Wednesday, April 23, 2014

/ / Scenes from an Easter Weekend.

     This was probably the most eventful, exhausting, wonderful weekend I've had in what seems like a while. Friday through Monday was packed full of events. A tiny part of me wishes it had been more relaxing, but then some of these memories may not have been made. It was worth not having much sleep. :) Here's what went down:

+ We had a beautiful Easter celebration at my school on Thursday where we let balloons go to represent us letting go of our worry and sin.
+ My sister announced her pregnancy. I'm going to be an aunt!
+ We traveled to our college town to attend a wedding for some sweet friends...
+ ...and took photos in front of a cool abandoned building. Fun story: While we were taking photos in front of it, a very strange man walked out and scared the bajeezus out of us! It creeped us out big time. 


+ We are adults, but we still hunt for Easter eggs! And I may have tackled my little sis for an egg.
+ My sweet friend, Jess, announced she's having twin...boys!
+ Instead of our annual egg drop contest, we had a rubber ducky race down the creek. Lamar was disqualified and my little sis came in first! I can't make this stuff up, y'all.
+ My big sis, Julie, won the prize egg! She's an egg-hunting professional.

     We also went to the sunrise service on Sunday morning, which was absolutely amazing. I was so moved by the reminder that God always comes through, even when it seems like it's impossible. In our lives, when it feels like Friday (when Jesus was beaten and killed), just remember that Sunday is coming! God will answer prayers, heal the brokenhearted, and renew our spirits. I'm thankful that I serve such a faithful God. He's the one and only.

What about you? How was your Easter weekend? What all did you do?

Monday, April 21, 2014

/ / Blog Swap: Five Reasons to Fall in Love with Italy + A Giveaway!

Happy Monday, Dearest Love readers! I am so excited to be doing a blog swap with Jenna today! Isn't she just wonderful? My name is Madison and my blog is called Wetherills Say I Do because my husband and I started it during our honeymoon as a way of sharing the lessons we learn through our first few days, months, and years of marriage. Now it's evolved into a little bit of everything blog. I love sharing my favorite recipes, DIY projects, photography adventures and tips and all about our sweet puppy girl, Azi. I hope you'll stop on by my blog and see what it's all about.

My junior year in college I studied abroad in Florence, Italy. I had been there once before for a short May trip and absolutely fell in love. I wanted to share with you some reasons why I fell in love with Italy.

The Coffee
Anyone who knows me wouldn't be surprised that this is first on my list. I absolutely love coffee, but being in Italy brought a whole new perspective to my love of coffee. Italians live life around meals and drinks. Each morning they start their day at a local cafe and get a cappuccino, cafe macchiato or just a plain ole shot of espresso. Then a few times a day, they'll go back for a second, third, or fourth pick me up shot of espresso. I normally only had a cappuccino a few times a week but I love that their culture starts the day socializing with their local bartender. My perfect morning in Italy started off with a cappuccino, cremino (which is a croissant stuffed with a lemony custard), and reading my Kindle. I enjoyed a lot of down time while I was in Italy, which is something that was very abnormal for me in school. I was able to read through 12 books while I was there!

The History
Every city in Italy has so much history, it's unreal. One of my best friends (and my maid of honor!) was studying abroad in Rome while I was in Florence so I was able to go visit her. She was an art history major and basically became my tour guide around Rome.  I could have walked around for weeks and still not soaked in all of it. Some of my favorite historical places to go were the Roman Forum, which is basically the ruins of where the center of Roman life used to be, the Colosseum, and the Pantheon.

The Food
We all know that Italy has incredible food. Italian food has always been my favorite (tied with Mexican food), but I was so surprised at how intense all of the flavors were. Every meal was so rich and delicious. I was so blessed to be able to travel and visit many cities during my fourth months in Italy. I tried so many different kinds of Italian food, from eggplant penne in Pompeii, to seafood risotto in Capri, to pizza in Rome, and gelato in St. Peter's Square. It took me a few months to be able to eat Italian food in the States without comparing it to the amazing food I had in Italy. I've always been a picky eater but after coming back from Italy there are so many things I love to eat now that I wouldn't have touched before. It really broadened my horizons!

The Architecture
Every city in Italy has such distinct architecture and even as I walked through the streets of Florence, I found myself having to stop and take in all the different architecture as I turned a different corner. I purposefully walked different ways to class often so that I could see different parts of the city (and avoid the tourists!). I studied art history after I got back and it helped me to appreciate the varying architecture even more.

Steven and I ended up buying one of this man's painting and it's hung up in our bedroom! I get to see the sights of my beautiful city every day! 

Some one was taking a photo for me and this man stopped just to be in the picture with me! 

The People
There are many cultures throughout Italy. My experience in Italy wouldn't have been the same without the barista at the coffee shop, the restaurant owner across the street from the school who gave me free pastries every now and then, the waiters at the restaurants, and the professors I had at school. Even the beggars on the street that made me uncomfortable but made me realize how blessed I am. The beggars that sometimes scared me, but allowed God to work in me. Mostly my experience wouldn't have been half of what it was without the amazing girls that I lived with (two of them picture above), the three girls we met on our first night in Florence, and the other friends I made.

I took a drawing class and was able to get to draw all over the city of Florence. One of the coolest experiences.

Italy was truly an experience I will never forget. I am beyond blessed to have been able to study abroad, to learn more about myself than I have ever been able to before, and to grow closer to my Lord and Savior because of the trials and challenges I went through during my time abroad. I pray and pray that some day that my husband Steven and I will get to go back, maybe for a week, maybe for a couple weeks or maybe for a few months. I do know that Lord is good and He gives us the desires of our hearts when we are faithful to Him (Psalm 37:4).

Jenna and I are so excited to be able to giveaway two things that "represent" our trips to Romania and Italy. I'm giving away a cute canvas wine carrier, and it supports a good cause, too. Jenna is giving away a beautiful necklace made by one of the local mothers in Romania. There's no other necklace like it!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

All entries will be verified, so please make sure you follow the directions of the giveaway! Good luck, friends!

Head on over to Madison's blog and check out her photography and writing skills. She's pretty much amazing. Also, I'm guest posting on her blog today and sharing about my love for Romania! 


Thursday, April 17, 2014

/ / The Circle: Thank You Notes.

        I always love linking up with Kiki each month for The Circle Series. Every month, there is a new and fun topic that she and her cohost think up on their own. This one doesn't disappoint (no surprise there) and actually is about something I really love doing: writing thank you notes! I've got a lot to be thankful for, my friends! Big things and small things. Funny things and serious things. Life is just all-around good, even during hard times. Here are some of the little thank you notes that I would write:

Thank you Jesus Christ for dying on the cross. You endured pain all because you wanted to save little ol' me. You've made me new, Lord, and you are constantly molding me. All because you love me.

Thank you Reese's Eggs. Holy cow, you're good. I bought a whole package of you for my class and...I decided to get them Peeps instead so that I could enjoy the entire bag myself over the next couple of weeks days. Whoops.

Thank you blog friends. You constantly inspire me. Not to mention, I get so many sweet, prayerful, and encouraging emails that seriously brighten my day. Y'all are the best!

Thank you Lamar for taking me to Lowe's and letting me get a new rose plant, bird feeder, and the supplies to make a half barrel table. Oh, and for spending your entire Saturday raking, cutting, clipping, and whatever else you did to make our back yard look ha-mazing!

Thank you iced coffee and coffee in general. You're a big reason why I'm able to function in the mornings. Your creamy, smooth, deliciousness rocks my world.

Thank you friends. You've put up with a lot from me lately. I know I've done a lot of complaining and I've probably been flaky and distant. You still love me, pray for me, and lift me up. I'm forever grateful. 

Thank you patio for allowing me to sit outside without getting wet, covered in pollen, or getting attacked by bees. You're quite relaxing, too, and the good Lord knows I need that.

Thank you mocha brownies and all other Pioneer Woman recipes. You are perfect in every single way and I love you like you're my own. Sadly, though, you've really done some damage to my waist line. You see, I can't even find it. Whoopsie.

In Its Time

What/Who would you write a thank you note to today? Comment below or link up with us!
Happy Weekend!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

/ / What is Your Dream Job?

     What better way to kick off a Tuesday than discussing dream jobs? I've always been a dreamer. Once, my first grade teacher (who I ended up teaching beside last year!) told my mom in a parent conference that I sit and daydream during lessons. She imagined I was thinking of butterflies, flowers, and polka dots. She was most likely right. Then, a few weeks ago, I took this personality test and what were my results? Dreamy. Yep, so there ya go. Lately, I've been dreaming of my passions. What if teaching isn't what I'm supposed to do forever? Or maybe I'm meant to do other things, too? More on that later.

     To celebrate my sweet sidebar friends (some of my very favorite blogs), I decided to put the focus on them for the day.  It's so much fun to connect with other bloggers, am I right? So, I asked them all the same question and I'm loving their responses. Check 'em out!

If you could leave your current job to pursue your dream job, what would that dream job be?

I love these types of questions. It was about this time last year that I had quit my day job to pursue my creative dreams. I wanted to pursue blogging and running a handmade shop full time and that is what I'm doing now. I still feel like I'm in the beginning of my journey and I still have so much to learn. This creative journey has been by far one of the funnest jobs I have ever had. It is also one of the hardest and intecutually involved jobs I've ever had. You can't just settle into it, you have to keep pushing, creating, experimenting, and evolving. It's a job that requires me to keep challenging myself and strive for something greater. It's a dream that Jesus continues to shape. 

I really think if I left my job as a graphic designer, I'd be a photographer. I've always loved photography and if I somehow had the opportunity to do that full time, even for a little while, it would be amazing! I love being able to capture people and special moments. 
I'm so excited to shoot my first two weddings in August!  

my dream job? man oh man, so many options. if money wasn't an option either i would open up a shop. either a coffee shop or a retail shop.   

If I could leave my current job to pursue my dream job... I would either become a forensic sociolinguist or figure out a way to make a living by writing. I studied Linguistics in college, and loved the branch of socio, but there are perks of being a work from home writer, namely, pajamability (the ability to work in pajamas). I made that up. Maybe I'm a writer already? 

Man friends, I am SO happy and blessed to actually be working at my dream job! I always wanted to teach and always have had this obsession with cooking and baking. The Lord has been so gracious to me and has made it so that I get to do BOTH in this lovely blog world. Sweet Lavender Bake Shoppe is such an immense blessing! I wake up every work day happy to do what I do. I've met so many amazing friends...shared so many fun recipes...and have become a part of such a great online community. It's the best. I will say though, that whenever He calls us to become parents, I'm ALL over that! ;) 

My dream job would be to make enough money blogging and crafting that I could stay home and work in my cute little office space. I would absolutely love to be creative all day long and get paid for doing it!​ 

Since I was a little girl all my aspirations in life where to glorify the Lord in everything I do. Being married and being a mom were always something I desired and have been so blessed to already have met the one God has for me. Now this may not sound like a "dream job" to most women but for me, my ultimate dream job would be to stay at home with my children. I desire for my future littles to know the Lord and grow up in a home that exemplifies that. Nothing in this world would bring me the amount joy and satisfaction of being able to have this dream job, nothing!

What about you? What is your dream job? Would you ever leave your current job to pursue your dreams?

Monday, April 14, 2014

/ / Our Wedding: The Ceremony

I'm so excited to finally share our wedding ceremony with you! Finally, everything leading up to this day is past us and we can now say our vows and call each other husband and wife. The whole entire day was filled with all things good and beautiful (except for a few hiccups earlier that morning). We were surrounded by amazing friends and supportive family. We felt so blessed and loved!
It really doesn't seem like it happened almost 10 months ago! Wow, time is already going by quickly. I still remember the nervous butterflies I was feeling when it was just me and my dad standing in the church foyer waiting for our turn to walk down the aisle.

Right before the ceremony, we read the love letters we wrote to each other. I could barely make it through mine without crying. I kept having to stop and think about emotionless things (i.e, my nails, where my shoes scuffed? Do I need more lip gloss?) but I did get through it and then it was time to walk next door to the church! I couldn't believe it was really time. My girls gathered around me and took turns praying blessings over the ceremony and our marriage. Now that is something I will definitely cherish forever.
Right when we were about to head over to the church, a friend showed me this post from Lamar on Instagram. Isn't his caption sweet? He calls me his bride. 

We finally made the 30 second walk to the church next door. As soon as we stepped into the church foyer, I could hear Jon and Anna Kate (our wedding singers) singing this song. 

Soon enough, Jon and Anna Kate began playing an acoustic version of "You're Beautiful" and one by one, my girls walked down the aisle. As each one left me, I grew more and more nervous. My thoughts were on Lamar and what he was thinking and feeling. I wondered if he was as nervous as I was!

Then, all of them were gone and it was just me and my dad. I remember saying, "Well, it's just us now". And then we walked closer to the door. There was a small window into the sanctuary, but I made sure to stay out of sight.
I wanted to make sure I was coming down the aisle at a specific part in the song, so when it got super close to that part, the doors flew open. I immediately felt God's spirit in that sanctuary.

"When we arrive at eternity's shore
Where death is just a memory and tears are no more
We'll enter in as the wedding bells ring
Your bride will come together and we'll sing
You're beautiful"

Walking down the aisle to Lamar was the absolute best part of my day.  Once I saw him, my heart did a turn. He was in tears! I couldn't take my eyes off of him, and I think it's a miracle that I didn't burst into tears, but I stayed strong somehow. I knew if I started crying, I wouldn't be able to stop!

We took communion, said our vows, and then Lauren read a poem that she wrote especially for me and Lamar. She named it "Two Travelers" and you can read it on her blog here.

Cute little maps we gave our guests after the ceremony. The reception was just across the square!

This is me saying, "Eeeek, we're married!!!" Notice, my shoes came off right when we got out of the sight of our guests. I was bad and didn't take anyone's advice on breaking those beautiful babies in. My feet were killin' me!

Finally, we were Mr. and Mrs. Griffin. Husband and Wife. 
And then it was time to take pictures and head to the best party we'd ever attend on earth.

Location: Stonebridge Church
Processional: You're Beautiful by Phil Wickham
Recessional: Something in the Water by Brooke Fraser
Photographer: Amelia of Bloom & Lo
 Other wedding related posts you may have missed: 

Did you carefully choose your wedding processional or recessional songs? What were yours? I'd like to know!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

/ / The Iced Coffee That Changed My Life


   I have a confession: I'm not a huge fan of iced coffee. My coffee's gotta be piping hot and never iced. Plus, When I buy it from a coffee shop, it tends to be watered down with too much ice and flavorless. Maybe I'm going to the wrong coffee shop for them? Anyways, I am a huge fan of The Pioneer Woman and I'm practically obsessed with all of her recipes and her life in general. I mean, the girl lives on a ranch and gets paid to cook, create recipes, blog, and host a tv show. Ever since I got married, I've been trying out her recipes a few nights a week. This may or may not be the reason I've gained some happy marriage weight. ;)
       I have never come across a recipe that Lamar and I didn't just love. One of the first recipes of hers I discovered was for delicious iced coffee. I dogeared it, but never got around to actually making it until last week. Let's just say, it was one of the highlights of my week. Yes, coffee was a highlight. I might have a problem. This is the coffee recipe that changed my ways, y'all. Not only can I whip this up real fast in the morning, but I'm saving my moolah from being spent at the coffee shop on the way to school. Even if you don't usually like iced coffee (like me), you'll love it and you'll wanna make it over and over again. Be warned!

You'll need:
Half of a pound of good ground coffee (About 8 oz)
3.5 quarts of cold water
Splash of Half and Half (or other creamer. I used vanilla caramel creamer)
Sweetened condensed milk (a tablespoon per serving)
(Note: You can use any type of milk, sugar, or creamer of your liking!)

 Start out by pouring the ground coffee into a large container, pitcher, bowl, bucket, etc.

   Then add the 3.5 quarts of water and stir. Cover and let it steep for at least 8 hours. I let mine sit overnight.

       Now, you have reached the stage where God will test your patience. Grab a fine mesh strainer, and line it with either cheese cloth or a coffee filter. I went the coffee filter route, because where in the world does a girl find cheesecloth? I searched everywhere. The coffee filter worked great, it just took forever to filter. Again, it's worth the wait!  Place the strainer over a clean pitcher (You want it to be one you can keep in the fridge).

     Now, pour the coffee in the strainer and let the filter catch the grounds. Use a spoon to press the liquid from the grounds. After a while you might have to change the filter out. I think I went through 3 filters. This took me a whole 15 minutes or so.

 Once all of the glorious silky liquid has been filtered into the pitcher, discard all of the grounds. Now, you can either serve this right away or you can put the coffee into the fridge to chill. I didn't want to wait any longer, so I served it right up.

       Add ice (but not too much), a splash of creamer, a splash of milk, and a heaping tablespoon of sweetened condensed milk. Pop in a straw, stir, sip, and let your problems melt away. I'll tell ya, I wish I could go back to my mornings last week: relaxing, reading, blogging, enjoying God's creation outside (while escaping the bees), and enjoying this yummy coffee. It made for the most perfect week. I'm a simple person to please, y'all.

*Helpful tip: To avoid making a watery iced coffee, freeze leftover coffee (already brewed) as ice cubes. Use these instead of regular ice! When they melt, it just adds to the flavor instead of watering it down.

Do you like iced coffee? What is your favorite way to relax in the mornings?