What We Did This Summer.

June was probably the most social month of my entire life to date. I’m a bit reclusive by nature, and at first the prospect of visiting with people nearly every day for an entire month struck terror into my shriveled hermit heart. I didn’t even know I was capable of spending so much time with people.

Alone Time

Happily (and contrary to my own personal expectations), I did not implode or shrivel up and die, and I even managed to enjoy myself! I really did have the most lovely visitors, so it was a very pleasant and easy way to be dragged out of my seclusion. :)

(Still, just to be on the safe side, I plan to be a hermit all autumn. If you enjoy quiet afternoons and rainy days and reading and falling leaves and peaceful thoughts and pumpkin spice, feel free to bring your knitting needles and a book, and we can be hermits together. I’ll provide the coffee).

Awesome hermit

At the end of May, my husband’s parents and his seven youngest siblings came to visit for Memorial Weekend. They stayed in a lovely farmhouse at Historic Leiper’s Fork, which we enjoyed exploring with them.

Rope Swing 2They even discovered a rope swing just a little down the road from the house. Can it get more perfectly summery than that?

Ropeswing

Beatrice was doted on by her loving aunts and uncle, even though she was a bit of a bear and refused to nap or go to sleep for almost the entire weekend until my amazing, gracious, and loving in-laws somehow rocked Beatrice to sleep with their grandparent magic while I cried outside. Ah, the humbling moments of vacation. That’s life though, and we still managed to have a wonderful time visiting and getting lots of hugs in, in spite of the Energizer Baby who can cry for three hours straight without falling asleep.

Memorial Day Visit

We were sad to say goodbye, but the next weekend we were off to Arkansas to visit Will’s Nana and Grandad.

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It was wonderful to see Will’s grandparents again, and it was a very relaxing weekend.

Nana & Grandad

They have one of the most beautiful, interesting homes I’ve had the pleasure of visiting. Also, it was so quiet and peaceful. I took some amazing naps.

Nana & Grandad's House

When we got back from Arkansas, we had some surprise car repairs and celebrated National Donut Day.

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And of course, Beatrice managed to look cute, so there’s a photo of that too.

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The weekend following our trip to Arkansas, my Mom flew in for a visit. :)

Mom & B

We explored the shops in downtown Franklin, and of course visited the Frothy Monkey… multiple times. Mmm, coffee.

Frothy Monkey

Another highlight of the visit was eating dinner at The Pharmacy in Nashville. I love burgers and fries, and we got to eat outside on this gorgeous patio.

The Pharmacy

When we weren’t trying as much local food as possible, we also managed to get lots of quality relaxing and chatting in (and more iced coffee at the Frothy Monkey). Here Beatrice is sleeping through a passing fire engine while we enjoy our refreshing beverages. The sleep habits of babies are truly mind-boggling.

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Eventually it was time for us to head to the airport and say goodbye to Mom…

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…and hello to Laura and Anne!

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Beatrice is only a few months older than Anne, and they are obviously bosom buddies, as I have mentioned before. It was so fun to see them playing together (or… near one another). Anne is such a jolly baby and we loved hearing her little squeaky laughs!

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We spent a Saturday exploring the Farmer’s Market and The Factory again.

Farmer's Market

We also sewed things and took photos. The usual. ;)

Laura's Visit

We somehow forgot to take a moms-and-daughters photo of the four of us, but we did get this photo, which is pretty swoon-worthy. ;)

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It was so fun to have Laura visit, and to be able to chat while we fed the babies, or worked quietly during their naps, or tried to get them to sleep. Sometimes it’s just nice to have another mom to commiserate with. :) And did I mention that she and Anne are completely gorgeous and photogenic (see below)?

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After Laura and Anne flew home, Will and I discovered this lovely park.

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And I took more photos of Beatrice.

Beatrice

Because… well… it’s hard not to.

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June 21st was Father’s Day. Beatrice is so blessed to have such a loving, thoughtful, protective, hilarious, kind, caring father, and she absolutely ADORES him. Every evening when he gets home from work, Will scoops B up to talk to her and read books and shower her with kisses. Her first laugh was for her Daddy, and they share the same mischievous twinkle in their eyes (and impossibly long eyelashes!). I am so completely smitten with these two, and so thankful for them both.

Will and Beatrice

Will has been such a loving, caring, incredible father from the moment he knew our little one was on the way. His strength and encouragement and love and joy carried us through pregnancy, and labor, and newborn-induced sleep deprivation, and with good humor and a servant’s heart he has shown Beatrice and I what it means to be loved by our Heavenly Father each and every day. He is amazing, and I don’t know how to say thank you enough.

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We were able to celebrate the day with Will’s three eldest sisters, who stopped over to visit us on their way to VA. :)

Beatrice & Aunts

Beatrice enjoyed every moment with her aunts, and hammed it up even more than usual. ;)

Beatrice and the Aunts

After church we walked around downtown Franklin and enjoyed frozen yogurt and coffee. We even finally visited Landmark Booksellers, which resides in a very lovely historic house and was all we had anticipated. :)

Father's Day 2

We were sad to see Beck and Grace go, but we got to keep Emma with us all week, and Beck and Grace returned the following weekend to pick up Emma and all head home. During Emma’s stay, we even got to spend some time with our first cousin once removed, Hans Royal. Isn’t he the cutest?

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When Independence Day came along, Will, Beatrice, and I strolled around downtown for Franklin on the Fourth, and just made it back to the car before rain started pouring down. The fireworks were cancelled, but we spent a cozy evening indoors watching a movie and eating a gigantic bag of kettle corn we had purchased downtown.

Fourth of July

In mid-July we drove to the NC mountains, where we met up with my parents and rode up to MA together for my brother’s wedding!

Mountains

The ride was long, but Beatrice was amazing. Here she is enjoying her first taste of sweet dark cherries somewhere in NY, and generally looking adorable.

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The day before the wedding, we got to meet Aubry’s family at a fun, casual coffee-shop breakfast with these two lovebirds… :)

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…we explored Shelburne Falls…

Shelburne Falls

… and attended the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. The dinner was delicious and it was a beautiful evening. I loved watching Sean & Aubry dance together.

Rehearsal

The next day the weather was delightful, the wedding was beautiful, and the festivities were so much fun. It was one of the sweetest, most joyful, and celebratory weddings I’ve ever been to (and not just because I love the people we were celebrating). :) Aubry was a gorgeous bride, and doesn’t she have the best smile? :) It was a delight and an honor to be her bridesmaid.

Aubry2

The reception was held outside and a delicious breakfast was served, with pies for dessert and plenty of dancing. It was so perfect for a summer wedding, and fit Sean and Aubry so well. :) I didn’t get any photos of the ceremony or reception, but here are a few from Aubry’s amazing wedding photographers (Katie Slater Photography):

Sean & Aubry Wedding 2

I am so overjoyed and delighted to see Sean so happy, and to have gained such a kind, lovely, amazing sister-in-love as Aubry! When I was growing up I often wished I had a sister, but in the past three years God has blessed me with NINE sisters far more sweet and loving and talented and wonderful than I ever could have imagined, and I am so thankful for all of them. :)

Other events of the summer have included…

Blueberry picking. Beatrice picked an assortment of leaves but no actual blueberries (though I did feed her quite a large number of them).

Blueberries

Beatrice learned how to wave. She waves at Will when he leaves for work, and when she goes to bed. She also waves at the bean plant outside. (?)

We attended our first Nashville Sounds baseball game, and Beatrice’s first baseball game ever. :)

Baseball

Lots of trips to the library. Sometimes Beatrice and I go together in the morning between her naps, and sometimes we all go as a family after dinner (one of our new favorite dates). :) I even stumbled upon the last day of the library’s summer book sale last month (quite by accident, I promise) and they were selling books for $5 a bag so… I might need another bookshelf.

I’ve been trying a lot of new recipes. I think I was in a bit of a rut, making the same meals over and over, so I’ve actually been attempting all those Pinterest recipes I’ve pinned.

Summer Food

Will joined a company volleyball team which met once a week for most of the summer – they just played their last game a few weeks ago. He usually played after Beatrice’s bedtime so it wasn’t practical for us to come along, but we came to cheer for him during his first and last games.

Will and I had a date night in East Nashville (courtesy of Will’s kind cousins) at Rudie’s Seafood and Sausage. This jambalaya was amazing, and if you ever go there, don’t even look at the rest of the menu. Order the jambalaya. Do it!

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And of course… Beatrice has been cute. ;)

Beatrice Collage

So there you have it – some snapshots of our summer and a few of the things we’ve been up to. If you made it to the end of this ridiculously long and rambling entry, your perseverance is astounding. I hope I never fall behind on blogging this much again because I really don’t think I could make it through waiting for so many photos to upload ever again. :)

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Did you all have a good summer? What were the highlights for you? Are you excited about fall? Now that I have this summer wrap-up post out of the way I can start talking about all things autumnal. :D Brace yourselves.

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What We Ate: Strawberry & Toasted Pecan Salad (with Blush Wine Vinaigrette)

Last night I tried my hand at salad-making and put together a Strawberry & Toasted Pecan Salad. This is not so much because I am a fancy Master of Salads but is much more related to the fact that unless a salad is disguised as Not a Salad, I view it with deep suspicion and mild loathing.

Salad is disgusting.

I want to like salads, and many a depressed head of lettuce has rotted it’s days away in solitary confinement in my veggie drawer, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that if I want to eat more salad, I’m going to have to tempt/lure/trick myself. Look, a strawberry! Pay no attention to the green stuff. This salad looked and tasted pretty delicious and is perfect for spring, so I thought I’d share the recipe. I wrote it to serve two, but it can be easily doubled or tripled or… you get the idea.

What We Ate: Strawberry & Toasted Pecan Salad

Strawberry & Toasted Pecan Salad

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • A sufficient amount of greens. I used half a head of Romaine and some young Black-Seeded Simpson lettuce from my patio garden, but I think baby spinach would be a delicious substitution.
  • 8-10 strawberries
  • 1/3 cup pecan halves
  • Brianna’s Blush Wine Vinaigrette dressing

Method:

  1. Wash the lettuce and spin off excess moisture in a salad spinner, before tearing lettuce into bite-size pieces. (This is my least favorite part. I don’t know why I hate washing lettuce when it’s so easy, but I do). Toss it in your salad bowl.
  2. Pour the pecans into a skillet over medium heat and toast, tossing occasionally, until you just begin to smell a nutty aroma and they seem… well… toasty (about 5-7 minutes). Give them a quick rough chop or throw them in as is.
  3. Wash, hull, and slice your strawberries over the salad.
  4. Drizzle as much dressing over the top as you desire (I like to have a little salad with my dressing).

Strawberry & Toasted Pecan Salad

As you can see, it’s so easy and simple it hardly calls for a recipe, and I’m sure you can think of plenty of ways to make it your own. I’ve tried this salad with candied pecans (for a quick and very easy tutorial, click here), but personally, I prefer the pecans just toasted, since the strawberries and dressing already add a bit of sweetness. If you have some feta cheese on hand, especially if you choose to make this salad with spinach, I’m sure that would add some delicious saltiness.

The dressing really makes the salad. I’m sure you could substitute a balsamic vinaigrette and it would be delicious with the strawberries, but really recommend the blush wine vinaigrette. It’s amazing.

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Do you all have any favorite salad recipes (in particular, ones that make you forget you’re eating a salad)? ;) I could really use some more suggestions. I’m trying to be mature and responsible and make salads with dinner, but it’s hard to get excited about a bowl of leaves with a bit of tomato and carrot on top (how depressing!). Do you have any tricks for making salads more fun?

Friday Favorites: Starbucks, Strawberries, and Star Wars – Oh My!

Happy Friday!

I hope you all had a great week and are looking forward to a fun weekend! Even though I’m a stay-at-home-mom now and don’t have a regular 9-to-5 job, I still look forward to Friday every week. It’s a universally fun day! :)

This Friday, here are a few things I’m looking forward to…Starbucks-Frappuccino-Happy-Hour-2014- Half-Price Starbucks Frappuccinos

Yes, Starbucks isn’t the most budget-friendly way to drink coffee, but I still love it. I make coffee every morning in the French press (with only the most gourmet of Kroger brand beans, haha) and if I’m honest, I think it tastes better than plain Starbucks drip coffee. If I think about it too long, it’s crazy to ever buy Starbucks coffee when you can buy a bag of beans that will last a month for the same price as a Grande Cinnamon Dulce Latte… but… I still can’t resist as an occasional treat. :) Besides, coffee tastes better if you don’t have to make it yourself, right?

In any case, Starbucks Frappuccinos are half price from 3-5pm starting today and continuing through May 10. Mocha Cookie Crumble and Caffe Espresso look pretty tasty, but I just discovered that there is a Cinnamon Dulce Frappuccino, so… say no more!

If you’re looking for other ways to save at Starbucks, my friend Erica recently discovered this article with some neat tips: 9 Cheap Starbucks Drink Hacks. I especially appreciated #4 (I love iced lattes but hate that they contain roughly 3 sips of coffee and 40 ice cubes). Will and I already are masters of using #7. :) strawberry Strawberry Season

Strawberry season has finally begun! Will and I are planning to visit a local u-pick farm tomorrow morning to pick strawberries together as a family. :) I’ve picked strawberries with my Mom every spring for as long as I can remember – I even flew home and picked with her last year when Beatrice was still about the size of a strawberry herself (see photo above). :) It’s so special to be able to continue this tradition with our own little girl now.

I’m hoping to make a few batches of jam and do some baking, and of course, eat as many strawberries as I possibly can. Prepare yourself for Strawberry Overload next week. I apologize in advance (but not really). ;)

Avengers: Age of Ultron
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Will and I enjoyed the first Avengers movie, and are looking forward to the latest installment (which hits theaters today). Despite a crash course from Will and his siblings over the past two years, I’m still pretty clueless about the Marvel world, but I really enjoy going to these movies with them and geeking out by proxy. :) Avengers: Age of Ultron looks a bit darker and creepier to me, but I’m sure it will be fun too. Will and I won’t be going to this one for quite awhile since we don’t have a babysitter, but we’re still excited about seeing it eventually (and trying to avoid spoilers in the meantime). ;)

Let’s be honest though, the movie we’re REALLY excited about this year is (of course)…

We definitely watched this teaser trailer three times in a row when it came out, and made a pact to hire a babysitter when the time comes. SO EXCITED.

And have you seen this cute video? When the pacifier pops out, you know it’s going to be good. IMG_20150429_161456 Bonus Favorite: Strolling with Beatrice

The weather has been gorgeous these past few days, and Beatrice and I have enjoyed going for walks around the neighborhood once or twice a day. :) Every time I look up and see blue sky, and green leaves, and dappled sunshine dancing on the pavement, I feel overwhelmed that we get to live here. And then I look down at this serious little lady staring back at me with her Daddy’s beautiful blue eyes and I feel like my heart might burst. I’m so very, very thankful for all that God has blessed us with in this past year, that we never could have deserved or dreamed of. He is so merciful and kind!

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What’s something you’re currently enjoying or looking forward to? What movie are you most excited about in 2015? Do you have any strawberry recipes I should look into? I have a few favorites but would love to try something new. :)

What We Ate: Venison Chili & The Best Cornbread Ever

Happy Wednesday!

Today I’m sharing a new recipe and an old standby. :) I tried out the venison chili recipe just this week, but the cornbread recipe has been a favorite with Will and I since our marriage. Let’s start with the chili. I am always looking for new ways to cook venison since Will likes to hunt, but recipes for game are definitely not as plentiful as they are for the usual grocery store staples like beef and chicken. I scrounged up a recipe for venison chili, made a few alterations, and ended up with a meaty chili that was perfect for a chilly, damp spring day.

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Hearty Venison Chili
Recipe adapted from Food.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground venison
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 5 red/yellow mini bell peppers, diced (1 normal-sized bell pepper of any color would work, but the red and yellow added some nice color to the chili)
  • 1 14-oz can Ro-tel diced tomatoes (any variety)
  • 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 14-oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 14-oz can chili beans (black, red, or pinto beans would also work)
  • 1 cup chicken broth

Method:

  1. Heat olive oil in a dutch oven over medium high heat. Add onions and peppers and saute until the edges begin to brown. Add venison and cook until meat is browned, stirring often.
  2. Add tomatoes, seasonings, and chicken broth. Bring to a boil.
  3. Add beans and simmer for 1-2 hours. I left the lid off for the first hour to reduce the liquid a bit, and then put the lid on for the rest of the cook time.

This recipe can obviously be changed up quite a bit and is more of a guideline than actual rules. You could make this with ground beef instead of venison, you could add chopped jalapenos or crushed red pepper, top with green onions and cheese… the sky (or the size of your dutch oven) is the limit. In retrospect, I think this chili could definitely use another can of diced tomatoes and I would use black beans in place of the chili beans.

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Of course, you can’t eat chili without cornbread (well, you could, but why?!). This is a sweeter cornbread (which is more popular in the north) and not the more savory kind I grew up with in the south, but it’s just sweet and moist enough to make Will happy without being too soft or cakey – it still has that hearty, cornmeal crumb. This cornbread is the best of both worlds. Really… you have to try it. I ate a square of it for breakfast this morning with my coffee. It’s that delicious.

Best Ever Buttermilk Cornbread
Original Recipe Here

Yield: One 8″ pan (about 9 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease an 8-inch square pan with butter.
  2. Melt butter in a large saucepan. Remove from heat and whisk in the sugar. Quickly add the eggs and beat until well blended. Combine buttermilk with baking soda in a liquid measuring cup and whisk into the mixture in the pan. Whisk in cornmeal, flour, and salt until well blended and few lumps remain. Pour batter into the prepared pan.
  3. Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Mmm, delicious. Have a slice. Or three. I won’t judge. ;)

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So what’s your take on cornbread – southern or northern style (or all of the above)? Also, if you have any good venison recipes, send them my way! :)

Exploring Franklin: Farmer’s Market

At his old job Will usually had to work on Saturdays, so it was a real treat to enjoy this past weekend with him. We started the day with a leisurely breakfast… IMG_20150316_171905 Sometimes when we’re feeling fancy we drink our store brand orange juice from goblets. As you can tell, we were feeling fancy. IMG_20150316_150220 After breakfast we headed off to the Franklin Farmer’s Market. IMG_20150314_125111 Beatrice was pretty excited. One of our first stops was Hatcher Family Dairy, and, naturally, we wanted to try the chocolate milk (we’re all about those healthy choices). It was probably the creamiest, most decadent chocolate milk I’ve ever tasted. Sadly, I had to limit myself to a tiny sip, which I still paid for the next day when poor Beatrice’s digestive system revolted and chaos ensued. IMG_20150316_194949 Milk may be Beatrice’s kryptonite but Will’s is definitely donuts, so we also stopped by Ellie’s Old Fashioned Donuts. :) We purchased a few piping-hot pumpkin donuts that were melt-in-your mouth delicious and just the thing for a rainy day. I don’t know if it’s wrong to go to a farmer’s market and only buy desserts, but if it is, I don’t want to be right. IMG_20150316_203310 I don’t have a photo of the donuts because we scarfed them so quickly, but here is a picture of me after eating one of the donuts. So… technically… there you go. :) IMG_20150317_101759 I also bought a small pot of miniature irises to brighten up our kitchen table. The lady who was selling them said that they propagate like crazy and you can winter them over in pots – when they die back just bury them at the bottom of a pot, plant your summer flowers over them, and they’ll pop back up in the spring. IMG_20150316_194331 We wandered through a small greenhouse set up on the edge of the Farmer’s Market which was so lovely that we wanted to bring half the plants home with us. IMG_20150316_194035Before we left, Will showed me around The Factory, which is an old factory (surprise) right next to the Farmer’s Market that’s been renovated and filled with boutiques, cafes, and studios. IMG_20150316_192815 After the market, we dropped by Home Depot so I could pick out some herbs and gardening supplies with my birthday cash. I’m attempting to plant a little potted garden on our back patio, but more about that another day. :) In any case, we had a great time picking out the plants, and stopped by Starbucks for a celebratory coffee on our way home. I finished out the afternoon planting my herbs and repotting the fig tree Will bought me for my birthday (there was definitely a gardening theme this year).

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I think we’ll probably visit the Farmer’s Market again next week with some of the grocery budget to buy a gallon of milk and some of the very delicious-looking greens I had my eye on (you know, actual healthy stuff). What did you all do this weekend? Is there anything you particularly enjoy picking up from your local farmer’s market, or recommend buying there rather than at the grocery store?