Thursday, January 29, 2015

/ / Fridge Challenge: Cranberries

I'm a girl that really loves to cook, although if you've been around this blog long enough you probably already knew that. During the week though, it's surprising if I get one good homemade meal out on the table. One thing I'm totally guilty of is not planning ahead, and buying too much of an item. This makes my fridge full of tiny leftovers, random halves of limes, sauces, and bunches of herbs. I end up throwing a lot of leftovers away, which I feel terrible about. It's such a waste! So, a few months ago I decided to change my ways and actually do something about those leftovers!

 It makes me feel creative and awesome to put leftover ingredients from the fridge together to make a lovely little snack! Tell me I'm not the only one who stands in front of their fridge and pantry thinking up the creative combinations of leftovers to make a new recipe. Tell me I'm not! If you've never tried it, do it! It's like putting a puzzle together...a tasty puzzle. Actually, there have been times when it wasn't so tasty, but this time it was a win! 
I had a bag of cranberries from who knows when, a random jalapeno, and some green onions. I've been wanting to try a cranberry salsa recipe, because I tried some at a restaurant and absolutely lurved it. I will be honest though, this salsa really isn't anything like what I imagined it would turn out to be. I tried to eat it with a tortilla chip like I'd done at that restaurant...but I wasn't diggin' it. So, I decided to try something super new to me--throw it on a some cream cheese and scoop it with crackers. It is delicious! I'd seen a lady at a baby shower at school do this with pepper jelly, and it was really yummy. This combination of sweet, spicy, and's so comforting!
It's definitely a unique appetizer, and I think the color is perfect for Valentine's day if you're planning any get togethers. Your guests will thank you!

Here's what you'll need:

1 bag fresh cranberries
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup red onion
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
2 limes, juiced
3/4 cup white sugar
1 pinch salt
1 pinch of cumin

Here's what you do:

Toss it all in a food processor and pulse a few times until finely chopped and well blended.
Let sit in the fridge for a few hours, and then spoon over soft cream cheese before serving. Scoop with crackers or tortilla chips!

Have you ever put together a good dish using leftover items in your fridge? Tell me!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

/ / Why I Chose Romania + East West Design Co. Giveaway

I've been to Romania twice. Once in 2011 with my campus ministry team, and again in 2012 when I lead a group from my church. It's been two years since I have stepped foot on Romanian ground. I miss every part of it though--the people, the language, the city, the babies, the mothers. I feel pretty far removed from Romanian life, but every now and then God will wake me up and remind me of my beloved city across the Atlantic. Two instances last week caused me to gasp and eyes widen with excitement. First, in my ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) course, which is a melting pot of people from different cultures and backgrounds, were going around the room introducing ourselves, and this voice started that reminded me of a mother from Casa Agar (the children's home where we worked in Bucharest). Then she stated she was Romanian, and I immediately knew I wanted to talk to her after class. The second instance that happened was in my classroom. A student found a book in the library that teaches ways to say hello in different languages. I walked over and saw the word "Buna!" on the page and got so excited.
On my first trip to Romania in 2011, I had only been in a relationship with God for a year and a half. I grew up Christian, but didn't truly understand what it was to live for Christ until my last two years of college. In my campus ministry, we were presented with a few options for a summer mission trip, one of them being Romania. I'd never really heard much about Romania, and honestly didn't even know it was in Europe. After our leader described the purpose behind the Romanian mission, I knew that was the one.

Ways we would serve in Romania:
1. Casa Agar: serve the missionary, teach the children, support the mothers, clean, cook, and repair the house. We would also take the children to the park, play with them, provide breathing treatments, sing songs with them, and demonstrate God's love for them as best we could.

2. We would also be scheduled to visit the children's cancer hospital in Bucharest. We prepared games, crafts, songs, and puppet shows.

3. Volunteer to hold and pray over babies in the abandoned baby hospital. There is a large amount of baby abandonment each week in Romania. We would be going in to provide interaction, physical touch that babies so desperately need, and play with the toddlers in the toddler wing.

The last one broke me, and I knew that Romania was it. My first trip to Romania was devastating, yet wonderful. God did big things while we were there, and changed our hearts for the better. It was in Romania that I learned exactly what it meant to be a servant. On our flight home, I knew I would be going back. The next year, I lead a team back to Romania!

You can read about my time in Romania here:
2011: Trip with my college ministry team
2012: Trip I lead with Lamar

Being at home, far away from Romania, sometimes makes it difficult to remember my purpose and calling to Romania and missions as a whole. So, when Rachel and Lindsey of East West Design Co. sent me this beautiful print, I jumped for joy!

East West Design Co is a hand-crafted, vintage-inspired, faith driven company full of beautiful prints, cards, calendars, and stamps! I had the pleasure of meeting half of the EWD team, Rachel, a couple of weeks ago when she was driving through Atlanta on her way back home. She told me all about how they got started, including how they make their business work while living on opposite sides of the country! Rachel lives in Georgia, while Lindsey lives in California. I'm so inspired by their creativity, uniqueness, and passion for creativity. 

The girls at East West Design Co are giving away this very print to one of my sweet readers (could be YOU!). Wouldn't you love to hang this in your home? Enter for your chance to win!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
This giveaway will run until February 2nd at 12 AM EST. A winner will be chosen immediately and will be contacted via email. All entries will be verified. The winner must claim their prize within 48 hours of being emailed, or a new winner will be chosen. Good luck!

How do you live out this Matthew 28:19-20 scripture? Has God called you to a specific mission field? I'd love to know your story!

Monday, January 26, 2015

/ / Scenes From NYC: The Top of the Rock + Queens

I'm still dreaming of our trip to NYC. It's only been four weeks since we were there, but it feels like much longer. There's no doubt about it--Lamar and I loved that city. We both have said we can see ourselves living there...if only we could take our families with us. Ha. So, we probably won't ever live there, but we plan on traveling there as much as we can. We are pretty proud of ourselves for visiting all five boroughs during our week long trip, but it would be so fun to go back and spend even more time exploring some of our favorite ones. We really loved Manhattan, which is where we stayed, but we also really enjoyed Queens. So today I'm excited to share our adventures from our last day in New York: The Top of the Rock and Queens. 

A few days prior, we had attempted to go to the top of Empire State Building, but the line was wrapped around the building and was going to be a three hour wait! So, we chunked that idea and scheduled an appointment to go to the Top of the Rock. We chose the Top of the Rock because we had heard that it is a little bit of a better view, plus it is less expensive. I liked the idea of seeing the Empire State Building from the Top of the Rock, so that also swayed us to go there instead. We are so happy we chose to go to the top of the Rockefeller! The building is absolutely beautiful, there is a neat museum that shares the history of the Rockefeller, and the elevator ride to the top is pretty snazzy. I should have taken photos of that part, so I guess you'll have to see for yourself one day! 
After we spent most of the morning at the Top of the Rock, we met up with our friend Jay (who we were staying with) and headed to Queens. Apparently, Queens is the most ethnically diverse urban area in the world, which I thought was pretty awesome. The area of Queens that we explored was Long Island City which was pretty quiet, and we actually didn't see too many people out. It was a really cold and windy day, so maybe people were hiding out inside. Either way, we really liked it and could totally see ourselves living in that community. It's just one subway stop away from the center of the city, which is super convenient, plus it's away from the major crowds that you find in the city.

Before we headed to our last borough, the Bronx, we stopped for a bite to eat at The Burger Garage, which was amazing. They offered a lot of different toppings and sides, so the guys piled theirs high. I think Jay even got a fried egg on his. I, however, was still recovering from my sickness, so I kept mine pretty simple. It was delicious, though, and they had the best sweet potato fries ever! Yum town.

So there ya go: one of my favorite days spent in NYC. Have you been to any of these places? What do you love most about exploring new cities?

Other scenes from NYC:
New Years Eve in New York City
The High Line
Central Park + Times Square

Friday, January 23, 2015

/ / Coffee Date | Highlights from a Busy Week

 I'm so glad it's Friday, friend. For us, Friday means leaving work a bit earlier than usual, date night out, House of Cards marathon, and staying up late (midnight is late, right?). Besides Saturday, it's my favorite day of the week! Another reason I love Fridays, is our coffee dates. I love doing this virtual coffee date with you, catching up on life, and getting to know you more.

My vision behind this linkup is to cultivate community through life-focused writing. Whether you share your highs, your lows, your highs and lows, or a previously written post detailing the happenings of what's going's simply so much fun to catch up. So grab your latte, kale smoothie (you know who you are), or hot chai tea and let's get to chatting!

First, I'll share my highlights from the week. These are the little bits of joy that made my heart go pitter patter. Then, I want you to share your highlights, lows, or prayer requests in the comments below. 
On Sunday, I went on a sister shopping date with my sisters (minus Julie, who was in Savannah) and baby Killian! It was my first time shopping with that 2 month old cutie, and he did so well. It is fun to help my little sis, Sarah, pick out clothes. She's only 14, but she's growing into such a smart and talented young lady. I'm so proud! Oh, and I got some new goodies from Loft. I'll share 'em soon!

I took last Friday off of work, which made for a super long weekend. It was much needed, and it involved lots of rest.

I'm taking an endorsement course for me to be able to teach English language learners, and the class is four hours on Tuesday night! Yikes. However, it's actually a lot of fun. We played this game where we had to learn this fake language and figure out how to communicate with each other while trading these strange looking cards. It was really interesting, and made me realize just how some of our students feel when they are placed in English-speaking classrooms.

Today during writing class, I was helping one of my sweet students who struggles with writing. He stopped mid-sentence and looked at me and said, "You know what Mrs. Griffin? You really are the best teacher. I used to hate school, but now school is fun!" My heart leaped, and it grew three sizes I think.

Meet this month's Coffee Date Cohost:
This month, my cohost is Kerry of Xo Kerry. I am just now getting to know sweet Kerry, and she is incredibly kind and I love her funny personality. She is currently documenting her pregnancy and sharing all things funny and sweet. She recently shared her nursery reveal with us, and Ikea even featured her photo on Twitter! Go girl! Meet Kerry, and show her love!

*If you would like to join me as a co-host, visit my sponsorship page and purchase a large ad! Use code COFFEEDATE for 15% off. 

1. Follow your host and cohost.
2. Link up one post from this week that gives a glimpse into your life lately. This could be a coffee date, highs and lows, recent update, etc. Make sure it's a link to your post and not your blog URL.
3. Important: Comment on the blog that linked up before you. This linkup us about building community, so this step is important. Feel free to comment on more than just one!
4. Share about the coffee date via social media using the hashtag #coffeedatefriday.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

/ / Atlanta Artisan: Parallel Face and Body

You know that feeling when you're really excited and proud of something, and you get that giddy, lovey dovey feeling inside? That's how I feel about the city I live in.


The more I explore the city and get to know the people, it's shops, the restaurants, the creatives, the community...the more I fall in love. Today I'm launching a new series called Atlanta Artisan. I'm super pumped about it, because it is going to not only highlight inspiring creatives in my hometown, but it will document my journey of sorts to learning more about what it means to create. I hope this series encourages you to be brave, go after your dreams, explore Atlanta (or your own city) more, and get to know the people around you.
First up: Stacy and Amber (sisters!) of Parallel Face and Body. I've followed Stacy's blog for over a year now and immediately became enamored with her sweet and confident personality. She has the best style, and is a new mom! I had the pleasure of meeting her and Amber at the Maiedae Mixer, which was so much fun! She was so kind and gave me some of their tinted lip balm to try, and I loved it! They let me try three tints, and my favorite was the Dayum Red (how fun is that name?) because it provided a lot of color, plus it moisturized and nourished my lips. I love Stacy and I knew their products were going to be great, but I didn't know that these lip balms were going to become part of my every day beauty routine!
Artisan: Stacy and Amber of Parallel Face and Body
Category: Beauty and Skincare
Established: December 2013

"Amber and I have always wanted to start a business together. It was just a matter of finding the perfect opportunity. We had both been buying various tinted lip balms, trying to find our favorite, but there was always something lacking. Not enough color, not enough hydration. Then it dawned on us - let's make our own tinted lip balm! Amber is an esthetician and knows all about skincare ingredients. As a matter of fact, she loves anything to do with skincare. So we set out to make the perfect tinted lip balm. We made numerous practice batches that we tested along with all of our friends and family. We got to the perfect formula - super hydrating with ample color. One of our favorite parts has definitely been making the colors. We mix all sorts of combinations, just like art class, and it's so fun.

Next came finding a name. And Amber and I can be picky. We're sisters who are very much alike. We have similar taste and often show up to family events wearing basically the same outfit. So we wanted to play off of our similarity - hence Parallel.

We've also wanted to expand beyond lip balms. Again since Amber is an esthetician she is very passionate about the world of skincare. One of her clients approached her to make a hand cream that matches Pacquin, her favorite lotion that was discontinued. Amber got to mixing various ingredients (never having tried the cream, she'd only heard about it from her client), bringing each lotion to her client. After a few tries she got it just right, and now it's our Hand Bomb. Our third product is the awesome, detoxifying Cure-All Bath Salts. They smell so good and can help detoxify, soothe sore muscles, relieve skin issues like psoriasis, acne and eczema, boost skin hydration and most importantly improve sleep.

With my background in business and advertising, and Amber's in makeup and skincare we absolutely love running Parallel Face and Body. We love the local aspect it brings as well. We are currently selling our products in a few stores around Atlanta - Crafted Westside (an awesome shop with amazing things from local artisans), Crafted's holiday pop-up shop in Westside Provisions and at Cameo Salon in Inman Park. We've gotten to connect with a lot of other local artists through the stores, and of course Instagram. It's a fun community that we're so excited to be a part of!"
Not only are they super talented women, but they are also so kind! Amber and Stacy are giving away a Mini Tinted Lip Balm Pack to one lucky reader of mine! This pack is perfect, because it includes a mini version of each of their lip balms. Hooray!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
This giveaway will run until January 27th 12 AM EST. A winner will be chosen immediately and will be contacted via email. All entries will be verified. The winner must claim their prize within 48 hours of being emailed, or a new winner will be chosen. Good luck!

So tell me, who inspires you? What part of Stacy and Amber's story speaks to you the most? I'd love to hear!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

/ / Word of the Year

I love goals. I think they are great to make, and good for our character to try to reach them. If you want to  accomplish something in life, you usually make a goal, take steps to reach that goal, tell your family and friends so that they can keep you accountable, and so on. However, I decided not to declare any goals this year. I have a lot I want to achieve, and there is a lot going on in my heart involving lots of change, and it completely makes sense to make goals. But, I didn't. It wasn't a decision of mine, really, and I didn't say anything like, "I'm not making any goals!". Nothing dramatic like that. Truthfully, I'm overwhelmed. I don't have room in my mind or on paper to make goals. I've got too much on my plate as it is, and I think declaring goals would just make me even more stressed out. 
Plus, I don't really know where to begin with goals in regard to my dream. There's a million goals running through my head and I can't make sense of them. 
I had a conversation with my sweet friend, Christina, and something she said really struck a chord with me. It made my heart leap, and I knew it was right. I was spilling my guts and crying to her about how I don't know where to begin. My first love, teaching, is not fulfilling anymore. I'm dreaming of creative things, changing my path, and moving in a direction that doesn't and wouldn't make sense to many people. The thought of even pursuing floral design and becoming a full time creative sounds...unrealistic. 

Christina gave me great advice, because she has been through a similar situation. She told me that I need to learn as much as I can about floral design, flowers, and everything to do with it. Once I learn, I'll have a much clearer vision for what I want and need to achieve. It seems like such a simple concept--learn. And I knew before I met with Christina that I had a lot to learn, but she reminded me it needs to be my focus before I can take any major steps. I needed to hear that. 
So, my focus this year is to learn. Learn as much as I can, soak everything in, use my hands to create, and ask many, many questions. Emphasis on many. 

5 things I know already (or what I think I know): 
My desires, my dream.
I don't want to stop teaching completely.
God called me to teaching, which doesn't necessarily mean having my own classroom in a school.
I need to reach out to more floral designers and learn from them.
Investing in small workshops that I can afford will be a great way to learn.

5 things I'd like to learn: 
How and where to begin.
Planting and gardening.
Flowers and seasons.
How to find floral design classes that won't cost me a thousand dollars (I've spent so many hours google luck)
How to manage my time, learn as much as I can, while still working a full time job.

I'm really excited to embark on this journey, learn, and grow. I'm also glad that I get to share this with you. I'd love to hear what your word of the year, or focus scripture, or goal is for this year. We can encourage each other, keep each other accountable, and share praises. :)

Before you go, I invited my large ad sponsors to share their word of the year! They are inspiring and bring hope! I urge you to check out their blogs. If you dig my blog, you'll love theirs.
Britney of The Quiet Place | "My word of the year would be "Grace" because it reminds me that God always gives me grace no matter what I do and that his grace is all I need. i got a necklace for Christmas from my best friend that says: Grace abounds in deepest waters, it's a daily reminder that his grace is what keeps me on track throughout the year."

Sarah of Life With the Casterlines | "This year my word is Believe. At the end of this month I'll be re-launching my blog with a complete re-brand. I have so many plans and dreams for this space and I am believing that God is going to do big things in 2015!"

Kerry of XO Kerry | "My word of the year is Mother. Next month I welcome a baby girl into the world. I am a sister, friend, daughter, girlfriend and now mother.  It will also be my new full-time job so the word fits perfect for 2015!"

So tell me, what is your word of the year? 
Do you know any floral designers in the southeast that you think I could learn from? I've got some favorites, but I can use all the connections I can get! 

Monday, January 19, 2015

/ / Scenes from NYC: Central Park & Times Square

Happy Monday! I'm excited to share my third recap of our trip to NYC. It was such a fun trip, and we are still dreaming of returning again soon. We flew into New York City in the morning, and we were so excited to spend the day exploring the city with our friend Jay.  He picked us up from the airport, we dropped our things at his place, and we started our adventure for the day! Little did we know, we were about to walk 11 miles! Whew. First we headed to Central Park, then we walked into The Plaza Hotel (Home Alone, anyone?), and ended our day in Times Square.

Central Park was more beautiful than I imagined, even in the dead of winter. Did you know that Central Park is almost 900 acres? And it's one of the most frequently filmed locations in the world? As we were walking through, I spotted so many scenes from movies and tv shows. It was exciting! 

That night, we headed to Times Square to see the Rockefeller tree. This has been on my bucket list for years! Growing up, I remember seeing this tree on the tv, and wishing I could see it in person. It's absolutely stunning. I wish I had been able to take better photos of the tree, but there was an insane amount of people and we were constantly bumping into people and people were bumping into us. This made for shaky pics. Oh well! You'll just have to make a trip to NYC next winter and see it for yourself. :)
 See? Blurry pics. I'm just thankful we were able to get a photo in front of the tree without someone walking in front of the camera. That happened more times than I can count! Ha.

After we saw the tree, we headed into Times Square. This definitely wasn't my favorite part of the trip, so there's not much to say about it. Times Square is basically a bunch of advertisements and street performers. We saw it, snapped a photo, and got the heck out of there!
Yet another photo of Jay photobombing, as well as a couple of Statue of Liberties! When we were smiling for this picture, we had no idea any of this was going on behind us. I love it, though.

Central Park and Times Square are two places that you just have to experience when you visit New York City. Even though Times Square wasn't my favorite, I'm glad we were able to see it. My favorite part of this day,though, was walking through Central Park and seeing our friends for the first time in months!

More Scenes from NYC:
New Years Eve in NYC
The High Line

Before you go, I'd love to introduce you to one of my sweet sponsors and friends: Sarah of Life With the Casterlines. She is currently working on rebranding her beautiful faith-inspired blog, and I can't wait to see what's in store for her in this new chapter of her blogging life! Get to know her! You'll be glad you did.


Have you been to NYC? What did you think of Times Square?
Where have you traveled lately?