries with 3 Simple Recipes

July is National Blueberry Month and what better way to celebrate this adorable fruit than by eating them? Did you know that when it comes to health, blueberries really pack a punch. They are jam packed with antioxidants, which fight free radicals that can run rampant in your body. Plus, they are a great way to get Vitamin C and fiber. They may help lower blood pressure and could improve your short-term memory. What's not to love? 

I'm joining my friends on Knoxville's Fox43 to share some simple recipes that you might want to try as you are eating more blueberries this month and on into August. This is definitely their time of year to shine, so take advantage of the great selection in stores and at your local farmer's markets now! 

1) Artisan Bread w/ Blueberries & Ricotta 

I tried a similar version of this recipe at Marche in East Nashville, except it had peaches in place of the blueberries. It left such a lasting impression on me because it was just so darn beautiful when the server brought it to the table. Plus, it was decadent, but also wholesome...that might seem like a strange combination. But it was! 

To make it, all you need is some good quality artisan bread, blueberries, ricotta cheese and honey. 

Now if you have time, I'd recommend making your own homemade ricotta. Here's a good recipe if you'd like to try your hand. Otherwise, just pick some up at the grocery store. I used Trader Joe's store-brand for this recipe. 

Grill or toast a few thick slices of bread. Spread thickly with ricotta. Apply blueberries and drizzle with honey. It's so simple, and such a great way to eat up all these blueberries this season. 

2) Blueberry Corn Salad

Is this simple summer salad that features blueberries, sweet corn, cucumbers, jalapeƱo, red onion, drizzled with a sweet honey lime dressing.

  • 3 ears fresh sweet corn, husked 
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries 
  • 1 cucumber, sliced 
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion 
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped 
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice 
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 1 tablespoon honey 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1. Bring water to boil in a medium sized pot. Cook corn for 5-7 minutes. After it is cool enough to handle, remove it from the cob.
2. In a good sized serving bowl, combine corn, blueberries, cucumber, red onion, and jalapeno.

For the dressing, stir together lime juice, oil, honey, cumin, salt, and pepper. Pour dressing over salad and stir until combined. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

3) Blueberry Fizz 

With all the ripe blueberries available now, I knew there had to be a great way to use them in a delicious summer cocktail! You could make this with or without alcohol, depending on your preference. 

You'll need: 
  • Vodka (I used vanilla flavored)
  • Blueberry Soda (I found a great version at Trader Joe's)
  • Lemonade
  • Fresh blueberries (for garnish)
Mix 1 part vodka with equal parts blueberry soda and lemonade. Garnish with fresh blueberries. You could even freeze some in ice cubes for something a little more special.

What's your favorite way to enjoy blueberries? They are perfect for smoothies, as a topping for a tossed salad, or just by the handful. Treat yourself to some today! 

July 10, 2015

How to Throw a Wimbledon Watching Party

This weekend the 129th annual Wimbledon Championship tennis tournament draws to a close, with the final matches set for Saturday and Sunday. I went to Wimbledon about fifteen years ago, during my first trip abroad as a naive 18-year old having just graduated from high school. I knew nothing about tennis, and wasn't sure what to make of it all, but the entire experience made quite an impact. 

While my travel companions staked out a courtside seat to watch Anna Kournikova, I wandered around and entertained myself people watching and taking it all in. I had strawberries and cream. I drank Pimm's and Lemonade. It was the quintessential Wimbledon experience. 

When my friends at Knoxville's Fox43 asked me to share some ideas for throwing a Wimbledon watching party for their special Wimbledon show, I was happy to oblige! 

1) What to drink at a Wimbledon Party? 

Nothing but Pimm's & Lemonade will do! Pimm's is a liqueur with a spicy, citrus flavor and it mixes perfectly with all sorts of things. My favorite thing to enjoy with Pimm's is plain old lemonade, but you can also use a sparkling lemonade or just add in some club soda. 

Apparently Brits take their Pimm's very seriously, especially when it comes to the addition of mint. Tennis star Andy Murray's mom Judy tweeted a photo of her drink at Wimbledon, complaining about it having too much mint, which caused the Pimm's company to issue an official statement: 

"No more than three British-grown mint leaves should be used to garnish each glass." 

While I must confess that my mint was grown in Tennessee, Pimm's was easy to find at my local package store if you'd like some of your own! 

Recipe for Pimm's & Lemonade (Pimm's Cup) - 

Tradition Pimm's No. 1

Add two parts lemonade (sparkling or plain) to one part Pimm's liqueur. Garnish with a slice of orange, lemon, apple, and cucumber. And don't forget the 3 required leaves of mint! 

Supercharged Pimm's No. 1

Add five parts lemonade and two parts Pimm's to one part gin. Garnish as above. 

2) What to eat at a Wimbledon Party? 

If you ever have the chance to go to Wimbledon, you must have strawberries and cream. There are many possible explanations behind the popularity of this sweet, red fruit and its association with the tennis event. 

Wimbledon's head public relations person said recently it probably had to do with the fact that all the way back through the years, strawberries are always in season while Wimbledon is being played. Plus, eating strawberries was de rigueur in Victorian England. 

For my strawberries & cream, I decided to take it even a step further with the addition of a traditional English biscuit (what we think of as a cookie) crumbled up on top. 

Recipe for Strawberries & Cream 

Rinse your strawberries and remove the green tops. Slice and/or quarter and put them into small bowls (1 bowl per person/serving). Pour heavy whipping cream into a metal bowl that has been chilled in the freezer (a trick that always helps me) and beat it until stiff peaks form. Put a generous spoonful of cream over each cup of berries and top with cookie crumbles (I used McVitie's Chocolate Digestives, a popular UK brand of cookies that is carried by my local grocery store).  

Check out this cool infographic to see just how many servings of strawberries were enjoyed at Wimbledon last year. 

3) Decorations for a Wimbledon Party 

The official colors of Wimbledon are green and purple, so I tried to incorporate that with my party decor. As with any sort of entertaining, I always try to use what I have on hand before buying a bunch of party stuff that I don't really need. 

Wimbledon is also known for white, that is the crisp white attire players are strictly required to wear.

White serving pieces look great with pops of color, especially green and purple. 

I was inspired by this gorgeous arrangement I found on Pinterest, and re-created one of my own with purple hydrangeas in a trifle bowl. I also made some place card holders by cutting a slit in each tennis ball and inserting a place card. Simple and cute! 

Will you be watching the Wimbledon finals? Who are you cheering for? 

June 29, 2015

The Thing You Crave the Most

Cravings are strange. I'm sure there's probably lots of scientific research behind them, none of which I'm going to mention here, but if you Google "Science of cravings" you can find approximately 1,280,000 results on the subject. So there's that.

The other night my family went out to a restaurant where we've eaten for years. It's known for its seafood, but for some reason as I read over the menu, I felt like I was craving the vegetable lasagna. Even as I had the thought, another thought came to me that I probably shouldn't order lasagna at a restaurant known for its seafood...as if there were some sort of restaurant police that might not approve my decision.

Oh those darned shoulds and should nots. Why do they always rear their ugly heads? I'm not talking about a feeling in your heart that is leading you in one direction or another. I'm referring to those feelings that come based on nothing more than some abstract idea of "the right thing" to do. Why is it so hard to follow the truest desire of our heart (which seems like the most natural thing to do) and yet so easy to follow someone else's idea of what's right for us (often white knuckling our way through it, by gosh!)?

Math has never been my strong-suit, but one strategy I used as a kid to complete challenging math homework was to first think of the most basic thing I knew to be true and work my way forward from there.

Perhaps that same method could be applied in other areas of life?

When faced with a challenge where the answer doesn't seem clear, why not start at the very beginning and work your way forward from there?

What is the most basic thing you know to be true? That you're loved. That you have value. That how you feel matters. That your life has meaning, significance and purpose.

Brings a certain kind of peace, doesn't it? From this place, it's much easier to listen to your heart rather than force yourself kicking and screaming towards some reality that doesn't really serve you.

Sometimes the thing we think we crave isn't really what we want anyway. When my southern beau and I were engaged and preparing for our wedding, we created a gift registry at a local department store. As I walked around the store with that little scanner gun in my hands, I found myself scanning all sorts of things as he looked on in amusement. Finally, he asked "do we really need that many dishes?"

It wasn't until much later that I realized what I was doing. I was trying to satisfy a craving in the only way I knew how. But what exactly was I craving? Community. Somehow I believed that by having lots of dishes and serving pieces in my kitchen arsenal, I would naturally create a sense of community and a reason to invite others into our home. But all these years leading up to the wedding, I've had other dishes to speak of. And the number of times I've hosted parties or events at my home is disappointingly small. And yet my craving for community is no less great.

So where's the disconnect? Once again, all I can do is start at the beginning and think of the most basic thing I know to be true. I crave community. That place where true connection happens, where we can be our real selves, where burdens are shared and spirits are lifted just by being together.

Now, what can I do to create more of that? It's more of a rhetorical question I guess, but one I'm going to ponder and then act on.

That leaves me with this question for you. What do you crave most? What is the most basic thing you want out of this life? And what steps can you take to move toward that thing, rather than away from it? I don't have the answers, just like with all those math problems that stumped me from seventh grade pre-algebra. But I know what I know. And that's a pretty good place to start.

June 4, 2015

Celebrate National Doughnut Day with these Simple Ideas!

It seems there's a holiday for every occasion under the sun. They run the gamut from those that are sort of silly to others which are definitely worth celebrating. And then there are holidays that perfectly combine a sweet sentiment with something oh so fun. Tomorrow is just such a day....June 5th. Did you know it's National Doughnut Day? You hadn't heard? Oh friend. Have I got news for you.

Doughnut (also spelled donut) Day got its origins during the First World War when workers from the Salvation Army went around passing out coffee and donuts to soldiers (i.e. doughboys) in the trenches. Their service to the troops (which went beyond just the doughnuts) was meant to provide a meaningful connection to home even though they were far from their families and the comforts of daily life. 

So while you're chowing down on your next hot glazed, be reminded of these brave folks and their service.

And if you want to celebrate National Doughnut Day, here are a few simple ideas you might want to try. 

1) Doughnut Hole Topiary Cone
I was inspired by another blogger with this project and her step-by-step tutorial is so easy to follow! I used toothpicks instead of frosting to secure my doughnut holes to the foam cone, but otherwise followed her tips and hints to a tee. 

2) Doughnut & Milk Shooters 

I found the cutest tall & skinny vases at the Dollar Tree (of all places). Repurposed as drinking glasses, they make a perfect way to enjoy a shot of milk with a doughnut. You could either serve it on the edge of the glass or place it on the straw. This idea would be so great for a kid's birthday or slumber party, as well as for a fun baby shower treat! 

3) DIY Doughnut Decorating Party 

Another fun way to celebrate National Doughnut Day is by hosting a DIY Doughnut Decorating Party! Being creative is a great way to relieve stress. Creating something pretty and delicious that you get to eat? What's not to love?

Start with your favorite kind of plain doughnuts (store-bought, from a fancy bakery, or even homemade). Then gather all sorts of accouterments to decorate them. I got some different types of sprinkles, small candies, and three different types of frosting. Now go to town decorating some doughnuts!

I also turned a few of those small balsa wood containers into possible party favors by printing images of doughnuts and pasting them to the lids. I think they ended up looking really cute!

Feel like celebrating National Doughnut Day without spending any moolah? Two top doughnut chains are serving up freebies on June 5, 2015. 

If you're a fan of Dunkin' Donuts, you can get a free treat when you buy a beverage this Friday.

However, if the "Hot Doughnuts Now" sign of Krispy Kreme beckons you, enjoy a free doughnut without any purchase (one per guest). More than 100,000 folks enjoyed their free doughnut last year, and I wonder how many will participate tomorrow! 

May 31, 2015

HIIT Me with Your Best Shot: My Personal Training Experience on #teamNFC

In January, I was invited to be part of a cool project with a local fitness club in Knoxville, National Fitness Center. As a member of #teamNFC, I have access to all the great National Fitness Center gyms and facilities in East Tennessee. With the wedding behind us, life has finally resumed to a somewhat normal routine (sort-of) and I am always looking for ways to make fitness and health a part of that.

I struggle to find my rhythm with working out....meaning there are lots of peaks and valleys. Sometimes I am all gung ho about it, but other times I feel like it's hard to get motivated. The main thing I've learned about myself in this process is that I like to change things up a lot so I don't get tired of doing the same stuff over and over.

This means taking different classes (Zumba, Yoga, etc) and trying various equipment I've never used before. And most recently, it meant working with a National Fitness Center personal trainer on some high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

I won't lie....I was really intimidated by the HIIT room and had never felt confident to try it out until now. I think working with a trainer is a great way to get your feet wet if you've never spent much time in a gym. It helps me feel more confident 1) just having someone there to encourage you and 2) because someone who really knows about this stuff is guiding you.

My trainer, Kasey Kurtz was super encouraging and explained the whole HIIT* process to me at our first session. This helped me feel like I knew what I was going to be doing and gave me a chance to ask questions before the timer was set.

We used a variation of the Tabata regimen, which I later read is based on a study by a professor of that name who was trying to find a way to help train Olympic speed skaters. Kasey showed me how to do different high-intensity exercises and then took me through three cycles of them with periods of rest between.

My before pic...there's no after for a reason ;)

It was really hard. Especially after I've been pretty lax about doing any sort of cardio since the wedding & honeymoon. I'm not going to say I rocked it, but she was very positive and gave me constructive criticism when needed. Overall, it was a great experience. I couldn't lift my arms the next day but the soreness quickly subsided and I felt empowered that I accomplished the tough workout.

I used to think that personal trainers were for really fit, super health-nut, gym-crazy people. And maybe they are in some cases. But for regular people like me (a little out of shape, unsure about some of the equipment, intimidated by the tank tops/muscles/grunting stereotypes), it's great to have the option of a trainer when I need some direction. 

And knowing the trainer wants you to succeed is encouraging too. There's also something good about the accountability created by working a trainer. Your time is spent doing things that actually get results. Thanks to Kasey for the great workouts! I'm really honored to be part of #teamNFC and excited to see what the next few months hold for my health! 

*You may see the name changed to PHITT (Personal High Intensity Interval Training) if you visit a National Fitness Center club in East Tennessee. Plus, if you are interested in checking out National Fitness Center, there are options of both personal training AND group training sessions. Check out their list of classes offered here.

May 21, 2015

Simple Summer Drink Recipes - Southern Style

Summer is almost here and it's a popular time for parties and other get-togethers. Don't just serve your guests boring beverages...think outside the box with some creative concoctions!

Here are three fun and simple drink recipes you might want to try this summer! They are perfect for everything from a backyard barbecue to a fancy bridal shower and everything in between.

Blackberry Lemonade 

There are a couple different ways you can make this delicious summer drink, one is a bit more labor intensive and the other is easy as can be!

For the recipe that's a bit more work, you need to make a simple syrup of blackberries and sugar. You'll need about a pound of blackberries, 1 cup of sugar and a half cup of water.

Bring the berries, sugar, and water to a boil in a saucepan over moderately high heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until fruit is soft, for five minutes. Then remove it from heat and let it sit to cool. You can pour the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, pressing gently it in and tossing the solids. Or you can use it with the berries and all, it's your preference.

Now pour this blackberry syrup mixture into a pitcher and add lemonade. I like the low-calorie version from Trader Joe's but you can use your favorite store-brand or make it from scratch.

The simpler method for blackberry lemonade requires, of all things, blackberry jam! Since this is my favorite type of jam, I always have a jar of the homemade variety on hand. Don't go thinking that I make it, but I have positioned myself well among talented jam-smiths (is that a thing?) who keep my larders fully stocked.

Add a teaspoon of blackberry jam to the bottom of a glass and top it with lemonade. I actually prefer a fizzy lemon soda which makes this drink seem even more special.

Best Homemade Peach Iced Tea Recipe 

Okay, now I know you're probably thinking...what's so special about peach iced tea? Seriously, what isn't special about it? The refreshing perfection of brisk iced tea mixed with the sweetness of peaches ripened on the tree in the summer sun! Need I say more?

I have a great secret for making peach tea and it's so easy. Two words....peach nectar. You can buy great quality peach nectar at most fancier grocery stores. I got mine at the Fresh Market on the same aisle with the cocktail mixers.

Of course you can make your own peach syrup (similar to the blackberry syrup above) but if you don't have time, go the easy route. Basically you just mix the peach nectar into your tea according to your tastes.

Another trick I like to use is to freeze some of the peach nectar in an ice cube tray. Then, you can just drop the peach cubes into the tea and enjoy more of a hint of flavor as they melt.

Easy & Delicious Non-Alcoholic Bloody Mary 

I've never made a Bloody Mary but the southern beau and I had one the other day at a great local eatery and ever since, I've been thinking about trying it out at home.

I grabbed a bottle of Fat & Juicy Bloody Mary mix at the Fresh Market and while perusing the drink aisle, I saw a four-pack of Dry cucumber soda.

For a simple and tasty non-alcoholic Bloody Mary, mix equal parts of the tomato juice mixture with the cucumber soda and voila, that's all there is to it. You can add vodka if you want a more spirited concoction but I think it's pretty tasty without it. This recipe is great for a summer brunch or a picnic!

And there you have it...three simple summer drink recipes! Don't forget to liven up your summer parties with some tasty treats. And always drink responsibly!

May 13, 2015

Why I'd Make a Terrible Baptist Missionary

I ran across these vintage postcards on a website I like to visit and they took me back to my childhood growing up in a big baptist church in Tennessee. Each Sunday, my family would deck out in our finest and go to our respective classes for Sunday School before the main church service. 

I loved Sunday School because it was a lot of like regular school and I was kind of a nerd who loved that sort of thing. Since our church was pretty big, there were enough kids to divide us up into all-girls, all-boys and co-ed classes for each age group. 

I usually preferred the all girls class and was often the teacher's pet. One of my favorite Sunday School teachers was an elderly man named Mr. Dunn who let me read the lesson and each accompanying scripture verse every week. He said I had a nice, clear reading voice and I'm sure the rest of the kids in the class gave a collective groan even though I ate it up. 

Down the hall from my Sunday School class was a big supply closet where all the teachers' books and curriculum materials were kept. In that closet were stacks and stacks of postcards with little messages and cute images on them. These cards were meant to be sent to other kids that we might know to invite them to come to church. 

I guess you could say that a regular part of my Sunday School experience was outreach. Baptists are all about going out into the world and preaching the gospel to all people, and I guess that included the people in our community who might want to receive weekly post cards inviting them to church.

My Sunday School teacher had a big list that contained names and addresses of kids who had visited our church up to that point and each week, we'd spend some time dividing up the list and sending each person a card. Which I guess is a nice thing to do. Our teacher would give us each a stamp for our assigned card and when they were ready to mail, I'd take them down the stairs and outside to the big blue mailbox in the parking lot of the post office next door (I told you I was the teacher's pet).

Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

Except I knew most of the kids on the list from school. And many of them had only visited one time because they spent the night with another kid from my church or some other situation like that. I knew in my heart that they probably weren't going to visit again with any intentions of joining our church. So in many ways, I felt like sending these cards was a big waste of a stamp.

Then I got the bright idea that I could make this whole situation work for me. 

You see, my grandparents lived in Knoxville which was about a hundred miles away. 

And back then (before cell phones and computers), calling long distance was a big deal. And even though I liked writing them letters, we never seemed to have stamps at our house. So often, I'd write more letters than I could ever send. 

What can I say....I saw my opportunity and I seized it. I began sending my Sunday School outreach postcards to them. Every week, I'd write as small as humanly possible to fit as much about the latest and greatest happenings in my life on that little card. Then I'd stick my free stamp on it and send it off to my grandparents. 

My teacher never knew (or at least I don't think he did). And honestly, I didn't even feel bad about it. I figured it was better to send card to someone who actually wanted to get it than to someone who was just going to throw it away. I wonder if my grandparents ever thought it was odd that I invited them to Sunday School about 20 some odd times.

And that is why I'd be a terrible Baptist missionary. 

May 7, 2015

Last Minute Mother's Day Gifts

Mother's Day is almost here and while some people might think this is a holiday created by the greeting card companies to increase sales, I'm not buying it. According to my sources, Mother's Day got its start around the turn of the 20th century when a young lady from West Virginia wanted to honor her mother and it took her three years to get the holiday made official...leave it to a southern girl to do right by mama and set a good example for the rest of us! 

Do we really need a reason to celebrate mom? I think not. We should celebrate the women in our lives daily, but often things get busy and we fail to make note of just what they mean to us. So Mother's Day rolls around and gives us a chance to make up for it! 

I'm sharing some incredible Mother's Day gift ideas and I hope they inspire you to put some heart and soul into making Mom feel special whether its Mother's Day or all through the year. And Mother's Day isn't just for moms....special grandmas, aunts, sisters, step-moms, godmothers and mentors all need to be told they are loved and appreciated too! 

Gifts for New Moms (and Moms who Love Pink) 

These great tote bags from Dash & Albert would make a perfect gift for a new mom who might be celebrating (or getting ready to celebrate) her first Mother's Day. They are stylish and chic, but functional too. Who says diaper bags can't be fashion forward? 

Plus, there's the fun zipper pouch from Sugarboo Designs with the great quote from Audrey Hepburn. Help mom corral those miscellaneous items in her purse or tote with one of these cute organizational tools. 

Gifts for the Mom Who Loves to Feather Her Nest 

Most moms are always on the go and much-needed quiet time at home can be a real treat. The popular Ibiza throw by Pine Cone Hill is a great gift for mom to enjoy during a cozy night at home or a Sunday afternoon nap. 

Some great-smelling candles, such as these from Simpatico would be a great complement to this too. They are clean burning and after all the wax is gone, they double as a beautiful hobnail vase...it's like two gifts in one! 

You could even take it a step further and create a whole day of relaxation for mom, maybe to include a special breakfast and lots of quiet time for her to do what she enjoys most. It might be just what she needs! 

Gifts for the Glamour Gal Mom 

If your mom likes all things that glitter, jewelry is a safe bet. Lenny & Eva holds a special place in my heart because it was started by a lovely lady in my hometown of Cookeville, TN. My southern beau has gifted me with a few different pieces from the Lenny & Eva Trousseau collection and I love mixing and matching them. 

Some of the pieces have sentiments and quotes, while others are made up of beads and charms, but all have a whimsy that is unique. 

Another great line of southern-made jewelry is Louisiana-based Grandmother's Buttons. This line is made up of pieces that are hand crafted with vintage buttons, 100 years old or more! 

Gifts for the DIY Crafty Mom

If your mom is a DIY type, you might want to give her an experience she'll always remember. One idea for a great gift is to treat her to a class or workshop. 

You might remember that I took a class a few years ago where I learned all about the wonders of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. 

I highly recommend this experience and if you're in Knoxville, the Back Porch Mercantile is the place! Plus, there's even a special deal going on now for a discounted class session. This is even something you and your mom could do together! Who doesn't love some quality time with their momma? I know I do! 

All these great Mother's Day gift options are available at the Back Porch Mercantile in Knoxville. This is a fabulous local gift shop with lots of charm and personality. Every time I visit, it's impossible to leave empty-handed...plus it's the place I send my southern beau when he needs inspiration for birthday gifts, Valentine's Day, etc. 

Stop by and tell them I sent you! Or you can call today and reserve a spot for you and your mom to take a workshop in Annie Sloan Chalk Paint! 

The Back Porch Mercantile 

May 1, 2015

Lunch at Husk Charleston

The southern beau and I just got back from an incredible week in Charleston for our honeymoon. We basically ate our way through the city. A first time visit for both of us, we explored some really great local spots, based on the recommendations from foodie friends. Everybody said we had to try Husk so we hit it up for lunch on our last day. It absolutely did not disappoint. 

We started with the Dragoon Punch, a light refreshing beverage made of brandy, rum, iced tea and lemon juice. It was amazing...and I could have enjoyed several more. 


Next, an appetizer of pimento cheese. I'm such a pimento cheese snob and always compare any that I eat to my own homemade version. Chef Sean Brock's tangy cheddar spread lived up to the hype. It was dry with a paste-like consistency (which is how I prefer it), with a great tangy flavor. Pickled ramp relish and bits of country ham sprinkled on top were the perfect garnish. 

Shrimp and grits, a Charleston staple, were almost too pretty to eat! 

Then, some 'Husk' puppies with white barbecue sauce as a perfect complement to my bibb lettuce salad. Yes, it was covered in ham. 

The restaurant, located in a gorgeous old house, was just around the corner from our hotel. We enjoyed the entire experience and felt it was a must-do for the trip. Sometimes restaurants receive lots of hype for no reason, but I highly recommend Husk. It exceeded my expectations and then some! 

April 10, 2015

One Perfect Day

Do you ever have one of those days that just feels like one for the record books, in a good way? It's not like anything particularly monumental happened, but then again, maybe it did. 

Good Friday was just such a day for me. 

It started with a breakfast date with one of my dearest friends. What is it about feeling heard AND understood by someone that just makes life better? If you have someone who listens to you and gets you, you're pretty lucky. I definitely am. 

Then it was on to my hometown, where the beau and I had lunch with an old friend who is performing part of our marriage ceremony. Some of the time was spent catching up, and some was spent just chatting about marriage in general and what it all means. It's nice to be able to connect with someone who knew you at age 14 and still loves you in spite of it! 

Later, I got a wonderful visit from the mother of my preschool bestie. My friend lives in California now, but I've remained close with his family through the years and it was such a treat to visit with his mom and catch up. We have a lot of common interests and having an uninterrupted hour to discuss them was heavenly. 

Then it was off to the hairdresser for a trial run of my wedding day hair-do. I have to admit, this was the first time I've ever had my hair professionally styled....I wasn't sure what to expect. But the stylist came highly recommended and the entire experience was great. We settled on a style that I really liked and I got more comfortable with the whole veil scenario (which is kind of awkward the first time). 

Then my mom (who I rarely get to spend quality time with) and I hung out for a bit and ended up attending a dance recital for my other bff's 8 year old daughter. 

As she took the stage for the first time, I thought about the day she was born. My friend had invited me to be in the delivery room and it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. New life coming into the world. Somebody who just moments before hadn't been part of your reality, and then poof, there they are. As I watched her little personality shine on stage, my eyes filled up with tears. I squeezed my friend's hand to let her know just what a special moment this was.  

I thought about how it hadn't been that long ago we were just silly teenagers in high school. So much of the past 15 years has been a blur, from graduating high school to college and my twenties. Maybe it's because I'm getting married or maybe it's because I'm approaching my mid-thirties but I feel like I've hit a big wall in some ways. Like I finally realize life is just about the people who matter to us. And I don't want to miss anything important in the lives of those folks who are important to me. 

Is this normal? Do other people figure this out much earlier and I'm just a late bloomer? You don't have to answer...these are just hypothetical questions. However, if you have any wisdom to impart, please feel free to share! 

Have you ever had a day like this? When all things point you towards a feeling of wholeness and you are convinced you could die happy right there on the spot? 

April 9, 2015

Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day - Easy Projects for the Family to Enjoy Together

Earth Day takes place each year on April 22. Whether you consider yourself to be environmentally conscious or not, Earth Day matters. We all share this beautiful planet. Why not take some time to really appreciate and celebrate it?

If you'd like to celebrate Earth Day this year, here are three simple ideas that you might enjoy making with your family.

Citrus Bird Feeders 

I ran across this idea here and thought my backyard birds would probably love it....was I right! Such an easy project that the entire family can help with. 

All you need to create cute citrus birdfeeders is some type of fruit (I used large pink grapefruit), birdseed, oats, peanut butter and a little oil. Scoop out the fruit from each half. Then mix together the birdseed, oats, pb & oil. Spoon it into the citrus halves and use twine to hang them from your nearest tree. 

You can refill the fruit halves over and over again and eventually, everything goes back to nature. So cute! 

Pretzel Trees 

Earth Day is a great opportunity to start conversations about conservation. While making trees out of pretzels doesn't necessarily help the earth, it can give you a way to start talking to your family and friends about how to think more earth-minded. 

Plus, these treats are just so adorable! For the full how-to, check out this fun blog. 

All you need are pretzel sticks and candy melts. And it's just that simple. Seriously. Take this opportunity to spread some earth love today! 

Eggshell Seed Starters 

Spring is here and the time for planting is upon us. I love gardens but don't really have room for lots of plants in my small condo. Still, I enjoy starting and tending to seedlings for transplanting later on. 

Eggshells are a great way to start seeds. All you need are clean, eggshell halves, potting soil and seeds and voila! Seedlings! Once they begin to grow, you can transplant them to a garden or larger container. The eggshells provide some nutrients to your young plants as they decompose and until then, they look so stinking cute! 

These are just three simple ways you can focus on the earth around us. There are plenty of others that have a greater impact...but it requires creativity and willingness to try! What other ways does your family celebrate Earth Day?