Thursday, October 23, 2014

Packing Essentials

This weekend, at Stone Mountain, GA, the greatest, most wonderful event takes place.

The Country Living Fair!!!

Can I get an amen?? Aaaaa-mennnn.

The Country Living Fair is an antique loving, shabby chic fanatic, vintage obsessed person's heaven. Their Mecca. Their Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch.  (Monty Python, anyone?)

Instagram collage from last year

It is better to me than Christmas and birthdays combined.  Can you tell that I LOVE it?

It's basically Country Living Magazine come to life.  The vendors bring tons of antiques, food, crafts and artsy clothing to sell.  They have demonstrations (where Graham went on stage last year and learned how to correctly make biscuits by the talented Carrie Morey, owner of Callie's Charleston Biscuits

The other thing that I love about it?  Tex's Tacos.....

Those fries?  They're lime fries.  It may sound strange, but they are quite fantastic.  No ketchup needed, and I am all about dipping sauces.  It's been a year since I've had their food and I can still remember exactly how it tastes, which is freakin' AWESOME.

So now that I've explained what the Country Living Fair is, I'll get to the real point of my post - packing essentials for the fair.

What's going in my bag?

1) Plaid.  Plaid. And more plaid.

It's just so fall-ish!  

I will most certainly need more layers than this, as it is FREEZING on the fair grounds at 7 am.
And pants.  Obviously, I'll be taking pants ;)

2) A cute floral scarf from H&M

3) My fave pair of riding boots!  A good southern girl should have a great pair of boots

4) The adorable "Save the Biscuits" bag I got from Callie's Biscuits.  A tote bag is essential for carrying around those vintage mason jars or antique tea towels that you just cannot pass up

5) And of course, my early bird tickets!  

(Not shown- my birthday money, which I have been hiding away just for this :))

I'll be blogging over the weekend about what treasures I find.  

Friday begins! 

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Weekend in Troy!

We spent the weekend in Troy, visiting my sister who is in college there.  She's got a full semester plus work, so she isn't able to come home very often.  We had originally planned to go to one of the football games with her, buuuutttt since none of us are die hard football fans, we all agreed to find something else to do.

We arrived Friday night, and spent a couple hours just hanging out at her apartment.  The next morning, she made us breakfast!

After breakfast, she took us to Montgomery.  On the way there, we creepily stalked saw some beautiful old homes:

It was a bit of a drive, and by then we were all hungry again (we all like to eat!).  So we had lunch first, which ended up being at Chipotle.  It was there that I got a burrito the size of Graham's hand.  Literally.   

Don't believe me?  We have photographic evidence:


After eating WAYYY too much, we went to a few shops, then on to a natural grocery store that my sis likes.  It was amazing in there!  It's basically like a more affordable version of Whole Foods.

They even have a station where your can grind your own peanut butter.  I'll say it again.  Grind.Your.Own.Peanut.Butter.

I considered grinding a bag of peanuts and just catching the freshly made peanut butter with my mouth, but I feel like that would have been frowned upon.  

Our next venture was into downtown Montgomery.  It was free to tour the First White House of the Confederacy, so we did, obviously.  I will never pass up a chance to tour an old home or a cemetery .

I was dumb and left my camera at her apartment, so I just had my phone for photos.  

After this we walked around the capital (literally, all the way around the building), and decided to go on a quest for a coffee shop.

Now, if you are looking for coffee in Montgomery, you will not find any.  Apparently, Montgomerians do not partake in coffee, coffee shops, or pastries, because we searched and searched and came up uncaffeinated and hangry.  So we went back to the shopping center we started the day at, and went to Starbucks.  OMG Stacey.... 

Stop right now and watch this video.  Then you will understand.

After our glorious snack of pastries and espresso (NOT expresso.  If you say 'expresso', stop it. Stop it now.), we went back to Troy, rearranged her furniture, went to Wal Mart, helped my sister pick out a coffee table, and then had a deee-lish dinner at Mr. Ho's.

After dinner shenanigans included assembling the coffee table.  My contribution was documenting this :)

It was a short trip but it was great to visit and see her new apartment.  I'm just so proud of her for moving off and following her dreams.  Love you sister!

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A letter to the birth parents

Part of our adoptive parent profile is the inclusion of a letter from us to the child's birth parents.

A letter of reassurance to the people that have most likely done something terrible enough and for long enough that they have lost all rights to parent their child.

Surely, you can see why this would be difficult.  (Before I begin this, I would like to point out that not all birth parents are terrible.  Some have made responsible decisions to do what's best for their child.  I applaud those.)  I managed to scrape together a respectable, friendly letter, but there was so much more I wanted to say.

Dear Birth Parent,

Some days I hate you.  I don't know what it is that you did yet, but I hate you nonetheless.  I hate you for being the reason that your child has lost their family.  Don't you know how much pain you have caused them? They believed in you, trusted you, LOVED you....and you blew it.  How could you look into their eyes and purposefully hurt them?  That was your baby, the child that hopefully you looked at with love at one time, the child that you gave life to.  You let something evil and twisted take hold of your family.  You didn't protect your child from their nightmares, you caused them.  So I hate you.

Some days I'm sad for you.  I'm sad that whatever ugly pit your life had fallen into, that you weren't strong enough to pull yourself back out.  I'm sad that maybe you couldn't find help, that maybe you tried and tried, but there was no one until it was too late.  Maybe you were just continuing the cycle, passing along the same hurt that you experienced.  I'm sad that the pain and fear and shame that was in your child's eyes was not enough.  Even if your life never changes, somewhere deep in your soul you carry the imprint of your child.  You will always have a part of you missing, a piece of your heart walking around with another family.  You may know of their successes, but you will never completely be able to share in them.  So I'm sad for you.

Some days I don't think about you at all.  It's as if you don't even exist, and one day this child will just appear and be ours, as if they always had been.  I don't think about you because I just want to focus on the joy of "expecting".  I want to savor the excitement of a child on the way.  I want to plan all the fun things we'll get to do in our new roles as mom and dad.  And in that equation, you don't fit.

Most days I pity you.  I know that whether you show it on the outside, whether you have escaped from the prison your life choices has put you in, or whether you are full of hatred, I know that you are empty.  I know that you are hurting.  I know that you are lost.  I pity you because you've lost the one thing that you should have given everything for.  I pity you because you have lost everything.  You're going to miss out on the rest of your child's life. Even if we can someday send you updates, it will never be the same as you actually being there.  Their faces on Christmas morning....the hugs after a hard day...their first date...   So I pity you.

But today?  Today I'm working on forgiveness.  Today I'm trying to be thankful for you.  Today I'm trying to pray for you.  Today.....I'm trying love you.  Because without you, I wouldn't be blessed with parenting your child.
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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Weekend Fun!

Friday night, the hubs and I had a date night!

We went to Effina's, the local Italian restaurant, for dinner.  One of their specials that night was an appetizer of fried green tomatoes, topped with an andouille & crawfish sauce.


 It. Was. Amazing.

Don't look away...just gaze upon its glorious deliciousness

Seriously, the best thing I've eaten in a long time.  We each got a pasta dish for our meal, and then shared a dessert of tiramisu and coffee.

My handsome dinner date

We also declared the night technology free (aside from our meal photos!), so it was great to unplug a bit and really spend time talking and not scrolling.

After dinner, we came home and watched TWO movies!

Relaxing is seriously the hardest thing for me to do.  I always feel like I should be doing something, because otherwise I'm wasting that free time, especially on the weekends.  However, it was great to spend a little quiet time together.

Saturday night, we made a homemade pizza for dinner!  We both love to cook, so this was right up our alley.  We got a pre-made pizza dough from Publix, fresh mozzarella, sauce, fresh basil, and pancetta.

 We let the dough warm to room temperature, then patted it out on a floured baking mat.

  Once the dough was the size we wanted, I put it on a heated pizza stone.  Next, we put on our sauce.

 A small note about the sauce....I accidentally grabbed bruschetta.  I was distracted by the mega amounts of garlic as promised by the label, and failed to see that we had not actually gotten sauce.  Luckily, we had some leftover tomato paste in the fridge, so I mixed the two together and made a delicious sauce!

Okay, back to the pizza.  After the sauce, we put on thick slices of mozzarella cheese, followed by pancetta and dried basil, and brushed the crust with olive oil.

If you've never had pancetta, it's kind of a mix between bacon and ham.  It's precooked like ham, but has the smoky saltiness of bacon.

Now the waiting...

A peek inside the oven!

Once the pizza was almost done, we switched the oven to broil to get the cheese a little brown and extra bubbly.  When it was cooked to perfection, we took it out of the oven and sprinkled freshly chopped basil over the top.

When the pizza was a bit cooler than molten lava, we were finally able to enjoy our creation. I mean really, who has the will power to wait until pizza has cooled to an acceptable temperature?  Show me a person who says they do, and I'll show you a liar.  Every one of you know you've burnt all the skin out of your mouth numerous times trying to eat pizza before it was cool.  Don't even try and deny it.

 It was sooo delicious!   Homemade pizza night is definitely here to stay!
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Monday, October 13, 2014

T-shirt Fundraiser!

We are selling t-shirts!

Graham and I designed these shirts to help raise money for our adoption.  Because of all the variables (wide age range, 1 or 2 children, boy or girl), we have no way to prepare.  We are also unsure of the amount of time we will have to prepare once we are matched with a child or children, and so we need to set aside funds to basically purchase a child's life (clothing, furniture, toys, etc).  Unlike with a pregnancy, you know you pretty much always have 9 months to get ready.  You may not know the sex of your baby, but you do know that when you give birth, it will be a newborn.  We know nothing right now.

The way this fundraiser works is that we have a goal set to sell at least 100 shirts in 21 days.  You won't be charged until the time we set ends, and if you live near us, you can select the option to pick up the shirts from us.

Order your shirt here.

If you feel led to support our adoption, please purchase a shirt!  We greatly appreciate your support!

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Sunday, October 5, 2014

Sunday Morning Coffee

Pour yourself a cup of coffee and let's begin.

What is it that's holding you back today? Is it fear of the unknown?  What about a lack of confidence to take that first step.  Sometimes we are so crippled by our fears that we miss out on everything life has waiting for us. I know for me, the hardest part about venturing out into something new is not knowing what to expect.  With the adoption, there were so many fears involved: what will people think, am I really ready to be a parent, how are we going to know what to do?  Fear and lack of confidence weighed down the hope and future joy that God was trying to place into my life.  My need to control everything around me was hindering me from committing to something incredible: the ability to transform and heal the life of a broken child.

I know change is scary.  I don't like it one bit and I will fight it as much as I can.  But if we don't allow ourselves to change, to grow, to be willing to go through a little bit of a rocky place, then we will miss out on SO much.

I had this quote as the lock screen on my phone for months.  Every time I checked my phone, there it was, staring at me.  In every big situation, I just stand there, waiting for that feeling of readiness, when instead I should be leaping with reckless abandon, trusting that I am capable of facing whatever challenges come my way.  (Now this does not mean if someone knocks on your door with a crazy pyramid scheme plan and wants you to give them $100 to change your life, that you should do it....throw confetti in their face and while they're distracted, shut the door and hide under the covers.  That one is no good.)

What I'm saying is, don't be afraid to challenge yourself.  Be confident that you can achieve your dreams.  

I feel like at this point that I sound like Joel Osteen "he who shall not be named"  or other like minded inspirationalists who tell you all this feel good fluff and that if you just believe, it will happen.  That's not my intent.  There will be struggles.  What you think you want may not be what God has planned for you (hello, adoption!!).  You may be dragged through the mud before someone lends you a helping hand to pull you out.  My point is to be willing to face those challenges, to trust that what you face will in fact make you stronger, and will hopefully help someone else out in the process.  

Is this where I quote the saying from "The Help"?  

I want us (and ME ME ME) to remember that we can do this. Whatever "this" is, the things that are weighing on your heart today, the things that are whispering in your ear you can't, the things that you are struggling with....let it go.  Have faith that you can.  Have faith that it WILL happen, even if it's not in your timeline or even how you pictured it.  Stop telling yourself that you can't, and let God tell you that you can.
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Saturday, October 4, 2014

A very Julia birthday dinner party

Thursday was my BIRTHDAY!!

Now let's go back in time a bit.  Has anyone seen the movie Julie & Julia?

 It's about a girl that cooked her way through Julia Child's cookbook and blogged about it.  Simultaneously, it tells the story of Julia Child's time spent in France.  Basically, it's adorable and although I saw it multiple times when it first came out, I've watched it twice in the last month.

Side note: For those of you who don't know, I love food.  Not just "I love to eat", but I ADORE food.  I love taking random ingredients and combining them to make something delicious.  I also love sharing a home cooked meal or dessert with friends.

Off side note:  And then, in the middle of my second viewing of Julie & Julia, it hit me.  Dinner party!!

Since my birthday was coming up, I decided to host a French themed, Julia Child inspired dinner party.  I figured I might as well go all in, so I went with Julia's Boeuf Bourguignon (Beef Burgundy).  I also selected her Reine de Saba Cake (Queen of Sheba), which is a fudgy chocolate cake topped with ganache and almonds.  Yes, I cooked my own birthday dinner and cake.  But it was so. much. fun!

Boeuf Bourguignon is not exactly complicated, but it does require an entire afternoon to make.  It is composed of three separate dishes, beef in a burgundy sauce, sautéed pearl onions, and sautéed mushrooms.  You begin with the beef, as it takes three hours to cook.  I used a boneless chuck roast, which I cut into chunks.

 Before browning it, I cooked some diced pieces of bacon to have some delicious bacon grease to cook with.  Once the bacon was done, I seared the beef, making sure to brown all the sides. Tip: Do NOT crowd the beef.  Sear in batches, otherwise you will steam the beef, rather than searing it.

When the beef is browned, it and the bacon goes into your trusty dutch oven.   Next, you're going to pour off the grease and deglaze your pan with red wine.  I don't have a photo of the process, but basically you pour the wine into your hot pan and use a wooden spoon to scrape up all those browned bits stuck to the pan.  That, my friends, is flavor-town.  I used a Chianti that one of my guests generously donated.

Next, pour the wine over the beef.  Add beef broth, thyme, tomato paste, garlic, salt and a bay leaf.  I also added a couple chopped carrots and half a chopped onion.  Bring this to a simmer, put on the lid, and into the oven it goes!

While that is cooking, you need to sauté your onions and mushrooms.  Both will be seared, separately in batches. (Don't forget to use that leftover bacon grease!)

It was at this point that I "cooked" for the first time in my life.  I knew why I shouldn't crowd the mushrooms.  I was brave and kept the heat up high.  I was shaking the pan back and forth over the burner like a mad woman, lifting it in the air and once even tossing the mushrooms.  This was real cooking.  No shortcuts and with real butter.  It was sweaty and messy (there might have been a lost mushroom or two), and is not for the faint of heart.  But I challenge you to get in the kitchen every once in a while, and COOK!  Make a dinner worth making. Feed your family something you can take pride in.  

So here is the picture of the beef portion after it came out of the oven. Unless you were there to smell the utter deliciousness that came from this pot, or to taste the incredibly rich and flavorful sauce, this picture is not that impressive.

So let me just say...that sauuuuuccce. One spoonful, and I thought I heard the heavenly hosts singing.  It was in that moment that I felt like I had achieved greatness.  This was literally the best dish I have ever made.

There are a few more steps that happened after this picture, so if you decide you want to attempt this, I encourage you to watch Julia make this (and take notes like I did!). I also used this recipe as a guide to fill in some of the gaps from Julia's show.

Here are a few shots of the decor!

Scraped the plate clean!

Our appetizers: Brie with Strawberry Jam, crackers, cheddar & grapes.

I'm pretty sure this was the BEST birthday ever!  The party was a wonderful time spent sharing a delicious meal with friends.

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