Sunday, February 15, 2015

Valentine's Day!

Yesterday for Valentine's Day, I wanted to go all out.

Not out to eat, but to stay home and cook all day for me and the hubs.

Reading that, it sounds crazy.  However, I enjoy cooking.  It's one of the few things that I feel I do really well, and it doesn't feel like work or stressful to me.  I like setting a pretty table, making a custom menu, and the complete satisfaction of having someone eat my food and enjoy it.  It's fun to make a recipe that has tons of steps and have it all come together in the end into one delicious dish.

So for this Valentine's Day, I wanted to do just that for my husband.  Typically, V-day is for the ladies, with flowers and gifts and chocolate, but in all honesty, I could care less about that.  I'm pretty much married to a saint, so I felt like he deserved a day to honor him.  The man makes me breakfast every morning.  Not just puts a pop-tart in the toaster right before I leave for work, but makes me a breakfast sandwich or eggs & biscuits.  He goes to the store for me if I need something for work.  He puts up with my "sunny personality."  He seriously deserves an award just for that last one.

On Friday I began prep work for the big day. I had decided on a French theme for the day; I'm not entirely sure where my newfound obsession with French food came from, but I'm not complaining.  French food is rich and beautiful and all about savoring a meal.  It's food that's meant to be lingered over.

 Here was our menu:

Breakfast: Herbed Baked Eggs, Croissants with Jam, Mimosas & Coffee
Lunch: Spinach Salad with Apples, Pears & Strawberries, with homemade Strawberry Vinaigrette; French Onion Soup
Snack: Macarons & Lattes
Supper: Chicken Au Champagne, Duchess Potatoes, Lemony Asparagus & French Bread
Dessert: Chocolate Pots de Creme

Beginnings of French Onion Soup

The croissants and macarons were from Artisanal Baked Goods in Anniston.  If you haven't gotten bread from there, you need to.  It's the jam.

On Friday morning, I assembled the baked eggs and toasted the croissants.

The good thing about the baked eggs is that you can add any ingredients you like.  Just crack an egg into a greased dish, add a splash of half & half, salt & pepper, and customize how you want.  These bake in a bain marie at 350 until set.

We have a small side table in our dining room, so that became our French cafe, which I set with my English ironstone dishes. French, English....close enough :)

After breakfast, we had a few errands to run, including buying a new range hood, since our microwave hood had a fireworks show the other day and is now unusable. Yay.

When we returned, it was time to start on lunch.  This was pretty easy since I had prepped a good bit the day before.  All we had to do was reheat the soup, melt the Gruyere on the french bread, and chop the salad ingredients.  
Baguette from Artisanal Baked Goods

The weather was nice so we moved our French cafe to the front porch to enjoy some time outside.  Now, if you have never made French onion soup before, you should.  It's souper (see what I did there?) easy, and it tastes AMAZING.  However, I will say that Gruyere is not a pleasant smelling cheese.  I might have gagged a few times grating it, but it tastes delicious!  You could always substitute swiss cheese in its place.  The strawberry vinaigrette was lovely and fresh.  

I snuck a pic of him eating

Mid afternoon, we decided it was time for our snack.  I had never had a macaron before, but it was not at all what I was expecting.  The cookie part was soft and marshmallow-ish feeling, and it had a beautiful pastry cream filling.

Aren't they adorable?!

Artisanal Baked Goods, people.  Go there.  Buy everything.

Finally, it was dinner time!  This meal was a little more complicated.  There were several different components to the main dish, and the sides took a little extra prep work, but in the end it came together nicely.

Asparagus awaiting their turn in the oven

The chicken has a flavorful and buttery champagne sauce with fresh tarragon and sautéed mushrooms.  Those adorable swirly potatoes are called duchess potatoes, which are mashed potatoes that have cream, butter and egg yolks mixed in and are then piped onto a baking sheet and baked until brown and crispy.  Elegant, yet easy and delicious!

At dinner we exchanged cards, which for us means homemade.  Being married to a graphic designer always guarantees a unique and creative card.  This one was fantastic!

If you haven't download the bitmoji app, you need to.  You make an emoji that looks just like you. It's fantastic. This is mine:

This couldn't be any more perfect.

The reason I told you this was because my husband printed & cut out one of his and made a pop up inside my card:

I really hope the kids we adopt fully appreciate our weirdness ;)

We ended our evening with a movie and the dessert I made, Chocolate Pots de Creme, which is basically a really decadent chocolate pudding.

All in all, we had a fantastic Valentine's Day.  The importance of the day was on just spending time together and, of course, eating delicious food.

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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Weekend Getaway

This past weekend, I went to an adoption conference in Atlanta called Created for Care.  To say that I was looking forward to it beforehand would be a lie.  The night I reserved my spot, I lay in bed fighting off feelings of panic.  The conference was for women only, would be in a lodge on Lake Lanier, all food was included, dinner tables were assigned seating so you could "make connections"...sounds awesome, right?

When you're an introvert with a self diagnosis of Social Anxiety Disorder, it sounds like a march to the guillotine.  Did I want to learn more about adoptive parenting, how to bond with my child, etc?  Of course!  Did I want to spend a weekend away from my home, surrounded by strangers who I'm forced to attempt to make conversation with? Heck no!

But adoption isn't for the comfortable.

Adoption is messy.  That child that you're bringing in comes from a broken family. They come from violence, from sadness, from fear.  They come with more problems and diagnoses than they ever should have experienced in their short little lives.

"Keep pushing, it's supposed to hurt."

My first lesson in this process was courage.  The courage to accept the call to adopt.  Being brave is something I struggle with Most of the time I feel as if I'm drowning in fear- fear of making a mistake, fear of failure, fear of life.  My inner voice and I are working on being on the same team, and not fighting against one another.

"Keep pushing, it's supposed to hurt."

The next lesson is patience.  The process is lengthy, the ending date unsure.  We are at the mercy of others, social workers, government officials, lawyers.  We must wait with a patient heart, because we know that the child we adopt isn't chosen at random.  It's not the luck of the draw or (in a hard adoption) a poor hand we're dealt.  The child that we adopt is meant for us.  Those of you that have given birth know this; the moment that baby is placed on your chest, the moment you look into their eyes for the first time, you know. You know that they were fearfully and wonderfully made just for you.  So just like with a pregnancy, we must wait on that child to be ready for us.

"Keep pushing, it's supposed to hurt."

The lesson I was introduced to this weekend was confidence.  Am I suddenly fearless and ready to face the world?

(Can you hear me laughing?)

Absolutely not.

This one, like the others, is a never ending process. I'm still going to feel anxious when something new and unexpected comes my way.  I'm still going to fight to avoid situations that I'm not in complete control of.  That's completely okay.  Life is about growing and changing.

"Keep pushing, it's supposed to hurt."

This quote was one that I heard during a story over the weekend.  The speaker was comparing her experiences with both childbirth and adoption.  Giving birth is rough.  It's incredibly painful.  It demands everything you've got, every ounce of strength you have.  It brings to the surface every emotion you have, and during it, you may want to give up.  Maybe the pain is too great.  Maybe you've run out of strength.  Maybe fear has gotten the best of you and you're too scared to keep going. But then the nurse reminds you;  keep pushing, it's supposed to hurt.

After the struggle, there is joy.  Your child is here, and you know why you exist.

Adoption is hard.  There will be days of sadness, of fear, of pain, and days when the strength has all run out.

But we should keep pushing.
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