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Sunday, December 20, 2015

An Exciting Update!

Whew!  The past month and a half has been a whirlwind.


Why?  Well, for the past 3 weekends we have been fostering a little boy!!

Originally, we had decided that we only wanted to adopt, and not pursue fostering.  We had been waiting on our social worker for an extended period of time, and are actually still waiting to hear back from the state on being approved to adopt.  A few months back, I had hit a low point, full of anger and resentment, and had finally really committed to being at peace with the whole situation.

And then we heard from our worker.

She told us about a 10 year old boy that was about to come available as a foster to adopt situation.  After taking the weekend to think it over, we agreed to move forward.  We began getting a room ready, and as we learned more details (which were super scarce) we began customizing the room.  I wanted it to feel cozy and personal, and not like a temporary place.


After a few stressful weeks of planning, DIY-ing furniture and minor meltdowns of "I'm not ready for this", the first weekend visit was happening.  We met him,  his temporary foster mom and his worker, introduced ourselves, and the three of us were in the car and headed home.

Can you imagine how incredibly weird and awkward this was?!?

Prior to picking him up, I was trying to decide if I was going to hyperventilate, have a full scale panic attack, or throw up.  Luckily, they pulled up at our meeting spot before any of those could happen.  "B" jumped out of the car, went straight up to Graham and shook his hand.  I extended my hand, but B went in for a hug, which put me in this awkward, unprepared side hug; story of my life. The drive home was surreal, because here we were, complete strangers to this kid, and he's not afraid of us at all.

It was both a relief and heartbreaking at the same time.  Even as an adult, the thought terrifies me of having two complete strangers drive me to their home, where I would stay for the weekend and be completely dependent on them.  For a child, that should be paralyzing.  But it wasn't.  He jumped right in, as if we had known each other for years.

This is his normal.

We started out just doing weekend visits, and have now gotten him full time.  As of right now, we will be fostering him until he either comes available for adoption or goes back to his biological family.  Until we know for certain what will happen, our plan is this:  to give him a normal Christmas, a safe place to live, and to love and care for him until he's either legally ours or is reunited with his family.

We are not allowed to post any pictures of his face, but here are a few:






More to posts to come!




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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A weekend in Tennessee

You know that blog post where I said I was going to write a post a day for the entire month of September?

Yeahhhhh....about that.

Life ( and laziness) happened, and here it is, almost mid November and I don't even remember the last time I wrote anything.  I apparently need some serious motivation to write.  Have any of you seen the "Living with Jigsaw" video on YouTube?  Let's take a moment to watch the weird hilariousness that it is, shall we?


I need this in my life.  "Lauren..........you are surrounded by armed mousetraps.  If you do not write a blog in one hour, they will disarm, pinching you to death."




So, this is what's happened lately:

I turned thirty.  It was rather uneventful.  I still only have one gray hair on my head so I consider that a victory.





The next weekend we took a mini vacation to Chattanooga & Nashville, Tennessee.  We stayed in our first AirBnb, and it was so much fun!  The house we stayed in was over 100 years old, and was in the North Shore district, so we were centrally located to lots of restaurants and shops. (Please excuse all my photos.  These are unedited phone photos, most of which I was in too much of a hurry to eat than worry about decent lighting.)




Our host, Karen, was a retired teacher, and was such a nice person!  She had taught English as a second language, as well as German, and through this had met & taught the German family that was also staying with her.  We spent time with them at breakfast, and it was fascinating learning about their lives, as well as watching them try to understand some of our English (and us their German!).

Veggie Egg Scramble, fruit & yogurt and muffins

 I'm not a people person by any means, but I loved every minute of it.  Unless you make it a point to seek people out and talk to them, you would never get this type of interaction at a normal hotel.

Our first night there, we met some friends for supper at Taco Mamacita.  The food was so yum!




On Saturday, we drove up to Nashville, where we went to the farmers' market.  They were having a food truck competition, so we were in food truck heaven!





I'm adding owning a food truck to my list of things I want to do when I grow up.  I think they're just wonderful. And adorable.

We scored this amazing piece there:


All the shopping made us hungry, so we got a snack:


Is it even possible to ever resist fresh donuts??



And then we made it into the produce section.

Pumpkins, pumpkins everywhere! We left with five :)



That afternoon, we drove around a bit, saw the chaos that is Broadway, said no, and went to Crema for coffee.


Geez Louise, that's a pretty coffee shop!


Shiplap walls, white everywhere, and a slight farmhouse feel even though it's modern and artsy.  I'll just take up residence there, please.

Then, to kill some time before dinner, we went to the Parthenon.  Behold, the mighty Athena!






We also met two awesome little statues:



Finally, it was time for dinner.  We had planned Hattie B's Hot Chicken as our meal destination for Nashville.  And that was where I died and went straight to fried chicken heaven.




Let's start with the sides.  I got turnip greens, because...hello, you can't have fried chicken without greens.  And you can't have fried chicken and greens without mac & cheese.  Here in the south we count mac & cheese as a vegetable, not a starch. Amen? Amen.

But this wasn't just plain old mac & cheese.  It was spicy pimento cheese mac & cheese.

Now to the main part of the meal.  The fried chicken itself.  I got mild, because I wanted to survive the drive back to Chattanooga.  This chicken was crispy and fried to a deep, golden brown, and then I'm thinking brushed with hot sauce.  But not in a saucy wings kind of way. The chicken skin was super crisp. So maybe it was fried in and the "sauce" was actually spicy grease.  Who cares.  It was delicious and I ate it ALL.  By the way, they put a slice of white bread on the plate to help tame the fires of Mordor that have overtaken your mouth.  (All my LOTR fans: that reference was for you) The only problem with this bread is that it is placed UNDER the chicken, thus soaking up all the extra spicy sauce/grease/magical goodness.  That's when you start eating the pickle chips they give you, which may or may not ALSO have spiciness on them.

That may have seemed like I was trying to talk you out of eating there.  On the contrary; go forth, and eat all the spicy fried chicken you can.  It's a good burn and you will enjoy every fiery minute of it.

On Sunday, we had to say goodbye to our German friends (which I will not even attempt to spell their names) and Karen.  We went to brunch at Food Works, which is located in an old knitting mill.  There is also an antique store in the same building (obviously we went to this as well).  Even though we had just eaten fried chicken the night before, we got the chicken and waffles.  There can never be too much fried chicken.

It came with a scoop of Maple Praline Butter


We had a fun, relaxing and food filled weekend.

I call this perfection.





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Sunday, September 13, 2015

Lessons in a Year

I don't think it's coincidence that the journal I brought with me this weekend is the one that I took notes in at an adoption conference.

It's been exactly one year since we announced our decision to adopt.  I've felt myself sinking for a while now and today is why.


The decision to adopt was a long one.  It was strange and scary, but it is the path we are called to take.  In my journal, one of the pages of notes from the conference talks about the "kol d'mama daka" - the still small voice of God.  I can remember those first small whispers in my heart, while being around our friends' adopted children, of "You can do this".  Much like those first moments of knowing you're pregnant or feeling the first flutters of your unborn child, those first feelings of knowledge of that kol d'mama daka are exquisitely precious.  There was such joy and excitement in those first months, as we went to classes and learned about the type of parenting we would be undertaking.  I pinned countless ideas on Pinterest and dreamed of how bedrooms would be decorated.

And then we waited.  Suddenly, we were no longer in control.  We were waiting and having to put our faith in our social worker, in humans, in the world.  We learned very quickly that disappointment was to be found.  A process of approval, that on paper was supposed to take two months, ended up taking six.  When the papers arrived to notify us of our approval by the county we live in, there was no excitement or feelings of hope.  By this point, my hope had been replaced by cynicism and apathy. To me, this paper didn't symbolize one step closer; instead, it was disappointment that we had believed that work was being completed, and that there was still more waiting ahead.

At this one year mark, we are still waiting on approval from the state to be licensed to adopt.  We were given no timeline on this step, and though it may sound strange, I feel trapped.  I feel as though our lives are just floating along, stuck in a holding pattern, completely at the mercy of others.

Through this whole process, I've claimed a feeling of "everything will work out how it should."  And I do truly believe that.  But I've also used it as a crutch to enable me to shut down my emotions.  Instead, I should be using it as a way to fuel my faith.  I should be seeking that kol d'mama daka every day.  I should be actively putting my faith in God every day; not as a way to shield myself from disappointment or to be a mindless follower, but to voice those fears and disappointments to Him.  To seek His hand when I feel like I'm drowning, and trusting that He is going to pull me up out of the water.  I have to rely on Him through this, because I know that this journey of adoption is not my own.  I have to remember who set this desire in my heart, who gave me the courage to say yes, and who has been there for our future children during those times that their biological parents failed them.



I encourage you today to spend some time listening for the kol d'mama daka
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Saturday, September 5, 2015

Menu Planning

If you follow me on Instagram, last week I posted a shot of our lunch/menu planning trip to Panera.  If you don't currently menu plan, I strongly encourage you to.  It helps tremendously with budgeting, grocery shopping, and if you are an OCD list maker - your sanity.






I plan our meals - breakfast, lunch and dinner - for the entire month.  I print out a blank month from the calendar on my computer, and use that to write in our meals.  This stays posted on the fridge, so we always know what our next meal is.  I make my grocery lists for a week at a time, and organize my list based on type of item - ex. dairy, meats, etc.  If you go to the store with a plan and a list to mark off as you go, you will do so much better about overspending AND over buying.  This will only work though if you are checking your pantry and fridge to see what you already have.

Planning out meals also helps keep you from going out to eat (unless it's been planned into the menu), because you have already bought all the ingredients for the meal.  We had gotten bad about not having a definite plan for dinner, or forgetting to thaw out meat and then just going out for dinner.  Now we stick to our menu plan unless an unplanned event pops up, in which case we just shift our meal plan back a day.

I also plan breakfast because I have to be up super early for work, and I need something that I can eat while driving and that will keep me full for a long time.  So sitting down to a bowl of cereal is out of the question for me, aside from the fact that I don't really care for milk and I definitely don't want milk at six in the morning. Maybe that makes me a weirdo.  Does anyone else have this feeling of resigned tolerance of milk?

We do plan a night each week for takeout (Thursdays!), and then a couple of nights a month to go out to a nice dinner. I feel like it's the same mindset as transitioning to a healthy diet; you have to have a few cheat days to help you stick to it.

If you don't already plan your menu, try it out!  Set aside an afternoon or a couple of hours and find some recipes, organize your calendar, and make your grocery list.  Remember to be detailed and if you're buying an ingredient that you only need a small amount of (such as fresh herbs or produce) try to plan other meals that week that can also use those ingredients.

Happy Planning!
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Friday, September 4, 2015

Goodbye Twenties

Being the crazy person that I am, I decided on the first day of September at 9:45 pm that I should write a post every day this month.  Well, September 1st, 2nd AND 3rd have come and gone, and no blog post.

So hello Day One :)

I am the queen of procrastination.  Why do today what can be done tomorrow?  All my fellow procrastinators will agree.....eventually....when you absolutely have to.  And that's ok.  Keep being you.

I said that to say that I must have a deadline.  And a goal.  And a list.  Sweet baby J, I adore lists.  Hopefully this month long deadline will motivate me to write more, even if I've done absolutely nothing of interest that day (which is most days).


So this is my last month in my twenties.  And I'm actually okay with it.  I'm kind of excited to see what my thirties brings.  Hopefully, it will begin with adopting our future kids, unless DHR continues to take their sweet time and I lose my Publix attitude and turn into Wal-Mart.  For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, go grocery shopping at Publix.  The parking lot is calm and relatively quiet.  The store is clean, the employees are smiling and helpful.  The shoppers are fully clothed, and rarely are there issues with people being rude or getting in your way.  Publix makes you want to be a better human being.

Now go shop at Wal-Mart.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Hell.  Wal-Mart will be the origin of the anti-christ, the apocalypse, where zombies are born and probably where the vortex came from in the movie Poltergeist. Wal-Mart makes me want to hunch over my buggy, white knuckling the handle all while snearing, "My preciousssssss", to anyone who gets too close to my cart.  That's the Lauren that DHR is going to get if we don't get moving along in the next year. Beware.

I'm also hoping that my thirties brings some clarity to what I want to do with my life.  I have SO many dreams, so many lives that I want to lead, and I can't quite nail down what it is that I actually want to do.  Maybe I need a vision quest.  Or Yoda.

Anywho, here's to my twenties.  You've seen my college graduation, marriage, moving twice, new jobs, the decision to adopt, the arrival of our fur babies, and new friends. It's been real twenties, but I'm ready for the next decade.  Deuces.




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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Fried Shrimp with Lemon + Herb Fries

I've got some yummy recipes for you!!

Last night, we made Fried Shrimp, Lemon + Herb Fries, and Grilled Corn. Yum. Yum. Yum.


I had been eyeing this recipe on Pinterest for the Lemon Fries, and decided that fried Gulf shrimp would be amazing with them.  We also used her idea for putting our meal on newspaper and for making these adorable newspaper fry cones!  Somehow, that was a lot harder than I think it was supposed to be.  It took us several tries each, plus cutting down the paper into smaller pieces and staining our fingers with ink.  Her tip on wax paper on top of the newsprint was a great idea - no ink on the food!  

For the two of us, I used two russet potatoes, skin on, that I sliced into fries.  I followed The Pioneer Woman's recipe, which involves soaking the potatoes plus frying them twice.  This is THE way to cook fries at home.  When they were done, I tossed them in a little of the herb mixture, put them into the cones, and then sprinkled more on top.  Save the rest for your corn. You won't regret it.






For the shrimp, we had some gorgeous peeled and deveined Gulf shrimp hanging out in our freezer from a trip to the beach, so we butterflied those.  Once the fries were finished cooking (and I had tossed them in a few spoonfuls of the Lemon Herb mixture) I lowered the heat on the oil and fried my shrimp.  Since I usually don't measure things, I can't give you an exact on the dredge, but for the wet portion I whisked an egg with some milk.  The dry part was some Panko bread crumbs I had plus a small scoop of flour, a sprinkle of garlic powder and a generous sprinkle of Old Bay seasoning.  



I probably should have measured, but I was moving towards hangry. Let's be real.

The shrimp cooked lightning fast; watch carefully and remove when the crust is golden brown and the tails have turned pink.

For the corn:  we husked two ears, rubbed them down with olive oil, salt & pepper, and sprinkled then with paprika.  They were wrapped in foil and grilled on medium-high heat for 15-20 minutes, rotating every five minutes. 


I also made a honey mustard for the fries.

For that, (again, no measurements) I mixed mayo, enough dijon mustard to get it to the taste I wanted, and honey for sweetness.  Let this chill while you cook dinner so the flavors have time to be friends.

When it's time to eat, simply spread out a few sheets of newspaper, top with wax paper if you so desire, and dump your feast upon it. Then bask in the utter deliciousness that you are about to enjoy.  The newspaper also makes cleanup a breeze - no plates or utensils to wash!




Look at that yummy char!

The aftermath

Enjoy!



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Sunday, August 2, 2015

French-spiration

Surprise, surprise, we had another French dinner last night!



I'm not sure why I have become so obsessed with French cooking.  It has definitely inspired me to cook better quality meals.  Maybe it's the casual elegance of it.  French food isn't afraid of flavor. You barely need any salt because you develop such beautiful flavors from fresh herbs and slow simmered wine.  Does that mean that it's always healthy or calorie conscious?

No.

And we won't discuss the vast amounts of heavy cream and butter that went into my mashed potatoes last night.  As with all things, everything in moderation.

I think the beauty of it is that French cooking forces you to really cook.  You shake pans over the heat, coaxing out beautiful flavors from vegetables. You know that the burnt looking coating on the bottom of your pan (called the fond) is eventually going to be loosened by the addition of wine to the hot pan, thus giving your dish all the seasoning it needs.  Of course, you are following a recipe at first, so it tells you what to do and how to keep everything under control.  But the more you cook and the more you become at ease in the kitchen, you begin to cook as the French do, au pif, or "by the nose".  You learn to be able to trust in your own instincts, to be able to make adjustments on the fly, and to have confidence that you can produce a meal of restaurant quality.

We had another couple over for dinner, since they had not been a part of my Julia Child themed birthday meal.  We talked blogging, and the difficulties that come with trying to be creative in an uncreative town.  And of course, we ate.  Our entire meal came from David Lebovitz's cookbook "My Paris Kitchen", and it was divine.  I highly recommend this cookbook, both for the amazing recipes and the stories and tips that can be found throughout it.

Our meal included Chicken with Mustard, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans with snail butter (the snail butter refers to the large amounts of garlic, not actual snails!), and for dessert - Coffee Creme Brulee!



More sugar next time for a crunchier top



For those of you that follow me on Instagram, you know my feed has slowly become an endless parade of food pictures, and I make no apologies.  I'm finally finding something that I'm really passionate about.  I'm using all of this as a way to decide what's next for my life and what I want to do "when I grow up."  I have big dreams and endless insecurities, but I'm hoping that this will be the year I figure it out.  In the meantime, let's all keep cooking. :)




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Monday, July 13, 2015

Feeling British

I have a confession to make.

I want to be British......and French...maybe Scottish...basically I want to live in another country.

If we're being totally honest, it's mostly for the amazing food and history and architecture. But let's be real: it's that I want a pretty accent. I'm not ashamed.  I would love to regularly use words like lovely and whilst, call chips "crisps" and measure things in metric.  I want to have afternoon tea and live in a little cottage in the country.  Doesn't that sound wonderful??

Sadly, I will not be moving across the pond anytime soon, so in the meantime, I made these absolutely divine scones:



The recipe comes from one of my lovely Instagram friends, Jane, who is a fellow blogger/baker (and British!), and always shares delicious looking recipes.  This is what I love most about Instagram; the ability to meet and interact with people around the world.  I've found so many people that share similar interests and have become "insta" friends with them.

 You can follow Jane's Patisserie on Insta or on her blog, and while you're there, consider baking these scones!
 

I topped my scones with double Devon cream (or clotted cream),  which I found at World Market, and homemade strawberry jam.  I also made myself a cup of tea to feel properly British.


The bonus to baking delicious treats is that once the pretty photos are taken, you get to dig in and enjoy your creation!




Yum!


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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Lowcountry Supper

Last night we invited over a couple of our friends for supper.  They have us over fairly regularly and always cook us DELICIOUS food + they drove us to the Braves game we went to last weekend, so I wanted to make something epic for our meal.

My choice?

I had my trusty Callie's Biscuits cookbook and several pounds of Gulf coast shrimp in the freezer, so the obvious selection was her Pimento Cheese Shrimp and Grits. I also made her black pepper biscuits, plus fried green tomatoes and a Berry Tart with Lemon Curd Mascarpone.




I'm kind of all about mascarpone cheese right now.  Have you tried it? It's legit.  It's kind of like cream cheese's more sophisticated cousin.

Anyway, back to dinner.  If you want this recipe, you'll have to buy the cookbook.  Trust me, it's worth it.  We've made several recipes from it, and have yet to be disappointed.  You can go to her site here and order the cookbook or her biscuits and other yummy offerings, or head on over to Amazon and grab one.  We initially heard about Callie's Biscuits at the Country Living Fair a few years ago, when she was there to demo biscuit making.  We had front row seats and Graham got called on stage to help her make biscuits!  On a trip to Charleston (where her biscuit shop is located), we got to see her biscuit making headquarters, and more recently, her new biscuit shop - Callie's Hot Little Biscuit.  If you are in Charleston, go forth and buy biscuits!

Last night I made her black pepper biscuits, which begins with her basic biscuit recipe and adds freshly ground pepper to the dough and on top.  I served these with fresh honey butter, which was a lovely contrast with the spicy pepper.



There was a minor hiccup with the grits, which I of course blew out of proportion and had a minor meltdown, but I pulled myself together and we enjoyed a fantastic dinner!



Since I was an art major in college, I enjoy all aspects of planning, cooking, and presenting a meal.  I see it as art, as a way to be creative and provide something beautiful.  For my table, I pulled together mismatched plates, some of it antique chipped ironstone, some new pieces.  I picked roses and lavender from my garden to decorate the table, using cream pitchers as vases.


Tart recipe from Foodie Crush

If you don't normally sit down at the table for dinner, I encourage you to do so this week.  Make a homemade meal (or semi-homemade, or even Taco Bell, no judgement here!), use real plates and utensils, and spend some time together. 


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