Thursday, April 29, 2010

flower baskets


These make me happy. Our front porch is wonderful, but the flower baskets I put out there are even better. When I sit in my living room and look out the front windows and see these on the porch, I get all giddy inside.

There are a lot of things about being an adult that make me pretty grumpy sometimes, such as paying taxes and having to go the gym after eating lots of chocolate ice cream. But...having a house with a porch and flower baskets makes being an adult pretty awesome. It's the little things that really excite me.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Make New Friends...

I know all the other girls I spent last weekend with have already posted their recaps and pictures, but I'm still going to do a little recap of my own, mainly because I have my own friends and family who read here that I want to share with. And I'm sure you all want to see more pictures of some of your favorite bloggers!

Last Thursday night, I left for Richmond, as this is where I was flying out of on Friday. I was spending the night at my parents', and I was planning to get in around 8pm. That didn't quite happen, though. I was about an hour into my trip when I realized I had left my ticket for the conference on my bulletin board. I freaked out a little bit, but quickly felt calm again when I realized how glad I was to remember now and not in Atlanta. I drove back half an hour and J and Layla came to meet me with my ticket. What would I do without those two?

Friday afternoon, my mom dropped me off at the airport where I met my roommate for the weekend, NCF! She and I have met twice before as she has come to visit our city when her husband is here for work. She's such a sweetheart and made a wonderful traveling companion! We never stopped talking the whole flight to Atlanta and back!

When we got to Atlanta, we were greeted at the airport my Megan from Tales of the Trees and Erin from Blue Eyed Bride. These are two girls who I have been blog buddies with for awhile now. I can't even begin to tell you how much I was looking forward to meeting them, and I must say, they were even better in real life than they are in blog land (which says a lot since I love both of their blogs!). They were both so much fun and so sweet. I am so grateful to call each of them a friend! It also helped that ten minutes into meeting her Megan asked us if West Virginia was its own state or just part of Virginia. I knew instantly that I was going to have fun hanging out with her for the weekend!

After picking us up and making the long drive to our hotel in Atlanta rush hour traffic, we checked into our hotel before meeting some other fun girls for dinner. It was so great getting to know these girls. I had actually never read any of their blogs before this weekend, but they are all on my blog roll now! It was also great listening to Megan trying to convince our waiter that we met on the internet. He wasn't buying it. I think that explains my laugh face in this picture.

Me, NCF, Becca, Megan, Erin, Amy, and Lianna

After dinner we hung out at our hotel and Jenna from Jenna's Journey came over. I wish I had gotten a picture with this girl. She was so kind and fun to be around! I wish I could have spent more time with her!

Saturday we woke up for a breakfast at Cracker Barrel. We did a lot of eating this weekend!

Me and my fabulous weekend roommate!

So many wonderful women at breakfast!

After this we headed to the conference at Woodstock Baptist Church which I wrote about on Monday. I am still sitting here trying to process it all. Beth was incredible.

After the conference, we drove downtown for dinner. We encountered a lot of rain, which explains the moppy hair in the following pictures, but that didn't bring any of us down!

We ate at West Egg Cafe, a wonderful recommendation by Amy. I ordered the Fried Green Tomato BLT. I might have dreams about it for the next 6 months...it was just THAT good!


And then we finished dinner with cupcakes! Megan and I each had a CocaCola cupcake, only necessary since we were in Atlanta, home of Coke!


After a lot of laughs and wonderful food, it was time to depart, but not before we got one more group picture!

Trina, Lyndsey,Erin, NCF, Pinksass, Amy, Megan, and Me

That night I hung out in the hotel with Megan, Erin, NCF, and Jennifer who was staying in Erin and Megan's room. I just can't say it enough, but just the "hanging out" this weekend was wonderful. J likes to call these women my "imaginary friends", and I love that I can call them real friends now! It's amazing the way the Lord has orchestrated all these friendships.

Sunday, Becca was kind of enough to come back to our hotel to take NCF, Megan and I to the airport. We also got to meet her adorable little Jayci. What a cutie pie! Once we got to the airport, Megan had a few little problems, but that just meant NCF and I got to spend a little extra time with her. Around noon, we gave her one last hug, and we were on our way home to Virginia.

What a whirlwind of a weekend, but oh my goodness, it was worth every second! I loved that I had the chance to finally meet so many friends, and I definitely hope we get to do it again. I just wish they all were a little closer! I suppose having friends all over is just a good excuse for a weekend away! I can't wait to do it again.

*If you don't read the blogs I linked to above, start now! You will love every one of these girls!*

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Menu Monday on a Tuesday

I know you've all been waiting on the edge of your seats for this week's Meal Plan!

My meals this week:
  • Cilantro Lime Shrimp with black beans and rice. I shared about this meal last month...so good that it got made again 4 weeks later!
  • Italian Sausage Soup, recipe from Cooking Light, but found on Laura's blog. I'm changing it up a little bit and adding in some white beans and using sun dried tomato chicken sausage in mine.

J's meals this week:

Monday, April 26, 2010

Exceptional in life...

Last week before leaving for Atlanta for the Beth Moore conference on insecurity, I called my best friend Tyler, and I told her how I was afraid the other girls I was meeting at the conference might not like me because I my toes wouldn't be pretty because I didn't have time or money to get a pedicure. This little story is exactly why I was going to see Beth talk. My insecurities may not be as obvious or clear as they are in some women, but they certainly run deep.

I constantly worry about what others think of me. I worry about the way I look and the size of my hips. I'm also wondering if I am wearing things that are "in style" (fashion wouldn't be a strong point for me!). And I am very often paranoid that I'm the "third wheel" in a group of girls.

Saying that I have insecurities would certainly be an accurate statement. Granted, they've gotten better in my adult life, but they are still dragging me down in my walk with Christ.

There are so many things I got from the conference that I want to put down on this blog, but it's nearly impossible to do that. If I had to truly sum up the biggest lesson I got from Beth's talk, it would be this: God is SO much bigger than any insecurity in my life. I love when Beth said that insecurity is not a weakness, it is an unbelief. Every time I let my insecurities take over, I am not only hurting myself, but I am not living the life that God intended for me.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
2 Corinthians 5:17

This is a verse that has always been near and dear to my heart, but after my weekend in Atlanta facing my insecurities, it has a new meaning. I am so thankful for the women who encouraged me to fly to Atlanta for this conference. I know that my heart and mind have been forever changed.

The girls that I met this weekend, were all just fabulous. Despite all of my own insecurities going into this weekend, I was quickly relieved to find out that each of them were just as sweet in person as they were on their blog, and after 2 minutes with each of them, I felt pretty darn stupid for worrying about my toenails last week.


Thanks to each of you for making this weekend a memorable one! I can't find the words to state how much I loved every second of it.

I'll be back later this week with a post about all the fun we had! Tonight, I just needed to get down all of the things that have been going through my mind and have been pressing on my heart since Saturday. It's amazing how one weekend away with "new" friends can change my whole outlook on myself. He is truly amazing!

(also...go visit Adventures of a Southern Newlywed's Blog for a chance to win Beth's book, So Long Insecurity!)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Incredible...


My weekend in Atlanta to see Beth Moore was wonderful. Good friends, good food (fried green tomato BLT with pimento cheese, I am still thinking about you!), a fabulous message...it was just wonderful.

I have so much I want to share and write about, but it's going to have to wait. I'm so tired after the past 48 hours, yet so happy! But I will say that I just feel so blessed to have met so many great women this weekend. I'm a lucky girl!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

How did we meet?

Back in the spring of 2004, a good friend of my mom's asked if I was interested in working at the civil engineering firm she worked at for the summer. She needed an administrative intern, mainly someone to file papers, run errands, and shop for the door prizes at monthly office picnics. She also mentioned that there would be lots of cute engineer interns working their for the summer. This nine to five job sounded way more promising than waiting tables again.

I began my job on May 17, 2004. As I walked into my office*, I watched a boy with insanely large side burns and curly hair pop out from under a computer desk. He had been hooking up my computer. He was introduced to me as the IT intern, and he quickly left the room. I thought he was cute, but then I went on my way thinking we wouldn't see much of each other.

*And by office, I mean a giant room we called "the cave" with folding tables used for desks and 5 engineers plus me in a corner. It was a bizarre work environment for that one summer, but so much fun. The following summer when I returner, the company had moved to a nicer place with real cubicles and desks. I still prefer "the cave."

At the end of the day, I had been out doing some training things, but came back to my desk to find a cell phone with a sticky note on it. It read something like this...

You are the most beautiful girl I've ever seen. I hooked you up with a company cell phone for the summer. Below is my number, call me tonight... Puffy heart, J

Actually....it didn't happen like that it all. It just said to email him if I had problems hooking the phone up. I know. The first note would have been much cooler.

And email him I did. As cheesy as it may sound, our little office romance was started with a lot of emails. I would purposely break things on my computer and cell phone so I could email him to come fix it. My sister and another intern friend began to set up "intern outings" so J and I would hang out outside of work since neither one of us was initiate anything. He went to college 9 hours from my college, so a relationship just didn't seem likely to me. It just wasn't going to work out.

But, as I'm sure you can all guess, it worked out just fine. By the end of the summer, I knew he was pretty special. We went back to college not "dating", but we talked almost every day. And at the end of that semester, we were officially together.

6 years later, he's still my computer whiz and I'm the dumb one who still breaks things and has no idea how to use a smart phone. We're a perfect match!



November 2004...I told you his hair was crazy.

J's graduation from Vandy in 2006

Wedding Day 2008


*This post was inspired by Kelly's Show Us Your Life for today! Visit her blog to see more!*

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Clear Eyes, Full Hearts



I am so, so, so excited for the return of this show! I've blogged about my obsession before, and it will only continue starting next Friday when season 4 airs on NBC!

..thanks to my dear friend Sarah for sharing this good news with me!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

5 Things I Love: April 2010 Edition

Five {current} Favorites:

1. This book...

I read this in Mrs. Haner's 5th grade class, and it was one of the first "real" books I read and loved. Prior to reading this I was a big fan of American Girl, R.L. Stine, and Babysitter's Club, but this book was my first real introduction to fine fiction. I'm currently reading it to my fourth graders, and they are enthralled by the Tuck family and little Winnie Foster just as much as I was when I first read this book 15 years ago.

2. Christy Nockels. I hear her sing, and I just want to praise and worship my Savior all day. Listen to Hosana. It brings me to tears. Joyful tears.

3. Tzatziki Sauce. Homemade or from Trader Joe's. In college I used to eat at Dave's Taverna weekly for this sauce. Now I'm smart and have learned how to make my own, or I can pick it up at TJ's for $3. My love with this sauce may never end. Try it on burgers. Or beef kabobs. Or just add it in with some rice. Ooooh, or add it to your fries! The possibilities are really endless!

4. Cooking in our dutch oven. Possibly the wedding gift we've gotten the most use out of in the kitchen. If you're considering owning one, go for it. They are worth every penny.

5. And for all you LOST fans, words aren't needed to explain why these two are favs.


Monday, April 19, 2010

Menu Monday + a cookie fail

Time for my second round of Menu Monday! Here are our meals for the week...

My meals:
Giada De Laurentiis' Champagne Risotto
Black Bean Spaghetti, recipe in this blog post
Burrito Bowls courtesy of Iowa Girl Eats

J's meals:
Chorizo and Kidney Beans, recipe in this blog post
Mongolian Beef (he's subbing the beef for pork)

And a few extras for ya!
Last night we went to a cookout for my community group at church. I volunteered to make a dessert and pasta salad. When I started thinking of desserts to make, I decided to go with these toffee, butterscotch, and chocolate chip cookies (thank you again Iowa Girl Eats!).

Who doesn't love cookies with Heath Bar?


And butterscotch chips!


And just for fun, let's just talk about how much I love my KitchenAid stand mixer. She is so beautiful. And so helpful when you mix super thick dough with oatmeal in it.


So after letting them cook for a few minutes, they came out looking and smelling heavenly...

And I stole one to confirm that they were quite heavenly. (This is the time for you to star this post in your reader so you don't forget to make these!)

And then I put 'em on a plate and got 'em ready to take to the cookout. Ready to go, right?


NO! Because at this point I reread the email with directions to the cookout only to realize it said "NO NUTS!" in all caps since there would be a child there with severe nut allergies. Fail, fail, fail. Toffee is made from almonds. My yummy cookies were a no go. I guess this just means more for us!

So.....while I stayed home and ate the 4 dozen cookies I had already baked ...


I also baked a tray of no nut brownies since I had committed to bringing a dessert. It all worked out...

And there ya have it. Moral of the story, read your emails carefully, and make these cookies for those without nut allergies!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

beers, books, and sunshine

When we moved to our house back in December, one thing we really loved about it was the front porch. It's pretty tiny, but it's still a nice place to sit and relax. I've been searching craigslist for some porch chairs for weeks, but haven't found anything I like. I'm going to be patient and wait till I find something I like for the right price.

In the meantime, I just carry out an extra kitchen table chair when I feel like enjoying the sunshine. It works for now!

Friday after school, I headed to the gym, then I came home to do this...

What more could you want on a Friday afternoon? A beer, a good book, sunshine...perfection!

This girl enjoyed it as much as I did...possibly because she got to enjoy a rawhide and bark at the kids going by on skateboards.


Fall has always been my favorite season, but spring is sure giving it a run for its money. If it weren't for the pollen, it might just makes it way to number one.


And when I said I enjoyed it with a beer, it wasn't just any beer, I was enjoying a Brooklyn Summer Ale. A beer that is not only refreshing, but it reminds that summer is so close! As a teacher, I love just about anything that reminds me of the approaching summer!


Happy spring! Hope your weekend was full of nice weather like it was here!

Friday, April 16, 2010

3 years ago...

Three years ago today, I changed my facebook picture from some happy go lucky picture of me out and about, to this....


Say a prayer today for the families and friends of all of those who lost a loved one on April 16, 2007 at Virginia Tech.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Must Sees!

I've seen two fabulous movies this past week, and I feel the need to share!
Add these to your list of must sees...


{source}

I watched this movie on Tuesday afternoon, and it was so, so wonderful. If you know anyone with Asperger's Syndrome, watch this. If you don't know anyone who is effected by it, you should still watch it.

It was such a sweet movie. And so honest. They didn't hold back on the realities of Asperger's but they didn't over dramatize it. It was ninety minutes well spent.


Last Saturday, J and I went to our favorite little local theater to see this movie...

{source}

And this was another winner in my book. I had great expectations, as Clint Eastwood directed this movie. Mr. Eastwood just so happens to be the director of some of my all time favorite movies (Gran Torino, Million Dollar Baby, Mystic River, Flags of our Fathers), so I had high hopes for Invictus. Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman were fabulous (is there anyone who doesn't love either of these men?), and the message was powerful. I will openly admit that I don't know much about South Africa's history, but this movie had me longing to know more about the country and Nelson Mandela. The message of forgiveness had me questioning and thinking about the way I treat others.

So...what great movies have you seen lately?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

"...sweet potato pie and I shut my mouth"

No, this is not a post about sweet potato pie. It's actually about sweet potato fries, I just couldn't resist using the lyrics to the Alabama song!

Moving on...

I am a true and devoted fan of all things sweet potato. I love the casserole, I love it baked, I love the chips, and I certainly love the fries...you get the point.

We eat sweet potatoes at least once a week. They are insanely cheap (last week I bough them for 38 cents a pound!), and they are full of all kinds of good things for you. Or so I've read...

Here's how I make my fries. But if you're not into all the prep work, I will say, Trader Joe's has a great frozen version. Much simpler and still delicious.

Ingredients: 1 big sweet potato, extra virgin olive oil, salt, chili powder. Piece of cake, right?

Begin by cutting your potato into "fries", this takes awhile and is the part I hate the most.


Next, either pour some EVOO on a cookie sheet, or you could even use PAM. Just enough so your fries won't stick.

Spread fries out over the pan, trying not to overlap them. I then drizzle a little EVOO on top.


Sprinkle some salt on top, I did about 1-2 teaspoons.


And finally, pour some chili powder on top. This is my favorite part! Use as much or as little as you'd like.


I bake mine in the oven at 400 for about 30 minutes. Half way through I take 'em out and flip them/move them around. After 30 minutes, I stick them in the broiler for 2-4 minutes just to get them a little crispy. Be careful though, they burn quick!

And there ya go! I would have a finished photo, but like always, I ate them before I remembered that step. Oops!

Enjoy, and if you have any variations or tips for making your sweet potato fries, please share! I know there are lots of ways to make these, and I'd love to hear you tricks.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

2010, FTW!

Some fabulous things about being alive in 2010:
  • I can visit my libraries website and reserve books, movies, and CD's, and then just a few days later, I drive a mile to my library and pick it up...for free. Could it be more convenient?
  • Goodreads.com...the next best thing after reserving books at the library is reading their reviews from strangers and friends. It's also a fabulous way to track what I've read over the years.
  • Netflix. I love having a giant list of movies waiting for me to watch. Even better than the list is the fact that I can watch half of them instantly with the click of a button on our Wii!
  • Kayak.com: This website is amazing for when it comes to looking for cheap flights. I have been quite the stalker for the past few months as I've looked for flights for Europe. Happy to report that I made my purchase on Friday night!
  • Being able to keep track of our busy schedules with Google Calender. J and I have been sharing calendars via GC for almost four years now. It makes my life so easy. We have calendars for everything. And they're all color coordinated!
  • This one will come as no surprise...food blogs! I find about 75% of my recipes online on blogs. I love a good cook book, but I love how so many food blogs walk you through a meal step by step with pictures; this is something most cookbooks don't offer.
There's a lot to be thankful for in the 21st century...what is there in 21st century that you love and find makes your life a little better or little more simple?

Monday, April 12, 2010

The beginning of Menu Monday

After several requests from a few of you (cough cough)...I have decided to start a Menu Monday post. As I've mentioned before, we are big meal planners. I usually cook two meals a week, J cooks 2, and then we usually alternate who cooks the fifth meal. Our meal plan doesn't always begin on a Monday, but I'll still try to be consistent and post on Mondays.

I love cooking. I love trying new recipes. I love being in my kitchen for hours upon hours. But I have no shame in having pancakes and bacon for dinner. Meal planning isn't about being a gourmet chef, it's about making meals you enjoy to eat with those you love. I say this to remind you that some of my meals may seem "blah", but I am all about simplicity some nights!

So, without further ado...my first Menu Monday post!

My meals for the week:
  • Black Bean and Corn Topped Potatoes ( thanks to Blue Eyed Bride for sharing this one!)
  • Hot dogs, cole slaw, and baked sweet potato fries...I'll share the sweet potato fries recipe later this week!
  • Top Top Ramen...easy peasy and SO yummy! If you like Asian food, you need to try this one! I know it has Ramen in it, but be brave and give it a try! I love mine with snap peas!
J's meals for the week:

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Better than Bojangles...

Remember in my last post when I said I went to one other place in South Carolina? Are you dying to know what that other place was?

Well, I did stop and get a chicken biscuit at a Bojangles (mmmm mmmmm! Healthy and delicious!) but I did get to go to one place that's even better that we don't have in Virginia.

HOBBY LOBBY!!


Thanks to the wonderful blog world, I have seen many a posts that have made me long to visit this store. Mostly those of you in the south and the midwest. We have Michael's, JoAnne's and AC Moore where I live, but no Hobby Lobby. Sad face.

Now that I've made the trip to Hobby Lobby, it's fair to say that it trumps all of the craft stores we have here. I was so impressed by the size of this place and their prices! Love, love, loved it! I bought a few things, but had much more I would have liked to have bought.

According to their website, they do have one Virginia store, but it's in Danville which is pretty much in a part of Virginia I never visit. Maybe if I write them enough letters, one day I will have my own Hobby Lobby!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Greenville, SC Recap

As promised, here's a mini recap of our three day trip to South Carolina!

Downtown Greenville was truly adorable. I loved how pedestrian friendly it was, and it was so clean. We ate at so many good restaurants, not only in Greenville, but in Greer too (that's the town Nan is from). I love a good meal, and it's even nicer when the weather is nice and you get to eat outside!


We went to Greenville to see a good family friend, Nan. This is my mom and Nan.


Please excuse my pale legs. I don't remember who this is a statue of, but who doesn't love a posed picture with a statue?


Greenville has a huge foot bridge that goes over the river in the city. There were so many people hanging out in the park below the bridge. And this was on a Monday night!


This is me on the footbridge. Isn't this city beautiful?


Nan and I walking on another bridge.


On Tuesday we did some more exploring downtown. Here's my mom and I...


And we found some bubble tea! I treated my mom and Nan, this was their first time trying it!


We did visit one other place on our trip, but I'll save that for another post! For now, I am off to do some planning and report cards for school. I want to enjoy my weekend and have NO school work to do. Happy Friday Friends!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

i really love spring break

My trip to South Carolina was a lovely one.

I had so much fun with my mom and our friend, Nan. I loved the city of Greenville, and I'm ready to move there now. What a cute little city with so much charm.



Isn't it lovely? Look at that sunset and those swans! I'll share more over the weekend. I need to get back to being a lazy bum on my week off!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Tea Party!

Spring Break began Friday afternoon with a happy hour involving margaritas, Dos Equis, and lots of guacamole. It was heaven.

Saturday I went with some coworkers to a Mad Hatter's Tea at a local garden and museum. The tea was mostly for children, but we went to enjoy the sunshine, the scenery, and mimosas! While there was lots of tea, we enjoyed the mimosas a little more!

The set up was really adorable. There were lots of bright colors, pretty cupcakes, giant paper lanterns and paper flowers. And with the river behind us, it was really a beautiful scene.



The coworkers and myself. Teachers really can clean up nice when we're out of school.


This was a fabulous way to begin my spring break! I am currently on my way to South Carolina with my mom to visit a family friend there for a few days. It should be a relaxing trip, and I'm hoping we get to do some spring shopping! Happy spring break!

Also...when I told J that I was going to a tea party with my friends, he responded by saying "Let's have a tea paaaaaaaaartaaaaaaay." Anyone else remember this youtube video?


Thursday, April 1, 2010

welcome april

Is it really possible that three months of 2010 have already flown by? How does that happen? How does time go by so quickly, even though those winter months seem to just drag on and on?


April will bring lots of good thing for us/me. It shall begin with sunshine and bare legs, and continue with a week long spring break, a trip to South Carolina to see a loved one, a baseball game or two, installation of central air conditioning in our home from the 50's, family walks in the evenings, grilling out (hint, hint to my husband...let's buy a grill), a trip to Atlanta to meet some wonderful blog buddies, and maybe even an afternoon at the beach.

Life is good. Less than 24 hours 'til spring break, and I couldn't feel finer.