Thursday, August 21, 2014

/ / Scenes from France: Castle Hill & The Prettiest Sunset Ever

   It's hard to even begin to capture in words how we felt as we explored Nice, France. Everything was so beautiful, natural, and surreal at times. This particular day, we had moved out of our hosts' apartment and into a very nice, ocean front hotel to celebrate our anniversary. Boy, did I feel spoiled! After we set our things in our hotel room, we went to explore Castle Hill. We climbed up about 300 feet of stairs to the top where there is an amazing panoramic view of Nice. There are many spots to stop on the way up to take photos, but once we made it to the top we stayed there, took photos, and watched the sun go down behind the mountains. Until this, I can't remember the last time Lamar and I sat together and watched a sunset. It was incredibly beautiful and peaceful. Minus the 10,000 blisters on my feet. ;)

Lamar is so funny and sweet. While we were hanging out at the top of the hill watching the sunset, he made it his mission to offer to take photos for coupled tourists that were struggling with that awkward selfie photo thing. Most people were super thankful that he asked, but a few people actually preferred selfie-type photos. They were probably just creeped out. It was funny, and it made for good people-watching, which is my favorite ever.

How beautiful is that sunset? It is crazy to me that our trip was less than two months ago. It seems forever ago! I miss it, and I really wish I could transport myself back there for a day or two to get away from stressful school stuff. Impromptu vacay. Who's with me?

You may have missed these France posts:
The Farmer's Market
Finding Out We Were Heading to France
Monastery and a Picnic

  I'm excited to introduce to you a sweet blog friend of mine, Britney of The Quiet Place. Every time I visit her blog, I leave encouraged. Her and her cofounder, Hillary, hope that their blog can be a place where people come together to rest and be encouraged. Through discussions on forgiveness, grace, and hope they share the beauty of the Lord. I love that about them!

What is your favorite part about blogging?
my favorite part of blogging is the community, I have loved jumping in and being a part of it and meeting some awesome ladies along the way!

What have you pinned lately that has inspired you? 
Recipes and blog newsletter advice. Since we are launching a newsletter in September, I have been thinking up ideas for that. You can sign up here!  Recipes because, well I love to cook and bake, so that is something that I personally am always looking at and pinning.

If you could go on a spontaneous trip anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I would go to Hawaii. It looks so beautiful and I love the beach, so that would definitely be my kind of vacation.

What about you? Where is the most beautiful place you've traveled to?
Don't forget, I'm running an ad sale! Use the code HELLOLOVE for 20% off all ad spaces! I'd love to have you on my team for September. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

/ / The Circle: August | Closet Confidential

Hey friends! I have been counting down the days until today for two good reasons: Today I'm cohosting The Circle with amazing Kiki, and I'm sharing my first ever vlog! When Kiki from In Its Time asked me to cohost with her, I was ecstatic. The Circle has been one of my favorite ways to build community, meet new bloggers, and get inspired. She's just awesome, y'all.

  This month's The Circle topic is Closet Confidential. I've never done anything like this, so when Kiki and I decided to do a Vlog instead of just a photo post, I was definitely up for the challenge! Just a little known fact about me: I avoid video cameras at all costs! I get super awkward, stumble over my words, and lose my train of thought way too often. I knew it'd be fun, though, especially since there were prompts. It just makes it easier to stay on track. This topic was not only fun, but in order to get an image of what I had in my closet I had to do some much needed organizing. I even ironed a few things in the process! If you know me at all, then you know my closet is super unorganized and dangerous to walk through. So preparing for this vlog helped me get things a little more in order. Thanks Kiki! :)

Well, y'all, here goes. My first ever Vlog. I apologize for the awkwardness in advance. It's just who I am, especially around cameras.


Well, there ya go! My first ever vlog. So, whatdya think?
I do hope you'll join us today! Link up your vlog or your blog post.

Here are the prompts:
1. What is the oldest item in your closet?
2. What is the newest?
3. What is the most expensive?
4. What was the biggest bargain?
5. What was the biggest waste of money?
6. Show us your three favorite items right now!

In Its Time

Monday, August 18, 2014

/ / Pinspiring Vol. 4

 I've totally been neglecting my Pinterest this past week. Life was simply crazy, and there just wasn't time. But this weekend I had some down-time and got lost in a pinning frenzy. After spending a good 30-45 minutes browsing and pinning, here are some thoughts:

Pumpkin season is upon us, friends!
I'm hungry. 
I think fall is the best season for fashion. 

Anyways, this is my fourth installment of Pinspiring, and it keeps getting more fun. These are the little bits of joy and inspiration that gave me the warm fuzzies. 

WEAR //  How cute is this tulip blouse? Tulips usually scream spring to me, but I think this would be adorable with riding boots and skinny jeans this fall. 
SIP // I really need to host a fancy brunch so I can make these delicious, pretty, and simple strawberry grapefruit mimosas. Mm!
TASTE // This looks like my kind of breakfast...or dessert. I'm such a fan of blueberry cakey sugary things for breakfast, and this looks like a winner. Making it asap!
DESIGN // I'm still obsessed with flowers, y'all. I could stare at floral design photos for hours and hours. What is wrong with me? If I knew where to begin, I would totally become a florist or a floral designer. Creating pretty things would make me so happy, I think.
MAKE // How adorable are these wreaths? I'm definitely making the bottom right one for fall! By the way, these amazing wreaths are made by my friend Meg! Isn't she talented?

I've got a treat for you today! I've invited three of my amazing and inspiring sponsors to share two pins that are inspiring them this week. Say hello to Samantha of Elah Tree, Ashley of The Ashley Maria Blog, and Natasha of Gather Around Our Table. Show them some love, y'all! They are some of my favorites!


Follow Samantha on Pinterest

"I am always inspired by photography, color, light, and simplicity. I love these photos because one inspires me to create and think about new ways to create. And the other inspires a since of calm and a riches of creativity."

Follow Ashley on Pinterest

"This style is so me! I can live everyday in stripes and if it's on a dress it's even better. This is a great transition outfit for those cooler nights we have been having here in PA.  I also own a similar green military jacket like this one, so this is a do-able outfit for me! Right now I have this as this picture as my background on my iPhone. When I first started blogging, I thought I had to fit the 'mold' of the big bloggers out there. After trying SO hard for months, I threw the towel in for about a week. It was weird because some of my friends (who I never thought knew I even had a blog) started asking where I went. People actually read what I write! So long story short- This is my motivation every day."

Follow Natasha on Pinterest. 

  "As a new mom, I'm constantly evaluating and researching what's best for my family and baby. It's no secret that our household cleaners are filled with dangerous chemicals that seep into our skin and and in the air we breathe. I love this pin because it's a one stop shop for everything I'll need to replace my mainstream cleaning products with all natural ones. I only wish I had something like this when my daughter was a newborn! This is the perfect new mom gift (for any of you ladies who are attending showers soon!) and will help them track feedings, diaper changes, and sleep habits." 

Interested in joining my sponsorship team? Visit my sponsor page for details, and use code HELLOLOVE for 20% off any package! I'd love to have you!

What is inspiring you today? What are your favorite kinds of pins? 

Friday, August 15, 2014

/ / Progressive Dinner: Chocolate Chip Tiramisu

  Have you ever heard of a progressive dinner? I first heard of it when I was obsessed with Desperate Housewives years ago--am I the only guilty one out there who loved that show? Anyways, a progressive dinner is when you get together with friends, and you travel to each of their houses for each course. I've actually never had a real life progressive dinner (although I'm adding that to my fall to-do list!), but I'm excited to join two of my friends, Madison and Jana, for a virtual progressive dinner! Sadly we live way too far apart to do a traditional progressive dinner, so today we are having a bloggy one! We will go to each of their blogs to visit with them and read their recipe for a delicious dish. I hope you'll join us!

The Appetizer: Jana's Eggplant Fries

First, we will visit Jana's blog, Life Could Be a Dream. She made Eggplant Fries for a delicious appetizer. I've never had eggplant fries, but holy cow, I'm going to have to make these as soon as possible! Don't they look delicious?

The Main Course: Madison's Baked Rigatoni

Then, we will head over to Wetherills Say I Do where Madison has shared a recipe for the main course: Baked Rigatoni. Pasta is one of my absolute favorite foods, so naturally I'd probably eat my weight in this stuff. Oh, yum!

Now, for the dessert...

This is not traditional tiramisu, but it's so good. Possibly perfect, even. It's a funny story, though, because I didn't exactly mean for it to be a chocolate chip tiramisu. You'll see why later. Keep on readin'.

Now, if these aren't the most perfectly matched ingredients in the world, then I don't know what is. Dark chocolate, rum, and cream? Oh yes. 

The story behind the accidental chocolate chips: I started grating it to make beautiful little shavings and got tired of it. So, I thought maybe the food processor could shave it for me. Wrong. It just turned it into little chocolate chips. I scattered the little chips in the middle layer of the tiramisu, because I didn't want the chocolate to go to waste. Once I tried it, I actually really loved it! Extra chocolate and crunch is never a bad addition in my book. For me, it added much-needed texture.

 I adapted this recipe from The Pioneer Woman and Giada De Laurentiis.

You'll need...
5 whole egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar, plus 4 Tbsp. for later
1/4 cup dark rum, plus 2 tsp. for later
1 pound Mascarpone cheese, softened to room temperature
1/4 cup espresso, plus 2 Tbsp. for later*
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1 package of ladyfingers
Cocoa powder for dusting
1/2 cup of bittersweet chocolate, pulsed in food processor until small pieces
*note: I don't have an espresso machine, so I bought a 2 shots at Starbucks for a few bucks.

The Steps...
1. In a saucepan, bring some water to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Find a mixing bowl that will fit over the top of the pan, but not sink all the way in. You just made a DIY double-boiler!

2. Put 5 egg yolks into the mixing bowl. Add 1/4 cup sugar and whisk until yolks start to turn pale. Place the mixing bowl on the saucepan with the simmering water. Slowly add 1/4 cup rum and whisk to combine. Cook over the simmering water, and use a rubber spatula to scrape the pan. Cook until thick. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cool.

3. In a mixing bowl, combine whipping cream and remaining 4 tablespoons sugar and whip until not quite stiff. To the bowl of whipped cream, add the softened mascarpone cheese, chilled egg yolk mixture, remaining 2 Tbsp espresso. Fold mixture gently. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.

4. To the 1/4 cup espresso, add the vanilla, and 2 tsp. rum.

5. Arrange the ladyfingers in a single layer in a 9 x 13 pan. Spoon a small amount of the coffee mixture over each ladyfinger (keep it under 1 tablespoon per cookie and you’ll be fine). Plop 1/3 of the cold cream/mascarpone mixture on top and spread it into a layer. Scatter with the chocolate chips. Repeat the process two more times.

6. Cover and refrigerate, then dust with cocoa powder before serving.

There ya go! Accidental chocolate chip tiramisu. Ultimate comfort food, y'all.  I am so glad you joined us today! It is my heart's desire for us to really be able to do a progressive dinner (how fun would that be?), but this'll have to do for now. Don't forget to head over to Jana's blog to see the appetizer, and Madison's to see the main course. I promise, you don't want to miss out! Three recipes-- perfect for an Italian dinner at home with friends and those that you love.

Have you ever done a progressive dinner? What are you cooking this weekend?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

/ / A Polka Dot and Leather Tote Giveaway

Raise your hand if you love a good tote! I knew it, that would be everyone. How about a leather tote? Mmk. Or a polka dot tote? Yep. Well, what about a leather AND polka dot tote?! Yay! There's just something super fun about about a cute, new bag that brightens my day. A good bag, in my opinion, needs to have good straps, at least one zipper inside for storage, and lots of room or all of my things. Oh, and it must be cute!

Have I got a treat for you! I'm partnering with 3 of my very favorite bloggers to give this adorable Rouge and Whimsy polka dot and leather tote to one of you lucky readers! This handmade bag is extremely cute, durable, and unique. The seller makes them to order and each one is a little different. I'm in love with the buttery soft caramel-colored leather and the sweet-as-can-be dots. It makes me happy just looking at it. 

              Dearest Love                 The Lady Okie            The Wetherills Say I Do     Oh Simple Thoughts 

This giveaway is run via rafflecopter. All entries will be verified, so please play by the rules! The winner must claim their prize within 48 hours of being emailed, or a new winner will be chosen. I'm so sorry international friends, but this giveaway is only open to those living in the US. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, August 11, 2014

/ / Our Wedding: How to Design the Perfect Dessert Bar on a Budget

I love sweets more than most things in life, so when it came time to decided what dessert to have at our wedding I knew it couldn't just be a basic wedding cake. It also wanted to include cupcakes, my favorite chocolate chip pound cake, and a key lime something for Lamar. Where did I go first for inspiration? Pinterest, of course! It wasn't long before I a pretty clear idea of what I wanted, and then I got my friends and family involved! Y'all, what I'm about to tell you may blow your mind, so brace yourself.

Table Linen: Borrowed from our church-No Cost
Burlap- $5
8 Wooden Cake Stands: Made by my father-in-law- No Cost
Cork Labels: Handmade- No Cost
Cupcakes: made by a friend -No Cost
Wedding Cake: made by Mary Hannah -No Cost
Mini Key Lime Pies, Publix -$85
White Bunting, handmade -$5
Cake Topper, handmade  -$7

Total cost for entire dessert table: $102.00

I am so lucky to have so many talented and generous friends that gave their time and money in order for us to pull off a budget-friendly wedding. I couldn't have done it without them! Not only was I able to save money, but I didn't have to sacrifice anything (taste nor design) for that to happen. There were lots of handmade details that went into the dessert table, which cost little or no money at all. The two main stars of the show were the cupcakes and the cake...which were generously given to me by two sweet friends!

  One of my classroom parents from my first year teaching was known for their amazing cupcakes. They would spoil the teachers at Christmas, Valentine's Day, and Teacher Appreciation week. We would all talk about how amazing they were, and even after the student left my classroom I still got some treats because they knew I loved them so much! How sweet is that? Their favorite is their red velvet cake cupcake. It's perfectly moist, and the frosting is amazing and not too sweet. Seriously, they are better than any cupcake I've had at a cupcake shop. Just sayin'. So when I asked my friends/former classroom parents to make my wedding cupcakes, they said yes! I offered to pay, of course, but they said they would give them to me at no cost! I chose three different flavors--red velvet, chocolate raspberry, and vanilla. Don't you love the beautiful gold wrappers the cupcakes are wrapped in? Throughout the night, people asked which local shop I had ordered the cupcakes from. Needless to say, they were surprised one of my friends made them in their kitchen at home!

 One of my best friends, Mary Hannah, is one of the best bakers I know! Her recipe for chocolate chip pound cake is my favorite, so I asked her if she could make it for our wedding day and she said yes! It was a lot for me to ask of her, especially since she was also one of my bridesmaids. She has such a giving heart, though, and she made it happen. She made the cake, topped it with Founders Breakfast Stout frosting (her own recipe), and gathered some greenery from her yard for decoration. It turned out exactly how I envisioned it would. It was such a special part of our day..and so incredibly delicious! Since she made the cake, she kept part of it in her freezer for us to have on our one year anniversary. Y'all, it kept so well and it tasted exactly like it did on the wedding day!

 I am still so in love with the look of our dessert bar. There are various textures, heights, and colors throughout the table that draw the eye and make it unique. These three guidelines helped me pull it off:

Stay true to your personal style
Ask your friends to help or contribute their talents
Use decorations and materials you already own

Would you ever ask friends to bake your wedding desserts or would you stick to bakeries? Personally, I don't think you can go wrong either way as long as it's yummy and not crazy expensive! Tell me your thoughts.

Before you go, let me just share a bit about my blog bestie, Madison of The Wetherills Say I Do! We "met" at the beginning of this year and totally hit it off. Then, we planned a real life date! Then...four more. This is why I love blogging--the relationships that are formed and memories that are made. Had we both not been bloggers, we never would have even known of each other. God is so cool for bringing us together like this! Sorry, I went off on a little tangent there--back to Mads! She has an amazing blog where she shares recipes, photos from Italy, stories of her cute pup Azi, and her beautiful faith in God. Give her some love, y'all!

What is your favorite dessert?
Right now I'm on an anything-with-fruit kick! I recently made a triple berry cobbler which is probably one of my favorite desserts ever! My husband loves chocolatey desserts though so I think I'm going to have to try something chocolatey soon! 

What has inspired you this week?

I've been looking at a lot of wedding photography lately, since I just shot two weddings! I'm inspired by photographers that use light and color effortlessly. Wedding photography is extremely beautiful to me because of the love it captures! 

If you could go on a spontaneous trip anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Everytime I'm asked a question like this I want to pick somewhere other than Italy, since I've traveled so much through there. Buuut then I remember how much I adore that country and would give anything to go back. So I would definitely go to Italy. But hey, Australia, Spain, Ireland or the Dominican Republic wouldn't be bad choices either! 

If you like my blog at all, you'll absolutely adore hers. Have a sweet Monday!